Darius Garland

Central Notes: Garland, Grant, Bulls, Brissett

Reaching an extension with Darius Garland figures to be among the offseason priorities for the Cavaliers, but the third-year guard didn’t want to speculate on the possibility during a public appearance Saturday, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Garland, who has become part of the young foundation in Cleveland, is expected to receive a five-year max-level extension offer this summer.

“We will see,” Garland responded when asked about an extension. “I hope I’m part of (the team’s future). Not anything set in stone yet. Hopefully.”

Garland is coming off a career-best season in which he averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game and helped the Cavs become a surprise contender in the East. He was stung by back-to-back losses in the play-in tournament and said he couldn’t stand to watch the first round of the playoffs, but now he looks back at the season as something positive.

“It definitely gave me a taste. Just being there. Feeling that atmosphere. The fans packing the arena. That was super cool,” Garland said. “Felt like the playoff atmosphere that I want to be in. Next year hopefully we will be back. We have a bright future. Just coming down the stretch we had a lot of bad timing with injuries and stuff like that. No excuses. We’re headed in the right direction I believe.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons forward Jerami Grant will be a popular name on the trade market this summer, so Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press looks at four potential destinations. Sankofa proposes deals that would send Grant to the Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Hawks and Grizzlies.
  • After a first-round exit this season, the future doesn’t look much brighter for the Bulls to make a long playoff run, contends Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Even if Chicago is able to re-sign free agent Zach LaVine, Cowley doesn’t believe the current core has enough star power to compete with the Celtics, Heat, Bucks, Nets and Sixers.
  • The Pacers have a $1.8MM option on Oshae Brissett‘s contract for next season, but Tony East of Forbes explains why it might be more beneficial for Indiana to decline that option and make him a restricted free agent now rather than allowing him to become unrestricted in 2023.

Darius Garland Discusses Thrill Of “Playoff Experience”

Cavaliers guard Darius Garland set three lofty goals before the start of the season and he achieved them all, he says in an interview with Tyler R. Tynes of GQ. Garland wanted to be a finalist for the Most Improved Player trophy, to be an All-Star and to reach at least the play-in tournament. He finished third in the MIP voting, played in the All-Star Game in Cleveland and got to experience the play-in atmosphere, even though the Cavs lost both of their games.

Cleveland got off to a strong start and remained in contention for one of the top seeds in the East for most of the season. But a string of injuries caused the team to slip to the eighth seed, leading to an early exit. Now that he’s had a taste of the postseason, Garland wants to go even farther next year.

“Being there, feeling the playoff experience, that atmosphere with the whole city behind you, you could barely hear in the arena,” Garland said. “It was lit the whole time, in Brooklyn [and in] the second game against Atlanta at home. That was probably the most intense basketball I’ve ever had in my life. So it was cool having that experience, but I definitely want to get into the playoffs.”

Garland, who will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension this summer, said he loves being in Cleveland and hopes for a long-term future there. He touches on that and several other subjects during the interview:

On coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who trusted him to take control of the team:

“Going into my second year, he literally told me, ‘You have the keys, this is your team, you just have to drive the car.’ That’s the analogy he gave me. I had to learn how to drive this car, with this team, coming in as one of the youngest guys on the team and I had to be the leader and talk the most. Being more vocal, being a leader, putting people where they want to be and try to be the best on the court at all times. Be the first on the court. Be the last one to leave. It’s all the little things we talk about.”

On lessons from veteran guards Ricky Rubio and Rajon Rondo, who both spent part of the season with the Cavs:

“Rondo gave me the mental part of the game. We watch film throughout the entire season. Every game, on the road, on the plane, in the room, at dinner. We watching film no matter what with ’Do. With Ricky, it was the game inside the game. He would tell me to play a game while we’re playing a game. Put people in pick and roll situations, go at him and see what he does. The next play: put him in the same pick and roll situation and see what happens. He was teaching me how to pick apart a defense. I picked those things up easy from those two.”

On Collin Sexton, who is headed for restricted free agency this offseason:

“I hope Collin stays around. I really like playing with him. He’s super cool off the court and we have a lot of similarities: we both like shoes and clothes and we love the game of basketball. He was like my big brother coming into the league. So, hopefully, Collin sticks around. Hopefully we get more some more years to play with each other and make some playoff appearances.”

On becoming Cleveland’s biggest star since the departure of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving:

“I never really thought about it. I try to stay in the present moment and work on myself. I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to get this team better. I’m trying to get this organization better. I’m working on myself. Those guys are true legends in Cleveland and the NBA so all respect to them, but I’m just working on my team and myself right now. I talk to ‘Bron and Ky after games and stuff, but nothing really ever about Cleveland.”

Ja Morant Wins Most Improved Player Award

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant has been named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, according to a league press release.

Morant is the first Memphis player to win the award. He received 221 points (38 first-place votes) from a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Spurs guard Dejounte Murray finished in second place with 183 points (20 first-place votes).

Cavaliers guard Darius Garland wound up in third place with 11 first-place votes and 178 points, followed by the Warriors Jordan Poole (15 first-place votes, 131 points) in fourth.

There were a wide range of legitimate MIP candidates this season, with no less than seven players receiving at least three first-place votes. Morant’s teammate Desmond Bane, Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, and Hornets forward Miles Bridges rounded out the top seven vote-getters.

A first-time All-Star, Morant averaged 27.4 PPG, 6.7 APG and 5.7 RPG in 33.1 MPG in 57 games to lead Memphis to the Western Conference’s second-best record. He had an 8.3-point increase in scoring and 4.3 percent improvement in field goal percentage from last season. Morant was the Rookie of the Year two seasons ago.

Anfernee Simons, Robert Williams, Jaren Jackson, Jalen Brunson, and Max Strus also each received at least one second- and/or third-place vote. The full results can be found here.

NBA Announces 2021/22 Award Finalists

The NBA has announced the 2021/22 season award finalists for the league’s six major awards: Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2022 NBA Award Picks]

The awards were voted on by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The three top vote-getters for each award are the finalists. They are as follows:

Most Valuable Player:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Coach of the Year:

  • Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies)
  • Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
  • Monty Williams (Suns)

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Winners will be announced during TNT’s coverage of the NBA playoffs, according to the league.

Cavaliers Notes: Sexton, Future, Garland, Love

Collin Sexton is looking forward to training camp in September, whether it’s with the Cavaliers or somebody else, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. A meniscus tear knocked Sexton out of action 11 games into the season, and there’s still no timeline for him to resume basketball activities. A source told Fedor that Sexton will undergo several tests next week to determine his progress.

“I’m getting there,” he said after today’s exit meeting with coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “Every day is a grind. I feel better every day. As long as I get better 1% each and every day I wake up, then it’s a win-win. I just continue to know that some days are going to be better than others and just continue to know I will be full go and I know I’m going to be 100%. I have confidence in myself and I have confidence in the people that’s working with me to get me back to where I was — and even much better.”

Sexton’s contract status made his future in Cleveland uncertain before the injury occurred. He’s headed for free agency this summer and will be restricted if the Cavs make a $7.23MM qualifying offer. The team acquired Caris LeVert at the trade deadline, which means Sexton might be in a sixth-man role if he returns.

“I want to be here in Cleveland,” he said. “I love the organization, love my teammates and whatever happens I know that Cleveland was really good to me. I know this is the place that helped me get to where I am today, and I know I want to continue to be a part of this winning culture. I feel like me just being able to be at the start of it helped us get to yesterday and where we are right now at the present. I love Cleveland. I want to be here.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers had their season derailed by injuries and weren’t able to advance beyond the play-in tournament, but the mood was optimistic after Friday’s game, according to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Cleveland was among the most improved teams in the league, and there’s a feeling that the foundation is in place to be a long-term contender. “We’re still like, ‘Damn, it’s really over,’” Jarrett Allen said. “And then two seconds later, and it’s like, we’re laughing because we had a hell of a year. A lot has happened this year — positive, negative — but we look at all the times that we did play well, and we came together. And that was all positive.”
  • Darius Garland has made a strong case to receive a rookie-scale extension that could be worth up to a projected $181MM over five years, per Bobby Marks of ESPN. Garland became an All-Star in his third NBA season and took on a larger role as the team dealt with injuries, averaging 25.2 points and a league-high 10.8 assists per game after March 1.
  • Kevin Love‘s bounce-back season may cause the front office to consider an extension, Marks adds. Love has an expiring $28.9MM contract for next season, but there would be no restrictions on how much his salary could decrease in the first year of a new deal.

Central Notes: Caruso, Garland, Lee, Pistons

Bulls guard Alex Caruso is nearing his return from a wrist injury that’s sidelined him 22 games, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Caruso fractured his wrist on Jan. 21 and participated fully in the team’s practice on Friday.

“We haven’t talked about specific target yet,” Caruso said. “I think we’re just trying to take it day-by-day to make sure it passes each test. Wake up (Saturday), hopefully no soreness that will hold me back and go from there.”

Chicago plays Cleveland on Saturday, Sacramento on Monday and Utah on Wednesday. Caruso is currently listed as questionable to play on Saturday. In 28 games this season, he has averaged 8.4 points, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals, playing 27.7 minutes per contest.

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • As the season has progressed, Cavaliers guard Darius Garland has received more attention from opposing defenses, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Garland has become a franchise cornerstone for the Cavaliers, averaging 21.0 points and 8.3 assists per game in his first All-Star season. As Fedor notes, it’ll be important for Cleveland to counter those defenses, especially with the playoffs roughly a month away.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic hosts a Q&A with Bucks assistant Charles Lee, who remains a future NBA head coaching candidate. Lee has been with Milwaukee since 2018 after previously serving as an assistant with the Hawks for four years.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News examines what the Pistons could do with their cap space this offseason. As Beard outlines, Detroit is projected to have roughly $31.4MM to pursue free agents. The team will also have former No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III as a restricted free agent.

And-Ones: Young Point Guards, Henson, Holmgren, Draft

Rising Grizzlies star Ja Morant has enjoyed a breakout year in Memphis, but 11 of 15 scouts and executives polled by Tim Bontemps of ESPN would still take Mavericks star Luka Doncic over Morant if they were picking a young point guard to build around.

Bontemps asked those 15 scouts and execs to rank Doncic, Morant, Trae Young, LaMelo Ball, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Darius Garland, and got some interesting responses. Doncic was the overwhelming top pick, with Morant (who had the other four first-place votes) coming in second, followed by Young in third. Ball and Gilgeous-Alexander were neck and neck for the fourth spot, with Garland bringing up the rear.

The question engendered plenty of debate, according to Bontemps, who notes that the respondents’ evaluations of certain prospects varied significantly. For instance, one Eastern Conference executive believes that Gilgeous-Alexander could be “potentially be doing a lot of the same things” as Morant if their situations were flipped, while an East scout said SGA is “clearly last” of the six in his view, since the others are better at passing and making plays for teammates.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA lottery pick John Henson has signed with Mets de Guaynabo for the upcoming season in Puerto Rico, tweets agent Christian Santaella. Henson, who has appeared in 445 regular season NBA games, signed a 10-day contract with the Knicks last April, but hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2019/20 season.
  • In an Insider-only story for ESPN, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz explore why Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren is such a polarizing player for NBA scouts. As ESPN’s duo explains, Holmgren is a one-of-a-kind prospect who can’t be easily compared to current or former NBA players, making it more difficult to evaluate both his potential upside and his potential risk.
  • Givony and Schmitz have also updated their top-100 prospect list for the 2022 NBA draft and discussed some of the players who have recently risen up that big board.
  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com takes an in-depth look at Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson, identical twins who are candidates to be drafted in the lottery in 2023. The Thompson twins, who are currently playing for Overtime Elite, both went in the top 10 of ESPN’s most recent 2023 mock draft.

Cavs Notes: Garland, Point Guards, LeVert, Sexton, Pangos

After playing in the last two games before the All-Star break, Darius Garland has missed the Cavaliers‘ first three games since the break due to lower back soreness. The player and team have faced some scrutiny for Garland’s participation in the All-Star festivities in Cleveland, but general manager Mike Gansey said on Monday that it wouldn’t have made sense for the point guard to skip All-Star weekend, given how he was feeling at the time.

“No, because he played in Philly and Atlanta and was feeling good,” Gansey said, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “The Skills Competition was like getting some shots up or playing H-O-R-S-E. The shooting stuff for him was fun. Then the team had a practice which wasn’t a practice and he played in the All-Star Game, and I don’t even know if he tried to defend or even touch someone.

“You watch him run around and see him in pregame and he’s fine. It’s a bone bruise. A day-to-day thing. Nothing long term. He needs rest. Obviously, rest is not on our side right now.”

Garland’s back soreness is an issue he’ll likely have to deal with off and on for the rest of 2021/22. However, according to Gansey, the Cavaliers are hopeful that the rest Garland has gotten since the All-Star break will help him stay on the court for the final stretch of the season.

“I think with him, like, it’s just like a day-to-day thing,” Gansey said, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “And, we just hope we can get through it, with him here taking a week. Who knows, maybe Wednesday, he’ll wake up and feel good. I don’t know. I just think this proper rest here will only help him. There’s nothing structural or anything there. It’s just something he’s got to deal with the rest of the year, unfortunately.”

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • Cleveland finds itself shorthanded at point guard with Garland, Rajon Rondo, and Caris LeVert all sidelined, but Gansey doesn’t think the team made a mistake by not acquiring more depth at the position at the trade deadline. “I don’t think we regret (not adding another) because I didn’t think we would see doomsday with our point guard situation,” Gansey said, according to Fedor. Brandon Goodwin has been awesome for us. A great find. He’s keeping us afloat right now. Gotta give him credit for that.”
  • Gansey, who acknowledges the Cavaliers have exceeded expectations this season, would consider it a “huge success” if the team even gets a single playoff series, as Russo relays. “If you would have told us (prior to the season), I guess with just the way we’re progressing, if we were in the play-in game, I think we’d be very, very happy with that,” Gansey said. “And I guess you could say we’re ahead of schedule. But the exciting thing is we’re so young. Everyone talks about Darius, Evan (Mobley), and Jarrett (Allen), but, like, Lauri (Markkanen)‘s 24. Isaac (Okoro)‘s 22. Collin (Sexton)‘s (23). Like, there are six guys under 25 that hopefully are our core moving forward. … Hopefully, with the young guys we have, they’re just only going to get better like they’ve shown and see what we can do.”
  • There has been some speculation that acquiring LeVert means Sexton’s days in Cleveland could be numbered, but Gansey believes there’s room for both guards on the roster going forward, according to Russo. “I mean, based on what we’ve seen this year, you can’t have enough playmakers and ballhandlers,” the GM said. Sexton will be a restricted free agent this offseason, while LeVert is under contract through 2023.
  • Waived on February 19, Kevin Pangos is one of four NBA players who has reached a buyout agreement since the trade deadline, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Marks tells Hoops Rumors that Pangos gave up $100K in his deal with the Cavs. The 29-year-old could afford to sacrifice a little money because he had an agreement in place with CSKA Moscow, though he still hasn’t traveled to Russia since signing his new contract due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, according to a Mundo Deportivo report (hat tip to BasketNews.com).

Central Notes: LeVert, Garland, Williams, Caruso, Haliburton, Brogdon

Cavaliers guard Caris LeVert will be out at least a week or two after spraining his right foot during Tuesday’s practice, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer relays.

LeVert underwent an MRI on Wednesday, which confirmed the sprain. All-Star point guard Darius Garland also missed Thursday’s loss at Detroit due to lower back soreness. He’ll undergo a period of treatment and rehabilitation, according to a team press release.

Garland’s injury is muscular and will need to be managed throughout the remainder of the season, according to Fedor.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Patrick Williams is getting closer to returning from wrist surgery but the 2020 lottery pick won’t automatically return to the Bulls’ starting lineup, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Staff-wise, as players get closer and closer to coming back, I think Javonte [Green] has done a really good job with that group in terms of how he’s fit in, what he’s been able to bring to the table in Patrick’s absence,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “I’m not opposed to bringing Patrick off the bench and I’m not opposed to starting him. I think a lot of it is going to be once he can get back to practice, is there a minutes restriction on him, how many minutes can he play at a time, and what’s the best role for him to help our team?’’
  • Alex Caruso underwent surgery to repair a fractured right wrist on January 24th and had an six-to-eight week reevaluation timeline. The Bulls guard appears to be on schedule, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. “We’re hoping by the end of this week, certainly early next week, that he’ll have a ball in his hands and be able to do things,” Donovan said. Williams has begun doing some dribbling and shooting work but Donovan said he needs to strengthen the wrist further before facing live contact.
  • Pacers coach Rick Carlisle believes the backcourt pairing of Tyrese Haliburton and Malcolm Brogdon will produce big results, Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com writes. “I think they’re perfect compliments to one another,” Carlisle said. “They both have had their share of playing with and without the ball so both positions come naturally to them. I’m looking forward to it. Really with those two guys and their knowledge of the game, feel for the game, I should never have to call a play. “

Cavaliers Notes: Markkanen, Garland, LeVert

After several weeks of rehabbing his injured right ankle, Lauri Markkanen is eager to help the Cavaliers make a playoff push, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com relays. Markkanen suffered a high ankle sprain on Jan. 22 against Oklahoma City and has missed Cleveland’s last 11 games.

Markkanen was a full participant in practice Wednesday and is listed as probable for the team’s game Thursday. A source told Fedor that the Cavs are preparing as if the forward will return Thursday at Detroit. Markkanen said he was relieved that the injury wasn’t as serious as he initially thought and is excited to be back.

I’m excited,” Markkanen said when asked about his impending return. “We always talk about playing meaningful games after the All-Star break and it’s definitely every game matters. I just love doing it with these guys and can’t wait to get out there.

We have a great group of guys and we’re a great team. We just have to bring it every night, no matter who we are playing and we gotta play Cavaliers basketball every night. I think we’re going to be fine if we do that and play together. We definitely need everybody at this point of the year. Going to need everybody’s contribution on the court. Have to be focused, especially with Eastern Conference being so tight. Every game matters. Have to be locked in.”

The Cavs currently hold the fourth seed in the East with a 35-23 record.

Here’s more from Cleveland:

  • While the team received good news with Markkanen’s return appearing imminent, Cleveland will be without Darius Garland and Caris LeVert on Thursday, Fedor writes in a separate article for Cleveland.com. Garland continues to have lower back soreness, while LeVert suffered a sprained right foot after he stepped on a teammate’s foot during Tuesday’s practice.
  • Sources tell Fedor that LeVert’s injury isn’t serious and he’s considered day-to-day. He did not practice on Wednesday. During the All-Star break, coach J.B. Bickerstaff had been contemplating starting the newly-acquired LeVert alongside Garland in the backcourt. Bickerstaff is still trying to figure out where LeVert is most comfortable on the court. “Had some conversations about where he’s comfortable, where he likes the ball, places where he’s had most success in his past,” Bickerstaff said. “I think we have a great understanding of how we can get it done. The next thing becomes actually going out and doing it. That involves the other four guys that are on the floor with him, and understanding how they build that chemistry. Our picture is clear, we just need the experience and the minutes together to make it successful.” Developing that chemistry will have to wait with LeVert sidelined.
  • Garland’s situation is much trickier, Fedor details. He was able to participate in All-Star weekend, where he was named to the team for the first time, but his lower back will need to be managed for the remainder of the season, sources tell Fedor. Garland has been dealing with the soreness since Jan. 9, and the pain can pop up during any type of contact. With the nature of his injury, in most cases Garland would need two weeks of rest to allow for proper healing, treatment and recovery, per Fedor’s sources. However, Garland doesn’t want to miss that much time, and the Cavs need him to win games. They will continue to closely monitor how he’s feeling and try to give him rest days during the season so he’s in good shape for the playoffs — assuming they make it.