Washington Wizards Rumors

Southeast Notes: Stephenson, Hawks, Wizards

December 19 at 11:30am CST By Chuck Myron

The Heat are slumping, and they’re without Chris Bosh for the time being, but they’re still holding down a would-be playoff spot as they sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll play host to the division-leading Wizards tonight, and while we wait for that, here’s more from around the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets believe that a groin injury is behind Lance Stephenson‘s decreased production this season, and that’s has helped motivate the team to back off trade talk regarding him, report Ramona Shelburne and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. That’s even though Stephenson has had a negative effect on team chemistry, as sources tell the ESPN scribes.
  • The Hawks have sent Mike Muscala on D-League assignment, the team announced. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution originally reported the news (Twitter link). Muscala spent a two-day stint in the D-League earlier this season, and he’s averaged 4.9 points in 10.0 minutes per game across eight appearances with the big club so far this year.
  • The frequent D-League assignments for Jordan Clarkson help prove the Wizards were wise on draft night when they acquired $1.8MM in cash in a trade that sent out the pick that the Lakers used on him, argues J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. Rasual Butler‘s play since taking the roster spot that otherwise ostensibly would have gone to Clarkson is further evidence, Michael believes.
  • Versatility has been a key asset for Evan Fournier, who’s helping the Magic reap much greater benefit than expected from this summer’s Arron Afflalo trade, which brought Fournier from the Nuggets, as Andrew Perna of RealGM examines.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Wizards, Stephenson

December 15 at 5:40pm CST By Chuck Myron

The two best Eastern Conference teams outside of Canada reside in the Southeast Division, where the Wizards and Hawks are separated by only a game atop the division. Still, there’s turmoil elsewhere in the Southeast, where the Hornets are apparently engaged in trade talks regarding Lance Stephenson and the Heat are suffering from injury woes. Here’s the latest:

  • The Heat are thinking about bringing in another big man with Josh McRoberts sidelined perhaps for the rest of the season, writes Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald.
  • John Wall insisted this past offseason that the Wizards retain coach Randy Wittman, as TNT’s David Aldridge writes in his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Wittman’s job security was reportedly still in limbo until Washington dispatched the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs last season, and the Wizards signed him to an extension in June.
  • Miami has recalled Shabazz Napier and Hassan Whiteside from the D-League, the team announced. The team sent them down to Sioux Falls on Saturday in advance of the Skyforce’s game that day. Napier scored 22 points and Whiteside put up 21 points and 12 rebounds in a win for the Heat‘s affiliate.
  • The Hornets are finding out that Stephenson is more attractive from a distance than he is as a day-to-day presence on the team, as Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star believes.

Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors In Hunt For Ray Allen

December 13 at 8:18pm CST By Chuck Myron

8:18pm: Doc Rivers said the Clippers are also interested in Allen, tweets Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. Los Angeles had expressed an interest in Allen over the summer, but Rivers said in October that Allen wasn’t a candidate to join the team.

SATURDAY, 3:28pm: Allen’s agent, Jim Tanner, confirmed that their is a wide range of interest in his client around the league, Shams Charania of RealGM reports. In addition to the previously mentioned teams, the Grizzlies have also expressed interest in the veteran free agent, Charania notes.

4:00pm: Warriors GM Bob Myers told 95.7 The Game today that Golden State did reach out to Allen’s representatives, but Allen isn’t sure about what he wants to do, Diamond Leung of The Bay Area News Group tweets.

THURSDAY, 9:01am: Ray Allen‘s name has drawn mention as the Warriors have engaged in internal discussions about their roster, according to Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group (Twitter link). The Warriors have been evaluating their options regarding their backcourt, Kawakami also tweets, though it’s unclear if they’re looking at bringing in someone new or just thinking about giving more minutes to players who are already on their roster. Golden State is a league-best 19-2, so it doesn’t seem there’d be much of a rush to make changes, though the Warriors’ position as a legitimate title threat no doubt gives them a leg up with sought-after free agents.

The 39-year-old Allen has lingered on the free agent market since July as he’s mulled whether to play again or retire. The Cavs, Wizards, Bulls and Spurs were among seven teams that still reportedly had interest in signing Allen as of late last month. Multiple reports from the past few weeks have cast the Cavs as the favorites to land the league’s all-time leading three-point maker should he decide to return to the NBA, echoing similar reports since the summer and an apparent belief that Cleveland’s front office had maintained into the fall. Still, Allen and agent Jim Tanner have shot down several rumors and have consistently maintained that Allen has yet to make up his mind. A report last week indicated that Allen has let teams know that he’ll entertain offers in January and decide about his future in February.

Allen said this summer that he wanted to play for an experienced coach, and while he didn’t rule out playing for the minimum salary, he made it clear that he’s not keen on the idea. That would appear to put the Warriors at a disadvantage should they pursue him, since Steve Kerr is in his first season as a head coach and Golden State is limited to the minimum salary. Kerr is nonetheless the first rookie coach in NBA history to win 19 out of his first 21 games. The Warriors are also one of the few teams in the NBA with an open roster spotLeandro Barbosa and Justin Holiday are on partially guaranteed deals that are de facto non-guaranteed arrangements, since both have earned in excess of the amount of their partial guarantees. Holiday has seen little playing time this season, and Barbosa, who’s averaged 13.6 minutes per game this year, didn’t see action in the second half Wednesday, Kawakami notes (on Twitter).

Southeast Notes: Stephenson, Wall, Butler

December 13 at 8:01pm CST By Arthur Hill

If the Hornets decide to move Lance Stephenson before February’s trade deadline, Yannis Koutroupis of Basketball Insiders sees a handful of teams that could be interested. Stephenson left the Pacers for Charlotte in the offseason, signing a deal that pays him $9MM each of the first two seasons, with a $9.4MM team option for 2016/17. However, the Hornets have stumbled to a 6-16 start, fueliing speculation that Stephenson might be moved. Koutroupis speculated that the Nets, Mavericks, Hawks, Nuggets and perhaps the Spurs would be
potential fits for the shooting guard.

There’s more news from the Southeast Division:

  • John Wall wasn’t convinced that he had earned a maximum extension before the 2013/14 season, reports J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. Luckily for him, the Wizards had no doubt. “I was still in shock,” he said. “I thought I was still the player that hadn’t developed, hadn’t proved anything.” The Wizards’ belief in Wall paid off as he became an All-Star last season and led Washington to the playoffs. The first pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Wall is making nearly $15MM this year and is under contract through the 2018/19 season.
  • Wizards teammate Rasual Butler is making the most of his second chance in the NBA, writes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Unable to find an NBA job in 2012/13, Butler spent the season in the D-League, then played limited minutes last year in Indiana. But at age 35, he has become a valuable part of Washington’s rotation, ranking third in the league in three-point shooting percentage. “I was able to learn a lot about myself during that time,” Butler said. “I knew I had something more to give to this game. . . . I kept going to work out, wanting to have another opportunity, but also telling myself that when the opportunity would come, I would be prepared for it.”
  • New Hawks diversity and inclusion officer Nzinga Shaw told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today that she hopes to establish a diversity and inclusion counsel made up of team employees and community members. Shaw, who had been with the Edelman PR agency, was formally hired by Atlanta this week. The Hawks were embarrassed this summer when a racially insensitive e-mail from co-owner Bruce Levenson and racially tinged comments by general manager Danny Ferry about free agent Luol Deng were made public.

Eastern Notes: Davies, Weems, Rondo

December 11 at 10:10pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Sixers coach Brett Brown isn’t happy that Brandon Davies was traded to the Nets, Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com reports. Brown will miss Davies because of the player-coach relationship the two had, which helped ease the sting of enduring the Sixers’ escalating loss totals, Lynam adds. “When you start losing people that you are very fond of and have tremendous respect for … there is a human side of it that bothers me because you are trying to grow chemistry, you are trying to grow a culture,” Brown said. “That takes a hit when teammates lose teammates. There is a respect, effort-wise, of how they go about their business. There is a reality to our job that is just business in the NBA, but it doesn’t mean it has to feel right.”

Here’s more from the East:

  • Sonny Weems turned down multiple offers from NBA teams this past offseason, including a fully guaranteed deal from the Hawks, as he tells David Pick, writing for Basketball Insiders. Weems instead remains overseas on a long-term deal with CSKA Moscow that will pay him $10MM over the course of the contract, according to Pick. Money, contract length and timing were some of the stumbling blocks that kept Weems out of the NBA, Pick writes, adding that Weems is widely accepted as the best small forward not in the NBA.
  • Rajon Rondo has been receiving his fair share of criticism for the Celtics‘ struggles this season, and he’s been benched late in games recently, but it is something he has downplayed, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com writes. “I’ve been playing here for nine years, I’m one of the best at what I do, and I’m human,” Rondo said. “I make mistakes. I own up to my mistakes and that’s just part of the game. It’s not weighing on me at all. It’s a team effort. I am the captain, but there are 15 guys on this team and we’re all in this together.”
  • Prior to leaving Washington, current Clippers assistant Sam Cassell played a major role in helping the Wizards land Paul Pierce this past summer, Michael Lee of The Washington Post writes. “I talked to him [Pierce], told him how well he’ll do with them two guys John Wall and Bradley Beal] and he viewed it and made his decision,” Cassell said. “He took it seriously. He looked at the roster that we had and he realized it was a pretty good roster. He saw where he could fit in and do well at. Why wouldn’t he come and be a part of the Wizards?

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Eastern Notes: Stephenson, Knicks, Butler

December 4 at 8:57pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Hornets are one of the league’s more prominent early season disappointments after their success last season. The team’s biggest offseason acquisition, Lance Stephenson, hasn’t produced as expected, and he is still trying to learn Charlotte’s system and fit in with his new teammates, Steve Reed of The Associated Press writes. Head coach Steve Clifford said he’s not down on Stephenson, and he said expectations for him coming into organization might have been too high, notes Reed. “To be fair, one of the things that’s made it more difficult for him is that he came here and people proclaimed him as the next superstar,” Clifford said. “He’s not a star. He’s a guy that has talent to become a star. To be a star in this league, you have to do it over years.”

Here’s the latest from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Knicks aren’t seeing much from the Tyson Chandler trade, and with the confidence from Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace and teammate Zach Randolph that free agent target Marc Gasol will stay in Memphis, times are tough in New York, opines Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
  • Marcus Smart‘s assignment to the D-League by the Celtics today is to get him some reps since the rookie hasn’t gone through a full practice with scrimmaging since suffering a left ankle injury on November 7th, Jay King of MassLive.com notes. “I didn’t think he looked ready,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “Nothing to do [with] physically; he hasn’t practiced. I felt like it would be better to go with Phil Pressey and Gerald Wallace. They would give us the same things that Marcus gave us and they’ve been traveling with the team and everything else. It’s kind of tough to just throw him in there. I hadn’t even seen him until we got to the gym today.
  • The WizardsRasual Butler is the perfect example of how hard work can lead to success for a journeyman player, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. Butler was asked why he kept working out for over a year when no NBA teams came calling, to which he responded, “Because I wanted to play basketball. It’s very easy. It’s a simple answer. If you’re serious about doing what you love to do, then you’re going to do whatever it takes for you to continue to do what you love to do. Some people say they love to play the game. If you love to play the game, you’ve got to go through the steps. You can’t give up on your story.” Butler is a key reserve for Washington, and is third in the league in three-point shooting percentage at a blistering 56.4%, notes Zillgitt

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Southeast Notes: Stephenson, Jordan, Hawks

December 3 at 4:40pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The HornetsLance Stephenson has made an issue about not getting the ball at the end of games, to which head coach Steve Clifford has responded, “To be truthful, Lance has never been a closer. That would be a new role for him,” Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) writes. Clifford went on to say that Stephenson is “not a star,” something that Charlotte has discovered rather quickly after signing him to a three-year, $27MM contract this past summer, notes Haberstroh. But Stevenson also isn’t being paid like a star player, and can come off of the Hornets’ books in 2016 when Charlotte can decline his team option for $9.4MM, unless he is dealt prior to then, Haberstroh adds.

Here’s the latest out of the Southeast Division:

  • Michael Jordan is finding his role as the team owner of the Hornets a humbling experience, especially this season with the team underachieving mightily thus far, Michael Wallace of ESPN.com writes. Jordan does believe that he has grown as an executive since his time with the Wizards, notes Wallace. “I’ve always considered myself a very successful owner that tries to make sound decisions,” Jordan said. “And when you make bad decisions, you learn from that and move forward. I think I’m better in that sense. I’ve experienced all of the different valleys and lows of ownership and successful business. If that constitutes me being a better owner, then I guess I am.”
  • The HawksAl Horford and Paul Millsap are still trying to develop their on-court chemistry despite this being their second season together on Atlanta’s roster, Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. This is thanks to Horford only logging 29 games last season before a torn pectoral muscle ended his 2013/14 campaign, Vivlamore adds.
  • With LeBron James gone and the added title expectations removed along with him, the Heat‘s season thus far feels far more “normal” to Dwyane Wade, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. Miami is also waiting for all its injured players to return to see just what kind of team it actually possesses prior to making any new roster moves, notes Zillgitt.

Eastern Notes: Realignment, Love, Butler, Pistons

December 2 at 3:00pm CST By Chuck Myron

The Pacers, for all their woes, would make the playoffs if they began today, as Eastern Conference teams enjoy a much easier path to the postseason, but Mavs owner Mark Cuban isn’t the only one around the league pushing to change that. Discussion about realignment is just in “some infant stage” as it circulates among the NBA’s power brokers, Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes, but commissioner Adam Silver says the league is closely studying the issue. Suns owner Robert Sarver and Thunder brass are among those who’ve advocated the idea of simply taking the 16 best teams for the playoffs, Lowe reports. Those teams would stand to benefit from such a structure this year, and there’s concern around the league that self-interest will drive the debate, as Lowe also notes. While we wait to see whether momentum gathers for change, here’s the latest from the weaker conference:

  • Kevin Love indicated his desire to remain in Cleveland for the long term shortly after the trade that brought him to the Cavs, and he reiterated his intention to do so in a radio appearance with Chris Mannix of SI.com and NBC Sports Radio, as “The Chris Mannix Show” Twitter account relays. Love can opt out of his contract at season’s end, but last month he batted down a rumor that he had interest in signing with the Lakers this coming summer.
  • Rasual Butler has proven quite a find for the Wizards after having made the team out of camp on a non-guaranteed deal for the minimum salary, as Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post examines after Butler’s game-high 23 points in Monday’s win against the Heat.
  • Stan Van Gundy‘s failure to offload either Greg Monroe or Josh Smith in the summer stunted his ability to affect real changes for the Pistons, who are stuck between full-on rebuilding and trying to win now, opines Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News.

Eastern Notes: Whiteside, Beal, Butler, Cavs

November 25 at 10:08pm CST By Eddie Scarito

League executives are confident that Bradley Beal will command a max extension from the Wizards, RealGM’s Shams Charania hears. Washington has made it known around the league that it intends to do whatever’s necessary to secure the shooting guard for the long term, Charania adds, echoing a report from last month indicating that the Wizards were already planning to ink Beal to an extension when he’s eligible for one in the offseason ahead.

Here’s more from the east:

  • The Heat see new signee Hassan Whiteside as a prospect they can develop for the long term, coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The center had worked out two times in three years for the team, including an audition last week, as Jackson writes in a separate piece.
  • Whiteside’s free agent deal with the Heat is for two years, and includes partial guarantees for each season, Charania reports (Twitter link). It’s presumably a minimum salary arrangement, since the Heat are limited to giving out no more than that.
  • The Bulls and Jimmy Butler failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension, setting him up to become a restricted free agent next summer. But Butler isn’t letting his contract situation distract him and is continuing to work hard, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com writes in his profile of the swingman. “I feel like I’ve never been the best player,” Butler said. “I’ve never been highly recruited, so I’ve always had all the chips stacked up against me and I’ve always found a way to make things happen. [The contract talk] is just another obstacle, another hurdle. But I think I’m in the right direction and if I keep my eye on the prize I think I’ll end up successful.”
  • Not all “superteams” are created equal, and it takes great sacrifices to make a combination of superstar players work, something the Cavs are finding out the hard way, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report writes. “I tell people all the time that it’s easy to say the word sacrifice,” veteran swingman Mike Miller said. “But to sacrifice, whether it’s playing time, shots, things like that, without knowing the outcome, it’s scary. And that’s what you’re asking players to do here in Cleveland again. You got young, talented players that are asked to sacrifice without knowing what the outcome could be. If you don’t win a championship, is it worth it?

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Al Harrington Leaves China Amid NBA Interest

November 25 at 9:21am CST By Chuck Myron

China’s Fujian Sturgeons have signed DJ White to replace Al Harrington, who has opted out of his contract, the team announced (translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Harrington left the team to pursue “immediate NBA offers,” according to David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link), and the GM of the Sturgeons acknowledged that the NBA was a possibility for Harrington as he spoke to reporters, Carchia writes. Still, it’s unclear which NBA teams have interest in the 34-year-old power forward. Many former NBA players who sign to play in China are bound to their respective clubs for the abbreviated Chinese season, but the deal that Harrington inked in August contained an out clause, according to Evan Wang of Hupu.com (Twitter link). The terms of the deal for White aren’t immediately clear.

Harrington was in fine form in the early going this season for Fujian, averaging 32.8 points and 10.8 rebounds with 37.5% three-point shooting in 38.7 minutes per game. The 16-year NBA veteran said in August that he had drawn interest from some non-contending NBA teams but that he hoped to re-sign with the Wizards, the team he played for last season, when he returned from China. The Wizards have a full 15-man roster, but they have Glen Rice Jr. on a partially guaranteed deal, and Rasual Butler‘s contract is non-guaranteed. Nene, who plays Harrington’s position, is dealing with plantar fasciitis in right foot, as Todd Dybas of The Washington Times notes, though the team doesn’t expect the injury to keep him out for long. Harrington struggled to find playing time last year with the Wizards after spending most of 2012/13 recovering from the effects of a staph infection that he contracted while undergoing knee surgery in April 2012. The Dan Fegan client was a key cog for the Nuggets prior to the operation, averaging 14.2 PPG and 6.1 RPG in 27.5 MPG during the 2011/12 season.

White, whose one-month deal with Spain’s Laboral Kuxta expired a few weeks ago, had reportedly been looking for a chance to latch on with an NBA team, but he’ll instead return to China, where he spent much of the previous two seasons. He’s been able to parlay his Chinese stints into NBA work both years, joining the Celtics at the end of the 2012/13 season and the Hornets (then Bobcats) last spring.