Jason Preston

Western Notes: Wolves, Morant, Preston, Mahlalela

When Rudy Gobert first heard about the proposed deal sending him to the Timberwolves, he told his agent Bouna Ndiaye that he needed a day or two to think about it, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. After some deliberation, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year got fully on board with the move.

“After one day, I told him it was probably the best, most exciting situation in terms of basketball for me,” Gobert told reporters on Wednesday.

As Michael Rand of The Star Tribune details, the deal will deplete the Timberwolves’ depth to some extent, but the trade-off should be worth it, as Minnesota will have one of the NBA’s best starting fives.

The deal has major boom-or-bust potential, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who notes that the Wolves are betting big on “big ball” by pairing Gobert with Karl-Anthony Towns. If the twin-towers approach works for Minnesota, it could “quickly spawn imitators,” says Hollinger. If it doesn’t, it’ll be a costly mistake that could set the franchise back for years to come.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Ja Morant‘s new maximum-salary extension with the Grizzlies includes a 15% trade kicker, but it doesn’t feature a fifth-year player option, Hoops Rumors has learned. That means Morant will remain under team control through the 2027/28 season.
  • Jason Preston will be available for the Clippers‘ Summer League team after missing his entire rookie season due to right foot surgery. According to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times, about three weeks after the Clippers’ season ended, Preston was able to start participating in 5-on-5 scrimmages without restrictions.
  • The Warriors are promoting assistant coach Jama Mahlalela to the front of their bench for the 2022/23 season, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Mahlalela will fill the opening created by Mike Brown‘s departure to Sacramento, while Kenny Atkinson – who nearly departed for Charlotte himself – will replace Brown as Steve Kerr‘s lead assistant.

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: George, Rivers, Moon, Preston

The Clippers‘ playoff prospects would be a lot brighter with Paul George in the lineup, and his teammates are encouraged by his performance Thursday in his first practice since tearing a ligament in his right elbow, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. George wasn’t involved in much contact during the practice session, but Amir Coffey and Ivica Zubac both said he looked “great.”

George has been limited to 26 games this season, but his numbers have been typically outstanding at 24.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per night. The Clippers will start out in the play-in tournament, with a matchup looming against one of the Western Conference powers if they advance, so they’ll need George available to have a realistic shot.

“Just having that hope that he has a chance to come back, that gives them a lot of hope, especially the job this team has done this year, guys playing out of position, guys taking on bigger roles, you know?” coach Tyronn Lue said. “The job the team has done this year, it’s phenomenal. But we could use an extra little bump right now, especially in these dog days, going down the stretch of the season.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers can empathize with Lue, who is trying to survive without three of his best players, Swanson states in the same piece. After his Sixers blasted L.A. on Friday, Rivers said the toughest part of being short-handed is making players believe they can be successful without their stars. “They’re NBA players and you can win games, teams can win games during that period, and I think Ty’s done a great job with that,” Rivers said. “I mean, he’s really kept them afloat, so it’s been impressive.”
  • Xavier Moon earned his new two-way contract by helping the Clippers when their roster was depleted due to health and safety protocols, Swanson adds in a separate story. Moon signed three 10-day hardship deals in December and January and made a strong impression on his teammates despite only playing six games. “His will, his want-to. How much he’s been about the team,” Reggie Jackson said when Moon’s last contract expired. “He’s come in, he’s gotten better every day, hasn’t complained, fears no one, doesn’t back down, so it’s been fun to watch him compete.”
  • Jason Preston‘s rookie season was wiped out after foot surgery in October, but the Clippers believe the second-round pick has a bright future ahead, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Lakers, E. Payton, Preston

Since starting the season with a 41-13 record, the Warriors lost 12 of their next 18 games, prompting Draymond Green to call out the team after Tuesday’s loss in Orlando for “playing stupid” and “getting punked,” as Kendra Andrews of ESPN writes.

The Warriors immediately responded to that criticism in impressive fashion on Wednesday night in Miami, beating the Heat by 14 points without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, or Green active. According to Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic, Wednesday’s victory made it clear that Golden State has enough pieces on its roster to make a legitimate run at this year’s title.

How far the Warriors go will ultimately be determined by how much they get from their stars, but if Curry, Thompson, Green, and Andrew Wiggins are healthy and playing well, a supporting cast made up of players like Jordan Poole, Kevon Looney, Otto Porter, Jonathan Kuminga, and Gary Payton II is good enough to make the team “incredibly tough to beat,” writes Thompson.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Lakers, who are currently tied with the Pelicans in the Western Conference standings, view Sunday’s game in New Orleans as a “must-win,” according to Russell Westbrook. Dave McMenamin of ESPN has the story and the quotes.
  • Elfrid Payton‘s 10.9 minutes per game this season are easily a career low, falling far short of the 28.5 MPG he had averaged in his previous seven seasons. However, he has been willing to embrace a reduced role for the NBA-best Suns, per Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic. “I’m just trying to do my job and stay ready, try to keep this thing going in the right direction,” said Payton, who likely won’t see much action going forward with Chris Paul back in the lineup.
  • Clippers rookie guard Jason Preston has yet to make his NBA debut after undergoing foot surgery in October, but he has impressed veteran teammate Reggie Jackson with his understanding of the game.Selfishly for me, it’s like having another coach,” Jackson said of Preston’s presence on road trips (Twitter link via Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group). “Smart kid.”

Clippers Seek Point Guard; Bledsoe, Ibaka, Morris Available

The Clippers are shopping for a play-making point guard and are willing to move several veterans in order to achieve that goal, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports.

The Clippers believe a starting point guard is the missing piece to become a championship contender when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return to action, even though it’s uncertain whether they’ll be back this season or next year.

The front office has made Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, and Marcus Morris available to acquire another floor leader, O’Connor says. The team views current starter Reggie Jackson as more of a scorer than a pure point guard.

Bledsoe is signed through next season but his $19.38MM salary next season is only guaranteed for $3.9MM. Ibaka is making $9.7MM this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Clippers would prefer to hold onto Morris, who is in the second year of a four-year, $64MM contract, but the forward may be their most attractive trade piece.

O’Connor suggests the Clippers would also be willing to part with Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac, Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., or Keon Johnson if the right deal came along.

As O’Connor notes, the Clippers have been linked in some fashion to Jalen Brunson, Dennis Schröder, Kemba Walker, Goran Dragic, Spencer Dinwiddie and John Wall in recent weeks. Brunson would seemingly be the best fit, though the Mavericks aren’t inclined to deal him, despite the fact that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Dragic, currently in limbo, might be a good short-term fit. Wall, who hasn’t played this season while the Rockets seek a new home for him, could also be an intriguing possibility. The salaries of Bledsoe, Ibaka and Morris could be matched up to obtain Wall. The Clippers could also simply wait to see if Wall winds up on the buyout market and make a play for him at that point.

Pacific Notes: Preston, Westbrook, Booker, Mann

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue expressed confidence that rookie guard Jason Preston will succeed once he gets past his rehab, Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register writes.

Preston, 22, was drafted by Los Angeles with the No. 33 pick in July. He recently underwent surgery to repair ligaments in his right foot, a procedure that’s expected to cost him a significant portion of the season.

“He’s always asking questions about the offensive sets, about the defensive coverages, and then moving forward,” Lue explained, praising the Ohio University product. “So everything I’ve told him, he’s retained and repeated right back to you every single time.

“From the start of summer league to where he’s at now, he’s made a huge jump, and that’s because he’s asking questions, he’s watching film, he wants to get better and he wants to be better. So I don’t think it’ll be a problem for him at all, he’s very attentive and very smart and picks things up very well.”

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division:

  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic gave his first impressions of Russell Westbrook‘s preseason debut with the Lakers on Friday. Westbrook mostly struggled in his 17 minutes, recording two points, seven rebounds, four assists and six turnovers on 1-for-7 shooting.
  • Despite missing the game against the Lakers on Wednesday, Suns star Devin Booker is starting to ramp his conditioning back up, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Booker tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of September. He’ll miss the team’s second game against Los Angeles on Sunday.
  • Clippers guard Terance Mann is poised to have a breakout season with the team, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times opines. Mann is coming off a season where he averaged seven points and 18.9 minutes per game, shooting 51% from the floor and 42% from behind-the-arc.

Clippers’ Jason Preston Undergoes Right Foot Surgery

Clippers rookie guard Jason Preston underwent surgery on his right foot on Thursday in Los Angeles, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who hears from sources that Preston is expected to miss a “significant” portion of the 2021/22 season.

The team confirmed the procedure, announcing in a press release that Preston had ligaments in his foot repaired. He’ll miss an “extended” period of time and has no timetable for a return.

It’s a tough blow for the Clippers and for Preston, who was the 33rd overall pick in the 2021 draft and signed a three-year contract with two fully guaranteed seasons. He reportedly sustained the injury in a group workout prior to the start of training camp.

A 6’4″ guard, Preston played his college ball at Ohio University, where he averaged 15.7 PPG, 7.3 APG, and 7.3 RPG in 20 games (34.6 MPG) as a junior in 2020/21. The Clippers are high on his passing skills, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link), and thought he had made strides since playing for the team in Summer League, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

Preston joins Kawhi Leonard as the Clippers players who are expected to miss a substantial chunk of the season.

Clippers Notes: Leonard, Ibaka, Preston, Offseason Grade, New Coaches

The Clippers made it to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history last season, but they’ll have to wait quite a while for Kawhi Leonard to return from the partially torn ACL he suffered in the playoffs — possibly until the 2022/23 season.

President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank says the team doesn’t even broach the subject of Leonard’s recovery timeline, stating that “no one knows” when he’ll return, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

In the same piece, Youngmisuk relays that Serge Ibaka, who’s recovering from back surgery, will be limited to non-contact drills at the start of training camp, according to Frank.

Youngmisuk also notes that rookie Jason Preston, the 33rd pick in the draft, suffered a foot injury in a group workout recently and will not be available for the start of training camp, which begins next Tuesday, September 28th. Frank said team physicians will determine the severity of the injury in the next couple of days.

Frank declined to say whether all of the players and staff members on the team are fully vaccinated, per Youngmisuk, although he did say that he’s a “huge advocate of the vaccinations.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • Zach Harper of The Athletic gave the Clippers a B-minus for their offseason moves. He liked their draft picks and thought Justise Winslow and Harry Giles were decent “buy-low” pickups, but states that ultimately their offseason will depend on how Leonard and Ibaka recover from their surgeries.
  • The Clippers announced in a press release that Brian Shaw and Jay Larranaga will be assistant coaches under Tyronn Lue. The team also promoted Shaun Fein to assistant coach. Shaw’s and Larranaga’s additions were reported in July. Shaw played 14 seasons in the NBA and was the former head coach of the Lakers and Nuggets. He spent last season as the head coach of G League Ignite. Larranaga was an assistant with the Celtics the past nine seasons.
  • In the same release, the Clippers said former NBA player Wesley Johnson will be joining the team in a coaching and development role, along with Cookie Belcher.
  • Frank loves Patrick Beverley and said it wasn’t easy parting with him, but he’s excited for what new addition Eric Bledsoe will bring to the team, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (via Twitter).

Pacific Notes: Kerr, Buss, Clippers, Durant, Green

The mantra for the Warriors this coming season appears to be “balance,” writes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. According to Johnson, the way the team has re-balanced through its veteran signings and draft class is one of the main things that excites head coach Steve Kerr coming into the season.

I think this year’s team will offer a much better mix of mentors and veterans to go along with those young guys,” Kerr said on the latest episode of Dubs Talk podcast. “… It’s real exciting to think of the structure of the team and the balance and what we can accomplish.”

After two straight years of missing the playoffs, Kerr says he feels the team is back to a level where it can compete every night, especially once star Klay Thompson returns from his two-year hiatus due to ACL and Achilles injuries.

It’s really hard to gauge where we are against the rest of the Western Conference,” Kerr said. “Obviously there’s a lot of great teams. We haven’t even had a practice to put the group together. But I’m very excited about the potential.”

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss recently sat down with Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. In the interview, she describes why the legacy of her father’s Showtime Lakers impels her to build not just a great basketball team, but a stylish one. She talks about why she doesn’t like the play-in tournament, why Kobe Bryant‘s 20-year run with a single team is unlikely to be repeated, and says “our fans are going to be just cuckoo for (Russell Westbrook), are going to be so happy that he’s here.
  • The Clippers may not have shaken up their roster in a major way, but Summer League provided some reasons for excitement, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. No. 51 pick Brandon Boston outperformed expectations, knocking down shots and creating off the dribble, No. 33 pick Jason Preston overcame a rough start to show his ability to orchestrate the offense and get into the paint, while hyper-athletic wings Jay Scrubb and Keon Johnson both showcased why they’re intriguing talents while also laying bare the flaws that could keep them off the floor early on.
  • In a much-discussed interview with Bleacher Report, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green explored the last year of their time together with the Warriors, as well as their infamous blow-up in November of 2018. As Nick Friedell of ESPN explores, Durant and Green blamed head coach Steve Kerr and president of basketball operations Bob Myers for mishandling the response to that dust-up. “Y’all are about to f— this up,” Green said he told the Warriors front office. “I said, ‘The only person that can make this right is me and (Durant). And there is nothing that y’all can do, and y’all are going to f— this up.’ And in my opinion, they f—ed it up.” In response, Durant said, “I think so too.”

Contract Details: Clippers, THT, Ball, Nwaba, Bembry, Raptors

After reporting over the weekend that the Clippers used about $3.9MM of their taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Justise Winslow, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Instagram video) confirmed today that the team used the leftover portion of that MLE to sign second-round picks Jason Preston and Brandon Boston Jr. to three-year deals, with Preston getting a little more than the rookie minimum.

Keith Smith of Spotrac shares those salary figures down to the dollar, tweeting that Winslow’s first-year salary is $3,902,439 while Preston’s is $1,062,303. Combined with Boston’s rookie minimum of $925,258, those three salaries add up to exactly $5.89MM, the amount of the taxpayer mid-level exception.

Here are a few more details on new contracts from around the NBA:

  • While Talen Horton-Tucker‘s three-year deal with the Lakers was initially said to be worth $32MM, the year-by-year breakdown provided by Smith works out to a total of $30.78MM (Twitter link).
  • Lonzo Ball‘s four-year deal with the Bulls also came in slightly lower than expected, according to Smith, who says it has a base value of $80MM, with $1MM in annual unlikely incentives (Twitter link).
  • David Nwaba‘s three-year, $15MM contract with the Rockets has two fully guaranteed seasons followed by a third-year team option, according to Marks (Instagram video).
  • DeAndre’ Bembry‘s minimum-salary deal with the Nets has a partial guarantee of $750K for now, tweets Smith. That number will increase to $1.25MM on December 15 before becoming fully guaranteed in January.
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter links) shares some Raptors contract details, reporting that Gary Trent Jr.‘s deal has a base value of $51.84MM, with $250K in annual unlikely incentives. Murphy adds that Ishmail Wainright got a $250K guarantee in 2021/22 – plus a $125K guarantee in ’22/23 – on his minimum-salary contract, while Yuta Watanabe‘s minimum-salary deal is now partially guaranteed for $375K. Watanabe would get his full guarantee if he makes the regular season roster.