Luka Samanic

Knicks Sign Feron Hunt To Two-Way Deal

MARCH 18: The Knicks have made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve signed Hunt to a two-way contract.

MARCH 17: The Knicks plan to sign Feron Hunt of the G League to a two-way contract, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In order to sign Hunt, the Knicks have waived forward Luka Samanic, the team’s PR department tweets. Samanic is out for the remainder of the season with a left heel injury.

Hunt 22, went undrafted in 2021 after three collegiate seasons at SMU. He was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract by the Mavericks during training camp, but was waived before the season started. The 6’8″ forward signed a 10-day hardship deal with the Pelicans in December, but didn’t receive any NBA playing time.

Through 37 games (35.2 MPG) with the Texas Legends, Dallas’ affiliate, Hunt is averaging 17.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG and 1.1 BPG on .547/.361/.737 shooting.

Samanic was the 19th overall pick of the 2019 draft by the Spurs, who waived him in October of 2021, just before the season started. The 22-year-old Croatian appeared in 36 total games as a Spur, averaging 3.8 PPG and 2.2 RPG on .430/.294/.576 shooting in 9.9 MPG.

He caught on with the Knicks a handful of days later, signing a two-way contract. He hasn’t made an NBA appearance for New York and only played two games for its G League affiliate in Westchester, averaging 26.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.0 SPG and 2.0 BPG on .524/.125/.667 shooting.

Marc Berman of The New York Post says (via Twitter) Samanic’s heel injury is plantar fasciitis, noting the young forward has only played once in the past nine weeks.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Rose, Barrett, Noel, Samanic

In their last game before the All-Star break, the Knicks had one of their worst losses of the season, letting a 28-point lead slip away against a Brooklyn team that was playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Ben Simmons.

Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News contends that the ugly loss will only intensify the scrutiny on head coach Tom Thibodeau, who mismanaged his timeouts earlier in the week against Oklahoma City and faced criticism for keeping RJ Barrett on the court in the final moments of an out-of-reach game last Tuesday (Barrett injured his ankle with less than a minute left and the Knicks down by 15).

While Bondy says “the temperature on the coach’s seat only got hotter” on Wednesday, forward Julius Randle dismissed the idea that the players are tuning out Thibodeau’s message.

“Coach is amazing. I’m riding with Coach every day,” Randle told reporters after the game (video link via Ian Begley of “He challenges us and prepares us very well every day. His message is still ringing clear in the locker room. We’ve just got to execute.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • There’s optimism that point guard Derrick Rose will be able to return to action for the Knicks immediately after the All-Star break next week, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Rose has been unavailable since December 16 due to an ankle injury, but Wojnarowski says it looks like the former MVP should play next Friday vs. Miami, barring any setbacks.
  • Thibodeau expressed confidence on Wednesday that Barrett will return right after the All-Star break too, telling reporters that the forward was “pretty close” to being ready but that the team wanted to give him an extra week to get back to 100%, per Steve Popper of Newsday.
  • The prognosis wasn’t as positive for Nerlens Noel, who has been bothered this season by knee soreness and has missed the team’s last five games. Asked if Noel may ultimately require surgery, Thibodeau didn’t rule out the possibility, as Popper relays. “Yeah, it’s ongoing, so they’re checking that,” Thibodeau said. “Hopefully it responds better as we go.”
  • Thibodeau is viewing the All-Star break as a “chance to reboot” for the Knicks, according to Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. “Everything is on the table now. Everything has to be merit-based. You earn what you get,” the head coach said. “You look at everything. How are we going to manage this. If a guy is playing good, he plays. If the team is functioning well he should play. The team has to come first for everyone.”
  • The Knicks’ signing of Luka Samanic to a two-way contract hasn’t worked out, as the big man’s season has been marred by a left heel injury, Marc Berman writes for The New York Post. With Samanic still sidelined, it’s unclear if the team will consider making a change to that two-way slot for the rest of the season, says Berman.

New York Notes: Nets, Irving, Durant, Noel, Samanic

The Nets lost for a second time in three games on Sunday, prompting reporters to press Kevin Durant on whether he believes the team has enough firepower to seriously contend without Kyrie Irving available, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details.

“While we are playing in a game, I am not going to sit there and say … when we get down or it is a tight game, like ‘Damn, we don’t have enough,'” Durant said. “We are not going to be thinking about (that) during the game. We definitely want Kyrie Irving out here on the floor. And he is a huge part of what we do. But it is not happening right now. So we got to figure it out.

“… It’s three games in. Of course we have enough.”

With Irving on the shelf until he agrees to be vaccinated or New York City drops its vaccine mandate for indoor public venues, the Nets will have to make up his scoring elsewhere. The first step will be getting James Harden on track — the former MVP is averaging just 18.3 PPG on 38.8% shooting through three games, both well below his career marks.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Nets head coach Steve Nash said on Sunday that the plan is to have Durant play both games in back-to-back sets most of the time this season, tweets Youngmisuk. However, Durant may sit out the occasional game during back-to-back sets to keep him fresh.
  • After signing a lucrative new three-year contract with the Knicks in the offseason, Nerlens Noel has yet to make his 2021/22 debut due to a knee injury. However, head coach Tom Thibodeau said today that Noel is “doing more” in practice and has a 50-50 shot at playing on Tuesday vs. Philadelphia, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic.
  • Thibodeau doesn’t expect Luka Samanic to play for the Knicks anytime soon, suggesting the former first-round pick will begin the season in the G League, as Marc Berman of The New York Post relays. “I think it’s for the Westchester team,” Thibodeau said of signing Samanic to a two-way contract. “We’re excited to have him. We’ll get a look at him once they get going.”

Knicks Sign Luka Samanic To Two-Way Contract

OCTOBER 16: The two-way contract is official, the Knicks announced (via Twitter).

OCTOBER 15: The Knicks are filling the open two-way contract slot on their roster by signing former first-round pick Luka Samanic to a two-way deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Samanic, the 19th overall pick in the 2019 draft, had been under contract with the Spurs up until this week, but San Antonio was facing a roster crunch, with 17 players on guaranteed salaries and only 15 roster spots for the regular season. The 6’10” power forward, a victim of that crunch, was waived on Monday.

Samanic appeared in 36 total games in two years as a Spur, averaging 3.8 PPG and 2.2 RPG on .430/.294/.576 shooting in 9.9 MPG. Despite his modest numbers in San Antonio, the Knicks apparently see some untapped potential in the 21-year-old Croatian.

A two-way contract will allow Samanic to play in up to 50 regular season NBA games, so he’ll likely spend some time with the Westchester Knicks in the G League. Jericho Sims is New York’s other two-way player.

Spurs Waive Luka Samanic

The Spurs have moved one step closer to setting their 15-man roster for the regular season, announcing today in a press release that they’ve waived forward Luka Samanic.

San Antonio’s decision to part ways with Samanic is an acknowledgement that the team swung and missed on the 19th overall pick of the 2019 draft. While the No. 29 pick in that same draft – Keldon Johnson – is emerging as a cornerstone player for the Spurs, Samanic didn’t show in his two NBA seasons that he warranted a regular rotation spot.

The 21-year-old Croatian appeared in 36 total games as a Spur, averaging 3.8 PPG and 2.2 RPG on .430/.294/.576 shooting in 9.9 MPG.

Samanic had a $2.96MM guaranteed cap hit for 2021/22, which San Antonio will be responsible for unless another team claims him on waivers. If he goes unclaimed, his $4.57MM team option for the 2022/23 season will disappear and the Spurs won’t carry any dead money beyond this season.

Even after cutting Samanic, the Spurs will have to trade or release one more player on a guaranteed contract before the start of the regular season, since they still have 16 of those players. Al-Farouq Aminu and Keita Bates-Diop are among those considered to be most in danger.

Spurs Notes: Final Roster Spot, Eubanks, McDermott, Walker

There appears to be a three-way competition for the Spurs‘ final roster spot, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The team has 17 players with guaranteed contracts, and it looks like the decision will come down to forwards Luka SamanicKeita Bates-Diop and Al-Farouq Aminu.

Samanic, 21, was taken with the 19th pick in 2019, but hasn’t established himself in San Antonio, playing just 36 games in two seasons. The Spurs have an October 31 deadline to pick up his option for 2022/23, but they may decide to part with him before then. Coach Gregg Popovich gave Samanic a start in Friday’s preseason game, and McDonald described the results as “mixed.”

“He hasn’t played very much, so his is more of a confidence game and understanding what it takes to be a player,” Popovich explained.

Bates-Diop, 25, signed a two-year, $3.5MM contract before training camp began, but only this season is guaranteed at $1.7MM and he has been slowed by a hamstring injury. Aminu, who was acquired in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade, is owed $10.1MM this season in the final year of his contract. Knee injuries have limited him to 41 games over the past two seasons and he recognizes that he has an uphill fight to make the roster.

“That’s your whole life,” he said. “You go to one camp and maybe there are 100 guys. Even from high school, everyone is competing. We understand the business of whatever the case can be.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Drew Eubanks‘ place on the roster appears secure, even though the Spurs could easily afford to unload his $1.76MM salary, McDonald adds. Eubanks has steadily improved throughout his three seasons with the organization, and Popovich recently called him “a poor man’s Dave Cowens.”
  • Free-agent addition Doug McDermott feels suited to the Spurs’ new offensive philosophy, which is based on movement with fewer set plays, McDonald notes in a separate story. The 29-year-old is with his sixth NBA team, and San Antonio is counting on him to boost its outside shooting. “The system is great because it’s a lot of random basketball, and that’s what my game is built for,” he said.
  • Popovich is enjoying the challenge of coaching young players after so many years of having a veteran team, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The coach also praised the progress of Lonnie Walker, saying he has added game-related knowledge to his athletic skills (Twitter link).

Texas Notes: Murray, Gordon, House, Samanic

Defensive-oriented young Spurs guard Dejounte Murray overcame a tough upbringing to make the NBA and become a key part of San Antonio’s future, writes Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated in an extremely detailed profile.

Pina notes that Murray’s offensive game is a bit of a throwback, as he, like his Spurs teammate DeMar DeRozan, favors jump-shooting from the midrange over the three-point shooting that has overtaken shot profiles league-wide.

“This is my first year in the NBA being free to just, you know, play,” Murray said. “(Spurs) Coach (Gregg Popovich), he let me off the leash a little bit.

“As far as carrying the legacy on, the winning culture, yeah, I think I’m responsible for that,” Murray added. “I’m part of it. It’s a team game, but I’m a natural-born leader.” At 33-36, the Spurs currently occupy the tenth seed in the Western Conference, and are in position to appear in the play-in tournament.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon, absent with a groin injury since March 11, will not rejoin the team for its final two games of the 2020/21 season, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle“Eric was doing everything he could to come back, working out with [assistant coach John Lucas] and working out with the performance team,” head coach Stephen Silas said. “Although I would have loved to see Eric play, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.” 
  • Rockets small forward Danuel House has been able to showcase his versatile game beyond just being a reliable long-range sniper during an otherwise frustrating Houston season, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
  • The official Spurs injury report ahead of tonight’s Knicks game indicates that second-year power forward Luka Šamanić has fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left hand, tweets Paul Garcia of Project Spurs.

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.

Southwest Notes: Cousins, McDermott, Spurs, Pelicans

Although the Rockets and DeMarcus Cousins intend to amicably part ways, it’s possible the veteran center hasn’t played his last game for the team yet. Addressing the Cousins situation on Sunday, head coach Stephen Silas said the 30-year-old was still at practice and that the plan was to have him continue to start at center as long as he remains on Houston’s roster, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Cousins’ representatives and the Rockets are working on a potential trade or release that would get the big man to a team of his choosing. Other players in similar situations, like Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, are being held out of action while their teams look to finalize a resolution, but Silas’ comments indicated the Rockets aren’t necessarily committed to that same approach.

Still, Cousins’ availability in the coming days will hinge in large part on his health. He has been ruled out for Monday’s game due to a sore right heel and it’s safe to assume the Rockets will be very cautious with the big man as they explore the trade market in search of a potential deal.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • With the Grizzlies‘ roster getting a little healthier, the team has sent two-way player Sean McDermott to the G League bubble, transferring him to the Memphis Hustle (Twitter link). McDermott has been a depth option on the wing for the Grizzlies this season, appearing in just eight games, so he’ll see more frequent playing time for the Hustle.
  • The Spurs also made a pair of G League transactions, announcing (via Twitter) that they’ve recalled guard Tre Jones and forward Luka Samanic from the Austin Spurs. Jones had been leading the G League with 9.7 assists per game, while Samanic ranked in the top six in the NBAGL in both PPG (21.8) and RPG (11.3).
  • The Pelicans continue to gradually increase the number of fans allowed at the Smoothie King Center, issuing a press release today confirming that capacity will increase to 2,700 as of Wednesday. New Orleans, whose previous capacity was 1,900 fans, hope to bump that number up to 4,000+ by season’s end.

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Šamanić, Tate, Morant

Grizzlies swingman Dillon Brooks has had trouble finding his shooting touch thus far this season, prompting Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal to wonder if the fourth-year player out of Oregon has already peaked in his development.

Brooks is in the first season of a three-year, $35MM extension he signed with the Grizzlies during the 2019/20 campaign. Though his scoring output has not decreased significantly (he is averaging 14.9 PPG compared to his career-high 16.2 PPG last year), Brooks is connecting on career-low percentages from the floor (37.5%) and the three-point line (28.4%).

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs power forward Luka Šamanić, the No. 19 pick in the 2019 draft who continues to try to carve out a place in the NBA, is returning to an Orlando “bubble” campus. After playing for San Antonio during last year’s summer restart at Disney World, he’ll join the team’s G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, in the NBAGL bubble campus set to tip off on Wednesday, as Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News details.
  • Undrafted Rockets rookie small forward Jae’Sean Tate, now a crucial rotation piece for a retooling Houston squad, had an interesting conversation with Kelly Iko of The Athletic, touching on his experiences in his first 22 NBA games and why he almost stopped playing basketball. The 6’4″ wing is averaging 8.5 PPG (on 52.1% shooting from the floor), 4.9 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.8 SPG and 0.7 BPG across 25.9 MPG in Houston. “He has a lot of responsibility and he has to do things right on both sides of the floor,” head coach Stephen Silas said of Tate. “He’s getting better every game and you can see it.”
  • Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant has struggled over his past three contests. Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian examines the potential root causes behind the trouble for Morant, who has shot just 13-of-39 from the floor in his last three games for Memphis, all losses.