Former Knicks GM Glen Grunwald rarely spoke with the media, so it was something of a surprise to see that his successor, Steve Mills, engaged in a 15-minute gab-fest yesterday with Knicks beat writers. The exchange was cordial except for one moment when Mills testily repeated his earlier assertion that Isiah Thomas doesn’t have any role with the team, as Marc Berman of the New York Post notes. Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Andrei Kirilenko feels he’s reached a point in his career when he can afford to accept a discounted contract from the Nets in return for a shot at the title, but, “If it was 10 years ago, I would never have taken it — never, ever even thought about it,” Kirilenko told Andrew Keh of The New York Times.
- The Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade sent a pack of veterans from a contending team in Brooklyn to the rebuilding Celtics, but none of them are pouting, observes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.
- The Raptors aren’t going to make any drastic moves until at least 15 or 20 games into the regular season, and they probably won’t make any cuts to their camp roster until after the seventh preseason game, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes in his mailbag column.
- Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer sees much in common between the rebuilding projects the Sixers and Celtics are on.
There have been some instances in which talented tandems that played together early on eventually blossomed into stars on different teams. A few pairs that come to mind include Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter in Toronto, Jerry Stackhouse and Allen Iverson in Philadelphia, and Jermaine O'Neal and Rasheed Wallace in Portland. However, not many of them get another chance to reunite and try to capture some of what could have been. Brooklyn's Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce shared their thoughts about the opportunity to finally achieve success together after looking back at a 2001/02 mid-season trade that saw Johnson – then a Celtics rookie – get traded from Boston and subsequently develop into a star in Phoenix and Atlanta (Tim Bontemps of the New York Post). With that aside, here are a few links to pass along out of the Atlantic Division tonight:
- With Rajon Rondo still out in Boston, Marc D'Amico of Celtics.com looks at the team's other options at point guard – Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, and rookie Phil Pressey. In another piece, Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston describes how this team nearly full of new faces has quietly looked to foster their camaraderie during camp.
- ESPN New York's Ian Begley reports that Knicks assistant GM Allan Houston was in attendance to witness tryouts for the team's D-League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks. Among those who made strong impressions were swingman Dami Sapara, center Kyle Hunt, forward Akeem Ellis, as well as big men Brian Addison and Desmond Blue.
- Begley also mentions that Knicks guard Iman Shumpert sat out of today's practice with what was called a "minor" right shoulder injury, although Marc Berman of the New York Post suggests that this could possibly open the door for J.R. Smith to earn the starting shooting guard spot.
- As Eric Koreen of the National Post notes, the competition for reserve minutes at the wing positions on the Raptors is wide open. Later in the article, Koreen also takes a brief look at rookie Dwight Buycks. In another team-related piece, Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun takes notice of the more competitive vibe felt at this year's camp compared to last year.
- Jason Kidd and a few other Nets offered their comments on what Andrei Kirilenko brings to the table with Roderick Boone of Newsday. In a separate article, Lenn Robbins of BrooklynNets.com gathers some thoughts from coach Kidd and Paul Pierce after today's training camp session.
Let's round up a few Tuesday items out of the Eastern Conference….
- In a column on the Nets' addition of Andrei Kirilenko, Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report details the veteran forward's time on the open market, which initially saw him turn down overtures from the Nets. According to Zwerling, Kirilenko drew some interest from the Warriors and Spurs, and was in talks with three non-playoff teams for larger salaries before he reconsidered Brooklyn's mini mid-level offer.
- Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel rounds up several comments from Bucks owner Herb Kohl about the possibility of a new arena in Milwaukee, the offseason roster overhaul, and his aversion to tanking.
- ESPN.com's Marc Stein explains why Jason Collins isn't in camp with an NBA team, and identifies three clubs that could be fits for the big man once the season gets underway, including the Wizards and Nets.
- Player development is the primary focus in Orlando, but Magic executives tell Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld that the team doesn't view developing young players and winning games as mutually exclusive.
- Pistons rookie forward Tony Mitchell is probably headed for a D-League stint at some point this season, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
D-Leaguer James Nunnally's name has come up in connection with a handful of NBA teams of late, having drawn the attention of the Spurs, Jazz, Suns and Pelicans. The Grizzlies may be most intrigued by the 6'7" swingman out of UC-Santa Barbara, as they've invited him to camp, reports Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside. Still it doesn't sound like Nunnally has accepted that invitation yet, as he'll work as scheduled out this week for Utah and New Orleans. Here's more from this afternoon in the NBA:
- An NBA investigation into Andrei Kirilenko's discount contract with the Nets has cleared the team of any wrongdoing, a source tells Fred Kerber of the New York Post. Complaints from at least one other team triggered the probe.
- The Knicks are thinking of inviting small forward Justin Brownlee to camp after watching him play for their summer league squad this year. The 25-year-old from St. John's will work out for the team this week, tweets Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com.
- Agent Burton Rocks tells Hoops Rumors that the players union has certified him and his Burton Rocks LTD firm, which boasts a dozen baseball clients, as the MLB Trade Rumors Agency Database shows. Rocks is breaking into hoops by repping former Stony Brook standout Muhammed El-Amin.
- Villanova assistant coach Billy Lange has turned down the Rockets' offer to become the head coach of their D-League affiliate, but he's considering a job with the Sixers, reports Dana O'Neil of ESPN.com.
- The Grizzlies traded for Kosta Koufos this summer, and they've coveted the former Nuggets big man for more than a year, as TNT's David Aldridge writes as he hits on a wide range of subjects for his weekly NBA.com column.
- Forbes today published its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, and Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen leads all sports owners in net worth, notes Darren Rovell of ESPN.com.
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com examines some of the data teams will be able to use under the league's new SportVU camera deal.
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel was a guest on ESPN Radio in Indianapolis today and Scott Agness of Pacers.com transcribed much of the interview for us. Vogel hits on a number of topics, but specifically discussed the offseason developments at the top of the Eastern Conference, including those within his own team. Here are a few key points from Vogel:
- Vogel mentioned the Bulls and Nets as the two teams that have taken big steps forward this offseason; Chicago with the return of Derrick Rose and Brooklyn with their bevy of additions. Vogel lauded the bench additions of Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko in Brooklyn, and said he expects good things from Jason Kidd as an NBA coach.
- The Pacers' addition of Luis Scola will really help the team's bench, Vogel said, adding that Scola is one of smartest and most creative players in the league. Vogel said that Solomon Hill, drafted 23rd by Indiana in June, is "ready to contribute right away" and also mentioned C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland as useful additions to his squad.
- Of course, the piece most likely to elevate the Pacers to the next level is the return of Danny Granger, who missed all but five games last season with knee issues. On Granger, Vogel said, "It’s really exciting. Danny is on schedule, looks really good, he’s making progress each week and we’re hoping that we're going to be having a full-strength Danny Granger this year to add to this team that made a lot of noise last year."
- Roy Hibbert has concentrated on bulking up this summer, according to Vogel. Hibbert, who established himself as an elite physical presence in last season's playoffs, is adding bulk mainly in hopes of improving on the offensive end, Vogel said.
Agent Jeff Schwartz's initial asking price for Nikola Pekovic was around $15MM per year, a source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, and Schwartz and the Timberwolves continue to haggle over the amount of money the restricted free agent center will get in his next contract. Schwartz knows he won't get $15MM a year from the team, Wolfson tweets. The Wolves are offering four years and $48MM, and though they're willing to add some incentives, it's "nearly ludicrous" to expect that they'll budge from the $12MM annual base salary, as Wolfson writes in his Scoops column. Wolfson has plenty more on Pekovic and other Timberwolves issues, so let's dive in:
- It's possible that Pekovic could wind up with a fifth year in his deal, but it appears four years is more likely.
- A trade that would send Pekovic and Derrick Williams to the Blazers for LaMarcus Aldridge is far-fetched. Minnesota would prefer Kevin Love instead, Wolfson tweets, but Love doesn't appear to be on the market. Schwartz represents Love as well as Pekovic.
- J.J. Redick was five minutes away from heading to another team before talks revved up on the three-team trade that sent him to the Clippers, but that mystery team wasn't the Wolves. Redick met with Wolves brass and was prepared to sign with them, but talks never got that far.
- Andrei Kirilenko's claim that Wolves president of basketball ops Flip Saunders didn't want to give him a long-term contract is incorrect, writes Wolfson, who hears from two people who say Minnesota offered a three-year, $21MM deal.
- The Wolves have not invited Seth Curry to training camp, contrary to a report.
- Lorenzo Brown, Robbie Hummel, Othyus Jeffers and another big man figure to be the contenders for the 15th spot on the Timberwolves opening-night roster.
It has been an extremely eventful offseason for the Nets, one that saw them add Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and a whole lot of dollars to their luxury tax bill. They weren't quite done after their blockbuster deal with the Celtics, however, as they added Andrei Kirilenko to the mix, making the roster even more dangerous from an offensive standpoint.
The move raised eyebrows all across basketball because AK47 signed for the mini mid-level exception of $3.18MM after turning down a player option for the Wolves worth $10MM+. I asked Kirilenko in a conference call earlier today if the whispers of a possible under-the-table agreement bothered him.
"I've been in these kinds of situations in my career when rumors happened when I've [changed teams] and you hear different kind of stories in the media," the Russian forward explained. "I can't do anything about what people think. You can't change it, so you can't control it."
During the call, Kirilenko spoke glowingly about the Nets and their potential to contend this season. However, he explained that he didn't walk away from Minnesota with an eye on Brooklyn. In fact, he said no to the one-year player option with the T-Wolves because he was seeking a multiyear pact with the club.
"I opted out not because I wanted to sign with the Nets. At that time, I wanted to be in Minnesota for a long time. But there was a change in Minnesota. I respect Flip Saunders' decision, but he decided not to sign me for a long time. I can’t do anything about that," said Kirilenko, who reportedly left the club in part because of David Kahn's departure.
Kirilenko wasn't specifically looking to play for the NBA's first Russian owner or to reunite with Deron Williams, but said both aspects appealed to him. While his decision to opt out cost him roughly $7MM this season, Kirilenko added that he has no regrets about how things played out. Ultimately, the former All-Star is thrilled to have a "legit chance" at winning a title, even if it leaves him a little lighter in the wallet.
In his latest lengthy piece for Grantland.com, Zach Lowe evaluates the offseason so far for all 30 NBA teams, writing that the Rockets stand alone as the only club to significantly improve without sacrificing future assets or flexibility. It's worth reading Lowe's entire piece, especially if you're curious to find out what he had to say about your favorite team. But here are a few notable tidbits from the story:
- The Clippers recognize that even after adding free agents Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens, the team needs another big man, and will likely sign one soon.
- Lowe notes that the Raptors could be in position to clear a chunk of cap space next summer, when Rudy Gay's and Kyle Lowry's contracts could expire. According to Lowe, the Raps privately expressed a belief when they traded for Gay last season that he'd likely opt out next summer in search of a longer-term deal, rather than exercising his 2014/15 player option.
- While the Jazz have taken some criticism for letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk rather than trying to flip them at the trade deadline for something of value, Lowe says Utah would have been willing to move either player last February if the club could have landed a first-round pick and avoided taking on long-term money.
- There's some confusion among rival executives about why the Lakers are bothering with players like Chris Kaman and Nick Young, rather than going into full-blown tank mode, says Lowe.
- Among the executives Lowe spoke to in Las Vegas, a couple of the most common questions involved what the Mavericks' and Bucks' plans are, since neither team seems to have a clear-cut direction.
- The Timberwolves are a "99.9999% bet" to re-sign Nikola Pekovic at a fair number, according to Lowe.
- Don't expect the Heat to be passive about LeBron James' potential 2014 free agency, says Lowe, adding that Pat Riley and the front office "won't promise him the same aging and top-heavy roster."
- The Spurs are likely one of the teams unhappy about Andrei Kirilenko's new deal with the Nets, since San Antonio tried to acquire the Russian via sign-and-trade after being told he wouldn't sign for mid-level money.
As I explained last Friday, the Timberwolves have done a good job this summer managing the cap, allowing the team to add Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, and Ronny Turiaf, while locking up Chase Budinger. However, the offseason can't truly be viewed as a success until the T-Wolves re-sign free agent big man Nikola Pekovic. Here's the latest on that front, along with a few more noteworthy items out of Minnesota:
- A source close to Pekovic tells Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities that there has been no movement in negotiations with the Wolves. Minnesota still has an offer on the table, believed to be for four years and $50MM, and persumably Pekovic's camp feels comfortable that the offer isn't going anywhere.
- Timberwolves president Flip Saunders still intends to hire a general manager and VP of basketball operations. According to Wolfson, two candidates we've heard mentioned before remain in play: Rob Babcock and Milt Newton. Wolfson's report suggests two candidates will be hired (or promoted), rather than one exec filling both roles.
- While a Wolves source says a three-year, $21MM deal for Andrei Kirilenko was at least briefly discussed, a source close to Kirilenko tells Wolfson that there was never an offer on the table to bring the forward back to Minnesota.
- Before they signed Brewer, the Wolves had a chance to acquire Tayshaun Prince from the Grizzlies, but passed, given Prince's price tag, according to Wolfson.
- The T-Wolves had "heavy interest" in Gerald Henderson prior to agreeing to terms with Martin.
- The Wolves like O.J. Mayo, but determined he wouldn't be a good fit with Ricky Rubio, since the team wanted to add a two guard who didn't need the ball in his hands a whole lot, says Wolfson. Minnesota also pursued J.J. Redick before landing Martin, but couldn't negotiate a sign-and-trade as beneficial as the Clippers' deal.
- Reps for Nate Robinson and Delonte West called the Wolves to see if the club has interest in either player, but the answer appears to be no, writes Wolfson.
- After being selected 58th overall in the 2012 draft, Robbie Hummel spent last season playing in Spain, but now that he's back with the Wolves' Summer League squad, he's eager to show that he's deserving of the team's final open roster spot, as he tells Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. "That’s the ultimate goal," Hummel said. "It always has been my dream to play in the NBA. I’m thankful for this opportunity and want to show I belong."
The past two summers haven't gone as planned for the Mavericks, but there's still no need to panic and trade Dirk Nowitzki, as Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram argues. LeBreton is confident the additions of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon will help the team. Here's more on the Mavs, along with other news from the Association:
Spencer Lund contributed to this post.