Eastern Notes: Whiteside, Anthony, Williams

November 28 at 10:23pm CST By Eddie Scarito

After nearly being out of the league, Heat forward Shawne Williams is making the most out of the playing time that he’s earned this season, Shandel Richardson of The Sun Sentinel writes. “Man, one thing I noticed about being in this league is you can never be too comfortable,” Williams said. “I’m kind of always on edge. This business is a tricky business. I’ve learned from a lot of stuff that I’ve been through and a lot of stuff that I have been in to never be comfortable. I’m never satisfied. I’m going to stay hungry.” Through Miami’s first 15 games Williams is averaging 10.5 points and draining 50.7% of his three-point shots.

Here’s more from the east:

  • Hassan Whiteside’s two-year deal with the Heat includes a partial guarantee of $100K for this season, but the second year includes no guaranteed salary, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link).
  • If the Knicks aren’t careful in managing Carmelo Anthony‘s back spasms, they could put their star at risk for further back issues later in the season, Ian Begeley of ESPNNewYork.com writes. “He [Anthony] can wind up battling this all season if it’s not shut down appropriately to let him heal up,” Dr. Neil Roth, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine told Begley.
  • The Nets haven’t notched a victory against a team with a winning record this season, notes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “I look at a win as a win,” head coach Lionel Hollins said. “The quality wins are the ones you get on the road. It’s nice to beat good teams, but we have to get to that level where we are consistently able to beat good teams. So we’re just taking wins where we can. That’s what it’s about — trying to win and get in the playoffs, and then when you get there, trying to hopefully get a matchup that favors you.”

Western Notes: Wolves, Carter, Harrington

November 28 at 8:52pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Wolves president Flip Saunders said the team is still considering filing for a hardship exception which would allow Minnesota to temporarily add a 16th player to their roster, Andy Greder of The St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. The franchise has lost the services of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, and Ronny Turiaf to injuries. Martin is out six to eight weeks after having wrist surgery, and Rubio isn’t likely to return until January at the earliest after injuring his ankle. Both Pekovic and Turiaf will both be reevaluated next week, Greder adds in a separate tweet.

Here’s more from out west:

  • After meeting with head coach Dave Joerger and his staff during the free agent signing period this summer, Vince Carter knew playing with the Grizzlies was the right choice, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com writes. “I like playing with guys who want to win,” Carter said. “At this point in my career, that’s what it’s about. I met with the coaching staff and ownership and you can just see the direction they were trying to go in – just winning – and I felt like I can bring a presence on and off the court and that’s what I’m looking for. I know this was a great opportunity for both sides and it worked out.”
  • Carter was also asked if the Blazers reached out to him during the summer, and he replied, “I never really heard from them. They’re established, man. They are going to be fine. I don’t think they needed my services.”
  • Despite reports that the Rockets are interested in signing Al Harrington, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets that Harrington isn’t likely to end up in Houston. Harrington had recently left his Chinese team because of apparent interest from NBA clubs

Poll: Should The NBA Consider Realignment?

November 28 at 7:10pm CST By Eddie Scarito

It’s not a closely guarded secret that the Western Conference has been far superior to the east as a whole for some time now. In fact, since the the turn of the millennium, only once — the 2008/09 season — has the Eastern Conference been able to lay claim to the better winning percentage between the two conferences.

The results thus far this season have done nothing to change this trend. Eastern teams have a 23-55 record against their western counterparts, which if you are doing the math, amounts to a .295 winning percentage. Here’s a quick rundown of the non-conference record for each Eastern Conference team this season.

  1. Raptors 4-0
  2. Bucks 3-0
  3. Bulls 3-3
  4. Heat 2-3
  5. Cavs 2-4
  6. Pacers 2-4
  7. Nets 2-5
  8. Hawks 1-2
  9. Magic 1-3
  10. Knicks 1-4
  11. Wizards 0-1
  12. Pistons 1-6
  13. Celtics 0-6
  14. Sixers 0-6
  15. Hornets 1-8

Earlier this week, Mavs team owner Mark Cuban suggested a plan to try and level the playing field between the NBA’s two conferences through realignment. In Cuban’s plan, the Spurs, Rockets, Pelicans and Mavs would shift to the Eastern Conference, and the Bulls, Pacers, Pistons, and Bucks would relocate to the west. Cuban did acknowledge that his franchise could benefit from the shift to the east, but added, “It’s not like it’d be the first time we’ve ever realigned. It’s happened many times before, so there’s precedent and I just think it shakes things up and makes things interesting. It’s not like you’re reducing competition. You keep Cleveland, Washington and other good teams in the East. It kind of shakes things up in terms of not just interest but also in terms of how people rebuild.”

I re-calculated the numbers based on Cuban’s plan, and the shift in teams improved the east’s numbers against the west to 37-57, or a .394 winning percentage. With the NBA campaign only a month old the numbers would likely improve as the season continued, especially with the relative strength of the teams in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas.  This realignment plan would essentially swap out the bulk of the Central Division for the majority of the Southwest Division. But is Cuban’s idea something that would be good for the league long-term? It would certainly be a touch odd geographically, but so is having New Orleans residing in the west as it currently does.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been receptive to ideas that would address the issue of the West being a significantly deeper, stronger conference than the East. One idea that has been suggested is to have a 16-team playoff bracket that does not take conferences into consideration, but rather overall winning percentages. This change would certainly make the playoffs more intense and entertaining, but it would do nothing to address the disparity between the two conferences during the regular season.

What do you think? Should the league give serious consideration to Cuban’s realignment suggestion, go to the top-16 team format in the playoffs, or just leave well-enough alone? Cast your vote below and feel free to expand on the debate in the comments section.

Kings Notes: Moreland, D-League, Casspi

November 28 at 5:14pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The much-improved Kings are back in action tonight as they head to San Antonio to take on the defending champs. But Sacramento won’t be at full-strength tonight since big man DeMarcus Cousins will be sitting out the game due to a virus. The Kings will certainly miss Cousins’ services, especially since the 24-year-old is playing at an All-Star level, averaging 23.5 points and 12.6 rebounds through the team’s first 15 contests.

Here’s more from Sacramento:

  •  The Kings have assigned Eric Moreland to their D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, the team announced. This will be Moreland’s third assignment of the season to Reno, and he is averaging 13.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in three D-League games this season.
  • Two years after he’d been traded by the Kings, Omri Casspi returned to Sacramento as a free agent and found the atmosphere around the team had changed for the better, Bryan Horowitz of Dime Magazine writes. With the Kings no longer in danger of being moved from Sacramento and a new arena on tap for 2016, the energy around the team is the best since the halcyon days of Chris Webber and Jason Williams notes Horowitz. “Right now, it just felt like the right energy and the right atmosphere for me to be in,” Casspi said. “Sacramento always had a different vibe — it has my first NBA game, my first preseason and all of that. I was fortunate enough to come back.”
  • Casspi has also changed his game this season, and is attacking the basket much more so than in the past when he was content to fire away from the outside, Horowitz adds. Casspi sees the return to his old stomping grounds of Sacramento as what has motivated him this season. “More than anything, it’s just being comfortable — comfortable in the role, comfortable in the system, comfortable in the city,” Casspi said, “I like to be able to not just be a three-point shooter, to penetrate and get into the lane and create. It’s just fun, you know? It’s pretty simple.”

And-Ones: Labor, Mudiay, Prospects, Cobbs

November 28 at 3:15pm CST By Chuck Myron

The sharp exchange between Adam Silver and Michele Roberts of late has seemingly served as indication that a work stoppage is on the way in 2017, but Roberts is optimistic that the sides will be able to settle their differences, as she explains to Chris Mannix of SI.com.

“But of course I think it’s avoidable,” Roberts said of a work stoppage. “Does anyone really expect Adam and I will sing kumbaya every day? We’re grown ups. He has a constituency, and I do. We disagree. But that’s the world. You know what we do agree on? We don’t want a work stoppage. Neither one of us wants to see that happen. We have said it to each other. We have said it out loud. Our teams are all smart, we all have the same goals and we should be able to sit down and avoid it. I’d be surprised, frankly, if we had one, but I’m ready if we do.”

While NBA fans hope that Roberts is right about that, here’s the latest from around the league:

  • About half of the league’s teams plan to send either scouts, executives or both to China to check out highly touted draft prospect Emmanuel Mudiay, and teams are calling almost daily for information about the point guard, a source tells Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling (Twitter link). Mudiay, who signed with China’s Guangdong Southern Tigers rather than attend SMU for what would have been his freshman season this year, is No. 2 in the rankings of both Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and Chad Ford of ESPN.com.
  • Errick McCollum, who worked out for the Cavs, Kings and Rockets this summer, is one of several overseas prospects who are making a mark after having gone undrafted, as David Pick examines for Basketball Insiders.
  • German club VEF Riga has let go of Hornets camp invitee Justin Cobbs after what amounted to a one-month tryout, the team announced (Twitter link; translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Cobbs signed with Riga earlier this month shortly after the Hornets released him in advance of opening night. The 23-year-old point guard averaged just 2.0 points in 13.7 minutes per game across seven overseas appearances.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Hardship

November 28 at 1:45pm CST By Chuck Myron

The availability of a 16th regular season roster spot to NBA teams was little-used and little-known when the season began a month ago today. The league granted the Timberwolves an extra roster spot in the 2012/13 season, and it did the same for the Pelicans near the end of 2013/14, but the league doesn’t “hand those things out like candy,” as Wolves executive Flip Saunders recently observed. However, poorly timed injuries and illnesses have already prompted three teams to receive clearance to sign extra men this season, and the Wolves and Lakers have explored the possibility of becoming the fourth. All of it has cast the NBA’s hardship roster rules into the spotlight and resolved some of the mystery surrounding them.

The term “hardship” used to be a common part of the league’s vernacular in reference to players who entered the draft before exhausting their college eligibility, but it has a completely different meaning in regard to the size of NBA rosters. The NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws, in their definition of hardship, give the Board of Governors the power to approve special provisions counter to the NBA’s roster limits with a majority vote. Yet the rule also spells out circumstances in which injury and illness would allow teams to receive extra roster spots without Board of Governors approval. In these cases, a team must have three players who have missed at least three straight games because of injury or illness, and an additional player who has incurred an injury or illness but hasn’t necessarily missed any games yet. Should the Commissioner’s Office determine, using an independent doctor if it so chooses, that all four of those players will continue to be unable to play, the team may acquire an extra player. The commissioner can grant additional extra roster spots to the team should he deem that conditions warrant it. The Thunder, one of the teams that carried a 16th player this month, was reportedly ready at one point to seek Adam Silver’s approval for a 17th spot.

The league’s by-laws expound on such roster dynamics much more broadly than the collective bargaining agreement, and the first-time public release of the by-laws, which happened this past spring amid the Donald Sterling scandal, provided new insight into the hardship rule. Yet the by-laws leave some significant questions unanswered, and the way the league has handled the situations involving the Thunder, the Pacers, and a somewhat related scenario in which the Grizzlies received a 16th roster spot, has helped show just how the NBA applies these rules.

The NBA granted the Thunder and Pacers 10-day windows in which they could keep a 16th player on the roster, as several reports have made clear. The Pacers essentially acknowledged as much when the league granted them a second window that allowed them to keep A.J. Price, their 16th man. The more hidebound Thunder made no such announcement when they retained Ish Smith for a second 10-day period, but Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, among others, made reference to a pair of 10-day stints for Smith. The Thunder also demonstrated another facet of the hardship rules when they waived Sebastian Telfair instead of Smith to reduce their roster to 15 players. Telfair had been on the roster since the start of the regular season, but even though it was Smith whom the hardship allowed the team to sign, the Thunder were at liberty to choose the player they wanted to unload to get back down to 15 men, as this week’s move indicated.

There appears to be a time limit on the front end of the hardship, too. The Pacers scuttled their deal with Gal Mekel when a visa complication would have kept him from signing until a day after the Pacers were ready to put pen to paper. That extra day would have pushed the Pacers past the time the league allowed them to add a 16th player, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link), so they turned to Price instead.

The Wolves considered applying for an extra roster spot this month but were wary of doing so because it would have meant that Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf would have had to remain out during the 10-day window, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune reported last week. That suggests that even if injured players make a recovery on a more rapid timetable than the league had thought they would, they’d still be ineligible to play until the 10-day hardship expired.

That didn’t come into play for the Grizzlies, who earlier this month signed Kalin Lucas and Hassan Whiteside to take their roster from 14 to 16 men on a night when five Grizzlies were sick with a stomach virus. Memphis waived Lucas and Whiteside the next day, and a day after that, some of the Grizzlies returned from the virus to play. The 16th roster spot for Memphis was a curious provision on the surface, since the Grizzlies hadn’t had three players miss at least three straight games. But what triggered the extra roster spot for Memphis wasn’t the same as what allowed Indiana and Oklahoma City to add 16th men.

The Grizzlies could take on both Lucas and Whiteside because Nick Calathes was serving a league suspension that had caused him to miss more than five games. In such cases, teams are allowed to transfer their suspended players to the Suspended List rather than the Active or Inactive Lists. Teams may do the same when a player has served at least three games of a team suspension. When teams put such players on the Suspended List, they’re allowed to add an extra man, and the Grizzlies took advantage.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (or in this case, the NBA’s Constitution and By-Laws). Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Southeast Notes: Curry, Hornets, Heat, Hawks

November 28 at 11:58am CST By Chuck Myron

Three Southeast Division teams have winning records, the most of any Eastern Conference division, but there are no powerhouses, allowing Western Conference heavies like the Warriors to record two wins of 15 points or more in consecutive nights on the road in Florida. Golden State heads to Charlotte tonight after turning the Florida double play earlier this week, and there’s a heavy Warriors influence on the latest news out of the Southeast:

  • Charlotte native Stephen Curry spoke this past summer about the idea of someday playing for the Hornets, but this week he sought to downplay the notion, even though he admits he’s always thought about it, as Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group details. “That’s hard to get out of your head, but obviously, it has no bearing on decisions that I make down the road,” Curry said. “It’s just a fun thought to have. The Hornets name does mean a lot to my family, and obviously I’m starting a new thing with the Warriors. I definitely feel right at home here [with Golden State].”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident that Heat first-round pick Shabazz Napier will become a starting-level NBA point guard, and fellow Heat rookie James Ennis is drawing widespread praise as well, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
  • The Hawks have officially assigned Adreian Payne and John Jenkins to the D-League, the team announced via press release. Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thursday that the team intended to make the moves.

Pacers Waive A.J. Price

November 28 at 10:27am CST By Chuck Myron

The Pacers have waived A.J. Price, the team announced. The move is no surprise, since the team’s hardship provision for a 16th roster spot had expired, and with players on their way back from injury, the team apparently elected not to attempt to renew it. Price joined the team as its 16th player earlier this month, presumably on a non-guaranteed contract, though that detail was never confirmed. His release brings Indiana back to 15 players.

Price was a capable fill-in during his 10-game stint, averaging 10.5 points, 2.7 assists and 1.0 turnover in 19.3 minutes per contest. The 28-year-old opened the season on the Cavs roster, but Cleveland let him go within the first week of the regular season to sign Will Cherry instead. A Chinese team reportedly made an offer to Price, and he was just “days away” from signing it when the Pacers swooped in, writes Wheat Hotchkiss.com of Pacers.com. The Excel Sports Management client has acknowledged that he’s ready to play overseas, though he’d like to land another deal in the NBA and Pacers coach Frank Vogel has said that he’s deserving of an NBA roster spot somewhere.

The league gave the Pacers a pair of 10-day clearances to carry 16 players, since they met the criteria for such a provision, which required the team to have four players who were expected to miss time with injury after three had already sat out at least three games. Paul George is likely to miss the entire season, George Hill continues to be out indefinitely with a bruised left knee, but Vogel said today that David West will return to action tonight against the Magic, tweets Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Roy Hibbert will miss the game with a sprained left ankle, Robbins also notes, but C.J. Watson will return, according to Autumn Allison of the Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). Still, the Pacers could have spared Price and selected another player to release to trim the roster to the conventional 15-man limit, as the Thunder did when they cut Sebastian Telfair rather 16th man Ish Smith when their hardship exception ran out.

Central Notes: Butler, Sanders, Pistons

November 28 at 10:22am CST By Chuck Myron

The Bucks can move into first place in the Central Division tonight if they beat the Pistons and the Bulls lose on the road to the Celtics. It’s early, of course, but new coach Jason Kidd is making a case for Coach of the Year honors, though he’s receiving an assist from the arrival of Jabari Parker and the improved play of others. There’s more on Milwaukee amid the latest from the Central:

  • A source tells Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that the Bulls offered Jimmy Butler a four-year extension worth more than $40MM. That largely falls in line with the $11MM annual salaries that an earlier report from K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune indicated the Bulls had put on the table.
  • Larry Sanders is only playing 22.2 minutes per game, but Kidd is pleased with his play not just on defense but on offense as well, and the center credits Kidd and the new Bucks owners for a culture change, as Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel details. The revival of Sanders, whose poor performance last season had him in trade rumors shortly after he signed a four-year, $44MM extension, has helped the surprising Bucks to a 9-7 record.
  • The Pistons have recalled Tony Mitchell from the D-League, the team announced (Twitter link). He had 12 points and 12 rebounds in his lone appearance with the Grand Rapids Drive this week after Detroit sent him down Wednesday.

‘Melo On Knicks, Bulls, Rockets, Mavs, Lakers

November 28 at 8:49am CST By Chuck Myron

Carmelo Anthony met with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavs and Lakers in addition to the Knicks this summer, but in a forthcoming documentary, he makes it clear that his final decision was between the Knicks and the Bulls, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman obtained a preliminary cut of the film, called “Carmelo Anthony: Made In NY,’’ that’s set to air next week on MSG Network, and Anthony’s statements in the movie demonstrate just how close the high-scoring forward came to wearing red-and-black.

“Chicago was the one from Day 1 [and] was something I was very impressed with,” Anthony said in the film. “They were looking for someone like me to come in and take them to the next level. So it was perfect. It was a perfect setup and perfect fit for me in Chicago. But also I had to think about just living in Chicago. Do I want to live in Chicago? Do I want to take everything I created in New York and move all of that? It came down to that. But there was one point in time I was like — oh, I’m going.’’

Berman shared several other revelations from the documentary in his full-length story, and we’ll summarize them here:

  • ‘Melo’s camp concluded that they’d need to have the Knicks sign-and-trade him to Chicago for him to end up on the Bulls with a max deal, Berman writes. Anthony’s manager, Bay Frazier, said in the documentary that the Bulls could offer a total of only $74MM, according to Berman. There were various hypothetical scenarios in which the Bulls could have opened more flexibility, but it sounds like $74MM was the realistic amount on the table.
  • Anthony spoke of affection for the winning attitude of the Bulls and said that Derrick Rose reached out to recruit him, as Berman details. Rose’s supposed unwillingness to go along with Chicago’s pitch to Anthony was reportedly at the root of tension between the team and its star point guard. “D-Rose is tough. He even hit me [up],” Anthony said. “I’ve been talking to him. Him and [Joakim] Noah. Noah’s more outgoing. But I’m glad we did them first.’’
  • Anthony said he didn’t want to endure the “culture change” that would come with living in Texas and playing for either the Mavs or the Rockets, Berman notes.
  • Kobe Bryant and Anthony have spoken about one day playing together, but the specter of changing teams just to find himself in another rebuilding situation made jumping to the Lakers an unappealing choice, Anthony said in the documentary, as Berman relays.