Here are some miscellaneous news and notes to pass along this evening:
- Earlier today, ESPN reported that Kings center DeMarcus Cousins injured his right knee during Team USA practice today. Fortunately, an MRI reveled no structural damage, and Cousins is now listed as day-to-day, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports.
- USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo described Kevin Durant‘s decision to drop out of Team USA as a “contractual situation” in which “he had no choice,” notes Erik Horne of NewsOK, who doesn’t think that those comments are consistent with Durant’s official statement for withdrawing. Last week, the Thunder star mentioned an inability to fulfill his responsibilities from a “time and energy standpoint” as a reason for his departure.
- Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski was among many who were caught off-guard by Durant’s decision to leave the national team, notes Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com.
- DeJuan Blair is eager to build on a productive playoff series against the Spurs this past May as he suits up for the Wizards in 2014/15, writes Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. “I was very excited when I (learned I was traded from Dallas to Washington). It was like a dream come true…Last year, I saw what type of team they had. The youth, the big men coming up, the ingredients around the team. And I think I’ll be a great addition.”
- Based on what he’s seen from Andre Drummond so far, Team USA assistant Tom Thibodeau spoke glowingly about how Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy will be an ideal coach to help the 21-year-old big man reach his potential (piece from Keith Langlois of Pistons.com).
With the Bulls using their amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer on Tuesday, only seven NBA players remain amnesty-eligible as noted in our 2014 Amnesty Primer. But the five teams that haven’t used the provision will have to wait until next summer, as Wednesday marked the deadline for this offseason.
Boozer was snatched up by the Lakers earlier today for a manageable price of $3.25MM, though as ESPN’s Marc Stein reports (via Twitter), the Duke product had strong interest in the Rockets had he gone unclaimed and cleared waivers. Meanwhile, Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times speculates that Boozer’s presence might signal a more complimentary role for rookie Julius Randle unless the playoff-hungry Lakers consider June’s No. 7 pick a small forward (Twitter links are here).
Here’s more from around the league on Thursday night:
- DeJuan Blair‘s starting salary in his new deal with the Wizards is $2MM, Hoops Rumors has learned, so that leaves just $16K on the Eric Maynor trade exception the team reportedly used to absorb him via sign-and-trade from the Wizards. That effectively exhausts the Maynor exception, which expires this coming February 20th, since the remaining $16K wouldn’t be enough to absorb another player.
- Louis Williams left his exit interview with Hawks officials expecting to be traded, as he told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who writes in a subscription-only piece. The instinct was correct, as the Hawks shipped Williams to the Raptors late last month, but Williams said he harbors no ill feelings toward the Atlanta brass.
- Multiple reports have linked Mo Williams to Dallas in recent days, but a source tells Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com that the Mavericks are pursuing another free agent whom they would prefer to spend their room exception on.
- The Mavs‘ deal with Devin Harris, which became official earlier tonight, is for four years and $16.55MM, reports Dwain Harris of the Fort Worth Star Telegram (via Twitter). Meanwhile Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News has the yearly breakdown, reporting that Harris will make $3.878MM next season, followed by $4.053MM in 2015/16, $4.228MM in 2016/17 and $4.403MM in what is a partially guaranteed fourth year in 2017/18.
- Metta World Peace would love to play for the Lakers, Clippers or Knicks, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News hears, adding that it seems any conversation World Peace may have had about a return to the Lakers wasn’t too serious (Twitter link).
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The league office proposed a new lottery system for as soon as next season that would more evenly distribute the odds that non-playoffs teams would have of ending up with the No. 1 overall pick, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports. The proposal to the competition committee, which would cut the worst team’s chance from 25% to 11%, was the dominant subject of talk about lottery reform at league meetings this week, but it’s nonetheless one of many the NBA has considered, Lowe cautions. There’s more draft-related fodder among the latest from around the league:
- Chad Ford of ESPN.com unveiled his top 100 top prospects list and mock draft for 2015 in a pair of subscription-only pieces. His top three players are Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Karl Towns, Jr. Mudiay’s recent decision to withdraw from college basketball and play overseas shouldn’t much affect his draft stock, according to Ford.
- Phil Jackson doubts that Jerry Buss, as has been reported, made the final decision to pass Jackson over to hire Mike D’Antoni as Lakers coach in 2012, as the Zen Master writes in an update to his latest book with Hugh Delehanty, as excerpted in the New York Daily News. Jackson also says that he spoke to the Nets, Raptors and Suns about jobs in the wake of Lakers’ choice.
- J.R. Smith appeared on ESPN’s First Take Thursday, telling the hosts that he wouldn’t blame the Knicks if they traded him (transcription via Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com). “No. Absolutely not,” Smith said. “The way I was playing, I was playing like a person who didn’t want to be there. Not looking as focused as a person should be in that situation that we were, in the trenches. I wouldn’t blame them at all.”
- DeJuan Blair went into Washington’s $2,016,000 trade exception left over from when the team traded Eric Maynor at the deadline, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Previous reports had indicated that the Wizards would absorb Blair into their new $8,579,089 trade exception created through Trevor Ariza‘s sign-and-trade to Houston, but it appears the team will instead preserve that exception. Just how much of the Maynor exception Blair will take up remains to be seen, since the precise amount of Blair first-year salary has yet to be reported.
Cray Allred contributed to this post.
9:23pm: The deal has been completed, the Wizards announced. Washington will receive Blair from the Mavs in exchange for the rights to Emir Preldzic, a 2009 second-round pick.
5:55pm: Blair’s contract will be for three years and $6MM, with a team option on the final year, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
WEDNESDAY, 12:51pm: The teams are on track to finalize the deal today, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). It remains unclear what Dallas would receive in the transaction, but presumably it wouldn’t involve any guaranteed salary.
SUNDAY, 10:25pm: The Wizards and Mavs are in advanced discussions on a potential sign-and-trade that would send DeJuan Blair to Washington, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Wizards have strong interest in the big man and are in talks to see if a sign-and-trade is possible before the Mavs are forced to renounce him (link).
Blair, who was used inconsistently by the Spurs and hardly at all in the postseason, signed with the Mavericks last summer on a one-year deal. In 15.6 minutes per contest, Blair averaged 6.4 PPG and 4.7 RPG for Dallas last season. For his career, Blair has averaged 7.5 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 18.2 minutes per night.
Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report details how the Heat’s maneuvers to accommodate the Big Three back in 2010 are now proving costly with the departure of LeBron James. The Heat’s 2015 first round pick–given to the Cavs as part of James’ sign-and-trade to Miami–is still owed to Cleveland, and Miami is still paying Mike Miller‘s amnestied contract while the sharpshooter is on the verge of re-teaming with LeBron in another city. Here’s more from the East:
- The Hawks, reportedly one of the favorites to place a bid on Carlos Boozer, took a step in that direction, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders confirms the team has officially slipped beneath the cap (Twitter link).
- The Mavs promised DeJuan Blair that they would try to sign-and-trade him to give him a financial boost, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, and indeed it appears Dallas is close to sending him to the Wizards via sign-and-trade,
- The Wizards will bring University of Maryland women’s assistant coach David Atkins as an assistant coach for player development, tweets Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. A handful of rival executives see it as a sign that Washington has begun to position itself to make a run at Durant, a D.C. native, according to USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt (Twitter link), since Atkins was one of Kevin Durant‘s high school coaches, fellow ESPN scribe Mark Stein notes (on Twitter).
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Pacers organization is presenting a united in front in their attempts to convince Lance Stephenson to re-sign with Indiana, reports Michael Marot of The Associated Press. Indy brass, coaches, and players are hopeful they can challenge again in the East with Stephenson back aboard now that LeBron James has fled Miami. Here are more of the night’s free agency rumblings:
There’s strong mutual interest between the Mavs and Mo Williams, with Mavs GM Donnie Nelson having called him “the perfect fit in many respects,” reports Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. Presuming the Rockets don’t match the Mavs’ offer sheet to Chandler Parsons, Dallas would like to re-sign Vince Carter for the $2.732MM room exception, but if Carter doesn’t bite, the Mavs would strongly consider using it on Williams, MacMahon writes. There’s more on Williams amid the latest from Dallas:
- If Carter does take that room exception, the Mavs are holding out hope that they can convince Williams to sign for the minimum salary, since he lives in the area and wants to be near his family, MacMahon tweets. Portland’s deal today with Steve Blake indeed gives the Blazers less of a shot to re-sign Williams, agent Mark Bartelstein tells Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com, but Bartelstein cautioned that there’s still a chance the combo guard stays in Portland.
- The Mavs are also targeting DeJuan Blair for the minimum, and that would be the only price they’d be willing to pay for him, MacMahon also tweets.
- Teams have been checking in with Shawn Marion, but there’s been no movement of any substance toward a deal, and the Mavs will remain in play if they miss out on Parsons, reports Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link).
- Ivan Johnson is a part of the Mavs’ summer league team, but there’s mutual optimism that his relationship with the team will continue into the fall, MacMahon writes in a separate piece. “He’s more than just a summer league guy for us,” Mavs GM Donnie Nelson said. “We’re definitely taking a peak, and we like what we see.”
Mavs GM Donnie Nelson promises an “action-packed summer,” but he indicated today that he’s pleased with the roster as is, notes Bryan Gutierrez of ESPNDallas.com (Twitter links).
“I think if we had the same cast or crew come and lace ‘em up next year, I’d feel real good about our chances,” he said.
Fellow ESPNDallas.com scribe Tim McMahon doesn’t buy it, writing that the Mavs front office knows it needs significant improvement to contend. There’s more from McMahon’s piece amid the latest on the Mavs:
- McMahon throws Eric Bledsoe‘s name into the mix of likely targets that already included Marcin Gortat and Luol Deng, though he acknowledges that it’ll be “extremely difficult” to pry Bledsoe, or even Gortat, away from their respective teams. The Mavs are unlikely to make a run at Lance Stephenson, according to McMahon.
- The Mavs would like to get involved in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, but not if he demands a max contract, McMahon writes.
- Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs have made it clear that they fully intend to strike a new deal this summer. Nowitzki acknowledged today that he doesn’t think it will resemble Kobe Bryant‘s massive two-year, $48.5MM extension, but he does want the team to respect his continued on-court prowess in negotiations, as Gutierrez observes (Twitter links). McMahon, in his piece, suggests Nowitzki is likely to sign a three-year, $30MM deal.
- Shawn Marion, who turns 36 on Wednesday, plans to play two more seasons, tweets Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com, noting that while there’s strong mutual interest in a return to the Mavs, the forward will also think about signing elsewhere. Still, he intends to retire as a Mav one way or another, Gutierrez notes (Twitter link).
- Soon-to-be free agent DeJuan Blair is hopeful that he’ll re-sign with the Mavs this summer, as Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram chronicles.
- We passed along news of the Mavs’ mutual interest in Devin Harris earlier today.
Kobe Bryant endorses the Knicks hiring of Phil Jackson despite his well-documented disappointment with the Lakers front office for not bringing Jackson back to Los Angeles. In an article by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles, Bryant said, “I just think his mentorship shifts. I think it goes from having a direct influence on the players themselves to having a direct influence on the coaching staff, which he’s accustomed to doing because that’s how he coached as well. He really had a great rapport with his coaching staff and he was really a great mentor for them, and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing and it will just kind of trickle down from there. It’s really no different from what Pat [Riley] has been able to do in Miami with [Erik] Spoelstra.” According to the article, Bryant also believes that Jackson will be able to help Carmelo Anthony improve as a player. On what Phil can do for ‘Melo, Bryant said, “Phil will be able to provide that knowledge and he’ll learn more about the game and open up dimensions of the game that he never saw before. So, he’ll just continue to improve.”
More from out west:
- The Kings had appeared likely to keep 10-day signee Orlando Johnson for the season, but the team has decided against doing so, notes Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee. Johnson’s second 10-day contract expired Monday.
- The Warriors have assigned Nemanja Nedovic and Ognjen Kuzmic to the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA D-League the team has announced. Both players had just been recalled from the D-League yesterday and played in last night’s victory over the Magic.
- If the Mavericks are able to sign a proven big man after the season, the player most likely to lose his roster spot is DeJuan Blair, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Sefko also says that proven big man target is most likely to be Marcin Gortat.
- In a separate article, Sefko writes that he thinks the Mavs would be well served to pursue Gortat as well as Luol Deng after the season. Both players will be free agents and would fit nicely in the team’s system. Sefko also thinks that Kyle Lowry will be another player the team will take a look at signing, and believes he is ready to be a lead guard on a “top-shelf” playoff team.
Posting up career-numbers in points, rebounds, and assists in addition to leading the Trail Blazers to a current three-way tie for the league’s best record, LaMarcus Aldridge is arguably a strong candidate for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award at this point in the season. Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge relayed some noteworthy comments from Aldridge during an interview with ESPN’s Chris Broussard, and it appears that the 28-year-old forward wants to remain in Portland for the long-term:
“I’m here. I love it here. This team is good and we’re winning. I’ve been here my whole career. I’m in the history books here. I don’t want to leave. I feel this team is good enough to win it all one day and be there.”
Here’s more of what we’ve gathered out of the Western Conference tonight:
- Although some offseason narratives had the Thunder taking a step back this year after losing Kevin Martin to free agency, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix writes about how Oklahoma City’s young bench – in addition to career-best numbers from Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka as well as elite play from Russell Westbrook – has played a major role in keeping the team within title contention this season. Interestingly enough, Mannix points out that the reserves’ combined 34.1 PPG marks the highest output of the entire Durant era.
- Sam Amick of USA Today echoes the same sentiments from Mannix and revisits how the Thunder, facing drastic changes due to the NBA’s harsh new collective bargaining agreement, were able to recover nicely after making the tough call to deal James Harden over a season ago.
- Previously relegated to spot minutes in San Antonio, DeJuan Blair has had tonight’s matchup against the Spurs circled on his calendar for quite some time, says Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, who adds that the 6’7 forward has been a bargain banger since signing with the Mavericks this past summer. Blair, who is currently averaging 8.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG in 20.9 MPG, has made it known on several occasions about being unhappy with the way his 4-year stint with the Spurs had ended.
- According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, Lakers forward Ryan Kelly has carved out a role in the team’s rotation and earned some public praise from Mike D’Antoni after practice earlier today: “He knows how to play, defensively and offensively…Defensively he’s the first one to get to the right spot. I think that going forward, he can keep earning more time. I’m pretty excited about him.” D’Antoni also suggested that Kelly’s newfound opportunity to earn floor time could come at the expense of Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre‘s rotation minutes.