Bismack Biyombo

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 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.”

Magic Notes: Dragic, Crabbe, Vucevic, Harkless

Orlando is among several teams that have contacted the Heat about Goran Dragic, according to Zach Lowe of The Magic are looking to solidify their point guard position, which belonged to Elfrid Payton when the season began, but was taken over by D.J. Augustin in late November. Dragic still has three years and more than $54MM left on his current contract. He is averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists in 32 games this season, but has missed time recently with back problems.

There’s more news today out of Orlando:

  • After losing six of their last seven and dropping to 16-24, the Magic need to act quickly to save their season, writes Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel. Offense has been a problem for Orlando all year, and Schmitz says the team needs to find a scorer who can create his own shot. He suggests Allen Crabbe of the Trail Blazers as a realistic target and suggests offering, possibly with shot-blocking center Bismack Biyombo going to Portland in return.
  • Nikola Vucevic will be back in the starting lineup tonight, with Biyombo coming off the bench, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Vucevic was demoted along with Payton in the November shakeup. Coach Frank Vogel plans to utilize more “small-ball” lineups with Jeff Green moving to power forward and Mario Hezonja back in the rotation as a backup small forward.
  • The Magic made a huge error when they gave up on Maurice Harkless two years ago, Robbins argues in a separate piece. After three disappointing seasons in Orlando, Harkless was traded to Portland in the summer of 2015 in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2020. He was a regular starter for the Blazers during last year’s playoffs and has started all 40 games in which he has appeared this season. “It was a tough situation: a lot of guys trying to figure it out, including the staff and the front office,” Harkless said of his time in Orlando. “It was a unique situation. It was tough. Obviously, it wasn’t going to work out for everybody. I think a change of scenery is what I needed.”

Atlantic Notes: Noel, Embiid, Celtics, Biyombo

Sixers coach Brett Brown met with Nerlens Noel today in the wake of his comments about the team’s logjam in the frontcourt, writes Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly. Now that Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor are healthy, Brown faces a challenge in finding enough playing time to satisfy all three. Noel lashed out after seeing just eight minutes of action in Friday’s game with the Lakers. The coach said Noel displayed “tremendous maturity” and “a lot of class” in today’s discussion. “He’s highly competitive, he’s in a very unusual situation,” Brown said. “The fact that it came out as soon as it did caught me off guard. We’ve discussed it and I’ll be surprised if everybody’s not seeing how we all need to handle this better going forward.”

There’s more news from the Atlantic Division:

  • Embiid is angry about the Sixers‘ blowout loss in an ESPN game Friday and talked about the need to “change the culture” in Philadelphia, Camerato relays in a separate story. “The last national televised game we had, it was the same thing,” Embiid said. “I don’t know if it was the pressure of that or if it’s just, I don’t really know, but that’s the second game in a row we weren’t focused, especially on the bigger stage.”
  • Noel, not DeMarcus Cousins, is the big man the Celtics ought to pursue in trade, argues A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. Noel would be the rim protector that Boston needs, Blakely states, and an unidentified assistant GM told him that Noel’s complaints are understandable given the abundance of young big men in Philadelphia. Cousins, on the other hand, has a short temper and a history of trouble and wouldn’t be a good fit with the current Celtics roster, according to the writer.
  • Magic center Bismack Biyombo has great memories of the single season he spent with the Raptors, relays Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Biyombo helped Toronto advance to the Eastern Conference finals last season before a signing a four-year $72MM deal with Orlando in July. The 6’9″ center, who will face his former team for the first time Sunday night, said he was exchanging messages with Kyle Lowry DeMar DeRozan and other teammates all the way up to the start of free agency. “The expectation that everybody [had] was that I was going back there,” Biyombo said. “I had conversations with teammates before free agency was open. An hour before free agency was open I was still talking to all my teammates. Ten minutes before free agency opened they were still talking to me. So the expectations was high. But in the end, it was tough.”

Eastern Notes: Vucevic, Mirotic, Canaan, Pistons

Magic coach Frank Vogel shook up the starting lineup tonight with D.J. Augustin, Bismack Biyombo and Aaron Gordon replacing Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic and Jeff Green, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. The change was prompted by a three-game losing streak, but not much improved with an eight-point loss to the Bucks.

Vucevic promised to keep a professional attitude about the move, but he clearly isn’t endorsing it. “I spoke to Frank about it last night, and obviously I wasn’t happy with the decision they made,” the sixth-year center said to Zach Oliver of OPP Magic Blog. “I didn’t think there was a reason for me to go to the bench, but it’s coach’s decision. All I can do is control what I can control, which is when I’m on the court play to the best of my ability and help the team win. Stay professional and whatever is going on, I’ll keep giving my best and give them my full effort.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic hopes to stay in the NBA rather than return to Europe after his contract expires at the end of this season, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. The former Real Madrid star is wrapping up a three-year, $16.6MM deal. He calls Chicago “a great city” and says he wants to continue to take on the challenges that the NBA presents. “I think [the NBA] is the best place I can grow as a player,” Mirotic said. “I was very comfortable in Madrid. … That was a perfect place to stay and be in a comfort zone, to sign another five years. But that’s not who I am. I like the challenges. … And I came here to prove that I’m ready.”
  • A season and a half in Philadelphia has helped Bulls guard Isaiah Canaan appreciate the chance to be on a winning team, writes Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly. Canaan signed with Chicago over the summer after the Sixers declined to submit a qualifying offer. “I say it was a blessing for the opportunity, just to prove I can help a team out and show what I can bring,” Canaan said. “It was a humbling experience for me just to have to go through something like that and learn not to take anything for granted.”
  • A June meeting at a Tigers game between Pistons owner Tom Gores and the Ilitch family, which owns the Red Wings, led to the Pistons’ move downtown next season, relays Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press.

Southeast Notes: Howard, Beal, Booker, Biyombo

Hawks center Dwight Howard believes he can play for close to another decade, according to Michael Lee of The Vertical. Now in his 13th season, Howard seems to have overcome the back and knee problems that limited him in Houston. He played just 41 games two seasons ago, but has been healthy since arriving in Atlanta. “When I first came in the league, I thought I was going to play forever,” Howard said. “I still want to play until I’m 40, but I thought I was going to play basketball until I was 60. That’s what happens when you’re young. Once you get older, you realize there are lot of things that are important.” The contract Howard signed with the Hawks this summer runs through the 2018/19 season.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards have adopted a “track everything” policy to protect the health of Bradley Beal, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. The star shooting guard, who re-signed over the summer on a five-year max deal, has a history of injuries that limited him to 55 games last season and 63 the year before. He was placed on a minutes restriction last December after doctors discovered early signs of a stress reaction in his lower right fibula. “They have to literally drag me off the floor sometimes because I’ll continue to shoot, I’ll continue to work out in practice sometimes when I shouldn’t be,” Beal said. “They do a good job of watching me.”
  • Devin Booker, a breakout star with the Suns during his rookie season, lobbied the Magic to draft him in 2015, relays Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando, which held the fifth pick, opted for Mario Hezonja, who averaged 6.1 points and fewer than 18 minutes per game as a rookie. Booker cracked the starting lineup in Phoenix, averaged 13.8 points per night and was a First Team All-Rookie selection. “It was funny,” Booker said. “They had a top-five pick. Obviously, I wasn’t being rated that high. But I’m good friends with [team owners] the DeVoses because we’re both from Grand Rapids, Mich. I was telling them, ‘I need to come to Orlando.’ But I knew it wasn’t going to happen. It was a long shot. I’m happy where I’m at.”
  • Bismack Biyombo has brought the shot-blocking and energy that the Magic expected when they signed him this summer, Robbins writes in a separate piece. Biyombo is averaging 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes to go with 9.0 points and 13.3 rebounds. “To me, it’s about knowing your job and doing your job, really,” Biyombo said. “I don’t do anything out of what I know I can’t do, and I do what I think the team’s gonna need to win a game each and every night.”
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