CJ McCollum

Lowe’s Latest: Beal, Celtics, Culver, Heat, Gordon, More

Teams with interest in Bradley Beal haven’t given up hope that the Wizards will consider trading him this fall, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN, who notes that multiple “strong playoff teams” have looked into what it would take to acquire a top-10 pick and may be seeking extra assets to swing a big trade for someone like Beal.

However, the Wizards have shown zero interest in trading Beal, even for the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, sources tell ESPN. The Timberwolves (No. 1) and Warriors (No. 2) are both known to be hoping to trade their selections for an All-NBA caliber player like Beal (or Ben Simmons or Devin Booker), but it seems unlikely that such a deal will materialize, says Lowe.

For the Wizards to really consider the idea of moving Beal, he may have to tell the team he would prefer to play elsewhere, per Lowe. Perhaps that will happen down the road if Washington doesn’t bounce back from a second consecutive lottery finish, but it hasn’t to this point.

Here’s much more from Lowe:

  • Lowe confirms the Celtics have explored using their three first-round picks to trade up in the draft, but says Boston is considering a number of options with those picks, including trying to trade for a “solid veteran.” Since so many teams are in win-now mode, there aren’t many of those players available, according to Lowe, who says that Larry Nance Jr. and Dennis Schröder are among the players who could be under-the-radar targets for teams looking to upgrade their rotations.
  • Jarrett Culver‘s name has popped up in trade rumors, but Lowe thinks the Timberwolves would only move him in a package for a star, or for a draft pick that would help acquire a star. Lowe adds that he thinks Minnesota will dangle the No. 17 pick and James Johnson‘s expiring contract in search of a veteran contributor.
  • While Lowe thinks the Heat should be able to re-sign Goran Dragic on a big one-year deal, he expects it to be tougher for Miami to take the same approach with Jae Crowder, who will likely receive multiyear offers in the mid-level range.
  • Rival executives have pitched the idea of the Mavericks acquiring Rudy Gobert from the Jazz, but Lowe is skeptical there will be a match there and believes Dallas will have a tough time acquiring a third star via trade this offseason.
  • It’s unclear what sort of leaguewide interest there is in Magic forward Aaron Gordon. Lowe points to the Trail Blazers as a potential match, but says the two teams have never seriously discussed a swap involving Gordon and CJ McCollum and isn’t sure whether lesser assets like Zach Collins or Anfernee Simons would appeal to Orlando.
  • Lowe’s offseason preview is jam-packed with many more notes and is worth checking out in full. We relayed a number of Lowe’s other most intriguing tidbits in our stories earlier today, including items on the Bucks, Pistons, and Knicks.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Vanterpool, Unseld, McCollum

The Jazz had a relatively successful 2019/20 run, culminating in a first round 4-3 loss to the Nuggets sans start small forward Bojan Bogdanović. As the team looks to improve this offseason, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News assesses possible free agent additions for the Jazz, with input from some Utah fans.

Todd looks at the potential fit and cost of Suns center Aron Baynes, Pacers wing Justin Holiday, Bulls combo guard Shaquille Harrison, Pistons power forward Christian Wood, and Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. — all are role players who could especially help the team’s defense.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool ranks among the top candidates for the head job with the ThunderJoe Mussatto of the Oklahoman runs through Vanterpool’s resume and apparent coaching style. “I have different philosophies when it comes to schematics and how you want to approach a situation,” Vanterpool said in a May conversation with the NBA Coaches Association.
  • Nuggets lead assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. has been interviewed by the Rockets and Clippers about each of those Western Conference playoff contenders’ head coaching vacancies, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Unseld is known around the league to be a player-friendly, defensive-oriented coach. After the Nuggets defeated the Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals, Unseld was singled out for praise by head coach Mike Malone“Wes Unseld should be a head coach,” Malone raved. “Our defense in the last three games [all Nuggets wins] has been phenomenal.”
  • Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com tweets that Trail Blazers starting shooting guard CJ McCollum expects to resume all his basketball activities with no restrictions in November as he continues to rehabilitate from the lower back injury he incurred during the NBA’s summer restart. “Got a little plan together from a rehab standpoint to kind of make sure everything is in place,” McCollum said.

Northwest Notes: Dort, Harris, Trail Blazers, McCollum

Luguentz Dort has been celebrated for his defense on James Harden, but his shooting woes in Saturday’s Game 5 helped put the Thunder on the brink of elimination, writes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. Dort shot 3-of-16 from the field as the Rockets gave him plenty of room and basically used five defenders on the other four OKC players. Coach Billy Donovan remains supportive of Dort and said some adjustments are needed.

“I think part of his growth is understanding when to shoot some, when to drive some, when to pass some, and he probably had a mix of a lot of those in the game,” Donovan said.

Dort has been a pleasant surprise in Oklahoma City, earning a starting job at midseason after signing a two-way contract last summer. He quickly emerged as an elite defender, but his offense was a concern all year as he shot just 39.4% from the field and 29.7% from 3-point range.

“I’ve got to try to find ways to kind of incorporate him and help him as much as I can,” Donovan added. “But a lot of it’s going to be found in the course of the game through movement, through ball movement and spacing.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will have shooting guard Gary Harris available for today’s Game 6 against the Jazz, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It will be the first game in more than five months for Harris, who suffered a hip strain shortly after arriving in Orlando. He has made “significant progress” in workouts this week, Woj adds.
  • The presence of Damian Lillard prevents the Trail Blazers from thinking about rebuilding, observes Royce Young of ESPN. Still in his prime at age 30, the star guard always gives the organization a chance to be competitive, as he showed in Orlando before being injured. Young notes that as long as Lillard remains in Portland, the team will remain committed to building around him and CJ McCollum in the backcourt. He adds that management values continuity, and with Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside the only rotation players not under contract for next season, the front office views the team more as the Western Conference finalists from last season rather than the one that struggled to make the playoffs this year.
  • McCollum doesn’t expect to need surgery on the back fracture he played with in Orlando, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. He plans to rest for a couple of months and then resume normal basketball activity.

Optimism That Most NBA Players Want To Continue Season

Among key NBA players, there’s optimism that a majority of players want to continue the playoffs and complete the 2019/20 season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Sources tell Wojnarowski that several members of the Lakers, as well as players around the league, stayed up for hours after Wednesday night’s meeting to continue discussing the issues.

Players are scheduled to reconvene this morning at the same time that the league’s team owners hold a conference call to discuss the situation.

Doc Rivers and Chris Paul were among those who called upon players at last night’s meeting to come away with a plan of action and two or three “clear items” that the NBA can help them act upon, such as police reform and accountability or voter registration, according to an ESPN report.

Paul also wanted to make sure that players understand the financial ramifications of not finishing the 2019/20 season, which could be “cataclysmic,” one league executive told ESPN. NBPA leadership told players that they could lose about about 25-30% of their salaries for next season and would risk termination of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

According to ESPN’s report, CJ McCollum challenged players who wanted to end the season not to forfeit their platform by quietly heading back home, while Jaylen Brown and Andre Iguodala were among those who called for players to join the “front lines” of the fight for social justice if they stop the season.

While players would reportedly like to see team owners do more to address the issues the players are protesting, some owners have privately wondered what more they can do, according to ESPN. The league’s Board of Governors recently committed $300MM over the next 10 years to a foundation that aims to “create economic opportunity and empowerment in the Black community,” ESPN notes.

The players want the Board of Governors’ support in pushing for policy changes, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Turning teams’ arenas into voting centers for this year’s election could be another actionable item for franchises. Several clubs have already announced their intentions to use their arenas as voting centers, with the Rockets becoming the latest to do so this morning.

CJ McCollum Has Fracture In Back, Continues To Play

The Trail Blazers have made an impressive run during the restart, moving into the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings with one seeding game remaining. It turns out that one of their top players has been fighting through an injury.

CJ McCollum has been playing with a fracture in his lower back, Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest reports. The exact diagnosis is an L3 vertebral transverse process (non-displaced) fracture.

McCollum continues to play heavy minutes despite the injury. He has been on the court for 39 minutes in each of the last three games, including a victory over Dallas on Tuesday.

However, it may be affecting his offense. He’s only scored a combined 24 points in the last two games on 9-for-33 shooting. Damian Lillard‘s offensive explosion, including a 61-point outburst against the Mavericks, has offset that.

Lillard said McCollum plans to tough it out going forward, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“He’s a little bit banged up,” Lillard said of McCollum. “He’s making no excuses or looking for no way out.”

McCollum has plenty of financial security. He signed a three-year, $100MM extension last summer.

Portland can clinch the eighth spot and advance to the play-in round against the ninth-place team with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday.

More Details Emerge From Friday’s Conference Call

We relayed details last night about a conference call regarding player objections to the plan to restart the NBA season in Orlando. More information on that call, which involved in excess of 80 players, has been released by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Charania confirms that Kyrie Irving was the leader of the effort to make players reconsider their support of finishing the season. He spoke first and offered a direct message to his peers, telling them, “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bull–. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”

Avery Bradley, who was outspoken throughout the conversation, was the first player to follow Irving’s comments. He encouraged the players to take a stand and to use the opportunity to “play chess, not checkers.” Other prominent names on the call included union president Chris PaulKevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Donovan Mitchell.

Players have been involved in conversations for the past two weeks, sources tell Charania, expressing concerns about the games in Orlando and the restrictive conditions that are rumored to be part of the bubble environment. The opposition began among “rank-and-file” players, with Irving and Durant providing prominent voices.

Sources offered Charania a few more tidbits from the conference call:

  • Anthony emphasized the need for player unity and the importance of conveying a single message. He also urged all 80 players on the call to donate $25K to a cause of their choice.
  • CJ McCollum told players they have to be prepared for financial setbacks if they choose not to play and the possibility that owners will nullify the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • Howard warned that resuming the season will distract from the social justice issues the country is focused on. He encouraged players to use the moment as a catalyst for change.
  • Mitchell talked about players “being behind the 8-ball” by being forced into a competitive environment after being idle for so long. “We’re taking a big injury risk,” he told his fellow players.
  • NBPA leadership doesn’t expect fans to be allowed into games at any point during the 2020/21 season, which would result in another huge revenue loss for the league.

Restart Notes: Assistant Coaches, McCollum, Health Risks

Assistant coaches around the NBA aren’t sure if they will all be headed to Orlando when the season resumes, writes Sean Deveney of Forbes. On the advice of medical professionals, the league is trying to limit the number of people being brought into the bubble environment, and some teams carry huge coaching staffs.

“Honestly, I don’t know if they’re gonna consider me essential,” said an unidentified assistant. “We’ve got teams who are seven, eight coaches deep, 10 if you count the scouts. They haven’t told us if they’re taking us all. I don’t know how many of us they think they need. I am not sure I want to be there.”

Deveney points out that head coaches are always in the spotlight, but assistants handle the majority of studying film and breaking down match-ups. Head coaches also make significantly higher salaries, which means assistants will be asked to face the same coronavirus hazards for smaller paychecks.

“Look, the head coaches, they’ve got plenty of reason to go back and coach and win,” the assistant said. “There are only 30 head jobs. I want our team to win, too. Coaches at all levels invest a lot personally. But you start talking about the health risks and then the health risks to families? It changes the conversation. We are not getting the same level of pay as everyone else on the floor but we’re taking as much risk.”

There’s more regarding the NBA’s restart:

  • Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum wants contact to resume in workouts before players travel to Orlando, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. Only individual workouts are permitted at the moment, with contact and group activities banned under the rules regarding the reopening of team facilities. “We have players that need to get contact in for the last steps of clearance,” McCollum said. “I don’t want anyone to get injured because of having over 100 days of no games.”
  • Although there’s strong support among players for finishing the season, some are concerned about the health risks they will face, notes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Ganguli talked to Lakers center JaVale McGee, who is at greater risk because he has asthma and suffered from pneumonia last year, and Maurice Harkless, who discussed his concerns before learning that the Knicks wouldn’t be part of the resumption. Harkless didn’t visit family members after the hiatus began because he had just played against the Pistons and Jazz — both teams had players who had tested positive.
  • Joe Vardon of The Athletic examines whether the NBA can recover from what is shaping up to be its worst season ever.

Coronavirus Notes: McCollum, Nance, D’Antoni, More

The Trail Blazers are one of three teams reopening their practice facilities on Friday, and CJ McCollum plans to visit this weekend, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. However, McCollum remains apprehensive about the fact that team facilities are opening at all.

“I am worried like the rest of the world, but I like that it is optional and I’m pleased with the caution, structure, and measures the Blazers organization has put in place to ensure the safest environment possible for all parties involved,” McCollum said. “I get the measures (the NBA is) taking, but you have to think at some point when there are drastic measures that need to be taken, ‘Is it really worth it?’ It’s either safe or it’s not.”

As McCollum explains to Haynes, he’s unsure how the social-distancing measures in place for individual workouts will work (“They’re talking about (how) you might have to be 12 feet away from your strength coach. How are you going to lift 12 feet away from somebody?”). However, he intends to go into the Blazers’ facility on Saturday to assess whether it’s possible to safely conduct a workout with so many restrictions in place.

McCollum also admitted that it’s difficult to know how intensely to work out, since players have different regiments for the season and offseason. While he continues to prepare as if the season could be back this summer, he doesn’t know what the future holds for the league.

“I’m probably as optimistic as the casual fan,” McCollum told Yahoo Sports. “Some days you feel like there’s a chance, and then some days you’re like, ‘I don’t know.’ But in the meantime, if you go to work out at the facility, I get it. Work out, but we’ve got to figure out a balance between what’s safe and what’s forcing it.”

Here’s more on the coronavirus shutdown and the NBA’s response:

  • Cavaliers big man Larry Nance Jr. tells Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter links) that he plans to visit the Cavaliers’ practice facility after it opens on Friday. As Stein explains, that’s significant because Nance deals with Crohn’s disease, which is generally treated with immunosuppressive medication that can make patients more vulnerable to infections. Nance has confidence in Remicade, the drug he takes to combat the disease, per Stein.
  • Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni is the league’s second-oldest head coach at age 69, which could put him at greater risk if he were to contract the coronavirus. However, sources tell Tim MacMahon of ESPN that D’Antoni would feel comfortable being on the sidelines if the NBA resumes the season, since he has confidence that Adam Silver and the league would create as safe an environment as possible.
  • Appearing today on CNBC (video link), Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry expressed optimism that all NBA teams will be able to reopen their practice facilities by the end of May and that – if there are enough COVID-19 tests to make it possible – games could start by August (Twitter link via NetsDaily).

Northwest Notes: Weaver, McCollum, Daniels, Jazz

Thunder VP of basketball operations Troy Weaver turned down an interview during the second round of Chicago’s search for a new head of basketball operations because he considered it a “token offer,” tweets Marc J. Spears of the Undefeated. Someone in the Bulls organization told Weaver that Arturas Karnisovas was likely to be hired to fill the role, and he didn’t want to go through the process with little chance to get the job, Spears adds.

That contradicts a report from earlier this week suggesting that Oklahoma City declined permission for Chicago to talk to Weaver, who is African American. The Bulls came under criticism this week for seemingly not including any black candidates in their front office search.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Like many NBA players, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum is trying to find ways to stay ready for a resumption of the season even though he doesn’t have access to a basketball court, writes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. “I’m still working out so I’m holding out hope that we’re going to be able to come back at some point. Honestly, I have no idea, I think it’s a coin flip,” McCollum said. “… I’m continuing to put my head down and work as if we’re returning here shortly. I think that’s how you have to approach a situation like this. There’s 24 hours in a day, plenty of time for me to still get some work in, work on other sectors and things I’m interested in.”
  • Troy Daniels didn’t get an opportunity to establish himself with the Nuggets before the hiatus began, notes Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times. Daniels was waived by the Lakers on March 2 after agreeing to a buyout, then signed with Denver on March 5, which was six days before the season was suspended. He got into one game and played just one minute during his time with the Nuggets. “We were playing when we found out (about the shutdown) so I didn’t know if we were going to stop but we kept going, and as soon as it was over everyone was talking about it in the locker room,” Daniels said. “We were supposed to go to San Antonio that night but we went back to Denver. That’s when I knew it was serious.”
  • Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report suggests five potential trades if the Jazz can’t resolve the reported rift between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Bailey sees the Knicks, Mavericks and Bulls as possible destinations for Gobert, while the Thunder and Nuggets may be able to swing a deal for Mitchell.

Shutdown Notes: Woj, Testing, McCollum, Antetokounmpo

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is the latest media figure to share pessimism that the NBA season can be saved, writes Adam Zagoria of Forbes. During an appearance on SportsCenter this morning, Wojnarowski said the league is doing everything it can to resume play — gathering ideas from teams, executives, sports science and medical staffs and the players’ union — but the situation doesn’t look promising.

“There’s also a level of realism that is starting to sink in it,” Wojnarowski said, “that it’s going to be difficult to return to play this season, that a runway for how many days it would actually have to be able to have a representative rest of the season, a few regular-season games at minimum and then a playoffs that would crown a legitimate champion, that would have a playoff structure, that would be enough to have someone to wear that crown and do it without an asterisk, that’s the challenge around the league right now. And they know they’re up against it, they’re up against the clock and there’s certainly a lot of concern about whether this league will be able to return to play or not.”

There’s more on the shutdown:

  • The NBA won’t be able to resume play until it can quickly provide coronavirus tests for a large number of people, states Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Not only does the league have to be able to ensure the safety of everyone involved, he adds, it must do so without the perception that it is receiving preferential treatment. That happened early on when entire teams were being checked while the test wasn’t widely available to the public. “There are certain lines that can’t be crossed, and everyone knows where they are,” a league executive said. “We’re hearing from a lot of different corners, including from doctors, that would love to see the games return, just for the sign it would give. But you have to be able to do it right.”
  • Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum tells David Aldridge of The Athletic that “everything is on the table” regarding talks with the league about the financial gap that will be created if the rest of the season is canceled. There was a report this week that up to 25% of remaining salaries could be placed into an escrow account that would help players and owners deal with potential losses. “Not playing basketball for the rest of the year means we lose 23 and a half percent of games played, regular season and a complete playoff run,” said McCollum, a vice president with the NBPA. “Not to mention the issues we’ve had with (Rockets general manager Daryl Morey) in China. That affected the (Basketball Related Income) as well … a lot of money is at stake.”
  • Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are among the NBA stars with no way to play basketball during the shutdown, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN.