Month: October 2022

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Lillard, Edwards, Holmgren

Veterans Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan, Ish Smith and Bruce Brown are providing the Nuggets with energy and a level of comfort during training camp, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). Back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic is laid back, which allows the more boisterous personalities of Green and Jordan to stand out, Singer notes.

Brown said he feels more at home in Denver than he did during last season’s drama-filled campaign with a big market club in Brooklyn.

I’m more laid back, chill,” Brown said. “I like to be in the house with my dog and my people. Obviously, New York gets a lot of attention, a lot of media attention. That wasn’t for me, but I love my time with those guys.”

According to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter links), Brown has been playing point guard with the second unit, while Zeke Nnaji has been the backup center. That’s a bit of a change for both players — Brown is a swiss army knife type who has played multiple positions, but mostly on the wing, while Nnaji primarily played power forward in the past. Nnaji has performed well in camp thus far, Wind adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Damian Lillard is just 531 points shy of surpassing Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler to become the Trail Blazers‘ all-time leading scorer. Lillard says it’s an accomplishment he doesn’t take lightly. “This feat would mean a lot to me,” Lillard told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “Just the respect I have for the organization and for Clyde and how great of a player he was. I think it shows just how productive I’ve been throughout my career. It would truly be an honor.”
  • Timberwolves wing Anthony Edwards is hoping to make big strides on the defensive end in 2022/23, saying that because he’ll be guarding top players more often, he’ll be “salty” to not make an All-Defensive team, as Wolves reporter Dane Moore relays (via Twitter). The former No. 1 overall pick will play a huge part in Minnesota’s standing in the West this season.
  • This year’s No. 2 overall pick, Chet Holmgren, will miss the entire season for the Thunder with a foot injury, but he’s still learning about the NBA while recovering, according to Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press. “What I’m trying to do right now is just kind of soak up all the knowledge of how things are done around here, how they’re going to be done going forward,” Holmgren said. “So when I’m ready to get get back in there, I can just kind of seamlessly plug myself in.”

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Hearn, Vassell, King, Rockets

Fans and people around the league didn’t think very highly of the Pelicans when Brandon Ingram signed a five-year extension with the team back in 2020, but that perception is changing, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com (subscription required). Clark notes that Jonas Valanciunas, Zion Williamson and most recently CJ McCollum have all signed extensions with the franchise after Ingram inked his deal a couple years ago.

It’s a good place to be,” Ingram said about New Orleans. “They see what’s going on. They see how we bond with each other. How we play on the floor. It’s kind of unheard of in the league, having 14 or 15 guys care about each other and believe in each other and actually want to know about each other. It’s pretty different here.”

The Pelicans have historically struggled in the postseason, having failed to advance past the second round in their 20-year existence. Ingram says the team has its sights set on loftier goals.

The expectation is to win, especially for our team,” Ingram said. “We just have some added fans. We always believed in what we were doing. The expectation is still the same. I don’t know what the outside expectation is. But for us, it’s to bring a championship to New Orleans.”

Ingram had a great playoff run with New Orleans last season. Despite falling to Phoenix in the first round, the Pelicans and Ingram put up a good fight, with the star forward averaging 27.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 6.2 APG on .475/.407/.830 shooting in six games (39.3 MPG).

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Guard Reggie Hearn has decided to retire after nine professional seasons, having agreed to join the Spurs as a scout, sources tell our JD Shaw (Twitter link). As Shaw notes, Hearn spent the majority of his career in the G League, holding career averages of 11.0 PPG and 4.3 RPG on .431/.392/.799 shooting in 317 games (218 starts, 27.7 MPG). Hearn also made a brief appearance with the Pistons in 2018, playing three games while on a two-way contract.
  • After increasing his averages across the board in year two, former lottery pick Devin Vassell is hoping to have a breakout third season with the Spurs in 2022/23, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “I don’t think I can put into words how excited I am,” Vassell said. “I think it’s going to be a big year, not only for me but for this organization to grow and build. I can’t wait to get this thing going.”
  • The Rockets‘ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, have acquired the returning player rights to Louis King from the Westchester Knicks, Shaw tweets. Rio Grande sent Westchester its first-round pick and a second-rounder (via the Maine Celtics) in the NBAGL draft to complete the deal. King holds three years of NBA experience with the Pistons and Kings on two-way contracts. He was waived by Sacramento in February.
  • In the recently completed eight-player trade that saw Derrick Favors head to Houston, the Rockets received a staggering $6,363,000 in cash from Oklahoma City, per Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report (Twitter links). That’s the maximum amount of cash a team can send in a trade in 2022/23. The Thunder, meanwhile, generated two traded player exceptions worth $10.18MM (Favors) and $4.22MM (Ty Jerome), Pincus adds.

More Details Emerge In Ime Udoka Situation

New details have emerged regarding head coach Ime Udoka‘s suspension from the Celtics for the entire 2022/23 season. Sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the independent law firm that investigated Udoka listed “the power dynamic associated with a superior’s improper relationship with a staff member” to be the main policy violation.

In addition, the report from the investigation found that Udoka used “crude language” toward a female subordinate before beginning an improper workplace relationship with the same employee, which played a significant factor in the suspension’s severity, Wojnarowski writes. The language Udoka used “was deemed especially concerning coming from a workplace superior,” according to Wojnarowski, who adds that Udoka is likely facing a “difficult pathway” to reinstatement for the 2023/24 season.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that Boston would allow Udoka to pursue other coaching opportunities if he becomes a candidate in the future. Rival teams have been trying to gather information to get a better picture of what led to the suspension “in preparation for possibly evaluating him” for coaching jobs, Woj adds.

Owner Wyc Grousbeck previously stated the report uncovered “a volume of violations” and Udoka would face “a significant financial penalty” as part of the suspension.

“This felt right, but there’s no clear guidelines for any of this,” Grousbeck responded when asked whether Udoka should have been dismissed. “This is really a conscious, gut feel and being here 20 years.”

After a rocky start to the ’21/22 season, Udoka’s first as a head coach, he led a dramatic turnaround that saw Boston reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, ultimately falling to the Warriors in six games. Joe Mazzulla was named interim head coach in place of Udoka.

Thunder, Rockets Complete Eight-Player Trade

SEPTEMBER 30: Both teams have announced that the trade is now official. However, the terms of the deal are slightly different than was previously reported.

Instead of Atlanta’s protected 2025 second-round pick, the Rockets will receive a 2026 second-rounder from Oklahoma City. That pick will be the second-most favorable of the Thunder’s, Mavericks’, and Sixers’ 2026 second-round picks. Houston is also receiving cash considerations in the deal.


SEPTEMBER 29, 9:15pm: The Rockets intend to waive Jerome, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Feigen adds that Favors and Maledon are considered the most likely among Houston’s new additions to claim spots on the 15-man regular season roster.


SEPTEMBER 29, 8:13pm: The Thunder have agreed to send center/power forward Derrick Favors, shooting guard Ty Jerome, forward Maurice Harkless, point guard Theo Maledon and the Hawks’ 2025 second-round draft pick (top-40 protected) to the Rockets in exchange for athletic swingman David Nwaba, wing Sterling Brown, point guard Trey Burke and power forward Marquese Chriss, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As Wojnarowski observes, Oklahoma City will create two trade exceptions in the deal. In pure salary terms, the exchange will help the Thunder get $10MM under the league’s punitive luxury tax cap threshold. Wojnarowski notes that Favors in particular is tradable among the returning players arriving in Houston, as a solid backup big man on an expiring $10.2MM salary.

The 6’9″ Favors, 31, spent most of the last decade as a key role player with several good playoff-bound Jazz teams. Last year with the Thunder, he appeared in just 39 games, averaging 5.3 PPG on 51.6% shooting, plus 4.7 RPG, across 16.7 MPG.

Jerome and Maledon are both young players on modest contracts with remaining potential upside. Harkless, like Favors, is a veteran on an expiring deal.

On the Rockets’ side of the transaction, Houston is acquiring a future second-round draft pick in exchange for taking on some added salary, as Woj details.

According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic (via Twitter) if that Hawks 2025 second-rounder lands in the top 40 and is protected, Houston will instead receive the second-best of the Thunder’s, Mavericks’, and Sixers’ 2026 second-round picks.

Given that No. 2 draft pick Chet Holmgren has been ruled out for the year with a Lisfranc injury in his right foot, and with the best player in this new trade being sent away from the team, it appears the Thunder are once again prioritizing a year of youthful development, as they look to the 2023 draft lottery to build out their impressive young roster.

Oklahoma City added four rookies in the 2022 draft, including two additional lottery picks beyond Holmgren. The Thunder have been in full-on rebuild mode since the end of the 2019/20 season, winning a total of 46 games over the last two years.

Houston has also been in the asset-collection and draft lottery-targeting phase of its journey since 2020. The team went 37-127 from 2020-22. This year, the Rockets drafted intriguing rookie power forward Jabari Smith with the third pick out of Auburn. They also made two other selections in the first round.

It appears unlikely that every player in this deal will be with their new clubs when the regular season opens. Bobby Marks of ESPN (via Twitter) notes that both teams will still have 18 guaranteed contracts on their books following this deal. Per league rules, they’ll each need to get down to 15 players by October 17.

Celtics Waive Denzel Valentine

6:00pm: The move is official, per NBA.com’s transaction log.


4:09pm: The Celtics intend to waive veteran swingman Denzel Valentine, according to Jared Weiss and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

After the news broke that Boston was signing Blake Griffin, the team had to release a player to make room on its 20-man training camp roster. Since Valentine was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract, he’ll be eligible for a bonus worth up to $50K if he spends at least 60 days with the Maine Celtics, Boston’s G League affiliate — assuming, of course, that he doesn’t land with another NBA team in the meantime.

The 14th overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Michigan State, Valentine spent the first five years of his NBA career in Chicago before signing last offseason with the Cavaliers. He played a minor role in 22 games for Cleveland, then was dealt in January to the Knicks, who waived him.

Following a 10-day contract with the Jazz, Valentine played in the G League for the rest of the 2021/22 season. In 12 games with the Maine Celtics last season, he averaged 14.6 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 7.0 APG and 1.1 APG on .440/.352/.786 shooting.

In 256 career NBA games (18.8 MPG), Valentine holds averages of 7.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 1.8 APG on .394/.360/.787 shooting.

Rockets Convert Bruno Fernando To Two-Way Contract

The Rockets have converted Bruno Fernando‘s Exhibit 10 contract to a two-way deal, our JD Shaw reports (via Twitter).

The 34th overall pick of the 2018 draft after a couple of college seasons at Maryland, Fernando spent his first two pro season with Atlanta before being traded to Boston last year. The Celtics later sent him to Houston as part of a multiplayer deal.

The big man played some of the best basketball of his NBA career down the stretch with the Rockets in 2021/22, albeit in a limited role. Fernando averaged 6.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 0.8 BPG on 70.7% shooting in 10 appearances (9.4 MPG) for Houston. In 119 career games (9.2 MPG), the 24-year-old holds averages of 3.2 PPG and 2.8 RPG.

The Rockets are facing a roster crunch to start the ’22/23 regular season, as they currently have 18 players on standard contracts. That number needs to be reduced to 15 before the season starts.

After the conversion of Fernando’s contract, both of the team’s two-way spots are currently occupied; rookie Trevor Hudgins holds the other.

And-Ones: Ignite, Embiid, Team USA, Remaining FAs, Shengelia

The G League Ignite officially filled out its roster for the 2022/23 season this week, announcing in a press release that seven veteran players have joined the team and will complement the group of young prospects already under contract with the Ignite. Former NBA guard John Jenkins and big man Eric Mika are among the team’s vets.

The Ignite also announced that they have a new general manager, having named Anthony McClish to fill the role. McClish, who worked as a consultant for the Ignite for the last two seasons, was previously the general manager of the Stockton Kings, Sacramento’s G League affiliate.

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

  • Joel Embiid revealed this week that he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen earlier this month, per Dan Gelston of The Associated Press. The Sixers star is a native of Cameroon who also has French citizenship, so he’ll have no shortage of options for which country he wants to represent if and when he competes in future international competitions.
  • Team USA is on the verge of losing its No. 1 international basketball ranking for the first time since FIBA created the rankings 20 years ago, observes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Spain is poised to take over that top spot if the U.S. loses any of its next four World Cup qualifying games, says Vardon.
  • ESPN’s NBA analysts have weighed in on the best landing spots for some of the top remaining NBA free agents, including Jeremy Lamb, Hassan Whiteside, and Eric Bledsoe.
  • Tornike Shengelia, who appeared in 45 NBA games from 2012-14 for Brooklyn and Chicago, initially thought he might return to the league this offseason, but ended up signing a new contract with Virtus Bologna in Italy instead, as Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops writes. Shengelia has become a star in Europe, winning titles in 2020 (Liga ACB), 2021 (VTB United League), and 2022 (EuroCup).
  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link) unveiled his stats-based win projections for the 2022/23 season, and they look quite different from the general consensus. Among Pelton’s most interesting projections: the Pelicans moving up to third in the West while the Warriors slip to eighth, and the Bulls falling to 12th in the East.

Atlantic Notes: Kornet, Griffin, Reed, Brunson, Nets

When word broke on Friday that the Celtics have agreed to sign Blake Griffin, we noted that injuries to Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams helped necessitate the move. However, those aren’t the only Boston frontcourt players dealing with health problems.

According to Jared Weiss and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), Celtics big man Luke Kornet sprained his ankle in practice this week and is expected to miss at least one or two weeks.

Kornet doesn’t have a fully guaranteed salary, but finished last season with the Celtics and has a partial guarantee on his new contract with the team, so he looks like a good bet to make the 15-man regular season roster, despite this setback.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Noting that the Celtics repeatedly targeted Blake Griffin on defense during their first-round victory over Brooklyn in the spring, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston weighs whether the former No. 1 overall pick still has enough left in the tank to be an asset to his new team.
  • While the Sixers still view Paul Reed primarily as a center, they’re taking a look at him as a power forward during training camp, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Reed, who played the four at DePaul, is enjoying the opportunity. “I am happy about being able to switch on and guard smaller defenders,” Reed said. “And playing on the wing, being able to attack from the outside, I like doing that.”
  • New Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson is downplaying the pressure that comes along with his big new contract and the expectation that he’ll become New York’s long-awaited answer at point guard. Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News has the story and the quotes.
  • Nick Friedell of ESPN takes a look at the five biggest questions facing the Nets this season. Beyond the obvious ones relating to Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons, Friedell examines how head coach Steve Nash might respond to a disappointing season and a tumultuous summer, and wonders if the team has enough depth at center.

Cavs Notes: Mobley, LeVert, Mitchell, Wade, Gibson

The Cavaliers will open the season with three 2022 All-Stars – Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Darius Garland – on their roster, but it’s a fourth player who may ultimately determine how far the team goes, in the view of head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

As Kelsey Russo of The Athletic details (via Twitter), Bickerstaff identifies second-year big man Evan Mobley as a crucial ceiling raiser for the franchise. As Bickerstaff explains, among the Cavaliers’ core players, Mobley is the one who still has the most room for growth.

“Without trying to put too much on him, he is the guy who can help take us to the next level,” Bickerstaff said. “We understand the value of the guys who have done it, right? Darius has been an All-Star. Jarrett was an All-Star. Donovan has been an All-Star. (Caris) LeVert, Kevin (Love), like we understand and have an appreciation for those guys.

“… His skill set and tools can help take us to the level where we want to go. And the expectation that it happens overnight, probably not. But I expect from year to year, and month to month, you’re going to see improvements from him because that’s who he is.”

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • Caris LeVert feels as good as he has in years, following a “transformative” summer that saw him reevaluate everything from his diet to his workout regimen, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. LeVert said he battled some nagging injuries last season and during the summer, but finally feels fully healthy entering the fall. As Russo writes for The Athletic, LeVert wants to prove to the Cavs that his down year in 2021/22 was a fluke.
  • Improved conditioning and an attention to detail are keys for Donovan Mitchell as he attempts to show this season that he can be a reliable defensive player, Russo writes in a separate story for The Athletic. “It’s not the ability,” Mitchell said this week. “I can play defense. I know that for a fact. I haven’t shown that and that is what I’m looking forward to doing here.”
  • Dean Wade‘s three-year, $18.5MM contract extension features cap hits of $5,709,877 in 2023/24, $6,166,667 in ’24/25, and $6,623,456 in ’25/26, Hoops Rumors has learned. Wade’s third-year salary is currently only partially guaranteed for $4,623,458, but that figure will increase if Wade meets certain performance-based criteria in the next three seasons — he can boost the third-year guarantee by up to $666,666 per year, based on three separate achievements worth $222,222 apiece.
  • Former Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson will be working this season with the Cleveland Charge, the team’s G League affiliate, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Gibson’s exact title and role are unclear.

Pacific Notes: A. Davis, McNair, Clippers, Warriors

After being limited to just 76 in the last two seasons, Anthony Davis is determined to have a healthier year in 2022/23. Speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, The Lakers star said he’s so excited for the coming season that he has “goosebumps,” adding that he’s “looking forward to a healthy year.”

“I went into this summer focusing on strengthening my body,” Davis told Haynes. “I have to be on the court and at my best to put us in position to be our best. I’m ready to do that.”

Davis has played more than 70 regular season games just twice in his 10-year career, so the Lakers would likely be thrilled to see him surpass that benchmark. However, the eight-time All-Star told reporters this week that he has loftier expectations for himself.

“I want to be able to play all 82 (games),” Davis said, per Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. “And if I’m not, I don’t want it to be injury-based where I can’t play. That’s my goal. The more I’m on the floor, the more I can help my team and its chance of winning when I’m playing.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • With Monte McNair entering the final year of his contract, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said on Wednesday that he’s happy with the job the general manager has done, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. However, the two sides have been “too focused on the season” to discuss a possible contract extension, according to Ranadive. “Monte, (assistant GM) Wes (Wilcox), the whole front office, the coaches they hired, the coaching staff, the process they went through, the trades they made, the rookie they picked, I’m very pleased with everything that’s happened,” Ranadive said. “I think right now the focus is: Let’s win.”
  • The Clippers are taking a cautious approach this preseason with a handful of veteran players, with head coach Tyronn Lue announcing on Thursday that Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall, and Reggie Jackson won’t play in the team’s preseason opener in Seattle on Friday (Twitter link via Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times). The Warriors are going the same route with Klay Thompson, holding him out of the club’s two preseason contests in Japan, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
  • The Warriors‘ preseason opener on Friday showed the new simplified offensive role the team envisions for center James Wiseman, who was primarily used as a slasher and roller en route to a 20-point, eight-rebound game, Slater writes for The Athletic.
  • Logan Murdock of The Ringer takes a look at the Warriors‘ efforts to balance their title defense in the short term with their vision of the franchise in the long term.