We have notes out of each division from the Eastern Conference this evening. Last year, the Southeast Division sent four teams to the playoffs, while the Atlantic and Central sent two apiece. This season, the Atlantic is in danger of dropping to just one playoff entry, as teams like Cleveland, Charlotte, and Atlanta figure to improve while Brooklyn and New York haven’t made clear upgrades this offseason. Here’s a rundown of the East:
- Taj Gibson insisted that he is comfortable with a bench role in Chicago from his personal Twitter account (H/T Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). The Bulls big was responding to a report that he was privately displeased at the prospect of remaining on the bench for a crowded Bulls frontcourt. Gibson was similarly diplomatic when a potential starting role was fueling rumors regarding Carlos Boozer‘s eventual amnesty.
- Jeff Taylor tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer that he is trying to be patient while training following his Achilles surgery this winter, but that his injury is healed and not a concern heading into camp. “It’s the first time I had anything more than a sprained ankle. It’s really hard to hold yourself back,” Taylor said. “I’ve always been that person who thought he could do things others doubted. But in a situation like this, you have to listen.” Hornets coach Steve Clifford had some doubts as to Taylor’s readiness for the season, but the third-year guard is confident that he will be able to compete immediately. “It’s not an injury anymore. It’s healed,” said Taylor. “It’s not weighing on my mind.”
- Jonah Ballow of NYKnicks.com writes that Knicks president Phil Jackson has given coach Derek Fisher plenty room to work so far, despite the temptation Jackson might feel to gravitate back toward the bench.
The recent trend in the NBA of coaches doubling as GM’s has made its way to Atlanta where Mike Budenholzer is handling both positions for the Hawks, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes. Budenholzer’s circumstances do differ from the Clippers‘ Doc Rivers, Stan Van Gundy‘s in Detroit, and the Wolves‘ Flip Saunders, in that he took over the extra duties due to GM Danny Ferry being forced to take a leave of absence after his racist remarks were made public, and not by design.
Here’s more out of the east:
- E’Twaun Moore‘s minimum salary deal with the Bulls comes with a guarantee of $425K for the first year, with the second being non-guaranteed, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link).
- The Knicks have guaranteed $15K of Orlando Sanchez‘s minimum salary contract, Pincus notes (Twitter link).
- JaKarr Sampson‘s four-year, minimum salary deal with the Sixers includes a $50K guarantee for the first season according to Pincus (Twitter link). The remaining three years of the deal come with no guaranteed money.
Scouts and executives admit that front office talk can be brutal, but they say Hawks GM Danny Ferry crossed the line with comments that are far from the usual chatter, writes Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. “I’ve never seen anything like what was in that report, just in terms of the language,” said a former team executive with nearly two decades of front-office experience. “I think most people would tell you that would be surprising. More out of the East..
- Privately, Bulls forward Taj Gibson isn’t too thrilled with the prospect of continuing to be a reserve, multiple people familiar with the situation tell Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com. Still, Gibson is an upbeat, team-first kind of player, Sam writes, and he values winning and chemistry too much to make it a distraction. It sounds like we shouldn’t expect any trade demands to come from Gibson anytime soon, though it might be a situation to monitor.
- The Heat took some heat for having too many older players on their roster and the Cavs are getting similar criticism this offseason. That’s not really fair, Zach Lowe of Grantland argues. LeBron’s two supporting stars are 26-year-old Kevin Love and 22-year-old Kyrie Irving, Cleveland has an extra first-rounder eventually coming from the Grizzlies, and there are valuable young guys including Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Matthew Dellavedova.
- A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com looks at three Celtics players who are on the bubble heading into training camp. Shooting guard Marcus Thornton, forward/center Brandon Bass, and forward Gerald Wallace are all in jeopardy as the season draws near.
Will Bynum, who is now the longest-tenured member of the Pistons, couldn’t be happier with the arrival of Stan Van Gundy, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. “Stan is straightforward with me and in return I’m the same way,” he said. “I’m all business, all work when we’re here. I’m trying to be the first one in everything that we do, every single day, I’m the one challenging, talking, keeping the guys motivated and I’m trying to take on the leadership role. I’ve been here the longest. My character fits a leader because I’m always going to be the one that works the hardest. That’s what Stan is. Stan’s a worker. He’s a basketball guy, he’s on the court, and I’ve learned a lot just in the short amount of time being here.”
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- E’Twaun Moore is expected to provide the Bulls with backcourt depth, Adam Fluck of NBA.com writes. “E’Twaun is a young guard who we really like and he’s got a lot of potential,” said Chicago GM Gar Forman. “He’s shown that he’s got some versatility given he can play at both the one and two. He can also shoot the ball. We feel he’s absolutely our kind of guy—he’s a worker and we are confident he’ll be a good fit with our roster.” Moore also considered the Cavs and the Grizzlies before choosing the Bulls, Fluck notes.
- With the signings of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic the power forward position is getting crowded in Chicago. Yannis Koutroupis of Basketball Insiders believes the Bulls should consider dealing Taj Gibson since he might be more valuable as a trade asset since his minutes and production are likely to decline this season.
- Former Bucks lottery pick Joe Alexander has auditioned for a number of NBA teams, David Pick of Eurobasket reports (Twitter link). Alexander has been out of the NBA since the 2009/10 season when he appeared in eight games for the Bulls.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
THURSDAY, 3:28pm: The deal is official, the team announced.
WEDNESDAY, 7:13pm: Ryan Hollins has agreed to a deal to sign with the Kings, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter link). Exact contract details aren’t yet known, but it is a one-year, fully-guaranteed deal according to Spears. The Lakers, Bulls, Heat, and Spurs had also expressed interest in the twenty nine year-old seven-footer out of UCLA. This will bring Sacramento’s preseason roster count to 19.
As for what he brings to Sacramento, Hollins will compete with Reggie Evans and Sim Bhullar for minutes as DeMarcus Cousins‘ backup. He offers the Kings high-percentage shooting, defense, and rim protection, as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors points out in his Free Agent Stock Watch article on the veteran center.
Hollins spent last season with the Clippers, where he appeared in 61 contests, averaging 2.3 PPG and 1.5 RPG. His slash line was .736/.000/.625. In eight seasons in the NBA, Hollins’ career numbers are 3.8 PPG and 2.2 RPG.
THURSDAY, 12:17pm: The Bulls officially announced the signing.
TUESDAY, 1:25pm: Moore’s deal is for two years, and his salary is partially guaranteed for 50% of its value for the coming season, tweets Shams Charania of RealGM. The partial guarantee might signal that the team is still leaving the door open to the possibility that free agent target Ray Allen might choose to come to Chicago, but that’s just my speculation.
12:16pm: The Bulls have signed E’Twaun Moore, according to Moore’s Priority Sports agency (Twitter link). Chicago has yet to confirm the signing with an official announcement, but a report from last month indicated that the move was expected. The terms of the deal aren’t immediately clear, but it almost certainly won’t be for any more than the minimum salary, since the Bulls are among the teams limited to that amount.
Moore had a deal to play in Italy earlier this summer, but he hesitated to sign a contract when a pair of NBA teams emerged with interest. The Cavs appeared to be one of them, but the Mark Bartelstein client from suburban Chicago will instead play as close to home as possible. Moore expressed interest this spring in returning to the Magic, but they didn’t appear to reciprocate that desire too strongly and made him an unrestricted free agent after declining to tender a qualifying offer at the start of the offseason.
The 25-year-old combo guard was a part of the rotation during his two seasons in Orlando after he saw sparing minutes as a rookie with the Celtics. Moore averaged 7.1 points and shot 34.6% from three-point territory in 20.7 minutes per game in two years with the Magic.
Moore’s production suggests he’ll warrant a full guarantee, though it’s not clear whether the Bulls committed that to him. Chicago had been carrying 12 players, all of whom have guaranteed pacts. The Bulls appeared to have interest in Denzel Bowles, though the team would likely see him as an addition for camp and nothing more. Chicago hasn’t had more than 13 men on the roster for opening night in any of the past three seasons.
The league’s players have mixed opinions on whether or not they would consider signing with the Hawks, Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report writes. The majority of players polled agreed with Carmelo Anthony‘s assessment that players would avoid signing with Atlanta in the wake of GM Danny Ferry and majority owner Bruce Levenson’s racist remarks, notes Bucher. But there were a few that said they wouldn’t let the incident get in the way of their potential earnings, but also added that they “wouldn’t shake Ferry’s hand” when the deal was completed.
Here’s more from around the league:
- Former Rutgers star and NBA player Quincy Douby has signed with the Tianjin Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to his agent Bill Neff, Zach Links of Hoops Rumors reports (Twitter link). Douby last appeared in the NBA during the 2008/09 season with the Raptors.
- The partial guarantee on Khem Birch‘s two-year deal with the Heat is worth $50K, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
- Keith Smart and Chris Quinn have been added as assistant coaches to Eric Spoelstra‘s staff with the Heat, the team announced.
- The Bulls are hoping for a healthy season out of Derrick Rose, and that their new additions of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott will help them contend in the Eastern Conference. The crew over at Basketball Insiders previews the upcoming season, and the majority opinion is that Chicago will finish second in the Central Division.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Klay Thompson was one of many Warriors players who expressed support for Mark Jackson in the days leading up to Golden State’s firing of its former coach, but the extension-eligible Thompson tells USA Today’s Sam Amick that he’s optimistic about working with Steve Kerr. “It was tough seeing Coach [Jackson] go, but at the end of the day the front office did what they felt would be best for us to win,” Thompson said. “They’ve made great moves in the past, so no reason not to trust them on this move. I’ve talked to Steve and he seems really good, like a guy who is really going to open it up for us. I’m excited to work with him.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- The salary in the second season of E’Twaun Moore‘s deal with the Bulls will become guaranteed if he remains on the roster beyond a certain date in July 2015, writes Shams Charania of RealGM.
- Executives with two NBA teams were optimistic that Greg Oden could still prove a useful NBA player after seeing him with the Heat last year, as they told Michael Wallace of ESPN.com. Still, his chances of finding work in the NBA anytime soon are in serious doubt as he faces a felony domestic violence charge stemming from an incident last month, as another exec tells Wallace.
- The Celtics have hired Scott Morrison, the longtime coach at Lakeland University in Canada, to coach their D-League affiliate, the team announced.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Free agent Ryan Hollins has had contract talks with the Lakers, Kings, Bulls, and Spurs as a potential signing, the center told SiriusXM NBA Radio (transcription via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times). The seven-footer has also been in talks with the Heat, the only team previously linked to his services this summer.
Aside from the Kings and Spurs, each of the teams considering Hollins as an addition are limited to offering the minimum salary. It would be shocking for Sacramento to exercise their biannual exception to spend more than the minimum, however, since the team has been working to stay beneath the luxury tax line for 2014/15. Hollins’ name is among a handful of big men drawing interest from many of the same teams looking to fill out their frontcourt depth. Gustavo Ayon and Emeka Okafor are other frontcourt pieces generating interest from overlapping teams, but an overseas commitment and injury concerns make the paths for both to land on an NBA team more complicated than that of Hollins, respectively.
It’s unclear if Hollins is close to reaching an agreement for guaranteed money, or if he’s facing the prospect of competing through training camp on a non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contract. While unspectacular, Hollins is a proven commodity, playing a very specific and useful role, as Chuck Myron detailed in our Free Agent Stock Watch article on the veteran center. The Stealth Sports client has career averages of 3.8 PPG and 2.2 RPG.
The Pistons are putting free agent center Denzel Bowles through a workout today, and there’s a distinct possibility the former James Madison standout will be auditioning for the Bulls, too, a source tells Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link).
The 6’10″ Bowles has played overseas each of the past three seasons after going undrafted in 2011, with stops in Lithuania, the Philippines and China. He joined the Nuggets for summer league in July, averaging 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.7 minutes per contest. His numbers were more impressive in China last season, when he put up 26.0 PPG and 8.6 RPG in 32.5 MPG in 34 appearances with the Jilin Northeast Tigers.
The Pistons wouldn’t offer Bowles much opportunity to make the opening night roster if they were to add him for training camp, since they’re already carrying 16 guaranteed deals, as our roster counts show. It’s possible that the Pistons envision bringing Bowles to camp so they can get an extended look at him for down the road and so that they can retain his D-League rights for their new one-to-one affiliate. The Bulls have only 12 guaranteed pacts, but they haven’t carried more than 13 players on opening night in any of the last three seasons, as I pointed out. Chicago is among a host of teams targeting Ray Allen, and it would make sense that the contending Bulls would prioritize adding a veteran.