Luka Doncic

Western Notes: Howard, Davis, Mitchell, Doncic, Dragic, Beverley

Dwight Howard tried to downplay his altercation with Anthony Davis during the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix on Friday night, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The two big man had a verbal exchange on the bench during the second quarter.

“We squashed it right then and there,” Howard said. “We just had a disagreement about something that was on the floor. We’re both very passionate about winning.”

Davis said of the spat, “it’s over with.” Howard is one of many Lakers bench players signed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Kings surprised a lot of people when they drafted a guard, Davion Mitchell, in the lottery for the second straight year, but Mitchell is already making an impression with his ball-hawking defense, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets. Swingman Buddy Hield has high praise for the rookie. “I think he’s the best on-ball defender in the league,” he said. “The way he hawks the ball is different. His lateral movement. The way he closes out is different. It’s just a special gift he has.”
  • The Mavericks will play Toronto on Saturday in a matchup of Luka Doncic and Goran Dragic at the point. The Slovenian national team members could soon join forces in the NBA, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News notes. There were rumors swirling during the offseason after Dragic was traded to the Raptors that he could eventually wind up in Dallas. That could happen closer to the trade deadline or perhaps next summer, when Dragic becomes a free agent.
  • Patrick Beverley will make his Timberwolves debut on Saturday after serving a one-game league suspension. He’s says his impact on the young Minnesota roster will go beyond the stat sheet, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “Born leader, came natural for me since I was a kid, very outspoken,” Beverley said. “Even some of my ex-Clippers guards, teammates [Thursday] night after their loss to Golden State, they called me and we chopped it up a little bit. I always have a good positive spirit, positive energy. That just kind of rubs off on people every night.”

Southwest Notes: Kidd, Gillespie, Valanciunas, Pelicans Vaccinations

The Mavericks’ Jason Kidd calls himself a “different coach” than the one who flamed out in Brooklyn and Milwaukee, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes. Kidd says he’s more relaxed and a better communicator than he was in his previous stops. He also knows a big part of his current job is to get the best out of franchise player Luka Doncic.

“I think there’s trust and respect from Day 1, because I played that position,” Kidd said. “I am not as good as he is, but I can help him. My job is to help him. He’s 22 years old, he has been a pro for a long time, but again I am trying to make the game as easy as possible for him.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Former Raptors big man Freddie Gillespie is rejoining the Grizzlies’ G League team, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. The Raptors waived Gillespie 10 days ago. Gillespie, who went undrafted out of Baylor in 2020, averaged a double-double (10.5 PPG, 10.3 RPG) with 2.3 BPG in 15 games (27.8 MPG) for the Memphis Hustle in the G League’s Orlando bubble.
  • Jonas Valanciunas got the maximum amount possible in his extension with the Pelicans and it also includes a trade kicker, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets. He’ll receive $14.7MM next season and $15.435MM in 2023/24 with no options or incentives. The trade bonus is the lesser of $1MM or 15%.
  • A couple of the Pelicans are not fully vaccinated but that will change soon, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets. Coach Willie Green says every player has received at least one shot and they will be fully vaccinated in a week or two when two players receive their second dose.

Former Mavs Exec Voulgaris Discusses Tension With Nelson, Exit From Team

Appearing on the ESPN Daily podcast with Pablo Torre, former Mavericks executive Haralabos Voulgaris publicly addressed for the first time his exit from the franchise and reports of discord between him and longtime head of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, who also left the team this offseason.

A report from The Athletic in June stated that Voulgaris had either initiated or approved nearly all of the Mavs’ roster moves for the last two seasons and suggested his influence was virtually on par with Nelson’s. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who worked with Voulgaris in the past and brought him aboard in 2018 as the team’s director of quantitative research and development, disputed The Athletic’s portrayal of how much power the executive had. However, Voulgaris’ abrasive personality was reportedly a source of some tension in the front office and he was said to have a “strained” relationship with star guard Luka Doncic.

As Tim MacMahon of ESPN details, Voulgaris told Torre the Mavericks’ basketball operations department was a “very gossipy workplace” and likened the team’s dysfunction to “high school drama.” Although he denied some details from The Athletic’s report – including that he dictated lineups and rotations to then-coach Rick Carlisle – he didn’t challenge others.

Voulgaris told Torre that he came to believe Nelson “didn’t want me around,” adding that other people in the front office may have felt threatened by his close relationship with Cuban.

“I didn’t have a working relationship with other people in the front office at all, to the point where it was awkward,” Voulgaris said. “But that’s kind of the M.O. of the way that front office was run — like, surround yourself with people who are not threats. You don’t become an NBA general manager and hold on to your job for that long unless you are very, very good at keeping your job.

“… I think Mark had this idea that maybe we (Voulgaris and Nelson) could work together, the stuff that he’s good at I might be deficient at and vice versa,” Voulgaris continued. “(Nelson is) more of a, kind of like a wheeler-dealer, like when you shake his hands, you want to make sure your rings are still there. Not in a bad way, but he’s that guy. He’s a deal-maker. He’s a broker. My working relationship with Donnie Nelson was seeing him every once in a while and getting a fist bump. That was it. Whether it was a fist-bump text message or a fist bump in person, that was his thing. He was very nice and cordial to my face, (but) I think threatened by me.”

Voulgaris also confirmed The Athletic’s claim that his relationship with Doncic worsened after he left his courtside seat with the Mavericks down 10 points and under a minute left in a game in April. Doncic viewed it as a sign of Voulgaris quitting on the team, while the executive considered it a non-issue and was upset that others in the organization didn’t back him up at all.

“You have a great relationship with this player. Why are you not telling him that I didn’t quit on the team?” Voulgaris said, referring to one of the Mavs’ assistant coaches, possibly Jamahl Mosley. “I just went to my desk to look at something on my computer or got up because I normally get up. There are plenty of other instances of me getting up in the middle of the game. … It was such a non-event that I didn’t think it was a big deal, and the fact that it became a big deal led me to believe that this is just not worth it to me.”

Voulgaris wasn’t fired by the Mavs, and didn’t step down from his role either — his contract simply expired and the two sides didn’t work out a new deal. While the franchise may have been seeking a fresh start following the hiring of Nico Harrison to replace Nelson, Voulgaris made it clear that he also felt his time in Dallas had run its course.

“If I’m distracting that f—ing guy (Doncic), I don’t need to be around,” Voulgaris said. “Whatever the case may be, no matter how I see it, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. He is the fulcrum of the team. So I was like, ‘Cool.’ Plus, I was trying to find a way out of this job to begin with.”

Southwest Notes: Jackson, Nwaba, Zion, Luka

The lucrative four-year, $105MM rookie extension that power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. signed this week with the Grizzlies is very much predicated on his ceiling. Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal details why he considers the agreement mutually beneficial to both sides in a new piece. A big reason: the contract will decrease in value every season once it kicks in, which will give Memphis room to further bolster the roster.

“I’m locked in, I’m blessed, I’m happy I get to be here and be around people I love,” the 6’11” big man said of the deal and his chemistry in Memphis. “It’s a good experience.”

Due to Jackson’s extensive injury history, the agreement contains injury protection related to his left knee, but it only applies to the last year of the deal (for 2025/26), a source informed John Hollinger of The Athletic.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Following two injury-plagued years, Rockets swingman David Nwaba is relishing his good health heading into the 2021/22 season, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Nwaba suffered an Achilles injury in December 2019, and then a right wrist injury in February of this year that ultimately required surgery. “Hopefully, just take care of my body for the length of this season,” Nwaba said of his hopes for the year. “I think we’ve had a lot of improvements on the defensive end.” All told, the 28-year-old has been healthy for just 50 of his past 144 games with Brooklyn and Houston.
  • Thanks to an uncertain recovery timeline for the injured foot of All-Star power forward Zion Williamson, the Pelicans have already proved frustrating to fans ahead of the 2021/22 season, opines Scott Kushner of the NOLA.com. Williamson and team president David Griffin made it seem like the former No. 1 pick could be back in time for the beginning of the year, but it appears that the team was either too hopeful or being deliberately disingenuous, Kushner says.
  • Mavericks All-Star point guard Luka Doncic expressed his excitement about the club’s development ahead of the 2021/22 season, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. “I think we’re playing great, sharing the ball,” Doncic said of the team’s 4-0 preseason showing. “Especially on the defensive end, we’ve been way better, and I think that’s the key for us.” 

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Porzingis, Spurs, Grizzlies, Rockets

Asked by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith during an appearance on First Take about rumors that there has been some friction between Mavericks teammates Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, head coach Jason Kidd dismissed the idea that there are any issues between the team’s two leading scorers (video link).

“I think we all heard in the NBA circle that there was tension between the two, but I would have to say that’s fake news,” Kidd told Smith. “… There were some other issues that I thought they did a great job of keeping in-house that had nothing to do with those two.

“I’m excited, I think the relationship between the two of them is at a high level. They’re basketball players who want to compete and who want to win. For a coach, I have to put them in that position to be successful. But I think their relationship is great.”

Smith didn’t press Kidd on what those “other issues” in Dallas were that didn’t involve Doncic or Porzingis, but it’s possible the Mavs’ new head coach is referring to some of the conflicts that were outlined in a report from The Athletic back in June. Presumably, given the way the front office and coaching staff were overhauled this summer, the franchise believes those issues are in the rear-view now.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

NBA GMs Like Heat’s Offseason Moves, Nets’ Title Chances

Nearly half of the NBA’s general managers voted for the Heat as the team that had the best 2021 offseason, John Schuhmann of NBA.com writes in his annual survey of the league’s GMs. Miami got 14 of 30 possible votes, while the Lakers picked up five votes. The Nets, Rockets, and Wizards were the other teams picked by multiple GMs as having the best offseason.

The Heat’s acquisition of Kyle Lowry via sign-and-trade helped tip the scales in their favor. Asked which offseason player acquisition will make the biggest impact for his new team this season, GMs overwhelmingly chose Lowry — he received 23 of 30 votes. New Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook was the only other player to get multiple votes (five).

Although the Heat and Lakers received high marks from rival GMs for their work over the summer, neither club is considered the title favorite entering the 2021/22 season. That honor belongs to the Nets, who earned 22 votes from GMs for the team that will win the 2022 Finals. The Lakers (five) and Bucks (three) were the only other teams to receive any votes.

Here are a few more of the most interesting responses from Schuhmann’s GM survey, which is worth checking out in full:

  • The Trail Blazers‘ trade for Larry Nance Jr. received the most votes (28%) for the most underrated acquisition of the offseason, with the Nets‘ signing of Patty Mills (17%) and the Wizards‘ addition of Spencer Dinwiddie (14%) also receiving support in that category.
  • The NBA’s GMs view Rockets guard Jalen Green (47%) and Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (40%) as the best bets to win Rookie of the Year, but voted Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley as the rookie who will be the best player in five years. Mobley (33%) narrowly edged out Cunningham (30%) and Green (23%) in that category.
  • The GMs voted the Magic‘s selection of Jalen Suggs at No. 5 (23%) and the Rockets‘ pick of Alperen Sengun at No. 16 (20%) as the biggest steals of the 2021 draft.
  • The Bulls (27%) are considered the best bet to be the most improved team in 2021/22, while Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (17%) received the most support as the top breakout candidate.
  • Following their run to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks (50%) were overwhelmingly voted as the team with the best young core. The Rockets received three votes, while no other team got more than two.
  • Only two players received multiple votes when GMs were asked which player they’d want to start a franchise with: Mavericks star Luka Doncic (43%) barely beat out Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (40%).

Porzingis Reportedly Wanted Trade Prior To Coaching Change

At the end of a disappointing 2020/21 season, Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis would have liked to be traded, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said during an appearance on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective podcast (hat tip to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). However, according to MacMahon, Porzingis is “coming back optimistic” following a healthy summer and Dallas’ hiring of Jason Kidd as head coach.

“At the end of last year, Porzingis wanted to be traded. My understanding is he feels like he has a fresh start with the coaching change,” MacMahon said, per Feldman. “He’s had the healthy offseason. He has been able to work, not just on his game, but on his body some more. He’s kind of coming back with a refreshed feel.”

Even if the Mavs hadn’t made a coaching change in the spring, MacMahon doesn’t think Porzingis would have come out and asked the team to trade him, recognizing the poor optics of such a move following his up-and-down season. However, it’s not hard to understand why he was frustrated by his role following a first-round playoff loss in which he averaged just 13.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG in seven games (33.3 MPG) and often found himself standing in the corner on offense.

According to MacMahon, Porzingis felt more like an afterthought than a co-star for Luka Doncic under former head coach Rick Carlisle. Kidd visited Porzingis in Latvia over the summer – which the 26-year-old said on Monday was “huge for me” (Twitter link via Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News) – and envisions a more expansive role for the former Knick.

“The simple way to put it is, I want KP to be a basketball player,” Kidd said, adding that he expects Porzingis to start at power forward. “There’s no limitations on just shooting threes. Being able to roll, to be able to shoot the mid-range, to be able to put the ball on the floor — I want him to be who he is, and that’s a basketball player and not just be limited to shooting threes or crashing from the corner. I want him to feel comfortable on the floor in any spot. I think he’s a weapon. He shoots the ball too well not to be able to shoot mid-range shots.”

The Mavs are optimistic that a healthy offseason for Porzingis – who has a history of knee and leg injuries and missed 29 games last season – will position him for a nice bounce-back year in 2021/22, writes MacMahon.

“I think he’s in way better shape this year, especially mentally,” Doncic said of his teammate on Monday. “You can see him having a good time when we’re playing pickup, and I think he’s going to have a great season this year.”

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Kidd, Forbes, Celtics, Grizzlies

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic recently praised new head coach Jason Kidd, calling the chance to play for the 12-time All-Star an “excellent opportunity,” as relayed by BasketNews.com.

“I think he’s an excellent coach who also knows a lot about how to play basketball and how to lead a team,” Doncic said. “It is an excellent opportunity for me to grow and I think it will help me a lot.”

The 22-year-old Doncic is coming off yet another impressive season, averaging 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game. Doncic also expressed confidence that the Mavericks, led by the likes of himself, Kristaps Porzingis, and Tim Hardaway Jr., have an opportunity to compete for a championship in 2021/22.

“As I say, that is my goal and I believe that you can always fight,” he explained. “We’ll see how the season goes, but in my opinion we can be there, fighting for everything. I do not know if we need one or two players. We first have to start playing and then we will see what happens.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Spurs guard Bryn Forbes has hired Octagon for his new representation, the agency announced on social media (Twitter link). Forbes signed with San Antonio last month after spending the 2020/21 season with the NBA champion Bucks. Prior to joining Milwaukee, the 28-year-old sharpshooter played his first four seasons with San Antonio, appearing in 261 games. He was previously represented by Excel Sports Management.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider link) rates the CelticsGrizzlies trade featuring Kris Dunn, Carsen Edwards and Juan Hernangomez, giving Boston a grade of B and Memphis a C. As we previously relayed, Boston is set to trade Dunn, Edwards and a 2026 second-round pick swap to Memphis in exchange for Hernangomez.
  • In case you missed it, the Spurs decided to waive 25-year-old forward Chandler Hutchison this weekend. San Antonio acquired Hutchison as part of a five-team August trade. He appeared in 25 contests with the Bulls and Wizards last season, averaging 5.7 points and 18.2 minutes per contest.

Southwest Notes: Z. Collins, Grizzlies, Doncic, Pelicans

Zach Collins‘ new three-year deal with the Spurs, reported to be worth $22MM, will technically come in at $22.05MM, but a significant chunk of the deal is non-guaranteed, reports ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

According to Marks, Collins will earn a fully guaranteed $7MM salary in 2021/22, but only half of his $7.35MM salary in ’22/23 is guaranteed and his $7.7MM cap hit for ’23/24 is fully non-guaranteed.

Collins, who has undergone multiple foot surgeries during the last two seasons and has been limited to 11 total games during that time, is assured of receiving at least $10.675M on his new contract. However, if he continues to battle health problems, the Spurs could cut ties as early as next summer without a major financial hit.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • In a look at the Grizzlies‘ roster situation, Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian notes that it remains unclear what the team’s plan is for Eric Bledsoe. When Memphis first agreed to its trade with New Orleans in July, a report indicated that Bledsoe likely wouldn’t play for the Grizzlies, but the veteran guard remains on the roster for the time being.
  • Appearing at Summer League in Las Vegas after returning from Slovenia, new Mavericks president of basketball operations Nico Harrison said the front office’s trip to Luka Doncic‘s home country was “bigger than just a big contract” and was about showing “respect” to the team’s franchise player. Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News has the story.
  • Exploring the NBA’s investigation into the Bulls’ and Heat’s sign-and-trade acquisitions of Lonzo Ball and Kyle Lowry, respectively, veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein suggests the Pelicans and Raptors may not face any penalties if last year’s Bogdan Bogdanovic case is any indication — Milwaukee was fined and docked a draft pick, but Sacramento wasn’t disciplined. While Stein may be right, I think the Pelicans have reason to be concerned. If the league’s focus is on sign-and-trade acquisitions completed suspiciously quickly, it’s worth noting that New Orleans received Garrett Temple via sign-and-trade as part of the Ball deal.

Western Notes: Ingles, Bogdanovic, O’Neale, Conley, Gay, Adelman, Doncic

The Jazz are well above the luxury tax line after re-signing Mike Conley and adding Rudy Gay in free agency but they don’t plan on dumping any of their mid-salaried players to ease the burden, Zach Lowe of ESPN reports. Lowe names Joe Ingles ($12.4MM), Bojan Bogdanovic ($18.7MM) and Royce O’Neale ($8.8MM) as the type of players that the Jazz could look to dump if they wanted to get below the tax line or reduce the bill. There’s no indication any of them are going anywhere anytime soon.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Conley played a role in convincing Gay to leave the Spurs for the Jazz in free agency, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News writes. Conley said the front office urged him to recruit his former Memphis teammate. “I’ve done it little bit (before) but not at this capacity,” Conley said. “I was like putting babies down for bed and having to drop them and go take a call because I’m trying to make sure we lock up a guy like Rudy. … I was really locked in on that and it was fun.”
  • David Adelman will be the lead assistant for the Nuggets, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Jordi Fernandez will be the second assistant under Michael Malone while Popeye Jones, whose addition to the staff was previously reported, will be the third assistant on Malone’s bench.
  • Luka Doncic‘s new contract extension includes a 15% trade kicker, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. However, the trade bonus would only kick in if the cap rose significantly in the future, since a trade bonus can’t increase a player’s salary beyond the maximum and the All-NBA guard has already qualified for a higher max salary than he’d typically be eligible for. Doncic’s five-year, $207MM extension with the Mavericks became official on Tuesday.