Austin Nichols

Southwest Notes: Rondo, Asik, Martin

The addition of Rajon Rondo to the Pelicans lineup helps ease the burden on superstar big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

When the guard was sidelined for 13 games as a result of a core muscle injury, Cousins – the Pelicans’ 6’11”, 270-pound center – ended up handling much of the team’s playmaking responsibilities.

I don’t have to be as much of a playmaker as I’ve had to be in the past,” Cousins said of Rondo’s return to the Pelicans. “Having a floor general like that and missing him from the beginning of the season, it hurt us as a team. But once we get him at 100 percent, I think we’ll be a totally different team.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • For the first time since last February, Pelicans big man Omer Asik was on the Pelicans‘ active list, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes, but that doesn’t mean he’ll start logging big minutes any time soon. “He hasn’t been able to run or condition or anything like that,” head coach Alvin Gentry said prior to the team’s Wednesday night contest. “Even when he’s released to play, it’s going to take a while for him to be able to play anything other than really short spurts.
  • Tennessee native Austin Nichols will suit up in the FedEx Forum as a member of the Memphis Hustle tomorrow night. It will mark the G League affiliate’s only performance in the Grizzlies‘ arena this season. “I was a little burned out on ball, but I’ve fallen back in love with it,” Nichols, once a featured member of the city’s revered college program until his unceremonious exit told Pete Wickham of Grind City Media. “I’ve matured on and off the court, trying to figure out who I wanted to be, and trying to mature as a person. I wanted to stay in the States, and when this option became available, it was great to be back home playing for the city.”
  • Although he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase it, Grizzlies forward Jarell Martin believes that the sky is the limit for his development as a player, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype writes. The 23-year-old, who didn’t start playing basketball until his junior season in high school, has averaged 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game this season.

Draft Notes: Fox, Ball, Mitchell, Workouts

In a draft expected to be dominated by point guards, John Wall thinks De’Aaron Fox will be the best of the bunch, relays Chase Hughes of CSNMidAtlantic. Wall insists his opinion stems from watching Fox play and isn’t because they went to the same school. “A lot of people say it’s bias because he’s from Kentucky, but I think De’Aaron Fox might end up being the best point guard out of that class,” Wall said. “He reminds me of myself a lot, just a lefty.” Wall was the first player picked in 2010 and has been a four-time All-Star. Fox is widely projected to be taken early in the lottery, but after point guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball.

There’s more news as the draft looms three weeks away:

  • Fox is the latest rookie to get a shoe deal before being drafted, tweets Nick DePaula of The Vertical. Fox, who was highly sought after by shoe companies, agreed to a multi-year deal with Nike.
  • Ball may need an exceptional workout with the Lakers to be the No. 2 pick, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who notes that L.A.’s interest is growing in Fox and Kansas forward Josh Jackson. Ball’s camp, which once said he would only meet with the Lakers, is now willing to hold meetings, but probably not workouts, with the Sixers and Kings.
  • Donovan Mitchell is a non-traditional point guard who may be a steal for somebody in the middle of the draft, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. The Louisville product is celebrated for his defense, but doesn’t possess great passing skills.
  • Oregon guard Dylan Ennis has been among the most active prospects in pre-draft workouts, tweets Oliver Maroney of Dime Magazine. Ennis has already worked out for the Thunder, Raptors and Celtics, and has sessions with the Clippers, Kings and Spurs set for next week. He is listed by DraftExpress as a long shot to be selected.
  • Pitt’s Jamel Artis will work out for the Magic on Thursday, tweets Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.
  • Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan was the top name at Tuesday’s Raptors workout, tweets Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic. Swanigan was joined by Virginia’s Austin Nichols, Dayton’s Scoochie Smith, Houston’s Damyean Dotson, North Carolina’s Nate Britt and Southeast Missouri’s Antonius Cleveland.
  • The Knicks welcomed six players on Tuesday, posts Ian Begley on ESPN Now. At the workout were Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe, South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell, Duke’s Amile Jefferson, Colorado’s Derrick White, Florida’s Canyon Barry and Columbia’s Luke Petrasek.

Draft Notes: Williams, Kuzma, Wilder, Ball

Texas A&M freshman forward Robert Williams decided to remain in college because he wants to be the top pick, a source told Evan Daniels of Fox Sports and (Twitter link). Williams also believes he’s not mature enough yet to enter the league, the tweet adds. Williams averaged 11.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 2.5 BPG during his freshman season for the Aggies. The 6’9” Williams was considered a late lottery pick, ranked as the 10th-best overall prospect by DraftExpress and 13th in Chad Ford’s top 100 at

In other news involving the draft:

  • Utah forward Kyle Kuzma will enter the draft but won’t hire an agent, Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Kuzma is ranked No. 73 among the top 100 prospects by DraftExpress and doesn’t make Ford’s top 100 list. The 6’9” Kuzma averaged 16.4 PPG and 9.3 RPG for the Utes in his junior season.
  • Western Michigan’s Thomas Wilder will also test the draft waters, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. The 6’3” guard averaged 19.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 3.8 APG in his junior season. He is not rated among the top 100 by either DraftExpress or Ford.
  • Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington will also enter the draft without hiring agents, Jon Rothstein of reports. Delgado, a 6’10” junior forward, averaged 15.2 PPG and 13.1 RPG this past season while Carrington, a 6’4” junior guard, averaged 17.1 PPG. Neither is considered a top 100 prospect.
  • Former Virginia and Memphis forward Austin Nichols has declared for the draft and hired an agent, according to Evan Daniels of The 6’9” Nichols played two seasons at Memphis, sat out a year, then played one game for the Cavaliers before he was dismissed from the team.
  • UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball and Kansas freshman small forward Josh Jackson have solidified their status as two of the three top prospects with their performances in the NCAA tournament, Ford writes in a stock watch column. Arizona freshman forward Lauri Markkanen and Michigan State freshman forward Miles Bridges are among the players who have improved their draft stock during the first two rounds of the tournament, according to Ford. Villanova senior guard Josh Hart and Duke sophomore guard Luke Kennard are among the players that Ford believes hurt their draft status with subpar tournament outings.