Caris LeVert

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.

Goodwill’s Latest: Brogdon, Blazers, McGee, Heat, Oubre, More

Multiple teams have indicated that the Pacers are open to listening to pitches on Malcolm Brogdon, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Brogdon is only in the second season of a four-year, $85MM contract, but Goodwill suggests that Indiana is comfortable with the idea of Caris LeVert manning the point if the team gets a deal it likes for Brogdon.

In addition to Brogdon, another Pacers point guard – Aaron Holiday – is thought to be available. A report last week indicated Indiana was seeking a first-round pick for Holiday, which Goodwill confirms. According to Goodwill, Holiday seems to have “fallen out of favor” somewhat in Indiana.

Here’s more from Goodwill:

  • The Trail Blazers are among the teams with interest in Cavaliers center JaVale McGee, per Goodwill. McGee could be had via trade — it remains to be seen whether he and Cleveland would work out a buyout if he stays put at the deadline.
  • The Nets are dangling Spencer Dinwiddie and a second-round pick as they look to bolster their bench, sources tell Yahoo Sports. Brooklyn has discussed players like Avery Bradley, Kendrick Nunn, and Maurice Harkless with the Heat, Goodwill says.
  • Kelly Oubre‘s camp believes the Warriors forward is capable of getting a “top-10 deal” in free agency this offseason, per Goodwill. Presumably, that means one of the top 10 most valuable free agent contracts signed this summer.
  • Goodwill suggests that former Cavaliers executive Brock Aller – who is now the Knicks‘ VP of strategy – is worth keeping an eye on in the event that Cleveland moves on from current general manager Koby Altman at some point. Aller has a long-standing relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, Goodwill notes.

New York Notes: Knicks, Ball, Rose, Kyrie, Nets

The point guard position remains a priority for the Knicks both in the short and long term, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who says that Lonzo Ball is higher on president of basketball operations Leon Rose‘s wish list than Victor Oladipo.

The odds of making a trade for Ball look slimmer now than they did a month or two ago. The former No. 2 overall pick has played well, and Will Guillory of The Athletic says he’d “really be shocked” if the 23-year-old doesn’t remain in New Orleans at least through the trade deadline. Still, Ball’s restricted free agency looms, putting the Pelicans in a tough spot.

As John Hollinger of The Athletic notes in his conversation with Guillory, New Orleans is only about $20MM away from next season’s projected tax line, so accommodating a lucrative new deal for Ball will be a challenge, especially if the team also wants to re-sign Josh Hart. According to Berman, the Knicks – who will have plenty of cap room available this summer – would be “heavily on Ball’s radar” in restricted free agency.

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

  • The Knicks still aren’t sure exactly when Derrick Rose will clear the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to head coach Tom Thibodeau. He’s feeling a lot better,” Thibodeau said, per Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). “… As soon as he can get back on the court we can let everyone know, but you just gotta follow the protocol.”
  • The Nets will be missing two of their stars for Wednesday’s game in Indianapolis, as Kyrie Irving (right groin soreness) has been ruled out (Twitter link). Kevin Durant (hamstring) also remains on the shelf, and Blake Griffin (injury management) also hasn’t been given the green light to make his Brooklyn debut.
  • As Zach Braziller of The New York Post writes, the Nets are looking forward to an emotional reunion on Wednesday with Pacers guard Caris LeVert, who has had an eventful two months since being traded to Indiana. LeVert underwent surgery to treat renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer, but is already back on the court for the Pacers. “We’re really proud that Caris is returning to play here,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “He’s incredibly well-loved in this organization, a world-class human being, a terrific basketball player. There’s no doubt everyone here is rooting for him.”

Caris LeVert “Grateful” To Be Playing Again

Pacers guard Caris LeVert felt “grateful” to be playing in an NBA game two months after doctors found a small mass on his left kidney, writes Eric Woodyard of ESPN. The discovery was made during a physical required to complete the four-team trade that send him from Brooklyn to Indiana in January. LeVert underwent surgery 10 days later for renal cell carcinoma, a form of kidney cancer.

He made his debut with the Pacers Saturday night, playing 27 minutes and contributing 13 points and six rebounds in a win at Phoenix. LeVert was in the starting lineup, even though Saturday marked just his second time playing five-on-five since the operation. He admitted having “heavy legs” as he continues to work his way back into basketball shape, but was happy with his performance.

“A month and a half ago, two months ago, I didn’t even know if I knew I was even gonna be out here, especially this soon, just with everything that happened, so it’s definitely a level of gratefulness and just happy to be on the court,” LeVert said.

The Pacers had the option to void the trade after LeVert’s condition was discovered, but they chose to keep him as a show of support and an expression of confidence that he would be able to return before the season ended. The organization has worked to make sure LeVert felt comfortable during his recovery, and he received a huge ovation from his teammates last night as he walked into the locker room after the game.

“Absolutely, he energized our team, and his character level is so high,” coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “He’s such a good person. He’s been a great teammate throughout this entire time that he’s been out, so our guys were very happy to have him back out there on the court.”

Central Notes: Diallo, Markkanen, Carter, LeVert

Pistons coach Dwane Casey is thrilled with the trade that brought Hamidou Diallo from the Thunder, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Even though Detroit gave up a shooter by parting with Svi Mykhailiuk, the team believes the move will pay off with an upgrade on defense.

“He’s a wing defender – can guard one through three, the smaller fours,” Casey said of Diallo. “Excellent wing runner. He’s quick, athletic – probably one of the most athletic wings in the league. Needs to continue to work on his 3-point shooting, which is what our league is about. But he’ll definitely step right in as one of our top defenders. He has a wingspan that’s out of this world, anticipates well and competes.”

The Pistons aren’t sure when Diallo will be cleared to play, Langlois adds. He missed the last four games with OKC because of groin soreness and may require a quarantine period before being permitted to join his new teammates.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Although they’ve lost two straight games since the All-Star break, the Bulls have to be encouraged by the strong return of Lauri Markkanen, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. After missing 13 games with a strained right shoulder, Markkanen scored a team-high 23 points Thursday against the Sixers and followed that with 20 points Friday against the Heat. “I felt all right,” Markkanen said after his first game back. “Physically, obviously there’s still just getting my wind back and my legs back into game shape. I had a couple practices, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I felt all right. Still got a ways to go, but not too bad.”
  • Bulls center Wendell Carter admitted Friday that he needs to play better, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Carter is averaging just 5.8 PPG in that span and shooting 32.3% from the floor. “I feel like I’ve regressed in that area of being more aggressive on the offensive end,” he said. “Just trying to play the right way, do everything that everybody is telling me to do. But at the same time, I understand that me being aggressive will be better for my team. So I just got to play a lot better on the offensive end.”
  • Pacers guard Caris LeVert isn’t on a minutes restriction tonight in his first game since having surgery for renal cell carcinoma in January, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.

Caris LeVert Set To Make Pacers Debut On Saturday

Pacers guard Caris LeVert is on track to appear in his first game for his new team on Saturday in Phoenix, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

LeVert’s impending Pacers debut represents a remarkable turn of events for the 26-year-old, who was traded from Brooklyn to Indiana in mid-January in the four-team trade that sent James Harden to the Nets. At the time of the deal, a small mass was discovered on LeVert’s left kidney as part of a routine physical. He underwent surgery 10 days later to treat renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer.

While there was plenty of optimism at the time of the procedure that LeVert would make a full recovery, there was some uncertainty about whether or not he’d be able to return to the court before the end of the 2020/21 season. Now, he’s set to play for Indiana much earlier than anticipated, only about a month-and-a-half after his surgery.

As J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star writes, Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren had told reporters on Thursday that LeVert wouldn’t be out much longer and that there was a chance he’d play on the team’s three-game road trip, which begins on Friday in Los Angeles. Having seen him play in practice, LeVert’s new teammates are excited about the effect he’ll have on the struggling club, which has lost 12 of its lost 17 games.

“He looked great. He looked confident,” Domantas Sabonis said, per Michael. “Really good in the pick-and-roll, being aggressive going downhill, giving us more options. He’s going to attract a lot of defense to him, creating open shots for everybody. That’s what we’ve been missing.”

The Pacers are also hoping to get injured forward T.J. Warren back at some point this season, but he’s expected to be sidelined for a while yet as he recovers from foot surgery.

Aggregation Restriction Lifted For Players In James Harden Trade

The trade aggregation restriction has expired for the seven players who were involved in this season’s most significant deal, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. That means everyone who was part of the four-team swap that sent James Harden to the Nets in January can now be combined with other salaries in another trade.

While that may not matter much to the other three teams involved, it’s significant for the Rockets, particularly involving Victor Oladipo, who has an expiring $21MM contract. Oladipo has remained a productive scorer in Houston, averaging 19.9 PPG in 15 games, but he’s shooting just 38.7% from the field and 31.3% from three-point range.

The rebuilding Rockets will have to decide whether they want to make a long-term investment in Oladipo, who will turn 29 before the season ends and is still sitting out one-half of back-to-back sets due to health concerns. He declined a two-year, $45MM extension offer from Houston shortly after the trade, the largest the Rockets could offer at the time, but the team admits that was just a way to show he was wanted. Oladipo will seek a longer deal once free agency arrives.

If Houston decides not to make that investment, its best option is to trade him before the March 25 deadline. The Knicks would be among the teams with interest, according to a report this week.

Owning the league’s third-worst record after 13 straight losses, the Rockets are expected to be among the league’s most active sellers heading into the deadline. They will also be able to aggregate the $9.6MM contract for Dante Exum and the $1.78MM deal for Rodions Kurucs, as both were acquired in the Harden deal.

In addition to Harden, the other players in the trade – who can now be aggregated – were Pacers guard Caris LeVert and Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince.

Central Notes: D. Smith, LeVert, Wade, Bulls

Pistons guard Dennis Smith Jr., acquired in a trade with the Knicks on February 7, has shown flashes since that deal of the potential that made him a lottery pick in 2017. Smith has averaged 8.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 1.3 SPG for Detroit, and had his best game on Wednesday, putting up a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Raptors.

Smith and teammate Mason Plumlee were the first Pistons players to put triple-doubles in the same game in 57 years (link via Pistons.com). Before joining his new team, Smith had only played in three games for the Knicks this season and had requested to play in the G League.

Here’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Pacers guard Caris LeVert has progressed to doing practice drills, and 1-on-1 training, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. LeVert underwent surgery to remove a previously unknown kidney cancer in January after being traded to the Pacers in the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn.
  • Cavaliers second-year forward Dean Wade, who recently had his 2020/21 salary guaranteed, has started in the last five games after no prior starts in his first 35 NBA games. Most recently, he had 17 points and six rebounds against the Pacers on Wednesday. “I never doubted myself,” Wade said, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “Obviously, through the whole journey, every once in a while, you’re going to think, ‘Can I do it?’… “I’ve always believed in myself.”
  • Tension between a head coach and a GM has been a recurring theme for Jerry Reinsdorf‘s franchises over the years, but there doesn’t seem to be any drama between new Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and head coach Billy Donovanwrites Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I think he’s doing a great job,” Karnisovas said of Donovan. “I’ve watched all the media availabilities by him… And I think the one question that’s always coming up is, ‘When do they meet? When do they talk?’ We talk every day. We talk before every practice, we spend time during practices, talk after practices, before games, after games, so the communication is always there. I expected that, and more so, there’s no misunderstandings from my side or his side.” 

Bulls Have Rebuffed Pacers’ Interest In Garrett Temple

The Pacers made an effort to trade for Bulls guard Garrett Temple, a source with knowledge of the negotiations tells J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required; hat tip to Blog A Bull). However, according to Michael, Chicago “showed no interest” in sending Temple to a division rival.

Temple has played a regular rotation role in Chicago this season, averaging 8.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 2.1 APG in 33 contests (28.4 MPG). While those numbers don’t exactly pop off the page, Michael notes that Temple is capable of guarding a variety of guards and wings, can knock down 3-pointers (.347 career 3PT%), and would provide the sort of veteran experience and intangibles that Indiana seeks.  He’s also on an affordable $4.8MM expiring contract.

The Bulls and Pacers are currently neck-and-neck in the Eastern Conference standings, with matching 16-18 records putting them in a tie for the No. 9 seed. So in addition to being a division rival, Indiana is one of Chicago’s prime competitors in the playoff race, making the Bulls’ reluctance to make a deal unsurprising.

According to Michael, the Pacers initially weren’t planning on making any major moves before the trade deadline, and still may not — if Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren are able to return at some point in the second half, that duo is capable of making a bigger impact than just about any other deadline acquisition. Michael says that LeVert could be back before the trade deadline, with Warren’s return coming later.

However, after starting the season with eight wins in 12 games, the Pacers are just 8-14 since, and could be in the market for a proven veteran to help stabilize the defense. Michael points to Thaddeus Young as a player who would be an ideal fit for Indiana, but acknowledges the Bulls are probably even less likely to move Young than Temple.

Charania’s Latest: Wolves, LeVert, Kings, Spurs, More

The Timberwolves continue to explore ways to address their power forward position and have shown interest in the likes of Hawks big man John Collins and Magic forward Aaron Gordon, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Multiple previous reports indicated that Minnesota inquired on Gordon during the offseason, but Charania’s report suggests the Timberwolves and Magic had “substantive discussions” on the power forward before he injured his ankle earlier this season. Those talks are expected to resume as Gordon nears a return to action, per Charania.

The Hawks’ and Magic’s asking prices for Collins and Gordon will be substantial, Charania adds. Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas hasn’t been shy about shaking up the roster since assuming control of the basketball operations department in 2019, but it remains to be seen how aggressive he’ll be at this year’s deadline with Minnesota holding the league’s worst record and at risk of losing its 2021 first-round pick (which is top-three protected).

Here’s more from Charania:

  • Pacers guard Caris LeVert, who underwent surgery for kidney cancer in January after being traded to Indiana, is expected to play at some point in the second half, sources tell Charania. LeVert’s exact return timeline remains up in the air, since the club will be cautious and patient with him.
  • Kings forwards Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica are both expected to receive interest from potential trade partners, with the Sixers, Heat, Warriors, Bucks, and Celtics among the clubs to display interest in Bjelica, per Charania.
  • The Spurs are receiving and listening to inquiries on their veterans on expiring contracts, including DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, and Trey Lyles, sources tell The Athletic. Still, San Antonio is firmly in the playoff picture in the West and typically doesn’t make big in-season deals, so a deadline blockbuster seems unlikely.
  • Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who will likely miss the rest of the season due to a knee injury, has drawn interest from multiple teams who value his Bird rights, according to Charania. We heard last week that Brooklyn has made Dinwiddie available in trade discussions.