It’s been an exciting night around the NBA. Let’s take a look at some headlines that have surfaced throughout the league:
- Lakers forward-center Pau Gasol wishes Dwight Howard luck in Houston and respects his decision to leave L.A., reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles. Gasol, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2013/14 season, will have the opportunity to follow in Howard’s footsteps if he wants a change of scenery. It’s been reported that Gasol has expressed interest in remaining in Los Angeles, but it’s too early to make any assumptions.
- Speaking of Howard, the dominant big man sat down and told Sam Amick of USA TODAY that he was tired of talking about his decision to leave the Lakers: “It’s time for everybody to get over it. It happened. It’s in the past. I’ve gotten over it. It didn’t work out (with the Lakers last season). The timing was off. It just wasn’t (there). Everybody was injured.”
- Michael Redd has officially retired tonight tweets Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times. He goes on to say that several teams tried to lure Redd to camp last summer, and among them was the Spurs.
- Redd has interest in rejoining the Bucks in some capacity, but not in a coaching role, Woelfel also tweets.
- Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports that Kevin Martin has clarified he was not speaking ill of former teammate Kevin Durant on Sunday when he said of the Timberwolves: ”This is such a fun team to play on. Nobody is trying to lead the league in scoring here.” Wednesday morning, Durant told local reporters in Oklahoma City: “I know K-Mart. He’s not that type of guy.” Martin signed a four-year deal with the Wolves this offseason after a one-year stint with the Thunder.
Only three players who remained unsigned this month started more games for their team last year than the 32 that Jamaal Tinsley started for the Jazz, who finally re-signed him to a minimum-salary contract this week. The point guard still didn’t get anxious as he stayed at home without a contract this fall.
“Not at all,” Tinsley said to Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’ve been through way tougher things in my life than this. I’m blessed to get the opportunity to play basketball. I’d do this for free. I’ve been running up and down the court the last four (or) five months without a job. … So it wasn’t frustrating.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- Marc Stein of ESPN.com wrote this week that the Thunder “would be wise not to relax” about Durant’s willingness to remain in OKC when his contract ends in 2016, and Durant tells Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman that he’s not sure what his future holds.
- Thaddeus Young hopes he remains with the Sixers, the only NBA team he’s ever played for, but he understands the team is in flux and could trade him or teammates Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes this season, as Tom Moore of The Intelligencer observes. “There definitely is some talk,” Young said. “At the end of the day, it’s a business. If they see fit to trade one of us, two of us or all three of us, we have to pack up and go. It’s still a job. We have to remain calm and we can’t be mad.”
- Whether or not Young stays, the Sixers roster will almost certainly change during the season, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. GM Sam Hinkie acknowledges that plenty of work remains to turn the team into an elite organization.
- Kevin Pelton figures Andrew Bogut will be healthy for most of the three years of his extension, but he still thinks the Warriors absorb more financial risk than Bogut does, arguing in an Insider piece for ESPN.com that the team should have waited until he hit free agency to do a deal.
- Pelton mentions the Mavericks as a potential suitor for Bogut had he become a free agent, and Warriors brass indeed perceived the Mavs as a threat, just as they saw the Bobcats as a rival for Stephen Curry, tweets Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group.
At the start of the week, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein provided an update on the NBA’s remaining extension-eligible players on rookie contracts, reporting that Gordon Hayward was the likeliest candidate for a new deal. Stein is back today with the latest news on Hayward and others, so let’s dive in and recap his two newest pieces for ESPN.com….
- Hayward and the Jazz continue to negotiate a new contract, and remain likely to work something out by Thursday’s deadline. Talks are expected to intensify this weekend as the team returns from a California road trip.
- According to Stein, Derrick Favors‘ extension with the Jazz works out to just over $47.7MM in guaranteed money. Stein adds that a new contract for Hayward may still be end up being worth more than Favors’ deal.
- Extensions are also still in play for Eric Bledsoe (Suns), Ed Davis (Grizzlies), and Avery Bradley (Celtics), who continue to talk with their respective teams. While there may still be one or two dark horse candidates, those three players, plus Hayward, are the strongest bets to sign long-term pacts next week.
- In his second column, Stein discusses Kevin Durant‘s contract situation with the Thunder, noting that even though the star forward won’t be a free agent until 2016, OKC “would be wise not to relax” — Durant has dropped a couple “odd hints” suggesting he’s getting antsy about winning a championship, says Stein.
With the countdown until the NBA’s opening night down to five days, let’s round up a few Thursday items out of the Western Conference….
- The Jazz and Gordon Hayward are working toward a lucrative extension, but if no deal gets done, he figures to have no shortage of suitors. Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who’s also in charge of player personnel, says he has a “man-crush” on the 6’8″ swingman, notes Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune.
- Kevin Durant laughed off Jalen Rose’s prediction that the star forward would join the Rockets when his deal with the Thunder expires, as Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman writes. Durant told Mayberry that he’s not thinking “that far down the line” and that he loves playing in OKC.
- At one point it looked like back issues might force Mike Miller into early retirement, but now he says he feels as good as he has in five years, according to Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld. After having been amnestied by the Heat in July, Miller acknowledges that his old team remains the frontrunner heading into the season, but adds that he and the Grizzlies have championship aspirations as well.
- Doc Rivers has yet to coach a regular season game for the Clippers, but he already has the respect and trust of his players, as Arash Markazi details in a piece for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
With Brandan Wright out indefinitely after a left shoulder injury, free agent signee DeJuan Blair, is learning both the power forward and center assignments with the Mavs, writes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News.
The 6’7″ Blair is under-sized for a center, but as he told Sefko, “I’ve been playing five all my life against 7-footers.” Blair was largely relegated to the Spurs bench the last season. He only started 16 games and played only 76 minutes during their run to the Finals last year. So look for him to be extra motivated if given a significant opportunity in Dallas.
Here’s more from around the West tonight:
- As mentioned previously, the Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry spoke with Thunder coach Scott Brooks about Kevin Durant‘s minutes with Russell Westbrook expected to miss the first quarter of the season.
- Assuming Durant appears in at least 79 games this season, at 38 minutes a night, that would have him playing over 3,000 regular season minutes for the fourth time in five seasons. Ben Wallace in 2004/05 was the last player to win a title after playing over 3,000 minutes during the regular season.
- But it’s a workload Brooks plans to manage with off days and practice time and Durant appears up to the challenge, as long as it helps them win.
- Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman is looking for more continuity from his starters in preseason despite the second straight game without Kevin Martin, he tells Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune.
- But, Zgoda tweets that Adelman has no idea if a week of rest will get Martin back on the court, though he certainly hopes so.
- Zgoda goes on to say that Othyus Jeffers, A.J. Price, Robbie Hummel and Lorenzo Brown are battling for what will likely be two spots when the team waives Chris Johnson.
- But Adelman says the Wolves could add players cut from other training camps once teams pare down their rosters in the final week of preseason.
- Adelman is also happy former ‘Wolves assistant Bill Bayno was hired as lead assistant for the Raptors (Twitter).
The Thunder surprised many when they traded star sixth man James Harden to the Rockets right before the 2012/13 season start. Serge Ibaka was awarded a 4-year, $48MM contract earlier in the summer of 2012 and tells Jeff Caplan at the NBA’s Hang Time Blog that he’s worked on his ball handling and offensive game this season.
After Russell Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus against the Rockets in last year’s opening round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Thunder struggled without their playmaking point guard. Kevin Durant had to carry a heavier offensive burden, and Ibaka’s play suffered without Westbrook to alleviate defensive pressure.
The Thunder will need Ibaka to inherit a more substantial offensive workload to begin this season with Westbrook expected to miss the first couple of months recovering from a second surgery to fix issues stemming from the original surgery on his meniscus.
Here are some notes from around the Western Conference tonight:
- With Westbrook out, there are concerns about how much Durant will have to do for the Thunder to survive Westbrook’s absence in the first part of the season. Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman tweets that head coach Scott Brooks says KD will play between 38-40 minutes this season.
- Mayberry adds, via Twitter, that no player within the last 9 seasons has gone on to win a title after logging more than 3000 minutes in the regular season, but Brooks doesn’t place much stock in that info.
- Dee Bost, Richard Howell and E.J. Singler are likely headed to the Blazers’ D-League affiliate after camp, according to Gino Pilato of D-League Digest. That’s no surprise, since they’re the only three players on Portland’s roster without fully guaranteed deals.
- New Kings coach Michael Malone says rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum are making the most of their minutes during the preseason (Twitter).
- Malone also said, via the Kings‘ official Twitter account, that playing defense as a cohesive 5-man group is the key for this year’s Kings team to be successful.
- The Clippers Blake Griffin will play tonight against the Jazz after suffering a bruised knee in practice on Tuesday, reports ESPN LA. MRI results showed no structural damage and Griffin returned to practice on Friday.
Most of the day's news has come from the Western Conference, where the Trail Blazers signed a player, the Thunder dropped one, the T-Wolves added to their front office. We also asked whether the Jazz are likely to extend Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, both, or neither, with a majority of readers who responded feeling as though Utah will get a pair of deals done. There's yet more going on in the West, as we detail:
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post provides background on new Timberwolves GM Milt Newton, whose hiring became official today. Newton spent the last 10 seasons with the Wizards.
- The Rockets have four players on their roster currently participating in international competitions, as well as a pair of "draft-and-stash" guys who are also taking part in those events. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle checks in on how all of them are doing,
- Kevin Durant gave a qualified no when asked if he'd ever leave the Thunder, and while Royce Young of DailyThunder.com says Durant's "as of now" caveat is noteworthy, Young doesn't think it carries too much significance with KD tied to the team until 2016.
The Lakers aren't expected to be contending for an NBA title this season after losing Dwight Howard to the Rockets in free agency. Many Lakers fans blame coach Mike D'Antoni for playing an important role in driving him out of town. Plus, the phantasm of former coach Phil Jackson still hovers above the Staples Center court where he's won five rings during his former time on the bench.
As D'Antoni told the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, it probably will continue to be that way through the foreseeable future.
"I think anybody that comes in here the next 10, 15 years, it's going to be that way," D'Antoni remarked. "I don't think there is any doubt that he was so good and so large and he's still sitting out there. Had that bothered me, I shouldn't have taken the job because you know it's going to be there. I wasn't stupid enough to think that, 'Oh, they won't remember him.' Sure they will. It doesn't really affect what we do day-to-day and how we approach the game."
After getting swept in the the first round of the playoffs by the Spurs this past season, the 62-year-old D'Antoni still has two guaranteed years left on his contract with the Lakers. With Kobe Bryant's torn Achilles tendon and the aging Steve Nash and Pau Gasol representing the backbone of this year's Lakers team, things might not get much better as D'Antoni prepares for the 2013/14 season.
Here's what else is happening around the Association on a quiet Saturday evening, including an update on Jackson's coaching future.
- The Zen Master told Mark Jones of the Williston Herald that he doesn't plan on coaching because "I am still recovering from multiple surgeries."
- In 2005, strength trainer Alan Stein walked up to a 15-year-old Kevin Durant and told him, "Look, man, you have all the tools to be one of the best players in the world, but the only way you can do that is to get stronger," Stein recalled to the Oklahoman's Anthony Slater. “I can help you. Give me a shot.”
- Four-year former Florida Gator Kenny Boynton went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, but he did catch on with the Lakers' Summer League squad before failing to land a contract. Sportando's Emiliano Charchia reports, via Twitter, that Boynton's deal with Barack Netanya of Israel's BSL is now official.
- On that European note, via a re-tweet from Ridiculous Upside's Keith Schlosser, SecretRival.blogspot.com has compiled a list of former NBA players, picks and recent NCAA players who are in the top 10 European leagues.
TNT's David Aldridge ranks each team's offseason for NBA.com, and not surprisingly, the Rockets and Dwight Howard come out on top. There are still plenty of surprises among his picks, including the Bobcats at No. 8 — I'm not nearly as sold on Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller as Aldridge is. The Pelicans, for all their re-shuffling, check in down at No. 15. Here's more from the rest of the league:
- The Thunder's choice to cut corners and avoid the luxury tax stems from GM Sam Presti and his staff, not well-heeled owner Clay Bennett, writes Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. Curiously, Berger says the Thunder are getting $15MM from the league for the change to Kevin Durant's contract, conflicting with the $8MM figure Grantland's Zach Lowe reported last week.
- Rajon Rondo's name continues to wind up in rumors, so HoopsWorld's Joel Brigham looks at some possible trade scenarios involving the Celtics All-Star point guard.
- Alexis Ajinca spent the past two seasons playing for Strasbourg in France after three years in the NBA, and he's set to re-sign with the French club, HoopsHype's Jorge Sierra tweets. The deal will include an out in case Ajinca finds an NBA deal by September 30th.
- The Sixers coaching search has dragged on for months, but Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com bets the job winds up going to Michael Curry, who's an assistant with the team and has been able to give GM Sam Hinkie and company a first-hand look at his abilities.
- Former CBA commissioner Gary Hunter tells Gino Pilato of Ridiculous Upside that the D-League has become what he wanted his league to be. He also examines the effect that "hybrid" partnerships with NBA teams are having on the D-League.
- Amid reports that Kobe Bryant's torn Achilles tendon could be healed in time for him to play in the preseason, Arash Markazi and Mark Willard of ESPNLosAngeles.com debate whether he should take a hefty paycut next summer to help the Lakers (video link).
The Heat, Spurs and Mavs are the most likely to land Greg Oden when he makes his decision Friday, sources tell Jeff Goodman and Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Goodman and Stein are hearing conflicting information on whether the Pelicans, Kings and Hawks remain in the running, but it appears New Orleans has the best chance out of those three. The Cavs, Celtics and Grizzlies have also expressed interest, but they declined to make formal offers, the report also says. Here's more on Oden and others around the Association:
- Whichever team signs Oden once he makes his decision tomorrow won't be committing more than a few million dollars, leading HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy to argue that he's worth the risk. Taking such risks is what shrewd GM's do, SB Nation's Tom Ziller opines.
- The league is reimbursing the Thunder $8MM, or roughly half of the difference between the money the team is shelling out for Kevin Durant and the smaller amount the Thunder agreed to pay when he signed his extension, Grantland's Zach Lowe tweets.
- The ESPN.com staff is high on the Clippers, as Chad Ford gives them the only A+ among his Western Conference offseason grades (Insiders only), while the 5-on-5 crew lauds the team's acquisitions of coach Doc Rivers and sharpshooter Jared Dudley.
- HoopsWorld's Nate Duncan profiles six players whom teams may have undervalued this summer.