Luke Babbitt

Southeast Notes: Payton, Fournier, Waiters, White

Magic point guard Elfrid Payton may have played well enough to win his starting job back, according to John Denton of Payton was among three players demoted when coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup November 27th. But Payton has raised his scoring average, assist totals and shooting percentages since the move, and Vogel is thinking about making him a starter again. “He’s competing and it’s my job to figure out if it’s best to keep him where he is and where he’s having success or to move him back in the starting lineup,’’ Vogel said. “I’m sure that we’ll probably look at that [starting him] at some point. I’d like to see him do this over a consistent stretch and I still might keep him where he is because he’s having success there. It’s just one of the things that I’m monitoring game to game.’’

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic have been without leading scorer Evan Fournier since Thursday because of a bruised right heel, Denton notes in the same story. Fournier has been trying ice, massages and stimulation to ease the pain on the heel, but he was forced to miss another game tonight. “It’s definitely getting better, but one of the bad things about the NBA is that when you have so many games and it takes a week or so, in that time you have three games,’’ he said.
  • Heat guard Dion Waiters may find his playing time limited when he returns from a groin injury, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Waiters’ isolation game was useful when the team was shorthanded, but Winderman states that ball movement is now being emphasized and the development of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson at the wing spots is key to the team’s future. Waiters is considered very likely to opt out of the second season of his contract, and Winderman believes Miami may trade him before he can make that decision.
  • The Heat should consider unloading Luke Babbitt or Derrick Williams to make room for a younger prospect at power forward, Winderman suggests in the same piece. One possibility is Okaro White, who was cut by Miami in training camp and currently plays for the team’s D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls.

Heat’s Luke Babbitt May Be Out Two Weeks

The injury-ravaged Heat got more bad news Thursday night when forward Luke Babbitt suffered a hip-flexor strain, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra describes the injury as similar to the one that has sidelined shooting guard Dion Waiters for at least two weeks.

“Probably a little bit similar to Dion,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll find out more. But it’s a hip-flexor strain. It’s not a contusion. So we’ll evaluate him.”

The seventh-year forward is averaging 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds through 19 games, playing about 16 minutes per night. He has been in and out of the starting lineup as Spoelstra searches for the best combinations.

Babbitt was traded to Miami in July after spending the past three seasons in New Orleans. He is earning a little more than $1.2MM and will be a free agent when the season ends.

The Heat may be down to nine players for Saturday’s game after Josh Richardson was sent back to Miami on Thursday for treatment on his sore ankle. Waiters didn’t make the trip, nor did Justise Winslow, who has an injured wrist.

Heat Notes: McRoberts, Williams, Joe Johnson

The Heat are moving to Plan B after a 2-6 start, with greater roles for Josh McRoberts and Derrick Williams, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. McRoberts hadn’t played at all before Saturday, and Williams, one of the team’s many offseason additions, had seen just three minutes of action. Luke Babbitt, who has started every game, was benched early along with Dion Waiters. It’s likely that coach Erik Spoelstra will keep tinkering, as Miami fell to Utah even with the changes. “I really like these guys in the locker room we have, and we’re a hard-working group,” McRoberts said. “We’ll continue to figure it out. But it’s really hard to win an NBA game and we can’t forget that as we come together here early. I know it’s tough. I’m the last guy that wants to say that. I want to win every game. But I think we just have to continue to keep working and keep fighting together.”

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team faces the Heat Monday night, offered some advice on how to rebuild after the losses of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Winderman relays in a separate story. San Antonio was in the same situation with an aging roster, but was able to stay competitive by trading for Kawhi Leonard and signing LaMarcus Aldridge“We’ve had to do that over the years with Manu [Ginobili] and Tony [Parker], and then making the trade for Kawhi before LaMarcus, because we knew we had to have more size at that three position,” Popovich said. “So we were able to get that done. And then obviously LaMarcus and now Pau [Gasol]. It’s as much about the pieces that go around those guys as anything.”
  • Jazz swingman Joe Johnson, who finished last season in Miami, told Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald that he would have been interested in staying if the organization hadn’t opted for a youth movement. “There was [interest on my part to come back], but nobody who was 30 and up was coming back,” Johnson said. “I saw that early in free agency. So, for me, there was nothing to talk about [with the Heat in free agency]. My stint here was very brief. I appreciated it, but I knew where they were trying to go once free agency started.”
  • Free agent addition Wayne Ellington is getting closer to making his Heat debut, Navarro writes in the same piece. The shooting guard has been out of action since suffering a severe right bruise on his left quad in the team’s last preseason game. There’s still no timetable for him to come back, but he has started running in a pool and may be cleared to run on the court this week. “Everybody I talked to said it was the worst contusion they’ve ever seen,” Ellington said. “That came from a few doctors. I knew it was bad, and I knew it was going to take some time to get right. But they’re also telling me they’re surprised how fast I’m healing from it.”

Heat Notes: Dragic, Bosh, Babbitt

Goran Dragic, who was excited to be teamed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh when he was swapped to the Heat at the 2014 trade deadline, may finish his career in Miami without either one, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Wade signed with the Bulls over the summer and Bosh faces an uncertain medical future after failing his training camp physical. That leaves Dragic as the team’s new leader, and he says he wants to embrace that role. “When you have D-Wade next to you, or C.B., then they can take the game in their hands immediately,” Dragic said. “Now, probably it’s going to be a little bit different. I’m ready. I already felt great last year at the end of the season.” Dragic has four seasons and more than $70MM left on his contract.

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • Miami has the option to apply for a Disabled Player Exception if its medical staff decides Bosh can’t play this season, notes Bobby Marks of The Vertical. If an NBA-designated doctor agrees, the Heat would receive a $5.6MM exception that they can use until March 10th. The exception can be used to sign a free agent to a one-year contract or acquire a player with one season left on his current deal, either through trade or waivers. The Heat have 15 players with guaranteed contracts, including Bosh, so a roster spot would have to be cleared before the DPE could be used. However, the Heat may be looking to get the rest of Bosh’s remaining salary removed from their cap, which they can’t do if they use this exception.
  • Luke Babbitt may have changed teams, but his role will be the same, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Babbitt, who was acquired in a July trade with New Orleans, was used as a stretch four with the Pelicans to create room in the paint for Anthony Davis. With the Heat, he expects to create room for Hassan Whiteside and driving lanes for Dragic. “That’s what NBA offense is, is spacing,” Babbitt said. “So to give guys, to maximize those guys, Hassan, Goran, to open up driving lanes, you have to have people to space it out that can shoot, that’s the way the league is going now.” Babbitt, who just re-signed with the Pelicans last summer, said the trade caught him by surprise. “I didn’t really know it was coming,” he said. “But once I got the news, mentally it just totally shifted over and I was excited. I had a good couple of years in New Orleans, but with this kind of rebuilding group I feel like I kind of fit with what we’re trying to do here.”

Heat Notes: Udrih, Williams, Ellington, Bosh

The Heat could use a veteran like Beno Udrih to serve as a backup to Goran Dragic, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Miami doesn’t have anyone else on its roster who has played point guard on a regular basis at the NBA level, and Winderman points out that Dragic, who missed 10 games last season, is susceptible to injury with his attacking style of play. The Heat reportedly have a “standing invitation” for Udrih to join them in training camp on a veterans’ minimum contract if he can’t get a better deal elsewhere. Udrih played 36 games with Miami last season before agreeing to a buyout in February to help the team avoid the luxury tax.

There’s more news out of Miami:

  • There could be a shortage of minutes on the front line for recent additions Derrick Williams, James Johnson and Luke Babbitt, Winderman notes in the same piece. They will essentially be competing at the same position, and shooting guards Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson could all see time at small forward because of an overcrowded backcourt.
  • Ellington is a prime candidate to be traded once this year’s offseason signees are eligible to be dealt starting December 15th, Winderman writes in a separate story. The Heat signed the 28-year-old shooting guard away from the Nets in July, but later added Waiters in free agency. Winderman believes Ellington will have to be exceptional from 3-point range to earn a regular spot in the Heat’s rotation. He shot 36% from long distance last season and is at 38% for his career.
  • The Heat are “cautiously optimistic” that Chris Bosh will be able to play this season, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. However, he cautions that nothing is certain with the veteran big man, who has had his last two seasons cut short by blood clots.

Heat Notes: Green, James, Wade, Riley

The addition of James Johnson, Derrick Williams and Wayne Ellington left no room in Miami for Gerald Green, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Green, who agreed to terms with the Celtics this morning, spent one season in Miami and saw his playing time decline steadily as the year wore on. He appeared in 69 games, starting 14, and averaged 8.9 points per night. Green had expressed a desire to return to Miami, Winderman writes, and the Heat could have offered the same $1.4MM deal he received from Boston. Miami made it clear that the 30-year-old swingman wasn’t in its plans by signing Johnson, Williams and Ellington to be part of an already crowded rotation that includes Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler JohnsonAmar’e Stoudemire and Dorell Wright are now the only remaining unsigned free agents from the 2015/16 roster.

There’s more news out of Miami:  

  • As players become more powerful, the idea of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul on the same team becomes more likely, Winderman writes in another piece. During the season, James speculated on the possibility of the four friends someday joining forces.
  • Team president Pat Riley recently offered some insight on teaming up James, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, Winderman relates in the same article. All three were slated to get max deals of $16.5MM per season, but they wanted to add Mike Miller and re-sign Udonis Haslem. Eventually, Wade volunteered to take less money, and James and Bosh agreed to sign-and trades. “The interesting part is on July 9th, they all agreed to come in on five-year deals, room only, so I didn’t have to give up any assets,” Riley said. “Then, at the 11th hour, they all wanted the sixth year. You know what that cost me and Andy [Elisburg, the Heat’s general manager]? That cost us four picks. I just said to them, ‘If you want the sixth year because I know you’re going to opt out after the fourth anyhow, but if you want the sixth year, I don’t want any of you to walk into my office and say, ‘Hey, can we get any young guys around here? Can we get some draft picks around here?’ Because they were gone.”
  • Riley’s decision to add more physical players this offseason was likely a matter of taking what was available on the market, rather than a strategy, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Winderman’s comment came in response to a reader’s question on whether acquiring Johnson, Williams, Luke Babbitt and Willie Reed would make the Heat more like the roster Riley had with the Knicks.

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Howard, Bazemore

Pat Riley anointed Justise Winslow as the Heat’s starting small forward for next season, but he hasn’t addressed the larger question of power forward, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. Riley expressed his confidence in Winslow during a news conference Saturday, saying the rookie will be penciled in as the starting three for 2016/17. But if Chris Bosh isn’t medically cleared to play, that leaves Josh McRoberts, Luke Babbitt and Udonis Haslem as candidates to start alongside Winslow and Hassan Whiteside on the front line. Riley said even though Winslow is only 20, he’s ready to be an NBA starter. “I remember when James Worthy came to the Lakers and Jamaal Wilkes was incumbent,” Riley said, “and then there came that time, there came that time when it was just a matter of time when James Worthy was going to take his position.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Dwight Howard hopes his return home to Atlanta will revitalize his career, according to Steve Hummer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The 30-year-old center, who signed a three-year deal worth $70.5MM with the Hawks, has even changed his number to 8 to signify “a new beginning.” Howard insists that his back, which required surgery in 2012, is no longer a problem. “My back hasn’t been an issue,” he said, “and I don’t think I’ll ever have an issue out of my back for the rest of my career.”
  • Kent Bazemore‘s comments at the press conference after he re-signed with the Hawks showed how much he wanted to stay in Atlanta, relays K.L. Chouinard of Bazemore, who landed a four-year, $70MM contract in free agency, said it was important to remain with the team he joined two seasons ago. “This is one of the high points of my life,” he said, “and I couldn’t choose a better place to be. I said I wasn’t going to get emotional, but I just love it here, you know. People have just embraced me and it just feels like home, man.”
  • It’s hard to understand why the Wizards re-signed Marcus Thornton so early in free agency, writes Ben Standig of CSNMidAtlantic. Thornton, who received a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, projects as a fifth guard, Standig contends, adding that it’s unusual for teams to fill roster spots with those type of players before Summer League begins.

Heat Trade For Luke Babbitt

5:32pm: The trade is official, the Heat have announced.

JULY 10th, 5:16pm: The Heat are in “advanced trade discussions” with the Pelicans for combo forward Luke Babbitt, tweets Marc Stein of New Orleans will receive draft considerations and cash in return.

The draft considerations involve the heavily protected 2018 pick the Pelicans sent to Miami in a February deal for Jarnell Stokes, tweets Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The draft choice was protected unless it fell out of the top 55 (Twitter link). Miami is also sending the first of its allowable cash outlays for next season to New Orleans (Twitter link).

The 6’9″ Babbitt has six years of NBA experience with the Pelicans and Trail Blazers. He played in 47 games last season, averaging 7.0 points and 3.1 rebounds.

Pelicans Waive Mirza Begić

The Pelicans have released center Mirza Begić just two days after signing him, the team announced. The 30-year-old practiced with the team, but New Orleans didn’t play any preseason games during his brief tenure. The move reduces the Pelicans roster to 19 players, 13 of whom have full guarantees, and it opens a spot beneath the 20-man preseason roster limit for New Orleans to formalize a deal with Nate Robinson, with whom the team reportedly has an agreement.

Begić, a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been with some of Europe’s most prominent teams, including Laboral Kuxta and Real Madrid of Spain and Olympiakos of Greece, but he’d never played with an NBA team before. He went undrafted when he was eligible in 2007.

New Orleans has made more roster moves than any other team in the past week as they deal with injuries to Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Norris Cole and now Luke Babbitt, who’s out indefinitely with a left hamstring strain, as the team announced Thursday. The Pelicans signed Greg Smith and voided the contract after he failed a physical, signed Jerome Jordan, waived Corey Webster and signed Bo McCalebb in addition to their moves with Begić and Robinson.

Western Notes: McDaniels, Barton, Babbitt

Here’s a look at the latest contract news from the Western Conference:

Will Joseph contributed to this post.

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