Nikola Jokic

Western Notes: McKinnie, Cauley-Stein, Silva, Grant

Willie Cauley-Stein will likely start at center for the Warriors but Kevon Looney will probably play more crunch-time minutes, Anthony Slater of The Athletic opines. Alfonzo McKinnie may get the nod at small forward with Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III in reserve, since McKinnie is a high energy player who should mesh well with the backcourt of Stephen Curry and D’Angelo Russell, Slater continues. However, rookie Eric Paschall is a darkhorse candidate to play down the stretch due to his versatility, Slater adds.

We have from the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors preferred Cauley-Stein to DeMarcus Cousins even before Cousins committed to the Lakers, Slater writes in the same mailbag story. Cauley-Stein provided a younger option who better fit their new priorities, according to Slater. However, they never really had a decision to make because they were hard-capped after the sign-and-trade for Russell with the Nets was agreed upon. The hard cap meant the Warriors couldn’t give Cousins a max raise up to $6.4MM, Slater notes. Cauley-Stein agreed to join the Warriors on a two-year contract on July 2 and officially signed on July 8.
  • Pelicans draft-and-stash prospect Marcos Louzada Silva – aka Didi Louzada — has developed a solid perimeter jumper that should translate well to the NBA game, according to a Heavy.com story. The 6’5” guard can also attack the rim and has shown good strides in his development in recent months. Louzada, the 35th overall pick in June who was acquired in a draft-day deal, will play in Australia with the Sydney Kings during the upcoming season.
  • Jerami Grant should be an ideal frontcourt complement to Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic opines. Grant, projected as the top big off the bench, is a nimble perimeter defender who can guard ball-handlers. Grant, acquired from the Thunder for a protected first-round pick, is also a solid help defender who can block shots.
  • Jared Cunningham will work out for the Warriors on Tuesday, Marc Spears of ESPN tweets. Cunningham, a shooting guard who recently worked out for the Rockets, hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2015/16 season.

World Cup Notes: Team USA, Barnes, Serbia, Protest

It’s an unusual situation for a team that usually features the world’s best offensive players, but the Americans are struggling to score during the World Cup, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Without Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and other stars who have played in past international competitions, Team USA has needed to find other ways to win.

Through its first four games, the U.S. is averaging 87 points, which ranks eighth in the 32-team tournament. The Americans are 20th in field goal percentage at 42.6% and 18th from beyond the arc at 32.8%, even with a 3-point line that is much shorter than the NBA’s. Still, they are 4-0 and have a chance to clinch the top spot in their group heading into the quarterfinals.

“When you look at past USA teams, scoring has not been an issue. There’s been a lot of talent,” said Harrison Barnes, who was part of the 2016 Olympic team. “For us, defense is how we’re going to stay in games and compete and that’s what has been carrying us right now.”

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Barnes isn’t interested in apologies from Greece’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo after a hard foul during Saturday’s game, relays James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. Barnes was attempting a dunk late in the contest when Antetokounmpo pushed him in the back. “The game was over; probably a frustration play,” Barnes said. “Apologies only go so far. If I don’t get up and something would’ve happened, apologies aren’t going to help us in the next game. Luckily everything is all good.”
  • Serbia, which had been considered possibly the strongest challenger to Team USA, lost its first game of the tournament to Spain today and saw star center Nikola Jokic get ejected in the third quarter. The loss puts Serbia and the U.S. on the same side of the quarterfinal bracket and ensures that they won’t meet for the title. “I did not like the stupid reaction of Nikola Jokic,” Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic said after the game. “He has to keep self control and be one of our leaders.” (Twitter link from Emiliano Carchia of Sportando)
  • FIBA has denied an appeal from Lithuania after a controversial loss to France, but all three referees who worked the game have been suspended, according to Carchia. Lithuania contends that Rudy Gobert should have been called for goaltending for touching the rim on a free throw attempt by Jonas Valanciunas that could have tied the game with 30.8 seconds left to play.

And-Ones: Loyd, MVP Race, Bucks, Sterling

Guard Jordan Loyd views his upcoming season in the EuroLeague as an opportunity to showcase his talents before returning to the NBA, Blake Murphy of The Athletic reports. Loyd played on a two-way contract with the Raptors last season and feared he’d get stuck on a similar deal if he stayed in Toronto. The Raptors waived him after he agreed to a one-year contract with Valencia Basket.

“This year, I have a one-year deal, and then try to get back to the league, man. I think it’s gonna help me, honestly,” he said. “I look at it as a year to better myself and to get back to the league. I feel like I am an NBA player, but I’m not naive enough to sit there and let great opportunities pass me by overseas.”

We have more from the basketball world:

  • The Most Valuable Player race for the upcoming NBA season looks wide open, according to a panel of ESPN experts. While reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is favored to win it again, former MVPs Stephen Curry and LeBron James as well as Joel EmbiidAnthony DavisNikola Jokic and Kawhi Leonard are all logical candidates for the top individual award.
  • The Bucks’ biggest challenge will be handling the pressure of high expectations, Malika Andrews of ESPN writes. Not only will they have a target on their backs but it will be a pivotal season in terms of whether they can retain Antetokounmpo long-term. A group of ESPN writers examines the strengths and biggest question marks looming over seven contenders.
  • ESPN took a deep dive into the saga of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell the team after making racially insensitive statements. Perhaps the most eye-opening revelation by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne was that the league nearly shut down during the 2014 playoffs until commissioner Adam Silver took swift and bold action. “I was all-in. Like shut down the whole season,” then-Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. “Maybe that was too far, but as far as that game that day, you can reschedule it, you gotta sort this thing out, because there’s some deep-rooted stuff with him that had to be addressed.”

World Cup Notes: Joseph, Spain, Teodosic, Rankings

Is guard Cory Joseph in or out of the FIBA World Cup for Team Canada? Joseph, the most prominent NBA member remaining on the depleted Team Canada roster, was withdrawing from the competition, according to a tweet from Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith. However, Team Canada coach Nick Nurse said that report was incorrect and that Joseph would indeed join the team in China, John Casey of 7Olympics tweets.

Joseph is not currently with the team during exhibition games in Australia and Sportsnet Canada’s Michael Grange notes that Joseph would have to leave for China soon, given that the tournament begins in 10 days and he needs to adjust to the 12-hour time difference (Twitter link).

We have more World Cup news:

Northwest Notes: Jokic, MPJ, Exum, Wolves

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who earned All-NBA First Team honors this season, expects to play for Serbia this summer in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and is confident the club can win a medal, as he tells Serbian outlet Tanjug (translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Jokic wasn’t on Serbia’s roster for the 2014 World Cup, but he did join the squad for the 2016 Olympics. In both instances, Serbia lost the championship game to Team USA and took home silver medals.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Nuggets are attempting to balance optimism and caution when it comes to 2018 first-rounder Michael Porter Jr., who is expected to make his professional debut in Summer League play this July, writes Alex Labidou of Nuggets.com.
  • Injured Jazz point guard Dante Exum is trying to focus on the positives as he goes through another rehab process, per Aaron Falk of UtahJazz.com. “It’s frustrating to go into an offseason injured,” said Exum, who underwent knee surgery in March. “But I’ve thrown a lot of my energy and time into planning what my offseason will look like so I can be the best player I can be coming out of it.”
  • After participating in Houston’s free agent minicamp this week, veteran guard Xavier Munford will attend a similar camp hosted by the Timberwolves during the first week of June, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Munford last played in the NBA in 2017/18, when he appeared in six games for Milwaukee.
  • Sid Hartman of Star Tribune examines the Timberwolves‘ decision to retain head coach Ryan Saunders, including how big a factor Glen Taylor‘s support of Saunders was.

NBA Announces 2018/19 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has formally announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2018/19 season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden leading the way as the two unanimous selections for the First Team.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Antetokounmpo and Harden scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

As we detailed in March, this year’s All-NBA selections have significant financial implications for several players. Here’s a breakdown of how several All-NBA candidates were impacted:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo is now eligible for a super-max extension with the Bucks, which he can sign in 2020. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22 and would extend his contract by five years.
  • Damian Lillard is now eligible for a super-max extension with the Trail Blazers, which he can sign in 2019. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2021/22 and would extend his contract by four years.
  • Kemba Walker is now eligible for a super-max contract with the Hornets, which he can sign in 2019. It would start at 35% of the cap in 2019/20 and would be for five years.
  • Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, and other super-max candidates who didn’t earn All-NBA honors aren’t eligible for super-max contracts (or a super-max extension, in Beal’s case). Thompson’s and Vucevic’s maximum contracts this summer would start at 30% of the cap.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns‘ extension with the Timberwolves, which goes into effect in 2019/20, will start at 25% of the cap, rather than 30%, because he didn’t earn All-NBA honors.

Beal and Thompson received the most All-NBA votes of any guards who missed out on the All-NBA teams, receiving 34 and 27 points respectively. Sixers guard Ben Simmons got seven points, while no other guards had more than four.

LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs) and Danilo Gallinari (Clippers) were the runners-up at forward, receiving 17 and seven points, respectively. Pascal Siakam (Raptors) had four points, while no other forwards had more than three.

At center, Towns received 20 points, followed by Vucevic at four and Pistons center Andre Drummond with three.

Interestingly, the 15 players named to the All-NBA teams for 2018/19 were the same 15 players that Hoops Rumors readers voted for in our end-of-season All-NBA polls last month. The only differences were George swapping places with Durant and Irving flipping spots with Westbrook.

The full and official All-NBA voting results can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Donovan, Rosas, Murray

Despite the fact that he’s already spent five seasons at the helm of the Thunder and that his All-Star dynamic duo was just dispatched in five games by the Trail Blazers, head coach Billy Donovan is expected to return to his post in 2019/20.

That patience in an era of scapegoating and quick fixes, Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes, could be attributed to general manager Sam Presti‘s tendency to take a long view on things.

Dawson writes about Donovan’s impact in Oklahoma City over the past few seasons, suggesting that he’s earned the faith of the organization and this is one organization in particular that isn’t afraid to see things through.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson has nothing but high praise for recent franchise hire Gersson Rosas, Chris Hine of the Minnesota Star Tribune writes. Rosas impressed the organization with a detailed vision not only for a generic basketball franchise but for the Timberwolves in particular. Beyond the team’s current roster, Rosas had a deep understanding of the team’s history and marketplace.
  • Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic logged a record-breaking 65 minutes played in Denver’s four-overtime loss to the Trail Blazers Friday night. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told the media afterward that he apologized for giving his center such a heavy work load. Jokic averaged 31.3 minutes per game for Denver this season.
  • Despite struggles from the field in his first playoff experience, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is figuring out the difference between regular and playoff basketball, Sean Keeler of The Denver Post writes.

Terry Stotts Says Jokic Elbow Was “Uncalled For”

The Trail Blazers are upset about an elbow from Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in Friday’s four-overtime game that aggravated Enes Kanter‘s left shoulder injury, relays Royce Young of ESPN. Kanter said his shoulder was separated “more” during the game and blames a shot from Jokic that he posted on social media following the game (Twitter link).

Portland coach Terry Stotts addressed the situation today, saying it was “uncalled for” and he “certainly didn’t approve of it.” He isn’t sure if the NBA plans to review the play for possible disciplinary action against Jokic. Technical or flagrant fouls can be handed out retroactively, Young notes.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone defended his star center and disagreed with Stotts’ view of the incident.

“Normal play,” Malone said. “I think Terry is off base there. Personally, I don’t think it was anything malicious. Just like some of their screens in the first two games, I don’t think there was anything malicious to it — with Kanter getting tossed into Torrey Craig. This is the playoffs. We’re all big boys, let’s go out and play the game accordingly.

“I have known Nikola Jokic for four years. He doesn’t have that kind of personality, he doesn’t have that DNA gene where he’s going to go out there and make non-basketball plays and try to hurt anybody or do anything that is beyond the limits of what is sportsmanship and what is not sportsmanship. So I would definitely not agree with Terry’s assessment.”

Kanter separated his shoulder in the final game of the first-round series against the Thunder. Despite playing in pain, he logged 56 minutes last night and posted 18 points and 15 rebounds.

Kanter said after the game that he had to tuck his left arm in his jersey because he was unable to lift it. He received treatment from the team’s medical staff today and his status for tomorrow’s Game 4 remains uncertain.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Saunders, Layden, Donovan

The Nuggets wrapped up their first playoff series victory in a decade last night, but the franchise would have been well positioned for the future no matter what happened, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic is signed through the 2022/23 season, while young star Jamal Murray remains on his rookie contract. Denver has a $30MM option for next year on Paul Millsap and can get nearly $20MM under the cap by declining it. They hold three trade exceptions totaling roughly $33MM that don’t expire until July, and first-round pick Michael Porter Jr. is expected to be ready next year after missing this season because of back surgery.

“What gets me really excited is when I think about what this team has in the next couple of years,” coach Michael Malone said. “I think we have a great window that we’re just beginning with this young group, and Malik (Beasley), Jamal, all of our young guys are a big part of that.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders and GM Scott Layden have been meeting with prospective candidates for the president of basketball operations job and both seem in position to return next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Layden, who was rumored to be on thin ice after the Jimmy Butler fiasco, solidified his relationship with owner Glen Taylor after Tom Thibodeau was fired, Krawczynski adds. Sanders is still classified as an interim coach, but he has the full support of star center Karl-Anthony Towns and virtually all the players.
  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan didn’t offer any clues about his future with the franchise during this week’s exit interviews, relays Clay Horning of The Norman Transcript. “For me, it’s just kind of business as usual,” said Donovan, who is coming off his third straight first-round playoff ouster. “(GM) Sam (Presti) and I had a chance to visit a little bit on the plane yesterday on the way back, just talking about the next couple of days and getting together. So, I’m sure he and I will get a chance to sit down as some of this stuff slows down and talk in detail and (I) look forward to that.”
  • Thunder rookie Deonte Burton thinks he benefited greatly from the time he spent in the G League, relays Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. Burton started the season as a two-way player before signing a multi-year contract in March. “G League is good talent, too,” he said. “Like a lot, a lot more talent than people think.”

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Jokic, Millsap, Wolves

While teammate Damian Lillard says he’s mentally preparing for C.J. McCollum to miss most or all of the rest of the regular season with a knee injury, McCollum isn’t ready to specify a target date or even to provide a general recovery timeline. As Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com relays, McCollum says he’s simply taking the injury “day by day.”

“What, did they say I’ll be re-evaluated in one week?” McCollum said when asked about a potential return date. “So, just taking it day by day, I don’t have a timeline that I’m going to give you guys, but I think just based on the research, there’s not a lot of injuries like this that have happened. So timeline is different just depending on the age, how well your body heals, what you’ve done before that and kind of where you’re at. But hopefully I can be back sooner than later.”

As I noted on Tuesday, the Trail Blazers are in a competitive race for a top-four seed, but have an easier schedule than several of their Western Conference rivals, meaning they won’t rush McCollum back onto the court. The important thing for Portland is that the 27-year-old is as close to 100% healthy as possible when the postseason gets underway. He’s due to be re-evaluated this weekend.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • When the Nuggets clinched a playoff spot earlier this week, Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap locked in bonuses worth $431K and $150K respectively, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN.com, who adds (via Twitter) that both players will receive additional bonuses if Denver wins a postseason series. As Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports observes (via Twitter), Jokic and Millsap will have slightly higher cap hits next season now that those incentives shift from “unlikely” to “likely.”
  • Cameron Reynolds‘ new multiyear deal with Minnesota is actually a three-year contract that runs through 2020/21, tweets Keith Smith. That means the Timberwolves used a portion of their mid-level exception to sign Reynolds. The deal still isn’t expected to include much – if any – guaranteed money beyond this season.
  • The Timberwolves‘ playoff hopes have been extinguished, but there’s still plenty to watch in Minnesota in the coming weeks, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Most pressingly, it remains to be seen who will be making the personnel decisions for the club this offseason or coaching the team next fall, Robson notes.