Marcus Morris Finalizes Buyout Agreement With Spurs

5:31pm: The Spurs have officially waived Morris, the team announced in a press release.

4:07pm: Marcus Morris and the Spurs have agreed to a buyout, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweets.

Morris will hit the waiver wire before the Friday night deadline for free agents to be eligible for the postseason. He can now look for an opportunity to join a playoff contender.

Morris was dealt from Philadelphia to San Antonio at the trade deadline in a three-team swap involving the Sixers, Pacers and Spurs. It was expected he’d get a buyout from San Antonio, which sits at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Morris won’t be able to return to Philadelphia this season. He also can’t sign with the Celtics, Nuggets, Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Bucks and Suns since those teams have salaries above the first or second tax aprons.

Morris was on an expiring $17.1MM contract this season. That figure is well above the mid-level exception ($12.4MM), which makes teams above the tax aprons ineligible to sign him under the CBA rules.

A couple of weeks ago, former teammate Patrick Beverley (Twitter link) said Morris was leaning toward the Timberwolves if he was bought out.

Morris didn’t suit up for San Antonio. He appeared in 37 games with Philadelphia this season, including seven starts. The 34-year-old averaged 6.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in 17.2 minutes before the trade to San Antonio.

Morris started regularly for the Clippers the past three-plus seasons before being sent to the Sixers as part of the James Harden trade in November. He has averaged 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in 820 career games. He’s a career 37.7% 3-point shooter, which should add to his appeal once he clears waivers.

Hawks Waive Patty Mills, Convert Trent Forrest To Standard Deal

12:30pm: The Hawks have officially waived Mills, the team announced in a press release. Forrest’s promotion to the standard roster is also official, the club confirmed in a second release.

8:14am: The Hawks will place veteran guard Patty Mills on waivers, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Mills, 35, was traded three times last July before winding up in Atlanta. He has appeared in just 19 games this season and hasn’t played since February 7.

In his 15th NBA season, Mills is averaging 2.7 points, 1.1 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 10.6 minutes per night, but he’s shooting 38.2% from three-point range, so he could have value for a contending team seeking an experienced shooter.

Assuming Mills is waived by the end of the day on Friday, he will be eligible to appear in the playoffs if he signs with another club by the end of the season. He has a $6.8MM expiring contract, so the Hawks won’t owe him any money beyond this season.

The Hawks will use the open roster spot to convert two-way guard Trent Forrest to a standard NBA contract, Charania tweets. The move will make Forrest eligible to play again — he had already reached his limit of 50 active games as a two-way player, even though he has only appeared in 20 of them, averaging 2.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 10.5 minutes per night off Atlanta’s bench.

Forrest, 25, is in his second season with Atlanta after signing a two-way deal with the team in the summer of 2022. Prior to that, he spent two years in Utah.

The Hawks now have a full 15-man roster and a two-way opening that can be filled through March 4.

Hornets To Hire Jeff Peterson As New Head Of Basketball Operations

Nets executive Jeff Peterson will become the Hornets‘ new head of basketball operations, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The report is confirmed by Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link), who states that rumors regarding Peterson potentially coming to Charlotte began last summer.

Peterson, 35, worked under Hornets co-owner Rick Schnall in Atlanta early in his career, Wojnarowski notes. Schnall was a minority owner with the Hawks when Peterson started as an intern and worked his way up to assistant general manager within f0ur years.

Peterson also established a strong relationship with Charlotte coach Steve Clifford, who served as a coaching consultant for Brooklyn during the 2021/22 season, Wojnarowski adds.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that the Hornets talked to roughly a dozen candidates before deciding on Peterson. He has been with the Nets since 2019, which is when he became an assistant GM under Sean Marks.

Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link) points out that the Hornets already have some assets in place for their rebuilding project as Peterson takes over. LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller appear to be long-term foundational pieces, and Charlotte will have a high lottery pick in this year’s draft, along with Houston’s second-round selection, which is likely to fall in the top 40.

Mike Muscala Finalizes Buyout With Pistons

February 28: The buyout is now official and Muscala has been placed on waivers, the Pistons announced in a press release (Twitter link).

February 27: Veteran forward Mike Muscala is finalizing a buyout with the Pistons, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Muscala has some playoff contenders interested in signing him, Wojnarowski adds.

A player on an NBA contract must be waived by the end of the day on Friday in order to retain his playoff eligibility. As our Buyout Market Watch shows, Muscala will join several other veterans recently waived who are seeking to sign with a team in the postseason hunt.

Muscala, 32, had the misfortune of playing for the league’s two worst teams this season. He appeared in 24 games with the Wizards before he was dealt in mid-January to Detroit. Muscala has made 13 games appearances with the Pistons, including four starts, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per night.

Muscala can play either power forward or small-ball center and his 37.6% career three-point percentage could make him a valuable bench piece for a team looking for frontcourt depth.

Muscala was on an expiring $3.5MM contract this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has $905,000 remaining on this year’s salary, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, so he’ll presumably be giving up a portion of that figure as part of his buyout agreement.

The other forward Detroit acquired in the deal with Washington, Danilo Gallinari, was waived after the trade deadline and joined the Bucks.

NBA Denies Knicks’ Protest Of Loss To Rockets

The NBA has denied the Knicksprotest of their February 12 loss to the Rockets, the league announced today in a press release (Twitter link).

The Knicks lost the game 105-103 after Knicks guard Jalen Brunson was called for a foul on Rockets guard Aaron Holiday as Holiday launched a desperation three-pointer in the game’s final second. Holiday made two game-winning free throws with 0.3 seconds left on the clock (video link).

Both the NBA’s L2M (last two minutes) report and crew chief Ed Malloy later acknowledged that the foul call was incorrect. Had the call not been made, the game would have gone to overtime.

However, as expected, the Knicks’ protest was unsuccessful. Only six protests in league history have been upheld and it hasn’t happened since 2007.

“Under the standard for NBA game protests, New York was required to demonstrate that there was a misapplication of the official playing rules, as opposed to an error in judgment by game officials,” the league said in its statement today. “Because the foul call at issue reflected an error in judgment, New York did not demonstrate a misapplication of the playing rules, and the extraordinary remedy of upholding a game protest was not warranted.”

Had the protest been upheld, the two teams would’ve resumed the game where it left off and played an overtime period. Instead, the game’s result will stand.

The Knicks benefited from a missed foul call on Monday that helped them secure a tight win over the Pistons. Detroit head coach Monty Williams referred to it as “the worst call of the season” in his postgame comments.

Timberwolves’ Lloyd Among Hornets’ Front Office Candidates

Timberwolves executive Matt Lloyd is among the “prime names” to watch as the Hornets seek a new head of basketball operations, Marc Stein reports in his latest article at Substack.

Lloyd is the senior vice president of basketball operations under Tim Connelly in Minnesota. He was one of Connelly’s first hires back in 2022 after having previously served in Orlando’s front office as an assistant general manager, interim GM, and VP of basketball operations. Lloyd also had a lengthy stint in the Bulls’ front office earlier in his career.

A report earlier this month indicated that Hornets president of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak would be moving into an advisory role with the franchise. While Kupchak continues to serve as the head of basketball operations while the team searches for his replacement, the expectations is that Charlotte will make a hire by the end of the regular season.

Stein also names Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon and Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson as “prime” contenders for the Hornets job. Both Langdon and Peterson were identified as candidates in multiple previous reports, with Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer referring to Langdon as one of the potential frontrunners.

Langdon is the No. 2 executive in New Orleans’ front office under David Griffin and has been connected to other general manager jobs in the past. Langdon withdrew from the Kings’ front office search following some initial interest from Sacramento back in 2020 and interviewed for the Wizards’ top job in 2023.

According to Stein, the Nets are believed to have strong interest in retaining Peterson as a top lieutenant under Sean Marks and may offer him a promotion and/or a raise, which was previously reported. Peterson was in Atlanta’s front office when one of the new Hornets co-owners, Rick Schnall, was part of the Hawks’ ownership group.

Sixers general manager Elton Brand was named as another possible frontrunner for the Hornets’ position, but a report two weeks ago indicated that he would remain in Philadelphia rather than pursuing the top job in Charlotte.

Hornets Sign Aleksej Pokusevski

FEBRUARY 28: The Hornets have officially signed Pokusevski, the team announced today in a press release. Charlotte terminated Bolden’s 10-day contract early in order to open up a roster spot (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 27: The Hornets are expected to sign forward Aleksej Pokusevski, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Pokusevski became a free agent after being cut by the Thunder last Friday and clearing waivers on Sunday.

The No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Pokusevski showed plenty of promise in his first three-and-a-half NBA seasons in Oklahoma City, but his development was hindered by health issues. He was limited to just 34 games (25 starts) in 2022/23 due largely to a leg fracture that sidelined him for about three months, then broke his arm during a workout in the spring of 2023 and sprained his ankle this past September.

Pokusevski got off to a strong start in ’22/23, averaging 8.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 20.6 minutes per game across his 34 appearances, with career-best shooting rates of 43.4% from the field and 36.5% from the three-point line. But those injuries ended the seven-footer’s season early and he only saw garbage-time action in 10 games this season for the Thunder, logging 60 total minutes.

While Pokusevski theoretically could’ve been included in the trade that sent Gordon Hayward to Oklahoma City earlier this month, the Hornets instead acquired Tre Mann, Vasilije Micic, and Davis Bertans in that deal. The Thunder subsequently waived the 22-year-old, who was on an expiring $5MM contract and was no longer part of their future plans.

Now the Hornets are in position to add Pokusevski at a lower cost, though the exact details of his new deal have yet to be reported, so it’s unclear if he’ll earn more than the minimum or if the team will get any control beyond this season.

Charlotte currently has a full 15-man standard roster. However, one of the team’s 15 players – Marques Bolden – is on a 10-day contract that will expire this Thursday night. Pokusevski figures to take Bolden’s roster spot, either after that 10-day deal expires or perhaps earlier, if the Hornets terminate it before the 10-day mark.

Despite a recent hot streak, the Hornets remain well out of the Eastern Conference play-in picture at 15-42, so they’ll be able to use the final month-and-a-half of the season to get a look at Pokusevski in relatively low-stakes games.

Bulls’ Lonzo Ball Still Unable To Sprint

There is increasing concern about the progress of Lonzo Ball‘s rehab, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Ball was supposed to begin sprinting in January, but that still hasn’t happened, per Cowley. The Bulls point guard hasn’t played since January 2022. He has undergone three surgeries on his left knee since then, including a cartilage transplant last March.

“I don’t know if he’s stuck,” coach Billy Donovan said. “He is doing some shooting, some running, some jumping. He hasn’t done any sprinting yet, that I know.”

Donovan stopped short of calling it a setback.

“They talked about that, and (sprinting) was kind of a goal, a setpoint,” he said. “I do think the one thing that has been a priority right now so he does not get set back is he needs to develop more strength in his leg. Because of him having that surgery and being off his leg so long, before he’s really able to ramp up I think they want him to get to a place physically that relates to his quad strength, hamstring strength, before he starts to really do that. I don’t want to say it’s a holdup, but that’s where they want to get him to. In terms of what he’s doing, he feels better.”

Most of Ball’s rehab work this season has been done in Los Angeles, though he has spent some time in Chicago. The veteran guard expressed optimism last summer that his latest procedure would eventually get him back in action.

Ball holds a player option of approximately $21.4MM on the final year of his contract. It’s a virtual certainty he’ll opt it, given how long he’s been sidelined. It’s too soon to know how his body will respond once he progresses to sprinting and basketball-related drills, but there’s certainly no guarantee he’ll return to action next season.

Chicago has lost Ball’s former backcourt partner Zach LaVine to a season-ending foot injury this season. Power forward Patrick Williams has also been lost for the season with his own foot issues.

Klay Thompson Wants To Re-Sign Despite Sixth Man Role

Klay Thompson‘s new role as a sixth man will not make him less inclined to re-sign with the Warriors, he told Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Thompson, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July if he doesn’t reach an extension agreement with Golden State, came off the bench for the fifth consecutive game on Tuesday.

“You’ve still got to examine all of your options, but I would love to be a Warrior for life,” Thompson said. “Whatever happens though, I’ve got a few more years to play this game, so I’m gonna enjoy every second. I realize that I see light at the end of the tunnel, (and) I’m not sure if I want to play until I’m 40, man. That sounds really exhausting.”

Thompson had a 35-point game against Utah the first time he came off the bench. He scored 23 first-half points against Denver in Golden State’s last game on Sunday and is averaging 18.1 points per night in his reserve role. Until this month, he hadn’t come off the bench since his rookie season.

While Thompson is adamant that moving a bench isn’t a deal-breaker, it’s uncertain whether Golden State’s ownership and front office are willing to go deeper into the luxury tax and above the tax aprons to retain him. Amick hears that Thompson has received no assurances from management that his desire to remain with the Warriors will be a shared priority this summer.

Coach Steve Kerr, who just signed a contract extension, said Thompson has handled his new role with class.

“He’s been great,” Kerr said. “His approach feels so much better than it was even a few weeks ago. This has been an emotional season for him. You guys know this. He’s been grappling with his mortality in some ways as an athlete. He knows how good he was six years ago, and he’s had a hard time reconciling everything after the injuries. The thing that we keep trying to convince him of is he’s still a hell of a player. But he’s at his best when he’s not pressing and he’s not stressed out (or) worried about trying to be the guy he was six years ago.”

His teammates are grateful for the way he’s accepted being a sixth man.

“We can’t win without him being good or without him being a key piece,” big man Kevon Looney said. “Whether that’s starting or off the bench, we’re not contending without him being special. We all care about him. We all want him to succeed. We all want him to be great. So when he’s not doing well or his energy’s not great, it kind of weighs on everybody else. He knows that.”

Steve Kerr Signs Two-Year Extension With Warriors

FEBRUARY 27: The Warriors have officially signed Kerr to his extension, the team announced today in a press release (Twitter link).

“We’re excited that Coach Kerr will continue to lead our team in the coming years with his well-deserved contract extension,” Joe Lacob said in a statement. “Steve has played an immense role in our success over the last decade, success that has been duplicated by very few coaches in NBA history. His resumes as both a player and coach are astonishing, but not surprising, because his management skills and integrity as a person are off-the-charts and on display every single day. Simply put, he is the kind of individual you want leading your team and his championship pedigree is beyond impressive.”

FEBRUARY 23: Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is signing a two-year, $35MM contract extension, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Kerr will reportedly become the highest-paid coach in the league when his new deal kicks in next season. As Wojnarowski observes, Gregg Popovich technically makes more annually, but he’s also San Antonio’s president of basketball operations.

Now in his 10th season as the Warriors’ lead coach, Kerr holds a career regular season record of 501-264 (.655) and has accumulated a 99-41 (.707) playoff record, winning four championships and making six Finals appearances during that span.

Kerr also won five championships with the Bulls and Spurs across 15 seasons as a role player in the NBA, with other stops in Phoenix, Cleveland, Orlando and Portland. While he was limited in other areas, he was an elite shooter, with a career slash line of .479/.454/.864 across 910 regular season games (17.8 MPG).

Owner Joe Lacob has expressed confidence about retaining Kerr for the past several months, including as recently as last week, and now a deal has finally come to fruition. The 58-year-old was in the final year of his contract.

While Kerr’s coaching record speaks for itself, the Warriors have certainly had their challenges in 2023/24, with Draymond Green being suspended multiple times and at one point Jonathan Kuminga reportedly losing faith in Kerr. However, after discussing the situation with the veteran coach, Kuminga has gone on to play the best stretch of basketball of his career.

Kerr’s extension aligns with the remaining years that Stephen Curry is under contract, observes Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link), who confirms the news. Both Kerr and Curry now have deals that run through 2025/26.

Kerr’s contract situation is now resolved, but Klay Thompson — another key member of Golden State’s dynasty — remains an impending free agent. Lacob has said he hopes Thompson will remain a Warrior for the rest of his career.

After going 9-2 over their past 11 games, the Warriors are currently 28-26, the No. 10 seed in the West.