LaMarcus Aldridge

Western Notes: Johnson, LeBron, Aldridge, DeRozan

Cameron Johnson, who was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 draft, should see an increased role next season in Phoenix, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic contends. The Suns rookie had made 91 three-pointers in 49 games and his progression may allow the franchise to focus on other position as it looks to upgrade the roster this summer.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Lakers star LeBron James is being sued by a photographer for posting content on his social media pages without permission, as I detailed on Heavy.com. The photojournalist captured a picture of James dunking on Meyers Leonard earlier in the season.
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News examines LaMarcus Aldridge‘s season and wonders if the 34-year-old big man has a lengthy future with the Spurs. Aldridge has one year and $24MM left on his deal after this season.
  • DeMar DeRozan‘s future with the Spurs isn’t certain either, as McDonald writes in a separate piece. The shooting guard is expected to decline his player option for next season and seek a long-term contract—either with San Antonio or another club.

Injury Updates: Aldridge, DSJ, Celtics, Sixers, Bagley

A pair of players who have missed some time with injuries are on track to return to action tonight. One of those players is Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been sidelined since February 23 due to a right shoulder strain. Head coach Gregg Popovich said today that Aldridge will be back in action on Tuesday night against Dallas, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

Meanwhile, Dennis Smith Jr., who has missed the Knicks‘ last five games, has been cleared from the NBA’s concussion protocol and will be active on Tuesday night in Washington, head coach Mike Miller told reporters this evening (Twitter link via Ian Begley of SNY.tv).

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said today that Jaylen Brown (hamstring), who will miss his fourth straight game tonight, also seems unlikely to play on Thursday. Stevens added that Kemba Walker‘s left knee is feeling good, though the point guard will remain limited to about 30-32 minutes per game (Twitter link via Tim Bontemps of ESPN).
  • Both Joel Embiid (shoulder) and Josh Richardson (concussion) returned to practice today for the Sixers, per Bontemps (Twitter link). Embiid is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. Detroit, while Richardson should be good to go, tweets Jon Johnson of SportsRadio 94WIP.
  • As the Kings continue to push for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, there’s no indication that Marvin Bagley‘s return is imminent. The team issued a press release today announcing that Bagley continues to recover from a left midfoot sprain and is doing some on-court running and skill work. Sacramento provided no specific timeline for the big man, simply saying that updates will be provided “as appropriate.”

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Spurs Rumors: Gay, Carroll, Belinelli, Bertans

The Spurs are “looking at everything” and weighing a variety of potential paths at the trade deadline, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on a Sunday podcast with Bobby Marks. At 22-26, San Antonio is 1.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Grizzlies and is at risk of missing the postseason for the first time since the turn of the century. The club will have to decide whether to push to continue that streak, take a step back and retool, or simply stand pat.

Having spoken with executives around the NBA, Jabari Young of CNBC Sports says there’s a belief the Spurs want to push for the playoffs. “They are 100% obsessed with getting that eighth seed,” one executive told Young.

If that’s the case, it wouldn’t make sense for San Antonio to trade DeMar DeRozan or LaMarcus Aldridge. However, moving Rudy Gay is a scenario that rival executives consider more realistic, Young suggests.

“If they get a nice asset back, I think they would do something with Rudy Gay, but I think their asking price is too high,” an exec told Young.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • In his conversation with Marks, Wojnarowski speculated that the Spurs may view the idea of trading veterans like DeRozan, Aldridge, and Gay as an “all-or-nothing” proposition. In other words, in the unlikely event that the team could move all three players and get good value back, it could be worth rebooting the roster. Otherwise, it might not make sense to move just one or two of them.
  • The Spurs are working with agent Mark Bartelstein in an effort to find a new home for little-used veteran forward DeMarre Carroll, according to Jabari Young. After signing a three-year deal with San Antonio last summer, Carroll has appeared in just 15 total games this season, including two since Christmas. He has admitted that his reduced role has been “difficult.”
  • According to Young, the Spurs are also shopping Marco Belinelli, a 37.5% career three-point shooter who is on a $5.85MM expiring contract. No serious suitors have emerged for Belinelli, who is considered a liability on defense, Young adds.
  • If Davis Bertans hadn’t been traded last summer, he would’ve seriously considered re-signing with the Spurs in the summer of 2020, a league source tells Michael Scotto of Bleacher Report. That ship has probably sailed now though, according to Scotto, who revisits the saga that saw Marcus Morris renege on a free agent agreement with San Antonio. Morris didn’t tell the franchise directly that he was backing out of his commitment and the Spurs learned of his intentions after he failed to show up for his physical, says Scotto.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Wizards, Heat, Hawks, Magic

Following a tough loss to the Bulls on Wednesday night, Wizards star Bradley Beal voiced concern about his team’s culture, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. After telling reporters that he was frustrated about losing “winnable games,” Beal was asked if that losing builds up.

“I would hope it does,” Beal said. “I don’t like losing so it’s going to keep blowing up for me… Until we start winning and changing our culture.” Asked what a changed culture would like, the Wizards guard replied: Winning games. Get that winning attitude and winning habits.”

As Hughes notes in a separate article, the timing of Beal’s comments is interesting, since the 26-year-old signed an extension in the offseason despite recognizing it would be a challenging season for the Wizards. The team has been fun to watch and certainly hasn’t fallen short of preseason expectations, so Beal’s comments are a little surprising.

Pointing out that Beal recently co-signed a J.J. Redick complaint about some NBA players prioritizing fashion and social media over winning, Hughes wonders if that was just coincidental timing or if the Wizards’ star is frustrated by some of his teammates’ behavior.

David Aldridge of The Athletic, who heard from a source that Beal seemed as angry and emotional after Wednesday’s loss as he’s been since joining the Wizards, noted that Washington’s defense has been “spectacularly bad” this season and speculated that the team’s effort on that end of the floor may be a source of frustration for the All-Star.

As we wait to see how Washington responds to Beal’s concerns, here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald suggests that preserving 2021 cap room isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker for the Heat if they find a trade they like, since the team believes it can acquire star free agents even without cap space, as it did last summer with Jimmy Butler.
  • Within the same article, Jackson also explores several trade options for the Heat, citing one source who says the team will likely be in touch with San Antonio. The Spurs haven’t given any indication they want to move LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan, but would consider Miami a potential trade partner if they do consider dealing either veteran star, says Jackson.
  • Count Trae Young among those who like the Hawkstrade for Jeff Teague. According to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Young referred to Teague as “one of the underrated point guards in our league” and praised the veteran’s ability to score, draw fouls, and get teammates involved.
  • With Michael Carter-Williams still battling a shoulder injury and fellow point guard D.J. Augustin out for at least the next three or four weeks with a knee issue, Magic head coach Steve Clifford said he’d speak to president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman about whether or not the team will make a roster move, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Orlando has a full 15-man roster, but Gary Clark is on a 10-day contract.

Southwest Notes: McLemore, Aldridge, Porzingis, DeRozan

Former lottery pick Ben McLemore has revitalized his career with the RocketsESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote an excellent profile piece examining the reemergence of McLemore in Houston.

On his third team in three years, McLemore seized his opportunity with the Rockets when injuries befell Eric Gordon and Gerald Green. McLemore has transformed himself into an effective catch-and-shoot option in Houston. For nine games starting on November 30th, McLemore averaged 14 PPG while shooting 39-of-85 from long range.

The first season of McLemore’s two-year, $4.4MM contract with the Rockets became fully guaranteed on January 10th. “I love Ben,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told Lowe. “All he was lacking was confidence and an opportunity.” The rangy, athletic McLemore is averaging 10.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 1.0 APG for the 26-12 Rockets. He is shooting 36.5% from long range on 6.7 attempts and 80% from the free-throw line.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The trade market stock of 34-year-old Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge is rising, writes San Antonio Express-News reporter Mike Finger. Finger postulates that Aldridge would have net more interest as a trade piece than fellow 30+ former All-Star big man, Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, who has been very, very vocal about being unhappy in Cleveland. Aldridge has emerged as a moderate three-point shooting threat for the first time in his career, knocking down 45.5% of his 2.5 attempts per game, both career highs.
  • Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis was given a platelet-rich-plasma injection to treat the soreness in his right knee that has kept him in street clothes for two weeks, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon. Porzingis is also grappling with an illness that has slowed his recovery process.
  • Polarizing, old-fashioned Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan returns to the team for whom he made four All-Star appearances today, the Raptors, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN reports. His former teammate, current Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry, reflected on his contributions to Toronto basketball. “I think he poured his heart into the city,” Lowry said. “He gave the city and lot and the city [saw] him grow from a boy to being a man.”

Aldridge’s 2020/21 Salary Guarantee Becomes Official Today

New Year’s Day 2020 has special meaning for Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge. His $24MM contract for next season becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on the team’s roster through 5 PM EST, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

Aldridge’s salary guarantee was originally scheduled for June 29, 2020 but the two parties agreed to move up the date to January 1 in October.

Aldridge isn’t going to be waived. The club pledged to agent Jeff Schwartz during training camp that they would fully guarantee his client’s 2020/21 salary. However, that guarantee doesn’t become official until Wednesday afternoon.

Aldridge’s salary for next season had previously only been partially guaranteed for $7MM, per Basketball Insiders’ contract data.  Aldridge, who is making $26MM this season, remains on track to reach unrestricted free agency in 2021.

The Spurs will remain significantly below the projected cap for 2020/21 even with Aldridge’s salary added but that comes with a major asterisk. They’ll move over the cap in salary guarantees if DeMar DeRozan opts into his $27.7MM contract for next season.

Aldridge, 34, is having another solid season for San Antonio. He’s averaging 19.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.5 APG and 1.9 BPG in 30 games this season while playing 33.0 MPG. He posted 21.3/9.2/2.4/1.3 in the same categories last season.

And-Ones: Scola, Aldridge, 2020 Draft, Delgado

Luis Scola, who continues to play overseas with Italy’s Olimpia Milano, hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2016/17 season and the 39-year-old sounds pretty confident that a comeback isn’t happening. As he explains to Marc Stein of The New York Times, even the younger version of himself would have a hard time keeping up in today’s version of the NBA, with its faster pace and lack of low-post play.

“The good teams, they have better players. The bad teams, they have younger players. I just don’t think I am at that level anymore,” Scola said. “I was there at some point. But the game changed also. It would be more difficult for me to play, even at my prime, in today’s NBA.”

“I got a little bit lucky,” he continued. “The big change happened right at the end of my career, and I was able to play until I was 37. The low-post game is not there anymore. The long two are not there. I would adjust a little bit and be a different player, but I think this would be a little bit more difficult. The game is faster. The players move faster. They’re more athletic, longer. And I’m not a very good athlete. Those things would be against me in today’s NBA.”

While Scola recognizes a return to the NBA isn’t in the cards, he’s pleased about Argentina’s performance at this year’s World Cup, which secured the team a spot in the 2020 Olympics. Participating in those Olympics had been a major goal for Scola, which is one reason he has pushed to continue his professional career, as he tells Stein.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Frank Urbina and Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype spoke to NBA executives to try to gauge what LaMarcus Aldridge‘s trade value might be if the Spurs decide to become sellers. Various execs identified the Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Suns, and Kings as possible fits.
  • The general feeling among NBA teams about the top of the 2020 draft class remains “lukewarm,” according to Jeremy Woo of SI.com, who explores how LaMelo’s stellar NBL play is becoming harder to ignore as teams consider next spring’s top prospects.
  • Former Seton Hall standout and Clippers two-way player Angel Delgado has signed Israeli team Hapoel Holon, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Delgado, who appeared in two games for the Clips last season, spent time with the Beijing Royal Fighters earlier this year before being replaced by former NBA big man Jason Thompson.
  • Mike Conley is looking for the same kind of experience with the Jazz that his longtime Grizzlies teammate Marc Gasol had last season in Toronto, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Conley said he called Gasol on FaceTime shortly after the Raptors won the 2019 title. “Man, I watched every game and was rooting and hoping and praying,” Conley said. “… We were talking about that thing all our career, having an experience like that for himself is, just happy for him.”

Heat Notes: Winslow, DeRozan, Leonard

Justise Winslow made his return to the lineup on Wednesday, playing 34 minutes in his first game back from a concussion. After the game, coach Erik Spoelstra said that the plan moving forward is not to have the Duke product play that much.

“I had no intention of playing him that much. K-Nunn got hit in the chest. He couldn’t play. Duncan got five fouls. So thank goodness we had Justise for those minutes,” Spo said (via Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.

The team was also without Jimmy Butler, who missed the contest because he was not feeling well. Butler is expected to be back in action on Friday, so that will also cut into Winslow’s playing time.

Here’s more from Miami.

Celtics Not Expected To Trade Grizzlies’ Pick For Big Man Help

The Celtics‘ 11-2 start has catapulted them into contender status in the Eastern Conference with Kemba Walker‘s arrival rejuvenating the club. Boston still has a weakness in its interior, having rotated through starting big men, and the club has a major trade chip that could help land a major piece to man the center position, as Sean Deveney of Heavy.com writes.

As a result of the 2015 Jeff Green trade, the Celtics own a future Grizzlies first-round pick. The protections on the pick have kept it from conveying over the past couple years and it’s only top-six protected for the 2020 draft before potentially becoming unprotected in 2021.

However, some around the league don’t see the Celtics using this pick to acquire a bigger piece unless it’s for the right player.

“It’s a high-value pick no matter what happens, it is a lottery pick,” one rival GM tells Deveney “They’d be willing to trade the other pick they have (from the Bucks), but it wouldn’t make sense to move the Memphis pick. If it’s Anthony Davis then, OK, you change your plans. But there’s not really anyone on the market who is going to get them to move that.”

Deveney mentions Myles Turner among the candidates that Boston could be interested in, but hears that the Pacers are unlikely to trade the big man to an Eastern Conference rival — or at all. Deveney also names LaMarcus Aldridge as a possibility but that would likely require the Celtics to send Gordon Hayward to San Antonio, which is something Boston is reluctant to do.

Boston also owns Milwaukee’s 2020 selection, which figures to be among the last five picks or so in the first round. Packaging that pick along with salary to acquire a center seems much more likely.