Month: May 2021

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Allen, Mavericks, Nielsen

Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy believes his team is too dependent on its offense, Jim Eichenhofer writes for NBA.com. New Orleans dropped a 117-114 game to the Spurs on Saturday, allowing San Antonio to shoot 48% from the field and 37.5% from three-point range.

“That’s the problem, when you have to shoot the ball well to win,” Van Gundy said. “That’s going to be a problem. Guys are going to have bad nights shooting the ball. You’ve got to be able to win games where you don’t shoot well, and right now we can’t. We’re totally dependent on our offense to win games, and that’s not going to take you very far.”

The Pelicans own the second-worst defensive rating in the league at 116.1, trailing only the Kings. The team owns a 14-19 record largely because of its lackluster defense and has lost seven of its last 10 games.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies guard Grayson Allen has entered the league’s concussion protocol, Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Allen suffered the injury during the team’s game against the Clippers on Friday. The 25-year-old has averaged 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game this season, starting in eight of the club’s last nine games.
  • The Mavericks‘ 2018 draft class has never looked better, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News writes. Luka Doncic (pick No. 3) and Jalen Brunson (No. 33) have gradually improved since entering the league almost three years ago. “He’s a great player,” Doncic said of Brunson. “It’s easy to have chemistry like that.”
  • Austin Spurs coach Matt Nielsen is bringing out the best of his team this season, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Nielsen has coached the club to a 8-4 record thus far in the G League bubble. “I love him as a coach,” Spurs guard Tre Jones said of Nielsen. “As a person, he is a really good guy, easy to get along with and talk to on a day-to-day basis. As a coach, he is super encouraging…He is always on our side.” 

Western Notes: Beasley, Hollins, Nuggets, Whiteside, Parker

Replacing Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley during his suspension will have to be a team effort, Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune writes.

Beasley was recently issued a 12-game suspension for conduct stemming from his charges last offseason. He’s averaged 20.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 32 games this season, meaning several players will likely have to step up in his absence.

“I see it as a great opportunity,” guard Jaylen Nowell said. “I’m not going to go out and force anything. I’m not going to go out there looking to put up more shots, just step outside myself. I’m going to keep playing the way I’m playing and make sure I’m not going to overthink it.

“But we’ve got other guys that are trying to step up, too. They’ve got opportunities, too, including myself. So it’s making sure that not just one person picks up the slack, but we all have to do it collectively, as a group.”

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Lakers assistant coach Lionel Hollins isn’t expected to return to the bench until after the All-Star break, according to Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group (Twitter link). Hollins, a former NBA head coach, has missed the past four games due to personal reasons.
  • Mike Singer of the Denver Post explores five players the Nuggets should consider pursuing before the March 25 trade deadline. Singer mentions Magic swingman Terrence Ross, Spurs star DeMar DeRozan and others as potential options for the Nuggets, who currently hold an 18-15 record.
  • Kings center Hassan Whiteside and forward Jabari Parker are still out due to the league’s health and safety protocols, according to James Ham of NBC Sports California (Twitter link). Chimezie Metu also remains out with a broken wrist. Sacramento (13-20) is set to play Charlotte (15-17) on Sunday, having lost nine of its last 10 games.

Eastern Notes: Smith Jr., Hill, Hornets, Heat

Pistons guard Dennis Smith Jr. has looked reborn during his time with the team so far, proving to be reasonably effective in his first nine games, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes.

Smith, who was traded to Detroit from New York earlier this month, has averaged 7.9 points and 3.2 assists in 18.6 minutes per contest since the move. The two teams are set to meet on Sunday night from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

“Truth be told, you never want to get too comfortable because you end up being complacent,” Smith said. “But you can definitely tell when the feel for the game starts to comes back, especially from the situation I was coming from. I can feel my feel coming back for me.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference today:

  • Hawks forward Solomon Hill said the Heat never made an offer to retain him in free agency, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Hill, who wound up signing a one-year deal with Atlanta, has averaged 4.5 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 18.9 MPG in 33 games this season.
  • The Hornets are set to be without several players for their game against the Kings on Sunday night, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. Gordon Hayward (right hand contusion) and Cody Zeller (left hip contusion) have both been downgraded to doubtful. Their absences would leave the club with just nine available players for the contest due to various injuries, Bonnell notes.
  • One of the Heat‘s top “bubble lineups” is finally back in place, Barry Jackson writes for The Miami Herald. The team has won five straight contests and is working to bounce back from a COVID- and injury-riddled start to the season, playing the 14-19 Hawks on Sunday night.

Victor Oladipo Declines Extension From Rockets

Rockets guard Victor Oladipo has turned down a two-year, $45.2MM contract extension from the franchise, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Due to extend-and-trade restrictions, that two-year offer is the most lucrative deal the Rockets could give to Oladipo prior to the offseason, and the fact that he turned it down is unsurprising — before he was dealt to Houston, the 28-year-old reportedly declined an extension offer from the Pacers that would have started at $25MM.

Oladipo, who has long expressed a preference to reach free agency, is seeking a longer-term contract, according to Wojnarowski. Houston will need to decide whether to keep him past the March 25 trade deadline.

Oladipo started the season with the Pacers and was dealt to Houston in January as part of the multi-team trade featuring James Harden. He’s averaged 18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 13 games with the Rockets this season, shooting 39% from the floor and 29.5% from deep in those contests.

As Wojnarowski notes, the Heat and Knicks are among the teams who have expressed interest in Oladipo. Both teams would have the cap space to sign the two-time All-Star outright in free agency.

Anfernee Simons, Cassius Stanley Expected To Join Dunk Contest

Blazers guard Anfernee Simons and Pacers two-way guard Cassius Stanley are expected to join Knicks forward Obi Toppin in the All-Star slam dunk contest on March 7, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

All three players would be first-time participants in the contest, which is set to take place at halftime of the All-Star Game next Sunday.

Simons, 21, has averaged 8.5 points, 1.2 assists and 17.5 minutes for Portland this season. Stanley would become the first player on a two-way contract to ever compete in a dunk contest — the 21-year-old has only appeared in eight games for the Pacers this year.

Along with the dunk contest, the three-point contest and skills competition will also be held on March 7 in Atlanta. The league’s traditional method of spreading the events over a weekend has been voided this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Hornets Notes: McDaniels, Collins, Center Issues, Martin

Second-year Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels, fresh off a recent assignment with the club’s G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, may be able to stick with Charlotte’s rotation thanks to his improving defense, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

The 6’10” McDaniels’ wingspan and positional fluidity will be key in helping the Hornets on defense. “Knowing my rotations, and being in the right spots,” McDaniels said of the solution to finessing his skill set guarding the opposition. “Being the best defender (possible) is going to keep me in the league for a long time.”

There’s more out of Charlotte:

  • In another piece, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer weighs the pros and cons of a possible Hornets trade for Hawks restricted free agent-to-be John Collins. The talented power forward/center, who will probably command a maximum salary – or close to it – in the offseason, could be one of the best players on the freshly-exciting Charlotte. He is averaging 17.6 PPG and 7.5 RPG while posting a stellar slash line of .538/.383/.849 for a middling Atlanta club.
  • While a trade for Collins may not be realistic, it’s clear the Hornets need some level of upgrade at the center position, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Their vulnerabilities protecting the paint were exposed most recently in a 130-121 loss to the Warriors Friday. Even if Charlotte has to sacrifice a young prospect like Devonte’ Graham or Malik Monk, Bonnell posits, it may be worth it for the upgrade at the five.
  • Hobbled by injuries, the Hornets got some welcome availability news today, announcing that guard Caleb Martin is out of the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and can suit up against the Kings tonight, the team announced on Twitter.

R.J. Hampton In COVID-19 Protocols Through All-Star Break

Rookie Nuggets point guard R.J. Hampton will be placed in the league’s coronavirus-related health and safety protocols, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Denver anticipates that Hampton will be away from the team through at least the All-Star break, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). The Nuggets have three road games scheduled ahead of the NBA’s five-day All-Star pause. The All-Star break concludes on March 10.

More Nuggets absences may be on the horizon, as Woj tweets that the club is conducting supplemental contact tracing to determine if other players or Denver personnel could have been exposed to COVID-19.

Hampton, who was selected with the No. 24 pick after spending his year of college eligibility with the New Zealand Breakers, has seen limited playing time with Denver thus far. In 24 games, the 6’4″ 20-year-old is averaging 2.5 PPG and 2.0 RPG across 9.2 MPG.

New York Notes: Green, Rose, Nash, Knicks Fans

Veteran Nets forward Jeff Green hopes to play “until the wheels fall off,” he told the New York Post’s Steve Serby in an extended interview. “Hopefully I’ll play another 10 years, but who knows?” the 34-year-old said. Green touched on a wide variety of subjects, from his college tenure with Georgetown to his life-saving heart surgery while with the Celtics to his three dream dinner guests.

There’s more out of the City That Never Sleeps:

  • Luck has been with new Knicks team president Leon Rose thus far this season, says Marc Berman of the New York Post. The 17-17 Knicks have also benefited from several savvy decisions by Rose, including the hirings of new head coach Tom Thibodeau and ex-Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne, the drafting of exciting point guard Immanuel Quickley and athletic dunker Obi Toppin, and the retention of forward Julius Randle, who has blossomed into an All-Star this year.
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash anticipates that rookie power forward Reggie Perry will improve as a three-point shooter, according to Chris Milholen of Nets Daily. “We like Reggie’s skill set,” Nash said. “He’s a guy that can develop into a very good three-point shooter and he’s got a good feel for the game.” Perry is currently connecting on 16.7% of his 0.9 three-point attempts per game with Brooklyn, but has taken major strides while with the Nets’ G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets, on the NBAGL Orlando “bubble” campus. There, Perry has made 44% of his 2.3 triple attempts a night, across 11 games.
  • Knicks fans are spending hundreds of dollars on rapid PCR pre-game COVID-19 tests, according to Sara Dorn and Khristina Narizhnaya of the New York Post. Up to 2,000 fans can attend games in Madison Square Garden, provided they test negative within three days of a game’s start time.

Wizards Notes: Westbrook, Bryant, Neto, Mathews

Improved play from Russell Westbrook has sparked the Wizards‘ move up the Eastern Conference standings, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. The former MVP says the difference involves recovering from a left quad injury that had been bothering him since he was acquired from the Rockets in December.

“Well, I can move and jump now,” Westbrook said. “So, there ya go.”

Westbrook’s quickness has returned, Katz adds, and he has become more aggressive in attacking the basket. He took 55% of his shots at the rim during the team’s recent four-game road trip after shooting just 26% of them from there earlier in the season.

“He just does a great job of staying in attack mode. We’re better when he does that,” Bradley Beal said. “He’s just being able to put pressure on the rim, getting to the basket, letting our bigs be able to follow up for offensive tip-backs if that’s the case. So, we just need him always in that mode. He never stops.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • Thomas Bryant joined his teammates on the bench Saturday for the first time since suffering a season-ending ACL tear in January, Katz tweets“That was definitely the best part about the first half, just seeing him in the locker room,” coach Scott Brooks said. “… He’s definitely missed, loved by all of us.”
  • Backup point guard Raul Neto had to leave Saturday’s game with a left knee contusion, but Brooks doesn’t believe it’s serious, Katz adds (via Twitter). The team will check on Neto’s condition today.
  • The Wizards have won seven of their eight games since Brooks inserted Garrison Mathews and Moritz Wagner into the starting lineup, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. Both are among the top 10 in the league in drawing charges, and they have raised the team’s energy level. Brooks is particularly impressed with Mathews, who earned a two-way contract last year after going undrafted. “He’s a fighter,” Brooks said. “I remember the pre-draft workout. We did this running drill and he has our record. I thought his lungs were going to explode he was running so hard. You could tell that he wanted to slow down, but he was determined. That got my attention right there.”

Cavaliers Notes: Love, Dellavedova, Wade, Trade Deadline

Kevin Love‘s absence due to a high-grade strain in his right calf is expected to extend through the All-Star break, sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Love hasn’t played since December 27, when he aggravated an injury that he suffered in the preseason opener.

Love has shown progress in the past two weeks and went through another pre-game workout Saturday. A source described it as one of the veteran forward’s “best pre-game workouts” so far, even though he had to end it early because of a minor cramp in his lower leg. Love received treatment during the first half, then joined his teammates on the bench later in the game.

The Cavaliers have just two games remaining before the break, and team officials believe he would benefit from the extra nine days offs. They’re hoping to have him at 100% for the second half of the season. Love was able to participate in consecutive practices last week, but felt pain in his calf after the second one, according to sources. He has been limited to individual workouts since then.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • While his playing status remains uncertain, Matthew Dellavedova has taken on an assistant coach’s role for the Cavs, Fedor notes in a separate story. Dellavedova was re-signed to be a mentor to the team’s young guards both on and off the court, but he hasn’t been able to play because of a concussion and an appendectomy. “Delly sees everything,” Darius Garland said. “When he sees someone open, he’ll tell you that in the timeout. ‘You missed that guy in the corner.’ He’s always reading the game, he’s gonna put people in different positions to get a win. Delly, he’s a winner. So whatever you do to win, he’s gonna do it. 
  • Second-year forward Dean Wade was concerned about whether or not he’d have his contract guaranteed this week and was shocked to learn that he was making his first NBA start Tuesday, writes Marla Ritenour of The Akron Beacon Journal. Wade has remained in the starting lineup as Cleveland has strung together three straight wins. “I didn’t really have time to sit and think about it at first, but after shootaround I was like, ‘Man.’ I usually take a pregame nap, but I was so excited I didn’t even sleep,” Wade said. “I just sat there twiddling my thumbs on my phone the whole time.”
  • The Cavaliers will be one of the few definite sellers heading into the trade deadline, ESPN’s Tim McMahon said this week in an appearance on Brian Windhorst’s podcast.