Lonnie Walker

Southwest Notes: Ball, Popovich, Griffin, Walker

Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball has shown why he’s so polarizing during the team’s most recent home stretch, Christian Clark of NOLA.com writes.

Ball has delivered both good and bad performances since returning from a hip flexor strain in April, but one thing is certain: New Orleans is a far better team when it receives strong production from the 23-year-old.

“Lonzo is one of the most highly scrutinized players I’ve ever seen,” executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said in March, as noted by Clark. “He has the most polarized narrative around him. He’s either the greatest player in the NBA or the worst player that’s ever played. Apparently, there is no in-between.”

Ball is holding per-game averages of 14.7 points, 5.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds on the season. He’s set to reach restricted free agency this summer.

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich may be the last of his kind, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes. Popovich is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, spending the past 25 years as head coach of the team.
  • The rant delivered by Pelicans EVP of basketball operations David Griffin about the team’s officiating concerns was meant to help Zion Williamson down the road, as Scott Kushner of NOLA.com explains. Griffin received a $50,000 fine for criticizing the officiating, noting that Williamson hasn’t received enough respect from many referees this season.
  • Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV enjoys closing out games for the team, but doesn’t seem to mind coming off the bench to start contests, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. “I could care less about starting,” Walker said. “I could care less about being on the bench. But being able to play in the final few minutes of the game and close it out, that’s my favorite time.”

Western Notes: Gordon, Redick, Walker, Little

Aaron Gordon asked the Magic to trade him because he had grown weary of trying to change that franchise’s culture, he explained to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Gordon is thrilled to play for a prime contender like the Nuggets.

“I felt like it was time,” Gordon said of his trade request. “I spent a good seven years in Orlando doing my best to change the culture, uplift the culture, turn the culture into a basketball mecca. That’s the ultimate goal. It was difficult. I was looking for insight. Looking to be a part of a winning culture, to see what that is really about, instead of being a part of a culture that you’re trying to turn into a winning culture.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • J.J. Redick was in uniform on Monday for the first time since the Mavericks acquired him from the Pelicans at the trade deadline last month, Dwain Price of Mavs.com tweets. He participated in his first full practice with Dallas on Saturday. The veteran guard has been sidelined since March 3 by a sore right heel and Achilles and underwent a non-surgical procedure last month. Dallas traded for Redick to have another outside shooting option heading into the postseason. Redick entered Monday’s game in the first quarter.
  • Spurs forward Lonnie Walker revealed that a wrist injury has nagged him throughout the season, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Walker missed nearly three weeks of action before returning this past weekend. “It was extremely frustrating,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with this hand/wrist injury for a few months prior to me sitting down. For me to sit down is probably one of the hardest things in the world for me to do.”
  • Trail Blazers swingman Nassir Little has earned more playing time at shooting guard, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. The team’s first-round pick in 2019 played 24 minutes against Detroit on Saturday and contributed 11 points. “We’ll be doing it again,” coach Terry Stotts said. “He still has to learn some of the tricks of the trade as far as guarding perimeter players — coming off pin downs, guarding pick and rolls — but I think he is capable of doing that and we have to continue to see how he does in that role.”

Spurs Notes: Dieng, Walker, Aldridge, Samanic

While other bought-out veterans have joined the Lakers and Nets in pursuit of a championship, Gorgui Dieng opted to sign with the Spurs, the No. 7 seed in the West. Explaining his decision to join San Antonio, Dieng said he was won over by the team’s pitch to him.

“It was like college recruiting all over again,” Dieng said, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter links). “Everybody is going to talk to you and tell you why they want you to be on their team, and I felt comfortable with what I heard here.

“I like the team, I like the way they play. … They have a good system. The ball doesn’t stop. It moves around. They play together and they have a Hall-of-Fame coach that knows how to run his team. I am pretty excited to see what they are all about.”

It remains to see how much playing time Dieng will see with the Spurs, but he thinks he’ll be a good fit, given his ability to shoot threes and play defense. Dieng told reporters today that he’s willing to play whatever role coach Gregg Popovich envisions for him (Twitter link via Orsborn).

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • Popovich said on Saturday that Lonnie Walker, who is currently sidelined with a sore right wrist, could miss “another week or so,” Orsborn writes for The San Antonio Express-News. Walker hasn’t played since last Monday.
  • Popovich wished veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge well following his agreement with the Nets, Orsborn notes in the same story. “He was a wonderful teammate, and he will do a very good job in Brooklyn,” Popovich said.
  • Since being drafted 19th overall in 2019, Luka Samanic has seen more action in the G League (39 games) than in the NBA (19 games), but the second-year power forward could be in line for an increased role down the stretch, says Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “He’s beginning to prove himself deserving of time,” Popovich said of Samanic, who averaged a double-double (21.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG) in six NBAGL games for the Austin Spurs last month.
  • In case you missed it earlier today, we relayed details on how much cash the Spurs received in the Marquese Chriss trade, the amount of Aldridge’s buyout, and Dieng’s rest-of-season salary.

Spurs Exercise Options On Walker, Johnson, Samanic

The Spurs have exercised their fourth-year team option on guard Lonnie Walker IV, as well as the third-year options on forwards Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic, for the 2021/22 season, according to a team press release.

Walker will receive $4,447,896 during the 2021/22 campaign. Johnson will make $2.145MM and Samanic will get $2.96MM.

Walker, the 18th pick of the 2018 draft, appeared in 61 games last season and averaged 6.4 PPG and 1.1 APG in 16.2 MPG.

Johnson appeared in 17 games last season and averaged 9.1 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 17.7 MPG. He averaged 14.1 PPG in eight games during the Orlando restart. Johnson, a late first-round pick last year, also played 31 games for the G League Austin Spurs and averaged 20.3 PPG and 5.8 RPG.

Samanic, the 19th pick of the 2019 draft, appeared in three NBA games as a rookie. He also appeared in 33 games with the Austin Spurs, averaging 15.2 PPG and 7.8 RPG.

Texas Notes: Walker, Austin Spurs, Assistant Coaches

Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV has new representation. Rich Paul and Lucas Newton of Klutch Sports are Walker’s new agents, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN (Twitter link). Klutch also represents Walker’s teammates Dejounte Murray and Trey Lyles.

Walker remains on his rookie contract with the Spurs. He will become eligible for a rookie scale extension in 2021 and – if he doesn’t sign a new deal early – would reach restricted free agency in 2022.

There’s more from the Lone Star State:

  • The Spurs‘ G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, have promoted assistant Matt Nielsen to head coach, and named former assistant general manager Tyler Self the new GM, according to a team press release.
  • The Rockets continue to remake their personnel beyond the hardwood. New head coach Stephen Silas has added Magic player development coach Rick Higgins, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link), and former Sydney Kings head coach Will Weaver, per Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link).
  • Per a team press release, the Spurs have promoted Mitch Johnson to fill Tim Duncan‘s role on Gregg Popovich‘s bench and have also named Darius Songalia an assistant coach. Duncan, a Hall of Fame power forward and five-time champion with the club, will return to his more informal player development duties with the team for 2020/21.

Southwest Notes: Mbah A Moute, Rivers, Porzingis, Spurs

Speaking today to reporters for the first time since reporting to the NBA’s campus and clearing quarantine, Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute confirmed that his arrival was delayed because he had contracted the coronavirus, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Mbah a Moute signed with the Rockets on July 7 as a substitute player replacing Thabo Sefolosha, but didn’t arrive in Orlando until last Wednesday. According to Feigen, Mbah a Moute said today that he dealt with “chills (and) body ache” while battling COVID-19, adding that the recovery was “tough.”

Meanwhile, Mbah a Moute’s teammate Austin Rivers hasn’t tested positive for the coronavirus, but remains quarantined in his hotel room after briefly leaving the Orlando campus last week. Rivers, who returned on Saturday, is scheduled to complete his four-day quarantine period on Tuesday and should be ready to go for the Rockets’ first seeding game this Friday vs. Dallas, Feigen writes for The Chronicle.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis was held out of Sunday’s scrimmage because he missed a mandatory coronavirus test on Saturday, though head coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t overly upset by the mistake, per Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “This situation was one where he just took his eye off the ball a little bit in terms of the day-to-day protocols and procedures,” Carlisle said. “It can be challenging on off days to keep track of the schedule. I almost missed testing on our first off day. … It’s an innocent mistake, but it’s significant.”
  • Trey Burke just signed with the Mavericks on July 1 and was late arriving to the NBA’s campus in Orlando, but he believes his experience playing for Carlisle in 2018/19 will help him quickly adjust, Sefko writes at Mavs.com. “I feel comfortable, rather than other places coming into a new place and it’s a brand new system and a brand new coaching staff,” Burke said. “I pretty much know the pace that coach likes to play with, I know how hard he can be on guys and I’m ready for that.”
  • With LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles sidelined for the summer, the Spurs are experimenting with some guard-heavy lineups, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. One unit, which features recent first-rounders Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker playing alongside each other, could be a preview of the club’s future backcourt, McDonald notes.

And-Ones: 2020 Draft, Powell, Trade Market, Reed

A trio of guards — Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and North Carolina’s Cole Anthony — top The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie’s latest draft board. Another guard, 18-year-old Killian Hayes, made the biggest move among the top 20 prospects. Hayes, who is playing in Europe, jumped from No. 16 to No. 7.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The Nuggets’ Malik Beasley, the Spurs’ Lonnie Walker and the Celtics’ Robert Williams are among five buy-low trade targets for teams seeking to fortify their benches, according to ESPN’s Mike Schmitz.
  • Dwight Powell‘s season-ending Achilles injury was not only a major setback for the Mavericks but also Team Canada, Michael Grange of SportsNet Canada notes. Powell was expected to be a foundation piece for Canada’s Olympic push and his size, smarts, and athleticism will be hard to replace, according to Grange.
  • Veteran center Willie Reed has signed with the G League and returned to the Salt Lake City Stars, Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw tweets. Reed, 29, was playing in Greece but parted ways with Olympiacos earlier this month.

Western Notes: Jazz, Kings, Grizzlies, Spurs

There haven’t been a ton of roster moves made around the NBA since the regular season began, but the Jazz completed a surprising one this week, officially waiving forward Jeff Green on Tuesday, less than six months after signing him as a free agent. According to Tony Jones of The Athletic, the team loved Green’s professionalism, but wanted to open up minutes for Georges Niang, whose shooting is a threat off the bench.

While Niang might be the main beneficiary of Green’s departure, sources tell Jones that Utah is also very happy with two-way player Jarrell Brantley and views him as a rotation player at some point. Additionally, John Hollinger of The Athletic suggested on Monday that the Jazz may want to create more minutes for G League standout Juwan Morgan, who signed a standard contract with the club last month.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Kings had to get by without De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III for much of the season’s first two months. Now, with both players healthy, the challenge will be integrating Fox and Bagley while the team finds its identity, writes Jason Jones of The Athletic. “There’s some things as a group that we have to find our rhythm again,” head coach Luke Walton said over the weekend. “I believe in our group and we are going to get there, but in the meantime, the only way to do is to watch film and work harder. So that’s what we are going to do.”
  • When the Grizzlies played back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday last week, rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke appeared in both contests for the first time this season. Expect that to happen more often going forward, says David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • The Spurs have begun to see “positive steps” in the development of 2018 first-rounder Lonnie Walker, who has been playing more regular minutes lately, as Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News details. Head coach Gregg Popovich said Walker is still learning how to “be a pro” and play with his teammates, but praised the 21-year-old’s intelligence.

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Murray, Walker, Ingram

After being traded to the Grizzlies in a salary-dump deal over the summer, former No. 4 overall pick Josh Jackson had his 2020/21 rookie scale option turned down by his new team. However, Memphis isn’t giving up entirely on the 22-year-old, having sent him to the G League for an assignment with the Memphis Hustle to start the season. As David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal relays, Jackson is hoping the change of scenery will benefit him.

“I think this year we have a lot more structure (with the Grizzlies) as opposed to what we did in Phoenix,” Jackson said. “The team was just a little bit too young. And with that comes a lot of things that you don’t know, that you have to learn. Here I feel like we’ve got great guys in place as far as a coaching staff and training staff to kind of coach us a little bit more as to how to be a pro.”

The G League regular season will get underway a week from today, on November 8. Presumably, the Grizzlies plan on having Jackson stay with the Hustle through that date to ensure he’ll play regular minutes in live games. However, the team hasn’t publicly offered many specifics about its plan for the former Sun. And, as Cobb details, Jackson is somewhat in the dark as well.

“As of now, no specific benchmarks,” the Grizzlies forward said. “No timeline, either, of when or if I’ll be called up. Right now, it’s just all about putting in the work, getting better. That’s all I’m focusing on.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Coming off his torn ACL, newly-extended Spurs guard Dejounte Murray has been on a minutes restriction, playing between 22-24 minutes in each of the team’s four games so far. He’s looking forward to having that restriction lifted at some point, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link).I love to hoop. I love to compete, so it is frustrating,” Murray said. “But like I said, it has nothing to do with me trusting them and trusting their plan or whatever they got for me. But, yeah, I am frustrated. I think about it a lot. I’m not going to lie.”
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was critical of second-year guard Lonnie Walker after Thursday’s loss, Orsborn tweets. I expect better effort, better awareness and a better attempt to take advantage of the minutes that he gets,” Popovich said of the 2018 first-rounder. “I thought he was non-competitive.”
  • In a conversation with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram spoke about his contract situation, being the subject of trade rumors last season, his reaction to being dealt, and his first impressions of New Orleans, among other topics.

Spurs Exercise 2020/21 Options On White, Walker

The Spurs have picked up their 2020/21 rookie scale team options on guards Derrick White and Lonnie Walker, according to RealGM’s transactions log. The moves ensure that White’s $3,516,284 cap hit and Walker’s $2,892,000 cap hit are officially guaranteed for the ’20/21 season.

White, 25, enjoyed a modest breakout season for the Spurs in 2018/19, averaging 9.9 PPG, 3.9 APG, and 3.7 RPG in 67 games (55 starts) for the club. He parlayed that regular season performance into a couple impressive playoff showings and a spot on Team USA’s 2019 World Cup roster.

White is entering the third year of his rookie contract, so the option picked up by the Spurs is for his fourth season. He’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason, and if he doesn’t sign a new deal at that point, he’d be on track for restricted free agency in 2021.

As for Walker, the 20-year-old is entering just his second NBA season, so San Antonio exercised his third-year option. The team will be faced with a decision on his fourth-year option for 2021/22 next October.

The 18th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Walker was limited to just 17 games in his rookie season due in part to a knee injury that sidelined him to start the year. The former Miami standout had an impressive Summer League this July, averaging 24.8 PPG on 55.1% shooting in four games as he began to make his case for a regular rotation role in 2019/20.

You can track all of this year’s decisions on 2020/21 rookie scale options right here.