Workers broke ground today on a new arena for the Kings that’s set to open in two years, the team confirms via press release. It’s the latest in a long line of steps toward a new building that the NBA has mandated must take place in a timely fashion in advance of a 2017 deadline for completion. The league would have the power to take control of the team and move it to another city if the Kings either miss the deadline or don’t show sufficient progress, but it seems the franchise is well on its way to opening the doors of its new home in Sacramento. There’s more on the Kings amid our latest look around the Pacific Division:
- The Kings are indeed looking for help on the wing even though they’re not ready to sign Terrence Williams at this point, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter links). Williams, a four-year NBA veteran, reportedly worked out for Sacramento recently, and the Kings, who have an open roster spot, are looking for experience, Jones says.
- New Suns guard Isaiah Thomas confirms that he had interest in signing with the Lakers this summer, adding that the interest was mutual, as he tells Grantland’s Zach Lowe. “First off, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers. Who wouldn’t want to play for them? Second off, I felt like they always needed a point guard — a small guard like myself,” Thomas said. “I always envisioned myself playing with the Lakers, but like you said, they were waiting on Carmelo [Anthony] and other moves. The Suns came out of nowhere and showed a lot of interest, and I fell in love with them.”
- A report early in free agency indicated that the Lakers, Heat and Pistons were Thomas’ preferred teams, and he says to Lowe that all three, as well as the Mavs, showed interest, noting that Miami’s pursuit took place before LeBron James left, as Lowe passes along in the same piece.
- Steve Ballmer can write off about half of the $2 billion he paid to buy the Clippers as he files his federal taxes over the next 15 years, report Arash Massoudi and Alan Livsey of the Financial Times (hat tip to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News).
Cory Joseph is the quintessential player from outside the U.S., at least according to the NBA’s annual survey of international players on opening-night rosters. He is a member of the Spurs, who lead the league with nine non-U.S. players, and he’s from Canada, the non-U.S. nation that has produced the most NBA players currently in the league. It’s the third straight year that San Antonio has led the NBA in this regard, and it seems to be working, since the Spurs went to the Finals the first two times. Here’s more from around the Western Conference:
- Kings big man Jason Thompson is drawing trade interest from around the league thanks to the league’s rising salary cap, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes amid his season preview. More available spending money around the league makes Thompson’s contract, which will pay him nearly $15.119MM in guaranteed salary through 2016/17, less burdensome for teams.
- Sources from outside the Timberwolves believe Ricky Rubio and the team will ultimately settle on an extension worth four years and $52MM by Friday’s deadline, as they tell Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). The team has apparently offered four years and $48MM, while agent Dan Fegan has reportedly asked for the max.
- Gal Mekel says that the Mavs haven’t told him whether or not they’re going to waive him, though he’s cognizant of the reports have the Mavericks set to release him so they can sign J.J. Barea instead, observes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. “It’s weird,” Mekel said. “I hear everything. But I want to concentrate on this game. I had a great preseason and showed everybody that I can help this team. I got very good feedback from the coaching staff. I know it’s weird right now and there is a chance I will find myself in another place in two days. But as long as I am here, I’m going to help the team.”
- Wolves owner and chairman of the Board of Governors Glen Taylor has publicly talked about selling the team in the past, and he said Monday that he eventually plans to do so, notes Nate Gotlieb of the Mankato Free Press.
The Kings brought free agent Terrence Williams in for another workout today, reports Shams Charania of RealGM. Sacramento also had the former lottery pick in for an audition in late July, though we hadn’t since heard any rumblings until now. As our 2014/15 Expanded Roster Counts post shows, the Kings are one of three teams with a roster spot to spare as we get set to tip off the season tomorrow night (Chicago and Memphis are the two others). The team released guard Trey Johnson over the weekend.
While the Kings have a combination of upside and experience in both the backcourt and under the rim, the roster is riddled with uncertainty on the wing behind starter Rudy Gay. Omri Casspi and Derrick Williams figure to get the bulk of the time behind Gay for now, presenting an opportunity for the much-traveled Williams to join an NBA roster for the first time in nearly two years.
The Nets took Williams No. 11 overall out of Louisville in 2009 but traded him to Houston only 88 games into his NBA career. He landed with Sacramento a season later and spent 24 games with the Celtics in the 2012/13 season, which was the last time he played in the league. He’s averaged 7.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 153 NBA games. The forward spent much of last season with the Lakers D-League affiliate, where he averaged 20.5 points, 6.4 assists and 5.0 rebounds in 35.7 minutes per game. He has also played professionally in China, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Turkey.
The Kings have cut ties with Trey Johnson, the team has officially announced. This move reduces Sacramento’s preseason roster count to 14 players, one below the regular season maximum.
Johnson’s minimum salary contract didn’t include any guaranteed money, so the Kings aren’t on the hook to the player for any cash. Johnson was a longshot to make the regular season roster with Sacramento’s depth in the backcourt, so the team parting ways with him isn’t surprising.
In parts of three NBA seasons, Johnson has appeared in 23 contests, averaging 2.6 PPG, 0.9 RPG, and 0.7 APG. The 6’5″ shooting guard’s career slash line is .385/.333/.947. He has also spent parts of four seasons in the D-League, turning in his best season as a professional in a 2010/11 campaign in which he averaged 25.5 PPG.
Although the Thunder have sustained a rash of injuries, the team will only keep 14 players on the roster, writes Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. Slater also notes that Michael Jenkins, Richard Solomon, Talib Zanna and Lance Thomas have all played vital roles in the preseason, yet it is unlikely any of them force the team to consider filling their 15th and final regular season roster spot before opening night.
Here’s more from around the league:
- The Raptors still have 17 players on their preseason roster, and haven’t decided on who will make the final cut. Head coach Dwayne Casey said the final roster decisions would come down to the wire, Jay Satur of NBA.com reports.
- The Wizards signing of Paul Pierce was a short-term fix with the franchise hoping that Otto Porter can develop into a valuable contributor in the coming season, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes. With the injury to Bradley Beal, and with Trevor Ariza departing as a free agent to Houston, Porter may be called upon to log heavy minutes early in the season.
- Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is against maximum individual salaries for NBA players, writes David Mayo of MLive. “If it were more of a free-market system, I think things would change,” Van Gundy said. “I think you’d see greater parity in the league — especially having the (salary) cap and no individual max.”
- Teams are finding ways to get around the D-League’s individual maximum salary restrictions to entice players to sign with their affiliates, writes Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required). This preseason, many NBA teams have signed players to their active roster only to release or waive the player shortly thereafter. By doing this, the team obtains the player’s D-League rights and the player can sign a partially guaranteed contract that trumps the D-League maximum salary which is slightly less than $26K per year. Elhassan points out this loophole would motivate fringe NBA talent to play in the D-League rather than take international offers.
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter links) disputes the notion that the Kings had interest in Jordan Crawford prior to him heading over to China to play. The two sides never had serious discussions, and if Sacramento was interested in signing a veteran shooting guard they would have preferred MarShon Brooks, who played well for them in Summer League, Jones notes.
Chris Crouse contributed to this post.
Former Warriors coach Mark Jackson believes Klay Thompson has “got to get” maximum salaries in his next deal, even as the team is reportedly pushing for him to take less as the October 31st extension deadline nears. Of course, after a controversial end to his tenure in Golden State, it’s quite possible that Jackson’s advancement of the idea of max money for Thompson is a dig at the Warriors, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News suggests (Twitter link). In any case, we’ll soon see if the team is willing to come to terms with Thompson or set him up for restricted free agency next summer, and as we wait, here’s more from around the Pacific Division:
- Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss takes exception to an ESPN.com report that indicated that Kobe Bryant is driving free agents away from the Lakers, as she made clear today in an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “”Any free agent that would be afraid to play with Kobe Bryant is probably a loser, and I’m glad they wouldn’t come to the team,” Buss said. The report indicated that Paul George signed his extension with the Pacers last year in part because he had reservations about Bryant and didn’t want to hit free agency and sign with the Lakers, though George has publicly questioned the report’s veracity (Twitter link).
- Matt Barnes felt as though he was being replaced when the Clippers pursued other small forwards in free agency this summer, as he tells Dan Woike of the Orange County Register. Barnes nonetheless says he would like to come off the bench even though coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday that he’ll start on opening night.
- Ben McLemore is leaving agent Rodney Blackstock, as he confirmed to reporters, including James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom, who originally reported the move. The shooting guard hasn’t decided when he’ll hire a replacement, Ham adds. The Kings picked up their team option on McLemore this past weekend.
Outgoing Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson has the power to force as much as 60% of the team to be sold, even though he and his partners have only 50.1% of the team, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The NBA appears to be pressuring all of the other owners to sell so that the entire franchise can change hands, Vivlamore adds. All of the team’s owners still have yet to meet to discuss how much of the franchise they’re going to sell, and so far, their only action as a group has involved preparation for vetting prospective buyers, though vetting itself has yet to begin, as Vivlamore explains.
Here’s more from around the league:
- When Jordan Crawford signed with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association for $1.4MM it wasn’t because he didn’t receive any NBA offers. The Kings had tried to sign Crawford this summer, but he wasn’t comfortable with a backup role in Sacramento, David Pick of Eurobasket reports (Twitter links). Crawford also relayed that he felt “overlooked” by the league, and that’s what led him to China, Pick notes.
- Brock Motum‘s one year, minimum salary deal with the Jazz is non-guaranteed, as is reflected on the Basketball Insiders salary page for Utah.
- Many of the teams that joined the Sixers in a voting bloc that scuttled immediate lottery reform are nonetheless miffed about Philadelphia’s stripped-down roster, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes. Teams voted down lottery changes in part because they feel too much is in flux, and that includes the unknown of just how or whether the league will phase in the substantial increase in the salary cap that the league’s enhanced TV revenues will bring about, Lowe adds. Some influential agents oppose the idea of any phase-in, preferring that the cap simply leap in the summer of 2016 based on the idea that teams might be uncertain of how to handle the changed landscape and hand out contracts they’ll later regret, according to Lowe.
- The surging salary cap projections have some small-market teams worried about how they’ll manage in a league where $100MM payrolls are the norm, in spite of the TV money that would make that sort of spending more palatable, as Lowe writes in the same piece. Small-market teams also fear that they’ll become slightly profitable and lose the benefit of tens of millions in income through the league’s revenue sharing program, the Grantland columnist explains. The Lakers handed out $50MM, the Knicks $27MM and the Bulls $17MM in revenue sharing last season, Lowe reports.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Clippers tied for third among the teams most likely to win the NBA title as the league’s GMs see it, as John Schuhmann of NBA.com details amid the results of the league’s annual GM survey. Still, they figure to receive a strong challenge in their own division from the Warriors. While we wait to see how it plays out, here’s the latest from the Pacific:
- Jordan Hill confirmed rumors from this past spring that he wouldn’t have re-signed with the Lakers if Mike D’Antoni were still the coach, as he tells Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Medina adds the Heat, Spurs and Magic to the list of suitors who went after the power forward this summer.
- Byron Scott stopped short of acknowledging that Ronnie Price is a lock to make the opening-night roster for the Lakers, but the coach said that injuries to the team’s other point guards would make it tough to let him go, Medina notes in a separate piece. “If you look at it that way, we have to [keep him],” Scott said. “Ronnie gets more of an opportunity. So far in my opinion, he has taken full advantage of it.”
- The Suns told Isaiah Thomas when they pitched him in free agency this summer that they valued him as a starter even though they made it clear they wanted to retain Eric Bledsoe, as Thomas tells Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Thomas isn’t concerned with whether he starts, but he did express continued bitterness toward the Kings, telling Kennedy he wasn’t surprised that they didn’t re-sign him and that he always felt the Sacramento organization underappreciated him.
2:12pm: The Kings confirmed that they have waived the trio.
8:43am: The Kings intend to waive Sim Bhullar, Deonte Burton, and David Wear, Sean Cunningham of News 10 Sacramento reports (Twitter link). Burton and Wear were in camp on non-guaranteed minimum salary deals, but Bhullar had a partial guarantee of $35K on his pact which Sacramento is on the hook for unless another team submits a waiver claim. These moves will reduce the Kings’ preseason roster count to 15, with 13 of those agreements being fully guaranteed. No announcement from the team has been made yet.
When Bhullar was signed by the Kings it marked the first time a player of Indian descent joined the NBA. The 7’5″ big man had declared for the NBA draft in mid-April, shortly after he and New Mexico State were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Bhullar averaged 10.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 2.4 BPG in 24.4 MPG while shooting 62.1% from the field as a freshman and 10.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 3.4 BPG, while shooting 64.8% as a sophomore.
The 23-year-old Burton spent summer league with the Wizards after going undrafted, averaging just 1.8 points in 17.3 minutes per contest, but he put up much better numbers as a senior with the Nevada Wolf Pack this past season, chipping in for 20.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 4.4 assists against 2.0 turnovers in 38.6 MPG.
Wear, a 6’9″ 23-year-old, spent time in the summer league with the Bulls, averaging 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game across five appearances. He didn’t log impressive numbers at UCLA, going for 6.5 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 22.9 MPG. His playing time decreased each successive year after he saw 28.4 MPG as a sophomore. Wear transferred to UCLA after spending his freshman year at North Carolina.
The Kings announced that they have picked up the 2015/16 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract. The move was something of a formality as it was widely expected.
The guard averaged 8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 26.7 minutes per contest as a rookie last season. On the surface, the two guard didn’t have a hard time adjusting to the pros as he saw time in all 82 games in 2013/14. McLemore’s name was brought up in trade rumors more than once last year, particularly in connection with Celtics star Rajon Rondo. Nothing came from those talks, however, and McLemore could prove to be an integral part of the Kings’ future.