During the 1996 draft, the Wolves nearly drafted Kobe Bryant with the No. 5 overall pick, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “We teetered on the idea of getting another [player right out of high school] because we had success with [Kevin Garnett],” said Flip Saunders, who was the coach of the team that year, just as he is now. “But we kind of thought it would be too much having two of those guys who were young at that time and still in the process of developing KG as a young player.” Minnesota ended up drafting Ray Allen and subsequently trading him to Milwaukee for Stephon Marbury.
Here’s more from the Northwest Division
- The request to commit another $24.5MM in public money in order to further renovate the Target Center, which is the Wolves‘ home arena, passed a City Council panel vote, reports Eric Roper of the Star Tribune. Roper notes that there are still potential roadblocks in securing the additional funding, but the latest news is reason for optimism. The city of Minneapolis previously committed $50MM toward the renovation.
- Executives of the Nuggets are “very happy” with the job done by interim coach Melvin Hunt, sources tell Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Mannix notes that although the team will conduct a thorough search for a new head coach after the season, Hunt’s performance will earn him some consideration for the job.
- Enes Kanter didn’t enjoy being an NBA player until he got to the Thunder, writes Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News. “The difference is I like playing basketball [in Oklahoma City], that’s the most important thing,’’ Kanter said. “I never liked playing basketball before in my NBA career. That’s the first time I felt like playing basketball for my team, for the fans, for my teammates, for coaches — everybody.’’ The center spent his entire career with the Jazz before being traded to the Thunder at this year’s deadline.
The D-League continues to be an integral part of the NBA’s process of developing younger players, as well as a source for locating hidden gems to bolster rosters during the course of the season. You can easily stay on top of which players are coming and going from the D-League all season by checking out our 2014/15 D-League Assignments, Recalls tracker, which is updated daily. You can also find this page anytime on the right sidebar under “Hoops Rumors Features.”
Here are the latest D-League moves:
- The Raptors have recalled center Lucas Nogueira from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team announced on Twitter. This concludes Nogueira’s second trip of the season to the D-League, where in four contests he averaged 8.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 20.0 minutes per night.
- Kyle Anderson has been assigned by the Spurs to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Anderson’s fifth jaunt to the D-League this season.
- The Mavericks have recalled Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends, their D-League affiliate, Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com reports (Twitter link). Powell has made a dozen trips to the D-League this season.
- Grant Jerrett has been assigned by the Jazz to the Idaho Stampede, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be the forward’s tenth sojourn of the season to the D-League.
- The Pistons have recalled Quincy Miller from the Grand Rapids Drive, their D-League affiliate, Keith Langlois of NBA.com reports (Twitter link).
Ryan Anderson, who has been out of action since February with an MCL sprain in his right knee, could be making his return for the Pelicans next week, John Reid of The Times Picayune writes. ”We’re progressing each day and continue to ramp up to be ready,” Anderson said. ”We’ll do a little more on the court. There is a mental aspect where I got to get over the fact that my knee is stronger and OK. There is still some strengthening I need to build up. But we’re doing everything we can and it is frustrating and it’s tough being out.” In 52 games this season the big man has averaged 14.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per night.
Here’s more out of the Western Conference:
- Earl Barron‘s deal with the Suns for the rest of the season is indeed just that, without any extra years tacked on, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
- Jordan Hamilton‘s latest Clippers contract is a two-year arrangement with non-guaranteed salary for next season, Pincus tweets.
- The Pelicans tacked a non-guaranteed minimum salary for next season onto their deal with Toney Douglas, Pincus relays (Twitter link). His 2015/16 pay becomes guaranteed if he remains under contract through August 1st, as Pincus shows on the Basketball Insiders Pelicans salary page.
- Bryce Cotton‘s multiyear deal with the Jazz covers both 2015/16 and 2016/17 with non-guaranteed salaries, as Pincus also reports (Twitter link).
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
7:01pm: The deal is official, the team announced. The signing is a multiyear contract, though the exact length has not been announced by the Jazz.
6:32pm: The Jazz intend to ink Chris Johnson for the remainder of the season, Shams Charania of RealGM reports (Twitter link). Johnson’s second 10-day deal with the Bucks expired today and the Milwaukee chose not to sign the forward for the remainder of this campaign. Utah currently has 14 players on its roster, including Jack Cooley, who was signed to a multiyear deal earlier today. The team has waived Ian Clark to accommodate the addition of Johnson. The player was with Utah earlier this season on a single 10-day deal, appearing in two contests.
Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd says the team has no plans to fill Johnson’s vacant roster spot for the time being, Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. The 24-year-old forward appeared in eight contests for Milwaukee, averaging 3.9 points and 1.4 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game.
Johnson went undrafted out of Dayton back in 2012. He has appeared in a total of 67 NBA games for the Bucks, Grizzlies, Celtics, Sixers, and Jazz. Johnson’s career stats are 5.6 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 0.7 assists. His slash line is .391/.325/.836.
Clark, 24, was earning $816,482 for the year, which Utah will be on the hook for the remainder of. His contract was set to expire at season’s end. The guard appeared in 23 contests for the Jazz this season, averaging 1.9 points in 7.0 minutes per game.
The Jazz have signed big man Jack Cooley to a deal that covers the rest of the season and beyond, the team announced. Cooley’s second 10-day contract with the team expired overnight. It’s not immediately clear whether the former Notre Dame standout’s latest deal includes any guaranteed salary beyond this season, or just how many years it covers.
Cooley has seen a total of just 26 minutes with the Jazz across six games this season, though he also spent time with the team during the preseason, with the Jazz floating him a $65K partial guarantee that he took with him even though Utah cut him before opening night. The 23-year-old, who turns 24 next month, spent most of 2014/15 with Utah’s D-League affiliate. The Jazz waited a while to sign him to his second 10-day deal after his first one expired, using the roster spot to sign Jerrelle Benimon to a 10-day pact of his own in between, as I noted Wednesday.
The new deal with Cooley, an Adam Pensack client, gives Utah 15 players signed through at least the end of the season, which limits the team’s flexibility to make another move in the season’s final three weeks. He’s the third Jazz player this year to go from a 10-day contract to a longer-term arrangement, as our 10-Day Contract Tracker shows.
The Jazz have officially acquired the Idaho Stampede, becoming the eighth NBA team to fully own and operate their own D-League franchise, the team announced. The Stampede have also signed a one-year contract extension with the downtown arena and will continue to play in Boise, Idaho for the 2015/16 season. “Our purchase of an NBA D-League team reflects the value we place on having an exclusive affiliate for player development and building the scope of our basketball operations to support the Jazz,” said Jazz president Randy Rigby. “It is a tremendous commitment from the Miller family to make this acquisition that will contribute to our pursuit of becoming a championship-caliber team.” Idaho was already Utah’s affiliate, but now the Jazz will control both the basketball operations and business sides of the D-League franchise.
Here’s more from Utah:
- Greg Miller, the former CEO of the Miller Management Corporation that controls the Jazz, believes that Utah has a bright future, Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News writes. Miller ended his seven-year tenure as CEO earlier this month. “Everywhere I go people want to talk about the Jazz and I tell them we are in a period where when we look back on it, we’ll say that this was the beginning of a very special era,’’ Miller said.
- Bojan Dubljevic, whose rights are owned by the Timberwolves, will be with Valencia of the Euroleague for at least the next two seasons without the possibility of arranging a buyout, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reports (Twitter link). The forward was selected by Minnesota with the No. 59 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
- Utah had an option in its contract with the Stampede, giving the Jazz the ability to buy the D-League team, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets. Utah was interested in purchasing Idaho at start of this season, Zillgitt adds.
Several high-powered agents have warned teams not to discourage potential suitors from signing restricted free agents to offer sheets, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports. The agents are concerned about recent statements made by some teams with a prominent restricted free agent that they would match offer sheets, Kyler continues. The agents will encourage their clients to agree to a qualifying offer, as the Pistons’ Greg Monroe did last summer, and become unrestricted free agents after the 2015/16 season if teams engage in an anti-offer sheet campaign, Kyler adds. With the salary cap projected to increase dramatically after the 2015/16 season, some players may be willing to take that risk, Kyler concludes.
In other news around the league:
- Sixers guard Ish Smith wants to remain with the club next season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Smith, who has played for eight organizations during his five-year career, is averaging 11.4 points, 6.3 assists and 24.7 minutes in 15 games with Philadelphia after being claimed off waivers in February. “Obviously, during the summer you figure all that stuff out,” said Smith, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
- Many NBA observers believe the league is headed for another lockout after the 2016/17 season, according to Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report. Both the league’s owners and the NBA Players Association can opt out of the current agreement after that season. It would be a mistake for that to happen, Bucher says, adding that fans and media should boycott the league if a lockout occurs.
- The Jazz’s D-League team, the Idaho Stampede, will remain in Boise, Sea Dubs Central tweets. An announcement will be made on Tuesday regarding a rebranding of the team, rather than a move, the tweet adds. The Stampede had affiliations with four other NBA teams before becoming the sole affiliate of the Jazz this season.
Jeremy Lin will start the remainder of the season but it probably won’t affect the Lakers’ decision whether to re-sign the veteran point guard, according to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. Oram writes that many people around the league believe it’s a given that Lin, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, will sign elsewhere. Coach Byron Scott told Lakers beat reporters that the team’s draft choices will affect Lin’s chances of returning. “It’s just a matter of what happens in the draft and everything else that determines what we’re going to do with the free agent market,” Scott said.
In other news around the Western Conference:
- Interim coach Melvin Hunt has taken an upbeat approach to improve the Nuggets, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports. Hunt has used positive reinforcement to inspire his players, a stark contrast to predecessor Brian Shaw, who often criticized players in his postgame press conferences, Kyler continues. Ty Lawson told Kyler that he appreciated the change in philosophy. “He is giving everybody confidence,” Lawson said. “He is a very upbeat person. I think he just wants everybody to succeed; you feel it when he walks into the room and when he talks to us. He has us all on the same page, that’s helping us out right now.”
- Wesley Matthews‘ season-ending Achilles injury has had a major impact on the Trail Blazers’ defense, Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes. Portland has gone 3-5 since Matthews suffered the injury and its defense has ranked 27th in defensive efficiency in those games, allowing 110.5 points per 100 possessions, Richman notes. The Blazers were No. 3 in that category up to that point, Richman adds. While all of the Blazers’ defensive problems cannot be attributed to Matthews’ absence, backcourt partner Damian Lillard tells Richman that he definitely sees a difference. “His ability to lock guys up defensively and kind of spark us at that end of the floor,” Lillard said of what the team is lacking. “His passion. Just the fire that he brought to our team is something that we definitely miss.”
- Jazz coach Quin Snyder is less concerned about making the playoffs than showing improvement the remainder of the season, Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News reports. Utah has made a late run but Snyder isn’t worried about wins and losses, McDonald adds. “I don’t think playoff awareness is necessarily going to improve our play as much as a focus on game to game, moment to moment,” Snyder said.
The Jazz‘s willingness to commit to paying building blocks like Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors has helped the team show signs that it will quickly rebound from its rebuilding project, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News details. Critical, too, was the deadline-day trade that sent Enes Kanter out, at his request, as the Jazz weren’t interested in paying a premium to keep him in restricted free agency this summer, writes Chris Mannix of SI.com. A greater focus on Favors and Rudy Gobert since then has paid dividends, as Mannix examines.
“[The trade] helped me work on my game a lot,” Favors said. “Enes was the first option in the post. Since the trade, it’s always been me. It’s helped me work on my game and made me better for it.”
Coach Quin Snyder downplays the connection between the Kanter trade and the team’s ascent in the standings, Mannix notes. Still, Utah was 19-34 at the deadline and has gone 12-3 since. There’s more on the Jazz amid the latest from the Western Conference:
- Jazz higher-ups are “positively giddy” about the future of Rodney Hood, as Mannix reports in the same piece. Utah selected Hood 23rd overall in June after the swingman spoke to Zach Links of Hoops Rumors last spring.
- The Clippers aren’t sure they’ll have Jamal Crawford back for the playoffs, according to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. Crawford has missed the last eight games because of a bruised right calf that Doc Rivers has deemed a “serious injury” and one that won’t have him back “anytime soon, that’s for sure,” Howard-Cooper notes. L.A. has an open roster spot and Nate Robinson on a 10-day contract.
- The Spurs are keeping a close eye on draft-and-stash prospect Davis Bertans of late, as Lefteris Moutis of Eurohoops.net writes in a slideshow dedicated to the 10 European players who have the best chances of playing in the NBA next season. The power forward has a contract that runs through 2017 with Spain’s Laboral Kuxta (aka Saski Baskonia), as Mark Porcaro shows in our Draft Rights Held Players database, though it apparently contains NBA escape clauses for each year of the deal.
President of basketball operations Flip Saunders says signing Sean Kilpatrick came down to proximity, according to Alan Horton, who is the play-by-play announcer for the Wolves (Twitter link). Minnesota played the Knicks tonight and Kilpatrick was playing for the Delaware 87ers, the D-League affiliate of the Sixers. After a three hour car ride to New York, the Cincinnati product was in uniform for the Wolves. Minnesota had only eight healthy players active, the league minimum, in the game tonight.
Here’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Kevin Durant had a setback at practice today and isn’t playing in Friday’s game against the Hawks, according to Royce Young of the TrueHoop Network. “Just he experienced some soreness,” coach Scott Brooks said. “I think when you go through rehab, we all know through the rehab process you’re going to have some peaks and valleys, and you just have to adjust accordingly. That’s why he was off today, and he’s definitely not playing tomorrow. That’s all part of the process with his rehab.” Durant has missed 17 of the last 23 games, including 13 straight, because of a foot injury.
- The Jazz have one of the youngest rosters in the league and Ben Detrick of Grantland.com chronicles how the franchise turned itself into a team with one of the brightest futures in the Western Conference. Detrick points out that Utah’s success lately is partially a result of trading away Enes Kanter. The move cleared up a jumbled frontcourt situation and gave Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors ample playing time. Of the power forwards in the league, only Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis have a higher PER than Favors’ 22.4 rating this season.
- The Jazz have recalled Grant Jerrett from their D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede, according to the team’s website. The Arizona product appeared in four games for the Stampede, averaging 12.8 points and 1.5 blocks per game.