Pelicans Rumors

McCollum Practices, Questionable For Tuesday

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum didn’t play against Chicago this weekend due to a sore left ankle but he went through a full practice on Monday, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune tweets. McCollum and Zion Williamson (left foot contusion) are listed as questionable to play against the Knicks on Tuesday, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets.
  • Malcolm Hill‘s two-way contract with the Pelicans is a two-year deal, Keith Smith tweets. Hill, a third-year swingman, signed his two-way deal on Thursday.

Heat Notes: Butler, Bryant, Rozier, Herro

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was disappointed with the league’s decision to suspend Jimmy Butler one game for the altercation between his club and the Pelicans on Friday, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.

Nikola Jovic was also assessed a one-game suspension and Thomas Bryant received a three-game penalty. The Heat will be in action on Monday in Sacramento, so Bryant, Butler, and Jovic will miss that game. Bryant will also si out the team’s contests in Portland on Tuesday and Denver on Thursday.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Spoelstra said. “You know, at this point, it doesn’t really matter. They’ve made their decision on that. It felt like Jimmy shouldn’t have gotten a game on that. It’s really just kind of a tangling and a little bit of pushing. I don’t think that deserves another game because he ended up having to miss the fourth quarter. But it is what it is.”

Butler expected to receive some sort of suspension.

“It doesn’t surprise me, man. It doesn’t,” he said. “I’m basically still on All-Star break.”

We have more on the Heat:

  • Bryant had a confrontation with Jose Alvarado after leaving the bench but wasn’t planning on getting involved in any fisticuffs. “From my point of view, I was coming in to be a peacemaker,” Bryant said, per Chiang. “I didn’t want any of my teammates to get hurt, I certainly didn’t want to get hurt at all. It just didn’t work out in the favor that I wanted.”
  • In the same story, Chiang reports that Terry Rozier could return on Monday after missing three games with a right knee strain. Rozier is listed as questionable. “He’s on the road trip for a reason,” Spoelstra said. “He’s working toward getting back. When that day will be, I don’t know yet. But he’s definitely making progress. His body will let us know.”
  • Tyler Herro will get an MRI after suffering a hyperextended left knee against the Pelicans. He’s also listed as questionable to play Monday and is optimistic that he won’t miss time, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. “It’s feeling good,” Herro said. “I’m going to get an MRI just for peace of mind, to make sure everything is good.”

Five Players Suspended For Friday Altercation Between Heat, Pelicans

Heat big man Thomas Bryant and Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado have been suspended three games apiece for leaving the bench area and fighting during an on-court altercation on Friday in New Orleans, the NBA announced today in a press release (Twitter link).

Additionally, Heat forward Jimmy Butler and Pelicans forward Naji Marshall will face one-game suspensions for instigating the incident, while Heat forward Nikola Jovic will be suspended for one game for leaving Miami’s bench area and entering the fracas, per the league.

The incident began when Heat forward/center Kevin Love wrapped up Zion Williamson as the Pelicans star attempted a layup early in the fourth quarter (Twitter video link). Marshall objected to the play and rushed to confront Love, resulting in Marshall and Butler getting into a shoving match, with players and coaches from both teams looking to intercede.

The altercation escalated briefly, then seemed to be cooling down before Bryant and Alvarado exchanged heated words and threw punches in front of the scorer’s table (Twitter video link). Butler, Bryant, Marshall, and Alvarado were all ejected from the game, which Miami eventually won.

The Pelicans will host the Bulls on Sunday, so Marshall will serve his one-game suspension tonight, while Alvardo will begin serving his three-game ban. Alvarado will miss games in New York on Tuesday and Indiana on Wednesday as well.

With Dyson Daniels (left knee) and CJ McCollum (left ankle) also unavailable for the Pelicans on Sunday and Williamson (left foot) and Brandon Ingram (non-COVID illness) considered questionable, the team recalled a handful of players – Jalen Crutcher, E.J. Liddell, Malcolm Hill, and Dereon Seabron – from the G League on Saturday for depth purposes.

The Heat will be in action on Monday in Sacramento, so Bryant, Butler, and Jovic will miss that game, with Bryant also sitting out the team’s contests in Portland on Tuesday and Denver on Thursday.

The three-game suspensions will cost Bryant $52,308 (of his $2,528,233 salary) and Alvarado $37,988 (of $1,836,096), per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter links).

Because he’s on a maximum-salary contract, Butler will forfeit by far the biggest total ($259,968) of any of the five affected players, despite being suspended for just a single game. Jovic will lose $13,517, while Marshall will lose $11,096.

Southwest Notes: Wembanyama, Jackson, Mavs, McCollum

Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama became the youngest player to record an elusive 5×5 on Friday, recording at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks in the same game. Wembanyama joined Jamaal Tinsley as the only rookies in league history to accomplish the feat and he became just the second player, behind Michael Jordan, to record back-to-back games of five steals and five blocks.

What Wembanyama is doing as a rookie is unheard of, as emphasized by his stat line against the Lakers: 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five blocks and five steals. In his last four games, the rookie is averaging 24.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.8 blocks, 5.5 assists and 3.3 steals.

Still, Wembanyama’s postgame comments suggest he’s more concerned about trying to win games than individual stats. When asked about joining Jordan in the history books, Wembanyama said “I wonder if he did it in wins,” according to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez.

Lakers superstar LeBron James had high praise for the 20-year-old rookie phenom after the game, calling Wembanyama one of the best rookies he’s ever seen.

He doesn’t have a ceiling,” James said. “He can do whatever he wants to do with his career. It seems like he enjoys the game. It seems like he puts in the work. Just from the outside looking in, I’m not with him on a day-to-day basis, but I said a long time ago how special he was, and it’s literally that simple.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies rookie GG Jackson II has been one of the bright spots of an unusually tough season in Memphis and it looks like his offensive role with the team is going to continue to grow. According to Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal, coach Taylor Jenkins said the team will look to transition Jackson from a secondary creator to a primary one and will put the ball in his hands more, though he’ll likely continue to come off the bench. “I feel like they put a lot of trust in me and they see the confidence in my game,” Jackson said.
  • The Mavericks are on a seven-game win streak despite having dealt with a plethora of injuries all season, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. To illustrate just how unhealthy the Mavs have been, Cato points out that Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic have played fewer total games together (45) since Irving joined the team midway through last season than Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard have. Now, after trading for P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the deadline and getting players healthier, head coach Jason Kidd will have rotation questions to sort through. “We’re deep,” Kidd said. “This is the first time the Mavs have been deep in a long time.” Outside of Doncic, Irving and their new trade acquisitions, Dereck Lively, Josh Green and Derrick Jones Jr. are among those who have impressed this year.
  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum suffered a left ankle injury on Friday night against Miami and did not return after initially being deemed questionable, according to team PR (Twitter link). McCollum is averaging 18.8 points and 4.6 assists per game this season for New Orleans.

Hoping To Avoid Play-In This Spring

  • After competing in the play-in tournament the past two seasons, once advancing to the playoffs and once being immediately eliminated, the Pelicans hope to avoid the tournament altogether by making the playoffs outright in 2023/24, per Christian Clark of “It’s definitely one of our goals,” head coach Willie Green said. “To take another step. That step for us is to not be in the play-in. We can control our own destiny with piling up as many wins as we can.” After winning seven of eight leading into the break, New Orleans is currently 33-22, the No. 5 seed in the West. However, the Pelicans only lead the No. 8 seed Kings by one-and-a-half games.

Pelicans Sign Jalen Crutcher To 10-Day Deal

The Pelicans are signing guard Jalen Crutcher to a 10-day contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The signing is official, according to the NBA transactions log.

New Orleans has an open spot on the roster for Crutcher. The Pelicans also promoted Jeremiah Robinson-Earl from his two-way deal during the All-Star break after their roster count dropped to 13.

Crutcher, 24, has averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 assists, and 3.4 rebounds in 36 starts for the Pelicans’ Birmingham Squadron NBA G League team. Crutcher spent most of the past two seasons with the Hornets’ G League team, the Greensboro Swarm. He signed with New Orleans in October during training camp but was waived before opening night.

Crutcher went undrafted in 2021 out of Dayton and has yet to make his NBA debut. He’ll provide temporary depth at the guard spot.

A week ago, New Orleans announced that Dyson Daniels would be out at least a month after undergoing left knee surgery.

Pelicans Sign Malcolm Hill To Two-Way Contract

FEBRUARY 22: Hill’s two-way contract with the Pelicans is now official, the team announced in a press release.

FEBRUARY 21: Following a pair of brief stints with the team earlier in 2023/24, third-year swingman Malcolm Hill will be returning to the Pelicans on a two-way contract, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Hill, 28, was in training camp with the Pelicans in the fall and signed a 10-day contract with the club on January 27, but has yet to see any action at the NBA level this regular season after appearing in 24 total games for the Hawks and Bulls from 2021-23.

The former Illinois standout has spent the majority of this season with the Birmingham Squadron, New Orleans’ G League affiliate. In 33 Showcase Cup and regular season games for the Squadron, Hill has averaged 22.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals in 34.9 minutes per contest, posting an impressive shooting line of .477/.409/.884.

After promoting Jeremiah Robinson-Earl from a two-way contract to the standard roster over the weekend, the Pelicans have a two-way slot available, so no corresponding move will be required to make room for Hill. After the deal is finalized, the Pelicans will still have one opening on their standard 15-man roster.

[RELATED: 2023/24 NBA Two-Way Contract Tracker]

Depending on when exactly Hill signs his new contract, he’ll be eligible to be active for up to either 15 or 16 of the Pelicans’ 27 games the rest of the way.

Karlo Matkovic Joins Pelicans’ G League Team

Croatian big man Karlo Matkovic has joined the Birmingham Squadron, the Pelicans‘ G League team, according to the league’s official transaction log (hat tip to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype).

Matkovic was selected 52nd overall in the 2022 NBA draft by the Pelicans, who still control his NBA rights. He had remained overseas since that draft, spending this season with KK Cedevita Olimpija in Slovenia.

Matkovic, who will turn 23 in March, enjoyed a strong year with Olimpija, averaging 14.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in 28.8 minutes per game across 15 EuroCup appearances. He also averaged 15.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 2.8 BPG in 17 ABA contests (28.4 MPG).

Word broke last month that Matkovic would be leaving his team in Slovenia to come stateside, but it wasn’t reported at that time whether he would be signing a standard NBA contract, a two-way deal, or a G League contract.

It turned out to be the latter, which means the Pelicans will retain the forward/center’s exclusive NBA rights going forward and will get a closer look at him in Birmingham without having him occupy one of the team’s 15 standard roster spots or three two-way slots. Depending how his rest-of-season audition goes, Matkovic could earn one of those 18 spots in New Orleans next season.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, McCollum, Doncic, Mavericks

The Pelicans are 33-22 and have the same record as the fifth-seeded Suns. Still, they’ve got room to improve, as evidenced by several close games against some of the league’s bottom teams, according to The Athletic’s William Guillory. New Orleans won three games in a row against the Trail Blazers, Grizzlies and Wizards, but they were all decided by single digits. In the wins over Memphis and Washington, the Pelicans squandered 20-point leads before coming back late to win.

When we get a lead, especially if we want to make a deep run in the playoffs, we’ve got to be able to maintain leads,Zion Williamson said. “If we were able to maintain leads, we would probably be 14, 15, 16 games over .500. I think we’re in an OK spot. But when we come back from break, we’ve got to be able to fine-tune some of those small nuances in the game.

The team’s offense and defense has been a mixed bag, according to Guillory, and neither Williamson nor Brandon Ingram has been consistent with his dominance. While the Pelicans are deep with young players and solid rotation pieces, they’re still attempting to build consistency, which will be crucial as the playoff approach.

I think we’re learning to grow with each other,” coach Willie Green said of the team. “This group is still pretty young in terms of [our starters] being on the floor together for this long in the season. Along the way, we’re starting to figure it out, but I think that plays a role in some of the inconsistencies we’ll see from time to time. We just have to stay committed to working the kinks out.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum is pleased with how Williamson and Ingram have progressed since he joined the team in 2022, according to Sportskeeda’s Mark Medina. “They have a better understanding of their game and their bodies with what they need to do each day to be ready to play, when to rest and when to workout,” McCollum said as part of an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda. “Their IQ is continuing to improve as well as their decision making. They’re just playing their total games with scoring, rebounding and passing. Defensively, I think they have gotten better and have been more aggressive. The more they rebound on defense, the better we are on offense.
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic, like many other All-Stars, had no intention of being offensively assertive during the East’s 211-186 victory over the Western Conference in the 2024 All-Star Game, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News writes. Doncic had seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the game and was content to let others shine. “People come in here and play 40 minutes, they don’t want to get injured,” Doncic said. “Everybody just gets out of the way. I don’t know how to fix that. I just follow the lead.
  • The Mavericks are in a much better position at this All-Star break compared to last season, even if there’s been less buzz surrounding the team, Townsend writes. The Mavs are 32-23 and are tied for the longest winning streak in the league at six games whereas last year they were 31-29 and were five games into the Kyrie Irving-Doncic pairing. After acquiring P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford at the deadline, Dallas looks more capable of approaching 50 wins this season, according to Townsend.
  • In case you missed it, Grizzlies forward Lamar Stevens and Spurs forwards Marcus Morris and Cedi Osman are among players we’re monitoring as possible buyout options.

Myers: Pelicans, Like Knicks, Lack Greatness

  • Former Warriors GM and current ESPN TV analyst Bob Myers compares the Pelicans to the Knicks, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune relays. “I think the Knicks are the Pelicans of the East,” Myers said on ESPN. “Very deep. A lot of good players. Lacking greatness.” Myers adds that those types of teams are less effective in the postseason. “When you get to the playoffs, it’s not about the ninth or 10th guy,” he said. “When the Warriors were winning championships, you know what our bench scoring was? Twenty-seventh in the league; 28th in the league; 29th. You know who scored? The guy making $40 million. The guy making $30 million.”