Luka Doncic

Southwest Notes: Zion, Rivers, Mavs, Hardy

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson continues to grapple with a $100MM civil suit from attorneys representing his former marketing manager Gina Ford and her company Prime Sports Marketing, per Mark Schlabach of ESPN. Per Schlabach, the suit alleges that Williamson’s parents may have been given “improper benefits” preceding or during Williamson’s blockbuster one-season Duke tenure.

However, Williamson got some positive news on the case this week, as a Florida state appeals court has granted him a full stay. This will allow the star forward to avoid answering questions about the suit until the resolution of a federal case covering the same issues.

Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets backup guard Austin Rivers spoke with The Athletic’s Kelly Iko at length about a variety of issues, including the league’s Orlando restart. “They’re saying we’ll be in Orlando for at least a period of time, anywhere between 30 to 40 days without seeing our family,” Rivers said. “And I don’t want to do it. Nobody wants to do it, but we all have to sacrifice if you want to have the season, resume and that’s what we have to do.” Rivers inked a veteran’s minimum contract with Houston in the hopes of winning a title, despite apparently fielding heftier offers from non-contenders.
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has indicated that team stars Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are set to return to Dallas within the week, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link). Doncic, a second-year guard, has been having a breakout season in Dallas. Voted an All-Star starter in the competitive West, Doncic is averaging 28.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, and 8.7 APG on the 40-27 Mavericks.
  • In case you missed it earlier today, Spurs assistant Will Hardy reportedly ranks among the coaching candidates who will interview for the Knicks’ head job. The 32-year-old Hardy has been with the Spurs in some capacity since 2010, when he got his start with the team as a basketball operations intern. He became an assistant coach in 2016.

Western Notes: D’Antoni, Jazz, Doncic, Thunder

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who has traditionally played a short rotation in meaningful games, sounds like he’s going to experiment with playing more guys once the NBA returns from hiatus.

“With (GM) Daryl (Morey) and data, with how we think gives us the best chance to win, it probably comes down to nine guys. Now, who those nine are they could change, and maybe early we experiment, practice and watch,” D’Antoni tells Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

D’Antoni acknowledged that many of the players won’t be in peak regular-season form, adding that “it’s something that you have to play through.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have had numerous conversations since the pair tested positive for COVID-19 and team sources are “adamant” that the two will be able to coexist without issue, Tim MacMahon writes in a collaborate piece with other writers on ESPN.com. Jazz GM Dennis Lindsay previously said that the two players were ready to put it behind them.
  • The time off has allowed Luka Doncic‘s thumb, wrist and ankles to heal and while there were rumors that he gained some weight during the hiatus, sources tell MacMahon (same piece) that the Mavericks star has been working out diligently in Slovenia.
  • The Thunder‘s biggest concern coming back from the hiatus could be their chemistry, ESPN’s Royce Young contends in the same piece. OKC compiled a 34-13 record since Thanksgiving, which was second in the league over that span. However, the club needed the first month of the season to get its three-guard lineup in sync.

Western Notes: Murray, Doncic, Lakers, Fertitta

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is confident the team can win the NBA championship this season, explaining his thoughts to reporters on a Zoom call last week.

“We know we can go win the title,” Murray said, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “Me and Joker (Nikola Jokic) have been in Denver this whole time, working out.

“Why not?” Murray later replied upon being asked whether Denver could win it all. “We have proven to be one the best teams year in and year out since we have been building. We have beaten good teams consistently. We shouldn’t have lost to Portland (last year in the Western Semifinals). That was more on us, our inexperience and they are a good team. But we don’t think that there is a team that can beat us in a seven-game series when we are playing at our best.”

The Nuggets are 43-22 on the season, good for the third-best record in the Western Conference behind the Lakers (49-14) and Clippers (44-20). Murray’s confidence lies in the team’s offensive capabilities, coupled with how Jokic has slimmed down significantly during quarantine.

“If we can just find that consistency and play at a high level,” Murray said of the Nuggets’ biggest issue. “When me and Joker are on, I don’t think there is anybody that is going to stop us. And if they do, then good game.”

Denver has consistently been one of the NBA’s best regular-season teams in recent seasons, though the franchise has failed to achieve playoff success. The Nuggets will be among the 22 teams slated to play in Orlando when the league resumes later this summer.

There’s more from the Western Conference tonight:

  • Barring a new setback or injury, Mavericks star Luka Doncic will be healthy for the NBA’s restart, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News writes. Doncic has dealt with a sprained ankle, an illness and various thumb and wrist injuries in 2020. Caplan also examines other Mavs-related notes, including the team’s starting lineup and who could be a potential X-factor in the playoffs.
  • The Lakers will be ready to build on their previous hot streak once the NBA returns, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. Los Angeles was firing on all cylinders before the season was suspended, winning 11 of their its 13 games and holding a 49-14 record. “There will be a lot of focus for the Lakers and all the teams on basketball only, with the family not being there right away,” an official for one NBA team told Turner. “I think that they will be really in-tuned. I think the basketball will be sloppy in the beginning, but it’ll be good as it goes along.”
  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta discussed a number of subjects in an interview with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, including his team’s title hopes, the NBA return, and more. Houston is among the 22 teams set to return in Orlando this summer, playing an unprecedented version of small-ball before the season was officially halted.

Western Notes: Warriors, Hill, Doncic, Pelicans

Warriors head of basketball operations Bob Myers offered assurances that his team will be in a competitive mode if play resumes this season, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reports. Coach Steve Kerr raised some eyebrows last week when he said the franchise was already in “offseason mode.” But Myers indicated his team will give its best. “The truth is we have the worst record in the league. … It’s hard to motivate in our unique position,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean players don’t have pride and won’t come back and play and care about the league as a whole. We want to be good partners and we will be good partners.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Clippers won’t allow assistant Armond Hill to coach when the team reopens its practice facility, according to The Athletic’s David Aldridge. Hill is the team’s oldest coach at 67 and head coach Doc Rivers doesn’t want to put him at immediate risk. “He wants to go work,” Rivers said. “And I said, ‘Well, I understand that. But we’re not going to let you do it. We just can’t. I can’t live with that.’”
  • Mavericks star guard Luka Doncic flew home to Slovenia on a private jet shortly after the NBA suspended the season, Shelburne reveals in a separate story. Doncic will have to go into quarantine once he returns to the U.S., though domestic players who flew out of state during the shutdown will also have to quarantine.
  • Meyers LeonardJaMychal Green and Alex Len are some of the free agent targets the Pelicans could explore to fortify their frontcourt, William Guillory of The Athletic opines. New Orleans could also pursue a deal for the Nets’ Jarrett Allen if Brooklyn decides to make DeAndre Jordan its starting center, Guillory adds.

Community Shootaround: Best Young Building Block

Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com asked 20 people within the NBA community, including coaches, executives, and scouts about which player they’d want to build around in the future. Each was asked to rank the following players: Zion Williamson, Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, and Trae Young.

The overwhelming majority selected Doncic, as he received 17 first-place votes and tallied the three second-place votes where he wasn’t the top choice. Morant was the top choice for two people and Williamson for just one.

“I don’t know if Luka can be any better than he is,” an Eastern Conference executive said. “He’s really good. But I think this might be who he is — which is very good.

“But Ja can get better in terms of his shooting, his team will get better around him and he makes players better around him. I think he can affect the game at both ends.”

Morant, who went No. 2 overall in the 2019 draft, getting more first-place votes than Williamson is surprising.

“Health,” said a Western Conference scout when asked why he ranked Williamson third among the four young stars. “He’d be (No. 1) otherwise.

How would you rank the four players if given the chance to start a franchise with a young star? Take to the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Hiatus Notes: Dudley, Blazers, Ballmer, Booker, Mavs

Veteran forward Jared Dudley is pessimistic that the NBA will resume its season after this indefinite hiatus, he explained on FOX Sports Radio this week.

Dudley joins a growing list of NBA players and officials who are skeptical about whether the league can resume its regular season. The overall concern, he explains, is focused around limiting injuries.

“Once I heard the news of no more practice facilities, if that goes for a month or month-and-a-half to two months, I find it almost impossible to then have a season because now you’re telling a professional athlete, ‘For 60-to-80 days you’ve done no training,'” Dudley said.

League officials know that resuming the regular season after several weeks of limited training would be risky unless each team is awarded ample time of preparation, much like what’s already being offered in the fall with training camps. Dudley estimates that 70% of athletes don’t have a personal gym inside their home to utilize during this break.

“I’m not optimistic right now at all for a season to be honest with you,” Dudley said. “Unless something happens here in the next 30 days where they open back up the facilities. But how do they do that? Once everyone starts getting tested you’re going to hear more and more cases because it’s a very common thing to get.”

The NBA is discussing a plethora of different avenues to take as this unprecedented hiatus continues, with commissioner Adam Silver open to receiving suggestions from the league’s players, coaches, agents, executives and fans for the time being.

Here are some other notes related to the NBA’s hiatus:

  • The Trail Blazers and owner Jody Allen have committed more than $4MM towards COVID-19 relief efforts, the team announced on social media (Twitter link). The money will assist game night employees impacted by the league’s postponement.
  • The Ballmer Group, founded by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have donated $1MM to community groups in Los Angeles to help during the coronavirus epidemic, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes.
  • Suns guard Devin Booker is pledging $100L through Twitch livestreaming to support non-profits that best serve the needs of the most vulnerable in the community, the team announced in a press release. Phoenix Suns Charities will match Booker’s initial donation, the release adds.
  • Mark Cuban, Luka Doncic and Dwight Powell have teamed up with the Mavericks Foundation to donate $500,000 to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital, the team announced (Twitter link). The funds will support childcare for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response.

Western Notes: Warriors, Beasley, Covington, Doncic

An abbreviated regular season if the season is restarted wouldn’t do teams like the Warriors much good, Anthony Slater of The Athletic argues. It would be easier for the teams currently owning a playoff berth to play some tuneup games while ending the season for the 14 lottery-bound teams. That would allow their front offices to focus on their roster remakes and players to work on their games, Slater adds.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves will undoubtedly want to re-sign restricted free agent Malik Beasley, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Beasley averaged 20.7 PPG and 5.1 RPG while shooting 42.6% from long range in 14 starts since being acquired from the Nuggets. Beasley’s price tag has risen, with Krawczynski speculating that his original projection of four years and $48MM is probably not high enough. There aren’t many teams with significant cap room but the Knicks could make a run at him, he adds.
  • While the Timberwolves’ defense has suffered by trading Robert Covington to the Rockets, they got a much-needed infusion of offensive talent with the additions of D’Angelo Russell, Beasley and Juan Hernangomez in the four-team deal, Krawczynski writes in a separate story. They now have a point guard in Russell that can score and pass as well as any they’ve ever had, a shooting guard in Beasley who can score in bunches and a solid rotation player in Hernangomez.
  • Several members of the Mavericks’ front office and scouting staff believed Luka Doncic would have been viewed as the undisputed top prospect in the 2018 draft if he had played in the United States or attended the pre-draft workouts, according to an in-depth piece from Tim Cato and Sam Amick of The Athletic. GM Donnie Nelson was completely sold on Doncic and owner Mark Cuban wasn’t going to pass him up, since he ignored Nelson’s advice on Giannis Antetokounmpo five years earlier. The Mavs’ front office was confident Doncic wouldn’t be drafted earlier than third overall, allowing them to arrange a trade with the Hawks to move up and nab the eventual Rookie of the Year.

Injury Notes: Doncic, Isaac, Holmes, Bowman

While Mavericks guard Luka Doncic seems to be over the ankle issues that bothered him earlier in the season, he’s missing Sunday’s game vs. Minnesota with a new injury — a left thumb sprain. Doncic played through the injury on Friday, but struggled to work around it, per an ESPN report.

“I didn’t know how important the thumb was to hold the ball,” Doncic said on Friday. “It was tough. … I wasn’t myself today. Just have to learn from that and move on.”

Head coach Rick Carlisle said that he’s not sure about Doncic’s status for Monday’s game against Chicago.

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

  • Although Jonathan Isaac has started doing some rehab work with the Magic, there’s only an outside chance of him playing this spring, according to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com, who says that Isaac’s knee injury is still expected to keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
  • Kings center Richaun Holmes, who hasn’t played since January 6 due to a shoulder injury, is getting closer to being able to take full contact, and hopes to resume practicing with the team this week, the team announced today in a press release.
  • Warriors guard Ky Bowman, who is currently on the shelf with a sprained right ankle, will be monitored for the next few days before the team provides another update, per a press release.
  • It’s not an injury, but Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein is missing his fourth consecutive game for personal reasons today. According to Dwain Price of Mavs.com (Twitter link), Rick Carlisle expects the big man to return to Dallas’ active roster on Monday. We’ll try to get him prepared to play some minutes if needed tomorrow,” the Mavs’ head coach said of Cauley-Stein.

Texas Notes: J. Green, Carroll, Cousins, Doncic

Jeff Green looked right at home in his debut with the Rockets, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. In his first game since being waived by the Jazz on December 24, Green scored 17 points in 24 minutes as Houston won big Thursday night at Golden State.

“I just came ready to play,” he said. “I mean, I’m in shape, so I just tried to do whatever I needed to do to help the team win. I have a beautiful wife who allowed me to do what I needed to do and that’s all I need to say about that. I have great trainers at home and when I was home for this time, my wife allowed to me to really focus on what I needed to do.”

The Rockets are Green’s ninth NBA team since entering the league in 2007, making him one of seven active players to be with that many organizations, Feigen adds. Ish Smith is the active leader with 11 teams.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • DeMarre Carroll, another new Rocket, had a disappointing stay with the Spurs, but his presence on the team will be missed, relays Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News (Twitter link). “I’ve known DeMarre since college, we came in together, played with him in Toronto,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Just a great guy. It’s part of the league. Everyone comes and goes, but friendships and memories last forever.”  Carroll appeared in just 15 games after signing with the Spurs last summer.
  • The Mavericks might have been willing to gamble on DeMarcus Cousins, but they don’t want to part with anyone on their current roster, owner Mark Cuban tells Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). The veteran center has missed the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee, but recently offered hope that he might be ready for the playoffs. The Lakers plan to waive Cousins and add Markieff Morris once he clears waivers tomorrow. “We don’t have any roster spots,” Cuban said. “If we had a roster spot, we would probably do something, but we don’t. And there’s nobody we want to release.”
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic sat out tonight’s game with a sore ankle, but coach Rick Carlisle doesn’t expect it to be a long-term issue, Townsend tweets.

And-Ones: Doncic, Crawford, Cook, Edwards

Luka Doncic, who played in both the Rising Stars and All-Star games this weekend, has another non-Mavericks event circled on his calendar for later this year. Asked about his potential participation for Slovenia in this June’s Olympics qualifying tournament, Doncic responded, “I’m gonna play for sure” (Twitter link via Donatas Urbonas).

The Mavericks star didn’t get the chance to suit up for his home country during the 2019 FIBA World Cup, since Slovenia wasn’t able to qualify for the event. This June’s tournament will represent the last chance the squad has to earn a spot in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Doncic and the Slovenians won’t have it easy — they’ll have to beat Lithuania and Poland, among others, in that qualifying tournament to secure one of four Olympic berths up for grabs this summer.

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

  • Former NBA guard Jordan Crawford is working out for German team Brose Bamberg, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. If the audition – which will take place within the next 10 days – goes well, Crawford will sign a rest-of-season deal with the German club, Borghesan adds.
  • In a conversation with Ian Begley of SNY.tv, veteran NBA agent Todd Ramasar provided an interesting, behind-the-scenes look at his typical approach to the NBA trade deadline.
  • The Canton Charge and Oklahoma City Blue completed a trade sending Tyler Cook to the Thunder‘s G League affiliate and Vince Edwards to Cleveland’s NBAGL team (Twitter link). Both players have some NBA experience, with Cook having spent time with the Cavaliers this season on a two-way deal, a standard contract, and a pair of 10-day pacts.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony examines a few of the notable prospects who took part in the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp during All-Star weekend in Chicago.