Month: February 2024

Pelicans’ Murphy, Pistons’ Bogdanovic Nearing Season Debuts

The Pelicans are optimistic that third-year forward Trey Murphy will make his 2023/24 season debut on Friday against San Antonio, sources tell Shams Charania and Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Murphy, who underwent surgery in September to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee, is fully recovered from the injury, according to Charania.

Murphy’s imminent return is certainly welcome news for New Orleans, which has dealt with numerous injuries to rotation players early on this season. The Pelicans just got CJ McCollum back yesterday, and Murphy will further bolster the team’s outside shooting.

The 17th overall pick in the 2021 draft, Murphy emerged as a full-time starter for New Orleans in ’22/23. He averaged 14.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 31.0 minutes per night across 79 appearances (65 starts), posting an impressive shooting line of .484/.406/.905.

Another sharpshooting forward could make his season debut this week as well, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that Pistons veteran Bojan Bogdanovic might suit up on Saturday vs. Cleveland.

Bogdanovic, who is questionable for Thursday’s matchup against New York on Thursday (Twitter link via James L. Edwards III of The Athletic), has been sidelined with a right calf strain. Edwards first reported that the 34-year-old could suit up this week.

Now in his 10th NBA season, Bogdanovic averaged a career-high 21.6 points on an excellent .488/.411/.884 shooting line last season for Detroit, which has lost a team-record 15 consecutive games and has the worst record in the league at 2-16. Bogdanovic should provide a boost to the Pistons’ 27th-ranked offense.

And-Ones: Collier, Mock Draft, In-Season Tournament, Ferrell

USC freshman guard Isaiah Collier has moved into the top spot in the latest mock draft from Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN. Collier has been outstanding for the Trojans in the early part of the season, averaging 18.2 PPG while shooting 56% on two-point shots and 41% from beyond the arc. However, there are some concerns, Givony and Woo point out, including an abysmal turnover to assist rate of 5.3-to-4.

At 6’5″ and 210 pounds, Collier’s size is an asset for a point guard and he boasts a good combination of strength and speed, the authors add. He’s most effective in the open court, where he can attack the basket and finish at the rim in a variety of ways. He also has outstanding court vision and is comfortable passing with either hand.

French center Alexandre Sarr drops to second in the mock draft, as his defense has been more developed than his offense in Australia’s National Basketball League. With a 7’5″ wingspan, Sarr ranks second in the NBL in block percentage, but he’s shooting just 30% from three-point range and 56% from the foul line. French forward Zaccharie Risacher, Baylor guard Ja’Kobe Walter and G League Ignite forward Ron Holland round out the top five for Givony and Woo.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • There have been complaints about how the point-differential tie-breaker affected some of Tuesday’s in-season tournament games, but Suns star Devin Booker doesn’t see it as a problem, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I’ve seen teams upset about it, I don’t know why. I’ve seen players upset about it, I don’t know why,” Booker said. “I wish every game was like that where you play until the end and it wasn’t viewed as disrespectful. Just high competition.” 
  • Seth Partnow of The Athletic suggests making point differential a lower-level tie-breaker in the tournament and giving teams points for each quarter that they win, similar to the system in the former Continental Basketball Association. He believes winning quarters would provide incentive for players to give maximum effort without the feeling that teams are intentionally running up the score.
  • Former NBA guard Yogi Ferrell has signed with KK Buducnost in Montenegro, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. It marks a return to Europe for the 30-year-old Ferrell after playing for the Shanghai Sharks.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, McCollum, Zion, Thompson

A practice led by the players preceded the Grizzlies‘ first home win of the season Wednesday night, writes Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. Reeling from injuries to several rotation members and the absence of Ja Morant amid his 25-game suspension, Memphis played one of its worst games of the season Sunday in a 22-point loss to Minnesota.

Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose both spoke out about the poor performance, and the result was a lengthy practice session that focused on fundamentals and communication. Head coach Taylor Jenkins was the only member of the coaching staff who spoke up during practice, as the players had to call out one another for mistakes.

“That was one of the hardest practices of my career,” Ziaire Williams said. “It was like training camp, for sure. When you’re three and whatever, sometimes you need those.”

Wednesday’s victory over Utah brought some optimism to the team for at least one night. Players were more aggressive from the start, chasing down loose balls and grabbing a season-high 51 rebounds. Despite their early-season struggles, the Grizzlies are only four games away from a play-in spot and Morant is just eight games away from returning.

“As I told them, don’t be satisfied,” Jenkins said. “This isn’t good enough. We got to be better moving forward. But this sets a tone.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum was able to play 28 minutes and score 20 points on Wednesday in his return after missing 12 games with a collapsed right lung, per Christian Clark of NOLA. McCollum talked to reporters about his recovery process, which included using an oxygen tank. “I felt like an old person,” McCollum said. “I needed oxygen for a while. I asked my wife, ‘Is this what it’s going to be like when I’m older? Pushing oxygen to the bathroom?’ I did that for four or five days and felt great in terms of my breathing. Then it was about ramping up.”
  • Pelicans star Zion Williamson spoke with Mark Medina of Sportsnaut about how he has been able to overcome his history of injuries and stay on the court this season. The team hasn’t used Williamson in any back-to-backs, but he has played in 15 out of 19 games so far. “A lot of recovery and a lot of extra things off the court in order to keep my body in great shape to lower the risk of injury,” Williamson said. “The training staff has been a big help with that, and setting up things away from basketball. I’m making the most of the technology and equipment that we have.”
  • Rockets rookie Amen Thompson is getting closer to returning from the ankle injury that has kept him out of action since November 1, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Thompson participated in non-contact drills on Sunday and is expected to join the team’s G League affiliate in Rio Grande Valley before returning to the Rockets.

Sixers Notes: Batum, Beverley, House, Maxey

Nicolas Batum‘s impact on the Sixers‘ defense has made him the most valuable player the team received in the James Harden trade, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The versatile swingman not only moved into the starting lineup, he routinely guards the opposition’s top scorer, a list that so far has included Anthony Edwards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LeBron James and Brandon Ingram.

“It’s super valuable in a lot of ways, and he just does a lot of it by working,” coach Nick Nurse said. “Like he’s up the floor picking up full court. He’s in denial a lot. So the guy doesn’t even get it. That’s the easiest way to guard somebody if they don’t have the ball.”

Batum’s next assignment will be Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, but that’s only if he’s able to play Friday at Boston. Batum didn’t return to Wednesday’s game after he hyperextended his right index finger in the third quarter, reaggravating an existing injury.

“We will see (Thursday),” he said. “It’s new so I don’t know what’s going to happen. … We haven’t had an X-ray yet. It’s more like we will see what happens (Thursday).”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • At age 35, Patrick Beverley is posting the lowest scoring average of his career at 3.3 points per game, but he continues to help the Sixers through a combination of defense, leadership and finding ways to motivate himself, Pompey notes in a separate story. On Monday, it involved a confrontation with former Lakers teammate Austin Reaves that led to them being separated by officials. Beverley, who is still seething about Reaves doing the “too small” gesture after scoring on him last season, commented about the matchup on his podcast. “Every time I see the Lakers until I retire — whatever team Austin Reaves is on — I’m on his ass,” Beverley said.
  • Danuel House missed his third straight game Wednesday with a left quadriceps strain, Pompey states in the same piece. House tested the injury at the morning shootaround, and Nurse is hoping he’ll be able to participate in today’s practice. “We’ve been over a week now since he’s done anything, practice or game-wise,” Nurse said after the game. “I didn’t think it was much there. So it’s a little bit disappointing. But tomorrow we shall see if we can make some progress.”
  • Tyrese Maxey‘s playing time has increased dramatically under Nurse, who was known for leaning heavily on his core players in Toronto, Pompey adds. Maxey is averaging 38.4 minutes per night, which would be the most since Jimmy Butler reached 38.7 with the Bulls nine years ago.

Central Notes: Jerome, Pistons, J. Smith, Connaughton, Bulls

Frustrated by his slow recovery from a severe right ankle sprain, Cavaliers guard Ty Jerome has adjusted his treatment plan in the hopes of accelerating his return to the court, reports Chris Fedor of (subscriber link).

As Fedor details, Jerome recently had the ankle immobilized within a cast, which he’ll wear for about a week. The hope is that he’ll be able to resume individual workouts after having the cast removed.

“He is recovering,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said on Tuesday. “They’re doing different steps with him and trying some new things, different things in order to help him. He’s doing another treatment now and I’ll let the medical staff talk about timeline when they put all that together. He’s trying something different than just the normal rehab.”

Jerome has long been a favorite of Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman, according to Fedor. When he signed a two-year deal with the team this past summer, the plan was for him to be mentored by veteran point guard Ricky Rubio.

Instead, due to Rubio’s absence, Jerome was thrust into the backup point guard role to open the season, then suffered the ankle injury in just his second game as a Cavalier. While it hasn’t been an ideal start to his time in Cleveland, Jerome is trying to look at the bright side, telling Fedor, “Guess it’s better to be injured early rather than late.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Following a team-record 15th consecutive loss on Wednesday, Pistons head coach Monty Williams suggested that “this group struggles with adversity,” which is one reason why the slump has only gotten worse, per Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. James L. Edwards III of The Athletic expects lineup changes to be around the corner, with Bojan Bogdanovic likely to start when he makes his season debut — that could happen as soon as this Thursday or Saturday, says Edwards.
  • Pacers center Jalen Smith‘s leg injury isn’t as serious as the team initially feared, but he has been diagnosed with a left knee bone bruise and a left heel contusion and will miss at least the next two games, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Isaiah Jackson is the leading candidate to take Smith’s spot in the rotation, while two-way player Oscar Tshiebwe is being called up from the G League to provide depth, Dopirak adds.
  • In an in-depth story for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jim Owczarski takes a look at the journey Pat Connaughton has taken to secure his place in the NBA as a reliable role player for the Bucks, as well as the work he has done in Milwaukee off the court.
  • While it’s one thing to be beaten by more talented teams, the slumping Bulls have also had more “low-effort moments” during their recent losing streak, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Lakers, Paul, Bol

The Kings savored their comeback win over Golden State Tuesday night, and not just because it gave them a spot in the knockout round of the in-season tournament, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Sacramento would have won the West’s Group C by staying within 11 points, but it felt better to claim a victory over the Warriors, who knocked the Kings out of the playoffs in April.

“We want to win. Obviously, our fans want us to beat Golden State,” De’Aaron Fox said. “A game this close, coming back from down 24, you want to win regardless of if it’s a tournament game or not.”

Malik Monk finished off Sacramento’s frantic rally by hitting a tough bank shot in traffic in the final seconds. Monk also delivered a message to the coaching staff midway through the fourth quarter, Andrews adds, telling them to stop complaining to the officials and let the players take care of business.

After breaking a 15-year playoff drought last season, the Kings have a chance to make more history by reaching the tournament’s semifinals in Las Vegas.

“We want to get to Vegas and be one of the first teams to advance to the final four,” Fox said.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Two days after LeBron James said “a lot” needs to be fixed following a 44-point loss in Philadelphia, the Lakers looked like a different team in beating Detroit, observes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Coach Darvin Ham didn’t address Monday’s embarrassment apart from a Wednesday morning film session in which he told his players that one bad night doesn’t define their season. “The biggest thing with (James), he’s a competitive, fierce competitor like myself, and that (loss to the Sixers) was a tough one to experience,” Ham said. “It’s okay to be frustrated because you’re passionate about the game, but we can’t get emotional and lose our focus, lose our way.”
  • Warriors guard Chris Paul suffered a nerve contusion in his lower left leg and will miss Thursday’s game against the Clippers, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Sources tell Woj that Paul is considered day-to-day.
  • Suns coach Frank Vogel told reporters after tonight’s game that Bol Bol will eventually get a chance to prove he can help the team (video link). A free agent addition this summer, Bol has played just seven total minutes in three games.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, DeRozan, Donovan, Karnisovas

The Bulls‘ final chance to make a statement in the in-season tournament ended with a 27-point loss at Boston and that wasn’t the extent of the bad news, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Zach LaVine left the game midway through the third quarter with foot soreness, a condition that caused him to miss last Wednesday’s contest at Oklahoma City. DeMar DeRozan also got pulled from the game in the third quarter after getting knocked down on a foul and experiencing pain in his left ankle.

It has been a frustrating season for Chicago, which went 0-4 in the tournament and has now dropped eight of its last nine games. With trade rumors swirling around several players, LaVine said it’s important to focus on each game rather than the bigger picture.

“You go out there and play, man,” said LaVine, who added that he’s “day to day” with the soreness. “You got a lot of season left. You don’t play the scoreboard. You look at the standings, obviously. But you try to win every game you step into and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Coach Billy Donovan tried a lineup change on Tuesday, starting Patrick Williams and moving Alex Caruso to the bench to stabilize the second unit, notes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Donovan continues to search for a spark that will snap the team out of its early-season funk. ‘‘Yeah, I take ownership in this, too, in terms of what I’ve got to do,” he told reporters. “I’m not obviously making the decisions that maybe (president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas) is making or Jerry and Michael (Reinsdorf) are making, and I’m not making decisions on the court that the players are making. But what do I have control over? What’s my responsibility? Where can I get better and how can I improve to help? I’m a big believer in you are what your record says you are. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Well, we had a couple of tough losses, and we could be .500.’ No, this is what we are, and how can we get better?’’
  • Blame for the Bulls’ failure should be directed at Karnisovas, who assembled a roster that ranks 26th in offense and 22nd in defense, states Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Mayberry argues that Karnisovas should have broken up the core of the team at the February trade deadline and could have done more in free agency than just signing Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter.
  • This season will be defined more by what Karnisovas can do on the trade market rather than wins and losses, Johnson states in a separate story. League sources tell Johnson that the organization is focused on finding an acceptable trade for LaVine, and Karnisovas is telling teams calling about other players that he wants to see what his roster looks like after a LaVine deal before beginning any of those discussions.

Southeast Notes: Ball, Bridges, Avdija, Magic

The Hornets haven’t provided an update on LaMelo Ball‘s ankle injury or given any indication of a timetable for his return, but it sounds like his teammates are preparing to be without him for an extended stretch, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

Ball had to be assisted to the locker room after hurting the ankle Sunday in Orlando. He has been ruled out for Thursday’s game at Brooklyn, but no official details have been given beyond that. Ball wore a walking boot and used a crutch during Wednesday’s practice, according to Boone.

“Yeah it’s tough, no matter how you cut it, it’s tough,” Mark Williams said. “But at the same time that’s what the league is. You’ve got to be able to adjust. You’ve got to be able to cooperate well with different lineups and you’ve just got to find a way. But of course it’s tough. It’s tough not having your guys out there. But guys know they’ve got to step up and you’ve got to figure it out.”

A report Tuesday indicated that Ball avoided an ankle fracture, but he’s still expected to miss significant time. Hornets coach Steve Clifford plans to handle the absence the same way he did when Ball had surgery on the ankle in March, keeping the talented guard close to the team and including him in discussions of game strategy.

“He’ll be at shootaround and he’s just got to continue,” Clifford said. “He’ll do the same stuff that he did last year, the same stuff that he did with his rehab before.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Despite his legal issues, there’s a good chance Miles Bridges will have a long-term future with the Hornets, Boone adds in a mailbag column. Bridges, who’s averaging 19.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists since returning from his 10-game suspension, accepted the team’s $7.9MM qualifying offer and will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
  • Wizards forward Deni Avdija has become more consistent after being a hot-and-cold shooter through his first three NBA seasons, notes Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports. Avdija is third on the team in scoring at 12.1 PPG while shooting a career-high 51.9% from the floor and 39.6% from three-point range. The 22-year-old is solidified as part of the future in Washington after signing a four-year extension prior to the season.
  • The Magic had several chances to advance to the final eight in the in-season tournament, but nothing went their way Tuesday night, per Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando could have won East Group C with a Toronto victory over Brooklyn or a Boston win over Chicago by fewer than 22 points. The Magic also had a chance at a wild card if Miami had won at Milwaukee or New York had beaten Charlotte by fewer than four points. Orlando wound up getting eliminated despite a 3-1 record and a +22 point differential.

Latest On Potential Mavericks Sale

Sands Corp. president and chief operating officer Patrick Dumont, son-in-law of Miriam Adelson, will be the family’s “foremost member” if their purchase of the Mavericks is approved by the NBA, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column.

It’s still not fully clear how much power Mark Cuban will have once he becomes a minority owner, even though it was reported Tuesday that he will continue to run the team’s basketball operations. Stein notes that it’s an unprecedented arrangement, and the Adelson family may want some say in personnel moves once they’re writing the checks.

Stein points out that Cuban has already ceded some decision-making to Nico Harrison, who was hired as general manager in 2021, and CEO Cynthia Marshall, who has been handling business matters since 2018. Even so, Stein found it shocking that Cuban opted to sell the team, considering that he sits near the bench at most games, maintains a visible role in the war room on draft nights, and remains involved in most personnel decisions.

League sources tell Stein that Cuban plans to be “a very active partner” to the Adelsons on basketball matters while letting the family deal with television revenues, real estate ventures and similar issues.

There’s more from Dallas:

  • The Adelson family agreed to purchase the Mavericks with an eye toward legalizing casino gambling in Texas, according to an editorial from The Dallas Morning News. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has since died, focused on Texas two years ago as the primary spot for expansion, the editorial states. Lobbying money from the Adelson family and other gambling interests has poured into the state, helping to soften any opposition. Cuban is perfect as a “primary stakeholder,” the paper adds, because he has been an advocate for building a casino in downtown Dallas.
  • The Adelson and Dumont families have issued a statement regarding their purchase of the Mavericks, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “Through our commitment and additional investment in the team, we look forward to partnering with Mark Cuban to build on the team’s success and legacy in Dallas and beyond,” it reads in part. “The goal is to win and to have a team that proudly represents the greater DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) area and serves as a strong and valuable member of the local community.” The families are hoping to close the sale by the end of December.
  • Last year, Cuban cited the Sands Corp. as his ideal partner for a casino and resort destination, per Tim Cato of The Athletic, who notes that the Mavericks can’t leave their current home at the American Airlines Center until their lease expires in 2031.

Nuggets’ Jamal Murray Cleared To Return

NOVEMBER 29: Murray will return to the lineup for tonight’s game against the Rockets, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

NOVEMBER 27: Nuggets guard Jamal Murray will miss tonight’s game against the Clippers, but he could be back in action later this week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link). Charania called Murray’s return “imminent” and said he might be available Wednesday against Houston or Friday at Phoenix.

It will be a “day-by-day process” for Murray after tonight, Charania adds, with the medical staff monitoring how he feels each day.

Denver is just 5-5 without Murray, who suffered a right hamstring strain on November 4. The defending champions have fallen out of the top spot in the West and are currently bunched with several teams at 11-6.

Murray is the Nuggets’ second-best player and he has an on-court chemistry with Nikola Jokic that makes the team extremely hard to defend. Murray was averaging 16.3 PPG in seven games before the injury along with a career-high 7.4 assists per night while shooting a career-best 43.8% from three-point range.

Prior to the hamstring issue, Murray hadn’t experienced any significant injuries since returning from the ACL tear that forced him to miss the entire 2021/22 season.

Charania described Murray as “one of the game’s great competitors” and notes that he was shooting jumpers in street clothes during halftime of a recent game.