Mindaugas Kuzminskas

And-Ones: Durant, Superteams, French National Team

Multiple teams around the NBA still consider Kevin Durant a talent worth investing max money in, despite the ruptured Achilles that will sideline him through 2019/20. Ben Golliver of the Washington Post weighs in on several franchises that could entertain the idea this summer.

Golliver writes that the Clippers, backed by billionaire Steve Ballmer could afford to sign Durant, tinker with the impressive lineup that led them to the postseason this spring, and then hit the ground running with Durant in 2020/21. That’s a scenario that would be ever dreamier if they were able to land Kawhi Leonard this summer as well.

Of course Durant’s absence next season will still have some impact on his value. Could the revelation that Durant won’t play in 2019/20 derail a potential pairing with Kyrie Irving in New York? Would Irving prefer instead to work with a different star in Brooklyn?

These are questions we’ll get answers to eventually but for now one thing is clear, Durant’s value remains high but that’s not to say that his Achilles hasn’t still thrown the league for a loop.

There’s more from around the league:

  • Is this the beginning of the end of the Superteam Era? Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN wonders as much in a video released on Instagram, suggesting players around the league are showing a greater interest in leading their own teams. For the past decade, star players have seemingly gravitated to one another to stack the deck and win championships but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, if the Raptors’ 2019 title plays a small role in the ushering out the Superteam Era, they’ll be walking right back into a climate that saw former Raptor star Tracy McGrady bolt the franchise for the chance to get out of Vince Carter‘s shadow and lead his own Magic squad.
  • Former Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas has received interest from a number of NBA teams and has several offers to join teams on non-guaranteed pre-season camp deals, international basketball reported Donatas Urbonas tweets.
  • The preliminary French national team for the 2019 World Cup has been revealed and a number of household NBA names will fortify a competitive roster. As seen at Sportando, Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum and Evan Fournier are the biggest names on the preliminary roster but they’re not the only ones with big league credentials.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas To Sign With Italian Team

Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who was waived by the Knicks last month, will sign with Olimpia Milano in Italy, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

His new contract will run through June of 2019, but it contains an opt-out clause for next summer in case he gets an opportunity to return to the NBA. He reportedly had offers from five EuroLeague teams, including Anadolu Efes in Turkey, before deciding on the Italian club.

Kuzminskas played just one game in New York this season before being released when the Knicks needed to open a roster spot for Joakim Noah‘s return from suspension. He had a solid rookie season in 2016/17, averaging 6.3 points and 1.9 rebounds in 68 games, but lost support in the front office when former team president Phil Jackson was fired.

The 28-year-old small forward had a decade of international experience before coming to the NBA and played for the Lithuanian national team.

And-Ones: World Cup, Kuzminskas, Trade Deadline

FIBA’s new process for qualifying for the Basketball World Cup may look familiar to fans who follow soccer’s World Cup qualifying process, but it has left many professional players confused and disappointed, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. As Stein details, the timing of the qualifiers will prevent the top players from participating.

Unlike top soccer leagues, which take breaks during their respective seasons to allow the best international players to represent their countries in qualifiers, there are no such windows for NBA and Euroleague players. As such, Team USA is attempting to qualify for the 2019 World Cup with a squad made up of little-known G League players.

“They will qualify, because they will be very well prepared and play hard,” Spurs assistant Ettore Messina said of Team USA. “But then you have to tell them: ‘Thank you. Now the real players are coming in to go to China.’ How unfair is that?”

For his part, Messina had to give up his role as head coach of the Italian national team because of the new qualifying format — he has been one of the loudest critics of the changes, Stein writes. “Stupid,” Messina said. “That’s the most common word I hear when I talk with people about this — stupid.”

As Team USA prepares for its first qualifying game against Puerto Rico, scheduled for tonight, here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press relays a few more perspectives on the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, speaking to several internationally-born NBA players who don’t love the changes.
  • According to Donatas Urbonas (Twitter links), Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas would love to sign free agent Mindaugas Kuzminskas, the Lithuanian forward recently waived by the Knicks. However, while the team says the door is always open for a player like Kuzminskas, it recognizes that its odds of landing him are low.
  • The NBA moved up the trade deadline for 2018 by two weeks to February 8. Danny Leroux of The Sporting News examines how the earlier deadline might affect teams’ plans this season.
  • With a number of NBA draft prospects – including Marvin Bagley III and Miles Bridges – set to participate in the PK80 Invitational in Portland this weekend, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) lay out the players and the matchups worth watching.

Pacific Notes: James, Gallinari, Kuzminskas

After bouncing around Europe and playing in five different countries over five seasons, Suns rookie point guard Mike James is making the most of his opportunity in the NBA, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. James has made such an impression since signing a two-way contract back in July that general manager Ryan McDonough, who didn’t even know who James was until this summer, has stated that the team plans to sign James to a standard NBA contract before his two-way contract expires on December 6.

James, who had balked at the opportunity to play in the NBA on numerous previous occasions, finally felt that it was time. “I felt like if I wasn’t going to do it this year, I probably wasn’t never going to do it. So I’m just like, let me take one chance. It would just be for a year, and if it doesn’t work out here, I’ll be back overseas, and I’ll make more money.” 

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari continues to nurse a strained left glute that he suffered in the first half of the team’s loss to the Heat on November 5. Essentially day-to-day since then, it has now been confirmed in a tweet from Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times that Gallinari will miss another 7-10 days.
  • Back in Los Angeles after a brief stint in Houston, Clippers guard Lou Williams is eager to have his new team back at full strength as soon as possible, as detailed in an interview with Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders. Believing that the Clippers still have plenty of time to right the ship despite being in the midst of a nine-game losing streak, Williams said, “We’ve been playing extremely hard giving ourselves an opportunity to win these games and just haven’t been able to finish. (Once we) get guys back … we’ll break through.”
  • The Lakers are keeping an eye on free agent Mindaugas Kuzminskas and have even met with the forward recently, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The Lakers were one of the teams we recently highlighted as having interest in Kuzminskas. The Lakers already have a full 15 players under contract, so any play for Kuzminskas would first require a roster move.

Bucks Have Interest In Mindaugas Kuzminskas

The Bucks are among the teams with interest in free agent forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas, league sources inform Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). As Scotto notes, Milwaukee doesn’t currently have an open roster spot, so the club would need to make another transaction to clear room for Kuzminskas.

After spending a decade playing professional ball overseas, Kuzminskas joined the Knicks last season and showed some promise, averaging 6.3 PPG and 1.9 RPG with a .428/.321/.809 shooting line in 68 games. In five starts, the Lithuanian forward increased those averages to 14.0 PPG and 4.2 RPG, with a .511/.391/.929 shooting line. However, he had his role significantly reduced this season and was waived on Sunday when Joakim Noah returned from the suspended list.

If the Bucks were to pursue Kuzminskas, DeAndre Liggins‘ roster spot may be in jeopardy. There’s some overlap between the two players’ positions, and Liggins is the only player on Milwaukee’s roster on a non-guaranteed contract. Jason Terry could also be a release candidate, since he’s only appeared briefly in four games for the Bucks this season. However, he has a fully guaranteed salary and the team values his locker room presence.

Shortly after being cut by the Knicks, Kuzminskas expressed a desire to continue his career in the NBA, and the Lakers, Bulls, and Hawks are among the clubs also expected to kick the tires on him.

Mindaugas Kuzminskas Hopes To Stay In NBA

Released by the Knicks on Sunday, veteran forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas is poised to clear waivers today, assuming no team puts in a claim. If he becomes an unrestricted free agent, Kuzminskas plans to prioritize NBA opportunities over offers from teams overseas, as he tells Lithuanian reporter Donatas Urbonas.

“My priority is NBA,” Kuzminskas said to Urbonas (Twitter link). “But who knows, maybe nobody needs me. Then I would consider [a] return to Europe.”

After spending a decade playing professional ball overseas, Kuzminskas joined the Knicks last season and showed some promise, averaging 6.3 PPG and 1.9 RPG with a .428/.321/.809 shooting line in 68 games. In five starts, the Lithuanian forward increased those averages to 14.0 PPG and 4.2 RPG, with a .511/.391/.929 shooting line.

However, one of Kuzminskas’ primary advocates – Phil Jackson – is no longer with the Knicks, while another – Clarence Gaines – no longer has the same level of influence in the front office. Kuzminskas appeared briefly in just one game for New York this season before he was waived.

The Lakers, Bulls, and the Hawks are among the teams expected to have interest in Kuzminskas if he clears waivers, so it sounds like there should be an opportunity for him to remain stateside. Still, the 28-year-old didn’t rule out the possibility of participating in this month’s FIBA World Cup qualifiers for Lithuania if he doesn’t sign a new contract right away, per Urbonas (Twitter link). And if he does receive offers from NBA teams, Kuzminskas will seriously consider what kind of role those teams could give him (Twitter link).

“If I needed money, I would have stayed in New York,” Kuzminskas said, implying that perhaps he encouraged the Knicks to cut him, or at least didn’t object to it. “I want to play, not to sit on the bench.”

Lakers, Bulls, Hawks Eyeing Mindaugas Kuzminskas

The Lakers, Bulls, and Hawks are among the teams expected to have interest in Mindaugas Kuzminskas if the former Knick clears waivers, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link). Kuzminskas, waived today by New York, will become an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday if no team claims him.

When Kuzminskas first signed with the Knicks in the summer of 2016, Berman reported (via Twitter) that the Lakers and Hawks nearly beat out New York to sign the Lithuanian forward, so it’s not a surprise that they’d be willing to kick the tires again. The Bulls also make sense as a potential suitor, since they aren’t overly concerned with short-term success and can afford to roll the dice on a project.

Before Kuzminskas is free to sign with any team though, he’ll have to clear waivers. Waiver claims in the NBA are pretty rare, particularly for players earning more than the minimum. Still, it’s worth noting that half the league’s teams have the ability to claim Kuzminskas and his $3MM salary off waivers, if they so choose.

Waiver order is currently determined by last year’s record, with the worst teams getting first priority. Here are the clubs eligible to claim Kuzminskas:

  • With cap room: Kings, Nets, Pacers, Sixers, Suns
  • With cap room if various exceptions are renounced: Mavericks
  • With a trade exception: Bucks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Raptors, Trail Blazers
  • With a disabled player exception: Celtics

Knicks Waive Mindaugas Kuzminskas

The Knicks have waived forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas, the team announced via Twitter. The Lithuanian forward was barely used this season, seeing just two minutes of action in one game.

New York had to make a move by 4pm Central to open a roster spot for center Joakim Noah, whose 20-game PED suspension ended last night. With 15 other players under contract, the organization decided to unload Kuzminskas and the $3,025,035 in guaranteed money he will make this season.

“The respect this franchise has for Mindaugas cannot be overstated,” Knicks GM Scott Perry said in a statement released by the team. “His professionalism and work ethic were greatly appreciated by his teammates, coaches and the entire staff. This decision was extremely tough for us. We wish him nothing but the best moving on with his playing career.”

Kuzminskas appeared to have a promising future in New York after averaging 6.3 points in 68 games as a rookie last season, but lost an important advocate in the front office when Phil Jackson was fired as team president over the summer.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes that last year’s standings will be used for waiver claims through the end of November (Twitter link). A team must be able to absorb Kuzminskas’ salary through cap space, a trade exception or a disabled player exception in order to file a claim.

Knicks To Part With Mindaugas Kuzminskas?

The Knicks plan to unload Mindaugas Kuzminskas today to make room for Joakim Noah‘s return from suspension, a source tells Laura Albanese of Newsday.

The Lithuanian forward has been a forgotten man in New York, playing just two minutes all season. That comes after a promising rookie year in which he appeared in 68 games and averaged 6.3 points in nearly 15 minutes per night.

“I think the next three years are going to be the best of my career, I hope, because I’ve never felt so good — physically, mentally,” Kuzminskas told reporters before Saturday’s game. “If it is possible to play here, I would be more than happy. I think to play here, to win here is a great feeling, especially this year, when we’re playing pretty good, winning more games, the atmosphere in the gym is great and everything. If it is possible for me to play here, of course I would like to stay, and if not, I would just like to play.”

Kuzminskas lost one of his biggest supporters in the organization over the summer when the Knicks fired former team president Phil Jackson, who signed the 28-year-old to a two-year deal in the summer of 2016. That contract pays him $3,025,035 this season, but the Knicks are apparently willing to sacrifice that money even though there are cheaper options available. Jarrett Jack, Ramon Sessions and Michael Beasley each make $1,471,382 on veterans’ minimum contracts, and Jack’s deal is non-guaranteed.

Last night, Noah served the final game of his 20-game suspension for using an illegal substance, and the Knicks have to make a move by 5 p.m. today to add him to the roster. They will try to work out a trade involving Kuzminskas, Albanese writes, but will waive him if that is not successful.

“I think a lot of things happened this summer, you know, a lot of things changed,” Kuzminskas said. “And it’s obvious that last year’s team wasn’t that good, so you’ve got to change something … [And when] a person like [Jackson] is a fan of yours, it’s awesome, but you know, like I said, I was happy when he was here last year. He gave me a lot of advice. Just seeing him last year, the practices, it gives extra motivation. This year, he’s gone. This year we have other guys who are great too in our front office.”

Knicks Notes: Kuzminskas, Noah, O’Quinn, Porzingis

Mindaugas Kuzminskas is among several Knicks waiting for the team’s next move once Joakim Noah‘s suspension ends, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Noah is serving the last of his 20 games tonight, which means a roster change should happen soon. The Knicks have 15 other players under contract, so an opening will have to be created before Noah can be activated.

Kuzminskas, who was inactive for tonight’s contest, told reporters he is anxious to see what the team decides to do. He is making $3,025,035 in the final year of his contract, which may be a lot for the Knicks to absorb when Ramon Sessions, Jarrett Jack and Michael Beasley are all signed for the veterans’ minimum of $1,471,382. However, Kuzminskas has barely played this season, getting into one game for just two minutes of action. That follows a promising rookie year in which he averaged 6.8 points in 68 games.

There’s more news out of New York:

  • Noah isn’t sure how he will fit into the team’s logjam at center, relays Marc Berman of The New York PostEnes Kanter has taken over the starting job since being acquired in a trade with the Thunder, and Kyle O’Quinn has emerged as the primary backup. Willy Hernangomez has appeared in just six games, and playing time figures to get even tighter with four centers available. “All I can do is just be as ready as possible,’’ Noah said. “I feel like I’ve put myself in that position, grinding hard. Whatever my role is I’ll accept it. It’s tough, you know? We have a lot of very good players at our position.”
  • The front office has been making calls to measure O’Quinn’s trade value, Berman writes in the same story. He has been impressive with 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in a reserve role, and the Bucks may be interested after parting with Greg Monroe this week to obtain Eric Bledsoe.
  • Kristaps Porzingis isn’t just playing better this season, he’s enjoying it more, Berman notes in a separate story. Last year’s turmoil, which included Porzingis skipping his post-season exit interview then being shopped for potential trades, disappeared with the firing of team president Phil Jackson“Yes, it was a tough year,’’ Porzingis said Friday on WFAN. “We won a lot of games in the beginning because of our talent. I could tell right away it wasn’t going to keep that up for the whole season.  It started to go downhill, it wasn’t fun anymore.  It was not a very enjoyable season.’’