Daniel Gafford

Southeast Notes: Porzingis, Gafford, Hachimura, Ball, Martin

The combination of Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford at center could produce big results for the Wizards, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. They combined for 33 points against the Clippers on Wednesday. They also give the team a consistent shot-blocker presence on defense.

“I think it’s a different feel,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “K.P.’s able to stretch the defense and Gaff obviously puts a lot of pressure on the rim as a roller. Both have good length and size up front. But just the ability to mix and match, kind of give offenses and our offense a different feel, the defense a different look.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Rui Hachimura has shown expanded range offensively, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. Known for his midrange game, Hachimura has made half of his 3-point attempts this season. “For me, it’s more confidence,” the Wizards forward said. “I’m more confident shooting threes.” Hachimura, who has appeared in 24 games after sitting out for personal reasons, is extension-eligible this summer and the improved perimeter shooting should pump up his value.
  • LaMelo Ball‘s slump will doom the Hornets if he doesn’t snap out of it soon, Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer opines. Ball’s inconsistent play has been a big reason why Charlotte has lost 13 of its last 17. He had six first-half turnovers against Boston on Wednesday. “I’m not playing my game,” he said. “Trying to do other stuff. Pretty much letting people get in my head.”
  • Heat reserve Caleb Martin injured his left knee on Wednesday but it doesn’t appear to be serious. The Heat decided an MRI was not required on his hyperextended knee, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. He’s questionable to play on Friday, Winderman adds in another tweet.

Southeast Notes: Heat Buyout Approach, Gafford, Fultz, Porzingis

The Heat have been active in the buyout market in past years and they could fill their open roster spot will a veteran in the coming weeks, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Miami could look to add a power forward if Markieff Morris remains out or wait to see if another rotation player gets injured. Winderman doesn’t expect the Heat to fill the spot with a long-term prospect as they did with Kendrick Nunn three years ago or Omer Yurtseven last season, since they’re focused on winning a championship this season.

We have more info on the Southeast Division:

  • Daniel Gafford has long-term security after signing an extension that runs through the 2025/26 season. However, the Wizards big man had to be patient to regain a starting role, Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes. Following a bout with COVID, he replaced Thomas Bryant in the starting five on Friday and produced 17 points and six rebounds  in 29 minutes. “There was a lot of frustration, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be a good teammate. I didn’t want to wear my feelings on my sleeves,” Gafford said. “There was times where I did, but at the end of the day, I can’t bring that negative energy around the team. So I apologized to the team for that, the times that I did do it.”
  • Markelle Fultz made his season debut tonight. It’s the end of a long hard road of rehab for the Magic guard, who tore his ACL last season. “It’s been a long time coming,” Fultz told Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s been a long time of just all the hard work I put in. All those tough days, I did it for this moment right here, just to be able to go out there and be able to compete. Just happy. Not many words I can express it.”
  • Though Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t appear to be close to making his Wizards debut, coach Wes Unseld Jr. said they’re not thinking about shutting him down for the season, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. “You hope that at some point you don’t see the effects they are concerned with and we can kind of expedite the return. But until that point, we’re going to treat it day-to-day and hope that he responds well,” Unseld said. Porzingis has already been ruled out of Tuesday’s game against Detroit due to knee soreness.

Wizards Notes: Player Development, Hachimura, Porzingis

Whether the Wizards push hard for a play-in spot down the stretch or resign themselves to a lottery berth and vie for draft positioning, developing their young players will be a top priority the rest of the way, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

As Hughes outlines, if youngsters like Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert, and Daniel Gafford thrive in the second half of the season, that will give the Wizards more options in the offseason — they could decide to build around those players or could try to trade one or more of them for a more established player.

Avdija, who is averaging 7.5 PPG on the season, has looked good as of late, scoring double-digit points in all three games since the trade deadline and grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds in Monday’s win over Detroit. However, Hachimura’s developmental process may have hit another temporary snag during Monday’s victory.

As Hughes writes in a separate NBC Sports Washington story, Hachimura left the game in the first half due to a right ankle sprain. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said after the game that he’s hopeful the sprain isn’t too severe, but it still might make sense for Washington to hold out the third-year forward until at least after the All-Star break.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Unseld said on Monday that there’s hope Kristaps Porzingis will be able to make his Wizards debut before the All-Star break (Twitter link via Hughes). Washington plays in Indiana on Wednesday and Brooklyn on Thursday, so we’ll see if Porzingis – who is day-to-day with a right knee bone bruise – is available for either of those games.
  • Although general manager Tommy Sheppard insisted a few weeks before the trade deadline that the team felt no need to move Spencer Dinwiddie, it was obvious something was “dramatically off-kilter,” writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Dinwiddie, who struggled to produce alongside Bradley Beal, never seemed comfortable with his role on the team, Robbins adds, noting that the point guard was “oddly passive” and probably didn’t have the ball in his hands enough.
  • Within that same story at The Athletic, Tim Cato considers what Porzingis can bring to the Wizards, suggesting the big man has reemerged as a strong defender when healthy this season and is no longer an obvious target for switches. However, Porzingis hasn’t been a reliable outside shooter in 2021/22, and his frequent injury-related absences resulted in some awkward readjustment periods when he’d return to the lineup after missing several games, says Cato.

No NBA Players Currently In Health And Safety Protocols

Wizards center Daniel Gafford won’t be available for Monday’s game against Detroit, but he’s listed as out due to return to competition reconditioning, meaning he has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

That news is notable because Gafford had been the lone player remaining in the league’s COVID-19 protocols after Pelicans big man Willy Hernangomez was cleared last week. Now that Gafford has been cleared too, none of the 30 teams have a single player in the protocols.

It’s a stark contrast to where the league was at just six weeks ago. At the end of December and the start of January, there were well over 100 players in the health and safety protocols. Most teams needed to sign multiple replacements to 10-day contracts to withstand COVID-19 outbreaks, and even then, several games had to be postponed.

Of course, just because there are no players in the protocols right now doesn’t mean there won’t be more players affected going forward. It’s safe to assume individuals will continue to enter the protocols here and there, and there’s no guarantee there won’t be more team-wide outbreaks before the end of the season. But we’re hopeful that the worst of those outbreaks are behind us for the 2021/22 campaign.

We set up a tracker in December to keep tabs on which players were entering and exiting the health and safety protocols, and we’ve updated it daily since then. However, we’re putting that tracker on ice for now and will only resume updating it if the number of players affected starts climbing rapidly again at some point in the coming days, weeks, or months.

Wizards Notes: Kuzma, Beal, Gafford, Trade Deadline

After Miami thumped the Wizards 121-100 on Monday, forward Kyle Kuzma questioned the team’s mental fortitude, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. The Wizards have lost eight of their last nine with the trade deadline approaching.

“It’s really tough when you get punched in the face and you don’t stand up,” Kuzma said. “I think that kind of just sums up what’s kind of been going on. As soon as we hit a little bit of adversity, it’s quite a challenge to get out of that. … In order to be a winning team, you have to be a lot mentally stronger than that. It’s something that we’ve lacked.”

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Bradley Beal and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, met with Wizards management on Monday, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. The Wizards are getting closer to the realization that Beal could opt out this summer and become an unrestricted free agent, according to Hughes. That might motivate them to make a deal this week. Beal has missed the last four games with a wrist injury.
  • Daniel Gafford entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Sunday. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. provided more details on Monday, saying that Gafford is exhibiting symptoms and tested positive twice on Sunday, Hughes tweets.
  • With plenty of rumors surrounding the team, Robbins runs through a variety of trade scenarios, examining a hypothetical Beal trade with the Sixers and considering what the Wizards would have to give up for Domantas Sabonis.
  • In case you missed it, we looked at the team’s trade deadline goals and top trade candidates in our Southeast Division trade deadline preview.

Eastern Notes: Bamba, Gafford, Sabonis, Kyrie

Magic center Mohamed Bamba made his 41st start of the season on Saturday, reaching the starter criteria for restricted free-agents-to-be, as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tweets. A player meets the starter criteria when he makes at least 41 starts or logs 2,000 minutes in the season prior to his restricted free agency, or if he averages 41 starts or 2,000 minutes across the two seasons before he becomes a restricted free agent.

If Bamba hadn’t achieved the starter criteria, his qualifying offer this offseason would’ve dipped to $7,228,448. Now that he has met the criteria, his QO amount will remain at $10,096,703.

In many cases, the amount of an RFA’s qualifying offer isn’t all that important, since a player who intends to sign a longer-term deal won’t seriously consider accepting it. But that’s not always the case. For a player with a somewhat limited NBA résumé like Bamba, a $10MM+ qualifying offer wouldn’t be a mere placeholder — the Magic would have to decide whether they’re comfortable making that offer, and if they do, Bamba could realistically accept it if he doesn’t get a multiyear deal he likes.

Here are a few more items from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards center Daniel Gafford entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Sunday, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Thomas Bryant and Montrezl Harrell figure to share center duties for as long as Gafford remains sidelined.
  • Pacers center Domantas Sabonis exited the COVID-19 protocols on Sunday, per James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). The big man had a relatively quiet return to the lineup, scoring just nine points in a loss to Cleveland — it was only the fifth time this season that Sabonis hasn’t had double-digit points.
  • Nets guard Kyrie Irving said on Sunday that he remains hopeful about his ability to play in home games at some point, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. I’m keeping a positive mindset that anything can happen in these next few days or the next week,” Irving said. “Just crossing my fingers that something can come up either before the All-Star break or even just after.” Of course, Irving would become eligible to play games in Brooklyn if he received the COVID-19 vaccine, but it sounds like he’s hoping for the city to change its rules related to unvaccinated individuals.

Wizards Notes: Gafford, Bryant, Dinwiddie, Trade Deadline

Daniel Gafford was the odd man out Saturday night as Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. decided to cut his center rotation from three players to two, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Gafford, who signed a contract extension in October and started the first 45 games of the season, didn’t play at all in the loss to the Grizzlies.

Unseld indicated it might be a long-term plan, as he abandoned the substitution pattern he has been using since Thomas Bryant returned from an ACL injury. Bryant was the starter on Saturday, and all the back-up minutes went to Montrezl Harrell.

“Trying to play the three bigs, it became very choppy. I know the guys didn’t like it, I didn’t necessarily like it,” Unseld said.

The Wizards wanted to see how Bryant, who was their starting center before suffering the injury last season, would perform with the starting unit. Hughes adds that it’s unclear what this means for Gafford moving forward, whether he’ll be out of the rotation for a while or the decisions on playing time will be based on matchups.

There’s more from Washington:

  • There’s some speculation that the Wizards are trying to showcase Bryant ahead of a possible trade before the February 10 deadline, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Gafford can’t be traded this season because of the extension, but the team can move Bryant, who has an expiring $8.7MM contract, and Harrell, who has an expiring $9.72MM deal.
  • Free agent addition Spencer Dinwiddie indicated after Saturday’s game that his attempts to be a vocal leader weren’t received well in the Wizards’ locker room, Robbins adds in the same story. “You know, it’s an interesting situation. I spoke up a little bit early on (this season). It wasn’t necessarily welcomed,” Dinwiddie said. “And so, like I said, I try to do what’s asked of me. At the end of the day, everybody has a role to play. It’s about being accountable in your role to the best of your ability. That’s really all I’ve got.”
  • Unseld understands the perspective of Bradley Beal, who suggested this week that the trade deadline might be a distraction for the Wizards, who have several players with expiring contracts, Hughes writes in a separate story. “I think what he talked about, the trade deadline, all those things; those are coming up soon and I think that does weigh on guys’ minds at times,” the coach said. “We understand this is a business and the team has to do what’s best for the team and players sometimes, they’re concerned about extensions, they’re concerned about their future.”

Southeast Notes: Robinson, Hawks, Martin, Gafford

The Heat are encouraging Duncan Robinson to stay confident despite his three-point shooting declining this season, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. Robinson is shooting just 35% from deep on 8.5 attempts this season, down from 41% on 8.5 attempts last season.

“People panic every time he doesn’t have an amazing game, he doesn’t make every shot,” teammate Tyler Herro said of Robinson. “But the thing about Duncan is he comes in every day with the same attitude, whether he has 26 or if he has five points.

“He’s going to come in no matter what the next day and he’s going to treat every day the same. Get his work in and just continue to go about his business how he does. That’s what I really respect about him.”

Robinson is in the first season of a five-year, $90MM deal signed with Miami last offseason. His impact goes beyond his scoring. Since he’s shot over 40% from deep these past two seasons, teams still honor him as a serious threat behind-the-arc, opening driving lanes for other players on the Heat.

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • Chris Kirschner and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic project the Hawks‘ future, examining whether anyone should be considered untouchable. In part two of their series, Kirschner and Vecenie explored the possibility of Atlanta acquiring Ben Simmons, along with some other possible trade targets. The Hawks, who have dealt with several injuries on the season, currently rank 12th in the East at 20-25.
  • The Heat may struggle to retain Caleb Martin in free agency, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel explains. Martin is currently on a two-way contract with Miami, averaging 9.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 23.1 minutes per game. He’s also shot 52% from the floor and 37% from three-point range. In order to make him eligible for the playoffs, the team will have to convert Martin from his two-way deal.
  • Wizards center Daniel Gafford has seen his playing time decrease in recent games, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. The return of Thomas Bryant has resulted in a minutes decline for Gafford, who signed a three-year, $40MM extension with the Wizards last October.

Eastern Notes: Cunningham, Livers, Gafford, Strus

Top pick Cade Cunningham made his belated NBA debut on Saturday against Orlando, then sat out Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn. The Pistons’ prized rookie won’t play in back-to-backs in the short term, coach Dwane Casey told The Detroit News’ Rod Beard and other media members (Twitter link). Cunningham missed the first four regular season games due to an ankle sprain. Cunningham is expected to suit up against Milwaukee on Tuesday.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Another Pistons rookie, forward Isaiah Livers, has been assigned to the team’s G League team, the Motor City Cruise, the team’s PR department tweets. Livers has been rehabbing from foot surgery, so that’s an indication he’s been medically cleared to at least practice. He was one of three second-round picks made by Detroit. Fellow rookie, center Luka Garza, and second-year guard Saben Lee have also been assigned to the Cruise.
  • Wizards big man Daniel Gafford returned to action on Monday, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. He suffered a right quad contusion against the Celtics on Wednesday. He underwent an MRI to ensure the injury was not more serious. He’s averaging 8.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 2.0 BPG.
  • Heat wing Max Strus has been diagnosed with a sprained left knee, Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald reports. An MRI on the knee returned negative results. Strus is expected to miss at least two weeks, but is relieved it wasn’t more serious after tearing his ACL in the same knee in December 2019. “There was a lot of anxiety. It was tough to sleep the night before,” he said. “But the training staff did a great job of getting me in as soon as they could to get the MRI. As soon as I heard those results, it was just a breath of fresh air.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Unseld, Gafford, Hachimura

One of the benefits of the Wizards‘ fast start is showing Bradley Beal that he can be part of a winning team in Washington, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. At 5-1, the Wizards are tied for the best record in the league after beating the Celtics in double overtime Saturday. Beal, who has been the subject of trade speculation for years, sounds as committed as ever to remaining with the franchise.

“I always say I want to win. I want to be productive and I want to win in D.C.,” he said. “We’ve done that, obviously, so far. Granted, we’re only scratching the surface.”

Washington shook up its roster over the offseason, trading Russell Westbrook to the Lakers in exchange for three players and signing Spencer Dinwiddie in free agency. The Wizards have a deeper team than they’ve fielded for several years and could be solidly in the playoff mix all season. With Beal eligible for an extension but also on the brink of free agency, it’s a good time for the franchise to be off to its best start in 16 years.

“It feels amazing, man. I tell these guys all the time, they can be a part of a lot of history over here,” Beal said. “Just from the way we’ve been doing things to the opportunity we have to create and mold our culture. We always talk about what a culture is and I always emphasize at the beginning of the year, it’s what we make it.”

There’s more from Washington:

  • One of the connections to the Wizards’ last 5-1 start is new head coach Wes Unseld Jr., who was in his first year as an assistant with that 2005/06 team, Hughes adds. “That’s actually a stat I didn’t know,” Unseld said. “It’s great. There’s hopefully a lot of firsts this year.”
  • Unseld had good news about center Daniel Gafford, who suffered a right quad contusion on Wednesday, Hughes adds in a separate story“He’s much better. Still a bit tender. He got him right in the sweet spot,” Unseld said before Saturday’s game. “He’ll be out tonight, I think it’s more give him another day, day and a half to get his strength back. He got treated this morning and was moving a lot better.”
  • There’s still no clarity on Rui Hachimura, who was given a leave of absence for personal reasons in September, according to Quinton Mayo of Substack. Multiple sources tell Mayo that Hachimura hasn’t been in the practice facility at the same time as his teammates since the leave began.