Eric Bledsoe

Blazers Rumors: Beal, LaVine, Bridges, Grant, Collins

The Trail Blazers are exploring the trade market in search of veterans who can help Damian Lillard get the team back into the playoffs, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who observes that Portland has a handful of assets in hand to offer up in possible deals.

Besides the No. 7 overall pick in this year’s draft, the Blazers also have a trade exception worth nearly $21MM, Josh Hart and his team-friendly contract, Eric Bledsoe‘s expiring deal (Bledsoe’s partial guarantee could be increased as needed for salary-matching purposes), future draft picks, and possibly Jusuf Nurkic as a sign-and-trade candidate.

Here’s more from O’Connor on the players Portland could go after this summer:

  • Sources tell The Ringer that free-agents-to-be Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine are potential Blazers targets, though it’s unclear if they’ll be willing to leave the Wizards and Bulls, respectively, for Portland. Lillard and Beal are friends who played together for Team USA, O’Connor notes.
  • Hornets restricted free agent forward Miles Bridges is a player worth keeping an eye on for the Blazers, sources tell O’Connor. The team is in the market for a big wing who can help on defense and be a secondary offensive play-maker, and Bridges fits the bill. Again though, it remains to be seen if Portland will be able to pry away Bridges from his current team, especially since Charlotte will be able to match any offer sheet.
  • Pistons forward Jerami Grant is another two-way wing frequently mentioned as a target for Portland, as O’Connor observes. In his latest Substack article, Marc Stein writes that the Hawks continue to register interest in Grant, but the Blazers would likely be able to outbid Atlanta and other Grant suitors if they’re willing to include the No. 7 pick in their offer.
  • Hawks big man John Collins is also frequently cited as a player on the Blazers’ radar, according to O’Connor, who suggests Collins would be more of a lob threat – and more versatile defensively – than Nurkic.

Blazers Rule Out Nurkic, Simons, Bledsoe For Season

The Trail Blazers confirmed today in a press release that center Jusuf Nurkic and guards Anfernee Simons and Eric Bledsoe won’t return for the team this season.

According to today’s announcement, Nurkic (left foot plantar fasciitis) and Simons (patellar tendinopathy in his left knee) have responded well to treatment and rehabilitation, with Nurkic’s rehab program reducing his symptoms and increasing the “overall function” of his left foot and ankle.

Nurkic will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Simons will be a restricted free agent. However, both players – especially Simons – are considered good bets to re-sign with Portland.

Bledsoe, who hasn’t played in a game for the Blazers since being acquired from the Clippers prior to February’s trade deadline, received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection last Wednesday to address the tendinopathy in his left Achilles tendon, per the team. Bledsoe technically has one more year left on his contract, but only $3.9MM of his $19.4MM salary for 2022/23 is guaranteed, so he appears likely to be waived in the offseason.

The Blazers issued injury updates on two more players, announcing that swingman Josh Hart, who has missed the club’s last four games due to patellar tendinopathy in his left knee, will be reevaluated in a week. There will only be one week left in the season at that point, so it won’t be a major surprise if Hart doesn’t play again in 2021/22.

Meanwhile, Didi Louzada – acquired from New Orleans last month in the CJ McCollum trade – is in the final stages of his return-to-play protocol after undergoing surgery on a torn mensicus on February 4. The Blazers expect him to play before the end of the season.

Damian Lillard (abdominal surgery), Nassir Little (shoulder surgery), and Joe Ingles (ACL surgery) have previously been ruled out for the season by the Blazers, while Trendon Watford (hyperextended left knee and bone bruise) is also questionable to return within the next two weeks.

Blazers Notes: Lillard, McCollum, Bledsoe, Free Agents, Luxury Tax, Cronin

Damian Lillard is unlikely to play again this season as he recovers from abdominal surgery, Sean Highkin of the Bleacher Report tweets.

As Highkin relays, Trail Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin indicated there’s little reason for Lillard to suit up for the retooling club, even though his recovery is going well. If that’s the case, Lillard’s season ended on New Year’s Eve. He appeared in 29 games this season, averaging 24.0 PPG and 7.3 APG.

Lillard has been consulted on the team’s trades over the past week and the blueprint for the future.

“Damian has been great. He communicates with (head coach) Chauncey (Billups) and I constantly,” Cronin said, per Highkin (Twitter link). “He’s fully caught up with what our plans are and were and is very integral to what our plans are.”

Several other interesting tidbits came out of Portland’s press conference. Here are some of the other highlights:

  • Discussing the trade that sent CJ McCollum to the Pelicans, Cronin said, “It was really important to us that CJ separated from us on good terms, and I think we did that” (Twitter link).
  • Eric Bledsoe, who was acquired from the Clippers in the deal that sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to L.A., won’t be bought out, according to Cronin. Bledsoe’s $19.4MM contract for next season is only partially guaranteed for $3.9MM, so Portland can decide on his future in the offseason. (Twitter link).
  • Despite blowing up the roster, Cronin believes the team can attract free agents. “I’m confident that we can be competitive with free agents. With Chauncey Billups, Damian Lillard and myself, we can get into meetings and we’re not afraid to go after players.” (Twitter link).
  • The front office felt the team could no longer compete for a title with the previous roster, according to Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. “It had become evident to us that the roster had plateaued,” Cronin said. “It was a team that was built to fit a specific coaching style and a style of play that we didn’t feel was conducive to the way Chauncey and myself wanted to play. With that, we were capped out, we were looking at a team that would have been in the luxury tax by $15 million next season with not many ways to improve.”
  • Luxury tax concerns were a major focus in each of Portland’s trades, particularly the blockbuster with the Clippers. “The deal was important for us because it got us out of the luxury tax this year, which completely reset our repeater clock, meaning we don’t go back in, even if we’re in the tax in future seasons, until at least 2025,” Cronin said. “And the trade also gave us a bunch of leverage in the next deals that we needed to make where teams would no longer hold getting us out of the luxury tax as a part of the negotiation. So that was a good deal for us.”
  • President of business operations Dewayne Hankins said Cronin is a serious candidate for the permanent GM position, Highkin tweets. “Ownership is still in the process of an equitable search. Joe is obviously a candidate for it, and he has the keys to do what he needs to do.”

Blazers Notes: Johnson, Allen, Covington, Powell, Bledsoe

Rookie shooting guard Keon Johnson said on Monday that he’ll be out at least a couple more weeks due to an ankle injury, Casey Holdahl tweets.

Johnson was acquired by the Trail Blazers in the deal with the Clippers than sent Robert Covington and Norman Powell to L.A. The 21st pick of last year’s draft, Johnson has appeared in 15 games this season. He hasn’t seen action in an NBA game since January 9.

We have more on the Trail Blazers:

  • The incentive for the Blazers to make the deal with the Clippers was to cut payroll and get under the luxury tax, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, but there might have been ulterior motive. It could be the first step toward Jody Allen selling the team, Quick speculates. Quick notes that the ground lease for the Moda Center runs through October 2025 and Blazers must notify the city by September 2024 of their intentions to extend or renegotiate the lease. However, there haven’t been any ongoing negotiations.
  • The fact that the Blazers didn’t get a first-round pick for Powell and Covington shows that offers they received weren’t as strong as anticipated, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. He speculates that the back end of Powell’s five-year contract – he’ll take in $20.5MM in 2025/26 – likely scared some suitors. Additionally, many teams likely wanted to get a pick attached to Covington from Portland, which was eager to get out of the luxury tux.
  • Eric Bledsoe is unsure if he’ll remain with Portland after the trade deadline, Sean Highkin of the Bleacher Report tweets. He was also part of the deal with the Clippers, added for salary purposes. “It’s up in the air. I’m being professional,” Bledsoe said. “Come in and do my job like I always have, see where it goes.”
  • In case you missed it, the Knicks are reportedly interested in acquiring CJ McCollum.

Trail Blazers Trade Powell, Covington To Clippers

5:37pm: The trade is now official, Portland announced in a press release.


1:29pm: The Trail Blazers and Clippers have agreed to a trade that will send swingman Norman Powell and forward Robert Covington to Los Angeles in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and Detroit’s 2025 second-round pick, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links).

It’s a fascinating move for a Clippers team that is currently missing Kawhi Leonard (ACL) and Paul George (elbow). As we relayed this morning, there’s a belief that Leonard probably won’t return this season, while George’s recovery timeline remains up in the air.

However, there’s little reason for the Clippers to throw in the towel on this season. Despite its modest 27-27 record, the club is firmly in the play-in picture, holding the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Additionally, Los Angeles doesn’t control its own 2022 first-round pick, having sent it to Oklahoma City in the George trade, so there’s no incentive to finish in the lottery.

Powell is a talented scorer and shooter who is averaging a career-high 18.7 PPG in 40 games (33.3 MPG) this season, along with a .406 3PT%. His three-point rate has been at 39.9% or higher in each of the last four seasons. Covington, meanwhile, is more limited on offense and has been inconsistent as a shooter this season (.381 FG%, .343 3PT%), but is a versatile defender with plenty of postseason experience.

Powell, a Southern California native who will reunite with former Toronto teammates Leonard and Serge Ibaka, signed a five-year, $90MM contract with Portland in August, so the Clippers will control him for the long term. Covington will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but L.A. will have his Bird rights, allowing the team to go over the cap to re-sign him.

The Clips already project to be way over the luxury tax line next season, so the club may be reluctant to commit to Covington beyond 2021/22 without moving off another contract, such as Marcus Morris‘. That decision won’t have to be made for at least a few months though. In the meantime, this deal will increase L.A.’s projected tax bill this season by about $19MM, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The move will also open up a spot on the Clippers’ 15-man roster, potentially allowing them to promote Amir Coffey from his two-way contract. That had been a goal for the team as it approached the deadline, tweets Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

It looks at first glance like a modest return for the Blazers, but they’ll get a chance to take a flier on a young prospect in Johnson and will benefit financially from the move. According to Marks, the deal takes Portland out of tax territory for this season.

Moving off Powell’s long-term money and taking back Bledsoe’s pseudo-expiring contract (only $3.9MM of his $19.4MM salary next season is guaranteed) will give the Blazers more financial flexibility going forward and will create more room in the backcourt for emerging guard Anfernee Simons, who is in the midst of a breakout year and will be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

I wouldn’t expect Bledsoe to be part of the Blazers’ long-term plans, but Winslow could stick around beyond this season. He’s under contract for about $4.1MM in 2022/23. Johnson’s rookie contract runs through 2024/25.

Having parted ways with one of their leading scorers and one of their top defensive players, the Blazers will see their playoff odds for this season dip a little. The team currently holds a play-in spot, but only has a 1.5-game cushion on the 11th-place Pelicans and has an underwhelming record of 21-31.

Portland would send its 2022 first-rounder to Chicago if the pick lands outside of the lottery. Taking a longer-term view, the front office – led by interim general manager Joe Cronin – may actually prefer to miss the playoffs, since it would allow the team to keep that first-rounder and would give Damian Lillard more time to recover from his abdominal surgery — it’s a safe bet Lillard won’t rush back from that injury to join a lottery-bound squad for the home stretch.

It’s unclear what this deal will mean for CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, two of Portland’s other top trade candidates. The club still has six more days to continue making trades, but it wouldn’t be shocking if one or both of those longtime Blazers stays put through the February 10 deadline. McCollum is under contract for two more seasons beyond this one, while Nurkic will be an unrestricted free agent in July.

Portland will create a $6.5MM trade exception in the deal, tweets Marks.

Clippers Seek Point Guard; Bledsoe, Ibaka, Morris Available

The Clippers are shopping for a play-making point guard and are willing to move several veterans in order to achieve that goal, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports.

The Clippers believe a starting point guard is the missing piece to become a championship contender when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return to action, even though it’s uncertain whether they’ll be back this season or next year.

The front office has made Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, and Marcus Morris available to acquire another floor leader, O’Connor says. The team views current starter Reggie Jackson as more of a scorer than a pure point guard.

Bledsoe is signed through next season but his $19.38MM salary next season is only guaranteed for $3.9MM. Ibaka is making $9.7MM this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Clippers would prefer to hold onto Morris, who is in the second year of a four-year, $64MM contract, but the forward may be their most attractive trade piece.

O’Connor suggests the Clippers would also be willing to part with Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac, Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., or Keon Johnson if the right deal came along.

As O’Connor notes, the Clippers have been linked in some fashion to Jalen Brunson, Dennis Schröder, Kemba Walker, Goran Dragic, Spencer Dinwiddie and John Wall in recent weeks. Brunson would seemingly be the best fit, though the Mavericks aren’t inclined to deal him, despite the fact that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Dragic, currently in limbo, might be a good short-term fit. Wall, who hasn’t played this season while the Rockets seek a new home for him, could also be an intriguing possibility. The salaries of Bledsoe, Ibaka and Morris could be matched up to obtain Wall. The Clippers could also simply wait to see if Wall winds up on the buyout market and make a play for him at that point.

Western Notes: Bledsoe, Kuminga, Kings Guards, Porter Jr.

Clippers offseason acquisition Eric Bledsoe has heated up over the past three games, averaging 18.7 points and 5.0 assists on 52.4% shooting. The veteran point guard is feeling more at ease with his new teammates, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes.

They just told me to just play my game, go out there and play my game. Don’t worry about the mistakes, that comes with it,” he said. “They welcomed me with open arms and so it’s been pretty fun through the struggles, just got to keep it going.”

Bledsoe’s $19.375MM salary for next season is not guaranteed and it’s likely he’ll be a free agent.

We have more on the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors view Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 7 overall pick, as a defensive weapon in the short run and a potential two-way centerpiece in the future, according to Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Kuminga has played a total of 26 minutes off the bench the last two games. “I have no doubt in my mind that he can check just about anybody,” Draymond Green said.
  • Even with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton in their backcourt, the Kings need to find another play-maker, James Ham of The Kings Beat opines. Rookie Davion Mitchell, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes are not suited for that role when both Fox and Haliburton are off the court, in Ham’s viewpoint, so Sacramento must go out and acquire another play-maker.
  • Michael Porter Jr. remains sidelined on Monday due to lower back pain and there’s uncertainty about the Nuggets’ forward’s status in the near future, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets“It’s an ongoing thing, trying to figure out what’s going on…I’d still say that Michael’s out for the foreseeable future,” coach Michael Malone said. “We’re trying to take it one day at a time with him and see what the best way to approach getting him back healthy is.”

L.A. Notes: Westbrook, Davis, Bledsoe, Ibaka

The Lakers and Russell Westbrook had their worst night of the season Saturday in Portland, but the former MVP indicated that he’s still in the adjustment phase with his new team, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Westbrook hit one of eight shots from the field and scored just eight points in a game that L.A. trailed by as many as 34 points.

Ten games into the season, the Lakers are still working on chemistry after overhauling their roster during the summer. The tinkering included Westbrook, who was part of an offseason trade for the third straight year.

“With that is always a struggle to make sure that I am able to be who I am supposed to be on the floor and that’s doing everything and playing the hardest I can possibly play,” he said. “And I’ve gotta do that for our team and I didn’t do that tonight but that is something that I will make sure is done moving forward.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Anthony Davis left Saturday’s game midway through the first quarter with a stomach illness, but the team said it’s not related to COVID-19, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Davis, who was listed as questionable after spraining his left thumb Thursday, tried to play through the illness, but wasn’t able to. “I know this year he’s very upset with how last year went and how much time he missed,” Vogel said. “So, everything that’s 50-50 whether to be in or out thus far this year, it’s been, ‘I’m playing unless I absolutely can’t play.’ He’s just not happy with how much time he missed last year. So, if he can play without major limitations, he’s going to be in there.”
  • The Clippers haven’t lost confidence in point guard Eric Bledsoe during his slow start, according to Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Bledsoe is putting up career-worst numbers in shooting, rebounds and assists in his first eight games after being acquired in an offseason trade, and some of his misses have been particularly ugly. However, he helped spark Friday’s rally in Minnesota and his teammates believe his game will eventually come around. “I don’t think people are understanding how tough it is for someone to come into a new system and is being expected to have a large role and to bring what he’s great at,” Paul George said. “It’s hard to kind of find yourself, find your way.”
  • Clippers center Serge Ibaka may be ready for his season debut today, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times, who notes that Ibaka isn’t listed on the team’s injury report. Ibaka battled back pain last season and underwent surgery during the summer.

Pacific Notes: Kings Lineup, DeRozan, Jackson, Bledsoe, Payton II

Kings coach Luke Walton is still tinkering with his starting lineup, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. The forward spots are up for grabs, with Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley III as the top contenders, depending on whether Walton opts to go small or with a more conventional lineup. “I have not come to (a decision regarding Barnes) and there are still open spots,” Walton said. It could all be a moot point if the Kings renew efforts to acquire Ben Simmons.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • DeMar DeRozan had discussions with LeBron James about joining the Lakers in free agency, he confirmed to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). DeRozan wound up joining the Bulls in a sign-and-trade after Los Angeles opted to deal for Russell Westbrook. “It just didn’t work. You know how the business goes. … That was a hell of an opportunity that we tried to make happen,” said DeRozan, a Los Angeles native.
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue wants one of his veteran point guards to be on the floor at all times, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Lue will stagger the minutes of Reggie Jackson and Eric Bledsoe to make that happen.
  • The Warriors are hopeful Gary Payton II can play in a preseason game next week, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Payton is working his way back from a hernia issue. Payton remains a contender for the team’s final roster spot. Payton will need to make the opening-night roster to receive a $659K partial guarantee on his $1.98MM contract.

Clippers Notes: Bledsoe, Winslow, Vaccinations, Drame

Eric Bledsoe hasn’t played for the Clippers since 2013, but the team is optimistic that the point guard will fit right back into Los Angeles’ rotation in 2021/22, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Head coach Tyronn Lue said on Tuesday that he expects Bledsoe to be part of L.A.’s starting lineup alongside Paul George, Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, and Ivica Zubac.

The last time Bledsoe was a Clipper, he was an up-and-comer who was stuck behind Chris Paul on the depth chart and was trying to prove he earned more playing time. He’ll have a larger role this time around, but the 11-year veteran told reporters he’s prepared to do whatever the club asks of him.

“I’m coming in as a veteran player now in a different role … just help the team out the best way I can,” Bledsoe said. “Whether guarding the best player one night, spot up next night, get downhill, whatever the case is, cheering my teammates on. So whatever the case may be, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Both Lue and Jackson spoke this week about how they envision the Clippers benefiting from Bledsoe’s ability to put pressure on the defense and attack the paint.

“He’s gonna be a big boost for us,” Lue said. “I think he’ll be able to push that pace and push that tempo, and get guys easy shots. That’s what we have to do in transition.”

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • Bobby Marks of ESPN provides a minor update on Bledsoe’s contract, tweeting that the veteran guard and the Clippers agreed to push back his salary guarantee date for 2022/23. Bledsoe currently has a partial guarantee of $3.9MM on his $19.4MM salary for next season — his salary will now become fully guaranteed four days after the July moratorium instead of on June 30, creating some additional offseason flexibility for the franchise.
  • Health issues have limited Justise Winslow to just 37 total games over the last two seasons, but the new Clippers forward said on Tuesday that he has felt fully healthy for the last two or three months, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Winslow added that he wouldn’t wish his hip injury on anyone.
  • Lue said on Wednesday that all the players on the Clippers’ roster are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (video link via Greif).
  • The Clippers are mourning the death of Assane Drame, who joined the team in 2019 as a video intern and had since become a video assistant in the team’s digital content group. Drame died in a car accident on Monday night after working hours earlier at the team’s Media Day, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. We at Hoops Rumors send our condolences to Drame’s family and friends.