Month: December 2018

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Brown, Bamba, Nets, Celtics

Joel Embiid has gone viral in recent days after he was spotted playing basketball at local South Philadelphia basketball courts over the last few days. However, if Embiid suffers an injury while playing on streetball, it could result in him losing out on serious money, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Embiid signed a maximum-salary, five-year contract extension with the Sixers last October, one year after a strong showing as a rookie. The 2018 All-Star, however, would risk having part of the deal — which kicks in next season — voided if he suffers a major injury. Pompey notes that Embiid will receive his full pay if he plays at least 1,650 regular season minutes for three consecutive seasons.

Injuries outside the organization’s jurisdiction is always a concern, but in Embiid’s case, injuries in general are an issue. The Cameroon native missed his first two NBA seasons after being drafted third overall in 2014. Embiid then played in just 31 games as a rookie due to injury.

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:

  • After a strong regular season and solid performance in the postseason, the Sixers‘ mix of young talent and cap space makes them a popular destination in free agency. Marcus Hayes of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Sixers head coach Brett Brown‘s mindset when it comes to free agency differs from president Bryan Colangelo.
  • A Wednesday report suggested that the Celtics might consider moving up in the draft with their sights set on Texas big man Mohamed Bamba. However, a league source who spoke to Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald dismissed that idea. “Don’t waste your time on that one,” the source said.
  • The infamous 2013 trade between the Celtics and Nets that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn has had disastrous effects on the Nets, specifically related to draft picks. Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required) revisited that trade and the impact that deal is still having on both franchises nearly five years later.

Rockets GM Confident In Chris Paul’s Future With Team

Despite going up 3-2 against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets failed to win the series and the absence of Chris Paul played a huge part. The Houston point guard suffered a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring, sidelining him for both Game 6 and Game 7 of the series.

After meeting with Paul, both Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni came away feeling optimistic about his free agency plans, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Paul will hit unrestricted free agency this summer and will be a highly sought-after free agent. In his first season with Houston, Paul averaged 18.6 PPG, 7.9 APG, and 5.4 RPG.

It has been believed that Paul, along with possible 2017/18 NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden, will help the Rockets recruit big name free agents this summer.

With an injury shortening his postseason and possibly costing Houston a trip to the NBA Finals, Paul was hit the hardest by the loss and will be on a mission to improve, according to Morey.

“He took it the hardest, I thought, because he knew if he hadn’t had the unfortunate injury, he’s dragging us the last (way to the Finals),” Morey said.“He’s been there before at those moments and got injured sometimes. Yeah, he took it hard. But you know what, he’ll be back. He’ll be back 100% and we’re ready to go.”

Bryan Colangelo Expected To Lose Job With Sixers?

The Sixers‘ investigation into team president Bryan Colangelo‘s alleged use of burner social media accounts is expected to conclude shortly and several league sources believe he will lose his job, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Pompey writes that the investigation could wrap up as soon as tomorrow. Due to Game 1 of the NBA Finals taking place tonight, the league did not want the Colangelo investigation to be a distraction, Pompey adds.

On Tuesday, a report from Ben Detrick of The Ringer provided evidence that connected Colangelo to five Twitter accounts that bashed Sixers players and coaches, and disclosed sensitive medical and team information. Colangelo admitted to owning one of the accounts in question but said that the account was used strictly to monitor social media.

Colangelo has unequivocally denied any wrongdoing or tweeting from any of the accounts. Today, Colangelo told John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia that he is “fully unaware of anything” pertaining to the messages. Colangelo added that he had “zero’ knowledge of any tweets being sent from those accounts.

During a press conference before Game 1 of the Finals, NBA commissioner Adam Silver revealed that the Sixers hired a New York law firm to oversee the investigation (per Sixers insider Jon Johnson).

Did the Sixers win? on Twitter presented evidence that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, could be behind at least three of the accounts. Bottini’s phone number ends with the digits 91, which matches the final two numbers associated with the accounts. Bottini has yet to issue a denial.

As the Sixers prepare for free agency this summer with eyes on several top free agents, Colangelo’s presence could be a hindrance in luring players to  Philadelphia. In an earlier report, one unidentified NBA executive said the damage — unless Colangelo is proven explicitly innocent — has been done.

“I think the damage is done,” an unidentified NBA executive told Pompey. “I don’t know if the players can trust him. I think he lost the trust of the players unless it’s proven definitively that it wasn’t him.”

Cavaliers Notes: James, Irving, Lue, Hill

As the Cavaliers prepare for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Warriors, the fourth consecutive meeting between the two franchises in the Finals, the journey for Cleveland was not easy. A midseason roster purge cast doubt over the Cavaliers’ ability to construct the team chemistry necessary for a deep postseason run.

In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, LeBron James acknowledged that, at certain points, there were doubts about the Cavaliers’ ability to reach the postseason.

“It was at points where, ‘OK, will the Cavs even make the playoffs?'” James said. “And I was like, ‘OK, I am not settling for that conversation. Now that is just ridiculous. Now I have got to get into the postseason.'”

James has been instrumental in leading the Cavaliers to this point as the team escaped tough series against the Pacers, Raptors, and Celtics to face Golden State. However, James also divulged that his doubts began forming last summer when the team decided to trade Kyrie Irving.

“Even if you start back to the summertime where I felt like it was just bad for our franchise just to be able to trade away our superstar point guard,” James said. “A guy that I had been in so many battles with over the last three years, and obviously I wasn’t a part of the communications and know exactly what went on between the two sides. But I just felt like it was bad timing for our team.”

Check out more Cavaliers notes below:

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer looked back at the Kyrie Irving trade and the repercussions it had on the Cavaliers, Celtics, and even the point guard’s own career. Irving last played on March 11 before he was ruled out for the remainder of the year due to a knee injury which predates his Boston tenure.
  • George Hill was traded from the Kings to the Cavaliers just before the deadline and he said he’s excited to be suiting up for the NBA Finals after playing for a losing team in Sacramento, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. “You’re competing for an NBA Finals (with Cleveland),” Hill said, “In Sac we were just playing. I feel like my teammates in Sac, I love them to death. … But it’s a whole different feeling when you’re playing for something, totally different. We’re playing for something and that’s why we’re here today.”
  • Head coach Tyronn Lue temporarily left the team two months ago due to medical reasons and he revealed to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he’s been treated for anxiety. “I’m glad it wasn’t anything serious,” Lue said. “Just anxiety, and the medication I’m on is great. No more chest pains, so everything’s been great.”

Dwane Casey Meets With Pistons For Head Coaching Job

Dwane Casey met with the Pistons today to discuss the franchise’s vacant head coaching role, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Casey was fired by the Raptors earlier this month following another early postseason exit.

Casey’s dismissal was surprising, given he led the Raptors to a 59-23 record this year, establishing a new franchise record for wins in a season. The National Basketball Coaches Association announced shortly after Toronto’s playoff exit that Casey was its pick for Coach of the Year; he’s a strong candidate to also win the official award, which is voted on by media members.

Casey, who had coached the Raptors since 2011, was the winningest coach in team history, leading the club to a 373-307 (.549) regular season record. Toronto won at least 48 games in each season with Casey at the helm and made five consecutive postseasons. However, after being swept by the Cavaliers in the second round this season, the organization decided to move in a new direction. Casey had one year left on his contract with Toronto, worth $6MM.

Casey joins a diverse pool of candidates as the Pistons have searched for Stan Van Gundy‘s replacement. The team has reportedly either already interviewed or considered Spurs assistants Becky Hammon and Ime Udoka, Heat assistant Juwan Howard, and TNT broadcaster Kenny Smith.

Five Key Offseason Questions: Brooklyn Nets

The blockbuster 2013 trade with the Celtics continued to haunt the Nets in 2017/18, as the team found itself mired in the lottery race all season long despite not holding its own 2018 first-round pick. That selection (No. 8 overall) will end up with the Cavaliers, but there’s a silver lining for Brooklyn: 2018’s pick is the last remnant of that Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett mega-deal. Starting next year, the Nets will once again control their first-rounders.

While they waited to regain control of those first-rounders, the Nets didn’t simply bide their time and wait for better opportunities to acquire talent. Accommodating salary dumps like Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll, the Nets acquired first-round picks and young players like D’Angelo Russell. Now, with the handcuffs imposed by that Celtics trade finally about to come off, GM Sean Marks and his staff will have a little more flexibility to advance the Nets’ rebuild.

Here are five key questions facing the franchise this summer:

1. Will Joe Harris re-sign with the Nets?

One upside of the Nets’ lengthy rebuild and their dearth of lottery picks was the opportunity to give unheralded players a chance to earn minutes. Harris, a 2014 second-rounder who was unable to carve out a role in Cleveland, enjoyed a breakout season in 2017/18 for the Nets, averaging 10.8 PPG on .491/.419/.827 shooting.

While Harris isn’t an elite defender, players who shoot like he can are highly sought-after in today’s NBA, so the Nets figure to face some competition for the 26-year-old. Still, Harris has spoken glowingly about his experience in Brooklyn, and doesn’t sound like a player looking to move on to greener pastures.

It’s probably unfair to expect a former second-round pick like Harris to sign a team-friendly contract, since he may never get a better shot at a big payday. However, the Nets can afford to bring him back at his market rate, and will be in good position to do so even though he’s not a restricted free agent. Re-signing Harris at anything less than the mid-level exception should be viewed as a favorable outcome for Brooklyn.

2. Will the Nets venture back into the restricted free agent market?

Before the Nets attempt to finalize a new deal with Harris, whose cap hold is minimal, the club figures to explore the free agent market to see if it wants to place a bid on any outside targets. Unlike in 2016 and 2017, the Nets don’t project to have significant cap room this summer, with $81MM+ already tied up in guaranteed contracts. As such, we likely won’t see the club propose any offer sheets as sizable as the ones for Otto Porter last year or Allen Crabbe two years ago.

Nevertheless, the Nets have a little breathing room to go after a restricted free agent and offer more than the mid-level. The team has shown a willingness to consistently dive into that market, having signed four restricted free agents to offer sheets in the last two years. All those offers were matched, but that probably won’t discourage Marks from trying again. It will be worth watching to see if Brooklyn goes after an intriguing second-tier RFA like Spurs forward Kyle Anderson or Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell.

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Knicks To Host Trae Young For Private Workout

Oklahoma guard Trae Young has elected to grant the Knicks a private workout, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. Young, who intends to work out for “a handful” of clubs, is still figuring out his schedule, so the date of the workout remains unclear, per Berman.

Young, widely viewed as a top-eight prospect, isn’t expected to be on the board when the Knicks pick at No. 9. Even if he’s available, he may not be the first choice for a New York club with multiple point guards already on the roster and a more glaring need on the wing. Still, Young is very much on the Knicks’ radar due to his high upside, sources tell Berman.

According to Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter link), the Suns, Kings, Hawks, Grizzlies, Knicks, and Sixers have already “passed through” Oklahoma to talk to staff and faculty about Young. The Cavaliers have also been in touch with the program about Young, Zagoria adds.

In Jonathan Givony’s latest mock draft for ESPN.com, he has Young coming off the board at No. 6 to Orlando, writing that the 19-year-old is a “highly skilled scorer and passer with unlimited range on his jump shot and tremendous instincts in the pick-and-roll.”

Sixers, Brett Brown Agree To Three-Year Extension

MAY 31: The Sixers have officially announced Brown’s new extension, confirming that it runs through 2021/22.

“Brett has done a terrific job over the past several years building and cultivating a program, but the substantially positive growth in the win column these past two seasons has proven he is the right man to continue leading this team in our quest for an NBA championship,” president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more thrilled for Brett, his family, and the organization to be moving forward for several years to come.”

MAY 29: The Sixers and coach Brett Brown have reached an agreement on a three-year contract extension, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

The three-year contract extension will lock up Brown through the 2021/22 season, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets.

Brown, 57, has coached the team since the 2013/14 season. He was hired to guide them through the lean years and the front office stuck with him as the Sixers lost 63, 64, 72 and 54 games. He was originally signed to a four-year deal and received a two-year extension in December 2015.

Philadelphia’s commitment to Brown was rewarded when the team finished 52-30 this season and reached the Eastern Conference semifinals before falling to the Celtics.

And-Ones: NBA Africa Game, Global Camp, Upshaw

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Sixers center Joel Embiid will headline the rosters in this summer’s NBA Africa Game, the league announced today. The event, which will take place on Saturday, August 4 in Pretoria, South Africa, will feature a Team Africa vs. Team World format, with Cameroon native Embiid heading Team Africa and DeRozan representing Team World.

Joining Embiid on Team Africa will be fellow NBAers Al-Farouq Aminu, Bismack Biyombo, Cheick Diallo, Evan Fournier, Serge Ibaka, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Pascal Siakam. DeRozan’s teamates on Team World will include Harrison Barnes, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay, Khris Middleton, and Hassan Whiteside.

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the basketball world:

  • A total of 40 draft-eligible prospects from outside the United States will take part in the NBA Global Camp 2018 in Treviso, Italy from June 2-5, the NBA announced on Wednesday. While Luka Doncic won’t attend the pre-draft showcase, there will be plenty of prospects worth watching, including Cedevita forward Dzanan Musa, who is the No. 19 prospect on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com.
  • The mother of Zeke Upshaw, the G League player who passed away earlier this year after collapsing during a Grand Rapids Drive game, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the NBA and the Pistons of negligence. The suit alleges that the defendants failed to provide the Drive with the “the resources, policies, and procedures reasonably necessary” to prevent or handle Upshaw’s collapse. Noah Trister of The Associated Press has the full story and more details.
  • Now that two-way contracts have been in effect for nearly a full year, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days explores what sort of changes we may see to the rules surrounding those contracts in the future.

Kevin Love Available To Play In Game 1

Kevin Love has completed the NBA’s Concussion Return to Play Program and will be available to play on Thursday night in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, the Cavaliers announced today in a press release.

It’s big news for the Cavaliers, who had been without Love since he exited Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston and entered the NBA’s concussion protocol. During this year’s playoffs, the veteran power forward has been Cleveland’s second-leading scorer (13.9) and top rebounder (10.0 RPG).

It’s not clear how many minutes Love might play in Game 1, but I’d expect him to start alongside LeBron James and Tristan Thompson in the frontcourt. Head coach Tyronn Lue may get creative as he determines how best to match up with the defending-champion Warriors, but indicated on Wednesday that Love would start if he’s healthy.

While the Cavaliers will get Love back in their lineup, the Warriors will be without key forward Andre Iguodala for Game 1. Iguodala, who continues to battle a lateral left leg contusion, will be re-evaluated prior to Game 2.