Dwight Howard

Southeast Notes: McGruder, Butler, Howard, Graham

Rodney McGruder‘s hot start to the new season could affect the Heat’s plans for the trade deadline, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Through seven games, McGruder ranks 16th among small forwards in scoring, 11th in shooting percentage and seventh in 3-point shooting. He will be eligible for an extension through the end of June that could pay as much as $47MM over four seasons.

If they Heat decide to make that commitment, they’ll become more likely to trade other wing players to shed salary. Tyler Johnson and Dion Waiters have been on the market for months, Jackson notes, but other contracts may have to be moved to avoid a substantial luxury tax bill.

Miami has $135.2MM committed to 10 players for 2019/20, assuming Johnson, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic all opt in to their current deals. That puts the Heat above the projected $132MM tax line and doesn’t account for the cost of re-signing Wayne Ellington, who will be a free agent next summer after making $6.3MM this year.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat are willing to continue trade talks for Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler even though their last attempt ended in an angry exchange between the organizations, Jackson adds in the same story. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported today that Minnesota’s asking price for Butler is still high (Twitter link).
  • Dwight Howard is working in the same facility with the Capital City Go Go while rehabbing a strained piriformis muscle, but he has to coordinate his schedule so he doesn’t actually practice with the team, relays Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The NBA doesn’t let its players practice with G League squads, so Howard has been working out with Wizards player development assistants Alex McLean and Mike Williams. He is expected to make his season debut on Friday.
  • Hornets rookie Devonte’ Graham will spend at least two games in the G League, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Head coach James Borrego says he wants to get the young point guard used to a heavy dose of minutes, which he can’t do at the NBA level. “These are critical moments [with the Greensboro Swarm] to go play meaningful 5-on-5 games,” Borrego said. “We can’t replicate that for him right now. And even if I could get him into the game – last night to get him two or three minutes of run – it’s not the same as sending him to Greensboro and playing. I’m excited for him and he’s excited to play.”

Dwight Howard Plans To Make Wizards Debut Friday

Dwight Howard, who signed with the Wizards in July, appears ready to make his debut for his new team, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to Charania, Howard plans to suit up for the Wizards when they host the Thunder this Friday.

Howard, who has been on the shelf so far this season due to an issue with his piriformis muscle, is capable of providing a major boost to a Wizards club that has struggled mightily on defense and on the glass so far this season, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington wrote earlier this week.

Washington has allowed 122.4 points per game and ranks in the NBA’s bottom three in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates. Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, is one of the league’s best rebounders, having averaged 12.5 RPG for Charlotte last season.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • With the Wizards off to a 1-6 start, there have been several theories about why the team has struggled so much to open the season, says ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. According to Windhorst, one theme brought up by a few Wizards players he spoke to was the number of 2019 free-agents-to-be on the roster. Some players may have to recommit to prioritizing the team over individual stats as they approach free agency.
  • History shows that the Wizards’ ugly start doesn’t mean they should throw in the towel on the 2018/19 season, writes Nick Ashooh of NBC Sports Washington. As Ashooh outlines, it was just two years ago that Washington started 2-8 and eventually finished with 49 wins.
  • Acquired in a June trade with the Clippers, Austin Rivers hasn’t made the impact that many predicted he would, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who suggests that Rivers has “appeared lost” while adjusting to his new role and new team.

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.

Eastern Notes: Knicks, Carroll, Bulls, Cavs, Howard

Trey Burke will be the Knicks‘ starting point guard to open the season, but Frank Ntilikina also earned a job in the starting five, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.com. Head coach David Fizdale, who indicated in camp that starting jobs would be based on merit, rewarded Ntilikina for his strong fall, and hopes the decision to bring Kevin Knox off the bench will motivate the rookie (Twitter link via Begley).

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • DeMarre Carroll will undergo a surgical procedure on his injured ankle, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters today (Twitter link via Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily). Atkinson downplayed the seriousness of that procedure, but didn’t offer a timetable for Carroll’s return (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post).
  • The Bulls joined the ever-growing list of NBA teams that wear a sponsored advertisement on their jerseys, announcing on Tuesday that they’ve partnered with eyewear company Zenni Optical, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details. The Bulls and Zenni Optical reached an agreement on a five-year partnership, which will involve various market elements in addition to the new ad patch on Chicago’s uniforms.
  • A pair of Cavaliers trade exceptions expired when they went unused on Monday. The exceptions were modest — one created by trading Richard Jefferson last October was worth $2.5MM, while the other, created by trading Kay Felder, was worth approximately $1.3MM.
  • Although Dwight Howard‘s status for opening night remains unclear, the new Wizards center practiced in full on Monday for the first time, per Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter link).

Eastern Notes: Howard, Trier, Collins, Nance Jr., Taylor

Dwight Howard has been shut down since Oct. 6 after he received a second opinion on a buttocks injury, but he could return to the court for light training on Monday, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes.

Howard, 32, has yet to practice with his new team as the injury has kept him sidelined for all of training camp the preseason. Given that the Wizards‘ regular season begins on Thursday, it’s highly unlikely their center will be ready to go by then. However, Washington’s plan is to make sure the veteran is healthy and ready before he returns to game action, per head coach Scott Brooks.

“We’re in no rush. It’s a long season and we would love to have him,” Brooks said.

Howard averaged 16.6 PPG and 12.5 RPG for the Hornets last season as he appeared in 80-plus games for the first time since 2009/10.

Check out more Eastern Conference notes below:

  • The Knicks will let Allonzo Trier use up all 45 NBA days on his two-way deal in lieu of waiving someone to create room on the 15-man roster, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “We have 45 days of him working with us to figure out what’s the next move,’’  head coach David Fizdale said of the undrafted guard. “We are in the process of working with that and finding the best way to stretch that out. Obviously the kid has shown he’s an NBA basketball player.”
  • The Knicks’ preseason schedule is wrapped up but New York will enter the regular without a defined point guard, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. Frank Ntilikina, Trey Burke and even the aforementioned Trier are all possibilities. “I am definitely undecided going into the first game,” Fizdale said. “I don’t feel a deadline for game one like everybody else does.”
  • Hawks big man John Collins underwent a non-surgical procedure on his injured left ankle on Monday and is scheduled for a re-evaluation on Oct. 22, the team announced. In addition to Collins, the Hawks will likely be without Dewayne Dedmon, Justin Anderson and Daniel Hamilton for the regular-season opener, tweets Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Cavaliers swingman Larry Nance Jr. suffered a right ankle sprain on Thursday and will undergo treatment before being re-evaluated, the team announced. Also, Isaiah Taylor received additional imaging on his left leg that revealed a stress fracture. Taylor could miss upwards of a month, putting his hope of making Cleveland’s roster in jeopardy, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes.

Eastern Notes: Parker, Howard, Irving, Sixers

Things aren’t off to a great start this fall for the Bulls‘ big-name free agent acquisition, Jabari Parker. Head coach Fred Hoiberg adjusted his starting lineup this week, moving Parker to the bench, and it paid dividends in the team’s 104-89 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday, as K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune details. While Hoiberg initially said his new lineup was “just an experiment,” Johnson hears from sources that the coach has had discussions with his staff about whether to move Parker out of the starting lineup, and sounded today like he might be committed to that change.

“With the second unit — and I talked to Jabari about this — we used him in more of a facilitating role and put the ball in his hands as really kind of a point forward. I liked the look of it,” said the Bulls’ head coach, per Johnson. “We’ll continue to evaluate. But I did like the look of both groups.”

Addressing the change on Thursday, Parker – who has started 150 of his 183 career regular season games – didn’t sound overly enthusiastic about coming off the bench for the Bulls. According to Johnson, the former No. 2 overall pick provided a “no comment” when asked if he’d be willing to take whatever role at this stage in his career, and said playing a reserve role would be a “huge adjustment for me.” However, he also added, “I’ve just got to change with the times.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Dwight Howard‘s availability for the Wizards to start the season remains in question. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington wrote earlier this week that Howard had suffered a setback and visited a back specialist, while sources told Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Howard had sustained a piriformis (buttocks) injury. While Howard will reportedly receive an injection to relieve the pain, the injury isn’t considered serious, according to Charania, so Washington should get its big free agent addition on the court before too long.
  • Discussing his decision to ask the Cavaliers for a trade, Kyrie Irving called it the “best thing” he’s done. Howard Beck of Bleacher Report has that quote and much more in an in-depth feature on the Celtics‘ starting point guard.
  • After promoting Elton Brand to general manager last month, the Sixers have named a new interim GM for their G League team, announcing today in a press release that Matt Lilly will serve as head of basketball operations for the Delaware Blue Coats. Brand previously held that position.

Wizards Notes: Meeks, Porter, Howard, Wall

As the season nears, Wizards guard Jodie Meeks is still awaiting word on his suspension appeal, writes Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Meeks was docked 25 games at the end of last season for a reported violation of the NBA’s drug policy. He has already served six games and is hoping to have the penalty reduced. If it isn’t, he won’t be eligible to play until November 26.

“Nothing’s changed,” Meeks said. “I’m preparing like I’m going to play [in] Game 1. So, still in the appeal process. I can’t really talk a whole lot about it, but all I can do is prepare like I’m going to play.”

Meeks signed with the Wizards last summer in hopes of bringing some much-needed firepower to the reserve unit. However, he shot less than 40% from the field and averaged just 6.3 points per game. After testing positive for for ipamorelin and growth hormone-releasing peptide-2, he was forced to miss the playoff series with the Raptors. Meeks contends he’s innocent and filed a formal appeal of the suspension September 13.

There’s more today out of Washington:

  • The Wizards are experimenting with a small-ball lineup that includes Otto Porter at center, Buckner adds in a separate story. Porter has never played the position and doesn’t really have the physique for it at 6’8″ and 205 pounds, but it could become an option in the team’s quest for versatility. “The more playmakers that we can put on the floor, I think it’s going to be better for us,” coach Scott Brooks said. “The league is so small, there’s times you can go with maybe four guards and a big or Otto at the five. There’s all kinds of lineups you can do now.”
  • John Wall‘s recruiting played a role in Dwight Howard‘s decision to join the Wizards, but the center also recognizes the value of winning a title with the franchise instead of joining a team like the Warriors, relays Chase Hughes of NBC Sports“I just think Golden State, they’ve won a couple championships in the past couple of years,” Howard said. “So, me going there and winning it’s like ‘well, you went to a team that’s already won.’  In D.C., I think the last time the Wizards won they were the Bullets if I’m not mistaken. So, I think that impact would be bigger for the city.”
  • Bringing a title to Washington is also a priority for Wall, who tells Hughes in a separate piece that his career would be a “failure” without one.

Southeast Notes: Howard, Satoransky, Hornets, Ellington

It appears new Wizards center Dwight Howard may miss all of training camp, head coach Scott Brooks told reporters, including Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). Brooks had indicated that Howard would miss time as he deals with an ailing back.

Howard, 32, signed with the Wizards in the offseason after he was acquired by the Nets and subsequently bought out. The eight-time All-Star is with his fifth team in seven seasons as he looks to build on a solid season with the Hornets in 2017/18. Playing in over 80 games for the first time since the 2009/10 campaign, Howard averaged 16.6 PPG and 12.5 RPG for Charlotte.

Check out more Southeast notes below:

  • As he enters his third season in the NBA, Wizards point guard Tomas Satoransky knows that nothing is promised as he has seen his role vary each season, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “That’s what these two years have taught me, never be sure of your situation or position,” he said.
  • Tony Parker admitted that it’s weird to don a uniform that isn’t the Spurs’ black and white for the first time in his 17-year NBA career. As Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer writes, Parker will need time to adjust to the Hornets, but this is the role he wanted. “This is a guy who’s a six-time all-star, a four-time NBA champion, been in NBA for 17 years and he’s in a new environment,” head coach James Borrego said. “New head coach. New teammates. New locker room. New city. And now coming off the bench — all that is new for him. … But Tony has bought into this role.”
  • Hornets rookie Devonte’ Graham was acquired by Charlotte from the Hawks after Atlanta selected him in the second round. As he looks to make an impact for the Hornets, he believes that Charlotte is the right place to do that, Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer writes.
  • Wayne Ellington entered free agency this past summer knowing exactly what he wanted and where he wanted to be, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. “I knew what I wanted,” Ellington said. “The Heat have always expressed that they wanted me back.”

Wizards Notes: Leonsis, Howard, Contracts

It’s been a nice year for Wizards‘ owner Ted Leonsis, reports Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The 61-year-old billionaire saw his Capitals win the Stanley Cup in June and the Wizards opened a new practice facility, the St. Elizabeth East Entertainment and Sports Arena, just last week.

So perhaps you can’t blame him when he says that there are “no excuses” for the Wizards anymore and that it’s time for the team to accomplish their goals.

“We need to raise the expectations. We have to make the playoffs. I’d like us to win 50 games. I’d like us to go to the ECF,” Leonsis told Hughes. “We have one of the highest payrolls in the league, beautiful, world-class practice facility. (The Wizards) are healthy entering the year, (so) no excuses. Let’s play ball.”

Leonsis feels that he’s done his part, giving the team the necessary resources to succeed. He also cited the Capitals recent success as proof the Wizards can reach their goals.

“We’ve proven that there is no [D.C. sports] curse,” Leonsis said. “If we are patient and work hard and are committed to continuous improvement than (the Wizards) can win a championship.”

There’s more from D.C. this evening:

  • The AP initially reported that newly-acquired Wizards’ center Dwight Howard may miss the start of training camp with a sore back, and pursuant to a tweet from the team itself, it appears as though Howard did indeed miss the first day of practice, with head coach Scott Brooks telling reporters the veteran center is day-to-day.
  • In another article for NBC Sports Washington, Hughes talks about how the Wizards are set to begin the 2018/19 season with seven players on expiring contracts, yet still believe that the added dynamic will not affect the success of the club, with players understanding that winning will raise each individual player’s value more than individual statistics could.
  • As we relayed last week, the Wizards signed both forward Lavoy Allen and guard Chasson Randle to training camp deals before beginning training camp this week.

Southeast Notes: Borrego, Swarm, Howard, Rivers

New coach James Borrego will emphasize ball movement in an effort to improve a Hornets team that ranked 24th in assists last season, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The former Spurs assistant wants players to make quick decisions with the ball and not let the offense slow down, which led to the trade of Dwight Howard this summer.

“When the ball is just being pounded and one guy has it in his hands for five or six seconds – when we’re just seeing him dance with the ball – the rest of the defense just gets to relax and load up,” Borrego said. “You’re not going to be perfect all the time, but let’s put pressure on the defense constantly. … We demanded it in San Antonio. My job is to sell that to the players to do what’s best for the team.”

Faced with a roster that was hard to revamp because of so many large contracts, new GM Mitch Kupchak hired Borrego to bring a fresh approach to the team, which will include playing at a faster pace. Former Spurs point guard Tony Parker was signed to help implement Borrego’s philosophy on the court, and Nicolas Batum will have a larger role in running the offense while moving from the backcourt to small forward.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets‘ G League affiliate in Greensboro has hired Joe Wolf as its new coach, the team announced on its website. A former assistant with the Nets and Bucks, Wolf comes to the Swarm after serving as an assistant at UNC Wilmington.
  • A pair of Wizards top the list of the list of the most underrated offseason acquisitions compiled by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Howard occupies the No. 1 spot, signing a two-year deal in Washington after being traded by the Hornets and bought out by the Nets. He provides a huge defensive upgrade from Marcin Gortat, O’Connor notes, and could develop into an effective pick-and-roll partner with John Wall. Austin Rivers, who was acquired from the Clippers in the Gortat deal, ranks second on the list and should provide backcourt depth the Wizards have needed behind Wall and Bradley Beal.
  • Wizards rookie Troy Brown has signed a multi-year shoe deal with Nike, tweets Nick DePaula of ESPN.