Al-Farouq Aminu

Al-Farouq Aminu Out Indefinitely With Torn Meniscus

Magic forward Al-Farouq Aminu has a torn meniscus in his right knee, the team announced on Twitter. An MRI revealed the damage. He will be evaluated further to determine how the injury will be treated and how long he will be out of action.

Aminu, 29, signed a three-year, $29MM deal with Orlando in July. He is playing 21.1 minutes per night through 18 games, mostly in a reserve role, and is averaging 4.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

The news is the latest injury blow to a Magic team already missing starting center Nikola Vucevic, along with Michael Carter-Williams. It should mean more minutes for Aaron Gordon, who returned from an ankle injury this week, and Jonathan Isaac, as well as a potential opportunity for third-year forward Wesley Iwundu.

Orlando is carrying an open roster spot that could be filled if depth becomes an issue, points out Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Al-Farouq Aminu Discusses FA Decision, Magic’s Goals

After finishing last season with a top-10 defense and a bottom-10 offense, the Magic made the decision to double down on their strengths in the offseason. Rather than using their mid-level exception to add a play-maker or shot creator, Orlando used the full MLE to bring aboard Al-Farouq Aminu, a veteran forward best known for his perimeter defense.

As Aminu recently explained to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, improving that defense and making it one of the NBA’s very best units is a priority for the Magic.

“We discuss it every day. We want to be a top-five defensive team, if not No. 1,” Aminu said. “I think it’s definitely something that this team has the ability to do and we just have to continue to click together and understand where we need to be in order to do it. I think the more and more we play together and get that cohesiveness, the better we’ll become on defense. And out of the gate, we’re already talented on defense. Now, it’s just getting that continuity and that will take us over the top.”

Although the Magic currently rank third in defensive rating, the team has the NBA’s second-worst offensive rating, which has contributed to a slow start (4-7) this season. Those struggles have prompted head coach Steve Clifford to experiment a little with his rotation, and that experimentation hasn’t benefited Aminu, who only played two minutes in Orlando’s win over the Sixers on Wednesday. After averaging 24.1 minutes in the team’s first seven games, Aminu has played just 11.9 MPG in the last four.

Aminu is in the first year of a three-year contract worth over $29MM, so it’d be a surprise if he’s removed from the rotation altogether. However, it may be a while before we see him match the 29 minutes he logged on opening night.

Still, when the 29-year-old spoke recently to Kennedy, he was happy with his decision to join the Magic in the summer and optimistic about what he could bring the team. Here are a few highlights from that conversation, which is worth checking out in full:

On why Aminu chose the Magic in free agency:

“I like that they’re a young team and I thought that I could bring some veteran leadership to them. Also, they went to the playoffs last year, so I knew they had a good team. I like their style of play and different things like that. I’m glad I made that decision.”

On whether he’s excited about the Magic’s young core:

“Yeah, for sure. I really wanted to play a part in molding them. In a couple of years, when these guys are in their prime and doing their thing, it’ll be cool to be able to say that I put my touch on that. That’ll be cool. I was talking to them the other day and I told them, ‘Y’all are going to make a lot of money! Y’all play the right way, y’all are young and the league is just changing. Guys are getting paid.'”

On leaving Portland after spending four seasons with the Trail Blazers:

“It was [tough] because I’m leaving the guys I was playing with, but a lot of the guys ended up leaving anyway, so it was kind of like, ‘Well, nobody is there.’ Not ‘nobody,’ but you know what I mean. The gang’s not even there anymore anyway, so it wouldn’t have been the same even if I had stayed.

“It’s not the organization, it’s the people that you get to work with every day that you end up [getting close with]. … Sometimes, it’s just one person; like, I remember the first time it was Ed [Davis]. Me and him came into Portland together and we became really cool. Then, after three years, he was gone and that was tough. Then, I started becoming really cool with Moe [Harkless] and Evan [Turner] and now they’re gone, so it’s like, man… It’s kind of already tough to make friends in this industry anyway and then guys move on. And you still get to talk to them and stay close, but it’s different. But I think that’s why it isn’t as traumatic because those guys are in different places anyway, so the gang is gone.”

Eastern Notes: Celtics, Satoransky, Lowry, Aminu

A Wednesday report suggested the Celtics have offered Jaylen Brown a four-year, $80MM contract extension and that the young swingman passed on that offer in search of a more lucrative deal. Appearing on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston on Thursday, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge referred to that report as “not accurate,” though he declined to offer any real specifics on the team’s talks with Brown.

“We are working to come to some result by Monday as our deadline, and the negotiations have gone well,” the Celtics’ top decision-maker said, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “It’s just not an accurate report, that’s all. We’ve given him numerous offers. We’ve been negotiating for a little while. So, that’s all.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic wrote earlier today that multiple teams are watching the Celtics’ negotiations with Brown closely, since the soon-to-be-23-year-old would be a prime candidate for a big offer sheet if he reaches restricted free agency next summer. However, Ainge said that neither Brown nor the C’s are “too stressed” about the situation, as Forsberg notes.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • After assuming most of the scoring and play-making responsibilities in Charlotte, Kemba Walker is enjoying playing on a Celtics team that has players capable of sharing that burden, writes John Karalis of MassLive.com. “It takes a lot of pressure off me,” Walker said earlier this week. “I’m getting a lot of different shots as well, but I’m loving it, not having to do so much all the time. Hopefully my usage rate might be going down a little bit. It allows other guys to make plays and I can appreciate that for sure.”
  • The Bulls officially named offseason free agent addition Tomas Satoransky their starting point guard this week, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago details. Satoransky beat our fourth-year guard Kris Dunn, who is entering a contract year. However, Dunn is staying positive as he prepares for a reserve role, Johnson writes in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story.
  • After signing an extension with the Raptors this week, Kyle Lowry said that both sides “worked extremely hard to get it done” and that he’s glad to remain in the place he wanted to be. GM Bobby Webster, meanwhile, said working out a new deal with Lowry before opening night was always the goal. You don’t want to go into seasons with anything hanging over the team,” Webster said. “We knew it was something that was really important to him and it was really important to us (Twitter links via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).
  • Al-Farouq Aminu‘s new teammates in Orlando have been raving about his versatility, work ethic, and ability to adapt quickly to the Magic‘s system, writes John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. Aminu was the team’s big offseason addition, signing a three-year contract worth nearly $30MM.

Magic Notes: Fultz, Burning Questions, Aminu

Although the Magic exercised 2020/21 rookie scale options this week on three players, only one of those decisions really generated headlines. The option pick-ups for Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba came as no surprise, but Orlando’s decision to exercise Markelle Fultz‘s $12.3MM option for ’20/21 raised some eyebrows.

Picking up Fultz’s fourth-year option is “the most tangible sign yet” that the Magic are pleased with the progress the former No. 1 overall pick has made in his rehab from thoracic outlet syndrome, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. As Robbins points out, making the move official a month and a half before the October 31 deadline helped relieve some of the pressure on Fultz, since there was no opportunity for speculation about that option decision to gain any steam.

As we wait for an update on when we can expect Fultz to make his debut for the Magic, here’s more on the young point guard, plus a couple other notes out of Orlando:

  • In the wake of their decision on Fultz, Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer wonders what the Magic know that we don’t. As Uggetti writes, guaranteeing another $12.3MM for the 21-year-old is a significant investment in a player who has appeared in just 33 total NBA games and has struggled with his shot.
  • In a separate article for The Athletic, Robbins examines the burning questions facing each player on the Magic’s roster this season. Among the questions Robbins poses: Can Orlando’s major free agent addition, Al-Farouq Aminu, effectively space the floor on offense? Aminu is a career 33.7% three-point shooter.
  • In a Q&A with John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, Magic head coach Steve Clifford addressed a handful of topics, suggesting at one point that the team’s readiness to keep working hard is even more important than the roster’s continuity. “Often, we look at professional athletes as if they’re a given. The thing for us to all understand is this – we played better (in the second half) because we put a lot into it,” Clifford said. “The consistent players put a lot into it every year. And the really talented players who don’t really ever reach the level that they should, it’s because they have a fluctuation in their focus from year to year.”

World Cup Updates: Lithuania, Joseph, Nigeria, France

The Lithuanian national team has announced its roster for the 2019 World Cup, according to Donatas Urbonas, who tweets that the 12-man squad will include Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis in the frontcourt. Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas is also on the roster.

Lithuania is viewed as a contender to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, but it won’t have an easy path to even make it out of the first round. The Lithuanian national team is part of a group that also includes Australia, Canada, and Senegal — only two of those clubs will advance to the round of 16.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup, which will tip off in just four days in China:

Contract Details: Magic, Lakers, Pistons, Bulls, More

The free agency deals began a week ago, but the details of those arrangements are slowly trickling in as they become official. Let’s take a look at some contract notes from players around the league:

  • Nikola Vucevic’s four-year, $100MM deal with the Magic will decline by 8% annually, Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights tweets. Vucevic will make roughly $28.4MM in the first year of his front-loaded contract.
  • Terrence Ross‘ four-year, $52MM contract with the Magic will start at $12.5MM, per Siegel. Ross will make $13.5MM during the 2020/21 season, followed by $12.5MM and $11.5MM in the two ensuing years.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu will take home the full non-taxpayer’s mid-level on his deal with the Magic. He’ll make approximately $9.3MM during his first season and approximately $9.7MM and $10.2MM, respectively, over the ensuing two campaigns.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s two year deal with the Lakers is worth approximately $16.6MM in total value. KCP can make roughly $1.2MM in annual incentives on top of that amount, a source tells Siegel (Twitter link). The shooting guard has a player option on the second year of the pact, which also has a 15% trade bonus. Since his deal could be a one-year contract (if he chooses to turn down the player option), Caldwell-Pope has a default no-trade clause.
  • JaVale McGee also has a player option on the final year of his two-year deal with the Lakers, Keith Smith of RealGM tweets. McGee, who will make $8.2MM over the length of his contract, also has the ability to veto a trade.
  • Markieff Morris‘ two-year deal with the Pistons contains a second-year player option, Smith tweets. Morris was signed via the bi-annual exception.
  • Bruno Fernando‘s three-year deal with the Hawks is worth $4.7MM, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. It appears Atlanta will be using cap space to sign the rookie.
  • Tomas Satoransky final season of the three-year, $30MM deal with the Bulls is only guaranteed for $5MM, Fred Katz of The Athletic relays (Twitter link). Chicago brought the point guard to town via sign-and-trade.

Magic Sign Al-Farouq Aminu To Three-Year Deal

JULY 6: The Magic have officially signed Aminu, the team announced today in a press release.

JUNE 30: The Magic have agreed to a contract with Al-Farouq Aminu, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

The deal will be for three years and $29MM, which works out to the amount of the full non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception.  It includes a player option on the final year.

Aminu, 28, averaged 9.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 81 games (28.3 MPG) as the Trail Blazers’ starting power forward last season. He’s also capable of knocking down three-pointers, having made 35.3% of his attempts during his four years in Portland, and is a strong defender.

With so many high-priced commitments in Portland, it’s no surprise that Aminu was forced to look elsewhere for a contract this offseason. Orlando has been busy this weekend, already agreeing to bring back Terrence Ross and Nikola Vucevic.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Millsap, Blazers, Lakers, D-Lo, Kemba, Portis

The Nuggets are prepared to potentially account for Paul Millsap‘s $30MM team option on their 2019/20 cap if they don’t believe they’ll be able to negotiate a new, more favorable deal with the big man in free agency, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested as part of the network’s free agency special on Tuesday night (video link).

While the Nuggets would have limited cap flexibility this summer with Millsap’s $30MM on their books, the club values him and wants to bring him back, according to both Woj and ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

Meanwhile, Woj and Lowe also weighed in on Trail Blazers, Denver’s opponent in the Western Semifinals this spring. There are indications that the Blazers won’t rest on their laurels this offseason, according to Lowe, who suggests that Portland may be one move away from becoming a legit title threat.

Wojnarowski agrees, though he cautions that the Blazers – who are more likely to make a big move via trade than on the free agent market – may end up waiting until during the season to try to make that move. Woj adds that Portland may not be able to keep Rodney Hood, since it looks as if his value this summer could exceed the taxpayer mid-level. The Blazers don’t have Hood’s Bird rights.

Here’s more on free agency from around the NBA:

  • In a pair of ESPN appearances (video links), Wojnarowski continues to suggest that the idea of a reunion between the Lakers and D’Angelo Russell isn’t far-fetched. According to Woj, Russell is “open-minded” about the idea, while the Lakers wouldn’t mind seeing Kyrie Irving go to Brooklyn, since it would increase the odds of the Nets withdrawing Russell’s QO and making him an unrestricted free agent. If Anthony Davis waives his trade kicker, the Lakers could theoretically offer Russell his max without trading Moritz Wagner or Isaac Bonga.
  • One league source who spoke to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) views the Celtics as the favorites for free agent point guard Kemba Walker, followed by the Hornets and Mavericks.
  • The Wizards aren’t expected to match a huge offer sheet for Bobby Portis, who has generated interest from multiple teams already, sources tell Tony Jones and Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link). Jones also repeats a number that has been previously reported, indicating that Portis is seeking an annual salary of up to $16MM.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu is technically eligible for a contract extension with the Trail Blazers until Sunday, but he tells Jason Quick of The Athletic, “I haven’t really talked to [president of basketball operations] Neil [Olshey] (Twitter link). Aminu will reach the open market as an unrestricted free agent on the evening of June 30, assuming Portland doesn’t lock him up before then.

Rockets Eyeing Danny Green, Jeremy Lamb, Others

While Jimmy Butler is the Rockets‘ “dream addition,” the team has its eye on a number of other potential targets in free agency, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

[RELATED: Rockets to pursue sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler]

A source with knowledge of the Rockets’ plans tells Amick that Danny Green, Jeremy Lamb, Al-Farouq Aminu, DeAndre Jordan, Brook Lopez, and Kevon Looney are among the veteran free agents that have piqued the club’s interest.

General manager Daryl Morey has indicated that the Rockets would like to add a third star to complement James Harden and Chris Paul, whose supposedly “unsalvageable” relationship was referred to as “fake news” by P.J. Tucker within Amick’s story. Multiple reports have identified Butler as the team’s most likely target.

However, there are a number of roadblocks standing in the way of acquiring Butler — the Sixers would have to agree to a sign-and-trade, a third team would likely have to be involved due to Base Year Compensation rules, and Houston’s ability to fill out a roster around Harden, Paul, and Butler would be extremely limited due to a hard cap. And, of course, Butler would have to want to go to Houston badly enough to try to make it all work.

If the Rockets strike out on Butler, they’re more likely to simply operate as an over-the-cap team and make use of the mid-level exception to add another rotation player to their core. Depending on the club’s proximity to the tax apron, that mid-level could either be worth about $9.25MM (full) or $5.71MM (taxpayer).

That’s where the free agents listed above would come in to play, though even some of those guys – including Green, Lamb, and Lopez – may be out of reach with the mid-level (especially the taxpayer MLE) unless they’re willing to take a bit of a discount. All the players named by Amick will be unrestricted free agents this summer.

Trail Blazers Notes: Kanter, Aminu, Workout, Durant

Enes Kanter received a hero’s welcome Saturday as he returned to Oklahoma City for his annual youth basketball camp, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The former Thunder center remains popular with local fans, many of whom encouraged him to return to OKC in free agency. While Kanter might be too pricey for the Thunder to consider, he can count on receiving a lot of offers after rebuilding his stock in Portland following his release by the Knicks.

The Trail Blazers were aggressive in recruiting Kanter, who also received interest from the Thunder and Lakers. Repeated calls and texts from coach Terry Stotts, GM Neil Olshey and Damian Lillard were enough to tip the scales in Portland’s favor, which became fortunate when starting center Jusuf Nurkic was lost for the season with a broken leg.

“I’m glad that Portland happened,” Kanter said. “I love Portland, I love the people there, I love the fans there. I just want to go – and Portland counts, too – somewhere I can win games. I’m going into my ninth year. I just want to go somewhere where I have a good situation, have some playing time and just win.”

There’s more Trail Blazers news to pass along:

  • Al-Farouq Aminu‘s agent is open to negotiating an extension with Portland before his client hits free agency, but the Blazers may not be able to afford a substantial raise, relays Jason Quick of The Athletic. “He wants to be there,” Raymond Brothers said. “He’s still committed to the Blazers. He likes the city, the team, the coach, he likes Neil. He’s happy. He just wants to win.” Any extension would be limited to $48MM over four years. Aminu made $6.96MM this season.
  • The Trail Blazers brought in six players Friday for their first pre-draft workout, notes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. The session featured Wake Forest’s Jaylen Hoard, Memphis’ Jeremiah Martin, Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort, Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie, St. John’s Shamorie Ponds and Shaw University’s Amir Hinton. Portland enters the draft with just one pick, its first-rounder at No. 25.
  • Lillard is asking an Oakland-based rapper to help convince Kevin Durant to come to Portland, relays Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. Mistah F.A.B. joined Lillard on Instagram Live following Game 1 of the NBA Finals and asked him which free agent the Blazers should pursue. “Just go in there and tell KD, say ‘KD, just go to Portland, bruh. I’m a Portland fan,'” Lillard responded. “You a Portland fan now, so just be like, ‘Bruh they left Oakland anyways, so just go to Portland.'”