Luka Doncic

Pacific Notes: Russell, Evans, Kings, Vogel

As we’ve detailed before, the Timberwolves put on the full-court press in their efforts to recruit D’Angelo Russell during the 2019 free agent period, but the Warriors‘ maximum-salary offer and the opportunity to play alongside Stephen Curry ultimately swayed Russell to Golden State. Discussing that decision with Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report, Russell made it sound as if it didn’t take him long to choose the Dubs once his agent called him to inform him of the max offer.

“I’m like, ‘Why the f–k is you on the phone with me?!'” Russell said. “‘Tell them yes!'”

Of course, his first year in the Bay Area hasn’t played out like he’d hoped, with Curry joining Klay Thompson on the long-term injury list and the Warriors plummeting to the bottom of the Western Conference.

Russell has been linked to the Wolves again as of late, with Minnesota reportedly intensifying its efforts to trade for him. While a deal seems unlikely to happen before the deadline, D-Lo acknowledged that this has been something of a lost season for the Warriors, who are essentially evaluating their roster for 2020/21.

“This whole year is kind of a test of seeing what’s gonna fit, what’s gonna make sense for next year,” Russell told Sepkowitz. “It’s them kind of sitting back, seeing who I am as a teammate and a player, what I bring to the table.”

Here’s more out of the Pacific:

  • Warriors guard Jacob Evans has been diagnosed with a concussion and a broken nose after taking an elbow to the face on Tuesday, the club announced (Twitter link). It’s not clear how much time Evans will miss, but he’s currently in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will wear a protective mask when he returns, according to the Warriors.
  • The Kings passed on Luka Doncic in the 2018 draft due to concerns about his fit alongside De’Aaron Fox, a decision that some fans in Sacramento have had a hard time moving past, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Amick, former Kings coach Dave Joerger passive-aggressively joked to GM Vlade Divac midway through last season that he’d negotiated a trade with the Mavericks to land Doncic, to which Divac shot back: “Do I get their coach, too?”
  • In an interesting piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Arnovitz explores how the perception of Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has changed over the last several months. When Vogel was hired in the spring, he was viewed as a Plan C whose hiring was proof of the franchise’s dysfunction. However, he has helped right the ship in L.A., leading the team to a 33-8 first-half record.

Southwest Notes: Harden, Self, Ingram, Luka

After Russell Westbrook joined James Harden in the backcourt for the new-look 2019/20 Rockets, the team’s offense struggled with counters against half-court double team Harden traps from smart teams like the Nuggets, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko writes.

Iko details how coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden, Westbrook, and their Rockets teammates devised clever solutions to counter the traps. “We figured out a way it’s going to work for us,” wing Danuel House told Iko. “All we gotta do is be ready to knock … shots down or make the right reads. If we don’t have the shot, pass it or drive to get someone else a shot.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Kansas head coach Bill Self responded to chatter from ESPN’s Seth Greenberg and The Athletic’s Sam Amick and John Hollinger that he is being considered to replace Spurs coach Gregg Popovich when the five-time NBA champion eventually retires. “There’s absolutely zero truth to that,” Self said, according to The Kansas City Star’s Gary Bedore. “The thing that cracks me up about some media types is the more outlandish things you can say … what it was, was [Greenberg’s] ‘Bold Predictions for 2020 [segment].’ You grab something or throw something against the wall and hope something sticks.”
  • Pelicans star forward Brandon Ingram has been having a breakout season in New Orleans, averaging 25.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 3.8 APG this year. Andrew Lopez of ESPN takes a look at how Ingram, in the final season of his rookie contract, has carved out a place for himself on his new team. The 22-year-old, who will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2020, was just named the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week.
  • Clippers consultant Jerry West has very high praise for rising Mavericks star Luka DoncicKevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News reports. “One player has transformed them into a playoff team,” West said. “[Doncic] will be the best player Dallas has ever had… I have great respect for [Dirk] Nowitzki, but Dirk is not him.” West has won nine titles as a player and executive in a storied Hall-of-Fame career.

Pacific Notes: Chriss, Clippers Arena, Johnson, KCP

Warriors forward Marquese Chriss has been fined $35K for shoving Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic to the floor, according to an NBA press release. The amount of the fine was based in part on the fact that Chriss has been disciplined on several prior occasions for physical altercations on the court. The incident, for which Chriss was assessed a technical foul, occurred during the third quarter on Saturday.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers’ proposed arena will contribute to a “significant and unavoidable” increase in traffic, noise and pollutants, according to a draft environmental impact report, Jason Henry of the Orange County Register relays. The report found there will be a significant impact to intersections and freeways during most of the venue’s events, regardless of any improvements. The Clippers are hoping to construct a new arena that will open in 2024.
  • Tyler Johnson is the most likely player the Suns will deal before February’s trade deadline, Gina Mizell of The Athletic opines. Johnson’s $19.2MM expiring contract is the best trade asset the Suns have, Mizell notes. The 27-year-old combo guard has seen his playing time dry up, as he’s only appeared in four games this month.
  • Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has caught fire since being moved to the bench, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes. Caldwell-Pope, who holds an $8.49MM option on his contract for next season, has knocked down 11 of his last 15 3-point attempts. “It’s a credit to his mental toughness and character,” coach Frank Vogel said. “At times guys can go in a shell if they’re facing heavy criticism and he didn’t do that. He responded by remaining confident, being true to himself, believing in himself.”

Luka Doncic Expected To Return For Mavs

There is good news out of Dallas for Mavericks fans. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (Twitter link), the team is planning for Luka Doncic to make his return to the lineup against the Spurs tonight.

Doncic has been sidelined since December 14 with an ankle sprain. He’s missed four games – and most of a fifth – with the ailment.

In 25 games for the Mavericks this season, Doncic has been electric. He’s scoring 29.3 points per game, grabbing 9.6 rebounds and dishing out 8.9 assists. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden have a higher TPA this season despite Doncic’s time away from the court.

Injury Updates: LeBron, AD, Doncic, Hayward, Gordon

A handful of the NBA’s Christmas Day games have lost some of their luster due to injuries, but that shouldn’t be the case for the league’s marquee December 25 matchup. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lakers stars LeBron James (groin) and Anthony Davis (knee) went through an impromptu practice today and are expected to play on Wednesday vs. the Clippers. James and Davis had been listed as questionable.

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

  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic was a full participant in practice today, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Doncic’s status for Thursday’s game remains up in the air, but “things are looking better and better,” according to head coach Rick Carlisle.
  • As expected, Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has been listed as probable for the team’s Christmas Day game vs. Toronto. Hayward, who has missed 16 of Boston’s last 19 games, said today that he has been dealing with a nerve issue in his foot, which he believes is related to his ankle injury from two years ago. He has received three cortisone shots and feels “a lot better” after the most recent one, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston relays.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon, out since November 11 with a knee injury, may be targeting Sunday’s game for his return, says Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Feigen also explores the ripple effect that Gordon’s return will have on Houston’s rotation.
  • Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams has made good progress in his recovery from a shoulder injury and is hopeful he won’t miss much time, writes John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com.

Luka Doncic Sprains Ankle, May Miss Two Weeks

DECEMBER 15, 12:15pm: Doncic may be sidelined for a couple of weeks, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who states that Mavericks officials feel like they “dodged a bullet” with the injury. Doncic won’t make the trip to Milwaukee for tomorrow’s game and no further updates will be provided until Wednesday night, adds Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

DECEMBER 15, 8:19am: Doncic has been diagnosed with a moderate ankle sprain, a source tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

DECEMBER 14, 8:34pm: Mavericks star Luka Doncic left tonight’s game early after injuring his right ankle, but X-rays didn’t reveal any serious damage, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. He has been ruled out for the rest of the contest.

Doncic was diagnosed with a sprained right ankle, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link), and there has been no word from the team on how much more time he might miss. The injury occurred when Doncic rolled his ankle early in the first quarter.

The reigning Rookie of the Year has been outstanding in his second season, averaging 30.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 9.3 assists through 24 games and leading Dallas to a 17-7 start.

Pacific Notes: Bradley, Horton-Tucker, Evans, Kokoskov

Lakers guard Avery Bradley has been cleared for full contact, the team’s PR department tweets. Bradley started 10 games for the streaking Lakers, averaging 9.8 PPG, before suffering a lower right leg injury. He had a hairline fracture in a non-weight bearing bone. Bradley’s two-year, $9.8MM contract includes a $5MM player option.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker is trying to make the most of his G League appearances, he told David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders. Horton-Tucker is averaging 11.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 3.2 APG in 11 games with the South Bay Lakers. “I understand that I’m probably not going to get minutes with the Lakers right now,” Horton-Tucker said. “I feel like the G League has been great. It helps us get our reps in and it helps our careers get started.”
  • Warriors guard Jacob Evans is available to play on Monday after missing 21 games with an adductor strain, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Evans appeared in three games this season prior to the injury, averaging 6.0 PPG in 14.3 MPG. The former Cincinnati standout had his 2020/21 option picked up by Golden State in late October.
  • Former Suns coach and current Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov has no regrets about his draft input with Phoenix, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “I will tell you that I sleep peacefully and peaceably,” Kokoskov said to Index regarding his recommendation for the Suns’ No. 1 overall pick in 2018. Kokoskov is believed to have wanted Luka Doncic, whom Kokoskov coached on the Slovenian National Team, but Suns owner Robert Sarver pushed for Deandre Ayton, Feldman adds.

Southeast Notes: Smith, Young, Adebayo, Magic

Big man Jason Smith said he’s interested in returning to the Wizards if they want him, Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington relays. Smith made the comment on a Wizards Postgame Live broadcast. Washington’s frontcourt has been depleted by injuries, including a foot ailment to starting center Thomas Bryant that will sideline him for at least three weeks. The 33-year-old seven-footer played 20 games last season, including 12 with the Wizards.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Luka Doncic and Trae Young were essentially traded for each other on draft night 2018 but the Hawks guard doesn’t mind the comparisons, he said in an ESPN interview“We’re going to be compared throughout our whole careers,” Young said. “That’s fine, that’s what it’s going to be — it happened on draft night, and I don’t think it’ll stop until we’re both retired.”
  • The Heat want center Bam Adebayo to be more aggressive offensively, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Adebayo is averaging 14.2 PPG while averaging nine shot attempts and 5.7 free throw attempts.
  • Trading for DeMar DeRozan doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Magic, Josh Robbins of The Athletic opines. The Magic are reportedly interested in DeRozan but he can become an unrestricted free agent by declining his $27.7MM player option this summer, Robbins notes. Giving up a good young player like Aaron Gordon for DeRozan would be too risky unless the veteran guard made a commitment to stay with Orlando. A trade with the Warriors for guard D’Angelo Russell would be more feasible, though the Magic’s interest level in doing that is unknown, Robbins adds.

And-Ones: LaMelo, MVP Votes, Warriors, Fratello

LaMelo Ball doesn’t mind a little campaigning in his effort to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, writes Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. The buzz around Ball continues to grow as he strings together impressive performances in Australia’s National Basketball League. Over the weekend, he became the first NBL player since 2005 to post back-to-back triple doubles.

“Most definitely,” Ball responded when asked whether he thinks he should be the first pick. “I believe in myself and I’ve worked hard to get here. The other guys at the top of the draft, James [Wiseman] and Anthony [Edwards], are very talented too. But just in the way I believe in myself, I think I’m the top pick.”

Several scouts were in New Zealand recently to watch Ball go up against another projected lottery pick in R.J. Hampton. Many came away impressed, with one scout saying, “The fact that he’s putting up numbers like this in a league full of former NBA players is forcing every team to look at him as a potential No. 1 pick.” 

Ball addressed rumors that he might end his season early to protect his health for the draft. He insists he’s “committed to the whole season,” even though his team is off to a 3-9 start.

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

  • Roughly a quarter of the way into the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo is in good position to repeat as MVP, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. In a poll of 101 media members, Antetokounmpo received 48 first-place votes and was the only player listed on all the ballots. LeBron James (29 first-place votes), Luka Doncic (14) and James Harden (nine) were next in line.
  • Declining ratings continue to be a concern, and the NBA has started taking action to address the problem. One solution is fewer national TV games for the Warriors, who have the NBA’s worst record after five years as its marquee team. Golden State’s next two scheduled ESPN games have been replaced, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who speculates that more are likely to be removed.
  • Former NBA coach and long-time broadcaster Mike Fratello will be back on the sidelines soon, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Fratello will serve as head coach for USA Basketball in February’s qualifying games for the FIBA AmeriCup.
  • Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the China controversy today, saying a “culture clash” was almost inevitable, tweets Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. NBA games haven’t returned to China Central Television, the main broadcaster in Mainland China, but they are back on Tencent, which Silver called a “thawing” in tensions (Twitter link).
  • Sources tell Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that March 20 has been set for the debut of the NBA’s Basketball Africa League (Twitter link). The first game will take place in Dakar, Senegal.
  • The NBA will consider allowing corporate investors to hold passive minority stakes in more than one team, tweets Alex M. Silverman of MorningConsult. The measure will be part of the agenda at April’s Board of Governors meeting.

Pacific Notes: Booker, Ayton, Doncic, Bagley, Joseph

With the Suns playing above expectations to start the season, the development of Devin Booker has been a focal point of the team’s season. A recent three-game skid has put Phoenix two games under .500 but Booker’s play has been generally solid this season.

The 23-year-old is averaging 24.5 PPG and 6.3 APG while shooting from the field (51%) and from three (41.9%) at career-best rates. As the season has progressed, new head coach Monty Williams has taken a proactive approach in trying to get his young star to the next level, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

Whether it’s late-night text sessions, extra work after practice or going over film and studying, Williams has been impressed with the work Booker has dedicated to improvement. While Williams feels he drives Booker nuts, the guard says he’s thankful for his new head coach.

“I understand most of it, I mean, all of it,” Booker said. “It’s just the way I am. I’ve said since the beginning, I trust him.”

Check out more Pacific Division notes:

  • Deandre Ayton is nearing a return from his 25-game suspension and the young center’s role is still unclear, Rankin writes in a separate story. The Suns’ big man has appeared in just one game this season but given Phoenix’s recent struggles, some scoring punch from the 21-year-old could help the team.
  • Mavericks‘ guard Luka Doncic has started off his sophomore season with a bang, becoming a daily triple-double threat and an early MVP candidate. Rankin writes once again how Doncic’s development makes Suns fans think about how different things would have been if Phoenix took Doncic in lieu of Ayton in last year’s draft.
  • Kings‘ forward Marvin Bagley III has only played in one game this season after breaking his thumb. Five weeks after the injury, Bagley is still not cleared to return but is getting closer, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee writes. “Marvin is much closer than De’Aaron [Fox] is, but it’s one of those things that he hasn’t been cleared to go contact yet without (a brace) on,” head coach Luke Walton said. “So will he play tomorrow or Monday? No, but is he getting closer? Yes.”
  • While the personal stats may not be outstanding, the play of Cory Joseph, given the absence of Bagley and De’Aaron Fox has helped the Kings maintain pace in the Western Conference, James Patrick of the Sacramento Bee writes.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic answered several Clippers questions in the latest mailbag. Buha covered the possibility of the team pursuing Andre Iguodala, Landry Shamet‘s return, and more.