Michael Porter Jr.

Northwest Notes: Murray, MPJ, Wolves, Thunder

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has demonstrated his leadership abilities during the team’s playoff run this year, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes.

Denver is currently trailing 0-1 against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and has bounced back from a 3-1 series deficit twice this postseason, something no other NBA franchise has ever done.

“Jamal has grown up, he has become more of a leader, more vocal,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “What he did in that Utah series was incredible with his play but also the emotional leadership that he showed for our team and that was contagious.

“He took his whole team with him, which you don’t see very often for such a young player.”

Murray has stepped up on both ends of the floor, averaging 26.7 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game in 15 playoff contests. He was a key cog in the team’s victories over the Jazz and Clippers in previous rounds, proving his worth at just 23 years old.

“This is something that you have to understand, take responsibility for,” Malone said. “You’ve got to be better. On the court, your preparation, your professionalism, your work ethic and your leadership. He’s taken all those things into account and tried to be better in every one of those areas, which is all you want.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Mike Singer of the Denver Post explores how Michael Porter Jr. has earned the respects of his coach, with the 22-year-old providing quality depth off the bench during the Nuggets’ postseason run. “In those games, the games that you talk about when he’s on the floor when so much is hanging in the balance, that’s invaluable for a young player,” Malone said as part of a larger quote. “I think what’s earned him those minutes is that he’s really bought in, grown and committed to the defensive end of the floor.”
  • The Timberwolves are hiring 247 Sports analyst Josh Gershon in a draft preparation and player personnel consultant role, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Minnesota owns the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, set to commence on November 18.
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman proposes three trade scenarios for the Thunder involving star point guard Chris Paul, who led the franchise to a 44-28 record this season and received All-NBA Second Team honors. Multiple teams are said to have interest in Paul, 35, though his contract ($41.35MM next season and $44.21MM player option in 2021-22) would make any potential deal challenging. It’s also unclear how motivated Oklahoma City is to move him.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, MPJ, Rondo, Kings, Warriors

With the Nuggets and Clippers facing one another in the second round of the postseason, Michael Porter Jr. is getting an opportunity to play against a team he feels played a major role in his slide in the 2018 draft. As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details, the Clippers’ team doctor was pessimistic in his assessment of Porter’s back injury and L.A. passed on the forward twice in the lottery before he was selected by Denver at No. 14.

“Their doctor was the one that wrote the report on me,” Porter said of the Clippers. “I think he wrote some stuff like he thought that I would never play basketball again, so I didn’t think they’d pick me.”

While Doc Rivers acknowledged that Porter’s health was a concern for the Clippers, he said that the decision to pass on him with the No. 13 pick after trading up for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11 was a tough one, according to Youngmisuk. The team opted instead for Boston College guard Jerome Robinson.

“We got the one guy we wanted in (Gilgeous-Alexander),” the Clippers’ head coach said. “And the second pick, when (Porter) was on the board, it was a brutal pass because everyone in the room knew his talent but it was more the injury concern. That was the only other concern.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo is listed as probable for Game 1 of the Lakers’ second-round series vs. Houston on Friday, per the league’s official injury report. Assuming Rondo sees action, it will be the first time he has played since March 10 — a broken thumb and back spasms have sidelined him all summer.
  • The Kings recently furloughed some employees in their basketball operations department, as Sam Amick of The Athletic relays (via Twitter). According to Amick, essential personnel in the front office and analytics/scouting departments weren’t affected, but G League employees were. The hope is to bring the staffers back in November, depending on when the 2020/21 season gets underway.
  • James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area makes a case that Villanova forward Saddiq Bey is an ideal fit for the Kings with the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft.
  • Count the Warriors among the teams keeping a close eye on the Bucks’ fate in their second-round series against Miami, according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. While the Heat and Raptors may be viewed as the strongest threats to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo out of Milwaukee, Golden State would also make every effort to do so if the opportunity arises.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Harris, Barton, Bryant, Little

The first round of the playoffs is an educational experience for young Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., as Mike Singer of the Denver Post details. Porter had 13 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes in the team’s postseason opener against Utah on Monday but was also targeted on defense and saw extra attention offensively.

“Just being out there, learning, going through it, you can’t put a dollar sign on that,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s the best teacher that Michael is going to have. We can tell him, we can prepare him, but he has to go out there and feel it for himself and learn from it, which I know he will.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will once again be down two starters in Game 2 of their first-round series on Wednesday, Kendra Andrews of The Athletic tweets. Wings Gary Harris (hip) and Will Barton (knee), both of whom missed the opener, will sit out. Porter and Torrey Craig started in their place, though Jerami Grant and Monte Morris played heavy minutes off the bench.
  • Johnnie Bryant will remain on the Jazz’s coaching staff through the playoffs, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets. Bryant has reportedly reached an agreement with the Knicks to become the club’s associate head coach.
  • Trail Blazers rookie forward Nassir Little experienced a syncopal episode (fainting) on August 12 while attending an optional practice in Orlando, the team tweets. He was diagnosed with dehydration and further tests have been negative. He will remain with the team and undergo precautionary health monitoring for two weeks. Little has appeared in 48 games, but none during the restart.

NBA Announces All-Bubble Awards

The NBA announced today that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been named the Player of the Seeding Games, earning de facto MVP honors for the league’s restart.

Lillard, who averaged 37.6 PPG and 9.6 APG on .497/.436/.888 shooting in eight seeding games, led the Blazers to a 6-2 record, allowing the team to surpass the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the West. Portland will earn the conference’s final playoff spot if it picks up a win over Memphis today or tomorrow.

Lillard was the unanimous selection among 22 media voters for the bubble’s MVP award. Devin Booker (Suns) received 19 second-place votes, with T.J. Warren (Pacers) picking up two and Luka Doncic (Mavericks) getting the other one. Booker, Warren, Doncic, James Harden (Rockets) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) all received third-place votes.

Meanwhile, Suns head coach Monty Williams was named the Coach of the Seeding Games, per today’s announcement. The selection comes as no surprise after Williams led Phoenix to an 8-0 record this summer. The Suns narrowly missed out on a spot in the play-in tournament, but were the only club that went undefeated during the seeding games, despite initially being ranked 21st of the 22 teams invited to Orlando.

Williams was a near-unanimous choice, with Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts receiving one first-place vote and finishing second overall in voting. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn and Raptors coach Nick Nurse were among the other top vote-getters.

The NBA also announced All-Seeding Games First and Second Teams, as follows:

First Team:

  • Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
  • Devin Booker (Suns)
  • Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
  • James Harden (Rockets)
  • T.J. Warren (Pacers)

Second Team:

Lillard, Booker, and Doncic were unanimous First Team selections, with Harden and Warren each receiving 18 of 22 First Team votes. Antetokounmpo received the other eight First Team votes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bulls Notes: Offseason, Boylen, MPJ-Carter Draft, Delete Eight

New Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has plenty of interesting choices to make with regards to team personnel on both the court and on the bench during the 2020 offseason. Bobby Marks of ESPN Insider examines some of the key issues Karnisovas should address.

The future of embattled head coach Jim Boylen has been the hottest topic of speculation for Bulls fans since the hiring of Karnisovas earlier this year. Boylen’s disappointing 39-84 record has been partly affected by several player injuries, including those afflicting former lottery picks Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., but Marks addresses just how much blame for the team’s poor finishes during the last two seasons should be placed on those absences as opposed to Boylen’s coaching approach.

The possible fates of restricted free agent Kris Dunn and leading scorer Zach LaVine during this crucial Bulls offseason are also discussed.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Boylen’s status is also addressed in a fairly comprehensive recent Bulls mailbag from NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. Johnson reiterates that Karnisovas apparently has the full green light from team owner Jerry Reinsdorf to replace Boylen, but that Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley have been asked by ownership to “take time to get to know” the coach before making a decision. Boylen is earning $1.6MM annually, making him one of the most affordable head coaches in the NBA.
  • Nuggets rookie forward Michael Porter Jr. has been enjoying a coming-out party within the NBA’s Orlando restart campus. Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago takes a look at the player the Bulls passed over in favor of Wendell Carter Jr. with the No. 7 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Porter is averaging 22 PPG and 8.6 RPG, while shooting 55.1% from the field (including 42.2% from long range and 93.1% from the charity stripe) in Orlando. Porter’s checkered injury history gave Chicago pause at the time, and Schaefer contends that Carter’s promising future as a passing big man on the cusp of averaging a double-double in scoring and rebounding means the jury on the selection is still out.
  • The Bulls rank among just eight teams bad enough to miss the NBA’s 22-squad Orlando restart. As we discussed previously, talks remain ongoing about potentially keeping the so-called “Delete Eight” clubs active. One concept touched upon during recent conference call involves bringing the Bulls and the other underperforming teams to Orlando after the first round of the NBA playoffs, when only eight of the original 22 teams would remain on the Disney World campus. However, it’s not clear whether it has gained any traction with the NBPA.

Northwest Notes: Carmelo, MPJ, SGA, Wolves

Carmelo Anthony‘s NBA career appeared to be on life support after aborted stints in Oklahoma City and Houston in recent years. However, Anthony and the Trail Blazers have brought out the best in one another, Mark Medina of USA Today argues in the wake of Portland’s impressive win over Houston on Tuesday.

“He’s all about the team. He understands what we need from him in certain situations,” Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard said of Anthony. “He knows how the game is going. He knows how to put himself in place to help the team. It’s obvious for somebody like me that pays attention to everything. I find it real funny and disrespectful how people speak on him. He’s a Hall-of-Famer.”

Anthony’s NBA future was in jeopardy following his release from the Rockets due in large part to questions about his defense. Although he hasn’t exactly become a defensive stopper since joining the Trail Blazers, Carmelo hasn’t been a major liability either — the team has an identical defensive rating when he plays and when he sits. As Medina notes, the veteran forward had a key blocked shot on P.J. Tucker late in Tuesday’s game.

“I say everybody who was talking, or said something negative about him, they need to apologize, you know?” Blazers wing Gary Trent Jr. said, per Jason Quick of The Athletic. “It’s Carmelo Anthony. He went through tough times. He battled, stayed resilient and for him to come back and bounce back like it’s nothing? That’s why he’s Carmelo Anthony and why he does what he does.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. followed up a 37-point, 12-rebound performance on Monday with a 30-point, 15-rebound showing on Wednesday, prompting rave reviews from his coach and teammates. As Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes, Michael Malone referred to Porter as a “cornerstone” of the franchise. Meanwhile, injured swingman Will Barton – whom Porter is replacing in the staring lineup – tweeted that the second-year forward is “special,” adding that he “can’t be on a leash with that type (of) ability.”
  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is getting more of a chance to run the offense during Dennis Schröder‘s absence from the team, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman observes. While Schröder and Chris Paul have spent most of the time handling the point this season, Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be the team’s long-term point guard.
  • With Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor mulling a sale of the franchise, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic takes a fascinating, in-depth look at Taylor’s original purchase of the team in 1994, exploring how he helped keep the Wolves in Minnesota.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Trent, Diallo, Norel

With Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton sidelined again, Michael Porter Jr. delivered a career-high 37 points in a Nuggets win on Monday, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. Porter had told head coach Michael Malone he was determined to step up after an underwhelming showing on Saturday vs. Miami.

“Especially with Jamal, Gary and Will out, I got to be a guy that steps up and kind of takes on more of a role,” Porter added. “I told (Malone) that I understand that and that it wouldn’t happen again.”

While the Nuggets will need healthy and productive versions of Murray, Harris, and Barton to maximize their potential postseason upside, the opportunity to increase Porter’s role and confidence is a silver lining of the team’s current situation. The young forward could be one of Denver’s X-factors in the playoffs.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers have a pair of stars – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum – in their backcourt and their frontcourt has been fortified by the return of Jusuf Nurkic and fellow big man Zach Collins. However, the wing has been an area of concern for the team all season, especially with Rodney Hood sidelined due to a torn Achilles. Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian takes a look at how emerging youngster Gary Trent Jr. – a restricted free agent in 2021 – is filling that void this summer.
  • In and out of the Thunder‘s rotation over the course of the 2019/20 season, Hamidou Diallo has reclaimed a key role off the bench, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Diallo – who has a minimum-salary team option for 2020/21 – had nine points in Oklahoma City’s Saturday win over Utah, then was a +19 on Monday in a game the Thunder lost by eight points.
  • Dutch big man Henk Norel announced his retirement this week due to ongoing knee issues, as relayed by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Norel never played in the NBA, but was selected 47th overall in the 2009 draft by the Timberwolves, who still hold his NBA rights.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Lillard, Jazz, Wolves

The Nuggets have been one of the most short-handed teams at the NBA’s campus so far, having been limited to just eight players in each of their first two scrimmages this summer. However, reinforcements are on the way for Monday’s game against Orlando.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters this afternoon that Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., and Keita Bates-Diop will all be available to play in tonight’s game, increasing the team’s roster count to 12 (Twitter link via Kendra Andrews of The Athletic).

While he won’t be active tonight, Nuggets guard Monte Morris moved one step closer to getting back on the court as well, having cleared quarantine, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post tweets. He seems likely to be ready by the time Denver plays its first seeding game vs. Miami on Saturday.

Let’s round up a few more Northwest items…

  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard missed Sunday’s scrimmage against Toronto due to inflammation in his left foot, but head coach Terry Stotts said the club doesn’t expect it to be “a long-term thing,” writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.
  • Sarah Todd of The Deseret News takes a deep dive into the Jazz‘s ability to retain both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert long term, exploring the odds of the team doing so and speculating about what their contracts might look like.
  • University of Denver guard Ade Murkey, a Minnesota native, has interviewed with his hometown Timberwolves during the pre-draft process, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Murkey averaged 18.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG with a .481/.400/.731 shooting line as a senior.

Nuggets Notes: Bol, Porter, Millsap, Murray

Bol Bol hasn’t played in an official NBA game yet, but he’s the talk of Orlando after his performance in the Nuggets‘ first two scrimmages. Pressed into service because of Denver’s shortage of players, the 7’2″ rookie posted 16 points and six blocks in Wednesday’s game, then followed that with 15 points last night.

A foot injury ended Bol’s college career after nine games at Oregon and caused him to slip to the 44th pick in the draft. The Nuggets may gotten a steal with that pick, which Bol’s trainer, Julius V, believed all along.

“He has elite feel for the game,” he told Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “If he was 6’3″, he could be an elite point guard. … He’s one of those guys, regardless of height or size, he would be a potential NBA player because he has ball skills and feel. … The height makes him a unicorn.”

There’s more Nuggets news to pass along:

  • Coach Michael Malone is confident that Michael Porter Jr. can adapt quickly, even though he hasn’t worked with the rookie forward since the hiatus began, Singer writes in a separate story. Porter just arrived in Orlando a few days ago and hasn’t been able to practice yet because he’s been quarantined. “I’ve stayed in touch with him, I’ve talked to him,” Malone said. “From everything he’s told me, he’s in great shape, he’s stayed ready. So when he gets an opportunity relatively soon to start practicing and playing, I have no doubt that he’ll be out there in great shape. He’s young and he truly loves to play, he truly loves to work out. I don’t anticipate any real issues. Yes, it’s four months off, but I think Michael will have a very quick return to that playing mindset.”
  • Paul Millsap had to sit out Saturday’s scrimmage after missing a coronavirus test, tweets Rachel Nichols of ESPN. Under the NBA’s protocol for the Walt Disney World campus, he was required to be quarantined in his hotel room until he produces a negative test.
  • Point guard Jamal Murray was held out of the scrimmage because of slight tightness in his hamstring, according to Nichols (Twitter link). The Nuggets also rested Will Barton, who has a knee issue, and Gary Harris, who is dealing with hip pain.

Northwest Notes: Roberson, Donovan, Porter, Blazers

Thunder forward Andre Roberson hasn’t been a part of the team’s rotation since the first half of the 2017/18 season, having dealt with a series of knee issues that have prevented him from returning to the court. As Royce Young of ESPN details, Roberson finally appears to be close to making his comeback after more than two years of recovery and rehabilitation.

“(It has been) basically a big roller coaster of emotions,” Roberson said of his rehab process. “Just being so close, and then something else would happen. Setback after setback. I don’t know man, it was just tough. … (There were) definitely a lot of times I was ready to give up.”

Roberson, who last suited up on January 27, 2018, says he feels as if he’s “finally ready” to play, though the Thunder won’t raise expectations or put any pressure on the defensive specialist by penciling in for a major role right away. As Young points out, if Roberson plays at all during Oklahoma City’s August 1 restart opener, he’ll have gone 916 days between games.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Although Thunder head coach Billy Donovan is on an expiring contract, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman expects the two sides to work out an agreement to keep Donovan in his current role beyond this season.
  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has cleared his initial quarantine period at the NBA’s campus, a source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). Porter still needs to pass a cardiac screening to be cleared to practice, but the team is taking small steps toward getting its full roster available.
  • The Trail Blazers – and head coach Terry Stotts – were happy with what they saw on Thursday from Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, who were playing for the first time in 16 months and nine months, respectively. As Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, the team still wants to experiment with frontcourt options in its next two inter-squad scrimmages before deciding on a starting five for the seeding games. “Right now, I would like to see Nurk and Hassan Whiteside out there together and we can make decisions after that,” Stotts said. “At this point, I’m just keeping an open mind about it.”