Month: February 2024

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Cuban, Porter, Bilas

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has proven worthy of reclaiming his starting role with the club, writes Mark Giannotto of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“The plan was always for me to just get the rhythm with the guys that are out there,” Jackson said of his acclimation back onto the Grizzlies roster. “It doesn’t really matter what rotation it is because we have so many guys playing.”

“The big picture is we’re having a lot of dialogue about what our rotations are going to look like,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With new Rockets wing Kevin Porter Jr. scoring a career-high 50 points against the Bucks in a 143-136 win, it’s become clear that head coach Stephen Silas feels confident in the promising 20-year-old, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “I was just so proud of him,” Silas raved. “He’s been through quite a bit. To see him free and almost getting into the zone, … it was so fun to watch.” Porter registered his respect for his coach as well. “Really, he just gives me that confidence to go out there and play how I play, play how I’ve been playing all my life,” Porter said. “Once a coach gives you basically a green light and the keys, the sky’s the limit.”
  • Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban sat down for a conversation with Tim Cato of The Athletic to discuss the NBA’s new play-in tournament, the relationship between All-Star Dallas guard Luka Doncic and former All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis, and the team’s approach to building around its two most high-impact players.
  • Before ultimately hiring Daryl Morey as the Rockets‘ new general manager in 2007, former Houston owner Leslie Alexander apparently gave serious consideration to former player and current college analyst Jay Bilas for the position. Bilas told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski during a recent interview on Woj’s podcast that the Rockets offered him the job, but that the two sides couldn’t agree to terms (hat tip to RealGM).

And-Ones: NBA Calendar, Wainright, COVID-19, More

The idea of switching the order of the NBA’s draft and free agency to emulate the NFL’s offseason has been broached in recent years, but has never gained much momentum, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, who has heard in the past that about two-thirds of the league’s teams opposed the idea.

While a league official tells Goodwill that there hasn’t been any serious discussion about a possible change recently, the concept may be gathering a bit more support. A pair of general managers who spoke to Yahoo Sports said they believe about half the league’s teams are in favor of the change now, while the other half remains resistant.

“Teams couldn’t comprehend having to do free agency and then the draft, which in their mind was overwhelming,” one GM said. “But the reality of it is that it’s the same amount of time. Change is hard for a lot of people.”

Some teams have logistical concerns about moving free agency up, since the NBA has to calculate its year-end revenues after the Finals, which in terms determines the coming year’s salary cap. The idea of pushing back Summer League deeper into the summer to make sure it still comes after the draft is also a potential stumbling block, as Goodwill notes.

“I am open to it, (although) one issue becomes the extension of the summer,” a second GM told Yahoo Sports. “I do like how football can fill free agent needs first and supplement their rosters with the draft second. … The calendar works in football’s favor.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former Baylor wing Ishmail Wainright, who played for SIG Strasbourg in France in 2020/21, appeared at one point to be close to signing with Lithuania’s Zalgiris Kaunas, but now may be prioritizing an NBA opportunity, tweets Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas. According to Urbonas, Wainright previously received an offer from the Raptors and is still drawing a lot of interest from NBA teams.
  • The NBA and NBPA announced on Wednesday that there were two new confirmed positive COVID-19 tests among players during the week of April 21-28. That’s slightly down from the three coronavirus positives among players announced on April 21.
  • Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer digs into the experience of playing on a 10-day contract, exploring how the unusual circumstances of this season have made the short-term auditions even more challenging for players than in past years.

LeBron James Returns To Lakers On Friday

7:47pm: The Lakers have officially confirmed that James will be able to play against the Kings, tweets Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register.

1:49pm: Lakers star LeBron James is on the verge of returning from the high ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the team’s last 20 games, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

According to Wojnarowski, James has been upgraded to questionable for Friday’s contest vs. the Kings. The four-time MVP plans to test his ankle during warmups and make a game-time decision on his availability. If he’s not ready to go tonight, he’d tentatively target Sunday vs. Toronto for his comeback, Woj adds.

Although James missed more total games in 2018/19 (27) than he has so far this season (21), the 20-game stretch since March 20 represents his single-longest absence during his 18-year NBA career.

Whether his return comes today, Sunday, or sometime next week, the Lakers will welcome back their All-Star forward with open arms. The team began the season on a 28-13 run, but has gone just 8-13 since the game in which LeBron got hurt.

Home-court advantage is almost certainly out of reach for the Lakers, who are 5.5 games back of the fourth-seeded Nuggets, but getting the 36-year-old back in their lineup would put them in position to secure the No. 5 seed. Currently, L.A. has just a one-game lead on the sixth-seeded Mavs and a two-game lead on the No. 7 Trail Blazers.

Anderson Varejão To Return To Cavs

Longtime Cavaliers center Anderson Varejão is returning to the franchise for the rest of the 2020/21 season, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Selected with the No. 30 pick in 2004 out of Brazil, Varejão proved to be a crucial two-way force on several LeBron James-fronted Cleveland clubs. Varejão’s tenure in Cleveland reached its personal peak when he made a 2009/10 All-Defensive Second Team. The veteran would be plagued by injuries that would cause him to miss more than half of his games during four of the next five seasons.

All told, the Brazilian big man logged nearly 12 full seasons with the team, in addition to spending parts of two years with the Warriors. Varejão last suited up in the NBA for 14 games with Golden State during the team’s eventful 2016/17 season. He holds career league averages of 7.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 0.9 SPG and 0.6 BPG.

Varejão most recently served stints in 2018 and 2019 with Brazilian club Flamengo.

The 38-year-old vet could see spot minutes behind starting center Jarrett Allen and his primary backup Isaiah Hartenstein, on a rebuilding Cleveland roster with its eye on the lottery. At 21-41, the Cavaliers are the No. 13 seed in the East, seven games behind the tenth-seeded Wizards for a shot at the NBA’s play-in tournament. Bringing back a fan favorite now will be a fun wrinkle as the team embraces its fate and prepares for the 2021 draft.

Given their plans to re-sign Mfiondu Kabengele, the Cavs won’t technically have an open spot on their 15-man roster to sign Varejão, but the club is hoping to receive approval for a hardship exception to add a 16th man, according to Chris Fedor of, who refers to Varejão’s anticipated deal as a “celebratory contract.” It may end up being a 10-day pact rather than a rest-of-season contract, depending on when it’s completed, Fedor adds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Gibson, Johnson, Cordinier, Claxton

Veteran big man Taj Gibson appreciates the impact that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has had on his lengthy NBA career, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Gibson has been coached by Thibodeau during portions of three of his four NBA stops, with the Bulls, Timberwolves and Knicks.

“Well, my whole career with him has been great,” the 12-year Knicks veteran said of Thibodeau. “He’s just been a great coach in how to be ready in all facets — to be a sixth man, starting, not playing, I’m just always ready.”

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

  • Nets reserve power forward Alize Johnson had a huge game against his old team, the Pacers, grabbing 20 points and 21 rebounds off the bench (the first time a backup had notched such numbers in three years). Armed with a fresh multiyear deal from his new franchise, Johnson was a man on a mission, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post“I didn’t play much when I was here (in Indiana),” Johnson noted. “I was ready to go out there and prove to everybody that I belong in the NBA and want to stay here for a long time.”
  • There are whispers that newly-minted First Team All-EuroCup guard Isaia Cordinier may join the Nets next season, tweets international reporter Chema de Lucas (h/t Net Income of Nets Daily). The Nets acquired Cordinier’s draft rights in a 2018 trade.
  • Athletic Nets center Nicolas Claxton has returned to the gym to rehabilitate, and head coach Steve Nash anticipates he could return for Brooklyn in a week, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. With former starting center LaMarcus Aldridge now retired, Claxton should be a major part of Brooklyn’s frontcourt rotation in the postseason.

Hoops Rumors Glossary: Non-Bird Rights

Players and teams have to meet certain criteria to earn Bird rights and Early Bird rights, but Non-Bird rights are practically a given. They apply to a player who has spent a single season or less with his team, as long as he finishes the season on an NBA roster. Even a player who signs on the last day of the regular season and spends just one day with his club would have Non-Bird rights in the offseason.

Teams can also claim Non-Bird rights on Early Bird free agents if they renounce them. The primary motivator to do so would be to allow the team to sign the free agent to a one-year contract, a move that’s not permitted via Early Bird rights.

Teams are eligible to sign their own free agents using the Non-Bird exception for a salary starting at 120% of the player’s previous salary, 120% of the minimum salary, or the amount of a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent), whichever is greatest. Contracts can be for up to four years, with 5% annual raises.

The cap hold for a Non-Bird player is 120% of his previous salary, unless the previous salary was the minimum. In that case, the cap hold is equivalent to the two-year veteran’s minimum salary. If a Non-Bird free agent only has one year of NBA experience, his cap hold is equivalent to the one-year veteran’s minimum salary.

The salary limitations that apply to Non-Bird rights are more severe than those pertaining to Bird rights or Early Bird rights, so in many cases, the Non-Bird exception may not be enough to retain a well-regarded free agent. For instance, the Sixers held Alec Burks‘s Non-Bird rights last summer, but couldn’t have used them to match or exceed the offer the veteran wing received from the Knicks.

Because Burks had been on a minimum-salary contract in 2019/20, Philadelphia’s ability to offer a raise using the Non-Bird exception was extremely limited — the 76ers would have only been able to offer 120% of the veteran’s minimum using his Non-Bird rights, whereas the Knicks’ $6MM offer easily topped that. If they’d badly wanted to retain Burks, the 76ers would have had to use cap room or another exception to make a competitive offer.

The Lakers will be in a similar situation this offseason with Andre Drummond, who will only have Non-Bird rights. If L.A. wants to retain Drummond, the team will have to use cap room or its mid-level exception to make its best offer, since they’ll be limited to a starting salary in the $3MM range via the Non-Bird exception.

Holding Non-Bird rights on a free agent didn’t really help the Sixers with Burks and it won’t help the Lakers with Drummond, but there are cases in which the exception proves useful.

For instance, the Clippers only had Non-Bird rights on Marcus Morris last offseason, but because his ’19/20 salary was $15MM, Los Angeles was able to offer a starting salary worth any amount up to $18MM (120% of his previous salary). That gave the club plenty of flexibility to re-sign Morris without using cap room or another exception — he received a four-year, $64MM contract.

Another deal completed by the Clippers in November provides an example of a team using Non-Bird rights on a minimum-salary player. Patrick Patterson, whose minimum salary would have been $2,564,753 in 2020/21, was eligible to sign for up to 120% of that amount via the Non-Bird exception. As such, his one-year deal with Los Angeles is worth $3,077,704.

Finally, it’s worth noting that a player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year deal and will have Early Bird or Bird rights at the end of that contract would surrender those rights if he consents to a trade. In that scenario, he’d only finish the season with Non-Bird rights.

This happened to James Ennis in 2020, when he agreed to a trade that sent him from Philadelphia to Orlando. Ennis would have had Early Bird rights if he had finished the season with the Sixers, but allowing the trade meant he only had Non-Bird rights during the 2020 offseason. As a result, the Magic had to use a portion of their mid-level exception to re-sign him to a one-year, $3.3MM deal that could’ve otherwise been completed with the Early Bird exception.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

Earlier versions of this post were published in previous years by Luke Adams and Chuck Myron. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Wiggins, Thunder, Nuggets

Damian Lillard has long been commended for his loyalty to the Trail Blazers, but Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports questions where that loyalty has gotten Lillard during what has been his most frustrating season. The veteran guard, who has repeatedly stated his desire to win a title in Portland, hasn’t played with an All-Star since 2015 and the team doesn’t appear to be moving any closer to contention — the Blazers’ recent 4-9 slide has them in play-in territory at No. 7 in the Western Conference.

Acquisitions like Robert Covington and Norman Powell looked like steps in the right direction, but Haynes advocates for the Trail Blazers’ front office to take a more aggressive, riskier approach, seeking a deal that would pair Lillard with a legitimate second star.

While Haynes’ piece for Yahoo Sports is an opinion column, it’s worth noting that the veteran reporter is on good terms with Lillard, having frequently interviewed him and reported on him. That doesn’t necessarily mean Lillard shares the views Haynes puts forth in the piece, but the Trail Blazers star will turn 31 this summer and will want to make the most of his remaining prime years.

Whether or not they’re getting a push from Lillard, it’s fair to say the pressure is increasing on the Blazers’ front office. That pressure applies to the coaching staff too. Echoing another recent report, Haynes suggests within his column that head coach Terry Stotts is very much on the hot seat.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Former Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, who played in Minnesota on Thursday as a Warrior, said he has “nothing but love” for his old team and for his time in the city, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “Living here was great,” Wiggins said. “I got to meet a lot of people in the community. I made a lot of friends and people that I’ll talk to and be cool with the rest of my life. Just playing here with the organization it was cool. Helped me grow into the man I am today.”
  • Charlie Brown Jr. is looking to make the most of his 10-day audition with the Thunder, a team he worked out for prior to the 2019 draft, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman details. Meanwhile, in a separate story, Mussatto writes about Gabriel Deck‘s “welcome to the NBA” moment during his debut on Thursday — the Argentinian forward was matched up with Zion Williamson during his first few minutes in the NBA.
  • In his latest mailbag for The Denver Post, Mike Singer explores Michael Porter Jr.‘s contract situation, JaVale McGee‘s role, and whether any more roster moves are coming for the Nuggets. Singer expects the current 17-man group to be the one Denver takes into the postseason.

Nuggets Sign Austin Rivers For Rest Of Season

APRIL 30: The Nuggets have officially signed Rivers for the remainder of the season, the club confirmed today in a press release.

APRIL 29: The Nuggets and Austin Rivers have reached an agreement on a rest-of-season deal, which they’ll complete after his 10-day contract with the team expires on Thursday night, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

As Mike Singer of The Denver Post explains (via Twitter), Rivers made a strong positive impression on the Nuggets’ coaching staff and front office during his first 10 days with the team. As a result, Denver will forgo a second 10-day contract for the veteran guard in favor of a rest-of-season commitment.

Rivers, who has been thrown into the deep end with guards Jamal Murray (ACL) and Will Barton (hamstring) both on the shelf, has averaged 24.2 minutes per game in his first five appearances with the Nuggets.

The 28-year-old’s numbers so far have been modest – 5.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, and .345/.167/.750 shooting – but his career track record suggests he’s capable of more. He posted 7.3 PPG on .430/.364/.714 shooting in 21 games (21.0 MPG) with the Knicks earlier this season.

Assuming Rivers’ new contract is formally completed on Friday, it should pay him about $270K for the rest of the season. Denver would have a cap hit of approximately $189K.

With Rivers in the fold, the Nuggets have a full 17-man roster, so barring any cuts over the next couple weeks, they appear prepared to enter the postseason with their current group.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Giannis, Holiday, McDermott, Stanley, Cavs

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was already dealing with a minor right ankle sprain entering Thursday’s game against Houston, aggravated that injury early in the first quarter, stepping on Kelly Olynyk‘s foot and rolling the ankle (link via ESPN). He didn’t return to the game.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game that there’s hope Giannis’ sprain isn’t too serious, adding that the team will see how it responds to treatment and go from there. Milwaukee has played it relatively safe with the two-time MVP this season as the club focuses on getting fully healthy for the postseason, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Antetokounmpo misses a little time — even if it’s out of abundance of caution.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Within his weekly “10 Things” article for (Insider link), Zach Lowe highlights the play of Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, who recently signed a long-term extension, and Pacers forward Doug McDermott, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Holiday is having arguably the best season of his career, while McDermott has developed into a strong finisher at the rim and deserves Sixth Man of the Year consideration, Lowe writes.
  • Pacers rookie guard Cassius Stanley is on a two-way contract that expires at season’s end, prompting J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required) to wonder if the team should be giving him more playing time to determine whether he’s worth a longer-term investment. Stanley has logged just 54 total minutes in 19 games this season.
  • The Cavaliers have some promising young talent on their roster, but still lack a potential franchise player who can be the centerpiece of the rebuild, according to Chris Fedor of, who points out that the Cavs’ recent skid should put them in a better position to draft one of those players this summer.

Poll: NBA Coach Of The Year Frontrunner

In his latest piece for The Athletic, Joe Vardon makes the case that the NBA’s Coach of the Year race for the 2020/21 season should focus on New York City. In Vardon’s view, the choice for the winner ought to come down to Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau and Nets coach Steve Nash.

As Vardon writes, Thibodeau has exceeded expectations in his first year at the helm with the Knicks, taking a roster that doesn’t look drastically different from last year’s 21-45 squad and turning it into a legit playoff team (35-28 so far). Prior to the season, oddsmakers put the Knicks’ over/under at 22.5 wins — and Hoops Rumors voters took the under.

Thibodeau has Julius Randle playing the best basketball of his career and has succeeded this season despite missing Mitchell Robinson for a significant chunk of the year and not getting much from several of the Knicks’ recent lottery picks, including Obi Toppin, Frank Ntilikina, and Kevin Knox.

Nash, meanwhile, has way more talent on his roster than Thibodeau does, but superstars Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving have rarely all been healthy at the same time, appearing in just seven games together. Nash has often had to cobble together a rotation that’s missing several players – including one or two of those stars and veteran guard Spencer Dinwiddie – but Brooklyn still holds the top seed in the Eastern Conference at 43-20.

Although Thibodeau and Nash are legit candidates for Coach of the Year recognition, neither one cracked the top two of Zach Harper’s most recent ballot at The Athletic. Harper’s current pick for the award is Suns head coach Monty Williams.

Williams’ Suns were 26-39 entering bubble play last summer, but went 8-0 at Walt Disney World and parlayed that late-season success into an impressive 2020/21 showing — the club currently has the NBA’s second-best record at 44-18. While Devin Booker and Chris Paul have had great seasons, Phoenix lacks a traditional, Finals-tested superstar like LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard, making the team’s performance in a tough Western Conference all the more impressive.

Second on Harper’s ballot is Quin Snyder, the one head coach whose team has a better record than Williams’ Suns. The Jazz hold the No. 1 seed in the West with a 45-17 mark and have already exceeded their 2019/20 win total in 10 fewer games.

No team has had a stronger season from start to finish than Utah, which hasn’t relinquished that top seed in the conference for a single day since February 2, despite the fact that many of this year’s MVP ballots likely won’t include a single Jazz player.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers also deserves consideration for Coach of the Year honors. He may not be a frontrunner for the award, but Rivers will certainly receive some votes for leading Philadelphia to a 41-21 record and the No. 2 seed in the East so far, even with team MVP Joel Embiid unavailable for about a third of the club’s games.

Hawks coach Nate McMillan has earned a honorable mention as well, having led Atlanta to a 20-9 record since Lloyd Pierce‘s dismissal. He’ll only end up coaching 38 games though — as is the case with MVP and other awards, I wouldn’t expect voters to give serious consideration to a candidate who was only “active” for about half the season.

What do you think? With just over two weeks left in the 2020/21 regular season, who do you think should be the frontrunner for the Coach of the Year award?

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