Damion Lee

Pacific Notes: Green, J. Jones, Lee, Sabonis, Kings

Draymond Green is on a potential expiring contract, so his NBA future beyond this season remains up in the air. However, he made it clear in a conversation with Marc J. Spears of Andscape that he doesn’t take his lengthy tenure with the Warriors for granted and appreciates that he has gotten to play alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson since entering the league.

“It’s incredible when you look at the amount of guys who’ve played for only one team,” Green said. “You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away.”

Green went on to say that, while he recognizes the NBA is business, he’d “absolutely” be interested in spending the rest of his career in Golden State. The four-time All-Star, who has a player option for 2023/24, said he’d let agent Rich Paul handle his contract situation, but added that he’d like to play for four or five more seasons before calling it a career.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Having been promoted to president of basketball operations by the Suns, James Jones expects to step away from some of the day-to-day aspects of running the team and delegate more of those tasks as he focuses on bigger-picture goals, per Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com. Jones said this week that there are no plans to hire a general manager to work under him in the front office hierarchy, but he also didn’t rule out that possibility down the road.
  • In a separate story for GoPhnx.com, Bourguet examines how offseason signee Damion Lee became such an important part of the Suns‘ second unit. Lee, who is making a career-best 49.4% of his three-point attempts so far this season, is only on a one-year contract, so he’ll return to the open market next summer.
  • Speaking to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, Kings center Domantas Sabonis said that he and point guard De’Aaron Fox are on the same page on and off the court, with the two stars determined to snap Sacramento’s 16-year playoff drought. “Fox is unselfish, I’m unselfish. I love to play in the pick-and-roll, he loves to play in the pick-and-roll. We want to show people that we can win, and win consistently, apart from everything that goes on in the NBA,” Sabonis said. “I think that’s the most important thing, is to show that we can turn this franchise around.”
  • Returning to Sacramento for the first time since being traded from the Kings to the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield got wildly different receptions on Wednesday, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Haliburton, who was caught off guard and upset when he was traded last season, received a standing ovation; Hield, who made it clear before being traded that he’d welcome a change of scenery, was met with boos. Hield was unfazed by the crowd’s reaction, as Dopirak relays. “I didn’t give a (expletive),” he said. “I go to sleep happy and I make a lot of money.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Clippers, Conley, CP3, Suns

Even though they lost their first five games of the season, the Lakers were playing fairly solid defense during that slump, but their defensive numbers have dropped off substantially during their recent three-game losing streak. Head coach Darvin Ham is convinced that those struggles won’t last, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I would say this, man. And write it, quote it, however,” Ham told reporters on Monday. “This may be happening now at the outset of what we’re trying to force to be a culture change in terms of getting us back to being highly competitive on a highly consistent basis, but it’s not going to always be like this.

“We’re going to turn the corner. I didn’t come here to lose. They didn’t bring me here to lose.”

As McMenamin writes, Ham believes that significant roster turnover from last season to this season is a factor in the Lakers’ 2-8 start, as are injury issues — three starters, LeBron James, Patrick Beverley, and Lonnie Walker, sat out Monday’s loss to Utah.

“There is a process involved where we have to go through tough times,” Ham said. “Like, I want to bottle this up. I want to embrace it. I want to have it and store it so when things are turned around and we get too comfortable and we start complaining about some problems that are not even necessarily problems — problems that winning teams go through — I want to be able to reflect on these times.”

Anthony Davis told reporters on Monday that a 2-8 start is “a hard pill to swallow,” but noted that there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.

“I think New Orleans was 1-12 or something last year, come back and go on a run,” Davis said. “We’ve got to put it together. Offense has found its rhythm. It seems like we’ve lost all our defensive intensity. And that’s what’s killing us.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Jazz point guard Mike Conley believed at one point during the offseason that he was headed to Los Angeles, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. As Jones reports, Conley received a message from someone he trusted saying that he could be traded to the Clippers, but the team ultimately signed John Wall instead to fortify the point guard spot.
  • Already missing one starter, the Suns lost another in Monday’s game, as point guard Chris Paul exited in the second quarter due to right heel soreness and didn’t return. However, Paul doesn’t believe the injury will be a long-term concern, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Asked if not returning to Monday’s game was mostly about he and the team taking a cautious approach to the injury, Paul replied, “Yeah.”
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams said on Monday that the team may take a committee approach to replacing Cameron Johnson‘s minutes at power forward, Bontemps writes. Torrey Craig has gotten the first chance to take Johnson’s spot in the starting five, but Damion Lee, Dario Saric, and Jock Landale are also candidates for an eventual promotion, according to Williams.

Suns Sign Damion Lee To One-Year Deal

The Suns have signed Damion Lee to a contract, per NBA.com’s official transactions log.

Because the deal is already official, we can deduce it’s a minimum-salary pact, since those can be signed during the July moratorium. The contract will be for one year, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Lee, 29, went undrafted out of Louisville in 2016. He made his rookie debut with the Hawks in 2017/18, first signing a 10-day deal and then a rest-of-season contract, appearing in 15 games for Atlanta.

Lee has spent the last four seasons with the Warriors, winning a title with Golden State this season. In 201 regular season games (20.6 MPG) with the Warriors, Lee averaged 8.1 PPG and 3.4 RPG on .437/.366/.880 shooting.

While Lee isn’t a great defensive player, he is an impressive shot-maker when he gets rolling, capable of scoring points in bunches. Lee joins Gary Payton II, Otto Porter, Nemanja Bjelica and Juan Toscano-Anderson as role players who are departing the defending champions.

Phoenix gets a decent depth piece at shooting guard, although Lee probably won’t receive many minutes behind star Devin Booker.

Western Notes: Looney, Payton, Wolves, Mavs’ Targets, Rockets

The Warriors have made re-signed center Kevon Looney their top free agent priority and are expected to meet with his agent, Todd Ramasar, in the early hours of free agency, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Gary Payton II profiles as the Warriors’ second-most important priority but he’ll have other suitors, with the Mavericks expected to be among them, per Slater. Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee are the players most vulnerable to losing their roster spots, Slater adds.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves wound up with two first-round draft picks but it won’t alter their plans for free agency, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. GM Tim Connelly said they’ll be looking for players who can make an immediate impact. “I don’t think it has a huge impact,” Connelly said. “Again, the draft is for the next two, three, four, five, six, seven years.”
  • While re-signing Jalen Brunson looms as their top free agent priority, the Mavericks could go shopping for other free agents. Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News looks at some other potential targets, including Gary Harris, Otto Porter Jr. and Goran Dragic.
  • By reaching a buyout agreement with John Wall, the Rockets now have 18 players on the roster, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. They’re $30MM below the luxury tax threshold, with Eric Gordon — a prime trade candidate — as the lone player earning more than $10MM.

Latest Salary Guarantees: D. Lee, Reed, Hartenstein, Sykes, M. Thomas

Warriors swingman Damion Lee will have the rest of his 2021/22 salary guaranteed, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). The news doesn’t come as a surprise, as Lee has been with Golden State for four seasons and has been part of the regular rotation for three of those.

Lee, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, will now have his $1,910,860 cap hit for ’21/22 locked in. The Warriors are also guaranteeing Gary Payton II’s rest-of-season salary, so the team won’t have create any new openings on its 15-man roster.

Here are more updates on players who are affected by today’s salary guarantee deadline:

  • The Sixers will keep Paul Reed through the deadline, guaranteeing his salary, tweets Scotto. Reed, who is earning $1,517,981 in 2021/22, also has a non-guaranteed minimum salary for next season before he becomes eligible for restricted free agency in 2023. The 6’9″ forward has averaged 2.3 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 19 games (9.4 MPG) for Philadelphia in his second NBA season.
  • Clippers center Isaiah Hartenstein will have his full-season salary guaranteed, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Hartenstein, earning $1,729,217, was always one of the safer bets to survive the salary guarantee deadline, since he played a key role in L.A.’s frontcourt, putting up 7.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.3 BPG in just 16.4 MPG (29 games).
  • After recently signing a two-year contract with the Pacers, Keifer Sykes will have his rest-of-season salary guaranteed, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Sykes, who made a strong impression in the G League, is off to a strong start at the NBA level too, averaging 10.4 PPG and 3.6 APG in his first five games (26.8 MPG). Since he didn’t sign until December 27, Sykes’ prorated rookie-minimum salary is worth just $558,345.
  • The Bulls will hang onto sharpshooter Matt Thomas, guaranteeing his minimum-salary contract for 2021/22, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Thomas has only appeared in 13 games for Chicago and his three-point rate (34.6%) is well below his career rate (40.5%), but the team apparently values his ability to stretch the floor. He’ll make $1,669,178 this season before becoming eligible for restricted free agency. The Bulls will also have to make a decision today on Alfonzo McKinnie‘s non-guaranteed contract.

Warriors Notes: Poole, Wiggins, Klay, Lesser-Paid Players

At 29-7, the Warriors have the best record in the NBA, a half-game ahead of the Suns. One key to the team’s success this season has been the maturation and development of third-year guard Jordan Poole, who’s being groomed to become Golden State’s new sixth man, as Anthony Slater and Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic detail.

Poole’s situation on the club is unique, in that he’s the only young player to have a consistent rotational role. He describes the dynamic as being akin to a middle-child.

The dynamic is what you see,” Poole said. “I’m not the youngest. I’ve been around for a little bit, but I’m kind of like the only one in the middle of the pack. The older bros have been through it. Sometimes we’re gonna throw you with the young guys, sometimes you can come with us. Essentially, it’s the middle-child treatment.”

Slater and Thompson write that Poole is known for having an excellent work ethic; the Warriors have data showing he’s in the gym more than any player on the team. Veteran Andre Iguodala, the team’s former sixth man, has taken Poole under his wing. As a third-year former first-round pick (28th overall in the 2019 draft), Poole is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.

The new sixth man is getting $20 million a year,” Iguodala said. “That’s the bottom offer for a guy like that, the Tyler Herros and Jordan Pooles. You got those few guys who are starters but for teams they are on, they’re sixth men. You don’t have a problem with going above and beyond taking care of them because you know they’ll be a staple player for your franchise.”

In 30 games (28 starts) this season, Poole is averaging 18.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists in 30.1 minutes per contest. He also sports a .454/.348/.887 shooting line, good for a 59.3 true shooting percentage.

Here’s more on the Warriors:

COVID-19 Updates: Porzingis, SGA, Garland, Valanciunas, More

Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and has been ruled out for Monday’s game vs. Denver, the team announced today (via Twitter).

The Mavericks got good news over the weekend, as Luka Doncic was cleared to play for the first time since December 10 and led the team to a win in Oklahoma City on Sunday. But now Porzingis is at risk of missing a few games due to the health and safety protocols, and he’s not the only Mav affected — the club still has four other players in the protocols too.

Here’s more COVID-related news from around the NBA:

  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is no longer in the health and safety protocols, acting head coach Mike Wilks said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Gilgeous-Alexander only entered the protocols on Saturday, so he may have registered a false positive test.
  • Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, who had been in the COVID-19 protocols since last Tuesday, was able to practice today, per head coach J.B. Bickerstaff (Twitter link via Kelsey Russo of The Athletic).
  • Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas has cleared the protocols and will be available for Monday’s game against Utah, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
  • Damion Lee and James Wiseman have exited the protocols for the Warriors, per the NBA’s injury report. Wiseman remains sidelined while he recovers from right knee surgery, but Lee is no longer on the injury report at all, and Golden State doesn’t have any players in the protocols.
  • After briefly clearing the protocols, Hornets forward P.J. Washington reentered them on Sunday, according to the team (Twitter link). He’ll miss Monday’s game vs. Washington (Twitter link).
  • Lonzo Ball and Alfonzo McKinnie of the Bulls have both exited the health and safety protocols and will be available to play on Monday vs. Orlando, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Nets rookie Kessler Edwards is no longer in the COVID-19 protocols, according to the NBA’s injury report. Brooklyn was hit hard by an outbreak in December but currently has no players affected.
  • Lakers assistant David Fizdale, who briefly served as the club’s acting head coach during Frank Vogel‘s stint in the protocols, has now entered the protocols himself, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Hawks’ Huerter, Warriors’ Lee Placed In Protocols

Hawks guard Kevin Huerter and Warriors guard Damion Lee are the latest additions to the long list of NBA players in health and safety protocols.

Huerter is the sixth Atlanta player to be sidelined because of COVID-19, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joins Trae Young, Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who have all entered the protocols since Sunday.

Huerter is averaging 10.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists through 28 games. The Hawks had been hoping he could carry a larger share of the scoring load with so many rotation members out of action.

Atlanta is also without De’Andre Hunter, who is recovering from an injury to his right wrist, and Solomon Hill, who’s sidelined with a torn right hamstring. Lance Stephenson and Malcolm Hill, who were both added to the roster today under the hardship provision, are expected to be available for tonight’s game with the Magic.

“It’s an adjustment that we have to make, we can’t allow this to be a distraction,” coach Nate McMillan said. “We have a game to play tonight. We have to come out with that energy and that effort we’ve been talking about, no matter who is in uniform. We have to play this game harder than we’ve played here lately. We’ve got to execute better, even though we’ve got a few new faces that will be out on the floor.”

The Warriors are listing Lee as being in the protocols in their latest injury report, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He becomes the third Golden State player affected, joining Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole. Lee has been a dependable bench player for the Warriors, averaging 8.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 25 games.

Pacific Notes: Ariza, Bradley, Howard, Jordan, Lee, Iguodala, Kerr

Lakers forward Trevor Ariza participated in his first non-contact practice since preseason ankle surgery on Thursday, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Coach Frank Vogel says Ariza will need a “build-up” period before he’ll play. Ariza was projected as a starter after signing a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers guard Avery Bradley will not need surgery on his sprained right thumb, Bill Oram of The Athletic tweets. Bradley will be available to play on Friday but he’ll require a splint to protect the injury. Vogel is unsure whether he’ll play Bradley or to give him more time to recover.
  • It’ll be one veteran center or the other in the foreseeable future for the Lakers, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets. Vogel plans to use either Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan on a game-by-game basis. Howard will get the start against the Clippers on Friday, so Jordan probably won’t play.
  • Damion Lee will return to action on Friday for the Warriors, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Lee, who last appeared in an NBA game on November 24, left the team for the birth of his first child. Andre Iguodala will miss his eighth consecutive game due to right knee soreness.
  • Despite winning multiple championship, Warriors coach Steve Kerr hasn’t lost his competitive spirit, as he told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “Part of what allowed me to stay in the NBA for 15 years as a player is that losing humiliates me, you know? My competitive desire drives me,” he said. “But like a lot of players at this level, the fear of losing is an even bigger motivator. So even though I don’t stop and think about legacy or anything like that, I just want to (bleeping) win, you know? It burns in me.”

Warriors Notes: Kuminga, Moody, Lee, Atkinson, Bjelica

There’s a possibility that Jonathan Kuminga – who has been dealing with a right knee injury – will be active for the first time on Saturday, head coach Steve Kerr said today (Twitter link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). Kuminga went through a 3-on-3 workout today and the club will likely make a decision tomorrow on his status.

As for the team’s other lottery pick, Moses Moody was assigned today to the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League. However, after playing in Santa Cruz’s game tonight, he’ll back with Golden State on Saturday, tweets Slater. If Damion Lee, who is questionable with a shoulder contusion, is unable to play tomorrow, Moody could see some action, Kerr said (Twitter link via Slater).

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • It’s just not Warriors players who are on the mend from injuries — assistant coach Kenny Atkinson injured his leg during a recent workout and will be off the bench indefinitely until the injury heals, according to Slater (Twitter link).
  • Nemanja Bjelica has been known primarily as a shooter since entering the NBA, but he’s proving this season with the Warriors that he has a more well-rounded game, writes Rusty Simmons of The San Francisco Chronicle. “He’s a great passer, and just a really good basketball player,” Kerr said. “… I think that’s who our team has always been. That’s why guys with good feel have always been a great fit with us. He’s absolutely a great fit. The guys love playing with him. The ball moves when he’s out there, he spaces the floor, and he forces the defense to react. He’s a fun guy to play with.” Bjelica signed a one-year, minimum-salary deal with the club in August.
  • In case you missed it, Golden State exercised its 2022/23 team options on Jordan Poole and James Wiseman, guaranteeing their salaries for next season.