Atlanta Hawks

Former Teammates Defend Dwight Howard

  • Several former teammates of Hornets center Dwight Howard are disputing allegations that he was hard to get along with last season, writes Michael Cunningham of The Journal-Constitution. Amid reports that the Hawks wanted to get rid of Howard’s “negative influence” and that some players were happy to see him leave, at least two players are coming to his defense. Malcolm Delaney denied the accusation on Twitter, and Dennis Schroder says Howard is misunderstood. “Off the court he is a good guy,” Schroder said. “He did a great job trying to bring everybody together, as always. On the court we are too different. That’s on the court. But off the court, I think [he’s] amazing.”

Hawks’ Bembry Out Indefinitely With Wrist Fracture

Hawks small forward DeAndre’ Bembry suffered a fracture in his right wrist during the team’s opener and will be out indefinitely, according to Michael Cunningham of The Journal-Constitution.

The injury was confirmed by an MRI conducted Friday. Team doctors will further evaluate Bembry on Monday to get an idea of how long he will be sidelined.

Bembry recently recovered from a strained right triceps he suffered during training camp. He was out of action for about three weeks before returning for Atlanta’s final three preseason games.

The wrist injury happened when Bembry was bracing a fall during Wednesday’s game in Dallas. He played through the pain, but the wrist continued to bother him Thursday and Friday.

“I knew it was something, but I didn’t think it would be that serious,” he said. “I would definitely say I’m somewhat of a tough guy. I probably tried to act like it wasn’t nothing even though it was something. I just tried to push through it.”

Bembry, who played 18 minutes against the Mavericks, is expected to have an expanded role after getting into just 38 games as a rookie last season.

Dennis Schroder's Value Limited; Hawks Hire Michelle Leftwich

It wasn’t long ago when Hawks guard Dennis Schroder was regarded as an up-and-coming star. Lately, however, the market has soured on the German export. In a fan mailbag column, Chris Mannix of The Vertical writes that there’s a toxicity surrounding the 24-year-old that has limited his trade value.

Given that newly appointed Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk has been dead set on clearing cap room and maintaining financial flexibility, it seems logical that he would be looking to unload the final four years of Schroder’s contract. In reality, however, it may not be so simple.

While the idea of finding a buyer for Schroder a season or two seemed incredibly easy, concerns around the league about the guard’s maturity – especially after a recent assault charge – have limited what the Hawks could get for him.

In that case, Mannix writes, unless the Hawks want to give the 17.9-point-per-game guard away for next to nothing, they’d be better off sticking with him and hoping that he matures into a player they’re comfortable building around.

  • The Hawks have named Michelle Leftwich their new vice president of salary cap administration, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes.  She’ll work alongside general manager Travis Schlenk.

Teams With Open Roster Spots

For the first time, NBA teams are permitted to carry up to 17 players this season. In addition to carrying up to 15 players to the NBA roster, teams can add two more players on two-way contracts. The rule changes related to roster sizes have allowed teams to maintain a little extra flexibility, and many clubs are taking advantage of that added flexibility to open the season, carrying the full 17 players.

Several teams still have open roster spots though, affording those clubs a different kind of flexibility. A team carrying only 14 NBA players, for instance, has the opportunity to sign a free agent or add a player in a trade at any time without waiving anyone, all the while avoiding paying for a 15th man who almost certainly won’t see much playing time.

With the help of our roster count page and our two-way contract tracker, here’s a breakdown of the teams that have at least one open NBA or two-way spot on their rosters:

Teams carrying just 14 NBA contracts:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Houston Rockets
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Portland Trail Blazers

It makes sense that a few of these teams would avoid carrying a 15th man to open the season. The Rockets, Thunder, and Trail Blazers are all taxpayers, and teams like the Clippers and Hornets are close enough to the tax threshold that avoiding a 15th salary is logical. Among these clubs, the Celtics seem like perhaps the best bet to fill their final roster opening soon, now that the team has likely lost Gordon Hayward for the season.

Teams carrying just one two-way contract:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Houston Rockets
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New York Knicks
  • Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers don’t currently have a G League affiliate of their own, but the other five teams on this list do, so that’s probably not the reason Portland has waited to fill its second two-way slot. In all likelihood, these six teams will add a second two-way player in time for G League training camps, which open next week. The season tips off on November 3.

Hawks Sign Isaiah Taylor

OCTOBER 17: The Hawks have officially signed Taylor, the team announced tonight in a press release.

OCTOBER 16: The Hawks have reached an agreement with Isaiah Taylor and will sign the free agent point guard to a two-year contract, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical. Taylor cleared waivers on Sunday after being cut by the Rockets.

Taylor, who went undrafted out of Texas in 2016, caught on with the Rockets for training camp last fall, then became a G League affiliate player for the team after being waived in the preseason. The 23-year-old guard had an excellent season for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, averaging 21.0 PPG and 6.0 APG with a shooting line of .515/.457/.816 in 25 G League games.

Taylor rejoined the Rockets before season’s end, inking a multiyear deal and finishing the year with the club. However, he didn’t make the cut for Houston’s 2017/18 regular season roster, having been waived by the team on Friday.

With a spot open on their NBA roster and a two-way slot available too, the Hawks have some flexibility when it comes to adding Taylor. Charania’s report suggests Taylor will fill the 15th and final spot on Atlanta’s roster, with Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution adding (via Twitter) that the deal will be partially guaranteed.

Dennis Schroder Will Face Discipline Related To Battery Charge

Although Hawks guard Dennis Schroder was arrested on a battery charge last month, he’s set to open the regular season with the team this week as the legal process plays out. However, regardless of how his case concludes, Schroder can expect to be disciplined by the Hawks eventually, the team confirmed today.

General manager Travis Schlenk issued a statement on the situation, confirming that there’s an “ongoing investigation” into the details of the incident involving Schroder, and that the team intends to support its point guard through the process. However, that support comes with a caveat.

“From our preliminary findings, we are aware that Dennis was involved in a physical altercation,” Schlenk said. “That behavior is unacceptable, will not be tolerated by the Hawks organization, and will result in discipline for Dennis at the appropriate time once the matter has been more fully developed through the law enforcement process and otherwise.

“Dennis has accepted responsibility for his actions. He looks forward to learning from this incident and focusing on the season.”

While the Hawks have already decide to discipline Schroder, the severity on the penalty may depend on how the case plays out. The young point guard might also face a suspension from the NBA.

With Atlanta entering a full-fledged rebuilding phase this offseason, Schroder will be relied upon to be a leader on and off the court for the Hawks. The 24-year-old had a breakout season in 2016/17, averaging 17.9 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.1 RPG, and a .451 FG%. Those numbers all represented career highs.

And-Ones: Trade Predictions, Perkins, Extensions

In his latest predictions feature, Zach Lowe of ESPN speculates that a number of players will be put on the block this season if not officially traded. Since we already know that there’s at least some truth to the oddly specific guess that the Timberwolves would trade Cole Aldrich for Jared Dudley, perhaps we should take a closer look at some of the rest.

Among the other trade predictions that Lowe makes is one that has the Raptors seeking to shop big man Jonas Valanciunas. Considering that the traditional Lithuanian center has been the subject of speculation over the course of the past few seasons, this one seems like rather low hanging fruit.

Similarly, Lowe makes the thoroughly uncrazy prediction that Eric Bledsoe will be on the move. What bonus points Lowe doesn’t earn for predicting a Bledsoe trade, however, he does earn for earmarking the Nuggets and Clippers as possible interested suitors. Alas Denver, it’s worth noting, is already rather backloaded at the guard positions.

Other players that come up in Lowe’s column include the likes Dennis Schroder, DeAndre Jordan and Tobias Harris.

There’s more from around the league:

  • The NBA will name Michelle Johnson their new Senior Vice President and Head of Referee Operations, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets. Johnson is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General.
  • The NBA coaching community could soon have another recent league veteran join its ranks. As Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes, Kendrick Perkins – who played 11 seasons in the NBA – believes he would have plenty of options to accept a role on the sidelines.
  • Only a few players from the 2014 NBA Draft class have landed sizable pay days and that’s for good reason, Mitch Lawrence of Forbes writes. Beyond players like Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, few have earned substantial rookie contract extensions. Only Marcus Smart, he writes, has been a notable contributor to an elite playoff team.

Cavaliers Notes: Love, Jefferson, Irving, James

Kevin Love penned a farewell tribute to former teammate Richard Jefferson on Instagram, relays Hayden Grove of The veteran forward was traded Saturday to the Hawks along with Kay Felder to help reduce the Cavaliers’ luxury tax bill. Jefferson spent two seasons in Cleveland and helped the team win its only NBA title. “We would never have been able to celebrate our 2016 Championship without the contributions of RJ,” Love wrote. “He always stepped up to make our team better.”

Jefferson recorded an episode of his “Road Trippin'” podcast Saturday and said he knew his time in Cleveland was over when the team signed Dwyane Wade last week. Atlanta waived both players shortly after completing the deal, but the 37-year-old Jefferson has stated that he has no plans to retire and has already received interest from the Bucks and other teams.

There’s more today out of Cleveland:

  • Jefferson was nearly traded last summer after unveiling the Cavs’ championship rings on his Snapchat account before the team was ready to make them public, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Former GM David Griffin was reportedly so angry that he wanted to move Jefferson to another team, but he eventually cooled down and accepted an apology.
  • Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving took a shot at his former home, saying there’s “a vast difference” between Boston and Cleveland, according to the Associated Press“Boston, I’m driving in and [thinking], ‘I’m really playing in a real, live sports city?” Irving said to reporters this week. Irving is also downplaying the thought of starting his Celtics career with a game in Cleveland, relays Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “I understand the magnitude … but I know what it is going to entail in terms of marketing, whatever the case may be, to garner up this energy to make people feel a certain type of way,” Irving said. “I get all that. It’s part of the game. It’s been a part of the game for a while, but it’s just two hoops and a basketball.”
  • The Cavaliers have been very cautious with LeBron James‘ injured left ankle during the preseason, but coach Tyronn Lue expects him to be ready for opening night, McMenamin posts on ESPN Now. “That would be a tough one for him personally to miss,” Lue said. “There’s a lot of hype behind the game but like I told him, we got to be smart about it. It’s just one game, but I think he’ll be OK.”

Mutual Interest Between Bucks, Richard Jefferson

The Bucks are a “serious suitor” for veteran forward Richard Jefferson, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Cavaliers traded the 37-year-old to Atlanta earlier today along with Kay Felder in a move designed to save as much as $12.8MM in luxury tax. The Hawks immediately waived Jefferson and Felder, making them both unrestricted free agents if they clear waivers, which should happen Monday.

Milwaukee could claim Jefferson off waivers, but taking on his salary would push the team $5K over the luxury tax, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Jefferson will make $2.5MM this season and a non-guaranteed $2,612,500 in 2018/19.

Several other teams have also expressed interest in Jefferson, sources tell Wojnarowski, but the Bucks seem to be the most prominent. Milwaukee waived another veteran forward, Gerald Green, earlier today to open a roster spot.

Jefferson was a teammate of Bucks coach Jason Kidd for seven years with the Nets, including two trips to the NBA Finals. Their relationship could give Milwaukee an edge once Jefferson hits the open market.

Wojnarowski adds that the Bucks have been working on several deals to trim cap space involving guard Rashad Vaughn and center John Henson. The team has offered a second-round pick to anybody willing to take Vaughn, who is owed nearly $1.9MM this season and has a team option worth $2.9MM+ in 2018/19. Henson has three seasons and more than $31.7MM left on his contract.

Hawks Exercise Options On DeAndre’ Bembry, Taurean Prince

The Hawks have exercised third-year (2018/19) options on both DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince, the team announced in a press release. Atlanta faced an October 31 deadline for picking up their options beyond this coming season, and Bembry ($1,634,640) and Price ($2,526,840) will return at team-friendly prices.

Bembry, 23, averaged 2.7 PPG and 1.6 RPG in just under 10 minutes per game last season. The Hawks’ first-round pick (21st overall) was effective during the NBA Summer League where he posted 17.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 3.3 APG in 26.3 minutes per contest.

Prince, 23, a former 12th overall pick by the Jazz, was acquired by Atlanta from Utah in a three-team trade that sent Jeff Teague to the Pacers. In his rookie campaign, he posted in 5.7 PPG and 2.7 RPG in 16.6 minutes. Prince’s season concluded with six starts in Atlanta’s first-round playoff series against the Wizards.  He averaged 11.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 1.3 APG during the postseason.

For all of this year’s decisions on 2018/19 rookie scale options, be sure to check out our tracker.

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