D'Angelo Russell

New York Notes: Dolan, Durant, Russell, Nets

With Kristaps Porzingis sidelined due to his ACL tear, the Knicks have lacked star power this season, something owner James Dolan observed this week, as Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News details. Drawing a line between the Knicks and the other team he owns – the NHL’s New York Rangers – Dolan suggested that his NBA club would “probably be competing for a playoff spot” if it featured a star player like Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Instead, the 10-30 Knicks are just two games away from having the NBA’s worst record. Although New York has been focusing on developing its young players at the expense of some veterans’ playing time, Dolan dismissed the idea that he’s in favor of tanking, per Bondy.

“You have responsibility to the fans,” Dolan said. “Fans pay for tickets and they deserve (the) best game you can give them. That’s probably No. 1. But when you go in and tell a team, even if you’re just telling the coach, to lose the game, you’re dispiriting your team. That hurts more than getting a better draft pick helps. It’s hard to reignite the spirit of the team.”

While Dolan publicly disavowed the idea of tanking, he did acknowledge that he hears from plenty of Knicks fans who want the team to lose in order to have a chance to draft “this kid out of Duke.” NBA executives generally aren’t permitted to publicly comment on college underclassmen, but the league isn’t expected to take action against Dolan for his oblique reference to top prospect Zion Williamson, tweets Bondy.

Let’s round up a few more items on the NBA’s two New York clubs…

  • Kevin Durant didn’t offer up any juicy comments today when he was grilled by New York reporters about the idea of joining the Knicks in free agency later this year, but he also didn’t seem to mind the back-and-forth, Bondy writes in a separate Daily News story. “I wish it was the other way where it was totally about the game, but I get it,” Durant said. “Our league has grown so much in popularity. The sexy thing is what happens in the summer moreso than what happens in the season – playoffs and free agency is the big thing now. I get it.”
  • After starting his 41st game of the season on Monday, Nets guard D’Angelo Russell has officially met the “starter criteria” for restricted free agents, as Bobby Marks of ESPN.com observes (via Twitter). That means that Russell’s projected qualifying offer ($9.16MM) and cap hold ($21.06MM) for this summer will remain unchanged — both would have been reduced if he hadn’t started at least 41 games or played 2,000 minutes this season.
  • Hamstrung for years by their infamous trade with the Celtics, the Nets aren’t in the same class as the C’s, who comfortably beat them on Monday, but Brooklyn’s future looks much brighter than it once did, says Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.

Atlantic Notes: Butler, Russell, Raptors, Wanamaker

Sixers coach Brett Brown is defending Jimmy Butler, saying he wasn’t disrespectful when he questioned the way he’s being used in the offense, according to an Associated Press story. ESPN reported Friday that Butler has “aggressively challenged” Brown since being acquired from the Timberwolves in November and has “tenuous” chemistry with fellow stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Meeting with reporters before tonight’s game, Brown tried to calm the situation.

“I didn’t feel like any of that crossed the line,” he said of Butler’s comments. “He’s vocal. He’s all in and he has opinions, but it’s instigated by me. None of this should surprise anybody. He’s got opinions. He wants to be heard. And he should be heard.”

Butler missed the game with a respiratory infection and wasn’t available for comment. He reportedly wants to be utilized more often in pick-and-roll situations, which aren’t a standard part of Brown’s offense.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets guard D’Angelo Russell has improved significantly during his second season in Brooklyn, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Russell, who is averaging career highs with 18.2 points and 6.4 assists per game, is headed for restricted free agency this summer but indicated a desire to stay with the Nets. “We’re winning,” he said. “I haven’t won a lot in this league, so for me to get that type of success, I’m going to stick with it.”
  • As Kyle Lowry missed his sixth straight game tonight with back trouble, the Raptors are looking for another playmaker before next month’s trade deadline, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. He states the best target would be the Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague, who isn’t being shopped but has become more expendable with productive seasons from Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones. Other possibilities include the Mavericks’ J.J. Barea or Devin Harris and the Hawks’ Jeremy Lin.
  • Brad Wanamaker was as surprised as anyone when Celtics coach Brad Stevens told him to check in during the first quarter last night, relays Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. It was the 15th game of the season for the 29-year-old rookie, but most of his time has come late in games that were already decided. He responded with a pair of 3-pointers to help Boston build a lead. “The key word is challenging,” Wanamaker said. “I’m just trying to stay mentally prepared. I’m getting a lot of feedback from my family, friends, just saying, ‘Stay ready.’”

Scotto’s Latest: Bazemore, Porter, Holiday, Dieng

Any team that trades for Hawks forward Kent Bazemore should prepare to pay him beyond this season, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Scotto shares a few rumors in a column on New Year’s resolutions for all 30 teams, including a report that Bazemore is leaning toward exercising his $19.27MM player option for next year.

That would represent a modest raise for the 29-year-old, who is making a little more than $18MM this season. Bazemore, who is sidelined with a right ankle sprain that will keep him out for at least two weeks, is one of the most popular names on the trade market, with the Rockets among the teams already expressing interest in acquiring him.

Scotto offers a few more interesting tidbits sprinkled among his advice for 2019:

  • The Mavericks have expressed interest in trading for Wizards forward Otto Porter. Washington faces luxury tax concerns this season and beyond and will owe Porter nearly $56MM over the next two years if he exercises his player option for 2020/21. Porter’s production has declined in his sixth season, and the Wizards may concentrate on fixing their long-term salary structure after John Wall elected to have heel surgery that will sideline him for six to eight months.
  • After losing out on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes, the Rockets have continued to search for a defensive-minded wing who can hit 3-pointers. Among the players they called about is Justin Holiday, who is averaging 11.8 PPG with the Bulls and ranks eighth in the league in made threes with 96. Holiday has an expiring $4.4MM deal, so he would be a low-cost option for any contender. Houston is also looking for a rim protector to back up Clint Capela.
  • The Timberwolves tried again to find a taker for center Gorgui Dieng, who has become a little-used reserve, playing just 13.7 minutes per night. Minnesota attempted to unload Dieng, who is owed about $33.5MM over the next two seasons, in Butler trade talks but couldn’t find anyone willing to take on that salary.
  • D’Angelo Russell‘s friendship with Suns star Devin Booker may make him an option for Phoenix. Russell is headed for restricted free agency this summer and the Suns need a long-term solution at point guard. The extension the Nets gave to Spencer Dinwiddie could make them reluctant to invest heavily in Russell.

Dinwiddie Extension Good News For Rozier, Russell?

League executives at last week’s G League Showcase in Las Vegas were “raving” about the Nets‘ deal to lock up Spencer Dinwiddie to a three-year, $34.3MM extension, comparing it to the Clippers‘ three-year, $24MM agreement with Lou Williams, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider-only link).

According to Marks, two teams he spoke to in Vegas had Dinwiddie ranked as the third-best point guard in the 2019 free agent class before he signed his extension, placing him behind only Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. That would have put Dinwiddie ahead of younger players like Terry Rozier (Celtics) and D’Angelo Russell (Nets), both of whom are on track for restricted free agency.

Rozier and Russell should benefit from Dinwiddie’s deal, since it takes one of 2019’s top FA point guards off the board and could create additional competition for their services. According to Marks, league execs in Vegas last week identified the Magic and Suns as probable suitors for Rozier and Russell, though the Celtics and Nets will have the upper hand until an offer sheet is on the table.

Here’s more from Marks:

  • Teams are monitoring Markelle Fultz, not just to keep an eye on his health and future, but also to see how Fultz’s status will impact Sixers teammate T.J. McConnell, according to Marks. McConnell is headed for unrestricted free agency and is unlikely to get an in-season extension if Philadelphia intends to maximize its 2019 cap room. McConnell could command a salary in the $5-7MM range, Marks notes.
  • Teams around the NBA believe there could be a strong group of buyout candidates available later this season. According to Marks, the veteran players that clubs are keeping an eye on include Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez, Zach Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Enes Kanter, Kenneth Faried, Jerryd Bayless, Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos, Alec Burks, J.R. Smith, and Jabari Parker. Some of those vets may be traded and some figure to remain with their current teams, but I could definitely see several of them ending up on the buyout market.

New York Notes: Hardaway, Russell, Lin, Mudiay

After a strong start to the 2018/19 season, Knicks’ guard Tim Hardaway Jr. has seen his game go a little stagnant over the last month or so. And according to Stefan Bondy of the Daily News, we now know why, as it has been reported that Hardaway is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and will have to manage the pain moving forward this season.

As Bondy notes, Hardaway missed the Knicks’ loss against the Suns on Monday to ease some inflammation he was having, but he returned tonight to score 27 points against the Sixers, albeit in a losing effort.

As numerous previous injuries have demonstrated, playing on plantar fasciitis prolongs the recovery because the only cure is rest. Knicks’ head coach David Fizdale says that Hardaway has been coping with the pain “for a while,” but Hardaway says the pain only began a few games ago, so it’s difficult to know when the pain actually started.

“I’ve never had (plantar fasciitis) before, just heard a lot of things about it, that if you keep playing on it, it could get worse,” Hardaway told Bondy. “So around this time last year (with the Knicks) I had an injury and I was out a month-and-a-half. Almost two months. So I just want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Hardaway’s status and pain tolerance will be something to keep an eye on as the Knicks’ season moves forward.

There’s more out of the Big Apple:

  • Nets’ point guard D’Angelo Russell is beginning to look like a player who was taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the NBA Draft, and his teammates and others within the organization are starting to take notice, per NetsDaily. Russell is embracing Brooklyn and becoming a team-first player as he looks to become a leader and cash in on a big payday this summer.
  • In a piece written by Brian Lewis of the New York Post, former Nets’ and current Hawks’ guard Jeremy Lin opens up about the pain he felt when he was traded to Atlanta from Brooklyn. Speaking on his meeting with head coach Kenny Atkinson after learning of the trade, Lin said he was hurt and that the trade was unexpected, but that he ultimately understood it was a business decision and he’s grateful for the time he spent in Brooklyn.
  • Since being promoted to the starting lineup about a month ago, Knicks’ point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has been a bright spot for an otherwise underwhelming team, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Mudiay has done a good job of improving his conditioning, but his defense is still a work in process. If he continues to get better this season, however, the Knicks could very well look at bringing him back next season and beyond.

Magic Rumors: Fultz, Rozier, Russell, Ross, Simmons

As they cling to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Magic are said to be exploring the trade market in search of possible deals, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

According to Kyler, an ideal trade for Orlando would involve a starting-caliber point guard. While D.J. Augustin is having another solid season for the Magic, averaging 10.3 PPG and 5.0 APG with a shooting line of .450/.439/.875, the 31-year-old is almost certainly not the long-term solution at the position for the franchise.

Here’s more on the Magic’s hunt for a point guard, along with a couple other rumors out of Orlando:

  • While the Magic have been named as a team with interest in former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, team sources have downplayed the seriousness of any talks they’ve had with the Sixers, Kyler reports.
  • The Magic have begun to do due diligence on some of 2019’s free agent point guards, with Terry Rozier and D’Angelo Russell among the players on their radar, sources tell Kyler. Rozier is considered Orlando’s top potential target, Kyler adds. However, he’ll be a restricted free agent and figures to attract interest from several other teams too.
  • Although many teams believe the Magic are “open for business,” the front office won’t be willing to make any deals that compromise their long-term outlook, says Kyler. In other words, players on expiring or short-term contracts are Orlando’s most likely trade candidates.
  • Marc Stein of The New York Times suggested on Tuesday that the Magic are more inclined to move Jonathon Simmons than Terrence Ross, but league sources have repeatedly told Kyler that Ross would have more value on the trade market, even though he’s on track to reach unrestricted free agency in 2019. Ross’s name is the one that comes up most frequently from teams that have been “poking around” Orlando’s roster, per Kyler.

Atlantic Notes: Dinwiddie, Butler, Embiid, Fultz

The Nets made news last week when they agreed to a contract extension with point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. The three-year deal totals $34MM+ and includes a player option on the final year, which would allow Dinwiddie to re-enter the free agency market at age 28 to secure another contract.

The decision to give Dinwiddie the extension might have appeared simple on the surface, but Michael Scotto of The Athletic analyzes how it may impact the decisions the Nets have to make on upcoming restricted free agents D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Russell will very likely be looking for more money on his next contract, while the Nets also have 2019 free agency aspirations as they look to make the next step and become a playoff team. For now, they have locked up a quality point guard for the foreseeable future on a very reasonable contract as they look to navigate the waters without Caris LeVert moving forward this season.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

  • In his running column on the Sixers for The Athletic, Derek Bodner explored the fit between Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid, especially in light of the comments Embiid made about the questionable fit and role he has had since the trade.
  • The Sixers have struggled recently as a result of Butler’s injury, which, as Tim Bontemps writes for ESPN, exposes the team’s lack of depth on a nightly basis. Bontemps also discusses the notion that subsequent roster moves that would help solve the 76ers’ depth issues moving forward.
  • According to Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Ben Uzoh, a former point guard that also dealt with thoracic outlet syndrome during his playing career, has reached out to Markelle Fultz to provide him with advice on how to navigate the diagnosis and properly recover as the Sixers‘ young point guard looks to get his career back on track.

Atlantic Notes: Kawhi, Fultz, Celtics, Nets

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich raised some eyebrows on Saturday when he said that Kawhi Leonard wasn’t a “leader” in San Antonio, with veterans like Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills assuming that role instead. While Popovich acknowledged that Leonard was a great player, he suggested that “leadership wasn’t his deal at the time.”

Responding to those comments on Sunday night, Leonard pushed back, telling reporters – including Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter links) – that he leads by example with the Raptors, as he did for the Spurs.

“It’s just funny to me,” Leonard said of Popovich’s comments. “I don’t know if he’s talking about last year or not. I guess when you stop playing they forget how you lead… It doesn’t matter. I’m here with the Raptors and I’m focused on the season and not what’s going on on the other side.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers won’t be providing an update on Markelle Fultz today, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Keith Pompey of Philly.com (Twitter links). As Woj and Pompey explain, Fultz is now scheduled to see multiple specialists this week in New York, so there likely won’t be any decisions made on his next steps until the latter part of the week.
  • Within an in-depth piece on the Celtics‘ struggles, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes, “Most executives expect the trade winds to stay quiet, and there are few players who would realistically be available who would be upgrades for Boston.” President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has essentially said as much publicly, as we detailed earlier today.
  • With Caris LeVert sidelined indefinitely, Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell have been developing chemistry together as the Nets‘ lead guards, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. LeVert remains perhaps the most important long-term piece in Brooklyn’s backcourt, but the knowledge that Dinwiddie and Russell can succeed together would give the team more options next summer, when both players will become free agents.

Nets Rumors: Butler, LeVert, Allen, Russell, RHJ

Although the Nets internally view Jimmy Butler as a top-10 or top-15 player in the NBA, the team resolved not to give up any of its prime assets for him once he became available, writes Michael Scotto of The Athletic. When Brooklyn briefly discussed the possibility of acquiring Butler in a trade, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and the team’s first-round pick were off-limits.

As Scotto details, general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson have talked throughout their tenures about not “skipping steps” in the Nets’ rebuilding process. Sacrificing one or two of the club’s top young players or draft picks would have meant going for a quick fix, with no assurances that Butler would have stuck around beyond 2019.

Here’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • The Nets did kick the tires on Butler before the Timberwolves sent him to Philadelphia, having discussed a deal involving D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and salary filler, league sources tell Scotto. However, those talks didn’t gain any traction.
  • Scotto identifies Nikola Mirotic and Tobias Harris as two veteran forwards who may receive interest from the Nets during the summer of 2019. Brooklyn has long coveted a reliable stretch four, and Mirotic and Harris, who will both be unrestricted free agents next year, are capable of playing that role.
  • As he approaches restricted free agency, D’Angelo Russell is showing a little more consistency, particularly on the defensive end, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “His maturity, his consistency, that’s what we’re starting to see,” Kenny Atkinson said. “That’s the challenge for him. It’s not on-again, off-again. We need more on from him, and I think he’s starting to get over that hurdle. He looked really good physically, too, against Denver (on Friday). He really got after it.”

Nets Notes: Free Agency, Russell, Faried, LeVert

The Nets were one of the NBA’s most aggressive teams in free agency in 2016 and 2017, handing out a total of four offer sheets to Allen Crabbe, Tyler Johnson, Donatas Motiejunas, and Otto Porter during that time. All four of those offers were matched, which probably ended up being a good thing in retrospect for Brooklyn, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

While Crabbe ended up on the Nets eventually as a result of a trade, he has struggled with his consistency, as has Johnson. Meanwhile, Motiejunas is no longer in the NBA and Porter is off to a bad start for the 2-8 Wizards this season.

If most or all of those players had landed in Brooklyn as a result of those offer sheets, the Nets almost certainly wouldn’t be in position to make a splash in the 2019 free agent period — instead, their cap would be weighed down with lucrative multiyear deals for players who haven’t necessarily emerged as impact players. So while GM Sean Marks deserves some credit for making the most of a bad situation during the first few years of his tenure, he has also benefited from some good luck in restricted free agency.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Before the Nets defeated the Suns on Tuesday, Devin Booker told Greg Logan of Newsday that he’d “love to play” with Brooklyn guard D’Angelo Russell someday, adding that Russell “makes people around him better.” A union between the two players is unlikely to happen in Brooklyn anytime in the next few years, since Booker’s five-year extension with the Suns begins next season. But perhaps Russell, who will be a restricted free agent in 2019, will draw interest from Phoenix.
  • After being buried in Denver’s rotation last season, Kenneth Faried finds himself in a similar situation in a contract year with the Nets. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes, head coach Kenny Atkinson praised Faried’s play in practice, but said there’s simply “no room” in the lineup for him at this point. “I can’t say, ‘Oh, he’s played bad,’ or ‘Oh, he’s not playing well.’ I can’t say that. Some guys, I can,” Atkinson said. “I’m telling you the honest truth, it’s a situational thing. And the other guys have got to start playing badly for him to get a chance.”
  • In another article for The New York Post, Lewis explores how Caris LeVert has evolved from a risky, injured draft pick to a crucial long-term piece for the Nets.