Month: October 2021

Central Notes: Tucker, Brogdon, Pistons, Bulls Offseason

Forward P.J. Tucker was surprised and disappointed the Bucks didn’t make a competitive offer to retain him, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Tucker wanted to stay but Milwaukee show interest in doing so despite his contributions to its championship run. “I was pretty surprised,” said Tucker, who signed a two-year, $15MM deal with Miami. “You win a championship and you are part of winning something special like that, you would expect that. A chance of it not happening? There’s a chance. It didn’t happen. … You watch role guys in series in the past, usually those guys go back.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • One of the reasons why the Pacers agreed to an extension with Malcolm Brogdon is the way he embraces his leadership role, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files notes. “Malcolm Brogdon is a special player and a special person, and he’s our leader,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And one of the reasons I feel so great about this extension is that he really wants to be here. He wants to be in a position of high responsibility and leadership. He’s stepped those things up to a very high level.” Brogdon signed a two-year, $45MM extension.
  • The Pistons could have the youngest starting five in the league this season and coach Dwane Casey hopes they can establish a hard-nosed identity this season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “We’ve got to be patient. We’re a young group,” Casey said. “One thing we can control is how hard we come out and compete. We’re going to coach to win each and every possession – not every game, every possession – and compete as such. We want to establish who we are.”
  • The Suns’ ability to make the Finals with a young group fortified by key veteran additions convinced Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to take an aggressive approach to the offseason, Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated writes. “It was very motivating to see how big a jump a team like Phoenix was able to make,” Karnisovas said. Herring takes a close look at how the pieces acquired by Karnisovas could fit together.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Sixers, Brown, Richardson, Walker

The ongoing Ben Simmons drama, including a suspension, has sucked some of the energy out of the Sixers’ opener, coach Doc Rivers admitted to Brian Windhorst of ESPN and other media members. Simmons was suspended for the opener after refusing to participate in a practice drill.

“It’s a predicament that we’re in and that part is no fun. It really isn’t,” Rivers said. “We get to play right now and Ben is not. I want Ben to be playing. That’s his job.”

Simmons will be fined $330K for missing Wednesday’s game, increasing his fines for missed games — including the preseason — to more than $1.7MM.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, who had been sidelined due to a positive COVID-19 test, will be in the starting lineup against the Knicks tonight, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Brown said he experienced “some mild symptoms for the most part” and used meditation to recover from the virus. He’ll have an inhaler at the ready if he has any breathing issues. Al Horford, who also recently contracted COVID-19, remains sidelined to start the season, though head coach Ime Udoka said the veteran center is doing well physically.
  • Celtics guard Josh Richardson will not play in the opener due to a migraine, the team’s PR department tweets. Richardson was acquired in a trade with Dallas in late July.
  • New York native Kemba Walker is thrilled to be playing for his hometown team at last, Bontemps writes in a separate story. He’s hoping to prove the knee issues that plagued him with Boston won’t be a major factor with the Knicks. “Perfect timing. [I’m] really motivated,” he said. “Super excited that these guys have belief in me. I just need somebody to believe in me.”

Raptors Notes: Boucher, Roster, Nurse, Tax

After missing the entire preseason due to a dislocated finger, Raptors big man Chris Boucher has been cleared to return for the team’s regular season opener, writes Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (link via The Toronto Star).

Boucher had a breakout year in 2020/21, averaging 13.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in 60 games (24.2 MPG). He’s expected to once again play a regular role in the Raptors’ frontcourt this season before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2022.

“My whole career, my whole time in Toronto, nothing has been promised … I had to work for everything, I see it the same way this year,” Boucher said of his mindset in a contract year, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). “… At the end of the day I gotta be consistent, that’s the one remaining thing I gotta focus on.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Toronto’s roster, which is heavy on long, versatile forwards, is unlikely any group the franchise has put together in its 27 years of existence, opines Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Smith observes, 11 of the Raptors’ 15 players on standard contracts have listed heights of at least 6’7″, but none are taller than 6’9″.
  • Having lost veteran leaders like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol in recent years, head coach Nick Nurse will be tasked with leading a less experienced group this season, Smith writes for The Toronto Star. While Nurse adjusts his style to accommodate the new-look roster, Fred VanVleet says he’s helping the newcomers adapt to Nurse’s outside-the-box approach to coaching. “He’s a little weird at times, but he won us a championship, so he knows what he’s doing,” VanVleet said.
  • Following the Raptors’ roster cuts on the weekend, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca took an in-depth look at the team’s cap and tax situation and which recently-waived players are – or aren’t – expected to play in the G League with the Raptors 905. Toronto’s team salary is currently above the luxury tax line, but the club still has the flexibility to duck below that line after pushing back the salary guarantee dates for Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga.

Central Notes: Sexton, Pangos, Cunningham, K. Martin

A maximum-salary rookie scale extension wouldn’t have been a realistic starting point for the Cavaliers in their negotiations with Collin Sexton, and it wasn’t something Sexton’s camp ever demanded, sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

According to Fedor, Sexton’s representatives initially sought a contract in the $100MM range, but wasn’t stuck on that number and was open to negotiating a deal with a lower total salary. However, the two sides ultimately couldn’t reach an agreement, putting the fourth-year guard on track for restricted free agency in 2022.

“The approach is still the same,” Sexton said after Monday’s extension deadline passed, per Fedor. “I’m just coming in ready to work. We’ve got one goal and that’s to win and get to the playoffs. I was disappointed. But that doesn’t take away from the teammates itself. We’re going to figure it out, and we’re going to win basketball games together and have a good season. … I know they want me here. So, just a little disappointed, but at the end day, we move on.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Since going undrafted out of Gonzaga in 2015, Kevin Pangos has spent six years overseas, gradually becoming one of the top guards in Europe. Now, having signed this summer with the Cavaliers, Pangos is finally getting to live his NBA dream, Fedor writes for Cleveland.com. “Every single year I would have liked to be in the NBA. But I just tried to control what I could control and know that the spot I was in, I was there for a reason and I hadn’t quite earned it yet,” Pangos said. “There was a lot of growing I had to do on and off the floor, as a person and a player. I think that allowed me to get to the point where I am today.”
  • No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, who is recovering from a minor ankle injury, won’t play in the Pistons‘ regular season opener on Wednesday, but he could make his NBA debut before the end of the month. As Rod Beard of The Detroit News relays, general manager Troy Weaver said during a radio appearance on Wednesday that he anticipates “hopefully seeing (Cunningham) when we get back off the road.” Following Wednesday’s home opener, Detroit has a three-game road trip, then returns home on October 30, so that could be a tentative target date.
  • Pacers wing Kelan Martin, who pushed his guarantee date back twice this offseason in the hopes of making the team, did so again after earning a 15-man roster spot, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). Although Martin’s $1.7MM still isn’t fully guaranteed, he did receive a partial guarantee this week, says Agness.

Beal Says Opposing Players Constantly Try To Recruit Him

The trade rumors that have swirled around Bradley Beal in recent years have quieted down to some extent in 2021, but the Wizards star tells Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that in “almost every game we play,” an opposing player tries to recruit him to leave D.C.

“It brings you back to college. Which school is the right school? Which team is the right team?” Beal said. “You love the fact that people see your game and would love to play with you. But it’s also tough on the back end, because you have no idea what you want to do.”

Beal is eligible to sign a contract extension anytime, but he’d be able to earn more money if he waits until 2022, turns down his player option, and signs a new contract with the Wizards. Of course, he could also choose to leave the team as a free agent at that point.

As O’Connor writes, Beal remains committed to the Wizards for the time being, but hasn’t made any decision yet about his long-term future. While Beal likes the moves that general manager Tommy Sheppard and his front office made during the offseason, the team knows it needs to do more to convince the three-time All-Star he should remain in Washington for years to come. The goal, according to Sheppard, isn’t to turn into a contender overnight but to continue steadily improving each season.

“We’re going into year three of a plan to be more competitive every year,” Sheppard said. “It’s not a win now. It’s win more.

“… We have all year to keep showing him, ‘Hey, this is a place you’re going to win,'” the Wizards’ GM added. “Then, of course, the championship’s the next thing. But we can’t skip steps. I can’t sit here and look our guys straight in the face and say, ‘We should win a championship this year.’ Not at all. But the more pieces you’ve got, the longer you can hang around. That’s what I really, really believe.”

The Wizards committed to one of the league’s bigger roster shakeups this offseason when they traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers in a five-team blockbuster. Washington folded its Spencer Dinwiddie sign-and-trade acquisition into that deal and acquired five other players, including Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell.

Sheppard, who referred to Beal as a “shareholder” in the Wizards, said he bounces major roster moves off of the 28-year-old, so we can safely assume Beal wasn’t caught off guard by the team’s mega-deal. In fact, he told O’Connor that he was “definitely impressed” with the way Sheppard revamped the roster and upgraded the Wizards’ depth without giving up “crazy picks” or other assets.

“It was just me and Russ before. Now we have so many guys who can be versatile with the game. I can play off ball, and take more challenges on the defensive end,” Beal said. “We have probably the best depth we’ve had in a long time, maybe since 2017. To be able to look at the roster on paper, and see we’re three-deep at every position, is pretty good.”

As O’Connor points out, even if Beal is undecided about his future, his safest play might be to lock in a five-year deal with the Wizards for the sake of financial security — if he’s unhappy in two or three years, he could always push for a trade, like many of his contemporaries have. However, Beal is wary of taking that approach, suggesting that if he signs a long-term deal, he wants to be fully bought in.

“That’s kind of a dangerous game to play because you’re not in ultimate control,” Beal said. “Once you sign a five-year deal, you’re pretty much hooked.”

Rival teams – and players – will be keeping a close eye this season on Beal, who could emerge as one of the NBA’s biggest-name candidates to change teams in 2022 if things go south in Washington.

And-Ones: Boylen, Team USA, Stephenson, Exum, More

USA Basketball has announced that former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen will coach Team USA during November’s qualifying games for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which will take place in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. The U.S. team will face Cuba on November 28 and Mexico on November 29.

While NBA players make up Team USA’s roster in the World Cup itself, the qualifiers take place during the NBA season, so the roster is typically made up of G League veterans. After November’s games, the next round of qualifiers will take place in February.

Jeff Van Gundy coached the qualifying team leading up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup before handing things off to Gregg Popovich for the World Cup itself. USA Basketball has yet to announce Popovich’s successor, but Steve Kerr has been identified as a frontrunner. If Kerr gets the job, he’d coach the 2023 team in the World Cup, assuming Boylen’s group clinches a spot in the event.

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

  • NBA veteran Lance Stephenson, who last played in China, has signed an NBA G League contract and will be draft-eligible on October 23, our JD Shaw reports (via Twitter). Stephenson’s last stint in the NBA came during the 2019/20 season with the Lakers. He has appeared in more than 500 career regular season games.
  • The NBA announced on Tuesday that this season’s opening-night rosters feature a total of 109 international players from 39 countries. That includes a record number of players from Canada (18) Germany (seven), and the Bahamas (three). Appropriately, the Raptors lead the league with 10 international players.
  • Within his in-depth look at the players who did and didn’t sign extensions this offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) notes that Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Bulls guard Zach LaVine remain extension-eligible, but would be able to maximize their future earnings by waiting until free agency to sign new deals.
  • Dante Exum, who was waived on Saturday by the Rockets, owns a minority stake in the South East Melbourne Phoenix, and the NBL team’s general manager indicated it would love to him as a player. “If and when Dante decides that the NBL is the right move for him, we of course will do whatever we can do to make that as easy for him as possible,” GM Tommy Greer said (link via NBL.com.au).

Pelicans, Jonas Valanciunas Agree To Two-Year Extension

The Pelicans and center Jonas Valanciunas have reached an agreement on an extension that will lock him up through the 2023/24 season, agents Aaron Mintz, Mitch Nathan and Drew Morrison of CAA tell Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Lopez, Valanciunas’ two-year extension will be worth $30.1MM. The big man is under contract for $14MM in 2021/22, so he’s now on track to earn $44.1MM over the next three seasons. Because he had been on an expiring deal, Valanciunas was extension-eligible beyond the October 18 deadline that applied to certain other veterans.

Valanciunas averaged a double-double in each of his last two seasons in Memphis, establishing new career highs in 2020/21 with 17.1 PPG and 12.5 RPG in 62 games (28.3 MPG). The 29-year-old isn’t an elite rim protector and doesn’t shoot many three-pointers, but holds his own on defense and can knock down mid-range jumpers.

The Grizzlies dealt Valanciunas to New Orleans in an offseason trade that sent Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams to Memphis. Having recently acquired Valanciunas, the Pelicans faced extend-and-trade limits in their contract negotiations, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. They couldn’t offer the former No. 5 overall pick more than a 5% raise on this year’s $14MM salary and couldn’t tack more than two years onto his expiring contract.

Those limits would’ve lifted by the end of the year, but Valanciunas opted for security now rather than waiting to see if he could get a more lucrative deal later in the season or as a free agent in 2022.

This is the second consecutive year in which the Pelicans have traded for a veteran center and then signed him to an extension before seeing him take the court alongside star forward Zion Williamson. The organization will be hoping its commitment to Valanciunas works out better than last year’s deal with Adams did.

As Marks observes (via Twitter), Tomas Satoransky is now the only Pelicans (besides two-way players) who isn’t under contract through at least the 2022/23 season.

Harden: Lack Of Contract Extension “Nothing To Worry About”

Nets guard James Harden was eligible for a contract extension this offseason, but had to get something done by October 18. Since Monday’s deadline passed without a new deal, Harden’s next opportunity to sign a new contract will come during the 2022 offseason. At that point, he could either pick up his player option for 2022/23 and potentially negotiate a extension, or turn down that option in order to become a free agent.

Although the Nets had hoped to extend Harden this offseason and won’t be able to complete a long-term deal with him during the season, the nine-time All-Star says the club has “nothing to worry about,” as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details.

“I love it here, myself and (team owners) Joe (Tsai) and Clara (Wu Tsai) and (general manager) Sean (Marks) and the front office and (alternate governor Oliver Weisberg) and (head coach) Steve (Nash),” Harden said. “From top to bottom, the communication has been unbelievable, it’s been amazing. I feel at home. It’s nothing to worry about. For me individually, I just want to focus on this year and that’s it.”

Nets fans may take Harden’s comments with a grain of salt, given that he’s less than a year removed from forcing his last team to trade him. However, there’s reason to believe the 32-year-old is being genuine — it will be more favorable financially to wait until next year to sign a new contract than it would have been to extend his deal this year.

If Harden had agreed to an extension with the Nets by Monday’s deadline, he could’ve tacked on three years and $161.1MM to the two years and $91.7MM left on his current contract, for a total of $252.8MM over five years, taking him through the 2025/26 season.

If Harden waits until next year and picks up his 2022/23 player option, he’ll be able to tack on four years and $222.8MM to his $47.4MM option salary, taking him through ’26/27. Combined with his 2021/22 salary ($44.3MM), that would work out to $314.5MM over the next six years, increasing his overall payday and giving him an extra year of security. That would be Harden’s best path to maximizing his earnings, even moreso than opting out next summer and signing a brand-new five-year contract with the Nets.

While Harden may not publicly cite those financial considerations as a primary factor in his decision, it’s probably safe to assume he’s thinking about them. If Brooklyn has a disappointing 2021/22 season, maybe he’ll reconsider his long-term commitment to the franchise, but for now, Harden’s decision to put off an extension shouldn’t be a cause for any concern.

“I don’t plan on leaving this organization and the situation that we have,” he said on Tuesday, per Youngmisuk. “So my focus, honestly, is just focus on the season and then winning the championship. The contract and all that stuff will bear itself out, but my focus is going to be locked on this season.”

Billups Played Key Role In Lillard’s Renewed Commitment To Blazers

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard acknowledged this week that he considered the possibility of leaving Portland this offseason after a disappointing playoff loss to Denver in the spring, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. However, after deciding not to ask for a trade, Lillard remains committed to the franchise and has no intention of wavering even if the team gets off to a slow start this season.

“Everybody is saying what they think I’m thinking, and what they think I’m going to do, but like, I’m not leaving Portland, you know?” Lillard said.

As Quick details, a series of conversations over the summer with new head coach Chauncey Billups helped renew Lillard’s enthusiasm for remaining with the Blazers. Besides discussing basketball strategies and philosophies, the two men also talked about “family, life after basketball, and the qualities found in a winner,” according to Quick.

“I think a big part of (my change in mindset) was me and Chauncey’s conversations, and where we see things the same,” Lillard told The Athletic. “I’m not going to share details of our conversations, but it’s not often when I speak to people that they see what I see. Watching a game, observing people … there’s not many people who see what I see. But a lot of what I see, he sees. So that was very important to me. Like, that was a big deal.”

When Billups was hired by the team in June, he was aware Lillard was frustrated by how the 2020/21 season was played out and was weighing whether he wanted to remain in Portland for the long term. However, the first-time head coach didn’t feel pressure to push the six-time All-Star to stay with the team.

“I’ve never told Dame, or asked him, to stay. Nothing. I’ve never done that,” Billups said. “I felt like the biggest thing I wanted to do was share the things that were important to me. This is what I am. This is what I’m about. Then, it’s on him to decide: Is it worth it? Or should I punt?

“… It was all organic,” he added. “It wasn’t me putting pressure, not me asking this or that. It was a lot about family, about life, and about life after hoop was done. It was more than basketball. We have a great connection, and those healthy conversations are the type that allow one to make a conscious decision.”

Lillard has three more guaranteed years left on his contract with the Blazers, plus a player option for 2024/25, so it’s possible he’ll have a change of heart at some point before that deal expires. However, it sounds like the teams hoping he’ll ask for a trade shouldn’t count on that happening anytime soon. Lillard has bought into Billups’ vision for the franchise and is comfortable sticking with Portland for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t expect all times to be great times. Adversity is going to hit. There’s going to be some tough times,” Lillard said. “So if (this season) starts off rocky, or if it starts off in a struggle, I wouldn’t be happy about it. Nobody would. But I’m not going to jump ship or bail out when that happens. That’s an easy thing and popular thing to say, but it’s not going to happen.”

Key In-Season NBA Dates, Deadlines For 2021/22

With the 2021/22 NBA season underway, our calendar of important 2021 preseason dates and deadlines can be retired in favor of a list of the key in-season dates for the ’21/22 campaign. Here’s a breakdown of the deadlines and events that will influence player movement for the next several months across the NBA:


October 23

  • NBA G League draft.

October 25

  • NBA G League training camps open.

November 1

November 5

  • NBA G League Showcase Cup begins.

December 1

  • Priority order for waiver claims is now based on 2021/22 record, rather than 2020/21 record. Teams with the worst records receive the highest waiver priority.

December 15

December 19-22

  • NBA G League Winter Showcase and Showcase Cup championship.

December 27

  • NBA G League regular season begins.

January 5

January 7

  • Last day to waive non-guaranteed NBA contracts before they become guaranteed for the rest of the season. Salaries officially guarantee on January 10 if players haven’t cleared waivers before that date.

January 10

  • The value of teams’ unused mid-level exceptions and bi-annual exceptions begins to prorate downward by 1/174th per day.

January 15

January 20

  • Salaries for all two-way contracts become fully guaranteed.

February 1

  • Former first-round picks who were stashed overseas may sign rookie scale NBA contracts for the 2022/23 season.

February 10

  • Trade deadline (2:00pm CT).

February 18-20

  • All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

February 28

March 1

  • Last day a player can be waived by one team and remain eligible to appear in the postseason for another team.
  • Last day for a restricted free agent to sign an offer sheet.

March 10

April 2

  • NBA G League regular season ends.

April 5

  • NBA G League playoffs begin.

April 10

  • Last day of the NBA regular season.
  • Last day players can sign contracts for 2021/22
  • Last day two-way contracts can be converted to standard NBA contracts.
  • Luxury tax penalties calculated based on payroll as of this day.

April 11

  • Playoff rosters set (2:00pm CT).

April 12-15

  • NBA play-in tournament.

April 16

  • NBA playoffs begin.

Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ and NBA.com were used in the creation of this post.