Nicolas Batum

Eastern Notes: Boylan, Hornets, Saric, Yabusele

Former Cavaliers assistant coach Jim Boylan has filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against the franchise, which the team has labelled “frivolous” and a “shameless cash grab,” according to an Associated Press report. Boylan, 63, worked five seasons under former coaches David Blatt and Tyronn Lue but did not have his option picked up this summer. Boylan contends GM Koby Altman told him owner Dan Gilbert wanted a younger coach.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hornets have used a committee approach at the center spot and that position is likely to remain in flux, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. Starter Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, Frank Kaminsky and Bismack Biyombo have all taken turns in the middle but first-year coach James Borrego isn’t worried. “We’re still searching (but) I like the dilemma I have,” he told Bonnell.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is allowing forward Dario Saric to work through his shooting slump, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Saric has scored in single digits in each of the last three games while shooting 2-for-13 from long range. Brown has no plans to reduce Saric’s workload. “If he came to me and said, ‘I need some time,’ I would listen,” Brown said. “But I don’t feel like I’m force-feeding anything, I do not feel like I’m hurting him. In fact, I feel like I’m helping him.”
  • Guerschon Yabusele’s option was picked up for next season because his game fits the modern NBA, according to coach Brad Stevens, and the Celtics believe the 22-year-old has high upside, the team’s PR department tweets. Boston’s brass decided to retain Yabusele despite a cap hit of $3,117,240, a figure that could grow if Boston pays the luxury tax. The 6’8” Yabusele has played just 18 minutes this season after seeing action in 33 games in his rookie campaign. But with several players hitting the free agent market next summer, the Celtics felt Yabusele was too valuable to give up, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald notes. “Having Guerschon gives us continuity. He knows our system,” GM Danny Ainge said. “He’s loved by everybody. It’s just not easy to find that type of player.”

Hornets Notes: Lamb, Kaminsky, Parker, Batum

Jeremy Lamb might be the Hornets’ starter at shooting guard, but he could also be entering his final season with the team, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer in his latest mailbag column. Lamb started 18 times in his 80 games last season and posted the best numbers of his six-year NBA career, averaging 12.9 points per game and shooting 37% from 3-point range.

Bonnell expects new coach James Borrego to use Nicolas Batum at small forward more often, opening a spot in the backcourt that will be filled either by Lamb or Malik Monk. Lamb improved his defense last year and provides more size than Monk, so he’s considered the favorite to win the starting job heading into camp.

Lamb is entering the final year of a contract extension he signed in 2015 and will be seeking a raise from his salary of just under $7.5MM. Charlotte will have a tight cap situation heading into the summer with Kemba Walker also as a free agent. With Batum, Monk and Dwayne Bacon as alternatives as shooting guard, the team may decide not to spend big on Lamb.

Bonnell offers more news on the Hornets in the same piece:

  • Expect Frank Kaminsky to see more minutes at center in the preseason, and that could wind up being his primary position in the future. Kaminsky has been used mainly as a power forward during his first three seasons in the league, but the Hornets may want a better outside shooter in the middle after trading away Dwight Howard. Charlotte’s front office will have to decide soon whether to extend a qualifying offer of roughly $5MM to Kaminsky to make him a restricted free agent next summer.
  • The Hornets plan to use free agent addition Tony Parker as Walker’s primary backup this season. The longtime Spur will play about 15 to 17 minutes a night and could be used in combination with Walker to close out games. Rookie Devonte’ Graham looked good in Summer League, but Bonnell doesn’t expect him to be given a large role this season.
  • Offseason changes may put Batum in position for a bounceback year. The addition of Parker, Batum’s close friend and teammate from the French national squad, should help, as should improved health after Batum missed the entire preseason last year with an elbow injury. Bonnell notes that Batum was an awkward fit with Howard, who liked to dominate the ball in the post and often slowed down the offense.

Western Notes: James, Batum, Katsikaris, Jones

LeBron James seriously considered joining the Sixers and Rockets before signing with the Lakers. In an extensive interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that was relayed by Dave McMenamin, James addressed a variety of topics, including which teams he considered during free agency.

“I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid or lining up aside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul],” he told Nichols.

The Sixers had the salary-cap space to sign James but the Rockets would have likely required a sign-and-trade with the Cavaliers to acquire his services. James also insisted he doesn’t see next season as a rebuilding year for the Lakers.

“We have an opportunity to do something that a lot of people don’t think we can do, and we love the notion of it’s another rebuilding year and we don’t have enough. So that will motivate the guys that we have anyways.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Rockets are actively seeking a defensive-minded player on the trade market and are willing to take on a long-term contract, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN in comments relayed by digital journalist Ben DuBose. Houston would presumably move forward Ryan Anderson, who has two years and $41.7MM left on his deal. The Hornets’ Nicolas Batum would be a logical target, as Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype notes. Batum has three years and $76.7MM remaining on his contract, which includes a player option in the final year.
  • The Jazz have hired Fotis Katsikaris as an assistant to Quin Snyder, the team announced in a press release. Katsikaris becomes the first-ever native Greek NBA assistant coach. He was a head coach in Spain last season and served as head coach of the Greek national team from 2014-16.
  • The Warriors are unlikely to pick up center Damian Jones‘ fourth-year option, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State must make a decision on the $2.3MM option prior to the start of the season. If it’s declined, Jones will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Hornets Notes: Borrego, Batum, Howard, Zeller

Nicolas Batum may benefit more than anyone from the Hornets’ coaching change, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Spurs assistant James Borrego is expected to install the motion offense used in San Antonio, which plays to Batum’s strengths of handling the ball and making quick decisions.

Charlotte’s approach under Steve Clifford this season was heavy on postups for center Dwight Howard, which restricted Batum’s effectiveness. His scoring average dropped to 11.6 points per game, the lowest in his three years with the Hornets, and Bonnell speculates that he needs a new approach on offense to become productive again.

Bonnell addresses more Hornets topics in a mailbag column:

  • New GM Mitch Kupchak would like to move at least one big contract this summer to provide cap relief, but the organization might be wise to hold onto Howard. Bonnell states that the team may be in a better long-term position by allowing Howard’s $23.8MM contract to expire next summer rather than trading it for other expensive assets. However, he questions how much Howard will play next season, especially if the Hornets fall out of contention early.
  • Of the five players with large contracts, Cody Zeller may be easiest to trade. Zeller is signed for the next three seasons at an average of about $14MM per year, but he is only 25 and could develop into an effective center if he can overcome his injury history.
  • Young players Malik Monk, Willy Hernangomez and Dwayne Bacon may get a better chance to prove themselves under Borrego than Clifford. Bonnell says all three will be closely watched and supervised over the offseason, although Hernangomez will spend a large part of the summer with the Spanish National Team.
  • Borrego may try to add a former NBA head coach to his staff, just as Clifford did with Bob Weiss and Eddie Jordan.
  • The most pressing offseason need is finding a point guard to back up Kemba Walker. Monk played there late in the season, but Bonnell notes that it’s too early to say if that’s his best position. It’s also a long-term concern because Walker is headed for free agency in 2019.

Southeast Notes: Batum, Fournier, Heat, Wade

In a mailbag piece for The Charlotte Observer, Rick Bonnell argues that despite the frustration voiced by fans over the contract of Nicolas Batum, who’s still owed $76.7MM in guaranteed money over the next three seasons, the Hornets should not even consider waiving the swingman.

That’s because under the new CBA rules, Batum’s salary would continue counting against the Hornets’ cap even after his release, as there is no longer an amnesty provision incorporated into the new CBA. Moreover, the Hornets had more issues this season than Batum.

Instead, Bonnell suggests that Batum’s contract, although troublesome, is not “untradeable,” and that the Hornets should be able to trade Batum away if they are willing to take on some other bad contracts in return.

And in another article for the Observer, Bonnell opines that Batum doesn’t necessarily need to be traded. Rather, the Hornets’ next head coach should look to resurrect Batum’s game, which may mean letting him handle the ball more as arguably the team’s top ball-mover and facilitator.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After a tough season in which his team finished 25-57 and missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, Magic guard Evan Fournier plans on joining his countrymen on the French National Team for the third window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers, he tells FIBA.
  • In a season-ending piece for the Sun-Sentinel, Ira Winderman gives his thoughts and other information on the 17 players who finished the 2017/18 NBA season as members of the Heat – including two-way players Derrick Walton Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr.
  • In another article for the Sun-Sentinel, Winderman compares this upcoming offseason to the summer of 2016, when Dwyane Wade left the Heat for Chicago. Ultimately, Winderman believes that unlike two years ago, it’ll be wholly up to Wade as to whether he wants to play in Miami next season, as long as he’s willing to accept a reasonable contract.

Hornets Notes: Clifford, Bacon, Zeller, Batum

The Hornets have already announced that general manager Rich Cho won’t have his contract renewed after this season, and according to Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer, head coach Steve Clifford probably shouldn’t be retained either.

Despite being one of the best coaches that the city of Charlotte has ever had – in Sorensen’s eyes – Sorensen wonders whether the team has reached a point where the players have stopped listening to Clifford and his message.

The Hornets have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this year. The team was widely expected to compete for a playoff spot, but have been out of the hunt for much of the season, currently sporting a record of 34-41 with seven games remaining after finishing with a similarly disappointing record last season at 36-46.

There’s more out of Charlotte from Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

  • The Hornets selected Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick in last year’s draft, with expectations that Monk could come in and help the team this season. However, the Charlotte rookie who has probably ended up having the best season is second-round pick Dwayne Bacon, the 40th overall selection. With that in mind, Bonnell analyzes whether Bacon could end up being the better catch.
  • Hornets big man Cody Zeller missed his 10th consecutive game tonight against the Cavs, leaving Bonnell to wonder whether Zeller may be done for the season. Zeller, who thought he might be ready to play in Dallas on Saturday, said his injured left knee had begun to swell again after he tested it.
  • Part of the Hornets’ problem is a high payroll for next season, leaving the team with few options to improve upon its current roster. One albatross of a contract is that of Nicolas Batum, who is scheduled to make $24MM next season. In a mailbag piece, Bonnell answers some readers’ questions regarding Batum and his contract, among others.

Hornets’ Nicolas Batum Has Chronic Tendinitis

Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum has been diagnosed with chronic tendinitis in his left Achilles, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Batum has been ruled out of Monday’s game with the Sixers, and his status for the rest of the season will depend on how effective treatments are on the condition.

Batum was pulled from Saturday’s game after developing soreness in the Achilles. With the Hornets seven games out of the final playoff spot, they may decide to take the cautious approach and rest him for the remainder of the season.

Batum is under contract for $24MM next year and more than $25.5MM in 2019/20, along with a player option worth more than $27.1MM for the following season. He has been limited to 56 games this season and his numbers have dropped across the board to 11.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per night, his lowest totals in all three categories since coming to Charlotte three years ago.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Adebayo, Gordon

The Hornets are in a precarious position financially considering that franchise owner Michael Jordan has said that he’s unwilling to dip into the luxury tax for anything less than a deep playoff contender. Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer wonders if that could lead to a drastic cap-clearing move.

Charlotte is a shade below the tax line this season, but is already on the hook for about $118MM in 2018/19. That total, Bonnell notes, is for just 11 players. Unlike in years past, the salary cap and luxury tax threshold aren’t expected to rise considerably, so the fact that the Hornets would need to supplement their roster with extra bodies – including a lottery pick on the fixed rookie scale – could put them in a dangerous position.

The Hornets have six players slated to make $12MM or more next season, including Nicolas Batum and his $24MM price tag. While the team has time to find a solution, such conditions could potentially warrant a draconian quick fix, like dealing Jeremy Lamb and his $7.5MM deal for a future second-round pick.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • First-year big man Bam Adebayo has committed to studying game tape and his improvement on the defensive end reflects that, Shandel Richardson of The Sun Sentinel writes. “Bam, for such a young player, is becoming a technician with his discipline and technique and studying players,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’ll definitely be able to build on that.”
  • It has been a disappointing season for Hornets guard Nicolas Batum and while health has played a significant role in that, there’s no denying that his lofty contract is more palatable when he’s bringing more to the table. As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes, with head coach Steve Clifford back on the sidelines and a clear commitment to getting the ball in his hands early, the swingman has raised his game.
  • The Magic have had to adjust to life without Aaron Gordon lately. John Denton of the team’s official website writes that the forward has been troubled by a lingering hip flexor injury, forcing the rest of the team to adapt on offense.

Southeast Notes: J. Johnson, Hezonja, G League, Batum

James Johnson may be the latest addition to the Heat’s long list of injured players, writes Ira Winderman of The-Sun Sentinel. Johnson will have an MRI today to determine the extent of a lower-leg issue that forced him to leave Saturday’s game. He is in the midst of another productive season, averaging 10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 28 games, and an extended absence would be a significant blow to a team already reeling from injuries.

Miami is without center Hassan Whiteside, who has missed two weeks with a bone bruise on his left knee and won’t join the team for a two-game road trip, along with Justise Winslow [strained knee], Okaro White [foot surgery] and Rodney McGruder [leg surgery]. The injuries have created more playing time for rookie Bam Adebayo and free agent additions Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Mickey.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with J.J. He’s talked to me a lot,” Mickey said. “He’s always said, ‘Eventually your number will get called.’ I’m not happy in this particular position [with Johnson out], but I’ll be ready, Coach needs me and I’m already ready.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Injuries are also creating an opportunity for Magic small forward Mario Hezonja, notes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. With Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon and Arron Afflalo all sidelined, Hezonja has started the past three games with uneven results, Robbins notes. The fifth player taken in the 2015 draft, Hezonja may be looking at his last chance to prove himself before unrestricted free agency next summer. Orlando declined to pick up his fourth-year option in October. “You’ve just got to find your own rhythm but still be in the system,” Hezonja said. “If I go out [and try to excel] individually, I’m going to look good, but we’re going to lose. We’re not going to win a lot of games like that. Everybody has to step up like that, has to have that mindset.”
  • The Magic are enjoying the benefits of having a G League affiliate close to home, relays John Denton of NBA.com. The organization moved its affiliate from Erie, Pa., to Lakeland, Fla., over the summer, which is paying off with the recent rash of injuries. Jamel Artis and Adreian Payne were able to attend practice with the Magic Tuesday morning, even though they had a G League game that night, then were available for Wednesday’s NBA contest.
  • Nicolas Batum offered a reminder of why the Hornets gave him a five-year, $120MM contract with with a season-high 23-point performance Saturday, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. For most of this season, Batum has been deferring to other players on offense after returning from a torn ligament in his left elbow that he suffered in the preseason. “I was trying to adjust myself to the other guys way too much,” he said, “when sometimes I have to let them adjust to me.”

Southeast Notes: Batum, Fournier, Graham

If you’re wondering why Nicolas Batum hasn’t been his regular self for the Hornets since returning to the court, it’s because of lingering pain associated with the torn tendon in his left elbow, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes.

Batum elected to forego potential season-ending injury in October when a specialist said that it would be possible to recover through rehabilitation. Batum returned to the Hornets after six weeks. In the 12 starts since, he’s averaged 10.1 points on 37% shooting from the field and just 22% from downtown. Last year, in contrast, he averaged 15.1 on 40% and 33%.

Since I got back, I’ve not been 100 percent yet. Not even close to 100 percent. It’s always there. Every contact: I grab someone, or someone grabs me, or someone hits me,” the versatile Hornets forward said. “I get [pain] every game.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Magic are creeping toward a playoff spot but George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel says that’s not exactly a good thing. The scribe notes that the team has shown signs of relative competence but also mediocrity, the latter a one-way ticket to the dreaded middle-ground between success and actually landing a top lottery pick.
  • Plenty has gone wrong for the Hornets this season but the club has reason to be optimistic about Treveon Graham, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The versatile wing, who can slide into a forward spot if necessary, could have an impact on how the team handles the coming few, injury-plagued weeks.
  • An MRI has revealed that Evan Fournier‘s ankle is sprained. The Magic guard hasn’t played since Wednesday, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes, but he considers himself to be day-to-day.