The Cavs have won four straight since firing former GM Chris Grant. One of interim GM David Griffin‘s priorities was to improve the rumored chaos in the Cleveland locker room according to Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio (via Twitter). Amico says that Griffin told both Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters they would not be traded, and urged the team to have fun and avoid stress (Twitter link), which could explain some of the team’s sudden positivity. Here are the rest of the notes from around the league:
- Mark Jackson took some critical comments made earlier by Warriors owner Joe Lacob in stride, per Tim Kawakami of Bay Area News Group. Jackson said he “understands” why the owner is disappointed with the team’s performance, adding, with a laugh: “I stopped reading [Lacob's comments]. I was getting depressed.”
- Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders said he wouldn’t be surprised if Ben Gordon wound up on the Suns before the upcoming trade deadline, in response to a tweeted question he received (Twitter link). This would fall in line with the Suns’ reported preference of landing a perimeter player.
- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t think consensus top-10 draft prospect Tyler Ennis will enter the draft this summer, per Seth Davis of SI.com. “I think he knows and his father knows that he’s a really good college player. He has to become a better shooter and get stronger to go to the next level,” said Boeheim. “He’d go in the first round, but look at the number of first-round picks who are already out of the league in the last two years. It’s a huge number.” (hat tip to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv)
- Representatives from the Bulls attended a Eurobasket game to get a look at Nolan Smith, per David Pick of Eurobasket.com. The 25-year-old point guard spent two years with the Blazers, and was expected to join the Celtics for training camp this summer before heading overseas. Smith has averaged 9.9 minutes per game in his NBA career, and declined in nearly every statistical category last year.
- Free agent Brian Cook is attempting to make an NBA return, according to a source for Shams Charania of RealGM.com (via Twitter). The 33-year-old has nine years of NBA experience, but he hasn’t played in the NBA since splitting time with the Clippers and Wizards in the 2011/12 season.
The international free agent market is still hot, and plenty of players with NBA ties are doing business with clubs from overseas. Here's the latest:
- Sidigas Avellino is close to an agreement with Heat big man Jarvis Varnado, the print edition of the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport reports, according to Sportando's Enea Trapani. Varnado is on a non-guaranteed contract with Miami, and with rumors that the Heat will only carry 13 players this year, he appears to be on shaky ground.
- Nolan Smith was expected to join the Celtics in training camp, but he's signed to play with Cedevita Zagreb, the Croatian team announced on its website (translation via Sportando's Emiliano Carchia).
- Cartier Martin is mulling the idea of playing in China, agent Andy Miller tells J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. Martin has spent parts of the last four seasons with the Wizards, but it doesn't look like the team plans to re-sign him.
- Former second-round draft pick Travis Leslie has signed with JSF Nanterre of France, the team announced (Twitter link; hat tip to Carchia). Leslie played 10 games with the Clippers in 2011/12. He signed a 10-day contract with the Jazz last season, but he didn't appear in a game for Utah. This week Nanterre also signed Deshaun Thomas, whom the Spurs drafted 58th overall in June).
- One-time Kings and Rockets small forward Tyler Honeycutt has officially signed his deal with Ironi Nes Ziona of Israel, Carchia tweets. Sportando contributor David Pick reported a few days ago that the two sides had agreed to a deal.
A sprained calf led to an abbreviated summer league stint for former Trail Blazer Nolan Smith, but he's still expected to join the Celtics for training camp, tweets Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld. The Knicks were also considering Smith. Presumably, the 21st pick in the 2011 draft will join Boston on a non-guaranteed contract that amounts to the chance to try out for the 2013/14 regular season roster.
The Blazers changed management in between Smith's first and second seasons, and new GM Neil Olshey elected not to pick up their option for Smith's third year. That made the former Duke standout an unrestricted free agent entering the summer. He was a trade candidate this past season, and by April, when a report identified the Thunder, Bulls and Hawks as teams likely to have interest in him, it was clear he wouldn't be re-signing with the Blazers.
Smith played just 12.3 minutes per game as a rookie, and he saw even less action this past season, racking up just 7.2 MPG. He notched 20.6 points per game as a senior at Duke, so the Celtics clearly hope that he can once more summon that scoring touch if given a chance.
It sounds like the Knicks will fall short of landing Samuel Dalembert, who's close to a deal with the Mavs. As Knicks GM Glen Grunwald and company search for free agent help, they're limited to handing out no more than the $1.7MM portion of their mini mid-level exception that remains after the team used part of it to re-sign Pablo Prigioni. Still, the team has plenty of targets, as we detail:
- The Knicks are in the lead for Kenyon Martin, a source tells Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com. Since Martin played on the Knicks last season, the team can ink him using Non-Bird rights, but that would still provide a salary of no more than about $1.6MM.
- Nate Robinson, Aaron Brooks, Daniel Gibson, Charles Jenkins, John Lucas III, A.J. Price, Nolan Smith, Sebastian Telfair and Toure Murry are all point guards the Knicks are considering, Zwerling writes.
- Robinson would consider signing with the Knicks, but only if he doesn't receive a more lucrative offer from another team, reports Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. The team reached out to the diminuative point guard recently, but as we heard yesterday, a few other clubs have interest in him, too.
- Jerome Jordan, Liam McMorrow and Jeremy Tyler will draw close attention from the Knicks during the Las Vegas summer league, according to Zwerling. There's a "big chance" Tyler will draw an invitation to Knicks training camp, perhaps with a partial guarantee, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.
- Mike Woodson is intent on keeping Carmelo Anthony at power forward, prompting the club to search for a veteran small forward to use alongside him. Zwerling points to Raja Bell, Josh Childress, Dahntay Jones, Metta World Peace, Mickael Pietrus and Shawne Williams as some of the small forwards drawing the Knicks' eye.
- Al Harrington, who seems to be drawing close to a buyout from the Magic, is another Knicks target, Berman adds.
As teams clear cap space to finalize signings and trades, it may mean renouncing Early Bird or Bird rights to their own free agents, in order to remove cap holds from the books. Once a player is renounced, his previous team has no more claim to him that any other team — he could still be re-signed, but it would have to be done using cap space or an exception. Some of those decisions are more notable than others, but for completion's sake, we'll track the latest of these cap-clearing moves right here:
- Mo Williams is the most prominent name among the several whose rights the Jazz renounced today, according to the RealGM transaction log. Al Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and Earl Watson, who already have deals to join other teams, are also on the list, as are the long-retired Brevin Knight and Greg Ostertag.
- Bobcats are set to re-sign Josh McRoberts, but they won't be using their Early Bird rights to do so, as they've renounced his rights, RealGM shows. The team also renounced their rights to Reggie Williams, who's heading to the Rockets, and it cut ties with DeSagana Diop, Byron Mullens and Jannero Pargo, too.
- Golden State will sign Jermaine O'Neal, so the Suns have renounced his rights, as well as their rights to Wesley Johnson and Diante Garrett, as RealGM notes.
- The Hawks have cleared out unwanted cap holds from their books, renouncing their rights to Hilton Armstrong, Erick Dampier, Devin Harris, Dahntay Jones, Randolph Morris, Zaza Pachulia, Johan Petro, Josh Smith, and Etan Thomas, according to RealGM.com's transactions log.
- RealGM.com also has the Trail Blazers renouncing multiple players, including Luke Babbitt, J.J. Hickson, Eric Maynor, and Nolan Smith.
- Most interestingly, according to RealGM.com, the Bucks have renounced their rights to Monta Ellis. That doesn't necessarily preclude a sign-and-trade, but it would mean the team would have to use cap space rather than Ellis' Bird rights to accommodate a deal.
- The Pelicans have renounced their rights to Louis Amundson, Xavier Henry, and Roger Mason Jr., the team announced today in a press release.
- In order to clear cap room for their signings, the Pistons renounced Will Bynum, Jose Calderon, Vernon Macklin, Corey Maggette, Jason Maxiell, and Ben Wallace, according to RealGM's transactions log. The Pistons plan to re-sign Bynum, but removing his $6MM+ cap hold and signing him to a smaller figure using cap space makes the most sense.
- After renouncing their rights to Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom, the Clippers have also renounced Bobby Simmons, according to RealGM.com's transactions log.
The Rockets avoided being the second Western Conference team to be swept out of the first round last night, defeating the Thunder to send the series back to Oklahoma City. While we wait for that series to resume on Wednesday, tonight's schedule features a pair of Western matchups, including a chance for the Warriors to pull off a first round upset and eliminate the Nuggets. Here are a few updates out of the conference as we look forward to the evening's games:
- Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game (via Sulia) confirms reports that Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman is the frontrunner to be the next Suns' general manager, adding that president Lon Babby was eyeing Weltman back before the team hired Lance Blanks. Bucher also echoes another rumor we heard recently, writing that the valuation of the Kings has owner Robert Sarver wondering "if it's time to cash out."
- As he continues his look at the Mavericks' free-agents-to-be, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com predicts that Anthony Morrow will sign a veteran's minimum contract this summer.
- Antawn Jamison, who underwent wrist surgery today after missing his exit interview yesterday, isn't expected to return to the Lakers next year, writes Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times.
- Nolan Smith won't be back with the Trail Blazers next season, but he's looking forward to free agency, as he tells Susan Bible of HoopsWorld.
While the Trail Blazers' 13-game losing streak to close the season wasn't pretty, it did help the team load up on draft picks for the coming summer. The Blazers' first-rounder is top-12 protected, which means they'd only lose it if three of the four teams below them in the draft lottery standings jumped up into the top three. In addition to that first-rounder, the Blazers will also keep their own second-rounder (No. 40), and acquire second-rounders from the Timberwolves (No. 39) and Celtics (No. 46). Here's more out of Portland:
- The Trail Blazers haven't had a ton of success in the past luring free agents to Portland, but general manager Neil Olshey, who is viewed around the league as a players' GM, could be a difference-maker in the free agent process, says Jason Quick of the Oregonian.
- Quick also notes, via Twitter, that the Blazers' entire coaching staff is on track to return for next season, assuming assistant Kaleb Canales exercises his option.
- J.J. Hickson told reporters, including Joe Freeman of the Oregonian, that he "definitely" wants to return to Portland, but that his future is "to be determined" (Twitter link).
- Eric Maynor expressed a strong desire to remain with the Blazers, indicating that Portland was a great fit for him and that there'd be no downside to coming back, tweets Freeman. Damian Lillard also endorsed bringing back Maynor or a similar player, noting that having a capable backup point guard helped alleviate the pressure on him (Twitter link).
- One point guard who won't be returning to Portland is Nolan Smith, who told reporters, including Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com (Twitter link), that the team has indicated it's unlikely to bring him back.
The Trail Blazers aren't going to re-sign Nolan Smith, but sources close to the combo guard tell Joe Freeman of The Oregonian that the Bulls, Hawks and Thunder lead a pack of teams that are likely have interest this summer. The Blazers drafted Smith with the 21st overall pick in the 2011 draft, but after his rookie season, they declined the third-year option on his rookie-scale contract, making him an unrestricted free agent at season's end.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks is Smith's godfather, Freeman points out, and Brooks has expressed confidence in Smith's ability to make it as an NBA player, despite the former Duke standout's inability to consistently become a part of Portland's rotation. Still, Oklahoma City seems well-stocked with backup guards, as they have Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb on guaranteed contracts for next season, along with DeAndre Liggins on a non-guaranteed deal. The Thunder will need to either re-sign or replace Kevin Martin, but Smith probably isn't someone they'd want to fill Martin's sixth-man role.
The Bulls and Hawks will probably have more room for Smith, who could have trouble commanding a salary much higher than the minimum. He's averaged just 3.3 points in 9.9 minutes per game for his career, numbers that have dipped to 2.8 PPG and 7.2 MPG this year. A team may be willing to use a portion of its mid-level exception on him, given his potential as a former first-round draft pick and first-team All-American in college, but he can't expect too much of a raise on the $1.366MM he's earning this season.
Let's round up some Friday afternoon odds and ends from around the NBA:
- Although J.J. Redick doesn't want to be traded by the Magic, he's not exactly thrilled with the team's 10-game losing streak, as Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida tweets.
- Tomasson also spoke to Hedo Turkoglu, who said he's not actively trying to be bought out by the Magic, though he understands if the team decides to trade him.
- After telling Sheridan Hoops earlier this week that he doesn't expect to coach again, Phil Jackson reiterates the point to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link), writing in an email that there's no chance he returns to the Lakers.
- A collection of SI.com writers discuss what's next for the Lakers, including potential pre-trade-deadline moves, and the team's chances of re-signing Dwight Howard this summer.
- Shaun Livingston tells Richard Hardy of HoopsWorld that he's hoping to stay with the Cavaliers for longer than just this season.
- Having recently parted ways with agent Joel Bell, Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith has replaced him with former Bull B.J. Armstrong of the Wasserman Media Group, reports Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com.
- David Mayo of MLive.com explores whether the Pistons should attempt to trade for Rudy Gay, while multiple Celtics writers discuss whether Boston should take a flier on Greg Oden (link via CSNNE.com).
- In an Insider piece, ESPN.com's Chad Ford looks at some potential fits in June's draft for the Hornets.
Here are Wednesday's D-League assignments and recalls, with any additional moves added to the top of the page throughout the day:
- Nolan Smith and Will Barton were recalled from the D-League by the Trail Blazers, the team announced today (Twitter link). The backcourt duo had been assigned to the Idaho Stampede on Sunday. In a pair of Stampede losses during their assignments, Smith averaged 22.5 PPG and 5.5 APG, while Barton posted 14.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 4.0 APG.