KZ Okpala

Pacific Notes: Sabonis, Bridges, Lamb, Thompson

The Kings improved to 12-9 with a rout of the Clippers Saturday afternoon and they seem to have added another element to their already dangerous offense, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Domantas Sabonis continued his hot shooting from three-point range, connecting on both of his shots from beyond the arc. After starting the season 1 of 12 on three-pointers, Sabonis has hit 8 of 14 in his last 10 games.

“It’s big,” he said. “The more I can keep shooting them and knocking them down, teams are eventually going to have to respect it, which is going to allow me to be even more of a playmaker. A lot of times, I can’t thread the needle because the big is so far down. Now, he has to be up, to open the room up for everybody.”

Sacramento had everyone available today as Trey Lyles returned after missing two games with an illness, Anderson adds. Coach Mike Brown likes having the extra option among his reserves and cited the performance of Terence Davis and KZ Okpala while Lyles was unavailable.

“That just makes our bench deeper,” Brown said. “Trey was playing well when he was playing. Obviously, TD stepped up and played big minutes for us. KZ played some pretty good minutes in the last game. So, it makes my decision making harder, but (Lyles) has been playing his behind off and it’s great to see.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns forward Mikal Bridges, who hasn’t missed a game since entering the league, believes he can continue that streak despite tweaking his right knee Friday night, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix will travel to San Antonio on Sunday, and Bridges is listed as probable. “I think I just hyperextended it a little bit, but I’m all right,” he said.
  • Anthony Lamb has become an important part of the Warriors‘ second unit, according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. When Lamb joined Golden State in October, it marked his fourth two-way contract in less than two years, along with one 10-day deal. “He’s a versatile player,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s a quick catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter. The ball doesn’t stop when it hits his hands. When he’s open, he usually gets it off quickly. And he’s shooting it really well. He does a lot of things well that contribute to winning.”
  • Warriors guard Klay Thompson sat out tonight on the second game of a back-to-back, but Kerr doesn’t expect that to continue all season, Poole tweets.

Pacific Notes: Okpala, Lakers, Clippers, Crowder

The Heat are happy that KZ Okpala has found a new home in Sacramento, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes.

Okpala was traded by Miami to Oklahoma City last season. The Thunder then waived him. Okpala signed with the Kings in September and earned a spot on the regular season roster.

“We’re rooting for him,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, “because he really put in a lot of time with us and we saw improvement, and that’s a tough thing to do in this league is to carve out a niche, where you can see a vision of where you can make an impact. You also have to have the right fit and a coaching staff that values what you bring, and that’s clearly what he has there with (Mike Brown).”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Could the Lakers’ win over Denver on Sunday be a turning point for the season? First-year coach Darvin Ham certainly hopes so, Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes. “We needed to prove something to ourselves,” Ham said. “Not to the world. Not to the media. We had to prove it to ourselves — and I felt great about how we responded.”
  • The Clippers enter their game against Houston on Monday with a 2-4 record. They were very displeased with their effort in a 21-point loss to New Orleans in their previous game, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Right now, I think we are just showing up,” forward Marcus Morris said. “And thinking we can win because of the talent we have, because of all the things we have on this team. That’s just not the case.”
  • Jae Crowder remains away from the Suns as the veteran forward awaits a trade. Crowder posted a hopeful message on his Twitter page that the situation will be resolved soon. “YEA NO WORRIES STAY PATIENT COMING SOON I PROMISE!” he wrote.

Pacific Notes: Murray, Wall, Westbrook, Crowder

Kings head coach Mike Brown has indicated that 6’8″ rookie forward Keegan Murray, the No. 4 pick out of Iowa, could be moved into the team’s starting lineup soon, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

 “Yeah, he started the second half [of the team’s Sunday loss against the Warriors], so there’s a chance he could start going forward,” Brown said.

The 0-3 Kings will next have the opportunity to start Murray against the 2-1 Grizzlies on Thursday. As Anderson writes, current starting power forward KZ Okpala seems most likely to be moved to the bench in such a scenario.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers reserve guard John Wall is hoping for a larger role with Los Angeles, per Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. The 6’4″ vet has been limited by his team to 25 or fewer minutes a night as a backup. Across 23 MPG in two contests thus far, Wall is averaging 16 PPG on .519/.250/.250 shooting splits, plus 3.5 APG, 2.0 RPG and 1.0 SPG. “There’s no recovery process for me,” Wall said. “It’s just a program, a plan [the Clippers have] for me… I was fully healthy last year; I just didn’t play because of the situation [with the Rockets]. So, I’m not on like on a recovery process.”
  • The 0-3 Lakers are struggling to start the season, and still seem to be considering offloading the expiring $47.1MM contract of current starting point guard Russell Westbrook. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report identifies six potential outcomes for the team’s future with Westbrook, including standing pat and not executing a trade.
  • Estranged Suns power forward Jae Crowder remains in limbo as both he and Phoenix hope to work out a deal to send Crowder away from the Suns for a hopefully larger role elsewhere, per Chris Haynes of Turner Sports (Twitter video link). “Both sides, his agent and the Suns, they though they were going to come to an agreement on a trade before the season started, and things have been prolonged,” Haynes said. “He’s in the best shape possible of his career and he’s just ready to get back out there on the court.”

Several Players Set To Receive Salary Guarantees

Most players who are still on non-guaranteed contracts as the NBA’s regular season begins won’t have their salaries for 2022/23 fully guaranteed until January. The league-wide salary guarantee date is January 10, and teams must waive players on non-guaranteed contracts on or before January 7 in order to avoid being on the hook for the full-season salaries.

However, a number of players on non-guaranteed deals have language in their contracts that calls for them to receive full or partial guarantees if they’re not waived before their team’s first game of the regular season. Those players are as follows:


Full guarantees:

  • Dalano Banton (Raptors): Partial guarantee ($300,000) increases to full guarantee ($1,563,518).
  • Keita Bates-Diop (Spurs): Non-guaranteed salary ($1,878,720) becomes fully guaranteed.
  • Justin Champagnie (Raptors): Partial guarantee ($325,000) increases to full guarantee ($1,637,966).
  • Tre Jones (Spurs): Partial guarantee ($500,000) increases to full guarantee ($1,782,621).

As our full list of early salary guarantee dates shows, Isaiah Joe (Sixers), Josh Jackson (Raptors), and D.J. Wilson (Raptors) also would’ve had their salaries become fully guaranteed if they had remained under contract through their teams’ first regular season games. However, they were all waived within the last week. Joe has since signed with the Thunder on a deal that includes a guaranteed first-year salary.

Partial guarantees:

  • Matthew Dellavedova (Kings): Non-guaranteed salary ($2,628,597) becomes partially guaranteed ($250,000).
  • Haywood Highsmith (Heat): Partial guarantee ($50,000) increases to $400,000.
  • Luke Kornet (Celtics): Partial guarantee ($300,000) increases to $1,066,639.
  • Chima Moneke (Kings): Partial guarantee ($250,000) increases to $500,000.
  • Markieff Morris (Nets): Non-guaranteed salary ($2,905,581) becomes partially guaranteed ($500,000).
  • KZ Okpala (Kings): Partial guarantee ($250,000) increases to $500,000.
  • Edmond Sumner (Nets): Partial guarantee ($250,000) increases to $500,000.

Guarantee dates are a matter of negotiation between a team and a player, so there’s nothing stopping a club from approaching a player and asking him to agree to push that date back. If a player feels as if he’ll be waived if he says no, he may agree.

This happened last season, for instance, when Isaac Bonga‘s and Sam Dekker‘s contracts with the Raptors called for their salaries to be fully guaranteed as of opening night. Both players assented to moving their guarantee dates back to November 6. When that new deadline arrived, Toronto opted to retain Bonga and guarantee his full salary while waiving Dekker.

In other words, it’s not yet a sure thing that all the players mentioned above will get the guarantees described here, even if they remain under contract through Wednesday (or Tuesday, in Kornet’s case). We may get word in a day or two that a couple of them agreed to postpone their salary guarantee dates.

For the most part though, we should count on this group of players receiving some added security, with a handful of names coming off our list of players who still have non-guaranteed salaries.

California Notes: Jackson, Wall, Zubac, Kings, Poole

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has claimed that a report indicating that Reggie Jackson had won the L.A. starting point guard gig over John Wall did not come from him, and that he has yet to make a final decision, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles will play its first regular season contest this Thursday.

“Both guys are in a great position, and their mindset is in the right place,” Lue said. “It is about winning. It is not about who’s the starter, who’s the best player. It’s about the right fit and trying to win, and both of those guys are on board with that.”

Here’s more out of California:

  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac spoke with Mark Medina of NBA.com for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on the team’s hoped-for title contention this season, its stars’ injury woes, the development of Zubac around the rim, and more. Zubac also gave head coach Tyronn Lue a rave review. “Ty has been around the team and me for a while, even before he became a head coach,” Zubac noted. “He’s been seeing the progress for a while. It’s in big part thanks to him. He’s been pushing us. Last season, he asked me to do some things on the court that he hadn’t asked me to do in a while. He involved me more offensively. I think that was a big part of my progression.”
  • Following a rigorous training camp, the Kings opted to retain point guard Matthew Dellavedova, forward Chima Moneke, and power forward KZ Okpala into the regular season. Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee breaks down how the new Sacramento additions made the grade. All are currently signed to non-guaranteed deals with the team. “As training camp has gone on, [Moneke] is trending upwards,” head coach Mike Brown said. “I think the initial shock of being in the NBA and the speed and athleticism and all that stuff caught him off guard a little bit, but he belongs on this level and he can help us. I think KZ, too. Both of those guys were two of my first calls, even before I really got the job.” Brown also raved about Dellavedova’s effort on defense. “If Davion [Mitchell] ain’t going hard, he will get embarrassed by Delly… If [De’Aaron] Fox isn’t going hard, he will get embarrassed by Delly. To have a guy like that raises the level of intensity.”
  • Warriors reserve guard Jordan Poole signed a four-year contract extension with Golden State worth up to $140MM. Now, new details have emerged about the contract’s various incentives. Anthony Slater of The Athletic unpacks the deal, revealing that – beyond the guaranteed $123MM – Poole will make an extra $1.25MM per year (i.e. $5MM across all four seasons) depending on how far the team gets in the playoffs. He will net an additional $1MM for each year he wins the league MVP award (so a very, very hypothetical total of $4MM), plus $1MM annually per every Defensive Player of the Year award. Considering his skillset, earning either honor even once seems fairly far-fetched. Poole could earn $500K per season should he qualify for an All-NBA team (there are a total of 15 such slots available) and another $500K annually should he qualify for an All-Defensive Team (there are 10 available openings). Slater notes that it is possible Poole grows into being an All-NBA talent, but is skeptical he could ever be an elite defender or named the league MVP.

Kings Waive Sam Merrill, Set Roster For Season

Veteran guard Matthew Dellavedova and forwards KZ Okpala and Chima Moneke have claimed the final three spots on the Kings‘ 15-man roster to open the regular season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Veteran wing Sam Merrill had also been vying for a regular season roster spot, but the Kings have opted to waive him, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee tweets.

The team also cut Jeriah Horne and Alex O’Connell, per James Ham of ESPN 1320 Sacramento (Twitter link), who says the plan is for both players to join the Stockton Kings, Sacramento’s G League affiliate.

Okpala earned some starts at power forward for Sacramento this preseason and always seemed like a safe bet to make the roster. Dellavedova, meanwhile, looked like a logical keeper after the team waived another veteran point guard, Quinn Cook. Moneke has spent the last several years playing in international leagues and will be getting his first shot in the NBA as a 26-year-old rookie.

Okpala and Moneke currently have partial guarantees worth $250K and will earn another $250K if they remain on the roster through Wednesday. Dellavedova is on a non-guaranteed contract and will also get $250K for sticking through Wednesday.

Merrill’s contract included a $150K partial guarantee. The Kings will be on the hook for that amount unless he’s claimed on waivers on Monday.

Pacific Notes: C. Johnson, Payne, Kings, Schröder, Wall

The Suns will be without a pair of rotation players for the rest of the preseason, the team announced today (Twitter link via Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM). Cameron Johnson is out with a right thumb sprain, while Cameron Payne is dealing with a right finger sprain. Both Johnson and Payne will be reevaluated in a week, per the Suns, so it’s unclear at this point whether they’ll be ready to for the start of the regular season.

Here are a few more notes from around the Pacific:

  • Kevin Huerter is expected to be the Kings‘ starting shooting guard when the regular season tips off, but the starting power forward job remains up for grabs, head coach Mike Brown told reporters today (Twitter link via Sean Cunningham of FOX40 Sacramento). KZ Okpala and No. 4 overall pick Keegan Murray appear to be the top contenders for that spot.
  • According to Cunningham, the Kings aren’t expected to make any cuts until after their second preseason game on Sunday. The team has just 12 players on guaranteed contracts, with five veterans and rookie Chima Moneke in camp on non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals, vying for back-end roster spots.
  • Dennis Schröder‘s arrival stateside has been delayed due to a visa issue, but he’s scheduled to fly from Germany to Los Angeles this weekend to report to the Lakers, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Head coach Darvin Ham previously stated that he doesn’t expect it to take long for Schröder to find his rhythm once he joins the team.
  • John Wall is embracing the opportunity to play a secondary role alongside Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this season after years of being a go-to option in Washington, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “Like I told (George) and Kawhi when I came here, my job is to make the game easier for them so when the fourth quarter comes around they’re not having to waste all that energy to make all the plays,” Wall said.

Kings Notes: Starting Lineup, Barnes, Sabonis

While De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, and Harrison Barnes are locked in as starters, two spots in the Kings‘ starting lineup remain up for grabs, head coach Mike Brown said this weekend.

“Obviously, Fox is going to start for us. Domas is going to start for us. HB is going to start for us,” Brown said, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “But we’re kind of up in the air a little bit with the two and the four spot, and there are some guys that we feel have a real good chance to start for us in those spots, but we’re going to keep mixing those two spots around to see what we can get.”

Kevin Huerter started as shooting guard during the Kings’ presseason opener vs. the Lakers on Monday, while KZ Okpala got the nod at power forward. However, neither player had a big night, while Malik Monk and Keegan Murray – two other contenders for those starting spots – combined for 24 points, 12 rebounds, and three steals.

Brown won’t make any decisions based on one night, but with the start of the regular season just two weeks away, every preseason game will be an important one as the Kings consider their options.

Here are a few more notes out of Sacramento:

  • Barnes, who is entering the final season of a four-year deal, isn’t oblivious to the fact that his name has popped up frequently in trade rumors over the last year or two, but he’s preparing to spend his full contract year in Sacramento, Anderson writes for The Sacramento Bee. “You know how the NBA is,” Barnes said. “I check Woj. I check Shams. They’ve still got me here, so as far as I’m concerned, this is where I’m supposed to be and I’m going to give it my best effort.”
  • Speaking to Mark Medina of NBA.com, Sabonis discussed the Kings’ playoff chances, his chemistry with Fox, and how having the defensive-minded Brown on the sidelines will impact the team. “He’s a defensive coach, and he’s definitely trying to make life easy for us in terms of the terminology,” Sabonis said of Brown. “The defensive stuff we’re doing is going to help us out. It’ll depend on us. He’s giving us all the answers and the system of how we want to play as a team. Defense is about effort and competing. If we compete every game, it’s going to be tough.”
  • Making the play-in tournament is a “completely reasonable goal” for the Kings, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who previews Sacramento’s season and projects the team to finish 10th in the Western Conference with a 37-45 record.

Western Notes: Zion, Blazers, Okpala, Thunder

Zion Williamson‘s strength and conditioning coach, Jasper Bibbs, tells William Guillory of The Athletic that the Pelicans forward is “in fantastic shape” with the 2022/23 season around the corner.

“He’s been committed to putting in the work day in and day out,” Bibbs said. “I’m really proud of what he’s been able to accomplish. He’s a better athlete now than he’s ever been.”

Williamson missed the entire ’21/22 season due to a broken foot, so ensuring that he’s healthy and fully recovered from that injury is a crucial first step. The former No. 1 overall pick has also been plagued by questions about his weight throughout his NBA career, and while Bibbs declined to say how much Zion weighs, he expressed optimism about the forward’s physical condition.

“… (His body composition) has improved at an extremely high level,” Bibbs told Guillory. “That’s all I’ll say.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers have officially announced a series of additions to their basketball operations staff, including Jonah Herscu as an assistant coach, David Adkins as director of player development, and former WNBA star Tina Thompson as a scout. Herscu previously worked for Sacramento, Adkins was with the Clippers, and Thompson was the head coach of Virginia’s women’s basketball team.
  • The two-year, minimum-salary contract KZ Okpala signed with the Kings is virtually identical to the one Chima Moneke received earlier this offseason, as our JD Shaw reports (Twitter links). Okpala has a $250K partial guarantee in 2022/23 that would increase to $500K if he makes the opening night roster. He’d receive a partial guarantee of $250K for 2023/24 if he plays at least 1,000 minutes this season and Sacramento wins 41 or more games. His full ’23/24 salary would become guaranteed if he’s under contract through June 30, 2023.
  • If the NBA and NBPA agree to remove the one-and-done rule for prospects, as has been rumored, there will be one super-sized draft class during the year in which players become draft-eligible out of high school. Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman explores what it might mean for the Thunder, who have loaded up on future picks, if that happens in 2024. Oklahoma City holds its own pick, the Clippers’ pick (unprotected), the Rockets’ pick (top-four protected), and the Jazz’s pick (top-10 protected) in the first round of the ’24 draft.

Heat Notes: Herro, Okpala, Trade Options, Training Camp

The deadline for rookie scale extensions is just a month away, and the Heat have a major decision to make regarding Tyler Herro, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. After earning Sixth Man of the Year honors last season, Herro is in line for a new contract that Winderman estimates will exceed $25MM per year, whether that happens in the next 30 days or in restricted free agency next summer.

Winderman believes the most important factor for Miami’s front office is determining whether a significant trade is likely to present itself before the February deadline. Herro could be a valuable bargaining chip in landing another star, but if his extension is already in place, the poison pill provision will make him extremely difficult to move in 2022/23.

Situations involving the players most likely to be dealt this offseason have already been resolved, and no other stars appear unhappy with their current teams. However, Winderman points to the Pacers’ Myles Turner and the Hawks’ John Collins as players who might be available and notes that situations can change rapidly in a few months. He also points out that the rising salary cap means more teams will have money to spend next July, so Herro will be almost certain to receive a generous offer sheet.

There’s more from Miami:

  • KZ Okpala has a new opportunity with the Kings, but the Heat gave him plenty of chances before deciding to trade him, Winderman states in a separate story. The power forward spent nearly three full seasons in Miami before being shipped to Oklahoma City in February, but he was never able to establish himself as part of the rotation.
  • Heat fans have gotten used to watching the team pursue star players, but that may not be a realistic option for this season, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. The Heat are the only Eastern Conference playoff team that didn’t add a new rotation player during the offseason, and Jackson notes that no All-Star has tried to force his way to Miami since Jimmy Butler, even though it was rumored as a possible destination for Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell. Jackson says it’s a more realistic strategy to use some of the team’s draft assets to target someone along the lines of Turner, Jae Crowder or Bojan Bogdanovic if the Heat need a boost around the deadline.
  • The Heat will hold training camp in the Bahamas, Jackson adds in a separate piece. Baha Mar, one of the Caribbean’s largest event venues, announced that it has a multi-year deal in place with the team.