Bismack Biyombo

And-Ones: NBA Africa Game, Global Camp, Upshaw

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Sixers center Joel Embiid will headline the rosters in this summer’s NBA Africa Game, the league announced today. The event, which will take place on Saturday, August 4 in Pretoria, South Africa, will feature a Team Africa vs. Team World format, with Cameroon native Embiid heading Team Africa and DeRozan representing Team World.

Joining Embiid on Team Africa will be fellow NBAers Al-Farouq Aminu, Bismack Biyombo, Cheick Diallo, Evan Fournier, Serge Ibaka, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Pascal Siakam. DeRozan’s teamates on Team World will include Harrison Barnes, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay, Khris Middleton, and Hassan Whiteside.

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

  • A total of 40 draft-eligible prospects from outside the United States will take part in the NBA Global Camp 2018 in Treviso, Italy from June 2-5, the NBA announced on Wednesday. While Luka Doncic won’t attend the pre-draft showcase, there will be plenty of prospects worth watching, including Cedevita forward Dzanan Musa, who is the No. 19 prospect on Jonathan Givony’s big board at ESPN.com.
  • The mother of Zeke Upshaw, the G League player who passed away earlier this year after collapsing during a Grand Rapids Drive game, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the NBA and the Pistons of negligence. The suit alleges that the defendants failed to provide the Drive with the “the resources, policies, and procedures reasonably necessary” to prevent or handle Upshaw’s collapse. Noah Trister of The Associated Press has the full story and more details.
  • Now that two-way contracts have been in effect for nearly a full year, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days explores what sort of changes we may see to the rules surrounding those contracts in the future.

Knicks Rumors: Payton, Noah, Biyombo, Hernangomez

The Knicks got some devastating news on Tuesday night, as an MRI revealed that Kristaps Porzingis suffered a torn ACL, sidelining him for the rest of the 2017/18 season — and likely for the start of next season too.

After a solid start to the year, there was speculation that the Knicks could remain in the playoff picture in the East, with key contributors like Porzingis and Enes Kanter publicly encouraging the organization to push for the postseason rather than selling off assets. Already mired in a slump though, the Knicks are now nine games below .500 and their playoff hopes appear to be on life support.

With the Porzingis injury further reducing the Knicks’ chances of making a late-season run, members of the franchise have already discussed giving the team’s young players more minutes for the rest of the year, sources tell Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link). While Begley says it’s not clear yet whether that’s the definitive plan, it would certainly make sense to shift in that direction.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks have checked in on Magic guard Elfrid Payton, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who notes that Knicks GM Scott Perry was a member of Orlando’s front office when the club drafted Payton. Berman adds that Perry and the Knicks view Payton as the type of athletic player they covet, and believe the fourth-year point guard has more upside as a defender than the advanced metrics suggest.
  • According to Berman, the Knicks and Magic have engaged in preliminary talks about Payton, and the two teams have discussed the possibility of including highly-paid bigs Joakim Noah and Bismack Biyombo in a deal. Still, these talks occurred before Porzingis went down on Tuesday, so it’s not clear how that injury impacts New York’s plans.
  • The Nuggets are one of about a dozen teams that have inquired on Willy Hernangomez, but the young center isn’t being discussed in talks with the Magic, sources tell Berman. The Knicks would likely move Hernangomez if they could get a first-round pick or a promising young player at a different position in return, says Berman.
  • With Porzingis potentially sidelined until the 2019 calendar year, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton examines how the injury will affect the Knicks’ offseason plans. If Porzingis misses a good chunk of the 2018/19 season, the team may end putting off any major veteran additions until at least 2019, Pelton notes. He adds that the injury could make a Courtney Lee trade more viable for the Knicks, since Lee is more of a win-now piece.

Kyler’s Latest: Knicks, Jazz, Magic, Bucks, Lakers

The Knicks may use the trade market to open a roster spot for G League guard Trey Burke, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. New York is reportedly in “serious talks” about signing Burke, who has been with the organization’s Westchester affiliate since being waived during the preseason.

The Knicks have a full roster and there is speculation that veteran point guard Ramon Sessions could be waived to clear the way for Burke. However, Kyler says the Knicks have received interest in backup centers Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez. They may be able to get a draft pick in return for O’Quinn, but not many teams can take on his $4.08MM salary without sending another player back to New York, which wouldn’t help with signing Burke.

Burke has been outstanding in the G League and has attracted interest from other organizations. According to Kyler, Burke’s representatives have told the Knicks he will consider other offers if they don’t sign him soon. So while there’s not a definite deadline to open a roster spot, there is an incentive to get something done.

Kyler offers info on several other potential deals as the trade deadline draws nearer:

  • The Jazz would like to get something in return for the expiring contracts of Derrick Favors [$12MM] and Joe Johnson [$10.5MM]. Utah is among the teams linked to Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic, who becomes eligible for a deal Monday. Kyler says the Bulls are willing to make a deal and would be happy to get draft picks and expiring deals in return.
  • The Magic could be active at the deadline, as sources say they have received inquiries on nearly all their players. They would like to deal guard Evan Fournier, but haven’t received any offers they consider attractive. Despite being a non-contender at 12-28, Orlando isn’t overly interested in draft picks because it already has a lot of young talent and its own pick is likely to fall in the top five. It would take a proven All-Star to land Aaron Gordon, according to Kyler, and the Magic don’t expect to receive that kind of offer. They are also resigned that no one is going to take Bismack Biyombo with two years and $34MM left on his contract beyond this season.
  • The Bucks continue to need frontcourt help and might give up Jabari Parker in the right deal. However, with Mirza Teletovic sidelined with blood clots in his lungs, the organization would have difficulty matching a big salary. Sources believe Malcolm Brogdon or Thon Maker would have to be included in any significant trade.
  • The Lakers may have to deal Larry Nance Jr. as an incentive to get teams to take on other salaries. They would love to get rid of Luol Deng‘s contract, but are finding no options without giving up a hefty package of first-rounders.

Kyler’s Latest: Lakers, Mavs, Grizzlies, Magic

The Lakers and Mavericks both currently sit comfortably in the lottery, with little chance of making a run at a playoff spot this season. Still, there’s a sense in NBA circles that the two teams could be logical trade partners, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

Kyler cautions that there have been zero talks between the Lakers and Mavericks about a potential Luol Deng trade, but he suggests that if any team is willing to roll the dice on Deng and his exorbitant contract, Dallas might be that team. The Mavericks have some expiring contracts that would appeal to L.A., and if the Lakers attached Julius Randle and a future draft pick to Deng, that could pique the Mavs’ interest, Kyler writes.

Of course, within the last month, we’ve heard that the Lakers aren’t interested in parting with future first-round picks in order to move Deng, and a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested that the club had essentially given up hope of another team taking on the veteran forward’s unwieldy contract. So even if the Mavericks represent the best potential fit, the odds of a deal remain slim.

Kyler’s latest piece for Basketball Insiders includes several other items of interest on a handful of lottery teams, so let’s round up a few highlights…

  • The Grizzlies are unlikely to make any franchise-altering moves before next month’s trade deadline, which means Marc Gasol probably isn’t going anywhere. Still, they’re a team worth watching, according to Kyler, who points to Tyreke Evans as a potential Memphis trade candidate.
  • The “dream scenario” for the Magic would be to move Bismack Biyombo before the deadline, but they’re highly unlikely to find a taker for that contract. Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier may also emerge as trade chips, but Aaron Gordon almost certainly isn’t going anywhere — the “prevailing thought” is that he’ll be retained by Orlando as a restricted free agent this summer, says Kyler.
  • The Hawks appear open to listening to inquiries on Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore, but their current asking prices are probably too high to work anything out, reports Kyler.

Front Office Shakeups Ahead?

Disappointing seasons could lead to front office changes for at least five teams this summer, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

The most obvious team headed for a shakeup is Sacramento, which reportedly wants to position someone above GM Vlade Divac and may have interest in former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, despite an official statement denying it. There are also ongoing rumors of a rift between Vivek Ranadive and the minority ownership, which has grown frustrated with the way the team has been managed.

Kyler notes that Ken Catanella was hired as an assistant GM last summer, but wasn’t given the power that many expected him to have.

Change may also be coming to these organizations:

  • Orlando — The Magic seem ready to replace GM Rob Hennigan, with Pistons executive and former Orlando player Pat Garrity as the leading candidate to be offered the job. The Magic had hoped to be playoff contenders after signing Bismack Biyombo and trading for Serge Ibaka, but the new combination never worked out. Orlando is 14th in the East at 27-47, and Ibaka was shipped to Toronto last month. Kyler cites league sources who say several of the Magic’s lower level executives are expecting changes and have started contacting other organizations.
  • New Orleans — A recent report said coach Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps could both be fired without significant progress by the end of the season. Demps may have bought himself more timee with the DeMarcus Cousins trade, but the Pelicans have reached the playoffs just twice during his seven years at the helm. Louisiana native Joe Dumars is close to ownership and is reportedly being considered as a replacement.
  • Phoenix — The Suns will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year, and many believe that owner Robert Sarver wants to turn things around quickly. Ryan McDonough has amassed an impressive group of young talent in his four years as GM, but that may not be enough to convince Sarver to keep him.
  • Atlanta — It’s unlikely that coach/executive Mike Budenholzer or GM Wes Wilcox gets replaced, but several staff additions are expected. The Hawks have been shaken by the loss of free agent Al Horford last season and the possible exit of Paul Millsap this summer, along with a late-season losing streak that may knock them out of the playoffs. More voices may be brought on to help Budenholzer and Wilcox with the decision-making process.

Southeast Notes: Schroder, Ellington, Oubre Jr.

A mid-game argument resulting in an ugly defensive breakdown has some questioning the team harmony in the Hawks‘ lockerroom. In addition to a spat with Dwight Howard, 23-year-old point guard Dennis Schroder is said to have engaged with head coach Mike Budenholzer too, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

While Schroder and Howard were caught on camera arguing about a Howard turnover the previous possession, Stephen Curry wasted no time calling for the inbound pass and draining a three. The basket put the Warriors in front and they would go on to win the game. Shortly after the incident, Schroder – who at that point had led the Hawks in scoring with 23 points – was benched by Budenholzer for the remainder of the contest.

We need to learn to play together and stay together for 48 minutes,” Budenholzer said of his Hawks. “That is something that is important to us.

Vivlamore reminds readers that this isn’t the first time the Hawks have punished Schroder. When the guard returned to Atlanta late after the All-Star Break, he was suspended for one game. In that situation, Schroder cited passport complications as the reason for his delay.

Worth noting, Schroder has posted a photo of himself and Howard on Instagram and Twitter, a likely attempt to bury the hatchet, publicly at least.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

Northwest Notes: Mudiay, Thibodeau, Stephenson

The performance of Nuggets rookie guard Jamal Murray has made Emmanuel Mudiay expendable, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Veteran Jameer Nelson has become the starting point guard as Denver pushes for a playoff spot, and Kiszla sees Murray as a better backup to both Nelson and Gary Harris than Mudiay is. That leaves little playing time for last year’s first-round pick, who may now be more valuable to the Nuggets as a trade chip. Kiszla would like to see the Nuggets pursue Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, but admits that Denver doesn’t have the pieces to make that happen. He also mentions Atlanta’s Thabo Sefolosha as a target, but not in a one-for-one deal for Mudiay.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Tom Thibodeau’s new dual role as Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations leaves no time for a vacation during the All-Star break, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Zgoda lists seven possible targets for Minnesota before Thursday’s trade deadline: Chicago’s Taj Gibson, Orlando’s Bismack Biyombo, Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler, Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert, Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker and Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel.
  • Lance Stephenson is looking at a two-week recovery from his Grade 2 ankle sprain, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis. Stephenson’s 10-day contract expired this weekend, and it’s uncertain whether the Timberwolves will be interested in signing him again once he has recovered.
  • The Jazz may add short-term salary to help them get above the cap floor, but they will be reluctant to take on long-term salary in any deal, writes Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News. Utah’s top priority this summer will be to re-sign Gordon Hayward, who will want a max contract with an annual salary in the $25MM to $30MM range. The Jazz also want to keep free agent point guard George Hill, who will demand about $20MM per season, and Rudy Gobert‘s extension will kick in next season, starting at more than $21.2MM next year. That ties up three players making more than $70MM, which limits Utah’s roster flexibility.

Raptors Notes: Ibaka, Ujiri, Biyombo, Powell

Power forward Serge Ibaka, who was acquired Tuesday in a trade with the Magic, won’t be making his Raptors debut tonight, the team announced (Twitter link). Ibaka passed his physical and was available for the game, but Michael Grange of Rogers SportsNet tweets that Toronto coach Dwane Casey decided to hold him out after today’s walkthrough, citing a hectic past 36 hours. Ibaka’s first game in a Raptors uniform will take place after the All-Star break on February 24th.

There’s more news out of Toronto:

  • The Ibaka deal raises the stakes for the Raptors, Grange writes in a full story. Ibaka fills an obvious need for Toronto and immediately becomes the organization’s most experienced postseason player. Grange calls it a risk-free trade and notes that Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira have made most of the starts at power forward this season after having a combined seven career starts coming into this year. “I think our team needed a boost, to be honest,” said team president Masai Ujiri“and we’re at that point where I think everybody knows, it’s not rocket science, that [a starting power forward] was a missing link on our team.”
  • Ibaka said he heard great things about Toronto from former Magic teammate Bismack Biyombo long before the trade took place, relays Josh Lewenburg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Biyombo spent last season with the Raptors before signing with Orlando in July. “He always told me stories,” Ibaka said. “… He loves it here.”
  • Second-year shooting guard Norman Powell can expect more playing time with Ross gone, according to Lewenburg (Twitter link). However, Casey wants Powell to concentrate more on defense and less on shooting than Ross did. Powell is averaging about 17 minutes and 7.2 points through 52 games.

Magic Exploring Possible Serge Ibaka Deal?

The Magic have “picked up their attempts” to trade Serge Ibaka before next month’s deadline, league sources tell Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. According to Deveney, Orlando has experienced some “buyers’ remorse” after trading for Ibaka last summer, and the team is looking to get something for him to avoid the risk of losing him for nothing in free agency.

Although Deveney suggests that there’s pessimism about Ibaka re-signing with the Magic this summer, he adds that people around the NBA aren’t sure what the former Oklahoma City big man will do in free agency, which complicates his trade market. Teams would be unwilling to give up a significant return to rent Ibaka for a few months.

“They’re asking too much,” one front office executive said of the Magic, per Deveney. “(The Magic) would probably like to make a few moves there, but Ibaka is the one they’re really pushing because he is going to leave. But they have had too high a price. They want a young player and a pick, two young players — you know, a package that can get them back some assets. They’re not going to get that. Not for three, maybe four months of Serge Ibaka.”

The Magic surrendered their 2016 lottery pick (Domantas Sabonis) along with Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova when they acquired Ibaka, signaling that they expected the 27-year-old to be a part of the long-term plan. However, the club has struggled this season and appears to be slipping out of playoff contention, with a 19-30 record, reducing the odds of Ibaka wanting to re-sign with Orlando in July.

General manager Rob Hennigan said last week that he expects to be “aggressive” in pursuing ways to improve Orlando’s roster, and addressing the club’s frontcourt logjam would be a good place to start. With Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo joining a group that already featured Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, there aren’t enough minutes to go around, and Gordon has spent a lot of time playing out of position.

According to Deveney, there’s “no chance” of a trade involving Biyombo, who signed a four-year, $68MM deal last summer. Gordon is also a key part of the Magic’s long-term plan, which leaves Ibaka and Vucevic as possible trade candidates. We heard last week that the Celtics were among the teams to talk to Orlando about Vucevic.

As for Ibaka, even if he’s no more than a rental piece, there should be several teams with interest in talking to the Magic about a deal. Deveney identifies the Celtics, Rockets, and Raptors as a few potential suitors, though he cites a source who says Toronto isn’t very interested in giving up Terrence Ross in a trade for Ibaka.

Eastern Notes: Williams, Payton, Biyombo

The Nuggets are waiving Mo Williams for the second time in a week, but this time, the Sixers are not expected to claim him, Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets. Philadelphia is planning to keep Chasson Randle on the roster, so they don’t have a spot open for the retired point guard.

Williams’ contract holds value for the Nuggets and it would for the Sixers as well since both teams are under the salary floor, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors detailed earlier today. The point guard has already been paid over half of his salary, which is worth slightly under $2.2MM, but the whole amount would count toward a team’s salary cap. If the team doesn’t reach the salary floor, the transaction of waiving Williams would save the franchise roughly $1MM this season.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic GM Rob Hennigan is “encouraged and excited” about the play of Elfrid Payton this season, as he tells Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “I think especially over the last few weeks he appears to be gaining a level of aggressiveness and comfort at the position that I think bodes well for our team,” Hennigan said. “I think, like anyone on our team, our goal is to improve. Our goal is to get better. And we need to explore any means necessary to do that. But certainly with E.P.’s play and his work ethic and our belief in how good he can become he’s certainly an integral part of our team and very, very valuable to us.”
  • Hennigan said free agent addition Bismack Biyombo has brought the Magic exactly what they were looking for when they signed the big man, as Robbins passes along in the same piece. “I think Biz has brought to our team exactly what we anticipated: his toughness, his energy, his spirit, his ability to be a paint presence defensively. Like most of our players, we think his best basketball is still ahead of him based on his age and his work ethic,” Hennigan said.
  • Rookie center Willy Hernangomez is earning a larger role on the Knicks, Al Iannazzone of Newsday writes. “He’s got great knowledge of the game, understanding and feel,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He has no fear when he gets out there about who he’s playing against. When you have a guy who knows how to play the game, a lot of good things happen.”