Kira Lewis

Southwest Notes: Lewis, Morant, Adams, Grizzlies, Kleber

Pelicans point guard Kira Lewis played in an NBA game for the first time in a little over a year in Tuesday’s loss to Utah, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. The 21-year-old, who tore the ACL in his right knee last December, finished with four points and one rebound in six minutes.

It’s been a long year,” Lewis said. “If anything, I have learned patience. With this leg, I couldn’t rush it or nothing. I just had to be patient and take it day by day. Here we are.”

The third-year guard added that the most challenging part of the rehabilitation process wasn’t physical.

That’s probably the toughest, managing the mental,” he said. “Because you know you can’t play basketball. That’s something you have been doing your whole life. Just take it day by day. Talk to your people. And keep on moving. Use it as motivation.”

The Pelicans picked up Lewis’ fourth-year option for 2023/24, so he’ll earn a guaranteed $5,722,116 next year. Lewis, the No. 13 overall pick of the 2020 draft, will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Ja Morant and Steven Adams were both sidelined for the Grizzlies in Monday’s blowout victory over the shorthanded Hawks, but they were full participants in Wednesday’s practice and are “trending towards playing” on Thursday against Milwaukee, per Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal (Twitter link). Morant is averaging career highs in points (27.7), rebounds (6.6) and assists (7.8), while Adams leads the NBA in offensive rebounds per game (4.8) for the second consecutive season.
  • The Grizzlies‘ bench has struggled to an extent this season, partly due to injuries, but Monday showed why the second unit has a lot of potential, Cole writes for The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Tyus Jones and Brandon Clarke and had productive games starting in place of Morant and Adams, and some little-used reserves also had strong outings. “We’re deep,” Xavier Tillman said. “It’s a real 15 deep. Nobody’s role is too extreme to where we need them to do more than they’re capable of.” Memphis is currently 18-9, tied with New Orleans for the best record in the West.
  • Head coach Jason Kidd told reporters on Wednesday that Mavericks big man Maxi Kleber suffered a hyperextended knee in Tuesday’s practice, which is why he was ruled out for Wednesday’s game against Cleveland, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). The Mavs are still evaluating Kleber’s condition to determine how much time he might miss.

Pelicans Notes: Zion, McCollum, Daniels, Lewis, Alvarado

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson missed Tuesday’s game vs. Memphis due to a right foot contusion, but the injury isn’t expected to sideline him for long.

According to Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link), head coach Willie Green said on Tuesday that Williamson has a chance to be back in the lineup on Wednesday vs. Chicago. The former No. 1 pick will be evaluated today after resting on Tuesday.

Once Williamson is available, the Pelicans will continue trying to figure out how best to use him on offense. As Christian Clark of NOLA.com writes, after Williamson dished six assists to go with 26 points on Saturday, Green said the team trusts Zion to “make the right play” with the ball in his hands and will try to use him in a ball-handling role more often going forward.

“I think it’s adding more layers to our offense,” Green said. “We recognized that from the past, with Z handling the basketball and trying to take advantage of mismatches, it’s something we need to exploit.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • After making just 15-of-55 (27.3%) field goal attempts in his previous four games, CJ McCollum knocked down 11-of-23 in Tuesday’s win, scoring a season-high 30 points. According to Clark, McCollum had been dealing with a viral infection that seemed to be affecting his play. “I’ve been playing like s–t,” McCollum said. “I’ve been feeling like s–t. I have been shooting the ball really poorly, which is uncharacteristic. I’m normally not good at the other things, but I can always shoot. That was frustrating: not being able to help my team the way I wanted to but not having the energy.”
  • Dyson Daniels hasn’t seen regular playing time so far in his rookie season, but Green said on Tuesday after Daniels played 17 minutes that he doesn’t have any reservations about using the 19-year-old. “He understands the game at a high level,” Green said, per Clark. “I feel comfortable putting him on the floor. I’m super excited about what he did tonight.” Daniels scored just three points on 1-of-5 shooting on Tuesday, but grabbed nine rebounds and was a plus-13 off the bench.
  • Kira Lewis was assigned to the Birmingham Squadron in the G League earlier this week to regain his rhythm as he continues to make his way back from an ACL tear, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Asked by Lopez if he feels faster than he was before the injury, Lewis said that he does, since the rehab process forced him to focus on specific parts of his body that he never had before. “With therapy, you have to slow down and work on every part of your leg,” Lewis said (Twitter link). “… My movements feel more efficient. … I definitely feel faster.”
  • James Herbert of CBS Sports profiles Jose Alvarado, examining how the second-year guard became an important piece of the Pelicans’ backcourt after going undrafted last year.

Pelicans Notes: Lewis, Nance, Williamson

Pelicans guard Kira Lewis, who is making his way back from a torn ACL that sidelined him for much of last season and the start of this season, is inching closer to a return, having progressed to full five-on-five work, tweets ESPN’s Andrew Lopez.

While five-on-five scrimmages are generally one of the final steps in a player’s rehab process before he returns to action, Lewis may need some time to get back up to game speed and improve his conditioning after being sidelined for nearly a full year. According to Lopez, the next step for the former first-round pick is to spend some time with the Birmingham Squadron, New Orleans’ G League affiliate.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • After initial post-game testing indicated that Larry Nance Jr. had avoided a major knee injury on Monday, an MRI confirmed that there’s no structural damage in Nance’s hyperextended left knee, according to Lopez (Twitter link). Nance, listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game, will receive some minor treatment for the injury, but shouldn’t miss much – if any – time.
  • While Nance was virtually an afterthought in last season’s deadline trade that sent him and CJ McCollum to New Orleans, the Pelicans had been interested in the veteran forward for years, says Christian Clark of NOLA.com. According to Clark, the Pels previously explored trading for Nance when he was playing in Cleveland and were thrilled to get him as part of their McCollum deal with Portland. Nance, who said he felt an “immediate click” in New Orleans, has been playing some small-ball five since joining his new team. “I feel like this type of role is what I’ve been looking for for a while,” Nance said. “Closing games as a switchable five that if you need to play through me, play through me. If you need me to space, I can space.”
  • After battling a non-COVID illness on Friday and cramping on Saturday, Zion Williamson looked more like himself on the court on Monday, scoring 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting, Clark writes for NOLA.com. The former No. 1 overall pick is still getting up to full speed after missing all of last season with a foot injury. “I feel my burst coming back,” Williamson said. “I could rehab as much as I did, I can practice away from the game, but the real game is different. Going against the best basketball players in the world. Being able to feel, to see it. I feel those bursts, and my comfortability is coming back, too.”

Pelicans Pick Up Options For Kira Lewis, Trey Murphy

The Pelicans have announced in a press release that they have picked up their 2023/24 rookie scale contract options on third-year guard Kira Lewis Jr. and second-year swingman Trey Murphy III.

Lewis, a 6’1″ point guard out of Alabama, was drafted with the No. 13 pick in 2020 by the Pelicans. He continues to recover from a torn ACL and sprained MCL, which he suffered in December 2021. In his 24 games last season prior to the injury, Lewis posted averages of 5.9 PPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.6 RPG across 14.2 MPG as a bench player. As far as his rehabilitation goes, Lewis has progressed to 3-on-3 scrimmages with his teammates.

Lewis’ 2023/24 option is worth $5,722,116. He’ll now be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2023 offseason.

The 6’9″ Murphy was selected with the No. 17 pick out of Virginia in 2021. Thus far this season, the 22-year-old has taken a significant leap from his rookie output in 2021/22. Murphy’s minutes have more than doubled, from 13.9 MPG to 30.0 MPG. His other counting stats have taken major jumps, too. In four games this season, during which he has mostly operated as a reserve behind star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, Murphy is averaging 15.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG.

Murphy’s $3,359,280 salary for 2023/24 is now fully guaranteed. The Pelicans will have to make a decision on his fourth-year option for ’24/25 next fall.

New Orleans is young and deep this season, and has gotten off to a terrific 3-1 start against some tough competition. Murphy at least has emerged as a big part of head coach Willie Green‘s rotation.

Teams must make a determination on their eligible players’ rookie scale contract options by this coming Monday, October 31. A full list of players whose teams have exercised their rookie scale contract options is viewable here.

Western Notes: Huerter, Murray, Jokic, Lewis, Mavs

Kings coach Mike Brown is leaning strongly toward Kevin Huerter as his starting shooting guard, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports. Acquired from Atlanta this summer, Huerter is competing with Malik Monk and Terence Davis for the starting nod.

“The more I watch, I just think Kevin might be the right fit at that two-guard spot,” Brown said. “But for me, right now, that power forward spot can be wide open.”

The list of the candidates at the ‘four’ spot includes lottery pick Keegan Murray. KZ Okpala, Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu are the other options.

We have more info from the Western Conference:

  • The Nuggets got a scare on Friday when Jamal Murray exited early with an apparent thigh injury. However, Murray just dismissed it as a cramp, he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “It was frustrating, but it’s OK,” Murray said. “It’s just a cramp. It’s not like it was a pull. Nothing serious. My body hasn’t had this much since training camp, three-hour practices and all that. I guess I’m just adjusting to the workload, that’s all.”
  • Nikola Jokic didn’t even go to Chicago for the game due to a sprained right wrist. An MRI came back clean and coach Michael Malone is optimistic Jokic will soon return, according to Singer“The word back in Denver is that he had a good day,” Malone said. “He’s getting more movement, more function with that wrist. We’ll get home late (Friday), we’ll figure out what the plan is (Saturday). Can he practice? Do we need to hold him out further? Come Monday, we’ll make a decision if he’ll be available for the Phoenix Suns game.”
  • Pelicans guard Kira Lewis continues to progress in his rehab of a torn ACL. He has been cleared for 3-on-3 scrimmages, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Lewis tore his ACL last December and the recovery period for a torn ACL is typically 12-plus months.
  • The Mavericks are playing three preseason games, the fewest of any team in the league, and that’s by design, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd wants to keep his team fresh and healthy for the regular season. “I wanted to see less preseason games just to have the data to see how we handle it,” Kidd said. “A lot of teams are playing four, five or six, so I went on the other side to see if we can play three. … It could be something that we don’t ever do again, or if the players say they like it, it’ll be something we’ll do again.”

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Lewis, Luxury Tax, Coaching Changes

Appearing on The Hoop Collective (video link), Brian Windhorst’s podcast, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez said Pelicans star Zion Williamson is “ready to go” for the 2022/23 season. Williamson, who missed all of last season after undergoing surgery and subsequently experiencing setbacks from a broken foot, has been working out with his trainer as opposed to the team’s staff since he was cleared to play with no restrictions at the end of May, Lopez added.

He is now working with Jasper Bibbs, his strength and conditioning coach, he has a chef, he has taken steps to improve his body so we don’t have a situation where he is only playing 85 games in a three-year stretch, or missing an entire season,” Lopez said.

In an interview last week with William Guillory of The Athletic, Bibbs said Williamson was in “fantastic shape” and “a better athlete now than he’s ever been.” The former No. 1 overall pick signed a five-year, maximum-salary extension in July, and will reportedly be required to undergo regular weigh-ins throughout the duration of his new contract due to a conditioning clause.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Speaking at Media Day on Monday, general manager Trajan Langdon said guard Kira Lewis Jr. is not ready for five-on-five yet action yet, according to Lopez (Twitter link), who notes that Lewis tore his ACL last December. The recovery period for a torn ACL is typically 12-plus months, so it might be a while until we see the 21-year-old former lottery pick back in action.
  • When asked about paying the luxury tax, executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin said that ownership was willing to commit when appropriate. “When it’s time to really go all-in on something, we will,” Griffin said (Twitter link via Christian Clark of NOLA.com). New Orleans is currently about $3.5MM under the $150,267,000 luxury tax line for ’22/23.
  • The Pelicans announced a series of front office and coaching promotions and additions in a press release. Sammy Gelfand is the team’s new senior director of basketball analytics. Ryan Pannone, formerly the head coach of the Birmingham Squadron, the Pelicans’ G League affiliate, is now an assistant coach. Jordan Kincaide has also been added as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Ryan Frazier has been promoted to assistant coach; Both Corey Brewer and Darnell Lazare have been promoted to assistant coach/player development coach; Brandon Demas has been elevated to two-way coach; Jordan McGuire and D’Or Fischer have been elevated to player development assistant, with McGuire also serving as an assistant shooting coach.

Pelicans Get Disabled Player Exception, Bulls’ Request Denied

The Pelicans have been granted a disabled player exception for Kira Lewis‘ season-ending ACL injury, reports Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A salary cap exception designed to give teams extra flexibility when a player suffers a major injury, the disabled player exception can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade. However, it can only be used on a single player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract.

The DPE is worth half the injured player’s salary if that amount is less than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. Lewis is earning a relatively modest $3,822,240 salary this season, so the Pelicans’ new DPE is worth just $1,911,120, which will limit the team’s options.

A disabled player exception also doesn’t create an extra roster spot, so if New Orleans wants to make use of its DPE, it will need to have an open spot on its standard roster.

Meanwhile, the Bulls – who applied for a disabled player exception in response to Patrick Williamsleft wrist injury – have had their request denied, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

In order for a team to be approved for a DPE, its injured player must be deemed by a league-approved physician to be “more likely than not” to be out through at least June 15.

In Williams’ case, the Bulls announced a four-to-six month recovery timeline when the forward underwent wrist surgery in October, and reports have indicated he could be back during the postseason. In other words, he’s not considered likely to remain sidelined through June 15, which is presumably why Chicago’s request wasn’t granted.

If it had been approved, the Bulls’ DPE would have been worth $3,711,000.

Pelicans Apply For DPE Due To Lewis Injury

The Pelicans have applied for a disabled player exception due to Kira Lewis‘ season-ending knee injury, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets.

Lewis suffered a torn ACL and a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his right knee earlier this month against Denver.

A DPE allows a team to sign a player without using cap space. If a player is seriously injured, his team can apply for the disabled player exception to replace him. If granted, the disabled player exception allows a club to sign a replacement player for 50% of the injured player’s salary, or for the amount of the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception, whichever is lesser.

In Lewis’ case, he’s making $3,822,240 this season, so the DPE would be worth approximately $1.91MM. It could be used to sign a player to a one-year deal or to acquire a player via trade or waiver claim, if he’s in the final year of his contract.

The 13th overall pick of the 2020 draft, Lewis appeared in 24 games this season (14.2 MPG) and averaged 5.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG, and 2.0 APG with a .404/.224/.805 shooting line.

The Pelicans exercised their third-year option on Lewis prior to the season, so his salary will be guaranteed through next season.

Pelicans’ Kira Lewis Jr. Out For Season With Torn ACL

Second-year Pelicans guard Kira Lewis Jr. is out indefinitely after suffering a torn ACL and a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his right knee, the team announced (Twitter link). The injury occurred in Wednesday’s game against Denver and a subsequent MRI confirmed it. A surgery date has not been set.

A torn ACL typically has a recovery timeline of 12 months or more, and considering Lewis suffered a MCL sprain as well, it could be a bit longer than that. The team didn’t say it outright, but Lewis will miss the rest of the 2021/22 season.

The 13th overall pick of the 2020 draft, Lewis is a small, athletic point guard. He was considered a bit of a project coming out of Alabama and he has struggled to translate his athleticism at the NBA level early in his career. In 24 games this season (14.2 MPG), he averaged 5.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG, and 2.0 APG with a .404/.224/.805 shooting line.

It’s a very unfortunate setback for the 20-year-old, who’d been playing better recently. Executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin is known to be high on Lewis and has reportedly pushed for more playing time for him in the past.

The Pelicans exercised their third-year option on Lewis prior to the season, so his salary will be guaranteed through next season.

Backup point guard Tomas Satoransky figures to see more minutes in Lewis’ absence for the Pelicans, who hold a 7-20 record thus far, last in the Western Conference.

Pelicans Exercise Options For Williamson, Alexander-Walker, Hayes, Lewis

The Pelicans have picked up rookie-scale options on four players, including Zion Williamson, the top overall pick in 2019, the team announced in a press release. New Orleans exercised the fourth-year option for Williamson, guaranteeing his $13.5MM salary for the 2022/23 season.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2022/23 Rookie Scale Options]

It’s a routine move that sets the stage for next summer, when Williamson will be eligible for an extension that could tie him to the franchise for an additional five seasons. Although those offers are nearly always accepted, there have been rumblings that Williamson might consider turning it down because of pressure from family members to play elsewhere and an uneasy relationship with head of basketball operations David Griffin.

The Pelicans also exercised fourth-year options on guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker ($5MM) and center Jaxson Hayes ($6.8MM). Point guard Kira Lewis had his third-season option picked up, which will pay him $4MM for 2022/23.