Month: November 2018

Knicks Notes: Knox, Lee, Burke, Jenkins

The Knicks had some concerns about Kevin Knox‘s motor heading into the 2018 NBA draft, and while they were thrilled to land the young forward with the ninth overall pick, those concerns continue to linger 10 games into his NBA career, writes Mike Mazzeo of The New York Post.

According to head coach David Fizdale, the Knicks are working on that aspect of Knox’s game, showing him moments on film where he could have made a cut, run harder, or done something else with his athleticism. For his part, Knox agrees that there’s room for improvement in that area.

“That’s something I’m working on,” Knox said of his motor, per Mazzeo. “A lot of people told me that coming out of college, but that’s not something that’s going to fix overnight. I have to get in shape, get conditioning, compete every day in practice. I think most of it is just competing offensively and defensively. But there’s games when my motor is good, I just got to get it consistent and play at a high level.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Fizdale hasn’t hesitated to shake up his starting lineup in the early going this season, having already gone through five different lineups in 17 games. With the Knicks mired in a five-game losing streak, more changes may be coming to the starting lineup soon, writes Steve Popper of Newsday.
  • Courtney Lee, who continues to recover from a neck issue, started doing contact drills this week and is getting closer to returning to action, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Lee figures to be a prime candidate this winter if he’s healthy.
  • Knicks point guard Trey Burke has changed agents, having hired Sam Permut of Roc Nation Sports for representation, per Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Burke, who is playing on a minimum salary contract this season, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
  • John Jenkins was waived by New York last month after spending training camp with the club, but he has looked great in the G League for the Westchester Knicks, averaging 29.6 PPG with a scorching .526/.528/.949 shooting line. He’d love to get a shot to join the Knicks’ NBA roster, as he tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. “Anywhere I can get a real opportunity and chance to play at this stage of my career,” Jenkins said. “It would be great to be in the Knicks uniform and play at Madison Square Garden. That’s a dream come true for a lot of kids. They’re the team I want to play for. Hopefully I can make that happen.”

Hornets Have Inquired On Bradley Beal

The Hornets have contacted the Wizards to inquire about the possibility of acquiring Bradley Beal, a source confirms to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Spencer Percy of Queen City Hoops (Twitter link) first linked Charlotte to Beal.

A report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday suggested that the Wizards were giving teams the impression that they’re willing to discuss any player on their roster, including Beal and John Wall. However, multiple reports since then have downplayed Washington’s interest in making a move involving Beal or Wall. In other words, while they’re not going to hang up on teams asking about Beal, the Wizards appear unlikely to actually trade him.

Even if the Wizards are open to listening, it’s not clear what sort of package the Hornets would be willing to put on the table for Beal. Percy suggests (via Twitter) that Marvin Williams and Jeremy Lamb‘s expiring contract might be a start for salary-matching purposes, with Miles Bridges, Malik Monk, and/or future first-round picks among the assets Charlotte could include in a proposal.

Although a deal between the two division rivals seems like a long shot, the Hornets’ apparent interest in Beal reflects the team’s desire to add a second impact player to complement star point guard Kemba Walker.

Earlier today, Bonnell wrote in a piece for The Observer that Walker and Hornets owner Michael Jordan are both interested in extending the relationship beyond 2019, when Kemba becomes a free agent. However, Bonnell also noted that Charlotte will need to get Walker some help in order to maximize his prime and convince him that the Hornets can become a contender.

Warriors Notes: Green, Durant, Carmelo

The last week has represented perhaps the most challenging stretch of the Warriors‘ current era. Since last Monday, the club has lost four of five games, including three straight, and has dealt with the ongoing fallout of a much-publicized confrontation between All-Stars Draymond Green and Kevin Durant.

Despite their week of turmoil, the Warriors remain confident in their outlook going forward, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. Golden State has too much talent not to turn things around, especially once Stephen Curry is healthy enough to return to action, and winning figures to help solve any other problems that ail the team, as Quinn Cook observes.

“I just think if we would have won these past two games, nobody would be talking about it anymore,” Cook said of last week’s Green/Durant incident. “I think we just got to be better on the floor, and nobody will remember this once we start winning again.”

As Friedell observes in a separate piece for ESPN.com, head coach Steve Kerr isn’t complaining about the Dubs’ recent struggles, pointing out that the franchise has lived a “charmed existence” for the last several years.

“This is the real NBA,” Kerr said. “We haven’t been in the real NBA the last few years. We’ve been in this dream. And so now we’re faced real adversity and we got to get out of it ourselves.”

As the Warriors prepare for a Wednesday showdown against the Thunder, let’s round up a few more notes on the club:

  • Don’t expect the Warriors to pursue Carmelo Anthony if and when he’s waived by Houston, says Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Spears hears from a source that Golden State has no interest in Anthony.
  • Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area lays out all the reasons why it wouldn’t make any sense for the Warriors to consider trading Kevin Durant or Draymond Green this season, despite their recent altercation and possible lingering tension.
  • Is Green worth a maximum-salary investment? Frank Urbina of HoopsHype explores that subject, concluding that – as valuable as he is – it’s hard to imagine Green securing a long-term max deal when he eventually reaches free agency in 2020 at age 30.
  • In an interesting piece for The Athletic, Anthony Slater explores how the modern media landscape makes it difficult for NBA players and teams to quickly move past incidents like last week’s confrontation between Durant and Green.

J.R. Smith No Longer With Cavaliers

12:39pm: The Cavaliers have officially confirmed that Smith will no longer be with the team as the club and Smith’s reps work to resolve his situation. Within their press release, the Cavs thanked Smith for his contributions to the franchise, including his role in the 2016 championship.

12:21pm: Veteran guard J.R. Smith will no longer be actively with the Cavaliers, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic (Twitter links), who reports that Smith will work out on his own going forward. Smith’s camp and the Cavs are working together to find a trade, Vardon says, adding that a buyout is not a consideration at this point. Vardon describes the breakup as “amicable.”

The Cavaliers reportedly gave Smith the opportunity to take time away from the club earlier in the season, but he turned down the offer at the time — it seems he has reconsidered it now. This development doesn’t come as a huge surprise after Smith made comments suggesting that the Cavs weren’t trying to win, and that he didn’t want to be part of a team if its goal wasn’t “to compete, to win.”

Smith had been a regular part of Cleveland’s rotation over the last couple weeks, but played just six minutes in Monday’s loss to the Pistons. It appears those will be his last minutes for the team for a while – perhaps ever – as he’ll be pulled from the rotation for the third time this season. The Cavaliers have been somewhat indecisive so far in 2018/19 about whether to play their veterans or focus on developing their young prospects, but they appear to be moving more and more toward the latter path.

While Smith is very much on the market, it won’t be easy for the Cavs to find a trade partner. The 33-year-old is off to a very poor start to the season, with just 6.7 PPG on .342/.308/.800 shooting in 11 games (20.2 MPG). He’s also earning a $14.72MM salary in 2018/19.

On the plus side, while Smith remains under contract for one more year beyond this season, his 2019/20 salary, worth $15.68MM, is only partially guaranteed for $3.87MM, so it’d be relatively inexpensive to cut him loose at season’s end.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trail Blazers Rumors: Stotts, Lillard, Collins

After their 2017/18 season ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Pelicans in the first round of the postseason, the Trail Blazers came close to firing head coach Terry Stotts, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Portland was close enough to making a move that teams like the Suns begin reaching out to intermediaries to gauge Stotts’ potential interest in their own coaching openings.

However, while ownership seriously considered a change, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey and star point guard Damian Lillard fought for Stotts, according to Lowe.

“I was asked what I thought, and I just said I love him as a coach,” Lillard said of Stotts. “We all love him.”

Lowe’s piece takes a deep dive into the Trail Blazers’ culture, as he notes that Lillard and C.J. McCollum “tolerate no squabbling, or blame games.” That attitude permeates the organization from top to bottom, according to Lowe, who points to the relationship between Olshey and Stotts as another example.

Although the two team leaders haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on everything, they’ve developed an understanding that Olshey will avoid players who don’t fit Stotts’ style and Stotts will coach the players he gets. As a result of their relationship, Lowe explains, players will never see Olshey and Stotts at odds in any serious way, as the organization emphasizes a drama-free and resentment-free culture.

Here’s more from Lowe on the Blazers:

  • The Blazers’ late owner Paul Allen, who passed away last month, addressed the team in the wake of its first-round exit, calling the four-game sweep “unacceptable,” sources tell Lowe. Based on the language and the tone, people within the organization were nervous that a major shakeup was coming during the offseason.
  • Allen was ultimately convinced to give everyone – including Stotts and the Blazers’ core – one more season, while team management and coaches vowed to make changes heading into 2018/19. Namely, as Lowe details, Portland wanted to surround Evan Turner with more shooting on the second unit, re-shuffle the rotation to get Lillard and McCollum more playing time together, and get off to a faster start this season. So far, that plan is going well.
  • The Blazers still want to find a way to supplement their Lillard/McCollum duo with a third impact player, sources around the NBA tell Lowe. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic have emerged as perhaps Portland’s most valuable trade chips, but the club doesn’t want to trade Collins and “almost certainly won’t” anytime soon, Lowe reports.
  • Lowe identifies Khris Middleton and Tobias Harris as the type of player who would appeal to the Blazers, though acquiring either of those guys in a trade or as a free agent would be an extreme long shot. Forwards like Otto Porter of the Wizards and Taurean Prince of the Hawks may be more realistic trade targets, Lowe notes.
  • Lillard still believes the Blazers are capable of reaching greater heights during his tenure with the team. “Good things come to good people, even if you get swept somewhere along the way,” he tells Lowe. “This is what goes through my mind: I’m gonna be in my 11th year or something here, I’m gonna stick with it, and we’re gonna make the Finals.”

Spurs Sign Ben Moore To Two-Way Contract

NOVEMBER 20: The Spurs have officially signed Moore to a two-way deal, the team announced today in a press release.

NOVEMBER 17: The Spurs will sign former Pacers power forward Ben Moore to a two-way contract, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Indiana waived Moore two weeks ago to free up a roster spot. He re-signed with the team over the summer, agreeing to a partially guaranteed deal, but hadn’t appeared in any games this year. He got into two games last season as a two-way player. After going unclaimed on waivers, Moore returned to the Pacers’ organization with its G League affiliate in Fort Wayne.

The signing will fill the second two-way slot for San Antonio, which had been among a handful of NBA teams with an opening. Center/forward Drew Eubanks is the Spurs’ other two-way player.

Markelle Fultz Scheduled To See Shoulder Specialist

At the direction of agent and attorney Raymond Brothers, Sixers point guard Markelle Fultz is scheduled to visit a shoulder specialist in New York within the next week, per David Aldridge and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links). Brothers tells Aldridge that Fultz won’t participate in practices or games until after the specialist has had the opportunity to evaluate him.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Fultz missed nearly all of his rookie season last year, in large part due to ongoing shoulder issues. While the young guard has appeared healthy this season, he has continued to struggle with his shot, inadvertently creating viral highlights due to unusual hitches in his shooting form — even on free throws.

It’s not clear whether Fultz’s shooting problems are primarily physical or mental, but either way, he has struggled to make an impact early in his NBA career, averaging just 7.7 PPG, 3.4 APG, and 3.4 RPG with a .414/.267/.534 shooting line in 33 games (20.6 MPG).

Although he was a starter for Philadelphia for the first 15 games of the team’s 2018/19 campaign, Fultz has moved to the bench since the Sixers acquired Jimmy Butler. The 20-year-old played a season-low seven minutes in Monday’s win over the Suns, ceding playing time to T.J. McConnell.

As Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com relays, head coach Brett Brown declined to commit after the game to Fultz or McConnell as his backup point guard going forward. However, based on Aldridge’s report, it sounds like McConnell will take over that role, at least for the time being.

J.R. Smith Wants Trade From Cavs, Resisting Buyout

Nearly three weeks after he first confirmed that he’d welcome a trade out of Cleveland, J.R. Smith continues to seek a deal, having asked twice to be moved, according to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. The veteran guard made it clear during a conversation with Lloyd that he doesn’t believe the Cavaliers are interested in winning, and doesn’t want to play for a team that’s not trying to win.

“I don’t think the goal is to win. The goal isn’t to go out there and try to get as many wins as you can,” Smith said. “I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks. I think that was always the plan.”

Asked if he’s interested in being part of the rebuilding process in Cleveland, Smith replied, “Not if the goal isn’t to compete, to win.”

The Cavaliers insisted throughout the offseason, even as LeBron James headed to Los Angeles, that they still believed they could compete in the Eastern Conference — if not for a spot in the Finals, then at least for a playoff berth. Shortly after the regular season got underway, the Cavs seemingly shifted gears and started to focus on developing young players like Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman. However, in the view of vets like Smith and George Hill, that was probably the plan even before the season started.

“I think it re-calibrated before Game 1 was even played,” Hill said of the club’s outlook for 2018/19. “In the summer, it felt like politically you have to say we can still do these things because you want everyone to buy in to being here. Once everybody is here, I don’t know. The directions change.”

While the Cavs would probably have just as much interest as Smith in a deal that sends him elsewhere, his contract – which includes a $14.72MM cap hit for this season – isn’t favorable, especially given his slow start (his 6.7 PPG and .342 FG% would be career lows). Lloyd suggests that if Smith were willing to surrender some of the guaranteed money left on his deal, a buyout would be an option, but the 33-year-old has refused to go down that road so far.

“I don’t want my legacy to be remembered like that in Cleveland,” Smith said of a buyout. “I don’t think that’s fair to the people I see every single day walking around the arena. I don’t think that’s fair to the trainers or equipment guys. … I just look at it differently than being traded. I don’t like the statement of getting bought out.”

The Cavs figure to continue exploring the trade market for Smith in the coming weeks and months. If they can’t find a suitable deal by the February 7 deadline, perhaps Smith would become more inclined to negotiate a buyout in an effort to join a contender.

Wizards Rumors: Beal, Wall, Green, Oubre

Monday was an eventful day for Wizards-related headlines. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in the morning that the team was sending signals that it was willing to listen to inquiries on any of its players – including John Wall and Bradley Beal. Afternoon and evening reports, meanwhile, provided details on a contentious recent practice that included Wall cursing at head coach Scott Brooks, while Beal and Austin Rivers also had a verbal altercation.

In an article for The Washington Post, Candace Buckner shared more details on Thursday’s practice, which included an on-court confrontation between Wall and Jeff Green. Although sources who spoke to Buckner stressed that no arguments turned physical and that the altercations weren’t necessarily unusual for a struggling NBA team, the practice saw several players’ frustrations reach a boiling point.

“This is embarrassing,” a person familiar with the team told Buckner. “This is crazy.”

At one point during the practice, according to Buckner, Beal went on a tirade about the current culture within the Wizards’ organization, yelling something to the effect of “I’m sick of this sh**.” He also gestured toward GM Ernie Grunfeld and said, “It starts at the top,” per Buckner.

Despite Beal’s outburst, he hasn’t expressed any desire to be traded, people familiar with the situation tell Buckner. As for whether the Wizards would actually be willing to deal him, several sources who spoke to Buckner believe the team has no plans to move on from Wall or Beal. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington hears that any thoughts the Wizards have about trading either of their star guards are “very preliminary.”

Here’s more out of D.C.:

  • Buckner also reports that Kelly Oubre cursed out Brooks during a recent game. Although the incident happened on the court, Brooks addressed it during the locker room after the game, per Buckner.
  • “They just need to blow the whole sh** up,” one person connected to the Wizards said to Buckner. “It’s all bad.”
  • A source tells Fred Katz of The Athletic that changes are coming for the Wizards, adding that “you will notice a difference” in Brooks’ rotations going forward.
  • Washington will also consider trades, especially involving players who are perceived not to be playing hard every night, sources tell Katz. However, the club is in no rush to make an unfavorable deal and no trade appears imminent.
  • Here’s what a source who works in another team’s front office said about Beal, per Katz: “He isn’t the best player who’s been available in the past few years, but he’s the best player with the best contract situation.” The two stars who were traded most recently – Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler – were in the final year of their respective contracts, whereas Beal won’t be a free agent until 2021.
  • In an Insider-only article at ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton ranks the Wizards in terms of trade value. Beal tops Pelton’s list, followed by Oubre, Otto Porter, and Tomas Satoransky. Wall places eighth.

Nets Notes: Porter Jr., LeVert, Crabbe

This may be a good time for the Nets to make another attempt to acquire Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr., Brian Lewis of the New York Post opines. Porter signed a four-year, $106.5MM offer sheet with Brooklyn during the summer of 2017 but Washington matched it.

The Wizards have made Porter, who has disappointed since getting the big contract, available in trade talks, but there is reportedly little interest. Washington is on pace for a $14.6MM luxury-tax payment, in part due to that offer sheet, as Lewis notes, and could use some relief.

Brooklyn still needs a stretch four, a void that Porter could fill, though Porter’s contract also includes a 15% trade kicker. Presumably, the Nets could send Allen Crabbe or DeMarre Carroll and another player to Washington in order to make the salaries sufficiently match up, Lewis adds.

We have more on the Nets:

  • There’s no timetable on Caris LeVert‘s return to the court but he’s relieved his injury wasn’t as bad as initially feared, according to NetsDaily.com. LeVert suffered a foot dislocation against the Timberwolves a week ago but is expected to return sometime this season. “I remember that night, when I got to the hospital, I didn’t get any sleep because I was just thinking the whole time, hoping it wasn’t as bad as it looked and how it felt,” he said. “But obviously I’m very blessed because it could have been a lot worse.”
  • Crabbe is finally showing signs of breaking out of his offensive funk, Lewis writes in a separate story. Crabbe is averaging just 7.0 PPG on 27.3% shooting but had a 15-point outing on Saturday. Crabbe is the team’s highest-paid player at $18.5MM and holds a player option at the same amount for next season. “The coaching staff tells me to keep shooting,” he said. “Nobody’s telling me to stop, so we’ve just got to keep at it ’til it clicks. Hopefully, it’s the first game in the right direction.”
  • Clippers forward Tobias Harris would be a sensible free agent target for the Nets. Read more about it here.