Hawks Pick Up Dennis Schröder’s Option

October 30 at 7:08pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The Hawks have picked up their third-year team option for Dennis Schröder, according to the RealGM transactions log. Schröder is scheduled to make $1,763,400 during the 2015/16 campaign, and Atlanta now has approximately $41,215,385 in guaranteed salary on the books for that season, including Schröder’s money.

It’s not a surprise that the Hawks would pick up Schröder’s option, despite him not living up to having been the 17th overall selection in the 2013 NBA draft, at least to this point. With Jeff Teague entrenched as the starter, and under contract through 2016/17, Atlanta still hopes that Schröder can develop into a serviceable backup, and potential successor to Teague.

In 50 career games Schröder has averaged 3.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG, and 1.9 APG. His slash line is .383/.238/.667.

Warriors Pick Up Barnes Option, Decline Nedovic

October 30 at 6:39pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The Warriors have exercised their fourth-year team option for Harrison Barnes, the team has announced in a press release.  The team also intends to decline their third-year option for Nemanja Nedovic, the press release noted. With Golden State also picking up their team option for Festus Ezeli earlier today, the Warriors now have an estimated $62MM in guaranteed salary commitments for the 2015/16 season. That figure doesn’t include Klay Thompson, who is currently in talks with the team regarding a contract extension.

The 22-year-old Barnes has appeared in 160 games, including 106 as a starter, in his three seasons in Golden State. He has averaged 9.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 1.3 APG, and his career slash line is .418/.349/.737. Barnes, who was selected with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft, was a First Team All-Rookie selection in 2012/13.

Nedovic, 23, appeared in 24 games with the Warriors last season as a rookie, averaging 1.1 points in 5.9 minutes per contest. It’s not a surprise that Golden State would decline their option on Nedovic, seeing as he is currently buried on the depth chart as the fourth point guard.

Warriors Pick Up Option On Festus Ezeli

October 30 at 6:09pm CDT By Chuck Myron

THURSDAY, 6:09pm: Golden State has officially exercised Ezeli’s option, the team has announced.

WEDNESDAY, 9:13am: The Warriors will exercise their team option to keep Festus Ezeli on his rookie scale contract through 2015/16, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Ezeli will make nearly $2.009MM that season, as our Rookie Scale Team Option Tracker shows. The club also has 2015/16 rookie scale team options pending with Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Nedovic, with a decision due by the end of Friday.

Ezeli missed all of 2013/14 after undergoing right knee surgery, but he played a key role the previous year as a rookie, starting 41 games. He averaged 2.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per contest over 78 appearances during the season as a whole. The now 25-year-old Ezeli saw just 15 minutes total in two preseason games this month, but it appears the Warriors are willing to let him prove his health over a longer period of time before giving up on the final pick of the 2012 first round.

Golden State is facing a salary crunch for the 2015/16 season, as Ezeli’s option will lift the team’s guaranteed salaries to about $58.1MM. That doesn’t include any money for Klay Thompson, who’s pushing for the maximum salary in extension talks with the team. A max deal for Thompson and picking up the team option on Barnes would put Golden State at roughly $77MM in guaranteed salary to eight players, and that doesn’t count a nearly $1.271MM player option for Brandon Rush and assumes the team turns down Nedovic’s option. That figure would put Golden State above this season’s $76.829MM luxury tax line, and while that line is expected to rise for 2015/16, it’s unclear by how much.

Undrafted Rookies On Opening-Night Rosters

October 30 at 2:48pm CDT By Chuck Myron

When an NBA prospect doesn’t hear his name called on draft night the year that he’s eligible to be selected, it’s hardly a death sentence for his chances of playing in the league. For many such players, it’s actually an advantage to go undrafted, since that allows them to negotiate with 30 NBA teams instead of just one. Few, if any, players who are passed over on draft night can say in the immediate aftermath that it’s likely that they’ll someday be in the Association, but it didn’t stop the 84 undrafted players who appeared in an NBA game last season.

I listed the undrafted rookies who’d secured deals within about two months after the draft this year, but many more signed after that, and several of the players on that August list failed to make it to opening night. It’s not uncommon to see several undrafted rookies dot training camp rosters around the league, but most of them don’t end up making it to opening night.

There were 13 undrafted rookies on opening-night rosters two years ago when I made a similar examination, and this year there are 11. The Pacers are the only team that has two such rookies. One of them, Shayne Whittington, is from this year’s draft class, while the other, Damjan Rudez, comes from overseas after going undrafted back in 2008, demonstrating both of the paths that this year’s undrafted first-year players have taken. Joe Ingles of the Jazz and Zoran Dragic of the Suns are the other rookies who hail from outside North America and who played international ball for years after the NBA passed them up on draft night. This season, they’ve finally come to the NBA.

Here’s the complete list of the undrafted rookies on opening-night rosters this year, along with their teams and the year in which they were eligible for the draft:

  • Tarik Black, Rockets (2014)
  • Andre Dawkins, Heat (2014)
  • Zoran Dragic, Suns (2011)
  • Alex Kirk, Cavaliers (2014)
  • Joe Ingles, Jazz (2009)
  • Eric Moreland, Kings (2014)
  • Damjan Rudez, Pacers (2008)
  • JaKarr Sampson, Sixers (2014)
  • Travis Wear, Knicks (2014)
  • Shayne Whittington, Pacers (2014)
  • Patric Young, Pelicans (2014)

Extensions Unlikely For Leonard, Butler

October 30 at 1:59pm CDT By Chuck Myron

THURSDAY, 1:59pm: Johnson suggests the potential remains that Friday’s 11:00pm Central time deadline will motivate Butler and the Bulls to strike a deal, but the Chicago Tribune scribe adds that the sides remain far apart in their proposals (Twitter link).

WEDNESDAY, 11:54am: Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are unlikely to sign extensions with the Spurs and Bulls, respectively, before Friday’s deadline, a source tells Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Leonard is reportedly seeking the maximum salary, and while a recent report indicated Butler and the Bulls were “millions apart” in talks, that sort of separation is not uncommon in the days leading up to the rookie scale extension deadline. Broussard also hears the Knicks won’t grant an extension to Iman Shumpert, advancing the reporting of ESPN colleague Ian Begley.

Bulls GM Gar Forman said earlier today that he’d met with Butler’s agent, Happy Walters, and that Butler’s left thumb injury wouldn’t affect negotiations, tweets David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. The injury is expected to keep him out no longer than three weeks, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune notes (Twitter links). It’s unlikely that the eye infection that plagued Leonard throughout the preseason and forced him to miss San Antonio’s opening night game Tuesday would affect an extension for him, either.

The Spurs and Brian Elfus, who represents Leonard, have reportedly met several times in the past few weeks but have made no progress, though the Spurs appear poised to match any maximum salary offer sheet that Leonard would sign in restricted free agency next summer. The reigning Finals MVP appears prepared to buck the tradition of San Antonio’s stars agreeing to discounts, though the Spurs could still prevail on Leonard to do so next summer even if they can’t convince him to take less in an extension by the end of Friday.

Butler expressed confidence just days ago that he and the Bulls would come to an extension, so presumably talks, which the swingman said a month ago were going in the right direction, have hit a snag. Chicago apparently had a preference to come to an extension rather than let Butler, who turned 25 last month, hit restricted free agency. The Bulls have about $60.2MM tied up for 2015/16, and Kirk Hinrich holds a nearly $2.9MM player option, so Chicago probably wouldn’t have the cap flexibility to replace Butler if he were to sign an offer sheet and Forman and company decided against matching.

Hornets Notes: Walker, Taylor, Jefferson

October 30 at 1:22pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The start of the season has gone just about as well as could be scripted for Kemba Walker and the Hornets, who reached a deal on a four-year, $48MM extension Tuesday and formally announced it today. In between, Walker hit the game-winning shot to give Charlotte an overtime victory Wednesday in its first regular season game since reclaiming the Hornets nickname. Here’s more from The Hive:

  • Hornets GM Rich Cho didn’t hide his enthusiasm about the Walker extension, and Walker is excited, too, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes (Twitter links). “I would love to be here as long as I can,” Walker said. “I love the city of Charlotte.”
  • Jeff Taylor received 18 months of probation and was ordered to pay $1,840 today after pleading guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor domestic assault and property destruction charges, reports Kevin Grasha of the Lansing State Journal. Taylor remains on paid leave from the Hornets, and Cho said today that the team will take its cues from the league, noting that the NBA has yet to finish its investigation of the matter, Bonnell observes (Twitter links).
  • Al Jefferson can hit free agency in the summer if he turns down his $13.5MM player option, but Michael Jordan made it clear earlier this week that he has no intention of letting the center get away, as the owner told Bonnell. “Al is a straight shooter. We love him,” Jordan said. “He took a gamble on us. That obviously plays into our thinking.”

Minor Moves: Covington, Mekel, Heat, Warriors

October 30 at 12:19pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Robert Covington nearly had a deal with the Sixers this week shortly after the Rockets waived him, but talks broke down over contract length and the 23-year-old forward is expected to sign with the D-League instead, Shams Charania of RealGM reports. Philadelphia offered a four-year arrangement with a “high” amount of guaranteed salary, Charania writes, but Covington apparently passed on that. The sides were unable to forge a deal on a shorter contract, Charania notes. Covington joins K.J. McDaniels, the 32nd pick in this year’s draft who inked with the Sixers for just one year, among those resisting Philly’s efforts to tie up young players on long-term deals. The deluge of players hitting waivers in the past week has led to news around the D-League and international circuits, and we’ll pass along the latest here:

  • Gal Mekel isn’t thinking of heading overseas to play in the wake of the Mavs‘ decision to waive him Wednesday, tweets David Pick of Eurobasket.com, so he’ll remain free to sign with another NBA team providing he clears waivers.
  • Khem Birch, Larry Drew II, Tyler Johnson and Shawn Jones have agreed to join the Heat‘s D-League affiliate, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel (Twitter link). Miami is using its ability to reserve the D-League rights to up to four of its preseason cuts to keep Birch, Johnson and Jones out of the D-League draft, but Drew played with the Heat’s D-League affiliate last year, so he wouldn’t have been subject to the draft. That allows the Heat to preserve their ability to retain the D-League rights to one player they waive during the regular season. Andre Dawkins seems a likely candidate for that sort of maneuver, Winderman suggests (on Twitter).
  • Sean Kilpatrick will play for the Warriors D-League affiliate, tweets Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv, who confirms an earlier report that Aaron Craft will do the same. That means Golden State retained the D-League rights to both after waiving them last week.

Hornets Sign Kemba Walker To Extension

October 30 at 12:01pm CDT By Zach Links

Kemba Walker and the Hornets have officially signed a rookie-scale extension, the team acknowledged in a formal announcementMarc Stein of ESPN.com first reported on Tuesday that the sides had agreed to terms on what is a four-year, $48MM deal. It contains no options or incentive clauses, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link) confirms. Earlier Tuesday, Hornets owner Michael Jordan made it known that he intended to work out a new deal with Walker.

kemba walker (vertical)

“Today is a great day for the Charlotte Hornets,” Hornets GM Rich Cho said in the team’s statement. “To be able to retain such an important piece of the core we are building here in Charlotte is exciting. Kemba is an integral part of the culture we’re trying to create within our organization and we are excited that he will continue to be a part of our team for years to come.”

Walker, a Jeff Schwartz client, averaged 17.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, and 4.2 RPG in a career-high 35.8 minutes per contest last season.  Walker’s scoring average was identical to his 2012/13 mark and he’s accustomed to being a leading scorer for Charlotte.  However, not everyone sees him as a go-to player and his $12MM average annual salary is sure to draw some criticism.  About a month ago, Zach Lowe of Grantland wrote that he has heard from executives around the league that the the UConn product is not a “championship point guard.”  Walker got his first taste of NBA postseason basketball last season and Charlotte has a good shot at a return trip this year.

As Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors pointed out earlier, the Hornets had about $22.7MM in guaranteed salary on the books for 2015/16 prior to the Walker agreement, though that number increases when factoring in a $13.5MM player option for Al Jefferson, $10MM+ in rookie scale team options that the team has since exercised, and a $6MM player option for Gerald Henderson.  With that in mind, the new deal for Walker doesn’t leave the Hornets much room to add an impact free agent next summer.  However, if the Hornets didn’t lock up Walker to a new deal before then, they would have risked seeing two top players — Jefferson and Walker — potentially hit the open market.

Even though Walker’s scoring average stayed the same from 2012/13 to 2013/14, his shooting percentage dipped from 42.3% to 39.3% as his uptick in long two-point attempts cost him some accuracy. That slide was also reflected in his PER as it declined from 18.8 in 2012/13 to 16.8 this past season. Walker’s PER score in 2013/14 put him 17th amongst all qualified point guards.

Kyrie Irving, Kenneth Faried, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Morris have also taken advantage of the extension window that opened on July 1st.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Q&A With Former Bulls Guard Craig Hodges

October 30 at 10:30am CDT By Zach Links

Earlier this week, Phil Jackson hired old friend Craig Hodges to serve as an assistant coach for the Knicks’ D-League affiliate in Westchester.  A two-time champion as a player under the Zen Master, Hodges later reunited with Jackson as an assistant coach for the Lakers and added two more rings to his collection.  During his playing days, the guard led the league in three-point shooting percentage twice over the course of his ten-year career and established himself as one of the most consistent long-range threats of his time.

When the Bulls visited the White House after winning the 1992 NBA Championship, Hodges handed President George H.W. Bush a letter outlining his dissatisfaction with the administration’s treatment of disadvantaged black Americans.  That summer, he was waived by the Bulls and, surprisingly, was not picked up by another team, prompting him to later file a lawsuit against the NBA alleging that he was blackballed from the game.  He was unsuccessful in court but the experience hasn’t hardened Hodges and he is still very much an activist for the downtrodden.

When he’s not busy with the Westchester Knicks this season, Hodges will be working on his forthcoming book, which he expects to be released in January.  The NBA champion and the newest member of the Knicks D-League operation was kind enough to take some time and chat with Hoops Rumors on Tuesday.

Zach Links: How did the opportunity to join the Westchester Knicks coaching staff come about?  It was reported that you were initially among the head coaching candidates.

Craig Hodges: It actually was one of those things where it was a basic interview and they didn’t really tell me which job was available. Initially they talked to me in May and asked if I would be interested in working with the D-League team.  I got a call again in August to actually come and interview we’ve been going back and forth since then.   NBA: Utah Jazz at Chicago Bulls

ZL: How often do you and Phil Jackson talk?

CH: Well, with him, even when you don’t talk to him you know you’re still cool with him and I have a cool relationship with him.  He’s a great manager of people and his management style is that he understands what you do well, and if he sees something that you need help with, he’ll help you or find a person to help you. I’ve never felt uncomfortable around him, and I’ve been blessed to be one of the first players to win a championship [with him], and I was a coach on his staff when he won his last one, so hopefully we can make something happen here.

ZL: I know you just joined the staff, but do you have a sense of how closely the Westchester Knicks will work with the main organization?

CH: We’re going to function as their minor league team and we’re going to operate the way that they operate so that they can gauge the pulse of our players.  It’s a great situation and I’m looking forward to it.  We’ll also have an emphasis on getting guys accustomed to the triangle and ready to play in that system.

ZL: The D-League is very youth-centric, but what do you think of it as a tool for veterans to find their way back into the NBA?

CH: I think it’s good for both young guys and vets.  I don’t know how many vets look at it as an opportunity, but they should.  One drawback would be the money, but I think the opportunities that come from it would be worthwhile for guys trying to get back into the NBA and get their games back to that level. I think we have a great thing going in Westchester and, hopefully, guys will see it as a destination location.

ZL: In 1992, you brought a lawsuit against the league when you felt that you were blackballed from playing for expressing your beliefs.  Do you feel like in 2014 a player can take up a cause without repercussions, or do you think that could still be problematic career-wise?

CH: You’re always going to be sacrificing something if you speak out, but I think it’s important for people to do so when it comes to issues that are near and dear to their hearts.  If someone [takes a stand], they need to know that they’ve done critical studies on what they want to speak about.  I was the baby of the movement and my mission then [was], and it continues to be, ‘How can I help people who are less fortunate than me and help them move upward?’  Many people saw that as a militant stand to take, but I look at it as a cultural imperative.  Mentors in my life have always told me that you’re only as strong as the weakest of your people, and when I look at the condition of my people, especially in Chicago where the young people are killing each other and getting killed at a horrible rate, you just have to say something.  We have the opportunity as a nation to take the lead role in getting people to realize how important it is to teach young people.

ZL: Could you tell me a bit about your upcoming book?

CH: It’s not a book to bash anybody, but it’s a book to clear the air as far as the stuff that happened in my career and also what I see going on.  God blesses me and he blesses you with teachings, but not everyone is taught the same way and not everyone is passionate about the same things.  I think God has blessed us with a garden where we can have a lot of good people do a lot of good things and we can change the face of the Earth by doing so.  

ZL: Now that you’re actively working for the NBA again, will you be pulling any punches in the book when it comes to how your career ended, or are you putting it all out there? 

CH: I think it’ll be somewhat cathartic when I put it all on paper.  I’m just putting the facts out there and letting people study things for what they are, it’s not up to me to make judgement calls.  Everyone has their own reasoning and logic. … For me, I just want to make sure that I put it out there as a written history for my sons and my grandbabies, but I also want it out there for the overall legacy of it, man.  I think that it’s important that I took the stand that I did.  My mantra has been to help others ever since I was 8 years old.  My mom was a civil rights organizer who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and those ideals have been on my heart.  They haven’t diminished.

ZL: Do you have a publisher yet?

CH: We’re still shopping it and we have a few meetings over the next few weeks with publishers.  It’s been a cool experience and I’m looking forward to getting the book out there. It’s something I should have done a long time ago.  Having Daniel [Hazan, of Hazan Sports Management] to help me has been great.  I never had an agent for off-the-court matters [before], and looking back on my life, I wish I had an agent for that type of stuff. It would have made things a lot easier.

ZL: Do you have your eye on becoming a head coach in the NBA?

CH: [laughs] Not at all!  That’s the thing, I love what I do as an assistant coach.  The purity of the game is what I love.  I get to help make guys better and do as much as possible with their talent.  That’s what I like doing, so I haven’t thought about moving up the ladder.  I think in general if you do a good job, then opportunities open up, and then you can assess and go from there.  I’ve been trying to live more in the spiritual realm. I’m not looking forward or behind. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extension Appears Unlikely For Reggie Jackson

October 30 at 8:59am CDT By Chuck Myron

It appears unlikely that the Thunder and Reggie Jackson will sign an extension before the deadline to do so at 11:00pm Central on Friday, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. The sides had been engaged in active talks as recently as a couple of weeks ago, but it’s unclear whether negotiations continue. GM Sam Presti had reportedly been confident a month ago about striking some sort of deal with the fourth-year guard, but it looks like that if it happens, it’ll take place in restricted free agency next summer rather than in the form of an extension this fall. The Thunder traded James Harden and Jeff Green not long after rookie scale extension talks broke down with those two, Mayberry notes, but Presti has said he has no plans to send Jackson away.

Jackson expressed hope for an extension during a September interview, but in the same conversation he made it clear that he was prepared in case agent Aaron Mintz and the team couldn’t agree to terms this month. Mintz and his partners at Creative Artists Agency are likely to use Eric Bledsoe‘s five-year, $70MM deal with the Suns, Kemba Walker‘s four-year, $48MM extension with the Hornets, and any extension that Ricky Rubio and Brandon Knight might sign as benchmarks for the Jackson talks, Mayberry writes.

The 24-year-old Jackson is suffering from a bruised right wrist and a sprained right ankle and missed Oklahoma City’s regular season opener Wednesday, but he’s expected back in a few days, and the injuries appear unlikely to affect whether he signs an extension. Of greater import is likely whether the Thunder sees him as a long-term solution as a starter in the backcourt next to Russell Westbrook, as Cray Allred of Hoops Rumors wrote when he looked at Jackson’s extension candidacy. Jackson has long expressed a desire to start, and while smaller lineups are in vogue, he and Westbrook are both listed at just 6’3″.