Dante Cunningham

New York Notes: Russell, Atkinson, Cunningham, Thomas

The Nets started D’Angelo Russell for the first time since mid-November in their second-half opener against the Hornets. Russell played 32 minutes, his most since November, and his recent play indicates he’s slowly shaking off the rust.

Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily relays that starting Russell alongside Spencer Dinwiddie — an all-point-guard backcourt — was not so much planned as it was based on his instinct.

“I think it was a feel, kind of my feel,” Atkinson said. “Talking with the medical team and performance (team). I think it was mostly basketball, just him getting his rhythm, and I felt like that Indiana game he really showed me – I felt like he was getting there.”

Atkinson is unsure of when Russell will be back at full health, but feels the former second overall pick is trending in the right direction.

Check out more news and notes from New York’s basketball teams:

  • Under Atkinson’s watch, the Nets have been in rebuild mode and have stressed the future. While the team is improved from last year’s league-worst 20-62 record, Brooklyn has lost 12 of its last 13 and is trending downward, Fonseca writes in a separate piece. “I’ve said that, we’re better, that’s what’s frustrating,” Atkinson said. “We’re on pace for a 30-something win season and then we hit this skid and it’s like, man – I’m optimistic, I’m hungry to get back on track. Now, that being said, we’ve got a tough schedule coming up, we’re going to be on the road awhile, but it’s great.”
  • The longevity of Dante Cunningham‘s stint in Brooklyn is uncertain, but he’s enjoying his time with the Nets, Fonseca writes. The veteran was acquired by Brooklyn before the trade deadline and has played well thus far. “I’m old in here,” Cunningham said with a smile. “I look around the locker room and see a lot of young guys, but hungry guys and I love it. I love that I’m the older guy that they kind of look up to and kind of ask, ‘So what’s this like or what’s that like?’ So that’s kind of fun, it’s a different side.”
  • Lance Thomas‘ numbers in the box score will not merit much attention, but his visible defensive impact is a game-changer for the Knicks, Fred Kerber of the New York Post writes. “He’s kind of that guy, it doesn’t matter if he’s on the 1, 2, 3 or 4. When he’s at the 4 spot, then we also have the ability to switch some too because you’re not afraid of Lance switching off on a point guard,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “You saw him pick up guys full court. He knocked one away and ended up ending the game with a steal. Lance is the guy that, if you read a stat line, you’re not going see his value. … He does his role.”

New York Notes: Prigioni, Knicks, Ntilikina, Nets

The Knicks are considering a reunion with old friend Pablo Prigioni, but as a developmental coach rather than as a player, two industry sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. Prigioni, who played for the Knicks from 2012 to 2015, has retired as a player and was named the coach of Spanish team Baskonia last summer, but had to step down after just eight games due to family issues, a source tells Berman.

Now, Prigioni is back in New York, with a source telling Berman that the former NBA point guard is spending the week with the Nets to learn about Brooklyn’s basketball operation. While it’s unclear whether the Nets are also interested in hiring Prigioni, the 40-year-old is “exploring” whether he wants to become a personnel man, says Berman.

As we wait to see whether Prigioni returns stateside to take a job with one of the NBA’s New York teams, let’s round up a few more notes on those two clubs…

  • New Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is excited to develop alongside rookie Frank Ntilikina, as Berman details for The New York Post. “We’re going to grow together,” Mudiay said. “At least that’s what I know is the plan right now. He’s 19, I’m 21, so we’re both kind of close in age. He speaks French. I speak French. It’s going to be fun, just trying to see how we feel each other out on the court.”
  • Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report outlines why the two trades the Knicks made last week are representative of GM Scott Perry‘s plan for the franchise. Weitzman also cites league sources who say that the Knicks turned away numerous trade proposals for Ntilikina prior to last Thursday’s deadline.
  • The Nets‘ acquisition of Dante Cunningham last week was a move that flew under the radar, but GM Sean Marks says he expects Cunningham to fill a key positional need in Brooklyn. Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com has the story.

Pelicans Trade Dante Cunningham To Nets

3:47pm: The trade is now official, according to a press release issued by the Nets.

1:30pm: The Pelicans are trading forward Dante Cunningham to the Nets in exchange for Rashad Vaughn, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets.

The 30-year-old veteran on an expiring deal, who had previously requested a trade from New Orleans, will arrive in Brooklyn and plans to stay there. David Aldridge of TNT tweets that the forward does not intend to pursue a buyout from his new team after three and a half seasons with the Pelicans.

In 51 games for the Pels, including 24 starts, Cunningham averaged 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. While he may not move the needle much for the Brooklyn franchise at first glance, the Nets staff has already done great things maximizing the value of other veterans at similar stages in their career.

The deal comes hours after a previous Cunningham swap fell through. Earlier today we wrote that the Pistons were engaged with New Orleans but ultimately traded the package of assets reserved for Cunningham to the Grizzlies for forward James Ennis instead.

This is the second time in a week that Vaughn will change teams. After starting the year with the Bucks, the 21-year-old shooting guard played one game for the Nets. Now he’ll join a Pelicans squad desperate for perimeter scoring.

Pistons In Serious Talks To Acquire Dante Cunningham

The Pelicans and Pistons are engaged in discussions on a deal that would send Dante Cunningham to Detroit in exchange for Brice Johnson and a second-round pick, reports Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) classifies those talks as “serious.”

As I noted earlier today when Scott Kushner of The Advocate described Cunningham as a trade candidate for the Pelicans, the veteran forward has the ability to veto a deal that involves him. However, league sources tell Jake Fischer of SI.com (Twitter link) that Cunningham has requested a trade, so he seems unlikely to take advantage of his ability to block a move.

The Pistons have already reportedly struck a deal with the Bulls to acquire point guard Jameer Nelson in exchange for Willie Reed. Johnson, like Reed, arrived in Detroit as a result of last week’s Blake Griffin trade. If the Pistons can complete a deal with the Pelicans, they’ll end up flipping both of those non-Griffin pieces from the Clippers to new teams in order to fortify their rotation with some additional veteran help.

Cunningham, 30, has spent the last three and a half seasons in New Orleans, appearing in 263 total games for the club during that time and starting almost exactly half (132) of them. Although he has been a reliable rotation piece for most of that time, Cunningham’s 2017/18 marks of 5.0 PPG and .440 FG% are his lowest since he joined the Pelicans, and he was benched for the entirety of the club’s most recent game.

For the Pelicans, Johnson – who has appeared in just 12 NBA games – would offer little upside, but a trade would allow the team to pick up an extra second-rounder and move a little further away from the luxury tax threshold. If the two teams can complete a deal, New Orleans could also absorb Johnson using one of their existing trade exceptions, creating a new trade exception worth Cunningham’s $2,300,000 salary.

If the Pistons and Pelicans don’t get anything done, the Timberwolves would be another team to watch for a Cunningham trade, tweets TNT’s David Aldridge.

Trade Rumors: Mavs, Holiday, Lakers, Celtics

The Mavericks have received some trade offers, but those proposals haven’t featured great draft-pick incentives, a league source tells Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Dallas is willing to use its leftover cap space to take on a contract or two, but the Mavs would require a draft pick valuable enough to make it worth their while.

According to Sefko, the Mavericks have also found that there’s a trade market for center Salah Mejri, who is facing restricted free agency this summer. However, teams haven’t been willing to offer more than a very low second-round pick.

Here are a few more trade rumors from across the NBA:

  • Sources tell Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that Bulls wing Justin Holiday has received serious interest. Holiday is one of several veterans Chicago will consider dealing, along with Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant.
  • The Lakers are using Larry Nance Jr. as a potential sweetener when they discuss Jordan Clarkson trade scenarios, tweets Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders initially suggested last month that Nance could be attached to another player to help L.A. clear salary. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN examines how Nance and his Lakers teammates are handling the ongoing trade rumors.
  • The Celtics seem to be “on the periphery” of the Tyreke Evans trade discussions, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald, who hears that the Grizzlies have better offers for Evans. However, one GM tells Bulpett that Boston appears to be “lying in wait” in the event that more active talks stall.
  • Dante Cunningham and Alexis Ajinca looks like the Pelicans‘ primary trade candidates today, sources tell Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link). Cunningham has the ability to veto trades and Ajinca is out for the season, so neither player has a ton of value.

Southwest Notes: Noel, Grizzlies, Clavell

There have been no shortages of distractions throughout Nerlens Noel‘s basketball career and that’s not about to change during the 2017/18 campaign. As Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post writes, the Mavs center will approach this season with his unrestricted free agency looming.

Still just 23 years old, Noel has already dealt with injuries, trade rumors and free agency speculation across stops with Kentucky, the Sixers and now the Mavs. This year he’ll look to earn a substantial offseason payday despite starting the season as Dallas’ backup center.

With Dirk Nowitzki slotted ahead of him at the five, Noel will be utilized off the bench as an athletic post defender with the ability to check guards on the perimeter. The Mavs will also look to employ his ability to crash the net in pick-and-roll situations, with a keen eye on how the young center might fit with the franchise long-term, in the post-Nowitzki era.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The addition of Mario Chalmers gives the Grizzlies the option to be more selective with who they incorporate into their rotaiton between Andrew Harrison and Wade Baldwin. Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal speculates that the club could continue to develop Baldwin and, reluctantly, waive Harrison.
  • The Mavs only have 12 players currently on guaranteed deals. It turns out, Gian Clavell could be one of their seven players on non-guaranteed deals to convince the team to keep him on for the full year. Earl Sneed of Mavs.com tweets that the guard has made a strong case for making the squad.
  • Utility man Dante Cunningham is capable of playing multiple positions, doing dirty work and doing it all with a smile. That flexibility is what endeared him to Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry, who will trot him out as the team’s starting small forward in 2017/18, Scott Kushner of The New Orleans Advocate writes.

Pelicans Re-Sign Dante Cunningham

SEPTEMBER 25: The Pelicans have officially re-signed Cunningham, the team announced today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 19: Free agent forward Dante Cunningham has made a decision on where he’ll play in 2017/18, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who reports that Cunningham has agreed to re-sign with the Pelicans.Dante Cunningham vertical

According to Charania, Cunningham will get a one-year, $2.3MM deal from New Orleans. The minimum salary for a player with Cunningham’s NBA experience is $2,106,470, so if his salary exceeds that, the Pelicans would have to use a different exception — they also wouldn’t get any help from the NBA to cover the full amount, like they would for a one-year, minimum salary deal.

Either way, Cunningham is set to return to the franchise with which he spent the last three seasons. In 2016/17, the 30-year-old forward averaged 6.6 PPG and 4.2 RPG in a rotation role for New Orleans, and also added a reliable three-point shot to his arsenal — Cunningham’s 1.1 3PG and .392 3PT% were both career highs by a wide margin.

While it looked initially like Cunningham’s improved outside shot might make him a more coveted target on the free agent market, he didn’t draw as much interest as expected. A handful of teams – including the Timberwolves, Bucks, and Raptors, per Charania – were said to be in the running for him, but his new 2017/18 salary will be worth less than the $3.1MM player option he turned down in June.

Still, the Pelicans are likely happy to get Cunningham back at a reduced rate, particularly with Solomon Hill expected to miss a significant portion of the 2017/18 season with a torn hamstring. While New Orleans has an All-NBA caliber duo up front in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, the club doesn’t have a ton of depth at forward and could use more shooting help. Cunningham’s ability to play at both forward spots and his improved three-point shot should be valuable.

Once they finalize their reported agreements with Cunningham and Martell Webster, the Pelicans will have 19 players under contract. Cunningham’s deal would represent the club’s 14th fully guaranteed salary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Moore, Long, Cunningham

The Rockets enter the 2017/18 campaign with last season’s Most Valuable Player runner-up in James Harden and offseason acquisition Chris Paul, widely viewed as one of the greatest point guards ever. A deal for Carmelo Anthony has not materialized but Houston is still an improved team, David Aldridge of NBA.com writes.

Aside from the acquisition of Paul, the Rockets have been in headlines all offseason. Tilman Fertitta purchased the Rockets for $2.2 billion, Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston hard, and even to this point, Anthony to Houston rumors persist. Nonetheless, head coach Mike D’Antoni believes his team is in prime position for success.

“The biggest advantage is for 48 minutes we have a Hall of Fame point guard (either Harden or Paul) on the floor. That’s huge,” D’Antoni said. “And both of them can play off the ball real well, they’re both great shooters, and both can exploit the defense when the ball is kicked … whoever initiates it would normally finish it, but if they have to kick the ball over to the other guy, they’ll finish it.”

Aldridge also breaks down the team chemistry heading into the season and expectations for a team that won 55 games last season.

Below you can read additional notes around the Southwest Division:

Northwest Notes: Durant, Wolves, Thunder

More than a year after leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State, Kevin Durant can’t seem to escape the drama that came with that decision. As Weston Shepherd of Daily Thunder outlines, a pair of tweets sent from Durant’s Twitter account earlier this week suggested that the star forward “didn’t like the [Thunder] organization or playing for Billy Donovan” and that OKC’s roster wasn’t talented enough to win a championship.

While those tweets were sent from Durant’s account, they referred to him in the third person, so it’s possible that someone with access to his Twitter published them without realizing which handle he was using. The tweets were quickly deleted, but there has been no explanation from KD, which may be a sign that his(?) comments on the Thunder weren’t far off the mark.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News passes along a couple updates from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, tweeting that Taylor has spoken personally to Dante Cunningham and is waiting on the forward’s free agent decision. Wolfson adds that Nemanja Bjelica believes he’s ready to go after suffering a broken foot last season, but the club will take things slow with him in camp.
  • The Thunder don’t yet have recovery timelines for Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson, who are dealing with knee injuries, but both players are making progress, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman details.
  • While Shabazz Napier is one of 21 fourth-year players eligible for a rookie scale extension, he’s not a great candidate for a new deal. As Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes, Napier is “little more than an insurance policy” for the Trail Blazers this season, and will have a hard time earning extended minutes.

Dante Cunningham Decision Expected Soon

The Timberwolves should know in the next day or two whether their pursuit of free agent Dante Cunningham has been successful, tweets Jerry Zgoda of 5 Eyewitness News. A source tells him the team expects Cunningham’s decision in the “next 24-48 hours.”

An eight-year veteran, the 30-year-old forward has spent the past three seasons with the Pelicans. He appeared in 66 games last year, starting 35, and averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 25 minutes per night.

Cunningham has received interest from several other organizations, with the Bucks reportedly becoming the latest team to join the chase. He became a free agent in April when he opted out of a $3.1MM salary for next season.

A second-round pick by the Trail Blazers in 2009, Cunningham spent a year and a half in Portland before being traded to Charlotte. He also played for the Grizzlies and Wolves before signing with New Orleans in 2014.

With just 15 players under contract and 12 with guaranteed money, Minnesota has more flexibility than any other team heading into camp. The Wolves re-signed Shabazz Muhammad over the weekend, but are still looking for veteran help at the wing to improve their bench.

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