Lance Stephenson

Northwest Notes: Mudiay, Thibodeau, Stephenson

The performance of Nuggets rookie guard Jamal Murray has made Emmanuel Mudiay expendable, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Veteran Jameer Nelson has become the starting point guard as Denver pushes for a playoff spot, and Kiszla sees Murray as a better backup to both Nelson and Gary Harris than Mudiay is. That leaves little playing time for last year’s first-round pick, who may now be more valuable to the Nuggets as a trade chip. Kiszla would like to see the Nuggets pursue Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, but admits that Denver doesn’t have the pieces to make that happen. He also mentions Atlanta’s Thabo Sefolosha as a target, but not in a one-for-one deal for Mudiay.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Tom Thibodeau’s new dual role as Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations leaves no time for a vacation during the All-Star break, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Zgoda lists seven possible targets for Minnesota before Thursday’s trade deadline: Chicago’s Taj Gibson, Orlando’s Bismack Biyombo, Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler, Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert, Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker and Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel.
  • Lance Stephenson is looking at a two-week recovery from his Grade 2 ankle sprain, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis. Stephenson’s 10-day contract expired this weekend, and it’s uncertain whether the Timberwolves will be interested in signing him again once he has recovered.
  • The Jazz may add short-term salary to help them get above the cap floor, but they will be reluctant to take on long-term salary in any deal, writes Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News. Utah’s top priority this summer will be to re-sign Gordon Hayward, who will want a max contract with an annual salary in the $25MM to $30MM range. The Jazz also want to keep free agent point guard George Hill, who will demand about $20MM per season, and Rudy Gobert‘s extension will kick in next season, starting at more than $21.2MM next year. That ties up three players making more than $70MM, which limits Utah’s roster flexibility.

Lance Stephenson Injured; Roster Spot In Jeopardy

An injury could cost Lance Stephenson a roster spot for the second time this season, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Stephenson suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain Tuesday, which could sideline him for several weeks. The 10-day contract that he signed with Minnesota on February 8th will expire during the All-Star break, leaving the Timberwolves with a decision of whether they want to tie up a roster spot while he recovers.

“I don’t know, we’ll have to see how he responds,” Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau said tonight when asked about Stephenson’s status. “I like the things he did when he was here.”

Stephenson appeared in four games for Minnesota, averaging 4.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in about 12 minutes per night.

The team didn’t offer any prognosis for Stephenson’s recovery, but Zgoda notes that a Grade 2 sprain usually involves a partial ligament tear, which involves rehab of three to four weeks and sometimes longer. He twisted his left ankle in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game with the Cavaliers and had to be helped off the court.

Stephenson suffered a similar fate in November when he had a severe groin injury while playing for the Pelicans. New Orleans felt it needed a healthy player, so the team waived Stephenson to sign Archie Goodwin. The move drew criticism from around the league, and Stephenson said that although he understood why the Pelicans did it, he thought it showed a lack of faith in him.

Northwest Notes: Stephenson, Turner, Blazers

Newly acquired Timberwolves guard Lance Stephenson squared off against his former team Friday and Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had nothing but positive things to say about the 26-year-old journeyman, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

We had no problem whatsoever with him,” Gentry said regarding New Orleans’ decision to waive the then-15th man on their roster after a groin injury in November. “As a matter of fact, he probably raised our energy level as much as anyone. I think he’ll be fine. He’s playing for a great [Timberwolves] coach who loves energy and toughness and stuff like that.”

The Pelicans faced criticism at the time for parting ways with Stephenson as he recovered from the long-term injury but did so to free up space on their roster for Archie Goodwin (who has since been waived). Now Stephenson is back at full strength and on a 10-day contract looking to stick in Minnesota with a Timberwolves roster led by head coach Tom Thibodeau.

In two games with the Timberwolves so far, Stephenson has posted 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game. He’ll make $72K with Minnesota over the duration of his 10-day contract, in addition to the $1.2MM he’s owed by the Pelicans.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The news that Trail Blazers swingman Evan Turner will miss 5-6 weeks comes just as the offseason acquisition was starting to find a rhythm in Portland, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Turner’s absence could thrust Allen Crabbe and Moe Harkless into a bigger role defensively where Turner had been checking the opposing team’s most potent perimeter threat. In the same column, Richman also discusses the progress that Al-Farouq Aminu has made on the offensive end since being relegated to the bench.
  • With a 23-31 record, the Trail Blazers remain very much in the hunt for the final Western Conference playoff berth (Denver sits in the eight-seed at 24-29) but TNT analyst Kenny Smith is skeptical that they have enough resources. “I don’t think they have a lot of talent, honestly. I think that’s the problem,” Smith said. Molly Blue of The Oregonian relayed both Smith’s and Charles Barkley‘s reservations about the guard-heavy roster.
  • When budding Nuggets star Nikola Jokic dropped 40 points on the Knicks Friday, he became just the second Denver player to do so in Madison Square Garden, writes Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. The last? David Thompson in 1978,

Timberwolves Sign Lance Stephenson

FEBRUARY 8: After announcing yesterday that they were bringing him in for a workout, the Wolves have now confirmed that they’ve signed Stephenson to a 10-day contract (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 7: The Timberwolves are set to sign Lance Stephenson to a 10-day contract, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical. Minnesota had been carrying 14 players, so the club won’t need to make a corresponding move to create an opening on its 15-man roster.

Stephenson, 26, was one of several veteran free agents to participate in a workout last week for the Cavaliers, but his deal with Minnesota will ensure that he’s not an option for Cleveland — at least for the next 10 days.

After signing a one-year contract with the Pelicans last summer, Stephenson got off to a solid start for the club, averaging 9.7 PPG and 4.8 APG in his first six games this season. However, a groin injury sidelined him in November, at which point he underwent surgery and was waived by New Orleans, since the team needed to use his roster spot to add reinforcements.

Now healthy following that procedure on his groin, Stephenson will provide the Timberwolves with some depth at the wing position. Minnesota saw Zach LaVine suffer a torn ACL on Friday, which will keep him out of action for the remainder of the 2016/17 campaign.

While Stephenson’s signing will bring Minnesota’s roster to 15, the team will retain some roster flexibility. Stephenson’s deal will be a 10-day pact, so the Wolves could opt to let him go after February 16 if they want to go in another direction. Additionally, the Wolves have the option of pursuing medical retirement for Nikola Pekovic and opening up another roster spot. Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link) hears that the club continues to monitor other available options.

Eastern Notes: Plumlee, Baynes, Farmar, House

The Hornets took a major risk by acquiring center Miles Plumlee from the Bucks, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer opines. Charlotte needed to do something to improve its playoff chances but taking on Plumlee’s contract was a questionable move, Bonnell continues. Plumlee signed  four-year, $50MM contract with Milwaukee last summer and that’s a steep price for a backup center to Cody Zeller, Bonnell adds. The Hornets traded two other big men, Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes, in the deal. Hornets coach Steve Clifford and his staff have done well with reclamation projects such as Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin, Bonnell points out, providing some reason for optimism that the trade will pan out.

In other doings around the Eastern Conference:

  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said it’s “hardly a surprise” that backup center Aron Baynes intends to opt out of his contract this summer, Aaron McMann of MLive.com reports. Baynes holds a $6.5MM option and reportedly has been shopped, in part because he’s expected to enter the free agent market this summer. “We don’t want to lose him,” Van Gundy told McMann and other beat writers. “I would love to be able to bring him back here, I really would. But at the same time, we knew going into the summer that was going to be a possibility — and that’s why we went out and signed Boban (Marjanovic) a year in advance and we had money, because we anticipated it.”
  • Point guard Jordan Farmar stood out during the Cavaliers’ tryout of free agent playmakers on Wednesday and he’s willing to sign a 10-day contract to join the team, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon also reported that Farmar made the biggest impression. Farmar received assurances that if anyone from the workout would get an offer, he would be the choice, a source told McMenamin. Lance Stephenson, Mario Chalmers and Kirk Hinrich also participated in the workout and the latter two were looking for a contract for the remainder of the season, McMenamin continues. The Cavs would prefer to keep their options open prior to the trade deadline, rather than offering a guaranteed deal at this point, McMenamin adds.
  • Wizards swingman Danuel House will be assigned to the D-League if he’s cleared for full contact, J. Michael of CSNmidatlantic.com tweets. House, who has appeared in just one game with Washington this season, is progressing from a right wrist fracture that he suffered in November.

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Chalmers, Stuckey, McHale

The Cavaliers were happy with what they saw at today’s playmaker auditions, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.comMario Chalmers, Kirk Hinrich, Jordan Farmar and Lance Stephenson all participated in a workout as the Cavs search for a reliable backup to Kyrie Irving. Several sources told Vardon that the session went very well and that one or more could be signed by March 1.

There’s more tonight from the Central Divsion:

  • Veteran swingman James Jones thinks Chalmers, his former teammate in Miami, would be a good addition to the roster, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Chalmers teamed with Jones and LeBron James on Heat teams that reached four straight NBA Finals. A torn Achilles last March has kept Chalmers out of the league, but he was medically cleared for basketball activities in August and Jones has kept in touch with him throughout rehab. “Coming back from an injury is a lonely process,” Jones said. “What I mean is that you spend a lot of time alone and learn a lot about yourself, but he’s doing well. He pushed hard, he worked hard to come back from that and he’s feeling well and moving well. I’m just glad that he’s back and doing what he loves, which is playing basketball.”
  • Rodney Stuckey returned to the Pacers tonight after a 15-game absence with a hamstring injury, write Jordan J. Wilson and Nate Taylor of the Lafayette Journal and Courier. Stuckey had been participating in practice and said he felt “back to normal” since last Monday, but team trainers remained cautious. Stuckey suffered a right hamstring strain during the second game of the season and sat out the next 10. He came back November 18th, but it started hurting again less than a month later. “Coming into the season, my body felt great,” Stuckey said. “It felt like I was in great shape. Mentally I was ready and then all of the sudden, boom, a hamstring. Then boom, another hamstring. I’ve never had hamstring problems in my career.”
  • Celtics legend Kevin McHale is backing up Rajon Rondo, who criticized Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler for going to the media with complaints about teammates last week. In an interview on Sam Amick’s A to Z podcast, McHale said success and failure in the NBA is determined by star players. “You don’t lose because your eighth man’s in a slump,” McHale said. “It’s the top players who’ve got to drive your team to win.”

Cavs Notes: Stephenson, LeBron, Wiggins, Love

The Cavaliers brought in several free agents for an audition today, with players like Kirk Hinrich, Mario Chalmers, Lance Stephenson, and Jordan Farmar earning a look from the team. Of the names on that list, Stephenson’s was one that immediately stood out, given his on-court history with LeBron James. The former Pacer faced James and the Heat in three consecutive postseasons, serving as an agitator and memorably blowing into LeBron’s ear during one playoff game. Nonetheless, the reigning Finals MVP tells ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that he’d have no problem with Stephenson joining the Cavs.

“I just want to win, man,” James said. “That’s all that matters to me. I got no personal problems with nobody.”

Here’s more out of Cleveland:

  • Asked about the four veteran free agents listed above, James pointed out that he has a history with all of them except for Farmar. “I got a history with all those guys except Jordan,” LeBron said, per McMenamin. “I got a history with Lance too, obviously. I got a history versus Kirk. I played him in a lot of playoff series. And I got a history with Rio [Chalmers]. … At the end of the day, Rio is recovering from his Achilles tear. I hope he’s been doing everything he needs to do just to get back on the floor. He loves to play the game. … I’m a supporter of what this franchise wants to do, no matter what it’s doing. But my focus right now is to get our guys playing championship-level basketball.”
  • As the Cavs struggled on the court in January, LeBron was as vocal as ever off the court, publicly airing his frustrations about Charles Barkley, Phil Jackson, and the Cavs’ roster in recent weeks. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explains why James has been more agitated than usual as of late.
  • In a separate piece for ESPN.com, Windhorst explores whether Andrew Wiggins will ever make the Cavaliers regret the deal that sent the No. 1 pick to the Timberwolves in a package for Kevin Love. As Windhorst observes, the fact that the Cavs won a title with Love makes it unlikely that the team would ever want a mulligan on the move.
  • Speaking of Love, an MRI on his injured back revealed no structural damage, as Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal writes. He’ll miss tonight’s game, but the injury isn’t expect to sideline him for too long.
  • Earlier this afternoon, we heard that the Knicks haven’t given up their pursuit of Love, despite resistance from the Cavs.

Latest On Cavaliers’ Playmaker Search

FEBRUARY 1, 10:00am: The Cavs have been putting in a lot of work on Chalmers and Stephenson, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net, who tweets that those may be the free agents drawing the most interest from the Cavs.

JANUARY 31, 8:14pm: The Cavs are looking for outside help and on Wednesday, several free agents, including Kirk Hinrich, Mario Chalmers, and Lance Stephenson, will work out for the team. Jordan Farmar will also audition for the Cavs, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Farmar played two games for the Kings earlier this season before the team waived him.

Sam Amick of USA Today reports that Baron Davis has lobbied for himself to be considered for Cleveland’s open “playmaker” position. Davis hasn’t played in the NBA in over four years, but he believes he simply needs two weeks to get himself into peak shape, Amick relays.

Coach Tyronn Lue will be at the free agent auditions on Wednesday and he is expected to have heavy influence when it comes to selecting a player to fill the team’s 15th roster spot. The team could potentialy add two free agents if it decides to waive Chris Andersen, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors detailed earlier today.

Cleveland could also look to the trade market to bring in a playmaker and the team has inquired about Mavs point guard Deron Williams, according to Amick. Dallas is reportedly reluctant to move Williams even though he will be a free agent at the end of the season. Amick notes that the Mavs had expressed interest in signing Iman Shumpert when the guard was a free agent during the summer of 2015. Shumpert has three seasons and over $31MM left on his contract, though his deal contains a player option worth slightly over $11MM for the 2018/19 campaign.

Cavs Working Out Hinrich, Chalmers, Stephenson

The Cavaliers are surveying the free agent market in search of potential reinforcements, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.com, who reports that the team will work out several veteran players on Wednesday. Kirk Hinrich, Mario Chalmers, and Lance Stephenson are among the players scheduled to audition for Cleveland, per Haynes.

[RELATED: LeBron James, Cavs at odds over team payroll]

Having made a two-for-one trade when they acquired Kyle Korver earlier this month, the Cavaliers have had an open roster spot for the last few weeks, and could potentially create another one if they decide to waive Chris Andersen, who is out for the year with a torn ACL. Sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking tell Haynes that one of the participants in Wednesday’s workout could be signed before the All-Star break, using that roster opening.

Some of the veteran free agents participating in the Cavaliers’ workout on Wednesday will be out to prove that they’re healthy. Chalmers has been recovering from a torn Achilles for most of the season, but is believed to be ready to return to action. Stephenson, meanwhile, was cut by the Pelicans in the fall after he suffered a groin injury. Like Chalmers, Stephenson is said to be healthy now, according to Haynes.

While one of the participants in Wednesday’s workout could become a Cav, the team is considering many options to fortify its roster, including possible trade scenarios. Former NBA forward Josh Smith is among the other free agents on the club’s radar as well, sources tell Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net (Twitter link). The Cleveland front office has been under pressure from LeBron James to add a “playmaker” to the roster to help lighten the load for the team’s stars.

Based on the Cavs’ current tax situation, any player added to the roster will count as $2.50 toward the team’s tax bill for every $1 he earns.

Injury Notes: Stephenson, Payne, Black

Free agent guard Lance Stephenson is ahead of his schedule and could be ready from a groin tear by mid-January, barring a setback, Chris Haynes of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). The Pelicans waived Stephenson in early November after he suffered the injury. The Pelicans drew criticism at the time for the move, but it seemed like the team would be open to re-signing him when he gets healthy. Stephenson was expected to miss about 10 weeks following his groin surgery in early November, so Haynes’ reports suggests his return is a couple weeks ahead of schedule. Stephenson, who won a roster spot after the preseason, averaged 9.7 points and 4.8 assists in 27 minutes per game in six contests this season.

Here is more from around the league:

  • Cameron Payne has been assigned to the D-League for the next few days to complete his rehab and his unofficial targeted return date is January 7th, Royce Young of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Payne has yet to make his 2016/17 debut for the Thunder because of a broken foot.
  • Lakers backup center Tarik Black is available to play, but has not been on the court since mostly recovering from an ankle injury suffered in early December because coach Luke Walton wants to ease him into the rotation, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times relays. Black was was an integral part of the Lakers’ second unit before his injury, as Ganguli points out, so once Black is fully healthy, it would seem reasonable to expect a return to action.
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