Alex Abrines

Northwest Notes: Deng, Abrines, Hernangomez

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau defended the signing of forward Luol Deng, saying the veteran forward can help his team in a number of ways, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com reports. “He’s only 33,” the Wolves coach said. “He takes great care of himself. He knows how to prepare for the season. For us, the fact that he can play [multiple spots] and he’s a veteran, it’s a long season, you like to have players like that. And he’s familiar with what we want to do.” Deng signed a one-year, $2.4MM contract with the Timberwolves after reaching a buyout agreement with the Lakers and clearing waivers. Thibodeau has taken criticism for being too partial to ex-Bulls players but he shrugs it off, as told Aschburner. “Whether a guy has played for me before or in a system where (GM) Scott (Layden) had been before or maybe where one of our assistants had been, if you feel like you know a player well and he fits into your system, then why not do it?,” Thibodeau said. “To me, I don’t really care what other people think. I care about what we think.”

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Deng gave up $7.5MM over the next two seasons in his buyout with Lakers, including $3.6MM that was allocated to the upcoming season, salary cap expert Albert Nahmad tweets. He’ll recoup two-thirds of the latter giveback with his Wolves contract, meaning he’ll receive a total of $16.7MM for the season, Nahmad adds.
  • Alex Abrines is just entering his prime at 25 years old and the Thunder swingman could be in line for an expanded role, Nick Gallo of the team’s website writes. Abrines averaged 15.1 MPG in 75 regular-season appearances last season could see some crunch-time minutes this season, Gallo adds. “You can focus on certain points of your game. (I’ll) especially keep improving on defense and then just develop my offensive game,” Abrines said. “Not just being a shooter, trying to put the ball on the floor, playing some big roles and being able to create for my teammates.”
  • Nuggets forward Juan Hernangomez could enjoy a bounce-back season, Christopher Dempsey of the Nuggets’ website opines. Hernangomez appeared in just 25 games last season after seeing action in 62 games the previous campaign, in part due to a bout with mononucleosis, Dempsey notes. Hernangomez could play a bigger role off the bench this season because of his long-range shooting and hustle, Dempsey adds.

And-Ones: Long, LiAngelo Ball, Spain

Ex-Sixers forward Shawn Long has signed a contract with New Zealand Breakers, according to a Sportando report. Long played 18 games with Philadelphia in 2016/2017, averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 13 MPG. He toiled in the G League last season with the Delaware 87ers, averaging 14.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG in 33 games following a seven-game stint in China. The Timberwolves took a look at Long during a free agent mini-camp in June.

We have more from around the pro basketball world:

Thunder Notes: Roberson, Brewer, Abrines, Ferguson

Andre Roberson has been a consistent rock for the Thunder on defense and once he went down with a season-ending injury in January, his value to Oklahoma City was accentuated, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes.

“I know a lot of people across the world, even you guys doubted Andre many, many times about his shooting and all that stuff,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “But to me, man, the type of guy he is, the things he brings to the game is a huge, huge impact on our team and what he brings to the table. I never take anything he does for granted because of the way he lays it out on the line.”

As Horne points out, Oklahoma City’s defensive rating was fifth in the NBA at 103.1 with a healthy Roberson and dropped all the way to 15th (107) in 33 games without him.

Check out more notes on the Thunder below:

  • In a separate story, Horne writes about veteran Corey Brewer, who came over to the Thunder from the Lakers and contributed on both ends of the floor. The Thunder will have other things to take care of this offseason, namely Paul George‘s free agency, but Brewer’s short stint at the least warranted a second look. “It was good for me to have a chance to play, to get to show everybody I can still play, just coming in here to try to help the team as best I could,” Brewer said
  • While improving his game is a priority, Alex Abrines most important goal this offseason is marrying his fiance, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman details. Then, his focus will turn to improving his defense and maintaining his offense, which was strong but did slip numbers wise. “I think I can do a better job with that,” Abrines said. “I think it’s just because I couldn’t find my rhythm during the regular season. I had some really good games scoring five threes, and then I’d have stretches not scoring a three in five, six games. So I think I’ve got to work on that and just be more conscious.”
  • Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman also writes about Terrance Ferguson, the Thunder’s 20-year-old guard who had an up-and-down rookie season. He appeared in 61 games while averaging 3.1 PPG and he hopes to improve on that as a sophomore. “I just want to come back a totally different player,” Ferguson said.

Alex Abrines Undergoes Sports Hernia Surgery

Thunder shooting guard Alex Abrines underwent sports hernia surgery this week, according to a team press release relayed by The Oklahoman’s Brett Dawson (Twitter link).

Abrines will require six weeks of recovery before he can resume normal offseason activities, the release adds. The procedure was performed in Philadelphia by Dr. William Meyers.

The 6’6” Abrines, 24, has one more guaranteed year left on his rookie contract at $5.455MM. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer if the team extends a qualifying offer of $6.8MM.

Abrines appeared in 75 regular-season games and averaged 4.7 PPG in 15.1 MPG while shooting 38% from long range. Abrines was in the playoff rotation when the Jazz eliminated the Thunder, 4-2. He averaged 4.0 PPG and made 46.2% of his 3-point attempts in 18.3 MPG.

Injury Updates: Curry, Iguodala, Embiid, Thunder

Stephen Curry has shown “steady functional progress” on his MCL sprain and remains on target for a second-round return, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.

The Warriors provided a medical update on Curry before today’s playoff opener, including the news that he “will intensify his on-court rehabilitation in the coming days.” The team’s medical staff examined Curry yesterday and plans a re-evaluation in one week. His rehab program will consist of “more running and lateral movement.”

“When he’s ready, he’s ready,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But he’s making progress, which is a good sign.”

Curry hasn’t played since suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain March 23. He had missed the previous six games with a right ankle injury.

“Every day has been something good, advancing the rehab process,” Curry said. “I’m looking forward to hopefully making more progress as we look towards the playoffs. It’s been an interesting two weeks so far. Just trying to get some rhythm, some strength back, some flexibility, range of motion, all that type of stuff.”

There’s more injury news involving playoff teams:

  • Warriors forward Andre Iguodala appears to be OK after taking a hard hit to his leg in the first half of today’s game, tweets Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. He was diagnosed with just a charley horse, but Kerr said it’s fortunate that Iguodala wasn’t needed late in the game.
  • Joel Embiid is optimistic about his chances to return for Game 2 or 3 of the Sixers‘ series with Miami, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Embiid underwent facial surgery March 31 after breaking an orbital bone in an on-court collision. He has to prove he can handle contact before being medically cleared to play, but he took steps in that direction this week (Twitter link). “If it was my decision I would play, but I can’t get back out on the court if I don’t have the OK from them,” Embiid said. “But everything has been going well.” He spent about 30 minutes shooting before tonight’s game wearing a black protective mask that the league hasn’t approved for game use (Twitter link).
  • The status of two injured Thunder players remains in question heading into Sunday’s playoff opener, according to Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Alex Abrines, who has been in concussion protocol since Monday, participated in practice today but didn’t do any drills that involved contact. Corey Brewer, who suffered a right knee sprain Wednesday, went through some contact drills after missing Thursday’s practice. “We’ll see how they responded from it” coach Billy Donovan said. “They both seemed fine with what they were doing. Whether or not they’ll be available tomorrow, we’ll probably find that out in the morning.”

O’Connor’s Latest: Thunder, Bradley, Simmons

When we relayed the latest rumors on the Thunder‘s search for wing help on Tuesday, Avery Bradley was one player we mentioned, with a report suggesting Oklahoma City has done its due diligence on the Clippers guard. It wasn’t the first time Bradley’s name has surfaced as a potential OKC target, and multiple league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that Bradley’s name “keeps popping up” as a player of major interest to the Thunder.

As O’Connor observes, one deal that would make sense on paper and would work financially is Bradley for Alex Abrines and Terrance Ferguson. However, the Thunder are reportedly very reluctant to part with Ferguson, recognizing that they’ll need inexpensive role players for the next few years if they hope to keep their current core together.

Still, some sort of deal involving Abrines could be possible. O’Connor hears from a league executive that Clippers director of pro player personnel Johnny Rogers – who played and broadcasted in Spain – “loves” Abrines, a former Barcelona standout.

O’Connor shares a few more items of interest in his latest piece for The Ringer, so let’s round them up…

  • Although the Thunder have kicked the tires on Magic swingman Jonathon Simmons, multiple sources tell O’Connor that Simmons isn’t expected to be available — at least not for what Oklahoma City would offer.
  • Two front office sources have informed O’Connor that the Thunder would be among the frontrunners to sign Joe Johnson if he’s bought out by the Jazz this month.
  • The Hawks have had some trouble gaining traction on deals for some of their veterans, according to O’Connor, who says that the Thunder and Pacers are among Atlanta’s potential trade partners for players like Marco Belinelli, Dewayne Dedmon, or Ersan Ilyasova. O’Connor notes that the Hawks had interest in T.J. Leaf prior to last year’s draft, but he’s skeptical that the Pacers would surrender the rookie forward for a veteran rental.

Thunder Interested In Avery Bradley

In the wake of losing All-NBA defender Andre Roberson to a ruptured left patellar tendon for the remainder of the 2017/18 season, the Thunder are interested in trading for newly-acquired Clippers guard Avery Bradley, reports Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.

Bradley, who is in the final year of his contract, likely doesn’t fit into the Clippers’ long-term plans, and Oklahoma City appears interested in taking advantage of a potential deal as a result.

Long considered an elite man-to-man defender in this league, Bradley would be able to step in for Roberson admirably, while at the same time giving the Thunder an upgrade on the offensive side of the ball, where Bradley is a career 36.8 percent shooter from long range (Roberson’s career three-point percentage is 25.7%).

Despite the Thunder’s interest, however, it’s difficult to envision a plausible scenario in which a potential trade would occur. The Clippers are building for the future and the Thunder don’t have a first-round pick to trade until 2022 at the earliest.

Also, Bradley is making $8.8MM this season and the Thunder’s best pieces for salary-matching purposes include some combination of Alex AbrinesPatrick Patterson, and Kyle Singler, none of whom are on an expiring deal or overly productive.

The Thunder would likely have to throw promising rookie Terrance Ferguson into any plausible deal in order to realistically pique the Clippers’ interest, and the Thunder are thus far unwilling to do so, per Bontemps.

Thunder Notes: Roberson, George, Abrines

A top-five ranked defense took a major hit Saturday evening when Thunder swingman and 2017 NBA All-Defensive Second Team member Andre Roberson had his season end abruptly after rupturing his left patellar tendon. Erik Horne of The Oklahoman opines that the team has two good options: make a trade, or seek a difference maker on the buyout market later this month.

A trade may be difficult, as the Thunder don’t have a first-round pick to trade until 2024, and not many attractive assets with whom the team would be willing to part. The Thunder do have two trade exceptions acquired in the Paul George trade, but the larger of the two exceptions is only worth $2.5MM – an amount unlikely to fit a salary equal to Roberson’s value.

Should the team test the buyout market, Horne mentions Andrew Bogut as a potential option to maintain the team’s defensive prowess, with more names to materialize after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

Here’s more on the Thunder:

  • George initially being omitted as an All-Star ending up working out in the Thunder’s favor, writes Royce Young of ESPN. George, who will make his fifth All-Star Game appearance in his hometown of Los Angeles on Feb. 18, received an outpouring of support from teammate Russell Westbrook after being overlooked for this year’s event, and George clearly noticed. Now, the two L.A. natives will be teammates on Team LeBron, and it stands to reason that the closer the two become, the more likely it is that George will remain in Oklahoma City.
  • If the Thunder are unable and/or opt not to replace Roberson via trade or free agent acquisition, look for second-year player Alex Abrines to step up his role for the team, reports Brett Dawson of the The Oklahoman. Head coach Billy Donovan stated before yesterday’s game that he “definitely” wants to find more minutes for Abrines, saying of the Spaniard, “I’ve got to find ways to get him on the floor and help him because I think he can help our team.”
  • In his latest piece for Bleacher Report, NBA Capologist Eric Pincus analyzes whether the Thunder will dole out the cash necessary to keep George in Oklahoma City should he wish to stay. Facing the repeater tax and Carmelo Anthony‘s all-but-assured decision to opt in next season, the Thunder could be faced with a roster costing somewhere between $250MM and $300MM.

Northwest Notes: Aminu, Thunder, Timberwolves

Before he signed with the Trail Blazers as a free agent in 2015, veteran forward Al-Farouq Aminu had converted just 28.6% of his career three-point attempts. However, he knew he’d be counted on to improve his outside shot after signing a lucrative four-year deal with Portland, and he has delivered so far. Aminu has made 36.1% of his threes during his time with the Blazers, including a career-best 42.1% this season.

“I’ve always been a slasher, so knowing the instincts and what you’re supposed to be doing as a shooter and how they need you for a team, it’s different,” Aminu said, per Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. “But you learn, for sure, because you want to stick around.”

Aminu remains under contract in Portland for one more season beyond this year, but if he continues to knock down outside shots at an improve rate, he should be a very appealing three-and-D target in free agency in 2019.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Thunder forward Patrick Patterson was fined $10K this week for publicly criticizing the NBA’s officiating, per an Associated Press report. After a blown call cost OKC a game on Friday, Patterson published a tweet on Saturday suggesting that there “needs to be some kind of consequence for [referees’] downright awfulness rather than pointless apologies from their bosses.”
  • Second-year guard Alex Abrines continues to make more than 38% of his three-point attempts, but his inconsistency on the defensive end has cost him minutes with the Thunder, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Given his $5.725MM salary, Abrines could become a nice mid-sized trade chip for the Thunder at the deadline if he’s not a regular part of the club’s rotation.
  • The positive energy surrounding the Timberwolves as of late has been noticeable, as the new-look roster is hitting its stride. “I feel like everyone’s comfortable,” Andrew Wiggins said, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “Everyone’s together. Everyone’s playing together. Everyone likes each other. We’re in a good flow right now.”

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Huestis, Abrines, Jones, Jazz

In the middle of the Thunder’s resurgence and winning streak has been reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, Russell Westbrook. As Oklahoma City has tried to create a balance for Westbrook and two other All-Stars, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, the team has struggled to find consistency. Playing behind Westbrook’s lead and not with him trying to lead is how the Thunder will find success, ESPN’s Royce Young writes.

After a slow start, OKC is in fifth place in the Western Conference with a 20-16 record. Anthony believes that Westbrook’s hot streak and the team’s improved play are no coincidence.

“I think the fact that Russ is just playing — not trying to defer to anybody, to any one of us — just playing his game and letting us play off him … I think he’s much more effective by doing that rather than deferring to myself or Paul,” Anthony said. “We know what we bring to the game. We understand it. We accept it. And by that, he’s able to just play his game, relax and do what he does best. We need that. We need that Russ out there. Not the one who defers to us. Let us figure it out.”

Check out other Northwest Division news below:

  • After the Thunder lost to the Bucks on Friday, head coach Billy Donovan said the team needs Alex Abrines to play better, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. Abrines, 24, got the start on Friday but OKC was down 24 points after one quarter and he never returned. “My feeling is that Alex needs to help our team, and trying to find ways to get him going would be positive for our team,” Donovan said. “That’s why I kind of started him.”
  • Following Abrines’ removal, Josh Huestis got the chance to play the rest of the game and showed some defensive promise against the Bucks, Dawson writes in a separate story. 
  • With Jeff Teague sidelined 2 to 4 weeks with a left knee sprain, Tyus Jones will take over the Wolves‘ starting point guard role for the second time this season and he feels prepared, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes. “Just because it’s not the first time now,” Jones said. “It’s something I’ve done, something we’ve gone through as a team. I’m just ready to go. My first-time experience, I learned it was still just basketball. You’re in the game to start rather than coming in a few minutes into the game, but it’s just basketball at the end of the day.”
  • The month of December has not been kind to the Jazz as the team searches for an identity, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes.