Month: August 2022

Community Shootaround: Nets’ Future

With the futures of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant unclear, the Nets have a number of important decisions to make in the coming weeks and months. Durant requested a trade from the organization just over a month ago, while Irving reportedly hasn’t asked to be dealt since exercising his player option, but neither player is a lock to open the season in Brooklyn.

Durant and Irving — alongside DeAndre Jordan — first joined the Nets during the summer of 2019. The team has had a championship-caliber roster more than once since then, but injuries, availability and chemistry issues have hampered its chances of winning a title.

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider-only), many figures around the league believe it’s virtually impossible to trade Durant. The 33-year-old has four years left on his contract and is a consensus top-five player in the world, making it difficult for rival teams to match Brooklyn’s high asking price. The Nets, according to Lowe, are hopeful Durant realizes this and eventually retracts his trade demand.

If the Nets find a way to trade Durant, the team would likely acquire high-level talent and a significant amount of draft capital. They would still have Irving, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, T.J. Warren, Ben Simmons, Nicolas Claxton and others, unless any of the players are included in the deal, of course.

We want to know what you think. If you were the Nets, what would you do? Would you shop around Durant and Irving with hopes of rebuilding, or would you only look to trade one player? Should Brooklyn consider moving any other players? If Durant retracts his request, are the Nets good enough to win a championship? Take to the comments section below and voice your opinions!

Eastern Notes: Heat, Hachimura, Avdija, Celtics, Durant

The Heat have an effective offseason program — and players such as Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry are certainly working on their craft — but Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel questions how much stock should be put into it right now, particularly given the team’s roster situation.

Miami still has a strong core, one that includes Tyler Herro, Victor Oladipo and others outside of the aforementioned names. However, the team lost starting power forward P.J. Tucker to Philadelphia and hasn’t re-signed forward Markieff Morris, raising questions about who else will start in the frontcourt.

The Heat did re-sign Caleb Martin and have second-year player Haywood Highsmith, but Martin is viewed as an undersized power forward and Highsmith is still in the process of proving himself. Miami can use a starting-caliber forward alongside Butler and Adebayo — and whether it happens may directly impact their level of success this season.

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Wizards forwards Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija are quietly giving the team hope, Ethan Fuller of BasketballNews.com writes. Washington finished 35-47 last season and missed the playoffs, but if the club fails to make the postseason again, it’ll still have Hachimura and Avdija for the future. Hachimura (24) was the No. 9 pick in 2019, while Avdija (21) was drafted ninth overall in 2020.
  • The Celtics‘ biggest concern with a potential Kevin Durant trade could be Jayson Tatum, Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press writes. If they were to acquire Durant, the Celtics may be taking the ball out of Tatum’s hands more, which would require time to sort through. This type of major addition has succeeded before (ie. LeBron James joining Dwyane Wade in Miami), but it requires time, patience and players willing to sacrifice for the team.

And-Ones: Russell, Sotto, Douglas

With legendary center Bill Russell passing away at the age of 88 today, figures across the sports world have paid their respects through statements and social media posts. Among those is Tamika Tremaglio, director of the National Basketball Players Association.

“Bill Russell embodies what it means to be a champion in every sense of the word. His on-court accomplishments, including the unfathomable 11 championships and five MVP awards — all achieved with distinct grace and swagger — are entrenched in our NBA culture as the standard to which all inspire,” Tremaglio said as part of a larger statement, as relayed on social media.

Russell’s passing has also drawn statements from other notable figures, including Magic Johnson (Twitter link) Celtics star Jayson Tatum (Twitter link) and Barack Obama (Twitter link).

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In addition to players and figures around the sports world, many teams released statements about Russell’s passing. Those teams include the Celtics, Kings, Warriors and Suns. Russell impacted generations during his life — both on the court and off.
  • Kai Sotto will remain in the NBL with the Adelaide 36ers next season, as relayed by Sportando. The 20-year-old averaged 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season.
  • Former NBA guard Toney Douglas has agreed to a deal with Benfica in Portugal, according to Martim Figueiredo (hat tip to Sportando). Douglas last played in Greece. He’s played 394 NBA games during his career, making stops with New York, Houston, Sacramento, Golden State, Miami, New Orleans and Memphis.

Kendrick Nunn Says He’s 100% Healthy Heading Into 2022/23

After missing all of the 2021/22 NBA regular season due to a knee injury, Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn says he’s fully recovered and excited about L.A.’s future. Nunn, who picked up his $5.25MM player option for the 2022/23 season last month, made those comments in a conversation with Chris McGee of Spectrum SportsNet (Twitter video link)

“I feel 100% [recovered] to be honest,” Nunn said of his current health status. “Back to where I’m normally playing at a high level.”

After going undrafted out of Oakland in 2018, the 6’2″ guard eventually attracted the attention of the Heat’s front office. Nunn signed with Miami in April 2019, but would not suit up for the franchise until the 2019/20 season. He was named to the 2020 All-Rookie First Team following a breakout Miami run. Nunn is averaging 15.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.9 RPG across his 123 healthy NBA contests, all with the Heat. He holds shooting splits of .458/.364/.881 shooting in 123 games.

When the Heat opted to pull Nunn’s $4.7MM qualifying offer in the 2021 offseason, Nunn signed a two-year deal with the Lakers as an unrestricted free agent. Los Angeles envisioned him as a key bench scoring contributor for what it expected to be a contending team. However, after sitting out a season – and given his limitations as a defender – it is unclear how much of a contribution Nunn will be able to make this year.

The Lakers, who finished last season with a 33-49 record, could certainly use Nunn’s help should he recover his old form. He is one of just six Los Angeles players set to earn more than the veteran’s minimum this year. Given the value of his current contract as an expiring one-year deal worth more than the minimum, the veteran guard has also been floated as a potential trade chip the Lakers could use to improve their roster.

Here’s more from Nunn’s interview:

  • If he does stick with L.A., it appears Nunn is well on his well to developing a rapport with new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham. Nunn acknowledged that he has already been in frequent contact with the former Bucks assistant. “I talked to him a bunch,” Nunn said. “[We] ran into each other a bunch of times with me working out and him coming in.”
  • Nunn attempted to make the most out of the 2021/22 season despite not being able to play at all:“Last year was a learning process for me. I learned a lot, sitting on the sidelines just watching. The game slowed down a lot for me, I got to see things from a different perspective… Wasn’t expecting to sit out that long.”
  • When asked what Lakers fans could expect following an uneven 2021/22 season that left the team on the outside of the play-in window looking, Nunn alluded to one of last season’s key issues. “They should expect consistency,” Nunn said. “That’s my number one thing. Coming in, night in, night out, and… being consistent on both ends of the floor.”

International Notes: Goodwin, Black, Vonleh, Bey

Free agent shooting guard Archie Goodwin has opted to re-sign with Ukranian club Budivelnyk for the team’s 2022/23 season, writes Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net.

The 27-year-old wing initially left Budivelnyk following the Russian invasion of Ukraine this spring. The 6’5″ wing was selected with the No. 29 pick out of Kentucky in 2013. His draft rights were traded to the Suns, for whom he played during his first three NBA seasons. He then split the 2016/17 NBA season, his most recent year in the league, between the Pelicans and Nets.

Across 165 career NBA games, Goodwin holds averages of 6.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 1.2 APG, while shooting 42.9% from the floor and 70% from the free-throw line. From 2017-19, Goodwin spent most of his time with a variety of NBA G League teams, in the hopes of returning to the big show. Since then, beyond Budivelnyk, he has logged time with clubs in Turkey, Germany, France, and Israel.

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

  • Free agent veteran NBA center Tarik Black has inked a one-year contract with Greek club Olympiacos, writes Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. After going undrafted out of Kansas in 2014, Black appeared in 220 NBA games from 2014-18, all with the Rockets and Lakers.  Since then, the 30-year-old has bounced from Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv, with whom he was named an Israeli League All-Star and won a league title in 2019, to teams in Russia and Turkey. The 6’9″ big man spent the 2021/22 season with the Grand Rapids Gold, the Nuggets’ NBAGL team, averaging 11.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.3 BPG across 15 contests.
  • The Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association are targeting former 2014 NBA lottery pick Noah Vonleh, per Borghesan of Sportando. Vonleh last played with another CBA club, the Shanghai Sharks, during the 2021/22 season. The 26-year-old averaged 14.3 PPG and 9.1 RPG with Shanghai. The Hornets selected the 6’10” power forward with the ninth pick out of Indiana in 2014. In addition to Charlotte, Vonleh suited up for the Trail Blazers, Bulls, Knicks, Timberwolves, and Nets across 339 NBA contests. He holds career league averages of 4.9 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 16.8 MPG.
  • Free agent swingman Tyler Bey is signing with Israeli League team Ironi Ness Ziona, reports Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. After being selected with the No. 36 pick out of Colorado in 2020, Bey saw his draft rights dealt to the Mavericks. The 24-year-old spent just 18 games, averaging 3.9 MPG, with the Mavs in 2020/21. Across 12 games with the Rockets’ NBAGL affiliate during the 2021/22 season, the 6’7″ wing averaged 10.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG and 0.9 BPG across 22.2 MPG.

Celtics Hall Of Famer Bill Russell Passes Away At 88

Legendary former Celtics center Bill Russell, winner of a record 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons as a player, has passed away at the age of 88, per a press statement from Russell’s representatives (Twitter link).

“Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today at age 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side,” the statement began.

After Boston traded for Russell’s draft rights in 1956 (he was the No. 2 pick out of San Francisco, where he won two NCAA titles), the 6’10” defensive-oriented big man continued to rack up accolades at the next level. In addition to his 11 championships, the 12-time All-Star was also a five-time league MVP, as well as an 11-time All-NBA honoree. He also won an Olympic gold medal for team basketball in 1956.

During the 1966/67 season, when Red Auerbach stepped down as Boston’s head coach, Russell made history as the first Black NBA head coach while still a player. In this player-coach capacity, Russell won the last two of his 11 championships.

Russell was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 as a player, and then again as a head coach in 2021. Beyond Boston, he served as head coach with the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973-77, and for the Kings during the 1987/88 season. He made the 25th, 35th, 50th, and 75th Anniversary NBA Teams, honoring the best players the game has ever seen.

In 13 seasons and 963 regular season games, all with the Celtics, Russell averaged 15.1 PPG on 44% field goal shooting, plus 22.5 RPG and 4.3 APG. He certainly would have also averaged a boatload of blocked shots, too, but that statistic was not maintained in his era. His greatness as a competitor and teammate goes beyond the numbers, and he is widely considered one of the very best NBA players ever.

A longtime leader in the civil rights movement, Russell was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama for his societal contributions both on and off the court in 2011. Russell is so resonant to the game of basketball that the NBA Finals MVP Award was rebranded the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in 2009, and when health permitted Russell would be on hand to dole out the trophy to the award’s winners through the years.

“Perhaps you’ll relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind how those moments unfolded,” the Russell family statement read in its concluding paragraph. “And we hope each of us can find a new way to act or speak up with Bill’s uncompromising, dignified and always constructive commitment to principle. That would be one last, and lasting, win for our beloved #6 [Russell’s jersey number, long since retired in Boston].”

Tributes have already begun pouring in for Russell from players, media, fans, and league personnel.

“Thank you for everything! R.I.P. Legend,” current Celtics All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum wrote (via Twitter).

Boston star wing Jaylen Brown wrote a series of tweets commemorating the one-of-a-kind Boston big man.

“Thank you for paving the way and inspiring so many,” Brown wrote in part (Twitter link). “Today is a sad day but also [a] great day to celebrate his legacy and what he stood for.” 

“R.I.P. Bill Russell,” Boston reserve forward Grant Williams began his post (via Twitter). “You allowed me to be in the position I am in today and you changed not only the league but the world. Forever 6.”

Celtics team president Brad Stevens weighed in as well, tweeting, “So very sad to hear about Bill Russell today. He set the standard – on and off the court. RIP to an all-time winner, teammate and person.”

League Commissioner Adam Silver released a heartfelt statement in response to the news (Twitter link).

“Bill Russell was the greatest champion in all of team sports,” Silver wrote. “The countless accolades that he earned for his storied career with the Boston Celtics… only begin to tell the story of Bill’s immense impact on our league and broader society. Bill stood for something much bigger than sports: the values of equality, respect and inclusion that he stamped into the DNA of our league. At the height of his athletic career, Bill advocated vigorously for civil rights and social justice, a legacy he passed down to generations of NBA players who followed in his footsteps.”

Our deepest condolences go out to Russell’s family and friends. One of the NBA’s brightest lights has gone out.

Cam Johnson Hopes To Remain With Suns

Cam Johnson never had a reason to think the Suns might move him this summer, but that changed when news broke about Kevin Durant‘s trade request. In an interview with Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, Johnson talks about his reaction to hearing rumors that he might be sent to Brooklyn in a Durant deal.

“I’m like, nah man, don’t put me in this,” Johnson recalled. “And next thing you know, whoever it was, Windy (ESPN’s Brian Windhorst) or somebody on the TV was like naming the potential trade targets. Naming DA (Deandre Ayton), me, Mikal (Bridges). And I was like, come on man, but it’s the business. Like I said, it’s the business. If that’s something that gets done, then that was just part of God’s plan and you’ve got to keep on rolling. But like I said, you’ve got to expect a team to do what’s in their best interests and try to win a championship and then on the flip side, we’ve got to do what’s in our best interests to further our careers and try to be our best selves.”

Johnson has been part of two very successful seasons in Phoenix, with the Suns reaching the NBA Finals in 2021 and then posting the league’s best record this year. However, this season had a bittersweet ending with a 33-point loss to Dallas in Game 7 of Western Conference semifinals. Johnson said the sting of that humiliation still hasn’t worn off.

“The silver lining is that you get an extra chip on your shoulder,” he said. “They’re adding up, too, I tell you that much, and it gives you motivation for every workout in the morning and every extra lift, whatever it may be. It’s like, we did get pounded in a Game 7 and yes, that was embarrassing.”

Johnson addresses a few other topics in the lengthy interview:

The rookie scale extension that he’s eligible to receive this offseason:

“There’s a business side of it which you open your eyes to and then there’s the personal side of it which you have to open your eyes to. There’s always a balance between the two. Definitely as the summer goes on, and we can call a spade a spade. All these trade rumors going around. That’s the business side of it and you have to expect a team to do what’s in their best interests and you have to expect individual people, in turn, to do what’s in their best interests, but the bottom line is I’ve really loved my time here and if we can get something done, I’d be very happy about it.”

The Suns’ decision to match Indiana’s four-year, $133MM offer sheet for Ayton:

“It’s awesome. I’m so happy for him. He deserved it. And the money is one thing, but just having him back on the team and the opportunity to continue to build what we have been building is a lot of fun, but he deserves every penny of that. I’m so glad that this organization was able to keep him. I’ve really enjoyed playing with him the past three years and the sky’s really the limit for him.”

The prospect of another season with the same core roster:

“I’d love it. I’d love it. I think there is something to be said about continuity. I think there’s so much that we’ve learned in games from Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3, I just think back to my rookie year of training camp and from a bird’s eye view, just how basic everything was that we’re talking about and how much it develops and changes as we progress. So, I think that continuity for us is huge.”

Magic Notes: Banchero, Pro-Am, Harris, Fultz

Magic rookie Paolo Banchero entertained his hometown fans Saturday with a 50-point performance at the CrawsOver Pro-Am in Seattle (video link from NBA.com). The overall No. 1 pick teamed up with No. 2 selection Chet Holmgren, who had 34 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in the exhibition.

Banchero has a long relationship with the event’s organizer, former NBA player Jamal Crawford. In a recent appearance with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on their “All The Smoke” podcast, Banchero talked about valuable advice that he received from Crawford (hat tip to Cody Taylor of USA Today’s Rookie Wire).

“Since my freshman year of high school, he has kind of took me under his wing and started taking me to the gym and letting me play in the pro-am, all of the pick-up games and stuff from when I was 15,” Banchero said. “At that time, (the NBA) seemed so far but he was like, ‘High school is going to fly by. It’s closer than you think. You just gotta start getting prepared for it now even though it may seem like it’s far away. You gotta lock in now.’ That put things into perspective and kinda made me take it even that more serious. I was always in the gym working and trying to chase my dream but that’s when I started taking really taking care of my body and doing the right things because he was talking to me about it all of the time.”

There’s more from Orlando:

  • An aiding and abetting charge against Banchero related to a Duke teammate’s drunk driving arrest last year has been dropped, according to Steve Wiseman of The Raleigh News & Observer. Police said Banchero was riding in the back seat and was charged because the vehicle was registered to him.
  • Kevon Harris, who signed a two-way contract with the Magic this week, is thrilled to finally get his shot at the NBA, per Dan Savage of NBA.com. Harris, who went undrafted out of Stephen F. Austin in 2020, played in the G League and spent some time in Croatia over the past two years. The 25-year-old guard is coming off a strong Summer League showing with Minnesota, averaging 15.8 points per game in Las Vegas. “I was able to show that I can do more than just score the basketball,” Harris said. “I feel like that was a stigma on me. I’m able to guard and be very versatile on and off ball. I feel like I was able to show my skillset and everything and show that I belong in the NBA.” 
  • Markelle Fultz, who returned from an ACL tear in late February, can be a positive influence on the rest of Orlando’s young roster, writes Jackson Frank of Uproxx.

Carsen Edwards Signs With Fenerbahce

Former Celtics and Pistons point guard Carsen Edwards will play for Fenerbahce next season, according to Eurohoops. The Turkish powerhouse announced this morning that Edwards has signed a one-year contract.

Edwards, 24, finished last season in Detroit, but became a free agent in June when the team declined his option for 2022/23. He spent most of the past season with the Salt Lake City Stars in the G League before signing with the Pistons in early April and averaging 5.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in four games.

Edwards was the 33rd selection in the 2019 draft and played his first two seasons with the Celtics, appearing in 68 total games. He was traded last September to the Grizzlies, who waived him eight days later.

Atlantic Notes: Achiuwa, Irving, Embiid, Sixers

Precious Achiuwa could be a strong candidate for Most Improved Player next season, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said in a recent appearance on the Rapcity Keleten-Nyugaton podcast (hat tip to Aaron Rose of All Raptors).

“Wait till this year because every time I see him this summer on the court it’s total focus, total intensity,” Nurse said. “I mean, something happened to him where he now understands what playing in the NBA is about and he is on a mission.”

The 22-year-old center got off to a rough start in his first season with Toronto, but he seemed like a different player after the All-Star break. He averaged 12.2 points per game over the last part of the season and shot 39% from three-point range.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • There may be a thaw in the relationship between Nets management and Kyrie Irving, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lewis notes that owner Joe Tsai recently retweeted a post praising Irving after the paper reported that he plans to play the upcoming season in Brooklyn. Tsai retweeted another post related to the “NYC Point Gods” documentary that suggested Irving would have excelled in the old era of New York City playgrounds and added the word “truth.” Irving responded with a video of burning sage, which is used by Native Americans to get rid of negative energy.
  • Thumb and finger surgery prevented Sixers center Joel Embiid from playing for the French national team this summer, per Basket News. Former NBA player Boris Diaw, who serves as general manager for the French team, said Embiid is in the process of being registered as a player for the national team. “His request for naturalization has been accepted,” Diaw said. “We know that he’s still waiting for the French passport. When he obtains it, then he can start the process and apply for a FIBA license for the national team.” Embiid is expected to make his debut with France during the 2023 World Cup.
  • Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice examines the options for the Sixers‘ fifth starter and compares how the team would look with P.J. Tucker, Danuel House, Matisse Thybulle or De’Anthony Melton in a starting role alongside Embiid, James Harden, Tobias Harris, and Tyrese Maxey.