Mohamed Bamba

Southeast Notes: Smith, Lopez, Carter, Bamba

Point guard Ish Smith will be playing for his 12th NBA franchise this season but his stint with the Hornets will be special, Sam Perley of the team’s website notes. Smith grew up in Charlotte, NC.

“I wanted to be home, I’m not going to lie to you,” Smith said. “I’m sure everybody is going mention it in every game we play. Every year, it’s about how many teams you’ve been on. I’m like look, somebody likes me. … [Being here] is something that I’m excited about, it’s something my family’s excited about. So, yeah, it is something I wanted to do.”

Smith signed a two-year deal with the Hornets last month.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Robin Lopez, signed to add depth in the middle for the rebuilding Magic, compares himself to a bullpen specialist in baseball, Josh Cohen of the team’s website writes. “You know the relief pitcher, they’re always a little rotund,” Lopez said with a grin. “They’re not playing every night necessarily, but they are going in there making an impact when the team needs them.” Lopez signed a one-year, $5MM deal with Orlando.
  • The Magic will be evaluating their long-term plans at center over the next 12 months, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The franchise is unlikely to make long-term commitments to both Wendell Carter Jr. and Mohamed Bamba. They are eligible for rookie scale extensions this offseason. If Carter isn’t signed to an extension, he will still have every opportunity to prove himself in the season ahead and perhaps show that his ceiling is higher than many scouts believe he can reach, Robbins adds.
  • ICYMI, a former Nets guard has agreed to a contract with the Hawks. Get the details here.

Southeast Notes: Bamba, Anthony, Haslem, Love

The Magic are coming to something of a crossroads with Mohamed Bamba, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

The former No. 6 overall pick has only started six games in three years, with five of them coming in the final 24 games of last season, after the Magic traded the team’s long-standing linchpin, Nikola Vucevic, to the Bulls. Of course, those starts only came when Wendell Carter Jr., who came back from Chicago in the deal, wasn’t playing.

With Bamba entering the final year of his rookie contract, Robbins talks to NBA scouts about the future for the big man.

Talent-wise, he has a ceiling that he could be really good if he’s locked-in,” one scout said. “He has a chance, but I don’t know if his motor will let him get there.”

In examining Bamba’s strengths, Robbins quotes the big man’s 91st-percentile for percentage of opposing teams’ shots blocked, as well as his burgeoning jumpshot, but scouts worry that his tools are far ahead of his defensive instincts and reactivity. One scout says that Orlando may ultimately be better served to let another team try to develop Bamba once his rookie deal expires. However, Robbins observes that a new coach and system could be huge for his development, and that the team still seems at least relatively committed to him.

We have more news from around the Southeast Division:

  • In a similar piece from earlier this month, Robbins talked to scouts about Cole Anthony, who, like Bamba, faces a similar uncertainty given the Magic‘s depth at the point guard spot. The scouts came away more impressed with Anthony’s ability to get into the paint and play with physicality than expected, especially on the offensive glass, but almost unanimously said his lack of vision as a playmaker and his limitations defensively will probably keep him from becoming a starting point guard for a good team.
  • Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel believes that it’s possible we see a mid-season send-off for lifelong Heat veteran Udonis Haslem, he writes in a recent mailbag. He also says Haslem may have been biding his time and waiting for the perfect moment to get his big farewell.
  • In a separate piece, Winderman calls Kevin Love‘s recently-reported disinterest in a buyout “pure posturing,” while saying the Heat would likely be interested, especially with a bit of a hole at the power forward position. However, he’s unsure if Miami currently holds the “contender” status in the eyes of players that could woo Love over a team like the Lakers or Warriors.

Southeast Notes: Bamba, Oubre, Gill, Wizards

Mohamed Bamba won’t play for the Magic when Summer League starts on Sunday, but he’s practicing with his teammates in Las Vegas, writes Chris Hays of The Orlando Sentinel. The third-year center got a path to regular minutes for the first time in his career when Orlando unloaded its veteran centers last spring and turned the position over to Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr.

“For me it was no-brainer,” Bamba said of his decision to come to Las Vegas. “We got a new coach, new system, new guys and I just wanted to get well acclimated way before training camp.”

Jamahl Mosley, who has taken over as head coach, said this week that it was encouraging to see Bamba join the team on his own. Bamba said he’s looking forward to playing under Mosley.

“He’s made it clear that my presence (on the floor) is needed, is wanted and it’s just all about getting out there and putting in the right amount of work,” Bamba said. “Practicing with the team only helps the chemistry of the team. Coming out here … I had a choice, either to stay in Orlando and work with the coaches that didn’t come to Summer League or come here and add in these good deposits from the team.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Free agent forward Kelly Oubre received offers from eight other teams before deciding to sign with the Hornets, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Oubre’s agent, Torrel Harris of Unique Sports International Management, says the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers, Bucks, Nuggets, Nets, Trail Blazers and Cavaliers all presented offers to Oubre.
  • Today marked the guarantee date for Wizards power forward Anthony Gill, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic. Gill will make $1,517,981 in 2021/22, giving Washington 13 fully guaranteed contracts. That doesn’t include center Daniel Gafford, whose $1,782,621 won’t be guaranteed until the league-wide guarantee date of January 7.
  • Wizards Summer League players Cassius Winston, Issuf Sanon and Isaiah Todd have all been placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). Their replacements include former NBA players Cheick Diallo and Derrick Walton Jr. (Twitter link)

Magic Notes: Anthony, Bacon, Bamba, Weltman

The offensive play of Magic rookie point guard Cole Anthony during the 2020/21 season proved he could be a valuable long-term addition for Orlando, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

Anthony, who stepped into the role of starting point guard after Markelle Fultz tore his ACL early in the season, averaged 12.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.1 APG, and 0.6 SPG across 27.1 MPG for the year. Anthony was an inefficient shooter, with a first-season slash line of .397/.337/.832, but that’s generally par for the course with rookie guards.

Depending on where the Magic land in the upcoming draft, there is a chance that Anthony could get extended run as a starter for at least part of the 2021/22 season while Fultz recovers. He will enjoy his first true offseason with the club this season, as COVID-19 precautions precluded a Summer League and limited offseason activies last year.

There’s more out of Orlando:

  • Do-everything Magic swingman Dwayne Bacon helped stabilize the Magic amid injuries and roster churn during his first season with the club, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Bacon was the sole Magic player to suit up for all 72 games for the team. Parry wonders if, thanks to the addition of rookie guard R.J. Hampton at the trade deadline and the possibility that the Magic could draft a high-upside young wing this summer, Orlando’s front office will opt to guarantee the second year of Bacon’s deal. Bacon’s limitations as an off-ball shooter could factor into this decision.
  • Magic center Mohamed Bamba finished the season on a high note, following the trade of Nikola Vucevic and the release of Khem Birch, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. Operating as the primary backup behind new Orlando starting center Wendell Carter Jr., Bamba exhibited intriguing flashes of his offensive upside, plus some defensive promise as a rim protector.
  • Magic team president Jeff Weltman is reluctant to speculate about how long it will take his youth-heavy rebuilding club to develop, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. “I don’t apply timelines,” Weltman said. “I don’t know what one person’s development is going to look like juxtaposed next to another, but I just believe that we have a lot of talent on this team, and a lot of character and a lot of guys that want to win and we have a lot of ways to add more of those guys.” Weltman will get to add some exciting new additions this offseason, with the Magic expected to net two lottery picks (their own and the Bulls’ selection, provided it does not move into the top four in the draft lottery).

Magic Notes: Bamba, Birch, Harris, Cannady

The Magic decided to waive Khem Birch on Thursday so they can give more playing time to their two young centers, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. The 28-year-old Birch is expected to sign with the Raptors once he clears waivers Saturday, leaving Orlando with Mo Bamba, 22, and newly-acquired Wendell Carter Jr., who will turn 22 next week, as the team’s future in the middle.

Bamba has been slowed by injuries and conditioning concerns since being selected with the sixth pick in the 2018 draft. He was averaging just 12.0 minutes per game this season as the third-string center, but he’ll get a chance to develop his game now that Birch and Nikola Vucevic are both gone.

“It’s the opportunity I’ve been looking for since being drafted, and now is the time to go out there and play and just get better,” Bamba said. “It’s been a difficult road since being drafted, but the time is now and I’m here to seize the opportunity to do more for this team.”

There’s more from Orlando:

  • The Magic were reluctant to part with Birch, who was a team leader and represented one of the best moves by president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond, Robbins adds. Birch went undrafted in 2014 and played in Turkey and Greece before Weltman and Hammond convinced him to try the NBA in 2017. “He’s the guy that when you sit and watch film and you’re breaking down opponents … he’s going to be easy to respect,” coach Steve Clifford said. “He defends fours. He defends fives. He’s a great screener. Coaches constantly ask about him, and he’s a winning player.”
  • Shooting guard Gary Harris appears ready to make his debut for Orlando tonight, tweets Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Acquired from the Nuggets in the Aaron Gordon trade, Harris has been sidelined since February 17 with an adductor strain. “I’m excited. It’s been a long time coming,” Harris said. “I’ve been around the team for a little bit now, so I’m excited to finally get out there and play with the guys.” (Twitter link)
  • Devin Cannady‘s efforts to reach the NBA paid off this week when he signed a 10-day contract with the Magic. “It’s been a goal of mine to get to this level,” the G League Finals MVP said. “I had a great training camp with them. I love the staff here, the coaching staff and players. I’m excited to get going and be a part of this rebuild for the next 10 days and make the most of this opportunity.” (video link from NBA.com)

Eastern Notes: Rose, Pistons, Hayward, Diakite, Bamba

Knicks point guard Derrick Rose was sidelined for Tuesday’s game due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but it sounds like he shouldn’t miss additional time. According to Steve Popper of Newsday, Rose registered an inconclusive COVID-19 test and was held out for precautionary reasons.

Rose has since returned multiple negative results and was cleared to accompany the team on its flight back home. As long as he continues to test negative today and tomorrow, the former MVP will be able to play in the Knicks’ final first-half game against Detroit on Thursday, says Popper.

Despite Rose’s absence on Tuesday, the Knicks have been relatively fortunate so far this season not to be significantly affected by the coronavirus. No Knicks players have tested positive for the virus since the regular season began, and the club’s only postponement came when its opponent – San Antonio – was dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Pistons are among the latest teams to announce plans to bring a limited number of fans back into their arena. According to a press release, Detroit will permit up to 750 fans at Little Caesars Arena starting on March 17. That number may increase later in the season.
  • After missing two games due to a right hand contusion, Hornets forward Gordon Hayward has been upgraded to probable for Wednesday’s game, per the team (via Twitter). Charlotte could give Hayward another full week of rest by holding him out tonight, but it sounds like he’s ready to return.
  • The Bucks have recalled rookie two-way forward Mamadi Diakite from the G League, the team announced today in a press release. Milwaukee’s own NBAGL affiliate isn’t active this season, but Diakite had been playing very well for the Lakeland Magic, averaging a double-double (18.5 PPG, 10.4 RPG) with 2.1 BPG and a .580/.500/.750 shooting line in just 27.7 minutes per contest (12 games).
  • Although he didn’t get into the Magic‘s last game on Monday, center Mohamed Bamba has been told to expect a steadier stream of minutes going forward and is eager to take advantage of the opportunity, as Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel details. Bamba has played just 149 total minutes in 16 games so far in 2020/21.

Southeast Notes: Martin Brothers, McDaniels, Bamba, Huerter, Wizards

Hornets brothers Cody Martin and Caleb Martin will miss Friday’s game against the Timberwolves due to the league’s health and safety protocols, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. P.J. Washington has also been sidelined by the protocols, Marc Spears of ESPN tweets.

Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels has been recalled from the G League’s Greensboro Swarm, according to a team press release. McDaniels, who won’t be available until at least Sunday due to quarantine rules, has averaged 20 points and 11.5 rebounds in two games at Orlando’s bubble.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Mohamed Bamba has fallen out of the Magic‘s rotation and that shouldn’t be the case, Josh Robbins of The Athletic opines. The sixth pick of the 2018 draft needs playing time to establish how much improvement he’s made since his rookie campaign and coach Steve Clifford should give the young big ample opportunities to show what he can do, Robbins adds. Robbins also takes a look at the current rotation and Clifford’s usage of reserves Gary Clark and Khem Birch.
  • Hawks wing Kevin Huerter has averaged 13.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 3.8 APG since reclaiming a spot in the lineup, K.L. Chouinard of the team’s website notes. Huerter, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension prior to next season, is on pace to set career-best marks in field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage, Chouinard adds. “It’s finding my spots and finding ways to stay aggressive and keep myself within the offense,” Huerter said.
  • The Wizards are 3-8 since returning from their coronavirus pause, prompting Scott Cacciola of the New York Times to take a closer look at the team’s struggles.

Florida Notes: Mason, Bamba, Heat, Okeke

Newly-signed Magic guard Frank Mason III should be able to provide some offensive firepower to an injury-depleted Orlando squad, according to Josh Cohen of Magic.com.

As a two-way player during the 2019/20 season, Mason played 23 games for the Bucks’ NBAGL affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd. The 5’11” University of Kansas alum was the leading scorer in the G League last year, averaging 26.4 PPG. Cohen anticipates Mason’s biggest scoring contribution to the Magic will be via pull-up jumpers off of pick-and-rolls.

There’s more out of the Sunshine State:

  • Magic head coach Steve Clifford has indicated that center Mohamed Bamba has been feeling a minutes squeeze as a result of Orlando’s significant depth at his position, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic“As I explained to him, the reality is this: Our best position by far is the five spot,” Clifford said. “[Nikola Vucevic] is playing at an All-Star level. Khem Birch is not just good now; Khem Birch is having a terrific year. So a lot of it is that. (Bamba) is playing behind two guys who (are excelling).”
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald considers whether the Heat, losers of seven of their last eight games, should pursue an upgrade at the power forward position, and which players could be available. Miami, who made an exciting Finals run in 2020, are currently the No. 13 seed with an 8-13 record. All-Star Jimmy Butler was absent for 10 of those games, however, wherein the club went 2-8. Veteran Spurs forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay, Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, and 2017 draftees John Collins and Lauri Markkanen all merit mention.
  • In a 123-108 loss to the Raptors Tuesday, rookie Magic forward Chuma Okeke displayed his scoring prowess, according to Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. The game marked Okeke’s first action since suffering a bone bruise in his left knee on December 31, which kept him out of commission for 16 games. “It feels really good because coming back after being away so long you don’t know how you’re going to play,” Okeke said.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Bamba, Hawks, Len, Wizards

The Heat may not be without star swingman Jimmy Butler for much longer. According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, the expectation is that Butler – who hasn’t played since January 9 – will clear the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Monday.

The Heat will be in action tonight in Brooklyn, but Butler will need a little more time to get his conditioning back up to speed and to pass a cardiac screening before he’s cleared to play in a game. Jackson says there’s optimism that Butler will be able to return later this week and that the same is true of Avery Bradley, who has also been in the league’s COVID-19 protocols for over two weeks.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The sixth overall pick in 2018, Magic center Mohamed Bamba has an underwhelming NBA résumé so far, but it’s unfair to label him a bust since injuries and a lack of playing time have prevented him from showing what he can do, contends Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. The 22-year-old has been limited to 33 total minutes across four games so far this season.
  • In an official press release, the Hawks shared details on their plan to begin allowing fans into their home games at State Farm Arena. The club will initially only fill the arena to about eight percent of its capacity.
  • Alex Len was an ideal addition for the Wizards, who needed to fill a hole in their frontcourt and didn’t want to give up anything to do so, says Fred Katz of The Athletic. As Katz notes, the veteran big man was able to assume a rotation role immediately and looked comfortable in his first game with the team on Sunday.
  • While the Wizards were back in action for the first time in nearly two weeks on Sunday, it’ll be a little while longer before things are “back to normal” for the team, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post.

Mo Bamba Will Miss Magic/Celtics Tilt Due To COVID-19 Protocols

Magic center Mohamed Bamba stayed in Orlando rather than traveling to Boston for the Magic’s Friday tilt against the Celtics due to the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, according to Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).

Robbins notes that Bamba’s absence is a result of “non-team contact tracing,” though Bamba himself has not tested positive for COVID-19.

The 6-5 Magic are currently the No. 5 seed in the East, mostly behind the play of starting center Nikola Vučević, guard Terrence Ross, and forward Aaron Gordon.

Bamba’s absence may not have much of an on-court impact for the Magic. The 22-year-old reserve big man out of Texas is averaging 5.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.5 APG and 0.5 BPG across a career-low 8.3 MPG in four games for the Magic this season.

Bamba previously contracted the coronavirus in June and struggled to recover through the beginning of the NBA’s Orlando-based summer restart to the 2019/20 season. At the time, he dealt with significant symptoms, including fatigue, muscle soreness, and a temporary loss of his senses of taste and smell.