Cam Thomas

Scotto’s Latest: Portis, Johnson, Graham, Nets, Batum, More

Within his latest round-up of NBA rumors, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype confirms a number of items that have been previously reported or speculated. According to Scotto, Bucks forward Bobby Portis is widely expected to decline his $4.56MM player option to become a free agent, the Lakers are considered a strong bet to pick up Stanley Johnson‘s $2.35MM team option, and Pelicans guard Devonte’ Graham is available in trade talks.

Scotto’s article includes several other intriguing tidbits related to the draft, free agency, and the trade market. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The Nets have fielded trade inquiries on Joe Harris and Cam Thomas, according to Scotto, who says rival executives believe Brooklyn could potentially get a first-round pick in exchange for Thomas. While there’s a sense that Harris might be more available than in previous years due to the Nets’ February acquisition of Seth Curry, the team still believes Harris would be a useful piece on next year’s roster due to his ability to help on the boards and space the floor around Ben Simmons, Scotto writes.
  • The Timberwolves, Grizzlies, and Bucks are among the teams that have inquired about the No. 14 overall pick, currently held by the Cavaliers, league sources tell HoopsHype. Scotto previously reported that Cleveland would be open to the idea of moving down in the draft if it meant acquiring a future first-round pick.
  • Rival executives who spoke to Scotto believe veteran forward Nicolas Batum could be in line for a deal worth $10MM per year after turning down his player option. The Clippers would have the ability to go that high to re-sign Batum using his Early Bird rights.
  • Wake Forest forward Jake LaRavia has visited Milwaukee and worked out for the Bucks twice during the pre-draft process, Scotto reports. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who previously identified LaRavia as a player on Milwaukee’s radar, has him ranked 28th on ESPN’s big board of 2022 prospects. The Bucks hold the 24th overall pick.

Nets Notes: Durant, Harden, Irving, Trade, Curry, Drummond

For much of the season, Nets star Kevin Durant didn’t want to see the team’s Big Three broken up, but it’s clear last week’s James Harden trade wouldn’t have occurred without Durant’s blessing, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

“KD didn’t want to get rid of James,” a person familiar with the situation told Fischer. “But he knew it was over.”

According to Fischer, while Durant was disappointed by Harden’s poor conditioning in training camp and his Media Day comments about wanting to test free agency, the situation was fine for a while. However, with Kyrie Irving unavailable for much of the first half and Durant and Harden taking on increased responsibilities, a strain developed between the two stars, writes Fischer.

Ultimately, the Nets’ brutal recent slump and Harden’s “freelancing behavior” forced Durant to recognize that a change needed to be made, according to Fischer, who says KD had called general manager Sean Marks by last Thursday morning to suggest something needed to be done.

“Kevin’s the one that pulled the trigger with this,” a second source told Fischer. “Kevin’s the one that said, ‘Do this deal.’ There was growing concern that this entire season would be lost and then they’d lose James for nothing.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Durant is consulted on every major Nets decision and was “instrumental” in the team’s selection of Cam Thomas at No. 27 in the 2021 draft, per Fischer. Sources tell Bleacher Report that Durant also lobbied Brooklyn to permit Irving to play in road games after the team initially didn’t allow Kyrie to suit up for any games to start the season.
  • Irving’s unwillingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to play and the Nets’ decision to allow him to be a part-time player didn’t sit particularly well with Harden, according to Fischer. “Kyrie not being held accountable and Kyrie being allowed to do whatever he wants. James, being his age, knows he doesn’t have any time to waste to get his first championship,” a source close to Harden told Bleacher Report.
  • Before they agreed to a deal with the Sixers, the Nets hoped to land Matisse Thybulle as part of their trade package and gauged rival teams’ valuations of the young forward, Fischer writes. However, 76ers personnel were adamant about not including Thybulle (or Tyrese Maxey) in any offer.
  • One front office source who spoke to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com suggested that a difference in playing styles was one factor in why things didn’t work in Brooklyn. “James Harden wants spacing on the court,” the source said. “That’s all he cares about. ‘I need spacing. I need shooters all around me.’ … And Kevin Durant wants defensive guys, because he doesn’t need spacing. He just catches and shoots over people. It’s a different mentality of how to go about it. They’re all right. Of course you want defense and size. But for James Harden to score 40 points and have 15 assists, he needs shooters everywhere and a lob catcher at the rim. So everybody wants to play their way.”
  • The Nets were in good spirits on Monday after snapping an 11-game winning streak with a blowout win over Sacramento, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Nets guard Bruce Brown suggested a “team-bonding event” in Miami over the weekend helped change the team’s attitude. “The locker room, it’s just a great vibe in there right now,” Brown said. “I don’t know what it is, everything just shifted after the trade deadline. Everybody likes everybody, so it’s just great.”
  • Seth Curry and Andre Drummond had impressive Nets debuts as starters on Monday and are bullish on the team’s chances to contend, especially once everyone is available, writes Friedell. Brooklyn was without Durant (knee), Irving (vaccination status), and Ben Simmons (reconditioning) for the victory over Sacramento. “We have a great group of guys,” Drummond said. “Guys that are missing right now, we got to wait for them to get healthy, but once everybody gets back I think we’ll be very, very good and make a very good push in the playoffs.”

Nets Notes: Irving, Thomas, Harden, Simmons

When the Nets decided to let Kyrie Irving be a part-time player — appearing only in road games because he hasn’t complied with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate — they expected him to prop up a roster that was decimated at the time by the virus. But that hasn’t happened, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post, who notes that Brooklyn is just 3-7 in the games Irving has played.

“I don’t feel like I’m very close to where I want to be personally,” Irving said after making just 6-for-20 shots in Friday’s loss to the Jazz. “The eight-month layoff, coming off my ankle injury [last season] and not being able to have the summer that I wanted to, not being able to have preseason, not being able to just dial in with the guys early on in the season the way I wanted to, it definitely had an impact.”

Irving’s return has overlapped with a knee sprain for Kevin Durant, along with hand and hamstring issues that have put James Harden in and out of the lineup. As a result, the Nets have fallen to sixth place in the East and are just a half-game away from the play-in tournament. And unless Irving changes his mind about the vaccine, he will only be eligible for 11 of the team’s final 30 games.

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • One encouraging sign amid the Nets’ downturn has been the bench scoring provided by rookie Cam Thomas, Botte adds in a separate story. With 30 points at Utah on Friday, he outscored the team’s entire starting lineup. “It’s good to get a little accolade here and there but it doesn’t mean nothing because we lost by 30, as well,” Thomas said. “So I’d rather have the win and accolade, but it’s always good to have a little accolade like that in your rookie year.”
  • Harden’s frustrations in Brooklyn stem from having to be the primary option on offense so often when he expected to be part of a three-star alignment with Irving and Durant, Alex Schiffer of The Athletic says in a discussion with other writers about a potential Harden trade to the Sixers. A source tells Schiffer that Harden isn’t necessarily on board with Irving’s part-time status, but has been supportive because Irving has played hard when he’s been on the court.
  • The Nets could wind up with a huge savings, possibly $40MM in salary and luxury tax, by moving Harden in a deal for Ben Simmons, John Hollinger of The Athletic states in the same piece. Hollinger expects a lot of haggling over assets before Brooklyn and Philadelphia could realistically work out an agreement.

COVID-19 Updates: Mavs, B. Boston, Cacok, Lakers, C. Thomas

The Mavericks have placed center Boban Marjanovic and guard Brandon Knight – who signed a hardship deal last week – in the health and safety protocols, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Marjanovic and Knight are the sixth and seventh Dallas players currently in the protocols.

As we noted earlier today, the Mavericks reportedly reached an agreement to sign Isaiah Thomas, who will be the team’s seventh replacement player. If Dallas had just five players in the protocols, the team wouldn’t be able to make another hardship signing, so the fact that Marjanovic and Knight are now in the protocols helps explain the Thomas deal.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the league:

  • Clippers rookie Brandon Boston Jr. has entered the health and safety protocols, the team announced today. Boston had been playing an increased role as of late with the Clippers shorthanded, averaging 19.6 MPG in 13 games this month.
  • Spurs two-way big man Devontae Cacok has joined teammate Dejounte Murray in the COVID-19 protocols, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). They’re the only two San Antonio players affected for now.
  • Lakers guards Austin Reaves and Kent Bazemore have cleared the protocols, tweets Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. They won’t be with the team in Memphis tonight, but should be available by Friday’s home game vs. Portland.
  • Nets rookie guard Cam Thomas has exited the protocols and is available, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Three Nets Rookies Enter Protocols; Harden, Two Others Exit

The Nets announced some good news and some bad news on Thursday morning. Three players – James Harden, Paul Millsap, and Jevon Carter – have exited the health and safety protocols, but three others – rookies Cameron Thomas, David Duke, and Kessler Edwards – have entered the protocols, tweets Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

You could make a strong case that no team has been hit harder in the last couple weeks by COVID-19 than Brooklyn, which still has 10 players in the league’s protocols after today’s updates. Of the 17 players the team had been carrying on its standard roster, 13 have been in the protocols this month, while Joe Harris (ankle) and Nicolas Claxton (wrist) have dealt with injuries.

Patty Mills and Blake Griffin have been the only players unaffected, and even Griffin is playing through knee pain. The Nets have also signed four replacement players – Langston Galloway, James Ennis, Shaquille Harrison, and Wenyen Gabriel – via hardship exceptions to help fill out the roster.

Brooklyn’s game in Portland on Thursday has been postponed, but the NBA will certainly want to avoid having the team’s Christmas Day game vs. the Lakers endure a similar fate. Head coach Steve Nash said today that Harris won’t play on the Nets’ current road trip, but the team hopes to have Claxton return on either Saturday vs. the Lakers or Monday vs. the Clippers (Twitter link via Brain Lewis of The New York Post).

If Harden, Millsap, and Carter are all cleared to return and Mills, Griffin, and the four replacement players are good to go, Brooklyn would have at least nine players available, even without Claxton. The Nets remain eligible to complete more hardship signings before Saturday too, if they so choose.

Nets Notes: Irving, Harden, Thomas, Durant

An ESPN report in October indicated that the Nets were willing to take calls from teams asking about Kyrie Irving, but weren’t making calls themselves. According to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, Brooklyn has maintained that approach during the past several weeks. Even though the Nets are willing to listen to inquiries on Irving, his trade value is down at this point due to his season-long absence, so making a deal may not be in the team’s best interest.

Begley also follows up on reports from The Athletic and The Philadelphia Inquirer stating that James Harden is among the Sixers‘ trade targets. Sources tell Begley that even before those reports surfaced, people with the Nets organization were aware that Philadelphia “loomed as a potential suitor” for Harden.

As we’ve noted before, the Nets are extremely unlikely to consider a Harden trade during the season, and all indications are that he wants to remain in Brooklyn going forward. But he does have the ability to opt out in 2022, so if the Nets’ season turns south, the Sixers could emerge as a more viable threat.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • With Harden off to an up-and-down start this season, Michael Pina of SI.com attempts to determine whether the 32-year-old’s inconsistency can be attributed more to an early-season slump or the start of a career decline. With Harden up for another maximum-salary contract in 2022, he’ll be highly motivated to recapture his All-NBA form.
  • Joe Harrisankle injury pushed rookie Cameron Thomas further up the depth chart, but the Nets don’t want to have him take on a bigger role until he’s fully ready for it, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who says the organization is happy with Thomas’ development so far. “If his role grows it’s more on his continued development than on our necessity, because that’s too much of a burden to throw at him,” head coach Steve Nash said.
  • Two years removed from his Achilles tear, Kevin Durant is averaging 35.8 minutes per game, his highest mark since his Oklahoma City days. As Nash acknowledges, the team would prefer not to play Durant that much going forward. “It’s not ideal to have him have such a burden,” the Nets’ head coach said, per Lewis. “But I don’t know what options we have other than to play him less and lose more. He’s a great player, and we’re down a great player (Irving) and a really good player (Harris) and a few others. So I don’t know if we have the luxury right now.”
  • For his part, Durant said he feels good and would love to play all 48 minutes every night if the Nets would let him, as Lewis relays. “If I can convince coach to play me the whole second half sometimes and put me in earlier in quarters, I’m gonna do it,” the former MVP said. “It don’t matter. My basketball life is not that long, so I’m gonna get the most out of it.”

Nets Notes: Irving, Thomas, Aldridge, Harris

Nets players and team officials are staying in touch with Kyrie Irving, but they’re being careful not to pressure him about his decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Irving has steadfastly refused to get vaccinated, even in the face of a New York City mandate that prevents him from entering Barclays Center for home games.

“If you know Ky, you know he loves his personal space,” DeAndre’ Bembry said. “So being able to let him work through this, because obviously we all want him back, but it’s more so about his decisions right now and what he wants to do. So we can’t really can’t really do too much about it. We just pray for him and hope that he can come back.”

When teammates and coaches reach out to Irving, the conversation always focuses on his well-being, rather than basketball-related topics, Lewis adds. Many members of the organization were surprised that Kyrie chose not to get the vaccine, but everyone says they will welcome him back whenever he can return, whether that means the mandate is lifted or he decides to get vaccinated.

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • James Harden and Kevin Durant have become mentors to rookie guard Cameron Thomas, Lewis notes in a separate story. Thomas recorded 11 and 13 points in his last two games and may have played his way into the rotation. “One thing about Cam, though, he’s got the ultimate green light and confidence,” Harden said. “I’ve seen it in a couple guys, but to actually go out there and do it is impressive. He works his butt off, he goes down to the G League, comes back up and … he (is) ready to go. So we just try to give him little nuggets every chance we get, throughout the course of the game, on the court, off the court. He’s learning on the job, and it’s great to pass that knowledge down to a young cat. He gets it.”
  • Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, who was an assistant with the Nets last season, is impressed that LaMarcus Aldridge has been able to return to the game after a health scare forced him to retire, Lewis adds. “It was just different that night, because it didn’t go away quickly, which it usually would,” Udoka said. “… He felt like he was out of sorts. I was on him hard (on the sideline) about the things we needed, the things he’s not doing for the first time, and he just kept bumping me in timeouts saying, ‘I feel sluggish, I feel slow. Something needs to get going.’ But looking back on that, it was evident that something was a little off.”
  • A sprained left ankle kept Joe Harris out of the lineup for a seventh straight game tonight and it sounds like it might be a while before he returns, according to Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. “I think he’s made small progress,” coach Steve Nash said. “But I think there’s still a ways to go there, where they’ve got to continue to evaluate different options and how we can help speed up his recovery.”

New York Notes: Aldridge, Thomas, Toppin, L. Rose

LaMarcus Aldridge made his first start of the season tonight, replacing Blake Griffin at center for the game in Boston, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Griffin has been struggling with his shot and Aldridge said he’s been having trouble adjusting to a reserve role, so the move seemed inevitable.

“Our spacing has struggled at times and also has hurt our pace a little bit,” coach Steve Nash said. “So we try to find different combinations that work and also that style of play. Keep pushing towards an identity. We’re not a team that can just iso and just play slow because we don’t have a ton of shooting out there. So if we’re going to play against loaded defenses, it’s going to be hard no matter if your name is Kevin Durant or James Harden. It’s just tough to go one-on-two, one-on-three with that picture.”

Aldridge has been an effective mid-range shooter throughout his career, which should open up more room for the two stars. He has been a strong contributor off the bench all season and is averaging 20.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in his last three games while shooting 57.1% from the field.

There’s more from New York City:

  • Cameron Thomas provided a spark for the Nets‘ offense in Monday’s win at Cleveland, but the rookie guard will have to remain patient for his opportunities, according to Chris Milholen of NetsDaily. “I think he’s a kid we all love and think has a bright future but sometimes these early stages in the season and you’re in tight games, it’s difficult with some of the mistakes that are just inevitable with these young guys,” Nash said.
  • Obi Toppin has become part of a productive Knicks bench in his second NBA season, per Peter Botte of The New York Post. Toppin is seeing regular playing time this year after averaging just 11 minutes per game as a rookie. “I’m not gonna say I got discouraged, just because I knew my time would get there,” he said. “I never show emotion a lot. I take it out on the court. … If I’m upset about something, run the floor and get an easy dunk or something, that’s gonna make me feel better. But I’ve never really showed emotion, like, I’m always the same guy. I have a lot of joy, a lot of excitement for this game, and I love playing in New York.”
  • If the Knicks don’t improve, team president Leon Rose and the rest of the front office should be blamed for not finding a better backcourt when they had $50MM to spend in free agency, contends Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. New York wound up with Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, who have been bad defensively and haven’t jelled with the rest of the starters, Bondy states.

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, Schröder, C. Thomas, Gibson

Entering Monday’s game, Celtics center Enes Kanter has appeared in just two games this season, logging less than total 10 minutes in his latest stint in Boston. Kanter, who has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, published a social media post on Sunday implying that there may be a connection between his limited role on the court and his political stances off of it.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka dismissed the idea that Kanter has been out of the rotation due to his comments in the press and on social media.

“My thing is strictly basketball,” Udoka said, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link). “We’re switching a lot and doing some things that probably are not as natural for him and that’s limited his time to some extent … Nothing basketball-related will be based on [social media].”

Kanter ended up seeing a little action on Monday in Cleveland, scoring five points in eight minutes as Boston defeated the Cavs by a score of 98-92.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Dennis Schröder is off to a strong start with the Celtics this season, averaging 17.1 PPG and 5.2 APG through 14 games (33.0 MPG). However, as Forsberg writes for NBC Sports Boston, the better Schröder plays, the less likely it is he remains in Boston beyond 2021/22, given the team’s cap constraints going forward.
  • Nets rookie guard Cameron Thomas has new representation, according to Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype, who tweets that Thomas has signed with Jim Tanner and Terrence Felder of Tandem Sports + Entertainment/You Sports. Thomas is in the first year of his rookie scale contract, so it will likely be a while before his new agents have to negotiate a new deal.
  • Mitchell Robinson tweaked his ankle on Monday and Nerlens Noel has battled injuries all season, so Taj Gibson has played a greater role than the Knicks may have anticipated when they re-signed him this offseason. The veteran big man has responded admirably when called upon, as Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. In 29 minutes on Monday, Gibson had more fouls (three) than points (two), but grabbed eight rebounds and was a plus-22 in a game New York won by eight points.

New York Notes: Randle, Knicks, Noel, Claxton, Nets

The Knicks will be looking to pick up a win in Milwaukee on Friday night, but Julius Randle views the Bucks as a success story worth emulating, as Fred Katz of The Athletic details. Milwaukee won a title in Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s eighth season, having patiently built a championship-caliber roster around its star player without making any major splashes on the free agent market.

“It was beautiful to watch simply because the aspect of, they built it from the ground up,” Randle said. “They didn’t put a super team together or whatever it was. These guys were in the mud every day grinding the thing out. They took some lumps along the way there trying to figure it out.”

While the Knicks lack a bona fide superstar on the level of Antetokounmpo, Randle likes the idea of building the roster “organically” and believes that it an eventual breakthrough would be more rewarding.

“(The Bucks) did something that’s very unique, especially in today’s league, as far as building something like that and not putting a bunch of players together,” he said. “They really built it.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Responding to news that Owen Phillips is joining the Knicks‘ coaching analytics team, Seth Partnow of The Athletic notes (via Twitter) that the franchise has gone from one of the league’s smallest analytics departments to one of the largest under president of basketball operations Leon Rose.
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel missed the first six games of the season with what was termed “knee soreness,” but he told reporters today that it was more of a hamstring issue, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.
  • The Nets have assigned Nicolas Claxton to the G League as he works his way back from an illness. According to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link), Claxton still isn’t ready to play and will just be training and ramping up during his time with Long Island.
  • While Claxton probably won’t play in any games for Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, a handful of the team’s rookies are expected to be regulars for the Long Island Nets this season. Chris Milholen of NetsDaily takes a closer look at the Nets‘ developmental plans for Cameron Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, Kessler Edwards, and David Duke.