Basketball Africa League

Raptors Sign Ulrich Chomche To Two-Way Deal

The Raptors have officially signed No. 57 overall pick Ulrich Chomche to a two-way contract, per the NBA’s transaction log.

According to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet (Twitter link), Chomche’s deal will cover two years instead of just one, putting him on track to reach restricted free agency in 2026. Chomche was the youngest player in this year’s draft class (he won’t turn 19 until December 30), so his camp and the Raptors agreed to approach his development with a longer-term view, Murphy explains.

Chomche, who was born in Cameroon, was part of the NBA Academy Africa before playing in the Basketball Africa League in 2022 and 2023. The 6’11” center became the first player in league history to be selected in an NBA draft after playing in the BAL.

The Raptors reportedly sent the Timberwolves $1MM in cash to acquire the No. 57 pick in last month’s draft in order to nab Chomche. That deal ended up being expanded to include four teams.

Toronto has now filled all three of its two-way slots, with Chomche joining D.J. Carton and Branden Carlson. The club also has 15 players on guaranteed standard contracts. It’s unclear if the Raptors plan on making any more roster changes in the coming days, weeks, or months, or if this is essentially the group they’ll take into training camp (with camp invitees to fill out the 21-man squad).

Grizzlies To Acquire No. 53 Pick Cam Spencer From Wolves

JUNE 28, 10:33am: The Timberwolves will acquire a future second-round pick from the Grizzlies to move down from No. 53 to No. 57, and cash considerations from the Raptors for No. 57, reports Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

JUNE 27, 5:16pm: The Timberwolves are swapping the No. 53 pick to the Grizzlies for the No. 57 pick, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium tweets. Minnesota will then send the No. 57 pick to the Raptors, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

UConn shooting guard Cam Spencer was taken with the No. 53 and he’ll now join the Grizzlies. Spencer played a key role in UConn’s championship run this past season, averaging 14.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists after transferring from Rutgers. He also played three seasons at Loyola Maryland. Spencer shot 44% from beyond the 3-point arc for the Huskies and knocked 41.7% of his 3s in 132 college games.

He’s the fourth UConn player to get selected in this draft. Stephon Castle and Donovan Clingan were chosen in the lottery and Tristen Newton was also selected in the second round.

Cameroon big man Ulrich Chomche was chosen at No. 57 and he’ll join Toronto. He spent this past season with the NBA Academy Africa. He only played three games during the Basketball Africa League qualifiers, in which he averaged 13 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and one steal per game. Overall, he averaged 8.5 points, 2.4 assists and 2.1 blocks in 26 games last season.

He’s the first player from the NBA Academy to be drafted.

Minnesota, in a cap-saving move, agreed to trade shooting guard Wendell Moore Jr. and the 37th pick to Detroit earlier in the day. The Pistons used that pick to select forward Bobi Klintman.

Essentially, the Timberwolves made three deals to trade out of the second round.

And-Ones: Barkley, Nunn, Ibaka, Africa

Hall of Famer Charles Barkley recently said he’s going to retire from TV at the conclusion of 2024/25, which could be the final season TNT holds the media rights to NBA games. Barkley has been an analyst on Inside the NBA since 2000.

While his comments certainly seemed genuine, Andrew Marchand of The Athletic believes Barkley will cover the NBA again in some fashion after next season ends, noting the 61-year-old has frequently talked about retirement in the past but he just signed a highly lucrative 10-year contract a couple years ago.

That long-term deal with TNT could complicate matters, but potential new (or returning) media rights holders like Amazon and NBC would love to have Barkley and the entire Inside the NBA crew on board, Marchand writes. A “more plausible” scenario, according to Marchand, would be ESPN giving Barkley a “sweetheart deal” he can’t refuse, perhaps offering to let him work less frequently while still covering the most important games, such as the NBA Finals.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Kendrick Nunn, who helped lead Panathinaikos to a EuroLeague championship in ’23/24, was arrested less than a day after helping his Greek club win a domestic title, according to Eurohoops. Nunn was detained after a verbal exchange with his wife, who declined to press charges, and has subsequently been released. The 28-year-old signed a two-year contract extension with Panathinaikos last month, but he hasn’t ruled out an NBA return, as his deal contains out clauses. Nunn last played for the Lakers and Wizards in ’22/23.
  • Big man Serge Ibaka, who played 14 NBA seasons from 2009-2023, says he’s undecided on what he’s going to do next season after spending the ’23/24 campaign with Bayern Munich in Germany, per Eurohoops. Ibaka was rumored to be signing a one-year deal with Real Madrid, but he denied that’s the case.
  • Tania Ganguli of The New York Times takes an in-depth look at the NBA’s investment in Africa, which includes the Basketball Africa League. The NBA has long believed the continent could be a key way to grow the popularity of the sport and add young talent to the league’s player pool, but commissioner Adam Silver wonders if enough money is being spent to support growth. “As much as we are investing in Africa, the opportunity is so enormous I worry that we’re under-investing,” Silver said in an interview. “There’s so much opportunity, but it’s not always easy to know how to deploy capital, which government you should be dealing with, who the honest brokers are. And so we’re learning as we go.”

Spurs Notes: Jones, Wembanyama, Vassell, Mavomo

The Spurs have been better when Tre Jones is on the court, but he’s not complaining about being moved to a reserve role after starting last season, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Coach Gregg Popovich has opted for a non-traditional approach, starting Jeremy Sochan at point guard to create a super-sized lineup.

“I try to view it as, I see how our starting lineup is and how much height and length we have all around the court with that starting lineup,” Jones said. “I see the advantages it gives our team. It’s not hard feelings or anything about that. I’m trying to just be a spark off the bench for us. I’m trying to be a leader for us off the bench as well.”

Jones has been effective in his role off the bench, averaging 8.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 25.8 minutes per night through eight games. With the addition of Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio has a chance to be successful for the first time in Jones’ four seasons with the team, and he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to be part of that. Jones described the 7’4″ rookie as a “cheat code” and said he has changed the trajectory of the franchise.

“Very exciting times for our organization,” Jones said. “You can definitely feel a shift through the organization the last couple of years. You can feel it throughout the entire city even. Our city backs us up so much and supports us so much. You can feel that tremendously throughout all the people you run into, all the fans, everyone working for us in the organization, you can feel it all.”

There’s more on the Spurs:

  • Wembanyama is making a difference with 2.4 blocks per game, but the Spurs still have one of the league’s worst defenses, notes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Going into Wednesday’s game, San Antonio had a defensive rating of 110.9 during Wembanyama’s minutes, but it rises to 129.4 when he’s resting. “Size can translate into blocked shots, more rebounding, and that overall helps your defense,” Popovich said. “Length helps you with deflections and that sort of thing, keeping people out of the paint. So it’s been the emphasis since the beginning of training camp that we would behoove ourselves to improve defensively.”
  • Devin Vassell was limited to 12 minutes Wednesday in his return after missing two games with an adductor injury, Lopez tweets. Popovich said Vassell didn’t reaggravate the condition, but he’s being eased back into his regular role. San Antonio lost by 21 points in New York, so there was no need for Vassell to play extended minutes in the fourth quarter.
  • In a special report for ESPN, Leonard Solms examines the journey of Emmanuel Mavomo, who has become an assistant coach with the Spurs’ G League team in Austin after starting in the Basketball Africa League.

And-Ones: All-Star Game, Bronny, Caboclo, BAL

Having made the decision to revert back to the East vs. West format and a standard 12-minute fourth quarter for the 2024 All-Star Game, commissioner Adam Silver tells Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s Andscape that the NBA is also planning additional changes in the hopes of improving the game’s level of play.

As Silver explains, a conversation with Chris Paul made him realize that the All-Star Game’s alterations to pregame and halftime protocols – including longer pregame introductions and an extended musical performance at the half – disrupt players’ typical routines and making them more inclined to treat it like a meaningless exhibition.

“I’ll take responsibility for that,” Silver told Spears. “We’re sending mixed signals. And if we want guys to treat this like a real game, and again, this is not about Finals intensity, it’s just a fun game. But if we want players to treat it that way, we have to treat it that way. And so, it means that the introduction is going to have to be a little bit shorter and halftime’s going to have to be a little bit more typical, starting in Indianapolis.

“… I anticipate we’ll still have halftime entertainment. But it won’t be as long,” Silver continued. “I recognize this is not the Super Bowl. It’s an All-Star Game. It’s a different vibe, and we can still have an entertaining halftime but get the guys back on the floor in a more reasonable time. When it comes to the [All-Star] Game, we just got to make it clear to everybody involved, coaches included, that we’re looking for a basketball game.”

The NBA’s All-Star Game will be played in Indianapolis in 2024 and in San Francisco in 2025.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • LeBron James offered an update on his son Bronny James on Monday, telling reporters – including ESPN’s Dave McMenamin – that Bronny will undergo a medical examination later this month following his July cardiac arrest. If he passes that exam, the plan is for Bronny to return to practice for USC with the intention of playing this season, according to LeBron.
  • Former NBA first-round pick Bruno Caboclo has signed a contract with KK Partizan, the Serbian team announced today in a press release. While Caboclo’s new deal with Partizan runs through the 2024/25 season, Italian club Reyer Venezia has maintained that it holds the rights to the forward for the ’23/24 campaign after signing him earlier this year, so it’s unclear whether or not Caboclo has officially negotiated his release from that contract.
  • The NBA announced on Tuesday that the Basketball Africa League’s fourth season will tip off in March 2024 and will expand to South Africa for the first time in league history.
  • While it’s not necessarily surprising that the Nuggets and Celtics have looked like the NBA’s best teams through the season’s first two weeks, it’s impressive that the two clubs have played so well early on after overhauling their rotations during the offseason, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic.

And-Ones: I. Thomas, Noah, Spencer, NCAA Prospects

Veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas signed 10-day hardship deals with the Mavericks and Lakers last season before catching on with the Hornets to finish 2021/22. He has yet to play in ’22/23, but has been “staying ready” and hasn’t given up hope of finding a new team.

I’ve been talking to two teams the last couple of weeks,” Thomas told Steve Bulpett of “Hopefully they make a decision by the end of this week or early next week. But I’ve been in contact with teams monthly.

So that’s the thing with me, like, I know it’s close; I just have to find the team that really wants me to be on board and me to help in any situation possible. My agency and my representatives are just trying to figure it out. Obviously there’s a lot of overseas interest, but that’s just not even on my mind right now, so I don’t even want to dip into that. My ultimate goal is to have an NBA jersey. That’s all I want.”

Thomas knows he might not have a significant role going forward like he did earlier in his career, but he still believes he can contribute on and off the court, according to Bulpett.

I think at this point in my career, that will probably be the role of being a vet presence, teaching guys how to be professional — and also knowing that if my name is ever called, I’m ready to produce,” Thomas said. “I’m only 34 years old, but I haven’t played much the last three years really, so I haven’t had no real pounding on my body. The surgery in 2020 fixed the hip problem, and my body’s really 31, 32; I’ve got years to be able to play at a high level. But that’s not what I’m chasing; I want to be able to play in the NBA and go out on my own. That’s really what I want. I want to be able to play two or three more years, and if my name is called, I know I can produce at a high level. I know that for a fact.”

The two-time All-Star also tells Bulpett he has interest in a coaching or front office role in the future once his playing days are done.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah recently spoke to Marc J. Spears of Andscape about retiring from the NBA, his Cameroonian roots, and being an investor and ambassador of the Basketball Africa League, among other topics. “I’m very proud,” Noah said. “I’m very proud in being an investor in NBA Africa. I feel like this is opening up doors that I didn’t know were possible while I was playing. And I think that the future is very, very bright because Africa is not only shining right now, but they are [one of the] the youngest growing youth populations in the world. So. if you look at the numbers themselves, this league is just going to get better and better. It’s just so obvious.”
  • Felton Spencer, who played 12 NBA seasons from 1990-2002, has passed away at age 55, the University of Louisville announced (via Twitter). A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Spencer was the No. 6 overall pick in the 1990 draft, holding career averages of 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 640 games with Minnesota, Utah, Orlando, Golden State, San Antonio and New York. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report ranks the top 25 2023 NBA draft prospects competing in the NCAA tournament. At the top of the list is Alabama’s Brandon Miller, while Arkansas forward Jordan Walsh, who is known as a defensive difference-maker, rounds out the top 25.

And-Ones: Franchise Valuations, World Cup, NBL, BAL

The Warriors have an estimated worth of $7.56 billion, according to the sports business website Sportico, which put out its annual NBA franchise valuations this week. Kurt Badenhausen of Sportico, who formerly published the franchise valuations for Forbes, has the Warriors well ahead of the Knicks ($6.58 billion), Lakers ($6.44 billion), Bulls ($4.09 billion), and Celtics ($3.92 billion) on the site’s full list.

Those valuations for the Warriors, Knicks, and Lakers are all noticeably higher than the figures Forbes put out in October, while the numbers for the Bulls and Celtics fall slightly below Forbes’ estimates.

Sportico is a little more bullish on the value of NBA franchises on the whole, with an estimated average valuation of $3 billion per team. Forbes’ report had the estimated average worth of an NBA franchise at $2.86 billion.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Assuming Team USA qualifies for the 2023 World Cup, which is all but assured, the U.S. club will play all its games in Manila, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The World Cup will be played in Japan and Indonesia in addition to the Philippines, but each host nation got to pick one team it wanted to have for its group stage games. The Philippines, which will also host the final phase of the tournament, chose Team USA. Japan picked Slovenia (led by Luka Doncic), while Indonesia selected Canada.
  • Larry Kestelman, the owner of Australia’s National Basketball League, has interest in bringing an NBL team to the Las Vegas Summer League and says the NBA is open to the idea, according to Matt Logue and Michael Randall of the Herald Sun (subscription required). “We used to take teams to China, like an NBL All-Star-type set up,” Kestelman said. “We’ve discussed this with the NBA before and they were open to it, so we will continue those discussions.” The NBA has had some of its teams play exhibition games against NBL squads during the preseason in recent years.
  • The NBA announced on Wednesday that the third season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) will tip off on March 11, 2023. As was the case in 2022, 12 top teams from 12 African countries will qualify to be part of the BAL season. Those teams will play a total of 38 games in Dakar, Senegal; Cairo, Egypt; and Kigali, Rwanda.

And-Ones: Tanking, Expansion, Ignite, Dumars, Mekel

After Baxter Holmes of ESPN reported on comments Adam Silver made during a Q&A with Suns employees, the NBA commissioner appeared on ESPN’s NBA Today on Monday to further discuss some of the points he made during that session. In addition to clarifying that he wasn’t “deadly serious about relegation” when he broached that subject, Silver explained why he believes the league’s revamped draft lottery system reduces the incentive for teams to tank (link via Tim Bontemps of ESPN).

“You’re dealing with a 14% chance of getting the first pick,” Silver said. “I recognize at the end of the day analytics are what they are and it’s not about superstition. A 14% chance is better than a 1% chance or a no percent chance. But even in terms of straightforward odds, it doesn’t benefit a team to be the absolute worst team in the league, and even if you’re one of the poor-performing teams, you’re still dealing with a 14% chance.

“It’s one of these things where there’s no perfect solution, but we still think a draft is the right way to rebuild your league over time. We still think it makes sense among partner teams, where a decision was made where the worst-performing teams are able to restock with the prospects of the best players coming in. So we haven’t come up with a better system.”

Silver also addressed the topic of expansion. As Marc Stein relays (via Twitter), the commissioner said that Las Vegas would “make a great location from a franchise someday,” but repeated his usual line about the need for patience. Expansion won’t be on the table, according to Silver, until after the league has a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and television deal in place. The current CBA will expires in 2024, while the TV deal runs until 2025.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Senegalese guard Babacar Sane, a graduate of the NBA Academy, has signed with the G League Ignite, according to a press release from the team. Sane, 19, has represented Senegal in World Cup qualifiers and played in the Basketball Africa League. He signed with the Ignite for two years and will be eligible for the 2024 draft. Marc J. Spears of Andscape talked to the young guard about his G League deal and a potential path to the NBA.
  • NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Joe Dumars spoke to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today about his new role, explaining how he has adjusted to acting in the best interest of the league instead of any particular team. Dumars, whose position was previously held by Kiki VanDeWeghe, is in charge of player discipline — he was the one who announced, for instance, Grant Williamssuspension on Wednesday.
  • Veteran Israeli point guard Gal Mekel, who attended Wichita State and played for the Mavericks and Pelicans from 2013-14, has retired, according to agent Misko Raznatovic (Twitter link). Although Mekel’s time in the NBA was brief, he has enjoyed a 14-year professional career, playing in Israel, Italy, Russia, Serbia, and Spain during that time.

And-Ones: Smith, BIG3, Ujiri, BAL, Mexico

Longtime NBA guard J.R. Smith believes he was blackballed from the league, as Pierce Simpson of Complex relays. According to Simpson, it seems like Smith is mostly remembered for the mistake he made at the end of a 2018 NBA Finals game, choosing to dribble away from the rim without knowing the score.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” Smith said on whether he was blackballed after that. “Anybody can sit here and tell you that that’s a fact.”

Smith played 11 games with Cleveland the following season and briefly played with LeBron James on the Lakers in 2019/20. Since then, he hasn’t played in the NBA. Smith will turn 37 years old next week and never formally announced his retirement, but a return to the league seems highly unlikely at this point.

Here are some other notes from around the basketball world:

  • The BIG3 has relieved CEO Chris Hannan of his duties, according to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears (Twitter link). Ice Cube, the co-founder of the league, has been named CEO in his place. Jeff Kwatinetz (another co-founder) will serve as the league’s president.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri believes the Basketball Africa League (BAL) can produce NBA-level talent, but it’ll need time to grow, Leonard Solms writes for ESPN. Ujiri has remained active with the NBA’s work in Africa. As Solms notes, former BAL players Anas Mahmoud and Evans Ganapamo earned invites to play in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League — Mahmoud in 2021 with Toronto and Ganapamo in 2022 with Milwaukee — but neither player has earned a roster spot in the NBA.
  • Mexico surprised Team USA in their AmeriCup opening game, winning the contest 73-67, as detailed by The Associated Press. Mexico was led by Paul Stoll, who finished with 15 points and nine assists. Stoll went undrafted in 2008 and has played his entire career internationally.

And-Ones: Stephenson, Popovich, Thibodeau, Africa League, Samuel

Lance Stephenson is currently playing for the Nuggets’ G league affiliate, the Grand Rapids Gold. He ultimately hopes to get another chance to play in the NBA, as he told Bob Kravitz of The Athletic.

“I want to show everybody I’m a different guy and I’ll do anything I can to contribute to a team,’” he said. “My whole mindset is getting back to the NBA. I feel like I belong there. That’s my destination. And I’ll never quit trying.”

Stephenson, who is averaging 19.5 PPG and 7.4 RPG for the Gold, hasn’t appeared in the NBA game since the 2018/19 season, when he played in 63 regular-season games for the Lakers.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • A successor for Gregg Popovich as Team USA’s head coach has yet to be named. Popovich said that Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau would make an excellent choice, according to Steve Popper of Newsday. “Oh sure, there are a lot of guys up here that would be fantastic and he’s one of them,” Popovich said. “I think that experience is great and the people that they’re looking at, they’re all great candidates and I think everybody is going to be happy with the final selection for sure. He also was really helpful and supportive during my last four or five years with this, talking to him about how it all goes, giving advice.”
  • The Basketball Africa League will have an expanded second season, according to an NBA press release. The season will begin on March 5, 2022, in Dakar, Senegal, and will include stops in Cairo, Egypt, and Kigali, Rwanda.  The BAL will once again feature the to 12 club teams from 12 African countries and will expand to a total of 38 games over three months.
  • Seton Hall big man Tyrese Samuel has caught the eye of NBA scouts, Adam Zagoria of writes. According to Zagoria, 25 NBA scouts from 17 teams will be in attendance on Thursday when the Pirates play Texas.  There’s a chance Samuel could enter the draft after this season, depending on the feedback he gets.