Month: February 2024

Wizards Notes: Porzingis Trade, Satoransky, Special Someone

With the Wizards set to face the Mavericks on Friday night for the first time since the trade deadline, Tim Cato and Josh Robbins of The Athletic reassessed the deal that sent Kristaps Porzingis and a protected 2022 second-round pick to Washington in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans.

Cato and Robbins agree that it was a win-win trade for the two teams. Porzingis’ time in Dallas had clearly run its course, but he has been productive with Washington, averaging 21.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.6 BPG on .472/.305/.866 shooting in 13 games. He has been a willing passer and aggressive in the post, averaging 7.5 free throw attempts.

In addition to his production, Robbins writes that the Wizards are happy with Porzingis’ approach and toughness — the 7’3″ big man played through a couple of ankle sprains in recent games.

Dinwiddie, meanwhile, has thrived in a complementary role in Dallas, where his role is more clearly defined. Through 18 games with his new club, he is averaging 17.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 4.2 APG on .498/.386/.720 shooting.

Dinwiddie has been able to spot-up for threes and drive-and-kick as a secondary or tertiary ball-handler next to Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson. Bertans is still struggling to convert shots, but the team is holding out hope that might change over time.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Porzingis doesn’t expect the game against the Mavs to be as wild as when he played the Knicks for the first time after being dealt to Dallas, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I think it’s going to be a good game. It’s not going to be like my first game with Dallas in New York. That one was just crazy. This one is going to be a bit more just me competing against my old team. We’ll see,” he said.
  • Tomas Satoransky had a uniquely historic night on Wednesday, as Hughes relays in a separate story. Satoransky had a double-double without scoring a point, becoming just the third player in league history to accomplish the feat. The unselfish guard finished with 10 rebounds and 13 assists against just two turnovers, while shooting 0-of-2 from the field in the team’s 127-110 win over Orlando. “I don’t know if it’s good or bad, you know? I don’t know,” Satoransky joked. “I just let the game come to be a little bit. I was trying to be aggressive, but every time I would drive or was aggressive to the basket, it opened up space for my teammates. So, I tried to push the tempo from the beginning and I got some rebounds.” The 30-year-old veteran will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • The Wizards lack a “special someone” to set the team on the path to becoming a consistently winning franchise, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic. Washington definitely has some talented players, but no clear leader or catalyst.

Cavaliers Promote RJ Nembhard To Standard Deal, Sign Moses Brown To Two-Way Contract

MARCH 31: The Cavs have officially promoted Nembhard to a standard deal and signed Brown to a two-way contract, reports Chris Fedor of (Twitter link).

MARCH 30: The Cavaliers will convert guard RJ Nembhard to a standard contract and give his two-way spot to Moses Brown, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Nembhard, 23, signed with Cleveland last summer after going undrafted out of TCU and was given a two-way deal before the start of the season. He has played in just 12 NBA games, averaging 4.8 minutes per night, and spent much of his time in the G League, where he put up 22.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 13 games.

Brown, 22, was on the last night of his second 10-day contract with the Cavs, so the team had to make a roster move to keep him. He made his first start for Cleveland tonight, posting 12 points and nine rebounds in a loss to Dallas.

Brown, who was traded twice last summer, started the season with the Mavericks and averaged 3.1 points and 2.3 rebounds in 26 games before being waived at the trade deadline in February. He has also spent time with the Trail Blazers and Thunder.

The Cavaliers will have a roster opening with Brown’s 10-day contract expiring, so no other moves will be necessary to complete the signings.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Theis, Horford, White

Celtics coach Ime Udoka wasn’t happy with his team’s level of composure during Wednesday’s loss to the Heat, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Amid a playoff-level atmosphere and with first place in the East on the line, Udoka thought his team got too distracted by the officiating.

“We talked about it at halftime. We were complaining a little bit too much, being down one as poorly as we played early and not playing our best basketball,” Udoka said. “We got caught up in that early in the game as some calls late that didn’t go our way and we got caught up in that. We still have to transfer down to the other end and continue to guard, play through it. It’s a physical team that felt like a playoff atmosphere tonight as far as that. We could do a better job with our composure for sure.”

Marcus Smart was ejected after picking up two technical fouls late in the fourth quarter, but a bigger concern is Jayson Tatum, who was called for his 13th technical of the season in the first half. If he gets three more, Tatum will receive an automatic one-game suspension.

“I do not want to have to sit out a game,” he said. “The previous 12 techs, I’ve looked at all of them. I agree with probably 10 of them I deserved, but tonight, I don’t know. That’s the one I got to think about and watch. That was a tough one. I was trying to have a conversation. I was asking questions. It’s unfortunate that I got that tech, but just something that we got to move on from and continue to keep playing.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Wednesday marked the Celtics’ first game with a regular rotation since Robert Williamsmeniscus injury, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Grant Williams moved into the starting lineup, but didn’t make an impact, so Daniel Theis played 17 minutes and scored 15 points while making all six of his shots from the field. “Daniel is capable,” Udoka said. “He’s not jumping like Rob, but he’s a lob threat. We know that. However, we got to deliver it. We missed some opportunities, had some turnovers trying to force some passes tonight but Daniel had a great game overall. You can see his growth, what he’s doing the past few games.”
  • After a report Wednesday questioning whether the Celtics are fully vaccinated so that all their players would be eligible for a potential playoff series with the Raptors, Al Horford indicated that it won’t be an issue for him, according to Matt Vautour of MassLive. Horford was held out of Monday’s game at Toronto for personal reasons. “We’re clear on that. I’ll be ready to play wherever,” Horford said.
  • Derrick White played his 70th game of the season Wednesday night, triggering a $500K bonus, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. White’s cap hit will be adjusted to $16,892,857 for next season, and Boston is now $1.75MM away from the luxury tax for this season.

Nuggets Taking Wait-And-See Approach With Jamal Murray

The Nuggets have survived almost an entire regular season without Jamal Murray, but they’re still holding onto hope that he might return sometime during the playoffs, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Murray participated in a workout with his teammates prior to Wednesday’s game at Indiana, moving freely and getting up his normal shots. Coach Michael Malone told Singer that the team is keeping “all options on the table” regarding Murray as it prepares for the postseason.

Malone admits it’s a “weird time” to try to work Murray back into the lineup with the season winding down, adding that he has put “zero pressure” on his star guard about his return since his ACL surgery last April. However, if he decides he wants to play, the Nuggets will accommodate that request.

“But if Jamal Murray says to me, ‘Hey coach, I’m ready, man, I’d like to play,’ and he’s been cleared, then we’d figure it out,” Malone said. “I think, like anybody coming back, there are good days, there are great days, and there are some tough days. I think that’s kind of what he’s been dealing with probably the last month as he’s ramped up a little bit. And certain days I’m sure he feels great, and the next day he might feel like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can do this.’ The biggest part for him, right now, is the confidence to go out there and be able to play without thinking about everything he’s doing. That’s the hardest thing when you’ve been away from the game for almost a year like he has been.”

After watching Murray on Wednesday, Singer concluded it was one of his “good days.” He was able to curl and drive to the basket without any evidence of discomfort and occasionally gave a nod to trainers or team officials to show he was feeling good.

Murray also took part in strength training and stretching before the game, then came to the court with two wraps on each knee. He removed those as he moved into drills against the player development staff that included “hard cuts and strenuous pivots” and he didn’t shy away from contact, according to Singer.

Murray’s return could be a difference-maker for a Denver team that has tried all season to find suitable replacements in the backcourt. There have been conflicting reports about his chances to come back in time for the playoffs, and Malone said the team is keeping its options open.

“I don’t think it makes any sense to (say) … ‘We’re shutting him down,’” he said. “Who knows where the season’s going to go? A lot of crazy things can happen with (five) games to go, as well as into the postseason. Now with the play-in, the regular season ends and there’s a week for the play-in, then the playoffs start. It used to be, the season ended and playoffs started right away.

“I don’t think we need to paint ourselves into a corner and make any definitive decisions right now because this is not a mile race where it’s four laps and it’s over. We have no idea where the finish line is. Until we have a better idea of that, let’s leave all options on the table and see what happens on a day-to-day basis.”

Julius Randle Denies Asking To Be Traded

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s game, Knicks forward Julius Randle denied rumors that he’s pushing for a trade, tweets Steve Popper of Newsday.

“Yeah, that’s not true, bro,” Randle said. “That’s just not true. Simple as that, it’s not true at all. If it didn’t come from me it ain’t true.”

Randle was booed by the Madison Square Garden crowd during pre-game introductions, Popper writes in a full game story, but he also heard a few cheers after making his first three shots on the way to a 21-point, seven-assist and five-rebound night.

The trade demand rumors emerged as a result of Randle’s body language while scoring just five points in Monday’s game and then leaving the court immediately afterward rather than celebrating with his teammates. Randle didn’t talk with the media after that game, and a New York radio station passed along an unconfirmed report that he asked the front office for a trade that night.

Coach Tom Thibodeau dismissed the rumors before Wednesday’s contest, asking reporters, “Are you serious?” and saying, “Let’s be real.”

When asked if he thinks Randle wants to stay in New York, Thibodeau offered an indirect reply, saying, “Yeah, so as a coach, you coach the players that you have. And you love them all. And I do. If you play for me, I love you. It’s really that simple. The challenge for us is to bring the best out of each other.”

Randle provided a more firm denial following the game, stating several times that he wants his long-term future to be in New York, according to Ian Begley of (Twitter link). When asked about the extra attention that comes with playing in a big market, Randle replied, “I’m built for it.”

Randle said the toughest part of being booed in his home arena is the effect it has on his family, particularly his five-year-old son, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. But otherwise, he’s not bothered by the fan reaction and won’t let it drive him out of New York.

“My goal and what I work hard for is to make the city proud, to make the fans proud,” he said. “I play for my teammates, I play for my family. It’s as simple as that, bro. Nothing more than that. From the inside looking out, it is what it is. You know? I understand that a lot of times you’ve got to just let your game do the talking and go from there. Like I said, I love the city. My family loves it here. I’m a Knick. That’s what I love. I love being a Knick.”

Pacific Notes: George, Curry, Lundberg, Suns

Paul George returned from a three-month absence Tuesday night and showed no signs that he had ever been gone, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Playing his first game since December 22, George logged 31 minutes, scored 34 points and helped the Clippers erase a 25-point deficit in a win over the Jazz.

“In the beginning, legs were a little heavy,” said George, who had been sidelined with a torn ligament in his shooting elbow. “But after second wind and everything settled, got the jitters out, everything came back and I felt fresh, I felt really good.”

He credits assistant coach Brian Shaw for helping him get back into game shape, saying Shaw had him do “a ton of running.” George added that the pain is gone from his elbow and he estimates that its about 90% of being at full strength. He admits that he considered shutting down the season after getting injured, but decided to trust the advice of team doctors.

“Honestly, right after it happened, I was on the side of just getting surgery and getting over it and getting it done now so I don’t have to go into a summer rehabbing and healing and nursing an injury,” George said.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors guard Stephen Curry hasn’t resumed on-court activities since suffering a sprained ligament in his left foot, tweets Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Coach Steve Kerr said Curry’s workouts have been limited to the weight room and pool. The team plans to reevaluate his condition on Friday.
  • Gabriel Lundberg‘s NBA debut will be a memorable way to cap off a chaotic month, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Lundberg was playing in Moscow when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. He opted to leave to protect himself and his family, taking them back to his native Denmark before signing a two-way deal with the Suns on March 12. “It’s been a pretty hectic couple of weeks, to say the least,” Lundberg said. “Moving around. A lot of elements we needed to get a hold of. From getting my visa to getting out of the situation in Russia, waiting on my visa coming here. Getting acclimated to the system. Getting to know everyone. Waiting and joining the guys, but overall, I think it’s been a pretty good process.”
  • The Suns are hoping to host the All-Star Game soon, according to Evan Sidery of Basketball News. The team will submit a bid to host the game in 2025 and plans to try again for 2026 if that’s unsuccessful.

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Collins, Landale, Knight, Alvarado

CJ McCollum sees tonight’s game against the Trail Blazers as the “final closure” on the trade that sent him to the Pelicans, writes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. McCollum’s family joined him in New Orleans recently, but this week marks his first time back at his Portland house since the February 8 deal.

“I had conversations and was able to talk to some of my teammates and obviously I still talk to them to this day,” said McCollum, who spent his first eight and a half NBA seasons with the Blazers. “I talked with the staff. It’ll be good to see (coach Chauncey Billups), talk about our teams. Talk about our football teams. Just kind of catch up and get back to business. Get the win and get outta here. This is the final step. You know this is going to happen at some point. But it’s good that it’s happy emotions opposed to the opposite. I like to call it a happy breakup. One where you’re not bitter at your ex.”

Although McCollum was a fan favorite in Portland and loved playing there, it was clear by the trade deadline that it was time to move on. He has quickly become a team leader with the Pelicans, averaging career-best numbers with 25.9 points, 6.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds in 19 games.

“It was a team I kind of zeroed in on and they obviously zeroed in on me,” McCollum said. “I knew what I signed up for and what I was going to be asked to do, and I’m doing it. They held up their end of the bargain as well. I’m happy to be in this situation.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Zach Collins‘ return from injury and Jock Landale‘s emergence late in his first NBA season have stabilized the Spurs‘ frontcourt rotation, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio is especially happy with Collins, who is delivering on the three-year, $22MM gamble the organization took on him after missing nearly two full seasons and undergoing three ankle surgeries. Landale is giving the team a reason to consider guaranteeing his $1.56MM contract for next season.
  • Brandon Knight was on the court tonight, one day after rejoining the Mavericks on a 10-day contract, tweets Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Knight flew to Cleveland to meet the team, which needed backcourt help with Spencer Dinwiddie, Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina all missing the game.
  • The four-year deal the Pelicans gave rookie guard Jose Alvarado when they converted his two-way contract carries a $1.1MM guarantee for next season, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Years three and four are non-guaranteed, and the team holds an option on the final season.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Davis, Westbrook, Malone

The Lakers are in danger of missing the play-in tournament and their stars may not return in time to save them, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Tuesday’s loss at Dallas knocked L.A. into a 10th-place tie with San Antonio with seven games remaining, and the Spurs hold the tiebreaker because of a better conference record.

LeBron James missed the game against the Mavericks because of a sprained left ankle that he suffered Sunday. He has already been ruled out for Thursday’s contest at Utah and has been granted permission to return to Los Angeles for treatment and evaluation of the injury, Turner tweets.

Anthony Davis is listed as doubtful against the Jazz, but hopes to be ready for Friday’s game with the ninth-place Pelicans, sources told Turner. Davis, who hasn’t played since spraining his right foot and MCL on February 16, was “a little sore” after practicing Monday and the Lakers haven’t decided if it’s safe for him to play Friday.

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Coach Frank Vogel was disappointed with how his team responded to the challenge against the Mavericks, Turner states in the same piece. With a chance to solidify their play-in position, the Lakers fell way behind early in the game. “We executed very poorly to start the game and really that whole first half, with what our game plan was,” Vogel said. “And then as we tried to adjust to look at some Plan Bs and Plan Cs, we just didn’t execute well enough and play with enough toughness, IQ, intelligence, focus and fight in that half. So, not acceptable and just a poor performance across the board. Coaches, players, everybody.” 
  • Russell Westbrook had a testy exchange with reporters after Tuesday’s loss, Turner adds. Westbrook became irritated when he was asked what the team has to do for the rest of the season and challenged media members to come up with a solution. “I’m only one person. It’s a team game,” he said. “So, I don’t have an answer. You may have it.”
  • Vogel is likely to be replaced after the season ends, and a source told Harrison Wind of DNVR that Nuggets coach Michael Malone could have been a prime target if he hadn’t signed an extension with Denver (Twitter link).
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report reviews the mistakes the Lakers have made that caused them go from a championship team to a floundering also-ran in two seasons. The Westbrook trade was an obvious error, but Pincus also points to a lack of roster continuity after the 2020 title and a troubling pattern of letting young talent leave without sufficient compensation.

Cavaliers Notes: Windler, Mobley, Brown, Rondo

Dylan Windler is getting the opportunity to prove himself at the most crucial time of the Cavaliers‘ season, writes Chris Fedor of Windler was viewed as a floor-spacing shooter when Cleveland took him with the 26th pick in the 2019 draft, but injuries have slowed his development as his first two seasons were cut short by surgeries. He sat out five of the team’s first six games this month before coach J.B. Bickerstaff gave him another shot to contribute.

Windler’s chance has come at the expense of Cedi Osman, who was pulled from the rotation recently because of inconsistent play. The Cavs have been forced to use smaller lineups because of injuries to their front line, so Windler is a natural fit.

“Dylan’s always standing ready,” Darius Garland said. “We know he’s going to always be ready whenever his number is called. I mean, he’s a hard worker. Shots are going to start falling. Then on the defensive end, he’s going to do his job and that’s been Dylan since I’ve met him since I was in high school. He’s always going to be ready to compete and play hard. I just always tell him just stay ready. That’s for everybody down the line.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • Evan Mobley has been ruled out for at least the next three games with a sprained left ankle, but the Cavaliers are relieved that his injury wasn’t as bad as it looked, Fedor adds in a separate story. A source tells Fedor that an MRI on Mobley was “pretty clean” and “didn’t show much.” The rookie big man will work with the team’s medical staff over the next few days, but Bickerstaff said he’s not in a walking boot and there’s optimism that the injury is just short term. “The sooner we get him back on the floor the better. And for his sake too,” Bickerstaff said in a session with reporters before tonight’s game. “You don’t ever want to see a kid take injuries that are long lasting and impact him. He wants to play. He wants to be part of what we’ve got going on.”
  • Moses Brown, who’s nearly at the end of his second 10-day contract with Cleveland, is starting tonight in place of Mobley, Fedor tweets. Brown has played seven games since joining the Cavaliers, but is averaging just 5.4 minutes per night.
  • Rajon Rondo tested his injured right ankle after today’s shootaround, but has been ruled out for tonight’s game, according to Fedor (Twitter link). Rondo hasn’t played since March 12.