Larry Nance Jr.

Pelicans Notes: Nance, Griffin, McCollum, Zion

Larry Nance Jr. hasn’t enjoyed much stability in his seven-year NBA career, but he hopes to find it with the Pelicans, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Nance was a perfect fit in New Orleans after being acquired from the Trail Blazers in February, and with one year left on his contract, he’s hoping for an extension.

Willie (Green) is my eighth head coach,” Nance said. “I have had seven different general managers. I am so tired of it. This organization has been incredible since I got here. The people are great. The fan base is incredible. I would love to make this a permanent stay. But again, that’s not up to me.”

The first order of business for Nance after the trade was arthroscopic surgery to fix his right knee, which kept him sidelined until late March. Clark notes that Nance was much more explosive when he resumed playing.

“The little piece of meniscus in my knee was bothering me for the past few years,” Nance said. “I didn’t even realize it. Getting that cleaned up and cleaned out and getting to play that last stretch of games was fully healthy was great. I still feel great. My body is in a great place right now.”

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • The Pelicans have 14 players under contract for next season, but there are some important decisions to make this offseason, Clark adds. CJ McCollum, who came to New Orleans in the same deal as Nance, will also be eligible for an extension, and the team has to figure out whether to make a maximum extension offer to Zion Williamson. Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said those situations will be addressed and called it “a real blessing” that all three players want to remain with the Pelicans.
  • McCollum attracted headlines at the All-Star break when he said that he hadn’t been able to speak with Williamson, who was working out away from the team. On Friday, Williamson offered an explanation, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “Honestly, I was focused on rehabbing around that time,” he said. “I texted CJ shortly after to apologize about that. Like I said, I was mentally not in a good space. Mr. McCollum, he was cool about it.”
  • Williamson’s comments at Friday’s media session that he still wants a future in New Orleans were exactly what the organization needed to hear, contends Rod Walker of NOLA.com, as Williamson did his best to silence persistent speculation that he would rather be in a bigger market. “I can’t control rumors and how people feel about certain things,” Williamson said. “I said this in my interview with (Pelicans TV announcer) Antonio (Daniels). Anybody who knows me, knows I want to be here. If they feel otherwise, I can’t help that. But if you know me, you know I want to be here.”

Western Notes: Prince, Dinwiddie, Nance, Kings

Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he said on Friday that he “plans to return” to Minnesota for next season, as Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News relays (video link).

Prince told reporters that the strong camaraderie in the Wolves’ locker room is something he hasn’t experienced since college and praised head coach Chris Finch, comparing him to Mike Budenholzer, who coached Prince in Atlanta at the start of his NBA career. The 28-year-old added that he hopes Minnesota reciprocates his interest.

Prince averaged 7.3 PPG and 2.5 RPG on .454/.376/.756 shooting in 69 regular season games (17.1 MPG) during his first year in Minnesota. The Wolves will hold his Bird rights this summer, so they would be able to go over the cap to re-sign him without using any of their mid-level exception.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie earned a $100K bonus on Thursday when Dallas beat Utah to advance to the second round, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Dinwiddie would receive another $571K if the Mavs get past Phoenix and earn a spot in the Western Conference Finals.
  • Having played for four teams and eight head coaches since entering the NBA in 2015, Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. would welcome some stability and said on Friday that he’d like to make New Orleans his permanent home, tweets William Guillory of The Athletic. Nance has just one year left on his current contract, but will be extension-eligible this offseason.
  • With Monte McNair believed to be entering the final guaranteed year of his contract with the Kings, Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee wonders if the general manager will feel pressure to hire a veteran head coach such as Mike D’Antoni instead of a candidate without any head coaching experience.

Pelicans Notes: Offseason, Jones, Murphy, Alvarado, Zion

When the Pelicans got off to a 1-12 start this season, it looked like the team was headed for another lottery finish and some difficult offseason questions. Instead, New Orleans managed to turn things around, earned a playoff berth via the play-in tournament, and gave the NBA-best Suns all they could handle in the first round of the playoffs.

“To get to the playoffs, we continued to believe in ourselves. Continued to get better, believing in this organization,” Brandon Ingram said after Thursday’s Game 6 loss, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic. “New coach. New players. Figuring it out so fast. You don’t think about it in the moment because we just lost, but we definitely came a long way from the beginning of the season.”

As Guillory writes, the first-round loss to Phoenix was a tough one, given how competitive the Pelicans made the series (they were outscored by a total margin of 668-659 across six games). But after laying a strong foundation of young talent, the franchise looks poised to remain competitive and continue improving in the coming years.

There are still some pressing offseason questions facing the Pelicans, with both Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes eligible for rookie scale extensions, but all of the team’s young players are under contract for 2022/23, Guillory notes. And while there has been plenty of speculation about Williamson’s long-term commitment to New Orleans, the team couldn’t have done much more this spring to make him want to be part of the future.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • The Pelicans wouldn’t have gotten as far as they did this season without the contributions they received from a trio of unheralded rookies, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN, who spotlights Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy, and Jose Alvarado. Jones emerged as a legitimate All-Defensive candidate, Murphy knocked down 38.2% of his three-point attempts, and Alvarado provided energy and hustle plays off the bench. All three players are under contract for multiple years going forward.
  • In his Pelicans offseason preview, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) examines the big decision the team must make on a potential Williamson extension and points out that veterans like CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. will be extension-eligible this summer as well.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype also looks ahead to the Williamson contract negotiations and the other key roster decisions facing the Pelicans this summer. As Gozlan writes, New Orleans doesn’t have much breathing room below the projected luxury tax line, which will affect the club’s ability to make full use of its mid-level exception.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Nance, Wall, Spurs

The Pelicans are aware that evening their current first-round playoff matchup against the top-seeded Suns will require them to keep their cool, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

In the middle of Game 3’s second quarter, Pelicans big man Jaxson Hayes was ejected from the contest, an eventual Suns win, after aggressively pushing Phoenix forward Jae Crowder. New Orleans would go on to lose at home by a narrow margin (114-111). The Suns now have a 2-1 series edge.

Pelicans head coach Willie Green acknowledged that Hayes let his emotions get the best of him in that instance, but that the team overall has been effective at managing its emotions in a playoff environment.

“I thought we’ve done a really good job of that this series,” Green said of the Pelicans’ approach to their emotions. “We had a moment — the Jaxson-Jae Crowder thing. But other than that, it was a close game coming down the stretch, the last five minutes. They pulled away a bit. But we’re doing a lot of good. We just have to be better down the stretch.”

New Orleans will face off against the Suns in a big Game 4 today.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. is confident in the team’s core even without star forward Zion Williamson, writes Logan Murdock of The Ringer“We’re the real deal,” Nance tells Murdock. “This team is here and this team is for real… And we have a top-10 asset that hasn’t even touched the court yet.” Murdock notes that three promising New Orleans rookies have emerged as key additions to the club’s playoff rotation: Herbert Jones, Jose Alvarado, and Trey Murphy III. Star veterans CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram have proven they belong in these playoffs thus far.
  • Rockets veteran point guard John Wall is expected to opt in to the final season on his max deal, worth $47.3MM in 2022/23. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report suggests that Wall’s agents and Houston brass will discuss the possibility of a buyout arrangement if the Rockets are unable to find a trade partner for Wall before the 2022 draft in June. Should Wall be bought out, the Heat and Clippers may have interest in adding the former All-Star, says Fischer.
  • With the team’s youth movement fully underway, the Spurs are ready for an offseason typical of San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich: one full of Popovich’s exacting standards, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. Third-year forward Keldon Johnson knows what to expect from Popovich, who wants to see Johnson improve his defense. “He’s hard on me because he wants me to be great,” Johnson said. “If it was anything different, I wouldn’t want that.” McDonald writes that San Antonio All-Star guard Dejounte Murray will need Johnson, forward Devin Vassell, and rookie shooting guard Joshua Primo to develop for the Spurs to return to the playoffs.

Western Notes: Bane, Grizzlies, Wolves, Nance Jr., Gordon

Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane believes his team needs to play more physical against the Timberwolves in Game 2, according to Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Memphis lost 130-117 in Game 1 on Saturday, allowing Minnesota to shoot 50% from the field and win the rebound battle 46-35.

That rebounding clash included 11 offensive rebounds from the Wolves. Minnesota was led by Anthony Edwards (36 points and six assists), along with Karl-Anthony Towns (29 points and 13 rebounds). Game 2 of the series is on Tuesday.

“Physicality is something that we felt like we addressed coming into the series, and I didn’t think that it was there tonight,” Bane said of the Game 1 loss. “At least at the level it needed to be to win. We’re going to have to get grimy out there to win a playoff series.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The young Timberwolves are establishing themselves as a problem this year, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. Minnesota has gained confidence as the campaign moves on, showing potential by defeating Memphis (30-11 home record) on the road in Game 1.
  • Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. is a key part of the team’s culture change, Christian Clark of NOLA.com opines. Nance finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds off the bench in the club’s play-in tournament win over the Clippers. The seven-year veteran is well-respected by his teammates and coaches. “Look at what we got,” Nance said. “This is a situation anybody can look at from the outside. When I was in Portland, I knew it. Then when I got here, I really knew it. We have Brandon Ingram, who is an All-Star at 25 years old. We have CJ, who is playing like an All-Star. And a freak (Zion Williamson) on ice right now. Who wouldn’t be thrilled about coming to the situation? This summer, I left Cleveland and wanted to go to a playoff team. Now, look, here we sit. I’m thrilled to be here.”
  • In order to beat the Warriors, Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon must have a good series, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports writes. “Aaron Gordon is at his best when he’s attacking,” head coach Michael Malone said. “We don’t want to just settle for 3s as a team.” Gordon finished with just eight points and five rebounds in 26 minutes on Saturday. Denver lost the first game of the series 123-107, shooting 11-of-35 from three-point range (31%).

Pelicans Notes: Zion, Alvarado, Nance, Hart

As William Guillory of The Athletic observes, it’s no coincidence that Zion Williamson – typically not very active on social media – posted a video of him throwing down a between-the-legs windmill dunk just days after Shams Charania reported that he likely won’t return this season. It also doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Pelicans cleared him for increased activity shortly after that video was posted, Guillory writes.

There’s “an air of silent cold war brewing” between the Pelicans and Williamson, according to Scott Kushner of NOLA.com, who writes that the star forward clearly wants to play this season, while the team – wary of risking his long-term health – is reluctant to let him.

It’s a difficult spot for the Pelicans, who reportedly frustrated Williamson during his rookie year by playing it safe with his knee injury and holding him out longer than he felt was necessary. The two sides are about to enter a crucial offseason, with the former No. 1 overall pick eligible for a rookie scale extension.

Before that offseason begins, Williamson, his camp, and the Pelicans’ top decision-makers need to come together to agree on a decision about his status for this season, Guillory opines. If all the involved parties can get on the same page on that issue, it should create a more comfortable starting point when they approach extension talks in the summer.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Christian Clark of NOLA.com examines some of the similarities and differences between Williamson’s lengthy injury rehab process this season and Kawhi Leonard‘s injury recovery process during his final year in San Antonio.
  • Within his weekly “10 Things” column for ESPN, Zach Lowe highlights the impact that Jose Alvarado has had in New Orleans and says he’d be shocked if the team doesn’t convert Alvarado’s two-way contract to a standard deal soon. Doing so would ensure that the rookie guard is eligible for the play-in tournament and playoffs.
  • William Guillory and John Hollinger of The Athletic discuss several topics related to the Pelicans’ future, weighing the possibility of a Williamson extension, considering whether or not Alvarado’s emergence changes the backcourt plans going forward, and evaluating the team’s chances of earning a playoff spot next month.
  • Following up on last month’s revelation that good friends Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Hart temporarily swapped houses when they were traded for one another, Andrew Lopez of ESPN takes an entertaining, in-depth look at what that arrangement has looked like.

Larry Nance Jr. Could Make Pelicans Debut On Thursday

It’s “looking good” for Pelicans forward/center Larry Nance Jr. to return from knee surgery and be available for Thursday’s game against Chicago, head coach Willie Green said today (Twitter link via William Guillory of The Athletic).

For his part, Nance told reporters, including Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter link), that he’ll be playing “soon.”

Nance was part of the blockbuster trade that sent CJ McCollum from Portland to New Orleans, but underwent a procedure to address a right knee injury just three days after that deal was completed and has yet to suit up for the Pelicans. Getting him back will give New Orleans another option in a frontcourt that’s currently missing Brandon Ingram (hamstring) and Zion Williamson (foot).

A report earlier this week stated that Williamson is unlikely to play this season. However, the former No. 1 overall pick has been telling people around him that his right foot feels good and that he wants to return before the end of the season, sources tell Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Williamson posted a video on Instagram on Tuesday that showed him throwing down a between-the-legs dunk, as Clark relays (via Twitter).

Still, according to Clark, there’s doubt within the organization that Williamson has enough time to make it back this spring. Green said today that Zion has been cleared to participate in 1-on-1 drills, but there are still several more steps to go in his rehab process before he’ll be able to play in a game, so he remains out indefinitely (Twitter link via Clark).

We’re still working toward being fully healthy, which he’s not,” Green said. “But he’s getting there. We’ll update you guys at that point, if we get to that point.”

Ingram, meanwhile, was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice and Green sounded uncertain that he’d be ready to go on Thursday vs. the Bulls, tweets Clark. Ingram hasn’t played since March 6 due to a hamstring issue and a non-COVID illness.

Pelicans Notes: McCollum, Zion, Griffin, Nance, Hart

Amid persistent speculation about whether Zion Williamson is happy in New Orleans, veteran Pelicans guard CJ McCollum came to his teammate’s defense on Thursday, essentially telling reporters to back off while the former No. 1 overall pick recovers from a foot injury.

“Leave the young fella alone, man,” McCollum said, per Christian Clark of NOLA.com. “He’s trying to rehab in peace. Trying to get himself ready to come back. We spoke, and I’ll speak to him later this week or next and just catch up with him. He’s a very talented player. He’s going through a lot. You guys are putting him on the spot on the daily. I think he’s just trying to recover on his own time and focus on his rehab.”

McCollum pointed out on Thursday that he has dealt with multiple foot injuries in his own career, including a hairline fracture that sidelined him for a good chunk of the 2020/21 season. He said he knows what Williamson is going through during his long rehab process.

“You feel disconnected. You feel away,” McCollum said. “It’s tough mentally and physically. I know it’s frustrating.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • In a separate story for NOLA.com, Clark takes a closer look at the apparent tension between Williamson and the Pelicans, revisiting some points he made in a September report and sharing some new details. According to Clark, Williamson and his camp seem to have a “lack of trust” in Pelicans head of basketball operations David Griffin. Clark also says that Zion’s stepfather Lee Anderson has “maintained a great deal of control” over the young forward’s career since he was drafted and that some people who knew Williamson and his family before he reached the NBA have discussed whether Anderson has Zion’s best interests at heart.
  • Rod Walker of NOLA.com believes that a lack of communication, both publicly and privately, has exacerbated the divide between Williamson and the Pelicans, arguing that even a brief social media post from Zion reiterating that he wants to be in New Orleans would go a long way toward silencing the noise.
  • Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Hart are good friends and would’ve loved the chance to play on the same team rather than being traded for one another, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. They made the most of the situation by agreeing to temporarily swap houses when Nance was dealt to New Orleans and Hart was sent to Portland.
  • Nance referred to his recent knee surgery as a minor procedure and said he hopes to be back on the floor soon, according to Lopez. It has been two weeks since Nance went under the knife — reports at the time suggested it would take the forward about six weeks to recover, so he could return in a month or so.

Larry Nance Jr. Undergoes Knee Surgery, Out Six Weeks

FEBRUARY 11: Nance underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this morning, the team confirmed in a press release. The Pelicans said a timeline for Nance’s recovery would be provided at a later date. An estimated six-week timeline has been reported, as noted below.


FEBRUARY 9: The Pelicans just acquired Larry Nance Jr. Tuesday as part of a seven-player trade, but he’s currently sidelined with right knee soreness and is expected to undergo surgery on Friday, a source tells Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

ESPN’s Andrew Lopez confirms (via Twitter) Clark’s report that Nance is scheduled to have surgery Friday. Sources tell Lopez that Nance is expected to miss up to six weeks.

Six weeks from Friday is March 25; if he’s active again by that date, Nance would have nine games left in the regular season to get acclimated with his new team.

As Clark relays, Nance was injured on January 5 while attempting a layup against Miami. An MRI the next day revealed “no significant damage,” but he’s been sidelined ever since. Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said Nance suffered “a little setback” last Friday.

Nance had missed 18 straight games prior to the trade that sent him from Portland to New Orleans. Fellow newly-acquired teammates CJ McCollum and Tony Snell are expected to be active for the Pelicans on Thursday, says Clark.

In 37 games (23.2 MPG) with Portland this season, Nance averaged 6.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.0 SPG on .515/.306/.653 shooting. The 29-year-old was traded to Portland from Cleveland in the offseason, as part of a three-team sign-and-trade that sent Derrick Jones Jr. and Portland’s protected 2022 first-round pick to the Bulls, and Lauri Markkanen to the Cavs.

Nance, 29, is a versatile two-way contributor in the frontcourt when healthy. He’s a strong defender across multiple positions and possesses a high basketball IQ offensively, although he can be a little too unselfish at times given his explosive leaping ability. Nance is earning $10.7MM this season and will make $9.7MM in 2022/23.

Southwest Notes: Augustin, Silas, Mavericks, McCollum

Veteran Rockets point guard D.J. Augustin, 34, hopes to remain in Houston through the NBA trade deadline, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Should the Rockets opt not to pick up his partially-guaranteed deal this summer, the rebuilding club’s oldest player could become a free agent. The 5’11” guard is averaging 5.4 PPG and 2.2 APG in just 15.0 MPG this season.

“At this point in my career, man, whatever the team needs from me, whatever the coach needs from me, the organization needs, I’m going to do my job and do what I need to do,” Augustin said.

At times this season, head coach Stephen Silas has opted not to play Augustin at all, in favor of giving the team’s younger prospects more run. Augustin does concede that he would like a consistent role in the Rockets’ rotation, but accepts that that may not be what Houston requires.

“I would like minutes, period,” he said. “That’s not my role right now with this team.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • With NBA trade deadline chatter swirling, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas is trying to help his current Houston players focus on the task at hand as much as possible, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Feigen notes that the Rockets have been active at the trade deadline for the past 16 straight years. “It is our job as a coaching staff, as a management team to make sure everybody is pointed in the direction of things that you can control,” Silas said. “I know that there’s other stuff out there and rumors. There’s always rumors and false narratives going on. But really focusing on what you can control makes everybody’s job easier. Whatever happens, you adapt to that.”
  • The 32-23 Mavericks could opt to develop their current chemistry at the trade deadline or make changes. In a roundtable, Callie Caplan, Brad Townsend and Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News debate how Dallas should move forward at the deadline. Sherrington cautions that it may prove difficult for the Mavericks to re-sign both Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith. Caplan suggests that the Mavericks maintain their core players, noting that the team seems capable of fending off most Western Conference contenders. Caplan adds that Raptors point guard Goran Dragic could make a nice addition with the Mavericks, should he get a buyout.
  • After acquiring sharp-shooting guard CJ McCollum, forward Larry Nance Jr. and deep-bench reserve Tony Snell from the Trail Blazers today, the Pelicans are clearly hoping to make a play-in tournament push, writes Will Guillory of The Athletic. The club has gone 19-16 in its last 35 contests. Guillory notes that McCollum, an excellent scorer and ball-handler, could prove to be a stellar partner for star forwards Brandon Ingram and, when healthy, Zion Williamson. New Orleans is currently the tenth seed in the West, with a 22-32 record.