Month: November 2019

Wizards Notes: Beal, Wall, White, Draft

Retaining Bradley Beal in his prime, rather than trading him for assets, might be the best course of action for the Wizards, Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington argues. Beal could be the ideal role model to establish a new identity and culture for the franchise, Standig continues. Beal could be the main locker room leader next season with John Wall recovering from his Achilles injury and he’d embrace that role, Standig notes. Giving Beal that power might deepen his connection to the franchise’s long-term success, Standig adds.

We have more on the Wizards:

  • With Wall’s super-max extension kicking in, owner Ted Leonsis wants his star point guard to take all the time necessary to make sure he’s fully ready when he starts playing again, as Leonsis expressed in an NBC Sports podcast and relayed by Chase Hughes“John understands his commitment will show from this rehab,” Leonsis said. “If it takes the whole season, we don’t care. We are not putting pressure on you on a time. Make sure that you are rehabilitating in the right way so that when you do come back, you don’t have that little voice in your head [saying], ‘Did I do everything the right way to be able to come back and be a great, great player?'”
  • North Carolina shooting guard Coby White and Kentucky small forward Keldon Johnson are among the prospects the Wizards are bringing in for workouts, Hughes reports in post written by NBC Sports Washington’s Josh Luckenbaugh. White is currently ranked No. 8 overall by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and the Wizards have the ninth pick. Johnson is ranked at No. 19. The Wizards will also soon bring in Georgetown’s Trey Mourning, Duke’s Marques Bolden and Temple’s Shizz Alston Jr.
  • Unless the franchise promotes interim president Tommy Sheppard and ends its long search for a new front office leader to replace Ernie Grunfeld, it’s unknown who will determine Washington’s draft decisions this month, Hughes writes in a separate story.

Pacific Notes: Iguodala, Vucevic, Culver, Jackson

Andre Iguodala underwent an MRI on his left leg on Friday which revealed no structural damage and he is expected to play in Game 2 of the Finals, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. The Warriors swingman experienced left calf tightness in the late going of Game 1, the same injury that caused him to miss a game in the conference finals.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings are interested in Magic free agent center Nikola Vucevic, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 tweets. This reiterates a previous Athletic report in late March that revealed Sacramento’s desire to sign Vucevic.
  • In their first individual workout, the Lakers will bring in Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver on Saturday as they begin examining Top 10 prospects, according to Joey Ramirez of the team’s website. The Lakers own the No. 4 pick and the 6’5” Culver, the Big 12 Player of the Year, is currently ranked No. 6 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.
  • Suns forward Josh Jackson has a minor foot injury, Gina Mizell of The Athletic tweets. Jackson was spotted in a soft cast and on crutches Friday at the arena. GM James Jones told Mizell that Jackson tweaked his foot and that the cast is precautionary.

Community Shootaround: Lakers Offseason

The Lakers’ franchise has been in a downward spiral since Christmas Day, when LeBron James suffered a groin injury during an upset victory at Golden State that sidelined him for more than a month.

From that point, the most notable developments the remainder of the season were their failed attempt to acquire Anthony Davis, their inability to make the playoffs, and the abrupt resignation of team president Magic Johnson.

It’s only gotten worse in the offseason. The Lakers fired head coach Luke Walton and their search for a replacement gave the franchise another black eye. Then got spurned by Monty Williams and saw negotiations with Tyronn Lue fall apart before settling on Frank Vogel. They also hired Jason Kidd as Vogel’s top assistant, putting Vogel in the awkward spot of having his potential replacement in the next chair.

Then came Johnson’s bridge-burning interview on ESPN in which he labelled GM Rob Pelinka a backstabber and detailed the dysfunction and indecision within the organization. This week, a detailed ESPN story spoke of the fear and confusion among staffers that developed when Johnson and Pelinka took charge and the heavy turnover in personnel.

It also detailed owner Jeanie Buss’ odd and ineffective management structure and the undue influence of James’ agent Rich Paul and others in James’ camp.

The only good thing that’s happened for the Lakers is that they moved up in the draft lottery.

Meanwhile, the franchise heads into a pivotal summer. It’s positioned financially to chase high-profile free agents and/or make a blockbuster trade.

Unquestionably, the Lakers need to acquire at least one superstar talent to pair up with James or else this offseason will be viewed as a complete disaster.

That leads us to our question of the day: Can the Lakers overcome the dysfunction and disarray within the organization and sign or trade for at least one superstar this offseason? Or are they doomed for a disastrous summer?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Cam Reddish To Undergo Core Muscle Surgery

Top-10 prospect Cam Reddish will undergo a core muscle surgery to correct an injury that nagged him during his freshman season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

The Duke forward has a six-week timetable for recovery from what Charania terms a minor procedure. However, the timing of the surgery obviously isn’t ideal with the draft less than three weeks away. Reddish won’t be able to work out for teams and he’ll almost certainly miss summer-league action, which could set him back as he preps for his first NBA campaign. But the timetable provides plenty of optimism he’ll be ready to go for training camp.

Reddish is currently ranked No. 7 overall and No. 1 at small forward by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Reddish is noted for his physical tools, positional versatility and shooting prowess despite his struggles in his lone Blue Devils season.

Reddish averaged 13.5 PPG but shot 35.6% overall and 33.3% from long range. He also averaged 3.7 RPG, 1.9 APG and 1.6 SPG.

Southeast Draft Notes: Hornets, Hawks, Magic, Heat

The Hornets are one of multiple Southeast teams that has been busy this week scouting draft-eligible prospects. According to a pair of press releases from the club, Charlotte brought in six prospects for pre-draft workouts on Friday and will take a closer look at six more on Saturday.

Nassir Little (UNC) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech) were the headliners in Friday’s group for the Hornets, joined by Devontae Cacok (UNC-Wilmington), Tyler Cook (Iowa), Jordan Davis (Northern Colorado), and Matt Morgan (Cornell).

On Saturday, the Hornets will work out Jordan Bone (Tennessee), Oshae Brissett (Syracuse), Ethan Happ (Wisconsin), C.J. Massinburg (Buffalo), Isaiah Roby (Nebrasaka), and Simisola Shittu (Vanderbilt).

Here are a few more draft-related updates from out of the Southeast:

Bucks Notes: Kaminsky, Lopez, Hill, Giannis

In the market for a big man who could stretch the floor at the trade deadline, the Bucks made an effort to acquire Frank Kaminsky from the Hornets, but were turned down, sources tell Sean Deveney of Sporting News. Having missed out on Kaminsky, Milwaukee instead sent a handful of second-round picks to New Orleans to acquire Nikola Mirotic.

With Mirotic and Brook Lopez both headed for unrestricted free agency this summer, however, Deveney expects the Bucks to circle back to Kaminsky, who will be eligible for restricted free agency. Milwaukee’s ability to land him will depend on a number of factors, including how serious the Hornets are about re-signing him and what happens with the Bucks’ own free agent bigs. Still, it’s a potential pairing to watch, particularly if Kaminsky becomes unrestricted and is available at a discount.

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • In a separate article for Sporting News, Deveney previewed the Bucks’ offseason, suggesting that the team will make Khris Middleton its top priority in free agency this summer over Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon, and others.
  • After the Bucks’ season ended last weekend, Lopez said he’d “love to be back,” while George Hill – who is expected to be waived to avoid his full $19MM guarantee – said that money has never been the most important factor for him in free agency, as Malika Andrews of ESPN.com relays.
  • In an interesting piece for The Athletic, Eric Nehm spoke to Giannis Antetokounmpo about what the Bucks star learned during his first extended playoff run, and how he’ll apply those lessons going forward. “There are so many things I thought were tough in the regular season,” Antetokounmpo said after playing three rounds of postseason basketball. “They’re not.”
  • The Bucks recently worked out UNC forward Cameron Johnson, per Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box (via Twitter). The 21st player on ESPN’s big board, Johnson may no longer be available by the time Milwaukee picks at No. 30.

Clippers Fined For Tampering On Kawhi Leonard

The NBA announced today in a press release that it has fined the Clippers $50K for violating the league’s anti-tampering policy. The penalty stems from comments made by head coach Doc Rivers about Raptors star Kawhi Leonard during a television appearance.

“(Leonard) is the most like (Michael) Jordan that we’ve seen,” Rivers said while participating in an ESPN panel earlier this week, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. “Like, there’s a lot of great players. LeBron (James) is phenomenal. KD (Kevin Durant) is phenomenal. Not like he is Jordan, or anything like that. But he’s the most like him. Big hands. Post game. Can finish. Great leaper. Great defender. In-between game. If you beat him to the spot – bumps you off. And then you add his 3-point shooting…”

The NBA generally doesn’t crack down as hard on potential tampering violations when players and coaches talk about rival players, preferring to limit its penalties to comments made or actions taken by executives and owners.

In this case though, the NBA may have been sensitive to the perception that the Clippers have been recruiting Leonard all year while he’s under contract with Toronto. The Raptors have reached out to the league multiple times this season when they’ve felt the Clippers have crossed tampering lines, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link).

Additionally, it’s not as if Rivers was simply a head coach discussing an opponent directly before or after playing him. The circumstances surrounding Rivers’ comments explain why the league was less willing to let them slide.

While it’s possible that Leonard’s NBA Finals run with the Raptors will help convince him to stay in Toronto when he reaches free agency in a month, the Clippers are still lurking in the shadows as his presumed top suitor, Amick wrote in a column before Game 1.

Marc Stein of The New York Times also provided some details this week on the lengths the Clippers are going to as they prepare their pitch for Leonard, reporting that the club explored the feasibility of buying a portion of the rights to Kawhi’s “Klaw” logo, which is still owned by Nike.

Rockets Rumors: D’Antoni, Offseason, Paul

After head coach Mike D’Antoni ended contract extension negotiations with the Rockets on Thursday, details about the offer that Houston made to D’Antoni began to trickle out.

According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, team owner Tilman Fertitta claimed that the Rockets offered D’Antoni a one-year, $5MM extension which could have increased in value based on Houston’s performance in the playoffs. As Fertitta described it, the deal – which would’ve been a raise on D’Antoni’s current $4.5MM salary – would’ve paid the head coach an extra $1MM for every series the Rockets won.

“We didn’t end extension talks,” Fertitta said. “Agents’ jobs are to play hardball. I made Mike a great extension offer. It was one of the better base salaries in basketball but also had the highest incentives in basketball. Mike could make $4MM in incentives. Business is business. I’m a very incentive-based guy. If you perform, I want you to do unbelievable.”

However, addressing that offer today, D’Antoni’s agent Warren LeGarie portrayed it a little differently. As Feigen relays, LeGarie said that D’Antoni’s $1MM bonuses wouldn’t have started until the second round, and that he wouldn’t have earned his full $5MM base salary if he had been fired or if the Rockets failed to make the playoffs.

“The reported $5MM is really $2.5MM because it comes with contingencies,” LeGarie said. “One, it’s only $5MM if he makes the playoffs and two, if he is coaching the team at the end of the year. If they decide to fire Mike in the proverbial change of direction, he gets $2.5MM. If there is an injury or a change in the roster construction, of which Mike has no control, he nonetheless would become a victim of it.”

LeGarie emphasized that D’Antoni wasn’t “insulted” by the offer, but said it didn’t make sense for their side, based on the current market for coaches of D’Antoni’s stature.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Despite rumors that the Rockets are making virtually everyone except for James Harden available on the trade market, Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey praised the club’s starting five and predicted it would return next season, per Feigen.
  • According to Feigen, Morey said he hopes to use the Rockets’ mid-level exception to add a “high-quality” player to the roster, signaling that he’ll try to use it on a single player rather than multiple pieces.
  • More from Morey, via Feigen: “Whatever it takes to get over that final hump to get a championship, that’s what we’re going to do. On the coaching front, I … recommended we make some changes. If there’s a trade out there that helps us, great, we’ll do that as well. Our starting five this year I would put up there with anyone. If there’s a trade out there that helps, we’ll do that. We’re going to keep all of our key people.”
  • As Sean Deveney of Sporting News details, executives around the NBA still like Chris Paul as a player, but view his contract as one that would be hard for Houston to move in a trade. “It will have to be a salary dump,” one front-office executive said. “You might get back a decent player and a draft pick. But mostly, it is getting that contract off your books for the next three years. … If you’re Houston, you’re happy just to move him along and let someone else pay him. But you’re going to have to take back a bad contract in the bargain.”

Five Key Offseason Questions: Washington Wizards

It has been a precipitous drop-off over the last two years for the Wizards, who racked up 49 wins and pushed the Celtics to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2016/17 season.

A year later, they backed into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed before being eliminated in the first round. This season, they cratered out of the postseason picture entirely, finishing the season with a 32-50 record and an unclear picture of when their injured – and increasingly expensive – franchise point guard will be able to return to the court.

Here are five key questions facing the franchise this summer:

1. Who is running the front office?

As our front office shakeup tracker shows, the Wizards are the only team that has ousted its previous top executive this spring and hasn’t yet identified a replacement.

After targeting Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, Washington was unable to convince him to leave Denver. The team has also conducted multiple interviews with former Cavs and Hawks GM Danny Ferry, Thunder executive Troy Weaver, and interim GM Tommy Sheppard, but has yet to commit to any of those candidates.

Sheppard is running the show for now, and with every passing day, it looks increasingly likely that he’ll be the one making the calls for the Wizards this summer. After all, the draft is less than three weeks away, and the free agent period will begin in a month. There’s not a lot of time left for someone new to come in and make sweeping changes to the organization’s philosophy and offseason big boards.

It’s possible that the Wizards are still waiting on an executive whose team is active in the playoffs — perhaps Larry Harris of the Warriors or even Masai Ujiri of the Raptors. But if not, it would be in owner Ted Leonsis‘ best interests to resolve the situation sooner rather than later. This will be a big offseason for the Wizards, and leaving the front office in limbo with the draft rights around the corner isn’t the best way to kick it off.

Read more

Durant Out For Game 2, Aiming To Return In Oakland

12:43pm: Warriors head coach Steve Kerr confirmed today to reporters, including Mark Medina of The Bay Area News Group (Twitter link), that Durant is out for Game 2 on Sunday.

A Warriors source told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com that Durant would likely still be weeks away from returning if this were the regular season, due to the risk of re-injury. Kerr cited that possibility of re-injury today, telling reporters that Durant won’t return until he’s ready, no matter how the series plays out (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of The Athletic).

8:34am: Despite some speculation that Kevin Durant may not be able to play at all during the 2019 NBA Finals, the Warriors don’t envision a scenario in which their star forward will be unavailable all series, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Unless he suffers a setback, Durant is expected to return from his calf strain midway through the Finals, according to Haynes, who writes that some members of the organization believe a Game 3 return could be viable. However, Game 4 looks like the more likely option at this point, Haynes notes.

Durant, who suffered his calf injury during Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals against Houston, will have been sidelined for four weeks as of next Wednesday, the date of Game 3 of the Finals in Oakland. However, he has been making positive progress in his rehab.

Sources tell Haynes that Durant began on-court basketball workouts earlier this week, and now has about three or four days of on-court work under his belt. His teammates have been encouraged by his progress, Haynes adds, though the two-time Finals MVP will need to go through at least one full practice before he’s cleared to return.

While the Warriors finished off the Rockets and swept the Trail Blazers without Durant in their lineup, their Game 1 loss in Toronto on Thursday showed that his presence may be more critical in this series, with the club struggling to generate offense outside of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.