Injury/Illness Updates: Herro, Pritchard, Wall, Wood, Porter Jr.

Heat guard Tyler Herro returned to Miami on Friday for the remainder of the team’s four-game trip, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. Herro seemed ready to return to action after practicing on Thursday but woke up Friday with more neck soreness. He has missed four consecutive games and will also be absent from Miami’s two-game set in Brooklyn against the Nets on Saturday and Monday.

We have more injury updates:

  • Celtics rookie guard Payton Pritchard suffered a right knee sprain against the Sixers on Friday and did not return, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Pritchard was injured during a “friendly fire” incident when Jaylen Brown fell on his leg. Coach Brad Stevens said afterward that Pritchard would undergo testing in the next day or two.
  • The Rockets are hopeful that John Wall and Christian Wood will be back in uniform on Tuesday for the team’s home game against Washington, Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire relays. Wall missed his fifth straight game on Friday due to knee soreness, while Wood didn’t make the trip to Detroit due to an ankle sprain.
  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. returned to action on Friday after a 10-game absence, according to ESPN’s news feed. Porter had been sidelined due to the league’s healthy and safety protocols.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Atlantic Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Atlantic Division:

Chris Boucher, Raptors, 28, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $13.5MM deal in 2020

Boucher has a non-guaranteed $7MM salary for next season. The Raptors will have to decide in August whether to retain him. Right now, that decision is a no-brainer. Boucher has been one of the league’s top reserves, averaging 15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG in 23.8 MPG through 14 games. He ranks third in the league in blocks (2.4) despite his second-unit status. He’s even developed a 3-point shot (48.1%). It will difficult for Boucher to sustain this pace but he’s doing more than enough to convince the front office to prevent him from entering free agency.

Dennis Smith Jr., Knicks, 23, PG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $17.2MM deal in 2017

New coach Tom Thibodeau chatted up Smith during training camp, saying “he’s gotten better and better.” That talk quickly died down. Smith has been a non-factor this season, in part because of a quad injury. There’s doesn’t seem to be any path to playing time with Immanuel Quickley establishing himself as one of the league’s top rookies. It’s been a steady decline for Smith, who started 69 games in his rookie year with Dallas and averaged 15.2 PPG. New York would have to extend a qualifying offer of $7.7MM to retain him. That’s not happening.

Furkan Korkmaz, Sixers, 23, SF/SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.4MM deal in 2019

An unrestricted free agent after the season, Korkmaz was sidelined by an adductor strain late last month. He just returned to action on Wednesday, scoring seven points in 20 minutes against the Celtics. He made just two of nine field-goal attempts on Friday. As a second-unit player, Korkmaz must reestablish himself as a steady 3-point threat to hold onto his rotation spot under new coach Doc Rivers. He made 40.2% of his shots beyond the arc last season when his role expanded. He needs to get back into a 3-point rhythm quickly or risk becoming a spectator the second half of the season.

Daniel Theis, Celtics, 28, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2019

Theis became increasingly important to the club last season, when he started 64 regular-season games and all 17 of its postseason contests in Orlando. His ability to guard pick-and-rolls and switch make him a key component in their defense. He’ll likely come off the bench with Kemba Walker back in action and Brad Stevens going with a smaller lineup. That didn’t faze Theis on Wednesday, as he racked up 23 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes against Philadelphia. Theis shouldn’t have any trouble getting a healthy raise in free agency this summer.

Community Shootaround: Nets’ Conference Rivals

Earlier this week, we noted that the Nets are now a strong favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals.

The addition of James Harden gives the Nets an imposing superstar trio. But there are still a number of teams in the East who are built for a deep playoff run.

The Celtics, led by the trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, certainly have high expectations. They were one step away from the Finals last season with Walker playing on a bad knee.

The Sixers still boast the combination of Joel Embiid – arguably the most dominant big man in the game when he’s focused and healthy – and Ben Simmons. With Doc Rivers as coach and Daryl Morey heading the front office, there’s a Finals or bust mentality in Philadelphia. Morey made a hard push to acquire Harden and he’ll certainly be looking to do something splashy before the trade deadline.

Milwaukee is eager to make up for its early postseason exit and has the best player in the conference, if not the league, in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time reigning MVP still has to improve his perimeter and 3-point shooting but the addition of Jrue Holiday, albeit at a heavy price, has upgraded the Bucks’ backcourt.

Don’t count out the reigning conference champ. While the Heat have gotten off to a slow start, it can easily be attributed to injuries and COVID-19 issues. They have pretty much the same cast of characters that out-toughed and grinded their way to postseason success in Orlando.

It’s not out of the question that teams like the Pacers, Raptors or even the young Hawks could catch fire and do some postseason damage.

That leads us to our topic of the day: Which Eastern Conference team poses the biggest threat to the Nets?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Sixers Sign Rayjon Tucker To Two-Way Deal

6:14pm: The signing is official, according to a team press release.


2:05pm: The Sixers intend to sign free agent wing Rayjon Tucker to a two-way contract, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). According to Charania, Philadelphia will then send Tucker to play in the G League’s Disney World bubble for its NBAGL affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.

Tucker, 23, spent most of his rookie season in 2019/20 with the Jazz, appearing in 20 games for the club. He also put up big numbers in the G League for the Wisconsin Herd and the Salt Lake City Stars, averaging 23.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 2.5 APG in 19 NBAGL games (33.4 MPG).

Tucker was traded from Utah to Cleveland in a salary-dump deal in the offseason and was subsequently waived. He quickly caught on with the Clippers for training camp, but didn’t crack the team’s regular season roster and was released again a few days before opening night.

The 76ers had an open two-way slot after cutting Dakota Mathias earlier this week, so no corresponding roster move will be required to make room for Tucker. He’ll join Paul Reed as Philadelphia’s two-way players.

New York Notes: McGee, Noel, Toppin, G League, Nets’ D

The Nets were granted on Friday a Disabled Player worth approximately $5.727MM due to Spencer Dinwiddie‘s season-ending injury. HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan takes a look at some of the frontcourt players Brooklyn could pursue in a trade that would fit the salary slot. JaVale McGee, Nerlens Noel, Ed Davis and Bismack Biyombo are among those options for the Nets, who could use another veteran in the middle.

We have more on the teams in New York City:

  • The Knicks had concerns about Tyrese Haliburton‘s slender build when they passed on the point guard in favor of Obi Toppin during the draft lottery, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Haliburton has made an immediate impact with the Kings, who selected him with the No. 12 pick. Toppin, the eighth overall selection, has played an average of 12 MPG the last four games after recovering from a calf injury.
  • The Knicks unveiled their G League roster for the Orlando “bubble” season, which is slated to begin next month. According to a team press release, forwards Louis King and Skal Labissiere and guards Myles Powell and James Young have been named affiliate players. Affiliate players remain free agents available for any of the 30 NBA teams to sign.
  • The Nets know they can’t rely on the offensive prowess of their Big Three to make the Finals, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. After giving up 147 points to the Cavaliers in a double-overtime loss, they must focus on defensive improvement. “We feel positive in that we can improve defensively; but it’s definitely got to be a priority,” coach Steve Nash said.

Solomon Hill Receives Salary Guarantee From Hawks

The Hawks are guaranteeing Solomon Hill‘s $2.17MM salary for the remainder of the season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Atlanta had until February 24th to decide whether to make the guarantee but opted to give the veteran forward peace of mind for his steady contributions. Hill has appeared in all 14 games for the injury-riddled Hawks, averaging 5.0 PPG and 2.9 RPG in 20.1 MPG.

The Hawks are Hill’s fifth team since he entered the league during the 2013/14 season. He played for Miami and Memphis last season.

The Hawks signed Hill on a one-year veteran’s minimum deal to add a veteran presence and defensive-minded wing to their mix. Hill was the only members of the 15-man Atlanta roster who was playing on a non-guaranteed deal.

Rockets Notes: Harden Trade, Wall, House, Wood

The idea that Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told general manager Rafael Stone not to trade James Harden to the Sixers – whose front office is led by former Rockets GM Daryl Morey – is incorrect, reports Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Fertitta stays out of trade discussions, according to Feigen, who says that Stone and Morey had “extensive” discussions. In fact, talks on Harden advanced to the point where Stone made one final demand of the Sixers in the final stage of negotiations and would have traded the former MVP to Philadelphia if Morey had agreed.

As Feigen explains, Stone wanted one more draft pick or player – believed to be Tyrese Maxey – and less protection on the draft picks included in the Sixers’ offer. Philadelphia was unwilling to meet those demands, so Houston made a deal with Brooklyn. Morey has since told confidants that he thinks his former lieutenant Stone made a great trade, according to Feigen.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • While some reports have suggested that Harden favored Tyronn Lue for the Rockets’ head coaching job over Stephen Silas, the team actually didn’t know which coaching candidate Harden liked best, Feigen writes in the same story. While Russell Westbrook preferred Lue, Harden never expressed a strong preference, which may have been due to his simmering desire to be traded. Westbrook and Harden both ultimately signed off on the hiring of Silas, Feigen notes.
  • Rockets point guard John Wall isn’t accompanying the team on its road trip this weekend due to a sore knee and isn’t expected back in the lineup until at least Tuesday, according to Feigen. Danuel House (health and safety protocols) also won’t play until Tuesday at the earliest, while Christian Wood (ankle) will miss at least Friday’s game in Detroit.
  • Injuries, absences related to COVID-19, and the Harden trade had the Rockets playing rotational roulette during the first month of this season, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, who suggests the club will ideally be able to get a better read on its roster in the coming weeks.

Michael Porter Jr. Returns To Nuggets, Will Play Friday

JANUARY 22: Porter will be active and will play against Phoenix on Friday night, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).


JANUARY 21: Michael Porter Jr., who hasn’t played in a game since December 29 due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, has reported back to the Nuggets and will be listed as questionable for Friday’s game against Phoenix, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Porter was originally held out for seven days for contact tracing purposes, then tested positive for the coronavirus, extending his quarantine period by another two weeks.

The young forward will have to ramp up his conditioning and complete additional testing – including a cardio exam – before he’s formally cleared to return to the Nuggets’ lineup (Twitter links via Singer and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN).

While it’s not clear if Porter will be game-ready by tomorrow, head coach Michael Malone said today that he’s optimistic the 22-year-old will be able to play at some point during Denver’s five-game road trip, which begins on Friday in Phoenix and runs through next Friday (January 29) in San Antonio.

Malone stated earlier this week that Porter’s spot in the starting lineup is safe, though he referred to Will Barton today as “a starter,” noting that he feels the Nuggets have more than five starter-caliber players, tweets Singer. As such, it remains to be seen whether MPJ will immediately supplant Barton as the team’s starting small forward or if he’ll be gradually eased back into that role.

Nets Granted Disabled Player Exception

The Nets have been granted a disabled player exception following the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Dinwiddie underwent ACL reconstruction surgery after suffering a partially torn ACL early in the season.

A cap exception designed to give teams extra flexibility when a player suffers a season-ending injury, the disabled player exception can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade. The Nets’ new DPE has a value of $5,727,024 – half of Dinwiddie’s $11,454,048 salary for 2020/21 – so any player signed or acquired with the exception can’t be earning more than that amount (plus $100K).

The exception can only be used on a single player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract.

[RELATED: 2020/21 NBA Disabled Player Exceptions]

While the DPE doesn’t create an extra roster spot for a team, that’s not an issue for the Nets, who currently have three openings on their 15-man roster. Norvel Pelle will reportedly fill one of the three, but that still leaves two available.

Since the Nets also still have the full taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.718MM) on hand, the DPE may end up being more useful on the trade market. Brooklyn will have until April 19 to use it.

Cavs Trade Kevin Porter Jr. To Rockets

JANUARY 22: The trade is now official, according to press releases from the Rockets and Cavaliers. Houston confirmed in its announcement that Clemons has been released to make room for Porter.

“After careful and thoughtful evaluation, we made the very difficult and collective decision to make this trade,” Cavs GM Koby Altman said in a statement. “Given the culture and environment we have worked to cultivate here in Cleveland, we feel this move is in everyone’s best interest. Kevin has a bright career ahead of him as a professional basketball player and, at his core, is a good person.”


JANUARY 21: The Cavaliers are sending second-year swingman Kevin Porter Jr. to the Rockets, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter).

In exchange, the Cavs will receive a future protected second-round draft pick from Houston, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter). Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets that the pick is top-55 protected and will most likely never actually be conveyed to Cleveland.

As Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com notes, the primary benefit of the deal for the Cavs is to open up a roster spot and to move off Porter’s guaranteed rookie-scale salary for this season ($1.72MM) and 2021/22 ($1.78MM). Since Houston can absorb Porter’s salary into a traded player exception, Cleveland won’t have to take a player back in the deal.

After throwing a locker room tantrum on January 15 when he discovered his locker had been relocated, Porter was instructed by the Cavaliers to clean out his locker and expect to be waived or traded.

Porter, who initially dropped in the 2019 draft due to off-court concerns, has had a tough second season. In November, he was arrested on charges of mishandling a firearm (a felony), plus driving without a license and marijuana possession (both misdemeanors). Last month, a grand jury cleared Porter of all charges.

Porter has not suited up for the Cavaliers at all this season. During a solid rookie outing, however, the No. 30 2019 draft pick out of USC impressed with averages of 10.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.2 APG and 0.9 SPG across 50 contests.

The Rockets, now in asset-accrual mode after sending perennial MVP candidate James Harden to the Nets in a four-team trade last week, are taking a flyer on a talented player in this deal. The hope, according to Fedor and MacMahon (Twitter link), is that veteran player development coach John Lucas can help Porter get his career back in track in Houston.

In order to open up a roster for Porter, the Rockets will waive injured guard Chris Clemons, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Clemons’ minimum salary for 2020/21 was initially non-guaranteed, but Houston will be obligated to pay it in full after he suffered a season-ending Achilles tear. The Rockets are in better position to eat that money following the Harden deal — team salary is now comfortably below the luxury tax line rather than above it, and the club is no longer right up against its hard cap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this story.