Month: April 2017

And-Ones: Len, Brown, Cavs, Roberts

Suns interim head coach Earl Watson has no qualms about pairing up centers Alex Len and Tyson Chandler in the starting lineup, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. Watson wants to utilize Len as the team’s primary offensive target the rest of the season and foster his development, Coro continues. “Who’s playing two 7-footers any more?”  Watson explained to Coro. “We have this trend of playing small ball and we know the greatest small ball team is the Warriors. We’re not going to catch them. Let’s create a new trend. Let’s let Alex Len get experience.”

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Swingman Jabari Brown, who played with the Lakers last season, is joining the team’s D-League D-Fenders after returning from China in recent days, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports tweets. Brown, who appeared in 19 games with the Lakers as a rookie, was the last player cut in training camp when the club decided to keep veteran Metta World Peace.
  • A coaching change that’s produced only an 11-6 record so far and the inability to land Joe Johnson are among the problems that ail the Cavaliers, as TNT’s David Aldridge examines in his Morning Tip for NBA.com. Internal carping from players about their respective roles, shots and ability to mesh on the court with LeBron James has also been a factor, Aldridge hears.
  • Point guard Brian Roberts, whom the Trail Blazers recently acquired from the Heat, believes he’ll land an NBA job next summer when he enters the free agent market, Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders reports. Roberts passed through the Heat organization via the Hornets after he was included in the three-team deal that sent Courtney Lee from the Grizzlies to Charlotte. “I feel like I’m a guy that whatever opportunities I get I’m going to make the most of it,” he told Brigham. “I’m reliable, and that’s what it comes down to in this league. If you can be dependable every night, you’ll have a job.”
  • Pelicans power forward Ryan Anderson will be a prime target for the Mavericks in free agency, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News opines. Anderson’s ability to stretch the floor would make him a very good fit but he’ll be in heavy demand, Sefko notes.
  • The Grizzlies recalled rookie power forward Jarell Martin from the Iowa Energy, the D-League club tweets. Martin, a first-round pick, averaged 18.3 points over three games in his latest assignment there. He made his fourth appearance with Memphis on Monday night.
  • The Bucks recalled small forward Damien Inglis from the D-League’s Westchester Knicks, Milwaukee announced through its website. Inglis played 13 games for the Knicks’ D-League affiliate, averaging 9.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 21.4 minutes.

Pistons Notes: Harris, Motiejunas, Morris

The Pistons had reportedly been targeting power forwards for free agency this summer, but with the acquisition of Tobias Harris, coach/executive Stan Van Gundy would feel comfortable if Harris and Marcus Morris were the team’s starters at the two forward positions beyond this season, notes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com“I think they’re both starting-caliber guys. It all depends on where your roster goes and everything else,” Van Gundy said. “You’d love to get to the point where you have starting-caliber guys coming off your bench. But certainly if we have to go into next season and beyond with those two guys as our starting forwards, we’re pretty happy with that.”

In other news regarding the Pistons:

  • Donatas Motiejunas believes a change of heart, instead of a medical issue, was the reason his trade from the Rockets was voided, according to an item in BasketNews.lt that Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com relays. According to the translation of Motiejunas’ quotes, he felt he passed the team’s physical examinations, Feldman continues. The power forward and shooting guard Marcus Thornton, since waived by Houston, were traded to Detroit in a three-team deal in which the Rockets would have received Detroit’s first-round pick, with some protections. “Those 48 hours actually just let the team decide whether they want you or not,” Motiejunas reportedly said. “The Pistons announced I did not pass the medical, although I surely did pass it and played even before it. … The injury was a pretense to call off the trade. They changed their minds.” 
  • Morris is making a case for one of the NBA’s All-Defensive teams, according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Morris is a hard-nosed one-on-one defender, though he doesn’t record many steals or blocks, Ellis continues. Raptors coach Dwane Casey told Ellis and other media members on Sunday that Morris has a defensive presence. “Most of all, it’s his defensive toughness,” Casey said. “With the defensive disposition he brings, it’s not like you’re just going to catch the ball down there and go to work on him in the low post.”
  • Power forward Justin Harper helped his case for another 10-day contract by hitting three 3-pointers against the Raptors, Ellis writes in a separate notebook. Harper, who officially signed on February 24th, has one more game remaining against the Spurs on Wednesday before his 10-day expires. It would not be a surprise if Harper gets another 10-day, David Mayo of MLive.com writes, but the team will also scour the waiver wire for a veteran point guard or power forward.

Southeast Rumors: Hardaway Jr., Johnson, Harris

The Hawks’ draft-night acquisition of shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks is finally paying off, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. The Knicks received the rights to point guard Jerian Grant and appeared to get the upper hand in the deal during the first half of the season, as Hardaway languished on Atlanta’s bench. Hardaway appeared in just four of the Hawks’ first 35 games but now has a rotation spot as the backup shooting guard, including a 25-minute stint on Sunday. “I feel like he is starting to understand what we expect from him, what we need,” Atlanta center Al Horford told Vivlamore. “More than anything, defensively he is bringing it.” While Hardaway’s playing time is increasing, Grant has seen decreased minutes under Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis, including three DNP’s in the past eight contests, Vivlamore adds.

In other news around the Southeast Division:

  • Joe Johnson wants to finish his career with the Heat, observes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. The 34-year-old shooting guard signed with Miami after reaching a buyout agreement with the Nets and clearing waivers. Johnson, who scored 12 points in his Heat debut on Sunday, hopes it’s not a short-term arrangement, as he told Youngmisuk and other members of the media. “I think we’ve got a lot of veteran guys who know what it takes to win [and the possibility of remaining with the Heat] was another key thing for me,” he said. That’s certainly feasible from a salary-cap standpoint, as the Heat have only $48MM in guaranteed salary commitments next season.
  • The Tobias Harris trade could define the tenure of Magic GM Rob Hennigan, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel opines. Harris was traded to the Pistons for the expiring contract of point guard Brandon Jennings and power forward Ersan Ilyasova. With a partial guarantee on the final year of Ilyasova’s contract, the Magic could have $45MM to spend on free agents this summer, Schmitz continues. Harris’ growth had leveled off, in Schmitz’s view, but the trade only works out if Hennigan can land a top-level free agent.
  • Josh Richardson has been a revelation as the Heat’s new backup point guard, according to Ethan J. Skolnick of the Miami Herald. Thrust into the role because of injuries, Richardson has called upon the leadership qualities he showed in college at Tennessee, Skolnick adds. “It was tough at first, but now that I’ve kind of been forced into the backup point guard role, it’s a leadership role again,” Richardson told Skolnick. “So I get to kind of be me again, and talk and direct traffic.” 

Spurs Sign Andre Miller

MONDAY, 5:34pm: The signing is official, the Spurs announced. San Antonio earlier announced that it waived McCallum to create a roster opening.

10:49pm: The Spurs will waive third-string point guard Ray McCallum to make room for Miller, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. Miller must pass a physical before McCallum is waived (Twitter link).

6:05pm: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich refused to comment on the move until it becomes official, which cannot happen until Miller clears waivers, McDonald tweets.

5:07pm: Miller’s agent, Andy Miller, confirms his client’s intention to sign with the Spurs, tweets Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News.

SATURDAY, 4:15pm: Veteran point guard Andre Miller, who was waived by the Wolves earlier this week, will sign with the Spurs, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. The signing will cost San Antonio an extra $375K under the luxury tax, tweets former NBA executive Bobby Marks. The Spurs have 15 players on their roster, so a corresponding move will be necessary.

Miller, 39, was let go by Minnesota on Thursday in an apparent buyout agreement. He had been on a one-year, veterans’ minimum contract with the Wolves. Miller averaged 3.4 points, 0.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 26 games this season. The Spurs will be his ninth franchise in a 17-year NBA career.

Earlier today, the Spurs were reported as the new favorite to land shooting guard Kevin Martin, who is also in buyout talks with the Wolves. It’s not certain how the Miller signing would affect their interest in Martin.

Spurs Waive Ray McCallum

The Spurs have waived point guard Ray McCallum, the team announced via press release. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports reported this weekend that the move would come so that San Antonio could sign Andre Miller, fresh off his buyout from the Timberwolves. The Spurs had been carrying a full roster of 15 players, so someone had to go for Miller to join.

McCallum’s minimum salary of $947,276 will stick on San Antonio’s books if he clears waivers, which isn’t necessarily a given. Any team that claims him would be able to match offers for him when he hits free agency this summer, though not every team is eligible to claim him. Teams must have cap space, a trade exception or a disabled player exception to claim McCallum, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports tweets.

McCallum appeared in 31 games with the Spurs, including three starts, but he only averaged 2.2 points and 1.1 assists in 8.3 minutes. He also played seven games with the team’s D-League affiliate in Austin.

San Antonio acquired McCallum from the Kings via trade for a second-round pick in July. McCallum was the Kings’ second-round selection in 2013 and started 40 games for them in his first two seasons.

The 24-year-old has ties to the Pistons. In one of his recent tweets, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press noted that Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy is friends with University of Detroit Mercy basketball coach Ray McCallum Sr., so perhaps that could lead to the younger McCallum returning to his roots in Michigan. Detroit would have to open up a roster spot for that to happen, but the Pistons currently have power forward Justin Harper on a 10-day contract.

Heat Waive Beno Udrih In Buyout Deal, Dodge Tax

4:37pm: Udrih’s release is official, the team announced (Twitter link). The amount he gave up was nominal, a source told Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel (on Twitter), pegging it as likely around $50K, not much more than was necessary to skirt the tax line.

3:36pm: The Heat and Beno Udrih have agreed to a buyout deal that will see the point guard give up enough of his salary for the team to slip under the luxury tax line, and that’s prompted complaints from multiple teams around the league, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports earlier reported the sides were near agreement on a buyout, and that raised questions about why Udrih, who’s expected to be out until late May because of foot surgery, would relinquish salary in return for the chance to hit free agency before the end of the season.

Miami ducked the tax line at the trade deadline, only to go over once again with the signing of Joe Johnson, whom several other teams pursued. The Heat’s ability to snag Johnson and still end up out of the tax is part of the reason murmurs have surfaced around the league, Windhorst indicates. Teams beneath the tax line receive tax payments from those above the threshold, but that distribution is smaller when there are fewer taxpayers. The Heat are in line for a $2.6MM tax payment plus $110K in tax savings as a result of Udrih’s buyout, according to Windhorst. The Johnson signing put Miami approximately $44K over the tax line, as The Vertical’s Bobby Marks pointed out. Those figures jibe with repeat-offender tax rate of $2.50 for every dollar the Heat would spend over the line.

It’s unclear exactly how much of Udrih’s more than $2.170MM salary he’s poised to relinquish in the buyout, though given Miami’s reported discussion with free agent target Marcus Thornton and the team’s lack of depth at point guard, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Heat pushed Udrih to give back more than just the $44K needed for them to slip beneath the tax line. It seems unlikely he would recoup whatever he gave up, at least at any point this season, since he probably won’t be able to return to the court until deep into the playoffs, Windhorst notes. The Heat would be eligible to re-sign him if he clears waivers, but if they did so, it would surely draw even more scrutiny.

Atlantic Notes: Hinkie, Horford, Fredette

One source told Tom Moore of Calkins Media that he believes the Sixers will hire someone new to run day-to-day basketball operations under chairman of basketball ops Jerry Colangelo, bumping GM Sam Hinkie into an analytics-only role, perhaps before the regular season is over. Moore speculates that the new day-to-day front office voice might be Bryan Colangelo, Jerry’s son, and the scribe hears conflicting rumors of whether or not Danny Ferry is a candidate to join the Sixers. Jerry Colangelo recently expressed interest in adding to the team’s front office. While we wait to see the fate of “The Process” in Philly, see more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Part of the reason why the Celtics didn’t make the sort of overwhelming trade offer for Al Horford that the Hawks were reportedly looking for is that the C’s feel they have a legitimate chance to sign him in free agency this summer, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports says in a video report. Chris Mannix of The Vertical earlier identified Atlanta’s interest in the big man.
  • The Knicks are keeping an eye on the players that hit waivers as Tuesday’s de facto buyout deadline nears, with a specific interest in younger players, coach Kurt Rambis said today, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Tuesday is the last day players can hit waivers while retaining postseason eligibility. Rambis praised Jimmer Fredette and suggested he’s open to seeing him return on a second 10-day deal, notes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com (on Twitter), but the coach said that decision rests with management and acknowledged it will be tough for Fredette to see minutes. He’s only played two minutes so far on the 10-day deal that expires after Wednesday.
  • The Celtics have recalled James Young from the D-League, the team announced (Twitter link). He averaged 10.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in three games on his latest D-League stint, which began Thursday.

Wolves, Rockets Interested In Chris Copeland

The Timberwolves have had internal discussion about Chris Copeland, and the Rockets also have a level of interest in the stretch forward who’s twice hit waivers in the past week, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). Minnesota’s brass is also talking about other would-be additions, and no signing is close, Wolfson adds. That jibes with coach Sam Mitchell‘s comments from this weekend, when he said the team would likely wait awhile to make a move even as he called the Wolves “awfully thin” up front.

Minnesota has an open roster spot in the wake of Andre Miller‘s buyout and has reportedly engaged in advanced discussions with Kevin Martin about a buyout of his own that would give the Wolves a second opening. The Rockets are in a similar position, having opened one vacancy with Friday’s release of Marcus Thornton while reportedly exploring the idea of a buyout with Ty Lawson, but it appears as though Lawson will likely be sticking around.

Copeland failed to have much effect for the Bucks on the one-year, $1.15MM deal he signed this past offseason, appearing for only 6.5 minutes per game over 24 contests and sticking just 10 of 36 3-point attempts. That’s well beneath his 36.5% career rate of accuracy from behind the arc. Milwaukee waived him a week ago to make room for Steve Novak, and Orlando claimed him off waivers only to release him the next day in a move designed to help the Magic reach the salary floor.

Suns Interested In Anthony Bennett?

The Suns are a “possible” suitor for Anthony Bennett should he clear waivers from the Raptors, sources told Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. Of course, any team is a possibility for Bennett, but this suggests that Phoenix has interest in him. Toronto is waiving Bennett to make room for Jason Thompson, Charania reported within the hour. The Suns have an open roster spot following the release of Kris Humphries, who had been starting at power forward for Phoenix in the brief time between the trade that brought him in from the Wizards and the apparent buyout deal that’s put him in line to sign with the Hawks.

Phoenix could claim Bennett off waivers, just as the team did with John Jenkins last week, but the sides could instead work out an arrangement that carries beyond the end of this season if he clears waivers. Bennett’s existing contract is up at season’s end. The Suns are 14 games out of a playoff spot and have little motivation to make moves with only the short term in mind.

Less than three years removed from having been the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, Bennett has seen just 84 minutes in the NBA so far this season, compared to 107 while on four separate D-League assignments from the Raptors. His next NBA team will be his fourth, since the Cavaliers traded him to the Timberwolves in the Kevin Love deal and he worked a buyout with Minnesota in September before signing a minimum salary contract with Toronto.

Do you think Bennett will ever develop into a rotation-caliber player in the NBA? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Pacific Notes: Rivers, McDonough, Ranadive

Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers insisted the team didn’t listen when it fielded trade calls about Blake Griffin from other clubs, as Rivers told Marc J. Spears of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports, reiterating his faith in the power forward he contends was having an MVP-caliber season before his two-month absence. Rivers also defended the job he’s done as team’s player personnel chief.

“I don’t know. I don’t evaluate. I have too many people evaluating for me,” Rivers said. “I let them do it and I keep doing my job. I don’t care about the evaluations. I care about the team. We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of leverage. We don’t have a lot of assets. But to me, we keep ending up with the Jeff Greens of the world, Cole Aldrich is terrific, Wes Johnson. … We’re getting these guys at minimum contracts. Even Josh [Smith] was a good gamble. It didn’t work out for us. But when you are in that minimum contract deal, you’re going to have some hits and misses and we’re fine with it and you keep doing.”

See more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns owner Robert Sarver issued a vote of confidence to GM Ryan McDonough in an open letter to fans posted on the team’s website, acknowledging that some of the risks the team has taken lately haven’t panned out but pointing to the Warriors as reason to continue making bold moves. “Not every decision will be the right one, but [McDonough] will continue to build our team around the young, talented players acquired through the draft and opportunistically in free agency,” Sarver wrote in part. “The best team in the NBA right now is a perfect example of that model.”
  • Kings owner Vivek Ranadive may have encountered trouble running the team so far, but his success in other venues shows he’s no fool, writes Andy Furillo of The Sacramento Bee. Ranadive told Furillo he’d buy out the stake of any minority-share owner who wants out, responding to reports that many of his partners are upset with him“If somebody’s unhappy, I’ll write them a check today,” Ranadive said.
  • The Kings could use some more defense in the backcourt and coach George Karl has praised Seth Curry‘s performance on that end, but Curry has remained largely tied to the pine, much to his frustration, as The Bee’s Jason Jones examines. Curry has a minimum-salary player option for next season.
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