Bradley Beal

Ben Simmons Takes Physical, Meets With Sixers’ Brass

After returning to Philadelphia on Monday, Sixers star Ben Simmons took his required physical and met with the team’s brass on Tuesday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. That meeting included president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, who says sources described it only as “brief.”

Both Pompey and Shelburne indicate that Simmons won’t be cleared to participate in any team-related activities until at least Friday, due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. As Brian Windhorst observed during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link) on Wednesday, that timeline suggests Simmons may not yet be fully vaccinated, since the league requires fully vaccinated players to register just one negative PCR test in order to interact with other players. Players who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated require at least four negative tests upon reporting to the team, according to ESPN.

We don’t know yet whether Simmons actually intends to return to the court and play for the 76ers following his holdout, but for what it’s worth, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says the 25-year-old’s physical showed no signs that he isn’t healthy. Simmons will be able to begin conducting individual workouts with the assistance of Sixers coaches on Wednesday, Fischer notes.

As we wait to see what the next steps are for the Sixers and Simmons, there’s no indication that the team is anywhere close to making a trade. Both Fischer and Sam Amick of The Athletic have heard that Philadelphia continues to hold out hope that a star like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal will become dissatisfied with his situation and ask for a trade, but that remains a long shot unless the Trail Blazers or Wizards get off to a really disastrous start this season.

According to Amick, Simmons’ camp hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a trade to the Nets, but sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic that the Sixers have exhibited zero interest in pursuing a deal involving Kyrie Irving.

Fischer names the Cavaliers, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Timberwolves, Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Raptors as the nine teams that have remained at least somewhat engaged with Philadelphia, and adds that a “mystery” 10th club has also had “substantive” discussions with the Sixers as of late. Not even Klutch Sports is certain of the identity of that 10th team, per Fischer, who cautions that the mystery suitor still hasn’t come close to meeting Morey’s asking price.

Here’s more on Simmons:

  • Sources tell Fischer that the Sixers have informed potential trade partners whose offers would be heavy on draft picks that their best bet would be a three-team structure in which Philadelphia lands at least one impact player, since Morey and his front office are interested in win-now pieces rather than future assets.
  • Although the Timberwolves still have interest in Simmons following their front office shake-up, new head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta isn’t believed to be pursuing the three-time All-Star as aggressively as Gersson Rosas did, according to Fischer.
  • The Kings remain unwilling to discuss either De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton in a potential Simmons deal, while the Sixers appear unmoved by the idea of acquiring Dejounte Murray and/or Lonnie Walker from the Spurs, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer adds that there’s a belief the Pistons would entertain trading Jerami Grant in a deal for Simmons.
  • Improving the relationship between Simmons and head coach Doc Rivers is believed to be a priority for the Sixers if Simmons is going to stick around for a little while, according to Fischer, who says the two men never seemed to build a strong rapport last season. Sources tell Bleacher Report that during an offseason meeting at agent Rich Paul‘s home, when the Sixers confirmed they intended to fine Simmons for not complying with the terms of his deal, Rivers shouted, “It’s in your f–king contract” to report to training camp and play for the team.

Southeast Notes: Wizards Preview, Avdija, Cooper, Hornets Injuries

In his ongoing series of team previews, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes that the Wizards might not be a better overall team this season than they were in 2020/21, but he thinks they’re in a decent position to build around star Bradley Beal going forward.

By moving John Wall for Russell Westbrook, and then trading Westbrook to the Lakers, the Wizards acquired multiple players on smaller deals with less guaranteed money, thus gaining financial flexibility for 2022/23.

Hollinger identifies one area the team should definitely be improved: three-point shooting. The Wizards were dead last in three-point attempts per 100 possessions last season, even with renowned shooters Beal and Davis Bertans. New additions Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (.410 3PT%), Kyle Kuzma (.361), and Aaron Holiday (.368) all shot better than the Wizards’ team mark (.351) last season, and rookie Corey Kispert was considered one of the best pure shooters in the draft.

However, Hollinger thinks the team might regress defensively, as Bertans and Montrezl Harrell are both poor defenders who figure to see a good chunk of minutes together.

Hollinger projects the team to finish 38-44, 10th in the East, but thinks they’ll have their work cut out for them to actually hit that mark.

Here’s more from out of the Southeast:

  • Second-year forward Deni Avdija made his long-awaited return from a fractured ankle in Saturday’s preseason game, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards are high on Avdija and he’s expected to have more play-making opportunities this season, Hughes adds.
  • Hawks rookie Sharife Cooper is having an impressive preseason, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Cooper, the 48th pick in the draft, is on a two-way contract, and coach Nate McMillan likes what he’s seen so far, per Spencer. “I love the energy that he’s bringing,” McMillan said of Cooper. “He’s scrappy. He’s playing scrappy basketball out there. He’s trying to make a statement. He’s stepping up, and he’s not pacing himself.”
  • In two separate tweets, the Hornets announced Terry Rozier sprained his ankle and will be re-evaluated later in the week, while Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee are both out for tomorrow’s game at Miami due to health and safety protocols.

Six Teams Still Inquiring About Simmons’ Availability

The Timberwolves, Pacers, Cavaliers, Pistons, Raptors and Spurs continue to inquire about Ben Simmons’ availability, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports via a league source.

The Simmons saga is one of the major storylines of this preseason and it took another twist on Friday when reports surfaced that the Sixers were withholding an $8.25MM advance payment from their disgruntled playmaker.

However, as Pompey points out, this standoff could drag on until after December 15, when many free agents signed this summer can be included in trades.

The Sixers have put an exorbitant price tag on Simmons, in part while waiting to see if the Trail Blazers made Damian Lillard available or if the Wizards were willing to part with Bradley Beal. Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, tried to assist the Sixers in receiving a five-player package for Simmons in a three-team trade but Philadelphia’s asking price was too rich, according to Pompey.

The withheld salary has been placed in an escrow account. Simmons is likely to receive all the money in his contract once he’s traded, Pompey notes, since it’s expected the team that acquires him will waive the fines the Sixers have instituted for his refusal to show up for training camp.

The Inquirer’s beat writer explored the standoff in great detail. Here are some highlights:

  • Simmons’ desire to be traded was communicated to the front office just days after the team was eliminated from the playoffs. Paul told GM Elton Brand his client wanted out three days after the Hawks bounced the team out of the playoff chase. Brand then told president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.
  • When the Sixers asked why Simmons wanted out, Paul told them his client was “mentally exhausted,” says Pompey.
  • When Morey was hired last November, Simmons suspected he wouldn’t be with the franchise long-term. He was the centerpiece in trade talks with Morey’s former team, Houston, in the Sixers’ failed attempt to acquire James Harden. Simmons even went house shopping in Houston in anticipation of being dealt.
  • Simmons doesn’t have any ill will toward his All-Star teammate Joel Embiid, but believes their partnership on the court has “run its course.” Even if he does return to Philadelphia to rejoin the team, Simmons has no intentions of playing another game for the Sixers.

Wizards’ Bradley Beal Becomes Extension-Eligible

2:35pm: As expected, the Wizards have offered Beal an extension, reports Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.


8:21am: All-Star guard Bradley Beal is now eligible to sign a contract extension with the Wizards that would tack on up to four years and $181.3MM to his current deal, starting in 2022/23, as Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

Beal signed his last contract extension on October 17, 2019. Typically, a player has to wait at least two years to become eligible for another extension, but the two-year anniversary for extensions signed between October 2 and the start of the regular season is considered to be October 1.

According to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post, general manager Tommy Sheppard said last month that the Wizards planned to offer Beal a max extension “at dawn” on October 1. While Sheppard may have been exaggerating a little for effect, it seems safe to assume an offer will be on the table for Beal very soon, if it’s not already.

Beal’s agent Mark Bartelstein said this week that his client is “really excited about the team and the direction the team is going,” adding that “everything is pointing in the right direction,” according to Wallace. However, the 28-year-old doesn’t sound like he’s in a hurry to lock in a new long-term deal quite yet, telling reporters on Monday that he’ll let the team and Bartelstein figure out his contract while he focuses on what happens on the court.

“My biggest thing is getting us off going to a good start,” Beal said. “We worry about the contract money and all that later. I’ll let them deal with it when the time comes, for sure. I got all year to sign, too. So I’m not in a rush.”

Beal’s point is a good one — unlike a number of other players around the NBA who face an October 18 extension deadline, he’ll still be able to finalize a contract extension anytime during the 2021/22 league year.

It’s also worth noting that waiting until he can become a free agent in 2022 would be more advantageous for Beal from a financial perspective, even if he already knows he wants to be with the Wizards long-term. As a free agent, he’d be eligible to sign a five-year contract worth $241.6MM with Washington, or a four-year deal worth $179.1MM with another team. Those figures are based on a projected $119MM salary cap.

Beal’s decision to accept a two-year extension back in 2019 was a surprising one, so it’s possible he’ll surprise us again by how he handles his upcoming contract year. For now though, it sounds like he’s content to see how the new-look Wizards’ roster performs under new head coach Wes Unseld Jr. before he makes any major decisions about his future.

Southeast Notes: Oladipo, Beal, Dinwiddie, Hornets

Heat guard Victor Oladipo is determined to regain the status of being one of the league’s top wings, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes.

Oladipo went under the knife in May, undergoing surgery to repair his right quad tendon. Once considered a top name entering the free agent market, he signed a minimum contract to rebuild his value.

“It’s been really tough. It’s been hard. This is another battle in the books for me,” he said. “I want to show my resiliency and have one of the best comeback stories ever. I want to make the most of my situation. It’s easy to quit and say ‘woe is me,’ but that doesn’t solve the problem. I know there are a lot of eyes watching. Hopefully, I can be a vessel for them and show them they can get through anything if they really put their mind to it.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards star Bradley Beal won’t share his “personal reasons” why he hasn’t been vaccinated, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets. However, Beal was a little more open about the possibility of signing an extension, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. Beal said that he’ll let his agent handle those negotiations: “I’ve got all year to sign it, so I’m not in a rush.”
  • Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie said he tried to buy the Wizards‘ jersey patch before this season to advertise crypto currency, Hughes adds in a separate tweet. According to Dinwiddie, he was willing to meet the $12MM asking price but the league wouldn’t allow it.
  • The Hornets officially announced Marlon Garnett, Nick Friedman and Norman Richardson as assistant coaches under head coach James Borrego in a press release. The team also promoted Jackson Simmons to head video coordinator.
  • Borrego expects the Hornets to be fully vaccinated by the beginning of the season, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer tweets.

Russell Westbrook Helped Engineer His Trade To Lakers

Russell Westbrook “took control of his situation” when he saw a chance to join the Lakers, according to Bill Oram, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic in a thorough look at how the team remade its roster over the offseason.

A Southern California native, Westbrook had dreamed of returning home to play and thought he might be headed to the Clippers along with Kawhi Leonard two years ago. When a second chance emerged with the Lakers in August, Westbrook was determined to make it happen.

He was among several potential additions discussed in a “war room” setting of players that was led by LeBron James and included Anthony Davis and Jared Dudley. They saw Westbrook as an asset because he’s a perennial All-Star who can share playmaking duties with LeBron. However, he still had two years remaining on his contract and the Wizards weren’t looking to move him.

Although The Athletic’s sources say Westbrook would have been willing to stay in Washington if a trade didn’t happen, he decided to act on the morning of the draft when he heard that the Lakers were near a deal with the Kings to acquire Buddy Hield. Westbrook approached Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and asked him to work out a trade with L.A.

Leonsis agreed and Washington general manager Tommy Sheppard called Lakers GM Rob Pelinka to start trade talks. Within a few hours, a deal was in place to give up Westbrook and a pair of second-round picks in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 selection in this year’s draft.

There’s much more information packed in The Athletic report, which is worth checking out in full. Here are a few highlights:

  • Another player who received serious consideration from the Lakers was DeMar DeRozan, who also hails from Southern California and eventually signed with the Bulls. He met twice with James and had several other phone calls. DeRozan’s representatives had concerns over whether the Lakers’ front office was on board with the players’ plans, but sources tell The Athletic that Pelinka “strongly considered” a sign-and-trade offer that would have sent Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope to the Spurs. L.A. couldn’t come to an agreement with San Antonio or on a new contract for DeRozan, and the proposed sign-and-trade never advanced to the stage where it was presented to owner Jeanie Buss.
  • The Kings’ front office was left “steaming” over the Lakers’ decision to pull out of the Hield deal. It would have come at a lower cost — only Kuzma and Harrell were needed to match salaries — so the Lakers could have kept Caldwell-Pope and their first-round pick. As an elite three-point shooter, Hield might seem like a more natural fit alongside James and Davis, but the Lakers believe Westbrook will make them a better team in the playoffs.
  • With limited resources to fill out their roster after the trade, both James and Westbrook contacted Carmelo Anthony before the official start of free agency. Anthony was still hoping to hear from the Trail Blazers and ultimately received interest from the Knicks and Sixers, but he opted to join James, who was a longtime friend. The chance to win a title attracted other low-cost veterans such as Trevor ArizaWayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore to what became the league’s oldest team with an average age of 30.9 years.
  • James has always enjoyed close relationships with the veterans on his team and was particularly upset when Dudley wasn’t re-signed. Dudley was 36 and coming off an MCL tear, and the Lakers felt it was important to maximize every roster spot. He was offered other positions with the organization, but opted to become an assistant to Jason Kidd in Dallas.
  • James, Davis and Dudley also talked about Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, but the Lakers didn’t have the assets to land either of them. Sources tell The Athletic that Westbrook tried to convince Beal that they should both ask to be traded out of Washington. Although Beal didn’t agree, he supported Westbrook’s desire to get to L.A. The Lakers’ group also targeted free agent guard Kyle Lowry, who eventually signed with the Heat.
  • The Lakers announced an extension this summer with Frank Vogel to avoid having him enter the season as a lame-duck coach. However, multiple sources told The Athletic that the extension only covers one year, which takes Vogel through the end of the 2022/23 season.
  • Many people in the Lakers’ organization were frustrated by the decision not to compete with the four-year, $37MM offer that Alex Caruso received from the Bulls, per The Athletic. He has become of the NBA’s best role players after starting in the G League, and many believed he was worth what it would have cost to keep him.

Wizards Notes: Bertans, Avdija, New Additions, M. Williams

Despite the Wizards‘ rather substantial logjam at the power forward spot, Davis Bertans is unlikely to be traded anytime soon, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic in today’s mailbag.

Katz cautions Wizards fans that between Bertans’ contract – which has four years and $65MM remaining (final year partially guaranteed) – and the team’s 2023 pick being owned by the Thunder and protected to 2026, the avenues for moving the sweet-shooting Latvian would be incredibly limited.

However, there’s reason for optimism regarding Bertans, Katz writes. The 28-year-old started last season behind the eight-ball from a health standpoint and never fully got up to speed, which could be one reason for his up-and-down year. A more egalitarian offense, spearheaded by the Spencer Dinwiddie/Bradley Beal backcourt and masterminded by new coach Wes Unseld Jr. should also allow Bertans more freedom to get loose for the types of shots that earned him his five-year extension during the 2019/20 season.

We have more news from around the Wizards:

  • In the same piece, Katz writes that though last year’s number nine pick Deni Avdija may be set to play fewer minutes this season, he should be used more as a play-maker, as most of the players on the bench are either catch-and-shoot specialists (Corey Kispert/Bertans), finishers (Montrezl Harrell), or are more comfortable off the ball (Raul Neto/Aaron Holiday). How Unseld will divide the minutes between the forwards remains unclear, but Avdija brings a unique skillset to the frontcourt rotation.
  • The Wizards will be Beal’s team like never before, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Luckily, Hughes writes, the team has rebuilt itself in a way that should complement its star well. Hughes examines how the team’s additions will booster its once-anemic defense while adding depth and shooting on the offensive end. But for it to work, Hughes says that guys like Dinwiddie, Rui Hachimura and Kyle Kuzma will have to emerge as consistent scorers who can create offense for themselves when called upon.
  • Mike Williams has been named head coach of the Wizards G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, per a team press release. Williams, who spent last season as a development coach for the Wizards and the director of player development for the Go-Go, expressed his excitement at the new role. “I look forward to leading our development and instilling the new philosophies of Coach Unseld into the Go-Go as we return playing in front of our great fans at the Entertainment and Sports Arena this season,” Williams said.

Wizards Notes: Gafford, Bryant, Beal, Dinwiddie

Daniel Gafford had the best stretch of his brief career after being traded to the Wizards in March and he’s spending the summer trying to upgrade his low-post moves, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. With a compressed schedule caused by an early-season outbreak of COVID-19, Washington went weeks without practicing, so Gafford had to save the tweaks to his game for the offseason.

Used as a backup center after being acquired from the Bulls, Gafford averaged 10.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 23 games. He may take over the starting role this season and wants to become more of a scoring threat.

I’m really just focusing on if I get the ball down in the post, working on my face-up game,” Gafford said. “Shooting the ball more, just trying to be more of a threat on the floor when I’m out there, during the times that I get on the floor.”

There’s more from Washington:

  • Injured center Thomas Bryant may be ready to return early in the upcoming season, relays Bijan Todd of NBC Sports Washington. Bryant is working his way back from a torn ACL he suffered in January, and his agent, Todd Ramasar, provided an encouraging update this week on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “He’s doing great. He’s right on track in terms of his recovery,” Ramasar said. “If I’m guestimating in talking to his trainers, he’s probably going to make a return towards the end of this (calendar 2021) year, or let’s say, the beginning of the regular season.”
  • Bradley Beal is already a nightmare for opposing defenses and he’s working to expand his game even further, Hughes adds in a separate story. Beal hopes to become more effective on longer three-point shots to put pressure on the defense as soon as he crosses half court. Deeper threes. I’m not trying to compete with (Damian Lillard), I’m not Logo Lillard. But I want to shoot deeper threes and shoot more threes,”  Beal said. “You know I need to shoot more threes. You probably say it all the time. And, obviously, make them. I have to make them.”
  • Beal has been teaming with new backcourt partner Spencer Dinwiddie in pickup games hosted by skills trainer Drew Hanlen, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports.

Wizards Notes: Dinwiddie, Beal, Coaching Staff

Spencer Dinwiddie is excited for his future with the Wizards and for how he expects to fit with star backcourt mate Bradley Beal, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. According to Hughes, Dinwiddie isn’t phased by the uncertainty surrounding Beal’s long-term status with the Wizards.

I spoke to him and obviously he’s his own man and his decisions are his own,” Dinwiddie said. “So, I can’t talk about his plans or what he’s going to do. I think that we have a chance to have a (good thing together). If that’s not what comes to fruition then it’s not.” 

Dinwiddie added that part of his job is to help Beal by knowing when to get out of the way and let the star shooting guard go to work, as well as knowing when it’s on him to help carry the load.

We have more from the Wizards:

  • Dinwiddie had previously been cleared from his ACL recovery, but was unable to start five-on-five activity because the Nets were eliminated just before he was able to get back on the floor, Hughes tweets. Dinwiddie had been vocal about being ready to return to the court if the Nets were able to last to the Finals, but after Brooklyn’s loss to the Bucks in the Eastern Semifinals, those plans were thwarted.
  • New head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will be retaining assistant coach Ryan Richman, reports Fred Katz of The Athletic (via Twitter). Richman was an assistant coach with the team last season, and the G League affiliate head coach the year before that. Richman will be a second-row assistant, Katz writes.
  • The Wizards also announced the hiring of four assistant coaches to join Unseld and Richman, according to a team statement. Pat Delany, Mike Miller, Joseph Blair and Zach Guthrie will join the Wizards’ bench this season. Washington also announced that in addition to Richman, the team retained assistant coach Dean Oliver and promoted Alex McLean to assistant coach/Director of Player Development.

Wizards Notes: Trade Negotiations, Dinwiddie, Kuzma, Neto, Avdija

The Nets, who recognized that Bradley Beal wanted the Wizards to acquire Spencer Dinwiddie and knew they had some leverage in sign-and-trade talks, initially asked Washington for a first-round pick, reports Fred Katz of The Athletic. When they were unsuccessful, the Nets tried to get Washington to part with Deni Avdija or Rui Hachimura, according to Katz.

However, the Wizards held firm in those negotiations and ended up keeping their top assets, instead sending Brooklyn a future second-round pick and a second-round pick swap. The Nets will also generate an $11.5MM trade exception in the deal.

As Katz details, the Wizards also had to sweeten the deal for the Lakers to convince them to loop the Russell Westbrook trade agreement into Washington’s acquisition of Dinwiddie via sign-and-trade, which is why L.A. will be receiving three second-round selections from the Wizards instead of just two.

Finally, Katz reports that the final version of the complex five-team trade will see the Wizards acquire cash considerations from the Pacers. The full breakdown of the trade agreement can be seen on our offseason trade tracker.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • For much of this week, there had been a league-wide assumption that the Wizards may end up rerouting Kyle Kuzma to a new team as part of the Dinwiddie deal, but Washington never included him in trade discussions, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic, who notes that the club has significantly improved its depth with this week’s roster moves.
  • Raul Neto‘s new deal with the Wizards will be a one-year, minimum-salary contract, according to Katz. Neto will join Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday on the club’s point guard depth chart.
  • Although Deni Avdija has been cleared for basketball activities, he’s not playing for the Wizards in Summer League, writes Katz. The club wants to limit the risk of a setback for 2020’s lottery pick, who is recovering from a right fibular hairline fracture.