Dejounte Murray

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Murray, Westbrook, Hartenstein

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma expects big things from three ex-teammates who were shipped to the Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, both former No. 2 picks, were sent to New Orleans along with Josh Hart in the deal to get another star to pair with LeBron James. Kuzma thinks the freedom of a new environment should benefit all three players.

“They were excited,” Kuzma said. “It’s a little bit less pressure. They didn’t (actually) say that. But obviously being in L.A., there’s more pressure. They can be themselves now. They can go to New Orleans and develop into the superstars they were supposed to be.”

There had been rumors for months that the Lakers were willing to part with young talent, including Kuzma, to acquire Davis. Kuzma said management told the players they weren’t eager to give up so much of their young core, but everyone understands that Davis is a rare talent.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Injured Spurs guard Dejounte Murray tweeted today that he has received medical clearance to continue his summer workouts. It’s the latest encouraging sign for Murray as he tries to work his way back from a torn right ACL he suffered during a preseason game last October. Murray was coming off a promising 2017/18 campaign in which he earned second-team All-Defense honors while posting an 8.1/5.7/2.9 line in 81 games. He is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.
  • As part of his trade from the Thunder to the Rockets, Russell Westbrook agreed to alter his contract, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. The changes will make his deal “more team-friendly and less front-loaded,” sources tell Stein.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein and Michael Frazier are trying to seize opportunities with the Rockets through extensive offseason workouts that are heavy on 3-point shooting, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Both players will come to camp next month without fully guaranteed deals. Hartenstein has a 50% guarantee on his $1,416,852 contract for this season, while Frazier has the same salary with no guarantee.

Southwest Notes: Murray, Arakji, Jackson Jr, Pelicans

Spurs guard Dejounte Murray is almost fully recovered from his torn ACL and is focused on getting ready for the 2019/20 season, Jabari Young details in a story for The Athletic.

Murray, 22, suffered the injury last preseason, a crushing blow to an organization hoping to feature him at starting point guard alongside the likes of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. He was overcome with emotion upon realizing his regular season ended before it even began.

“I’ve never been hurt before,” Murray said. “I pray to God it doesn’t happen again. It was just tears because I know all the hard work that I put in last (offseason). I put in a lot of work.”

Murray, who was drafted by the Spurs with the No. 29 pick in 2016, was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team during his second season. He’s expected to be a focal point in San Antonio’s offense heading into training camp this fall.

“I can’t wait (until) training camp because I’ll know who is on my team and who is not on my team,” Murray said. “I’m just excited to get to work. I want a championship bad, and I just want the players to want it as bad as me. So, if we all get on the same page and get a championship, then everybody is successful.”

  • The Mavericks have reached a summer league commitment with guard Wael Arakji, a promising young star from Lebanon who recently impressed at a free agent mini-camp with the team, a league source told Hoops Rumors. Arakji, 24, also hired agent Scott Nichols of Rize Management as representation to continue his pursuit of an NBA deal, quickly becoming a fan-favorite overseas and impressing Mavs officials during his workout.
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. has become the leader on the Grizzlies, but the team still needs more wing players to be competitive next season, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian writes. Herrington outlines ten takes on the franchise after the draft, including what’s to come in free agency.
  • Zion Williamson is a match made in heaven for the Pelicans, William Guillory of The Athletic writes. New Orleans drafted Williamson No. 1 overall and plans to add him to a young core that includes Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and others.

Texas Notes: Spurs, Milutinov, Walker, Bzdelik

Barring any surprises, the Spurs‘ starting five for next season appears set, writes Jeff McDonald of The Athletic. Dejounte Murray, returning from a torn right ACL, should take over at point guard, with Derrick White joining him in the backcourt. DeMar DeRozan will move to forward, alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl, who impressed the coaching staff after a midseason move into the starting lineup.

That means, if he returns, Rudy Gay will continue in a bench role, along with Bryn Forbes, who started much of this season. Coach Gregg Popovich wants DeRozan to become more proficient from 3-point territory to make up for not having Forbes as a starter.

“That’s what the league is all about now,” Popovich said. “End of the game, the first thing that you look at is 3-point shooting, and it covers up a whole lot of warts. You can get beat on the boards —  I mean, in one of the games that we beat Denver, they had 28 second-chance points, but they shot horribly, and we shot very well. Game over. It’s not very interesting. It’s not much fun. But that’s the way the league is.”

There’s more NBA news from Texas:

  • The Spurs may be ready to add draft-and-stash project Nikola Milutinov to their roster, McDonald adds. The 26th pick in 2015, Milutinov has been playing for Olympiacos B.C. of the Greek Basketball League, where he averaged 10.7 PPG and 6.8 RPG this season. The Spurs will explore the 24-year-old center’s market value before bringing him to the U.S., and McDonald expects them to let him adjust to the league gradually, just as they did with Boban Marjanovic and Davis Bertans.
  • Kemba Walker appears to be the Mavericks‘ most realistic option in free agency, Marc Stein of the New York Times said in a recent radio interview in Dallas. Stein said the Mavs are “legitimately intrigued” by Walker, and he believes they will get a meeting with him when free agency begins in July.
  • Rockets associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik has found a way to balance basketball and family after briefly walking away from the game last fall, relays Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle. Houston convinced him to return in November and he helped fix the defense after a disastrous start. “He was kind of resolute for a little while,” said Rockets CEO Tad Brown. “Fortunately for us, we were able to wear him down and end up bringing him back. The first thing was always, let’s make sure everything is OK, personally, with he and his family. And then, secondarily, how do we handle this, how do we move forward? But at the same time, he’s a key part of what we do. How do we get him back to (our) family?”

Popovich Expected To Continue Coaching Spurs

Gregg Popovich is expected to return to the Spurs next season, with one member of the team’s staff telling Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express News that he has “no doubt” about the legendary coach’s future. Popovich’s current contract expired when San Antonio’s playoff run ended last night. He will coach Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer, but has remained guarded about his plans beyond that.

“I’m a head coach in the NBA,” Popovich said in response to a pre-game question Saturday on whether he was considering retirement. “I don’t think about what that means in the future.”

At age 70, Popovich still embraces the challenges of coaching and had a particularly good time this season, notes Jabari Young of The Athletic. In looking for clues about his future, Young cites a quote from Popovich before a March game in Boston.

“This is actually one of the more enjoyable seasons,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch Bryn Forbes develop, and Davis Bertans, and Derrick White and so forth. It’s satisfying.”

The chance to reach a milestone may also play into Popovich’s thought process. He moved into third place on the career victories list this season with 1,245 and is just 90 away from catching Don Nelson for the top spot.

There’s more on the offseason decisions facing the Spurs:

  • Rudy Gay will be the team’s only significant free agent this summer, but San Antonio has to decide how much it wants to invest in a player who will be 33 by the start of training camp. The Spurs will have Early Bird rights on Gay, Young notes, meaning they can offer up to a 75% raise on his $10MM contract. Gay will be eligible for a one- to four-year deal starting at about $17MM per season.
  • Regardless of what happens with Gay, San Antonio will likely be operating above the salary cap but under the tax line, Young adds. That will give the team a $9.2MM mid-level exception to use on the free agent market.
  • It’s not too early to start thinking about DeMar DeRozan‘s free agency, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN. DeRozan can decide next summer to opt out of his $27.7 million salary for 2020/21, and could join Draymond Green and possibly Anthony Davis as the top names in an otherwise sub-par free agent class. The Spurs can eliminate that possibility by reworking DeRozan’s contract when he becomes eligible for a four-year, $149.1MM extension on July 6.
  • The Spurs also face a difficult decision on Dejounte Murray, who will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension through October 21, according to Marks. Murray appears to have a bright future, but he is coming off a torn ACL that wiped virtually his entire season. Jakob Poeltl is also eligible for a rookie scale extension, but by waiting on both players and DeRozan, the Spurs could have up to $30MM in cap room to spend next summer.
  • Patty Mills will be eligible for a veteran extension on August 4, and LaMarcus Aldridge becomes eligible on October 1, Marks adds.

Texas Notes: Rockets, Nowitzki, DeRozan, Murray

The Rockets have opened the 2018/19 season with a 1-5 record, struggling to get in a rhythm offensively and playing lackadaisical defense. They’ve dropped games to the Pelicans, Jazz, Blazers, and two separate contests against the Clippers, with their only win coming against the new-look Lakers.

“Right now, we’re playing like crap,” coach Mike D’Antoni said, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “We’re just not playing well. You know, I don’t have a whole lot of answers for you now. We’ll look, and we’ll fight it.”

The Rockets took the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals last spring, finishing with a 65-17 record and cementing themselves as the second best team in the association. Some of their struggles this season could be blamed on Chris Paul‘s suspension or James Harden‘s hamstring injury, but the losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency have also hurt.

“We’ve lost our swagger and we’re on our heels,” D’Antoni said.

The Rockets’ upcoming schedule has them playing five straight road games, including contests in Brooklyn this Friday, Chicago on Saturday, and Indiana on Monday.

Here are some other notes out of Texas tonight:

  • Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is expected to be sidelined for weeks as he continues his rehab from left ankle surgery, according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com“We’re still looking at weeks at this point,” Nowitzki said.“I haven’t even started running on the court, I haven’t even started running quick on the treadmill. I’ve just been slowly jogging and seeing how the foot reacts. Unfortunately we’re still talking weeks over days.” Nowitzki underwent surgery in April and hasn’t gone through a full practice session this season.
  • Michael C. Wright of ESPN examines how DeMar DeRozan dealt with being traded and embraced the Spurs, who currently have a 5-2 record on the season. “It took a while for me to get back in that happy place,” DeRozan said, “where I didn’t care about much in the sense of like, ‘Just be happy, man. Just be yourself. Don’t worry about all that other stuff.’
  • Gregg Popovich plans to use Dejounte Murray in a coaching role on the bench this season, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. The idea, according to Popovich, is to make Murray learn and feel part of the group instead of sitting alone in the locker room during games. Murray suffered a torn ACL in the Spurs’ preseason.

Injury Updates: Cousins, Howard, Knight, Murray

Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins is making good progress from his torn left Achilles tendon and will be “integrated into controlled aspects of team practices” in the near future, according to a team release. He is not ready to participate in scrimmages at this point but he will continue off-court strength and conditioning, the release adds. While the news is encouraging, it’s apparent that Cousins won’t see the court any time soon. Golden State will take it slow with its surprise free agent prize to make sure he’s healthy for the postseason. Golden State hasn’t set a timetable for his return. Cousins signed a one-year, $5.3MM pact with the aim of winning a ring before returning to the free agent market.

We have more injury-related news from around the league:

  • Dwight Howard didn’t travel with the Wizards for the start of their five-game road trip, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post tweets. Howard returned to practice last week after suffering a buttocks injury during training camp but has yet to make his Washington debut. It’s possible Howard could rejoin the team during the trip but the fact that he didn’t travel to Portland for the game on Monday night suggests his return is not imminent.
  • Rockets point guard Brandon Knight isn’t close to returning, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Acquired from the Suns in late August, Knight sat out last season after surgery on his left ACL. He then developed an infection after another minor procedure during the offseason that dramatically set back his rehab, according to Feigen. There’s no timetable for Knight’s return. “I feel it’s going well,” Knight said. “Every day I’m working hard to feel like my normal self, to get back to playing, game mode. It’s tough to put a timetable on things. Just going day-by-day and attack each day as best I can and win the day. That’s kind of how I look at it.”
  • Spurs guard Dejounte Murray underwent knee surgery on Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Murray suffered a torn right ACL during a preseason game and is expected to miss the season.

Spurs Plan To Replace Murray From Within

There’s no sign the Spurs will acquire a point guard via trade or free agency in the aftermath of Dejounte Murray‘s season-ending knee injury, Jabari Young of The Athletic reports.

Murray was diagnosed with a torn right ACL after suffering the knee injury against the Rockets on Sunday. San Antonio is prepared to go into the season with Derrick White, its first-round pick out of Colorado last year, as the starter. White appeared in 17 games in his rookie campaign but the Spurs would prefer to leave veteran Patty Mills on the second unit, Young continues.

Discussions with veteran free agent guard Jamal Crawford did not gain traction, Young adds.

Coach Gregg Popovich wouldn’t commit to White as the starter but that appears to be the path he’ll choose.

“We know what his skills are,” Popovich told Young and other media members. “But we have to wait to see who works with who the best and what seems to fit spacing-wise and how many basketballs we might need at a specific time in a game. But wherever we put Derrick, he’s going to be in the mix someplace.”

White posted solid numbers in the G League last season after recovering from a wrist fracture and continued to fill the stat sheet in summer league play, Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders notes.

Murray’s strength is defense while White is considered a better shooter. White possesses a better mid-range shot than Murray and has drawn comparisons to former Spurs guard George Hill.

Leaving Mills on the second unit with Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, and either Pau Gasol or Jakob Poeltl would be a better fit since he can look to score more often with that group, according to Young.

 

Spurs’ Dejounte Murray Suffers Torn ACL

The Spurs received some very bad news on Monday, as an MRI on Dejounte Murray‘s injured right knee revealed a torn ACL, the team announced in a press release. According to the club, a timeline for Murray’s return will be determined at a later date. However, he seems likely to miss the 2018/19 season, as head coach Gregg Popovich acknowledged today (Twitter link via Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News).

The injury, which occurred during Sunday’s preseason game against the Rockets, is a massive blow for the Spurs. The 22-year-old took over point guard starting duties from Tony Parker last season, and was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team. With Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard no longer members of the Spurs, Murray was being counted on to play a key role at both ends of the court for San Antonio in 2018/19.

[RELATED: The Impact Of A Torn ACL On An NBA Player]

With Murray sidelined, the Spurs figure to lean more heavily on Patty Mills and Derrick White at the point. DeMar DeRozan also figures to assume some ball-handling duties on offense, but none of those players will provide the sort of elite perimeter defense that Murray did.

It has been a rough month so far for the Spurs, who announced over the weekend that first-round pick Lonnie Walker sustained a right medial meniscus tear. Walker, who was scheduled to undergo surgery to repair that injury today, is expected to miss approximately six to eight weeks.

With upwards of a dozen Western Conference teams set to compete for playoff spots in 2018/19, the Spurs have little margin for error as they look to extend their 21-year postseason streak. Murray’s absence will make it even more challenging to secure a top-eight spot in the West.

Spurs Pick Up Dejounte Murray’s Fourth-Year Option

The Spurs have picked up the fourth year option in Dejounte Murray‘s contract, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The option is worth $2.3MM for the 2019/20 season.

Murray, 22, appeared in 81 games last season, averaging 8.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per contest. He’s established himself as a premier defender with the Spurs, being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team last season.

Murray is expected to start at point guard and play alongside DeMar DeRozan in San Antonio’s new-look backcourt this season. The Spurs hold confidence that Murray can take the reins from Tony Parker, who left the team in free agency, and become a permanent starter in the league. San Antonio will need his production to have a chance at competing with elite Western Conference teams such as the Warriors, Rockets and Thunder.

Murray was drafted with the 29th overall pick in 2016 after spending one year in college with Washington. He’s entering his third season with the team this fall.

The Spurs will also need to make 2019/20 option decisions on Jakob Poeltl and Derrick White before the October 31 deadline.

Spurs Notes: DeRozan, Murray, Aldridge, Ginobili

Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan says he’s more motivated than he’s ever been in his career, as he told NBA.com in a TV interview. DeRozan was highly agitated when the Raptors traded him away to the Spurs and while he claims he’s over the disappointment, he feels he has something to prove while moving to the Western Conference. “I treated my whole summer workout with that motivation, that chip on my shoulder. It’s making me more anxious to get out there and play,” he said.

In other news around the Spurs:

  • Coach Gregg Popovich said during the team’s annual media day on Monday that Dejounte Murray is up for the challenge of becoming the team’s next standout point guard, Madalyn Mendoza of the San Antonio Express News writes. “He really wants to be good, he really wants to be to the team what Tony (Parker) was to the team,” Popovich said. “I’m confident he’ll do that as time goes on.” Murray’s ability to push the ball will force the tempo and challenge his teammates, Popovich adds. “Other players will have to run like they’ve never run before because he’s going to go,” Popovich said. “And if they want to ball they’ll have to run with him.”
  • LaMarcus Aldridge is glad the Kawhi Leonard saga is over and doesn’t want to rehash it, Michael Bolin of 247Sports relays. “It’s obviously gone now. If you are gonna ask questions about that whole thing, I’m not going to answer it,” the veteran power forward said. “We are happy to turn the page.”
  • Popovich took recently retired guard Manu Ginobili on his annual coaches’ retreat last week, ESPN’s Michael C. Wright tweets. Ginobili revealed earlier this month that Popovich tried to talk him into playing for another season.