Bucks Rumors

Bucks Sign Wesley Matthews, Waive Georgios Kalaitzakis

6:14pm: The Bucks have officially signed Matthews and requested waivers on Kalaitzakis, the team announced. Matthews’ contract is non-guaranteed, a source tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link).

4:07pm: The Bucks are signing veteran wing Wesley Matthews and waiving rookie forward Georgios Kalaitzakis in order to create a roster spot, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

It’s another win-now move for the defending champions, who signed center DeMarcus Cousins on Tuesday. The Bucks will be on the hook for the guaranteed portion of Kalaitzakis’ salary — he has a partial guarantee of $462,629. However, he’s already earned a good chunk of that amount by this point in the season, which makes it a very understandable move from both a basketball and financial perspective.

Matthews, 35, is entering his 13th season in the NBA. This will be a reunion for both player and team, as he spent the 2019/20 season with the Bucks, starting all 67 games he appeared in with averages of 7.4 PPG and 2.5 RPG on .396/.364/.765 shooting (24.4 MPG). He played for the Lakers last season, appearing in 58 contests (19.5 MPG) while averaging 4.8 PPG and 1.6 RPG on .353/.335/.854 shooting.

Matthews was a top-tier 3-and-D player in the early part of his career prior to tearing his Achilles tendon in 2015. He’s never put up the same type of efficient offensive numbers since suffering the injury, but he’s still regarded as a good defensive player and is a highly respected veteran. In 849 career games (739 starts), he holds career averages of 12.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.0 SPG on .421/.379/.824 shooting.

Kalaitzakis, the 60th pick in the 2021 draft, was signed to a partially guaranteed, three-year deal ahead of his rookie season. The Greece native appeared in nine games for the Bucks for a total of 48 minutes, putting up modest stats of 1.8 PPG and 0.9 RPG in 5.3 MPG. Evidently Milwaukee did not see enough from the 22-year-0ld to justify keeping him on a standard contract.

It’s very unlikely that he gets signed by a team with an open roster spot, as that list is comprised of either contending teams or teams right against the luxury tax, or both. Perhaps a two-way spot could be possible, but all 60 of those spots are taken right now, so that would require a team to waive a current two-way player. Kalaitzakis’ most realistic path back to the NBA is probably through the G League, but returning to Europe could be a viable possibility, too.

Bucks Notes: Tucker, Lopez, Cousins

P.J. Tucker didn’t spend much time in Milwaukee, but he became a fan favorite while helping the Bucks capture their first NBA title in 50 years, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Acquired at the trade deadline, Tucker played a vital role on defense during the team’s playoff run. Even though he signed with the Heat during the offseason, Tucker can expect an enthusiastic reception when he returns to the city Saturday night.

“I’ll always love Milwaukee,” he said. “I’ll love the people of Milwaukee forever. They embraced me so much from day one when I first got there to the day I left; they were always there, they always had my back. That’s not something you get right away. You don’t normally get the trust and the love of the city so fast. It was an amazing experience and journey.”

There’s more Bucks news to pass along:

  • The organization is optimistic that Brook Lopez will be able to return sometime this season after undergoing back surgery Thursday, a source tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Coach Mike Budenholzer declined to speculate about a possible timeline, but said Lopez will start rehab soon and remains in the team’s plans for later in the season. “The feedback, the conversations, the follow-up after this morning was very, very positive, including expecting him to be able to play and be productive,” Budenholzer said on Thursday. “I think the surgery today has been done on multiple basketball players, multiple athletes, multiple sports. Return to play is very, very often successful.”
  • Veteran center DeMarcus Cousins, who was signed to help fill the void left by Lopez, had a strong debut with seven points and four rebounds in 15 minutes in Wednesday’s win over the Hornets, Nehm adds. Because Thursday’s game was a back-to-back, Cousins was held out for “return to competition reconditioning.” “The guy has been dominant for so many years,” Khris Middleton said. “He’s been on a bad path with the injuries so far, but I’m glad to see him back on the court healthy. I’m definitely excited and I know the rest of the guys are excited to have him on the court with us.”
  • Cousins is grateful to the Bucks for giving him an opportunity after being out of the league since the end of last season. “It’s always a great feeling to be wanted or appreciated, so when my name is called, I’ll be ready to play,” he said in an interview with Zora Stephenson of NBC Sports (Twitter link).

Brook Lopez Undergoes Back Surgery, Out Indefinitely

Bucks center Brook Lopez underwent successful surgery on his back on Thursday in Los Angeles, the team announced in a press release.

The Bucks didn’t provide a timeline for Lopez’s recovery and return to action, simply stating that he’ll continue to be listed as out and updates on his rehab will be provided “as appropriate.” However, back surgeries typically aren’t procedures that players return from quickly, so it seems safe to assume it’ll be a longer-term absence for the big man.

Lopez, 33, played in Milwaukee’s season opener in October, but has been sidelined since then due to his back ailment. He said last month in an interview with Shams Charania that he was ramping up his activities and thought he was getting closer to a return, so it certainly doesn’t appear that surgery was always the plan.

The Bucks have been leaning primarily on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis to handle the five so far this season. The team also added veteran center DeMarcus Cousins in free agency this week, perhaps with Lopez’s looming surgery in mind.

There’s no indication at this point that Lopez’s back surgery will end his season, but if the injury is ultimately deemed season-ending, the Bucks could apply for a disabled player exception. If approved, it would be worth about $6.65MM, though it’s unclear how motivated Milwaukee would be to use such an exception, since team salary is already well above the tax line.

Bucks Sign Javonte Smart, Waive Justin Robinson

November 30: The Bucks have officially signed Smart to a two-way contract and requested waivers on Robinson, the team announced in a press release.

November 29: The Bucks intend to sign guard Javonte Smart to a two-way contract and will waive Justin Robinson to create an opening on their 17-man roster, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter).

Smart, who went undrafted earlier this year, averaged 16.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 3.7 RPG as a junior for LSU in 2020/21. The 6’4″ guard posted an impressive shooting line of .460/.402/.857 in 28 games (35.6 MPG), earning All-SEC Second Team honors.

The Heat signed Smart to a training camp contract and made him an affiliate player for the Sioux Falls Skyforce after he was waived during the preseason. He has played well at the G League level so far, putting up 22.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 3.6 APG on .488/.396/.917 shooting in his first five games (35.1 MPG) for the Skyforce.

Robinson had already appeared in 17 games for the Bucks this season while on his two-way contract, but wasn’t especially effective in his limited role. The 6’1″ guard averaged 2.8 PPG and 1.2 APG on .316/.270/1.000 shooting in 11.6 minutes per contest.

The Bucks are making a handful of tweaks to their roster this week. They’ve also reached an agreement to sign DeMarcus Cousins to a standard, non-guaranteed contract. He’ll fill the open spot on their 15-man roster.

DeMarcus Cousins Signs Non-Guaranteed Deal With Bucks

November 30: The Bucks have officially signed Cousins, the team announced.

November 28: Former All-Star DeMarcus Cousins is signing a non-guaranteed deal with the Bucks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Cousins, 31, split time with the Rockets and Clippers last season, averaging a combined 8.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 1.9 APG in just 17.4 MPG across 41 games (11 starts).

“Boogie” is a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA member. He spent his prime seasons with the Kings and Pelicans before suffering a series of devastating leg injuries — first a torn Achilles tendon with the Pelicans, then a torn quad with the Warriors, and finally a torn ACL that sidelined him for the entire 2019/20 season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes (via Twitter) that Cousins stayed in shape while awaiting an opportunity, and the Bucks were one of a handful of teams to have an open roster spot.

The Bucks have dealt with a series of injuries to open their title defense. Center Brook Lopez (lower back) has played just one game for the team, while Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Bobby Portis all missed significant time. Donte DiVincenzo has yet to suit up this season after undergoing left ankle surgery in June.

Cousins could see action immediately with the frontcourt depth thin at the moment. He was productive in limited minutes last season and Milwaukee could use his size and toughness off the bench. The Bucks have won six games in a row and sit with a 12-8 record after 20 games.

Cousins Expected To Play 10-15 Minutes

DeMarcus Cousins won’t be asked to play major minutes for the Bucks, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The veteran center can give them 10-15 minutes a game and help lessen the load on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis, who have been manning the middle while Brook Lopez has been sidelined with a back injury. Cousins agreed on Sunday to sign a non-guaranteed deal.

Cousins took part in a workout led by assistant coach Darvin Ham on Saturday in Las Vegas, Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated tweets. Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton and VP of Global Scouting Ryan Hoover attended the workout, and Cousins had a phone conversation with coach Mike Budenholzer afterward.

Bucks’ Ojeleye Out At Least Three Weeks With Calf Injury

Bucks forward Semi Ojeleye, whose season debut last month was delayed by a left calf strain, has now sustained an injury in his right calf and will be sidelined again, the team announced in a press release.

According to the Bucks, an MRI confirmed that the injury Ojeleye suffered on Friday vs. Oklahoma City is a strained right calf. He’ll remain on the shelf for at least three weeks before he’s reevaluated.

Ojeleye, who turns 27 in December, has struggled with his shot in his first 11 games in Milwaukee, making just 25.5% of his attempts from the field, including 21.4% of his threes. However, he has been a regular rotation player for the team, providing solid defense in 19.8 minutes per contest.

Even if Ojeleye is cleared to return three weeks from today, he’ll miss the Bucks’ next 11 games. While he’s unavailable, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Jordan Nwora are among the reserve forwards who could see an increase in playing time. Center Brook Lopez may also be ready to return from his back injury during Ojeleye’s absence, further solidifying the team’s frontcourt.

James Suspended One Game, Stewart Gets Two-Game Penalty

Lakers superstar LeBron James was suspended one game without pay and Pistons center Isaiah Stewart will serve a two-game suspension for their altercation on Sunday, the league announced in a press release.

James was suspended for recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation. Stewart was given a bigger penalty for escalating the incident by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing James in an unsportsmanlike manner.

Stewart had to be restrained numerous times by coaches and players from retaliating after James struck him in the face battling for position as Jerami Grant attempted a free throw. Pistons coach Dwane Casey stated afterward he didn’t feel Stewart deserved an additional penalty besides the in-game ejection.

James, who has never previously been suspended his career, will miss a marquee matchup against the Knicks on Tuesday. Stewart will serve his suspension Tuesday against the Heat and Wednesday against the Bucks.

Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo Named Players Of The Week

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has been named the Player of the Week for the Western Conference and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has earned the honor for the Eastern Conference, the NBA announced today (via Twitter).

Lillard’s Blazers only played three games during the week of November 15-21, but won all three. The All-NBA guard averaged 28.3 PPG and 8.3 APG in victories over Toronto, Chicago, and Philadelphia, racking up 39 points in Friday’s game vs. the Sixers. He beat out fellow Western Conference nominees Deandre Ayton, Jordan Poole, and Karl-Anthony Towns (Twitter link).

Antetokounmpo and the Bucks also enjoyed a 3-0 week, with Giannis putting up eye-popping averages of 33.3 PPG, 16.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, and 2.7 BPG against the Lakers, Thunder, and Magic. His week included a 47-point outburst vs. Los Angeles and a 32-point, 20-rebound showing vs. Orlando.

The two-time MVP won the award over a crowded field of Eastern Conference nominees: LaMelo Ball, Jimmy Butler, Clint Capela, DeMar DeRozan, Darius Garland, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Jayson Tatum.

Central Notes: Carlisle, Allen, Markkanen, Mobley, COVID

Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle delivered a wake-up call by benching the team’s starters against Charlotte on Friday, James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star writes. Carlisle pulled his opening group with eight minutes left in the third quarter, clearly unhappy with the way they were playing.

Indiana’s reserves then closed a 25-point deficit and nearly took the lead, but Charlotte managed to hang on for a 121-118 win. Carlisle’s decision led to the Pacers giving a better effort on Saturday in a 111-94 victory.

“Energy and effort, you gotta bring it every night,” star big man Domantas Sabonis said. “It’s a long season, a lot of games, and sometimes it’s hard to bring it. But it has to be a collective group, not (just) one or two guys can bring it because then the defense breaks down or on offense someone’s not committed to what we’re doing. (Saturday) felt like everybody was committed and good results showed.”

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Cavaliers big men Lauri Markkanen and Jarrett Allen are set to return on Monday against the Nets, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Markkanen has missed nine games due to the league’s health and safety protocols, while Allen has missed three due to an illness. Cedi Osman (back) and Lamar Stevens (ankle) are doubtful for the contest, Fedor adds.
  • Speaking of the Cavaliers, the team plans to be cautious with rookie Evan Mobley in his recovery from a sprained elbow, Fedor writes in a story for Cleveland.com. Mobley is making progress, but he was given a two-to-four-week timetable just under a week ago. In 15 starts this season, the 20-year-old has averaged 14.6 points, eight rebounds and 33.7 minutes.
  • Matt Sullivan of RollingStone.com examines the secret COVID outbreak that caused fear within the NBA, Bucks and Suns during last season’s Finals. The series still went on as planned, with Milwaukee winning the championship in six games.