Atlantic Notes: McBride, Flynn, Claxton, Nets

Second-year Knicks guard Miles McBride is hoping that his solid defense will earn him regular rotation minutes, writes Steve Popper of Newsday.

Popper notes that McBride is trying to make an instant impact to prove his mettle as a contributor, seizing upon every preseason opportunity to showcase his abilities on the defensive end of the floor. To wit, he logged six steals in under 23 minutes during New York’s first preseason game Tuesday.

“I always want to bring a defensive presence first,” McBride said. “I feel like that gets my offense going… Thibs controls the minutes… And I’m obviously going to do anything I can to get on the floor and make a great impression.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Third-year Raptors reserve point guard Malachi Flynn had a “procedure” to repair a left cheekbone fracture he incurred during a weekend preseason game, reports Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Grange adds that Flynn should be back with Toronto ahead of the team’s regular season opener, albeit while donning a face shield.
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash asserts that newly re-signed Brooklyn center Nic Claxton has evolved in the way he develops his game, writes Ethan Sears of The New York Post“His attention to detail, his consistency, I think you see the benefits,” Nash observed. “It feels like he can play longer stretches at high intensity. He’s a little stronger, more physical in traffic. We’re just gonna keep growing his understanding of the game and situational awareness.”
  • Following an isolation-heavy few years with All-Stars Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant at the helm, the Nets are now focusing on a more pass-happy approach to their offense, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post“You look at some of our possessions last year, it was a lot of one-on-one,” Irving said. “You guys [reporters] talked about it often and we were well aware of it that that offense when the ball sticks it’s just not the greatest brand of basketball you can play.”

International Notes: Caboclo, Silas, Hezonja, Embiid

Free agent power forward Bruno Caboclo, most recently with the Celtics, has signed with the NBA G League’s Mexico City Capitanes, a source informs Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The 27-year-old was initially drafted with the No. 20 pick in the 2014 draft by the Raptors. From 2014-2021, the 6’9″ big man split his time between the Raptors, Kings, Grizzlies, and Rockets, plus their respective G League teams. He joined Brazilian team São Paulo FC for the 2021/22 season. Following a 2022 Summer League stint with the Jazz, he joined the Celtics on a training camp deal, before being released late last month.

Caboclo was always a tantalizing athlete, thanks in part to his raw athleticism and 7’7″ wingspan. He failed to make an impact at the NBA level. Across 105 games, Caboclo holds averages of 4.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.7 APG and 0.6 BPG in 12.3 MPG.

There’s more basketball news from beyond the NBA:

  • Former NBA pro and, more recently, G League assistant coach Xavier Silas will make his debut as a head coach for Puerto Rican club the Guaynabo Mets, writes Spencer Davies of Basketball News. “It’s a team that has had a really good history,” Silas told Davies. “They went to the championship not last year, but the year before, so they have a really nice base and foundation of what they’re trying to do. The owners [Marc Grossman and Mark Linder], everybody has been super nice and helpful with everything, so I think it’s gonna be a good situation.” In the NBAGL, Silas has enjoyed stints with the Delaware Blue Coats and the Motor City Cruise.
  • 2015 lottery pick Mario Hezonja hasn’t closed the door on an NBA comeback, although for now he is enjoying his time with Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid, per Alex Madrid of Eurohoops. “I have a lot of things to do in Europe and well, in the future, if something happens we’ll see,” Hezonja said. “But really, I want to be here as long as I can, I want to earn a lot and I am happy.” After being selected with the fifth pick in 2015 by the Magic, Hezonja spent five seasons in the NBA, splitting his time between Orlando, the Knicks and the Trail Blazers, before returning overseas, where he has since suited up for clubs in Greece, Russia, and now Spain again. Prior to his NBA years, the 6’8″ forward played in Barcelona from 2012-2015.
  • Cameroon-born Sixers All-NBA center Joel Embiid can suit up for either France or the U.S. in the 2024 Paris Olympics, as he possesses citizenship in both nations. French national team coach Vincent Collet told Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press that he hoped the seven-foot big man would choose his club. All-NBA Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert currently mans the middle for the French national team. “Now he has both nationalities, and he has to choose one basketball nationality, which is not the same,” Collet said. “So, that is a choice. Nobody can do anything to change it.”

Bulls Notes: Dosunmu, White, Jones

Second-year Bulls point guard Ayo Dosunmu could be the team’s starter at the position, at least until the return of a surgically-repaired Lonzo Ball later in the season, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Though Alex Caruso, the stronger defensive player, will most likely take over ball-handling duties to close out games, his aggressive approach on defense (he was whistled for five fouls in a preseason game Tuesday) may compel head coach Billy Donovan to ensure he remains available to close out games, and make that the priority.

Caruso has taken Dosunmu under his wing, imparting sage advice on the younger player. “He’s a helluva player so there’s not too much you have to tell him about his game to get him going,” Caruso said. “Just make sure he stays motivated and ready.”

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • An MRI on the knee of Bulls reserve guard Coby White did not indicate any long-term damage, and he is set to suit up for Chicago’s next preseason contest Friday, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. The Bulls will face off against the Denver Nuggets for their second game of the 2022 preseason.
  • Backup Bulls forward Derrick Jones Jr. expressed his enthusiasm to return to Chicago as a free agent this summer, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago“Once me and Coach [Billy Donovan] had a conversation on the phone, it was a no-brainer,” Jones said. “I felt like we left a lot on the table last year and I wanted to come back and see if we could have another run at it… [Donovan] told me just to be me, be physical in the paint, get downhill as much as I can, take the shots that I get and just be aggressive.” Johnson notes that Chicago opted to bring Jones back after ‘tweener forward Danilo Gallinari agreed to a deal with the Celtics and the Bulls were unable to add oft-injured veteran forward T.J. Warren, who joined the Nets on a veteran’s minimum contract.

Warriors GM “Doesn’t Think” Draymond Green Will Be Suspended

Warriors general manager Bob Myers “doesn’t think” Draymond Green will be suspended by the team for punching Jordan Poole during Wednesday’s practice, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Myers said Green apologized to the team on Thursday morning and his punishment will be handled internally (Twitter link via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic).

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, Green was likely penalized for “conduct detrimental to the team,” with the maximum fine being $50K.

Myers discussed a number of topics related Green, Poole, and the incident (All Twitter links courtesy of Mark Medina of NBA.com):

  • On Green: “He’s been over that line. But he always comes back. He’s a unique guy. He helps us win.” He added that he has “confidence that (the altercation) won’t erode the fabric of our team.”
  • Myers said he doesn’t believe it was due to tension with the two players’ extensions looming, having been told that the dialogue leading up to the incident was “not anything more than normal bickering in a scrimmage.” He also said he’s having “ongoing” discussions with Poole’s agents about an extension, and the incident wouldn’t impact the talks with either player.
  • Green left the facility after apologizing and didn’t practice, but head coach Steve Kerr said he’ll rejoin the team on Saturday (Twitter link via ESPN’s Kendra Andrews).
  • Myers said the team has had its best preseason “vibe” during his tenure, and contract situations aren’t affecting team morale. Kerr refuted a report stating that Poole may have been the cause of some tension. “Someone put out there that Jordan had an attitude during camp — that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Kerr said, according to Andrews (via Twitter).

Magic Notes: Banchero, F. Wagner, Lineups, Preview

Magic forward Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 overall pick of this year’s draft, is trying to adjust to the NBA’s extensive use of pick-and-rolls, writes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel (subscriber link). As Price notes, only 64 of Banchero’s pick-and-roll possessions ended with him shooting in 39 games with Duke last season, a figure that is sure to rise as a rookie in 2022/23.

Banchero had mixed results as both a ball-handler and a roll man in his first preseason game, and he acknowledges the speed of the pro game will take some getting used to.

In college, a lot of it was isolation, so that’s what I’m used to making a lot of my reads out of, pure isolation,” Banchero said. “I got to get used to making a lot more reads out of the pick-and-roll as the handler and the roller, and speeding that up. I felt like I made my reads a lot slower than usual.”

The 6’10” Banchero believes he’s already making progress after watching film and getting more practice reps, Price adds.

Watching the film, I didn’t look sped up. I didn’t look like I was super uncomfortable. Knowing I can get to wherever I want to get to is really encouraging. Now I’ve got to make the right decision when I get there,” Banchero said as part of larger quote.

Here’s more on the Magic:

  • Second-year forward Franz Wagner is expected to make his preseason debut against the Spurs on Thursday, Price writes for The Orlando Sentinel. The Magic are being cautious with their promising youngster after a busy offseason saw him help Germany to a bronze medal at EuroBasket, Price notes.
  • Head coach Jamahl Mosley said Orlando plans to play “a bunch of (lineup) combinations throughout the preseason” in order to have everyone on the roster comfortable with each other (video link via Price). In a story for The Orlando Sentinel on the topic, Price explores six preseason lineups Mosley might deploy, including a jumbo combination featuring Banchero, Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Mohamed Bamba and one of Bol Bol, Chuma Okeke or Caleb Houstan.
  • In his season preview for the Magic, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes that while Wagner and Banchero have All-Star potential and things might be better in the future, he believes Orlando will struggle in ’22/23 and finish with a 21-61 record, the worst in the East.

Trail Blazers Exercise 2023/24 Option For Keon Johnson

2:55pm: The Blazers have officially picked up Johnson’s option, per the team.


2:12pm: The Trail Blazers are exercising their third-year team option on guard Keon Johnson, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Johnson’s $2,808,720 salary for the 2023/24 season will now be guaranteed.

The No. 21 overall pick of last year’s draft after one season at Tennessee, Johnson was technically drafted by the Knicks, who traded his rights to the Clippers for No. 25 overall pick Quentin Grimes and a 2024 second-rounder (via Detroit). Johnson was later sent to Portland in February as part of the deal that saw Robert Covington and Norman Powell head to Los Angeles.

An explosive athlete who broke the combine records for both the standing vertical (41.5 inches) and max vertical leap last year (48 inches), Johnson didn’t see much playing time as a rookie for the Clippers, appearing in just 15 games for a total of 135 minutes. However, he got more playing time for the Blazers who went in full-blown tank mode after injuries to Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic decimated the roster, averaging 9.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.9 APG and 1.0 SPG in 22 games (25.5 MPG).

Many talent evaluators thought Johnson would be a top-10 pick last year but he wound up falling mostly due to concerns about his shooting and overall skill level. He struggled mightily with his shot in ’21/22, posting an overall slash line of .353/.340/.804 (.453 true shooting percentage).

With Lillard and Simons back healthy, and the additions of Josh Hart (trade deadline), Gary Payton II (free agent) and Shaedon Sharpe (No. 7 overall pick in June), Johnson might struggle to crack Portland’s rotation in year two.

L.A. Notes: Clippers Preview, Coffey, George, Lakers, AD

John Hollinger of The Athletic previews the Clippers for the 2022/23 season, writing that with the league’s deepest roster and stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back and healthy, they should be among the best teams in the league. Hollinger predicts the Clippers will go 54-28 and finish as the No. 1 seed in the West, but thinks the Warriors have a better shot of making the NBA Finals.

There are a couple of question marks on the roster, even though it’s very deep, especially on the wing. According to Hollinger, the Clips need either John Wall and/or Norman Powell need to step up and be a “third star” to complement Leonard and George, with shot creation and getting to the free throw line top priorities.

The other weakness of the roster is center, with only Ivica Zubac as a true five on the 15-man roster. Hollinger thinks it might be a tall order to have Robert Covington play full-time backup center in the regular season, and wonders if the team might use its last standard roster spot on a traditional center.

Here’s more on the two Los Angeles teams:

  • Amir Coffey, a Minnesota native who played college ball for the Golden Gophers, says he fulfilled a lifelong dream by signing a three-year, $11MM contract as a restricted free agent. “It’s a dream come true,” Coffey told Marcus Fuller of The Star Tribune. “Just playing in the league and doing something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a kid. Just putting all that work in and having it pay off is a good feeling.” Coffey had a breakout third season in ’21/22 after spending the bulk of his career on two-way deals, averaging 9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 1.8 on .453/.378/.863 shooting in 69 games (30 starts, 22.7 MPG).
  • George recently sat down for an interview with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (video link) and the two discussed a number of topics, including joining forces with Leonard, his health, leadership, recruiting Wall, and more.
  • The Lakers started Patrick Beverley and Austin Reaves in place of Kendrick Nunn and Damian Jones during Wednesday’s preseason game against Phoenix as coach Darvin Ham was taking a look at a small-ball lineup, tweets Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. Star Anthony Davis sat out the game for “precautionary” reasons due to lower back tightness, Goon notes (via Twitter).

Celtics Notes: G. Williams, Udoka, Christian, Hauser

After Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a two-year, $21MM extension with New Orleans, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype talked to four NBA executives who expect Celtics forward Grant Williams to command in the range of $12-13MM per year on his own long-term deal.

However, speaking to Scotto on the HoopsHype podcast, Jared Weiss of The Athletic suggested that he wouldn’t accept less than $15MM annually on a rookie scale extension if he were Williams.

As Weiss observes, the fourth-year forward projects to have a significant role in the Celtics’ rotation with Danilo Gallinari likely out for the season, and – unlike Nance – Williams is still just 23 years old and has plenty of time to continue improving.

According to Scotto, Williams has dropped from about 280 pounds to 265, and seems poised to have a big year. If that’s the case, he could potentially exceed $15MM per year as a restricted free agent next summer should he forgo an extension before this year’s October 17 deadline.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • On that same HoopsHype podcast, Scotto said he spoke to four executives about the Ime Udoka situation, and all four expressed skepticism that Udoka will ever coach the Celtics again.
  • As the Celtics consider adding another assistant to fortify interim coach Joe Mazzulla‘s staff, one candidate to keep an eye on is Jarrell Christian, who coached the Maine Celtics last season, says Scotto. Christian has since been named Maine’s general manager, but that typically hasn’t been a full-time position, Weiss notes, with various members of the Celtics’ scouting department filling that role in past seasons.
  • Even after a nightmarish September in Boston, John Hollinger of The Athletic is bullish on the Celtics’ chances of being one of the NBA’s best teams, projecting them to win 55 games and claim the No. 1 seed in the East. However, Hollinger believes the C’s will probably need a “peak” version of Robert Williams to make it back to the NBA Finals.
  • While Jayson Tatum and Sam Hauser may have a good-natured difference of opinions over which player is the better three-point shooter, Tatum praised his fellow forward and stressed Hauser’s importance after Wednesday’s game. “I tell him all the time: If people left me that wide open and all I had to do was catch-and-shoot, I would make a lot more shots as well. So I tell Sam he should send me a thank you card for being on the floor together,” Tatum joked after Hauser made 8-of-13 threes in his first two preseason appearances. “Sam is obviously a great shooter and his game has come a long way. I’m happy for him. I’m happy he’s getting these opportunities, and he’s obviously making the most out of it. We’re going to need him.”

Hornets Signing Xavier Sneed To Exhibit 10 Contract

The Hornets are signing veteran free agent forward Xavier Sneed to an Exhibit 10 contract, according to Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Sneed, 24, went undrafted out of Kansas State in 2020 and has since played a regular role for the Greensboro Swarm, the Hornets’ G League affiliate. His solid play in the NBAGL earned him a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies last December and a two-way deal with Utah in February. Sneed appeared in nine games with the two teams last season at the NBA level, logging just 39 total minutes.

While Sneed’s two-way contract with the Jazz included a second season, Utah opted to waive him last month. Based on his new agreement with the Hornets, it seems likely that Sneed will head back to Greensboro as a returning rights player this season — his Exhibit 10 deal will put him in line for a bonus worth up to $50K on top of his G League salary if he spends at least 60 days with the Swarm.

As we noted earlier today, the Hornets have waived camp invitee Isaiah Whaley, so they have an open spot on their 20-man preseason roster for Sneed.