Brook Lopez

Bucks Notes: Portis, Bogdanovic, Lopez, Holiday

Nobody knows where Bobby Portis might have been Thursday night if the Bucks‘ offseason attempt to trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic had worked out, but he wouldn’t have been helping Milwaukee move to within a game of the NBA Finals, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. With Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by a hyperextended left knee, Portis moved into the starting lineup and contributed 22 points and eight rebounds in a Game 5 win over the Hawks.

Signing Portis wasn’t Plan A for the Bucks, who were focused on improving their outside shooting by adding Bogdanovic, a restricted free agent, in a sign-and-trade arrangement. Rumors of that deal with the Kings leaked in mid-November, but it wouldn’t have been legal at the time because it would have involved negotiations before the start of free agency. The NBA launched an investigation and the rumored trade wound up getting scrapped.

General manager Jon Horst landed Portis instead on a two-year contract worth $7.4MM. He brought a physical style to the team as Antetokounmpo’s backup and quickly became a fan favorite.

“Milwaukee’s a tough city,” Portis said. “You know, some people at the start of the season — they were telling us all about the city and how tough it is to live here and things like that, and you know, the city goes through a lot. So, when they see somebody that gives his all and works hard, because it’s a blue-collar city and I’m a blue-collar player, I’m going to make the shots — whether they are going in or not, I still give my all to the team 100 percent, for the name in front of the jersey and they love players like that.”

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Portis is getting a chance to shine after being kept on the bench for the final three games of the Nets series. He might have faced an uncertain future if the Bucks had lost to Brooklyn, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Athletic, but now he has a chance to show that he can be part of Milwaukee’s future.
  • Brook Lopez also responded to Antetokounmpo’s absence with a career-best playoff performance, notes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Lopez posted 33 points and had seven rebounds, four blocks and two steals as Milwaukee turned to the veteran center to take advantage of Atlanta’s lack of size. “That was a great opportunity for him to I think just get the ball a little bit more, try and use him a little bit more and he came through big time,” coach Mike Budenholzer said.
  • The Bucks have been collecting players who fit well around Antetokounmpo, and that combination worked Thursday night, observes Royce Young of ESPN. One important offseason addition was Jrue Holiday, who was acquired in a trade with the Pelicans. Holiday is an elite defender whose scoring has been inconsistent throughout the playoffs, but he delivered 25 points and 13 assists in Game 5. “I just knew I had to be aggressive. Whatever that means, Giannis being out or not, I knew that I had to be aggressive,” he said.

Bucks Notes: Tucker, Lopez, Antetokounmpo, Coaching Staff

During his years with the Rockets, P.J. Tucker was never able to get past Kevin Durant‘s Warriors teams in the playoffs, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The Bucks acquired Tucker at the trade deadline to match up with elite scorers like Durant, and he finally prevailed over his long-time rival in Milwaukee’s Game 7 victory Saturday night.

The Bucks used several players on Durant during the series, but the primary job belonged to Tucker, his friend and fellow Texas alum. Durant had another incredible performance Saturday with 48 points in 53 minutes, but he air-balled a shot at the end that could have sent the game to a second overtime.

“It’s painful. I’m hurting. That was a battle every single night,” Tucker said. “To be able to finally get over the hump is pretty nice.”

There’s more on the Bucks:

  • Brook Lopez was determined to make up for a mental error he committed late in the fourth quarter, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Lopez lost track of the shot clock with 8.1 seconds remaining, resulting in a turnover that gave the Nets a chance to tie the game. He responded by blocking a layup attempt by Durant with a minute left in overtime. “After that (shot clock violation) happened, I just took it upon myself,” Lopez said. “I told my teammates, ‘I made a mistake, but let’s go get this.’ I’m gonna fix this, we’re gonna fix this and so it happened, but it was great to see how resilient we were.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is making his second trip to the conference finals, wants to make sure his teammates stay focused on the challenge ahead. After Saturday’s win, he wrote an 8 in the locker room, which is how many more wins the Bucks need to capture a championship, per Marc Berman of The New York Post“It’s a great feeling,’’ Antetokounmpo said. “I try not to get too high or low. I got emotional a little bit out there. The team really tried their best. Just being able to come to New York and were 0 for 5 here and in Game 7 and everyone’s anxious and nervous and able to execute and trust each other. It was big time. I’m really happy for this team. We’re halfway through. I want everyone to cherish this moment.’’
  • Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee have been rumored for head coaching opportunities around the league, and Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer believes they’re ready, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. “They’re incredible coaches,” he said.

Central Notes: Lopez, Plumlee, Bjorkgren, Sabonis, Turner

Bucks center Brook Lopez will be facing his former team in the conference semifinals and Nets coach Steve Nash believes he could be a key player in the series, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. “He could be one of the wild cards,” Nash said. Lopez, who is signed through the 2022/23 season, averaged 15.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 1.3 BPG during the first-round sweep of the Heat.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons raised a lot of eyebrows when they signed Nuggets reserve center Mason Plumlee to a three-year, $24MM+ contract last fall but Plumlee justified it with a productive season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. Plumlee averaged 10.4 PPG, a career-high 9.3 RPG and 3.6 APG while serving as a post facilitator and setting solid screens. He’ll remain a rotation fixture in his second season with the franchise, Langlois adds.
  • The Pacers’ offseason appears to be on hold until the front office decides what to do with head coach Nate Bjorkgren, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files writes. It’s the biggest decision that team president Kevin Pritchard will make to date and he’s pondering all his options.
  • If the Pacers decide to break up their frontcourt duo of All-Star Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, it’s generally assumed the front office will move Turner. Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel (subscription required) explores a variety of metrics and concludes that it’s not a clear-cut decision.

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).

NBA Announces 2019/20 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2019/20 season. Unsurprisingly, Defensive Player of the Year (and possible repeat MVP) Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading vote-getter with 195 total points. Players receive two points per First Team vote and one point per Second Team vote.

This is the Bucks forward’s second consecutive appearance on the All-NBA First Team. Antetokounmpo was listed on 98 of 100 ballots from the 100 broadcasters and writers who comprised this year’s voting panel. 97 of those voters awarded him a First Team vote.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis was featured on every ballot and received a total tally of 187 points (including 87 First Team votes). Sixers guard Ben Simmons tallied 185 points with the third-most votes this year. Jazz center Rudy Gobert, the 2018 and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, was fourth with 95 total votes (85 First Team), for 180 total points. Celtics guard Marcus Smart rounded out the All-Defensive First Team with 152 points, including 57 First Team votes.

Gobert’s inclusion on the All-Defensive First Team has earned him a $500K bonus, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Antetokounmpo’s Bucks teammates Brook Lopez (67 points) and Eric Bledsoe (59 points) each made the All-Defensive Second Team.

[RELATED: Giannis Antetokounmpo Named Defensive Player Of The Year]

Here are the full voting results for the All-Defensive First and Second Teams, with each player’s point total noted in parentheses:

First Team:

Second Team:

You can find the full voting results right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  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 (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  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 (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Central Notes: Bledsoe, Giannis, Rose, Hutchison

Eric Bledsoe is expected to be ready for the Bucks‘ opener on Thursday, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays.

“I kind of knew what it was, in a sense,” said Bledsoe, who suffered a rib cage injury earlier in the preseason. “I knew it wasn’t nothing serious… I knew I was going to bounce back.”

Bledsoe will join Brook Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and newcomer Wesley Matthews in the Bucks’ starting lineup, Velazquez adds in the same piece. Matthews will take over for Malcolm Brogdon, who was traded to the Pacers this offseason.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today argues that the Bucks have done everything right to keep Antetokounmpo around long-term. Milwaukee can offer Giannis the super-max next summer.
  • How Derrick Rose performs will go a long way toward whether the Pistons make the postseason, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. Rose signed a two-year deal with the club this offseason.
  • There are plenty of questions surrounding second-year Bulls forward Chandler Hutchison, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, who notes that it may be hard for the club to find rotation minutes for Hutchison even once he’s recovered from his hamstring injury.

Central Notes: Rose, Beilein, Giannis, Brogdon

Guard Derrick Rose signed with the Pistons because he feels the team can contend, Vince Ellis of the Free Press writes. Rose inked a two-year, $15MM deal with Detroit in free agency to lead its second unit. “I’ve had all the accolades in the past. I’m past that. Now I want to win,” he said. “The only thing on my résumé I’m missing is a championship and being here, seeing what happened last year with the Raptors in (the) East, you never know what can happen.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers are amazed by new coach John Beilein’s work ethic and the 66-year-old’s energy level, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “He has more energy than I do,” forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “He’s always going, always has something on his mind, always something he’s ready to talk about, teach and coach. It’s really exciting to see because as a player that’s what you want. You want somebody that is so eager to get started that they can’t even slow down.
  • The Bucks bet on continuity in their efforts to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a super-max extension next summer, Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. They managed to re-sign Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and George Hill in free agency and only lost one starter, Malcolm Brogdon. “We brought back a big part of the group; we believe in continuity,” GM Jon Horst said. “We think that gives us an advantage to have continuity. … This group looks like they’re growing, looks like they’re getting better, looks like they fit and they make sense and that we can compete and sustain success for a long period of time with this group and that’s been the goal.”
  • Despite Brogdon’s departure, the Bucks have plenty of options at shooting guard and small forward, Ben Steele of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out. “I think the vision going forward is with the addition of Wes Matthews and Kyle Korver as wings that have proven that they are elite-level shooters and great defenders,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Got young guys like Donte (DiVincenzo), Pat (Connaughton) and Sterling (Brown) that are all proven to some degree.” Hill, who signed a three-year, $29MM deal, is another option for Budenholzer.

Central Notes: Horst, Pistons, Kornet, Holidays

Eric Nehm of The Athletic recently sat down with the Bucks’ award-winning GM Jon Horst to discuss the team’s free agency this summer. Here are a few noteworthy passages from Horst’s interview.

Regarding the team’s ability to bring back Khris Middleton on a five-year deal:

“Khris was always a focus… He’s our second superstar, our second star. He’s an All-Star. He’s been one of our best players for a long period of time here… Khris was a target obviously and he got a contract that represents that and we think it’s a great contract because we got our second All-Star locked up for the next five years.”

Regarding the team’s trade of Tony Snell and a first-round pick for Jon Leuer in order to create the requisite cap space needed to re-sign Brook Lopez:

“When we got Brook last offseason, we understood, at some level, how important he was going to be to us… (and) we also understood if he’s as good as we think he’s going to be, it’s going to present a lot of challenges.”

“So, we spent the entire year trying to prepare for that… Just different things we did throughout the year were in preparation to position ourselves to either be prepared to keep Brook, be in a position to keep Brook or be prepared to react if we couldn’t… I don’t know if a lot of people saw it coming, maybe after the Tony Snell deal. Then, maybe they were like, ‘Okay, this is how they’re going to try to do it.’ But before that, I don’t think people saw the moves we lined up to position ourselves to hopefully keep Brook and I’m very thankful we were able to.”

Regarding the decision to trade RFA Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana and whether the luxury tax was a factor in that decision:

“I think there’s a lot that goes into restricted free agency. It’s a monster. Malcolm is very, very important and we knew how important he was to our team. It will be hard to replace him. I think we’ve done the best that we can and we’ll continue to work in ways to be creative and fill that gap.”

“I would say the luxury tax was only part of the consideration for not matching or not being willing to pay Malcolm the market that he was able to get from Indiana. Whether or not he had that market from anywhere else besides Indiana, I don’t know. The decision on Malcolm was much more about our internal evaluations, the roster fit, the ability to be flexible and have options going forward and just building a team that, as I always say, can sustain success over a long period.”

There’s more from the Central Division this afternoon:
  • Horst confirmed in the above interview that the Bucks were not able to create a traded player exception when they traded Brogdon to Indiana, as the signing of George Hill with cap space occurred after the trade, and teams lose their exceptions (other than the Room MLE) when they go under the cap.
  • Taking a look at what each player’s role may be for the Pistons’ during the 2019/20 season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com opines that there are five guys locked in to being sure-fire rotation pieces – Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, and Derrick Rose, and three who will almost certainly join that group – Markieff Morris, Tony Snell, and Bruce Brown.
  • The Bulls are hoping that the three-point shooting ability of free-agent addition, big man Luke Kornet, will be a nice complement next to starter Wendell Carter Jr. and fellow reserve, rookie Daniel Gafford, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com.
  • Pacers’ new addition Justin Holiday is excited about the prospect of playing with his baby brother, reserve point guard Aaron Holiday, reports Scott Agness of The Athletic. “It was the best situation I had at this time,” Justin said. “(T)he Pacers obviously being a contender every year and going to the playoffs, and then also them having my brother was something that was very, very enticing for me. To be able to be a part of that culture and play with my brother, I think it made it pretty simple where I needed to go.”

Brook Lopez Re-Signs With Bucks

JULY 6: The Bucks have officially re-signed Lopez, the team announced today in a press release.

JUNE 30: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that free agent big man Brook Lopez is planning to sign a four-year, $52MM deal to stay with the Bucks. As I wrote earlier today, Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box first reported that Lopez was a good bet to return. There will be no options on the deal, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

Lopez, who signed with the Bucks last season for the bi-annual exception worth only $3.4MM, will get a substantial raise after becoming an essential part of the Bucks’ growth into a championship contender under new coach Mike Budenholzer.

Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that it’s still unclear how Lopez’s contract will be structured, with the two likeliest possibilities being a flat $13MM per season through 2022/23 or a lower starting salary with standard 5% raises (Milwaukee can’t offer 8% raises because they only have Lopez’s Non-Bird rights).

Additionally, because the Bucks only have Lopez’s Non-Bird rights, they will need to renounce the cap holds for both Lopez and Nikola Mirotic and then re-sign Lopez using cap space. In order to retain the most space, Milwaukee will likely opt for the latter structure for Lopez’s contract.

The Kings were said to have interest in Lopez (along with a lot of other centers it would seem), as were the Lakers (link), but the Bucks and he were always motivated to get a deal done early in free agency.

The 31-year-old center, who was an All-Star with the Nets earlier in his career, will look to continue his improved three-point shooting next season after converting a career-high 36.5% from long range during the 2018/19 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.