Jerami Grant

Ben Simmons Takes Physical, Meets With Sixers’ Brass

After returning to Philadelphia on Monday, Sixers star Ben Simmons took his required physical and met with the team’s brass on Tuesday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. That meeting included president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, who says sources described it only as “brief.”

Both Pompey and Shelburne indicate that Simmons won’t be cleared to participate in any team-related activities until at least Friday, due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. As Brian Windhorst observed during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up (video link) on Wednesday, that timeline suggests Simmons may not yet be fully vaccinated, since the league requires fully vaccinated players to register just one negative PCR test in order to interact with other players. Players who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated require at least four negative tests upon reporting to the team, according to ESPN.

We don’t know yet whether Simmons actually intends to return to the court and play for the 76ers following his holdout, but for what it’s worth, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report says the 25-year-old’s physical showed no signs that he isn’t healthy. Simmons will be able to begin conducting individual workouts with the assistance of Sixers coaches on Wednesday, Fischer notes.

As we wait to see what the next steps are for the Sixers and Simmons, there’s no indication that the team is anywhere close to making a trade. Both Fischer and Sam Amick of The Athletic have heard that Philadelphia continues to hold out hope that a star like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal will become dissatisfied with his situation and ask for a trade, but that remains a long shot unless the Trail Blazers or Wizards get off to a really disastrous start this season.

According to Amick, Simmons’ camp hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a trade to the Nets, but sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic that the Sixers have exhibited zero interest in pursuing a deal involving Kyrie Irving.

Fischer names the Cavaliers, Pistons, Rockets, Pacers, Timberwolves, Blazers, Kings, Spurs, and Raptors as the nine teams that have remained at least somewhat engaged with Philadelphia, and adds that a “mystery” 10th club has also had “substantive” discussions with the Sixers as of late. Not even Klutch Sports is certain of the identity of that 10th team, per Fischer, who cautions that the mystery suitor still hasn’t come close to meeting Morey’s asking price.

Here’s more on Simmons:

  • Sources tell Fischer that the Sixers have informed potential trade partners whose offers would be heavy on draft picks that their best bet would be a three-team structure in which Philadelphia lands at least one impact player, since Morey and his front office are interested in win-now pieces rather than future assets.
  • Although the Timberwolves still have interest in Simmons following their front office shake-up, new head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta isn’t believed to be pursuing the three-time All-Star as aggressively as Gersson Rosas did, according to Fischer.
  • The Kings remain unwilling to discuss either De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton in a potential Simmons deal, while the Sixers appear unmoved by the idea of acquiring Dejounte Murray and/or Lonnie Walker from the Spurs, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer adds that there’s a belief the Pistons would entertain trading Jerami Grant in a deal for Simmons.
  • Improving the relationship between Simmons and head coach Doc Rivers is believed to be a priority for the Sixers if Simmons is going to stick around for a little while, according to Fischer, who says the two men never seemed to build a strong rapport last season. Sources tell Bleacher Report that during an offseason meeting at agent Rich Paul‘s home, when the Sixers confirmed they intended to fine Simmons for not complying with the terms of his deal, Rivers shouted, “It’s in your f–king contract” to report to training camp and play for the team.

Central Notes: Millsap, Bulls Offseason, Simmons, Ehambe

With Paul Millsap agreeing to join the Nets, the Bulls don’t have a lot of attractive free agent options to add to their frontcourt depth, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes. Millsap strongly considered the Bulls but they now have to shift gears. They could bid for restricted free agent Jarred Vanderbilt, take a flier on D.J. Wilson or add an international player to fortify the power forward spot. They could also sign small forward James Ennis and use him in smaller lineups, Johnson adds. Otherwise, they may have to pursue a trade.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls improved their roster with their busy offseason but it’s fair to wonder whether all of those changes made sense as a whole, Zach Harper of The Athletic opines. While they have upgraded in the backcourt and the wing spots with the additions of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan, their frontcourt options have thinned.
  • Pursuing a trade for Ben Simmons doesn’t make sense for the Pistons, James Edwards of The Athletic contends. In a deal with the Sixers, Detroit would likely have to part with Jerami Grant and at least one of their top young players as well as draft picks, and adding Simmons’ contract would limit their flexibility to make other moves. It also wouldn’t help their issues regarding 3-point shooting, Edwards adds.
  • Moses Ehambe is grateful he got the opportunity to be an assistant with the Pacers, though he was not retained in the aftermath of Nate Bjorkgren’s departure, Scott Agness of FieldhouseFiles writes. “This is where you want to be,” Ehambe said in the comprehensive interview. “Now it’s about staying.”

Olympic Notes: Grant, Johnson, Finals Trio, Randle, McGee

Bradley Beal won’t be able to participate in the Olympics due to health and safety protocols, but Team USA has Jerami Grant back on the roster, Joe Vardon of The Athletic tweets. The Pistons forward exited protocols and played 12 minutes in the team’s final tuneup, an 83-76 win over Spain on Sunday. Team USA will begin its quest for gold this Sunday against France.

We have more Olympic news and observations:

  • Gregg Popovich and managing director Jerry Colangelo raised some eyebrows when Keldon Johnson was promoted from the Select Team as an injury replacement. The Spurs wing is justifying that decision, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst notes. Johnson supplied 15 points in 17 minutes against Spain. “Keldon Johnson just played a solid basketball game,” Popovich said. “He shot it when he was open and when he did go to the bucket he was very physical.”
  • For the Olympic team’s sake, it would best for the Finals to end with a Milwaukee victory on Tuesday, Vardon writes. Devin BookerKhris Middleton and Jrue Holiday will join Team USA after the Finals are completed and it’s fair to wonder how much they’ll have left in the tank both physically and emotionally. Popovich hopes he can ease them into the Group play. “In some ways, it might depend on if everybody else is healthy, and if they’re not then they got to play,” he said. “We’ve gone over lots of scenarios, but we haven’t figured it out yet.”
  • Knicks All-Star Julius Randle was never offered the chance to join the U.S. team as an injury replacement, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Instead, Team USA opted for role players in Johnson and center JaVale McGee, who gives the team a much-needed shot blocker. “We decided that was the most logical and appropriate choice,’’ Popovich said. “Given the choices we had, (McGee) fit the best.”

Team USA Places Grant In COVID-19 Protocols, Working To Replace Beal

1:30pm: Team USA is working to replace Beal on its roster, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). It’s unclear at this point whether a replacement will be required for Grant as well.

1:14pm: After Team USA guard Bradley Beal entered the coronavirus health and safety protocols in Las Vegas on Wednesday, a second player from the U.S. roster has joined him. According to Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic (Twitter link), Jerami Grant has also been placed in the protocols.

Grant hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19, says Charania. That suggests the Pistons forward has entered the protocols for contact tracing reasons, which would result in a shorter isolation period as long as he continues to register negative tests.

However, Team USA is traveling to Tokyo soon, with their first game of the Olympics less than 10 days away. As such, the availability of both Beal and Grant for the Tokyo games remains very much up in the air.

While the hope is that Beal and Grant will be cleared to travel to Japan and play in the Olympics, the U.S. roster would require a pair of substitutes if both players are ultimately deemed unavailable.

In a story for The Athletic, Vardon suggested that Julius Randle might be a logical choice to replace Beal. Players who are part of the U.S. Select Team in Las Vegas – including Keldon Johnson, Saddiq Bey, and Darius Garland – are also viable candidates if USA Basketball is unable to secure a last-minute commitment from a veteran.

With the Suns and Bucks looking like they might be on track for a seven-game NBA Finals, Team USA was already at risk of being shorthanded to start the Olympics, since the turnaround for Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday would be extremely quick if a Game 7 is required. USA Basketball may have to make decisions soon on Beal and Grant to make sure the roster is at full strength for its first game on July 25.

Central Notes: Love, Cunningham, Pistons’ Top Pick, Grant

Kevin Love was a controversial selection to Team USA and he’s eager to prove he can still be a high-level player for both the country and the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Love appeared in just 25 games this season and hasn’t played in more than 60 games in any of the last five seasons.

“I’m very vocal about that in the public saying I wasn’t where I wanted to be, mostly for my team, my coaching staff and for the Cavs in general. For me to come here, I feel like I have a lot to prove, but I feel that way coming into every season,” Love said. “Obviously it’s been unlucky, unfortunate and there’s been injuries that have happened — you’ve seen this whole year that happened with guys — so for me, when I have something to prove it always blends for better basketball for me. Being around these guys I think it helps elevate my mindset and my game in a big way.”

We have from around the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers are “definitely looking into” the possibility of trading with the Pistons for the No. 1 pick and drafting Cade Cunningham but the cost would be high, Fedor reports in a separate story. It’s speculated that the package Cleveland would have to give up would exceed what the 76ers traded in 2017 for the top pick. Philadelphia took Markelle Fultz after giving up the No. 3 pick and a 2018 first-rounder that had some protections attached. Cleveland might have to give up the No. 3 overall pick, an unprotected future first-rounder, and perhaps a good young player to entice Detroit.
  • Along those same lines, The Athletic’s James Edwards III takes a look at eight potential trade scenarios for the Pistons involving the top pick. His hypothetical offers include the Thunder trading the No. 6 pick and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, as well as the Raptors dealing the No. 4 pick and OG Anunoby for the No. 1 pick, Mason Plumlee and Cory Joseph.
  • Jerami Grant was the final selection for Team USA and the Pistons forward sees his role as providing energy when he plays, Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press tweets“I’m going to be playing a lot of defense, hitting open shots, being aggressive when I get the opportunity,” he said.

Central Notes: Pacers, Nored, Green, Grant, Carlisle

The Pacers are close to hiring former Hornets assistant coach Ronald Nored to join Rick Carlisle‘s staff, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star tweets. Nored reportedly received consideration for the Wizards’ head coaching job. It’s not clear if he remains a candidate for that position, but presumably if he takes an assistant job in Indiana he wouldn’t expect to be hired by Washington.

The Pacers have zeroed in on former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as Carlisle’s top assistant. Darrell Armstrong, Carlisle’s longtime assistant with the Mavericks, will not join him in Indiana, J. Michael adds in a separate tweet.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Jalen Green‘s scoring ability makes him a legitimate candidate for the Pistons to select him with the top overall pick, Keith Langlois of writes. Green, who played with the G League’s Ignite team this season, is the most likely member of this year’s draft class to lead the league in scoring during his career, Langlois notes. At 6’6”, Green also has the size, elite skill level, athleticism and work ethic to be a special player in the league and that would give any team holding the top pick a lot to consider heading into the draft.
  • The Pistons shouldn’t consider trading Jerami Grant coming off his career year, Rod Beard of the Detroit News opines. Dealing Grant would send a bad message that Detroit would be willing to flip an improving player who chose the franchise in free agency, Beard notes. Grant, who was recently added to Team USA, would be a top-line scorer and defender on a contending team, Beard adds.
  • By re-hiring Carlisle, the Pacers are making a statement that they are no longer satisfied with mediocrity, says Bob Kravitz of The Athletic. Despite the team’s record this season, the Pacers have the pieces to make the playoffs and blossom into a contender. However, they need direction, professionalism and accountability, and bringing in Carlisle should facilitate that process.

Olympic Notes: Popovich, Lillard, Durant, Love, Grant, Broekhoff, Schröder

The respect that players have for longtime Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was instrumental in getting star players to commit to Team USA for the Summer Olympics, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Popovich reached out to players but wasn’t overbearing and that helped gain their trust, compared to prior years when Team USA dealt with dozens of decommitments.

After Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant pledged to participate, Popovich and manager director Jerry Colangelo worked with the two perennial All-Stars to recruit other players.

Windhorst also offered up some other interesting tidbits:

  • Lillard was miffed when he missed the final cut before Team USA went to Spain for the World Cup in 2014. That played a role in his decision not to compete for the 2016 Olympic team. With Popovich now coaching the team and knowing this could be a last chance play in the Olympics, Lillard was eager to sign up this time.
  • While Kevin Love‘s stature around the league has taken a big hit in recent years, Popovich valued his versatility and shooting. The Cavaliers were also very supportive of Love’s opportunity to play for Team USA.
  • Pistons forward Jerami Grant was offered a spot after James Harden declined due his hamstring injury. Lillard and Durant vouched for Grant, which tipped the scales in his favor for one of the last roster spots.
  • On the international front, former Mavericks forward Ryan Broekhoff has withdrawn from the Australian national team due to mental health issues, Sportando relays. “My mental health is something I have struggled with for a long time and I think it’s important for me to put my hand up and admit when things aren’t OK and that it is time to seek help,” he said in a statement.
  • Lakers guard Dennis Schröder will not play for Germany during the Olympic qualifying tournament next week due to insurance issues, Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press tweets. Schroder will be entering free agency this summer.

LaVine, Grant Commit To Team USA; Harden Withdraws

Bulls guard Zach LaVine and Pistons forward Jerami Grant have committed to play for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

There were already 11 players who had committed to represent the U.S. in Tokyo, but one of those players – Nets guard James Harden – is withdrawing, Charania reports (via Twitter).

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press had noted earlier today (via Twitter) that there are still concerns about the hamstring injury that sidelined Harden for part of the second half of the season and several games in the Eastern Semifinals. He’ll focus on getting that hamstring back to 100% this summer.

As a result of the new commitments and Harden’s decision to pull out, the 12-team roster for Team USA now looks like this:

Booker, Holiday, and Middleton are still alive in the postseason. However, Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo previously said that Booker intends to play in Tokyo no matter how late the Suns’ season goes, and he suggested today that Holiday and Middleton have made similar commitments, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Even assuming those three players all remain committed, it’s possible the 12-man U.S. squad could undergo more tweaks if players suffer injuries or reconsider their summer plans. For now though, we have a pretty good idea of what the group competing for gold in Tokyo will look like. The Olympics are scheduled to begin a month from today.

Pistons Notes: Smith Jr., Grant, Draft, Free Agency

The Pistons traded for Dennis Smith Jr. in early February, but they still didn’t get as much time as they had hoped to evaluate his future, writes Keith Langlois of Smith battled injuries after coming to Detroit, including left knee soreness that sidelined him for the final 19 games of the season.

Smith showed some promise in the 20 games he was able to play, averaging 7.3 points per game and shooting a career-best 35.2% from three-point range. His qualifying offer would be worth $7MM+, so it’s likely that he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, especially considering the development of point guards Killian Hayes and Saben Lee.

 “It’s been tough because this was the time for him to go out and show and be evaluated and get extended playing time,” coach Dwane Casey said in April. “It’s unfortunate he’s been hurt, but injury is something you have to deal with. We just have to figure out another way where we can evaluate him.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • The three-year, $60MM contract the Pistons gave to Jerami Grant was among the most surprising moves in free agency, but he rewarded their confidence by finishing second in this year’s Most Improved Player voting, says Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Grant averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game and was the runner-up to the Knicks’ Julius Randle. Grant recently told Sankofa that he plans to take another step forward next year. “I definitely prepare different this offseason,” Grant said. “I think every offseason I prepare differently, my roles change pretty much from year to year. I think it’s a new role for me, so I know what I need to work on.”
  • The Pistons would be fine with either Evan Mobley or Jalen Green if they keep the No. 2 pick in the draft, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Mobley is a seven-footer with the skills of a smaller player and plenty of value as a rim protector. Green could fill a need at shooting guard and could help as a shot creator.
  • Detroit isn’t expected to be active on the free agent market, Beard adds in the same piece. General manager Troy Weaver recently said the Pistons don’t expect to have many roster spots available, and Beard believes the team will focus on keeping its own free agents.

Finalists For Major 2020/21 NBA Awards Announced

During a TNT broadcast ahead of tonight’s Wizards-Pacers play-in matchup, the finalists for six big end-of-season 2020/21 awards were announced. Here is the full list, as voted on by reporters.

NBA Most Valuable Player:

NBA Defensive Player of the Year:

NBA Rookie of the Year:

NBA Most Improved Player:

NBA Sixth Man of the Year:

NBA Coach of the Year:

  • Quin Snyder (Jazz)
  • Tom Thibodeau (Knicks)
  • Monty Williams (Suns)

Some of these current contenders are familiar with the hardware they’re up for again. Curry is a two-time MVP, having won the award previously in 2015 and 2016. Gobert and Green have both previously won Defensive Player of the Year awards — Green in 2017 and Gobert in 2018 and 2019. Thibodeau was voted Coach of the Year a decade ago while with the Bulls.

The winners for the awards will be announced during the 2020/21 NBA playoffs.