Month: December 2018

Texas Notes: Nowitzki, Butler, Rockets, Ginobili

An injury continues to disrupt what may be Dirk Nowitzki‘s final NBA season, writes Dwain Price of Mavs.com. The Mavericks star said he is still “weeks” away from returning to action because of a left ankle problem that has bothered him since undergoing surgery in April. He hasn’t been able to participate in a full practice or go through a normal workout.

“We’re taking it super slow obviously now since we’ve had a couple of setbacks since we’ve increased the workload,” Nowitzki said. “So I’m just taking it slow, just started shooting, just started running a bit on the treadmill slow.”

When Nowitzki does return, the Mavs haven’t decided whether he will remain a starter or be moved to the second unit.

There’s more tonight out of Texas:

  • Despite being mentioned as a possible candidate in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes, the Mavericks have no interest in trying to acquire the star forward from the Timberwolves, tweets Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. He lists the Rockets, Sixers and Heat as the top candidates, in that order, and states that the Lakers may make a strong bid as well.
  • No team has gotten off to a more disappointing start than the Rockets, who went from the league’s best record last year to one of the worst over the first two weeks of this season. Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post examines what has gone wrong in Houston and wonders whether the team was too focused on saving money this offseason. Bontemps agrees that it made financial sense to let Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute leave in free agency, especially considering the luxury tax implications of keeping them, but he questions why the Rockets didn’t use any of their mid-level exception and why they dealt Ryan Anderson for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, who may both struggle to get playing time.
  • Manu Ginobili retired over the summer, but he still has one more momentous night left in San Antonio. The Spurs announced on their website that Ginobili’s number 20 will be retired in a March 28 ceremony. Ginobili played 16 seasons and was part of four championship teams. He will be the ninth San Antonio player to have his number retired.

Nuggets Decline Option On Tyler Lydon

The Nuggets won’t pick up the third-year option on power forward Tyler Lydon, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

The 24th pick in the 2017 draft, Lydon was acquired from the Jazz as part of the return for Donovan Mitchell, who finished second in last season’s Rookie of the Year voting. Lydon spent most of the season in the G League appearing in just one game for Denver. He has played twice this season, averaging 2.0 minutes per night.

Lydon, who would have made $2,190,720 for the 2019/20 season, will instead become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Nuggets can still re-sign him, but can’t exceed the value of his option in the first year of any new contract.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 10/31/18

Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Wizards have assigned Chasson Randle to their Capital City affiliate, the team announced on Twitter. Washington waived Randle in training camp, but he signed with the team yesterday because the 14th roster spot needed to be filled.
  • The Hawks assigned swingman Daniel Hamilton to their affiliate in Erie, according to the team’s website. He returned to practice last week after recovering from a tear in his right rotator cuff and has yet to play this season.
  • The Sixers announced that Jonah Bolden has been sent to their Delaware affiliate. A draft-and-stash player who played in Israel last season, Bolden has appeared in four games for Philadelphia.

Central Notes: A. Johnson, Portis, Harrison, Antetokounmpo

With the Cavaliers‘ coaching situation still uncertain, Alabama coach Avery Johnson could become a candidate, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Johnson has plenty of NBA coaching experience, spending seven seasons with the Mavericks and Nets and taking Dallas to the NBA Finals in 2006.

Johnson also has a strong connection with Cavs’ rookie point guard Collin Sexton, coaching him last year in his lone season of college basketball. Johnson attended Cleveland’s home opener last week as Sexton’s guest. Windhorst notes that owner Dan Gilbert has wanted to hire a college coach before, making offers to Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Kansas’ Bill Self and Kentucky’s John Calipari.

In the wake of Tyronn Lue‘s firing over the weekend, Larry Drew continues to act as interim head coach, but without the title. Drew said Tuesday that he’s “very disappointed” with the pace of negotiations to make his role more permanent.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls forward Bobby Portis is sidelined with a sprained right MCL, but it hasn’t changed his mind about his decision to pass on a contract extension, relays Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Portis, who may be out of action until mid-December, opted to test the market as a restricted free agent next summer rather than accept a deal now. “Can’t second-guess yourself,” he said. “Basketball gods don’t bless people that way. It doesn’t work that way. In life, obviously you have a choice. I made mine, I’m happy with what I did, and I’m just living life one day at a time.”
  • Bulls point guard Shaquille Harrison didn’t have his confidence shaken after being waived by the Suns, notes K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Injuries to Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine have given Harrison an opportunity, and he has responded with 10 and 13 points in the past two games. “The Bulls brought me here for a reason,” he said. “I don’t need to do more than what’s being displayed. Try to continue to play hard, be a leader and be a playmaker.”
  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has cleared concussion protocol and is expected to play tomorrow in Boston, according to Matt Velazquez of The Journal-Sentinel. Antetokounmpo has missed one game so far after being elbowed in the head Saturday. “It’s kind of scary because, you know, you get hit in the head and you feel pain for 10 seconds,” he said. “But it was lingering and I had a headache the next day and it was kind of bad, but at the time, I felt – I’m Giannis – I felt great. I wanted to play. … I think the NBA medical staff did a great job protecting me, keeping me out of the game.”

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Knox, O’Quinn, Durant

David Fizdale enjoyed working as a television commentator and might have stayed in that role longer if not for the opportunity with the Knicks, writes Ian Begley of ESPN. Fizdale called TV work a  “comfortable” job without “the stress of coaching,” but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try to build a winner in New York. He had interviews with several teams and turned down a four-year offer from the Suns to take the Knicks’ job.

Fizdale led the Grizzlies to the playoffs in his first year as a head coach, but injuries slowed the team last season and he was fired after 17 games in the midst of a well-publicized clash with Marc Gasol. That led to his job as an ESPN analyst.

“I went in there just force-feeding culture down everyone’s throat,” Fizdale said of his time in Memphis. “I had a small window, I felt, with those guys. So I really tried to fast-track everything. And there’s just some things you can’t rush. You can’t rush relationships, you can’t rush trust, you can’t rush the culture.”

There’s more out of New York:

  • The Knicks are hoping to get injured rookie Kevin Knox back in the lineup soon, possibly by Friday, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Knox suffered a sprained ankle in the third game of the season, and his father says he could be ready to return sometime between Friday and November 10. A tweet from the Knicks yesterday relays that Knox is making “good progress” and has “advanced to participating in shooting drills and non-contact court activity.”
  • Former Knicks center Kyle O’Quinn tells Berman it wasn’t an easy decision to leave New York and sign with the Pacers over the summer (Twitter link). “It’s the biggest decision I’ve ever made as far as making a choice in my career,” O’Quinn said. “I slept on it, prayed on it. I made the decision and I’m sticking with it. It’s no secret I would’ve loved to play for Fizdale or be here. It’s tougher than telling a girl you’re moving on.’’
  • The close relationship between Knicks assistant coach Royal Ivey and Warriors star Kevin Durant may give New York an edge in free agency next summer, Berman suggests in another story. They both went to college at Texas and Durant is the godfather of Ivey’s daughter.

Rockets Won’t Pick Up Option On Marquese Chriss

The Rockets have declined their fourth-year option on Marquese Chriss, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Houston hasn’t seen Chriss in action much since acquiring him two months ago in a trade with the Suns. An ankle injury sidelined him for most of the preseason and the start of the regular season, and he just made his official debut with the team last night.

Chriss, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, would have earned $4,078,236 next season, which is now the maximum the Rockets can offer him in the first year of a new contract. Houston is hovering near the luxury tax with $131.5MM already committed for 2019/20, which likely factored into the decision on Chriss.

The Suns were intrigued enough with Chriss’ potential to make a deal with the Kings and take him with the eighth pick in the 2016 draft. After a promising rookie year, he regressed last season, averaging 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 72 games while shooting just 42% from the field.

Chriss was sent to Houston at the end of August along with Brandon Knight in a deal for Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton. He and Knight have reportedly been offered to the Timberwolves along with four draft picks in exchange for Jimmy Butler, but the Wolves don’t appear likely to accept that deal.

Today marks the two-month anniversary of the Rockets acquiring Chriss and Knight, which means both are now eligible to be aggregated in a trade. Any team that deals for Chriss would also be limited to $4,078,236 as a starting salary in a future offer.

Southeast Notes: McGruder, Butler, Howard, Graham

Rodney McGruder‘s hot start to the new season could affect the Heat’s plans for the trade deadline, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Through seven games, McGruder ranks 16th among small forwards in scoring, 11th in shooting percentage and seventh in 3-point shooting. He will be eligible for an extension through the end of June that could pay as much as $47MM over four seasons.

If they Heat decide to make that commitment, they’ll become more likely to trade other wing players to shed salary. Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters have been on the market for months, Jackson notes, but other contracts may have to be moved to avoid a substantial luxury tax bill.

Miami has $135.2MM committed to 10 players for 2019/20, assuming Johnson, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic all opt in to their current deals. That puts the Heat above the projected $132MM tax line and doesn’t account for the cost of re-signing Wayne Ellington, who will be a free agent next summer after making $6.3MM this year.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat are willing to continue trade talks for Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler even though their last attempt ended in an angry exchange between the organizations, Jackson adds in the same story. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported today that Minnesota’s asking price for Butler is still high (Twitter link).
  • Dwight Howard is working in the same facility with the Capital City Go Go while rehabbing a strained piriformis muscle, but he has to coordinate his schedule so he doesn’t actually practice with the team, relays Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The NBA doesn’t let its players practice with G League squads, so Howard has been working out with Wizards player development assistants Alex McLean and Mike Williams. He is expected to make his season debut on Friday.
  • Hornets rookie Devonte’ Graham will spend at least two games in the G League, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Head coach James Borrego says he wants to get the young point guard used to a heavy dose of minutes, which he can’t do at the NBA level. “These are critical moments [with the Greensboro Swarm] to go play meaningful 5-on-5 games,” Borrego said. “We can’t replicate that for him right now. And even if I could get him into the game – last night to get him two or three minutes of run – it’s not the same as sending him to Greensboro and playing. I’m excited for him and he’s excited to play.”

Sixers Decline Option On Furkan Korkmaz

The Sixers won’t pick up the third-year option on Furkan Korkmaz, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The 21-year-old shooting guard was set to earn $2,033,160 next season, but he hasn’t been able to crack the rotation and is no longer in Philadelphia’s long-term plans.

The decision doesn’t come as a surprise because Korkmaz wasn’t included in the Sixers’ announcement Monday when they exercised their options on Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric. Teams tend to release all their option decisions at once, although Simmons, Fultz and Saric were easy choices.

Korkmaz hasn’t seen much playing time since leaving Turkey to join the Sixers before the start of last sesason. He has appeared in five games this this year, averaging 5.2 minutes per night. He got into just 14 games last year and spent much of the season in the G League.

Today’s decision means Korkmaz will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. He will receive his full $1,740,000 salary for this season, but he could become much more expendable if the Sixers need to open a roster spot.

The decision may also make it more difficult for Philadelphia to trade him. Unless he gets waived, Korkmaz can’t be offered a starting salary higher than the value of his option by whichever team has him when the season ends. That may lead an interested team to wait for free agency, rather than giving up something in trade and risking not being able to re-sign him.

And-Ones: 2019 World Cup, Bryant, 2019 Draft

With the 2019 World Cup in China now just 10 months away, FIBA has announced that Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming will serve as global ambassadors for the event, taking part in activities leading up to next year’s tournament to help promote the event.

“Growing up in Italy and spending many years visiting China, I have always appreciated the global impact that basketball has had on the positive development of young people,” said Bryant, who has long been one of the NBA’s most popular players in China. “I’m honored FIBA has invited me to serve as an ambassador for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. I hope my participation inspires and motivates the best players from the 32 participating teams to represent their respective country on the world’s biggest stage. I look forward to seeing who will lift the trophy next year.”

Team USA hasn’t technically qualified for the 2019 World Cup yet, but is in position to do so comfortably, with a 7-1 record in qualifying games so far.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • The struggling Cavaliers were the first NBA team to make major changes during the 2018/19 campaign, parting ways with Tyronn Lue and making major adjustments to their rotation just a handful of games into the season. Matt John of Basketball Insiders explores which teams around the league might be next to shake things up.
  • Firing a head coach is generally the simplest way a team can shake things up when it’s struggling, but the coach isn’t always to blame, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Meanwhile, an NBA.com panel explores which coaches might be feeling the heat next in the wake of Lue’s dismissal.
  • ESPN’s NBA draft gurus continued to examine the 2019 class this week, with Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz offering up their positional rankings for next year’s draft, while Givony, Schmitz, and Kevin Pelton attempt to answer some big questions about 2019’s class. Within that latter discussion, Givony suggests that none of the candidates for the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 have emerged as a lock.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, R. Williams, L. Brown, Raps

In order to maximize their potential, the Sixers will need to find a way to improve their floor spacing and outside shooting, writes Dave Zarum of Sportsnet.ca. Asked after Tuesday’s loss to Toronto about the 76ers’ shooting woes, Joel Embiid replied, “Last year we had some really good shooters and this year we don’t have them.”

Philadelphia does still have some reliable long-distance marksmen on its roster, including J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, but the team has missed Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli in the early going. Assuming Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz don’t turn into outside threats overnight, the Sixers will need more out of Dario Saric, who has made just 23.4% of his three-pointers so far this season.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic: