Jermaine O'Neal

New Pro League For Retired Players To Debut In 2017

Longtime NBA guard Roger Mason is leaving his position as the deputy executive director of the National Basketball Players Association to help launch a new professional basketball league for retired players, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. According to Wojnarowski, Mason will serve as president and commissioner of the new league.

As Wojnarowski details, Mason will partner with rapper and actor Ice Cube – and multiple investors – to launch the league in June 2017. The plan is for eight teams – made up of five players apiece – to tour together from city to city for 10 weeks in the summer, playing three-on-three, half-court games. The league, which will be known as TheBig3, is being founded by Ice Cube, who spoke to Wojnarowski about the project.

“I thought of this concept as a fan who got sick of seeing his heroes retire and not play anymore,” Ice Cube said. “A lot of these guys can still play once they retire – just not the back-to-backs or four games in five nights.

“Not only do we get a chance to see these guys keep playing, but we give guys who retired who still got some game – who don’t want to pick up a [microphone] on TV and who don’t want to go overseas to play … some of these guys still want a stage to play on.”

Per Wojnarowski, former NBA players who have committed to play on teams in the league include Kenyon Martin, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, Rashard Lewis, and Jason Williams. Additionally, Gary Payton has agreed to coach one of the teams.

As for Mason, he played a significant role in the NBPA’s transition over the last several years, and will leave the union as it prepares to officially ratify a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NBA. According to Wojnarowski, the NBPA’s focus on taking care of retired and elderly former players in the new CBA was in large part due to Mason.

An official news conference to announce TheBig3 is expected in January, says Wojnarowski.

Kevin Durant Leftovers: Warriors, FAs, Thunder

Kevin Durant dominated Fourth of July headlines this year, announcing on Monday that he has decided to sign with the Warriors later this week, rather than returning to the Thunder or heading to the Celtics, Heat, or Spurs. Many of the rest of Monday’s NBA headlines were directly correlated to Durant’s decision: Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut are both headed to the Mavericks, the Thunder may field trade offers for Russell Westbrook, the Spurs moved onto Plan B and locked up Pau Gasol, and Zaza Pachulia agreed to a deal far below his market value to join the Warriors.

In addition to those stories, we have a few more reactions and leftovers related to Durant’s signing, so let’s dive in and round up those items, sorted by KD’s new team and old team…

Warriors:

  • In the wake of Durant’s decision, the Warriors were linked to several free agent bigs, with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reporting (via Twitter) that the team was eyeing Willie Reed and Dewayne Dedmon, while Marcus Thompson of The Bay Area News Group tweeted that Jermaine O’Neal is “game for a return” to Golden State. It was Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury  News that noted (via Twitter) the team’s interest in Pachulia, and it’s not clear whether or not that agreement will diminish the Dubs’ interest in those other low-cost bigs.
  • A number of free agents have expressed interest in joining the Warriors on veteran-minimum contracts to help fill out the roster, according to Kennedy (via Twitter).
  • In a piece for Sports Illustrated, Kennedy spoke to Draymond Green about the recruitment process for the Warriors and Durant. Meanwhile, Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN.com reports that Andre Iguodala gave an “incredible pitch” during Golden State’s meeting with Durant last Friday.
  • Sam Amick of USA Today goes a little more in-depth on how the Warriors landed Durant, providing some interesting details on Jerry West‘s involvement and how the Warriors’ two-hour meeting with Durant played out.
  • As Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated outlines, the Warriors were able to sell Durant on their unselfishness, “no-stars” culture, and their potential to win multiple titles together.

Thunder:

  • Thunder owner Clay Bennett and GM Sam Presti both issued statements on Durant’s departure, and they were far more measured than the infamous comic-sans statement Dan Gilbert put out when LeBron James left Cleveland. “Kevin made an indelible mark on the Thunder organization and the state of Oklahoma as a founding father of this franchise,” Presti said. “We can’t adequately articulate what he meant to the foundation of this franchise and our success. While clearly disappointing that he has chosen to move on, the core values that he helped establish only lead to us thanking him for the many tangible and intangible ways that he helped our program.”
  • Marcus Thompson (Twitter link) has heard chatter suggesting that it’s uncertain that Westbrook would have chosen to remain with the Thunder long-term even if Durant has stayed, which the Bay Area News Group columnist suggests may have played a role in KD’s decision.
  • Royce Young of ESPN.com, however, suggests that the Thunder aren’t as worried about Westbrook leaving Oklahoma City as they were about Durant heading elsewhere, with one team source suggesting to Young that Durant’s departure may make Westbrook more compelled to stay in OKC. Of course, a lot can change between now and July 1, 2017, but Young writes that the Thunder will try to sell Westbrook on the fact that it’s his team now.
  • Sources tell Young that the Thunder may take some time before making any significant roster decisions. Given how fast free agency moves, that might mean just taking a few days to think things through — it may not be long before the club has to decide on whether or not to match an offer sheet for Dion Waiters, for instance.
  • In his aforementioned story for USA Today, Sam Amick notes that the Thunder believe they would have had a very good chance to sign Al Horford if Durant had returned, which makes KD’s departure an even more bitter pill to swallow.
  • Also at USA Today, Amick conducted a Q&A with Presti focusing on Durant’s departure.

Donnie Nelson On: O’Neal, Blatche, Sanders

Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson joined Dallas’ 1310 The Ticket today and discussed a number of topics regarding the team. The Dallas Morning News transcribed a number of the highlights from Nelson’s interview:

When asked if the team would still like to add another big man, Nelson responded by saying:

“We’re not opposed to the right addition. But, again, it’s gotta be changed for the right reason. We do like what we have and for it to settle down. I think one of our big needs was answered with Amar’e [Stoudemire]. If we do add a player he would be an end of the bench type, specialist piece; it’s a possibility, but I wouldn’t wait for something like that to happen because it probably won’t at the end of the day.”

On if he thinks the window to sign Jermaine O’Neal is closed:

“That’s really a question for him. The door is always open. We’ve always been fans and he’s our kind of guy. It’s really where he is at with his family, with his health situation. Whether it’s during the season or summer, he’s a Dallas resident and we’d love to have the conversation if and when it’s right for him.”

On if the team has any interest in Larry Sanders, who has hinted that he may not return to the NBA, Nelson said:

“For the here and now, we’re long enough and tall enough on our front line with Tyson Chandler and our backup situation. If there is any potential or possibility there it’d be a summer conversation.”

When discussing Dallas’ interest in free agent Andray Blatche, who is currently considering a lucrative contract offer to return to China, Nelson said:

“Yeah, and a lot of these depend on minutes. Some of the guys, as they’re looking over the NBA landscape, let’s face it. If you take a player of that caliber and put him on our team, how much is he going to play? That certainly resonates with him and his agent. Those are possibilities, whether it’s a shooter or a little more support in the front court. But, again, it’d have to be the right piece. I wouldn’t be optimistic that anything would happen at this point.”

And-Ones: Holiday, Hibbert, Lawson

Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday could be sidelined for more than another month after reaggravating the stress reaction injury in his lower right leg on Monday, John Reid of NOLA.com reports. The Pelicans announced on Wednesday that he will be re-evaluated in three weeks by the team’s medical staff but New Orleans offered no timetable for his return. Holiday, who suffered the setback while doing light drills, has been sidelined since January 14th. He was averaging 15.2 points and 7.1 assists prior to the injury.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Pacers are open to trading Roy Hibbert, rival executives told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). There is nothing imminent regarding a potential trade of Indiana’s starting center, Kennedy adds.
  • Gal Mekel is being hotly pursued by Hapoel Jerusalem of the Israel Premier League, David Pick of Eurobasket.com tweets. Mekel, a point guard, appeared in four games with the Pelicans in December this season.
  • Trade chatter around the Raptors is unusually low, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun tweets. The Raptors are looking toward the offseason to make any big moves, Wolstat adds.
  • Jermaine O’Neal, who has opted not to play this season, hinted that the Warriors and Trail Blazers as well as the Mavs were interested in his services, according to quotes posted by Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com from a Dallas radio interview. The Mavs were expected to sign O’Neal but the veteran delayed his comeback because he felt that the timing wasn’t right, O’Neal explained in the interview on 103.3 FM’s “Friedo and Fitzsimmons” show.
  • The Nuggets are still considering offers for Arron Afflalo, and some “late charging” teams have expressed interest in the guard, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter link). The Blazers are still strongly in the mix to acquire Afflalo, Wojnarowski adds.
  • Ty Lawson‘s no-show at Nuggets practice on Wednesday might be a ploy on Lawson’s part to force a trade, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders opines. Lawson’s absence was unexcused by Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post.
  • The Timberwolves had checked in on free agent Jamaal Tinsley but never offered him a 10-day contract, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets. It was reported earlier that Minnesota and two other teams had offered Tinsley 10-day deals that he had declined.

Jermaine O’Neal Halts Comeback Attempt

Free agent Jermaine O’Neal has tabled the idea of signing with an NBA team this season, as he reveals in a pair of posts on his Instagram account. Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweeted minutes earlier that the Mavs, long considered the front-runners for the 18-year veteran, wouldn’t be signing him for the time being. Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com hears (Twitter link) that O’Neal has been unable to get his body in shape to play, a sentiment that O’Neal backs up in his messages. Still, the Mavs will keep an eye on him, MacMahon adds.

O’Neal traveled to Germany around the holidays for a treatment to help his knees, and his recovery from that procedure appeared to be the only stumbling block to a deal between the 36-year-old and the Mavs. Dallas had reportedly been holding open a roster spot for O’Neal, having only temporarily filled it with a 10-day contract with Bernard James, but it now appears that it will go to Amar’e Stoudemire, who’s bought his way off the Knicks. Still, the Mavs were prepared to open roster spots for both, as Stein and MacMahon wrote earlier this month.

Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said in December that he felt his team had a “pretty good” chance to land either O’Neal or Josh Smith, but it appears Dallas will have to make do with neither, unless O’Neal reboots his comeback attempt. The Cavs, Clippers, Warriors and Blazers all reportedly had interest in the Arn Tellem client at one point or another this season, too, but Dallas maintained a solid lead for much of the process. O’Neal played a key role for Golden State last season as the primary backup to Andrew Bogut.

Mavs Confident Of Edge For Jermaine O’Neal

WEDNESDAY, 8:01am: The only reason a deal between O’Neal and the Mavs hasn’t happened yet is because of the Orthokine knee treatments O’Neal traveled to Germany to receive, writes Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.

SUNDAY, 11:31pm: The Mavericks are high on their chances to ink Jermaine O’Neal this season, and they believe they’re slowly moving closer to a deal, report Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Dallas hopes to sign the 36-year-old center by the All-Star break, MacMahon and Stein hear. O’Neal has made it clear to suitors that he won’t play until he’s in better shape, but he’s been going through intense workouts this month at his home near Dallas, according to the ESPN scribes. The 18-year veteran recently visited Germany to undergo a treatment on his knees, one that he believes helped him prepare to play for the Warriors last season, MacMahon and Stein note.

It’s unclear whether the Warriors remain interested in re-signing O’Neal, as they reportedly were last month, when Stein identified the Cavs and Clippers among the teams eyeing the Arn Tellem client. Stein left the Warriors off his list of teams when he identified the Blazers as one of the teams in the mix. In between, O’Neal seemed to drop hints that he wouldn’t return to Golden State.

This latest dispatch from MacMahon and Stein echoes the confidence that Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson expressed a month ago when he said he felt chances were “pretty good” that Dallas would sign either O’Neal or Josh Smith. That was shortly before Smith went to the Rockets instead. The Mavs only have the prorated minimum salary to spend on O’Neal, but none of the other teams that reports have linked to him can offer more at this point.

Blazers Join Pursuit Of Jermaine O’Neal

The Blazers have pitched Jermaine O’Neal on the idea of playing in Portland, but the Mavs remain the front-runners for him, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. O’Neal still hasn’t decided whether to play at all this season, though he has a strong connection to the Portland area, according to Stein.

O’Neal lives in greater Dallas and he’s long held aspirations of playing close to home, as Stein wrote last month when he identified the Mavs as the favorites to land O’Neal, a position bolstered when the team traded for Rajon Rondo. The Warriors, Cavs and Clippers also appeared to be in the hunt as of last month, though Stein leaves Golden State out of his latest dispatch.

The 36-year-old center, who played for the Warriors last season, has made it clear that his family will play a key role in his decision-making, which seemingly confirms the Mavs’ status as favorites should he decide to play. O’Neal revealed this week that he’s traveled to Germany to undergo treatments on his knees, seemingly a signal that he’s preparing to make his way back to the court. Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said last month that he was confident his team would land either O’Neal or Josh Smith, and shortly thereafter Smith signed with the Rockets.

The Blazers are missing starting center Robin Lopez, who’s likely out for the rest of the month with a broken right hand, and backup big man Joel Freeland is out for at least two weeks with a bruised right shoulder. The team has a full 15-man roster, so it would have to clear a space to sign O’Neal. Portland made O’Neal the 17th overall pick back in 1996, and he played the first four of his 18 NBA seasons with the Blazers.

Southwest Notes: O’Neal, Howard, Gordon

Veteran center Jermaine O’Neal may be one step closer to making a comeback and playing this season, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com writes. O’Neal posted pictures on Instagram of himself getting treatment on his knees in Germany, which is a strong indication that he’s planning to return to the NBA this season, MacMahon opines. The Mavs are reportedly the front-runners to ink O’Neal after their acquisition of Rajon Rondo, but O’Neal is also a potential target for the Warriors and Cavaliers as well.

Here’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets big man Dwight Howard doesn’t look like the same player this season, according to Pau Gasol, his former teammate with the Lakers, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Gasol opined that Howard seems to have a reduced role in Houston’s offense this season, and doesn’t have the aggressiveness he displayed while the two were both playing for Los Angeles. “I haven’t really kept an eye on him,” Gasol said. “I think the team has more weapons now. We’ll see. I watched a couple games of him. He doesn’t seem to be as aggressive in the post or get as many touches as he used to be maybe, but he’s always a big factor in the games. He’s capable of having huge nights.”
  • Pelicans guard Eric Gordon practiced for the first time since tearing his labrum back in November, and he is expected to play in tonight’s contest against the Wizards, RealGM.com reports. Gordon has missed New Orleans’ last 21 games due to his injury.
  • Tyson Chandler marvels at the job that Mark Cuban has done in turning the Mavs from a laughingstock into one of the best organizations in the NBA during the 15 years that he’s owned the team, Dwain Price of The Star-Telegram writes. “To take this business where he’s taken it in 15 years, I think if you start any business and you look up and 15 years you’ve grown and had as much success as this business has, any businessman would be happy with the success,’’ Chandler said. “I think he’s one of the best, if not the best, owner in the league as far as his innovation and what he’s brought to the game. The excitement, the in-arena things that he brings, always keeping the fans engaged. He puts on a helluva show.’’

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Smith, Pistons

Jermaine O’Neal confirms he has heard from the Cavaliers, but tells Chris Haynes of Northeast Ohio Media Group that he will need two to three weeks to get ready. O’Neal will decide soon if he wants to retire or return to the NBA for a 19th season. He said he has spoken to a few teams personally, but Cleveland isn’t among them. The Cavaliers are in the market for a big man after a season-ending injury to Anderson Varejao.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons gave Josh Smith a gift beyond the chance to play for a contender when they waived him Monday, according to Jonathan Nehring of Taxaball.com. Smith can also realize a tax savings estimated at $1.3MM. Athletes are required to pay state and local income tax for each game they play. Smith won’t play any more games for the Pistons, so his salary from them — the remainder of $13.5MM for the rest of this season and $27MM stretched over the next five years — is free from that tax. If, as rumored, he signs with the Rockets for their $2.077MM biannual exception, state and local taxes for the games he plays will be applied to that salary.
  • Stan Van Gundy deserves criticism for not resolving the Smith situation sooner, opines Michael Lee of The Washington Post. He notes that the Kings were interested in trading for Smith last summer, and offered various packages that included Jason Thompson and either Derrick Williams or Carl Landry. Van Gundy, Detroit’s coach and president of basketball operations, reportedly didn’t like the deals and elected to keep Smith. That led to Monday’s release, which an unidentified general manager termed as “reckless.”
  • Getting rid of Smith was the first of many problems that have to be addressed in Detroit, writes Vince Ellis of USA Today. He notes that the Pistons rank 24th in defensive efficiency and are struggling to score. Van Gundy was alarmed with Smith’s usage rate, which ranked 30th in the NBA. “We ran a lot of stuff through him and, clearly, if you want other people to have more offensive opportunities, you would have to take some away from him,” the coach said. “I didn’t think that would be good for him; I didn’t think he would be happy with that, so I think it’s easier moving forward this way.”

And-Ones: Mavs, Nuggets, Mekel

Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson expressed confidence that Dallas would soon bolster its bench with the addition of either Jermaine O’Neal or Josh Smith, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com reports. “I feel pretty good that we’ll be able to come to terms with one,” Nelson said. “Certainly to come up with both would be just hitting a grand slam home run. Look, there’s a long line for suitors on both fronts. I think the fact that Jermaine has chosen Dallas to be his home in the long term certainly has its place and resonates with time with family and such. And here’s a guy who has a long history not only with our coach but with our point guard/quarterback. That certainly has a place.”

As for Smith’s potential role with the team, Nelson said, “If he did fit and if he joined us, it would be a sixth man situation, but we’d see him as a starting-caliber type guy. He’s got a very rare combination of strength and versatility. He’d be a great addition for whatever team is lucky enough to get his services, but he understands and is fully aware that we have a power forward that we’re very comfortable with and Tyson [Chandler] has got the center position locked down, so he would be a heck of a piece at any one of our three frontline positions.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Nuggets coach Brian Shaw has repeatedly told his players that they must improve their play soon or the team is at risk for changes, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post reports (Twitter links). “You see teams are making moves and making changes. I’m sure we’d be one of those teams, too,” Shaw said.
  • The Rockets sent the Wolves $1MM as part of the Corey Brewer trade, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link).
  • Gal Mekel‘s agent, Maurizio Balducci, is exploring a return overseas to Maccabi Tel Aviv for his client, who was recently waived by the Pelicans, David Pick of Eurobasket reports (Twitter links). Maccabi is offering Mekel a long-term agreement with multiple NBA outs, Pick adds. New Orleans coach Monty Williams had also previously indicated that the Pelicans were considering offering a new deal to Mekel.