Alize Johnson

Bulls Waive Stanley Johnson, Will Retain Alize Johnson

The Bulls have waived forwards Stanley Johnson and Troy Baxter Jr., the team announced on social media today (Twitter link). Johnson previously signed a non-guaranteed deal with the organization, while Baxter signed an Exhibit 10 contract.

Chicago has also rewarded big man Alize Johnson and will keep him on the 15-man roster, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic tweets. Johnson has impressed during training camp and will stick with the Bulls after a brief stint in Brooklyn last season. He averaged 5.2 points, five rebounds and 10.5 minutes in 18 contests with the Nets.

As for Stanley Johnson, the 25-year-old joined Chicago for training camp and played in all four preseason games. He was the No. 8 overall pick in 2015 and has made past stops with Detroit, New Orleans and Toronto.

At least one more roster move will be required for the Bulls, who are still carrying 16 players on standard contracts, including Matt Thomas and Tyler Cook on non-guaranteed deals. The team could keep both players by converting Cook to a two-way contract, but it remains unclear if that’s the plan. It does sound like Thomas will make the opening-night roster though, per Mayberry (Twitter link).

The Bulls are entering the 2021/22 season with a revamped roster, acquiring Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan and others during the summer. Chicago finished 11th in the Eastern Conference at 31-41 last season.

Scotto’s Latest: Blazers, Beasley, Patterson, Ennis, More

The Trail Blazers have 13 players with guaranteed contracts on their roster and have added Dennis Smith Jr. and Marquese Chriss on non-guaranteed deals to vie for one of the team’s open roster spots. However, that competition may end up including more veterans than just Smith and Chriss.

According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, the Trail Blazers are eyeing other free agent forwards as possible training camp invitees. Michael Beasley, who played for Portland’ Summer League team, is one possibility. The club is also eyeing veteran stretch four Patrick Patterson, says Scotto.

The Blazers still only have 16 players under contract, which means there are four more spots available on their 20-man offseason roster.

As we wait to see how Portland fills those openings, here are a few more items of interest from Scotto:

  • Having previously identified the Bulls as one team interested in free agent wing James Ennis, Scotto adds a few more clubs to that list, suggesting that Ennis has also drawn interest from the Trail Blazers, Lakers, and Magic. Ennis, who has spent most of the last two seasons in Orlando, knocked down 43.3% of his three-point attempts in 2020/21.
  • Another player who has received interest from the Trail Blazers is big man Isaiah Hartenstein, according to Scotto, who says the Clippers have kicked the tires on the former Cav as well. As I detailed on Tuesday, Hartenstein is the only player who is still a free agent after declining an option earlier this summer.
  • Before he signed with Chicago, Alize Johnson generated interest from a handful of other teams, including the Clippers, Suns, and Knicks, per Scotto. If the Clippers had wanted Johnson badly enough, they could’ve claimed him off waivers using one of their trade exceptions, which wasn’t an option for Phoenix or New York.

Central Notes: Johnson And Johnson, Bulls, Portis

The Bulls added two new, defensive-minded free agent forwards over the weekend to build out their bench depth. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times examines how the new pair of Stanley Johnson and Alize Johnson should fit for Chicago.

As Cowley writes, after the Bulls lost out on the sweepstakes to veteran Paul Millsap as their main reserve power forward, the team quickly pivoted to the Johnsons. Though neither player is much of a jump-shooter, both are young and athletic.

Due to a shallow frontcourt, Stanley and Alize Johnson should each see plenty of playing time behind starters DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams and pricier reserve Derrick Jones Jr. Cowley adds that the 6’7″ Alize Johnson could see some spot minutes as a small-ball center. All-Star Nikola Vucevic, and newly-added main backup Tony Bradley figure to see more minutes at the position. Johnson could compete with rookie center Marko Simonovic for occasional run at the five.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bulls appear to be closing in on their opening night roster after a busy offseason. Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago reviews Chicago’s depth chart heading into the 2021/22 season. Schaefer lauds the club’s creativity in thoroughly remaking itself this summer, a process that required several complex sign-and-trade agreements.
  • Bucks reserve big man Bobby Portis, who is returning to Milwaukee on a team-friendly two-year, $9MM deal, chatted with Shams Charania of Stadium to discuss his free agent decision and his future with the team (Twitter video link). During the conversation, Charania observed that the Heat and Mavericks were among the playoff clubs seeking Portis’ services during the 2021 offseason. “This is a winning environment,” Portis said of the team with which he won a title this year. He noted that 2021 Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo did he darnedest to ensure that Portis return to the Bucks as he entered free agency. “To have a guy like Giannis call me, wanting me to stay… is just great.”
  • In case you missed it, the Cavaliers are continuing to explore adding swingman bench depth. Free agents Garrison Mathews and Denzel Valentine are among some of the names being considered.

Alize Johnson Signs Two-Year Contract With Bulls

SEPTEMBER 7: The Bulls have officially signed Johnson to his two-year deal, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), who reports that the big man will get a $250K partial guarantee if he’s not waived by opening night. The second year is non-guaranteed until July 2, 2022.

SEPTEMBER 6: After being waived by the Nets to make room for an un-retiring LaMarcus Aldridge, unrestricted free agent power forward Alize Johnson has agreed to a new two-year contract with the Bulls, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Wojnarowski reports that Johnson will sign a two-year, $3.6MM minimum-salary contract with Chicago. Johnson marks the third Bulls signing of the Labor Day weekend, to go along with 6’6″ forward Stanley Johnson and 6’4″ wing Matt Thomas.

The 6’7″ Alize Johnson was selected by the Pacers with the No. 50 pick in the 2018 draft out of Missouri State. After spending his first two NBA seasons with the Pacers and their NBAGL affiliate the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, he next suited up for the Raptors 905 during the pandemic-truncated 2021 G League Orlando “bubble” season. The 25-year-old averaged 16.6 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 4.2 APG and 1.3 SPG across 15 contests for the Raptors’ G League affiliate.

Johnson then joined the Nets for the remainder of the season, flashing some athletic promise in a deep-bench role. Over 18 games, he averaged 5.2 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 10.5 MPG for Brooklyn during the 2020/21 season.

Positionally, both Johnsons could help fill the void left by recently-departed reserve power forward Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen, a restricted free agent this summer, was moved to the Cavaliers through a four-year, $67MM sign-and-trade, in a three-team deal with the Blazers that netted Chicago future draft equity, as well as reserve forward Derrick Jones Jr.

Functionally, Jones and the Johnsons are very different players from Markkanen. The new reserve trio should collectively be able to provide versatile defense at either forward position, though none sport the long-range shooting acumen of seven-footer Markkanen.

It’s worth noting that, prior to the Bulls’ trio of deals, the team was carrying 13 players on guaranteed contracts. The details on Chicago’s latest contracts are unclear, but there won’t be room for both Johnsons and Thomas on the regular season roster unless another player is traded or waived.

Nets Sign LaMarcus Aldridge, Waive Alize Johnson

6:43pm: The Nets have officially signed Aldridge, according to a team press release.

4:19pm: The Nets are signing veteran power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and have waived Alize Johnson, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Brooklyn has officially announced the release of Johnson.

Aldridge will receive a veteran’s minimum contract worth $2.6MM for one year. That was all the Nets could offer due to salary cap constraints.

Aldridge retired last season due to an irregular heartbeat, but received medical clearance to resume his career on Thursday and Brooklyn was considered his likely destination. He played five games with the Nets before the condition forced him to temporarily end his career.

“I retired in April based on what I believed was the wisest precautionary decision for my personal health at the time, but further testing and evaluation by several top physicians has convinced the doctors, myself and the Nets that I’m fully cleared and able to return to the rigors of the NBA,” Aldridge said in a statement to ESPN. “I loved my brief time with Brooklyn and am excited to rejoin the team in pursuit of a championship.”

Aldridge, who also dealt with heart issues in 2017, started talking about a comeback last month. He averaged 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 21 games last season with the Spurs as the team’s starting center. San Antonio opted to go with younger players and ultimately reached a buyout agreement, allowing him to sign with Brooklyn in late March. He was waived after announcing his retirement.

Johnson, 25, appeared in 18 games for Brooklyn in 2020/21, averaging 5.2 PPG and 5.0 RPG in just 10.5 minutes per contest.

Since he was on a three-year, minimum-salary contract, Johnson can’t be claimed off waivers using the minimum salary exception, but a team with a trade exception big enough to absorb his non-guaranteed $1.76MM salary could submit a claim. If he goes unclaimed, Johnson will become an unrestricted free agent on Sunday.

Brooklyn has been quite busy this week. The team reportedly reached an agreement with free agent forward Paul Millsap and has also agreed to trade DeAndre Jordan to the Pistons along with four second-round picks and $5.78MM in cash in exchange for Jahlil Okafor and Sekou Doumbouya.

After officially adding Millsap and Aldridge and completing their trade with Detroit, the Nets will have 16 players on guaranteed contracts and one (DeAndre’ Bembry) on a partially guaranteed deal, meaning more roster moves will be necessary to set the 15-man regular season roster next month.

Additionally, Brooklyn is carrying a two-way player (Kessler Edwards) and another (David Duke) on an Exhibit 10 deal. The club also has two unsigned second-round picks (RaiQuan Gray and Marcus Zegarowski).

Nets Have Interest In Hartenstein, Love

The Nets are interested in signing free agent center Isaiah Hartenstein and would also be interested in Kevin Love if the Cavaliers buy him out, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Hartenstein became an unrestricted free agent when he declined a minimum-salary player option and the Cavaliers subsequently didn’t submit a qualifying offer to him. He was traded last season by Denver to Cleveland, where he averaged 8.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 1.2 BPG in 17.9 MPG.

The Nets and Cavs were among the teams who watched Hartenstein work out in Las Vegas this month.

Love and the Cavs have reportedly made some progress toward a buyout, but are not close to finalizing an agreement.

In any instance, Brooklyn would need to open up a roster spot to fit in Hartenstein and/or Love. The most likely candidate to go is center DeAndre Jordan, who could be bought out, waived, or possibly traded if the Nets are willing to attach an asset. Forward Alize Johnson, who has a non-guaranteed deal, is another possibility. The date for a partial guarantee of $200K on Johnson’s contract has been pushed back from September 4 to October 19, when the regular season begins, according to Lewis.

New York Notes: Gibson, Johnson, Cordinier, Claxton

Veteran big man Taj Gibson appreciates the impact that Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has had on his lengthy NBA career, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Gibson has been coached by Thibodeau during portions of three of his four NBA stops, with the Bulls, Timberwolves and Knicks.

“Well, my whole career with him has been great,” the 12-year Knicks veteran said of Thibodeau. “He’s just been a great coach in how to be ready in all facets — to be a sixth man, starting, not playing, I’m just always ready.”

There’s more out of the City That Never Sleeps:

  • Nets reserve power forward Alize Johnson had a huge game against his old team, the Pacers, grabbing 20 points and 21 rebounds off the bench (the first time a backup had notched such numbers in three years). Armed with a fresh multiyear deal from his new franchise, Johnson was a man on a mission, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post“I didn’t play much when I was here (in Indiana),” Johnson noted. “I was ready to go out there and prove to everybody that I belong in the NBA and want to stay here for a long time.”
  • There are whispers that newly-minted First Team All-EuroCup guard Isaia Cordinier may join the Nets next season, tweets international reporter Chema de Lucas (h/t Net Income of Nets Daily). The Nets acquired Cordinier’s draft rights in a 2018 trade.
  • Athletic Nets center Nicolas Claxton has returned to the gym to rehabilitate, and head coach Steve Nash anticipates he could return for Brooklyn in a week, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. With former starting center LaMarcus Aldridge now retired, Claxton should be a major part of Brooklyn’s frontcourt rotation in the postseason.

Nets Notes: Irving, Johnson, James

Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been ruled out for Thursday’s game vs. Indiana due to right groin soreness, the team announced today (via Twitter).

As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Irving’s games-played total will be worth keeping an eye on down the stretch, since a couple of his contract bonuses hinge on him playing in at least 53 games — he’d have to appear in seven of Brooklyn’s nine contests after tonight in order to meet that threshold.

Irving’s contract includes eight separate bonuses, each worth $131,250. Some are out of reach, including playing 62 games and recording a defensive rating below 106 (he’s at 113.9). However, Kyrie is on track to reach some of his incentive benchmarks, including an offensive rating of 114+ (he’s at 119.9) and shooting at least 88.5% from the free throw line (he’s at 92.3%).

As Marks tweets, Irving would also receive three separate $131,250 bonuses for making at least 2.8 three-pointers per game, committing fewer than 2.4 turnovers per game (in 53+ games), and attempting at least 4.6 free throws per game (in 53+ games). His per-game averages in those categories so far are 2.7 threes, 2.5 turnovers, and 4.3 free throw attempts.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Nets forward Alize Johnson is available to play against Indiana on Thursday night, according to the team (Twitter link). Johnson missed the team’s last three games after being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
  • Mike James is making a strong initial impression in Brooklyn, racking up 11 points and eight assists in Tuesday’s win over Toronto and making a case to stick around beyond his current 10-day contract, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “He’s an athletic and skilled player. As long as he plays simple and makes good basketball plays — like he has with us those first few games — he can play a role for us,” head coach Steve Nash said. “He has a burst of pace, he can get into paint, play draw-and-kick.”
  • While James’ new coach has been impressed by him so far, it doesn’t sound like two of his old coaches miss him much. As Lewis relays in a separate New York Post story, CSKA Moscow’s Dimitris Itoidis and Olimpia Milano’s Ettore Messina both offered less-than-glowing reviews of James’ locker room presence.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along word on Wednesday that Nets star James Harden still isn’t close to returning from his hamstring injury.

Atlantic Notes: Rose, Thibodeau, Johnson, Injuries, Fournier

Tom Thibodeau joined the Knicks this past offseason with a strong reputation despite unceremonious exits during his last two stops with the Bulls and Timberwolves, and has helped New York exceed expectations, putting the club on the cusp of a postseason appearance.

One player who has been with Thibodeau for a while is Derrick Rose, who enjoyed his best years with Thibs in Chicago, joined him briefly in Minnesota, and is now a key depth piece for the Knicks. In Rose’s view, Thibodeau, a top contender for Coach of the Year, has only improved, Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes.

“It shows that he’s improved as a coach. He’s already a great coach, but every year he’s improving and adjusting,” Rose said. “That’s the big difference that I see with him this year. He’s giving guys more freedom to go out there and play the way they want. He’s being positive on the court.”

The Knicks own a record of 33-27 record entering play Saturday, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:

  • Year after year, the Knicks seemingly found new ways to become a laughingstock of the NBA through poor hires, questionable signings and head-scratching trades. This season, however, the club has played well behind some shrewd acquisitions and the hiring of a good coach, and is trending in the right direction, Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill writes.
  • The Nets believe Kevin Durant is close to returning but it’s unclear when that will happen, according to head coach Steve Nash. “I think he’s close, but I don’t think he’s there,” Nash said, per NetsDaily. “We’ll see tomorrow and Sunday if that’s a possibility. But it may not. It may bleed back into this road trip.” Nash added that guard Tyler Johnson, who has missed 10 straight games, is close to a return too.
  • The Nets are also currently without recent signee Alize Johnson as he is sidelined due to health and safety protocols, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews (Twitter link). Brooklyn recently inked Johnson to a multiyear deal after he signed a pair of 10-day deals.
  • Celtics trade deadline acquisition Evan Fournier returned to the court on Friday in Brooklyn after missing nine games due to COVID-19. Fournier detailed his symptoms and noted he needs time to ramp up back into shape, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes. “My experience — where do I start? The first two days I was doing great, no symptoms at all, and then flu-like symptoms, high fever, really tired, fatigue, all that,” Fournier said. “I honestly stayed in bed and slept for four or five days. The roughest part was ramping up the activity. The last two days of practice was really hard. I had moments where I was doing good and moments where I was exhausted.”

Alize Johnson Signs Multiyear Deal With Nets

9:36am: The deal is official, the Nets announced in a press release.

8:03am: The Nets have reached an agreement on a multiyear contract with power forward Alize Johnson, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Johnson’s agent, George Langberg, confirmed the deal, which could be worth up to $4.1MM. Johnson could have received more guaranteed money from another team, but he was comfortable in Brooklyn, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter link).

Johnson, 24, signed a pair of 10-day contracts with the Nets, the second of which expired overnight. He has appeared in six games, averaging 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per night. Coach Steve Nash told reporters earlier this week that the Nets were happy with Johnson’s production and hoped to keep him around.

Brooklyn was able to sign Johnson for up to three years because the team still had part of its taxpayer mid-level exception available, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter link).

A second-round pick in 2018, Johnson played his first two seasons with the Pacers and was in training camp this year with the Raptors.