Portland Trail Blazers Rumors

And-Ones: Knicks, Batum, Cauley-Stein, ‘Melo

December 18 at 10:29am CST By Chuck Myron

The Knicks have been “very active” in trade discussions this week, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com reports amid a story on the team’s apparent peripheral involvement in Rajon Rondo talks. That seems to jibe with a report from Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck earlier this week that all the Knicks aside from Carmelo Anthony are available. Rumors are indeed flying fast around the NBA these days, and here’s a look at some of the latest news from around the league:

  • Nicolas Batum has pondered what it would be like to play for the Spurs, but he doesn’t see much need to leave the Blazers when he hits free agency after next season, as he tells Shams Charania of RealGM“I still have time and I like low key so there’s no reason to think yet, but why not stay in Portland?” Batum said. “I’ve been here for seven years now, so why not?”
  • Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein has been on quite a tear recently, and this has catapulted him from No. 16 all the way to No. 8 on Chad Ford of ESPN.com‘s insider-only Big Board. Cauley-Stein is currently ranked 10th in Hoops Rumors’ 2015 NBA Draft Prospect Power Rankings.
  • ‘Melo would have been better off joining the Bulls, opines Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that the Bulls lucked out when he decided not to, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com.
  • Three-year NBA veteran Josh Harrellson has been released by the Chongqing Flying Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association, Enea Trapani of Sportando reports (Twitter link). The Pistons had waived Harrellson in mid-July rather than guarantee his minimum salary for the 2014/15 season.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Lopez, Matthews, Kings

December 16 at 10:27pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Though there don’t appear to be any deals currently imminent, there is a tremendous amount of trade discussions going on amongst teams currently, far beyond the traditional mid-December volume, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter links). According to Wojnarowski, the most active franchises in terms of discussions are the Celtics, Pistons, Suns, Timberwolves, Hornets, Clippers, Pacers, Nets, Nuggets, and Rockets.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • Robin Lopez‘s broken right hand will likely keep him out longer than expected. While the initial prognostication was that the Blazers big man would miss four weeks, Lopez tweeted (hat tip to The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman) that it would be six to seven weeks before he would be back on the hardwood again.
  • The Cavs have made numerous attempts to work out a trade with the Blazers for Wesley Matthews, but barring an unexpected free fall in the standings, Portland isn’t expected to deal the swingman, Chris Haynes of The Northwest Ohio Media Group writes. Matthews will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but the Blazers have every intention of re-signing him, Haynes adds.
  • The Kings‘ firing of Mike Malone may provide an unexpected benefit to the franchise, Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders writes. Many expect the Kings to regress under interim coach Tyrone Corbin, and if that occurs the team should be able to hold onto its 2015 first-rounder. Sacramento’s 2015 first round draft pick is owed to the Bulls if it falls outside of the top 10.

Western Rumors: Turiaf, Clippers, Gasol, Lopez

December 16 at 11:48am CST By Chuck Myron

Wolves coach/executive Flip Saunders told reporters today that it’s likely he’ll try to find a way to use Ronny Turiaf‘s roster spot to help the team in the short term, tweets Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. Turiaf had surgery today on his right hip, and it’s unclear when he’ll be able to return. His contract, which calls for him to make a guaranteed $1.5MM this year, is up at season’s end, as Zgoda notes. Minnesota is already carrying 16 players through a hardship exception granted in part because of Turiaf’s injury, so his extended absence wouldn’t give the team any more ammunition to apply for a 17th roster spot, which it would be unlikely to receive, anyway. There’s more injury-related news amid the latest rumblings from around the Western Conference:

  • Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers acknowledged a report that the team is interested in Jermaine O’Neal, telling gathered media, including Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times, that he’s casting a wide net (Twitter link). “Hey, count me in for everybody,” Rivers said. “… We’re looking at everything.”
  • Jordan Farmar isn’t enamored with his limited role under Rivers, who’s giving him just 15.0 minutes per night, observes Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Farmar’s deal with the Clippers includes a player option worth more than $2.17MM for next season.
  • Marc Gasol isn’t tiring of hearing his name in rumors as he nears free agency in the summer ahead, but he once more made it clear that he’s quite pleased to be in Memphis, notes Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link). The Raptors are the latest team reportedly gearing up for a run at the Grizzlies big man.
  • Robin Lopez is expected to miss the next four weeks after suffering a broken right hand in Monday’s win for the Blazers against the Spurs, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Blazers have 15 fully guaranteed contracts, so they have little flexibility to find a replacement.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Aldridge, Turner

December 7 at 4:27pm CST By Zach Links

Tommy Heinsohn of CSNNE sees a bright future for former Celtics star Paul Pierce when his playing days are through, but he isn’t sure exactly what he’ll be doing.  “He’s liable to be a broadcaster for all we know,” Heinsohn joked. “Paul Pierce is a perfect example of a guy that’s made for an organization. He’s a very, very team oriented person. He’s a self motivator, so every time you put that type of individual into an organization, they’ll find a way to get the best out of them. I don’t know what he’ll end up being, but they will surely want him to be involved.”

  • Pending free agent LaMarcus Aldridge is unlikely to join the Knicks, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.  Aldridge, he explains, seems to be after a five year deal and the Knicks cannot offer more than four.
  • After disappointing stints with the Sixers and Pacers, Evan Turner may have found a comfortable NBA role with the Celtics, as A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com writes. Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, is averaging nearly nine points per game as a versatile sixth man for Boston. Coach Brad Stevens talked about playing to Turner’s strengths. “He’s a mid-range guy,” Stevens said. “He’s a better mid-range player than he is a three-point shooter at this time. But his three-point shot is getting better and will continue to get better.”
  • While the criticism of Knicks coach Derek Fisher and president Phil Jackson is mounting, one league personnel director told Berman that not much was expected of the new regime in year one.  “You’ve got to be patient,’’ he said. “You got a coach who’s never coached and a president who’s never built a team.’’
  • The struggling football coaches in New York can’t say the same, but Fisher has job security despite the Knicks‘ lousy play, writes Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News.

Arthur Hill contributed to this post.

Northwest Notes: Burks, Aldridge, Shaw

December 6 at 4:45pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Jazz guard Alec Burks met with specialists on Friday to have his injured left shoulder examined and the results were positive, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski’s sources, Burks won’t require surgery and will undergo rehab that could allow him to return in as little as two weeks. Jody Genessy of the Deseret News (Twitter link) has heard differently, and his sources inform him that Burks will definitely require surgery, either now or at the end of the season.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and has said that his comfort level with the Blazers organization, the city, and the media, will play a big factor in making his ultimate decision, Jason Quick of The Oregonian writes. “The relationship I’ve built here is invaluable,” Aldridge said. “I definitely value it a lot because it took work on both ends. I’m definitely comfortable here, but this is all I know. I can’t say I would be uncomfortable in those other environments you talk about, but I can say I’m comfortable here, because I’ve been here so long and I understand this market, this city, this organization. So there’s that extra level of comfort here.”
  • Aldridge’s teammates say that his legacy might be a factor in making his free agent decision as well, Quick adds. “We haven’t talked about this stuff, but I’m just speaking if I were him,” Wesley Matthews said. “If I were him, seeing  my name creeping up on the ranks in the all-time lists … that changes stuff. That’s big time. That’s legacy. I don’t know. I can’t speak for him. But that might be a factor, a role.”
  • Brian Shaw‘s 100th game as Nuggets head coach was Tuesday night, and the former player reflected on how the league has changed since he last put on a uniform, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post writes. “Understanding that it’s a different day and age that we live in,” Shaw said. “Some of the things that we have to deal with that weren’t around. For instance, when I played, cell phones, social media, things of that nature that are just different.I tell the guys that when I first got in the league in 1988, we didn’t have cell phones; I don’t even know if we had computers.

Victor Claver Pushing For Exit From Blazers?

December 5 at 4:20pm CST By Chuck Myron

FRIDAY, 4:20pm: Claver has denied the reports that he or his agents requested a trade, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com reports (Twitter links). Claver told Young, “I never said I want to leave the team or I want to leave Portland. The only thing I said is, ‘I want to play. I need to play.’”

WEDNESDAY, 9:35am: Blazers small forward Victor Claver is fed up with his lack of playing time and the Wasserman Media Group client has instructed his agents to help him find a way off the team, according to Fran Escudero of Super Deporte, a media outlet in Claver’s native Spain (translations via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia and HoopsHype). The 26-year-old would prefer the Blazers trade him to another NBA team, but failing that, there’s a decent chance he’d go back to playing in Europe, Escudero writes.

Claver made it clear last week that he wanted to play but nonetheless expressed an understanding of Portland’s point of view and a willingness to continue patiently working until he received an opportunity for minutes, as he told Jabari Young of CSNNW.com. Still, it’s not the first time that reports have indicated that the former No. 22nd overall pick has become frustrated with his shrinking role with the Blazers, who’ve yet to put him on the floor for a single minute of action this season. Claver last year denied a report that suggested he was thinking about a return to Europe, though he said then that he wanted to see more playing time, and he reiterated that desire this past April. He nonetheless said in May that he wouldn’t seek a buyout of his contract, which runs out after this season, one in which he’s set to make a guaranteed $1.37MM.

The deal is the first NBA pact for Claver, who remained overseas for three seasons after the Blazers drafted him in 2009. He saw 26.1 minutes per game for Valencia, his hometown team, in the last season before he headed to Portland in 2012. He averaged 16.6 MPG as a rookie for the Blazers and 8.8 last season.

Claver is eligible for a trade, and dozens of others around the NBA become trade-eligible on December 15th, a date when trade talk usually picks up leaguewide. The Blazers are over the cap and don’t have a trade exception to help them absorb salary in a complex deal involving Claver, but otherwise they’re fairly flexible, more than $7MM clear of the luxury tax threshold.

Western Notes: Wolves, Carter, Harrington

November 28 at 8:52pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Wolves president Flip Saunders said the team is still considering filing for a hardship exception which would allow Minnesota to temporarily add a 16th player to their roster, Andy Greder of The St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets. The franchise has lost the services of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic, and Ronny Turiaf to injuries. Martin is out six to eight weeks after having wrist surgery, and Rubio isn’t likely to return until January at the earliest after injuring his ankle. Both Pekovic and Turiaf will both be reevaluated next week, Greder adds in a separate tweet.

Here’s more from out west:

  • After meeting with head coach Dave Joerger and his staff during the free agent signing period this summer, Vince Carter knew playing with the Grizzlies was the right choice, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com writes. “I like playing with guys who want to win,” Carter said. “At this point in my career, that’s what it’s about. I met with the coaching staff and ownership and you can just see the direction they were trying to go in – just winning – and I felt like I can bring a presence on and off the court and that’s what I’m looking for. I know this was a great opportunity for both sides and it worked out.”
  • Carter was also asked if the Blazers reached out to him during the summer, and he replied, “I never really heard from them. They’re established, man. They are going to be fine. I don’t think they needed my services.”
  • Despite reports that the Rockets are interested in signing Al Harrington, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets that Harrington isn’t likely to end up in Houston. Harrington had recently left his Chinese team because of apparent interest from NBA clubs

Offseason In Review: Portland Trail Blazers

November 27 at 1:40pm CST By Chuck Myron

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • None

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • None

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

The Blazers knew their starting lineup wasn’t the issue. Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez were the fifth-best five-man group in the league last season in terms of per-possession point differential among those that played at least 500 minutes together, according to NBA.com. That unit outscored opponents by 8.5 points per 100 possessions, but Portland as a whole was just plus-3.5 in that category. The Blazers entered the summer with no real cap flexibility and no draft picks, but GM Neil Olshey set about to prove just how valuable the mid-level and biannual exceptions can be.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver NuggetsOlshey used the mid-level to ink Chris Kaman, a player who two years prior wouldn’t have been obtainable for that sort of money or for the reserve role the Blazers expect him to play. The one-time All-Star was one of the key figures in a fairly strong class of free agent centers in 2012, and he signed a one-year, $8MM deal with the Mavs that gave him the chance to excel in filling the team’s need for a starting center and to net more money over the long-term on his next contract. Instead, Kaman failed to see eye-to-eye with coach Rick Carlisle and played just 20.7 minutes per game that season, deflating his value and prompting him to turn to a one-year, $3.183MM deal for the taxpayer’s mid-level with the Lakers in 2013. Mike D’Antoni had even less use for him, and he appeared in only 39 games last season. Having turned 32 this past April, it seemed unlikely that Kaman would merit a raise, and quite conceivable that he’d have to settle for the minimum salary and a third-string job.

The Landmark Sports Agency client instead came away with $4.8MM this year, almost the full value of the $5.305MM non-taxpayer’s mid-level, plus a $1MM partial guarantee for 2015/16. It was a gamble for Olshey, but so far it’s paid off, as Kaman is putting up 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 19.0 minutes per game. He’s the NBA’s ninth leading per-minute rebounder among those who’ve played at least 100 total minutes this season, according to Basketball-Reference, and his 20.6 PER is a career high.

Olshey used all of the team’s biannual exception to come up with another player who began last season on the Lakers. It’s a reunion for the Blazers and Steve Blake, though Olshey wasn’t around when Blake played in Portland from 2007 to 2010. Olshey nonetheless had a chance to get an up-close look at the point guard when the GM was with the Clippers and Blake was in his early days with the other Staples Center tenants. Derek Fisher, Steve Nash and even Ramon Sessions had played in front of Blake on the Lakers, for whom he started just 45 games in three and a half years, but the 34-year-old hasn’t averaged fewer than 20.0 minutes per game since the 2004/05 season. That’s a testament to his value as a bench contributor, and so far for Portland he’s been an even more efficient ball-distributor than he had been in recent years. He’s averaging 7.1 assists against just 2.2 turnovers per 36 minutes, a ratio well clear of 3-to-1, and though most of his stats are by no means gaudy, he earns his keep in his time on the floor.

The Blazers as a whole are outscoring opponents at a rate of 8.6 points per 100 possessions so far this season, a rate almost identical to the one their starting five had produced last season, as NBA.com shows. Part of that is because the starting unit has upped its differential in that category to plus-10.7, but Portland’s bench has picked up some of the slack. The Blazers are missing one their top reserves from last season, as Mo Williams fled to the Timberwolves for a one-year, $3.75MM deal that was only slightly greater in value than the approximately $3.18MM that Portland was limited to giving him via Non-Bird rights. Agent Mark Bartelstein said before Williams signed with Minnesota that there was a chance, however slight, that his client would return to Portland even after the Blazers committed their mid-level to Hawes, which wiped out their ability to give Williams more than that $3.18MM. It’s unclear what Portland could have done at that point to woo him back, and perhaps a multiyear offer might have done the trick, but Williams nonetheless departed, leaving Portland to rely more heavily on C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Will Barton to supplement Blake. Still, that could be a blessing in disguise, since it’ll give the Blazers a chance to evaluate that trio, all of whom are either second- or third-year players, and much is eventually expected of McCollum, the 10th overall pick in 2013.

The Blazers made a tough call on another recent lottery pick, declining their fourth-year rookie scale option on 2012 No. 5 selection Thomas Robinson. The big man had a tough go of it in his first two seasons, rebounding efficiently and running the floor well but otherwise failing to show many glimpses of the promise that made him such a hot prospect coming out of Kansas. The Blazers can still re-sign him next summer, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, and they can’t pay him a salary greater than the $4,660,482 option they turned down. Robinson probably won’t merit more than that unless he has a breakout season this year, but teams rarely re-sign players after declining their rookie scale options, so he’s likely in his final days with Portland.

The decision pick up Meyers Leonard‘s somewhat cheaper rookie scale option wasn’t clear-cut, since Leonard has been just as disappointing after having been the No. 11 pick in the same draft that Robinson was a part of. Still, Leonard’s willingness to try to remake himself into a 7’1″ stretch power forward bears watching, and perhaps Portland felt compelled to keep him around for at least another season to see how that experiment turns out.

Such tinkering pales in comparison to the importance of Aldridge’s free agency in the summer to come, though the team’s preeminent star made it clear this past summer that he intends to re-sign with the Blazers. That he was willing at times last season to entertain the idea of signing an extension, which wouldn’t be in his best financial interests, is demonstrative of his commitment to Portland, even though he said in July that an extension was no longer a consideration. It was also quite a switch from the summer of 2013, when it seemed that Aldridge was looking for a way out of town in the wake of consecutive losing seasons. Last year’s revival was clearly a game-changer for the long-term future of the Blazers, and the team’s second consecutive hot start is impressing upon the league, and upon Aldridge, that last season was no fluke.

Olshey hasn’t made any earth-shattering moves in his three offseasons with the Blazers, aside from the shrewd drafting of Lillard at No. 6 in 2012, but adding Lopez in the summer of 2013 and Kaman and Blake this year show his ability to be a consistent singles hitter. Still, he’ll most likely need to display a little more power for the team to become a true title contender, and this coming offseason, when only three Blazers have fully guaranteed contracts, will provide that opportunity.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Northwest Notes: Lopez, Exum, Shaw

November 26 at 4:26pm CST By Chuck Myron

If it weren’t for the 11-3 Blazers, who’ve won eight in a row, the Northwest Division would resemble one of the groupings from the Eastern Conference. Portland is the only Northwest team above .500, thanks in part to the offseason acquisition of backup center Chris Kaman, who’s averaging 10.9 points in 19.1 minutes to boost a bench that was a clear weakness last season. There’s more on another Blazers center who’s made a difference amid the latest from the Northwest:

  • Robin Lopez has enjoyed his season and change with the Blazers and isn’t thinking about moving on when he hits free agency in the summer, as he tells The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman. That’s just what his teammates want to hear, as many of them let Freeman know of their affection for Lopez, whose arrival last year coincided with the team’s ascent in the standings. “I really love it here,” Lopez said. “I feel like I’ve really found a niche. Nothing is set in stone, but I’m comfortable here, I’m happy here.”
  • Dante Exum, this year’s No. 5 overall pick, is off to a modest start, averaging just 4.9 points and 2.6 assists in 18.4 minutes per game, but the Jazz and coach Quin Snyder want to bring the 19-year-old phenom along slowly, as Aaron Falk of The Salk Lake Tribune details. Exum is “doing everything that we expected of him” so far, Snyder said.
  • Nuggets coach Brian Shaw acknowledged the pressure on him earlier this season, but he’s been in too many winning NBA locker rooms to panic, and Denver’s five-game winning streak makes it clear he never lost control of the team, opines Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.

Western Notes: Dragic, Adams, Moreland, Smith

November 25 at 8:19pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Zoran Dragic will receive $1.5MM in base salary this season and next, but he’ll count for more than $1.706MM against the Suns‘ cap each year because of his nearly $413K signing bonus, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). The bonus went toward the part of Dragic’s buyout from Spain’s Unicaja Malaga that wasn’t covered under the $600K that teams are allowed to keep off their books when they buy players out of their overseas contracts. Here’s more from the western half:

  • The Grizzlies have re-assigned Jordan Adams to the Iowa Energy, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Adams’ second trip to the D-League this season. During his first assignment, Adams appeared in one contest, contributing 20 points, seven rebounds and one assist in 31 minutes. The 20-year-old is averaging 1.5 points, 1.3 assists and 0.75 steals in 10.1 minutes per contest in four appearances for Memphis this season.
  • Eric Moreland has been recalled from the Reno Bighorns of the D-League, the Kings have announced. This was Moreland’s second stint in the D-League this season, and he’s averaging 13.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 1.7 APG in three appearances for Reno this season. Moreland has yet to appear in a regular season contest for Sacramento.
  • The Delaware 87ers of the NBA D-League have claimed Nolan Smith off of waivers, Gino Pilato of D-League Digest reports (Twitter link). 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. Smith’s last taste of the NBA came during the 2012/13 season when he appeared in 40 games for the Blazers and averaged 2.8 points and 0.9 assists.
  • Mavs big man Tyson Chandler said that he felt like a scapegoat for the Knicks’ failures last season, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com writes. When asked whether his leadership attempts were unappreciated in New York, Chandler said, “At times, at times, at times. But I feel like New York made me a lot stronger, a lot stronger of a person going through trials and tribulations there. But that’s life. It also depends on where your mind is. If everybody is locked in and they want to win and they know I’m in it 100% and they’re in it 100%, nobody’s sensitive. But if there’s other agendas, it’s going to make things sensitive.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.