New Nets forward Michael Beasley has tested positive for the coronavirus and returned home, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Malika Andrews and Tim Bontemps of ESPN first reported that Beasley had left the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus.
Beasley, who signed with the Nets last Thursday, arrived at Disney shortly after the rest of the team got there last week. As Andrews and Bontemps note, GM Sean Marks told reporters that Beasley would require negative coronavirus tests for six days before he’d receive the go-ahead to join Brooklyn for practices. Presumably, the veteran forward didn’t clear quarantine before testing positive. Now his roster status is up in the air, per Charania.
No NBA team has a more decimated roster right now than the Nets, who are missing a total of seven players from their original squad. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Nicolas Claxton are sidelined with injuries, Wilson Chandler voluntarily opted out, and DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Taurean Prince have been ruled out following positive coronavirus tests.
Brooklyn has been able to sign substitute players to replace those four non-injured players, bringing aboard Jamal Crawford, Lance Thomas, Donta Hall, and Beasley. Now, however, the Nets may be the first club whose substitute player requires a substitute of his own.
Players who contract COVID-19 don’t have to be replaced, but Beasley had already been out of the NBA for over a year and now won’t be able to participate in the season’s ramp-up period before seeding games begin.
As such, it would make sense for Brooklyn to replace him, and Justin Anderson looks like the logical candidate to do so — he reportedly reached a deal with the Nets back in June and said during an appearance on the JWILLY Show (YouTube link) on Monday that he’s quarantining in an Orlando-area hotel as he prepares to officially sign his contract.
3:03pm: The Nets have made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve signed Thomas as a substitute player.
There’s no word yet on how the deal will affect Anderson.
2:56pm: The Nets have finalized an agreement with free agent forward Lance Thomas, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Begley first reported over the weekend that Thomas was nearing a deal with Brooklyn.
Thomas hasn’t appeared in an NBA game in 2019/20, having been waived by the Nets before the regular season began last fall. The 32-year-old previously appeared in 392 regular season contests over eight seasons with New Orleans, Oklahoma City, and New York, averaging 5.2 PPG and 2.6 RPG. He last suited up for the Knicks in ’18/19, recording 4.5 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 46 games (17.0 MPG).
Word of Thomas’ agreement with the Nets comes on the heels of Justin Anderson saying during an appearance on the JWILLY Show (YouTube link) that he’s quarantining in an Orlando-area hotel as he prepares to officially sign his contract with Brooklyn, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post relays.
The Nets are allowed to sign substitute players to replace their four players who have either opted out of the restart (Wilson Chandler) or been ruled out due to COVID-19 (Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince). So far, the team has officially signed three substitutes — Jamal Crawford, Michael Beasley, and Donta Hall.
While it’s possible that Brooklyn could sign both Thomas and Anderson, that would presumably mean a fifth player on the roster is being replaced. There has been no word yet that another Net has opted out or contracted the coronavirus, and the club has yet to formally announce the signing of either Thomas or Anderson, so we’ll await further updates.
The Nets are close to signing free agent forward Lance Thomas, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.tv. After this week’s additions of Jamal Crawford, Michael Beasley and Donta Hall, Brooklyn still has just 13 players available for Orlando.
Thomas, 32, was with the Nets in training camp on a non-guaranteed contract. He was waived just before the start of the season.
Thomas hasn’t played in the NBA this season, but he has eight years of experience with the Hornets/Pelicans, Thunder and Knicks. He has career averages of 5.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in 392 games.
The Nets will be without at least seven players for the NBA’s restart. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Nicolas Claxton are sidelined due to injuries, while Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, and Wilson Chandler contracted COVID-19 and/or voluntarily opted out.
Brooklyn is permitted to sign substitute players to replace the four non-injured players. So far, the team has signed three substitutes (Crawford, Beasley, and Hall), and the belief was that Justin Anderson would be the fourth. It’s not yet clear if Thomas will be signed in place of Anderson or if another Net will be unavailable.
After more than a year away from the NBA, Jamal Crawford will be one of the oldest players in Orlando when he takes the court for the Nets, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Crawford, who joined his ninth team when he signed with Brooklyn earlier this week, credits a focus on his health with helping to extend his career.
“My wife changed my diet a few years ago, and that was huge,’’ Crawford said. “And I’m just staying in love with the game. I didn’t turn 40. I turned 20 twice.’’
It’s not clear what Crawford’s role will be when the season resumes, but his veteran presence might be important on a team that is projected to start Chris Chiozza at point guard after losing Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie. Berman states that Crawford may be in line for a role on next year’s Nets team, which could be among the title favorites once Kevin Durant returns.
“The Knicks were one of my favorite places to play — just the energy of the New York fans in general is amazing,’’ Crawford said, recalling a four-year stint in New York early in his career. “I’m sure with the Nets, that energy is amazing as well. The fans in that area are so passionate, and so knowledgeable.”
There’s more on the Nets:
- After playing a back-up role for most of the season, Rodions Kurucs seems ticketed for the starting lineup, Berman notes in a separate story. On a depleted roster, the only serious challenger at power forward appears to be veteran Michael Beasley, who will sit out the first five games due to a drug suspension. Kurucs has fond memories of his new teammate. “He’s a great player,’’ Kurucs said. “I was watching him when he played in New York. When he was doing really great, I was watching him. He was one of my favorite players when he played with the Knicks back then.”
- With so many teammates either out for health reasons or choosing not to play in Orlando, Caris LeVert appears comfortable stepping into a starring role, Berman adds in the same piece. “I think he just has that different swagger about himself,’’ coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He’s put in work individually on his game during this hiatus, I think you can sense it in the way his shoulders are in the way he’s carrying himself. He’s eye contact, his leadership, he would be a guy that initially has looked really good.”
- Chiozza likes the addition of big man Donta Hall, whom he faced frequently in college and the G League, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “His athleticism is off the charts. That’s going to help us,” Chiozza said. “He’s like (Jarrett Allen).”
- After not finding an NBA home all season, new Nets guard Jamal Crawford tells Brandon Robinson of Heavy.com that his deal with Brooklyn came together “really fast.” Crawford added that he’s ready to play whatever role the team expects of him. “Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do,” the 40-year-old said.
- Brian Lewis of The New York Post examines the Nets‘ signings of Crawford and Michael Beasley, noting that both players could be candidates to re-sign with the team for 2020/21 — especially if Brooklyn consolidates some assets and trades for a third star, opening up a few extra roster spots. “We’re always going to be evaluating players, how they fit not only with the group we have now but the group that’s expected to be part of this team next year and the year after that,” GM Sean Marks said.
Although the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference will still be up for grabs when the NBA’s eight “seeding” games begin on July 30, that race has lost much of its luster as a result of the injuries, COVID-19 cases, and opt-outs that have decimated the Nets‘ and Wizards‘ rosters.
Technically, the Magic (30-35) are the No. 8 seed at the moment, but they’re just a half-game back of Brooklyn (30-34) for the No. 7 spot and seem likely to pass a Nets team that will be without at least seven players, including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, and DeAndre Jordan.
That would leave the Nets to hang onto the No. 8 seed by holding off the Wizards (24-40), who will be missing Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans, and John Wall, but could force a play-in tournament if they finish within four games of Orlando or Brooklyn. Washington is also currently without Thomas Bryant (coronavirus), Gary Payton II (coronavirus), and Garrison Mathews (personal), though some or all of those players may eventually rejoin the team.
While that race for the seventh and eighth seeds may not be quite as dramatic as the NBA would like, there could still be some interesting jockeying for position further up the standings in the East.
The 53-12 Bucks have a 6.5-game cushion over the 46-18 Raptors, so Milwaukee will likely clinch the top seed even if they’re on cruise control during the seeding games. But Toronto’s lead on the third-seeded Celtics (43-21) is just three games, and Boston’s eight-game schedule looks less daunting than the Raptors’ slate.
Five of the Celtics’ eight games are against the Nets, Wizards, Magic, Grizzlies, and Trail Blazers, all of whom are at or near the bottom of the playoff race. The Raptors, meanwhile, will face Orlando and Memphis, but also have games against the Lakers, Heat, Nuggets, Sixers, and Bucks. The Celtics and Raptors face each other as well, in a game that will have important tiebreaker implications.
That No. 2 seed isn’t as important as it once was, given the lack of home court advantage available, but it could mean facing the Magic instead of the Pacers, which should be a more favorable matchup even with Victor Oladipo sidelined.
Speaking of the Pacers, they’re currently tied at 39-26 with the Sixers, with the No. 5 seed up for grabs. Clinching that fifth seed would likely mean securing a first-round matchup with the fourth-seeded Heat instead of the Celtics or Raptors.
The Heat, meanwhile, are 41-24, putting them two games behind Boston and two games ahead of the Sixers and Pacers. They seem like a relatively safe bet to hold their position in the No. 4 vs. 5 matchup, but a hot or cold streak in Orlando could affect their spot in the standings, especially with games vs. Boston, Toronto, and Indiana (twice) on tap.
What do you think? What do you expect the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference to look like by the time the playoffs begin? Will they look relatively similar to the current standings, or will there be some shuffling that results in some unexpected first-round matchups?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!
JULY 10: The Nets have officially signed Hall as a substitute player, the team announced today in a press release.
Hall, who will turn 23 next month, spent last fall with the Pistons after going undrafted out of Alabama. He was waived by Detroit before the regular season began, but spent most of his rookie year with the Grand Rapids Drive – the Pistons’ G League affiliate – before eventually earning a call-up to the club’s NBA roster.
In 38 games (28.6 MPG) for Grand Rapids, Hall averaged 15.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and 1.4 BPG on 66.9% shooting, earning All-NBAGL Second Team honors. He signed a pair of 10-day contracts with the Pistons in February and March, logging limited minutes in four NBA games during that time. His 10-day deal was still active when the NBA went on hiatus on March 11, but didn’t carry over to the summer, making him a free agent.
The Nets have ruled out Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, and Wilson Chandler for the NBA’s restart due to positive coronavirus tests or voluntary opt-outs. As a result, the team is eligible to sign four substitute players. It appears those players will be Michael Beasley (whose deal is already official), Justin Anderson, Jamal Crawford, and Hall.
As Stein tweets – and previously reported – the Nets strongly considered signing Amir Johnson to add frontcourt depth. The club also reportedly had some interest in Lance Thomas. However, having already reached deals with multiple veterans, Brooklyn will opt instead for youth in signing Hall.
Hall’s rest-of-season contract won’t include any form of Bird rights, and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent this fall. Still, if the Nets like what they see this summer, they could try to get him back for the 2020/21 season.
JULY 9: Crawford has officially signed with the Nets, per an official team statement (Twitter link).
The 40-year-old crossover maestro, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year, last suited up for the Suns in 64 games during the 2018/19 season. Across 19 NBA seasons, Crawford sports a slash line of 14.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, and 2.2 RPG. He is also averaging 34.8% from three-point range and 86.2% from the free-throw line.
During his lone Phoenix season, Crawford’s scoring dipped to a single-digit average for the first time since his 2001/02 season with the Bulls. Crawford averaged 7.9 PPG, 3.6 APG and 1.3 RPG, while shooting just 39.7% from the field. He scored 51 points in his last game for Phoenix, on April 9, 2019. John Hollinger of The Athletic notes that Crawford rated as a below-replacement level player last season (Twitter link).
The Nets have been hit particularly hard ahead of the NBA’s return to action at Orlando’s Disney World campus, currently scheduled to kick off July 30. Injured All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will miss the rest of the 2019/20 season. Center DeAndre Jordan, wing Taurean Prince, and guard Spencer Dinwiddie have been stricken with COVID-19 and will also all miss the restart. Additionally, Nicolas Claxton is sidelined due to a shoulder injury and Wilson Chandler has opted out of participating.
The Nets, already missing seven players from their 15-man roster this summer, are also currently without guard Tyler Johnson, who was signed by the club during the transaction window at the end of June.
Nets general manager Sean Marks said today that Johnson hasn’t accompanied the team to the Walt Disney World campus for personal reasons, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link). However, Marks added that Johnson will join the club in a few days.
When Johnson reports to the NBA’s campus in Orlando, he’ll have to go through a six-day quarantine period, testing negative multiple times for the coronavirus before he’ll be permitted to practice, Lewis adds in a separate tweet. That longer quarantine period applies to any player who arrives after his team has already traveled to Disney and gone through its own initial 36-hour quarantine period.
Here’s more from around the Atlantic:
- New Nets forward Michael Beasley, who will also have to quarantine for six days, is already in the team’s Florida hotel, tweets Lewis. Marks confirmed today that Beasley will have to sit out Brooklyn’s first five games due to his drug suspension from 2019, which he has yet to serve (Twitter link via Lewis). The forward will be eligible to make his Nets debut on August 9 vs. the Clippers, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter).
- The Knicks‘ previously-reported head coaching interviews with Tom Thibodeau and Bulls assistant Chris Fleming took place on Thursday, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). Thibodeau and Fleming are two of 11 candidates for the position, as our tracker shows.
- Raptors rookie Dewan Hernandez, who had been sidelined since December due to a severe ankle sprain, is with the team in Orlando and will be healthy enough to play this summer, tweets Austin Kent of SLAM. Hernandez is unlikely to play meaningful minutes, but will provide added frontcourt depth.