Dejounte Murray

Southwest Notes: Bane, McDermott, Murray, Cauley-Stein

Desmond Bane‘s surprising season with the Grizzlies makes him seem like a huge draft-night mistake by the Celtics, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Boston selected Bane with the 30th pick in 2020 and immediately traded him to Memphis for a pair of second-rounders because of luxury tax concerns. Bane has become a full-time starter in his second NBA season and is averaging 17.5 points and 4.5 rebounds through 44 games.

“I never knew it was Boston’s pick,” Bane recalled. “Everything was going on so fast, I had seen (the report) that the Grizzlies draft Desmond Bane at No. 30, so most guys put on the Celtics hat, I had a Grizzlies hat before they even put me on the TV screen. I was Grizzlies all the way.”

Bane has become an ideal backcourt partner for Ja Morant and has helped transform Memphis into a Western Conference contender at 30-15. He believes he should have been drafted higher and uses his status at No. 30 as inspiration.

“I’m always trying to keep the chip on my shoulder throughout all of it, regardless what I’ve done to this point in my career,” he said. “There’s still a lot of room to grow and improve.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Doug McDermott was one of the first Spurs players to enter health and safety protocols and one of the last to be cleared, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. McDermott, who returned to the court Friday, was stuck in a Detroit hotel room for six days, then had to wait even longer after returning home because contagion-level tests showed that he still presented a danger. “It’s a tough way to learn, just having a ball and just myself in the gym,” he said after missing seven games. “It’s hard to simulate the NBA speed of the game.”
  • Spurs guard Dejounte Murray is playing at an All-Star level, but he’s not enjoying it because the team isn’t winning, McDonald adds in a separate story. Murray has averaged 25.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 2.2 steals over the past six games, but San Antonio is just 1-5 during that stretch. “When you lose, it wasn’t enough,” Murray said. “It means zero. I want no credit for losing basketball games.”
  • Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison said it was difficult to tell Willie Cauley-Stein that he was being waived, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Harrison said the team will continue supporting Cauley-Stein through the personal situation that resulted in him not playing since late November.

Spurs’ Walker, McDermott Enter Protocols; Murray Exits

Spurs guard Lonnie Walker and forward Doug McDermott have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). Wojnarowski also reports (via Twitter) that star guard Dejounte Murray has cleared the protocols.

Murray, who’s missed the team’s last three games, will begin his reconditioning to play again. No target date has been announced for his return. In 31 games this season, he’s averaged a career-high 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, shooting 44% from the field.

Walker and McDermott have both served in vital roles for San Antonio, averaging 22.5 minutes and 24.6 minutes per game, respectively. Walker has played 30 of his 33 games off the bench, while McDermott has started in all 26 of his games this season.

The Spurs next play in Detroit on Saturday night, the team’s second contest of a seven-game road trip. San Antonio currently ranks 10th in the West at 14-20.

COVID Updates: Joseph, Jackson, Murray, Johnson, Okeke, Rondo, Ball, Maxey

The league continues to be ravaged by COVID positives with an increasing number of players entering the league’s health and safety protocols. Here are the latest updates:

  • The Pistons, who already had six players in protocols, added guards Cory Joseph and Josh Jackson to the list, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets. The Pistons are scheduled to play the Spurs on Sunday night. San Antonio will be without Dejounte Murray, who also entered protocols on Sunday, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.
  • The Magic, who already had a handful of players in protocols, won’t have B.J. Johnson and Chuma Okeke available against Miami on Sunday after they joined the list, the team’s PR department tweets. Moritz Wagner has exited the protocols but is going through a reconditioning period before returning to action, per the team (Twitter link).
  • Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo has entered protocols, joining three other Lakers, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets.
  • Two-way player Jose Alvarado became the third Pelicans players to enter protocols, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets.
  • Bulls guard Lonzo Ball has entered protocols, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The Bulls, who have experienced major COVID issues this month, also have Alfonzo McKinnie and Tony Bradley in protocols, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic tweets. McKinnie just signed a standard contract and he can be replaced via the hardship exemption, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Chicago has seen 14 players enter protocols this month.
  • On the positive side, the Sixers’ Tyrese Maxey was spotted at shootaround after exiting protocols, Keith Pompey of  the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

Spurs Notes: Bates-Diop, Murray, Hammon, G League

Keita Bates-Diop was an unlikely candidate to become the first Spurs player with a 30-point game this season, but the little-used forward reached that number in Thursday’s win over the Lakers, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Bates-Diop had 88 total points in his first 23 games, but he exploded in L.A., hitting all 11 of his shots from the field in the best night of his career.

“That’s why he’s in the NBA,” teammate Lonnie Walker said. “You’ve got to put respect on almost any player that’s out there. We’re all here for a reason.”

Bates-Diop was named Big Ten Player of the Year at Ohio State in 2018, but he has found only limited success in the NBA. Taken by the Timberwolves with the 48th pick in that year’s draft, he spent a season and a half in Minnesota before being traded to Denver. He signed a two-way contract with the Spurs last season and earned a standard deal this year.

“He’s a conscientious guy,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s becoming more and more conscientious all the time — and also a bit more confident, like he feels like he has a place.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • It took a lot of years and a lot of help for Dejounte Murray to develop into a top-level point guard, McDonald notes in a separate story. Drafted in 2016, Murray got to learn from Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard early in his career, but also had to overcome a torn ACL that wiped out his entire third season. “He had very little experience coming into the league and basically missed one whole season where he wasn’t able to develop,” Popovich said. “So at this point to see him playing the way he is, the confidence arena, where he’s got habits that are formed now — he understands the position. He understands the role and responsibility every night.”
  • Two WNBA teams have expressed interest in hiring Spurs assistant Becky Hammon as their head coach, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces have both reached out and there is mutual interest, according to Charania. Hammon has been rumored for years as a potential replacement for Popovich whenever he retires.
  • With the G League delaying the start of its regular season, Joshua Primo, Joe Wieskamp and Devontae Cacok may join the Spurs for Sunday’s game against Detroit, Orsborn tweets.

Southwest Notes: Kidd, Doncic, Valanciunas, Bane, Murray

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd believes Luka Doncic would benefit from focusing less on the officiating, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. Doncic frequently holds discussions with the referees, taking his attention away from other on-court matters.

“I would lean toward playing 5-on-5 a bit more,” Kidd explained. “You’re not going to get any calls. Officials, they tend to not stop the game to change calls. You have to understand there’s a point in time in games — dead balls — to be able to talk to officials.

“While the game is going on, transition defense is one of the things we’ve talked about that we have to get better. If we’re lobbying for calls during live play, it puts us in harm’s way. … Just some things have got to be a little bit more important. I think we’re going to get better at understanding as a team when to talk to officials. Not just Luka.”

As MacMahon notes, Doncic agreed with his coach’s advice. The Mavericks are just 11-11 and have lost seven of their last nine games.

There’s more from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Christian Clark of NOLA.com examines why Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas has worked to expand his range. Valanciunas has made 30 of his 65 three-point attempts (46%) this season, good for one of the league’s best clips. The most threes he has ever made in a season is 32 (in 2019/20). “The big guy is evolving by being able to stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Valanciunas said. “Being able to handle the ball. Those things, I wanted to add to my game as well. I don’t want to disappear. I want to be successful in this league. Whatever it takes to be successful.”
  • Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane recorded 29 points and nine rebounds to help defeat the Mavericks on Saturday. After the contest, Bane reflected on the Mavericks passing over him in the 2020 draft, as relayed by Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “I mean, Josh Green was drafted in front of me,” Bane said. “I don’t know if he played tonight, but that’s on them. That’s not on me.”
  • Spurs guard Dejounte Murray is taking a leap with the franchise this season, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Murray is averaging a career-high 19.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game, shooting 45% from the floor.

Spurs Notes: Johnson, Popovich, Murray, Poeltl, Eubanks, Young

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson has signed with Klutch Sports for representation, the agency announced earlier this week (via Twitter). Johnson is still on his rookie contract, but will become extension-eligible for the first time during the 2022 offseason.

As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes, Johnson was previously represented by Fundamental Sports Management, an agency based in San Antonio. Johnson said he has “nothing but good words to say” about FSM, but decided that a change in representation was the best business move for his career.

“It was long and thought-out, but at the end of the day, I am up and coming, and I just wanted the best representation,” Johnson said.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • The Spurs’ 4-11 record is tied for the third-worst mark in the NBA, but head coach Gregg Popovich is still having a good time working with his young roster, Orsborn writes for the Express-News. “They are growing, doing little things better all the time,” Popovich said after Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers. “Frustrating to lose, but when a team is working that hard and willing to learn, it’s enjoyable as hell, even in a loss. I’m proud of the way they are competing. Now we just have to make fewer mistakes and have a couple of guys play better.”
  • Dejounte Murray, who is in the second season of a four-year contract with San Antonio, has been a bright spot for the team so far, as Orsborn says in another Express-News story. “We haven’t exactly amazed the world, but if we didn’t have him we would be in big trouble,” Popovich said on Thursday. “He’s looking for other teammates to join him in playing as well as he is.” Murray struggled in the Spurs’ Thursday loss to Minnesota, but still has impressive season-long averages of 18.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.8 APG, and 2.0 SPG.
  • After missing seven games due to a symptomatic case of COVID-19, Jakob Poeltl returned to action on Thursday. However, he’s facing a minutes restriction and was limited to a season-low 15 minutes in his return. “I honestly felt pretty good conditioning-wise,” he said after the game, per Orsborn. “But I feel like I still need to get my rhythm again. It’s kind of weird playing these short, limited minutes. It’s tough to get into the game.”
  • In yet another story for the Express-News, Orsborn takes a closer look at the bond that has developed between young center Drew Eubanks and veteran forward Thaddeus Young, who has served as a mentor to Eubanks. “We have a great relationship,” Eubanks said. “He’s always in my ear.”

Western Notes: Murray, Pelicans, Snyder, Walker

Spurs guard Dejounte Murray deserves credit for the team’s impressive road win over Milwaukee on Saturday, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Murray finished with 23 points, five rebounds and nine assists in 37 minutes, also registering three steals.

“He was great,” head coach Gregg Popovich said of Murray. “His defense is not going to be noticed as much as offense, but he got us in situations where people were getting the ball and scoring. He scored. He disrupts at the defensive end. He played a heck of an all-around game.”

Murray, 25, was drafted by the team No. 29 overall in 2016. He’s averaged an impressive 17.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists through the club’s first six games, shooting 43% from the floor.

There’s more around the Western Conference tonight:

  • The Pelicans are facing a familiar start to the season, Christian Clark of NOLA.com writes. Zion Williamson has yet to play due to injury, leading New Orleans to start the season with a 1-6 record. On top of that, Nickeil Alexander-Walker is dealing with some shooting struggles, making 15 of 57 three-pointers thus far. “Everyone just tells me to keep shooting,” Alexander-Walker said on Thursday. “They trust me to take those shots. Last night [against Atlanta], Zion told me those are shots I need to take. It takes pressure off (Brandon Ingram). It’s comforting to hear they want me to keep shooting even though I haven’t been making shots. To know they have faith in me.”
  • Jazz coach Quin Snyder believes the NBA’s focus on changing its foul rules has unintentionally allowed defenders to be more physical, according to Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter links). The league has made it harder for offensive players to initiate fouls on shots and drives this season. “I don’t think there’s supposed to be increased physicality,” Snyder said. “I don’t think that’s the kind of game we want.”
  • Spurs guard Lonnie Walker has learned from what he calls “The University of Pop,” Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Referencing Gregg Popovich, Walker acknowledged he missed the final three years of college and discussed what he’s learned from the Spurs’ head coach so far.

Ben Simmons Takes Physical, Meets With Sixers’ Brass

After returning to Philadelphia on Monday, Sixers star Ben Simmons took his required physical and met with the team’s brass on Tuesday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. That meeting included president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, who says sources described it only as “brief.”

Both Pompey and Shelburne indicate that Simmons won’t be cleared to participate in any team-related activities until at least Friday, due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. As Brian Windhorst observed during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link) on Wednesday, that timeline suggests Simmons may not yet be fully vaccinated, since the league requires fully vaccinated players to register just one negative PCR test in order to interact with other players. Players who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated require at least four negative tests upon reporting to the team, according to ESPN.

We don’t know yet whether Simmons actually intends to return to the court and play for the 76ers following his holdout, but for what it’s worth, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says the 25-year-old’s physical showed no signs that he isn’t healthy. Simmons will be able to begin conducting individual workouts with the assistance of Sixers coaches on Wednesday, Fischer notes.

As we wait to see what the next steps are for the Sixers and Simmons, there’s no indication that the team is anywhere close to making a trade. Both Fischer and Sam Amick of The Athletic have heard that Philadelphia continues to hold out hope that a star like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal will become dissatisfied with his situation and ask for a trade, but that remains a long shot unless the Trail Blazers or Wizards get off to a really disastrous start this season.

According to Amick, Simmons’ camp hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a trade to the Nets, but sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic that the Sixers have exhibited zero interest in pursuing a deal involving Kyrie Irving.

Fischer names the Cavaliers, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Timberwolves, Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Raptors as the nine teams that have remained at least somewhat engaged with Philadelphia, and adds that a “mystery” 10th club has also had “substantive” discussions with the Sixers as of late. Not even Klutch Sports is certain of the identity of that 10th team, per Fischer, who cautions that the mystery suitor still hasn’t come close to meeting Morey’s asking price.

Here’s more on Simmons:

  • Sources tell Fischer that the Sixers have informed potential trade partners whose offers would be heavy on draft picks that their best bet would be a three-team structure in which Philadelphia lands at least one impact player, since Morey and his front office are interested in win-now pieces rather than future assets.
  • Although the Timberwolves still have interest in Simmons following their front office shake-up, new head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta isn’t believed to be pursuing the three-time All-Star as aggressively as Gersson Rosas did, according to Fischer.
  • The Kings remain unwilling to discuss either De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton in a potential Simmons deal, while the Sixers appear unmoved by the idea of acquiring Dejounte Murray and/or Lonnie Walker from the Spurs, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer adds that there’s a belief the Pistons would entertain trading Jerami Grant in a deal for Simmons.
  • Improving the relationship between Simmons and head coach Doc Rivers is believed to be a priority for the Sixers if Simmons is going to stick around for a little while, according to Fischer, who says the two men never seemed to build a strong rapport last season. Sources tell Bleacher Report that during an offseason meeting at agent Rich Paul‘s home, when the Sixers confirmed they intended to fine Simmons for not complying with the terms of his deal, Rivers shouted, “It’s in your f–king contract” to report to training camp and play for the team.

Spurs Rumors: Popovich, RFAs, Simmons, Ginobili, Young

In the years leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, there had been speculation that the event would be Gregg Popovich‘s swan song. However, even after leading Team USA to gold in Japan following a one-year delay, Popovich is returning to the Spurs‘ sidelines for the 2021/22 season. And several sources who know him told Zach Lowe of ESPN in recent weeks that they wouldn’t even be surprised if Popovich sticks around for ’22/23 too.

With 26 more victories, Popovich would pass Don Nelson for the top spot on the list of the NBA’s all-time winningest coaches. Although the Spurs don’t necessarily project to be a playoff team this season, winning at least 26 games seems like a realistic goal. However, Popovich isn’t “running out the string” just to claim that record, Lowe writes.

While it remains unclear when Popovich will retire, there are some potential heir apparents within the organization, according to Lowe, who says that Will Hardy and Manu Ginobili are the two mentioned most frequently in NBA circles. Becky Hammon would also be in the mix, but Kansas coach Bill Self – previously cited as a possible candidate to succeed Popovich – has “faded” from those conversations, Lowe notes.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • The Spurs “sniffed around” restricted free agents like John Collins and Lauri Markkanen this offseason and could be an intriguing suitor for Jaren Jackson Jr. next summer if he and the Grizzlies don’t agree to an extension before then, says Lowe. The Spurs also have the assets to make a run at a player like Ben Simmons and have talked to the Sixers about him, but those discussions haven’t gotten far and it’s unclear whether San Antonio wants to re-engage with Philadelphia, sources tell ESPN.
  • The Spurs have turned down offers of single protected first-round picks for some of their core young players, Lowe reports. Lowe doesn’t name specific players, but Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Lonnie Walker are among those who could fit the bill.
  • Popovich suggested this week that Ginobili’s new role with the Spurs will be even more wide-ranging than initially reported, as Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes. “He is going to help (general manager) Brian (Wright) with management,” Popovich said of Ginobili. “He is going to help me with coaching. He is going to help the players with development. He is probably going to go scout some people. I think he is probably going to figure out a two-week trip to Italy to scout some players. I might go with him. But I am being serious — he is going to do all those things. See what he feels comfortable with. It’s just great to have him in the program for all kinds of reasons. But mainly because we love the guy. He is Manu Ginobili, so who wouldn’t want to have him around?”
  • Thaddeus Young wasn’t sure after he was traded to San Antonio whether the team intended to keep him and still doesn’t sound positive that he’ll spent the whole year with the Spurs, but he plans to be a mentor to the club’s young players as he long as he’s with the team (Twitter links via Orsborn). I am going to show up each and every day and make sure I am working, and make sure I am bringing the guys along and getting them better as well,” Young said. A previous report suggested Phoenix is among the contending teams with trade interest in the veteran forward.

Latest On Ben Simmons

The “overwhelming sense” among NBA insiders is that Ben Simmons will likely still be with the Sixers when training camp opens on September 28, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

As Fischer explains, if Damian Lillard becomes available, the likelihood of a Simmons deal would increase significantly, since the Trail Blazers star appears to be Philadelphia’s preferred trade target. However, there’s a belief in league circles that Lillard will open the season in Portland and give new head coach Chauncey Billups a shot, according to Fischer.

Given the ugly way the 2020/21 season ended in Philadelphia, having Simmons report to training camp could create an uncomfortable dynamic. Fischer suggests that Simmons hasn’t personally been in close contact with Joel Embiid, head coach Doc Rivers, or president of basketball operations Daryl Morey this offseason and may welcome a trade — his representatives have canvassed front offices around the NBA this summer about a potential deal, Fischer adds.

However, with trade talk quieting down and teams more focused on filling out their final roster spots than making any blockbuster moves, a deal may not materialize in the next six weeks or so, and the 76ers appear ready for that possibility, Fischer says.

“Daryl is not afraid to go into training camp with a potentially combustible situation,” a source told Bleacher Report.

Here’s more on Simmons:

  • The Timberwolves remain very interested in Simmons, but it will be a challenge for Minnesota to put together a package strong enough to entice the Sixers, according to Fischer, who notes that if Philadelphia makes a non-Lillard deal involving Simmons, the team may try to get pieces that could eventually be flipped to the Trail Blazers for the star guard.
  • Sources from the Trail Blazers and Warriors “categorically denied” rumors that any traction was gained in talks about a potential three-team trade involving the 76ers, reports Fischer.
  • There’s a faction of the Spurs‘ front office rumored to have strong interest in Simmons, according to Fischer, who says San Antonio was willing to discuss Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker prior to the draft.