Month: May 2022

Pelicans Notes: Nance, Griffin, McCollum, Zion

Larry Nance Jr. hasn’t enjoyed much stability in his seven-year NBA career, but he hopes to find it with the Pelicans, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Nance was a perfect fit in New Orleans after being acquired from the Trail Blazers in February, and with one year left on his contract, he’s hoping for an extension.

Willie (Green) is my eighth head coach,” Nance said. “I have had seven different general managers. I am so tired of it. This organization has been incredible since I got here. The people are great. The fan base is incredible. I would love to make this a permanent stay. But again, that’s not up to me.”

The first order of business for Nance after the trade was arthroscopic surgery to fix his right knee, which kept him sidelined until late March. Clark notes that Nance was much more explosive when he resumed playing.

“The little piece of meniscus in my knee was bothering me for the past few years,” Nance said. “I didn’t even realize it. Getting that cleaned up and cleaned out and getting to play that last stretch of games was fully healthy was great. I still feel great. My body is in a great place right now.”

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • The Pelicans have 14 players under contract for next season, but there are some important decisions to make this offseason, Clark adds. CJ McCollum, who came to New Orleans in the same deal as Nance, will also be eligible for an extension, and the team has to figure out whether to make a maximum extension offer to Zion Williamson. Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said those situations will be addressed and called it “a real blessing” that all three players want to remain with the Pelicans.
  • McCollum attracted headlines at the All-Star break when he said that he hadn’t been able to speak with Williamson, who was working out away from the team. On Friday, Williamson offered an explanation, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “Honestly, I was focused on rehabbing around that time,” he said. “I texted CJ shortly after to apologize about that. Like I said, I was mentally not in a good space. Mr. McCollum, he was cool about it.”
  • Williamson’s comments at Friday’s media session that he still wants a future in New Orleans were exactly what the organization needed to hear, contends Rod Walker of NOLA.com, as Williamson did his best to silence persistent speculation that he would rather be in a bigger market. “I can’t control rumors and how people feel about certain things,” Williamson said. “I said this in my interview with (Pelicans TV announcer) Antonio (Daniels). Anybody who knows me, knows I want to be here. If they feel otherwise, I can’t help that. But if you know me, you know I want to be here.”

Nets Notes: Irving, Tsai, Brown, Simmons

The Nets won’t have much leverage in negotiations with Kyrie Irving if he decides to opt out of his contract for next season and seek a five-year maximum deal worth nearly $250MM, writes Sean Deveney of Heavy. The option year was used to attract Irving in 2019 when he came to Brooklyn along with Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan to turn around a struggling franchise.

However, the results have been mixed over the the past three years, with just one playoff series win and several incidents that call into question the wisdom of a long-term deal for Irving, who played just 29 games this season because of his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Deveney expects the Nets to drop public hints that they’re unsure about giving Irving a full max contract, hoping to convince him to opt in for next season or negotiate an extension for less money. However, Deveney believes Irving’s representatives would see that as a bluff and would insist on getting maximum value.

Brooklyn officials have a pattern of allowing Irving to do whatever he wants, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said in an appearance this week on “NBA Today” (video link). He points out that the team was originally unwilling to accept Irving as a part-time player and got off to a 21-9 start without him. The trajectory of the season changed when the front office reversed that decision.

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets and Barclays Center suffered losses this season estimated between $50MM and $100MM, a source tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post. That led owner Joe Tsai to force out John Abbamondi, the CEO of Brooklyn Sports Entertainment, which oversees both operations, and he’s now seeking his third top executive in less than three years. Although the Nets set records for attendance, they don’t have enough other revenue to support their $174MM payroll.
  • After a strong second half and an impressive performance in the playoffs, Bruce Brown may be able to land a contract starting in the $8-10MM range, Lewis adds in a separate story. Brown will be an unrestricted free agent after accepting the team’s $4.7MM qualifying offer last summer.
  • Brooklyn may have no other choice than to keep Ben Simmons and see how he can fit into the team next season, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Teams were hesitant to make offers to the Sixers prior to the deadline, and there are even more doubts about Simmons’ condition after he failed to play at all for the Nets.

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Harden, VanVleet, R. Williams

Sixers coach Doc Rivers is responding to criticism about having center Joel Embiid still on the court late in Game 6 against the Raptors with a 29-point lead, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid was struck by an inadvertent elbow from Pascal Siakam, resulting in an orbital fracture and concussion that has him sidelined indefinitely.

“It wasn’t four minutes left and 29 points,” Rivers said. “He scored the bucket [at the 4:10 mark] to make it 29. And in the playoffs, just so everyone knows, so we can not talk about blame and talk about winning this next series.”

After a reporter interrupted to ask, “So why was he in?” Rivers answered, “Because everyone was in. The other team had all their guys in, too. The last five minutes of the game, we made the run the last minute … right before that. That’s when we got up 29. After Joel made the shot and did the [celebratory] airplane, if you watched the game, I turned and said, ‘I’m calling a timeout on the next possession.’”

Rivers also pointed out that in the playoffs, virtually every team leaves its starters in until about three or four minutes are left, regardless of the score.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Embiid’s absence will result in James Harden becoming the focal point of the offense, Pompey adds. Harden averaged 19.0 points and 10.2 assists per game in the first-round series against Toronto, but Rivers indicated he’ll be asked to do more scoring until Embiid returns. “We are going to play more of a James-dominant offense than we have because we have to,” Rivers said. “We’re going to space the floor more. We’re going to play in space more.”
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said the hip flexor that forced him to miss time in the playoffs shouldn’t linger into the offseason, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. VanVleet was also dealing with a bone bruise on his knee that happened before the All-Star break. He indicated that he’s interested in discussing an extension with the team this summer (Twitter link from Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports).
  • Celtics center Robert Williams has been doing extra conditioning work since returning from knee surgery, coach Ime Udoka tells Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Udoka also said the wrap that Al Horford is wearing on his left thumb and hand is just a result of “the regular nicks and bruises from the playoffs.” (Twitter link)

Warriors Notes: Starting Lineup, Payton, Second Round

Warriors coach Steve Kerr used a small-ball starting lineup to close out the Nuggets on Wednesday night, but he hasn’t decided if he’ll keep it for the rest of the playoffs, writes Tim Kawakami of The Athletic. Stephen Curry made his first start since returning from a sprained left foot and bone bruise, and was joined by Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green in a group that created match-up problems for Denver throughout the series.

A smaller approach might fare differently against the Grizzlies, who don’t rely on a big man the way the Nuggets do with Nikola Jokic. Memphis also went smaller in its first-round series, as starting center Steven Adams played a combined seven minutes after Game 1. He is currently in health and safety protocols.

“I don’t know, honestly,” Kerr said when asked about his lineup plans. “I’m not committed to anything. I think I told you before the playoffs started, we just don’t know this team that well because we haven’t had everybody together. You start thinking about all the options, you just don’t have any evidence. You don’t have any film, you don’t have the analytics. You can’t ask our analytics department for all the lineup combinations and plus-minus, offensive/defensive ratings, all that stuff, because these groups haven’t been together.”

There’s more on the Warriors:

  • Gary Payton II barely earned a roster spot before the season started, but he played a huge role in the Game 5 win over Denver, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. With Poole having an off night and Andre Iguodala injured, Payton was on the court for almost the entire fourth quarter as Golden State rallied to win. “Our front office has done an incredible job just plucking out talent where teams might have disregarded a guy,” Thompson said. “But our system and the confidence we give guys allows them to be themselves. What a find GP was.”
  • The Warriors don’t have anyone else who can stay in front of Ja Morant, so Payton might have an even bigger role in this series, Slater suggests in a separate story. Payton made six of eight three-point attempts against Denver, and he may move into a starting role if he keeps shooting that well.
  • The Grizzlies remind the Warriors of their early days as a contender, according to Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Memphis is the league’s second-youngest team with an average age of 24, and its oldest players are Adams and Kyle Anderson at 28. “They’ve built a foundation over the last few years through player development, through really smart drafting, investment, and they are really well coached,” Kerr said.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter, Connelly, Gordon

The Nuggets were hoping all season to have Jamal Murray back in time for the playoffs, but he didn’t believe his surgically repaired ACL was strong enough to take the risk, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Meeting with reporters Friday in the wake of Denver’s first-round exit, Murray explained that he hadn’t recovered enough to feel comfortable on the court.

“I remember saying at the beginning of my rehab, I want to come back when I’m 100 percent and not 85,” Murray said. “I don’t think I’m 85 right now. I know I can go get a bucket. But in terms of the intensity of the playoffs, I’m just not there yet.”

Murray, who suffered the injury last April, was cleared to participate in five-on-five practice about four weeks ago. President of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the team monitored Murray’s progress closely and made a “collective decision” to keep him out of action.

“We knew specifically with Jamal’s injury that the timeframes can be all over the place. We’ve done all the studies and it can be anywhere from X to Y. We didn’t want to put a firm timeframe on it,” Connelly said. “As he started to feel better and better, we didn’t want to be too definitive because we didn’t want to mislead anyone in this room. As the year progressed and we got into the postseason, I thought it would be irresponsible for him to enter that level of competition.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Michael Porter Jr. expressed a similar sentiment, saying even if he had tried to play, he couldn’t have helped much, per Pat Graham of The Associated Press. Porter was limited to nine games this season and never returned after having lumbar spine surgery in December. “On one leg and stand in the corner and shoot threes,” Porter responded when asked if he could have played. “Would I have been at my best? I definitely would not have been at my best. At that point, it’s just thinking long-term versus short-term.” Porter adds that he and Murray encouraged each other through the rehab process to not try to rush back from their injuries.
  • After taking a gamble by giving Porter a max extension before the start of the season despite his history of back issues, Connelly will be under pressure this summer to find some help for Nikola Jokic, observes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.
  • Aaron Gordon bounced back strong after poor performances in the first two games of the series, notes Matt Schubert of The Denver Post. Although Gordon might be miscast as the second option on a title contender, he showed promise that he can contribute once Murray and Porter return, Schubert adds.

Jackson, Brown, Clifford Are Finalists For Kings’ Coaching Job

5:36pm: Jackson, Brown and Clifford are the three finalists for the job and will all have in-person meetings with the Kings’ front office, tweets James Ham of ESPN 1320.

The other four candidates — Mike D’AntoniCeltics assistant Will Hardy and Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee — are no longer under consideration.


4:19pm: ABC/ESPN announcer Mark Jackson is a finalist to become the next head coach of the Kings, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic, who adds that general manager Monte McNair has started notifying the candidates who will receive in-person interviews.

Warriors assistant Mike Brown and Nets consultant Steve Clifford are finalists as well, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Jackson, who is among the candidates that LeBron James reportedly wants the Lakers to consider, hasn’t coached since the 2013/14 season and is currently employed as an ABC/ESPN broadcaster. He compiled a 121-109 record in three seasons with the Warriors and reached the playoffs twice.

Brown has been an assistant on Steve Kerr‘s staff since the 2016/17 season. He has a 347-216 record as a head coach with the Cavaliers and Lakers and was named Coach of the Year in 2009.

Clifford spent three years as head coach of the Magic before he and the team decided to part ways last summer. He also served five seasons as head coach in Charlotte and has a career record of 292-345.

Atlantic Notes: Boucher, Lillard, Knicks, Ainge, Celtics, Bassey

Raptors big man Chris Boucher is set to enter unrestricted free agency this summer, but he hasn’t thought much about it to this point. Boucher ended his season with a 25-point, 10-rebound effort off the bench in Game 6, telling reporters how much he h as valued the Raptors and Toronto.

“I love Toronto and Toronto did a lot for me …. from the player I was to where I am now, I owe it all to Toronto,” he said, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet (Twitter link).

As Grange notes, it’s clear where Boucher’s heart lies. However, he’ll likely receive interest from multiple teams on the open market, as he averaged 9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 21.1 minutes per game this season. He also shot 46% from the floor and played 80 games.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, long considered a potential Knicks trade target, is no longer intrigued by New York’s plan, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. The Knicks finished with the 11th-best record in the East at 37-45 this season after finishing fourth in the East at 41-31 last season. Instead of targeting Lillard, New York could shift its focus to Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, whose team was recently eliminated in the first round.
  • Despite taking a job with the Jazz, Danny Ainge still keeps tabs on the Celtics, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe writes. Ainge left the Celtics last June and joined the Jazz as CEO last December. He worked in the Celtics’ front office for 18 years.
  • Sixers rookie Charles Bassey practiced in full with the team on Saturday, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com tweets. Bassey has been dealing with a shoulder sprain. The 21-year-old big man could be available for the club’s series against Miami, which could be important with Joel Embiid out indefinitely. Bassey averaged 18.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks for the team’s G League affiliate this season, playing 28.6 minutes per contest.

Central Notes: Bucks, Tatum, Brissett, Pistons

Guarding Jayson Tatum will require a team effort from the defending champion Bucks, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Milwaukee will open its second-round series against Boston on Sunday, playing the only undefeated team remaining in the postseason.

As Nehm notes, Jrue Holiday was Tatum’s primary defender this season, but a lot has changed for both clubs. Milwaukee is expected to play without Khris Middleton (MCL sprain), which likely means Bobby Portis will continue to start for the team.

With Holiday, Wesley Matthews, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Portis and Brook Lopez starting, the Bucks held the Bulls to an average of 92 points in three games last series. Starting Portis would also allow Milwaukee to match Boston’s big men and designate Antetokounmpo as Tatum’s primary defender.

The Bucks will certainly miss Middleton, the team’s second-leading scorer at 20.1 points per game this season, but as Nehm writes, it’ll take a full team effort to slow down Tatum and the Celtics.

Here are some other notes from the Central Division:

  • Zach Lowe of ESPN lays out why the Bucks will need absolute peak Giannis Antetokounmpo to beat the Celtics. Antetokounmpo is coming off a season where he averaged a career-high 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, shooting 55% from the floor. Boston tends to play two big men at all times (starting with Al Horford and Robert Williams III), making it difficult to score at the rim. When you combine this with Middleton’s absence, Milwaukee will certainly need a group effort on both ends to win this series.
  • James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star explores why the Pacers should consider turning down Oshae Brissett‘s $1.85MM team option. By declining the option, Indiana could make Brissett a restricted free agent this summer instead of an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Pacers would be able to match any offer Brissett gets from a rival club. He averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game in 67 appearances this season.
  • Keith Langlois of Pistons.com examines a number of Pistons-related notes in his latest mailbag, including which team may express interest in Jerami Grant and the chances of a Killian Hayes trade. Detroit finished the season 23-59, but it still has a young core headlined by No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.

Eastern Notes: Butler, Herro, Wizards, Brown

Heat star Jimmy Butler (knee inflammation) plans to play in Game 1 against the Sixers on Monday, as Nick Friedell of ESPN relays (Twitter link). Butler missed Miami’s final game against the Hawks last Tuesday and expressed confidence his knee will hold up.

Philadelphia will be without superstar center Joel Embiid (orbital fracture and mild concussion), however, which Butler says he and the rest of the Heat are disappointed about. Butler also said Embiid deserves to win the Most Valuable Player award this season.

“I think I speak for everybody that’s a part of this team, we want Jo to play,” he said. “We want to go up against them at full strength and prove that we can hang with anybody and we can beat anybody.”

As we wrote on Friday, Embiid doesn’t have a timetable for his return. The Sixers and Heat will play Game 2 on Wednesday, then travel to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Friday.

Here are some other notes from the East:

  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel explores whether Tyler Herro‘s illness absence should raise concerns for the Heat. Herro didn’t practice on Saturday because of a cold, but he’s still expected to play in Game 1. The 22-year-old struggled during Miami’s first-round series against Atlanta, averaging 12.8 points on 39% shooting from the floor and 18% from deep.
  • The Wizards could greatly benefit from the Jazz blowing their roster up this offseason, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines. Utah lost its first-round series against Dallas 4-2 and could explore trading key pieces in the summer. Hughes believes Washington may express interest in a number of Jazz players, including Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley. The Wizards naturally want to build a competitive roster around Bradley Beal and keep him in town.
  • Celtics star Jaylen Brown told reporters that he should be “ready to roll” for the team’s Game 1 against the Bucks, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. Brown, who has been dealing with hamstring tightness, said he’s feeling good. Boston will open up the series at home on Sunday afternoon.

And-Ones: Cotton, 2021 Re-Draft, Pro Days, G League Camp

Veteran guard Bryce Cotton, the top player in Australia’s National Basketball League, isn’t planning a return to the NBA. The Perth Wildcats have reached a contract extension agreement with the three-time NBL MVP, Sportando’s Dario Skerletic reports. Cotton, 29, averaged 22.7 PPG and 4.8 APG last season. He played a total of 23 games for Utah, Phoenix and Memphis from 2014-16.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • How would last year’s draft look if it were held now? The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie explores that topic, ranking those players on how they performed this year, whether they can improve upon their weaknesses and how they figure to grow and mature. The top five, in order, would be Cade Cunningham, Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Franz Wagner, Vecenie says.
  • The NBA has sent memo to teams informing them that agency Pro Days will only be permitted during two windows — the week of the NBA Combine from May 16-21 and in Southern California from May 25-27, Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets.
  • The NBA G League Elite Camp will have workouts May 16-17 in Chicago and the Combine will run workouts from May 18-20, Adam Zagoria tweets.