Portland Trail Blazers Rumors

And-Ones: Smith, Moreland, Sampson

November 21 at 10:26pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Minnesota is the latest team to be besieged by injuries, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin out indefinitely and Ronny Turiaf also expected to miss time. Also among the Timberwolves to sit on the sidelines in street clothes tonight is Nikola Pekovic, who has a sprained wrist. With the league-maximum 15 players on their roster, the Wolves would not be able to sign another player without being forced to release someone. But if at least three of the players miss three consecutive games and an independent physician declares that they and a fourth player are likely to continue to miss time, Minnesota could apply to the league for a hardship provision that would grant them the ability to temporarily carry a 16th player. Still, “they don’t hand those things out like candy,” as Flip Saunders noted of the league’s willingness to grant 16th roster spots, in spite of recent allowances for the Thunder, Pacers and Grizzlies, tweets Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Kings have sent Eric Moreland to the Reno Bighorns, the team announced. This will be Moreland’s second assignment to the D-League this season. The 22-year-old power forward has yet to make a regular season appearance for Sacramento
  • The Sixers have assigned JaKarr Sampson to the Delaware 87ers, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Sampson’s first trip to the D-League this season, and the rookie is averaging 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in nine NBA appearances.
  • Former Blazers first round pick Nolan Smith is headed back to the NBA D-League, Gino Pilato of D-League Digest reports. Smith had cut ties with Turkey’s Galatasaray back in October and intends to use the D-League to showcase his talents for NBA teams, Pilato notes. The D-League will assign Smith to one of its teams through its waiver system. The 26-year-old point guard spent 2011/12 and 2012/13 with Portland, averaging 3.3 PPG and 1.2 APG in 9.9 minutes per contest. Smith had received partially guaranteed offers from the Bulls and the Thunder this summer but instead chose to try his luck in Turkey.

Western Notes: Bazemore, McCollum, Jerrett

November 18 at 7:24pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Job security trumped Kent Bazemore‘s fondness for the Lakers when he decided where to sign as a free agent this past summer, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. The two-year, $4MM deal Bazemore signed with the Hawks this past offseason marks the first time in his career that he has had a fully guaranteed contract, notes Medina. “Having a non-guaranteed contract is the most stressful thing in the world, especially when January rolls around and that deadline comes up,” Bazemore said. “You start losing sleep. Being guaranteed is great. Now it’s just about working and trying to earn your stripes.”

Here’s more from out west:

  • Bazemore also noted that his decision to depart for Atlanta had nothing to do with Los Angeles ending last season at 25-57, its worst mark in franchise history, Medina adds. “The Lakers are the Lakers, they’ll be back I’m sure. Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family are probably cooking some stuff right now to get their guys back out there,” Bazemore said. “They won a lot of championships and it’s a pedigree that doesn’t die. They’re always around. They’ll always be in the news, whether it’s good or bad. They’ll still get a bunch of TV games. They’re not going anywhere.”
  • Second-year guard CJ McCollum will be sidelined for a minimum of four weeks with a fractured right index finger, the Blazers announced. McCollum is averaging 5.0 points, 1.1 assists and 1.1 rebounds in 13.1 minutes of action in 11 appearances this season.
  • The Thunder have assigned Grant Jerrett to their D-League affiliate the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced. This is Jerrett’s second assignment to the D-League this season, though his first trip was for a mere three hours so he could log some practice time. Jerrett has yet to appear for the Thunder in a regular season contest.

Northwest Notes: Barea, Wolves, Shaw, Leonard

November 16 at 1:01pm CST By Arthur Hill

J.J. Barea confirmed to Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he gave up some guaranteed money to get out of his contract with the Timberwolves. Barea said he was paid a portion of the $4.5MM the Wolves owed him, and then signed with the Mavericks for the veterans minimum. “I think we finished on good terms,” he said. “We communicated pretty good. They wanted to go another direction. We talked about it and came up with the decision and went from there.” Barea played five seasons in Dallas before signing a free agent deal with Minnesota in 2011.

More from the Northwest Division:

  • As the Wolves adjust to life without Kevin Love, their former general manager can empathize, reports Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Kevin McHale said the circumstances that led to Love being dealt to Cleveland were very similar seven years ago when he was forced to trade Kevin Garnett“It’s the lesser of two evils,” said McHale, now the coach of the Rockets. “Like, are we going to let a guy walk for nothing, or are we going to try to get the greatest amount of assets we can and see if we can build from here? But, yeah, I felt bad for [Minnesota head coach and president of basketball operations] Flip [Saunders], because it’s just a tough position to be in.”
  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post opines that the Nuggets need to cut ties with coach Brian Shaw as a way to save their season. Paige called this year’s version of the Nuggets “the least entertaining, exciting and enthralling” in more than a decade, and said Shaw made a huge mistake by implementing a slowdown approach that wastes Denver’s natural advantage over visiting teams because of the city’s altitude.
  • The Trail Blazers‘ Meyers Leonard believes he was miscast during his first two NBA seasons, writes Jason Quick of The Oregonian. The 7-footer has cracked Portland’s rotation as a stretch four after struggling to contribute as a center. He grabbed 12 rebounds Saturday while filling in as a starter for an ailing LaMarcus Aldridge in a win over the Nets. “Once coach started to see me shoot more threes after practice, and shoot them during camps, and in games and summer run … that’s when coach realized ‘He can really help us,”’ Leonard said.

Mavs To Pursue LaMarcus Aldridge

November 7 at 8:49am CST By Chuck Myron

LaMarcus Aldridge made it clear over the summer that he intends to re-sign with the Blazers when his contract expires after this season, but the Mavs plan to see if the Texas native will change his mind and sign with them instead, writes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. It’ll be a long shot, as Sefko points out, but while Dirk Nowitzki stopped short of making a public recruiting pitch, he’s nonetheless made it clear that the idea of playing with Aldridge appeals to him, Sefko observes.

The Mavs have just $28.7MM in commitments for 2015/16 and only three players with fully guaranteed contracts, though that doesn’t include more than $16.6MM combined in player options for Monta Ellis, Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson and Al-Farouq Aminu. Dallas likely would still have enough flexibility to float a maximum-salary offer to Aldridge, who grew up in nearby Seagoville, Texas, even if all four player options are exercised. The former University of Texas standout nonetheless reiterated at the start of training camp that he wants to re-sign with Portland, even though he’ll surely draw interest from teams around the league as one of the best free agents in the 2015 class.

There were trade rumors involving Aldridge throughout 2013, but after the Blazers sprinted to a fast start in 2013/14, he warmed to the idea of a long-term future with the team. Aldridge said this summer that he’s looking forward to the chance to sign a five-year contract, which would only be possible if he signs a new deal with Portland this coming offseason. He could only tack an additional three years onto his existing deal if he were to sign the max extension that the Blazers have offered, and he could only receive a four-year pact if he signed with a team other than Portland.

Still, it doesn’t appear that the Wasserman Media Group client is looking to truly make the most of his earnings potential. Aldridge, in his ninth season, will be eligible for a maximum salary worth approximately 30% of the cap next summer, but if he signs a one-year deal, he’d not only hit free agency again in 2016, when the league’s new $24 billion TV deal kicks in, but he’d also be eligible for a higher maximum salary. Veterans of 10 or more seasons can make up to about 35% of the cap, but Aldridge is reportedly uninterested in signing for just one season next summer.

And-Ones: Allen, Thabeet, NBPA

October 30 at 10:42pm CST By Eddie Scarito

In response to commissioner Adam Silver’s statement that a third of the teams in the league are still losing money, new NBPA head Michele Roberts said, “The NBA’s cries of poverty will not work this time,” Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes.”I can say that I was more than surprised,” Roberts told Yahoo Sports. “I am not suggesting that Adam is telling a lie. I am sure that the owners told him that. But it’s difficult for me to believe that, especially after looking at the 2011 CBA negotiations and seeing all the money the players don’t have now. There’s $1.1 billion that the players would’ve been otherwise entitled.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Mavs owner Mark Cuban left open the possibility that Dallas could add either Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis later on in the season, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News reports. “We haven’t talked to him, but I think he’s doing it the right way,” Cuban said of Allen. “He’s waiting to see who’s doing well. If it comes down to it, we’d always consider it. We’re always open to improving the team. But you don’t want to mess up a good thing, either. That’s when Caron Butler got hurt and Roddy [Beaubois] got hurt. But Peja Stojakovic is a good example of us adding a veteran in season.” In regards to Lewis, Cuban added, “Rashard Lewis is working out here. We’ve stayed in touch with him and worked with him.”
  • Hasheem Thabeet has passed on playing in Europe and instead will play for Grand Rapids in the NBA D-League this season, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). It appears that the Pistons, who had waived Thabeet, will retain his D-League rights as franchises can retain the rights of up to four players that they have waived.
  • The NBA D-League Draft is scheduled to be held this Saturday and the crew over at DraftExpress ran down the complete list of eligible players.
  • The Bucks will keep working toward an extension with Brandon Knight up until Friday’s deadline, David Alarcón of HoopsHype tweets. It’s unclear how far apart the two sides are in their discussions, but in his look at Knight in our extension candidate series, Chuck Myron opined that the two sides could compromise on a four-year, $41MM arrangement similar to what the Sixers gave Jrue Holiday two years ago.

Western Notes: Howard, Kobe, Robinson, Blazers

October 28 at 8:42pm CST By Zach Links

Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss believes her team let Dwight Howard down during his year there, wants Kobe Bryant to continue playing after his contract expires in 2016, and also tells USA Today’s Sam Amick that the organization is functioning more smoothly with Phil Jackson off to New York:

I think it is trying to find how we’re going to operate together. I believe that Phil was a source of conflict between me and my brother and Mitch, I guess, as well. And now that Phil, as of six months ago, is now off the market and has a job – isn’t in the wings – that source of conflict is removed. And I think that the way we operate is becoming more clear. I’m satisfied with everybody’s role, and now we just need everybody to step up and do what is required of them. For me, that means stepping up and talking about the organization and being the face of the organization and establishing the clear lines of authority and transparency and, ultimately, accountability, which lies on my shoulders.

Buss adds that fellow co-owner and brother Jim Buss, along with GM Mitch Kupchak, have assured her that the team will make progress in win column each season in the coming years. More from the West..

  • Although the Blazers declined to pick up his team option of $4.7MM for the 2015/16 season, Thomas Robinson expressed his desire to remain in Portland, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. “I don’t think that worry should be even close. I want to stay thinking positive and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. Hopefully toward the end of the summer, the Blazers have a different mindset and they want to bring me back, because I want to be a part of this team. Something special is happening here. I want to be a part of it,” Robinson said.
  • Howard says he didn’t bolt from the Lakers because of Kobe, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. “I didn’t leave L.A. because I was afraid of Kobe Bryant,” Howard said. “I went to a good situation for myself. I can’t change people’s opinions, but I did what I had to do for myself.”
  • The Lakers expect big things out of offseason acquisition Carlos Boozer, an assistant coach tells Ryan Primeaux of Lakers.com“He’s a double-double virtually every night when he’s on his game. He provides leadership. He provides a constant, consistent low-post game, and the ability to step away from the basket and keep defenses honest. So he will definitely provide stability for us in the bigs department,” the unnamed coach told Primeaux.

Chuck Myron and Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Blazers Opt In With Leonard, McCollum

October 27 at 4:37pm CST By Chuck Myron

The Blazers have exercised their rookie scale team options for 2015/16 with Meyers Leonard and CJ McCollum, the team announced. Leonard will make nearly $3.076MM for that season while McCollum has more than $2.525MM coming to him, as our Rookie Scale Team Option Tracker shows.

Leonard has struggled to live up to having been the 11th pick in the 2012 draft, and his minutes per game were nearly cut in half last season from what he saw as a rookie. The 22-year-old has diversified his game over the offseason, displaying an outside jumper in camp this month as the Blazers experiment with converting the 7’1″ Leonard into a power forward. It’s somewhat surprising that Portland was willing to commit to him and not to former No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson, whose team option will reportedly go unexercised. The $1.6MM gap between Robinson’s option, the more expensive of the two, and Leonard’s appears to have made a difference.

McCollum entered his rookie season with lots of promise after Portland grabbed him 10th overall last year, but injury helped limit him to just 38 games, and he saw just 12.5 MPG in those appearances. The guard made it into just six of the team’s 11 playoff games last season for 4.0 MPG.

Portland already picked up Damian Lillard‘s rookie scale option for next season, but even with Lillard, Leonard and McCollum on the books, they only have about $23.1MM tied up for 2015/16. Still, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez are all set to hit free agency, so there’s reason for the Blazers to keep their ledger relatively clean.

Blazers To Decline Option On Thomas Robinson

October 27 at 3:18pm CST By Chuck Myron

The Blazers have told Thomas Robinson that they won’t exercise their fourth-year team option on his rookie scale contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Robinson has been set to make more than $4.66MM in 2015/16 if the Blazers picked up the final year of his deal, but he’ll instead hit unrestricted free agency this summer, with the Blazers unable to pay him more than the amount of his option to retain him. The same would hold true for any team that would acquire him via trade this season.

Robinson has had a difficult adjustment to the NBA after the Kings made him the fifth overall pick in 2012. Sacramento shipped him to Houston in the middle of his rookie season, and the Rockets sent him along to Portland the following summer to clear cap space for Dwight Howard. Robinson saw fewer minutes per game in Portland than he did in either of his other stops, making it in for only 12.5 MPG this past season.

Portland only has about $17.4MM in commitments for 2015/16, so the Blazers would have plenty of room to accommodate Robinson’s option if they changed their minds. Still, LaMarcus Aldridge is poised to command a max deal in free agency this summer, and Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez are set to become free agents, too.

Blazers Waive Diante Garrett, Darius Morris

October 25 at 12:24pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Blazers have officially waived Diante Garrett and Darius Morris, the team announced via Twitter. These moves reduce Portland’s preseason roster count to 15, meaning they won’t be required to release any other players prior to the regular season beginning. Morris’ contract didn’t come with any guaranteed cash, but the team will owe Garrett $30K per their arrangement.

Garrett was on the fringe of the rotation for the Jazz last season, averaging 3.5 points and shooting 37.5% from three-point range in 14.8 minutes per game. That was after a season in which he spent the entire campaign on the Suns roster but only appeared in 19 contests.

The 23-year-old Morris reportedly turned down an offer from a Serbian team earlier this summer and took his shot at making the Blazers squad. In 94 career contests, the 6’4″ point guard has averaged 3.7 PPG and 1.5 APG. His career slash line is .399/.354/.653.

Western Notes: Blazers, Covington, Jackson

October 23 at 8:28pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Thunder GM Sam Presti said the team wants Reggie Jackson to remain a piece of the franchise’s puzzle, Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press writes. “I think we’ve been really clear about his importance to the team, that we see him as a core member of the team, as a core member of the organization,” Presti said. “We’re going to put our best put forward, and I believe he will as well. We’ll see if we can figure something out.” If he and the Thunder don’t sign an extension by the end of next week, Jackson can become a restricted free agent next summer and could command big money on the open market. It remains to be seen if Oklahoma City would match any offer sheets that Jackson inks with other teams. The Thunder’s cap commitment for the 2015/16 campaign is already approximately $63.6MM.

Here’s more from out west:

  • The Rockets still haven’t waived Robert Covington, despite the player not being with the team for the last two weeks, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Covington is currently weighing some guaranteed offers to play in Europe, Feigen notes.
  • The remaining players on the Grizzlies‘ preseason roster all fit the team’s system rather well, Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal writes in a subscription-only piece. This includes Patrick Christopher and Kalin Lucas, the team’s lone remaining players in camp whose deals aren’t fully guaranteed, notes Tillery. Both players are likely headed to the team’s D-League affiliate, the Iowa Energy, according to Tillery.
  • The Blazers still have decisions to make regarding their 2015/16 team options for C.J. McCollum, Thomas Robinson, and Meyers Leonard. Portland has until the October 31st deadline to exercise those options or the trio will become unrestricted free agents next summer. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian examines what the Blazers might do regarding each player’s contract.
  • Donald Sterling’s lawyers have begun talks with the NBA about dismissing Sterling’s federal antitrust lawsuit against the league, as Sterling attorney Maxwell Blecher revealed in a declaration filed in U.S. District Court today, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. The former Clippers owner has sought more than $1 billion in damages in the suit, which became the primary thrust of his legal efforts against the league when he recently withdrew a different suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the NBA, his wife and Adam Silver.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.