James Johnson

Eastern Notes: Giannis, Raptors, Heat, Thompson

If Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent during the summer of 2021, the Raptors are likely to be one of his “chief pursuers,” sources tell John Hollinger of The Athletic.

It’s entirely possible that Antetokounmpo won’t even reach the open market, since the Bucks intend to put a super-max extension offer on the table for him next summer as soon as they’re eligible to do so. And even if the star forward does opt for free agency, it’s not as if the Raptors won’t face competition from just about every other team in the NBA.

Still, it makes sense that the Raptors would zero in on Antetokounmpo specifically as they consider future targets. President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri reportedly helped Giannis and his family emigrate from Nigeria to Greece, and tried to trade into the 2013 draft to select him. The Raps haven’t had much luck luring top American-born free agents to Toronto in the past, but might believe they’d have a better shot with an international star like Antetokounmpo, especially now that they have a championship under their belt.

It’s far too early to draw any conclusions about Giannis’ future, but until he re-ups with the Bucks or ends up elsewhere, it’s safe to assume the Raptors will be retaining their 2021 cap flexibility in the hopes he considers them.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Dion Waiters and James Johnson both practiced with the Heat today, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, only Johnson will travel to Atlanta with the team, as he has reached his conditioning targets while Waiters hasn’t, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link). Neither player has suited up for the club yet this season due to conditioning issues.
  • Tristan Thompson, who is in a contract year with the Cavaliers, has never made an All-Defense team, but wants that to change this season, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com relays. “I want to guard the best wings and big on every team,” Thompson said. “I want to make their night tough, to gain that respect defensively around the league. [A] goal of mine is to make first team All-Defense. The way you do that is guarding the best players.”
  • Appearing on Big Apple Buckets, the New York Post’s podcast, Charles Oakley suggested that he’s open to trying to bury the hatchet with Knicks ownership after a contentious saga that saw him banned from MSG, writes Greg Joyce of The Post. Oakley also weighed in on how the Knicks should respond to Kevin Durant‘s comments about the team not being “cool.”

Latest On Dion Waiters

After he was suspended for the first game of the season and didn’t travel with the team over the weekend, Dion Waiters has been reinstated by the Heat, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

However, according to Winderman, Waiters won’t be in uniform tonight for Miami’s game vs. the Hawks. He also didn’t participate in the Heat’s shootaround this morning, and wasn’t available to comment on the situation.

“He’ll be here tonight,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said, per Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. “He will work out [but] he will not be active tonight. Then we’ll take it from there. Enough has been said about it, and we’ll take it day by day.”

The situation remains an unusual one, with the Heat offering little insight on where things stand with Waiters and not making him available to the media to address the situation himself. Sources tell the Herald duo that Waiters openly complained about his playing time during Miami’s preseason finale and refused to do one of his required weighs-ins that week.

Waiters has a $1.2MM bonus in his contract for appearing in at least 70 games in a season, so it’s fair to assume that in addition to his previous complaints about his role, he’s also not thrilled about missing his fourth straight contest to open the year. The 27-year-old is healthy, but his conditioning may not be at the level the Heat expect.

The Heat are off to a solid start this season, winning two of their first three games despite being without star Jimmy Butler. If that success continues, the club presumably won’t be in any rush to get Waiters and fellow veteran James Johnson back into the rotation. Johnson will also remain inactive tonight due to conditioning issues, per Windmeran.

It’s possible that Waiters and Johnson will meet their conditioning requirements and be activated by the Heat soon, but this is a situation worth watching — both players still have two years remaining on their eight-figure contracts.

Southeast Notes: Augustin, Thomas, Waiters, Wall

Magic point guard D.J. Augustin plans to play until he’s 35 or 36, as he told Sean Deveney of Forbes.com. Given that Augustin turns 32 next month, that would mean another three or four seasons in the league. Augustin began this season as the Magic’s starter at the point, though the team hopes that Markelle Fultz eventually emerges in that role. Augustin, an unrestricted free agent next summer, averaged 11.7 PPG and 5.3 APG last season while making 42.1% of his 3-pointers.

“I have sacrificed a lot, I am away from my kids a lot. They’re getting older,” the Magic point guard said. “I think 35, 36 would be a good age for me to be done and just spend time with them and be more involved with their lives.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Isaiah Thomas showed flashes of his former MVP self in his Wizards’ debut on Saturday night, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. He had 16 points, five assists and three rebounds in less than 20 minutes after recovering from a thumb injury. Thomas joined the Wizards on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal after a forgettable season with the Nuggets. “There’s going to be some bad days. There’s going to be some good days,” he said. “But I’m going to be even keel throughout the process knowing that if I keep taking steps forward, I’m going to get closer to where I was and hopefully surpass that.”
  • It will interesting to see if the chemistry the Heat have forged thus far will be disrupted by the returns of Dion Waiters and James Johnson, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel notes. The shooting of Waiters and defense of Johnson can still help the team, though it played with a sense of togetherness in a win over the Bucks on Saturday, Winderman adds. Both are signed through the 2020/21 season, though Johnson has a player option.
  • Wizards point guard John Wall and Adidas are negotiating a buyout on his five-year footwear and apparel endorsement contract less than two years into the agreement, ESPN’s Nick DePaula reports. Wall, who is expected to miss the season as he recovers from an Achilles tear, was due to make nearly $25MM on the endorsement contract.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Hornets, Thomas, Wizards

As we relayed earlier today, Dion Waiters won’t travel with the Heat this weekend as he looks ahead to potentially making his season debut next Tuesday. However, he won’t be the only Miami veteran who is potentially away from the team on its road trip.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra said today that the Heat are planning to be without Jimmy Butler and James Johnson for Saturday’s game in Milwaukee and Sunday’s contest in Minnesota, per the team (Twitter link). Butler’s regular-season debut with Miami has been postponed due to the birth of his daughter, while Johnson is still working on his conditioning.

According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link), Udonis Haslem is also dealing with a wrist injury and won’t play on Saturday, so two-way players Daryl Macon and Chris Silva should both be active, joining the other 10 players on the Heat’s standard roster. Miami has one open spot on its roster but can’t currently fill it due to hard-cap limitations.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Terry Rozier, the Hornets‘ big offseason acquisition, struggled in his debut on Wednesday and found himself on the bench down the stretch as Devonte’ Graham handled point guard duties, racking up 23 points and eight assists. That may not happen often, but James Borrego‘s decision to roll with Graham showed that the Hornets head coach is willing to make good on his preseason promise to dole out minutes based on performance, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.
  • While Isaiah Thomas isn’t quite ready to return from his thumb injury, he believes he’s capable of helping the Wizards and improving his own stock in the process — and he thinks head coach Scott Brooks will put him in position to do just that, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. “He wants what’s best for me,” Thomas said of Brooks. “He wants me to play well, obviously, and get what I deserve. And that’s to get paid one day.”
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines the Wizards‘ options for filling Jordan McRae‘s minutes as the guard recovers from a broken finger.

Eastern Notes: Knicks, Sabonis, Hachimura, Johnson, Henson

Knicks management was “stunned and depressed” that marquee free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant chose the Nets, a team source told Frank Isola of The Athletic. The Knicks have tried to convince outsiders they didn’t want meetings with them or another top free agent, Kawhi Leonard, but in actuality they desperately wanted those big-ticket free agents, Isola continues. However, it may work out for them in the long run considering Durant’s Achilles injury and Irving’s injury history, Isola adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • It makes sense for the Pacers to move Domantas Sabonis if he doesn’t mesh well with Myles Turner in the Pacers’ starting lineup, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic opines. Indiana is reportedly shopping Sabonis because extension talks have gone nowhere. The team should see if they can play together but if it doesn’t work, there’s no need to tie up a chunk of the team’s cap space on two centers, Vecenie continues, especially since it drafted another center in June.
  • Sabonis expressed his disappointment about the extension negotiations and subsequent trade rumors on Saturday, Forbes’ Tony East tweets. “Theres not really much to talk about. I know exactly how the Pacers feel about me now,” Sabonis said. “They know how I feel about that. There’s not much more to say. I’ll let my agents do the rest of it, we’ll see what happens.”
  • Wizards first-round selection Rui Hachimura is likely to be in the starting lineup for the season opener, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post tweets. Coach Scott Brooks said he was “leaning the way.” Hachimura averaged 10.3 PPG and 6.5 RPG in 21.9 MPG during the preseason.
  • Heat forward James Johnson believes he’ll suit up for the opener, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Johnson has returned for workouts after a team-imposed suspension when he failed to meet their conditioning standards. Johnson said he just needs to get his body fat percentage down a little more. “You know, body fat takes a long time to drop. So I’m just waiting for that to get down,” he said. “I know my numbers. My weight is good, my conditioning is good, I’m just waiting for my numbers to drop.”
  • Center John Henson‘s injury woes have continually frustrated the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Henson has been sidelined most of the preseason with groin and ankle injuries. A wrist injury that required surgery made last season a virtual washout for the former Bucks big man. Coach John Beilein was hoping Henson could challenge for a rotation or even starting spot. ““I’ve seen him so limited this year because he’s basically been injured almost every day that I’ve known him,” Beilein said.

James Johnson Returns To Heat

Veteran forward James Johnson reported back to the Heat today after being away from the team for more than a week, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Johnson was banished from training camp by Miami at the start of the month, with initial reports suggesting that he failed to meet the team’s strict conditioning standards. Agent Mark Bartelstein later said that Johnson passed his conditioning test but had failed to meet the weight requirements set by the team. Either way, upon rejoining the team today, the 32-year-old was eager to show he’s ready for the coming season.

“It was Day 1 of earning my respect back,” Johnson said, per Winderman. “… It’s good to be back home. I got exactly what I needed; I got exactly what I needed to hear. Hopefully I can put it all behind me after this.”

While the Heat have a deep roster, Johnson projects to play a frontcourt role for the club, as his size and athleticism allows him to guard multiple positions on defense. Johnson has now missed two of Miami’s five preseason games, but head coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t expect it to take long to get him back up to speed.

“It’s good to have him back and hopefully everything is behind us now,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not a shock to him what our system is.”

Johnson Close To Returning To Heat Camp

Heat president Pat Riley said forward James Johnson is very close to reaching his conditioning requirements and joining the team for training camp, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

Johnson failed to meet Riley’s standards – which Johnson’s agent Mark Bartelstein described as a weight issue – and has been working out apart from the team.

“He’s already almost there again,” Riley said. “So I think in very short notice I’m going to turn this over to (coach) Erik (Spoelstra).”

Riley says he has no hard feelings toward Johnson but that the banishment “had to be done.”

“I’ve always had that feeling about players, even the ones that may fall short of certain goals and things of that nature,” he said. “It’s just something that had to be done. Now, he realizes it, and I realize it. It’s not going to take away from the team and it’s not going to take away from him once he reaches those conditioning requirements.”

Johnson has a $15.3MM contract this season with a $16MM player option for the 2020/21 season. He’s the projected starter at power forward after starting 33 of 55 games in which he appeared last season.

Heat Notes: Butler, Reed, Nunn, Johnson

Heat fans have already embraced Jimmy Butler, which was evident during an intrasquad scrimmage, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald notes. Fans broke out a “We love Jimmy” chant during the proceedings.

“I think the fan base feels the same way we do about Jimmy,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just feel that he has Heat DNA, that he was meant to play here and meant to put on a Miami Heat uniform. He has a magnetic personality that the fan base is really going to enjoy and he’s a very good basketball player.”

We have more on the Heat:

  • Guard Davon Reed is competing for a two-way deal but he hopes to eventually receive a standard contract, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Reed, who spent most of last season with the Pacers’ G League affiliate, was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract in September. “I can do a lot of different things,” he said. “There’s a lot of facets to my game. Most important, I’m going to put my team first. I think my energy, my effort, my talking and just my game will show.”
  • Guard Kendrick Nunn led the Heat’s summer league team in scoring and Miami seems inclined to keep him on the regular roster, according to Khobi Price of the Sun Sentinel. Nunn will receive a $450K guarantee if he’s on the opening night roster. “We were fortunate to get somebody of his quality,” Spoelstra said. “He also was a fit with us in terms of the culture fit, the work ethic, the drive – there’s a long lineage of non-drafted Miami Heat players who have come through our player development program and he’s the next notable one.”
  • The biggest mystery regarding the James Johnson saga is whether both the forward and the team can eventually move past this moment, Winderman writes in a mailbag piece. Johnson hasn’t been allowed to participate in camp yet because he didn’t meet the team’s weight goal set for him.

Southeast Notes: Johnson, Turner, Jones, Wizards

James Johnson‘s agent Mark Bartelstein said his client has been absent from the Heat’s training camp because of his weight rather than his conditioning, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports.

Johnson hasn’t been allowed to participate in camp until he reaches that weight goal set by Heat president Pat Riley. Bartelstein said Johnson passed the team’s conditioning test and will return to the team “shortly,” Jackson adds. Johnson has a $15.3MM salary this season with a $16MM player option next season.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce wants to take advantage Evan Turner‘s versatility, Kevin Chouinard of the team’s website tweets. Turner will serve as the backup point guard and will also be employed as a small-ball power forward along with playing the wing. Turner was acquired from the Blazers for Kent Bazemore.
  • Forward Jemerrio Jones is trying to gain a role with the Wizards via his rebounding and hustle, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington details.  Jones, who played six games with the Lakers last season as a rookie, has a $1,416,852 salary, but less than $200K is guaranteed. “I go hard in the paint,” he said. “[Fans] are going to like the hustle in me. You gotta pay people to play hard now, but it’s in me.” Jones was acquired in the three-team blockbuster that brought Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.
  • Thomas Bryant inspires his other young Wizards teammates to exceed expectations, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Bryant, who was cut loose by the Lakers, earned a three-year, $25MM contract after replacing injured Dwight Howard as the starting center last season. “The opportunity that he got, making the best of getting cut, it’s incredible for me to observe,” second-year center Moritz Wagner said. “I’m very happy to do this with him together.”

Southeast Notes: Beal, J. Johnson, Hornets, Magic

With John Wall expected to miss most or all of the 2019/20 season due to his torn Achilles and Isaiah Thomas sidelined with a thumb injury to start the year, the Wizards find themselves thin at point guard — Ish Smith is the only NBA veteran on the depth chart. However, star shooting guard Bradley Beal sounds prepared to slide down to the one and assume some of the ball-handling responsibilities if he’s asked to, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays.

“I’m always comfortable with that,” Beal told Hughes. “[Wizards head coach Scott] Brooks knows that and I’ve done it the last couple of years. If that time comes, I’m more than prepared and willing to do it.

“I’m confident that no one can take my ball,” he added. “I’m not a point guard, but I can play the position. If needed to, I can run the team for sure.”

Beal, who took on a greater offensive role last season when Wall went down, averaged a career-high 5.5 assists per game in 2018/19. It was the third consecutive year in which he established a new career-best in APG, and Brooks wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again this season. According to Hughes, the head coach said he could envision Beal averaging seven dimes per game.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • James Johnson, who is away from the Heat for a second day after failing to meet his conditioning requirements, has been in touch with the team’s trainers but is working out on his own, a source tells Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link).
  • Hornets big man Cody Zeller said on the first day of camp that it felt like “something is missing” in Charlotte without Kemba Walker in the locker room, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Zeller added that it was especially tough to lose Walker because he felt like the Hornets were “close” to breaking through and becoming a playoff team.
  • Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman spoke to Josh Robbins of The Athletic about the club’s offseason moves and decisions, and the plans for the 14th and 15th spots on the regular season roster. Weltman was evasive when he discussed those final roster spots, but hinted that the team may not carry a 15th man to start the season.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Robbins notes that things feel a little different this year in training camp for the Magic. After a six-year playoff drought, the club made it back to the postseason last spring, and expectations have increased as a result.