Portland Trail Blazers

Western Notes: Ezeli, Miller, Lillard, Diawara

Festus Ezeli‘s favorable perception of the Warriors hasn’t changed in the wake of the end of extension talks between agent Bill Duffy and the team, as Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group relays. The center is headed into restricted free agency in July with the extension window officially set to close at 11pm Central tonight.

“Obviously [Duffy] didn’t come up to an agreement with the team, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I want to be here for the rest of my career, and I love these guys,” Ezeli said. “I love the team. We discussed it a little bit with my family, and [Duffy] kind of told us what he thought was best moving forward, and we went with that.”

See more from the Western Conference:

  • Part of the reason the Timberwolves wanted to sign Andre Miller is because Flip Saunders wanted to shore up the team’s troubles with simply inbounding the ball at the end of games, as TNT’s David Aldridge notes within his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Of course, Miller’s leadership was key, too, and Saunders told Miller ahead of time that the team would be signing fellow veteran Tayshaun Prince, as Miller said to Aldridge for a piece that further shows the respect the Wolves have for the late coach/executive.
  • Damian Lillard‘s play has been surprisingly underwhelming so far this season, but it’s chiefly a product of his willingness to experiment with his game so that he can tailor it to the needs of the Blazersoverhauled roster, as Jason Quick of CSNNW.com examines. “It’s easy for me to go out there and get 35 and have seven assists and the game not be played as well,’’ Lillard said. “But if we are going to play the game the right way and if our team is going to grow and keep getting better, then I have to make sure we are doing things the right way.’’
  • Four-year NBA veteran and Grizzlies camp cut Yakhouba Diawara has signed with CSP Limoges of France, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Freelance journalist Guido Guida first reported the news (Twitter link).

Extension Rumors: Sunday

It seems unlikely that Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal and Warriors center Festus Ezeli will receive rookie-scale contract extensions and thus will be restricted free agents come July, barring an unexpected late turnaround in negotiations, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports.

The news regarding Beal does not come as a surprise because though the Wizards fully intend to sign him to a maximum-salary contract, they prefer to do so next summer. Stein adds that the Wizards have been consistent with their message that they see Beal as a future and long-term star for the franchise. Reports have conflicted about how much negotiating has occurred between Ezeli and the Warriors, but an extension never seemed imminent.

The window for former first-round picks to sign contract extensions during the fourth and final year of their rookie contracts is Monday.

Here is more news on extensions:

  • Players known to still be in negotiations entering the deadline include Raptors shooting guard/small forward Terrence Ross, Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard and Thunder shooting guard Dion Waiters, according to Stein. Regarding Ross, it’s likely to go down to the wire and the Raptors would be open to giving him an extension, if the price is to their liking, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. reports. “I mean it would be an honor to get an extension,” Ross told Lewenberg. “If that doesn’t happen then we’ll take it from there.”
  • Extensions at this point are looking unlikely for Sixers shooting guard Tony Wroten and Celtics big men Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, according to Stein.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Nuggets, Wolves

First-year Nuggets coach Michael Malone is frustrated with the lack of energy from his players and wondered if he has been pushing too hard, Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post relays. Specifically, Malone was referring to the Nuggets’ lopsided loss in their home opener. 

“I have the propensity to push, push, push, push,” Malone said. “And after the game last night, I’m always going to look at myself in the mirror — hey, maybe we pushed too hard for too long. … So, today, we went hard, but we went short. So maybe I have to scale back a little bit, because we are banged up, we have guys who are playing fairly heavy minutes. So, I have to maybe be a little bit more judicious in how we practice.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Wolves owner owner Glen Taylor has granted GM Milt Newton and interim coach Sam Mitchell “autonomy” to make important decisions and both are dedicated to carrying out Flip Saunders’ blueprint of developing young talent, Chip Scroggins of the Star Tribune opines.
  • Damian Lillard is probably deferring to his teammates too much so far for the Blazers, but in the long-term, that’s a good thing for Portland, Jason Quick of CSNNW.com opines. Lillard, who was signed to a max extension in the summer, is 1-for-15 from the field in the fourth quarter so far this season, Quick points out. With a new supporting cast, Quick argues that Lillard’s sacrifice will help the Blazers play more team basketball.
  • Mason Plumlee, who came to the Blazers in a draft night trade with the Nets, has been impressing his Portland teammates and coaches with his ability to handle the ball and make plays since early in the summer, Mike Richman of The Oregonian relays. In contrast to his days with the Nets, Plumlee fits better in the Blazers’ faster-paced system because he has the freedom to use his full array of skills, including leading fast breaks, Richman adds.

Western Notes: Hayes, Perkins, Brown, Alexander

A shortage of big men led to the Rockets signing Chuck Hayes earlier today, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. With Dwight Howard sitting out because of a back-to-back and forwards Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas out with injury, Houston needed emergency help in its frontcourt. The solution was Hayes, who received a non-guaranteed contract, an unidentified source told Feigen. “Sitting at home watching games is not a good feeling,” Hayes said. “I’m excited. I’m familiar with the organization, familiar with the coaching staff from meeting with them this summer. I’m looking forward to it.” During the summer, the Rockets were interested in having Hayes join their coaching staff, but he wanted to continue playing.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The PelicansKendrick Perkins will be sidelined indefinitely with a right pectoral injury, tweets John Reid of The Times-Picayune. He suffered the injury in the first quarter of Saturday night’s loss to the Warriors.
  • Jabari Brown, the last player waived by the Lakers during camp, is considering playing in China, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. A source told Spears that Brown won’t play for the Lakers’ D-League team.
  • Surgery is being considered for the BlazersCliff Alexander, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Tests showed Alexander suffered torn cartilage in his knee, but the team is hoping the injury will heal with rest. If swelling or pain emerges again, surgery will be an option. “As of now, I’m fine, I feel no pain,” the 19-year-old rookie said. “I can run and jump, do everything. But if the swelling and pain comes back, then I might need surgery.”
  • Warriors GM Bob Myers told Sam Amick of USA Today that even though an extension couldn’t be reached with Harrison Barnes, the discussions ended “in a very healthy place.” Barnes reportedly turned down a four-year, $64MM offer and will become a restricted free agent next summer. “The deal has to work for Harrison and the organization,” Myers said. “And I always — maybe it’s my background [as a player agent] — but I always respect the position that an athlete takes in these situations. And now, representing the organization, we’re going to make the decision the best decision for us.”

And-Ones: Paul, Agent Changes, Leonard

Chris Paul rejects the notion that he’s a poor teammate, an idea that rumors of a rift between Paul and DeAndre Jordan helped fuel this summer, writes Dan Woike of the Orange County Register. Jordan has downplayed any tension, citing a mutual desire to win, and that’s just what Paul is thinking about as he envisions playing the rest of his career with the Clippers, as Woike details.

“Hell, I never imagined I’d leave New Orleans, but there’s no question this is where I want to be,” Paul said to Woike. “I want to win. Here.”

The earliest Paul can elect free agency is the summer of 2017. See more from around the NBA:

  • Agent Michael Tellem, the son of former agent turned Pistons organization executive Arn Tellem, is leaving the Wasserman Media Group for the Creative Artists Agency and taking high-profile client Danilo Gallinari with him, reports international journalist David Pick (Twitter link). Mario Hezonja, Bojan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica have dropped Tellem and will continue with Wasserman, Pick adds (on Twitter). The loss of Arn Tellem has proven tough for Wasserman, which also lost Al Horford, LaMarcus Aldridge and Joe Johnson over the offseason. Gallinari, Hezonja and Bjelica all signed new deals earlier this summer, while Bogdanovic remains on a deal with the Nets that runs through 2016/17.
  • Extension talks between the Trail Blazers and Meyers Leonard are off to a late start, but Leonard’s preference is to stay in Portland, observes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The deadline for the sides to reach a deal is Monday. “I really, really like and love this city,” Leonard said. “I love the organization and now that a greater opportunity has presented itself, I think a lot more people are embracing me. I’d love to be here. That’s my hope. But I don’t know if I’ll get an extension. I don’t know what will happen after this year. We’ll have to wait and see.”
  • Al Harrington said in March that he was retiring, but instead the 16-year NBA veteran is joining the Sydney Kings of Australia on a four-week deal, league sources told Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia.

Kings, Blazers Lead West, NBA In Newcomers

Lost amid the turmoil and apparent reconciliation for DeMarcus Cousins, George Karl and the Kings front office was the overhaul of the team’s roster. Nine of the team’s 15 players to start the season weren’t on the roster at the end of 2014/15, a level of turnover that only the Trail Blazers can match in the Western Conference and no team can match in the East. New front office chief Vlade Divac used the draft, trades and free agency this summer to change 60% of his roster this summer, clearly putting his stamp on the team.

Still, the Trail Blazers would have eclipsed them had Tim Frazier not beaten Phil Pressey in their preseason battle for the third point guard job. The departure of LaMarcus Aldridge touched off an exodus of all seven of Portland’s free agents, and by the time Aldridge left, GM Neil Olshey was already active in trades, sending out Nicolas Batum and Steve Blake for four of his team’s nine newcomers.

Meanwhile, as the focus in Oklahoma City turned to Kevin Durant and his 2016 free agency, the Thunder were quiet on the 2015 market, adding only a pair of draft picks, including draft-and-stash signee Josh Huestis. Like the Bulls, the only other team in the NBA this year to have only two new players this season, the Thunder did change coaches, replacing Scott Brooks with Billy Donovan.

See the newcomers in the Western Conference and how the teams stack up in terms of roster turnover:

Kings (9) — Quincy Acy, James Anderson, Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler, Willie Cauley-Stein, Seth Curry, Duje Dukan, Kosta Koufos, Rajon Rondo.

Trail Blazers (9) — Cliff Alexander, Al-Farouq Aminu, Pat Connaughton, Ed Davis, Maurice Harkless, Gerald Henderson, Luis Montero, Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh.

Clippers (8) — Cole Aldrich, Branden Dawson, Wesley Johnson, Luc Mbah a Moute, Paul Pierce, Pablo Prigioni, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson.

Lakers (8) — Brandon Bass, Anthony Brown, Roy Hibbert, Marcelo Huertas, Larry Nance Jr., D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Metta World Peace.

Mavericks (8) — Justin Anderson, Jeremy Evans, John Jenkins, Wesley Matthews, JaVale McGee, Salah Mejri, Zaza Pachulia, Deron Williams.

Suns (7) — Devin Booker, Tyson Chandler, Cory Jefferson, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, Mirza Teletovic, Sonny Weems.

Spurs (6) — LaMarcus Aldridge, Rasual Butler, Boban Marjanovic, Ray McCallum, Jonathon Simmons, David West.

Timberwolves (6) — Nemanja Bjelica, Tyus Jones, Andre Miller, Tayshaun Prince, Damjan Rudez, Karl-Anthony Towns.

Jazz (4) — Trey Lyles, Raul Neto, Tibor Pleiss, Jeff Withey.

Pelicans (4) — Alonzo Gee, Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson, Ish Smith.

Rockets (4) — Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Ty Lawson, Marcus Thornton.

Grizzlies (3) — Matt Barnes, Jarell Martin, Brandan Wright.

Nuggets (3) — Nikola Jokic, Mike Miller, Emmanuel Mudiay.

Warriors (3) — Ian Clark, Kevon Looney, Jason Thompson.

Thunder (2) — Josh Huestis, Cameron Payne.

And-Ones: Colangelo, Timberwolves, Leonard

Jerry Colangelo will step down as chairman of USA Basketball after the 2020 Olympics, he confirms to TNT’s David Aldridge, who writes about it in his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Colangelo nonetheless committed to remain in his job that long to help persuade Gregg Popovich to take over as Team USA head coach, Aldridge notes. Popovich is also signed only through 2020, though it’s unclear if he’s open to coaching the team beyond then. “For sure, I’m done in ’20,” Colangelo said. “There’s an end date.”

In other news around the league:

  • The Timberwolves spoke with league officials about postponing Wednesday’s season opener against the Lakers after coach Flip Saunders succumbed to complications from cancer treatments on Sunday, but the talks never reached a serious stage, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. The sorrowful Timberwolves know it will be difficult to play so soon after their coach’s untimely death, Zgoda adds. “We’re definitely in a tough spot, but we’re gonna do the best we can,” veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince said.
  • The Trail Blazers have not engaged in extension talks with center Meyers Leonard, according to Jason Quick of CSNNW.comNeil Olshey, the Blazers’ president of basketball operations, delayed the process because he wanted to avoid drawn-out negotiations with Leonard’s agent Aaron Mintz, Quick continues. The Blazers can preserve cap space for next summer by putting off the extension, Quick points out, because the first year of his salary would count against the cap if they sign him before the Nov. 2nd deadline.
  • Owners are looking to former agent Arn Tellem, who joined the Pistons organization as an executive this year, for perspective as they prepare to negotiate on labor issues with the players, reports Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Tellem, who is the vice chairman of the Palace Sports and Entertainment group that controls the Pistons, addressed owners at last week’s Board of Governors meeting.

Western Rumors: World Peace, Clippers, McGee

Metta World Peace not only made the Lakers‘ opening-day roster, but the club also plans to make him an assistant coach after his playing career, league sources told Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania. The veteran small forward, who beat out Jabari Brown for the final roster spot, has been mentoring several young Lakers players, including 2014 lottery pick and power forward Julius Randle, Charania adds. World Peace is excited about the possibility of being a coach, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes tweets. “It would be fun,” World Peace said. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a coach? It’s a great life.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Luc Mbah a Moute secured the Clippers’ final roster spot over veteran forward Chuck Hayes because of his defensive prowess, Dan Woike of the Orange County Register reports. Clippers coach Doc Rivers told Woike that he views Mbah a Moute as a defensive specialist. “He’s one of those guys that can be a great team defender,” Rivers said. The small forward wound up with the Clippers after the Kings voided Mbah a Moute’s free agent deal with the team this summer, claiming he failed his physical because of a shoulder injury, Woike adds.
  • Center JaVale McGee is still “weeks away” from being cleared to play but Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is encouraged by his progress, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com tweets. McGee is rehabbing from a left tibial stress fracture. Salah Mejri appears to be the main backup to Zaza Pachulia until McGee returns.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu has made a strong impression on his Trail Blazers teammates with his defensive versatility, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Aminu was signed as a free agent to a four-year, $30MM deal to be their defensive stopper, Freeman continues. “He’s a jack-of-all-trades, a guy who can do everything,” shooting guard C.J. McCollum said to Freeman. “I think he’s really, really talented defensively. He’s a guy who can guard multiple positions, can guard a point guard, he can get switched on the four or five and hold his own, rebound, block shots, run the floor.” However, he may miss the season opener because of a left hamstring strain, Casey Holdahl of Trailblazers.com reports.
  • Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley is ready for the season opener after a hand injury that required surgery prevented him from playing during the team’s postseason run, Jenny Creech of the Houston Chronicle writes. Beverley missed one preseason game with groin soreness, but averaged 7.7 points and 3.7 assists in seven other preseason outings.

Pistons Sign Ryan Boatright

The Pistons have signed point guard Ryan Boatright, the team announced via a press release. Detroit intends to waive Boatright and assign him to its D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Vincent Ellis of The Detroit Free Press reports (via Twitter). Teams can retain the D-League rights for up to four players.

The Suns, Hornets and Blazers were also reportedly interested in Boatright, whom the Nets waived Tuesday. The undrafted point guard from Connecticut performed well during limited preseason action, averaging 4.2 points, 3.8 assists and 1.0 turnover in 13.9 minutes per game. His career NCAA numbers were 14.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, with a slash line of .416/.380/.794.

The addition of Boatright raises the Pistons’ roster count to 17 players, including 16 with fully guaranteed pacts. The team is expected to waive veteran Danny Granger, who along with Boatright, would reduce the team’s roster to the regular season maximum of 15 once they are indeed let go.

Northwest Notes: Stotts, Monroe, Waiters, Mitchell

The future of Terry Stotts is unresolved beyond this season, as the Trail Blazers have yet to pick up the team option on his deal for 2016/17, but Blazers players, including Damian Lillard, are fully supportive of the coach, as The Oregonian’s Jason Quick details.

“As long as I am here,” Lillard said, “I would like him to be here.”

Lillard signed a five-year extension this summer that will run through 2020/21, and the Blazers are making him the centerpiece of their retool, but time will tell if Portland retains Stotts as one of its building blocks. See more on the Blazers amid the latest from around the Northwest Division:

  • Greg Monroe narrowed his choices to the Bucks and Trail Blazers before selecting Milwaukee in free agency this summer, according to Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports, who recounts Monroe’s decision making that led up to his three-year max deal with the Bucks. That means he first eliminated the Knicks and Lakers, who, as Lee notes, also met with him.
  • The Thunder aren’t worried about making too many commitments to middling talents that would be tough to build around if Kevin Durant bolts next summer, and instead they’re focused on building a stable supporting cast around Durant for the long term, writes Royce Young of ESPN.com. That, plus Oklahoma City’s penchant for rewarding players who want to stick around, helps explain the team’s reported willingness to explore an extension for Dion Waiters, as Young examines.
  • Sam Mitchell didn’t feel a burning desire to coach again when Flip Saunders called to offer him a job with the Timberwolves last year, Mitchell tells Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. Saunders nonetheless made a convincing case, and Mitchell joined as an assistant, which led to his promotion to interim head coach when cancer treatment forced Saunders to take a leave of absence. “He thought I did a good job in the media — I thought I did an excellent job — but he said to me ‘you’re always going to be a basketball coach,’” Mitchell said of his conversation with Saunders.

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