Eastern Rumors: James, Chalmers, Nets, Bosh

September 15 at 8:46pm CDT By Cray Allred

The Wizards are finalizing the summer contract to bring in Damion James for training camp as expected, reports Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Here’s more from the East:

  • Heat GM Andy Elisburg called Mario Chalmers before he re-signed with the team this summer to assure him that he was still in their plans and that they just needed to see what LeBron James would decide before circling back to them, as Bleacher Report’s Ethan Skolnick writes. Before that, Chalmers had been full of doubt about his free agency, as he tells Skolnick. “I didn’t think I’d be back,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t think that at all. I didn’t even think the Heat would want me back, to be honest. That’s how I felt like my playoff performance was, that they didn’t want me back, they wanted to go another direction. So that was in my mind, too, but I was, like, if it happens, it happens.”
  • Deron Williams told reporters including Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News that he hasn’t spoken with Jason Kidd since the former Nets coach left Brooklyn for Milwaukee. “I think it surprised everybody,” Williams said. “I don’t think anybody saw that coming. It was out of nowhere. I don’t even know enough about the situation. I’ve heard a lot of things, as you guys probably have, so I don’t know exactly what happened, but we’re excited about Lionel Hollins being our next coach and we wish J-Kidd the best of luck in Milwaukee, but we’re excited about Lionel.”
  • Hollins told reporters including Tim Bontemps of the New York Post that Kevin Garnett will be the Nets‘ starting power forward this season (Twitter link). All indications have been that the veteran big will play this season, and this should put to bed rumblings of an early retirement for good. The coach said that retirement hasn’t even been a point of discussion with Garnett, tweets Bondy.
  • In a mailbag answer, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel suggests that the Heat will have overpaid for Chris Bosh if he doesn’t return to the player he was in Toronto. Miami inked Bosh to the second-biggest contract of the summer once LeBron decided to head back to Cleveland.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Latest On Klay Thompson

September 15 at 7:33pm CDT By Cray Allred

Sam Amick of USA Today interviewed many of the key decision makers in Golden State regarding Klay Thompson‘s extension negotiations, including the shooting guard himself. Thompson’s agent Bill Duffy, who is reportedly seeking the max for the fourth-year sharpshooter, tells Amick that the reason he’s demanding so much for his client in extension talks with the Warriors is that he views Thompson as the best shooting guard in the league.

“I don’t want Kobe Bryant to go crazy, but there’s some uncertainty as to who he is right now [due to injury]“ Duffy said. “But I think Klay Thompson right now is the top two-way, two-guard in basketball. I think when you look at his body of work, when you look at what he accomplished guarding point guards on a regular basis [last season], I think it’s pretty clear.”

Warriors owner Joe Lacob declined to get into specifics about Thompson’s potential rookie scale extension, but reiterated the team’s commitment to locking him up long-term. Golden State reportedly budgeted with Thompson’s future in mind, convincing Andrew Bogut to take less in his extension, and Lacob says that the move that first brought Bogut aboard and sent away guard Monta Ellis was made to accommodate Thompson as well.

“We traded an excellent guard freeing up a starting spot for him,” said Lacob. “As is known, despite many requests from other teams over the last few years, we have continued to bet on his continued development. We are very proud that he is a Warrior and also of his major contribution on this year’s USA Basketball team. We are looking forward to a great year for Klay, the Splash Brothers and the Warriors.”

For his part, Thompson tells the USA Today scribe that the trade speculation involving him and Kevin Love earlier in the summer didn’t upset him, and that he has no interest in exploring opportunities elsewhere as a restricted free agent next summer. Thompson believes that the Warriors are capable of competing for a championship.

“I wasn’t really [angry],” Thompson said, countering rumors of his displeasure. “I was more just worried about being traded, just because I’m so comfortable in the Bay. I think that’s natural for anybody [to not want to] just get up and move. I mean it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but it’s a business, and I’m still playing ball for a living. I was more happy when they showed faith in me that they didn’t want to budge and trade me for a guy [in Love] who’s a multiple all-NBA guy and a proven All-Star. I thought that was really cool that the Warriors believed in my potential…Me and Steph [Curry] have another year together, and we’ve got a proven big man, all-NBA defender [in Bogut]. I really believe we can be a championship team.”

Amick surmises that Golden State’s unwillingness to deal Thompson for Love, along with his strong play in the regular season and for Team USA, has shifted all the leverage to his side of the negotiating table.

Multiple Teams Interested In Ryan Hollins

September 15 at 6:09pm CDT By Cray Allred

Free agent Ryan Hollins has had contract talks with the Lakers, Kings, Bulls, and Spurs as a potential signing, the center told SiriusXM NBA Radio (transcription via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times). The seven-footer has also been in talks with the Heat, the only team previously linked to his services this summer.

Aside from the Kings and Spurs, each of the teams considering Hollins as an addition are limited to offering the minimum salary. It would be shocking for Sacramento to exercise their biannual exception to spend more than the minimum, however, since the team has been working to stay beneath the luxury tax line for 2014/15. Hollins’ name is among a handful of big men drawing interest from many of the same teams looking to fill out their frontcourt depth. Gustavo Ayon and Emeka Okafor are other frontcourt pieces generating interest from overlapping teams, but an overseas commitment and injury concerns make the paths for both to land on an NBA team more complicated than that of Hollins, respectively.

It’s unclear if Hollins is close to reaching an agreement for guaranteed money, or if he’s facing the prospect of competing through training camp on a non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contract. While unspectacular, Hollins is a proven commodity, playing a very specific and useful role, as Chuck Myron detailed in our Free Agent Stock Watch article on the veteran center. The Stealth Sports client has career averages of 3.8 PPG and 2.2 RPG.

Extension Candidate: Kemba Walker

September 15 at 5:02pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Kemba Walker rode quite a wave into the NBA three years ago, having been a consensus first-team All-American at Connecticut, which he led to the national championship as a senior. Charlotte spent its lottery pick on him, trusting that he could meet or exceed the expectations incumbent upon a ninth overall selection. The circumstances surrounding Walker quickly darkened, as he spent his rookie season in and out of the starting lineup for a Bobcats team that compiled the worst winning percentage in NBA history. Al Jefferson and coach Steve Clifford, deservedly, receive much of the credit for having turned the franchise around upon their arrival last year, leaving Walker a secondary figure of sorts as the October 31st deadline for an extension to his rookie scale contract looms. Still, Walker’s game has grown over his time in the league, and while he hasn’t become a star, GM Rich Cho must decide soon if the 24-year-old has shown enough to prove that he has what it takes to be the starting point guard on a championship-level team.

Charlotte’s addition of Lance Stephenson and an Eastern Conference that’s wide open beyond the Cavs and Bulls puts Walker in line to play in the sort of high-leverage games this year that would help the newly rechristened Hornets test his meddle. That won’t help Cho and his staff as they ponder an extension, given the early deadline, and while it ostensibly would give them reason to hesitate, since a golden opportunity for evaluation awaits in the months ahead, the Hornets won’t be the only team watching the Jeff Schwartz client. Allowing Walker to hit restricted free agency next summer would invite bidders to drive up the price to retain him if he puts up strong numbers and helps lead the Hornets deep into the playoffs. The Hornets are well aware of how the process works, having signed Gordon Hayward to a maximum-salary offer sheet this summer that forced the Jazz, who exercised their right to match, to pay him more than they’d offered during extension talks last year.

Walker’s most significant leap to date came in between his first and second seasons, when he grabbed the full-time starting role and set career highs virtually across the board. A few of those numbers stagnated or declined this past season even as Walker saw more minutes per game, as his scoring average held steady at 17.7 points per contest while his shooting percentage dropped from 42.3% to 39.3%. The 6’1″ Bronx native took three-pointers a bit more often and slightly improved his accuracy, from 32.2% to 33.3%, but what seemed to drive down his field goal percentage the most was an increase in his frequency of long two-point attempts and a decrease of his shots at the rim. He more frequently shot from 16 feet and out than he did from three feet and in, according to his Basketball-Reference page, after the inverse was true during his second season in the league.

Ball-distribution is the No. 1 assignment for many, if not most, point guards, and the data suggests Walker has shown consistent improvement in that part of the game. He dished out 6.1 assists against 2.3 turnovers per game last season, the best ratio of his career. His per-36-minute numbers in assists and turnovers were also the best he’s recorded to date. Still, those gains weren’t enough to offset his poor shot selection, as his PER declined from 18.8 in 2012/13 to 16.8 this past year.

Walker was fifth in the league with 2.0 steals per game in 2012/13, but last season saw that number cut nearly in half, to 1.2. The team seemed to benefit from his more conservative approach. The then-Bobcats gave up just 99.1 points per 100 possessions with Walker on the floor compared to 105.1 when he sat last season, according to NBA.com. The gap wasn’t nearly as profound the year before, when Walker’s lineups gave up 108.2 points per 100 possessions compared to the 110.7 points per 100 possessions the Cats surrendered without him. Charlotte was statistically better defensively with Walker on the floor even when he was a rookie, though his teammates weren’t exactly world-beaters.

John Wall was the only point guard to receive a rookie-scale extension last year, and Walker isn’t in his max-salary neighborhood. Three point guards received rookie-scale extensions the year before, with Ty Lawson and Jrue Holiday the closest comparisons. Walker’s ball-handling numbers closely mirror what Lawson put up the season before he signed his four-year, $48MM extension, and they exceed what Holiday put up right before his four-year, $41MM extension, even though Walker lags behind both Lawson and Holiday as a shooter. Neither deal comes off as a bargain for their respective teams two years later, but they aren’t especially player-friendly contracts, either.

The Hornets would probably be pleased to come away with an extension that committed them to Walker for four years and $40MM, as I predicted earlier in the offseason that they would. Schwartz would rightly hesitate to let his client go for such a number and instead target one in the $41-48MM range that Holiday and Lawson established. We’ll soon see just how high the Hornets are willing to go to keep their positive momentum of the past two offseasons rolling.

And-Ones: World Cup, Ayon, Budenholzer, Hill

September 15 at 3:28pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Support is growing stronger to make both the Olympics and the World Cup of Basketball solely for players age 22 and under, one NBA GM tells Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who bemoans an existing system that he believes to primarily benefit Mike Krzyzewski. The change would take effect for 2018 World Cup, Wojnarowski writes. SB Nation’s Tom Ziller argues that while the NBA could work with FIBA to implement an age limit, FIBA has shown hesitancy to cooperate, and that the players union would have a case that any league-imposed restriction should be collectively bargained. Nonetheless, it seems there’s a decent chance that even without so many A-level stars, this year’s World Cup champion Team USA squad will be significantly more talented than the next American entry into the competition. Here’s more from around the NBA:

  • Shandong of China has jumped into the race for Gustavo Ayon as his European rights remain up in the air, tweets Shams Charania of RealGM. The Spurs are reportedly still in the mix, with Ayon needing to come up with $376K to pay FC Barcelona, which holds his European rights, if he’s to put pen to paper on a deal with Spanish rival Real Madrid.
  • Mike Budenholzer has never held an NBA front-office job, but he played as much of a role in talent acquisition for the Spurs as anyone outside of Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford during his time in San Antonio, writes TNT’s David Aldridge amid his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Budenholzer is in charge of player personnel for the Hawks while GM Danny Ferry is on indefinite leave.
  • A group that included Grant Hill as well as billionaires Tony Ressler and Bruce Karsh made a strong impression on the league when they put up a $1.2 billion bid to purchase the Clippers this spring, Aldridge writes in the same piece. The TNT scribe speculates that they could resurface as contenders for the Hawks.

D-League Affiliations For 2014/15

September 15 at 2:08pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The system of partnerships between NBA and D-League teams will take on a new look this year, with 17 of the D-League’s 18 clubs in one-to-one setups with their NBA parents. For the 13 NBA teams without a direct affiliate, new rules will help them accommodate the players they wish to send on D-League assignment this season, the league announced.

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the only D-League team that’s not in a one-to-one partnership, serve as the affiliate for those 13 NBA teams. They’re allowed to carry a maximum of four NBA players on D-League assignment and two at any one position. Should the Mad Ants be unable to accommodate a player on assignment from one of their 13 NBA partners, the D-League will allow the NBA team to pick from a pool of other D-League clubs that volunteer to accept the player. If no D-League teams volunteer, the D-League will hold a lottery to determine the player’s destination.

It appears to be a complex system that could slow the process of sending a player on assignment and make it especially difficult for any NBA team without a one-to-one affiliate to liberally shuttle players back and forth. Still, there’s a wide dichotomy in the use of the D-League, as some NBA teams pull players back and forth multiple times each week while others go entire seasons without sending anyone down.

As we wait to see how the revamped system works out, here’s each NBA team and its affiliate for the coming season. Teams without a one-to-one affiliation are marked with an asterisk.

  • *Atlanta Hawks — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • Boston Celtics — Maine Red Claws
  • *Brooklyn Nets — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • *Charlotte Hornets — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • *Chicago Bulls — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • Cleveland Cavaliers — Canton Charge
  • Dallas Mavericks — Texas Legends
  • *Denver Nuggets — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • Detroit Pistons — Grand Rapids Drive
  • Golden State Warriors — Santa Cruz Warriors
  • Houston Rockets — Rio Grande Valley Vipers
  • *Indiana Pacers — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • *Los Angeles Clippers — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • Los Angeles Lakers — Los Angeles D-Fenders
  • Memphis Grizzlies — Iowa Energy
  • Miami Heat — Sioux Falls Skyforce
  • *Milwaukee Bucks — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • *Minnesota Timberwolves — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • *New Orleans Pelicans — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • New York Knicks — Westchester Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder — Oklahoma City (nickname TBA; former Tulsa 66ers moved to Oklahoma City)
  • Orlando Magic — Erie BayHawks
  • Philadelphia 76ers — Delaware 76ers
  • Phoenix Suns — Bakersfield Jam
  • *Portland Trail Blazers — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • Sacramento Kings — Reno Bighorns
  • San Antonio Spurs — Austin Toros
  • *Toronto Raptors — Fort Wayne Mad Ants
  • Utah Jazz — Idaho Stampede
  • *Washington Wizards — Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Wizards, Xavier Silas Agree To Camp Deal

September 15 at 2:03pm CDT By Chuck Myron

2:03pm: Silas has put pen to paper on a contract with the Wizards, as he tells Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), though there’s been no official announcement from the team yet.

1:03pm: Xavier Silas has committed to a camp deal with the Wizards, reports J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. Washington is also close to an agreement that would bring Damion James to camp, Michael adds. Silas is almost certainly getting the minimum salary, and James assuredly would, too, since the Wizards can’t give out any more than that. It’s unclear whether either is in line for any sort of guaranteed salary.

Silas, a 6’5″ shooting guard, is joining the Wizards for the second straight preseason. Washington cut him before opening night last year, and he went on to play in Israel and Argentina. The 26-year-old’s only official NBA experience came in a pair of regular season games and a pair of playoff games for the Sixers in 2011/12.

James has a more extensive NBA track record, having been the 24th pick in the 2010 draft out of Texas. Still, the 6’7″ small forward made it into only 34 games in his first three NBA seasons, all with the Nets. James inked a 10-day contract followed by a deal for the rest of the season with the Spurs in April of this year, but he played in just five regular season games and didn’t appear in the postseason for San Antonio as the team made its championship run.

The Wizards are carrying 13 guaranteed deals plus a $400K partial guarantee on their contract with Glen Rice Jr., so it appears as though Silas and perhaps James would have decent chances to make it to opening night. Washington, which like so many teams is in the Ray Allen sweepstakes, would ideally round out the regular season roster with a wing player, but there’s a strong chance the Wizards will carry fewer than the maximum of 15 players when the regular season begins, according to Michael.

Pistons Work Out Denzel Bowles

September 15 at 12:58pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Pistons are putting free agent center Denzel Bowles through a workout today, and there’s a distinct possibility the former James Madison standout will be auditioning for the Bulls, too, a source tells Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link).

The 6’10″ Bowles has played overseas each of the past three seasons after going undrafted in 2011, with stops in Lithuania, the Philippines and China. He joined the Nuggets for summer league in July, averaging 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.7 minutes per contest. His numbers were more impressive in China last season, when he put up 26.0 PPG and 8.6 RPG in 32.5 MPG in 34 appearances with the Jilin Northeast Tigers.

The Pistons wouldn’t offer Bowles much opportunity to make the opening night roster if they were to add him for training camp, since they’re already carrying 16 guaranteed deals, as our roster counts show. It’s possible that the Pistons envision bringing Bowles to camp so they can get an extended look at him for down the road and so that they can retain his D-League rights for their new one-to-one affiliate. The Bulls have only 12 guaranteed pacts, but they haven’t carried more than 13 players on opening night in any of the last three seasons, as I pointed out. Chicago is among a host of teams targeting Ray Allen, and it would make sense that the contending Bulls would prioritize adding a veteran.

Spurs Open To Sign-And-Trade Of Aron Baynes

September 15 at 11:46am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Spurs are open to a sign-and-trade deal that would send center Aron Baynes elsewhere, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. The 27-year-old is the only remaining unsigned restricted free agent in the league aside from Eric Bledsoe, as our Free Agent Tracker shows.

Reports over the last month have indicated that Baynes and the Spurs have at least some level of mutual interest in an arrangement that would keep him in San Antonio, even as Baynes has cast his eyes toward signing in Europe while the Spurs have considered other players. San Antonio has 14 fully guaranteed pacts and is carrying Bryce Cotton, Josh Davis and JaMychal Green, each of whom has a nominal guarantee on his deal. The Spurs have carried fewer than 15 players on their opening-night roster in each of the past three seasons, as I noted earlier, so adding Baynes to the mix would leave them poised to go against their recent history. Reports have also linked San Antonio to Ray Allen, Julyan Stone, Ryan Hollins and others in recent weeks.

San Antonio is not without financial flexibility, possessing both its $5.305MM mid-level exception and $2.077MM biannual exception. The Spurs could use part of either to ink Baynes and send him out in a sign-and-trade, perhaps for non-guaranteed salary in return.

Tyshawn Taylor To Play In Russia

September 15 at 11:33am CDT By Chuck Myron

Former Nets point guard Tyshawn Taylor is putting the finishing touches on a deal with Dynamo Moscow, reports David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). It’s not clear whether it will include any sort of out clause that would allow the 24-year-old to return stateside if NBA interest perks up, but considering the sparse activity on his rumors page, it seems likely Taylor will begin the season overseas.

Taylor has been out of the NBA since the Pelicans cut him loose two days after acquiring him from Brooklyn. Prior to the trade, he more than doubled his minutes per game in his sophomore campaign for the Nets, who’d put him on the floor for just 5.8 minutes per contest in his rookie season. The 41st pick from 2012 averaged 3.9 points, 1.6 assists and 1.3 turnovers in 11.7 minutes per contest over 23 NBA games last year before finishing up the season in the D-League and with Puerto Rico’s Atleticos de San German.

Dynamo Moscow will compete in Russia’s Super League, a minor league that plays second fiddle to the VTB League, as Pick points out (on Twitter). That’s quite a comedown for Taylor, who averaged 16.6 points per game as a senior at Kansas in 2011/12. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him stay with the club for just a short time if he puts up strong numbers and proves he deserves a shot on a more well-regarded circuit.