Damion Lee

Landry Shamet Cleared To Return For Suns

Veteran guard Landry Shamet will be available on Sunday for the Suns‘ game in Oklahoma City, the team officially confirmed today (via Twitter).

It will be the first time Shamet has been active for the Suns since January 16. He has missed the last two months due to a right foot injury. Prior to going down, the 26-year-old was averaging 9.5 points and 2.2 assists in 21.4 minutes per night and had made 37.7% of his three-point attempts in in 30 games.

Shamet has previously suffered stress fractures in both of his feet and said that this injury – which the Suns referred to as “right foot soreness” – could have had the same result if he had continued playing.

“Caught things right before a stress fracture,” Shamet said, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “The buildup process of the discomfort and it’s sore, but you can kind of play through it and then it’s sore. Then it gets worse and worse and worse and worse and then it eventually it just breaks. Luckily we caught that early enough, which is a great thing. So that cleared up.”

Even after averting a stress fracture, Shamet dealt with nagging issues in the foot that delayed his return, as he explained on Saturday.

“Soft tissue, inflammation type situations,” Shamet said. “We worked through it. It was frustrating, very frustrating at times. Very gray. Not knowing what exactly the situation was, but our training staff did a good job of trying to identify things and collaborating with me and my team. Trying to figure it out. So we did a good job and here we are.”

According to head coach Monty Williams, Shamet won’t play a “crazy amount of minutes” immediately upon returning. The Suns have other options on the wing, including Terrence Ross and Damion Lee. Determining which of those players will be part of Phoenix’s playoff rotation will be a major consideration during the final three weeks of the regular season, notes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports (via Twitter). In the meantime, Shamet’s teammates are just looking forward to seeing him back in action.

“Hell yeah, we’ve been waiting on it,” Devin Booker said, according to Rankin. “He’s been rehabbing. I always say how tough that can be. We want everybody healthy at the right time and it’s a good time to be coming back and getting ramped up.”

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Suns Rotation, Durant, Paul

Russell Westbrook only started three games with the Lakers this season but that could change when he signs with the other Los Angeles team. Westbrook, who intends to join the Clippers after clearing waivers, will have an opportunity to start, according to Law Murray of The Athletic.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms in an appearance on NBA Today that Westbrook could be the starter (video link). Terance Mann has been starting for the Clippers, but may be moved to the second unit.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Westbrook could clear waivers in time to practice with the Clippers on Thursday and possibly make his debut on Friday, when the team faces Sacramento, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. Clippers players lobbied for the addition of Westbrook and feel he’ll be a better fit with them than he was with the Lakers. The Clippers have seven rotation players shooting 37% or better on 3-point attempts, which should help mask Westbrook’s struggles from the perimeter.
  • Suns guard Damion Lee notes that the rotation will be greatly altered in the coming weeks, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Along with trading for Kevin Durant, they have also added T.J. Warren, Darius Bazley and Terrence Ross. Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet are expected back soon from injuries. “If your minutes are reduced, if your minutes are increased, whatever it is, just doing what you do and try to do it at a high level because even when we get Landry back and C-Payne back as well, guys are just going to have to understand that in order for us to be great and accomplish what we look to achieve and look to accomplish, there has to be sacrifices,” Lee said.
  • Durant is thrilled that he’ll have Chris Paul feeding him the ball with the Suns, Sam Amick of The Athletic relays. Durant says Paul’s passion hasn’t waned over the years. “I think (it’s) his IQ for the game,” Durant said. “I think his enthusiasm for the game. I think that goes underrated. CP really loves ball. He just likes watching the game, like analyzing. Like going through strategy and stuff. It’s been a week there now (in Phoenix). A couple of practices, a few games, and he is always pulling me to the side, and we’re just talking hoop. So I love that about him. Obviously, on the floor, he can create so much for his teammates and for himself.”

Pacific Notes: C. Johnson, D. Lee, Kuminga, Vezenkov

Suns forward Cameron Johnson, who is recovering from knee surgery and has been out since November 4, has played some 1-on-1 but isn’t yet taking contract, head coach Monty Williams said on Wednesday (Twitter video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

While Johnson has a few more hurdles to clear before he’s ready to get back onto the court for the Suns, general manager James Jones indicated on Wednesday that the 26-year-old is entering the final stage of his rehab process, according to Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7.

“He’s in the latter stages of it but as far as a definitive timeline I don’t have anything,” Jones said during a radio appearance on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo. “I do know at some point soon we should get him back. I just can’t tell you if that’s going to be in five days, 10 days, but every day he’s getting closer.”

The banged-up Suns have also been without Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet as of late, so getting Johnson back would provide the team with a huge lift.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Current Suns and former Warriors guard Damion Lee, Stephen Curry‘s brother-in-law, finally got his 2022 championship ring when his team played in Golden State on Tuesday. Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic takes an in-depth look at what was a memorable day for Lee, who helped upset his old team by going 14-for-14 from the free throw line and scoring a season-high 22 points.
  • With Jonathan Kuminga getting close to returning from a right foot sprain that has kept him out of action since December 30, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he’ll welcome the “physicality and athleticism” the second-year forward brings to the lineup. “I thought last game against Phoenix (on Tuesday) we were not physical enough,” Kerr said, per Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Phoenix came in and really took it to us. They were physical, they were aggressive on the boards.”
  • In an interview with BasketNews, Kings draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov clarified that the extension he recently signed with Olympiacos in Greece doesn’t rule out the possibility of him making a move to the NBA this summer or in a future season, since the deal includes a buyout estimated to be worth $1.5MM. “Before the contract and after the contract, I’m in the same position,” Vezenkov said.

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.