LiAngelo Ball

Lance Stephenson Among NBA Vets Eligible For G League Draft

As previously reported, the NBA G League’s 2020/21 draft will take place on Monday, January 11. And according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter links), there will be some interesting names on the list of players eligible to be selected in that draft.

Veteran swingman Lance Stephenson, former No. 2 overall pick Emeka Okafor, and other recent NBA players like Justin Patton, Jacob Evans, Dzanan Musa, and Admiral Schofield will be part of the draft pool, per Givony. Former first-round picks Terrence Jones and Shabazz Muhammad will be draft-eligible as well.

According to Givony, the following players who have been on NBA rosters in the past are also among the G League’s other draft-eligible veterans: Kenny Wooten, Antonio Blakeney, Tyler Ulis, Quincy Pondexter, Diamond Stone, Hollis Thompson, Cat Barber, Isaiah Briscoe, Phil Booth, Dusty Hannahs, Jemerrio Jones, Cory Jefferson, and Freddie Gillespie.

These, presumably, are players who have signed G League contracts but whose rights aren’t currently held by any teams. A player whose returning rights are controlled by a club participating in the G League’s bubble season wouldn’t be eligible to be drafted.

For instance, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that LiAngelo Ball has signed a contract to play in the bubble. Since the Oklahoma City Blue hold his returning rights and are playing in the bubble, Ball shouldn’t be in the general draft pool.

The Blue are one of 18 teams set to participate in the shortened bubble season, which is expected to take place at Walt Disney World. That list of teams can be found right here.

Givony previously reported that the G League is adjusting its roster rules for this season to make it easier for NBA teams to recruit and sign veterans with five or more years of NBA experience. Each NBAGL team will be able to designate an “NBA Vet Selection” who fits that bill and can sign that player directly without navigating the league’s complicated waiver process. My understanding is that those designated won’t be in the draft pool.

Pistons Notes: Doumbouya, LaVar, Sirvydis, Vet Leadership

Second-year Pistons forward Sekou Doumbouya had a stellar preseason turn in a 99-91 victory against the Knicks Sunday, reminding the Pistons faithful that the 19-year-old could be a key part of Detroit’s future, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details. Now just the third-youngest Pistons player, Doumbouya scored 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, in addition to pulling down five rebounds and logging two dimes, in only 18 minutes.

“I came in and tried to help the team – that’s my job, to come off the bench, lock in and be ready to help the team,” Doumbouya said. He averaged 6.4 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 38 games for the Pistons during the 2019/20 season.

There’s more out of the Motor City:

  • In a Bleacher Report Ask Me Anything conversation yesterday, the outspoken LaVar Ball was true to form, ripping the Pistons for recently waiving middle son LiAngelo Ball. The Pistons had signed LiAngelo to an Exhibit 10 training camp contract. “I love the fans, but the franchise over there is raggedy as hell,” the elder Ball said. “They don’t know a good player. I was giving them a [l]ottery pick for free!” LiAngelo went undrafted out of UCLA in 2018.
  • Pistons rookie swingman Deividas Sirvydis has arrived in Detroit, per Rod Beard of the Detroit News (Twitter link). The 20-year-old will need to clear COVID-19 testing protocol, according to Pistons head coach Dwane Casey, and may be ready to join his teammates in a practice this Thursday or Friday.
  • Two former All-Stars can supply valuable leadership for a young Pistons team in transition, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Savvy veterans Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, who have logged significant playoff minutes, can help inform the Pistons’ future leaders and build the current culture. “They’re great pros, big-time pros,” Casey said. “We’re being sensible about our program and what we’re building. It’s not going to happen overnight – I know that and they know that. It’s not like they’re fighting for star status. They’ve been there.

Pistons Waive Louis King, Anthony Lamb, LiAngelo Ball

The Pistons have cut three players from their 20-man training camp roster, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic, who tweets that the club has requested waivers on forward Louis King, forward Anthony Lamb, and wing LiAngelo Ball. King and Lamb briefly appeared in Detroit’s preseason game vs. New York on Sunday.

Lamb and Ball were training camp invitees who were never considered likely to make the 15-man regular season roster, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that they’ve been waived. It’s possible they’ll end up playing for the Grand Rapids Drive, though it doesn’t look for now like Detroit’s G League affiliate will participate in the proposed NBAGL bubble.

As for King, the 21-year-old had signed a second two-way contract with the Pistons after spending his rookie season in 2019/20 on a two-way deal with the team. His release means that one of Detroit’s two-way slots is open — second-rounder Saben Lee occupies the other.

The Pistons now have 17 players under contract, including Lee and 16 players on guaranteed salaries. At least one of those 16 will need to be traded or cut before the regular season gets underway.

Pistons Re-Sign Louis King To Two-Way Contract

The Pistons have re-signed free agent forward Louis King to a new two-way contract, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

King, who went undrafted out of Oregon in 2019, spent his rookie season on a two-way deal with Detroit. He didn’t see much action at the NBA level, logging limited minutes in 10 games, but averaged 15.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 31 games (28.5 MPG) for the Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons’ G League affiliate.

King will occupy one of Detroit’s two-way contract slots alongside second-round pick Saben Lee.

The Pistons also officially finalized their previouslyreported training camp deals with LiAngelo Ball and Anthony Lamb, according to Smith (Twitter link). The three signings give Detroit a full 20-man training camp roster.

Pistons, LiAngelo Ball Agree To Exhibit 10 Deal

LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of Lonzo Ball and the older brother of LaMelo Ball, has agreed to sign a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with the Pistons, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Ball’s deal will contain an Exhibit 10 clause, per Charania (Twitter link). He’s extremely unlikely to make the Pistons’ regular season roster, but will be eligible to receive a $50K bonus if he plays in the G League.

As NBAGL guru Adam Johnson notes (via Twitter), Detroit’s affiliate – the Grand Rapids Drive – would need to acquire Ball’s rights from the Oklahoma City Blue. The 22-year-old signed a G League contract to join the Thunder’s affiliate back in March, just before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus. Current Pistons general manager Troy Weaver worked in the Thunder’s front office at the time.

Ball, a 6’5″ swingman, isn’t considered to have the same upside as his brothers, but has some experience playing professional ball in Lithuania and earned Finals MVP honors for the Los Angeles Ballers of the Junior Basketball Association in 2018.

And-Ones: WNBA, Ball Brothers, Kyrie, FA Contracts

Like the NBA, the WNBA now has a plan in place to resume play in Florida next month. The WNBA announced today in a press release that it will play a 22-game regular season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, beginning in July.

We will continue to consult with medical experts and public health officials as well as players, team owners and other stakeholders as we move forward with our execution plan,” commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “And, despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic to our 2020 season, the WNBA and its Board of Governors believe strongly in supporting and valuing the elite women athletes who play in the WNBA and therefore, players will receive their full pay and benefits during the 2020 season.”

While the NBA was in the midst of its season when the pandemic forced a stoppage, the WNBA’s 2020 campaign had yet to tip off. The season, which would normally consist of 34 games, had originally been scheduled to begin on May 15, but was postponed indefinitely in April.

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

  • As expected, the Ball brothers – Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, G League guard LiAngelo Ball, and projected 2020 lottery pick LaMelo Ball – have officially signed with Roc Nation Sports for representation, the agency announced today (Twitter link). An April report had indicated that the three brothers were joining Roc Nation together.
  • Although Kyrie Irving has taken plenty of flak for his stance on resuming the season, Michael Lee of The Athletic argues that Irving is just doing his job as an NBPA vice president, and isn’t being an agitator just for the sake of it. In Lee’s view, Irving isn’t trying to blow up the NBA’s restart plan, but is making sure that players’ concerns are heard and addressed.
  • Setting aside rookie contracts and maximum-salary deals, John Hollinger of The Athletic lists the 10 current free agent contracts that he feels represent the best value for teams. The Clippers‘ deal with Ivica Zubac, the Mavericks‘ with Dorian Finney-Smith, and the Celtics‘ with Marcus Smart top Hollinger’s list.

And-Ones: Ball Brothers, Creek, Diaw, P. Jackson

The Ball brothers – Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball, and LiAngelo Ball – intend to sign with Roc Nation Sports for representation, LaMelo’s manager Jermaine Jackson tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

Lonzo had previously been represented by CAA, but parted ways with the agency earlier this year. Now, he appears set to make the move to Roc Nation along with his two younger brothers, including LaMelo, who is one of the top prospects in the 2020 draft.

“This was a family decision,” Jackson told ESPN. “… We talked to several agents, but the family had good vibes with Roc Nation. I’ve known Jay-Z since I played for the Knicks, but this is what the kids wanted to do. Jay-Z is a master at what he does. He’s global. It’s power beyond power.”

While Jay-Z launched Roc Nation Sports in 2013, he obviously won’t be the one handling basketball matters for the Ball brothers. Veteran agent Raymond Brothers will be the Balls’ lead agent at Roc Nation, according to Givony.

Here are more odds and ends from across the NBA:

  • Australian forward Mitch Creek, who spent this past season in Australia after appearing in five games for the Nets and Timberwolves in 2018/19, was in “advanced talks” with a Western Conference team this winter, says Shayne Hope of The Australian Associated Press. However, as Hope explains, a knee injury and the coronavirus pandemic ultimately derailed Creek’s plans to return stateside.
  • Former NBA forward Boris Diaw has stepped down from his position as president of French team Metropolitans 92, the club announced in a press release (French link; hat tip to Sportando). The team suggested in its announcement that difficulties arose this season in the way the club operated and Diaw’s relationship to certain members of the executive board.
  • Following episodes three and four of The Last Dance on Sunday, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne explores how former Bulls head coach Phil Jackson continues to have an impact on today’s NBA head coaches, despite the fact that Jackson hasn’t coached in the NBA since 2011.

And-Ones: Gortat, Felton, Ball, Okoro

Veteran NBA center Marcin Gortat decided to retire from professional basketball last month, walking away from a league where he played for four teams across 12 years.

Gortat, 36, saw his last NBA season come during the 2018/19 campaign with the Clippers and spent much of this season contemplating his future.

“It’s sad but you know, the whole adventure and the whole ‘Polish Hammer’ thing has to end at some point,” Gortat said, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports. “I’m happy that after 12 years I achieved so much being the 57th pick in the draft. Now, I’ve got the good part and I’m going to enjoy my life and enjoy the other guys watching them play on the court.”

Gortat returned to Washington and watched the Wizards play the Hawks on Friday, receiving a video tribute from the organization. He helped the franchise make the playoffs in four of his five seasons, playing physical basketball on both ends of the floor.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Free agent Raymond Felton won’t be signing in the Czech Republic after all, according to Niccolo Scavuzzo of Sportando. Felton reportedly reached agreement with Jindřichův Hradec, with the team’s GM suggesting in an official statement that the point guard would report until April, but it appears that announcement was premature.
  • LiAngelo Ball is signing with the Oklahoma City Blue, G League affiliate of the Thunder, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Ball is continuing his pursuit of an NBA deal by way of the G League, with the 21-year-old going undrafted back in 2018.
  • In an article for ESPN Insider, Jonathon Givony and Mike Schmitz detail why Isaac Okoro might be a top-five NBA draft pick this June. Okoro, 19, is a 6-foot-6 small forward who currently plays at Auburn.

And-Ones: Italy, 2020 Draft, 2021 Free Agents

The coronavirus outbreak continues to have a major impact on Italian sports, with Nicola Lupo of Sportando passing along word that all sporting events taking place in Italy through April 3 will be played behind closed doors. The Italian government, which announced those measures, also said that athletes, coaches, and other team personnel will undergo medical tests to help avoid the virus from spreading.

There aren’t as many former NBA players competing professionally in Italy right now as there are in China and some other countries around the world, but Italy is still one of Europe’s basketball hubs, featuring one EuroLeague team in Olimpia Milano. The ruling will have a major impact on what basketball games in Italy look like over the next several weeks.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, the country’s leading freshman scorer, ranks atop many draft experts’ big boards for 2020. John Hollinger of The Athletic breaks down Edwards’ pros and cons, arguing that despite some flaws, Edwards has a “pretty high floor” and looks like “the least-bad option in a bad draft.”
  • Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer wonders if the uninspiring crop of NCAA prospects this spring will prompt more teams to look at international draft options. Deni Avdija, Killian Hayes, and Theo Maledon are among the prospects who could appeal to NBA teams, as Tjarks details.
  • Although the 2021 free agent class looks tantalizing, many of the very best players who could hit the market that summer – including LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard – are already playing where they want to be, so it remains to be seen how much star movement there will be, writes Danny Leroux of The Athletic.
  • As Lonzo Ball tries to help push the Pelicans into the postseason and LaMelo Ball prepares for the 2020 draft, their brother LiAngelo Ball is expected to sign a G League contract soon, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Ball has been practicing with the Thunder‘s NBAGL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, as of late.

Nets Notes: Carmelo, LeVert, Prince, LiAngelo

In an interview with TMZ (video link), Carmelo Anthony offers little insight into a report last week that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are campaigning for the Nets to sign him. Anthony is close with the two stars and played with them, as well as new Brooklyn center DeAndre Jordan, on the 2016 Olympic team.

“That’s family,” Anthony said. “So, that’s bigger than basketball. If something happens, something’s gonna happen.”

A source told Frank Isola of The Athletic that Nets GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson have watched Anthony this summer and are considering adding him to the team. Brooklyn has a full roster, but will be able to sign a player once Wilson Chandler serves five games of his 25-game PED suspension. Anthony’s representatives have spoken to the Sixers as well, according to Isola.

There’s more this morning from Brooklyn:

  • Fresh off signing a three-year, $52.5MM extension, Caris LeVert tells Bill Bender of The Sporting News that his next goal is to become one of the NBA’s best players. He also believes the Nets are ready to join the league’s elite teams after their success in free agency. “When you get guys like KD, Kyrie and DeAndre, expectations rise,” he said. “We’re looking forward to that. We’ve been working for that. I think everybody loves playing on a big stage. We’re definitely looking forward to this year and the challenges it’s going to bring.”
  • Taurean Prince was a less celebrated addition for the Nets, but he could play an important role in making the team a contender, writes David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders. Brooklyn agreed to acquire Prince from the Hawks before the start of free agency, so he got to enjoy watching the team’s success in free agency. He called being traded “bittersweet,” but said he’s eager to be part of a rising power in Brooklyn. “I’m someone who wants to win more than they want to score,” Prince said. “My big thing is getting to the playoffs and being able to play in those type of opportunities and environment.”
  • LiAngelo Ball claims the Nets were one of three teams that talked to him about a possible Summer League role, relays Ralph Orense of ClutchPoints. On an episode of “Ball in the Family,” Ball says the Thunder and Heat also expressed interest.