Month: May 2024

Harrison Barnes Only Wants To Play If Games Matter

Harrison Barnes is the latest player to speak out against the idea of participating in meaningless games. Appearing on The Full 48 podcast with Howard Beck (hat tip to Sabreena Merchant of Sactown Royalty), the Kings forward echoed comments made this week by Portland’s Damian Lillard.

“I think Dame is right,” Barnes said. “If you come back and play, you want to be playing for something.”

The Kings and Trail Blazers would both be part of a 22-team scenario that is reportedly gaining support throughout the league. That proposal is believed to include a few regular season games, followed by a play-in format for the postseason. Both teams are on the edge of the Western Conference playoff race, lurking three and a half games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies.

Barnes notes on the podcast that Sacramento has been dealing with injuries all season and was just starting to put things together before the hiatus.

“This group, where we’re at, we need to play, we need to play together, and playing for something is important,” he said.

Barnes also told Beck that he wants to be part of the group in Orlando because of his competitive instincts, but doesn’t see the point of participating if there’s nothing to be gained. He stated that any playoff proposal will have critics, adding, “the idea of fairness — that’s out the window.”

Heat Notes: Okpala, Two-Way Players, Nunn, Adebayo

The precarious nature of a bubble environment could force the Heat to rely on young players who haven’t seen much court time so far, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The team is intrigued by the development of second-round pick KZ Okpala, who missed the early part of the season with a strained Achilles tendon but showed promise in 20 G League games and five games with Miami.

“Once mid-January came around, we saw the strides,” said Adam Simon, vice president/basketball operations and assistant general manager. “He was feeling more comfortable with the ball in his hands. The game was slowing down for him. The greatest things he was doing were on the defensive end, making an impact guarding multiple positions. At times, he was switched onto (centers), guarding both forward positions, being versatile, doing a great job on the glass. All those things were positives.”

There’s more Heat news to pass along:

  • Jackson also looks at two-way players Gabe Vincent and Kyle Alexander, who were both dealing with knee injuries when the G League season was cut short. The NBA has discussed making two-way players eligible for the postseason this year. Simon proclaims Vincent “good to go,” while Alexander is expected to be ready if the season resumes at the end of July. “(Vincent) was determined to not use (the injury) as an excuse,” Simon said of the rookie point guard. “He has the qualities we looked for — being a real gym rat, a real hard working kid with great character, well liked wherever he’s been, good teammate, unselfish.”
  • Kendrick Nunn admits he hit the “rookie wall” as the season dragged on, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. Rest from the hiatus should benefit Nunn, who has never had to deal with the rigors of an NBA schedule. “One thing that I want to improve on going into my second season is how I maintain my body, to be able to be prepared for that full season,” he said. “There was a time in this season where I felt my body had hit a wall, and that’s just because I wasn’t used to playing that many games.”
  • Bam Adebayo has concerns about the possible spread of COVID-19 no matter when the season resumes, according to The Associated Press, saying the conditions surrounding the game are naturally unsanitary. “Some players like Steve Nash used to lick his hands,” Adebayo said. “Some people still have that in their routine. Some people wipe the sweat off their face and put it on the ball. It’s going to be weird how they try to control it, because we have to touch each other. And then you have to worry about the family members that we may be touching.”

Knicks Notes: Ewing, Hayes, Facility, Nwora

Knicks legend Patrick Ewing would likely be a candidate in the search for a new head coach if Steve Mills hadn’t been fired as team president, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. A source tells Berman that Mills contacted Ewing two years ago before hiring David Fizdale. Ewing had just finished his first season at Georgetown and wasn’t ready to consider leaving. He was not among the 11 candidates that Mills interviewed.

Berman suggests Ewing could be in play for a top assistant’s role under Tom Thibodeau, who is rumored to be the favorite to replace Mike Miller. Thibodeau spent four years as a Knicks assistant while Ewing was still playing.

The former NBA star doesn’t have the advantage of a prior relationship with new president of basketball operations Leon Rose like Thibodeau, Kenny Atkinson and John Calipari all do. Ewing was represented by David Falk during his playing days. Still, he is believed to prefer the NBA over college basketball and Berman believes there’s a good chance he will eventually make his way to the Knicks.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • French point guard Killian Hayes may be too similar to Frank Ntilikina for the Knicks to be interested, Berman adds in the same piece. Berman states that scouts are concerned about Hayes’ speed and he may be too much of a project to interest New York at No. 6, assuming the team stays there. He suggests Rose might be more willing to gamble on a scoring point guard like North Carolina’s Cole Anthony.
  • In a separate piece, Berman examines the benefits of the Knicks reopening their training facility, even though they won’t be part of the group resuming the season in Orlando. It will give their players a location where they can work out safely with minimal risk of being exposed to the coronavirus. Most of the team’s players left the New York area during the shutdown, but Taj Gibson and Maurice Harkless remained and Mitchell Robinson has returned. A source tells Berman it’s “a long shot” that the Knicks’ season will continue.
  • Louisville forward Jordan Nwora, an early entrant in this year’s draft, tells Adam Zagoria of Forbes that he has participated in Zoom calls with about 20 teams, including the Knicks (Twitter link). Nwora is projected to be taken in the second round, and New York has two second-round picks.

2020/21 Salary Cap Preview: Washington Wizards

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead at the 2020/21 salary cap situations for all 30 NBA teams. Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the NBA, it’s impossible to know yet where the cap for 2020/21 will land. Given the league’s lost revenue, we’re assuming for now that it will stay the same as the ’19/20 cap, but it’s entirely possible it will end up higher or lower than that.

The Wizards‘ salary cap flexibility over the last couple years has been compromised by the fact that their highest-paid player – and one of the highest-paid players in the entire NBA – has been on the shelf with injuries since December of 2018. However, John Wall is set to return to the court next season, as some other money – including Ian Mahinmi‘s sizable deal – comes off the team’s books.

That doesn’t mean that the Wizards are in a great position to spend. Their unwillingness to trade Davis Bertans at the deadline signaled that they want to re-sign him, and doing so may limit the club’s ability to do a whole lot else this offseason.

Here’s where things stand for the Wizards financially in 2020/21, as we continue our Salary Cap Preview series:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Isaac Bonga ($1,663,861) 2
  • Anzejs Pasecniks ($1,267,981) 1
  • Total: $2,931,842

Restricted Free Agents

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

If we assume all the Wizards’ players on guaranteed and non-guaranteed contracts return and that the team gets the No. 9 pick in the lottery, that would work out to about $107.5MM in commitments for 12 roster spots. Re-signing Bertans to a contract in the $10-15MM neighborhood would take team salary well over the cap.

If Bertans signs elsewhere or returns on a reasonably team-friendly deal, the Wizards would still have a decent amount of breathing room below the luxury tax line, opening the door to potentially use their full mid-level exception.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $9,258,000 5
  • Bi-annual exception: $3,623,000 5

Footnotes

  1. Pasecniks’ new salary guarantee date is not known.
  2. Bonga’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after October 17.
  3. The cap hold for this pick will depend on where it ultimately falls in the lottery. Currently, the Wizards rank ninth in the lottery standings.
  4. The cap holds for Lawson, Randle, and Sessions remain on the Wizards’ books because they haven’t been renounced after going unsigned in 2019/20. They can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  5. These are projected values. If the Wizards’ team salary continues to increase, they may be limited to the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,718,000).

Note: Minimum-salary and rookie-scale cap holds are based on the salary cap and could increase or decrease depending on where the cap lands.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Early Bird Rights was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Plan With 22 Teams Has Growing Support

A plan to bring 22 teams to Orlando to resume the season has received growing support, several members of the NBA’s Board of Governors told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

As we detailed earlier on Friday, the Board of Governors will vote on Thursday on the preferred format to return to play.

The four formats up for vote would include 16, 20, 22 or all 30 teams. The latter is the least likely to be approved, according to the ESPN report.

The 22-team format would likely include regular-season and play-in games to compete for playoff berths in both conferences.

The teams that would be invited are the ones that currently hold playoff spots and those that are currently within six games of the final playoff spots in each conference. The six-team group would include the Pelicans, Suns, Trail Blazers, Kings, Spurs and Wizards.

If the 20-team plan is approved, the Suns and Wizards would not participate. The NBA needs a three-fourths majority of owners to approve a return-to-play plan.

Eastern Notes: Raptors Draft, Galloway, McConnell, Bulls

With the potential loss of Fred VanVleet in free agency and Kyle Lowry turning 34 this year, the Raptors could be in the market for a point guard in this year’s draft. With that in mind, Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes a look at floor leaders that the club could target with its late first-round pick. Duke’s Tre Jones, Stanford’s Tyrell Terry and Arizona’s Nico Mannion are some of the prospects that Murphy examines.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Pistons guard Langston Galloway, who is headed into unrestricted free agency, has “no regrets” about this season regardless of whether his team gets to play again, he told Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Galloway was the only player on the team to appear in every game and established himself as a solid second-unit shooter. “If we didn’t get to finish, I would say I had a great season and move on to the summer workouts,” he said. “I played in every single game, so I put my work on display every single game and the work I continue to put on display. I have no regrets going into the summer.”
  • Free agents T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday and Alize Johnson are likely to remain with the Pacers next season, Scott Agness of The Athletic opines. McConnell and Holiday are solid reserves, while Johnson still has some upside. JaKarr Sampson is the only free agent that Indiana probably won’t re-sign, Agness adds.
  • The Bulls’ lottery chances could be jeopardized if they’re included in plans to resume the season, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago opines. Chicago is currently seventh in the draft lottery standings, giving the team a 32% chance at a top-four pick and a 7.5% chance at the No. 1 pick, Johnson notes. If the Bulls got hot during the resumption of play and even advanced in a revised playoff format, those odds would drop.

NBA Plans June 4 Board Of Governors Vote On Return To Play

The NBA is planning to have its Board of Governors vote on the format for a return to play next Thursday, June 4, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

The hope is that the vote will be a formality, with the NBA’s team owners expected to approve whatever format commissioner Adam Silver recommends for the resumption of the season in Orlando. Teams expect Silver’s proposal to include approximately 20-22 clubs, with the teams at the bottom of the standing left out, according to Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne, and Zach Lowe (Twitter link).

Once Silver’s plan gets the go-ahead, the league can move on to working out more specific details on its next steps, including likely rescheduling the draft and free agency.

Earlier this week, there was some speculation that today’s Board of Governors conference call might result in a finalized plan for the NBA’s return, but the league wanted to take a few more days to weigh its options and discuss details with teams and players.

Still, there have been a number of positive updates this week, including today’s report from The Athletic suggesting that the NBA is eyeing July 31 as its target date to resume play. That report also indicated that four potential formats were discussed during today’s conference call. We relayed a few additional details on those proposals this afternoon.

Players Oppose Going Straight To Postseason When Play Resumes

Appearing on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Friday (video link), Ramona Shelburne reported that NBA players she has spoken to are opposed to the idea of advancing directly to the postseason when the league resumes play.

“The one thing that they really don’t want to do is go straight to the playoffs,” Shelburne said. “They might have essentially four months off between March 11 and whenever we get the season resumed, and nobody wants the first meaningful game they play to be a playoff game. They need at least a week – maybe even longer than that – of real games that count for something before they play a playoff game.”

Some of the proposed scenarios for the NBA return would involve just bringing back the 16 playoff teams and advancing directly to the postseason; others would involve only teams at or near the bottom of the playoff picture participating in a play-in tournament. Shelburne suggests that neither of those solutions would be favorable for teams at the top of the postseason picture, who would want some time to shake off the rust and re-establish their chemistry before jumping into the playoffs.

Earlier today, we relayed Shams Charania’s report on the four scenarios the league discussed in its conference call with the Board of Governors call today. We noted in that story that bringing back all 30 teams seems unlikely. Based on Shelburne’s report, it sounds like the NBPA may not be on board with jumping directly to the playoffs with just 16 teams either.

That would leave two scenarios — a World Cup-esque play-in pool, featuring 20 teams, and a “playoffs-plus” option that may feature 22 teams. Shelburne and Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer provided a few more updates on that second option this afternoon, offering the following details:

  • Teams within six games of a playoff spot would be invited to participate, per Shelburne (Twitter link). That means the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards would join the 16 current playoff teams.
  • All 22 teams would likely play eight regular-season games apiece, then a play-in tournament would be held for the eighth seed in each conference, according to O’Connor (Twitter link).
  • While the proposal isn’t yet finalized, it sounds as if conferences would remain in place for the postseason under this scenario, O’Connor adds.

The solution would check off a few boxes for the NBA. It would give every playoff team a solid ramping-up period before the postseason; it would allow many of those 22 teams to reach the 70-game threshold necessary for regional TV contracts; and it would give every team in Orlando something to play for without the league having to bring back all 30 clubs.

However, as O’Connor observes in another tweet, there are some potential downsides as well. Timing could be an issue if the NBA is aiming to resume play on July 31 and requires two or three weeks of regular season games before beginning the playoffs.

Plus, the particulars of the play-in tournament are unclear — for instance, the Magic are currently 5.5 games up on the Wizards and could increase that gap with eight more regular season games to play. Would Washington still be given a chance to steal the eighth seed in that scenario?

There’s no indication yet that the NBA is leaning toward that 22-team concept, and even if the league goes in that direction, it’s possible some details would be tweaked, so we’ll have to wait for further updates on talks between the league, teams, and players. There’s hope that a vote will happen next week.

Wizards Reopen Practice Facility

The Wizards have reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts, the team announced today in a press release. Friday, the first day of D.C. “phase one” for reopening, was also the first day that players were allowed back at the MedStar Wizards Performance Center for individual on-court work.

According to the Wizards’ announcement, the building will remain closed to the general staffs of the Wizards, the WNBA’s Mystics, and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go until local guidelines allow for reopening. However, players are permitted to work out while following strict protocols provided by the league, including no more than four players being in the building at a time.

The Warriors, Spurs, and Pistons are now the only three teams that haven’t reopened their facilities or officially announced plans to do so next week. Golden State has long targeted the week of June 1 to get back into its building, however — we’ll see if San Antonio and Detroit follow suit.

Knicks, Celtics Reopening Practice Facilities

Two more teams are reopening their practice facilities, as the NBA moves toward having all 30 teams back in their buildings for voluntary individual workouts.

The Knicks announced (via Twitter) that they reopened the MSG Training Center today, while the Celtics said in a press release that they’ll do the same with the Auerbach Center on Monday, June 1. Both teams noted in their statements that they’ll be adhering to the safety guidelines established by the NBA and local health officials.

Reopening practice facilities has been the first step for the NBA and its teams as it works toward potentially resuming the 2019/20 season this summer. A total of 24 teams have now reopened their respective buildings to players, with the Celtics set to do so on Monday and the Bulls planning to follow suit on Wednesday.

That leaves just four teams that have yet to get back into their facilities. Two of those clubs – the Warriors and Pistons – are far removed from the playoff hunt, while the other two – the Spurs and Wizards – could still have a path to the postseason under certain play-in scenarios.