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Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Zizic, Vasquez

Sixers coach Brett Brown quashed speculation that rookie Ben Simmons might play his first game January 27th, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia’s contest against the Rockets on that date was recently added to ESPN’s national television schedule. A picture of Simmons appeared on Instagram not long after, leading many to believe it was more than a coincidence. But Brown said today that Simmons, who hasn’t played since suffering a fractured bone in his right foot in October, definitely won’t be ready by then. “I am a social hermit,” Brown said when a reporter asked about the possibility. “I have no idea what you are talking about. But I do know there is no chance that he will play then.”

There’s more news from the Atlantic Division:

  • It’s still not definite that Simmons will be able to return this season, tweets Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders. An unidentified source told Scotto, “Everyone needs to hold their horses and hope he plays at all.”
  • Celtics draft-and-stash prospect Ante Zizic is ready to try the NBA next season, relays Bugra Uzar of Eurohoops. The 6’11” center is playing for Darussafaka Dogus in Istanbul after being taken with the 23rd pick in the 2016 draft. Zizic is getting an education in the NBA game from former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, who now runs Darussafaka. “I want to prepare for the NBA,” Zizic said. “Because this summer I’m going to the NBA for sure. I think that the best preparation for the NBA is playing at the highest possible level. And EuroLeague provides that.”
  • Signing Greivis Vasquez was the first mistake by new Nets GM Sean Marks, writes John Schuhmann of NBA.com. Brooklyn gave the 30-year-old point guard a guaranteed $4,347,826 for one season even though he wasn’t completely healed from ankle surgery. Vasquez played just three games for the Nets before being waived November 9th.

Jared Sullinger Will Make Raptors Debut Tonight

Free agent addition Jared Sullinger will play his first game for the Raptors tonight in Philadelphia, according to Raptors Media Relations (Twitter link). His minutes will be limited as he works his way back from foot surgery.

After four seasons in Boston, Sullinger signed a one-year, $5.628MM deal with Toronto in July. He was expected to be the team’s starting power forward, but had to undergo surgery on his left foot in October after it was stepped on in the Raptors’ first preseason game.

The 21st pick in the 2012 draft, Sullinger worked his way up to starter status with the Celtics. He averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in 81 games last season.

Ben Gordon To Join D-League

Ben Gordon has signed a D-League contract, according to Adam Johnson of D-League Digest (Twitter link). Gordon will be placed on waivers, per D-League rules, and the Windy City Bulls, Chicago’s affiliate, currently own the top waiver order spot.

The Bulls selected Gordon with the No. 3 overall pick in 2004 and he played five seasons with the franchise before signing a lucrative five-year deal with the Pistons during the summer of 2009. He was traded to Charlotte halfway through that deal, and the team waived him before he was able to finish the contract.

The 33-year-old Gordon last played in the NBA for the Magic during the 2014/15 season. He’s a career 40.1% shooter from behind the arc and he could look use the D-League as a path toward returning to the NBA, as Gary Neal just did.

Carmelo Anthony On His Future With The Knicks

Carmelo Anthony said the conversation between him and Phil Jackson “wasn’t that long,” as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com relays. “We didn’t break bread. We didn’t have an hour’s conversation. It was a short conversation.”

Anthony previously said he wants to remain with the Knicks and he reiterated that desire today. “I’m committed [to staying]. I don’t have to prove that to anybody,” Anthony exclaimed “I don’t think I have to keep saying that. I don’t think I have to keep talking about that. I know for a fact that people see that.”

The soon-to-be 10-time All-Star never thought it would get to the point where he and Jackson would have to sit down and talk about his future with the team. He added that he’s happy he has a no-trade clause in his contract.

“I think, as players, you always want to protect yourself,” Anthony said. “I didn’t think it would get to this point. I think, as a player, if you can get that [no-trade clause], you have a right to protect yourself and take care of yourself when it comes to that. It’s very hard to get, very difficult to get. I have it and that’s that.”

Anthony said he is “numb” to the drama that follows him this season. “That [George Karl] situation, we all know what that was about. He was trying to sell something. In this situation you almost have to pay a little bit closer attention to it because you have to deal with it on a day-to-day basis,” he added. “Other than [that], I’m fine, man. I’m good mentally. I’m good. Trust me.”

The Knicks have won just two of their last 13 games. They will take on the Celtics tonight.

Hawks Sign Gary Neal To 10-Day Contract

3:25 pm: The signing is official, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link).

9:08 am: The Hawks will sign Gary Neal to a 10-day contract, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Atlanta will open up a roster spot by trading Mo Williams to the Nuggets.

Marc Stein of ESPN reported over the weekend that the team was “strongly leaning” toward signing the shooting guard. The 32-year-old previously played under coach Mike Budenholzer when Budenholzer was an assistant in San Antonio.

Neal has been playing for the Texas Legends, the D-League affiliate of the Mavericks. He’s played for five teams over his six-year NBA career, including the Wizards last season.

Pistons Notes: Jackson, Van Gundy, Trades

Although the Pistons maintain that Reggie Jackson is not on the trade market, rival teams get a sense that he’s more available than Detroit has let on, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com writes. It was previously reported that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has moved ahead of Jackson on the team’s list of untouchable players. KCP and Andre Drummond are reportedly the only players ahead of the point guard on that list.

The Pistons struggled while Jackson was sidelined with knee tendinitis and when he returned to the court, it didn’t help them improve as much as they anticipated.  The team owns a record of 19-24 and sits two games behind the Bulls for the eighth seed in the conference.

Here’s more from Detroit:

  • The Pistons aren’t likely to make a major deal before the deadline, David Mayo of MLive writes. Executive/coach Stan Van Gundy believes this year’s trade deadline will be different than it has been in the past. “You’re not going to get the deals, or at least very few of them, where people don’t want to pay people,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve been able to take advantage of that a little bit. With Tobias, [the Magic] wanted to be under the cap to do stuff next summer. We were able to do that with Reggie, same reason, [the Thunder] didn’t want to meet his price. I don’t know that those kinds of deals are going to come up now. They’ll be more straight, basketball-type deals.”
  • In the same piece, Mayo speculates that Beno Udrih and Aron Baynes could be trade candidates. Udrih would be expendable if the Pistons feel Jackson and Ish Smith can remain healthy for the season and Baynes is likely to opt out of his deal in the offseason, so getting value for him now may be a smart move.
  • Van Gundy said the Pistons won’t look to make a trade simply “for the sake of change,” as Rod Beard of the Detroit News relays (Twitter link). “It would have to be a deal that in our mind was a pretty obvious step forward,” Van Gundy said.
  • Van Gundy believes the Pistons need to play harder on defense, Beard passes along in a separate tweet. “It’s not enough to say they’re trying hard. That’s a start, but [that] should be a given. This isn’t the YMCA; it’s the NBA–you got to do both,” Van Gundy exclaimed.

Nuggets Acquire Mo Williams

1:40 pm: The deal is official, according to a Hawks’ press release. As part of the deal, Atlanta will gain a $2.2MM trade exception that will expire one year from today.

8:49 am: The Hawks have agreed to send Mo Williams and cash considerations to the Nuggets in exchange for the rights to Cenk Akyol, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. Denver is expected to waive Williams upon arrival.

The point guard’s contract, which is worth $2.2MM, will get the Nuggets within $7.66MM of the salary floor. Wojnarowski notes that the move will save the team roughly $1.0MM in addition to the cash considerations Atlanta will send its way.

Williams hasn’t played this season and while he’s expressed interest in playing again, he hasn’t committed to making a return to the league. Akyol was selected in the 2005 draft but never came stateside. Wojnarowski notes that he’ll likely never play in the NBA.

Lowe’s Latest: Barnes, Howard, Evans

Zach Lowe of ESPN.com examines the Pelicans‘ roster building strategy and cautions that the team doesn’t have much time to build a championship roster around Anthony Davis in his latest piece. It’s is packed full of noteworthy trade rumors and tidbits, including the story we passed along earlier today about how the Sixers will take a “hard look” at Jrue Holiday in free agency.

Here are more highlights from the piece:

  • The Pelicans considered making a sizable offer to Harrison Barnes in free agency before deciding to spend their available cap space on multiple players, sources tell Lowe. The scribe adds that Barnes would have considered New Orleans had the team contacted him.
  • The Hawks and Pelicans had exploratory talks about a Dwight Howard deal a couple weeks ago, but that was before Atlanta pulled all of its players off the trade market. Lowe notes that it’s unclear how interested New Orleans was in the deal and adds that there was not unanimous support to acquire Howard within the organization.
  • If the Pelicans decide to shake up the front office at the end of the season, Danny Ferry, who is currently serving in an advisory role with the team, is not likely to take over GM duties, sources tell Lowe.
  • Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday will both be free agents this offseason and Lowe notes that it will be hard for the Pelicans to keep both. The scribe adds that retaining Holiday remains New Orleans’ higher priority.

Sixers Expected To Pursue Jrue Holiday In Free Agency

The Sixers will take a hard look at Jrue Holiday in free agency, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. Philadelphia will have the available cap space to offer the point guard a lucrative contract should it chose to do so and Lowe notes that Holiday would be a great fit alongside Ben Simmons.

The Pelicans are worried that Holiday could walk at the end of the season. They are also worried that his departure would cause Anthony Davis to be frustrated with the direction of the franchise. Davis wants Holiday to remain in New Orleans, but he understands it’s out of his control.  “I’m gonna do everything in my power to keep him here,” Davis said. “But it’s a business decision, and he’s a grown man with a family.”

New Orleans could deal Holiday before the deadline out of fear that it will lose him for nothing over the summer. However, Lowe adds that it’s more likely that they hold onto him and hope the free agent bidding war doesn’t get too out of hand.

Holiday previously said he hasn’t thought about his potential free agent decision. He’ll make slightly under $11.3MM this season in the final year of his deal.

Luol Deng Out Indefinitely

Luol Deng suffered a sprained wrist against the Pistons on Sunday and the team announced that injury will keep him out indefinitely, as Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Time relays. Deng’s X-rays came back negative, but DiGiovanna notes that the small forward was seen with his right hand in a heavy bandage.

Deng missed one game earlier in the season because of tendinitis in his right bicep. He also sat out another game to rest.

The 31-year-old signed a four-year, $72MM deal with the Lakers and he’s the team’s highest paid player. He’s averaging 8.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 27.6 minutes per game this season.

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