Isaiah Hartenstein

Clippers, Knicks Have Discussed Possible Nerlens Noel Trade

The Clippers and Knicks have engaged in “exploratory” discussions about a possible trade involving center Nerlens Noel, league sources Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

The Knicks are attempting to clear the cap room necessary to make a serious run at free agent point guard Jalen Brunson and have a surplus of future draft picks to offer a team willing to take on Noel’s contract, which will pay him $9.24MM in 2022/23. Moving Noel would increase their projected cap room to approximately $25MM.

The Clippers, meanwhile, have a trade exception big enough to take on Noel’s contract without sending out any salary and may view him as a solid rotation option at center, especially if free agent big man Isaiah Hartenstein doesn’t remain in Los Angeles.

The Clippers already project to be a taxpayer and would increase their luxury tax bill exponentially by adding another $9MM+ contract to their books, but Steve Ballmer is one of the richest owners in sports, so that may not be a pressing concern. The opportunity to help an Eastern Conference club pry away a key free agent from a Western rival may also provide some extra incentive as the Clippers mull a potential deal.

Here’s more from Scotto on free agency and the trade market:

  • Four NBA executives who spoke to Scotto believe that Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons could sign a contract in the four-year, $80MM range, perhaps with incentives that could further increase its value.
  • Based on conversations with six league executives, Scotto writes that Warriors center Kevon Looney could command upwards of $9MM per year as a free agent this summer, while guard Gary Payton II could earn $6-7MM annually. Looney is reportedly considered likely to re-sign with Golden State.
  • On draft night, the Pistons landed center Jalen Duren with the No. 13 pick after agreeing to a deal involving New York and Charlotte. If they hadn’t been able to reach an agreement for the No. 13 pick and Duren slipped to No. 14, the Pistons had discussed offering multiple picks, including a future first-rounder, to the Cavaliers, says Scotto. It’s unclear if Cleveland would’ve had any interest in such an offer.

Rockets Notes: Free Agent Targets, Burke, Gordon, Draft

The Rockets will target a backup center when free agency opens at the end of the month, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The team is short on reliable big men after agreeing to trade Christian Wood to the Mavericks, and although Houston will receive Boban Marjanovic in the deal, the front office plans to explore other options on the free agent market.

Feigen identifies Nic Claxton as one possibility, saying the Nets likely wouldn’t match a full mid-level exception offer (starting at $10MM+) because of luxury tax concerns. Claxton was a part-time starter this season and put up career-best numbers with 8.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per night.

Other free agents that Feigen mentions include former Rocket Isaiah Hartenstein, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee, Mo Bamba, Hassan Whiteside, JaVale McGee and Dewayne Dedmon. After a promising rookie year, Alperen Sengun is expected to be Houston’s starting center next season.

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • As expected, Mavericks guard Trey Burke has officially exercised his $3.3MM player option for next season, which is necessary for the Wood trade to be finalized, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. The deal still can’t be announced until after Dallas picks at No. 26 on Thursday because the Mavs owe a protected 2023 first-round pick to New York.
  • In his latest piece for Substack, Marc Stein confirms that the Rockets are shopping veteran guard Eric Gordon in hopes of getting a first-round pick in return. Houston also tried to move Gordon at the trade deadline, but couldn’t find an acceptable offer. The 33-year-old will make $19.57MM next season and a non-guaranteed $20.92MM in 2023/24.
  • In a separate story, Feigen examines the information the Rockets use when evaluating draft prospects. The team was among the first to embrace analytics under former general manager Daryl Morey, but current GM Rafael Stone admits there are many times when the numbers don’t match what talent evaluators believe they’re seeing. “There are so many different tools you can look at,” he said. “If you like a particular stat a majority of the time it can easily lie to you in individual instances. You don’t just go back to work with video. You can back to work with the whole thing. It gives you hints about what you need to study more with a particular player.”

Clippers’ Lawrence Frank Talks Roster, Offseason, More

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday for his annual postseason press conference, Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said the team will look to upgrade the roster this summer after a disappointing end to 2021/22, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group.

We’re going to have to look at areas of improvement,” Frank said. “We want to make sure that we maximize our opportunities and be able to do something that’s never been done in the history of this organization.”

The Clippers failed to advance to the playoffs after losing both of their play-in tournament games, partly due to the season-long absence of Kawhi Leonard (ACL recovery) and Paul George‘s elbow injury (as well as his positive COVID-19 result the day of the second play-in loss). Frank said the team’s inability to win a championship with its star wings has shown “how fragile the difference between winning and losing is,” but he’ll use the playoff absence as “fuel for a great offseason,” per Swanson.

Frank said he’s encouraged by Leonard’s recovery progress, but declined to give any timetables for a potential return.

Here’s more from Frank’s press conference, courtesy of Swanson:

  • L.A. holds the Bird rights to unrestricted free agent Robert Covington, who recently said he was intrigued by the idea of playing with Leonard and George. Frank said he was happy to hear that, because the team would like to bring him back. “RoCo was very, very good for us. I’m excited to hear that he likes it here. We look forward and we’d like to be able to keep him here.”
  • Isaiah Hartenstein is also a free agent, but the Clips only holds his Non-Bird rights. The big man surpassed Frank’s expectations this season. “We actually recruited Isaiah … we put a lot of effort into it,” said Frank, who noted Hartenstein’s qualities, including his play-making, paint protection, floater and chemistry with the team. “Now, did we think he was going to be able to deliver at this high a level? No.”
  • From a developmental perspective, the Frank said the season was a great success, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “From a process standpoint [it] went better than expected,” Frank said, calling the development of the team’s young players a “huge silver lining.”
  • League sources tell Greif the team will look to add a point guard this summer, but Frank was coy when asked about the possibility. “The game now is played a little bit differently, there are some obviously elite point guards in the league, but a lot of teams are playing through their wings like we do,” Frank said. “So I look at it as do we have enough play initiators between Kawhi, PG, Norm [Norman Powell], Reggie [Jackson], Terance [Mann]? I don’t know; we’ll look at it. We’re not averse to it, but we’ll continue to evaluate and see if we have to address it.”
  • Frank is hopeful that Jason Preston (foot surgery) and Jay Scrubb (turf toe surgery) will be ready for Summer League, Greif relays.

Clippers Notes: Leonard, George, Covington, Batum, Hartenstein, Outlook

The Clippers were a much more optimistic bunch than most teams after getting eliminated from playoff contention, Jim Alexander of the Orange County Register writes. That’s due to the return of perennial All-Star Kawhi Leonard from his knee injury, plus the expectation that Paul George will have better injury luck next season.

In addition to being out for most of the season due to an elbow injury, George missed Friday’s play-in tournament loss to New Orleans after testing positive for COVID-19.

We get our main guys back. I mean, we can be dangerous,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think when you get Kawhi and PG back healthy, Norm (Powell for) a full season … this team can be pretty special. But it’s all about health. Our young guys (Terance Mann, Amir Coffey, (Luke) Kennard, Ivica Zubac), all those guys have (had) a chance to develop and play meaningful games. They played big for us. Our veteran guys, we already talked about what Marcus (Morris), Nico (Batum), Reggie (Jackson) have brought to this team. We got to get back, get back to the drawing board. But I’m very excited for this group, the guys coming back.”

We have more on the Clippers:

  • Robert Covington will be an unrestricted free agent this summer but the prospect of playing with Leonard and George is enticing to him, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets“The way that we played tonight when we went small, imagine PG and Kawhi in that lineup,’ he said. “That’s a lot of versatility … Once them guys come back next year, if I’m here, I’m really looking forward to that.”
  • By trading for Covington, the Clippers also acquired his Bird rights, which will allow them to exceed the salary cap and luxury tux to retain him, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes in his guide to the team’s offseason. They don’t have a first-rounder due to the George trade but they will have two trade exceptions of $9.7MM and $8.3MM, plus the taxpayer mid-level exception of $6.3MM, to make roster upgrades.
  • Another potential decision is whether to re-sign Batum if he declines his $3.3MM option, Yossi Gozlan of Hoops Hype notes in his offseason preview. They hold Non-Bird rights on another unrestricted free agent, Isaiah Hartenstein. Gozlan also breaks down the remaining salary due to each player on the roster.
  • After blowing two chances to make the playoffs, the Clippers are in typical wait-til-next-year mode, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times opines. Despite the rosy outlook, the Clippers can’t guarantee that Leonard will regain his pre-injury form, that the chemistry will be the same or that someone else won’t get hurt.

Pacific Notes: DiVincenzo, Paul, Hartenstein, Curry

Kings guard Donte DiVincenzo has played better in Sacramento than he did earlier this season in Milwaukee. However, he said he’s not thinking about how his recent play may boost his value entering restricted free agency, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

“I don’t go into any game thinking about my contract,” DiVincenzo said. “I go into every game trying to be the hardest-playing player and the best teammate I can be. Wherever the chips fall at the end of the year, that’s where they fall, but when I go into the game, I’m not thinking about my contract. I’m not thinking about the situation. I’m just trying to either win that game, or, like I said, as long as I’m a good teammate and I play with the most energy I possibly can, good things will happen for me.”

DiVincenzo has knocked down 36.6% of his three-point attempts since joining the Kings and is averaging 3.4 assists per game, which would be a career high. Sacramento will have to extend a $6.6MM qualifying offer to the 25-year-old this offseason to officially make him a restricted free agent. The team would then have the ability to match any offer sheet he signs with another club.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Chris Paul‘s thumb injury may have had some silver linings for the Suns, who watched other players step up in Paul’s absence and should have a fresher version of their All-Star point guard entering the postseason. Still, Paul is relieved that his time in the sidelines didn’t last any longer than a month. “I’m just happy that’s behind me. I go to a dark place a lot of times when I can’t play,” Paul told Mark Medina of “Some people like to play basketball. I need to play. This is my happy place.”
  • Isaiah Hartenstein, who signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Clippers in 2021, has become the team’s secret weapon, says Ethan Fuller of While he still has work to do on the defensive end, Hartenstein’s passing and interior scoring have proven valuable this season, Fuller explains. The veteran center could be in line for a raise as a free agent this summer.
  • Warriors guard Jordan Poole has played some of his best basketball of the season since Stephen Curry went down with a foot injury, averaging 28.1 PPG in those seven games. Seerat Sohi of The Ringer takes a closer look at the recent play from Poole, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason.

Pacific Notes: Paul, Davis, Hartenstein, Clippers

With Chris Paul out for six-to-eight weeks with a thumb injury, the Suns might seem more vulnerable. Coach Monty Williams says opponents shouldn’t underestimate the resolve of his team, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets.

“I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge because they hear what everybody is saying,” Williams said. “As soon as the news got out, everybody forecasted fear and that’s not who we are.”

Phoenix extended its winning streak to eight games by defeating the Thunder on Thursday.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers will have to go without Anthony Davis again for several weeks due to a foot injury. Russell Westbrook says he’s mentally preparing for Davis’ absence, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. “For me, I already kind of (adjusted my) mentality, changed my mindset a little bit knowing kind of what to be expected,” he said. “Our job is to hold it down until he gets back.”
  • Isaiah Hartenstein has been stellar in a backup role with the Clippers and he could cash in after the season, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Hartenstein is shooting 62% from the field and has emerged as one of the best passing bigs in the league. Hartenstein will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after playing on a minimum contract and he could be in a line for a non-trivial portion of some team’s mid-level exception, Lowe believes.
  • The Clippers are continuing to look around for upgrades, particularly at the point, but there may not be anyone made available that they’ll sign, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times.  They are happy with the recent play of Terance Mann and would have to waive a player to add a free agent.

Latest Salary Guarantees: D. Lee, Reed, Hartenstein, Sykes, M. Thomas

Warriors swingman Damion Lee will have the rest of his 2021/22 salary guaranteed, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). The news doesn’t come as a surprise, as Lee has been with Golden State for four seasons and has been part of the regular rotation for three of those.

Lee, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, will now have his $1,910,860 cap hit for ’21/22 locked in. The Warriors are also guaranteeing Gary Payton II’s rest-of-season salary, so the team won’t have create any new openings on its 15-man roster.

Here are more updates on players who are affected by today’s salary guarantee deadline:

  • The Sixers will keep Paul Reed through the deadline, guaranteeing his salary, tweets Scotto. Reed, who is earning $1,517,981 in 2021/22, also has a non-guaranteed minimum salary for next season before he becomes eligible for restricted free agency in 2023. The 6’9″ forward has averaged 2.3 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 19 games (9.4 MPG) for Philadelphia in his second NBA season.
  • Clippers center Isaiah Hartenstein will have his full-season salary guaranteed, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Hartenstein, earning $1,729,217, was always one of the safer bets to survive the salary guarantee deadline, since he played a key role in L.A.’s frontcourt, putting up 7.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.3 BPG in just 16.4 MPG (29 games).
  • After recently signing a two-year contract with the Pacers, Keifer Sykes will have his rest-of-season salary guaranteed, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Sykes, who made a strong impression in the G League, is off to a strong start at the NBA level too, averaging 10.4 PPG and 3.6 APG in his first five games (26.8 MPG). Since he didn’t sign until December 27, Sykes’ prorated rookie-minimum salary is worth just $558,345.
  • The Bulls will hang onto sharpshooter Matt Thomas, guaranteeing his minimum-salary contract for 2021/22, sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Thomas has only appeared in 13 games for Chicago and his three-point rate (34.6%) is well below his career rate (40.5%), but the team apparently values his ability to stretch the floor. He’ll make $1,669,178 this season before becoming eligible for restricted free agency. The Bulls will also have to make a decision today on Alfonzo McKinnie‘s non-guaranteed contract.

Los Angeles Notes: Hartenstein, Clippers Bench, Anthony, James

Isaiah Hartenstein won a training camp battle with Harry Giles for the last spot on the Clippers roster and has emerged as a solid reserve, Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register writes.

Hartenstein has averaged 7.3 PPG and 4.3 RPG in 15.3 MPG through three appearances and has developed chemistry with Clippers wing Luke Kennard. “I think we just really know how to play with each other,” said Hartenstein, who is on a one-year, minimum-salary contract.

We have more from the Los Angeles teams:

  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said that Hartenstein, Kennard and Terance Mann learned how to blend their talents during training camp, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes. “They understand their unit, how they play,” Lue said. “Move bodies, move the basketball.” Kennard is averaging 11.5 PPG and Mann is averaging 8.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 3.5 APG.
  • LeBron James said the league missed the boat on new Lakers teammate Carmelo Anthony, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. Anthony struggled to find another NBA opportunity until he hooked on with Portland during the 2019/20 season. “He’s been doing it for quite a while, and it’s just beautiful to continue to see, especially when, you know, they gave up on him,” James said. Anthony, who signed a veteran’s minimum contract this summer, had a 28-point game on Sunday and is averaging 14.0 PPG so far with his new team.
  • James is questionable to play on Friday due to right ankle soreness, McMenamin tweets. He has missed the last two games after playing 40 minutes on Sunday. Rajon Rondo has also been listed as questionable due to a similar injury, McMenamin adds.

Pacific Notes: Bradley, Bagley, Hartenstein, Lakers

Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green had been in favor of keeping Avery Bradley on the team’s roster to open the regular season, sources tell Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. As Thompson notes, Bradley didn’t have a great preseason for Golden State, but the team’s veterans liked the fact that he has significant playoff experience.

According to Thompson, there was even a sense from some people within the organization that Bradley could be a good fit in the Warriors’ starting lineup until Klay Thompson returns, since he’d be capable of handling tougher defensive assignments that Jordan Poole may not be ready for. With Poole in the starting lineup, it might fall to Curry to defend an opponent’s top guard.

Rather than hanging onto Bradley, the Warriors appear set to open the regular season with an open 15th roster spot. However, the team could choose to fill that opening at any time.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • League sources confirm to Marc Stein of Substack (Twitter link) that no rookie scale extension is expected for Kings big man Marvin Bagley III today. That comes as no surprise, given that Bagley has been the subject of trade rumors and has been limited to 56 games over the last two seasons due to foot and hand injuries.
  • The Clippers liked what they saw in camp from Harry Giles, whom Tyronn Lue referred to as “definitely an NBA player,” but they believed Isaiah Hartenstein is a better fit for their roster, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “He did a good job, he played well, kind of came in and fit in right away with his passing and being able to get guys shots and backdoor cuts for layups and things like that,” Lue said of Hartenstein, who beat out Giles for the 15th spot on the opening-night roster.
  • It remains a mystery which two players will start for the Lakers alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook on opening night on Tuesday. Head coach Frank Vogel told reporters today that he has made a decision, but doesn’t want to disclose it yet (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic).

Clippers Waive Harry Giles

The Clippers have waived big man Harry Giles, the team announced today. The move allows center Isaiah Hartenstein to make the 15-man roster, as both players were competing for the club’s final roster spot on non-guaranteed training camp deals.

Giles, 23, was drafted with the No. 20 pick in 2017. He’s held brief stints with the Kings, Blazers and Clippers since then, averaging 5.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 12.9 minutes for his career.

Hartenstein, also 23, is expected to add depth behind Ivica Zubac and Serge Ibaka in the Clippers’ frontcourt this season. He appeared in 16 games with the Cavaliers last season, scoring 8.3 points and grabbing six rebounds per contest.

“Excited. It’s been great so far,” Hartenstein said, adding that he learned of the move today (hat tip Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. “I love the organization so far.”

The Clippers open the season on the road against Golden State on Thursday. Los Angeles will start the campaign without Kawhi Leonard (partial ACL tear rehab), who still doesn’t have a timeline for his return.