Month: October 2021

Kings Notes: Bogdanovic, Lewis, Trade Proposals, Achiuwa

Deciding whether to keep Bogdan Bogdanovic will be one of the most important offseason decisions for new Kings general manager Monte McNair, writes James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. The shooting guard is a restricted free agent, meaning Sacramento can match any offer he receives on the open market. ESPN’s Bobby Marks estimates that Bogdanovic’s new contract will start at $14-16MM, which translates to a total investment of $63-72MM on a four-year deal.

Bogdanovic is coming off his most productive season, averaging 15.1 points per game and shooting 37.2% from three-point range. The Kings don’t want to lose an important part of their offense, but they have to be careful about overpaying with so many other young players whose contracts will be up soon. De’Aaron Fox is likely to receive an extension this fall that will take effect during the 2021/22 season.

Ham suggests offering Bogdanovic a front-loaded contract that declines in value each year, as the team did with Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield. That would help control costs in the future and make Bogdanovic easier to move if the Kings ever decide to trade him.

There’s more from Sacramento:

  • With the Kings reportedly interested in drafting Kira Lewis Jr., Ham examines the potential fit for the Alabama point guard. His speed blends well with the up-tempo style that Sacramento prefers, and Lewis could allow the team to play fast when Fox is on the bench. Ham states that Lewis projects as an instant-offense player off the bench.
  • Richard Ivanowski of The Sacramento Bee offers six hypothetical trades for the Kings to pursue if McNair wants to shake up the roster before the draft. Ivanowski suggests Sacramento should chase a star such as Washington’s Bradley Beal with a package of Hield, Marvin Bagley and the No. 12 pick, or possibly try to get the No. 1 selection and James Johnson from the Timberwolves in exchange for Hield and No. 12. Ivanowski also has trade proposals involving the Hawks, Bucks, Celtics and Sixers.
  • Jason Jones of The Athletic believes the Kings might use their first-round pick to add frontcourt depth and identifies Precious Achiuwa of Memphis as a potential selection. Jalen Smith of Maryland may also be under consideration.

Draft Notes: Avdija, Paul, Maxey, Bey

Deni Avdija is one of the few draft prospects who has played competitive basketball in the past seven months, writes Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. The Israeli forward, who is considered a top five-pick by some draft analysts, elected to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Winner League tournament in June and was named league MVP.

“There was a choice to either rest before the draft and just work out or play,” Avdija said. “Me, I’m competitive. I couldn’t leave my teammates and my coaches so I thought I needed to fight, and I wanted to win this championship to go off in a good and positive way.”

Avdija is already a fan favorite in Israel. He was only 16 when he signed with Maccabi in 2017, becoming the youngest player in team history. He was also part of the Israel junior national team that won the European Championships in 2018 and 2019. Avdija has been in Atlanta since August, working out with fellow European prospect Theo Maledon and waiting for his shot at the NBA.

“I hope to show teams how big of a competitor I am. How I love to win and how I’ll always challenge myself,” Avdija said. “I just want to show them it’s just me being me, playing my game, practicing as hard as I can, shooting the ball, rebounding, playmaking, things I usually do well and we’ll see how it goes.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Agent Rich Paul is responding to complaints about a televised Pro Day held this week for Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Maxey, according to Jack Baer of Yahoo Sports. Some rival agents claimed the event gave too much exposure to Paul’s clients. “When black it’s discredited, it’s critiqued, narratives are driven,” Paul wrote on Instagram. “It’s a shock when the black athlete isn’t making the black agent work for free, or feel as if it’s a privilege to represent them but instead respect their practice and expertise. Why?”
  • Maxey showed off a revamped jump shot during his 20-minute session, observes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Using a higher release point than he did at Kentucky, Maxey drilled five straight three-pointers in his workout. “I was able to show I can knock down my outside shot consistently — catch-and-shoot, off the move — and I was able to show my conditioning because nobody has seen me because of COVID-19,’’ he said.
  • Colorado’s Tyler Bey set an NBA combine record for forwards with a 43.5-inch max vertical leap, tweets Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Bey is No. 28 on ESPN’s list of the top 100 draft prospects.

Southwest Notes: Silas, Stan Van Gundy, Cuban

Shortly before the Rockets hired Stephen Silas as their head coach, the longtime assistant called his father, former NBA player and coach Paul Silas, to say he expected to be passed over again, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. More than a month had passed since the younger Silas was first mentioned as a candidate to replace Mike D’Antoni, and he had become discouraged by the long wait.

“He said he wasn’t going to get this job,” Paul said. “I told him it was going to happen. I knew it was going to happen for him. They wanted to get him. He said, “I don’t think it’s going to happen, Dad.’ I said, ‘It is.’ And it did. I’m just happy as heck.”

Stephen has been around the NBA all his life, starting as a child when his All-Star father brought him into locker rooms. He landed his first job in the league in 1999 as a scout with the Hornets when Paul was their head coach. He later joined his father’s staff at age 27, becoming the league’s youngest assistant coach, and has worked in the NBA for the past 20 years.

“I thought it would happen because I had him as (an assistant) coach and he was doing a great job,” Paul said. “I just knew it was going to happen. He did a great job, I tell you. He really did. And he’ll do a great job now.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Stan Van Gundy is thrilled about the roster he’s inheriting as the new head coach of the Pelicans, according to Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com. Although New Orleans is coming off a disappointing season, there’s plenty of talent on hand, led by Most Improved Player Brandon Ingram and No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson. “He’s one of those really tall, long guys who plays like a point guard, who can get to anywhere on the floor and score the ball,” Van Gundy said of Ingram. “I don’t even know the comparison for Zion Williamson. He’s unique in the way he plays, but this is a guy coming off an injury for most of the year that was able to be extremely productive and efficient. There’s just not people like that. There’s a lot to build around there.”
  • Van Gundy will have to adjust to the NBA’s new style to be successful in New Orleans, contends William Guillory of The Athletic. The Pelicans ranked in the top five in pace of play in the past three seasons, and Van Gundy has never had a team in the top 10 in that category during his 11 seasons as a head coach.
  • In an appearance on Etan Thomas’ “The Rematch,” Mark Cuban admits his worst move in 20 years of owning the Mavericks was letting Steve Nash leave in free agency, tweets Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews. “Not even close, it’s my biggest mistake ever,” Cuban said. “Nash hated me for a long time because of it. We’re good now.”

Bob Beyer Joining Stan Van Gundy In New Orleans

Kings assistant Bob Beyer will be part of Stan Van Gundy’s new coaching staff with the Pelicans, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Beyer previously worked with Van Gundy in both Orlando and Detroit.

Beyer, 58, who has been an NBA assistant since 2007, spent the past season in Sacramento after being hired last summer. In addition to the Magic and Pistons, he has also spent time on coaching staffs in Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Golden State and Toronto.

The Kings lost another assistant coach in July when Igor Kokoskov left to become head coach of Fenerbahce in the EuroLeague. That opening was filled by former Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry, who was replaced by Van Gundy.

Frank Vogel: No Asterisk For Lakers’ Title

Lakers coach Frank Vogel doesn’t accept the argument that this year’s championship should come with an asterisk because of the unusual circumstances of the season, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Vogel believes his players did the best job of adapting to the four-month layoff and the closed atmosphere in Orlando.

“To endure that type of intense pressure environment, where every detail is scrutinized, where the intensity was high,” he said, “to endure those meetings with no outlet of family, or whatever single guys would be doing, without an outlet, was one of the biggest challenges. It was a credit to all the participants to lean on and to support each other.”

With a title in hand after his first season as Lakers head coach, Vogel is enjoying his return to normal life after spending 95 days away from his family. Being on the road is an accepted part of the NBA, but this year was different. Like most coaches and players, Vogel was locked down from mid-March until early summer, when teams began preparing for their long stay at Disney World.

“It’s a really interesting time, to experience that double or nothing,” Vogel said. “Going from being quarantined at home to away from them 24-7 was really a big extreme for me and my family, but at the same time I’m proud it was something we really took in stride.”

Vogel also expressed admiration for the way the league was able to create an atmosphere that remained free from COVID-19 long enough to crown a champion. While Major League Baseball and the NFL have experienced frequent disruptions, no NBA player had to miss a game in Orlando because of the virus. Vogel kept his thermometer and pulse oximeter as souvenirs to remind him of what the league accomplished.

“For something that had never been done before, it was done on a gold-standard level,” he said. “To me, that was the most incredible thing about the bubble: getting that buy-in from 99% of the staff and players. There are things you come away with when you leave, like you felt there was a security blanket when you were there.”

Sam Hinkie: “Zero” Chance Of Returning To NBA

Former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie, the architect of “The Process,” said he’s “stoked” to see his longtime friend and former boss Daryl Morey take over as the new president of basketball operations in Philadelphia. However, Hinkie himself won’t be returning to the franchise in a role under Morey, as he told Pablo Torre on the ESPN Daily podcast.

“Zero,” Hinkie said when asked by Torre for the odds that he’ll join Morey in the Sixers’ front office (hat tip to RealGM). “I’ve turned that chapter for sure. That part of my life. I very much like what I’m doing now. I like surrounding myself with people who think in sort of the time frames I do, which is often longer. That are quite comfortable with long feedback loops. That want to do the kinds of things I do, which is bet on young people and watch them flourish.”

Hinkie, who is running a venture capital firm known as Eighty-Seven Capital, offered the same response when asked by Torre for the odds that he’ll return to an NBA front office in any capacity.

“Zero. Zero,” he said. “The same.”

The head of basketball operations in Philadelphia for three years from 2013-16, Hinkie took an extreme approach to the Sixers’ rebuild, as the team bottomed out to previously unforeseen lows while stockpiling future assets.

The 76ers posted a record of 47-199 (.191) during Hinkie’s tenure, culminating with a 10-72 showing in 2015/16. However, Philadelphia also drafted future All-NBA center Joel Embiid in 2014 and positioned itself to select Ben Simmons in 2016, shortly after Hinkie’s departure from the franchise.

Prior to his arrival in Philadelphia, Hinkie worked in the Rockets’ front office under Morey from 2005-13. He hasn’t held an NBA job since leaving the Sixers though, and his comments to Torre indicate he doesn’t expect to ever do so again.

Barack Obama Details Call With NBA Players That Saved Season

Following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin back in August, it became unclear whether the NBA playoffs would be completed.

The Bucks became the first professional sports team to boycott their playoff game in protest. The Lakers, Thunder, Rockets, and Trail Blazers all followed suit. It was unclear if the players would return to the court and it was not until former United States President Barack Obama stepped in that progress was made.

Speaking on LeBron James‘ HBO show “The Shop,” the 44th president in U.S. history detailed the phone in which he pushed for players to urge the NBA to take a proactive effort in social justice issues, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

“I think it was close to midnight when Chris (Paul), CP, calls with LeBron, Carmelo (Anthony), I think Russ Westbrook was on the phone, and the conversation we had was along the lines LeBron spoke about,” Obama said. “Protest is useful in terms of raising awareness, but given the power that the NBA players had, my suggestion was that we use that platform to see if you can start asking for some specifics. This isn’t something that’s just a one-off. That’s sadly what we’ve seen, as it happens again and again.

“So, one of the suggestions I had for the players was: Is it possible for you guys to set up an office that allows you, on an ongoing basis, to take best practices that are going to start making incidents like [Blake] less likely?”

James, who ended up capturing his fourth career NBA championship and Finals MVP after play resumed, noted that he and the rest of the players within the campus were prepared to leave.

“There was a time where we were ready to leave too — the Lakers. Myself included, we were ready to leave,” James said. “And we were trying to figure out if we leave or if we stay, what is our plan, what is our call for action? And I’m lucky enough to have a friend, the 44th President, that allowed me and allowed CP and allowed us to get on the phone with him and get guidance.”

Within days, the NBA and NBPA announced the creation of a social justice coalition that would help people access voting, increase civic engagement, and advocate for reforms that could help prevent shootings, such as the Blake tragedy.

Meyers Leonard Talks Upcoming Free Agency

Heading into free agency, big man Meyers Leonard is focused less on the money and more on the opportunity, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes.

Leonard, 28, started 49 of 51 regular-season games for Miami before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered play. Once the season resumed inside the Orlando campus, Leonard’s playing time became all but non-existent as head coach Erik Spoelstra elected to use a smaller lineup.

The four-year, $41MM deal Leonard signed with Portland in 2016 concluded after his lone season in Miami. Now the opportunity to compete for a championship — just like the Heat did in Orlando this year — is the goal.

“Now, it’s not even about the money or the one year for me,” Leonard said. “I know going into free agency, what I want is to compete in the playoffs and to compete for a championship, and I want to have a significant impact.

“Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, I’m thinking 20 to 25 minutes. I feel that I’ve shown people, no question about it, that I can be impactful on both sides of the ball every single night, and that I certainly do bring value.”

In 444 career games, Leonard has averages of 5.6 PPG and 3.9 RPG as a primary bench piece. And while he suggested he may be open to a new opportunity, he made sure to mention his affinity for the Heat.

“What I do know is I truly love winning and I really loved being part of this quote, unquote Heat culture, I really did,” he said.

Deadline For Terminating CBA Extended Once Again

8:46pm: An NBPA statement issued to Charania (Twitter link) strikes an optimistic tone regarding negotiations: “Each of us has a stake in doing what’s fair, what’s best for our business and what respects the rights and interests of all stakeholders. We are confident we will get there.”

Meanwhile, Wojnarowski reports in his full ESPN.com story that the NBA fears delaying opening night to mid-January could result in potential losses of $500MM to $1 billion next season and beyond.

8:01pm: The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are once again extending the deadline for either side to serve notice on terminating the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The new date is now next Friday, November 6, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

This the fourth time the two sides have agreed to extend the deadline, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. They are trying to hammer out modifications on the CBA, including next season’s salary cap and luxury tax thresholds. Discussions will continue this weekend, Wojnarowski adds.

The decision has been confirmed in an NBA Communications press release. If either side provides notice to terminate by November 6, the CBA will terminate on December 14 unless the parties agree otherwise.

The start of next season remains a point of contention, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The league is pushing for a pre-Christmas start, which would allow its TV partners to broadcast Christmas Day games. The NBPA still prefers a mid-January start date, most likely the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The league reportedly considered countering with a reduced 50-game season and significant reductions in salary if the NBPA insisted on the January start. However, a 50-game proposal hasn’t been put forth at this point, Wojnarowski reports in another tweet. Playing fewer games in the event of a January start hasn’t been raised but a 72-game schedule has been proposed with the December 22 start.

The league’s Board of Governors last week recommended the December start in part so that the 2021/22 season could begin at its normal starting point in late October.

Escrow withholding on player salaries due to reduced revenues without fans in the stands has also been a sticking point, Wojnarowski adds.

Nate McMillan Could Land With Hawks

Former Pacers coach Nate McMillan is a candidate to join the Hawks as an assistant under Lloyd Pierce, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

McMillan will apparently have options on where he wants to coach next season. He’s also a candidate to join the Rockets as an assistant to new head coach Stephen Silas.

McMillan, 56, initially planned to take a season off after the Pacers dismissed him as their head coach following the season. McMillan had a 183-136 (.574) record over the last four seasons in Indiana.

President of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said the Indiana’s players and staff at times looked “defeated” while getting swept by the Heat in the playoffs, leading to McMillan’s firing. McMillan had one year left on his contract.

McMillan was also the head coach of the SuperSonics (2000-05) and Trail Blazers (2005-12). He was an assistant in Indiana from 2013-16 until he was hired as its head coach after Frank Vogel was fired.