Eric Bledsoe says he never worried about the Suns‘ acquisition of yet more high-level point guards in the offseason, but staying healthy was a concern as his contract negotiations dragged on, as he tells Chris Mannix of SI.com, who writes in his Open Floor column.
“I stayed in the gym working out. I just had to make sure I didn’t get hurt,” Bledsoe said. “My agent was calling me, telling me not to go play with everybody. I pretty much wrapped my body in bubble wrap.”
Bledsoe’s numbers are off a bit this year after the summer hiatus, so while we wait to see if he can regain his form once he shakes off the rust, here’s more from around the league:
- Union executive director Michele Roberts has made an effort to forge a relationship with several top agents, in contrast to predecessor Billy Hunter, who kept agents at arm’s length, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News examines. Still, some agents are miffed about her choice of of Roger Mason, who supported her candidacy for the executive director job, to conduct a review of agent regulations, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote earlier this week.
- Rajon Rondo doesn’t see this season as a rebuilding year for the Celtics, notes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).
- The Mavs have been paying greater attention to scouting talent for their D-League club as the connection between Dallas and its affiliate grows, as Eduardo Najera, the coach of the Mavs D-League affiliate, tells Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News.
- The Sixers have a plan to return to contention eventually, but they are taking a risk that their players will learn to accept losing in the meantime, Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News believes.
The Raptors are the best team in the Eastern Conference at 9-2, but the rest of the Atlantic Division is off to a rough start. The four other teams are all below .500, and the Sixers haven’t won in 11 tries. They’ll visit the 3-10 Knicks on Saturday in a game with early 2015 draft lottery implications. Here’s more from the struggling Atlantic:
- Sixers coach Brett Brown and GM Sam Hinkie didn’t realize when they took their respective jobs in 2013 that the team’s roster this season would be so devoid of immediate contributors, Brown admitted Thursday, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Brown said the expectation had been that the Sixers would use their pair of lottery picks this year to bring in players who would be on the floor now instead of the injured Joel Embiid and Euroleaguer Dario Saric. “We put our big-boy pants on and made a decision that is best for the club long-term,” Brown said. “Time will tell. But the year that we are all now living in is a result of those types of decisions. That’s why you look on the floor and see a roster like you do and resumés like you do.”
- Boston acquired Brandon Bass to be a complementary piece on a contending team, making his value to this version of the Celtics hard to divine, as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com writes in his mailbag column. If the Celtics make a trade, Bass is among the most likely candidates to go, Forsberg opines.
- Much hinges on the return of Jose Calderon as the most significant offseason addition for the Knicks is poised to make his regular season debut for New York, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Executives from around the league tell Howard Beck of Bleacher Report that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has remained resolute with them that he won’t trade Rajon Rondo at this point. Still, many of those execs think the Celtics are in a position in which they simply must trade the point guard to avoid seeing him walk in free agency this coming summer. Ainge nonetheless continues to look for upgrades around Rondo, as he tells Beck. “Philosophically, we know who the players are, we know who the guys are that we would love to get,” Ainge said. “But we also know that certain players don’t make as much of a difference. We can’t sell our stockpile of assets just to appease one player. We’ve got to be smart in rebuilding. And we do have to remain patient. And yet at the same time, be ready to jump into the fray and pay a high price for special players, transcendent players.”
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- The Bucks’ roster features two starters who are 19 years old, a stark contrast to head coach Jason Kidd‘s Nets team of a year ago, which featured seven players 32 or older, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. Kidd says it’s still just basketball to him, adding, “It’s just the age difference. They’re basketball players. This is a younger team, the team I had last year was vets. They knew how to play, a couple of them won championships so they knew what it took to win. We won a Game 7 on the road, so experience, time and minutes are probably the only thing that’s different.” The other difference for Kidd in Milwaukee is that he’s now coaching a team on the upswing rather than one constructed to contend for a single year like Brooklyn was last season, notes Deveney.
- Jimmy Butler‘s decision to bypass a contract extension from the Bulls that would have netted him roughly $11MM per season could pay off handsomely if he continues his excellent play, Michael Lee of The Washington Post opines.
- Former Sixer Evan Turner believes he can speak for those players unfortunate enough to be stuck in the middle of GM Sam Hinkie‘s rebuilding plan, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Turner said of Hinkie’s approach, “It’s different. It goes the right way, or not. That kind of trend can make or break certain situations. Hopefully they don’t get penalized for what they’re doing, but if they do put the right guys on the team they can be really successful thanks to the leadership of coach [Brett] Brown. The biggest thing is having the unity. That’s all you have and you have to stay focused on going to battle with who you have.”
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Celtics probably didn’t imagine they’d end up with a player who’d make 25 of his first 29 shots from the field when they traded for Tyler Zeller this summer, but the No. 17 pick from 2012 is excelling in his first weeks in green, observes Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com. Zeller surely won’t keep up an 86.2% field goal percentage, but the 24-year-old is emerging as a viable option for minutes. There’s more on another 17th overall pick amid the latest from Boston:
- Isaiah Thomas received his first call in free agency from Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, and Thomas acknowledged that he reciprocated that interest to some degree before opting to join the Suns instead, notes Ben Rohrbach of WEEI.com. “I was interested in whoever was interested in me,” Thomas said, “so he was definitely a little interested if he was the first one to call me, but they went their ways and I went mine.”
- Swingman James Young spent a couple of days on D-League assignment this past weekend, and he suspects that won’t be the last time he’s sent down, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. If so, this year’s 17th overall pick is on board with it, Blakely adds.
- The Celtics are just 3-6 and appear headed for another season as an also-ran, but soon-to-be free agent Rajon Rondo isn’t losing faith in the team, as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com examines. “We have a lot of young talented guys that listen very well and play hard,” Rondo said. “What more could you ask for?”
The D-League began its season this past weekend, and no one’s off to a hotter start than Wolves camp invitee Brady Heslip, who’s playing for the affiliate of the Kings. He’s scoring a league-leading 39.0 points per game after two contests, and while it’s early, he’s making a case to appear on an NBA roster before too long. In the meantime, several players who are already on NBA contracts spent the weekend on D-League assignment, and we’ll round up their latest comings and goings here:
- A pair of 2014 first-round picks are back with Phoenix, as the Suns have recalled No. 14 selection T.J. Warren and No. 18 pick Tyler Ennis from the D-League, the team announced. Warren put up a sizzling 36 PPG in two appearances for the Bakersfield Jam this weekend, while Ennis averaged 22.0 PPG and 7.5 assists per contest. The Suns assigned the pair to Bakersfield on Thursday.
- The Cavs have recalled Alex Kirk from the D-League, the team announced. Kirk didn’t appear in the only game the Canton Charge played during his three-day assignment, a three-overtime loss to the Sixers affiliate.
- Rookies James Young and Dwight Powell are back with Boston after a two-day D-League assignment, the Celtics announced (Twitter link). The duo scored 21 points a piece and Powell came down with 17 rebounds in a win Sunday for the Maine Red Claws.
The Wizards’ Bradley Beal is expected to practice Monday and could be back in the lineup by Friday, reports Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. The high-scoring guard, who hasn’t played since fracturing his left wrist October 10th, went through a dribbling and shooting drill on Saturday. Last month, the Wizards exercised Beal’s fourth-year contract option worth $5.7MM. Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:
- Even though Kevin Love is likely to become a free agent this summer, the Cavaliers don’t believe he will leave Cleveland, writes Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal. A rumor emerged last week that Love would consider opting out of his current contract at season’s end and to sign with the Lakers. Lloyd cautioned that many more rumors are likely regarding the six-year veteran before the season ends, but the Cavs are confident in his commitment to Cleveland.
- The Celtics‘ Rajon Rondo cites improved health as the reason for his fast start, according to Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. ACL surgery limited Rondo to just 29 games last season, and the eight-year veteran said he never felt comfortable after his return. “I can get to the paint a lot easier now,” said Rondo, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. “Last year I was pretty slow, and now I’m a step faster.”
- The Knicks‘ J.R. Smith remains on the trading block, tweets Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com. Begley notes that the team is having ongoing internal discussions about dealing Smith, and has been since July. The 10-year veteran is being paid close to $6MM this year and has a player option for nearly $6.4MM next season.
The D-League season is underway, and with it will come a fast pace of assignments and recalls from NBA teams. We’ll be keeping track of those moves throughout the season in the post linked here and noting each transaction within our regular coverage. There are a pair of D-League notes and a move from overseas this afternoon amid our look at the latest news involving NBA players and minor league teams.
- The Thunder recalled Grant Jerrett from the D-League today, the team announced via press release, just hours after sending him down to their affiliate for a practice. Coach Scott Brooks explained that the Thunder have been engaging merely in film study and walkthroughs of late, so the team wanted to allow him to engage in a full practice as he continues to recover from left ankle surgery, as Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman details (All four Twitter links).
- The Celtics have assigned James Young and Dwight Powell the the Maine Red Claws, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Young has appeared in two contests for Boston this season, averaging 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds in nine minutes per game. Powell has seen less than a minute’s worth of regular season action after logging 1.7 PPG and 1.2 RPG in six preseason appearances.
- Heat camp invitee Chris Johnson is signing with China’s Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls, a source tells David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). Johnson is a three-year NBA veteran center who last saw regular season action with the Timberwolves in 2012/13. He’s not to be confused with swingman Chris Johnson, whom the Sixers waived this afternoon.
Kevin Love earlier today dismissed a report linking him to the Lakers, and he also told reporters Friday that his offseason visit to Boston wasn’t a fact-finding mission to see if he’d like to play for the Celtics, notes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com.
“The fact is, my agent [Jeff Schwartz] is a big Red Sox fan,” Love said. “I’d been planning on that for a long time to come in and check out not only the city, but a Red Sox game and we had a great time and we plan on coming back. It’s tough because I wasn’t a free agent last summer. I have potential to be a free agent this summer or next. It’s just one of those things. It’s obviously a tremendous city. People love it here [in Boston]. Basketball and sports in general are huge here, but it’s been fantastic being a part of the Cavaliers now. We have a team that’s formidable, has a big presence and we see a lot of you guys [in the media] on a daily basis.”
Love makes it clear that he has affection for Boston, but that it doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to play there. Here’s more from around the league:
- Union executive director Michele Roberts explains why she doesn’t think eliminating maximum salaries would hurt the players who aren’t making the max in the full text of her interview with Pablo S. Torre of ESPN The Magazine. Snippets of their Q&A that ESPN released earlier this week caused a stir and prompted a response from commissioner Adam Silver. The full interview reveals that Roberts is having regular talks with Silver and that players have expressed their support for a team in Europe.
- Donald Sterling named Adam Silver, David Stern and former Clippers interim CEO Dick Parsons among 18 witnesses he may call to the stand in a trial to resolve his $1 billion federal lawsuit against the NBA, reports Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times. A recent court filing revealed that Sterling lawyer Maxwell Blecher had begun talks with the NBA about a possible dismissal of the suit, but Blecher has withdrawn from representing Sterling, Fenno writes. Blecher tells Fenno that he’s unaware if any such talks are currently proceeding.
- It’s “widely anticipated” that the NBA and the D-League will someday implement contracts that will allow players on NBA rosters to be paid D-League salaries while on D-League assignment, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Currently, all players on D-League assignment continue to draw their NBA salaries, which are at least some 20 times greater than the maximum $25,500 D-League salary.
A plurality of Hoops Rumors readers said that they thought the Sixers would win between 10 and 15 games when we asked earlier this week, but it’s worth wondering whether the “Less than 10″ wins option might have garnered a few more votes if the poll had appeared this morning. The season debut of Michael Carter-Williams Thursday was a 53-point loss to the Mavericks as the pain continues in Philadelphia. Here’s more from around the Atlantic Division:
- An Eastern Conference executive isn’t sold on Rajon Rondo‘s worthiness of a maximum-salary contract and believes the point guard’s impending free agency is a drag on his trade value, as the exec tells Chris Mannix of SI.com.
- The Nets and Shaun Livingston had mutual interest heading into the offseason, but he made it a priority to seek as lucrative a contract as possible after he missed out on higher paydays earlier in his career, as Tim Bontemps of the New York Post details. The Nets could only offer the mini mid-level, and Livingston exceeded those salaries in his new contract with the Warriors. “At the end of the day, everything I’ve been through as a player in this league, was about putting myself in the best position, one, to win, and also to get the value as a player, your market value,” Livingston said. “I think that was my case last [summer].”
- The mere presence of Phil Jackson boosts the public perception of the struggling Knicks, who can sell hope based on the championship coaching experience of the newly minted executive, opines Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News.
Commissioner Adam Silver fired back at union executive director Michele Roberts, who held up players as the linchpins of the league while calling the salary cap “incredibly un-American.” The NBA sent remarks from Silver to media, including John Schuhmann of NBA.com, just hours after Roberts made her comments, “We couldn’t disagree more with these statements,” Silver said. “The NBA’s success is based on the collective efforts and investments of all of the team owners, the thousands of employees at our teams and arenas, and our extraordinarily talented players. No single group could accomplish this on its own. Nor is there anything unusual or ‘un-American’ in a unionized industry to have a collective system for paying employees – in fact, that’s the norm.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- Tobias Harris says his first choice would be to remain with the Magic in restricted free agency this summer, according to John Denton of Magic.com. A report Wednesday indicated that Harris has strong interest in signing with the Knicks, so perhaps New York is Plan B.
- Kobe Bryant has the same amount of championship rings as Tim Duncan (five), but that doesn’t stop the Lakers star from being envious of how the Spurs have kept their core together for so many years, Dan McCarney of The San Antonio Express-News writes. Bryant told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, “I’m extremely jealous of that. I don’t know if I can express to you how jealous I am of the fact that Tim [Duncan], Tony [Parker], Manu [Ginobili] and Pop [Gregg Popovich] have been together for all those years. Like, I can’t even. It would be like if me, Pau [Gasol], L.O. [Lamar Odom] and Phil [ Jackson], if we were all here still. It’s crazy.”
- The Celtics were one of the teams reportedly interested in acquiring Kevin Love this past summer, but Boston wasn’t able to entice the Wolves into making a deal. Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com believes that with the way the franchise’s young core is performing it may end up being a blessing that no trade came to pass. Forsberg does add that the team still needs another star player to pair alongside Rajon Rondo, and Love would have certainly fit that bill.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.