Cody Zeller

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.

COVID-19 Updates: Suns, Blazers, Rockets, Wolves, More

Here are the latest health and safety protocols updates from around the NBA:

Entering the protocols:

  • Jae Crowder and Elfrid Payton have become the first two Suns players to enter the COVID-19 protocols, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • The Trail Blazers‘ outbreak continues to grow, with Jusuf Nurkic and Cody Zeller among the players now in the protocols, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Seven Portland players have been placed in the protocols since Friday.
  • Rockets guard Garrison Mathews became the second Houston guard to enter the protocols today, joining teammate D.J. Augustin, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Timberwolves big man Naz Reid is now in the health and safety protocols, bringing Minnesota’s list of affected players up to eight, tweets Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.
  • The Thunder announced today that they’ve placed rookie guard Tre Mann in the protocols. Oklahoma City now has two players affected — Mann and Darius Bazley.

Exiting the protocols:

  • Point guard De’Aaron Fox returned to action on Sunday when the Kings hosted Memphis. Fox had been in the health and safety protocols since December 16.
  • A pair of TimberwolvesPatrick Beverley and Josh Okogie – are no longer in the health and safety protocols, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. They’re both listed as questionable for Monday’s game vs. Boston.
  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris has cleared the health and safety protocols, though he remained inactive on Sunday as he goes through a reconditioning period, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
  • Cavaliers wing RJ Nembhard was no longer listed on the team’s injury report on Sunday and played vs. Toronto, so he’s out of the protocols. Isaac Okoro has exited the protocols too, though he’s still working his way back, according to head coach J.B. Bickerstaff (Twitter link via Kelsey Russo of The Athletic).

Western Notes: Morant, Rockets, Zeller, Bazley

After going 10-2 while Ja Morant was out due to a knee sprain, the Grizzlies lost at home in Morant’s return on Monday. The defeat came at the hands of an Oklahoma City team that Memphis had beaten by 73 points earlier in the month.

Morant, who had 16 points and eight assists in 28 minutes, was happy to be back on the court, but he admitted after the game that the reaction from the fans in Memphis was a far cry from the “MVP” chants he heard earlier in the season.

“Running down the court, I heard some of our fans courtside tell me I need to sit back out,” Morant said, per Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I just want to know what they wanted me to get out of that. I feel like that just makes it worse.”

Although the Grizzlies are just 9-11 with Morant in the lineup this season, the general consensus is that they benefited from a favorable schedule and some good luck during his absence. As Barnes relays, teammate Desmond Bane scoffed at the idea that the team was better off without its star point guard.

“That’s nonsense. Nonsense,” Bane said. “People just want something to talk about. Ja’s an easy target because he’s the best player on the team. He’s an All-Star in his third year and we happened to win some games and guys were out with teams we were playing. … There was something that popped up on my phone talking about trading Ja Morant. He’ll be in Memphis as long as he wants to be in Memphis. He’s our franchise, for sure.”

Here are a few more notes from around the Western Conference:

  • Rockets head coach Stephen Silas is hopeful that Jalen Green (hamstring), who has been out since November 24, will be back in the lineup before Christmas, but said Kevin Porter Jr. (thigh), who last played on December 3, will remain sidelined through the Christmas break, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston. The Rockets are in action on Wednesday in Milwaukee and Thursday in Indiana, then will resume play next Monday in Charlotte.
  • The Trail Blazers announced on Sunday in a press release that Cody Zeller (small fracture of right patella) is making progress in his recovery and increasing his on-court activity. However, he’s still unavailable for the time being and will be reevaluated in a week.
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman explores how and why the Thunder decided to move Darius Bazley to the bench after he had started his last 82 games across two seasons. Head coach Mark Daigneault talked to general manager Sam Presti before making the move, as Mussatto writes.

Blazers Notes: Billups, Cronin, Lillard, Struggles, Zeller

Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups and interim GM Joe Cronin have an interesting shared history, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. Billups and Cronin were high school opponents in 1994, when they competed for the Colorado Class 6A state championship.

Billups was the star of George Washington High and led his team to a 71-67 victory over Cronin’s Horizon High. Billups had 31 points and nine assists in the title game, while Cronin had 22 points and 15 rebounds in defeat.

After Cronin joined the Blazers as an intern in 2006, he was quickly promoted to scouting assistant, and later assistant director of scouting and salary cap analyst. While Billups was playing in the NBA, he noticed Cronin’s name in Portland’s front office department and was dying to know if it was the same person he’d competed against many years before, per Quick.

I was 10 years into my NBA career, and I was looking at the front offices around the league, and I see Joe Cronin’s name,” Billups remembered. “And I wondered to myself: Is that the Joe Cronin? So I started asking questions. And I wanted to see a picture. I wanted to see if this was actually Joe.”

However, Cronin was always on the road scouting, so Billups never got confirmation that it was the same person he knew from high school until he interviewed for the head coaching job over the summer.

When this opportunity came up, and I was talking to Neil [Olshey], I was like: ‘Where is Joe? I need to see Joe. I need to make sure this is the same dude,'” Billups said.

Billups finally saw Cronin on a Zoom interview and recognized him immediately, 27 years later, Quick relays.

Here’s more from Portland:

  • Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated takes a close look at the relationship between Billups and star point guard Damian Lillard. “We’re forming a bond more so than anything else, it’s just like we always sit and talk over everything. And that’s something that’s fun to have,” Billups said.
  • Lillard gave a speech to the Blazers last Monday imploring them not give up on the season, Quick writes for The Athletic. “This is the moment a lot of teams choose to just pack it in and say, you know, it’s tough, we are this many games under .500 and we haven’t been playing great … and they just fold and become one of those bottom teams,” Lillard said he told the team. “And I just said that’s not who we are … it’s not the situation we want to be in, but we dig. We dig out and find a way, and we are going to do that once again.”
  • In a separate article, Quick explores what has gone wrong for the Blazers this season and how they can try to climb out of the hole. They currently have a 12-18 record, 11th in the West.
  • Backup center Cody Zeller has suffered a small right patellar fracture (broken kneecap), the team announced on Dec. 11. In the release, the Blazers said he’ll be reevaluated in one week, but an update on his recovery timeline has yet to be posted. Zeller is having a solid season for Portland, averaging 5.1 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 24 games (13.3 MPG).

Billups Expresses Frustration With Blazers’ Compete Level

The up-and-down Trail Blazers had perhaps their worst game of the season on Sunday in Denver, losing by 29 points to the Nuggets and falling to 6-8. While Portland was playing without star point guard Damian Lillard, Denver was missing Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Will Barton.

Following the loss, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups expressed displeasure with his club’s compete level, as detailed in stories from Jason Quick of The Athletic and Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

“I’m confused,” Billups said. “I don’t think we came to compete in this game. I mean, this is a team that beat us in the playoffs last year. And we come out and don’t even compete in the first quarter. Kind of … a little disappointed in that. The effort. Just no fight. No fight.”

Asked about the possibility of making lineup or rotation adjustments to shake things up for the Blazers, Billups suggested that changes could be around the corner.

“It’s coming. That point is coming soon,” Billups said. “If we continue to play like that … because if you think about it, you keep playing that way, at some point I have to look at it and say something isn’t quite working. And then maybe think about shifting some things around.”

In Quick’s view, changes seem most likely to come at power forward and/or center, since Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic have been inconsistent so far this season, while bench players like Nassir Little, Larry Nance Jr., and Cody Zeller have provided more stability. Billups, who said earlier this month that Covington “could be better defensively,” stated on Sunday that he’s been happy with the effort he’s seeing from his reserves, including Anfernee Simons, Dennis Smith Jr., Little, and Nance.

“All of the second unit played as hard as we need them to play,” Billups said. “The first unit, they didn’t have it.”

The first-year head coach acknowledged that Portland had a busy schedule during the last week, playing four road games in six days. However, Billups didn’t view fatigue as a viable excuse for the team’s lack of effort.

“I just think there is no real reason to not have effort,” Billups said. “We’ve had a lot of games, so I can see being tired. … I can see if we come out and play our behinds off, but we just run out of gas. I can live with that. I don’t like losing like this. That game was over.”

Northwest Notes: Little, Zeller, Nuggets, Bol

Nassir Little is working to shake off a rough preseason game with the Blazers last Monday, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian writes. Little finished with just three points in 24 minutes, shooting 1-of-9 from the floor with five turnovers. He also registered a team-worst minus-16 net rating.

“I was a little anxious,” Little admitted. “I was super excited to play.”

Portland next plays on Monday against Sacramento, giving Little and the team a full week to re-focus. The 21-year-old is one of the youngest players on the team’s preseason roster, having been drafted No. 25 overall by the club in 2019.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we’re all learning,” he said. “A lot of new stuff is being put in, so just being able to take advantage of this time to practice is going to be huge for me and the entire team.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Speaking of the Trail Blazers, center Cody Zeller underwent successful surgery on Friday to repair a broken nose, according to Fentress (Twitter link). The team has yet to offer a timeline for Zeller’s return.
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post examines multiple Nuggets-related topics in his latest mailbag, including a possible extension for PJ Dozier. Dozier, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, is coming off the best season of his four-year career, having averaged 7.7 points per game in 50 contests.
  • In a separate article for the Denver Post, Singer also examined the development of Bol Bol, who was acquired by the Nuggets on the night of the 2019 NBA Draft. Singer notes that Bol appears to be more engaged with the team during the preseason. The big man has only appeared in 39 NBA games to date.

Northwest Notes: Butler, Gay, Zeller, Palacio

Jared Butler has been the talk of the Jazz‘s training camp but he’ll have to exercise patience when it comes to playing time, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes. The 40th pick of the draft won’t immediately take backcourt minutes away from Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson or Joe Ingles.

“For Jared, part of it is patience. You can be really competitive and hungry, and still be patient,” coach Quin Snyder said. “When I say ‘patience,’ it’s a little bit like preparing for when an opportunity presents itself for you to have an impact. … Invariably there’s injuries, there’s foul trouble. Continuing to work and be hungry and not be frustrated if it doesn’t come right away [is important].”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz forward Rudy Gay underwent offseason surgery on his right heel, Walden tweets. It was previously reported that the surgery was done on his left heel. Gay is still working his way back from the surgery and isn’t expected to be ready for opening night.
  • Trail Blazers center Cody Zeller will undergo nasal surgery on Friday, Jason Quick of The Athletic tweets. Zeller was inadvertently hit in the face by the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala in Monday’s preseason opener. Doctors tried to reset it, but his nose was “crushed,” according to coach Chauncey Billups. It’s uncertain whether the injury will affect Zeller’s status for the regular season.
  • Trail Blazers assistant coach Milt Palacio has been placed under administrative leave by the team pending further notice, according to a team statement relayed by Quick (Twitter link). He is one of 18 former players facing charges in New York federal court over allegations that they defrauded the NBA’s health and welfare benefit plan.