Month: May 2024

International Notes: Egypt, Rana, Japan, Cooks, Mamukelashvili

Egyptian national team coach Roy Rana has his team on the precipice of clinching an Olympic berth for the first time since 1988. The African Olympic spot appears to be down to Egypt and South Sudan, with Egypt playing New Zealand next and South Sudan squaring off against Angola in its next matchup.

Rana already led his team to its first win in 29 years thanks to a win over Mexico, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. The 30-year coaching veteran has been all over the basketball world, coaching everywhere from Toronto Metropolitan University to the NBA’s Kings.

“Yeah, I probably don’t [reflect on my path] as much as I maybe used to,” Rana said in an interview with Grange. “But, you know, I do have a real sense of inner satisfaction that I was willing to go for it because a lot of people they’re just not willing to take those risks. Like at 50 I decided to leave [TMU] where I probably could have had a job for life. And I took the plunge and said, I’m gonna go for it. And I feel really good that I was willing to take that risk, and it’s allowed me to live the last four years of my life in a way that I never would have dreamed, and it’s been nothing but positive. It’s been really good.”

While several teams have already qualified for the second group stage of the World Cup, teams 17-32 are still to be determined. Further, Egypt is one of five African teams in competition for a spot in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The match between Egypt and Rana has been a strong one, with Rana first getting the team’s attention for his work during the 2019 U19 World Cup in Cairo while coaching Canada.

“I think everybody knows my history in international basketball,” Rana said. “I got some feedback that Egypt was looking for a coach and started that conversation and pretty quickly started to realize that there was some talent there. I didn’t really know what was going on with basketball in North Africa … other than being there in 2017 — but as I explored it started to really get pretty interesting pretty quickly. You know, it just made sense at the time so I said, hey, why not? I just took the plunge. It’s been an incredible opportunity.”

Egypt’s roster doesn’t feature any active NBA players. However, Patrick Gardner is on the team and is reportedly going to join the Nets for training camp.

We have more notes from around the World Cup:

  • Japan defeated Venezuela 86-77 in the 2023 FIBA World Cup and is now just one win away from qualifying for the 2024 Olympics, according to a piece from ESPN. Japan was led in scoring by Makoto Hiejima with 23 points and current Suns wing Yuta Watanabe, who scored 21 points in a 15-point comeback. A win on Saturday against Cape Verde would clinch a spot in the Olympics for the second straight year for Japan. Watanabe is the only active NBA player on Japan’s roster.
  • The Wizards turned heads last spring when they signed Xavier Cooks, a longtime star for the NBL’s Sydney Kings to a deal. Cooks is now dominating during his time with Australia and is aiming to help the Boomers win the World Cup with his play during the event, ESPN’s Olgun Uluc writes. Cooks is averaging 14.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for Australia and is impressing with his ability to switch, defend and hustle. “I’m just trying to leave everything on the floor,” Cooks said. The 6’8″ forward is winning over his teammates and coaches with his play, which is evident through their trust in him to run the floor. I recommend reading Uluc’s piece in full, as Cooks gives an insightful look into his play.
  • Another player who found a new home last year, Spurs forward/center Sandro Mamukelashvili is standing out with his World Cup play for Georgia’s national team. In a subscriber-only link, Nick Moyle of San Antonio Express-News takes a look at Mamukelashvili’s performance. The 24-year-old big man put up 21 points and seven rebounds in a loss against Slovenia. The Spurs re-signed the Seton Hall product this summer after claiming him off his two-way contract from the Bucks and then converting him to a standard deal.

Central Notes: Haliburton, Cunningham, Duren, Walker, Bucks

A Jan. 30, 2024 matchup with the Celtics is Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton‘s most anticipated game of next season because it marks the first time he’ll be playing a nationally televised game on TNT. In an interview with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Haliburton talks about how he’s been overlooked in both NBA markets he’s played in so far (Sacramento and Indiana) and how he’s planning on becoming must-see TV next season even if his exposure is limited.

“You have to win to get on TV and that’s what we need to do,” Haliburton said. “It won’t change either. When we win in Indiana, we’ll get three national games.”

Haliburton is in the midst of an eventful summer. Soon after inking a max contract extension that can be worth up to a projected $260MM, the Pacers guard was named to Team USA’s 2023 FIBA World Cup roster.

During his time with Team USA, Haliburton is shooting well and distributing the ball at a high level. He’s also flashing his ability on the defensive end, putting up five steals in three games.

He’s like a quarterback who’s finding five different receivers and then if there’s no pass rush, he’ll just line up his set shot and knock it down,” Team USA head coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s really a unique player and a beautiful player to watch and obviously very effective.

Team USA and Haliburton are advancing to the second round of the group stage in the World Cup and will next play Montenegro on Friday.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Former Pistons No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham missed most of last season due to a stress fracture in his left shin. Cunningham has just one full season under his belt, but he’s showed flashes of superstardom, including during his stint with Team USA’s Select Team in Las Vegas prior to the World Cup. In a conversation with The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III, Sam Vecenie discusses how Cunningham’s play is crucial to the Pistons improving on their 17-win season from last year. Jalen Duren‘s growth was also on display during the Select Team scrimmages and Vecenie notes that he’s another key for the Pistons to earn a play-in spot.
  • Pacers No. 8 overall pick Jarace Walker sat down with The Fieldhouse Files’ Scott Agness (YouTube link) to talk about his thoughts on the upcoming season. Walker said that he’s excited to join forces with Obi Toppin at the power forward position. “I feel like we’re going to complement each other a ton,” Walker said. “I love to pass, play-make, get my teammates the ball, and he’s such a versatile player offensively and defensively. I feel like what we can bring to the team and what they need, I feel like we’re two key pieces for the [organization].
  • The Bucks exited from last season’s playoffs in disappointing fashion, falling to the No. 8-seeded Heat in the first round of the playoffs. This offseason, Milwaukee opted to bring back most of its core while fleshing out its depth. Eric Nehm of The Athletic explored answers to a fan survey he released last week. In general, fans feel confident in the team but have lower expectations relative to last season. One interesting tidbit is that 86.9% of fans thought the decision to move on from former coach Mike Budenholzer was the right move.

Celtics Sign Svi Mykhailiuk To One-Year Contract

6:30pm: The signing is official, the Celtics announced in a press release.

3:28pm: The Celtics are signing free agent swingman Svi Mykhailiuk to a one-year contract, sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

A second-round pick (47th overall) back in 2018, the 26-year-old Ukrainian has bounced around quite a bit over his five NBA seasons, having played for six different teams over that span. Mykhailiuk spent most of 2022/23 with the Knicks prior being traded to Charlotte at the February deadline in the four-team deal that sent Josh Hart to New York.

While Mykhailiuk rarely saw action with New York, appearing in just 13 games for 40 total minutes, he played well for the Hornets down the stretch last season. In 19 games (22.5 MPG) with Charlotte, he averaged 10.6 PPG, 2.7 APG and 2.4 RPG on .441/.404/.676 shooting.

Mostly known as a solid outside shooter (36.0% career from deep), Mykhailiuk has appeared in 252 regular season games for the Lakers, Pistons, Thunder, Raptors, Knicks and Hornets. He also brings plus size on the wing, standing 6’7″ and weighing 205 pounds.

A report last month indicated that Greek club Panathinaikos was interested in Mykhailiuk’s services, but the veteran guard/forward was reportedly focused on finding another NBA opportunity, which has now come to fruition.

Boston, meanwhile, has been scouring the free agent market for wing depth, reportedly holding workouts with at least four veterans over the past week-plus. Mykhailiuk wasn’t among the players named, but obviously he was on the team’s radar.

The Celtics only have 13 players on standard contracts (11 guaranteed), so they won’t have to make a roster move to sign Mykhailiuk, though it’s unclear if he’ll receive a guaranteed deal.

Atlantic Notes: G League Trades, Celtics Fan Survey, Sixers

The Raptors 905, the G League affiliate of Toronto, acquired Derrick Walton, Tremont Waters and a future first-round pick in exchange for David Johnson and a second-round pick from the Grizzlies‘ affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, according to Sportsnet’s Blake Murphy (Twitter link).

The trade marks an end for Johnson’s Raptors organization tenure after being selected with the No. 47 overall pick in the 2021 draft out of Louisville. Johnson played for the Raptors in his rookie season on a two-way deal. After that expired, he signed an Exhibit 10 deal with Toronto last season but didn’t crack the opening-day roster. He spent the remainder of the 2022/23 season with the 905. There were hopes that Johnson could develop into a lead guard off the bench for the Raptors, but that didn’t happen in Toronto and now he’ll get a chance to develop in Memphis.

Walton and Waters are both guards with 40 or more games of NBA experience. Walton made his debut in ’17/18 with the Heat and had stints with the Clippers and Pistons. He averaged 16.8 points and 9.4 assists in his last season in the G League, ’21/22, in 25 regular season games.

Waters played on a two-way deal with the Celtics for two seasons in a row as the No. 51 overall pick in the 2019 draft. He spent some time with the Raptors and Wizards on 10-day deals as well. The 5’10” guard holds career NBA averages of 3.7 points and 2.1 assists. Waters is currently tearing it up for Puerto Rico in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, averaging 16.7 points and 8.7 assists through three games.

G League trades that happen before the NBA’s training camps are worth noting. Usually, a trade such as this indicates one or more of the players involved will sign an Exhibit 10 contract with the parent club of the team trading for them. For example, Alondes Williams was traded from the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s affiliate, to the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the affiliate of the Heat, and then signed a training camp deal with Miami about two weeks later.

It’s to be determined whether or not any of these players will spend training camps with NBA teams, but it is something to monitor going forward.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • A second G League trade took place on Thursday, with Long Island trading the returning player rights to RaiQuan Gray in exchange for the returning player rights to Jordan Hall from the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s affiliate, according to a press release. Gray signed a two-year, two-way contract with Brooklyn at the end of the ’22/23 season but was waived this offseason. In his lone appearance with the Nets, he put up 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Hall began last year with San Antonio on a two-way deal but he was cut shortly after the season began. He was then re-signed by the Spurs and subsequently waived again later that season. Hall averaged 3.1 points in nine NBA games last year.
  • The Celtics made several big moves this offseason after being eliminated from the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals. Jay King and Jared Weiss of The Athletic are taking the pulse of Celtics fans entering a season with high expectations in their annual survey. King and Weiss pose 30 questions in an expansive survey that’s open to The Athletic subscribers, including how fans feel about the Marcus Smart trade and Kristaps Porzingis‘ fit with the team. The results of the survey will be shared soon.
  • In a recent mailbag, Kyle Neubeck of the PhillyVoice discussed several topics related to what has shaped up to be a busy Sixers offseason. Despite Ben Simmons recently leaving the door open for a possible reunion with the Sixers, Neubeck doesn’t see that happening anytime soon. Neubeck also goes over Tyrese Maxey‘s All-Star candidacy for next season and beyond, as well as how he thinks Nick Nurse will develop the team’s young players like Jaden Springer.

Hornets Waive Kobi Simmons

The Hornets have waived guard Kobi Simmons, according to a team press release.

Simmons, 26, signed a two-way contract with the Hornets in March after spending most of the season with the team’s G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm. The former Arizona guard then saw his two-way contract converted into a standard deal in April. His minimum salary for ’23/24 was fully non-guaranteed.

Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 46 regular season and Showcase Cup games for the Swarm in 2022/23, shooting 38.1% from deep. Last season was actually Simmons’ third playing for the Swarm. However, Simmons only made five NBA appearances in ’22/23, scoring just five total points in that span of time.

Simmons is a seasoned G League veteran, having played in 159 games in the NBA’s developmental league since going undrafted in 2017. The 6’5″ guard began his career with the Grizzlies on a two-way deal back in the ’17/18 season, averaging 6.1 points in 32 games (12 starts) with Memphis. However, the Grizzlies cut ties with him following the season.

The next year, in ’17/18, the Cavaliers signed Simmons to a 10-day contract and he appeared in a single game, but he didn’t stick around in Cleveland. After that, Simmons played for the Swarm in three of the next four seasons before landing his two-way deal with the team.

After signing P.J. Washington to a deal, Charlotte’s roster quickly became crowded. Having cut Simmons, Charlotte is down to 15 players on standard contracts (JT Thor and Frank Ntilikina have non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals). The Hornets also have two players on two-way deals (Leaky Black and Amari Bailey) and four more who are reportedly joining the team for training camp (R.J. Hunter, Angelo Allegri, Nathan Mensah and Tre Scott).

The team drafted James Nnaji with the No. 31 overall pick this year but he has yet to sign and may be stashed. Theo Maledon remains a two-way restricted free agent.

Grizzlies Sign Shaquille Harrison, GG Jackson

In a pair of press releases (Twitter links), the Grizzlies officially announced the signings of Shaquille Harrison and GG Jackson II.

While the terms of Harrison’s contract were not disclosed, Memphis has used its third and final two-way opening on Jackson, who was one of the few remaining 2023 draft picks who had yet to ink a contract, as shown by our tracker.

Harrison, 29, is a six-year NBA veteran who was waived by the Lakers in June before his salary for 2023/24 became guaranteed. He had eight brief playoff cameos for the Lakers in 2022/23 after signing on the last day of the regular season. Harrison had just finished a 10-day hardship deal with Portland prior to his stint in L.A.

Overall, the guard has appeared in 180 regular season games with Phoenix, Chicago, Utah, Denver, Brooklyn and Portland, holding career averages of 5.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.7 APG and 1.0 SPG on .435/.281/.718 shooting in 15.4 MPG. Harrison also signed a 10-day hardship deal with the Grizzlies in ’21/22, though he never played a game for Memphis.

Known as a strong defender, Harrison spent the majority of the past two seasons in the G League, winning NBAGL Defensive Player of the Year in ’21/22 and finishing third last season. A report last month indicated he was drawing EuroLeague interest, but instead he’ll be returning to Memphis.

As Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian tweets, Harrison could be in line for NBA minutes once the Grizzlies receive an extra roster slot. Memphis will be able to move guard Ja Morant to the suspended list, opening up a 15-man slot, after the fifth game of his 25-game ban.

Jackson was the 45th pick in June after one college season at South Carolina. He was a highly touted prospect entering college and one of the youngest players in his draft class after reclassifying, but had an uneven freshman season for the Gamecocks.

Overall, the 18-year-old averaged 15.4 PPG and 5.9 RPG in ’22/23, posting a subpar .384/.324/.677 shooting line in 32 games (31.9 MPG). Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal previously wrote that Jackson would likely receive a two-way deal and spend most of the upcoming season in the G League.

The Grizzlies have reached the offseason maximum of 21 players under contract, and they’ll have to make some roster moves ahead of training camp. 17 of their players are on guaranteed standard deals, which means they might have some dead-money cap hits this season unless they make a consolidation trade.

Warriors Notes: Thompson, Santos, Staudt

Former NBA player Mychal Thompson says his son, Klay Thompson, is in great shape ahead of the 2023/24 season, he tells Mark Medina of Sportskeeda.

“He’ll be back hungrier than ever,” Mychal said of Klay. “He’s two years removed from his serious injuries. He’s been working out like crazy. He looks good, lean and ready to go. I expect him to be at a high All-Star level again. It’s possible. But the West is so loaded with guards. You’re going to have to be hooping out of your mind because all of these guards in the West could make the All-Star team.”

The longtime Warriors guard is entering the final year of his contract, which will pay him $43.2MM this season. Will that be a distraction for Klay?

He’s not worried about that,” Mychal Thompson told Medina. “He knows he has a job to do with coming into camp in the best shape and having a great year. Everything else will take care of itself.”

The elder Thompson also talked to Medina about Klay’s future with the Warriors, the possibility of his son representing either Team USA or the Bahamas ahead of next year’s Olympics, and other topics. The interview is worth checking out in full if you’re a Golden State fan.

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Brazilian forward Gui Santos, who is currently competing at the 2023 World Cup, was the No. 55 overall pick last year by the Warriors. He wound up signing an NBA G League contract in 2022/23 and spent his first season in the U.S. playing for the team’s affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors. The 21-year-old added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason and had a strong Summer League showing, but he’s expected to once again play for Santa Cruz in ’23/24, reports Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area.
  • According to Johnson, Santos is currently ineligible for a two-way deal with Golden State because he’s still under contract with Brazilian team Minas. The Warriors could buy out his current deal — which ends after ’23/24 — in order to give him a standard contract, but that isn’t expected to occur, Johnson writes. In other words, Santos likely won’t be making his NBA debut until at least ’24/25.
  • The Warriors are hiring Wizards scout Jason Staudt to join their front office, league sources tell veteran reporter Marc Stein (Twitter link). Staudt has worked in various roles with several NBA organizations, including the Magic, Blazers, Rockets and Suns.

Northwest Notes: Giddey, Australia, Markkanen, Nuggets

The Australian national team reshaped its starting lineup ahead of the 2023 World Cup, with Thunder guard Josh Giddey taking over as the team’s lead play-maker, writes Olgun Uluc of ESPN.

The results have been a little uneven through three games at the World Cup, which is to be expected with different players playing together. Still, the Boomers advanced out of their group after going 2-1, and they believe the move will pay long-term dividends, per Uluc.

Josh Giddey’s growth throughout his career has just been astounding,” Boomers assistant coach Adam Caporn said. “Being around him, you see why. Every game, he’s studying the opposition, he’s improving things, he’s got great feedback and input for us on what he needs and what he feels like the team needs. It’s really great having that level of floor leader out there. Super fun. The ball will be in his hands a lot, and he’s gonna do a lot of great things.”

Giddey, 20, is averaging 19.0 PPG, 7.3 APG and 5.0 RPG on .528/.222/.684 shooting thus far (28.7 MPG).

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Next up for Australia is a rematch of the bronze medal game from the Tokyo Olympics, with the Boomers set to face off against Slovenia on Friday. Giddey says he’s looking forward to competing against Mavericks star Luka Doncic, according to Uluc. “It’s a lot of fun,” the Thunder‘s 2021 lottery pick said of Doncic. “Obviously a lot of people are here to see him. He carries a heavy load for Slovenia, so a lot of our game plan is gonna revolve around him, just like it did with Lauri [Markkanen] and Yuta [Watanabe] tonight. We’ve had the opportunity to play against these teams where they have a superstar or an NBA player, so Luka is obviously on a different level, but we’ve got Josh Green, Matisse [Thybulle] — those types of guys — for that job. We’ll be ready for it. Just one game at a time, and keep moving forward.”
  • The Finnish national team has been eliminated from medal contention at the World Cup, but the team is still competing in the classification games. On Thursday, Jazz star Lauri Markkanen was dominant in Finland’s victory over Cape Verde, recording a game-high 34 points (on 12-of-19 shooting), nine rebounds and a game-high plus-23 in 27 minutes of action, notes
  • Former Nuggets point guard Andre Miller will return as head coach of the Grand Rapids Gold for a second season in 2023/24, the team announced in a press release. The Nuggets’ NBA G League affiliate will also have a new general manager in Ben Tenzer, who will continue to serve as Denver’s vice president of basketball operations. Travess Armenta will be the Gold’s new associate head coach. Armenta has had various roles with the Nuggets and Gold over the years, per the release.

Team USA Notes: Hart, Ingram, Naturalized Players, Banchero

Team USA coach Steve Kerr plans to stick with the lineup change he made against Jordan, keeping Josh Hart in the starting five in place of Brandon Ingram, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Kerr wants to maximize his starters’ rebounding as the Americans prepare to face two NBA centers — Montenegro’s Nikola Vucevic on Friday and Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas on Sunday. Hart is shorter than Ingram, but he has made a greater impact on the boards, picking up 12 rebounds Wednesday.

“Josh has a strength and a tenacity to him that sometimes overcomes a height disadvantage. He’s used to guarding bigger guys with all the switching that happens in the NBA,” Kerr said. “I really liked the lineup shift for (Ingram). The game was much smoother. … I know he enjoyed it.”

Kerr has used the same starting lineup since training camp, but Hart’s performance and Ingram’s inability to find scoring opportunities with the starting unit led to the change. Ingram is on board with the move as he got to handle the ball more often Wednesday, picking up five assists in 15 minutes.

“I felt good out there. It was different coming off the bench. I hadn’t done that since my rookie season,” Ingram said. “I was able to get prepared for it. It was just a different lineup, and I was excited for the opportunity.”

There’s more on the World Cup:

  • With pool play over, the U.S. can significantly help its positioning with two wins in the second round, Windhorst adds. Victories over Montenegro and Lithuania would make Team USA the equivalent of the number one seed in the medal round, providing more rest between the quarterfinals and semifinals. “We went over the format today with the team in the film session,” Kerr said. “And yeah, we want to win both games to put us in great position. The guys are aware.”
  • Kerr and his team are supportive of American players who get the opportunity to represent other countries, per Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. Team USA has already squared off against U.S. natives Thomas Walkup with Greece and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with Jordan, and it will face Kendrick Perry when it meets Montenegro. “I think that’s cool because those are guys that you’d probably not see making the U.S. team,” Tyrese Haliburton said. “… It’s cool when Americans get this kind of opportunity and figure out how to show their talents internationally.”
  • Paolo Banchero is wearing a wrap on his right thumb after spraining it in a recent game, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Banchero said the injury is minor and won’t keep him out of action.