Aaron Gordon

LeBron James Among NBA Stars in Seattle Pro-Am League

LeBron James highlights a list of NBA players who will participate in a Seattle pro-am league later today, according to NBA.com.

The league is called “The CrawsOver” in honor of founder Jamal Crawford, a Seattle native and longtime NBA player. Announcing James’ participation on Twitter, Crawford promises it will be “a day like we’ve never seen.”

“A lot of kids in this area especially have only seen their favorite players whether it be on TV or on video games,” Crawford said on ESPN’s “NBA Today” (Twitter link). “To see their favorite players right there in person, to reach out and touch them. And they may have interaction with you. If you’re a kid working to get better and to dream about being on that level, that makes your dreams more realistic.” 

Crawford added that he asks the area kids which NBA players they would like to see and he tries to get them to attend.

James also tweeted about the event, noting that it’s his first game in Seattle in more than 15 years. He was the featured attraction last month in the pro-am Drew League in Los Angeles, which marked his first public game since the NBA season ended.

Established stars such as Jayson Tatum, Dejounte Murray, Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Gordon are also scheduled to play today, along with first-round picks Paolo Banchero, Chet HolmgrenTari Eason and MarJon Beauchamp. There could be an opportunity for Murray and Banchero to renew their rivalry that began with an incident at Thomas’ pro-am game two weeks ago.

Fans can watch the game live on both the NBA app and NBA.com. It’s scheduled to tip off at 8:30 PM Eastern Time.

Nuggets’ Booth Talks Offseason Moves, Murray, MPJ, Jokic

Following Tim Connelly‘s departure for Minnesota, Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth was thrust into the lead role of Denver’s front office just weeks before the 2022 draft and wasn’t shy about immediately shaking up the roster this offseason.

Of the 17 players who currently have standard guaranteed contracts or two-way deals with the Nuggets for 2022/23, eight have joined the team since the ’21/22 season ended. That group includes wings Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown and rookies Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, among others.

Speaking to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, Booth said that last year’s team was “a little bit smaller” than the front office had envisioned, so it was a priority this summer to add some size, especially on the perimeter. Upgrading the defense was also a goal, according to Booth, who discussed a few specific roster moves in his conversation with Vorkunov.

Here are a few of the most noteworthy comments from the Nuggets’ new head of basketball operations:

On the motivation for the trade that sent JaMychal Green to Oklahoma City:

“It helped us open up another roster spot to get a more regarded or better defender on the perimeter. JaMychal brought a lot of toughness and explosion around the rim and he’s a great shooter, but (defending) in space wasn’t his strength. So, it allowed us to open up a roster spot where we can get somebody that could be more versatile and switch and do something like that.”

On whether Booth thinks the defense will be better in 2022/23, particularly on the perimeter:

“Yeah, definitely do. I think, again, with the injuries, and Jamal (Murray), I think, is an underrated defender. Obviously, it’s gonna take a while to get back into tip-top form for him coming back off the injury, but I fully expect him to be a two-way guy once he’s back feeling like himself.

“But Aaron Gordon had to cover a lot of holes last year; he had to go into the backcourt a lot more probably than Coach (Michael) Malone or himself would have liked to. So, hopefully with the addition of KCP and Bruce Brown and Christian Braun and some of the guys of this nature — Davon Reed, he’s back, he does some good things for us — Aaron won’t have to go into the backcourt quite as much.”

On the plan for Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. as they return from injuries this fall:

“I definitely think they’ll both be healthy (to start the season). Especially with the nature of Mike’s injury, and even Jamal, we’ll probably have to be wary about back-to-backs and things of that nature. As we get close to the season Coach Malone and I will sit down with performance staff and map out a plan for what that looks like during the regular season.”

On attempting to maximize Nikola Jokic‘s prime years:

“That’s just a priority. That’s the No. 1 focus. Maximize the timeline. Put personnel around him that allows him to play his best and get the most out of his teammates. So, that’s the No. 1 priority in our organization right now.”

Cavaliers Rumors: Sexton, LeVert, Trade Targets, More

Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com recently spoke to Michael Scotto about a number of Cavaliers-related topics for the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.

Guard Collin Sexton, whose season ended prematurely after suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee just 11 games into the season, will be an interesting player to watch this summer. Sexton will be a restricted free agent once Cleveland tenders him a $7,228,449 qualifying offer. As a restricted free agent, the Cavs will have the ability to match any offer sheet for the 23-year-old, and since he’s coming off an injury and not many teams will have cap space to spend on free agents, a reunion seems likely.

When the Cavs were discussing a rookie scale extension with Sexton’s representatives last summer, the two sides floated a contract similar to the one Bogdan Bogdanovic received from Atlanta, which was four years and $72MM (with a player option in the final season), sources tell Fedor. However, he hears that the Cavs value Sexton in the $15-18MM per year range, while Sexton is seeking something closer to $18-22MM annually.

Although Sexton has undoubtedly been productive on the offense end, averaging 24.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 4.4 APG on .475/.371/.815 shooting in 2020/21, Fedor notes that there were questions about Sexton’s fit entering ’21/22, and his injury and the team’s success without him didn’t help his case. Given that he’s a 6’1″ shooting guard and a subpar defender, some teams view the former No. 8 pick as more of a sixth man than a starter, which could hurt his leverage in contract negotiations.

Scotto wonders if the Knicks or Wizards might be interested in Sexton, noting that both teams are looking for guards, but neither team has cap space. As Fedor previously reported, he hears that Cleveland has been curious if the Pistons might pursue Sexton, but sources tell Fedor that the Cavaliers don’t believe any team will end up offering him $20MM+ per season.

Here’s more from Scotto and Fedor:

  • Both the Cavs and Caris LeVert have expressed interest in reaching an extension this summer, and league executives tell Scotto that a shorter deal in the $19-21MM range might make sense for both sides. However, as Fedor observes, LeVert will be on an expiring $18.8MM contract in ’22/23, so if the Cavs don’t like the types of numbers Levert’s agents are throwing out, they could just wait it out and perhaps use him as trade bait next season.
  • Kevin Love improved his trade stock after a bounce-back, healthy season, and both Scotto and Fedor believe that his $28.9MM contract could be used as a trade chip if the team opts to pursue higher-paid veterans.
  • Noting Cleveland needs two-way wing scorers and a solid backup point guard for Darius Garland, Fedor hears the Cavs are interested in a number of veterans as potential trade targets: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Gordon Hayward, Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes, Gary Trent Jr., Jerami Grant, Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, and Mike Conley.
  • Although there’s mutual interest in a reunion with Ricky Rubio, Fedor says money could become an obstacle to a deal being completed. Rubio is likely to miss at least a portion of next season after suffering a second torn ACL in his left knee in December, and using the mid-level exception to sign him would reduce the club’s flexibility while still leaving a hole on the roster until he returns.
  • Sources tell Fedor that if a deal with Rubio doesn’t come to fruition, the Cavs would be very open to using their full mid-level to sign Grizzlies backup point guard Tyus Jones, assuming Memphis lets him walk in free agency and he’s unable to get more money elsewhere. Other guards Cleveland might look into in free agency are Delon Wright, Goran Dragic, and Raul Neto. If the Cavs pivot to a wing/forward, Kyle Anderson, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J. Warren are possibilities, according to Fedor.
  • For potential draft candidates with the No. 14 pick, Fedor hears the Cavs are fans of Malaki Branham, Johnny Davis, Bennedict Mathurin, Tari Eason, TyTy Washington, and Jeremy Sochan. Those players range from Nos. 9-18 on ESPN’s big board, so some might not be available at 14.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter, Connelly, Gordon

The Nuggets were hoping all season to have Jamal Murray back in time for the playoffs, but he didn’t believe his surgically repaired ACL was strong enough to take the risk, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Meeting with reporters Friday in the wake of Denver’s first-round exit, Murray explained that he hadn’t recovered enough to feel comfortable on the court.

“I remember saying at the beginning of my rehab, I want to come back when I’m 100 percent and not 85,” Murray said. “I don’t think I’m 85 right now. I know I can go get a bucket. But in terms of the intensity of the playoffs, I’m just not there yet.”

Murray, who suffered the injury last April, was cleared to participate in five-on-five practice about four weeks ago. President of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the team monitored Murray’s progress closely and made a “collective decision” to keep him out of action.

“We knew specifically with Jamal’s injury that the timeframes can be all over the place. We’ve done all the studies and it can be anywhere from X to Y. We didn’t want to put a firm timeframe on it,” Connelly said. “As he started to feel better and better, we didn’t want to be too definitive because we didn’t want to mislead anyone in this room. As the year progressed and we got into the postseason, I thought it would be irresponsible for him to enter that level of competition.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Michael Porter Jr. expressed a similar sentiment, saying even if he had tried to play, he couldn’t have helped much, per Pat Graham of The Associated Press. Porter was limited to nine games this season and never returned after having lumbar spine surgery in December. “On one leg and stand in the corner and shoot threes,” Porter responded when asked if he could have played. “Would I have been at my best? I definitely would not have been at my best. At that point, it’s just thinking long-term versus short-term.” Porter adds that he and Murray encouraged each other through the rehab process to not try to rush back from their injuries.
  • After taking a gamble by giving Porter a max extension before the start of the season despite his history of back issues, Connelly will be under pressure this summer to find some help for Nikola Jokic, observes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.
  • Aaron Gordon bounced back strong after poor performances in the first two games of the series, notes Matt Schubert of The Denver Post. Although Gordon might be miscast as the second option on a title contender, he showed promise that he can contribute once Murray and Porter return, Schubert adds.

Blazers Rumors: Draft Picks, Grant, Cronin, Ownership

The Pelicans’ play-in victories last week were bad news for the Trail Blazers, who would’ve received New Orleans’ 2022 first-round pick if it had fallen between No. 5 and No. 14. Having missed out on that pick, which ended up at No. 15, Portland will instead receive Milwaukee’s 2025 first-rounder (top-four protected). That future pick won’t be as valuable in trade talks for a team looking to accelerate its rebuild this offseason.

According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, it’s clear based on conversation with league personnel that the Blazers were operating under the assumption they’d have two lottery picks available, and there was a sense they’d try to use one of them to acquire an impact veteran like Pistons forward Jerami Grant.

“That was a big deal to them,” a Western Conference official told Fischer. “The expectation was certainly, ‘Once we get this pick, we’ll turn it into someone. We’ll overpay to get someone.'”

As Fischer and others reported at the trade deadline in February, the Pistons were seeking either two first-round picks or a first-round pick and a promising young player (such as Bulls forward Patrick Williams) in exchange for Grant. Detroit’s asking price will likely be similar this offseason, though there’s some skepticism it will be met, Fischer writes.

The Blazers’ willingness to overpay for a player like Grant will be diminished by the fact that they missed out on New Orleans’ lottery pick, according to Fischer, who says Portland hasn’t shown any desire to trade its own lottery pick, which will almost certainly land in the top eight.

Here’s more from Fischer on the Blazers:

  • Damian Lillard has indicated to the Blazers’ front office that he’d like to play alongside a “two-way, rangy” wing, sources tell Bleacher Report. In addition to Grant, Fischer names Aaron Gordon, Ben Simmons, and Jaylen Brown as players who would appeal to Lillard, though it’s unclear whether any of them will be available this offseason — Brown, certainly, appears to be off the table.
  • According to Fischer, interim general manager Joe Cronin appears likely to keep the Blazers’ GM job on a full-time basis. However, it’s possible the team will ultimately hire someone above him in the basketball operations hierarchy, like Philadelphia did by bringing in Daryl Morey to run a front office previously led by GM Elton Brand. Fischer’s sources are split on whether such a move is likely.
  • Since the regular season ended, multiple sources have suggested to Fischer that the Blazers could begin exploring the market for new ownership as early as this summer. Some league insiders believe a sale of the franchise could be completed before the end of 2023, Fischer adds. Jody Allen – the sister of longtime Blazers owner Paul Allen, who passed away in 2018 – currently controls the team.

Nuggets Notes: Cousins, Malone, Jokic, Gordon

DeMarcus Cousins was close to joining the Nuggets much sooner, but the Bucks moved in and signed him first, he said in an interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape. Cousins worked out for Denver general manager Calvin Booth in late November, calling the process “real quiet and hush.” He said the Nuggets wanted to sign him at the time, but didn’t have an open roster spot.

The Bucks apparently heard about the workout and brought their entire staff for a look at Cousins. They signed him immediately after his audition and he played there until January 6, being waived before his salary would have become guaranteed for the rest of the season. Cousins still doesn’t understand what went wrong in Milwaukee.

“They put all their cards on the table, told me they needed me,” he said. “They were even talking long term, and that’s why, like I said, that whole situation, it just didn’t make sense. What disappointed me the most was more so just going through my grind. For me, everything felt right. We were winning games. I showed that I’m healthy. I fit in Milwaukee perfect next to the guys that were out there. I put up numbers. Everything worked out. I don’t know. Just for it to happen the way it did.”

Cousins adds that the Nuggets called him the next day, so he never gave any thought to retiring. He signed three 10-day contracts with Denver before receiving a deal that covered the rest of the regular season.

There’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Coach Michael Malone stressed the need for unity after his team melted down in Monday’s Game 2 loss to the Warriors, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Not only was Nikola Jokic ejected, but Will Barton and Cousins had a heated exchange on the sidelines in the third quarter and had to be separated. “We’ve got to stick together,” Malone said. “We can’t splinter in adverse times. I just want to make sure as we get on this plane to go home that we get on that plane together, knowing that we have a chance to get our first win at home in a few days. That’s our whole focus.”
  • Jokic is in danger of becoming the sixth player in history to lose in the first round in the same season he was named MVP, per Sam Amick of The Athletic. Jokic, who was announced Sunday as one of the finalists for the award, has been frustrated by the officiating in the first two games of the series, saying, “I mean, it’s pretty much everything,” when asked what led to his ejection.
  • The Nuggets need more production from Aaron Gordon, who has missed 13 of his 19 shots so far and has a combined 15 points in the two games, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “Aaron Gordon has to be in attack mode,” Malone said. “I don’t want him settling for 3s. Put people in the rim; that’s when Aaron Gordon is at his best.”

Western Notes: Bane, Grizzlies, Wolves, Nance Jr., Gordon

Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane believes his team needs to play more physical against the Timberwolves in Game 2, according to Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memphis lost 130-117 in Game 1 on Saturday, allowing Minnesota to shoot 50% from the field and win the rebound battle 46-35.

That rebounding clash included 11 offensive rebounds from the Wolves. Minnesota was led by Anthony Edwards (36 points and six assists), along with Karl-Anthony Towns (29 points and 13 rebounds). Game 2 of the series is on Tuesday.

“Physicality is something that we felt like we addressed coming into the series, and I didn’t think that it was there tonight,” Bane said of the Game 1 loss. “At least at the level it needed to be to win. We’re going to have to get grimy out there to win a playoff series.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The young Timberwolves are establishing themselves as a problem this year, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. Minnesota has gained confidence as the campaign moves on, showing potential by defeating Memphis (30-11 home record) on the road in Game 1.
  • Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. is a key part of the team’s culture change, Christian Clark of NOLA.com opines. Nance finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds off the bench in the club’s play-in tournament win over the Clippers. The seven-year veteran is well-respected by his teammates and coaches. “Look at what we got,” Nance said. “This is a situation anybody can look at from the outside. When I was in Portland, I knew it. Then when I got here, I really knew it. We have Brandon Ingram, who is an All-Star at 25 years old. We have CJ, who is playing like an All-Star. And a freak (Zion Williamson) on ice right now. Who wouldn’t be thrilled about coming to the situation? This summer, I left Cleveland and wanted to go to a playoff team. Now, look, here we sit. I’m thrilled to be here.”
  • In order to beat the Warriors, Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon must have a good series, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports writes. “Aaron Gordon is at his best when he’s attacking,” head coach Michael Malone said. “We don’t want to just settle for 3s as a team.” Gordon finished with just eight points and five rebounds in 26 minutes on Saturday. Denver lost the first game of the series 123-107, shooting 11-of-35 from three-point range (31%).

Northwest Notes: Gordon, Murray, Forrest, Gobert, Mitchell, Presti

Aaron Gordon doesn’t want Jamal Murray to play until the Nuggets’ star guard is completely healthy, the forward told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Murray has been rehabbing all season from the ACL injury he suffered last spring. “I told him to take his time,” Gordon said. “You don’t want to rush this. This isn’t something to rush coming off of injury, especially coming back in such a high-level game, as a playoffs.”

We’ve got more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz guard Trent Forrest has been diagnosed with a left mid-foot ligament sprain after undergoing an MRI on Thursday, according to Eric Walden of the Salt Lake City Tribune (Twitter link). Forrest, who played 12 minutes against Oklahoma City on Wednesday, will be reevaluated in a week. He’s appeared in 60 games this season, averaging 3.3 PPG in 12.8 MPG.
  • While many people consider the Defensive Player of the Year race to be wide open, former winner Rudy Gobert believes he should be a lock. In an interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews on NBA Today, the Jazz center said, “If anybody else not named Rudy Gobert was doing what I do this year and having the impact that I have this year, they would be the frontrunner and it would be clear. … Why should I be penalized for being consistent year after year?”
  • The Jazz are headed for a roster shakeup, with a breakup of the Gobert-Donovan Mitchell duo almost an inevitability, John Wilmes of RealGM opines. Though the Jazz could win 50 games, there remains a lot of acrimony between the stars of the team.
  • The stash of draft picks Thunder GM Sam Presti has accumulated is more quantity than quality, according to Keith Smith in a Spotrac story. Packaging those picks in trades won’t be as easy as it sounds, unless Presti is willing to move some of the young players they’ve already drafted and developed, says Smith.

Northwest Notes: Gordon, Jokic, Conley, Clarkson

Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon has been an excellent fit in Denver over the last year, writes Matt Isa of Basketball News. The 6’8″ power forward, 26, is thriving during his first full season with the Nuggets after arriving from Orlando in a deadline trade during the 2020/21 season. Across 62 contests with the Nuggets, Gordon is averaging 14.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 2.5 APG. He is also connecting on 51% of his field goal attempts and 73.7% of his free-throw looks.

At 40-28, the ailing Nuggets presently occupy the sixth seed in the East, 1.5 games ahead of the seventh-seeded Timberwolves. Though Gordon never emerged as a bona fide star in Orlando, due in part to a lack of three-point shooting or ball-handling, he has found a home as a key role player for Denver. Gordon has been unlocked as a finisher alongside All-NBA center Nikola Jokic in the team’s frontcourt, opines Isa.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets MVP candidate Nikola Jokic is excited to play against one of the other leading candidates for that end-of-year award, Sixers center Joel Embiid, on a national TV contest Monday night, writes Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “He’s a great player, great,” Jokic said. “He can do everything on the floor, who is controlling the game, who is in conversation for MVP and the best player in the league. He’s so dominant. He’s skilled, but he’s so big and strong that he uses that. He’s really tough coverage for every single team in the NBA.” The 6’11” Jokic, who won the MVP award in 2021, is averaging 26.1 PPG, 13.8 RPG and 8.1 APG for Denver. He has a slash line of .573/.349/.806. Embiid is averaging 29.7 PPG, 11.2 RPG and 4.3 APG for the 40-25 Philadelphia, along with shooting splits of .489/.355/.819.
  • Sidelined Jazz point guard Mike Conley pushed reserve guard Jordan Clarkson into a career-best night on offense, according to Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune. The 2021 Sixth Man of the Year scored 45 points on Saturday in a 134-125 win over the Kings on the second night of a back-to-back. Clarkson went 15-of-21 from the floor, including 7-for-13 from long range. “A big part of it was Mike,” Clarkson said. “When I walked in today, he was like: ‘You know what I ain’t seen you do all year? Get 40.’ And it just pinged in my head.” The 6’4″ vet has had a slightly underwhelming shooting season this year from the floor, connecting on 41.6% of his 14 field goal looks, including just 32% of his 7.7 three-point attempts.
  • Clarkson seems to be comfortable playing through his shooting slumps, per Jazz.com. After a slow start to the season, Clarkson has seen a significant uptick in his play over the past month and a half. “I’m not changing anything, I’m not really thinking about stuff too much,” he said of his recent improvement. “Just coming into work.” Head coach Quin Snyder praised Clarkson’s commitment. “He’s not gonna be on the all-defensive first team, and I think he’d admit that, but he cares,” Snyder said. “The last month or so, he’s been very deliberate in his work.”

Nuggets Notes: Cousins, Malone, Barton, Gordon, Jokic

DeMarcus Cousins had a stellar game on Friday night for the Nuggets, putting up a season-high 31 points on 14 shots in just 24 minutes of action. Cousins also contributed nine rebounds, four assists and three steals in the team’s 116-101 win over the Rockets. Cousins started in place of reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who was out with a non-COVID illness, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays.

Cousins said he was released by the Bucks earlier in the season due to a calf strain, giving Denver the opportunity to pick him up. Coach Michael Malone says he’s never lost faith in Cousins, even if others have. “Most people had given up on him,” Malone said after Friday’s game. “All you need is somebody to believe in you.”

Malone said Cousins lost eight-to-10 pounds after arriving in Denver, per Singer. Malone also said Cousins’ strong recent play could help lessen the load on Jokic, who’s having another MVP-caliber season. “He keeps on playing like this … you don’t have to run Nikola into the ground,” said Malone, who suggested the Nuggets might have the best center tandem in the NBA.

It’s very satisfying,” said Cousins when asked what it’s meant to him to take advantage of his latest stop. “It’s even a better feeling to have a coach that believes in you, an organization that believes in you.”

Here’s more from Denver:

  • Advice from his basketball idol Kobe Bryant helped Will Barton become the Nuggets’ all-time leader in three-point field goals, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. “Kobe told me, ‘If you get a jump shot, you’re going to be deadly,'” Barton said. “Once he told me I had talent and all I had to do was work on my jumper, it further solidified what I already thought about myself.” The former second-round pick struggled with his shot early in his career, but transformed himself into a solid marksman over the past eight seasons with Denver, making 36% of his 3-pointers. Barton set the franchise mark with his 769th trey in the team’s win over the Rockets on Friday, breaking a record held by J.R. Smith.
  • Aaron Gordon has developed impressive chemistry with Jokic, writes Singer in a separate article for The Denver Post. “Jok’s IQ is through the roof,” Gordon said. “He’s a basketball savant. Just genius. It’s great talking to him, understanding how he sees the game. How we can make it easier for him and where he needs us to be.” Gordon is taking advantage of Jokic’s elite passing by making smart cuts to the basket, leading to a career-best 51.7% from the field, including 60.6% on two-pointers. Gordon told Singer that he’s “seeing the game differently.” “Just angles,” he said. “Attacking angles. Making reads. I finally feel like I’m making better reads.”
  • Jokic gave a typically self-effacing reply regarding his conversations with Gordon, Singer relays in the same piece. “I don’t know the right answer,” said Jokic. “I’m just trying to help him. … I’m just telling him what I know. If that helps him, or not, I don’t know. I’m just trying to tell him what I see.” Singer notes that a quarter of Jokic’s assists this season have gone to Gordon, the highest mark on the team.