Mitch McGary

Thunder Waive Mitch McGary, Ronnie Price, Others

1:25pm: The Thunder have issued a press release confirming their four cuts: McGary and Price, as reported, along with Wright and Tarczewski, as speculated below. OKC’s roster is now at 15 players, ready for the regular season.

1:20pm: The Thunder intend to waive a pair of players with guaranteed salaries, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who reports (via Twitter) that Mitch McGary and Ronnie Price will receive their walking papers from the team. With Price no longer in the mix, Oklahoma City will keep rookie Semaj Christon to provide depth at point guard, per Charania.

The decision to waive McGary doesn’t come as a shock. In addition to failing to produce much on the court during his first two seasons in OKC, McGary also got into more trouble off the court this offseason. The NBA suspended the former Michigan big man twice – first for five games and then for an additional 10 – for violations of the league’s drug policy.

As Bobby Marks of The Vertical tweets, that suspension will begin if and when McGary signs with a new NBA team. For now though, McGary is hoping to resume his career in China or somewhere in Europe, per Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link).

The Thunder will still have to pay McGary’s guaranteed salary, but that figure is fairly modest compared to Price’s guaranteed money. The veteran point guard signed a two-year, fully-guaranteed deal worth $5MM this summer, so Oklahoma City will be on the hook for about $2.558MM in 2016/17, with the remainder coming later. The Thunder could choose to stretch out Price’s 2017/18 cap hit across multiple years.

With McGary and Price headed for the waiver wire, and Christon apparently safe, the Thunder will have to make two more cuts this afternoon. Chris Wright and Kaleb Tarczewski look like the clear candidates to be waived, perhaps with an eye toward a D-League assignment to OKC’s affiliate.

Northwest Notes: McGary, Quarterman, Faried

A guaranteed contract may not be enough to keep Mitch McGary on the Thunder roster, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. McGary will get a little more than $1.5MM this season whether he plays or not, and a lingering foot injury combined with two violations of the NBA drug policy could seal his fate. McGary wasn’t used at all in Oklahoma City’s six preseason games. The first four were because of the foot problem, but he was a healthy scratch for the final two. “If the opportunity doesn’t present itself [to play], that’s totally on me,” McGary said. “Just means I got to work a little bit harder to get where I want to go. Wherever that is — it may be here; I hope so — I just want to play. That’s it.”

McGary was a first-round pick in 2014, but has spent his career going back and forth to the D-League. He appeared in 20 games for Oklahoma City last season, averaging 1.3 points and 0.9 rebounds in limited playing time. The Thunder still have 19 players on their roster and must cut down to 15 by Monday afternoon.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • After going undrafted out of LSU, Tim Quarterman has earned a spot on the Trail Blazers’ roster, writes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Quarterman signed with Portland in late July, which gave him plenty of time to impress Blazers management and coach Terry Stotts. Quarterman only saw 16 minutes of playing time during the preseason, but was able to beat out Grant Jerrett, Greg Stiemsma and Luis Montero for the final roster spot. “I just try to come in and work every day, push myself, go against the vets on the team and stuff like that every day and try to get better,” Quarterman said. “I never approached it as like I was the frontrunner or anything like that, I always approached it like I was the last guy trying to make it to the front.”
  • The Nuggets‘ best lineup includes big men Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic, contends Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post, which means Kenneth Faried will have to get used to being a backup. Faried, who has been mentioned in trade talks in the past, has started 331 of the 348 games he has played since arriving in Denver five years ago. Coach Michael Malone said he plans to talk to Faried about the situation, emphasizing that the same combinations won’t be used every game. “We’re a deep team, and I don’t think you can get caught up in who’s starting, because we’re going to play a lot of guys,” Malone said. “We’re going to finish small some nights, we may finish big some nights.”
  • Injuries will force the Jazz to rely on offseason acquisitions even more than they expected, writes Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. With Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Alec Burks all hurting, that means increased responsibility for George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw.

Thunder Notes: Westbrook, McGary, Presti, Oladipo

Russell Westbrook‘s efforts to become a more vocal leader have already given him laryngitis, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. The star point guard could barely speak after the first of two practices today, a result of his plan to talk more on the court in the absence of Kevin Durant. That commitment to leadership started with the three-year extension Westbrook signed in August, one month after Durant announced that he was leaving for the Warriors. “He, I think, is setting a tone in terms of that, at least from a defensive standpoint, we’ve got to communicate,” coach Billy Donovan said of Westbrook. “And I think when you’re the caliber of player like Russell who’s doing it every single time and communicating it and expressing and pointing out the value and the importance of that, I think it carries a large weight.”

There’s more news from Oklahoma City:

  • Mitch McGary vows he has “turned over a new leaf” after two drug suspensions this summer that will sideline him for the season’s first 15 games, relays Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. McGary confirmed that the five-game ban he received this summer was for failing a drug test, while the 10-game suspension imposed last week was for not taking enough tests to comply with the NBA’s drug program. The third-year center may be near the end of his time in Oklahoma City. He is guaranteed more than $1.5MM this season, but has a team option worth more than $2.4MM for 2017/18. “I’d love to stay with this organization,” McGary said. “This is hands down like the best organization that had treats for you, cares for you, does everything for you, pretty much hand feeds you. I’ve known that from guys around the league have said this is the organization to be with, so obviously I don’t want to leave.”
  • “Disappointed” was the word GM Sam Presti used to describe his reaction to McGary’s latest drug issues, according to Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press. Presti also insinuated that the Thunder have lost patience with McGary. “We’re not privy to the NBA’s program, so I don’t have a whole lot of information,” Presti said. “All I can say to you is that I’m disappointed. Then from there, I don’t think I have to expand past that.” 
  • Victor Oladipo said he had thoughts about joining the Thunder a year before the draft-day trade from Orlando. In a video posted on The Oklahoman’s website, the new OKC guard addresses a number of topics, including his longtime interest in joining the Thunder. “I literally thought about being here a year ago,” Oladipo said, “and thought what it would be like to be on this team. And for it to actually happen is a surreal experience, and I know that it’s supposed to be the way it is now.”

Mitch McGary Suspended Additional 10 Games

Just over two months ago, Thunder forward Mitch McGary received a five-game suspension from the NBA for a failed drug test. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the league has tacked an additional 10 games onto that suspension for McGary’s non-compliance with the NBA’s drug policy, meaning the Michigan product will miss the first 15 games of the 2016/17 season.

Per Wojnarowski, McGary isn’t believed to have produced another positive drug test. Instead, the new suspension is reportedly the result of a failure to follow “the procedural guidelines set forth in the program.”

As we noted at the time of McGary’s initial suspension in July, his absence to start the season likely won’t be a major on-court problem for the Thunder, since he wasn’t a regular part of the team’s rotation last year. However, it’s the latest in a series of troublesome off-court developments for the 24-year-old, who tested positive for marijuana in college and avoided a one-year NCAA suspension by entering the NBA draft.

The Thunder acquired Joffrey Lauvergne in a recent trade with the Nuggets, despite already having 15 guaranteed contracts on their books, suggesting that at least one player with a guaranteed salary will be traded or waived before the season gets underway. Based on the latest developments with McGary, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he ends up being that player.

McGary is owed a salary of $1,526,040 in 2016/17, though he’ll forfeit about $191K of that amount due to his 15-game suspension. The Thunder will also have to decide by October 31 whether or not to exercise his 2017/18 option, worth $2,430,982. That option looks unlikely to be picked up at this point.

Thunder Notes: Griffin, Mohammed, McGary

With Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical having suggested on multiple occasions this offseason that the Thunder are looking ahead and identifying Blake Griffin as a potential free agent target in the summer of 2017, it came as no surprise that Griffin was on the receiving end of a subtle – and humorous – recruiting pitch during a recent event at the University of Oklahoma.

As relayed by Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk, Griffin tactfully blew off the mention of the Thunder at the alumni event, but it certainly won’t be the last time someone broaches the idea of a homecoming for the Oklahoma native. For what it’s worth, the Clippers reportedly remain very confident that Griffin will remain in Los Angeles for the long term.

Here’s more on the Thunder:

Mitch McGary Suspended Five Games

Thunder big man Mitch McGary has been suspended for five games by the NBA for a failed drug test, writes Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. McGary figures to serve the suspension to open the 2016/17 regular season.

As Slater writes, the five-game ban isn’t a major on-court problem for the Thunder, considering McGary wasn’t a regular part of the team’s rotation last season. However, it’s not the first off-court incident for the 24-year-old, who tested positive for marijuana in college and avoided a one-year NCAA suspension by entering the NBA draft. So that may be cause for some concern.

McGary, the 21st overall pick in the 2014 draft, has shown a little promise and had a strong Summer League showing this past week in Orlando, but he has yet to make a real mark in Oklahoma City. During the 2015/16 campaign, he averaged just 3.6 minutes in 20 appearances, scoring total 26 points for the season.

And-Ones: Porzingis, Smart, Terry, D-League

The KnicksKristaps Porzingis could be the rare young player who affects decisions in the free agent market, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski claims. In a video response to a reader’s question, Wojnarowski said Porzingis has a clear path toward becoming an All-Star. “Elite free agents generally aren’t as interested in young talent as they are veteran, winning talent in its prime,” Wojnarowski said. “But Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks is an exception. He’s far more and will be far more intriguing to free agents than say, the Lakers’ young core.” 

There’s more from around the world of basketball:

  • Heat assistant coach Keith Smart is trying to overcome a rare form of skin cancer and rejoin the team on the bench, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Chris Quinn has moved from behind the bench to take Smart’s place while he undergoes treatment, and Smart said he doesn’t want to disrupt the chemistry of the coaching staff when he returns. He credits the Heat for keeping him involved during his absence. “This team has been great,” Smart said. “The organization has been great. [Coach Erik Spoelstra] is incredible, managing this team and also communicating with me almost on a daily basis or every other day, just to make sure that I’m doing OK.”
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes Rockets guard Jason Terry has the personality to succeed as a college coach, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Terry interviewed Thursday to be the next head coach at Alabama-Birmingham. “I could see Jet being a coach,” Cuban said. “He knows the game, he’s intense, he communicates well. And guys would relate to him.” Cuban added that the former Maverick can have a job with Dallas whenever he wants one.
  • The addition of three new teams to the D-League next season will bring a few complications, writes Adam Johnson of D-League Digest. The Windy City Bulls, Greensboro Swarm and Long Island Nets will be launched for 2016/17 as more NBA teams decide to have direct D-League affiliates. Johnson notes that the extra teams will require an expansion draft and will complicate the way the league handles its draft picks.
  • The Thunder have recalled Mitch McGary from their Oklahoma City Blue affiliate in the D-League, the team announced. McGary is averaging 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in 26 games with the Blue.
  • The Kings have recalled Eric Moreland and Duje Dukan from Reno of the D-League (Twitter link).

Thunder Rumors: Durant, Donovan, Foye, Kanter

Heading into free agency, Kevin Durant is asked about a lot of NBA destinations, but he offered a simple answer of “It’s home” when he got that question about Oklahoma City, relays Royce Young of ESPN.com. Whether or not that offers a clue of Durant’s free agency intentions, it’s clear he has developed an affection for the city where he has spent the last eight years of his NBA career. “I’ve always felt that this place meant so much to me,” Durant said. “It has a special place in my heart and my family’s heart as well.”

There’s more out of Oklahoma City:

  • Billy Donovan has adjusted to the challenge of handling two superstars in his first NBA coaching job, writes Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Donovan had spent 21 years at the college level, and 19 at the University of Florida, before replacing Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City last summer. Donovan has the Thunder, who missed the playoffs in an injury-filled season a year ago, firmly in third place in the West with a 48-22 record. “I just think that there is sort of a down-to-earth part of him that allows him to come in and be excellent at inheriting a hell of a team,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Donovan. “That’s a hard job in different ways you look at it. Because it is so veteran and they have been used to success. I thought Scotty did a hell of a job with them, too. It’s not an easy job.”
  • Randy Foye, who was acquired from the Nuggets at the trade deadline, has helped rejuvenate the bench in Oklahoma City, according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. Foye is a streaky shooter, but he has helped by limiting turnovers and playing strong defense on the perimeter. Strong bench play has also come from center Enes Kanter, whom the Thunder kept last summer by matching a five-year, $70MM offer from Portland.
  • Still recovering from hip surgery, assistant coach Maurice Cheeks is expected to return to the Thunder bench for home games beginning this week, Slater tweets. Donovan hopes Cheeks can take on full-time duty by the start of next month.
  • The Thunder have assigned forward Mitch McGary to Oklahoma City Blue in the D-League. He has played 22 games with the Blue this season, averaging 15 points and 9.1 rebounds.

And-Ones: Faried, Okafor, Crawford, D-League

Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried can expect a light workload for the rest of the season, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Faried was held out of tonight’s game with the Hawks because of soreness in his back, and coach Mike Malone suggested that he might face some more DNPs. “Sometimes I feel that I may have to protect him from himself,” Malone said. “I think he wants to be out there, but, you know what? We have 14 games to go, we know what Kenneth is about, we know the high level he’s capable of playing at.” Malone said one benefit of Faried’s absence will be more playing time to evaluate big men Joffrey Lauvergne, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic. Faried has three years and more than $38.764MM left on the extension he signed in 2014.

There’s more news tonight from the basketball world:

  • The delay in Jahlil Okafor‘s knee surgery is no cause for concern, Sixers coach Brett Brown tells Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Okafor is waiting to undergo arthroscopic surgery to fix a torn meniscus in his right knee. The operation was originally scheduled for Wednesday, and then today, but it hasn’t been performed yet. “There’s no sort of conspiracy theories going on,” Brown said. “It’s more just trying to get a collaborative effort. It happened with Joel [Embiid] and, I think, with Nerlens [Noel].”
  • The effort to get an NBA team back in Seattle received support from Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford, who wrote a piece promoting the idea for Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron.
  • The Thunder recalled forward Mitch McGary from their Oklahoma City Blue affiliate in the D-League, the organization announced via press release. McGary is averaging 15.1 points and 9.2 rebounds in 21 games with the OKC Blue.
  • The Spurs assigned forward Jonathon Simmons to their D-League team in Austin. This is his second D-League trip of the season. Simmons has appeared in 48 games with San Antonio, averaging 5.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per night.

Western Notes: Russell, Gasol, Freeland

Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo believes there is still a chance that Grizzlies center Marc Gasol will play in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, as he told the Spanish media outlet ACB.com (translation via Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype). “Marc is hoping to be there, but health comes first and the main thing is he recovers 100%,” Scariolo said. “When the time comes, he will tell us what’s his situation and his club’s opinion because with Marc there’s a lot of factors at play. I wish it was only up to him to make the decision.” While Scariolo’s comments were likely tinged with a dose of optimism, the mere possibility of Gasol being able to suit up and play this summer bodes well for the big man being able to be on the court for Memphis come opening night next season. Gasol is out for the remainder of the 2015/16 after undergoing surgery in February to repair damage to his broken right foot.

Here’s more from out West:

  • D’Angelo Russell tries not to think about the implications his performance could have for the future of the Lakers, but he believes that as he, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle play better, it helps the team’s case for free agents this summer, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News“If we keep playing at a high level, the sky is the limit,” Russell said. “That could dictate who wants to come here and who feels like we don’t need to bring this guy here because we have such and such. We can play a certain part.”
  • Joel Freeland, who signed a two-year deal with the Russian club CSKA Moscow this past summer, said he had a number of NBA offers, including one from the Mavericks, but chose to head overseas because of the playing time that doing so would provide, Mark Woods of MVP247.com relays. “I wanted to play. I probably had four or five offers from the NBA, but at the end of the day, nobody would guarantee me minutes,” Freeland told Woods. “And I never knew what my situation was going to be, going to those teams. So I felt like this was my best option, especially coming to a team with a great heritage, a great organization and a team that’s hopefully going to be fighting for championships.” Freeland became a free agent last offseason after his rookie deal expired and the Trail Blazers declined to submit a qualifying offer to him.
  • The Thunder have assigned Josh Huestis and Mitch McGary to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Huestis has appeared in 18 games with the Blue this season, averaging 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per night, while McGary has made 19 appearances and is averaging 15.0 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 25.6 minutes per contest.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

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