Month: September 2023

Clippers Notes: Kawhi, PG, Holiday, Harden, Preston

Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have dealt with a litany of injuries since they joined L.A. in 2019, but they’re “fully healthy” and ready to go for training camp, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank told reporters, including Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link).

The news was expected, as Frank was mostly just confirming what head coach Tyronn Lue said on a podcast a few weeks ago.

Frank also said the Clippers have talked to both players about possible contract extensions, according to Youngmisuk (Twitter link). Frank described it as a “process,” but the team hopes to continue to build around Leonard and George.

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • At the same press conference, Frank said that while he likes the roster he’s assembled, the Clippers won’t hesitate to be aggressive in looking for upgrades if the opportunity arises, according to Janis Carr of The Orange County Register (subscriber link). “We like our team,” Frank said. “(But) you are always looking for ways to get better, both individually and as a team. Typically, if you follow the probability, the greatest way to get better is internal improvement. But from our standpoint, we’ll always be aggressive in trying to find ways to improve the team. I like our approach, but we’ll always look for ways to get better.”
  • The Clippers have been linked to All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, who is from the Los Angeles area. Law Murray of The Athletic makes the case that Holiday would be a better fit for the Clips than disgruntled star James Harden, noting that Holiday is a far superior defender. Holiday’s contract also aligns with Leonard’s and George’s, Murray adds, with all three players holding player options for 2024/25. Harden, meanwhile, is on an expiring deal and is not extension-eligible, but Holiday will be later this season.
  • Point guard Jason Preston‘s non-guaranteed salary becomes guaranteed Sunday. Frank said the team is still weighing its options and the decision will likely come down to the wire, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.

Warriors Waive Jayce Johnson

Shortly after signing the 7’0″ center, the Warriors announced (via Twitter) that they have waived Jayce Johnson.

Previous reporting indicated that Johnson would be vying for Golden State’s final two-way spot in training camp. However, the team decided to cut ties early, which means Johnson will likely be heading to the G League again in 2023/24 to play for the Santa Cruz Warriors.

Based on the Exhibit 10 clause in Johnson’s contract, he could receive a bonus worth up to $75K if he spends at least 60 days with Santa Cruz.

Last season, Johnson averaged 9.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG and 1.3 BPG in 32 regular season games (25.8 MPG) with Santa Cruz. The former Utah and Marquette big man was the NBA G League’s leading rebounder in 2022/23.

The Warriors now have 20 players under contract, one shy of the offseason maximum.

Details On Damian Lillard’s “Messy” Exit From Portland

Multiple reporters have cited sources who said the Trail Blazers hadn’t discussed a Damian Lillard trade with the Heat — Lillard’s preferred landing spot — since July.

According to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, the last dialogue the two sides had was a phone call at Summer League between Blazers GM Joe Cronin and Heat GM Andy Elisburg. Miami wanted to set up an in-person meeting in Las Vegas to have further discussions, but it never transpired, per Haynes.

How this summer played out behind the scenes definitely left a sour taste in my mouth,” Lillard told Haynes. “But it doesn’t change the amazing experiences I’ve had with the Trail Blazers and this city. I’ll always cherish this place. This is my home. I’ll always live here regardless.”

The situation became acrimonious almost immediately, as the Blazers felt Lillard’s trade request had put them at a negotiating disadvantage, while Miami believed Portland was acting out of emotion instead of understanding the league is a business, Haynes writes.

Following a lengthy period of inactivity, Aaron Goodwin, Lillard’s agent, suggested that Cronin meet with Lillard in the event that the longtime star returned to the team.

As Haynes details, at the meeting on September 5, Lillard expressed his disappointment with the situation and wondered why there hadn’t been any communication between Portland and Miami. He didn’t want to be traded anywhere else and noted that he’d been willing to sacrifice for the team.

Specifically, Haynes cites sources who say the Blazers asked Lillard to sit out the final 10 games of last season to boost Portland’s lottery odds. Lillard was told a top pick would improve the front office’s chances of trading it for a win-now veteran. Lillard reluctantly agreed, with the team citing a “calf injury.” Portland ultimately kept the pick and selected Scoot Henderson No. 3 overall.

According to Haynes, Cronin told Lillard at the September 5 meeting that he planned to extract every possible asset from the Heat if he had to deal with them. Realizing that was unrealistic, Lillard responded by saying if he couldn’t land in Miami, he’d prefer to rescind his trade request and return to Portland.

Cronin told Lillard he couldn’t come back, which “shocked” the 33-year-old, sources tell Haynes. Lillard was “discouraged” that he couldn’t return to the Blazers, but he also didn’t want to be somewhere he wasn’t wanted, so he ended the meeting.

Shortly thereafter, the Blazers — who were frustrated with their offers at that point — refused to communicate with Lillard and Goodwin for almost three weeks. Portland didn’t want Goodwin meddling in trade talks, which is how the team rationalized the decision, per Haynes.

With Cronin refusing to talk, Goodwin came up with a contingency plan, letting both Milwaukee and Brooklyn know Lillard would be interested in joining those two teams. Haynes is now the third to report that information regarding the Bucks and Nets.

The NBA actually got involved on September 23 because of the contentious communication breakdown, Haynes writes. Cronin agreed to have dialogue with Goodwin at that point, and a few days later Lillard was traded to the Bucks.

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted he has mixed emotions about the trade, he told Haynes.

It’s a bittersweet day for the city of Milwaukee,” Antetkounmpo said. “You get Dame, who is a great player, but you lose a great guy. Jrue (Holiday) took us to the promised land. I’m 10 years in now. I know it’s a business. At the end of the day, Jrue will alway be be my brother for life. He’s one of the best human beings I’ve been around. But we’ve got to focus on the goal to win the championship. Dame wants this. He’s hungry to win, and he’s going to push us. I’m very happy to have him on our team.”

Haynes’ story for Bleacher Report has more details and quotes and is worth reading in full.

Here are some more notes related to the three-team blockbuster:

  • In a series of Twitter posts, Lillard sent a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to Blazers fans, teammates, coaches, employees, the media, and more. In conclusion, he wrote, “As this chapter of my life ends, I look back and realize how special it was. Even in this moment I feel sad that we never accomplished what I so badly wanted to. I don’t cry much, but I know my love for you is real because I am for sure dropping some tears right now. Rip City you know my heart and where I stand because I’ve stood there for over a decade so to have to move off my square hurts my heart. … I do believe a day will come where I put on a Blazers uniform on again, and hopefully by then I’ll be forgiven for breaking your hearts along with my own.”
  • Center Deandre Ayton, who was sent to Portland in the deal, also sent a thank you message to the Suns (via Twitter).
  • Only Lillard and Holiday will be required to report and pass physicals as part of the deal, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter links), who adds that Holiday can’t be traded until both players pass their physicals. The Blazers owe the Bulls a top-14 protected first-rounder through 2028, and if it conveys that summer, Portland’s ’28 first-round pick swap with Milwaukee will be voided, Marks reports.
  • The Blazers generated an $8.8MM traded player exception in the deal, while the Suns got a $1.1MM TPE, per Marks.
  • In another tweet, Marks notes that Holiday can’t be aggregated with other salaries for two months, though he can be traded on his own.
  • While multiple reports have now said Goodwin reached out to Brooklyn, hears the Nets were never interested and only discussed Lillard with Portland one time, in July. The Nets simply didn’t believe Lillard could turn them into a contender and were wary of his age and long-term contract, per NetsDaily.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype explores what’s next following the deal, while Sam Vecenie of The Athletic evaluates the trade for the Bucks, Blazers and Suns.

Warriors Sign Six Players, Including Rudy Gay

The Warriors have signed free agents Rudy Gay, Rodney McGruder, Donovan Williams, Kendric Davis, Javan Johnson and Jayce Johnson ahead of training camp, the team announced on Thursday (via Twitter).

All of the deals had previously been reported except for Davis’. The 5’11” guard went undrafted in June and worked out for Golden State the month prior.

Davis averaged 21.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.7 RPG and 2.0 SPG in 34 games (34.9 MPG) as a “super senior” with Memphis in 2022/23. He likely received a non-guaranteed Exhibit 10 contract, which would put him in line for a $75K bonus if he’s waived before ’23/24 starts and spends at least 60 days with the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s NBA G League affiliate. Exhibit 10 deals can also be converted into two-way contracts, and the Warriors have one two-way opening.

A 17-year veteran forward who regularly averaged in the neighborhood of 20 points per game during stints in Memphis, Toronto, and Sacramento earlier in his career, Gay is the most noteworthy signing of the group. However, his playing time and production have declined in recent seasons, and he’s 37 years old. Like all the other additions, he’ll be competing for a roster spot in training camp.

McGruder, 32, is a seven-year NBA veteran, appearing in 317 regular season games with the Heat, Clippers and Pistons since 2016. The guard/forward averaged 5.5 PPG and 2.1 RPG on a .441/.412/.768 shooting line over the past three seasons with Detroit (99 games, 14.9 MPG).

Williams reportedly impressed the Warriors during scrimmages at their facility earlier this month. The former UNLV wing spent part of last season on a two-way contract with the Hawks after going undrafted in 2022.

Javan Johnson, a former DePaul forward, went undrafted in June. The 24-year-old started 33 games for the Blue Demons last season, averaging 14.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 2.4 APG while making 41.2% of his 3-point attempts.

Jayce Johnson, a 7’0″ center, led the NBA G League in rebounds per game last season while playing for Santa Cruz. He signed an Exhibit 10 deal and will be vying for the team’s final two-way slot.

The Warriors now have a full 21-man training camp roster, with 13 players on guaranteed standard contracts.

Jrue Holiday Rumors: Heat, Pacers, Knicks, Celtics, More

The Lakers, Clippers, Heat, Celtics, Bulls and Sixers are among the teams Jrue Holiday would be interested in joining, a league source tells Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

That said, unless the Trail Blazers are willing to hold onto Holiday for at least a few months, you can scratch the Lakers from the list of possible suitors. They obviously aren’t trading LeBron James for Holiday, and the other players they could theoretically use to match salaries aren’t trade-eligible until December or January.

The Blazers are expected to prioritize young players and draft assets in exchange for Holiday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Today (YouTube link).

Holiday is expected to draw interest from a variety of teams, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link). The Heat could be among that group, but Portland “had no major interest in any individual Miami player or draft asset, and limited interest in whatever combination Miami might cobble” during negotiations for Damian Lillard, Lowe reports.

According to Chiang and Jackson, the Heat haven’t ruled out making an aggressive push for Holiday, but they didn’t do it immediately on Thursday. Miami isn’t expected to pursue James Harden, and has yet to express interest in Pacers sharpshooter Buddy Hield, who is reportedly on the trading block after failing to reach an extension, a source tells Chiang and Jackson. Free agent guard Goran Dragic is interested in returning to the Heat, but that interest doesn’t appear to mutual, per The Herald’s duo.

Sources tell Lowe the Pacers and Knicks are expected to have a level of interest in Holiday, though it’s unclear how seriously they’ll pursue the defensive stalwart. While Lowe believes Holiday could be a good fit with both clubs, he wonders if Indiana will decide it’s too early to make a win-now move.

Boston was previously cited as a possible suitor, but multiple sources tell Brian Robb of MassLive that the Celtics will likely be outbid and aren’t expected to land Holiday. Still, the team has long been interested in the veteran guard — Boston tried to acquire Holiday a few years ago before he was traded to Milwaukee, a source tells Robb.

Here are a few more notes related to Holiday, who was sent to the Blazers from the Bucks as part of yesterday’s Lillard blockbuster:

  • Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have a direct impact on the deal, Wojnarowski noted in the same segment. “Directly, (Antetokounmpo) literally played no role,” Wojnarowski said. “In fact, (GM) Jon Horst did not bring this trade idea or sign off on it to Giannis Antetokounmpo because Jrue Holiday was involved. And the relationship there and the reverence that this organization and these players have for Holiday. He did not want to put that to Giannis Antetokounmpo and have him have that on his conscious necessarily that he might sign off or not sign off on it.” However, as Wojnarowski observes, Antetokounmpo putting pressure on the organization by saying winning more championships was the most important thing in his career certainly played a significant indirect factor in Milwaukee trading for Lillard.
  • In addition to the previously mentioned teams that might pursue Holiday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Insider link) believes the Pelicans, Kings and Warriors would also benefit from the All-Star guard’s services. Over at The Athletic, John Hollinger lists the Heat, Clippers and Celtics as logical destinations for Holiday.
  • Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star considers the pros and cons of the Pacers pursuing Holiday. As Dopirak writes, head coach Rick Carlisle heaped praise on the five-time All-Defensive member during the 2022/23 season. “I’d like to somebody to name five other basketball players that are better than Jrue Holiday at the entire game,” Carlisle said. “Guy’s an amazing player, both sides of the ball. His scoring tonight was at another level obviously, but defensively, he can guard anybody. Just a nod of respect to him. He’s a guy that too often is overlooked as a truly, truly great player.” Still, Dopirak thinks it’s probably too early for Indiana to go after a 33-year-old veteran like Holiday, who can be a free agent in 2024 if he declines his player option.

Magic To Sign D.J. Wilson To Exhibit 10 Contract

The Magic plan to sign free agent forward D.J. Wilson to an Exhibit 10 contract, reports Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).

A former first-round pick (17th overall in 2017), Wilson played in 146 regular season games (12.3 MPG) with the Bucks, Rockets and Raptors from 2017-22. The 27-year-old holds career averages of 4.4 PPG and 3.1 RPG, with a .419/.327/.618 shooting line.

Last summer, Wilson signed a two-year deal with the Raptors, but he only had a $250K partial guarantee and was released before 2022/23 began. He spent most of last season in the G League with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s affiliate.

According to Beede, Orlando’s affiliate — the Osceola Magic — acquired Wilson’s returning player rights in February. He also played for the Magic’s Summer League squad a couple months ago, Beede adds.

While Exhibit 10 contracts can ordinarily be converted into two-way deals, that won’t be the case for Wilson. Since he has five years of NBA experience, he’s ineligible for a two-way contract.

The former Michigan big man will likely be waived before the season starts and headed to the Osceola Magic. In that scenario, he could receive a bonus worth up to $75K — on top of his G League salary — if he spends at least 60 days with Osceola.

Once the deal is official, the Magic’s offseason roster will be full, with 21 players under contract.

Pacers Waive Pedro Bradshaw, Craig Sword, Sign Jordan Bell

The Pacers have waived Pedro Bradshaw and Craig Sword and signed Jordan Bell, the team announced in a press release.

All three players received Exhibit 10 deals, which means they’ll each be eligible for a bonus worth up to $75K if they spend at least 60 days with the Indiana Mad Ants, the Pacers’ NBA G League affiliate. Based on previous reporting, Bell will almost certainly be waived in the coming days as well.

A 6’8″ big man, Bell has by far the most NBA experience of the group, appearing in 161 regular season games with the Warriors, Wolves, Grizzlies, Wizards and Bulls from 2017-22. He holds career averages of 3.7 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 12.0 MPG. The 28-year-old played in China last season but spent most of 2021/22 with the Mad Ants.

Bradshaw, who went undrafted out of Bellarmine in 2021, averaged 9.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG in 29 regular season games (19.2 MPG) with the Mad Ants in ’22/23. He posted a .509/.419/.776 shooting line.

Sword was a member of the Capital City Go-Go last season who had his rights acquired earlier this month by the Mad Ants. An NBAGL veteran who has appeared in more than 200 games at that level, the 29-year-old averaged 7.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 22.2 minutes per game last season in 43 appearances for the Go-Go, with a shooting line of .566/.387/.725.

The Pacers now have 19 players under contract, including 15 on guaranteed standard deals and all three two-way slots filled.

Northwest Notes: Thunder, McDaniels, Jazz Staff, Edwards, Towns

The Thunder have plenty of draft assets and young players to dangle for a proven star. However, GM Sam Presti doesn’t believe this is the right time to make that kind of trade, according to Justin Martinez of The Oklahoman.

Presti wants to see his young team develop more with what they have before taking that route.

“I don’t think you can make a rational case for it now,” Presti said. “Perhaps at some point when we have a little more information, the team has demonstrated its capability and played in high-performing games and we see what our limitations are, potentially. But I don’t know that there’s a lot of good rational thinking behind that other than impulse and following content creation. That is just part of the world that we live in.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves are hopeful of reaching a rookie scale extension agreement with forward Jaden McDaniels in the coming days, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets. “Yeah, certainly. … Had some constructive conversations with his agents and fingers crossed we’d like to get something done,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said. McDaniels will be a restricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t sign an extension.
  • The Jazz have finalized their coaching staff, according to a team press release. Chad Forcier, Rick Higgins, Scott Morrison, and Mike Williams are the newcomers to Will Hardy’s staff. Evan Bradds Chris Jones, Sean Sheldon, Lamar Skeeter and Jason Terry are the returning assistants.
  • Who is the current team leader and face of the franchise the TimberwolvesKarl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Edwards? According to Edwards, that’s not even an issue, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. “That’s what people try to do, man,” Edwards said. “They try to, like, break you up. Who’s the best player, you or KAT? Or who should take the last shot, you or KAT? And I don’t think it’s about any of that.”

Pacers Not Rushing To Extend Toppin, Nesmith, McConnell

The Pacers are in “no rush” regarding potential extensions for forwards Obi Toppin and Aaron Nesmith and guard T.J. McConnell, GM Chad Buchanan told Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star and other media members.

Toppin was acquired during the summer from the Knicks to compete for the power forward spot. He’ll make $6,803,012 this season and become a restricted free agent if he’s extended a qualifying offer after the season.

Nesmith started 60 of 73 games for the Pacers last season at that position but his rotation spot is in flux with the addition of Toppin and lottery pick Jarace Walker.

Nesmith is in a similar spot as Toppin regarding his contract status. He’ll make $5,634,257 this season and head into restricted free agency next season if a QO is offered.

“We’ll have conversations with their agents,” Buchanan said. “Obi is someone that we haven’t seen on our team yet. We’d like to see how things play out there. Aaron obviously has had one year with us and did a good job for us. It’s got to be the right situation for both sides. We’ll have those conversations but there’s no rush or anything to do something with those two guys in the short term.”

As for McConnell, the 31-year-old backup point man will make $8.7MM this season. His $9.3MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed for $5MM. His rotation spot is also in flux and Dopirak suggests the team may eventually look to trade him rather than extend him.

“T.J. is another guy who wants to play and he deserves to play,” Buchanan said. “He’s going to come in to compete. T.J. has had to compete for everything in his life. How that’s going to look, we don’t know yet, but I think he wants to be a Pacer. He’s happy being a Pacer. He wants to be here and that’s something we need to see play out and see where it goes.”

Raptors Waive Forward Kevin Obanor

The Raptors have waived forward Kevin Obanor, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet tweets.

Obanor was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract at the beginning of August.

Obanor went undrafted in June after a five-year college career. He spend his first three seasons with Oral Roberts and final two with Texas Tech. Last season, Obanor averaged 14.4 PPG and 6.4 RPG on .492/.331/.810 shooting in 32 games (30.9 MPG).

If Obanor is waived and then spends at least 60 days with the Raptors 905, Toronto’s G League affiliate, he’d be eligible for a bonus worth up to $75K.

The Raptors had a full 21-man camp roster, as our roster count shows, so they now have the freedom to add another player.