The NBA is creating more room around the basket stanchions and reducing the number of photographers along the baseline, as Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press reports. The league planned the changes before Paul George was hurt, league president of basketball operations Rod Thorn tells Mahoney, and that’ll prevent another injury of the sort that befell George, but that’s of little comfort to the Pacers at this point.
Here’s the latest from around the league:
- Isaiah Thomas tells Jeff Caplan of NBA.com that he never requested trade from the Kings, who wound up participating in the sign-and-trade that sent him to the Suns. “I was always professional about every situation,” Thomas said. “I always came in with my hard hat on willing to do whatever is best for the team. When they signed Darren Collison, I knew I was going in a different direction.”
- Larry Drew said that he was blindsided by the events which led to him being fired and replaced by Jason Kidd as coach of the Bucks, writes Howie Kussoy of The New York Post. Drew also said, “From their [the owners'] standpoint, there’s no set time for these type of things. It caught me in a position when I least expected it. But I know how these things work. I don’t have any hard feelings, any grudges against anybody. [Owner] Marc [Lasry] called me and I just wished him luck. I’ve got to keep moving forward.”
- Andrew Wiggins just wanted to play for a team that wanted him, and called the completion of the deal that sent him to the Wolves a big relief, writes Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press.
- Former NBA player Dominic McGuire has signed with Hapoel Eilat of the Israeli League, reports David Pick of Eurobasket (Twitter link). McGuire’s last NBA action came during the 2012/13 season with the Pacers, Pelicans, and Jazz. In six NBA seasons, he has averaged 2.7 PPG and 3.4 RPG.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Suns have agreed to non-guaranteed deals with eight-year NBA veteran Earl Barron and undrafted rookie Casey Prather that will allow the pair to join the team for camp, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. They’re almost certainly on minimum-salary arrangements in spite of Phoenix’s ample cap flexibility.
The deal is Barron’s first in the NBA after he signed with the Knicks for the final game of the regular season and the playoffs in 2013. He didn’t see any postseason action that year, appearing in just that lone regular season game, and while the Knicks were reportedly split on bringing him back for last year’s camp, they decided against it, and he spent the season playing in China and Lebanon instead.
Prather made his first contact with the Suns through a predraft workout, though he spent summer league with the Hawks. The small forward from Florida entered the draft as the 83rd-best prospect in Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress rankings and No. 95 on Chad Ford’s ESPN.com board after a breakout senior season with the Gators. His 13.8 points in 27.9 minutes per game represented the first double-digit scoring average of his college career.
Barron and Prather will join 13 other Suns, all of whom have guaranteed deals, as our roster counts show. That doesn’t include Eric Bledsoe or second-round pick Alec Brown, though the Suns could make room for them if they cut Barron, Prather or both before opening night.
Former Bucks coach Larry Drew was blindsided by his ouster from Milwaukee, telling Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he was taken aback by the process. New owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens were already in discussions with Jason Kidd, who supplanted Drew on the bench, while he was participating in rookie Jabari Parker‘s introductory press conference.
“The whole Jabari thing, putting me in that position, I don’t think it was very professional. I wish it wouldn’t have happened that way, but it did,” said Drew, who is now an assistant with the Cavs. “It caught me in a position when I least expected it. But I know how these things work. I don’t have any hard feelings, any grudges against anybody.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo‘s agent tells Marc Berman of the New York Post that the forward turned down a two-year, $550K offer to play in Italy in order to accept the $25K salary he will receive with the Knicks‘ D-League affiliate. Agent Tim Lotsos says the sacrifice was made because his client is eager to prove himself as NBA-ready. “To my surprise, he passed on it,” said Lotsos. “He’s very ambitious and determined to make the NBA. I didn’t try to force him. I wanted him to make his own decision.”
- A D-League expansion draft for returning player rights will take place on September 1, reports Gino Pilato of DLeagueDigest.com. The draft will supply the Knicks‘ new affiliate with a starting roster, and each existing team will protect up to 12 current D-League players that the Westchester Knicks can’t obtain.
- In the same piece, Pilato does a mock selection draft, projecting which players he sees each D-League team protecting and which players wind up in Westchester.
- Plenty of people believe rookie Cavs coach David Blatt will become one of the best coaches in the league, writes Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders in his look at rising coaching names. Brigham views Mike Budenholzer, Steve Clifford, Dave Joerger, and Jeff Hornacek as fellow up-and-comers in the NBA ranks.
- In a LeBron James-centric mailbag column, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel asserts that it was James’ contract preferences that led to the Cavs receiving draft picks from Miami in 2010 through a sign-and-trade, and that it was also his contract desires that prevented the Heat from receiving any picks when he returned to Cleveland this summer.
Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM expects plenty of suitors to pursue Eric Bledsoe next summer if he accepts the Suns one-year qualifying offer and aims for a max deal as a free agent. Here’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Isaiah Thomas tells Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders that while many found it puzzling he would join a loaded backcourt in Phoenix, the Suns‘ belief in his talent made it an easy decision to leave the Kings as a free agent. “I went on one visit, with the Phoenix Suns, and they just pulled out the red carpet for me and in the end I just felt wanted,” said Thomas. “I always felt like [Sacramento] didn’t appreciate me as much as they should. I’m not saying the fans [didn't]–the fans loved me and the city of Sacramento loved me. But it’s a business. They felt like they could get somebody better and I don’t blame them; that’s on them, and it’s their loss.”
- The Lakers like what they saw from Michael Beasley‘s workout with the team, tweets Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, but their abundance of forwards could motivate him to prioritize other options.
- We learned earlier that the Lakers have signed their second-round pick Jordan Clarkson.
- Mark Cuban said he thinks new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer will bring positive energy to the league, telling ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “The Afternoon Show with Cowlishaw and Mosley” that Ballmer will be good for the NBA (transcription via Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com). “I’ve known Steve for a long time, going back into my twenties, and he’s always been this way,” Cuban said. “So this isn’t Steve Ballmer getting hyped just for the Clippers. This is just the way he is. He’s going to be great for the league.
The Cavs are probably better off for having lost LeBron James in 2010 than they would be if he had never gone to Miami since it gave them the chance to accumulate assets through rebuilding, SB Nation’s Tom Ziller argues. That helps explain why the Sixers, one of the other teams in the Kevin Love deal, are so aggressively stripping their roster, Ziller suggests. Still, Cleveland was remarkably lucky in the lottery, nabbing three No. 1 overall picks in four years, so it’s tough to say that another team can easily mimic the path of the Cavs. Here’s more from around the league:
- The only players on the Wolves who are off-limits for a trade are the ones who just came aboard in the Love deal, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes within a chat with readers. J.J. Barea remains on the block after the Wolves failed to convince the Sixers to take him on in the Love trade, Zgoda also writes.
- The Wolves like Eric Bledsoe quite a bit, but it’s tough to see a scenario in which they’d sign-and-trade for the Suns restricted free agent, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. Phoenix reportedly made a last-ditch effort at a Bledsoe-for-Love swap, but Minnesota rejected that idea.
- Backcourt mate Goran Dragic is hopeful that Bledsoe will be back with the Suns next season, as he tells Erildas Budraitis of RealGM.
- Matt Bonner says there were several teams that inquired about him during his free agency this summer, but he let all of them know that he was waiting to see about a deal with the Spurs first, as he tells Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News. Bonner re-signed with the Spurs last month to a one-year deal for the minimum.
- The Heat let Michael Beasley know they wouldn’t rule out re-signing him, but that’s standard practice for the team, which hasn’t made any offer to the forward, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The Heat isn’t high on bringing him back for several reasons, Jackson hears.
Now that the Wolves have officially traded Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo seemingly looms as the next most likely superstar trade candidate. Still, the Celtics aren’t anxious to deal the point guard in part because they’re eager to see how he plays at the beginning of this season, when he’ll be more than a year and a half removed from tearing his right ACL, writes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. Rondo can become a free agent next summer.
The 28-year-old Rondo, like most star veterans in their primes, is unlikely to sign an extension, as Washburn notes, adding that Rondo would be especially reluctant to do so with the Kings. Sacramento was reportedly one of the teams most active in pursuing him at the deadline this past season and the Kings had talks with the Pistons earlier this summer about acquiring Josh Smith, a close friend of Rondo’s. Still, it’s unclear if the point guard would be more inclined to consider a long-term future with the Kings were they to trade for his former Oak Hill Academy teammate.
The Celtics hold Eric Bledsoe in high regard, Washburn also writes, speculating that Bledsoe might end up as Rondo’s replacement in Boston. Bledsoe’s camp and the Suns, who employ former Celtics executive Ryan McDonough as GM, appear to have stalemated in talks about a new deal, and Phoenix has begun to examine sign-and-trade possibilities involving the restricted free agent. Bledsoe has the chance to hit unrestricted free agency next summer, but only if he takes take the unusual step of signing his qualifying offer, worth about $3.7MM, for this season.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has time and again batted down persistent Rondo trade rumors that date back to shortly after the Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to begin a rebuilding project. Three GMs told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald earlier this summer that Rondo’s trade value wouldn’t be all that high, anyway, perhaps suggesting that other teams share Boston’s desire to gauge his health. Bulpett also heard from rival execs who had reservations about Rondo’s consistency and personality. In any case, Rondo’s scoring and assists per game were down last season in the 30 games he played after returning from injury, and his 40.3% shooting was the worst of his career.
The Grizzlies allowed a trade exception worth $1,160,040 to expire when they failed to use it by the end of Friday. Memphis had created the exception in the deal that sent Tony Wroten to the Sixers a year ago. It’s the second trade exception that the Grizzlies have let lapse in the past week or so, after their $1,027,424 Donte Greene trade exception expired on the 15th.
Here’s more from out west:
- Mychal Thompson discussed the trade rumors this summer regarding his son, Klay Thompson. Thompson was rumored to be a key piece for the Wolves in any deal involving Kevin Love heading the Warriors. The elder Thompson said, “He was put on the table by the owner and the general manager. Jerry West and Steve Kerr pulled him off the deal,” tweets Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.
- The elder Thompson also told Leung (Twitter link), that he thought the Warriors would land Love. “I really thought [Joe] Lacob the owner was just going to veto everybody’s opinion,” Thompson said.
- After their surprise success last season, very little has gone right for the Suns this offseason, writes Bob Young of the Arizona Republic. Young chronicles the franchise’s difficulties this summer, including the contract impasse with Eric Bledsoe; the failure to land Love; losing Channing Frye in free agency; and P.J. Tucker‘s arrest.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
3:40pm: The Wolves like Bledsoe, but they’re not nearly high enough on him to drop out of their deal to send Love to the Cavs, Krawczynski tweets.
3:20pm: The Suns reached out to the Wolves today to ask about the possibility that they could sign-and-trade Eric Bledsoe for Kevin Love, but Minnesota’s agreement to deal Love to the Cavs remains in place, report Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The trade that would send Love to Cleveland can become official as early as Saturday. The Suns have been feeling out their options for a Bledsoe sign-and-trade as negotiations with the point guard’s camp have ground to a standstill, and they’ve spoken with teams other than the Wolves, too, according to Windhorst and Shelburne.
Bledsoe has reportedly been holding out for a max deal from the Suns, and he wouldn’t accept any less in a sign-and-trade, sources tell the ESPN.com scribes. The point guard is insisting that either he receives a max deal or he’ll sign his qualifying offer and hit unrestricted free agency next summer, Windhorst and Shelburne write. Signing the qualifying offer would mean Bledsoe would be playing this coming season on a salary worth slightly more than $3.7MM, a drastic discount from the max or even the terms of the four-year, $48MM offer the Suns reportedly put on the table last month.
The Suns were one of the early teams in the mix for Love, and as recently as July 1st, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press reported that Phoenix was expected to make a play for the power forward in case No. 1 target LeBron James went elsewhere. James agreed on July 11th to join the Cavs, but there’s been no further connection between the Suns and Love until today.
A dispatch from late last month indicated that the Suns had little interest in signing-and-trading Bledsoe, but that appears to have changed. Owner Robert Sarver said more recently that the team hadn’t heard directly from Bledsoe, a client of agent Rich Paul, in four months.
The Suns have spoken with at least one team and fielded inquiries from others about the possibility of a sign-and-trade involving Eric Bledsoe, as Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic writes. That confirms a report from Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Phoenix, who spoke earlier this week on FoxSports 910 radio in Phoenix (transcription via Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun).
Phoenix brass never ruled out a sign-and-trade from the beginning of negotiations with Bledsoe last month, according to Coro, but the team remains adamant that it prefers to retain the point guard, Coro adds. The Bucks and Jazz were linked to pursuits of Bledsoe shortly after free agency began, though it’s not clear if the Suns have spoken with either of those clubs.
Progress toward a long-term deal that would keep Bledsoe in Phoenix has seemingly stalled since a report more than a month ago indicated the Suns were offering a four-year, $48MM arrangement while the Rich Paul client held out for the max. Still, the team has remained open to further negotiations on its offer to Bledsoe, Coro says.
At least one rival GM has expressed hesitance about the idea of signing-and-trading for Bledsoe, who’s reportedly giving strong consideration to signing his qualifying offer so he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Still, inking the qualifying offer would mean a drastically discounted salary of little more than $3.7MM for the coming season, and it’s a move no restricted free agent of his caliber has ever taken.
Bledsoe and the Suns nonetheless appear at loggerheads, with Bledsoe having accused the Suns of “using the rules against me,” while owner Robert Sarver said recently that the team hasn’t heard directly from the 24-year-old in four months. Multiple reports have indicated that there’s a worsening relationship between Bledsoe and the Suns, though Sarver indicated that there are no hard feelings from the team’s side.
An NBA GM who spoke with Sean Deveney of The Sporting News said he’d be reluctant to sign-and-trade for either Eric Bledsoe or Greg Monroe in part because of the chance they’ll become available again next summer. The GM also suggested that the Suns and Pistons are overvaluing them, further diminishing the odds of a trade this offseason. While we continue to wait to see what happens to the two top restricted free agents, here’s more from around the league:
- When Tim Leiweke spoke about two months ago to the board of the company that controls the Raptors, he declined to promise that he would stay on as CEO past next spring, as Elliotte Friedman writes for CBC.ca. That helped lead to today’s announcement of his planned departure, Friedman explains. The Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment board wanted to take control of the process and end speculation about Leiweke’s future, as Friedman details, adding that Leiweke’s contract carried an escape clause that gave him a way out.
- Aaron Gray‘s contract with the Pistons is for two years, with a player option for the final season, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reveals (Twitter link).
- Joel Embiid is tight with Luc Mbah a Moute, notes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, and that helps explain why the Sixers appear poised to acquire Mbah a Moute as part of the Kevin Love trade (Twitter link). Mbah a Moute has served as a mentor for Embiid, a fellow native of Cameroon, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune points out (on Twitter).