Month: February 2019

Central Notes: Bucks, Turner, Lopez, Kennard

The Bucks enjoyed a pivotal year in 2018, with a new coach, a new building, a roster upgrade and the emergence of an MVP candidate, writes Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As a result, the franchise finishes the calendar year with the NBA’s best record at 25-10.

“This is not a Bucks team that’s trying to compete for mediocrity,” GM Jon Horst said. “We’re not happy and satisfied with just making it into the playoffs, even though that’s always a great accomplishment in its own right. I hope that they see it’s a team led by a young superstar in Giannis (Antetokounmpo) that has high character and wants to win at the highest level with great people throughout the organization from the top down.”

Mike Budenholzer took over as head coach in May and the team added several shooters over the offseason to fit his philosophy that emphasizes the 3-pointer. The team drafted Donte DiVincenzo and signed free agents Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton.

“It’s amazing,” Antetokounmpo said. “Got a new building, a new facility, a new head coach, a new system, everybody’s having fun, new atmosphere – it’s been amazing. … Moving on to 2019, I hope we can do big things and accomplish big things with this team.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers center Myles Turner suffered a broken nose in today’s game and will be fitted for a mask tomorrow, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. “The hope is that he doesn’t have a concussion,” coach Nate McMillan said. “He can play with a mask.”
  • Bulls center Robin Lopez believes coach Jim Boylen has won over the players after some initial resistance, relays Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago has put together a 5-8 record since he took over for Fred Hoiberg earlier this month. ‘‘I think we kind of are seeing some results,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘I do think we’re making progress. It feels like guys have bought in and are playing together in this system.’’
  • After a DNP last Wednesday, the PistonsLuke Kennard studied some film to help fix his shot, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Kennard has hit 63% from the field and 44% from 3-point range over the last two games and is back in the mix for minutes at small forward.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/31/18

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

  • The Nets shipped Treveon Graham to their affiliate in Long Island, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. An offseason addition in free agency, Graham hasn’t played since October because of a hamstring injury.
  • The Trail Blazers have assigned forward Caleb Swanigan to the G League, the team announced on its website. A first-round pick in 2017, Swanigan is averaging 1.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in 16 games for Portland this season. Because the Blazers don’t have a direct G League affiliate, Swanigan will report to the Texas Legends.
  • After playing his first NBA game of the season over the weekend, Jazz center Tony Bradley is headed back to the G League (Twitter link). He is averaging 14.1 PPG and 7.6 RPG for Salt Lake City.
  • The Magic sent Melvin Frazier to their affiliate in Lakeland, the team announced on Twitter. This is the fifth G League trip of the year for Frazier, who has played just three games for Orlando.
  • The Bucks recalled Christian Wood from their Wisconsin affiliate, the team announced in a press release. Wood has appeared in just six NBA games this season, but has been one of the G League’s top players, averaging 28.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

Southwest Notes: J. Green, J. Jackson, Bickerstaff, Payton

Trading JaMychal Green is the easiest way to open more playing time for rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., writes David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jackson has played well in his first season, but his fourth-quarter minutes have been limited. Green, whose broken jaw early in the season opened the way for Jackson to enter the starting lineup, has quietly accepted a reserve role since returning and is among the most respected veterans in the Grizzlies‘ locker room.

However, Green has an expiring $7.87MM contract and doesn’t seem likely to stay in Memphis as a free agent, Cobb states. With Jackson clearly the team’s power forward of the future, the Grizzlies could pick up at least a draft pick in exchange for Green before the February 7 trade deadline.

Cobb offers a few other suggestions for expanding Jackson’s minutes if they decide to keep Green, including cutting back on playing time for Joakim Noah, who has a negative plus-minus rating in seven of his last eight games, and giving more rest to Marc Gasol, who is averaging 34.6 minutes per night.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The GrizzliesJ.B. Bickerstaff came to Houston as a head coach tonight for the first time since serving as the Rockets‘ interim coach in 2015/16, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Bickerstaff led the team to a 37-34 record that season, but wasn’t retained. “I was here for five years, was a part of some really good teams, got to work with a great coach and friend in Kevin McHale, learned from him every single day, was thrown in the fire a little bit at the interim,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no experience like the experience of being in that seat. My time here, though it ended kind of bumpy, was great for my career, great for me as a coach in learning. And I had some really good times with the people here as well.”
  • The Pelicans had Elfrid Payton in their starting lineup tonight for the first time in more than six weeks. The free agent addition broke his left pinky finger last month and hasn’t played since November 16. Coach Alvin Gentry plans to limit his minutes until he gets back into game shape, tweets Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com.
  • Jordan Greer of The Sporting News looks at six potential targets for the Rockets in their pursuit of wing depth.

Gordon Hayward Talks About Comeback

Gordon Hayward hasn’t regained the All-Star form he had in Utah, but he’s urging Celtics fans to be patient as he works his way back from an injury that cost him all of last season, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Hayward is averaging 10.6 PPG through 31 games, roughly half of where his scoring average was in his final year with the Jazz. The Celtics were expecting the All-Star numbers he put up in Utah, but a horrific ankle injury on the first night of the 2017/18 season put him out for the entire year.

“With each game, I get more comfortable playing with the guys,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing, you gotta be able to have that experience with them on the court, to kind of know who you’re with, know who you’re playing with, just to know what everybody likes to do, try to maximize their strengths. Sometimes that’s running the break, sometimes we have a lot of ball handlers, so that’s just getting out on the wing and getting something easy at the rim.”

The Celtics have undergone major changes since Hayward signed with them in July of 2017. They traded for Kyrie Irving a few weeks later, then Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown emerged as important contributors while Hayward was injured.

Boston’s depth has resulted in Hayward accepting a bench role after starting the season’s first 15 games. Instead of being an integral part of the offense, he has become a complementary player who puts up occasional scoring bursts, as he did Saturday in a comeback win at Memphis.

Hayward has improved from month to month, averaging 11.4 PPG in December while shooting 38.1% from 3-point range. He may become even more important to the team by playoff time, but much will depend on how his body responds to the rigors of his first season since the injury.

“It definitely required a lot of patience, even still,” he said. “I’m still finding my rhythm. Like I was saying, with knowing who I’m out there on the court with, what I’m going to be asked to do, and what the team needs me to do. Patience is a good word for that.”

Patrick McCaw Wanted “A New Opportunity”

Patrick McCaw couldn’t come up with an easy explanation for why he wanted to leave the Warriors, other than saying he was looking for “a new opportunity,” writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

McCaw got his wish last night when Golden State elected not to match the two-year, $6MM offer sheet he received from the Cavaliers. McCaw went through his first practice with Cleveland today, after which Vardon asked him the obvious question: Why didn’t he want to stay with an organization where he won two rings in his first two NBA seasons?

“I loved playing in Golden State,” McCaw responded. “My teammates, the coaches, it was nothing really … nothing stands out to me to say I didn’t want to go back. Think it was just a personal thing where I was just like, I think it was time for me to move on for a new opportunity within myself. Nothing against Golden State, front office, coaches, players, the environment, it had nothing to do with any of that. It’s just a personal thing, and I wanted a new opportunity to move on.”

McCaw went from the two-time defending champs to the team with the league’s worst record. He also made the move without any guaranteed money. Neither year of his offer sheet carries a guarantee, although all NBA contracts will be fully guaranteed for the rest of the season for players who remain on the roster beyond January 7.

As the league’s last remaining restricted free agent, McCaw has been waiting for an offer sheet since July. He turned down the Warriors’ $1.7MM qualifying offer and a subsequent two-year, $5.2MM offer with only the first year guaranteed. The “new opportunity” he had been seeking finally came Friday from the Cavaliers, who need reinforcements after a rash of injuries.

McCaw gets a chance to prove himself again as an NBA player after a disappointing second season and a frightening fall that kept him out of action from March to May. Cavaliers coach Larry Drew plans to play him right away, although he still needs to get into game shape and learn the team’s playbook.

“I took a different approach to this whole situation,” McCaw admits. “I was uncertain if I would get an offer sheet or anything. But being positive in myself and knowing something would come. I can’t really look back on the last two months and how I handled the whole situation, I can only continue to focus on now and the future. That’s all I’m waiting for.”

And-Ones: UCLA Coach, Withey, Delfino, NBAGL

With Steve Alford out as the head coach at UCLA, and the program launching a search for Alford’s replacement, a pair of former NBA head coaches have already been linked to the position.

Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets that there have been “persistent rumbles in NBA coaching circles” that the Bruins would pursue Fred Hoiberg, though it’s not clear if Hoiberg would be open to returning to the NCAA. After he was let go by Chicago earlier this season, reports indicated that Hoiberg wanted to remain in the NBA.

Meanwhile, a source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link) that former UCLA guard Earl Watson would have interest in the job. Watson, who coached in Phoenix from 2016-17, has strong AAU ties and was close with Bruins legend John Wooden, Spears notes.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran NBA big man Jeff Withey had been playing in Turkey this season, but he and Tofas Bursa have parted ways, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Withey, who has logged more than 200 regular season NBA appearances, played in nine games for Dallas in 2017/18.
  • An NBA forward from 2004 to 2013, Carlos Delfino had been playing with Fiat Torino this season, but his time with the Italian club came to an abrupt end last week. According to Carchia, Delfino had a heated argument with Fransesco Forni, who is Fiat Torino’s VP and the son of the team’s owner. Forni issued a statement saying that Delfino “almost assaulted” him, and the club opened disciplinary proceedings against the veteran after cutting him. Delfino disputed the notion that there was any sort of physical confrontation and explained his side of the story to Carchia.
  • Former first-round pick Rashad Vaughn has changed NBA G League teams, with the Delaware Blue Coats acquiring him today from the Texas Legends, per a press release.
  • Speaking of the G League, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days recently took a look at some of the challenges facing Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who is taking over as the NBAGL president.

NBA Dates, Deadlines To Watch In January

Near the start of the 2018/19 campaign, we looked ahead and identified several dates and deadlines to watch on the NBA calendar throughout the rest of the season. While that list covered the general highlights, it’s worth taking a closer look at some of those key dates to keep an eye out for in January, which should be a busy month.

Let’s dive in…

Non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed

January 10 is the date that all non-guaranteed NBA contracts for 2018/19 will officially become guaranteed, but January 7 is really the day to watch. If a team wants to avoid having a salary become guaranteed, the player must clear waivers before January 10, which means he needs to be cut by January 7, at the latest.

Many players without fully guaranteed salaries are in no danger of being waived within the next week, but some teams will take the opportunity to save a little money and open up a roster spot. Here’s the list of players to watch, including newly-signed Cavaliers guard Patrick McCaw.

Teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts

Around the same time that several NBA clubs will be opening up a roster spot by waiving a player on a non-guaranteed salary, teams will also be able to use those newly-created openings to sign players to 10-day contracts. Those 10-day deals, which can be signed as of January 5, give teams the opportunity to pick up a short-term injury replacement, or perhaps to get a brief look at a standout G League player.

We extensively outlined the details of 10-day contracts and explained how they work in our glossary entry on the subject.

More players become trade-eligible

A huge percentage of the NBA’s offseason signees became eligible to be traded back on December 15, but there are still many players who can’t be dealt. By the end of January, that list of players ineligible to be traded will shrink further, since there are 24 players currently on track to have those restrictions lift this month.

January 15 is the key date, with 20 players becoming trade-eligible as of that Tuesday. That group features a number of players who almost certainly aren’t going anywhere, such as Nikola Jokic and Paul George. However, there are a handful of players on that list who could be involved in trade rumors in 2019, including Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors.

A few other offseason signees have unique trade-eligible dates this month, since they were signed sometime after September 15 or inked an offseason extension. Those players are Alfonzo McKinnie (January 12), Jamal Crawford (January 16), Shaquille Harrison (January 21), and Kevin Love (January 24).

Two-way contract deadlines

NBA teams will face a pair of key deadlines relating to two-way contracts in January. The first of those dates arrives on January 15, which is the last day that a team can sign a player to a two-way contract this season.

Most teams have already filled both of their two-way slots. Still, it’s safe to assume that a number of clubs will make changes at those spots within the next couple weeks, while teams with two-way openings – the Celtics, Knicks, and Trail Blazers – figure to fill them.

On January 20, all players on two-way contracts will have their G League salaries for the season become fully guaranteed.

Other odds and ends

There are a few other dates in January that are worth mentioning, despite the fact that they’ll likely come and go without much fanfare.

On January 10, mid-level and room exceptions – along with other cap exceptions like the bi-annual exception – will start to prorate for the year, meaning a team with its full room exception available would no longer be able to offer the full $4.449MM amount to a free agent. Exceptions will decline in value by 1/177th per day, starting on January 10.

January 15 is the last day that teams can apply for a disabled player exception to replace an injured player who is deemed unlikely to return this season. A disabled player exception can give a club extra cap flexibility, though that team may still have to open up a roster spot to add a player using its DPE. Our glossary entry explaining the disabled player exception can be found right here.

On January 29, a series of trade exceptions created in last year’s Blake Griffin blockbuster will expire, including a Pistons TPE worth $7MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Warriors Notes: McCaw, Center, McKinnie, Iguodala

After deciding not to match Patrick McCaw‘s offer sheet with the Cavaliers, Warriors general manager Bob Myers spoke to reporters today about his team’s decision, citing Alfonzo McKinnie‘s play and roster flexibility as the primary reasons to let McCaw walk. As Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group tweets, Myers also mentioned the luxury tax implications, but suggested that wasn’t the primary factor.

According to Medina (Twitter link), Myers wished McCaw well and indicated that Golden State would have been happy to welcome him back. The Warriors’ GM still isn’t sure exactly why McCaw wanted to leave the club, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. “I honestly don’t know,” Myers said. “It’s all speculation.”

With that 15th roster spot still open and Damian Jones sidelined, the Warriors are monitoring opportunities to add another center to the mix, Myers confirmed (Twitter link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). However, nothing is imminent, and the GM sounds prepared to wait until closer to the trade deadline – or buyout season – to acquire another big man, according to Slater (Twitter link).

“I wish we could borrow some centers from last year,” Myers joked, referring to a 2017/18 roster that included David West, JaVale McGee, and Zaza Pachulia (Twitter link via Medina).

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Myers was reluctant to discuss a specific timeline when asked about DeMarcus Cousins‘ return, but he was positive about the big man’s recovery process. “I think we’re nearing the finish line,” Myers said, per Friedell (Twitter link).
  • It sounds like Alfonzo McKinnie probably doesn’t have to be worried about being waived at the contract guarantee deadline next Monday. Myers said today that the Warriors’ players, coaches, and front office all want to keep the young forward around (Twitter link via Slater).
  • Before the Warriors officially made their decision on Patrick McCaw, Medina spoke to a handful of the youngster’s now-former teammates about the prospect of welcoming him back into the locker room. “It would be an adjustment just because he hadn’t been playing with us and we have a new roster and a couple of new guys,” Kevon Looney said. “But I think most of us would take him back with open arms.” Within the same story, Medina notes that owner Joe Lacob remains “dumbfounded” and “befuddled” about how McCaw’s free agency played out.
  • Andre Iguodala was fined $25K by the NBA for throwing the game ball into the crowd at halftime in Portland on Saturday, the league announced today in a press release.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Cousins, Kings, Suns

After losing their first two games without LeBron James in the lineup, the Lakers picked up a win over Sacramento in Sunday. The victory is the latest signal that the club’s young core is capable of greater things, even without veteran leaders like LeBron and Rajon Rondo available, Kyle Kuzma said after the game, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

“We are not just one player,” Kuzma said. “We just got to eliminate little mistakes and we could have won all three games [without them]. For us, it is just continue to keep getting better and better and when those guys get back, hit the ground running.”

Meanwhile, while James continues to recover from the groin injury currently keeping him on the shelf, he appeared on the latest episode of ESPN’s ‘More Than An Athlete’ and made some interesting comments about his spot in NBA history. Addressing the 2016 NBA Finals, which saw his Cavaliers knock off the 73-9 Warriors, LeBron said that he felt that win “made me the greatest player of all-time” (video link).

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • With his debut for the Warriors getting closer, DeMarcus Cousins spoke to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated about what he called “the longest year of my life.”
  • The Kings have been perhaps the most surprising team in the NBA this season, unexpectedly vying for a playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference. As Matt John of Basketball Insiders details, Sacramento is enjoying success in 2018/19 despite making several roster moves that seemed questionable at the time.
  • In terms of length and athleticism, the Suns see some similarities between their current roster and their ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ teams from the mid-2000s, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “Just a lot of athleticism,” new Sun Kelly Oubre said. “When we’re at our best, we get stops and we get out in transition and we score. The ball is moving around. Everybody is touching it. Everybody is moving. That’s when we’re at our best. It’s just a lot of length out there. A lot of athletes and guys who can guard multiple positions. It’s kind of difficult for teams to turn downhill.”

Community Shootaround: Top NBA Stories Of 2018

We’re on the verge of flipping the calendar to 2019, but before we close the book on 2018, we want to take a look back at The Year That Was in the NBA.

While the outcome of the 2018 NBA Finals in June wasn’t particularly surprising, the implications for the Warriors‘ ongoing dynasty were compelling — the Dubs have now won two consecutive championships and three of the last four, and they may not be done yet. Plus, the Finals provided at least one memorable moment in Game 1, when J.R. Smith apparently forgot that the Cavaliers didn’t have the lead, and dribbled out the clock of a tie game.

That night was a low point for Smith, who was also at the center of an unusual story back in March when he was suspended for throwing soup at an assistant coach. But he’s not the only one who has had a frustrating 2018.

Carmelo Anthony played his way out of Oklahoma City and Houston, and currently remains in limbo. He’s technically a member of the Rockets, but played his last game for the team back on November 8. Meanwhile, 2017’s first overall pick Markelle Fultz continues to struggle to make an impact on the court, and is currently sidelined with a physical ailment, despite speculation that some of his issues may be mental.

The Fultz saga hasn’t been the only major storyline in Philadelphia. The Sixers also lost a general manager in the summer when a bombshell report linked Bryan Colangelo to a series of burner Twitter accounts that criticized current and former 76ers players and revealed sensitive information about the team. Colangelo vehemently denied any knowledge of those tweets – an investigation revealed that his wife was operating the accounts – but it cost him his job.

The Colangelo situation was the sort of NBA story that keeps us glued to Twitter, fascinated by every new detail that emerges. Another situation that fits that bill played out earlier this month, when an apparent three-team trade involving the Wizards, Suns, and Grizzlies fell apart due to confusion over whether Memphis was including Dillon Brooks or MarShon Brooks in the deal. Washington and Phoenix eventually made a trade on their own, but not before plenty of finger-pointing about which team was to blame for the Brooks-related confusion.

Of course, player movement is our focus at Hoops Rumors, so that would-be three-team trade was right up our alley, but it was far from the biggest transaction-related news of 2018. LeBron James signing with the Lakers might earn the crown, though that move wasn’t nearly as shocking as the Clippers trading Blake Griffin to the Pistons, or DeMarcus Cousins signing with the Warriors, a deal that incited outrage among fans of 29 other teams on social media.

Prolonged trade sagas involving stars like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler dominated NBA headlines during the offseason too, with Butler’s performance in his return to Timberwolves practice standing out as a highlight. Paul George, who was traded a year earlier, surprised many NBA fans by re-signing with the Thunder shortly after free agency opened on July 1 without even giving the Lakers a meeting.

While those were some of the top NBA stories of 2018, there are countless others worth mentioning. How about the Raptors firing Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, or the nearmutiny in Chicago shortly after Jim Boylen took over as the Bulls‘ head coach? Drama has followed the Wizards all season too, from Marcin Gortat and John Wall taking shots at each other in February to Bradley Beal criticizing GM Ernie Grunfeld at a contentious practice in November. And commissioner Adam Silver has had to send separate memos to teams around the league this season to warn them about tanking and tampering.

With the year about to come to a close, we want to hear about your favorite NBA stories of the last 12 months. What will you remember most about the NBA in 2018 when you look back on it years from now?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in!