Month: September 2021

New York Notes: Randle, Barrett, Millsap, Ntilikina

Knicks All-Star big man Julius Randle recently discussed a variety of subjects with SNYtv’s Ian Begley, including his career-best 2020/21 campaign, Mitchell Robinson‘s progression and more.

Randle, 26, is coming off an excellent season with New York, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and six assists per game. He also shot 46% from the field and 41% from deep during those contests.

“My process, honestly, it stays the same,” Randle said. “I try to keep the main focus, the main focus. And that’s, (taking) everything day by day. Whether it’s a workout, whether it’s a film, whatever it is, I just try to give everything that I can when I’m doing what I’m doing. And I kind of let the chips fall where they may.

I trust the work and the process of everything that I’ve done. And I have faith and belief that that’s going to pay off. I know what I sacrifice, I know what I do to prepare. And regardless of success or failure, I try not to change. I don’t know what the expectation is (for our team). I can’t even tell you what to expect from me. I just know that I’m just gonna keep improving, getting better as a player. That’s just where I stand with it.”

There’s more out of New York tonight:

  • In the same interview with SNYtv, Randle praised the rapid improvement of guard RJ Barrett. Like Randle, Barrett also had a productive 2020/21 season, averaging 17.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. “RJ’s going to be a really good player,” Randle said as part of a larger quote. “What is he, 21? I don’t know how old he is. He’s young as hell (laughs). He’s a really good player, and I can relate as far as what he’s done, and what I’ve seen from him so far in this offseason is he just keeps improving. That’s really what it’s about.”
  • Nets big man Paul Millsap is switching jersey numbers from No. 4 to No. 31, according to NetsDaily (Twitter link). Millsap, a 15-year NBA veteran, signed a free-agent deal to join the team last month.
  • Former Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina bid farewell to the team and its fans on Sunday, posting a short video on social media (Instagram link). Ntilikina was the team’s No. 8 pick in the 2017 draft. He recently signed with the Mavericks after spending four seasons in New York.

Nets Opt Not To Retain Isaïa Cordinier

The Nets have decided to not retain guard Isaïa Cordinier with a monetary offer ahead of the 2021/22 season, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

The French guard was drafted with the No. 44 pick in 2016 as a “draft-and-stash” selection by the Hawks, and has remained overseas in the ensuing seasons, though he did log time for Atlanta in the 2016 Summer League. In recent years, Cordinier has suited up for the French clubs Antibes Sharks and Nanterre 92. He was named to the All-EuroCup First Team this year.

Cordinier was sent from Atlanta to Brooklyn in a 2018 Jeremy Lin deal.

Earlier during the offseason, it was announced that Cordinier would travel from France to Brooklyn for a workout with the Nets. Cordinier’s reps may have hoped that he would showcase enough promise in such a workout to merit a training camp appearance, but apparently, given that the Nets house a roster packed with vets and appealing prospects, Brooklyn is opting to move in a different direction.

Woj notes that Cordinier, 24, will now be a free agent, able to sign a new deal with any NBA club. The 6’5″ shooting guard averaged 15.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.7 SPG across 33.9 MPG for Nanterre 92, with an impressive shooting line of .526/.449/.816.

Eastern Conference Notes: Martin-Garrett, Spoelstra, Bucks, Noah

The top-heavy Heat could benefit from their two-way players proving their NBA mettle sooner rather than later. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel wonders if either of their two two-way players, guards Caleb Martin or Marcus Garrett, could find their way onto Miami’s 15-man roster by the end of the year.

Because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, two-way player rules no longer have restrictions on how frequently two-way players can practice or travel with their NBA clubs. Winderman thinks Garrett will see more run with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, but that Martin could carve out a fringe rotation role at the next level.

The 6’5″ Martin played his first two years with the Hornets, and holds career averages of 5.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG and 1.3 APG, with shooting splits of .391/.315/.682.

There’s more out of the East:

  • Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra could be a finalist to succeed Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich in future international competitions, opines Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Spoelstra coached the Select Team, comprised of young up-and-coming American players, who faced off against Team USA ahead of their gold medal run this summer.
  • The Bucks could look to more carefully manage the minutes of Olympic champions Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, coming off the club’s championship run, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic in an extensive mailbag. Nehm anticipates that second-year forwards Jordan Nwora and Mamadi Diakite, as well as reserve point guard George Hill, will benefit the most from the resting of Holiday and Middleton.
  • Retiring former Bulls All-Star center Joakim Noah will be celebrated by Chicago during an October 28 Bulls-Knicks contest. The Knicks are led by Noah’s former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, and feature his former Chicago teammates Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls are currently led by Noah’s old college coach, Billy Donovan, with whom Noah won two straight NCAA titles with the University of Florida in 2006 and 2007. Noah was a two-time All-Star and the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year while with the Bulls.

Steve Ballmer Has Big Plans For Clippers’ New Arena

Optimism was the theme that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer emphasized as he talked about the team’s new arena project with Jabari Young of CNBC. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Friday for the $1.8 billion facility, which will be located in Inglewood and called the Inuit Dome. It will become the new home for the franchise in three years.

The Clippers are looking forward to establishing their own identity after years of sharing the Staples Center with the Lakers and the NHL’s Kings. Ballmer notes that it took a lot of faith to embark on the project, which the franchise started without any land to build on. It had to pay $66.2MM to Inglewood for the site where the facility will be located and $400MM to purchase the nearby Forum from the Madison Square Garden Company.

“This stadium is about being optimistic about our team,” Ballmer said. “It’s about being optimistic about our fans. Get in the building, pump up, make energy. Your energy can feed our team to greater success.”

The 18,000-seat arena will include a lot of high-tech features as Ballmer hopes to create a unique experience for paying customers. It will have a halo-shaped video board with 44,000 square feet of LED lights, along with technology that will enable fans to purchase concessions from their seats without the need for cash or credit cards. The Clippers will also have four cabanas at courtside that Ballmer compares to end-zone suites in the NFL.

The arena won’t host hockey games, so it will be built with “basketball geometry” that’s tailored for the best NBA viewing experience. The team will move its business operations and its practice facility to the Inuit Dome, and Ballmer estimates that the arena will create $260MM in economic activity for Inglewood and will result in more than 7,000 new full-time and part-time jobs.

“It’s a big market,” Ballmer said. “There’s plenty of fans that can be fans of the Clippers and Lakers. But we want to tell you who we are. I think there are many folks in LA who identify with this notion of being the underdog, the person who strides. It’s almost two L.A.s. It’s not all showtime and movie business. Our fans are grinders.”

As a former CEO of Microsoft, Ballmer is still relatively new to the sports world, buying the Clippers in 2014 after former owner Donald Sterling was banned from the league. Along with having seasons affected by injuries, Ballmer said the most challenging thing about adapting to the sports environment is “judgment and understanding of where and how I should be involved on the basketball side.” Still, he has been able to take some of the lessons he learned from the business world and apply them to the NBA.

“You don’t blink,” he said. “We’re not blinking on the Clippers. We’re going to consistently invest and making our team as good as it can be. And in this new building, we’re going to invest.”

Trail Blazers Notes: Nurkic, Brown, Offseason Grade

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is optimistic about his role on the team after the hiring of Chauncey Billups as head coach, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Billups mentioned Nurkic during his introductory press conference, telling reporters, “I want to get more out of Nurk this year. He’s a weapon that most teams don’t have.” The new coach talked about installing an inside-out offense that will take advantage of Nurkic’s low-post scoring abilities as well as the team’s shooting prowess.

It was welcome news for Nurkic, who felt like his relationship with the organization was “fraying” after last season’s playoff loss to the Nuggets, Quick adds. Nurkic wasn’t happy with the way he was used by former coach Terry Stotts and was starting to doubt his future in Portland. He met with Billups after hearing his comments and believes things will be different this season.

“It’s not a question anymore whether I want to be here or not,” Nurkic said. “When the team hired Chauncey and I have a conversation with him and (assistant) Roy Rogers, there was no doubt. I’m 100 percent committed to Blazers.”

There’s more from Portland:

  • Nurkic has fully recovered from a left thumb injury he suffered in the playoffs, Quick adds in the same story. He hurt the thumb in Game 4 of the series and it continued to bother him into the summer. “I had that thumb thing to take care of, so I did a bunch of shooting to get my touch back,” Nurkic said.
  • Second-round pick Greg Brown is relying on veterans to teach him about the NBA, notes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Brown played alongside Michael Beasley, Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay during Summer League and he continues to seek advice at the team’s practice facility as training camp nears. “We had Larry Nance Jr. come in, I’m excited to see how he thinks about the league, pick his brain,” Brown said. “(Damian Lillard) for sure, CJ (McCollum) for sure, (Nassir Little) — I’ve been knowing Nas since high school, see how his transition is. Everybody has their story and you can pick something from their story and put it in yours to help you move further.”
  • The Blazers’ offseason gets a C-plus grade from Zach Harper of the Athletic, who says the additions of Nance and Cody Zeller will help the interior defense, but he doesn’t see much improvement otherwise. Harper adds that questions about Lillard’s future will hang over the franchise until the situation is resolved.

Jordan Bell May Sign With Italian Team

Virtus Bologna, the defending champion in the Italian league, is considering signing NBA center Jordan Bell, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. The news was first reported by the Italian newspaper Corriere di Bologna.

Bell, 26, finished last season with the Warriors after signing a two-way contract in mid-May. He appeared in just one game for Golden State and wasn’t used in either play-in game.

He also played for the Wizards last season, signing a pair of 10-day contracts in January and April. He got into five total games with Washington, averaging 2.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per night.

Bell was the 38th pick in the 2017 draft and was acquired by the Warriors in a draft night trade. He played rotation minutes for the team during its championship season in 2017/18 and again in its trip to the finals the following year.

He signed with the Timberwolves as a free agent in 2019, but only played 27 games before being traded. He also had brief stops with the Rockets, Grizzlies, Cavaliers and Lakers.

Virtus Bologna has an opening after a potentially serious knee injury to another former NBA player, Ekpe Udoh, per a report from Eurohoops. Udoh was hurt when he slipped on an on-court sticker during the Italian SuperCup quarterfinals.

“The biggest concern is Udoh’s injury. It seems to be bad, he’s the center around whom our game revolves,” coach Sergio Scariolo said. “This story of the court stickers that players slip on is something to think about. It’s a very serious injury for the player and a serious one for the team. I hope it serves to make it clear that we need to have the utmost attention on these things. There are no stickers in the NBA.”

Community Shootaround: Who Gets Traded First, John Wall Or Ben Simmons?

Sixers star Ben Simmons has been in the NBA’s oddest situation all summer, but Rockets guard John Wall may have surpassed him this week.

Wall and Houston management have reportedly reached an agreement to work together to find him a new team, and he won’t play in any games until that happens. Wall will report to training camp and will remain around the team, but there are no plans for him to have any on-court action. Wall reportedly hasn’t asked for a trade, but at age 31 and with his history of injuries, he’s not in the long-term plans for the rebuilding Rockets.

The major impediment to dealing Wall is his contract, which will pay him $44.3MM this season, with a $47.4MM player option for 2022/23. Wall could theoretically make himself more tradable by agreeing to turn down the option in hopes of working out a long-term contract with his new team, just as Chris Paul did with the Suns.

Also limiting the market for Wall is his sparse playing time over the past three seasons, brought on by heel surgery and a ruptured Achilles tendon. He managed to play 40 games last season, averaging 20.7 points and 8.7 assists in 32.2 minutes per night, but wasn’t ever used in both games of back-to-back situations and was shut down in late April with a hamstring injury.

The Rockets are reportedly unwilling to part with multiple first-round picks as an incentive for a team to take Wall and are reluctant to take on unwanted long-term salaries, which further limits their options for finding a trade partner.

Simmons, of course, has been the subject of trade rumors since his baffling performance in the playoff loss to Atlanta. He took offense to comments made by coach Doc Rivers after the conclusion of that series and has threatened to hold out of training camp if the team doesn’t trade him by then.

The Kings, Timberwolves and Warriors have been among the teams most prominently mentioned as potential landing spots for Simmons, but sources say Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has set a very steep asking price. Simmons is reportedly “in step” with Philadelphia’s efforts to move him, but has expressed a desire to go to the Lakers, Clippers or Warriors rather than a rebuilding organization.

Numerous reporters have expressed doubt about whether Wall or Simmons will be traded any time soon, but we want your opinion. Which of these players do you expect to wind up with a new team first? Please leave your answer in the comments section.

Atlantic Notes: Nesmith, Barnes, Knox, Vildoza

Aaron Nesmith‘s rookie season saw him go from the end of the Celtics‘ bench to a spot in their playoff rotation and he’s hoping to make a greater impact in his second year, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. The 14th pick in the 2020 draft was dealing with a foot injury when last season started, and he had to adjust to the NBA during a short offseason with no Summer League. The swingman eventually settled into a consistent role and shot 50% from the field and 42% from three-point range over the final two months of the season.

“It was definitely a quick turnaround from the moment I got drafted,” Nesmith said. “The season started and I didn’t get a lot of preparation or many chances to get my feet wet. Coming off the injury and not being able to play 5-on-5 for almost a year, that definitely was a whirlwind. It also taught me a lot of good lessons as well. It taught me how to adjust faster and adapt to a new system, a new level of play very quickly so if there was ever a point in time where I have to adapt very quickly again, I already know how to do it and I have a layout to do it as well.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Rookie forward Scottie Barnes introduced himself to Raptors fans with a first-hand piece on The Players Tribune. The No. 4 overall pick out of Florida State states that he was quickly embraced by the Toronto fanbase and gained about 80-100K new followers on social media within 24 hours of being drafted. He shares experiences from Summer League and draft night and says there was one message he wanted to deliver in his first post-draft meeting with the Raptors’ front office. “I’m ready to work,” he wrote. “Not ease into it, not half-do things or make excuses because I’m one of the new guys. I’m ready to work. I’m ready to grind. I’m ready to WIN. And I could tell that the feeling was definitely mutual.”
  • Knicks forward Kevin Knox is about to enter the most important season of his NBA career, observes David Vertsberger of Yahoo Sports. Knox is now the longest-tenured player on New York’s roster, but unless he finds a way to become a contributor, this could be his last season with the team.
  • Luca Vildoza returned to the Knicks this week to let team doctors examine his injured right foot before the start of training camp, per Alder Almo of Empire Sports Media. The injury limited Vildoza to two games during Summer League, and he was prescribed rest and treatment rather than surgery. He also played for Argentina during the Summer Olympics.

Pacific Notes: McGee, Kuminga, M. Gasol, Collison

JaVale McGee already has three NBA championship rings and he believes joining the Suns gives him a good chance to get another one, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. McGee chose the defending Western Conference champs in free agency, signing a one-year contract worth $5MM, and he sees his role as a mentor who can contribute valuable minutes as a backup center.

“I feel like my game definitely helps Deandre Ayton in a major way just for the veteran leadership alone,” McGee said. “Also when he gets into foul trouble and having that veteran big to come in that’s 7 foot, block shots, defend, rebound and does all the intangibles that a real big man does.”

McGee has played alongside some elite teammates during his 13-year NBA career, including Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Now he’s looking forward to teaming up with Chris Paul, who transformed Phoenix into a title contender last season.

“Every big man that has ever played with Chris Paul has done well,” McGee said. “I just feel like Chris Paul is definitely the head of the snake and he’s definitely going to lead us to the finals again.” 

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Jonathan Kuminga will need to be versatile to see significant playing time as a rookie, Warriors assistant Kris Weems tells Grant Liffman of NBC Sports. Golden State experimented with Kuminga as a small-ball center during Summer League to see how well he could defend post players. “When you are going to draft a kid that size, and knowing that long term he is going to be bigger and stronger, he may grow a couple inches taller, his versatility because of his size gives him a chance to stay on the floor longer,” Weems said.
  • Marc Gasol came close to signing with the Warriors last summer and could emerge as an option later this season, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Gasol has returned to Spain after being waived by the Grizzlies, but Slater notes that he’s the type of passing big man who performs well in Steve Kerr’s system and he could be tempted to return around midseason if Golden State is in the title hunt. The Warriors still have their taxpayer mid-level exception available, although using it would result in a significant increase in their luxury tax bill.
  • Darren Collison worked out for the Warriors earlier this month and remains an option for the 15th roster spot, but there’s speculation that he’s hoping for a training camp invitation from the Lakers, Slater adds in the same piece.

Joe Johnson Keeping Door Open For NBA Return

Coming off a second straight MVP season in the BIG3, Joe Johnson hasn’t given up on the idea of returning to the NBA. Johnson, who turned 40 in June, tells TMZ he still believes he can play at the highest level.

“No, I’m not done,” he said. “We’ll see what happens here … We’ll see, man. We’ll see. I don’t have nothing definite to tell you, to be honest with you. But, I’mma be out here to try to get things done.”

Johnson hasn’t been in the NBA since the 2017/18 season when he played a combined 55 games for the Jazz and Rockets. He was in training camp with the Pistons in 2019, but lost a battle for the team’s final roster spot and was waived before the season began.

Johnson had a workout with the Bucks in April, but Milwaukee opted not to sign him. He played for Team USA in February at the AmeriCup qualifiers in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

A seven-time All-Star, Johnson played 17 NBA seasons, averaging 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 1,276 career games.

Although it may be difficult for Johnson to get a training camp invitation with so many teams having full rosters, he told TMZ he continues to be motivated by the thrill of playing basketball long after most of his contemporaries have retired.

“I just love hooping,” he said.