Portland Trail Blazers

Gerald Henderson Emerges As Leader For Blazers

  • The Trail Blazers have benefited from the presence of Gerald Henderson, who has not only added some scoring pop off the team’s bench but has also emerged as one of the team’s most vocal leaders, Jason Quick of CSNNW.com writes. “He is one of those guys when it really gets tough out there, he’s one of those guys you know you can count on,” point guard Damian Lillard said of Henderson. “When the game gets a little rough, the other team gets going a little bit and you are up against it, some guys get quiet. Some guys shy away from it. But he got louder in the huddle.’’ Henderson will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

And-Ones: Horford, Howard, LeVert, Simmons

Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey is unsurprisingly a major fan of soon-to-be free agent big man Al Horford, as Jason Quick of CSNNW.com tweets. Horford will reportedly prioritize the fifth year that the Hawks, and no one else, can offer him in a new contract this summer, but he hasn’t made any commitments despite his fondness for Atlanta, and he reportedly has a degree of interest in the Magic. Portland wouldn’t offer the geographical advantage of no state income tax and proximity to his college home of the University of Florida that the Magic could, but the Blazers have an intriguing backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to showcase to Horford and other free agents this summer, when the team will have only about $47MM in guaranteed salary on the books against a salary cap expected to be twice that amount. See more from around the league:

  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey was mum when ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan asked him whether he planned to re-sign Dwight Howard this summer, as Matt Dollinger of SI.com notes in a roundup of last week’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Agent David Falk regards Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf as the toughest negotiator he’s ever gone against, Dollinger notes in the same piece.
  • Positional versatility and a strong overall package make Michigan swingman Caris LeVert an intriguing prospect, but he looks ill-suited to become a go-to guy, and his history of injuries is a concern, write Josh Riddell and Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress.
  • Sean Deveney of The Sporting News sides with LSU combo forward Ben Simmons in the debate over whether Simmons or Duke small forward Brandon Ingram is the top prospect in this year’s draft, listing Simmons atop his first mock draft. Ingram follows, with European power forward Dragan Bender at No. 3.

And-Ones: Cousins, Hinrich, Richardson, Varejao

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins took another verbal swipe at coach George Karl, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. After being suspended for Friday’s game following a tirade directed at Karl, Cousins remained combative following tonight’s loss to the Jazz. “That wasn’t a suspension from the organization,” Cousins said. “That was a suspension from the head coach.” Their ongoing battle has led many to speculate that neither will be in Sacramento next season.

There’s more tonight from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran guard Kirk Hinrich is probably looking at a short stay with the Hawks, tweets Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Coach Mike Budenholzer said Dennis Schröder will be the backup point guard, and it’s not in the “plans” to use Hinrich in that role any more. The 35-year-old soon-to-be free agent to be has appeared in just three games since coming to Atlanta from the Bulls in a deadline-day trade.
  • Josh Richardson is shaping up as a major bargain for the Heat, writes Ethan Skolnick of The Miami Herald. He has settled into Miami’s rotation and now trails only the Sixers‘ Richaun Holmes in minutes played among 2015 second-round picks. Richardson is signed through 2017/18 and will make a little less than $875K next season.
  • Anderson Varejao is still adjusting to the idea of not being with the Cavaliers, writes Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon-Journal. After 12 years in Cleveland, Varejao was shipped to the Blazers in a deadline-day trade, and he signed with the Warriors after Portland released him. “If you told me at the start of the season I’d be here, I never would’ve believed it,” he said. “With my contract, how could anyone have predicted this?”
  • The Warriors were honored as the“Best Analytics Organization” at this year’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The Chicago Blackhawks, Houston Astros and FC Midtjylland, a Danish soccer team, were the other finalists for the award.
  • The Hornets have assigned rookie guard Aaron Harrison to Erie of the D-League. Harrison is averaging just 4.3 minutes in 16 games with Charlotte, along with 0.8 points and 0.6 rebounds.

Atlantic Notes: Rambis, ‘Melo, Carroll, Ainge

Knicks president Phil Jackson acknowledges he has a close relationship with Kurt Rambis and that he talks more frequently with the interim coach than with former coach Derek Fisher, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com relays from the Zen Master’s chat with reporters today (Twitter link). Jackson wouldn’t commit to keeping Rambis beyond the season but hinted that he’d like to see him earn the removal of his interim tag, observes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (on Twitter), which jibes with an earlier report that Jackson was pulling for Rambis to win the permanent job when he named him interim boss. Jackson didn’t appear eager to move on from Carmelo Anthony either, saying he still feels as though ‘Melo is a franchise cornerstone, Begley relays (Twitter link). Jackson cited the team’s system when he said he’s not going to obsess over chasing an elite point guard in free agency this summer, according to Begley (via Twitter), so the triangle remains at the heart of all things Knicks. See more from the Atlantic Division:

  • DeMarre Carroll is likely to return later this month, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, though the Raptors didn’t give a timeline today after he visited his surgeon, Sportsnet’s Michael Grange notes (Twitter link). Some questions existed about whether Carroll would return to play at all this season after he underwent right knee surgery in January, but it appears that dire outcome won’t come to pass.
  • Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is the best negotiator Rockets GM Daryl Morey says he’s come across, tweets Jake Fischer of SI Now, relaying Morey’s comment from the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference today. Ainge and Morey have only pulled off one trade, a three-teamer with the Trail Blazers in 2012 that sent Courtney Lee to Boston.
  • The Celtics have recalled Coty Clarke and Jordan Mickey from the D-League, the team announced (Twitter link). The pair, along with James Young, went to D-League Maine on Thursday for what turned out to be a one-game stay. Clarke, a 10-day signee, had a team-high 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting while Mickey scored 14.

And-Ones: Robinson, Johnson, Parsons

Nate Robinson is trying to leap from the pages of Hoops Rumors to Pro Football Rumors. The diminutive NBA veteran who began this season with the Pelicans announced in a YouTube video that he’s going to make a run at playing in the NFL. The video features testimonials from NFL players Marcedes Lewis and Brendon Ayanbadejo, former NBA teammates Jamal Crawford and Glen Davis, as well as former football coach Rick Neuheisel, all of whom insist that Robinson is perhaps the only athlete who could make the transition from professional basketball to professional football.

Robinson, who turns 32 in May, went to the University of Washington on a football scholarship in 2002 and impressed with electrifying plays on the field, but many years have passed since he played competitive football. He didn’t say which position he would like to play in the NFL, but he spoke about both offense and defense in the video, inferring that he might try to market himself as being able to play on either side of the ball.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Injured Heat point guard Tyler Johnson is aiming to play again this season after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder on February 3rd, though there is still no definitive timetable for his return to action, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes. “I’m still hopeful, for sure,” Johnson said. “But, again, I’m not going to push it to a point where I can maybe damage it a little bit more or do anything to have a setback. I think every day it feels a little bit better. So I guess that’s where the optimism comes in, is that every day I wake up I can start to do a couple of new things that I wasn’t able to do before. So, I’m going to push for that. That’s a personal goal. But the doctors and the trainers, they haven’t given me a timetable. They said, ‘We’re not going to give you a date to where you can come back,’ because we could get to that time and it’s not ready.
  • Chandler Parsons, provided he remains with the Mavericks, is a solid candidate to replace Dirk Nowitzki as the face of the franchise once the German power forward calls it a career, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News opines. While Parsons certainly has the skill set to carry a franchise, the question remains whether he will put in the work required to achieve greatness, Sefko adds. The small forward is reportedly almost certain to turn down his player option for 2016/17, and Houston and Orlando are expected to pursue him.
  • The Blazers assigned Cliff Alexander and Luis Montero to the D-League, Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor tweets. The duo will report to the Warriors‘ affiliate as part of the NBA’s flexible assignment rule, since Portland does not have its own affiliate.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Western Notes: Russell, Gasol, Freeland

Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo believes there is still a chance that Grizzlies center Marc Gasol will play in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, as he told the Spanish media outlet ACB.com (translation via Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype). “Marc is hoping to be there, but health comes first and the main thing is he recovers 100%,” Scariolo said. “When the time comes, he will tell us what’s his situation and his club’s opinion because with Marc there’s a lot of factors at play. I wish it was only up to him to make the decision.” While Scariolo’s comments were likely tinged with a dose of optimism, the mere possibility of Gasol being able to suit up and play this summer bodes well for the big man being able to be on the court for Memphis come opening night next season. Gasol is out for the remainder of the 2015/16 after undergoing surgery in February to repair damage to his broken right foot.

Here’s more from out West:

  • D’Angelo Russell tries not to think about the implications his performance could have for the future of the Lakers, but he believes that as he, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle play better, it helps the team’s case for free agents this summer, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News“If we keep playing at a high level, the sky is the limit,” Russell said. “That could dictate who wants to come here and who feels like we don’t need to bring this guy here because we have such and such. We can play a certain part.”
  • Joel Freeland, who signed a two-year deal with the Russian club CSKA Moscow this past summer, said he had a number of NBA offers, including one from the Mavericks, but chose to head overseas because of the playing time that doing so would provide, Mark Woods of MVP247.com relays. “I wanted to play. I probably had four or five offers from the NBA, but at the end of the day, nobody would guarantee me minutes,” Freeland told Woods. “And I never knew what my situation was going to be, going to those teams. So I felt like this was my best option, especially coming to a team with a great heritage, a great organization and a team that’s hopefully going to be fighting for championships.” Freeland became a free agent last offseason after his rookie deal expired and the Trail Blazers declined to submit a qualifying offer to him.
  • The Thunder have assigned Josh Huestis and Mitch McGary to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Huestis has appeared in 18 games with the Blue this season, averaging 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per night, while McGary has made 19 appearances and is averaging 15.0 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 25.6 minutes per contest.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Anderson, Carter, Matthews

Ryan Anderson is strongly considering a change of scenery this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent, which makes the Pelicans‘ decision not to trade him prior to this season’s deadline puzzling, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes. Sources tell Kennedy that Anderson seems to be leaning toward signing with a team other than New Orleans. Teams expressing interest in Anderson leading up to the deadline included the Wizards, Pistons, Cavaliers, Clippers, Kings and Suns, Kennedy notes. It’s unclear just how many of those teams will pursue Anderson this summer, with Washington acquiring Markieff Morris, Detroit landing Tobias Harris, Channing Frye ending up in Cleveland and Jeff Green now a member of the Clippers as a result of various deadline trades.

The 27-year-old says he hasn’t discussed his pending free agency with the team yet, Kennedy notes. ”No conversations at all about it,” Anderson told reporters. ”Obviously I think they are in the same boat, so many things can happen they may have multiple pieces they are thinking about. A lot of stuff that I don’t know about obviously that they talk about behind closed doors. So I haven’t communicated at all with them.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Mavericks swingman Wesley Matthews scoffs at the notion that the Dallas roster is devoid of talent and places the blame for the team’s struggles this season on porous defense, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com relays (ESPN Now link). “A talent problem? No, we don’t have a talent problem,” Matthews told MacMahon. “If we don’t have a talent problem, then what’s the problem? We’re giving up too many points in transition. I just said it. I mean, you guys can pick apart our team all you want. We’ve got talent on this team. So y’all can miss me with that.
  • Kentucky freshman center Skal Labissiere has played his way back into the lottery in the latest mock draft from Jonathan Givony of Draft Express. The young big man is currently projected to go 10th after plummeting toward the bottom of the first round in Givony’s previous projection. Labissiere is averaging 6.8 points and 3.2 rebounds on the season, and while he’s picked up his play as of late, scouts remain skeptical and want to see how well he performs in postseason tournaments before making their final judgments, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv relays.
  • One reason for the Trail Blazers‘ surprise success this season is that the players have fully embraced coach Terry Stotts and his combination of compassion, toughness and basketball IQ, Jason Quick of CSNNW.com writes.
  • Small forward Sampson Carter, who was with the Grizzlies during the preseason, has signed with the Mexican club Caballeros de Culiacan, the team announced (translation via Orazio Cauchi of Sportando).

Northwest Notes: Mohammed, Mudiay, Stotts

The Thunder signed Nazr Mohammed to be a team leader in the locker room, Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman writes. “He knows what’s right and what’s wrong,” Russell Westbrook said. “He definitely can keep everybody accountable and try to find ways to help us win more games.” Mohammed reached the finals with Oklahoma City’s 2012 team, backing up Kendrick Perkins at the five.

The team traded Perkins away at last year’s deadline and the team misses the center’s presence in the locker room, Tramel adds. Mohammed should provide leadership, just in a different way than Perkins did.

“Perk’s a special guy.” Mohammed said. “His voice is always going to be hard to replace because that’s just his personality.  I speak in my own way. I’m definitely a vocal guy, but I’m more of a pull-a-guy-to-the-side-and-explain type of guy and only speaking to the group when necessary.”

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets believed Emmanuel Mudiay could be an elite player when they drafted him No. 7 overall last summer and although he struggled to begin the season, the point guard is starting to look the part, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post writes. “For a 19-year-old kid, to kind of go through the adversity that he was going through, he bounced back in a big way. That gives me so much hope and excitement for the future,” coach Mike Malone said.
  • The Blazers embrace coach Terry Stotts and the team’s chemistry is a major reason why Portland is in the playoff hunt this season, Jason Quick of Comcast Sportsnet. Portland has a team option on Stotts for next season. “I always want to play hard for him,’’ said Ed Davis, who joined the team on a three-year, $20MM deal last offseason. “That’s one thing I can say: Everybody on this team can play for Coach,  and it’s not like that on every team.”

Central Notes: Pistons, Lawson, Budinger, Butler

Terrence Jones and Meyers Leonard would be attractive free agent options for the Pistons in their search for a backup power forward, according to David Mayo of MLive. Both will enter restricted free agency this summer, which means the Rockets and Blazers can match any offers they get. Mayo notes the teams may want compensation for letting Jones or Leonard go, which could tempt the Pistons to give up a first-round draft pick, something they were willing to do to get Donatas Motiejunas from Houston last month before that deal was voided. Mayo suggests keeping Anthony Tolliver might be the best strategy now that Tobias Harris is on board as the starting power forward. Tolliver is making $3MM in the final season of his contract and is averaging 5.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in nearly 20 minutes per night.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Pacers expect to finalize a deal with free agent point guard Ty Lawson on Sunday or Monday, tweets Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star. Lawson is still working out in Houston after the Rockets waived him Tuesday in a buyout agreement.
  • Chase Budinger‘s brief stay in Indiana was a “dud,” Buckner tweeted after the Pacers waived the seventh-year small forward today. She also laments last summer’s trade that sent Damjan Rudez to the Wolves in exchange for Budinger, saying the Pacers gave up a badly needed 3-point shooter (Twitter link). She credits Budinger for being “a pro” during his time in Indiana, though he never fully understood what the organization expected from him (Twitter link).
  • Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg says shooting guard Jimmy Butler, who has been out of action since February 5th with a sprained knee, is “ready to go” for tonight’s game, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. Combo forward Nikola Mirotic, who had acute appendicitis and underwent surgery January 27th, is “close,” Hoiberg adds (Twitter link). Injured center Joakim Noah won’t play anytime soon, but he’ll rejoin the team for “leadership,” tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.
  • The Pistons have shooting guard Jodie Meeks, who hasn’t played since suffering a right foot injury October 29th, listed as questionable for tonight’s game, tweets Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

Financial Impact Of Deadline, Buyouts: Northwest

The effects of the trade deadline and buyout season are still being felt around the NBA as teams negotiate with new free agents and fill open roster spots. Hoops Rumors will be taking a team-by-team look at the financial ramifications of all the movement. We began earlier with looks at the SouthwestPacific and Central divisions, and we’ll continue with the Central Division:

Jazz

Utah’s parade of 10-day contracts appears to be over thanks to the deadline trade that filled the team’s open roster spot and netted the Jazz’s starting point guard for the past five games. The team used its cap space to add Shelvin Mack as part of a three-team swap that only cost the Jazz a second-round pick. The deal also brought the team above the $63MM salary floor, thanks to Mack’s $2,433,333 pay. The Jazz overshot the minimum team salary, adding $1,817,873 more than they had to, but the move entailed no long-term sacrifice, as Mack’s contract is non-guaranteed for next season, and it appears, given Mack’s prominent role in Utah, that the trade has been worth the extra expenditure so far.

Nuggets

Denver has been opening its checkbook in an apparent effort to address injury concerns, though the team’s trade deadline swap also reaped a pair of second-round picks. That move involved the absorption of Steve Novak‘s $3,750,001 salary and D.J. Augustin‘s $3MM pay in exchange only for the $3.135MM that Randy Foye makes. The buyout with Novak saved $396,242, and the Thunder gave the Nuggets $1.16MM in cash, according to Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports, but the trade still cost Denver $2,058,759, a relatively heavy price considering the team’s faint playoff hopes. Augustin went into the role of backup point guard amid concern that Jameer Nelson would miss the rest of the season, and Nelson still hasn’t played, so the deal has come in handy in that regard.

The Nuggets used their disabled player exception for Wilson Chandler‘s season-ending injury to accommodate the uneven exchange of salaries, applying it to Novak and his larger salary so that they could create a $135K trade exception for the difference between the salaries for Foye and Augustin, though the trade exception is so tiny that it’s virtually useless. Similarly, Axel Toupane‘s $30,888 10-day contract is but a pin prick of an expenditure in the wake of another injury, one that threatens to end the season for Danilo Gallinari. The Nuggets spent more when they gave JaKarr Sampson a prorated minimum-salary contract worth $258,489 for the rest of the season. That deal also includes a non-guaranteed minimum salary for next season. Denver neither gave up nor acquired any salary that’s guaranteed beyond the end of this season, so none of Denver’s deadline or buyout season moves necessarily have bearing on the team’s ledger for next year.

Thunder

Oklahoma City took advantage of a rare opportunity to save money and exchange two players who were out of the rotation for one who’s in it. The same $3,218,759 that represents Denver’s cost of its trade with the Thunder is the amount of Oklahoma City’s savings in raw salary, though it’s actually a windfall of significantly more for taxpaying OKC. The Thunder’s tax bill dropped a projected $7,148,705 because of the trade, and they also scored a trade exception for Novak’s $3,750,001 salary. The swap also created an open roster spot, and GM Sam Presti hinted at a willingness to use it on a signing, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

Timberwolves

It seemed for months as though the Wolves and Kevin Martin were headed for a parting of ways, though they stuck together just about as long as they possibly could. Minnesota didn’t trade Martin at last month’s deadline and the sides didn’t reach a buyout deal until the night of March 1st, the final hours before the point at which Martin would lose eligibility to appear in the postseason with another team. The financial sacrifice involved for Martin explains why. He resisted making any promise to turn down his $7,377,500 player option for next season before the deadline, reportedly dissuading would-be trade partners, but he agreed to sacrifice exactly half of the option and $352,750 of this season’s salary as part of his buyout, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Thus, Martin gave up a total of $4,041,500, more than anyone else in the period since the trade deadline. The Wolves are left with $3,688,750 for Martin next season, and they have a few days’ grace to decide whether to use the stretch provision to spread that evenly over the next three years or pay it all at once in 2016/17. Early indications are that Minnesota won’t stretch the salary, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press. The Wolves also took $256,333 off their obligation to Andre Miller in his buyout, dropping their payroll to less than $1MM over the salary cap. They rolled some of that savings into a 10-day contract for Greg Smith that costs $55,722.

Trail Blazers

The Blazers predictably used their ample cap space as a depository for salary that other teams wanted to move off, taking on Anderson Varejao and Brian Roberts in a pair of trades. Look for the moves to continue, since the team is still $513,142 shy of the salary floor. The addition of Varejao in a deal that otherwise involved only draft picks added $10,256,800 to this season’s ledger, though the Cavs will pay a majority of that, including the exercised trade kicker included in that figure. Portland made use of the stretch provision to spread his salary for next season, which was almost entirely guaranteed, over the next five years at equal payments of $1,984,005, though the Cavs paid a portion of those amounts, too, because of the trade kicker. The acquisition of Roberts is much simpler since he’s on an expiring contract, but again, the Blazers don’t have to shell out for the majority of his $2,854,940 salary because he already received most of his paychecks from the Heat. Portland gave up $75K in cash to Miami as part of the Roberts deal, but the team would have had to pay that money anyway to reach the salary floor.

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

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