Dennis Smith Jr.

Northwest Notes: DSJ, Zeller, Nuggets, Beverley, Azubuike, Kalaitzakis

The Trail Blazers will keep Dennis Smith Jr. on their roster through the salary guarantee date, ensuring that he receives his full salary for 2021/22, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Smith won a training camp battle to earn a regular season roster spot and has averaged 5.4 PPG and 3.3 APG in 19 games (17.2 MPG). While his shooting numbers (.396 FG%, .273 3PT%) are below his mediocre career rates, Smith has apparently made enough of an impress on the Trail Blazers to stick around as the team’s 14th man. He’ll earn a $1,789,256 salary ($1,669,178 cap hit) for the season.

Wojnarowski also provides another updates on the Trail Blazers, tweeting that center Cody Zeller is expected to be available vs. Cleveland on Friday night. Zeller, who hasn’t played since December 6, missed time due to a knee injury and a stint in the health and safety protocols, but it appears he’s been cleared to return on both fronts.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets forwards Jeff Green and Zeke Nnaji are no longer in the health and safety protocols, but two-way rookie Petr Cornelie has entered them, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Because the team still has one player in the COVID-19 protocols, hardship signee Davon Reed can remain active.
  • The Patrick Beverley trade has been a major coup for the Timberwolves, according to Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune, who says the veteran guard has been an “ideal leader” for the young team. Minnesota gave up Jarrett Culver and Juan Hernangomez to land Beverley.
  • Udoka Azubuike hasn’t played much for the Jazz since being selected with the 27th pick in the 2020 draft, but he logged a career-high 16 minutes in his first ever start on Wednesday in Denver, holding his own against Nikola Jokic. Tony Jones of The Athletic has the story on the young center’s unexpected showcase, which came with Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside unavailable. “I’m not going to lie to you, I was a little nervous,” Azubuike said. “I just came back from (an ankle) injury, and I’m playing against the MVP? That was a lot to process.”
  • Georgios Kalaitzakis, the 60th overall pick in the 2021 draft who was waived by Milwaukee earlier this season, has signed an NBA G League contract, as our JD Shaw recently reported (via Twitter). The 23-year-old Greek forward joined the Oklahoma City Blue and appeared in his first game with the Thunder‘s affiliate on Thursday.

COVID-19 Updates: Hawks, Blazers, Celtics, Bucks, Nets

Wesley Iwundu, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Hawks on Thursday, has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Iwundu played 23 minutes in the Hawks’ 98-96 victory over the Sixers Thursday night, scoring two points and grabbing five rebounds. ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets that the Hawks will need to sign another replacement player to replace Iwundu — himself a replacement player.

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu, who made his season debut last week, has entered the protocols as well, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. In three games this season (22.3 MPG), Okongwu is averaging 10.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. The Hawks now have nine players in the protocols.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates:

  • Backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and two-way rookie Trendon Watford have entered the protocols for the Trail Blazers and the rest of the team will now be re-tested, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). DSJ and Watford are the only players currently in the protocols for the Blazers.
  • The Celtics have four new players entering the protocols: C.J. Miles, Justin Jackson, Aaron Nesmith, and Bruno Fernando, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. However, Al Horford, Juan Hernangomez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas, who’ve all been in the protocols, are listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, so they could be exiting the protocols soon. Until those four are cleared, the Celtics will have 12 players in the COVID-19 protocols — the largest outbreak in the NBA.
  • In addition to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bobby Portis has exited the protocols for the Bucks, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. Like Horford and the other Celtics, Donte DiVincenzo, who’s also been in the protocols, is listed as questionable to make his season debut Saturday.
  • Meanwhile, Bruce Brown and James Johnson have exited the protocols for the Nets, but seven others, including star Kevin Durant, remain in the protocols for their game Saturday against the Lakers, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
  • Warriors rookie Moses Moody has entered the protocols, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Golden State now has four players in the protocols.

Mavs Notes: Doncic, Carlisle, DSJ, Porzingis, Barea

Dennis Smith Jr., the Mavericks‘ lottery pick a year before the team selected Luka Doncic, quickly bonded with his new teammate upon Doncic’s arrival in 2018, forming an off-the-court friendship. However, Dallas’ front office and then-coach Rick Carlisle didn’t believe the two guards were an on-court fit and were already planning to “blow it up,” according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who says Carlisle had wanted to draft Donovan Mitchell in 2017 and had quickly soured on Smith.

In the months before Smith was sent to New York in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, Carlisle was hard on the former N.C. State standout — he accused DSJ of being jealous of Doncic and seemed determined to make him miserable, multiple former players and staffers told ESPN. The treatment was “appalling” to Doncic, who resented Carlisle’s apparent desire to pit him against his teammate and friend, writes MacMahon.

As MacMahon outlines, the Smith situation represented the beginning of years-long tension between Carlisle and Doncic.

“It wasn’t really about how Rick treated Luka,” a Mavs player on the 2018/19 team told ESPN. “Luka hated how Rick treated other people.”

For what it’s worth, Smith replied to MacMahon’s article on Twitter and said the details about his time in Dallas were “spot on,” adding, “Y’all don’t even know the half.”

Here are a few more of the most interesting details from the ESPN report, which is worth checking out in full:

  • Shortly before he resigned as the Mavericks’ head coach, Carlisle – who had two years left on his contract – approached team owner Mark Cuban about the possibility of an extension, but was shot down, says MacMahon. Carlisle, recognizing that he’d likely enter the 2021/22 season on the hot seat if he remained in Dallas, decided to leave once he was confident he’d be able to quickly secure another head coaching job. Doncic never called for Carlisle’s dismissal, sources tell ESPN.
  • According to MacMahon, the Mavericks came to regret releasing J.J. Barea prior to the 2020/21 season, since the veteran guard had served as “connective tissue” between Doncic and Carlisle and between Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, helping manage those relationships. When Doncic and Porzingis had communication issues last season, Carlisle wasn’t in position to smooth them over since he didn’t have a great relationship with either player, MacMahon adds.
  • Porzingis was so disillusioned entering the 2021 offseason that he would’ve welcomed a trade, MacMahon reports. However, the big man has felt rejuvenated since Carlisle’s departure under new head coach Jason Kidd, who was the only candidate the Mavs seriously considered during their coaching search, per MacMahon.

Billups Expresses Frustration With Blazers’ Compete Level

The up-and-down Trail Blazers had perhaps their worst game of the season on Sunday in Denver, losing by 29 points to the Nuggets and falling to 6-8. While Portland was playing without star point guard Damian Lillard, Denver was missing Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., and Will Barton.

Following the loss, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups expressed displeasure with his club’s compete level, as detailed in stories from Jason Quick of The Athletic and Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

“I’m confused,” Billups said. “I don’t think we came to compete in this game. I mean, this is a team that beat us in the playoffs last year. And we come out and don’t even compete in the first quarter. Kind of … a little disappointed in that. The effort. Just no fight. No fight.”

Asked about the possibility of making lineup or rotation adjustments to shake things up for the Blazers, Billups suggested that changes could be around the corner.

“It’s coming. That point is coming soon,” Billups said. “If we continue to play like that … because if you think about it, you keep playing that way, at some point I have to look at it and say something isn’t quite working. And then maybe think about shifting some things around.”

In Quick’s view, changes seem most likely to come at power forward and/or center, since Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic have been inconsistent so far this season, while bench players like Nassir Little, Larry Nance Jr., and Cody Zeller have provided more stability. Billups, who said earlier this month that Covington “could be better defensively,” stated on Sunday that he’s been happy with the effort he’s seeing from his reserves, including Anfernee Simons, Dennis Smith Jr., Little, and Nance.

“All of the second unit played as hard as we need them to play,” Billups said. “The first unit, they didn’t have it.”

The first-year head coach acknowledged that Portland had a busy schedule during the last week, playing four road games in six days. However, Billups didn’t view fatigue as a viable excuse for the team’s lack of effort.

“I just think there is no real reason to not have effort,” Billups said. “We’ve had a lot of games, so I can see being tired. … I can see if we come out and play our behinds off, but we just run out of gas. I can live with that. I don’t like losing like this. That game was over.”

Northwest Notes: DSJ, Gay, Jazz, Thunder

Former lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. appears to have the 14th spot on the Trail Blazers‘ regular season roster all but locked up, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic.

The Trail Blazers entered training camp with 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts, and they’re unlikely to carry a 15th man on a permanent basis for luxury-tax reasons. That left Smith competing with Marquese Chriss, Quinn Cook, and Patrick Patterson for what may just be one available roster spot, and he has impressed the team so far this fall.

“There have been some behind-closed-doors practices and games where some of the other guys have stood out or played well, too,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said on Monday after Smith put up 18 points and seven assists against Sacramento. “But, you know, you can’t hide what you saw today. I mean, (Smith) was really good.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Tony Jones of The Athletic takes a look at the impact that veteran forward Rudy Gay could have with the Jazz this season, both on and off the court. “He’s been a real leader for us so far,” Hassan Whiteside said of Gay. “He’s someone who is making a difference.”
  • Trading Derrick Favors and signing Gay will give the Jazz more flexibility to play against smaller lineups, John Hollinger of The Athletic notes in his season preview for the team, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if Gay is Utah’s de facto backup center in the playoffs. Hollinger adds that the Jazz could reduce their luxury tax bill by unloading a couple smaller contracts in deadline trades and replacing them with prorated minimum signings.
  • Hollinger also previewed the Thunder‘s season, pointing out that the team remains $22MM below the salary floor for 2021/22, putting OKC in great position to accommodate a salary dump at the deadline.

Trail Blazers Sign Dennis Smith Jr. To Camp Deal

Former lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. has signed a contract with the Trail Blazers to attend training camp, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). While Wojnarowski doesn’t provide specifics on Smith’s contract details, it sounds like it’ll be a non-guaranteed one-year deal, giving him a chance to compete for a roster spot.

The ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft, Smith began his career in Dallas and had a promising rookie season for the Mavericks, averaging 15.2 PPG and 5.2 APG as the team’s starting point guard. However, he struggled with his shooting efficiency and was traded to New York in his second season in the deal that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas.

Smith never really found his footing with the Knicks and was eventually dealt to the Pistons in February of this year after spending two seasons in New York. Detroit opted not to issue a qualifying offer to DSJ at season’s end, so he became an unrestricted free agent and took a month to find a new home.

In 179 total NBA games, Smith has averaged 11.8 PPG and 4.4 APG on .400/.316/.652 shooting in 25.2 minutes per contest.

The Trail Blazers currently only have 13 players on guaranteed contracts and will have to carry at least 14 during the regular season, so there’s a path to a roster spot for Smith. However, I’d expect Portland to invite a few more players to camp to compete for that 14th spot. The team, which is now over the tax line, may begin the season with its 15th spot open to avoid paying an extra salary.

And-Ones: Smith, Biyombo, Spurs, Hall, Almansa, Trade Market

The Pistons officially renounced their rights to Wayne Ellington, who has signed with the Lakers, and Dennis Smith Jr., according to the RealGM transactions log. The Hornets renounced four players, including Bismack Biyombo, while the Spurs renounced their rights to a whopping 13 players. San Antonio’s list includes Donatas Motiejunas and David Lee, who haven’t appeared in an NBA game for years. Renouncing those rights allows teams to maximize their cap room in free agency.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Donta Hall has signed with France’s Betclic Elite side AS Monaco, Sportando relays. Hall, who turns 24 on Saturday, played 13 games with the Magic this past season on two 10-day contracts and an end-of-the-season deal via the hardship exception. The power forward also played a total of nine games for the Pistons and Nets in 2019/20.
  • Overtime Elite has added another top European prospect. Izan Almansa has signed with the league, Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets. The 6’9” Almansa, a 16-year old Spanish power forward, is the second player OTE has signed from Real Madrid’s youth program and seventh international prospect.
  • While free agency is winding down, the trade market could continue to percolate in the coming weeks, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes. Ben Simmons and Damian Lillard top the list of stars who could be on the move, while the Raptors and Magic are teams to watch, with the latter possibly taking on an onerous contract in order to acquire future assets.
  • The ESPN duo of Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks also take a look at unresolved storylines this month involving free agency, the trade market and potential extensions.

Free Agent Rumors: Iguodala, Oubre, Williams, Smith

A reunion between the Warriors and defensive specialist Andre Iguodala could be in the works. Iguodala has narrowed his choices to his former team along with the Nets and Lakers, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Iguodala, 37, played 63 regular-season games with the Heat this past season and averaged a modest 4.4 PPG in 21.3 MPG, with a majority of his field-goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. Iguodala won three rings in six seasons with the Warriors.

We have more free agent buzz:

  • Free agent forward Kelly Oubre is in discussions with the Hornets, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. Oubre averaged 15.4 PPG and 6.0 RPG for Golden State last season but only made 31.6% of his 3-point attempts. The Hornets are also reportedly pondering an offer sheet to Bulls free agent Lauri Markkanen — with approximately $14MM in cap room remaining, they wouldn’t be able to sign both players unless one accepted a very team-friendly rate.
  • Before Lou Williams chose to return to the Hawks, the Lakers, Warriors and Bucks showed interest in the three-time Sixth Man of the Year award, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Williams opted for a one-year, $5MM agreement with Atlanta.
  • Free agent guard Dennis Smith Jr. won’t return to the Pistons, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. That’s no surprise, considering Detroit drafted Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick and reached an agreement with Cory Joseph after declining its team option on him.

Pistons Notes: Smith Jr., Grant, Draft, Free Agency

The Pistons traded for Dennis Smith Jr. in early February, but they still didn’t get as much time as they had hoped to evaluate his future, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Smith battled injuries after coming to Detroit, including left knee soreness that sidelined him for the final 19 games of the season.

Smith showed some promise in the 20 games he was able to play, averaging 7.3 points per game and shooting a career-best 35.2% from three-point range. His qualifying offer would be worth $7MM+, so it’s likely that he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, especially considering the development of point guards Killian Hayes and Saben Lee.

 “It’s been tough because this was the time for him to go out and show and be evaluated and get extended playing time,” coach Dwane Casey said in April. “It’s unfortunate he’s been hurt, but injury is something you have to deal with. We just have to figure out another way where we can evaluate him.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • The three-year, $60MM contract the Pistons gave to Jerami Grant was among the most surprising moves in free agency, but he rewarded their confidence by finishing second in this year’s Most Improved Player voting, says Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Grant averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game and was the runner-up to the Knicks’ Julius Randle. Grant recently told Sankofa that he plans to take another step forward next year. “I definitely prepare different this offseason,” Grant said. “I think every offseason I prepare differently, my roles change pretty much from year to year. I think it’s a new role for me, so I know what I need to work on.”
  • The Pistons would be fine with either Evan Mobley or Jalen Green if they keep the No. 2 pick in the draft, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Mobley is a seven-footer with the skills of a smaller player and plenty of value as a rim protector. Green could fill a need at shooting guard and could help as a shot creator.
  • Detroit isn’t expected to be active on the free agent market, Beard adds in the same piece. General manager Troy Weaver recently said the Pistons don’t expect to have many roster spots available, and Beard believes the team will focus on keeping its own free agents.

Injury Notes: Hornets, Huerter, Warren, DSJ, Bagley

The Hornets will see if LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk are ready for game action during their off days Thursday and Friday, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Ball had surgery March 23 on his fractured right wrist, while Monk has been sidelined since April 1 with a sprained ankle. Both players will take part in 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 scrimmages over the next two days.

The news isn’t as encouraging for Gordon Hayward, Bonnell adds. He’s still wearing a protective boot on his injured right foot and there’s no timetable for him to start working out. “Gordon is not there yet,” coach James Borrego said.

Here are some more injury-related notes and updates:

  • The Hawks are getting a second opinion on Kevin Huerter‘s sprained left shoulder, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Huerter underwent an MRI this week, but the results haven’t been announced.
  • Pacers forward T.J. Warren, who will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot, began jogging today on a treadmill, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). Coach Nate Bjorkgren called it “a big step” for the 27-year-old forward.
  • Dennis Smith Jr. hasn’t been able to practice lately and the Pistons don’t have a timeline for him to return from left knee soreness, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “That’s why it’s so important that Killian (Hayes) came back,” said coach Dwane Casey. “… It’s unfortunate that he’s been hurt, but injury is something you have to deal with.”
  • Marvin Bagley III could return soon from his hand injury, Kings coach Luke Walton tells James Ham of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Bagley has participated in some 3-on-3 games and may be ready to start playing in the next few days.