Danilo Gallinari

Thunder Notes: Patterson, Luxury Tax, Bliss, Gibbs

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman opines that Patrick Patterson became expendable after the Thunder acquired Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers, signed veteran free agent Mike Muscala, and drafted Darius Bazley in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft.

Gallinari is now the likely the starter at power forward, able to stretch the floor alongside big man Steven Adams. Meanwhile, Muscala has arguably been a more productive player the last two seasons and is three years younger. Finally, Bazley, still only 19 years old, will almost certainly merit playing time should the Thunder fall into rebuild mode.

Patterson, who was signed in the summer of 2017, was supposed to be the type of floor spacer the Thunder are now looking for from Gallinari, but he never lived up to his contract. The signing of Carmelo Anthony, which pushed Patterson to a reserve role, didn’t help, nor did undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in 2017.

That said, Patterson is just a season removed from shooting 38.6 percent from three-point range and 87 percent from the line, so it’s possible he could be a nice piece for the Clippers in the right role.

There’s more to report from Oklahoma City this afternoon:

  • According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the Thunder will stretch Patterson’s cap hit over the next three seasons. With Patterson giving back $3.5MM of his $5,711,200 salary, the yearly cap hits equal $737,067 after taking set-off into account.
  • Marks adds (Twitter link) that while the Thunder are now approximately $698K below the luxury tax threshold, they only have 13 guaranteed contracts. As such, they’ll need to go back into the tax in order to sign another player to a standard contract.
  • Despite his infamous name, Thunder player development coach Dave Bliss, also a former Knicks’ assistant coach under former Thunder point guard Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek, is well on his way to a promising coaching career, writes Horne in a separate piece for The Oklahoman.
  • Former Gonzaga and Creighton guard Grant Gibbs has been named head coach of the Thunder’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced on Friday. Per Executive Vice President and GM Sam Presti, “Grant is someone we identified early in his post-playing career as a potential fit within our organization… He has steadily impressed us with his versatility as a coach. We believe he will do an excellent job with the Blue and is ready to continue his growth within the organization.”

Danilo Gallinari Undergoes Appendectomy

Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari had an emergency appendectomy on Saturday, according to Alessandro Maggi of Sportando.

Despite the operation, Gallinari still plans to participate in the World Cup and is expected to report to training camp for the Italian National Team sometime in mid-August.

Gallinari was involved in one of this summer’s most important transactions, being shipped from the Clippers to Oklahoma City along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a package of draft picks in the trade that brought Paul George to L.A. and convinced Kawhi Leonard to sign with the team.

Gallinari, who turns 31 later this week, will make $22.6MM this year in the final season of his contract and could be a popular name on the trade market if the Thunder fall out of playoff contention. He posted a 19.8/6.1/2.6 line in 68 games last season.

Clippers Re-Sign Patrick Beverley

JULY 12: The Clippers have officially re-signed Beverley, the team announced today in a press release. While agreeing to terms with Beverley was one of the club’s first moves of free agency last week, it was far from the last — L.A. has since acquired Leonard and Paul George while also reaching new deals with Ivica Zubac, Rodney McGruder, and JaMychal Green.

JULY 1: Patrick Beverley will remain with the Clippers on a three-year, $40MM deal, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It’s the exact contract that Beverley was rumored to be seeking in a report earlier this week.

Beverley was among the most highly sought after guards on the free agent market, with the Mavericks, Lakers, Bulls and Kings among the teams expressing interest.

Re-signing Beverley won’t affect the Clippers’ ability to get a deal done with Kawhi Leonard, notes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), who observes that they can still add Leonard to the roster without needing to trade Danilo Gallinari.

The Clippers made it a priority to keep Beverley, who was an inspirational leader for the team, along with a dogged defender. He missed nearly all of the 2017/18 season after being acquired from Houston in the Chris Paul deal, but bounced back strong this year, posting a 7.6/5.0/3.8 line in 78 games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Thunder Trade Paul George To Clippers

JULY 10: Having announced the signing of Leonard earlier today, the Clippers have now officially confirmed their acquisition of George as well.

“Paul George is one of the greatest two-way players in our game,” president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said in a statement. “He is both an elite scorer and a relentless defender whose versatility elevates any team. When you have the opportunity to acquire a contributor of his caliber, you do what it takes to bring him home. Paul is a native of the Los Angeles area and an ideal fit for the Clippers, thanks to his selflessness and drive. Following the lead of Steve Ballmer, we have plotted an aggressive course to build a championship contender, and acquiring Paul is a critical step.”

The Clippers are now over the cap, and all of the agreed-upon trades of the 2019 offseason (so far) have been officially completed.

JULY 6: In addition to landing No. 1 free agent Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers have reached a stunning trade agreement to acquire All-NBA forward Paul George from the Thunder, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Oklahoma City will receive Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and a “massive” haul of future draft picks in exchange for George.

That haul features four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-rounder, and two pick swaps, Woj reports (via Twitter). The Thunder will receive the following selections, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter):

  • Heat’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick.
  • Clippers’ unprotected 2022 first-round pick.
  • Heat’s 2023 first round pick (top-14 protected).
  • The right to swap first-round picks with the Clippers in 2023.
  • Clippers’ unprotected 2024 first-round pick.
  • The right to swap first-round picks with the Clippers in 2025.
  • Clippers’ unprotected 2026 first-round pick.

The Clippers held the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick and will acquire Miami’s 2023 lottery-protected first-rounder as part of the four-team Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade deal. That will allow the Clips to keep their own 2020 and 2021 first-rounders and send out five total picks while satisfying both the Stepien rule (which prohibits teams from leaving themselves without a first-round pick in consecutive future seasons) and the “Seven Year Rule” (which doesn’t allow teams to trade first-rounders more than seven years in advance).

Those extra picks from the Heat pave the way the Clippers to make the biggest one-two punch of the free agent period, with their acquisition of George coming after Leonard had pushed PG13 to find a way to the Clippers, per Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

As Woj details, George approached the Thunder and requested a trade amidst Leonard’s recruiting efforts, leaving Oklahoma City to try to make the best out of a difficult situation. The Thunder did just that, as their haul from the Clippers will land them a veteran on an expiring $22MM contract who was a borderline All-Star in 2019 (Gallinari), one of the most impressive rookies of the 2018 class (Gilgeous-Alexander), and a bounty of future draft picks.

Still, despite securing a huge package for George, the Thunder may not be out of the weeds quite yet. Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that rival teams have been aware in recent days not just of George’s discontent, but of Russell Westbrook‘s as well. It remains to be seen how Westbrook will feel about the departure of the All-Star teammate that he succeeded in keeping in OKC as a free agent a year ago, but with potential long-term cornerstone Gilgeous-Alexander in the mix at point guard, it wouldn’t be surprising if the former MVP ends up on the trade block as well.

It’s an abrupt change of direction for the Thunder, who expected as recently as last week to be building around Westbrook and George, according to Brett Dawson of The Athletic (Twitter link). As Dawson observes, even this week’s free agent agreements with veterans like Alec Burks and Mike Muscala suggest that Oklahoma City was looking to fortify its current core rather than blow it up. It will be fascinating to see what the team’s next move is.

For now though, the Clippers will steal the headlines, having delivered an incredible counter-punch to their Staples Center cohabitants after the Lakers reached a deal last month to acquire Anthony Davis.

The Clippers are giving up a ton to acquire George, but it’s unlikely that they would have gotten a commitment from Leonard without making the deal, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that the Clippers recognized that they had to pull the trigger, lest they risk allowing the Lakers to steal Leonard and create a powerhouse.

In George, the Clippers will add a 29-year-old who is coming off his best season as a pro, averaging 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, and a league-best 2.2 SPG in 77 games (36.9 MPG) for the Thunder. The six-time All-Star, who is recovering from undergoing procedures on his shoulders at season’s end, finished third in MVP voting in 2019.

He’ll team up with Leonard to lead a roster that also features Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, Maurice Harkless, Jerome Robinson, and potentially RFA Ivica Zubac.

It’ll be a homecoming for George, a Southern California native who grew up as a Clippers fan, as Fred Katz of The Athletic notes (via Twitter). George had a 15% trade bonus on his contract, which runs through 2020/21 with a 2021/22 player option, but because trade bonuses can’t push a player’s salary beyond his maximum, it’ll be voided, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The Clippers will officially acquire George after signing Leonard using their cap room, since the club will be matching salaries as an over-the-cap team in the trade, Marks adds (via Twitter).

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Durant, Kawhi Reportedly Discussing Playing Together

With free agency set to open on Sunday, the top two available players, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant, have discussed scenarios in which they could play together, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

As Wojnarowski notes, if the two stars decide they want to team up, the two likeliest possibilities would be the Knicks or Clippers. The Knicks have the cap room necessary to offer both players maximum-salary contracts. The Clippers would have to do a little work to get there, but have a path if they can find a taker for Danilo Gallinari‘s expiring $22.6MM contract.

The Nets, Lakers, Warriors, and Raptors are among the other teams believed to be in pursuit of either Leonard or Durant. However, Golden State and Toronto could only re-sign their own respective stars, the Lakers only have room to sign one top free agent, and the Nets are believed to be zeroed in on Kyrie Irving, which would leave them with enough cap space for just one additional star.

Before Durant went down with a calf injury – and then an Achilles tear – in this year’s playoffs, he and Leonard were being discussed as the NBA’s top two players. Although KD is expected to miss the entire 2019/20 season as he recovers from his Achilles injury, a long-term pairing of Durant and Leonard could turn any franchise into a perennial championship contender.

ESPN’s report represents the second time today we’ve heard about the possibility of Durant and Leonard teaming up. Shams Charania of The Athletic wrote earlier this morning of a belief that KD had considered the possibility of joining forces with Kawhi, though Charania’s report gave no indication of how Leonard felt about the idea.

As we detailed this morning, Leonard’s free agency had long been viewed as a two-way race between the Raptors and Clippers, but that’s no longer the case, with the Lakers and Knicks both trying to get into the mix. Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote today about the pitch that LeBron James intends to make to Kawhi.

Many scenarios appear to remain in play for this summer’s top free agents. According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, Leonard is expected to meet with the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Raptors once free agency opens, while Durant plans to talk to the Clippers, Knicks, Nets, and Warriors.

Luke Adams contributed to this story.

Free Agent Rumors: Horford, Nets, Suns, Stokes, Rockets

In a surprising development, Al Horford is expected to leave the Celtics to sign with a new team in free agency, as we relayed on Tuesday night. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explains in his story on the situation, the gap between what Boston was willing to offer and what Horford is seeking on a long-term deal was too significant to bridge. The Celtics and Horford’s agent Jason Glushon aren’t expected to re-open talks, Woj adds.

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), there’s a belief in front office circles that Horford knows there will be a four-year offer worth $100MM+ waiting for him in free agency, which led to talks with the Celtics breaking down.

It will be fascinating to see if that sort of lucrative offer is actually on the table for a 33-year-old who battled nagging injuries last season. According to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston (via Twitter), a league source says the Nets are a team to keep a close eye on, given their cap room and Horford’s connection to head coach Kenny Atkinson.

However, Kyrie Irving is believed to be headed to Brooklyn as a free agent, and Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets that he would be “beyond surprised” if Horford teams up with Irving again after a disappointing season in Boston.

Here are a few more notes and rumors on 2019 free agency:

Clippers Unlikely To Include Gilgeous-Alexander In Davis Offer

The Clippers are among the teams reportedly interested in Anthony Davis. However, rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is unlikely to be part of any offer, ESPN’s Bobby Marks said yesterday on The Sedano Show (hat tip to Larry Brown Sports). Marks believes Gilgeous-Alexander would be off limits if discussions take place between the two teams.

The 11th pick in last year’s draft, Gilgeous-Alexander quickly became a starter in Los Angeles, averaging 10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists while playing all 82 games. He also proved to be a capable play-maker and an aggressive defender.

Still only 19 and with a $3.95MM salary for next season, SGA would be an attractive asset to offer the Pelicans, but the Clippers seem determined to hold onto him. That makes it more likely that young, affordable players such as Montrezl Harrell ($6MM in 2019/20), Jerome Robinson ($3.57MM) and Landry Shamet ($1.995MM) will be part of the Clippers’ offer. Danilo Gallinari ($22.6MM) may have to be included for salary-matching purposes unless L.A. uses cap room to absorb Davis’ salary.

The Clippers were on the list of four preferred destinations that Davis gave the Pelicans when he submitted his trade request.

O’Connor’s Latest: Durant, Clippers, Kawhi, Gallinari

As we’ve mentioned multiple times throughout the 2018/19 NBA league year, there’s a widespread belief among people around the NBA that Kevin Durant will leave the Warriors for the Knicks in free agency. However, uncertainty about Durant’s future has increased in recent months, Kevin O’Connor writes in his latest article for The Ringer.

As O’Connor explains, Durant seems more likely to go to the Knicks if Kyrie Irving goes with him, and there’s no guarantee that Irving will leave the Celtics, given how well things have gone in Boston over the last several weeks. LeBron James‘ struggles during his first year as a Laker could also serve as a cautionary tale for Durant.

One front office executive who spoke to O’Connor suggests that everything should be considered on the table for Durant, since the Warriors forward has proven to be unpredictable in the past.

O’Connor’s piece, which focuses primarily on the Clippers, features a few more items of note, so let’s round them up…

  • The Clippers continue to be viewed as the more likely destination than the Lakers if Kawhi Leonard decides to return home to Southern California, though O’Connor writes that it would be “foolish” to rule out the Lakers.
  • The odds of both Durant and Leonard joining the Clippers are slim, but the team could theoretically make it happen based on its cap situation. As O’Connor details, if the Clippers trade Danilo Gallinari and renounce all their free agents except Ivica Zubac, they’d have more than enough room for two max contracts, and would be able to go over the cap to re-sign Zubac.
  • Of course, in that scenario, the Clippers wouldn’t be able to take money back for Gallinari, which would limit their potential trade partners. Still, O’Connor has spoken to front office executives who don’t think it’d be too challenging to find a deal for Gallinari, especially if the Clips are willing to attach a future pick. O’Connor cites the Nets, Mavericks, Hawks, Jazz, and Pacers as a few teams that might be fits for the veteran forward in that scenario.

Western Notes: Clippers, Durant, Mavericks, Blazers

The Clippers‘ decision to trade Tobias Harris was part of their larger plan to sign Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard this summer, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. With its current roster, L.A. can create up to $53.19MM in cap room, enough for one maximum contract and about $20MM to chase a second star. But Amick reports that the Clippers have a plan to open space for two max deals, even if they can’t find a taker for Danilo Gallinari before today’s trade deadline. Gallinari is owed $22.6MM for next season.

The Clippers are also excited about the assets they received in the Sixers deal, Amick adds. They weren’t committed to giving Harris a max offer this summer, so they moved him for four draft picks (Miami’s first-rounder in 2021, Philadelphia’s first-rounder in 2020 with three years of lottery protection, plus Detroit’s second-rounders in 2021 and 2023) plus a promising rookie in Landry Shamet.

Amick also notes that Steve Ballmer’s willingness to spend gives the Clippers an edge in building a contender. He’s by far the wealthiest owner in the NBA and has connections to the tech industry that many players find appealing.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Free agency is nearly five months away, but Durant is already testy about speculation over his future, relays Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Breaking a week-long silence with the media, Durant lashed out at reporters after Wednesday’s game. “I have nothing to do with the Knicks,” he said. “I don’t know who traded (Kristaps) Porzingis. That’s got nothing to do with me. I’m trying to play basketball. Y’all come in here every day, ask me about free agency, ask my teammates, my coaches, rile up the fans about it. Let us play basketball. That’s all I’m saying.”
  • The Mavericks have traded four of their five starters over the past week as they start to build a new team around Luka Doncic, notes Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News. Harrison Barnes was sent to Sacramento last night after last week’s blockbuster that brought in Porzingis for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews“This week is a zoo,” coach Rick Carlisle said, “but that’s part of the compelling business of our league.”
  • The Trail Blazers have a $3.5MM trade exception remaining if they want to swing one more deal before the deadline, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Portland declined the chance to create a pair of small exceptions worth $1.5MM in the trade for Rodney Hood.
  • Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor has chosen an agent after being without representation since September, tweets Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal. He signed with Excel Sports and will have Sean Kennedy as his agent.

Jimmy Butler Returns To Timberwolves’ Practice

Three weeks after his trade request went public, Jimmy Butler returned to the Timberwolves‘ facility and practiced with the team today, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

While Butler’s participation in practice doesn’t necessarily mean a trade won’t happen, it’s another indication that he won’t sit out once the regular season begins next week. Of course, that was never really a realistic option for Butler, since – as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets – the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement features language that makes a holdout impractical.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Butler was vocal during today’s practice, verbally challenging coaches, teammates, and the front office, including Tom Thibodeau, Scott Layden, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. Woj describes the 29-year-old as “vociferous and emotional at times,” adding in a second tweet that at one point, Butler screamed at Layden, “You (bleeping) need me. You can’t win without me.”

As we relayed earlier today, the Timberwolves reached back out to the Rockets on Tuesday, and the Heat remain interested in rekindling talks with Minnesota, so those trade discussions figure to continue. However, reports throughout the process have indicated that Thibodeau would prefer to see Butler start the season with the Wolves. That scenario appears increasingly plausible now that the All-NBA wing is practicing with his teammates again, though perhaps the obvious tension in practice will make Thibodeau reconsider his stance.

Here are a few more of the latest notes on Butler:

  • Besides their discussions with the Heat, the Timberwolves have had no “serious, active talks” with any other team about Butler, league sources tell Wojnarowski.
  • According to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, the Nets have been “timid” in their approach toward pursuing Butler, and have made Caris LeVert unavailable. Deveney also confirms that the Clippers are unwilling to include Tobias Harris in any offers, having instead proposed deals headlined by Danilo Gallinari or some combination of other players, such as Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic, and others.
  • Some league executives who spoke to Deveney expressed reservations about Butler’s potential locker room fit. “As good as Jimmy is, I think you have to be concerned about the impact he is going to have in the locker room, on your younger guys, on your coaching staff, all of that,” one general manager said. “He has gotten the benefit of the doubt, but if you look at his history, he’s had trouble getting along in Chicago and now in Minnesota. Everywhere he goes, it becomes about Jimmy, and if you’re going to bring him in, you have to account for that.”
  • Earlier today, we passed along details on the Timberwolves‘ discussions with the Rockets.