Ekpe Udoh

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Diallo, Udoh, Thomas

Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey doesn’t seem inclined to break up his smallish backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports notes. Olshey recently said he plans to keep his core group together, despite the team’s first-round flameout in the Western Conference playoffs last season. It might be wise to deal one of them for an impact forward but either Olshey has great faith in his guards or he’s tested the market and couldn’t find a worthwhile deal, Feldman adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Hamidou Diallo feels a sense of relief after signing a contract with the Thunder but isn’t sure what kind of role he can carve out, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman reports. The second-round rookie shooting guard was acquired in a draft-night deal. “We haven’t even spoken about a role yet,” Diallo told Dawson. “We’re still playing pickup ball and stuff like that, still training. Guys are just coming in, veteran players, and trying to teach us as much as possible as early as possible.” Diallo, who received a three-year, $4MM contract, will compete with newcomers Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Abdel Nader for backup minutes.
  • The Jazz brought back big man Ekpe Udoh because of his defense and positive attitude, according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune. Udoh was signed by Utah last season because of his reputation as a strong defender and he lived up to that billing, posting an average of 1.2 blocks per game. He also showed a superior ability to guard on the perimeter during switches and pick-and-rolls, Jones continues. Udoh, who will serve as the team’s third center, never complained last season when his role diminished, Jones adds. Udoh had his $3.36MM salary guaranteed last month.
  • Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas had to settle for a one-year, $2MM contract in free agency but he’s determined to be a major bargain for his new team, as he told Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports“This has been tough, but it was only a tough year because I wasn’t healthy. My job is to get as healthy as I possibly can and then show the world what I’m capable of doing,” he said.

Jazz To Guarantee Ekpe Udoh’s 2018/19 Salary

The Jazz have informed center Ekpe Udoh and his representatives that they intend to keep him on their roster, guaranteeing his salary for the 2018/19 season, league sources tell Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Udoh, 31, returned to the NBA in 2017 after a two-season absence, inking a two-year deal with the Jazz. However, that contract was only guaranteed for the first year. Utah could have avoided the second-year guarantee for Udoh by waiving him today. Instead, his $3.36MM salary will become guaranteed.

Udoh didn’t have a significant role with the Jazz in 2017/18, averaging just 12.6 MPG in 63 contests. However, he showed off his impressive shot-blocking ability in those limited minutes, posting 1.2 BPG. As Jones writes, the big man also provided veteran leadership to younger teammates in the locker room.

With Udoh set to return, Utah’s roster for 2018/19 is all but set, according to Jones. The Jazz entered the offseason with seven players on guaranteed contracts. They’ve subsequently drafted Grayson Allen, re-signed Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, and Raul Neto, and guaranteed salaries for Thabo Sefolosha and Udoh.

Royce O’Neale‘s non-guaranteed salary is also a lock to be guaranteed, which increases the club’s roster count to 14 players, leaving one spot on the projected 15-man roster. For now, David Stockton occupies that spot, but he also doesn’t have a guaranteed salary. If the Jazz do add a 15th man in Stockton’s place, it figures to be a younger player, sources tell Jones.

Georges Niang, who is a two-way restricted free agent for the team, could be a candidate for that last roster spot based on his Summer League play so far.

Northwest Notes: Udoh, Thunder, Tolliver, Blazers

The Jazz have been relatively generous during free agency so far this summer compared to most teams, handing out a two-year, $36MM contract to forward Derrick Favors, agreeing to a three-year, $33MM deal with backup guard Dante Exum, and reaching terms on a two-year, $4MM pact with seldom-used guard Raul Neto.

Furthermore, Utah has already guaranteed the 2018/19 salary of Thabo Sefolosha, who was limited to only 39 games last season. As such, it would appear that the Jazz are intent on sticking with their 2017/18 roster for now, which means that both Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh can be cautiously optimistic while waiting for their 2018/19 salary to become guaranteed.

Udoh in particular, who averaged 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 63 games for the Jazz last season, and whose $3.36MM salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on Utah’s roster past July 9, is trying to remain positive while awaiting Utah’s decision on his future, writes Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News.

“You know, we’ll see what happens,” Udoh told the Deseret News. “I’m grateful. I’m getting great workouts at the facility. I’ve been here pretty much since the season has been over outside of a couple trips, but I’ve just been getting in good work.”

Per Woodyard, Udoh is excited and prepared to return in a Jazz uniform next season, but also understands the business-like nature of the NBA.

“It’s gonna be a fun season,” Udoh said. “The West has gotten better but we’ve gotten better and we’re gonna be the same team next year. Starting last year, you didn’t know what you were going to get with so many new pieces, but now we’ll be ready from the beginning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes that although Paul George did in fact want to be a Laker at this time last year, he is now happy in Oklahoma City after signing a four-year, $137MM max contract with the Thunder on the eve of free agency.
  • According to Jerry Zgoda of the Star TribuneTimberwolves’ free-agent signee forward Anthony Tolliver chose a return to Minnesota over four other pursuing teams because of the familiarity he has for the franchise – he played for the Wolves from 2010 to 2012 – and because “(he) want(s) to win.”
  • While it’s probably a bit bold to get too excited about the free agent signing of a backup, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes that the addition of 24 year-old center Nerlens Noel on a minimum-salary deal is a low-risk, high-reward move by the Thunder.
  • Per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, a couple of key subplots have emerged for the Trail Blazers during the team’s summer league minicamp. First, it’s an opportunity for Portland to get a first-hand look at rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. in an NBA practice. Moreover, both Wade Baldwin and Georgios Papagiannis are fighting for their NBA lives while Jake Layman looks to secure a more prominent role for next season.

Jazz Notes: Team Options, Coaching Staff, Williams-Goss

The Jazz will look internally to improve over the course of the upcoming offseason rather than chase major acquisitions via trade of free agency, general manager Dennis Lindsey said. Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News writes that there are plenty of players on board with room to grow.

Not only will Jazz fans wait with anticipation as Donovan Mitchell rounds out his game for his sophomore season but for returning veterans like Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio to raise theirs for 2018/19, too.

All told, even without making a major transaction splash, it’s conceivable that the vastly improved Jazz take another leap forward next season. Not bad considering that they won’t have the luxury of picking in the lottery this year given their success.

McDonalds writes that one area that the club should be particularly focused on improving is offensive production off the bench. Outside of oft-injured guard Dante Exum there aren’t many players on the current roster who pack a strong scoring punch off the bench.

There’s more out of Utah tonight:

  • When free agency resumes, the Jazz will have to make decisions on three veteran players. Jody Genessy of The Deseret News writes that all of Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko have team options in their contracts for 2018/19 and will have to wait until July before they find out whether they’ll be back on board for next season.
  • Despite the loss of assistant coach Igor Kokoskov, who will serve as the head coach of the Suns in 2018/19, the impression for now is that the Jazz will return the same coaching staff next season, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune tweets.
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Nigel Williams-Goss, selected by the Jazz with the 55th pick in 2017, has drawn attention from a number of EuroLeague teams for next season, Orazio Cauchi of Sportando writes.

Jazz Notes: Favors, Sefolosha, Jerebko, Udoh

A summer decision on Derrick Favors will shape the Jazz roster going forward, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN. Favors, who has spent more than seven years in Utah, will be an unrestricted free agent after earning $12MM this season. The team received offers for him at the trade deadline, according to Marks, but never came close to pulling the trigger.

Favors played 77 games this year after battling injuries the past two seasons and raised his numbers in points, rebounds and blocks. He was an effective fill-in for Rudy Gobert while the starting center missed 26 games with knee injuries.

The market may work against Favors, Marks cautions, because few teams have significant money to spend and the draft appears to be loaded with big men. He sees a compromise that would keep Favors in Utah for $45MM over three seasons with a 2020/21 player option. Marks notes that would allow the Jazz to use their full mid-level exception on another player – or players – without going over the luxury tax.

There’s more from Utah on the first day of the offseason:

  • The Jazz also face decisions on three non-guaranteed contracts, Marks adds in the same story. After free agent Gordon Hayward left for Boston last summer, Utah signed three veterans — Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh — without the guarantee of a second season. Marks states that their fates will be determined by the free agency pool at their positions, the need to open roster spots and the anticipated cost of keeping Favors. Jerebko and Udoh were barely used in the playoffs, while Sefolosha missed the end of the season with a knee injury and will start next year with a five-game suspension.
  • After becoming a surprising Rookie of the Year candidate, “nonstop work” is on Donovan Mitchell‘s agenda for the summer, relays Christopher Kamrani of The Salt Lake Tribune. Mitchell had his left foot in a walking boot during today’s exit interview, a result of an injury that forced him out of Tuesday’s closeout game with the Rockets. “He’s special because he has that look in him that he wants to be the best,” teammate Ricky Rubio said. “You either have it or you don’t have it. He has something. We can enjoy it.”
  • The Jazz plan to use their system as a selling point to free agents this summer, according to Royce Young and Tim MacMahon of ESPN. The pitch will be that players will be put into a role where they can excel, just as Joe Ingles has.
  • Links to today’s exit interviews are available on the Jazz website.

Jazz Notes: Udoh, Exum, Ingles

The Jazz have been impressed with the production they’ve seen out of backup big man Ekpe Udoh, Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News writes. The 30-year-old returned to the NBA this offseason after spending the last two campaigns abroad.

It’s great, when I’m on the bench, I’m able to relax,” Rudy Gobert, the man ahead of Udoh in the depth chart, said. “When you have someone who plays defense like he does, you know the team is in good hands. He makes us better as a team.

Through five games this season, Udoh has blocked an impressive 2.4 shots per. Gobert, perhaps the league’s most vaunted defensive big man, has averaged just 2.2 despite playing nearly 20 more minutes per contest.

It’s not just the gaudy per-36 statline that has the Jazz organization impressed. Head coach Quin Snyder sees Udoh’s length and competitiveness as valued intangibles as well.

There’s more news out of Utah:

Ekpe Udoh Returning To NBA, Signs With Jazz

July 20: The signing is official, according to NBA.com.

July 13: Former lottery pick Ekpe Udoh is headed back to the NBA, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who tweets that the big man has agreed to a two-year, $6.5MM deal with the Jazz. Udoh’s agreement with Utah was first reported by international outlet SDNA.

Udoh was the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft, but failed to develop as hoped in the NBA for the Warriors, Bucks, and Clippers. Appearing in 270 regular season games from 2010 to 2015, the 6’10” center averaged a modest 4.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 1.2 BPG.

In 2015, Udoh headed to Turkey and joined Fenerbahce, with whom he has spent the last two years. The 30-year-old’s play for Fenerbahce helped the club claim back-to-back Turkish League championships. The team was also the EuroLeague champion this year, with Udoh earning All-EuroLeague First Team honors — he was also named 2017’s EuroLeague Final Four MVP.

Upon returning stateside, Udoh will join a Jazz frontcourt that will also be adding Jonas Jerebko, who agreed to terms with the club on Wednesday. They’ll join a rotation currently led by Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors up front.

In addition to reaching deals with Jerebko and Udoh, the Jazz also agreed to sign Thabo Sefolosha this week, so it looks like the team will probably dip under the cap to finalize their new signings. It also appears likely that Boris Diaw will be waived before his salary guarantee date this weekend, though Utah continues to explore trade possibilities.

And-Ones: Udoh, Competitive Balance, Fegan, Barry

Milos Teodosic (CSKA), Ekpe Udoh (Fenerbahce), and Aaron Jackson (CSKA) are among the Euroleague Final Four participants who expect to receive NBA interest and could pursue opportunities stateside this offseason, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (via Twitter).

Teodosic has been mentioned throughout the year as a Euroleague star who expects to make the leap to the NBA for 2017/18, but Udoh is another interesting name. A former sixth overall pick, Udoh struggled during his initial five-year stint in the NBA, but has blossomed into a more effective player in Turkey, averaging 12.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 2.2 BPG in 31 Euroleague contests in 2016/17. Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress took a closer look at Udoh’s game and his stock after his MVP performance at the Euroleague Final Four.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NBA:

  • In an interesting piece for SI.com, Lee Jenkins examines how last summer’s salary cap spike affected the NBA’s desire for competitive balance. “We were all thrilled at first,” one GM said. “It’s like if somebody gives you a $20 bill. That’s great, right? You can go into the free-agent market and bid on players you wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. And then you realize, Wait a minute, everybody else got this $20 bill too. So while I might be able to use my $20 bill on Ian Mahinmi or Chandler Parsons or Evan f—— Turner, the best team in the league, the team that went 73–9, the team that can guarantee multiple championships, they can use their $20 bill on Kevin Durant. The spike took average teams and made them marginally better. It took one great team and made them historic.”
  • Despite the Warriors‘ and Cavaliers‘ recent dominance, commissioner Adam Silver isn’t concerned about the NBA becoming a two-team league, and says both squads have a long ways to go before they can legitimately be considered dynasties. ESPN.com passes along Silver’s quotes on that subject, along with his thoughts on Lonzo Ball‘s father, LaVar Ball.
  • Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal provides an update on the legal battle between longtime NBA agent Dan Fegan and his former employer, Independent Sports & Entertainment. According to Mullen, a federal judge denied Fegan’s motion to dismiss ISE’s case against him, sending it back to state court. Fegan has been accused of operating a side business when he worked for ISE.
  • Former Florida guard Canyon Barry comes from a prolific basketball family, but if he’s not able to make it to the NBA, Barry has a pretty solid backup plan, which involves finishing his master’s degree in nuclear engineering. Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, who notes that Barry worked out for the Knicks on Tuesday, spoke to the young prospect about his NBA aspirations.

Ekpe Udoh Weighing Return To NBA

Five years after being selected sixth overall in the 2010 draft, Ekpe Udoh spent the 2015/16 away from the NBA, playing overseas with Fenerbahce Istanbul. However, Udoh is contemplating returning to the NBA for the 2016/17 campaign.

According to Shams Charania of The Vertical, Udoh is weighing interest from six NBA teams, and has also received offers from two European powerhouses, Fenerbahce and CSKA Moscow. The 29-year-old big man is expected to make a decision on his next destination early on in the July free agent period.

In 270 career games with the Warriors, Bucks, and Clippers from 2010 to 2015, Udoh averaged just 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per contest, battling injuries along the way. With a career .429 FG%, the former No. 6 overall pick was never overly efficient on offense, and wasn’t an elite defender, but he feels as though his season with Fenerbahce was “critical” for allowing him to evolve and grow, as he tells Charania.

“It’s definitely a possibility to come back to the NBA,” Udoh said. “I can see myself fitting back today. I have lowered my weight to 240, so I’m even more mobile. I protect the rim, get out in transition and I’m able to play with any team and guard one through five. That was a big focal point around the NBA this past season, finishing off the pick-and-roll or hitting the open man. I can fit back in the NBA with whatever decision that I make.”

And-Ones: Kalamian, Labissiere, Van Gundy, Udoh

Raptors assistant Rex Kalamian has turned down offers from the Rockets and Wizards and will remain in Toronto, tweets TNT’s David Aldridge. Kalamian just completed his first season with the Raptors after six years in Oklahoma City. A 20-year veteran, he has also been on the bench with the Clippers, Nuggets, Timberwolves and Kings.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Kentucky big man Skal Labissiere made an impression at the Relativity Sports Pro Day this afternoon at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Labissière now has workouts and meetings scheduled with nearly every team that owns a top 10 draft pick.
  • This marks Jeff Van Gundy’s 10th year as a broadcaster for the NBA Finals, and it seems unlikely he will ever return to coaching, writes Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. Van Gundy was considered as a candidate for the Rockets‘ job that eventually went to Mike D’Antoni, but he and the team never formally discussed the position. After a decade away from coaching, Van Gundy admits a return would be difficult. “You don’t have the same feel for guys that you didn’t coach against or coach yourself. It’s not the same,” he said. “You can watch the games on TV, you can study in that way, but if you’re not competing against people, it’s hard to know as much as you do when you’re coaching.”
  • Isaiah Cousins will work out for the Clippers on Monday and the Lakers on Wednesday, tweets Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. Zagoria hears the Oklahoma point guard’s “stock is rising.”
  • Iona guard A.J. English has workouts set for this week with the Bulls, Magic and Raptors, Zagoria tweets.
  • Former NBA player Ekpe Udoh is free to leave his Fenerbahce team in Turkey, according to Orazio Cauchi of Sportando. The 29-year-old Udoh’s last NBA experience came in 2014/15 with the Clippers“We will keep the roster intact. Only Udoh is waiting for the NBA,” said Fenerbahce president Aziz Yildirim. “He was afraid because of the attack which happened in Antep. There are 51% chances for him to stay. We will add two more players to that roster and we will keep all others.”