Paul Allen On: Roster, Expectations, Stotts

The Trail Blazers held their first practice of the 2016/17 season today. Afterword, team owner Paul Allen addressed the media and answered a number of questions regarding the state of the franchise. The entire chat is worth a gander, but some of the highlights are relayed below. Hat tip to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian for the transcription:

On if he had any reservations about the contracts the team handed out this summer:

Well, [president of basketball operations and GM] Neil Olshey and I go over all those things closely, I think. One of the big decisions was when we discussed signing Evan Turner and that worked out. And to get Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless back, they were all very deliberate decisions we evaluated. The financial consequences are significant, but that’s because we believe in this group of guys. They showed what they can do last year.

On his expectations for the 2016/17 season:

“I always try not to make, as you know — I think we’ve done this for a while — I don’t make particular predictions on the number of wins and losses. But I think we have a chance to be significantly better than last year. And I think everybody was really encouraged to see how the team came together last year, how well the coaching meshed with the talent. And the guys that Neil brought in, I think, exceeded everybody’s expectations. So that was a very encouraging year last year and hopefully we’ll build on that.

On the job head coach Terry Stotts has done:

I think he’s done an excellent job. I think it’s pretty unique to see a coach adjust to the talent he has and maximize the abilities of the players he has and help them keep growing. You have to realize, we’re a very, very young team. I was kidding Neil earlier, I said, ‘Well, there’s other teams that seem to try to perfect the art of using older players to their maximum, whereas our approach is to bring in young talent, in some cases unproven talent, and try to take that talent to another level.’ And I think you saw that in terms of player development last year. So both in terms of development and execution, obviously, and making it out of the first round last year and giving Golden State a real run for their money, that was all extremely encouraging.”

On whether or not he’s willing to pay the luxury tax:

That darn luxury tax is pretty painful. You have to make those decisions. As you know, at one point, I believe I had the record for the highest luxury tax payments. In the end, that didn’t make sense. So that’s something we’ll have to look at very carefully. Sometimes you can go into the tax for a year or something and then come out of it if it makes sense as you’re transitioning through different player contracts. So it’s something Neil and I will evaluate very carefully.

On if the league and NBPA can avoid a lockout when the current CBA expires or either side opts out:

“As individual owners, we’re not supposed to speak about CBA negotiations. So I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to say that, given the economics that are in play here, I think it’s in everybody’s — the players and the owner’s — best interest to work something out. So I’m optimistic.”

Heat Notes: Riley, Bosh, Whiteside, Waiters

While some teams won’t admit they’re in rebuilding mode, Heat president Pat Riley didn’t mind using the R-word on Monday, as Ethan Skolnick of The Miami Herald tweets. Comparing the current roster to recent Heat teams, Riley noted that the franchise was “tweaking” the roster during the Big Three era, “retooling” it after LeBron James returned to Cleveland, and is “rebuilding” now. With Dwyane Wade gone and Chris Bosh unlikely to suit up for the Heat again, it will be interesting to see if the team goes into full-fledged rebuilding mode this year, perhaps shopping veteran point guard Goran Dragic.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald passes along a couple more comments from Riley, who said he has yet to “hit send” on an email he wrote to Wade, and added that he’s had thoughts about “moving on” from his role with the Heat but still gets excited by the prospect of a new season.
  • Asked about losing Bosh, Dragic admitted that it helps to have some certainty about what the roster and lineup will look like, but said he’d prefer to have the “small chance [Bosh] could be back,” per Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. “It’s not the prettiest situation right now.” Dragic said. “But we need to clear our heads and have one focus, one goal to get better as a team, get to know each other and try to build that chemistry we are going to need this season.”
  • Tom Ziller of SBNation.com makes a case for why the Heat should waive Bosh, rather than keeping him on the roster.
  • After being one of the league’s most underpaid players in recent years, Hassan Whiteside now has a maximum-salary contract, but he won’t let the new deal make him complacent, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.
  • Winderman and Jackson have each published pieces on Dion Waiters, with Winderman writing that the Heat’s new shooting guard won’t be thinking about filling Wade’s shoes, while Jackson notes that Waiters opted for happiness over money when he chose to sign with Miami.

Josh Kroenke Praises Nuggets’ Direction

Despite only winning 33 games a season ago, the first under head coach Michael Malone, team president Josh Kroenke is extremely pleased with the direction that the franchise is headed in, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post relays. The executive said that this is the happiest with the state of the team he’s been since the 2012/13 squad that won 57 games and was the last Denver squad to reach the postseason, Dempsey notes.

I feel very confident with the guys we have leading us on a daily basis,” Kroenke said. “I feel confident in the players in the locker room. I feel confident in the front office. I like the direction of the train. I like the speed and direction of the train. We needed to reinvent who we were last year, culturally, in our locker room as well as establish a new identity on the court. I think that historically we’ve always played fast here, and I think that that’s something we want to continue to do, but you can’t do it at the expense of your defense.”

Despite the team finishing fourth in the Northwest Division in 2015/16, Kroenke praised the job the Malone did in guiding what was one of the league’s youngest teams, Dempsey notes. “[GM] Tim Connelly and I, we have a bigger picture that we’re looking at, and I thought [Malone] did an outstanding job last year, with our young players, especially,” Kroenke told the scribe. “I thought Tim and the guys, over the last few years they’ve knocked it out of the park at the draft. I think if you’re drafting well, you’re always giving yourself a chance to compete, whether that’s improvement through trades or simply internal improvement.

Kroenke displayed his faith in Connelly last season by extending his contract despite the team’s struggles since the GM took the helm, Dempsey writes. “I knew when I hired Tim in the summer of 2013 that we were going to have a good shot at nailing a few drafts. That ultimately takes years to come to fruition,” Kroenke said. “Being able to weigh the present while weighing the future is, I think, the toughest job general managers face based on the roster. And I think Tim and our staff has made very smart trades.

While Kroenke didn’t guarantee that the Nuggets would reach the postseason in 2016/17, he did note that he expects to see improvement on the court, Dempsey relays. “I think this year is going to be a growth year,” Kroenke said. “Depending on where that growth heads at the end of the year, where we ultimately define success, I guess, is open to interpretation almost. But I’m glad to see that our players are focused on playoffs. I want those guys focused on building toward April. We want to be playing our best basketball on April 1, those last two weeks of the season leading into the playoffs. Then we’ll see where our record shakes out. I like our chances to hopefully leapfrog a team or two this year simply through our continuity and our internal improvement.

Community Shootaround: Cavs’ Point Guard Situation

When the Cavaliers announced their training camp roster on Monday morning, veteran point guard Mo Williams was one of the 20 players on the list. However, just hours later, general manager David Griffin informed the media that Williams’ agent had let him know his client had decided to retire rather than playing for one more year.

Williams’ decision puts Cleveland in a difficult spot. Currently, the only true point guards on the roster are Kyrie Irving and Kay Felder. Irving will play a lot, but the team will likely want to make sure he’s fresh for the postseason. Felder, meanwhile, is a 2016 second-round pick, and it’s not clear whether he’ll be able to play meaningful minutes out of the gate in his rookie season.

Given the Cavs’ lack of depth at the point guard spot, it comes as no real surprise that the club is considering adding a veteran player. According to a Monday evening report, Cleveland has been in touch with free agent guards like Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers, and Kirk Hinrich.

Of course, the Cavs can also rely on LeBron James to handle the ball for parts of each game, and the team does have a couple other combo guards on its roster, in Markel Brown and Jordan McRae. Brown and McRae certainly aren’t prototypical point guards, and neither player is a lock to make the roster, but if the Cavs like what they see in camp from one of those two players, they could carry them into the regular season, and perhaps count on them to spell Irving and Felder for a few minutes per game.

What do you think? Should the Cavs feel comfortable counting on Irving, Felder, and one of their other in-house guards to handle the point guard load, along with LeBron? Or does it make more sense to add a third true point guard to their roster, providing some veteran depth, as well as a safety net in case Felder isn’t ready to handle a key rotation role immediately? If they add a veteran, which player would be the best fit: Cole, Chalmers, Hinrich, or someone else?

Take to the comments section below to share your opinions on the Cavaliers’ point guard situation. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Central Notes: Bucks, Bulls, Cavs, Pistons

With Khris Middleton expected to miss most of the season, Bucks general manager John Hammond has said there’s a possibility of acquiring a veteran shooting guard in a trade, writes Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times. League officials tell Woelfel that if Milwaukee does explore a trade, Michael Carter-Williams could potentially be on the block, along with Greg Monroe. Woelfel adds that John Henson could also be used as trade bait, though that appears to be speculation.

For now, the Bucks are moving forward with their in-house options, including including Rashad Vaughn, Malcolm Brogdon, and Jason Terry. But it will be a situation worth monitoring as the season nears, since Milwaukee has playoff aspirations this season, even after the loss of Middleton.

Let’s check in on a few more items from around the Central…

  • Speaking to reporters on Monday, Bulls GM Gar Forman reiterated that the decision to trade Derrick Rose was a “basketball decision,” reports Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. Although Rose’s sexual assault civil case has been in the news recently, Forman stressed that Chicago’s decision wasn’t influenced by the point guard’s legal situation.
  • The Cavaliers have the oldest roster in the NBA, but don’t view that as a problem heading into the 2016/17 season, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Meanwhile, as Aaron McMann of MLive.com details, the Pistons are on the other end of the spectrum, with one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and will be looking for players to assume leadership roles this year.
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores said during his team’s media day that he’s “always looking” at moving the franchise to downtown Detroit, particularly with the Red Wings set to move into Little Caesars Arena next fall. “It has to be good for everybody, us included, for our fans,” Gores said, per McMann at MLive.com. “We’re really in the middle of assessing it.”

Contract Details: Warriors, Nuggets, Celtics, Pistons

Teams signing players to training camp deals in the hopes that those players will eventually land with their D-League affiliates often incentivize their offers by including partial guarantees. That appears to be the case with the Warriors — as we noted earlier today, Golden State awarded $50K guarantees to Cameron Jones, Scott Wood, and Elgin Cook, who all seem like good bets to end up with Santa Cruz. Given how modest D-League salaries are, that extra guaranteed money can motivate players to accept D-League assignments rather than seeking more lucrative jobs overseas.

According to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), another Warriors camp invitee, Phil Pressey, also received a small guarantee, worth $35K. However, JaVale McGee‘s contract with the team is fully non-guaranteed. Of course, McGee seems more likely to earn a spot on Golden State’s regular-season roster than many of his fellow camp invitees, in which case he’d have an opportunity to earn his full $1.4MM+ salary.

Here are a few more salary details from around the NBA, via Pincus:

  • According to Pincus’ salary information, the Nuggets signed Robbie Hummel and Jarnell Stokes to two-year, minimum-salary contracts, while Nate Wolters got a three-year, minimum-salary deal. Hummel and Stokes received guarantees worth $150K apiece, while Wolters received $50K in guaranteed money.
  • The Celtics signed Damion Lee to a two-year, minimum-salary contract that features $50K in guaranteed money, while Jalen Jones got a one-year deal with a $25K guarantee, per Pincus (Twitter link).
  • The one-year, minimum-salary deals Nikola Jovanovic and Trey Freeman inked with the Pistons are both worth about $543K, the rookie minimum. However, Jovanovic got a $30K guarantee from the team, while Freeman’s deal is fully non-guaranteed, Pincus notes.

Pacific Notes: Gay, West, Pierce, Lawson, Warriors

A report last week indicated that Rudy Gay will opt out of his contract with the Kings in 2017, and the veteran forward confirmed as much when he spoke to reporters on Monday. “I made the decision to opt out,” Gay said during the club’s media day, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. “Whether I sign here, whether I’m here the rest of the season or whether I start here, it’s really not up to me. Wherever I am, I’m going play to the best of my ability.”

While Gay has not explicitly requested a trade, his comments on Monday, and throughout the offseason, suggest he’s not overly excited about spending another season with the Kings, so it will be interesting to see how aggressive the team is as it explores potential trade scenarios in the coming weeks or months.

Here’s more from around the Pacific division:

  • The Warriors‘ season-long recruitment of Kevin Durant last year was well-chronicled, and apparently Durant wasn’t the only free-agent-to-be Golden State pursued prior to July. According to David West, the Warriors reached out to his agent immediately after the Spurs were eliminated from the postseason by the Thunder in May (Twitter link via Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post).
  • Noting that the Clippers‘ elimination last season “left a bad taste” in his mouth, Paul Pierce explained why he decided to return to the team for one more year, and Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com has the details and quotes.
  • Ty Lawson is hoping to rebuild his image and his NBA career with the Kings this season, per Michael Wagaman of The Associated Press (link via The Denver Post). “I think I’ve grown a lot and I’m just ready to move forward,” Lawson said. “I heard a GM said, ‘I think he lost a step. He can’t shoot anymore.’ I’ve got a lot to prove and I got a chip on my shoulder to prove it.”
  • Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders provides some salary information for the Warriors, tweeting that Cameron Jones, Scott Wood, and Elgin Cook all received $50K guarantees on their one-year deals. There’s a good chance those three players end up with Golden State’s D-League affiliate.

Extension Rumors: Len, Goodwin, Wolves, Gobert

A pair of standout players – C.J. McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo – have already signed rookie-scale contract extensions this offseason, but there are many more players who are eligible for those deals as they enter the final year of their respective rookie contracts. A few of those situations were addressed during media day on Monday, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Suns GM Ryan McDonough said on Monday that the club has not yet engaged in extension discussions with Alex Len or Archie Goodwin, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. “We want to see how it goes in training camp and preseason and then we’ll revisit it as a staff probably the last week or last 10 days of October,” McDonough said. “With players as young as those two guys are, obviously there’s some projection involved too. It’s not just what they are now but what they’re going to become over the next four or five years.”
  • While there were no updates from the Timberwolves on Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets that the team hasn’t had “meaningful talks” with either player yet. Wolfson expects both players to reach restricted free agency next summer.
  • As Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune details, Rudy Gobert isn’t worried about his contract situation with the Jazz, suggesting on Monday that the season is “more important.” However, the young center suggested that he’s very much open to the idea of an extension. “Everybody knows I want to be here,” he said.

Serge Ibaka Hoping For Long-Term Stay With Magic

When the Magic traded for Serge Ibaka on draft night earlier this summer, it was clear the team hoped to have in the mix beyond July 2017, when his contract expires. General manager Rob Hennigan confirmed as much at the team’s media day on Monday, telling reporters – including Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel – “we certainly traded for Serge thinking long-term, and that’s our expectation.” As Robbins writes, Magic officials believe Ibaka will like playing for Frank Vogel and having a larger role in Orlando than he had in Oklahoma City.

While things could change between now and next summer, it sounds for now like Ibaka is on the same page as the Magic. During his own media day interview, the veteran big man expressed a desire to make his stay in Orlando a long-term one.

“I’m looking to stay here to play forever,” Ibaka said. “For [as] many, many years as possible.”

Ibaka went on to add that he’s not too concerned about his contract situation for now, and it’s certainly not uncommon for a player to express a desire to stay with his current team before eventually departing in free agency. However, Ibaka has been enthusiastic about the move since it happened, writing last month in a piece for The Cauldron that he was “thrilled” to be in Orlando.

With Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic also expected to receive significant playing time up front, there may be some growing pains in Orlando to start the season, as the club determines the best way to maximize its talent. Still, the Magic will be able to offer Ibaka more years and more dollars in free agency next summer than any other team, and if they’re willing to do that, there’s no reason they shouldn’t enter the 2017 offseason as the strong favorites to retain the 27-year-old.

Of course, Ibaka technically could be extended before he reaches free agency, but the Magic don’t have any cap room, so the team wouldn’t be able to give him a significant raise over his current $12.25MM salary, making an in-season deal extremely unlikely.

Western Notes: Rockets, Bogut, Barnes

There is a more positive feeling in the Rockets locker room this year, something that team owner Leslie Alexander chalks up to the teams new additions, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com relays. When asked if he sensed a different vibe as the team begins training camp, Alexander told Watkins, “100% — they seem happier. James Harden especially seems happier, and I think they’re all together this year. They’re all in it to win, and the guys we brought over, Nene, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, they didn’t win last year, and they have this tense desire to win.”

When asked what prompted him to make significant changes after Houston’s disappointing 2015/16 campaign, Alexander said, “I wanted to play a different style. I thought defensively we lacked a lot of focus, and I think we brought in a real good defensive guy [assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik], and we brought in three strong players. One of our weaknesses last year was we couldn’t shoot the ball, and we brought two good shooters in, and we changed the team dramatically.”

Here’s more from out West:

  • Nuggets executive Josh Kroenke told members of the media that Denver intends to establish a D-League affiliate in the near future, Harrison Wind of BSNDenver.com tweets. “Yes, there has been a lot of dialogue about that,” Kroenke said.
  • Mavericks center Andrew Bogut said that he would have asked for a buyout if he was traded to a team other than Dallas this summer, Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com relays. The Warriors reportedly gave Bogut the choice of being traded to the Mavs and the Rockets, with the big man ultimately deciding to go to Dallas. The Sixers had also reportedly expressed interest, but Golden State wanted to deal the veteran big man to a team with more realistic playoff hopes than Philly.
  • The expectations for Harrison Barnes have increased since he inked a maximum salary deal with the Mavs this offseason and its a challenge the young forward will have to embrace, coach Rick Carlisle told MacMahon in a separate piece. “I talked to him [Barnes] this summer a lot about that. Bottom line is that it’s a challenge that he’s got to love to take on. The important thing is that an elevation in responsibility comes at the right rate,” Carlisle said.

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