Michael Lee

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Wizards, Butler, Waiters

Markelle Fultz has been aggressive and productive for the Magic in recent games, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Fultz, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension next offseason, has scored in double figures the last four games while recording at least 14 drives in three of his past four games, Parry notes. The increased offensive production from the top pick in the 2017 draft comes at a time when top frontcourt players Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon are nursing ankle sprains. “With a couple of our main guys out, I wanted to get guys going and I knew I had to be aggressive to help us make up those points that we were missing,” Fultz said. “It’s just about me getting into the paint and letting my guys know if they are cutting I’ll find them and also scoring when I have to.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Beyond Bradley Beal, there are no players who are guaranteed crunch time minutes with the Wizards, Kevin Brown of NBC Sports Washington notes. During a close win against Charlotte last week, coach Scott Brooks used three reserves down the stretch. “I think we’re a team that doesn’t worry about rotations,” forward Davis Bertans said. “Whoever has their game going, those guys are going to be in the game and…that’s beneficial for the team and I think that’s everyone agrees with that.”
  • Jimmy Butler was greeted with mostly boos and jeers when the Heat played Philadelphia last week and he was fine with that, Michael Lee of The Athletic relays. Butler chose Miami at the start of free agency and the teams eventually agreed to a multi-team sign-and-trade. “I’m the enemy. I mean, you don’t got to like me ‘cause I’m on the other team. I’m OK with that. I really am,” he said. “They don’t know what’s going on. I love fans. I love my fans. But you don’t know what happened.”
  • Dion Waiters‘ appeal of his 10-game suspension could drag on for quite awhile, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Waiters was suspended by the Heat for conduct detrimental to the team. Often a compromise is worked out behind the scenes in such cases and the arbitrator’s ruling might happen during the offseason, when all parties are available to participate in the process, Winderman adds.

Western Notes: Cousins, Griffin, Gordon

DeMarcus Cousins was fined $50K by the Kings for his part of an incident with a local columnist and the 26-year-old said that he picked the wrong time to confront the reporter, adding that he let his emotions get the best of him, Sean Cunningham of ABC10 passes along (Twitter link). However, in his prepared statement, Cousins did not apologize to the reporter whom he intimidated..

“I understand my actions were inexcusable and I commit to upholding the professional standards of the Kings and the NBA. I apologize to my teammates, fans and the Kings organization for my behavior and the ensuing distraction and look forward to moving on and focusing on basketball,” Cousins said.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Blake Griffin underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee today, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times relays (Twitter links). Griffin is expected to miss four-to-six weeks and will rehabilitate with the Clippers‘ medical staff.
  • Eric Gordon tells Michael Lee of The Vertical that his transition to the Rockets has been “smooth sailing.” Gordon has made the second most 3-pointers in the league this season (behind only Stephen Curry) and he credits coach Mike D’Antoni‘s system as part of the reason for his success. “It’s a little bit of everything,” Gordon said. “Style of play, and playing with a guy who can really pass the ball, and like I said, it’s a free-flowing system where everybody is able to get good shots and I’m just taking advantage and knocking down shots.”
  • Gordon believes the Pelicans‘ uncertain ownership situation and constant changes made it difficult to thrive as a player, Lee writes in the same piece. “I was just getting better year after year with the Clippers, and then you make a major change with New Orleans, ownership and everything, so you had to start all over,” Gordon added. “It was a rough time in New Orleans. Guys can tell you that are still there now. It was a difficult task.”
  • Gordon said he thought Phoenix had a better training staff and that was the reason why he signed there in 2012, as he tell Lee in the same piece. Gordon was a restricted free agent at the time and New Orleans exercised its right to match the Suns‘ offer.

Rockets Get Permission To Interview Luke Walton

The Rockets have received permission from the Warriors to interview Golden State assistant coach Luke Walton for the head coaching job in Houston, sources told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). Jeff Van Gundy appears to be the top target for the Rockets, who are out of the playoffs after Wednesday’s loss. Interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff will receive consideration for the formal head coaching job, and his players and bosses like him, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com, who nonetheless adds that the team didn’t win enough for Bickerstaff to feel comfortable about his position. The players have been aware of Bickerstaff’s temporary status and know the team intends to go after marquee names as it plays the field for a coach, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Golden State also gave the Lakers permission to interview Walton. He already spoke with Knicks president Phil Jackson, though both sides insisted that wasn’t an interview. Walton is reportedly expected to meet with Kings GM Vlade Divac. The 36-year-old Walton has a window to interview with suitors for the next few days as Golden State awaits its second-round playoff opponent.

Whoever coaches the Rockets next season will face a challenge to turn around a team that disappointed this year after a run to the Western Conference finals in 2015. James Harden and Dwight Howard “hated each other,” Wojnarowski tweets, though Howard is expected to opt out of his contract this summer, and the two have consistently praised each other publicly.

“Ultimately it’s his decision but, you know, obviously we love big fella here,” Harden said when asked about the specter of Howard’s free agency, according to The Vertical’s Michael Lee (Twitter link).

The chemistry between Harden and Howard is “cordially bad,” as one source described it to Watkins. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander and GM Daryl Morey anticipate that Harden will give input on the choice of the next coach, but Howard is not expected to influence the team’s decision, according to Watkins.

Central Links: Pistons, Cavs, Copeland

There are a few surprise first-place teams in divisions around the NBA in the early going, but that’s not the case in the Central, where the 3-0 Pacers lead the way. In David Aldridge’s latest Morning Tip column at NBA.com, which also features an extended look at the Bulls, the Pacers sit atop Aldridge’s power rankings.

Here are a few more Monday morning Central items:

  • Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks conceded that a player’s contract situation is “always a topic of conversation for someone,” but suggested that it’s not necessarily a distraction for the player himself. As Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press details, if Cheeks is aware that players like Greg Monroe, Rodney Stuckey, and Charlie Villanueva are on expiring contracts, he didn’t let on.
  • Michael Lee, Kevin Jones, and Tyrell Biggs are on the Canton Charge’s camp roster, a source tells Bob Finnan of the News-Herald (Twitter link). Lee was in camp with the Cavs last month, while Jones was released by the team back in July. Both Jones and Biggs last played for Cleveland’s D-League affiliate, so the Charge still held their rights.
  • As our Free Agent Tracker shows, outside of returning free agent David West, Chris Copeland was the most significant signing for the Pacers this offseason. So why can’t the ex-Knick crack the rotation? Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star discusses that question with Copeland, who isn’t complaining about his lack of minutes.

Cavs Waive Michael Lee

The Cavs have waived forward Michael Lee, general manager Chris Grant reports.

The 6’9″ 207 lb. Lee went undrafted out of St. Bonaventure in 2008, and had spent the ensuing years playing internationally in the Ukraine, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, and France. In three preseason games with the Cavs, Lee averaged 1.7 rebounds in 4.3 minutes per game.

As Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio tweets, and which Hoops Rumors mentioned earlier tonight, the Cavs roster now stands at 19 players, with four more to be cut before the season opens.

Cavs Sign DeSagana Diop, Michael Lee

The Cavaliers have increased their training camp roster to the maximum allowable 20 players, rounding out their list of camp invitees with DeSagana Diop and Michael Lee, the team announced today in a press release.

Several Cleveland camp invitees have been reported within the last couple days, including Elliot Williams, Jermaine Taylor, and Henry Sims. Diop and Lee will join those players and others in a competition for the final couple spots on the regular season roster.

Diop, 31, was drafted by the Cavs eighth overall back in 2001, and spent four underwhelming seasons with the team before heading to Dallas as a free agent. Diop has spent the last few years with the Bobcats, and while he never developed into more than an extra rebounder and defender off the bench, he earned $7.37MM in 2012/13.

Lee, meanwhile, played his college ball at St. Bonaventure before going undrafted in 2008. He has played internationally since then, spending time on clubs in Ukraine, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, and France.

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