Knicks Ink Lance Thomas For Rest Of Season

January 31 at 9:23am CST By Chuck Myron

SATURDAY, 9:23am: The Knicks have signed Thomas for the remainder of the season, the team has announced.

1:10pm: The deal only covers the rest of this season, a league source tells Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter links).

THURSDAY, 9:49am: The Knicks will re-sign combo forward Lance Thomas to a contract that covers the rest of the season when his second 10-day contract with the team expires at the end of Friday, reports Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Such rest-of-season deals often carry an additional year with non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed salary, as is the case with New York’s latest arrangement with Langston Galloway, but Begley doesn’t indicate whether Thomas’ new contract will extend any longer than this season. The Knicks are limited to giving out the minimum salary.

Knicks coach Derek Fisher publicly lobbied Wednesday for new deals for Thomas as well as fellow 10-day signee Lou Amundson, who’s started the last five games for the Knicks and whose second 10-day contract with New York expires tonight. Thomas, a John Spencer client, has also played a significant role in six appearances with New York, averaging 11.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game. He’s at a career high 21.6 MPG for the season, having made 13 starts for the injury-plagued Thunder at the beginning of the year before Oklahoma City sent him to New York in a three-team trade earlier this month.

New York waived Thomas shortly after the trade to avoid guaranteeing his minimum-salary contract for the season, but it seems that the Knicks have since warmed to the idea. A new deal for Thomas would give the Knicks 14 players signed through season’s end.

Southeast Notes: Ferry, Vaughn, Whiteside

January 31 at 8:56am CST By Eddie Scarito

Hawks GM Danny Ferry is largely responsible for Atlanta’s success this season, but there is almost zero chance of him returning from his leave of absence to the team that he built, Paul Newberry of The Associated Press writes. A number of the Hawks’ current players believe that Ferry deserves a second chance, and some of them applaud the way Ferry rebuilt the club without allowing the franchise to fall to the bottom of the standings while doing it, Newberry notes. He did it a totally different way,” Hawks forward Kyle Korver said. “I think there’s a whole lot of owners who would rather do it that way, rather than lose for five years and hope their draft picks turn out at the end of the day. Danny is going to have another job. There’s not any doubt about that.

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic‘s front office had better hope that coach Jacque Vaughn is the reason that the franchise isn’t performing up to expectations if it fires him, Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel writes. If bringing in a new coach doesn’t improve matters quickly, then GM Rob Hennigan‘s job will be in jeopardy, Bianchi adds, since Hennigan is the architect of the Magic’s underachieving roster.
  • Hassan Whiteside has been filling up stat sheets for the Heat this season, but the big man’s chance to shine in the NBA has been a long time coming, Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) writes in his profile of the player. Whiteside, who is scheduled to earn just $981,348 next season, has quickly become one of the biggest player bargains in the league, Haberstroh opines.
  • With Vaughn’s job as Magic coach in serious peril, Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel runs down a number of the team’s options for hiring his replacement. Coaches who could be promoted on an interim basis are Orlando assistant coaches Wes Unseld Jr. and James Borrego. The candidates whom Schmitz speculates the team will consider as long-term solutions include George Karl, Scott Skiles, Tyronn Lue, Michael Curry, and Mark Jackson.

Nuggets Offer Hickson, McGee For Lopez

January 30 at 11:20pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Nuggets are continuing to attempt to pry Brook Lopez away from the Nets, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). Denver has been offering Brooklyn a package of JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson for Lopez, a deal that the Nets have firmly refused, Stein adds. Chris Mannix of SI.com had reported earlier today that the Nuggets were pursuing Lopez, but were unwilling to part with Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic or Wilson Chandler in a trade. Denver had reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Lopez earlier this month as well.

Denver’s proposed swap would work under the salary cap rules without requiring any additional players to be included. Hickson is making $5,381,750 for this season and is set to earn $5,613,500 in 2015/16. McGee’s 2014/15 salary is $11.25MM, and he is due $12MM for the following season. On the Nets side of the would-be deal, Lopez is earning $15,019,762 this year, and has a player option for 2015/16 for $16,744,218.

The oft-injured McGee has only appeared in 15 games this season for the Nuggets. He is averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per contest. His career numbers are 8.5 PPG and 5.6 RPG. His slash line is .542/.200/.586 in 374 career games. The 29-year-old Hickson has appeared in 39 games for Denver, including five as a starter. He is logging 8.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. His shooting numbers for the season are .494/.000/.618.

Lopez has been the subject of numerous trade rumors the past few weeks. The Thunder, Hornets and the Nets were reportedly close to a three-way deal for the center, but the Nets decided that they didn’t want Lance Stephenson in return. The Heat were also noted to have made a bid for Lopez, offering Brooklyn a proposal that reportedly included Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts. The organization appears to be undecided on whether or not to keep Lopez, but it will likely take a more enticing package than Denver had offered in McGee and Hickson for Brooklyn to budge, though that is just my speculation.

And-Ones: Silver, Carter, D-League

January 30 at 9:50pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Mark Cuban had his run-ins with former commissioner David Stern, but the Mavs owner has no shortage of praise for Adam Silver, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays from Cuban. Still, there are challenges ahead for Silver as his first year atop the league comes to a close, and union executive director Michele Roberts has left many around the league believing she’s “looking for a fight.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Lakers have assigned Ryan Kelly to their D-League affiliate, the L.A. D-Fenders, the team has announced. This will be Kelly’s first jaunt to the D-League of the season.
  • An MRI performed on Vince Carter has revealed that the Grizzlies veteran has suffered damage to a tendon in his left foot, the team has announced. The 38-year-old is out indefinitely and will be re-evaluated in a week’s time.
  • The Pacers have recalled Shayne Whittington from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team has announced. This was Whittington’s first trip to the D-League of the season, and in one appearance he notched five points and four rebounds for the Mad Ants.
  • Milos Milisavljevic, who plays for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s D-League affiliate, is working toward hearing his name called in this June’s NBA draft, Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com writes. The Serbian had passed on offers from a number of Euroleague teams so that he could come to the United States and play for Santa Cruz. Milisavljevic chose the less lucrative D-League path in order to demonstrate to NBA executives his high level of commitment to making it into the league, Howard-Cooper notes.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Foreign-Born NBA Player Salaries By Country

January 30 at 7:49pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The globalization of the NBA continues to increase with each passing season. A foreign-born player used to be a rarity in the league, but no longer is that the case. There are currently 99 players on NBA rosters who weren’t born in the continental United States, which is roughly 22% of the league. This is a trend that shows no sign of letting up anytime soon, as teams will continue to comb the Earth to find players who can help them compete for championships.

Foreign-born players will rake in upward of $448,767,759 in cap hits for this season, which is good for an average take of $4,533,007. The highest-paid player born overseas is Marc Gasol of Spain, who is raking in an impressive $15,829,688 this season, a number that will almost certainly increase when he hits the free agent market this summer.

The top five non-U.S. countries for total player earnings are:

  1. Brazil $36,090,828
  2. Spain $36,085,358
  3. Canada $30,511,748
  4. Australia $29,332,962
  5. Italy $29,182,969

Canada holds the distinction of being the foreign country with the most players currently in the NBA, with 10, followed by Australia and France, which both have seven. The highest average salary goes to the Republic of the Congo, thanks to Serge Ibaka‘s $12.35MM salary for the 2014/15 campaign, and the fact that he’s the nation’s lone NBA export. The highest mean cap hit for a country with multiple players in the league is owned by Spain, as Spanish-native hoopsters cost their teams an average $7,217,072.

Below is a complete list, arranged alphabetically by country, of every foreign-born player currently in the NBA and their respective cap hits. Please note that the list reflects each player’s country of birth, and not necessarily his current citizenship.

Argentina

Total Salary=$14,531,460 /Average Salary=$4,843,820

Australia

Total Salary=$29,332,962 /Average Salary=$4,190,423

Belgium

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Total Salary=$9,525,262 /Average Salary=$2,381,316

Brazil

Total Salary=$36,090,828 /Average Salary=$6,010,138

Cameroon

Total Salary=$8,810,215 /Average Salary=$4,405,108

Canada

Total Salary=$30,511,748 /Average Salary=$3,051,175

Croatia

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Dominican Republic

England

Total Salary=$7,513,512 /Average Salary=$3,756,756

France

Total Salary=$28,177,904 /Average Salary=$4,025,415

French Guiana

Georgia

Germany

Total Salary=$12,916,162 /Average Salary=$4,305,387

Greece

Total Salary=$6,670,864 /Average Salary=$3,335,432

Israel

Italy

Total Salary=$29,182,969 /Average Salary=$5,836,594

Jamaica

Lithuania

Total Salary=$5,162,280 /Average Salary=$2,581,140

Republic of Macedonia

Montenegro

Total Salary=$17,405,000 /Average Salary=$8,702,500

New Zealand

Total Salary=$4,261,960 /Average Salary=$2,130,980

Nigeria

Poland

Puerto Rico

Republic of the Congo

Russia

Total Salary=$12,792,132 /Average Salary=$3,198,033

Senegal

Slovenia

Total Salary=$11,283,250 /Average Salary=$3,761,083

South Africa

Spain

Total Salary=$36,085,358 /Average Salary=$7,217,072

South Sudan

Switzerland

Total Salary=$6,883,875 /Average Salary=$3,441,938

Sweden

Total Salary=$5,415,243 /Average Salary=$2,707,622

Switzerland

Total Salary=$6,931,260 /Average Salary=$3,465,630

Turkey

Total Salary=$20,153,121 /Average Salary=$5,038,280

Ukraine

Venezuela

Virgin Islands

The Basketball Insiders Salary Pages were used in the creation of this post.

Pistons Notes: Point Guards, Jerebko, Van Gundy

January 30 at 5:47pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Pistons president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy needs to add another point guard to the roster in the wake of the injury to Brandon Jennings, but he wants to wait to find the right fit instead of rushing to sign a player, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes. “Being honest, preferably we’d like to get somebody with NBA experience. There are some of those guys in the D-League,” Van Gundy said. “But the overriding thing is we want the best player. If we think one of those guys is better, we will do that. There are D-League guys we’ve looked at and talked about.

Here’s more from Motown:

  • Van Gundy will also look to the trade market for a point guard, but he isn’t keen on taking on a player whose contract extends past this season, Langlois adds. “That becomes a complicating factor, too, because depending on Brandon’s recovery, you would very well have three point guards under contract and still need another for next year,” Van Gundy said. “So to be tied into another one from this year – unless he’s a guy you know you want to go forward with – you could be at five point guards. That’s not going to work. We may have to carry four early in the year, which is a lot, but you certainly don’t want to be in a situation with five. It’s not like we can just go out and trade for anyone. We can’t.
  • The Pistons not having yet brought in any players on 10-day contracts this season will work to the team’s advantage, Langlois notes. “[Two 10-day contracts] will take us to the trade deadline, which I think is an advantage,” Van Gundy said. “We could do two 10 days, the trade deadline and then if nothing materializes, we’ve got a guy who’s been with us for three weeks, and if it does, then we make a move. That’s part of the timing issue of it, too.
  • Despite having had previous success playing overseas, Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko is adamant that he has no plans to leave the NBA when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders writes. “No, I’m in the NBA,” Jerebko told Greene. “That’s it. I’m not even considering going overseas right now. The NBA is where I want to be. I want to stay in this league. The summer is the summer and I’ll evaluate [free agency] when it comes, you know.

Trade Candidate: Norris Cole

January 30 at 3:45pm CST By Chuck Myron

The Heat were hearing from no shortage of teams interested in trading for Norris Cole two days shy of last year’s trade deadline, but Miami issued a firm “no” to his suitors, as Shams Charania of RealGM reported then. It appears the point guard is again drawing a heavy volume of interest, but so much has changed in the past 11 and a half months.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami HeatCircumstances surrounding the Heat are certainly much different. LeBron James left town this summer, taking any reasonable shot at winning the championship with him. Cleveland is where James once more resides, and it’s also where Cole went to college. Cole hired Cleveland-based Rich Paul of Klutch Sports this summer, signing up with the same agent who represents James. A few months later, Cole and the Heat failed to come to terms on a rookie scale extension, setting him up for restricted free agency in the summer ahead.

It’d be a stretch to presume that Cole would have signed an extension if he were still with former agent Joel Bell or any representative other than Paul. Cole had ascended into the Heat’s starting lineup at the start of the season, but rookie scale extensions rarely happen for players who don’t have at least some measure of star potential, and Cole doesn’t fit the bill. Plus, the Heat have been wary of committing any money beyond next season, so they probably would have been reluctant to do an extension even with a player a step or two above Cole’s level.

The lack of an extension nonetheless seemed another sign that Cole isn’t a permanent fixture on South Beach, an idea further emphasized in the wake of a report around draft time that the Heat were dangling Cole in trade talk. Miami came away from the draft with No. 24 overall pick Shabazz Napier, a point guard who was a LeBron favorite. The Heat also re-signed Mario Chalmers later in the offseason, setting themselves up with depth at the point guard position that perhaps made Cole expendable. It hardly seemed that way earlier this season, when Cole became a starter, at times sharing the backcourt with Dwyane Wade, or Chalmers if Wade was injured. But the starting role didn’t last. Cole, who’d shot 34.9% from three-point range the previous season, saw that rate dip to just 24.6% in games he started. The Heat naturally struggled to win nearly as much as they did when James was around, but by Christmas, Cole was out of the starting lineup. His outside shot has only been worse since his benching. He’s connected on only 23.5% of his three-point attempts as a reserve for a team that no longer has the outside shooting it did during the LeBron era.

Cole was a healthy scratch Sunday against the Bulls, but he returned to play 25 minutes off the bench Tuesday in the absence of Wade, who might be out of action for a few weeks. Regardless, Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio reported earlier this month that Cole is once more on the block, writing that the 26-year-old “pretty much knows” the Heat want to trade him. That came shortly after Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote that Miami had made Cole part of a proposal to the Nets for Brook Lopez. Riley last week denied that he made such a proposal and insisted that the Heat haven’t offered any players to anyone. However, he did indicate that he would listen, and a couple of teams soon found themselves in need of a point guard.

The Hornets have Cole and Ramon Sessions on their radar, Wojnarowski reported Monday in the wake of an injury to Kemba Walker that will keep him out at least six weeks. The Pistons are looking into trading for Cole, too, now that Brandon Jennings is lost for the year, as Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group wrote Tuesday. Still, neither club appears anxious to give up much in return to plug their gaps, and both are competing with the Heat for playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

The prospect of trading Cole to the Pistons or the Hornets might be more palatable to Riley than trading him to Cleveland. The Cavs have never been linked to Cole as a legitimate trade suitor, though the Cavs are reportedly seeking a backup point guard as well. They had a brief flirtation with the idea of signing Jordan Farmar before backing off, and they’re among the clubs interested in signing Will Bynum once he makes it back from China, according to reports. The Cavs are more likely to sign a point guard than trade for one, Amico wrote, but the notion that Cleveland would seek to fill a need with a client of the agent who represents LeBron would certainly be a logical idea.

It’d also be reasonable to suspect that Riley has no desire to help James win a championship so soon after he left Miami, so perhaps the Cavs are focusing on other targets for good reason. In any case, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Riley try to swing a deal to reap some sort of return for Cole, given his expiring contract. The Heat have the right to match offers when he becomes a free agent this summer if they extend a qualifying offer, which will be worth close to $3.037MM assuming he doesn’t return to the starting lineup and trigger the starter criteria. Chances are that any team interested in Cole this summer knows that the Heat don’t want to commit money past next season, so a multiyear offer sheet might make it easy to pry him away.

There’s a market for Cole now, even as his shot has deserted him, and Riley and the Heat may not have a better chance to make the most of one of the remaining vestiges of their decorated LeBron era. Trading Cole to the Cavs or one of the other Eastern Conference playoff contenders might not be an exciting proposition, but unless the Heat can find a Western Conference team willing to give them a better return, Riley ought to swallow hard and make the move.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Timberwolves Open To Trading Mo Williams

January 30 at 3:18pm CST By Chuck Myron

3:18pm: The Cavs, Clippers and Heat are among the teams to watch regarding Williams, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 Twin Cities, adding that there’s a “small chance” that the Pistons become involved (Twitter link). The return Minnesota would receive for Williams would be “minimal,” Wolfson also says.

11:49am: Rival teams believe the Wolves are making Mo Williams available to potential trade partners willing to relinquish a draft pick, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Williams is indeed available, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (on Twitter). Still, a source told Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that there’s “almost zero chance” that Minnesota makes any deal this season, given the limited market for its veterans, as Deveney wrote earlier this morning.

The source who spoke with Deveney referred to the long-term financial commitments to some of those vets as stumbling blocks, but Williams is on a $3.75MM deal that only covers this season. Many executives and scouts who spoke with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck for a December report identified Williams and teammate Thaddeus Young as likely trade candidates. Young has a player option worth almost $9.972MM for next season, and Krawczynski doesn’t get the sense that the Timberwolves want to trade Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic or perhaps Young, as the AP scribe wrote in his tweet.

Williams, a 12th-year veteran, has been starting in place of the injured Ricky Rubio, though the team does have lottery pick Zach LaVine and 10-day signee Lorenzo Brown in reserve. Williams’ 6.4 assists per game are his most since the 2010/11 season, and his 12.5 points per game represent a bounceback from his 9.7 PPG scoring average for the Blazers last season, the first time he hadn’t averaged double figures in points since his rookie year. Still, the now 32-year-old Williams wanted to return to Portland this past summer, and there was reportedly mutual interest in a deal with the Mavs before they signed Jameer Nelson instead.

Magic Close To Firing Jacque Vaughn

January 30 at 2:50pm CST By Eddie Scarito

2:50pm: Mark Jackson is also among the “names to watch” should the Magic replace Vaughn, Broussard tweets.

9:44am: Orlando’s front office has already decided to fire Vaughn and is simply determining when to go through with the move, a source tells Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. That echoes the “when” but not “if” sentiment that Wojnarowski heard. No move will happen before the Magic’s game against the Mavs on Saturday, Wojnarowski writes in an updated version of his story. A replacement for Vaughn would likely come from among his assistant coaches, but several executives from around the league have speculated that Scott Skiles will emerge as a favorite for the job, according to Broussard.

FRIDAY, 7:50am: The Magic are close to firing Vaughn, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who hears from a source close to the decision-making process that it’s a question of “when,” not “if.” Orlando has been hesitant to make the move to this point in part because of the lack of a candidate on the coaching staff whom the Magic can promote in Vaughn’s place, Wojnarowski also hears.

THURSDAY, 11:01pm: Magic team management is “not at all happy” with the job performance of coach Jacque Vaughn, Brian K. Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel reports (Twitter link). A team source told Schmitz, “We won’t settle for this,” when discussing the franchise’s recent play. Orlando hasn’t ruled out making an in-season coaching change, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel tweets.

Vaughn’s job security has been the topic of discussion this past month, and when Robbins asked GM Rob Hennigan recently if Vaughn’s job was safe for the remainder of the season, Hennigan was non-committal in his response. “Look, we’re clearly in a rut and we need to find our way out of it together,” Hennigan said. “The buck starts and stops with me. I’m responsible for the team and its performance, plain and simple. I’m constantly evaluating myself and ways in which I can do a better job for our team, and that will continue to be the case, and I’ll continue to make sure I’m evaluating every inch of the organization. It’s my job to make sure that we’re constantly evaluating every aspect of the organization from top to bottom. So, to your question, I’d say that everyone and everything is being evaluated right now. I wouldn’t be doing my job if that weren’t the case. I’ll also say that there’s not one isolated problem or issue and that we need to collectively be part of generating the solution.”

Orlando has lost seven straight games, and the team’s overall record of 15-34 has the franchise five and a half games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff slot. What primarily has Vaughn’s job in jeopardy is his squad’s performance against teams in the Magic’s talent class, Schmitz writes. The team’s front office has also been told by various insiders around the league, even one Western Conference coach, that the club has better talent than its current record, Schmitz adds. Vaughn had said recently that he wasn’t concerned about his job.

Vaughn is in his third season with the team as coach, and he has a career record of 58-152.  The franchise had picked up Vaughn’s 2015/16 team option last May, despite two consecutive last place finishes in the Southeast Division. To make Vaughn’s task this season more complicated, the team began the campaign having to integrate eight new players into the fold, and had to endure injuries to Channing Frye and Victor Oladipo. With Orlando playing in the weaker Eastern Conference, team management believes that a coaching change could help the franchise compete for a playoff spot this season, Schmitz notes.

Pacific Notes: Kobe, McAdoo, Terrence Williams

January 30 at 1:59pm CST By Chuck Myron

The Lakers picked up a rare with Thursday night, but it cost them in the Reverse Standings, where they’re four games back of the No. 2 position. They have to finish with either the worst or second-worst record in the league to assure themselves of retaining their first-round pick this year, which goes to the Suns if it falls out of the top five. The Lakers currently sit fourth in the order, but if a couple of other teams get lucky in the lottery, that would bump L.A. out of the pick’s protected range. There’s more on next year for the purple-and-gold amid the latest from the Pacific Division:

  • Kobe Bryant confirms that he plans to return next season and be ready to take part in Lakers training camp, as he told Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Bryant admitted shortly before he tore his rotator cuff that he had considered retiring after this season. Recovery from the injury is supposed to keep him out for nine months, which would force him to miss nearly all of the 2015/16 preseason.
  • The Warriors like what they see in James McAdoo and hope that he’s a part of the team’s future, coach Steve Kerr says, as Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group tweets. Golden State nonetheless appears to have opted against re-signing McAdoo for now, since he rejoined the team’s D-League affiliate Thursday following the expiration of his 10-day contract with the big club.
  • Israel’s Maccabi Ashdod has decided to release former lottery pick Terrence Williams, sources tell David Pick of Basketball Insiders. Williams worked out for the Kings in July and again in late October. He’s in talks with teams from Puerto Rico and the Philippines, Pick hears.