Month: August 2020

And-Ones: James, Deck, Sefolosha

Despite recent rumors, veteran point guard Mike James is set to stay with CSKA Moscow for three more seasons, according to Varlas Nikos of Eurohoops (Twitter link).

James, 29, is a talented two-way point guard who originally signed a one-year contract with the club last summer. He averaged a scorching 21.1 points per game in the EuroLeague this season, also dishing out 4.3 assists while grabbing 3.3 rebounds per contest.

James holds NBA experience with the Suns and Pelicans, making stops with several teams overseas during his career. He played college basketball at Eastern Arizona (2008-10) and Lamar University (2010-12), later going undrafted in 2012.

Despite transactions being temporarily locked in the NBA and NBA G League, several overseas teams continue to add and lose players amid the coronavirus pandemic. There has been increased optimism about a potential NBA return in recent weeks — something that could happen as early as July.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • There is growing concern within Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid that the team may lose forward Gabriel Deck to the NBA, according to Spanish newspaper AS (as relayed by Sportando). Deck’s contract with the team is set to expire in 2021, with the 25-year-old going undrafted three years ago. Deck averaged 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 20.1 minutes per game in the EuroLeague this past season.
  • Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press interviewed Thabo Sefolosha to get his thoughts on the death of George Floyd and the ongoing topic of police brutality. “I was just horrified by what I saw,” Sefolosha said. “That could have been me.” Sefolosha was involved in a well-documented incident with the New York Police Department in April of 2015 while playing for the Hawks, which resulted in a broken leg upon being arrested.

Eastern Notes: Knicks, Jones Jr., Magic, Raptors

The Knicks have several areas in need of improving this offseason, with some in the franchise believing that acquiring a lead guard who creates shots should be a top priority for the team, Ian Begley of SNY writes.

Other focal points (prior to Leon Rose being hired) included finding a big man who can spread the floor, Begley notes, adding that one opposing executive in contact with New York said part of the team’s offseason thinking will be finding players who complement RJ Barrett.

“If you want to complement Barrett, that’s where I’d go,” the executive said. “Adding (a guard and big man who can shoot from the perimeter), you space the floor and make things easier for him. The floor was so crowded for them this year.”

The Knicks held a 21-45 record when the NBA season was suspended indefinitely on March 11, good for fourth-worst in the Eastern Conference and sixth-worst in the league. The team had an underwhelming 2019 offseason and fired head coach David Fizdale 22 games into the campaign.

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference tonight:

Hiatus Notes: Cuban, Paul, Season, EuroLeague

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is the latest NBA figure to discuss why the league should consider starting the regular season on Christmas Day, as he explained on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols (Twitter link).

The current NBA season begins in mid-October and ends with the NBA Finals concluding in early June. The NBA draft happens shortly after that, with free agency commencing at the end of June and early July.

“I think you work backwards from next season,” Cuban said after being asked when he believes the league should release its official plans for the season. “I’ve always been a proponent of starting on Christmas Day when we go to broadcast. And so if you work backwards from there and say, ‘We want to have two months off for the draft and everything, for players to recover’, so you have all of November and all of October and we don’t have to finish (this season) until the end of September.”

If the league chooses to work backwards from next season and finish this campaign in September, the 2020/21 season likely won’t start until December. This could open a pathway toward a brand new schedule, so long as the league can overcome some of the various obstacles it will likely encounter.

Cuban also gave his opinion on whether we’ll see a traditional 16-team playoff format this year, which includes eight teams from the East and West.

“I don’t think it’ll be regular,” he said of this year’s format. “This is our chance to experiment and learn. Unique circumstances, unique opportunities. So I’m confident we’ll take advantage of it and do something differently. I just think that’s smart from a business perspective and I think the players want that too.”

Here are a few more items related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • Royce Young of ESPN details the role Thunder guard Chris Paul has played during the coronavirus pandemic, with Paul currently serving as president of the players’ union. The NBA season has been on hiatus for roughly two-and-a-half months to date.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday makes the case for why only 16 teams should play in the event the NBA season is resumed. The league is planning a Thursday vote between the Board of Governors on how and whether to restart the season, with owners expected to approve a plan, according to an ESPN report.
  • Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype discussed the EuroLeague’s decision to cancel the season and more with veteran forward Bostjan Nachbar, who believes the biggest fear from EuroLeague players was related to injuries following the long layoff — not COVID-19. Nachbar plays a key role in the EuroLeague Players Association, which was recently created to represent players across the league.

Central Notes: Cavs’ Draft, T. Thompson, Prince, Bulls

The Cavaliers have Israeli forward Deni Avdija ranked in their second tier of draft prospects, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Fedor states that the team has done “extensive homework” on Avdija, but evaluation is tricky because he had limited playing time in the EuroLeague.

At 6’9″, Avdija offers athleticism, versatility and play-making, but his outside shot is questionable. Forward is Cleveland’s primary position of need, but Fedor indicates the team plans to take the best player available, regardless of position. He identifies Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball as the three players in the team’s first tier.

Fedor also says if the Cavs are interested in Obi Toppin, they should plan to use him as a power forward/center rather than a small forward. According to Fedor, Toppin doesn’t have the offensive skills or the lateral quickness to succeed on the perimeter in the NBA.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • If the Cavaliers‘ season is over, fans may not get the chance to say goodbye to a pair of franchise cornerstones in Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, writes Evan Dammarell of Forbes. With Thompson’s $18.5MM and Dellavedova’s $9.6MM contracts deal both coming off the books, Dammarell doesn’t expect either to return next season, although Dellavedova may be willing to accept a veteran’s minimum deal. Thompson told the organization he would like to be traded to a contender before the deadline, Dammarell states, but Cleveland didn’t like any of the offers it received.
  • Former Pistons star Tayshaun Prince has the experience to succeed as the team’s next general manager, contends Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Prince performs a variety of roles in the Grizzlies’ front office and has become an influential voice since being hired in 2017.
  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times looks back at a disappointing season for the Bulls that will be over unless the NBA decides to resume the season for all 30 teams. Cowley hands out a few awards, such as Zach LaVine as player of the year and Coby White as reserve of the year, and says the most significant event was John Paxson’s decision to tell ownership in December that changes were needed in the front office.

And-Ones: Webber, Forbes List, World Cup, EYBL

Chris Webber may have been passed over again for the Hall of Fame, but former college teammate Jalen Rose is confident that he will get there, writes Jason Jones of The Athletic. Rose, who hosts a talk show on ESPN, played alongside Webber for two years at Michigan as part of the groundbreaking Fab Five.

“Webb shouldn’t spend a second worrying about that — it’s going to happen,” Rose said. “And also, it’s well deserved. And it’s the basketball Hall of Fame, so he’ll get in. He should get in solely on his impact with the Fab Five because the Fab Five should be in. If you just took his high school and his pro (career), he should be in.”

Webber played 15 NBA seasons, finishing with career averages of 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He was named national player of the year in high school and was the top pick in the 1993 draft. However, his time at Michigan was tainted by his alleged involvement in a scandal that resulted in the Fab Five’s Final Four banners being removed.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • LeBron James is the top-ranked NBA player on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes. James had $88.2MM in combined earnings, placing him fifth on the list, which is topped by tennis star Roger Federer. Stephen Curry (No. 6) and Kevin Durant (No. 7) are the only other NBA players in the top 10.
  • The FIBA World Cup 2023 board held its first planning meeting this week through video conference, according to Dario Skerletic of Sportando. The event is scheduled for August 25 to September 10, 2023, with games in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines. “We were all witness to an incredible event last year in China,” said event chairman Richard Carrion. “The next FIBA Basketball World Cup will be brought to another level in 2023, taking place in Asia across three countries, and we are looking forward to the continued collaboration with these host nations.”
  • The Elite Youth Basketball League is the latest event lost because of the coronavirus, writes Jeff  Borzello of ESPN. Nike announced the cancellation Saturday, ending any hope that the competition, normally played in April and May, might take place later this year.
  • Point guard Scott Machado, who played briefly with the Lakers last season, has agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Cairns Taipans in Australia, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. However, the team issued a statement saying there’s no formal agreement in place yet with Machado, who got into four games with L.A. on a 10-day contract last March.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Irving, Sixers, VanVleet

The Nets would be a much different team if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both return when the season resumes, and Greg Logan of Newsday looks at how having them on the court would affect the rest of the lineup. Durant will have had more than 13 months to recover from a torn Achilles tendon if games start again on July 31, while Irving will be nearly five months removed from shoulder surgery.

Logan believes Durant would take Taurean Prince‘s role in the starting lineup, while Irving would push Spencer Dinwiddie to the bench. That would give Brooklyn a stronger second team, along with Jarrett Allen, Wilson Chandler and probably Garrett Temple. If Durant and Irving don’t return, Logan notes, the Nets will have to rely on playoff minutes from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Chris Chiozza.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The return to action will give interim coach Jacque Vaughn a chance to prove himself under fire, Logan adds in the same story. Vaughn has coached just two games since taking over for Kenny Atkinson, but he already made a significant move, replacing Allen in the starting lineup with DeAndre Jordan. The Nets are rumored to have interest in some high-profile coaches, but Vaughn will get to show what he can do in a high-pressure atmosphere.
  • If Ben Simmons is fully recovered from a back injury, the Sixers could return with a starting lineup that has never played together, writes Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Shortly after Simmons got hurt in late February, coach Brett Brown decided to replace Al Horford as a starter and eventually settled on Shake Milton. Simmons, Milton, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid haven’t taken the court together at all this season.
  • Fred VanVleet believes the Raptors are in good position to defend their NBA title, relays Scott Rafferty of NBA.com. VanVleet discussed Toronto’s chances during an appearance this week on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I think that’s part of the reason that everyone wants to get back, at least from our camp,” he said. “We knew we had a good chance, as good a chance as anybody from obviously what we did last year and then to come back after losing Kawhi (Leonard) and Danny (Green) to have the team that we had this year.”

Southwest Notes: Gordon, Ball, Hart, Winslow

Rockets guard Eric Gordon hopes a weight-loss program over the hiatus will help him overcome the knee issues that have slowed him this season, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. A team source tells Iko that Gordon has managed to drop 12 pounds through diet changes and track sprints.

“I think Eric Gordon’s a big key for us,” coach Mike D’Antoni said recently. “He has the potential to put us over the top.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets have been preparing to face the Nuggets in the opening round of the playoffs, Iko adds in the same piece. That would be the pairing if the league goes straight to the postseason and uses its traditional formula. If conferences are set aside and the teams are seeded 1-16, Houston would face the Jazz in the first round, which Iko believes is a more favorable matchup.
  • William Guillory and Danny Leroux of The Athletic discuss whether the Pelicans should give rookie scale extensions to Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. Leroux recommends offering Ball a deal starting in the $13-$15MM range with the willingness to match a larger offer when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2021. Leroux believes there’s more urgency to get a deal done with Hart because his value may rise by next year and suggests that he might get something in the range of the four-year, $52MM contract that the Celtics gave Marcus Smart. Looking at other New Orleans free agents, Leroux expects the team to try to re-sign Kenrich Williams, while Jahlil Okafor will probably be let go. Frank Jackson is a tougher call that depends on whether the front office believes he will become a rotation player.
  • Justise Winslow discusses the hiatus with Evan Barnes of The Commercial Appeal, including a plan to adopt a full vegan diet after his 25th birthday next March. Winslow is still waiting to make his debut with the Grizzlies, as a back injury kept him out of action after being traded in February. “I’ve just been waiting to put on that jersey,” Winslow said. “I’ve been grinding, but I miss the team. There’s just something special about this team.”

Draft Notes: Garza, Walker, Nembhard, Mann

The uncertainty surrounding this year’s draft process may cause Wooden Award runner-up Luka Garza to return to Iowa for another season, writes Myron Medcalf of ESPN.

“I think it all depends on what teams are telling me in these interviews and what they’re seeing on film,” Garza said. “I’m not leaving for an unknown or an uncertain. That’s the one thing about this process, is I need to know for sure there will be an opportunity for me next year (in the NBA) because if I don’t, it’s too risky to leave behind what I have at Iowa. I don’t want to do anything that I’m not sure about.”

The 6’11” junior says he’s not “leaning” either way, but wants an opportunity to prove himself at NBA workouts. He averaged 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds this season, but isn’t projected to be drafted. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Garza 80th on his list of 2020’s top 100 prospects.

“This year is obviously an interesting process with everything that’s going on,” Garza said. “I haven’t been able to work out in front of teams. I think I could prove a lot of things in workouts. Unfortunately, I’m not able to do that.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Ohio State guard CJ Walker announced today on Instagram that he will take his name out of the draft and return to school for his senior season. Walker averaged 8.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists this year. “After talking to my family and coach (Chris) Holtmann, I have officially notified the NBA that I am withdrawing from consideration for the 2020 NBA Draft,” Walker wrote. “The feedback we received was very helpful and I’m looking forward to getting back to work with my teammates. I love playing in front of Buckeye nation and I can’t wait to finish my degree and my playing career here at THE Ohio State University!”
  • Florida point guard Andrew Nembhard is also leaving the draft, but he won’t be returning to the Gators, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN. With two years of eligibility remaining, Nembhard plans to transfer and may seek a waiver allowing him to play next season. Nembhard hired agent Jaafar Choufani, who is certified by the NBA, so he is free to return to college basketball.
  • Nembhard’s spot in Florida’s starting backcourt will likely be taken by Tre Mann, who has also decided to withdraw from the draft, sources tell Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.

L.A. Notes: West, Caruso, Davis, Rivers

If the NBA decides to eliminate conferences for this year’s playoffs, it could clear the way for a Finals matchup between the Lakers and Clippers, which Hall-of-Famer Jerry West believes would be the “ultimate competition,” relays Melissa Rohlin of Sports Illustrated. West, a Clippers consultant who spent decades with the Lakers as a player, coach and executive, discussed the possibility during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show.

“I think in Los Angeles, they have so many Laker fans. My goodness,” West said. “The enormous success that the Lakers have had over the years, they are a really good team now, two of the best players we’ve seen in a long time on one team. I think it would be incredible for the people in the west. I’m not sure how that would go over for the teams back east who want to see their respective teams get an opportunity to play.”

West would like to see all teams play nine or 10 more games before the playoffs begin. He also supports having two bubble sites, putting all the Western teams in Las Vegas and the Eastern teams in Orlando.

There’s more from L.A.:

  • Lakers guard Alex Caruso believes the rivalry between the two franchises is more important to the fans than the players. He discussed the dynamics involved during an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe (hat tip to Silver Screen and Roll). “That’s not to diminish how big of a rivalry the battle for L.A. is, just in a sense of history and how long it’s been a Clippers vs. Lakers thing,” Caruso said. “But them being as good as they are this year doesn’t add any more, I don’t know … I feel bad saying it because it’s obviously one of the biggest matchups and names in the game playing against each other, but I’m sort of robotic in the sense of ‘this is another game.’ I know what they’re gonna bring, and we gotta know what we’re gonna bring to prepare for it.”
  • Although Anthony Davis‘ preference to play power forward is well known, the Lakers will probably need him at center in the most important moments of the playoffs, writes Pete Zayas of The Athletic.
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers has been “Doc on demand” as a motivational speaker during the hiatus, notes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers’ appearances have included virtual meetings with three NFL teams, the Bears, Rams and Colts.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Kanter, Facility, Theis

The Celtics will “most likely” offer Jayson Tatum a maximum contract extension whenever the offseason arrives, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (hat tip to Tom Westerholm of MassLive). Windhorst addressed the situation today on SportsCenter, saying Tatum is the young star the franchise plans to build around.

“If Jayson Tatum is the superstar that they envisioned when they began this whole rebuilding process when they traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for all of those draft picks hoping to land a player like this, we could see ‘Glory Days’ for the Celtics again,” Windhorst said. “But it’s very much up in the air, and I’m gonna tell ya, they’re gonna have to pay him like it because after this season ends, he is going to get most likely a max contract. They’re going to bet that he becomes that player.”

Westerholm notes that the best outcome for Tatum would be if the league agrees to a temporary freeze on the salary cap, which is at risk of declining significantly due to the lockdown. Tatum will be eligible for a new contract starting at 25% of the 2021/22 cap (or up to 30% of the cap if he meets certain benchmarks).

There’s more from Boston:

  • After spending most of the past two months in Chicago, Enes Kanter is on a road trip back to Boston so he can be there when the team facility reopens Monday, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Kanter explained that he’s traveling by car instead of flying so he won’t have to quarantine for 14 days. “I need some kind of discipline in my life right now,” Kanter said of returning to basketball. “Because, like, right now, I’m waking up late and eating whatever. I work out whenever I want to work out. Once you are in Boston, I think my life is going to be a little bit more disciplined. And I’m going to be more focused because, when you’re not in Boston, your head is all over the world.”
  • In an appearance earlier this week on FS1, Kanter raved about how hard his teammates have worked to stay in shape during the hiatus, relays Chris Cotillo of MassLive“We have these virtual workouts with the Celtics,” Kanter said. “We get on the call with the strength coach and literally just do push-ups and sit-ups. I see some of the players doing workouts with suitcases because they don’t have the tools to work out. I’m like, that is going to bring us a championship, that’s that championship mentality.”
  • Center Daniel Theis is one of few Celtics who has experience playing games in empty arenas, writes Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. Appearing on the network’s “Celtics at Home” series, Theis recalled his days in Germany when nobody would show up for preseason contests. “You hear every voice, every word, every step,” he said. “It’s annoying.”