Bradley Beal

Southeast Notes: Butler, Riley, Beal, Hawks

Heat star Jimmy Butler gave a brutally honest assessment of his team after it dropped a third straight game on Friday to Minnesota, explaining that the club has been playing a “soft” brand of basketball. Miami’s record now stands at 28-28.

“We’re just being soft. That’s it,” Butler said, as relayed by ESPN. “Not getting into bodies, scared of some contact. Soft overall.”

The Heat lost the game 119-111, allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 52% from the floor and 42% from deep. Aside from being outworked, the team once again deployed a game plan of switching screens — a perplexing move by Erik Spoelstra with both Victor Oladipo and Andre Iguodala sidelined. The same scheme was also used in a loss against the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic on Wednesday.

“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said. “It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad, because that’s what this game does for you. Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good. This is what happens.

“I’m glad it happened to us. And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • Speaking of the Heat, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines in his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag whether Pat Riley failed to properly size up the team’s roster this season. Miami has upcoming games against the Nets (38-18) on Sunday, the Rockets (14-42) on Monday, and the Spurs (26-28) on Wednesday.
  • Wizards star Bradley Beal feels somewhat vindicated by not requesting a trade earlier this season, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “It speaks volumes,” Beal said. “It’s always tough because when my name was buzzing, that’s all I heard early in the year is, ‘Trade Beal, trade Beal.’ It wasn’t anything other than that. So, me knowing who I am and just sticking through it, that’s a testament to what we did as a team this year.”
  • The majority of Hawks players received their second COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. In addition, at least two players received their first dose.

Injury Notes: Oladipo, Beal, LeBron, Oubre, Hill, Temple

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra refused to speculate on how much time Victor Oladipo might miss with an injured right knee and declined to say whether he thinks Oladipo will play again this season, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Oladipo suffered the injury Thursday and didn’t accompany the team on its four-game road trip. He is considered out indefinitely with “right knee soreness.”

After today’s practice in Portland, Spoelstra told reporters the organization is still in the “information gathering stage” regarding Oladipo.

“I don’t have a new update,” he said. “He’s not with us on this trip and he won’t be with us (Sunday). I don’t have any new information.”

Oladipo’s injury occurred on a non-contact play when he landed after a dunk. He underwent an MRI Friday, but the Heat haven’t released the results. X-rays taken Thursday came back negative.

“He really wanted to be with us and this team and we really like what he brings to our group,” Spoelstra said. “He complements who we are and what we do already so much on both sides of the floor. You do feel for guys, particularly this time of the year. The competition is going to another level. Players want to be out there.”

Here are some more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal missed tonight’s game with tightness in his back, but the team doesn’t believe the condition is related to his hip issue, according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link). “Don’t think it’s going to be lasting,” coach Scott Brooks said. “I’m hoping that a day off today and a day off tomorrow, he’ll be back against Utah … that’s the hope.”
  • The Lakers expect to have LeBron James back in about three weeks, sources tell ESPN. He has missed about three weeks so far with a high right ankle sprain.
  • An MRI confirmed that Warriors forward Kelly Oubre has a sprained wrist, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Oubre is sitting out tonight’s game, but the team hasn’t said how much time he might miss.
  • George Hill hasn’t been able to play for the Sixers yet, but he participated in warm-ups before tonight’s game, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Hill is recovering from thumb surgery in February.
  • Bulls forward Garrett Temple suffered a setback in his rehab from a right hamstring injury and could be out a while longer, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Coach Billy Donovan said Temple experienced an issue while running.

Southeast Notes: Herro, Beal, Heat, Gafford

Heat guard Tyler Herro is continuing to adjust to a bench role after starting in his first 14 games this season, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes.

Herro, who plays behind Victor Oladipo and Duncan Robinson, remains an important part of Miami’s offense and often serves as a much-needed spark off the bench.

“I think I can provide scoring off the bench, just come in with energy and try to really bring energy to the team and just try to keep going once that second unit comes in,” Herro said. “We got a lot of guys who can score, a lot of guys who can play. So once I get in, just try to keep the flow going and try to keep the rhythm of the team going.”

Herro also tends to finish games for Miami despite coming off the bench — which remains the better fit for him and the team. In 41 contests this season, the 21-year-old has averaged 15.6 points, five rebounds and 3.4 assists per contest.

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • Wizards star Bradley Beal is dealing with some nerve issues in his hip, as relayed by Mike Deprisco of NBC Sports Washington. Beal missed five straight games with a hip contusion before returning on Wednesday, recording 26 points and five assists in a win over the Magic. “It’s a little worse than a contusion. I got a little nerve stuff going on too,” Beal said. “It’s a matter of just every day, keeping the symptoms down and being able to duke it out. I feel if I can push through some things and be able to tolerate and move comfortably, then I’ll give it a go.”
  • The Heat could fill their 15th roster spot and stay below the luxury tax as of April 19, Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter link). Miami filled its 14th roster spot by signing veteran center Dewayne Dedmon to a rest-of-season contract this week. The team is now roughly $314K below the tax, according to Marks.
  • Wizards center Daniel Gafford had a nice workout earlier this week, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Gafford has missed the team’s last five games due to a sprained right ankle. There remains no timetable on the 22-year-old’s return, according to coach Scott Brooks.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Beal, Gafford, Hornets, Hunter

While the Heat didn’t make a deal for Kyle Lowry at last week’s trade deadline, their acquisition of Victor Oladipo and their salary cap situation put them in a good spot, says Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. As O’Connor explains, Miami will get a shot to evaluate Oladipo for the rest of the season before deciding whether or not to re-sign him. If they opt to let Oladipo go, the Heat are in position to open up enough cap room to make a serious run at Lowry.

Of course, Pat Riley and the Heat may prefer to go after a higher caliber of star than the 35-year-old Lowry. But it doesn’t look right now as if there will be many available this offseason, O’Connor notes. That could change if Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who shut down trade speculation all season, eventually reconsiders his stance.

As O’Connor writes, Beal still might be the most realistic target for teams seeking a superstar, since he’ll be on an expiring contract in 2021/22. Sources tell The Ringer that Beal’s decision to remain in D.C. for at least the rest of this season was motivated in part by wanting to get through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic before making any life-altering decisions.

Beal has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Washington, so even after the pandemic – and with his free agency nearing – he still may not want to be dealt. But teams are continuing to monitor that situation. According to O’Connor, the Heat, Celtics, Knicks, and Pelicans are among the teams interested in pursuing Beal, with the Raptors also looming as a possible sleeper.

Here’s more from around the NBA’s Southeast:

  • Daniel Gafford had a strong Wizards debut on Saturday, racking up 13 points, five rebounds, and three blocks in just 14 minutes, impressing his teammates and head coach Scott Brooks. “He had just a fantastic game. It was a great first game for him,” Brooks said, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “We’re going to keep working with him. He’s definitely a keeper. He has a chance to be good for a lot of years with his skill set.”
  • Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said on Friday that his team will monitor the buyout market, though he acknowledged that the top players to shake loose may not have Charlotte atop their wish lists, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak also conceded that the team will need to address its center position this offseason at the latest. “Since Cody (Zeller) and Biz (Bismack Biyombo) are both going to be free agents, that would be an area of concern going forward,” Kupchak said. “This summer they’re going to have options and we may or may not have options. That is, and was, a focus (of trade talks).”
  • Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter is dealing with some swelling in his surgically repaired knee. While GM Travis Schlenk downplayed the issue, a medical expert who spoke to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic believes it could be something Hunter has to deal with for the rest of the season.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Okpala, Hornets, Fournier

Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal mentioned that team GM Tommy Sheppard presents potential club transactions to him ahead of time, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. At 15-26, the Wizards are currently 3.5 games behind the tenth-seeded Pacers for a play-in berth. Washington may have to determine whether to be in buyer or seller mode as the trade deadline looms this week.

“Whenever he brings something to the table, he always asks me or incorporates me, so I appreciate that,” Beal said of Sheppard. Beal, 27, is averaging a career-best 32.1 PPG, the top scoring mark in the NBA, across 38 contests for the Wizards.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Second-year Heat power forward KZ Okpala has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, according to Tim Reynolds of ESPN (via Twitter). Miami big man Udonis Haslem remains absent, also due to the league’s coronavirus protocols, per the Heat (Twitter link). Okpala and Haslem had previously been sidelined as a result of COVID-19 protocols in January.
  • The Hornets are boosting their arena fan capacity from 3,000 fans (15% capacity in Charlotte’s home arena, the Spectrum Center) per game to 5,000 fans (25% arena capacity) per game, according to an official team press release. No COVID-19 pre-game testing or vaccine requirements have been announced, though coronavirus protocols including social distancing and face masks, will be enforced.
  • Despite being the frequent subject of trade chatter, with teams like several interested teams circling, Magic guard Evan Fournier, an unrestricted free agent this summer, is striving to not let talks affect his on-court play, according to Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel“Sometimes like a deal might happen and then not at the last minute and you will never know it,” Fournier said. “It’s just the nature of this business, so there’s really no reason for me [to worry].” The list of interested teams continues to grow, as apparently the Nuggets have asked about Fournier’s availability as well, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Eastern Notes: Wizards, Gordon, Nets, Gilbert

Bradley Beal remains content to stay in Washington, and the Wizards don’t appear headed for a major deal before Thursday’s deadline, according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. There’s no sense of panic even though the team has dropped to 13th place in the East after losing eight of its past 10 games, with one rival executive saying Washington’s front office is “operating as if they’ve got time on their hands.”

The Wizards aren’t considered a definite buyer or seller heading into the deadline, Wallace adds. Washington is just three-and-a-half games out of the 10th spot, and Davis Bertans is expected to return from a calf strain in about two weeks. The team could use a third scorer and an upgrade on defense, but there’s no urgency to get anything done right away.

“We’ve got some young players that need experience, and when you (also) have some high-level players on your team, it’s a fine line,” coach Scott Brooks said. “You have to find the sweet spot. I think we’re doing a fairly good job. We’d like to have some more wins. A lot of the things that’s happened to us, we can’t control. … (General manager Tommy Sheppard) is going to look. … If there’s something out there, we’re definitely going to look.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic forward Aaron Gordon is very likely to be traded by the deadline, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). Orlando will listen to offers for Gordon and the Celtics will be in the mix, adds Woj, who expects the Magic and Raptors to “set the tone” for this year’s trade deadline.
  • The Nets will try to move injured guard Spencer Dinwiddie, but they don’t want to take on any guaranteed salary past this season, Wojnarowski said in a trade deadline discussion hosted by Rod Perez on Twitter Spaces (hat tip to NetsDaily). The Nets are also focused on Cavaliers center Andre Drummond and Pelicans guard J.J. Redick in the buyout market, according to Woj, along with Heat forward Maurice Harkless.
  • In his podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst indicated that the Nets are interested in acquiring Raptors forward Norman Powell. Windhorst doesn’t expect the Nets to pursue Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge if he gets bought out, suggesting there’s not a need for Aldridge after adding Blake Griffin.
  • With Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert still recovering from a 2019 stroke, his 23-year-old son Grant Gilbert could eventually be in line to run the team, according to Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The younger Gilbert is already in the organization as director of content and brand strategy.

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).

Eastern Rumors: Beal, Sixers, Tucker, Heat, Ujiri

Much to the chagrin of potential suitors, Wizards star Bradley Beal remains unavailable in trade discussions, with one rival executive who has been repeatedly rebuffed suggesting to Tom Haberstroh of TrueHoop that he has essentially given up the chase for the time being.

“In terms of franchise loyalty, I think Beal is in the same category as Steph (Curry) and Dame (Lillard) right now,” that exec said, referring to two other All-Star guards who have spent their entire careers with a single franchise.

In fact, Beal and Lillard have bonded over their unwillingness to leave the teams that drafted them in search of a club that could provide them an easier path to a championship, according to Jason Quick and Fred Katz of The Athletic. Beal spoke to Lillard in 2019 about the Trail Blazers star’s commitment to Portland before signing his own extension with the Wizards.

“I know how he feels because I get that all the time: ‘You should go here; you should go there …’ from all kinds of different people, and I know he gets it too,” Lillard said of Beal. “We’ve had that conversation. … He has the same feeling about it as I have: I just don’t want to go elsewhere. This is our ninth year. We’ve been so invested in this to where it’s like, this is what it is. This is where I want to get it done. And I’m sure he feels that same way.”

Haberstroh’s latest story at TrueHoop features several more items of interest and is worth checking out in full if you’re a subscriber. Here are some highlights from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Top Sixers executive Daryl Morey is widely expected to be active at the trade deadline, with several rival execs believing that Rockets forward P.J. Tucker will ultimately land in Philadelphia, says Haberstroh.
  • On the other hand, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is considered less likely to make a big splash at the deadline. “That’s not Danny’s style,” one Eastern Conference general manager said.
  • Haberstroh suggests John Wall and Kyle Lowry could be among the Heat‘s targets if the club decides to pursue a major deadline move.
  • Haberstroh’s sources view Masai Ujiri‘s ongoing lack of contract extension with the Raptors as a “notable non-event” and wonder if his actions at the trade deadline will provide a hint of his future plans. Ujiri’s contract with Toronto expires this offseason.

O’Connor’s Latest: Tucker, Lowry, Beal, Vucevic

The Bucks were pursuing Rockets forward P.J. Tucker in November and their interest hasn’t faded, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Tucker could help solidify a defense that has taken a step backward with the offseason losses of Wesley Matthews, Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, as well as the absence of Jrue Holiday, who has been in the NBA’s health and safety protocols since February 8. O’Connor notes that Donte DiVincenzo, Bryn Forbes and D.J. Augustin haven’t supplied the same presence on defense.

Tucker is considered to be available because of his age — he turns 36 in May — and his contract status. He will be a free agent this summer, and the Rockets’ attempts to sign him to an extension have been unsuccessful. Houston’s seven-game losing streak has the organization focused on building for the future.

However, the Rockets reportedly want a player in return, rather than more draft picks, which may be problem for Milwaukee. The Bucks gave most of their valuable assets to New Orleans in the deal for Holiday and may not have expendable young players who would be of interest to Houston. DiVincenzo is viewed around the league as their most valuable remaining trade chip, O’Connor notes.

O’Connor sheds light on a few more potential deals:

  • The Sixers, who hold the best record in the East, are hoping to make “major moves” before the March 25 trade deadline to improve their chances of winning a title. A name to watch, according to O’Connor, is Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, a Philadelphia native with an expiring contract. O’Connor states that the Sixers need a veteran guard who can create shots on the perimeter, and Lowry is likely the best option who could be considered available.
  • O’Connor confirms that the Wizards won’t make Bradley Beal available before the deadline, although the Celtics would be among the most interested teams if he were. Beal and Jayson Tatum have been friends since childhood, and the NBA’s leading scorer would give Boston a scary Big Three by teaming with Tatum and Jaylen Brown. However, O’Connor expects Beal and the Wizards to work out their future during the offseason.
  • Celtics fans may be wishing for Nikola Vucevic to solidify the team at center, but the Magic have shown no interest in trading him, executives around the league tell O’Connor. He remains the focus of the offense in Orlando and a favorite of the coaching staff.
  • O’Connor suggests Harrison Barnes could be a possibility for Boston if the Kings decide to part with him, or possibly Rockets guard Victor Oladipo if Boston is willing to give up assets despite reports that he wants to be in Miami. O’Connor believes Bulls forward Thaddeus Young is a more realistic target. The Celtics could absorb his $13.545MM salary with a portion of their traded player exception, and he would cost less in terms of assets than some of their other targets.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Beal, Robinson, COVID-19

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has only nice things to say about the Timberwolves as he prepares to face them Sunday night for the first time since being fired two years ago, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau helped Minnesota break a 14-season playoff drought in 2018, but was let go the following year. The Wolves are 43-93 since then, including a league-worst 7-23 this season.

“There’s a lot of good people there,’’ Thibodeau said. “I enjoyed my time there. It was a good experience. I was proud of what we were able to accomplish, but it was time to move on. Unfortunately there are a lot of former teams for me.’’

Thibodeau, who also had a front office role, spent just two and a half seasons with Minnesota, being let go midway through the 2018/19 season in favor of Ryan Saunders. He believed the team was heading in the right direction and could have accomplished more if he had stayed.

“There were things obviously we wanted to do better,” Thibodeau said. “That second year, we were very good. The third year I thought we had a really good chance as well even after the trade for Jimmy (Butler). That team was playing well.’’

There’s more from New York:

  • A report this week suggests that Knicks executive William “World Wide Wes” Wesley is working through backchannels to try to convince Wizards guard Bradley Beal to seek a trade to New York, relays Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. ESPN radio host Michael Kay said the tip comes from a “very good source” who told him that Wesley is “nudging” some of Beal’s representatives toward the arrangement.
  • Mitchell Robinson had no idea his hand was fractured when he suffered the injury in a February 12 game, according to Anthony Rieber of The New York Daily News. Robinson thought it was temporary numbness that he could shake off, but the diagnosis turned out to be far more serious. He had surgery this week and will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break. “So far, I feel great,” he said. “Basically, what I’ve been doing now is doing the bike, a little running here and there. I’ve been watching the team practice and trying to stay updated just in case they change something or something’s added. Other than just focusing in on that, just staying in shape.”
  • The Knicks played 30 games this season before having one canceled due to COVID-19 and that was because of issues involving the Spurs, notes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Frank Ntilikina is the only player to miss time because of contact tracing, and no one on the roster has tested positive for the virus.