Kemba Walker

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Walker, Wizards

The Hawks‘ list of potential general manager candidates continues to grow, with Zach Klein of Channel 2 Sports in Atlanta reporting that the club is interested in speaking with Nets executive Trajan Langdon about the opening. Langdon, who currently serves as an assistant GM in Brooklyn under Sean Marks, was identified by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz earlier this year as a front office “prospect” to watch. However, league insiders told Arnovitz at the time that Langdon may still need a few seasons with the Nets before he becomes a legit candidate to run an NBA front office.

[RELATED: Latest on Hawks’ front office search]

As we wait to see if Atlanta gets the opportunity to talk to Langdon, let’s round up a few more notes and rumors out of the Southeast…

Blazers Duo, Embiid Fail To Make All-Star Cut

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, the Blazers backcourt duo Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and Jazz center Rudy Gobert were among the prominent players who failed to make the cut on the Western Conference All-Star reserve unit, which was unveiled on Thursday and relayed on the NBA’s Twitter feed. Joel Embiid, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were some of the notable names who didn’t make the cut on the Eastern Conference squad. (Twitter links).

Russell Westbrook,  Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and Gordon Hayward received the most votes by the conference’s coaches, who pick the reserves. Westbrook, of course, was the biggest snub among the All-Star starters as the fan voting, which counted for 50% toward the overall balloting, put him behind Stephen Curry and James Harden.

Paul George, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker and John Wall were named the Eastern Conference’s All-Star reserves.

Did the coaches get it right or was there an obvious mistake on their part? Go to the comments section and weigh in.

Southeast Notes: Gortat, Howard, Magic, Walker

Wizards center Marcin Gortat has apologized for comments he made about the team’s bench players after Saturday’s loss to the Bulls. Asked about the reserve unit, Gortat said, “I think right now as far as I know I think we’ve got one of the worst bench in the league right now.” (Twitter link). Later in the night, Gortat tweeted, “Apologize for my frustration” next to a crying emoji. Washington’s bench was depleted Saturday because John Wall and Bradley Beal both missed the game, forcing Tomas Satoransky and Sheldon McClellan to start in their place. Still, it’s not the first time a Wizards star has taken a shot at the team’s reserves. Beal expressed similar frustrations last week.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • New Hawks center Dwight Howard says he already has a “great connection” with coach Mike Budenholzer, relays Chris Vivlamore of The Journal Constitution. Howard, who signed a three-year, $70.5MM deal to return to his hometown this summer, is averaging 15.2 points and 12.4 rebounds through the first nine games. “I love having him as a coach,” Howard said. “From the first time I met him until now, we’ve had a great connection. We want to continue that. I love how he holds me accountable every single day to be the guy for the team to lead them in the right direction. When I’m not doing the right things, he is on me. When I am doing the right things, he pushes me to do more. It’s just a great feeling.”
  • Several key personnel moves and a coaching change haven’t produced the results the Magic were looking for, writes Brian Schmitz of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando is off to a 3-6 start after trading for Serge Ibaka, signing Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Green and D.J. Augustin and bringing in Frank Vogel as coach. “Right now we shouldn’t be talking about chemistry because we’ve had enough time to figure that out,” Biyombo said. “Now it’s just about doing, getting out there and getting it down. … We’re taking some plays off, we’re playing some plays that we feel like, and this is a challenge for us.”
  • The steadily improving Kemba Walker has become one of the best point guards in the East, contends Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Walker may not make the All-Star team because the competition is so strong, but he has become the Hornets‘ best player, averaging 25.9 points and 5.6 assists per game. Walker is in the second season of a four-year, $48MM extension that he agreed to in 2014.

Eastern Notes: Gay, Ellington, Walker, Karasev

The Heat are among the preferred destinations for Kings small forward Rudy Gay, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Gay, who can opt out of his current deal next summer, denies asking Sacramento to trade him, but he made comments last month that show a clear unhappiness with the direction the team is taking. While it’s understandable why he might prefer Miami, the Heat are low on tradable assets after a flurry of moves this summer. The free agents the team added this summer are not eligible to be traded until December 15th.

There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Heat’s signing of Dion Waiters may push Wayne Ellington to the back of the rotation, Jackson writes in the same story. Ellington had a shot to start at shooting guard before the move, but now may be fighting for playing time in a crowded backcourt with Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson. Ellington could see minutes at small forward if Chris Bosh remains sidelined with health problems and Justise Winslow is needed at power forward.
  • Kemba Walker is optimistic about the new-look Hornets, but he hated to see Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee and Jeremy Lin leave in free agency, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “But that’s the business: You’re always going to play with some new guys every year,” Walker said. “You think about Big Al, who I wish we could have kept. He helped change this franchise around big time from the day he got here.” Charlotte tried to replace them by adding Ramon Sessions, Marco Belinelli and Roy Hibbert.
  • Sergey Karasev will play in Russia next season, but he hasn’t ruled out the NBA, according to Eurohoops. Karasev, who spent the past two seasons with the Nets, says first he hopes to prove that he can lead a team. “Ι want to be one of the key persons in a team, not just go in for 10 minutes,” he said. “I hope that Zenit [in St. Petersburg] will be successful in VTB League and then it will be possible for me to go back to the NBA.”

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Walker, Heat

The Hornets committed nearly $200MM to free agents this summer, including over $187MM in guaranteed money, but that doesn’t mean the team didn’t lose several key players from last year’s roster. Asked about an offseason that saw the team lose Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, and Jeremy Lin, Kemba Walker told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer that “it sucks” to see so many teammates depart, especially when one of those players was Jefferson.

“But that’s the business: You’re always going to play with some new guys every year,” said the Hornets’ starting point guard. “You think about Big Al, who I wish we could have kept. He helped change this franchise around big time from the day he got here.”

Here’s more from Walker, along with a couple more items from out of the Southeast division:

  • While Walker was sad to see Jefferson, Lee, and Lin go, he’s optimistic about the Hornets’ new additions, and is particularly intrigued by center Roy Hibbert. “I think, if he can get back to the level he once was at, he can be a huge help to us,” Walker told Bonnell. The point guard also added that he’s fully recovered from offseason knee surgery.
  • Within his latest mailbag for the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Ira Winderman discusses the Heat‘s Plan B for 2017 free agency now that Russell Westbrook won’t be available, and examines whether point guard Beno Udrih – who reportedly has a standing contract offer from the team – is even a fit this year in Miami.
  • Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders identifies some of the summer’s most notable team-friendly contracts, writing that Dion Waiters‘ modest deal with the Heat represents an impressive low-risk, high-reward investment for the team.
  • As we detailed earlier this week, two Southeast teams (Atlanta and Miami) have used most or all of their room exceptions, while the other three clubs in the division still have that $2.898MM exception available.

Southeast Notes: Horford, Teague, Walker

Soon-to-be free agent Al Horford isn’t leaving any doubt about his fondness for Atlanta and the Hawks, answering affirmatively Sunday when Zach Klein of WSB-TV asked whether he wants to be back with the team next season (Twitter link). The Jason Glushon client expressed his faith in Mike Budenholzer’s system, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com relays. “I believe it in my heart,” Horford said. “I believe that the way that we play makes us successful, and we have to figure out how we can take that next step as a group.” Those weren’t the only remarks Horford made in the wake of Sunday’s playoff ouster that sound encouraging to Atlanta’s hopes of re-signing him, but players on expiring contracts often speak well of their incumbent teams at season’s end, only to head elsewhere in July.

See more from Atlanta amid the latest from the Southeast Division:

  • Trade candidate Jeff Teague doesn’t think the Hawks will pull the trigger on a deal this summer, expressing confidence Sunday that he’ll be back next season even after the Hawks sat him the entire fourth quarter of Game 4 in favor of Dennis Schröder, notes Ray Glier of USA Today“Yeah, I’ve been here my whole career, why wouldn’t I?” Teague said.
  • Hornets star point guard Kemba Walker underwent surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, the team announced on its website. Walker is expected to resume basketball activities in early July, according to the release. This was Walker’s second procedure on the knee in 16 months, but it was more elective than urgent, a source told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Walker has experienced soreness in the knee since his high school days, Bonnell adds.
  • The Wizards will attend the predraft camp in Chicago this week and have asked permission from the league to interview 30 prospects, J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.com reports. The team will be looking at mainly second-round prospects who could go undrafted with their primary focus being power forwards and centers, Michael adds. Washington must convey its first-round pick to the Suns unless it has lottery luck and has also traded away its second-rounder.
  • Budenholzer resists the notion that consecutive sweeps at the hands of Cleveland should prompt the Hawks to tear apart their roster, observes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Losing to Cleveland twice is tough,” Budenholzer said. “But to the fanbase, to people who think [about blowing it up], if we want to find a way to beat whether it be Cleveland or whoever the great teams in the league or our conference are, blowing it up is probably not the way to beat a team like Cleveland or whoever it may be that is very good.”

Southeast Notes: Batum, Nene, Whiteside, Wade

Nicolas Batum has been “perfect” for the Hornets, contends Kemba Walker, who hopes the team shells out the money necessary to keep the swingman as he heads into free agency this summer, notes Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer. Still, it’s conceivable that Batum has played his final game for the team, as he suffered a sprained left ankle Wednesday in the second game of Charlotte’s first-round series versus the Heat. Teammate Al Jefferson doesn’t think he’ll be back at any point during the series, according to Justin Verrier of ESPN.com, and with the Hornets down 2-0, the outlook is bleak. Batum won’t rule out leaving for another team, but he’s said he wants to be back with Charlotte, as Fowler relays. “Our core is young, we signed our coach to an extension and we’re winning,” Batum said as the playoffs began. “We can have a great run here.”

See more from the Southeast Division:

  • Randy Wittman‘s refusal to criticize Nene was at the heart of the reason John Wall recently cited a lack of accountability on the Wizards, sources told J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic. Other Wizards players also saw it as part of the ex-coach’s declining favor within the locker room this past season, Michael writes. Wittman was also loath to criticize Ramon Sessions, who went so far as to ask the coach to be more critical of him, according to Michael. Washington fired Wittman last week, and Nene and Sessions are set to become free agents this summer.
  • Sessions has never been a full-time starter in any of his nine NBA seasons, but he said he’s gunning for a starting job as he approaches free agency, observes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post.
  • Hassan Whiteside had plenty of praise for the Heat coaching staff and front office this week, a clear sign of his appreciation to Miami for helping revive his career, tweets Jason Lieser of The Palm Beach Post. Whiteside is No. 10 in the latest Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings.

Southeast Notes: Chalmers, Fournier, Washburn

Evan Fournier says that his focus will not be affected just because he and the Magic didn’t come to an agreement on a contract extension prior to Monday’s deadline, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel writes. “My main focus was always just playing good basketball and winning games,” Fournier said. “And then, of course, the contract is going to follow. You don’t have to think about the contract first and then basketball. You have to think about basketball first, and then everything’s going to follow. So I’m just focused on winning, man.” Not reaching an agreement could become a positive for Fournier since the expected increase in next season’s salary cap will mean more teams will be flush with cash, which could serve to drive up the market for the swingman, Robbins adds.

Here’s more from out of the Southeast:

  • Hornets GM Rich Cho said that the contract extensions the team has handed out to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb, and Kemba Walker were partially about avoiding the free agent market that could become overheated during the next two summers thanks to the expected rise in the salary cap brought on by the league’s new TV deal, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer relays (on Twitter).
  • The trade rumors surrounding Heat point guard Mario Chalmers loom as a potential distraction for the team this season, Ethan J. Skolnick of The Miami Herald writes. Skolnick also opines that the team needs to address the issue with Chalmers as soon as possible to help avoid it becoming an issue between the player and the team. Chalmers indicated that he learned of the rumors when he arrived at the arena on Tuesday night, and he has not heard from the front office regarding his status with the franchise, the Herald scribe adds.
  • Jason Washburn, who was in training camp with the Hornets this season, has signed a deal in Kosovo with Sigal Prishtina, Orazio Cauchi of Sportando relays. Washburn spent the 2014/15 season overseas playing for Brussels, where he averaged 8.9 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 27 appearances.

Southeast Notes: Skiles, Hawks, Jefferson

Scott Skiles is still “very interested” in coaching again but isn’t pushing the issue, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders notes within his NBA AM piece. Skiles isn’t actively seeking or campaigning for a job with the Magic or any other team, nor would he insist on player personnel power or control if he were to become a team’s coach, league sources told Kyler, a reversal of the narratives from earlier.

Here’s the latest out of the Southwest Division:

  •  The second highest bid for the Hawks came in around $815MM, which includes the approximately $120MM worth of arena debt, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets. The franchise is awaiting the NBA Board of Governors to approve the sale of the team to the Ressler Group for approximately $850MM, which also includes the arena debt amount.
  • The Hornets are relieved that center Al Jefferson has decided not to opt out of his contract for next season and become a free agent, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. Charlotte did not want to have to commit to a deal for Jefferson beyond this season, even at a reduced cost, Deveney adds. The organization hopes that the big man can give the Hornets another solid year while the team figures out what its frontcourt is going to look like in the future, adds the Sporting News scribe.
  • Kemba Walker was glad to have had surgery during the season to repair a tear in his left knee, Matt Rochinski of NBA.com writes in his season recap for the Hornets‘ point guard. “[The surgery] was something that I had to do and I’m happy I got it done,” Walker said. “I’m feeling good. I won’t do anything different and will still have a pretty good summer [working out and getting stronger], so I’m looking forward to it.” Walker will be entering the second season of the four-year, $48MM extension he signed with the team last October.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Williams, Curry, Green, Draft

Since being acquired in a February trade, Mo Williams has been thriving with the Hornets, who have won three straight and are currently clinging to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, writes Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders. The Hornets are planning on playing both Williams and Kemba Walker together once Walker, who has been cleared to resume all basketball activities, returns to the lineup, Taylor adds. Williams, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, is averaging 21.6 points and 8.9 assists in 35.0 minutes per game, and, as Taylor notes, his leadership has been valued by Hornets coach Steve Clifford.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Venezuelan club Marinos de Anzoategui tried to sign former NBA lottery pick Eddy Curry, but visa issues scuttled the deal, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports (Twitter link). The 32-year-old big man last played in the NBA for the Mavs during the 2012/13 campaign.
  • JaMychal Green‘s three year deal with the Grizzlies will pay him $134,295 for the remainder of this season, $845,059 in 2015/16, and $980,431 for the 2016/17 season, Eric Pincus of Basketball insiders notes (Twitter link). Green’s deal comes with a partial guarantee of $150K for next season, Pincus adds.
  • Texas freshman center Myles Turner’s decision to play for embattled coach Rick Barnes has hurt the NBA prospect’s draft stock, writes Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM.
  • University of Wisconsin sophomore forward Nigel Hayes might be headed to the NBA, writes Gery Woelfel of The Racine Journal Times. Woelfel has heard Hayes is viewed as a late first-round pick with upside. Hayes is not currently listed in the top 100 players by DraftExpress, and is the No. 80 prospect on Chad Ford of ESPN.com‘s (Insider subscription required) big board.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.

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