Naji Marshall

Fischer’s Latest: Blazers, Pelicans, Collins, Bucks, Jazz

The Trail Blazers are still committed to building around Damian Lillard and intend to sign Jerami Grant to a long-term deal. One report also indicated that they view Anfernee Simons as “close to untouchable.

However, the remainder of the roster could be in play ahead of the trade deadline, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Starters Josh Hart and Jusuf Nurkic appear to be available — ESPN’s Zach Lowe said a couple days ago that Hart’s name “is very, very hot right now,” and Fischer hears the same.

Nurkic, 28, has been Portland’s starting center for six-plus seasons. He became trade-eligible on January 15 after re-signing with the Blazers this past offseason, inking a four-year, $70MM contract.

The Blazers are targeting players athletic players with size and 3-and-D wings, sources tell Fischer.

Here are several more trade rumors from Fischer:

  • The Pelicans are interested in John Collins, but their talks with the Hawks have yet to gain much traction, sources tell Fischer. New Orleans is said to be looking for offensive upgrades and shooting, while Atlanta is searching for defensive upgrades. Money concerns may dampen the Pelicans’ pursuit of Collins, Fischer notes, as ownership has long avoided the luxury tax.  Like Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, Fischer hears Atlanta is comfortable hanging onto Collins if the team doesn’t find an offer it likes.
  • Jaxson Hayes, Devonte’ Graham and Naji Marshall are among the players the Pelicans have had preliminary discussions about, sources tell Fischer, though not necessarily for Collins.
  • As he has reported multiple times, Fischer continues to hear that the Bucks are shopping Grayson Allen and second-round picks in search of a “defensive-minded forward” who makes around $10MM, which is why they’ve been trying to land Jae Crowder for seemingly months now.
  • The Jazz continue to actively shop Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Mike Conley, sources tell Fischer. Other veterans are also considered available. Marc Stein reported last week that the Clippers are interested in Conley, but a source tells Fischer that a deal appears to be “unrealistic.”

Pelicans’ Zion Williamson Out At Least Two More Weeks

The Pelicans announced in a press release that star forward Zion Williamson was recently reevaluated, and while he is “making good progress” in his recovery from a right hamstring strain and is “healing as expected,” he will be out for at least two more weeks. He’ll be evaluated again at that time.

Williamson sustained the hamstring strain on January 2 against Philadelphia. He has missed the last three weeks with the injury.

At the time he was injured, the Pelicans were 23-14 and held the third-best record in the Western Conference. They have gone 3-7 in their 10 most recent games without Williamson, including four consecutive losses, to fall to 26-21, the fourth-best record in the West.

The 22-year-old was having a stellar season prior to his latest injury, averaging 26.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals while shooting 60.8% from the floor and 71.4% from the line through 29 games (33.0 minutes per contest). He almost certainly would have earned his second All-Star nod had he stayed healthy, and there’s still a chance he gets voted in, but it’s looking doubtful that he’ll return before the break and be able to participate in the exhibition game at this point.

Until Williamson and Brandon Ingram (toe) are able to return to the lineup, New Orleans will continue to lean on players like CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas and Trey Murphy, among others, for offensive production. Ingram and fellow forward Naji Marshall (toe) have been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest against Denver, per head coach Willie Green (Twitter link via Christian Clark of NOLA.com).

Pelicans Notes: Injuries, Ingram, Marshall, Green

Injuries to Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson threatened to knock the Pelicans out of the race for the top seed in the West, but the team has found a way to stay competitive, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. New Orleans improved to 6-3 without its top two players after a dominant win in Washington Monday night.

Ingram hasn’t played since November 25 because of a toe injury, and Williamson is dealing with a hamstring strain that will sideline him for at least two more weeks. The injury list got longer Monday when Herbert Jones left the game in the first half with a lower back contusion. CJ McCollum said the team has learned how to be resilient, regardless of who is available.

“We figure it out. We’ve got a lot of injuries. A lot of teams are going through it … It’s the time of year when you feel more fatigued mentally and physically,” McCollum said. “But you go through that process of having to fight through it, having to really push and trust and work. I think we’ve done that all year. For us to be in this position after the injuries we’ve had, it’s a testament to our team, our staff and our development.”

There’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Ingram said over the weekend that he hopes to return sometime during the team’s current road trip, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. New Orleans will be in Boston Wednesday, Detroit Friday and Cleveland next Monday, and it’s not clear which game Ingram is targeting. Coach Willie Green said Ingram hasn’t participated in a full practice since the injury, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com (Twitter link).
  • Naji Marshall became a believer in Green after watching YouTube clips of his playing career shortly after he was hired as head coach in 2021, Clark notes in a full story. Their bond grew as the Pelicans’ Summer League team posted a 5-0 record, led by Marshall and Jose Alvarado. Even though they weren’t awarded the Summer League title because of point differential, the experience convinced Marshall that Green could produce a winner in New Orleans. “It was major,” Marshall said. “He (Green) was new. He had new players. Really just wanted to show them the way. Was trying to build a foundation of defense first. Playing as hard as you can. We was the champs that year. We weren’t congratulated like we should. But I think we punched everyone in the mouth that summer.”
  • Clark hands out midseason grades for the Pelicans, giving A’s to Marshall, Williamson, Alvarado, Larry Nance Jr. and Dyson Daniels.

Southwest Notes: D. Green, Kemba, Pelicans, K. Martin

Appearing on NBA Today on Friday alongside Grizzlies wing Danny Green, who is recovering from an ACL tear, Brian Windhorst said that his fellow panelist might end up being a trade chip before February’s deadline.

“This is awkward, I’m sorry to say this, Danny,” Windhorst said (YouTube video link). “… One of the (trade possibilities) that people are talking about is if the Grizzlies want to upgrade, will they call about Danny Green and a draft pick? … I do think you will hear your name, I’m sorry to say, in some trade discussions.”

“I’m not shocked. At this point in my career, I hear my name quite often,” Green, who has been traded four times since the 2018 offseason, responded with a smile.

While it would make sense for the Grizzlies to dangle Green’s expiring $10MM contract along with a draft pick or two in an effort to upgrade their rotation, Windhorst also offered a couple reasons why a deal might not happen. As he points out, Memphis wants veteran leaders to complement its young core, and Green has won three championship rings. Additionally, the club has a solid record in the draft and may be reluctant to part with its picks.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • With several Mavericks regulars sidelined, point guard Kemba Walker played 42 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Cleveland and looked like his old self. Walker put up 32 points and seven assists and was a plus-7 in a game Dallas lost by a single point, then told reporters after the game that he felt “really good out there” (Twitter link via Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News). While they shouldn’t expect that sort of production on a regular basis, Walker’s impressive play could be a significant development for the Mavs, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.
  • The Pelicans no longer have All-Defensive mainstays like Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis on their roster, but homegrown players like Naji Marshall, Jose Alvarado, Herb Jones and Dyson Daniels are buoying one of the NBA’s best defenses, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com (subscription required). New Orleans currently ranks sixth in the league in defensive rating (109.7).
  • In an in-depth story for The Houston Chronicle (subscription required), Danielle Lerner profiles Kenyon Martin Jr. and explores how the forward has become a crucial “glue guy” for the Rockets. “He’s always been like a smart player, but I think he’s even smarter now,” head coach Stephen Silas said of Martin. “You know he’s not gonna make a mistake. He knows where he’s supposed to be. When it comes to defensive coverages or offensive plays, he’s usually in the right spot. And, you know, he is one of the guys that kind of gets us going with our transition game as well. So to have someone who’s running the floor and crashing the glass and using all this athleticism, but also a cerebral player, that makes him valuable.”

Pelicans Notes: CBA, Jones, Ingram, Marshall, Nance

Zion Williamson‘s continued evolution into a superstar and his health are foremost among the factors that will determine the Pelicans‘ long-term ceiling, but the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations currently taking place between the NBA and the players’ union will also have a major impact on the team’s future, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

As Windhorst writes, New Orleans’ roster – one of the NBA’s deepest – is starting to get more expensive and the club is one of two NBA franchises never to have paid the luxury tax, so any major changes to the tax system, including the possible implementation of an “upper spending limit,” would be of particular interest to the Pelicans.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Pelicans forward Herbert Jones appears set to return from a five-game absence due to a left ankle sprain, having been listed as probable to play on Tuesday in Utah, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). Brandon Ingram will remain sidelined to a great left toe contusion — he hasn’t played since November 25, but New Orleans also hasn’t lost a game while he has been sidelined.
  • Described by his teammates as a “junkyard dog” and a “Swiss Army knife,” Naji Marshall isn’t one of the Pelicans’ top eight scorers, but he has become an important role player who brings physicality to the court and good vibes to the locker room, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. The former undrafted free agent is on a team-friendly minimum-salary contract that runs through next season.
  • Like Marshall, big man Larry Nance Jr. is a valuable reserve whose production off the bench has been a key part of the Pelicans’ depth, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com (subscription required). A go-to option at center in fourth quarter lineups due to his defensive versatility, Nance is justifying New Orleans’ decision to sign him to an extension during the preseason. The team has a +11.6 net rating in his 553 minutes so far this season.

Pelicans Notes: AD Trade, Jones, Marshall, McCollum

The Anthony Davis trade continues to look great for New Orleans, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com, who writes that the Lakers‘ failures will be the Pelicans‘ successes for at least two more years.

After receiving Los Angeles’ first-round pick in 2022 and using it to draft Dyson Daniels, New Orleans has swap rights with L.A. in 2023 and will get the Lakers’ first-rounder in 2024 (with the option to defer it to 2025). Given the way the Lakers have been playing, that means the Pelicans could have at least one more lottery pick headed their way, even if they make the playoffs.

In addition to the draft picks the Pelicans secured in the Davis trade, Brandon Ingram has turned into an All-Star caliber cornerstone for the organization. Plus, Josh Hart – who was part of the Davis blockbuster – was a key piece of the outgoing trade package in the 2022 deadline trade that sent CJ McCollum and Larry Nance to New Orleans.

The Pelicans will visit the Lakers on Wednesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • The Athetic’s Mike Prada, Jovan Buha, and Will Guillory also revisited the Davis trade, debating whether it can be viewed as a successful deal for both teams, given that the Lakers won a title with AD in 2020.
  • Pelicans forward Herb Jones appears to be ready to return to action after missing three games due to a hyperextended right knee. He has been listed as probable to play in Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles.
  • Naji Marshall, who is on a minimum-salary contract that runs through 2023/24, has been an important contributor for the Pelicans with Jones and Ingram sidelined as of late, Clark writes for NOLA.com. Marshall has scored 15 points and shot at least 53.8% from the field in each of his last three games, all starts. “Naji’s a dog, but he’s also very coachable and from a teammate perspective, like if you tell him, ‘Naj, maybe you should do it like this,’ he’s not gonna fight you on it,” Zion Williamson said. “He’s just gonna go out there and he’s going to do what’s asked of him. You love to have players like that on your team.”
  • In a Q&A with Mark Medina of NBA.com, CJ McCollum discussed his adjustment to a point guard role, how he’s dealing with a sprained finger, and where he thinks the Pelicans fit in the Western Conference pecking order. “It’s the Warriors and everybody else,” McCollum said, adding that New Orleans still has “a lot we have to learn and improve” after losing in the first round of the playoffs last season.

COVID-19 Updates: Vogel, Lue, Pelicans, Raptors, Pokusevski

One Los Angeles team is getting its head coach out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols today, while the other has placed their coach in the protocols.

The Lakers got the good news, as Frank Vogel has cleared the protocols and will be back on the sidelines for the team on Friday night vs. Portland, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). David Fizdale will return to his role as Vogel’s lead assistant after serving as the acting head coach for the last 12 days.

Meanwhile, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has entered the protocols, according to an announcement from the team. Lue, the 10th head coach to be affected by the protocols this month, will be replaced in the short term by assistant Brian Shaw.

Here are more protocol-related updates from across the NBA:

  • The Pelicans got Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Naji Marshall, and Jose Alvarado back at practice today following their respective stints in the COVID-19 protocols, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com. New Orleans isn’t entirely out of the woods though — center Jonas Valanciunas has entered the protocols, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • According to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), Raptors rookie Justin Champagnie has exited the protocols, leaving Isaac Bonga as the only player from the team’s standard roster still affected. However, one of Toronto’s replacement players – D.J. Wilson – has now entered the protocols, Murphy notes.
  • Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski is no longer in the protocols and will be available for Friday’s contest vs. the Knicks, says Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link).

COVID-19 Updates: Marshall, Cooper, Hampton, Towns, Brown

The Pelicans’ Naji Marshall has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. Earlier in the day, Nickeil Alexander-Walker became the first New Orleans player to enter protocols this season. Marshall, a second-year forward, has appeared in 19 games off the bench this season.

We have more COVID-19 related updates:

  • Hawks rookie point guard Sharife Cooper has entered the health and safety protocols, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Cooper joins six other Atlanta players currently on the list. The second-round pick has appeared in eight games off the bench this season.
  • Magic guard R.J. Hampton exited the protocols on Thursday, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel tweets. He didn’t play on Thursday in order to work on his conditioning. Hampton was placed in the protocols on December 17, which means he produced two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns is asymptomatic, Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). “He is in the best spirits possible,” Finch said, adding Towns was very disappointed he couldn’t play on Thursday. Towns was placed in the protocols on Thursday, joining six other Minnesota players.
  • Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown has entered the protocols, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets.

Pelicans Notes: Hart, Offseason Moves, Murphy, Summer League

Josh Hart‘s new three-year deal with the Pelicans includes some unique terms, according to ESPN’s Will Guillory and Bobby Marks (Twitter links). In an Instagram video, Marks provides a more in-depth breakdown of the agreement.

After earning a guaranteed $12MM salary in year one, Hart will have a $12.96MM non-guaranteed salary in year two, says Guillory. If the Pelicans want to avoid paying Hart that salary, they’ll have to waive him by June 25, meaning he’d get a head-start on finding a new team in free agency.

If Hart plays out the first two years of his deal, his $12.96MM salary for 2023/24 would be non-guaranteed as well, but he also has a player option for that third year. It would essentially be a mutual option for Hart and the Pelicans. He’d have until June 24 to decide whether to exercise or decline his player option, then – if he opts in – New Orleans would have until June 25 to decide whether to guarantee his salary.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Scouts and executives polled by Tim Bontemps of ESPN were critical of the Pelicans’ offseason, questioning the team’s decision to replace Lonzo Ball with Devonte’ Graham. “They’re a sinking ship and reaching for a life preserver that just isn’t going to help,” one Western Conference executive said. “I don’t understand how (Jonas Valanciunas) is going to fit. I don’t understand how Devonte’ is worth what they paid. It’s just weird.”
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic loved what he saw from the Pelicans and Trey Murphy at Las Vegas Summer League, noting that he talked to two separate scouts who thought Murphy was the best rookie in Vegas. Vecenie referred to New Orleans’ Summer League team as “juggernaut” on the defensive end, singling out Murphy, Naji Marshall, Herb Jones, and Kira Lewis for their performances.
  • Murphy was one of seven players named to the All-Summer League First Team, per the NBA, as he joined co-MVPs Davion Mitchell and Cameron Thomas, among others.

Pelicans Notes: Hernangomez, Jones, Murphy, Marshall, Green

Willy Hernangomez‘s new three-year contract with the Pelicans will be fully guaranteed for the first two years with a team option for year three, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).

Lopez also provides the year-by-year breakdown of Hernangomez’s new deal. The Pelicans held the big man’s Non-Bird rights, giving them the ability to offer a starting salary worth 120% of his $1,939,350 minimum salary. That means Hernangomez will earn $2,327,220 in 2021/22, with 5% annual raises on that amount. The three-year contract will be worth about $7.33MM in total.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Herb Jones‘ three-year contract with the Pelicans will be worth more than the minimum for the first two seasons, according to Lopez, who tweets that the No. 35 pick will earn $1.7MM in 2021/22 and $1.785MM in ’22/23. Both of those amounts will be fully guaranteed, followed by a minimum-salary ($1.836MM) team option in ’23/24. New Orleans is using a small part of its mid-level exception on Jones.
  • William Guillory of The Athletic checks in on the Pelicans who have turned heads at the Las Vegas Summer League, writing that Trey Murphy and Naji Marshall look capable of emerging as regular rotation players on the wing. New head coach Willie Green has also done a good job emphasizing ball movement and defensive activity, according to Guillory, who says those are two areas the team needs to improve in 2021/22.
  • After reaching a deal with restricted free agent Josh Hart, the Pelicans look like they’ll be just about finished with their offseason business, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. The team will have 15 players on guaranteed contracts and will have to rely heavily on internal growth from its young players in order to compete for a playoff spot in 2021/22.