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Bulls Suspend Bobby Portis For Eight Games

The Bulls have suspended power forward Bobby Portis for eight games for punching and injuring teammate Nikola Mirotic, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Portis, who will be allowed to practice during his suspension, per Johnson (Twitter link), will be eligible to return on November 7 in Toronto.Bobby Portis vertical

As we detailed on Tuesday and earlier today, Poris and Mirotic were involved in an incident during scrimmage that saw Portis punch his teammate, ultimately hospitalizing him. Mirotic suffered a concussion and fractured two facial bones, and is expected to be sidelined for at least a month or so. Bulls executive John Paxson said today that it will be four to six weeks before Mirotic gets back on the court (Twitter link via Johnson).

Although Mirotic was on the receiving end of the blow that ended the altercation, reports out of Chicago have suggested that both players were going back and forth at one another, exchanging words and shoves as tensions escalated during a scrimmage. The fact that Portis’ suspension is only for eight games and will allow him to practice suggests that the Bulls may agree that both players were partially to blame.

Paxson said today that both players owned responsibility, adding that he wouldn’t call Portis’ blow a “sucker punch.” However, Paxson did acknowledge that Portis crossed a line, calling his punch “inexcusable” (Twitter links via Johnson).

With Portis and Mirotic both sidelined for the near future, the Bulls may have to rely on first-round pick Lauri Markkanen more than expected in the early going. Cristiano Felicio also figures to see an increased role for the next couple weeks, though the Bulls may play smaller lineups in general, given their lack of frontcourt depth. Of course, with Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne, and Zach LaVine also on the shelf with various injuries, the Bulls aren’t particularly deep in the backcourt right now either.

Chicago may have an opportunity to add an extra player to their roster next week, but the team isn’t eligible for that extra spot right away. Portis can be transferred to the suspended list after the third game of his ban, opening up a spot, while the Bulls can apply for a hardship exception if they have four players miss at least three games due to injuries.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Gordon Hayward Suffers Fractured Left Ankle

Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome fractured left ankle less than six minutes into the Celtics‘ regular-season opener against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, the team announced.

Hayward collapsed after an attempted alley-oop off a pass from Kyrie Irving. He landed on the hardwood and his leg collapsed underneath his weight. Players from both teams were distraught as medical personnel put an air cast on Hayward’s leg and took him into the locker room on a stretcher.

A fractured ankle is a preliminary diagnosis as Hayward will likely undergo an MRI to determine the full extent of the injury, per Mannix (via Twitter).

Several players, including LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas, went to the locker room area to see Hayward before he was taken to the hospital, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Twitter links). Droves of NBA players sent Hayward well wishes over social media, including Thunder forward Paul George, who suffered a gruesome leg fracture during a Team USA scrimmage in August 2014.

Hayward’s injury is devastating for everybody involved as the 27-year-old signed a lucrative four-year, $128MM deal with Boston this offseason. Hayward spent the first seven seasons with the Jazz before signing with the Celtics this offseason. Alongside acquisition Irving and incumbents such as Al HorfordHayward was expected to help Boston contend for an NBA championship.

Hayward set career highs in PPG (21.9), APG (5.4), RPG (4.7) and field goal percentage (.471%) in 73 games last season with the Jazz. The Butler University product made his first NBA All-Star team last season, too.

While it’s unclear whether or not Hayward’s injury is career-threatening, it seems unlikely that we’ll see him on the court again this season. As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes, in the event of a season-ending injury, the Celtics will be eligible to apply for a disabled player exception worth $8.4MM. That DPE could be used to sign a free agent claim a player off waivers, or trade for a player with one year left on his contract.

Suns Exercise Options On Booker, Bender, Chriss

The Suns have exercised teams options on the contracts of Devin Booker, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss, according to their website. The trio will remain under contract through the 2018/19 season.

Booker, who was the no. 13 overall pick in the 2015 draft, broke out last season, scoring 22.1 points per game in the Suns’ fast-paced offense. The Kentucky product will make approximately $2.32MM this season and as a result of the team picking up his option, he’ll take home $3.31MM next year.

Bender’s 2018/19 team option is worth roughly $4.67MM and Chriss’ will come in at slightly under $3.21MM. The team controls each player for at minimum two additional two seasons beyond the 2018/19 campaign. Each of the big men’s contracts has another team option in it for the 2019/20 season and if exercised, the team can extend a qualifying offer to each player during the following offseason, rendering them restricted free agents.

Booker can become a restricted free agent during the summer of 2019, though I would expect the team to make an attempt at extending the shooting guard next summer. Per the team’s website, among all players with two years of experience under the age of 21, only LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant have scored more than Booker’s 2,774 total points.

Rodney McGruder Expected To Miss 3-6 Months

OCTOBER 17: McGruder underwent successful surgery to repair his left tibia stress fracture today, the Heat confirmed in a press release. The team has yet to announce a timetable for McGruder’s recovery.

OCTOBER 12: The Heat’s depth on the wing is about to take a hit, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, who reports (via Twitter) that swingman Rodney McGruder is expected to undergo surgery on a stress fracture in his leg. The procedure would likely sideline him for three to six months, league sources tell Charania.

McGruder, 26, enjoyed a productive rookie season with the Heat in 2016/17, finding his way into the starting lineup for 65 of his 78 games. For the season, he averaged 6.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.6 APG in 25.2 minutes per contest.

Heading into the 2017/18 season, McGruder had been competing for a spot in the Heat’s starting lineup, with Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow among the other options the club had been considering at small forward. With McGruder reportedly set to miss a significant portion of the season, Richardson looks like the favorite to step into that starting role.

Currently, only about $453K of McGruder’s minimum salary is guaranteed, but he shouldn’t be in danger of losing his roster spot. Even in the unlikely event that the Heat were to waive him, the team would be on the hook for his full salary until he receives medical clearance.

Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge Agree To Extension

OCTOBER 16th, 11:07pm: The signing is official, per team release.

4:11pm: Charania clarifies in his full report on the trade that Aldridge’s extension will actually add just two years to his current deal, with the 2018/19 player option representing the third year. In total, Aldridge will be under contract for four years, with a partial guarantee in year four.Aldridge vertical

3:26pm: The Spurs have reached an agreement with big man LaMarcus Aldridge on a contract extension, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Wojnarowski first reported earlier today that the two sides were engaged in discussions on a possible extension.

Aldridge’s new contract is a three-year extension worth $72.3MM, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter) that the third and final year is only partially guaranteed. The 32-year-old exercised his 2018/19 player option as part of the agreement, per Wojnarowski (via Twitter), so the new deal will begin in 2019/20 and will lock him up for five years in total.

Aldridge, who initially joined the Spurs as a free agent in the summer of 2015, saw his production drop off a little last season. His 17.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and .477 FG% were all below his career averages, while his 18.6 PER was his lowest mark since 2009/10.

The dip in Aldridge’s performance makes the timing of the contract extension somewhat surprising. Wojnarowski noted in his piece earlier today that the relationship between Aldridge and the Spurs has been rocky over the last two years — both sides have been unhappy at times, and the team explored trade scenarios involving the former Blazer earlier this year.

However, according to Wojnarowski, Aldridge arrived at camp this year in better shape than usual, and has strengthened his relationship with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

With Aldridge’s player option for 2018/19 now locked in, the Spurs have approximately $78.4MM in guaranteed money on their cap for next season. With the NBA salary cap projected to increase slightly to $101MM, the Spurs could have some flexibility. But their estimated team salary doesn’t include player options for Danny Green, Rudy Gay, and Joffrey Lauvergne, or possible new deals for free-agents-to-be like Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson.

Because Aldridge’s new contract exceeds the parameters of an extend-and-trade deal, he won’t be eligible to be traded for six months after signing his extension, meaning he won’t be the subject of trade rumors at this season’s deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Richard Jefferson Agrees To One-Year Deal With Nuggets

Veteran forward Richard Jefferson has agreed to a one-year, $2.3MM contract with the Nuggets, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.

Jefferson cleared waivers on Monday. He was traded by the Cavaliers to the Hawks on Saturday in a cost-cutting and roster-trimming move by Cleveland. Atlanta immediately waived him.

Denver will likely waive veteran point guard Jameer Nelson to make room for Jefferson, according to Wojnarowski.

Jefferson fortifies the small forward spot behind Wilson Chandler. His primary backup, Will Barton, suffered an ankle injury in practice on Monday.

It’s somewhat surprising that Denver would let Nelson go, as he was considered a potential starter during camp. The Nuggets have apparently decided to go with the much younger duo of Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray at point guard.

The Bucks were considered contenders for Jefferson’s services but wound up claiming another ex-Cavalier, DeAndre Liggins, on Monday. Jefferson, 37, averaged 5.7 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 79 regular-season contests last year.

Contractually, Jefferson will collect two paybacks. He’ll also receive $2MM from the Hawks, who will get a $500K set-off at the end of the season, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

Grizzlies Waive Wade Baldwin, Rade Zagorac

One year after using their first-round pick to draft Wade Baldwin, the Grizzlies have parted ways with the young point guard. The Grizzlies have waived Baldwin, according to a team release.  Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported earlier in the day that Memphis intended to waive or trade him (Twitter link). Wade Baldwin vertical

The Grizzlies also waived rookie forward Rade Zagorac to reach the 15-man regular season limit, the release adds. Wojnarowski had reported earlier (via Twitter) that the Grizzlies would be shedding Zagorac by waiving or trading him.

The Grizzlies’ decisions come as a bit of a surprise. At the start of camp, it appeared that forward Jarell Martin was on the chopping block for the club, and point guard Andrew Harrison was another player whose roster spot appeared to be in danger.

With Memphis waiving Baldwin and Zagorac, there will be room to carry both Martin and Harrison, along with veteran point guard Mario Chalmers, who has a small ($25K) partial guarantee on his contract. Wojnarowski has confirmed (via Twitter) that Chalmers and Harrison will remain on the roster as backups to starting point guard Mike Conley. Chalmers’ minimum salary deal will become fully guaranteed if he remains under contract through Wednesday.

The optics of the moves aren’t great for the Grizzlies, who drafted Baldwin a year ago using the 17th overall pick. He’s owed a guaranteed $1,874,400 salary this season, but the club won’t be on the hook for any future salary, since his $1,955,160 team option for 2018/19 hadn’t been picked up.

The Grizzlies will actually owe more guaranteed money to Zagorac, another 2016 draftee, who was stashed for one year and then signed a partially guaranteed three-year deal this offseason. The 35th overall pick in 2016, Zagorac will be owed $950K this season and $1,378,242 in 2018/19. His third-year team option for 2019/20 is non-guaranteed.

This marks the second straight preseason in which the Grizzlies have given up on a former first-round pick still on his rookie contract. A year ago, the team waived 2014 first-rounder Jordan Adams as part of its roster cutdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bulls Claim Felder, Waive Eddie And Stone

The Bulls have claimed point guard Kay Felder, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets. They will waive swingman Jarell Eddie, league sources told Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). Chicago will also shed center Diamond Stone to reach the 15-man roster limit, Charania adds in another tweet.

The Cavaliers traded Felder along with veteran forward Richard Jefferson to the Hawks on Saturday in order to shed salary and create roster space. Atlanta then immediately waived both players.

Felder, a second-round pick in 2016, appeared in 42 regular-season games last season and averaged 4.0 PPG and 1.4 APG in 9.2 MPG. He had a $457K guarantee on his $1,312,611 salary for this season. There is a team option on his $1,544,951 contract for next season.

The Bulls have Kris Dunn and Jerian Grant as their top point guards but Cameron Payne was declared out for 3-4 months in September after undergoing foot surgery.

Eddie, 25, played for the Wizards and Suns over the last two seasons.  He played sparingly in 26 games for Washington during the 2015/16 season.

Eddie then played for the G League’s Windy City Bulls before hooking on with Phoenix late last season. He saw action in five games with the Suns last season after signing a pair of 10-day contracts.

Though he signed a contract for $1,471,382, most of the money was non-guaranteed. He collected a couple of extra days’ salary by remaining on the roster through Saturday.

Chicago still has plenty of shooting guards and small forwards on the roster, including Paul Zipser, Denzel Valentine, Justin Holiday, David Nwaba and rookie Antonio Blakeney. Zach LaVine and Quincy Pondexter are still rehabbing from knee injuries.

Stone received a modest guarantee after signing with Chicago in September. Stone, who played his rookie season with the Clippers, was also waived by the Hawks after Atlanta acquired him in late July. Robin Lopez, Christiano Felicio and rookie Lauri Markkanen are the main options at center.

Bucks Claim DeAndre Liggins Off Waivers

The Bucks have filled the 15th and final spot on their roster by claiming veteran swingman DeAndre Liggins off waivers, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). Milwaukee opened up that roster spot by waiving Gerald Green on Saturday.

Liggins, 29, is coming off his most successful NBA season, having appeared in 62 total contests for the Cavaliers and Mavericks, starting 19 games with Cleveland. However, since being cut by the Cavs just before the end of the regular season, Liggins has been a fixture on the NBA’s transactions wire.

Since the start of April, Liggins has been claimed off waivers (from Cleveland) by the Mavericks, traded to the Rockets, traded to the Clippers, traded to the Hawks, waived by the Hawks, signed by the Heat, and now claimed off waivers from Miami by the Bucks.

We’ll see if Liggins sticks with the Bucks, since his contract is non-guaranteed. For now though, Milwaukee’s waiver claim of the well-traveled guard/forward appears to take the team out of the running for Richard Jefferson, as Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets. The Bucks and Nuggets were among the teams linked to Jefferson, who cleared waivers this afternoon.

Dennis Schroder Will Face Discipline Related To Battery Charge

Although Hawks guard Dennis Schroder was arrested on a battery charge last month, he’s set to open the regular season with the team this week as the legal process plays out. However, regardless of how his case concludes, Schroder can expect to be disciplined by the Hawks eventually, the team confirmed today.

General manager Travis Schlenk issued a statement on the situation, confirming that there’s an “ongoing investigation” into the details of the incident involving Schroder, and that the team intends to support its point guard through the process. However, that support comes with a caveat.

“From our preliminary findings, we are aware that Dennis was involved in a physical altercation,” Schlenk said. “That behavior is unacceptable, will not be tolerated by the Hawks organization, and will result in discipline for Dennis at the appropriate time once the matter has been more fully developed through the law enforcement process and otherwise.

“Dennis has accepted responsibility for his actions. He looks forward to learning from this incident and focusing on the season.”

While the Hawks have already decide to discipline Schroder, the severity on the penalty may depend on how the case plays out. The young point guard might also face a suspension from the NBA.

With Atlanta entering a full-fledged rebuilding phase this offseason, Schroder will be relied upon to be a leader on and off the court for the Hawks. The 24-year-old had a breakout season in 2016/17, averaging 17.9 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.1 RPG, and a .451 FG%. Those numbers all represented career highs.

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