Bobby Portis

NBA’s Bottom Eight Teams Gearing Up For Group Workouts

Monday, September 14 marks the first day of the three-week offseason workout window for the NBA’s bottom eight teams. The first phase of these de facto training camps will last for one week, through next Monday. During that time, activities will continue to be limited to individual workouts, as participants begin being tested daily for the coronavirus.

After one week, once participating players have returned multiple negative COVID-19 tests – or have been quarantined if they test positive – the second phase of the camps will take place in bubble-type environments. Group workouts, including practices and intra-squad scrimmages, will be permitted during the next two weeks as coronavirus testing continues.

The eight teams not invited to Orlando – the Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Knicks, Pistons, Bulls, and Hornets – won’t congregate at a single site like the top 22 teams did at Walt Disney World. Their “bubbles” will be created in their respective markets.

[RELATED: Eight Teams Left Out Of Restart To Conduct Workouts At Home Sites]

For instance, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes, the Bulls will stay at a downtown hotel and will be transported back and forth between there and the Advocate Center. The Hawks, meanwhile, are working to secure their players a hotel that has not yet opened to help avoid any outside contact, per Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The other clubs will make similar arrangements.

These workouts – both the individual sessions this week and the group activities beginning next week – are entirely voluntary. However, since these players have been unable to take part in organized basketball activities with teammates since March and are likely itching to get back on the court, there’s an expectation that attendance will be robust for most clubs.

Chris Kirschner of The Athletic reports, for example, that the Hawks anticipate all their core players – including Clint Capela – will take part in the camp. Jeff Teague is one of the only players not expected to participate, per Spencer, who notes that the veteran point guard is ticketed for free agency.

The Pistons are in a similar situation — James L. Edwards III of The Athletic reports that free-agent-to-be Langston Galloway isn’t expected to be in attendance, but most of the rest of the team’s players will participate.

There are some cases where players who could reach free agency in the coming months will take part in workouts. For instance, Marc Berman of The New York Post says that Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson will likely be in attendance for the Knicks. Portis has a pricey team option for 2020/21, while only $1MM of Gibson’s $9.45MM salary is guaranteed, so both vets could be let go by the team this fall.

Berman does caution that some veteran Knicks players intend to participate in individual workouts but won’t join the rest of the club in the “bubble.”

Teams that want to fill gaps on their roster and make sure they have enough players to hold intra-squad scrimmages will be able to invite players who suited up for their G League affiliates this past season. For example, Lindell Wigginton and Canyon Barry of the Iowa Wolves will join Minnesota for the team’s mini-camp at Mayo Clinic Square, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.

With these offseason camps set to end on October 6 and the NBA Finals likely to wrap up shortly thereafter, the next time clubs meet for organized activities will presumably be for training camps at the start of the 2020/21 season.

Eastern Notes: Mahinmi, Sabonis, Nunn, Knicks

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said on Wednesday that center Ian Mahinmi will not play in tomorrow’s regular-season finale against the Celtics, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link).

Since the Wizards landed in Orlando for the seeding games, Mahinmi has not played a single minute. This season, the 33-year-old center only played in 38 games, averaging 7.4 PPG and 5.7 RPG.

The Wizards were expecting Mahinmi to be their veteran rim protector when they signed him to a four-year, $64MM contract in the summer of 2016. However, that never came to fruition due to injuries. Over the last two seasons, Mahinmi has only played in 72 games. The veteran center is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Here’s more from across the Eastern Conference:

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Payton, Portis, Peters

The departure of former team president Steve Mills and the arrival of replacement Leon Rose will complicate Frank Ntilikina‘s future with the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

As Berman explains, Mills had been Ntilikina’s “stoutest supporter” within the organization, having worked with Phil Jackson to draft the young Frenchman in the 2017 lottery.

Rose, on the other hand, comes from CAA, the agency that Ntilikina left in 2019 when he hired French agent Bouna Ndiaye. Although Rose didn’t directly represent the Knicks’ guard, he led CAA’s basketball department, and Berman hears that the agency was “angered” by Ntilikina’s departure.

Any decision Rose makes on Ntilikina’s future probably won’t be motivated by the 21-year-old’s history with CAA, but it’s not uncommon for new heads of basketball operations to move on from a number of the old regime’s draftees if those players haven’t established themselves as reliable contributors. With Ntilikina entering a contract year in 2020/21, he could be a trade candidate during the coming offseason.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Rose will also have a decision to make on another guard, Elfrid Payton, who is owed $8MM in 2020/21. Currently, only $1MM of that amount is guaranteed. While there are no assurances that the Knicks will bring Payton back at that price, Berman notes in a separate Post article that the veteran guard was one of the team’s most productive players in ’19/20. “I just feel the team has been a noticeably better basketball team with him healthy,” a Knicks source told Berman.
  • Bobby Portis‘ $15.75MM team option for 2020/21 appears unlikely to be exercised, according to Berman. Agent Mark Bartelstein contends that Portis was “really terrific” in the month leading up to the stoppage after adjusting to a new team and a mid-season coaching change. However, an NBA personnel director tells Berman, “I can’t imagine they can keep him (at that price).”
  • It’s possible the Knicks may have found an under-the-radar gem in guard Lamar Peters, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, who spoke with Peters about his first season in the G League. Although the former Mississippi State standout spent the year with the Westchester Knicks, New York doesn’t hold his NBA rights, so he could sign with a new team at any point after the current moratorium lifts.
  • In case you missed it on Wednesday, the Knicks are said to have some interest in Sixers general manager Elton Brand for a role in their front office. However, the 76ers reportedly like the job he’s done and don’t plan to let him go.

Knicks Not Planning To Buy Out Veterans

The Knicks have no plans at the moment to buy out any of their veteran players on expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts, according to Steve Popper of Newsday.

New York began its post-All-Star schedule hoping to make a push for a playoff spot in the East and not intending to prioritize playing youngsters over veterans if it compromised the team’s ability to win games. That philosophy has meant that players like Reggie Bullock, Bobby Portis, and Taj Gibson are still key contributors rather than buyout candidates.

While it’s possible the Knicks will adjust their approach to late-season player development as their postseason hopes continue to fade, their position on buyouts isn’t expected to change, says Popper. The team still views many of its veteran contracts – several of which include team options or small partial guarantees for 2020/21 – as potential trade assets for the offseason, Popper adds.

Besides Bullock, Portis, and Gibson, Wayne Ellington and Maurice Harkless are among the vets who fit the mold of a typical buyout candidate, at least to some extent. However, if those players aren’t interested in buyouts, the Knicks would have little to gain from pursuing them — the team already has one of the NBA’s lowest payrolls for 2019/20 and the savings would be minimal.

Additionally, none of those players have more than $1MM in guaranteed money on their contracts for next season, so they could be easily cut loose if no trade materializes in the offseason and the Knicks decide to move on. The only real benefit to moving on from them now would be to open up an immediate roster spot or two for developmental projects.

For what it’s worth, players like Portis and Harkless have publicly suggested they’re not looking to go the buyout route.

Bobby Portis Uninterested In Knicks Buyout

Backup Knicks big man Bobby Portis told a scrum of reporters today that he does not want to lose one cent of the two-year, $30.75MM contract he signed with New York last summer, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

The Knicks have a team option on the $15.75MM second season of the deal, and with Leon Rose and Scott Perry now calling the shots in Manhattan, the team may not exercise the option, effectively making Portis a free agent in 2020.

“I’m 24 years old,” Portis told reporters, despite his disappointing Knicks season. “I’m not doing a buyout. I’ll make as much money as I can for my family. (I’m) 24. Not even thinking about a buyout at 24. I’ll probably set a record as [the] first guy to do a buyout at 24. It’s just not even in the equation.”

For the record, Portis turns 25 tomorrow. Make of that what you will.

Portis’ fellow Knicks veteran, shooting guard Wayne Ellington, is considering a buyout request from the two-year, $16MM contract he signed with New York last summer. Only $1MM of Elllington’s $8MM salary next season is guaranteed.

Portis is averaging 9.4 points, 5.2 boards, and a -2.2 box plus-minus across his 53 games played for New York this season. Chicago drafted the jump-shooting Knicks power forward/center with the No. 22 pick out of Arkansas in 2015, before eventually trading him to the Wizards at the 2019 trade deadline. He was one of several big men to sign with New York last summer.

Wayne Ellington Considers Buyout With Knicks

Wayne Ellington is talking to his agent, Mark Bartlestein, about working out a buyout deal with the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

The 32-year-old shooting guard has appeared in just 25 games after signing as a free agent over the summer.  His $8MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed for just $1MM, so his days in New York appear numbered.

“There will be a decision to make,’’ Ellington said at today’s shootaround. “I’m just listening to my agent at this point. I come in here, come into work every single day like it’s a normal day. Listen and get advice and take it from there.’’

The Knicks are expected to accommodate Ellington if he decides he wants out, Berman adds. Ellington’s playing time has been cut significantly since Mike Miller took over as interim head coach and Reggie Bullock returned from injury. The team showcased him a little bit on Thursday against the Magic, and Ellington responded with 12 points in 18 minutes.

Berman suggests the Lakers, who Ellington spent the 2014/15 season with, could have some interest.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there,’’ Ellington said. “There’s a lot of different things floating around for options. It’s part of the business. It’s part of the game. There’s nothing imminent right now. There’s nothing for sure. I’m going to keep pushing forward. We won three games in a row, try to keep that going.’’

Berman shares a few more buyout tidbits in his story:

  • The Knicks could have obtained rookies Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele along with Maurice Harkless in Thursday’s trade that sent Marcus Morris to the Clippers, but they opted for Harkless and a package of draft picks because they wanted to avoid waiving players right away. New York has a full 15-man roster and would have needed to open two spots before the deal could have been finalized. Berman suggests that management is either counting on saving money with buyouts or just wants the veterans to stay for leadership.
  • Bobby Portis, another Bartlestein client, is also a buyout candidate. The Knicks have a $15.75MM team option next season on Portis, who was reportedly included in a trade offer to the Warriors for D’Angelo Russell.
  • Buying out Ellington would give the Knicks a better chance to evaluate Damyean Dotson before he enters free agency this summer.

Knicks Notes: Monk, DSJ, D-Lo, Rose, Payton, More

Before Steve Mills was removed from his position as the Knicks‘ president of basketball operations, there was some internal support for a potential trade with the Hornets that would have sent Malik Monk to New York, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Begley notes that Dennis Smith Jr. would’ve gone to Charlotte in the deal, though it’s not clear what other pieces would have been involved on either side. Both Smith and Monk were prospects the Knicks passed over in the 2017 draft for Frank Ntilikina.

Within his roundup of the Knicks’ deadline discussions, Begley also says that before Mills’ departure, there were members of the organization that felt as if they’d made “significant progress” toward a D’Angelo Russell trade with the Warriors.

We don’t know exactly how those talks played out, so it’s hard to say whether that confidence was warranted. But for what it’s worth, Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that none of New York’s offers had been “even remotely appealing” to Golden State. One of the Knicks’ proposals included Bobby Portis, Allonzo Trier, Ntilikina, and presumably some form of draft compensation, sources tell Begley.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Marc Berman of The New York Post takes a look at the Knicks’ impending hire of agent Leon Rose as their new head of basketball operations, citing one NBA executive who said, “MSG and CAA have been in bed for years. This shouldn’t be surprising.”
  • Berman notes in his article on Rose that the veteran agent is tight with Kentucky head coach John Calipari. However, Calipari said today that he has no plans to become the Knicks’ next coach, according to Kyle Tucker of The Athletic (Twitter link). Calipari said he’d help Rose in any way he can — “It just wouldn’t be to coach.”
  • One decision Rose will face this summer will be on Elfrid Payton‘s $8MM non-guaranteed salary for 2020/21. Berman examines the factors that will go into that decision, pointing out that Payton is a CAA client.
  • In an interview on Showtime’s “All the Smoke,” Kevin Durant was once again asked about his free agency decision last summer. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post details, Durant replied that he didn’t seriously consider any teams beside the Nets. “I looked at other places — the Clippers, I took a peek at the Knicks just to do my due diligence — but I really wanted to play for the black and white,” Durant said.

Trade Rumors: Covington, Mavs, Morris, Clippers, DSJ, More

As we noted earlier this morning, the Timberwolves‘ asking price for Robert Covington is believed to be high, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be moved before this week’s deadline. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski suggested during a podcast with Bobby Marks that he’s “very confident” Covington will be dealt, while ESPN’s Zach Lowe cited sources who said Covington is “as good a bet as any high-wattage player to move this week.”

That doesn’t mean the Timberwolves’ asking price will be met, but there are multiple teams interested in the veteran wing. Besides Houston and Philadelphia, Covington’s list of suitors includes the Bucks and Mavericks, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who report that the Mavs and Rockets both discussed potential trades for Covington during the 2019 offseason.

Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) agrees that the Mavericks are in the market for a wing, but disputes the idea that Dallas is “actively” bidding on Covington, and again suggests the team is reluctant to pursue Grizzlies forward Andre Iguodala, as he reported in December.

Meanwhile, Charania provides another interesting note on Covington, suggesting that some rival executives are wary of the veteran’s injury history and the two years and $25MM left on his contract. The injury concerns are fair, but Covington’s team-friendly contract is believed to be one of the reasons why he’s so sought-after — perhaps there are some potential suitors who are nervous about cutting into their cap room for 2021.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • Marcus Morris (Knicks) and Davis Bertans (Wizards) may cost a lottery-level first-round pick and appear unlikely to be dealt, according to Charania and Krawczynski. Still, New York will remain open to the idea of moving Morris if offers improve this week, tweets Wojnarowski.
  • The Kings are among the teams that have spoken to the Rockets about Clint Capela, league sources tell Charania and Krawczynski. Capela is said to be on the block as Houston seeks a wing.
  • Marc Stein of The New York Times, who reported last month that the Clippers are exploring the market for a wing and/or a big man, tweets that many rival teams expect the Clips to make at least one trade this week.
  • The Magic have inquired on Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr., an NBA source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. With Markelle Fultz in place as a building block in Orlando, it doesn’t seem like an ideal fit for Smith, another play-making point guard who struggles with his shot. The Knicks’ guard has reportedly drawn interest from Minnesota as well.
  • Several teams have had recent conversations with the Knicks about possible deals involving Bobby Portis, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Portis has no guaranteed money beyond this season, as his $15.75MM salary for 2020/21 is a team option.

Wolves, Warriors Remain Engaged On Russell; Knicks Also Interested

With three days left until the 2020 trade deadline, the possibility of a D’Angelo Russell trade shouldn’t be ruled out. The general belief has been that the Warriors will probably wait until the offseason to seriously consider a move involving D-Lo, but a handful of reporters have indicated today that a deal this week remains possible.

Marc Stein of The New York Times reported last last night (via Twitter) that the Warriors are “listening to pitches” for Russell, noting that it’s no secret the Timberwolves covet the point guard. ESPN’s Zach Lowe followed up by reporting this morning that Minnesota remains “in hot pursuit” of Russell and isn’t necessarily resigned to waiting until the summer to make a push for him.

Finally, Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic wrote this morning that the Warriors and Timberwolves continue to engage in trade talks involving Russell. League sources tell The Athletic’s duo that Golden State will only consider a deal that features “significant” draft pick compensation, which the Wolves may be reluctant to do, since they’re still in the midst of a rebuild.

Finding an in-season match for the two teams will be a challenge. As Lowe points out, matching Russell’s $27MM+ cap hit would likely have to involve either Andrew Wiggins‘ or Gorgui Dieng‘s contract, neither of which is particularly team-friendly. The Warriors may also be looking to sneak under the tax line, while the Wolves might be thinking about trading Robert Covington and flipping the assets from that deal to Golden State.

Meanwhile, Charania and Krawczynski suggest that the Wolves appear unwilling to include their unprotected 2020 first-round pick in an offer for D-Lo. One source tells The Athletic that there’s a deal to be had between Minnesota and Golden State, but “something would have to give” on one or both sides.

Here’s more on the Warriors, including another Russell-related note:

  • The Knicks have also registered interest in Russell and discussed possible packages, league sources tell Charania and Krawcznyski. It’s not clear what New York would be willing to offer, but Ian Begley of SNY.tv hears that Bobby Portis and Frank Ntilikina have both come up in discussions with the Warriors. Presumably, Golden State’s request for significant draft compensation from Minnesota would also apply to any deal with the Knicks.
  • Even if the Knicks and Warriors don’t make a Russell trade, they could find common ground on another deal. Begley writes in a separate story that Golden State is looking for trades that would take the team out of the tax this season or reduce its projected tax bill going forward.
  • The Warriors are “widely expected” to trade at least one of Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III this week, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). Both players are on minimum-salary deals, so they shouldn’t be difficult to move, assuming Golden State’s asking price is realistic.

Knicks Notes: Smith, Trier, Drummond, Morris

Dennis Smith Jr. has been promoted to back-up point guard a week ahead of the trade deadline, writes Anthony Rieber of NewsdayFrank Ntilikina has slipped down the rotation in the past two games as Smith has seen an increase in playing time, which could mean the Knicks are showcasing him in hopes of a potential deal.  Smith played 14 minutes last night and scored seven points, while Ntilikina was limited to three minutes late in the game. Smith was the first point guard off the bench again tonight.

“I thought [Smith] had a solid outing. Particularly the first turn,” said interim coach Mike Miller said Tuesday. “I thought he really did a good job touching the paint … He set up several shots off of his penetration, scored a couple, ran the team, was good defensively. Yeah. I thought he had a good, solid outing … Dennis has been good. He’s been professional. He’s been getting himself ready and I think he took advantage of his minutes tonight.”

There’s more out of New York:

  • Another trade candidate is Allonzo Trier, whose playing time has been cut sharply after a promising rookie season, notes Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News. Trier has gotten into just four games this month and is averaging 12.3 minutes per night after playing 22.8 MPG last year. “He’s had some opportunities here and there, he just hasn’t been real consistent there,” Miller said. “There are many times late in games where we need someone to do something specific, and we call his number to go do it. We have the confidence in him, it’s just we’ve gotta stay ready, see what the game’s gonna dictate and let the guys go out there and do what they do.”
  • The Knicks still aren’t showing interest in Pistons center Andre Drummond, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. A source tells Bondy that Detroit is hoping to receive expiring contracts, along with a young prospect or draft pick. Drummond is averaging 17.3 points and a league-best 15.6 rebounds per game, but he has a $29MM player option for next season and the Knicks aren’t interested in a short-term rental. Bondy states that New York could still get involved if the Pistons reduce their asking price.
  • Management may decide to keep Marcus Morris, whom they view as their best player, even though the veteran forward has an expiring contract, Bondy adds in the same story. A source says Bobby Portis, who has a $15.75MM team option for next season, is more likely to be dealt.