Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers admits he was mystified when the Suns signed-and-traded for Isaiah Thomas this past offseason, adding that he thought Phoenix was merely insuring itself against the loss of Eric Bledsoe, relays Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. Rivers has gained appreciation for the Suns‘ three point guard strategy since then. “When you think of those three guards they have, it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s hard for everybody to guard. I didn’t see it but now I do.”
Here’s the latest from the Western Conference:
- Tyrus Thomas‘ workout with the Lakers is scheduled for this Thursday, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). Thomas also gave the Grizzlies a look at his skills last week, though he left without receiving a contract offer.
- The Rockets have assigned guard Nick Johnson to the Rio Grande Vipers, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. The rookie has appeared in three games for Houston this season, totaling two points and a rebound in 11 minutes of action.
- Gordon Hayward‘s contract with the Jazz is based more on what he’ll become than what he has done thus far in the league, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. But with continued improvement and the new TV deal set to kick in, there’s a decent chance the deal will look like a bargain in the near future, Powell adds.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Eric Bledsoe went as far as to put pen to paper on his qualifying offer from the Suns over the offseason, as he tells A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, but he never submitted it to the team, leaving open the possibility of the five-year $70MM deal that came to fruition in late September. That’s was a game-changer for the Suns, who still have room to grow with a pair of traded first-round picks coming their way and a handful of recent first-rounders in their nascent stages of development, as SB Nation’s Paul Flannery points out. Phoenix isn’t panicking after a mediocre 6-5 start, Flannery notes, and there’s more on Bledsoe amid the latest from the Pacific Division:
- The negotiations between Bledsoe and the Suns appeared contentious, but GM Ryan McDonough insisted to Blakely, who writes in the same piece, that he had “constant communication” with the Rich Paul client’s camp throughout the process. That’s in spite of owner Robert Sarver having said over the summer that the team had gone months without speaking to Bledsoe directly.
- Draymond Green understands that the prospect of a significant raise looms in restricted free agency this coming summer, as he tells Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher. Still, he’s confident that the Warriors, already with about $77.5MM in commitments for 2015/16, can keep him. “It’d be a lie to say I don’t think about it,” he said. “But I don’t try to do anything different. If I did, everything is going to go wrong because I would be focusing on the wrong thing. I’d be stressed all year. Stress equals bad performances, which then would equal no contract. I really love it here. It’s all I know about this league. As far as the money working out, if they want me to stay here, I know there’s a way to keep me here.”
- Hoops Rumors readers overwhelmingly gave the Kings a thumbs-up for agreeing to the Rudy Gay extension, and Darren Collison echoes that sentiment, notes James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom. “I’m extremely excited,” Collison said. “This is a good step in the right direction. You think about how far this organization has come and to have players of Rudy’s caliber and his talent, DeMarcus [Cousins] is stepping up and becoming a household name [and] myself included, wanting to sign here, it just speaks a lot about this organization and what they’re trying to do. And it speaks about our future.”
The Celtics probably didn’t imagine they’d end up with a player who’d make 25 of his first 29 shots from the field when they traded for Tyler Zeller this summer, but the No. 17 pick from 2012 is excelling in his first weeks in green, observes Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com. Zeller surely won’t keep up an 86.2% field goal percentage, but the 24-year-old is emerging as a viable option for minutes. There’s more on another 17th overall pick amid the latest from Boston:
- Isaiah Thomas received his first call in free agency from Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, and Thomas acknowledged that he reciprocated that interest to some degree before opting to join the Suns instead, notes Ben Rohrbach of WEEI.com. “I was interested in whoever was interested in me,” Thomas said, “so he was definitely a little interested if he was the first one to call me, but they went their ways and I went mine.”
- Swingman James Young spent a couple of days on D-League assignment this past weekend, and he suspects that won’t be the last time he’s sent down, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. If so, this year’s 17th overall pick is on board with it, Blakely adds.
- The Celtics are just 3-6 and appear headed for another season as an also-ran, but soon-to-be free agent Rajon Rondo isn’t losing faith in the team, as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com examines. “We have a lot of young talented guys that listen very well and play hard,” Rondo said. “What more could you ask for?”
We have nine games on the NBA slate for tonight, the best of which is undoubtedly the Southwest division showdown in Memphis between the 9-1 Rockets and the 9-1 Grizzlies. Some might say the Grizzlies’ impressive record should include an asterisk, as the Kings continue insist that last week’s game-winner by Courtney Lee be overturned. However, Memphis GM Chris Wallace is confident the league will uphold his team’s victory, he tells Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
With that settled, let’s take a look at what else is going on around the Association on Monday night:
- Nene and Gerald Green have joined the BDA Sports agency, as Liz Mullen of the SportsBusiness Journal reports in a subscription-only piece. Nene had been with Dan Fegan of Relativity Sports, while agent Kenton Edelin was Green’s representative. Green’s contract with the Suns is up after this season, while Nene’s deal with the Wizards runs through 2015/16.
- Almost all team executives believe the salary cap for 2015/16 will fall somewhere between $66MM and $68MM, according to Grantland’s Zach Lowe. Lowe includes this nugget in a longer analysis of yesterday’s Rudy Gay extension, which the Grantland scribe describes as “fair-ish” next season and as a potential steal come 2016/17. Lowe also believes that the Kings would like to add another piece after this season if they can free up some salary. He speculates that Jason Thompson and his $6.43MM 2015/16 salary could be a trade candidate.
- Now in his 14th season at age 33, Joe Johnson tells David Aldridge of NBA.com that he can’t imagine playing too much longer after his deal is up with the Nets. Johnson, who recently got into some hot water after saying his team was playing selfishly, is under contract through next season with Brooklyn and will hit free agency at age 35 in the summer of 2016.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The D-League began its season this past weekend, and no one’s off to a hotter start than Wolves camp invitee Brady Heslip, who’s playing for the affiliate of the Kings. He’s scoring a league-leading 39.0 points per game after two contests, and while it’s early, he’s making a case to appear on an NBA roster before too long. In the meantime, several players who are already on NBA contracts spent the weekend on D-League assignment, and we’ll round up their latest comings and goings here:
- A pair of 2014 first-round picks are back with Phoenix, as the Suns have recalled No. 14 selection T.J. Warren and No. 18 pick Tyler Ennis from the D-League, the team announced. Warren put up a sizzling 36 PPG in two appearances for the Bakersfield Jam this weekend, while Ennis averaged 22.0 PPG and 7.5 assists per contest. The Suns assigned the pair to Bakersfield on Thursday.
- The Cavs have recalled Alex Kirk from the D-League, the team announced. Kirk didn’t appear in the only game the Canton Charge played during his three-day assignment, a three-overtime loss to the Sixers affiliate.
- Rookies James Young and Dwight Powell are back with Boston after a two-day D-League assignment, the Celtics announced (Twitter link). The duo scored 21 points a piece and Powell came down with 17 rebounds in a win Sunday for the Maine Red Claws.
The Lakers will keep their first-round pick only if it falls within the top five selections, but GM Mitch Kupchak says his team will never attempt to engineer a poorer record, as he tells Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “It’s a lottery,” Kupchak said. “It doesn’t mean anything. I mean, last year, we got the seventh pick in the draft, and to me, it felt like we lost every game. I don’t know how you lose more games to try to get a better pick. I just don’t know how you do it.”
Here’s more from out west:
- With three starting-caliber point guards on the Suns’ roster, head coach Jeff Hornacek is forced to juggle rotations on a nightly basis, Tim Bontemps of The New York Post writes. “It hasn’t been tricky to navigate the [who is] playing part of it, because the guys that are playing well, we just keep them in,” Hornacek said. “Sometimes guys want to have their guaranteed minutes, and sometimes you can do that, but that’s where the tricky part comes.” One thing making it easier on the team is Eric Bledsoe‘s contract situation being sorted out, notes Bontemps. Now that Bledsoe is signed long-term Hornacek doesn’t need to worry about giving him extra minutes as an incentive to stay in Phoenix, Bontemps adds.
- With the Lakers off to a 1-7 start it looks increasingly likely the franchise will get to keep its 2015 first-rounder. Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) analyzes the Lakers’ chances of not having to relinquish their much-needed draft pick to Phoenix.
- The Thunder have unearthed a gem in the form of Lance Thomas, who made Oklahoma City’s regular season roster despite incredibly long odds, Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman writes. With all of the early season injuries the team has faced, Thomas’ versatility and work ethic have been invaluable, Mayberry adds.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Former Lakers guard MarShon Brooks‘ time with Olimpia Milano of Italy may be coming to an end, David Pick of Eurobasket reports (Twitter link). It is unclear if this means Brooks will be waived by the Italian team or if a buyout arrangement is being discussed. The 25-year-old shooting guard was pursued by the Pacers, Kings and an unnamed “title-contending team” from the east prior to Brooks inking his overseas deal this summer, and with the rash of early season injuries Brooks could have a number of NBA opportunities if he returns stateside.
Here’s more from out west:
- The Suns assigned T.J. Warren to the D-League earlier today but his stint shouldn’t be a long one, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. “T.J. is going to be a great player,” head coach Jeff Hornacek asserted. “This team has a lot of guys at his spot right now, but he’s going to be around. He’s going to be a factor. He’s got great hands. He knows how to score, but the transition [defensively] has been pretty good, too.” The first-rounder out of North Carolina State has only seen one minute of NBA action thus far this season.
- Shaun Livingston will face off against the Nets tonight, his former team, and he discussed why he chose to sign with the Warriors this summer, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News writes. “It was about putting myself in the best position to win, and also to get the value as a player. Your market value,” Livingston said. “That was my case. I was hoping to [finally get a big offer] and ideally that was the thought process going into free agency, but, man, I’ve been in a couple of situations where I thought I was going to get paid and I was going to come back and it just didn’t work out. I mean, my injury [in 2007], that year I was supposed to get an extension and I didn’t. I had a good a year with the Wizards [in 2009/10] and then they end up getting John Wall with the first pick.”
- With his excellent numbers filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook, the Thunder‘s Reggie Jackson is generating a market value that will test the team’s willingness to match any offer sheets he is likely to receive this summer, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports opines. It’s not clear exactly how much Jackson will command on his next contract but Wojnarowski suggests that the annual salary could be in the $13MM-$14MM range.
Kobe Bryant hasn’t been nearly as willing to sacrifice money for the betterment of his team the way Tim Duncan has. Still, with the Lakers raking in $100.1MM in basketball-related revenue last season, an amount that far outstrips any other team in the league, USA Today’s Sam Amick argues that Bryant is simply more valuable to his team, in a financial sense, than Duncan is to the Spurs. San Antonio netted $26.1MM from their basketball operations last season, a source tells Amick. Here’s more from around the Western Conference:
- Big men still command attention on the market even in an era of small-ball, and next summer’s free agent class figures to see plenty of centers garner top dollar, as Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com examines in an Insider-only piece. The majority of the bigs he spotlights are on Western Conference teams, including Marc Gasol, Omer Asik, Robin Lopez and Tyson Chandler.
- The Suns have assigned 2014 first-round picks Tyler Ennis and T.J. Warren to the D-League, the team announced (on Twitter). Suns coach Jeff Hornacek indicated that the rookies won’t stay with the Bakersfield Jam for long, and it’s likely they return to the big club in time for an East Coast road trip that begins Monday in Boston, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic (Twitter links).
- Toure’ Murry is headed on D-League assignment from the Jazz, the team announced. Murry has yet to appear in a game for Utah after signing as a free agent this past summer. We’ll be keeping track of D-League assignments and recalls throughout this season in this post.
Kobe Bryant needs to take a step back and allow some of his teammates to take charge of the Lakers, opines Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Coach Byron Scott agrees. “I’ve talked to a couple individuals about just being a little bit more assertive, not relying on Kobe as much,” Scott said. “You guys can ask Kobe this. I think he wants to get those guys to step up. He really does. Take shots when they have them. Not defer to him as much.” Earlier this week in a loss to the Suns, Bryant took 37 shots, while the rest of the team’s starters combined to take only 35.
Here’s more from the Western Conference:
- Diante Garrett will be returning to the Iowa Energy, who are the D-League affiliates of the Grizzlies, the team announced. The Blazers recently waived the Iowa State product after spending just a month on their roster.
- Aaron Craft is mulling a contract offer from Partizan Belgrade of the Serbian League, Orazio Cauchi of Sportando reports. Craft spent training camp with the Warriors and was set to play for Golden State’s D-League affiliate this season. Though the amount of Partizan Belgrade’s offer to Craft has not been reported, it’s likely for more than the guard would have earned playing in Santa Cruz this season, though that is just my speculation.
- Ish Smith is excited to be the newest member of the Thunder because of his relationship with his new teammates, writes Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman. “I’m really good friends with a lot of guys, played against them. Russ (Russell Westbrook), (Kevin Durant), Lance (Thomas), all in the ’06 class, so I know a lot of them,” Smith said.
- Canada is producing basketball prospects at unheard of rates, writes Dave Skretta of the Associated Press. Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett of the Wolves are the past two No. 1 overall NBA draft picks and are each of Canadian descent. Many, including Bennett, have attributed their interest in basketball to watching Vince Carter when he was on the Raptors. “That’s when we seen him doing all these types of dunks,” Bennett said of watching Carter. “We just had a love for his game.”
Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.
Kobe Bryant told Gregg Downer, his high school coach, in July that he planned to retire when his contract expires in 2016, as Downer tells Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Bryant spoke in 2012 of perhaps retiring in 2014, so much can happen in two years, and the Black Mamba hasn’t made any definitive public statement. Still, there have been no shortage of hints that the 2015/16 season, which would be Bryant’s 20th, will be his last, and the latest dispatch only advances that presumption. While we wait to see what happens with the 36-year-old who leads the league in scoring so far, here’s the latest from around the league:
- Adam Silver defused a situation that might have become a contentious dispute as the union and the league totted up revenues this past July, satisfying the concerns of the players, sources tell Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. It’s an example of the more player-friendly approach that Silver has attempted to take since inheriting the commissioner’s office from David Stern, as Beck examines. “Any opportunity where it’s possible to accommodate the players, I’m looking to do that, both as a sign of good faith, but also because it’s better business,” Silver said.
- Thunder GM Sam Presti touted the importance of the draft as a tool for small-market teams to improve as he successfully campaigned against lottery reform, but Silver doesn’t see it as inordinately crucial, as he told Harvey Araton of The New York Times. “I am concerned by the often cited conventional wisdom that finishing at the bottom [in order to acquire better draft picks] presents the only reliable path for some teams to build a championship roster,” Silver said. “The draft is structured to help the teams with the worst records, but it’s an imperfect system. In fact, many top picks do not transform their teams.”
- Steve Kerr has yet to complete the sale of the small portion of the Suns that he owns, tweets Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group. Kerr must divest that stake within a league-mandated timeframe after having taken the Warriors head coaching job.