Indiana Pacers

D-League Notes: Motiejunas, Dunleavy, Whittington

The NBA’s relationship with the D-League continues to grow, and this season a total of 19 NBA teams possess one-to-one affiliations with D-League clubs. Those 11 NBA teams without their own D-League squads this season have to assign players to D-League clubs affiliated with other NBA franchises. We at Hoops Rumors track all the NBA D-League assignments made during the course of the season and you can view the complete tracker, which is updated regularly, here.

Here are the D-League happenings for today:

  • The Pacers recalled center Shayne Whittington from their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Whittington has appeared in 24 games for the Mad Ants, averaging 12.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game during his four stints with the team this season.
  • The Bulls have recalled small forward Mike Dunleavy from the Warriors’ D-League affiliate, where the Bulls had sent him via the flexible assignment rule, the team announced via press release.
  • The Grizzlies recalled James Ennis and Jarell Martin from their D-League affiliate earlier today and later reassigned the pair to the Iowa Energy, the team announced. This will mark Ennis’ eighth jaunt to the D-League on the season and Martin’s fifth.
  • The Jazz recalled big man Tibor Pleiss from the Idaho Stampede, their D-League affiliate, the team announced.
  • The Rockets have reassigned Donatas Motiejunas to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. As was the case with his previous assignment this season to Rio Grande Valley, both Motiejunas and the NBPA had to sign off on the move because he is a fourth-year veteran.

Central Notes: Mirotic, Mahinmi, Blatt

The Bulls originally believed Nikola Mirotic would return after the All-Star break, but that timeline is now up in the air after the forward underwent hematoma removal surgery over the weekend, Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com writes. Mirotic was originally out of commission due to an appendectomy he underwent on January 27th. “He’s still in the hospital,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He developed a hematoma, which is a collection of blood, that he had to go back in and have a second surgery to remove. He’s on a liquid diet right now. He’s in quite a bit of pain, but his spirits are OK. Hopefully he’ll get out of the hospital soon and just get him back. As far as a timetable for Niko to get back on the floor, we just don’t know yet. But he had the complication, got it fixed. Hopefully we’ll get him back soon.

It’s still too early to tell,” Hoiberg said, when asked about the post-All-Star break timeline. “We’ll have a better idea once Niko gets out of the hospital and just gradually have to get his strength back. Hopefully he’ll be out in the next day or two, out of the hospital. Hopefully Niko will recover quickly from it, but you got to be careful any time you’re dealing with surgery. Not just one, but two, you got to be a little bit careful.

Here’s more from the NBA’s Central Division:

  • The struggles he’s had dealing with injuries thus far this campaign have Pacers center Ian Mahinmi calling 2015/16 one of his difficult seasons as a pro, Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports notes. “Yeah, it’s been a little bit of a tough year as far as injuries [for me],” Mahinmi, a free agent at season’s end, told Agness. “When you look at it, I only missed a few games. I probably missed like, what, five games this year. So overall, it’s not crazy. That’s the behind-the-scenes thing that fans and people that work the game don’t really know about it. How much your body goes through. It goes through a lot. You got to keep playing games, and you got to keep practicing every day. It’s been tough. It’s been one of the toughest years for me. Knock on wood — it hasn’t been anything bad, injury wise.
  • Cavs shooting guard J.R. Smith appreciates the opportunity former coach David Blatt gave him in Cleveland and believes Blatt will be a head coach in the league again, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. “I mean, I think he’s a good coach,” Smith said. “I think he has an opportunity to get another job somewhere. I think somebody will give him a shot given the circumstances. I think before he took the [Cleveland] job, it was pretty much he was going to coach a different team until LeBron James and Kevin Love and everybody came to the situation. So it was kind of weird, I’m sure, for him from the start for him because he was expecting just to have Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson and before you know it, you got all these other guys. So, I think he has a good chance of getting a job somewhere else. It’s just a matter of time.

Central Notes: Meeks, Love, Christmas

The Pistons have been linked to soon-to-be free agents Ryan Anderson and Al Horford as well as trade candidate Markieff Morris, but they’re satisfied with incumbent power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. That doesn’t mean they won’t seek an upgrade in the offseason, when Tolliver’s contract expires, but GM Jeff Bower made it clear to Ellis why the team is in no rush to make a deal now.

“That upheaval creates upheaval throughout the locker room,” Bower said. “When you do make changes like that, you’d like to think you’re doing it for more than just minor, insignificant shuffling. Sometimes you need a major shakeup, but usually when those scenarios exist, you have a group you don’t think is functioning well and you don’t see a long-term lifespan with them.”

See more on the Pistons amid the latest from around the Central Division:

  • Jodie Meeks will face limitations for the rest of this month after encountering a setback in his recovery from the broken foot he suffered at the start of the season, and he’s unlikely to play much this season, Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy told reporters, including Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter links). “For practical matters, it’s really hard to see him being able to get back and make much of a contribution this year,” Van Gundy said.
  • David Blatt didn’t prioritize making Kevin Love comfortable in the Cavaliers offense, but in Tyronn Lue‘s brief time as Blatt’s replacement, Love already looks more comfortable than he’s ever been since joining Cleveland before last season, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.
  • The Pacers have assigned Rakeem Christmas to the D-League, the team announced. The 36th overall pick from the 2015 draft has spent the vast majority of the season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and he’s still yet to play in an NBA regular season game.

Central Notes: Ellis, Cavs, Pistons

Monta Ellis, whom the Pacers signed this past offseason, is still averaging the fewest amount of points per game since his rookie season, but he has experienced an uptick in scoring recently because of treatment to his right knee, Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star relays. Ellis, 30, is averaging 18.4 points per game over his last 10 outings. Ellis recently had fluid in the knee drained, according to Buckner.

“It’s been night and day with having that knee drained as far as his energy and just the way he’s moving,” Pacers star Paul George said. “It’s a lot easier, and it’s a lot better for him. He went the whole length of this game of constant pressure on their team. You definitely notice that. I think for Monta, this is something that’s been reoccurring, so he’s dealt with it before, and he knows the difference between the two.”

Here’s more from around the Central Division:

  • Cavs coach Tyronn Lue has improved the team’s morale because of his straight-forward approach to handling roles, rotations and expectations, Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer explains. On the court, the Cavs are playing faster and have scored at least 110 points in four straight games.
  • Despite referring to this season as the most difficult challenge of his professional career, Mo Williams is not interested in playing for another team and will not request a trade, Haynes reports in the same piece. The Cavs point guard is out of the rotation and played in only five games in January. “Nah, man. I’ve moved my family around enough,” Williams told Haynes. “I’m sticking this thing out.”
  • Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings is still adapting to coming off the bench after playing in 17 games so far since returning from an injury, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press relays. “It’s basically just me,” Jennings said. “I have to show up with a lot of energy. My role is different and I know that. I have to approach the game differently. I have to be ready and when my number’s called I have to be able to perform.”

Central Notes: Hoiberg, Lue, Turner, Van Gundy

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is downplaying the possibility of a major deal before next month’s deadline, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. “We’re comfortable with this group,” Hoiberg said. “Unless something earth-shattering comes up, I don’t anticipate anything happening.” Chicago’s trade prospects have been limited by the shoulder injury to Joakim Noah and the acute appendicitis that struck Nikola Mirotic.

There’s more tonight from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers GM David Griffin thought Tyronn Lue had the potential to become a great NBA coach ever since Lue’s first interview, according to Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer. Griffin decided to go with 54-year-old David Blatt over Lue, who was 37 at the time, but that first impression stuck with Griffin when he decided to make a coaching change last week. Pluto also notes that Blatt’s problems relating to players carried over into this season, and many players believed Lue was ready to be the head coach.
  • The Pacers have established an identity by making rookie big man Myles Turner a  starter, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. After spending the first half of the season working toward a small-ball approach, Indiana replaced Lavoy Allen with Turner in the starting lineup Thursday and responded with a blowout of the Hawks. “It’s something I believe will be good for us,” said coach Frank Vogel. “We dominated the glass, dominated with defense, and I think this team will be able to score the ball better than any team we’ve had.”
  • The Pistons are suffering from “midseason malaise” and coach Stan Van Gundy’s abrasive style is starting to wear on the players, David Mayo of MLive writes in his mailbag column. Mayo says the players and Van Gundy could use some time apart from each other, but the team has a crowded schedule until the All-Star break. The columnist also credits GM Jeff Bower with making the bulk of the personnel decisions, leaving Van Gundy free to concentrate on coaching.

D-League Notes: McCallum, Christmas, McDaniels

The NBA’s relationship with the D-League continues to grow, and this season a total of 19 NBA teams possess one-to-one affiliations with D-League clubs. Those 11 NBA teams without their own D-League squads this season have to assign players to D-League clubs affiliated with other NBA franchises. We at Hoops Rumors track all the NBA D-League assignments made during the course of the season and you can view the complete tracker, which is updated regularly, here.

Here are the latest NBA D-League assignments and recalls:

  • The Pacers recalled Rakeem Christmas from their D-League affiliate and assigned Shayne Whittington to the Mad Ants, the team announced. This concludes Christmas’ second stint in Fort Wayne on the season and commences Whittington’s fourth.
  • The Spurs have reassigned point guard Ray McCallum to their D-League affiliate in Austin, the team announced. McCallum will be joining the junior Spurs for the sixth time this season and he is averaging 17.1 points, 4.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 37.7 minutes in seven total appearances.
  • The Rockets have recalled Montrezl Harrell and K.J. McDaniels from their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This concludes Harrell’s third stint with Rio Grande Valley and McDaniels’ fifth.

Central Notes: Noah, Anderson, Turner

The Bulls would have preferred to have traded Joakim Noah rather than Taj Gibson, hoping to extract value of some sort from Noah before he has the chance to depart in free agency this summer, executives from around the league said to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The injuries to Noah and Nikola Mirotic have made a Gibson trade even less likely, sources confirmed to Stein. Noah is expected to be out four to six months while Mirotic isn’t likely to return until after the All-Star break.

Here’s the latest from out of the Central Division:

  • The Pistons have interest in Ryan Anderson as a free agent this summer but not as a trade candidate, preferring not to have to relinquish assets to snag him, sources tell Stein in a separate piece. ESPN colleague Zach Lowe of ESPN.com previously reported that Detroit was eyeing the Pelicans stretch four.
  • The Pacers have elected to go with a bigger lineup after experimenting with a small-ball approach earlier in the season, a move that has benefited 2015 draftee Myles Turner, Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star notes. “You don’t know when you’re dealing with a rookie, a 19-year-old player, how soon it’s going to come,” coach Frank Vogel said. “There’s going to be some ups and some downs but if you look at this at what we think Myles can be. … This is what this team should look like out there.
  • The Bulls‘ backcourt tandem of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler are still working on developing on-court chemistry, since the two haven’t shared much time on the floor together thanks to Rose’s many injuries, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes. Butler is excited about the potential of the duo, telling Johnson, “I love playing with him [Rose]. He’s super aggressive. He’s taking great shots. That’s what we need. As long as I follow his lead in that attacking style, we’re going to be really good.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Larry Bird On Frank Vogel, Paul George, Roster

The Pacers, at 23-22 and eighth in the Eastern Conference, are underachieving, and they suffer from having too many “good players, but not great players,” president of basketball operations Larry Bird said today to Mark Montieth of Pacers.com and Conrad Brunner from 1070 The Fan. Bird planned for the team to play at a fast pace this season but acknowledges his difference in philosophy with coach Frank Vogel, who prefers a lineup with two traditional bigs and has fielded that sort of team for much of the season. The entire interview is worth a read, especially to get an idea of Bird’s affection for Myles Turner‘s game. We’ll pass along a few highlights here.

On the dichotomy between his vision for the team and Vogel’s:

“We’re halfway through the season. My philosophy is, I’ve been watching this a long time. I’d like to play faster. I thought we might be able to do it. My vision was [Paul George] would play more of the four, not all of the time, but play it more. Paul’s a good rebounder. If he played the four he’d be a better rebounder. But I understand. He’s coming off a serious leg injury. He’s going to hit spurts like he’s hit here. It’s tough sitting out a year and coming back. That’s why I wanted him at the four more [laughing], so he wouldn’t have to guard [on the perimeter]. But I understand what Frank’s saying. I understand what he feels comfortable with.”

On the team’s holes:

“It’s according to how you want to play, and I think everyone knows how I want to play. I’d like to have an athletic big and I’d like to have – whether it’s a point guard or a guy who can get us in the offense and play George [Hill] off the ball a little bit or put Monta [Ellis] on the ball – we’ve got good players, we just don’t have the big athletic guys that we like and need. I think we’ll be able to get that. Paul’s getting through this year and Myles is going to be an outstanding player and [Ian] Mahinmi has had his best year. Mahinmi is playing great. [Against the Clippers], coming off an ankle injury and missing a few days, I thought he was excellent. I thought he played hard and aggressive. We have pieces, but we have some holes and we have to fill them.”

On goals for the season:

“We’ve got to find out who we are and what we’re trying to do here. I can say we’ve got to make the playoffs, and everybody says ‘Why would you want to be the seventh or eighth seed?’ I do. I want to be in the playoffs because you build on that. You build on everything every year and it ain’t going to happen overnight. I think we need to be in the playoffs and then we can put the pieces together and fill some holes and go from there.”

Central Notes: George, Dunleavy, Baynes

Paul George is feeling fatigued after playing heavy minutes during the first half of the season and Pacers coach Frank Vogel is mulling a reduction in minutes for his star small forward, according to Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star. George acknowledged to Taylor on Monday that he’s struggling to maintain his optimal performance level because his legs are weary. “I think a lot of it is just being overly confident that I can go out and still do the things I was doing [earlier in the season],” George said. “It’s not the case. It’s hard and it’s weighing on me right now, it’s weighing on my body, it’s weighting on my mental [approach].” George has played at least 30 minutes in every game this month except for one game when he was in foul trouble, Taylor points out. Vogel has rested George in a couple of recent practices and will monitor his minutes during the team’s upcoming homestand, Taylor adds. “It’s definitely something that’s limiting him right now and limiting us and we’ve got to keep a close eye on it,” Vogel told Taylor about George’s energy level.

In other news around the Central Division:

  • Bulls small forward Mike Dunleavy is targeting a February return from the back injury that has kept him out all season, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports. Dunleavy will participate in a controlled contact scrimmage Tuesday after joining the team in non-contact practices for weeks, Johnson adds. Dunleavy, who signed a three-year, $14.5MM contract last summer with the final year non-guaranteed, was originally slated to return in mid-December from his offseason surgery until he suffered a setback during his rehab. “The main thing is staying on top of the exercises and the maintenance stuff I’ve got to do for my back,” Dunleavy told Johnson. “I’m not really thinking, ‘Oh, man, is this thing going to go on me?’ I’m comfortable and confident.”
  • One of the underrated aspects of Aron Baynes game is the hard screens he sets, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. The Pistons’ second-unit center, who was signed away from the Spurs during the offseason with a three-year, $19.5MM deal, frees his teammates up with his big body and positioning, Beard adds. “It’s no offense to Andre [Drummond], but Aron Baynes is probably the best screener in the league,” Detroit rookie small forward Stanley Johnson told Beard. “He’s really nailing guys.”

Central Notes: Blatt, LeBron, Dunleavy, Boatright

David Blatt‘s camp believes that LeBron James was the sole catalyst for the Cavs coaching change, and the belief is much more than simply a fringe theory among people around the league, reports TNT’s David Aldridge, who writes in his Morning Tip for NBA.com. Still, plenty of other reasons for Blatt’s dismissal exist, including the team’s poor performance against top Western Conference contenders and the need for immediate results, that suggest that the team isn’t simply serving LeBron’s wishes, Aldridge contends. Regardless, the Cavs cast Blatt back onto the job market, and while the Timberwolves have been linked to Blatt, the team has no intention of pursuing him for a job on interim coach Sam Mitchell‘s staff, league sources tell Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link). See more from the Central Division:

  • Mike Dunleavy is targeting a return sometime next month from the back injury that’s kept him out all season so far, notes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. He’s essentially at the same point in his recovery that he was before suffering a setback in late November, but he’s more confident this time that he’ll be able to take the final steps toward getting back to game action for the Bulls, according to Johnson.
  • Ryan Boatright impressed with the Nets during the preseason, but he didn’t carry that level of performance over to his tenure with the D-League affiliate of the Pistons, which waived him last week. Boatright is now poised to sign with Orlandina of Italy, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports, according to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. The Pistons briefly had Boatright on their NBA roster on the fall, a maneuver designed to secure his D-League rights.
  • The Pacers have recalled Shayne Whittington from the D-League, the team announced. He’s played in just two games at the NBA level this season but has appeared in 19 contests for Indiana’s D-League affiliate after re-signing with the Pacers this past summer.

Get the hottest NBA news and rumors before anyone else! Follow us on Twitter to stay updated: