Lucas Nogueira

Atlantic Notes: Bird, Nogueira, Raptors, Sixers

After barely playing for the Celtics this season, two-way player Jabari Bird has averaged 22.8 MPG in Boston’s last two games, posting 12.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 2.5 APG while shooting 11-of-15 from the field. Despite his solid play lately, Bird won’t be postseason-eligible for the Celtics unless the team converts his two-way contract into a standard deal. And to do that, the C’s would have to waive one of their 15 players with guaranteed contracts.

There are no obvious expendable pieces on the Celtics’ roster, so the idea of Bird joining the team for the postseason may be a long shot. For his part, the rookie tells A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston that he’s focused on playing hard during the regular season and “trying to control what I can control.” Brad Stevens also deferred on the topic of Bird becoming playoff-eligible, but had praise for the youngster.

“Those aren’t my discussions or my job,” the Celtics head coach said of Bird’s contract situation. “But at the end of the day, I think he is playing well. He’s doing some good things. I thought offensively he was pretty good, especially early. He’s done a good job in the last couple of games and will probably play some of the next two.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Raptors center Lucas Nogueira will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, but a qualifying offer “seems unlikely,” writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. That’s probably a reflection of Toronto’s cap situation and depth chart rather than an indication of how much the team likes Nogueira. He falls behind Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl at center for the Raptors, who also sometimes use Serge Ibaka at the five.
  • Much has been made of the Raptors‘ “culture reset” within the last year, but what exactly did that culture reset consist of? Josh Lewenberg of attempts to pull back the curtain, writing that the culture change in Toronto isn’t just about the club’s reworked offense. “The culture change is about the whole organization. It’s not about offense and defense,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “Believe me, when [president Masai Ujiri] mentioned that, it was about all of us. Everything we do. From scouting, training, how we go about our day in the front office, it’s included in that.”
  • The Sixers are the NBA’s hottest team right now, but there are still questions about how the club will look in the playoffs. Sarah Todd of explores the potential postseason roles for Markelle Fultz and T.J. McConnell, while David Murphy of wonders how much responsibility – and how many minutes – Ben Simmons will be asked to handle.

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Toronto Raptors

Last summer, the Raptors made the decision to commit to the core that powered them to four consecutive playoff berths. As a result, the organization is somewhat financially handcuffed for the foreseeable future.

Given such financial constraints – the team already has $126MM on its books for 2018/19 – Toronto will need continue to rely heavily on the starters that the roster has been built around.

That said, a conscious decision to speed up the game has helped the team show signs of growth in other areas, and in addition to an impressive starting five, the Raps suddenly boast one of the more intriguing second units in the league.

While many of Toronto’s key rotation players are under team control through 2018/19 and beyond, not all of them are, and retaining each and every one of them may prove difficult.

Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors verticalFred VanVleet, PG, 24 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $1.8MM deal in 2016
The undrafted guard out of Wichita State has proved to be one of the driving factors behind Toronto’s impressive second unit. His ability to handle the offense and knock down threes has helped facilitate the Raps’ transition from an iso-heavy squad to one that swings the ball and gets everybody involved. While VanVleet may have been the team’s No. 3 point guard to start the season, early returns from 2017/18 show that there is plenty of room in the rotation for both VanVleet and Delon Wright. For tax reasons, don’t expect the Raps to break the bank for the restricted free agent, but it’s a safe bet that the sharpshooter will land a bigger deal than his first NBA contract. Even if that doesn’t happen in Toronto.

Bruno Caboclo, SF, 22 (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $7MM deal in 2014
Toronto’s famously raw project hasn’t quite shown the growth that members of the team’s front office hoped they’d see when they inexplicably drafted him with their 2014 first-round pick. Caboclo remains as tantalizing a physical prospect as any, but hasn’t even reached a point where he can thrive in the G League on a consistent basis. There may still be some glimmer of promise in the 22-year-old out of Brazil, but again, the Raps may not want to venture further into luxury tax territory to chase it.

Lucas Nogueira, C, 25 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $8.5MM deal in 2014
While he may have a ceiling as a high-energy reserve, Nogueira’s length and athleticism can be a plus for team’s looking to add cheap frontcourt depth. Nogueira will be a restricted free agent in the summer and could well find a team interested in taking a flyer on him. In that scenario, it won’t be hard for opposing teams to outbid the Raptors, especially considering that they’ve had success with Jakob Poeltl serving as the team’s primary backup big.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Fultz, Dunn, Blazers, J. Hernangomez

While we at Hoops Rumors tend to avoid extensively covering day-to-day injuries and other minor ailments, we do make an effort to pass along word of slightly longer-term injuries that could have an impact on a team’s rotation or roster.

Markelle Fultz‘ shoulder issue doesn’t fit that bill yet, but it sounds like it might at some point. As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports, agent Raymond Brothers confirmed that Fultz has had fluid drained from his right shoulder and plans to visit a specialist soon.

“He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball,” Brothers said of his client. “He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent.”

Considering how cautious the Sixers have been in recent years with injuries, it’s somewhat surprising that Fultz is playing at all for the team to start the season. However, according to Wojnarowski, no decision has been made yet for this year’s first overall pick to miss games. The 76ers are weighing their options, says Sarah Todd of

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Kris Dunn, who has yet to make his debut for the Bulls, will come off the bench when he returns to the court, head coach Fred Hoiberg said today (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune). Dunn is expected to play his first game for Chicago on either Thursday or Saturday.
  • Entering a contract year, Noah Vonleh is targeting a November 1 return from shoulder surgery, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. That would give the Trail Blazers a fully healthy NBA roster, though two-way player C.J. Wilcox will be sidelined for a while — the team announced in a press release that Wilcox is expected to miss six to eight weeks after undergoing a successful arthroscopy on his right knee.
  • Nuggets forward Juan Hernangomez has been diagnosed with mononucleosis, the team confirmed on Tuesday in a press release. There’s no specific timeline for Hernangomez’ return yet, but according to the Nuggets, he didn’t travel with the club on its current four-game road trip.
  • Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, frustrated by an ankle injury, is hoping to rejoin the club on its current six-game road trip, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. In the meantime, Lucas Nogueira, who is in a contract year, will enjoy an increased role, Smith notes in a separate article.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Raptors, Oakley, Lin

Sixers center Joel Embiid claims he’s “more surprised than everybody else” how well this season has gone after he was sidelined two seasons by foot injuries. During the interview with ESPN Radio, Embiid admits he entertained thoughts of retiring during those lost seasons. “I was such in a dark place, I wanted to quit basketball,” Embiid said.  “I just wanted to go back home and just leave everything behind.” Embiid pines for the Rookie of the Year award, saying it would be validation for the sacrifices he made to get back on the court. He’s hopeful of returning soon after the All-Star break after missing the last 11 games with what he describes as a left knee bone bruise, though he reportedly has a partial meniscus tear.

In other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • The  Raptors do not want to part with young assets now that they’ve made a big move by acquiring power forward Serge Ibaka, according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. Toronto would prefer to hold onto Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira, Pascal Siakam, Norm Powell and Fred VanVleet, Smith continues. They could still package Jared Sullinger‘s expiring contract, a 2017 first-rounder and one of their backup point guards to make another move, Smith adds.
  • Charles Oakley doubts his issues with Knicks owner James Dolan will ever be resolved, Newsday’s Jim Baumbach relays via a Sports Illustrated interview. Despite a meeting with commissioner Adam Silver and Dolan earlier this week, Oakley is still fuming over his forcible removal from Madison Square Garden and arrest on February 8th.  “My life is going to change a lot because it’s just like getting a DUI sometime or going to jail for murder,” he told SI. “It’s something on my record. If you Google my name, it’s going to come up. And that hurts.”
  • Nets point guard Jeremy Lin is expected to return to action immediately after the All-Star break, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. Lin practiced on Tuesday without any setbacks, according to Lin’s season has been wrecked by hamstring woes. Signed to a three-year, $36MM contract last summer to be the team’s No. 1 point guard, Lin has appeared in just 12 games.

Raptors Notes: Ibaka, Ujiri, Biyombo, Powell

Power forward Serge Ibaka, who was acquired Tuesday in a trade with the Magic, won’t be making his Raptors debut tonight, the team announced (Twitter link). Ibaka passed his physical and was available for the game, but Michael Grange of Rogers SportsNet tweets that Toronto coach Dwane Casey decided to hold him out after today’s walkthrough, citing a hectic past 36 hours. Ibaka’s first game in a Raptors uniform will take place after the All-Star break on February 24th.

There’s more news out of Toronto:

  • The Ibaka deal raises the stakes for the Raptors, Grange writes in a full story. Ibaka fills an obvious need for Toronto and immediately becomes the organization’s most experienced postseason player. Grange calls it a risk-free trade and notes that Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira have made most of the starts at power forward this season after having a combined seven career starts coming into this year. “I think our team needed a boost, to be honest,” said team president Masai Ujiri“and we’re at that point where I think everybody knows, it’s not rocket science, that [a starting power forward] was a missing link on our team.”
  • Ibaka said he heard great things about Toronto from former Magic teammate Bismack Biyombo long before the trade took place, relays Josh Lewenburg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Biyombo spent last season with the Raptors before signing with Orlando in July. “He always told me stories,” Ibaka said. “… He loves it here.”
  • Second-year shooting guard Norman Powell can expect more playing time with Ross gone, according to Lewenburg (Twitter link). However, Casey wants Powell to concentrate more on defense and less on shooting than Ross did. Powell is averaging about 17 minutes and 7.2 points through 52 games.

Atlantic Notes: McConnell, Rose, Nogueira

The Sixers have rejected a trade offer from the Cavaliers that would have sent starting point guard T.J. McConnell to the defending champions, says Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The proposed Philly-bound package was said to have included Jordan McRae.

McConnell has become a significant part of the Sixers’ rotation of late, averaging 7.5 points and 8.9 assists per game in January. The Cavs are in the market for a backup point guard, at least according to LeBron James, so it’s not surprising to hear that they’ve inquired about the 24-year-old sophomore.

Under contract for just $800K, McConnell has quickly become one of the best bargains in the NBA. His role in the Sixers’ recent success — the team has won 10 of their past 14 — is one of the major reasons why he’s become a possible trade target ahead of the February 23 trade deadline.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • After a healthy first few months of the season, Derrick Rose has come up limping. The point guard sprained his ankle Friday night and has been wearing a protective walking boot. According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek is doubtful he’ll see the guard return before Tuesday.
  • Though they lost Bismack Biyombo to free agency over the summer, the Raptors have a suitable replacement in Lucas Nogueira, says Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun. Nogueira rivals Biyombo in terms of rim protection, Ganter says, but their playing styles deviate from there. Nogueira’s offensive awareness and soft hands are traits Biyombo never displayed in Toronto.
  • The fact that the Celtics need to improve their rebounding is not lost on general manager Danny Ainge, says A. Sherrod Blakeley of CSN New England. “I knew going into the year that rebounding would be an issue for us,” Ainge said. The reporter adds that Ainge wasn’t ready to start discussing possible trade scenarios, however.

Atlantic Notes: Turner, Wright, Raptors, Sixers

Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner credits Celtics coach Brad Stevens with turning his career around, relays Josue Pavon of Turner, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, enjoyed limited NBA success before coming to Boston in 2014. He spent two years playing under Stevens before signing a four-year, $70MM deal with Portland. “He helped me figure out myself and a lot of guys in the locker room’s career, re-energized it,” Turner said of Stevens. “I just always thought he was a great, classy person. A sincere individual. Never thought he was too big and he does a lot of great things but I really appreciate the friendship I was able to form with him and get to know what type of guy he is. Very special person, special coach. It makes a lot of sense why he’s had so much success throughout his career because he’s a good individual and his mentality stuff has definitely helped me learn how to be a pro and how to see bigger picture, point of views.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors point guard Delon Wright is active for the first time this season, according to a tweet from the team. He had surgery in August to fix a labral tear in his right shoulder. Wright was the 20th pick in the 2015 draft, but got into just 27 games with Toronto last season, spending most of the year in the D-League.
  • With Wright and power forward Jared Sullinger both back on the court, the Raptors are almost completely healthy for the first time this season, notes Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto SunPatrick Patterson and Lucas Nogueira were both able to participate in today’s practice and should be able to play soon. Patterson has missed nine of the last 11 games with a sore knee. Nogueira went through the league’s concussion protocol after being hit in the face Tuesday.
  • The Sixers‘ recent success comes from having a roster of players who are trying to prove they belong in the league, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer“We all have that similar story,” Nik Stauskas said. “We all have something to prove. We all have the same goal. That kind of makes coming together a little bit easier.”

Atlantic Notes: Sullinger, Wright, Horford, Hollis-Jefferson

Power forward Jared Sullinger and point guard Delon Wright have both been cleared to practice, according to a tweet from the Raptors. Sullinger, who signed with Toronto over the summer, was hurt in the team’s first preseason game when his left foot was stepped on. He had surgery in October and was given a two- to three-month timetable to return. Wright has been out of action since August, when he had surgery to fix a labral tear in his right shoulder. The 20th pick in the 2015 draft, Wright spent much of his rookie season in the D-League and appeared in just 27 games for the Raptors.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri told SportsNet the team got “tons of calls” last week in the wake of the Kyle Korver deal between the Cavaliers and Hawks. Ujiri said teams were expecting a flood of trades after that one broke, but he plans to be cautious about making any moves. “There is a window with Kyle Lowry, DeMar [DeRozan] and DeMarre [Carroll] with those kind of guys in their prime and we will take advantage,” Ujiri said. “But we’re not making bad deals. It doesn’t help business, it doesn’t help your future. Trust me, if a deal is not made just know there was nothing on the table for us that would really enhance our team.”
  • Raptors center Lucas Nogueira credits lifestyle changes for his breakthrough third season, writes Gregory Strong of The National Post. Nogueira has become a regular part of Toronto’s rotation after playing just 35 games combined in his first two NBA seasons. Motivated by the birth of a baby daughter, Nogueira is spending more time in the gym, going to bed earlier and giving up alcohol. “The sky is the limit for the kid because he’s got a lot of God-given talent,” said coach Dwane Casey. “He just needs to make sure he continues to work at it, to seriously approach his job in that way because he’s a great kid.”
  • Al Horford‘s Celtics teammates are focused on giving the longtime Hawk a victory in his return to Atlanta tonight, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. Horford spent nine years with the Hawks before signing with Boston in July. “He’s level-headed no matter what,” said Isaiah Thomas. “He’s the calm one in this room. But at the same time you know those games are big. You think about it, you want to play well, you want to beat your former team. But that’s our job. We have to take care of business for him, make sure he plays well. And most important, get the win.”
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has improved under coach Kenny Atkinson’s system, but the Nets will still listen to offers for him, according to Zach Lowe of The second-year small forward is averaging 7.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a part-time starter, but Brooklyn is concerned about his shot as he is hitting just 38% from the field.

Atlantic Notes: Lowry, Nogueira, Anthony

Zach Lowe thinks that the Sixers will absolutely make a run at pending free agent Kyle Lowry this summer. The ESPN journalist spoke on his The Lowe Post podcast with Brian Windhorst Thursday, citing several reasons why the franchise could pursue the veteran Raptors point guard.

Lowry is from Philadelphia, Lowe mentions, and has played under ex-Raptors executive Bryan Colangelo previously. On top of that, the Sixers will have an exorbitant amount of cap space and could benefit from the services of a point guard should they ultimately decide to utilize Ben Simmons in ways other than as a traditional playmaker.

Worth noting is that Windhorst believes Cory Joseph to be a suitable replacement for the 30-year-old point guard while Lowe believes that such a drop off would be too much for the Raptors.

Also in the Atlantic Division:


Atlantic Notes: Nogueira, Young, Atkinson, Anthony

Lucas Nogueira may be able to fill the Raptors‘ hole at backup center left by the departure of Bismack Biyombo, writes Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet. Nogueira’s latest impressive performance came Saturday night with six points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals  in a win over the Knicks. The 7-footer is now averaging 8.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in four games. Nogueira says Biyombo appointed him as his successor when he signed with the Magic over the offseason. “During the summer [Biz] told me, ‘Lucas, your time to shine, go get it.’ I know Biz since I’m 15, playing in Spain against each other,” Nogueira said. “So we have a mutual respect for each other. It’s special, when he’s gone, he told me, ‘It’s your time, go get it.’ And I took it serious.”

There’s more this morning from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics shooting guard James Young had the best game of his NBA career with 12 points in 16 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Pacers, notes Chris Forsberg of Boston recently declined the fourth-year option on Young’s rookie contract and spent much of the summer trying to find a team willing to trade for him. Celtics coach Brad Stevens took note of Young’s effort. “He’s shot it at such a different level than he shot it two years ago when he got here, as far as accuracy in workouts, in practice, and everything else,” Stevens said. “He’s certainly always a capable shooter with a beautiful stroke, but he’s really really worked hard on becoming accurate.”
  • Through the season’s first nine games, the NetsKenny Atkinson has proven he can be successful as a head coach, contends Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily. The longtime assistant has Brooklyn playing far above expectations with a 4-5 record despite losing point guards Jeremy Lin, Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Whitehead to injuries. “It’s just been so mutually beneficial,” Brook Lopez said of Atkinson. “We definitely feed off each other and Kenny’s definitely instilled a lot of confidence within myself. It’s been a great two-way street in that regard. I think we’re continuing to learn about each other more and more.”
  • The Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony plans to diffuse the situation with referee Tony Brothers by staying quiet around him, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. After Anthony was tossed from Friday’s game, Anthony’s wife suggested on social media that Brothers has a vendetta against him. “It ain’t personal with me, on my end,” Anthony said. “I don’t have anything to say to him. He refs. I’ll play. I’ll keep my mouth shut next time.”