Knicks coach Derek Fisher said that it was very important for New York to sign Louis Amundson and Lance Thomas for the remainder of the season, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com reports (Twitter link). Both players are inked to 10-day deals that expire this week. In five appearances for the Knicks this season, Thomas has averaged 9.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 26.0 minutes per game. Amundson has also made five appearances for New York, and his averages are 4.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per night.
Here’s more from around the league:
- All of the injuries that the Heat have endured this season haven’t allowed the team to see how effective its intended roster could be, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. “The most disappointing thing is we’re not even having a chance to be at full strength, to even see what we could do,” said Miami center Chris Bosh. “Not 100%, but just at least have most of our guys. It just seems like every time we’re about to turn the corner, there’s a drawback. And it is what it is. I can’t really say anything else.”
- The Cavaliers have recalled Joe Harris from the Canton Charge, their D-League affiliate, the team has announced. This was Harris’ third jaunt of the season to the D-League. Harris has played in two games for the Charge this season, averaging 18.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in 39.5 minutes per game.
- The Warriors have assigned center Festus Ezeli to the Santa Cruz Warriors, their D-League affiliate, the team has announced in a press release. Ezeli has missed the last 16 games with an ankle sprain. Golden State also announced that it has recalled Ognjen Kuzmic, who concludes his fifth sojourn of the season in Santa Cruz.
- With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, Basketball Insiders’ Cody Taylor looked at some players whom the Hawks, Hornets, Heat, Magic, and Wizards could be willing to deal.
- Lorenzo Brown will earn $48K from his 10-day contract with the Wolves, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). One-year veterans, like Brown, and rookies cost their teams slightly less than other players when they sign 10-day contracts, as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors explained earlier this month.
Tayshaun Prince is playing well and has helped the Celtics close to within two games of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but while Brad Stevens is clearly a fan of his game, Prince’s performance is making him a more valuable trade chip, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com. The C’s have reportedly been attempting to deal Prince for draft considerations. There’s more on the Celtics amid the latest from around the Atlantic Division:
- A close friend of Tobias Harris told Marc Berman of the New York Post last week that the forward wants to win a championship with the Knicks, but Harris’ father disputes the notion that his son is anxious to play for New York, as Torrel Harris tells Isaiah Narciso of The Gospel Times. The Knicks apparently plan to pursue the soon-to-be restricted free agent.
- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge waffled about his future while the Celtics were a winning team, but he’s committed to seeing Boston’s rebuilding project through and says he’s “ready for the long haul,” as he tells Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.
- Byron Mullens has changed agents, hiring Todd Ramasar of Stealth Sports, tweets David Pick of Eurobasket.com. The center, who played briefly in China this season and saw his last NBA action for the Sixers last year, had been with Lee Melchionni of the Wasserman Media Group.
Teams are calling the Magic to inquire about the availability of Maurice Harkless, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). Kennedy adds that GM Rob Hennigan’s asking price is high and speculates that it would take a first-rounder to acquire the forward.
Some believe Orlando will keep Harkless as well as Andrew Nicholson and move on from coach Jacque Vaughn to see if a new coach could get more out the pair of young players, Kennedy adds in another tweet. Recently, Harkless has played sparingly and Vaughn has publicly criticized the 22-year-old’s motor.
These rumors might signify that Hennigan views Harkless differently than the coaching staff does, as Kennedy speculates on Twitter. Harkless is averaging 8.3 points per 36 minutes this season.
Heat team president Pat Riley denies a report from last week indicating that the team proposed a deal that would send Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Josh McRoberts to the Nets for Brook Lopez, notes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Riley insists the Heat haven’t made any offers to any team, and that while the Heat have had conversations with other clubs, they aren’t active on the market, as Jackson transcribes in a second piece. The executive doesn’t feel the team needs an upgrade to make the playoffs and indicated that he would only commit to salary beyond next season for a star, Jackson adds.
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- Bucks coach Jason Kidd doesn’t believe that Kobe Bryant‘s latest injury will be a career-ending one, Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel writes. Kidd also spoke about how his own career ended, which he says was on his own terms, Gardner notes. “I would say, yes, in a way I did get to go out on my terms, but I had no gas left in the tank,” Kidd said. “It was an easy call. I got to make the call, but the car had no gas. A lot of times for athletes, we want to be able to go out on our own and not with an injury. You want to play and you want to leave feeling you’ve given everything to the game.“
- Knicks rookie coach Derek Fisher didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to get his players emotionally ready to compete, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “Probably what jumps out the most is you still have to work pretty hard to motivate and inspire guys at this level,’’ Fisher said. “Something a guy who came into the league in 1996, that wasn’t required. If you weren’t self-driven and self motivated, you couldn’t get on the floor. As a player for 18 years, my brain worked that way. It’s one area that continues to evolve — find ways to help my guys be more inspired and more motivated.’’
- With the highly touted NBA draft class of 2014 not quite living up to the hype thus far, David Thorpe of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) looks at a number of rookies who have stood out. These players include Nikola Mirotic (Bulls), Jerami Grant (Sixers), and Elfrid Payton (Magic).
- The Cavs assigned Joe Harris to the Canton Charge, their D-League affiliate, the team announced.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Knicks are planning to try to attract soon-to-be restricted free agent forward Tobias Harris, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The 22-year-old downplayed Berman’s November report indicating that he’s interested in signing with New York this coming summer, though a close friend of the Long Island native told Berman on Thursday that Harris wants to win a title with the Knicks. Many around the league believe the Knicks will target second-tier free agents this summer, Berman writes, naming Harris, Wesley Matthews and Draymond Green as examples.
Harris said earlier this season that the Magic will be his first choice in free agency, even though the sides failed to reach an extension before the October 31st deadline. The Magic have reportedly told the Henry Thomas client‘s camp that they’ll probably match any offer sheet he signs, though executives around the league are split on whether the Magic would match a high-dollar offer sheet, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote last week. Orlando GM Rob Hennigan said in October that he couldn’t envision not keeping Harris around. There was some conflicting dialogue about how the sides approached a possible extension, but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported in early November that Orlando raised the idea of a deal with annual salaries around $9MM in talks with Harris around Labor Day. The sides didn’t negotiate further, Kyler added.
Thomas is an agent with the Creative Artists Agency, the same group that represents Carmelo Anthony and, at least until team president Phil Jackson took over last spring, held widespread influence in the Knicks organization. Harris worked out several times together with Anthony this past summer at Anthony’s gym in New York, as Berman noted in his November report. Harris can’t receive any direct financial incentive in his shoe deal for playing with any particular NBA team, as an October report had indicated, but the NBA does allow endorsement contracts to afford bonuses based on the number of national television appearances.
The NBA moved another Knicks game off national television today with New York still carrying the league’s worst record, though Harris expressed optimism about Jackson’s regime Thursday, as Berman notes. The Knicks have about $32.7MM in commitments for next season against a projected $66.5MM cap.
Harris was a starter for his first 37 appearances with the Magic this season, but he came off the bench for the first time Wednesday after missing five contests with a sprained ankle. He’s averaging a career-high 18.0 points per game fueled in part by an increase in shot attempts and also by 40.7% three-point shooting, a drastic improvement on last season’s 25.4% rate.
Magic rookie Aaron Gordon was back in action Sunday for the first time since foot surgery two months ago, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Gordon contributed eight points and three rebounds in 12 minutes of action in a loss to the Thunder. “I just enjoy the game so much,” Gordon said. “You realize that when you’re not playing, how much you miss it. And then when I got back out there, it’s fun. I learned a lot [when I was injured]. I just move better without the ball now.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- Lance Stephenson was back in the Hornets‘ lineup this week, but he may not be there long, writes Michael Lee of The Washington Post. Stephenson was part of a rumored three-team deal that would have sent him to the Nets, and he can expect to hear his name in more trade talks before the February 19th deadline. Lee notes that Charlotte began shopping Stephenson around the league in December before he suffered a pelvic strain that kept him out of action for 14 games.
- Former Wizard Chris Singleton is expected to sign with a team in the D-League, according to D-League Digest (Twitter link). Singleton spent three seasons in Washington, averaging 4.1 points and 3.2 rebounds in 148 games. He has been playing with the Jiangsu Dragons in the Chinese Basketball Association.
- D-Leaguer Bryce Cotton has rejected several overseas offers in hopes of getting an NBA callup, sources tell Shams Charania of RealGM. The high-scoring Austin Spur has reportedly turned down teams in Turkey, Italy and Belgrade. The 22-year-old went undrafted out of Providence last June. He joined the Spurs‘ summer league team and was invited to training camp, but failed to make the regular season roster. After clearing waivers, he joined San Antonio’s D-League affiliate.
Jahlil Okafor‘s Duke team is faltering, but the center’s grip on the top spot in the 2015 draft isn’t any looser, as he tops the latest Big Board from Chris Mannix of SI.com and the updated top 100 prospect list from Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress. Ohio State combo guard D’Angelo Russell is up to No. 4 on Givony’s list, while Mannix has him at No. 8, still a leap from his No. 11 position in Mannix’s last rankings. Russell’s also in the top 10 in the latest Hoops Rumors Draft Prospect Power Rankings. Here’s more from around the NBA:
- Kenyon Martin went unsigned this season before he joined the Bucks on a 10-day contract last week, but he admits that his recovery from ankle surgery wouldn’t have allowed him to be ready for training camp this past fall, Newsday’s Al Iannazzone tweets.
- Jazz draft-and-stash prospect Ante Tomic still has aspirations of making the NBA, as he tells David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter links). FC Barcelona Regal, his Spanish team, holds a team option for next season and “anything is possible,” Tomic said. The 27-year-old center was the 44th overall pick in the 2008 draft.
- Possible bidders for the Nets include former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, investor David Bonderman and hedge fund manager David Einhorn, as Josh Kosman and Tim Bontemps of the New York Post hear, though it’s unclear if any of them are indeed poised to bid. Entertainment mogul David Geffen has been interested in the team in the past, an insider told Robert Windrem of Nets Daily.
- Commissioner Adam Silver envisions four teams in Europe some day, but he admits the league has a long way to go to get there, notes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, who adds that the NBA seems to keep pushing the idea farther into the future.
- Magic coach Jacque Vaughn‘s job security appears to be in doubt, but Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel believes GM Rob Hennigan should be feeling the heat, too.
- Quincy Miller, whom the Clippers nearly signed a 10-day contract, Spurs camp cut JaMychal Green and one-year NBA veteran Seth Curry are among the potential NBA signees to watch at the D-League showcase, which begins today. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports look at those three and others who’ll be angling for NBA jobs.
With the Pistons suddenly a mere two games behind the Nets for the eighth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, the franchise’s approach to the upcoming trade deadline is changing with each victory, David Mayo of MLive.com writes. “Of course it does,” Detroit’s president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy said when asked whether the team’s winning ways have altered its trade outlook. “I think you make adjustments probably every week in that regard, in terms of looking at where you are, and where you want to be, and everything else. It doesn’t mean you won’t do anything but it certainly, if you’re continuing to play really well, it changes the way you look at it, yeah, no question.”
Here’s more from the East:
- Van Gundy isn’t itching to make a move that could disrupt the Pistons‘ chemistry, Mayo adds, but he wouldn’t pass up the chance to add a high-character player who could add something to the team. “Look, we’re not where we want to eventually be,” Van Gundy said. “I love the way we’re playing now, and hopefully the rest of this year will go very well. But we’re not going to rest on that until we’re into contention. There’s a long way from 14-24 to being a contender and we’ve got to keep that goal in mind, and not get overly wrapped up in playing 10 good games here.“
- There’s a split among executives around the league about whether the Magic would match a lucrative offer sheet for Tobias Harris this summer, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports.
- Veteran point guard Andre Miller will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, but Miller says he has zero plans to retire and is looking to secure a multi-year deal with the Wizards if given the chance, Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders reports. “I would like to close it out here,” Miller told Greene. “I’m just enjoying this [success] and taking it one game at a time. Putting all my effort into practices and getting the most out of myself as far as being a team player. So I haven’t really thought about my contract situation. But of course I will continue to play next year barring any injuries. So let’s see what happens this summer.”
Magic GM Rob Hennigan didn’t directly answer a question from Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel today about whether coach Jacque Vaughn‘s job is safe for the balance of the season, though Hennigan described Vaughn’s performance as “solid.” Hennigan echoed Robbins’ report from Monday that the team is delving deep for answers to its continued struggles.
“Look, we’re clearly in a rut and we need to find our way out of it together,” Hennigan said in response to Robbins’ question about his job security. “The buck starts and stops with me. I’m responsible for the team and its performance, plain and simple. I’m constantly evaluating myself and ways in which I can do a better job for our team, and that will continue to be the case, and I’ll continue to make sure I’m evaluating every inch of the organization. It’s my job to make sure that we’re constantly evaluating every aspect of the organization from top to bottom. So, to your question, I’d say that everyone and everything is being evaluated right now. I wouldn’t be doing my job if that weren’t the case. I’ll also say that there’s not one isolated problem or issue and that we need to collectively be part of generating the solution.”
The Magic are coming off Monday’s upset win over the Bulls and sit just three and a half games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but their 14-27 record doesn’t otherwise indicate progress. It’s the third season for Hennigan and Vaughn, who came aboard the same offseason that the team traded Dwight Howard and began a rebuilding effort. Hennigan told Robbins that he believes the team has experienced more frustration than encouraging signs this year. Orlando exercised its team options for 2015/16 on both Hennigan and Vaughn during the past offseason, and Vaughn said recently that he’s not concerned about his job, as Robbins wrote in Monday’s report. Several players say Vaughn isn’t to blame, as Robbins also noted.
“I think Jacque has done a solid job. I think there are certainly areas that we can improve as a team,” Hennigan said when Robbins asked for his thoughts on Vaughn’s performance. “But it’s not our nature to rush to judgment on things. I think we understand there’s a lot of emotion, and we certainly acknowledge that. But as we evaluate anything, it’s our job to kind of eliminate that emotion. I’ve said that quite a few times, but I really do mean that when I say it’s our job to eliminate the emotion as much as we can, especially when it comes to evaluating the team and the staff and especially when we’re trying to troubleshoot challenges that we’re having.”
The Magic brought back only seven players from last season, and while Hennigan told Robbins he believes the turnover on the roster is “a little bit of a factor” in the team’s performance, he doesn’t see it as an excuse. He said that marquee offseason signee Channing Frye “will be just fine” in spite of his sharp decline in scoring this season in the first year of a four-year, $32MM contract, as Robbins relays.
Three Southeast Division teams would make the playoffs if they started today, and a fourth, the Hornets, are but two games out of the final postseason spot. The fifth-place Magic are within hailing distance at four and a half games out, but key decision-makers in Orlando appear to be getting antsy, as we detail amid the latest from the Southeast:
- Magic officials feel as though the team has lost its way over the past few weeks, and while they believe that the inexperience of the roster is responsible for the team’s struggles, they’re looking deeper to find the genesis of the problems, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Speculation surrounds the job security of Jacque Vaughn, but Vaughn says he’s not concerned and many players tell Robbins that the coach is not to blame. Vaughn’s contract runs through 2015/16 after the team picked up his option this past offseason.
- Hassan Whiteside had a one-day stint with the Grizzlies in November but says that no one else wanted him when the Heat picked him up shortly thereafter, observes Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald. “It’s different because I got a coach who will play me, so I get to play,” Whiteside said. “You can’t get on the court without a contract. I called the Clippers for a workout, they said no. I called every team for a workout, they said no, except the Heat. The Heat gave me a chance and, I mean, it’s only right for me to give 110% effort every time.” Whiteside’s 23-point, 16-rebound performance Sunday seemed like a turning point for him and the Heat, as Goodman and Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examine.
- The Hawks have recalled Adreian Payne from the D-League, the team announced via press release. The 15th overall pick of the 2014 draft had been on his fourth assignment of the season since December 30th with the D-League affiliate of the Spurs, who took him in under the new rules in place for the Hawks and the 12 other NBA teams who share a D-League affiliate.