Utah Jazz Rumors

Western Notes: Villanueva, Price, Boozer, Jazz

October 20 at 9:59am CDT By Chuck Myron

Various reports have painted conflicting pictures of Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s willingness to keep Charlie Villanueva‘s non-guaranteed contract into the regular season, but Cuban nonetheless has plenty of praise for the nine-year veteran. Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the details. 

“He’s the prototype of what we like,’’ Cuban said. “A guy who was in a difficult situation and got a bad rap, but when you do your homework he’s really a good guy. He’s great in the locker room, guys love him and he’s putting on a battle for that last spot.”

Villanueva will soon know his status one way or another, since teams have to pare down to no more than 15 players by 4pm Central on October 27th, one week from today. Here’s more from around the Western Conference as that deadline looms:

  • Ronnie Price is looking like a shoo-in for the Lakers opening-night roster, observe Bill Oram of the Orange Country Register and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). Price racked up 10 assists Sunday against the Jazz.
  • The Jazz organization remains high on Carlos Boozer, Oram notes (on Twitter). The Lakers can’t trade the former Utah power forward this year, but he hits free agency in the summer.
  • Dahntay Jones appears to have the inside track for the 15th opening-night roster spot on the Jazz if the team elects to keep that many players, as Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune examines.
  • The Warriors have opened the season with just 14 players two of the last three years, but they’re leaning toward keeping 15 men until at least the leaguewide guarantee date in January based on the impressive play of many in camp, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle. Golden State has 13 contracts with full guarantees, five with partial guarantees, and a non-guaranteed deal with Jason Kapono, as our roster counts show.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Thunder, Nurkic

October 19 at 5:43pm CDT By Arthur Hill

The patience of new coach Quin Snyder is appreciated by the younger Jazz players, writes Gordon Monson of the Salt Lake Tribune. Snyder has been accepting of mistakes as he tries to bring a faster pace to the Utah offense. Monson writes that Snyder is using turnovers as opportunities for teaching, rather than berating players or pulling them from games. The up-tempo style is also a hit with players, including Derrick Favors, who said, “I like it. We’re moving the ball, looking for each other.”  More out of the Northwest Division..

  • The Trail Blazers have a difficult roster decision to make this week, writes Mike Tokito of The Oregonian. Camp invitees Darius Morris and Diante Garrett are in the running for a regular season roster spot, but keeping one of the point guards would force the team to cut or trade a player with a guaranteed contract. “At the end of this trip, it’s time to make some decisions,” coach Terry Stotts said.
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks told Nick Gallo of NBA.com that injuries have created a “golden opportunity” for four young players to showcase their skills in a battle for the final opening-night roster spot. Brooks said Michael Jenkins, Richard Solomon, Lance Thomas and Talib Zanna have all been impressive in camp. “They’ve been competing hard,” Brooks said. “I’m happy. (GM Sam Presti) has done a great job of bringing four guys in who are very competitive and are going to fight for that last spot.”
  • It has only taken two preseason games for Nuggets rookie center Jusuf Nurkic to make an impression, according to Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post. Denver coach Brian Shaw said opposing coaching staffs have told him how impressed they are with Nurkic’s physical play and how aggressively he pursues the ball. With JaVale McGee recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his tibia, Nurkic is expected to start the season as the Nuggets’ backup center.

Western Notes: Rockets, Lin, Coaches, Kanter

October 19 at 10:30am CDT By Chris Crouse

The Rockets have not settled on their opening night roster yet, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s why we’re experimenting,” coach Kevin McHale said. “There are still a lot of unknowns. We have a lot of guys who haven’t just taken a spot where you say, ‘I’m really comfortable. This guy has really taken the backup spot.’ We have a lot of guys still fighting for spots.” Houston brought 20 players to camp and has not made any official cuts, although it would seem the team is down to 18 players for 15 roster spots with Robert Covington and Akil Mitchell not having been with the team for the last week.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Jeremy Lin is humbled by the offseason trade that sent him to the Lakers, writes Mike Bresnahan of the The Los Angeles Times.  Lin said, “When I first got there [Houston], I was supposed to be the guy and they were supposed to kind of hand the torch to me. And I ended up getting traded away basically for nothing. Actually, they had to give a draft pick to convince someone else to take me. Pretty much given away for nothing. Definitely not how I envisioned it.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich loves the play of JaMychal Green, tweets Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News. The unfortunate thing for Green is that the Spurs don’t currently have an opening-night roster spot for him, Monroe adds.
  • Wolves head coach Flip Saunders is praised by local high school and college coaches for his open-door policy, writes Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We are a very close fraternity as far as coaches, and what you want to do is make sure you’re open,” Saunders said.
  • Jazz forward Enes Kanter has as much to gain this season as anyone on the team, opines Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune. Kanter will head into restricted free agency next summer if the Jazz do not reach a deal on an extension with him by the October 31st deadline.
  • In a roundtable preview for the Kings, SB Nation’s Tom Ziller predicts that Sacramento will pull off a major trade this season, citing GM Pete D’Alessandro‘s aggressive track record and abundance of assets at his disposal.

Cray Allred contributed to this post.

Extension Rumors: Leonard, Thompson, Cole

October 17 at 11:24am CDT By Chuck Myron

The deadline for teams to sign rookie scale extensions with their eligible players is two weeks from today, and while only six players came to deals last time around, that number has the potential to be much larger this year, notes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein has more on many of those extension hopefuls that adds to the storylines we’ve been following throughout the offseason:

  • Kawhi Leonard, Tristan Thompson, and Norris Cole are among the players who are in active negotiations with their respective teams about rookie scale extensions, Stein reports. Klay Thompson, Ricky Rubio, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks are also in active extension talks, according to Stein, who advances earlier reports that all of them had engaged in talks.
  • Iman Shumpert and the Knicks are also discussing an extension, Stein writes, countering a report from a few weeks ago that indicated that the sides hadn’t engaged in talks and that New York was content to let the swingman hit restricted free agency next summer.
  • Klay Thompson’s camp is considering the idea of going after an offer sheet similar to the one the Mavs gave Chandler Parsons if Thompson and the Warriors don’t come to an extension this month, Stein hears. Parsons’ near-max deal runs three years and includes a player option and a 15% trade kicker. Rival GMs have expressed admiration for its structure and Rockets GM Daryl Morey pointed to the difficulty that trading such a contract would entail shortly after he decided against matching it. The player option would allow Thompson to hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2017, which is when Stephen Curry‘s deal is set to end, as Stein points out.
  • The Lakers have attempted to trade for Thompson in the past, Stein notes, though he doesn’t make any suggestion that they’re planning an aggressive push for the shooting guard if he becomes a restricted free agent next summer.

And-Ones: Moon, Griffin, Jazz, Kerr

October 16 at 10:46pm CDT By Chris Crouse

Former NBA player and Harlem Globetrotter Jamario Moon returns to the D-League this season and is confident in his ability to play in the NBA again, writes Gino Pilato of D-League Digest“I’m at the point now where I want to show people that I can still play the game, even at 34 years old. I’m a freak of nature, and I’m a better player now. I’ve always kept myself in good physical condition, but I hit the weights harder than I ever have before this last summer. I’m ready.” Moon said.

Here’s more from around the Association:

  • Shooters might be valued more now by NBA teams than ever, argues Bruce Ely of The Oregonian. Ely identifies those who can connect from beyond the three-point line as the most valued player assets and notes that more than 86% of those who played in the league attempted at least one three-pointer last season.
  • Blake Griffin chronicles his time playing for Donald Sterling and shares his thoughts on playing for new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in a piece for The Players’ Tribune. Griffin applauds the new owner’s management style, “Ballmer wants to win no matter the cost. Donald Sterling didn’t care if we won — at least if it meant he had to spend money.”
  • Jazz players and coaches believe the team’s chemistry has improved, writes Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News. Guard Trey Burke sees the teams chemistry as a foundation. We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who are easy to get along with and hold each other accountable, so we’ll just continue to build from here,’’ said Burke.
  • New Warriors coach Steve Kerr badly wanted to draft Stephen Curry when he was the GM of the Suns back in 2009, writes Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. Cooper adds that the Suns had internal conversations about trading Amar’e Stoudemire for the point guard but without Stoudemire showing a strong likelihood of re-signing with the Warriors, Golden State was not going to pull the trigger on the trade.

Southeast Notes: Hayward, Hornets, Hawks, Heat

October 14 at 9:16am CDT By Chuck Myron

Owner Michael Jordan‘s presence in Charlotte’s pitch meeting with Lance Stephenson was key to the team’s ability to strike a deal with the shooting guard, but the mere presence of Jordan via video conference was enough for Gordon Hayward, as Hayward tells USA Today’s Sam Amick. Hayward was “ecstatic” about the idea of playing for the Hornets before the Jazz matched Charlotte’s max offer sheet this summer, Amick writes.

“I didn’t know what to expect … but they blew me away with their presentation,” Hayward said of the Hornets. “They came in and did a whole analytical presentation too, which was really, really impressive. It spoke to the analytical part of me. I was a computer engineer and math major in college, so that was really impressive to see. It just showed that they’re taking steps to try and become a next-level team and push toward trying to win a championship.”

There’s more from Amick’s profile of Charlotte’s legendary player-turned-owner amid the news out of the Southeast Division, as we pass along:

  • Hornets assistant coach Patrick Ewing was also in the team’s meeting with Stephenson, and head coach Steve Clifford credits the presence of the former Knicks star as a linchpin in the recruitment of Stephenson, a Brooklyn native, as Amick details.
  • The Hawks will probably release camp invitee Jarell Eddie, since he has a non-guaranteed deal and the team has at least partially guaranteed money out to 15 others, but the swingman has impressed the team’s brass so far, writes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Justin Hamilton has only a partially guaranteed deal with the Heat and has missed time with a heart condition, but coach Erik Spoelstra on Monday gave a subtle hint that suggests the team intends to keep him around, observes Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Spoelstra pointed to Hamilton’s absence as a reason why the team’s frontcourt rotation is in flux, Winderman notes.

Extension Candidate: Alec Burks

October 13 at 2:46pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Just as with teammate Enes Kanter, it was somewhat surprising to see that the Jazz are talking extension with Alec Burks. The shooting guard has made just a dozen career starts, and with this summer’s addition of No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum and retention of free agent Gordon Hayward, it doesn’t seem like there will be many starts to go around in the years to come, with Trey Burke already firmly entrenched. Still, Burks is a 23-year-old former 12th overall pick who’s coming off a season of noticeable improvement, and the Jazz have no shortage of financial flexibility for seasons to come.

The Andy Miller client was one of many young players on the Jazz who took on an expanded role last season, but his increase in production outstripped his increase in minutes. Burks set career-best per-36-minute marks of 17.9 points and 3.5 assists while recording a 15.8 PER, also a career high. He maintained strong three-point shooting, a part of his game that had been a question mark coming out of the University of Colorado, nailing 35.0% of his attempts from behind the arc, just a tick below the 35.9% he made in 2012/13. His markedly improved 45.7% field goal percentage overall was chiefly the result of better mid-range shooting, as Basketball-Reference shows he significantly increased his accuracy from 3 to 16 feet away from the basket. Burks has also defended well, as the Jazz have given up fewer points per possession when he’s been on the floor compared to when he’s sat in each of the past two seasons, according to NBA.com.

The Jazz only have about $36.5MM in commitments for 2015/16, a number that should swell to about $40MM once they pick up their team options on Burke and Rudy Gobert. That would give them max-level cap flexibility beneath the projected $66.5MM salary cap for that season. Extensions for Burks and Kanter that together add up to no more than $10MM in annual salaries would take Utah down to roughly the sort of cap room necessary to sign a restricted free agent to a max contract. The Jazz are much more likely to attract the sort of free agent who’d warrant the 25% max than a veteran who could make 30% or 35% of the salary cap, since star free agents have never clamored to go to Utah. Still, it will be quite difficult for the team to attract even a player befitting the lowest version of the NBA’s maximum salary, particularly if the Jazz end up in the lottery again this year, as expected.

The Jazz have instead used their cap space in more unconventional ways in recent years. They essentially rented it to the Warriors in 2013/14, as GM Dennis Lindsey agreed to take on the inflated contracts of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush for a slew of draft picks. Lindsey and the Jazz did the same on a smaller scale this summer, garnering a pair of second-round draft picks in exchange for absorbing close to $4.3MM combined in guaranteed salary for Steve Novak and Carrick Felix. Eventually, Lindsey will have to decide whether securing the draftees the team has brought aboard over the last several years is more important than acquiring picks to bear fruit in years to come.

Utah isn’t at that point yet, and it probably won’t be until at least the summer of 2017, when the rookie deals of Burke and Gobert are set to expire and Hayward can opt out of his contract. An extension for Burks would almost certainly carry through that summer. No one knows just what the salary cap will look like at that point, but Lindsey and the Jazz have to be thinking ahead.

An extension that runs three seasons instead of the standard four would at least allow the Jazz to move on from Burks in the summer of 2018, when Derrick Favors is due to hit free agency. The same could be accomplished if the Jazz include non-guaranteed salary in the final season of a four-year extension for Burks, though all four of the seasons on the extension that Quincy Pondexter signed last year with the Grizzlies are guaranteed, a point that Miller would surely bring up. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jazz would counter with the idea of giving Burks more than the $14MM total that Pondexter is receiving in exchange for a non-guaranteed season. Utah would also be wise to try to frontload the salaries so that the majority of the cost comes while the team still has plenty of cap flexibility.

Lindsey and the Jazz seem willing to commit to their young talent if those players are willing to bet that their market value won’t escalate significantly in the years to come, and while that sort of agreement is elusive, it’s worthwhile for the Jazz to pursue it. Last year’s extension with Favors looks reasonably team-friendly compared to the max offer sheet that Hayward scored in restricted free agency, and surely Lindsey has that dichotomy in mind as he sits at the negotiating table with the agents for Burks and Kanter. It still seems unlikely, based on the history of rookie scale extensions, that the Jazz or any team would strike a deal with a player who doesn’t seem to have superstar potential, but Burks is on an upward arc, and Utah appears eager to keep him from free agency if it’s feasible. Other teams will surely be watching how these negotiations play out to gauge whether they, too, should consider granting rookie scale extensions to a wider range of eligible players.

Western Notes: Nash, Burke, Parsons

October 12 at 8:56pm CDT By Zach Links

With Thunder star Kevin Durant out, we’re about to be treated to the full Russell Westbrook experience, writes Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.  OKC managed to get by without Westbrook at the start of the 2013/14 season – they were 22-8 over the first three and a half months – but it remains to be seen how they’ll do sans KD.  More out of the West..

  • Steve Nash was widely criticized for his admission earlier this year that he wouldn’t retire because he wanted the money left on his contract, but the Lakers guard isn’t interested in making a phony apology, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register.  “It was an inflammatory statement in a way,” Nash said. “But I was being extremely truthful. That’s an important part of the business and we are businessmen. I’m not going to just give that money away.”
  • The early returns are promising on Jazz point guard Trey Burke, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune.  Burke won’t turn 22 until next month, but he’s showing the poise of a much older point guard.
  • Mavs coach Rick Carlisle apologized to Chandler Parsons for publicly criticizing the team’s prized free-agent addition’s weight and conditioning after Friday night’s preseason game. “I have apologized to him and the entire team for this error in judgment. Not only is Chandler Parsons one of our best players, he is also one of our hardest working players and the kind of high character person we strive to bring to our city and franchise,” Carlisle wrote in a statement, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com.

Western Notes: Thompson, Holiday, Jazz

October 11 at 10:32pm CDT By Cray Allred

Klay Thompson tells J.A. Adande of ESPN.com that he’s more interested in securing an extension with the Warriors now than signing a single year contract next summer to prepare for the 2016/17 free agent market, when the league’s new TV deal will kick in and boost player salaries. “It really is tempting to do all that,” said Thompson, who admitted that seeing Paul George‘s shocking injury with Team USA has affected his outlook. “But I’d rather have the security right now, you know?” Adande gets the sense from both Thompson and the Warriors that a deal will get done before the October 31 deadline.  Here’s more from Golden State and the rest of the West:

  • 25-year-old Justin Holiday has faced a tough road to crack an NBA roster, but tells Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle that his experience in international and D-League play has been formative. “I don’t need to go out here and do the jobs of Steph [Curry] and Klay. I understand that,” said Holiday, who hopes to earn one of the two open regular season roster spots with the Warriors. “That’s what a team is about: playing together and using each guy’s strengths in order to win… I want to help and lead on defense. You can’t control your jump shot every night, but you can control your effort on defense all the time.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr spoke highly of Holiday’s ability, telling Simmons, “He’s an unbelievable guy. He’s a great worker, he’s smart and he’s a team guy. Justin belongs in this league.” Kerr has expressed similar non-committal praise for fellow Golden State camp invite Jason Kapono.
  • Veteran Jazz newcomers Trevor Booker and Dahntay Jones tell Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune that Utah’s roster is at an advanced stage for a rebuilding team, having witnessed successful rebuilds in their time with the Wizards and Pacers, respectively.
  • Though the Jazz have waived Dee Bost and Kevin Murphy, they still have interest in adding the pair to their D-League team, Falk notes.

Jazz Waive Kevin Murphy, Dee Bost

October 10 at 2:32pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Jazz have waived swingman Kevin Murphy and point guard Dee Bost, the team announced. The moves mean Utah will be stuck with $130K of dead money on its cap this season unless another team claims one of the players off waivers, since Bost and Murphy had identical $65K partial guarantees on the deals they signed this summer. Their departures leave the Jazz with 17 players on their roster.

Murphy, 24, appeared for five minutes in Tuesday’s preseason opener against the Blazers, scoring four points, but that’s the only action that either has seen in the team’s two exhibition games so far. It was Murphy’s second stint with Utah, which drafted him 47th overall in 2012 and gave him brief regular season playing time in his rookie season before shipping him to the Warriors in a three-team trade during the summer of 2013. Golden State waived him shortly thereafter, and he spent last season playing in France and for the Blazers D-League affiliate.

Bost, who turns 25 on Sunday, also has a Blazers connection, having spent training camp with Portland last autumn. Bost has made stops in Venezuela and Montenegro, and he, like Murphy, spent time last year with Portland’s D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede, who’ve switched their one-to-one affiliation to the Jazz for this season. The Jazz signed both with the idea that they’d end up playing for Idaho again this year, tweets Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, so it seems likely that Utah will retain the D-League rights to the pair.

The Jazz have 13 fully guaranteed contracts, plus two remaining partial guarantees on the books with Toure’ Murry and Jack Cooley. Brock Motum and veteran Dahntay Jones are without guaranteed salary.