Bruce Brown

Trail Blazers Eyeing Gary Payton II, Bruce Brown

The Trail Blazers are pursuing free agent guard Gary Payton II with an offer in the range of $8MM, but there’s still mutual interested in a return to the Warriors, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Fischer adds that the Blazers are also eyeing Bruce Brown, another free agent guard, who has been with the Nets the last couple of seasons.

After bouncing between the G League and the NBA in his first five seasons and never finding a consistent home or role, Payton had a terrific season for the Warriors in 2021/22, appearing in 71 regular season games (16 starts) while averaging 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals on .616/.358/.603 shooting. Though he averaged only 17.6 minutes per night, his impact was clear when he had opportunities, showcasing jaw-dropping athleticism, a knack for the ball, hustle, and excellent defense.

The 29-year-old played a key role during Golden State’s championship run, averaging 7.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals in five Finals contests (18.5 minutes per night) after returning from a fractured left elbow. In his first six playoff games (18 minutes) prior to the injury, he averaged 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1 steal on .727/.750/.667 shooting.

Like Payton, Brown is one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, and the Nets trading for Royce O’Neale was viewed as an indication that Brown was unlikely to return to Brooklyn. In 71 regular season games (24.6 minutes) last season, Brown averaged 9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals on .506/.404/.758 shooting.

Despite being swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, Brown was arguably Brooklyn’s most consistent postseason performer, averaging 14 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 steals on .568/.429/.800 shooting.

Anthony Slater and Sam Amick of The Athletic report that both Kevon Looney and Payton are searching for more money than the Warriors are willing to offer, thus increasing the chances that Payton, in particular, bolts in free agency. Both players want to return to Golden State, but at the right price, which is where the separation currently exists, according to The Athletic’s duo.

The chance of a reunion between Otto Porter and the Warriors is still possible, per Slater and Amick, who say that Porter is contemplating whether to return on a minimum deal or take a larger offer elsewhere.

And-Ones: CBA, Top FAs, Trade Value Ranks, Rookies

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are meeting in Boston on Wednesday to discuss the Collective Bargaining Agreement, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

As Wojnarowski explains, the league and union both have the ability to opt out of the current CBA this December, so the two sides are having a preliminary meeting as they prepare to engage in more serious talks about a new CBA in the coming months.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

Nets Notes: Claxton, Brown, Van Gundy, Dinwiddie

The Nets are prepared to match any offer to keep restricted free agent Nic Claxton, according to a report from A second-round pick in 2019, the 23-year-old center will be on the market this summer after spending three years in Brooklyn. He averaged 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds this season, mostly in a backup role, and his numbers have improved each year.

An Eastern Conference general manager told Sean Deveney that there’s interest in Claxton on the open market, speculating that the Hornets or Bulls might give him an offer above the mid-level exception, possibly around $35MM over three years.

“(The Nets) are not sold on him as the big guy of the future but at that number, they’d keep him around, and know they can move him in a deal next summer if they have something better in mind,” the GM said. “Trouble is, they’ve got a short window here so they can’t wait for him too long. But (Brooklyn GM Sean Marks) is a believer in development and they are not going to give up on him that fast.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • The Celtics could be Brooklyn’s main competition for free agent Bruce Brown, Deveney adds in a separate story. Brown will be unrestricted after accepting the Nets’ qualifying offer last summer, and Boston coach Ime Udoka got to know him while serving as an assistant coach for Brooklyn last season. “He might be out of their price range in the end and maybe he goes back to Brooklyn,” a rival executive told Deveney, “but Ime was an assistant there and we’ve seen that carries some weight with who they bring in. He was good in that Celtics series. If he can’t get a big offer, they could sneak in with him on a one-and-one (one year, with a player option) deal and put him to good use.”
  • Former NBA coach and current TNT broadcaster Stan Van Gundy believes the Nets have to overcome trust issues to be successful next season, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn has a talented roster, but Van Gundy hasn’t seen the cohesion necessary to win in the playoffs. “Over time … are guys going to look around and really have trust for other guys? Or will they be looking around saying, ‘You know what, that dude is going to let us down. I know he is. We can’t count on him,’” Van Gundy said. “And so they’ve got a lot to overcome in that way, which I think may even be more important than the talent they put out on the floor.”
  • In another story, Lewis retraces the fall of the Nets’ Big Three and suggests that things may have gone differently if Spencer Dinwiddie hadn’t been injured. Dinwiddie underwent knee surgery on January 4, 2021, and Brooklyn traded for James Harden nine days later.

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Irving, Brown, Knicks Draft

When the Celtics signed Jayson Tatum to a five-year max extension in November 2020, they were looking for him to deliver superstar performances in the postseason. He did just that in Game 6 against Milwaukee on Friday, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Tatum saved Boston’s season and forced a Game 7 with his 46-point outburst.

“It’s why he gets paid the big bucks. That’s it right there, for moments like that,” Celtics guardMarcus Smart said. “I was telling him the whole game, ‘Just be you, man,’ and he was. That’s what he gets paid to do. That’s what we lean on him to do.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kyrie Irving‘s tumultuous season will apparently cost him a lucrative sponsorship. Nike is unlikely to extend Irving’s signature shoe contract beyond next season, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski report. The Nets guard has had a business relationship with the company since 2014. It’s still expected Nike will offer some product associated with him in the future, such as retro shoes from previous collections.
  • Re-signing free agent Bruce Brown for anything less than $10MM should be a priority for the Nets, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger also believes Brooklyn will defer the first-round pick Philadelphia owes them until next year in order to retain its flexibility on trades. Hollinger and Alex Schiffer explore the Nets’ offseason extension and free agent decisions in this analysis piece.
  • With the lottery approaching on Tuesday, Fred Katz of The Athletic looks at five mock draft scenarios for the Knicks, depending upon where they end up in the first round.

Nets Notes: Irving, Tsai, Brown, Simmons

The Nets won’t have much leverage in negotiations with Kyrie Irving if he decides to opt out of his contract for next season and seek a five-year maximum deal worth nearly $250MM, writes Sean Deveney of Heavy. The option year was used to attract Irving in 2019 when he came to Brooklyn along with Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan to turn around a struggling franchise.

However, the results have been mixed over the the past three years, with just one playoff series win and several incidents that call into question the wisdom of a long-term deal for Irving, who played just 29 games this season because of his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Deveney expects the Nets to drop public hints that they’re unsure about giving Irving a full max contract, hoping to convince him to opt in for next season or negotiate an extension for less money. However, Deveney believes Irving’s representatives would see that as a bluff and would insist on getting maximum value.

Brooklyn officials have a pattern of allowing Irving to do whatever he wants, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said in an appearance this week on “NBA Today” (video link). He points out that the team was originally unwilling to accept Irving as a part-time player and got off to a 21-9 start without him. The trajectory of the season changed when the front office reversed that decision.

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets and Barclays Center suffered losses this season estimated between $50MM and $100MM, a source tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post. That led owner Joe Tsai to force out John Abbamondi, the CEO of Brooklyn Sports Entertainment, which oversees both operations, and he’s now seeking his third top executive in less than three years. Although the Nets set records for attendance, they don’t have enough other revenue to support their $174MM payroll.
  • After a strong second half and an impressive performance in the playoffs, Bruce Brown may be able to land a contract starting in the $8-10MM range, Lewis adds in a separate story. Brown will be an unrestricted free agent after accepting the team’s $4.7MM qualifying offer last summer.
  • Brooklyn may have no other choice than to keep Ben Simmons and see how he can fit into the team next season, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Teams were hesitant to make offers to the Sixers prior to the deadline, and there are even more doubts about Simmons’ condition after he failed to play at all for the Nets.

Nets Notes: Irving, Brown, Simmons, Draft Picks, Durant, Nash

After the Nets got swept out of the playoffs by the Celtics on Monday night, Kyrie Irving said he plans on remaining in Brooklyn. Irving can become an unrestricted free agent if he declines his $36.9MM option. Whether he opts in or negotiates a new free agent contract, Irving doesn’t see himself playing elsewhere, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets.

“In terms of my extension, man, I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” he said. “So this is just added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years.”

Irving made an eyebrow-raising comment that he and Kevin Durant will essentially work in tandem with owner Joe Tsai and GM Sean Marks to improve the team, Scott Cacciola of the New York Times tweets.

“When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean,” he said.

We have more on the Nets:

  • Swingman Bruce Brown is heading toward unrestricted free agency and was noncommittal about his plans, Lewis tweets. The Nets hold his Bird rights. “The season just ended; I’m not thinking about it,” Brown said. “If there’s a chance to stay, we’ll talk about it. But we’ll see.”
  • Ben Simmons wasn’t even at the arena when the Nets’ season ended. After promising reports that he’d make his team debut on Monday, Simmons didn’t play due to “physical and mental issues.” He wasn’t in the building due to his back ailment, Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated tweets.
  • Some league executives are skeptical of Simmons’ mental health claims, according to Steve Bulpett of “To me, that’s the only untouchable excuse that they could have to get his money back (from the Sixers),” a source told Bulpett. There’s also skepticism that any head coach can get through to him. “He’s been enabled his entire life. He’s very aloof,” the source told Bulpett. “He’s a great player, but it’s all the extra stuff that no one’s held him accountable for, that’s just made it difficult.”
  • The Nets hold the Sixers’ 2022 and 2027 first-round picks and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes there’s a good chance they’ll move them to upgrade the roster, relays. “Ultimately, they may never use a player from those draft picks. They’re going to be trade assets,” he said.
  • Durant said coach Steve Nash remains the right man for the job, Lewis tweets. “Steve has been dealt a crazy hand the last two years, he’s been having to deal with so much stuff as a head coach for the first time, COVID, trades,” Durant said. “I’m proud of his passion for us.”

Nets Notes: Durant, Irving, Nash, Brown

Kevin Durant was left searching for answers after another frustrating offensive performance Saturday left the Nets in a 3-0 playoff hole, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Durant, who is shooting 19-of-52 against the Celtics’ relentless defense, thought he might have overcompensated to Boston’s focus on him. He handed out eight assists, but only took 11 shots and finished with 16 points.

“I feel like the first two games I was trying to be too aggressive,” Durant said. “A team that’s loading up on me, that’s trying to take me out of all my actions. I felt like I was still trying to force the first two games and watching film, a lot of my teammates were open and they were knocking down shots, so I felt my approach to this game was to play off of everybody — get in the flow of the offense and let the ball move and find me.”

The Celtics have taken a physical approach with Durant and are using multiple defenders to keep him off balance. He played at an MVP level in March and April, averaging 30 points per night to help Brooklyn climb into the seventh seed, but has been limited to 22 PPG in the first three games of the series. Now he faces a monumental task just to get the Nets out of the first round.

“Man, we know what it is,” Durant said. “I don’t think no speech or anything will do it at this part of the year. You know what it is — we down 3-0. … On Monday, we’ll come out and play.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The chaos that surrounded the Nets all season might be catching up with them, suggests Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Between Kyrie Irving‘s long absence due to the vaccine mandate, the James Harden trade that shook up the roster at midseason and Durant’s injury, Brooklyn had little chance to develop into a cohesive unit. “We’re all trying to jell and usually you’re jelling around the right time,” Irving said. “And that team in the other locker room is jelling at the right time, been jelling since Christmas. We’re just in a new experience as a group, and we have to respect that.”
  • Steve Nash has been badly outcoached by Ime Udoka, argues Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Mannix notes that the Nets’ offense features constant isolations with very little movement, and when they do force switches the Celtics are able to adapt quickly. He also questions whether Nash will return next season if things don’t turn around quickly.
  • One bright spot for Brooklyn has been Bruce Brown, who led the team in scoring Saturday with 26 points. He took the rare gamble during the offseason of accepting a $4.7MM qualifying offer and now is in position to cash in as an unrestricted free agent, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The Nets own his Bird rights and can go over the cap to keep him.

Atlantic Notes: B. Brown, Nets, Celtics, Rivers, Joerger

After Brooklyn defeated Cleveland on Tuesday to secure the No. 7 seed and lock in a first-round matchup against Boston, Nets guard Bruce Brown expressed confidence about how the team matches up against the Celtics.

“They don’t have Robert Williams, so they have less of a presence in the paint,” Brown said, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. “We can attack Al Horford and (Daniel) Theis. Them not having Robert Williams is huge.”

Although Brown expressed a little enthusiasm about how the Nets could attack the Celtics’ defense, his comments weren’t especially spicy — it’s not as if he was guaranteeing a series win. Still, his star teammate Kevin Durant wasn’t thrilled about Brown giving any extra bulletin-board material to their first-round opponents.

“That’s caffeine pride talking, taking some before the game,” Durant said when he addressed reporters following Brown’s media session. “Them two dudes (Horford and Theis) can do the same stuff (as Williams). It ain’t going to be that easy, I’ll tell you that.”

Asked why Brown’s comments rubbed him the wrong way, Durant explained that the Nets “respect their opponents,” as Nick Friedell of ESPN relays.

“We don’t need to talk about what we’re going to do to them,” Durant said. “I just don’t like that, but that’s how Bruce is. He comes in and keeps the same energy throughout the whole season so — but we don’t need to say s–t like that. Let’s just go out there and hoop.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • In an in-depth Insider-only story, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN traces the evolution of the Nets from the young upstart team coached by Kenny Atkinson to the current veteran-heavy squad seeking a championship. Sources tell Arnovitz, whose feature includes several behind-the-scenes tidbits from over the years, that the disconnect between James Harden and the Nets began when the former MVP showed up to training camp out of shape, which irked Kevin Durant.
  • Multiple recent reports have identified Doc Rivers as a possible candidate for the Lakers‘ head coaching job, but the Sixers head coach dismissed those rumors on Tuesday and said he and his staff are happy with in Philadelphia. “I have a job,” Rivers said (Twitter link via Tom Moore of The Bucks County Courier Times). “We want to win here.”
  • Sixers assistant Dave Joerger was away from the team for over two months this season, leaving in November to undergo cancer treatments before returning to the bench on a full-time basis in February. Speaking to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Joerger opened up on what he has gone through in the last year. “Where I’ve been, it runs the gamut,” he said. “There’s times you feel, ‘This is not going to stop me. There’s nothing that can stop me. I’ve got such a great support system,’ and then there’s times you just don’t know if you can go on anymore. Physically, mentally, it’s like, ‘This hurts.’ It’s given me a great appreciation for all the gifts and all the things that we have been given.”

Atlantic Notes: Dragic, Curry, Brown, Thybulle, Raptors

The Nets will have their veteran point guard available for Tuesday’s play-in matchup against Cleveland. Goran Dragic has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, Marc J. Spears of ESPN tweets. Dragic hasn’t played since March 31. Dragic’s backcourt partner, Seth Curry, will also play on Tuesday, Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets. Curry has been dealing with an ankle injury.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Bruce Brown comes into the postseason in top form, Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes. Brown racked up 18 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in a key win over the Cavaliers on Friday. The Nets swingman followed that up with 21 points against Indiana. Brown has made 12 three-pointers in the last six games. “Just all mental for me,” he said. “Just having confidence to shoot the ball. I got a lot of reps up this summer and during the year.”
  • Matisse Thybulle remains ineligible to play Games 3 and 4 in Toronto due to his vaccination status, Sixers coach Doc Rivers confirmed to ESPN’s Malika Andrews (Twitter link) and other media members. Thybulle explained why he decided not to get fully vaccinated to Kyle Neubeck of, among others, on Sunday. “I was raised in a holistic household, where anti-vax is not like a term that was ever used, it’s a weird term that has been kind of been thrown around to just label people,” Thybulle said. “We grew up with Chinese medicine and naturopathic doctors. Just with that upbringing, coming into the situation, I felt like I had a solid foundation of medical resources that could serve me beyond what this vaccine could do for me.”
  • The Raptors have been thriving with an unusual rotation, using no true centers in the starting lineup and numerous big men off the bench, John Hollinger of The Athletic notes. They have a strong core group and can use their full mid-level exception this offseason for a guard to improve their depth in that area, Hollinger adds.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Brown, Dragic, Curry, Edwards

After Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on SportsCenter on Sunday that it was “not realistic” to expect Ben Simmons to be ready for the Nets‘ first play-in game next week (hat tip to NetsDaily), head coach Steve Nash confirmed as much when he spoke to reporters on Monday.

The Nets are ruling out Simmons for the rest of the regular season and the play-in tournament, Nash told reporters, including Laura Albanese of Newsday and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic (Twitter links). If he’s going to make it back this season, Simmons’ return would have to come in the playoffs.

Although Simmons was able to do a little more at practice on Monday, Nash said the team doesn’t plan on scrapping its requirement that he must take part in at least three high-intensity workouts before being cleared. The three-time All-Star isn’t at that stage yet and has only been doing light shooting work.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • After missing Saturday’s loss in Atlanta due to a non-COVID illness, Bruce Brown will be ready to play on Tuesday, tweets Schiffer.
  • Goran Dragic remains in Atlanta with COVID-19, tweets Schiffer. Nash is hopeful that the veteran guard will be back in time for one of the team’s final regular season games.
  • Seth Curry, who is battling ankle pain, didn’t do much at practice on Monday and Nash admitted that there has been some discussion about holding him out of the rest of the regular season to give him more time to rest the ankle (Twitter link via Nick Friedell of ESPN). The goal would be to make sure he’s as healthy as possible for the play-in tournament and playoffs.
  • Asked by Schiffer whether the Nets will give two-way player Kessler Edwards a standard contract this week in order to make him postseason-eligible, Nash didn’t rule out the possibility, but said he expects today’s roster to be the group he enters the play-in with (Twitter link).