Indiana Pacers Rumors

Eastern Notes: Pierce, Vucevic, Stephenson

October 22 at 12:37pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Paul Pierce figures coach Jason Kidd‘s departure from the Nets helped dampen the team’s enthusiasm to re-sign the forward to a new deal this summer, as Pierce tells reporters, including Andy Vasquez of The Record. Pierce cites Kidd as one of the primary reasons he encouraged the Celtics to trade him to Brooklyn in 2013, as Vasquez notes. There’s more on key figures who changed places as well as one who’s committed to stay where he is among the news from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Nikola Vucevic is careful to point out that he hasn’t put pen to paper on an extension with the Magic, but he nonetheless made it clear that he’s ecstatic about the agreement that agent Rade Filipovich and the team have reached, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel details.
  • Representatives for Lance Stephenson urged the Pacers to offload other players to find room for the shooting guard under the tax line this summer, with the names of Luis Scola and Donald Sloan arising in the talks, but Indiana held firm against doing so, reports Shams Charania of RealGM. The Alberto Ebanks client has said he cried when he told the Pacers he was signing with the Hornets instead, but Stephenson tells Charania that he hasn’t spoken to Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird since he made up his mind to join Charlotte.
  • Charania also hears from a source who confirms that Jason Maxiell is the leading contender for a regular season roster spot among the Hornets camp invitees, as the RealGM scribe writes in the same piece. Coach Steve Clifford seems in favor of keeping Maxiell, writes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
  • Christian Watford will play for the Celtics‘ D-League affiliate assuming he clears NBA waivers, reports David Pick of (Twitter link). That means the C’s are following through on their plan to keep Watford’s D-League rights, though Pick hears that the power forward turned down many offers from European teams to instead go to the D-League.
  • Phil Jackson shared his scouting report on every Knicks player with Charley Rosen, writing for The coach-turned-executive admits camp invitees Langston Galloway and Travis Wear are destined for the D-League.

And-Ones: Kobe, Lottery, Bosh, Hawks

October 20 at 4:03pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Henry Abbott of ESPN The Magazine hears from agents and team sources who say Kobe Bryant‘s rough-edged personality is driving free agents away from the Lakers. The Buss family receives more income from the team’s local TV deal if ratings are better, and that helped persuade the team to sign Bryant to his lucrative two-year extension 12 months ago and to eschew an aggressive rebuilding project, Abbott hears. Bryant’s popularity with powerful front-row celebrities also played a role, and co-owner Jim Buss is just “waiting for [Bryant] to leave,” a source tells Abbott, fearful of engaging in a public spat with the superstar. Steve Nash nearly decided against approving his sign-and-trade to the Lakers and Paul George signed his extension with the Pacers in part because of Bryant, sources tell Abbott. Chris Bosh was one of the Lakers’ missed free agent targets this summer, and there’s more on him amid the latest from around the league:

  • The Thunder will join the Sixers in voting against the changes to the lottery, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, but Wojnarowski seconds Lowe’s report (below) that the measure still has enough support to pass.

Earlier updates:

  • Bosh spoke of a desire to be paid at his full market rate as he explained his decision to turn down a four-year max deal from the Rockets for five years at the max from the Heat to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “It’s always business,” Bosh said. “Nothing is ever personal. I think 100% of those dudes would have taken the deal I took.”
  • Another NBA team has joined the Sixers in opposition to the league’s lottery reform proposal as the Board of Governors meet today, but the measure is still expected to receive approval, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports (Twitter links).
  • Players union secretary-treasurer James Jones is an opponent of shortening games and believes, as teammate LeBron James does, that players would instead like to see fewer games on the schedule, as Jones tells Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
  • Former Hawks All-Star Dikembe Mutombo has met with a group of investors about joining their effort to buy the team, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Eastern Notes: Rondo, Haywood, Lopez, Pacers

October 18 at 4:35pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The jury is still out on whether or not Rajon Rondo will be in a Celtics uniform beyond this season. One thing that won’t factor negatively against Boston in Rondo’s eyes is the team’s head coach, Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald writes. Rondo has nothing but good things to say about second-year coach Brad Stevens, notes Murphy. “He’s very positive — the most positive coach I’ve been around in my career, and it’s hard not to play for a guy like that,” Rondo said of Stevens. “That’s every day — not just in the locker room. He’s that way off the court, with his family. He’s a role model. He has all of the characteristics of a great leader. He’s great at what he does. He’s all about the team.”

Here’s more from the east:

  •  The Cavs view veteran center Brendan Haywood as a part-time player who can help out when Cleveland faces teams with taller centers, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. Haywood is well ahead of schedule in returning from injury, and the Cavs didn’t expect him to return to the court until January, notes Pluto.
  • After Brook Lopez‘s latest injury scare involving his troubled feet, the Nets are ready to move on, with or without the seven-footer, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “I think you have to look at it from the standpoint that the glass is always half-full. I never looked at anything when he did have other injuries that the sky was falling,” GM Billy King said. “That’s why you have a team sport. If it was golf and I was his caddie, I’d be a little more upset because you don’t have a chance to make money. But it’s a team sport.”
  • In his season preview for the Pacers, Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio writes that it will be a trying season in Indiana without Paul George and Lance Stephenson. If the Pacers are to have any shot at the playoffs, this is the season that Roy Hibbert will need to elevate his game to an elite level, Amico opines.

Wolves Shopping Chase Budinger?

October 17 at 9:47pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

9:47pm: The Wolves haven’t had any talks with the Blazers yet about a possible Budinger-for-Robinson trade, as Wolfson hears, countering the earlier report (Twitter link).

9:40pm: Wolves president Flip Saunders was adamant that the team wasn’t shopping Budinger, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune reports (Twitter link).

3:47pm: The Rockets have “zero interest” in absorbing Budinger’s contract, tweets Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

12:48pm: Portland isn’t shopping Robinson, Deveney clarifies via Twitter, suggesting that the onus would be on the Wolves or another team to convince the Blazers to give him up.

FRIDAY, 11:18am: The Blazers are also in the mix for Budinger, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News hears, with Thomas Robinson a possibility to head to Minnesota in the deal (Twitter link).

THURSDAY, 9:35pm: The Pacers have also shown interest in Budinger, tweets Wolfson. With Paul George injured and Lance Stephenson gone in free agency, Indiana could use an outside threat on their roster.

6:35pm: Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News confirms the earlier report that the Pistons have inquired about Budinger’s availability. Goodwill also notes that the only player that Detroit has that would fit the salary requirements for trade would be Jonas Jerebko, whose $4.5MM deal will expire at season’s end.

3:58pm: The Wolves have gotten a few inquiries on a number of players, including Budinger, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets. Wolfson also adds that his sources tell him the team isn’t actively shopping Budinger at this time.

3:49pm: The Timberwolves are shopping Chase Budinger, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports. According to Wojnarowski’s sources several teams, including the Pistons and the Rockets, have shown interest in the 26 year-old forward out of Arizona. I would also speculate that the Pacers might also have interest with Paul George most likely out for the season and Indiana in need of outside scoring threats. Both the Pistons and the Rockets are reluctant to take on Budinger’s deal which includes a $5MM player option for the 2015/16 season, and no trade is imminent, Wojnarowski notes.

Minnesota currently has an abundance of small forwards with Corey Brewer, Andrew Wiggins, Robbie Hummel, Glenn Robinson III, Anthony Bennett, and Shabazz Muhammad all in the mix at the three spot. The Wolves still have 15 fully guaranteed deals and one partially guaranteed deal on the books, and trading Budinger’s fully guaranteed contract could help the team lock down their regular season 15.

With Jodie Meeks being lost for two months in Detroit, and the Rockets needing depth behind Trevor Ariza, acquiring Budinger makes sense for either franchise if the price is right. Budinger’s lifetime numbers are 9.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.3 APG. His career slash line is .428/.357/.806.

Southeast Notes: Stephenson, Brand, Magic

October 10 at 9:02am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Heat will take on LeBron James and his Cavaliers in Saturday’s preseason game for the first time since he left to return to Cleveland, but the sentiments between James and those he left behind in Miami aren’t as raw as the feeling between new Wizards forward Paul Pierce and the Nets. Pierce and his former team have conflicting stories about just what led to his departure, but the Wizards are surely glad about whatever it is that pried the 16-year veteran from Brooklyn. Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Lance Stephenson cried when he told Pacers he was signing with the Hornets instead this summer, as he admits to Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, but a surprise appearance by owner Michael Jordan in the team’s meeting helped seal the pitch. “When I shook [Jordan's] hand, I was shaking,” Stephenson said. “I was very nervous because that’s like everybody in the world who played basketball’s idol. I thought I would never meet Michael Jordan, but when I finally met him and talked to him and got to know him, that was the best feeling ever.”
  • Kemba Walker‘s endorsement of Stephenson, whom he played against for years when they were both growing up in New York City, helped convince the Hornets to pursue the free agent shooting guard this year, as Zwerling details in the same piece.
  • Elton Brand‘s ability to guard opposing centers is the chief reason why the Hawks brought him back, and familiarity is what led the 35-year-old to choose Atlanta over a handful of other suitors this summer, as he tells Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic are starting their seasons by making strong impressions in Orlando, writes Ken Hornack of FOX Sports Florida. Timing is everything for these players as they have until the end of the month to sign extensions to their rookie contracts. Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn isn’t letting his players get distracted by their pending contract statuses. “My message to them has been I’m going to coach you. No matter if you’re in a contract year or your first year in the league. I’m going to coach you the same. Hopefully that puts a little bit of ease underneath their wings in the sense of, ‘Just go play basketball,’“ Vaughn said.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Eastern Notes: DeRozan, Hornets, Stuckey

October 9 at 10:26pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

DeMar DeRozan may be one of the earliest beneficiaries of the NBA’s new television deal, as Eric Koreen of the National Post points out. DeRozan, who signed what is widely considered a team-friendly $38MM extension in 2012 with the Raptors, can opt out of his contract in the summer of 2016. Koreen adds that even if DeRozan cannot negotiate a maximum-value contract or extension, he is at least likely to double his current $10.1MM salary.

Here’s the latest from the Eastern Conference:

  • Hornets head coach Steve Clifford said that the team’s primary focus heading into the offseason was to add three-point shooting, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. Charlotte inked Lance Stephenson and Marvin Williams to try and fill that need this summer.
  • Rodney Stuckey grew tired of the losing culture with the Pistons, Mark Montieth of writes. “I don’t like losing,” Stuckey said. “Sometimes in Detroit, we’d be close in a game and be losing and people would be OK with it because it was a close game and we played hard. But we still lost. I don’t accept that. I want to win. That’s where a lot of the conflict came from. I’m a competitor, man. I don’t like losing. I don’t come out here just to get a sweat and lose and be happy. That’s not me. I try to compete each and every night and let the chips fall.” Now that he’s with the Pacers Stuckey has the chance to enter a more stable environment, and even with the loss of Paul George for the season, Stuckey should have the opportunity to play for a winning team, Montieth opines.
  • In addition to his mentoring role on the Sixers, Luc Mbah a Moute is looking to improve his game, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Pompey suggests Philadelphia could benefit by re-signing Mbah a Moute, who is set to become a free agent after the season, because of his relationship with new teammate Joel Embiid. But for now the forward is keeping his focus on the court. ”My main focus is this season and having a great season as a team and individually.” Mbah a Moute said. “When it comes to the end of the season, we will look to see where we are and make those decisions.”

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Coaching Rumors: Vogel, Joerger, Hoiberg

October 9 at 3:00pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird today called Frank Vogel a “perfect fit” for the team, as Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star notes (Twitter link), one day after Indiana granted an extension to the coach whose job appeared in serious jeopardy a few months ago. Much has changed for the Pacers since then, and Vogel’s task this year will be different than in years past, when he was in charge of a team on the rise. While we wait to see just how much Vogel can squeeze out of his depleted roster, we’ll pass along more on his deal and other news from NBA coaching circles.

  • Indications are that Vogel’s extension runs until the summer of 2017, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, who also notes that Vogel is likely to have received a raise on the $2MM average annual value of the extension he signed in 2013.
  • Dave Joerger‘s contract calls for him to make about $2MM each season through 2017/18, as Deveney also relays in the same slideshow. The Grizzlies this summer added the 2017/18 season onto the deal as a team option.
  • Warriors GM Bob Myers acknowledged that the team engaged in discussions with Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg this spring before hiring Steve Kerr, but Myers downplayed the significance of the inquiry as he spoke to reporters, including Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune. “We focused on some other guys that had been around and got a pretty early indication from Fred that he was happy where he was,” Myers said. “We weren’t the first team to kind of at least put a phone call in. Mine was much more informal from our side just because I have a previous relationship with him so it wasn’t anything formal. I got the sense he’s very happy where he is.”

Pacers Exercise 2015/16 Option On Solomon Hill

October 9 at 12:09pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Pacers have picked up their 2015/16 team option on their rookie scale contract with small forward Solomon Hill, the team announced. That means Hill, the 23rd overall pick in 2013, will make a guaranteed salary of approximately $1.359MM that season.

The move is no surprise given the expanded role that the 23-year-old Hill is likely to play for the Pacers this year. Key wing players Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner departed via free agency, and Paul George suffered a horrific broken leg that will likely keep him out for all of this season. Hill saw action in just 28 regular season games and appeared in the playoffs for only one minute this past season, but there’s a decent chance he’ll become a starter this year.

Indiana has about $36MM in commitments for next season now that the team has exercised Hill’s option, the only rookie scale option decision the team had to make before the October 31st deadline. No Pacers are up for rookie scale extensions this year, either, so the team is poised to have plenty of cap room to retool next summer.

Eastern Notes: Mbenga, Pacers, Pistons

October 8 at 8:44pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Knicks head coach Derek Fisher had good things to say about D.J. Mbenga, his former teammate with the Lakers who was signed by New York earlier today, Marc Berman of The New York Post reports (Twitter link). Fisher said that Mbenga was a solid teammate who has a good knowledge of the triangle offense, and also added that Mbenga could help the “vibe” out in training camp this month, notes Berman. Berman’s wording of “this month” seemingly doubles down on his earlier report that Mbenga was signed purely for preseason purposes.

Here’s more from the east:

  • Chris Bosh hasn’t spoken with his former teammate LeBron James since James left the Heat to sign with the Cavs, reports. When asked by reporters if he had talked to James, Bosh said, “No. I’m in the mode where I’m trying to lead my team, help these guys out around here. If guys aren’t in this locker room, I don’t have much time for them — if any.” Miami’s first regular season game against LeBron and Cleveland is scheduled for Christmas day.
  • With all of the offseason turmoil the Pacers organization has gone through, Frank Vogel‘s contract extension will provide some needed stability, Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star writes.
  • Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, in a video report with CineSport’s Brian Clark, discusses the uncertainties surrounding the Pacers and speculates that while Vogel is sticking around, some of his key players might not be.
  • With Indiana expected to to take a step back this season, it leaves the door open for the Pistons to improve their standing in the Central Division, Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio writes in his season preview for Detroit. Amico believes the talent is there for the Pistons to take the next step toward being a playoff team.

Pacers Sign Frank Vogel To Extension

October 8 at 10:46am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Pacers have signed coach Frank Vogel to an extension, the team announced. The arrangement covers multiple seasons, but no other terms are immediately available. Vogel had been set to enter the final season of his existing deal.

NBA: Preseason-Minnesota Timberwolves at Indiana PacersThe 41-year-old Vogel revealed last month that he and the team were in extension talks and said that he wanted to remain with the Pacers “forever.” It seemed an iffy proposition this spring that he would hold the job much longer, as Marc Stein of reported that the Pacers would dismiss him if the team performed poorly in the playoffs. GM Kevin Pritchard dismissed the notion, but Mark Jackson loomed as a potential replacement, as Stein wrote later. There even appeared to be an outside chance that president of basketball operations Larry Bird would oust Vogel and come down to the bench and coach in his place before the playoffs began. Bird nonetheless expressed confidence in Vogel during the final week of the regular season after making comments earlier in the season that seemed critical of Vogel’s coaching style.

Indiana reached the Eastern Conference Finals and took the Heat to six games before falling, nearly matching the team’s achievement the year before, when the Pacers extended the Heat to seven games in the same round. Still, the Pacers took a circuitous path back to that point, with a hot start to this past season and a disturbing post All-Star malaise. Indiana nonetheless held on to grab the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the franchise suffered a pair of painful losses in the offseason. Lance Stephenson rejected a five-year, $45MM offer to re-sign and bolted for the Hornets, while Paul George broke his leg during a Team USA scrimmage, likely knocking him out for the season.

Vogel’s tenure as Pacers coach dates to the 2010/11 season, when he took over on an interim basis for the final 38 games of the regular season and secured the team’s first playoff bid in five years. The Pacers removed the interim tag the following summer, and the Pacers went a round deeper into the playoffs the next two seasons before plateauing this spring. Vogel has compiled a 167-100 record in the regular season and a 28-26 mark in the playoffs over the course of his time as Indiana’s head coach.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.