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And-Ones: Game Ball, Mo Williams, Zion, Kobe

The NBA will be making a change to its on-court product starting in 2021/22 that figures to be felt by players — even if it’s hardly noticed by fans. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the NBA’s long-standing relationship with Spalding is coming to an end, as the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways. The league has reached a deal with Wilson to produce the NBA’s official game ball, starting in ’21/22.

As Haynes details, the NBA has been using Spalding balls since 1983, though Wilson manufactured the league’s game balls before that. Wilson, which will also begin producing balls for the WNBA and G League, is already the official game ball of the NCAA tournament.

According to Haynes, the NBA and NBPA will have a significant amount of input on the new game ball, and the leather and product specifications will remain unchanged, which should go a long way toward creating a smooth transition from Spalding to Wilson.

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

  • Former NBA guard Mo Williams has been hired by Alabama State as the school’s new men’s basketball head coach, according to a press release from the program. Williams, who had previously been an assistant coach at California State University at Northridge (CSUN), had a 13-year NBA career, earning an All-Star spot in 2009 and a championship in 2016, his final season.
  • The legal battle between Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and his former marketing representative – Prime Sports Marketing president Gina Ford – took another interesting step forward this week, as Ford’s attorneys are pushing to get Williamson to admit he accepted unauthorized benefits at Duke. Dana O’Neil and Diamond Leung of The Athletic and Michael McCann of SI.com have shared informative breakdowns explaining what to make of the latest developments in the case.
  • The facility previously known as the Mamba Sports Academy is dropping the “Mamba” moniker, announcing that it will retire that part of the name and “raise it to the rafters” in honor of the late Kobe Bryant. After initially stating that the decision was made out of respect for Kobe’s legacy, Sports Academy later clarified that “it was a mutual agreement made in accordance with the wishes of (Bryant’s) estate.”

The Value Of Mo Williams’ Contract

It has been a bizarre few months for Mo Williams, who was expected to serve as the Cavaliers’ backup point guard behind Kyrie Irving this season. Before training camp got underway, however, Williams’ agent informed Cavs GM David Griffin that his client was retiring. The news came just five days after Williams himself had tweeted about playing the 2016/17 season.

Williams later underwent surgery on a troublesome knee injury, having received a third opinion after two doctors advised the veteran point guard that he didn’t require surgery. At the time of his procedure, Williams appeared to take a veiled shot at the Cavs, writing on Instagram that no one cared about his health except him. Months later, there has been no indication that Williams plans on coming out of retirement anytime soon — he’s no longer represented by an agent, according to Jake Fischer of Liberty Ballers (Twitter link).

A funny thing happened to Williams during his absence from the NBA though. Despite the fact that Williams hasn’t appeared in a single game and likely won’t return to the court this season, his contract has become a hot commodity. The Cavaliers traded it to the Hawks, who in turn sent it to the Nuggets. Denver waived Williams, but Philadelphia claimed him off waivers. The Sixers cut him immediately, only to see the Nuggets claim Williams again.

So what exactly is going on here? Let’s start with the motivation for the Cavs and Hawks to use Williams’ contract in trades…

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Nuggets Claim Mo Williams Off Waivers

Mo Williams has been claimed off waivers by the Denver Nuggets, Marc Stein of ESPN reports (Twitter link). Denver is expected to immediately waive Williams, opening up a roster spot to retain Alonzo Gee on a 10-day contract, per Stein (Twitter link).

Williams, thought to be retired, has been involved in a number of transactions over the last month. The 34-year-old was dealt from Cleveland to Atlanta as a part of the Kyle Korver trade, and then flipped to Denver for the draft rights to Cenk Akyol. Williams was then waived, claimed by Philadelphia on January 20, and claimed once more by Denver today.

If the Sixers want to claim Williams off waivers again this week, they’ll have to either terminate Chasson Randle‘s 10-day contract early or waive one of the other 14 players on their roster — the team no longer has an open roster spot at its disposal.

As Bobby Marks noted in an article for The Vertical, the newly agreed upon CBA would make this type of transaction obsolete. As of July, the player’s days of service will determine his cost against the minimum team salary; not his full cap hit. Williams’ circumstance is the type of “loophole,” Marks describes, in which teams will keep low payrolls on the roster only to make waiver claims or trades in an attempt to reach the salary floor.

Sixers Claim, Waive Mo Williams

5:13pm: The Sixers have waived Williams, according to Tom Moore of the Courier Times (Twitter link). This maneuver allows the team to add Randle to the roster without needing to clear an additional spot.

4:29pm: Mo Williams has been claimed off waivers by the Sixers, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein (Twitter link). The 76ers will have to clear a roster spot to accommodate Williams, as the team reportedly just re-signed Chasson Randle to a second 10-day contract as well. Adding both players would bring the roster count to 16, one over the 15-man limit.

The Sixers’ reasons for picking up Williams are financially motivated. The point guard’s $2.2MM cap hit will bring Philadelphia that much closer to the salary floor, but the team will only be on the hook for about half of that salary, since he has already been paid more than $1MM of it. Williams, who indicated in the fall that he would retire, has yet to appear in an NBA game this season.

This will be the third transaction Williams has been involved in since January 6th, when the well-traveled point guard was shipped to Atlanta in the Kyle Korver trade. Williams was then dealt to the Nuggets in exchange for the rights to 2005 draft pick Cenk Akyol. It remains to be seen whether Williams, who has suited up for seven different teams during his 13-year career, will return to the court with Philadelphia. Williams hasn’t filed his retirement papers, and underwent a surgical procedure on his left knee in October.

The Nuggets now have a vacant roster spot, which they may use to re-sign Alonzo Gee to a second 10-day contract. Gee, whose 10-day contract expired on Wednesday, has appeared in 10 games this season with Denver, scoring 11 points with 14 rebounds in that span. A 29-year-old veteran of six NBA teams, Gee averaged 22.4 MPG in 73 games with the Pelicans last season.

Nuggets Acquire, Waive Mo Williams

1:40 pm: The deal is official, according to a Hawks’ press release. As part of the deal, Atlanta will gain a $2.2MM trade exception that will expire one year from today.

8:49 am: The Hawks have agreed to send Mo Williams and cash considerations to the Nuggets in exchange for the rights to Cenk Akyol, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. Denver is expected to waive Williams upon arrival.

The point guard’s contract, which is worth $2.2MM, will get the Nuggets within $7.66MM of the salary floor. Wojnarowski notes that the move will save the team roughly $1.0MM in addition to the cash considerations Atlanta will send its way.

Williams hasn’t played this season and while he’s expressed interest in playing again, he hasn’t committed to making a return to the league. Akyol was selected in the 2005 draft but never came stateside. Wojnarowski notes that he’ll likely never play in the NBA.

Hawks Ponder Next Move With Mo Williams

Mo Williams was traded from the Cavaliers to the Hawks today, but he won’t be reporting to Atlanta, writes Chris Vivlamore of The Journal Constitution.

The 34-year-old guard is officially retired, but because he has a $2.2MM guaranteed deal, Cleveland kept him on its roster, presumably with the idea of trading his salary if the opportunity arose. He underwent surgery on his left leg in October to remove bone spurs from the joint of the tibia and fibula and hasn’t tried to pursue a comeback.

Vivlamore states that the Hawks haven’t decided whether to try to trade Williams or to open a roster spot by waiving him and paying the balance of his contract.

“All those things we are working through as we speak,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “No decisions have been made, in any direction, as far as timing on that.”

Williams played 41 games for the Cavaliers last season, averaging 8.2 points and 2.4 assists per night. He appeared in 13 playoff games during Cleveland’s run to the title, but averaged just 5.2 minutes per contest.

Mo Williams Undergoes Knee Surgery

Veteran point guard Mo Williams, who remains on the Cavaliers’ roster despite indicating he would retire, underwent left knee surgery on Wednesday, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. As McMenamin details, the procedure was intended to treat the chondromalacia Williams has dealt with in recent years.

In an Instagram post announcing the surgery, Williams appeared to take a veiled shot at the Cavaliers, writing that it’s been “quite a while” since he was 100% healthy. “Nobody and I repeat nobody actually gave a damn about my health but me,” Williams wrote. “Taking control of my own career/life.”

According to Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal, as well as McMenamin, Cavaliers team doctors suggested to Williams that surgery wasn’t necessary for his troublesome knee. Lloyd writes that Williams sought a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who also advised against surgery, The third doctor to provide an opinion, Dr. David Altchek, elected to operate on the veteran guard.

Although Williams’ agent has indicated his client will retire, the Cavs intend to keep tabs on the 33-year-old’s recovery and rehabilitation project, and are still carrying him on their roster. Williams hasn’t filed his retirement papers, meaning the Cavs would have to pay his full salary if they waive him. According to both Lloyd and McMenamin, the team has attempted to work out a buyout of his $2.195MM salary, but hasn’t had much luck so far.

With the regular season opener fast approaching, there may be resolution on Williams’ status soon, though the Cavs could carry him as their 15th man into the season to postpone a decision.

Mo Williams To Retire

Five days ago, Mo Williams posted a tweet indicating he was returning to the NBA – and to the Cavaliers – for one more year. Apparently that’s no longer the case. According to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net (via Twitter), Cavs GM David Griffin announced today that Williams’ agent informed him of his client’s decision to retire.

Williams, the 47th overall pick in the 2003 draft, spent a year in Utah before heading to the Bucks and blossoming into a starting point guard. Over the course of his 13-year NBA career, Wiliams also played for the Cavaliers, Clippers, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Hornets, and enjoyed second stints with the Jazz and the Cavs.

An All-Star in 2009, Williams averaged 13.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 2.8 RPG for his career, shooting 37.8% on three-point attempts in his 818 regular-season contests. The 33-year-old also appeared in 62 playoff games, winning his first championship with the Cavs this June.

Williams had been set to earn $2,194,500 for the 2016/17 season, so we’ll see how the Cavs handle that cap hit. The team may end up just waiving the veteran guard, eating his salary, but perhaps the two sides can work out a buyout agreement that takes Cleveland off the hook for some of that $2MM+.

Meanwhile, Williams’ departure thins out the point guard ranks for the Cavs. Behind Kyrie Irving, the team will be relying on rookie Kay Felder and perhaps camp invitee Markel Brown, though he’s more of a combo guard. For what it’s worth, Griffin says the Cavs are “comfortable” with the point guard position, adding that it will be a “an incredibly competitive” training camp (Twitter link via Amico).

Mo Williams To Play In 2016

Mo Williams has been contemplating retirement, but it appears he has made a decision regarding his status. The point guard took to Twitter tonight and tweeted, “Coming back #onemoreyear.”

Last month, the Cavs decided not to use the stretch provision on Williams’ contract, which will pay him close to $2.2MM for the 2016/17 campaign. Williams battled injuries last season and only appeared in 41 games.

The 2016/17 season will be Williams’ farewell tour, as he won’t play past this season. “This is my last year,” the veteran guard told Chris Haynes of ESPN.com (Twitter link) when asked about the possibility of playing more than one season. Cleveland only has rookie Kay Felder at the point guard spot behind starter Kyrie Irving, so the Cavs will likely give the 33-year-old as many minutes as he can handle.

Mo Williams Considering Retirement

Veteran Cavs guard Mo Williams is strongly considering hanging up his sneakers and retiring from the game, Joe Vardon of The Northeast Ohio Media Group reports. Williams’ balky knee, his desire to coach and the opportunity to go out as an NBA champion are weighing heavily upon him, Vardon adds.

There is also the chance, should Williams hold off on making a definitive decision regarding his future, that the Cavs could seek to trade him in a salary dump or waive him via the stretch provision, Vardon notes. The deadline to utilize the stretch provision is this Wednesday (August 31st), should the Cavs decide to go that route. Cleveland’s projected payroll for 2016/17 currently stands at $116,494,181, which is already over the luxury tax line which has been set at $113.2MM by the league. Williams is due to earn $2,194,500 this season, the final one on his current deal.

For Cleveland, purging itself of Williams’ salary would help alleviate some of its luxury tax burden this season, but it would also leave the team with rookie Kay Felder as the only true point guard on the roster behind starter Kyrie Irving. The Cavs still may re-sign unrestricted free agent shooting guard J.R. Smith, which would thrust the team deeper into tax territory. Not to mention the Cavs will still likely need to add additional backcourt depth should Williams be released or traded, which would increase their payroll and tax hit even further.

The 33-year-old appeared in 41 regular season games for the Cavs a season ago, averaging 8.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 18.2 minutes per outing. His shooting line on the campaign was .437/.353/.905.  Williams’ career numbers, should he decide to call it quits, are 13.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 4.9 APG. His career slash line is .434/.378/.871.

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