Kyle Lowry

And-Ones: Durant, Harden, Most Improved, Hawks

Kevin Durant has a shot at the largest contract in league history when his free agency officially arrives this summer, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Durant will have plenty of options to choose from, starting with the Thunder, who would love to keep him and Russell Westbrook together through the prime of their careers. The Warriors are believed to be the front-runners if Durant decides to leave Oklahoma City, and his hometown Wizards will surely be calling, along with the Lakers, who will need a star to replace Kobe Bryant. Or Durant could sign a one-year deal with OKC, maximize his earning power as a 10-year veteran and put off the larger decision until 2017. “Everybody’s going to ask me, so of course I’m going to have to think about it now,” Durant said. “To tell you one thing, it’s great to feel wanted, I guess.”

There’s more news from around the world of basketball:

  • James Harden says he feels unfairly targeted for the bad situation in Houston, Washburn writes in the same piece, particularly the rumored rifts with Rockets center Dwight Howard and former coach Kevin McHale“All the time,” Harden said when asked if he feels he’s being singled out over team disunity, “but I don’t really pay attention to it. I can’t focus on negativity because that drains you. I focus on what I can do, what I can control, and go out there and just compete at a high level.”
  • The Blazers‘ C.J. McCollum is almost certain to win this season’s Most Improved Player award, according to Eric Saar of Basketball Insiders. McCollum, who’ll be up for a rookie scale extension this summer, has become a full-time starter and has raised his scoring average from 6.8 points a game last year to 21.1 points this season. Saar’s other candidates for the award are the WarriorsDraymond Green, the CelticsIsaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder and the RaptorsKyle Lowry.
  • The Hawks have recalled center Edy Tavares and guard/forward Lamar Patterson from the Austin Spurs of the D-League, the team announced today. Tavares has averaged 10.1 points and 9.6 rebounds in 14 D-League games, while Patterson’s averages are 15.6 points, 5.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds in seven games with Austin.
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts, whom the Pelicans cut in training camp, will be rejoining the D-League’s Texas Legends, who are the affiliate of the Maverickstweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

Knicks Rumors: Lowry, Bryant, Fisher, Porzingis

Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry thought he was headed to the Knicks in a December 2013 trade, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. The proposed deal, which would have solved New York’s ongoing problem at point guard, would have sent Lowry from Toronto to the Knicks in exchange for Metta World Peace, Iman Shumpert and a future first-round draft pick. “That deal was done,” said Lowry, but it was reportedly stopped by New York owner James Dolan, who was hesitant to make another trade with Toronto GM Masai Ujiri so soon after sending several assets to Ujiri in Denver in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. Toronto was willing to move Lowry at the time because the front office wasn’t sure it could keep him in free agency. Lowry is currently in the second season of a four-year, $48MM deal he signed in the summer of 2014. “At the end of the day, the decision was made for me to be here and it worked out equally, perfectly for both parties,” Lowry said.

There’s more out of New York:

  • Kobe Bryant understands the circumstances that got Derek Fisher, his former teammate, fired as coach of the Knicks, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Fisher was dismissed Monday with New York mired in a 1-9 slump. Bryant also has connections to Knicks president Phil Jackson and interim coach Kurt Rambis, who both used to be part of the coaching staff in L.A. “They felt they needed a change so they made a change. It’s pretty black and white to me,” Bryant said. “Derek’s like a brother, always has been. But still it’s hard to be a coach somewhere and last your entire career there. He’s had a good run there and now it’s time for a change.”
  • Rookie Kristaps Porzingis believes Fisher was let go to send a message to the team, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Porzingis said players occasionally lost focus and something had to change to make a late-season playoff run. He doesn’t question the decision to give Rambis a shot at turning things around. “They know what they’re doing,’’ he said of Knicks management. “They have a lot of experience. I’m nobody to judge their decisions. I felt guilty for that happening.”

And-Ones: Raptors, Holiday, Middleton, Asik, Draft

Attracting a major free agent to Toronto comes down to the team’s success on the court, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri believes, and Toronto is holding up its end of the bargain so far this year, as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com examines. The Raptors are in second place in the Eastern Conference, thanks in part to a lineup of Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, offseason signees Cory Joseph and Bismack Biyombo, and the recently extended Terrence Ross that outscores opponents by a whopping 32.6 points per 100 possessions, Arnovitz notes.

“It’s simple: Win,” Ujiri said. “If you have a good culture, you can attract free agents. We have a very unique opportunity here.”

See more on the Raptors amid the latest from around the NBA:

  • Jrue Holiday has shown flashes of his peak form, and that’s perhaps partly because the Pelicans restricted his minutes earlier in the season as he recovered from a stress reaction in his right leg, writes Brett Dawson of The New Orleans Advocate. Would-be trade suitors have been “petrified” about Holiday’s leg issues, though the Pelicans are reluctant to deal him, as Zach Lowe of ESPN.com wrote this week. “I think it helped me mentally, for one, preparing mentally to feel good,” Holiday said of the minutes restriction, since lifted. “Not to second-guess myself if I’m making a cut or doing a move, especially when it comes to the point where I’m playing back-to-back and playing a lot of minutes. And physically, I do feel really good right now.”
  • The five-year, $70MM deal that Bucks leading scorer Khris Middleton signed this past offseason is the NBA’s most trade-able contract, opines Keith Smith of RealGM, while Pelicans center Omer Asik‘s five-year pact worth nearly $53MM, also signed this past summer, is the league’s least trade-able deal, Smith writes in a follow-up piece.
  • LSU combo forward Ben Simmons unsurprisingly tops the latest draft rankings from Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com, with Duke small forward Brandon Ingram second and Providence point guard Kris Dunn third.
  • Raptors D-League power forward Ronald Roberts, who’s averaging 18.4 points in 34.4 minutes per game, tops the latest D-League prospect rankings.

Atlantic Notes: Anthony, Larkin, Lowry

Knicks coach Derek Fisher envisions Carmelo Anthony evolving into more of a facilitator from the forward spot in the team’s offense, Al Iannazzone of Newsday writes. “I think there’s some more playmaking opportunities that will continue to be a part of his maturation in how we play,” Fisher said. “I think there will be times when we can put the ball in his hands more and allow his size and his ability to create shots for other people to be more of a feature. And that’s a part of our offense that we really want to get to. We’re looking forward to being able to play Carmelo at the top of the floor at times. I think he can average a pretty high number of assists because of how aggressive teams are defending him.’’

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The friendship that has developed between Raptors backcourt mates Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan has helped both the players and the team be successful, Jessica Patton of The Toronto Sun writes. “I think when they first got here, I think they looked at each other like ‘OK’, ” coach Dwane Casey said. “But then as things went on and as the games went on and winning went on, they saw that they could co-exist together. I think the trust has been built, the friendship built, and they [have] a good thing going.”
  • Nets point guard Shane Larkin is still trying to prove that he belongs in the league amid the team’s difficult season, notes Andy Vasquez of NorthJersey.com. “I haven’t established myself as a proven backup — whatever you want to say,” Larkin said. “And that’s what I’m trying to do. So every single night I go out there, I have that kind of mentality. And even though lately I’ve been struggling, I’ve just got to stay confident, keep playing and get back to what I was doing.”
  • If the Sixers return to prominence in the coming seasons the credit is likely to go to new team executive Jerry Colangelo and not to GM Sam Hinkie, despite the GM having laid much of the foundation, Derek Bodner of Philadelphia magazine opines in his mailbag. While Hinkie’s plan certainly has its flaws, the GM should share in the credit for any inroads the team makes, Bodner adds.

Eastern Notes: Raptors, Casey, Noah, Pistons

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri can’t envision the team using all of the four of the first-round picks ticketed to come the team’s way in the next two years, as he told Zach Lowe of ESPN.com, essentially confirming an earlier report from Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun that the team doesn’t plan to add four rookies.

“We already have so many young players,” Ujiri said to Lowe. “And those extra picks over the next two years — we can’t use all those picks. So [a trade] is always something you’re looking at.”

Still, most signs point to the Raptors standing pat for now, with Ujiri believing that increased parity will reduce the volume of swaps, Lowe writes. See more on the Raptors amid the latest from the Eastern Conference:

  • Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are advocates for Dwane Casey‘s continued presence as Raptors coach, Lowe notes in the same piece. Toronto has a team option for next season on Casey’s contract.
  • Joakim Noah has returned from his shoulder injury, but he isn’t playing much, and he remains displeased with where he stands in the eyes of the Bulls, a source tells Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, adding that the center isn’t enamored with coach Fred Hoiberg. The source cautioned that Noah hasn’t been a distraction. The Bulls have reportedly made Noah available for a trade, and I examined his trade candidacy last month.
  • Reggie Jackson is entrenched as the starter, Brandon Jennings and Steve Blake are on expiring contracts and Spencer Dinwiddie appears poised to stay on D-League assignment for the long haul, but Stan Van Gundy is once more casting doubt on the idea of trading a point guard, notes MLive’s David Mayo“I think there’s a very good chance that we don’t move any of those guys before the trade deadline,” Van Gundy said. The Pistons coach/executive added that the team still has hopes for Dinwiddie, who said GM Jeff Bower told him he’ll be in the D-League for the rest of the season, but Dinwiddie has to show he’s “better than just being a roster guy,” Van Gundy said, as Mayo relays.

Atlantic Notes: Love, Celtics, Brand, Raptors

People around the Celtics were intrigued to hear of what had been Kevin Love‘s growing fondness for the team, and while the C’s plan to pursue him, they believe he’ll back with the Cavs for next season, a league source told Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. That was before Cavs GM David Griffin announced that Love will likely miss the rest of the playoffs and that surgery on his injured shoulder is a possibility. It’s unclear whether the Celtics will land Love or another star, but an active summer is surely ahead, as I wrote today in examining the Celtics offseason, and Murphy has more clues about what’s ahead for Boston amid the latest from the Atlantic Division:

  • Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko are among the Celtics who want to re-sign with the team, Murphy notes in the same piece as he looks at the status of every player on the team’s roster. The Celtics are interested in keeping Crowder but haven’t decided on Jerebko or Brandon Bass, whose desire to remain in Boston is welldocumented, as Murphy details.
  • The Knicks expressed their interest in Elton Brand to the big man immediately after free agency began last July, and he’d consider signing with them if they pursue him again this summer, the 36-year-old New York native tells Marc Berman of the New York Post. Brand, who’s also pondering retirement, passed on a minimum-salary offer from the Knicks last year to sign a one-year, $2MM deal with the Hawks, as Berman details. Knicks team president Phil Jackson might have had more than Brand in mind last summer, since Brand’s agent, David Falk, also represents Greg Monroe, a rumored Knicks target, tweets Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
  • Sportsnet’s Michael Grange views Kyle Lowry‘s comments about coach Dwane Casey on Monday as a rather tepid endorsement, though those who know the point guard tell Grange there wasn’t any hidden meaning and that there’s no tension between player and coach. GM Masai Ujiri offered praise for Lowry today but wouldn’t commit to bringing Casey back. Grange argues that Casey couldn’t have been expected to take the Raptors much farther.

Masai Ujiri On Valanciunas, Lowry, D-League

GM Masai Ujiri accepts responsibility for the team’s late-season collapse, as he made clear today to reporters, including Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star (Twitter link), at his end-of-season press conference.

“The process is sometimes you get kicked in the face,” Ujiri said, according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link). “We got kicked in the face.”

Ujiri doesn’t regret not having made a trade at the deadline, and he insists he won’t make any knee-jerk reactions in the offseason ahead, notes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). Still, he isn’t committing to coach Dwane Casey for another season, as we passed along earlier, and with many questions surrounding the team following a disastrous end to the season in Toronto, we’ll round up the rest of the GM’s relevant comments here:

  • Jonas Valanciunas is “a huge part of our team” going into the future, Ujiri said, expressing his belief that such big men are still valuable even in an era of small ball, Wolstat relays (Twitter links). “We can criticize Jonas … and it’s a big discussion we’re going to have with coach and the staff, how he was used,” Ujiri also said, as Feschuk tweets.
  • Kyle Lowry didn’t maintain his level of play down the stretch, but Ujiri said he’s “even more confident” in the point guard now than when the Raptors re-signed him last season for four years and $48MM, Lewenberg notes (Twitter link).
  • The Raptors and the NBA are in advanced talks about arranging a one-to-one D-League affiliate that could be a part of the organization as soon as next year, as Lewenberg relays (on Twitter). The Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment company that owns the Raptors have given the OK for the team to purchase a D-League affiliate, Wolstat tweets.

Raptors Rumors: Casey, Williams, Lowry

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri didn’t say whether coach Dwane Casey would be back next year, though he indicated that if he had decided against keeping him, he’d have already said so, notes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link). “There’s no doomsday here,” Ujiri said, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (on Twitter). “Initial indications” are that the Raptors will retain Casey, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com hears, as he writes in the same piece, but league sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe that it’s still uncertain whether the coach will be back next season, even though he’s under contract. Casey agreed to a three-year deal last offseason that consists of two guaranteed years and a team option for 2016/17. There’s plenty more on the Raptors, as we detail:

  • The belief is that the Raptors would like to re-sign Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams on a reasonable deal, according to Stein, who writes in the same piece, though Eric Koreen of the National Post suggests that Williams and the rest of the Raptors free agents aren’t strong bets to return. An NBA executive told Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun that he would only sign Williams to a one-year deal, citing his defensive shortcomings.
  • Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas are the only Raptors who should feel confident that they’re likely to remain in Toronto for next season, Stein hears, adding that rival teams would nonetheless be unsurprised if the team makes changes to its core.
  • Casey and Ujiri have no shortage of faith in Terrence Ross, writes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, who says that chances are that Ross is still with the Raptors next season. A trade of DeRozan would allow Ross into his natural position of shooting guard, and many believe “the winds are blowing” in that direction, Wolstat writes. Ross, a former No. 8 overall pick, is eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason.
  • Valanciunas will also be up for a rookie scale extension this year, and Koreen suggests it’s likely that the Raptors will explore the notion of giving him one.

Lakers Notes: Lowry, Thomas, DPE

The Lakers appear to be holding off on making any moves after setting up workouts with a flurry of players last week. None of the prospective Lakers seemed to offer the club much hope of major improvement to its 3-11 record, one that would be the worst mark in the Western Conference were it not for the injury-hit Thunder. Here’s more on the struggling purple-and-gold:

  • The Lakers reportedly reached out to Kyle Lowry this summer, but they told the point guard and agent Andy Miller that they wouldn’t make him an offer until they heard from LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony first, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports. Lowry agreed on the second day of free agency to re-sign with the Raptors, well ahead of the time that James and Anthony made their respective decisions.
  • Isaiah Thomas told Lowe last month that they were interested in him over the summer, but Lowe writes in his latest piece that the Lakers didn’t have any interest. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has a general policy against signing restricted free agents from other teams to offer sheets because he doesn’t like to tie up his team’s cap room during the three-day period in which the other club can match, sources tell Lowe.
  • The application for a nearly $4.851MM Disabled Player Exception for Steve Nash that the Lakers submitted to the league is still pending, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter links). An NBA-designated physician must determine that Nash is significantly more likely to miss the rest of the season than not before the league grants the exception, as Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ makes clear.

Stein’s Latest: Parsons, Cavs, Mavs, Rockets

Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Mavs owner Mark Cuban downplay the intensity of their personal rivalry in interviews with Marc Stein of ESPN.com, even though both have made some incendiary statements about the other. Their teams have been involved in a tug-of-war over high-powered free agents in the past few summers, and the case of Chandler Parsons brought the rivalry into focus. Stein’s piece sheds light on many unreported aspects of Parsons’ free agency, and the entire piece is worth a read, particularly for Mavs and Rockets fans. We’ll share the most newsworthy tidbits here:

  • The Cavs were the most fervent suitor of Parsons early in free agency this summer, viewing him as a plan B if LeBron James didn’t return, and Kyrie Irving, a friend of Parsons’, tried to recruit him to Cleveland, as Stein chronicles. The Mavs weren’t willing to wait on a definitive “no” from either LeBron or Carmelo Anthony before swooping in with their offer sheet, one that Parsons agreed to rather than sign a two-year max deal that the Rockets offered, Stein also reports.
  • Parsons told Stein he would have re-signed with the Rockets for less early in free agency, and Stein hears he sought a four-year, $48MM deal from Houston, which was instead engaged in a pursuit of more established stars.
  • Cuban was honest with Parsons about the risk that he was taking, as he explains to Stein. “I told Chandler from the start [of free agency]: ‘Do you want me to be brutally honest with you?'” Cuban said. “And he said yes. So I told him with as much granularity as I could that I think it’s a 10% chance at best that we could get ‘Melo, but we had to try. Then, we started hearing our percentage was getting higher, and I told Chandler that, too. But then, when we weren’t hearing a whole lot from the Melo camp, we knew we were pretty much out. So I told Chandler [on July 9th]: ‘I could end up being the dumbest idiot in NBA history, but even if LeBron comes back to us and says he’s choosing us, I’m committing to you.'”
  • The Mavs were also high on Gordon Hayward and Eric Bledsoe, but they found Parsons the most obtainable of the three restricted free agents they wanted most, Stein writes.
  • Morey pursued Kyle Lowry early in free agency, but cooled on him and turned his attention to Chris Bosh instead, as Stein explains. Bosh seemed on his way to the Rockets before he inked a five-year max deal with the Heat, and even Morey thought that he had Bosh within his clutches, as he admits to Stein. “Given our understanding of where things were,” Morey said, “we felt like we were 95 percent-plus to potentially having the best team in the league. There was nothing promised, but I did believe [Bosh] was coming in almost every scenario except the one that happened at the last minute [Miami trumping Houston’s offer with a five-year max].”
  • The Rockets agreed to trade Jeremy Lin to the Lakers before receiving a commitment from Bosh because the Lakers refused to wait any longer and because a trade proposal from the Sixers instead would have cost multiple first-rounders instead of just one.
  • The Rockets, like many teams, are turning their eyes to 2016, and they plan to let James Harden act as the primary recruiter for former teammate Kevin Durant, who can hit free agency that summer, Stein writes.
  • Agent Dan Fegan proposed the structure of the three-year offer sheet that Parsons signed with the Mavs, and the three-year length, in particular, drew raves from Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace, who noted its contrast with the typical four-year offer sheet, as Stein passed along. Cavs GM David Griffin also expressed admiration for the deal, as he tells Stein. “The contract structure was extremely creative,” Griffin said. “I think it will be a significant moment in the way restricted free agency discussions are handled in the future.”

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