Month: June 2024

Central Notes: York, Ivey, Duren, Holiday, Antetokounmpo

Rick Carlisle said Gabe York deserved to get promoted to a two-way deal with the Pacers, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files reports. York made a brief appearance in the NBA last season and has spent this season with the G League Fort Wayne Mad Ants. York wasn’t active for Friday’s game, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star tweets.

“Loyalty and consistency should be rewarded,” the Pacers coach said. “So this is a decision that came down, obviously ownership has to approve it, but management and the coaching staff were completely in agreement that Gabe deserved this opportunity. It’s great for him, it’s great for us.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons have just 16 victories but at least their two lottery picks are finishing the season strong, Keith Langlois of notes. Earlier this week, Jaden Ivey had a career-best 32 points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists against Milwaukee, while Jalen Duren supplied 18 points, 10 rebounds and three assists off the bench. “It means everything,” Duren said. “We’re competing for next year at this point. We’re still learning and growing and getting better. It’s not time to go on vacation until the buzzer hits on the court in Chicago (April 9). I’m just locked in and focused on keep growing and getting better until the season is over.”
  • Speaking of the Bucks, Jrue Holiday has earned a $331K bonus, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Holiday has exceeded 2,000 minutes this season — 2,082 to be exact — entering the weekend while appearing in 64 games.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo would be thrilled to win another Most Valuable Player award but he’s focused on winning a second NBA championship with the Bucks, he told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “Do I think it’s a priority for me? No,” he said of winning MVP. “The priority for me is to get better, to help my team win a championship, to get that feeling again.” A recent ESPN straw poll indicated that the Bucks star trails Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic in the MVP race.

Suns Notes: Durant, Booker, Okogie

Kevin Durant finally made his Suns home debut on Wednesday, scoring 16 points against Minnesota in a 107-100 victory. He admitted he was eager to show the Phoenix fans how he’s blending with his new teammates, Nick Friedell of ESPN relays.

“It was hard for me to get sleep (Wednesday),” Durant said. “It was hard for me to stop thinking about the game. Sometimes you can want it too bad. And you come out there and play like you start rushing and start being uncharacteristic. I’m glad I’m back. I’m glad I’m into the zone of playing again and being around the guys and being one of the guys again, just keep building from here.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Durant told Shams Charania of The Athletic that he’s still rooting for the Nets and holds no ill will toward the organization. Durant asked to be traded before and then during the season. “I want the best for that organization. I wanted the best for us every game,” he said. “I hated it had to go down like that. I wasn’t trying to prove the Nets is a (bad) organization. I was trying to prove that the Nets are a great organization, that they care about their players, want the best for their players. Certain (stuff) just didn’t work out.”
  • Devin Booker told Sam Amick of The Athletic that he becomes even more of an offensive threat with Durant drawing defensive attention. “The thing about Kev is that he’s one of the best scorers – if not the best scorer – to ever play the game. But he still plays the right way,” Booker said. “He makes teams pay for double teaming, and he’ll get off it quick. We just hoop. We make reads We make plays, and we start with a structure and our sets. He fits right into that and he knows what we’re doing.”
  • Josh Okogie, a free agent after the season, has emerged as the team’s fifth starter. He knows his offensive contributions are simply a bonus, he told Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic. “I’m always focused on the defensive end,” Okogie said. “The opportunities that I saw early, it was just that I never really think about scoring. I just try to do my job just to get stops, being about position on defense, try to get the rebound and bring energy to the team.”

New York Notes: Randle, Quickley, Burrell, Johnson

Julius Randle‘s ankle injury came at a very bad time, but the Knicks believe they can keep winning while he mends, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes.

“I think it takes more focus being down an All-Star, but I’m very confident in our team and how we can handle things,” Jalen Brunson said.

The Knicks won their last two games heading into their showdown with Cleveland on Friday. “We have more than enough guys that are capable of helping out,” Brunson said. “That’s what a team is for and that’s what we do, we’re professionals.”

Obi Toppin started in Randle’s place on Friday, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News tweets.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley shot 44.8 percent on two-point attempts last season. That stat is up to 52.9 percent this season and he credits associate head coach Johnnie Bryant and personal trainer Reese Whitley, according to Mark Sanchez of the New York Post. Whitley’s workout regimen has made Quickley stronger, while Bryant has devoted extra attention to his on-court effectiveness. “Before every game, I watch a lot of film of the team I’m about to play, spots on the floor that I can pretty much be effective,” Quickley said. “Johnnie Bryant has helped me a lot, just being able to work with him every single day and being able to pick his brain.”
  • Long Island Nets coach Ronnie Burrell has been named the NBA G League Coach of the Year, the NBA’s PR department tweets. After defeating the Cleveland Charge on Friday, Long Island advanced in the playoffs and will host Delaware in the G League Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday.
  • Cameron Johnson is thriving with a bigger offensive role than he had with the Suns, Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post writes. Since being traded in the Kevin Durant blockbuster, Johnson is averaging more minutes (30.4), shots (12.4), points (16.7), rebounds (4.7) and assists (2.1) per game than he did with the Suns. “That’s part of the beauty of the situation,” Johnson said of joining the Nets. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer.

Kings Notes: Dellavedova, Johnson, Huerter, Murray

Kings reserve guard Matthew Dellavedova has a fractured finger, James Ham of The Kings Beat relays via a team update (Twitter link).

Dellavedova suffered a right index finger fracture during the fourth quarter against Portland on Wednesday. Treatment options are being mulled and there’s no timetable for his return.

The 32-year-old has appeared in 32 games off the bench but is only averaging 6.7 minutes in those outings. He’s playing on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal.

We have more on the playoff-bound Kings:

  • Stockton Kings GM Paul Johnson has been named the NBA G League Basketball Executive of the Year, according to a press release from the team. Johnson became the first executive in Stockton history to earn the award after leading basketball operations for the last two seasons. Stockton finished with the best regular season record (25-7) and matched the franchise single-season record for victories with regular season wins and Showcase Cup wins combined (37). However, the team was upset in the G League playoffs this week.
  • Several teams were interested in acquiring Kevin Huerter when the offseason began last summer, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. The Kings were not one of the teams his representatives initially mentioned to him. However, Sacramento and Atlanta soon came to terms on a deal for Huerter, who was vacationing in Spain at the time. Huerter was expecting to get dealt after the Hawks acquired Dejounte Murray. “It just felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen,” Huerter said. “Somebody was gonna go.”
  • Lottery pick Keegan Murray has set the league record for most 3-pointers by a rookie, according to a league press release. Murray sank his record-breaking 188th 3-pointer of the season on Wednesday. Donovan Mitchell previously held the record, having knocked down 187 during the 2017/18 season. “Breaking any type of records at the highest level in anything you do is absolutely amazing. And to see Keegan do that (Wednesday), with the way he’s played all year and how hard he’s worked, was an amazing feat,” coach Mike Brown said.

Gradey Dick, Colby Jones, Others Declare For NBA Draft

Kansas freshman guard Gradey Dick announced on ESPN’s NBA Today on Friday that he has decided to enter the 2023 NBA draft and go pro, forgoing his remaining NCAA eligibility, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Dick had a solid year in his first and only college season, averaging 14.1 PPG and 5.1 RPG with a shooting line of .442/.403/.854 in 36 games (32.7 MPG) for the Jayhawks. He projects as a potential lottery pick, according to Givony, who has Dick ranked at No. 11 on his latest big board. Givony describes the 6’8″ wing as a player with “a high floor and plenty of upside left to tap into.”

Meanwhile, Xavier guard Colby Jones announced on Instagram that he’ll declare for the draft following a junior year in which he put up 15.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 4.4 APG with solid shooting percentages of 50.9% from the floor and 37.8% on three-pointers. He’ll forgo his remaining eligibility and go pro too, he confirms to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link).

Givony, who has Jones ranked 29th overall at ESPN, writes that his “passing ability and all-around feel for the game” are two of his most appealing traits as a prospect, adding that he has also shown defensive toughness.

Finally, Houston guard Marcus Sasser also intends to enter the draft and it sounds like he’ll forgo his final year of eligibility. The announcement he made on Instagram includes no indication that he’s leaving the door open to return to school.

Sasser averaged 17.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.8 RPG on .438/.399/.826 shooting across 48 games (31.1 MPG) during his final two years with the Cougars. He currently comes in as the No. 36 prospect on ESPN’s top-100 list.

Here are more of the prospects who recently declared for the 2023 draft:

Expected to remain in draft:

Testing the draft waters:

Rudy Gobert, Chris Finch Fined For Criticizing Officiating

Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert and head coach Chris Finch were fined on Friday for the comments they made criticizing the officiating after Wednesday’s loss to Phoenix, the NBA announced in a press release (Twitter link).

Gobert’s fine was $25K, while Finch was docked $15K.

As we previously relayed, Gobert was upset in particular about the moving screens he was called for on Wednesday and throughout the season, and suggested that Minnesota doesn’t get a fair whistle because the Timberwolves aren’t a big-market team.

“I’ve been in this league for 10 years and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard for me to think they’re not trying to help (the Suns) win tonight,” Gobert said on Wednesday. “It’s hard for me to think they didn’t try to help the Warriors win the other night or Sacramento Kings the other night. It’s just so obvious. As a basketball player that’s been in this league for so long, it’s disrespectful.”

Finch wasn’t as direct in his criticism of the officiating, but he did take a page out of Monty Williamsbook by griping about the free throw disparity between the Wolves and Suns on Wednesday. Finch suggested that Williams’ recent remarks along the same lines must have had a positive effect.

“It works because tonight they went to the line 27 times and we went to the line 12 times. Sitting up here and talking about it or whatever, must have worked for them,” Finch said, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “Because this is a team that doesn’t historically draw fouls at the rate they did.”

Williams ($20K) and Fred VanVleet ($30K) are among those who have also been fined recently for their criticisms of the referees.

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Dort, Russell, Horton-Tucker

Following Wednesday’s win over Detroit, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault was asked by Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman how important it is to the team to make the play-in. Daigneault’s response didn’t exactly make it sound as if Oklahoma City is going all-out to secure a top-10 spot in the Western Conference.

“I think if it is an outcome that’s downstream of our process and the way that we’re trying to do things, it would be great, because it would be a marker along the way,” Daigneault said, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter links). “Not so important that it’s gonna distract us from our way of doing things. We need to bet on that day over day over day. We’ve done that for two or three years. That’s what’s put us in a position to compete for the play-in, so for us to abandon that at this point would be hasty.”

The Thunder were projected to finish at or near the bottom of the NBA standings coming into training camp, especially given that No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren had been sidelined with a season-ending injury. As a result, player development rather than short-term success has been the primary goal in OKC this year

Daigneault’s comments suggest player development is still the top priority, but some of the Thunder’s young players – including breakout rookie Jalen Williams – have been so good that the club may still find itself in a play-in game. With five contests left in their season, the Thunder hold the No. 10 seed in the West and hold a one-game lead over the 11th-place Mavericks.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Within a profile on Luguentz Dort, who is in the first season of a five-year contract with Oklahoma City, Jason Quick of The Athletic notes that the Thunder forward drew high praise from Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers star referred to Dort as the NBA’s best defender. “I think he has the perfect balance of strength, quickness, speed and desire to do it,” Lillard said. “And he’s young. So I just think he is the best at it.” Thunder All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also raved about his teammate, telling Quick that “every team needs a Lu Dort.”
  • As his Lakers prepare for a big game in Minnesota on Friday night, point guard D’Angelo Russell had nothing but praise for his former team and his former city, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune details. Russell was traded from the Timberwolves to L.A. at last month’s deadline. “Fans here were amazing. I have nothing bad to say about Minnesota,” Russell said. “If you’re not here or you haven’t lived here or anything like that, then you’re not aware of how good of a city (Minneapolis) is and a sports town, how committed fans are to their sports, things like that. So the city has a lot to offer. They treated me with great respect.”
  • Talen Horton-Tucker is still learning the ropes at point guard for the Jazz, but he has shown some “undeniable talent” in the process, including on Wednesday when he scored 41 points in 30 minutes in San Antonio, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. “There aren’t that many pure point guards left in the league,” head coach Will Hardy said of Horton-Tucker, who holds an $11MM player option for 2023/24. “Talen is dynamic. He knows how to run pick and roll. He has to know how to react when teams play him differently. He has to know to get off the ball when teams give him a lot of attention. But he’s very talented.”

One-And-Done Rule Not Expected To Change In New CBA

Facing an opt-out deadline of midnight Eastern time on Friday night, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association continue to discuss a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

If the two sides do reach an agreement today, the next CBA won’t change the “one-and-done” rule for draft prospects, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links). Discussions about that rule are no longer taking part of the CBA negotiations, Woj says.

The one-and-done rule, established in 2005, prohibits NBA hopefuls from entering the draft directly out of high school. Those players must wait a year before declaring for the NBA draft. As a result, many of the top prospects have become known as “one-and-done” players, since they spend just one year at college (or elsewhere) before making themselves draft-eligible.

Players used to be able to enter the draft directly out of high school – LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett were among the stars who did so – and there was some speculation in recent years that the NBA and NBPA would once again allow that to happen as part of the new CBA.

However, ESPN has been reporting for quite some time that no changes to the one-and-done rule are imminent, despite rumors the contrary, and it appears that’s still the case.

As Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter links) observes, there’s not a lot of motivation among teams, team owners, or players to change the rule. Giving NBA teams the ability to draft even younger players would make scouting more challenging and would eliminate jobs for veteran players.

According to Givony, while some people in the industry have had moral concerns about “forcing” 18-year-olds to attend college instead of beginning their professional careers, the emergence of alternate professional pathways to the NBA (ie. the G League Ignite and Overtime Elite) and NIL deals for college players have helped allay many of those concerns.

The NBA and NBPA both hope that a tentative agreement on a new CBA can be reached before tonight’s deadline, Wojnarowski notes. If there’s no deal in place by the end of the day, the league is expected to exercise its opt-out clause, which would move the expiry date of the current CBA up by one year to June 30, 2023. The two sides would still have three months to agree to a new CBA to avoid a lockout on July 1.

LaMarcus Aldridge Announces Retirement

Longtime NBA big man LaMarcus Aldridge has retired as a player, announcing the news today on Twitter.

“In the words of TB12, you only get one big, emotional retirement,” Aldridge wrote, referencing NFL star Tom Brady. “… So, on that note…I’m thankful for all the memories, family and friends I made throughout my career. It was one hell of a ride and I enjoyed every min!”

The second overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Texas, Aldridge averaged 19.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in 1,076 career NBA regular season games for the Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Nets. He contributed 20.8 PPG and 8.5 RPG in another 72 postseason contests.

Aldridge, who is now 37 years old, was named to the NBA All-Star team seven times over the course of his 16-year career — four times with Portland and three with San Antonio. He also earned All-NBA Second Team honors twice and made the All-NBA Third Team three times.

This is technically the second retirement announcement Aldridge has made in the last two years. He initially said he was retiring in April 2021 after experiencing an irregular heartbeat during a game with the Nets. However, Aldridge became confident enough in his health to make a comeback in 2021/22, appearing in 47 games last season for Brooklyn.

Aldridge played his last NBA game on April 6, 2022. He reportedly worked out for Dallas last month, but didn’t catch on with the Mavericks or any other team this season.

Grizzlies’ Lofton Named G League Rookie Of The Year

First-year forward Kenneth Lofton Jr., who is on a two-way contract with the Grizzlies, has been named the G League Rookie of the Year for the 2022/23 season, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Lofton has appeared in just 19 games and averaged only 5.5 MPG at the NBA level in his first professional season after signing with the Grizzlies as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. However, he played a major role for the Memphis Hustle, the team’s G League affiliate.

In 17 regular season games for the Hustle, Lofton averaged a double-double (20.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG) despite logging a modest 28.6 minutes per night. He shot 53.9% from the floor and also chipped in 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per contest. Lofton’s performance helped the Hustle secure the No. 2 seed in the NBAGL’s Western Conference with a 23-9 record.

Lofton will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, since his two-way contract only covers the 2022/23 season.

According to the NBA (Twitter link), Warriors two-way guard Lester Quinones and Rockets two-way forward Darius Days finished second and third, respectively, in Rookie of the Year voting.

Quinones averaged 21.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 4.8 APG in 31 G League regular season games (32.0 MPG) for the Santa Cruz Warriors, while Days put up 24.4 PPG and 9.7 RPG on .486/.371/.857 shooting in 29 contests (35.6 MPG) for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.