Month: October 2020

Injury Notes: Embiid, Robinson, Harris, Barton, Mills

Joel Embiid missed the Sixers’ last two scrimmage games due to right calf tightness. However, he’s expected to play on Saturday in the team’s seeding opener against the Pacers, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Embiid suffered the calf injury during a July 24 scrimmage against the Grizzlies and played just 13 minutes. He also battled injuries prior to the stoppage of play in March. He missed nine games with a torn ligament in his right hand, and sat out five others with a left shoulder sprain, Pompey notes.

The Sixers can improve their playoff seeding during the next eight games. They are tied for fifth place in the East with Indiana at 39-26.

We have more injury-related news:

  • Sixers forward Glenn Robinson III is doubtful to play on Saturday, Pompey notes in the same story. He has a left hip pointer, which he suffered during a scrimmage against the Thunder on Sunday.
  • The Nuggets will go without at least two key players in their seeding opener on Saturday, the team’s PR department tweets. Guard Gary Harris has a right hip muscle strain while Will Barton is dealing with right knee soreness. Reserve big man Vlatko Cancar (left foot fracture) will also miss the game. Starting point guard Jamal Murray is questionable duo to left hamstring tightness.
  • Spurs veteran guard Patty Mills didn’t play in the team’s first game in Orlando but it wasn’t injury-related, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk tweets. Coach Gregg Popovich simply wanted to use his younger guards more extensively. Shooting guard Bryn Forbes‘ absence was injury-related — he’s dealing with a sore right quad.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Pinckney, Zipfel, Payne

Tom Thibodeau was officially hired as the Knicks’ head coach on Thursday and calls it his “dream job,” according to Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press. Thibodeau was an assistant coach with New York under Jeff Van Gundy from 1996-2003.

“I think I experienced it during the ’90s that there’s no better place to be than Madison Square Garden,” he said. “And so I love challenges, I love that city, I love the arena, I love the fans and I’m excited about the team.”

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Thibodeau gained a reputation of riding his star players but he’s more open now to keeping them fresh, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. It’s easier to do that with so many teams employing load management strategies for their top players. “Those numbers (minutes) have gone down now. So you won’t be at that disadvantage where they have the best player out there and you don’t,” Thibodeau said. “Talking with sports scientists and athletic trainers, you’re always are monitoring that.”
  • Ed Pinckney, an assistant coach under Thibodeau with the Bulls and Timberwolves, is getting strong consideration to join the Knicks’ staff, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. He would be the team’s “big man” coach if hired. Pat Zipfel could be hired as an advance scout or bench coach, Berman adds. Zipfel also worked for Thibodeau in his previous head coaching stints.
  • University of Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne is under consideration as a potential addition to the coaching staff, Ian Begley of SNY reports. There are also discussions within the organization to hire a significant number of player-development coaches, according to Begley.

Eastern Notes: Embiid, Williams, Iwundu, Magic

Sixers center Joel Embiid said he’d like to play with Ben Simmons for his entire career, Frank Urbina of Hoops Hype relays. Embiid made that comment during the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast.

“I love him and I want to be with him for the rest of my career because I think he still has a lot of potential and we can get so much better than we are by now,” Embiid said of his Sixers teammate. “I don’t see the point of ever playing with somebody else. That’s someone that we love to be playing with for the rest of my career.”

Both stars are locked into long-term deals with the Sixers. Embiid’s contract runs through the 2022/23 season, while Simmons can’t become a free agent until the summer of 2024.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Bucks veteran forward Marvin Williams did not play in the team’s restart opener on Friday but it’s a minor injury issue, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Williams is dealing with a moderate left groin strain and his absence is expected to be short-term.
  • Wesley Iwundu cleared the league’s concussion protocol but didn’t play in the Magic’s first seeding game due to injury, the team’s PR department tweets. The swingman is dealing with neck stiffness and soreness, an issue that cropped up during a scrimmage on Saturday.
  • The Magic built a big lead against the depleted Nets and held on for a 128-118 victory on Friday. They’re eager to prove that they’re a playoff team during the eight seeding games at the Orlando campus, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. “We’re going to play meaningful games here, which is what this is all about,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said.

Latest On Pelicans’ Plan For Zion Williamson

With just eight seeding games to put themselves in position to knock off the Grizzlies for West’s final playoff spot, the Pelicans let the first one get away on Thursday, falling to Utah in a 106-104 nail-biter. After the game, as Jeff Duncan of The Athletic writes, the team faced questions about its usage of Zion Williamson, who was limited to 15 minutes and didn’t play during crunch time.

“I was told the minutes he could play and that’s what I did,” said head coach Alvin Gentry, indicating that the Pelicans’ medical staff came up with the plan and minutes restriction for Williamson. “I don’t know what the numbers are or anything. That would be something that you would have to ask the medical team.”

Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin spoke to reporters on Friday in an effort to provide additional clarity, pointing out that every Pelican player started out at around 15 minutes in the team’s first scrimmage before eventually ramping up (Twitter link via Andrew Lopez of ESPN).

According to Griffin, New Orleans’ practice schedule in Orlando has made it difficult to quickly get Williamson up to full speed and improve his conditioning, but the young forward has been putting in extra work on the side to accelerate that process (Twitter link via Will Guillory of The Athletic).

Griffin added that the former No. 1 overall pick isn’t expected to play “significant minutes” on Saturday against the Clippers and may not on Monday against the Grizzlies either (Twitter link via Lopez).

With every game on the schedule of the utmost importance, Griffin’s update may frustrate Pelicans fans. However, it’s worth noting that the team may have a point about Williamson’s conditioning — although he scored 13 minutes in his 15 minutes on Thursday, he didn’t grab a single rebound, and the team had an atrocious 164.3 defensive rating when he was on the court, having been outscored by 16 points.

Those numbers weren’t all Williamson’s fault, but they suggest he wasn’t having the sort of elite impact on the game he normally would. In his 19 games prior to the hiatus, the Pelicans had a +10.4 net rating in Zion’s minutes. That number was -60.8 on Thursday.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, SGA, Nurkic, Nuggets, Gobert

As Glen Taylor considers a potential sale of the Timberwolves, one of his top priorities is making sure the team remains in Minnesota. Sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic that any purchase agreement will likely include steep financial penalties for moving the franchise, while Chris Hine of The Star Tribune reports that the Wolves already have an agreement with the city to pay a $50MM penalty if they move before 2035.

Meanwhile, Krawczynski writes that Taylor and the Timberwolves have been “inundated” with interest over the last couple weeks. According to The Athletic, there are at least five “legitimate” bidders besides the groups that include former NBA players Kevin Garnett and Arron Afflalo.

While it remains to be seen which group might emerge as the most serious suitor for the Timberwolves, Taylor tells The Star Tribune that one group – a family from out of state – is further along in the process than the others.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman suggests that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s superstar potential should dissuade the Thunder from engaging in a full-fledged teardown in a year or two, since acquiring a player with SGA’s upside would be the goal of such a process.
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPN takes an in-depth look at Jusuf Nurkic‘s long recovery from the broken leg that sidelined him for 16 months, exploring what the Trail Blazers center gained from losing a year to that injury. “​For me to be on the sideline for 16 months, watching the team play and just being around them as more of a coach than as a player,” Nurkic said, “it gives you a totally different perspective for the game, for life, for my team and family.”
  • The health and conditioning of his players are among Michael Malone‘s most pressing concerns with the Nuggets‘ seeding games about to get underway, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Injuries and late arrivals make it unclear which players will be at full speed when Denver resumes play on Saturday, Singer observes.
  • Rudy Gobert‘s positive coronavirus test on March 11 shut down the NBA. Four-and-a-half months later, it was Gobert scoring the game-winning basket for the Jazz in the first game of the NBA’s restart. As Tim MacMahon of ESPN details, Gobert said on Thursday night that he’s “grateful” to be in a position to get back on the court and resume the season. “Life works in mysterious ways,” he said.

Stanford’s Tyrell Terry Will Remain In Draft, Go Pro

Stanford guard Tyrell Terry has decided to keep his name in the 2020 NBA draft pool after initially testing waters, according to reports from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link) and ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. As Givony observes, Terry will be the first one-and-done freshman in Stanford history.

“I’m confident in my game and ready to compete at the highest level, against the best players in the world, and to learn from the best coaches in the world,” Terry told ESPN. “I still plan on continuing my education and getting my degree from Stanford. But for now, I’m ready for this challenge.”

Terry, who added that he has received “very positive” feedback from NBA teams, comes in at No. 44 on Givony’s big board at ESPN.com. The youngster is even more highly regarded by other experts — Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer tweets that Terry ranks eighth on his board.

Terry established himself as a dangerous outside shooter in his first and only college season, knocking down 40.8% of his three-pointers and 89.1% of his free throws. He averaged 14.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 1.4 SPG in 31 games (32.6 MPG) for the Cardinal.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Washington State CJ Elleby has decided to forgo his remaining college eligibility, keeping his name in the 2020 draft pool and signing with an agent, he revealed today in a Twitter video. Elleby, who averaged 18.4 PPG and 7.8 RPG as a sophomore, doesn’t show up on ESPN’s top-100 big board, but he’s one of the 105 prospects that executives want to see at a potential combine.
  • North Carolina State will have forward D.J. Funderburk back for his senior season, announcing in a press release that he’s withdrawing from the draft. “It was a unique process, especially this year with everything going on in the world,” Funderburk said of testing the draft waters, “but I appreciate everybody that took the time to give me feedback.”
  • San Diego State forward Matt Mitchell announced on Instagram that he’s headed back to school for his senior season rather than going pro. Mitchell averaged 12.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG with a .393 3PT% in 32 games (25.8 MPG) for the Aztecs in 2019/20.
  • We passed along several other draft decisions earlier today.

Inconclusive COVID-19 Test Results Continue To Concern Teams

A Kings player received an inconclusive coronavirus test result on Wednesday and was required to re-quarantine for the last two days, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears of ESPN.

When a player receives an inconclusive result – or a false positive – he is required to go back into quarantine and must receive two consecutive negative tests in the next 48 hours in order to be cleared. As Wojnarowski and Spears report, the affected Kings player met that criteria, receiving negative results on Thursday and Friday, and should be good to go for the team’s first seeding game on Friday night vs. San Antonio.

Although the Sacramento player who got the inconclusive coronavirus test result won’t miss any games as a result, there’s “significant concern” among teams at the Orlando campus that a similar situation could cost a club a key player for an important seeding game or even a playoff contest.

According to Wojnarowski and Spears, the NBA has been working with doctors and scientists to try to find a way to shorten that 48-hour quarantine period following an inconclusive test without compromising the safety of the player or the rest of the campus. However, science and technology limitations make it difficult to accelerate that process, sources tell ESPN.

The fact that no NBA players at the Orlando campus have tested positive for COVID-19 since initially clearing quarantine three weeks ago is a great sign, and the league’s top priority will be to continue that trend. At the same time, the NBA has to be hoping that an inconclusive test and a subsequent 48-hour quarantine won’t result in a star player missing a crucial game in the coming weeks.

Draft Decisions: K. Williams, Lawson, Burk, Daly, Gach

With an August 3 withdrawal deadline looming, the NCAA early entrants in the 2020 NBA draft pool must make decisions soon on whether or not they’ll keep their names in and forgo their remaining college eligibility.

Here are updates on a few of the latest decisions:

  • Cincinnati guard Keith Williams is withdrawing from the draft and returning to school for his senior year, according to agent Trinity Best (Twitter link via Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports). Williams declared for the draft this spring after averaging 12.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 30 games (28.8 MPG) for the Bearcats.
  • South Carolina guard A.J. Lawson is headed back to school, the program announced in a press release. “I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to speak with them over the last couple of months, and I’m excited to be back in Columbia and ready to get to work for the season ahead,” said Lawson, who averaged 13.4 PPG and 3.7 RPG in 31 games (29.1 MPG) as a sophomore.
  • IUPUI guard Marcus Burk has pulled out of the draft after testing the waters, tweets Jeff Goodman of Stadium. Burk was the Jaguars’ leading scorer as a junior, with 21.3 PPG on .432/.386/.782 shooting.
  • Saint Joseph’s guard Ryan Daly has withdrawn from the draft and will return to school for his senior season, he tells Goodman (Twitter link). After transferring from Delaware, Daly racked up 20.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 4.3 APG in his first full season with the Hawks in 2019/20.
  • Having previously decided to transfer from Utah to Minnesota for his junior season, swingman Both Gach has now formally removed his name from the 2020 draft pool, writes Marcus Fuller of The Star Tribune. It remains to be seen whether Gach will have to sit for a year before officially playing for his new school.

Poll: Lakers Vs. Clippers

Following Thursday’s game at the NBA campus in Orlando, the Lakers and Clippers have now faced each other four times this season, with each team winning a pair of those games.

Los Angeles’ teams are widely viewed as the top two contenders to make it out of the Western Conference and compete in the NBA Finals this fall. While a challenger like the Nuggets, Jazz, or Rockets could break up the all-L.A. party, the Lakers and Clippers are on track to play on opposite sides of the West bracket in the postseason, putting them on a collision course to meet in the Western Finals.

Assuming the two L.A. teams do meet again in the playoffs and we haven’t seen the last of the LeBron James/Anthony Davis vs. Kawhi Leonard/Paul George showdowns of the 2019/20 season, we want to know what you expect to happen in a best-of-seven series between the Lakers and Clippers.

The Lakers had the last word on Thursday night, as a last-minute LeBron put-back proved to be the game-winner in a 103-101 victory. But the Clippers were missing key players like Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The Clips were +16 in minutes that Leonard played, and having second-unit standouts like Williams and Harrell available could have made those non-Kawhi minutes more manageable.

On the other hand, it’s not like we saw the Lakers at their best either. James and Davis combined to go 14-of-38 from the field, showing some rust after not playing real games in over four-and-a-half months. The club is also still experimenting with its summer rotation and will likely continue to do so until everyone – including the players who arrived in Orlando late – is up to full speed.

Another point worth considering: The Lakers have all but clinched the No. 1 seed, but their lack of home court advantage over the Clippers at Walt Disney World may be even more meaningful in an all-L.A. series than it would be in other series — if every game were played at Staples Center, the Lakers might end up with a de facto home court advantage for the entire series, as their fans often show up en masse at Clippers “home” games. That won’t happen on a neutral court in Orlando.

What do you think? After watching the Lakers and Clippers face each other four times this season, which team would you pick to win a seven-game postseason series? Do you fully expect the two L.A. teams to meet again in the playoffs, or will one of them falter before the Western Finals?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Restart Notes: ’20/21 Plan, Bubbles, COVID-19 Tests, More

The NBA’s “re-opening” night on Thursday was a major success, with both games going back and forth and coming down the wire, as the Jazz and Lakers scored winning baskets in the final seconds of their respective contests.

While the NBA’s “bubble” experiment at Walt Disney World is off to a promising start, the league is facing an uncertain future for next season — even if the 2019/20 campaign can be finished without any further hitches.

After NBPA executive director Michele Roberts spoke this week about the possibility of the NBA playing at a single site in ’20/21 as well, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported (via Twitter) that the league’s priority is till to get fans into arenas next season. However, unless the coronavirus pandemic is far more under control four months from now, it’s hard to see how the NBA will be able to fill teams’ home arenas by December 1, the proposed start date for next season.

As Wojnarowski notes – and as an early-July report indicated – the NBA continues to brainstorm potential ideas for the 2020/21 season and remains in the early stages of planning, with everything on the table. According to Wojnarowski, playing games in “regional pods” is one idea that has been discussed, but the league’s preference would be for any such “bubbles” to be finite in length — for instance, a month or two in, followed by a month out.

That report three weeks ago from Alex Silverman of Morning Consult suggested that the NBA is mulling the possibility of pushing next season’s start date well into 2021 (perhaps to March) in the hopes that a coronavirus vaccine or improved therapeutic treatment for COVID-19 will be available, increasing the odds of getting fans into arenas by then. For now, the plan for the ’20/21 campaign remains very much up in the air.

Here’s more on the NBA’s restart:

  • As Andrew Keh of The New York Times writes, “bubbles” seem to be working for the sports that have gone in that direction, but it’s unlikely that leagues will want to continue playing indefinitely in secluded campus-like environments.
  • The NBA announced this week that it’s launching a new community program to provide thousands of no-cost COVID-19 tests in Orlando and in team markets around the country. The league has been wary of the optics of its players being tested daily and getting speedy results while there have been testing shortages and delays for the public, so this program appears designed to help address that issue.
  • In an interesting story, Josh Robbins of The Athletic looks at how a 30,000-square-foot ballroom at Walt Disney World has been transformed into a warehouse to accommodate upwards of 1,000 delivered packages per day. As Robbins details, players have been getting plenty of items delivered to Disney World in an effort to make the NBA’s campus feel more like home. “I’m about $5 grand in with Amazon since I’ve been in here,” Heat big man Udonis Haslem said. “I’m good now. I don’t think I need anything else for the next three months. … I got a coffee machine. I got some snacks. I got my leg pumps. I got everything.”
  • Within ESPN’s breakdown of Thursday’s restart, Tim Bontemps contends that the virtual fan boards around the courts – a good idea in theory – were glitchy and were “more of a distraction than an aid to the viewing experience.”