Enes Kanter

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Stotts, Offseason

Earlier today, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Trail Blazers are expected to sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension that would lock him up for four additional seasons beyond the end of his current contract.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst covered the same subject in his own article this morning, pointing out that the uncertain ownership situation in Portland is a potential wild card for Lillard and the Blazers. However, even though the star point guard would remain eligible to sign a super-max extension in 2020, he’s “at ease” with the ownership situation and is open to signing that new deal this offseason, sources tell Windhorst.

While Trail Blazers ownership – headed by Jody Allen, the sister of late owner Paul Allen – appears set to commit big money to Lillard, it’s unclear whether the team will continue to authorize future luxury-tax spending, Windhorst writes. For now, those in the organization have been informed that no short-term changes to spending are anticipated.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Terry Stotts‘ contract situation will be worth watching closely this offseason, as 2019/20 is the final year of his current deal. Sources tell Chris Haynes that Stotts wasn’t pleased about not being extended a year ago, so the team will likely have to put an extension on the table now in order to get him back for next season. Head of basketball operations Neil Olshey, who has two years left on his contract, may have earned an extension as well, Windhorst writes.
  • In his preview of the Trail Blazers’ offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) explains why it will be tricky for the team to retain role players like Rodney Hood, Enes Kanter, and Seth Curry, and points out that CJ McCollum will be extension-eligible too.
  • Sean Deveney of Sporting News previews Portland’s upcoming summer as well, exploring whether the club can find a way to take another leap forward in 2019/20.
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic rounded up some post-game reactions from Blazers players on Monday, and took a look back at what was a memorable 2018/19 season for the franchise. “In the past few years, I’ve been much more like … hurt,” Lillard said, following Portland’s elimination. “Right now, a lot of the things that happened … like, I know how we lost. And not dominating how I would have liked to is disappointing. But to be where we are now — one of the final four teams — it doesn’t hurt as bad.”

Northwest Notes: Kanter, Wolves, Nuggets

While the Trail Blazers and Raptors are underdogs in their respective conference finals, there’s still a chance that the two teams will meet in the NBA Finals. And if that happens, Portland wants to make sure it will have Enes Kanter available in road games.

With that in mind, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden wrote a letter this week to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, requesting that Canada facilitate “safe passage” for Kanter for any potential games in Toronto, per ESPN’s Royce Young.

A vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kanter is no longer welcome in his home country, with Turkish prosecutors reportedly seeking his extradition. Turkey, which previously revoked Kanter’s passport, is said to be seeking an Interpol “red notice” for the Trail Blazers center, whose ability to travel outside of America has become extremely limited.

While it’s unlikely that both Portland and Toronto advance to the NBA Finals, this would be a situation worth keeping an eye on in that scenario.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Within an in-depth look at the Timberwolves‘ newly-launched head coaching search, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports that the team hadn’t reached out to Dave Joerger about the job, as of Tuesday afternoon. A Minnesota native, Joerger was speculatively linked to the Wolves’ job even before he was dismissed by Sacramento.
  • PJ Washington (Kentucky), Kevin Porter Jr. (USC), and Romeo Langford (Indiana) are among the players who will meet with the Timberwolves this week at the draft combine, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.
  • Matt Schubert of The Denver Post identifies a few players who might be free agent targets for the Nuggets this summer. While Denver will be able to open up some cap room, the team is unlikely to have more than about $18MM available even without Paul Millsap on the books. As such, some of Schubert’s proposed targets – including Khris Middleton – may be long shots.
  • Myles Powell (Seton Hall) has auditioned for the Thunder and has additional workouts on his schedule, sources tell Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter link).

Terry Stotts Says Jokic Elbow Was “Uncalled For”

The Trail Blazers are upset about an elbow from Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in Friday’s four-overtime game that aggravated Enes Kanter‘s left shoulder injury, relays Royce Young of ESPN. Kanter said his shoulder was separated “more” during the game and blames a shot from Jokic that he posted on social media following the game (Twitter link).

Portland coach Terry Stotts addressed the situation today, saying it was “uncalled for” and he “certainly didn’t approve of it.” He isn’t sure if the NBA plans to review the play for possible disciplinary action against Jokic. Technical or flagrant fouls can be handed out retroactively, Young notes.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone defended his star center and disagreed with Stotts’ view of the incident.

“Normal play,” Malone said. “I think Terry is off base there. Personally, I don’t think it was anything malicious. Just like some of their screens in the first two games, I don’t think there was anything malicious to it — with Kanter getting tossed into Torrey Craig. This is the playoffs. We’re all big boys, let’s go out and play the game accordingly.

“I have known Nikola Jokic for four years. He doesn’t have that kind of personality, he doesn’t have that DNA gene where he’s going to go out there and make non-basketball plays and try to hurt anybody or do anything that is beyond the limits of what is sportsmanship and what is not sportsmanship. So I would definitely not agree with Terry’s assessment.”

Kanter separated his shoulder in the final game of the first-round series against the Thunder. Despite playing in pain, he logged 56 minutes last night and posted 18 points and 15 rebounds.

Kanter said after the game that he had to tuck his left arm in his jersey because he was unable to lift it. He received treatment from the team’s medical staff today and his status for tomorrow’s Game 4 remains uncertain.

Enes Kanter Aggravates Separated Left Shoulder

Blazers center Enes Kanter aggravated his injured left shoulder in the team’s Game 3 win over Denver on Friday night (well, some could argue Saturday morning), telling reporters after the contest that he believes he separated the shoulder “more.”

Kanter logged 56 minutes in the first quadruple overtime playoff game since 1953, finishing with 18 points, 15 rebounds and three steals. He was listed as questionable entering the series due to the injury, also suffering a hand contusion in the first half of Game 2.

“First overtime, I think I separated my shoulder more,” Kanter said, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton. “I had to tuck my arm into my jersey because I couldn’t carry my arm. I’m glad we got a win, man. Whatever it takes. You’ve got to sacrifice everything. I’m proud of my teammates.”

Kanter will receive treatment between now and Sunday’s Game 4 and plans to play through the injury, though his official status for the contest has yet to be announced by the team. He first suffered the shoulder injury in Portland’s series-clinching Game 5 win against the Thunder last round.

“Sometimes you’ve got to make some sacrifices to get a win,” Kanter said. “I’ll get some painkillers for the next game. I hope I can play. But I’ll be fine.”

Kanter was a major free agent acquisition for the Blazers this season, filling in for the injured Jusuf Nurkic as starting center throughout the playoffs. He’s averaged 15.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and one steal in eight postseason games and will become a free agent on July 1.

Portland must win Game 4 in order to protect home court advantage in the series, with the prospect of heading back to Denver tied 2-2 looming should they lose on Sunday.

Enes Kanter Could Miss Conference Semifinals With Shoulder Injury

As the Trail Blazers prepare for the next round of the playoffs, the team may be without center Enes Kanter, who suffered a separated shoulder in Game 5 against the Thunder.

Kanter played through the injury, notching 13 points and 13 rebounds in the win. However, it’s uncertain whether the injury will heal to the point of the Turkish center being able to play through it, per The Associated Press.

“I think the Blazers are doing a very good job taking care of it. But, I mean obviously, I’m not going to lie, it hurts pretty bad,” Kanter said. “I mean I’m having a hard time changing my shirt or eating food. So it’s a process. We’re just taking it day by day, see how it feels.”

In five games against Oklahoma City, Kanter averaged 13.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG for Portland. It has been a season revival of sorts for Kanter, who was waived by the Knicks in February after a tumultuous run in New York.

Portland awaits the winner of the Spurs vs. Nuggets series in the next round. Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts hopes an extended break for Kanter — given Portland being the first team to advance — helps him recover for the next round.

“I know it’s too early,” Stotts said. “The good thing is we don’t play until Monday, so we don’t really have to make any decisions until then. So we’re hopeful.”

Injury Updates: Brogdon, Smart, Kanter, Scott, Anunoby

The Celtics and Bucks will each be without key guards when their second round series gets underway on Sunday, according to reports.

For the Bucks, Malcolm Brogdon has been ruled out for the first two games of the series, with the team planning on re-assessing him before Game 3, per Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Brogdon, who put up a 50/40/90 shooting line for Milwaukee this season, has been sidelined since March 15 due to a foot injury.

On the other side, Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who remains on the shelf due to a torn oblique, won’t play this weekend, per president of basketball operations Danny Ainge (Twitter link via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston). In fact, Ainge said the defensive specialist will be a long shot to return next weekend too. When he first suffered the injury on April 7, Smart was given a recovery timeline of 4-6 weeks, so he remains at risk of missing the entire second round.

Here are a few more injury updates for the teams that have advanced to the second round:

  • The status of Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, who reportedly suffered a separated shoulder against Oklahoma City, remains uncertain, says Anne M. Peterson of The Associated Press. Although he participated in practice today, Kanter said afterward that he was in pain, adding that he’s taking his recovery day by day.
  • Asked whether he’s planning for Mike Scott to be available in Game 1 vs. the Raptors, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he’s not, according to Rich Hofmann of The Athletic (Twitter link). Scott, who is battling a right heel bruise and plantar fasciitis, is an important part of a thin Philadelphia bench, so he’ll be missed if he can’t go.
  • The Raptors will also be without a rotation player to start their series against the Sixers, as OG Anunoby remains out of action after undergoing an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago, tweets ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Having ruled out Anunoby indefinitely, the Raptors have given no hints about when the second-year forward might be able to return.

Western Notes: Morris, Fournier, Kanter, Booker

Celtics forward Marcus Morris believes Thunder coach Billy Donovan made a big mistake by using his brother Markieff Morris sparingly during their playoff series against Portland, Jay King of The Athletic reports.

Markieff Morris chose to play with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with New Orleans, which acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. Markieff played just four minutes in Game 5 and between 13 and 15 minutes in the other games of the series won by the Trail Blazers, 4-1.

“I’m not a coach or anything like that, but I feel like they just didn’t utilize their bench enough. I feel like my brother went over there for no reason,” Marcus said. “He never got an opportunity to play. I thought that he would really help them in the playoffs, but from what I seen he should have went somewhere else just to be able to show that veteran leadership and that experience.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers made an offer for Magic swingman Evan Fournier that Orlando passed on prior to the trade deadline, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets. Portland was willing to ship a roster player and a protected first-rounder for Fournier, who will make $17MM next season and holds a player option on his $17MM salary for the 2020/21 season.
  • Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter played with a separated left shoulder in Game 5, Kevin Pelton of ESPN reports. Kanter suffered the injury during the opening quarter but managed to play 32 minutes. He received a pain-killing injection at halftime. Kanter averaged 13.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG in the series as the primary replacement for injured Jusuf Nurkic. Portland would have to rely more on Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard in the conference semifinals if Kanter is forced to miss any games.
  • Suns star guard Devin Booker had no input in the firing of coach Igor Kokoskov, GM James Jones told the Arizona Republic’s Katherine Fitzgerald and other media members. “I speak to Devin, I speak to all of our players, about our organization. But in these instances, this isn’t a decision for Devin to make. This is my decision,” Jones said. That’s curious, since Booker indicated after signing his five-year maximum salary extension that he’d have a say in all major moves going forward.  I think it’s a collective agreement. Moving forward, throwing in any advice I can, stay in the loop and watch what’s going on and know what’s going on,” Booker said last month.
  • The Rockets held a predraft workout on Wednesday that included Mississippi guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, Washington guard Jalyen Nowell and Campbell guard Chris Clemons, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.  Houston does not currently own a pick in this year’s draft. Nowell is the highest-ranked prospect among the trio, as he’s ranked No. 87 by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Northwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Northwest Division:

Isaiah Thomas, Nuggets, 30, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2018
The sad and swift decline in Thomas’ career hit a new low a couple of weeks ago when the veteran was informed by Nuggets coach Michael Malone he would not be in the rotation going forward. Thomas didn’t even make his season debut until mid-February due to his hip condition. He has only seen action in one game since March 8 — a scoreless seven-minute stint in Boston, where his career peaked two seasons ago when he averaged 28.9 PPG. Thomas will probably have to settle for another one year, “show me” contract this summer.

Tyus Jones, Timberwolves, 22, PG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $6.54MM deal in 2015
Jones has received steady playing time since late February and is now the starter by default with Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose out for the rest of the season. He isn’t much of a scoring threat but he rarely turns the ball over. He’s averaging less than one turnover per game in 25.8 MPG this month. Teague has a $19MM option on his contract for next season and is expected to exercise it, so Jones’ starting gig probably won’t last. The Timberwolves can make Jones a restricted free agent by extending a qualifying offer of $3.57MM and that seems likely, given his age and steady hand at the point.

Markieff Morris, Thunder, 29, SF/PF (Down) — Signed to a one-year, $573K deal in 2019
The above salary figure doesn’t reflect that Morris was making $8.6MM before he was traded by the Wizards to the Pelicans, who waived him. He seemed to be walking into a good situation with a playoff-bound team but hasn’t made much of an impact. He’s averaging 6.0 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 15.9 MPG in 17 appearances with Oklahoma City. He played just seven scoreless minutes against Indiana on Wednesday. Morris brings enough to the table to be a rotation piece but it’s increasing unlikely he’ll get a starter-level offer on the open market.

Enes Kanter, Trail Blazers, 26, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $653K deal in 2019
Jusuf Nurkic‘s gruesome leg injury changes the outlook for Kanter in the short- and long-term. He’ll suddenly be playing heavy minutes for Portland, which signed him as a backup after the Knicks reached a buyout agreement with him on his $18.6MM salary this season. A productive postseason by Kanter should enhance his prospects as an unrestricted free agent. He’s not going to make anyone’s All-Defense team but he’s a double-double machine when he plays half the game. While it seems Kanter has been around for awhile, he’s still only 26 and in the prime of his career.

Derrick Favors, Jazz, 27, PF (Up)– Signed to a two-year, $37.6MM deal in 2018
Favors’ $16.9MM contract for next season isn’t guaranteed unless he’s on the roster through July 6. That seemed unlikely from the time he signed the deal but it’s not a given the Jazz will let him go. That salary isn’t outrageous for a starter and the Jazz have plenty of cap room to absorb that salary. Plus, they’d need to have a solid plan to replace Favors, who has posted a 21.9 PER this season. Favors nearly got dealt to Memphis for Mike Conley and Utah could use his expiring contract in a blockbuster trade next season if it retains him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lakers Rumors: Zubac, LeBron, Butler, PG13, Randle

The Lakers‘ decision to trade Ivica Zubac to the Clippers in a deal for Mike Muscala was one of the more questionable deadline moves last month. To make matter worse, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes that the Lakers actually instigated those trade discussions.

Sources tell McMenamin that the Clippers never inquired on Zubac, and that it was the Lakers who made the offer, which the Clips “gladly accepted.” Veteran Clippers executive Jerry West “couldn’t believe how Zubac fell into his lap,” McMenamin writes.

The Lakers had hoped the roster spot they opened up in that swap – which also included Michael Beasley – would clear the way for the team to sign a player like Wayne Ellington, DeAndre Jordan, or Enes Kanter on the buyout market, per McMenamin. However, those players either chose other teams or never became available.

McMenamin’s latest article for ESPN digs into the Lakers’ disappointing season in detail, and includes several more noteworthy tidbits. Here are the highlights from the piece:

  • One team source tells McMenamin that they felt as if LeBron James didn’t fully engage with his younger teammates prior to the trade deadline.
  • Rajon Rondo organized a players-only meeting about a month ago in the hopes that the team would find “a better understanding of one another,” a source tells McMenamin. Players spoke up about LeBron’s “inconsistent body language,” and James took the criticism to heart, making an effort to improve on that going forward. Of course, the meeting hasn’t led to improved on-court results. “Just because [the meeting] was positive doesn’t mean we’re going to win 25 games in a row,” a team source told McMenamin.
  • Anthony Davis‘ name didn’t come up last summer when James met with Magic Johnson on the eve of free agency and discussed future plans. However, it has been clear all year that the Lakers intend to pair LeBron with a second maximum-salary free agent. L.A. was one of several teams to inquire on Jimmy Butler before he was sent to Philadelphia last fall, McMenamin reports.
  • Paul George‘s decision to stay in Oklahoma City last offseason was more about what the Thunder did right than what the Lakers did wrong, sources tell McMenamin. Still, it’s worth noting that George was somewhat familiar with how the Lakers ran things, having spoken to his agent Aaron Mintz and former teammate Corey Brewer about their experiences with the organization.
  • Mintz represents Julius Randle, who never received an offer from the Lakers as a restricted free agency last July, per McMenamin. Randle ultimately signed with the Pelicans because he felt like they really wanted him, which wasn’t a feeling he got from the Lakers, despite the fact that head coach Luke Walton and his staff hoped he’d be back, McMenamin writes.

Enes Kanter Discusses Signing With Blazers, Role Under Stotts, Future In WWE

For Enes Kanter, joining the Trail Blazers as a free agent signified his willingness to sacrifice for a winning team. He began the 2018/19 season with the Knicks, but his minutes started to decline when the franchise committed to developing its younger players with an eye toward June’s draft.

Kanter’s stint in New York ended early, culminating in a final meeting between him, head coach David Fizdale, president of basketball operations Steve Mills, and general manager Scott Perry on the afternoon of February 7. Unable to find a trade, the Knicks wished him well, mutually agreeing on a release that would allow Kanter to select a new home from a list of interested playoff contenders.

“My dream from day one has always been the playoffs,” Kanter told Hoops Rumors this week.

Kanter would ultimately choose to sign with the Blazers in free agency. The team is 8-3 since acquiring the 26-year-old, who holds career averages of 11.8 PPG and 7.6 RPG in eight total seasons with Utah, Oklahoma City, New York, and now Portland.

Kanter spoke with Hoops Rumors to discuss why he chose the Blazers, his new role under coach Terry Stotts, a potential future in the WWE, and more:

Growing up as a kid, is being a basketball player something you’ve always wanted to be?

“Oh yeah, of course. It was definitely a dream come true. I was actually growing up playing soccer a lot, and later I learned I wasn’t really talented there — so I switched sports and went to basketball. I started playing basketball with my first club team at 13 or 14 years old, and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Were there any players in the sport that inspired you along the way? 

“When I was growing up, I was always looking at Hakeem Olajuwon. That was just the one guy I was looking up to. I’d say his game is probably the one I always looked up to.”

So this new deal with the Blazers is just a rest-of-season contract, right?

“Yes, that’s correct.”

Aside from the Blazers, I heard the Celtics and Lakers expressed a lot of interest in signing you as a free agent. Were there any other teams outside of Portland you were considering?

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