Worried about your team’s playoff hopes as we approach the quarter-mark of the season? As Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel pointed out earlier this week, the 2010/11 Heat started out 9-8, leading some to wonder if the superstar packed club could succeed. That Heat team found its way to the 2011 Finals and went on to win back-to-back titles. Here’s a look at the Southeast Division..
- As he plays out the third year of a four-year contract, the Magic are looking to determine Nikola Vucevic‘s value, writes Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. While the center was impressive in his first season with Orlando and has had strong flashes this season, he hasn’t taken a noticable step forward. As it stands, the Magic are expected to retain Vucevic when he becomes a restricted free agent after the 2014/15 season. A deal for Vucevic would probably fall in between the five-year, $60MM deal that Nikola Pekovic signed with the T’Wolves and Larry Sanders‘ four-year, $44MM contract with the Bucks.
- In today’s mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes that offseason pickup Michael Beasley looks to have taken a huge leap in his first month in Miami. The Heat are more than comfortable turning to the forward for offense, which isn’t something that most observers expected when they signed Beasley to a non-guaranteed pact.
- Dwayne Wade says that the Heat are the deepest team he’s ever played on, writes Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report. ”No knock on any other team that I’ve ever played on, besides the Olympic team, this would probably be the deepest team that I’ve played on,” Dwyane Wade said Friday night.
While ownership, team executives, and coaches may sometimes choose to tank games (usually referred to by some as “focusing on the future”), Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld writes that players aren’t in on it, especially if they’re trying to prove themselves or avoiding the possibility that their potential replacement gets drafted.
Here’s more of tonight’s miscellaneous news and notes:
- Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (via Twitter) wonders if the Raptors should look to move DeMar DeRozan while his value is high, especially if they can’t find a taker for Rudy Gay.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel writes that the Magic are trying to figure out center Nikola Vucevic‘s worth and thinks that the potential numbers on an extension could be between what Larry Sanders and Nikola Pekovic got from their respective teams this past summer.
- Looking back at how his tenure as the Trail Blazers’ head coach came to an end, Pacers assistant Nate McMillan tells Joe Freeman of the Oregonian that his one regret was trying to fit Gerald Wallace into the starting lineup (to keep the veteran from becoming disgruntled) despite Nicolas Batum needing the development.
- ESPN looked to 5 of its writers to give their thoughts on how much hope that Knicks, Nets, Cavaliers, Bulls, and Lakers fans should have moving forward this season.
- Hoopsworld’s Moke Hamilton discusses what he calls the “Derrick Rose dilemma” for Chicago – deciding whether or not to stay the course or start tear down the current team in order to build for the future.
- Although it’s possible that the Bulls will make a move or two to address the team’s current situation, Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times points out that the return of Jimmy Butler to the lineup will help and how Chicago already proved they can at least stay competitive during the regular season without Rose.
Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers! There may not be any games on the NBA schedule tonight, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few updates from around the league to pass along. Let’s check out the latest….
- While Dion Waiters may be available, don’t expect to see him in a Knicks uniform, says Marc Berman of the New York Post. According to Berman, New York is seeking frontcourt help rather than another shooting guard as the team explores the trade market and gauges Iman Shumpert‘s trade value.
- Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today rounds up recent union developments and passes along the highlights of fellow USA Today scribe Sam Amick’s Q&A with former NBPA president Derek Fisher, who isn’t wavering on his plans to retire.
- Nikola Vucevic doesn’t hold any hard feelings toward the Sixers, who traded him to the Magic a year ago. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has the details and the quotes from Vucevic.
- Pierre Jackson is in an unusual situation this season, playing for the D-League’s Idaho Stampede despite the fact that his NBA rights are held by the Pelicans. Dakota Schmidt of Ridiculous Upside takes an in-depth look at the former Baylor guard, attempting to determine whether he has an NBA future.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
SATURDAY, 1:59pm: The Magic have officially announced the moves.
FRIDAY, 10:12pm: Having just made their camp cuts this evening, the Magic will pick up their rookie-scale options on four players tomorrow, reports Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. The team is set to guarantee the 2014/15 salaries of Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic.
Robbins first reported that the team had decided on the option pickups back in July, well ahead of the October 31st deadline and long before most teams make these kinds of moves. Together the exercised options will add $8,565,534 to the team’s 2014/15 commitments, bringing the total to about $33.4MM — the 11th lowest amount of guaranteed salary in the league when I ran the numbers and projected next summer’s cap space for every team earlier this month.
Vucevic and Harris, who’ll be playing their fourth NBA seasons in 2014/15, will receive about $2.75MM and $2.4MM, respectively, while Harkless and Nicholson, who’ll be third-year guys that season, are set to make around $1.9MM and $1.5MM. Check out our tracker for details on 2014/15 rookie contract options for each team as the October 31st deadline to exercise them draws near.
Hoops World's Alex Kennedy wrote about the young core Rob Hennigan has acquired since his term as Magic general manager started in 2012. The Magic's roster has been growing closer this offseason, akin to the young Thunder team Hennigan worked for before joining the Magic.
The youthful Magic players mentioned in the piece, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, rookie Victor Oladipo, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn, and Doron Lamb only took a couple weeks off after the season concluded in April before returning to Orlando.
Once in town, they all work out, lift weights and scrimmage five-on-five together before hanging out off the court to grab food, play cards or watch TV at someone's house at night.
Said Harkless of all the time spent together, “I think it’s really important. We pretty much spend all of our time together, whether it’s in the gym or just hanging out at a guy’s house playing video games, watching TV or playing Spades. We just spend a lot of time together. I think it’s really good. It’s going to help us build chemistry, on the court and off of the court.”
It's that same chemistry Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Jeff Green, James Harden and Eric Maynor developed while they were all growing together in Oklahoma City with Hennigan looking on. Whether the Magic go on to reach the upper-tier as one of the NBA's true title-contenders, remains to be seen, but Magic fans have to like the growing bond between their young players.
- This summer, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Magic were going to pick up the options on four of the players mentioned in Kennedy's piece who are all on their rookie-scale deals: Harris, Vucevic, Harkless and Nicholson.
- Picking up the options on all four – they have until October 31st, but Robbins believed the options could be picked before the 1st of October – means they'll be under contract in Orlando through the 2014/15 season. Next summer, the Magic will decide on fourth-year options for Harkless and Nicholson and an extension for Vucevic.
- Nicholson played well for team Canada tonight during their 81-74 loss to the Dominican Republic at the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament, tweets the Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat. Nicolson's play was one of the only bright spots in the game for Canada (Twitter).
- According to another Wolstat tweet, Canada needs Puerto Rico to beat Venezuela tonight and Mexico tomorrow while Canada also needs to defeat Argentina tomorrow to grab a spot in the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Spain next summer.
The Magic will exercise their 2014/15 options on Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic, and Tobias Harris, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel (via Twitter). For Harkless and Nicholson, the options are for their third years, while for Vucevic and Harris, they're fourth-year options.
Given the promise shown by Orlando's young players on rookie-scale contracts, none of these decisions comes as any surprise, and the moves may not become official for a while. The deadline to exercise team options on rookie-scale contracts is October 31st, so the Magic aren't in any rush. Still, Robbins says the moves could become formally completed prior to October 1st.
Picking up all four options will ensure that Vucevic (due $2.75MM in 2014/15), Harris ($2.38MM), Harkless ($1.89MM), and Nicholson ($1.55MM) will all remain under contract until at least the summer of 2015. In the 2014 offseason, the Magic will face decisions on fourth-year options for Harkless and Nicholson, and will have the opportunity to sign Vucevic and Harris to contract extensions.
Here's a look at the Southeast Division as the Heat look to go up 2-0 on the Bucks..
- While Nik Vucevic is getting noticed, he's not considered totally untouchable to the Magic, according to Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel (on Twitter). Orlando, of course, would require a star in exchange for their promising young big man.
- Schmitz tweets that if he was making the decisions for the Magic, he'd try to see what the Clippers want for guard Eric Bledsoe. Earlier this week, Chris Paul opined that Bledsoe should be starting somewhere and is likely to be wearing a different uniform next season. The guard is under contract for about $2.6MM in 2013/14.
- Bobcats executives Rod Higgins and Rich Cho sat down with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer and the Associated Press and Bonnell has the highlights. Higgins indicated that player interviews factored into the club's decision to fire coach Mike Dunlap, but said that they weren't the only element involved. Meanwhile, Cho said that the team won't limit their search to a more experienced coach.
It's a Wednesday night full of storylines in the NBA, as LeBron James and the Heat go for their 20th consecutive win in Philly and Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver for the first time since he was traded to the Knicks. Let's round up all the other Wednesday links from around the league here:
- An NBA executive told Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen, via text, that he would be "shocked" if any team picked up Gilbert Arenas or Tracy McGrady in the final month of the season. Both former NBA stars have spent this season playing in China.
- Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com caught up with 76ers president Rod Thorn on what has become an intriguing organizational situation in Philadelphia due to Andrew Bynum. While Thorn initially refused to comment on Bynum, he eventually said, "It's a little bizarre, no doubt about it." (Twitter links)
- With regard to Nikola Vucevic, who the Sixers gave up for Bynum and is now averaging a double-double at 22-years-old, Thorn said, "Nik is a very skilled player with great hands. You could tell he had a very good future ahead of him." (via Twitter)
- Sacramento city officials have given themselves an eight day window to construct a financing plan for a new downtown arena, writes Ryan Lillis, Tony Bizjak and Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee. With that timeline, the plan would be complete five days before the city council voted on the plan on March 26. Cementing the terms of an arena deal is vital in the city's claim to keep the Kings.
- The Bee's Marcos Breton writes that many knowledgable businessmen in the Sacramento area and beyond consider the city's last-ditch effort to keep the Kings a fool's errand. Breton spoke with a leading authority on arena financing who describes the offer from the Seattle group "considerably stronger."
Nikola Vucevic gives the Heat fits, having twice gone for at least 20 points and 20 rebounds against the team after tonight's 25-point, 21-board performance. The second-year Magic center could have been putting up those numbers for the Heat instead of against them if Miami had been willing to part with either Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, or both, according to John Denton of Magic.com (Twitter link). Denton tweets that the Heat were "feverishly" trying to trade for Vucevic when he was with the Sixers last season, but apparently they weren't willing to give up their top two point guards to make it happen.
The Sixers dealt Vucevic to the Magic in August as part of the four-team Dwight Howard/Andrew Bynum blockbuster. The 22-year-old native of Switzerland has blossomed in Orlando, where he averages 12.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game as the starting center. He's seeing twice as many minutes per game as he did last year with Philadelphia, which made him the 16th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Vucevic saw even less time in the playoffs, notching just three minutes during the Sixers' run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Heat had evidently seen enough to believe he could address their deficiencies in the paint. Miami has grabbed the fewest rebounds of any team in the league, and certainly the addition of Vucevic would have helped remedy that. Money likely wasn't an inhibiting factor for the Heat, since he's on a rookie-scale contract that pays him just $1.7MM this season. Still, Heat president Pat Riley and the rest of the team's front office probably didn't predict Vucevic would develop as well and as quickly as he has. If they had foreseen it, they might have had pause about dealing away both of their top two point guards, though they're apparently confident enough in the ballhandling abilities of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James to go without a third point guard this season.
The Eastern Conference may have been on the losing end of yesterday's All-Star Game in Houston, but there's still plenty happening around the conference. Here's the latest: