Fred VanVleet

Atlantic Notes: Griffin, Flynn, VanVleet, McBride, Sixers

Blake Griffin has struggled mightily for the Nets so far this season, and it’s having a detrimental impact on the team, according to Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post.

Sanchez notes that Griffin has gone 0-for-18 from deep over his last 5 games. Head coach Steve Nash says Griffin has had open shots, but hasn’t been able to convert.

He’s just having a funk. I think he’s got good looks, but I think he just hasn’t been in a good rhythm,” Nash said of Griffin’s shooting before the Nets met the Cavaliers at Barclays Center. “People go through stretches like that.”

Through 14 games, Griffin has a shooting line of .312/.173/.696 while averaging 5.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 22.6 minutes per game. Last season in 26 games with the Nets, Griffin averaged 10.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists in 21.6 minutes per game, with a shooting slash line of .492/.383/.782.

Sanchez opines that Griffin has had mixed results on the defensive end, but hasn’t done enough to make up for the poor shooting. He’s excellent at drawing charges (league-leading 11 prior to Wednesday’s games), but lacks the foot speed to consistently switch, and after a series of knee injuries, isn’t a great rim protector.

Griffin will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Second-year guard Malachi Flynn has mostly been out of the Raptors‘ rotation this season, and whether he should get more minutes is a complicated question, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Smith notes that the Raptors have struggled with shooting and on defense recently, and he thinks Flynn is better at those two areas than backup rookie point guard Dalano Banton. However, Smith opines that another change to the rotation might be rough for a team struggling with consistency. Flynn says he’s putting the onus on himself to show the team he’s worthy of more playing time. “I’m not pointing the finger at anybody. I’m taking it upon myself. What can I do to help myself? That’s the only thing I can control. It’s definitely easier said than done, but that’s what I’m trying to do,” Flynn said.
  • In a separate article, Smith writes that Fred VanVleet has become the vocal leader of the Raptors after Kyle Lowry‘s departure. VanVleet says he always comes from a place of respect and winning. “I’m not always right, but my heart’s in the right place and I can usually live with myself knowing that I try to respect the guys as men first. We’re all equal in the locker room. We all say: We want to win, and any conversation after that we’ll figure it out,” VanVleet said.
  • Head coach Tom Thibodeau was effusive in his praise of Knicks rookie Miles McBride, tweets Marc Berman of the New York Post. McBride was recently assigned to the G League to get minutes. I love him, I love him. I think it’s important for him to be with us but every opportunity we get where we can have him play some, we want to try to take advantage of that as well. But he’s got a great future, great kid, hard worker,” Thibodeau said.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Sixers coach Doc Rivers isn’t panicking about the team’s five game losing streak. “There’s nobody here worried,” Rivers said. “It’s just a long season. When you have the injuries that we have and the games that we’ve played … listen, I want to win every game. But I do understand what we’re under right now, too.”

Gobert, Turner, Ingles, Mitchell, VanVleet Fined By NBA

As we noted earlier today, there was a mild dustup between Rudy Gobert and Myles Turner in the Jazz‘s 111-100 loss to the Pacers last night. Both players were ejected, as were Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell.

The NBA has announced (Twitter link) that all four players have been fined for the incident, but avoided suspensions.

Gobert was dinged $35K for initiating the altercation, Turner $25K for escalating, Ingles $30K for pushing a referee, and Mitchell $20K for escalating via verbally taunting.

In a separate tweet, the league also announced that Fred VanVleet of the Raptors was fined $15K for making an obscene gesture at the end of the team’s win against the Sixers last night. VanVleet recreated an old Sam Cassell celebration, which has earned imitators fines in the past.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Brown, Schröder, VanVleet, Bonga, Claxton

A report stating that the Celtics have interest in Ben Simmons prompted Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe to explore whether Boston should aggressively pursue a deal for Simmons, and Jay King and Rich Hofmann of The Athletic to discuss whether the 25-year-old would make the C’s a better team.

Simmons’ play-making ability would make him an intriguing fit for the Celtics and Washburn hears from a league source that the three-time All-Star would be interested in coming to Boston. However, the general sense is that it would be very difficult for the two division rivals to find an agreement that works for both sides. The Sixers are unlikely to accept an offer that doesn’t include Jaylen Brown, whereas the Celtics are unlikely to include Brown in any offer.

In fact, multiple league sources who spoke to Brian Robb of MassLive.com were “adamant” that the Celtics don’t have any interest in moving Brown at all, either for Simmons or in any other deal. I’m sure Boston would reconsider that stance if a player a tier above Brown became available, but presumably the team doesn’t view Simmons as that sort of player.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Celtics intend to keep Dennis Schröder in their starting lineup while Brown recovers from his hamstring strain in order to have Josh Richardson and the club’s young wings remain in their bench roles, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.
  • Besides wanting to get back to the playoffs, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has a series of individual goals that he’d like to achieve, as he said on The Raptors Show with Will Lou (link via Sportsnet.ca).“I definitely would like to be an All-Star,” VanVleet said. “I want to win all the awards. I want to be All-Defensive … Those are all goals that I have. The good thing for me is that I probably won’t achieve any of those if we aren’t a good team or a top team.”
  • Raptors forward Isaac Bonga has accepted a G League assignment, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links). Because he’s in his fourth NBA season, Bonga had to sign off on being sent to the NBAGL. The 22-year-old has only logged seven minutes across three games in Toronto so far, but should get a chance to play a starring role for the Raptors 905 when they open their season on Thursday.
  • The Nets recalled center Nicolas Claxton from the G League on Tuesday, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Despite being back with Brooklyn, Claxton has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game and there’s still no indication he’s closer to returning from the illness that has sidelined him since October 25.

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Rose, Mills, VanVleet

Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose seem to have solved the Knicks‘ long-standing problem at point guard, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Walker and Rose are both over 30 and have troublesome injury histories, but they’re off to a strong start, averaging a combined 26.8 points, seven assists, almost six rebounds and more than two steals through the first four games.

When New York signed Walker after his buyout with the Thunder, Rose staved off any controversy by saying Walker should be the starter. The question of who will close out games appears to depend on who’s having the better night.

“There’s gonna be games where I do score like that, maybe even more. There’s gonna be games where I don’t,” Walker said following Tuesday’s win over the Sixers. “There’s gonna be games where Derrick is playing super well, and he’s gonna stay in the game. It just is what it is. … There’s gonna be games where I’m not gonna get back on the court just because guys are playing super well. And I have no problem with that, especially D-Rose, the youngest MVP ever.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • After a strong rookie season, Immanuel Quickley is fighting for playing time again in a crowded Knicks backcourt, notes Mirin Fader of The Ringer. Quickley says proving himself has been a recurring theme ever since he arrived at Kentucky.
  • The Nets didn’t know they wouldn’t have Kyrie Irving available when they added Patty Mills in free agency, but he has turned out to be exactly what they need, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Mills, who signed for the mid-level exception, was considered one of the top bargains of the summer. “He’s a winner,” coach Steve Nash said. “He plays the right way, he’s experienced. Obviously he’s skilled, but he just brings a great feel to the game, with (or) without the ball. And defensively, he makes our team communicate better. He organizes us (on) both sides of the ball. So, he just brings a lot to the table, and he’s a great addition to our team.”
  • Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet was second in the league in minutes played last year and his workload has increased in the early part of this season, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. VanVleet doesn’t mind the extra playing time, saying he spent the summer preparing for it. “I feel good, that’s why you put so much work in during the offseason,” he said. “I spend every hour that I’m not on the court trying to figure out how I can get my body ready for tomorrow. So just being dedicated to the craft and trying to figure out how I can be the best pro I can be.”

Raptors Notes: VanVleet, Ujiri, Flynn, Injuries

Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, one of just three holdovers from Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan era, is trying to lead a rebuilding Raptors squad much the same way DeRozan did alongside Kyle Lowry years ago, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

DeRozan paid his first visit to his old club as a Bull, proving that he remains an absolutely clutch scorer to close out games. The Bulls would go on to win, 111-108.

“This is a new dynamic,” DeRozan said of how VanVleet has evolved to become the Raptors’ leader. “The conversations I have with Fred now, (leading a rebuilding team) is a new dynamic in your career that you have to figure out. It’s tough. But every great player goes through it. There’s not too many guys that just have a polished career. It’s another obstacle you can learn from and build on and turn you into a much better player than you even knew you had in you.”

There’s more out of Toronto:

  • The current Raptors ownership group, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, has a convoluted structure, but it has ultimately enabled team president Masai Ujiri to run the organization as he sees fit, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. The various factions of the ownership group reportedly disagreed on the terms of Ujiri’s new contract, but that deal eventually got done earlier this year.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse explained the lack of playing time for guard Malachi Flynn, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link). “There’s a Fred and there’s a Goran (Dragić) and we’ve given (rookie Dalano Banton) a run,” Nurse said. “And Dalano’s the one you should probably be asking me about. He’s played outstanding every minute he’s been out there. You guys should be all over me for not playing him more.” It sounds like it could be an uphill battle for Flynn to crack the club’s point guard rotation.
  • Injured Raptors forward Pascal Siakam was a full participant in the team’s practice today, and will join the club’s NBAGL affiliate, Raptors 905, to continue to work off the rust in their training camp, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN (via Twitter). Siakam has missed the team’s first three games with a shoulder injury. Small forward Yuta Watanabe also practiced with Toronto today and is considered to be nearing a return for the team, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Grange adds that Siakam might be on track to rejoin Toronto earlier than the initially-anticipated target date of mid-to-late November.

Ben Simmons “In Step” With Sixers’ Trade Efforts

Ben Simmons and his agent – Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul – are “in step” with the Sixers‘ efforts to trade the 25-year-old to a new team, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Sources tell Wojnarowski that the 76ers continue to canvass the NBA exploring potential trades involving Simmons and have established a “steep” asking price. While a draft-night trade is a possibility, the discussions may continue into the summer, according to Wojnarowski.

It remains unclear which teams will emerge as the most serious suitors for Simmons. A report earlier today indicated that the Heat, Wizards, and Raptors are possibilities. However, a subsequent report threw cold water on the Miami scenario, and Washington is likely only a realistic landing spot if Bradley Beal is going to Philadelphia — so far, there’s no indication Beal wants out of D.C.

Toronto’s interest in Simmons has been reported by multiple outlets, though it’s unclear if there’s a realistic match between the two division rivals.

Matt Moore of ActionNetwork.com reported earlier this week that the Sixers proposed a framework that included Kyle Lowry (via sign-and-trade), Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and the fourth overall pick, which Toronto obviously rejected. If that report is accurate and Philadelphia’s asking price remains anywhere near that high, it’s probably safe to assume the Raptors will look elsewhere for roster upgrades.

Meanwhile, as Jeff Garcia of News 4 San Antonio relays, Kevin O’Connor said on The Ringer’s The Mismatch podcast that the Sixers are rumored to have asked the Spurs for four first-round picks, three pick swaps, and a young player in exchange for Simmons.

O’Connor added that he doesn’t expect Simmons to be moved unless Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey drastically lowers his asking price or a player like Beal or Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard becomes available and Philadelphia uses Simmons as the centerpiece of an offer.

Atlantic Notes: Blake, Thibs, FVV, Randle

Nets power forward/center Blake Griffin‘s role will increase with recently-inked starting center LaMarcus Aldridge now retired, as Peter Botte of the New York Post details.

“It’s not so much about, ‘It’s my time’ or anything like that. It’s just, when your name is called and when you’re asked to do something, you be ready and do it,” Griffin said of his increased opportunities with the Nets. “And that’s sort of our mindset here is everybody has their part. You’ve got to stay ready and execute when you’re called.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is striving to keep his club dialed in with the playoffs in sight, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Thibodeau has guided the Knicks to six straight victories during the season’s home stretch. The club is now 31-27, the No. 6 seed in the East, and just 0.5 games behind the fourth-seeded Hawks for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. “We try not to get wrapped up in any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said after winning the team’s fifth straight game Friday. “If we’re taking care of all the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. Just stack good days.”
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, in the first season of his new four-year, $85MM contract with Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa, has criticized the NBA’s treatment of a truncated 2020/21 season in the midst of a pandemic, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “It’s pretty much all about business this year on every level and it’s hard to hide it, you know what I’m saying?” VanVleet said. “The NBA is a great balance of like the pure love and joy of one of the best sports in the world mixed with a billion-dollar industry, and I think this year the industry side has taken precedence over some of the love and the joy.”
  • All-Star Knicks forward Julius Randle is proving his doubters wrong with a career season at age 26, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Randle, who appears to be well worth the three-year, $63MM deal he signed with New York in 2019, detailed how he has improved his approach for the improved Knicks. “It’s not just about the weight room and the court. I’m going to handle that,” Randle said Friday. “But my mentality and my mindset was just different. So I changed that aspect as well. And the results are showing.” Randle is averaging 23.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 6.0 APG for the Knicks, all career-bests. He is also connecting on 41% of his 5.1 three-point attempts per game.

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Knicks, Tolliver, VanVleet, Raptors

It’s been about three months since Jayson Tatum tested positive for COVID-19, but the Celtics forward is still dealing with the aftereffects of the virus, he acknowledged on Tuesday, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“It’s a process. It takes a long time,” Tatum said. “I take an inhaler before the game since I’ve tested positive. This has kind of helped with that and opened up my lungs, and, you know, I never took an inhaler before. So that’s something different.”

Tatum said he “for sure” feels better now than he did a month ago, though he admitted he’s not sure when he’ll be able to stop using an inhaler before games.

“There’s no exact timetable,” Tatum said. “(It’s) just when I feel comfortable enough and I think I don’t need it.”

  • The Knicks had internal discussions last week about the possibility of adding Anthony Tolliver, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. As Berman explains, New York was looking for a player who could play the center position, and Tolliver – who ended up signing with Philadelphia – is more of a forward.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said on Tuesday that there was no timeline for Fred VanVleet‘s return from a hip injury, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets. However, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link), VanVleet will serve his one-game suspension on Wednesday. Because VanVleet was suspended while injured, he wasn’t able to serve the one-game ban until he was cleared to play, so it sounds like his return may be imminent.
  • Besides missing VanVleet tonight, the Raptors will also be without Kyle Lowry (rest/toe) and Gary Trent Jr. (ankle), Murphy notes (via Twitter). Despite a brutal 4-17 slump, Toronto is still just two games out of the 10th seed in the East, but injuries have prevented the team from making a push for a play-in spot.

VanVleet, Bembry, Horton-Tucker Receive One-Game Suspensions

The NBA has suspended three players – Raptors guards Fred VanVleet and DeAndre’ Bembry, along with Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker – for one game apiece, the league announced today in a press release.

The three players left the bench area during an on-court altercation during the Raptors/Lakers game on Tuesday (video link). After Dennis Schröder committed a foul on a OG Anunoby shot attempt, the two players got tangled up and Anunoby grabbed Schroder by the leg, flipping him to the ground. Players from both teams entered the fray at that point.

According to today’s announcement, Anunoby received a $30K fine for initiating the incident, while Lakers big man Montrezl Harrell has been docked $20K for aggressively entering the altercation and shoving Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the one-game suspension will be costliest for VanVleet, who will forfeit $146,552 of his salary. Bembry ($11,980) and Horton-Tucker ($10,469) will also each lose one game’s worth of pay.

Horton-Tucker and Bembry will serve their suspensions tonight, while VanVleet will serve his one-game ban once he’s healthy and ready to return from his hip ailment.

Although they’ll be missing Horton-Tucker, and Kyle Kuzma is listed as questionable with calf tightness, the Lakers will get some reinforcements for Thursday’s contest vs. Miami, as head coach Frank Vogel said today that both Ben McLemore (protocols) and Andre Drummond (toe) will be available (Twitter link via Mike Trudell).

Atlantic Notes: Aldridge, Celtics, Thibs, Raptors

Speaking to reporters for the first time since signing with the Nets, big man LaMarcus Aldridge discussed his willingness to fulfill whatever role Brooklyn has in mind for him, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. Aldridge started at center in his Nets debut tonight, a 111-89 victory over the Hornets. He scored 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field, pulled down nine rebounds, and dished out six dimes.

“I’m just trying to bring value, try to bring the things I’m good at, and trying to help this team win,” Aldridge said to reporters following a Nets practice Tuesday. “I’m not worried about being an All-Star anymore.

“If you could start, you’re always going to want to start,” Aldridge added of his potential role with the Nets. “As far as minutes, I think if you go out and you compete and you do everything you can, everything is going to be fine. And we’re all here to win, so it’s not about that.”

Aldridge did draw the start tonight. Nicolas Claxton earned the lion’s share of bench minutes at center, and DeAndre Jordan was a healthy scratch. The team rested oft-injured veteran power forward Blake Griffin given that the game took place on the second night of a back-to-back.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics did not acquire their top trade or buyout targets, and rival front office executives believe their days as a top East threat may be over for now, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report. Boston had to settle for the third-most coveted Orlando trade target in shooting guard Evan Fournier, and was unable to lure big men Andre Drummond or LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market. That doesn’t mean the team won’t continue trying to build around All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the months ahead, however. “I would be very surprised if [Celtics team president Danny Ainge] doesn’t make a big, bold move this summer,” an Eastern Conference executive opined.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday discusses how Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau used his ill-fated tenure with the Timberwolves to improve his methodology, New York’s recent 102-101 loss to Minnesota notwithstanding. “For me, I loved having the opportunity to step away [after being let go in Minnesota],” Thibodeau had commented during his first press conference as Knicks head coach. “Part of it was just to recharge and get away and relax, and the other part was to learn. Whatever your circumstances are at that particular time, you try to make of those.”
  • Several big Raptors contributors, including Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, are struggling with the aftereffects of COVID-19 as they try to work themselves back into NBA condition, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “There’s spurts where we play high-level basketball and spurts where we suck, and it’s just fighting uphill,” VanVleet said after the Raptors’ 113-103 loss to the rebuilding Thunder Wednesday night. The club posted a 1-13 record in March, but are currently just two games behind the Bulls for the No. 10 seed and a play-in berth in the East.