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Luka Doncic To Get Five-Year, Max Salary Extension

The Mavericks are ready to give star guard Luka Doncic a five-year extension worth an estimated $202MM, tweets veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein.

However, no formal talks will take place until after Doncic is finished with the Olympics this week. His Slovenian team is in the medal round after breezing to three victories in preliminary games.

Doncic, 22, has emerged as one of the NBA’s top players after three seasons in the league. He averaged 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists in 66 games this year, earning first-team All-NBA honors for the second straight season.

Doncic was named Rookie of the Year in 2019 and is a two-time All-Star. He was highly decorated before coming to the NBA, winning MVP and Final Four MVP awards in the EuroLeague in 2018.

Doncic’s extension, which would have a starting salary worth 30% of the cap, would take effect in the 2022/23 season and would keep him under contract through the summer of 2027.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Harrison, Doncic, Pelicans, Green, Kidd

Newly-hired Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison hopes to make Dallas a compelling free-agent destination, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News writes. The goal, Harrison said, is to instill a culture that players want to be a part of.

“My approach is really simple,” he explained. “It’s going to be about servant leadership that kind of empowers the team and the staff to be at their best.”

Harrison understands that leadership must start at the top of an organization. Dallas lost longtime president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and head coach Rick Carlisle this offseason, replacing them with Harrison and new coach Jason Kidd.

The team finished with a 42-30 record this season and has an All-NBA superstar in Luka Doncic, a 22-year-old wunderkind that could aid in Harrison’s mission to entice players and build a culture.

There’s more from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News examined the Mavericks‘ plan for Doncic next season. “It’s tough to nitpick an All-NBA player,” Harrison said. “The best thing you can do is surround him by a Hall of Fame coach (Kidd) who played his position and let those two vibe off each other. I think that’s going to help him tremendously.” Doncic averaged 27.7 points, eight rebounds and 8.6 assists per game this season.
  • Christian Clark, Rod Walker and Scott Kushner of The Times-Picayune grade the Pelicans‘ hire of Willie Green as head coach. Green, a former NBA player, will finish the season as an assistant coach with the Suns before reporting for New Orleans.
  • Jason Kidd has been in discussions with former Mavericks players Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea about joining his coaching staff, according to Mavs.com. All three players hold several years of playing experience and were on the team’s 2011 championship roster with Kidd.

Olympic Notes: Booker, Middleton, Holiday, McGee, Robinson, Top Players

Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are expected to be available to play in Team USA’s Sunday morning opener, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. The Bucks duo joined Booker in Seattle on Friday to take a private plane to Tokyo. The Finals trio won’t get a chance to practice with the team but coach Gregg Popovich would like to play them right away against France.

We have more Olympic-related news and tidbits:

  • JaVale McGee is a much different player than the man he replaced, Kevin Love, on Team USA. That forces Popovich to alter his frontcourt strategy and McGee may be nothing more than an insurance policy against France, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes.
  • Heat wing Duncan Robinson claimed on The Long Shot Podcast that he nearly replaced Bradley Beal on Team USA’s roster, as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald relays. “It basically got to the point where like it started to pick up some momentum and it looked like it was going to happen,” Robinson said. Keldon Johnson was eventually chosen as Beal’s replacement.
  • Many of the other teams in the Olympics could threaten Team USA in its quest for gold and Vardon takes a closer look at the other 11 squads and their chances of knocking off the American contingent.
  • Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard head HoopsHype’s Frank Urbina’s Olympic player rankings. Doncic edged out Durant due to the fact he’ll likely put up big numbers for Slovenia. Urbina lists his top 30 players in Tokyo.

Southwest Notes: Kidd, Pelicans Draft Choices, Pelicans Roundup

New Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd joined ESPN’s The Jump on Wednesday to discuss his time with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, as well as what’s in store for his relationship with Luka Doncic in Dallas.

Asked about what he was focused on helping Doncic improve on, Kidd replied, “My job is to help make the game easier for him. Understanding the game within the game. Understanding how to get guys going, becoming a better leader.”

Kidd was also asked about Kristaps Porzingis. “Getting KP back to what he did in New York,” Kidd said. “Putting the ball on the floor, one dribble stop-and-pop… I remember a lotta highlights when he was putting the ball on someone’s head. So getting him back to that era in his basketball when he was having fun.”

We have more from around the Southwest Division:

  • In part one of his offseason mailbag, The Athletic’s Will Guillory explored some of the big questions of the Pelicans’ offseason. One such question regarded whether the disappointing seasons of Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams were more about personal decline or bad fit with the team’s stars. Guillory maintained that Adams, who had trouble fitting in, has been serious about adding a three-point shot to extend his career, and that he’s been “shooting the snot out of the ball,” according to a source. But he also warns that Bledsoe could face boos at home if he’s still on the roster next season.
  • Guillory also confirms that many believe Jacque Vaughn was the favorite for the Pelicans’ head coaching position before withdrawing, but that Willie Green won many in the front office over immediately upon his first meeting with them.
  • In a piece for NOLA.com, Pelicans beat writer Christian Clark breaks down five prospects the Pelicans are likely to consider with the 10th pick in the draft. Clark quotes executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin on the need to improve the roster construction: “We need to make the pieces fit a little bit better. I think you could all see that this was a rather wonky group at times.” Clark names Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy, Moses Moody and others, in a clear sign that wing shooting is going to be at a premium for New Orleans

Coaching/Front Office Notes: Watson, Raptors, Kokoskov, Mavs, More

Former Suns head coach Earl Watson appears set to return to the sidelines for an NBA team, as Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter) that Watson is finalizing a deal to join the Raptors. Watson – who was pursued by multiple teams, according to Haynes – would be an assistant on Nick Nurse‘s staff. Watson hasn’t coached in the NBA since 2017, but Devin Booker has credited the former Phoenix coach for his accelerated development at the NBA level, Haynes notes.

Here are a few more notes on coaching and front office hires from around the NBA:

  • Veteran assistant Popeye Jones, who spent over a decade in the NBA as a player, will leave the Sixers to take a job on Michael Malone‘s staff with the Nuggets, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). Marc Stein first reported (via Twitter) that Jones – a former Nuggets player – was emerging as a strong candidate to be hired by Denver.
  • Turkish club Fenerbahce officially announced today that head coach Igor Kokoskov won’t return to the team next season. As previously rumored, the former Suns coach is on track to take a job on Jason Kidd‘s staff with the Mavericks, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. In Dallas, Kokoskov will get the opportunity to reunite with Luka Doncic, whom he coached on the Slovenian national team in 2017.
  • Speaking of the Mavericks, they’ve hired Nets salary cap strategist Andrew Baker for a senior role in their front office under new president of basketball operations Nico Harrison, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
  • Fischer also identifies Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson and Pelicans assistant GM Bryson Graham as two potential targets for the Celtics as they seek a general manager under new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens.

2021 NBA Offseason Preview: Dallas Mavericks

When the Mavericks acquired Kristaps Porzingis from New York in 2019, they envisioned him as half of a superstar duo alongside Luka Doncic for the next decade. But Porzingis, who flashed star potential in his early years with the Knicks, has plateaued in recent years as ongoing injury problems and his lack of defensive versatility have limited his ability to make a huge on-court impact.

Without a reliable go-to second option in the playoffs – where Porzingis averaged just 13.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG – the Mavs have been unable to break through so far, despite Doncic giving the Clippers all they could handle in the first round for two straight years (including 35.7 PPG and 10.3 APG in Dallas’ seven-game series loss this spring).

Strengthening the supporting cast around Doncic will be the primary goal going forward for the new-look front office, which includes longtime Nike executive Nico Harrison as Dallas’ new general manager. Harrison stepped in following the departure of veteran executive Donnie Nelson.

Meanwhile, it’ll be up to new head coach Jason Kidd to get the most of out the Mavs’ roster. Kidd’s two previous stints running the show in Brooklyn and Milwaukee were up and down, and he’ll have big shoes to fill in replacing Rick Carlisle, who was the NBA’s third longest-tenured head coach. But there’s optimism that Kidd has learned from past mistakes and – as a Hall-of-Fame point guard himself – will be a good mentor for Doncic.


The Mavericks’ Offseason Plan:

The 2021/22 season will likely be the last time for the next 10 or 15 years that Doncic is earning less than the maximum salary, so it would be a good time for the Mavericks to take advantage of their financial flexibility. Besides Porzingis, no one on the roster is currently on the books for more than about $11MM next season.

Unfortunately, the Porzingis contract is an issue. He’ll earn $31.65MM in ’21/22 and a total of $101.5MM over the next three seasons, and he hasn’t lived up to that salary so far. Trading him is an option, but the Mavs will be loath to sell low on the 25-year-old rather than hoping for better injury luck going forward, which might allow Porzingis to rebuild his value.

The contract situations of Josh Richardson and Tim Hardaway Jr. will also compromise the Mavs’ offseason flexibility. Richardson had a somewhat underwhelming first year in Dallas and now seems like a good bet to pick up his $11.6MM player option, cutting into the team’s potential cap room. And if the Mavs want to re-sign Hardaway, an unrestricted free agent, they may end up without any cap room at all, instead operating over the cap and gaining access to the full mid-level exception.

Even if the Mavs, who have traded away both of their 2021 draft picks, can add a solid rotation player with the MLE, they likely won’t be satisfied with simply running back a similar group next season, so I’d expect them to be active on the trade market. Even if a favorable Porzingis deal doesn’t materialize, other veterans – including Dwight Powell and Trey Burke – could be shopped.

Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson are terrific bargains for the time being, but are entering contract years and will get more expensive in 2022. If Dallas isn’t able to lock them up to team-friendly extensions this year and isn’t confident in its ability to re-sign them to reasonable deals in unrestricted free agency, the idea of trading them should at least be considered.

The Mavs will also have to reassess 2020 draftees Josh Green and Tyrell Terry, neither of whom had a great rookie season. Their value has dropped, so they may not be especially useful trade chips, in which case Dallas will have to focus on developing them into useful role players.

Perhaps the simplest move of the Mavs’ offseason will be signing Doncic to a maximum-salary rookie scale extension that projects to pay him north of $200MM over five seasons. Ideally, Dallas would avoid adding a fifth-year player option to that deal, but if Doncic insists on it, the club will have to relent.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap projections are based on a presumed 3% increase, which would result in a $112.4MM cap for 2021/22.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • None

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Luka Doncic (rookie scale)
  • Jalen Brunson (veteran)
  • Dorian Finney-Smith (veteran)
  • Maxi Kleber (veteran)
  • Dwight Powell (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

If we assume Brunson is retained (a safe bet) and Richardson opts in, that increases the Mavs’ guarantees to nearly $87MM for 10 roster spots. Letting everyone else walk would leave Dallas with upwards of $24MM in cap room.

However, if Hardaway re-signs at a number in the neighborhood of his previous salary ($18.98MM), that cap space essentially goes away, and Dallas will be operating over the cap. The team’s outlook could change if it adds or subtracts salary in trades or if Hardaway wants to play elsewhere. For now though, my working assumption is that the team will try to re-sign the free agent wing and will use its full mid-level rather than dipping under the cap.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $9,536,000 3
  • Bi-annual exception: $3,732,000 3
  • Trade exception: $1,678,854

Footnotes

  1. Brunson’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after August 2.
  2. Melli has reached a contract agreement with Italian team Olimpia Milano. The Mavericks could still make the procedural move of tendering him a qualifying offer if they want to retain matching rights in the event of his return to the NBA.
  3. These are projected values. If the Mavericks decide to operate under the cap, they’d forfeit these exceptions and their trade exception and would instead gain access to the room exception ($4.9MM).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders, RealGM, and ESPN was used in the creation of this post.

Mavs Rumors: Front Office, Voulgaris, Doncic, Carlisle

Haralabos Voulgaris, a well-known sports gambler who was hired by the Mavericks in 2018 as the team’s director of quantitative research and development, has gained an outsized influence in the front office, Tim Cato and Sam Amick write in a fascinating new report for The Athletic.

Multiple team and league sources tell Cato and Amick that Voulgaris has either initiated or approved virtually every one of Dallas’ roster moves within the last two years and has had input on Rick Carlisle‘s lineups and rotations. Although president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson continued to take the lead on major transactions, Voulgaris’ influence has been virtually on par with Nelson’s, The Athletic duo suggests.

“We had two general managers,” one team source told Cato and Amick.

Voulgaris’ relationship with team owner Mark Cuban paved the way for him to become a significant voice in the Mavs’ front office, and Cuban told The Athletic that he “really” likes what Voulgaris brings to the table, downplaying the idea that he has more influence than “any other data source on the team.” However, Voulgaris’ personality and decision-making has bothered other members of the front office during his tenure with the club.

“What did (he) sell to Mark to make him believe (he) can do this? Nobody knows,” one source with “intimate knowledge” of the situation told The Athletic. That same source added: “He doesn’t know how to talk to people.”

Earlier this year, Voulgaris appeared poised to gain further control in the front office, but now his contract is set to expire and his future with the Mavs is uncertain, according to Cato and Amick. One major factor the team must consider is the fact that superstar Luka Doncic doesn’t seem to be on particular good terms with Voulgaris — The Athletic’s report describes the pair as having a “strained relationship.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Cato and Amick point to the 2020 draft as a “particularly egregious example” of Voulgaris’ front office power, reporting that members of the scouting department – who were part of the team’s war room via Zoom – were surprised when they weren’t consulted for the Mavs’ selections of Josh Green and Tyrell Terry. The club’s scouts disagreed with Voulgaris on at least one of those players, per The Athletic.
  • Despite the fact that Doncic isn’t on great terms with some members of the Mavericks organization, including Voulgaris, the two-time All-Star has a “healthy relationship” with the organization at large, per Cato and Amick. Multiple sources tell The Athletic that Luka intends to sign a super-max contract extension with the Mavs once he’s eligible this offseason. Still, the franchise is starting to feel some urgency to upgrade the roster to make it a legit title contender, and to ensure Doncic will want to stick around beyond his second contract.
  • Some of Cato’s and Amick’s sources were surprised to see Cuban publicly endorse head coach Rick Carlisle so quickly – and so forcefully – after Dallas’ first-round exit. According to The Athletic’s report, there was a sense during the season that Carlisle’s future might be in the air beyond this season, and that some players were frustrated with his rotation decisions. However, Carlisle proved to be adaptable and made modifications to relieve that tension, presumably giving the Mavs the confidence to stick with him going forward.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Adams, Reynolds, Rockets

Luka Doncic‘s neck strain appears to be improving heading into Wednesday’s pivotal Game 5 against the Clippers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The Mavericks superstar downplayed the nerve issue in his neck after his subpar shooting performance in Game 4, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. “Injuries are part of basketball, but I was 100 percent,” Doncic said. “I played terrible, so just got to move on to next one.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans handed center Steven Adams a two-year, $35MM extension in November but they may be having second thoughts about that decision, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. While Adams is a beloved teammate, there are major questions regarding his on-court fit and durability, which may compel the front office to explore trade options.
  • Cameron Reynolds has an uphill climb to remain with the Rockets, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle opines. An excess of players at the the wing positions could make it difficult to Reynolds to work his way into the team’s plans. He was signed on a 10-day deal using the hardship provision in the last week of the regular season. He appeared in two games, including a 31-minute stint against San Antonio.
  • The Rockets own three first-round picks, though they would have to convey their highest pick to Oklahoma City as part of a pick swap if they slide out of the top four in the draft lottery. Feigen takes a look at the prospects in each of the areas where the Rockets might be selecting.

Western Notes: Doncic, K. Antetokounmpo, Ibaka, Warriors

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic was available to play in Game 4 against the Clippers on Sunday night, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported he would. Doncic suffered a strained neck in Game 3 and his status was uncertain at the time.

“It’s just weird,” Doncic said of his injury, which also caused some pain in his left arm. “Just some massage, some ice and hopefully it will be good.”

Doncic has played some of the best basketball of his career this series, averaging 38 points, 8.7 rebounds and nine assists through three games. He’s also shot 52% from the floor and 46% from behind-the-arc.

There’s more from the Western Conference tonight:

  • Lakers forward Kostas Antetokounmpo has been attending to a personal matter in Greece, explaining his recent absence from the team, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Antetokoumpo is currently on a two-way contract with the club. There’s optimism that he could return if the Lakers advance past the Suns in the first round, the duo notes.
  • Clippers big man Serge Ibaka missed Game 4 due to lingering back soreness, as first reported by Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Ibaka has provided valuable production when healthy, averaging 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 23.3 minutes in 41 games this season.
  • The Warriors still have a ways to go before returning to contention, says Moke Hamilton of Basketball News. Golden State played without Klay Thompson (torn Achilles’ rehab) this season, though Thompson is expected to return for 2021-22. The team would have its championship trio of Stephen Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green to build around for the future.

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Doncic, Melli, Olynyk

Zion Williamson will be eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer, which makes the next 12 months critical for the Pelicans, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Although he has been hampered by injuries during his first two NBA seasons, Williamson has been brilliant when he’s been on the court, averaging 25.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 85 combined games. He provides a foundation for New Orleans to build around, but the Pelicans will need him to accept a long-term deal.

No player on a rookie scale contract has turned down a maximum-salary extension during the past decade, but Clark notes that Williamson’s circumstances are unusual. He’s already an All-Star at age 20 and he came into the NBA with a reported $75MM deal with Jordan Brand. He may not mind giving up a little bit of money to get to a larger market or a contending team. New Orleans is a combined 61-83 since adding Williamson and has missed the playoffs both years.

“My stepfather taught me different,” Williamson said at his exit interview. “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is kind of insane. So I’m not going to sit here and say we’re close. The reality of it is it was very disappointing not to be a part of the play-in tournament and stuff. We just have to come in and be better. That’s just me being real.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Luka Doncic is listed as questionable for today’s Game 4, but the Mavericks expect him to be available, according to Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic has a cervical strain and was feeling pain in his neck and left arm during Friday’s game. “I think he’s going to play, but we’ll see tomorrow,” coach Rick Carlisle told reporters Saturday. “Questionable, generally, from what I’ve seen this year with other teams and our team is more likely to play than not, in most cases.”
  • Olimpia Milano has interest in signing Mavericks big man Nicolò Melli after the playoffs, relays Dario Skerletic of Sportando. The original report came from Daniele Dallera of Corriere della Sera, who says Olimpia coach Ettore Messina has reached out to Melli’s agent several times. Melli spent five seasons with the team earlier in his career.
  • Kelly Olynyk exceeded expectations as a scorer and playmaker after the Rockets acquired him from Miami in March, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Olynyk will be an unrestricted free agent, but Houston has his Bird rights and a strong interest in keeping him on the roster.

Olympic Notes: Gallinari, Italy, Slovenia, Germany

Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari is interested in playing for Italy during the Olympics this summer, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. Gallinari is coming off a successful postseason run with Atlanta, averaging 12.8 points per game on 42% shooting from the field and 40.5% from deep.

“I still believe in the Olympics, and if the coach and federation give me the chance to go to the Olympics once we win this game today, I’d be honored to be a part of that team,” Gallinari said prior to the final game of the qualifying tournament in Serbia, according to Scotto.

Italy defeated Serbia in that qualifying game on Sunday, officially joining Australia, Nigeria and Germany in Group B for the Tokyo games.

Here are some other Olympic-related notes tonight:

  • Slovenia defeated Lithuania 96-85 to clinch a spot in the Olympics on Sunday, receiving a key performance from Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic in the outing, as relayed by the Associated Press and ESPN. Doncic finished with a triple-double, notching 31 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. “I don’t care about the MVP,” Doncic said. “We won here. We’re going to the Olympics, the first time in our country. It’s amazing. I think every kid dreams about being in the Olympics. I did, too. So, here we are. We fought really, really hard and I think we deserve to be here.”
  • Germany also qualified for the Olympic tournament on Sunday behind Moritz Wagner‘s 28 points, as relayed by Sportando. Germany defeated Brazil, which was led by Anderson Varejao‘s 14 points and four rebounds in the outing.
  • Greece and the Czech Republic are battling on Sunday night for the last spot in the 12-team Olympic men’s basketball tournament.

Olympic Notes: Holiday, Middleton, Booker, Hill

The U.S. Olympic team is about to get some reinforcements now that the NBA Finals are over, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. With the Bucks finishing off the Suns Tuesday night, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Devin Booker are all headed to Tokyo and are expected to be ready when the Americans open Olympic play on Sunday against France.

All three players will bring some welcome firepower to a team that went 2-2 in exhibition play. While they didn’t have the benefit of training with their new teammates, coach Gregg Popovich is confident that it won’t take long for everyone to adjust.

“Chemistry is something that we hope forms quickly,” Popovich said. “These guys get along very well. They haven’t played together but they know each other and they’re very happy to be here. They’ve sacrificed a lot under the circumstances to do this. The chemistry builds day by day, you can’t force that issue. It just happens organically. The three guys that are coming in will blend in as best they can and we’ll try to do a good job coaching-wise to put them in situations where they feel comfortable together.”

There’s more on the Olympics:

  • Despite the difficulty of going from one high-level competition to another, none of the three players in the Finals have any regrets about their Olympic decisions, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic“Yes, there is a component of playing for your country, playing for your family,” Holiday said. “My wife (former soccer star Lauren Cheney) being a two-time Olympian, was is also a factor, but I think not having a break and just feeling like, well, we’re in the Finals, why not just continue playing basketball.”
  • A busy schedule awaits Grant Hill after the Olympics, notes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Hill will replace Jerry Colangelo as managing director of USA Basketball and will have just a few months before qualifying begins for the 2023 Basketball World Cup. Hill won’t be at the Olympics because of limits on personnel that can travel with a team, but he has worked closely with Colangelo to prepare for the new role. “No question, these are big shoes to fill,” Hill said. “Jerry has been incredible. His vision, strategic thinking, his will to make this successful. … I’m amazed at many things I didn’t know about his various contributions to the game of basketball.”
  • Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gobert are the top players to watch in this year’s Games, The Athletic states in its guide to men’s Olympic basketball.

Texas Notes: Tate, Silas, DeRozan, Doncic

Rockets wing Jae’Sean Tate enjoyed being able to hone his raw defensive promise at the pro level in his rookie season, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

“If you pay attention to later in the season,” Tate told Iko, “I started to play without my hands and try to beat (players he was guarding) to the spot. I think my angles have improved tremendously since the beginning of the season, just picking my angles and how to cut people off.”

Iko notes that Rockets head coach Stephen Silas has entrusted a variety of defensive assignments across a variety of positions to the 6’4″ Tate, who ranks in the top 97th percentile of league players in his ability to guard all of the NBA’s positions.

“I’ve been grateful enough to be able to play different positions throughout this year,” Tate said of his positional versatility for the depleted Rockets this season. “And for them to give me that freedom to play point guard — I played a little bit a point guard (in the past) but to actually start at the one certain games and be the floor general where I got other younger players telling me to lead us out there — that was a big eye-opener for me because I’ve never been in a position like that.”

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Despite a lackluster season in Houston that will send the 17-55 Rockets to their first lottery appearance in years, new head coach Stephen Silas still has the approval of owner Tilman Fertitta, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
  • As Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan enters free agency, he is amenable to testing the market, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. The 32-year-old vet, a four-time All-Star during his time with the Raptors, acknowledged his appreciation for the three years he has spent in San Antonio. “It’s definitely an honor to play for this organization,” DeRozan said when the club’s season officially concluded this week. “Everything they did for me and how they treated me, it was definitely A1.”
  • Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic and his team are applying lessons learned during last season’s Orlando “bubble” playoffs for Dallas’ second consecutive first-round matchup with the Clippers, writes Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News“I think last year helped this year,” said Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith. “When the game goes down to the wire, we know we’ve got to get that one more stop or that one more rebound.” With Doncic and fellow prime Dallas scorer Kristaps Porzingis going cold in the fourth quarter, Doncic knew to turn to the team’s role players to help ice a Game 1 victory over the Clippers.

Doncic On Signing Supermax Extension: “I Think You Know The Answer”

Making his first comments since Sunday’s Game 7 loss to the Clippers, Mavericks star Luka Doncic discussed some of the pressing questions facing himself and the organization this summer.

The 22-year-old guard, who averaged 35 PPG, 10.3 APG and 7.9 RPG in his first round matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers, offered a strong, if playfully coy, hint about whether or not he plans on signing a supermax extension this summer. “I think you know the answer,” he said with a large smile, as tweeted by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

As relayed by ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Doncic is set to become the first rookie in league history to sign a rookie max extension worth over $200MM. The deal, should he sign it, would begin in 2022/23 and would be worth approximately $201.5MM over five years, based on current cap projections. Marc Stein of The New York Times confirms (via Twitter) that the Mavs plan to put that offer on the table once free agency begins in August.

Doncic will officially qualify for the supermax (30% of the cap instead of 25%) once he’s formally named to this year’s All-NBA team, since he made last year’s All-NBA squad as well. Players need to make the All-NBA team in the season before the extension takes effect or in two of the previous three seasons in order to be supermax-eligible.

Doncic also reaffirmed his commitment to his partnership with Kristaps Porzingis, despite whispers that the two aren’t exactly the closest of friends. “He’s a great player. I think we’ve got to use him more, and that’s it,” Doncic said of Porzingis (Twitter link via Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News).

The Latvian big man was brought in via trade in 2019 and subsequently signed to a max contract, but the last two seasons have been riddled with injuries and up-and-down play. He averaged 20 points and nearly nine rebounds per game, but his once-vaunted defense seemed to slip, resulting in a career-low blocks per game. In the playoffs this year, he averaged just 13 PPG and 5.4 RPG in 33 minutes a night.

Finally, Doncic confirmed that he will be joining the Slovenian national team soon to help lead them through the Olympic qualifying rounds. Though the team has never qualified for the Olympics before, Doncic was part of the group, along with Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic and former NBA forward Anthony Randolph, that won the 2017 EuroBasket championship. Doncic is hoping to carry that success to this year’s qualifiers, and to lead his team to the Tokyo Olympics.

No vacation,” he said, as tweeted by Stein.

Injury Updates: Walker, Williams, KCP, Doncic, Kleber, T. Antetokounmpo

With the Celtics facing elimination, Kemba Walker and Robert Williams have been declared out for Game 5 against the Nets on Tuesday, Malika Andrews of ESPN tweets. Walker (left knee bone bruise) and Williams (left ankle sprain) had previously been listed as doubtful. Neither played in Game 4 after exiting Game 3 in the early going.

We have more injury updates:

  • Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is expected to return to the lineup for Game 5 against Phoenix on Tuesday, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. He missed Game 4 with a sore left knee.
  • The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (neck strain) and Maxi Kleber (right Achilles soreness) are listed as probable to play Game 5 on Wednesday, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News tweets.
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo isn’t doing any contact work yet but “he did most, if not all of the non-contact portion of (Tuesday’s) practice,” according to Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, as Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. He suffered an avulsion fracture to his right patella tendon suffered on May 16.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Doncic, Ball, Wood

Thursday is the first day the Pelicans can sign another player to fill their 15th roster spot and avoid the luxury tax, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic.  Hollinger crunched the numbers after the Pelicans signed Didi Louzada, whose $123,056 salary as a draft rookie counts $98,940 less than a veteran signed to the same spot. On Thursday, New Orleans could sign a veteran to a rest-of-the-season deal for $122,097 and stay under the tax by $8,651.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks star point man Luka Doncic is in danger of being assessed a mandatory one-game league suspension, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. Doncic has 14 technical fouls this season after getting ejected from Dallas’ 111-99 loss to the Kings on Sunday. If he gets another technical, he’ll reach the league’s threshold of 15 technicals, which triggers a suspension. Doncic promises to avoid that scenario. “I won’t get another one,” he said.
  • Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball will head into free agency this summer and wherever he lands next season, he plans to prove he’s one of the top point guards in the league, as he told Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). “Being an All-Star is definitely my next goal on the list and I think that should be coming up pretty soon,” he said. The Pelicans must extend a $14.36MM qualifying offer to make Ball a restricted free agent.
  • The status of Rockets big man Christian Wood this week and the remainder of the season is in doubt. Wood said he’ll likely to need to sit out at least a couple of games, Mark Berman of FOX26 tweets“Right now with my ankle and my quad, I’m not sure about (playing) the next couple games,” he said.

Injury Notes: Davis, KCP, Paul, Doncic, R. Williams, Walker

Anthony Davis is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s Game 4 with Phoenix, but the Lakers star doesn’t see any question about his status, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s no chance that I don’t play tomorrow,” Davis said after today’s practice. “As a player, I’ve wanted to be in this moment. You want to be in the playoffs and help contribute to my team’s success. I want to be out there. So in my eyes, for me as a competitor, I think I’ll be out there tomorrow.”

Davis suffered a hyperextended left knee after landing awkwardly on a chase-down block in Game 3. He was able to play 40 minutes in the victory, even though he was in pain for the rest of the night. Davis said he didn’t need an MRI, but there has been swelling in the knee and he’s been wearing a compression sleeve.

“I haven’t mentioned or talked about a brace,” he said. “But if that’s going to help, then I don’t mind going back to the 1970s brace.”

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • The Lakers are also listing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as questionable after he hurt his left knee and quad area in Thursday’s game, McMenamin adds. Coach Frank Vogel said he’s hopeful that both players will be available.
  • Suns guard Chris Paul sat out today’s practice and is still experiencing pain in his left shoulder, tweets NBA writer Gina Mizell. Coach Monty Williams said the team’s medical staff told him Paul is “ready to play, and that’s all I can go off of.”
  • The Mavericks are listing Luka Doncic as questionable for Sunday with a cervical strain, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Doncic said he began feeling pain in his neck around halftime Friday night and it eventually spread down his left arm. “It’s just weird,” he said. “Just some massage, some ice and hopefully it will be good.”
  • Celtics center Robert Williams has been downgraded to doubtful for Sunday, according to Brian Robb of MassLive. Williams had an awkward landing in the first quarter Friday night and didn’t return to the game after playing just six minutes. He has also been dealing with turf toe for the past month. “Rob’s doubtful,” coach Brad Stevens said after today’s practice. “He probably won’t do anything in the morning and see how he feels as we get closer to game time. But you saw him last night, even in his stint, I thought he looked pretty limited. We’re hopeful to have everybody available, but at least in Rob’s case I’d say that’s probably doubtful.”
  • Celtics guard Kemba Walker is listed as questionable for the second straight game with a bone bruise in his knee, Robb adds. Walker played in Game 3, but shot just 3-of-14 from the field and had five turnovers. “Kemba was sore today,” Stevens said. “I think that he’ll go through stuff in the morning tomorrow and have a better idea on him.”

Kings Unlikely To Include De’Aaron Fox In A Ben Simmons Offer

The Kings are among the “known suitors” who would like to get Ben Simmons from the Sixers, but they aren’t likely to part with De’Aaron Fox, sources tell Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Numerous reports have stated that Philadelphia is putting a high asking price on Simmons and is hoping to get an All-Star player in return. Fox hasn’t been an All-Star yet, but he has been extremely productive in his first four NBA seasons and is part of the young foundation in Sacramento. He averaged 25.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 58 games this year while shooting 47.7% from the field and 32.2% from three-point range. He’s also under contract for the next five years.

Anderson states that the Kings are more likely to offer a package that includes shooting guard Buddy Hield, power forward Marvin Bagley III, and multiple future first-round picks. A league source told Anderson that Sacramento would have to give up at least three first-rounders to make the deal work, while another source said the Sixers wouldn’t have any interest unless Fox or rookie guard Tyrese Haliburton is part of the offer.

Hield would fill a need for the Sixers, who ranked 23rd in the league in made three-pointers this season, Anderson notes. He’s a career 40.6% shooter from beyond the arc and holds the league record for most three-pointers made in his first five seasons.

Bagley is a talented young player who so far is best known for being selected ahead of Luka Doncic and Trae Young in the 2018 draft. He has missed a combined 108 games due to injury in first three NBA seasons and has been part of public disputes with the Kings about playing time and his future with the organization.

Mavs Notes: Hardaway, Arena Capacity, Doncic-KP, Barea

Mavericks swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. has had a terrific year for Dallas, but Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News wonders if the reserve wing will look for greater opportunity in unrestricted free agency this summer. Hardaway is in the final season of a four-year, $71MM deal he initially inked with the Knicks.

Hardaway has been primarily a bench contributor to the Mavericks this season, having been a reserve in 49 of the 70 games he has played. Townsend notes that Hardaway’s play has positioned him as a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate for 2020/21. “If I go on the bench, I think this bench that we have is deep,” Hardaway said. “Whether I’m starting, whether I’m coming off the bench, it’s just me trying to be aggressive and be the best basketball player I can be for the team.”

“(Mavericks head coach) Rick Carlisle’s done a great job with him,” raved Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue. “He’s playing at a high level right now. I think he’s their X-factor.” 

There’s more out of Dallas:

  • The capacity of the Mavericks’ home arena, American Airlines Center, has been boosted to 12,000 fans for the playoffs, writes Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Team owner Mark Cuban said he would prefer to have full-capacity crowds, but amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA is still imposing crowd capacity restrictions. “Now we know we’ll be at at least (12,000), and we’re pushing if we can get some modifications done to the arena in time to get to (15,000),” Cuban said in an interview with local radio station 105.3 KRLD-FM The Fan.
  • The ability of Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic and forward Kristaps Porzingis to thrive alongside one another will not only dictate the team’s playoff ceiling this spring, but will have an impact on the team’s long-term future, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic.
  • Former Mavericks reserve point guard J.J. Barea, who recently joined Cangrejeros de Santurce in his native Puerto Rico, spoke with Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News in an extended conversation. Barea notes that his NBA career appears close to over, but he would relish the opportunity to perhaps return to Dallas as an assistant coach. “I want to stay in contact with the team for the next couple years, and then definitely, when a coaching job opens up, I want to keep getting my experience ready for coaching,” Barea said. “I would love to work for the Mavericks and be in Dallas and be a part of the Mavericks forever.”

Mavericks Notes: Kokoskov, St. Jean, Front Office, Porzingis

The Mavericks are working on adding former Suns head coach and current Fenerbahce coach Igor Kokoskov to Jason Kidd‘s staff as an assistant, according to multiple reports. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) first reported that Dallas was targeting Kokoskov, while Marc Stein (Twitter link) said there’s “tangible optimism” the Mavs will be able to hire him.

As Stein explains (via Twitter), Kokoskov is technically still under contract with Fenerbahce in the EuroLeague, so the Mavs and the Turkish club would have to come to some sort of agreement releasing him from that deal.

In addition to coaching the Suns for one season (2018/19), Kokoskov has worked as an assistant for seven other NBA teams. He and Kidd never overlapped at any of those spots, but Kokoskov does have one noteworthy connection to the current Mavs — he was the head coach of the Slovenian team that won gold in the 2017 EuroBasket tournament, led by Luka Doncic.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • The Mavericks are also expected to hire Greg St. Jean to their coaching staff, Stein reports (via Twitter). As Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group observes (via Twitter), St. Jean has been a player development coach and advance scout for the Lakers for the last two years and is tight with Kidd.
  • At a Mavs’ press conference on Thursday, Nico Harrison was introduced as both the team’s general manager and president of basketball operations, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News notes (via Twitter). However, team owner Mark Cuban said he’ll still be the one making the final call on basketball decisions, tweets Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. I always do because it’s a lot of money,” Cuban said.
  • Cuban declined to say whether Haralabos Voulgaris is still with the Mavs, according to Caplan (Twitter link). A report last month indicated Voulgaris had gained an outsized influence within the team’s front office but wasn’t yet under contract beyond 2020/21.
  • While there has been speculation that the Mavs may explore trading Kristaps Porzingis this offseason, the team gave no indications on Thursday that such a move is in the cards. Kidd raved about Porzingis’ fit in Dallas and said he expects to see “a different KP” going forward, while Cuban said the big man has been “unfairly maligned” (Twitter links via Caplan).
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