Month: October 2020

And-Ones: White, McCullough, Bolmaro, Orlando Reunions

Forward Okaro White has signed with Russia’s BC UNICS Kazan, the team tweets. White played for the Nets’ G League team this season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. White was waived by the Wizards in December and playing a couple of seasons with the Heat.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Another former NBA forward, Chris McCullough, is finalizing an agreement with Lithuania’s Rytas Vilnius, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets. The Nets drafted McCullough with a late first-round pick in 2015 and he appeared in 59 games, most recently 10 with the Wizards during the 2017/18 season.
  • Argentinian shooting guard Leandro Bolmaro, a potential first-round pick, is planning to stay in Barcelona next season, Dario Skerletic of Sportando relays. His overseas contract doesn’t expire until 2023, though it has NBA outs.  The 6’7” Bolmaro is currently ranked No. 23 by ESPN. Bolmaro’s decision to remain overseas could make him attractive to cost-conscious clubs as a draft-and-stash prospect.
  • The NBA is now allowing select family members to enter the Orlando campus during the second round of the playoffs. That’s a cause for celebration and relief for many players, as Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated details.

Southeast Notes: Bamba, Okeke, Fultz, Hield, Howard

Magic center Mohamed Bamba, who missed the first-round series against Milwaukee, has not experienced any serious health issues after leaving the Orlando campus during the seeding round, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel reports. Bamba departed in mid-August for a comprehensive post-coronavirus evaluation after he struggled from the the virus he contracted in June.

“The doctors have ruled out anything serious but it will take some time to clear his system. That’ll probably be measured in months, not weeks,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Weltman said rookie forward Chuma Okeke is in the “late stage of his rehab and development” and the Magic expect him to contribute next season, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Orlando drafted Okeke with the 16th overall pick last year even though he was recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the NCAA Tournament.
  • Coach Steve Clifford expressed satisfaction with Markelle Fultz‘s development this season, Robbins relays in the same story. “He’s obviously a very talented guy. … I’m beyond ecstatic with the way that he played,” Clifford said. Fultz averaged 12.1 PPG and 5.1 APG during the regular season.
  • Buddy Hield and Spencer Dinwiddie are among the trade candidates that the Hawks might pursue to pair with Trae Young, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic opines. Kirschner and Peachtree Hoops’ Andrew Kelly take an in-depth look at what type of trades Atlanta might explore this offseason using the team’s cap room.
  • The Wizards have recently interviewed draft prospects Markus Howard of Marquette and Robert Woodard of Mississippi State, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. They are potential targets with the Wizards’ second-rounder at No. 37 overall.

Brandon Ingram Wins Most Improved Player Award

Brandon Ingram has been named the league’s Most Improved Player, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets.

The Pelicans forward collected 42 first-place votes and 326 total points to edge Heat center Bam Adebayo, who picked up 38 first-place votes and 295 points. Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (12 first-place votes, 101 points) finished a distant third. A global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters voted on the award.

The seeding games in Orlando were not considered when the voting was conducted.

From the beginning of the season through the stoppage of play on March 11, Ingram averaged 24.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 4.3 APG in 34.3 MPG in 56 games.  He was one of seven players to average at least 24.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 steals this season.

He will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Ingram made 137 3-pointers in games played through March 11, which is more than he recorded in his first three seasons combined (127).

Ingram, who turns 23 on Sept. 2, was selected as a reserve for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in his first season with New Orleans after being included in the blockbuster, multi-team deal that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers. Ingram averaged 18.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG and 3.0 APG in 33.8 MPG in 52 games with the Lakers last season.

The Raptors’ Pascal Siakam won the award last year and finished seventh in voting this season. The full voting results can be found right here.

Mavs Notes: Doncic, Porzingis, Future, Barea

The Mavericks were eliminated from the postseason on Sunday, but Luka Doncic acquitted himself well in his first playoff experience, averaging 31.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 8.7 APG on 50.0% shooting in six games vs. Dallas. As ESPN’s Tim MacMahon writes, Doncic is the reason why both the Mavs and rival teams are high on Dallas’ long-term outlook.

“He’s a guy that I predict is going to win multiple MVPs,” one Eastern Conference scout said of Doncic. “I could not be higher on a guy in the league. If you start that ‘Who would you take to build a team’ conversation, there’s not another guy that I would take over Luka.”

Although there’s no doubt that Doncic is capable of being the best player on a championship-contending team, there’s no consensus yet on whether Kristaps Porzingis can be a reliable No. 2, MacMahon writes. One Western executive expressed optimism on Porzingis, but cautioned that it’s too early to pass judgment, given the big man’s injuries.

“There’s some optimism there. Give the Mavs credit,” a Western scout told MacMahon. “They went and got a 1 and potentially a 2. Doncic is definitely a 1. I’m not all-in on Porzingis as a 2, but he’s a really good 3 in the worst case. Now it’s just about filling in the pieces around them.”

While the Mavs are well positioned to eventually add another impact player, sources tell MacMahon that they aren’t likely to make significant roster changes right away, especially if Tim Hardaway Jr. opts in for $19MM, as expected. According to MacMahon, people within the organization have pushed for Dallas to focus this offseason on acquiring veterans who have “reputations for toughness” and can be signed to short-term contracts.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • While the Mavericks will probably be conservative this fall, their salary cap situation sets them up well to go hunting for a star player during the 2021 offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks writes in his Insider-only preview of Dallas’ upcoming decisions. Marks also explores how Dallas should use its draft picks – including the No. 31 selection – and the best way to utilize the mid-level exception.
  • In the wake of the Mavericks’ Sunday loss to the Clippers, team owner Mark Cuban and former star Dirk Nowitzki were among those who tweeted optimistic messages about the franchise’s future. This is just the beginning,” Cuban said.
  • J.J. Barea will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and acknowledged in a conversation with Fernando Ribas Reyes of Puerto Rican outlet El Nuevo Dia that he was a little frustrated by his lack of playing time this summer (he was a DNP-CD in five seeding games and five more playoff games). Barea said it would be “difficult” to leave Dallas, but suggested that the Mavs might only want him back as a coach, meaning he might have to look elsewhere if he wants to continue playing (hat tip to Sportando).

Poll: Who Will Win Jazz/Nuggets Game 7?

Depending on the outcome of Monday’s Rockets/Thunder showdown, it’s possible we’ll still get one more Game 7 in the first round of the NBA’s 2020 postseason. For now though, Jazz/Nuggets is the only series guaranteed to go the full seven, with the deciding contest scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

The series between two Northwest rivals has been a back-and-forth affair, with Denver taking a 1-0 lead, Utah winning three consecutive games, and Denver clawing back to make it 3-3.

The first-round matchup has also served as a coming-out party for two of the NBA’s most promising young guards. Donovan Mitchell, a first-time All-Star earlier this year, has taken his game to another level this postseason as he has assumed an even greater share of the Jazz’s offensive responsibilities, averaging an eye-popping 38.7 PPG to go along with 5.5 APG on .548/.554/.946 shooting in six games vs. Denver.

However, Jamal Murray has matched him nearly every step of the way, proving that the Nuggets weren’t wrong to sign him to a five-year, maximum-salary extension a year ago. After pouring in 50 points on Sunday for the second time in three games, Murray is now averaging 34.0 PPG and 6.7 APG on .585/.574/.913 shooting for the series.

The Nuggets and Jazz will do all they can in Game 7 to slow down the opposing team’s top scorer, but the outcome may ultimately come down to which club’s other stars and role players step up. In Game 6, Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant came up big for Denver. The Nuggets also got a boost from Gary Harris‘ return following a lengthy absence due to a hip injury.

Mike Conley (22.8 PPG on .569/.607/.889 shooting) has had a strong series and Rudy Gobert has been solid, but the Jazz may need contributions from complementary players like Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and Royce O’Neale to slow the Nuggets’ momentum in Game 7.

What do you think? Are you taking either the Nuggets or the Jazz in Game 7? And which team do you think would match up better in the second round against the Clippers?

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

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Pacers Notes: Coaching Search, Oladipo, West

The Pacers intend to be open-minded when it comes to picking their next head coach, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard told reporters on Monday. As Eric Woodyard of ESPN.com writes, Pritchard said the Pacers would consider a college coach or an established veteran, and will focus on candidates who have the ability to connect with young players.

Pritchard said he has solicited advice from former Pacers forward David West, as well as Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard. Indiana’s head of basketball operations added that an ability to put together a reliable group of assistants will also be something the club takes into account.

“We’ve seen some of the hirings over the last few years, and they’re coming from all over the board,” Pritchard said, per Woodyard. “The way I’ve set up this process is, we want to start with a big pool then get down smaller and smaller. I don’t want to rule that out. If there’s an existing coach who has experience, who knows how to build a program, but maybe has a little mark or has something he needs to improve on.

“I believe this, that the head coach is critically important, but nowadays, that second, third and fourth coach almost are more important. So how they build out their structure and their coaching staff is critical.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Pritchard also said today that he wants to hire a head coach who takes a “modern approach” to the game, and suggested that the team won’t be compromised by financial constraints when making a hire (Twitter links via J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star). He wants this to be a great organization,” Pritchard said of team owner Herb Simon. “If it was just about money, we probably wouldn’t have done what we did (firing Nate McMillan with money left on his contract).”
  • Pritchard said today that he sensed some “relief” from McMillan when the team informed him of the coaching change, according to Woodyard. “The coaching ranks in the NBA are ever changing, and I give Nate a ton of credit for instilling a hard-nosed tough culture here, and again, I really believe that he’ll get another job and get another job quickly if he wants to,” Pritchard said. “And boy, we would do anything we can to help him do that.” McMillan has said he likely won’t pursue a head coaching job for next season.
  • Victor Oladipo is entering a contract year in 2020/21, but Pritchard said he doesn’t feel “any rush to make a quick decision” on the two-time All-Star. It will be up to him,” Pritchard said (Twitter links via J. Michael). “He will have the choice. It’s his first time to have autonomous choice. He can go and do whatever he wants.” There has been speculation that Oladipo could become a trade candidate if the Pacers get the impression he doesn’t want to remain in Indiana beyond 2021.
  • According to J. Michael (Twitter link), the Pacers have tried repeatedly to get David West to work for them. To date, however, West hasn’t been interested, since he’s involved in a number of enterprises and doesn’t want to commit to a single job.

Vince Carter To Join ESPN As Analyst

Following his retirement as a player earlier this year, Vince Carter has already lined up his next job, according to Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, who reports that the veteran forward has agreed to join ESPN as an analyst.

A report last week indicated that Carter and the Hawks had engaged in some preliminary discussions about the possibility of him taking on a role with the franchise. However, the 22-year veteran had spoken frequently in the past about wanting to pursue a broadcasting role when his playing career was over.

Even when he was still playing, Carter made appearances on TNT, ESPN, and FOX Sports, called Summer League games, and hosted his own podcast for The Ringer. According to Marchand, the 43-year-old was viewed as a “top broadcasting free agent” once he finished his career.

It remains to be seen how exactly Carter will be utilized on ESPN, but in the past, the future Hall-of-Famer has expressed a desire to break down the X’s and O’s of the game.

“I wouldn’t go (the) Stephen A. (Smith) route,” Carter previously told The New York Post. “I wouldn’t go the quiet route. … I want to explain the game where you are watching it and say, ‘Ah, that makes sense.'”

Spurs Rumors: Popovich, Roster, Aldridge, DeRozan

As rumors continue to swirl about the possibility that the Nets will make a run at longtime San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, Spurs CEO R.C. Buford said that his team is operating under the assumption that Popovich will be returning for the 2020/21 season, writes Jabari Young of CNBC.com.

“I don’t know if he’s told (Spurs general manager) Brian (Wright) any differently,” Buford said. “Pop’s shown nothing other than how we’re going to build our team for next year.”

Popovich is easily the NBA’s current longest-tenured head coach and seems likely to return to the Spurs for at least one more year. However, he’s also the league’s oldest coach at age 71, so the club can’t count on him to remain in his current role indefinitely. Still, Buford is confident that Popovich’s influence will linger even after he eventually leaves the franchise.

“Pop’s vision will be in play long after his presence,” Buford said, per Young. “That doesn’t mean it’ll be him in there making those decisions, but we’ve all learned together, and you’re not going to step away from a values-based, team-building aspect that focuses on culture and coming to work every day and working on it.”

Here’s more from Young on the Spurs:

  • Asked about the Spurs’ roster direction, Wright expressed that he likes the team’s mix of veterans and younger players, while Buford said San Antonio will continue to address its roster “optimistically and opportunistically,” according to Young. “I think having the ability to develop young talent and flexibility to be opportunistic is going to be what we’re going to continue to do,” Buford said.
  • According to Young, the Spurs were rumored to be shopping LaMarcus Aldridge near this season’s trade deadline, but rival executives believe the club’s asking price was too high. “(The Spurs) overplayed their hand thinking they were supposed to get some giant package for him,” one NBA executive told CNBC.
  • Within Young’s article on the Spurs, he observes that DeMar DeRozan will likely decide to pick up his 2020/21 player option. While that sounds more like informed speculation than a firm report, it’s still worth noting, since Young suggested during the winter that DeRozan may be unhappy in San Antonio and another report around the same time indicated he’d likely opt out if he’s not extended. That was before the coronavirus pandemic changed the NBA landscape, however.

Magic Expect Jonathan Isaac To Miss 2020/21 Season

There’s still little clarity on when the 2020/21 NBA season will begin and end, but Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman confirmed today that his team expects Jonathan Isaac‘s recovery from a torn ACL to sideline the young forward for the full year.

We will not have Jonathan Isaac next season,” Weltman said, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).

Isaac was on his way to a breakout year in 2019/20, having averaged career highs in PPG (11.9), RPG (6.8), BPG (2.3), SPG (1.6), and a handful of other categories in the 34 games (28.8 MPG) he played. However, a severe left knee sprain and bone bruise sidelined him on January 1, and his comeback effort during the restart was abruptly halted in early August by a torn left ACL.

It’s not uncommon for NBA players’ ACL recoveries to span more than a full calendar year. For instance, Kristaps Porzingis suffered a torn ACL in February of 2018 and missed the entire ’18/19 season. Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals last June and won’t return for the Warriors until the start of the 2020/21 season.

Isaac projects to be one of the Magic’s cornerstone players going forward, so it makes sense for the team to set a conservative recovery timeline for him. Perhaps if the start of the 2020/21 season gets pushed back by several months, Orlando would reconsider Isaac’s return date, but for now it sounds like we shouldn’t expect to see him back on the court before ’21/22.

That timeline means Isaac may be on a new contract by the time he plays his next game. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason and will be a restricted free agent in 2021 if he and the Magic don’t reach a new deal before then.

Isaac’s knee injury may negatively impact his leverage when he negotiates his next deal, but if his recovery is progressing well, the Magic will likely still be confident about investing in him long term — Porzingis and Thompson, for instance, both signed five-year, maximum-salary contracts before they’d returned from their respective ACL tears.

Former Georgetown Coach John Thompson Passes Away

John Thompson Jr., the longtime head coach of the Georgetown men’s basketball team, has passed away at age 78, his family confirmed this morning in a statement.

Thompson, who coached the Hoyas from 1972-1999, was a three-time Big East Coach of the Year and won an NCAA title in 1984. He recorded a 596-239 (.714) record in 27 years at the school, coaching future NBA stars such as Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, and Alonzo Mourning during that time. His son, John Thompson III, later held the head coaching position at Georgetown from 2004-17.

Before becoming a college coach, Thompson Jr. had a brief stint as an NBA player, winning titles as a member of the Celtics in 1965 and 1966.

Thompson is the second legendary college basketball coach to pass away within the last week. Longtime Arizona coach Lute Olson died last Thursday at age 85 after having suffered a stroke earlier in the year.

We at Hoops Rumors send our condolences to both Thompson’s and Olson’s friends and families.