Denver Nuggets

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Mudiay, Stone, Jazz

Flip Saunders built this year’s Timberwolves in an unusual way, with a seasoned veteran for every position group, notes Lee Jenkins of Big man tutor Kevin Garnett, mentor wing player Tayshaun Prince and experienced point guard Andre Miller all signed contracts during the offseason before the late Saunders had to leave the job because of his ailing health. Now, they’re serving as guides through a difficult time as the team mourns Saunders’ death. Minnesota opened the season Wednesday with a one-point win over the Lakers.

“Coach brought us all here for a reason,” coach Sam Mitchell said, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. “And he would expect nothing less than us coming out and being focused and doing the very best job.”

See more from around the Northwest Division:

  • New coach Michael Malone wants to win, but he acknowledges that so much of this season for the Nuggets is about the education of No. 7 overall pick Emmanuel Mudiay, as Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post relays. “If we’re getting our butts kicked, I’m not going to just sit there and say: ‘Well, this is good for Emmanuel’s development,'” Malone said. “But, overall, I want to be able to say at the end of Year 1 that we gave Emmanuel every chance to succeed and learn going into Year 2, because that’s only going to accelerate the growth of this roster and this organization.”
  • Thunder camp cut Julyan Stone has signed with Gaziantep of Turkey, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia).
  • The Jazz named Linda Luchetti the team’s vice president of basketball operations this week, a position that will have her reporting directly to GM Dennis Lindsey, the team announced. The move makes her one of the most highly ranking female basketball executives in the league, though her responsibilities will be focused on the business side of the team, according to The Associated Press.

And-Ones: Paul, Agent Changes, Leonard

Chris Paul rejects the notion that he’s a poor teammate, an idea that rumors of a rift between Paul and DeAndre Jordan helped fuel this summer, writes Dan Woike of the Orange County Register. Jordan has downplayed any tension, citing a mutual desire to win, and that’s just what Paul is thinking about as he envisions playing the rest of his career with the Clippers, as Woike details.

“Hell, I never imagined I’d leave New Orleans, but there’s no question this is where I want to be,” Paul said to Woike. “I want to win. Here.”

The earliest Paul can elect free agency is the summer of 2017. See more from around the NBA:

  • Agent Michael Tellem, the son of former agent turned Pistons organization executive Arn Tellem, is leaving the Wasserman Media Group for the Creative Artists Agency and taking high-profile client Danilo Gallinari with him, reports international journalist David Pick (Twitter link). Mario Hezonja, Bojan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica have dropped Tellem and will continue with Wasserman, Pick adds (on Twitter). The loss of Arn Tellem has proven tough for Wasserman, which also lost Al Horford, LaMarcus Aldridge and Joe Johnson over the offseason. Gallinari, Hezonja and Bjelica all signed new deals earlier this summer, while Bogdanovic remains on a deal with the Nets that runs through 2016/17.
  • Extension talks between the Trail Blazers and Meyers Leonard are off to a late start, but Leonard’s preference is to stay in Portland, observes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The deadline for the sides to reach a deal is Monday. “I really, really like and love this city,” Leonard said. “I love the organization and now that a greater opportunity has presented itself, I think a lot more people are embracing me. I’d love to be here. That’s my hope. But I don’t know if I’ll get an extension. I don’t know what will happen after this year. We’ll have to wait and see.”
  • Al Harrington said in March that he was retiring, but instead the 16-year NBA veteran is joining the Sydney Kings of Australia on a four-week deal, league sources told Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia.

Western Notes: Lakers, Clippers, Kings

Lakers coach Byron Scott said a decision will come Monday on the team’s final cut, but offered no further details on whether it will be veteran Metta World Peace or second-year guard Jabari Brown, notes Baxter Holmes of (ESPN Now link). Both players practiced on Sunday, Holmes adds.

Because players need 48 hours to clear waivers, the Lakers will be required to pay either World Peace or Brown for two days of salary, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times points out (assuming one is kept and the other is not). The waived player will receive only the two days of pay, so the Lakers will either owe World Peace approximately $18,000 or Brown $10,000, Pincus adds.

Here is more news out of the Western Conference:

  • Luc Mbah a Moute earned the Clippers‘ final regular season roster spot over Chuck Hayes mostly because of his defense months after the Kings voided his contract after a failed physical, Rowan Kavner of writes. In regards to the Kings, Mbah a Moute said, “I wish them luck. No hard feelings. I’m excited about the opportunity I have here now,” per Ben Bolch of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).
  • While the Kings are expected to be better this season than in recent years, the team could just as likely implode with several interesting personalities, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. The vibe around the team, Jones adds, has been positive since training camp.
  • Rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay cut down on his turnovers and showed promise in what should be considered a mostly successful training camp for the Nuggets under new coach Michael Malone, Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post writes. 

And-Ones: Hornets D-League, Final Cuts, Johnson

Greensboro, North Carolina, will be the site of the Hornets‘ new D-League team, reports Jeff Mills of the Greensboro News & Record. The new franchise, which will expand the league to 20 teams, will begin play next fall. Charlotte currently has no D-League affiliate. Players on D-League assignment will go to the one-to-one affiliate of another NBA team. “Greensboro’s approach to the process was innovative,” said Fred Whitfield, the Hornets’ president and chief operating officer. “Taking the Pavilion and renovating it into a basketball-style fieldhouse for us was very attractive. Especially when you could have offices for us right across the street.” The move is expected to be officially announced Tuesday. Asheville and Fayetteville were the other finalists.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • After a flurry of moves Saturday, seven NBA teams still have final cuts to make before Monday’s roster deadline, tweets Marc Stein of The Mavericks, Pistons, Pacers, Lakers and Grizzlies each have to unload one player to reach the roster limit of 15. The Nets still have 17 players and the Sixers have 20, which is the training camp maximum (Twitter link). The five teams with roster openings are the Rockets, Pelicans, Knicks, Magic and Suns, who each have 14 spots filled. (Twitter link).
  • Several teams have expressed interest in Nick Johnson, who was waived Saturday by the Nuggets, according to Sam Amico of Citing an unidentified source, Amico says there’s a chance someone could pick up Johnson by Monday. Johnson was one of four players sent from Houston to Denver in the Ty Lawson trade.
  • The league is looking into the reported confrontation between Knicks coach Derek Fisher and the GrizzliesMatt Barnes, writes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed the investigation, but did not offer specifics regarding possible punishment for either Fisher or Barnes. They were allegedly involved in a physical altercation at the house of Barnes’ estranged wife.

Nuggets Waive Johnson, Pecherov, Sweetney

The Nuggets have waived Nick Johnson, Oleksiy Pecherov and Devin Sweetney, the team announced via a press release. The cuts pave the way for Erick Green to stick for opening night on his partially guaranteed deal, notes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, and he’s indeed made the regular season roster, as Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post confirms (Twitter links). Green’s guarantee is just $100K. Pecherov and Sweetney’s deals are non-guaranteed, but Johnson’s deal is fully guaranteed for two more seasons, and he is owed $845,059 for 2015/16 and $980,431 for the 2016/17 campaign, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Denver will be responsible for that unless Johnson is claimed off waivers. The team’s roster count now stands at 15, the regular season limit.

Johnson, 22, was acquired from Houston as part of the Ty Lawson trade. The 2014 42nd overall pick appeared in 28 games last season, averaging 2.6 points and 1.4 rebounds in 9.4 minutes per game, and he owned a slash line of .347/.238/.680. Johnson’s release means the Nuggets have waived all four of the players they acquired in the Lawson trade, Dempsey notes (Twitter link).

Pecherov, 29, has been out of the NBA since the 2009/10 campaign when he appeared in 44 games for the Timberwolves. The center has career NBA averages of 3.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.2 blocks to go along with a slash line of .386/.290/.793.

The 27-year-old Sweetney went undrafted out of St. Francis of Pennsylvania in 2010. In four seasons with the Red Flash, the swingman averaged 14.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.7 assists, and he had a shooting line of .423/.268/.785. Sweetney spent the 2014/15 season playing for a pair of teams in Switzerland, where he notched averages of 20.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, and 2.3 APG in 19 total contests, before finishing up with Huracanes of the Dominican Republic on a four-game stint in which he put up 9.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 1.0 APG in 27.3 MPG.

Northwest Notes: Chandler, Jazz, Saunders

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said that coach/executive Flip Saunders would not return to the team this season because of complications resulting from his treatment for cancer, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune relays. When asked if he expected Saunders to return this season, Taylor said, “Not this year. I just think his illness, I mean, it’s serious. At this point, if he came back I still think he’d have a hard time to recover all his energy and all that because he has been in the hospital for a long time.

Taylor also noted that GM Milt Newton and interim coach Sam Mitchell have the authority going forward to make trades and player personnel decisions in Saunders’ absence, Zgoda adds. “We haven’t put anything on hold,” Taylor said. “Milt’s handling it just the way I’d expect him to. He tells me what he thinks, and we talk about things, just the same as I did with Flip. Milt’s just stepped in. Sam has to be his own coach. He won’t do things exactly as Flip does, and I wouldn’t expect him to.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Taylor was re-elected as the chairman of the NBA Board of Governors, commissioner Adam Silver announced at a press conference on Friday (h/t Tim Bontemps of The New York Post via Twitter).
  • The Nuggets have in the past asked for either two first-round picks or a first-rounder and a young player in exchange for Wilson Chandler, league sources told Grantland’s Zach Lowe, and while Lowe thinks it’s conceivable that price comes down, he still doesn’t believe a Chandler trade is likely. Meanwhile, the chatter surrounding the idea of a Kenneth Faried trade that’s been going on for the past two years hasn’t stopped, Lowe adds.
  • The Jazz intend to utilize their wing players as playmakers this season, which will influence a number of the team’s roster decisions, Aaron Falk of The salt Lake Tribune writes. “I think we’ve got good ball handlers on the wings, and you get to a point where you have to make tough decisions,” coach Quin Snyder said. “… We have Joe Ingles. We have Alec Burks. We have Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward. Those guys can all handle the ball and make plays.”
  • Mitchell and Newton indicated that the Wolves still intend to continue with the youth movement put in place by Saunders, who is on a leave of absence while he battles Hodgkins’ Lymphoma, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. “Most definitely the vision is still to develop our young players. We’d love to make the playoffs, but we’re not going to circumvent the process that it’s going to take to be a perennial playoff team,” Newton said. “You have to win to learn how to win, but overall the vision is to develop that young core we have to become that perennial playoff team.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Kanter, Exum

Rookie center Nikola Jokic is arguably the biggest surprise of the Nuggets‘ preseason, and the young big man will be called upon early in the season to produce with projected starter Jusuf Nurkic out until November, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post writes. Nikola Jokic, he’s a young kid and I’m not saying he’s ready, but he does things every practice that make you say ‘Wow, this kid has a chance to be a [heck of a] player,’” coach Michael Malone said. “For him to be that young and that skilled is really exciting to see. The fact that he’s gotten so much better even from summer league.

Here’s what else is happening in the Northwest:

  • Thunder forward Steve Novak downplayed teammate Enes Kanter‘s feud with the Jazz organization, and suggested that the situation between the two sides was blown out of proportion last season, writes Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. “I’m not really sure what went on there, but Enes is a great guy and Utah is a great organization,” Novak said. “I was here [Utah] with Enes. There was never any big incidents. I think it became a little bit bigger than it was. And I know Enes played to it and got a little bit of what he deserved.” Novak, when asked if he thought Kanter would do things differently with the benefit of hindsight, Novak responded, “I doubt it. He had to get something out and he got it out. He felt good about it. And then he probably felt bad about it and now it’s over with…Enes is very happy and Utah is doing great, so it’s over.”
  • Jazz point guard Dante Exum credits a month of grueling prehab work in Utah for helping prepare him for his ACL surgery, and he’s making excellent progress in his recovery as a result, Jody Genessy of The Deseret News writes. “The prehab — as much as I hated it, it was really good for me,” Exum told Genessy. “I saw the results coming out of the surgery. I was still able to lift my leg up on its own. The strength was still there as much as I’d lost. That was the biggest thing. It’s helped me to be able to walk sooner, get off the crutches and out of the brace, just because of that.
  • Damian Lillard is excited about being paired alongside Maurice Harkless, and he believes the two of them give the Blazers a formidable backcourt, Mike Richman of The Oregonian relays. Portland acquired Harkless from the Magic this summer in exchange for a protected 2020 second round pick.

Western Rumors: Warriors, Green, Ingles

The Warriors remain uncertain when coach Steve Kerr can return to the team on a full-time basis,’s Marc Stein and Ethan Sherwood Strauss report. Kerr, who underwent two offseason back surgeries, was with the club on its weeklong preseason trip through Southern California, but there’s no timetable on when he can coach on a daily basis, the story continues. ‎”He still doesn’t know,” interim coach Luke Walton told reporters after the team’s practice on Monday. “He’s not going to force a return.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers feels the Warriors are too thin-skinned about recent comments he made about them, according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area Sports Group. In an interview with Grantland, Rivers insinuated that the Warriors were lucky they didn’t have to play his club or the Spurs in the playoffs last season, Leung continues. He told reporters on Monday that he’s taken aback by the Warriors’ strong reaction to that notion, Leung adds. “I’m really surprised how sensitive they are about it,” Rivers said. “They are the champions, so they can just be the champions.” Walton told Leung that Rivers is playing mind games with the champions. “It doesn’t make much sense if it’s not,” Walton said. There’s no other reason to bring that type of stuff up.”
  • Second-year point guard Erick Green is making a strong case for a Nuggets roster spot even though he doesn’t have a guaranteed contract, Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post writes. New coach Michael Malone has raved about Green during camp, though Green suffered a temporary setback with a minor knee injury, the story continues.  Green, who could make $845,059 if he stays with the team through the season, bounced back with a 16-point, four-assist outing against the Thunder on Sunday night. But the club would have to move one of 15 players with guaranteed contracts in order to retain Green, Dempsey points out.
  • Jazz forward Joe Ingles had more difficulty deciding to take the summer off than he did re-signing with the club, Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Ingles stayed put by inking a two-year, $4.3MM deal, then opted not to participate in the Australian national team’s Olympic qualifiers over the summer. “I’m not going to say it was like the hardest decision of my life, but it was something that weighed on me for a little bit,” he told Falk. “I did want to play.”

Northwest Notes: Presti, Malone, Gobert

Thunder GM Sam Presti is looking to a fresh start in Oklahoma City with Billy Donovan taking over the coaching reins, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The Thunder were overwhelmed by injuries last season, particularly to star Kevin Durant, and narrowly missed the Western Conference playoffs. A revival is seen as key this year with Durant becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. “The combination of the transition to a new coaching staff, a healthy team with the benefit of seven years of experience together that is now entering its prime years, and some additions to our roster that fit our age horizon also help fortify the existing culture,” Presti said, “and has created an organizational momentum that has everyone excited about the present but also very optimistic about the future.”

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • New Nuggets coach Michael Malone has brought an emphasis on defense to Denver, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Darrell Arthur said that when he was traded from the Grizzlies to the Nuggets in 2013, he was surprised how rarely defense and communication were taught by former Denver coach Brian Shaw“It’s the exact same thing, what we did in Memphis to what coach Malone is doing,” Arthur said. “This is the way I was taught to play. I’m pretty sure this is the right way to play basketball.”
  • Utah’s Rudy Gobert is among the most likely candidates for Most Improved Player honors this season, writes Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. The Jazz center finished third in voting for the award last season, but Brigham believes he can still get much better by improving his offensive game. Former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson, now with the Pistons, is also on the list, along with the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, the Sixers’ Nerlens Noel, the Magic’s Victor Oladipo and the Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas.

Northwest Notes: Johnson, Green, Cooley, Exum

The Nuggets gave extended minutes to guards Nick Johnson and Erick Green in Friday’s game as they battle for a roster spot, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Neither was outstanding, as Johnson had three points and three assists on 1-of-7 shooting in 19 minutes and Green shot 2-of-5 while scoring seven points and collecting two assists in 21 minutes. Johnson came to Denver in the trade that sent Ty Lawson to Houston, while Green was part of a 2013 draft night deal that shipped Rudy Gobert to Utah.

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • Jack Cooley, who signed today with the Cavaliers, told Spencer Davies of that he was surprised the Jazz let him go. Cooley, who had a non-guaranteed contract in Utah, was waived Tuesday. “You obviously don’t expect that to happen,” he said, “but it’s always good to keep your head up and there’s other good teams out there that’ll look a player up who works that hard. I’ve just got to keep doing what I do, which is work hard, rebound and be physical.”
  • Two months after tearing his ACL, Jazz guard Dante Exum is pain free and able to walk without help, according to Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune. Exum, who is expected to miss the entire 2015/16 season, credits his quick healing to a rigorous program of physical therapy he underwent for a month before having surgery. He would like to be ready for the Olympics in August, although there is no timeline for when he might play again. “At this point, I’m not too sure,” he said. “It’s just a matter of taking it day by day, week by week and month by month.”
  • Dion Waiters admits he was out of shape when he was traded from the Cavaliers to the Thunder last season, writes Anthony Slater of However, Waiters is working to change his mind and body as free agency looms next summer.

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