Northwest Notes: Durant, Westbrook, Williams

July 30 at 10:30am CDT By Chuck Myron

Kevin Love has been the hottest name in rumors of late, but Tuesday, another Northwest Division star began to generate some buzz. Kevin Durant spoke openly of the possibility that he’ll sign with his hometown Wizards when he becomes a free agent in 2016. He also chalked up his decision not to negotiate an opt-out clause into his current five-year deal to a mixture of naivete and his love for Oklahoma City, as The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry notes. Durant said it would “definitely be tough” to leave if the Thunder were to win a pair of championships in the two years remaining before he can hit free agency, as USA Today’s Sam Amick observes. With the onus on GM Sam Presti to put his team over the top, there’s more on the Thunder and their stars amid the latest from the Northwest:

  • The general assumption is that Russell Westbrook will look to leave the Thunder when he becomes a free agent in 2017, but that’s no certainty, as Durant impressed upon reporters Tuesday, including Amick, who shares the tidbit in the same piece.
  • John Wall is already expressing support for the idea of Durant joining the Wizards in two years, calling him “like an older brother” and saying, “It’d be great to have him back home,” as Amick notes.
  • Had the Trail Blazers wanted to re-sign Mo Williams this summer, “in all retrospect, they could have,” Williams said in a pair of tweets. The guard has instead agreed to a deal with the Timberwolves.

Sixers Fighting Changes To Draft Lottery

July 30 at 9:14am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Sixers are resisting proposed changes to the draft lottery system, but their lengthy rebuilding process and willingness to build non-competitive rosters has curbed revenues and angered other teams, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The league has put forth a proposal to even out the odds for the top pick by as soon as next year, giving the team with the worst record in the NBA significantly longer odds of winning the lottery.

The league’s proposal would grant the top four teams in the lottery the same 11% odds of winning the No. 1 overall pick, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe explained a few weeks ago. All of those teams would have better odds under the current system. The Sixers finished with the second-worst record in the league last year, and there’s seemingly a strong chance they’re even worse this coming season, especially if they deal away Thaddeus Young, who’s been in multiple trade rumors of late, for little or no immediate return. Philadelphia is hoping to delay any change in the lottery until at least 2016, Windhorst writes.

GM Sam Hinkie‘s team will also be without Joel Embiid, who has a broken foot, and Dario Saric, who’s playing overseas, to start next season, meaning the Sixers will be without both of the players they netted with their pair of lottery picks from last month. The Sixers took a similar long-range approach last summer when they drafted injured center Nerlens Noel, who missed his entire first season.

The Sixers had the second-worst attendance in the league last season despite their presence in large-market Philadelphia. Smaller-market teams typically stand to benefit from the NBA’s revenue sharing plan that redistributes cash from franchises in urban hubs. The NBA has remediation plans in place to address teams that fall short of expectations based on market size, but it appears as though the Sixers aren’t carrying the weight that many other franchises expect them to.

Maalik Wayns To Play In Lithuania

July 30 at 8:22am CDT By Chuck Myron

Former Sixers and Clippers point guard Maalik Wayns has signed to play with Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). The terms aren’t immediately clear, and it’s uncertain whether the deal includes an NBA escape clause.

A preseason knee injury helped Wayns make the Clippers opening-night roster last season, as I explained last week when I looked at a special form of non-guaranteed contracts. The Clippers waived him shortly before his contract would have become guaranteed for the season, and they re-signed him to a 10-day deal, but they terminated that 10-day contract before it ran to term so they could sign Hedo Turkoglu instead. He spent most of the rest of the season in the D-League with the Rockets affiliate.

The Andy Miller client will be making his first foray overseas, having remained stateside for two years after going undrafted out of Villanova. He’s averaged 2.7 points and 1.0 assists in 7.3 minutes per game for his NBA career, which has so far encompassed only 29 appearances.

Mavericks Notes: Marion, Aminu, Lewis

July 29 at 10:59pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

Mavericks president Donnie Nelson is still open to signing Shawn Mariontweets Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. This isn’t any different from what Nelson said in a radio interview roughly two weeks ago, when he said that the team wouldn’t close the door on attempting to bring the 6’7 forward back to Dallas. It’s worth noting that the Mavs still had their $2.7MM room exception at that point; however, Nelson said that Marion’s value in the free agent market was much more than the team could afford. Now that the team used the room exception to sign Jameer Nelson, it seems even less likely that a reunion with “The Matrix” would materialize.

Here’s more out of Dallas tonight:

  • Donnie Nelson admitted that the team had originally considered signing Al-Farouq Aminu with their room exception, according to Price (Twitter link). The Mavs were fortunate to land the young forward on a veteran’s minimum deal instead.
  • Price also heard Donnie Nelson say that the Mavs may consider signing Rashard Lewis after he undergoes knee surgery (Twitter link). The team recently voided their one-year, $1.4MM offer after learning that Lewis needed an operation on his right knee.
  • Price (via Twitter) passes along that Donnie and the rest of the team expect Raymond Felton to have a bounce-back year this season.
  • Ivan Johnson‘s contract with the Mavs is a two-year arrangement, a source tells Sportando’s Enea Trapani (Twitter link), and both years are partially guaranteed, tweets Shams Charania of RealGM. It’s almost certainly a minimum-salary deal, as Chuck Myron explained earlier.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Love, Mudiay, Byron Scott

July 29 at 10:22pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

Here are a few miscellaneous news and notes to pass along out of the Association tonight:

  • It’s a safe bet that Kevin Love will be traded from the Timberwolves before opening night this upcoming season, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
  • The NCAA had cleared top 2015 draft prospect Emmanuel Mudiay to play academically, but there were still issues about his status as an amateur when he decided earlier this month to instead play in China, multiple sources tell Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link).
  • Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak insisted in a press conference today that the team saw Byron Scott as its preferred candidate from the beginning of its coaching search, as Mike Trudell of Lakers.com notes via Twitter. Kupchak also said that Scott’s appeal to Lakers fans and experience as a former Lakers player played a role in the team’s decision, tweets Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Former Warriors coach Mark Jackson has changed agents, dropping Arn Tellem in favor of Rich Paul, the agent for LeBron JamesTNT’s David Aldridge reports amid his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Jackson denied a report before the Cavs hired David Blatt that he was interested in Cleveland’s head coaching job.
  • Hawks swingman Kyle Korver has gone from being the 51st pick in the 2003 draft to arguably becoming one of the league’s most valuable role players, and Grantland’s Zach Lowe takes a comprehensive look at the evolution of the sharpshooter’s game over the years. In another piece, Lowe briefly touches on the effect that Jeff Hornacek had on Korver’s development when Hornaceck was an assistant on the Jazz.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post. 

Kings To Sign Eric Moreland

July 29 at 9:34pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

9:34pm: League sources tell Charania that the deal will be for three seasons (Twitter link), which would require the capped-out Kings to use their mid-level exception. Sacramento committed most its MLE to Darren Collison earlier this month, leaving an amount precisely equivalent to the rookie minimum salary.

7:32pm: The Kings have reached an agreement with free agent forward Eric Moreland, according to Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link). The rookie forward out of Oregon State played six games for Sacramento in the Las Vegas Summer League earlier this month. The terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed yet.

Moreland was a model of consistency over his sophomore and junior seasons in college, posting 9.4 PPG and 10.6 PPG in 30.7 minutes during the 2012/13 season and 8.9/10.3/29.4 in 2013/14. He was also an active rim protector, averaging almost two blocks per game each year since his freshman season. Upon deciding to forego his senior year and declare for this year’s draft, there was some belief that the 6’10 forward could be taken in the second round; however, Moreland would ultimately go undrafted.

The Chris Patrick client put on the same display of rebounding and defensive prowess in Vegas as he did at Oregon State, posting 8.8 RPG and 2.7 BPG in just 19.2 MPG.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post. 

Metta World Peace To Play In China?

July 29 at 9:07pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

Free agent forward Metta World Peace is close to signing a contract to play for the Sichuan Blue Whales of the Chinese Basketball Association, reports Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link).

The 34-year-old forward last played for the Knicks in 2013/14 but was waived in late February. In March, World Peace sought a return to New York not too long after the team hired Phil Jackson as president of basketball operations; the latest we heard was that the Knicks were only mulling a training camp invite on a non-guaranteed deal. We also passed along that the Queensbridge native also had interest in returning to Los Angeles to play for the Clippers or Lakers, although talks about re-joining the purple-and-gold weren’t considered to be serious.

The Marc Cornstein client statistically had his worst season to date last year in a handful of categories, averaging a career low in points (4.8), rebounds (2.0), steals (0.8), and minutes (13.4) through 29 games. It’s interesting to wonder just how much World Peace has left in the tank after not playing much last season, especially considering his productive stat line when he was a mainstay in the Lakers’ rotation under Mike D’Antoni in 2012/13 (12.4/5.0/1.6/33.7).

Durant On Gasol, LeBron, 2016 Free Agency

July 29 at 8:53pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

Following a Team USA training camp session earlier today, Kevin Durant answered a few notable questions from the media about the free agent movement this offseason as well as the summer of 2016, when he’ll be set to hit unrestricted free agency. The Thunder made a few ripples this summer after reeling in Sebastian Telfair and Anthony Morrow on the free agent market, but neither compare to the wave that would have resulted from netting Pau Gasol, who ultimately decided on joining the Bulls. When asked how close he thought Oklahoma City was to signing the two-time NBA champion, Durant told Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles that the chances were slim.“Obviously (it wasn’t) that close, (but) I did my work. That was my first time recruiting.” (Twitter link).

You can read more of Durant’s answers below, courtesy of a separate piece from Shelburne. 

On LeBron James‘ decision to return to Cleveland: 

“I thought it was well-thought-out. It was classy. It was a great move to do it as a letter…That was pretty cool. It’s funny seeing guys think about more than just basketball for once. He thought about the city where he comes from, about Northeast Ohio and how he can affect so many of the kids just being there playing basketball. I love that. So many guys get criticized for making the decision that’s best for them instead of what’s best for everybody else.

On becoming a free agent in 2016 and possibly choosing to return to his hometown of Washington D.C. and play for the Wizards:  

“I’m going to do what’s best for me…It’s hard to talk about that right now when I’ve got two years left in Oklahoma City. I’m just going to focus on that. I’m not going to make a decision based on what anybody else does.

On his ties to Washington D.C. and people asking him about a potential homecoming: 

“I grew up watching the Bullets/Wizards. I grew up taking the train to that arena, all the time, to watch Georgetown, the Bullets, the Washington Mystics. That whole city is a part of me. It’s in my blood. I love going back home, seeing my family and playing there, but I love Oklahoma City, too.”

“(The idea of me coming home has) been talked about. Everybody’s asked me about it every time I go on Instagram or Twitter. All my friends ask me about it…So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m naïve to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody that I’m here in Oklahoma City, I love it here. Who knows what will happen. I never close the door on anything. But I like where I’m at right now. So I can’t answer that question.”

Central Notes: Rose, Van Gundy, Waiters

July 29 at 7:05pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

As Derrick Rose inches closer toward his return to NBA action in 2014/15 following a season-ending injury last season, Kevin Pelton of ESPN explains why the Bulls superstar is better preparing himself by starting his adjustment period against some of the league’s best point guards in Team USA camp rather than waiting until Bulls training camp in the fall to begin playing at a high level (Insiders only). With that aside, here’s more of what we’ve gathered out of the Central Division this evening:

  • Rose outlined what his pitch to Carmelo Anthony had been as he spoke with reporters, including Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com. Rose’s message was simple, but it was seemingly more than just the brief hello that one report had indicated was the extent of the contact between the two stars.
  • Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy acknowledged that the team had to be more aggressive in its pitches to free agents this summer because of its lack of success on the court of late, as Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press notes.
  • Dion Waiters and Andrew Wiggins have both been in plenty of trade chatter, but if they both remain with the Cavs, only one of them seems likely to start. Waiters isn’t demanding that he be the starter, but he’s resolute in his belief that he’s the man for the job, as he tells Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com.
  • Doug McDermott is aware that his name is being attached in trade talks regarding Kevin Love; however, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the Bulls rookie hasn’t asked the front office to keep him updated on those rumors as he waits to see what happens.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post. 

Relationship Worsening Between Suns, Bledsoe

July 29 at 5:39pm CDT By Ryan Raroque

The relationship between the Suns and Eric Bledsoe appears to be souring further, as a source tells Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com that an “ominous development” has emerged with both sides still very far apart in contract negotiations. The source adds that “the relationship is on the expressway to being ruined” at this point. This summer, Bledsoe had drawn significant interest from teams such as the Bucks and Jazz; however, Phoenix has effectively scared off potential suitors by making it clear that any offer sheet that the restricted free agent receives would be matched,

Prior to this update, we heard earlier this month that Phoenix was reportedly offering $48MM over four years; Bledsoe reportedly insisted on an $80MM deal over five seasons. Haynes mentions two sources who said that Phoenix’s offer included a decline in salaries each year. Not surprisingly, the proposal was quickly turned down.