Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner credits Celtics coach Brad Stevens with turning his career around, relays Josue Pavon of WEEI.com. Turner, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, enjoyed limited NBA success before coming to Boston in 2014. He spent two years playing under Stevens before signing a four-year, $70MM deal with Portland. “He helped me figure out myself and a lot of guys in the locker room’s career, re-energized it,” Turner said of Stevens. “I just always thought he was a great, classy person. A sincere individual. Never thought he was too big and he does a lot of great things but I really appreciate the friendship I was able to form with him and get to know what type of guy he is. Very special person, special coach. It makes a lot of sense why he’s had so much success throughout his career because he’s a good individual and his mentality stuff has definitely helped me learn how to be a pro and how to see bigger picture, point of views.”
- According to Brett Koremenos of RealGM.com, the Trail Blazers are one of the NBA’s teams that finds themselves in no-man’s land, not good enough to contend for a title, but not bad enough to land a strong draft pick. Koremenos takes a closer look at how Portland got here, and what the next step is for a team that finds itself somewhat hamstrung financially.
Here are today’s D-League assignments and recalls:
- The Blazers recalled guard Tim Quarterman from the Windy City Bulls, according to The Oregonian. Quarterman played three games with them under the flexible assignment rule, averaging 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 30.8 minutes per game. Quarterman has played limited minutes in 12 appearances with the Blazers in his rookie season.
- The Blazers are in the midst of a disappointing season, but they are not a candidate to tank and position themselves for a better draft choice, Mike Richman of The Oregonian argues in his latest podcast. Richman believes the team has too much talent to lose enough games to make tanking a worthwhile cause.
Few NBA teams spent as aggressively and as extensively as the Trail Blazers did in the offseason — in addition to committing more than $240MM to free agent contracts, Portland also signed C.J. McCollum to a nine-figure extension. However, through the season’s first half, the team hasn’t justified its owner’s financial commitment, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian.
As Freeman details, most Trail Blazers players are confident that the club can turn things around and have a strong second half, earning a playoff berth. But since its summer spending spree, Portland has been considered one of the NBA teams most likely to make a trade at some point this season, given the franchise’s overlap at certain positions and its huge future financial commitments. So it will be interesting to see how the team performs over the next few weeks, and how that might affect what GM Neil Olshey does at the trade deadline.
The Trail Blazers may be considering a Disabled Player Exception for Festus Ezeli, according to Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders. Today is the deadline to apply to the league for a DPE, and NBA officials would have to agree that Ezeli’s injury will keep him out for the rest of the season. The 27-year-old center hasn’t played since signing a two-year, $15MM deal with Portland over the summer. He had offseason surgery on his left knee, but wasn’t able to do more than a couple of practices before it started hurting again. Ezeli said last month that another operation, which would sideline him for the rest of the season, might be necessary to save his career. If the DPE is approved, the Blazers would be granted half of Ezeli’s cap hit to sign a free agent or to use in a trade.
There’s more this morning from the Northwest Division:
- Jazz star Gordon Hayward might be tempted to reunite with former college coach Brad Stevens in Boston, but Utah will be able to make a substantially better offer when he becomes a free agent this summer, writes Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. The Jazz can offer Hayward a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $180MM, while other teams will be limited to $132MM over four seasons. Another option for Hayward is to sign with Utah for one year and hope to make the All-NBA team, which would make him eligible for the new Designated Veteran Player status and a $235MM deal over six seasons. Hollis thinks the Jazz can improve their chances with Hayward by re-signing George Hill, who has become an effective complement to Hayward.
- Rodney Hood will be re-evaluated today after suffering a hyperextended right knee late in Saturday’s game, the Jazz tweeted. He had to be helped off the court after the knee buckled on a drive to the basket. “Hopefully it’s not serious,” coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s serious enough that he had to leave the game, but we don’t know when he’ll be back.”
- The Thunder are urging rookie forward Domantas Sabonis to shoot fewer 3-pointers, relays Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. That was the plan even before a recent shooting slump in which he has missed 18 of his last 19 shots from long distance. “What I don’t want to see him just become is just a stretch four, a guy that’s just shooting 3s,” said coach Billy Donovan. “We’ve got to be able to utilize his ability to handle the ball and pass, his ability to play with his back to the basket. And certainly face up and shoot the basketball when it’s there.”
Orlando is among several teams that have contacted the Heat about Goran Dragic, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. The Magic are looking to solidify their point guard position, which belonged to Elfrid Payton when the season began, but was taken over by D.J. Augustin in late November. Dragic still has three years and more than $54MM left on his current contract. He is averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists in 32 games this season, but has missed time recently with back problems.
There’s more news today out of Orlando:
- After losing six of their last seven and dropping to 16-24, the Magic need to act quickly to save their season, writes Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel. Offense has been a problem for Orlando all year, and Schmitz says the team needs to find a scorer who can create his own shot. He suggests Allen Crabbe of the Trail Blazers as a realistic target and suggests offering, possibly with shot-blocking center Bismack Biyombo going to Portland in return.
- Nikola Vucevic will be back in the starting lineup tonight, with Biyombo coming off the bench, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Vucevic was demoted along with Payton in the November shakeup. Coach Frank Vogel plans to utilize more “small-ball” lineups with Jeff Green moving to power forward and Mario Hezonja back in the rotation as a backup small forward.
- The Magic made a huge error when they gave up on Maurice Harkless two years ago, Robbins argues in a separate piece. After three disappointing seasons in Orlando, Harkless was traded to Portland in the summer of 2015 in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2020. He was a regular starter for the Blazers during last year’s playoffs and has started all 40 games in which he has appeared this season. “It was a tough situation: a lot of guys trying to figure it out, including the staff and the front office,” Harkless said of his time in Orlando. “It was a unique situation. It was tough. Obviously, it wasn’t going to work out for everybody. I think a change of scenery is what I needed.”
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein takes a swing at picking the All-Star starters from each conference and passes along some trade rumors in his latest column. He lists four teams that could be active with the deadline less than six weeks away:
- The Rockets‘ hopes of acquiring Mike Dunleavy Jr. fell through this week when the Hawks committed to keeping him, but Houston is still looking for another shooter. GM Daryl Morey tried to get involved when Atlanta was searching for a third team in its deal with Cleveland, and he had interest in acquiring Dunleavy when it looked like he might not report to the Hawks. Sources tell Stein that K.J. McDaniels has surpassed Corey Brewer as the Rocket most likely to be traded. McDaniels has one season left on his current deal at more than $3.3MM, while Brewer is signed for one more more season at $7.6MM.
- The Cavaliers have $4.4MM left from their Anderson Varejao trade exception, which will expire February 20th. That means a trade for a backup point guard may be just as likely as a veteran free agent signing such as Mario Chalmers, Jarrett Jack or Norris Cole.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has moved ahead of Reggie Jackson on the list of untouchable Pistons in possible trades. Caldwell-Pope is now atop that list alongside Andre Drummond. Detroit is well below .500 since Jackson returned from tendinitis in his left knee in early December. Jackson, whose 5.5 assists per game are the lowest during his time in Detroit, still has three seasons and more than $51MM left on his current deal.
- Three Trail Blazers who signed huge offseason deals will become eligible to be traded on Sunday. Keep an eye on whether Portland tries to unload some of the salary it committed to Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard.
- The Jazz recalled guards Alec Burks and Raul Neto from the Salt Lake City Stars and assigned forward Joel Bolomboy to the same team, the team announced in a press release. The guard duo was assigned there on Wednesday to get some playing time against the Grand Rapids Drive and Neto finished one rebound shy of a triple-double. This marks the 10th assignment for Bolomboy.
- The Knicks recalled forward Maurice Ndour and center Marshall Plumlee from their affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, the team’s PR staff tweets. That duo combined for 24 points and 20 rebounds against the Maine Red Claws after being assigned on Tuesday.
- The Nets recalled forward Chris McCullough from their Long Island affiliate and he was available against the Pelicans on Thursday night, the team tweets. McCullough poured in 37 points in Long Island’s 138-133 overtime win over the Greensboro Swarm earlier in the day, his 22nd appearance with the D-League club.
- The Pelicans recalled forward Cheick Diallo, who was also playing for the Long Island Nets, the team’s PR department tweets. He played two games there, averaging 12.0 points in 17.4 minutes after going there on Tuesday under the flexible assignment rule.
- The Thunder assigned guard Semaj Christon to the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced in a tweet. Christon has appeared in 36 games with the Thunder this season, averaging 3.2 points and 1.4 assists in 15.4 minutes.
- The Trail Blazers assigned guard Tim Quarterman to the Windy City Bulls under the flex rule, they announced in a press release. The rookie has made 12 brief appearances with the Blazers this season.