Month: June 2024

Southeast Notes: Butler, Richardson, Anthony, Magic, Hornets

After an injury-riddled 2022/23 season that surprisingly saw Miami reach the NBA Finals as the No. 8 seed in the East, the Heat once again have dealt with several injuries to start ’23/24, with starters and rotation players missing time. That has played a factor in the team’s 1-3 start, which includes three consecutive road losses, as Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald writes.

According to Chiang, Jimmy Butler — who already missed a game due to rest — is the latest player to pop up on the injury report, having been listed as questionable for Wednesday’s matchup with Brooklyn due to right knee tendinitis. While there’s optimism the injury isn’t serious, it’s still a bit concerning that Butler is less than 100%, particularly since that knee has given him problems over the past few seasons, Chiang reports (via Twitter).

After three home games this week, the Heat will play nine of their following ten games on the road, and they are fully aware that this is a key stretch of the schedule, despite being very early in the season.

This is an important week for us coming up at home,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ve had a lot of moving parts early on in the season. That’s not an excuse. We need to just have a productive week. We have three games at home and we have some time with shootarounds, practices. We just need to move the needle this week.”

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • One bit of good news for the Heat is that Josh Richardson was able to make his season debut in Monday’s loss at Milwaukee, notching six points, three rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. He says he’s still working his way back into shape after his preseason was cut short due to a foot injury. “Hopefully I can bring something positive to their mix, just a little ball-handling, a little pace,” Richardson said, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Defensively, I think I can do some things for us. But it’s really about getting my feet wet, because I really didn’t have a preseason. So just trying to get back into the swing of things.”
  • Magic guard Cole Anthony, who signed a three-year, $39MM rookie scale extension before the season started, recently had an interview with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda that covers a number of topics, including his new deal, how he’s been able to improve throughout his career, and the team’s goals.
  • Speaking to Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel, head coach Jamahl Mosley credited the Magic‘s depth and health for the team’s 2-1 start. “It helps out so much because someone’s number can always be called,” Mosley said. “The work that our coaches put in with these guys is so detailed and they’ll be ready no matter when their number is called.” As Beede notes, instead of going with set rotations, Mosley has improvised and gone with who has been playing the best from game-to-game.
  • With the NFL’s Panthers struggling, the Hornets have a chance to become Charlotte’s premier sports team, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. However, that will only transpire if the Hornets — who are currently mired in the NBA’s longest playoff drought — can show fans they’re worth following, Boone opines.

Sixers Pick Up 2024/25 Option On Jaden Springer

8:45pm: Springer’s option has officially been exercised, per the Sixers.

8:25pm: The Sixers are picking up their fourth-year option on guard Jaden Springer, sources tell Kyle Neubeck and Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports (Twitter link).

While most rookie scale option decisions are a formality, in part due to the relatively modest cap hits, there was some uncertainty about whether or not the Sixers would exercise their 2024/25 option on Springer — it will hurt their ability to maximize cap room next offseason, which is a priority for the front office. But evidently Philadelphia is high enough on Springer to pay him a guaranteed $4,018,363 next season.

Another reason there was a level of uncertainty on Springer’s fourth-year option is the fact that he only played 18 regular season games for a total of 95 minutes over his first two seasons. However, while Springer hasn’t had a regular role at the NBA level, he had a strong season with the Delaware Blue Coats (Philadelphia’s G League affiliate) in ’22/23, earning Finals MVP honors for the NBAGL champions.

The No. 28 overall pick of the 2021 draft after one college season at Tennessee, Springer was one of the youngest players in his draft class. He just turned 21 years old last month and is now in his third NBA season.

Under new head coach Nick Nurse, Springer played well during preseason action and has appeared in two of Philadelphia’s three games thus far in ’23/24, blocking three shots in 12 minutes of playing time. He recently talked about trying to stay ready despite an uncertain role.

The full list of ’24/25 rookie scale option decisions can be found right here.

Sixers Won’t Be Penalized For Harden’s Unavailability

The NBA has concluded its investigation into James Harden‘s absence last Thursday when the Sixers faced the Bucks on national television, according Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT, who reports (via Twitter) that Philadelphia isn’t expected to be penalized.

The league’s new player participation policy stipulates that players who have made All-Star or All-NBA teams within the past three seasons need to have an approved absence to miss national TV games. Harden was an All-Star in both 2021 and 2022.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN noted last week when the investigation began, injuries, personal reasons and rare or unusual circumstances are considered valid excuses for star players missing national TV games. Harden wasn’t hurt at the time, but the NBA may have justified a lack of punishment for either of the other two categories — Harden had been away from the team for personal reasons for 10 days leading up to that contest, and might not have been in game shape.

Since the Sixers are trading Harden to the Clippers, punishing Philadelphia for his absence last week probably would have just taken a little bit of shine off a major news story. That also may have played a factor in the league’s decision, but that’s just speculation on my part.

Anfernee Simons Undergoes Thumb Surgery, Out Six Weeks

October 31: Simons underwent successful thumb surgery on Tuesday, Portland announced in a press release. According to the Blazers, Simons is expected to return to action in about six weeks, or around December 12.

October 27: Anfernee Simons sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb in Wednesday’s season-opening loss at the Clippers, the Trail Blazers announced in a press release.

The 24-year-old guard is undergoing surgery and is expected to be sidelined four-to-six weeks, per the team.

It’s a tough setback for Simons, who is in the second season of a four-year, $100MM contract signed in 2022. He has missed a good chunk of time each of the past two seasons due to various injuries, appearing in 119 of a possible 164 games.

Simons has developed into an explosive scorer when healthy, averaging a career-high 21.1 points per game in 2022/23 while posting a .447/.377/.894 shooting slash line. He also averaged a career-best 4.1 assists last season.

In Portland’s lopsided loss to Los Angeles, Simons recorded 18 points, four assists and two steals in 27 minutes. He has a goal of being named an All-Star for the first time in ’23/24 and also wants to become a better and more consistent defensive player.

The All-Star nod seems unlikely now due to the injury — if he returns in four weeks, which is optimistic, he would miss 14 games. If he returns in six weeks, he would be out for 18 games.

With Simons sidelined, players like Malcolm Brogdon and Shaedon Sharpe should see an uptick in backcourt minutes for the Blazers.

Bucks Exercise 2024/25 Option On MarJon Beauchamp

The Bucks have exercised their third-year option on wing MarJon Beauchamp, a league source tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Beauchamp will now have his $2,733,720 salary for 2024/25 locked in. The Bucks will have until the end of next October to decide if they want to pick up his fourth-year option, which is worth $4,781,276.

The 24th overall pick of the 2022 draft, Beauchamp appeared in 52 regular season games as a rookie last season, averaging 5.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per night. He posted a .395/.331/.730 shooting line.

The 23-year-old has averaged 6.0 points and 1.5 rebounds in his two healthy games this season (16.5 minutes). Beauchamp missed Monday’s game against Miami due to an illness, but has been upgraded to probable for Wednesday’s matchup in Toronto, Nehm tweets.

As our tracker shows, only two teams have yet to make rookie scale options decisions for 2024/25, with tonight being the deadline. The Pistons are a lock to pick up their options on Cade Cunningham, Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey, but the fate of Sixers guard Jaden Springer is a little less certain — Philadelphia reportedly wants to maximize its cap room for 2024, and guaranteeing Springer’s salary would eat into that.

NBA Fines Joel Embiid $35K

The NBA has fined Sixers center Joel Embiid $35K for “repeatedly making an obscene gesture on the playing court,” the league announced on Tuesday (Twitter link).

The incident occurred late in the third quarter of Philadelphia’s home-opening win on Tuesday against Portland, with the reigning MVP making four consecutive crotch chops after making a basket while being fouled (Twitter video link via Rob Perez).

The reigning MVP is making $47.6MM this season, so the fine won’t impact him much financially. He’s under contract through 2027, though the final season is a player option.

Embiid is off to another strong start in 2023/24, averaging 31.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.0 SPG and 3.0 BPG on .547/.429/.654 shooting through three games. The 76ers are 2-1 and their next game is on Thursday vs. Toronto.

Of course, the biggest Sixers news on Tuesday came overnight, as James Harden got his wish and is being traded to the Clippers. You can find the details right here.

More Harden Trade Notes: Maxey, Tucker, Westbrook, More

After hearing about the trade that will send his former backcourt partner James Harden to Los Angeles, Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey sent a message to the 10-time All-Star to thank him for everything he’s taught Maxey since they teamed up in 2022, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I texted him and I told him I love him, told him I appreciate him,” Maxey said. “One thing that he really installed in me is confidence. I’ve always been a confident person, but he made me be even more confident than I already was, and all I can do is appreciate him for that. He took me under his wing, taught me a lot of things as far as just being a professional in this league and how things go. So I appreciate him, and I love him. Same thing with Tuck (P.J. Tucker). Love those guys.”

While the trade with the Clippers will theoretically eliminate a “cloud of uncertainty” that had hung over the Sixers in recent months, Maxey believes the team had already been doing well in not letting the Harden saga become a distraction, per Bontemps.

“I think we’ve done a good job of keeping the main thing, the main thing, and I think that’s what’s gotten us all to a solid start,” Maxey said. “We have some really good guys that are focused, that are determined to go out there and play and, and show what we can do and, and coach that’s keeping our mind in the right place.”

Here are a few more notes on the Harden deal:

  • The first week of the regular season couldn’t have gone much better for Maxey, as he embraced the lead guard role and was named the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week. Was his hot start the impetus for the Sixers to make their Harden move now? Dan Devine explores that topic in a column for Yahoo Sports.
  • While Tucker obviously isn’t the headliner in this trade, he may be the sort of versatile frontcourt defender that head coach Tyronn Lue has been seeking behind starting center Ivica Zubac, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. As Fischer observes, Patrick Beverley has long been a favorite of the Clippers’ front office and Tucker should bring a similar brand of toughness to the team.
  • What happens next for both the Clippers and Sixers will be crucial in determining whether the deal is a win, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who notes that Los Angeles now has several stars on potential expiring deals while Philadelphia will likely return to the trade market seeking another impact player. Hollinger also wonders if Russell Westbrook will assume a sixth man role for the Clippers rather than share the starting lineup with three ball-dominant players like Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, and points out that the 76ers are a Furkan Korkmaz salary dump away from sneaking below the luxury tax line.
  • A Monday phone call between Sixers owner Josh Harris and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer helped push the deal over the finish line, according to Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link).
  • Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports takes a look back at Harden’s tenure in Philadelphia, writing that the way it ended should come as no surprise.

Eastern Notes: Porzingis, Horford, P. Williams, Nets

Kristaps Porzingis‘ former Wizards teammates and head coach Wes Unseld Jr. had nothing but praise for the big man after facing him on Monday for the first time since his trade to the Celtics, per Jay King and Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Unseld referred to Porzingis as a “great human being,” Kyle Kuzma said he “left a lasting impact on me,” and Deni Avdija said “you’d love coming to work with him.”

That affection is mutual, according to Porzingis, who admitted on Monday that he didn’t enter the offseason expecting to leave D.C.

“I went into the summer thinking I would like to stay (in Washington) long term and that was my home, but in the NBA, everything changes so fast,” Porzingis said. “You can get traded at any time, and I could have gotten traded during the season. You never know. So it just happened this way and I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario during the summer, honestly. I miss that place, but they had a different route they wanted to go and I completely understand that.”

Although Porzingis may not have initially been eager to leave Washington, he has been a seamless fit so far in Boston, as King and Robbins outline. His ability to stretch the floor and to score in the low post has helped diversify the Celtics’ offense, and he provides added rim protection on the defensive end of the court.

“He just changes our late-game frequency,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said on Monday. “In New York (last Wednesday) we posted a little bit, and (in the) last game we were able to continue to play out of the post. And it forces teams to kind of match up with us a little bit more traditionally and it allows us to kind of get to our spots.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Celtics big man Al Horford spoke to Steve Bulpett of about his new role coming off the bench, how much longer he may want to continue playing, and why he’s unlikely to go ring-chasing in free agency during his final years in the NBA.
  • Bulls forward Patrick Williams, who was the only starter with a negative plus/minus rating (-7) in Monday’s win over Indiana, needs to figure things out sooner rather than later, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. While developing the former lottery pick has been a priority in recent years, the Bulls are very much in win-now mode and Williams will be a free agent at season’s end, so the team can’t afford to be patient for much longer. “I don’t think there’s anything with Patrick that’s, ‘Hey just wait on me,'” head coach Billy Donovan said. “He wants to help the team, but he also knows he needs to figure it out on his end.”
  • Although there’s optimism in Brooklyn about a bounce-back season for Ben Simmons, the Nets still need to figure out how to maximize his abilities when he’s sharing the court with center Nic Claxton, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Head coach Jacque Vaughn believes lineups featuring Simmons and Claxton – who has been out since opening night due to an ankle injury – can make up for their lack of spacing by turning defensive stops into fast-break opportunities. “It’s staring us in the face that we are better at playing in transition and in full-court basketball than in the half court,” Vaughn said. “And the sooner we realize that as a group, the better off we’re going to be.”

Hornets Exercise Mark Williams’ 2024/25 Option, Decline Bouknight’s

The Hornets are exercising their 2024/25 rookie scale team option on center Mark Williams, but will decline James Bouknight‘s fourth-year option for the same season, reports Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

The decision on Williams was a given. The 15th pick in the 2022 draft, he emerged as Charlotte’s starting center down the stretch of his rookie season and has carried over that role to 2023/24. Through three games this season, Williams is averaging 11.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per night.

Williams’ $4,094,280 salary for 2024/25 is now fully guaranteed. The Hornets will have to decide a year from now on his $6,276,531 team option for ’25/26.

It’s far rarer for rookie scale team options to be declined, but it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that Charlotte will pass on Bouknight’s $6,064,496 salary for ’24/25.

The 23-year-old, who was drafted 11th overall in 2021, has failed to establish himself as a regular rotation player in Charlotte through two NBA seasons, averaging 5.1 points per game on .353/.316/.770 shooting in 65 appearances (12.6 MPG).

Bouknight has also had some legal troubles since becoming a Hornet and is currently recovering from surgery to repair a meniscus injury in his left knee, so he didn’t get an opportunity in the preseason to show he deserves a longer look in Steve Clifford‘s rotation this fall.

The option decision on Bouknight means he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2024. The Hornets – or whichever team has Bouknight on its roster at season’s end – won’t be able to offer him a starting salary that exceeds his declined option salary of $6,064,496, though rival suitors would have the ability to go higher. Barring a major turnaround from the former UConn standout, those higher offers seem unlikely to materialize.

As our tracker shows, the Hornets only picked up one of their three 2024/25 rookie scale team options. Kai Jones‘ option was also turned down when he was waived by Charlotte earlier this month, meaning neither of the team’s 2021 first-rounders will finish his rookie contract.

Warriors Exercise Fourth-Year Options On Kuminga, Moody

The Warriors have picked up their fourth-year options for the 2024/25 season on forward Jonathan Kuminga and wing Moses Moody, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT first reported (via Twitter) that Moody’s option had been exercised.

Kuminga, the No. 7 overall pick in 2021, saw regular minutes for the Warriors in each of his first two NBA seasons. He’s off to a solid start in 2023/24, averaging 11.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per night through three games off the bench, though he missed Monday’s game due to a knee contusion.

Kuminga’s fourth-year option in 2024/25, worth $7,636,307, is now guaranteed. Today’s decision will also put him on track to become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2024 offseason and – if he doesn’t sign a new deal next year – for restricted free agency in 2025.

Moody has seen less consistent playing time than Kuminga since being drafted 14th overall in 2021 by Golden State. However, he’s logging a career-high 19.3 minutes per game in the very early going this season, recording 9.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 1.5 SPG in four appearances.

Moody, like Kuminga, will now be eligible for a rookie scale extension next July. Today’s option pick-up guarantees his $5,803,269 salary for 2024/25.