Phoenix Suns

Jerel McNeal Signs To Play In Greece

Jerel McNeal has signed to play for Aris Thessaloniki following his release from the Suns earlier this month, the Greek team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). The former Marquette standout who went undrafted in 2009 is a three-year NBA veteran, though his only official action came this past season with Phoenix.

The Pelicans and Jazz have carried McNeal on their respective rosters during the regular season in the past, but he didn’t appear in a game for either of them. The shooting guard scored nine points in a total of 36 minutes for the Suns this spring after signing a 10-day contract and later a deal for the rest of 2014/15 with a non-guaranteed 2015/16 salary tacked on. That minimum salary was to have become fully guaranteed earlier this month, prompting Phoenix to let him go.

McNeal, 28, has remained stateside in recent years, playing in the D-League in each of the past three seasons, so it would appear that at this point that he’s switched gears and is prioritizing superior money in Europe over a better chance to stay on the NBA radar. It’s unclear just how much McNeal will make with his new Greek team, however.

Pacific Notes: Lieberman, Moreland, Durant

10:28pm: The Kings and Lieberman have reached an agreement, Lieberman tells Voisin (Twitter link).
7:29pm: The NBA will boast multiple female assistant coaches for the first time this season, as the Kings are expected to hire Hall of Famer and women’s basketball pioneer Nancy Lieberman to head coach George Karl‘s staff, reports Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Kings VP of franchise and basketball ops Vlade Divac told Voisin today that he’ll make Lieberman an offer, and she said to Voisin that she’ll accept it.
“George and I talked about bringing her back after she helped us at summer league,” Divac said. “She was terrific. She brings a different dimension. I think [it’s] a nice opportunity for her.”
She’ll join Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, the head coach of the Las Vegas Summer League champs, who became just the second female NBA assistant coach ever last summer, and the first to hold such a position full-time. Lieberman has previously served as head coach of the Mavs D-League affiliate. Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:
  • The Kings decided one-year veteran Eric Moreland‘s playing style was too similar to that of No. 6 pick Willie Cauley-Stein, helping prompt Sacramento to waive Moreland on Thursday rather than guarantee his salary, as Shams Charania of RealGM writes. Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee wouldn’t be shocked to see Moreland end up with Denver, where former Sacramento GM Pete D’Alessandro, who signed him to the Kings last year, works in the Nuggets front office, but Bill Herenda of CSN California heard early word suggesting that won’t happen (Twitter links).
  • The Warriors will surely chase Kevin Durant next summer, when he’s set for free agency, but realistically, they’d have to sign-and-trade for him, and such a deal would probably have to include Harrison Barnes plus more, as Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group posits in a look at Golden State’s chances for the former MVP.
  • Golden State has promoted Luke Walton to lead assistant to replace Alvin Gentry, the team announced. Gentry became the head coach of the Pelicans earlier this summer. Walton joined the Warriors coaching staff last year.
  • The Suns have officially added Earl Watson, Nate Bjorkgren and Jason Fraser to their coaching staff, the team announced. Watson and Fraser come from the Spurs D-League team while Bjorkgren had coached Phoenix’s D-League affiliate. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group first reported the addition of Watson, who helped with the Suns’ pitch to LaMarcus Aldridge, his former teammate with the Trail Blazers.

Western Notes: Davis, Blazers, Warriors, Warren

Anthony Davis seems to be completely on board with the Pelicans’ decision to bring aboard Alvin Gentry as head coach next season, John Reid of the Times Picayune suggests. After winning the championship as an assistant with the Warriors last season, Gentry looked into the national TV’s cameras while holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy and exclaimed to Davis that a title was in the duo’s future in New Orleans. Davis said he was impressed with the conviction shown by Gentry, according to Reid, and Davis also added that he’s excited about the mix of old and new assistant coaches that Gentry will be working with next season.

Given the brutal nature of the Western Conference, it might be a stretch to suggest the Pelicans will be in the same spot next year that the Warriors are in now, but with Davis locked in as the franchise’s cornerstone for at least five more seasons, New Orleans will have a shot to be great if they can continue to build around the 22-year-old phenom. We’ll look at more from out West below..

  • The Blazers didn’t have to trade any players over to the Cavs in the deal that netted them Brendan Haywood’s $10.5MM, non-guaranteed deal since they sent the minimum $75K in cash Cleveland’s way, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders points out in a tweet.
  • Portland renounced Joel Freeland‘s Bird Rights, Pincus also tweets. Freeland spent the last three seasons with the Blazers before deciding to sign overseas in Russia on a two-year deal with CSKA Moscow.
  • The Warriors should have a trade exception worth $5.4MM as a result of the trade that sent David Lee to the Celtics, Pincus observes in another tweet.
  • Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM concludes that given the Suns’ roster situation, they’ll need to see improvement from players they already have on the team, like second-year wing T.J. Warren, rather than bringing in new faces. It’s still not totally clear how Warren’s unorthodox game will translate to the NBA however, as Tjarks surmises.

Knicks, Others Eye Kevin Seraphin

The Knicks, Lakers and Wizards continue to show interest in Kevin Seraphin, league sources tell Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops (Twitter link). Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports reported interest from the Lakers early this month, and Scotto added the Wizards a few days later, but this appears to be the first time New York has come up in connection with the center.

The Knicks are also among the teams with interest in Carlos Boozer, but it’s not clear if New York sees the pair of big men as an either-or proposition. The Knicks and Lakers have their $2.814MM room exception available, but the Wizards have his Bird rights, so they can outbid other teams.

The Wizards were expected earlier this month to attempt to find a team willing to sign-and-trade for Seraphin, a maneuver that would ostensibly allow Washington to create a trade exception. In any case, Seraphin seemed a long shot to return to the Wizards at season’s end, as he’s reportedly been looking for a chance to compete for the starting job, though, according to Scotto, Washington at least touched base with him this month. The Wizards have Marcin Gortat entering year two of a five-year deal to man the pivot. Starting would also be a difficult proposition for Seraphin in New York, where free agent signee Robin Lopez seems firmly entrenched, and the same is probably true of the Lakers, who traded for Roy Hibbert.

The Suns and Mavericks also reportedly showed interest earlier this month, though it’s unclear if they’re still in the mix. The Spurs apparently had tentative interest in case David West signed elsewhere, but West took the minimum to play for San Antonio.

Which team needs Seraphin the most: The Knicks, Lakers or Wizards? Leave a comment to let us know.

Justin Hamilton Signs To Play In Spain

Two-year NBA veteran center Justin Hamilton has signed with Valencia Basket of Spain, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). The Suns were close to making Hamilton a partially guaranteed offer last week, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities heard, but by that point it seemed Valencia was already zeroing in, as Paco Garcia Caridad of the Spanish outlet Marca reported 10 days ago that the team was nearing a deal with the 25-year-old.

Hamilton ended this past season with the Timberwolves, who gave him his first opportunity for significant playing time in the NBA. He averaged 9.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game across 17 appearances for Minnesota, nine of them starts. The Wolves had claimed him off waivers from the Pelicans, who released him a couple of weeks after acquiring him from the Heat in the three-team Goran Dragic trade.

Still, Minnesota elected not to make Hamilton, the 45th overall pick from 2012, a qualifying offer worth only slightly more than $1.147MM. He’ll head back overseas, where he spent the 2012/13 season playing for KK Cibona in Croatia and Latvia’s VEF Riga.

Will Hamilton return to the NBA at some point? Leave a comment to let us know what you think.

Western Notes: Mejri, Asik, Jordan, Suns

The Mavericks have made a three-year offer to Tunisian center Salah Mejri, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The 7’1″ Mejri didn’t see much playing time last season with Real Madrid, but Dallas wants to find out if he can succeed at the NBA level. Mejri has the physical tools, according to David Pick of Eurobasket.com, who cites his energy, mobility and “giraffe length” (Twitter link). Mejri was recently released by Real Madrid and is reportedly leaning toward trying the NBA.

There’s more news from the Western Conference:

  • Back spasms will prevent the PelicansOmer Asik from competing for the Turkish team in Eurobasket 2015, according to John Reid of The Times Picayune. Even though he has to miss the September competition, there are no worries that the back problem will affect Asik when the Pelicans open camp. The center recently signed a five-year, $58MM deal to remain in New Orleans, although only the first four seasons are guaranteed at nearly $45MM.
  • The ClippersDeAndre Jordan knows it will take time for the controversy surrounding his free agency change of heart to die down, writes Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. Jordan, who committed to the Mavericks before staying in Los Angeles, understands the hard feelings in Dallas. “It’s absolutely not behind me,” he said. “I think over time, it will be. Just, there are people making this out like I committed some huge crime, like I’m an enemy of the state.” Jordan said he chose the Clippers because he wants to be associated with just one team during his NBA career.
  • The Suns‘ offseason moves could make them a dark horse playoff contender in the West, according to Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders. The addition of Tyson Chandler gives the team a rim protector and a veteran leader, Taylor writes. Also, the trade that sent Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger to the Pistons cleared more than $8MM in cap room and created more playing time for T.J. Warren and Archie Goodwin, who both were impressive in summer league play.

Pacific Notes: James, Rivers, Lakers, Kings

Summer league point guard Mike James impressed the Suns, but the team doesn’t seem to have a need for another point guard, observes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. Multiple teams are in pursuit, according to Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link), but he’s under contract with Laboral Kuxta Vitoria in Spain, Coro points out, suggesting that it would likely require a guaranteed deal with an NBA team to make it worthwhile for him to exercise his buyout clause. James, who’s not to be confused with the 12-year veteran by the same name, is inclined to play one more season in Spain, Charania adds.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Austin Rivers‘ brief tenure with Relativity Sports has met an end, tweets Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal. Rivers joined the agency after splitting with David Falk this past season. Relativity represented him as he came to a two-year deal for nearly $6.455MM to stay with father Doc Rivers and the Clippers.
  • The deals that Caron Butler, Quincy Acy, and Seth Curry agreed to with the Kings are all two-year, minimum salary arrangements that are fully guaranteed the first year and include player options for the second season, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets.
  • The performance of the Lakers‘ Summer League squad was underwhelming, leaving some around the league skeptical of the long-term future of a number of the team’s younger prospects, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. “You don’t want to draw any conclusions from a few summer games obviously,” one league executive told Deveney. “But I think in general, the way to put it is that they probably value their assets more than the rest of the league values them. Everyone gambles on young guys. You just don’t know. For [the Lakers], they could all turn out to be fine, but they’re a long way from that now.
  • The new Kings arena cleared another legal hurdle Friday, as a judge issued a ruling in favor of the city of Sacramento and against plaintiffs who asserted that the team and the city struck a side deal, writes Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee. The arena is already under construction.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Pacific Notes: Chandler, Young, Barnes

Most teams chasing top-tier centers thought it better to go after the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan and Greg Monroe before circling back to Tyson Chandler as something of a fallback option, but the Suns found it wise to chase Chandler before pursuing Aldridge, as Rob Mahoney of SI.com examines. Chandler quickly committed to Phoenix, and he helped them become a finalist in the Aldridge sweepstakes.

“I think when you have a guy like that that you target, you go aggressively after him. And that’s what we decided to do with Tyson,” McDonough said to Mahoney. “It did help us that there were so many free agent big men on the market, especially high-level players — guys who have been All-Stars, All-NBA, and all that stuff. I think a few teams wanted to kind of talk to each of the guys and get a feel for them. Some of the players wanted to do visits with multiple teams, and be wined and dined a bit. Tyson really didn’t want any of that.”

There’s more from Phoenix amid our latest look around the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns seemingly made their three-player trade with the Pistons in an effort to clear cap room for Aldridge, but McDonough told Mahoney that the deal that sent out Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger is one the team would have done regardless, citing a desire for more roster balance and future flexibility.
  • Nick Young feels more confident that he’ll begin the coming season with the Lakers after a recent meeting with GM Mitch Kupchak, reports Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. That jibes with a dispatch last week from Bill Oram of the Orange County Register, who heard that the Lakers had stopped looking for trade partners who’d take Young.
  • Harrison Barnes confirmed Thursday that he wants a long-term future with the Warriors, as Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group details. He and the team reportedly share a mutual interest in a rookie scale extension. “I mean, we just won a championship,” Barnes said. “Of course I’d love to keep this group together for many years to come, you know what I’m saying? So that’s obvious.”

Suns Eye Justin Hamilton

The Suns are close to making a partially guaranteed offer to two-year veteran Justin Hamilton, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). Hamilton, who finished last season with the Timberwolves, had reportedly been close to a deal last week with Valencia of Spain, but he remains a free agent. In any case, he’s uncertain about signing just a partially guaranteed deal, according to Wolfson.

Minnesota last month decided against making a qualifying offer of only about $1.147MM, $200K more than Hamilton’s minimum salary, an inauspicious sign for his NBA future. He’d been mostly stuck at the end of the bench with the Heat the past two seasons until the three-team Goran Dragic trade took him to the Pelicans, who waived him a couple of weeks later. Minnesota claimed the 7-footer off waivers, sacrificing 2014 second-rounder Glenn Robinson III to do so.

Hamilton averaged 9.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game across 17 games with the Wolves. That’s a small sample size, but it appears to be enough to tempt Phoenix to some degree. The Suns have only 13 fully guaranteed contracts and the $2.184MM room exception available, though it would be surprising if they offered Hamilton more than the minimum.

Do you think Hamilton deserves a spot on an NBA roster? Leave a comment to let us know.

And-Ones: Playoffs, Aldridge, Teletovic, Mekel

The NBA is leaning toward no longer guaranteeing a playoff spot to division winners, commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday, as Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press observes. It would be one more step away from a divisional structure that long ago ceased to have much relevance on roster building, though Pelicans GM Dell Demps recently cited the preponderance of strong post players in the Southwest Division as he spoke about the team’s decision to re-sign Omer Asik. Here’s more from around the NBA:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge kept the Trail Blazers in the running for him right up until he committed to sign with the Spurs, as Aldridge said this week in an appearance on ESPN Radio’s The Russillo Show, as Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com relays. Aldridge also insisted that he didn’t exit Portland because of any jealousy toward Damian Lillard“We got along very well during the season,” Aldridge said. “I thought we played well off of each other. So, all of that stuff is just rumors that I’ve dealt with before. Me leaving had nothing to do with any of that. It was just me feeling like being close to home, by my family, being able to see them more and just a change of scenery. I had been in Portland for nine years. I had been through a couple of rebuilds. So it was just time to try something new. It wasn’t anything toward Damian or the organization.”
  • The decision to cancel the meeting between Aldridge and the Knicks was a mutual one, Aldridge also said in his radio appearance, notes Ian Begley of ESPN.com.
  • The Nets wanted to keep Mirza Teletovic, offering him a two-year deal that included an option, and the Kings also offered him a two-year deal, but he thought the Suns were a better fit, as Teletovic said to Bosnian media and as Igor Marinovic and NetsDaily relay (Twitter links). Teletovic signed for one-year with Phoenix.
  • Former Mavericks and Pelicans point guard Gal Mekel is in talks with three NBA teams, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com hears (Twitter links).
  • Many scouts say Dragan Bender is the best international prospect, but whether Bender, who won’t turn 19 until November 2016, enters next year’s draft will depend on where he’d likely be drafted, sources tell Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who looks the 2016 draft class.

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