Evan Turner

Northeast Notes: Harkless, Nurkic, Jokic, Sabonis

Maurice Harkless has played well enough this preseason to claim the Trail Blazers‘ starting small forward slot, contends Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The 23-year-old Harkless re-signed with Portland this summer for four years at $40MM, but faces competition for the starter’s job from the re-signed Allen Crabbe and free agent addition Evan Turner. Coach Terry Stotts hasn’t named a starter yet, but Freeman believes Harkless’ defensive abilities and his chemistry with the other starters makes him the best choice. “Moe … just makes us versatile,” said Damian Lillard. “Being able to rebound the ball and push it, knock down threes, he can guard a bunch of positions, he changes the game in a different way.”

There’s more tonight out of the Northwest Division:

  • While the rest of the league is getting smaller, the Nuggets may start two 7-footers on opening night, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver PostJusuf Nurkic appears to have played well enough in preseason to earn the starting center job, with Nikola Jokic sliding over to power forward and Kenneth Faried moving to the bench. “It definitely is a herd mentality type of league,” said coach Michael Malone. “We’ve started two bigs together in (three) of our preseason games. We think that they can play well together because they are so skilled.”
  • The Jazz may need time to adjust to roster changes and the return of Dante Exum from injury, warns Dustin Jensen of The Deseret News. Utah traded for George Hill and Boris Diaw, signed free agent Joe Johnson and welcomed back Dante Exum after a year away with a torn ACL. Add in the emergence of second-year forward Trey Lyles and the Jazz may need time to develop chemistry.
  • Foul trouble is hampering rookie Domantas Sabonis as he bids for a starting job with the Thunder, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Sabonis has started every preseason game for Oklahoma City, but is averaging 3.3 personal fouls per night. Coach Billy Donovan is confident that Sabonis will learn to adjust. “When you’re a guard, you’re pretty much guarding the ball,” Donovan said. “But when you’re behind the (perimeter) defense and the floor starts moving and guys start shifting, you got to be able to pick up those movements and figure out what’s getting ready to happen.”

Western Notes: Harris, Turner, Ford, Ulis

Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris, who is making his way back from a groin strain he suffered during the team’s first preseason game, has resumed light basketball activities, which is good news for Denver, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post writes. “That was the most I’ve done in a while,” Harris said. “Really haven’t tried anything [until today]. Just tried to be cautious with it, make sure everything is cool. Don’t want to re-aggravate it and make sure I’m feeling nothing when I’m doing things. Right there I felt fine, didn’t feel anything. So as long as we keep doing that, don’t want to push it too much.

Head coach Michael Malone noted that Harris could be ready for the season opener, a date the guard wouldn’t commit to just yet, Dempsey notes. “I’m just going day by day, just trying to get better each day,” Harris said. “That’s two weeks down the road: We’ll see. I’m just trying to get better each day.”

Here’s more from out West:

  • Evan Turner‘s new $70MM contract with the Trail Blazers spans four years, so he’ll have plenty of time to make sure the team gets its money’s worth. For now though, as Jason Quick of CSNNW.com writes, Turner is “still finding his way” with his new club, in the words of head coach Terry Stotts.
  • Quincy Ford, who was waived by the Jazz on Thursday, will join the team’s D-League squad as an affiliate player, Chris Reichert of Upside and Motor reports (via Twitter).
  • The Pelicans have officially confirmed via pres release that Anthony Davis will miss 10-14 days due to a sprained right ankle. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated first reported the injury.
  • Suns rookie point guard Tyler Ulis has been receiving extensive preseason minutes as the team wants to get him as much experience as possible, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “It’s perfect for me,” Ulis said of averaging 17 minutes in four preseason games with two preseason games to go. “I know I’m getting valuable minutes right now. They want to see what I can do. I’m learning more and more. [Coach] Earl [Watson] is teaching me which spots to go at. This is fun. It’s a process. I’m happy to learn and it’s better to learn in a game than watching.”

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Blazers Notes: Small Forwards, Harkless, Napier

The Trail Blazers committed a ton of money to free agent contracts and extensions this summer, and will have one of the NBA’s highest payrolls in 2016/17. However, owner Paul Allen suggested earlier this week that he believes in the team’s current group of players and had no problem handing out those contracts. Still, Allen didn’t sound overly eager to become a taxpaying team this season, and Portland is currently right on that threshold, so it will be interesting to see if the team makes a conscious effort to slip below the tax line with its roster moves.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Blazers head coach Terry Stotts is keeping an “open mind” about the team’s small forward spot, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, and Allen Crabbe – each of whom signed lucrative long-term contracts this offseason – will all be in the mix for minutes at the position, and any one of the three could be the starter. “We’re all just pieces to the puzzle,” Harkless said. “It’s up to him to put it together.”
  • Speaking of Harkless, the 23-year-old said Thursday after practice that he never seriously considered playing anywhere besides Portland when he became a restricted free agent in July, calling the Blazers a “very well-run organization.” “I wasn’t really paying mind to any other team,” Harkless said, per Cody Sharrett of Blazers.com. “I wanted to be here, and I think I made that clear. [The team] knew that. We knew that. This is where I wanted to be, and I’m happy.”
  • The Blazers have been impressed so far by Shabazz Napier, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Napier, who was acquired by Portland in a summer trade, knows he won’t have a major role with the team, but he’s looking forward to making the most of any opportunities he gets. “My résumé in this league is not good at all,” Napier said. “So I can’t worry (like), ‘There’s minutes up in the air so I gotta do this or I gotta do that.’ I just gotta play my game.”

And-Ones: Payne, Duke, Belinelli

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is barring NBA teams from scouting his program’s practices this season – except for two pro days scheduled in October, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. NBA executives were extended invitations to the pro days on October 19th and 25th at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the second of which coincides with the opening night of the NBA regular season, Duke informed front offices on Tuesday, Wojnarowski adds. The university currently has two freshmen forwards, Jason Tatum and Harry Giles, who are ranked in DraftExpress’ top five projected players in the 2017 NBA draft, as well as junior guard Grayson Allen, who is ranked in the top 25.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • It’s been less than two months since Cameron Payne underwent surgery on his right foot to repair a Jones fracture and the Thunder guard is on track to be ready for the start of training camp, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. But despite his solid progress, Payne doesn’t want to rush things and risk a setback, Horne adds. “I’m getting back into things,” Payne said. “I’m shooting, jumping around, running. Everything’s been going great. I hope I’m ready as soon as the first day comes. But I don’t want to rush anything. I want to be perfectly ready. One-hundred percent. It’s really day-by-day, but right now, the things that we’re doing, we’re going at 100%.”
  • The five players in the Western Conference who will make the biggest impact this season after changing teams, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, are: Harrison Barnes (Mavs), Kevin Durant (Warriors), Chandler Parsons (Grizzlies), Evan Turner (Blazers) and Joe Johnson (Jazz).
  • Hornets coach Steve Clifford praised the team’s draft day deal to acquire Marco Belinelli from the Kings in exchange for the rights to No. 22 overall pick, Malachi Richardson, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer tweets. The coach noted that a player selected at that draft spot would not have been able to contribute this season, unlike the veteran shooting guard they obtained in the swap, Bonnell relays.

Celtics Notes: Turner, Bentil, Georges-Hunt

Speaking to reporters recently prior to an ABCD Hoops Dream fundraiser in Boston, Celtics coach Brad Stevens admitted he’s “antsy” for training camp began, adding that he’s looking forward to putting the team’s puzzle pieces together to form the best possible roster and rotation. As Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com details, Stevens also suggested that the departure of Evan Turner will be a big loss for the team.

“That’s going to be a tough role to fill. He was a heck of a player for us,” Stevens said. “He made huge plays at the end of games. He made big, big shots. His shooting percentages were not always great but, when the game was on the line and the clock was winding down, you felt like it had a good chance of going in. He made free throws late in games and he guarded two or three positions. Time will tell; we’ll find out. We’ve got a lot of guys that will get an opportunity to step up and fill his void, but it is a void.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Do rookies Ben Bentil and Marcus Georges-Hunt have a shot at making the Celtics’ 2016/17 regular-season roster? A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com tackles that question in a pair of pieces profiling the young duo, concluding that both Bentil and Georges-Hunt are probably more likely to land with the Maine Red Claws than the C’s to start the season.
  • Celtics big man Amir Johnson spoke to Dave Zarum of Sportsnet.ca about how he adjusted to a new city and a new team during his first year in Boston. Johnson also expressed optimism about Boston’s roster, calling Stevens a “brilliant” coach who is “going to put us in the right position to be successful for sure.”
  • In an interesting piece for The Boston Globe, Adam Himmelsbach explains how the Celtics’ coaches keep in touch and connect with the team’s players during the offseason. Members of Stevens’ staff frequently make one-on-one visits with individual players, including new additions like Al Horford and Jaylen Brown.

Celtics Notes: Iverson, Zeller, Olynyk

The Celtics have renounced their rights to center Colton Iverson, their 2013 second-round draft pick, a source told ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg. The 27-year-old Iverson played for the Celtics’ summer-league team but had virtually no chance of making the roster this season with 19 players under contract, including 16 with guaranteed deals, Forsberg continues. By renouncing his rights, the Celtics are giving the 7-footer a chance to receive a training camp invite with another team that doesn’t have a frontcourt logjam and an overabundance of contracts, Forsberg adds. Iverson, who has played in Turkey and Spain the past three seasons, was the No. 53 overall selection in 2013 after the Celtics bought the pick from the Pacers.
In other news regarding the Celtics:
  • Center Tyler Zeller re-signed with the club for two years and $16MM this summer but his role is undefined, as A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com examines. Zeller’s ability to run the floor makes him a candidate to start at some point during the season but he’s not enough of an offensive threat to remain in the lineup, Blakely speculates. His playing time will fluctuate and there may be games where he doesn’t play at all, Blakely adds.
  • Big man Kelly Olynyk believes the club will miss swingman Evan Turner in a number of ways this season,  Forsberg reports in a separate story. Turner, who signed a four-year contract with the Trail Blazers as a free agent this summer, was not only a rotation player but a strong influence in the locker room, according to Olynyk. “He’s somebody who really helps guys out. I think that his voice, that’s something that people respect,” Olynyk told Forsberg. “He just keeps it real, keeps it 100 (percent) every time you talk to him. You know what you’re getting from him.” The link to the interview can be found here.

Blazers Notes: Whiteside, Aminu, Turner, Offseason

As we detailed on Tuesday, the Trail Blazers blew away their Northwest rivals when it came to offseason spending, committing more than $242MM ($234MM+ guaranteed) to free agent contracts. By comparison, the other four Northwest clubs combined to commit about $85MM to free agents. And the Blazers’ total doesn’t even include the $106MM extension that the club handed out to C.J. McCollum last week.

Considering so many of the Blazers’ big signings were players who were already on the team’s roster, it remains to be seen whether the franchise will take another step forward in the Western Conference picture this season. Zach Lowe of ESPN.com examined the situation in Portland in his latest column, and passed along a few interesting tidbits, so let’s round them up…

  • According to Lowe, the Blazers would have liked to make a run at Hassan Whiteside in free agency, but were “spurned” by the young center, who didn’t waste much time in agreeing to a new deal with the Heat. With Whiteside no longer in play, the Blazers could have pursued another center like Dwight Howard, Bismack Biyombo, or Ian Mahinmi, but ultimately went in another direction.
  • The Blazers’ decision to sign McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless, and Meyers Leonard to pricey long-term contracts means that the team won’t have any cap room to work with for the foreseeable future. “Good players on favorable contracts are more valuable to us than cap room,” Blazers GM Neil Olshey said. “Especially in an era where all 30 teams have cap room — or the ability to get it. … With our interest in extending C.J., we weren’t going to be a cap room team next year, anyway.”
  • As Lowe observes, the Blazers are currently projected to be in luxury-tax territory in 2017/18 and perhaps 2018/19 as well. However, he notes that if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a new amnesty clause for each team, as the last CBA did, Portland could have an opportunity to avoid that fate.
  • Stotts tells Lowe that the Blazers intend to play Al-Farouq Aminu almost exclusively at power forward rather than small forward. As Lowe points out, that could be bad news for Noah Vonleh.
  • Damian Lillard‘s work ethic helps dictate the culture of selflessness in Portland, which will help ensure that all the players with huge new contracts will continue to work hard. Sources tell Lowe that when one recent draft pick entered the NBA “carrying a whiff of entitlement,” the Portland coaching staff pointed to Lillard and essentially said: “He’s way better than you, and he’s working harder.”
  • Olshey on the Blazers paying $70MM+ to both Crabbe and Turner: “The way the game is being played, plus the dearth of available wings, made us willing to pay a premium for two impact players that fit our model.” The GM is also confident that Turner will improve his outside shooting in Portland.

Trail Blazers Notes: Leonard, Crabbe, Free Agency

Power forward Meyers Leonard is hopeful that he can return to action by the start of the regular season, he told Brian Wheeler and Michael Holton from Blazers.com. The 7’1” Leonard suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in mid-March and underwent surgery later that month. Leonard will be re-evaluated at the beginning of August and believes that he’ll be cleared for contact and one-on-one drills during the middle of training camp, Leonard added in the interview. Despite the injury, the Blazers re-signed Leonard to a four-year, $41MM deal after he entered the market as a restricted free agent.
In other developments around the Trail Blazers:
  • President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey never balked at matching the monstrous four-year, $75MM offer sheet the Nets handed to Allen Crabbe, he told Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The 24-year-old shooting guard averaged 10.3 points as the team’s sixth man last season and cashed in on a free agent bonanza. “It was never a question. We don’t draft guys here to let them walk away or we don’t take it for granted,” Olshey said. “I think you’ve seen the commitment we’ve made to the guys we’ve drafted.”
  • In the same story, Olshey indicated he accomplished his offseason goals by retaining Leonard and Crabbe while adding two outside free agents, swingman Evan Turner and center Festus Ezeli. “I think we maximized our cap room,” Olshey said. “We had some holes, maybe not positionally, but in terms of skill-set, that we identified. We were able to do, I think, a pretty admirable job in free agency.”
  • The Blazers have their deepest roster since Olshey joined the franchise in 2012, Mike Richman of The Oregonian opines. Ezeli and Leonard will join Mason PlumleeEd Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu in the frontcourt rotation while backcourt starters Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have solid backups in Crabbe and Turner, who will also see playing time at small forward, Richman points out. They could be even deeper if they retain restricted free agent forward Moe Harkless, Richman adds.

And-Ones: Turner, Whiteside, Parsons, Rubio

In an interesting interview with Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe, Evan Turner explained how he ended up reaching an agreement with the Trail Blazers earlier today, expressing confidence that he’ll be a great fit in Portland. Turner suggested that he’d “play in Boston every single day of the week” if all other factors were equal, but the Celtics would have only have offered him about half what the Blazers did, and the C’s likely would’ve reduced his role as well.

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

  • Hassan Whiteside‘s max salary isn’t set in stone yet, according to Ethan J. Skolnick of The Miami Herald, who tweets that the young center would be willing to take a little less if Kevin Durant wants to sign with the Heat.
  • Chandler Parsons called his decision to sign with the Grizzlies the toughest of his life, calling Portland “incredible” and citing Memphis’ coaching staff as a major factor in his choice. Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com has the quotes from Parsons.
  • Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press is skeptical that the Timberwolves will trade Ricky Rubio this summer, tweeting that head coach Tom Thibodeau wants to work with the point guard. Krawczynski expects Rubio to be on Minnesota’s roster when training camp rolls around.
  • Dubbed last week as the favorites to reach a deal with Spanish point guard Sergio Rodriguez, the Nets are are still trying to get a deal done with Rodriguez, but sources tell Mike Mazzeo and Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that an agreement looks “unlikely.”
  • The Thunder issued a press release today confirming the hiring of Adrian Griffin as an assistant on Billy Donovan‘s staff, as was reported last month. Vin Bhavnani and former NBA guard Royal Ivey also received promotions and are now assistant coaches, per the team.

Latest On Al Horford, Celtics

The Celtics will meet with Al Horford later tonight in Atlanta and the team intends to put a max offer on the table, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston HeraldIsaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder will be among the attendees present at the meeting, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders and Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe (Twitter links).

Danny Ainge seems confident about his chances of signing Horford, as Evan Turner told Himmelsbach (full-length piece). Ainge told Turner that he was interested in having Turner re-sign with the team, but Boston was going to go after Horford and Kevin Durant before making an offer to the versatile wing. Turner worked out with Kyle Korver on Thursday and Korver told him that Horford would be re-signing with Atlanta. However, earlier today, Turner received a text message from Korver, asking him to call, and Turner had a sense that something had changed, Himmelsback writes. The Hawks signed Dwight Howard to a three-year, $70MM deal today, so perhaps the franchise was under the same impression.

Horford reportedly met with the Rockets earlier today and it’s unclear if any other teams have sat down with the former Florida Gator. Horford reportedly would like to stay in Atlanta and the team would like to bring the big man back. However, the team’s reluctance to offer a fifth year may drive Horford to sign elsewhere, as Zach Lowe of ESPN.com previously reported.

The Celtics have a meeting lined up with Durant on Saturday and if they can sign Horford, that would make Boston a more desirable destination for the 2013/14 MVP either this summer or next, Bulpett adds. Boston has relatively easy path to opening up enough cap space to sign both Horford and Durant to max contracts. The team would simply need to decline Jonas Jerebko‘s and Amir Johnson‘s respective team options and renounce the rights to both Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller.

Horford would be a perfect fit in Boston, as one anonymous coach told Bulpett.  “Look at what they were trying to do with [Jared] Sullinger, and now put a guy in that spot who can make the shots. That would change their offense big-time,” the coach told Bulpett.

In addition to the Celtics, Hawks, and Rockets, Horford is receiving interest from the Thunder, Lakers, Magic, Pistons, Wizards, and Nets. The Heat were reportedly interested, but they are likely out of the running after agreeing to re-sign Hassan Whiteside.

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