- The Warriors are leading the small-ball revolution these days, thanks in large measure to the unique capabilities of $82MM signee Draymond Green, who has the skills of a perimeter player and the wingspan of a center, as Zach Lowe of ESPN.com examines. The team’s brass admits it didn’t know what it had in Green until Steve Kerr put him in the starting lineup last season in David Lee‘s stead, Lowe notes. GM Bob Myers admits trepidation as late as Game 4 of the NBA Finals last season when Kerr replaced Andrew Bogut with Andre Iguodala and the Cavs sprinted to an early lead before the Warriors caught up and Iguodala won the Finals MVP award.
- Golden State is prompting front offices to re-evaluate the relative value of big men and wing players, but while Pacers coach Frank Vogel told Lowe he isn’t about to line up Paul George at center, he said the change in philosophy that’s prompted him to give George time at the four predates Golden State’s rise. “It wasn’t even about the Warriors,” Vogel said to Lowe. “It was about not being able to overcome LeBron [James] and Miami three straight years. We couldn’t even throw the ball inside. We had a lot of turnovers just trying to do that.”
- The Kings recalled Duje Dukan from the D-League on Monday, according to the RealGM transactions log, though neither Sacramento nor its affiliate made a public announcement. The undrafted combo forward from Wisconsin scored 14 points in 34 minutes in his one appearance with the Reno Bighorns.
The Pacers didn’t try to re-sign Chris Copeland this past offseason, but they still gave him access to their training staff after his contract ended on July 1st, writes Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star. Copeland, who signed a one-year deal with the Bucks on July 29th, is grateful for the help he needed to recover from the injuries that he suffered when he was stabbed outside a New York City nightclub in April, as Buckner details.
“I was just blessed to have guys like [Pacers president of basketball operations] Larry Bird and the training staff who stuck with me way past when they had to,” Copeland said. “Legally by July 1st they’re not obligated to do anything, but those guys took care of me. They did more than they needed to. That’s why I’m forever in their debt. I appreciate the type of people that I was [around] for the last two years.”
See more on the Pacers amid the latest from the Central Division:
- The Cavaliers made it a point to improve their depth in the offseason, in spite of the tax implications, and they’ve benefited from the strategy in the season’s first month, notes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. “I think that we went through a year last year where we put ourselves in a great position and had a tremendous season and a tremendous opportunity, then at the very end we fell prey to the lack of depth,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “And we addressed it this summer. Obviously up to this point in the season, it’s really paid off for us because the guys that we brought in are major contributors and the guys that stayed obviously are high-level people and high-level basketball players.”
- J.R. Smith, who re-signed with the Cavs this summer after a midseason trade, credits the team and Cleveland at large for greeting him with a level of acceptance he hasn’t found elsewhere in the NBA, he tells McMenamin for a separate piece, calling it “first place I’ve been where I’ve started off with a clean sheet.”
- Pacers coach Frank Vogel is pleased with the contribution he’s seeing from the back end of his roster, quipping that Bird “gave me too many good players,” notes Mark Montieth of Pacers.com.
Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas will miss about six weeks with a fracture in his left hand, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. After tests on the hand Saturday, Valanciunas decided against surgery and will count on rest and rehab to heal the injury. During Friday’s game with the Lakers, the center injured the fourth metacarpal in his hand, similar to an injury that cost him 18 games during the 2012/13 season. Valanciunas, who signed a four-year, $64MM extension before the season started, is averaging 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds.
There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:
- The improved play of Glenn Robinson III will lead to some tough decisions for Pacers coach Frank Vogel, writes Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star. The second-year forward, who signed with Indiana in July, hit 6-of-7 shots and delivered a career-high 17 points in 21 minutes during Saturday’s blowout of the Bucks. It was the latest in a string of impressive performances by Robinson, who split last season with the Wolves and Sixers, but it may not be enough to keep him in the Pacers’ rotation. His playing time will likely decrease when George Hill and Myles Turner return from injuries. “It’s driving me crazy with all these tough decisions when everybody gets healthy,” Vogel said. “[Robinson’s] got to stop making all his shots. I’ll just harp on the fact that he missed one.”
- Bulls centers Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol are both getting fewer shots in new coach Fred Hoiberg’s offense than they are accustomed to, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com. Noah turned in his fifth scoreless game of the season Friday and has yet to reach double figures this season. Gasol is averaging 13.8 points per game, barely above his career low. “Physically, I feel good,” said Noah, who will be a free agent next summer. “Now it’s trying to figure out where I can get opportunities offensively and just helping the defense. That’s it. I’ve to be more aggressive when I get my opportunities.”
- Younger and older basketball fans tend to view the Sixers‘ annual tanking differently, writes Mike Sielski of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Regardless of perspective, the columnist wonders why things aren’t better yet in Philadelphia.
The early season play of rookie Kristaps Porzingis coupled with Carmelo Anthony‘s return to health has given Knicks fans hope, not just for this season, but beyond. Another benefit the franchise may glean from exceeding expectations is that team president Phil Jackson will have a far more appealing product to sell Kevin Durant when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News opines.
One issue I have with the Knicks potentially adding Durant is that both Anthony and Porzingis are frontcourt players, and unless Anthony shifted to power forward full-time and Porzingis to the pivot, one of the trio would need to come off the bench. Shifting Porzingis to center would also serve to displace Robin Lopez, who the team inked to a four-year, $54MM deal this past summer, which is obviously not an ideal move for New York given its financial commitment to the big man.
Here’s the latest out of the Eastern Conference:
- Metta World Peace, discussing his relationship with Pacers executive Larry Bird, said that he has tried to rejoin Indiana over the years, but he may have burned too many bridges with his disruptive attitude in his younger days for that to occur, Dave Zarum of Sportsnet.ca relays (Twitter link). World Peace did note that Bird was extremely patient with him during his time with the team, and that Bird would often go out of his way to work with him to improve his game, Zarum adds.
- Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith is feeling much more comfortable in the flow of the team’s offense, something he credits to his increased playing time, Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com writes. “It’s hard to just run up and down the court four or five times, then just get one spot shot, then come out of the game, then go back in the game. Getting in a rhythm early is the most important thing,” Smith said. “It’s not even so much to shoot, just to feel the ball, get the motion, get the ‘camaraderie’ within the system. I think that’s big, not only for me but for everybody. It’s not from a selfish aspect, but to feel the ball, feel the flow of the offense a little better.”
- The Cavaliers have recalled shooting guard Joe Harris from the Canton Charge, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. You can keep track off all the D-League assignments and recalls made throughout the season here.
6:00pm: Turner’s six-week prognosis is the minimum amount of time he’ll miss, as it could stretch beyond that timetable, Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star tweets. Doctors found a torn ligament during the surgery, lengthening the amount of time he’ll need to recover, Buckner adds (Twitter link).
4:36pm: Turner is expected to be out six weeks, the team says in its announcement that he had the surgery today. It’s unclear whether that’s six weeks total or six weeks from today.
MONDAY, 12:17pm: Turner will have surgery this afternoon, and his timetable for a return is four to six weeks from today, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.
THURSDAY, 1:57pm: Pacers lottery pick Myles Turner will miss at least the next four weeks after suffering a chip fracture in his left thumb in the first half of Wednesday’s game, the team announced. The 19-year-old had a place in Indiana’s rotation as the backup center and had logged 17.9 minutes per night before his early exit Wednesday. The Pacers are short on interior players, as Nate Taylor of The Indianapolis Star notes (Twitter link), with Lavoy Allen and Jordan Hill the only experienced big men aside from starter Ian Mahinmi. Shayne Whittington and Rakeem Christmas are also on the roster, but they’re currently on D-League assignment.
The team is thin up front by design, having shifted to more of a small-ball attack this season. Turner, this year’s No. 11 pick, posted averages of 7.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest prior to Wednesday. He’s dealt with several minor ailments so far this season, helping limit his minutes, but the team has high expectations for the former University of Texas player, as Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star told us in a recent edition of The Beat.
Indiana is without the ability to apply for a disabled player exception, since Turner’s injury isn’t expected to be season-ending, and they’ve been relatively injury-free this year, so they don’t meet the requirement to apply for a 16th roster spot via hardship. The Pacers are without much roster flexibility, as they’re carrying the regular season limit of 15 players, all of whom have fully guaranteed contracts. They have their $2.814MM room exception available to give free agents more than the minimum salary, but that’s not likely to be a factor.
How do you think the Pacers should compensate for Turner’s injury? Leave a comment to tell us.
Andre Drummond reiterated his intention to re-sign with the Pistons this offseason when he is eligible to become a restricted free agent, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports relays. “I love it here. I plan on being here,” Drummond told Spears. Team owner Tom Gores, coach/executive Stan Van Gundy, and Drummond mutually agreed to hold off on signing an extension to allow the team to retain more cap space heading into next offseason in order to make further roster upgrades.
Here’s more from out of the Central Division:
- Small forward Chase Budinger is attempting to carve out his niche on the Pacers after having been acquired from the Wolves this past summer, writes Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star. “I’m still trying to figure that out, it’s still a work in progress,” Budinger said. “My role is still trying to evolve and trying to fit into this system and with this team. I’m still trying to find better ways to be more productive.” The 27-year-old has appeared in nine games this season, averaging just 4.1 points in 15.9 minutes per contest while shooting 41.9% from the field.
- Cavs point guard Matthew Dellavedova has used his strong playoff showing from a season ago as a springboard to a solid start to the 2015/16 campaign, Chris Fedor of The Northeast Ohio Media Group writes. “I feel confident,” Dellavedova told Fedor. “I think you should always be more confident in your game and that comes through putting in the work. I think it was a great experience for me playing in the playoffs last year and working hard in the offseason by playing with the national team. In a different role than I usually play here with the Cavs, and [I] have just tried to build on that. I think if you work hard that’s what helps with your confidence.“
- The Bulls lead the NBA in building through the draft, with a league-best 10 draftees currently on the roster, Sam Smith of NBA.com notes in his leaguewide rundown. “The franchise always has had a strong belief in building through the draft and developing our own players,” said Bulls GM Gar Forman. “It starts with [owner] Jerry [Reinsdorf], who always has been a strong believer in the draft.”
Greivis Vasquez is just 4 for 29 from behind the 3-point line thus far this season, but the Bucks aren’t fretting about the offseason trade acquisition, notes Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“He’s a vet. He understands he’s got to shoot his way through this. His teammates are telling him to keep shooting,” Kidd said. “If it helps him, I ended my career without making a shot. Hopefully that makes him feel better.”
Kidd was making a self-deprecating reference to his 0 for 17 performance in the final 10 games of his career. With the Bucks possessing a 4-3 record and apparently in a jovial mood, they aren’t the only ones with a relatively carefree attitude to start the season. See more from the Central Division:
- Kevin Love is carrying a looser demeanor and he and LeBron James seemingly have a much more open dialogue than they did last season, observes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. Love, despite rumors that he would bolt, was the first of the major Cavs free agents to recommit to the team this past summer, as I noted when I examined the team’s offseason accomplishments earlier today.
- Chase Budinger, a summer trade pickup, was struggling to find his role on the Pacers leading up to Monday’s game, as Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star examines, and coach Frank Vogel absorbs responsibility for it. “I haven’t really called Chase’s number very much at all,” Vogel said. “I told him a couple days ago that’s on me. I got to make sure we’re taking advantage of his skill set more.”
- The Bulls received approval from the village board in suburban Hoffman Estates, Illinois for their plan to place a one-to-one D-League affiliate there starting next season, writes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. The lease agreement for the team to use the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates isn’t final, but it’s expected to become so, according to Johnson, who adds that the Bulls have called a press conference for Wednesday. Presumably, a formal announcement about the D-League team will take place at that point.
Kobe Bryant would be thrilled to play for USA Basketball in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, he told Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. Bryant, who won gold medals the past two Olympics, could end his competitive basketball career in the Olympics if he chooses to retire after this NBA season, Reynolds adds. “It would mean the world to me to be around those guys,” the veteran Lakers’ swingman said. “I think to be able to have a chance to continue the relationship that I already have with most of those guys, talking and just kind of being around each other and understanding that this is it, it’s just us being together, that would be fun.” The 12-player roster is expected to be revealed in June.
In other news around the league:
- Dragan Bender, a 7’0” forward who plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv, heads the list of Top 10 NBA prospects compiled by Kevin O’Connor of DraftExpress.com and Celticsblog.com. The 17-year-old could be a draft-and-stash option for the Celtics, who own the struggling Nets’ 2016 first-rounder. The next three players on his list are also 6’10” or taller — LSU point forward Ben Simmons, Kentucky center Skal Labissiere and Duke forward Brandon Ingram.
- Matt Barnes is still furious that Knicks coach Derek Fisher went to the authorities after their October altercation at the home of Barnes’ estranged wife, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times tweets. “We’re two grown men who should have handled two grown men’s business, but he wanted to run and tell the cops and the NBA,” the Grizzlies’ small forward said. The NBA is still investigating the matter, according to Ryan Lazo of the New York Post.
- Indiana’s Capital Improvement Board unanimously approved a contract Monday to allow the Pacers to build a $50MM practice facility, Mark Alesia of the Indianapolis Star reports. The five-story, 130,000-square-foot facility will be located across from Bankers Life Fieldhouse and is scheduled to open in 2017.
The fate of the Knicks — and possibly team president Phil Jackson — is now linked to Kristaps Porzingis, writes Mike Breshnahan of The Los Angeles Times. The fifth overall pick in June’s draft, who was loudly booed at the time by the New York crowd, has been an early success, averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds through the Knicks’ first six games. With Jackson hoping to start luring big-name free agents to New York, he needs Porzingis to be part of a solid foundation to sell them on the future. Porzingis is showing early signs that he can do that. “Porzingis is their best player on the court,” an unidentified scout told Breshnahan. “Hands down.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird told Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that he understands the trials former teammate Danny Ainge, who holds the same title in Boston, is facing as he tries to rebuild the Celtics. “It’s definitely a four-year deal,” said Bird. “The problem in our league is that if you get stuck in the middle [of the draft] like with the 14 to 18th pick, you can get good players there, but they’re not game-changers.” Boston could take a giant step forward next summer when it will have the Nets‘ first-round draft pick, and possibly first-rounders from the Mavericks and Wolves.
- T.J. McConnell has been a pleasant surprise for the Sixers, but Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer warns that his playing time could be affected when Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten return from ACL tears. Coach Brett Brown said Friday that he isn’t certain when the injured point guards will be back. Previous estimates had Marshall returning sometime this month and Wroten available in December. “I’m doing my part to come back,” Wroten said. “Obviously, they said December. But I want to come back earlier if it’s right. So I’m taking it one day at a time, and hopefully I’ll come back sooner.”
- One bright spot for the winless Nets has been the play of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, writes Tim Bontemps of The New York Post. The rookie made his first start Friday, replacing Markel Brown, and Bontemps says the move could be permanent.
Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
- Lavoy Allen: Three years, $12.05MM. Signed via Bird rights. Third year is a team option.
- Toney Douglas: One year, $1.186MM. Signed via minimum-salary exception. Partially guaranteed for $600K. Waived.
- Monta Ellis: Four years, $43.981MM. Signed via cap space. Fourth year is a player option.
- Jordan Hill: One year, $4MM. Signed via cap space.
- Glenn Robinson III: Three years, $3.241MM. Signed via cap space.
- Rodney Stuckey: Three years, $21MM. Signed via cap room. Third year is a player option.
- Shayne Whittington: Two years, $1.825MM. Signed via minimum-salary exception. First year is fully guaranteed, second year is non-guaranteed.
- Acquired the Lakers’ 2019 second round pick in exchange for Roy Hibbert.
- Acquired the draft rights to Rakeem Christmas from the Cavaliers in exchange for the Lakers’ 2019 second round pick.
- Myles Turner (Round 1, 11th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
- Rakeem Christmas (Round 2, 36th overall). Signed via cap room for four years and $4.3MM.
- Joseph Young (Round 2, 43rd overall). Signed via cap room for four years and $4.3MM.
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
After a campaign that saw their win total decrease from 56 in 2013/14 to 38 last season, the Pacers entered the offseason with the goal of assembling a younger, faster team, which resulted in a number of major changes for the franchise. While Indiana’s struggles of a season ago were certainly influenced by Paul George missing all but five contests courtesy of a leg injury suffered during a Team USA scrimmage, the team’s roster was aging and not meshing together as well as team president Larry Bird had hoped, and it was looking more and more like the franchise had passed its window to contend.
Phase one of Bird’s roster revamp was to find a taker for lumbering big man Roy Hibbert, whose decision to exercise his player option for 2015/16 worth in excess of $15.514MM could have spelled doom for any chance the team had at making significant offseason changes. Bird found a willing trade partner in the Lakers, whose interest convinced Hibbert to waive part of the 15% trade kicker included in his contract. “In the long run, it was a no-brainer,” Hibbert said to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. “If I were to say I wanted my $2MM and the trade couldn’t get done, I would have been back in Indy and wouldn’t have gotten that $2MM anyway. I would have had to basically fight an uphill battle just to try and get on the court. Hopefully I can make that [money] up in the long run if I do well.” The center gave back all but $78,185 of what otherwise would have been a $2.3MM payout.
The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.