Jamal Murray

Latest On Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving

Kevin Durant‘s trade request increases the chances of a Kyrie Irving trade to the Lakers, Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

A straight Irving for Russell Westbrook swap would not work financially, so the Nets would either have to add another contract or include a third — and perhaps fourth team — for salary-matching purposes. Irving would be a better fit for LeBron James and Anthony Davis than Westbrook, providing better spacing offensively.

A potential deal could also lead the Lakers to part with first-rounders in 2027 or later.

If the Nets don’t want Westbrook’s salary, a third team could take that contract, with one of the Lakers’ picks and potentially Talen Horton-Tucker and/or Kendrick Nunn being involved.

A source told the Athletic that the chances of the Lakers landing Durant in a deal involving Davis is “zero.” Their focus, apparently, is on Irving.

We have more on the Durant/Irving situation:

  • The Nets don’t appear to be interested in Deandre Ayton, sources told John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link). Thus, a potential trade with the Suns may not include the restricted free agent or it would have to involve a third team.
  • Irving is “fully supportive” of Durant’s trade request, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (hat tip to RealGM). Irving knew Durant trade request was possible when he opted in to the final year of his contract.
  • Ben Simmons would be the major impediment to the Nuggets getting involved in the Durant sweepstakes, Mike Singer of the Denver Post notes. League rules stipulate that teams can’t have two players on a rookie scale max extension that have been acquired via trade. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. would both fit that description.
  • In the days before Irving’s choice to opt-in, sources close to Ayton raised the possibility of an Ayton-Mikal Bridges deal with the Nets, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick. It was unclear at that time whether or not Durant was going to ask for a trade.
  • In the same piece, Alex Schiffer says he’s heard the Nets want multiple All-Stars in any deal for Durant.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Connelly, Morris, Booth

Echoing Mike Singer’s reporting from earlier this week, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic confirm that Nikola Jokic remains fully committed to the Nuggets and intends to sign a five-year, super-max extension this offseason.

According to The Athletic’s duo, Jokic’s brothers Strahinja and Nemanja have met with general manager Calvin Booth and assistant GM Tommy Balcetis in the days since Tim Connelly‘s departure to discuss the team’s future, while Booth and head coach Michael Malone have spoken on the phone to Jokic, who is in Serbia. Everyone is in the same page going forward, per Charania and Amick.

As the Nuggets continue to build around Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., the focus for Booth and the new-look front office this offseason will be to add long, versatile, defensive-minded players, sources tell The Athletic.

The team will be open to surrendering more of its draft assets if that helps open up favorable opportunities to acquire win-now talent, according to Charania and Amick, since the goal is to compete for a championship and make the most of Jokic’s prime years.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • The Timberwolves’ willingness to include equity in their offer to Connelly was viewed by the Nuggets as an obstacle they couldn’t overcome, say Charania and Amick. In addition to the Nuggets, the Kroenkes own franchises in other sports – including the NFL’s Rams and the NHL’s Avalanche – and had no interest in setting a new precedent on equity that might affect future negotiations with team executives.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a close look at the Nuggets’ situation going forward, wondering if the team will be open to trading Will Barton and/or Monte Morris this offseason. Hollinger suggests Morris could be more expendable due to Murray’s return and Bones Hyland‘s emergence.
  • Within his story, Hollinger notes that Connelly’s salary during his last season in Denver put him in the bottom half of the NBA’s lead basketball executives and suggests that the Nuggets have a history of investing minimally in their basketball operations department and organizational infrastructure.
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post takes a closer look at what Calvin Booth will bring to the Nuggets’ head of basketball operations job, speaking to several people who have worked with him over the years. One source told Singer that Booth is more “structured” than Connelly and predicted he’ll have a lower tolerance for “locker room headaches.”

And-Ones: BIG3, Canada, Hezonja, Coaches

Ty Lawson, Corey Brewer, Jordan Crawford, Jonathon Simmons, Norris Cole, Festus Ezeli, and Jordan Hill are among the many former NBA players whose names are in the BIG3 draft pool for the 2022 season, per the league’s official website.

The BIG3 will hold its draft on Wednesday evening in Los Angeles as it gears up for the coming season. As we previously relayed, the first games of 2022 are scheduled for June 18 and this will be the first year in which the BIG3 holds an All-Star Game.

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

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter, Connelly, Gordon

The Nuggets were hoping all season to have Jamal Murray back in time for the playoffs, but he didn’t believe his surgically repaired ACL was strong enough to take the risk, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Meeting with reporters Friday in the wake of Denver’s first-round exit, Murray explained that he hadn’t recovered enough to feel comfortable on the court.

“I remember saying at the beginning of my rehab, I want to come back when I’m 100 percent and not 85,” Murray said. “I don’t think I’m 85 right now. I know I can go get a bucket. But in terms of the intensity of the playoffs, I’m just not there yet.”

Murray, who suffered the injury last April, was cleared to participate in five-on-five practice about four weeks ago. President of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the team monitored Murray’s progress closely and made a “collective decision” to keep him out of action.

“We knew specifically with Jamal’s injury that the timeframes can be all over the place. We’ve done all the studies and it can be anywhere from X to Y. We didn’t want to put a firm timeframe on it,” Connelly said. “As he started to feel better and better, we didn’t want to be too definitive because we didn’t want to mislead anyone in this room. As the year progressed and we got into the postseason, I thought it would be irresponsible for him to enter that level of competition.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Michael Porter Jr. expressed a similar sentiment, saying even if he had tried to play, he couldn’t have helped much, per Pat Graham of The Associated Press. Porter was limited to nine games this season and never returned after having lumbar spine surgery in December. “On one leg and stand in the corner and shoot threes,” Porter responded when asked if he could have played. “Would I have been at my best? I definitely would not have been at my best. At that point, it’s just thinking long-term versus short-term.” Porter adds that he and Murray encouraged each other through the rehab process to not try to rush back from their injuries.
  • After taking a gamble by giving Porter a max extension before the start of the season despite his history of back issues, Connelly will be under pressure this summer to find some help for Nikola Jokic, observes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.
  • Aaron Gordon bounced back strong after poor performances in the first two games of the series, notes Matt Schubert of The Denver Post. Although Gordon might be miscast as the second option on a title contender, he showed promise that he can contribute once Murray and Porter return, Schubert adds.

Tim Connelly Discusses Nuggets’ Roster, Future

Following the team’s first-round exit at the hands of Golden State, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly discussed a number of topics on Friday at his season-ending press conference, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Connelly said signing Nikola Jokic to a super-max extension this summer is a top priority.

It’s a pretty big (priority),” Connelly said. “… There’s nothing more important, organizationally, than to make sure Nikola stays here as long as he wants to play the game.”

Connelly also reflected on giving Michael Porter Jr. a five-year, maximum-salary extension prior to the 2021/22 season. Porter appeared in just nine games this season and clearly wasn’t himself prior to being shutdown and undergoing lumbar spine surgery in December, his third back surgery since 2017.

You analyze everything. Oftentimes the best indicator of future health is current health,” Connelly said. “Unfortunately, he had the injuries he dealt with this year. The previous couple years going into that contractual negotiation (last summer) we felt pretty good about it. Certainly his numbers were reflective of a guy that you’re going to have to give a lot of money.

“Hindsight is 20/20. I think we looked as much as we can. We’ve tended to be a team that rewards guys earlier instead of getting to the marketplace. We’re really looking forward to him being fully healthy, and I know he’s working his butt off to achieve that goal.”

The president said the reason the team never officially ruled out Porter or Jamal Murray for the season was because only the players knew how they felt: “It’s their body. … Whenever there’s an injury, the player has to have the loudest voice.”

Denver never applied pressure for either player to make a return if they felt they weren’t ready, Connelly added. Both players confirmed to the media that they were aligned with management’s thinking, Singer notes. Murray, who missed the entire season after suffering a torn left ACL last April, said he’s “not even sure if he’s 85% right now,” according to Singer (Twitter link).

Here are some more quotes from Connelly, courtesy of Singer:

  • Connelly said the small forward position and wing defense are areas that need to be addressed in the offseason. “Whenever you lose you have to be extremely self-critical and analyze areas where we’re not where we need to be. Losing Mike (Porter) was really big, but losing PJ Dozier, that was really two guys, all our depth at the small forward position, so we had to play some pretty wonky lineups. … I think it’s pretty evident where we need to get better.”
  • Connelly on DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, who’s an unrestricted free agent: “Boogie was fantastic. He brought a ton. … He helped stabilize that second unit.” The team plans to talk to Cousins about his future soon, Singer tweets.
  • Denver wants to retain two-way player Davon Reed and only decided against converting him to a standard deal (to become playoff-eligible) because it would’ve meant cutting someone else (Twitter link via Singer). “He’s a guy that we’re very high on for the future,” Connelly said.
  • Connelly on the possibility of paying the luxury tax next season and/or in the future: “If the team is good enough, (ownership will) pay accordingly.

Nuggets Notes: Cousins, Offseason, Future

Nuggets backup center DeMarcus Cousins was highly productive in the team’s first-round loss to Golden State, carving out a niche on Denver’s bench, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

DeMarcus, to be playing 10 minutes a game and to be having the productivity that he’s had, and the efficiency that he’s had, is really remarkable,” said head coach Michael Malone. “And I told him after the game (Game 4), you know, everybody wants to play more, but it’s important for DeMarcus to know the impact he’s having is real.”

In the five-game series, Cousins averaged 10.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in just 11.4 minutes per night, sporting a blistering shooting line of .655/.667/.733. He scored 19 points in 15 minutes during Denver’s 102-98 Game 5 defeat on Wednesday.

He gives us a calming influence, somebody that we can — instead of trying to go up and down, go crazy — settle down, play inside-out basketball,” Malone said. “He’s gotten JaMychal Green layups and dunks at the rim, he’s kicked out for open threes, and then the last part of it, now you can step out on the perimeter and play pick-and-roll with Bones Hyland. We know DeMarcus sets really good, physical screens, and he gets guys open.”

Cousins is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he says he’s not sure if he’ll be back with the Nuggets next season, per Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com.

I honestly don’t know what the future holds,” Cousins said. “A lot in this short time has transpired. I’m still trying to get over the fact that G.P. (Gary Payton II) hit that big shot, right? I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity. I’m happy to be a part of this group. I’m happy with the opportunity that was given to me from Mike [Malone], [president] Tim [Connelly], [general manager Calvin] Booth. To answer that question, I can’t right now. I don’t know what’s future holds.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Count Will Barton and Monte Morris among the teammates who hope Cousins is brought back for 2022/23, Kennedy writes in the same article. “Anytime you have a guy like that, you always want him back,” Barton said. “Like I say, he’s still DeMarcus Cousins — a guy who, when he’s healthy, is a very good player. Those are not my decisions; I’m not in management. Obviously, if I have a voice in the fight, I definitely would love to have him back. He was big for us on and off the court, [a] presence in the locker room. We’ll see what happens.” Morris echoed that sentiment: “Signing Boogie, man… I love him to death. A guy that would pick up 19 points in a do-or-die elimination game just shows how much heart he has, how much love he has for the game. I’m definitely proud of him… He’s a great guy.”
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) and HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan explore Denver’s roster possibilities in their offseason guides.
  • Malone is optimistic about what Denver’s future holds despite the team’s first-round exit, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “The future’s definitely bright,” Malone said. “I think we also have to understand that Jamal Murray to start the season next year is not going to be the Jamal Murray [we know] right away. I think it’s going to be a buildup, him getting comfortable and confident out there.”
  • Warriors forward/center Draymond Green was effusive in his praise of Nikola Jokic after Game 5, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “It’s an honor and a pleasure to play against someone so talented and so skilled,” Green said of Jokic. “Usually when you have a guy that’s that talented and that skilled, they’re a little soft. He’s far, far from soft. He’s an absolutely incredible player.”
  • In case you missed it, Jokic said if the Nuggets offer him a five-year, super-max extension this offseason, he plans to accept it.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Mitchell, Timberwolves, Murray

Down 2-1 against the Mavericks without shooting guard Luka Doncic, the lone All-Star for Dallas this season, the Jazz face a probable must-win Game 4 at home today, per Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jones considers the contest to be a critical moment for not just Utah’s season, but also for the future of its core roster: All-Star center and Defensive Player of the Year finalist Rudy Gobert, All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, pricey veteran point guard Mike Conley, and forward Bojan Bogdanovic.

“It’s a game that we gotta have,” Conley said of the Jazz’s mentality heading into the game. “We’re still a confident team. In no way, shape or form is this series over.”

“It’s up to us to adjust quicker on the fly on the court,” Gobert said. “We shouldn’t have to wait until halftime in order to start playing well. I like what we did in the second half. I like what we did defensively. The offense takes care of itself when we play that way defensively. Now, the question is can we have that mindset and maintain that mindset for 48 minutes?”

Jones contends that the Jazz should consider emphasizing small-ball lineups without Gobert during key stretches against Dallas today.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Several Jazz staffers were “surprised and upset” to see Knicks executive William Wesley and star power forward Julius Randle sitting courtside during the Jazz’s Game 1 matchup against the Mavericks, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Begley notes that All-Star Utah guard Donovan Mitchell and breakout Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, have long been rumored New York targets. Mitchell is in the first season of a five-year, maximum-salary rookie contract extension he signed with the Jazz during the 2020 offseason, and would have to be moved in a trade to join the Knicks.
  • After coughing up a 25-point second half lead, the Timberwolves eventually fell to the Grizzlies in Minnesota to lose a critical Game 3 of their first-round series on Thursday, 104-95. Memphis is now up 2-1. The Timberwolves can still make this a series despite the demoralizing defeat, opines Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Krawczynski says the Wolves need to clamp down on defense throughout the contest and get All-Star center Karl Anthony-Towns more engaged on offense, steering him clear of unnecessary fouls.
  • Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, who missed back-to-back seasons with ACL and Achilles tears, appreciates Nuggets guard Jamal Murray‘s decision to not rush his return from his own ACL tear this season, writes Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “I would just tell Jamal to keep in mind the big picture. He’s got a decade of greatness ahead of him. No need to compromise that now,” Thompson said in a lengthy conversation with Singer. “Fans are kind of unrealistic. They don’t realize how much it takes to build back your muscle to be able to compete at this level. This is the best basketball in the world. You don’t want to put your whole future at risk just because of win right now.” Thompson, Heat guard Victor Oladipo and Bulls guard Zach LaVine, all have helped Murray navigate his rehab.
  • In the same piece, Singer notes that Murray has yet to be officially ruled out from returning, though the Nuggets are all but eliminated from the postseason now, with the Warriors leading in their first round series against Denver 3-0. “We’re never going to take any short-term view with any of our players, and any decision on Jamal’s return will be made collectively,” Nuggets president Tim Connelly said. “Jamal’s among the toughest and most competitive guys in our league and is eager to play, but organizationally, we can’t be irresponsible with his return. His best days are undoubtedly ahead of him.” 

Injury Notes: Barnes, R. Williams, Doncic, Murray, MPJ

Rookie of the Year finalist Scottie Barnes has been ruled out for Game 3 of the Raptors‘ series against Philadelphia on Wednesday, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. However, head coach Nick Nurse said Barnes has made “very encouraging” progress and is hopeful he’ll be able to suit up for Game 4, per Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link).

Barnes was previously listed as doubtful as he continues to deal with the left ankle sprain that he suffered in Game 1 on Saturday.

Here are some more postseason injury notes from around the NBA:

  • Celtics center Robert Williams III has been able to do some three-on-three work, but the team has been closely monitoring his knee to ensure he’s not experiencing swelling post-surgery. Head coach Ime Udoka again stated that the team is operating under the assumption that Williams will miss Boston’s series against Brooklyn (Twitter link via Jared Weiss of The Athletic).
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic is officially listed as questionable for Game 3 against Utah on Thursday, the team’s PR department announced (via Twitter). As we relayed earlier today, Doncic was able to increase his activity at practice and if he and the team feel there’s little risk of aggravating his left calf strain, he might suit up.
  • Jamal Murray (ACL recovery) and Michael Porter Jr. (back surgery) have both been ruled out for Game 3 of the Nuggets‘ series against Golden State, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Murray is considered doubtful to make his season debut in the series and he’s reportedly closer to action than Porter, although Porter is still optimistic about a potential first-round return.

Injury Notes: Mavericks, Murray, Curry, Adebayo, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who will reportedly miss Game 1 of the team’s playoff series against Utah on Saturday, has officially been listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report (Twitter link). Tim Hardaway Jr. (recovering from left foot surgery) and Frank Ntilikina (recovering from an illness) will also miss the contest.

Hardaway is considered unlikely to return this season, though he hasn’t given up hope of a comeback if Dallas makes a deep playoff run. The Mavs later announced (via Twitter) that Ntilikina underwent a tonsillectomy, which is why he’s sidelined. The 23-year-old is back with the team and gradually returning to on-court activities.

Here are some more injury and COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has been ruled out for Game 1 against Golden State on Saturday, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The news isn’t surprising, as Murray has missed the entire season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last April.
  • Slater also notes that Stephen Curry has been listed as probable for the Warriors. He’s on track to play his first game since suffering a left foot sprain and bone bruise on March 16.
  • Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team is hopeful that Bam Adebayo will clear the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols in time to play in Game 1 against Cleveland or Atlanta on Sunday, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Adebayo entered the protocols on April 10 and players must stay isolated for at least five days unless they return two straight negative tests at least 24 hours apart, so he should be cleared soon.
  • Suns guard Landry Shamet was unable to practice on Friday due to a left foot injury, according to a report from The Associated Press. “Injuries are a part of it,” coach Monty Williams said. “We’re not sure the severity of it. He just didn’t practice today and that’s all we have to report. But we’re built for situations like this. … We just have to deal with stuff as it pops up.”
  • Luke Kennard will miss Friday’s win-or-go-home game for the Clippers, as Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group relays (via Twitter). Kennard is dealing with a right hamstring injury and his absence will be a key one for Los Angeles, who faces New Orleans to determine the No. 8 seed in the West.

Injury Updates: Simmons, Murray, Williams, Kleber

In an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up on Thursday morning, Brian Windhorst said that there’s a real chance Ben Simmons could make his Nets debut at some point during the team’s first-round series vs. Boston (video link).

“I am told that Ben Simmons is targeting Games 4, 5, or 6 for making his Brooklyn Nets debut,” said Windhorst, who added that he was “taken aback” when he received that information. “My response was, ‘Is he even playing 5-on-5 yet?’ And the answer to that is no, but the hope is by the end of the week he can ramp up to that.

“… It’s a big ask, but I have to say that really for seven (or) eight weeks now, I’ve heard nothing but pessimism on the Ben Simmons front and that has switched dramatically in the last few days.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic has also reported that a first-round return is a possibility for Simmons. When asked on Wednesday about Charania’s report, head coach Steve Nash pumped the brakes a little, telling reporters that there’s still no set timeline for Simmons’ debut. However, Nash did say the three-time All-Star has been making “heavier progress” in the last week, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

“He’s moving more, he’s shooting, he’s starting to move a little bit on the court in a one-on-zero environment,” Nash said. “So definitely positive signs that it’s improving and moving and all those things. But like I said he hasn’t been running full speed or playing against anybody, so still a lot more markers to meet.”

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Jamal Murray‘s potential return from ACL surgery is in the “red zone,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said during an appearance on 92.5 FM Altitude Sports in Denver, meaning a decision will likely be made soon (Twitter link via Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports). A first-round return remains possible for Murray, who is still ahead of Michael Porter Jr. in the rehab process, according to Connelly.
  • Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said on Wednesday that he hasn’t closed the door on Murray returning in the first round, but “would lean more towards him being doubtful” for the club’s series vs. Golden State, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays.
  • Appearing today on Toucher & Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said he remains comfortable with the four- to six-week timeline the team initially announced for Robert Williams‘ recovery (Twitter link via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston). Williams is progressing well, according to Stevens, but still hasn’t been cleared for contact and has “a ways to go.”
  • Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber missed the last four games of the regular season due to right ankle soreness, but went through a full practice on Wednesday and said he feels “100% better,” writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.