Miami Heat

Eastern Notes: Johnson, Cavs, Raptors

Tyler Johnson, who had surgery Wednesday to a repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder and is expected to miss at least two months, told of the Miami Herald that there is no guarantee he will return at all this season. As Navarro points out, the Heat‘s regular season ends April 13th and the playoffs begin the weekend of April 16th. Johnson would be 10 weeks into his recovery by then.

“The doctors said it’s going to be two to three months before I can resume contact,” Johnson said. “It’s a possibility [I could be back for the playoffs]. But we’ve just got to see. Again, we’re not trying to rush it back. If it feels healthy by then, and I’m actually able to contribute and not just be out there trying to figure it out during the playoffs, [then I’ll play]. [The playoffs are] not the time to try and figure out if you can go. If there’s a couple practices before it, I’ll try and practice and figure out what I can do.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

Heat Notes: Whiteside, Stoudemire, McRoberts

Count Clippers executive/coach Doc Rivers among those who appreciates Heat coach Erik Spoelstra experimenting with using Hassan Whiteside, who will be a free agent this summer, off the bench, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Whiteside has played the last few games as a reserve after missing the prior six games with a hip injury. “It makes their bench better,” Rivers said. “Sometimes by putting one guy in and taking one guy and putting him on the bench, and that guy coming off the bench could be a better player, it makes the bench better, it makes your team better.”

Here is more on Whiteside and the Heat:

  • Amar’e Stoudemire, who has started over Whiteside recently, was one of the Clippers’ backup plans if DeAndre Jordan had bolted to the Mavs, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Stoudemire, 33, will be a free agent again this summer.
  • Speaking of Stoudemire, the veteran played in only three of Miami’s first 28 games, logging a total of 27 minutes in that span, but kept himself ready and his patience has been rewarded, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relays. Stoudemire is thriving in the Heat’s pick-and-roll game and is giving Miami the presence it expected when it signed him to a one-year deal worth $1.5MM last summer, Reynolds adds.
  • When the Heat signed Josh McRoberts in 2014, he was supposed to be a significant part of Miami’s rotation, but the the versatile power forward has suffered several injuries and there is a good chance he will never be a starter again, Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post details in an interesting Q&A. “Obviously it could have gone smoother in terms of not being injured, but it doesn’t matter to me,” McRoberts told Lieser in reference to his injuries and tenure so far with the Heat. “It didn’t change my role that much. That’s not something I worry about. I’m just trying to get healthy and have a chance to help the team in a way that I know I can.”

And-Ones: Trades, Clarkson, Pistons

The lack of enticing free agent options at the point guard position in the upcoming offseason should heat up the trade market prior to the deadline, Tom Ziller of SB Nation opines. Aside from Mike Conley, there isn’t another star-level point guard set to hit free agency this summer. Brandon Jennings and Rajon Rondo will be free agents and Deron Williams could join them if he turns down his player option after the season. Beyond those four players, there arguably isn’t another starting-caliber point guard on the market.

Ziller speculates that as many as seven teams, including the Knicks and Nets, could attempt to join in on the Jeff Teague sweepstakes. The scribe also names Darren Collison as a player to watch on the trade market, especially if the Kings get a sense that Rondo will re-sign with the team.

We’re 11 days from the trade deadline. As we wait to see what deals unfold, check out some notes from around the league:

  • Jordan Clarkson has mostly played the two for the Lakers this year, but his past experience running the point makes Ziller, as he writes in the same piece, wonder whether another team will throw a substantial offer at him and look to make the 23-year-old a starting point guard. Clarkson will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but he’s subject to the Gilbert Arenas Provision.
  • It might be worthwhile for the Pistons to trade away their 2016 first round pick in exchange for bench help, Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports opines in a piece that examines all of the team’s trade assets. Detroit is clinging to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 27-25, which, if the season ended today, would give the team the No. 17 overall selection in the upcoming draft, as our Reverse Standings indicate.
  • The Heat have recalled Jarnell Stokes from the Sioux Falls Skyforce, their D-League affiliate, according to the team’s website. Stokes has averaged 20.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in five stints with the Skyforce this season.

Eastern Notes: DeRozan, Young, Vucevic

DeMar DeRozan has improved in every facet of his game this season, Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders contends in a piece that breaks down the shooting guard’s season to date. DeRozan’s ability to drive to the rim has been remarkable this season. Blancarte notes that he leads the league in drives to the rim this season with 11.8 per game and he is generating .99 points per possession, which is the seventh most in the league. DeRozan holds a player option for the 2016/17 season, but he will reportedly turn down his option and become an unrestricted free agent.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Nets combo forward Thaddeus Young dismissed the rumors about being traded to Detroit, which he first heard about from his wife, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “She don’t want to go to Detroit, I know that,” Young said. Pistons president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy shot down those trade rumors earlier this week.
  • Center Nikola Vucevic believes the Magic shouldn’t make any trades before the deadline this year, Brian Schmitz or The Orlando Sentinel writes. “That’s no reason to think we need to change anything. We have to find a way within each other to get back to what we were doing early in the year,” Vucevic said. The Magic are 21-28 on the season, going 1-9 over their last 10 contests.
  • The Heat own a record of 29-22, but Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM believes the team is underachieving. With Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade set to enter free agency this summer, Miami doesn’t have much time to figure out if this is the core it should invest in for the long term, Tjarks adds.

D-League Notes: Dukan, Stokes, Motiejunas

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 Kings have assigned power forward Duje Dukan to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Dukan’s fifth trip to Reno on the season. The rookie is recovering from a bone contusion in his leg and will continue his rehab with the Bighorns.
  • Power forward Jarnell Stokes has been assigned to the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Miami’s D-League affiliate, the Heat announced. Stokes has averaged 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.0 assist in 30.0 minutes of action per night over his previous four D-League stints.
  • The Jazz assigned center Tibor Pleiss to their D-League affiliate, the team announced via press release. This will be Pleiss’ third trek to Idaho on the campaign.
  • The Rockets have recalled Donatas Motiejunas from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, their D-League affiliate, the team announced.

Southeast Notes: Stoudemire, Magic, Hardaway Jr.

After appearing in just four of the Hawks‘ first 35 contests this season, Tim Hardaway Jr. is now a regular in Mike Budenholzer‘s rotation, a development that coincides with the swingman’s improvement defensively, Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. “I keep saying how happy we are with his defense,” Budenholzer said of Hardaway. “I think he’s really improved and really committed to that end of the court, whether it be fighting through screens in pick-and-roll situations, fighting through screens in off-the-ball situations, sprinting back in transition. There is a focus, an effort, on the defensive end.

I think people don’t appreciate his athleticism,” the coach continued. “And so you are seeing it on the defensive end of the court and now you are seeing it on the offensive end of the court. That is the thing that we’ve learned and grown the most together, I think he can really attack the basket, do things off the dribble, get to the paint and I think he’s passing it pretty well too. Obviously he can make shots, but he’s got a lot more to offer. He’s just doing all of those things in positive ways.

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Offseason signee Amar’e Stoudemire delivered strong performances during Hassan Whiteside‘s recent absence, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra admits he has to stop himself from turning to the 33-year-old more often so that his oft-injured body stays intact, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press examines. Stoudemire, who is again poised to hit free agency this summer, played in only three games through Christmas Day but has seen much more extensive action since.
  • The Magic lack outside shooting, though the team’s brass believes it’s a problem that will improve over time as the young players on the roster improve, writes Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel in a piece that examines the Magic’s assets and needs as the trade deadline approaches.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Tyler Johnson To Miss At Least Two Months

WEDNESDAY, 4:03pm: Johnson underwent successful surgery today, the team announced. No timetable was relayed regarding the point guard’s return to action.

MONDAY, 12:41pm: Heat combo guard Tyler Johnson will miss upward of two months after having left shoulder surgery later this week, league sources told Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). The operation on Johnson’s rotator cuff will take place Wednesday, the team announced. A formal recovery timetable will be determined after the procedure, Charania adds (on Twitter), though Johnson said he’s been told it will take him 60 days to heal, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel (Twitter link). That would bring him back with roughly two weeks to go in the regular season.

The 23-year-old said recently that he wasn’t planning surgery on the bothersome shoulder, which has been an issue for years and has restricted his movement, nonetheless adding that he expected to converse with doctors about the prospect of going under the knife, notes Aric Dilalla of the Miami Herald. Johnson has been out for the past two games, but the ailment dates to his time in college at Fresno State, writes Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post.

Johnson’s role in the rotation has increased this year, and he took on backup point guard duties after the Heat traded Mario Chalmers to the Grizzlies in early November. Miami signed Johnson to a multiyear deal last season after he ran through a pair of 10-day contracts, and that minimum-salary contract runs out at the end of June, when he’ll be set for restricted free agency.

Beno Udrih, whom the Heat acquired in the Chalmers trade, figures to see the bulk of the action backing up Goran Dragic in Johnson’s stead, making it more difficult for the Heat to unload Udrih and his salary of more than $2.17MM in a tax-dodging maneuver. Miami faces repeat-offender tax penalties if it doesn’t trim roughly $5.5MM from its payroll to slip beneath the $84.74MM tax threshold by the last day of the regular season. The Heat aren’t eligible to apply for either a disabled player cap exception or the hardship provision of a 16th roster spot.

And-Ones: Gallinari, Barnes, Johnson

Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes has heard the rumors regarding Golden State being the favorites to land Kevin Durant if he were to depart the Thunder as a free agent this summer, but he isn’t fazed by the rumblings, Rusty Simmons of The San Francisco Chronicle writes. “Oh man, that’s part of the business,” Barnes said. “He’s a great player. If that’s the move they want to make, you know, hopefully, it works out. It’s always something, right?” The first summer, it was Dwight Howard. The next summer, it was Kevin Love. Every single year, there’s always been somebody who the Warriors wanted or somebody who wanted to come here. That’s part of the business. That stuff happens. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, great. At the end of the day, I’ll still get the chance to be in the NBA and still get to play.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Danilo Gallinari became eligible for a trade today, six months after he signed his renegotiation-and-extension with the Nuggets, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports notes (Twitter link). Players who sign extensions that exceed the limits placed on extend-and-trade transactions can’t be traded for six months, and Gallinari fell into that category.
  • Heat coach Erik Spoelstra praised injured point guard Tyler Johnson for his toughness, and indicated that the team had explored numerous alternatives to surgery for the young player, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes. “He took it as far as a human being could possibly take it,” Spoelstra said. “And he’s been dealing with his shoulder for a long time, even since college. But last year, this summer, we’ve tried every solution other than surgery. We pushed everything as far as you possibly could. His level of toughness and commitment was to do everything done to this point, but the human body can only go so far. So it was just no other course of action once it got to this point.” Johnson, set for restricted free agency at season’s end, is expected to miss at least two months of action after undergoing surgery this week.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Heat Eye Joe Johnson For Post-Buyout Market

Joe Johnson would stir the interest of the Heat if he buys his way off the Nets, Ethan Skolnick of the Miami Herald hears (Twitter link). Johnson said today that he doesn’t know whether he’ll negotiate a buyout but didn’t rule out the idea and added that he’ll have a talk with agent Jeff Schwartz in the next week, as the swingman told reporters, including Andy Vasquez of The Record. The 34-year-old Johnson is making close to $24.895MM, a difficult salary to fit in a trade, and it doesn’t appear as though the Heat see him as a trade target.

The Heat are without combo guard Tyler Johnson, who’s scheduled to undergo rotator cuff surgery this week, for at least two months, and they don’t have an open roster spot to make an addition. Miami could always waive a player and risk eating his salary, but that would be a risky proposition financially. The Heat are faced with either clearing about $5.5MM in salary, likely via trade, or paying repeat-offender luxury tax penalties at season’s end.

Midseason signees usually end up with the prorated minimum salary, though particularly attractive buyout candidates sometimes command more. The Heat have about $2.85MM on their taxpayer’s mid-level exception to spend, but doing so would impose a further financial burden. Johnson is averaging 11.3 points per game, his fewest since the 2002/03 season, and shooting a career-worst 39% from the field, but he put up 13.5 points a night and shot 48.5% in January. Johnson has said multiple times this season that he’ll prioritize finding a winning team when he next hits free agency, and the Heat, at No. 3 in the Eastern Conference, would seemingly fit that bill.

Would Johnson help the Heat? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Kevin Durant Fond Of Warriors; Clippers Loom

The Warriors would be “significant” front-runners for Kevin Durant should he leave the Thunder this summer, league sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports, who places emphasis on the word “significant.” Still, the former MVP isn’t leaning one way or another toward staying or leaving Oklahoma City, Wojnarowski adds. The Wizards, Rockets and Heat still loom as likely suitors, but the Clippers are determined to make a push for him and wouldn’t hesitate to trade Blake Griffin to facilitate the acquisition of Durant, as Wojnarowski details.

Durant wants to win titles and create a legacy, Wojnarowski writes, and the Warriors, the defending champions who sit at 44-4 this season, would give him a strong chance to do so. Draymond Green is on board with the move and is expected to recruit Durant this summer, though Stephen Curry, given his talent and personality, would be the most persuasive voice, Wojnarowski adds, nonetheless leaving it unclear whether Curry is expected to go as hard after Durant as Green is.

Golden State has long eyed Durant’s upcoming free agency, Wojnarowski notes, and so has much of the rest of the NBA, of course. The Warriors nonetheless have a reputation for aiming high, and Harrison Barnes, set for restricted free agency at season’s end, looms as a sign-and-trade chip, as Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group has pointed out.

The Warriors have close to $75MM committed for next season against a salary cap that’s projected to come in at $89MM, and with Durant’s maximum salary projected at $24.9MM, that creates a financial road block. However, Wojnarowski’s Vertical colleague Bobby Marks lays out a hypothetical scenario in which the Warriors trade Andre Iguodala, waive and stretch Andrew Bogut, waive and stretch Jason Thompson, renounce their rights to and elect against a qualifying offer for Barnes and renounce other cap holds to create enough cap room to sign Durant outright.

The Clippers, with close to $78MM in guaranteed salary for next season, would need to perform similar cap gymnastics to open the space necessary to sign Durant, making the sign-and-trade a more viable option. The Thunder wouldn’t go for a sign-and-trade unless they knew Durant was leaving, according to Wojnarowski, who nonetheless points out that Griffin, who starred for the University of Oklahoma, is an Oklahoma native. Teams are already calling the Clippers to inquire about trading for the injured Griffin, but coach/executive Doc Rivers appears set on keeping him and seeing how the team performs in the postseason, Wojnarowski writes.

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