Mason Plumlee

Northwest Notes: Grant, Conley, Olson, Gasol

Jerami Grant is expected to start the season as the Nuggets’ backup power forward but he’ll also see time at center, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. Grant was traded by the Thunder to Denver for a first-round pick.

“I think Jerami Grant can play (center),” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. “Jerami’s ability to screen and roll, finish around the basket, catch passes in traffic and make plays from that, he’s really, really good in that regard.”

A small-ball lineup with Grant at center would cut into Mason Plumlee’s minutes in the Nuggets’ frontcourt, Singer notes.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Mike Conley has asserted himself as a team leader in the first week of the Jazz’s camp, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune writes. Utah is hoping that the longtime Grizzlies point guard will be the player that pushes the franchise to new heights.  Memphis traded Conley to Utah in a multi-player deal. “It’s unusual that you trust a player so quickly, but he’s earned that,” coach Quin Snyder said. “That’s who he is.”
  • The Jazz have named Jim Olson president of the franchise and Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment (LHMSE), according to a team press release. Olson, who has been in the organization for 25 years, had been the executive vice president for LHMSE and president of Vivint Smart Home Arena. He’ll oversee the day-to-day business operations of the Jazz.
  • Pau Gasol has embraced a mentoring role with the Trail Blazers, according to an Associated Press report. Gasol, who signed a one-year deal to join Portland, is hopeful to be ready by opening night as he rehabs from foot surgery but he’s asserting himself in camp in other ways. “I hope to add leadership on and off the court, experience and also quality of play,” he said. “I’m excited after a difficult health year, frustrating. I’m excited to just work on my body and be healthy so I can do what I do on the floor and just have fun with the guys and compete, and play as hard as I can.”

World Cup Notes: Exhibition, Australia, Free Agency, Clarkson

Team USA got the test it was hoping for in today’s exhibition matchup with Australia, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Playing before more than 51,000 fans in Melbourne, the Americans trailed briefly in the second and third quarters before pulling away for a 102-86 victory.

“One of our big mantras has been ‘composure and poise,’” coach Gregg Popovich said. “Things are going to go the other way in some games. And the way you respond to that is really the measure of how you’re going to do.”

Popovich put together a challenging exhibition schedule to test his team before World Cup play officially starts at the end of the month. After facing second-ranked Spain last week, Team USA is playing a pair of games against Australia, then taking on Canada.

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Before the game, Popovich told reporters he sees Australia as a legitimate threat for the gold medal, per an Associated Press story. The Boomers feature several NBA players and have a core that has been together for a long time. “They are one of the teams that can win the whole thing, without a doubt,” Popovich said. “I’m not saying that because I’m here. It’s just a fact. They’ve been close for several years, and they are hungry. They are talented. They have the toughness and physicality to go with it. I think they are one of the top contenders.”
  • International play has frequently set up future free agent moves, notes Douglas Farmer of Basketball Insiders. He singles out Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell as two players who could work well together, although both are expected to sign rookie scale extensions with their current teams, so that partnership may not be formed until 2027. Among 2020 free agents, Mason Plumlee and Joe Harris are both role players who could be valuable in the right situation. Farmer expects the four Celtics on the World Cup team to talk to Plumlee about coming to Boston, while Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez may sell Harris on the Bucks.
  • Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson won’t be part of the Philippines team, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The nation included Clarkson’s name on the 19-man pool it submitted to FIBA just in case he was declared eligible, but head coach Yeng Guiao announced Wednesday that the team is moving on without him.

Team USA Updates: Millsap, Plumlee, Harrell, Select Team

USA Basketball has issued a press release announcing a series of updates relating to the team it’s putting together for the 2019 World Cup in China, as well as the training camp that will take place in August before that event. Here are the highlights of that announcement:

More withdrawals:

Nuggets big man Paul Millsap has joined the ever-growing list of players from Team USA’s initial 20-man roster who have decided not to participate in this year’s World Cup. As expected, Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has also withdrawn from Team USA’s 2019 roster.

Millsap and Love join Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Damian Lillard, and CJ McCollum among the original invitees who have removed their names from World Cup consideration.

New invitees:

Team USA confirmed that Thaddeus Young, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, and Jaylen Brown will join the training camp roster for next month, as previous reports indicated.

In addition to those four players, two big men will join the roster as well, with Clippers center Montrezl Harrell and Nuggets center Mason Plumlee have received invitations from USA Basketball. Assuming the remaining 11 players from the original 20-man roster remain committed, that would bring the roster back up to 17.

[UPDATE: Harrell may turn down his invitation]

Those 11 other players are Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez, Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Myles Turner, and Kemba Walker.

Select Team:

For the first time, USA Basketball confirmed the players who will make up the Select Team at next month’s training camp in Las Vegas. The members of the 13-man Select Team will practice and scrimmage with Team USA’s training camp invitees, and will be coached by Jeff Van Gundy.

It’s possible that a player could be elevated from the Select Team to the primary roster and eventually find his way onto the 12-man squad that will play in China, but that’s probably a long shot.

The 13 players who will play for the Select Team are as follows:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Nets)
  2. Marvin Bagley III (Kings)
  3. Mikal Bridges (Suns)
  4. Jalen Brunson (Mavericks)
  5. John Collins (Hawks)
  6. Pat Connaughton (Bucks)
  7. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
  8. Joe Harris (Nets)
  9. Jonathan Isaac (Magic)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Landry Shamet (Clippers)
  12. Derrick White (Spurs)
  13. Trae Young (Hawks)

Team USA’s training camp will take place during the week of August 5, while the World Cup itself is scheduled to run from August 31 to September 15.

Northwest Notes: Thomas, Plumlee, Rose, Wolves

Isaiah Thomas hasn’t played since signing with the Nuggets over the summer, but he is having a huge impact on the team, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Thomas has become a mentor to younger players and a vocal leader on an otherwise quiet team.

“To have his voice in our locker room, to help some of these younger guys out, it takes a lot of load off myself,” said Paul Millsap, the only other player on Denver’s roster older than 30.

Thomas expects to return soon from a lingering hip injury and hopes to re-establish himself after a nightmarish 2017/18 season that began with a trade out of Boston, where had become a fan favorite and an MVP candidate. He missed his first two months in Cleveland, then took the blame for the team’s defensive and chemistry problems when he did start playing. The Cavaliers shipped him to the Lakers, who elected not to re-sign him when the season ended.

“For my wife and my family, it’s definitely been difficult,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, I’m human. I’ve been three places in less than one year, so it’s like, I’m tired of moving.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Mason Plumlee‘s teammate’s consider him the NBA’s “most underrated player,” Singer relays in a separate story. Although his stats aren’t impressive, Plumlee leads the Nuggets in field goal percentage, takes the toughest assignments on defense and is an important part of a bench unit that is tied for the second-highest plus-minus rating in the league. Coach Michael Malone believes Plumlee should be considered as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, even though the award usually goes to big scorers.
  • Timberwolves guard Derrick Rose also wants to be considered for the Sixth Man award, according to Chris Pine of The Star Tribune. The former MVP has settled into a reserve role since coming to Minnesota and is averaging 19.3 points per game while shooting a career high .494 from 3-point territory. “I would like winning Sixth Man of the Year,” Rose said. “I don’t think that’s anything bad to say or a bad goal with me coming off the bench. I want to be the best bench player.”
  • Adding Robert Covington and Dario Saric in the Jimmy Butler trade has turned the Timberwolves into a much better rebounding team, Pine notes in the same story. Since the deal, Minnesota has upped its defensive rebounding percentage from 67% to 73%.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Mitchell, Plumlee, Roth

Thunder guard and former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier this week. The procedure was described as “maintenance” and he will be re-evaluated in four weeks. Westbrook is expected to miss the preseason but his status for Oklahoma City’s season opener on October 17 is to be determined.

Westbrook is coming off another outstanding season for the Thunder as he averaged a triple-double for the second consecutive season. As The Oklahoman details, Westbrook’s injury already has had ripple effects on the Thunder roster and will continue to do so until his impending return.

Check out more Northwest Division notes below:

  • Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell had an outstanding rookie season for Utah, a season that would’ve earned him Rookie of the Year honors in nearly any other season. Frank Urbina of HoopsHype examines Mitchell skillset and projects how and when Mitchell could make the jump into superstar status.
  • Nuggets‘ big man Mason Plumlee needed offseason surgery after playing another season of at least 70 games. NBA.com previewed Plumlee’s upcoming 2018/19 campaign as he prepares to be Denver’s primary backup at center.
  • Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune looks at the Timberwolves‘ strategy for trying out players for the G League team. “Everybody’s just looking for the diamond in the rough,” Iowa Wolves coach and former Timberwolves player Scott Roth said. “Everybody wants the next Jonathan Simmons to walk into their building. 

Western Notes: Capela, Durant, Leonard, Williams

Clint Capela‘s new five-year contract with the Rockets on Friday, initially reported to be worth $90MM, is technically guaranteed for $80MM with $10MM in incentives, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Those annual incentives include $1MM for reaching the Western Conference finals, $500K for finishing with a 30% defensive rebounding rate, and $500K for shooting at least 65% from the free throw line, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kevin Durant‘s decision to take a one-plus-one contract with the Warriors kept his options open beyond the upcoming season, as he explained to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Durant will make $30MM the first year with a $31.5MM player option for the 2019/20 season. “The [one-plus-one] was the perfect thing for me to do, to keep things open for me — financially and what I want to do,” he told Charania. “It’s just one of those things.”
  • The Celtics offered at least two of the first-round picks they own from other teams for Kawhi Leonard, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Those picks, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes, include the higher of the Kings’ and 76ers’ pick next summer, unless it’s the top overall pick; the Grizzlies’ first-rounder, which is top-eight protected next summer and top-six protected in 2020; and the Clippers’ pick, which is lottery-protected the next two summers and then converts to a second-rounder. The Spurs instead decided to take another All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, in a package for Leonard. The way the Spurs organization treated Leonard may have had more to do with his departure than any issues with his teammates, Feldman notes in a separate piece, relaying reporting from Lowe and ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.
  • C.J. Williams is a perfect waiver claim candidate, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Williams, who was waived by the Clippers on Friday, is on a $1.4MM non-guaranteed contract with $125K in protection if he’s not waived by opening night, Marks continues. His $1.6MM salary in 2019/20 has a $200K guarantee if he’s not waived by the first game, Marks adds.
  • The Nuggets’ second unit will likely be led by Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles and Torrey Craig, Chris Dempsey of the team’s website predicts. Dempsey dispenses his views on recent developments involving the club in his latest mailbag.

Nuggets Looking To Trade Chandler, Arthur, Faried

With a potentially huge luxury tax bill looming, the Nuggets are hoping to find someone willing to take on the contracts of Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur or Kenneth Faried, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. He adds that Denver isn’t finding many interested teams and may have to put center Mason Plumlee on the trade block too.

Chandler contributed to the cap crunch when he decided to opt in to the final year of his contract at $12.8MM for next season. Combined with a sizable new deal upcoming for Nikola Jokic and the apparent decision to re-sign free agent Will Barton, the Nuggets could have a team salary in excess of $140MM, well above the projected $123MM luxury tax threshold for 2018/19.

Denver can reduce that figure by unloading Faried, who will make nearly $13.8MM next season, or Arthur, whose salary is set at nearly $7.5MM. Both are on expiring contracts, as is Chandler. Plumlee has two years left on his current deal at $12.9MM and $14MM.

Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee Undergoes Surgery

Nuggets big man Mason Plumlee has undergone a successful surgical procedure to repair a core muscle injury, the team announced today in a press release. According to Gina Mizell of The Denver Post (Twitter link), Plumlee played through the injury for a significant chunk of the 2017/18 season.

Plumlee is expected to resume basketball-related activities at some point this summer, and should be back to 100% by the time the Nuggets open training camp in September, per the club.

Plumlee, 28, signed a three-year, $41MM contract with Denver during the 2017 offseason, so he remains under contract with the club for two more years before becoming eligible for free agency again in 2020. The former Duke standout saw his playing time cut back in 2017/18, averaging a career-low 7.1 PPG to go along with 5.4 RPG and 1.9 APG in 19.4 minutes per contest.

With Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap set to return as the Nuggets’ starting frontcourt for 2018/19, Plumlee figures to continue playing a backup role at center going forward, as long as everyone stays healthy.

Northwest Notes: Butler, Anthony, Millsap, Jazz

In the wake of Jimmy Butler‘s meniscus injury, the Timberwolves find themselves in a worse position than their Western Conference rivals who have lost star players, writes Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. With the trade deadline already passed, Minnesota has few options to replace Butler if he is sidelined for several weeks or the rest of the season.

The Grizzlies lost Mike Conley early in the season and started pointing toward next year before Christmas arrived. Rudy Gobert of the Jazz and Paul Millsap of the Nuggets both had time to heal before the stretch run. The Pelicans were able to deal for Nikola Mirotic when DeMarcus Cousins got injured. The Spurs have a successful foundation to fall back on without Kawhi Leonard.

None of those benefits are available to the Wolves, who are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Coach Tom Thibodeau has relied heavily on Butler on both ends of the court since acquiring him from the Bulls in an offseason trade. Butler ranks second in the league in minutes per game at 37.1 and is the key to a defense that becomes the NBA’s worst without him on the court.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Some tears can’t be fixed surgically, meaning the meniscus has to be removed, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. That leads to a faster recovery, adds Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), but it has become less popular since Dwyane Wade had it done and blames it for his ongoing knee pain.
  • Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony is enjoying himself away from the stress that marked most of his time in New York, relays Tim Keown of ESPN. Anthony’s tenure with the Knicks was marked by disappointing results and a long public feud with team president Phil Jackson. “In New York, there was so much going on with the organization and the city,” Anthony said. “It was very tense up there, and you never really get a chance to have stability there. Here, man, I’m having fun with the game again. The joy of it — that’s what guys know me as: laughing and smiling and enjoying the game. I think over the past couple of years I’ve lost that, and I think guys around the league have seen it.”
  • After climbing to sixth in the Western standings, the Nuggets face the challenge of incorporating two injured players back into their rotation, writes Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post. Mason Plumlee returned to the lineup Friday, and Millsap is expected back soon. “It’s just great to have those guys back,” said coach Michael Malone. “We’ll figure out who plays and when they play, but being healthy with 24 games to go [is] a good thing to be.”
  • The Jazz, who haven’t hosted an All-Star Game in 25 years, have submitted a formal bid to bring the game to Utah in 2022 or 2023, according to Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News.

Northwest Rumors: Nuggets, Wolves, Noah

The Nuggets are a team to watch as today’s trade deadline approaches, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who tweets that Denver is “active on several fronts.” The club is trying to land Tyreke Evans and is looking to move players like Emmanuel Mudiay and Wilson Chandler. The Nuggets are also willing to use a draft pick to incentivize a team to take on Kenneth Faried, Woj adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Having talked to sources around the NBA, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets that things remain quiet on the Timberwolves‘ front. Shabazz Muhammad may be dealt, but there doesn’t seem to be much else happening for now, says Krawczynski.
  • The Knicks aren’t expected to find a trade partner willing to take Joakim Noah. However, opposing executives believe the Thunder and Timberwolves will be among the teams with interest in Noah if he’s waived or bought out, sources tell Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Nuggets center Mason Plumlee, who has been sidelined with a right calf strain, is on track to return to action after the All-Star break, writes Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com.