Nicolas Batum

COVID-19 Updates: Grant, Batum, Herro, McConnell, Smart, T. Jones, Jenkins

Sidelined since December 10 after surgery on his right thumb, Pistons forward Jerami Grant has now entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Grant has been making progress toward playing again and began a rehab assignment with the G League’s Motor City Cruise this week.

Grant is considered the “grand prize” by some observers heading into the trade deadline and has been the subject of rumors involving at least nine teams. His time in the protocols could further limit the number of games he can play before Detroit has to make a decision on a deal.

He and rookie center Luka Garza are the only players currently in the protocols for the Pistons, who recently were among the hardest-hit teams in the league by COVID-19.

Here are some more protocol-related updates:

  • Clippers forward Nicolas Batum has been placed in the protocols, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Batum also spent time in the protocols in November.
  • Heat guard Tyler Herro has entered the protocols, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Herro is the only Miami player currently in the protocols.
  • Pacers guard T.J. McConnell, who may miss the rest of the season after having hand surgery, has been placed in the protocols, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart has exited the protocols, the team announced in its injury report. However, he’s not playing tonight due to “return to competition reconditioning.”
  • Spurs guard Tre Jones has cleared the protocols, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News. He missed seven games while he was out of action.
  • Taylor Jenkins is out of protocols and is coaching the Grizzlies tonight, according to Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian (Twitter link). Jenkins missed six games.

L.A. Notes: Westbrook, Howard, THT, Mann, Batum

Before squaring off against Paul George in Friday’s Lakers-Clippers matchup, Russell Westbrook spoke to the media about the way their partnership with the Thunder ended, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. They developed a friendship in Oklahoma City that still exists, and Westbrook was one of the reasons that George decided to re-sign with the Thunder in 2018.

According to ESPN and The Athletic, Westbrook approached free agent Kawhi Leonard the following summer about possibly teaming up in L.A., with Leonard signing and Westbrook being traded. Leonard reportedly took that idea and presented to George, which resulted in them both joining the Clippers.

When asked about the situation Thursday, Westbrook challenged the media to reveal the source of the report, then cast doubt on its veracity.

“That’s a lesson for all y’all,” he said. “Just always remember, just because somebody writes something … you don’t know where they got it from. That’s the truth. That’s the problem. That’s how rumors and things get started.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers used their 12th starting lineup in 24 games Friday, with Dwight Howard and Talen Horton-Tucker replacing DeAndre Jordan and Avery Bradley, notes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. It’s a clear upgrade based on performance, Buha adds, but the group was minus-7 in its 11 minutes on the court. “Dwight changed the game for us in Sacramento,” Anthony Davis said. “He was really good for us, and Coach wanted to go back to that. And I think he played well tonight as well. Protecting the paint, rebounding, setting screens, doing everything he’s supposed to do.”
  • Clippers swingman Terance Mann tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that the two-year, $22MM extension he received in training camp was meaningful because of how hard it was to get NBA scouts to notice him. Mann took part in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and the G League Elite Camp, then received a last-minute invitation to the draft combine.
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is optimistic about Nicolas Batum, who has missed the past seven games while in health and safety protocols, tweets Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “I don’t know (when he’ll return),” Lue said. “… but it was good seeing him back in the building, I can tell you that. It’s getting close and we definitely need him.”

Pacific Notes: James, Batum, Young, Iguodala

Lakers superstar LeBron James returned to action on Friday after clearing health and safety protocols and felt the process was “handled poorly,” Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. James entered protocols on Tuesday, missing a game, then was cleared on Thursday after a series of negative tests.

“Usually when you have a positive test, they’ll test you right away to make sure,” James said. “There was not a follow-up test after my positive test. It was straight to isolation and you’ve been put into protocol. That’s the part that kind of angered me. I had to figure out a way to get home from Sacramento by myself. They wouldn’t allow anyone to travel with me, no security, no anything, when I traveled back from Sacramento. And then I had to put my kids in isolation for the time being, the people in my household in isolation for the time being, so it was just a big-time inconvenience.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Nicolas Batum missed his seventh consecutive game on Friday and the Clippers have suffered without his defensive versatility, according to Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register. The Clippers had the league’s second-best defensive rating before losing Batum, who has remained in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Their defensive rating has sagged dramatically since he tested positive. “He’s very valuable to what we do,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. Batum re-signed with the Clippers in August on a two-year deal.
  • Suns lead assistant Kevin Young didn’t travel with the team for the showdown with Golden State because he’s in the health and safety protocols, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. Young, who has missed three games after testing positive for COVID-19, became Phoenix’s associate head coach under Monty Williams after Willie Green departed to become head coach of the Pelicans.
  • Warriors veteran forward Andre Iguodala participated in pregame warmups on Friday but isn’t expected to return until next week, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. If he doesn’t play against San Antonio on Saturday, he’ll have missed nine straight missed games due to right knee swelling.

Nicolas Batum Enters Health And Safety Protocols

Clippers veteran Nicolas Batum has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets that Batum is expected to miss at least 10 days of action.

Batum, 32, is a key cog in Los Angeles’ rotation. In 14 games this season (13 starts), he’s averaged 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest, shooting 52% from the floor and 44% from three-point range.

In addition to Batum, Marcus Morris (left knee), Jason Preston (right foot surgery) and Kawhi Leonard (right knee; ACL reconstruction) remain sidelined for the Clippers. The team started third-year player Amir Coffey — who went undrafted in 2019 — against Dallas on Sunday in Batum’s place.

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue previously said the club was fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Los Angeles currently owns a 10-7 record, good for the fourth-best in the Western Conference.

Clippers Notes: Ibaka, Batum, Morris, Leonard

Clippers center Serge Ibaka had never been in the G League before, but he thought it was the best way to get playing time after returning from offseason back surgery, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. The team already had an established center rotation with Ibaka out, as Ivica Zubac and Isaiah Hartenstein split time in the middle. Ibaka only saw eight and five minutes in his first two games, so he volunteered to join the Clippers’ Agua Caliente affiliate.

“At least if you’re Kawhi (Leonard) or Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry, those kind of guys they can sit for three years and they’re going to come back, (teams are) going to give them minutes, they’re going to give them — they’re going to try to get them their confidence,” Ibaka said. “At least if you are one of those guys, you can stay, but if you’re not one of those guys, one of those names out there, sometimes you have to work for yourself to go get your confidence because nobody is going to give you that.”

Ibaka was productive during his four games in the G League, averaging 15.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per night while shooting 43% from the floor. It was his first significant playing time in several months, as back issues limited him to 41 games last season and 18 total minutes in two playoff games. He believes he made a mistake by not having the operation on his back sooner.

“A lot of things were happening last year, a lot of information,” Ibaka said. “… Most important thing, I’m good and back, so I learned from that. I’m sure we all learned from that.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • Nicolas Batum is playing with a sore Achilles, but he doesn’t want to take time off because the team is already short handed and is facing a challenging part of the schedule, per Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register“We miss so many key guys, we don’t have the luxury to really relax,” Batum said after Friday’s loss in New Orleans. “We don’t have Kawhi, we don’t have (Marcus Morris), we don’t have Serge yet. So we still really have to focus on those big leads, stay focused and keep playing the right way – don’t change the way we play.”
  • Morris isn’t considering knee surgery and his plans to recondition it haven’t changed since training camp opened, according to Law Murray of The Athletic. Morris, who hasn’t played since October 23, has been participating in five-on-five scrimmages and may be ready for the next homestand.
  • There’s at least an even-money chance that Leonard will return before the end of the season, Murray speculates.

Pacific Notes: Kawhi, Metu, Batum, Fitts

The Clippers will have most of their key players from last season coming back in 2021/22, but Kawhi Leonard‘s health remains a major question mark. Leonard, of course, suffered a partially torn ACL in the playoffs this spring, an injury that could force him to miss much (or all) of next season.

As Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes, it’s been one month since Leonard underwent surgery on his right knee. He’ll need a significant amount of time to rehab the injury, but it’s possible he could be ready to play before the 2022 postseason begins in mid-April.

“In Kawhi’s case it will be a little less than a year, which is very doable,” said Alan Beyer, executive medical director and orthopedic surgeon at Orange County’s Hoag Orthopedic Institute. “No two players are alike, so some would take seven or eight months to come back. With the caliber of these players, I would not rush. But I certainly would give him the full nine to 10 months at least before I’d expect to see him back.”

Leonard recently signed a new four-year deal with the Clippers, cementing his long-term status with the franchise. He averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 52 games last season, shooting 51% from the floor.

Here are some other notes from the Pacific:

  • Kings center Chimezie Metu swung at Mavericks two-way player Eugene Omoruyi during the team’s summer league game on Sunday, as relayed by ESPN (video link). Such a play typically warrants a suspension from the NBA. Metu’s frustration stemmed from Omoruyi’s hard foul, one that occurred as Metu was in mid-air. The 24-year-old Metu suffered a broken wrist last season after being fouled in mid-air by Jonas Valanciunas.
  • Nicolas Batum‘s new contract with the Clippers is a two-year, $6.49MM deal, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link). The deal, completed using his Non-Bird rights, includes a player option worth $3.3MM in the second season.
  • The Clippers are adding forward Malik Fitts to their summer league team, according to Law Murray of The Athletic (Twitter link). Fitts signed a 10-day contract with the team back in April.

Warriors Notes: Offseason Overview, MLE, Trades, Team Needs

The Warriors’ offseason, outside of drafting Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody in the lottery, may not have been what fans have imagined as the team attempts to regain championship contender status, but it’s not for lack of trying, writes Tim Kawakami of The Athletic.

After trying and failing to attract veterans like Nicolas Batum and Patty Mills, the Warriors chose to be judicious with their use of their taxpayer mid-level exception. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, using the exception would end up costing the team an extra $41MM, given its tax situation. In that scenario, Golden State’s payroll and tax bill combined would come out to over $400MM. Instead, the team will rely on jumps in responsibility from players like Jordan Poole and Juan Toscano-Anderson.

Kawakami also writes that the team is unlikely to package Moody and Kuminga in a trade at this point in time.

We have more news from the Warriors:

  • Golden State isn’t actively engaged on any trades at the moment, team president Bob Myers said (Twitter link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). According to Myers, trade talks are “dormant at this moment in time,” and the league seems to be “on pause” on the trade front.
  • When asked about if the team is done adding veteran free agents, Myers replied, “I think we still need some kind of ballhandling guard. We’re a little thin there” (Twitter link via Slater). While the list of guards left on the market is thin, there are still some interesting options to chose from.
  • Despite being turned down by several targets while trying to use their taxpayer MLE, the Warriors still may utilize it, with the buyout market being a likely target for such a deal, Myers said (Twitter link via Nick Friedell of ESPN).

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Free Agency, Roster, McCollum

Asked on Friday in Tokyo about the Trail Blazers‘ moves in free agency, star point guard Damian Lillard suggested that the team missed out on some of its top targets, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays.

“You never know where guys are going to end up and why they go there. You just try to have conversations and convince guys to be a part of our team,” Lillard said. “And obviously, this go around, we weren’t able to go out there and just get some of the guys that we would have liked.

“(So) you go down the list and you go through the guys that are out there that you like who haven’t committed to a team or were a part of your plans in free agency and you get the ones that want to be a part of what you’re doing. And I think that’s what we did.”

The Trail Blazers’ free agent additions include Cody Zeller, Tony Snell, and Ben McLemore. According to Jason Quick of The Athletic, the team also had interest in Nicolas Batum, and made an effort to lure Kelly Oubre to Portland with the taxpayer mid-level exception. Oubre ended up elsewhere even though Damian Lillard made a pitch to him at the end of the regular season.

“It wasn’t anything deep other than ‘Would he be open to it?’ and he said he was,” Lillard told Quick. “I liked Oubre as a complement to other guys I thought we would be able to get. We didn’t get them.”

As Quick outlines, the Blazers’ “real” offseason will begin when Lillard finishes his Olympics run and returns to Portland to evaluate the roster and assess his options. There are three roads the rest of the Blazers’ summer could take, in Quick’s view: Portland convinces Lillard that running it back and being patient is the right approach; the team makes a major trade that changes Lillard’s view of the Blazers’ trajectory; or the All-NBA guard asks to be traded.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Quick confirms that the deals Zeller, McLemore, and Snell are signing are all worth the veteran’s minimum. The Blazers still have the taxpayer mid-level exception available, but aren’t aggressively pursuing any players left on the market and will likely hang onto that exception for now, Quick adds.
  • The Blazers have 13 players projected for the regular season roster for now. They plan to enter the season with 14, but they’re keeping that 14th spot open for now to maintain flexibility, according to Quick, who notes that the spot may be useful for a trade in which Portland takes back more players than it sends out.
  • While CJ McCollum is perhaps the most obvious trade candidate on the Blazers’ roster, it doesn’t sound like he’s being actively shopped, says Quick. Quick isn’t sure whether other teams simply don’t value McCollum like the Blazers do, but says the club won’t move him just to shake up the roster — a deal would have to improve the roster. So far, no opportunities fit that bill.

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Batum, Finley, Kerr, Green

The five-team trade the Spurs are involved in continues a trend of the teamstockpiling draft picks, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News notes. The Spurs will gain a 2022 second-round pick along with Chandler Hutchison from the Wizards in the agreed-upon multi-team swap, highlighted by the Lakers’ acquisition of Russell Westbrook. San Antonio is also acquiring three picks – a first-rounder and two second-rounders – in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade with the Bulls.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks were among the teams interested in Clippers forward Nicolas Batum before he agreed to re-sign with Los Angeles, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. The Warriors also checked in on Batum before he chose to take a two-year deal with a player option from the Clippers.
  • The Mavericks have officially announced the promotion of Michael Finley to assistant GM/VP of basketball operations, the team’s PR department tweets. Finley will work under new president of basketball operations Nico Harrison in his expanded front office role.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr is ecstatic that one of his former assistants, Willie Green, got the Pelicans‘ head coaching job and believes he’ll have little trouble growing into the role, Kerr told William Guillory of The Athletic. “There’s just kind of this quiet dignity and intelligence about him that the players will really appreciate,” Kerr said. “And then I think, like all coaches, he’s going to have to find his voice and find his style. I’m sure he’s going to hire a great staff to help him do that. And he’ll grow into the job, but I think he’ll be fantastic.”

Pacific Notes: DeRozan, Clippers, Curry, Vogel

About an hour before word broke on Tuesday that DeMar DeRozan had agreed to join the Bulls via sign-and-trade, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that DeRozan intended to meet with the Clippers. So did that meeting actually happen before DeRozan reached a deal with Chicago? Haynes shared some details in the latest episode of his Posted Up with Chris Haynes podcast.

“The Clippers’ brass were on their way to DeMar’s house,” Haynes said. “Things got a little bit more interesting with the Bulls, it looked like a deal was going to get done with Chicago, and DeMar DeRozan’s agent Aaron Goodwin called the Clippers out of courtesy and was like, ‘You know what, let’s not waste anybody’s time. Out of respect to you guys, let’s cancel this meeting. (DeRozan)’s going to go elsewhere.'”

Haynes added that the Clippers were going to have to do “a ton of work” on their roster to be able to make DeRozan a competitive offer, suggesting that the veteran wing – who received an $85MM commitment from Chicago – wouldn’t have been willing to settle for the taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.9MM), which was all L.A. realistically had at its disposal.

“DeMar DeRozan was not going to any team and taking the mid-level. He wasn’t,” Haynes said. “Not the full mid-level, not the taxpayer mid-level. He wasn’t having it.”

Here are a few more updates from around the Pacific:

  • Speaking to Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic after news of his new $215MM extension with the Warriors broke, Stephen Curry said he loves the players Golden State drafted last Thursday and was happy to hear the team was pursuing veteran free agents this week, even if top targets like Patty Mills and Nicolas Batum are headed elsewhere. “I would be disappointed if there was ever a vibe that you’re complacent or that you’re not proactive and looking to always get better,” Curry said. “So if you’re telling me we’re trying to go after Batum, we’re trying to go after Patty, and things didn’t line up like that, then that’s just how the league works. But if there’s ever a situation where you don’t feel that commitment from upstairs, then we have issues. I haven’t felt that this summer.”
  • Thompson adds in the same story that the fourth year on Curry’s extension was a “minor sticking point,” given its unprecedented cap hit, but the Warriors ultimately relented. Curry, who will turn 38 during the 2025/26 season, will earn a staggering $59.6MM that year.
  • Now that the Lakers have nearly finished filling out their roster with a handful of free agent commitments, the next big question for the franchise to answer is Frank Vogel‘s status, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. Vogel is a candidate for an extension, since he’s entering the final year of his contract as the team’s head coach.