Nicolo Melli

International Notes: Morris, Melli, Delgado

Former Lakers and Nets guard Darius Morris was in camp with the Pelicans last fall and generated some in-season interest from the Suns, but 2018/19 represented his fourth straight season out of the NBA. It appears that streak will continue in 2019/20, as a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando that Morris has signed a “lucrative” contract with Enisey Krasnoyarsk in Russia.

Morris, who appeared in 132 total NBA games after being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, is still just 28 years old, as so an eventual NBA comeback is possible. For now though, he’ll continue his professional career in Russia after spending his last few seasons in China and the G League.

Here are a few more basketball odds and ends from around the globe:

  • Nicolo Melli, who signed with the Pelicans this summer as a free agent, won’t play for Team Italy in the 2019 World Cup due to a knee injury, the Italian Basketball Federation confirmed today in a press release. As far as we know, Melli is still expected to be ready to go for training camp with New Orleans this fall.
  • Former Clippers big man Angel Delgado, who signed a lucrative one-year contract with the Beijing Royal Fighters, spoke to Jerry Carino of Asbury Park Press about making the move to the Chinese Basketball Association. “I had opportunities to stay in the NBA, but I’m doing what’s best for me,” Delgado said. “I’m excited about the experience I’m going to get in the CBA, and the people I’m going to get in touch with out there. I’m really excited and really motivated to give everyone a show every night. I want to give them what they want — a championship.”
  • Previously-reported international deals for Alan Williams (in Russia) and Omri Casspi (in Israel) are now official, with Lokomotiv Kuban and Maccabi Tel Aviv formally announcing the signings today.

Pelicans Notes: Melli, Ball, Ingram, Redick, Miller

The Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin was able to land Euro star Nicolo Melli by selling him on the team’s system and through a connection with Melli’s agent, Griffin told Jeff Duncan of The Athletic in a Q&A session. Melli joined New Orleans on a two-year, $8MM contract.

“It’s not like anybody discovered Melli. Everybody knew Melli. What was interesting is we were able to create a situation that attracted Melli. He had other opportunities to come to the NBA. He’s a player that, because he’s an elite defensive rebounder and floor spacer — I think he’s the leading rebounder in Europe since 2015 and he shoots 42 percent from 3 — that type of player is attractive to the NBA. What I think was significant for us was our situation spoke to him to because he saw his fit within Alvin Gentry’s system, and he’s represented by Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management and Jeff Schwartz, whom I was really close to.”

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • Griffin received trade inquiries regarding the three rotation players he received from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis blockbuster but didn’t get close to moving Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart or Brandon Ingram, Griffin indicated in the same story. “There was interest but nothing that really spoke to us to any degree. … We felt really fortunate that we were able to land the players we did, and it became really evident that we were fortunate because of the interest in them that was shown by several other teams basically immediately after the deal was announced. It was fascinating to go through the experience, but we didn’t acquire them to move them, so nothing was even close.”
  • Pelicans guard J.J. Redick will not participate in Team USA’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Unlike some players on the original 20-man roster who pulled out to concentrate on the next NBA season, Redick declined to be added to the roster due to family reasons as he transitions to a new city. Redick joined the Pelicans on a two-year, $26.5MM contract.
  • Forward Darius Miller‘s contract has an early July trigger date next summer, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Miller will make $7.25MM in guaranteed money next season and is due $7MM in 2020/21 in the non-guaranteed portion of his contract. Miller was officially signed over the weekend.

Pelicans Sign Nicolo Melli

JULY 25: The Pelicans have officially signed Melli, the team announced today in a press release. New Orleans used its room exception to complete the signing.

JUNE 30: The Pelicans are finalizing a deal with Italian power forward Nicolo Melli, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It’s a two-year, $8MM deal, according to Wojnarowski, who confirms (via Twitter) that the two sides are in agreement.

Will Guillory of The Athletic confirms the report, adding that the Pelicans see the 6’9″ Melli as an efficient passer who can space the floor (Twitter link). The 28-year-old played for Fenerbahce this season and was the leading scorer in the EuroLeague Finals.

Melli has been playing professionally in Europe for more than a decade. He also has extensive international experience, starting with Italy’s Junior National Team in 2007.

He will be part of a revamped team in New Orleans as the Pelicans build around No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson and No. 8 selection Jaxson Hayes, along with the package of players they’re getting from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade.

Pelicans Notes: Hart, Ball, Ingram, Melli

Josh Hart spoke with EVP of basketball operations David Griffin shortly after the Anthony Davis, pleading with the executive not to trade him, as he wanted to play for the Pelicans. During a press conference today that introduced Hart, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, Griffin said that it “meant a lot” to the team to have players who were “equally committed” to the franchise.

“We’re deep with selfless winners,” Griffin said (via Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register). “We’re deep with selfless high-character guys who wanna play any role they need to.”

Rival teams have called the Pelicans about all three former Lakers, according to Griffin, but the franchise has turned down inquiries for each player. The front office feels the trio can be part of the team’s future.

Here’s more from New Orleans:

  • Ball said it was “tough” dealing with trade rumors last season but he learned to deal with those distractions and others while playing in Los Angeles, Will Guillory of The Athletic relays on Twitter. Ball added that he’s excited to get back to playing the style of basketball he’s accustomed to.
  • Ingram said he is “pretty close” to resuming regular basketball activities, as ESPN relays. Ingram is recovering from surgery on his right arm that was performed to address a blood clot. Ingram added that he hasn’t played basketball since March. “I’m eager to pick up a basketball,” the forward added (via Guillory’s Twitter feed).
  • Nicolo Melli, who signed with the Pelicans this offseason, underwent knee surgery this offseason, Emiliano Carchia of Sportnado passes along. Melli agreed to sign with New Orleans via the room exception.

Pelicans Waive Christian Wood

The Pelicans have waived power forward/center Christian Wood, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Wood had a non-guaranteed $1,645,357 salary, of which $822,679 would have become guaranteed if he was on the opening-day roster. The Pelicans now have 13 players with fully guaranteed contracts and two others with non- or partial guarantees.

The Bucks waived Wood in March and the Pelicans claimed him. Wood saw spot duty in 13 games with Milwaukee. He played eight games with New Orleans, including two starts, and averaged 16.9 PPG and 7.9 RPG.

By letting go of Wood, New Orleans opens up a spot for Italian power forward Nicolo Melli, who agreed to a two-year contact in late June.

Pelicans Waive Dairis Bertans

4:27pm: Bertans’ release is now official, per’s transactions log. According to Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link), the 29-year-old has already reached an agreement to sign with Russian club Khimki.

3:04pm: According to his agent, Arturs Kalnitis (Twitter link), the Pelicans will waive guard Dairis Bertans. Per Kalnitis’ tweet, it appears unlikely that Bertans will be claimed off waivers by another NBA team.

The news isn’t entirely unexpected, as the Pelicans would have had 17 players on standard contracts after the team’s trade for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, reported trade for Derrick Favors, and reported signings of J.J. Redick, Darius Miller, and Nicolo Melli all came through.

Teams are permitted to have as many as 20 players on their roster during the offseason, but the Pelicans didn’t have the necessary cap space to sign Redick and trade for Favors without trimming some salary from their roster. By waiving Bertans, the Pelicans now figure to be able to complete those two deals, depending on the value of the first-year salary of Redick’s new contract.

Based on my math, the Pelicans can sign Redick to a starting salary of $12,853,641 after waiving Bertans (assuming Melli is signed with the room exception). With standard 5% raises, the total value of Redick’s contract would be just under $26.35MM, which is in line with the reported $26.5MM value.

As for Bertans, the 29-year-old Latvian will likely return to Europe after his one-year stay in the NBA, where he averaged 2.8 PPG in 12 games with the Pelicans.

International Notes: Christon, Nogueira, Llull, Melli

Semaj Christon, who appeared in 64 games for the Thunder during the 2016/17 season, will play in Israel this season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Hapoel Be’er Sheva has announced the signing of the 25-year-old point guard, who split last season between China and Puerto Rico.

Christon was part of Oklahoma City’s rotation two seasons ago, averaging 2.9 points and 2.0 assists in about 15 minutes per game. The 55th pick in the 2014 draft, he was waived by the Thunder prior to the start of last season. A former star at Xavier, Christon played in the G League and Italy before coming to Oklahoma City.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Lucas Nogueira‘s contract with Fuenlabrada in Spain has been approved, tweets Varlas Nikos of Nogueira’s former Estudiantes club in Madrid had objected to the signing, claiming it still owned his rights, but the team refused to send documentation to ACB. Nogueira spent four seasons with the Raptors, who paid a $650K buyout to Estudiantes to get his release. Nogueira was with Estudiantes from 2009 to 2014.
  • Sergio Llull has turned down numerous opportunities to join the Rockets and is now talking about staying with Real Madrid for the rest of his career, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. “It is difficult to say to the NBA because it is an important League,” Llull said in a recent interview with Radio Marca. “But I have said several times that I am happy with Real Madrid. I want to remain here and win again. I would love to finish my career with Real Madrid. I have a contract for a lot of my year. But my goal now is to play a huge season.”
  • The Jazz, Hawks and Nets all have interest in signing Nicolo Melli for next season, tweets Orazio Cauchi of Sportando. Atlanta and Brooklyn both made contact with him this summer, Cauchi adds.

Free Agent Rumors: Parker, Kings, O’Quinn, Howard

The Kings are no longer believed to be pursuing restricted free agent forward Jabari Parker, a league source tells Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Reports from last week indicated that Parker was one of several free agents on the radar for the Kings, who were also linked to Zach LaVine and others.

Sacramento was one of the few NBA teams with cap room available, so if the Kings are out of the running for Parker, it will be interesting to see if the former No. 2 overall pick can find a lucrative offer elsewhere. The Bucks’ reported agreement with Ersan Ilyasova appears likely to hard-cap them, so a team could put pressure on Milwaukee with an aggressive offer sheet for Parker, but it remains to be seen which club might put such an offer on the table.

Here are a few more rumors from around the league on day two of free agency:

  • The Sixers continue to express interest in free agent center Kyle O’Quinn, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, who reports (via Twitter) that the Clippers and Pelicans are also in the mix for O’Quinn.
  • Dwight Howard still has to be traded and then bought out before he officially becomes a free agent, but he could hit the market in about a week. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets that he keeps hearing the Wizards and Warriors as potential landing spots for Howard. Sam Amick of USA Today reported over the weekend that the former No. 1 pick has interest in the Pelicans, Warriors, and Wizards, though Amick and others have suggested Golden State may not be sold on Howard’s fit.
  • Former All-EuroLeague big man Nicolo Melli had a chance to pursue NBA opportunities this offseason, but has elected to return to Turkish team Fenerbahce, reports international basketball journalist David Pick (via Twitter). According to Pick, the Nets had “serious interest” in Melli, who figures to field NBA offers in 2019.

Eastern Rumors: Ellington, Haslem, Smart, Hawks

The belief among Heat players is that Wayne Ellington will be back with the team next season, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Ellington is a candidate to be released within the next 48 hours or so, since his $6.27MM salary for 2017/18 – currently non-guaranteed – will become fully guaranteed if he remains under contract.

Even if the Heat ultimately decide that they need to waive Ellington to create some extra cap room for another move, that doesn’t necessarily rule out his return — the team could eventually re-sign him to a deal worth the $4.3MM room exception, if he’s open to accepting a pay cut.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Reynolds provides another Heat-related tidbit, tweeting that Udonis Haslem is on the Cavaliers‘ radar. Haslem, who has spent his entire career in Miami, wants to stay with the Heat, and that looks like the most probable outcome. But a conversation between Haslem and the Cavs is likely, per Reynolds.
  • On Wednesday, an ESPN report indicated that the Celtics had called the Knicks about Marcus Smart, but New York’s level of interest in Smart was unclear. Following up on that story, Marc Berman of The New York Post reports that the Knicks do indeed have interest in Smart and are considering trade options as a way of filling part or all of their remaining cap space.
  • Italian forward Nicolo Melli received a contract offer from the Hawks, according to international basketball journalist David Pick (Twitter link). However, Pick reports that Melli has turned down that offer and will sign a multiyear pact with Fenerbahce in Turkey. Per Sportando (Twitter link), Melli’s new deal isn’t done yet, but will be within a few days.
  • The Raptors are the latest team to line up a deal to add a sponsored patch to their jersey, according to TSN’s Rick Westhead, who reports that Toronto has signed a three-year agreement with insurance company Sun Life Financial. The deal will pay Raptors ownership more than $5MM annually, sources tell Westhead. The list of NBA clubs that have agreed to jersey sponsorship deals can be found here.

And-Ones: Melli, Sonics, Teodosic

Nicolo Melli is drawing interest from Real Madrid in the Euroleague, but he also has the attention of several NBA teams. Niki Bakouli of Sport24 reports (Twitter links) that the Rockets and Nets are among the teams interested in adding the power forward.

Melli said playing in the NBA is “a dream,” but added that his decision on where to go will depend on what kind of offers he receives.

“I don’t rule out any possibility but I don’t like to talk about the future Melli said, (via E. Carchia of Sportando). “It is great to draw interest from other teams [Real Madrid is one of the teams] but I did not talk with anyone. My agent and I will think about the future after the season talking with Bamberg. NBA? It is a dream. But it will depend on the offers because I love too much being on the court and playing.” 

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Two different groups are each preparing to spend over $500MM to renovate the Key-Arena in Seattle with hopes of attracting an NBA or NHL team, Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times reports. “Today is an important day in our goal of bringing the Sonics home and the NHL to Seattle,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said. “Two well-known organizations submitted proposals to redevelop Key­Arena, totaling more than $1 billion in investments between them. Their interest shows how Seattle has become one of the most desirable cities in America for sports and entertainment.”
  • Nets GM Sean Marks is heading back to Moscow to get another look at Milos Teodosic, sources tell international journalist David Pick (Twitter link). It was previously reported that the point guard was unlikely to sign with Brooklyn since the team has not been competitive.
  • Amy Trask has been named the CEO of the BIG3, according to the league’s website. Trask previously spent nearly 30 years working the Oakland Raiders organization.
  • Mo Alie-Cox, who played basketball at VCU, is trying to break into the NFL and he’s scheduled to meet with six teams, as Zach Links of Pro Football Rumors writes. Be sure to stay tuned to PFR for the latest news and notes on the NFL.