Luke Kennard

Fischer’s Latest: Jazz, Conley, Snyder, Popovich, Graham

Speculation about the potential breakup of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert appears to be fueled more by people outside of the Jazz organization than those within it, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says sources from the team and around the NBA believe that CAA has been responsible for many of the whispers involving Mitchell’s future.

According to Fischer, team owner Ryan Smith is willing to spend big on a contender, and Utah has no plans to rebuild. Smith also likes the idea of having multiple players in the 2023 All-Star Game, which the Jazz will host.

Although some rival executives believe a Gobert trade is a possibility and view the Mavericks, Hawks, and Raptors as potential destinations, Fischer says the Jazz are focused on upgrading their defense, so moving a three-time Defensive Player of the Year seems counterintuitive. On the other hand, complementary players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and perhaps even Mike Conley are considered more realistic trade candidates.

Fischer wonders if the Clippers or the Knicks might have interest in Conley, another CAA client. With the Jazz seeking help on the wing, Evan Fournier could theoretically headline a Knicks offer for Conley if they miss out on Jalen Brunson, says Fischer, though he notes that some staffers in New York would prefer to stay in-house and give Immanuel Quickley an expanded role.

As for the Clippers, Fischer is skeptical that a Conley trade offer centered around sharpshooter Luke Kennard would appeal to a Utah team looking to improve its defense and suggests that a more realistic point guard target for L.A. would be John Wall, assuming he and the Rockets work out a buyout. Wall has also been linked to the Heat, but Fischer’s sources believe Miami’s interest predated last year’s acquisition of Kyle Lowry.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • There’s “little expectation” among people close to the situation that Quin Snyder will leave the Jazz before his contract expires in 2023, says Fischer. Snyder also holds an option for the 2023/24 season.
  • Jazz CEO Danny Ainge doesn’t appear inclined to shake up the team’s basketball operations department. According to Fischer, major changes would likely only occur if former head of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey gets a top front office job elsewhere and wants to bring some Utah executives with him.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is traveling and considering his coaching future, plans to visit Belgrade for the EuroLeague Final Four later this month, a source tells Fischer. The general sense is that Popovich seems interested in coaching San Antonio for at least one more season, Fischer adds.
  • The Pelicans are among the teams believed to be considering a possible point guard upgrade this offseason, reports Fischer. Devonte’ Graham saw his role reduced significantly in the playoffs and some people around the league think he could end up on the trade block this offseason, but sources tell Fischer the Pels aren’t motivated to move on from Graham like they were with Eric Bledsoe a year ago.

Injury Notes: Mavericks, Murray, Curry, Adebayo, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who will reportedly miss Game 1 of the team’s playoff series against Utah on Saturday, has officially been listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report (Twitter link). Tim Hardaway Jr. (recovering from left foot surgery) and Frank Ntilikina (recovering from an illness) will also miss the contest.

Hardaway is considered unlikely to return this season, though he hasn’t given up hope of a comeback if Dallas makes a deep playoff run. The Mavs later announced (via Twitter) that Ntilikina underwent a tonsillectomy, which is why he’s sidelined. The 23-year-old is back with the team and gradually returning to on-court activities.

Here are some more injury and COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has been ruled out for Game 1 against Golden State on Saturday, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The news isn’t surprising, as Murray has missed the entire season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last April.
  • Slater also notes that Stephen Curry has been listed as probable for the Warriors. He’s on track to play his first game since suffering a left foot sprain and bone bruise on March 16.
  • Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team is hopeful that Bam Adebayo will clear the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols in time to play in Game 1 against Cleveland or Atlanta on Sunday, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Adebayo entered the protocols on April 10 and players must stay isolated for at least five days unless they return two straight negative tests at least 24 hours apart, so he should be cleared soon.
  • Suns guard Landry Shamet was unable to practice on Friday due to a left foot injury, according to a report from The Associated Press. “Injuries are a part of it,” coach Monty Williams said. “We’re not sure the severity of it. He just didn’t practice today and that’s all we have to report. But we’re built for situations like this. … We just have to deal with stuff as it pops up.”
  • Luke Kennard will miss Friday’s win-or-go-home game for the Clippers, as Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group relays (via Twitter). Kennard is dealing with a right hamstring injury and his absence will be a key one for Los Angeles, who faces New Orleans to determine the No. 8 seed in the West.

Postseason Injury Updates: Curry, Kennard, Doncic, Saric, Williams

Earlier on Thursday, reports surfaced that Warriors star guard Stephen Curry was on track to return from his foot injury for Game 1 against Denver on Saturday. That didn’t change after the team’s scrimmage today.

Afterward, coach Steve Kerr said that Curry is “optimistic he’ll play Saturday,” Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Curry wouldn’t say it’s a given he’ll play, but that’s his expectation, Kendra Andrews of ESPN writes.

“Everything has been positive in terms of getting back out there and understanding I’ll be ready to play whenever that time is. I’m hoping it’s Saturday,” he said. “I’ll try to be the best version I can be having missing a little bit of time … I have high confidence I can go out there and help our team win.”

Curry will be on an unspecified minutes restriction, Andrews adds.

We have more postseason-related injury news:

  • The Clippers are listing swingman Luke Kennard as questionable for Friday’s do-or-die play-in game against New Orleans, Scott Kushner of tweets. Kennard tweaked his right hamstring during the regular-season finale on Sunday.
  • While Luka Doncic reportedly will miss Game 1 of the Mavericks’ playoff series against Utah, the team has yet to officially rule him out, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reports. Coach Jason Kidd said Doncic is “progressing” from the calf strain he suffered in the regular-season finale. “He’s doing good,” Kidd said. “Didn’t practice, but is in good spirits, and had a good day.”
  • It’s very unlikely Dario Saric will suit up for the Suns during the playoffs. However, he left the door open a crack, telling the media he could return in an emergency situation where multiple Suns big men get hurt and he’s feeling healthy enough to play, according to Kellan Olson of Saric tore the ACL in his right knee last July during Game 1 of the Finals.
  • Celtics center Robert Williams continue to “ramp up” his left knee rehab, according to coach Ime Udoka, though he’s still not cleared for contact, Jared Weiss tweets“He’s getting on court basketball drills, mixing in pretty much everything,” Udoka said. “Not contact, but any basketball drill. Getting a lot of shots up, weight-bearing, strength, agility. It’s low level, but he’s ramping up day by day and feeling good about it.”

Injury Updates: Doncic, Allen, Kennard, Collins, Niang

The Mavericks put out a press release on Tuesday formally confirming that Luka Doncic is dealing with a strained left calf and announcing there’s no timetable for his return.

Dallas won’t have to officially list Doncic on the injury report until Friday, so the club will likely continue to be cagey about his availability for Game 1 vs. Utah. Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd declined to offer any specifics on Tuesday, offering coy responses about Doncic’s ability to practice and the possibility that he’ll play on Saturday, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

For what it’s worth, Kidd said multiple times that Doncic is “in great spirits,” while Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie offered a positive assessment of his teammate’s status (Twitter link via Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News): He seemed solid to me. I mean, he don’t seem like a guy that’s going to miss too much time, if any.”

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

  • The Cavaliers have officially listed Jarrett Allen (finger) as out for Tuesday’s play-in game vs. Brooklyn. An earlier report suggested there’s some hope that Allen would be able to play on Friday if Cleveland loses tonight.
  • Clippers sharpshooter Luke Kennard (hamstring) had been officially listed as questionable for Tuesday’s play-in game, but he didn’t make the trip to Minnesota, according to head coach Tyronn Lue (Twitter link via Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times).
  • Hawks big man John Collins, out since March 11 due to finger and foot injuries, played some 4-on-4 over the weekend, but head coach Nate McMillan isn’t sure whether he’ll be available for Wednesday’s play-in game vs. Charlotte, writes Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s been moving a lot more, and today was pretty much shooting. … We’ll see tomorrow,” McMillan said on Tuesday. “We’ll see how he feels after the weekend of play and what he went through today.”
  • After missing the last two games of the regular season with a knee issue, Sixers forward Georges Niang was able to practice on Tuesday and should be ready for Game 1 on Saturday, head coach Doc Rivers told reporters, including Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

Pacific Notes: Kennard, Jackson, DeRozan, Horton-Tucker, DiVincenzo

The chemistry between Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson formed long before they teamed up on the Clippers, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. They were teammates in Detroit for two and a half seasons after Kennard entered the league in 2017/18.

Their partnership ended briefly when the Pistons waived Jackson in February of 2020, but he signed with L.A. a few days later and Kennard was traded to the Clippers in the fall. They’ll make their only visit of the season to Detroit on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s been a lot of fun playing with him – I mean, I played with him in Detroit, so I know what Reggie is all about,” Kennard said. “He was my vet in Detroit, and we kind of built a connection right away. He helped me a lot throughout my first couple of years there. And just to be back with him now and to play even more of a role with him now than I did in Detroit, it’s fun.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Appearing as a guest on Serge Ibaka‘s “How Hungry Are You?” series on YouTube, DeMar DeRozan admits that he had some interest in joining the Clippers during free agency (hat tip to Adam Glanzman of All Clippers). On the show, which was taped during the offseason, DeRozan said he would have accepted a small pay cut if Kyle Lowry had also come to L.A., but after he met with the Bulls, he didn’t believe the Clippers could match their offer. “Nothing but respect to (president of basketball operations) Lawrence Frank and the whole Clippers organization,” DeRozan said. “Great people. It definitely was an opportunity that presented itself. I think for me, the Chicago thing just took off.”
  • After Friday’s game, Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker revealed that he’s playing with a Grade 2 ankle sprain, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Horton-Tucker was listed as questionable for the game, but wound up playing 30 minutes and scoring 15 points. “I’m just trying to play through it,” he said. “It’s the end of the season so we got to get some wins. So, any way I can help I feel like I need to be out there. So, I’m trying to play through it. It still hurts, but I’m just trying to push.”
  • Donte DiVincenzo brought a commitment to defense to the Kings when they acquired him in a four-team trade last month, per Alex Kramers of The fourth-year guard specializes in jumping into passing lanes and forcing turnovers. “At the end of the day, it is just locking up and locking in on the defensive end, [recognizing] how to disrupt [opponents] offensively and how to make a difference for a team,” DiVincenzo said.

Poll: Who Will Win The 2022 Three-Point Contest?

The 2022 NBA Three-Point Contest takes place Saturday night and features eight participants (betting odds via Chad Smith of Basketball Insiders):

There are two rounds in the competition; the three highest scores from the first round advance to the championship round, and the highest scoring competitor in the championship round will become the victor. A first-time winner will be crowned this year, as only Young and LaVine have made prior appearances in the event, this being Young’s second attempt and LaVine’s third.

Each participant gets 70 seconds to attempt a total of 27 shots — five from each of the traditional racks located at the corners, wings, and top-of-the-key, and two “Dew Zone” locations six feet behind the arc. The deep racks feature just one ball each, but they’re worth three points apiece.

Young, VanVleet, Lavine and Towns are all pulling double-duty, as the four players were all selected to the All-Star game. Bane is as well, as he’s a member of Team Isiah for the Rising Stars event.

Going purely by three-point percentage this season, Kennard leads the group at 44.8%, followed by Mills and Bane (41.9%), Towns (40.9%), VanVleet (40.1%), LaVine (39.9%), McCollum (38.9%), and finally Young (38.3%).

However, VanVleet leads all competitors in makes (4.0) and attempts (10.0) per game by a considerable margin — McCollum is second with 3.1 makes and 8.0 attempts.

What do you think? Who will win this year’s Three-Point Contest? Will Towns defy the betting odds and take home the crown? Will LaVine triumph in his third attempt?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

NBA Announces Slam Dunk, Three-Point, Skills Challenge Contestants

The NBA has announced a full list of the participants for its three-point, slam dunk and skills challenge competitions ahead of the upcoming 2022 All-Star Weekend in Cleveland.

Per the NBA (Twitter link), the following players will partake in the Mountain Dew Three-Point Contest, which appears to have outpaced the dunk contest as the premiere event for established stars at All-Star Weekend. Four 2022 All-Stars will compete:

According to the league (via Twitter), these are the contestants in the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest:

Below are the NBA’s announced players for the newly revamped Taco Bell Skills Challenge (Twitter link). This year, the Skills Challenge will be divvied up into three teams: Antetokounmpo brothers (“Antetokounmpos”), Cavaliers players (“Cavs”), and rookies (“Rooks”).

These three events will take place on All-Star Saturday on February 19.

Eastern Trade Rumors: Cavs, Schröder, Beal, Dinwiddie, Burks, Magic

Before acquiring Caris LeVert from Indiana, the Cavaliers talked to the Clippers about a possible deal involving Luke Kennard, according to reports from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Meanwhile, Jared Weiss of The Athletic suggests the Cavaliers may not be done dealing yet, writing that they remain in the mix for Celtics guard Dennis Schröder. A Cleveland offer for Schröder would likely include a draft pick and two players from a group that includes Ed Davis, Dylan Windler, and Kevin Pangos, says Weiss.

Even as the Cavs remain in the market for more backcourt help, it doesn’t appear likely they’re prepared to move on from injured guard Collin Sexton. According to Scotto, teams have called to inquire on Sexton, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, but Cleveland would prefer to keep him.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the Eastern Conference:

  • There’s still no indication the Wizards will do anything this week with Bradley Beal, who is getting his injured wrist evaluated, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. The team still wants to keep him long-term and hasn’t heard anything from Beal that indicates he’s not committed to the franchise, sources tell ESPN.
  • The Wizards have, however, continued to communicate their interest in trading their other starting guard, Spencer Dinwiddie, says Fischer. According to Fischer, it’s unclear what sort of market exists for Dinwiddie, who is having a poor season in D.C.
  • As the Knicks continue their attempts to move a veteran or two, they’ve exhibited interest in acquiring players on expiring contracts, says Windhorst. Among the vets being shopped by New York, Alec Burks has generated the most interest, Fischer reports.
  • According to Fischer, league personnel think the Magic will end up trading Terrence Ross in a deal similar to the Evan Fournier move from a year ago, which netted them a pair of second-round picks. Fischer adds that Gary Harris is considered a buyout candidate if he’s not traded at the deadline.

Clippers Seek Point Guard; Bledsoe, Ibaka, Morris Available

The Clippers are shopping for a play-making point guard and are willing to move several veterans in order to achieve that goal, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports.

The Clippers believe a starting point guard is the missing piece to become a championship contender when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return to action, even though it’s uncertain whether they’ll be back this season or next year.

The front office has made Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, and Marcus Morris available to acquire another floor leader, O’Connor says. The team views current starter Reggie Jackson as more of a scorer than a pure point guard.

Bledsoe is signed through next season but his $19.38MM salary next season is only guaranteed for $3.9MM. Ibaka is making $9.7MM this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Clippers would prefer to hold onto Morris, who is in the second year of a four-year, $64MM contract, but the forward may be their most attractive trade piece.

O’Connor suggests the Clippers would also be willing to part with Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Ivica Zubac, Jason Preston, Brandon Boston Jr., or Keon Johnson if the right deal came along.

As O’Connor notes, the Clippers have been linked in some fashion to Jalen Brunson, Dennis Schröder, Kemba Walker, Goran Dragic, Spencer Dinwiddie and John Wall in recent weeks. Brunson would seemingly be the best fit, though the Mavericks aren’t inclined to deal him, despite the fact that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Dragic, currently in limbo, might be a good short-term fit. Wall, who hasn’t played this season while the Rockets seek a new home for him, could also be an intriguing possibility. The salaries of Bledsoe, Ibaka and Morris could be matched up to obtain Wall. The Clippers could also simply wait to see if Wall winds up on the buyout market and make a play for him at that point.

Los Angeles Notes: Lakers Injuries, Reaves, Clippers, Kennard

The 24-26 Lakers are struggling to develop consistent chemistry due to injuries across the board, but most importantly to All-Stars LeBron James (currently out with a swollen knee) and Anthony Davis (recently back in the lineup after missing much of the season with knee and wrist injuries), as Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes.

Though starting point guard Russell Westbrook has begun to improve his scoring (if not his late-game decision-making), the absences of Davis and the 37-year-old James have made for choppy waters. The team has also not seen its fifth highest-paid player, Kendrick Nunn, since the preseason.

“It’s a long season; I wouldn’t count this team out,” head coach Frank Vogel said on the West’s current ninth seed.. “[We] have a belief in what we can be when all of the pieces finally come together and have a chance to jell. We’ve seen it in different bursts.”

There’s more out of the City of Angels:

  • Lakers rookie shooting guard Austin Reaves has been one of the few bright spots during what has been an otherwise largely underwhelming season for L.A., opines Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. “He’s doing a great job of learning and adjusting,” future Hall-of-Famer teammate Carmelo Anthony raved. “And figuring out, ‘OK, if I don’t have the ball in my hands, back cut, offensive rebound, loose balls.’ He’s been doing a great job with doing that, and crashing from the weak side, getting tip-outs, diving on the floor for loose balls, taking charges, getting hit in his face. It seems like he gets hit every play down the court.” The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma is averaging a fairly modest 5.9 PPG and 2.7 RPG, with .467/.316/.850 shooting splits, but the numbers belie his impact as a defender and as an occasional scoring option off the bench.
  • A depleted Clippers team missing perennial All-Star forwards Paul George and Kawhi Leonard has managed to find a way to recover from disadvantages of 20 or more points in three January games. Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register notes that the exhausted 25-26 club is in the midst of an epic eight-game road trip.
  • Clippers reserve long-range marksman Luke Kennard is interested in being considered for NBA All-Star Weekend’s three-point contest, writes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. He has the support of his head coach. “I think he would do great,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. The 6’5″ vet is currently the third-best three-point shooter in the NBA by percentage, making 43.9% of his 2.8 triples a night.