Nemanja Bjelica

Pacific Notes: R. Jackson, Morris, Bjelica, Suns

Reggie Jackson gave the Clippers a solid performance Friday night in his first action since learning he was out of coach Tyronn Lue‘s reduced rotation, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Jackson contributed 11 points, four rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes after sitting out the previous two games. The 30-year-old guard, who will be a free agent after this season, was told last Saturday that he will no longer have guaranteed minutes every night.

“It was a hard conversation for me because I thought he was actually playing well,” Lue said. “But we couldn’t play all the guys, you know that coming into the season. … I talked to Reggie and he took it well. When you are a veteran and you’re a pro and you want to win, you do whatever it takes to try to win. I told him to stay ready, it’s a long season, with the COVID, injuries, things like that, you got to be ready.”

Jackson found out at Friday’s shootaround that he would be in the starting lineup, and Lue was happy that he didn’t try to do too much on his own. One highlight for Jackson was a rare dunk in the second half.

“Feels good, especially at 30, getting teased by my teammates, seeing an open lane and having a chance to attack,” Jackson said. “I had an injury-plagued past few years so just feeling like I’m getting my legs back under me and to feel somewhat 20 again, it felt great to go out there and get a dunk.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris says the NBA’s decision to begin the season in December threw off his recovery timeline, Greif adds in the same story. Morris said tendinitis prevented him from doing offseason workouts and he was timing his recovery for a January start. He remains on a minutes limit, but hasn’t had any trouble with his knees since training camp began.
  • The Kings haven’t used Nemanja Bjelica in their past three games, but the decision is only temporary, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Coach Luke Walton is experimenting with defensive rotations and has told Bjelica he will get another chance soon.
  • The Suns‘ last three games have been postponed due to health and safety protocols, but a league source told Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic that Monday’s contest in Memphis “looks good to go.” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins is also optimistic that the game will be played. “All I know is that everything is kind of full go right now,” he said. “There’s some final checkmarks that need to be taken care of, obviously, for Phoenix to get back on track, but we’re all hopeful we are able to play on Monday.”

Kings Guarantee Nemanja Bjelica’s 2020/21 Salary

The Kings opted not to waive Nemanja Bjelica before his salary guarantee deadline today, locking in his $7.15MM cap hit for the 2020/21 season, reports James Ham of NBC Sports California (via Twitter).

Bjelica, 32, had his best season as a pro in 2019/20, starting 67 of 72 games at power forward for the Kings. The veteran stretch four established new career highs in PPG (11.5), RPG (6.4), APG (2.8), 3PT% (.419), and several other categories, and Sacramento was better with him on the court than off it.

With free agency around the corner, the Kings could have some moves up their sleeves that would shake up their depth chart and affect Bjelica’s playing time — he could even end up on the move in a trade himself. For now though, he appears to be on track to reclaim his role as a regular rotation player in Sacramento, even with a healthy Marvin Bagley back in the mix.

Bjelica will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021.

Trade Rumors: Celtics, Hayward, Kings, Magic, Fournier, More

The Celtics continue to search for potential pathways to get into the top three of tonight’s NBA draft, league sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). An earlier report suggested the C’s haven’t had much luck gaining traction on a move into the mid-lottery using their current three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 26, and 30).

It’s unclear if a potential deal involving Gordon Hayward would provide a path for the Celtics to move up in the draft. Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link) hears that the team is “mostly in a holding pattern” with Hayward for the time being.

Following up on a Tuesday report which indicated that the Hawks are eyeing Hayward, Jared Weiss of The Athletic cites a person familiar with the forward’s thinking who says Hayward wants to be a core part of a winning team and may not be interested in a move to Atlanta. Weiss wonders if the report linking Hayward to the Hawks may have been leaked to increase the 30-year-old’s leverage as he weighs his player option decision.

Meanwhile, in his latest Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst theorized that the Cavaliers, who hold the No. 5 pick, could be a landing spot for Hayward. Cleveland has interest in Hayward, according to Windhorst, who speculated that the Cavs and Celtics could be open to a deal that involves Andre Drummond and a draft-pick swap. Of course, if Hayward is prioritizing playing for a contender, he may try to angle to avoid a move to Cleveland.

Here are a few more trade-related notes and rumors, with the draft around the corner:

  • Also in Windhorst’s latest Hoop Collective podcast, he and colleague Zach Lowe identified the Kings and Magic as two teams that may be looking to get a little younger this offseason rather than being content with competing again for the No. 8 seed. Nemanja Bjelica was identified by Lowe as a possible trade candidate to watch in Sacramento, while Windhorst added that Orlando would likely be open to moving Evan Fournier.
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) wouldn’t be surprised if the Mavericks renew their interest in shooting guard Danny Green, who is being sent to Oklahoma City in a deal for Dennis Schröder. Dallas attempted to sign Green in free agency a year ago, and the rebuilding Thunder are unlikely to be too attached to him.
  • Although the Nuggets had interest in acquiring Jrue Holiday, they were surprised by what it cost Milwaukee to land him and didn’t feel pressure to make as significant an offer as the Bucks did, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post explains.

Pacific Notes: Howard, Nnaji, Bjelica, Hield

Veteran center Dwight Howard, who will be back on the free agent market after the Finals, is thankful the Lakers took a chance on him, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. Howard was moved into the starting lineup during the conference finals. “It’s been the hardest road to get back here. I’m very grateful,” he said. “I’ve never given up on myself.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Power forward prospects Zeke Nnaji and Jalen Smith have interviewed the Suns, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Nnaji, who played at Arizona, is ranked No. 35 overall by ESPN, while Maryland’s Smith is considered first-round material at No. 20. The Suns currently own just one pick in the draft, the No. 10 overall selection.
  • The Kings’ decision on whether to retain forward Nemanja Bjelica could hinge on how much new GM Monte McNair values Marvin Bagley III, as well as the team’s financial constraints, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes. The Kings hold a $7.15MM option on Bjelica’s contract next season but re-signing Bogdan Bogdanovic is an even bigger priority, Jones continues. If Sacramento drafts another power forward, the team may find Bjelica expendable, Jones adds.
  • The Knicks, Sixers, Grizzlies and Hornets are some of the teams that might be willing to absorb Buddy Hield‘s four-year, $106MM extension and make a deal for the Kings‘ shooting guard, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype speculates. All four of those teams could benefit from the outside shooting of Hield, who had a somewhat disappointing season after signing his extension, which kicks in next season.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Rubio, Caruso, Bjelica, Warriors

The Clippers‘ proposed Inglewood arena took an important step forward on Tuesday, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, who writes that the Inglewood City Council unanimously approved the environmental impact report for the building.

As Youngmisuk details, the Clippers intend to build a “sprawling campus” that will include an outdoor plaza, as well as the club’s corporate offices and practice facility. Barring any setbacks, the plan is for construction to begin in the summer of 2021 and for the team to begin playing in the new arena at the start of the 2024/25 season, after the Clippers’ Staples Center lease expires.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

O’Connor’s Latest: Lakers, Kings, Wolves, Gordon, More

When reports surfaced earlier in January suggesting that the Lakers and Kings had discussed a possible deal involving Kyle Kuzma and Bogdan Bogdanovic, there were conflicting accounts on which team instigated the talks and what was offered.

In his latest article for The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor provides some clarity on those discussions, citing sources who say the Kings offered Nemanja Bjelica and a draft pick in exchange for Kuzma. The Lakers countered by asking for Bogdanovic and Sacramento balked, according to O’Connor.

Bogdanovic is one of a handful of players that O’Connor would target in trade talks over the next week, as he explains in today’s article. That piece also features a few more noteworthy tidbits from O’Connor’s sources, so let’s round up some highlights…

  • The Timberwolves called the Magic about Aaron Gordon earlier in the season, league sources tell O’Connor. If Minnesota made an offer for Gordon, it’s unclear what exactly that offer consisted of, per O’Connor. However, he notes that the Wolves are shopping Robert Covington.
  • League sources don’t expect any major deals from the Pacers at this year’s deadline, according to O’Connor. However, the club could consider a significant move in the offseason if it’s eliminated in the first round this spring. O’Connor points to Myles Turner as a potential trade candidate down the road, though he acknowledges that Indiana would likely be more inclined to consider moving Turner if rookie Goga Bitadze was closer to being a reliable contributor.
  • NBA teams have begun to monitor Vasilije Micic‘s situation in Europe, since the Anadolu Efes guard has become one of the world’s best non-NBA players, sources tell O’Connor. Currently, the Sixers hold Micic’s rights. The 26-year-old, who was the No. 52 pick in the 2014 draft, is averaging 14.2 PPG and 5.8 APG in EuroLeague play this season.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: Pacific Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

Dwight Howard, Lakers, 34, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019
Skepticism was rampant when the Lakers brought Howard back. That included the team’s front office, who gave him a non-guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal. Instead of quickly wearing out his welcome, Howard has been wearing out second-unit centers. In the last three games, Howard has averaged 14 PPG and 15 RPG. Injuries limited Howard to nine games with Washington last season but the future Hall-of-Famer has proven he can accept a bench role and still have a major impact on a contending team. He’ll get significantly more than the veteran’s minimum this summer.

Nemanja Bjelica, Kings, 31, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $20.5MM deal in 2018
When Bjelica gets rolling, he can be an offensive force. Orlando learned that lesson on Monday when he erupted for 34 points. He’s also had 27- and 30-point games for the Kings this season. Bjelica started regularly for Sacramento last season but he’s turned it up a notch in his second season there, averaging career highs in points (12.2 PPG), rebounds (6.6 RPG) and assists (2.5 APG) while making 43.4% of his long-range attempts. The Kings can retain Bjelica’s services by guaranteeing his $7.15MM salary prior to free agency. He’s making that an easy decision.

Maurice Harkless, Clippers, 26, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $42MM deal in 2016
Being the fifth option on the court, especially on a team loaded with scorers like the Clippers, can be tough for many players to accept. Harkless embraces that role, which is why he’s a steady presence in the rotation. He’s averaging 5.5 PPG while playing 22.8 MPG due to his limited opportunities. Harkless’ defensive rating has jumped this season, why is why Doc Rivers keeps calling his number. Harkless is making $11MM this season prior to unrestricted free agency. He’ll have to take a pay cut this summer but he’ll find a second-unit job in the open market.

Dario Saric, Suns, 25, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $10.75MM deal in 2016
Saric’s NBA career has gone south after a promising second season in Philadelphia in which he averaged 14.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG while making 39.3% of his 3-pointers. Saric was included in the Jimmy Butler deal with Minnesota last season and was later sent to Phoenix in a draft-night trade. His playing time has fallen substantially this month, including a couple of games in which he barely left the bench. Phoenix can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $4.79MM qualifying offer. It’s likely the Suns will seek an upgrade at power foward and allow Saric to move on.

Alec Burks, Warriors, 28, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.32MM deal in 2019
Burks scored 25 points in an overtime loss to the Nuggets on Thursday after shooting 27.7% from the field and 29.2% from 3-point range in his previous five games. He’s averaging 15.9 PPG but that’s mainly a product of opportunity on a bad team. He’s taking a career-high 12.4 shots per game, including 4.5 from long range. On the flip side, Burks settled for a veteran’s minimum contract last season. He’s done enough to get a better offer as a second-unit scorer, though he’s not going to make $10MM-plus as he did the previous three seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

World Cup Notes: Joseph, Spain, Teodosic, Rankings

Is guard Cory Joseph in or out of the FIBA World Cup for Team Canada? Joseph, the most prominent NBA member remaining on the depleted Team Canada roster, was withdrawing from the competition, according to a tweet from Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith. However, Team Canada coach Nick Nurse said that report was incorrect and that Joseph would indeed join the team in China, John Casey of 7Olympics tweets.

Joseph is not currently with the team during exhibition games in Australia and Sportsnet Canada’s Michael Grange notes that Joseph would have to leave for China soon, given that the tournament begins in 10 days and he needs to adjust to the 12-hour time difference (Twitter link).

We have more World Cup news:

Pacific Notes: Ingram, Cousins, Bjelica

As the Lakers‘ young players continue to adjust to playing alongside LeBron James, Brandon Ingram has struggled to take the next step in his development. While others such as Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma have thrived this season, Ingram has taken a step back, averaging fewer points, rebounds and assists per game than last season — his efficiency has also taken a dip.

Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer explores the issues plaguing Ingram and the troubling fit he has with James. While Hart and Kuzma have more complementary skill sets, Ingram doesn’t have such a game as a result of his limited shooting and the fact that he thrives with the ball in his hands.

Tjarks explores the notion of the Lakers trading Ingram if they sense that they can make a run in a crowded Western Conference. It will be interesting to follow how Ingram continues to adapt his game alongside James or if it eventually spells the end of his Lakers tenure.

There’s more from the Pacific division:

Latest On Dave Joerger, Kings

Over the weekend, a report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports suggested that Dave Joerger and the Kings‘ front office don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on the team’s priorities and direction, potentially putting Joerger’s job in jeopardy. General manager Vlade Divac swiftly issued a statement dismissing the report, suggesting that Joerger has the team’s “full support and confidence.”

Digging into the situation in Sacramento a little deeper today, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that Joerger is not in danger of being fired anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean that Haynes’ report is “much ado about nothing,” according to Amick, who says there’s a genuine disagreement within the Kings’ ranks about player development.

Haynes wrote on Saturday that Joerger is focused on winning as many games as possible, while team management would like to prioritize the development of young prospects a little more, and Amick’s report seems to confirm that. Sources tell Amick that there’s concern within the organization about insufficient playing time for Marvin Bagley III and other young prospects.

Here’s more out of Sacramento:

  • Although Joerger has another year on his contract beyond the 2018/19 season, his assistants are in the final year of their respective deals, per Amick, who describes the situation as “a second-level sort of lame-duck status.”
  • Joerger has believed since last season that assistant GM Brandon Williams was in the market for a new coach to replace him, sources tell Amick.
  • Amick describes Williams as a “major backer” of Bagley. Conversley, Nemanja Bjelica – the veteran power forward who is currently starting ahead of the club’s No. 2 overall pick – was a “Divac-driven” acquisition during the offseason, per Amick.
  • Now that the Kings have lost three of four games and have failed to deal internally with the possible discord within the organization, Joerger will face an even tougher task as he looks to hold his young team together, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.