Dennis Smith Jr.

Hornets’ LaMelo Ball Re-Injures Left Ankle, Out At Least Friday

NOVEMBER 17: Ball did not practice on Thursday and will not play on Friday versus Cleveland, tweets Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

We’ll be without him here,” head coach Steve Clifford said. “I don’t think we have any idea how long.”

Clifford also told reporters that Ball had an X-ray after Wednesday’s game, which came back negative.


NOVEMBER 16: Point guard LaMelo Ball, who just made his 2022/23 regular season debut on Saturday, re-injured his left ankle late in Wednesday’s loss to Indiana and did not return, the Hornets announced (via Twitter).

According to the Hornets, Ball suffered a left ankle sprain — the same injury that caused him to miss the team’s first 13 games. He initially injured his ankle in preseason and it was fairly serious, since it was a Grade 2 sprain.

A first-time All-Star last season, Ball averaged 20.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 1.6 steals on .429/.389/.872 shooting in 75 games (32.3 MPG). While he had to shake off some rust in his first two games back this season, he was having a big night Wednesday prior to the injury, recording 26 points and six assists in 37 minutes.

After making the play-in tournament in each of the past two seasons, the Hornets have struggled early on in ’22/23, with Wednesday’s loss dropping their record to 4-12. In addition to Ball, Terry Rozier (ankle), Cody Martin (knee surgery) and Gordon Hayward (shoulder) have all had extended injury absences, and backup point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has missed the past two games with his own left ankle sprain (Twitter link).

If Ball and Smith miss more time with their ankle sprains, Theo Maledon and James Bouknight should see an increase in minutes.

Southeast Notes: DSJ, Beal, Haslem, F. Wagner

Dennis Smith Jr. didn’t have a ton of personal or team success during his stint as a Knick from 2019-21, but he said on Wednesday that the adversity he experienced in New York “helped me grow as a person,” as Zach Braziller of The New York Post relays.

“Without going though what I went through, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m thankful for that whole time I was here, the good and the bad,” Smith said before his new team, the Hornets, faced the Knicks. “The thing I learned is nobody gave me my happiness or my job, so I can’t let anybody steal it. I came in, found something to be grateful for every day, and I started to make the most of every situation I was in. That really prepared me for where I’m at now.”

A free agent for most of the 2022 offseason, Smith said he told his agent he wasn’t interested in playing overseas and indicated that he mulled the possibility of trying to compete for a spot in the NFL as a defensive back, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

Smith ultimately landed in Charlotte, and while his deal with the Hornets remains non-guaranteed, he has played well in LaMelo Ball‘s absence, including registering 14 points and 11 assists against his old team in New York on Wednesday. Head coach Steve Clifford likes what he has seen so far from the former lottery pick.

“His defense is just, I mean, it’s terrific,” Clifford said, according to Braziller. “His individual defense, his pick-and-roll defense, his team defense. He’s competing at an incredibly high level at that end of the floor. Some guys figure it out late, some guys figure it out right away. He’s a talented guy. Even though with the injuries he’s not the athlete he was, but he’s still a really good athlete even for this league. I don’t see that he’s doing anything that he can’t continue to do, frankly.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • After signing a record-setting $251MM contract in the offseason, star guard Bradley Beal is now trying to lead his teammates by example, especially on the defensive end, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The 3-1 Wizards have a top-five defense in the NBA early on in the 2022/23 season. “I know that … if I’m engaged and locked in and energetic and ready to go on the defensive end, that speaks volumes to the rest of the team, and everybody else follows suit,” Beal said. “We almost have a saying: ‘If Brad can do it, everybody can do it.’ So if I can get down in a stance and get after it, everybody can. It’s something that we hold each other accountable to do, starting with me.”
  • Having appeared briefly in the Heat‘s Wednesday victory in Portland, veteran big man Udonis Haslem has now officially played in 20 NBA seasons, fulfilling a vow he made to his late father. Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel has the story and the quotes from Haslem.
  • In a conversation with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Magic forward Franz Wagner spoke about his long-term goals, his early impressions of No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, and getting to play with brother Moritz Wagner in Orlando.

Contract Details: Lakers, Galloway, DSJ, McCollum, More

When the Lakers signed Matt Ryan and Dwayne Bacon to non-guaranteed training camp contracts earlier this month, both players received Exhibit 9 clauses in their new deals, but not Exhibit 10s, Hoops Rumors has learned.

Exhibit 9 contracts are non-guaranteed camp deals that don’t count against the cap during the preseason and offer teams some protection in the event of an injury. Exhibit 10s are similar, but also allow teams to convert the player to a two-way deal (if he’s eligible) or to give him a bonus worth up to $50K if he’s waived and then spends at least 60 days with the team’s G League affiliate.

As a general rule, a player who signs a training camp contract without an Exhibit 10 clause is usually just competing for a spot on his team’s 15-man regular season roster and won’t end up playing for the club’s G League affiliate if he doesn’t make the cut.

Langston Galloway (Pacers), Dennis Smith Jr. (Hornets), LiAngelo Ball (Hornets), Cody Zeller (Jazz), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (Suns), and Wes Iwundu (Trail Blazers) are among the other recently signed free agents who signed Exhibit 9 – not Exhibit 10 – contracts.

Here are a few more contract details from around the NBA:

Hornets Sign Dennis Smith Jr. To One-Year Deal

SEPTEMBER 23: The Hornets have officially signed Smith, the team announced today in a press release.


SEPTEMBER 21: The Hornets have agreed to sign Dennis Smith Jr. to a one-year contract, agent Daniel Hazan tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Smith’s deal will be non-guaranteed, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

The ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft and a North Carolina native, Smith averaged 15.2 PPG and 5.2 APG in 69 games (29.7 MPG) as a rookie in Dallas, but his shooting percentages (.395/.313/.694) were underwhelming and he was supplanted as the Mavericks’ starting point guard following the arrival of Luka Doncic in 2018.

Smith was subsequently traded to New York in the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster in 2019, then was flipped to Detroit in the Derrick Rose deal two years later. Following the expiration of his rookie contract in 2021, Smith signed with the Trail Blazers. He averaged 5.6 PPG and 3.6 APG on .418/.222/.656 in 37 appearances (17.2 MPG) for Portland last season before a UCL tear in his right elbow prematurely ended his season.

While Smith’s contract won’t be guaranteed, he has a potential path to a 15-man roster spot in Charlotte if he shows he’s fully healthy and has a strong preseason. LaMelo Ball is the Hornets’ starting point guard and Terry Rozier will take on some ball-handling responsibilities, but the team’s depth chart is otherwise thin at the point.

Currently, the Hornets have 18 players under contract, including 13 players on guaranteed salaries, four on Exhibit 10s, and one on a two-way contract. The team would have room for one more player on its 20-man training camp roster once Smith is officially signed, assuming restricted free agent Miles Bridges remains in limbo due to his legal troubles.

And-Ones: D. Smith, Micic, 2023 FAs, Contracts

Former ninth overall pick Dennis Smith Jr. is holding a private workout in Las Vegas on Monday, his agent Daniel Hazan tells Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Currently a free agent, Smith will attempt to show teams that he’s healthy and deserving a roster spot this fall after his 2021/22 season ended prematurely due to a partially torn UCL.

Smith, 24, earned a regular season roster spot in Portland after being invited to training camp last fall. He appeared in 37 games for the Blazers, averaging 5.6 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 RPG, and 1.2 SPG in 17.2 minutes per contest. Before he injured his elbow, the 2017 lottery pick had become a regular part of the team’s rotation with Damian Lillard sidelined.

Approximately 10 teams are expected to attend Smith’s workout on Monday, Haynes says.

Here’s more from around the NBA:

  • After winning back-to-back EuroLeague titles with Anadolu Efes, 28-year-old guard Vasilije Micic feels like he’s ready to make the leap to the NBA. “I can say that this year, I’m ready to go to the NBA and that it’s time,” Micic said during a TV interview, per Eurohoops.net. “Last year I wasn’t mentally ready because I wanted another year in Europe, but we’ll see. I am also very happy in Efes and we will see what happens. I’m enjoying the moment.” The Thunder hold Micic’s NBA rights, but reports have suggested his reps would like Oklahoma City to trade him.
  • Danny Leroux of The Athletic takes an early look at the NBA’s 2023 free agent period, observing that it doesn’t look like a particularly star-studded class. LeBron James, Khris Middleton, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving, and Andrew Wiggins are among the top players who could reach free agency next summer, though it’s probably safe to assume at least one or two of them will sign extensions before then.
  • Mike Vornukov of The Athletic wonders if we’ll ever see NBA teams publicly disclose contract terms when they announce free agent signings, as some clubs in other sports do.

Trail Blazers Promote Trendon Watford, Waive Dennis Smith Jr.

1:40pm: Watford’s promotion and Smith’s release are now official, according to an announcement from the Trail Blazers. Portland now has an open two-way slot.


11:40am: The Trail Blazers have reached an agreement on a deal with rookie forward Trendon Watford that will promote him from his two-way contract to the 15-man roster and give him a new four-year contract, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

According to Wojnarowski, Portland will waive guard Dennis Smith Jr. in order to create an opening on the 15-man roster for Watford. Smith is currently sidelined due to an elbow injury.

Watford’s new four-year contract will be worth $5.8MM, says Wojnarowski. The Blazers will dip into their mid-level exception in order to go up to four years and to give the 21-year-old a salary worth a little more than the prorated minimum for the rest of 2021/22 — the remaining three years will be worth the minimum. Additionally, the final two seasons of the deal will be non-guaranteed, according to Woj.

Watford, who went undrafted out of LSU in 2021, quickly caught on with the Trail Blazers on a two-way deal and was one of the very first players to officially sign a contract once the ’21/22 league year started in August.

Watford began the season out of the rotation and didn’t play double-digit minutes in a game until January 3, but he has appeared in every one of Portland’s games since then. In 24 games since the calendar flipped to 2022, he’s averaging 5.5 PPG and 3.9 RPG on 60.4% shooting in 15.5 minutes per contest. We identified him last week as one of the players on two-way contracts who was a candidate for a promotion.

Smith, 24, signed a non-guaranteed contract with Portland in the 2021 offseason and won a roster spot in training camp. He appeared in 37 games for the team, averaging 5.6 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 RPG, and 1.2 SPG in 17.2 minutes per contest. Before he injured his elbow, the former lottery pick had become a more regular part of the rotation due to Damian Lillard‘s absence.

The fact that Portland is opting to waive Smith rather than injured forward Joe Ingles, who was acquired for salary-matching purposes at this month’s trade deadline, suggests that the team may still see value in Ingles’ Bird rights. However, with Ingles out for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL, he remains a candidate to be cut in the coming weeks if the Blazers want to make another signing.

Dennis Smith Jr. Out At Least 3-4 Weeks With Elbow Injury

Trail Blazers guard Dennis Smith Jr. is expected to be sidelined until at least mid-March due to a right elbow injury, the team announced today in a press release.

According to the Blazers, Smith has been diagnosed with a high-grade partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow. He’ll be reevaluated in three or four weeks, the club added.

Smith, 24, signed a non-guaranteed contract with Portland in the 2021 offseason and won a roster spot in training camp. He has since appeared in 37 games for the team, averaging 5.6 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 RPG, and 1.2 SPG in 17.2 minutes per contest. The former lottery pick became a more regular part of the rotation in the new year due to Damian Lillard‘s absence.

Portland doesn’t have a ton of depth at the point guard spot with Lillard, Smith, and Eric Bledsoe all sidelined, but has been relying on Anfernee Simons and Justise Winslow for play-making.

If the Blazers feel compelled to add another backcourt option, they could open up a spot on their roster by waiving an expendable player such as injured forward Joe Ingles.

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.