Caris LeVert

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Hachimura, Nets, Hawks, Magic

Although Ben Simmons has reported to the Sixers and head coach Doc Rivers has said he assumes the three-time All-Star plans to suit up and play for the team, we still don’t know when that will happen or what version of Simmons the club will get, writes Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com.

One source who spoke to Neubeck described Simmons as “going through the motions” during his individual workouts this week, though that source said things have improved each day since the 25-year-old’s return. The expectation is that Simmons will clear the health and safety protocols soon, but he’s considered “doubtful” to play in Friday’s preseason finale.

Within Neubeck’s report, he notes that the Sixers have shown little interest in a Pacers trade package that includes Malcolm Brogdon and/or Caris LeVert. The 76ers have been focused on acquiring a star, since trading Simmons for multiple “good” players isn’t something they believe will improve their title odds or increase their chances of acquiring another impact player down the road, Neubeck explains.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura remains in the health and safety protocols after recently reporting to the team, and he may miss some time at the beginning of the regular season as he gets back up to speed and adjusts to a new playbook and coaching staff, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I don’t think (him catching up) is way down the line,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “We already have some edits that we’ll send to him. Obviously, when he’s ready we’ll spend some time away from the court to try to help him get back up to speed. That in itself is going to take some time.”
  • Nets forward Kevin Durant admitted to reporters on Thursday that Kyrie Irving‘s absence is not an “ideal” situation and said he’d rather be playing alongside his friend this season. However, Durant added that he’s confident “things will work out the best for both parties” and said he’s not upset about the situation. “What is being mad going to do?” Durant said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “We are not going to change his mind, know what I’m saying? We’ll let him figure out what he needs to do and the team figure out what they need to do.”
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash plans to lean on the team’s depth to replace Kyrie Irving, rather than putting that responsibility on one player, writes Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Bruce Brown and Patty Mills are among the obvious candidates for increased roles.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic liked the Hawks‘ offseason moves and is optimistic about the club’s chances of avoiding regression in 2021/22, projecting them to win 50 games and a playoff series. Predictably, Hollinger is far less bullish on the Magic, forecasting a 21-win season and a last-place finish in the East for Orlando.

Central Notes: Holiday, LeVert, Martin, Jackson, Gonzalez, Cavs

Justin Holiday injured his left ankle in Friday’s preseason game but the Pacers guard is optimistic he’ll play in the October 20 season opener at Charlotte, David Woods of the Indianapolis Star reports. Holiday will likely miss the remaining preseason games.

Caris LeVert, who has been sidelined by a stress fracture in his back, isn’t participating in scrimmages yet but he’s “doing a little more each week” in practices, according to Pacers coach Rick Carlisle. Kelan Martin, who has twice agreed to push his salary guarantee date back in the hopes of making Indiana’s 15-man squad, is dealing with a hamstring injury.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • It’s hard to envision Frank Jackson, who is battling Josh Jackson and Hamidou Diallo for minutes as the Pistons’ backup wings, being out of Dwane Casey’s rotation, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. He provides instant offense off the bench as a penetrator and spot-up 3-point shooter. “His activity on the offensive end is hard to keep up with,” Casey said of the veteran guard. Jackson re-signed with the Pistons as a restricted free agent on a two-year deal with a team option for 2022/23.
  • Former Seton Hall head coach Bobby Gonzalez is joining the Pistons as a scout, Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets. His role will focus on college scouting, with the Big East and Atlantic 10 among the conferences he’ll monitor, Adam Zagoria of Forbes tweets.
  • The Cavaliers aren’t well-positioned cap-wise despite their status as a rebuilding team, John Hollinger of The Athletic notes in his season preview. In part due to Kevin Love‘s bloated contract, the team is currently only $3MM below the luxury tax threshold. Their situation improves next season but that could change, depending upon a potential extension for Collin Sexton and the price tag. Hollinger projects Cleveland to finish 13th in the Eastern Conference.

Atlantic Notes: Iverson, Sixers, Watanabe, Raptors, Celtics

Former Sixers star Allen Iverson would be interested in working for an NBA team, he said during a conversation with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (video link; hat tip to RealGM). Iverson told Rooks that he’s “forgotten more basketball than some people know” and would love to put his expertise to use by helping current NBA players — especially if he could so in Philadelphia with his old team.

“I’m a Sixer for life. I’ve got Sixer blood pumping through me. Everybody knows that I want to help that organization,” Iverson said. “I’ve been retired, what, 11 years? I don’t know how I’m not a part of that staff (in) some kind of way.”

Iverson added that he’s not necessarily interested in being “the guy that’s right up front” (ie. a head coach) and that even just being a consultant for the Sixers would make him happy.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Addressing reports that the Sixers and Pacers have discussed a potential Ben Simmons trade, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer says that if the 76ers can get Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, and a future first-round pick in exchange for Simmons, they should pull the trigger. Philadelphia and Indiana have reportedly discussed both Brogdon and LeVert, though it’s unclear if either club has made an offer along those lines.
  • Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe is battling a left calf strain and won’t be available for Thursday’s game in Philadelphia, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. As Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweets, the injury is considered minor, so hopefully it won’t affect Watanabe’s standing as he fights for a spot on Toronto’s 15-man regular season roster.
  • While Scottie Barnes is drawing far more interest, the Raptors‘ “other” rookies – Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie – are also vying for playing time, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca details. Given the team’s roster turnover and injury issues, there are opportunities in the rotation available for the taking, Grange writes for Sportsnet.ca.
  • Al Horford‘s return to Boston reunites him with Robert Williams, who considered Horford a veteran role model during his previous stint with the Celtics. Jared Weiss of The Athletic spoke to the two big men about their relationship during Williams’ rookie year in 2018/19 and how they can help one another going forward.

Latest On Ben Simmons

The Sixers played their first game of the 2021 preseason on Monday, and – as expected – Ben Simmons wasn’t in the building. The three-time All-Star continues his holdout, having not reported to the team for the 2021/22 season.

The 76ers already withheld an $8.25MM advance payment for Simmons for failing to uphold the terms of his contract, placing that money in an escrow account. According to Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks of ESPN, the team now intends to fine the 25-year-old for each preseason and regular season game he misses.

Those fines – which will come out of the escrow account for the time being – will be worth 1/91.6th of Simmons’ salary for 2021/22, per Bontemps and Marks. That means Simmons will lose about $360K of his $33MM salary for each game he misses, starting with Monday’s contest.

Those penalties will add up quickly. If Simmons sits out the preseason and extends his holdout into the regular season, he’ll have missed 10 games by the end of October — the equivalent of $3.6MM in lost salary.

That fine money won’t be easy for Simmons to recoup. If he’s eventually traded, his new team can’t agree to pay him the lost money, according to ESPN’s duo. That contradicts a weekend report which suggested that Simmons’ new team might be able to waive his fines. Bontemps and Marks says the only path for Simmons to get his fine money back would be by reaching a settlement with the 76ers, and point out that Philadelphia has little incentive to negotiate such a settlement.

Here’s more on Simmons:

  • Ian Begley of SNY.tv, confirming that the Sixers and Pacers have talked about the possibility of a Simmons trade, reports that Caris LeVert was among the players discussed in those negotiations. However, Begley cautions that it’s unclear whether talks between the two teams progressed beyond exploratory conversations.
  • Begley also says the Kings are among the clubs still eyeing Simmons, adding them to the list of six teams with ongoing interest reported over the weekend.
  • According to Begley, members of several organizations around the NBA have privately stated they hope the Sixers don’t trade Simmons, since it would set a bad precedent to relent to a player’s demands when he still has four years left on his contract. Chris Mannix of SI.com spoke to one Eastern Conference executive who expressed that view plainly. “F–k that,” the executive said. “You let a guy force his way out with four years left on a max contract and you set a terrible precedent. They can’t cave.”
  • Simmons has put one of his residences in the Philadelphia area up for sale and may put the other one on the market as well, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. While monitoring a player’s real estate holdings typically isn’t a reliable way to suss out his future plans, it’s probably safe to assume there’s a correlation in this case.

Caris LeVert Dealing With Stress Fracture In Back

Pacers guard Caris LeVert has a stress fracture in his back, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). However, according to Wojnarowski, the team is relatively optimistic about LeVert’s prognosis, viewing the injury as a “minor” setback and believing that he could still be ready to return around the start of the regular season.

There will be more testing to come on the injury, Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter).

LeVert, 27, has dealt with multiple serious health issues since entering the NBA in 2016. He broke his leg in gruesome fashion near the start of the 2018/19 season, then had surgery earlier this year to treat renal cell carcinoma of his left kidney.

When he got healthy and debuted for the Pacers last season, LeVert made a strong first impression, averaging 20.7 PPG and 4.9 APG in 35 games (32.9 MPG). The team had been hoping the former first-round pick would be 100% healthy entering his first full season in Indiana, but it looks like his status for opening night is up in the air.

The Pacers have been dealt some of the worst injury luck to open the 2021/22 league year. Edmond Sumner sustained a torn Achilles tendon that will likely sideline him for the entire season, while T.J. Warren‘s recovery from a foot injury is progressing slower than expected and he has been ruled out indefinitely.

Pacers Notes: Stanley, LeVert, Duarte, Jackson

Cassius Stanley may already be nearing the end of his time with the Pacers, writes J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. Indiana withdrew its qualifying offer last week for Stanley, who was taken with the 54th pick in the 2020 draft, making him an unrestricted free agent.

It’s the latest in a series of events that show the second-year shooting guard might not be in the organization’s long-term plans. Stanley saw limited playing time last season, averaging about four minutes per night in 24 games, even though management instructed former coach Nate Bjorkgren to use him more often to help develop his game, sources tell Michael. Stanley rarely got off the bench, even with injuries to Jeremy Lamb, Malcolm Brogdon and Edmond Sumner.

During this year’s Summer League, Stanley found himself behind undrafted rookie Duane Washington, who signed a two-way deal with the team. Michael got conflicting reports from sources about whether Stanley will be invited to training camp, and the best offer he might get from the Pacers is a one-year Exhibit 10 contract. Michael states that Stanley figures to get similar or even better offers from other teams.

There’s more from Indiana:

  • The Pacers’ search for a third point guard includes a plan to use Brogdon off the ball more often, Michael adds. Indiana explored point guard options in free agency and brought back T.J. McConnell at $35MM over four years. Caris LeVert can help with playmaking duties, but new coach Rick Carlisle prefers to keep him as the primary scorer and doesn’t want to burden him with running the offense, according to Michael.
  • First-round pick Chris Duarte showed off his versatility during Summer League, Michael observes in a separate story. Duarte directed the defense and displayed an ability to be a finisher, a shooter or a creator on offense. “We’re putting him in different situations, wanting him to read the game, feel the game,” said coach Mike Weinar. “A lot of the NBA game now is feel. When you get towards the playoffs and intense basketball you certainly don’t want to be calling plays all the time.”
  • Rookie Isaiah Jackson showed good instincts on defense, even though he didn’t get to practice with his teammates before Summer League began, Michael adds. Jackson was acquired from the Lakers in a trade and wasn’t cleared to play until midway through the first game.

Pacers Rumors: Turner, Budenholzer, Shaw, Bjorkgren, More

Prior to the 2021 trade deadline, J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star reported that the Hornets, Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Pelicans were among the teams to express interest in Pacers big man Myles Turner. With Turner possibly available again this summer in trade talks, many of those teams could renew their interest in the NBA’s shot-blocking leader.

Exploring that possibility, Michael tweets that the Hornets and Timberwolves are the teams that seem to “really” want Turner. Michael speculates (via Twitter) that Charlotte would be the team most likely to make an aggressive trade offer for the 25-year-old if the Pacers are willing to move him.

Here’s more out of Indiana:

  • If the Bucks decide to move on from Mike Budenholzer after their season ends, he’d move to the top of the Pacers’ list of potential head coaching candidates, league sources tell J. Michael. Michael adds that G League Ignite coach Brian Shaw, formerly a Pacers assistant, is also expected to be a serious candidate for the job.
  • In a subscriber-only piece for The Indianapolis Star, Michael takes a look at the factors that led to Nate Bjorkgren‘s ouster after just one season. One league executive described Bjorkgren’s coaching style as “fake positivity,” according to Michael, who also provides details on Bjorkgren’s tendency to micro-manage and his failure to hold players accountable. Michael adds that the first-year coach “made sure those beneath him knew their place,” which lines up with a May report that stated Bjorkgren didn’t treat his assistants particularly well.
  • Although the Pacers haven’t ruled out blowing up their roster, team owner Herb Simon may be averse to that idea, according to Michael, who suggests the club seems likely to bring back Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon, and T.J. Warren.

Pacers’ Pritchard Talks Bjorkgren, Frontcourt, FAs, More

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said no decisions have been made yet on the future of head coach Nate Bjorkgren, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star writes. Bjorkgren isn’t the only one whose future is up in the air, according to Pritchard, who pointed out that his own performance is still being evaluated by team ownership as well.

“I’m being evaluated. I’m being evaluated every day,” Pritchard said. “(Pacers owner) Herb (Simon) has to decide if I’m fit for this job and what I need to improve on. Then Nate and I will have a long conversation over many days on what he needs to improve on. … He is our coach as of now and I’ll have a fair discussion with him.”

The Pacers’ president of basketball operations acknowledged that Bjorkgren’s first year on the job was far from perfect. While Pritchard liked Bjorkgren’s handle on X’s and O’s, he said that the first-year coach did have a tendency to micromanage. Still, Pacers players didn’t express during their exit meetings that they were unhappy with Bjorkgren, Pritchard added.

Pritchard also pushed back against the idea that the Pacers hadn’t adequately done their homework on Bjorkgren before hiring him last summer, as Michael tweets.

We probably did 15 interviews around Nate,” Pritchard said. “We knew that he’s very specific in the way he likes things. We knew that. You got to give a coach some flexibility to do what he likes to do.”

Here’s more from Pritchard’s end-of-season presser:

  • Pritchard remains convinced that the Pacers can succeed without moving one of Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis (Twitter link via Michael). We like them both,” Pritchard said of the frontcourt duo. “They can definitely play together. You can stagger them.
  • Pritchard referred to Doug McDermott and T.J. McConnell as “core to what we’ve done” (Twitter link via Michael). Both players will be unrestricted free agents this summer, but it sounds like there’s mutual interest in continuing those relationships.
  • Although Pritchard stressed that the Pacers won’t be desperate to make deals this summer, he said he’d prefer not to get stuck in the “middle ground” between contending and rebuilding. I want to get in or get out,” Pritchard said, according to Michael (Twitter links). “Out means getting picks (and revamping the roster).”
  • Pritchard referred to the Pacers’ defense as “by far the most important thing that we have to take a look at,” as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. It remains to be seen whether that means addressing the personnel or the coaching staff and schemes.
  • Caris LeVert is one Pacer who has yet to have his exit meeting with team management, since he remains in isolation due to the COVID-19 protocols and wants to conduct his meeting in person (Twitter link via Agness).

Caris LeVert In Protocols, Will Miss Tuesday’s Game

Pacers guard Caris LeVert has been placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and won’t be available for tonight’s play-in game against the Hornets, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

LeVert is expected to miss multiple games if Indiana advances in the tournament and reaches the playoffs, sources tell Charania (Twitter link). He will likely be in the protocols for 10-14 days, Charania adds (Twitter link).

LeVert has been a valuable part of Indiana’s lineup since returning in mid-March from surgery to treat renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer. A small mass was discovered on LeVert’s kidney as part of a physical after he was traded from the Nets in January.

In 35 games with the Pacers, LeVert is averaging 20.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per night.

The Pacers were already expected to be shorthanded on Tuesday, with Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J. Warren among the players sidelined due to injuries. Malcolm Brogdon (right hamstring) and Domantas Sabonis (left quad) are listed as questionable, per the team (Twitter link).

Fischer’s Latest: Mavs, Fournier, Rockets, Drummond, Gasol

The Mavericks ended up making just one relatively modest move at the trade deadline, acquiring J.J. Redick and Nicolo Melli in a trade with New Orleans. However, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, that deal may have been a fail-safe option for Dallas as the team explored other options leading up to last Thursday afternoon.

As Fischer explains, the Mavericks also explored a trade that would have sent James Johnson and two second-round pick to Orlando in a package for Evan Fournier. The Magic ultimately chose a similar offer from Boston that allowed them to create a $17MM+ trade exception instead of taking back a matching salary like Johnson’s.

The Mavericks also spoke to the Rockets about Victor Oladipo, sources tell Fischer, but those talks didn’t gain momentum.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • During the James Harden trade talks earlier in the year, the Rockets never projected much interest in hanging onto Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert as part of that deal, Fischer says. Houston didn’t view Allen as a long-term frontcourt fit alongside Christian Wood and wanted to roll the dice on Oladipo recapturing his All-NBA form, a gamble that didn’t work out.
  • Fischer lists the Raptors, Bulls, Mavericks, Clippers, Celtics, Heat, Hornets, Nets, Knicks, and Lakers as teams that showed some level of interest in Cavaliers center Andre Drummond before he was bought out, but none of those clubs could ultimately put together a package that matched the big man’s $28.75MM salary and also appealed to Cleveland. After he was bought out, Drummond was intrigued by the Celtics and spoke to Boston point guard (and fellow UConn alum) Kemba Walker, but ultimately decided to sign with the Lakers.
  • With Drummond now in Los Angeles, some executives are wondering whether the Lakers will consider buying out Marc Gasol, per Fischer. “When they get fully healthy, it’s gonna be a logjam,” one assistant GM said, referring to a frontcourt that also features big men Anthony Davis and Montrezl Harrell, along with power forwards LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma. It’s worth noting Gasol has a second guaranteed year on his contract, though it’s only worth the minimum.