Central Notes: Turner, Thomas, Calderon

It’s been eight games since Myles Turner returned to action for the Pacers after suffering a concussion in the team’s season opener. The big man, Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star writes, has been struggling to find his groove ever since.

The third-year center has failed to top the 13-point plateau in each of the past five games and he hasn’t cracked double-digits in rebounds either. Last season, in contrast, the 21-year-old averaged 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for the Pacers, setting the stage for a significant step forward in the first season without Paul George in the lineup.

Sometimes when you miss games, it sets you back and you lose your rhythm,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “He had some shots that he’s very capable of making. I told him, ‘Don’t get down on yourself. Keep shooting the ball. That rhythm will come for you.'”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • It’s coming, but the Cavaliers are still adapting to life without Kyrie Irving, Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer writes. There has been a noticeable hole in Cleveland’s attack at the point, although injuries to Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose have played a large part of that.
  • The Cavaliers will turn to Jose Calderon to fill a gaping hole at the point guard position, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. The 36-year-old has only played 6.7 minutes per game for the Cavs this season.
  • The rehabilitation process inherent with Isaiah Thomas‘ hip injury has helped the player build a unique sense of respect with the Cavaliers franchise. “I’m protecting myself, so, even if they wanted me to hurry back, I’m not going to hurry back, just because I’ve got a long career ahead of me and an important summer as well,” Thomas, a pending free agent, told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “So, I’ve got to make sure I’m 100 percent healthy before I step out on the floor. But these guys have not rushed me one bit. They’ve taken their time with me and I appreciate that. Because most teams, they want you out there, especially if things aren’t going well.

Atlantic Notes: Covington, Siakam, Porzingis

While the common reaction may be to tout Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as example of The Process, Keith Pompey of The Inquirer writes that Robert Covington may be a better example.

Covington, now a coveted (and well-paid) three-and-D specialist, was an unpolished lanky three-point shooter when the Sixers picked him up during the 2014/15 season. It was head coach Brett Brown who challenged him to round out his game.

The Process, Pompey writes, was about developing young players amid all the years of tanking so a completed project like Covington – who now averages 16.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, not to mention 3.7 threes per contest at a .491 clip – is as fine an embodiment as any of the Sixers’ transition.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • With D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin in street clothes, now is Isaiah Whitehead‘s time to earn playing time at the point guard position, Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes. “I think I’ve matured a lot since last year,” Whitehead says of the fluctuations in his role with the Nets. “I don’t think I would have been able to handle that last year. But I’ve matured a lot, knowing it’s for the better. … I think I reacted well to it.
  • Second-year forward Pascal Siakam has made an impact on Raptors games with his relentless energy level, Michael Grange of Sportsnet writes. “He don’t get tired,” teammate DeMar DeRozan says. “I don’t understand it. Y’all should see him before practice. He’s out there doing all types of drills, already sweating and everything. It’s crazy to see.
  • An eclectic offseason training regime can be credited, at least in part, with Kristaps Porzingis emergence as a superstar this season, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. The Knicks big man trained with a professional boxer and went on a safari in South Africa.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/19/17

Here are Sunday’s G League assignment and recalls from around the NBA:

8:30pm:

5:02pm:

  • The Lakers have recalled Ivica Zubac and Josh Hart from South Bay Lakers, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum Sportsnet tweets. In his latest two-game stint with Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, Zubac averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per contest.
  • The Knicks have assigned Damyean Dotson to their G-League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, per the team’s Twitter feed.
  • The Heat have recalled Derrick Walton Jr. from their G-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the team announces via press release. Walton will continue to shuffle back and forth between the two clubs, as he’s on a newly established two-way deal.
  • The Hawks have recalled Nicolas Brussino, Tyler Dorsey, and Miles Plumlee, from the team’s G League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, according to a team press release.

Pacific Notes: Ball, Looney, Cauley-Stein

When Lonzo Ball ignored an on-court scuffle between some of his Lakers teammates and members of the Suns on Friday, the rookie took heat for not stepping into the fray to defend them. As Jordan Greer of the Sporting News writes, however, head coach Luke Walton doesn’t have any issues with how the first-year guard handled the situation.

I don’t really care about how that looks because our guys love Zo,” Walton said. “I think [the rest of the Lakers] all know what that looked like isn’t what Zo is about and isn’t symbolizing what his feelings are on that type of situation. I know the general public and the internet world likes to do what they do.

Fellow Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma went so far as to call out a double standard between Ball and other players in the NBA. “He’s my teammate and he’s very misunderstood as a person,” Kuzma said. “There’s a lot of media out there and people that expect him to be something that he’s not right now and that’s okay because he’s a rookie.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Despite the fact that his team option for next season was declined, Kevon Looney has impressed with the Warriors so far this season, Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. “Obviously, it’s a tough situation to not get your option picked up. But it’s on you to do something about it, and he’s doing something about it. … The success that he’s having, I’m looking forward to him keeping it up. He’s been helping us win games,” teammate Draymond Green said.
  • In addition to learning the NBA game after years of international ball, Kings rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic is learning three positions. Combined, it’s led to a bit of learning curve, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. “The basketball is really different here. A lot of athletes, the size is different as well. Those are all things that come by time, that’s part of the adjustment,” Bogdanovic said.
  • The Kings have experimented with new lineups over the course of the season, one of the latest being to move Willie Cauley-Stein to the bench and giving him an expanded role on offense. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes that even though Cauley-Stein seemed to enjoy the new challenge, the club will likely continue to experiment with different personnel combinations.

And-Ones: NBA Draft, International Play, Oliver

The NBA Draft is seven months away but that doesn’t mean hoops writers can’t weigh in on what Sam Vecenie of The Athletic refers to as a year-round process. The scribe’s initial mock draft does a fine job weighing in on the biggest prospects on the draft radar while digging admirably deep for a comprehensive 60-pick projection.

Expected to fall in the No. 1 slot is the much-hyped Slovenian star, Luka Doncic. The Real Madrid swingman has shown a remarkable feel for the game at a young age and could make an impact for a team like the Bulls, who currently sit most likely to land that top spot come next June.

It’s after the first pick where Vecenie’s mock gets particularly interesting. The writer opts to put Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton in the No. 2 spot, ahead of the likes of Marvin Bagley III and Michael Porter Jr.

With analysis for each of the first 30 projections, the early look at the draft can’t be missed. Especially considering that he has college basketball’s biggest villain, Grayson Allen, falling directly into the laps of the world champion Warriors.

There’s more from around the league:

  • The number of fringe NBA players who opt to sign overseas in international leagues following NBA training camps has dropped precipitously. Jorge Sierre of HoopsHype writes that the trend can be attributed to a depressed European economy and the leaps and bounds that the G League has made over the course of the past 10 years.
  • The fifth edition of FIBA’s 3×3 World Cup will take place June 8-12, the governing body’s official site says. This year the competition will take place in the Philippines.
  • A Rockets training camp invitee has been picked up by the G League affiliate of the Bucks. Chris Reichert of 2 Ways, 10 Days tweets that the Wisconsin Herd have claimed Cameron Oliver off waivers.

David Lee Announces His Retirement

Two-time All-Star David Lee announced on his Instagram page that he has retired from the league.

The Knicks drafted Lee with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2005 draft and he spent five seasons with the franchise. New York dealt him to Golden State via sign-and-trade during the 2010 offseason in order to make room for Amar’e Stoudemire.

Lee started at power forward during his first four seasons as a Warrior. In 2014, he ceded his starting spot to Draymond Green and a year later, he was dealt to the Celtics. He didn’t carve out a meaningful role in Boston and the team found there wasn’t much of a trade market for a traditional low-post four. The Celtics then waived Lee and he spent the rest of the 2015/16 season with the Mavs.

Lee played for the Spurs last season, where he showcased his ability to produce as a role player. He saw 18.7 minutes per game in San Antonio and sported a player efficiency rating of 18.5.

He’ll end his career with a 19.1 player efficiency rating and averages of 13.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Nelson, Irving

The Nuggets were in discussions with the Suns about an Eric Bledsoe trade, but it appears their decision not to offer too much for a new starting point guard is paying dividends. Jamal Murray, who has been Denver’s starting point guard since the beginning of the season, is playing well and the team is encouraged by his development.

“I love the pace he’s playing with,” said coach Michael Malone after a recent game (via Christopher Dempsey of NBA.com). “He’s got to set the pace that we want to play at, he’s got to be aggressive and he’s got to play with confidence. And you’re seeing that a lot more consistently right now. He’s starting to become a consistent starting point guard in the NBA.”

The 2016 No. 7 overall pick spent much of his playing time at shooting guard during his rookie season, but this year, he’s seeing all of his minutes at the one.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Denver had a deal in place to trade Jameer Nelson to a lottery team for a protected second-rounder prior to the season, though the team could “not stomach” sending the 35-year-old to a bad team, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN. The Nuggets ended up waiving Nelson, a move that allowed the vet to pick his own suitor.
  • Malone would have liked to keep Nelson on the team, though he is supportive of the organization’s decision to let the veteran go, Lowe relays in the same piece. “It was tough to see Jameer go,” Malone says. “The players trusted him. I find value in veteran mentors. In our meetings, of course I brought up all the reasons it made sense to keep him. But you have to think big picture. It wasn’t like I was kicking and screaming. By the end, we were all on board.”
  • The Nuggets had exploratory discussions with the Cavs about Kyrie Irving prior to them dealing away the point guard, though talks never got that far, per Lowe (same piece). The scribe notes that Murray, Wilson Chandler, and a lightly-protected first-rounder would have intrigued Cleveland, but Murray was never on the table.

Injury Notes: A. Davis, Thomas, Porzingis, Wall

Earlier today, we passed on the news that Sixers guard Markelle Fultz in making progress with his shoulder ailment. Here are a few more injury notes involving some of the NBA’s top players:

  • Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has cleared the concussion protocol and is probable for Monday’s game, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Davis was diagnosed with a contusion of the orbit bone above his right eye after a collision the third quarter of Friday night’s contest. He was removed from the game and didn’t re-enter.
  • Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas participated in some five-on-zero drills and worked on his shot today in practice, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com (Twitter link).
  • Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has swelling in his elbow caused by bursitis, but says it isn’t the reason for his recent shooting problems, according to Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link). “At the end of last season, it was really swollen; it was really, really big,” he said of the elbow. “But it was never really bothering me. Now this season, kind of fell on it a couple of times. It wasn’t bothering me either. In Sacramento, I fell kind of on the side. It was a new spot. It was much more sensitive. Now I’m doing treatment. Today’s the day I’m almost back to normal. I almost don’t feel it at all anymore.”
  • Wizards guard John Wall will miss today’s game with soreness in his left knee, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.
  • Warriors forward Kevin Durant suffered a sprained ankle last night and will sit out today’s game in Brooklyn, tweets Warriors PR.

Sixers Say Markelle Fultz Is Making Progress

The Sixers announced some positive news on rookie guard Markelle Fultz, saying he is making progress from the ailments that have sidelined him since Oct. 23, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

Team doctors say the soreness in Fultz’s right shoulder is dissipating and his muscle balance is improving. The team plans to re-evaluate him in two to three weeks to determine when he can return to action. That will be based on how his shoulder responds to training and treatment.

The top pick in this year’s draft, Fultz began to develop shoulder problems over the summer. He changed his shooting motion as a result and the results haven’t been pretty. He is shooting 33% from the field and 50% from the line during his first four NBA games.

Weekly Mailbag: 11/13/17 – 11/19/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Will the Bulls trade Nikola Mirotic in January? If so, what’s his value around the league? Personally I like his game, but if he’s not willing to play … Gotta receive something in return. — Hasun Rogers, via Twitter

The question stems from Mirotic’s refusal to forgive teammate Bobby Portis for their training camp skirmish that left Mirotic hospitalized with two broken facial bones. Representatives for Mirotic have told the Bulls he doesn’t want to be part of the team as long as Portis still is, which leaves the organization in an awkward position. Mirotic was expected to miss four to six weeks and it has been 31 days since the incident, so he should be cleared to return soon. Portis is playing well, averaging 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds since returning from a suspension, making him unlikely to be dealt. Executive VP John Paxson made his stance clear this week, telling reporters, “They are adults. This is our workplace. They’re both part of the team. I think it’s pretty simple.” If Mirotic won’t return with Portis still there, it could lead to a standoff with the team and an eventual suspension. He can’t be traded until January 15 because he didn’t re-sign with the Bulls until late September. As far as trade value, keep in mind that Mirotic was on the market all summer without receiving an offer, so Chicago shouldn’t expect much in return.

The Sacramento Kings had good crop of rookies drafted recently, plus veterans Zach Randolph and Vince Carter, but they seem to have regressed vastly this early season. What do you think is wrong with the team? — Greg Dizon
The main problem with the Kings is that they’re in the very early stages of a rebuilding project. It started with last year’s trade of DeMarcus Cousins, and this year’s draft class was the second step. De’Aaron Fox might be a future star, but he’s only 19 and still learning how to play in the NBA. Fellow first-rounder and fellow teenager Harry Giles won’t play until at least January because of his injury history. It will be interesting to see how long Sacramento holds on to Randolph, Carter and George Hill, who were brought in to be mentors to the young talent. Carter has a one-year, $8MM deal, so he should be easy to move to a contender by the deadline. But Randolph is signed for one more season at nearly $11.7MM and Hill will make $19MM next season and a non-guaranteed $18MM in 2019/20, so they might both be with the Kings beyond this year.
Will the Knicks sign LeBron James? — Tyler Eisloeffel, via Twitter
Only LeBron knows what he’s planning for July, and he may need to see how things play out for the rest of the season before deciding. Staying with the Cavaliers and joining the Lakers are the two safest bets, but the Knicks could be a dark horse if they stay in the playoff race and Kristaps Porzingis remains an MVP candidate. New York projects to have about $32MM in cap space, although player options for Enes Kanter, Kyle O’Quinn and Ron Baker could bring that figure down. Let’s say that the Knicks’ chances to land LeBron were zero when Phil Jackson was around, and are a little bit higher now.
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