Bruce Brown

Nets Notes: B. Brown, J. Green, Simmons, M. Brown, Bridges

Two former Nets who returned to Brooklyn Sunday as members of the Nuggets weren’t surprised to see the end of the Kevin DurantKyrie Irving era, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Bruce Brown, who spent two seasons with the Nets before signing with Denver last summer, said there were issues behind the scenes that went beyond the turmoil the public saw.

“Once the summer (trade request from Durant occurred), it could happen. They started off playing really well, and then when the Ky situation came about you knew they were going to move him,” Brown said. “So, end of an era.”

Lewis points out that the “Ky situation” could refer to his contentious contract talks last June, his online promotion of an antisemitic film or his trade demand in February after being dissatisfied with the team’s extension offer. Jeff Green, who played for Brooklyn in 2020/21, also indicated that there were forces pulling the team apart.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised,” Green said. “But at the end of the day, we realize that it as a business. It was stuff that both sides couldn’t really control, and it ran its course.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Continued soreness in his left knee and back caused Ben Simmons to miss his 13th straight game Sunday, and coach Jacque Vaughn isn’t sure if he’ll be able to return before the season ends, Lewis states in the same story. “Not really a timeline or update,” Vaughn said of Simmons, who has only been available for 42 games. “Again, what I can give you is no setback which is good and he continues to progress on court.”
  • Moses Brown wasn’t used in his first game since joining the Nets, but Vaughn promised he’ll get a chance to play before his 10-day contract expires, Lewis adds. “(We) still have Day’Ron (Sharpe) and his ability to play for us,” Vaughn said. “But the way I coach, at some point you will see Moses and we’ll see him during the stretch of the next 10 days for sure.”
  • Mikal Bridges, who has emerged as a star since being acquired in the Durant trade, blamed himself for Sunday’s loss, saying his defensive effort wasn’t up to par, Lewis notes in another New York Post story. “Personally I take a lot of blame, because I was just poor on the defensive end,” Bridges said. “Obviously I was missing shots early, but that comes with the game. Just missing, that’s just part of it; but I can control playing defense. So that’s what messed me up right now, and that’s on me. I’ve just got to be more locked in on that side of the ball.”

Western Notes: Gilgeous-Alexander, Jones, Cancar, Nuggets’ Bench

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander pumped in 35 points against New Orleans on Saturday but the Thunder are still playing it cautious with his recent injury. He sat out the second game of a back-to-back against San Antonio on Sunday due to what the team described as abdominal strain injury management, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. The Thunder star guard has exceeded the 30-point mark in his last four outings.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Tre Jones missed the Spurs‘ game against Oklahoma City on Sunday with a non-COVID illness, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Jones averaged 13 points and six assists in his last two appearances.
  • Nuggets forward Vlatko Cancar was available to play against Brooklyn on Sunday, coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Cancar missed three games with a wrist sprain and also didn’t play against San Antonio on Friday.
  • The Nuggets’ second unit has been unsettled after changes were made during and after the trade deadline, Singer writes. Reggie Jackson has struggled with his shooting (29%) since becoming the backup point guard and Thomas Bryant has been relatively quiet since he was brought in to back up Nikola Jokic. “We’re still trying to figure stuff out,” swingman Bruce Brown said.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Williams, Hyland, Nuggets Bench

Tony Jones of The Athletic believes it’s “very, very unlikely” that Russell Westbrook will ever play a game for the Jazz, noting that the veteran guard wouldn’t receive much playing time as the team prioritizes its younger players (Twitter links).

According to Jones, the two most likely scenarios for Westbrook are securing a buyout if he finds a situation he likes, or remaining on Utah’s roster but away from the team.

While that’s hardly surprising news, it’s still noteworthy that Westbrook might finish the season not actively playing. On the other hand, if he joins another team and things go awry, that could hurt his value ahead of free agency.

The 2016/17 MVP has made over $300MM in his career, so it’s not like he needs more money, but it’s a lot easier for a team to move on from a player who isn’t making much money than one who is. It’s a tricky balance to strike for a decorated player who was often criticized (sometimes unfairly) on his last team.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Thunder swingman Jalen Williams has flown under the radar a bit in ’22/23, but he’s having an outstanding rookie season, averaging 12.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.9 APG and 1.2 SPG on .508/.324/.759 shooting. He recently spoke to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype about a number of topics, sharing an amusing story about how he first met head coach Mark Daigneault.
  • Bones Hyland was traded to the Clippers last week after a rocky end to his Nuggets tenure. The second-year guard explained that he had “great communication” with Denver’s front office, but not so much with the coaching staff. “Yeah, I feel like it could’ve been done better on both ends,” Hyland said, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscriber link). “Just more communication. I’ve got so much love for Denver, but I just feel like the communication was just so low. I had a lot of mixed emotions, and we didn’t come together and just make it better.”
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone suggested he’s going to run a five-man bench lineup of Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Christian Braun, Vlatko Cancar and Thomas Bryant once Jackson is activated after the All-Star break, tweets Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. A notable omission from that group is veteran forward Jeff Green, who has consistently been in the rotation when healthy and scored a season-high 24 points in Wednesday’s victory over Dallas. Malone has tweaked the bench rotation multiple times this season, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising if that five-man group changes over time.

Nuggets Gauging Bones Hyland’s Value

One report leading up to the 2022 draft indicated that the Nuggets might be open to discussing Bones Hyland in trades. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports hears from sources that Denver did indeed discuss Hyland last June, and has started to check his current value on the trade market.

An All-Rookie Second Team member last year, the 22-year-old is a talented shot-maker, but he is not a great defensive player, and has at times been pulled from games by head coach Michael Malone for a lack of effort on the less glamorous end. Fischer reports that the “occasional clashes” between the second-year guard and Malone contributed to Denver’s willingness to discuss Hyland in trades.

The Nuggets are said to be looking for a “defensive-minded frontcourt player” and a first-round pick in exchange for Hyland, though they are also interested in a reserve point guard to potentially replace him. Like Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Fischer hears the Timberwolves are interested — Tim Connelly drafted Hyland.

As Fischer explains, the former first-round pick still has two more years left on his rookie scale contract, but it sounds as if the Nuggets might be reluctant to pay him in the future due to luxury tax concerns. Complicating matters further for Denver is that Bruce Brown is expected to decline his player option for 2023/24 in search of a more lucrative deal.

The Nuggets only have Brown’s Non-Bird rights, so they’ll be limited to offering him 120% of his current contract – a new deal would start at $7.8MM, only a $1MM raise on his player option. There’s nothing in Fischer’s report indicating the Nuggets are shopping Brown, but he suggests they’re afraid he might walk in free agency.

Nuggets Notes: Brown, Chemistry, Jokic, Hyland

Veteran guard Bruce Brown, who spent two seasons in Detroit and two more in Brooklyn before arriving in Denver, said the Nuggets‘ locker room is the best one he has been a part of, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.

“Everybody likes everybody, everybody is cool with everyone. We do mostly all things together, even if we have a night off, we’ll do things together. I’m happy I’m in this locker room,” Brown said. “It’s just a bunch of good guys. I’m not saying I didn’t play with other good guys with other franchises, but it’s just a bunch of good guys, all on the same page, so it’s been good.”

After winning 14 of their last 17 games, the Nuggets have a 28-13 record, tied with Memphis for the best mark in the Western Conference and 3.5 games ahead of third-place New Orleans. Head coach Michael Malone believes the close-knit nature of the team is one important reason for its success, according to Saunders.

“You’re either together or you’re not,” Malone said. “For me, it’s pretty simple. The best teams in the NBA are usually really connected, on and off the court. And you can see it. And on the flip side, you can see the teams that have no chemistry. You have five individuals playing for themselves out there.”

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic has been ruled out for Friday’s game vs. the Clippers due to right wrist injury management, per the NBA’s official injury report. Jokic played 28 minutes in a blowout win over Phoenix on Wednesday and didn’t seem to be favoring the wrist, tweets Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports, so there’s no indication at this point that it’s a major cause for concern.
  • Three executives from different Western Conference teams speculated to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required) that if the Nuggets make a trade in the coming weeks to add size, defense, and/or experience, Bones Hyland would be part of the outgoing package. General manager Calvin Booth will have to determine whether Hyland’s timeline matches that of the win-now Nuggets, according to Singer, who notes that the second-year wing has played some of his best basketball as of late, averaging 16.6 PPG on .522/.519/.857 shooting in his last eight games (22.2 MPG).
  • Hyland is hoping to get the opportunity to participate in next month’s three-point contest at All-Star weekend in Utah, Singer writes in a separate story for The Denver Post. “If it happens, it happens. I want to win it. I want to be in it,” said Hyland, who is averaging 2.6 made threes in just 20.8 minutes per game and knocking them down at a 41.7% clip. His name is on a preliminary list of players the NBA is considering inviting, a source tells Singer.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Brown, Gordon, Saunders

The biggest obstacle to Nikola Jokic being named MVP may be that he won the award the past two seasons, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird are the only players to capture MVP honors in three consecutive years, and it hasn’t happened since 1984-86. Voters tend to look for alternatives rather than casting their ballots for the same player every season.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone called that type of thinking “lazy” in a pre-game meeting with reporters Sunday night. He also expressed disgust with having to repeatedly make the argument for his center, adding, “I don’t really care what people think about Nikola.”

After Malone’s comments, Jokic bolstered his MVP candidacy with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Celtics. It was the league-best ninth triple-double of the year for Jokic, who is averaging 25.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game — numbers very similar to his past MVP seasons.

There’s more from Denver:

  • With Sunday’s matchup featuring the top teams in each conference, the Nuggets showed a defensive intensity that was lacking in their November meeting in Boston, Singer adds. Denver focused on closing out on three-point shooters and limited the Celtics to 3-of-19 from long distance in the first half. The defense got a boost from Bruce Brown, who was starting in place of Jamal Murray and who always gets excited about facing his hometown team. “I definitely look forward to (these games), just me being there, me growing up a Celtics fan,” Brown said.
  • Bones Hyland has joined the campaign for Aaron Gordon to make the All-Star Game (video link from HoopsHype). Gordon has been the Nuggets’ second-best player this season, averaging 17.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 31 games. “He does the junkyard work for us, and I feel like he doesn’t get a lot of praise,” Hyland said. “So definitely AG an All-Star for sure.”
  • Nuggets assistant Ryan Saunders will make his first trip to Minnesota tonight since being fired as the Timberwolves‘ head coach in 2021, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Saunders took a year sabbatical from coaching, turning down multiple offers, before joining Denver’s staff this season. “Looking forward to seeing fans that I remember seeing in the crowd, especially before COVID hit,” Saunders said. “That’s something that you kind of forget about too. In professional sports, jobs come and go, and all of a sudden you might be in a different situation than you were the day prior. The people you saw every day, the ushers, the security guards, the parking attendants, people who are just coming by your office to say hello from Mayo Clinic Square, you don’t see them anymore. I’m really looking forward to seeing that.”

Nuggets Notes: Power Forwards, Gordon, Jokic, Braun

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said on Sunday that the team will take a by-committee approach to replacing Jeff Green‘s minutes with the forward expected to miss at least a month or so due to a finger injury.

As Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets, Malone mentioned Zeke Nnaji as a logical replacement from Green at power forward, but noted that Vlatko Cancar, Michael Porter Jr., and Bruce Brown could all see minutes at the four as well. Nnaji was ineffective vs. Phoenix on Sunday, picking up three fouls and no points or rebounds in nine minutes of action.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Aaron Gordon had 28 points, 13 rebounds, a highlight-reel dunk, and a key blocked shot in Sunday’s victory and has now been a plus-65 during Denver’s four-game winning streak (the Nuggets have been outscored by 31 points with Gordon off the court during the streak). As Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes, the forward’s ability to contribute all over the court has Malone talking about him as a potential All-Star and Nikola Jokic referring to him as the “soul of this team.”
  • Gordon is questionable to play on Tuesday in Sacramento due to a right shoulder strain, tweets Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette.
  • Voter fatigue will likely work against Jokic as he makes a bid for a third consecutive MVP award, but the Nuggets’ star center is building a strong case for consideration, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. The 27-year-old is nearly averaging a triple-double for the top team in the Western Conference and has scored more efficiently than ever, with a career-best .616 FG%. Additionally, the Nuggets have a plus-11.3 net rating with Jokic on the floor, compared to an abysmal minus-13.6 mark when he sits, per
  • Within the same Athletic story, Hollinger checks in on Nuggets rookie wing Christian Braun, who has been playing rotation minutes as of late. Hollinger is intrigued by the potential Braun has shown on defense, but acknowledges his role on offense is unlikely to expand beyond “guy who stands in the corner” anytime in the near future.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Northwest Division

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents during the 2023 offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Northwest players.

Jerami Grant, F, Trail Blazers

  • 2022/23: $20,955,000
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Up

Grant has proven to be a nice fit in Portland, providing efficient frontcourt scoring (.613 true shooting percentage) for the team’s seventh-ranked offense. He can score in a variety of ways and is one of the team’s better defenders, though the Blazers have fallen off considerably on that end – they’re down to 23rd in defensive rating with a net rating barely above water (+0.4).

Grant will turn 29 in March and is in line for a big payday on his next contract. For what it’s worth, Portland would be limited during the season to offering a four-year, $112.65MM extension, so if he thinks he can get more than that, he’ll have to wait until free agency.

Bruce Brown, G/F, Nuggets

  • 2022/23: $6,479,000
  • 2023/24: $6,802,950 player option
  • Stock: Up

I was surprised Brown’s free agency foray last offseason wasn’t more lucrative after a strong postseason showing with the Nets – he ended up signing a two-year deal with Denver for the taxpayer mid-level exception. It was rumored that he had higher offers and liked the fit with the Nuggets.

Either way, he has been a valuable and consistent role player alongside reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic. The versatile Brown is averaging 11.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.3 APG and 1.0 SPG on a rock-solid .492/.413/.800 (.584 TS%) shooting line through 29 games (30.2 MPG).

In addition to being head coach Michael Malone’s go-to replacement starter across multiple positions (he’s up to 17 starts), Brown is attempting – and converting – more three-pointers than ever before, up to 1.3 makes and 3.2 attempts per game, from previous career highs of 0.6 and 1.7, respectively. He has been a relative bargain thus far, but the problem for the Nuggets is if he opts out, they’ll only have his Non-Bird rights, so they’ll be limited to offering him 120% of his current contract – a deal would start at $7.8MM in 2023/24, only a $1MM raise on his player option.

If he opts out, I think Brown could at least land a deal for the non-taxpayer mid-level in free agency, which is projected to be worth $48.9MM over four years. If Denver is where he really wants to be, another option would be picking up his option and then re-signing once the Nuggets have his Early Bird rights after ’23/24 – Nicolas Batum and Bobby Portis took that route in recent years with the Clippers and Bucks, respectively.

Bryn Forbes, G, Timberwolves

  • 2022/23: Minimum salary
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Down

In five consecutive seasons from 2017-22, Forbes knocked down at least 38.8% of his three-point attempts, and he owns a career rate of 41.3%. However, he has struggled this season in his rare opportunities to play, converting just 25.8% of his looks beyond the arc in 17 games (10.6 MPG).

That’s a major problem for the undersized shooting guard, because his value is almost entirely tied to his ability to make shots — he’s limited in every other area, particularly defensively. The Wolves need shooting – they’re 22nd in 3PT% – so the fact that he hasn’t been playing obviously means head coach Chris Finch doesn’t trust him over other options. For players on minimum deals, one down season could mean they’re on the last legs of their NBA careers.

Justise Winslow, F, Trail Blazers

  • 2022/23: $4,097,561
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Neutral

After dealing with several significant injuries in his eight-year career, Winslow has been relatively healthy thus far for Portland, appearing in 28 of 31 games. You would think that alone would help his stock, but he hasn’t really shown anything different than he’s done in prior seasons from a production standpoint.

Winslow is energetic, strong, a solid rebounder, an above-average play-maker and a solid defender across multiple positions, all desirable traits. He can grab a rebound and start a fast break, or initiate the offense in a half-court setting, acting as a point forward of sorts.

However, he’s very limited as a scorer – his .415/.310/.714 (.470 TS%) shooting line is very close to his career mark – so it’s hard to envision his market being robust, despite his positive attributes.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G/F, Jazz

  • 2022/23: $5,009,633
  • 2023/24: RFA
  • Stock: Up

The No. 17 overall pick of the 2019 draft, Alexander-Walker had a very inconsistent first three seasons. He was traded twice right before last season’s deadline, going from New Orleans to Portland to Utah, and rarely saw the court with the Jazz.

His spot in the rotation is still tenuous – he has appeared in 22 of 33 games for an average of 15.3 minutes per night. Virtually all of his counting stats are similar to his career averages. So why is his stock up?

The answer is simple: he’s posting a .491/.433/.727 (.623 TS%) shooting line and has played key defense at the end of multiple close games. Less simple is the question of whether the Jazz will be inclined give him a $7,073,602 qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent – it’s too early to make that call, but if I had to guess, I’d bet they wouldn’t right now.

Still, if he keeps shooting anything close to what he has early on, he’ll likely find a multiyear contract for more than the minimum, which definitely wasn’t a lock entering ‘22/23.

Nuggets Notes: Smith, Championship Chances, Murray, Brown

Nuggets reserve guard Ish Smith only recently made his debut for an NBA-record 13th team, and has already emerged as a key role player for the club, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports as part of an interview with the 34-year-old journeyman. Smith has made an impact on both ends of the floor already, as head coach Michael Malone detailed.

“He finds guys, he makes plays, he gets off the ball,” Malone said. “Him and [backup center DeAndre Jordan] in pick-and-rolls, having a big on the rim, that dynamic roller… And for a guy with his stature, he does a great job of contesting shots. Let’s go back to the Clipper game when he blocked Norman Powell’s shot, which led to a transition dunk. Ish does all the right things, all the little things on defense. And you trust him out there. It’s been great having him back.”

Across nine games with Denver, Smith is averaging just 3.2 PPG and 2.4 APG in 11.4 MPG, but making his presence felt in all manner of other ways on the floor. Speaking to Wind, he registered optimism about the Nuggets’ ceiling this season.

“There’s obviously another gear (the team can reach),” Smith said. “You don’t want to be peaking early in the season. So for us, we’ve got to gradually get to that level. But for us, coach Malone’s not lying, especially when we’re trying to win as big as we’re trying to win. We’ve got to bring our defense for four quarters. We can score the basketball, I think you’ve seen that. If we can travel our defense on the road and then at home, you know, make that commitment for four quarters, we’re going to be really, really good.”

There’s more out of Denver:

  • The 2022/23 version of the Nuggets could be the best club in the franchise’s history, with the ability to potential win Denver its first NBA title, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Kiszla notes that the Nuggets may actually be better than their 14-7 record suggests, as the team has played an inordinate number of road contests already (13). Kiszla adds that Malone continues to experiment with his rotations as he figures out the best fits for starters Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. this season after injuries kept them out for most or all of 2021/22. Reigning two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic seems capable of leading Denver, if healthy, to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance.
  • Shooting guard Murray is still working out the kinks in his first on-court action since tearing his ACL during the 2021 playoffs, writes Law Murray of The Athletic. “You’ve just got to keep a level head and know that the work that I put in the weight room and rehabbing, I know that it’s going to show when it needs to show,” Jamal Murray said. “I just got to take my time and be ready for April. And that’s when I’ll hopefully see the best version of myself.”
  • Nuggets GM Calvin Booth recently raved about the fit of under-the-radar free agency signing Bruce Brown, a versatile reserve capable of playing and defending multiple positions, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post.“I thought the fit with Jokic, his versatility, his defense,” Booth said. “I thought he was going to be the perfect fit for our team. It’s played out like that.”

Nets Notes: Warren, Sumner, Vaughn, Brown

Nets forward T.J. Warren played in an NBA game on Friday for the first time in nearly two years, making his Brooklyn debut after having been sidelined since December 2020 due to a series of foot issues. Warren couldn’t have asked for a much better return — he scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench as the Nets extended their winning streak to four games with a victory over Toronto.

“Man it was super, super, super … just a lot of nerves, excitement, a lot of emotions into it. Just definitely super excited just to be out there with a win,” Warren said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “Teammates did a great job making the game easy, not so complicated for me. I’ve been out for a while, so it just kept me confident, kept me locked-in, excited on both ends of the floor. So definitely something to build on.

“I was telling somebody in the back it almost felt like a dream. Just like as soon as I checked in it kind of hit me, like, ‘This is real.’ Like I said, once I got up and down it was just like ‘All right, this is basketball.’ So it was just super fun to be out there competing with the guys.”

Warren figures to provide some scoring punch to a team that has leaned heavily on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for its offense so far this season. Besides Durant and Irving, only Nic Claxton (11.9 PPG) and now Warren have averaged double-digit points per game for Brooklyn in 2022/23.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Reserve guard Edmond Sumner left Friday’s win due to a right glute contusion, according to Lewis. “We’ll look at it (on Saturday),” head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Hopefully it’s nothing serious and we can look on.”
  • In a subscriber-only story for The New York Post, Lewis checks in on Vaughn’s performance in his first month as Steve Nash‘s replacement and finds that the new Brooklyn head coach is earning strong reviews from his own players and opponents alike. Nets forward Joe Harris lauded Vaughn for holding everyone accountable, while Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said the team seems to have “more buy-in” under Vaughn. “They’ve done a terrific job; top 10 since Nov. 1 on both sides of the ball,” Unseld said. “Got to give Jacque and his staff a lot of credit. It shifted. They’re a different team.”
  • Bruce Brown, now a Nugget, was upset that he didn’t receive any attention from the Nets in free agency despite his old team initially telling him it wanted to re-sign him, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). “I was (hurt), but once I’d seen the Royce O’Neale trade, I was like, ‘I’m off their books, for sure,'” Brown said. “Because at first, they were talking about, they didn’t want to go into the tax or whatever, but then they said that I was a priority. … They wanted me back. They came down to see me in Miami when I was working out. And when I didn’t receive a phone call, I was like, ‘All right.'”