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Omer Asik

Pelicans Notes: Asik, Ajinca, Backcourt, Evans

Centers Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca have dropped completely out of the Pelicans rotation as the team has found success with small-ball lineups, Justin Verrier of ESPN.com reports. Asik and Ajinca have been glued to the bench the last three games while the club has reeled off four consecutive victories. Forwards Dante Cunningham and  Solomon Hill are the biggest beneficiaries of coach Alvin Gentry’s altered rotation, and their increased minutes have allowed the Pelicans to switch defensively much more easily, Verrier continues. New Orleans has the league’s 12th ­best offensive rating and fourth-best defensive rating since the shakeup earlier this week, Verrier adds. Franchise player Anthony Davis is thrilled with the new look, as he told Verrier. “When we play small it gives us an advantage on both ends of the floor.” he said.

In other developments regarding the Pelicans:

  • Gentry is enjoying the pleasant dilemma of having too many options at the guard spots, Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com writes. Gentry prefers not to have more than four backcourt players in the rotation, Eichenhofer notes. Jrue Holiday and rookie Buddy Hield are the current starters, leaving Gentry to choose from the quartet of Langston Galloway, E’Twaun Moore, Tyreke Evans and Tim Frazier for the remaining minutes. “It’s good to have the depth and have an opportunity that if things aren’t going real well, to stick another guy in and see if he has it for that night,” Gentry told Eichenhofer.
  • Evans, who can also play small forward, will see an uptick in minutes soon, according to John Reid of the New Orleans Times Picayune. Evans had been on a 15-minute per game restriction since returning from knee surgery and is still not cleared to play both games of back-to-backs, Reid continues. Gentry told Reid and other media members that his minutes would increase to 18 or 20 per game on a regular basis. Evans played 18 minutes against the Knicks on Friday. “I don’t think he’s going to go from 15 to 30,” Gentry said. “I think there’s a possibility that he could play 18 minutes or 20 minutes, that’s the natural progression that’s going to happen.”

Omer Asik Remains On Trade Block

Nearly a year after the Pelicans first reportedly made Omer Asik available, he remains on the trade block in New Orleans, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. A league source tells Blakely that Asik is “very much available” once again this season.

The news doesn’t come as a real surprise, since Asik was the subject of trade rumors last year as soon as he become eligible to be dealt on December 15. Although his name surfaced again several times before the 2016 deadline, the veteran center ultimately stayed put, with his pricey five-year contract negatively impacting his trade value. A year later, following the NBA salary cap’s jump from $70MM to $94MM+, Asik’s long-term deal may be a little more palatable.

Asik is currently in the second year of a five-year contract that is fully guaranteed through 2018/19. His cap hit for this season is about $9.9MM, as he continues to play a modest role in New Orleans, contributing just 3.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 17.5 minutes per contest.

As Blakely notes, the Celtics are among the teams that have had interest in Asik at various times in the past. However, a league source tells the CSN scribe that Boston is unlikely to make a move anytime soon unless it drastically improves the team’s chances of making a deep playoff run. In other words, the first priority for GM Danny Ainge is to land a star — if that’s not possible, he may circle back to a secondary piece or two closer to the deadline.

While Ainge may be prioritizing an impact player, acquiring a solid rim protector and rebounder would help balance the Celtics’ lineup in the second half of the season. The team has also been linked to Andrew Bogut, though the Mavs aren’t shopping the former No. 1 pick at this time.

Southwest Notes: Curry, Carlisle, Asik, Anderson

With a famous father and an even more famous brother, Seth Curry is working to build his own reputation in his first season with the Mavericks, writes Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com. After limited opportunities with three teams, Curry began to show what he can do in 44 games with the Kings last season, averaging 6.8 points per night and shooting 45% from 3-point range. That potential turned into a two-year, $6MM offer from Dallas and the chance for an expanded role with a veteran team. The son of 16-year veteran Dell Curry and brother of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, Seth has the family pedigree to be a great NBA shooter. “He could legitimately play both guard positions, and he’s going to be a factor for us,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s better than I thought he was, and he’s at an age where he’s still getting better really at both positions, so I’m excited about him.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Carlisle says seven players are competing for two open roster spots, Sneed relays (Twitter link). Dallas has 14 players in camp with fully guaranteed contracts, but it sounds like at least one – likely Jonathan Gibson – has yet to lock up a regular-season job.
  • Pelicans center Omer Asik started 64 of the 68 games he appeared in last season, but that number will drop this year, according to John Reid of The Times Picayune. Coach Alvin Gentry said today that he plans to use Anthony Davis in the post more often and not worry about having a traditional center. Alexis Ajinca and Terrence Jones may also be used in the starting lineup, depending on the opponent. That means fewer minutes for Asik, who is still guaranteed more than $32MM over the next three seasons on the contract he signed last summer. ”Last season really left a bad taste, so we are really working hard to change that,” Asik said. ”My whole focus this summer was to get better physically and get stronger.”
  • New Rockets power forward Ryan Anderson is happy to leave behind the Pelicans‘ offense, writes Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports. Anderson, one of the league’s best shooting stretch fours, saw his average of 3-point shots dip to 5.6 per game over the last two years after being close to 7.0 the three previous seasons. That number should rise dramatically now that he is playing for coach Mike D’Antoni in Houston. “I’ve had more wide-open looks in our pickup games here than I’ve had in the past four years, probably,” Anderson said.

And-Ones: Johnson, Celtics, Pelicans, Lee

The Cavaliers think would-be post-buyout target Joe Johnson wants to stay in Brooklyn and that he’ll seek to sign an extension with the Nets, a source told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. People around Johnson say he won’t take a buyout, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

There’s more from around the basketball world as the trade deadline approaches:
  • The Celtics are willing to trade the unprotected 2016 first-round pick they have coming their way from the Nets if it would shake Blake Griffin loose from the Clippers, sources tell Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. However, Boston wouldn’t deal the pick for either Kevin Love or Al Horford, Bulpett hears.
  • The Pelicans shopped Eric Gordon and Omer Asik, but they haven’t found much interest, sources tell John Reid of The Times Picayune. New Orleans reportedly offered Gordon and Alonzo Gee to the Kings for Rudy Gay earlier this season, and the Pelicans apparently had talks with the Cavs that involved Asik after making him available in December.
  • The Grizzlies shipped $542,714 cash to the Hornets as part of the Courtney Lee tradeEric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reveals.
  • Jameer Nelson is running out of alternatives to season-ending surgery on a severely sprained left wrist, but he’ll continue to try to play for the time being after receiving an injection meant to ease the pain he’s feeling, as Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post details. He missed the Nuggets‘ last six games before the All-Star break.
  • The Bulls were interested in Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer earlier this season, but the Rockets rebuffed their entreaties, reports Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com (Twitter link).
  • The Pistons would love to make one more move before the trade deadline, GM Jeff Bower said today in an appearance on WDFN-AM radio, notes Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link). The team is reportedly scanning the market for veteran guards, but Bower said the Pistons are looking at the options available at every position and added that coach/executive Stan Van Gundy has confidence in Steve Blake as the team’s backup point guard, Beard also relays (on Twitter).
  • The Grizzlies recalled James Ennis from the team’s D-League affiliate in Iowa, the team announced today. Ennis has appeared in 15 games with the Energy, averaging 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per night. He has played in 10 games for Memphis, averaging 1.3 points in 3.6 minutes.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Cavs Eye Korver, Evans, Asik; Kings Reject Mozgov

The Cavaliers are interested in Kyle Korver and also have Tyreke Evans and Omer Asik on their radar, while recent talks with the Kings about Timofey Mozgov have met with rejection from Sacramento, Brian Windhorst of ESPN said in a radio appearance today on ESPN Cleveland’s “The Really Big Show,” according to a series of tweets from ESPN Cleveland. The Cavs have also been showcasing Anderson Varejao for a trade, Windhorst said, nonetheless adding that it doesn’t seem he’s drawing much interest. It’s unlikely that Cleveland lands Korver, Windhorst also said, though the relatively likelihood of Evans, Asik and Mozgov changing teams is unclear. The Cavs and Pelicans had talks earlier that involved Mozgov and Asik, but the Cavs were reluctant to deal, as Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports reported last month.

Atlanta has reportedly solicited offers for Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder of late and isn’t entirely certain that Al Horford will re-sign in free agency this summer, and Windhorst speculates that the Hawks could be sellers. They’re in fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 30-24, having already lost more games than they did during the entire regular season last year. Korver is under contract through next season, at more than $5.746MM this year and more than $5.239MM for 2016/17. His normally elite 3-point shooting is down to 38.3% this season, but that’s still better than most, and the Cavs have reportedly sought to add long distance shooting and defense to the wing.

New Orleans has reportedly sized up the market for Tyreke Evans and had discussions about trading him, though it’s unknown whether those talks were internal or external. The former Rookie of the Year is out until at least the All-Star break with tendinitis in his right knee. He’s once more been seeing time at point guard, where he’s matching his career high with 6.6 assists per game, though it would seem more logical that Cleveland would have interest in him as a wing player. His salary of nearly $10.734MM is just barely outside the bounds of the $10,522,500 trade exception Cleveland has as a vestige of Brendan Haywood. That’s true even though Evans’ salary for next season, the last year on his contract, is only about $10.204MM.

Asik’s numbers are off significantly this year, having suffered a right calf strain in the preseason that continued to bother him well into the regular season. The five-year, nearly $53MM contract he signed this past offseason looks player-friendly so far, though his more than $9.213MM salary for this year would fit within Cleveland’s exception.

He’d ostensibly offset the lack of production the Cavs have seen from Mozgov, who has also been slow to recover from injury, having undergone offseason surgery on his right knee. I examined Mozgov’s trade candidacy shortly after Wojnarowski reported that the Cavs had begun to explore the trade market for him. Sacramento would be an odd fit for him, given the presence of big men DeMarcus Cousins, Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein, though it’s unclear what the Kings would have relinquished in Cleveland’s proposals. Mozgov is making $4.95MM this season on an expiring contract.

Varejao saw 27 minutes of action against the Pelicans on Saturday, but his minutes have otherwise been spotty. The longtime confidant of LeBron James is making $9.638MM this season in the first year of a three-year extension.

Do you see a deal involving any of these names that the Cavs should make? Leave a comment to tell us.

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.

Cavs Notes: Mozgov, Love, LeBron

The Cavaliers had talks with the Pelicans about a potential Timofey Mozgov trade, but it didn’t go anywhere, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports in his latest edition of “The Vertical” podcast (audio link, scroll to 53-minute mark). Omer Asik was involved in some talks as well, but Cleveland had no interest in doing a deal, Wojnarowski adds. The Yahoo Sports scribe reported earlier this month that the Cavs had begun to explore the market for Mozgov, who’s making $4.95MM this year in the final season of his deal. See more on the Eastern Conference leaders:
  • No one has wanted to acquire Kevin Love more than Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, Wojnarowski says in the same podcast (scroll to 51-minute mark). Still, podcast guest and Yahoo colleague Chris Mannix suggests it’s too soon for the Cavs to trade Love, who just re-signed with the Cavs to a five-year max deal this past summer. Cavs GM David Griffin wants a versatile, defensive-minded wing player, Mannix hears, speculating that Jae Crowder would fit that bill.
  • Griffin has indicated in the wake of David Blatt‘s firing that the onus is on the players to put the team first, though with little recourse for major roster changes, new head coach Tyronn Lue would likely be the one to face the consequences if the Cavs don’t perform up to their potential, as USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt examines. “Our most glaring need is to understand and communicate role delineation and team sacrifice,” Griffin said. “We have to have group buy-in and team-first habits in order to become the team that intend to be. We don’t have to concern ourselves with expectations of a destination. We need to work towards tomorrow and honor one another with total commitment every single day.”
  • LeBron James was pointed in his denial that he’s ever undermined a coach in the wake of rumors that he was behind the dismissal of Blatt and sought to have Erik Spoelstra fired, saying that it “does suck that people want to throw my name in dirt for no particular reason, because of speculation or whatever the case may be.” Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal has the details.

Southwest Notes: Asik, Rockets, Mavs

Omer Asik has not played up to expectations after he inked a five-year, $58MM last summer with the Pelicans and the center attributed his lack of performance to an injury and confidence issues, John Reid of The Times Picayune details. Asik said he feels healthier now after dealing with a nagging calf injury the past few weeks, per Reid. Asik is averaging only 3.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. As Reid points out, Asik has scored in double figures only twice this season despite playing in 36 games. Yet last season, Asik scored at least 10 points in 20 games.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • By acquiring Josh Smith from the Clippers Friday, the Rockets have signaled that despite hovering around .500 for most of the season, Houston will still seek upgrades, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays.  “There’s three teams that you can say are right, so to speak, obviously; San Antonio, Golden State, Cleveland,” Rockets shooting guard Jason Terry told Feigen. “They understand where they’re headed, what their mission is, what each guy’s role is to get it done. And you can see it. Every time they play, every night, it’s very consistent in how they play and what they do out there. Everybody else is trying to find their way, trying to get hot, trying to figure it out. Us, with the move we just made, is one of those teams. Will we get there? Yes. We’re very optimistic.”
  • The Mavs have several strong players, but without a legitimate star, Dallas cannot be considered a title contender, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News opines in response to a reader’s question. The first name that would come to mind for many when thinking about how the Mavs can remedy that is issue is soon-to-be free agent Kevin Durant, but Sefko doesn’t see the superstar coming to Dallas.
  • Chandler Parsons has shown signs of improvement with an uptick in scoring the last few games for the Mavs after undergoing knee surgery last May, Sefko writes in a separate piece.

Pelicans Make Omer Asik Available

The Pelicans have made Omer Asik available to potential trade suitors, league sources tell Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops, who writes within a larger piece. New Orleans just re-signed the 29-year-old center over the summer to a five-year deal worth nearly $52.978MM in base salary, but he’s averaging a career-worst 2.2 points in 13.9 minutes per game so far this season after suffering a right hamstring strain in early October. He’s missed seven games so far this season, and new coach Alvin Gentry has moved him in and out of the starting lineup of late.

Asik’s struggles have symbolized the trouble the Pelicans have experienced as they dealt with a slew of injuries that led to chaotic roster movement throughout the preseason and left the team shorthanded at times during a disappointing 6-18 start. The Pelicans have struggled to pick up Gentry’s offense, no surprise given the lack of practice time for many players.

New Orleans originally acquired Asik in a trade with the Rockets in the summer of 2014. The Celtics were reportedly expected to make a run at the B.J. Armstrong client during free agency this past offseason, but it’s unclear whether they did, as Asik and the Pelicans were already finalizing a deal on the first day of free agent negotiations in July, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

The Pelicans are over the cap and less than $4MM shy of tax territory, so they don’t have a wealth of flexibility to take on additional salary. They have a trade exception worth about $507K, but that’s likely too small to help facilitate any deal. Trade rumors have also surrounded soon-to-be free agent Ryan Anderson in recent weeks.

What should the Pelicans look for in a trade involving Asik? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Western Notes: Lakers, Pelicans, Blazers

Despite a slow start for Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell, GM Mitch Kupchak has a lot of confidence in the shooting guard, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times relays. Russell has scored in double-figures in eight of the Lakers’ nine games this month. Kupchak attributed Russell’s success lately to figuring out the pace of the game and believes the young player will develop into a triple-double threat, Pincus adds.

“There’s never a doubt, when we scouted him last year and when we drafted him and worked him out, that he was going to be a very, very, very, very good player in this league,” Kupchak said in a live chat on Lakers.com, transcribed by Pincus. “That’s our feeling all along. He did not have a very good summer league and I think that was a wake-up call for him.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Pelicans re-signed Omer Asik to a five-year, $58MM contract in the summer, but the center’s performance has been underwhelming so far, John Reid of The Times Picayune writes. Only the first four years of the deal are guaranteed, as Reid notes. The total value of guaranteed money is close to $45MM and Asik will be able to get entire value of the contract if he meets a certain amount of performance-based incentives, according to Reid, but his play indicates that’s not likely to happen.
  • C.J. McCollum is in the midst of a breakout season for the Blazers and there is a strong possibility he could be the league’s most improved player, Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group details. Portland exercised its rookie scale team option for the 2016/17 season with McCollum in September.
  • The Wolves were a perfect fit for rookie Karl-Anthony Towns in comparison to the Sixers and Lakers because in Minnesota he has veteran mentors like Kevin Garnett, Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press writes.

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