Central Rumors: James, Pacers, Bulls, Pistons

LeBron James averaged a career-low 35.6 minutes per game during the regular season last year and Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue plans to limit his minutes even more this season, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com reports. Lue is determined to keep James and his other veteran players fresh heading into the postseason as they try to defend their championship, McMenamin adds.  “I’ve looked at the schedule, just seeing what makes sense and what’s smart when playing four-in-five type of nights,” Lue told McMenamin. “Can’t run our guys into the ground. We have to be smart, understand we have to take care of our bodies and take care of our key guys. Make sure that when we get to the playoffs we’re ready to go.”
In other news around the Central Division:
  • Pacers power forward Kevin Seraphin thought he might end up in Europe this season because there was so little interest in him during free agency, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star writes. Seraphin signed a two-year, $3.6MM deal with Indiana after a poor season with the Knicks in which he was overweight, missed games with a knee injury and lost confidence, Ayello continues. Seraphin fired his agent and thought he’d end up in Europe until the Pacers came to the rescue, Ayello adds. “It was tough,” Seraphin told Ayello. “All that waiting. I kept thinking, ‘How the (heck) do I not have an offer?’ I feel like I’m young, and I still have a lot of potential; I still have a lot in the tank.”
  • Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have taken leadership roles in the Bulls’ early practices, Sam Smith of Bulls.com reports. They have already done some on-court counseling to their younger teammates and that’s an encouraging development for a team that suffered through chemistry problems last season, Smith adds. “You just want to cut down all the chatter,” Rondo told Smith. “Only a couple of guys should be talking in practice. As far as disrupting, when they do stop practice coach has the voice, then assistant coach has the voice and then the other players.”
  • The Pistons gave journeyman power forward Jon Leuer a surprisingly lucrative four-year, $41MM contract this summer because of his offensive versatility but he’s also making a strong impression defensively in training camp, according to Aaron McMann of MLive.com. “The one thing I would say I’m surprised with is that he’s a lot better defensively than I thought,” coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy told McMann. “I thought he was decent – maybe average – defensively. I think he’s got a chance to be a lot better than that.”

Knicks Notes: Triangle Offense, Anthony, Noah

New Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has the freedom to make alterations to the triangle offense, Ian Begley of the ESPN.com reports. Team president Phil Jackson told Hornacek that he didn’t need to go strictly by the book when it came to teaching and executing his beloved offensive scheme, Begley continues. “I think maybe the previous teams here were trying to learn it, trying to do it right,” Hornacek told Begley and other beat reporters. “Phil always stresses to me that you got to let these guys be creative. … It’s putting a little bit on them, little bit more to not go crazy and not make bad shots. But we’re giving them the ability to do different things out of it. As long as they stay in that spacing.” Hornacek’s tweaks are designed to push the pace and that was on display in training camp on Wednesday, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Jackson watched silently as the Knicks raced down the court on every possession, Berman adds. “If you get six easy buckets pushing the ball, it’s a big advantage,’’ Hornacek told Berman.
In other developments regarding the Knicks:
  • Carmelo Anthony believes that free agent acquisition Joakim Noah will make the Knicks a more focused team, according to Jonah Ballow of NBA.com. Noah bolted the Bulls, who didn’t make a serious attempt to re-sign him, and inked a four-year, $72MM contract. “He pushes you to go out there and compete every play, every time,” Anthony told Ballow. “If not, you’re going to hear about it. I think that’s something we’ve been missing, this team needed, this organization needed and I like it. We like it.”
  • Noah acknowledges that a comment by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who said he was no longer a frontline player, irritated him, Adam Zagoria of SNY.TV reports in his blog. “It’s alright, he’s entitled to his opinion, you know?” Noah said to Zagoria. “I feel like I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me, that’s all that matters. I know I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization and I’m just excited for that new chapter in my career.”

Pacific Notes: Collison, Gay, Watson, Lacob

Kings coach Dave Joerger said the uncertainty surrounding point guard Darren Collison isn’t affecting the team yet, but he hopes for a ruling from the league soon, relays Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Collison is likely to be suspended after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery involving his wife. He was sentenced to three years of probation and 20 days in jail, which can be served through alternative sentencing. “If it lingers on two more, three more weeks, it’ll have an effect,” Joerger said. “But for now, it’s so much basic stuff anyways, foundation stuff, it’s general.” The Kings recently signed Ty Lawson as insurance in case Collison receives a long suspension.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • If the Kings trade Rudy Gay, there are limited options on the roster to take his place as the starting small forward, writes James Ham of CSNBayArea. Trade rumors are swirling around Gay again after he announced last week that he plans to opt out of his contract next summer. Ham believes Gay will be dealt before February’s trade deadline, and the Kings aren’t guaranteed to get a small forward in return. If that happens, Omri Casspi, Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple are most likely to take his place.
  • The SunsEarl Watson is emphasizing defense and communication in his first training camp as a head coach, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Watson took over the team in the middle of last season and quickly won the loyalty of players, who petitioned GM Ryan McDonough to keep him in the position. “He doesn’t hold nothing back,” said Eric Bledsoe. “If you’re messing up, he’s going to let you have it. That’s what you want out of a coach – to get on you. You gain so much respect by doing that. His enthusiasm, excitement and everything about him is bringing the team together.”
  • Kent Lacob is the new GM of the Warriors‘ D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz, the team announced in a press release. He joined the organization last year as Golden State’s coordinator of basketball operations.

Spurs Notes: Duncan, Ginobili, Gasol, Belinelli

Tim Duncan showed up at practice today, but his role with the Spurs remains undefined, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com. Newly retired after 18 years with the team, Duncan will be used in some type of coaching or advisory capacity. Head coach Gregg Popovich said the former All-Star will be “coach of whatever he feels like,” but won’t be on the bench during games. It also hasn’t been determined whether Duncan will travel with the team on road trips. GM R.C. Buford said Duncan’s role will define itself as the season wears on, adding that the team “want[s] to let it kind of morph into its own sort of thing.” “I think he’s learning about life after playing,” Buford said. “And he can impact us in so many ways. I think we need to sit back and get a better understanding of how he feels like he wants to fit in, and what works for his family. Then, we’ll figure it out from there. But the gym feels better when he’s in it.”

There’s more news out of San Antonio:

  • Buford is grateful that Duncan and Manu Ginobili didn’t retire at the same time, relays Tom Orsborne of The San Antonio Express-News. Calling it a “lonely summer” with so much player turnover, Buford was gratified that he was able to convince Ginobili to play one more season with a $14MM contract. “To have had to replace them both at the same time would have been even more impactful than when each one decides to leave as individuals,” Buford said. “I don’t know how you judge that or gauge that other than that we know there is a transition approaching for our organization and it will be better if it’s a more managed transition than if it all happens at the same time.”
  • A year after joining the Spurs in free agency, LaMarcus Aldridge is the most tenured member of the big-man rotation, notes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Not only did Duncan retire, but Boris Diaw was traded to the Jazz, Boban Marjanovich signed with the Pistons and David West left for the Warriors. Veteran shooting specialist Matt Bonner is working out in New Hampshire and hoping for another chance at the NBA. Taking their place are free agent additions Pau Gasol, David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon. “We were lucky to sign him,” Tony Parker said of Gasol. “Losing Timmy, you can’t replace a guy like that. At least we have Pau and LaMarcus. It’s going to be a great combination.”
  • Marco Belinelli is on his second team since leaving San Antonio in 2015, but the new Hornet still has fond memories of his time with the Spurs, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “Pop is unbelievable and for sure I can say [there were] so many examples to me: Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker,” Belinelli said. “They so can make you a better basketball player and a better person.”

Nuggets Notes: Arthur, Chandler, Murray

Darrell Arthur received offers from three teams in free agency, but took less to stay with the Nuggets, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. The eighth-year forward said he was contacted by the Wizards, Clippers and Spurs, but decided to accept a three-year, $23MM offer to remain in Denver. Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he appreciates Arthur’s loyalty. “Free agency came around, he told his agents, ‘Listen, get it done with Denver. I don’t even want to talk to anyone else,'” Malone said. “He left millions of dollars on the table because he believes in what we’re doing. That makes you feel really good because Darrell Arthur is about all the right things.”

There’s more tonight out of Denver:

  • After a difficult year away from the game, Wilson Chandler is happy to be back in camp, Dempsey writes in a separate piece. Chandler is finally healthy enough to play after missing all of last season while recovering from hip surgery. The 6’8″ swingman is expected to improve Denver’s perimeter defense and help fill the rebounding void left when Joffrey Lauvergne was traded to Oklahoma City. “He’s a guy that when you look at it, checks more boxes than anybody else with everything he brings to the table,” Malone said. Chandler has three seasons and $36MM left on the extension he signed last summer.
  • The Nuggets are working on versatility with first-round pick Jamal Murray, Dempsey writes in another story. The 6’4″ rookie was a natural shooting guard at Kentucky last season, but Malone wants him to be able to handle either backcourt position. “We’re going to have him play on the ball and off the ball, he’s got to learn all the spots on the floor,” the coach said. “That’s what a good point guard should do anyway. We’ve often talked about the allure of Jamal is that he is a versatile player. He’s going to be fine. He’s a smart kid. He cares. And we have plenty of coaches to help him, if he has any questions in terms of the offense.”

Cavs Notes: Anthony, Smith, Dunleavy, D-League

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is hoping his friend J.R. Smith can work out his contract situation in time to receive his championship ring on opening night, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. New York will be the opponent when Cleveland starts its season October 25th, but Smith’s presence is far from guaranteed. The veteran shooting guard has been in a contract impasse with the Cavaliers all summer, reportedly wanting a $15MM annual salary, while the team wants something in the $10MM to $12MM range. Word broke this week of an “aggressive” offer by the Cavs, but the situation remains unresolved. “I don’t know what’s going on over there with that,” Anthony said. “I hope they don’t prolong the situation. He helped them win that championship. He was a major part of that team, and I hope they can get something done. If not, we’ll see him somewhere else.’’

There’s more news out of Cleveland:

  • After being with four other teams in his 14 NBA seasons, Mike Dunleavy is overjoyed to wind up with the Cavaliers, writes Sam Amico of AmicoHoops. Cleveland acquired Dunleavy in a deal with the Bulls when Chicago was trying to clear cap space to sign Dwyane Wade. The veteran swingman described the trade as “Christmas in July.” The Cavs plan to use him as a shooter to stretch the floor alongside LeBron James, and in combination with Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye to have three tall shooters on the floor at the same time. “I see myself being involved in whatever way, shape or form we need,” Dunleavy said. “It’s as simple as that. I can play a lot of different roles, anything necessary to get these guys back to the mountain top. Basically, Coach [Tyronn] Lue can use me however he wants. I’m just happy to be here.”
  • James can expect to see reduced minutes this season, as well as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, according to Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal. After two consecutive seasons that stretched into late June, the Cavaliers will be emphasizing rest. Measures will include monitoring players’ energy levels and staying longer in cities after road games. “My thing is just making sure guys are healthy, continue to limit LeBron’s minutes … watch Kyrie’s minutes because we know we’re playing for something big,” Lue said. “We know when we get to the playoffs it’s going to require a lot of minutes so with those guys and with Kevin [Love], just have to watch guys getting to the red zone.”
  • Nate Reinking was named coach of the Cavaliers’ D-League affiliate in Canton, according to D-League Digest (Twitter link). He has been an assistant with the team since 2013.

Southwest Notes: Curry, Carlisle, Asik, Anderson

With a famous father and an even more famous brother, Seth Curry is working to build his own reputation in his first season with the Mavericks, writes Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com. After limited opportunities with three teams, Curry began to show what he can do in 44 games with the Kings last season, averaging 6.8 points per night and shooting 45% from 3-point range. That potential turned into a two-year, $6MM offer from Dallas and the chance for an expanded role with a veteran team. The son of 16-year veteran Dell Curry and brother of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, Seth has the family pedigree to be a great NBA shooter. “He could legitimately play both guard positions, and he’s going to be a factor for us,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s better than I thought he was, and he’s at an age where he’s still getting better really at both positions, so I’m excited about him.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Carlisle says seven players are competing for two open roster spots, Sneed relays (Twitter link). Dallas has 17 players in camp with guaranteed contracts, so at least two of them won’t make the team.
  • Pelicans center Omer Asik started 64 of the 68 games he appeared in last season, but that number will drop this year, according to John Reid of The Times Picayune. Coach Alvin Gentry said today that he plans to use Anthony Davis in the post more often and not worry about having a traditional center. Alexis Ajinca and Terrence Jones may also be used in the starting lineup, depending on the opponent. That means fewer minutes for Asik, who is still guaranteed more than $32MM over the next three seasons on the contract he signed last summer. ”Last season really left a bad taste, so we are really working hard to change that,” Asik said. ”My whole focus this summer was to get better physically and get stronger.”
  • New Rockets power forward Ryan Anderson is happy to leave behind the Pelicans‘ offense, writes Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports. Anderson, one of the league’s best shooting stretch fours, saw his average of 3-point shots dip to 5.6 per game over the last two years after being close to 7.0 the three previous seasons. That number should rise dramatically now that he is playing for coach Mike D’Antoni in Houston. “I’ve had more wide-open looks in our pickup games here than I’ve had in the past four years, probably,” Anderson said.

Wolves Notes: Rubio, Lucas, Pinckney, Newton

Ricky Rubio is clarifying remarks he made to a Spanish radio station over the summer that led many to believe he wants to be traded, writes Kent Youngblood of The Star-Tribune. In the June interview, Rubio noted that he had been in the league five years without making the playoffs, adding that he would have to “start thinking about teams that can get into the playoffs and win in the finals” if the Timberwolves don’t make the postseason this year. Minnesota’s best record in the five seasons Rubio has been with the team is 40-42 in 2013-14. “I didn’t say I wanted to get traded,” Rubio explained. “I want to play with a winner. I think we have the right mentality. It’s changing.”

  • Veteran point guard John Lucas III sounded very confident at today’s practice and clearly expects to win a roster spot, tweets John Krawczynski of the Associated Press. Lucas, who played 21 games with the Pistons last season, signed with the Wolves in August.
  • Ed Pinckney is attending the Timberwolves’ camp as a guest, but he is likely to be added to the coaching staff by the end of the week, according to Krawczynski (Twitter link). Pinckney served as an assistant with the Nuggets last season.
  • Former Minnesota GM Milt Newton hopes to eventually hold that job again with another organization, relays Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Newton, who was let go as part of a front office shakeup in May, said he believes race is a factor in a league that now has just two black GMs. “I would be naïve to think that it’s not a problem,” said Newton. “At the end of the day, I don’t want to concern myself with that. I know it’s difficult for us African-Americans to have opportunities to interview for these jobs, to have opportunities to be part of these management teams.”

Atlantic Notes: Budinger, Raptors, Sixers, Celtics

Chase Budinger didn’t receive any guaranteed money from the Nets on his new contract, but he’ll have the opportunity to earn a regular-season roster spot, and if he can crack the 15-man squad, he’ll collect his full salary, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Pincus reports (via Twitter) that Budinger’s contract is an all-or-nothing deal, which becomes fully guaranteed if Budinger makes the team.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman is pleased with the team’s offseason, as he tells Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. Weltman pointed to the team’s 10 players who are 25 or under as a sign the franchise has “invested in youth,” and singled out first-round picks Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam as rookies who could establish rotation roles.
  • In the view of Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Joel Embiid‘s health will play a major part in solving the Sixerslogjam at center. If Embiid is healthy, it makes Jahlil Okafor more expendable, since Embiid can produce on offense. If Embiid isn’t healthy, it’s more imperative that the team hangs onto Okafor, who can score in the low post.
  • Speaking on Tuesday to reporters, including Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com, new big man Al Horford said that it “feels right” to be playing for the Celtics, adding that he feels like the club is capable of winning a championship.

Los Angeles Notes: Lakers, Clippers, World Peace

Back in 2014, top Lakers executive Jim Buss vowed in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that if the franchise didn’t return to Western Conference contention within three or four years, he would resign. However, as Bill Oram of The Orange County Register observes, comments made by Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak this week suggest a less aggressive timeline. While Kupchak said the team needs to improve on last year’s win total (17) by more than just “a game or two,” he stopped short of setting any specific goals related to win totals or playoff contention, and it sounds as if he’s in no rush to hurry along the rebuild. Whether Buss will continue to stick the contention timeline he established publicly two years ago remains to be seen.

Let’s round up a few more notes from out of Los Angeles…

  • As he did a year ago, Metta World Peace will have to “earn his way” onto the Lakers‘ 15-man regular-season roster, Kupchak confirmed on Tuesday (Twitter links via Serena Winters of LakersNation.com). According to Kupchak, the veteran forward knows there’s a possibility he may not remain with the team when the regular season gets underway.
  • As usual, the Clippers will head into the season without a standout player at the small forward position, prompting Doc Rivers to suggest that the competition for the starting spot is “wide open.” Dan Woike of The Orange County Register has the details and the quotes.
  • In a separate piece for The Register, Woike notes that the Clippers significantly bolstered their basketball operations staff this year, having been “understaffed” in the past, per Rivers.
  • The Clippers‘ title window remains open for now, but with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and J.J. Redick eligible to reach the open market in 2017, Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times examines how much time the team will have before that window closes.

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