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Rockets, Willie Cauley-Stein Agree To One-Year Deal

The Rockets and free agent center Willie Cauley-Stein have agreed to a one-year contract, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but Charania suggests that Cauley-Stein will compete in training camp for a spot on the regular season roster. That means it’s almost certainly a minimum-salary deal and likely won’t be fully guaranteed.

Cauley-Stein, who will turn 29 next Thursday, appeared in a total of 20 games last season for the Mavericks and Sixers, playing a limited role. In 2020/21, the big man averaged 5.3 PPG and 4.5 RPG in 53 contests (17.1 MPG) for Dallas. He has also spent time with Sacramento and Golden State since entering the league as the sixth overall pick in 2015.

The Rockets currently have 20 players under contract, so they’ll have to waive or trade someone in order to make Cauley-Stein’s signing official.

Houston already has 18 players on guaranteed salaries and is considered unlikely to keep most of the players that came over from Dallas in the Christian Wood trade (Marquese Chriss, Trey Burke, Sterling Brown, and Boban Marjanovic). It’s possible one of them will be cut to make room for Cauley-Stein, who could end up competing for a roster spot against fellow bigs like Marjanovic and Bruno Fernando.

Bulls Rookie Justin Lewis Injures Knee

Rookie Bulls two-way player Justin Lewis injured his knee during a workout, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The exact extent of the damage is not yet known, but sources inform Johnson that the team is worried the 6’7″ forward out of Marquette may have torn his ACL.

Johnson notes that Chicago staffers had been optimistic about Lewis’ ability to help the Bulls as a rookie, despite not having a spot on the team’s standard 15-man roster. The athletic forward had also developed into a volume long-range shooter during his second college season, converting 34.9% of his 5.2 triples a night.

Lewis averaged 16.8 PPG on 44% shooting, 7.9 RPG and 1.7 APG while being named to the 2021/22 All-Big East First Team during his final season with Marquette. Lewis posted more modest numbers while playing for the Bulls’ Summer League team in Las Vegas this year, averaging 7.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 0.8 BPG across 22.5 MPG.

Though the 20-year-old had been projected to have his name called on draft night in 2022, he instead went undrafted, then quickly agreed to terms with the Bulls on a two-way contract. The team still has one open two-way roster slot available.

NBA To Retire Bill Russell’s No. 6 Jersey Throughout League

In the wake of Bill Russell‘s recent passing, the NBA has announced it will retire Russell’s No. 6 jersey throughout the league, confirming the decision in a press release on Thursday. The National Basketball Players Association put out the same announcement on its own website.

Players who currently wear No. 6, including Lakers superstar LeBron James, will be able to continue wearing it, but the number won’t be issued again by any team to any player going forward, according to today’s announcement.

“Bill Russell’s unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Permanently retiring his No. 6 across every NBA team ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.”

“This is a momentous honor reserved for one of the greatest champions to ever play the game,” NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio stated. “Bill’s actions on and off the court throughout the course of his life helped to shape generations of players for the better and for that, we are forever grateful. We are proud to continue the celebration of his life and legacy alongside the league.”

Russell, who wore No. 6 for his entire NBA career from 1956-69, won a league-record 11 championships in just 13 seasons. In addition to his unprecedented success on the court, Russell was a trailblazer off of it, championing civil rights, equality, and inclusion. He became the first Black head coach in the NBA and in major U.S. sports when he was named the player-coach of the Celtics in 1966.

According to the NBA, the league will pay further tribute to Russell by having all players wear a commemorative patch on their jerseys during the 2022/23 season, with every NBA court displaying a clover-shaped logo with the No. 6 on the sidelines near the scorer’s table.

Besides James, 24 other NBA players wore the No. 6 in 2021/22, per Basketball-Reference. Many of those players are no longer under contract, but Bulls guard Alex Caruso, Pistons wing Hamidou Diallo, and Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis are among those who still wear the number and will be allowed to continue doing so.

Kevin Durant Rumors: Ultimatum, Harrington, Nash, Sixers, Celtics

The ultimatum that Kevin Durant presented to Nets owner Joe Tsai – trade me or fire Sean Marks and Steve Nash – hasn’t had its intended effect so far, Brian Windhorst said during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up on Wednesday (video link).

Windhorst suggests that by presenting Tsai with such a “preposterous” alternative to trading him, Durant was hoping to “speed up the process,” since trade talks between the Nets and potential suitors had stagnated in recent weeks. However, the Nets appear to be digging in their heels, while Durant is running out of options.

“He has asked for a trade and it hasn’t been granted. He has asked for the coach and general manager to be fired and that hasn’t been granted,” Windhorst said. “And so now, how do you go forward and report to training camp when you’ve been told no? That’s now the coming drama with this situation.”

Given that multiple reports have indicated no team is willing to meet the Nets’ sky-high asking price for Durant, the 33-year-old’s goal may have been trying to force the team to lower that asking price to a point where a potential trade partner would meet it. But Windhorst points to Tsai’s statement supporting Marks and Nash as a sign the team isn’t willing to reduce its trade demands, at least for now.

“Obviously, the first sentence – where he’s saying he’s not firing his coach and GM – is important,” Windhorst said. “The second sentence was a message to Durant and the whole league, which is, ‘We’re going to do what’s best for the Brooklyn Nets.’

“That is code for, “We’re not going to make a trade just to satisfy this player, no matter how good he is and no matter how much pressure he’s going to put on us. We have all the cards, we have a four-year contract.’ And so I suspect that that will be their position come the start of training camp, and that could lead to Durant not showing up.”

Here’s more on Durant:

  • A source tells Brian Lewis and Josh Kosman of The New York Post that the Nets’ decision to fire director of player development Adam Harrington this spring without consulting Durant is one source of tension between the player and the team. “There are simple things that erode a relationship,” the source told The Post. “You fired someone he was close to and didn’t have a conversation about it.” The same source suggested that Durant wants Marks to be fired because the star forward feels as if the GM “traded away too many pieces.”
  • Both The New York Post and Ian Begley of SNY.tv pushed back against the idea that Durant was the one who urged the Nets to hire Nash as its head coach in 2020. Sources told Lewis and Kosman that Marks was the driving force behind that hiring, and Begley has heard the same thing.
  • According to Begley, there are some “high-ranking” members of the Sixers who have been interested in engaging the Nets in discussions about a Durant trade. A Philadelphia offer would likely have to include Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and draft assets. However, the 76ers’ ability to trade additional first-round picks is limited (they already owe two to Brooklyn), and Harris’ pricey multiyear contract limits his trade value, so it’s unlikely such a package would appeal to the Nets.
  • Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe hears from a source that the Nets “initially tried to pry” both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum from the Celtics for Durant, which Boston obviously had no interest in. The C’s also rebuffed Brooklyn’s attempt to acquire Brown, Marcus Smart, and several first-round picks in exchange for Durant, Himmelsbach adds.
  • According to Begley, Durant would have interest in playing in Boston, but he’d like to play with Smart if he’s traded to the Celtics. Begley also cites people familiar with the situation who say Durant would view Philadelphia as a “desirable landing spot.”
  • Celtics president Brad Stevens and head coach Ime Udoka have kept Brown in the loop about the Durant trade conversations, and Brown seems to understand the situation, a league source tells Himmelsbach.

Irving’s Agent: Kyrie Doesn’t “Hate” Marks, Nash

Responding to a New York Post report in which a source claimed that Kyrie Irving “hates” Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash, Irving’s agent and stepmother Shetallia Riley Irving told Brian Lewis and Josh Kosman of The New York Post that’s not the case.

“I am not sure where this narrative is coming from but Kyrie does not hate Steve nor Sean,” Shetallia Riley Irving said. “That’s not a part of his being nor how he represents himself in the world. He’s about peace, love and acceptance.”

While Kyrie and agent may dispute the notion that he “hates” Marks or Nash, that doesn’t necessarily mean he loves the job they’ve been doing in Brooklyn.

Irving and the Nets have been at odds in multiple instances over the past year. The club’s front office and ownership group opted not to allow Irving to be a part-time player at the start of last season when he was ineligible to play in Brooklyn due to New York City’s vaccine mandate. The Nets were then unwilling to offer him a lucrative long-term contract this summer, prompting him to explore a move to another team before he eventually decided to pick up his 2022/23 player option.

According to Lewis and Kosman, Shetallia Riley Irving declined to comment on whether Irving agrees with Kevin Durant, who reportedly told Nets owner Joe Tsai that he must decide between trading Durant or firing Marks and Nash.

Collin Sexton Negotiations Aren’t Contentious, But Deal Isn’t Close

The continued standoff between the Cavaliers and free agent Collin Sexton hasn’t been contentious, but it doesn’t appear the two sides are close to an agreement, sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Sexton’s agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, continues to insist that his client deserves the salary of a starting guard, which is what he was before suffering a torn meniscus 11 games into last season. Paul wants Sexton to be paid more than $20MM per year, similar to the deals that Jalen Brunson got from the Knicks and Anfernee Simons received from the Trail Blazers.

Even though Sexton’s options are limited because he’s a restricted free agent, Fedor notes that Lonzo BallMalcolm Brogdon and Terry Rozier were all able to land big contracts in the same situation in recent years.

Cleveland’s offer is roughly $40MM over three years, which would pay Sexton about $13MM per season. The team believes it’s a reasonable contract for someone coming off a major injury, noting that it’s almost twice as much as Sexton’s $7.2MM qualifying offer and an increase over the $10.4MM mid-level exception. Sexton still has the option of accepting the QO and moving into unrestricted free agency next summer.

The Cavs are determined to remain under the luxury tax this season, Fedor adds, and can’t offer Sexton much more than $13MM without exceeding the threshold.

Paul talked to Cavs president of basketball operations Koby Altman in late July, but Fedor’s sources said neither side seems willing to move off its demands even though they understand a deal needs to be reached before the start of training camp.

Latest On Kevin Durant

The trade ultimatum that Kevin Durant delivered to Nets owner Joe Tsai over the weekend only makes it more difficult for Durant to get what he wants, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Durant reportedly told Tsai that he would only consider returning to the team if head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks are both fired, and Tsai responded Monday with a Twitter statement supporting the coaching staff and front office.

Now that Durant’s ultimatum has become public, the Nets have even less leverage in trying to work out a deal in a market where they’ve already been unable to find an offer anywhere near their asking price. Durant may have hoped the meeting with Tsai would liven up the trade market, but Botte believes it might have done the opposite.

Durant’s unhappiness with Nash and Marks is ironic considering the efforts that the organization has made to accommodate him since he signed in 2019, adds Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Before coming to Brooklyn, Nash worked closely with Durant as a consultant with the Warriors, and Durant reportedly used his influence to get Nash hired when the team parted ways with Kenny Atkinson in 2020.

Schiffer points out that much of Brooklyn’s coaching staff consisted of assistants who had also had ties to Durant, including Royal Ivey, Brian Keefe, David Vanterpool and Adam Harrington. And while Durant may be unhappy with Marks for not being willing to offer a new contract to Kyrie Irving, Schiffer notes that many of the team’s significant roster moves were heavily endorsed by Durant, including the additions of James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Mike James.

There’s more on the Durant situation:

  • Durant’s unhappiness with the Nets can be traced back to Marks’ statement in May that the front office needs to regain control of the franchise, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps said today in an appearance on “Get Up” (video link). He adds that if Tsai had even considered getting rid of Nash and Marks, he would be letting the players run the team again.
  • In another “Get Up” segment, Bontemps states that nothing about the trade market has changed in the wake of Durant’s ultimatum (Twitter link). Teams still aren’t willing to give the Nets the type of trade package that they’re seeking, so Bontemps expects Durant to remain with Brooklyn into the start of training camp and possibly into the beginning of the regular season.
  • The chaos surrounding the Nets shows the danger of chasing stars instead of going through the natural rebuilding process, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, who adds that there’s little sympathy for Brooklyn around the league.

Nemanja Bjelica Signs Two-Year Deal With Fenerbahce

In a move that has been rumored for nearly six weeks, Nemanja Bjelica has signed with Fenerbahce in Turkey, the team announced (via Twitter). His contract will cover two seasons, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.

After winning a championship with the Warriors last season, the 34-year-old forward returns to Europe, joining the team he played for before deciding to join the NBA in 2015. He was named EuroLeague MVP that season and helped Fenerbahce reach the league’s Final Four for the first time in history.

Bjelica was a rotation player for Golden State during the regular season, averaging 6.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 71 games while playing 16.1 minutes per night. His role diminished somewhat in the playoffs, although he still appeared in 15 games during the Warriors’ title run.

Golden State reportedly wanted to bring him back on a minimum contract, but Bjelica opted to take the Fenerbahce offer, which gives him similar money and a larger role.

The Wizards selected Bjelica with the 35th pick in the 2010 draft and traded him to the Timberwolves on draft night. He played seven NBA seasons, also spending time with the Kings and Heat. He is currently in training camp with the Serbian national team in preparation for EuroBasket.

Kings Agree To One-Year Deal With Quinn Cook

The Kings are signing point guard Quinn Cook to a one-year contract, ESPN’s Marc Spears tweets.

Cook played for the G League Stockton Kings last season. He’ll compete for the third point guard spot behind De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell, so he’s no lock to make the 15-man roster.

His main competition appears to be Matthew Dellavedova, who will enter training camp with a non-guaranteed deal. 

The Kings’ interest in Cook was reported last month.

Cook has played for New Orleans, Dallas, Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland. He was a member of two championship teams — the Warriors in 2018 and Lakers in 2020.

He didn’t play in an NBA game last season but saw action in a combined 23 games for the Lakers and Cavaliers during the 2020/21 season. In 188 career games, he’s averaged 6.4 PPG and 1.6 APG in 14.1 MPG.

With the G League Kings, Cook appeared in 11 games and averaged 23.5 PPG and 5.9 APG.

Nets Owner Tsai Publicly Supports Marks, Nash

Nets owner Joe Tsai went on social media Monday night to declare his support for the team’s front office and coaching staff, apparently closing the door on the possibility of Kevin Durant wearing a Brooklyn uniform again.

On his Twitter account, Tsai stated “Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

Tsai met with the disgruntled superstar forward in London on Saturday. Earlier on Monday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Durant reiterated his trade request at that meeting, declaring he would only withdraw it if Tsai fired general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash. Durant, who is entering the first year of a four-year max extension, told Tsai that he doesn’t have faith in the team’s direction.

It would have been stunning for an owner to bend to his superstar’s wishes and fire the GM and coach, then essentially let the player pick the replacements. So Tsai’s decision to publicly back Marks and Nash isn’t surprising.

The franchise’s approach to Durant’s trade request remains to be seen. There’s speculation that Durant made the ultimatum to put pressure on the front office to lower its trade demands. It’s also uncertain whether Durant will show up if he’s still on the roster during training camp.