Justise Winslow

Northwest Notes: Grant, Blazers, Jokic, Murray, Vanderbilt

New Trail Blazers starting power forward Jerami Grant is working on his chemistry with center Jusuf Nurkic and the rest of his new Portland compatriots, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Fentress writes that the team’s 2022 training camp tipped off on Tuesday in Santa Barbara.

“His length is incredible,” Nurkic raved of the 6’8″ forward. “Layups. Dunks. It’s so effortless.”

“I’m still learning the way he passes,” Grant said of the 6’11” center. “I’m figuring out when to cut, where to cut and kind of reading him.”

As Fentress notes, the Blazers could look to play Grant some minutes at small forward and even as a small-ball center. Like Nurkic, other teammates are also impressed with Grant’s two-way play and athleticism.

“Looking at Jerami, and the size, the athleticism and versatility sticks out,” star point guard Damian Lillard said of watching Grant from afar. “But then being able to see his skill set up close, he has been impressive.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • With four of the team’s starting positions set, three Trail Blazers players will compete in training camp for the remaining opening: the starting small forward gig. In a separate piece, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian examines the pros and cons of swingman Josh Hart, Nassir Little and Justise Winslow. “I think as a competitor we all want to start, we all want raises,” Winslow said of the process. “But at the same time, you understand that you’re part of a bigger team.”
  • Nuggets MVP center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray are hoping to pick up right where the dynamic duo left off before Murray’s ACL tear in April 2021, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post“It was fun,” Jokic said of a recent training camp practice together. “Like I said, it feels really natural, it feels easy. I think we’re gonna be back really soon.” Head coach Michael Malone registered his excitement for the return of the pairing this season. “It looks good, but I know it’s going to look better once Jamal gets back into game shape where he completely has no concerns about his knee.”
  • The Jazz view recently-added 6’9″ big man Jarred Vanderbilt as primarily a power forward, and intend to only play him as a center in spot minutes, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jones cites that thinking as one of the incentives behind the club’s trade for former Pistons center Kelly Olynyk.

Blazers Notes: Offseason, Nurkic, Simons, Billups

While they finished the season with only the NBA’s sixth-worst record, no team tanked harder down the stretch than the Trail Blazers, who were playing without most of their veteran starters. After shutting down center Jusuf Nurkic at the All-Star break, Portland went 2-21 the rest of the way, with a net rating of -21.3, by far the league’s worst mark during that stretch.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, general manager Joe Cronin said he felt “uncomfortable” about how the Blazers’ season ended, according to Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. Cronin said the team “didn’t want to lose ball games,” but was more focused on developing its young players than competing for a playoff spot.

“We had to take a step backwards in order to move forward,” Cronin said. “We’ve positioned ourselves to where I think we’ve got some great opportunities. We have a really intriguing core: Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, Jusuf Nurkic, Nassir Little, Justise Winslow. Potentially two lottery picks, numerous cap exceptions, a bunch of cap flexibility. We are determined to get better, to be competitive as quickly as possible and we’re super confident in our ability to do that.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Although Cronin listed them as part of Portland’s core, Jusuf Nurkic (unrestricted) and Anfernee Simons (restricted) will both be free agents this summer. Cronin’s comments on Monday strongly suggest the Blazers want to re-sign both players. The general manager called Nurkic a player “we would definitely want to build around” and said the team plans to be “proactive” with Simons’ free agency, per Holdahl.
  • The Blazers will have at least one pick in this year’s draft lottery and could have a second if the Pelicans miss the playoffs and don’t move into the top four. As Holdahl relays, Cronin’s goal with Portland’s first-rounder is to “maximize the pick,” which could mean either drafting a player or using it in a trade. “I’m going to spend the next two, three, four weeks diving into the game film and really evaluating this draft and particularly assessing value to what that pick is,” Cronin said. “So then you compare that to what’s available in the (trade) marketplace and then you make a decision. If we decide the player at that pick is much more valuable than what we can get in the marketplace, we do that direction. If it’s the opposite, we go the other direction.”
  • The Blazers are confident that head coach Chauncey Billups will be an asset when it comes to recruiting free agents, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. “He’s just so inspiring, even in a 30-minute meeting. It’s just easy to buy in with him,” Cronin said.
  • Josh Hart has only been a Blazer for a couple months, but he said this week that if a player calls him to ask about Billups this summer, he’ll have nothing but praise for Portland’s head coach. “I would say he’s great,” Hart said, according to Quick. “He’s a players’ coach, someone who does a great job of building you up, coaching you up, but a good balance in holding you accountable. And off the court, he cares about you as a person. That’s a big thing, something that gets overlooked sometimes.”

Blazers GM Joe Cronin: Josh Hart “A Keeper”

When Portland sent CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. to New Orleans earlier this month in a package headlined by Josh Hart and draft assets, it wasn’t clear if the Trail Blazers actually coveted Hart or if he was a candidate to be flipped to another team by the retooling Blazers.

Speaking to Jason Quick of The Athletic, Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin made it clear he’s a big fan of Hart and views the veteran wing as a long-term fit with the franchise.

“He’s a keeper,” Cronin said. “Josh embodies what we are trying to build here. The talent level, the skill set, the competitiveness, the IQ, the defensive-minded, guard-anyone approach. His ability to make others better, to make shots, push the ball. … We targeted him, and it’s that type of player who we want. We want to find more Josh Harts at different positions.”

Hart, who will turn 27 on Sunday, has averaged 19.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.2 APG on 54.0% shooting in five games (33.6 MPG) since being traded to Portland. He’s under contract for two more years beyond this one, though the structure of his deal is somewhat unusual.

Hart’s $12.96MM salary for 2022/23 is non-guaranteed, so if the Blazers want to maximize their cap room this summer, they could theoretically waive him to create an additional $12MM+ in space, but that appears extremely unlikely. Hart’s $12.96MM salary for 2023/24 is also non-guaranteed. However, he holds a player option for that season, so he could opt out in 2023 to seek a new deal if he has outperformed his current contract.

Here are a few more noteworthy comments from Cronin, via The Athletic:

  • Cronin tells Quick that he has also been extremely impressed with Justise Winslow, whom the Blazers acquired from the Clippers in their Robert Covington/Norman Powell trade. According to Cronin, Winslow – like Hart – fits “the style and the mentality” the team wants to play with. “Those type of players are not easy to find,” Cronin said. “The Josh Harts of the world, the Justise Winslows of the world, they are not easily attainable. That’s where we are trying to create as many tools and ammunition to be able to go and find those types of players.”
  • Cronin identified Joe Ingles as a player who “has the unique mix of talent, skillset and mentality we are looking for” and suggested that acquiring him from Utah was “about the player” rather than the expiring contract. I’m a little skeptical of that statement, since I’d be surprised if the Blazers push very hard to re-sign a 34-year-old who will spend a chunk of next season recovering from an ACL tear and who has previously expressed a desire to return to a division rival.
  • While the Blazers’ deadline deals cleared out a backcourt logjam to a certain extent, Cronin said the team still has to “balance the roster.” However, he’s more concerned about continuing to stockpile talent. “If there is a two guard (in the draft) that is head-and-shoulders above the other positions, we are taking the two guard, then figure it out,” Cronin said. “We can’t dismiss the talent part to be able to compete at the level we want to compete at.”

Trail Blazers Notes: Hart, Simons, Watford, Winslow

The Trail Blazers acquired Josh Hart last week in the trade that sent CJ McCollum to New Orleans, and Hart is the exact type of player coach Chauncey Billups wants, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

He’s my type of player from the standpoint of just being able to go and play both sides of the basketball and just be tough,” Billups said. “Not only tough, but skilled.”

Billups said Hart’s competitiveness shines through: “When he’s out there, he plays with a level of urgency that you love. I’m looking forward to just coaching him.”

In three games with his new club (all wins), Hart is averaging 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists on .600/.524/.765 shooting. Through 44 total games this season (33.7 minutes), he’s averaging 14.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on .514/.351/.754 shooting.

Here’s more from Portland:

  • Hart and rising star Anfernee Simons have showcased great chemistry in their brief time together, Fentress writes in a separate piece for The Oregonian. “He’s going to have a long, successful career in this league,” Hart said of Simons, after Portland beat New York 112-103 on Saturday. “For me, it was just really cool to be able to play off of him and see him take over the game in the third and fourth.”
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic recently wrote an in-depth profile of two-way rookie Trendon Watford, who has become a regular member of Portland’s rotation since the start of 2022. “I’m just scratching the surface,” Watford said. “I’m going to keep getting better.”
  • After dropping six straight games, the surging Blazers have won four in a row, due in no small part to the high-energy, all-around contributions of Hart and Justise Winslow. “I think he has found a home,” Nurkic said of Winslow, according to Quick of The Athletic. Through six games with Portland, Winslow is averaging 12 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.7 steals in 31.3 minutes per contest.
  • Winslow concurs with Nurkic’s assessment, per Casey Holdahl of the team’s website. “I was just traded here, I’m very happy to be here. God works in his beautiful ways,” said Winslow. “I’ve found a home. I don’t want to go anywhere, I’ve got one more year on this contact. It feels like everyone here is kind of fresh. There’s people in the organization that’s been here a long time but the coaching staff, a lot of the players just got here… I think it’s a good time for me in my life and also my basketball career.” Winslow was acquired as part of the trade that sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers.

Northwest Notes: Winslow, Thunder, Azubuike, Snyder, House

Blazers forward Justise Winslow made his debut with the team on Saturday, finishing with six points and seven rebounds off the bench in a loss to Milwaukee, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. It was Winslow’s first action since being acquired in a trade with the Clippers just 24 hours prior.

“He has been around a lot of different teams, and all the intel on him is really good,” head coach Chauncey Billups said. “Just a great dude, a winning player. Everybody who plays with him loves him. Those are the type of guys that you love.”

Portland acquired Winslow, Eric Bledsoe, Keon Johnson and a 2025 second-round pick in the deal, sending out Norman Powell and Robert Covington. At 21-33, the team currently owns the 10th-best record in the Western Conference.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

Trail Blazers Trade Powell, Covington To Clippers

5:37pm: The trade is now official, Portland announced in a press release.


1:29pm: The Trail Blazers and Clippers have agreed to a trade that will send swingman Norman Powell and forward Robert Covington to Los Angeles in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and Detroit’s 2025 second-round pick, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links).

It’s a fascinating move for a Clippers team that is currently missing Kawhi Leonard (ACL) and Paul George (elbow). As we relayed this morning, there’s a belief that Leonard probably won’t return this season, while George’s recovery timeline remains up in the air.

However, there’s little reason for the Clippers to throw in the towel on this season. Despite its modest 27-27 record, the club is firmly in the play-in picture, holding the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Additionally, Los Angeles doesn’t control its own 2022 first-round pick, having sent it to Oklahoma City in the George trade, so there’s no incentive to finish in the lottery.

Powell is a talented scorer and shooter who is averaging a career-high 18.7 PPG in 40 games (33.3 MPG) this season, along with a .406 3PT%. His three-point rate has been at 39.9% or higher in each of the last four seasons. Covington, meanwhile, is more limited on offense and has been inconsistent as a shooter this season (.381 FG%, .343 3PT%), but is a versatile defender with plenty of postseason experience.

Powell, a Southern California native who will reunite with former Toronto teammates Leonard and Serge Ibaka, signed a five-year, $90MM contract with Portland in August, so the Clippers will control him for the long term. Covington will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but L.A. will have his Bird rights, allowing the team to go over the cap to re-sign him.

The Clips already project to be way over the luxury tax line next season, so the club may be reluctant to commit to Covington beyond 2021/22 without moving off another contract, such as Marcus Morris‘. That decision won’t have to be made for at least a few months though. In the meantime, this deal will increase L.A.’s projected tax bill this season by about $19MM, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The move will also open up a spot on the Clippers’ 15-man roster, potentially allowing them to promote Amir Coffey from his two-way contract. That had been a goal for the team as it approached the deadline, tweets Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

It looks at first glance like a modest return for the Blazers, but they’ll get a chance to take a flier on a young prospect in Johnson and will benefit financially from the move. According to Marks, the deal takes Portland out of tax territory for this season.

Moving off Powell’s long-term money and taking back Bledsoe’s pseudo-expiring contract (only $3.9MM of his $19.4MM salary next season is guaranteed) will give the Blazers more financial flexibility going forward and will create more room in the backcourt for emerging guard Anfernee Simons, who is in the midst of a breakout year and will be a restricted free agent in the offseason.

I wouldn’t expect Bledsoe to be part of the Blazers’ long-term plans, but Winslow could stick around beyond this season. He’s under contract for about $4.1MM in 2022/23. Johnson’s rookie contract runs through 2024/25.

Having parted ways with one of their leading scorers and one of their top defensive players, the Blazers will see their playoff odds for this season dip a little. The team currently holds a play-in spot, but only has a 1.5-game cushion on the 11th-place Pelicans and has an underwhelming record of 21-31.

Portland would send its 2022 first-rounder to Chicago if the pick lands outside of the lottery. Taking a longer-term view, the front office – led by interim general manager Joe Cronin – may actually prefer to miss the playoffs, since it would allow the team to keep that first-rounder and would give Damian Lillard more time to recover from his abdominal surgery — it’s a safe bet Lillard won’t rush back from that injury to join a lottery-bound squad for the home stretch.

It’s unclear what this deal will mean for CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, two of Portland’s other top trade candidates. The club still has six more days to continue making trades, but it wouldn’t be shocking if one or both of those longtime Blazers stays put through the February 10 deadline. McCollum is under contract for two more seasons beyond this one, while Nurkic will be an unrestricted free agent in July.

Portland will create a $6.5MM trade exception in the deal, tweets Marks.

COVID-19 Updates: Haliburton, Clippers, Powell, Caruso, Bolmaro

For a brief period in late December and early January, there were well over 100 NBA players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. However, the situation has improved considerably since that spike. The latest update of our protocols tracker shows just 15 players who are currently affected.

That doesn’t mean no one is entering the protocols anymore though. As Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee writes, Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton was placed in the protocols ahead of the team’s game vs. Houston on Sunday. Haliburton joins Robert Woodard as the two Sacramento players affected.

Here are a few more protocol-related updates:

  • Clippers teammates Luke Kennard and Justise Winslow have exited the COVID-19 protocols and are taking part in return to competition reconditioning, as Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group tweets. Kennard is doubtful to play on Monday vs. Indiana, while Winslow is questionable.
  • Trail Blazers wing Norman Powell was upgraded to questionable for Monday’s contest in Orlando and his status is now listed as “COVID recovery,” so it sounds like he has cleared the health and safety protocols (Twitter link via Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian).
  • Bulls guard Alex Caruso won’t play on Monday in Memphis, but he’s no longer in the protocols, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Timberwolves rookie Leandro Bolmaro exited the protocols on Sunday and was available vs. Golden State. He played the final 1:42 of garbage time in a 20-point Wolves victory.

Clippers Rumors: Leonard, George, Morris, Ibaka, Winslow

In the latest episode of the HoopsHype podcast, Michael Scotto said the Clippers remain focused on being competitive when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard get back on the floor.

However, despite a recent report stating that Leonard is ahead of schedule in his rehab from an ACL tear, Scotto has heard that some people within the organization believe the star forward is unlikely to return this season. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report echoes that sentiment, writing that there’s a “healthy dose of skepticism” around the NBA about Leonard playing in 2021/22.

“He’s always played things methodically and cautiously,” a source with knowledge of Leonard’s thinking told Fischer. “I knew he was ahead of schedule [in his rehab], but I wouldn’t bet on it. Kawhi is always focused on the long term. If they’re not in the playoff picture, I think the chances he comes back are slim to none.”

Fischer also shared an ominous update on George, writing that the Clippers are prepared for the possibility that the forward’s elbow injury will keep him sidelined far beyond the three-to-four week timeline the team initially announced for a reevaluation. It’s not out of the question that George’s injury could keep him out of action for the rest of the season, according to Fischer.

If the Clippers believe there’s a chance George and Leonard may both be unavailable for the rest of the season, there’s a reasonable chance they’ll pivot to becoming sellers at the deadline, Fischer adds.

Here’s more on the team from both Scotto and Fischer:

  • Following Leonard’s ACL tear in the 2021 playoffs, the Clippers’ front office broached the possibility of treating the 2021/22 season as more of a “gap year” before pushing again for a title in ’22/23, and owner Steve Ballmer was on board with that idea, Fischer says. The team didn’t initially go all-in on that plan, with head coach Tyronn Lue given no mandate to find minutes for young prospects, but George’s injury could push L.A. further in that direction.
  • Rival executives believe the Clippers will be willing to discuss many of their veteran players at the trade deadline, per Fischer. “They’re pretty much open for business for anyone except their main guys and Terance Mann. I think they really are fine falling out of the playoffs and regrouping for next year,” a Western Conference official told Bleacher Report. “I think they’re trying to shed the Marcus Morrises of the world, guys that have some value and maybe can replace them with younger talent, maybe cheaper [contracts], to free them to get someone else this summer.” 
  • The Jazz would be a good fit for Morris, in Fischer’s view, but he cautions that the Clippers may be hesitant to send the veteran forward to a key Western Conference rival like Utah, since even if the Clips are sellers this season, the two teams could face one another again in the playoffs again as soon as next year.
  • Serge Ibaka and Justise Winslow are among the players the Clippers have received inquiries about, Scotto said on the HoopsHype podcast. Fischer suggests that Ibaka may be the top trade candidate on L.A.’s roster, since offloading his $9.7MM salary would save the team a ton of money on its year-end tax bill. The Thunder, one of the only teams that can accommodate a salary-dump trade without sending out a player, are a team to watch, per Fischer. The Clippers could incentivize them with cash and/or second-round picks.

COVID-19 Updates: Gay, Hughes, Harrell, Hachimura, Winslow, Waters, Brooks

Jazz forwards Rudy Gay and Elijah Hughes have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). They join Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles as players in protocols for Utah.

All four players will miss the team’s game against the Pistons on Monday. Two-way player Malik Fitts will also be sidelined due to a right wrist injury, meaning Utah will be without five players for the contest. According to our tracker, nearly 50 players are currently in the NBA’s protocols.

Here are some other COVID-related notes from around the league:

Pacific Notes: Davis, Winslow, Sarver, Paul

The Lakers are hopeful Anthony Davis will return to action on Wednesday, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Davis has missed the last two game with left knee soreness. Los Angeles begins a three-game road trip at Dallas.

“We did an ultrasound on it,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “Everything is structurally intact. Just taking another day, with the two days off before the next game, and hopefully we’ll put this behind us.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers forward Justise Winslow had a productive 15-minute stint against Orlando on Saturday, contributing nine points and five rebounds. Winslow has been waiting patiently for opportunities, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. “Just sticking with it, the ups and downs, staying steady, not too high, not too low,” he said. “Really practicing what I preach, putting the work in, staying steady, staying ready, staying ready for my time, so it felt good just to make all the winning plays that I did (Saturday), just go out there and impact the game.” Winslow is in the first year of a two-year, $8MM deal.
  • Former Suns employees who signed nondisclosure agreements have begun scheduling and participating in interviews regarding the league’s investigation of owner Robert Sarver, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. The lawyers informed the former employees they would be released from the agreements in order to speak freely on the investigation. The league announced in early November they would investigate Sarver’s conduct and whether a toxic work environment existed within the organization.
  • It has been 10 years since then-commissioner David Stern voided a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times takes a look back at the circumstances surrounding the voided trade and the aftermath of the decision, which resulted in Paul landing with the Clippers.