Kristaps Porzingis

Southwest Notes: House, Porzingis, Grizzlies

After having his two-way deal officially converted into a standard NBA contract today, Danuel House is happy to be back with the Rockets, telling reporters he’s “really excited that we got everything done,” as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Head coach Mike D’Antoni is also glad to have House on the 15-man roster, per Feigen.

“It’s good,” D’Antoni said. “There’s no downside; there’s only upside. He played really well for us. As soon as we can work him back in the rotation, if he’s as good as he was, then it’s all positive. If it doesn’t work out, it is what it is and we still have the same team.”

While House played a regular rotation role for the Rockets earlier in the season, even starting 12 games, the team has a healthier roster and a deeper bench at this point. Feigen notes in a separate article that it will be interesting to see how Houston manages all its pieces the rest of the way.

Currently, the Rockets’ bench features Austin Rivers, Gerald Green, Kenneth Faried, Nene, Iman Shumpert, and House, among others, so the club figures to use the final month to assess how many of those players will see regular minutes in the postseason.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Thirteen months after undergoing ACL surgery, Kristaps Porzingis participated in his first 5-on-5 practice for the Mavericks on Wednesday. And according to Dwain Price of Mavs.com, all indications are that it was a very successful return for the big man. “He went through a full practice with no issues, so very encouraging,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s made tremendous progress with his rehab, with his conditioning, his strength, and (playing 5-on-5) was the next logical progression. He played 3-on-3 yesterday morning with some of the other guys and did extremely well there. So this went really well.” Porzingis still isn’t expected to return to game action until 2019/20.
  • Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas has made a strong early impression on his new club in Memphis, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic details. David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal also takes a look at Valanciunas’ first month with the Grizzlies and looks ahead to assess whether or not the 26-year-old will exercise his $17.6MM player option for next season.
  • In a column for The Memphis Commercial Appeal, Mark Giannotto argues that the Grizzlies have been better off without Marc Gasol in recent weeks, as they’ve played at a faster pace and appear to be having more fun on the court. While it was painful to see Gasol go, it’s becoming clear that the two sides needed to move on from one another to move forward, Giannotto writes.

Kristaps Porzingis Returns To Practice For Mavs

3:35pm: Porzingis practiced with no restrictions today, according to Carlisle (Twitter link via Townsend). However, team owner Mark Cuban said there are still no plans to return to game action for Dallas this season (Twitter link).

9:55am: Kristaps Porzingis could participate in his first practice with the Mavericks today, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

It’s a surprising development after coach Rick Carlisle said last week that the prospects for Porzingis being ready to practice before the end of the season were “doubtful.” However, the 23-year-old has been able to move through the rehab process since being acquired from the Knicks at the end of January. He showed few lingering effects of last year’s ACL injury as he played a 1-on-1 game Friday against Kostas Antetokounmpo, then moved onto a 3-on-3 workout yesterday.

“KP is doing very well,” Carlisle said. “I watched him play a live 3-on-3 game this morning and do a lot of spectacular things and a lot of simple things with a great degree of specialization. The prospect of him being with us on the court is extremely exciting. But we’re not there yet. But he’s ramping it up and he’ll be practicing with us sometime soon.”

Although there are still no plans to use Porzingis in a game this season, there is plenty of optimism in Dallas over the latest developments. In a TNT interview, Porzingis said he has been “feeling great” and intends to practice today “with no restrictions at all.”

“I’m super-excited about the opportunity to be back on the court soon,” he said. “I’m getting the itch. I’ve been getting the itch for a looong time to get back on the court. And now that I’m actually with the team, a hundred percent, I just can’t wait.”

Seeing Porzingis healthy and productive again would be reassuring to the Mavericks as they head into a summer where he will be eligible for a five-year extension worth up to $158MM. It also sends a message to any free agents Dallas might be chasing with an estimated $30MM in cap room.

The Mavericks are 14th in the Western Conference with a 27-40 record, but are hoping to quickly build a contender based around Porzingis, rookie Luka Doncic, and a splashy free agent signing.

“I like everything I see in him,” Carlisle said of Porzingis. “I like the disposition, I like the mental approach, I like the attention to detail, I like the seriousness, I like the detailed approach to developing his craft and skill. And it’s certainly exciting.”

Mavericks Preparing For Long-Term Deal With Porzingis

Negotiations can’t begin until July, but the Mavericks are doing everything they can to prepare for a long-term relationship with Kristaps Porzingis, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Porzingis was acquired from the Knicks at the end of January in a surprising trade that altered the future of both franchises. He continues to rehab his left knee after suffering a torn ACL more than a year ago and won’t play, or probably even practice, before the end of the season.

Dallas recently added Manolo Valdivieso, who serves as Porzingis’ personal trainer, to its training staff. Porzingis has been joining the Mavericks on road trips, which Townsend notes he didn’t do with the Knicks, and Valdivieso has come along with him.

“Nobody has any problem of the territory,” Porzingis said of Valdivieso’s relationship with the other trainers. “It’s all open and we’re all working together. That was something that I wanted to have. And I’m happy that the Dallas Mavericks organization and the people who are here are so open and so willing to help us out with anything.”

It’s similar to the arrangement the Mavs have provided for years with Dirk Nowitzki and his personal trainer, Townsend adds.

At Porzingis’ introductory press conference in Dallas, coach Rick Carlisle made a point to introduce not only Valdivieso, but also Janis Porzingis, Kristaps’ brother and agent, who reportedly upset the front office in New York by seeking jobs for some of Porzingis’ inner circle.

Carlisle offered a health update on Porzingis who has been doing shooting, cutting and dribbling drills after each practice. However, he confirmed that the Latvian star won’t take the court this season.

“They had a plan in place,” Carlisle said of Porzingis and his advisers. “And we’re helping facilitate them executing their plan. And I know our trainer, strength coaches and medical [staff] are adding value to it. It’s a win-win as far as I can see.”

Because the Knicks didn’t reach an extension agreement with Porzingis last fall, the Mavericks can’t start negotiations until July 1. As a restricted free agent, Porzingis could accept a one-year qualifying offer of $4.5MM and become unrestricted next summer or seek a deal with another team that Dallas would have the right to match, but the Mavs’ preference is to lock him up to a five-year, $158MM extension that would start at $27.25MM next season.

“I love it here so far,” Porzingis said. “I’ve been extremely happy here.”

Mavericks Notes: Porzingis, Nowitzki, Doncic

Kristaps Porzingis‘ camp contends that a story suggesting that Porzingis didn’t like the idea of playing in New York alongside Kevin Durant is “utter nonsense,” according to Frank Isola of The Athletic. In fact, Isola writes that Porzingis would welcome Durant with “open arms” if the Mavericks were to pursue and land 2019’s top free agent.

While Dallas created additional cap flexibility by trading Harrison Barnes to Sacramento at last month’s trade deadline, the idea of the Mavs signing Durant remains extremely unlikely. It’s possible that Dallas could make a splash in free agency this summer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the top available players remain a little wary of joining the Mavs until they see Porzingis back on the court — and until Luka Doncic gets a little more NBA experience under his belt.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Although it’s not clear yet whether this will be Dirk Nowitzki‘s final NBA season, David Aldridge of The Athletic takes a look back at the German’s career and assesses his place in team – and league – history.
  • Within Aldridge’s story, Nowitzki says he believes the Mavs are set up well for the future: “Luka has obviously exceeded all expectations — we didn’t think he would be this good. We were hoping he would be this good. But he’s been tremendous, and it’s obviously something to build around. And we had a chance to go for a franchise-like talent like KP; you gotta go for it. Most of the league didn’t even know he was available. That was a steal for us. It obviously hurt, trading some of our guys, basically trading four of our five good starters, but with those two around for a long time, hopefully, it will be good for our franchise.”
  • Doncic has been considered a lock for the 2019 Rookie of the Year award for most of the season, but with Trae Young putting up huge numbers in Atlanta, Zach Harper of The Athletic revisits the race to determine whether Doncic still has it sewn up.
  • A 30-point home loss to Memphis on Saturday was embarrassing, but the matchup provided a reminder that things could be worse for the Mavericks. As Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News observes, well-paid Grizzlies veterans Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons were two of the free agents that the Mavs either missed out on (Conley) or opted not to sign (Parsons) in 2016. If that summer had gone differently in Dallas, there’s a good chance that Doncic and/or Porzingis wouldn’t be on the roster now, Townsend writes.

Knicks Notes: Durant, DSJ, Hernangomez, KP, Robinson

The Knicks are set to play the Clippers on Sunday, but the real battle between the two teams will be for Kevin Durant in free agency this summer, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Durant, who’s expected to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, will register interest from several teams across the league, including the Warriors, Knicks and Clippers. He’s currently holding per-game averages of 27.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists, shooting above 50 percent from the floor for the seventh consecutive season.

“They obviously have a plan that they have in place that they’re trying to do and execute,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said of the Clippers on Saturday, according to Berman. “To their credit, they’ve built a nice, tough team full of guys who understand their role.”

The Clippers have long been linked to Raptors star Kawhi Leonard, who’s also set to become a free agent in July, though a potential meeting with Durant shouldn’t be ruled out. New York has been linked to the likes of Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.

Los Angeles is set to have $57MM in cap space, but the team could create additional room by trading the likes of Danilo Gallinari or Lou Williams before July. New York created a second maximum-salary roster spot by executing the Kristaps Porzingis trade with Dallas last month.

There’s more out of New York today:

  • Fizdale had a deep conversation with Dennis Smith Jr. about the importance of eating healthy and getting good sleep, Marc Berman writes in a separate story for The Post. Smith went shopping with Knicks dietitian Erika Whitman last week, but denied that his eating habits are a serious issue. “I don’t eat bad,’’ Smith said. “I’m not a bad eater. I eat good. I feel great. The arena is great. I played the whole fourth [Thursday against Cleveland] with no fatigue. I felt great. [Fizdale] wants me to get with those people, with Erika and the rest of the dieticians, and that’s what I’ll do.”
  • Former Knicks center Willy Hernangomez, a close friend of Kristaps Porzingis, weighed in on why he believes Porzingis requested a trade out of New York. “Yeah. Sometimes you can understand the plans change a little bit. I think KP wasn’t happy that they weren’t treating him the best way, the way he really deserves,” Hernangomez told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “I just think when you don’t think you’re a part of the organization or the future, you keep going. This is basketball. I think KP felt that way too. I think now he’s in a great place in Dallas to keep developing.”
  • Mitchell Robinson spoke with Steve Serby of the New York Post for a Q&A session, discussing how good he can become, his thoughts on Fizdale, how he can improve as a player and more. “When I’m not on the court, I’m chill and like just relaxed,” Robinson said. “But when I’m on the court, I bring energy, and bring good defense. I’m gonna do anything in any way to help my teammates get this win.”

Nets Notes: Russell, Kurucs, Musa, Marks

As Brian Lewis points out for The New York Post, Nets GM Sean Marks didn’t offer D’Angelo Russell a contract extension in October mainly because he wanted to see if the young point guard could prove himself to be a go-to option and leader. So far, so good on that end as Russell has stayed healthy this season and is averaging career highs of 20.3 points and 6.6 assists per game going into his first All-Star game appearance.

Russell has been the leading force on a Nets team that is surpassing expectations, having already won more games (30) than they did all of last season (28). Russell’s improvements have coincided with steady improvement from Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, and Spencer Dinwiddie, with veterans and rookies contributing in other spots as well.

The Nets will now look to build on their strong record and claim their first playoff spot since 2015, as Russell will look to lead the way and play his way into a big contract this summer.

There’s more on the Nets:

Dell Demps’ Firing Bad News For Knicks?

The ouster of Pelicans GM Dell Demps could complicate the Knicks‘ hopes of landing Anthony Davis in a trade this summer, writes Frank Isola of The Athletic.

Knicks president Steve Mills had informal talks with Demps last month about a deal involving Davis and Kristaps Porzingis, according to Isola. Porzingis was since shipped to the Mavericks in a trade that enabled New York to open two max salary slots for free agency.

A source tells Isola that Demps wanted to wait until after the draft lottery before resuming talks so he would know where New York would be picking. Second in the league in our current Reverse Standings, the Knicks have a 14% chance of winning the lottery and getting a shot at Duke standout Zion Williamson, whom Demps was intrigued by. Demps also has a prior connection with New York, having served as a scout for the organization.

The team has a much different relationship with former Cavaliers GM David Griffin, who is considered one of the potential front-runners to replace Demps in New Orleans. Another source tells Isola that Griffin was considering an offer to become GM of the Knicks two years ago, but turned it down when he discovered he wouldn’t be solely in charge of personnel decisions. While Griffin was negotiating with New York, Mills signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a long-term contract.

Another top contender for the Pelicans post, Celtics assistant GM Michael Zarren, presents an even worse scenario for the Knicks and Lakers, Isola adds. Zarren is considered “the right-hand man” to Boston GM Danny Ainge and has a strong familiarity with the young players who would be key to any deal with the Celtics.

Kevin Durant: Porzingis Trade “Has Nothing To Do With Me”

Speculation that Kevin Durant might join the Knicks this summer shifted into high gear once New York opened a second max salary spot with the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. However, in an All-Star Weekend interview, Durant said his decision in free agency won’t be affected by outside influences, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

Durant has been trying to quell free agent talk, lashing out at the media recently over repeated rumors about his intentions. When asked about the Porzingis deal, Durant was careful not to say anything that might indicate he’s headed to New York.

“I play basketball for the Warriors,” Durant said. “My main concern is being the best basketball player I can be. I have no concerns about trades or transactions throughout the season with other teams. Has nothing to do with me. I’m glad Porzingis is in a better spot for him. I look forward to Luka [Doncic] and him playing together for years to come.”

Another player involved in that trade could give the Knicks some help in their pursuit of Durant, Berman adds. DeAndre Jordan is a close friend of Durant’s and might be a valuable part of the recruiting effort. Jordan has an expiring contract, but Knicks management has indicated a desire to re-sign him and may be willing to offer its entire $5MM room exception if the rest of free agency goes as planned.

“It’s my friend, he got traded and I think he’s in a good place,’’ Durant said of Jordan. “He understands what the business is like. We talk about life more so than the NBA. He’ll be fine [in New York].’’

Another advantage for the Knicks could be Durant’s agent/manager Rich Kleiman, a New York native who has a business relationship with team president Steve Mills. Berman cites rumors that Kleiman could get a front office position in New York if Durant decides to go there.

Durant is having his most productive season since coming to Golden State, posting a 27.6/7.0/5.9 line in 57 games. He figures to attract numerous max offers, but the Warriors will have his Bird Rights for the first time, meaning they can offer a five-year contract with larger raises, while everyone else will be limited to four years.

Durant may not enjoy the free agent speculation, but he hasn’t done anything to stop it, Berman notes. Unlike teammate Klay Thompson, who has said he hopes to spend the rest of his career with the Warriors, Durant hasn’t made any concrete statements about his plans beyond this season.

Stein’s Latest: Porzingis, Heat, Raptors, Kings

Marc Stein of The New York Times reported last week that after meeting with Knicks‘ management, Kristaps Porzingis‘ camp gave the team a four-team list of preferred destinations in the event of a trade, with the Nets and Clippers among those would-be landing spots. In his latest newsletter for The New York Times, Stein fills in the other half of that wish list, reporting that the Heat and Raptors were also on it.

Of course, the Mavericks weren’t on the reported four-team list, which – as Stein explained last week – is one reason why the Knicks elected to move quickly and send Porzingis to Dallas. While Porzingis will only be a restricted – rather than an unrestricted – free agent this summer, it still might have cost the Knicks some leverage in trade talks if that wish list had leaked.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest newsletter:

  • Before sending Porzingis to Dallas, the Knicks made an effort to engage with the Kings on a potential swap involving Marvin Bagley III, but Sacramento “flatly rejected” those inquiries, according to Stein. Last week, Stein reported that the Kings had a similar response when New York asked about De’Aaron Fox.
  • Stein argues that the Suns‘ trade for Tyler Johnson was “far tougher to digest” than their decision to buy out Tyson Chandler so early in the season, since the deal with Miami saved the Heat a ton of money and didn’t address Phoenix’s most glaring need (a true point guard).
  • Stein’s newsletter also features a Q&A with Dirk Nowitzki, in which the Mavericks‘ longtime power forward discusses his involvement in All-Star weekend, his somewhat “frosty” history with Dwyane Wade, and Luka Doncic‘s potential, among other topics. Here’s what Dirk had to say about those comparing Porzingis and Doncic to him and Steve Nash: “I think they’re going to be great together. They both fit the new style of the NBA so well. Luka is bigger than Nashy, so he can make plays that Nashy could never make. And Zinger is even longer than me and more athletic and shoots it super easy from deep. He’s a good dude, hard worker — he wants to be great. We hope to see that combo in Dallas for a long, long time.”

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Davis, Porzingis, Gasol

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has emphasized that the team isn’t done adding players to its roster, according to Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle.

Morey, who has served as the Rockets’ GM since 2007, said he has held discussions with multiple representatives, though he didn’t mention any specific player by name.

“We’re having multiple conversations,” Morey said, as relayed by Atkins. “We have a couple players at the top of the list. Until they clear waivers, it’s not something — we can’t really talk to them.”

For the Rockets, several veteran players cleared waivers this past week, including the likes of Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Enes Kanter and Omri Casspi. Houston also had interest in Wesley Matthews before he agreed to sign with Indiana a few days ago, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link).

The Rockets acquired defensive-minded Iman Shumpert at the NBA’s trading deadline, but still have an open roster spot to work with for the buyout market. The team holds the fifth best record in the West at 32-23 and could also work out a new contract with Danuel House, who remains in the G League.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division today:

  • Pelicans star Anthony Davis played in the second half of a back-to-back set with the team on Saturday, recording 14 points and 16 rebounds in nearly 34 minutes of action. Davis and the team agreed that his minutes would be reduced as he returns from injury, along with the fact that both sides will consult on which ends of back-to-backs Davis will play the rest of the season, according to ESPN.com. Davis formally requested a trade from the Pelicans through agent Rich Paul last month, but the team still held onto him past the Feb. 7 trading deadline.
  • Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle showed new acquisition Kristaps Porzingis how the team plans to utilize him in a one-on-one meeting Friday, according to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “It’s important to have a vision of the direction that you’re going to be going when you’re in a rehab situation like him, so you can get your mind focused on the kind of movements that are going to be required,” Carlisle said. “It was a very good meeting. I asked him for some feedback and we had good discussions.” Porzingis has made positive signs in his rehab from a torn ACL, but he isn’t expected to play for the Mavericks until next season.
  • Grizzlies owner Robert Pera released a statement on Marc Gasol after the franchise traded him to Toronto last week: “Marc has been a dedicated teammate, star player and pillar of this team for the past 11 seasons,” the statement read. “He plays with a heart and a passion for the game that helped carry this franchise to seven straight playoff appearances, but what Marc has done for this organization is about more than just basketball. He was a part of a core group of players that helped shape the identity of this franchise on and off the court and were embraced by the City of Memphis. On behalf of the Grizzlies organization, I would like to thank him for his blood, sweat and dedication to the Grizzlies and Memphis. The impact he has had on this team and the city will live on, and we look forward to one day welcoming him back home to Memphis where his #33 jersey will hang in the rafters of FedExForum next to Zach and Tony.”