Caris LeVert

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Payton, VanVleet, LeVert

While Jaylen Brown and the Celtics have reportedly opened talks on a possible rookie scale extension for the fourth-year swingman, a new deal by the October 21 deadline is considered unlikely. As one Eastern Conference executive pointed out to Frank Urbina of HoopsHype, it’s easy to see why each side may be reluctant to get something done before the summer of 2020, when Brown can become a restricted free agent.

“The Celtics may be thinking that they don’t want to give a max deal to their third-best player, but Jaylen Brown may be thinking that he can be the top free agent next summer if he has a big year,” that executive said. “Brown could play his way into a max contract. He’s going to have a bigger role than ever before with Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Marcus Morris gone, and next summer’s free agent class is weak.”

As Urbina notes, that Eastern executive believes the Celtics should be comfortable at this point going up to about $20MM per year for Brown — or even higher if they feel like he’s in position to potentially secure a maximum-salary offer sheet next July.

“If you want him to be part of your core long-term and want to lock him in, it may make sense to give him more,” the exec said. “Boston may be comfortable saying, ‘We’ll give you something around $25MM [per year] now to sort of get a discount and not pay the max.’ And Brown really could be the top free agent available next summer, so I could see the argument for giving him the max.”

As we wait to see whether Boston can find common ground with the 22-year-old, here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • With Dennis Smith Jr. on the shelf due to a back strain, offseason free agent addition Elfrid Payton may be playing his way into the Knicks‘ starting point guard job, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. No matter who starts, it will be a big year for all three Knicks point guards — Smith will be extension-eligible next summer, Payton has a non-guaranteed 2020/21 salary, and Frank Ntilikina will be eligible for restricted free agency.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic explores whether the Raptors‘ one-year extension for Kyle Lowry will affect future negotiations with Fred VanVleet, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020. As Koreen notes, VanVleet has talked about wanting to be a starter, and there may be teams willing to offer him that role – and pay him like a starter – next summer.
  • After signing a three-year extension with the Nets this offseason, Caris LeVert is eager to prove he’s capable of becoming a star, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic. “I’m at the point where now I feel I can control how good I can be,” LeVert said. “I’m going to push myself every single day and see where that ceiling is. I don’t know where it is. I don’t like to put limits on myself.”

New York Notes: Knicks, Allen, Jordan, LeVert

After a spending spree in free agency that saw them invest in four veteran power forwards, the Knicks aren’t opposed to the idea of using some bigger lineups this season, head coach David Fizdale said on the first day of training camp, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

“When you start talking about Kevin Knox and Marcus Morris at the small forward, right there that makes you pretty big,” Fizdale said. “You can see the pecking order down the line. I can put a lot of different guys on the floor. I can play Bobby [Portis] and Mitchell [Robinson] together with Marcus Morris, that’s a really big lineup. And R.J. Barrett is no small guy at the two or three either.”

In addition to using a bigger forward like Morris at the three, Fizdale is also open to making sure his power forwards get minutes by using some of them at the five. According to Begley, the Knicks’ head coach pointed specifically to Julius Randle as one strong candidate for a role at center: I can put him out there with Marcus Morris at the four and put a lot of pressure on a defense that way.”

As we wait to see how Fizdale balances his roster, let’s round up a few more notes on New York’s two teams:

  • After the Knicks struck out on star players in free agency this offseason, Frank Isola of The Athletic wonders if the most logical future free agent target for the franchise might be an executive – Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri – rather than a player.
  • There’s no animosity between Jarrett Allen and newly-added big man DeAndre Jordan, who are embracing their battle for the Nets‘ starting center job, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details. “It’s going great. Jarrett’s a great young player. He’s proven to be a great rim protector and he’s getting better each year,” Jordan said. “We’re definitely challenging him every day in practice. For us, being able to battle against each other every day is going to be good not only for us individually but great for our team.”
  • After signing a new long-term extension with the Nets this summer, Caris LeVert is looking to take his game to another level in 2019/20, writes Howie Kussoy of The New York Post. “I think [his ceiling’s] really high,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said of LeVert, pointing to the guard’s strong start to the 2018/19 season. “He was really dominating, and in the playoffs, he was starting to hit his stride. You could argue he was our best player in the playoffs. … There’s guys that want to be great and guys who are desperate to be great, and he’s in that desperate category. There’s only a few guys like that.”

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, LeVert, Harris, Bolden

Jayson Tatum rolled his left ankle in the final seconds of Team USA’s nail-biter of a win over Turkey today, but the injury – diagnosed as an ankle sprain – doesn’t appear to be serious. The Celtics forward texted head coach Brad Stevens and told him as much about 20 minutes after suffering the injury, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Tatum later addressed reporters in China, including Joe Vardon of The Athletic and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Twitter links), and said he was already feeling better. The 21-year-old was walking under his own power and didn’t have much of a limp, according to reports, which is great news for the Celtics.

It remains to be seen whether Tatum’s World Cup run is over. We should know more by Wednesday, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if USA Basketball plays it safe with the young forward, sending him back stateside to focus on getting healthy for his upcoming season with the Celtics.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights (Twitter link) passes along the official numbers for Caris LeVert‘s new rookie scale extension, which starts at about $16.2MM in 2020/21. As initially reported, the three-year deal with the Nets is worth exactly $52.5MM and is fully guaranteed, with no options.
  • Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris, who put up 11 points and five rebounds today for Team USA, is relishing an opportunity to represent his country at the 2019 World Cup, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details. ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter) that Harris should be one of the very best UFA shooting guards on what figures to be a weak NBA free agent market in 2020.
  • Within his latest mailbag for The Athletic, Derek Bodner writes that while the Sixers don’t appear ready to trust Jonah Bolden as their primary backup center, he also doesn’t believe the club views Bolden as trade bait.

Nets Notes: Carmelo, LeVert, Prince, LiAngelo

In an interview with TMZ (video link), Carmelo Anthony offers little insight into a report last week that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are campaigning for the Nets to sign him. Anthony is close with the two stars and played with them, as well as new Brooklyn center DeAndre Jordan, on the 2016 Olympic team.

“That’s family,” Anthony said. “So, that’s bigger than basketball. If something happens, something’s gonna happen.”

A source told Frank Isola of The Athletic that Nets GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have watched Anthony this summer and are considering adding him to the team. Brooklyn has a full roster, but will be able to sign a player once Wilson Chandler serves five games of his 25-game PED suspension. Anthony’s representatives have spoken to the Sixers as well, according to Isola.

There’s more this morning from Brooklyn:

  • Fresh off signing a three-year, $52.5MM extension, Caris LeVert tells Bill Bender of The Sporting News that his next goal is to become one of the NBA’s best players. He also believes the Nets are ready to join the league’s elite teams after their success in free agency. “When you get guys like KD, Kyrie and DeAndre, expectations rise,” he said. “We’re looking forward to that. We’ve been working for that. I think everybody loves playing on a big stage. We’re definitely looking forward to this year and the challenges it’s going to bring.”
  • Taurean Prince was a less celebrated addition for the Nets, but he could play an important role in making the team a contender, writes David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders. Brooklyn agreed to acquire Prince from the Hawks before the start of free agency, so he got to enjoy watching the team’s success in free agency. He called being traded “bittersweet,” but said he’s eager to be part of a rising power in Brooklyn. “I’m someone who wants to win more than they want to score,” Prince said. “My big thing is getting to the playoffs and being able to play in those type of opportunities and environment.”
  • LiAngelo Ball claims the Nets were one of three teams that talked to him about a possible Summer League role, relays Ralph Orense of ClutchPoints. On an episode of “Ball in the Family,” Ball says the Thunder and Heat also expressed interest.

Nets Notes: Kurucs, Prince, LeVert, Luxury Tax

Finding a power forward who can score from the perimeter won’t be a concern for the Nets during the 2020/21 season, but they’ll need someone to contribute until Kevin Durant recovers from an Achilles injury. Jason Max Rose of NetsDaily examines Brooklyn’s options, with the focus on Rodions Kurucs and Taurean Prince.

Kurucs, 21, is a holdover at the position after starting 46 games last year. He averaged 8.5 PPG and put up shooting numbers of 45/31/78 in what was essentially his first full professional season. He excels at passing and cutting, Rose observes, and works hard on defense. The biggest concern about his game has been rebounding, but reporters who saw him at Summer League said he has added weight and looks stronger.

Acquired in a July trade with the Hawks, Prince’s rebounding numbers last season were even worse than Kurucs, but he makes up for it with a better offensive game. He shot a career-best 39% from 3-point range and should get more opportunities to score from long distance under Nets coach Kenny Atkinson.

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • This week’s rookie scale extension for Caris LeVert is more evidence that the Nets are willing to spend big to build a winner, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Ownership gave LeVert $52.5MM over the next three years and pushed its summer spending past $400MM after landing Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan in free agency.
  • LeVert’s extension almost guarantees that the Nets will be a taxpaying team in 2020/21, salary cap expert Albert Nahmad writes for SNY.tv. Brooklyn already has $122MM in salary committed to nine players for that season, and Nahmad estimates the team will be about $15MM below the tax line when deciding whether to re-sign Prince and Joe Harris. He adds that Nets are unlikely to pay the tax this season, meaning a repeater tax won’t be a concern until 2023/24. They will probably exceed the apron in 2021/22 when an expected extension for Jarrett Allen would take effect.
  • Stefan Weissenboeck, who serves as Brooklyn’s unofficial shooting coach, will be back for another season, according to Yanir A. Rubenstein of NetsDaily. Weissenboeck is an assistant coach in the German league, but provides tips to the Nets through videos and occasional trips to the United States. “I’m happy about the trust they put in me, and I love the job,” he said.

Nets Sign Caris LeVert To Extension

AUGUST 26: The Nets have officially signed LeVert to an extension, the team announced today in a press release.

“Caris personifies what it means to be a Brooklyn Net, and we firmly believe his best basketball is in front of him,” GM Sean Marks said in a statement. “The growth he has displayed in his first three seasons is a testament to his tireless work ethic, along with an unrelenting will to maximize his talents and achieve team success. Our entire organization is excited to continue to have Caris as one of the leaders of our program moving forward.”

AUGUST 25: The Nets and guard Caris LeVert have agreed to a rookie scale extension, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that the new deal is worth $52.5MM over three years. It will go into effect during the 2020/21 season, once LeVert’s rookie scale contract expires.

LeVert, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Sunday, was emerging as Brooklyn’s go-to option at the start of the 2018/19 season, averaging 19.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 3.7 APG in his first 13 games (30.7 MPG). However, a dislocated foot derailed his breakout season, forcing him out of action until February.

In his final 26 regular season contests, LeVert didn’t show the same explosiveness or shooting touch, averaging just 11.2 PPG on .394/.312/.661 shooting in 24.9 minutes per contest. However, in the Nets’ playoff series vs. the Sixers, he flashed that early-season form, scoring a team-high 21.0 PPG with a .493/.462/.724 shooting line in five games (28.8 MPG).

LeVert’s new three-year, $52.5MM deal – which will have annual cap hits of $16.2MM, $17.5MM, and $18.8MM, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks – is a fascinating deal for both sides. The Michigan alum has star upside, so the Nets may have themselves a steal by locking him up for a per-year salary of $17.5MM for three seasons in his prime.

On the other hand, as Marks observes (via Twitter), LeVert’s career has been plagued by injuries dating back to his college days, and he has yet to play a full NBA season, so getting some long-term security likely appealed to him. Plus, by accepting a three-year extension, he’ll be in position to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023 as he enters his age-29 season. Assuming he delivers on his potential, he could be in line for a bigger payday at that time.

It remains to be seen how LeVert’s game will be impacted by the arrival of veterans like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan, but the club clearly views him as one of its core players. Now that he has been locked up through the 2022/23 season, his contract is set to expire at the same time as those four-year deals (though Durant and Irving can opt out a year earlier).

With an eight-figure salary for Spencer Dinwiddie also on the books for next season, Brooklyn won’t have any cap room to work with in the summer of 2020. That shouldn’t be a problem — next year’s free agent class is expected to be weak, and it lost another intriguing name with LeVert coming off the board.

LeVert is the third player to reach an agreement with his current team on a rookie scale extension this offseason, with Ben Simmons (Sixers) and Jamal Murray (Nuggets) having previously signed max deals. There are still 17 players eligible to sign rookie scale extensions, including Pascal Siakam, Buddy Hield, and Jaylen Brown, among others.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nets Notes: LeVert, Durant, Free Agency

Swingman Caris LeVert is going to be a key piece for the Nets this summer, in more ways than one, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. LeVert, affectionately nicknamed “Baby Durant” due to his lanky build, style of play, and relationship with his nickname-namesake, is the one player on the Brooklyn roster with connections to Kevin Durant, the cream of this summer’s free-agent crop.

But on top of that, LeVert is also a key piece of the Nets’ young core – he led the team in scoring before injuring his foot and then again during the playoffs – and locking him up to a long-term contract extension should be near the top of the team’s offseason to-do list, right next to making a run at Durant, writes Lewis.

LeVert, 24, just completed the third season of a rookie contract he signed after being drafted No. 20 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Therefore, per the CBA, the Nets have until the day before the start of the 2019/20 season (but not before the end of the July Moratorium) to lock LeVert up to a long-term deal, potentially through 2024 (or 2025 if the club designates him), right before LeVert turns 30.

As Lewis notes, the Nets opted not to extend the rookie contract of D’Angelo Russell last summer, instead letting the 23-year-old All-Star hit restricted free agency. Brooklyn is still in a good position to re-sign Russell, but it’s likely they could have gotten him on a cheaper contract last summer before his breakout 2018/19 season. Failing to extend LeVert could again cost the Nets money next summer should LeVert outperform expectations in 2019/20 akin to how Russell did this season.

Furthermore, keeping LeVert happy is important in order for the Nets to have the best chance at signing Durant this summer. And LeVert has made it clear he’s happy in Brooklyn. “I’d love to play here as long as possible,” LeVert said. “I love the city of Brooklyn, I love the coaches and the team here. So whatever we decide to do, I’ll be happy with.”

There’s more news out of Brooklyn this evening:

  • The Nets being ahead of schedule in their rebuild does not mean they should sacrifice their core to go wild in free agency, writes Sean Deveney of Sporting News. For example, Brooklyn could make a trade and let Russell go in free agency in order to create two max-contract slots. But doing so would destabilize the nucleus of a team that is on the rise, and there is no guarantee that the two-max players would fit into head coach Kenny Atkinson’s system. Even signing one max-guy shouldn’t be a no-brainer, writes Deveney, as that player could potentially stunt the growth of LeVert or a guy like Spencer Dinwiddie.
  • Despite the lack of an on-court rivalry between the two teams from the Big Apple, the Knicks and Nets could be headed for an offseason, front-office-oriented showdown this summer in the form of Durant’s free agency, writes Stefan Bondy of the Daily News. One factor in the Nets’ favor is location – per forward Jared Dudley – as the Nets practice in Brooklyn while the Knicks practice in Tarrytown, a village in Westchester County located roughly 30 miles north of Manhattan.
  • Frank Isola of The Athletic also chimed in on the difference in value between the Knicks and Nets from the eyes of free agents, writing that Madison Square Garden, fan base, and team history tip the scales in New York’s favor, despite the tremendous job that Atkinson and Sean Marks have done in the last three years.

New York Notes: Jordan, Robinson, Russell, LeVert

Mitchell Robinson will be the Knicks‘ starting center for the rest of the season, pushing DeAndre Jordan out of the rotation, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Coach David Fizdale made the move official yesterday, with Robinson and Luke Kornet each playing 36 minutes while Jordan never left the bench. The Knicks are also taking a long look at Kornet before deciding how to handle his upcoming free agency.

Fizdale has been holding off the move out of respect for Jordan, who was acquired from the Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis deal. The 30-year-old Jordan will also be a free agent this summer and is a close friend of Kevin Durant, whom the Knicks are hoping to sign. There had been talk that Jordan might seek a buyout, but he opted to remain in New York.

“I can’t speak highly enough about DJ,’’ Fizdale said. “I spoke to [Jordan] today about it. Asked him what he thought. The pro that he is — exactly what he’s been since he got here. He sacrificed not going to another team to stay here with the Knicks to help Mitchell. He said, ‘Coach, let’s get that kid in there and see what he can do and I’ll be ready for you.’ I can say he’s one of the most professional veterans I’ve ever been around, been a great leader.”

There’s more this morning from New York City:

  • Landing Durant would be just the first step toward solving the Knicks‘ problems, observes Steve Popper of Newsday. Massive overhaul is expected during the offseason on a roster where few players have established themselves as part of the future. Robinson and rookie Kevin Knox appear most likely to stay, but Knox and Durant play the same position.
  • The NetsD’Angelo Russell dominated Boston’s Terry Rozier Saturday in a matchup of the top two restricted free agent point guards who will be on the market this summer, notes Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Russell’s 29-point, 10-assist performance is part of a season of redemption that could land him a contract starting at more than $20MM a year. “Everybody was wrong obviously,” Russell said. “Everybody was wrong about me, so I don’t have to say anything.”
  • Nets guard Caris LeVert feels like he’s finally getting his game back after recovering from a severe right leg injury he suffered in November, relays Brian Lewis of The New York Post. LeVert posted his third straight solid game Saturday as Brooklyn tries to lock down a playoff spot. “I’ve just been trying to stay consistent with my habits off the court, get my work in, taking care of my body,” LeVert said.

Atlantic Notes: Monroe, Lowry, LeVert, Sixers

Greg Monroe is ready to contribute right away after signing a 10-day contract with the Celtics earlier today, relays Taylor Snow of NBA.com. The deal was finalized this afternoon after being first reported Friday and delayed amid rumors that Boston wanted to give the final roster spot to Thomas Robinson. An injury to Robert Williams last night, with Al Horford and Aron Baynes already sidelined, may have convinced the Celtics to add another center.

“Obviously those guys were having a few little injuries and have been missing a few games,” Monroe said. “So it’s definitely about helping them out and getting ready for the playoffs. That what it’s about, trying to get those guys fully healthy to make a run.”

The 28-year-old spent the first part of this season in Toronto, but has been out of the NBA since being acquired and then waived by the Nets at the trade deadline. Monroe hopes to help out the Celtics the way he did last year when he averaged 10.2 PPG and 6.3 RPG after joining the team in February.

“We’ve always thought highly of Greg,” coach Brad Stevens said. “… He’s a bright guy and when you put him through our stuff, he knows it right after he gets here. Doesn’t take him long.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors guard Kyle Lowry returned to the court tonight even though his right ankle isn’t fully healed, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Lowry missed back-to-back games after a scary incident Monday night, but said he felt like he needed to start playing again. “I could sit out until the playoffs with the type of injury I have but I want to play, keep a rhythm, get out there with the guys and play some basketball,” he said. “If I can get out there and play, I’m going to go play.”
  • Nets players aren’t waiting for summer to start recruiting Kevin Durant, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Durant’s new video series “Fly By” will include a tour of Brooklyn from D’Angelo Russell. Teammate Caris LeVert, who serves as Durant’s summertime workout partner, isn’t shy about making his pitch. “I don’t think superstars, especially Kevin, want to be the one who has to carry the whole team, the full load on his own,” LeVert said. “He’s in his 30s now, so he definitely wants to go to a team that has a good core, has a good culture, has good guys on the team, and we fit all those categories.”
  • The Sixers‘ blockbuster trades could backfire if they can’t keep the starting five together after this season, warns Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The front office will likely have to give max deals to both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, and J.J. Redick will be a free agent as well.

New York Notes: Dinwiddie, LeVert, Knox, Ntilikina

The Nets are looking forward to having three of their most productive players together for the stretch run, writes Mike Mazzeo of The New York Post. Spencer Dinwiddie will return to action tonight after thumb surgery sidelined him for about a month. The trio of Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert, who recently came back after missing three months with a dislocated right foot, have only been on the court together for 90 minutes all season.

“D’Lo is obviously playing at a high level. Caris is working his way back into form,” Dinwiddie said. “They’re going to do what they do, and our focus and our sights are set on the playoffs and trying to win as many games as possible, trying to be that team that not only makes it but strikes a little fear into some of those top seeds’ heart.”

Dinwiddie will be available for back-to-back games, coach Kenny Atkinson said, but his minutes will be limited at first and will gradually increase. The Nets were 6-8 while he was injured.

There’s more NBA news out of New York:

  • LeVert doesn’t want to blame the injury for the struggles he has encountered since returning, Mazzeo relays in a separate story. The Nets guard was off to a career-best start before getting hurt, averaging 18.4 PPG in his first 14 games. In the seven games since coming back, his scoring has dropped to 8.9 PPG. “Three months is a long time to be out, but I don’t want to put it all on the injury,” LeVert said. “I feel like I could have had better energy and defensively and maybe sparked something offensively. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it was.”
  • Knicks rookies Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier continue to exceed expectations, but first-round pick Kevin Knox‘s shooting woes are concerning, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Knox has hit just 5-of-28 shots in his last two games, continuing a problem that caused him to lose a starting job in the preseason. “I want him to stay aggressive,” coach David Fizdale said. “We’re not going to get caught up in the percentages right now. He’s taking shots he can make. So keep taking them.’’
  • After missing more than a month with a strained groin, Frank Ntilikina may return during a three-game road trip, Berman adds in another story. Ntilikina could be cleared for practice tomorrow, which would mark the first time he has played alongside Dennis Smith Jr. Ntilikina had taken over the Knicks‘ starting point guard role before being sidelined, but that position now belongs to Smith.