LaMarcus Aldridge

Spurs Notes: Aldridge, DeRozan, T. Jones, Mills

LaMarcus Aldridge may be looking at his last chance to prove he can help the Spurs win before the team decides to move in a different direction, writes Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News. Aldridge is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing the past six games with a sore right hip. He’s officially listed as questionable, but the Spurs need him after losing half their rotation to health and safety protocols.

Finger notes that the team was playing its best basketball last week with Aldridge on the sidelines. A younger, faster lineup strung together six straight wins and pushed San Antonio into fifth place in the Western Conference.

Aldridge is in his sixth year with the Spurs and has helped the team remain a yearly playoff contender after the championship core retired. He remains somewhat productive at age 35, averaging 14.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18 games this season, but will be a free agent this summer and may not have a future in San Antonio even if he remains with the team past the trade deadline.

There’s more on the Spurs:

  • DeMar DeRozan‘s agent, Aaron Goodwin, is upset that his client wasn’t part of the All-Star reserves that were announced Tuesday despite being the leading scorer and play-maker on a top-five seed in the West. DeRozan has numbers worthy of All-Star consideration, averaging 19.8 points. 5.0 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 25 games. “I’d love to see the coaches’ votes,” Goodwin said. “At some point, the winning has got to matter.”
  • The Spurs are encouraging DeRozan to take as much time as he needs with his family after his father died last week, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. DeRozan missed two games in January to spend time with his father, and teammates have praised his ability to stay focused on basketball during a time of crisis. “It’s a difficult situation,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “But I’ve been in touch with him. He is a very mature, kind man, and he is doing what he needs to do with his family right now.”
  • Rookie guard Tre Jones, who led the G League in assists before being recalled this week, has impressed his teammates with his feel for the game, Orsborn adds in the same story. “He has a huge basketball IQ and understands the flow and what’s needed at times, when to score, when to pass, when to set up the team and get other people involved,” Patty Mills said. Jones saw limited playing time in nine games with the Spurs before the G League assignment.

Spurs Have Five Players Under Protocols; DeRozan Also Out Wednesday

The NBA postponed the last four Spurs games due to coronavirus positives and contact tracing. There’s now more clarity on which players are in the league’s health and safety protocols, as well as hope that their next scheduled game against the Thunder on Wednesday will be played.

The Spurs announced on Monday that Rudy Gay, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Derrick White remain under the league’s protocols and are not with the team. That group will not travel to Oklahoma City. Additionally, DeMar DeRozan will miss the game due to personal reasons.

However, LaMarcus Aldridge has been upgraded to active, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter links). He hasn’t played since February 1st due to a hip injury.

As previously reported, the Spurs on Monday recalled guard Tre Jones and forward Luka Samanic from the Austin Spurs. That would give the team 10 available players, two more than the minimum required to play.

San Antonio practiced on Monday, Orsborn added.

Weatherspoon was the only San Antonio player prior to Monday to be named publicly as being under the league’s health and safety protocols. The games postponed were all on the road — Detroit, Cleveland, New York and Indiana — which means the Spurs will have a busy schedule in the second half of the season. They also have to make up a January 25th postponement, a road game against New Orleans.

Western Notes: Giannis, Jazz, Aldridge, Dort, Williams

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo praised the Jazz after losing a 129-115 game to the team on Friday, calling them the “best team in the West” after the contest, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard.

“It just looks fun. Like when I watch them play, it looks fun, it looks easy,” Antetokounmpo explained. “It looks simple. For sure, they look like us last year, and man, when you’re at that point and you’re playing with that confidence, you’re hard to beat for sure.”

Utah has won seven straight contests and 18 of its last 19 games, playing stellar basketball on both ends of the floor. The team is playing without Mike Conley (hamstring), who last saw action on February 5, though it still holds the best record in the league at 22-5.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Spurs veteran LaMarcus Aldridge is without a timetable for his return, head coach Gregg Popovich said, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). Aldridge missed his sixth straight game on Sunday as he continues rehabbing a hip injury, with Popovich adding that he’s not particularly close to a return.
  • Luguentz Dort is gradually turning into the best defensive ace the Thunder have ever had, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman opines. Dort has established himself as one of the league’s better defenders, also averaging 11.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in his second season.
  • Suns coach Monty Williams is grateful for the time he spent in Philadelphia as an assistant, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “I was grateful when they first called me to be able to go to a team that was contending for a championship,” said Williams, who was with the Sixers in 2018/19. “You just don’t get those opportunities. … So for them to not only ask me to be apart of it, but take on a huge role is something that allowed me to answer the questions whether or not I was going to be able to do it again.”

Southwest Notes: Winslow, JJJ, Aldridge, DeRozan, Rockets

Justise Winslow, who has yet to appear in a game for the Grizzlies since being acquired nearly a year ago at the 2020 trade deadline, hopes to return to the court later this month, he said on Monday. As Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes, Memphis’ lengthy hiatus due to contact tracing in January set Winslow back slightly due to a lack of practice opportunities, but he’s getting close.

“I’m feeling great, my hip feels great. I’m really close to getting back on the court, hopefully sometime this month,” the Grizzlies forward said. “I really don’t have an exact day in mind. Just with COVID and how our team had to miss almost a week of practice and that sort of thing, that set me back, just without being able to have proper access to workouts and things like that.”

Meanwhile, Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. will have his rehab process ramped up in the coming weeks as he looks to return from meniscus surgery, as Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian reports (via Twitter). Herrington doesn’t anticipate Jackson will return to action before the first half ends on March 4, but there’s no set timeline yet for the 21-year-old’s season debut (Twitter link).

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • People around the NBA are curious to see what the Spurs will do with veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, who are both on expiring contracts, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Aldridge’s value is “declining quickly,” according to O’Connor, who believes that DeRozan might be the best player on the trade market if San Antonio were to make him available.
  • Within the same story, O’Connor notes that some executives around the NBA are wondering if the Rockets could end up being a buyer – rather than a seller – at the trade deadline. O’Connor expects teams to call about Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker, who will both be free agents this summer, but suggests Houston shouldn’t feel any pressure to make a deal. The club could entertain any favorable opportunities that arise, whether that means buying or selling, O’Connor adds.
  • The Rockets got back to .500 on Saturday night by winning their fifth consecutive game, prompting head coach Stephen Silas to express that his club is “moving in the right direction for sure.” Kelly Iko of The Athletic has the story on Houston’s recent hot streak, as well as Oladipo’s comfort level, Christian Wood‘s All-Star case, and the team’s strong depth.

Southwest Notes: Aldridge, KP, Harden, Grizzlies

Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge is comfortable being a veteran presence with San Antonio, writes Tom Orbsorn of the San Antonio Express-News. A 15-year NBA veteran (and seven-time All Star), the 6’11” Aldridge will earn $24MM in his final year under contract.

“It’s fun,” Aldridge commented about his role among a young Spurs team. “They bring a lot of energy and a lot of spark. I’m just watching them learn and grow and take steps everyday in practice and games, and it’s been fun to watch. They’re just going to get better and better.”

Rookie guards Devin Vassell, drafted with the No. 11 pick out of Florida State, and Tre Jones, drafted with the No. 41 pick out of Duke, are the latest additions to the Spurs’ youth movement.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Star Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis has been medically cleared to participate in non-contact defensive work and 5-on-0 play for the first time this season, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Porzingis will start practicing and travel with the team during the club’s upcoming road trip to Phoenix and L0s Angeles to open up the regular season, though he won’t play until January.
  • Rockets head coach Stephen Silas has said that reports of All-NBA guard James Harden‘s various possible trade destinations have not distracted the club, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The superstar has been linked to the Nets, Sixers, and Heat, among other clubs, as he hopes for a trade. “He has been committed since he’s been here,” Silas said. “He’s been great in practice, good to talk to, listening, trying, asking good questions, pulling me aside and telling me the things that he sees.”
  • With COVID-19 cases spiking in Memphis, the Grizzlies will not host any fans in person for games at their home court, the FedEx Forum, to start the regular season, according to a team press release.

Southwest Notes: Melton, Cousins, Forman, Aldridge

Third-year Grizzlies reserve point guard De’Anthony Melton bought cars for his mother and sister after inking a new four-year, $35MM extension with Memphis, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“It’s not a surprise anymore because they already know. But yeah, that’s definitely the first thing, they got cars,” Melton said.

The guard averaged 7.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 2.9 APG for the 2019/20 season. His modest output last season, however, belies his defensive impact for the club.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • New Rockets center DeMarcus Cousins is enjoying training camp with his new team, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Cousins signed a non-guaranteed, one-year veteran’s minimum deal with Houston after missing all of his 2019/20 season for the eventual champion Lakers with a torn ACL.
  • The Pelicans have added former Bulls GM Gar Forman to their scouting team as a special advisor, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago details. Johnson notes that Forman has had a long relationship with New Orleans team president David Griffin.
  • Per the wishes of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, center/power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has been working on his three-point shot during team practices this season, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Though he is a career 31.2% three-point shooter, Aldridge connected on a solid 38.9% of a career-high 3.0 long-range attempts during the 2019/20 season.

Spurs Shopping Mills, Aldridge, DeRozan?

As we detailed on Wednesday, there has been increasing chatter as of late about the possibility that the Spurs will have an active offseason. Addressing that possibility within his latest mock draft, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports that San Antonio is shopping point guard Patty Mills and is also “looking to unload” veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan.

All three players are entering contract years in 2020/21, with Mills set to earn $13.3MM, Aldridge to make $24MM, and DeRozan on the books for $27.7MM.

According to O’Connor, the Bucks and Sixers are among the teams that have expressed interest in Mills. If the Spurs were to make a deal with Philadelphia, Josh Richardson would likely head to San Antonio in the swap, O’Connor notes.

As for Aldridge and DeRozan, O’Connor confirms that there is buzz – first reported by ESPN’s Zach Lowe – about the possibility of the Warriors pursuing Aldridge in a deal that would involve the No. 2 pick in the draft. It’s not clear exactly what such a trade would look like, but Andrew Wiggins would presumably have to be included for salary-matching purposes.

Meanwhile, O’Connor has also heard that the Lakers have some interest in acquiring DeRozan, suggesting that Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma would be part of a hypothetical deal. In order to match DeRozan’s $27.7MM cap hit, the Lakers would have to add a few million more dollars to that package.

The Spurs typically don’t make major splashes on the trade market unless their hand is forced, as in the case of 2018’s Kawhi Leonard blockbuster. However, with virtually all of their veteran players – including Rudy Gay – expected to be on expiring contracts next season, the team could have some interesting options available as it looks to pivot to building around its younger generation of players.

Hawks Rumors: Holiday, No. 6 Pick, Haliburton, Okongwu

Following up on Wednesday’s report linking the Hawks to Jrue Holiday, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explains in further detail why he’s hearing that Atlanta currently isn’t a probable landing spot for the Pelicans guard.

According to Kirschner, there’s a belief that if Atlanta pursued Holiday, it would take the No. 6 overall pick and two young players. The Hawks aren’t interested in giving up that substantial a package for a 30-year-old on an expiring contract, even if Holiday would be a great fit next to Trae Young in the backcourt.

The Hawks could still be involved in a three-team deal where Holiday goes to another team, and could even emerge as a viable landing spot for Holiday if the Pelicans’ asking price drops, says Kirschner. However, a trade that sees the club giving up two young players isn’t being considered.

Here’s more on the Hawks from Kirschner:

  • Kirschner also addressed trade rumors related to the No. 6 pick, writing that if the draft were today, Atlanta would be prepared to make that selection rather than moving it. He also clarifies that the rumored Timberwolves proposal for the No. 6 pick – which includes the No. 17 pick and Jarrett Culver – is an offer Minnesota has put on the table for multiple teams.
  • Deni Avdija, Tyrese Haliburton, and Onyeka Okongwu look like the Hawks’ most likely targets if the club remains at No. 6, though Avdija may be off the board by then, Kirschner writes. If Haliburton and Okongwu are available, Kirschner thinks Atlanta would probably lean toward the former Iowa State guard.
  • Kirschner wonders if the Spurs, who own the No. 11 pick, might be a potential trade partner for Atlanta. Kirschner believes the Hawks would be interested in moving down if they could acquire a young player like Derrick White or Dejounte Murray, though I’m skeptical San Antonio would give up either player to move up five spots. Because Atlanta would prefer a young player whose timeline matches up with the current core, veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are probably unlikely targets, Kirschner adds.

Warriors Rumors: No. 2 Pick, Wiseman, Tax, Aldridge

The Warriors‘ No. 2 pick is “turning into a circus,” according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who suggests that the team has put out multiple smokescreens while simultaneously engaging in some seemingly genuine internal debate about the choice.

Just days after The San Francisco Chronicle suggested Golden State would likely draft Anthony Edwards if he’s on the board at No. 2 (and if the Dubs keep the pick), ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (video link) provides a conflicting perspective. Appearing on The Jump on Monday, Windhorst said he keeps hearing that James Wiseman will be the Warriors’ guy if they keep their pick and he’s still available.

It has been virtually impossible to tell which way the Warriors are leaning, given all the rumors out there, but Hollinger suspects the club will ultimately keep the pick and select Wiseman with it. As the former Grizzlies executive argues, Wiseman helps Golden State most in the short term and would have the most trade value later.

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • The Warriors will benefit from the tweak the NBA has made to luxury tax penalties for the 2020/21 season, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes. The penalties for taxpaying teams will be reduced by the same percentage as a basketball related income (BRI) decrease, which means that if the league falls 25% short of its BRI projection, Golden State’s tax bill would be trimmed by 25%.
  • Some rival teams are already annoyed by the Warriors benefiting from another luxury tax anomaly, tweets ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. The club, of course, was able to sign Kevin Durant in 2016 due to an unprecedented cap increase that summer.
  • Now that the Warriors are in position to receive a bit of a break on their 2021 tax bill, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area argues that the team should be more inclined to make use its $17MM trade exception to upgrade its roster around Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
  • On a recent episode of his Lowe Post podcast, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said he heard from someone within the league that there’s been buzz about a potential trade involving the Warriors’ No. 2 pick, LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Spurs‘ No. 11 pick (hat tip to HoopsHype). Lowe sounded skeptical about that possibility, and I share that skepticism. But if there’s anything to it, Andrew Wiggins would presumably have to be involved for salary-matching purposes, since Aldridge’s 2020/21 salary ($24MM) won’t fit in Golden State’s trade exception.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Mavericks, Benson, Aldridge

Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram, recently crowned the Most Improved Player for the 2019/20 season, made significant strides this season after his trade from the Lakers, per William Guillory of The Athletic.

Ingram specifically credits the time he logged watching game tape, both of himself with the Lakers and of the Pelicans’ offense, with his performative improvement. “When I wasn’t on the court, I just had to visualize things,” Ingram said during a media Zoom conversation Monday. “I had to watch film … It helped me out.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Following an exciting 2019/20 campaign that ended in a 4-2 loss to the Clippers, Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at the Mavericks‘ roster. Caplan assesses player performance this season and projects how players will fare next year, looking at everyone from All-Star Luka Doncic to crucial veteran role player Trey Burke.
  • After testing positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Pelicans (and Saints) owner Gayle Benson has been cleared to return to team activities by doctors, per Jeff Duncan of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • The Spurs apparently tried to shop big man LaMarcus Aldridge at this season’s trade deadline, though potential trade partners balked at San Antonio’s requested return haul, as we previously reported.