Beckley Mason of the New York Times examines the chemistry and cohesiveness that have galvanized the Trail Blazers this season, prompting LaMarcus Aldridge to call this the ‘happiest time in his career’: “Guys are playing so (unselfishly) — our team chemistry is unreal right now…Coach Stotts gives us the freedom to play loose and make plays, and guys aren’t abusing it.”
Veteran point guard Earl Watson also weighed in: “Everyone accepts their role, and the roles were never defined. It’s the truth of our team, the DNA of our team. The way we fit together, it’s like the perfect storm, so to speak.”
Here’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:
Jazz rookie Trey Burke fractured his right index finger and will be evaluated on Monday tweets Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. Genessy notes, via Twitter, that Scott Machado has been given the most time behind Burke and John Lucas III at point guard this preseason.
Genessy also wonders, in a tweet, whether the Jazz will bring someone else in depending on the severity of Burke’s injury, and mentions Jamaal Tinsley as a possibility. Marc Stein of ESPN tweets that he’s heard of interest from the Jazz about the Bulls’ Marquis Teague, and postulates they may revisit that with Burke going down. The Jazz will find out Monday whether Burke’s fractured finger will require surgery, Stein adds (Twitter).
Here are a smattering of other links from around the league tonight:
- After the Bobcats‘ big free agent, Al Jefferson, severely sprained his ankle, he told the AP in Milwaukee that he’s trying to be back for opening night, tweets the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell.
- That’s 18 days away, Bonnell adds on Twitter, and he wonders in his next tweet whether the Bobcats might look to add a center in the interim.
- The Mavericks pickup of DeJuan Blair this summer might be huge for them, as we noted earlier tonight. Blair is looking forward to playing his former team, the Mavs intra-state rival Spurs, writes the Star-Telegram’s Dwain Price.
- Blair’s bitterness about his time in San Antonio is evident when he tells Price, “[the Spurs] didn’t give me nothing when I was there. I mean, the fans gave me everything, but everything else, it is what it is. I don’t look at that. I look for us to get a win.”
- Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News reports that the NBPA will not pay their new union head the $3MM annually that former executive director Billy Hunter made before he was ousted. Union sources say the annual pay will be around $1.5MM for the new executive director.
- The Knicks lost to the Celtics by 30 tonight in preseason action, but Touré Murry and Ike Diogu both made a case for a roster spot, writes ESPN New York’s Ian Begley.
We already covered the East, now let’s check in on what is happening around the league out West tonight:
- Brandan Wright sustained a small, non-displaced fracture to his left shoulder that is unlikely to require surgery, the Mavericks announced today. Wright, who re-signed with the team in July, is entering his sixth year in the league and third with the Mavs. No timetable has been set for his return.
- Rookie point guard Trey Burke is concentrating on making a good impression on his opponents as the Jazz‘s preseason gets into full swing, writes Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune. Burke, who the Jazz took in June at No. 9, figures to run the point for a young but talented team in Utah.
- Blake Griffin suffered a bone bruise in his left knee in a Wednesday night scrimmage while attempting to dunk, writes Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times. Griffin’s precautionary MRI showed no structural damage, reports Turner, but the All-Star forward is still likely to miss an undisclosed amount of practice and preseason time.
- If Pau Gasol, more physically and mentally ready than he’s been in years, has the type of season he expects to have in Los Angeles, he believes the Lakers will want to re-sign him in the offseason, writes Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. However, Gasol is unlikely to be willing to accept a significant pay cut to stay in the purple and gold, per Medina. Gasol will make $19.3MM this year.
A few notes from around the Western Conference.
- Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke will get the start in his first preseason game, and his coaches want him to put his struggles behind him. Burke’s starting his professional career in shooting slump that Utah can’t afford to see carry over into the regular season, writes the Salt Lake Tribune’s Aaron Falk.
- Clippers head coach Doc Rivers believes his team can be as good as any he’s ever coached, and that the group is already understanding the principles of his defensive system, writes Los Angeles Times reporter Broderick Turner.
- Now that rookie guard C.J. McCollum will be sidelined with a broken foot, it’ll be interesting to see who gets his playing time: Will Barton or Allen Crabbe, writes OregonLive.com’s Joe Freeman.
The Jazz took a step back competitively this summer to open up playing time for their younger guys, and GM Dennis Lindsey promises Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune that the team won't reverse course.
"… We are not running away from the decisions we made," Lindsey said. "We are looking to embrace this and we will embrace it — all the challenges of being so young. I believe we have the talent and character to move forward — incrementally. We are very much looking forward to the start of the journey with this young core group."
Lindsey passed along a couple of other noteworthy tidbits in his conversation with Luhm, and we'll round them up here along with an update on a member of last year's Jazz team:
- The GM explained why the team abandoned its hunt for an annual playoff berth. "We were O.K. with being playoff-competitive as long as we had [salary cap] flexibility, too," he said. "But if we had invested in our veteran players, we were going to lose that flexibility, especially with some other [contract] extensions coming up."
- Lindsey emphasizes a collaborative approach in the front office, which also includes VP of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor and newly hired assistant GM Justin Zanik. Coach Tyrone Corbin has a say, too, and his input was critical in swaying the team to trade for Trey Burke on draft night, Lindsey says.
- Travis Leslie was briefly a member of the Jazz last season, though he didn't appear in a game. He signed with JSF Nanterre in France last month, but comments the team's head coach recently made suggest that Leslie could once more make a quick exit, notes Gabriel Pantel-Jouve of Catch & Shoot (translation via HoopsHype).
The Timberwolves have signed Gorgui Dieng to a rookie-scale contract, according to the teams official PR Twitter account. (Twitter link). An official release will come shortly.
The rookie Dieng was selected 21st overall in June's draft as part of the deal sending 14th pick, Shabazz Muhammad, and Dieng to the Jazz in exchange for 9th pick, Trey Burke. Dieng's likely first year salary, according to our salary chart, will be $1,352,640.
The 6'10" 240 pound center from Senegal, was initially ruled ineligible to play for the Louisville Cardinals, but after they appealed the NCAA's decision, it was reversed and he helped them win the 2013 NCAA championship.
Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars introduced free agent signee Josh Smith to the media today, but Dumars says he isn't done upgrading the roster, as Rod Beard of the Detroit News observes. The team also brought Rasheed Wallace aboard as an assistant coach this week, providing a link to its championship past. Here's more from the rest of the league as teams and players covet the Larry O'Brien trophy:
- Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hears Ivan Johnson is drawing interest from several teams, including the Hawks (Twitter link). Atlanta declined to offer Johnson a qualifying offer this summer, but the team can still re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent. Johnson let go of agent Larry Williams last week.
- The Mavs have "poked around" free agent DeJuan Blair, as Jeff Caplan of NBA.com tweets, so it appears the club may have some level of interest. The team is focusing on its frontcourt, and GM Donnie Nelson doesn't think the Mavs will be bringing on any more guards, as Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes at the end of his roundup.
- Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com thinks the Mavs should have been more willing to take a risk on Andrew Bynum.
- An NBA GM from outside the Bulls organization tells Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago.com that Luol Deng could command between $11MM and $12MM on the open market next summer. Deng and the Bulls appear to be working toward an extension (Twitter link).
- The Jazz may have had "different conversations with Mo Williams" if the team hadn't wound up with Trey Burke on draft night, GM Dennis Lindsey told reporters today, including Jody Genessy of the Deseret News (Twitter link).
- Royce White, who's headed to the Sixers via trade, intends to play for the team, but is still reluctant to make frequent flights, as he tells Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register (link via USA Today).
4:45pm: The Jazz also announced their official signing of Burke.
SATURDAY, 2:48pm: The Jazz have officially signed Gobert, according to their website.
FRIDAY, 8:35am: The Jazz have signed their two first-round picks to rookie contracts, according to Eric Pincus of HoopsWorld (via Twitter). While no official announcement has been made by the team yet, Pincus hears that Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert have been locked up.
The formal signing of a first-round pick is one of the few transactions that's allowed during the July moratorium. With the move, Burke's and Gobert's cap holds will be replaced by 120% of their respective amounts, assuming they each signed the maximum allowable rookie deal, which virtually all first-rounders do.
As our chart of likely first-round salaries shows, that would mean a first-year salary of about $2.44MM for Burke and $1.08MM for Gobert. Overall, the newly-signed contracts will amount to an increase of about $600K on the team's 2013/14 books. That difference should be negligible as Utah pursues free agents, since the club still has more than $25MM in cap room.
There's a major shakeup going on in the Eastern Conference now that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are on their way to Brooklyn. An even more resounding move could happen in the West, where Dwight Howard's primary suitors are. We've got more on that storyline and others from the Western Conference:
- Mo Williams is expected to discuss re-signing in Utah with Jazz brass, but a source tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports that Williams isn't interested in returning if he's not the starter. Last night, the Jazz wound up with point guard Trey Burke in the draft, and he has eyes on the starting job, too, notes Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. (Twitter link).
- Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News that he has a couple of meetings with players scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, presumably referring to Howard and Chris Paul. Still, those two big fishes aren't the team's sole focus, as Cuban also says the Mavs were in discussions yesterday about a deal that would have prevented the team from making a maximum-salary signing this summer.
- Devin Harris dropped hints Friday about returning to the Mavericks, where he began his career, as Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News observes. "It’s always crossed my mind," Harris said. "It’s crossed my mind since I left. Obviously, I think it would be cool to come back. But I also like it in Atlanta. It comes down to what best fits me."
- Howard won't necessarily make the Lakers the last stop on his listening tour as he fields free agent pitches this summer, even though the purple and gold brass would like to see that happen, tweets Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
- The Lakers are declining the chance to tender Darius Morris a $1.2MM qualifying offer, but the team has interest in re-signing him to a deal worth less than that, writes Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. Andrew Goudelock may return as well, but Devin Ebanks won't be back, Pincus adds in a look at the team's would-be restricted free agents.
- Brian Scalabrine is talking with the Warriors about joining the team as an assistant coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
- The Spurs officially announced their hiring of Pacers assistant coach Jim Boylen as an assistant on Gregg Popovich's staff. Boylen is not to be confused with Cavs assistant Jim Boylan.
9:29pm: The deal is now official, with Burke heading to Utah for Shabazz Muhammad (No. 14) and Gorgui Dieng (No. 21).
7:34pm: The Jazz will acquire ninth overall pick Trey Burke from the Timberwolves, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com reports (via Twitter) that the T-Wolves will acquire the 14th and 21st picks in the swap.
There was speculation earlier today that Utah would trade up in the draft to land one of the top point guards on the board. It was reported that the team may have to include Alec Burks along with the two first-rounders to get a deal done, but with Burke slipping to No. 9, the Wolves were apparently ahppy to simply pick up an extra pick.