Marc Gasol

Atlantic Notes: Stevens, Fizdale, Load Management

Brad Stevens‘s new-look Celtics are off to their best start in his tenure as head coach, with a sterling 5-1 record. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston opines that the Celtics’ winning ways are attributable to five key factors: an easy connection with new point guard Kemba Walker; strong second halves on offense and defense; a relative dearth of contract drama; no idle chatter of Stevens mulling a return to the NCAA; and Stevens’ willingness for self-reflection following the disappointment of the 2018/19 Celtics.

Here’s tonight’s full run-down of Atlantic notes:

  • Marc Berman of The New York Post posits that it’s way too early for Knicks head coach David Fizdale to be on the coaching hot seat. Though the Knicks are tied with the Zion Williamson-free Pelicans at a league-worst 1-6 record, Berman suggests that the front office duo of Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry have saddled Fizdale with a head-scratching assortment of talent, heavy on mediocre frontcourt pieces but light on outside shooting or clutch end-of-game leadership.
  • In a piece for The Athletic, Frank Isola supports Fizdale’s staunch defense of playing promising Knicks rookie RJ Barrett extended minutes, an argument echoed by former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and by Barrett himself. “Has anyone stopped to consider that maybe by playing Barrett a lot of minutes David Fizdale is advancing Barrett’s career forward?,” Van Gundy said to Isola. “Is there anyone who really believes that the way you get better is by not playing and by not practicing?”
  • On the other side of the wins-losses spectrum, the Raptors appear to be taking a similar approach to the struggling Knicks when it comes to one hot-button health topic. “I don’t really see much point in (load management) right now for anyone we’ve got,” head coach Nick Nurse said on Monday, per Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun.Kyle [Lowry] will be somebody maybe we do something with down the road, maybe Marc [Gasol] as well. But it’s not really in the forefront of my mind this year like it was last year.” The Raptors famously conserved the play of eventual Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard last season. 33-year-old Lowry is currently leading the league with a heavy 38.8 minutes played per game, while backcourt mate Fred VanVleet is logging 37.8 minutes a night.

Eastern Notes: Isaac, Giannis, Nets, Heat, Lowry

Magic forward Jonathan Isaac gets lead billing this year in Zach Lowe’s annual ESPN.com column on his six most intriguing players of the upcoming season. As Lowe details, Isaac has put on about 15-20 pounds this offseason as he looks to bulk up his thin frame a little, and the team has high hopes for him going forward, particularly on the defensive end.

According to Lowe, it’s “hard to overstate” how much Orlando loves Isaac. In fact, sources tell Lowe that the Magic have “batted away” any and all trade inquiries on the former No. 6 overall pick. The front office views Isaac as a standard-bearer for the culture that the team is trying to create, Lowe adds.

As we look forward to seeing whether a breakout year is coming for Isaac, here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • In an in-depth story for ESPN.com, Tim Bontemps examines the two possible long-term paths for the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be eligible for a super-max contract extension next summer. Antetokounmpo’s decision on whether to re-up with the Bucks or explore other options will have a massive impact not just on basketball in Milwaukee but on the entire NBA.
  • The role of Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson in the team’s successful foray into free agency this summer shouldn’t be overlooked, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post, who points out that both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant praised Atkinson in their initial comments to the media last week.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald offers a pair of hypothetical trade scenarios that could see the Heat add Chris Paul and Bradley Beal to their roster. Although Jackson’s suggestions would certainly appeal to Miami, there has been no indication that the Wizards will move Beal or that the Thunder will meet the Heat’s demands in a CP3 trade.
  • While Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol figure to be mainstays in the Raptors‘ starting lineups, head coach Nick Nurse may shuffle through players for the other two spots, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets. Meanwhile, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca explores whether it makes sense for the Raptors and Lowry to work out an extension sooner rather than later.

Raptors Rumors: Siakam, Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka

The Raptors have engaged in “preliminary” discussions with Pascal Siakam‘s representatives about a potential contract extension, sources tell Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. Lewenberg cautions that there’s no indication a deal is imminent.

Siakam, who is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie scale contract, is eligible to sign a new deal up until 5:00pm CT on October 21, the day before the regular season begins. If he and the Raptors don’t reach an agreement by that point, he’d be on track for restricted free agency next summer.

After a breakout year in which he earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player award – and helped Toronto win its first championship – Siakam and his camp figure to be seeking a deal worth the max or close to it, Lewenberg notes. Based on the league’s latest cap projections, a four-year, maximum-salary contract for Siakam would be worth just shy of $130MM, while a five-year max would be worth $168.2MM.

With a pretty clean cap sheet for the 2020/21 season, the Raptors can afford such an investment and figure to pull the trigger at some point. However, it remains to be seen whether the two sides will strike a deal in the coming weeks, and exactly how much it’d be worth.

Here’s more on the defending NBA champions:

  • Although Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka have expiring contracts that could make them intriguing trade chips, league sources tell Sean Deveney of Heavy.com that the Raptors are happy with their situation and aren’t entertaining trade inquiries on those veterans.
  • One source with knowledge of the team’s thinking tells Deveney that the Raptors want to return to the postseason this spring, in part to sell the club to potential free agent targets. “This is where they always wanted to be,” that source said. “[President of basketball operations] Masai [Ujiri] was always going to rebuild things around Siakam and OG (Anunoby) and the other young guys eventually. He’s going to have a ton of cap space. But he’s got to be able to get free agents to go there and it’s still a tough sell, getting guys to go to Canada. So they’ve got the ring, if they can get to the playoffs again, he has something more to sell when that cap space comes available.”
  • In a separate article for TSN.ca, Lewenberg examines whether Anunoby is primed for a breakout season, explores what Toronto’s roster and rotation might look like, and touches on a handful of other Raptors-related topics.

And-Ones: Lineups, Fournier, Roc Nation, Gasol

The league has made a proposal requiring teams to reveal their starting lineups at least 30 minutes prior to tip-off, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. Currently, teams only have to issue their lineups 10 minutes before the start of the game. The move would most likely facilitate wagering, particularly with daily fantasy leagues, who would have more advance knowledge of any lineup changes.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Magic swingman Evan Fournier, who played for bronze-medalist France in the FIBA World Cup, was disappointed that many NBA stars chose to skip the event, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports. “To be honest, like, when you look at (LeBron) James, KD (Kevin Durant), all these guys, they came here already, they won,” Fournier said. “Whatever, it’s fine. Friends of mine like Tobias (Harris), I thought it was a great opportunity for him to see something different and compete. I don’t think they realize how beneficial this is for their career.”
  • Veteran agent Roger Montgomery has resigned from Roc Nation Sports to focus on other management projects, Jabari Young of The Athletic tweets. Montgomery negotiated Rudy Gay‘s two-year, $32MM contract with the Spurs and also represented Hornets lottery pick PJ Washington.
  • Marc Gasol showed he’s still an effective player during the World Cup, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. Gasol was the defensive and offensive anchor of Spain’s gold-medal winning team and that provides hope for the Raptors that they can still make some noise in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, maligned point guard Frank Ntilikina showed he could be an elite defender for the Knicks with the way he handled Kemba Walker while playing for France.

And-Ones: Spain, Bryant, Nowitzki, Tampering

Following Spain’s 95-75 gold medal victory over Argentina in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Sunday morning, head coach Sergio Scariolo praised his team’s hard work, determination and efforts.

Spain wound up finishing first in the competition, despite not having the likes of Serge Ibaka, Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol, surprising observers around the tournament.

“I can only be proud of what these guys did and feel that basketball was fair to these guys,” Scariolo said, as relayed by Sportando’s Nicola Lupo. “We weren’t the tallest, the most talented we weren’t in the odds when the competitions started but we worked hard. They worked hard, they prepared, they kept fighting in tough moments. There were some really tough moments during a couple of games and they didn’t lose faith in themselves. And then basketball rewarded them with this big award which they fully deserve.”

Spain was led by players such as World Cup MVP Ricky Rubio and veteran center Marc Gasol, among others, winning its first title since 2006. The team also did a tremendous job neutralizing red-hot Luis Scola in the gold medal game, limiting him to just eight points on 1-of-10 shooting.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Kobe Bryant believes it doesn’t matter which NBA team has the best duo entering the 2019/20 season, explaining his thoughts in a recent interview. “It doesn’t matter. I think it matters what they put around those two guys, and then what is the offensive and defensive system they’re going to be executing. You could have marquee names and put those marquee names together, and guess if they could play together or not, but it ultimately comes down to what system do you have them in and how does that affect the rest of the guys.”
  • Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki has been appointed Chair of the FIBA Players Commission for the 2019-23 term, FIBA Basketball announced. “Dirk is one of the greatest players to have ever played basketball, and is highly respected worldwide,” FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis said. “He has had an exceptional career both with the NBA and with his national team and will bring with him a huge amount of experience and knowledge.  He is the perfect person for this position and  we look forward to working closely with him over the next term of office.” 
  • The NBA is fighting a losing battle when it comes to the topic of tampering, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. “I think it’s pointless at the end of the day to have rules that we can’t enforce,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “It hurts the perception of integrity around the league if people say, ‘Well, you have that rule and it’s obvious that teams aren’t fully complying, so why do you have it?’ I think the sense in the (Board of Governors meeting) room was we should revisit those rules.”

Atlantic Notes: Gasol, Poirier, Ntilikina, Nets

Veteran NBA center Marc Gasol added to his already impressive year by helping lead Spain to a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup today, finishing with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in 25 minutes of work against Argentina.

Gasol, who also helped Toronto win the NBA championship in June, joined Lamar Odom as the only players in league history to win both a title and gold medal in the same calendar year.

“It reminded me a lot of the Larry O’Brien trophy,” Gasol said when asked about winning the Naismith Trophy, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The Naismith Trophy is awarded to the winner of the World Cup. “And hey, you can drink out of it!

“When I saw it, it was pretty shiny as well. Completely different tournament, completely different setup, but the feeling of fulfillment was there, because you invested so much, you risked a lot and you put everything on the line for your guys.”

This year’s World Cup could be the last for Gasol, who turns 35 in January and is set to enter his 12th NBA season this fall. The defensive-minded center has been on top of the basketball world in 2019, something he surely won’t forget when he looks back on his career.

“It feels like I haven’t stopped playing basketball,” Gasol said. “It’s been an amazing year for me and I’m just happy.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Vincent Poirier was a good pick-up for the Celtics this offseason, according to French teammates Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier. Poirier signed a two-year deal to join the franchise back in July. “It’s clear that he’s a center that can block shots and control the paint,” Fournier said, per John Schuhmann of NBA.com. (Twitter links). “He’s a terrific roller, can really catch a lob, and obviously has a lot of energy. It’s a good pick-up for Boston, for sure.”
  • Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina is healthy again and motivated for the upcoming season, tweets Marc Stein of the New York Times. Ntilikina, according to Stein, also mentioned how the entire group is “very hungry” for next season. New York has several new players on its roster, including the likes of Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, RJ Barrett and others.
  • The Nets plan to give away 10,000 Kyrie Irving jerseys when the team hosts the Knicks on October 25, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). The Knicks were one of several teams interested in signing Irving in July, though Irving was said to have his sights set on joining the Nets well before the start of free agency.

World Cup Notes: Spain, Rubio, Popovich, Fox

Suns guard Ricky Rubio was named World Cup MVP as Spain captured the gold medal this morning by rolling past Argentina, 95-75. France claimed the bronze by defeating Australia.

The all-World Cup team had a strong NBA flavor as Rubio was joined by Spanish teammate Marc Gasol, Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, France’s Evan Fournier and Argentina’s Luis Scola. Gasol capped a memorable three-month stretch that included an NBA title with the Raptors and the World Cup crown.

“We were not the most talented team,” Rubio said. “We were not the biggest team. But we played with heart. We will be family for life.” (Twitter link from Emiliano Carchia of Sportando)

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Coach Gregg Popovich blasted critics who are taking shots at Team USA after a seventh-place finish, relays Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The Americans won the past two World Cups, but fell far short this time, losing back-to-back games to France and Serbia. “Some people want to play the blame game. There’s no blame to be placed anywhere,” Popovich said. “They want to play the shame game, like we should be ashamed because we didn’t win a gold medal? That’s a ridiculous attitude. It’s immature, it’s arrogant, and it shows that whoever thinks that doesn’t respect all the other teams in the world and doesn’t respect that these guys did the best they could.” Windhorst notes that only four of the 35 players who were on the projected U.S. roster last summer wound up playing in China.
  • There are no hard feelings from USA Basketball toward Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, who left the team shortly before it departed for exhibition games in Australia, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. It was suggested on ESPN’s “The Jump” this week that Fox wouldn’t be considered for future international teams, but USA Basketball communications director Craig Miller said the organization “understands De’Aaron’s decision.”
  • Both of this year’s finalists were successful with players who are considered past their prime, strengthening the argument that continuity provides a huge advantage in international play, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Argentina was led by the 39-year-old Scola, while Spain’s foundation of Rubio, Gasol, Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez and Victor Claver has been together for many years.

Eastern Notes: Gasol, Carter, Simmons, Booker

With Kawhi Leonard gone from Toronto, veteran big man Marc Gasol becomes even more important to the Raptors’ success this season and beyond than he was during the team’s memorable run to a title during the 2018/19 campaign, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer.

With Leonard back home in California, forward Pascal Siakam becomes the undisputed future of the Raptors, with his development into a star of paramount concern for Toronto’s long term outlook. And as Tjarks analyzes, Siakam is at his best – or at least was last year – when playing alongside Gasol.

For one, Siakam loves to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, so it’s important to play him with a center who can shoot well enough from the outside to drag Siakam’s defender out of the paint.

Additionally, Siakam is not yet an elite play-maker, so it helps to have other players like Gasol around him who can keep everyone else involved in the offense while Siakam plays in attack mode.

Finally, Gasol provides a large body that Toronto can use during the regular season to bang with big Eastern Conference centers like Joel Embiid over the course of an 82-game season. As Tjarks analogizes, Gasol essentially acts as a lead blocker for Siakam, clearing obstacles for Siakam to thrive.

There’s more tonight from the Eastern Conference:

And-Ones: Drummond, Gasol, Leonard

Andre Drummond recently spoke about how he was excited for free agency next summer, leading some to speculate that he would like to leave the Pistons. He took to Instagram to clarify his comments.

“My point was I’m excited to go through the process because I never been [through] it, doesn’t mean I’m trying to leave Detroit. I love it here,” the big man said on his social media page.

Drummond has a player option for the 2020/21 season, though he called this upcoming campaign his “contract year,” insinuating that he’s preparing to opt out.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Marc Gasol doesn’t blame Kawhi Leonard for leaving the Raptors and joining the Clippers in a move that will put Leonard closer to his hometown. “I haven’t talked to him. Just a little through group text — that was it. You can’t blame the guy for wanting to go home. You can’t,” Gasol told Marc Stein of The New York Times in his latest newsletter. “If you tell me I can go back to Barcelona and make an absurd amount of money and play in the NBA — I understand completely the decision and respect it and wish him the best.”
  • In the same piece, Gasol spoke about how he didn’t know that winning a championship would mean as much to him until after the Raptors took home the Larry O’Brien trophy. “It fulfilled me in a way that I didn’t know it could,” Gasol said. “Instantly you gain so much respect for everyone who has done this. Golden State, going to five straight finals and the rings that they have, I just instantly got so much respect for them. And LeBron going to eight finals in a row. Just doing it once put me beyond the limits I thought I had — physically and mentally. It was great to see, for myself, pushing those limits and leaving everything out there. It was awesome.”
  • NBA agent James Dunleavy is joining Excel Sports Management, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Dunleavy’s clients include Chandler Parsons and Gerald Green, among others.

World Cup Notes: Joseph, Spain, Teodosic, Rankings

Is guard Cory Joseph in or out of the FIBA World Cup for Team Canada? Joseph, the most prominent NBA member remaining on the depleted Team Canada roster, was withdrawing from the competition, according to a tweet from Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith. However, Team Canada coach Nick Nurse said that report was incorrect and that Joseph would indeed join the team in China, John Casey of 7Olympics tweets.

Joseph is not currently with the team during exhibition games in Australia and Sportsnet Canada’s Michael Grange notes that Joseph would have to leave for China soon, given that the tournament begins in 10 days and he needs to adjust to the 12-hour time difference (Twitter link).

We have more World Cup news: