And-Ones: Turner, D-League, Rockets

September 20 at 10:59pm CDT By Cray Allred

Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel ran down the free agent movements thus far, organized by each team’s comers and goers around the league. Here’s a look at the league’s news and notes from tonight:

  • A source tells A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com that the Celtics will officially complete their signing of Evan Turner before training camp starts at the end of the month (Twitter link). Turner reached an agreement with Boston back in July, but the team is still in the process of shuffling the roster to make room for the former No. 2 overall pick. Not counting Turner, the Celtics currently have 20 total contracts on the books for training camp, which is the maximum allowed.
  • Flip Bondy of the New York Daily News takes a look at the open tryout process for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Players truly off the street have a longshot chance at making D-League training camp, and longer odds at an eventual NBA callup.
  • The crew at Basketball Insiders previews the Rockets 2014/15 season. They are mostly optimistic about the team, despite GM Daryl Morey‘s misses this offseason.

Zoran Dragic Nearing NBA Move

September 20 at 9:21pm CDT By Cray Allred

Zoran Dragic is in advanced discussions with Unicaja Malaga to leave the team and come to the NBA, tweets Shams Charania of RealGM. The Slovenian point guard has a buyout clause of $1.1MM to leave the Euroleague team, so presumably he has an agreement in place with an NBA squad. It’s possible that the team could have relinquished its buyout requirement, or that Dragic is paying for it himself, but it is much more likely that an NBA team is set to foot the bill.

The Suns, Pacers, and Kings have been named as the most aggressive suitors for the younger brother of Goran Dragic, although the Cavs, Heat, Magic, Spurs, Mavs, and Rockets have also registered interest. If Phoenix has struck a deal with the 25-year-old, it could have massive ripple effects around the league. The Suns are at a negotiating standoff with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, and adding another Dragic to the already-stacked Phoenix backcourt could signal their willingness to move on from Bledsoe, who Minnesota would bring on with a max contract if they had the room to do so.

Momentum has been building all summer for the younger Dragic, who has until October 5th to exercise the escape clause before becoming locked into another season overseas. At one point, it seemed like a long shot that the point guard would be coming stateside before next season, but he repeatedly stated his desire to find his way to the NBA amid a strong performance in the FIBA tournament spotlight. The hefty buyout payment, which exceeds the $600K max to not count against the cap, could mean that at least one team believes in him as a player who can contribute immediately. If Dragic fetches more than the minimum from a team willing to invest in his services, the Cavs, Heat, and Mavs are unlikely candidates to have snagged him.

Western Notes: McCalebb, Ayon, Bledsoe, Mavs

September 20 at 8:22pm CDT By Cray Allred

Kobe Bryant may not retire following the last two years on his contract with the Lakers, but he is eyeing an ownership stake in the Italian soccer team Bologna FC 1909, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport (translation via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times). Here’s more from around the West:

  • Bo McCalebb is in discussions with two teams in the Western Conference, a source tells David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). This isn’t the first we’ve heard of interest in the 29-year-old Euroleague star point guard. McCalebb is a free agent and wouldn’t require a buyout to join an NBA team for training camp or beyond.
  • The Spurs had offered Gustavo Ayon the veteran’s minimum of $981,084 before the big man chose to sign overseas, Pick tells Hoops Rumors.
  • In a reader chat response, Jabari Davis of Basketball Insiders wonders whether the Wolves will seek a third team to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Eric Bledsoe. Minnesota offered a max deal to the Suns restricted free agent, but Phoenix is reportedly uninterested in shipping him out for anyone on Minnesota’s roster.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at the Mavericks‘ suddenly crowded backcourt, with incoming veterans in Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton joining a roster already featuring Monta Ellis and Devin Harris. The team believes the players can coexist without any drama in coach Rick Carlisle‘s system. “A team can never have too many playmakers,” Carlisle said. “They can all play with or without the ball, so in my mind, they aren’t just point guards, they’re basketball players.” 

Andray Blatche Signs With Chinese Team

September 20 at 7:00pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

7:00pm: Pick has informed Hoops Rumors that the $2MM figure first reported for Blatche’s deal is correct.

12:25pm: Andy Miller, Blatche’s agent, has confirmed the signing, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv tweets.

12:08pm: The deal is for approximately $2.5MM, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports notes (Twitter link).

11:55am: According to his sources, David Pick of Eurobasket (Twitter link) reports that Blatche has signed the deal, and it is for one-year, $2MM.

9:52am: Free agent big man Andray Blatche is close to signing a deal to play in the Chinese Basketball Association, Sohu.com reports (translation by Enea Trapani of Sportando). The interested team is the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, who have already inked Jordan Crawford, and were in negotiations with Lester Hudson, before things fell apart.

There were rumors that the Flying Tigers were interested in signing Aron Baynes, who has also been linked to Yao Ming’s Shanghai Sharks. According to Hupu.com, Xinjiang’s management confirmed the addition of a big man who participated in the FIBA World Cup, but officials denied the deal was with Baynes, so it looks like Blatche is their target.

Blatche is an unrestricted free agent after averaging 11.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG in 22.2 minutes per contest with an 18.8 PER for the Nets last season. The Heat, Raptors, and Clippers had all been rumored to be interested in the 6’11″, 27 year-old. If Blatche does indeed sign with the CBA, he would still have an opportunity to sign with an NBA team late in the season, since the Chinese League ends play in February, with the playoffs generally concluding in mid-to-late March. For more on Blatche, check out Chuck Myron’s Free Agent Stock Watch profile on the player.

Eastern Rumors: Gibson, Taylor, Knicks

September 20 at 6:17pm CDT By Cray Allred

We have notes out of each division from the Eastern Conference this evening. Last year, the Southeast Division sent four teams to the playoffs, while the Atlantic and Central sent two apiece. This season, the Atlantic is in danger of dropping to just one playoff entry, as teams like Cleveland, Charlotte, and Atlanta figure to improve while Brooklyn and New York haven’t made clear upgrades this offseason. Here’s a rundown of the East:

  • Taj Gibson insisted that he is comfortable with a bench role in Chicago from his personal Twitter account (H/T Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). The Bulls big was responding to a report that he was privately displeased at the prospect of remaining on the bench for a crowded Bulls frontcourt. Gibson was similarly diplomatic when a potential starting role was fueling rumors regarding Carlos Boozer‘s eventual amnesty.
  • Jeff Taylor tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer that he is trying to be patient while training following his Achilles surgery this winter, but that his injury is healed and not a concern heading into camp. “It’s the first time I had anything more than a sprained ankle. It’s really hard to hold yourself back,” Taylor said. “I’ve always been that person who thought he could do things others doubted. But in a situation like this, you have to listen.” Hornets coach Steve Clifford had some doubts as to Taylor’s readiness for the season, but the third-year guard is confident that he will be able to compete immediately. “It’s not an injury anymore. It’s healed,” said Taylor. “It’s not weighing on my mind.” 
  • Jonah Ballow of NYKnicks.com writes that Knicks president Phil Jackson has given coach Derek Fisher plenty room to work so far, despite the temptation Jackson might feel to gravitate back toward the bench.

And-Ones: Blazers, Payton, Amundson

September 20 at 4:27pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The Blazers made it to the second round of the playoffs last season, which was the first time in the last 14 years that the franchise has accomplished that feat. In their season preview, the crew over at Basketball Insiders predicts that Portland will finish second in the Northwest Division, and the Blazers stronger bench may help them advance deeper in the playoffs this season.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Gary Payton is joining the Bucks coaching staff as a special advisor with the express purpose of helping Giannis Antetokounmpo make the transition to point guard, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes. Antetokounmpo played the point during the Las Vegas Summer League, and the intent is for him and Milwaukee to continue with the experiment during the regular season, notes Kenendy.
  • The Cavs impending signing of Lou Amundson brings to Cleveland a player who isn’t interested in scoring, and who understands the value of a rebound, taking a charge and overall defense, all things the suddenly talent-laden Cavs need, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes.
  • Recent Knicks camp invitee Orlando Sanchez could play a big role for the team this season, Keith Schlosser of SB Nation writes in his profile of the player. With the injury history of New York’s current big men, Sanchez could prove valuable as a mid-season D-League call up, notes Schlosser.

Eastern Notes: Budenholzer, Moore, Sanchez

September 20 at 2:32pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The recent trend in the NBA of coaches doubling as GM’s has made its way to Atlanta where Mike Budenholzer is handling both positions for the Hawks, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes. Budenholzer’s circumstances do differ from the ClippersDoc Rivers, Stan Van Gundy‘s in Detroit, and the WolvesFlip Saunders, in that he took over the extra duties due to GM Danny Ferry being forced to take a leave of absence after his racist remarks were made public, and not by design.

Here’s more out of the east:

  • E’Twaun Moore‘s minimum salary deal with the Bulls comes with a guarantee of $425K for the first year, with the second being non-guaranteed, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link).
  • The Knicks have guaranteed $15K of Orlando Sanchez‘s minimum salary contract, Pincus notes (Twitter link).
  • JaKarr Sampson‘s four-year, minimum salary deal with the Sixers includes a $50K guarantee for the first season according to Pincus (Twitter link). The remaining three years of the deal come with no guaranteed money.

Denzel Bowles In Talks With Chinese Team

September 20 at 1:34pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Free agent center Denzel Bowles is closing in on a deal with the Jilin Northeast Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association, Shams Charania of RealGM reports (Twitter link). This continues what has become a suddenly robust Asian market for free agents, with Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford recently inking deals with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.

The 6’10″ Bowles is familiar with Jilin, having played for the Tigers last season, averaging 26.0 PPG and 8.6 RPG in 32.5 MPG in 34 appearances. He played for the Nuggets in this year’s NBA summer league, logging 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.7 minutes per contest.

Bowles had recently worked out for the Pistons, and Charania also reports that Detroit invited him to training camp. But as we saw with Blatche, who received a one-year, $2.5MM deal, playing five months overseas and then trying to latch onto an NBA team in March can be much more financially rewarding than competing for a roster spot with little-to-no guaranteed money to bank on. Bowles had also reportedly displayed his wares for the Spurs, but likely wasn’t offered a deal or a camp invite.

DeAndre Liggins To Join Clippers For Camp?

September 20 at 12:38pm CDT By Chuck Myron

SEPTEMBER 20TH, 12:38pm: An NBA executive has told Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link), that Liggins will not be with the Clippers in training camp, contrary to earlier reports.

SEPTEMBER 2ND, 4:01pm: Three-year NBA veteran DeAndre Liggins will sign a deal for training camp with the Clippers, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (on Twitter). That means he’ll almost certainly be on a non-guaranteed contract for the minimum salary, allowing the team to continue to chase veteran targets with guaranteed money.

Liggins saw just one minute of playing time in the NBA last season while he was on a pair of 10-day deals with the Heat, and he didn’t see much more action in earlier stints with the Thunder and Magic after Orlando drafted him 53rd overall in 2011. The 26-year-old swingman has played primarily in the D-League, earning an All-Star selection on that circuit this past season. The Clippers caught a look at him while he played for their summer league team in July, when he averaged 7.2 points in 23.2 minutes per contest. He also suited up for the Pistons summer league squad this year.

The addition of the Henry Thomas client gives the team deals with 12 players, though the Clippers are reportedly close to agreements with Chris Douglas-Roberts and Hedo Turkoglu. Reports have also indicated that the club has interest in Ray Allen and Ekpe Udoh.

Ramon Sessions To Sign With Kings

September 20 at 11:22am CDT By Eddie Scarito

11:22am: Sessions’ deal is fully guaranteed with no options (team or player), Shams Charania of RealGM reports (Twitter link).

10:55am: Free agent guard Ramon Sessions has signed with the Kings, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Milwaukee BucksSports reports. The deal is for two years and $4.2MM, and Sacramento used their biannual exception for the acquisition. This brings the Kings’ preseason roster total to 19, and with Sessions’ deal most likely guaranteed for next season, Sacramento now has 12 fully-guaranteed deals, and two players carrying partial guarantees on their contracts. The Bucks had renounced their rights to Sessions last month, but there were rumors that the Rockets were interested in acquiring him via a sign-and-trade arrangement.

He appeared in 28 contests for Milwaukee last season after a February trade with the Bobcats which sent Sessions and Jeff Adrien to the Bucks for Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal. Sessions career numbers are 11.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 4.7 APG. His career slash line is .439/.311/.800.

Sessions will compete with Darren Collison for the starting point guard spot, though Collison is the likely frontrunner. He also can contribute at the shooting guard position, making him a versatile bench piece. Hoops Rumors’  Cray Allred detailed what Sessions brings to a team in his Free Agent Stock Watch piece on the 6’3″, 28 year-old out of Nevada.

Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images