Month: April 2019

Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan Fined $25,000

Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan has been fined $25,000 for throwing the game ball at official Scott Foster during Game 4 of their first round series against Denver, the NBA announced today.

The incident occurred with 5:01 remaining in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, with DeRozan disagreeing on a charge call and tossing the ball past Foster into the spectator stands. DeRozan was assessed one technical foul and ejected upon his decision.

San Antonio lost the game 117-103 and will now travel to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday, a pivotal contest that’ll help determine which team wins the series and advances to the second round.

On the night, DeRozan finished with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 34 minutes of work, registering a minus-16 net rating. The Spurs struggled defensively and allowed the Nuggets to shoot a scorching 48% from 3-point range on their home floor.

Community Shootaround: Best Postseason Player

The first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs is underway, with all series now having played three or four games. The Bucks and Rockets both have 3-0 series leads over the Pistons and Jazz, while the Warriors, Celtics, Raptors, and Blazers lead 2-1 over the ClippersPacersMagic, and Thunder, respectively. Meanwhile, the Sixers have taken a 3-1 lead over the Nets and the Spurs and Nuggets are tied up at 2-2.

The playoffs leading scorer so far is Damian Lillard, who is averaging 30.3 PPG to go along with 4.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He is also ninth in PER at 27.7. He nearly led Portland to a 3-0 series lead over the Thunder in Oklahoma City with a 25-point third quarter in Game 3.

In the Eastern Conference, Joel Embiid has managed to play his way through pain and put up dominant averages of 25.3 PPG, 13.7 PPG, and 4.0 APG in in three games to give Philly a likely insurmountable 3-1 lead over Brooklyn. His numbers so far rank ninth in scoring and first in rebounding, while he also has the top PER of 40.4.

Other candidates for best player so far include some unsurprising candidates like Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, and MVP-front runner James Harden, as well as some less heralded players in Pascal Siakam and Lou Williams. Siakam is averaging a double-double through three games while Williams’ performance in Game 2 of the Clips’ series with Golden State helped lead the biggest comeback in playoff history.

So what do you think? Which player has had the best 2019 postseason so far? Is it one of the players listed above of another player? Is is purely based on stats or for some other, less-obvious reason? Head below to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

Decision Behind Game 4 Start For Torrey Craig

Mike Singer of The Denver Post, writing before the Nuggets Game 4 win over the Spurs, talked about Nuggets coach Michael Malone considering “all options” when it comes to making a starting lineup change ahead of Game 4.

“We’ll continue to look at it,” Malone said on Friday after Game 3. “All options are on the board. Obviously it’s never about any individual, it’s gotta be about what’s best for our team.”

As Singer noted beforehand, small forward Will Barton looked out of rhythm the first three games of the series, leading to Torrey Craig getting the start in Game 4. Through the first three games, Barton was 9 for 31 from the field.

Ultimately, the decision to go with Craig was in order to put more defensive pressure on the Spurs, allowing Craig and Gary Harris to match up with DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White.
Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Denver.

Knicks Notes: Draft Picks, Ntilikina, Dotson, Dolan

The Knicks will miss out on a valuable pick in this year’s draft because of a trade former team president Phil Jackson made nearly five years ago, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. New York would own the 31st pick, which is coveted because it offers a chance at a potential first-round talent without a guaranteed salary, if Jackson hadn’t traded it to the Sixers.

The Knicks wanted to unload Travis Outlaw‘s salary after training camp in 2014. Philadelphia was willing to offer Arnett Moultrie in a deal that trimmed roughly $4MM off New York’s luxury tax bill, but the Knicks had to throw in a future second-rounder. Both players were waived shortly after the trade was completed.

The 31st pick now belongs to the Nets, who acquired it last season as part of the price for taking Jahlil Okafor from the Sixers. Berman states that the Knicks would like to trade back into the early part of the second round and speculates that they might be willing to part with Frank Ntilikina to get there.

There’s more from New York:

  • Knicks management views the two first-rounders the team received from the Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis deal as trade chips, Berman adds. If Dallas moves into the top five in this year’s lottery, the picks won’t convey until 2022 and 2024, with the later one having top 10 protection. If the Mavs stay at No. 9, this year’s selection will go to Atlanta, and New York will get Dallas’ picks in 2021 and 2023.
  • The development of a few young players kept this season from being a total loss, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. In addition to the rookie trio of Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier, GM Scott Perry singled out Emmanuel Mudiay, Noah Vonleh and Damyean Dotson during a news conference this week. “We have a guy like Damyean Dotson,” Perry told reporters.Lance Thomas said in his exit, ‘Hey, he’s going to be a leader on your team. When he talks the guys on the team all listen to him.’”
  • With a high lottery pick guaranteed and enough cap room to offer two max contracts, the future appears bright in New York, but owner James Dolan’s poor reputation around the league could be the biggest obstacle toward rebuilding, according to David Waldstein and Kelly Whiteside of The New York Times.

NBA Fines, Suspends Sean Marks

Nets GM Sean Marks has been fined $25K and suspended for a game after going into the referees’ locker room following Saturday’s loss to the Sixers, the league announced.

Marks will serve his suspension Tuesday during Game 5 of the playoff series in Philadelphia.

Yesterday’s game was marred by a third quarter fracas that saw the Nets’ Jared Dudley and the Sixers’ Jimmy Butler both suspended.

Georgian Center Goga Bitadze Enters Draft

International prospect Goga Bitadze from the Republic of Georgia has entered this year’s draft, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Ranked 19th on the latest ESPN big board, the 7’0″ center is excelling for Buducnost in the Euroleague at age 19, averaging 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 24 minutes per game. He is expected to win the Euroleague Rising Star award next month and posted the highest PER in league history by a teenager, eclipsing the mark Luka Doncic set last year.

Bitadze’s combination of size and skill could make him the best center prospect in the draft, according to Givony. He can play in the post or on the perimeter and excels in finishing pick and rolls. He has limitations on defense, but several teams consider him worthy of a lottery selection.

Bitadze also has extensive FIBA experience, representing his country in under-16, under-18 and under-20 competitions. He was part of this year’s World Cup Qualifiers until his Euroleague commitment forced him to miss games in February.

Central Notes: Sabonis, Middleton, Griffin, Pitino

After giving Myles Turner a four-year, $70MM extension last summer, the Pacers will likely be reluctant to make a similar move this year with Domantas Sabonis, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Both players are primarily centers and it’s difficult to use them together in a league where downsizing is the trend. Sabonis is extension-eligible this summer and will hit free agency next year if the Pacers don’t work out a deal.

Coach Nate McMillan put Turner and Sabonis on the court together occasionally this year to gauge their effectiveness. That strategy worked during the regular season, Bontemps notes, as the Pacers outscored opponents by 3.1 points per 100 possessions, but the Celtics have exploited the pairing in the playoffs.

This offseason will be vital is charting the future in Indiana, where six key players will be unrestricted free agents. Starters Darren CollisonWesley MatthewsBojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young will be joined on the market by rotation members Cory Joseph and Tyreke Evans. Bontemps notes that owner Herb Simon is reluctant to go into the luxury tax, so some difficult decisions will have to be made.

There’s more this morning from the Central Division:

  • Bucks swingman Khris Middleton, who is headed for a major payday in free agency, learned about the business side of the league as a rookie with the Pistons in 2013, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Detroit legend Tayshaun Prince was traded during the season, then Middleton got shipped to Milwaukee over the summer. “You get a reminder of what this league is about, how it’s a business and business decisions are made,” Middleton said. “It’s nothing personal. It’s all about the organization. You see stuff like that, right in front of your face, you always hear about it, but hey, you learn anything can happen in this league. You got to be prepared for it and be ready to move on.”
  • Blake Griffin returned to action last night, but he couldn’t help the Pistons overcome the Bucks, relays Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Griffin, who missed the first two games of the series with swelling and pain in his left knee, wore a heavy brace under a leg sleeve as he scored 27 points in 31 minutes.
  • The Cavaliers are denying a report that they have talked to Rick Pitino in their coaching search, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com“False. We are, respectfully, not interested in him at all,” a source told Fedor. “No conversations with him by (team chairman) Dan (Gilbert) or anyone else.”

GM Michael Winger To Stay With Clippers

Clippers GM Michael Winger has taken his name out of the running for a front office position in Minnesota, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Winger had been a candidate to fill the president of basketball operations role with the Timberwolves, but sources tell Krawczynski that he has elected to stay in L.A. and continue the work he started there. He was reluctant to leave an already competitive team that will have the cap room to offer at least one max contract this summer (Twitter link).

Winger has served as GM of the Clippers since 2017 and previously worked as an assistant GM to Sam Presti in Oklahoma City. The Wolves haven’t started formal interviews yet, so Winger didn’t have more than preliminary contact with them (Twitter link).

With one candidate off the list, Minnesota still appears to have a strong group to choose from, with ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth as the other reported candidates.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Butler, Nets, Leonard

Sixers center Joel Embiid will cover whatever fine Jimmy Butler receives for being ejected from today’s game with the Nets, relays Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The incident happened in the third quarter after Embiid received a Flagrant 1 foul while blocking a shot by Jarrett Allen. Jared Dudley physically confronted Embiid, and Butler pushed Dudley in the back. Dudley was also ejected for the fracas, and an NBA spokesman said fines could be announced tomorrow.

“I for sure fed off that,” Embiid said. “The fact that he had my back, I will pay the fine and it was great to see.”

Butler stood by his actions in the post-game press conference.

“I am just there to protect my big fella,” he told reporters. “If somebody runs up on him, I will push them again.”

There’s more tonight from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers once again waited until shortly before tip-off to decide that Embiid would play, notes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid’s status was listed as doubtful 90 minutes before the game, but the medical staff determined he could go. “It’s dictated by the doctors more than the coach — what harm are we putting him in? What unnecessary harm are we putting him in?” coach Brett Brown said. “If the answer is none, then you play him. Then it gets down to whatever level it is, then you question it.” 
  • The trade that brought D’Angelo Russell from the Lakers was just one of the ways the Nets were able to speed up their rebuilding process, writes Ian Begley of ESPN. Another was the hiring of coach Kenny Atkinson, who was able to guide the organization through dark times as it tried to rebuild with just one first-round pick in three years. “You’re just questioning yourself,” Atkinson said. “The next day, you’re renewed, refreshed and you get back on track, but I have to be honest: There were doubts.”
  • Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times examines how much the Raptors‘ fortunes in the playoffs will matter to Kawhi Leonard this summer when he decides whether to stay in Toronto.

Five Key Stories: 4/13/19 – 4/20/19

If you missed any of this past week’s biggest headlines from around the NBA, we’ve got you covered with our Week in Review. Here are some of the most noteworthy stories from the last seven days:

The Warriors are still the favorite to capture a third straight title, but their playoff road got more difficult with the loss of DeMarcus Cousins. The standout center suffered a torn quad while diving for a ball in Game 2 of Golden State’s playoff series with the Clippers. Injury issues will hang over Cousins in free agency for a second straight summer.

Zion Williamson, projected to be the top pick in this year’s draft, officially declared himself eligible. Williamson had an outstanding freshman season at Duke, averaging 22.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.8 BPG and 2.1 SPG in 33 games. He moved into the top spot in most mock drafts early in the season and managed to stay there.

The Pelicans landed one of the top available executives when former Cavaliers GM David Griffin agreed to become their new executive VP of basketball operations. Griffin’s top job this summer will be to work out a trade for star center Anthony Davis, who requested a deal prior to this year’s deadline.

The Grizzlies continued their front office overhaul by hiring Rich Cho as VP of basketball strategy and Glen Grunwald as a senior advisor. Since the season ended, Memphis has demoted GM Chris Wallace and hired Jason Wexler as head of basketball operations and Zach Kleiman as VP of basketball operations.

The Kings finalized a deal to make Luke Walton their new head coach. Walton was unemployed for less than a day after being fired by the Lakers. GM Vlade Divac reportedly wanted to hire Walton three years ago.

Here are 10 more headlines from the past week:

  • The Lakers made progress in their coaching search, meeting with both Tyronn Lue and Monty Williams. Heat assistant Juwan Howard will also get an interview.
  • Howard is also a candidate for the Cavaliers‘ head coaching job. Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool are also expected to receive interviews.
  • ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups is among the candidates for a front office position with the Timberwolves. Billups previously interviewed for management jobs with the Cavaliers and Hawks.
  • Former All-Star center Dwight Howard opted in for the final year of his contract with the Wizards. He will receive a little more than $5.6MM next season.
  • Hornets center Bismack Biyombo also picked up his player option for 2019/20. Biyombo will make $17MM in the final season of a four-year, $68MM deal.
  • Mavericks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. had surgery on his left tibia to relieve a stress injury. The team expects him to be fully ready in time for training camp.
  • Thunder swingman Hamidou Diallo had an arthroscopic procedure on his right elbow to ease the soreness. He was inactive for Game 2 of OKC’s playoff series with the Trail Blazers.
  • Blake Griffin missed the first two games of the Pistons‘ playoff series because of swelling and pain in his left knee. He will find out if surgery will be necessary once Detroit’s postseason run is over.
  • Kevin Durant said again this week that he doesn’t plan to focus on a free agency decision until the playoffs are over. He will be eligible for a five-year, $221MM deal with the Warriors or four years and $164MM from anyone else.
  • Sixers backup center Amir Johnson was fined for looking at his cell phone on the sidelines during the playoff opener with the Nets. Using a cell phone on the bench is a violation of the NBA’s Operations Manual.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.