Damian Lillard

Western Notes: Pelicans, Bzdelik, PG13, Lillard, More

After being let go by the Rockets this spring, veteran assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik is generating significant interest from one of Houston’s division rivals. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link), The Pelicans have offered a spot on Alvin Gentry‘s coaching staff to Bzdelik, who is weighing his options after leaving Houston.

While nothing has been finalized yet, David Aldridge of The Athletic suggests (via Twitter) that Bzdelik and the Pelicans are “close” to a deal. The longtime NBA and college coach, who previously had a stint as Denver’s head coach is one of the most highly-regarded defensive coordinators in the league, as both Stein and Aldridge note.

If the Pelicans finalize an agreement with Bzdelik, he could step into the role vacated by former assistant Darren Erman, who recently left the club’s coaching staff.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Shortly after word broke that the Thunder had agreed to trade Paul George to the Clippers, Shams Charania of Stadium (video link) said that George had “a little bit of buyer’s remorse” after agreeing to a long-term extension in Oklahoma City last summer. Bill Simmons of The Ringer used the same phrase (“buyer’s remorse”) on a recent podcast when describing what he had heard about PG13 over the last couple months.
  • At the press conference to announce Damian Lillard‘s new super-max extension on Saturday, Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey called the move a “no-brainer,” while Lillard explained why his top priority has always been winning a championship in Portland. “In the end, I know that if it gets done, it will feel much better to know that I did it in a solid way,” Lillard said, per ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “I didn’t have to go and play with the best players just to get it done. For me, this is the way I want to do it. And I know that if it doesn’t happen I can live with it because I know the route that I chose.”
  • While Jerami Grant is unlikely to start over Paul Millsap, the Nuggets will continue to be “judicious” with Millsap’s playing time moving forward, giving Grant plenty of opportunities in Denver, writes Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. In his analysis of the Nuggets’ latest acquisition, Kosmider suggests that Grant projects as an ideal floor spacer next to Nikola Jokic.
  • In a court brief filed last week in response to sexual assault allegations by former sportscaster Kelli Tennant, new Kings head coach Luke Walton claimed that those allegations aren’t backed up by facts and are designed to attract media attraction. Stefanie Dazio of The Associated Press has the full story.

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Grant, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jazz

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard believes he can bring out the best of Hassan Whiteside, the enigmatic center acquired from the Heat as part of the multi-team Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade. Lillard has a good friendship with Whiteside and that should help prevent Whiteside from getting over-emotional, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic.

“I said, ‘So this is what this is going to come down to: If in the middle of the game, you are not getting the ball and you mad, and you felt like somebody should have done something, you come and say something to me,” Lillard said. “And if (Trail Blazers) Coach (Terry Stotts) is getting on you, or Coach takes you out and you get mad at Coach, me and you have to be able to communicate. Even if we argue, that’s fine. But we have to be able to get through to each other.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone is thrilled with the acquisition of forward Jerami Grant from the Thunder, as he told Alex Labidou of the team’s website. He believes Grant will mesh well with franchise player Nikola Jokic and significantly improve the team’s defense. “Watching film, he’s guarded Damian Lillard, James Harden, Anthony Davis, the guy can guard anybody,” Malone said. “I think that versatility is exciting.”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander gives the Thunder a long-term answer at point guard who may have a better future than Paul George, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Gilgeous-Alexander is nine years younger than George, Tramel notes, and he displayed better defensive and shooting skills than Russell Westbrook did in his rookie year.
  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert shrugs off the Clippers’ acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and George, confident that the Jazz have done enough this offseason to become serious contenders. “We don’t want to pay too much attention into what the other teams are doing,” Gobert told Tony Jones of The Athletic. “We want to keep working hard, and we want to stay hungry. We know what we have to do. Whenever we step out onto the court, the goal is to win. We know that we have a chance to do some good things this year. But we want to take things one step at a time.”
  • The Timberwolves have brought back Bryan Gates as an assistant coach under Ryan Saunders, according to an Associated Press report. Gates has been on the Kings’ staff the last three seasons but spent the 2015/16 season with Minnesota.

Damian Lillard Signs Super-Max Extension With Blazers

JULY 6: The Trail Blazers have officially signed Lillard to his super-max extension, the team announced today in a press release.

“Since the day we drafted Damian he has exemplified every quality an organization could hope for in a franchise player,” Olshey said in a statement. “His perpetual leadership, willingness to embrace responsibility for outcome on the floor and ability to set a cultural standard illustrates what it means to be a Portland Trail Blazer and makes us ecstatic he has chosen to extend his contract at the first opportunity.”

JUNE 30The Trail Blazers and franchise point guard Damian Lillard are working toward an agreement on a four-year, $196MM super-max contract extension, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. Brian Windhorst of ESPN is reporting that the two sides have agreed on a deal, with Lillard also set to receive a player option for the 2024/25 season.

The extension will begin during the 2021/22 season. As we relayed yesterday, the projected cap figure for that season is $125MM, meaning that Lillard would earn an estimated $43.75MM in 2021/22, $47.25MM in 2022/23, $50.75MM in 2023/24, and a whopping $54.25MM in 2024/25.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports first indicated back in May that Portland and it’s star guard were working toward an extension. As we wrote then, Lillard’s four-year extension would cover his age 31-to-34 seasons, with the 29-year-old All-Star poised to make nearly $55MM at age 34.

Today, Haynes adds (link) that Lillard, his representatives, and Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey are meeting in Oakland tonight to finalize the maximum-contract extension.

Lillard, coming off one of his best seasons as a pro, averaged 25.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and a career-high 6.9 APG in 80 games for Portland on his way to being named All-NBA Second Team for the 2018/19 campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Team USA Announces 20-Player Camp Roster For World Cup

USA Basketball has officially announced the group of 20 players that will participate in training camp this summer in advance of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. The camp will take place from August 5-9, and will be used to select the 12-man roster for this year’s World Cup in China.

The 20-man training camp roster is as follows:

  1. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  2. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  3. Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
  4. Andre Drummond (Pistons)
  5. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  6. James Harden (Rockets)
  7. Tobias Harris (Sixers / FA)
  8. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  9. Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
  10. Brook Lopez (Bucks / FA)
  11. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  12. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  13. CJ McCollum (Trail Blazers)
  14. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  15. Paul Millsap (Nuggets)
  16. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  17. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  18. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  19. P.J. Tucker (Rockets)
  20. Kemba Walker (Hornets / FA)

“I am excited about getting to training camp in August and working with all of the players that have been selected to attend the USA National Team training camp in Las Vegas,” Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement. “We’ve got an excellent cross-section of veteran USA Basketball and NBA players, as well as some exciting younger players who possess amazing versatility.

“I’m appreciative of commitment that our National Team players continue to make, and the eagerness of the new players to become involved,” Popovich continued. “Selecting a 12-man team will be extremely difficult.”

It will be an eventful summer for many of the players on the 20-man Team USA training camp roster. Besides Harris, Lopez, and Walker, who are all headed for unrestricted free agency and could be on new teams by August, players like Barnes, Middleton, and Millsap could reach the open market if their player or team options are declined. Others – including Davis, Gordon, Kuzma, Tatum, and Tucker – have been mentioned in trade rumors.

Kuzma and Mitchell are the only players on the roster who haven’t played internationally for Team USA in the past. Five player on the roster (Barnes, Davis, Harden, Love, and Lowry) have won gold medals for USA Basketball at the 2012 or 2016 Olympics, while two others (Drummond and Gordon) have taken home gold at previous World Cups.

Previous reports indicated that Zion Williamson, John Collins, and Marvin Bagley are expected to be among the players named to a 10-man select team that will scrimmage with Team USA’s 20-man roster at the training camp in August.

More Names Revealed For Team USA World Cup Tryouts

Team USA’s training camp roster for the FIBA World Cup will be announced next week, but four players have already been confirmed, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Anthony Davis, James Harden, Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker will definitely be part of the team, while the other 14 slots are still being worked out. The roster will be trimmed to 12 when the players gather in Las Vegas in early August to prepare for the tournament, which takes place from August 31 to September 15 in China.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski drops a few more names in a full story on the World Cup tryouts, which sources tell him are also expected to include Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Bradley Beal and Kevin Love. Others planning to be part of the camp include Eric Gordon, Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond and Kyle Kuzma.

P.J. Tucker will attend training camp as well, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, and league sources tell Woj that Paul Millsap also plans to be there. Other names leaked for the camp are Tobias Harris (Twitter link from Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer) and Myles Turner (Twitter link from Scott Agness of the Athletic).

Zion Williamson, expected to be the first pick in the draft later this month, has been invited to camp as part of the 10-man select team that will scrimmage against the 18-man roster, Stein tweets. Williamson will be given a chance to play his way onto the final roster if he has a standout performance in that role, according to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo (Twitter link).

The select team will also include John Collins and Marvin Bagley, tweets Tim Bomtemps of ESPN.

The camp will be held from August 5-8, with exhibition games to follow before the start of World Cup play. Gregg Popovich will serve as head coach.

NBA Announces 2018/19 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has formally announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2018/19 season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden leading the way as the two unanimous selections for the First Team.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Antetokounmpo and Harden scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

As we detailed in March, this year’s All-NBA selections have significant financial implications for several players. Here’s a breakdown of how several All-NBA candidates were impacted:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is now eligible for a super-max extension with the Bucks, which he can sign in 2020. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22 and would extend his contract by five years.
  • Damian Lillard is now eligible for a super-max extension with the Trail Blazers, which he can sign in 2019. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22 and would extend his contract by four years.
  • Kemba Walker is now eligible for a super-max contract with the Hornets, which he can sign in 2019. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2019/20 and would be for five years.
  • Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, and other super-max candidates who didn’t earn All-NBA honors aren’t eligible for super-max contracts (or a super-max extension, in Beal’s case). Thompson’s and Vucevic’s maximum contracts this summer would start at 30% of the cap.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns‘ extension with the Timberwolves, which goes into effect in 2019/20, will start at 25% of the cap, rather than 30%, because he didn’t earn All-NBA honors.

Beal and Thompson received the most All-NBA votes of any guards who missed out on the All-NBA teams, receiving 34 and 27 points respectively. Sixers guard Ben Simmons got seven points, while no other guards had more than four.

LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs) and Danilo Gallinari (Clippers) were the runners-up at forward, receiving 17 and seven points, respectively. Pascal Siakam (Raptors) had four points, while no other forwards had more than three.

At center, Towns received 20 points, followed by Vucevic at four and Pistons center Andre Drummond with three.

Interestingly, the 15 players named to the All-NBA teams for 2018/19 were the same 15 players that Hoops Rumors readers voted for in our end-of-season All-NBA polls last month. The only differences were George swapping places with Durant and Irving flipping spots with Westbrook.

The full and official All-NBA voting results can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Stotts, Offseason

Earlier today, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Trail Blazers are expected to sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension that would lock him up for four additional seasons beyond the end of his current contract.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst covered the same subject in his own article this morning, pointing out that the uncertain ownership situation in Portland is a potential wild card for Lillard and the Blazers. However, even though the star point guard would remain eligible to sign a super-max extension in 2020, he’s “at ease” with the ownership situation and is open to signing that new deal this offseason, sources tell Windhorst.

While Trail Blazers ownership – headed by Jody Allen, the sister of late owner Paul Allen – appears set to commit big money to Lillard, it’s unclear whether the team will continue to authorize future luxury-tax spending, Windhorst writes. For now, those in the organization have been informed that no short-term changes to spending are anticipated.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Terry Stotts‘ contract situation will be worth watching closely this offseason, as 2019/20 is the final year of his current deal. Sources tell Chris Haynes that Stotts wasn’t pleased about not being extended a year ago, so the team will likely have to put an extension on the table now in order to get him back for next season. Head of basketball operations Neil Olshey, who has two years left on his contract, may have earned an extension as well, Windhorst writes.
  • In his preview of the Trail Blazers’ offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) explains why it will be tricky for the team to retain role players like Rodney Hood, Enes Kanter, and Seth Curry, and points out that CJ McCollum will be extension-eligible too.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News previews Portland’s upcoming summer as well, exploring whether the club can find a way to take another leap forward in 2019/20.
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic rounded up some post-game reactions from Blazers players on Monday, and took a look back at what was a memorable 2018/19 season for the franchise. “In the past few years, I’ve been much more like … hurt,” Lillard said, following Portland’s elimination. “Right now, a lot of the things that happened … like, I know how we lost. And not dominating how I would have liked to is disappointing. But to be where we are now — one of the final four teams — it doesn’t hurt as bad.”

Blazers, Lillard Expected To Agree To Super-Max Extension

While Damian Lillard‘s 2019 playoff run came to an end on Monday night, his contract with the Trail Blazers is expected to be extended this offseason, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Haynes reports that Lillard and the Blazers will likely agree to terms on a super-max extension this summer after the point guard becomes eligible.

Lillard would gain eligibility for a Designated Veteran Extension – known colloquially as the super-max – if he earns a spot on one of the All-NBA teams for the 2018/19 season, which is viewed as a lock.

Portland’s All-Star point guard still has two years left on his contract, but a super-max extension could tack on four more years to that deal, locking him up through the 2024/25 season.

Lillard is owed $29.8MM in 2019/10 and $31.6MM in 2020/21, and those figures would remain unchanged if the two sides reach a new agreement. The extension, which would have a starting salary worth 35% of the cap, would begin in 2021/22. While the exact value of that four-year deal isn’t yet known, the current estimate based on the league’s future cap projections is about $191MM, as Haynes notes.

Since Lillard will turn 29 this July, his four-year extension would cover his age 31-to-34 seasons. As we’ve seen with the Wizards and John Wall, it would be a risk for the Blazers to make such a significant investment two years before the deal goes into effect. But the team appears ready to make that commitment to one of the best players in franchise history.

Citing rival executives, Haynes writes that there’s a belief Lillard will get a player option on his new extension, which he bypassed last time he negotiated a new contract with the Blazers.

A seven-year veteran, Lillard is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro, having averaged 25.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and a career-high 6.9 APG in 80 games for Portland. He also produced one of the most memorable moments in the postseason, when he eliminated the Thunder from the first round with a 37-foot buzzer beater, then waved goodbye to their bench after the shot dropped.

Damian Lillard Has Separated Ribs

An injury may help explain Damian Lillard‘s shooting woes in the Western Conference Finals, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Trail Blazers star has been playing through the pain of separated ribs.

The injury appeared to happen in Thursday’s Game 2 when Warriors center Kevon Looney landed on Lillard during a battle for a loose ball.

Although Lillard is averaging 20.3 points and 7.3 assists in the series, has shot just 32.6%, including a 5 for 18 performance Saturday. He is also committing 4.7 turnovers per night in the three games against Golden State.

A source confirmed Lillard’s injury to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link), but stopped short of blaming it for his sub-par performance, saying, “Not a story, he always plays through injuries.”

Lillard’s condition is one more concern for the Trail Blazers as they face the near-impossible task of trying to overcome a 3-0 deficit against the defending champions.

Super-Max Extension In Play For Lillard This Offseason

As a lock for one of the six All-NBA guard spots this spring, Damian Lillard will become eligible for a super-max extension with the Trail Blazers this summer. And according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, unlike Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Anthony Davis, Lillard has “sent signals” that he’ll be interested in signing a super-max deal to stick with his current team.

As Windhorst observes, the ownership situation in Portland is a little unstable following the death of longtime owner Paul Allen, and Lillard met with Allen last season before his passing to discuss the direction of the franchise, which raised some eyebrows. However, Portland’s star point guard doesn’t have any concerns about ownership and he’s “very comfortable with his commitment” to the franchise, Windhorst writes.

Lillard will still have two years and $61MM+ left on his current contract after this season, so gaining super-max eligibility would allow him to tack on four new years to that deal. Assuming the Blazers put the offer on the table, the extension would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22. The exact figures aren’t yet known, since they’ll depend on where the cap ends up that year, but Windhorst estimates a four-year super-max would be worth approximately $194MM.

Because Lillard will have earned All-NBA honors in two consecutive years, he’d also remain eligible for a super-max extension in 2020 if he were to pass on one this year. While doing so would put him in line for an even larger payday, Windhorst suggests that there’s no indication the 28-year-old wants to put it off.

With Lillard apparently on board, an offseason extension seems likely, but Portland will still have to actually put the offer on the table. The Blazers remain fully committed to their franchise player, so I’d be surprised if they don’t make that super-max offer, but it’s worth noting that the four-year extension would start in Lillard’s age-31 season, which is still two years away.

Locking up a player a couple years in advance for his early-30s seasons is a risky play — just ask the Wizards, whose super-max for John Wall was completed in 2017 and won’t actually go into effect until this July. Still, the Blazers are a good bet to take that risk.