And-Ones: K. Smith, NBL, Salary Cap, Ishbia, Gilbert

Former NBA champion and current TNT analyst Kenny Smith is getting involved in Australia’s National Basketball League, according to a press release. Smith has been appointed as the head of the NBL’s Next Stars player initiative and will “actively recruit, develop and mentor new Next Stars players” in that role.

The Next Stars initiative has served as an alternative to college basketball (or to the G League Ignite) for NBA prospects who are not yet draft-eligible, with LaMelo Ball, Josh Giddey, R.J. Hampton, and Ousmane Dieng among the notable players who have chosen that path. Alexandre Sarr, a candidate to be this year’s No. 1 overall pick, is currently in the program.

“Legitimate pathways to the NBA are evolving, and the NBL has a proven track record of getting players drafted,” Smith said in a statement. “The NBL identified a key role for me to mentor and support young talent and equip them with the tools to compete at a professional level with a view to making the leap into the NBA.”

In addition to heading up the Next Stars initiative, Smith will also become the part-owner of an NBL expansion team that will be announced in the near future, according to the announcement.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA shared new salary cap projections for 2024/25 with its teams this week, but the estimated figures haven’t changed since January’s update, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). As Wojnarowski relays, the cap is still projected to be $141MM next season.
  • Suns owner Mat Ishbia has been in the news for non-basketball reasons over the past week. Baxter Holmes of ESPN put out a story detailing the feud between Ishibia and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert due to the billionaires’ rival mortgage companies, while Hunterbrook Media published an investigative report about the questionable legality of Ishbia’s business practices as the CEO and chairman of United Wholesale Mortgage. As Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic details, Ishbia suggested during a media session that Hunterbrook’s investigation was funded Gilbert’s Rocket Mortgage, which a Rocket Mortgage spokesperson adamantly denied.
  • Noting that the teams near the bottom of the NBA’s standings have been historically bad since the All-Star break, John Hollinger of The Athletic considers ways the league might address the issue and improve its product in March. Hollinger suggests eliminating the buyout market entirely and making any player waived after the trade deadline ineligible for the postseason, but acknowledges that the impact may be marginal.
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