Utah Jazz

Western Notes: Gasol, Harden, Chalmers

Rockets shooting guard James Harden is growing increasingly frustrated with the team’s up-and-down play this season, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com notes. “Yeah, because my first year was different,” Harden said. “We weren’t as talented and we still made playoffs, which was a big step for us. We have a lot of talent in this locker room, of course, coming off the Western Conference finals and being in the seventh spot right now. It’s frustrating, but we still have opportunities.

Harden has come under fire for being careless with his turnovers and not being more of a playmaker, but interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff says that the swingman has shown marked improvement this season in both areas, Watkins adds. “One thing, his turnovers are down dramatically,” Bickerstaff said. “If his turnovers are down, then his assists are up. That’s one of the things he said he wanted to improve on, and obviously he’s done it, the decision-making … the creativity has been there. It’s been outstanding the last month. It’s not surprising, we knew he could do it.” It should be noted that despite Bickerstaff’s praise, Harden is still averaging 4.4 turnovers per game on the year, which would be a career high if he were to finish the season with that mark.

Here’s more from out West:

  • The Grizzlies have been second-guessed for not resting Marc Gasol when he complained of foot soreness, but doing so would only likely have delayed his injury, not prevented it, Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal opines. The center is out indefinitely with a broken foot, though Herrington speculates Gasol won’t return to action this season, which goes along with an earlier report from Marca.com that indicated the Spaniard would miss four to six months of action.
  • Mario Chalmers has solidified the Grizzlies’ bench with his play as reserve point guard since arriving via trade earlier this season from Miami, but when the Heat were looking to find a taker for the veteran, a number of teams, including the Jazz, were turned off by Chalmers’ stubborn personality and propensity to make poor decisions on the court, notes Zach Lowe of ESPN.com.
  • The Mavs are pleased with the development of 2015 first-rounder Justin Anderson, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes. “He’s not putting up big numbers or anything like that, but he’s playing solid within the system and has had some good plus-minus stretches,” coach Rick Carlisle said of the young swingman. “So he’s making progress. He’s learned a lot over the last three months. He’s doing what he needs to do. Generally, he’s in there with other primary guys and playmakers. Many of his shot opportunities will come off of other activity. But defensively, he’s made progress. Where we are right now, we need him.
  • Nuggets camp cut Matt Janning‘s deal with the Russian club Lokomotiv Cuban includes a team option for 2016/17, international journalist David Pick informed Hoops Rumors.

Wizards Ask About Anderson, Tucker, Booker

The Wizards have inquired about Ryan Anderson, P.J. Tucker and Trevor Booker as they search for help at power forward, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who writes in his NBA AM piece. Washington hasn’t gained much traction in talks thus far, Kyler cautions, having heard that the team believes the serious talk will take place during the All-Star break. The Wizards have been disappointing this season, sitting one game in the loss column behind the eighth-place Pistons in the Eastern Conference, but they’re unlikely to break up their core, Kyler writes.

Multiple reports within the last month have indicated that the Pelicans are more willing to trade other players than they are with Anderson, and coach Alvin Gentry has said he’s unlikely to end up in a deal, even though NBA executives reportedly believed, at least as of January, that if the Pelicans were to make a trade this season, Anderson would be in it. Stretch fours appeal to Washington, according to Kyler, and Anderson, a career 38% 3-point shooter, fits that bill. New Orleans reportedly made Anderson available earlier this season, but the team wasn’t anxious to trade him, as Kyler reported, later noting that the Rockets “kicked the tires” on him. New Orleans apparently had talks with the Suns about Markieff Morris that involved Anderson. Reports conflict on whether New Orleans turned down an offer from the Kings of Rudy Gay for Anderson

Tucker has consistently been attracting interest on the trade market, with the Raptors among those eyeing him, multiple reports have said. The Suns were reportedly holding off on trade discussions involving him as of last month, waiting to gauge their postseason hopes, but Phoenix has fallen 12 games behind the eighth-place Rockets. He’d be an undersized option at the four, since he’s 6’6″ and primarily plays small forward, but Washington has used 6’7″ Jared Dudley extensively at power forward this season. Tucker, unlike Anderson and Booker, has one more year left on his contract, but it’s only partially guaranteed for $1.5MM, so it wouldn’t take a significant chunk out of Washington’s cap flexibility for the summer ahead.

Rumors about Booker have been sparse, even though he’s on an expiring contract with the Jazz that gives him $4.775MM this season. Washington’s interest in Booker is somewhat curious, even though he spent his first four NBA seasons there, since the Wizards elected not to tender a qualifying offer to him when he was eligible for restricted free agency in 2014.

What should the Wizards do at the deadline? Leave a comment to share your ideas.

Magic, Hawks Talk Victor Oladipo, Jeff Teague Swap

The Magic and Hawks have spoken about a potential trade involving Victor Oladipo and Jeff Teague, a league source said to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). Orlando is also among the teams interested in Al Horford, though nothing significant exists on that front yet, reports Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter). The Magic are reportedly open to just about any proposal that would add experience to their team, while the Hawks have apparently been talking to several teams about Teague and want an equal exchange of talent that helps them get younger. Oladipo, 23, is four years younger than Teague is.

A trade involving Oladipo and Teague would require the Magic to throw in at least a minimum-salary player to make the salaries match, since Teague’s $8MM pay is more than 150% plus $100K of the nearly $5.193MM that Oladipo is making on his rookie scale contract this year. Oladipo, who’s eligible an extension this summer, returned to the starting lineup for the Magic last month after coach Scott Skiles benched him in late November. Most of the numbers for the former No. 2 overall pick are holding steady, apart from his scoring average, which has dipped to 14.3 points per game from 17.9 last season in large measure because he’s seeing only 12.5 shots per game after taking 15.1 a night last year.

Teague has been playing well of late and is nailing a career-high 40.9% of his 3-point looks, a key number for a Magic squad that has spacing issues. However, his assists are down to 5.4 per game, his fewest since 2011/12, and that doesn’t correspond to any significant increase in ball distribution from backup Dennis Schroder, whose assists per game are up only slightly, to 4.5 from 4.1 last season. It’s unclear how the Magic would reckon with Teague and fellow point guard Elfrid Payton on the same roster.

Plenty of other teams have been linked to Teague. The Pacers have dangled George Hill in talks with Atlanta involving Teague, as Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported Monday. The Knicks have reportedly engaged in preliminary discussions with Atlanta about Teague, though it appears those talks didn’t go anywhere. The Celtics have reportedly contacted the Hawks about Teague and Horford, and while it doesn’t look like the Jazz have reached out, it seems Utah has at least considered the possibility of a run at the Atlanta point guard.

Arnovitz and Windhorst first identified the Magic as a potential suitor for Teague and also hinted that they had interest in Horford, a soon-to-be free agent whom the Hawks aren’t entirely sure is worthy of a five-year max contract, as the ESPN scribes detailed. Orlando reportedly has at least some degree of willingness to trade Tobias Harris, who is six years younger than Horford, but it’s unclear if Horford and Harris have come up in the discussion between Atlanta and Orlando.

Which team would benefit the most from a swap involving Teague and Oladipo? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Western Notes: Green, Rockets, McDaniels, Lillard

Erick Green won’t mind missing the D-League All-Star Game next week after signing a second 10-day contract with the Jazz, writes Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune. Green has only seen nine minutes of playing time in three games with Utah, but the 6’3″ guard has managed to impress coach Quin Snyder. “We felt like he’s done everything we’ve asked of him and the minutes that he has played he’s played pretty good,” Snyder said. “Some of it is a question of we’ve had a couple situations where guys are getting bumped and banged up a little bit and we feel good about what he brings.”

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Today’s lopsided loss to the Blazers is the latest evidence that the Rockets need a complete makeover, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com. Houston is 27-26 a year after reaching the Western Conference finals, and there have been rumblings for some time that changes are needed. The Rockets are over the luxury tax threshold and facing a hard cap, so GM Daryl Morey is limited in what he can do.
  • The Rockets have assigned K.J. McDaniels to their D-League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley, the team tweeted today.
  • New teammates surround the BlazersDamian Lillard this year, but the move that bothers him most is LaMarcus Aldridge‘s decision to sign with the Spurs, according to Sam Amick of USA Today“I would have loved nothing more than to have him back,” Lillard said of Aldridge. “To have another All-Star on the team was good for me. I was happy with it. I reached out to him a bunch of times [before and during free agency], but I think he had got to the point where he thought maybe the organization was choosing me over him. And to this day, I still tell people that it’s not my team, it’s [owner] Paul Allen’s team, and I was willing to be the best complement I could to LaMarcus Aldridge. I expressed that to him multiple times, but I think it just came down to him being ready to move on to a new situation.” Portland lost four of its starters over the offseason, with Wesley Matthews signing with the Mavericks, Robin Lopez signing with the Knicks and Nicolas Batum being traded to the Hornets.

Jazz Sign Erick Green To Second 10-Day Contract

The Jazz have signed point guard Erick Green to a second 10-day contract, the team announced. His first expired overnight. The latest deal will cover four games, against the Bucks, Suns, Mavericks and Pelicans. It’s set to end before the February 18th trade deadline, leaving Utah to decide whether to re-sign Green for the duration of the season or leave him in free agency and keep an open roster spot. The other 14 Jazz players are signed through at least the end of the season.

Green originally joined the Jazz the day after starting point guard Raul Neto suffered a concussion in a game against the Pistons, but Neto returned to play in time for Utah’s next game and hasn’t missed any time since. Green has only seen six total minutes of playing time with the Jazz, scoring four points, but it appears the team is interested in keeping him around nonetheless. He was the 46th overall pick in the 2013 draft and averaged 26.7 points, 4.4 assists and 1.6 turnovers per game in 23 D-League appearances after the Nuggets let him go earlier this season.

Utah has reportedly considered a pursuit of Hawks trade candidate Jeff Teague, but the Jazz have often gone without a point guard on the floor this season, using a three-wing lineup while Neto and backup Trey Burke sit. Dante Exum, who started 41 games at the position as a rookie last year, is out for the season with a torn ACL, but the team apparently remains 100% committed to him, leaving it unclear where a developing prospect like Green would fit in.

D-League Notes: Dukan, Stokes, Motiejunas

The NBA’s relationship with the D-League continues to grow, and this season a total of 19 NBA teams possess one-to-one affiliations with D-League clubs. Those 11 NBA teams without their own D-League squads this season have to assign players to D-League clubs affiliated with other NBA franchises. We at Hoops Rumors track all the NBA D-League assignments made during the course of the season and you can view the complete tracker, which is updated regularly, here.

Here are the D-League happenings for today:

  • The Kings have assigned power forward Duje Dukan to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Dukan’s fifth trip to Reno on the season. The rookie is recovering from a bone contusion in his leg and will continue his rehab with the Bighorns.
  • Power forward Jarnell Stokes has been assigned to the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Miami’s D-League affiliate, the Heat announced. Stokes has averaged 20.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.0 assist in 30.0 minutes of action per night over his previous four D-League stints.
  • The Jazz assigned center Tibor Pleiss to their D-League affiliate, the team announced via press release. This will be Pleiss’ third trek to Idaho on the campaign.
  • The Rockets have recalled Donatas Motiejunas from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, their D-League affiliate, the team announced.

Western Notes: Howard, Morris, Brown, Kilpatrick

Conflicting reports abound on whether the Rockets have explored trading Dwight Howard lately and whether they have a desire to move him. The Rockets have engaged teams about Howard but set a high asking price, league sources told Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), a notion that runs counter to the idea that Houston hasn’t had any Howard trade talk since December, as a source told Calvin Watkins and Marc Stein of ESPN.com and as we passed along Wednesday night. The trade market for Howard is relatively limited anyway, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News hears, and that apparently extends to free agency, at least as far as the Mavericks are concerned. Dallas doesn’t have interest in giving the center a maximum-salary deal, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick, though Howard’s former teammate and recruiter extraordinaire Chandler Parsons spoke to Amick about his desire to play again with Howard, as Amick relays. See more from the Western Conference:

D-League Notes: Motiejunas, Dunleavy, Whittington

The NBA’s relationship with the D-League continues to grow, and this season a total of 19 NBA teams possess one-to-one affiliations with D-League clubs. Those 11 NBA teams without their own D-League squads this season have to assign players to D-League clubs affiliated with other NBA franchises. We at Hoops Rumors track all the NBA D-League assignments made during the course of the season and you can view the complete tracker, which is updated regularly, here.

Here are the D-League happenings for today:

  • The Pacers recalled center Shayne Whittington from their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Whittington has appeared in 24 games for the Mad Ants, averaging 12.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game during his four stints with the team this season.
  • The Bulls have recalled small forward Mike Dunleavy from the Warriors’ D-League affiliate, where the Bulls had sent him via the flexible assignment rule, the team announced via press release.
  • The Grizzlies recalled James Ennis and Jarell Martin from their D-League affiliate earlier today and later reassigned the pair to the Iowa Energy, the team announced. This will mark Ennis’ eighth jaunt to the D-League on the season and Martin’s fifth.
  • The Jazz recalled big man Tibor Pleiss from the Idaho Stampede, their D-League affiliate, the team announced.
  • The Rockets have reassigned Donatas Motiejunas to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. As was the case with his previous assignment this season to Rio Grande Valley, both Motiejunas and the NBPA had to sign off on the move because he is a fourth-year veteran.

Jazz Mull Trade For Jeff Teague

The Jazz are considering a run at trading for Jeff Teague, multiple league sources told Andy Larsen of KSL.com, who cautions that no formal contact has taken place between Utah and the Hawks. The Jazz are open to a deal if the right opportunity arises but aren’t actively seeking a trade, tweets Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune, who adds that they’re enamored with the injured Dante Exum and remain 100% committed to him (Twitter link). Nonetheless, Utah has been “poking around” the market for a point guard, several league sources told Zach Lowe of ESPN.com for a report last week.

Atlanta has reportedly been talking with other teams about Teague, including apparent preliminary discussions with the Knicks, and the Celtics have reportedly contacted the Hawks to gauge the availability of Teague and Al Horford. The Hawks also reportedly solicited offers for Dennis Schröder but have focused more prominently on Teague of late, in spite of Lowe’s report that the team has “major trust issues” with the 22-year-old Schröder.

Larsen suggests that an acquisition of Teague wouldn’t run counter to the team’s commitment to Exum, since Exum is out for this season, and because next season is the last on Teague’s contract, which pays him $8MM a year. Exum’s rookie scale deal runs through 2017/18.

The KSL scribe speculates that the Hawks would want wing players in return for Teague, whose trade candidacy I examined last week. The Jazz have been going with three wing players in lieu of a point guard for significant stretches this season, with Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks the most prominent among them. Joe Ingles and Chris Johnson have also been part of the rotation.

Northwest Notes: Batum, Malone, Singler

Nicolas Batum‘s former Trail Blazers teammates Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have fond memories of the small forward whom Portland traded to the Hornets this past summer, and Batum admits it will be “weird” Friday when Charlotte plays at Portland, The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman observes. Batum is a free agent at season’s end, and the Blazers will have plenty of cap space this summer, but there’s been no talk of a reunion.

“He was a really good teammate,” Lillard said. “I always remember my rookie year and my second year, when it would get to five minutes or less in the game, he would always come tap me on my back and be like, ‘Dame, it’s your time. Take over the game.’ Just being so young and having somebody who’s been a part of this team come to me and have that much confidence, that always meant a lot to me. He was always that type of person. He was unselfish. Just a good dude to play with.”

See more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Malone still stings from having been fired from the Kings in 2014, but he’s fully engaged with the Nuggets and he and former Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro, who was Malone’s boss at the time of the firing and is now in the Nuggets front office, don’t feel any “angst or hate” toward one another, Malone tells Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports.
  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan has said repeatedly that he’s a fan of what Kyle Singler can do on defense with his 6’8″ body, and the absence of the injured Andre Roberson will challenge Singler to live up to the five-year, $24.3MM deal he signed this past summer, observes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.
  • Tyus Jones hasn’t played in 12 consecutive games for the Timberwolves, but he’s not complaining, and he prefers sitting on the bench and getting practice reps with his NBA teammates to playing on D-League assignment, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune details. The rookie spent much of December with the Jazz D-League affiliate.

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