Month: February 2024

Pacific Notes: Thompson, Beal, Gordon, Lue, James

Warriors coach Steve Kerr revealed that Klay Thompson initially balked at the prospect of being the team’s sixth man, he told ESPN’s Kendra Andrews. Thompson argued with Kerr and some members of the staff during a meeting prior to the All-Star break.

“It was not an easy conversation,” Kerr said. “This is maybe the hardest part about getting further away from our prime. It’s just, after 12 years [of Thompson starting], it wasn’t easy. And still moving forward, it’s not going to be easy. But I told him, ‘If you really embrace it, you can help your team win.'”

Thompson said the All-Star break helped ease his mind over the coaching staff’s plan.

“It was having a complete reset, a huge mental reset. It helped so much,” he said.

Thompson stated in an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick that his new role wouldn’t play into his decision during free agency this summer. Thompson, who is eligible for a four-year extension,  remains open to a shorter-term deal, according to Andrews.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns had three late scratches on Thursday against Houston, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game due to left hamstring injury management. Eric Gordon sat out with left groin soreness. They were listed as questionable on Wednesday. Nassir Little didn’t suit up due to left knee inflammation after not being on the initial injury report.
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue had a health scare when he was coaching Cleveland due to stress and poor eating and sleeping habits. He’s learned from that experience and has a much healthier diet and exercise plan, he told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears. “I’ve been working out. Eating better. I still have my moments. [I’m] Eating less. It’s been good,” Lue said. “Daniel (strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro) has done a good job of staying on me because I can stray away. I’m just doing 20 to 30 minutes per day … Now I’m about 208 [pounds]. Back [in Cleveland] I was 241. I can’t believe I got that big.”
  • LeBron James sparked the biggest fourth-quarter comeback of his career against the Clippers on Wednesday. The Lakers rallied from 21 points down with the aid of three 3-pointers early in the fourth from James, who finished with 34 points. “It’s just a zone, and you can’t really describe it,” James said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “You wish you could stay in it forever, but obviously it checks out once the game ends. But during it, you don’t feel anything. It’s just like a superpower feel.

Central Notes: Stewart, Fontecchio, Bitim, White

Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart returned to action on Tuesday after serving a three-game NBA suspension for punching the Suns’ Drew Eubanks during a pre-game altercation. Stewart played 34 minutes and contributed 11 points and nine rebounds, along with providing a much-needed defensive presence. He’ll remain in the lineup going forward, coach Monty Williams said.

“We’re gonna run with these guys for a while and see if we get some synergy, especially on defense,” Williams told Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press.

Stewart offered an apology for losing his temper, Sankofa relays (Twitter links). “I always want to represent the organization in great fashion,” he said. “I apologized to my teammates and coaches because it’s been a tough season and I don’t want to bring anything upon them. And I’m glad they had my back.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Forward Simone Fontecchio joined the NBA last season by signing with the Jazz. Fontecchio, 28, felt it was a now-or-never opportunity after starring in Europe. He was acquired by the Pistons at this month’s trade deadline. “It was a no-brainer to be honest. Once you see that train passing you, you just want to catch it,” Fontecchio told James Edwards III of The Athletic. “I just thought, ‘It’s a three-year deal. I’m going to do everything I can to make this work. If it doesn’t, I’ll just go back to Europe. It’s OK. I tried my best.’ I’ve been putting in a lot of work the last two years. I’m thankful to be in the position that I am now.” He’ll be a restricted free agent after the season.
  • Bulls rookie Onuralp Bitim got extended playing time against Cleveland on Wednesday with Alex Caruso sidelined and made a favorable impression. Bitim scored the first 10 points of his NBA career and added six rebounds in 27 minutes, including all 10 minutes in the double-overtime triumph. “I really can’t describe how I feel. But it’s not about my English, even my own language,” Bitim, a native of Turkey, told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I was dreaming of this moment for a really long time. And I was really trying to be ready and my teammates really helped me, my coaches. I knew the chance was going to come. You just never know when. You just have to be ready.” Bitim was promoted from a two-way deal to a multiyear standard contract on Sunday.
  • Coby White is having a breakout season, but the Bulls are concerned about their point guard burning himself out by putting in too much work, rather than pacing himself, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley. “You don’t want to lose that perspective, but there’s a point of how efficiently you can work with the time you have and developing the routine,” coach Billy Donovan said. “And we’ve talked to him a lot about it where, ‘Listen, coming in the gym and driving yourself into the ground is not always the solution or the answer.’ I would rather have a guy like Coby that’s willing to put the work in than a guy where you’re like, ‘Come on, let’s watch more film, let’s get in the gym.’ He’s never shied away from work. But I also think that when you’re coaching somebody, the routine has got to be theirs because there’s nothing worse for a player than to go into a game with the anxiety of, ‘I’m not prepared.’ Where is that balance? He’ll have to strike that for himself.”

New York Notes: Anunoby, DiVincenzo, Simmons, Graham

Forward OG Anunoby has been cleared to do some on-court work, but still isn’t doing any contact, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link) and other media members on Thursday.

Anunoby underwent elbow surgery earlier this month. At that time, he was ruled out for at least three weeks. He hasn’t suited up since Jan. 27.

Isaiah Hartenstein is returning to action against Golden State on Thursday evening after missing Tuesday’s game against New Orleans due to Achilles soreness. Jalen Brunson, who also sat out Tuesday due to neck spasms, will play tonight too, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Donte DiVincenzo‘s impact on the Knicks’ offense during this injury-filled stretch can’t be overstated, Popper writes in a subscriber-only story for Newsday. DiVincenzo is averaging 22.2 points and 3.2 assists this month.
  • The Nets’ Ben Simmons is sitting out against the Hawks on Thursday due to left leg soreness, Ian Begley of SNY TV tweets. Simmons has appeared in eight games this month, averaging 5.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 18.8 minutes.
  • With the Nets losing assistant general manager Jeff Peterson, who is heading to the Hornets as their head of basketball operations, Pelicans assistant GM Bryson Graham could be a candidate to replace him, according to Net Income. Graham is currently working under GM Trajan Langdon, who was also a candidate for the Hornets job.

Marcus Morris Finalizes Buyout Agreement With Spurs

5:31pm: The Spurs have officially waived Morris, the team announced in a press release.


4:07pm: Marcus Morris and the Spurs have agreed to a buyout, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweets.

Morris will hit the waiver wire before the Friday night deadline for free agents to be eligible for the postseason. He can now look for an opportunity to join a playoff contender.

Morris was dealt from Philadelphia to San Antonio at the trade deadline in a three-team swap involving the Sixers, Pacers and Spurs. It was expected he’d get a buyout from San Antonio, which sits at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Morris won’t be able to return to Philadelphia this season. He also can’t sign with the Celtics, Nuggets, Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Bucks and Suns since those teams have salaries above the first or second tax aprons.

Morris was on an expiring $17.1MM contract this season. That figure is well above the mid-level exception ($12.4MM), which makes teams above the tax aprons ineligible to sign him under the CBA rules.

A couple of weeks ago, former teammate Patrick Beverley (Twitter link) said Morris was leaning toward the Timberwolves if he was bought out.

Morris didn’t suit up for San Antonio. He appeared in 37 games with Philadelphia this season, including seven starts. The 34-year-old averaged 6.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 17.2 minutes before the trade to San Antonio.

Morris started regularly for the Clippers the past three-plus seasons before being sent to the Sixers as part of the James Harden trade in November. He has averaged 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 820 career games. He’s a career 37.7% 3-point shooter, which should add to his appeal once he clears waivers.

Nuggets Notes: Nnaji, Murray, Gordon, Jokic

After signing a four-year, $32MM rookie scale extension in the offseason, Nuggets forward/center Zeke Nnaji surely hoped to take a step forward in 2023/24. Instead, he’s been out of the team’s rotation for much of the season, averaging fewer minutes per game (9.9) than he did over the previous two campaigns (17.0 and 13.7, respectively).

However, head coach Michael Malone reinserted the 23-year-old into the rotation a few games before the All-Star break and Nnaji is trying to take advantage of the opportunity, according to Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette.

I feel like I’m playing well,” Nnaji said after Sunday’s win vs. Golden State. “Maybe (it’s) the work that I’m putting in, but I found a little rhythm.”

Nnaji, who views himself as a natural power forward instead of a center, which he’s played far more of this season, says he’s remained even-keeled amid his inconsistent playing time, Benedetto writes.

Never get too high, never get too low,” Nnaji said of his approach while playing time has waxed and waned. “I have confidence in the practice and the work that I put in every day, whether it’s a game day or an off day. Whenever I get my opportunity, I just go out there and try to make the most (of it) and help the team win however I can.”

Here’s more on the defending champions:

  • Point guard Jamal Murray missed the second game of a back-to-back last week in Portland. John Hollinger of The Athletic asked Malone about the injury, with the coach saying it’s something Murray and the team will have to manage for the rest of the season. “It’s shin splints,” said Malone, “and everything he’s dealing with right now, every time he plays it’s gonna be an issue. This is not second night of a back-to-back ‘resting.’ He is managing an injury. It’s just something we’re just going to have to find a way to figure out.” Malone added that in order for Murray’s shin splints to fully heal, he’ll need an extended period of rest, almost certainly in the offseason. “I’m sure it’s very painful,” Malone continued, “and the more he plays — and Jamal is gonna be a guy who is going to play upwards 35, 36 minutes a night. We just have to try to limit his load as much as possible — shootarounds, practices, whatever we’re doing — to make sure that game days are holy and he can be available for as many of them as possible.” For what it’s worth, Murray isn’t on the injury report tonight vs. Miami, which is also the second game of a back-to-back, as Benedetto tweets.
  • The Nuggets entered the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak, but they were unconcerned about their form entering the home stretch of the season, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. The team has reeled off four straight victories post-break, and forward Aaron Gordon says the team didn’t want to peak too early. “We know what time it is now,” Gordon said after Wednesday’s win. “It’s time to start ramping up. I know we didn’t want to be playing our best basketball early in the season.”
  • Mo Dakhil of The Athletic breaks down some of the “genius” of two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who is the frontrunner for the award again in ’23/24. Jokic has recorded a triple-double in just three quarters in each of the past four games, and his teammates have great timing on cuts to the basket when the Serbian center is double-teamed, Dakhil writes.

Pacific Notes: Wiggins, Suns, S. Lee, Fox, Huerter, Reddish

Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins will miss his second straight game on Thursday vs. New York due to personal reasons, with Anthony Slater of The Athletic describing the absence as a “family matter.” It’s unclear when Wiggins will return to the lineup, though head coach Steve Kerr said the team expects him back at some point.

Don’t know,” Kerr said of a return timeline. “We’ll obviously respect Andrew’s wishes for this to remain private. Personal reasons.”

As Slater notes, Wiggins missed the final 25 games of the 2022/23 season due to personal reasons, returning just before the postseason began.

Here are a few more notes from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns have an open roster spot. Veterans Mike Muscala (Pistons) and Patty Mills (Hawks) were recently waived by their former clubs, with Muscala reaching a buyout agreement. Would Phoenix be interested in either of those players? John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 says the answer is no (Twitter links). The Suns are much more likely to convert Saben Lee‘s two-way contract to a standard deal, according to Gambadoro, who says (via Twitter) the odds of that happening are “very high.” It’s worth noting that Lee, who was the 38th pick of the 2020 draft, is in his fourth NBA season — he will not be eligible for two-way contracts in 2024/25 and beyond.
  • After building an early lead on Wednesday against the Nuggets, the Kings wound up being blown out in Denver without star point guard De’Aaron Fox, writes Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. Fox, who sustained a left knee contusion in Monday’s loss to Miami, went through the team’s shootaround yesterday morning and his pregame shooting routine prior to being ruled out, which seemingly indicates the injury is relatively minor.
  • According to Biderman, guard Kevin Huerter was frustrated with his lack of playing time following Wednesday’s game, in which he played just 18 minutes. “I don’t know if I could put my finger on one (thing),” Huerter said of the Kings being outscored by 35 points over the second and third quarters. “I wish I was out there to help us more though.” Huerter declined to expand on those comments, but Biderman points out that the 25-year-old is playing a career-low 25.2 minutes per game and briefly lost his starting job in December before reclaiming it.
  • After missing the previous 14 games with a right ankle sprain, Lakers wing Cam Reddish returned to action in Wednesday’s win over the Clippers, per Khobi Price of The Southern Califnornia News Group. The former lottery pick played 20 minutes and supplanted second-year guard/forward Max Christie in the rotation, Price adds.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Hield, Lowry, Melton, Harris

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Sixers star Joel Embiid said that while “everything has to go right” in his recovery process in order to return to action this season, he still hopes to come back at some point (Twitter video link via Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer).

There’s really no timeline,” Embiid said. ” … You can never tell how the body reacts, especially once you start ramping up. So, it all depends on how it feels. If it feels great, then that’s good. And if it doesn’t feel like it’s right, then you gotta keep going.”

When asked why he wanted to return this season after undergoing knee surgery to repair his torn lateral meniscus, Embiid said his motivation was simple.

I just love playing basketball,” he said. “I want to be on the floor as much as possible. I only have about 20 years to do this, so any chance that I get, I want to be out on the floor. It doesn’t really matter where we are (in the standings), just want to play as much as we can and try to help us.”

Embiid also confirmed that he still plans to play for Team USA in the Olympics this summer.

It’s the same mindset: If I feel good, I’m playing,” Embiid said. “If it doesn’t feel right, then (I’ve) gotta make those tough decisions. … It’s all about how I feel.”

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Embiid admitted he’d been battling knee pain for some time leading up to the last game he played in late January, when Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga fell on his knee while diving for a loose ball, per PHLY Sixers (Twitter video link). “For really, two months, I was not at 100 percent,” Embiid. “I was not even close to it. And I just felt the need to give it my all to the team, and just wanted to win because I know I can add that to this basketball team.” Still, Embiid said he wouldn’t have changed his approach.
  • The seven-time All-Star also praised Philadelphia’s moves before and after the trade deadline, particularly the additions of Buddy Hield and Kyle Lowry, saying it was “as good as (the front office) could do” under the circumstances, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Embiid said he was excited to develop synergy with Hield and added that Lowry is still “really freaking good” despite being at the tail end of his illustrious career.
  • After battling a back injury that caused him to miss 18 straight games, guard De’Anthony Melton returned to action last Friday against Cleveland. However, he exited Tuesday’s loss to Boston after just nine minutes due to back spasms and has been ruled out for Friday’s contest vs. Charlotte, head coach Nick Nurse told reporters, including Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).
  • Veteran forward Tobias Harris has been in an offensive rut of late, averaging just 10.8 PPG on 31.3% shooting from the floor over the past five games. Nurse discussed what he’d like to see from Harris going forward, according to PHLY Sixers (via Twitter). “I want him to just let it come to him a little bit, and I certainly want him to do other things,” Nurse said. “You still gotta defend, and rebound, and draw offense for other people, set screens, and make sure it’s not, like, totally wrapped up in trying to get off the slump. I think he’s doing that.”

Hawks Waive Patty Mills, Convert Trent Forrest To Standard Deal

12:30pm: The Hawks have officially waived Mills, the team announced in a press release. Forrest’s promotion to the standard roster is also official, the club confirmed in a second release.


8:14am: The Hawks will place veteran guard Patty Mills on waivers, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Mills, 35, was traded three times last July before winding up in Atlanta. He has appeared in just 19 games this season and hasn’t played since February 7.

In his 15th NBA season, Mills is averaging 2.7 points, 1.1 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 10.6 minutes per night, but he’s shooting 38.2% from three-point range, so he could have value for a contending team seeking an experienced shooter.

Assuming Mills is waived by the end of the day on Friday, he will be eligible to appear in the playoffs if he signs with another club by the end of the season. He has a $6.8MM expiring contract, so the Hawks won’t owe him any money beyond this season.

The Hawks will use the open roster spot to convert two-way guard Trent Forrest to a standard NBA contract, Charania tweets. The move will make Forrest eligible to play again — he had already reached his limit of 50 active games as a two-way player, even though he has only appeared in 20 of them, averaging 2.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 10.5 minutes per night off Atlanta’s bench.

Forrest, 25, is in his second season with Atlanta after signing a two-way deal with the team in the summer of 2022. Prior to that, he spent two years in Utah.

The Hawks now have a full 15-man roster and a two-way opening that can be filled through March 4.

Rockets Notes: Smith, Green, Trade Assets, Udoka

Jabari Smith spent the All-Star break figuring out how to have a strong finish to his second NBA season, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. While Smith has improved since his rookie year, especially in terms of shooting, he still believes he can take his game to new levels. He has responded to the week of introspection by averaging 20.0 points and 15.3 rebounds over his last three games.

“For sure, it was an examination, just trying to figure out how can I improve, how can I help the team win,” Smith said. “I’m a big part of the team, and I feel like my play affects winning a lot. I just tried to figure out ways I can affect the game and ways I can improve and ways I need to improve. (Self-examination) is something that’s just natural at the break. You kind of just see the first half of the season and find things to improve. Us finishing going into the break how we did (with a loss at Memphis), you kind of look in the mirror.”

The third pick in the 2022 draft, Smith earned second-team All-Rookie honors last season. However, he struggled with his three-point shot early in his career and wasn’t able to find a consistent role the Rockets’ offense.

“I feel more sure, more like I belong,” Smith said. “Last year, I was very unsure, floating around, not knowing what to do. Now I have more knowledge, and I’m more confident. I feel like it’s been not what I want it to be, but it has been better than last year. There’s definitely some bright spots to it, but definitely not where I want to be.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • There’s not much chance Jalen Green will be moved to the bench for the rest of the season, Kelly Iko of The Athletic states in a mailbag column. Coach Ime Udoka refused to discuss the possibility when Iko asked about it earlier in the year, and Iko doesn’t believe Udoka would consider the move now, even though Green has frequently been sitting out the fourth quarter in favor of rookie Amen Thompson. Iko acknowledges that Green is frustrated about his current situation, but notes that his decision-making is improving and he benefits from playing alongside the other starters.
  • Although the Rockets are counting on more internal improvement, a trade is their best path toward improving this summer, Iko adds in the same piece. They have plenty of young talent and veteran contracts to match salaries if a star becomes available, along with a Brooklyn first-round pick that appears likely to land in the top 10 in this year’s draft.
  • Udoka picked up a technical foul Tuesday at Oklahoma City and now leads all NBA coaches with 10, Feigen writes in a separate story. Udoka will receive an automatic one-game suspension if he reaches 16.