Billups On Kyrie And Turning Down Cavs Job

Chauncey Billups says that he knew Kyrie Irving was unhappy when Billups interviewed for the Cavaliers‘ GM position last month, passes along Brian Windhorst of ESPN. On Tuesday, Billups gave an interview on the Vic Lombardi Show on Altitude Sports 950 AM in Denver, in which he provided his opinion on Irving’s trade request and explained why he turned down an offer to be Cleveland’s general manager.

Billups, on Irving: “[Irving’s trade request] didn’t surprise me. I knew as [the Cavs] were doing their due diligence on me I was doing the same thing on them. “I knew so much about the situation that the rest of the world doesn’t know. But it’s unfortunate, man, because [Irving is] a special talent. So much of what he’s been able to accomplish on and off the floor has been as the beneficiary of having LeBron JamesYou’re getting everything you want. You get all the shots you want, you’re playing for a great coach who’s letting you go to work, when the game is on the line they’re coming to you, you’re playing on TV every week. To me, I don’t get it. Everybody has their own desires. Maybe he wants to be Russell Westbrook and go try to win the MVP and get all the shots. That’s the only sense I can make of it, and to me that doesn’t make sense.”

Billups, on turning down the Cavaliers GM offer: “The whole LeBron leaving the next year, to be honest that didn’t bother me that much. “Here’s why: When you have an opportunity to really put something together and put your imprint on it — rebuilding is a beautiful thing if [they’re] going to have the patience with you. What bothered me more than if LeBron left or not was that I didn’t think they had great assets if you have to do a rebuild. It was more that than Bron. Bron and I have always had an amazing relationship.

Billups goes on to say, “It was a great process. That team is a great team, a lot of expectations, lot of pressure involved with that team. But I didn’t mind that. That’s kind of been my entire career, the stress and pressure. At the end, in my spirit, it just didn’t quite feel like it was the right time at the end. It was one of those gut things. So I took myself out of consideration. I felt good about it. Dan and I talked afterwards and I thanked him for giving me such a good opportunity. … We will remain friends. I don’t need the job. I love my life. I love this ESPN thing; it’s been fun. And I’ll just wait until it feels right.”

Brandon Knight Expected To Miss Season

Suns guard Brandon Knight has suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. An official announcement from the Suns states that Knight will undergo surgery and is expected to miss the entire 2017/18 season.

In six career seasons with three different teams, Knight has averaged 15.2 PPG and 4.3 APG on 41.5% shooting. Knight played by far the least minutes of his career this past season, averaging just 21.1 minutes per game and starting only 5 of the 54 games in which he played. His scoring average was also a career low at 11.0.

Knight was acquired by the Suns in February of 2015 in a three-team trade. Two years earlier, the guard had been traded from the Pistons to the Bucks. Knight’s best scoring season came with the Suns in 2015/16 when he averaged 19.6 PPG. However, he shot just 41.5% from the floor during the campaign.

With near-All-Star Eric Bledsoe and up-and-coming Tyler Ulis at point guard for the Suns and Knight likely missing the entire 2017/18 season, it will be interesting to monitor the Kentucky product’s future in Phoenix. After an incredibly disappointing performance last season, Knight had already been on the outs with the Suns. This injury may have solidified the young guard’s future elsewhere.

Magic, Arron Afflalo Agree To One-Year Deal

The Magic have agreed to a one-year contract with free agent swingman Arron Afflalo, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The deal will be worth the veteran’s minimum, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link). Once the signing is official, Orlando looks to be capped out.

Although the Magic front office is under new management now, with Jeff Weltman and John Hammond running the show, the move represents a reunion for the two sides — Afflalo previously played for the franchise from 2012 to 2014.

The 31-year-old journeyman has played for six different franchises in ten seasons. His career slash line is .451/.386/.825, with his best scoring season coming as a member of the Magic in 2013/14. That season, Afflalo scored 18.2 PPG, while shooting 45.9% from the field. The former UCLA Bruin started all 73 games in which he played during that campaign. Over the course of Afflalo’s career, he has averaged 11.3 PPG and has started 534 of his 709 games played.

On Sunday, it was reported that the Magic were  “on course” to sign Marreese Speights to a minimum salary contract. The signing has not yet been made official.

Lakers To Re-Sign Tyler Ennis

The Lakers have reached an agreement to bring back free agent guard Tyler Ennis, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN (Twitter link). Shelburne reports that Ennis will get a two-year, minimum salary deal with a team option on the second year.

Ennis, who will turn 23 next month, was selected by the Suns with the 18th overall pick in the 2014 draft, but has bounced around the league since then. In addition to spending a little time in Phoenix, Ennis has also had stints with the Bucks, Rockets, and Lakers, appearing in 132 total regular season contests.

While Ennis hasn’t been able to stick with one team for long, the Lakers “really liked” what they saw from him down the stretch in 2016/17 after acquiring him at the deadline, tweets Shelburne. The Canadian point guard averaged 7.7 PPG, 2.4 APG, and 0.9 SPG, with a shooting line of .451/.389/.864 in 22 games as a Laker. All of those averages would have been career highs for a full season.

The Lakers were rumored to be considering Ennis, Derrick Rose, and other guards in recent weeks. The club displayed serious interest in Rose, but the former MVP committed to the Cavaliers on Monday night, prompting L.A. to move quickly to lock up Ennis.

The timing of Ennis’ signing will be interesting to keep an eye on. Currently, the Lakers have $815,615 in cap room remaining, which is exactly enough to sign a rookie, such as Thomas Bryant. The club could still sign Bryant using the minimum salary exception after signing Ennis and going over the cap, but a deal with that exception is limited to two years. If the Lakers wait to officially finalize Ennis’ contract, it’s likely a signal that they hope to use that remaining cap room to sign Bryant or another rookie to a three- or four-year pact.

Hawks Re-Sign Mike Muscala

JULY 25: The Hawks have officially re-signed Muscala, the team announced today in a press release. Finalizing Muscala’s deal cuts into Atlanta’s remaining cap room, suggesting that the club may not have any immediate plans to maximize that space.

JULY 7: The Hawks have agreed to a two-year, $10MM deal with free agent big man Mike Muscala, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). The agreement will feature a second-year player option, Charania adds (via Twitter).

Muscala, who turned 26 last Saturday, appeared in a career-high 70 games for the Hawks in 2016/17, setting new career highs in PPG (6.2), RPG (3.4), and several other categories as he saw his role in the rotation expand.

With Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap no longer in the picture in Atlanta, the team was in need of frontcourt depth. While the Hawks figure to add at least one or two more bigs to the roster at some point, Muscala could be in line for even more minutes going forward for the retooling franchise.

The Hawks have a minimum salary cap hold on their books and hold the Bird rights for Muscala, who has spent the last four seasons in Atlanta. So his new agreement won’t affect the team’s remaining cap room until it becomes official. It also won’t have an impact on the club’s ability to match the Knicks’ offer sheet for Tim Hardaway Jr., though it’s not clear if the Hawks are seriously considering doing so.

Jamal Crawford Talks Trade, Free Agency Decision

While Chris Paul and J.J. Redick were the most notable departures for the Clippers this offseason, the team also lost Jamal Crawford, who became a roster casualty when the club needed to move salary in order to complete a sign-and-trade deal for Danilo Gallinari.

Speaking to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Crawford spoke about the Clippers’ decision to trade him, his accelerated free agency process, and his decision to sign with the Timberwolves. Kennedy’s whole transcript is worth checking out, as is the corresponding podcast with Crawford, but here are a few of the veteran guard’s notable comments from their conversation:

On whether he was surprised by being traded:

“I did feel somewhat blindsided. I mean, we all knew this could potentially happen. We knew that it could be a very different team. Paul [Pierce] was retiring and we had so many free agents, from Blake [Griffin] to Chris to J.J. to Luc Mbah a Moute – that was four of our five starters. We knew that things might look different, but we didn’t think it would go to this magnitude and play out the way it did. … But this is a business. That’s life in the NBA. You have to just roll with the punches and make the best out of every situation.”

On why he strongly considered the Wizards or Cavaliers before joining the Timberwolves:

“With Washington, I felt like with them almost going to the Eastern Conference Finals last year – going to Game 7 [against the Celtics] – they’re a team on the rise. People don’t know this, but I was actually really close to signing with them last year before I decided to re-sign with the Clippers.

“Then, with Cleveland, they’ve obviously been the best team in the East over the last few years. Obviously having LeBron [James] there, having Kyrie Irving there [makes it attractive]. I’ve known Kyrie for a long time as well. They have all those guys there and they have Ty Lue, who I played for when he was an assistant coach on the Clippers. They also have Larry Drew as an assistant coach and I’ve played for him too. I had a lot of connections there and then just with how good they are, it’s intriguing. I mean, going to the last three NBA Finals speaks for itself.”

On the mutual interest between Crawford and the Lakers:

“They were one of the first teams to reach out once the buyout and everything was clear. They were really, really interested and I was interested too. I feel like they’re a team that’s on the rise and I think Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson are going to do great things.

“It made sense with my family already being in L.A. They wouldn’t have to adjust much and they could have the same routine, the same lifestyle, so that was all interesting to me. But after [the early talks], they started looking other places and I started looking at other teams and it kind of fizzled out a bit. They were a team I was really interested in early on, and they showed interest as well, but they wanted to be patient and see how some things played out. And, as you know, things can move really fast and I didn’t feel that I had the time to be able to wait for them.”

On choosing the Timberwolves:

“It was a tough call, but I knew it was the right call. Once I decided that this was it, I felt really, really good about my decision.

“I think we can be one of the best teams out there. I really do. We have to prove it, and it’s obviously been a long time since they’ve been in the playoffs. We know that we have a lot of work to do and that this won’t be easy because the West is stacked, as everyone knows. But for us, we’re really embracing the journey.”

Nets To Acquire Allen Crabbe From Blazers

A year after aggressively pursuing shooting guard Allen Crabbe as a restricted free agent, the Nets have landed their man. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link), the Trail Blazers are trading Crabbe to Brooklyn in exchange for forward Andrew Nicholson. Upon acquiring Nicholson, Portland will waive him and stretch his contract, Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter).Allen Crabbe vertical

When Crabbe reached restricted free agency in 2016, he was one of a handful of players to sign an offer sheet with the Nets. That deal, worth nearly $75MM over four years, looked like an awfully steep price to pay for a player with 17 career starts to his name. However, the Blazers thwarted Brooklyn’s attempts to poach Crabbe, matching the Nets’ offer sheet and bringing him back to Portland.

A year later, that decision to match Crabbe’s deal – while retaining other RFAs and adding Evan Turner – looks like it may have been a mistake. The Trail Blazers were in position to pay a huge tax penalty in 2018 if team salary remained as high as it was, and dumping a contract or two appeared to be an inevitability. By swapping Crabbe for Nicholson and stretching the $19MM+ left on Nicholson’s contract over the next seven seasons, the Blazers will clear approximately $16.5MM from their 2017/18 cap, ending up only about $3MM above the tax threshold.

It remains to be seen if the Blazers have another move up their sleeves — the club has been linked to Carmelo Anthony, despite Carmelo’s apparent unwillingness to waive his no-trade clause and accept a deal to Portland. Even if no second deal is coming though, the Blazers should be happy with this trade from a financial perspective. It will allow the club to shed more than $50MM in total projected salary and tax penalties.

From the Nets’ perspective, the deal will allow them to land a player they loved at a slightly lesser cost, albeit a year after they had hoped to acquire him. Once the Blazers matched Crabbe’s offer sheet last July, he was ineligible to be traded to Brooklyn for a full year, but once those 365 days passed, it made sense for the two teams to engage on trade discussions.

By sending out Nicholson in the swap, the Nets appear to have the cap room necessary to absorb Crabbe’s salary without having to make any corresponding roster moves. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Crabbe also waived his trade kicker, making things a little simpler for both teams. That decision will cost the 25-year-old some money, but he’ll have a chance to assume a larger role in Brooklyn than he had in Portland.

In 79 games last season for the Blazers, Crabbe set new career bests with 10.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, a .468 FG%, and a .444 3PT%. While it remains to be seen how Brooklyn’s starting lineup will shake out, Crabbe figures to see plenty of minutes alongside D’Angelo Russell in a new-look Nets backcourt.

The Blazers will generate a trade exception worth $12,969,502 in the deal. That figures represents the difference between Crabbe’s and Nicholson’s salaries for 2017/18.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Sign Lorenzo Brown To Two-Way Contract

The Raptors have filled the second two-way contract opening on their roster, announcing today in a press release that they’ve inked free agent guard Lorenzo Brown. Malcolm Miller received the club’s other two-way deal earlier this month.

Brown, a second-round pick in 2013, appeared in 63 total NBA regular season games for the Sixers, Timberwolves, and Suns between 2013 and 2016. Last offseason, the 26-year-old battled for the Pistons’ third point guard spot in training camp, but lost out and was waived by the team.

After failing to earn a spot on Detroit’s regular season roster out of camp, Brown played in Russia and China. He eventually returned stateside and joined the Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons’ D-League affiliate, with whom he averaged 23.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 4.0 APG in 11 games down the stretch this season.

For more details on how two-way contracts work, be sure to check out our breakdown here. We also have a tracker that shows how teams are using their two-way openings.

Cavaliers Sign Derrick Rose

JULY 25: The Cavaliers have officially signed Rose, the team announced today in a press release.

“We are very excited to be able to add a player of Derrick’s caliber and experience to the team,” new Cavs GM Koby Altman said in a statement. “Derrick could have gone to a number of other teams, but his specific mindset, goals and total focus and commitment to winning are what resulted in him signing with the Cavaliers. We are confident he will be a very good fit with our organization and we look forward to the many ways he will contribute to the team.”

JULY 24: The Cavaliers will sign Derrick Rose, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports (Twitter link). The point guard met with the organization earlier today and Charania adds that Rose has already completed his physical with the team.Derrick Rose vertical

The pact will be a one-year, minimum salary arrangement, David Aldridge of NBA.com tweets. It was previously reported that the two sides were in serious discussions about a one-year deal.

Rumors of Rose earning a max contract swirled earlier this season, but it appeared increasingly unlikely that he would land that kind of offer, particularly after suffering another knee injury late in the 2016/17 campaign.

Rose’s decision to join Cleveland comes just days after news of Kyrie Irving‘s trade demands became public. If the team intends to give Irving a new home, Rose should be able to get an opportunity to win as well as a chance to play a meaningful role.

The 2010/11 MVP was also considering the Lakers, a team in which he met with last week. Los Angeles may have been able to offer him an increased role, but the organization isn’t close to being championship contenders.

The Cavaliers will be Rose’s third team as he enters his 10th season. He spent eight years in Chicago before being dealt to the Knicks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Kyrie Irving

The Suns were “very” close to acquiring Kyrie Irving on draft day, reports John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (via Twitter). Irving’s trade request reportedly didn’t happen until early July, but it appears the Cavaliers were having discussions about their star point guard as they explored ways to upgrade their roster in June, before he formally asked to be moved.

According to Gambadoro (Twitter links), the Suns still have the pieces to land Irving, but any deal would require the team to part with Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson, and more. Gambadoro isn’t sure exactly what else the Cavs would ask for in addition to Bledsoe and Jackson, but the price may be too steep for Phoenix.

Here’s more on Irving:

  • According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst on The Lowe Post podcast, the Pacers offered Paul George for Kyrie Irving around the time of the draft (hat tip to Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk). Cleveland likely wouldn’t have accepted George straight up for Irving even after he made his trade request, given George’s expiring contract, but if they’d known Kyrie wanted out at that time, it could have made those discussions with Indiana much more interesting.
  • The Cavaliers have heard from virtually every team in the league in some capacity, though some are more interested in Irving than others, a source tells Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. According to Kyler, the situation is unlikely to get resolved quickly.
  • Kyler also suggests that Cleveland would like to reduce its projected tax bill in an Irving deal, with one source predicting that any team acquiring Irving will have to take on at least Iman Shumpert‘s contract.
  • Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com suggests that LeBron James is “eager to see [Irving] off,” but the four-time MVP denied that report in a tweet, suggesting that it needs “another source.”
  • Appearing on The Rich Eisen Show on Monday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver suggested that the Irving drama in Cleveland is “not necessarily the kind of drama that the league wants.” Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com has the details and the quotes from Silver, who called the situation “upsetting.”
  • Here are several of Monday’s Irving-related notes and updates.
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