Western Notes: Thunder, Booker, Stephenson

Center Steven Adams and shooting guard Andre Roberson are working with the Thunder’s first unit, Anthony Slater of NewsOK.com reports. That puts two other prominent players, center Enes Kanter and shooting guard Dion Waiters, on the team’s second unit, Slater continues. New head coach Billy Donovan confirms that it’s no accident Adams and Roberson are playing alongside Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in training camp practices and scrimmages, Slater adds.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Rookie Devin Booker has shown maturity beyond his age in the early stages of the Suns’ training camp, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic“The kid knows how to play,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek told Coro. “Most of the time defensively, he’s in the right spot. Offensively, he makes the little plays. Eighteen-year-olds sometimes get sped up and the game comes at them fast and the speed of these pro guys is a big adjustment for them. But when you watch him play, he’s in control.” Booker, the No. 13 overall pick from Kentucky, is battling Sonny Weems and Archie Goodwin for the backup shooting guard spot, Coro adds.
  • Lance Stephenson is off to a slow start with the ClippersBen Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reports. Stephenson went scoreless Sunday during the Clippers’ 93-73 exhibition loss to the Raptors and has made two of 14 shots in two games. The second unit has no chemistry right now and that’s part of the problem, Bolch adds. “We’re struggling right now and we’re just getting to know each other and get in a groove,” Stephenson said to the team’s beat reporters. “I just have to take it slow, figure out my place and we all will figure out each other and I think everything will fall in place.”
  • Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons is entering a pivotal season in his career, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News opines. Sefko believes that Parsons must show that he’s capable of making his teammates better as well as himself. Parsons will either take that step forward or settle in as a 15-point, 5-rebound role player, Sefko adds, with Parsons’ health being the determining factor. Parsons underwent a microfracture procedure on his right knee during the offseason.

Eastern Notes: Porzingis, Raptors, Hawks

Kristaps Porzingis shooting ability has Knicks assistant coach Kurt Rambis comparing the lottery pick to Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reports. “He might be a combination of both of them just because he can do so many things,” Rambis told the team’s beat reporters on Monday. “You guys haven’t seen it yet and probably all of it won’t come out for three or four or five years, either. He’s got to grow up, mature, develop, get stronger, get used to the NBA game. But he already understands basketball.”  Rambis anticipates that opponents will have to craft their defensive gameplans around the team’s rookie power forward because of his “effortless 3-point range,” Bondy adds.

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Raptors’ unheralded free agent signings of veteran power forward Luis Scola and center Bismack Biyombo could pay large dividends, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca opines. Both are expected to play key roles off Toronto’s bench, as coach Dwane Casey values Scola for his experience and durability while Biyombo could anchor the second unit’s defense, Lewenberg continues. “His [role] is to be our defensive captain,” Casey told Lewenberg. “I think his talking, his shot blocking, his protecting the rim is off the charts.”
  • Lamar Patterson has made a strong impression on his Hawks teammates as he battles for the 15th roster spot, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore have all singled out Patterson as having an impressive camp, Vivlamore continues, but the 6’5” shooting guard faces competition from Terran Petteway, Earl Barron, DeQuan Jones, Edgar Sosa and Arsalan Kazemi.
  • Tobias Harris is showing better accuracy on 3-point attempts above the break, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. The Magic’s starting small forward became an above average 3-point shooter from the corners last season and wanted to improve in other areas around the arc, Robbins continues. He hit an above-the-break 3-pointer in the team’s preseason opener and showed that shot again in an open practice on Monday. “I think it’s a big weapon, and I think it’s only going to help our spacing on the court to extend that range out,” Harris said to Robbins. “It’s something that I’ve been working on all summer and I’m going to continue to work on.”

Central Rumors: George, Jackson, Cavs

Paul George has voiced some displeasure with the Pacers’ plan to move him to power forward, though he says he’s willing to stick with it, Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star reports.  George felt overmatched trying to guard Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis in the team’s first preseason game but after meeting with coach Frank Vogel and president of basketball operations Larry Bird, George said on Monday afternoon that he would remain in that role, Buckner continues. “We’re going to still stick with it, see how it works,” he told Buckner. That fact that George lobbied to scrap the team’s entire offseason plan after one game is “lunacy,” Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel opines. But Vogel told Doyel that he’s not worried about George’s reluctance to play there. “Well, he’s going to buy in, so I’m not really sure how to answer that,” Vogel said. “We’re going to work together to figure out the best combination of all these things.”

In other news around the Central Division:

  • Reggie Jackson can produce John Wall-type numbers because he has a top-notch pick-and-roll partner in Andre Drummond and plays in a system suited to his skills, according to Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM.com. Wall complained when the Pistons gave Jackson a five-year, $80MM contract this summer but Jackson doesn’t have to be as talented as Wall to put up gaudy statistics because the Pistons will surround him and Drummond with shooters, Tjarks continues. In contrast, Wall often plays with Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat up front, which gives Wall less room to drive than Jackson will enjoy in Detroit, Tjarks points out. Even when the Wizards go small, they don’t have a roll man with Drummond’s talent, Tjarks adds, which means Jackson can live up to the contract just by the nature of Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy’s offensive system.
  • Cavaliers center Sasha Kaun has no plans to play in Europe again, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. Kaun joined the Cavs this summer as a backup to Timofey Mozgov on a two-year, $2.5MM deal after his contact with CSKA Moscow expired. “When I said I was done in Europe, I was definitely done in Europe,” Kaun told Lloyd. “Seven years was long enough. My wife [a Kansas native] made an amazing sacrifice in moving over there.” Kaun wanted to join the Cavs three years ago, Lloyd adds, but they only offered him the league mininum.

Grizzlies Waive Daniel Nwaelele

The Grizzlies waived shooting guard Daniel Nwaelele on Monday, bringing their roster down to 19 players, the team announced via press release. The 6’5” Nwaelele was signed as a free agent late last month but had little chance to stick, since Memphis has 14 players with guaranteed contracts.

Nwaelele is headed to the Warriors’ D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz, international journalist David Pick reports.

Nwaelele has yet to appear on an NBA regular season roster, but he was with the Spurs for camp in 2013. He made the Warriors’ D-League team at an open tryout in 2012. He returned to the Warriors D-League team after his preseason stint with the Spurs, and in 2013/14, he averaged 12.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 31.1 minutes per game. Prior to his D-League stints, Nwaelele played professionally in Israel.

The 31-year-old went undrafted out of the Air Force Academy in 2007 and then spent several years fulfilling his military commitment.

Players Who Can Veto Trades

No-trade clauses, like the one Carmelo Anthony says he has no intention to waive to facilitate an exit from the Knicks, are rare in the NBA. Only a half-dozen of the most decorated players have them. It’s much more common that a player will gain a de facto no-trade clause through a quirk in the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

Bird rightsEarly Bird rights and Non-Bird rights are all mechanisms that allow teams to go above the salary cap to retain their own players. Trades usually have no effect on those rights, but that’s not the case with players on one-year contracts, or two-year contracts that include an option. A team that acquires a player on a one-year deal via trade can’t use any form of Bird rights to re-sign that player the following offseason. The player often stands to lose financially in such a case, so the NBA allows players who re-signed with their previous teams on one-year contracts, or two-year contracts with option clauses, to block trades if they choose.

Two other situations allow players to veto trades. Players who sign offer sheets that their original team ends up matching don’t have to be traded if they don’t want to for one year after signing the offer sheet, and players who accepted qualifying offers can block trades, too.

One additional note: No player signed this offseason can be traded until December 15th, at the earliest.

Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of players who can block trades this season:

No-trade clauses

Players whose offer sheets were matched

Players accepting qualifying offers

Players re-signing for one year (or two years including option)

*- Players with an asterisk by their names have a no-trade clause expressly written in their contracts and have a de facto no-trade clause, too.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Southwest Notes: Butler, Ajinca, Green

The Spurs weren’t the only NBA team interested in Rasual Butler when he signed with San Antonio last month, as a Western Conference suitor lurked, but the 36-year-old finds there’s “no place better to be than here,” reports Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News. Butler’s contract is non-guaranteed, but he has a line on a regular season roster spot, according to coach/executive Gregg Popovich, as Young notes.

“He’s a seasoned pro in a sense that he knows himself, he knows what role he can play,” Popovich said. “He’s at a stage in his career where he just wants to be a part of something that’s just positive and good. He obviously can shoot the basketball. If he couldn’t shoot, we wouldn’t be talking to him. You got to have a skill to play. For all those reasons, he’s somebody that’s got a great shot to make our team.”

The Spurs have 13 fully guaranteed contracts, seemingly leaving two available spots on the opening night roster. See more on the Spurs amid the latest from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans backup center Alexis Ajinca will miss the next four to six weeks because of a right hamstring strain, the team announced. New Orleans committed a four-year, $19.5MM deal to Ajinca this past summer, and the team is without any other natural center to play behind Omer Asik, with the possible exception of Anthony Davis. The injury could bode well for power forward Jeff Adrien, the only big man without a fully guaranteed salary on the Pelicans.
  • Jeff Green says he was frustrated with the lack of a consistent role with the Grizzlies following the midseason trade that took him to Memphis, but he’s optimistic about this year, and coach Dave Joerger is expecting a breakout season, as Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal details. Green is set for free agency this coming summer after picking up his $9.2MM player option this past June. “It was tough to not be in one role. One day I’d start, one day I’d come off the bench. I was playing the 3 and the 4. It was tough,” Green said. “It’s hard to do. There’s only a few players that can really do that. I’m thankful to be in that position to be able to do that. But when you come onto a team halfway through the year, having to do that is tough because you never get a grasp of what you really need to do for the team. This year, I have an open mind. It doesn’t matter what position I play, I’m going to give it my all.”
  • Cory Joseph started for the Spurs most of December last year and wound up seeing only 22 total minutes during the postseason. A similarly occasional place in Sacramento’s rotation has trade acquisition Ray McCallum willing to embrace the same stop-and-start playing time with the Spurs, as Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News chronicles. Joseph snagged a four-year, $30MM deal with the Raptors this past summer, and McCallum is due for restricted free agency at season’s end.

Arinze Onuaku To Play In Israel

Two-year NBA veteran Arinze Onuaku is expected to sign with Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, a source tells Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi. International journalist David Pick, writing for One.co.il, also reports the deal, adding that it covers three months and that it includes an option worth $200K that would extend it for the entire season (Twitter link). Onuaku finished 2014/15 with the Timberwolves, who used a hardship provision of a 16th roster spot to sign him for the final week of the season.

Onuaku, who turned 28 in July, averaged 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 11.4 minutes per game across six appearances for Minnesota this past April. It was the most significant action of the power forward’s brief NBA career, as he made it into only five combined games for the Pelicans and Cavaliers in 2013/14. He was with the Pacers for the preseason a year ago, but he’s chiefly played with Cleveland’s D-League affiliate the past three years. The former Syracuse player put up 17.5 PPG and 12.2 RPG in 34.6 MPG over 41 appearances for the D-League Canton Charge this past season.

Minnesota had the opportunity to tender a $1,147,276 qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent this summer, but the Wolves declined. Instead, he’ll join Jordan Farmar and draft prospect Dragan Bender with Maccabi Tel Aviv, which just played a pair of exhibitions in the U.S. last week.

Pacers Sign Kadeem Jack To Camp Deal

MONDAY, 2:39pm: Jack has put pen to paper with the Pacers, Bass shows via Instagram.

FRIDAY, 9:50am: The Pacers will sign power forward Kadeem Jack and add him to their training camp roster, a league source tells Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops (Twitter link). Agent Brian J. Bass confirms the move via Twitter. Jack, who turns 23 later this month, went undrafted out of Rutgers this year. He’ll become the 18th player on the Pacers, who were tied with the Clippers and Trail Blazers for the most open spots beneath the 20-man preseason roster limit.

Jack was a largely unheralded draft prospect, though his numbers at Rutgers weren’t shabby, as he put up 13.0 points and 6.4 rebounds in 31.0 minutes per game as a senior this past season. Those were nonetheless declines in his production from his junior year, when he’d done more in fewer minutes, with 14.3 PPG and 6.9 RPG in 29.3 MPG. He altered his shot selection, taking 48 total three-pointers and connecting on 15 of them in 2014/15 after attempting just a trio of three-pointers as a junior.

Indiana already has 15 players on fully guaranteed contracts, as our roster count shows, plus a partial guarantee for Toney Douglas and a non-guaranteed pact with C.J. Fair. The level of guarantee Jack is receiving isn’t clear, but it doesn’t appear as though he has much chance to stick for opening night. The Pacers can retain the D-League rights to as many as four players they waive, so the odds would seem better that Jack ends up with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who became Indiana’s one-to-one D-League affiliate this year.

Hornets To Sign Damien Wilkins

1:43pm: Charlotte does plan to sign Wilkins, as Bonnell makes clear in a full story.

9:49am: The Hornets are indeed bringing in Wilkins for a “preseason look,” tweets Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. That presumably confirms that the team intends to sign him.

8:22am: Nine-year NBA veteran Damien Wilkins is headed to Charlotte for a chance to return to the league, as indicated by quotes attributed to him on the Twitter feed of the Venezuelan team Guaros de Lara (hat tip to Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com). Wilkins said he wouldn’t be joining Guaros de Lara as planned after receiving word of an opportunity with Charlotte (All five Twitter links here, in Spanish). Other tweets from the Venezuelan team indicate the same, so it would appear that the Hornets are either going to work him out, sign him, or both. It seems part of an effort to offset the loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has a dislocated right shoulder. The Hornets have yet to release any timetable, but it’s an injury that typically costs players three to 12 weeks, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

Wilkins, 35, was last on an NBA contract two years ago, when the Hawks brought him to camp and waived him before the start of the regular season. He’d spent 2012/13 season with the Sixers, for whom he put up 6.4 points in 18.0 minutes per game with 33.3% shooting in 61 appearances, numbers close to his NBA career averages. Wilkins has played overseas and in the D-League since, notching 20.2 PPG and 5.7 RPG in 37.8 MPG with 33.1% three-point shooting across 50 contests with the D-League affiliate of the Grizzlies this past season.

Kidd-Gilchrist and Wilkins are both perimeter players, lending credence to the idea that Kidd-Gilchrist’s injury precipitated Wilkins’ trip to Charlotte. The Hornets have been carrying 18 players, as our roster count shows. Coach Steve Clifford has opposed the idea of adding more, but that’s a stance that’s likely changed with the injury. Charlotte has its entire $5.464MM mid-level exception at its disposal, though few players receive more than the minimum this time of year. A more significant question likely involves how much, if any, guaranteed money Wilkins would receive. Charlotte already has 14 full guarantees.

Do you think Wilkins can help the Hornets? Leave a comment to tell us.

Carmelo Anthony Says He Won’t Ask For Trade

Carmelo Anthony rebuked speculation that he would eventually become disenchanted with the Knicks and ask for a trade, saying “hell no” in response to a reporter’s question to that effect, notes Al Iannazzone of Newsday (Twitter link). He once more reiterated his faith in team president Phil Jackson, Iannazonne observes, and ‘Melo added that he was bothered all summer by the notion that he wanted to be traded and that he was against the team’s decision to draft Kristaps Porzingis fourth overall, tweets Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.

Anthony’s contract, which still has four years and more than $101.606MM left on it, includes a no-trade clause and also features a 15% trade kicker, a bill the Knicks would have to pay if Anthony ever did consent to a swap. That would further complicate any potential trade scenario. The Knicks plummeted to a 17-65 record this past season, the first on Anthony’s contract and the first full season for Jackson as team president. They drafted chiefly for the long run when they chose the still-developing Porzingis, and they missed on Greg Monroe and other key free agent targets, but they upgraded the roster for the near term with signings of Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and others. Anthony’s return from knee surgery, which limited him to 40 games last season, also figures to help the Knicks bounce back.

‘Melo hinted this weekend that he intends to remain with the Knicks even beyond his contract, which carries a player option for the final season. The 31-year-old said recently that he’s taking Porzingis, 19, under his wing, having called the Latvian big man “a steal” in the initial wake of the draft.

Do you think Anthony will remain with the Knicks for the entire term of his contract? What about for the rest of his career? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

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