Domantas Sabonis

Central Notes: Pistons, Bullock, Bucks, Pacers

Although the Pistons traded Reggie Bullock to the Lakers at last month’s trade deadline, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press says he gets the impression that Bullock would be open to returning to Detroit as a free agent this offseason (Twitter link). The Pistons would likely reciprocate that interest, though it would depend on Bullock’s price tag, Ellis adds (via Twitter).

With the Pistons projected to be over the cap next season, they’ll be limited to a few modest exceptions, including the mid-level, as they attempt to upgrade their roster. Signing a three-point shooter like Bullock – or perhaps current Piston Wayne Ellington – will be a priority, but Detroit figures to commit part of its MLE to a point guard, Ellis notes. Reggie Jackson remains under contract for another season, but Ish Smith, a key part of the club’s rotation, will be a free agent.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After officially signing Tim Frazier today, the Bucks are now only about $250K below the tax line, tweets cap expert Albert Nahmad. As Nahmad explains, Tony Snell can earn up to $400K in bonus money if Milwaukee wins the Finals, but the team should be on track to stay out of the tax if it falls short of a title — or if Christian Wood is claimed on waivers tomorrow.
  • In a pair of recent pieces by Sam Amick and Scott Agness of The Athletic, Indiana executives revisited the Paul George trade that turned into a rare win-win for both the Pacers and Thunder. “I think it worked out good for Paul, and I think it’s working out pretty well for us,” consultant Donnie Walsh said of the deal, per Amick.
  • In Agness’ story on that trade with the Thunder, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard raves about Domantas Sabonis, who gets somewhat overlooked as the only non-All-Star (so far) involved in the swap. “When we looked at all the deals, once we heard ‘Sabonis’ is when I said, ‘I’m in. I want to do this,'” Pritchard said. “And I asked everybody around the room, ‘Is everybody on board?’ As soon as that happened, we got pretty excited about that.”
  • Dwane Casey‘s ability to respond to adversity, which has been on display throughout his first season with the Pistons, is one reason why owner Tom Gores hired him as the club’s head coach last spring, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Despite a 9-22 stretch earlier in the season, Detroit currently holds the East’s No. 6 seed.

Pacers Notes: Free Agency, Sabonis, Oladipo

Struggling would-be contenders like the Celtics and Lakers could learn a lesson from the Pacers, who have bounced back impressively after losing star guard Victor Oladipo for the season, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.

Within his examination of the Pacers’ ability to battle through adversity, Windhorst notes that the club’s leaders – head coach Nate McMillan, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard, and GM Chad Buchanan – have an “open-door policy” when it comes to discussing players’ upcoming free agency — they aren’t afraid to sit down and talk to a player about his situation if he wants to, and have attempted to be transparent in those discussions.

As Windhorst observes, the Pacers’ rotation is stacked with players in contract years. Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans are among those who will be unrestricted free agents this summer. With long-term uncertainty facing so many of Indiana’s vets, the work McMillan has done to keep them all on the same page this season is impressive.

Here’s more from out of Indiana:

  • Chris Sikich of The Indianapolis Star provides the latest updates on a piece of legislation aimed in part at keeping the Pacers in Indiana for the next 25 years. As Sikich explains, the bill, which the Indiana Senate voted in favor of this week, would see the Pacers chip in about $63MM in new money for facility upgrades and would give the team until next April to negotiate a new long-term lease for the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
  • Domantas Sabonis has been diagnosed with a left ankle sprain and may be forced out of action for the Pacers’ next few games, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star details. “He’s got a lot of swelling,” McMillan said. “He’s going to be out for a couple games. He’s not walking with crutches, but he can’t put a lot of pressure on it.” In Sabonis’ absence, frontcourt players like Kyle O’Quinn and T.J. Leaf could get the opportunity to play increased roles.
  • Speaking of injured Pacers, while Oladipo won’t be able to return this season, he’s making progress in his rehab work. As Ameer Tyree of Sporting News passes along, Oladipo’s trainer recently posted a video of the All-Star guard working on his handle while wearing a leg brace.

Latest On Mike Conley, Marc Gasol Suitors

The Jazz and Grizzlies have explored a trade involving Mike Conley and Ricky Rubio, and Zach Lowe of ESPN.com hears that Utah’s interest in the former No. 4 overall pick is “very real.” The organization could feasibly build a package around Rubio and Derrick Favors, who are both on expiring deals, while peppering in a draft pick or two.

Utah is reportedly unimpressed with the 2019 draft class and their first-round pick is on the table in trade talks. It’s unclear if the Jazz would toss in a second first-round pick for Conley, though it would be a surprising development. Lowe speculates that Dante Exum could be in the mix as part of a package, adding that the Jazz could move on to more affordable targets, such as Nikola Mirotic, if the price for Conley remains too high.

The Conley sweepstakes are expected to heat up as we get closer to the deadline and surprise suitors could emerge. Lowe passes along more from Memphis regarding their two biggest stars:

  • Marc Gasol is hoping for a trade and teams are waiting to see if the Grizzlies lower the asking price for their long-time center, Lowe reports. As for a potential Pistons-Grizzlies deal, Memphis has not shown any interest in acquiring Andre Drummond yet and Lowe hears that Detroit may be saving its trade chips for someone else.
  • The Pistons and Grizzlies have talked about a Conley deal, though discussions did not get very far. Detroit would likely have to ship out Reggie Jackson is a trade for Conley.
  • While Conley would be a nice on-court fit for the Pacers, Indiana has stepped away from Conley talks, sources tell Lowe. Lowe speculates that the Grizzlies would likely ask for Domantas Sabonis is a Conley deal, something that wouldn’t appeal to the Pacers.
  • The Jazz would have interest in signing Tobias Harris this summer should they not trade for Conley or make a major move at the deadline that utilizes their future cap space. The Clippers have received calls for Harris, per Lowe, though rival teams get the sense that they have no interest in trading him. Lowe adds that Los Angeles would be happy to re-sign Harris in the offseason.
  • The Kings are not as interested in Gasol as reports and speculation might suggest. Sacramento doesn’t appear to be willing to hand over a future first-rounder in exchange for the big man, as the club owes its 2019 pick to Boston (Philadelphia gets the selection if it’s the No. 1 pick).

Central Notes: Budenholzer, Sexton, Sabonis

The Bucks credit new coach Mike Budenholzer for their hot start, as Nick Friedell of ESPN relays. The Bucks’ offense has more structure than it did under former coach Jason Kidd and interim coach Joe Prunty, multiple players told Friedell and other media members. “We have multiple sets we can get into, we have — just more of a foundation to play off of rather than just freestyle,” guard Malcolm Brogdon said. The players are displaying trust in the system, which emphasizes 3-point shots and ball movement, Friedell adds. “I think teams are starting to take notice and realize we’re not the Bucks that we were when I first got here six years ago,” small forward Khris Middleton said. “We’re a totally different team even from last year.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers coach Larry Drew is going to ride the team’s first-round pick and he’s told the rest of the team to buy in. Drew has instructed his veterans that they need to allow rookie point guard Collin Sexton to work through his mistakes, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer“I actually pulled some guys to the side when we were in Orlando (on Monday),” Drew said. “That was my exact point — having to be patient with a 19-year-old kid.”
  • Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis is off to a hot start and that presents a tricky dilemma for the front office, Zach Lowe of ESPN notes. Myles Turner signed a four-year, $72MM extension last month but Sabonis has thus far outplayed him. Statistics bear out that Indiana’s offense suffers when both are on the court, though Turner has a higher ceiling because of his 3-point shooting and rim protection, Lowe continues. Sabonis is eligible for an extension prior to the start of next season but it’s tough to pay big bucks for two players at the same position, Lowe adds.
  • The Pistons rank among the top 10 in the league in open 3-point attempts, yet they’ve done a poor job of making them. Meanwhile, the Bulls have been bit hard by the injury bug. Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders takes a closer look at some of the areas of concern for Central Division clubs.

Central Notes: Turner, Hill, Bucks, Sabonis

Pacers center Myles Turner has struggled since signing his contract extension with the team, averaging 11.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 12 starts this season. He faced criticism after Wednesday’s game against Joel Embiid and the Sixers, only to have a teammate immediately jump to his defense.

“I think he shouldn’t concern himself with what people are saying or thinking,” Victor Oladipo said of Turner, according to Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star. “He’s just got to play within himself. He’ll figure it out. He’s still young. I’m not making no more excuses for him, but the truth of the matter is he’s just got to find it within himself.

“He’s perfectly fine,” Oladipo continued. “He’s going to find his groove, and then everybody’s going to be like, ‘Whoa, he’s playing great. So what do you think about him playing great?’

“Everybody’s so quick to judge someone when they don’t play well. But everybody’s not in here. Nobody is in his shoes. Nobody’s putting on the jersey he’s putting on. Nobody’s out there playing the game he’s playing. So you can’t really judge him. We have no right to. But people are going to anyway. Me, personally, I really don’t care what people think about him. I love him to death. His upside is huge, and he’s just going to continue to keep getting better. And when he figures it out, watch out.”

Turner is well-liked in the Pacers organization and is in his fourth season with the team. Despite struggling to effectively rebound, he remains an intriguing two-way player with plenty of room to grow in his NBA career.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest:

  • Cavaliers guard George Hill will miss approximately one to two weeks with a shoulder sprain, the team confirmed. Hill was evaluated at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health on Thursday, where he underwent an MRI that revealed the sprain. He will now undergo a period of treatment and rehabilitation.
  • Stephen Curry believes this season’s Bucks are similar to the Warriors in their first season without Mark Jackson. “They’re very similar to four years ago here,” Curry said, according to Mark Medina of the The Mercury News (Twitter link). “A change of scenery sometimes helps. You get a little boost of energy, a little shift in focus and perspective. And that little bit (of a) difference can unlock something. It’s still early. They’re taking care of business like they should. It’s important when you have that much potential to get off to a good start.”
  • Domantas Sabonis‘ solid play could shift the Pacers‘ rotation this season, Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star contends. Sabonis could work his way into the starting center position, which would force Myles Turner to either play off the bench or share the frontcourt with him.

Pacers Exercise 2019/20 Options On Sabonis, Leaf

SEPTEMBER 26: The Pacers have officially exercised their 2019/20 options on both Sabonis and Leaf, the club confirmed today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 24: The Pacers will exercise their options on the rookie contracts of Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Leaf, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. Team president Kevin Pritchard confirmed the moves, which are contingent on both players passing physicals.

Sabonis, who will have a cap charge of $3,529,555 in 2019/20, was a pleasant surprise in his first year with Indiana after being acquired in a trade with the Thunder. He averaged 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in 74 games, mostly as a reserve. He’ll be extension-eligible as of July 1, 2019.

Leaf, the 18th pick in the 2017 draft, got into 53 games as a rookie, averaging 2.9 PPG and 1.5 RPG. He will have a $2,813,280 cap hit for 2019/20. The Pacers will have to make a decision on his fourth-year option next fall.

Central Notes: Thompson, Pistons, Bulls Pick, Turner

Tristan Thompson will likely start at center for the Cavaliers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday, according to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Coach Tyronn Lue told reporters that Thompson’s return to the lineup is being strongly considered, mainly due to his past success in defending Celtics big man Al Horford“It’s definitely something we have to weigh,” Lue said. “We weighed it before the series started, but we’d won seven out of eight and we weren’t going to adjust until someone beat us and we didn’t play well with that lineup that got us to this point.” Boston blew out Cleveland 108-83 in Game 1 on Sunday.

In other Central Division developments:

  • The Pistons could find themselves hiring a head coach before a new team president after getting involved late in the process, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. With the Pistons dealing with salary-cap issues, hiring a head coach that can maximize the potential of the current roster could loom as a higher priority, Ellis notes. Detroit and Stan Van Gundy, who held both positions, parted ways last week. Ex-Raptors coach Dwane Casey and former Hawks Mike Budenholzer are the top tier candidates, though both the Bucks and Raptors are reportedly interested in hiring Budenholzer. Ex-Piston Jerry Stackhouse, who coached the Raptors’ G League team last season, could also be a strong candidate, Ellis adds.
  • The Bulls need to hit a home run on their lottery pick this June in order to advance the rebuilding process, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times argues. Chicago is currently slotted at No. 6 unless it gets lucky in the draft lottery. “We’re going to find out [Tuesday] where we pick in the top 10,” VP of basketball operations John Paxson said. “That will obviously be a significant pick.” The Bulls also have the No. 22 pick, courtesy of the Nikola Mirotic trade with the Pelicans.
  • Pacers centers Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis could play together more often next season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star reports. They bring varied skill sets to the floor, which could allow them to complement each other. Turner prefers to shoot jumpers and 3-pointers off of ball screens, while Sabonis rolls to the basket more often and shoots mid-range jumpers, Michael notes. “They’re different in how they play,” coach Nate McMillan said. “Part of it this season was allowing those guys to spend some time on the floor and possibly developing into a spread player at the 4 or the 5, depending on who was guarding who.”

Pacers Notes: Sabonis, Turner, Young, Offseason, Pritchard

With the Pacers eliminated from the postseason, the focus turns to next season and how the team can improve. With several roster options to consider during the offseason, the Pacers figure to weigh the pros and cons of potentially starting both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, Mark Monteith of NBA.com examines.

While neither player is a finished product, both possess attributes that helped Indiana this season. Turner is a good three-point shooter and shot blocker, whereas Sabonis is the better rebounder and mid-range shooter. Although neither player is a traditional center or power forward, team president Kevin Pritchard believes that both Turner and Sabonis can help the team if they are on the floor together.

“Players who play with each other a couple of years, they know where they’re going to be,” Pritchard said. “That makes the game come slower. Domas, the game already comes slow. He can make reads. Myles, he gets a little frantic. And that makes a difference. He’s got to calm down a little bit.”

Check out more Pacers notes below:

  • Both Cory Joseph and Thaddeus Young, who have options in their contracts, could leave Indiana this offseason. However, during his end of season media session, Pritchard indicated that both men expressed interest in returning during their exit meetings, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. Since then, a report has indicated Joseph will pick up his option.
  • Pritchard addressed several aspects of the Pacers’ season in his media session, including the team’s somewhat improbable run to the postseason, roster, and impending offseason decisions, NBA.com’s Mark Monteith writes. “In my 26 years (in the NBA) I’ve never been around a team that brought it like they did this year. They had each other’s backs,” Pritchard said.
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN Insider (subscription required) looked at the Pacers’ impending decisions this summer. Marks examines whether Turner should be signed to a long-term deal, whether the Pacers will keep their roster together, and more.

Pacers Notes: Young, Offseason Outlook, Barton

As we relayed earlier today, Cory Joseph will opt in to his contract for next year, leaving Thaddeus Young as the only Pacers player with a decision to make on a player option for next season. J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star reports that GM Kevin Pritchard indicated in exit meetings that both Joseph and Young would like to return. As it turns out, he was correct on his assessment of Joseph, and we’ll soon find out whether Young will join Joseph in exercising his player option for 2018/19 worth about $13.8MM.

Michael opines that Young will likely opt out of his salary for the opportunity to sign a long-term contract, while Bobby Marks of ESPN estimates that a starting salary for Young on the open market would likely fall short of his salary for next season should he choose to opt in. Per Marks, Young will need to determine whether the future financial security of a long-term contract with a lower annual salary outweighs earning a higher salary for one season. Ultimately, Marks thinks Young will opt in, leaving the Pacers right at the salary cap come this summer.

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Pritchard and the Pacers face an important offseason this summer, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. Gone are the days when the Pacers can sneak up on opponents with their new-found success, with head coach Nate McMillan saying, “We won’t go under the radar, so to speak, next season.”
  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com takes a look at the options facing Pritchard and the Pacers’ front office this offseason. The overarching question that must be answered is whether Indiana will risk their new-found positive locker room culture by bringing significant new players or leave the status quo and rely on improvement from young players such as Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis.
  • As we touched upon a couple of weeks ago, one potential free agent target for the Pacers could be Nuggets swingman Will Barton, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Injury Notes: Curry, Leonard, Porzingis, George

The Warriors will hold Stephen Curry out of action for another week while he recovers from a “tweaked” right ankle, the team announced in a tweet. Curry is making progress with his rehab, according to the Warriors, and will be re-evaluated March 20. That means he will miss at least four more games. Curry has been sidelined since Thursday when he hurt the ankle while being fouled on a layup attempt against the Spurs.

There’s more injury-related news from around the NBA:

  • Kawhi Leonard hasn’t received medical clearance to start playing again, relays Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich remains in daily contact with Leonard and says the team is being careful not to bring him back before he’s fully ready. “He’s got to be cleared by his medical staff that he’s seeing. And until he gets cleared, we can’t make a decision on when he’s coming back,” Popovich said. “So once he gets cleared, then he and I can sit down and talk and see what we think about an appropriate time to come back. But that clearance has to be obtained first.” An earlier report indicated that Leonard might play tomorrow, but San Antonio has ruled that out.
  • Kristaps Porzingis was “shocked” when doctors told him he had torn his left ACL, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Making his first public comments since the injury, the Knicks forward vowed to return to his All-Star level, but isn’t sure when he might start playing again. “I can’t give you anything,’’ Porzingis said. “I have no idea. You should ask the doctor, maybe. And he would tell you something. And myself, I’m just going day by day really, and we’ll see where is the comeback at. There is no timetable for now. It’s pretty far off to put a timetable out there.’’
  • Paul George left last night’s game with a groin injury, but doesn’t expect to miss any time, according to Royce Young of ESPN. George will be re-evaluated today before the Thunder decide whether he can play Friday.
  • X-rays were negative on Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis, who left Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia with a sprained left ankle. He will undergo an MRI when the team returns home.
  • The Lakers are listing Kyle Kuzma as questionable for tonight’s game after he sprained his right ankle Tuesday, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. X-rays taken last night were negative.
  • Larry Nance Jr. left Tuesday’s game early after he tweaked his right hamstring, relays ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link). The Cavaliers center said he’s “absolutely fine” and plans to play tomorrow in Portland.