Aaron Gordon

Blazers Rumors: Lillard, Front Office, McCollum, Nurkic, Covington, More

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard will become eligible for a two-year, $106MM extension during the 2022 offseason. That extension – which Lillard wants to lock in, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski – would begin in 2025/26 and would cover his age-35 and age-36 seasons.

Lillard and his agent need Portland’s next permanent general manager to sell team ownership on offering that super-max extension, according to Wojnarowski, who hears that the guard’s camp had concerns about Neil Olshey‘s willingness to recommend such an offer to Jody Allen. Chris Mannix of SI.com also hears that Olshey wasn’t sold on tacking two more years (at $51MM and $55MM) onto Lillard’s deal.

Although Lillard and his camp will be motivated to help the Blazers find a GM who is receptive to offering that extension, most of the top-level candidates who figure to draw interest from Portland aren’t enthusiastic about making that offer, says Wojnarowski. In fact, some of those potential candidates told Woj that they’d be more interested in the Blazers’ job if they could trade Lillard and rebuild, rather than extending the six-time All-Star.

According to Wojnarowski, Lillard’s camp is “privately selling the idea” of the Blazers trading some of their current players and continuing to build around Dame (on a new extension). However, candidates for the permanent general manager job in Portland believe they’ll need to sell themselves to team ownership, not to Lillard and his camp.

While it remains possible Lillard’s group will have some input in the GM choice, Wojnarowski suggests they’ve been “thwarted on several leverage plays” this year, including their preference for Jason Kidd as Terry Stotts‘ replacement and their desire to trade for Ben Simmons.

Here are several more rumors out of Portland:

  • The Blazers haven’t begun reaching out to potential candidates for the permanent GM job, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who hears that there’s no concrete list of contenders yet beyond interim GM Joe Cronin. The organization is still deciding whether to hire a firm to research and recommend candidates, per Wojnarowski.
  • The Pelicans offered Jrue Holiday to Portland in 2020 in exchange for CJ McCollum and three first-round picks, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. A deal involving McCollum remains possible, but the Blazers are considered more likely to move Jusuf Nurkic and/or Robert Covington, says Fischer, adding that the team is “presently known to be down on both players.”
  • Lillard has expressed interest since the 2020 offseason in a handful of defensively-minded wings, per Fischer. Besides Simmons, Lillard has also shown interest in playing with Jaylen Brown and Aaron Gordon, sources tell Bleacher Report.
  • According to Fischer, Lillard’s lower abdominal tendinopathy is an injury that has bothered him off and on for years. The All-NBA guard even considered surgery this past offseason to address the issue, Fischer adds.
  • There are several teams with interest in trading for Lillard, but three teams in that group told Wojnarowski they’d want to wait for the 31-year-old to request a trade before calling Portland, since the Blazers’ leverage would be reduced in that scenario. The Sixers have made an offer, but the Knicks haven’t, Wojnarowski adds. For his part, Lillard would have limited leverage to push for a specific landing spot if he asks out, since he still has three more years left on his current contract after 2021/22.
  • Multiple league sources with knowledge of the situation tell Fischer that some Blazers players this season have been frustrated with Chauncey Billups‘ “coaching demeanor,” as well as his offensive system. In the latest Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Ohm Youngmisuk, and Ramona Shelburne discussed the fact that Billups’ tendency to call out players publicly may rub the current generation the wrong way.
  • There have been whispers that Blazers owner Jody Allen might decide to sell her stake in the Blazers following the NBA’s next television agreement, says Fischer. If that’s the plan, there will be even more pressure on the team to make sure its next front office hire and big roster moves are the right ones.

Northwest Notes: Gordon, Hampton, Porter, Jazz, Daigneault

The Nuggets‘ need to upgrade their perimeter defense prompted them to pull the trigger on a trade for Aaron Gordon at last season’s deadline, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post in a look back at the deal that sent Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton and a future first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Gordon and Gary Clark. Gordon sparked Denver to a 19-6 finish and is happy to be in a stable environment after six and a half seasons with the Magic.

“When I was there, it was something new every year,” Gordon said. “New coaching staff, new GM, new players. It was just so much fluctuation all the time. We didn’t know whether we wanted to tank or whether we were trying to win. It was like having your foot on the gas and the brake at the same time. Burnout.”

Coach Michael Malone called the trade “a necessary move,” but it wasn’t easy for the organization to part with Harris, who grew into a locker room leader during his time in Denver, and Hampton, whom the Nuggets viewed as a potential steal in the 2020 draft. Singer notes that Denver’s subsequent backcourt injuries would have given Hampton a chance to shine if he were still on the roster.

“It definitely was a blessing in disguise,” Hampton said. “I feel like my talent and my work ethic, God blessed me with an opportunity to come to this situation in Orlando and play right away. I’m grateful for that. At the same time, I’m grateful for Denver. They took a chance on me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Owner Stan Kroenke may have been behind the Nuggets‘ decision to give a five-year maximum extension to Michael Porter Jr. despite his injury history, according to Marc Stein of Substack. Both attended the University of Missouri and Kroenke has been an advocate for Porter ever since he joined the organization, Stein adds.
  • The Jazz are experimenting with a small-ball lineup that became necessary when backup center Hassan Whiteside was ejected from a game last week, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Although the early results haven’t been positive, the team may want to keep developing it in light of the matchup problems that the Clippers created for Rudy Gobert in last year’s playoffs.
  • Thunder coach Mark Daigneault watched film of his team’s historic 73-point loss with the rest of his staff, but he didn’t show it to the players, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “The lessons that you want the team to take from that game are self-explanatory,” Daigneault said. “I didn’t see a need to double down on that. The feeling that you would try to generate with the film already exists. Letting it breathe I think is almost more powerful than to dwell on the actual visuals of it.” 

Nikola Jokic Sidelined By Wrist Injury

Reigning league Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic has a right wrist sprain and it’s uncertain when he’ll return, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

The Nuggets’ big man watched the team’s loss to Chicago on Friday with a brace on his wrist. He suffered the injury against Philadelphia on Thursday.

“He’s gotten X-rays, he’s gotten MRI’s, talking to the doctors,” coach Michael Malone said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term thing at all, but at the same time, I don’t want to put him out there if he can only play with one hand. Unfair to ask him to do that. When he’s ready to play, he’ll play. That could be against Phoenix (Sunday), that could be in a week. There’s no timeline at this point.”

Strategically, the Nuggets played more zone against the Bulls than at any point this season but they were clobbered on the boards. Personnel-wise, they went small and relied on forwards Jeff Green, Aaron Gordon and JaMychal Green to man the interior.

“I’m not sure how long Nikola’s going to be out, but you have options,” Malone said.

PJ Dozier said it’s going to be difficult to play without their star. The Nuggets have already been playing without Michael Porter Jr. most of the month due to a back injury, and Jamal Murray is expected to miss most of the season as he continues to recover from an ACL tear.

“We play through him. He’s the head of the snake.,” Dozier said of Jokic. “We go as he goes. Having our MVP not on the floor, of course, offensively is going to be an adjustment but defensively as well. He’s communicating to us guards, calling out the coverages.”

Nuggets Notes: Gordon, Rivers, Malone, Three-Point Shooting

Aaron Gordon was thrilled to get an opportunity to make it past the first round of the playoffs after being traded to the Nuggets last season, but he was disappointed in how he performed in the postseason, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. His role on the team changed after the injury to Jamal Murray and he wasn’t as productive as he had hoped to be, particularly in the second-round sweep by the Suns.

“I felt disgusting coming out of those playoffs,” said Gordon, who used the experience as motivation to prepare for the new season. “I felt like my touch was gone, I felt like I wasn’t playing to the capability that I know that I can. It was ugly, especially that Phoenix game. And then I was just worn down.”

Part of the problem was a lingering hamstring injury that Gordon suffered after the NBA’s restart in 2020. He was also dealing with a sore ankle that left him feeling less than 100% all season.

“Last offseason, I had popped my hamstring in the bubble, so I couldn’t do anything over the summer,” he said. “I could barely run, I could barely walk. I couldn’t do anything. My mind was out of it, especially coming out of that bubble. Quick turnaround (to the new season). My fire, my passion, my drive just wasn’t there. I’m so (freaking) excited that Denver brought me in and has embraced me because it’s given me new life. It’s really lit my fire being around all these dudes that can play so well, and love the game, and love to win, like true competitors.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • In a podcast with Singer, Austin Rivers discusses the unexpected instability of his NBA career and the shock of being out of the league when he was traded and waived last March. He signed with the Nuggets in April and got a new contract during the summer, but he’s approaching the new season like he needs to prove he belongs. “I’m not any more comfortable now than I was a year ago,” Rivers said. “I’m still treating this like this is my last shot.”
  • Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic is away from the team for the birth of a child and won’t play in Monday’s preseason opener. But the contest is still important to coach Michael Malone, who tells Eric Spyropoulos of NBA.com“Preseason games are never about wins and losses, but every time we go on that floor, it’s an opportunity for us to establish our identity.”
  • Malone is hoping to expand the use of the three-point shot this season, and that was part of the focus of Saturday’s practice, Spyropoulos adds. The Nuggets were a top 10 team in three-point percentage last season at 37.7%. “We got a lot of threes up, but it’s about making sure we’re generating the right threes off of ball movement and off of the ball touching the paint,” Malone said.

Nuggets Notes: Bol, Murray, Simmons, MPJ, Vaccinations, Gordon

One of the most intriguing players from the 2019 draft class, 7’2″ Nuggets forward Bol Bol has only appeared in 39 games during his first two NBA seasons, but is determined to earn a larger role in 2021/22, as Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post writes. The big man said on Monday that he agrees with teammate Michael Porter Jr.‘s assessment that a “mindset change” is necessary in order for Bol to take a major step forward in his third year.

“He’s totally correct,” Bol said. “To add on to that, it’s more so consistency. It’s not just me doing it one day or two days a week. I’ve got to figure out how to put it together for a whole entire year and not just when things are going my way.”

Bol added that he views power forward as his primary position, but is willing to play anywhere the Nuggets ask him to, “one through five.”

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • Although Jamal Murray is itching to get back on the court following his ACL surgery, he recognizes that he shouldn’t rush the process and made it clear that he doesn’t plan to, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post details. “I want to feel good when I come back,” Murray said. “I don’t want to come back when I’m like 85%, whatever, no matter where the team’s at. I want to come back when it feels like I can play with the same amount of force that I normally play with.” For their part, the Nuggets are on board with that plan. “He’ll come back when he’s ready, not when we tell him, not a date on the calendar,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said.
  • The Nuggets haven’t really been linked to Ben Simmons this offseason, but for what it’s worth, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Singer that there’s no chance Denver would move Murray in a deal for the Sixers star.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic takes a look at why the Nuggets felt comfortable making such a significant investment in Michael Porter Jr., arguing that it’s a calculated and necessary risk for the franchise. As Vecenie points out, given the weak 2022 free agent class, Porter might’ve ended up being the best player on the open market next year if he hadn’t received an extension now. Denver would’ve been able to match any offer sheet in that scenario, but a rival team could’ve put a player option and a trade kicker into its offer — the Nuggets instead got a partial guarantee on the final year of Porter’s extension.
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone admitted on Monday that his roster isn’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Fredrickson. Malone said that he’d love the team’s vaccination rate to be at 100%, but can only do so much to push players in that direction. “All we can do is try to help educate the players that have chosen to be unvaccinated to this point,” Malone said. “Maybe at some point, they realize what’s at stake and they make that decision to get vaccinated. Until then, we’ll keep on trying for sure.”
  • In case you missed it, the Nuggets officially completed Aaron Gordon‘s four-year extension on Monday. Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link) provides the financial breakdown of the deal, which looks about like we expected, albeit with a slightly lower fourth-year player option salary and slightly more unlikely incentives.

Nuggets Sign Aaron Gordon To Four-Year Extension

SEPTEMBER 28: Nearly two weeks after agreeing to terms, the Nuggets and Gordon officially finalized their extension agreement on Monday, according to NBA.com’s transactions log.

SEPTEMBER 14: The Nuggets and forward Aaron Gordon have reached an agreement on a four-year extension, agent Calvin Andrews of Klutch Sports tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Charania, the deal is worth $92MM and includes a fourth-year player option for 2025/26.

Mike Singer of The Denver Post reported in late August that the Nuggets and Gordon had mutual interest in an extension and would likely reach a deal soon. At that point, Singer anticipated a two- or three-year extension in the range of $20-21MM per year, but it sounds like Denver was willing to go higher to get the former fourth overall pick locked up long-term.

Gordon will earn a base salary of $16,409,091 in 2021/22 – the last year of his current contract – with an extra $1MM available in unlikely incentives. A veteran extension allows for a starting salary 20% higher than the player’s previous salary, and it looks like the Nuggets are going that route with Gordon — his maximum extension would have a base value of about $88.2MM over four years. Adding $1MM in annual unlikely incentives (for All-Star, All-NBA, and All-Defense nods) bumps the total up to the $92MM figure reported by Charania.

After spending the first six years of his career with the Magic, Gordon was part of a midseason trade in his seventh season, having been sent from the Magic to the Nuggets at the 2021 trade deadline. The athletic forward, who will turn 26 on Thursday, helped shore up Denver’s defense down the stretch, though his counting stats (10.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.2 APG on .500/.266/.705 shooting) in 25 games with the club were modest.

Now that Gordon will have a full offseason and training camp as a Nugget under his belt, the team will likely have higher expectations for him going forward. His new extension will make him an important part of a core that also includes Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. Jokic is under contract through 2023, Murray is locked up through 2025, and Porter is entering a contract year, though he’s a good bet to sign an extension of his own before opening night.

Gordon’s new deal is the 15th contract extension – and the 10th veteran extension – of the NBA offseason. His contract will rank seventh out of this summer’s 10 veteran extensions in overall value, slotting in between Terry Rozier (four years, $96MM) and Marcus Smart (four years, $77MM).

Nuggets Notes: Barton, Bol, Porter, Gordon

Nuggets swingman Will Barton has fully recovered from the hamstring injury that forced him to miss most of the playoffs and he’s looking forward to the start of training camp, writes Eric Spyropoulous of NBA.com. Entering his 10th season, Barton is the longest-tenured player on Denver’s roster. It appeared he might be headed elsewhere when he declined a $14.7MM player option this summer, but he wound up re-signing for two years at $32MM.

“This is the best I’ve felt going into a season in two years,” Barton said. “So, I feel like I’m rejuvenated really. I got to really work on my game this offseason, I didn’t get to do that last year.”

During last year’s shortened offseason, Barton was immobilized by an injured right knee and said he had to step away from the game to avoid getting depressed. This year, he immersed himself in basketball and spent a lot of time studying opponents on film when he wasn’t in the gym.

“I’m so excited man. I haven’t been this excited in a while just to be feeling good, knowing I put the work in, knowing I got a lot of work in and got better,” Barton said. “We have a good team. Like I said, we have a lot of good guys and a lot of good talent.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • The Nuggets’ status as a contender has limited the opportunities for Bol Bol, but he may be ready for a breakthrough as he heads into his third season, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Bol stands 7’3″ but has the skills of a smaller player. That can be an asset on offense, but it’s often a liability on defense as his height and thin frame make it difficult for him to guard either inside or on the perimeter. With a compressed schedule last season, Denver rarely was able to practice, which left little time to experiment with the best ways to use Bol. “Our first three years, we were developing, and young guys were given the opportunity to play, and more importantly, play through all their mistakes,” coach Michael Malone said. “Well, Bol doesn’t have that option, man. It’s all trying to be homecourt advantage in the playoffs.”
  • The clock is ticking for Michael Porter Jr. to get a contract extension before the season starts, but he’s not fretting about the outcome, Singer adds in a separate story. Porter said he trusts agent Mark Bartelstein to act in his best interests. “I love basketball,” he said. “It’s not too stressful for me about the money stuff. Of course that’s part of it. I’m just trying to stay in the gym and get better.”
  • The Nuggets saw enough from Aaron Gordon in his two and a half months with the team to be comfortable giving him a four-year extension, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said on a podcast with Singer and Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Connelly said the team was particularly impressed by Gordon’s ability to adapt to a new role after being acquired at the trade deadline.

Western Notes: Bozic, Gordon, Ntilikina, Fox

The Spurs have a new G League coach in Petar Bozic, according to a press release from the Austin Spurs. Bozic spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach for the G League franchise. Before coming to Austin, he served as head coach of Partizan in his home country of Serbia from 2015-16.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The agreed-upon four-year, $92MM extension between the Nuggets and forward Aaron Gordon is a sign that the franchise is going all out win a title in the next three seasons, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post opines. It’s a declaration that Nikola Jokic and the core group is good enough to capture the championship, regardless of the moves made by the Lakers and other contenders.
  • The two-year contract that guard Frank Ntilikina has signed with the Mavericks includes a team option in the second season, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. It’s still unclear whether the former Knick received a full guarantee for the upcoming season.
  • Kings guard De’Aaron Fox explained why he’s faster than anyone else in the league in an interview with The Reel’s Kenny Beecham, relayed on the team’s website. “The way I move is so much different than everybody else,” Fox said. “Everybody’s not able to make the cuts and just stop and do what I do, especially going at full speed.”

Aaron Gordon, Nuggets Hope To Agree On Extension

The Nuggets and forward Aaron Gordon are optimistic about reaching an agreement on a contract extension, possibly as early as this week, sources inform Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Gordon, 25, qualifies for a four-year extension worth up to $88MM, which would be tacked onto his $16.4MM salary for the 2021/22 season.

However, Denver is apparently not quite looking to ink the 25-year-old to a full maximum extension, Singer indicates. A source tells The Denver Post that a deal may in the range of $20-21MM annually for two or three years.

Gordon, a versatile forward who can play both positions, was acquired in a trade with the Magic at the deadline during the 2020/21 season to essentially replace Jerami Grant. Grant left the Nuggets in a sign-and-trade during his own free agency in 2020, eyeing a larger role with the Pistons on a three-year, $60MM deal that Denver offered to match. Gordon may wind up with a very similar new contract to the one first tendered to his predecessor in 2020.

Though Gordon proved to be an underwhelming addition on offense upon first arriving to Denver in a pandemic-truncated 2020/21 season, he exhibited plenty of athletic promise on defense playing alongside ascendant forward Michael Porter Jr. during his brief tenure with the Nuggets so far.

After averaging 14.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 0.8 BPG and 0.6 SPG on .437/.375/.629 across 25 games for a lottery-bound Orlando club, Gordon’s counting stats and three-point efficiency declined when he arrived on a team with serious playoff aspirations. In 25 games with Denver, he averaged 10.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 0.6 BPG on .500/.266/.705 shooting.

With starting point guard Jamal Murray most likely sidelined for the start of the season, Gordon could be featured more in the Nuggets’ offensive sets, behind 2021 MVP Nikola Jokic and Porter.

And-Ones: Offseason Roundup, 2022 Free Agency, Evans, Nogueira

Despite the recent surge in COVID-19 breakthrough cases, the expectation around the NBA is that things will return roughly to normal for the 2021/22 season, writes ESPN’s Tim Bontemps in his offseason roundup.

Bontemps polled 10 executives and scouts on some of the most pressing questions of the offseason, such as who the best player will be this season (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant tied for first), the best moves of the offseason (the Heat signing Kyle Lowry won out over the Magic drafting Jalen Suggs and the Wizards getting off Russell Westbrook‘s contract), the worst moves (DeMar DeRozan‘s signing with the Bulls), and others.

The executives also gave their thoughts on why fewer teams seem to be tanking this season and who should be considered the favorites to win the title.

We have more news from around the world of hoops:

  • 2022 was at one point considered a loaded free agency class, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link), but after the most recent round of extensions, the big names have been whittled down to Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine. Marks predicts some, if not all of Josh Richardson, Aaron Gordon, Jalen Brunson, Tyus Jones and Mitchell Robinson will sign extensions before the season starts and quotes a Western Conference executive who says that due to scarcity of stars on the market, he expects the regular season trade scene to be extremely active. Marks also breaks down the teams who have or could have cap space next summer.
  • 2012 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion Jeremy Evans, who spent five seasons with the Jazz and two more with the Mavs and Hawks, has signed with the Greek team Panathinaikos, according to Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw (Twitter link).
  • JD Shaw also tweets that former Raptor Lucas “Bebé” Nogueira, who was picked just one spot after Antetokounmpo in the 2013 draft, has come out of retirement to play for Sao Paolo in his home country of Brazil. As Shaw notes, Nogueira had announced his retirement in February.