Aaron Holiday

Pacers’ Pritchard Talks Holiday, McMillan, Small Market, More

It’s fair to say the Pacers have underachieved relative to expectations this season. After going 45-28 and finishing fourth in the East a year ago, the team is currently just 29-32 and will likely have to win one – if not two – play-in games to earn a postseason berth next month.

Still, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard isn’t disappointed with his team’s play, telling Bob Kravitz of The Athletic that it’s hard to properly evaluate the roster, given the outsized impact the coronavirus has had on the season, as well as all the injuries Indiana has endured.

“This season has been unlike any I’ve been a part of, and it’s proven to be challenging on many fronts. I’ve got a lot of scar tissue from this season; we all do,” Pritchard said. “In some ways, it’s been less about basketball than a lot of other things. But look at it, we’re a few games within fourth, and to go through what we’ve gone through as far as injuries, I want to see how this one plays out. We could have shut it down, but we’re playing hard; we’re just severely undermanned right now.

“We’re not that far away,” Pritchard added, “but because of all these injuries now, it feels like we’re miles away.”

T.J. Warren has been sidelined for nearly the entire season, while Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, and Caris LeVert are among the others who have missed time due to injuries.

As a result, Pritchard tells Kravitz that he still isn’t sure whether the roster will require a major overhaul or just a few tweaks this offseason. He’s also not ready to draw any conclusions about the long-term viability of the Turner/Sabonis frontcourt pairing.

“I’d like to answer that after the playoffs because that’s when it really counts,” Pritchard said of the two centers. “Hopefully, Myles will be back in time.”

Here are a few more highlights from Kravitz’s Q&A with the Pacers’ president, which covers plenty of ground and is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber:

On Aaron Holiday‘s down year:

“We still believe in Aaron. Sometimes in a year, for whatever reason, you prepare but you have some guys playing very well at his position. I know (head coach) Nate (Bjorkgren) wants to reward the guys who played well this year, and Aaron simply hasn’t played as well. We’ll need him at some point in time, believe me. Players who stay prepared almost invariably get another shot, and he’ll get another shot, but he’ll have to hit shots and play within our system.”

On whether there are any regrets about firing Nate McMillan, who is thriving in Atlanta:

“Look, Nate is a great friend; we worked together for more than a decade. I want him to do well. He’s got a really good team, good chemistry, and they’re going to be a tough team in the playoffs. But no animosity and no regret at all. This is a transitory business. If we were dismayed by people leaving us and having success elsewhere, what would that say about us? I’m happy for Nate, just the way I’m happy for Frank Vogel.”

On Paul George and Victor Oladipo both pushing their way out of Indiana, and whether there’s concern about a perception that stars don’t want to play for the Pacers:

“I think they’re all independent situations, first of all. We obsess with making this a great place for players. … Great training facility, the best doctors in the world. And look, Malcolm (Brogdon) chose us, the Rookie of the Year chose us, and he’s had a great experience.

“We get it; we’re not for everybody. We don’t have the beach and the big city, but it’s a great place to play basketball in front of people who truly appreciate when you play the right way. Great fans, educated fans, great facilities, and I always say this now: Players get marketed all around the world. Social media could be the great equalizer. You can be in a smaller market and still have a national profile.”

On how to deal with the challenge of being a small-market team:

“We’ve done some things well and haven’t done some things well, but for us, it almost feels like you have to play a perfect game to be hyper-competitive. There are teams who can make personnel mistakes; we really can’t. Our biggest source of players is trades, and that’s really tough. Trades are challenging. I feel good about the ones we’ve made, and we have to draft better, and we will, but I still have a ton of confidence in our scouting staff. It’s just, yes, it’s a major challenge given the fact that the bifurcation of the top teams seems to be getting greater in comparison with the mid- and small-market teams. That’s something we’re always going to have to deal with.”

Trade Rumors: Pelicans, Bledsoe, Knicks, Pacers, Holiday, More

The Pelicans are hoping to move off some of their expensive, longer-term contracts, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, who points to Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams as two players who fit that bill. Since neither Bledsoe nor Adams looks like a positive trade asset at this point, a more appealing young player like Lonzo Ball could “serve as a reward” for a trade partner who is open to absorbing one of those contracts, Vardon writes.

Reports from Ian Begley of SNY.tv and Mike Mazzeo (Twitter link) also suggest that the Pelicans are looking to dump some long-term salary. Begley hears from sources that New Orleans has spoken to multiple teams – including the Knicks – about attaching a first-round pick to Bledsoe’s contract in potential trades. It’s not clear what sort of return the Pels are seeking in exchange for Bledsoe and a first-rounder.

Meanwhile, Mazzeo hears that the Knicks and Pelicans have discussed the possibility of a trade that includes both Ball and Bledsoe, but that New York would want to find a third team to take on Bledsoe’s contract in that scenario.

Here are a few more of the latest trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • Although at least one “prominent voice” within the Knicks‘ organization is in favor of acquiring Andre Drummond from the Cavaliers, the majority of the front office doesn’t view the big man as a fit, according to Begley.
  • The Pacers have held numerous trade discussions this week about Myles Turner, Aaron Holiday, and Doug McDermott, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). A previous report stated that Indiana would have to be blown away to move Turner this week, but Holiday and McDermott are more viable trade candidates.
  • Addressing the Holiday situation, J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star cites league sources who say that many people around the Pacers guard are hoping he’s dealt this week or during the offseason. Playing time is a top priority for Holiday, and he has seen his minutes dip to 18.0 per game under Nate Bjorkgren this season (after averaging 24.5 MPG a year ago). According to Michael, the Knicks and Suns have had interest in Holiday in the past, but it’s not clear if he’s on either team’s radar now.
  • If LaMarcus Aldridge is bought out rather than traded, the Suns would be in the mix, though the Heat and Nets would probably be ahead of Phoenix in the pecking order, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Scotto’s Latest: Mavs, Holmes, Clippers, Rockets, Drummond, More

The Mavericks are among the teams to express interest in trading for Kings center Richaun Holmes, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Charlotte and Toronto have previously been identified as other clubs eyeing Holmes, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

While Holmes seems to be drawing plenty of interest from potential suitors, multiple reports have indicated it would take a substantial offer to pry him away from the Kings. The big man has also spoken glowingly about his current team and about the city of Sacramento, suggesting he’ll be open to remaining with the Kings beyond this season. As such, general manager Monte McNair won’t necessarily feel pressure to get something back for Holmes now, ahead of his free agency.

Here’s more from Scotto:

  • The Clippers have shown interest in Pacers guard Aaron Holiday, according to Scotto. Holiday could be an option if L.A. can’t acquire a veteran like Ricky Rubio or George Hill, though Indiana’s asking price is high — the team is said to be seeking a first-round pick for Holiday.
  • Scotto writes that the Rockets are among the teams to express exploratory interest in Cavaliers center Andre Drummond. That seems like an odd fit for this season’s Houston squad, but could signal that the team will be among Drummond’s suitors in free agency this offseason.
  • The Cavaliers are hoping to acquire a second-round pick in a trade involving center JaVale McGee, league sources tell Scotto.
  • Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports previously mentioned Avery Bradley as a possible Nets target if Spencer Dinwiddie is sent to the Heat. Scotto reiterates that point, noting that Brooklyn had offseason interest in Bradley, who is close with Kevin Durant and Nets assistant Royal Ivey.

Goodwill’s Latest: Brogdon, Blazers, McGee, Heat, Oubre, More

Multiple teams have indicated that the Pacers are open to listening to pitches on Malcolm Brogdon, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Brogdon is only in the second season of a four-year, $85MM contract, but Goodwill suggests that Indiana is comfortable with the idea of Caris LeVert manning the point if the team gets a deal it likes for Brogdon.

In addition to Brogdon, another Pacers point guard – Aaron Holiday – is thought to be available. A report last week indicated Indiana was seeking a first-round pick for Holiday, which Goodwill confirms. According to Goodwill, Holiday seems to have “fallen out of favor” somewhat in Indiana.

Here’s more from Goodwill:

  • The Trail Blazers are among the teams with interest in Cavaliers center JaVale McGee, per Goodwill. McGee could be had via trade — it remains to be seen whether he and Cleveland would work out a buyout if he stays put at the deadline.
  • The Nets are dangling Spencer Dinwiddie and a second-round pick as they look to bolster their bench, sources tell Yahoo Sports. Brooklyn has discussed players like Avery Bradley, Kendrick Nunn, and Maurice Harkless with the Heat, Goodwill says.
  • Kelly Oubre‘s camp believes the Warriors forward is capable of getting a “top-10 deal” in free agency this offseason, per Goodwill. Presumably, that means one of the top 10 most valuable free agent contracts signed this summer.
  • Goodwill suggests that former Cavaliers executive Brock Aller – who is now the Knicks‘ VP of strategy – is worth keeping an eye on in the event that Cleveland moves on from current general manager Koby Altman at some point. Aller has a long-standing relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, Goodwill notes.

Scotto’s Latest: Dinwiddie, A. Gordon, A. Holiday, Bjelica

The asking price for Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie on the trade market is believed to be a role player who can contribute this season, plus a second-round pick, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim Bontemps suggested during the latest episode of The Woj Pod that Brooklyn would seek a solid wing defender in such a deal, as NetsDaily relays.

Dinwiddie will be a fascinating trade chip to monitor at the trade deadline, since his value is difficult to pin down. His partially torn ACL will likely prevent him from playing again this season and he’s expected to opt out of his contract at season’s end, as Scotto confirms.

Dinwiddie’s Bird rights have some value, especially to teams without projected 2021 cap room, but most of those clubs without cap space are playoff teams that seem unlikely to send Brooklyn win-now assets just to get a leg up on Dinwiddie’s free agency.

Here’s more from Scotto, with six days until the 2021 trade deadline:

  • The Magic are thought to be seeking a first-round pick and a good young player in exchange for forward Aaron Gordon, reports Scotto. Gordon, Evan Fournier, and other Orlando players could be available at the deadline, but the team remains reluctant to move Nikola Vucevic, Scotto notes.
  • Pacers guard Aaron Holiday would be available for a first-round pick, league sources tell Scotto. Indiana has always thought highly of Holiday, but a first-rounder may be an ambitious ask, given his reduced role and his underwhelming production (including a .377 FG%).
  • Several opposing executives believe the Kings will be able to get a second-round pick for Nemanja Bjelica, says Scotto. If Sacramento is willing to take on salary beyond this season, a stronger return could be in play, but the team would prefer not to do so, sources tell HoopsHype.

Pacers Exercise 2021/22 Options On Holiday, Bitadze

The Pacers have picked up a pair of rookie scale contract options for the 2021/22 season, announcing today in a press release that they’ve exercised Aaron Holiday‘s fourth-year option and Goga Bitadze‘s third-year option.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2021/22 Rookie Scale Team Options]

Holiday, 24, saw an increased role in Indiana’s backcourt last season, averaging 9.5 PPG and 3.4 APG to go along with a .414/.394/.851 shooting line in 66 games (24.5 MPG).

After earning $2.35MM this season, Holiday will make $3.98MM in 2021/22 as a result of his newly-exercised option. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension in 2021. If he doesn’t sign a new deal at that point, he’d be on track for restricted free agency in ’22.

Bitadze, the 18th overall pick in the 2019 draft, appeared in 54 games as a rookie for the Pacers, averaging 3.2 PPG and 2.0 RPG in 8.7 minutes per contest. After dealing with visa issues and knee problems during his first year as a Pacer, the big man is currently battling an ankle sprain and will miss the start of the season.

Bitadze’s 2021/22 option – which is now fully guaranteed – is worth $3.1MM. The Pacers will have to decide next year whether to pick up his $5.79MM option for ’22/23.

Eastern Notes: Hawks, Collins, Wall, Holiday, Pistons

The Hawks‘ deal with power forward Danilo Gallinari has raised some questions about John Collins‘ long-term fit in Atlanta. However, Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (via Twitter) that the club is still hoping to get a rookie scale extension done with Collins this offseason. In other words, the addition of Gallinari doesn’t mean the Hawks don’t still consider Collins part of their future.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference on the first night of free agency:

  • In the wake of a report that Wizards point guard John Wall is seeking a trade out of Washington, Fred Katz of The Athletic notes (via Twitter) that Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington reported earlier this week that Wall was “surprised” to hear GM Tommy Sheppard say that the franchise was building around Bradley Beal. Even if Sheppard’s comment didn’t directly lead to Wall’s apparent trade request, the timing is interesting.
  • Aaron Holiday has drawn frequent trade interest over the last two years, but the Pacers remain high on the 24-year-old guard, per J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link), who hears that Holiday is “safe.” Holiday’s name came up in trade rumors involving Boston earlier today.
  • The Pistons didn’t want to go as high as Houston was willing to in order to re-sign Christian Wood (nearly $14MM per year), which was way the team shifted its focus to Jerami Grant, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Latest On Gordon Hayward

4:57pm: Hayward has told the Celtics he wants to go to the Pacers, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets. The Pacers offered Myles Turner and Doug McDermott to Boston in a sign-and-trade scenario but the Celtics want Turner and either Warren or Victor Oladipo.

4:45pm: The Hornets are expected to pursue Gordon Hayward in free agency but will likely need to work out a sign-and-trade agreement with the Celtics to make it happen, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports.

Hayward declined his whopping $34.2MM option in order to become an unrestricted free agent. In 52 games last season, he averaged 17.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 4.1 APG on .500/.383/.855 shooting but missed a good chunk of the playoffs with an ankle injury.

Charlotte has approximately $19.4MM in cap space, so it’s unlikely Hayward would sign a multi-year deal unless there’s a sign-and-trade scenario with Boston and perhaps a third team as a facilitator.

The Hornets could dangle the expiring contracts of Cody Zeller and Nicolas Batum as part of the package, Scotto notes.

Hayward has some history with the Hornets franchise. He signed an offer sheet with Charlotte in 2014 when he was a restricted free agent but the Jazz matched it.

The Pacers are also interested in Hayward via a sign-and-trade but are reluctant to part with T.J. Warren and Aaron Holiday, two players that Boston would have some interest in acquiring, according to Ian Begley of SNY TV. However, Hayward may try to force the Celtics’ hands. The former Butler University star is “fully focused” on returning to Indiana and playing for the Pacers, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (hat tip to RealGM).

The Knicks are also expected to be in the mix for Hayward after freeing nearly $40MM in cap space.

Some with the organization have interest in signing Hayward as a free agent. However, the Knicks are unlikely to offer Hayward a four-year deal, Begley adds.

Central Notes: Brogdon, Pacers, Giannis, Pistons

Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon tested positive for the coronavirus when the NBA’s mandatory testing program began in June, but announced today (via Twitter) that he’s “feeling well” and is “ready for Orlando.”

The Pacers are one of eight teams scheduled to travel to the Walt Disney World campus on Thursday, and with Brogdon’s quarantine period now over, there’s hope that he’ll be able to accompany the team on that trip. According to Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports (Twitter link), Brogdon has to return another negative COVID-19 test before getting the go-ahead to travel with the Pacers to Orlando.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star explores how Victor Oladipo‘s absence will impact the Pacers‘ rotation this summer, writing that Aaron Holiday and Edmond Sumner are the best bets to see increased roles.
  • Asked today if he has any concerns about teams tampering with Giannis Antetokounmpo at the NBA’s campus in Orlando, Bucks GM Jon Horst replied, “Zero,” tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Horst went on to joke that such tampering would “technically violate the social distancing rules” of the campus.
  • It’s not clear yet what responsibilities new Pistons assistant GM David Mincberg will take on, but the veteran executive is “something of a jack-of-all-trades addition” for the team, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press, who notes that Mincberg has experience in scouting, analytics, salary cap management, and legal counsel.

Central Notes: Holden, Kennard, Holiday, Bulls

As the Pistons close in on a GM, they are also looking at Nets director of player personnel J.R. Holden and Warriors assistant GM Mike Dunleavy as potential front office additions, SNY’s Ian Begley tweets. Presumably, Detroit would consider Holden and Dunleavy as candidates as assistant GMs.

However, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets that the Pistons plan to hire a GM first and allow that person to fill out the staff. Thunder executive Troy Weaver has reportedly emerged as the leading candidate in their GM search, though Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes and Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson are also in the mix.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pistons swingman Luke Kennard is confident the knee tendinitis that cut short his season is no longer an issue, as he told Keith Langlois of the team’s website. Kennard didn’t play after Christmas but was just about to return when the pandemic struck  in March. The Pistons, who are not part of the league’s restart plan, may have to wait until December to play again. “I’m not really nervous about the time off,” Kennard said. “I know what I’m doing right now is going to allow me to stay healthy and get through a full season and be ready to go for all 82 games or whatever they decide.”
  • Pacers guard Aaron Holiday has signed with BDA Sports and will be represented by veteran agent Bill Duffy and Nima Namakian, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. Holiday is signed through at least next season. The Pacers hold an option worth approximately $4MM on his contract for the 2021/22 season.
  • Jim Boylen’s status as the Bulls coach remains up in the air even though front office changes have been made and Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times believes the franchise’s reputation has something to do with it, he said on 670 The Score (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman).(Rick) Carlisle, the Dallas coach, has made it very clear the disdain the Coaches Association and a lot of coaches have for the Bulls and the practices they have toward coaches. … They’re buying time because they have time to buy, but also I think it’s also a perception thing that they’re looking to change.”