Elfrid Payton

Southwest Notes: J. Green, J. Jackson, Bickerstaff, Payton

Trading JaMychal Green is the easiest way to open more playing time for rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., writes David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jackson has played well in his first season, but his fourth-quarter minutes have been limited. Green, whose broken jaw early in the season opened the way for Jackson to enter the starting lineup, has quietly accepted a reserve role since returning and is among the most respected veterans in the Grizzlies‘ locker room.

However, Green has an expiring $7.87MM contract and doesn’t seem likely to stay in Memphis as a free agent, Cobb states. With Jackson clearly the team’s power forward of the future, the Grizzlies could pick up at least a draft pick in exchange for Green before the February 7 trade deadline.

Cobb offers a few other suggestions for expanding Jackson’s minutes if they decide to keep Green, including cutting back on playing time for Joakim Noah, who has a negative plus-minus rating in seven of his last eight games, and giving more rest to Marc Gasol, who is averaging 34.6 minutes per night.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The GrizzliesJ.B. Bickerstaff came to Houston as a head coach tonight for the first time since serving as the Rockets‘ interim coach in 2015/16, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Bickerstaff led the team to a 37-34 record that season, but wasn’t retained. “I was here for five years, was a part of some really good teams, got to work with a great coach and friend in Kevin McHale, learned from him every single day, was thrown in the fire a little bit at the interim,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no experience like the experience of being in that seat. My time here, though it ended kind of bumpy, was great for my career, great for me as a coach in learning. And I had some really good times with the people here as well.”
  • The Pelicans had Elfrid Payton in their starting lineup tonight for the first time in more than six weeks. The free agent addition broke his left pinky finger last month and hasn’t played since November 16. Coach Alvin Gentry plans to limit his minutes until he gets back into game shape, tweets Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com.
  • Jordan Greer of The Sporting News looks at six potential targets for the Rockets in their pursuit of wing depth.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Payton, Knight, Walker IV

Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic has drawn comparisons to a young LeBron James early in his rookie season, stuffing the stat sheet and impacting the game on both ends of the floor as the team’s lead player through 33 games.

Doncic, who was drafted by the Mavs with the No. 3 pick in June, has been a prime Rookie of the Year candidate with averages of 19 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 5.1 APG on 43% shooting from the field. The sudden comparisons to a player of James’ caliber have amazed the young star.

“I mean, it’s amazing,” Doncic said of the comparisons, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “You all know that he’s my idol, so it’s just amazing to be there.”

Doncic’s preferred team on draft night was the Mavericks, with agent Bill Duffy making a strong push to land his client in Dallas at the time, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Doncic has quickly become a household name at just 19 years old, working to become the next face of the Mavericks organization.

“He’s made a name for himself,” Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki said. “Any time you’re known by just your first name after just a few months in the league, that’s a great sign.”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton participated in parts of practice Thursday with a splint on his finger, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). Guillory also reports the Pelicans are hopeful Payton can return in the next week, with the 24-year-old rehabbing from a broken finger suffered in November.
  • Brandon Knight is still acclimating to his new situation with the Rockets, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle writes“He’s in a tough spot,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Knight. “He hasn’t played in a year and a half. This is not an experimental league. We don’t really practice. He needs to play, and we’re not in a position to allow that.” Knight has appeared in six games with the Rockets this season.
  • Spurs rookie Lonnie Walker IV continues to have a positive mindset despite not making his season debut yet. Walker has traveled to the Spurs’ G League team and back several times this season, working to improve after tearing his meniscus in the preseason. “Everyone always has higher hopes,” Walker said, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “It’s your rookie season. You can’t compare yourself to other people. It’s a horse race. You’ve got to stay in your own lane. Sooner or later, I see that light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it’s now or next year or my third year, it’s only a matter of time until people understand who Lonnie Walker is. So I’m not (in) too much of a rush. Patience is key.”

Elfrid Payton Expected To Miss About Six Weeks

The Pelicans have confirmed in a press release that point guard Elfrid Payton will undergo surgery to repair his broken left pinky finger, and have provided a recovery timeline. According to the team, Payton is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks.

[RELATED: Elfrid Payton to undergo surgery on broken finger]

Payton, who signed a one-year, $3MM deal with the Pelicans over the offseason, looked like a bargain in the early going, helping lead his new team to four straight wins to open the season. In those four games, he averaged 14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 7.0 APG with a .511/.429/.636 shooting line in 32.0 MPG.

However, Payton left his fifth game early with an ankle sprain, missed New Orleans’ next nine games, then played just eight minutes in his return to action before breaking his finger. The Pelicans are just 5-7 in the games that Payton has missed or departed early.

With Payton sidelined, Jrue Holiday will see more time at the point, with Ian Clark, Tim Frazier, and Frank Jackson also in the mix. The Pelicans have liked to play Holiday off the ball over the last couple years, so it will be interesting to see if the team makes an effort to add another ball-handler in Payton’s absence. New Orleans doesn’t currently have an open roster spot, though one of the club’s two-way slots is available.

If Payton is able to get back on the court exactly six weeks from today, he’d be on track to return on December 31 against Minnesota, having missed 21 more games.

Elfrid Payton To Have Surgery On Broken Pinky

Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton will have surgery next week after breaking his left pinky finger in Friday night’s game, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. A timetable for his return won’t be set until after the operation, adds Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link).

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry confirmed the planned procedure today in a pre-game meeting with reporters.

Payton suffered the injury in the first quarter of his first game back in the lineup after returning from a sprained right ankle that sidelined him for nine games. He was diagnosed with a fractured finger and didn’t return.

Signed as a free agent over the summer, Payton has been limited to six games with the Pelicans, but has been productive when he has been on the court. Even with Friday’s brief action, he is averaging 9.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per night.

And-Ones: Ball Brothers, Payton, G. Green, Draft

Lonzo Ball‘s younger brothers are set to remain stateside after spending a portion of the 2017/18 season in Lithuania. Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) reported earlier this week that LiAngelo Ball has let G League teams know of his intent to sign a contract with the league. The NBAGL formally notifies its teams when a player enters the player pool, and as of this afternoon, there had been no official word on Ball, per Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days (Twitter link). Still, that should happen soon.

Meanwhile, LaMelo Ball, the younger brother of Lonzo and LiAngelo, told Franklyn Calle of Slam that he’ll play high school ball this season. LaMelo, who said that he’s “excited” to return to high school for his senior year, is enrolling at prep school Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, according to Calle.

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

  • Elfrid Payton‘s one-year, $3MM contract with the Pelicans was hardly one of the summer’s major deals, but New Orleans has badly missed Payton while he has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Scott Kushner of The Advocate has the story on the point guard, who was injured during the Pelicans’ first loss of the season and has seen his team go 1-5 since then.
  • After being in camp with the Pelicans this fall, Garlon Green has signed with Russian club Khimki, according to an official announcement from the team (hat tip to Sportando). Green, the younger brother of Rockets swingman Gerald Green, was waived by New Orleans along with Jarrett Jack at the end of the preseason.
  • With the 2018/19 NCAA season underway, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has published his first NBA mock draft for 2019. Meanwhile, Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype identifies several of the top international prospects who could declare for the 2019 draft.

Pelicans Notes: Davis, K. Williams, Payton

During a recent Q&A with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Pelicans big man Anthony Davis said he believes he’s the NBA’s best player. His head coach, Alvin Gentry, agreed with that assessment, telling reporters this week that there’s no one in the NBA that New Orleans would trade Davis for, as Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com writes.

“If you don’t want to call him the best, I call him the most valuable. Because if you can trade him for anybody then he is the most valuable guy in the league,” Gentry said, according to Lopez. “There’s no one in the league we would trade him for. … Not even Beyoncé. [If] we wouldn’t trade him for her, then he’s probably untouchable.”

Davis won’t be eligible for free agency in 2020, but this is crucial year for the franchise, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate, who argues that the outcome of the 2018/19 season will be viewed “entirely through the lens of Davis’ future.” As of July 2019, the Pelicans will have the opportunity to lock up Davis to a long-term contract that could make him the highest-paid player in NBA history, and New Orleans’ top priority over the next year will be to sell him on that extension, Kushner says.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • The Pelicans aren’t panicking after their 0-5 preseason, but there are a few issues – particularly on defense – that need to be addressed as the regular season gets underway, Kushner writes in a separate piece for The Advocate.
  • Most undrafted free agents who sign with NBA teams during the summer end up on two-way contracts or playing for G League affiliates. That makes Kenrich Williams a rarity, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Williams’ contract won’t be fully guaranteed until January 10, so his grip on a roster spot isn’t totally secure, but he’s on the Pelicans’ 15-man squad to start the season.
  • The Pelicans will be expecting a lot out of Elfrid Payton this season, as the young point guard will takes over Rajon Rondo‘s role as the starting point guard. However, the Louisiana native is happy to be home and is downplaying the pressure that comes with filling Rondo’s shoes, per Rod Walker of The Advocate. “The only pressure is the pressure I put on myself to be better than I was last year, to be better than I was yesterday,” Payton said. “Just doing my best to get the best out of everybody in here is the only pressure I put on myself.”

Pelicans Notes: Okafor, Roster Decisions, Payton

The Pelicans only have 12 players on fully guaranteed contracts, leaving three potential openings on their 15-man regular season roster. However, it sounds like one of those three spots has already been claimed. According to Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link), Jahlil Okafor is a virtual lock to end up on the 15-man squad.

Okafor, who joined the Pelicans this summer after stints in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, injured his ankle last week, but head coach Alvin Gentry suggested that the ailment wouldn’t prevent him from making New Orleans’ roster. Kushner cautions that it’s not quite a done deal yet, but Okafor’s spot appears safe for now.

Here’s more from out of New Orleans:

Pelicans Notes: Davis, Jack, Payton, Randle

In a piece by Brett Martel of the Associated Press, Pelicans star power forward Anthony Davis dismissed the idea that his decision to hire Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul as new representation meant he was setting the stage for a departure from the Big Easy.

That being said, Davis can reach the free agent market in two years and has increasing leverage to control where he plays, so it’s understandable that Pelicans’ fans seemed to become a little paranoid when Davis made a change, especially after Chris Paul left New Orleans in his prime shortly after he changed agents.

“It was just for where I am right now in my career — what I’m trying to do — I thought the change was necessary,” Davis said Monday during media day. “That’s all it was… I’m (in New Orleans). I want to focus on winning this year with the squad that we have. We have a good squad.”

There’s more out of New Orleans:

  • In some interesting but not so pressing news, Will Guillory of The Athletic relays that newly-acquired veteran point guard Jarrett Jack has interest in becoming a coach after he retires.
  • In a full article for The Athletic, Guillory asks whether free agent acquisition, point guard Elfrid Payton, can overtake Rajon Rondo‘s role with the team and excel in head coach Alvin Gentry‘s guard-friendly, up-tempo system.
  • Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com writes that Davis and fellow Kentucky alum Julius Randle are very excited to share the court together this season after mostly competing against each other in pick-up games all summer.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Pelicans, Anderson, Mavericks

Jimmy Butler may be the next star to be traded, but Anthony Davis won’t be joining him, according to Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Appearing on a podcast with Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports, Bontemps said there’s a “zero percent chance” the Pelicans will part with Davis this season [hat tip to Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype).

Next summer, Davis will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract that could become the richest deal in NBA history, Bontemps explains. It’s possible that a trade involving Davis could happen in a few years if he decides he’s not happy in New Orleans or doesn’t view the team as a contender, but Bontemps said he won’t go anywhere until he has that contract in hand.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • This Pelicans‘ roster turnover this summer may present the biggest challenges on defense, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate. New Orleans got noticed for its fast pace last season, but one of the overlooked factors in its success was team defense, which was fourth best in the league after February 1 at 103.4 points per 100 possessions. Davis and Jrue Holiday were first-team All-Defense honorees, but newcomers Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton, who both had negative defensive efficiency numbers last season, have to prove that they contribute at that end of the court.
  • The decision to gamble on former Spurs forward Kyle Anderson may help decide Chris Wallace’s future as GM of the Grizzlies, suggests Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Huge contracts for Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons were already straining the team’s cap when Wallace decided to extend a four-year, $37.2MM offer sheet to Anderson. San Antonio elected not to match, so Anderson will be in Memphis’ training camp next week as its top free agent addition of the summer. It’s a huge risk based on Anderson’s career numbers, which included a career-high 7.9 PPG and 5.4 RPG last season. Giannotto states that the Grizzlies should look to replace Wallace if it doesn’t work out.
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at some of the key figures in the Mavericks‘ workplace misconduct case, which resulted in a settlement that was announced today.

Pelicans Still In Need Of A Wing Player?

A bigger issue with the Pelicans this upcoming season may be the absence of a reliable player on the wing rather than the loss of Rajon Rondo or DeMarcus Cousins, as newcomers Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton are capable of replicating their production, at least in part, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate.

Kushner opines that nobody on the Pelicans’ roster is capable of being a solid “3-and-D” player, as Solomon Hill has struggled to recover from a torn hamstring and E’Twaun Moore, limited by his 6’4” frame, has been asked to play against players much taller than him and seemingly taken out of his comfort zone as a result.

“If it was up to me — it doesn’t really matter as long as I stay on the floor and help my team win — but I would like to say that maybe I hopefully could be playing a little bit more guard (this season),” Moore said. “Last year, I was more of a wing, but it worked out well for the team because we played so fast. But it would be kind of cool to be going back to being a guard again.”

So, the Pelicans will now hold a three-man competition between Troy Williams, Garlon Green, and Kenrich Williams in order to find someone who may be able to crack the team’s wing rotation this season.

The Pelicans could also be active around midseason, as they were when they acquired Cousins in 2017 and Nikola Mirotic last season. But for now, they’ll rely on MVP-candidate Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Randle and Mirotic, which should be enough to keep them in the Western Conference playoff race.