Joshua Primo

Western Notes: Conley, McCollum, Landale, Primo, Martin

Mike Conley tried to carry the Jazz through adversity during the first half of the season. It took a toll on his body and he’s now trying to work his way through a rough patch, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. Looking worn out, Conley has scored in single digits in seven of his last 10 outings.

“I was trying to do everything I could physically and mentally to keep the ship afloat,” said Conley, who re-signed with the Jazz on a three-year deal last summer. “I tried to be there for everybody. When doing that, sometimes you can forget about being there for yourself. We hit some true adversity. We were getting doubted by everyone. We had a bunch of outside distractions going on. And you saw it creeping into our games.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Pelicans coach Willie Green is hopeful CJ McCollum will clear the league’s health and safety protocols in time to play on Tuesday, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. McCollum was placed in protocols on Thursday. “We’re hopeful. We’ll see how it goes,” Green said. “He’s got to get a couple negative tests. He’s progressing.” The Pelicans have listed McCollum as questionable to play.
  • Jock Landale is hopeful he’ll still be wearing a Spurs uniform next season, as he told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News. He had a 26-point, 7-rebound game against Indiana on Saturday but his $1.56MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed. “This is where I want to be long-term if I can,” Landale said. “I don’t want to go anywhere. Me and my fiancée love it here. I love the organization, love the boys I play with.”
  • In the same story, McDonald points out that Spurs lottery pick Joshua Primo has seen his offensive numbers go down while his playing time has gone up. Primo is averaging 24.8 MPG this month but he’s only averaging 6.0 PPG on 37.5% shooting in those games. Teammate Devin Vassell has an explanation. “It’s the rookie wall,” he said. “It’s real.”
  • The Rockets recently guaranteed Kenyon Martin Jr.‘s $1.78MM salary for next season and Basketball News’ Mark Schindler details why he believes Martin could turn into one of the top role players in the league.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Wieskamp, Primo, Nix

The Pelicans‘ recent surge is largely because of their improved defense, William Guillory of The Athletic writes. New Orleans has won four straight games, including a 124-90 victory over the Jazz on Friday.

Prior to that, the Pelicans held the Kings and Lakers to 95 points each, plus the Suns to 102 points. On the season, the team has allowed 108.7 points per game, which ranks 13th in the league. New Orleans currently holds the No. 10 seed in the West at 27-36.

“I feel like we’re doing a great job of defending, keeping guys out of the paint and just forcing them into tough shots,” said Herbert Jones, one of the league’s rising young defenders. “We’re flying all over the place, helping each other out. One guy gets beat, it’s another one of our brothers there to help him out. Hopefully, we can stay consistent and keep defending how we’re defending.”

There’s more from the Southwest:

Spurs Notes: Popovich, K. Johnson, Primo, Walker

Although it didn’t happen Saturday night, it’s only a matter of time until Gregg Popovich catches Don Nelson for the most career coaching victories, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The Spurs‘ overtime win Friday at Washington was the 1,334th of Popovich’s career, leaving him one behind Nelson, who was one of his coaching mentors.

“Suffice to say, being in this position is awkward, surreal, unexpected, never planned and all of the above,” Popovich said.

The Spurs lost Saturday at Miami, extending Popovich’s wait to reach the record. The team will travel to Memphis on Monday, and with upcoming games against the Kings and Hornets he could be alone at the top by the end of the week.

Among the most impressive things about Popovich’s achievement is that all his wins are with one organization. He took over as San Antonio’s coach early in the 1996/97 season and has remained in that position ever since.

“It just shows you his longevity and excellence for decades,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It really is remarkable.”

There’s more on the Spurs:

  • Keldon Johnson is averaging 20.3 points per game in February, but he understands that he has a long way to go to be a complete player, per Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News. Johnson, who’s in his third NBA season, said he welcomes constructive criticism, whether it’s from his acerbic coach or Draymond Green, who served as a mentor during Johnson’s Olympics experience last summer.
  • The Spurs are ready to give more responsibility to first-round pick Joshua Primo, Finger adds in a separate story. The youngest player taken in the 2021 draft, Primo divided his time before the All-Star break between the NBA and the G League, but Popovich said he’ll remain with the Spurs for the rest of the season. “He’s going to be a player for us for a long time,” Popovich said. “He shows an uncanny maturity on the court for such a young kid. He’s just getting used to the physicality. He’s playing with men.”
  • Trading Derrick White to the Celtics left a hole in the Spurs’ backcourt, but Lonnie Walker sees an opportunity for himself and the team’s other young guards (video link from KENS5). “Derrick was a huge piece for us offensively and defensively,” Walker said. “Losing him was probably one of the hardest things for our team, but it allows us young guys like Devin (Vassell), myself and Primo to continue to grow and get better and play our game.”

Southwest Notes: Bane, Tillie, Terry, Spurs, G. Green

As the 30th overall pick of the 2020 draft, Grizzlies second-year guard Desmond Bane is used to being overlooked, but he’ll always feel like he should’ve gone off the board earlier, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic.

I will never let it go,” Bane told The Athletic. “I feel like teams had their chance to get me and knew who I was. It wasn’t like I was one of those one-and-done guys. You had four years to do your research on me. All my background stuff checked out. That’s on them.”

Bane has proven to be an ideal fit with star Ja Morant, Vokunov adds. After putting up 9.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 68 games (17 starts) as a rookie, Bane has increased those numbers to 17.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists through 39 games this season. He also sports a stellar shooting line of .466/.416/.906 for the 26-14 Grizzlies, currently the No. 4 seed in the West.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Keith Smith of Spotrac provides contract details (via Twitter) for Killian Tillie and Tyrell Terry of the Grizzlies. Tillie was promoted to a standard deal from a two-way contract last week, with Terry taking his two-way spot. Smith relays that Tillie will receive a portion of the room exception for his two-year deal, which is fully guaranteed at $1,901,625 for both 2021/22 and 2022/23, while Terry signed a two-year, two-way contract.
  • Spurs forward Keita Bates-Diop leans on an ancient philosophy to adjust to life as a NBA journeyman, especially during a pandemic, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Bates-Diop, an avid reader, utilizes Stoicism to deal with the uncertainties of life. “I’ve tried to be even-keeled throughout it all, just trusting the work without getting too emotional, too high or too low,” Bates-Diop said. “It’s all about acceptance. Accepting the things that happen, the things you can and can’t control. That was a big thing for me, separating the two.
  • Spurs rookies Joshua Primo and Joe Wieskamp performed well in a blowout loss on Tuesday, but both players know they’re going to spend more time in the G League when the team returns to full strength, Orsborn writes in a separate article for the Express-News. Coach Gregg Popovich says Primo is very mature for his young age (he just turned 19 two weeks ago). “Joshua has an uncanny maturity about him, kind of a steady demeanor,” Popovich said. “He is not awed by the NBA or anything like that. He makes good decisions. He definitely knows how to play. It’s just a matter of getting stronger and aware that these are men and they are coming after your head, so to speak. He just has to get used to that physicality and all that sort of thing.”
  • 35-year-old veteran Gerald Green, who recently decided to unretire and take another shot at the NBA, will be playing for the Rockets‘ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Spurs Notes: Bates-Diop, Murray, Hammon, G League

Keita Bates-Diop was an unlikely candidate to become the first Spurs player with a 30-point game this season, but the little-used forward reached that number in Thursday’s win over the Lakers, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Bates-Diop had 88 total points in his first 23 games, but he exploded in L.A., hitting all 11 of his shots from the field in the best night of his career.

“That’s why he’s in the NBA,” teammate Lonnie Walker said. “You’ve got to put respect on almost any player that’s out there. We’re all here for a reason.”

Bates-Diop was named Big Ten Player of the Year at Ohio State in 2018, but he has found only limited success in the NBA. Taken by the Timberwolves with the 48th pick in that year’s draft, he spent a season and a half in Minnesota before being traded to Denver. He signed a two-way contract with the Spurs last season and earned a standard deal this year.

“He’s a conscientious guy,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s becoming more and more conscientious all the time — and also a bit more confident, like he feels like he has a place.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • It took a lot of years and a lot of help for Dejounte Murray to develop into a top-level point guard, McDonald notes in a separate story. Drafted in 2016, Murray got to learn from Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard early in his career, but also had to overcome a torn ACL that wiped out his entire third season. “He had very little experience coming into the league and basically missed one whole season where he wasn’t able to develop,” Popovich said. “So at this point to see him playing the way he is, the confidence arena, where he’s got habits that are formed now — he understands the position. He understands the role and responsibility every night.”
  • Two WNBA teams have expressed interest in hiring Spurs assistant Becky Hammon as their head coach, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces have both reached out and there is mutual interest, according to Charania. Hammon has been rumored for years as a potential replacement for Popovich whenever he retires.
  • With the G League delaying the start of its regular season, Joshua Primo, Joe Wieskamp and Devontae Cacok may join the Spurs for Sunday’s game against Detroit, Orsborn tweets.

Southwest Notes: Zion, Ingram, Morant, Primo

New concerns have emerged about Zion Williamson‘s weight after a photo was tweeted from the Pelicans‘ game last week in Houston in which he looked larger than usual, writes Jenna Lemoncelli of The New York Post. Williamson hasn’t played yet this season while recovering from foot surgery, and he suffered another setback last week when soreness in the foot further delayed his return.

Meanwhile, there has been increased speculation about his bulkiness, which has been an issue dating back to his time in college. On Tuesday’s “Lowe Post” podcast with Zach Lowe, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said sources have told him that Williamson’s weight has ballooned to 330 pounds, well above his listed playing weight of 284.

In response to last week’s photo, a friend of Williamson tweeted out a different picture today at a youth basketball event in which the Pelicans star looks much lighter and called the weight controversy “fake news.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Brandon Ingram has been putting up big numbers over the Pelicans‘ last seven games, and he and new coach Willie Green agree it’s because they’ve figured out the best way to use him, per William Guillory of The Athletic. Despite being double teamed more frequently, Ingram is averaging 25.4 PPG over that stretch. “He’s just been playing at a higher level, playing faster, more aware of what’s going on around him,” Green said. “Really, there are times when he’s just taking over the game, which I love to see from him.”
  • Injured Grizzlies star Ja Morant was placed into the league’s health and safety protocols today, but coach Taylor Jenkins isn’t worried about Morant’s health, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jenkins didn’t reveal if Morant tested positive for the virus, but said he recently got a booster shot and is feeling fine. “There’s still more testing to be done so it’s too early to know exactly how that’s going to impact timelines and all that stuff but there’s definitely rules,” Jenkins said. “That’s why fortunately he’s fully vaccinated and has his booster so whatever comes, hopefully there’s more positive for us, not testing wise.”
  • Spurs guard Joshua Primo has seen some NBA action lately with Devin Vassell injured, but the organization plans to have him return to the G League, states Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News. “We want him to have more time in Austin for obvious reasons,” coach Gregg Popovich said of the 18-year-old rookie. “He needs to mature in every way, shape and form because of his age. But, having said that, he has a confidence that belies his age. He’s pretty steady in his emotions, shows a great affinity for the game, understands what is going on better than most people, and he is willing to stick his nose in.”

Southwest Notes: Kevin Porter Jr., Spurs, Hart, Ingram

Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. has developed a unique sensibility in his new role this season as Houston’s starting point guard, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Porter calls his own style “Scoot ball.”

“Basketball today is hardly traditional,” said Porter of his role with the Rockets. “I tried to become a traditional (point guard), but that’s not me at all. I’m ‘Scoot.’ I get a bucket or set my guy up.”

The 6’4″ guard, who was a small forward during his rookie season with the Cavaliers and a shooting guard last year with the Rockets, is averaging 13.3 PPG, 5.2 APG, 4.2 RPG and 1.2 SPG for a tanking Houston club in the second season of a rebuild.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs forward Doug McDermott was well aware of teen rookie shooting guard Joshua Primo years before they were teammates, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News details. “I’ve been impressed with him for a long time,” McDermott said. “My dad [Creighton head coach Greg McDermott] recruited him really hard at Creighton. I think it came down to Creighton and Alabama. So I’ve been watching Josh for a long time. I’ve always known he was going to be a hell of a player.” The 18-year-old Primo is currently logging significant minutes with San Antonio’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs. “[My college decision] came down to [Creighton] and Alabama,” Primo confirmed. “I went to Alabama, but we still kept in touch.”
  • Pelicans guard Josh Hart appreciates new head coach Willie Green‘s confidence in his shot creation, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “Willie has all the trust in me to go out there and play my game and play with confidence,” Hart said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that we talked about. It wasn’t just standing in the corner and hoping and praying for the ball.”
  • Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram returned to action following a seven-game absence due to a hip contusion, and his activity helped fuel just the second New Orleans victory of the year, a 112-101 defeat of the Grizzlies. William Guillory of The Athletic examines how Ingram’s 19 points helped the Pelicans end their nine-game losing streak. Ingram addressed the calming influence of new head coach Willie Green through a tumultuous start to the club’s 2021/22 season. “(He’s) just keeping guys positive — making sure their heads (are) up, making sure they’re staying confident in everything that they’re doing,” Ingram said. “Our guys have put in the work. He sees that, and he just wants everybody to be successful on the basketball floor.”

Southwest Notes: Primo, Hart, Pelicans, Mavs, Parsons

As expected, the Spurs have assigned rookie Joshua Primo to their G League affiliate in Austin. According to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link), Primo isn’t expected to travel with the NBA club to Dallas, Milwaukee, and Indiana for its next three games and will instead remain in the G League during that time.

McDonald says it’s possible Primo will return to San Antonio after the Spurs’ road trip comes to an end next week, but it’s probably safe to assume the 18-year-old will spend plenty of time in Austin during his rookie year. Primo is the youngest player in the NBA, and the Spurs typically exercise plenty of patience with their top prospects.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Pelicans wing Josh Hart, who has missed the team’s last three games due to right quadriceps tendinosis, said on Wednesday that he felt soreness during the preseason, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Hart is getting closer to returning to action, but wants to be sure he’s back to 100% and expressed doubts about returning tonight.
  • While the eventual return of Zion Williamson should help unlock the Pelicans‘ full offensive potential, the team probably needs to play slower and more deliberately as long as the former No. 1 pick remains sidelined, according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com, who says New Orleans can’t afford to turn the ball over so much.
  • In a discussion on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast about the Mavericks‘ front office over the years, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon suggested that forward Chandler Parsons was the “primary voice in (team owner Mark) Cuban‘s ear” for a couple years back in 2014-15. “Chandler Parsons had significantly more control over personnel than Donnie Nelson did for two years,” MacMahon said, per Dan Feldman of NBC Sports. “That is simply a fact.”

Spurs Notes: Popovich, Offseason, Primo, Wieskamp

A report earlier this month indicated that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has seemed revitalized by the influx of young talent in San Antonio, and his comments to reporters this week back up that report. Although this year’s version of the Spurs won’t be a title contender like some of Popovich’s past teams, he said he’s “thrilled with this group,” according to Raul Dominguez of The Associated Press.

“They are basically young, energetic, have got a lot of speed,” Popovich said. “There is no need to pace yourself. Nobody is going to play 39 minutes a game, don’t have to worry about stats or individual honors or anything like that. These guys are just going to have a ball playing.”

The days of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are long gone, but even in recent years, Popovich was able to rely on veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, and Rudy Gay. This season, the Spurs are short on go-to vets, but the veteran coach sounds perfectly fine with that.

“I have no idea who I’m going to give it to or what play we’re going to run,” Popovich said, per Dominguez. “That’s something we’re going to figure out as we move along, and to me, that’s exciting as hell.”

Here’s more from out of San Antonio:

  • The Spurs’ offseason moves – including signing Doug McDermott and Bryn Forbes in free agency – suggest they plan to shoot more three-pointers this season, says John Hollinger of The Athletic. San Antonio ranked dead last in the NBA last season in three-point makes (9.9) and attempts (28.4) per game.
  • Rookie guard Joshua Primo was “ecstatic” to land with the Spurs on draft night, according to agent Todd Ramasar, who tells Madalyn Mendoza of The San Antonio Express-News that his client had long admired the franchise. “When you think about them being the gold standard in the NBA from an organization standpoint, I think all that ties in to just how unreal it was to hear his name called at 12,” Ramasar said.
  • Although the Spurs essentially admitted defeat on one of their 2019 first-round picks this week when they cut Luka Samanic, the team’s hit rate in the draft remains high, writes Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News. As Finger observes, of San Antonio’s seven first-rounders since 2016, five (Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell) should be, at the very least, solid NBA contributors, while a sixth (Primo) is off to a promising start this fall.
  • Second-round pick Joe Wieskamp is prepared to spend a good chunk of his rookie season in the G League with the Austin Spurs and plans to make the most of it, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I just view this as a developing year. It’s all about learning, all about growing,” Wieskamp said. “Just to have that experience of playing in Austin will be great. You get more opportunities to truly be yourself and work on things in a game environment.”

Spurs Notes: Primo, Aminu, McDermott, Collins

The Spurs are preparing first-round pick Joshua Primo for the possibility that he may spend part of his rookie season in the G League, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. At age 18, the former Alabama guard was among the youngest players taken in this year’s draft and he may need time in Austin to get ready for the NBA.

“I’m open to anything that is going to get me extra reps and get me better,” he said. “I know I am young, and any way I can get better, I am up to it. But I haven’t heard anything yet.”

Primo has several teammates who spent time in the G League early in their careers, and they have been selling him on the benefits.

“All the guys have told me the G League is there to help,” Primo said. “If I am there, I am going to use it to the best of my ability.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Al-Farouq Aminu, one of the few veterans in the Spurs’ camp, is on his seventh team in 11 years after being traded from Chicago as part of the DeMar DeRozan deal, Orsborn adds in the same piece. The 31-year-old is trying to bounce back from knee problems that have limited him to 41 combined games over the past two seasons. “It is basketball … We understand the business,” Aminu said. “I remember a vet told me, ‘Control what you can control.’ All I can do is put out max effort.”
  • Growing up, Doug McDermott thought he would be a good fit with the Spurs because of their approach to the game, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News. At age 29 and with seven years in the NBA, McDermott got to San Antonio over the summer in a sign-and-trade. “Doug can fit in anywhere,” teammate Bryn Forbes said. “When you can shoot the ball and score the ball, it’s not hard to fit in. You can just kind of mold and adapt to a lot of different situations.”
  • The Spurs’ medical staff expects center Zach Collins to return “after Christmas,” coach Gregg Popovich told reporters (Twitter link from Orsborn). The free agent addition has played a combined 11 games over the past two seasons and has undergone multiple foot surgeries.