Month: February 2021

Raptors To Add Donta Hall Via 10-Day Contract

Power forward/center Donta Hall, most recently with the G League Ignite, is being inked to a 10-day deal by the Raptors, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

After Hall went undrafted out of Alabama in 2019, he split limited time in his rookie NBA season with the Pistons and Nets. Across nine NBA contests, he averaged 4.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 0.7 BPG in 14.8 MPG.

Hall spent the majority of his rookie season with the Pistons’ G League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive. He averaged 15.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 1.4 BPG in 38 games (37 starts), while shooting 66.9% from the floor.

Across nine games with the Ignite in the NBAGL’s Orlando “bubble” this season, while averaging five fewer minutes than he did with the Grand Rapids Drive, Hall posted solid tallies of 8.9 PPG (on 61.4% shooting from the floor), 9.0 RPG and 1.8 BPG.

Hall could prove valuable to his new club as an athletic, hyper-efficient center with legitimate bulk. Toronto could theoretically use the size of the Hall to help supplement forward Chris Boucher‘s minutes at the five in speedy lineups. Hall, 23, is listed at 232 pounds to Boucher’s 200. He may further cut into the minutes of less-mobile starting center Aron Baynes, an offseason free agent addition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Nets Injuries, Brown, Raptors, Celtics

Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant remains out for tonight’s scheduled bout against the Magic, Malika Andrews of ESPN tweets. Durant has suited up for just three games this month, having missed action both as a result of COVID-19 health and safety protocols and more recently a left hamstring strain.

Versatile Nets forward Jeff Green will join Durant on the sidelines tonight for a second straight game, as he continues to recover from a shoulder contusion, Andrews mentions in a separate tweet. Guard Landry Shamet is questionable with a chest contusion, Andrews adds. Small forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, listed as questionable yesterday, is now available for tonight, Andrews tweets.

All these absences haven’t slowed down Brooklyn so far: the team is currently riding a season-high seven-game win streak. Of course, the fact that the Nets still have two other All-Stars available in James Harden and Kyrie Irving has helped them weather the storm of other rotation player absences.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The front court-depleted Nets have found success in using athletic 6’4″ guard Bruce Brown as a de facto center in some lineups, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “The guy mostly played point guard last year, and he’s playing — what do you want to call him?” head coach Steve Nash wondered. “Our center? He’s picking and rolling and finishing with two bigs in the lane. His willingness and ability to do that is remarkable.”
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic wonders whether adding a more effective traditional center than Aron Baynes is the most crucial roster need for the Raptors, should they be buyers by next month’s trade deadline. The team has thrived in small-ball lineups, and could possibly maximize trade leverage by being receptive to adding wings and forwards as well as a center, Murphy opines. What team president Masai Ujiri, himself a potential free agent this summer, decides to do remains in flux. The team is apparently open to sending longtime point guard Kyle Lowry to a contender. Toronto’s 16-17 record currently has the club slotted as a solid-but-unspectacular No. 5 seed in the East, but there is significant parity beneath the conference’s three best teams. Only 4.5 games separate the fourth-seeded Pacers from the current No. 14 seed, the Cavaliers.
  • Though Celtics team president Danny Ainge and owner Wyc Grousbeck both appear interested in waiting until as late as the 2021 offseason to exercise the $28.5MM traded player exception they acquired in exchange for now-Hornets forward Gordon Hayward in 2020, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston cautions that such an approach could be risky.

NBA Suspends Malik Beasley For 12 Games

The NBA is suspending Timberwolves swingman Malik Beasley for 12 games, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The suspension arrives a little over two weeks following Beasley’s recent sentencing stemming from charges related to an incident last September.

Before ruling on a suspension, the league apparently wanted to look at sentencing documents related to Beasley’s hearing, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune (via Twitter).

The 6’4″ shooting guard out of FSU pled guilty to making threats of violence with reckless disregard to risk, after he was accused of pointing a rifle at a pregnant woman, her husband and their teenage daughter in a vehicle outside his home. Beasley was dealt a 120-day sentence in the Hennepin County Workhouse with work release and a home confinement option. He is set to begin serving out the sentence when the 2020/21 season ends.

Despite the impending sentence, the Timberwolves opted to retain Beasley, who was a restricted free agent, in the 2020 offseason. He was re-signed to the tune of a four-year, $60MM deal.

Beasley released a statement, per Charania (Twitter link), to address the new suspension. “I will take this time to reflect on my decisions,” he said. “I apologize to all the great fans out there who have supported me during this difficult time and I promise I will come back very soon as a better person and player.”

Team president Gersson Rosas issued a statement of his own in response to the league’s decision, according to Jon Krawcyznski of The Athletic (via Twitter): “As an organization, we fully support today’s decision by the NBA. As we work together with Malik to advance his development as a player and a person, we look forward to seeing his growth.”

The 24-year-old Beasley has been enjoying a career season for a struggling 7-26 Minnesota squad. Across 33 games for the Timberwolves (including 32 starts), he is averaging 20.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 0.8 SPG. His shooting stats are similarly solid, as Beasley sports a slash line of .455/.406/.847.

With Beasley out of commission, new head coach Chris Finch could look to use greener options to take over as the starting two-guard. Second-year guard Jarrett Culver, the No. 6 pick out of Texas Tech in 2019, could get the nod to replace Beasley. Reserve shooting guard Josh Okogie could see an increased minutes load with Beasley out, as well. Losing one of their best players over such an extended stretch could also help Minnesota further cement its status as the worst team in the league, giving it solid odds to land a blue-chipper in what is expected to be a loaded 2021 draft class.

Central Notes: LaVine, Young, Lamb, Nance, Pistons

Zach LaVine is enjoying a career year in Billy Donovan‘s first season with the Bulls, and the success of that pairing bodes well for the team’s long-term outlook, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and word around the NBA suggests that LaVine won’t be either, Johnson adds.

With LaVine expected to be unavailable on the trade market in the coming weeks, the Bulls’ most valuable trade chip could be Thaddeus Young. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) says a handful of league executives identified Young as a player who could impact the playoff race if he’s moved, noting that he’s a versatile big man on a reasonable contract who has plenty of postseason experience.

The Bulls currently hold the sixth seed in the East and figure to be in the mix for a playoff spot – perhaps via the play-in tournament – but Marks argues the club should take a big-picture view and consider moving Young, especially if a team is willing to give up a first-round pick for him.

Johnson, on the other hand, contends in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story that moving Young for anything short of a lottery pick or a very promising young player might be a mistake. As Johnson explains, the veteran forward has had a positive impact on LaVine on and off the court, and LaVine and the Bulls’ other young players need to get some postseason experience at some point — Young could play an important role in helping get them there.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • It has been a full year since Jeremy Lamb suffered a torn left ACL, and while it takes some players a while to get back to 100% following that injury, the Pacers guard has thrived since making his season debut on January 20, writes Wheat Hotchkiss of Lamb is averaging 12.2 PPG in just 24.7 minutes per contest, and has made an even 50% of his three-point attempts through 17 games. “It’s great to see how far I’ve been able to come,” Lamb said. “I’m still getting stronger, still working on it, but it’s encouraging.”
  • Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr., who underwent surgery on his hand earlier this month, is making positive progress and recently had his cast removed, tweets Chris Fedor of Nance was ruled out at least six weeks when he underwent the procedure, so we won’t see him back until sometime after the All-Star break.
  • Missing their top two point guards, the Pistons are seeing some positive signs from Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee, says Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Lee, who has averaged 15.3 PPG and 4.3 APG in his last three games, is showing why GM Troy Weaver referred to him as part of Detroit’s “core four” of rookie building blocks, despite the fact that Lee was a second-round pick who signed a two-way deal, writes Keith Langlois of

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nurkic, Diallo, Horford, Wolves

Both CJ McCollum (foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (wrist) are due to be reassessed on March 2, and the results of those evaluations will be crucial for a Trail Blazers team looking to make a second-half push, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. The hope is that McCollum and Nurkic will be able to return shortly after the All-Star break to complement Damian Lillard, who says he thinks about his missing teammates constantly.

“Maybe y’all haven’t been doing that, but I do that all the time,” Lillard said. “I don’t think you have two players at the level those guys are and not go into a game thinking of them.

“… You always see moments where they can help the team and impact the game,” he continued. “It hasn’t been just the last two games (both losses). Even when we were winning, those weren’t running-away wins. Those were down-to-the-wire wins, so even in those games, it was like, man, it would have been good to have those guys out there.”

The Trail Blazers are also missing fourth-year big man Zach Collins, but there’s no indication that he’s close to a return after being ruled out indefinitely following December ankle surgery.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Thunder may be without wing Hamidou Diallo for the rest of the first half, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who says Diallo has been ruled out for at least the next two games due to a right groin injury.
  • While he may prefer to be playing for a contender, big man Al Horford has embraced his role as a leader for the rebuilding Thunder since being acquired in an offseason trade, Mussatto writes in a separate story for The Oklahoman. “We have a great group of guys,” Horford said. “It’s something that has really impressed me since I’ve gotten here, just the willingness of our group to work, to focus, to try to be better. It makes it easier for me. It motivates me to be there for them and try to help them in any way that I can.”
  • Following the Timberwolves‘ swift hiring of Chris Finch as Ryan Saunders‘ full-time replacement, the National Basketball Coaches Association criticized the team for not conducting a “thorough and transparent search of candidates from a wide range of diverse backgrounds,” as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune outlines.

Knicks Notes: Rivers, Drummond, Schedule, Porzingis

Veteran guard Austin Rivers was excited to join the Knicks as a free agent back in November, but his first year in New York hasn’t played out as he envisioned so far. After getting a late start to the season due to a groin injury, Rivers has now fallen out of the rotation entirely following the acquisition of Derrick Rose.

Rivers, who said he heard rumors even before the season that the Knicks could eventually trade for Rose, referred to his situation as “tough.” But with the team outperforming preseason expectations, he’s focused on staying positive — even if his own future remains unclear as the trade deadline approaches.

“As long as I’m here, I’m here,” Rivers said, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “I can’t control if I’m traded today, tomorrow or the next day. What I can control is how I am as a player and what I can bring to this team every day. That’s being ready at all times no matter if my name is called or not and to help the young, young guys be ready to play. I’ll just continue to be ready to play here as long as I’m here, for however long.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks are “analyzing” whether to attempt to trade for Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. Drummond’s $28.75MM salary diminishes his value as a trade chip, but the Knicks still have approximately $15MM in cap room and wouldn’t have to match the big man’s full salary. Berman adds that the Cavs’ asking price is believed to be modest, which makes sense, since the club only gave up a second-round pick and expiring contracts for him a year ago.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic explores how the Knicks’ second-half schedule will affect their chase for a playoff spot, noting that weathering the six games at the start of the second half will be crucial, since they could help determine the team’s approach to the trade deadline. That six-game stretch includes games against Brooklyn, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia (twice).
  • In a separate story of The Athletic, Vorkunov and Tim Cato revisit the Kristaps Porzingis trade, which the Knicks and Mavericks made in January 2019. According to Cato, Dallas still feels strongly that it won the deal, especially given the way Tim Hardaway Jr. has played over the last two years. However, Vorkunov suggests it hasn’t been a total disaster for New York, given Porzingis’ ongoing injury issues and his up-and-down play, plus the fact that the Knicks could still make good use of the two first-round picks they’re owed.

Jazz Notes: Mitchell, E. Millsap, Lindsey, More

The Jazz have been the NBA’s most dominant team so far in 2020/21, and they added another impressive win to their résumé on Wednesday, blowing out the Lakers by a margin of 114-89 to bump their record to 26-6.

Utah has become a “hyperefficient machine that shows no signs of slowing down,” according to Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer, who explores how three-point shooting at every position except center, along with Rudy Gobert‘s ability to anchor the defense, has driven the club’s success this season. As Tjarks point out, the Jazz lead the NBA with 42.6 three-point attempts per game, and are making 39.9% of them, third-best in the league.

While the Jazz have been terrific during the first half, they’ll still need to prove they’re capable of knocking off the likes of the Lakers and Clippers in the postseason. Markieff Morris made that point following Wednesday’s game, vowing that things would be more competitive once the Lakers get healthier and the stakes are higher.

“We see the Jazz, we know they beat our a– tonight,” Morris said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “But in the playoffs it’s a different story.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • One longtime Western Conference scout who wasn’t sold on the Jazz entering the season has become a believer, as Tim MacMahon of ESPN details. “I thought Utah needed another star, but I’ve changed on that,” said the scout, who compared this iteration of the Jazz to the Pistons’ 2004 championship team.
  • Having already been named an All-Star reserve, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell revealed on Wednesday that he’ll also be participating in the 3-point contest. “I’ve been begging Joe (Ingles) to get in it,” Mitchell said, according to Aaron Falk of “But you know he’s old. He’s gonna sit in his rocking chair, or something, with the kids.”
  • After former Jazz swingman Elijah Millsap accused Jazz president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey of using bigoted language during his 2015 exit interview, Lindsey – who was Utah’s GM at the time – categorically denied the allegation. Sarah Todd of The Deseret News has the details.

Kings Sign Norvel Pelle To 10-Day Deal; Hassan Whiteside In Protocols

FEBRUARY 25: The Kings have officially signed Pelle to a 10-day contract, the team announced today in a press release. The deal, worth $99K, will cover the club’s remaining five games in the first half.

FEBRUARY 24: Center Norvel Pelle, who played three games for the Nets earlier this month, will join the Kings on a 10-day contract, tweets James Ham of NBC Sports California. Sacramento needs help in the middle because Hassan Whiteside will miss time due to health and safety protocols, Ham adds.

Pelle signed with Brooklyn in late January to help bolster a frontcourt that had been depleted in the trade for James Harden. He averaged 2.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 9.3 minutes per night, and was released last week to make room for Andre Roberson.

Pelle, 28, is currently with the Canton Charge at the G League bubble in Orlando.

Whiteside’s status was listed on the Kings’ official injury report released today for Thursday’s game, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. The team didn’t provide any further details, and it’s not clear if he tested positive for COVID-19 or is just affected by contact tracing.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Trade Exception, Stevens, Collins

Appearing today on Toucher & Rich on The Sports Hub 98.5 WBZ-FM in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge discussed his team’s recent slump and reiterated a couple points he made last week, expressing a belief that the team as constructed as not “good enough” to compete for a title and putting the blame on himself for the roster’s shortcomings (Twitter links via Keith Smith of RealGM).

While Ainge accepted responsibility for the holes on Boston’s roster, he also shared some concerns about the team’s intensity level. Ainge stressed that he believes in the club’s current players, but said, “I wish they were playing harder” (Twitter link via Smith).

The intensity level hasn’t been there,” Ainge said (Twitter link via Smith). “I don’t know how to explain it. Our team isn’t playing well. They don’t play hard all the time. I don’t have an explanation. It’s been frustrating for the players and the coaches.”

According to Ainge, surrounding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with more scoring and more “dynamic talent off the bench” is a priority. While the Celtics’ top executive restated that he doesn’t want to make a move just to do something, he said the team is always looking for ways to upgrade its roster. “Time will tell” if it happens before the deadline, Ainge added (Twitter links via Smith).

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Specifically addressing the possibility of utilizing the Celtics’ $28.5MM trade exception before the trade deadline, Ainge noted that the exception might be easier to use during the offseason, when the hard cap isn’t a concern and more teams around the NBA can afford to make big-money deals that drastically shake up their rosters (Twitter link via Smith).
  • Appearing on Felger & Mazz on 98.5 FM in Boston, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck made it clear that the franchise is happy with Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens, despite the club’s struggles. They’re our guys and we’re sticking with them, and it’s not even a question in my mind,” Grousbeck said (audio link via NBC Sports Boston).
  • Hawks big man John Collins is one potential trade candidate who could appeal to the Celtics, so Chris Kirschner, Jay King, and Jared Weiss of The Athletic dug into a hypothetical trade to try to determine whether there’s a match between the two teams. Kirschner – who cover the Hawks -and the two Celtics’ writers ultimately agreed that something like Payton Pritchard, Carsen Edwards, and two or three first-round picks might work.

Sixers, Heat, Clippers Considered Potential Suitors For Lowry

The Raptors have told point guard Kyle Lowry they’d be open to the possibility of trading him to a preferred destination as long as they can get something of value in return, sources tell Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to one of Pompey’s sources, the Raptors want to reward Lowry for his long, decorated tenure with the franchise by giving him an opportunity to win another NBA championship. The Raptors, who have lost several key pieces from their 2019 title team and are just 16-17 so far this season, may not be in position to give him that opportunity themselves.

[RELATED: Longest-Tenured Players By NBA Team]

Pompey reports that the Sixers, Heat, and Clippers would be among the possible suitors for Lowry if the Raptors make him available. One source tells The Inquirer that Lowry would have interest in playing in his hometown of Philadelphia; that source believes the 76ers and Raptors may be able to get something done.

Lowry is earning $30.5MM this season, so a team that wants to acquire him would have to send out at least $24.32MM in matching salary. Presumably, if the Sixers made a play for the veteran guard, they’d want to keep their veteran core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris intact, meaning a package may have to start with Danny Green‘s and Mike Scott‘s expiring contracts for matching purposes.

The Heat have a few expiring contracts that could be used for matching. The Raptors would have to be willing to take on some multiyear money in order to make a deal with the Clippers.

Toronto would likely ask for some combination of draft assets and/or young players in exchange for Lowry, a six-time All-Star who continues to make a two-way impact on the court. Pompey suggests that any team acquiring the 34-year-old would probably have to be comfortable with re-signing him when his contract expires this offseason. Sources tell Pompey that Lowry wants to play at least two more seasons and may seek a salary similar to his current $30MM rate this summer.

Despite their sub-.500 record, the Raptors are currently the No. 5 seed in the East. If they hold steady or climb into the top four, they likely won’t be eager to be sellers at the trade deadline. However, they’ve played well even without Lowry in the lineup and could remain competitive if they acquire one or two players who are ready to contribute immediately. Based on Pompey’s report, it sounds like Toronto is open to working with the longtime face of the franchise if he prefers to join a team closer to title contention.