Darren Collison

Pacers Notes: Culture, Bitadze, Sabonis, Lemon

Pacers players are eager to praise the culture in Indiana, with Malcolm Brogdon referring to the front office as a “very transparent group,” while Victor Oladipo calls president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard and GM Chad Buchanan “very interactive,” per Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report. As Abrams details, the Pacers’ decision-makers believe in open communication with their players and have promised to inform those players if they’re engaged in any serious trade talks involving them.

“There’s a little bit of quid pro quo, because if we do that and then the trade doesn’t go through, guys can check out,” Pritchard said. “When we say it’s at the five-yard line, you’re going to hear it from us. But if it doesn’t work out, you still have to have both feet in on the Pacers.

Pritchard and Buchanan told Abrams that they had conversations with Al Jefferson and Darren Collison in recent years about deals that nearly came to fruition, though neither trade ultimately happened.

“Their agents probably appreciate it as much as the player, [but] there’s downsides to it,” Pritchard said. “There’s no doubt there’s potential downsides. But I think there’s an upside in that if you come here, that you’re going to be told the truth.”

Abrams’ piece is a good read that’s worth checking out in full, particularly for Pacers fans. Here’s more out of Indiana:

  • Speaking to Abrams, Pritchard pushed back against the idea that the Pacers drafted big man Goga Bitadze in June with an eye toward trading him. “A lot of people thought we did that with Goga. I still don’t understand that,” Pritchard said. “… We felt like Goga was the best player on the board. In the draft, you don’t want to hit a single. If you’re hitting a single in the draft and keep hitting singles in the draft, you’re going to be average at best in a low-revenue market. Big-revenue market, it’s still important, but not quite as.”
  • Domantas Sabonis is “known to be in active talks” with the Pacers about a possible rookie scale extension, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. If the two sides don’t finalize a deal by 5:00pm CT on October 21, Sabonis will become a restricted free agent next summer.
  • After signing Walt Lemon Jr. last week, the Pacers acquired the guard’s G League rights today, according to a press release from the Fort Wayne Ants, Indiana’s NBAGL affiliate. Lemon appears likely to be waived by the Pacers in the next few days and then report to Fort Wayne.

And-Ones: Collison, Players’ Ages/Heights, Roc Nation

While it was quickly overshadowed a couple days later by a flurry of free agent deals and trade agreements, Darren Collison‘s decision to announce his retirement in June at age 31 was one of the most surprising developments of the NBA offseason.

Nearly three months after announcing that decision, Collison spoke to Mark Montieth of Pacers.com about his unexpected retirement, admitting that he’ll miss the annual tradition of reporting to training camp for a new season.

“I didn’t think I would retire after 10 years,” Collison said. “I thought I would play for a very long time. I still want to. It’s my heart and passion.”

However, as Montieth writes, Collison’s desire to move onto a new phase of his life – which involves devoting more time to his Jehovah’s Witness ministry and spending more time with his family – trumped his desire to continue his NBA career. According to Montieth, Collison is also working with Pro’s Vision, a training company that works primarily with young athletes.

“I can’t stress enough that basketball isn’t everything,” Collison said. “Athletes think making the NBA is a success story, but a success story is being able to provide for yourself and your family. There are a lot of things you can do to become successful.”

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

  • NBA teams were informed this week that they’ll be required to certify and submit the precise heights and ages of all their players within the first week of training camp, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). As Stein explains (via Twitter), some players have been listed at the wrong height for years and the league would like to change that. The case of Buddy Hield‘s incorrectly-listed age from last year was also among the motivating factors for the new policy, Stein adds (via Twitter).
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer identifies seven players on probable playoff teams who could take a leap during the 2019/20 season and help solidify their respective teams as legit contenders. Aaron Gordon (Magic), Josh Richardson (Sixers), and Anfernee Simons (Trail Blazers) are among the breakout candidates on O’Connor’s list.
  • Veteran agent Raymond Brothers has joined Roc Nation Sports as the agency’s director of basketball and sports technology/specialty projects, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Brothers represents several NBA clients, including Spencer Dinwiddie, Markelle Fultz, and D.J. Augustin.

Free Agency Notes: Cap Holds, Williams, Magic, Wizards

Nearly half the teams in the NBA renounced their rights to multiple free agents this week as they prepared to make new roster moves official, per RealGM’s transactions log. In some cases, like when the Clippers renounced the rights to Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler, those free agents already new homes lined up, and removing their cap holds was simply a formality to create cap room for incoming additions.

In other cases, the housekeeping moves were a bit more noteworthy. The Pacers, for instance, renounced Darren Collison‘s Bird rights, so if the 31-year-old – who announced his retirement before the start of free agency – ever attempts an NBA comeback, Indiana will no longer have a leg up to re-acquire him.

Besides those two teams, the Hawks, Bucks, Nets, Jazz, Sixers, Clippers, Pelicans, Lakers, Kings, Celtics, Wizards, and Bulls also renounced various free agents, according to RealGM’s log.

Here are a few more notes related to free agency:

  • The Lakers have withdrawn their qualifying offer to two-way player Johnathan Williams and renounced his rights, according to RealGM. That doesn’t preclude the Lakers from bringing back Williams on a new two-way deal, but he’ll be able to sign outright with a new team if he so chooses.
  • At least nine teams are now confirmed to attend the Amar’e Stoudemire/Monta Ellis workout taking place in Las Vegas on Monday, tweets Jordan Schultz of ESPN. We previously relayed word of Stoudemire’s and Ellis’ attempts to make NBA comebacks.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks provides salary cap updates on a pair of Southeast teams, tweeting that the Magic and Wizards are both safely out of luxury tax territory for now. According to Marks (Twitter links), Orlando has $3.5MM in breathing room under the tax line, counting Khem Birch‘s $1.8MM cap hold, while Washington is about $4MM below that threshold after cutting Jonathon Simmons.

Eastern Notes: Lawson, Bulls, Collison, Sirvydis, Magic

The Celtics announced three additions to their coaching staff today, including the official hiring of Kara Lawson as their first-ever female assistant. A 13-year WNBA veteran and Olympic gold medal winner, she spent the past two seasons as the primary television analyst for the Wizards and covered games for ESPN Radio.

“This was a good fit,” Lawson said to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “I wanted to go somewhere where I’d be challenged, I wanted to go somewhere where I’d be allowed to coach, and I wanted to go to an organization that was going to be playing in big games to be able to get a sense of that last frontier of coaching, which is being able to do it in pressure situations in the regular season and the playoffs.”

Also added to coach Brad Stevens’ staff were Brandon Bailey, who served as coach of the Celtics’ G League affiliate in Maine the past two seasons, and Joe Mazzulla, a former assistant with the Red Claws.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • It got lost in the shuffle of this week’s free agency frenzy, but according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), there was a belief in league circles that the Bulls were the frontrunners to sign Darren Collison before the free agent point guard unexpectedly announced his retirement.
  • The Bulls have added two new assistants to head coach Jim Boylen’s staff, according to a press release from the team. Chris Fleming announced in May that he was leaving the Nets to come to Chicago, and Roy Rogers, who recently parted ways with the Rockets, officially joined the team Wednesday. In addition, Karen Stack has been elevated to assistant coach, Paul Miller was named assistant to the head coach and former intern Chris Kent is the new video coordinator.
  • Deividas Sirvydis, who was selected by the Pistons with the 37th pick in the draft, will likely spend the upcoming season in Europe, tweets international basketball writer Donatas Urbonas. Rytas Vilnius GM Rolandas Jarutis expects to have the 6’8″ shooting guard back next season unless he has an outstanding performance with Detroit’s Summer League team. Sirvydis, 19, was MVP of the EuroLeague Basketball Next Generation Tournament in 2018.
  • The Magic have probably given up on Fran Vazquez ever coming to the NBA, but there was news this week on their 2005 draft pick, whose draft rights they still retain, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. The 36-year-old re-signed with his Zaragoza team in Spain, so his cap hold will be removed from Orlando’s books for another season.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Darren Collison Announces Retirement

In a stunning decision, veteran point guard Darren Collison has announced that he will retire from the NBA. Collison confirmed his retirement in a story for The Undefeated relayed by Marc J. Spears, citing family and religious reasons.

“Basketball has been my life since I was a child,” Collison writes. “I could never imagine finding anything that brings me more joy than I get from playing the game. While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith. I am one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and my faith means everything to me. I receive so much joy from volunteering to help others and participate in a worldwide ministry. The joy I feel is unmatched.

“With that being said, I have decided to retire from the NBA.”

Collison’s surprising career move takes one of the top free agent point guards off the board this summer. While he wouldn’t have made the same sort of money that All-Stars like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and D’Angelo Russell will, Collison was on track to secure an annual salary in the range of $10-12MM if he had continued his career, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Collison, who will turn 32 in August, began his NBA career in New Orleans after being selected with the 21st overall pick in the 2009 draft. Over the course of his 10 years in the NBA, he spent time with the Pelicans (then the Hornets), Pacers, Mavericks, Clippers, and Kings, averaging 12.5 PPG and 5.0 APG on .471/.394/.853 shooting in 708 career regular season contests.

After earning $10MM with the Pacers in 2018/19, Collison will see his contract expire this weekend, so no roster move will be necessary as a result of his retirement.

The Pacers had already sent signals that they were planning to move on at the point guard position, having been linked repeatedly to Ricky Rubio as of late. Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets that a number of teams around the NBA have been operating as if Rubio-to-Indiana is a “highly likely” scenario.

Dana Gauruder contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jazz Notes: Workouts, Reed, G League, Free Agency

The Jazz will hold two workout sessions for draft prospects on Saturday, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. The first group will include guards Frankie Ferrari (San Francisco), Makai Mason (Baylor), wings Rayjon Tucker (Arkansas Little-Rock) and Vic Law (Northwestern) and big men Darel Poirier (France) and Kenny Wooten (Oregon).

The afternoon session will include guards Jeremiah Martin (Memphis) and Jordan Bone (Tennessee), wings Charlie Brown (St. Joseph) and Paul Eboua (Cameroon) and big men Luka Samanic (Croatia) and Daniel Gafford (Arkansas).

Utah possesses the No. 23 and 53 picks in this year’s draft.

We have more on the Jazz:

  • Center Willie Reed, who played for the team’s G League franchise in Salt Lake City last season, was among 30 free agent invitees to participate in the team’s annual mini-camp this week, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News reports. Reed averaged 20.1 PPG and 11.2 RPG before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in January. Reed, 29, has played for four other franchises and appeared in 152 NBA games.
  • Farmington City is lobbying the Jazz to relocate its G League team to Station Park once the Stars’ lease with Salt Lake Community College expires, Patrick Carr of the Standard-Examiner reports. The construction of a 5,000-seat, multi-use arena is part of the pitch, Carr adds.
  • Darren Collison, Patrick Beverley, Danny Green, Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Bullock are some of the middle-tier free agents the Jazz might pursue, Walden writes.
  • The Jazz brought in six guard/wing prospects on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets. That group included Terence Davis (Ole Miss), Aubrey Dawkins (UCF), Robert Franks (Washington State), Ahmed Hill (Virginia Tech), Eric Paschall (Villanova) and Jordan Varnado (Troy).

Suns Eyeing Cory Joseph, Patrick Beverley, Others

Cory Joseph, Patrick Beverley, Darren Collison, and T.J. McConnell are among the free agent point guard targets worth keeping an eye on for the Suns this offseason, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.

While Phoenix has long been on the lookout for a starting point guard, the team doesn’t project to have the cap room necessary to make a run at top free agents like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, or D’Angelo Russell. Barring cost-cutting moves to create room, the mid-level exception figures to be the best weapon at the Suns’ disposal in free agency, so the veterans identified by Gambadoro as potential targets make sense. The MLE is projected to be worth about $9.25MM in 2019/20.

Gambadoro also writes that the Suns aren’t shopping the No. 6 overall pick for a veteran point guard, seemingly contradicting a Monday report from ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. However, Givony’s story indicated that the Suns had made it known that they’d be open to moving the pick for the right player, which isn’t quite the same as having actively shopped it. The apparent discrepancy between the two reports may simply be a matter of semantics.

In any case, it’s clear that filling their hole at point guard will be one of the Suns’ top priorities this offseason, whether that happens in the draft, in free agency, or via the trade market. If Phoenix plans on using its mid-level exception – or opening up cap space – to pursue a veteran point guard, it would allow the team to use the No. 6 pick on the best player available, regardless of position.

On the other hand, if the Suns draft a point guard at No. 6 or trade that pick (or other assets) for a veteran guard, the club could address another position in free agency. Julius Randle is one non-point-guard free agent who has been recently linked to Phoenix.

Suns Notes: Collison, Conley, Davis, Williams

Darren Collison may be the most realistic solution to the Suns‘ point guard problem, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. An unrestricted free agent, Collison spent the past two seasons with the Pacers, averaging 11.9 points and 5.3 assists per game during his time there.

He pushes the ball up court quickly, runs the pick-and-roll well, and is an above average defender, all things Phoenix needs from that position, Rankin states. The Suns should have enough cap room to make an attractive offer to Collison, who earned $10MM this season, and they have a connection, as Collison played for new VP of basketball operations Jeff Bower during his rookie season in New Orleans.

Phoenix could also pursue a couple of high-priced point guards if it wants to take a win-now approach, Rankin notes. The Grizzlies’ Mike Conley is expected to return to the trade market now that his team is in position to draft Ja Morant, while the Rockets may be willing to part with Chris Paul to get out from under his salary commitment.

There’s more tonight from Phoenix:

  • The Suns could also try to get involved in the pursuit of Pelicans star Anthony Davis, Rankin adds in the same piece. He speculates they could offer Deandre Ayton and the No. 6 pick, along with T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson and Tyler Johnson to help match salaries. While Davis is no lock to re-sign in Phoenix, Rankin thinks it might be worth the risk to prove the organization is serious about winning and to give Davis a chance to develop a rapport with Devin Booker.
  • Monty Williams considered staying out of coaching to care for his family, but his children insisted he give it another try, relays Kevin Zimmerman of Arizona Sports. At his introductory press conference Tuesday, the Suns’ new head coach explained what brought him back to the game after his wife’s tragic death in 2016. “My oldest daughter kind of read me the riot act one day about getting back into coaching,” Williams said. “And then I had a conversation with (Spurs GM) R.C. Buford one day … R.C. looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Your kids won’t be happy if you don’t get back into coaching.’ Those two episodes really pushed me back into the mode of doing what I do well.”
  • The reputation Phoenix has as a bad basketball city is an impediment to adding free agents, says Michelle Gardner of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix finished 27th in a recent “Best Cities for Basketball” survey and ranked next to last in attendance this season.

O’Connor’s Latest: Gasol, Conley, OKC, Prince, More

As we relayed earlier today, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer hears that the Hornets‘ offer for Grizzlies center Marc Gasol is Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and a protected first-round pick. That would be an underwhelming return for Gasol, but there hasn’t been much league-wide interest in the 34-year-old, O’Connor writes.

The Kings and Pistons were among the teams potentially in the mix for Gasol, according to O’Connor, but Memphis didn’t have any interest in Detroit center Andre Drummond and Sacramento was unwilling to part with promising young wing Bogdan Bogdanovic, whom the Grizzlies wanted.

The Raptors reportedly explored a potential Gasol deal, initially attempting to come up with an individual trade for one Grizzlies veteran before turning it into a package for both Gasol and Mike Conley, O’Connor writes. However, those talks didn’t advance and league sources tell The Ringer that it’s unlikely Toronto ends up with Gasol or Conley.

Elsewhere on the Conley front, the Jazz continue to make a strong push, with an offer that includes Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, and a first-round pick, per O’Connor. The sense around the NBA is that the Grizzlies won’t settle for a modest return for Conley, which is something we heard in relation to the Pistons’ offer earlier today.

O’Connor’s latest piece for The Ringer features several more trade-related tidbits, so we’ll round them up here…

  • The Thunder are believed to be among the teams with interest in Cavaliers guard Alec Burks, league sources tell O’Connor. However, Burks wouldn’t fit into OKC’s $10.88MM trade exception. The Thunder, along with the Sixers and Trail Blazers, have expressed interest in Hawks wing Taurean Prince, O’Connor adds.
  • Following up on his report from last week about the Rockets and Grizzlies discussing a Brandon Knight trade, O’Connor suggests that Marquese Chriss and a first-round pick would also go to Memphis in that proposed deal. Houston would be targeting JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple in the swap, though it remains in the discussion stage for now.
  • The Kings have made calls about veteran forwards Harrison Barnes (Mavericks) and Otto Porter (Wizards) but have found no traction on a Porter deal, writes O’Connor.
  • While DeAndre Jordan looks like an obvious trade candidate, it wouldn’t be a major surprise if the Knicks keep him around as a potential recruiter for Kevin Durant, according to O’Connor, who notes that Durant and Jordan are good friends. Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News wrote about this subject on Tuesday.
  • League sources don’t expect the Celtics to do anything at the deadline with Terry Rozier, since he could serve as potential Kyrie Irving insurance or a sign-and-trade sweetener for Anthony Davis in the offseason, says O’Connor.
  • According to O’Connor, the Pacers remain open to moving one of their two veteran point guards, Cory Joseph or Darren Collison. Both players are on expiring contracts.

Bulls Scouting Veteran Point Guards

The Bulls have been scouting veteran point guards, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, who reports that the team isn’t just eyeing potential trade targets for the deadline, but is looking ahead to 2019’s free agent market for some “fiscally responsible” options. Cowley names Ricky Rubio and Darren Collison as a couple veteran guards who appear to fit that bill.

Chicago has given Kris Dunn the reins at point guard since acquiring him in the Jimmy Butler blockbuster with the Timberwolves during the summer of 2017. However, the 24-year-old has just been okay for the Bulls so far. Injuries have limited Dunn to 78 games since the trade, in which he has averaged 13.0 PPG, 6.1 APG, and 4.2 RPG with a .433/.328/.752 shooting line.

One scout tells Cowley that there’s talk of Dunn needing to be pushed by a proven veteran to see if he’ll “sink or swim” in reaching another level and becoming the Bulls’ point guard of the future. The franchise will face a decision on Dunn’s long-term future fairly soon. He becomes eligible for an extension during the 2019 offseason and can become a restricted free agent in 2020 if he’s not extended.

According to Cowley, one option being considered for the rest of this season if the Bulls don’t acquire a point guard at the deadline is to promote Walter Lemon Jr. from the Windy City Bulls to the NBA squad. Cowley, who describes Lemon as a “tough-minded guard that backs down from no one,” suggests that the former Pelican would be given the opportunity to compete with Dunn for minutes.

The Bulls only have about $54MM in guaranteed salary committed to their books for the 2019/20 season. While that doesn’t include cap holds for their first-round pick or various free agents, including Bobby Portis, they should still have plenty of space available to pursue a point guard in the offseason.