The Raptors are reportedly already planning a run at Andrew Wiggins, and there are apparently whispers that he’d love to play for his hometown Toronto team someday, even though he can’t elect unrestricted free agency until 2019. Still, Wiggins said today, in advance of tonight’s Timberwolves-Raptors game, that he’s quite content in Minnesota, making his remarks to reporters, including Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link).
“I love Minnesota,” he said. “They treat me nice up there. I plan to be there a very, very, very long time.”
That’s no doubt the plan for the Wolves, too, who acquired the 2014 No. 1 overall pick this year in the Kevin Love trade. Here’s more from the Western Conference:
- Tyson Chandler knew the Mavericks were trying to trade for him this past summer, but he didn’t think it would happen, as he tells Ian Thomsen of NBA.com. “I think the Knicks had rejected every possible trade that they offered,” Chandler said. “I didn’t think I was going from New York. The Knicks had visited me to teach me the triangle offense two days before I got traded. So I definitely didn’t think [a] trade was in the works.”
- The Jazz are 11-2 since the trade deadline, when the deal that sent Enes Kanter out created more playing time for Trevor Booker. The ex-Wizards power forward didn’t expect Utah to play this well when he signed with the Jazz in the offseason, and he wants to remain with the team, as he tells Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Only $250K of his $4.775MM salary for next season is guaranteed.
- Pelicans coach Monty Williams praised Eric Gordon for putting the team above himself when he decided not to have surgery on the torn labrum in his left shoulder, a move that would have helped ensure he’s 100% for next season, the last on his contract, observes Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune. Gordon can hit free agency as soon as this summer if he chooses, though he’d have to turn down a player option worth more than $15.514MM to do so.
Amar’e Stoudemire‘s $2.5MM buyout from the Knicks only represented a net loss of $2,014,330 for him, since it was offset by his prorated minimum salary deal with the Mavs, but it was a savings of $6.25MM for the Knicks, as Marc Berman of the New York Post points out. The $2.5MM that Stoudemire gave up, an amount that Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders first reported, as we noted last month, would have entailed an extra $3.75MM in luxury taxes had the big man remained under contract. Still, Stoudemire collected a total of more than $97.2MM in salary from the Knicks over the course of his five-year contract, and New York is in line to pay at least some tax for a third straight year, meaning the team will incur repeat-offender penalties if it goes over the tax next season. Here’s more from the Atlantic:
- Sources told Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders that they suspected the sale of the Nets was to have been based off a $1 billion price for the Hawks, but those same sources believe the Atlanta franchise will go for around $900MM instead, as Kyler relays (Twitter links). Multiple sports bankers had believed the Nets would sell for as much as $2 billion, as they told Josh Kosman and Claire Atkinson of the New York Post earlier this month, but that price point never materialized, Kyler hears (Twitter link). Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov appears to be backing away from the idea of a sale.
- There are whispers that Andrew Wiggins would love to play for the Raptors, but he’s under contract through 2018 and would have to take discount salaries if he wants to play in his native Canada anytime this decade, writes Eric Koreen of the National Post. In any case, the talent pool in Canada has grown enough such that GM Masai Ujiri need not dig deep to fulfill his promise of bringing a domestic talent onto the Raptors, making the GM’s pledge “harmless,” Koreen believes. Still, a majority of Hoops Rumors readers believe that Ujiri shouldn’t concern himself with a player’s nationality.
- The “minor setback” that Joel Embiid has suffered as he continues to recover from a broken right foot bears watching, but it’s not worth an overreaction, Sixers coach Brett Brown told reporters, including Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The franchise still believes that Embiid is capable of becoming its cornerstone if he can get healthy, Pompey writes.
The Wolves reportedly want to re-sign Kevin Garnett for another two years when his contract expires this summer, and he’s expected to take them up on that, a source told Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. Minnesota insisted on Thaddeus Young instead of a first-round pick in the Kevin Love trade, and after dealing Young for Garnett on Thursday, coach/executive Flip Saunders guaranteed that Garnett will have a greater effect on the Wolves than the first-round pick ever would have, Zgoda tweets. Saunders said he tried to engage the Nets in conversations regarding the Love trade to see if he could acquire Garnett then, but Brooklyn resisted the idea, as Zgoda also relays (on Twitter). There’s more on Garnett amid the latest from Minnesota:
- Wolves owner Glen Taylor acknowledged the return of Garnett as a player bodes well for KG’s chances of becoming a part-owner, notes Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). “It’s just that he’s a player. But I think that opens up that possibility,” Taylor said. Still, there were some hard feelings when Garnett and the Wolves parted ways in 2007, and Taylor and the star haven’t said more than hello since, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press.
- The choice Andrew Wiggins made not to sign with Klutch Sports, the agency that represents LeBron James, played a key factor in the Cavs’ decision to put him in the Love trade, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com said on SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter link). Wiggins is a Bill Duffy client.
- The two-year deal that Lorenzo Brown signed with the Wolves on Thursday is a minimum-salary affair that’s non-guaranteed for next season, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter).
Trey Burke has embraced his new role of coming off of the bench for the Jazz, and the change has benefited both the player and the team, Chad Mobley of NBA.com writes. “There’s this fixation with the bench and starting and to me what Trey has embraced is not so much the bench. I don’t want him to embrace the bench, I don’t want him to embrace starting, I want him to do what’s best for our team,” coach Quin Snyder said. “He’s embraced becoming a better player. I don’t want it to be about the bench for him. If he starts again I want him to keep getting better.”
Here’s more from the West:
- The Benson family’s legal squabble over the control of the Pelicans and Saints threatens to ruin the clan’s sports legacy in New Orleans, Margaret Cronin Fisk and Laurel Brubaker Calkins of Bloomberg News write.
- Josh Smith is a big fan of playing for the Rockets, and he views his time in Houston this season as a chance to revitalize his career, Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston tweets. “It [Houston] does have a home feel. I can’t stop smiling because I’m in such a good position with a great opportunity in front of me,” Smith told Berman.
- Rookie Andrew Wiggins is the Wolves‘ lone ray of hope for a better future, and he is providing Minnesota with an acceptable return for dealing away Kevin Love to the Cavs, Pat Borzi of USA Today writes.
- Suns center Alex Len is essentially a rookie after missing most of the 2013/14 campaign due to an injury, and the big man is starting to feel the effects of logging heavy minutes, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “There is going to be some adjustment for him for playing these big minutes,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Eighty-two games is a lot of games. You’re traveling and doing all this and you kind of get worn down. You have to get used to playing like that.“
The rapid development of rookie Andrew Wiggins is one of the few bright spots for the Timberwolves this season, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press writes. “He’s above where we thought he would be,” president of basketball operations and coach Flip Saunders said of Wiggins. “There have not been very many rookies that have gone through a 15 game stretch where they’re averaging 21 [points] a game and been in a situation where they’re taking the other team’s best defensive player and playing both ends of the floor.”
Here’s more from the West:
- Mavs forward Greg Smith has signed with agent Seth Cohen of Versus Management, Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype reports (Twitter link). Smith, who is earning $948,163 this season, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
- The Lakers have recalled Ryan Kelly from the L.A. D-Fenders, their D-League affiliate, the team has announced. This was Kelly’s first trip to the D-League of the season.
- The Mavs knew that they would experience some rough patches as Rajon Rondo was integrated into the team, and it’s a process that is still ongoing, Schuyler Dixon of NBA.com writes. ”We got a point guard that’s got a lot of experience and a championship and is a great player, but I also think we’ve still got some work to do on both ends of the floor,” Dirk Nowitzki said. ”I could certainly see the potential that’s there, but the problem is the West is just so tough. It’s kind of hard to see right now how it’s going to end up.”
Flip Saunders, the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations and coach, sat down for an interview with Britt Robson of MinnPost.com to discuss the state of the team and the progress of some of its younger players this season. The entire interview is worth a read, and here are some of the highlights…
On the development of rookie Andrew Wiggins:
“When we made the [Kevin Love] trade, there is no question that we switched somewhat, although we thought if we kept Ricky [Rubio] together with those guys we could be a blended team [of veterans and young players]. So based on where we were, and where everyone thought Wiggins was — coming out of college in Kansas people thought he was inconsistent and that you didn’t know what you were going to get out of him — I think over the last month or six weeks we are way ahead of where I thought we would be. Andrew wants to be good and will accept criticism. He has gotten to the point now where he knows when he is making a mistake. That is the difference between him and Zach LaVine at times. Zach still doesn’t know at times that he is making a mistake when he makes mistakes.
On which kind of role he envisions for Wiggins in the future:
“We want him to be like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Scottie Pippen. Because they are all two-way players. A lot of those guys were their team’s best offensive player but also their team’s best defensive player. And their tenacity, the team goes through it. Wiggins is in a much more difficult situation than what Kevin Garnett had here [as a younger player]. Because Garnett had some vets that were going to be there for awhile and really locked in and we just don’t have the same type of guys. So we never asked KG to carry us offensively [early in his career]. We have had to ask that of Wiggins. My biggest thing, the one thing KG could always do, he could always create shots at the end of games — that’s tough when you are a power forward. Wiggins will be able to create shots for himself or for somebody else and be able to do that off the bounce.”
On what other players have been bright spots this season:
“Shabazz Muhammad. There is no question that Muhammad — Wig probably misses him a little bit now, because with those two guys in there you are always creating some type of mismatch. There will have to be a smaller guy on one of them. But if you look at where Muhammad was at a year ago compared to where he is now, he is one of the top five guys [in the league] in terms of most-improved player. Then there is the development of Gorgui Dieng. He has proven he is a solid guy and one of the top young big players in the league. And Zach [LaVine] is a lot better now than he was the first week of the season and through training camp.”
On if the team would seek to bolster its guard positions:
“I’ll put it this way: If we can get backcourt help that is someone we feel could be in a long-term situation with us, we would do that.“
The Knicks have the league’s worst record, but commissioner Adam Silver isn’t concerned about their lack of success on the court in the league’s largest market, even with the All-Star Game coming to Madison Square Garden, as Peter Botte of the New York Daily News details. The Nets will host part of the All-Star festivities, too, but they’re 16-23 and appear ready to hit the reset button. Here’s more on the struggling Atlantic Division, where only the Raptors are above .500:
- There’s apparently plenty of interest in Brook Lopez, but the Nets have had such trouble finding a taker for Deron Williams that one source tells Marc Stein of ESPN.com that the point guard will be staying put through the trade deadline.
- A source close to Lance Stephenson told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News a month ago that Stephenson wasn’t mentally prepared to play for his hometown Nets (Twitter link). The shooting guard would apparently like to play for Brooklyn at some point, but the Nets also reportedly have their doubts.
- The Raptors are listening to offers but not shopping, and while a minor move is conceivable, a significant change is highly unlikely, reports Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail. They remain poised to pursue Marc Gasol as they prepare to chase marquee big men this summer, and GM Masai Ujiri is studying what prompted Carmelo Anthony to re-sign with the Knicks this past summer to better understand the free agency process. The Raptors are already making plans for a run at Ontario native Andrew Wiggins, who can’t elect unrestricted free agency until 2019 at the earliest.
- Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com analyzes the sum of the many moves of the Celtics, who since September have traded nine players and one second-round draft pick for 15 players and what’s likely to turn to out be nine second-rounders, Forsberg notes.
Sixers coach Brett Brown has the difficult task of holding together a last place team that didn’t acquire any players who are likely to help the franchise this season despite having two top-10 picks in the 2014 NBA draft. But Brown doesn’t regret signing on to coach Philadelphia, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press tweets. “Even knowing what I know now, with the draft picks not here and some hits with injuries, I’d take this job 50 times out of 50 times,” Brown said.
Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Brown had expected the Sixers to land Andrew Wiggins in this year’s draft, notes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). “I thought we had him [Wiggins]. I was expecting we were going to draft [Nik] Stauskas and Wiggins,” Brown said. But the ping-pong balls of the draft lottery didn’t go their way, and Philly ended up selecting third, where it nabbed the injured Joel Embiid instead.
- The fans in Sacramento let James Johnson hear their derision when he made his return to Sleep Train Arena last night, but Johnson is a much different person now than when he departed the Kings back in 2013, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. He has matured much since then, Smith notes, and is providing the Raptors with a nice spark off the bench this season. “I just think it was tough for me to play here [in Sacramento],” Johnson said. “I won’t put all the onus on Sacramento either. It had a lot to do with me being immature. I was playing bad. I had a bad year that year [2012/13]. I have to own up to it.“
- It is still unknown just when the Knicks can expect Andrea Bargnani to return to action for the team, Marc Berman of The New York Post reports. Head coach Derek Fisher had originally expected Bargnani would be available 10 days ago, but he reinjured himself during his second full practice with the team, notes Berman. Fisher did say that Bargnani was a “big piece to the future,’’ adds Berman.
- There is no evidence that players who fall in the draft like the Celtics‘ Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, who were both selected 21st in their respective drafts, perform better because of the “chip” on their shoulders, Braden Campbell of Boston.com writes. Campbell cites a statistical analysis performed by Michael Lopez and Noah Davis of FiveThirtyEight.com as evidence to support this assertion.
No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins is only averaging 9.8 PPG after his first four NBA games, but the Wolves rookie is already drawing comparisons to another NBA star, Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops writes. “He reminded me of Paul George,” an Eastern Conference GM told Scotto. “Paul came in a better off-ball defender than Andrew. He’s [Wiggins] probably a good on-ball defender. Paul had a very difficult time handling the ball when he came in and worked on it and their shooting is similar. I’d say Andrew is a hair better athlete and Paul is a little bigger maybe.” The biggest difference between the two players as rookies is Wiggins is under much more scrutiny and pressure than George was as a rookie thanks to his top slot on the draft board, adds Scotto.
Here’s more from around the league:
- Despite quite a few predictions of a Cavs-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors and the Wizards might prove those prognostications premature, Eric Koreen of The National Post writes. Toronto and Washington are taking different approaches regarding the mixture of veterans and younger players on their respective rosters, notes Koreen. The Raptors are building around a younger core, and the Wizards, despite younger stars like Bradley Beal and John Wall, have added a number of long-in-the-tooth veterans this past offseason. Wizards coach Randy Wittman said, “Obviously, talent prevails. You’ve got to have that first. It was important for us to have a mixture of veterans with our young guys,” Koreen adds.
- The Mavs have been affiliated with the Texas Legends of the D-League for five seasons and view the partnership as a way to experiment with new ideas, Bryan Gutierrez of ESPNDallas.com writes. “There have always been a lot of advantages to having the team in Frisco, but we’re using it more experimentally now,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “There are certain things we’ll hopefully unveil that will be different. We’ve been practicing some things, and hopefully they will work. We want to try some things that will hopefully change things up.”
- Trevor Ariza is making it easy for Rockets fans to forget that Chandler Parsons is now in Dallas, Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) writes. Thus far, Ariza is averaging 15.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 3.2 APG, while shooting a ridiculous 55% from behind the arc for the 6-0 Rockets.
Some teams think the salary cap will jump above $70MM for next season, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports, though Lowe’s dispatch from a week ago indicated that the league has told clubs not to get carried away with their projections for the time being. Clarity on the matter will be important, especially for clubs with players up for extensions to their rookie-scale contracts before the October 31st deadline. Lowe’s latest piece centers on one such case, as the Hornets face a decision about whether to extend Kemba Walker, whom rival executives often say isn’t a “championship point guard,” according to Lowe. We’ll pass along another tidbit from the Grantland scribe amid the latest from around the league:
- The Suns haven’t shown much interest in sign-and-trades involving Eric Bledsoe, Lowe hears, advancing Friday’s report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that threw cold water on the idea that Bledsoe would end up with the Wolves.
- The Wolves and Ricky Rubio‘s camp remain in a stalemate in extension negotiations in part because agents Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana know that the Knicks and Lakers can open cap space next summer, writes Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter links).
- Rumors as late as the eve of the draft suggested that the Cavs were conflicted about whom to take No. 1 overall, but coach David Blatt insists the team had settled on Andrew Wiggins long before making him the top pick, as Blatt tells Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer. Cleveland didn’t hold on to Wiggins for long, of course, shipping him to the Wolves in the Kevin Love trade.
- Nazr Mohammed‘s contract with the Bulls is non-guaranteed for the minimum salary and covers just one season, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
- Clippers signee Jared Cunningham rejected a deal from Serbia’s KK Partizan to instead try his hand at making the opening-night roster in L.A. on his non-guaranteed contract, tweets David Pick of Eurobasket.com.