Justise Winslow

Lou Williams Expected To Play In Restart; Beal Still Undecided

Seven players so far have opted out of the NBA’s restart this summer, but Clippers guard Lou Williams is unlikely to join that group. Despite previously expressing uncertainty about his status, Williams is expected to suit up for the Clippers as they pursue a title at Walt Disney World, head coach Doc Rivers said on Wednesday.

“As far as Lou, all indications (are) that yes, he is (playing),” Rivers said on a Zoom call, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. “Obviously, up until we get on the plane, anything can happen. But I do expect Lou to be with us. I would be very surprised if he’s not.”

Meanwhile, another high-scoring guard, Bradley Beal, remains uncertain about his status for Orlando, as Youngmisuk writes in a separate story. Beal’s teammate Davis Bertans has already pulled out due to injury concerns ahead of his upcoming free agency. Beal’s backcourt mate and fellow All-Star John Wall won’t be in attendance either, as he continues to focus on his Achilles rehab and a 2020/21 return.

According to Youngmisuk, Beal is considering health factors too as he weighs his options.

“I have yet to make (my decision),” Beal told reporters on Wednesday. “I am still working my tail off every single day as if I am playing. It is more or less a decision that will come down to the medical staff and coming back from zero to 100, and then I have some nagging stuff from the end of the year that we are trying to clean up, too. We are looking at it from all angles. I am definitely working out every single day here. It is good to be back in the facility. … I am not swayed one way or another.”

Here’s more on certain players’ participation decisions:

Restart Notes: COVID-19, Schedule, Winslow, More

With NBA teams just a couple weeks away from traveling to Orlando to enter the Walt Disney World “bubble,” the stats on coronavirus cases in Orange County, Florida continue to be worrisome. As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press relays (via Twitter), data from Wednesday morning showed that the area had 561 new cases on Tuesday, with a positive test rate of 17.3%.

The recent COVID-19 numbers in Florida are “extremely concerning,” epidemiologist Zachary Binney tells Henry Bushnell of Yahoo Sports, who spoke to a series of experts to get their thoughts on the NBA’s restart plan. Binney noted that he thought the NBA’s plan was a good one, but cautioned that it’s being compromised by Florida’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Since Walt Disney World staffers have to go in and out of the bubble, there’s a greater chance that one of them will bring the virus with them now that it’s becoming so prevalent in the Orlando area.

Despite some worrying COVID-19 trends, people around the NBA are still expressing confidence that the plan can work. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently told Steve Selby of The New York Post that the Orlando bubble will likely be safer than a player’s home city, given all the testing happening at Disney. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, meanwhile, said on CNBC on Tuesday that the NBA and other sports leagues will have to prepare to deal with some positive test results.

“I think (the NBA season) is going to get off the ground,” Fertitta said, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay. But we’re going to do whatever. You’re going to follow the protocols. It’s no different from one of our businesses. If somebody’s sick, you send them home. Everybody else watch themselves. Sanitize the establishment, and you have to move on.

“If you’re not willing to say, ‘Oh my gosh, (hypothetically) three people tested today for the Houston Rockets, and three people tested today for the L.A. Lakers. Those guys go home, and we’re going to play the games’ — if we’re not willing to recognize that that’s going to be what happens, then we’re not going to complete the season, not in football, baseball, basketball or whatever.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s restart:

  • Magic CEO Alex Martins told Orange County officials today that the NBA’s plan is for games to be played “all day long” inside three Disney arenas when the season restarts (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds). A “stringent sanitation process” will occur between games, Martins added.
  • The NBA and NBPA each issued press releases today announcing that they’ve made progress in talks to advance social justice issues. The two sides “agreed in principle that the goal of the season restart in Orlando will be to take collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice,” according to the announcements from the league and the players’ union.
  • Although he hasn’t given any indication that he plans to opt out of the NBA’s restart, Grizzlies forward Justise Winslow recently questioned the league’s plan, suggesting that the NBA and NBPA are focused on money rather than player safety. Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the details.
  • In an opinion column, Mark Medina of USA Today contends that players who voluntarily opt out of the NBA restart this summer shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so.

Southwest Notes: Gordon, Ball, Hart, Winslow

Rockets guard Eric Gordon hopes a weight-loss program over the hiatus will help him overcome the knee issues that have slowed him this season, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. A team source tells Iko that Gordon has managed to drop 12 pounds through diet changes and track sprints.

“I think Eric Gordon’s a big key for us,” coach Mike D’Antoni said recently. “He has the potential to put us over the top.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Rockets have been preparing to face the Nuggets in the opening round of the playoffs, Iko adds in the same piece. That would be the pairing if the league goes straight to the postseason and uses its traditional formula. If conferences are set aside and the teams are seeded 1-16, Houston would face the Jazz in the first round, which Iko believes is a more favorable matchup.
  • William Guillory and Danny Leroux of The Athletic discuss whether the Pelicans should give rookie scale extensions to Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. Leroux recommends offering Ball a deal starting in the $13-$15MM range with the willingness to match a larger offer when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2021. Leroux believes there’s more urgency to get a deal done with Hart because his value may rise by next year and suggests that he might get something in the range of the four-year, $52MM contract that the Celtics gave Marcus Smart. Looking at other New Orleans free agents, Leroux expects the team to try to re-sign Kenrich Williams, while Jahlil Okafor will probably be let go. Frank Jackson is a tougher call that depends on whether the front office believes he will become a rotation player.
  • Justise Winslow discusses the hiatus with Evan Barnes of The Commercial Appeal, including a plan to adopt a full vegan diet after his 25th birthday next March. Winslow is still waiting to make his debut with the Grizzlies, as a back injury kept him out of action after being traded in February. “I’ve just been waiting to put on that jersey,” Winslow said. “I’ve been grinding, but I miss the team. There’s just something special about this team.”

Southwest Notes: Johnson, Winslow, Rockets, Mavs

A first-round pick in the 2019 draft, Spurs forward Keldon Johnson spent most of his rookie season in the G League, having appeared in just nine games at the NBA level so far. As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News details, Johnson was likely in line for more minutes – and a more regular role – down the stretch if the season hadn’t been suspended and was disappointed not to get that opportunity. Still, he didn’t mind the team taking it slow with him over the course of the year.

“You’ve got to earn your stripes here,” Johnson said, per Orsborn. “You’ve got to put in the time, put in the work. It’s a long process, a grind. But for me, it’s always been about looking at the bigger picture. I knew as long as I stayed focused and stayed level-headed and continued to work hard, the Spurs had a plan for me.”

In addition to attempting to stay ready for a potential resumption of the season, Johnson has been staying busy by reaching out to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Orsborn details. The Spurs’ rookie launched his “Keldon Kares” campaign last week to raise money for food banks in San Antonio and his hometown of South Hill, Virginia.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Justise Winslow has yet to make his debut for the Grizzlies after being acquired by Memphis at the trade deadline, but he tells Michael Wallace of Grind City Media in a Q&A that he hopes the NBA is able to finish its season so he can help his new team clinch a playoff spot and compete in the postseason.
  • Kelly Iko and Danny Leroux of The Athletic explore some free agent options for the Rockets, assessing whether there are will be any available forwards or big men capable of playing the P.J. Tucker role in Houston — making outside shots, guarding bigs, and providing switchability on defense. Unsurprisingly, there likely won’t be many – or any – of those players available at a discount in free agency.
  • Although the Mavericks reentered the playoff picture this season, they’re not yet a legit title contender. Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News examines how the club might try to ascend to that level during the 2020 and 2021 free agency periods.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/9/20

Here are Monday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • Forward Donta Hall has been recalled by the Pistons, James Edwards of The Athletic tweets. Hall is nearing the end of his second 10-day contract with the club. He has appeared in three Pistons games since signing his first one.
  • The Grizzlies assigned and then recalled swingman Justise Winslow, the team’s PR department tweets. Winslow participated in a practice with the G League club as part of a rehab assignment for his back injury.
  • The Hornets recalled guard Dwayne Bacon from their Greensboro affiiliate, according a team press release. Bacon has appeared in 39 games with Charlotte, posting averages of 5.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 1.3 APG in 17.6 MPG.
  • The Knicks assigned rookie Ignas Brazdeikis to their Westchester affiliate, according to the G League transactions log. Brazdeikis, a second-round pick out of Michigan, has appeared in nine Knicks games.
  • The Jazz assigned guard Miye Oni to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the same log. The rookie out of Yale has played in five Utah games.

Grizzlies Expect Jackson, Winslow Back Within Next Week

The Grizzlies will be getting some reinforcements off the injured list soon as they continue their push to secure the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. The team announced today in a press release that forwards Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) and Justise Winslow (back) are both likely to return to action within the next week.

Jackson, who is dealing with a sprained left knee, has been on the shelf since suffering that injury on February 21. Before going down, he was one of Memphis’ leading scorers, with 16.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 1.6 BPG in 54 contests (28.0 MPG).

As for Winslow, he has yet to actually appear in a game for the Grizzlies, having been acquired from the Heat in the three-team trade that sent Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder to Miami at last month’s deadline. The centerpiece of that trade from Memphis’ perspective, Winslow has been limited to just 11 games on the season due to injuries. In 2018/19, he recorded 12.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.3 APG in 66 games (29.7 MPG) for the Heat.

The Grizzlies have been holding their own without Jackson and Winslow — their 32-32 record gives them a four-game lead on the Pelicans and Kings for the West’s final playoff spot. Still, Memphis isn’t in the clear yet. New Orleans, in particular, is a candidate to make a run at the No. 8 seed, since the Pels have the league’s easiest schedule for the rest of the season, per Tankathon. The Grizzlies have the second-hardest rest-of-season slate.

Although Jackson and Winslow are close to returning, the same can’t be said for Brandon Clarke, who remains sidelined with a right quad strain. The Grizzlies’ announcement today did offer some optimism on Clarke’s recovery though, indicating that he’s still expected to return before the end of the season.

Western Notes: Harkless, Lakers, Winslow

If New York buys out Maurice Harkless, the Lakers may be interested in signing the wing, Sam Amick of The Athletic said on The Sedano Show earlier today (h/t The Lakers Review). The Lakers, who missed out on Reggie Jackson to their L.A. rivals, are monitoring the Harkless’ situation.

Harkless came to the Knicks in the Marcus Morris deal at the trade deadline and it’s unclear whether he’ll reach a buyout agreement with the team. Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson may be angling for a sign-and-trade this summer and the Lakers would be a good fit for his services, as I wrote for Heavy.com. The team doesn’t have a long-term option at the center position and Thompson would be a nice partner to Anthony Davis in the frontcourt.
  • The Grizzlies traded for Justise Winslow to be in the team’s starting lineup eventually, Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian writes. Winslow is still recovering from a back injury, so Memphis is expected to bring him along slowly.
  • Bill Oram of The Athletic chronicles Dwight Howard‘s redemption story with the Lakers. “He’s been a guy that’s always put up great numbers,” former teammate J.J. Redick said, “but I think he’s having an impact in a really meaningful way defensively on the boards, screening, rolling to the boards.”

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Butler, J. Robinson, Embiid

Justise Winslow is thrilled about his new start in Memphis, but in an interview with Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel he offered little insight into an injury that has forced him to miss all but 11 games this season. Winslow has taken the court just once since December 6 because of a lower back bone bruise. “The (Miami) coaching staff thought I was able to play,” Winslow said without further explanation.

After being taken with the 10th pick in the 2015 draft, Winslow developed into a versatile forward for the Heat and often handled play-making duties. However, the lingering injury and the development of young talent in Miami made him expandable in last week’s trade for Andre Iguodala.

“I’m not going to give any dates (for a possible return), I’m sorry,” Winslow said. “But it’s been an ongoing thing this season. That’s the bottom line. I’m sure the Miami Heat did everything that they thought was right to try to help me. Things didn’t work out. I’m here now. I wish I could tell you a date that I’m expected to be back, but there isn’t one.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Jimmy Butler has finally found a team that views the NBA the same way he does, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Butler clashed with teammates, coaches and management in his previous three stops, but his ultra-competitive attitude is welcome with the Heat“When [Butler] was in other places, he got knocked for (speaking his mind),” Iguodala said. “He was disruptive toward his other teammates, but you put him around some guys that actually want to get to the grind, what did he do for them? He upped their level of play, right?”
  • Jerome Robinson sees the Wizards as an ideal fit and is ready for the opportunity he never got with the Clippers, relays Chase Hughes of NBA Sports. Robinson was a lottery pick in 2019, but often languished on the bench as L.A. focused on challenging for a title. He’s hoping for more playing time in Washington after being traded there last week. “Experience, that’s what you really learn from,” Robinson said. “To grow as a player and a person, I think this is a great step for me right here.”
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer believes the Hornets should pounce on the opportunity if Sixers center Joel Embiid ever goes on the trade market.

Southwest Notes: Winslow, Grizzlies, Mavs, Gordon

The Grizzlies faced some criticism for last week’s trade with Miami and Minnesota, which saw them trade away veteran forwards Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, and Solomon Hill for Justise Winslow, Gorgui Dieng, and Dion Waiters.

The price for acquiring Winslow was taking on a pair of pricey multiyear contracts that – along with a Dillon Brooks extension – eliminated Memphis’ projected cap room for the summer of 2020. However, executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman said today that the team feels Winslow is worth that price, as Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian relays.

Kleiman referred to Winslow as a player who will be a “very strong fit” both on and off the court for the Grizzlies, praising the forward’s work ethic, basketball IQ, and defensive tenacity.

“There were several options that were on the table at the end of the day,” Kleiman said. “… We’re well aware that we leveraged our cap space (for 2020), pulling ourselves out of the free agent market. There’s an opportunity cost to doing so. None of that is lost on us. But to be able to add one player that we believe in as a key piece to fit what we’re building, that was Plan A. That was the deal that we were hoping to get.”

Of course, Winslow’s health is the question mark that looms over the deal, but Kleiman said today that Memphis fully expects the former lottery pick to return to the court this season and is confident his back injury won’t be a long-term issue, per Herrington.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • By insisting on finding a trade for Andre Iguodala instead of simply buying him out, the Grizzlies aimed to send a message to the rest of the NBA that they shouldn’t just be viewed as a “feeder system for the league’s glamour destinations,” writes Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.
  • Despite a little drama leading up to the trade deadline, both Iguodala and the Grizzlies said they were on the same page when it came to having the swingman stay away from the team. Iguodala told Sam Amick of The Athletic that the Grizzlies actually approached him about the idea. “We were in communication with Andre’s camp,” Kleiman said today, per Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. “The communications were fine and we were on the same page throughout.”
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic shares some Mavericks-related trade deadline leftovers, reporting that the team inquired on Alex Len before the Hawks sent him to Sacramento. Aldridge also says there was “scuttlebutt in the air” that Delon Wright and/or Justin Jackson were available.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon is expected to be sidelined with a left shin contusion until after the All-Star break, head coach Mike D’Antoni said today (Twitter link via Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston).

Heat Notes: Iguodala, Williams, Winslow, Olynyk

As Andre Iguodala remained in limbo for months in Memphis, rumors swirled about where he’d eventually land. When he spoke to Iguodala following his trade to Miami, Sam Amick of The Athletic pointed out that teams like the Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets were mentioned more often than the Heat as possible destinations. However, the veteran forward told Amick he was impressed by what he’d seen from the Heat this season.

“I watched them on TV a few times, and they’d been doing so well that they’re on everybody’s radar,” Iguodala said. “Like, ‘Man, these boys can play.’ They’re disciplined, they’re playing the right way, the DNA that’s in the organization, and how they drive the DNA and all the players who come through their system, from seasoned guys to young guys to undrafted guys and all the picks. They’re doing a good job with developing their players.”

A report leading up to the trade deadline suggested that Iguodala may decide to sit out the rest of the season if he wasn’t sent to one of his preferred landing spots, and it wasn’t clear that Miami was on that list. The 36-year-old didn’t confirm one way or the other whether he had to be talked into joining the Heat, but did say that a conversation with team president Pat Riley made him enthusiastic about the move.

“It’s just really getting you excited to play basketball, and getting you excited about what you’re going to do and what you’re bringing to the table,” Iguodala told Amick. “And when someone tells you that this is what you do, and this is what we’ve seen you do historically, and this is what we want you to do for us, it’s like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to do that.’ So that’s always good.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • What can Iguodala bring to the Heat? Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald passes along thoughts from Riley, Erik Spoelstra, Kelly Olynyk, Udonis Haslem, and Jimmy Butler on that subject.
  • The Heat were among several teams to inquire on forward Marvin Williams when he was bought out by Charlotte on Friday, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Although Miami missed out on Williams, the team still could be active on the buyout market. Riley said on Friday that the team wouldn’t mind adding a frontcourt player to help with rim protection, if possible.
  • One Heat official told Jackson that Justise Winslow had hoped to have a more prominent role and be one of the faces of the franchise in Miami. Winslow may have more of an opportunity to get that kind of role in Memphis, once he gets healthy.
  • After trading Dion Waiters and James Johnson last week, the Heat can get up to about $27MM in cap room this summer. That number would increase even further if Olynyk declines his $13.2MM player option, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Olynyk hasn’t made that decision yet, suggesting he’ll have to weigh a handful of factors this spring. “I think it’s an accumulation of everything,” he said. “I mean, obviously you want to play. You want to win. You want to get paid. So, yeah, it’s like an accumulation of everything.”