Matisse Thybulle

Raptors Notes: Lowry, Ujiri, Bembry, Watson

During the hours leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweeted that the Sixers and Raptors appeared to be “at the one-yard line” in their discussions on a Kyle Lowry trade. Obviously, those talks didn’t make it into the end zone and Lowry ended up staying put. But Sam Amick of The Athletic hears that Toronto did feel at one point as if a deal with Philadelphia was close.

According to Amick, the deal would have included Danny Green, who would’ve been re-routed to a third team. It’s a safe bet that at least one of Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle would have been part of the package too. However, the draft compensation involved in the proposed trade was the obstacle that held things up, a source tells Amick.

Following up today on the Lowry discussions, Grange says (via Twitter) that the Sixers knew Miami was Lowry’s preferred landing spot, so they had to view him as a possible rental. That limited what they were willing to offer beyond Maxey, Grange adds. The Lakers were in a similar boat with Talen Horton-Tucker, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, while the Heat were unwilling to offer Tyler Herro for a player they could theoretically sign in free agency this summer.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • While the Raptors didn’t trade Lowry at the deadline, it’s hard to shake the sense that more drastic changes could be coming as soon as this offseason, Grange writes for Sportsnet.ca. While Lowry could sign a new contract with Toronto, it seems just as likely that he could head elsewhere, possibly in a sign-and-trade deal.
  • Like Lowry, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is also on an expiring contract, and while he spoke glowingly about the franchise on Thursday, he gave no indication that an in-season extension is around the corner. “We’ll visit this at the end of the season at some point,” Ujiri said of his contract with Toronto, per Grange.
  • During his media session on Thursday, Ujiri addressed the idea that the Raptors’ asking price for Lowry was too high: “I was surprised (the offers) weren’t better because, to be honest, I’ve viewed him as somebody that can go out and put a stamp on what you can do this year. … I’ve lived it, I’ve seen it… I know what the guy does. I know who he is. And that’s the truth. So, yeah, we’re going to (be) skewed in some kind of way and I’m biased in many ways with the players we have and I hope I’m pardoned that if I valued him too much, but that’s what I believe in today.”
  • Raptors reserves DeAndre’ Bembry and Paul Watson have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and won’t play on Friday night, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

Atlantic Notes: KD, Bryant, Raptors, Lowry

Nets All-Star Kevin Durant did not travel with Brooklyn for the club’s three-game road trip, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN. Head coach Steve Nash shed some light on the team’s decision to keep Durant home. The two-time Finals MVP has been unavailable for the club since February 12 with a left hamstring strain.

“We just felt like it didn’t benefit him to travel across the country while he is trying to get that critical last part of his rehab done,” Nash said of the Nets’ star forward. “If this was the playoffs, there’s a chance he’d be back very soon, but there’s no point in taking a big risk with him when the most important thing is to get him back for the remainder of the season.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant, a former Utes player and Jazz assistant coach, is still in the hunt to become the new University of Utah head coach, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.
  • The Raptors made some significant changes at the trade deadline, but they didn’t move the player everyone was perhaps most expecting to be dealt. Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes stock of where Toronto stands in terms of its draft assets and salary cap space going forward.
  • The Sixers opted not to trade for point guard Kyle Lowry, an unrestricted free agent this summer, apparently due to an ample asking price from the Raptors, as Rich Hoffman and Derek Bodner of The Athletic detail. The Raptors reportedly wanted a package centered around young players Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey, two future first-round draft picks, with veterans Danny Green and Mike Scott added to match Lowry’s incoming salary in a move.

Roster Transformation Looming For Raptors?

With less than 36 hours to go until the 2021 trade deadline, the Raptors are “hurtling toward a roster transformation,” according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that the team is engaged in multiple trade discussions involving Kyle Lowry and Norman Powell.

We covered some of the latest Lowry and Powell rumors late last night, noting that Lowry will reportedly seek a two-year contract worth at least $50MM from whichever team lands him, while Powell seems increasingly likely to be moved.

Wojnarowski confirms that Powell will probably be dealt, suggesting the question now is more about which of his “dozen or so” suitors will land him. Toronto could go in a number of different directions on the Powell front, depending on whether the team prioritizes young players or draft picks, Wojnarowski suggests. The odds of a Lowry trade are also gaining traction, Woj adds.

The Sixers and Heat have been frequently cited as the most likely landing spots for Lowry, but there are a handful of other teams involved as well, according to Wojnarowski, who says the Raptors are taking into consideration the veteran guard’s wishes as they consider possible scenarios. Lowry has an “open mind” about several possible destinations, sources tell ESPN.

Here’s more on the Raptors’ top two trade candidates:

  • The Sixers have discussed separate deals with the Raptors involving both Lowry and Powell, reports Wojnarowski.
  • In a deal with the Sixers for Lowry – not Powell – the Raptors would want at least one of Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle, but Philadelphia appears unwilling to part with Thybulle, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype has heard similar rumblings, writing that Maxey is among the assets available in a package for Lowry, while the Sixers are reluctant to part with Thybulle. Some executives around the league believe the inclusion of Thybulle – who has drawn interest from multiple teams – could swing the Lowry sweepstakes, Scotto adds.
  • One league executive thinks a package of Maxey, a first-round pick, and matching salaries (Danny Green, Tony Bradley, and Mike Scott) could get a Lowry deal done, assuming the Raptors can open up roster slots for all the incoming players, Pompey writes.
  • Tyler Herro is the sticking point in a potential Lowry-to-the-Heat trade, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). Toronto wants Herro, who still has two years left on his rookie contract after this season, but Miami is more comfortable parting with RFA-to-be Duncan Robinson, Grange explains.

And-Ones: Australia, Evans, Masks, Free Agency

Ben Simmons heads the list of players named by Basketball Australia to the country’s preliminary Olympic squad, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Among some of the other NBA notables on the 24-player list are Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, Patty Mills, Josh Green, Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova. The squad will have to be pared to 12 players for the Olympic tournament in Tokyo this summer.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The Erie BayHawks waived guard Jacob Evans to make room for forward Jordan Bell, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Bell was released from his 10-day contract with the Wizards over the weekend. Evans played for the Warriors and Timberwolves the past two seasons.
  • The NBA will soon require players to wear KN95 or KF94 masks on the bench and all other areas where masks are necessary, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes. The new rule will go into effect over the next week. Starting with games on Friday, the NBA will more strictly enforce current rules regarding the use of face masks, Bontemps adds.
  • The Athletic trio of James Edwards III (Pistons), Mike Vorkunov (Knicks) and Chris Kirschner (Hawks) take a closer look at their teams’ free agent moves during the offseason, how well those players have worked out so far, and what those franchises could have done differently.

Latest On The James Harden Trade

The Rockets were in “deep conversations” with both the Nets and Sixers today regarding a James Harden deal before deciding to accept Brooklyn’s offer, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link). He adds that both teams made “very strong offers,” with Philadelphia willing to give up Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle, along with draft compensation.

However, the opportunity to pair Harden with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving prompted the Nets to agree to a package loaded with future draft picks. Houston will receive three first-round selections and four pick swaps from Brooklyn over the next seven years (plus a Bucks first-rounder via Cleveland), with all the picks being unprotected. The deal also cost the Nets Caris LeVert, who was subsequently shipped to Indiana, and Jarrett Allen, who went to Cleveland.

The new Big Three in Brooklyn has been brewing for a while, Charania adds. He says Harden, Irving and Durant met in Los Angeles about a month and a half ago and discussed the possibility of teaming up.

There’s more on today’s blockbuster deal:

  • Simmons was “pretty ecstatic” that he wasn’t traded to Houston, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Simmons thinks the Sixers are capable of winning a title, and coach Doc Rivers is a huge believer in Simmons’ talent.
  • Harden knew that trade talks had escalated when he made post-game comments Tuesday night indicating that the situation in Houston couldn’t be fixed, states ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). Woj adds that the uncertainty surrounding Irving contributed to the Nets’ urgency to get a deal done, and the trade was made with an eye on convincing Durant to re-sign after his current contract expires.
  • The Celtics weren’t willing to part with Jaylen Brown to obtain Harden, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (video link from NBC Sports Boston). With young stars in Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics are on a different timetable than the Nets, Mannix adds.
  • Because the trade hasn’t been finalized, Nets coach Steve Nash couldn’t comment on it in his pre-game session with reporters, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. However, Nash did discuss the challenge of trying to blend multiple star players. “It’s about trying to be greater than the sum of your parts,” he said. “That doesn’t change, no matter what your team looks like.”
  • Handing out grades on the deal, Kevin Pelton of ESPN gives the Nets a D, noting that Brooklyn paid a steep price to get Harden and will regress defensively with the loss of Allen. Pelton gives the Rockets an A-minus for finding their way out of a difficult situation and loading up on draft picks, while the Pacers get a B-plus. The Cavaliers get a C, with Pelton questioning the cost (a first-round pick and future salary) for Allen, who will require a significant raise later this year.

Rockets Moving Closer To Harden Trade; Sixers, Nets In Mix

2:34pm: The Sixers, who have traded away a protected 2025 first-rounder, are attempting to scrounge up more draft picks to sweeten the pot for the Rockets, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. As Stein explains (via Twitter), Philadelphia is making an effort to keep Maxey out of a potential deal.


1:47pm: The Rockets continue to haggle over exactly which players and other assets would be included a Harden trade, but league sources say the Sixers appear to be the favorites, tweets Stein.

Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle confirms that Philadelphia has offered Simmons, but says the Rockets and 76ers have yet to agree on the rest of a trade structure. Houston wants Thybulle included in the package, tweets Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.


1:28pm: The Rockets are pursuing a Sixers trade package that would be headlined by Simmons and Tyrese Maxey, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). The 76ers are known to be interested in P.J. Tucker in addition to Harden, Stein says (via Twitter).


1:13pm: As the Rockets seriously consider their trade options, they conducted today’s practice without Harden in attendance, head coach Stephen Silas told reporters (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon).

We felt that it was best for the group and best for James not to come to practice,” Silas said.

The Rockets plan to keep Harden away from the team until a trade is done, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link). That’s another sign that the team is moving toward finalizing a deal in the very near future.

Woj and Shelburne add (via Twitter) that Houston’s talks with Brooklyn and Philadelphia were gaining momentum in recent days, even before Tuesday’s postgame presser.


1:04pm: It appears the Rockets have increased their efforts to trade James Harden in the wake of his blunt assessment of the team’s shortcomings on Tuesday night. According to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, Houston is “sifting through offers” from the Nets and Sixers and could move quickly to complete a deal.

Sources tell Charania and Amick that the Nets have prepared a package that would include four future first-round picks and three pick swaps. Teams are only permitted to trade draft picks up to seven years in advance and can’t leave themselves without a first-round pick in consecutive future seasons, so Brooklyn is essentially willing to put all its first-rounders on the table.

In that scenario, the Nets would presumably trade its 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027 selections and agree to pick swaps for 2022, 2024, and 2026. However, The Athletic’s duo cautions that Brooklyn may hesitate to mortgage so many future assets.

It’s also not clear which players the Nets would make available in such a package. Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link) is among those who have heard that Houston hasn’t been enamored with the players the Nets have to offer. Previous reports have suggested a third team may be necessary to complete a trade sending Harden to Brooklyn, but it’s not clear if the 31-year-old’s comments on Tuesday night changed the equation and prompted the Rockets to lower their asking price a little.

As for the Sixers, Charania and Amick note that the Rockets have pursued a package headlined by Ben Simmons. The report doesn’t make it explicitly clear whether or not Simmons is on the table, but suggests he could be had. According to The Athletic, the Rockets and 76ers have also discussed Matisse Thybulle, a player Houston likes.

While Harden has expanded his list of preferred destinations beyond Brooklyn and Philadelphia, those were said to be the first two teams he expressed interest in joining and are still believed to be atop his wish list. Both teams make sense as fits, since they have the assets to acquire Harden without giving up their very best players.

Joining the Nets would give Harden the opportunity to reunite with former teammate Kevin Durant, while heading to Philadelphia would see him rejoin former Rockets GM Daryl Morey and team up with star center Joel Embiid.

Community Shootaround: Should The NBA Go Back To A “Bubble”?

The NBA’s closed-campus experiment at Disney World was hailed as a huge success that enabled to league to complete its 2019/20 season and crown a champion without any interruptions from COVID-19. However, there was no desire to repeat the experience for an entire season as teams preferred to play in their home arenas, even if no fans were allowed.

But that decision carried risks, which are already beginning to overwhelm the new season. Only one game has been canceled so far — a season-opener between the Rockets and Thunder because Houston didn’t have enough eligible players — but several teams are operating with depleted rosters due to positive coronavirus tests and contact tracing mandated by the league’s health and safety protocols.

The Sixers had just eight eligible players this afternoon as they lost at home to Denver. Danny Green was the only Philadelphia starter to suit up for the game, while Dwight Howard and Tyrese Maxey were the only other members of the rotation who played.

The team’s predicament began Thursday when Seth Curry learned that he had tested positive for the virus. Tobias Harris, Shake MiltonMatisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirier shared a table with Curry at a team meeting that day, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, so they are required to quarantine for contact tracing. They will likely be unavailable for an entire week, which means three more missed games.

“We don’t know,” said coach Doc Rivers, whose season may be derailed after a 7-2 start. “We don’t know anything. We have to make that assumption, I guess. I mean, they were at a table. So it wasn’t like close contact. So maybe that will shorten their days. I don’t know that. But I guess even that’s too close. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t get that whole (thing).”

The 7-3 Celtics may be headed for the same situation. Star forward Jayson Tatum has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, joining Robert Williams, Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson in quarantine. Boston’s injury report for tomorrow’s game mentions all but eight players, which is the minimum needed for the game to be played.

Tatum’s test has also affected the Wizards because he talked after the game to Bradley Beal, who is now subject to health and safety protocols for contact tracing. The Nets, Nuggets, Spurs, Grizzlies and Mavericks are also short on players because of quarantine issues.

Kendra Andrews of The Athletic believes the NBA is making a mistake by forcing games like the one today in Philadelphia to be played. She notes that virus rates are higher now in many places than they were when the league suspended play in March, and basketball is an easy way for germs to spread because of close contact and shared equipment.

The league isn’t at a crisis situation yet, but it’s headed in that direction. Without the controlled environment that was in place at Disney World, the athletes face a lot more potential exposure to COVID-19, and just one case can change the course of a season.

We want to get your opinion. Do you believe the NBA can play an entire season under the current conditions or will it need to revert to a “bubble” alternative at some point? Please leave your responses in the comments section.

Sixers’ Korkmaz To Miss Minimum Of Two Weeks

The Sixers have lost one of their key reserves for at least the next two weeks. Guard Furkan Korkmaz has a left adductor strain and will be reevaluated in approximately two weeks, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

Korkmaz suffered the injury during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game at Cleveland. He had gotten off to a slow start, averaging 6.0 PPG on 25% shooting in 18.3 MPG off the bench during Philadelphia’s first three contests.

Last season, Korkmaz appeared in 72 regular season games, averaging 9.8 PPG in 21.7 MPG while making 40.2% of his 3-point tries.

The Sixers have good depth at the wing positions, and players such as Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey should see an uptick in playing time with Korkmaz sidelined.

Korkmaz had his $1,762,796 salary for this season guaranteed last month. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Sixers Exercise Third-Year Option On Matisse Thybulle

The Sixers have exercised the $2.84MM third-year option on forward Matisse Thybulle for 2021/22, ensuring he remains with the team next season, president Daryl Morey announced in a release.

Thybulle, who was acquired by Philadelphia in the 2019 draft, played 65 games during his rookie season. He started in 14 of those contests, averaging 4.7 points, 1.4 steals and 19.8 minutes on the year.

Thybulle has established himself as a proven wing defender capable of playing multiple positions. The 23-year-old also shot a respectable 36% from deep last year, showing his potential on both ends.

The 76ers have opened the 2020/21 season with a 2-1 record, losing their first game on Sunday to Cleveland without Joel Embiid (back tightness). The franchise was eliminated from the playoffs last season after being swept by Boston in the first round.

Atlantic Notes: Bullock, Harris, Richardson, Horford, Raptors

Knicks guard Reggie Bullock has a team-friendly, non-guaranteed $4.2MM contract for next season and there are good reasons to retain him, including his friendship with Chris Paul, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

Bullock provides a veteran presence along with his reputation for being a 3-and-D wing. New York would still take a cap hit of $1MM if it doesn’t guarantee Bullock’s contract prior to free agency. Bullock’s close friendship with Paul, a potential trade target for his former agent and current Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose, also works in his favor.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets can’t afford to let wing Joe Harris in free agency, Mike Mazzeo of Forbes.com opines. The Nets own Harris’ Bird rights, so they can make him a substantial offer even if it pushes them deeper into luxury tax territory. If they let him walk, they’d only have the taxpayers’ mid-level exception to replace him. Brooklyn is expected to have competition for Harris’ services with estimates that it would need to offer Harris a $15MM starting salary to retain him.
  • Josh Richardson and Al Horford will be traded this offseason, The Athletic duo of Rich Hofmann and Derek Bodner project in an examination of the Sixers‘ roster. In other predictions, they believe young defensive stalwart Matisse Thybulle could be added a trade sweetener in a deal involving Richardson or Horford, while Alec Burks will leave in free agency.
  • San Diego State guard Malachi Flynn and Kansas guard Devon Dotson worked out for the Raptors on Sunday, Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated tweets. Colorado forward Tyler Bey also worked out for Toronto, Alex Kennedy of Basketball News tweets. In ESPN’s ranking of best available prospects, Bey is slotted at No. 28 with Dotson at No. 33 and Flynn at No. 38. The Raptors own the No. 29 pick.