Bucks Rumors

NBA Postpones Friday’s Wizards/Bucks Game

The game between the Wizards and Bucks that was scheduled to be played on Friday in Milwaukee has been postponed, the NBA announced tonight (Twitter link).

It’s the sixth consecutive postponement for the Wizards, who haven’t played since January 11. The team was cleared to return to the court to practice on Wednesday, but remains significantly shorthanded.

Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, and Moritz Wagner are out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, while Thomas Bryant (ACL) and Russell Westbrook (quad) are sidelined due to injuries, leaving just eight available players on the roster (Twitter link).

According to the NBA’s announcement, the game is being postponed due to the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing affecting players on the roster, and the club’s lengthy layoff from practicing.

As Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote earlier tonight, Bradley Beal and the Wizards had been planning to lobby for a postponement of Friday’s game, since they felt that potentially playing with the league-mandated minimum of eight players after not practicing for the last week would result in a high risk of injury for the active players.

The next game on Washington’s schedule is Sunday in San Antonio. The hope is that the Wizards will have enough available players – and enough practice time between now and then – to be ready to play that game.

The NBA has now postponed 17 contests this season. The full list is here.

Nearly Half Of NBA’s Teams Have Open Roster Spots

After the NBA’s transactions wire remained relatively quiet for the first few weeks of the 2020/21 season, teams have begun making moves with a little more frequency as of late.

While one recent transaction – the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn – was clearly a higher-impact move than the rest, a number of clubs have made smaller changes to their rosters by waiving players this week. The Raptors and Wizards cut big men Alex Len and Anzejs Pasecniks from their 15-man rosters, while the Sixers opened up a two-way slot by releasing Dakota Mathias.

As a result, there are now 12 teams across the NBA that have at least one open 15-man roster spot. One of those teams – the Trail Blazers – also has an open two-way contract slot, as do two others, leaving just 16 clubs who are carrying the maximum of 17 players.

With so many clubs facing roster shortages recently and the NBA and NBPA discussing the possibility of adding a third two-way slot to rosters for the rest of the season, it’s a little surprising that more teams aren’t making use of all 17 available spots, but it will likely just be a matter of time before those many of those openings get filled.

Here’s the current breakdown of teams with open roster spots:

Teams with an open 15-man roster spot:

  • Brooklyn Nets
    • Note: The Nets have three open roster spots and will need to fill at least two of them within two weeks of completing the Harden trade.
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Los Angeles Clippers *
  • Los Angeles Lakers *
  • Milwaukee Bucks *
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors
  • Utah Jazz
  • Washington Wizards

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes that the team can’t currently sign a 15th man due to the hard cap.

Teams with an open two-way slot:

  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers

Giannis, Forbes Forge Pick-And-Roll Chemistry

  • Reigning two-time Bucks MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has developed a strong on-court rapport with new reserve guard Bryn Forbes, highlighted by a flashy inverted pick-and-roll action, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “It’s a play that works,” Antetokounmpo said. “If you don’t stay in front of me, I’m going to try to go downhill and if somebody else comes, the corner is wide-open.”

Retaining DiVincenzo Has Been Silver Lining For Bucks

  • One silver lining of the Bucks‘ failed offseason attempt to sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic – which cost them a future draft pick – is that the deal falling apart allowed the team to keep Donte DiVincenzo, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. As Amick notes, DiVincenzo is off to a nice start this season, averaging 12.3 PPG and 1.7 APG with a .556 3PT% so far.

Bucks Camp Invitee Montgomery Signs With Lithuanian Team

Former Kentucky forward E.J. Montgomery, who was in training camp with the Bucks last month, has signed with Lithuanian team BC Nevezis, according to an announcement from the club (Twitter link).

After going undrafted in 2020 following his sophomore season with the Wildcats, Montgomery caught on with Milwaukee on a non-guaranteed camp deal, but was cut on December 16. While the Bucks may have, at one point, envisioned Montgomery as a potential G League affiliate player, the Wisconsin Herd opted out of the NBAGL’s bubble plan for 2020/21, opening the door for the 21-year-old to pursue another professional opportunity.

Bogdan Bogdanovic Talks Free Agency, COVID-19, Hawks

Speaking to Sam Amick of The Athletic about his recent experience in free agency, Bogdan Bogdanovic said he learned about the apparent sign-and-trade agreement between the Kings and Bucks (that would have sent him to Milwaukee) on Twitter, reading about it at the same time everyone else did.

“When the news came out, we were like, ‘What the f–k?'” Bogdanovic told Amick. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

As Bogdanovic explains, he had been told during the summer that the Kings wanted to keep him, so when word of the alleged sign-and-trade broke, he was caught off guard for two reasons: He hadn’t agreed to join the Bucks and he didn’t realize Sacramento was looking to trade him. The veteran swingman had been expecting to either negotiate with the Kings or to sign an offer sheet when free agency opened.

“I was like, ‘OK, we wait for the market,’ and I was ready for that,” Bogdanovic said. “Like, OK, wait for the market and let’s see what’s going to happen. In the end, (the Kings) decided to not tell me about nothing, about what was going on with Milwaukee. I really didn’t know nothing. Yes, I’m friends with Thanasis (Antetokounmpo) mostly — (Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s) brother — but we didn’t know what was going on. It was really on Twitter.

“Now, people are making stories off of it. … I was like, ‘What is going on?’ I didn’t know what was going on. And then, two days later, the NBA investigation (began), and no one called me from the Kings yet. I just got a text, like, ‘Thanks for being part of the team,’ and that’s it.”

[RELATED: Bucks Lose 2022 Second-Round Pick For Early Pursuit Of Bogdanovic]

Bogdanovic’s wide-ranging discussion with Amick goes into more detail on his reaction to learning of the reported agreement between the Kings and Bucks and what it meant for his impending free agency. However, the interview – which is worth checking out in full – also touches on several other topics, including his pivot to Atlanta, his new role with the Hawks, and testing positive for COVID-19.

Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:

On dealing with a positive coronavirus test at the same time as he navigated free agency:

“Yeah, I had it. I had it, and I recovered and I started working out back in Serbia and I was fine. I didn’t have any crazy symptoms or anything like that, but it was all stressful, you know? You’re thinking about coming back and being ready and in shape, you know? It was really stressful. That two, three weeks? Whoo.”

On having to find a new deal in restricted free agency after the Bucks-related drama:

“At that point, when free agency opens up, I was just focused on one thing, you know? And Atlanta called first. The Kings actually called me like 15 minutes after, and I liked what they (the Hawks) offered me. … I think, in the end, I was lucky and I end up being in the perfect situation in terms of contract and a team.”

On whether he thoughts the Kings would match his offer sheet with the Hawks:

“I was scared for that (because) at that point I wanted to leave. At that point, when they traded me already and they didn’t want to talk to me about it, I was like, ‘OK, they really want me out of here.’ So I was like, ‘OK.’

“We end up signing the offer sheet, so I was thinking like, ‘Damn, in the end, they’re going to match this.’ I was confused. It’s not really free agency, because you are not free. And yes, you’re restricted — you’re really restricted. It’s restricted agency. It’s not free agency.”

On how he feels about his new role coming off the bench in Atlanta:

“I feel fine. I feel fine about it. I think coach (Lloyd Pierce) is putting me in situations to kind of run the second unit, you know? And be like the sixth man of the unit. And when you play with Trae (Young), it’s so easy. He always draws so much attention on him, and that’s what gives me a lot of open shots. Not just me, but everyone else.

“… We are still figuring it out, and I think from this point we can just get better. It’s so much talent. And we have a lot of guys who can get off one night, so that’s a really good problem to have on a team. … I like it so far. We really have a pretty good group, a mix of young (players) and veterans — which is really nice; energy and experience. So it’s really nice to be here. It’s really fun.”

Bucks Still Working On Consistency

  • The Bucks are striving to develop consistency after an offseason roster overhaul, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN. The club is currently off to a bumpy 2-3 to start their 2020/21 season. “I can speak for my team and for myself: I really feel like us having this different variety of teams and games really helps us,” new starting point guard Jrue Holiday said. “Even just having a back-to-back in a playoff-type atmosphere, early, is very, very good for us.”

Torrey Craig Undergoes Nasal Surgery

After fracturing his nose in a 130-110 loss against the Knicks on Sunday, Bucks swingman Torrey Craig went under the knife this week, undergoing surgery to repair the break, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Woj adds that the Bucks anticipate Craig will be able return to contact practices in two weeks.

Having spent his first three NBA seasons with the Nuggets, the 6’7″ Craig signed a one-year, $1.6MM veteran’s minimum deal with Milwaukee during the offseason.

Craig was added to the Bucks primarily to supply defensive wing depth and pull down offensive rebounds. He is not much of a scorer, holding a career average of 5.2 PPG on .451/.320/.660 shooting in 18.5 MPG.

The 30-year-old out of the University of South Carolina Upstate is averaging 6.5 MPG for the Bucks thus far this year.

And-Ones: Giannis, Lillard, 2021 FAs, 2022 Draft

During the offseason, before Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his super-max extension with the Bucks, he and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard discussed the possibility of working out together, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said on his Posted Up podcast (hat tip to NBC Sports).

The idea of two stars working out with one another during the offseason is hardly novel, but it would have been new for Giannis, who generally never works out with anybody who’s not on his team, per Haynes.

Sources tell Haynes that Antetokounmpo and Lillard also talked about what it would look like if they played together. While the idea of these two stars leaving for bigger markets has been a subject of speculation for years, both Lillard and Antetokounmpo have proven to be extremely loyal to their current clubs — and it doesn’t sound like this conversation was any exception.

“I believe Dame was trying to tell Giannis about what it would look like, him playing in Portland,” Haynes said, per NBC Sports. “And same vice versa, Giannis trying to tell him what it’d be like playing in Milwaukee.”

In other words, neither player expressed any interest in leaving his current team. And with Lillard locked up through at least 2024 and Antetokounmpo through 2025, it seems unlikely it will happen anytime soon.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Despite a flurry of preseason extension agreements that took some top 2021 free agents off the board, there will still be plenty of talent available on the open market next summer, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who ranks his top 21 FAs for ’21. Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo, and John Collins lead the way, while Talen Horton-Tucker sneaks onto the list at No. 21.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype identifies the 10 players most likely to sign maximum-salary contracts in 2021. In addition to top free agents like Leonard, Oladipo, and Collins, Gozlan lists a handful of players who will be eligible for rookie scale extensions later in the year, including Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
  • Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) took a look 18 months into the future and published their first mock draft for 2022. Big man Chet Holmgren is their early projected top pick, while a pair of Duke commits – Paolo Banchero and Adrian Griffin Jr. – are in the top four.

Latest On James Harden

In his latest look at the James Harden situation, Brian Windhorst of ESPN lists the Sixers, Nets, Heat, Celtics, and Raptors among the teams that have at least placed “courtesy calls” to the Rockets about the former MVP.

And while the Bucks reportedly don’t have interest in pursuing Harden, they did have an internal conversation about the possibility and ran it by Giannis Antetokounmpo before coming to that decision, Windhorst notes.

The Harden trade talk that dominated NBA headlines during the preseason has died down to some extent now that the season is underway and the 31-year-old is suiting up for the Rockets, but Windhorst believes it’s just a matter of time before a team convinces itself that Harden is the missing piece for a championship and pulls the trigger on a deal, like Toronto did for Kawhi Leonard in 2018.

Here’s more on Harden:

  • Although the Nuggets have been linked to Harden directly, they’re also interested in potentially getting involved in a multi-team trade involving the star guard even if they don’t end up with him, according to Windhorst.
  • Sam Amick of The Athletic wonders if the loss of scoring depth caused by Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ACL injury may motivate the Nets to push harder to acquire Harden. Of course, as we discussed earlier this week, Dinwiddie’s injury also diminishes the value of a player who likely would be part of any package the Nets offer.
  • Within that same Athletic article, Amick examines where things stand for the other teams linked to Harden, writing that the Sixers remain content to continue evaluating their current roster under Doc Rivers before making any major changes, while the Bucks don’t view Harden as a fit for their culture. Amick also evaluates the Heat, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and Raptors, but doesn’t suggest that there’s traction on any front.