Cody Zeller

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Zeller, Clippers, Bridges

Lakers star LeBron James is getting closer to the career scoring record, but there’s plenty of motivation for him to keep playing after he passes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In an interview with Dave McMenamin of ESPN, James, who recently turned 38, reiterated that he’s determined to stay in the NBA until his oldest son arrives, which would be the 2024/25 season at the earliest.

“I need to be on the floor with my boy, I got to be on the floor with Bronny,” he said. “Either in the same uniform or a matchup against him. I don’t mean like [guarding one another all game] — because he’s a point guard and I’m a, at this point now I’m playing center or whatever the team needs from me. But I would love to do the whole Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. thing. That would be ideal for sure.”

James is also determined to lift the Lakers back into title contention. He said individual records don’t mean much to him anymore, citing his decision to sit out the final five games of last season with an ankle injury, which prevented him from qualifying for the scoring title.

“I want to win. [The losing is] not sitting well with me,” James said. “I don’t like having accomplishments, and it don’t feel right, when it comes in a losing effort. … So as we sit here right now as a franchise and as a team that’s below .500 — we’ve been playing some good basketball as of late, but we want to and I want to win at the highest level. Breaking records or setting records or passing greats in a losing effort has never been a DNA of mine.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Cody Zeller is among the free agents who have worked out for the Lakers recently, Marc Stein tweets. The longtime Hornets center held his audition when L.A. visited Charlotte last week, according to Stein.
  • The Clippers continue to be careful with the health of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but a five-game losing streak may bring some urgency to the team, per Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports. L.A. was so thoroughly outplayed Thursday in Denver that coach Tyronn Lue benched his starters for the entire second half.
  • Mikal Bridges still hasn’t missed a game in his NBA career, but the Suns forward may be wearing down as he tries to compensate for injured teammates, observes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Bridges had a wrap on his right knee Friday as Phoenix dropped its fifth game in a row. “Just makes us stay together even more,” Bridges said of the losing skid. “That’s what we’ve got to do. It’s easy when you win to stay together. So our true selves is going to show when we’re losing. We just keep fighting. I think you stay together more as a team when you lose. That’s going to show if you’re a really good team or not and I think we have that.”

Jazz Waive Cody Zeller, Jared Butler

3:14pm: In addition to waiving Zeller, the Jazz are also cutting Jared Butler, according to Jones and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The team has issued a press release confirming that Zeller and Butler have been waived, reducing the roster count to 15 players on standard contracts.

The decision to waive Butler comes as a bit of a surprise, since the team was very high on the former Baylor guard after drafting him 40th overall a year ago.

Butler appeared in 42 games as a rookie, averaging 3.8 PPG and 1.5 APG on .404/.318/.688 shooting. Utah will be on the hook for his guaranteed $1,563,518 salary unless he’s claimed on waivers on Monday.

2:42pm: Cody Zeller won’t make Utah’s regular season roster, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that the Jazz are waiving the veteran center.

Zeller fell victim to the roster crunch in Utah in part due to the nature of his contract. His minimum salary for 2022/23 is fully non-guaranteed, so the team won’t be on the hook for any dead money after cutting him.

The fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Zeller spent his first eight NBA seasons in Charlotte, then played for Portland in 2021/22. He played a limited role for the Blazers last season, averaging 5.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG in a career-low 13.1 minutes off the bench in 27 games before a right patellar avulsion fracture ended his season.

Having waived Saben Lee, Stanley Johnson, and Zeller, the Jazz will have one more roster move to make to get down to the regular season limit of 15 players on standard contracts. The club still has 16 players with guaranteed salaries. Udoka Azubuike, Leandro Bolmaro, and Rudy Gay are among the candidates to be the odd man out.

Contract Details: Lakers, Galloway, DSJ, McCollum, More

When the Lakers signed Matt Ryan and Dwayne Bacon to non-guaranteed training camp contracts earlier this month, both players received Exhibit 9 clauses in their new deals, but not Exhibit 10s, Hoops Rumors has learned.

Exhibit 9 contracts are non-guaranteed camp deals that don’t count against the cap during the preseason and offer teams some protection in the event of an injury. Exhibit 10s are similar, but also allow teams to convert the player to a two-way deal (if he’s eligible) or to give him a bonus worth up to $50K if he’s waived and then spends at least 60 days with the team’s G League affiliate.

As a general rule, a player who signs a training camp contract without an Exhibit 10 clause is usually just competing for a spot on his team’s 15-man regular season roster and won’t end up playing for the club’s G League affiliate if he doesn’t make the cut.

Langston Galloway (Pacers), Dennis Smith Jr. (Hornets), LiAngelo Ball (Hornets), Cody Zeller (Jazz), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Suns), and Wes Iwundu (Trail Blazers) are among the other recently signed free agents who signed Exhibit 9 – not Exhibit 10 – contracts.

Here are a few more contract details from around the NBA:

Jazz Notes: Sexton, Kessler, Azubuike, Conley, Clarkson, Zeller, Lee

New Jazz guard Collin Sexton has been fully cleared following last year’s knee injury that sidelined him for all but 11 games, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link). Newly acquired rookie big man Walker Kessler has also received clearance from his toe injury, Walden adds.

While Sexton and Kessler should be good to go for training camp, former Jazz first-rounder Udoka Azubuike isn’t quite there yet. According to Walden, Azubuike continues to progress from the ankle surgery that ended his 2021/22 season early, but has yet to be cleared for 5-on-5 work.

Here are a few more updates on the Jazz:

  • Following an offseason fire sale in Utah, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson look like obvious candidates to be traded at some point in the coming weeks or months. But general manager Justin Zanik said today that there has been “nothing but total buy-in from those guys,” so it doesn’t sound as if either Conley or Clarkson is pushing to be dealt (Twitter link via Walden).
  • Conley told reporters today that he’s “10 toes in” with the Jazz, even as he acknowledged the possibility of a trade. He’s conflicted about the idea of being moved, since he could end up with a contending team but would likely have to finish the season away from his family (Twitter links via Walden and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune).
  • After undergoing eight surgeries in nine years, Cody Zeller wants to show in Utah that he’s finally healthy, telling reporters today that he believes he can bring value to a young roster as an experienced veteran (Twitter link via Walden). The Jazz have a roster logjam to clear in the next few weeks, but Zeller should have a shot at a 15-man roster spot due to the team’s lack of veteran frontcourt depth.
  • Tony Jones of The Athletic sounds unconvinced that Saben Lee is part of the Jazz’s plans going forward, tweeting that he believes the newly acquired guard will need to have “a hell of a camp” in order to stick.

Jazz Sign Cody Zeller To Camp Deal

SEPTEMBER 25: Utah has officially signed Zeller, the team announced in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 20: The Jazz will sign Cody Zeller to a training camp deal, according to Tony Jones and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Zeller, 29, began his NBA career in 2013 with Charlotte and remained with the Hornets through the 2020/21 season. He signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Trail Blazers last season and appeared in 27 games off the bench before suffering right patellar avulsion fracture.

He was waived just before the trade deadline as Portland cleared roster space in the CJ McCollum trade with New Orleans.

Zeller has averaged 8.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 22.2 MPG through 494 NBA games.

With 17 guaranteed contracts already on the books, plus one two-way contract and three reported Exhibit 10 deals, the Jazz will need to make more roster moves prior to the opening of camp.

A best-case scenario will be for Zeller to earn a roster spot as a backup big man on the rebuilding club.

Nets Notes: Anthony, Centers, Trade Exception, Durant

There has been speculation that the Nets might consider signing Carmelo Anthony to help fill out their roster, an unidentified league executive tells Sean Deveney of Heavy. The signing could be a way to help placate Kevin Durant if Brooklyn isn’t able to trade him soon.

Anthony, 38, spent last season with the Lakers on a one-year, minimum-salary contract. He averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 69 games, but L.A. filled out its bench with younger players this offseason and there may not be room to bring Anthony back.

The Nets are also likely to sign another center, but the move may not come for a while.

“They need another big guy, but they’re not feeling a lot of pressure as far as filling that spot,” the executive said. There are veterans they can sign this month or even early next month — Dwight Howard would be the obvious one, maybe Hassan Whiteside. Cody Zeller is out there, too. They want to see what they have with Nic Claxton, but they want some insurance there, too. And they’re going to play (Ben) Simmons there quite a bit in small ball lineups.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets allowed a $6.27MM trade exception to expire Friday, indicating that they will seek lower-cost moves to complete their roster, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Roughly five weeks ahead of training camp, Brooklyn still has room for two more players on standard deals, along with three Exhibit 10 contracts and a two-way slot. Lewis points out that David Duke Jr. has already turned down a two-way offer from the team in hopes of filling one of those standard spots.
  • The Nets also need to figure out the roles of their coaching staff after losing assistant Jordan Ott to the Lakers, Lewis adds in the same piece. The team will have to assign a defensive coordinator, and while Lewis sees Jacque Vaughn as the obvious candidate, he notes that Vaughn has experienced “mixed results” when asked to take on that role.
  • Durant landed a “haymaker” with his demand that owner Joe Tsai fire head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks, but it may not have changed his trade prospects, ESPN’s Tim Legler said on SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter link). Legler acknowledges that there’s a real chance Durant may still be with the Nets when the season begins.

Wolves Notes: Cauley-Stein, Edwards, Beverley, Ownership

In an appearance on Darren Wolfson’s The Scoop podcast at SKOR North, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said that Minnesota is considering adding a free agent who could help improve the team’s rebounding numbers.

Asked specifically if the Wolves could bring back veteran center Greg Monroe, who was on a 10-day deal with the club earlier this season, Taylor responded, “We’re looking at a number of possibilities.”

According to Wolfson, one possible target the Wolves have discussed internally is Willie Cauley-Stein, who recently spent time in Philadelphia on a 10-day deal. Cody Zeller, who was waived last month while recovering from a procedure on his knee, isn’t currently considered an option, Wolfson adds.

Here’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Anthony Edwards has missed the Timberwolves’ last four games due to knee soreness, but Taylor is confident the injury is not a major issue. “We’re dealing with some swelling and some pain,” Taylor told Wolfson. “We just want to buy a little time, but it’s nothing major or anything that will keep him from being out there soon.”
  • Taylor doesn’t anticipate a significant offseason roster shakeup in Minnesota. “Most players are already signed for next year, so there won’t be major changes,” he told Wolfson.
  • One player who had been on track for unrestricted free agency this summer was guard Patrick Beverley, but he signed a one-year, $13MM extension with the Wolves in February. Taylor said that was a fairly straightforward negotiation, since both sides had interest in continuing the relationship, and that the main issue was deciding on the length of the contract. Beverley “preferred to add something longer,” according to Taylor, who said the team wanted to maintain some flexibility beyond 2022/23.
  • Asked by Wolfson if the plan is still for Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore to assume majority control of the Timberwolves in December 2023, Taylor replied, “Probably.” Pressed on whether it could happen sooner than next December or later than that, Taylor said that both scenarios are possible, indicating that nothing is set in stone yet.

Blazers Trade CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. To Pelicans

8:00pm: The trade is now official, according to press releases from the Pelicans and Trail Blazers. Portland waived Cody Zeller to create room on their 15-man roster for the incoming players.

The full deal looks like this:

  • Pelicans acquire McCollum, Nance, and Snell.
  • Trail Blazers acquire Hart, Satoransky, Alexander-Walker, Louzada, the Pelicans’ protected 2022 first-round pick, the Pelicans’ 2027 second-round pick, and either the Pelicans’ or Blazers’ 2026 second-round pick (whichever is more favorable; New Orleans had previously acquired Portland’s 2026 second-rounder).

“On behalf of the Trail Blazers organization, I want to thank CJ McCollum for the integral role he has played in the success of the franchise over the last nine seasons and for his countless acts of service to the Portland community,” Blazers GM Joe Cronin said in a statement. “CJ has cemented himself in Trail Blazers history with his elite skill level and memorable moments on the court as well as with the work ethic, professionalism and generosity he displays behind the scenes.”

10:10am: The Pelicans and Blazers have reached an agreement, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter links), who reports that Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell are also headed to New Orleans in the deal, with Didi Louzada going to Portland.

The Blazers will receive a future first-round pick and two future second-rounder, Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter). As Woj explains (via Twitter), the Blazers will get New Orleans’ 2022 first-round selection if it lands between No. 5 and No. 14. Otherwise, the Blazers will receive a future first-rounder. That Pelicans pick currently projects to be No. 9.

The inclusion of Nance, who has been out for the last month with a knee injury, will give the Pelicans another versatile two-way contributor in the frontcourt while clearing even more multiyear money off the Blazers’ books. The Pels will presumably acquire Nance and his $10.7MM cap hit using a portion of their $17MM trade exception. Nance is under contract for $9.7MM in 2022/23.

Because the Blazers have a full roster, they’ll have to trade or waive a player to accommodate the three-for-four swap.

9:24am: The Pelicans and Trail Blazers are finalizing a deal that will send CJ McCollum to New Orleans, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The package for McCollum will include Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and draft compensation, per Charania (Twitter link).

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who first reported that the two sides were engaged in serious talks, an agreement technically hasn’t been finalized yet and there’s still work to be done, but Woj says there’s optimism a deal will be completed (Twitter link).

McCollum, 30, has been a Blazer since entering the NBA in 2013, making up one-half of the team’s star backcourt alongside Damian Lillard. Portland made the postseason in each of McCollum’s first eight NBA seasons and got as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2019, but the team has taken a step back this year and is clearly in retooling mode, having sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers last Friday.

Trading McCollum will create more future financial flexibility for the Blazers, who are reportedly interested in re-signing free-agents-to-be Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic this offseason. Based on the team’s moves so far, it appears Portland views those players, along with Lillard and Nassir Little, as keepers going forward, though there’s still time for things to change in the 48+ hours before Thursday’s trade deadline.

While we’ll have to wait to see what sort of draft compensation is headed from New Orleans to Portland in the trade, the Blazers did well to acquire a solid two-way player like Hart, and they’ll get a chance to take a flier on Alexander-Walker, who has struggled in 2021/22 after a promising sophomore performance last season.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, are on the verge of adding a talented shot creator to their backcourt as they continue their push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. New Orleans currently leads Portland by a half-game for the No. 10 seed in the West.

McCollum has been hampered this season by health issues, including a collapsed lung, and his numbers have dipped a little as a result, but he’s still averaging 20.5 PPG and 4.5 APG on .436/.384/.706 shooting in 36 games (35.2 MPG).

McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Jonas Valanciunas will be the go-to offensive options in New Orleans for the time being. The Pelicans are also hoping to get Zion Williamson back in their lineup at some point in the second half, though it’s been a while since we’ve gotten an update on Williamson’s recovery from foot surgery.

McCollum is owed $30.9MM this season, $33.3MM in 2022/23, and $35.8MM in ’23/24 before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2024. Hart’s contract is more team-friendly — after earning $12MM this season, he has a $13MM non-guaranteed salary next season, with a $13MM player option (also non-guaranteed) for ’23/24.

Satoransky has an expiring $10MM contract, while Alexander-Walker is earning $3.3MM this season. Alexander-Walker is under contract for $5MM in 2022/23 and will be eligible this offseason for a rookie scale extension. He’ll be a restricted free agent in 2023 if he doesn’t sign a new deal later this year.

The Hawks, Knicks, and Pacers were among the other teams said to have trade interest in McCollum.

Cody Zeller Has Knee Procedure, Out 8-10 Weeks

9:30pm: The Trail Blazers have confirmed in a press release that Zeller had a successful surgery for what the team is calling a right patellar avulsion fracture.

9:09pm: Trail Blazers reserve center Cody Zeller went under the knife in Los Angeles today for a right knee surgery to treat a patellar injury, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Woj notes that Portland expects the veteran big man to be sidelined for eight-to-10 weeks as he recovers.

Earlier this season, Zeller missed nearly a month’s worth of action (12 games) between a knee injury and a stint in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The 29-year-old vet returned on January 7 for three contests, but has missed the Trail Blazers’ six latest games due to the patellar injury. All told, he has suited up for just 27 games this season, his first with Portland after signing a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract this summer.

In 13.1 minutes per game, Zeller is averaging 5.2 PPG on 56.7% field goal shooting, plus 4.6 RPG. The 6’11” center was selected with the fourth draft pick out of Indiana by the Hornets (then the Bobcats) in 2013 and spent his first eight NBA seasons in Charlotte.

Sporting a 20-26 record thus far, the Trail Blazers currently occupy the No. 10 seed in the West, which would land them at the bottom of the play-in tournament bracket were the season to end today. In addition to Zeller, Portland is also missing star point guard Damian Lillard, who underwent a recent surgery of his own to address a long-standing abdominal injury.

Northwest Notes: DSJ, Zeller, Nuggets, Beverley, Azubuike, Kalaitzakis

The Trail Blazers will keep Dennis Smith Jr. on their roster through the salary guarantee date, ensuring that he receives his full salary for 2021/22, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Smith won a training camp battle to earn a regular season roster spot and has averaged 5.4 PPG and 3.3 APG in 19 games (17.2 MPG). While his shooting numbers (.396 FG%, .273 3PT%) are below his mediocre career rates, Smith has apparently made enough of an impress on the Trail Blazers to stick around as the team’s 14th man. He’ll earn a $1,789,256 salary ($1,669,178 cap hit) for the season.

Wojnarowski also provides another updates on the Trail Blazers, tweeting that center Cody Zeller is expected to be available vs. Cleveland on Friday night. Zeller, who hasn’t played since December 6, missed time due to a knee injury and a stint in the health and safety protocols, but it appears he’s been cleared to return on both fronts.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets forwards Jeff Green and Zeke Nnaji are no longer in the health and safety protocols, but two-way rookie Petr Cornelie has entered them, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Because the team still has one player in the COVID-19 protocols, hardship signee Davon Reed can remain active.
  • The Patrick Beverley trade has been a major coup for the Timberwolves, according to Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune, who says the veteran guard has been an “ideal leader” for the young team. Minnesota gave up Jarrett Culver and Juan Hernangomez to land Beverley.
  • Udoka Azubuike hasn’t played much for the Jazz since being selected with the 27th pick in the 2020 draft, but he logged a career-high 16 minutes in his first ever start on Wednesday in Denver, holding his own against Nikola Jokic. Tony Jones of The Athletic has the story on the young center’s unexpected showcase, which came with Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside unavailable. “I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little nervous,” Azubuike said. “I just came back from (an ankle) injury, and I’m playing against the MVP? That was a lot to process.”
  • Georgios Kalaitzakis, the 60th overall pick in the 2021 draft who was waived by Milwaukee earlier this season, has signed an NBA G League contract, as our JD Shaw recently reported (via Twitter). The 23-year-old Greek forward joined the Oklahoma City Blue and appeared in his first game with the Thunder‘s affiliate on Thursday.