Josh Huestis

Texas Notes: Doncic, Pondexter, Spurs, Bzdelik

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, the early-season favorite for Rookie of the Year, hasn’t needed time to adjust to the NBA game, writes Martin Rogers of USA Today. Unlike past European stars who have struggled with the faster pace, Doncic has made an impact right away, averaging 19.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in his first three weeks in the NBA.

Teammate Dirk Nowitzki, who made the same transition 20 years ago, believes Doncic has benefited from rules changes that limit the amount of contact by defenses.

“The game is easier to adjust to now than it was 10 years ago,” Nowitzki said. “It is less physical and more free flowing, so everything is set up for him to succeed and do well.”

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Veteran swingman Quincy Pondexter has a “50-50” shot at staying on the Spurs‘ roster for the entire season, according to Jabari Young of The Athletic. Pondexter, who signed with San Antonio in August, is the only player on the team without a guaranteed contract. He has appeared in six games and is only playing 7.5 minutes per night, but has been a positive influence in the locker room. Young believes his fate will depend on whether the Spurs decide they want to sign someone who has been bought out.
  • The Spurs plan to scout several players before filling their second two-way slot, Young adds in the same story. San Antonio gave one spot to Drew Eubanks shortly before camp opened, but has been keeping the other one vacant. Young doesn’t believe its being held for injured forward Josh Huestis, formerly of the Thunder, who is now with the Spurs’ G League affiliate in Austin.
  • The Rockets opted to keep the same defensive philosophy as last season despite a change in personnel and are bringing back associate head coach Jeff Bzdelik to try to make it work, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Bzdelik, who installed the switching-heavy approach that took Houston to within a game of the NBA Finals, announced his retirement shortly before the start of training camp. However, team officials convinced him to return and he plans to rejoin the Rockets at the end of this month.

Spurs Waive Josh Huestis

Two days after signing him, the Spurs have waived forward Josh Huestis, the team announced today in a press release.

While Huestis’ stint with San Antonio was brief, today’s move doesn’t come as a surprise. As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News wrote on Wednesday, Huestis continues to recover from a Jones fracture in his right foot, which he suffered in a September 12 workout. The Spurs hope to have the former first-round pick play for their G League affiliate in Austin once he’s healthy.

Huestis, 26, spent his rookie season in the G League before joining the Thunder in 2015/16. After appearing in just seven games for Oklahoma City over his first two NBA seasons, the 6’7″ forward earned a rotation role last season. However, he didn’t make much of an impact, averaging 2.3 PPG and 2.3 RPG with a .330/.287/.300 shooting line in 69 games (14.2 MPG). He was an unrestricted free agent this summer.

With Huestis no longer on the roster, the Spurs have an opening on their 20-man preseason squad for now.

Spurs Sign Josh Huestis To Exhibit 10 Deal

2:12pm: The Spurs have made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve signed Huestis.

1:05pm: The Spurs appear set to fill the open spot on their 20-man preseason roster by signing Josh Huestis, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Huestis and the Spurs have agreed to an Exhibit 10 deal. Word of the agreement comes more than a month after reports indicated that Huestis had received a camp invite from San Antonio.

A first-round pick in 2014, Huestis played a season in the G League before joining the Thunder in 2015/16. After appearing in just seven games for Oklahoma City over his first two NBA seasons, the 6’7″ forward earned a rotation role last season. However, he didn’t make much of an impact, averaging 2.3 PPG and 2.3 RPG with a .330/.287/.300 shooting line in 69 games (14.2 MPG).

Because the Thunder had turned down their fourth-year option on Huestis’ rookie scale contract, he became an unrestricted free agent this summer. The 26-year-old remained on the market for over three months before agreeing to sign with the Spurs.

While the Spurs have a potential opening on their 15-man regular season squad, Huestis will be an underdog to claim that spot. Veteran swingman Quincy Pondexter, who has a partial guarantee worth $150K, looks like a better bet to become San Antonio’s 15th man, assuming the team even carries a full roster into the season. Exhibit 10 contracts can be converted into two-way deals though, so that could be an option for Huestis. The Spurs have about a week to make their roster decisions for opening night.

Josh Huestis Receives Camp Invite From Spurs

Former Thunder swingman Josh Huestis has received a camp invite from the Spurs, Fred Katz of MassLive.com tweets. The news was confirmed by Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link).

There’s been little news regarding Huestis since he entered unrestricted free agency this summer. The Thunder didn’t pick up his fourth-year option prior to last season.

Huestis wasn’t able to establish a steady rotation role with Oklahoma City until his third and last season with that organization. He saw action in 69 games and averaged 2.3 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 14.2 MPG but shot just 28.7% from long range. He also saw spot duty in four postseason games.

The Spurs currently have 14 players with contract guarantees, so there is a roster opening if Huestis shines in training camp. The Spurs have Rudy Gay, Lonnie Walker and Dante Cunningham as small forward options but the retirement of Manu Ginobili could open the door for Huestis.

The 6’7” Huestis was a late first-round pick in 2014 out of Stanford and spent the bulk of his time in the G League prior to last season.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Grant, Huestis, Bjelica, Towns

Fresh off earning All-NBA honors this week, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has reportedly requested another meeting with team owner Paul Allen, according to John Canzano of The Oregonian. The reason for Lillard’s alleged requested meeting is not provided but this is not the first time that Lillard’s camp sought a face-to-face will Allen.

Lillard met with Allen in January to discuss the organization’s plan for the future. For what it’s worth, Lillard responded to this latest report on Twitter and dismissed the report and the source of it.  After being swept by the Pelicans in the postseason, Lillard addressed the possibility of Portland breaking up with the backcourt of himself and C.J. McCollum.

“I don’t agree with it,” Lillard said breaking up the Blazers’ backcourt (via Ashish Mathur of Pro Hoops Digest). “I think it’s that simple. I think it’s the easiest thing to say. I don’t agree with it, though. I’m not the guy making decisions.”

Lillard earned the All-NBA nod after enjoying another productive season in Portland, averaging 26.9 PPG and 6.6 APG.

Check out more Northwest Division notes below:

  • Jerami Grants improvement since he joined the Thunder has been a point a pride for both himself and the organization. As he heads for free agency this summer, Grant — who has admitted he wants to return to the Oklahoma City — may have priced himself out of the team, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.
  • Josh Huestis proved himself this season but his next NBA chapter may be with an organization other than the Thunder, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Huestis’ pending unrestricted free agency — just like Grant’s  — is complicated by the financial complications Paul George‘s free agency presents and how he fits on the roster long-term.
  • Timberwolves big man Nemanja Bjelica cannot wait for the opportunity to suit up for the Serbian national team. “I love to play at home,” he said, “and I can’t wait to do it again, soon. Being supported by thousands of fans is the best, and this unity around the national team gives us a lot of extra energy.”
  • During an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with colleague’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst, Adrian Wojnarowski said he feels that Minnesota would move on from Tom Thibodeau before trading Karl-Anthony Towns (via UPROXX). “I think their owner would trade management/the coach before he would trade Karl-Anthony Towns,” Wojnarowski said. “I don’t think they would allow that. I just don’t believe they’d allow that kind of decision.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are in a unique position with a unique superstar and this upcoming summer will play a major role in how that ultimately plays out. Unsurprisingly, the team’s short-term fate depends on where Paul George signs and that could very well depend on where LeBron James signs.

With a committed George, the Thunder boast one of the league’s most intriguing cores and a front office with a rich history of landing major assets. Without him, it’s not so much of a stretch to picture the club back in the lottery for the first time since 2015.

Carmelo Anthony, PF, 34 (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $124MM deal in 2014
In less than a year, Anthony went from being a coveted veteran star to a radioactive presence with an albatross contract. The 33-year-old has an early termination option for 2018/19 but isn’t about to wave goodbye to the $28MM season he’s been eyeing up since he signed for it back in 2014. Anthony will be back in Oklahoma City next season and has already said that he has no desire to come off the bench. Godspeed, Thunder fans.

Corey Brewer, SG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Thunder added Brewer down the stretch as a replacement for the injured Andre Roberson. The perimeter defender not only subbed in admirably for Roberson, but carved out a role in the team’s rotation heading forward should he decide to return. Brewer is coming off of a comfortable $24MM deal signed in 2015, so don’t expect him to chase the biggest offer he can find if it looks like the Thunder will be able to remain competitive. That said, the club will need to offer more than the peanuts it got him for at the tail end of 2017/18.

Nick Collison, PF, 37 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
For the past 15 years, Collison has been a part of the Thunder franchise and there’s always seemed to be a mutual respect between he and the organization. While his days as a key rotation piece are in the rearview mirror, there’s no denying that his presence in the locker room has had a positive impact on the team. The big man hasn’t made a public decision regarding retirement at this point but it may be more likely than not. If Collison does decide to play in 2018/19, expect it to be announced well into free agency after the team’s other dominoes have fallen.

Raymond Felton, PG, 34 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
Few would argue that there will be a long list of teams fighting to sign Felton this summer but it’s hard to consider his lone season in Oklahoma City anything less than a success. Felton proved that he can be an effective, cheap bit player for the Thunder, as evidenced by the 6.9 points and 2.5 assists per game he posted in just 16.6 minutes of action. Had he not performed as well as he did, there’s no guarantee he’d even land another full-time gig.

Paul George, SF, 28 (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $92MM deal in 2014
While his first season in Oklahoma City could have gone better from a team perspective, George did little to obfuscate his case for a max contract. It seems inevitable that the star will head west to the Lakers but let’s take the guy at his word if he says he’s at least interested in the notion of returning to the Thunder. The franchise would be well equipped for the next half decade if they could lock George in with Westbrook and Steven Adams, but will that be enough to sway the California native? Wherever he goes, he figures to be earning the max allowable.

Jerami Grant, PF, 24 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $4MM deal in 2014
Grant was a solid and intriguing depth piece for the Thunder this season, but may be one of the players most impacted by the team’s tight finances. The former second-round pick will see interest from other teams this summer and while OKC could go over the cap to retain him, doing so would have serious luxury tax implications.

Josh Huestis, PF, 26 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2015
Despite world-class athleticism, Huestis hasn’t firmly established himself with the Thunder in three seasons. That being said, he saw consistent action for OKC in 2017/18 in limited minutes. Given that the team will have so much of its payroll tied up in a handful of players in 2018/19 and beyond, the unrestricted free agent could have some appeal as a dirt-cheap option already familiar with the system.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: T. Jones, Mitchell, Jefferson, Huestis

Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones played well when Jeff Teague was sidelined with a sprained knee ligament, but there’s no thought about making him the starter, relays Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Jones ranks in the top five in the league in assists and steals per turnover and is number one in defensive real plus-minus. Still, coach Tom Thibodeau trusts Teague, who was one of Minnesota’s prize offseason additions, and won’t consider a change.

“Jeff has been around a long time, and Jeff has done a lot of winning,” Thibodeau said. “That’s probably the most important thing.”

There’s more today from the Northwest Division:

  • Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell has become the MVP for the Jazz in a difficult season, according to Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. The 13th overall pick is leading all rookies in scoring at 18.8 points per game and has four 30-point performances already. Utah was focused primarily on Mitchell’s defensive prowess when it acquired him in a draft-night trade with the Nuggets, so the scoring has been a pleasant surprise. In his other midseason ratings, Sorensen picks Ricky Rubio as the team’s most disappointing player and Royce O’Neale as the most pleasant surprise.
  • The Nuggets plan to use veteran forward Richard Jefferson as part of their rotation for the rest of the season, tweets Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports. Coach Michael Malone said he wants to see “what we have” in the 37-year-old, who has been playing about eight minutes per night and is averaging 1.6 points through 13 games.
  • After spending most of his first two seasons in the G League, Josh Huestis may have found a role with the Thunder, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Terrance Ferguson has taken over as the starting shooting guard with Andre Roberson injured, but coach Billy Donovan has turned to Huestis as a late-game defensive stopper. Huestis, who played just seven combined NBA games during his first two years in the league, is enjoying the opportunity. “It comes down to defense,” he said.

NBA Competition Committee To Review Out-Of-Bounds Replays

Just last week we highlighted how the growing tension between NBA players and officials had gotten to a point where leaders of their respective unions felt compelled to meet. Then, in response to an NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Report, LeBron James came out and stated that the issue irking him most about the officiating is when an official refuses to acknowledge that an infraction occurred (per Dave McMenamin of ESPN).

Now, based at least in large part on a call missed by the officials during the Bucks win over the Thunder on Friday night, the NBA’s competition committee will look into making missed out-of-bounds calls replayable, according to Royce Young of ESPN.

The controversial non-call occurred with less than 5.0 seconds remaining in the game. The Bucks called timeout and set up a play for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who spun around Josh Huestis and finished with a dunk over Russell Westbrook. However, replays visible in the arena clearly showed that Antetokounmpo stepped out of bounds on his way to the hoop.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, the officials were not permitted to review the play because it did not meet the criteria to trigger a review. In order for a review to be triggered under the current replay system, the officials would have needed to make a call on the floor signaling that Antetokounmpo was out of bounds.

As succinctly explained by head official Derrick Stafford after Friday’s game, “In any reviewable matter, there has to be a whistle called on the floor. There was no whistle blown for the play, so we couldn’t review it.”

The NBA’s competition committee will meet in March to discuss this and other issues, but a change, if any, would not be implemented until the 2018-19 season.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Huestis, Abrines, Jones, Jazz

In the middle of the Thunder’s resurgence and winning streak has been reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, Russell Westbrook. As Oklahoma City has tried to create a balance for Westbrook and two other All-Stars, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, the team has struggled to find consistency. Playing behind Westbrook’s lead and not with him trying to lead is how the Thunder will find success, ESPN’s Royce Young writes.

After a slow start, OKC is in fifth place in the Western Conference with a 20-16 record. Anthony believes that Westbrook’s hot streak and the team’s improved play are no coincidence.

“I think the fact that Russ is just playing — not trying to defer to anybody, to any one of us — just playing his game and letting us play off him … I think he’s much more effective by doing that rather than deferring to myself or Paul,” Anthony said. “We know what we bring to the game. We understand it. We accept it. And by that, he’s able to just play his game, relax and do what he does best. We need that. We need that Russ out there. Not the one who defers to us. Let us figure it out.”

Check out other Northwest Division news below:

  • After the Thunder lost to the Bucks on Friday, head coach Billy Donovan said the team needs Alex Abrines to play better, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. Abrines, 24, got the start on Friday but OKC was down 24 points after one quarter and he never returned. “My feeling is that Alex needs to help our team, and trying to find ways to get him going would be positive for our team,” Donovan said. “That’s why I kind of started him.”
  • Following Abrines’ removal, Josh Huestis got the chance to play the rest of the game and showed some defensive promise against the Bucks, Dawson writes in a separate story. 
  • With Jeff Teague sidelined 2 to 4 weeks with a left knee sprain, Tyus Jones will take over the Wolves‘ starting point guard role for the second time this season and he feels prepared, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes. “Just because it’s not the first time now,” Jones said. “It’s something I’ve done, something we’ve gone through as a team. I’m just ready to go. My first-time experience, I learned it was still just basketball. You’re in the game to start rather than coming in a few minutes into the game, but it’s just basketball at the end of the day.”
  • The month of December has not been kind to the Jazz as the team searches for an identity, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes.

Woj’s Latest: OKC, Huestis, Trade Market, Suns

In the latest episode of The Woj Pod, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was joined by ESPN’s Bobby Marks and Royce Young to discuss a handful of topics from around the NBA. Since Young covers the Thunder, much of the conversation focused on Oklahoma City’s early-season struggles, but the ESPN trio bounced around the league to touch on several other teams and subjects too.

Let’s round up a few highlights…

  • Despite the fact that the Thunder expressed a willingness to go deeper into luxury-tax territory next year to keep Paul George and Carmelo Anthony around, Wojnarowski is very skeptical, suggesting it will probably just be a one-year run with the current roster. “This would be an incredible [tax] bill for the New York Knicks, the Lakers or Steve Ballmer to pay, never mind Clay Bennett in a small market like Oklahoma City,” Woj said.
  • Meanwhile, Young and Marks questioned the Thunder‘s decision to decline Josh Huestis‘ fourth-year option, indicating that it was likely related to tax concerns. The trio observed that the idea of replacing Huestis with a minimum-salary veteran goes against the draft-and-develop strategy the Thunder have practiced in recent years.
  • With the Cavaliers looking vulnerable and several Eastern Conference teams off to decent starts, Wojnarowski believes that the wide-open nature of the conference could have an impact on the trade market. One executive tells Wojnarowski that it wouldn’t be surprising to see some talent head from the West to the East, since Western teams are less inclined to believe there’s an opening to make it to the Finals, with the Warriors looking as strong as ever.
  • According to Wojnarowski, the Suns were initially seeking a good young player and a first-round pick – or two – in exchange for Eric Bledsoe. Of course, the return Phoenix got from Milwaukee in exchange for Bledsoe didn’t come close to that. Bledsoe’s value had taken a hit because of the public nature of the situation, but Marks points out that most teams already have solid point guards and weren’t ready to make a major trade so early in the season, further limiting the Suns’ options.