Chris Paul

Pacific Notes: Davis, Winslow, Sarver, Paul

The Lakers are hopeful Anthony Davis will return to action on Wednesday, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Davis has missed the last two game with left knee soreness. Los Angeles begins a three-game road trip at Dallas.

“We did an ultrasound on it,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “Everything is structurally intact. Just taking another day, with the two days off before the next game, and hopefully we’ll put this behind us.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers forward Justise Winslow had a productive 15-minute stint against Orlando on Saturday, contributing nine points and five rebounds. Winslow has been waiting patiently for opportunities, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. “Just sticking with it, the ups and downs, staying steady, not too high, not too low,” he said. “Really practicing what I preach, putting the work in, staying steady, staying ready, staying ready for my time, so it felt good just to make all the winning plays that I did (Saturday), just go out there and impact the game.” Winslow is in the first year of a two-year, $8MM deal.
  • Former Suns employees who signed nondisclosure agreements have begun scheduling and participating in interviews regarding the league’s investigation of owner Robert Sarver, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. The lawyers informed the former employees they would be released from the agreements in order to speak freely on the investigation. The league announced in early November they would investigate Sarver’s conduct and whether a toxic work environment existed within the organization.
  • It has been 10 years since then-commissioner David Stern voided a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times takes a look back at the circumstances surrounding the voided trade and the aftermath of the decision, which resulted in Paul landing with the Clippers.

Suns Notes: Williams, Booker, Paul, Sarver

Asked on Thursday night about the allegations of racism and misogyny leveled against Suns owner Robert Sarver, several of the team’s on-court leaders acknowledged the severity of those allegations while also stating that they’ll wait for more details to come out before jumping to any conclusions. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays, head coach Monty Williams and star guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul were among those who addressed the subject.

“As someone who is the caretaker of a program, I find all these things that are being said serious in nature,” Williams said, noting that the incidents described in the ESPN report occurred before he arrived in Phoenix. “It takes courage to come out and express yourself. But at the same time, I’m aware there are two sides to this equation. … We still have to wait to see how clear the facts can appear.

“… If any of that stuff happened while I was here, I wouldn’t be in this seat. The league is doing an investigation, and we’ll know more obviously once that is settled.”

[RELATED: NBA, WNBA To Launch Investigation Into Sarver’s Conduct]

Booker said that he hasn’t noticed any racist or misogynistic behavior from Sarver since joining the team in 2014, but he also disagreed with the team owner’s portrayal of former Suns head coach Earl Watson as an unreliable source. Watson was one of the individuals who went on the record with allegations against Sarver. Asked if he considered his former coach credible, Booker replied, “Earl? Yeah. That’s my guy.”

Watson, who is currently an assistant for the Raptors, issued a statement of his own on Thursday stating that he’s “not interested in engaging in an ongoing battle of fact” and that he doesn’t want to spend every day reliving what was a “traumatic experience” for him.

Here’s more on the Suns and the investigation into the Sarver allegations:

  • Paul and Booker said the team is trying to keep its focus on the court and to “control what we can control,” per Bontemps. Booker suggested that Williams is the “perfect person” to help the club navigate the situation. “He’s the best at that, at managing situations, controlling the room and keeping people focused forward,” Booker said of his coach, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “That’s what he’s done with our team, we’ve talked about it as a team. You can feel everything he says. We’re sticking behind him and we’re going to keep playing hard for him and winning basketball games.”
  • The Suns continue to publish statements in support of Sarver on their official website. Today, they issued one signed by 12 members of the team’s ownership group, including longtime NFL star Larry Fitzgerald. “To a person, we dispute the characterization of Mr. Sarver and the organization as racist and sexist,” the statement reads. “We support Mr. Sarver’s leadership and stand with him.” It’s unclear exactly how many of the team’s minority shareholders didn’t sign the statement — Baxter Holmes’ ESPN report suggested the ownership group consists of approximately 20 members.
  • One of the team’s minority stakeholders, vice chairman Andy Kohlberg, issued a separate statement of his own in addition to signing the aforementioned letter. Kohlberg said he has been business partners with Sarver for more than 17 years and has “never seen nor heard Robert make any statements that I experienced as racist, sexist or misogynistic.”

Pacific Notes: Paul, Ayton, Bagley III, James, Curry, Payton II

Chris Paul gave Deandre Ayton advice after the Suns center failed to receive a max extension prior to the opening-night deadline, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports writes. Paul told Ayton if he has a strong season, he’ll give himself plenty of leverage as a restricted free agent next season.

“With D.A. and his situation, we talked about it,” Paul said. “He knows what he has to do. The goal for everybody is to see everyone getting paid. His situation is what it is, but it’s going to work out for him.”

Paul is also impressed by the vibe in the locker room as the Suns try to defend their conference title.

“Man, this is probably one of the best locker rooms that I’ve been in my whole career because we have young guys that are leaders and everybody leads in their own different ways,” he said.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings forward Marvin Bagley III could be an intriguing trade target for the Suns, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic speculates. Bagley, who has fallen out of favor in Sacramento, could man the power forward spot on the second unit and veterans like Paul and Jae Crowder could have a positive influence on him. He’d also have the incentive of delivering a strong season as he heads toward free agency, Rankin adds.
  • Lakers forward LeBron James was relieved to avoid a major injury after a collision during Sunday’s game, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. He felt some soreness in his right leg afterward but still hopes to play against San Antonio on Tuesday. He’s listed as probable, McMenamin adds in another tweet“Guy falls into my leg and there’s nothing you can do about it and I couldn’t get my leg out of there in time,” James said.
  • The Warriors seriously considered carrying 14 players and Stephen Curry is happy they chose to re-add Gary Payton II to the roster, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. The value of having Payton as the 15th man was displayed “one thousand percent,” according to Curry, after Payton contributed 10 points in 17 minutes on Sunday.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Bridges, CP3, Klay, Kawhi

The Suns‘ run to the NBA Finals in 2021 caught some NBA fans and observers off guard, but team owner Robert Sarver is confident that his club is well-positioned to “compete at a very high level again,” as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic relays. Sarver believe Phoenix has a solid foundation in place and that a handful of offseason roster tweaks will help the team remain in title contention.

“We added a few players that I think will help us,” Sarver said. “I think you’re seeing a little bit of that in the preseason so far. So I think between the additions, between the foundation and then between what I call the organic growth, which is just our younger players keep getting better and better and developing year by year, I think we have an opportunity to make another step.”

One of those “younger” players the Suns are counting on to play a big role is three-and-D wing Mikal Bridges, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension. Bridges and the Suns have until Monday evening to work out a new deal that would keep him off the restricted free agent market next summer, and he told reporters on Friday that his priority is to remain in Phoenix (video link via Rankin).

“We want to be here,” Bridges said of himself and teammate Deandre Ayton, who is also up for an extension. “Plain and simple. We love this team, love this organization, what it’s done for us.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Speaking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Suns point guard Chris Paul said he’s not thinking about retiring anytime soon and doesn’t have a specific goal in mind for what how many more years he’ll play. “I don’t know how long I’m going to play,” said Paul, who signed a new four-year contract in the offseason. “I’m going to play until God willing, and he says, ‘You need to sit down somewhere,’ or my kids tell me, ‘Daddy, you’re embarrassing us.'”
  • Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson is expected to be cleared to practice in full within the next month or so, says Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link). That’s a pretty vague timeline, and Charania cautions that Thompson will require a ramp-up period once he begins practicing, so it remains unlikely that he’ll be back in Golden State’s lineup before sometime in December.
  • The Clippers would rather have Kawhi Leonard on the floor, but while he’s recovering from ACL surgery, the team is glad he’s able to serve as a de facto coach on the sidelines, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “He’s not like the loudest one, but no, he knows what to say, what to do,” Nicolas Batum said of his star teammate. “When he has (something) to say, especially on the side when we play five-on-five … he’ll take guys on the side and tell you what he sees, what he just saw the last previous play.”

Pacific Notes: Jordan, CP3, Haliburton, Warriors

When DeAndre Jordan signed with the Nets as a free agent in 2019, his friendships with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were key factors in his decision. Having departed Brooklyn this offseason, he made it clear that he remains close with Durant and Irving, but that the time was right for he and the Nets to move in different directions after he fell out of the team’s rotation at the end of last season.

“It was just both parties wanted to figure out something that was best for both of us,” Jordan said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “And I feel like they gave me that respect as a veteran player to be able to understand that I wanted to be able to compete. … It just worked better for both of us.”

Jordan isn’t necessarily as close with anyone on his new team (the Lakers) as he was with Durant and Irving, but he said on Thursday that he’s looking forward to getting the opportunity to team up with several veterans that he has matched up against frequently over the years.

“Just to be able to be with a team like this with guys that you respect and guys that you’ve competed against for the past — going into my 14th season has been great in seeing, ‘I wonder what it would be like to play with this guy,'” Jordan said. “And you always think about that, whether you tell people or not.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Suns point guard Chris Paul called it an “easy decision” to return to Phoenix as a free agent this offseason, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. “Not only did I love the basketball aspect, I’m close to family (in Los Angeles) and Phoenix is a family, too,” Paul said. “I’m excited to be back there.”
  • Tyrese Haliburton‘s name has popped up in trade speculation this offseason, though multiple reports have stated the Kings don’t intend to include him in any offer for Ben Simmons. For his part, Haliburton laughed off those trade rumors, as James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area relays. “I kind of just laugh about it,” Haliburton said during an appearance on J.J. Redick‘s The Old Man and the Three podcast. “I don’t really think it’s that realistic. I don’t see it happening.”
  • Seth Cooper, who had been a player development coach in Golden State, will be the head coach of the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League this season, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Kris Weems, who was the head coach in Santa Cruz, will join the NBA team as a player development coach, Slater adds.

How Players Who Declined Options Fared In Free Agency

Of the 16 veterans who had player options on their contracts for the 2021/22 season, seven picked up those options, forgoing free agency for another year of security. However, that leaves nine players who opted out and reached the free agent market.

For some players, that decision was an easy one. For instance, Norman Powell was long believed to be in line for a multiyear deal in the range of $15-20MM per year, so exercising his $11.6MM player option never would’ve made any sense.

The decision wasn’t so easy for every player who opted out though. Now that we’re five weeks into free agency, we want to look back on those decisions to see if they paid off for the nine players who opted out.

Let’s dive in…

The biggest wins:

  • Kawhi Leonard
    • Option: $36,016,200 (Clippers)
    • New contract: Four years, $176,265,152 (Clippers)
  • Norman Powell
    • Option: $11,615,328 (Trail Blazers)
    • New contract: Five years, $90,000,000 (Trail Blazers)
  • Spencer Dinwiddie
    • Option: $12,302,496 (Nets)
    • New contract: Three years, $54,000,000 (Wizards)
      • Note: Deal includes $8MM in incentives; third year partially guaranteed.

Leonard, Powell, and Dinwiddie all secured raises for the 2021/22 season and increased their overall guarantees exponentially. Leonard tacked on an extra $140MM in guaranteed money, while Powell’s new overall guarantee is nearly eight times more than his option salary.

Dinwiddie’s new contract isn’t quite as favorable as the other two, but it’s still a major win for a player who missed nearly the entire 2020/21 season due to an ACL tear. Even in a worst-case scenario, Dinwiddie will earn $45MM in guaranteed money. He can ensure his third-year salary becomes fully guaranteed by appearing in at least 50 games in each of the next two seasons, and he has the ability to earn even more in incentives.

A solid win:

  • Chris Paul
    • Option: $44,211,146 (Suns)
    • New contract: Four years, $120,000,000 (Suns)
      • Note: Deal includes $75MM in guaranteed money. Third year is partially guaranteed; fourth year is non-guaranteed.

If you want to move Paul to the “biggest wins” group, I wouldn’t argue with that. After all, he increased his overall guarantee by more than $30MM, which is no small feat for a player hitting free agency at age 36.

I’m separating him into his own group because his 2021/22 salary was reduced by more than $13MM as part of his new deal, and I think it’s possible he could’ve gotten more than $30MM in guaranteed money on his next deal if he had simply picked up his option and hit free agency next year.

I certainly don’t blame him for going this route though, given his injury history. And if he continues to play at a high level, the Suns will probably want to keep him for the third year of the deal, which would increase his overall guarantee on this contract to $90MM.

Minor wins:

  • Will Barton
    • Option: $14,669,642 (Nuggets)
    • New contract: Two years, $30,000,000 (Nuggets)
      • Note: Deal includes $2MM in incentives.
  • JaMychal Green
    • Option: $7,559,748 (Nuggets)
    • New contract: Two years, $16,400,000 (Nuggets)
      • Note: Deal includes $400K in incentives.
  • Bobby Portis
    • Option: $3,804,150 (Bucks)
    • New contract: Two years, $8,912,580 (Bucks)
  • Bryn Forbes
    • Option: $2,454,002 (Bucks)
    • New contract: One year, $4,500,000 (Spurs)

The Nuggets took a similar approach to their negotiations with Barton and Green — Denver gave each player a small raise this year, plus a second guaranteed season (Green’s second year is a player option).

The Bucks went that route with Portis too, giving him the biggest raise they could offer using his Non-Bird rights and including a second-year player option on his new deal.

You could make a case that Forbes is a big winner for nearly doubling his 2021/22 salary, but without any future years tacked onto that deal (and given the relatively small salaries involved), I’m classifying it as a modest victory.

The jury’s still out:

Hartenstein is the only one of these nine players who remains unsigned. Based on his solid play with the Cavs down the stretch, turning down his minimum-salary player option seemed like a reasonable bet at the time, but it now looks like he might’ve been better off taking the guaranteed money.

While he’ll probably be signed at some point in the coming weeks, Hartenstein isn’t a lock for a fully guaranteed deal. And even if he gets a guaranteed one-year, minimum-salary contract, it’ll be worth slightly less ($1,729,217) than the option he declined, due to the league’s minimum-salary rules.

Pacific Notes: Williams, Rondo, Warriors, Bradley

The level of intensive game preparation that Suns head coach Monty Williams prefers appealed to All-Star point guard Chris Paul even prior to the team trading for him, writes Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic. Williams and Paul led the club to its first NBA Finals appearance in 28 years during the 2020/21 season, Paul’s first with the team.

“When I thought about going to Phoenix, see, people didn’t even know that was in my mind, right, to go to Phoenix,” Paul said of his thinking before being traded to the Suns by the Thunder during the 2020 offseason. “I knew Monty already, and regardless of how our relationship has been in the past, or even that year when I played for him, I know his mindset, so I know he prepares, right? It’s a preparation thing, too. You want to know when you in the last minute, two minutes in the game that coach, that coach can give you X’s and O’s.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, expected to return to the Lakers on a veteran’s minimum deal this week, will be an obvious locker room boon, but Bill Oram of The Athletic wonders how Rondo will contribute on the court. Oram notes that Rondo, who won his second NBA title as a key role player for Los Angeles in 2020, was not nearly as valued a rotation player in a 2021 postseason spent with the Lakers’ cross-town rivals, the Clippers.
  • The Warriors are not believed to be considering adding veteran guard Avery Bradley, tweets Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. An 11-year vet, Bradley began the 2020/21 season with the Heat before being traded to the Rockets. He averaged 6.4 PPG on 37.4% field goal shooting, to go along with 2.1 RPG and 1.7 APG, in 27 games. The Rockets declined their $5.9MM team option on Bradley before the start of free agency this summer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
  • In case you missed it, 34-year-old former NBA point guard Darren Collison is set to work out for the Warriors this week. Collison last suited up for the Pacers during the 2018/19 season, before surprisingly announcing his retirement during free agency in the summer of 2019.

Monty Williams Talks Suns’ Finals Run, Bucks, CP3

Suns head coach Monty Williams recently sat down with Sam Amick of The Athletic to discuss Phoenix’s run to the 2021 NBA Finals, his relationship with All-Star point guard Chris Paul, his visit to the champion Bucks’ locker room after the Suns lost the series 4-2, and more.

“I think you’re always going to have that hole in your heart about it — your sports heart, anyway,” Williams said of his feelings following the Suns’ defeat this year. Phoenix made its first playoff berth in 11 seasons, and its first NBA Finals appearance since 1993.

“You had that chance, and you’re praying and hoping like heck that you’ll have a chance to do it again. That’s always going to be there. I think I had to get away from it, at least away from the building, from the city, for a little bit to just kind of connect with my family.”

Paul, who played through multiple injuries during the postseason, underwent left wrist surgery after Phoenix’s season ended.

“I’m sure he didn’t want to tell people, but I think that part bothered me because he was getting all kinds of flack over it, and I was like, ‘Nobody knows,’” Williams said.

Here are a few more noteworthy quotes from the Suns’ head coach:

On when Paul’s wrist injury began to impact his on-court contributions:

“I think it was when (then-Clippers guard Patrick Beverley) made that play on him and he had to put his hand down, I think that’s when it probably started. I don’t think anybody did it on purpose, but he got to a point where he just couldn’t use it like he normally could. So that part bothered me because he was getting flack and he’s out there battling, playing in that much pain.

“We tried (to get Paul to discuss it), man. And that was another thing, to play with that kind of pain and fight through it, I’m sure, had a huge impact on our young guys. To see a guy who has accomplished everything except, you know, winning a title, is out there fighting his tail off every night and not willing to come out of the game. I’m sure it had a huge impact on all of our young guys.”

On the Suns’ decision to re-sign Paul to a big-money deal in free agency:

“We didn’t want to lose him. That was always at the top of our minds. But we also respected the fact that he had earned the right to be a free agent, and anything could happen — even though, in my mind, I wouldn’t say I knew he was coming back, but I did feel like there was a level of comfort in our program. I think he and I have a level of trust that we both know is not always like that in other places.”

On congratulating Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Bucks teammates on their victory in the Milwaukee locker room after Game 6:

“All I wanted to do was congratulate Giannis, because I came right out of a press conference and I shut the door and I went right into him. I come right out of my press conference, I’m emotional, and then I run right into him and I just wanted to be gracious and say, ‘Congrats. You deserved it. You beat us.’

“What I’ve learned over the course of my career is to try to handle defeat the right way, and maybe you get a chance, maybe you get a chance to handle the other side of it. I remember when we beat Denver (in the second round of the playoffs), (Nuggets president of basketball operations) Tim Connelly came straight down to our locker room. That had a huge impact on me when we beat Denver. When I was in San Antonio (as an assistant coach) and we beat the Pistons in Game 7 (of the Finals) in ’05, Coach (Larry) Brown and (then-Pistons assistant coach) Dave Hanners came right over to our locker room. And so I’ve had these examples, and I was always taught that.”

On the Suns’ outlook for 2021/22:

“I’ve been meeting with the coaches, just talking about how to approach this year because this is an unknown with such a short rest. But the West is tough. But every year the West is tough. And you know, nobody picked us to be (in the Finals). Look where we were picked last year. Some people didn’t even have us making the playoffs, even with Chris.”

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Armstrong, Paul, Anthony

A $659K contract guarantee kicks in Wednesday for Gary Payton II, which may affect the Warriors‘ decision to keep him on the roster, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. There’s an expectation that Golden State will release Payton with the hope of re-signing him if he clears waivers, Slater adds. That would give him a chance to win a roster spot in camp on a non-guaranteed deal.

Payton finished last season with the Warriors, appearing in 10 games after signing a pair of 10-day contracts in April. Slater points out that the team could use a defensive specialist like Payton to make up for the losses of Kelly Oubre and Kent Bazemore.

Golden State’s roster will be nearly set heading into camp, Slater notes. Thirteen players have guaranteed contracts and a large part of Damion Lee‘s deal will become guaranteed if he remains with the team through August 15, which is expected. Payton may wind up competing for the final roster spot with Mychal Mulder, whose contract is non-guaranteed. A source told Slater that the Warriors are “still monitoring” the free agent market in hopes of adding another veteran.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Former NBA center Hilton Armstrong has joined the Warriors‘ coaching staff, Slater adds. He will work in the video department and has been involved with the Summer League team in Sacramento and Las Vegas.
  • Suns guard Chris Paul should be healed in plenty of time for training camp after having surgery on his left wrist after the NBA Finals, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic“For Chris, it was something minor,” general manager James Jones said in an ESPN interview. “He’ll be ready in a couple of weeks to get back out on the court with these guys as we start to try to get back after this short offseason.”  
  • Carmelo Anthony is thrilled to finally team up with his long-time friend LeBron James on the Lakers, per Mark Medina of USA Today. They have both been in the league for 18 years, but are teammates for the first time after Anthony agreed to a one-year contract with L.A. “Most people would say you should’ve gotten together years ago or earlier in our careers. But we were in two different lanes,” Anthony said. “We were in two different paths. Everything comes full circle.”

CJ McCollum Elected New NBPA President

CJ McCollum is the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The Trail Blazers guard replaces Chris Paul, who served two consecutive terms totaling eight years.

McCollum, 29, has served as a vice president on the union’s executive committee for the past three years and has been a strong voice in NBPA decisions as well as negotiations with the NBA, Woj adds.

Grant Williams was elected as vice president, the league announced (via Twitter). Other members of the executive committee will be Andre Iguodala (first vice president), Harrison Barnes (secretary-treasurer) and vice presidents Bismack Biyombo, Malcolm Brogdon, Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving and Garrett Temple (Twitter link).

“Since entering the league, I have wanted to be involved in the and contribute to the important decisions that impact our lives as players both on and off the court,” Williams tweeted. “I am honored to be selected by my peers for this position and excited to join the NBPA Executive Committee.”

One of the union’s first priorities under McCollum will be to find a replacement for Michele Roberts, who has served as executive director since 2014. She has announced her intentions to step down and is expected to leave her post sometime around the end of the year.

McCollum will also have to take the lead in negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Wojnarowski points out. The current CBA runs through the end of the 2023/24 season, but either the league or the players could decide to opt out after the 2022/23 season ends.