Portland Trail Blazers

Western Notes: Bonner, Lakers, Gasol

Longtime Spurs power forward Matt Bonner has no plans to retire after this season as long as there is still interest in him, Jabari Young of the San Antonio News-Express relays. Bonner is 35 and re-signed with the Spurs in July for one year at the veteran’s minimum. Bonner was reportedly thinking about retirement last spring, though he said last year that he wanted to play for several more seasons. Bonner told Young that he would like to retire as a member of the Spurs, however.

“The Spurs are my first option every summer, which is terrible business on my end to put that out there,” Bonner said. “I’m not negotiating for max deals. I’m basically a vet minimum guy, unless someone out there wants to pay me a lot more money.”

Here’s more out of the Western Conference:

  • Ed Davis, who signed a three-year, $20MM deal with the Blazers in July after spending last season with the Lakers, told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders that the biggest difference between the two franchises is Portland operates with more stability and with more of a long-term plan (Twitter link).
  • Lakers coach Byron Scott believes the development and performance of some of the Lakers’ core young players such as D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson will help lure free agents to the team in the future, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register relays. “They’ll see that we have three young guys that, from day one to game 82, have shown big-time improvement,” Scott said. “And if they can continue to improve that way, then the future’s pretty bright.”
  • Marc Gasol told Zach Lowe of ESPN.com in a wide-ranging and entertaining Q&A that he didn’t know he would ink the new five-year max deal with the Grizzlies that he signed in July until last season was completed. “Just because I didn’t put that much time into it,” Gasol said. “You have to look at things from afar and get perspective on things. That’s when you know. So that’s what we did. We flew back, we went away from basketball for a little bit, and it just kind of happened.”

Northwest Notes: Durant, Leonard, Rubio

Kevin Durant admits that it’s a different era now with players changing teams so often, but he believes a winning a championship helps alleviate the desire to call another city home, as Royce Young of ESPN.com relays (Twitter link).

“There’s still some guys that stay with one team, but there are some guys that move,”  Durant said. Kobe [Bryant], he’s done it, Tim Duncan‘s done it. Just as far as staying with one organization when you win a title with them makes it easier to ride it out, and that’s what those guys have done. Dirk [Nowitzki], guys like that. It’s good to see a few player that’s on the out that had long careers that’s been with one team and still doing pretty well.”

Here’s more out of the Northwest:

  • Meyers Leonard reportedly turned down a “considerable” extension in November and there’s chatter around the league that the offer was of four years and $60MM, Jason Quick of CSNNW.com writes.
  • The season for Leonard hasn’t gone the way he anticipated, but despite his struggles, he still has the support of his team, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes. “I just want him to know that we’re in his corner,” Damian Lillard said of Leonard. “There’s no cracks in our confidence in what he can do for the team. Sometimes you need to hear it. It wasn’t a big deal. I just want him to know that I’m behind him and I believe in him. I always tell him that, that I believe in what he can do. It’s just a matter of him clearing his mind and doing it.”
  • Michael Rand of the Star Tribune isn’t optimistic that Ricky Rubio, who is shooting an icy 27.5% from behind the arc this season, will ever be an adequate shooter. Rubio signed a rookie scale extension in 2014, which went into effect this year. He’s slated to make $55MM over the next four seasons.

2016/17 Salary Cap Projection: Trail Blazers

The NBA’s salary cap for 2015/16 has been set at $70MM, which is an 11% increase from last season, and the luxury tax line is fixed at $84.74MM. The last cap projection from the league prior to the official numbers being announced had been $67.1MM, and the projection for the tax line had been $81.6MM. Many league executives and agents believe that the salary cap will escalate to a whopping $95MM for 2016/17, a higher figure than the league’s last projection of $89MM. This significant bump is a result of the league’s new $24 billion TV deal that kicks in just in time for next season.

The increase in the salary cap will almost assuredly set off a flurry of activity in the free agent market next summer, and it will also make it easier than ever for teams to deal away their higher-priced stars. Prudent executives are acutely aware of exactly how much cap room they have to play with, not just for the current campaign, but for next season and beyond as well. While the exact amount of 2016/17’s salary cap won’t be announced until next summer, it always pays to know just how much salary is on the books for each franchise. With this in mind, we at Hoops Rumors will be breaking down the projected 2016/17 financial commitments for each franchise, and we’ll continue onward with a look at the Portland Trail Blazers:

  • Fully Guaranteed Salary Commitments: $44,468,987
  • Partially Guaranteed Salary Commitments: $0
  • Non Guaranteed Salary Commitments: $1,749,272
  • Total Projected Salary Cap Commitments: $46,218,259

If the salary cap were to fall in line with the projection of $89MM, Portland would have approximately $42,781,741 in cap space, or $48,781,741 if the cap were to be set at the higher mark of $95MM. Again, these are merely predictions until the exact cap amounts are announced, and they are not meant to illustrate the exact amount that the team will have available to spend this coming offseason.

Portland will also need to make decisions regarding Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe and Tim Frazier, all of whom are eligible to become restricted free agents next summer. If the Blazers wish to retain the right to match any offer sheets the players were to receive, the team would need to submit qualifying offers to each, with Leonard’s being worth $4,210,880, Harkless’ valued at $4,045,894, Crabbe’s set at $1,215,696, and Frazier’s at $1,180,431. These numbers would merely be  placeholders until the players either inked new deals or signed their qualifying offers, which would then set them up for unrestricted free agency the following offseason.

Trades and long-term free agent signings made during the season will also have a significant impact on the figures above, and we’ll be updating these posts to reflect the new numbers after any signings and trades have been made official.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Western Notes: Howard, Harkless, Jones

Despite the reports that he is unhappy playing second-fiddle to James Harden, Rockets center Dwight Howard insists that he’s committed to the team and disputes any notion that he’s projecting negativity that is affecting his teammates, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle relays. “The one thing that I don’t want to happen is people to assume that because things are not going quite well for us that I’ve quit on the team and take away from all the positive things we have done, despite the loss, making the city feel like they’re unwanted,” Howard told Feigen. “There’s a lot of negativity going around. I haven’t caused it. I haven’t said anything negative to anybody about this team or this situation. I’ve just been trying to find ways to make this situation better, trying to grow as a man, as a basketball player. You just try to laugh at it. I don’t want to go out and persecute the people that persecute me. That’s the hardest part. The first reaction is to go back at them. You just have to respond with love.

Here’s more from out West:

  • Wolves rookie point guard Tyus Jones has been assigned to the D-League since December 5th, and he is expected to return to the team after the Idaho Stampede’s game on Saturday, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune relays (Twitter links). The reason that Jones will be recalled this weekend is due to Idaho not having another scheduled contest until after Christmas, Zgoda adds.
  • Maurice Harkless has been struggling thus far this season, his first with the Blazers, but coach Terry Stotts thinks it would be unfair to make any judgments on the young swingman with so much of the 2015/16 campaign left to play, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes. “It takes time,” Stotts said. “That’s why this season is a season of growth for everybody. I think it’s difficult to assess [his play] a third of the way in as far as road blocks and things like that. I think it’ll come and I think too many times players are evaluated by their box score. I think he’s doing his best to fit in the best he can.
  • The Kings have assigned power forward Duje Dukan to the Reno Bighorns, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Dukan’s fourth jaunt to Reno on the season.

Western Notes: Howard, Rondo, Kaman, Payne

Dwight Howard is “extremely unhappy” as a secondary option to James Harden on the Rockets, league sources tell Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops, but a source tells Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com that “everybody is unhappy” (Twitter link), with everybody presumably a reference to all of the Rockets. Houston has played better since last month’s coaching change, but the team is still just 12-13. Howard and Harden have never truly meshed, as Fran Blinebury of NBA.com wrote last month, adding that members of each other’s camp went into the 2014 offseason “whispering” about their desire to get rid of the other. Sheridan speculates about trade scenarios involving Howard, but no indication exists that the Rockets would indeed entertain any deals for the 30-year-old who has a player option worth more than $23.282MM for next season. Howard is No. 6 in our latest 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings. See more from the Western Conference:

  • Rajon Rondo apologized to referee Bill Kennedy today in the point guard’s second statement in response to the controversy surrounding the homophobic slur he used during a game earlier this month as an insult to Kennedy, who is gay. Some took issue with his first statement, which he issued Monday via two tweets, for its lack of a direct apology, and executives who spoke with Ken Berger of CBSSports.com offered split opinions on whether the matter would affect Rondo’s free agency this summer.
  • The Trail Blazers are making Chris Kaman available for trades, league sources told Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops. Kaman is pulling down $5.016MM this season, the last one on his contract. A sprained right ankle has helped limit him to just three appearances so far in 2015/16.
  • Timberwolves power forward Adreian Payne is also available, league sources said to Scotto for the same report. Payne, who’s earning almost $1.939MM in the second season of his rookie scale contract, was the 15th overall pick of the 2014 draft, but he’s played sparingly since. He’s averaging 3.5 points in 10.3 minutes per game across 15 appearances for Minnesota so far this season, though the team committed to him financially less than two months ago when it picked up his 2016/17 team option.

Western Notes: Lakers, Pelicans, Blazers

Despite a slow start for Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell, GM Mitch Kupchak has a lot of confidence in the shooting guard, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times relays. Russell has scored in double-figures in eight of the Lakers’ nine games this month. Kupchak attributed Russell’s success lately to figuring out the pace of the game and believes the young player will develop into a triple-double threat, Pincus adds.

“There’s never a doubt, when we scouted him last year and when we drafted him and worked him out, that he was going to be a very, very, very, very good player in this league,” Kupchak said in a live chat on Lakers.com, transcribed by Pincus. “That’s our feeling all along. He did not have a very good summer league and I think that was a wake-up call for him.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Pelicans re-signed Omer Asik to a five-year, $58MM contract in the summer, but the center’s performance has been underwhelming so far, John Reid of The Times Picayune writes. Only the first four years of the deal are guaranteed, as Reid notes. The total value of guaranteed money is close to $45MM and Asik will be able to get entire value of the contract if he meets a certain amount of performance-based incentives, according to Reid, but his play indicates that’s not likely to happen.
  • C.J. McCollum is in the midst of a breakout season for the Blazers and there is a strong possibility he could be the league’s most improved player, Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group details. Portland exercised its rookie scale team option for the 2016/17 season with McCollum in September.
  • The Wolves were a perfect fit for rookie Karl-Anthony Towns in comparison to the Sixers and Lakers because in Minnesota he has veteran mentors like Kevin Garnett, Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press writes.

Western Notes: Howard, Pachulia, Teletovic

It’s been an unusually quiet season for Dwight Howard, who can opt out of his current deal after the season and become an unrestricted free agent, as the Rockets center is averaging only 12.7 points per game, the fewest since he averaged 12 as a rookie in 2004/05, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle observes in an explanatory piece. For his part, Howard, as Feigen points out, has had no complaints about his seemingly diminished role in the Rockets’ offense.

“To us, it’s important that Dwight serves his role,” Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Dwight’s not a one-dimensional player. Dwight knows how to impact winning in a bunch of different ways. He’s not a guy who has to score the basketball to be effective. As long as he understands how important he is to us and his teammates let him know how important he is to our success, I think he’s confident he’ll go out and do what he’ll have to do to help us win.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Zaza Pachulia, in a Q&A with Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype, said he initially had mixed feelings regarding his trade to the Mavs from the Bucks, but warmed up to the idea rather quickly. “Here it’s a totally different situation for me,” Pachulia told Sierra. “I was one of the oldest guys in Milwaukee, now I’m coming here and I feel like I’m one the younger guys. So many veterans around me.”
  • Nicolas Batum believed the Blazers, as they were constructed last season, had at least another run in them, Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders writes. Things changed, of course, when LaMarcus Aldridge decided to sign with the Spurs. “I understand his choice,” Batum said. “He had done a lot of things for the Portland franchise, but to get a chance with the Spurs to win a ring right away? I think a lot of people would have done the exact same thing. He wanted to go to another place to win a championship, and I respect that. I’m not mad about it, but I was surprised. It was a good run, and it was fun, but it’s time to move on.”
  • Mirza Teletovic is enjoying a strong bounce-back season with the Suns after inking a one-year deal following his issue of blood clots, Howard Megdal of USA Today Sports details.

Northwest Notes: Nelson, Mitchell, Davis, Crabbe

The Nuggets see Jameer Nelson as more than just someone who can shepherd rookie Emmanuel Mudiay, coach Michael Malone insisted Tuesday to reporters, including Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Denver re-signed Nelson to a three-year deal worth more than $13.6MM in the offseason.

“We believe in Jameer regardless of Emmanuel,” Malone said. “I think everybody thinks that [Jameer is around] just because we have a young point guard. We believe in Jameer because he’s a vet with tremendous experience, a very good leader on the court [and] in the locker room. And now you couple that with a young point guard like Emmanuel Mudiay, so Jameer can not only mentor him but push him. It’s always a competition.”

See more on Nelson amid our check around the Northwest Division:

  • Nelson had long envisioned finishing his career with the Magic, but he sensed that he and the team were heading in different directions before he left as a free agent last year, as Robbins details in the same piece. Still, the Nuggets veteran has a fondness for his old home. “I’m here in Denver, but I always talk to my wife about moving back to Orlando just because that’s where we basically spent the majority of my adult life so far,” Nelson said, according to Robbins. “Of my 33 years, 10 of it was in Orlando and that’s when I was a real adult.”
  • Timberwolves interim head coach Sam Mitchell isn’t assured of remaining in his position beyond the season, but Kevin Garnett is a fan of the job his coach and former teammate is doing, as Garnett expressed to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune“Fiery, competitive, wants to win, hates to lose,’’ Garnett said of Mitchell. “He coaches really hard, and he wants it, for everybody. He roots for guys. At the same time he wishes he could put a jersey on and [play]. But his spirit is there. You know, you want a coach who has your back, and everybody feels like that. They feel the coach goes out and fights for you, puts you in positions to be successful, too. ‘’
  • Damian Lillard calls Trail Blazers offseason signee Ed Davis “the ultimate teammate,” and coach Terry Stotts finds a lot to like about Allen Crabbe, two role players who are making a convincing case to be part of the team’s long-term plan, argues Jason Quick of CSNNW.com. Davis is already in place contractually, with a three-year, $20MM deal, but Crabbe is set for restricted free agency at season’s end.

Northwest Notes: Barton, Nelson, Donovan, Lillard

In his second season with the Nuggets, Will Barton is emerging as a candidate for the Sixth Man award, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Barton’s scoring average has doubled to 14.0 this season, and coach Michael Malone calls him one of the team’s “one or two” best players. “I put in a lot of work in the offseason, even during the season — going back to the gym after practice, things of that nature. So it’s expected,” Barton said. “And I want more for myself and also for this team. So I can’t just get satisfied. I can do so much more.” Barton, who was acquired in a deal with Portland in February, is signed through 2017/18.

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • For the second straight game, Malone opted to go with veteran point guard Jameer Nelson over rookie Emmanuel Mudiay in the closing minutes of a tight contest, Dempsey writes in a separate story. “For me it’s always going to be a balancing act, Emmanuel or Jameer,” Malone said. “… I trust Jameer with the ball in his hands.”
  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan is enjoying the transition from the college game to the NBA, writes Shandel Richardson of The Sun Sentinel. Donovan left Florida to take over a team coming off a rare non-playoff season and has Oklahoma City off to an 11-8 start. “I really enjoy it,” Donovan said. “It always starts with the organization, the people you’re working with. The staff’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed those guys. They’ve been helpful. The players have been really, really good. I think I’m coaching a hard-working team. The one thing I respect about [Kevin] Durant and [Russell] Westbrook is those guys come in every day and work.”
  • Damian Lillard, who received a five-year max extension over the summer from the Blazers, hasn’t lived up to his clutch reputation, contends Jason Quick of CSNNW.com. Lillard is known for the buzzer-beating shot that knocked the Rockets out of the 2014 playoffs, but Quick points out that he hasn’t been sinking those late-game shots as much as expected. In fourth quarters this season, Lillard is shooting just 26% from the floor and 20.9% from 3-point range, and a year ago, he made just 34.1% of his shots in “clutch moments.”

Northwest Notes: Matthews, Newton, Morrow

Wesley Matthews reportedly understands the Trail Blazers‘ decision that they weren’t going to offer him a chance to re-sign once LaMarcus Aldridge left, but that doesn’t mean Matthews likes it, as Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News explains. Matthews and Aldridge signed max deals this past summer with the Mavs and Spurs, respectively.
“I’m still upset that after everything that I’ve done individually didn’t warrant me having a separate conversation not tied to LaMarcus Aldridge,” Matthews said. “L.A. is my boy and everything, but I still feel like I did enough myself as a player to warrant a conversation.”
Indeed, Matthews appears to have nuanced feelings toward the Blazers, as he also said that he has “nothing but love for the franchise and the fans and the city,” Sefko relays. See more from the Northwest Division:
  • Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press profiles Timberwolves GM Milt Newton, who’s trying to carry out the vision of late coach/executive Flip Saunders with no promises that he’ll remain in charge of the front office beyond this season. “It’s an incredible challenge,” Spurs GM RC Buford, a longtime Newton confidant, said to Krawczynski. “You’ve got an iconic coach and leader who also had incredible history with the community and the organization. There will be holes that have to be filled, there will be relationships that have to be supported with the passing of one of the great coaches.”
  • Anthony Morrow has gone in and out of the Thunder rotation, but he’s back in it of late, and coach Billy Donovan said he feels compelled to play the sharpshooter to create space for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, The Oklahoman’s Anthony Slater writes. Morrow is in the final guaranteed season of his contract. “It’s amazing how quickly he gets his shot off,” said Hawks coach/executive Mike Budenholzer, who watched Morrow hit three 3-pointers against his team Monday. “It feels like it’s in his fingers for like 0.2 seconds or something like that. When you put a great shooter like that with that quick a release around some gifted talented guys, it’s hard to stay with Morrow. He fits them well.”

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