D'Angelo Russell

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24.

Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Trae Young are the finalists for the Rookie of the Year award, while Lou Williams heads the field for the Sixth Man award. His Clippers teammate, Montrezl Harrell, and Domantas Sabonis are the other finalists.

Antetokounmpo and George are also finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year award along with Rudy GobertDe’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell and Pascal Siakam will vie for the Most Improved Player honor, while Mike Budenholzer, Michael Malone and Doc Rivers received the most votes for the Coach of the Year award.

New York Notes: Russell, Crabbe, Perry, Free Agents

Re-signing point guard D’Angelo Russell will be the top priority for the Nets this summer, writes Michael Scotto of The Athletic. After making several recent runs at restricted free agents such as Tyler Johnson, Allen Crabbe and Otto Porter, Brooklyn will be on defense this year, hoping Russell doesn’t receive an offer that’s too outrageous to match.

The Nets would like to have enough cap flexibility to offer two max contracts and will be handcuffed if Russell receives a substantial offer shortly after free agency begins on July 1, Scotto notes. Brooklyn will have just two days after the moratorium to decide to match, which could tie up money the organization is hoping to use elsewhere.

Scotto considers the Pacers to be a threat to make a move on Russell, with Darren Collison and Cory Joseph both headed toward free agency. That leaves rookie Aaron Holiday as the only other point guard on the roster, and Scotto says Indiana may like the idea of teaming up Russell with Victor Oladipo. Still, he believes the Nets will match any offer unless they find themselves in position to add two elite free agents.

There’s more today from New York City:

  • Scotto lists Brooklyn’s other offseason priorities as trading Crabbe’s $18.5MM salary to open cap space, adding a veteran center to back up Jarrett Allen and finding another stretch four. Scotto notes that the Hawks, Bulls, Mavericks, Pacers, Suns and Kings all have enough cap room to add Crabbe, and the Nets will consider using the stretch provision if they can’t find a taker. Free agents Robin Lopez, Aron Baynes, Boban Marjanovic, Zaza Pachulia, Tyson Chandler and Kyle O’Quinn are possibilities as reserve centers, while Nikola Mirotic, Anthony Tolliver, Mike Scott and Omri Casspi are free agents forwards with 3-point range.
  • The Knicks will prioritize talent over position in the draft, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry discuss the process in a new “MSG 150” TV show that will air tonight and tomorrow. “Where we are at right now, talent is important,” Perry said. “If it’s very close, then you may lean towards the position of need, but if there is a clear delineation between the talent, I think you always err on the side of talent.”
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic examines all the free agents that the Knicks might consider this summer. Kevin Durant tops the list, of course, but Vorkunov rates plenty of others, including role players who could be useful if New York gets the stars it wants.

Eastern Notes: Russell, Carter, Magic, Oladipo

Nets All-Star D’Angelo Russell was cited last week after it was discovered he was hiding marijuana while trying to board at a New York airport, but this distraction won’t prevent him and Brooklyn from coming together on a new deal this summer, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. 

“It’s not an issue,” one league source told Lewis. “I’ve had a cell phone ticket that was more [costly].”

Russell, who’s coming off a career season with the Nets, is scheduled to become a restricted free agent on July 1. Brooklyn will likely offer him a lucrative multi-year deal, especially if the team strikes out on recruiting some of the top free-agent players.

Russell won’t be suspended by the NBA for his first-time action, as stated in the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. He’s heading into free agency as one of the most talented backcourt players, coming off a season that saw him average a career-high 21.1 points, seven assists and 1.2 steals in 81 games.

“We got a little lucky: We got him in the right time frame and the point in his maturity,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Russell on a Bleacher Report podcast last week. “He never expected anything. When we had our first conversation with him, I was authentic with him and honest that you’re going to have to earn it. And I think that was a continuing conversation. I think our communication helped.

“There was nary a text, never a ‘Hey coach, can I talk to you? I’m not happy.’ There was zero of that. I think he knew he had to earn it, take stock of how he was playing, and was honest with himself. … He tells me that all the time: ‘I really learned how to be a pro here.’ ”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference today:

  • Matt John of Basketball Insiders examines potential landing spots for veteran guard Vince Carter, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Carter has played for three different teams in the past three seasons, good for eight different teams in his 21-year career. John speculates that Carter could be a good fit on many different clubs, including a potential return in Toronto.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News outlines the offseason focus for the Magic, including free agency, the draft and more. Orlando has a major decision to make on whether they want to retain All-Star center Nikola Vucevic on a new deal, with the 28-year-old also set to reach free agency in July.
  • The Pacers need Victor Oladipo to pace himself in order for them to maximize their potential next season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. Oladipo suffered a season-ending torn right quad tendon in January and is pushing to get himself ready for next year, though it’s imperative that he doesn’t rush the process and risk suffering a setback. Indiana finished with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 48-34 this season despite Oladipo only appearing in 36 of those games.

D’Angelo Russell Cited For Marijuana Possession

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell was cited for marijuana possession at LaGuardia Airport on Wednesday before flying from New York to his hometown of Louisville, reports A.J. Perez of USA Today. The TSA found the marijuana stashed in a hidden compartment of what appeared to be an Arizona Iced Tea can.

When Russell was questioned by police about the bag of weed, he claimed it was his brother’s, a source tells Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The All-Star guard ultimately received a summons for possession of under 50 grams of marijuana and was released to fly home.

Although possession of marijuana is still illegal in the state of New York, the legal ramifications are unlikely to be significant, and Russell probably won’t face any real discipline from the NBA. As Perez notes, a player is required to enter the league’s marijuana program if he is convicted of possession of marijuana in violation of the law, but he isn’t subject to a suspension until his third violation of the NBA’s policy.

The Nets, who will hold Russell’s rights as a restricted free agent this offseason, issued a statement confirming they’re looking into the matter, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link).

“We have been made aware of the situation involving D’Angelo Russell and are in the process of gathering more information at this time,” the team said in the statement.

Atlantic Notes: Leonard, Butler, Russell, Smart

Kawhi Leonard‘s performance in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals was exactly was the Raptors were hoping for when they acquired him, writes Michael Lee of the Athletic, but the Sixers need Jimmy Butler to step up in the same way. The matchup of recently traded forwards could go a long way toward deciding their playoff series. Leonard was brilliant in Game 1, scoring 45 points and pushing his career record against Philadelphia to 14-0.

Lee notes that there are many similarities between Leonard and Butler, who were both drafted outside the lottery, became stars through hard work and forced themselves out of unhappy situations. However, Leonard was clearly the better player on Saturday as Butler hit just 4 of 12 shots and scored 10 points.

“He’s just evolving,” said Sixers forward Jonathon Simmons, who played alongside Leonard in San Antonio. “He wants to be in the conversations with the best of them. That’s what he works for.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers will need more production from Joel Embiid to have a chance in the series, notes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Despite being among the league’s best centers, Embiid has a history of struggling against Marc Gasol, a former Defensive Player of the Year in Memphis. Embiid made just one shot Saturday while Gasol was guarding him and finished 5 of 18 from the field.
  • The Nets can create enough cap room this summer to reshape their roster, but they’ll have to determine how many of their own free agents they want to keep, observes Tom Dowd of NBA.com. The most significant decision will involve point guard D’Angelo Russell, who will be a restricted free agent after a breakthrough season. Brooklyn can match any offer that Russell receives, but the front office will have to prioritize how much to pay another guard with Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie already in place. “He’s obviously one of our more talented players,” GM Sean Marks said of Russell. “You said we’ll have decisions. D’Angelo is going to have decisions, too. That is a little bit of the nature of this business.” 
  • Celtics coach Brad Stevens confirmed today that Marcus Smart is unlikely to be available for the conference semifinals, tweets Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Smart, who suffered a torn oblique three weeks ago, is doing core work, but his return still appears far off. “I don’t see any way that he’s available until whenever his timeline hits that we thought initially — four to six (weeks),” Stevens said. “And I said at the start, the four seems awfully aggressive.”

Community Shootaround: D’Angelo Russell’s Nets Future

With the Nets‘ season over following a first-round postseason loss to the Sixers, the focus turns towards Brooklyn’s summer plans. Among the most watched storylines this offseason will be what D’Angelo Russells future holds.

Just 23 years old, Russell is coming off his best season as an NBA talent. A serious candidate for Most Improved Player, Russell set career-highs across every major category, including games played (81 games), PPG (21.1) and APG (7.0).

“He’s obviously one of our more talented players,” general manager Sean Marks said in his exit press conference, per the New York Post. “You said we’ll have decisions. D’Angelo is going to have decisions, too. That is a little bit of the nature of this business. But at the end of the day, our job is to continue to put talent on the floor for Brooklyn.”

There are several directions in which this offseason can go. Brooklyn could just lock up one of its youngest, most dynamic players immediately and avoid a drawn-out discussion on what should be done. Or, the Nets could let Russell explore the market, using their right of first refusal to ultimately match any offer sheet he signs, if they so choose.

Before joining the Nets, Russell had just come off two mostly disappointing, if not controversial, years with the Lakers. In the two seasons since, Russell has become a leader in the Nets’ locker room and been praised around the organization for his maturity and development. Additionally, the Nets figure to be major players for some of the premier free agents on the market this summer — and pairing them with Russell is an enticing possibility.

What do you think should happen between the Nets and Russell? Should the Nets sign him to an extension and lock him up long-term? Should the Nets let him explore the open market and hedge their bets? Do you think Brooklyn would be better off without Russell despite his standout 2018/19 season? Sound off below!

D’Angelo Russell “Definitely” Wants To Stay With Nets

It’s possible that Brooklyn’s season-ending loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday night was D’Angelo Russell‘s last game with the Nets, given that the All-Star point guard is facing restricted free agency this summer. However, Russell told reporters today that he hopes to extend his stay with the franchise a little longer, as Ian Begley of ESPN.com details.

“I definitely want to be here. But I also know it’s a business, too. So I’m not going to play that role like I don’t know what could possibly happen,” Russell said. “Say somebody comes here that I have to be a part of (a transaction to acquire them), I know that could be a possibility. So I just want to stay in this moment and not speak too soon about anything.”

A former No. 2 overall pick, Russell enjoyed a breakout season for the Nets in 2018/19, establishing new career highs in PPG (21.1), APG (7.0), FG% (.434), and 3PT% (.369), among other categories. The 23-year-old’s performance set him up well for free agency, particularly since Brooklyn and several other teams around the NBA have the cap flexibility to accommodate a maximum-salary contract.

[RELATED: Maximum Salary Projections For 2019/20]

While it remains to be seen if Russell will get a max offer from the Nets or another team, league sources have intimated that he’ll likely be seeking one, Brian Lewis of The New York Post wrote this week. As I’ve noted before, considering how active GM Sean Marks has been on the restricted free agent market in recent years, it isn’t unrealistic to expect a rival team to return the favor by going after Russell with an aggressive offer sheet, forcing the Nets into a tough decision.

While Russell would have to listen if another team came up with a more lucrative offer than Brooklyn’s, the point guard’s familiarity with the franchise means the Nets will enter free agency with a leg up on re-signing him.

“Yeah, for sure, for sure,” Russell said, according to Begley, when asked if he’ll favor the Nets over other suitors. “I don’t know any other teams, I don’t know any other GMs or coaches. I don’t know any of those people. I know where I’m at. So it definitely gives you that advantage.”

Nets Notes: Free Agency, Dudley, Russell, Tsai

The Nets‘ 2018/19 campaign came to an end on Tuesday night, as the club lost its fourth straight game to the Sixers and dropped the series by a 4-1 margin. Still, the season has to be considered a success for Brooklyn, a team that wasn’t expected to make the playoffs coming into the year. The Nets’ unexpected postseason berth figures to be one of the franchise’s many selling points as it pursues top free agents this summer, writes Seerat Sohi of Yahoo Sports.

The Nets will have a handful of their own free agents to make decisions on as well, but role players like Jared Dudley recognize that they won’t necessarily be the club’s top priority in July. Dudley, at least, is okay with that, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post relays.

“I loved my New York situation here. … I’d have no problem coming back here. I don’t say that on every exit interview,” Dudley said. “Brooklyn has to do what’s best for them. If I’m them, I’m going big-game hunting for the big fish, then you can fall in line.”

Here’s more on the Nets as their offseason begins:

  • League sources have intimated that D’Angelo Russell will be seeking a maximum-salary contract as a restricted free agent, according to Lewis. It’s not yet known if the Nets will be willing to go that high, or if they’ll be forced to by a rival offer sheet. However, Russell told Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News this week that “everybody is on the same page” regarding his free agency.
  • Nets GM Sean Marks wasn’t the only one to face discipline as a result of his decision to enter the referees’ locker room after the club’s Game 4 loss over the weekend. Brooklyn minority owner Joseph Tsai was fined $35K for tweeting support for Marks (link via The Associated Press). “My partners and I have spoken and the entire Nets ownership group support our GM Sean Marks for protesting the wrong calls and missed calls,” Tsai wrote. “NBA rules are rules and we respect that, but our players and fans expect things to be fair.”
  • In an interesting piece for The Athletic, Michael Scotto spoke to executives, agents, and players about the pros and cons of the contrasting rebuilding models employed by the Nets and Sixers.
  • The trade that sent Jeremy Lin to Atlanta last summer was viewed primarily as a salary dump for the Nets, but the club also acquired the rights to draft-and-stash prospect Isaia Cordinier in the swap. NetsDaily explores whether Cordinier could become a sneaky-useful asset for Brooklyn.

Nets, Magic Clinch Playoff Spots

With wins against the Pacers and Celtics, respectively, both the Nets and Magic with make the 2019 NBA Playoffs and end two of the three longest playoff droughts in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets had not made the postseason since 2015, when they were led by Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez, while the Magic had not been to the playoffs since 2012 when they were led by All-NBA first team center Dwight Howard. The Knicks now have the longest playoff drought in the East, having not made the playoffs since 2013.

The star of this year’s Nets’ squad, first time All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell, credits his teammates with helping his club get back to the postseason for the first time in four years, writes Greg Logan of Newsday.

“We wouldn’t have gotten this far without everybody,” Russell said. “It sounds cliché to say, but so many guys made big shots that you may not have expected and so many guys made big winning plays that got us those games. We’re enjoying this as a group.”

Meanwhile, the Magic will also earn a Southeast Division title, the team’s first in nine years. Their leader, another first-time All-Star in center Nikola Vucevic, is proud of his team’s fight and toughness both this season and through the hard times in seasons’ past, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

“It feels incredible,” Vucevic said. “A whole year fighting, the ups and downs. We made it the hard way… We’ve lost so many games and we’ve struggled so much these last few years… I’m so proud of this team. No one thought we could make it… It’s an amazing feeling.”

New York Notes: Jordan, Robinson, Russell, LeVert

Mitchell Robinson will be the Knicks‘ starting center for the rest of the season, pushing DeAndre Jordan out of the rotation, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Coach David Fizdale made the move official yesterday, with Robinson and Luke Kornet each playing 36 minutes while Jordan never left the bench. The Knicks are also taking a long look at Kornet before deciding how to handle his upcoming free agency.

Fizdale has been holding off the move out of respect for Jordan, who was acquired from the Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis deal. The 30-year-old Jordan will also be a free agent this summer and is a close friend of Kevin Durant, whom the Knicks are hoping to sign. There had been talk that Jordan might seek a buyout, but he opted to remain in New York.

“I can’t speak highly enough about DJ,’’ Fizdale said. “I spoke to [Jordan] today about it. Asked him what he thought. The pro that he is — exactly what he’s been since he got here. He sacrificed not going to another team to stay here with the Knicks to help Mitchell. He said, ‘Coach, let’s get that kid in there and see what he can do and I’ll be ready for you.’ I can say he’s one of the most professional veterans I’ve ever been around, been a great leader.”

There’s more this morning from New York City:

  • Landing Durant would be just the first step toward solving the Knicks‘ problems, observes Steve Popper of Newsday. Massive overhaul is expected during the offseason on a roster where few players have established themselves as part of the future. Robinson and rookie Kevin Knox appear most likely to stay, but Knox and Durant play the same position.
  • The NetsD’Angelo Russell dominated Boston’s Terry Rozier Saturday in a matchup of the top two restricted free agent point guards who will be on the market this summer, notes Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Russell’s 29-point, 10-assist performance is part of a season of redemption that could land him a contract starting at more than $20MM a year. “Everybody was wrong obviously,” Russell said. “Everybody was wrong about me, so I don’t have to say anything.”
  • Nets guard Caris LeVert feels like he’s finally getting his game back after recovering from a severe right leg injury he suffered in November, relays Brian Lewis of The New York Post. LeVert posted his third straight solid game Saturday as Brooklyn tries to lock down a playoff spot. “I’ve just been trying to stay consistent with my habits off the court, get my work in, taking care of my body,” LeVert said.