David Nwaba

Rockets Notes: Next Steps, Westbrook, Green, Nwaba

It has been an eventful day in Houston, as word broke this morning that one of the NBA’s longest-tenured general managers, Daryl Morey, has decided to step down from his position in the Rockets‘ front office.

Few – if any – lead executives were more closely associated with a team’s identity and philosophy than Morey was, according to Kevin Pelton of ESPN, who notes that Morey’s analytical approach to the game resulted in the Rockets pushing the limits on pace and three-point attempts. We don’t have a clear sense yet of what sort of influence GM Rafael Stone will have on Houston’s playing style, so the team’s new head coach may determine its direction in the short term, writes Pelton.

According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Stone is a believer in small-ball, but it’s not clear if he’s as enthusiastic about playing a full 82-game season without any traditional centers. As such, it will be interesting to see how aggressively the Rockets attempt to fortify their frontcourt this offseason.

Of course, bigger roster decisions will be on the horizon for Stone and the Rockets, especially if the team fails to make a deep playoff run again in 2021. I’d be surprised if Stone does anything drastic right away, but sources who have spoken to Marc Berman of The New York Post believe the Rockets are likelier to consider the possibility of a Russell Westbrook trade following Morey’s departure.

“I can’t imagine they are keeping (James) Harden and Russ together,” one NBA executive told Berman. “Russ excels best as the best player on a team and Harden needs outside shooters around him – not a ball-dominant guard. I think Russ will be the one traded.”

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • After thriving in Houston down the stretch and during the postseason, Rockets forward Jeff Green is expected to receive interest from “a slew of contending teams” this offseason, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. As I noted last week, Houston only holds Green’s Non-Bird rights, so it may be tricky to re-sign him without using the mid-level or bi-annual exception.
  • Following Doc Rivers‘ exit from Los Angeles, the Rockets initially wanted to hire him to fill their head coaching vacancy, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon of ESPN. However, Rivers quickly reached an agreement with Philadelphia, taking him off the board for Houston. With Rivers and Tyronn Lue unavailable, the franchise is reportedly focusing on three potential finalists.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic conducted an extensive Q&A with Rockets wing David Nwaba, who spoke about his Achilles recovery, his fit in Houston, and more. Nwaba said he anticipates being good to go for the start of the 2020/21 season. “I’m working on getting in shape. It’s taken longer than what I thought to get back into shape, but that’s going to happen through time,” he said. “… The season’s probably going to start in two, three months — I should be more than ready.”
  • In another piece for The Athletic, Iko and Danny Leroux took an in-depth look at the Rockets’ short- and long-term salary cap situation.
  • If Morey seeks another NBA job, there will be no shortage of opportunities for him, writes Chris Mannix of SI.com.

Rockets Rumors: Green, Tucker, Nwaba, Coaching Search

Former Rockets swingman Gerald Green, who missed the entire 2019/20 season due to a broken foot, is training privately in Houston and is hoping to eventually reunite with the Rockets, league sources tell Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Green, 34, began the ’19/20 campaign with the Rockets, but didn’t suit up for any games, having undergone foot surgery on October before he was eventually traded and waived in February. A July report indicated that Green has since recovered from that procedure and received medical clearance, but decided not to seek a new deal until the fall for family reasons, including the expected birth of his child in August.

Green has signed three consecutive minimum-salary contracts with Houston since 2017, so it seems safe to assume that the team would remain interested in bringing him back at that price as long as he’s fully healthy and there’s a roster spot available.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • P.J. Tucker is still hoping to reach an agreement with the Rockets on a new contract that would extend his current deal beyond 2020/21, according to Iko. Both sides are believed to be “on the same page” when it comes to wanting Tucker in Houston beyond next season, says Iko. Because Tucker is earning below the NBA’s estimated average salary in ’20/21, his starting salary on an extension wouldn’t be able to exceed about $11.5MM for ’21/22.
  • Within his same story for The Athletic, Iko cites a source who says David Nwaba “looks good” as he continues to rehab his Achilles injury in the hopes of getting healthy for the start of the 2020/21 season. Nwaba is being viewed internally as a “key rotational piece” for next season, Iko adds.
  • Following up on a Wednesday report, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle says that David Vanterpool‘s interview for the Rockets’ head coaching job will actually take place on Friday.
  • Feigen confirms that Kenny Atkinson, Wes Unseld Jr., and Stephen Silas have interviewed for the position so far, with meetings still to come for Vanterpool, Tyronn Lue, and John Lucas. The early interviewees have been “impressive” but there’s no clear frontrunner yet, according to Feigen, who adds that Jeff Van Gundy and other potential candidates could still end up meeting with Houston about the job.

Rockets Sign David Nwaba To Two-Year Deal

10:28pm: The Rockets have officially signed Nwaba, waiving Hartenstein to create the necessary roster spot, the club confirmed in a press release.

5:54pm: The Rockets have reached an agreement with free agent swingman David Nwaba, who will sign a two-year deal with the club, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter).

Nwaba started the 2019/20 season with the Nets, but suffered a torn Achilles tendon in December and was waived shortly thereafter. The 27-year-old is still recovering from that Achilles injury, so he won’t actually play for Houston during the resumed season in Orlando, per Charania.

In other words, the Rockets are signing Nwaba for his potential 2020/21 value, and they’re reportedly paying well above the minimum to secure his rights — Charania suggests (via Twitter) that the two-year agreement will pay Nwaba $900K this season, with a team option for ’20/21. A minimum salary for the rest of the season would pay Nwaba less than $200K, so Houston will have to use the remaining portion of its taxpayer mid-level exception to complete the signing.

Nwaba, a strong perimeter defender, also held his own on the offensive end for Brooklyn in 20 games this season, averaging 5.2 PPG on .521/.429/.667 shooting in 13.4 minutes per contest. He previously appeared in 141 total games for the Lakers, Bulls, and Cavaliers, dating back to 2017.

In order to officially complete their deal with Nwaba, the Rockets will need to waive a player on their 15-man roster to create an opening. There’s no word yet on who will be the odd man out, but Houston has a handful of players on the roster who have limited roles and aren’t owed guaranteed money beyond this season, including Tyson Chandler, Bruno Caboclo, Isaiah Hartenstein, Thabo Sefolosha, and Chris Clemons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

New York Notes: Robinson, Irving, Nwaba, Ellenson, Payton

The past two seasons, one of the few bright spots on the Knicks‘ roster has been athletic center, Mitchell Robinson. As an elite shot-blocker and rebounder who has developing scoring ability, Robinson has cemented himself as a key part of New York’s future.

Offseason acquisition and NBA veteran Taj Gibson has taken on the role of mentor for the 21-year-old big man. In Gibson’s opinion, Robinson possesses talent that could make him an NBA All-Star, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

“This guy, a lot of players don’t have a niche. A lot of them don’t know where to start,” he said. “A lot of guys just come in and think it’s all about scoring and not defense. A lot of players are lost in the sauce with that. With Mitch, he already knows what he has to do. He’s a starting center and all he has to do is grow. If he pushes himself like he’s doing, he’ll be an All-Star. He doesn’t know how good he is.”

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

  • Nets point guard Kyrie Irving will miss out on two additional bonuses, worth $125K each, for failing to play in at least 60 games this season, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (Twitter link). This brings the total money in incentives lost to $375K for the mercurial Brooklyn guard. We detailed Irving’s eight $125K incentives, totaling $1MM, right here.
  • Injuries and other roster needs forced the Nets to part with injured guard David Nwaba and Henry Ellenson in recent days. As Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes, Brooklyn is currently exploring options to upgrade the roster. “Obviously with all our injuries, we need the roster spot. We’re in discussions to see who we bring in,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said.
  • It was a life-changing and busy day for Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. After his girlfriend gave birth to their son on Friday morning, Payton flew to Phoenix for the Knicks’ evening tilt against the Suns. Payton finished with 15 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Nets Waive David Nwaba, Will Sign Justin Anderson

JANUARY 3: The Nets have officially waived Nwaba, the team announced today in a press release.

JANUARY 2: Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reports (Twitter link) that the Nets will be waiving swingman David Nwaba, who has been ruled out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter) that Nwaba has a cap hit of $1.7MM for the 2019/20 season, but his non-guaranteed salary in 2020/21 will not impact Brooklyn’s salary cap next year. The team still has an $839,000 disabled player exception even after waiving Nwaba.

[RELATED: 2019/20 NBA Disabled Player Exceptions]

Since going undrafted in 2016, Nwaba has managed to carve out a small niche for himself as an athletic wing defender. Returning to the league after one of the most devastating injuries an NBA player can suffer will be no small feat.

In Nwaba’s stead, Brooklyn will ink G League wing Justin Anderson, currently on the Raptors 905, to a 10-day contract, Charania tweets. Anderson, the No. 21 pick by Dallas in 2015, has a career slash line of 5.3 PPG/2.6 RPG/0.7 APG in 13.2 MPG. He has played for the Mavericks, Sixers and Hawks.

Teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts as of this Sunday.

Nets Receive Disabled Player Exception

DECEMBER 24: The Nets’ DPE request has been granted, tweets Alex Schiffer of The Athletic.

DECEMBER 20: With David Nwaba expected to miss the rest of the season due to a torn right Achilles, the Nets have applied for a disabled player exception, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As we outline in our glossary entry on the disabled player exception, the NBA can grant a team a DPE to replace an injured player if the player is “substantially more likely than not” to be sidelined through at least June 15 of that league year.

If granted, the disabled player exception allows a club to sign a replacement player for 50% of the injured player’s salary, or for the amount of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. The DPE, which doesn’t give a team an extra roster spot, can also be used to acquire a player on an expiring contract via trade or waivers if his salary fits into the exception.

[RELATED: 2019/20 NBA Disabled Player Exceptions]

Nwaba is on a minimum-salary contract, so even though the Nets’ request is very likely to be approved, it won’t help the team a whole lot. Brooklyn’s DPE would be worth just $839K.

The Nets would have until March 10 to use the exception, so it could come in handy later in the season when a prorated minimum-salary contract for a veteran will be worth less than $839K. For the time being, a minimum-salary deal would be worth more than the DPE for any player who’s not a rookie.

If the Nets want to bring back Iman Shumpert or sign another free agent, they’ll need to open up a roster spot. Trading or waiving Nwaba or another player would be the easiest path. Applying for a 16th roster spot via the hardship provision is another option, though the uncertain recovery timelines for Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, and Nicolas Claxton make it unclear whether or not that request would be approved.

Nets’ David Nwaba Suffers Torn Achilles

7:27pm: Nwaba underwent surgery Friday afternoon, according to a team press release.

7:45am: Nets swingman David Nwaba suffered a torn right Achilles tendon during Thursday’s loss in San Antonio, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), Nwaba will undergo surgery on Friday to repair the tear.

While neither Charania nor Haynes offers a timeline for Nwaba’s recovery, it seems safe to assume he’ll miss the rest of the 2019/20 season. There’s also no guarantee he’ll be ready to go by opening night next fall, given how long it usually takes players to recover from Achilles tears.

“I just wish him the speediest recovery,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said after the game, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “There’s no guy on the team who does things more perfectly in terms of preparing for a game, preparing for a season. You just feel ill when you think about it.

It’s a tough blow for Nwaba, who had recently established himself as a regular contributor for Brooklyn. In the club’s first 19 games, he only appeared in 11 and averaged just 10.8 minutes per contest. Since then though, he had appeared in all nine games and never played fewer than 14 minutes during that stretch.

While the 26-year-old had been averaging a career-low 5.2 PPG, his shooting percentages were very good (.521 FG%, .429 3PT%) and he provided the Nets with strong perimeter defense.

With Nwaba out, Lewis wonders if the Nets will turn back to Iman Shumpert, who was recently waived due to a roster crunch but would provide a similar skill set. To re-sign Shumpert, Brooklyn would likely have to trade or waive Nwaba or another player to open up a spot on the 15-man roster.

Nwaba’s contract includes a July 7, 2020 trigger date for his non-guaranteed $1.82MM salary for the 2020/21 season, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). Even if the Nets waive him before that date, they’d be responsible for paying his ’20/21 salary until he’s fully healthy and able to return to the court.

The Nets are now eligible to apply for a disabled player exception (and have done so), but since Nwaba was on a minimum-salary deal, the value of such an exception would be limited to just $839K.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Fizdale, Powell, Nwaba, Temple

A member of the Knicks organization expects management to fire coach David Fizdale soon, Ian Begley of SNY-TV reports. Though that source doesn’t have decision-making authority on those matters, it shows the uneasiness within the organization at the moment, Begley adds. The Knicks have the Eastern Conference’s worst record and have dropped seven straight despite adding several veteran free agents over the summer.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Swingman Norman Powell has returned to the bench with Kyle Lowry back in the lineup but he’ll be an important part of the Raptors’ second unit, Josh Lewenberg of TSN reports. Powell scored 23 points against the Heat on Tuesday. Coach Nick Nurse told Powell, “‘Your role is an off the bench guy for this team, so let’s go kick some butt in this role and start getting used to it.’ And I was proud of him for doing that last night. He was huge.” Powell’s contract runs through 2021/22, with an $11.6MM player option on the final year.
  • Guard David Nwaba doesn’t have a guaranteed spot on the Nets‘ roster but coach Kenny Atkinson said he’s earned more playing time, Zach Brazilier of the New York Post relays. The team will have to make a roster move on December 15 when Wilson Chandler’s 25-game suspension ends and it could come down to Nwaba and Iman Shumpert, who was signed last month. “I’m not worried about that,” said Nwaba, whose salary for 2020/21 is not guaranteed. “I just play my game and worry about contributing.”
  • With Kyrie Irving sidelined by a shoulder injury, Garrett Temple has made a big contribution, Howard Kussoy of the New York Post writes. Temple averaged 12.1 PPG and 2.8 APG during the first eight games Irving missed. Temple’s two-year, $9.8MM contract with the Nets includes a $5MM team option next season. “We all collectively wanted him. Everybody checked a yes box when we were in our recruiting phase, here’s a guy that would fit in well,” Atkinson said. “I’m a little surprised how he’s stepped it up to another level. … I’m really surprised but content.”

Nets Sign David Nwaba

JULY 17: The Nets have officially signed Nwaba, the team confirmed today in a press release.

JULY 14: David Nwaba has agreed to a two-year contract with the Nets, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The deal includes a team option for the second season, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic, who adds that the Pacers, Kings, Rockets and Suns all had interest in Nwaba (Twitter link).

It’ll be a minimum-salary deal for Nwaba, who will make approximately $1.7MM for the upcoming season and $1.8MM in 2020/21 with a July 7 deadline for the option decision, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The Nets now have 15 players with guaranteed contracts.

Brooklyn will be the fourth stop in four years for the 26-year-old shooting guard, who spent his first three seasons with the Lakers, Bulls and Cavaliers. He appeared in 51 games for Cleveland this year, averaging 6.5 points in about 19 minutes per night.

The Cavs opted last month not to tender a $1.9MM qualifying offer to Nwaba, making him an unrestricted free agent. Even so, Cleveland had expressed some interest in bringing him back.

The addition of Nwaba continues an impressive summer for Brooklyn, which hit the free agent jackpot by signing Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan.

Cavaliers Notes: Love, Smith, Nwaba

There’s a belief within the league that the Cavaliers will receive trade inquiries for Kevin Love this offseason, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes.

“Yes, one of the big-market teams that fail to land a big fish are going to make an offer for Kevin,” an executive told Vardon. Another source said that if Love was a free agent this summer and coming off of an injury-free year, he would be in line for a massive deal.

“He would get four years and $120MM in this marketplace,” the other executive said. “I mean, Al Horford might get a similar deal.”

Love will make slightly under $29MM during the 2019/20 season and has approximately $91MM on his deal in the ensuing three years. The opinion that Love’s contract allows him to be a positive asset isn’t unanimous throughout the league.

“His contract is hard to digest unless he’s clearly the missing piece,” a separate league executive told Vardon.

Love has been the subject of trade rumors ever since the Cavaliers acquired him during the 2014 offseason. He signed an extension with the club last offseason and the team has resisted trade overtures. GM Koby Altman won’t deal Love unless the return makes the Cavs a better squad, and Vardon writes that it’s unlikely that the kind of deal that Altman is looking for will surface.

Here’s more from Cleveland:

  • Trading J.R. Smith appears unlikely at this point, Vardon adds in the same piece. The team will need to waive him by June 30 to avoid paying his full contract. Only $3.9MM of his deal is guaranteed for next season.
  • Vardon (same piece) hears that the Cavs are likely to do David Nwaba “a favor” by not tendering him a qualifying offer, thus allowing him to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent.
  • Free agency in Cleveland should be quiet with the franchise currently over the salary cap, Vardon explains. It’s unlikely the team uses a “significant” portion of its mid-level exception or the trade exception the franchise netted when it dealt away Rodney Hood this past season.
  • While cutting Smith loose will get the Cavaliers below the luxury tax threshold, it’s unlikely the team will consider going back over that line to fill their last couple open roster spots. Vardon expects Cleveland to fill those spots with minimum salary players.