Keldon Johnson

Southwest Notes: Thomas, New Rockets, Hart, Johnson

With veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas now joining the Pelicans on a 10-day contract, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets that New Orleans will be an additional $110,998 closer to the NBA’s luxury tax cap. Thomas, meanwhile, will earn $159,698 during his 10-day stint with the club.

Marks adds that the Pelicans remains $253,803 below the tax at present, but, assuming new addition James Johnson does not achieve certain bonus clauses in his expiring $16MM deal, the team may save an additional $253K at season’s end.

Thomas will wear jersey No. 24 in tribute to departed Lakers star Kobe Bryant, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN. He last wore No. 4 with the Wizards during the 2019/20 season. The 5’9″ point guard will not suit up this evening for the Pelicans as they face off against the Rockets, due to the league’s coronavirus protocols, but is expected to join the club Monday, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Former Heat and Celtics teammates Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk are excited to remain together for the rebuilding Rockets, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Feigen notes that the duo has played more games together than anyone else on Houston. “That’s kind of a crazy stat that [he and I] have played more together than any other two teammates on our team,” Olynyk observed. “Hopefully, we can bring that chemistry.”
  • The 21-27 Pelicans will strive to make a playoff push without injured shooting guard Josh Hart. Hart is expected to miss several weeks with a torn UCL in his right thumb, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com“Could he get back by the end of the year? Yeah,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “But he’s not going to be back in two weeks. It’s a significant amount of time. He’s going to miss the vast majority of what’s left of the season.” New Orleans, the No. 12 seed, is currently just 1.5 games behind the tenth-seeded Warriors (and a play-in opportunity) in the West at present.
  • Second-year Spurs wing Keldon Johnson is discovering how to navigate erratic output as he continues to hone his NBA game, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News“That’s just the NBA for you,” his teammate Derrick White said. “The league kind of figures you out, and you just got to make adjustments.” Even still, Johnson has increased his contributions on the floor for San Antonio. He has started 42 of his 44 contests with the Spurs this year, after starting just one game last season, and has seen his minutes and touches increase significantly.

Southwest Notes: Harden, Johnson, Gabriel, Spurs

Nets guard James Harden will have his No. 13 jersey retired by his former team, the Rockets, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. In a 132-114 victory tonight, Harden recorded a triple-double in his first game against his Houston since being traded earlier this season. The loss marks Houston’s 13th straight.

“James Harden will always be a Rocket,” team owner Tilman Fertita said via text message. “Of course, we will retire his jersey. He made my first three years of owning this franchise unforgettable. The success he brought this franchise over eight years and the memories he created for our fan base/community (are) truly remarkable.”

In postgame comments made tonight, Harden revealed that he discovered the news of his impending jersey retirement online, per Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). “My reaction was hopefully I did something right,” he said.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Second-year Spurs small forward Keldon Johnson returned to the floor for San Antonio yesterday after clearing the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, tweets Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
  • The Pelicans sent forward Wenyen Gabriel to join their G League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, according to a team press release. The BayHawks clinched a spot in the upcoming NBAGL playoffs thanks to their play on the Orlando “bubble” campus.
  • Even with key Spurs rotation players Derrick White, Rudy Gay and Devin Vassell unavailable, a thinned-out San Antonio roster has proved resilient against opponents, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News“They have dug down deep all year,” head coach Gregg Popovich said. “They never give in.” Trey Lyles, in his second year with the club, has flourished as a starter in his last four games for San Antonio, averaging 11.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG.

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

Spurs Have Five Players Under Protocols; DeRozan Also Out Wednesday

The NBA postponed the last four Spurs games due to coronavirus positives and contact tracing. There’s now more clarity on which players are in the league’s health and safety protocols, as well as hope that their next scheduled game against the Thunder on Wednesday will be played.

The Spurs announced on Monday that Rudy Gay, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Derrick White remain under the league’s protocols and are not with the team. That group will not travel to Oklahoma City. Additionally, DeMar DeRozan will miss the game due to personal reasons.

However, LaMarcus Aldridge has been upgraded to active, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter links). He hasn’t played since February 1st due to a hip injury.

As previously reported, the Spurs on Monday recalled guard Tre Jones and forward Luka Samanic from the Austin Spurs. That would give the team 10 available players, two more than the minimum required to play.

San Antonio practiced on Monday, Orsborn added.

Weatherspoon was the only San Antonio player prior to Monday to be named publicly as being under the league’s health and safety protocols. The games postponed were all on the road — Detroit, Cleveland, New York and Indiana — which means the Spurs will have a busy schedule in the second half of the season. They also have to make up a January 25th postponement, a road game against New Orleans.

Spurs Exercise Options On Walker, Johnson, Samanic

The Spurs have exercised their fourth-year team option on guard Lonnie Walker IV, as well as the third-year options on forwards Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic, for the 2021/22 season, according to a team press release.

Walker will receive $4,447,896 during the 2021/22 campaign. Johnson will make $2.145MM and Samanic will get $2.96MM.

Walker, the 18th pick of the 2018 draft, appeared in 61 games last season and averaged 6.4 PPG and 1.1 APG in 16.2 MPG.

Johnson appeared in 17 games last season and averaged 9.1 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 17.7 MPG. He averaged 14.1 PPG in eight games during the Orlando restart. Johnson, a late first-round pick last year, also played 31 games for the G League Austin Spurs and averaged 20.3 PPG and 5.8 RPG.

Samanic, the 19th pick of the 2019 draft, appeared in three NBA games as a rookie. He also appeared in 33 games with the Austin Spurs, averaging 15.2 PPG and 7.8 RPG.

Southwest Notes: Harden, Rockets, K. Johnson, D. White, Mavs

Within his latest look at the James Harden saga in Houston, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes that the Rockets star’s “ball-dominant style, defensive reputation and personality” appear to be limiting the amount of interest on the trade market. Teams not on Harden’s reported wish list have concerns about both cost and fit, says Amick.

“Harden is a terrific scorer, but not a champion,” one front office executive told The Athletic. “He isn’t a two-way player and (he’s) hard to play with. … He is so used to getting his own way, I think there are concerns he can negatively affect a team’s culture.”

While Harden’s preferred landing spot – the Nets, Sixers, Bucks, and Heat – may be more viable destinations, rival executives are “extremely skeptical” that Houston and Brooklyn will reach a deal, and Milwaukee looks like a long shot too, according to Amick.

Philadelphia may be the most viable option, given Daryl Morey‘s strong affinity for Harden, but the 76ers are committed to giving the Ben Simmons/Joel Embiid duo an opportunity to play under Doc Rivers. As for Miami, sources close to the situation are skeptical that the Heat will want to try to assimilate Harden into their culture built on “discipline and dirty work,” says Amick.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Rockets announced today that they plan to host fans at the Toyota Center to start the season, with a reduced capacity and healthy and safety protocols in place. The team is expected to allow between 3,000 and 3,700 in the building, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday that second-year forward Keldon Johnson, who has been sidelined so far this month due to a foot injury, won’t be ready for the team’s regular season opener, but could be good to go in “a couple of weeks,” writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Derrick White (left toe surgery) will likely be out longer than that, per Popovich. “(Johnson is) going 3-on-3 now,” Popovich said. “He has contact and he’s competing. … Derrick’s further behind (in his rehab). He’s not out on the floor competing or doing anything of that nature.”
  • The Mavericks achieved their offseason goals of improving their defense and gaining more future cap flexibility, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who surprisingly projects the club to finish with the second-best record in the Western Conference (47-25).

Southwest Notes: Burke, Terry, Martin, Spurs, Konchar

The Mavericks used a portion of their mid-level exception to sign both free agent guard Trey Burke and No. 31 pick Tyrell Terry, as Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports details (Twitter links).

Burke’s three-year contract with the Mavericks, initially reported as a $10MM deal, actually has a total value of $9.45MM, starting at $3MM in 2020/21, per Smith. However, it does include a third-year player option and a 7.5% trade kicker, which would provide Burke with a modest bonus if he’s dealt before the contract expires.

Terry, meanwhile, will get a first-year salary of about $1.29MM, well above the rookie minimum. The final three years will be all be worth the minimum, with a team option on the final season, according to Smith. In total, Terry’s four-year contract with the Mavericks is worth $6.52MM, with $4.59MM in guaranteed money.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Rockets‘ four-year deal with KJ Martin (aka Kenyon Martin Jr.) is worth the minimum and is fully guaranteed in 2020/21 only, tweets Smith. His salaries for the three subsequent seasons will become guaranteed two days before the start of the offseason moratorium of each new league year.
  • Derrick White (recovering from toe surgery), Quinndary Weatherspoon (knee surgery), and Keldon Johnson (foot ailment) won’t be available when the Spurs begin practicing in the coming days, head coach Gregg Popovich said this week (link via Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News). “I’m not sure exactly when they are coming back, but they won’t be there in the beginning,” Popovich said.
  • After signing a two-way contract as an undrafted rookie last season, Grizzlies guard John Konchar parlayed a strong first-year audition into a four-year deal with the team this fall. As Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes, Konchar got on FaceTime with his mother immediately after agreeing to terms with the club. “It seemed like she was about to cry. I mean, the feeling was just amazing,” Konchar said.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Mills, McLemore, Johnson

Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram said on Monday that New Orleans will number among his “top choices” in free agency during the 2020 offseason, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Ingram, 22, will be a restricted free agent this summer. Considering his growth with the team, whatever offer is tendered to Ingram by another club would almost certainly be matched by the Pelicans. Ingram hailed his current NBA home as a “special place with a lot of really, really good people.”

A 2-4 showing thus far in the NBA’s Orlando campus has doomed the 30-40 Pelicans to miss the playoffs this season, but with Ingram and promising rookie Zion Williamson established as the team’s two cornerstones, they look to be an attractive destination for free agent players.

Here’s more out of the NBA’s Southwest Division:

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has addressed the fact that point guard Patty Mills has not played much during the NBA’s season restart in Orlando, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link).  “Might as well stay whole and take a rest,” Popovich said of Mills. “(He’s) kind of like a humming bird. He plays at such a high level of competitiveness, I’d rather have him whole for next season.”
  • Rockets guard Ben McLemore, who has had a stellar showing for Houston during the team’s Orlando tenure, has just rejoined Klutch Sports for representation, per Ben DuBose of USA Today. McLemore’s previous agent was Jarinn Akana of Dynasty Sports Management. McLemore is currently signed to a two-year veteran’s minimum contract with a team option for the 2020/21 season. Given his recent play, it seems probable that Houston will retain him.
  • Spurs rookie forward Keldon Johnson has started to come into his own during the NBA’s Orlando seeding games, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. Johnson, drafted with the No. 29 pick in 2019 out of Kentucky, has emerged as a rotation player for San Antonio during the season restart. He notched career highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds in a crucial victory over the Rockets today. “He’s a high energy guy,” Popovich said of the rookie. “Very physical. Very competitive. Very coachable.”

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Popovich, Doncic, Zion

Brandon Ingram had planned to be a Lakers star for a long time, but that changed when Anthony Davis became available last summer. Ingram was part of a package of young talent that was sent to the Pelicans for the star big man, but he has fond memories of his three seasons in Los Angeles, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register.

“I think it’s love from each end, because if it was a bad remark or a negative remark, maybe go back, re-tune something and get better at it,” he said of his relationship with Lakers fans. “If it was a good remark, then I thank them for knowing the game of basketball and the person that I am, and that I was gonna get better. So it’s all love from each side. I still got love for the Laker fans, I still got love for the Duke fans.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Gregg Popovich continues to stress player development even though his Spurs are in the middle of the battle for the eighth and ninth seeds in the Western Conference, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Veteran guard Patty Mills sat out Friday’s win over the Jazz to give time to Keldon Johnson, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Drew Eubanks, none of whom have playoff experience. “This is all about development, I’ve said that from the beginning,” Popovich said. “The young guys, they get evaluated, we see them playing together and we get to determine how valuable they are in terms of the guys we want to move forward with.”
  • The Grizzlies used a lineup change Friday to pick up their first win since arriving in Orlando, Vardon adds in the same story. Brandon Clarke had been replacing injured big man Jaren Jackson Jr., but coach Taylor Jenkins opted to go with Anthony Tolliver. Memphis outscored Oklahoma City by 21 points while Tolliver was on the court.
  • Three ESPN writers look at what to expect from Mavericks guard Luka Doncic as he gets ready for his first NBA playoff series.
  • Zion Williamson is expected to be ready to face the Spurs tomorrow in a crucial game in the playoff race, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Williamson missed Friday’s game, but the Pelicans didn’t list anyone on today’s injury report.

Southwest Notes: Kidd-Gilchrist, Grizzlies, Curry, Johnson

Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finally joined the Mavericks at the Orlando campus on Saturday, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Brad Townsend, and explained that his late arrival was due to personal reasons, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News tweets. “I had some personal things I had to handle in my family,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here.” Guard Trey Burke still hasn’t joined the team but he should arrive soon, Townsend adds.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The extended layoff will result in a new look for the Grizzlies’ rotation, Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen are healthy again and the first three will play major roles in Memphis’ aim to make the playoffs.
    [UPDATE: Grizzlies’ Winslow Out For Season With Hip Injury]
  • Seth Curry said his success with the Mavericks is due in large part to coach Rick Carlisle’s faith in him, he told Dwain Price of the team’s website. Curry, who signed a four-year, $32MM deal last summer, is averaging 12.6 PPG in 24.5 MPG while making 45.3% of his 3-pointers this season. “He allows me to play on and off the ball, and he just gives me a lot of opportunities and a lot of minutes,” Curry said. “He’s given me the most minutes of my career so far and it allows me to get better as the season goes along, so it’s been a great fit for both of us.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has stated he’s more interested in player development than securing a playoff spot in Orlando. That will benefit a player like 20-year-old rookie swingman Keldon Johnson, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News writes. “I just love the chance to get out there and show what I can do,” he said. The late first-round pick in the June 2019 draft averaged 7.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 1.3 SPG in the last four games before the hiatus.