Lakers To Work Out Roscoe Smith

November 21 at 12:58pm CST By Chuck Myron

Training camp cut Roscoe Smith is the latest in the procession of players the Lakers are bringing in for tryouts, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link). The 23-year-old small forward, who’ll audition for the team today, joins Gal Mekel, Jordan Hamilton, Dwight Buycks, Quincy Miller and Tyrus Thomas, all of whom have reportedly either worked out for the Lakers in recent days or are scheduled to do so.

Smith signed with the Lakers for training camp on a non-guaranteed one-year deal for the minimum salary after going undrafted out of UNLV, and the team let him go in advance of opening night after he averaged 3.1 points in 14.9 minutes per game during seven preseason contests. The Lakers retained his D-League rights, and he’s put up 18.3 PPG in 35.5 MPG in three games so far for the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

The Lakers have won two in a row to improve to 3-9, but their 1-9 start was the worst in franchise history. They possess a Disabled Player Exception worth nearly $1.499 for Julius Randle and may also obtain another such exception worth nearly $5MM for Steve Nash, since both players are out for the season. Still, none of the players to whom the Lakers have been connected of late would appear to merit more than the minimum salary.

Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington, who have partially guaranteed deals, are the only Lakers without fully guaranteed salaries, though Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report recently suggested Xavier Henry is in danger of being cut despite his one-year guaranteed contract for $1.082MM. Ellington had been on leave from the team as he mourned the recent murder of his father, but he returned to the Lakers today, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter link).

Rift Developing Between Nets, Andrei Kirilenko?

November 21 at 12:42pm CST By Chuck Myron

12:42pm: No buyout negotiations have taken place between Kirilenko’s camp and the team, sources tell Bontemps, adding that if a trade were to happen, it would likely not take place until after December 15th. Still, it appears “inevitable” that if a trade doesn’t happen, a buyout will, Bontemps writes.

12:28pm: The Nets say Andrei Kirilenko won’t be joining them on their three-game road trip, notes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post, while a source tells Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News that a resolution to the situation likely won’t happen until Kirilenko is on another team (Twitter links). The Nets cited personal reasons for Kirilenko’s absence, and coach Lionel Hollins told reporters today that he doesn’t know if the 33-year-old forward will be return to the team once it gets back from the trip.

Kirilenko has only seen a total of 36 minutes of action across seven of Brooklyn’s 12 games so far this season, a sharply reduced role even from last season’s career-low 19.0 minutes per game. He signed a two-year deal for about $6.5MM in the summer of 2013 that was so far beneath market value that it sparked concern that he and fellow Russian Mikhail Prokorov, the owner of the Nets, had worked out an under-the-table arrangement. An NBA investigation cleared them of any wrongdoing. The deal contained a player option for this season worth more than $3.3MM that Kirilenko chose to exercise to remain with the Nets, but it appears as though his relationship with the team has suffered since he made that decision in June.

The Nets have Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett starting at the forward positions and Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic backing them up. Kirilenko, in his 13th NBA season, has played both small forward and power forward, but it appears as though Hollins prefers to play others. Kirilenko, a client of Marc Fleisher, is eligible to be traded immediately, unlike many players in the league whose teams must wait until at least December 15th. The Rockets are reportedly seeking trades at an unusual time for such activity, and they and the Cavs have apparently been in discussions of late with the Wolves about acquiring Corey Brewer, who like Kirilenko has established a reputation as a strong perimeter defender.

Jeff Taylor Declines To Appeal Suspension

November 21 at 11:57am CST By Eddie Scarito

11:57am: Taylor has decided against appealing the suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link).

11:30am: Roberts expected that the suspension would be only for three or four games, adding that a ban of fewer than 10 games would have been appropriate, as she tells Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter links).

FRIDAY, 8:33am: Roberts feels that the league imposed the lengthy suspension in part to make a public show of toughness on domestic violence issues, as she explained in a memo to union members that USA Today’s Sam Amick obtained. The NBA’s motivation stems from the sharp criticism the National Football League has received for what many feel have been lenient punishments for incidents of domestic violence among its players, Roberts believes.

“Despite having agreed to join the Players Association in focusing attention on ‘prevention’ rather than trying to out-muscle the NFL on ‘discipline,’ the NBA elected to prove its toughness by imposing a 24-game suspension on Jeff Taylor,” Roberts wrote in the memo. “Up until yesterday’s announcement, we had been working with the League to undergo a sober review of our current policies and practices to improve the services available to the NBA family in this area. However, I am disappointed that, as reflected in the sanction imposed against Jeff, the League instead chose to bend to the pressure it feels from the current media spotlight and impose punishment well beyond what is contained in the current CBA or in line with existing precedent.”

As Roberts pointed out in her public statement, the NBA’s CBA calls for a minimum 10-game suspension when a player is convicted of a felony involving violence, while Taylor pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor domestic assault and property destruction charges. However, the conviction will not be on his record if he fulfills the terms of his probation.

THURSDAY, 5:00pm: Taylor is conferring with his representatives and is expected to issue a public statement tomorrow regarding his suspension, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link).

4:09pm: The NBPA is ready to file an appeal regarding Jeff Taylor‘s 24-game suspension for domestic violence that was handed down by the league yesterday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter links). But NBPA head Michele Roberts was clear that the ultimate decision about any action taken by the union will rest with Taylor, who has not yet made his intentions known, Wojnarowski adds.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweeted Roberts’ full statement on the matter, which read:

“The 24-game suspension imposed by Commissioner Silver against Jeff Taylor is excessive, without precedent and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The CBA contemplates a minimum 10-game suspension in any case involving a conviction for a violent felony, including domestic violence. In contrast, Jeff Taylor was charged with a misdemeanor that is likely to be dismissed at the end of a probationary period.

The 24-game suspension is one of the longest in the history of the league. We have a scheme of discipline that was the result of collective bargaining between the parties that has been applied consistently over the years. While we appreciate the sensitivity of this societal issue, the Commissioner is not entitled to rewrite the rules or otherwise ignore precedent in disciplinary matters. While ultimately this is Jeff’s decision, we stand ready to file an immediate appeal on his behalf.”

If they decide to go ahead with the appeal, the hearing would take place before the league’s grievance arbitrator, and not commissioner Adam Silver, because the punishment is for an off-court matter and stands to cost Taylor more than $50K in lost salary. The 24-game ban would ultimately cost Taylor $199,689 of his $915,243 salary for the 2014/15 season.

This is Roberts’ first big test as head of the NBPA, and it will be an intriguing prism through which to view how the union will operate under her stewardship. It will also be interesting to see if and how this matter will affect how Silver is regarded by the players, who up until now have lauded his actions in regards to the Donald Sterling racism scandal that plagued the league early in his tenure as commissioner, and earned him the nickname, the “players’ commissioner.” It is also very possible that this issue could become a bargaining point in the next CBA negotiations which are more than likely to occur in 2017 when both the players and the owners can elect to opt out of the current agreement.

And-Ones: Bledsoe, Union, Rondo, Mavs, Sixers

November 21 at 11:02am CST By Chuck Myron

Eric Bledsoe says he never worried about the Suns‘ acquisition of yet more high-level point guards in the offseason, but staying healthy was a concern as his contract negotiations dragged on, as he tells Chris Mannix of SI.com, who writes in his Open Floor column.

“I stayed in the gym working out. I just had to make sure I didn’t get hurt,” Bledsoe said. “My agent was calling me, telling me not to go play with everybody. I pretty much wrapped my body in bubble wrap.”

Bledsoe’s numbers are off a bit this year after the summer hiatus, so while we wait to see if he can regain his form once he shakes off the rust, here’s more from around the league:

  • Union executive director Michele Roberts has made an effort to forge a relationship with several top agents, in contrast to predecessor Billy Hunter, who kept agents at arm’s length, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News examines. Still, some agents are miffed about her choice of of Roger Mason, who supported her candidacy for the executive director job, to conduct a review of agent regulations, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote earlier this week.
  • Rajon Rondo doesn’t see this season as a rebuilding year for the Celtics, notes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).
  • The Mavs have been paying greater attention to scouting talent for their D-League club as the connection between Dallas and its affiliate grows, as Eduardo Najera, the coach of the Mavs D-League affiliate, tells Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News.
  • The Sixers have a plan to return to contention eventually, but they are taking a risk that their players will learn to accept losing in the meantime, Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News believes.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Bass, Calderon

November 21 at 9:32am CST By Chuck Myron

The Raptors are the best team in the Eastern Conference at 9-2, but the rest of the Atlantic Division is off to a rough start. The four other teams are all below .500, and the Sixers haven’t won in 11 tries. They’ll visit the 3-10 Knicks on Saturday in a game with early 2015 draft lottery implications. Here’s more from the struggling Atlantic:

  • Sixers coach Brett Brown and GM Sam Hinkie didn’t realize when they took their respective jobs in 2013 that the team’s roster this season would be so devoid of immediate contributors, Brown admitted Thursday, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Brown said the expectation had been that the Sixers would use their pair of lottery picks this year to bring in players who would be on the floor now instead of the injured Joel Embiid and Euroleaguer Dario Saric. “We put our big-boy pants on and made a decision that is best for the club long-term,” Brown said. “Time will tell. But the year that we are all now living in is a result of those types of decisions. That’s why you look on the floor and see a roster like you do and resumés like you do.”
  • Boston acquired Brandon Bass to be a complementary piece on a contending team, making his value to this version of the Celtics hard to divine, as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com writes in his mailbag column. If the Celtics make a trade, Bass is among the most likely candidates to go, Forsberg opines.
  • Much hinges on the return of Jose Calderon as the most significant offseason addition for the Knicks is poised to make his regular season debut for New York, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Bernard James Signs With Chinese Team

November 21 at 8:04am CST By Chuck Myron

FRIDAY, 8:04am: James has officially signed with the Shanghai Sharks, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Enea Trapani).

WEDNESDAY, 9:45pm: James has indeed signed a deal to play in China, Sefko reports. Eduardo Najera, James’ coach with the Texas Legends, has also confirmed that James has left the team and is on his way to China, though the team that inked James is still unknown, Sefko adds.

12:34pm: Former Mavs center Bernard James is set to play in China, reports Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). The identity of the team the Happy Walters client is joining is unclear, as are the terms of the deal. James, whom the Mavs cut before the season began, had been playing for the Mavs D-League affiliate after Dallas retained his D-League rights.

James re-signed with Dallas in September on a guaranteed one-year deal for the minimum salary, and he was presumably in line to reprise the backup big man role he had played for the Mavs the previous two seasons. However, the resurgence of training camp invitee Charlie Villanueva during the preseason helped push the 29-year-old James out, and Dallas decided to eat his guaranteed salary and keep Villanueva on his non-guaranteed pact. James, a former U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant, is averaging 11.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in two D-League appearances so far.

The Mavs might be in line to recoup a portion of the $915,243 they owe him this year if James’ Chinese deal is lucrative enough to trigger set-off rights. A similar scenario is at play should Gal Mekel, whom the Mavs also let go in spite of a guaranteed contract, wins a spot with the Lakers after his tryout this week.

John Lucas III Spurns Lakers To Play In China

November 21 at 7:49am CST By Chuck Myron

FRIDAY, 7:49am: Lucas is joining the Fujian Sturgeons, the team that signed Al Harrington this past summer, Stein reports (Twitter link).

WEDNESDAY, 8:40am: Seven-year NBA veteran John Lucas III has called off a scheduled workout with the Lakers this week to sign with a Chinese team instead, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Sportando’s Enea Trapani first reported that Lucas was finalizing a deal in China, and while the identity of the club isn’t entirely clear, Trapani suggests that it’s the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks, who just let go of Delonte West. The financial terms of the Chinese pact for Lucas are unclear, but it likely involves guaranteed money of the sort that the Lakers would be hesitant to offer.

Lucas turned down offers from Chinese Basketball Association teams Jilin Northeast and Fujian, as agent Bernie Lee told Shams Charania of RealGM earlier this month, shortly after the Wizards released him at the end of the NBA preseason. The Thunder, Pacers and Grizzlies were showing interest in the point guard, too, as Charania reported, adding that Lucas was looking for a longer-term arrangement than any Chinese or NBA teams were willing to provide. Lucas appeared to be targeting a return to the Bulls, for whom he played in 2010/11 and 2011/12, but it doesn’t look like there’ll be a reunion in the near future.

It’s been a whirlwind past few months for Lucas, who turns 32 on Thursday. The Jazz had him under contract for a non-guaranteed $1.6MM at the beginning of the offseason, but they traded him to the Cavs in July. Cleveland flipped him two months later to the Celtics, who promptly waived him. The Wizards picked him up in late October, presumably with an eye on keeping him for the start of the regular season, but Washington put him back on waivers before opening night.

Reports have indicated the Lakers are working out Quincy Miller, Tyrus Thomas and Dwight Buycks as they seek upgrades for their 2-9 squad. Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding suggested this week that Xavier Henry would be the odd man out if Miller came aboard, though Henry has a guaranteed salary. Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington have partially guaranteed deals. In any case, the Lakers would have to let someone go if they were to make a signing, since they already have a full 15-man roster.

Western Notes: Parsons, Davis, Jerrett

November 20 at 10:20pm CST By Eddie Scarito

By making Chandler Parsons a restricted free agent last summer the Rockets allowed him to hit the jackpot financially a year ahead of schedule, Dwain Price of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. “I won’t send them [Houston] a Christmas present, but I’m very thankful for them letting me out a year early,” said Parsons. “I understood the whole logic behind it, and Dallas did a great job of making it difficult for them to match it [their offer sheet] for their future plans, so I totally get it. It’s a business and I’m very thankful and humble and glad that the Rockets gave me the opportunity initially with the draft. I had a great three years there, and I’m just excited to be here [Dallas] now.”

Here’s more from the west:

  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu has signed with Hapoel Jerusalem, the team announced (translation via David Pick of Eurobasket.com, on Twitter). The four-year NBA veteran was briefly in training camp with the Nuggets this fall.
  • The PelicansAnthony Davis is a basketball talent that almost never happened, with the big man almost quitting the game for good during his late-blooming development, Christopher Reina of RealGM writes. Davis has since become the league’s most incredible prodigy and New Orleans is quickly building a contending team around its young star, Reina adds.
  • The Thunder have recalled Grant Jerrett from the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA D-League, the team announced in a press release. This two-day stint was Jerrett’s second D-League assignment of the season, though his first trip lasted a mere three hours.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Eastern Notes: Anthony, McDermott, Haywood

November 20 at 9:12pm CST By Eddie Scarito

In an interview with Eli Saslow of ESPN: The Magazine (hat tip to Marc Berman of The New York Post), Carmelo Anthony said that coming to New York to play for the Knicks distorted his reputation and did not enhance it. “I’m more misunderstood than most people,” Anthony said. “As an athlete, you don’t really have a voice. Everything you say or do, people have a million opinions about it, so it doesn’t really get heard the way you want it to get heard. People are putting things on you and shaping your reputation, and you don’t really have control. People say I am all about more money, but it’s not like that. It’s about having the appearance of someone with success. Image and reputation matter to me. If you’re being honest, they matter to everybody. Money is about people thinking of you as someone who does well.”

Here’s more from the east:

  • Anthony also added that he isn’t fond of critics opining before each season on whether he will finally prove himself as a winner. “People say every year is the one that will determine if I’m great or terrible, if I’ve met expectations or been a disappointment,” Anthony said. “To be honest with you, I’m tired of it.” With the Knicks‘ record a disappointing 3-10, it doesn’t look like this will be the season ‘Melo silences his critics.
  • Despite entering the league with four years of college experience and having won numerous awards during that time, Doug McDermott admitted that it’s not easy being a rookie and that he is still trying to find his way with the Bulls, Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders writes. “I’m still kind of establishing a role to be honest,” McDermott said. “It’s still really early, and I’m just trying to get my feet wet and learn more things defensively and the playbook, and everything’s coming along great.  So I’m making steps, but I think it’s still early and I think I can have a really good role on this team, not just as a shooter, but overall just a good role.”
  • Brendan Haywood understands that the appeal of his non-guaranteed contract for next season makes him a more valuable trade asset than on-the-court contributor for the Cavs, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group writes. “I don’t worry about it because at the end of the day, I can’t do anything about it,” Haywood said. “If somebody views my contract as an asset or the team feels they can get something in that can help them or shed salary, they’re going to do what they’re going to do because that’s what they have to do.”

Offseason In Review: Indiana Pacers

November 20 at 8:02pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired cash from the Knicks in exchange for 2014 pick No. 57.

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • None

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

It can be argued that Indiana’s 2014/15 season was effectively scuttled on August 1st, the day that the team’s star, Paul George, broke his leg during a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage. With George likely to miss the entire season and the franchise’s second-best offensive weapon, Lance Stephenson, having defected to the Hornets via free agency, it’s going to be a difficult year for Pacers faithful.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Washington WizardsWhile it’s hard to fault Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird for the team’s current state, since George’s injury was not an event that could be anticipated, the team’s roster was already flawed before George went down. Indiana nearly played itself out of the top seed in the Eastern Conference during the second half of last season, and though the Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year, it appeared by the end of that series that the Pacers had taken a step back.

Letting Stephenson go was a difficult call and one that Bird likely would have rethought if George’s injury had occurred prior to the start of free agency in July. Stephenson’s talent level has always been weighed against his propensity for odd and sometimes disruptive behavior, but the 24-year-old shooting guard out of Cincinnati had a fan in Bird, and Stephenson himself signaled his desire to return to Indiana. But as John Steinbeck wrote, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

The Pacers appeared to move on from Stephenson rather quickly after he turned down the team’s initial five-year, $44MM offer when the team inked C.J. Miles, Damjan Rudez, and Rodney Stuckey. These deals largely eliminated any wiggle room the franchise had underneath the luxury tax threshold, a line that the team has been adamant about not crossing.

Miles was the team’s most lucrative expenditure, and while the deal feels like a bit of an overpay for a 27-year-old, one-dimensional role player, he would have been a nice complementary piece to the team’s rotation if Paul wasn’t injured. Indiana needed to add an outside threat to spread the floor for Roy Hibbert and David West, which Miles certainly can do when he’s “on,” but as a player the team is relying upon to carry a heavy offensive load, the flaws in his game will be exposed. I like the idea of a one- or two-year deal for Miles, but four years is stretching the bounds of good sense.

The deals the Pacers gave to Stuckey and Rudez are ones that I am fonder of. The Pacers had a need for more depth and production at the point, and while Stuckey is more of a scorer than a distributor, he certainly can help the team, and there’s a decent chance that his one-year deal will have been a bargain. Indiana brought Rudez from overseas with the hope that he could compete for minutes at small forward, but a guaranteed three-year pact is a risk for an NBA-unproven European talent. Still, his near-minimum salaries are not amounts that will hamstring the team moving forward.

What is hurting the Pacers is the $14,898,938 chunk of cap space that they allocated to Hibbert. Bird must have had a flashback to the NBA of his playing days, an era when teams needed a dominant big man to have a shot at contention, when he signed Hibbert to a four-year, $58.37MM contract in 2012 to keep him from jumping to the Blazers. Hibbert is a staunch rim protector, something that is still quite valuable, but his offensive game hasn’t developed as the team had hoped and his career 6.8 rebounds per game average is shameful for a player of his size. It also doesn’t help that he doesn’t match up well with smaller, athletic centers and the team is forced to sit him for long stretches, as occurred numerous times during last season’s playoffs. Indiana should pray that Hibbert declines his 2015/16 player option, worth more than $15.514MM, though that is highly unlikely.

Indiana doesn’t have much in the way of movable assets it can use to turn around its fortunes this season. David West would be a likely candidate, since his veteran leadership and ample skills could help many a contender, but West has yet to play this season courtesy of an ankle injury he sustained back in October. His $12MM salary would also make a trade difficult, and Indiana would be unlikely to garner any game-changing pieces in such a deal. West also has a player option for next season, when he is slated to make $12.6MM, but he has also hinted at retiring rather than continuing his distinguished career. A change of scenery and a chance to be part of a contending team could motivate him to keep playing, but moving him wouldn’t be advisable for Indiana unless the Pacers could somehow net some combination of an expiring contract, a younger player, and a draft pick.

One rumored deal the Pacers should revisit is the idea of a Chris Copeland-J.R. Smith trade with the Knicks. Copeland is currently Indiana’s leading scorer, but that isn’t saying much on a squad averaging a paltry 91.9 PPG. Smith would bring headaches of his own, though nothing in the realm of Stephenson’s nightly oddities. The Knicks have a glut of shooting guards and would be all too anxious to rid themselves of Smith and his 2015/16 player option for nearly $6.4MM. Smith could offset some of the loss of George, and while he wouldn’t thrust the team into contention this year, he would at least make the Pacers watchable on the offensive side. Smith would also pair nicely alongside George next season, which should be the team’s focus this year anyway since it isn’t moving up in the standings anytime soon. Still, the Pacers would have to add more salary to any such deal to make it legal.

The Pacers are almost assuredly heading toward the NBA draft lottery and will have a chance to nab a valuable young piece for the future. Indiana has about $36MM in guaranteed salaries on the books for 2015/16, but Hibbert’s and West’s player options could inflate that by about another $28.1MM. That will not leave the franchise with much in the way of cap space to make a splash in the free agency market next summer. So unless Bird can work some trade magic this season, it is looking increasingly likely that the Pacers’ window to contend has shut. Indiana must hope that George can return to his pre-injury form, the team can score big in the draft, and both Hibbert and West are off the roster by next season. Otherwise, it will be at least a few years before Indiana becomes relevant again in the Eastern Conference title race.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.