Greg Monroe

Mike James Contract Issue Headed To Wire

Suns point guard Mike James is unlikely to have his contract issues resolved until Wednesday’s deadline, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic tweets.

James signed a two-way contract over the summer but wound up being a rotation piece after Phoenix decided to trade disgruntled point guard Eric Bledsoe. James will reach the 45-day NBA limit on his contract Wednesday and is expected to sign a standard NBA contract by the deadline. He is averaging 10.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 4.2 APG in 22.7 MPG.

However, the Suns are at the roster limit and must make a move before James’ contract can be converted. Small forward Derrick Jones is the most vulnerable member of the 15-man roster, since his contract is not fully guaranteed and he’s only appeared briefly in six games this season.

The team has a logjam at center and could move Greg Monroe, one of the players acquired from the Bucks in the Bledsoe deal. Monroe has an expiring contract and remains a productive player as an interior scorer and rebounder despite defensive limitations. Complicating matters is that Phoenix has three players – guards Brandon Knight and Davon Reed and big man Alan Williams – sidelined by long-term injuries.

Western Notes: Len, Gobert, Leonard, Rockets

Alex Len has become the odd man out in the Suns’ center rotation and he cannot hide his displeasure, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic reports. Len signed a one-year, $4.2MM qualifying offer with Phoenix after failing to receive an offer sheet that he found acceptable as a restricted free agent over the summer. Len has not played in two of the three last games, as interim coach Jay Triano has decided to ride veterans Tyson Chandler and recently-acquired Greg Monroe“I put in the work hoping to show my skills on the court,” Len told Bordow. “So when you’re not able to help your team, it’s frustrating.” Len’s lack of playing time won’t help his cause when he enters the market again next summer, this time as an unrestricted free agent.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert is participating in on-court individual drills at practice, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News tweets. This could be a sign that Gobert, who is recovering from a right knee injury, will return to action sooner than the four- to six-week timetable given on November 12th. Gobert injured the knee in a collision with Heat guard Dion Waiters.
  • Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard is making significant progress from the right quadriceps tendinopathy that has kept him out of action all season, coach Gregg Popovich told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News and other media members. Popovich, who jokingly scoffed at “Doctor” Tony Parker‘s estimation that Leonard could return in two or three weeks, said Leonard would soon participate in 5-on-5 practice drills. “He’s getting very close and making progress,” Popovich said. “He’s having contact now and hopefully we will get him back shortly.”
  • The Rockets are not experiencing chemistry issues because the veterans they acquired know how to blend in, according to Hunter Atkins of The Houston Chronicle. Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute know what it takes to work well with others and it shows now that the team is playing at full strength, Atkins adds.

Pacific Notes: Randle, Monroe, Clippers, Fox

Lakers power forward Julius Randle was displaced from his starting role by Larry Nance Jr. heading into the season, and continued to come off the bench while Nance has been sidelined, with Kyle Kuzma moving into the starting lineup. However, Randle has been making a case for a larger role with his play as of late, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register.

In his last nine games, Randle has averaged 13.4 PPG and 8.2 RPG in just 25.0 minutes per contest. He’s also playing well next to starting center Brook Lopez, a pairing the Lakers weren’t necessarily bullish on entering the 2017/18 campaign.

“It works well with Brook because Brook spaces the floor so he kind of turns into the space ‘four,'” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “And Julius can still do all that dynamic rolling hat he does and switch defensively. We’ll keep fooling with that. … They’ve been playing well together, but I also think Julius is playing at a much higher level than he was back then (in training camp), too. There’s a lot of factors that go into it, but they look good together.”

As Randle – who is on a contract year – makes a push for more minutes, let’s round up a few more items from around the Pacific…

  • Greg Monroe has been impressive since making his debut for the Suns earlier this month, as Cody Cunningham of Suns.com details. It’s a small sample, but the veteran center’s per-36 numbers (21.7 points; 12.4 rebounds) and FG% (.619) with Phoenix are the best marks of his career. Monroe’s play could boost his trade value a little, with the Suns potentially looking to move him in the coming weeks or months.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton takes a closer look at the slumping Clippers, exploring whether it makes sense for the team to trade some potential 2018 free agents before the deadline if their struggles continue. DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Willie Reed are among L.A.’s free-agents-to-be.
  • Kings rookie De’Aaron Fox will have dates against the Suns, Lakers, Celtics, and Sixers circled on his calendar for the foreseeable future, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Those are the four clubs that passed on Fox in the 2017 draft, and the young point guard wants to show them what they missed out on. “I’m happy with my situation, but at the end of the day those teams had the chance and opportunity to draft me,” Fox said.

Standard NBA Deal Expected For Mike James

Perhaps one of the more surprising stories to come out of the 2017/18 NBA season so far is the play of Suns‘ rookie point guard Mike James.

James is currently averaging 11.4 PPG and 4.0 APG, good enough for top-10 spots in both categories among all rookies. And, according to Scott Bordow of AZCentral.com, James’ play has not been lost on general manager Ryan McDonough, who plans to sign James to a standard NBA contract before he reaches the 45-day NBA limit on his two-way contract on December 6.

Before signing James, however, the Suns will need to create an open roster spot, as they already have 15 players under contract. Bordow opines that in order to do so, the Suns will likely look to move on from one of their three centers – Tyson ChandlerAlex Len, or recently acquired Greg Monroe.

Out of the three, Monroe is probably the likeliest candidate to be moved. He is on an expiring contract and the Suns have already been reported as exploring the trade market for the 27 year-old. Len is also on an expiring contract after signing a qualifying offer in the offseason, but he has the ability to veto trades, and Chandler still has two years and $26.6MM remaining on the contract he signed back in 2015.

If the Suns can’t find a trade within the next couple weeks and need to waive a player to make room for James, Derrick Jones‘ roster spot could be in jeopardy, since he’s the only Sun without a fully guaranteed 2017/18 salary.

Pacific Notes: Ball, Durant, McGee

The Lakers have no intention of taking Lonzo Ball out of the starting lineup anytime soon, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. The rookie guard has struggled mightily with his jump shot over the course of his first month in the league but the franchise remains committed to his development.

He’s our starting point guard,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “So there’s no discussion, no talks as of now of moving Lonzo to the bench. Nah. He’s our starting point guard.

The much hyped Lakers point guard – who cut his hair earlier today(!) – has averaged 9.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game so far this season but is just .303 from the field and .230 from beyond the arc.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division today:

  • Among several excellent aspects of an interview with Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, Warriors forward Kevin Durant spoke candidly about the Thunder and their move from Seattle to Oklahoma City. An under reported asset that the Bay Area offered Durant in free agency is a similarity to the Pacific Northwest town in which he broke into the league. “To be part of a franchise moving, no player, especially a rookie, expects that,” Durant said. “I didn’t even think that was in the cards. Obviously, I wasn’t in on the deal, nobody asked me any questions. So as long as we got to play somewhere, it was cool with me. I was 19, I didn’t know the effect a team moving had on fans or a city. As I got older, I realized how huge a team leaving a city is, how devastating that must have been for the fans. Every time we’d go to the West Coast, we’d see Seattle jerseys and you’d start to realize that was a huge, huge part of people’s lives.
  • A solid debut with his new franchise could boost Greg Monroe‘s trade value, Cody Cunningham of Phoenix’s official team site writes. The big man dropped 20 and 11 in his first game for the Suns since coming over alongside draft picks in the Eric Bledsoe trade.
  • The Warriors haven’t been featuring JaVale McGee heavily in their regular rotation, opting to play him only if matchups call for his length and athleticism. “You definitely have to humble yourself a little bit, just because we’re competitors. We want to play,” McGee told Mark Medina of The Mercury News. “But you can’t complain on a winning team. I understand if we were losing and I’m thinking, ‘I can help.’ But we’re a part of a winning system.”

Central Notes: Henson, Monroe, Green

The longest-tenured player on the Bucks is 26-year-old John Henson. As Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, the six-year veteran has more seniority with the organization than either Giannis Antetokounmpo or head coach Jason Kidd.

More meaningful than the novel fun fact, however, is that Henson has been with the Bucks long enough to have seen the organization’s revolution first-hand. Everything from the team’s branding to its medical technology has been brought up to date.

The center, who started his tenure with the team as a power forward, came into the league under Bucks head coach Scott Skiles and as a teammate of Joel Przybilla.

I just feel old,” said Henson, who has most recently stepped up as a defensive anchor and coveted frontcourt presence after the Greg Monroe trade. “I was here when Skiles was here. That seems like so long ago for Bucks fans. Which it was — six years is a long time.”

There’s more news from around the Central Division:

  • The Pistons haven’t utilized Jon Leuer as they originally intended to when they signed him in the summer of 2016. Though he’s missed time with a sprained ankle this season, Leuer had been seeing time as the club’s backup center, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. With Eric Moreland now developing in that role, Leuer could become expendable.
  • So long as Greg Monroe remains with the Suns, there will be speculation about what teams may be interested in his services. One team to consider, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes, is the Pistons. Monroe played for Detroit from 2010-2015 and has the respect of head coach Stan Van Gundy.
  • Forward Jeff Green has changed agents, signing with Roger Montgomery of Roc Nation Sports, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com tweets. Green signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Cavaliers last summer and has performed well for Cleveland.

Celtics Notes: Monroe, Okafor, Irving, Kerr

The Celtics could become an option as Phoenix tries to find a taker for Greg Monroe, according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical. The Suns acquired Monroe in the Eric Bledsoe trade, but don’t have any long-term plans for the 27-year-old, who is on an expiring contract. Boston is getting by with Aron Baynes and rookie Daniel Theis at center, but the team might view Monroe as a better alternative.

Mannix says the decision will come down to a choice of keeping the chemistry that has propelled the Celtics to a league best 13-2 record or going after a proven scorer and rebounder. There’s also the question of what Phoenix might want in return for Monroe, who hasn’t played since the trade was finalized. If he winds up agreeing to a buyout with the Suns, the Celtics have an $8.4MM disabled player exception that might be enough to bring Monroe to Boston.

There’s more Celtics-related news this morning:

  • Boston’s preference is to hold onto the DPE through the buyout deadline to see which players become available, Mannix adds in the same story. That means the Celtics wouldn’t use it to acquire benched center Jahlil Okafor from the Sixers, although they remain interested in Okafor if he gets bought out.
  • Following a summer of change for Kyrie Irving, the star point guard is trying to prove to the league that he made the right choices, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPN. In addition to asking for a trade away from LeBron James and the three-time Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers, Irving switched his number to 11 and adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. The early results have been promising as he ranks third in the league in clutch-time scoring. “I feel absolutely amazing,” Irving said. “My energy, my sleeping patterns, just my intellect and everything that I’m awake to now — I’m very much aware. My awareness is a lot better now that I’m not eating all the GMOs and pesticides and all that they put in our food, man.”
  • The Celtics’ young talent has caught the attention of Steve Kerr, whose Warriors will be in Boston tonight, relays Chris Haynes of ESPN. The game is being hyped as a possible preview of the NBA Finals, and Kerr suggests that the Celtics could be in that position for many years to come. “It sure looks like Boston is the team of the future in the East,” he said, “with the assets that they still have and their young talent and their coaching, and Kyrie is amazing. “That looks like a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come. Whether their time is now or the future, that’s to be determined, but they sure look like they want it to be right now.”

Central Notes: Parker, Bucks, Pistons, Cavs

The Bucks have looked good since acquiring Eric Bledsoe, and they’ll get another infusion of talent in the coming months, with Jabari Parker working to return from an ACL tear. Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times provides an update on Parker’s recovery, writing that the young forward is “running hard, cutting hard, doing pull up jumpers, and making crisp, sharp spin moves” in workouts at Milwaukee’s practice facility.

According to Woelfel, some Bucks officials “swear” that Parker would be capable of returning to the court right now. However, a source tells Woelfel that the team continues to take a cautious approach with the former second overall pick and will stick to a February target date for his return, as originally planned.

Here’s more from around the Central division:

Cavaliers Have ‘Strong Interest’ In Greg Monroe

With a shortage of big men, the Cavaliers have turned their attention toward Greg Monroe and are considering an offer to the Suns, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.

The veteran power forward/center was shipped from Milwaukee to Phoenix this week as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The Suns reportedly don’t have any long-term plans for Monroe and would consider a buyout if they can’t move him in another deal.

The 27-year-old is in the final year of his contract with a $17.8MM salary. In addition to providing an inside presence, Monroe is a “team-first player,” according to Amico, who would be willing to sacrifice his stats for the chance to rejoin a contender.

Monroe appeared in just five games with the Bucks before the deal and had his minutes cut sharply to 15.8 per night. However, he is a proven scorer and rebounder who averaged 11.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in 81 games last season, then raised those numbers to 13.2 and 7.3 in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers need inside help after losing starting center Tristan Thompson to a strained left calf in a November 1 game. He was projected to miss three to four weeks, which puts him out for most of the month.

It’s not clear what the Suns might ask in return for Monroe, but Iman Shumpert [$10,337,079] and Channing Frye [$7,420,912] provide an almost perfect salary match. Shumpert, who was on the trading block throughout the offseason, has a player option for next year worth slightly more than $11MM, while Frye, who spent three seasons with Phoenix early in his career, has an expiring deal.

Amico adds that the Spurs and Nuggets have also expressed interest in Monroe.

Cavs Notes: James’ Impact, James’ Ambitions, Monroe

The impact that LeBron James has on the basketball world goes beyond the court. The superstar has helped a number of teammates land significant paydays, as outlined by Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.

[James] definitely puts you in position to be successful to showcase what you’re great at and he enhances it on the bigger stage,” teammate Tristan Thompson, one of the chief beneficiaries of James’ impact said. “Eight and eight on a championship team is worth more than eight and eight on a .500 team or a team that doesn’t make the playoffs. Of course, that’s definitely a huge factor.

Beyond Thompson, Lloyd lists players like J.R. Smith (who is represented by the same agency as James and Thompson) but also Matthew Dellavedova, whose scrappy play under the postseason spotlight landed him a $38MM contract.

If we didn’t go to the Finals, I don’t get that playoff experience,” Dellavedova said. “I think the effect he has on everybody — he impacts so much that people don’t even think of. I think he has a role in a lot of things. An impact on everything.”

There’s more from the Cavs:

  • In the same feature at The Athletic, James opens up to Lloyd about the idea of owning an NBA franchise in the future. There’s no guarantee that opportunity comes in Cleveland, however. “To be an owner of any team would be crazy. If this thing opened up and I’m in a position financially, and I’ve got the right team around me, obviously. But who’s to say Dan will [sell]?” James said.
  • It’ll take some time for Isaiah Thomas to get used to playing with LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers but he tells Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com that he’s well-suited to make that transition quicker than most. “Me being older, me knowing the game a little bit more and being a student of the game, I’m going to be able to adjust quicker than somebody else could,” Thomas said.
  • The Cavs aren’t interested in making a move for Sixers big man Jahlil Okafor but their interest in Greg Monroe would be higher, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com says in a question-and-answer with readers.

 

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