Month: July 2024

Pistons Bench Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson

The Pistons made a pair of significant lineup changes before their 118-112 loss to the Knicks on Thursday night, benching Jaden Ivey and rookie Ausar Thompson and moving Killian Hayes and Isaiah Livers into their starting lineup. With their 16th straight loss, they became the first team to go winless for an entire month since the 2015 Sixers.

Coach Monty Williams making the decision to bench both Ivey and Thompson is significant. Ivey was a key starter for Detroit last season after being selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2022 draft, averaging 16.3 points in 73 starts last year.

However, his role has been much more suppressed this year under Williams. His efficiency is up (50.8% from the floor this year entering Thursday compared to 41.6% last season), but he’s only started in five of his 15 appearances and was down to 23.4 minutes per night (from 31.1) entering Thursday.

Ivey didn’t begin the year as a starter, with Hayes taking on that role before relenting it to Ivey over the past five games. Hayes, the No. 7 overall pick in 2020, was averaging 8.5 points and 4.4 assists per game entering Thursday but recorded 23 points on 76.9% shooting against New York.

According to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link), Williams said the decision to start Hayes over Ivey came down to him liking Hayes’ ability to allow Cade Cunningham to play off the ball more and he likes how the fourth-year guard can get the team organized.

As for Thompson, he was a full-time starter before his benching Thursday. This year’s No. 5 overall pick has been one of the most impressive rookies this season, averaging 11.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.6 blocks. Livers started in his place, recording six points and four rebounds.

Neither Thompson or Ivey played major roles off the bench on Thursday, with both logging just 13 minutes of game time, though Thompson had five fouls. That marks Ivey’s second-lowest minute total this season and Thompson’s lowest in his young career. Marcus Sasser finished with the most minutes off the bench, recording 17 points.

While losing their 16th straight game is obviously disappointing, the Pistons kept it close with the Knicks and seemed to find something with how they utilized Cunningham, tweets Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press. Cunningham finished with 31 points and eight assists. Mike Curtis of The Detroit News observes that the Pistons’ three-guard lineup of Cunningham, Ivey and Hayes helped kick-start a 13-0 run and when Ivey was subbed out, the Knicks hit back.

We’ll be watching Detroit to see what happens with the team’s young pieces moving forward. So far, their young core hasn’t meshed well and moves could be on the way if their losing ways continue. In the short term, Bojan Bogdanovic is expected back soon, which should help with the Pistons’ spacing issues (they ranked 29th in made threes entering Thursday).

Northwest Notes: George, Yurtseven, Kessler, Brown, Green

The early part of the season has been a struggle for the Jazz as they battle through stints of inconsistency, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones. Still, there have been some bright spots, the biggest of which is finding their starting point guard of the future in rookie Keyonte George, Jones writes.

George is running the floor with confidence and his efforts helped the Jazz earn back-to-back wins over the Pelicans on Saturday and Monday, as he put up a combined 34 points and eight assists over that stretch. George is averaging 11.8 points and 6.3 assists to 2.4 turnovers in the 10 games since becoming Utah’s full-time starter.

Other highlights from that two-game stretch for the Jazz include players like Simone Fontecchio, Omer Yurtseven and Talen Horton-Tucker stepping up.

The best thing for me watching us is that we felt like a team,” head coach Will Hardy said.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Yurtseven and Walker Kessler, the latter of whom moved to the bench with the former starting, were key factors in the Jazz‘s back-to-back wins, according to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Players and coaches on the team agreed that Yurtseven’s strength allows the Jazz to be more physical with traditional centers, per Walden. “Those two guys are giving us a big presence on both sides of the ball,” Hardy said. “… Having a couple of traditional bigs has definitely helped us the last two games.
  • Timberwolves guard Troy Brown was mostly out of the rotation to begin the year, but began earning minutes after Jaden McDaniels went down with an ankle injury. Now, Brown is playing late into games and impressing with his performance, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Brown scored 17 points in a win over the Thunder on Tuesday and is averaging 11.0 points per game and hitting 46.2% of his threes since receiving an uptick in play time. “At this point, that’s the NBA. You can literally go from being sixth man to not in the rotation,” Brown said. “It’s just based off what the team needs at the time. To me, I’ve had my ups and downs in the career. Just being in different positions and learning how to deal with all that mentally has helped me a lot. Now I just try to be as happy as I can and bring energy to my teammates and stay ready.
  • As the Nuggets sort through their bench rotation, it’s clear they miss forward Jeff Green, writes The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando. “I wish Jeff was still wearing a Nuggets uniform,” head coach Michael Malone said. Green broke down his decision to join the Rockets this offseason, leaving the Nuggets he spent two seasons and one championship run with. “It’s very hard [to leave], especially when you do what we did last year,” Green said. “You create a bond, and that’s something that’s forever. And the relationships that were built last year off the journey that we had, it’s tough to kind of deter away from that. But at the end of the day, it’s a business.

LaMelo Ball Likely Sidelined For Extended Period

NOVEMBER 30: Ball will be reevaluated in one week after an MRI confirmed he suffered a right ankle sprain, according to a release from the team.


NOVEMBER 28: Hornets star guard LaMelo Ball has a severely sprained right ankle and will likely miss extended time, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

While the ankle isn’t fractured, a cautious approach is expected for a player who has been riddled with injuries in his young career. Ball had surgery on the same ankle last season. He’s currently in a walking boot and on crutches, per Charania.
Ball had already been ruled out Tuesday’s in-season tournament game against the Knicks. He needed assistance to leave the court on Sunday after being injured against Orlando.
Ball landed awkwardly while attempting a left-handed layup shortly before halftime of that contest when he got tangled up with Paolo Banchero.
Ball was limited to 36 games last season because of four ankle injuries. He had gotten off to a strong start this fall — 24.7 points, 8.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. He scored 30 points or more in seven of his last 10 games.
Ball signed a five-year max extension during the summer. Ball’s starting salary on the new deal will pay him at least 25% of the 2024/25 cap. There is reportedly Rose Rule language in the contract that could increase that figure to 30% of the cap if Ball earns All-NBA honors this season. A lengthy absence would almost certainly dash those hopes, given the 65-game minimum requirement for major awards this seasono.
Without Ball, Hornets guards Ish Smith, Theo Maledon and James Bouknight could all see a bump in playing time.

Heat Notes: Adebayo, Bryant, Martin, Richardson

Heat center Bam Adebayo is taking his game to new heights this season as he becomes more aggressive on the court than ever before, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

Adebayo’s latest game, Tuesday’s loss to the Bucks, saw the seventh-year center set a career high with 27 field-goal attempts, along with season highs in points and minutes. The two-time All-Star did this against an interior defense spearheaded by 2022/23 Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Brook Lopez and five-time All-Defensive Team selection Giannis Antetokounmpo.

He was just super assertive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Adebayo. “That’s what we need from Bam. He was really aggressive getting into the paint, creating those paint opportunities that normally Jimmy is so great at for us. Now we have a lot of guys with that ability to do that. But Bam was relentless all game long and that just shows you his capacity to do it on both ends.

Adebayo is currently averaging career highs of 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in addition to his 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. His play has him under consideration for his third All-Star Game as well as for Defensive Player of the Year and/or an All-NBA selection.

As Chiang observes, being named Defensive Player of the Year or being selected to an All-NBA Team would make Adebayo eligible to sign a four-year super-max extension this upcoming offseason. His teammates have been vocal about Adebayo’s continued evolution.

I think he should be a lock for All-NBA this year,” Richardson said. “He’s really been carrying a lot of the load for us this year.

We have more from the Heat:

  • Center Thomas Bryant was signed over the offseason to help stabilize the Heat’s non-Adebayo minutes, but he has fallen out of the rotation as Kevin Love has produced positive minutes in that role. According to Chiang in a separate story, Bryant said it’s been an adjustment but that he’s staying ready for anything. “Everything being communicated is just staying ready, going over things that I’ve done before, just keep improving on everything and just stay with it,” Bryant said. “‘Your time is coming’ whenever it might be, so it’s always about a stay ready mind-set and just always staying ready no matter what the outcome is.
  • Forward Caleb Martin is continuing to work his way back into form after a lingering knee injury kept him out of most of the preseason and 10 straight games at one point this season, according to Chiang. After averaging 5.8 points on 30.6% shooting in his first five games back, Martin scored 22 points on Saturday against the Nets. “I want quick results, I want to just get back to my normal self, too,” Martin said. “I just know it’s going to take some time. So I accept that and figure out how to go with that.
  • With Dru Smith out for the season and Tyler Herro recovering from his own injury, Josh Richardson has adopted the Heat’s backup point guard position for the time being, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel observes. “I play with kind of both units,” Richardson said. “So with the first unit, it’s more so spacing, giving Jimmy and Bam kind of like an outlet. With the second unit, I kind of got to be a paint-touch guy. We have Duncan [Robinson] out there running around. So it’s kind of fluid. It’s one thing that I’ve got to figure out.

Gary Payton II To Be Reevaluated In One Week

NOVEMBER 30: Payton will be reevaluated in one week after an MRI confirmed a right calf strain, according to a release from the team (Twitter link via Andscape’s Marc J. Spears).

However, the injury will keep him out for longer than one week, according to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater (Twitter link), who says the Warriors are expecting to have a better grasp on the severity and timeline over the next week.


NOVEMBER 29: Warriors swingman Gary Payton II tore his right calf in Tuesday’s game and will be out of action indefinitely, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The injury occurred late in the third quarter when Payton attempted to go around a screen while defending Sacramento guard De’Aaron Fox, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Payton grabbed at his right calf and hopped around in pain before limping to the team’s locker room. An MRI conducted today revealed the full extent of the damage.

Payton has been an important part of Golden State’s rotation, appearing in 14 games and playing 17.3 minutes per night. He averages 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds, but his greatest impact is on defense as he collects 1.2 steals per game.

After playing a vital role in the Warriors’ 2022 championship, Payton signed with Portland as a free agent but was reacquired in February to help Golden State fix its struggling defense. He has a $9.13MM player option for next season.

Pacific Notes: Paul, Brown, Vezenkov, LaVine

Warriors guard Chris Paul seems to have avoided a major injury. Paul exited Golden State’s Tuesday game against Sacramento in the first quarter due to a lower left leg nerve contusion. He underwent an MRI on Wednesday, according to a team release (Twitter link via Andscape’s Marc J. Spears), and it confirmed his contusion and revealed no structural damage.

While Paul has to miss the Warriors’ next two games, he’s scheduled to be reevaluated on Monday.

Paul is an integral part of the Warriors’ rotation, averaging 8.9 points and 7.3 assists per game in 18 appearances (seven starts) this season. With Gary Payton II also out, Moses Moody and Cory Joseph are most likely to pick up extra minutes during Golden State’s upcoming stretch of games.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said rookie forward Kobe Brown will be a part of the team’s rotation moving forward, tweets ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. Lue said he wants to give Brown a chance due to his ability to knock down shots and his physicality. Brown is averaging 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in eight games this season after being selected with the 30th overall pick in this year’s draft.
  • Kings forward Sasha Vezenkov had season highs of 13 points and five rebounds during Sacramento’s Wednesday loss to the Clippers, continuing to assert himself into the team’s rotation. According to Eurohoops.net, Vezenkov is still adjusting to the NBA after making the transition from EuroLeague this summer. “It’s like going from the EuroCup to the EuroLeague or from the EuroLeague to the NBA,” Vezenkov said. “It’s hard to adjust, create your comfort zone, learn how the game is played, and earn everyone’s trust. With my work, my character, and my desire to win and help the team, I’m sure everything will be fine.”
  • Stemming from reports that the Lakers are expected to register some interest in trading for Bulls star guard Zach LaVine, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores whether such a trade makes sense for Los Angeles. Pincus writes that matching the price (LaVine is set to make $40.1MM this season) and taking on his long-term money (he’s under contract through at least 2026) are huge risks for the Lakers. On top of that, L.A.’s biggest issues this year have been injury problems and dealing with opposing centers and LaVine doesn’t address either of those concerns. Pincus reasons that the Lakers should consider trying to trade for Andre Drummond and Alex Caruso rather than for LaVine.

Pelicans’ Larry Nance Jr. Out 4-6 Weeks With Rib Fracture

Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. is expected to miss four-to-six weeks after re-aggravating his right rib fracture, according to a release from the team.

Nance has been affected by health problems since he arrived in New Orleans at the trade deadline in 2022. He was dealing with an injury when he first was traded to the Pels and was limited to just nine games with the team that year. In 2022/23, Nance was healthier, but still missed 17 games. This year, he’s played in 14 games, having missed four in a row from Nov. 14-20 due to the rib injury he has now re-aggravated.

It’s a tough blow for both Nance and the Pelicans. When fully healthy, Nance can be an impact player at the forward position for a team continually dealing with injuries across the rotation. As pointed out by ESPN’s Andrew Lopez (Twitter link), the Pelicans are tied for the fourth-most missed games this season due to injury. Thankfully for New Orleans, CJ McCollum just returned to the rotation and Trey Murphy is also set to make his season debut.

Nance is averaging 6.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 88 games since joining the Pelicans. In his 14 appearances this year, he’s averaging 3.5 points in 15.1 minutes per night.

Naji Marshall is the most obvious choice to take over some of the minutes left by Nance. New Orleans could also look to turn to two-way forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl if needed.

Injury Notes: Oubre, Sixers, Edwards, Murray, Booker, Wiggins

Sixers wing Kelly Oubre was a full practice participant on Thursday and also did some extra work after practice, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Oubre hasn’t played since November 10 after being struck by a vehicle. There was initially some optimism that he could be upgraded from out to questionable for Friday’s matchup with Boston, but sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium that the veteran swingman is targeting a return next week, possibly Wednesday against Washington or Friday against Atlanta (Twitter link).

According to Pompey, X-rays on Nicolas Batum‘s injured finger were negative and he plans to play against the Celtics. Star center Joel Embiid is questionable with an illness, but head coach Nick Nurse thinks he’ll be ready to go, Pompey adds.

Here are a few more injury notes:

  • Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards sustained a bruised right hip on Tuesday against Oklahoma City after taking a hard fall, causing him to exit the game, according to an Associated Press report relayed by ESPN.com. Edwards is officially listed as doubtful for Thursday’s game against Utah, but forward Kyle Anderson indicated the fourth-year guard won’t play, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Free agent addition Troy Brown is likely to start in Edwards’ place, Krawczynski adds (via Twitter).
  • Making his return from a hamstring injury on Wednesday, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray contributed 16 points (on 4-of-14 shooting), six rebounds and six assists in 22 minutes. However, he appeared to roll his right ankle and might miss Friday’s contest in Phoenix, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Murray said he was “frustrated” by the ankle injury, which he iced throughout the game when he wasn’t playing.
  • The Suns got good and bad news on Wednesday. Kevin Durant returned from a two-game absence in the loss to Toronto, but Devin Booker suffered a right ankle injury after landing on Dennis Schröder‘s foot, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. It’s unclear if Booker will miss time with the injury, but he had his worst game of the season trying to play through it yesterday.
  • Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins has been ruled out of Thursday’s game against the Clippers, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The former No. 1 overall pick is dealing with right finger soreness. Golden State will be shorthanded, as Chris Paul (leg contusion) and Gary Payton II (calf) are also out.

New York Notes: Thomas, Nets, Simmons, Hartenstein, Knicks

The Nets are getting their leading scorer back on Thursday, as the team announced that guard Cam Thomas will return to action against Charlotte (Twitter link via Ian Begley of SNY.tv).

Thomas will be on a minutes restriction after missing the past nine games with a left ankle sprain, a team source tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post (via Twitter).

The 27th pick of the 2021 draft, Thomas was having a breakout third season for Brooklyn prior to the injury, averaging career highs virtually every major statistic, including points (26.9), rebounds (3.8), assists (2.1) and minutes per game (32.4) through eight contests (seven starts). The 22-year-old will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in 2024.

Here’s more from the NBA’s two New York-based teams:

  • Ben Simmons continues to be sidelined for the Nets — he’ll miss his 12th straight game on Thursday due to a nerve impingement in his lower left back, per the NBA’s official injury report. Dan Martin of The New York Post details how Brooklyn has begun to thrive without Simmons in the lineup, despite the team planning to build around his unique skill set in 2023/24. According to Martin, the Nets — who have won three straight — have gotten key contributions from different players “nearly every night” of late, including Royce O’Neale, Mikal Bridges, Nic Claxton, Dorian Finney-Smith and Cameron Johnson.
  • When the Knicks signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year, $16MM contract last year, they cited his shooting, play-making and passing as complementary skills to bruising center Mitchell Robinson. However, as Stefan Bondy writes in a subscriber-only story for The New York Post, Hartenstein quickly learned last season that he needed to adapt his game to fit head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s system in order to stay in the rotation. “I think that’s a thing a lot of NBA players don’t do. That’s kind of how you whittle down the league,” Hartenstein said. “And for me, that was adjusting it to less of a finesse game and more of getting guys open [with screens], more of just crashing for the rebounds. Whereas before it was more passing, catching it in the pocket, playing off that.” Hartenstein doesn’t put up gaudy stats, but he thinks he’s in the conversation for being the best backup center in the league. When Bondy asked about his impending free agency in 2024, the 25-year-old said, “We’ll see what happens. I love New York, so we’ll see what happens.”
  • The Knicks‘ schedule became more difficult after advancing to the quarterfinals of the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament, notes Steve Popper of Newsday (subscription required). New York will play at Milwaukee on Tuesday for the quarterfinal matchup, meaning the Knicks will play the Bucks five times instead of four in ’23/24. If the Knicks and Celtics advance to the semifinals in Las Vegas, they would have to play Boston a fifth time as well. Still, the Knicks view it as a chance to get better. “I don’t look at anything as a consequence,” forward Julius Randle said, per Popper. “Winning games, playing good basketball, got a chance to compete against the best. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity?”

Thunder, Davis Bertans Agree To Contract Revision

The Thunder and forward Davis Bertans have agreed to revise part of the sharpshooter’s contract, sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

As Scotto details, if Bertans had appeared in 75% of Oklahoma City’s games this season, his partially guaranteed deal for 2024/25 would have become fully guaranteed at $16MM. However, that clause has been removed. Instead, Bertans will receive a slight increase to his partial guarantee for next season, from $5MM to $5.25MM.

Bertans has only played in five of the Thunder’s 17 games this fall, so it seems unlikely he would have hit the 75% trigger threshold. By agreeing to remove that clause, he’ll earn $250K.

The move won’t have an impact on Bertans or the Thunder in ’23/24, as his salary for this season is fully guaranteed at $17MM.

Bertans, who turns 32 in a couple weeks, is averaging career lows of 3.4 points and 9.2 minutes per night. Nicknamed the “Latvian Laser” for his shooting prowess, Bertans holds a career mark of 39.7% from three-point range. He has converted three of his 12 looks from beyond the arc in ’23/24.