Goran Dragic was a bit shocked that the Suns dealt his former teammate Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics at this season’s trade deadline, Ben Rohrbach of WEEI 93.7 FM writes. “If I’m honest, I was a little bit surprised, especially because I asked for the trade,” said Dragic. “But that’s how the NBA goes. It’s a business. Unfortunately, we had three point guards at the same position and only one ball, so it’s kind of hard to satisfy everybody.”
Presumably, Dragic was talking about his request that the Suns trade him, as they ultimately did when they sent him to the Heat, rather than suggesting that he asked the Suns to trade Thomas, though that’s not entirely clear. Here’s more from around the league:
- Metta World Peace‘s deal for the remainder of the season with Italy’s Pallacanestro Cantù is worth approximately $40K plus bonuses, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports.
- Projected 2015 lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay has parted ways with agent Raymond Brothers, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress reports (Twitter link). The guard will now be represented by Jason Martin and Dwon Clifton of Rival Sports Group, Givony adds. Mudiay is currently the No. 3 ranked prospect according to DraftExpress and ESPN.com.
- Daniel Orton, who appeared in 22 contest for the Sixers during the 2013/14 campaign, doesn’t look back at his time in Philadelphia fondly, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Orton discussed what it was like to go from the Thunder organization to the Sixers’, saying, “Leaving the Thunder, you see the greater side of the NBA. I went into Philly and a situation where it was the total opposite. You got a team just trying to rebuild basically from scratch and blowing up anytime you had something going good. So you definitely learn the business side of it.” Orton has played in China and the Philippines this season after attending training camp with the Wizards.
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.
The Sixers and rookie Glenn Robinson III have mutual interest in working out a deal that would keep the player in Philadelphia beyond this season, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Robinson will be a restricted free agent this summer if the Sixers tender him a qualifying offer worth $1,045,059. The rookie is currently on a one year, minimum salary deal. “They’ve really done a good job with me, just the little time I’ve been here,” Robinson said. “So I would definitely love to come back and play with these bigs [Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel] and this whole team. I think we really have a good chance of being a great team.”
Robinson has only appeared in one contest for the Sixers since the team claimed him off of waivers from the Timberwolves earlier this month. The young swingman said that getting released by Minnesota tested his resolve, Pompey notes. “I learned a lot in regards to how tough and how strong I am,” said Robinson. “I try not to pay attention to that and still keep pushing. I still believe that one day I’m going to be one of the best players in this league. I have no doubt about that.” The Nuggets were also reportedly interested in Robinson.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said the team would need to take a look at what Robinson could do at some point, Pompey adds. “I don’t feel the pressure yet,” Brown said of the need to play Robinson. “I don’t feel that I’m in a rush to make it happen.” Robinson is currently behind Jason Richardson, Hollis Thompson, Robert Covington, and JaKarr Sampson on the Sixers’ depth chart.
The 21-year-old out of Michigan was selected with the No. 40 overall pick by the Timberwolves in the 2014 NBA draft. Robinson appeared in 25 games for Minnesota this season, averaging 1.2 points and 0.6 rebounds in 4.3 minutes per contest.
Sixers coach Brett Brown won’t stop pushing his team to improve, regardless of how it affects Philly’s chances of snagging the top pick in this year’s draft, Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Daily News writes. “I don’t know how to coach anymore if that becomes part of it all,” Brown said. “I really don’t. You can’t cheat the game. I get it and I understand it. I just don’t even know how to do my job, otherwise. We go about our business. I can’t walk into the locker room and do anything else for those guys. They want to play hard. They want to compete. Whatever ends up happening, ends up happening. I’m proud of the way we play every night. What we may lack in resumes and birth certificates and all of that, we make up for with big spirit and tremendous team camaraderie, despite what our win/loss record says. This is a spirited group and one that I love coaching.”
Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- While the Sixers still need an upgrade at the point, Ish Smith has shown enough promise that he should factor into the team’s plans for next season, Cooney adds. “He has a clear upside,” Brown said of Smith. “I think that because of his style of shooting – he’s a set-shooter – I can see how he can improve with repetition and encouragement and all those types of things in the next short period of time. Then you have the constant qualities that he’s a hell of a teammate, he’s an athlete, he’s highly competitive. Although he’s been around a lot, it’s not like he’s got a lot of miles on his legs. He really hasn’t played a lot, but he’s been around a lot. For all those reasons, I just feel like his upside is clear.”
- Phil Jackson was hired as Knicks team president to restore faith in the franchise, something he has failed to do during his tenure thus far, Justin Terranova of The New York Post writes. Jackson has fallen in ESPN Insider’s Front Office rankings from the No. 21 spot to the 29th, with only Nets GM Billy King below him.
- A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com looks at the effect that Isaiah Thomas will have on the Celtics‘ lineup and playoff chances now that he’s set to return from his injury.
John Calipari “desperately” wants back into the NBA, an NBA front-office executive tells Steve Popper of The Record, and that executive sees a way for that to happen with the Nets, the team Calipari ran in a coach/executive role from 1996 to 1999. Popper hears from sources who cite Calipari’s ties to Nets CEO Brett Yormark, though sources close to Calipari tell Popper that it would take a dual coach/executive role for the Kentucky coach to return to the pro game. Calipari and the Cavs reportedly had discussions about such a role and a would-be lucrative contract last offseason, but Calipari instead signed a new deal with Kentucky. Here’s more on the Nets and the rest of the Atlantic Division:
- Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has “great interest” in a new deal with Jared Sullinger, but it would likely come with a weight clause, writes Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com. Sullinger, who’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer, would be on board with a weight-based stipulation, as he tells MacMullan, though he’s reluctant to admit that he ballooned to 300 pounds at one point this season, as the Celts believe he did.
- Sixers coach Brett Brown hates having to cut the minutes of Henry Sims to find time to evaluate Thomas Robinson and Furkan Aldemir, but that’s what’s happened as the end of the final season on Sims’ contract approaches, as Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News examines. Perhaps not coincidentally, the downturn in playing time comes with Sims needing 10 more starts to trigger a higher qualifying offer this summer, as I noted. He hasn’t started since March 2nd. “I try not to think for them,” Sims said of the Sixers. “For me, I feel that I’ve done enough out here to let them know what I can do. I feel like I’ve done my job and that’s all I can do.”
- The Knicks have been so impressed with midseason signee Langston Galloway‘s video preparation that they’ve told him to watch less, as Newsday’s Al Iannazzone notes as he looks at the rookie’s heavy workload. Galloway, who’s averaged 31.6 minutes in 34 games this season, has non-guaranteed salary with partial guarantee dates for next season, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reported.
Thomas Robinson is making a strong case that he should be a part of the Sixers‘ future plans, Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Daily News writes. “I’ve never played this much before and never played this consistently, so this is my first time getting an opportunity,” Robinson said. “You always want that momentum. This time of the year, it’s hard mentally when you know you’re not playing for anything. Us, in this locker room, we want to go out with momentum and know that we’re getting better, and we’ll go into the summer where we’ll know that we have a platform to start on. That’s all that really matters right now.”
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- The Celtics have assigned James Young to the Maine Red Claws, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Young’s eleventh trek of the season to Maine. The swingman has appeared in 11 contests for the Red Claws this season and is averaging 22.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals in 33.2 minutes per game.
- Thabo Sefolosha is expected to make his return to the Hawks‘ lineup on Wednesday night against the Magic, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports tweets. Sefolosha has been sidelined since January 30th with a calf injury.
- Hornets assistant coach Mark Price has been offered the head coaching position at UNC Charlotte, Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com reports. Sources told Goodman that Price has been offered a five-year deal and is mulling whether or not to accept it.
Several high-powered agents have warned teams not to discourage potential suitors from signing restricted free agents to offer sheets, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports. The agents are concerned about recent statements made by some teams with a prominent restricted free agent that they would match offer sheets, Kyler continues. The agents will encourage their clients to agree to a qualifying offer, as the Pistons’ Greg Monroe did last summer, and become unrestricted free agents after the 2015/16 season if teams engage in an anti-offer sheet campaign, Kyler adds. With the salary cap projected to increase dramatically after the 2015/16 season, some players may be willing to take that risk, Kyler concludes.
In other news around the league:
- Sixers guard Ish Smith wants to remain with the club next season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Smith, who has played for eight organizations during his five-year career, is averaging 11.4 points, 6.3 assists and 24.7 minutes in 15 games with Philadelphia after being claimed off waivers in February. “Obviously, during the summer you figure all that stuff out,” said Smith, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
- Many NBA observers believe the league is headed for another lockout after the 2016/17 season, according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report. Both the league’s owners and the NBA Players Association can opt out of the current agreement after that season. It would be a mistake for that to happen, Bucher says, adding that fans and media should boycott the league if a lockout occurs.
- The Jazz’s D-League team, the Idaho Stampede, will remain in Boise, Sea Dubs Central tweets. An announcement will be made on Tuesday regarding a rebranding of the team, rather than a move, the tweet adds. The Stampede had affiliations with four other NBA teams before becoming the sole affiliate of the Jazz this season.
JaVale McGee now prefers a deal that carries only through the end of the season, a source tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, who writes in his weekly power rankings. That indicates a turnabout from earlier this month, when he was reportedly seeking a player option for 2015/16 on any deal. That was apparently at the root of failed negotiations with the Celtics, who wanted a team option. Most of the contending teams reportedly inquired about the B.J. Armstrong client earlier this month, and, as Spears reports today, McGee still wants to play for a postseason contender.
It’s unclear if the lack of an insistence on a player option will spark a renewed interest, as chatter about the 27-year-old has slowed considerably after a brief period in which he seemed a prime target following his release from the Sixers. The Mavs were “seriously interested” a few weeks ago, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported then, but Spears reported last week that they were no longer in pursuit. The Rockets, Raptors and Heat also appeared to be teams in the mix for McGee at the time of the strong interest from Dallas, but even at that point, there was “no way” the Raptors would cross the tax line to sign him, according to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun.
While Houston, Miami and Toronto likely wouldn’t go over the tax threshold for this season with a multiyear arrangement for the minimum salary, a one-year deal reduces McGee’s cost if he signs for the minimum. That’s because the league would cover the difference between the two-year veteran’s minimum and the minimum for a six-year veteran like McGee if the contract only covered a single season. It would mean a savings of $32,533 for this season for a team that signs him to a one-year minimum deal instead of a two-year minimum deal, and it would come with the cost certainty of knowing that McGee couldn’t force the team to pay him a salary for next season, too.
The Atlantic Division has only one team above .500, but it could send as many as three teams to the playoffs as the Celtics and Nets try to chase down the final two postseason berths in the Eastern Conference. Here’s the latest from around the Atlantic:
- One Eastern Conference executive has trepidation about the Sixers‘ radical roster approach becoming the model for the rest of the league if it’s successful, as that exec expressed to Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Holmes contrasts what Philadelphia is doing to the vastly different approach the Lakers have taken to rebuilding in spite of a shared history of success between the two franchises.
- Terrence Ross took his first free throws in March on Sunday, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star points out, a remarkable fact given his pedigree and athleticism that’s a disturbing sign for the Raptors, Smith opines. The Star scribe figures GM Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey are already thinking about what they can do in July, when Ross will become eligible for a rookie scale extension and the team can seek alternatives.
- Ricky Ledo hasn’t made much of an impact yet for the Knicks on his 10-day contract, but injuries will likely give him a chance to do so before the deal expires at the end of Saturday, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.
The Sixers will own the Lakers pick this year if it falls outside the top five because of the Michael Carter-Williams trade. If the Sixers land the pick this year, Tom Moore of Calkins Media (Twitter link) believes the team received good value for the former rookie of the year. The Lakers currently sit in fourth place of our Reverse Standings, meaning Philadelphia would only receive the pick if two or three teams jump ahead of Los Angeles in the lottery.
Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Andrew Wiggins playing for the Raptors isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, but he has hinted privately that he wouldn’t mind returning to play in his home country of Canada one day, according to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. The forward will be a restricted free agent following the 2017/18 season, if he doesn’t sign an extension before then.
- Nerlens Noel deserves consideration for the Rookie of the Year award, opines Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The big man leads all rookies with 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.8 steals per game. Eddie Scarito of Hoops Rumors has Noel in third place on his Rookie of the Year award rankings in his latest mailbag.
- Two years ago, the Knicks were on the verge of clinching the Atlantic Division title, but the roster has changed dramatically since then, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Carmelo Anthony is the only remaining member from the 2012/13 team.