Kyle O’Quinn‘s future is up in the air as his minutes continue to decrease with the Magic, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel writes. The big man has spent his entire three year career in Orlando, so he doesn’t know what the free agent process will hold for him, Robbins adds. “It’s my first free agency, so I really don’t know what to expect, to be honest,” O’Quinn said. “My agent [Andy Miller], obviously, he’s been through free agency before with other players. He can give me his analysis and his assumption and his prediction as much as he wants, but I’m the one that has to go to bed at night not knowing where I’ll be next year.” O’Quinn will become an unrestricted free agent this summer if the Magic don’t make him a $1.2MM qualifying offer, or a restricted free agent if the Magic extend the qualifying offer.
Here’s more from the Southeast Division:
- Both Michael Beasley‘s and Henry Walker‘s deals with the Heat are two year, minimum salary arrangements, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter links). Beasley’s contract includes a team option for 2015/16 that needs to be decided on before July, Pincus notes.
- Walker’s deal includes partial guarantees of $100K if he is still on the Heat‘s roster after August 1st, $300K after November 3rd, and another $500K if Walker is still with Miami after December 1st, Pincus tweets.
- Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders looked at Elfrid Payton‘s rookie season with the Magic and the point guard’s case to win the Rookie of the Year award. The 21-year-old Payton has appeared in 73 games this season, including 54 as a starter. He is averaging 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists in 29.5 minutes per contest.
The Lakers, Knicks, Sixers and Hawks have been linked to soon-to-be restricted free agent Tobias Harris, but the belief is that the Magic would match just about any offer of less than $13MM a year, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who looks at Harris and other top free agents. It’s unclear whether those four non-Orlando teams are interested, Harris is interested in them, or both, though the Knicks are reportedly planning a pursuit amid conflicting reports about whether he’s eager to play for them. Kyler wrote earlier this month that there’s a sense that the Sixers will make a play for Harris, too. Here’s more from around the Southeast Division:
- It’s likely that Al Jefferson will turn down his $13.5MM player option for next season, Kyler writes in the same piece, adding that while the belief is that he’d like to remain with the Hornets, there’s also a sense that the 30-year-old will go to the highest bidder in free agency.
- Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel wonders whether the Heat will sign a big man to help a thin frontcourt rotation in the wake of Hassan Whiteside‘s injury. Whiteside is out at least a few more days with a hand laceration that will probably take two weeks to heal completely, as Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post relays. The Heat were reportedly among the teams with interest in signing JaVale McGee earlier this month.
- Coaches rarely last in the NBA, but SB Nation’s Tom Ziller argues that the Wizards have been too patient with Randy Wittman.
Citing the Celtics’ need for a “true, low post scoring threat,” Greg Monroe, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, would be a good fit in Boston, Jackie MacMullan of Comcast SportsNet opines (video link). The Pistons big man is averaging 16 PPG and 10.4 rebounds this season. Only 24, Monroe is expected to receive plenty of interest from potential suitors this summer.
“I think he will fit in with anyone’s style of play,” MacMullan said. “I know the Detroit Pistons will do everything they can to keep him. Imagine Greg Monroe on one block, Jared Sullinger on the other and all those perimeter players you have. Who wouldn’t like that?”
Here’s more from around the world of basketball:
- The head coach of the Italian league team Metta World Peace will reportedly sign with confirmed that the team has been in talks with the former NBA player, Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia relays. “We are talking with Metta World Peace but we have not signed him yet. I did not read what media said. We are talking with a few players and he is one of them. He can bring us experience and also a lot of curiosity around his name. On Monday our GM will sign a player: it could be Metta World Peace or another one,” said Acqua Vitasnella Cantù coach Stefano Sacripanti, according to the report. World Peace last played in the NBA with the Knicks in 2013/14.
- Jameer Nelson, who has a player option on his contract with the Nuggets for next season, said he still feels a strong attachment to Orlando, though he added he has moved on, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel writes. Nelson, 33, spent his first 10 seasons in the league with the Magic. “My heart is still here for sure,” Nelson said in reference to Orlando.
The short-handed Bulls should be be getting some help soon, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Jimmy Butler is “real close” to returning to action. His elbow is improving and he could be back on the court this week.
There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:
- Thibodeau has no interest in a front office role, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Before tonight’s game in Detroit, Thibodeau was asked if he would like a dual position, similar to the Pistons‘ Stan Van Gundy, who serves as coach and president of basketball operations. Thibodeau replied, “I’m happy right where I am.”
- The Knicks‘ Carmelo Anthony tweeted Saturday that his recovery from knee surgery is “going well.” Team president Phil Jackson told Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com that Anthony has visited the practice facility to receive treatment on the knee, and the plan is for Anthony to begin workouts in June.
- Don’t expect Kendrick Perkins to be part of the Cavaliers‘ rotation, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. Lloyd says Cleveland acquired Perkins as merely an insurance policy, and he won’t see much action in the playoffs, barring injuries or foul trouble.
- The Magic’s Evan Fournier is hoping to return to action before the season ends, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Fournier is dealing with a hip injury and hasn’t played since February 25th. “Hopefully, I’m going to be able to play soon.” he said. “Hopefully, 10 more days. I don’t know.”
Elfrid Payton recorded his second triple-double in as many games and the rookie is starting to help the Magic win games, writes Kyle Hightower of The Associated Press. Antoine Walker is the last player to have two straight triple-doubles as a rookie. He accomplished this feat back in 1997 for the Celtics.
Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:
- Trading the player they select with their first round pick would be a colossal mistake for the Knicks, opines Jason Concepcion of Grantland.com. Mortgaging the future in order to put above average talent on the court has long been a problem for the franchise. Concepcion looks at the Lakers’ decision not to trade Andrew Bynum for veteran Jason Kidd in 2007 and hopes Phil Jackson can learn from the team’s patience. Just a few years later, Bynum played a huge role in hanging two more championship banners in the Staples Center.
- Alexey Shved has impressed since arriving in New York and the guard is glad he is no longer playing for the Sixers, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I don’t know why it happened,” Shved said about his lack of playing time in Philadelphia. “I’m just working every day and playing like always. So it’s not a question for me. It’s a question for the [Sixers] coaches. It doesn’t matter, because the time is gone. Now, I play here and don’t what to think about what happened [with the Sixers].” The 26-year-old is averaging 18.1 points, 5.0 assists and 1.4 steals over his last seven games.
- Allen Iverson has interest in a front office role with the Sixers, writes Michael Kaskey-Blomain of Philly.com. “I would like to be even in that war room,” Iverson said. “Even if they don’t go with my decision or whatever, just to have an opinion and putting out what I think and trusting the organization to do what’s right.”
The Nets are two and a half games behind the Celtics for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and Tim Bontemps of the New York Post believes the next four games will decide their season. Brooklyn will play Milwaukee on Friday and then Indiana, Boston and Charlotte. Any loss hurts twice as much as it will elevate the direct competition closer to a playoff berth.
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- The Heat and Michael Beasley have indeed agreed to a rare team option (and not non-guaranteed salary) for next season in their deal, confirms Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
- Elfrid Payton has improved as the season has progressed and the Magic have found their point guard of the future, opines Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. After recording a triple-double on Wednesday night, Payton seems to be feeling more comfortable leading the team. “I’m just working, putting up shots, getting in the gym, working hard,” Payton said. “I think the confidence has always been there, but I know I’ve got the support of my teammates.”
- Maurice Harkless has seen more minutes since Orlando fired coach Jacque Vaughn and the team likes how the forward is playing, writes Robbins in a separate piece. “He’s showing that he wants to play,” interim coach James Borrego said. “There’s a confidence about him right now, and he’s got to continue to play with that.” Harkless is under contract through next season, but he is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.
The Hornets and Heat are two of the five clubs competing for the final pair of playoff spots in the East, and Charlotte will have a chance to move into a tie with Miami for the eighth seed if they can find a way to steal a win from the Clippers tonight in Los Angeles. While there’s still over a month left in the regular season, it wouldn’t be shocking to see four of the Southeast’s five teams end up with postseason berths. We’ve got the latest from around that division below..
- Erik Spoelstra pointed to Michael Beasley’s familiarity with the Heat’s system as a major reason why the club went after him once his season ended in China, observes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel (subscription required). The 26-year-old called the roster movement he’s been a part of throughout his career “humbling” and admitted he’ll need to continue to work hard every night if he wants to stick in Miami.
- It wasn’t exactly a splashy signing when Kent Bazemore inked a two-year, $4MM deal with the Hawks last summer, but Jeff Teague and others from Atlanta’s locker room contend that the third-year guard’s presence has been a boon to the club’s chemistry and overall success, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
- Shaun Powell of NBA.com breaks down James Borrego’s coaching credentials and wonders if his popularity among the Magic players and relative success so far as interim head coach could lead Orlando’s front office to keep him at the helm of the club going forward.
Former Wizard Andre Miller said he got the “bad end of the stick” in Washington, tweets J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. The veteran point guard was shipped to Sacramento in a deadline-day trade that reunited him with longtime coach George Karl. Miller, 38, implies that the trade was the Wizards’ way of blaming him for their midseason downturn. He was backing up John Wall in Washington, averaging 3.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in just 12.4 minutes of playing time. Miller also expessed his frustration to Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post (Twitter link): “For a guy to only play 10 minutes a game you figure why would I be the one to get moved,” Miller asked. “But I try not to individualize it.”
There’s more news from the Southeast Division:
- The Wizards need more production from Bradley Beal to become a serious playoff contender, writes Michael Lee of The Washington Post. Beal, who recently returned to the lineup after missing nine games with a stress reaction in his right leg, agreed with that assessment. “My game definitely has to escalate,” he said. “And it has to escalate now. I know it starts with John [Wall] and [me]. I have to definitely step up my play. He’s been playing well all year and I’ve been on a roller coaster. I definitely have to be aggressive and be the star that people think I should be.”
- Elfrid Payton‘s troubles at the free throw line won’t keep him out of the Magic lineup, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Interim Orlando coach James Borrego said he will keep playing the rookie regardless of how he shoots foul shots. “I’m not going to take him out if they keep hacking him,” Borrego said. Payton is shooting 53% from the line and had a particularly bad performance Friday against Boston, making just four of 15 as the Celtics purposely fouled him.
Luke Ridnour is under contract with the Magic through next season, but the 34-year-old says he isn’t sure he’ll play after the conclusion of this season, according to Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times (Twitter link). He’s due a non-guaranteed salary of $2.75MM in 2015/16 on the two-year, $5.5MM deal he signed with Orlando this past summer, and he’s played a career-low 13.6 minutes per game in 38 appearances this year.
There was a “sense” shortly before the trade deadline that the Magic were making the 12th-year veteran available for a trade, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, and the news wasn’t surprising considering his marginal role. The combo guard saw 16.2 minutes per contest in November, but his playing time has gone down as the team has given more burn to rookie point guard Elfrid Payton.
The Magic would be able to simply release Ridnour without obligation should he retire this summer, since his salary is non-guaranteed. The Jim Tanner client was the 14th overall pick in the 2003 draft, and, according to Basketball-Reference data, he’s racked up more than $45MM in NBA salary over the course of his career, including this season’s pay. His career high in points per game was in 2011/12, when he put up 12.1 PPG for the Timberwolves, while his best year in assists per contest was 2005/06, a season in which he averaged 7.0 APG for the SuperSonics, his original NBA team.
George Karl also had an interest in the Magic‘s coaching position, which is currently held by interim coach James Borrego, prior to accepting his post with Sacramento, John Denton of NBA.com writes. “I knew in October that I wanted to get back into the gym. I’ve never been a political coach from the standpoint of politicking for a specific job or a championship team job,’’ Karl said. “What I miss is the gym, so whether it was in Sacramento or Orlando or wherever. Yes, of course [he wanted a job], but I didn’t want them to make a play that was going to wasteful of their time or my time. I don’t know many people in this [Orlando] organization, so I don’t have any qualms. I just wanted to get back into the gym one way or the other, and I think we have a really good talent and I think [the Magic] have really good young talent.’’
There’s more news from the Southeast Division:
- When discussing his brother Zoran Dragic‘s recent assignment to the D-League, Goran Dragic lauded how the Heat organization utilizes its affiliate, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes. “We have a couple of examples that they were playing there and the most important thing is they were ready,” Dragic said. Hassan Whiteside, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Johnson and Henry Walker have all made the trek to Sioux Falls this season for Miami.
- Whiteside has put up some eye-popping numbers in his short time with the Heat, but he was little more than a spectator late in Friday’s loss to the Wizards, according to Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post. Whiteside started the third quarter, but left the game for good at the 7:35 mark. Whiteside has a two-year contract with Miami and won’t hit free agency until 2016.
- Jarell Eddie probably startled a few hotel guests after he agreed to a 10-day contract with the Hawks this week. Eddie told Chris Vivlamore of The Journal-Constitution that he couldn’t contain himself when he got the news. “I get back and got the call and I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I really couldn’t believe it. I screamed in my hotel room for a little while and then I was in shock. It was beautiful. It’s a dream come true.”
Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.