Dante Exum

And-Ones: Australian Olympic Team, James, Missia-Dio, Spurs

Numerous current NBA players were named to the Australian national team’s final 12-man roster for the Olympics, ESPN’s Olgun Uluc tweets. The team is headlined by Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes, Matisse Thybulle, Dante Exum and Josh Green.

Projected lottery pick Josh Giddey is not on the 12-man roster but has been named as one of three replacement players, Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets. Giddey will travel to Las Vegas for Australia’s exhibition games, Givony adds. He’s currently rated No. 9 overall on ESPN’s Best Available list.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • LeBron James passed on the Olympics this year and it’s unlikely he’ll play for Team USA again, managing director Jerry Colangelo said on ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill and Zubin radio show (video link). “LeBron made choices these last couple of Olympics not to participate because he’s got a lot of things going on in his life,” Colangelo said. “So he put in his time, he made a contribution that is appreciated, but I think his time is over.” James’ last Olympic appearance came during the 2012 London Games.
  • Belgian forward Nathan Missia-Dio became the ninth player to sign with Overtime Elite, according to a league press release. The new development league will begin play in September. Missia-Dio, a 6’6” forward, played two seasons for Espoirs Limoges in France’s Elite U21 League. He is ranked 13th by Eurospects.com among international prospects born in 2004.
  • The Spurs are seeking a new naming-rights sponsor for their arena, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. Longtime sponsor AT&T won’t renew its current deal, which expires in the fall of 2022. AT&T has also sold off its 7.23% share of the team. Front Office Sports first reported the news.

Rockets Notes: Fertitta, T. Brown, Wilson, Exum

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has watched his team go from among the NBA’s best to the league’s worst record very quickly, and he’s realistic about how long it will take to get back on top, writes Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle. Houston arrived in training camp with playoff aspirations and a veteran core in place, but after a massive roster overhaul, the Rockets are just 4-35 since February 5.

“It’s really, really hard because I am competitive and I hate to lose,” Fertitta said. “But my people, including (CEO) Tad (Brown) and (general manager Rafael Stone) and even my son Patrick, just (say) the biggest mistake you can make right now is use all these picks to be a .500 club, because you’re never able to be a championship caliber club,” Fertitta said. “But I hate losing so much I’m totally staying out of it, because I’m scared that I can make the wrong decisions. I want to win today. I just have to (stay out of it) because they’re right and they just gave me examples and examples.”

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • Tad Brown has become the latest high-profile figure to leave the organization, announcing Friday that he will step down as CEO at the end of the season, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Brown made it clear that he wasn’t being pushed out and said he spent several months considering his future before deciding to leave. “This is something that is going to be a part of my heart and soul for the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s very difficult to transition out, but I do believe it’s the right thing to do.”
  • The Rockets were down to seven healthy players for Saturday’s loss in Denver, which meant extended minutes for some players who aren’t used to a lot of court time, Feigen notes in a separate story. D.J. Wilson played 40 minutes and K.J. Martin was on the court for 42 minutes. “We put the work in behind closed doors,” Wilson said. “When our number is called, we’re definitely going to be ready, each and every one of us. When you’re not getting those minutes on a game-to-game basis, you can’t do much but ask to play. I don’t think anyone was asking for a sub. Everybody was enjoying the minutes. It was just tough we couldn’t get the W.”
  • Dante Exum, who was acquired in January as part of the James Harden trade, is considered out for the rest of the season, Feigen tweets. Exum only played six games this season because of a calf injury and hasn’t been available since the trade. He has a $9.6MM expiring contract.

Aggregation Restriction Lifted For Players In James Harden Trade

The trade aggregation restriction has expired for the seven players who were involved in this season’s most significant deal, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. That means everyone who was part of the four-team swap that sent James Harden to the Nets in January can now be combined with other salaries in another trade.

While that may not matter much to the other three teams involved, it’s significant for the Rockets, particularly involving Victor Oladipo, who has an expiring $21MM contract. Oladipo has remained a productive scorer in Houston, averaging 19.9 PPG in 15 games, but he’s shooting just 38.7% from the field and 31.3% from three-point range.

The rebuilding Rockets will have to decide whether they want to make a long-term investment in Oladipo, who will turn 29 before the season ends and is still sitting out one-half of back-to-back sets due to health concerns. He declined a two-year, $45MM extension offer from Houston shortly after the trade, the largest the Rockets could offer at the time, but the team admits that was just a way to show he was wanted. Oladipo will seek a longer deal once free agency arrives.

If Houston decides not to make that investment, its best option is to trade him before the March 25 deadline. The Knicks would be among the teams with interest, according to a report this week.

Owning the league’s third-worst record after 13 straight losses, the Rockets are expected to be among the league’s most active sellers heading into the deadline. They will also be able to aggregate the $9.6MM contract for Dante Exum and the $1.78MM deal for Rodions Kurucs, as both were acquired in the Harden deal.

In addition to Harden, the other players in the trade – who can now be aggregated – were Pacers guard Caris LeVert and Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen and forward Taurean Prince.

And-Ones: Australia, Evans, Masks, Free Agency

Ben Simmons heads the list of players named by Basketball Australia to the country’s preliminary Olympic squad, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Among some of the other NBA notables on the 24-player list are Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, Patty Mills, Josh Green, Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova. The squad will have to be pared to 12 players for the Olympic tournament in Tokyo this summer.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The Erie BayHawks waived guard Jacob Evans to make room for forward Jordan Bell, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Bell was released from his 10-day contract with the Wizards over the weekend. Evans played for the Warriors and Timberwolves the past two seasons.
  • The NBA will soon require players to wear KN95 or KF94 masks on the bench and all other areas where masks are necessary, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes. The new rule will go into effect over the next week. Starting with games on Friday, the NBA will more strictly enforce current rules regarding the use of face masks, Bontemps adds.
  • The Athletic trio of James Edwards III (Pistons), Mike Vorkunov (Knicks) and Chris Kirschner (Hawks) take a closer look at their teams’ free agent moves during the offseason, how well those players have worked out so far, and what those franchises could have done differently.

Rockets Trade James Harden To Nets

JANUARY 16: The Pacers/Rockets part of the trade is now official and has been folded back into the initial deal, formally making it a four-team trade once again. Details can be found right here.


JANUARY 14: The trade is now official, the Nets announced in a press release.

“Adding an All-NBA player such as James to our roster better positions our team to compete against the league’s best,” Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks said. “James is one of the most prolific scorers and playmakers in our game, and we are thrilled to bring his special talents to Brooklyn.

“While we are excited to welcome James and his family to the Nets, we also want to thank the players who are departing. Caris, Jarrett, Rodions and Taurean were instrumental to the team’s success and have made an enormous impact on our organization. It has been a pleasure watching them grow both as players and as people and they will always be part of our Nets family. We wish each of them and their families all the best in the future.”

In their press release announcing the deal, the Cavs noted that they also acquired the draft rights to 2017 second-round pick Aleksandar Vezenkov from the Nets. Vezenkov has remained overseas since being drafted.

Interestingly, the Nets, Cavs, and Rockets opted to complete this trade as a three-team deal, meaning the trade sending LeVert and a second-round pick to Indiana for Oladipo will be a separate move.

Separating the two trades will allow the Rockets to generate a larger trade exception in this initial deal — that exception will be worth $15,451,216.


JANUARY 13: The Nets will acquire star guard James Harden in a trade with the Rockets, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link). Shams Charania of The Athletic confirms (via Twitter) that Harden will head to Brooklyn.

According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne (via Twitter) and Charania (Twitter link), it will be a multi-team trade that also involves the Cavaliers and Pacers, with the Rockets receiving Indiana guard Victor Oladipo in the deal.

The Rockets will acquire Oladipo from the Pacers; Rodions Kurucs, three first-round picks, and four pick swaps from the Nets; and Dante Exum and the Bucks’ unprotected 2022 first-round selection from the Cavs, per ESPN and The Athletic.

Cleveland will receive Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from Brooklyn, while the Pacers acquire Caris LeVert.

Charania reports (via Twitter) that the Pacers will also receive a second-round pick in the trade. That second-rounder is a 2023 selection from the Rockets, tweets Wojnarowski.

In addition to Harden, the Nets will receive a 2024 second-round pick from Cleveland, says Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The Cavaliers have traded away the more favorable of their own second-rounder and the Jazz’s second-rounder, so Brooklyn will presumably get the less favorable of those two picks.

This is a massive trade with a ton of moving parts to break down. Let’s start with the Nets’ side of the deal.

Nets’ perspective:

The draft picks the Nets are sending to Houston are their unprotected first-rounders in 2022, 2024, and 2026, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that the Rockets will have the ability to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027 (without protections, tweets Zach Lowe of ESPN).

That means the Nets won’t control any of their own first-round picks through 2027, making this a massive bet on the star trio of Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving. Irving is currently away from the team on personal leave and is something of a question mark for the time being, but with Durant and Harden leading the offense, the Nets should have more than enough offensive firepower to get by until he returns.

The move, which makes Brooklyn an immediate championship contender, reunites Harden with his former Thunder teammate and fellow former MVP Durant. Harden will also team up once again with ex-Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who is now a Nets assistant.

As a result of trading four players for one, the Nets will have three open roster spots to fill, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Minimum-salary signings seem likely, since Brooklyn’s projected luxury tax bill will further increase as a result of taking on Harden’s $41MM+ salary.

However, the team also still has its $5.72MM taxpayer mid-level exception available and will likely be granted a disabled player exception worth about the same amount following Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ACL tear. As such, Brooklyn has the flexibility to sign players to deals worth more than the minimum.

Harden had a 15% trade kicker in his contract, but it will be voided since he’s already making the maximum salary.

While this blockbuster trade is probably a safe bet to work out better than the last time the Nets mortgaged their future by surrendering a series of first-round selections and pick swaps (for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce), it’s worth noting that Harden is 31 years old and Durant is 32 — the Nets’ picks for the next couple years figure to fall near the end of the first round, but there’s no guarantee that will still be the case by 2025, 2026, or 2027.

Rockets’ perspective:

The Rockets are clearly betting that some of those draft assets will become valuable, opting for a package heavy on picks rather than pushing to complete a trade with the Sixers for Ben Simmons, as was rumored earlier today. Although Simmons was said to be on the table in talks with Philadelphia, it’s not clear what the rest of that deal might have looked like.

By choosing to trade with the Nets and Pacers, the Rockets landed a two-time All-Star (Oladipo) in addition to four draft picks and four draft swaps. Oladipo will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be a long-term Rocket. Houston will hold his Bird rights and could re-sign him in the offseason, but acquiring him this early in the season also gives the club the option of extracting further value by flipping him at the March 25 trade deadline.

Today’s trade agreement marks the end of a saga that began in November, when word first broke that Harden had turned down a two-year, $103MM extension offer and had requested a trade out of Houston. The Rockets didn’t move him in the offseason, prompting the superstar guard to express his displeasure by reporting late to training camp.

On Tuesday night, he accelerated his departure by telling reporters after a blowout loss that the Rockets were “just not good enough” and that he didn’t believe the situation could be fixed. Houston decided to keep Harden away from the team until a trade agreement could be reached, and ultimately took less than 24 hours to finalize a deal.

[RELATED: Rockets’ Players, Silas Discuss Harden Situation]

Barring any additional imminent changes, the Rockets will have a fascinating roster in the short term, headlined by a trio of former stars who are coming back from major injuries. Oladipo, who missed a year from 2019-20 with a quad issue, joins John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, who have looked good this season after long-term injury absences of their own.

With Christian Wood and P.J. Tucker in the frontcourt, Houston should be a competitive team this season, albeit probably not a legit contender. Today’s trade is more about the future. Having previously traded away a handful of their own future first-round picks and given up a pair of pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, the Rockets have replenished their stash of draft picks in recent months, first by trading Robert Covington and Russell Westbrook and now by moving Harden.

Houston, which had one open roster spot entering the day, will have to waive a player to complete the trade. The club will also generate an eight-figure trade exception in the deal.

All three of the players acquired in today’s trade by the Rockets – Oladipo, Kurucs, and Exum – can become free agents at season’s end (Kurucs has a team option for 2021/22).

It also shouldn’t be overlooked that moving Harden for three less expensive players will take the Rockets $3.65MM below the luxury tax line and $9.95MM below their hard cap, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Entering the day, Houston was over the tax and only about $1MM from the hard cap — the club should now have added financial and cap flexibility for the rest of the season.

Pacers’ perspective:

Oladipo has been the subject of trade rumors for the last year, since he has at times seemed lukewarm about the idea of remaining in Indiana after his current contract expires in 2021. While the Pacers had insisted they were comfortable hanging onto him and addressing his contract situation when free agency arrived, moving him for LeVert makes sense for the franchise.

While Oladipo is a stronger defender, LeVert is a talented scorer who is two years younger than Oladipo and is on a more favorable contract. LeVert is earning $16.2MM this season and is under contract for two additional years beyond 2020/21, at an affordable rate of $18.1MM per year.

As Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report observes (via Twitter), re-signing Oladipo at the price he was seeking would’ve been a challenge for the Pacers, who are already on the hook for lucrative multiyear contracts for Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, and Myles Turner. Locking in LeVert through 2022/23 should be much more financially manageable for Indiana.

In the short term, the Pacers will also slip under the luxury tax line as a result of swapping Oladipo ($21MM) for LeVert, tweets Marks.

Cavaliers’ perspective:

The Cavs are acquiring Prince and will send out Exum and a future second-round pick, but this trade is mostly about sending out the Bucks’ 2022 first-rounder in exchange for Allen, a promising young center who will be a restricted free agent during the coming offseason.

Cleveland already has a number of veteran options at the four and five, including Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and JaVale McGee, so acquiring Allen will create more of a logjam in the short term.

In the long term though, you could make the case that none of the Cavs’ incumbent big men have more upside than Allen, who is averaging a double-double (11.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG) in a part-time role (26.7 MPG) so far this season.

If Allen starts at least five games for the Cavs during the rest of the 2020/21 season, he’ll meet the starter criteria and his qualifying offer in restricted free agency will be worth $7.7MM. He’d have the option of accepting that one-year offer, negotiating a longer-term deal with Cleveland, or signing an offer sheet with another team, which the Cavs could match.

In a pair of corresponding roster moves, the Cavs will waive Thon Maker and will end Yogi Ferrell‘s 10-day contract early, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cavs To Apply For Hardship Exception

Hit hard by injuries, the Cavaliers are expected to apply for a hardship exception this weekend, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Unlike a disabled player exception – which gives teams extra cap flexibility and can only be used to replace a player who suffers a season-ending injury – a hardship exception allows a team to add a 16th player to its 15-man roster on a short-term basis. It can be granted by the league if a club has at least four players who have missed three or more games due to injury or illness and are expected to be out for at least two more weeks.

As Fedor notes, the Cavaliers can’t apply for the exception quite yet, since one of their four injured players – Dante Exum – has only been sidelined for a single game so far. Exum will miss his third game on Saturday, at which point Cleveland can officially seek approval.

Kevin Love (calf) and Dylan Windler (wrist) will also be sidelined for the foreseeable future. With Darius Garland (shoulder) a candidate to return within the next week or two, Matthew Dellavedova (concussion) may be the fourth Cav expected to remain out for multiple weeks — he has yet to suit up for the team this season and is considered out indefinitely.

If their application is approved, the Cavs will target another ball-handler, says Fedor. The goal would be to solidify the point guard spot, with Exum and Dellavedova out. In light of the NBA’s recent rule tweaks, any player signed via the hardship provision by Cleveland would almost certainly receive a 10-day contract.

Central Notes: Grant, DiVincenzo, Garland, Cavs, Bulls

While the opportunity to play a more significant role on offense played a major part in his decision to leave Denver for Detroit in November, Jerami Grant was drawn to the Pistons for another reason, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. The opportunity to play for a Black head coach (Dwane Casey) and for a franchise with a Black general manager (Troy Weaver) appealed to the veteran forward.

“Whether it’s on the court or off, there’s a sense of understanding that you get from — and I’m not going to say all, but a majority — Black people who have gone through and are going through some of the struggles that we do,” Grant said. “I think that gives you a better connection, makes it a little easier and makes you feel better about yourself when you have people that look like you around.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

Cavs’ Dante Exum To Miss 1-2 Months

Cavaliers guard Dante Exum is expected to miss 1-2 months with a strained right calf, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Exum suffered the non-contact injury during the first quarter of the team’s game against Orlando on Monday. He was writhing in pain and eventually hobbled to the bench, unable to put weight on his leg.

It’s a blow to the Cavs, as coach J.B. Bickerstaff had plugged Exum in a defensive stopper role.

“I think (Dante) is a heck of a defender,” Bickerstaff said over the weekend. “He’s extremely intelligent. He’s got great length. And he’s committed to trying to go out and get the job done.”

The injury could impact Exum’s future earnings. Exum, who is making $9.6MM this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s dealt with a number of health problems over the years that sidetracked his career. He hasn’t played more than 42 games in the past three seasons.

Cleveland has been hit hard by injuries and other issues this season

Exum was inserted into the lineup when rookie Isaac Okoro sprained his foot and then was placed on the league’s COVID-19 list. Kevin Porter Jr. has been out for personal reasons and his return is unknown, while Kevin Love is expected to miss most of this month with a calf strain. Matthew Dellavedova has been sidelined after suffering a concussion during the preseason.

Injury Updates: Exum, Hayes, Bogdanovic, Okogie, Towns

Cavaliers guard Dante Exum departed Monday’s game against Orlando in the opening minute with a right calf strain, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He went down with a non-contact injury and eventually hobbled to the bench, unable to put weight on his leg. Cleveland players spoke with optimism regarding the injury after the game, Fedor tweets.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Pistons lottery pick Killian Hayes left Monday’s game against Milwaukee during the third quarter with a right hip injury, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets. Hayes has started regularly during his rookie season. He’ll have an MRI on Tuesday, coach Dwane Casey said after the game.
  • Jazz swingman Bojan Bogdanovic has continually experienced soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News writes. Bogdanovic put on a brace during Sunday’s game against San Antonio and it helped dramatically, as he scored 28 points. “I really hate to play with anything on my body, any tape, any brace, anything,” he said. “But I really needed it because my wrist is kind od sore whenever I follow through when I’m shooting.”
  • Josh Okogie is closer to returning than Karl-Anthony Towns for the Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Okogie has missed the last four games with a left hamstring strain. Towns has only played two games due to a dislocated left wrist. Meanwhile, Jaylen Nowell is ramping up in practice and is close to making his season debut. He’s been sidelined with a left ankle injury.

Eastern Notes: Exum, Curry, Boucher, Warren

The Cavaliers have plugged Dante Exum into the role of defensive stopper, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. New head coach J.B. Bickerstaff used Exum to help hold Atlanta star guard Trae Young to 16 points on Saturday. “I think (Dante) is a heck of a defender,” Bickerstaff said. “He’s extremely intelligent. He’s got great length. And he’s committed to trying to go out and get the job done.” Exum, who is making $9.6MM this season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Seth Curry appears to be headed to a career year with Sixers distributor Ben Simmons feeding him the ball. HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky breaks down how well they’re playing together in the early going. Acquired in a trade with the Mavericks, Curry is averaging 16.2 PPG while knocking down 51.5% of his 3-point attempts.
  • The Raptors are looking at Chris Boucher as the primary backup at power forward to Pascal Siakam, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Normally used at center despite being 6’9”, Boucher has recently played alongside centers Aron Baynes and Alex Len. “We really need some depth there, so it’s good to see that he’s been able to make a transition, kind of on a need basis,” coach Nick Nurse said. “Now it might be something we can count on.”
  • Pacers forward T.J. Warren faces a long recovery from his foot injury, as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files details. One of the team’s top offensive threats, Warren is dealing with a small navicular left foot stress fracture that will require surgery.