Kemba Walker

Southeast Notes: Oubre, Payne, Porter

The Wizards have benefited from third-year swingman Kelly Oubre‘s energy so far this season and the 21-year-old is earning a more substantial role with the squad, Chris Gehring of the team’s official site writes.

On a team built around core trio John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, Oubre has managed to average 11.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and almost a block per game since sliding into the starting lineup. That spot in the first unit may not last but the impact Oubre’s had on the team could.

He has the ability, and at times last year it went up and down. But he hasn’t had those dips yet this year, though it’s early,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s definitely improved with all of the hard work he put in.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After going 15th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, Adreian Payne‘s NBA opportunities have come few and far between. Now a member of the Magic, the Michigan State product is excited to earn another shot. “I haven’t really gotten a chance to play the whole time I’ve been in the NBA,” Payne told Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. “Being able to spend some time down in the G League, to work on my game, to get better, to just be able to become a better person and a better player, on the court and off the court. I think it is going to help me grow, and then when I get called up and be able to play with the Magic team, I’ll be that Adreian that I was when I was in college.”
  • Don’t expect the Hornets to make a play for somebody like Eric Bledsoe, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. A lateral move to add another point guard to the mix alongside Kemba Walker wouldn’t be worth what the Suns would presumably want for him.
  • The Wizards paid big bucks to bring Otto Porter back and, to this point, LeBron James believes he’s earned his $107MM contract. “He’s worked on his game extremely well and he’s earned the big paycheck that he got,” James told Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Wizards, Jordan

The Hornets struggled to keep leads when their starters – particularly Kemba Walker and Cody Zeller – were on the bench last season. The question ahead of 2017/18 then, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer asks, is whether or not that will change this season.

Gone are all of Walker’s and Zeller’s backups, a veritable laundry list of players from Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts and Briante Weber to Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert and Miles Plumlee. In their place are Michael Carter-Williams and Dwight Howard, both of whom were attained by the Hornets at relative bargains over the summer.

Of course the addition of Carter-Williams will provide size and defense to the Hornets’ second unit but the real draw is Howard, not because of what he’ll add off the bench but because of what his addition to the starting lineup entails.

As we’ve already written, head coach Steve Clifford has already committed to starting Howard when the season begins, that means Zeller himself will be able to work directly with the Hornets’ second unit to help do for them what he did for the starting five in 2016/17.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards will have a number of players to replace Markieff Morris with when the season tips off. The forward is currently expected to miss six to eight weeks with a sports hernia. “We have versatility and we have depth. We can go in many different directions. We can go small. We can throw Kelly Oubre]in there. We can throw Jason Smith in there. Mike Scott we can put in there. There’s a lot of players that we can throw into the mix,” head coach Scott Brooks told Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
  • Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan will soon have a stake in another professional sports franchise. Jordan is part of Derek Jeter‘s group that has been approved to buy the Miami Marlins, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.
  • Only time will tell how Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer and new general manager Travis Schlenk mesh over the next few years but the dynamic between the two could be worth watching as the organization’s priorities shift from winning ball games to developing for the future. Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that Budenholzer will embrace the rebuild, whether that’s his preference or not.

Southeast Notes: Brussino, Crawford, Walker, Reed

Nicolas Brussino, claimed off waivers today by the Hawks, comes with a $1.3MM cap hit, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The move leaves Atlanta with $8.6MM in cap space and 14 guaranteed contracts. The waiver claim means the Hawks will receive Brussino’s entire contract, which includes a $1.5MM salary for 2018/19 that becomes fully guaranteed on the final day of the 2018 moratorium (Twitter link).

There’s more news from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hawks‘ roster for next season is nearly complete, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Atlanta still hopes to find a third point guard, and will begin that search next week.
  • Jamal Crawford gave up $4MM in his buyout arrangement with the Hawks, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. The Clippers sent Crawford to Atlanta in a three-team deal earlier this month, and he quickly agreed to a buyout that enabled him to sign with Minnesota. Crawford’s contract guaranteed him $14.2MM next season and $3MM for 2018/19, and Pincus says he accepted $10.9MM and $2.3MM.
  • The Hornets should consider making an offer for Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. He lists the pros and cons of offering Kemba Walker as part of a trade package, noting that Irving is a more prolific scorer, has much more playoff experience and is two years younger. However, Walker is a better defender, a proven fit with the current team and has a smaller contract. Irving is signed for nearly $18.9MM next season and more than $20MM in 2018/19, with a player option for more than $21.3MM the following season. Walker will make exactly $12MM in each of the next two years.
  • It was playing time, rather than finances, that ended Willie Reed‘s stay in Miami, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Reed signed with the Clippers last week, accepting a $1.6MM veterans minimum offer. With their $4.3MM mid-level exception still available, the Heat could have offered more, but Reed wanted a guarantee of playing time, which Winderman says the Clippers were willing to provide. Miami signed Kelly Olynyk this summer and drafted Bam Adebayo, so Reed would have been in a fight for minutes with the Heat.

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.
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