International

And-Ones: Ball Brothers, McDaniels, E. Okafor

Lithuanian team Prienu Vytautas made it official this week, announcing in a press release that they’ve signed LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball, and expect Lonzo Ball‘s younger brothers to report to the team in early January. However, it’s not a long-term agreement. As Nicola Lupo details for Sportando, the deal for the two American teenagers includes a team opt-out after the first month, so it could end up being a brief experiment.

Still, Vytautas director Adomas Kubilius admits that he’s intrigued by exposure the Ball brothers will bring to the franchise, not to mention the potential financial benefits (Twitter link via Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas). The club didn’t speak directly with its new players during negotiations, having worked things out with agent Harrison Gaines, but Kubilius suggests that – outside of guaranteed playing time – the Ball brothers didn’t make any major requests (Twitter link via Urbonas). And for what it’s worth, LaVar Ball would also be “warmly welcomed” in Prienai, according to the team (Twitter link).

As we wait to see how LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball adjust to Lithuania, let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world….

  • Veteran swingman K.J. McDaniels has signed a G League contract and been claimed off waivers by the Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons‘ affiliate, tweets Chris Reichert of 2 Ways & 10 Days. McDaniels, who spent time with the Nets and Rockets in 2016/17 and was in camp this fall with the Raptors, has averaged 5.3 PPG and 2.2 RPG in 148 total NBA games.
  • Bobby Marks’ latest piece for ESPN Insider is packed with team-by-team details on trade restrictions and notes that will be relevant as the February deadline approaches. Among the info Marks passes along: Which teams can only send or receive limited amounts of cash, which players can veto trades, and which can’t be traded until certain special dates.
  • Sean Deveney of The Sporting News examines the job security for head coaches around the NBA, concluding that Frank Vogel (Magic), Mike Budenholzer (Hawks), Dave Joerger (Kings), and Fred Hoiberg (Bulls) are among those whose seats are hottest.
  • Former second overall pick Emeka Okafor continues to try to make it back to the NBA, with Blake Murphy taking an in-depth look at the big man’s comeback efforts in an excellent piece for Uproxx.com.

LiAngelo, LaMelo Ball Offered To Overseas Teams

11:46am: The agent for LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball has reached out to teams in Lithuania, Croatia, France and Japan, but the players haven’t received any formal offers, tweets Nicola Lupo of Sportando.

10:12am: The younger brothers of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, LiAngelo and LaMelo, have received offers from teams in Lithuania, Croatia, France and Japan, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

The Vertical reported earlier this week that their representative, Harrison Gaines, has been contacting international teams, and it appears that effort has been successful. Carchia shares the text of an email that was sent to Basketeurope.com on behalf of the Ball brothers.

“Money is not a big concern and they would ideally like to play for the same club,” the email reads. “This undoubtedly would bring much attention to your organization.” 

LiAngelo was pulled out of UCLA recently after being disciplined for an international incident last month in which he and two teammates were charged with shoplifting in China. Scouts don’t consider him an NBA prospect, and he would have been a long shot to be drafted next year even if he had stayed in college. LaMelo is a prospect for 2019, but is only 16. His father, LaVar, pulled him out of Chino Hills High School in October.

UCLA coach Steve Alford is defending himself and his program in the wake of criticism from LaVar Ball over the way LiAngelo’s case was handled, relays Josh Peter of USA Today. Ball says his son should have been reinstated to the team immediately when the criminal charges in China were dropped.

“This place gets it,’’ Alford said. “They know how to do things. I’m fully confident. I’ve been right on point with everything that’s happened to date as far as how things have progressed and obviously the young men’s safety and getting them back here was the most important.’’

And-Ones: 2018 Draft, Ball Bros, Two-Way Deals

A pair of NCAA freshmen, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton, are making strong cases to become the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. For now though, Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) still has Real Madrid point guard Luka Doncic coming off the board first, writing that the international star would be a nice fit for the Bulls.

Givony’s mock draft also features Michael Porter Jr., who recently underwent back surgery, slotting in as the No. 4 overall pick. There was some concern in the wake of Porter’s injury that his stock might fall precipitously, but Givony’s blurb on Porter going to the Hawks doesn’t even mention the young forward’s health situation, which suggests that it’s not viewed as a major red flag at this point. NBA teams will get a closer look at Porter’s back in the spring, at which point it will become clearer whether or not he’s still a top-five pick.

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

  • Lonzo Ball‘s younger brothers, LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball, are exploring the possibility of signing with a team overseas, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who reports that representative Harrison Gaines has initiated contact with international teams. LiAngelo, who was pulled out of UCLA’s program this week, isn’t considered an NBA prospect. LaMelo is viewed as a probable pick in the 2019 draft, but he’s still just 16 years old and probably isn’t ready to compete at a professional level, says Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com.
  • Players on two-way contracts aren’t allowed to spend more than 45 days with their respective NBA clubs. However, the criteria for a day spent in the NBA are complicated, and most teams aren’t making service time information publicly available. That makes it difficult to keep tabs on how close two-way players are to their 45-day limits, as Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days details. One thing we know: Wednesday will mark Mike James‘ 45th day in the NBA, so the Suns will have to clear a roster spot in order to convert his contract to a standard NBA deal.
  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders spent time with the Northern Arizona Suns, Phoenix’s G League affiliate, and provides an all-access look at what a day in the G League looks like.

Rade Zagorac To Play In Spain

Former Grizzlies forward Rade Zagorac will continue his career in Spain, having signed a contract with ACB club Real Betis, according to agent Misko Raznatovic (Twitter link). Zagorac previously appeared poised to return to his home country of Serbia for the 2017/18 season, but will head elsewhere in Europe after that deal fell through.

As international basketball reporter David Pick explains (via Twitter), Zagorac had reached a verbal agreement on a deal with KK Partizan Belgrade that would have kept him under contract with the Serbian team through 2019. However, Partizan Belgrade had been hit with a FIBA sanction that prevented them from adding new players, meaning Zagorac’s deal couldn’t be finalized.

Zagorac, 22, was the 35th overall pick in the 2016 draft, and after spending one final season overseas, he joined the Grizzlies earlier this year. However, despite signing a contract that was fully guaranteed for two seasons, the 6’9″ forward was unable to earn a spot on Memphis’ regular season roster. The club waived him along with fellow 2016 draftee Wade Baldwin at the end of the preseason.

With Zagorac headed to Spain, the Grizzlies continue to carry $950K in dead money on their 2017/18 cap for the former second-rounder, plus about $1.38MM for 2018/19. However, the club hasn’t given up on the idea of eventually trying to bring the young forward back to Memphis, as Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal noted last month.

And-Ones: Redick, Ariza, T. Robinson, J. Young

CAA Sports has picked up a pair of big new NBA clients, according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal, who reports (via Twitter) that Sixers guard J.J. Redick and Rockets forward Trevor Ariza have signed on with the agency. Redick was previously represented by Wasserman, while Ariza was a Landmark Sports client.

Both Redick and Ariza are in contract years, so they’ll be in the market for new deals next July. Redick will be 34 years old at that point and Ariza will be 33, so neither player figures to get a massive long-term deal, but they’re both terrific complementary pieces who should do well in terms of annual salary.

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

  • Former NBA big man Thomas Robinson, who is currently playing for Khimki Moscow in Russia, suffered a broken hand and will miss the next three or four months of action, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. The former No. 5 overall pick, who spent time with six NBA teams, last played for the Lakers in 2016/17.
  • Having joined the Wisconsin Herd as an affiliate player for the Bucks, James Young isn’t one of the 59 players currently on a two-way contract. However, the former first-round pick has outperformed many of those two-way players in G League action so far, putting up an impressive 27.5 PPG in six games for the Herd, with a .536 FG% and 4.2 threes per game. Chris Reichert of 2 Ways & 10 Days takes a closer look at Young, who is looking to play his way back into the NBA.
  • While China is set to host the 2019 Basketball World Cup, FIBA is already close to a decision on the hosts for the 2023 event. According to a press release, the 2023 World Cup will feature multiple host countries, with Argentina/Uruguay and Indonesia/Japan/Philippines as the two finalist groups. A decision is set for December 9.
  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton takes a deep dive to assess what kind of career Derrick Rose might have had if not for his injury problems.

Lavoy Allen Set To Play In China

After not finding an NBA home for the 2017/18 season, veteran big man Lavoy Allen is headed to China, according to international basketball journalist David Pick, who reports (via Twitter) that Allen will sign with the CBA’s Zhejiang Golden Bulls. Former Grizzlies power forward Jarnell Stokes is expected to be let go by the Bulls, per Pick.

Allen, 28, entered the NBA in 2011 as the 50th overall pick in the draft. After spending two and a half seasons with the Sixers, Allen was sent to Indiana in 2014 along with Evan Turner. Allen had been a member of the Pacers for three and a half seasons since that trade, but had his team option for 2017/18 declined in June, making him a free agent.

Allen’s numbers in 388 career regular season NBA games were modest — in 17.8 minutes per contest, the Temple alum averaged 4.8 PPG and 4.8 RPG. Those averages figure to skyrocket in China, where marginal NBA bigs often transform into stars. Jared Sullinger, for instance, has put up 34.0 PPG and 15.6 RPG in nine games for the Shenzhen Leopards this season, while Stokes – apparently being replaced by Allen – had recorded 28.2 PPG and 13.4 RPG in five games.

Allen will join a Zhejiang squad that has a 5-3 record in CBA action so far this season. Former NBA swingman Sonny Weems has been the club’s leading scorer, averaging 29.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 6.6 APG.

Terrence Jones Waived By Chinese Team

After getting kicked out of practice and leaving the Qingdao Eagles earlier this week, veteran big man Terrence Jones has now been waived by the Chinese team, per international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link). The Eagles signed former Knicks second-round pick Maciej Lampe to take Jones’ place on their roster, Pick notes.

Jones, who signed a one-year deal back in July to play in China this season, only lasted about three weeks on his new club’s roster. In nine CBA games, the 25-year-old power forward averaged 22.3 PPG, 11.2 RPG, and 2.3 BPG.

Jones had been hoping to parlay a strong performance in China into another NBA opportunity, but his stint with Qingdao seems unlikely to generate a whole lot of interest stateside. While Jones’ numbers are good, they aren’t as eye-popping as the averages posted in China by some other former NBAers — Jared Sullinger, for instance, is recording 34.0 PPG and 15.6 RPG this season for the Shenzhen Leopards. It also sounds like Jones isn’t leaving the Eagles on good terms, which would be a red flag for potential suitors.

The 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Jones spent his first four NBA seasons with the Rockets, flashing some potential during his time in Houston. However, the Rockets opted not to re-sign him and he spent last season with the Pelicans and the Bucks. He was waived by both teams before ultimately making the move overseas in the offseason.

And-Ones: World Cup, Kuzminskas, Trade Deadline

FIBA’s new process for qualifying for the Basketball World Cup may look familiar to fans who follow soccer’s World Cup qualifying process, but it has left many professional players confused and disappointed, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. As Stein details, the timing of the qualifiers will prevent the top players from participating.

Unlike top soccer leagues, which take breaks during their respective seasons to allow the best international players to represent their countries in qualifiers, there are no such windows for NBA and Euroleague players. As such, Team USA is attempting to qualify for the 2019 World Cup with a squad made up of little-known G League players.

“They will qualify, because they will be very well prepared and play hard,” Spurs assistant Ettore Messina said of Team USA. “But then you have to tell them: ‘Thank you. Now the real players are coming in to go to China.’ How unfair is that?”

For his part, Messina had to give up his role as head coach of the Italian national team because of the new qualifying format — he has been one of the loudest critics of the changes, Stein writes. “Stupid,” Messina said. “That’s the most common word I hear when I talk with people about this — stupid.”

As Team USA prepares for its first qualifying game against Puerto Rico, scheduled for tonight, here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press relays a few more perspectives on the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, speaking to several internationally-born NBA players who don’t love the changes.
  • According to Donatas Urbonas (Twitter links), Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas would love to sign free agent Mindaugas Kuzminskas, the Lithuanian forward recently waived by the Knicks. However, while the team says the door is always open for a player like Kuzminskas, it recognizes that its odds of landing him are low.
  • The NBA moved up the trade deadline for 2018 by two weeks to February 8. Danny Leroux of The Sporting News examines how the earlier deadline might affect teams’ plans this season.
  • With a number of NBA draft prospects – including Marvin Bagley III and Miles Bridges – set to participate in the PK80 Invitational in Portland this weekend, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) lay out the players and the matchups worth watching.

And-Ones: Porter Jr., T. Jones, Bad Contracts

With top 2018 prospect Michael Porter Jr. expected to miss the rest of the college season as he recovers from back surgery, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony explores what the injury might mean for Porter’s draft stock. As Givony notes, Porter has been one of the most heavily scouted college freshmen in recent memory, which works in his favor — NBA teams have already evaluated the young forward extensively and formed opinions on him.

Additionally, with Missouri suggesting that Porter is expected to make a full recovery, the 19-year-old could be ready to work out for NBA teams in the spring, which could go a long way toward assuaging any fears that clubs might have about his health.

Back issues will always be handled with caution, and if next year’s draft were held today, Porter may not be a top-five pick. But multiple NBA general managers believe he’ll still land in the top five if his back checks out in June, tweets Jeff Goodman of ESPN.

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

  • Former Rockets, Pelicans, and Bucks big man Terrence Jones is leaving the Qingdao Eagles, his team in China, after getting kicked out of practice, tweets international basketball reporter David Pick. Jones signed a contract with the Eagles in July, but he’ll be on the lookout for another opportunity as the new year approaches.
  • In an interesting piece for HoopsHype, Frank Urbina examines the most “untradable” contract for each NBA team. For some clubs, such as the Lakers (Luol Deng), Knicks (Joakim Noah), and Pelicans (Omer Asik), the choice is easy, but not every team has an obvious albatross on its books. For instance, Urbina’s pick for the Celtics is Al Horford‘s contract, based on its sheer size rather than on Horford’s performance, which has been excellent.
  • Pat Forde and Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports take a deep dive into NBA agent Andy Miller, whose ASM Sports agency has been connected to the FBI’s investigation into college basketball, exploring whether the scandal will impact the NBA.

And-Ones: 2019 Draft, Maynor, Team USA

In the wake of last week’s report suggesting that the NBA and players’ union are exploring the possibility of altering the league’s one-and-done rule for college prospects, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer spoke to five NBA team executives about the issue. According to O’Connor, all five of those execs expect the NBA to allow high-schoolers to enter the draft pool by 2019.

“Sooner than later,” one executive said. “Everyone’s on the same page.”

If that turns out to be the case, the 2019 NBA draft may be the most fascinating one in years. Not only could top high-school prospects potentially enter the mix, but it will also be the first year that the NBA’s new lottery rules take effect.

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

  • Former NBA point guard Eric Maynor, a 2009 first-round pick, has signed a new contract with Orlandina Basket in Italy, as Nicola Lupo of Sportando relays. Maynor, who has played for Italian and Russian teams since 2015, appeared in 267 total NBA regular season games, primarily with the Thunder.
  • In an Insider piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton breaks down the latest transactions and injuries from around the NBA, examining the effect of Mike Conley‘s Achilles issue, D’Angelo Russell‘s knee surgery, the Robert Covington extension, and much more.
  • G League forward Jonathan Holmes, who was in camp with the Celtics this fall, has left the Maine Red Claws to join Team USA for this month’s World Cup qualifiers, tweets Chris Reichert of Two Ways & 10 Days. According to the official announcement from USA Basketball, Holmes is replacing Jarell Eddie, who is battling back spasms.
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