Mfiondu Kabengele

Clippers Turn Down Team Option On Mfiondu Kabengele

The Clippers will not exercise their $2,174,880 third-year team option on center Mfiondu Kabengele, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Today was the deadline to pick up rookie scale team options for 2021/22.

Greif adds that Los Angeles will continue to assess the big man’s play throughout the rest of the 2020/21 season, and could sign him to another contract in free agency. Kabengele, the No. 27 pick in the 2019 draft out of Florida State, will enter unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2021 and the Clippers won’t be able to offer him a starting salary worth more than his declined option.

Kabengele saw limited time for playoff-contending L.A. during his rookie season last year, averaging just 3.5 PPG and 0.9 RPG in 5.3 MPG across 12 games with the team.

In 27 games (all starts) for L.A.’s G League affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, the 6’9″ center averaged a much more robust 18.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG and 1.3 APG.

Kabengele is the only 2019 first-rounder to have his third-year option for ’21/22 declined.

Clippers Notes: Kennard, Leonard, West, Kabengele

After a pair of uninspiring games to start the preseason, Luke Kennard promised his Clippers teammates he would become more aggressive, write Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Kennard delivered on Thursday night, coming off the bench to score 13 points and hit 3-of-4 three-point attempts.

“After our first scrimmage in training camp, I just told him, ‘Be aggressive, be who you are,’” coach Tyronn Lue said. “‘If you’re doing too much, I’ll let you know – and I doubt I would ever say that.’ And I told him, ‘Kawhi (Leonard) and (Paul George), they need that from you. They want that from you. So don’t come here trying to fit in, trying to please guys. Just play your game, and then we’ll make sure we tailor your game around our offensive foundation.’”

Kennard is getting used to competition again after being shut down for more than a year. He was sidelined by knee tendinitis last December with the Pistons, and the league went on hiatus before he could return. The Clippers picked him up in a three-team trade on draft night.

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • Leonard has responded to charges that the team and executive board member Jerry West used improper tactics to lure him to L.A., tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. According to a TMZ report, Johnny Wilkes, who claims to be Leonard’s friend, is suing West for $2.5MM. “That has nothing to do with me swaying my mind to go somewhere,” Leonard said. “I’m from L.A. and I grew up here my whole life and out here people try to find any way to get some money, so he probably won’t be the last. I know a lot of people out here.” TMZ has published a voicemail allegedly left by West.
  • Mfiondu Kabengele remains in the Clippers’ plans for the future, even though the team elected not to take him to Orlando for the restart, Greif writes in a full story. President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said it was difficult to decide who was brought to the Disney World campus. “We obviously were in a championship and still are in a championship contending mode, and we prioritize performance and medical for the playing group,” Frank explained. “You would have loved to have brought Fi there. Fi has a contagious personality. He stayed engaged throughout. He would jump on Zooms and watch practice. He would talk to his teammates. He talked to the staff. He kind of lived the journey remotely.” 
  • ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz examines how the Clippers can fix the flaws that caused them to underachieve last season with a second-round exit after adding two All-Stars.

Clippers Rumors: Lue, Young Players, Kawhi

After parting ways with Doc Rivers, the Clippers initially put together a list of about 10 possible candidates to replace him, according to Jovan Buha and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The team seriously considered five of those candidates before narrowing their search to three finalists.

Although the Clippers did conduct a full search, Tyronn Lue was the first candidate they contacted following Rivers’ departure and was one of just two candidates who checked every one of the team’s boxes. As Buha and Vardon explain, the Clippers consider Lue an “elite tactician” and viewed his familiarity with the roster as a positive — having spent the 2019/20 season as Rivers’ lead assistant, Lue got to see first-hand what went wrong, and has ideas for potential solutions.

[RELATED: Clippers to promote Tyronn Lue to head coach]

According to The Athletic’s duo, the Clippers also like that Lue isn’t a “staunch idealist” like Mike D’Antoni or Tom Thibodeau, and is more willing to tinker with lineups and styles, adapting to the roster he has. The club hopes to keep Kawhi Leonard and Paul George around for multiple seasons but recognizes that the roster might change around them. L.A.’s front office believes Lue is capable of adjusting to those changes and getting the best out of his players.

Speaking of Leonard and George, they were consulted by the Clippers’ top decision-makers during the search, per Buha and Vardon. However, neither star forward wanted to steer the search in a particular direction and told the team that they trusted the front office. They were both ultimately on board with the choice of Lue.

Here’s more on the Clippers and their new head coaching hire:

  • Lue will be aiming to bring more ball movement and a faster pace to the Clippers next season, sources tell Buha and Vardon. He also intends to switch up defensive coverages more often and give the club’s younger players – such as Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet, Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele – more playing time.
  • Lue’s five-year contract is believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $7MM per year, according to Buha and Vardon.
  • The Clippers would like to establish better “synergy” between the coaching staff and front office, sources tell The Athletic. Lue is willing to work with the front office as he fills out his staff.
  • Buha and Vardon also reiterated a point that we’ve heard in the past, writing that some Clippers players – including Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams – bristled at the preferential treatment that Leonard received during his first season in L.A. The star forward was allowed to dictate to Rivers when he came out of games and was often late for team flights because he lived in San Diego, according to The Athletic’s reporters.
  • In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton offers up three areas for Lue to focus on as he attempts to get the Clippers to the NBA Finals. Those include tightening up the defense and not overreacting to a disappointing postseason outcome.

NBA Announces Official Rosters For Summer Restart

The NBA has announced the official summer rosters for each of the 22 teams involved in the resumption of the 2019/20 season. A total of 350 players make up the 22 squads, with only eight clubs carrying the maximum allowable 17 players. The Trail Blazers have the smallest summer roster, with just 13 players.

Injured players who didn’t make the trip to Orlando – such as Nets stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant – don’t show up on the official rosters list, but injured players who traveled with their teams – including Mavericks big man Dwight Powell and Pacers swingman Jeremy Lamb – are included, even if they won’t play this summer.

Besides players who are injured, voluntarily opted out, or were ruled out after contracting COVID-19, there are a few more notable omissions on the list, which we’ll round up here:

  • Houston Rockets: William Howard
    • A two-way player, Howard recently reached a two-year deal with ASVEL Basket in France, so it makes sense that he won’t be playing for the Rockets this summer.
  • Los Angeles Clippers: Johnathan Motley, Mfiondu Kabengele
    • As previously reported, Motley and Kabengele didn’t travel to Orlando with the Clippers and won’t be playing this summer.
  • Milwaukee Bucks: Cameron Reynolds
    • The Bucks only brought one of their two-way players (Frank Mason III), as Reynolds doesn’t show up on their official roster. The reason for his absence is unclear.
  • New Orleans Pelicans: Josh Gray
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Ryan Broekhoff
    • Broekhoff was signed as a substitute player to fill the Sixers’ open two-way slot, but later announced that he hadn’t traveled to Orlando because his wife, who is “high risk,” tested positive for COVID-19. Based on his omission from Philadelphia’s roster, it appears that Broekhoff won’t be joining the club after all.
  • Phoenix Suns: Tariq Owens
    • The Suns left one of their two-way slots open and apparently didn’t bring their lone two-way player to Orlando. The reason for Owens’ absence is unclear.
  • Portland Trail Blazers: Moses Brown
    • Despite only having 13 players available in Orlando, the Trail Blazers won’t have Brown – their second two-way player – with them. The reason for his absence is unclear.
  • Washington Wizards: Gary Payton II

L.A. Notes: Kawhi, Clippers, Lakers, KCP, Waiters

After appearing in 51 of the Clippers‘ 64 games before the NBA went on hiatus in March, star forward Kawhi Leonard said this week that he feels good and is ready to go, as Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers suggested there would be “no limits” on the former Finals MVP, who hasn’t played in back-to-back sets over the last couple seasons due to leg issues. However, Rivers acknowledged that the Clips’ priority will be to keep Leonard in top shape, which may mean not pushing him too hard during the eight seeding games.

“Kawhi is healthy for the most part,” Rivers said. “That still doesn’t mean that we don’t want to maintain him and get him through the first eight games and get ready for the playoffs. We want to be smart about this. Not just for Kawhi, it’s with everybody.”

Here’s more on the Clippers and their L.A. rivals:

  • The Clippers will have 15 players available in Orlando when the season resumes, according to Greif, who notes in a separate Times story that the club didn’t bring rookie forward Mfiondu Kabengele or two-way center Johnathan Motley. Teams were permitted to bring up to 17 players to the NBA’s campus, but the Clips elected to “load up on medical personnel” to fill out their traveling party, writes Greif.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the leading candidate to replace Avery Bradley in the Lakers‘ starting lineup, head coach Frank Vogel said on Monday, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Bradley, who opted out of the rest of the season, started 44 games this year, typically alongside Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Danny Green, and JaVale McGee.
  • With Bradley not playing this summer and Rajon Rondo sidelined due to a broken thumb, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register wonders if Dion Waiters could assume some ball-handling duties off the bench for the Lakers. “Losing Rondo put more of a need on Dion’s skillset, so I look forward to seeing what he can do more as we get into games,” Vogel said.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/2/20

Here are Monday’s assignments and recalls from across the NBA G League:

  • The Warriors assigned guard Stephen Curry to its affiliate in Santa Cruz and then recalled the former MVP, according to a team press release and Twitter post. Curry got in a practice with the G League club as he prepares to return from a broken left hand. The team also assigned forward Alen Smailagic to Santa Cruz. Smailagic has appeared in 19 games with Santa Cruz this season, posting averages of 15.2 PPG and 6.1 RPG in 25.9 MPG.
  • The Pacers recalled center Goga Bitadze and forward Alize Johnson from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team’s PR department tweets. Bitadze, the team’s first-round selection, has averaged 3.0 PPG in 8.5 MPG while making 46 appearances for the Pacers. Johnson, a 2018 second-rounder, has seen action in 12 NBA games this season.
  • The Magic recalled guard Melvin Frazier from Lakeland, the team’s PR department tweets. A 2018 second-round pick, Frazier has appeared in 14 games with Orlando this season.
  • The Bulls assigned and then recalled power forward Lauri Markkanen from the Windy City Bulls, the team tweets. Markkanen participated in a practice as part of his rehab process. He has been sidelined since January 22 with a stress reaction of his right pelvis.
  • The Clippers assigned big man Mfiondu Kabengele and guard Terance Mann to their Agua Caliente affiliate, according to the team’s PR department. A late first-rounder last June, Kabengele has appeared in 12 Clippers games. Mann, a rookie drafted in the second round, has seen action in 35 NBA games.
  • The Jazz assigned forward Juwan Morgan and guard Rayjon Tucker to the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the G League transactions log. A pair of undrafted rookies, Morgan has appeared in 16 Jazz games this season while Tucker has made 14 NBA appearances.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/25/20

Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Wizards have assigned three players to the Capital City Go-Go, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Anzejs Pasecniks, Gary Payton II and Admiral Schofield all played in today’s contest for the G League squad. The team then recalled Pasecniks and Payton but left Schofield in Southeast D.C.
  • The Clippers have assigned Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann to the Agua Caliente Clippers, per the team’s Twitter feed. Kabengele was the team’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/18/20

Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Clippers have assigned Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann to the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, the team announced. Kabengele was the team’s first-round draft pick back in June.
  • The Rockets have assigned Chris Clemons and Isaiah Hartenstein to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Fox 26’s Mark Berman tweets. Hartenstein, who is one of two seven-footers on the team, has started two games for the NBA club this season.
  • The Lakers have assigned Talen Horton-Tucker to the G League, according to the league’s transaction log. Horton-Tucker was the team’s only draft pick back in June.
  • The Nets have assigned Dzanan Musa to the Long Island Nets. Musa has appeared in 35 NBA games this season.
  • KZ Okpala has been sent to the G League by the Heat, per the league’s transaction log. Okpala was selected in the second round of the 2019 draft.
  • The Suns have sent Jalen Lecque to the Northern Arizona Suns. The rookie has appeared in just four games for the NBA club this season.

Wayne Ellington Considers Buyout With Knicks

Wayne Ellington is talking to his agent, Mark Bartlestein, about working out a buyout deal with the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

The 32-year-old shooting guard has appeared in just 25 games after signing as a free agent over the summer.  His $8MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed for just $1MM, so his days in New York appear numbered.

“There will be a decision to make,’’ Ellington said at today’s shootaround. “I’m just listening to my agent at this point. I come in here, come into work every single day like it’s a normal day. Listen and get advice and take it from there.’’

The Knicks are expected to accommodate Ellington if he decides he wants out, Berman adds. Ellington’s playing time has been cut significantly since Mike Miller took over as interim head coach and Reggie Bullock returned from injury. The team showcased him a little bit on Thursday against the Magic, and Ellington responded with 12 points in 18 minutes.

Berman suggests the Lakers, who Ellington spent the 2014/15 season with, could have some interest.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there,’’ Ellington said. “There’s a lot of different things floating around for options. It’s part of the business. It’s part of the game. There’s nothing imminent right now. There’s nothing for sure. I’m going to keep pushing forward. We won three games in a row, try to keep that going.’’

Berman shares a few more buyout tidbits in his story:

  • The Knicks could have obtained rookies Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele along with Maurice Harkless in Thursday’s trade that sent Marcus Morris to the Clippers, but they opted for Harkless and a package of draft picks because they wanted to avoid waiving players right away. New York has a full 15-man roster and would have needed to open two spots before the deal could have been finalized. Berman suggests that management is either counting on saving money with buyouts or just wants the veterans to stay for leadership.
  • Bobby Portis, another Bartlestein client, is also a buyout candidate. The Knicks have a $15.75MM team option next season on Portis, who was reportedly included in a trade offer to the Warriors for D’Angelo Russell.
  • Buying out Ellington would give the Knicks a better chance to evaluate Damyean Dotson before he enters free agency this summer.

Clippers Talking To Knicks About Marcus Morris; Lakers Won’t Offer Kyle Kuzma

The Clippers are in serious talks with the Knicks about acquiring Marcus Morris, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

L.A. is offering Maurice Harkless, Mfiondu Kabengele, Terance Mann and its 2020 first-round pick, sources tell Jovan Buha of The Athletic (Twitter link). Harkless’ $11MM contract would be needed to help match Morris’ $15MM salary.

There has been progress in talks since this morning, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). However, it doesn’t appear the Clippers are willing to part with Landry Shamet, whom the Knicks would like to add.

The Lakers, who were also interested in Morris, have decided not to make Kyle Kuzma available, Charania reports (Twitter link). The Knicks aren’t willing to send Morris to the Lakers without Kuzma involved, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link).