Nikola Jokic

Northwest Notes: Prince, Nuggets Injuries, Watson, Grant

Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince said he’s relieved that a grand jury in Texas did not charge him with possession of a controlled substance stemming from a May 19 arrest, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“To me, I wasn’t in the wrong in the first place,” Prince said. “The situation that happened was very unfortunate. Things happen, for whatever reasons they happen. I’m past it now, though.”

Police in Arlington, Texas said after the arrest that they found guns and a vape pen with THC oil in Prince’s car when they stopped him for an expired registration. Possession of marijuana is illegal in Texas, and it also violates state law “to carry a gun while engaging in a criminal offense.”

Prosecutors also dropped the gun charges after the grand jury’s decision, according to a TMZ report.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will likely be without several key players again when they host Detroit on Tuesday, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Jeff Green is out with a right knee contusion, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are doubtful due to health and safety protocols, while Aaron Gordon (non-COVID illness) and Ish Smith (right calf strain) are listed as questionable.
  • Rookie Peyton Watson has appeared in just five Nuggets games and is currently playing for their G League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Watson, a late-first round pick, is trying to be patient while developing his skills, Singer writes in a separate story. “They know I want it right now and that I’m super, super motivated to take it,” Watson said. “You’ve got to wait your turn. We’re the No. 2 team in the West.”
  • Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant learned during his first season with the Pistons what it was like being the top scorer for his team. He told current teammate Damian Lillard that he gained a greater appreciation for players with that status, Grant revealed on an interview with The Athletic’s Shams Charania (video link). “I told him I got a lot more respect for people who are the No. 1 option because it’s a lot more difficult than just putting up the numbers,” Grant said.

Western Notes: Jokic, Hyland, Porter Jr., Paul, Fox, Lakers

Reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. The Nuggets center will miss at least Wednesday’s home tilt against the Knicks. Backup point guard Bones Hyland is also in the protocols.

The Nuggets a two-game set at Dallas after the Knicks game. Forward Aaron Gordon is listed as questionable to play on Wednesday due to a non-COVID illness.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone is pleased with the growth Michael Porter Jr. has displayed this season, Singer writes in a separate story. He has shown more discipline on the defensive end and his shot selection has improved offensively. “More important to me, deeper than the numbers, are the fact that offensively, like, I can count on one hand how many shots that he’s taken where you can say, ‘Probably not a great shot,’” Malone said.
  • Chris Paul hasn’t played since an abbreviated stint on Nov. 7 due to a sore right heel. The Suns point guard could be back in action on Wednesday. He’s listed as questionable to play against Golden State, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets.
  • Kings star guard De’Aaron Fox is switching agents and will be represented by Klutch Sports, Damien Barling and James Ham report (Twitter link). Fox was previously with Chris Gaston and Family First Sports Firm.
  • A trio of Lakers rehabbing from injuries — Thomas Bryant, Kendrick Nunn and Dennis Schröder — joined the G League’s South Bay Lakers for a practice and scrimmage Tuesday morning, Mark Medina of tweets. The Lakers recalled them after the practice.

Northwest Notes: Daigneault, Hyland, Nuggets, Gobert

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said he’ll be less forthcoming with the media regarding injuries, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets.

The team was fined $25K by the league for failing “to disclose the game availability status of guard Josh Giddey in an accurate and timely manner” prior to Monday’s contest against the Magic. Daigneault believes his comments to the media the previous day led to the fine, so he’ll be more cautious in the future.

“I’m going to have to be a little less transparent when you say, ‘Hey, so and so, what did they do today?'” Daigneault said. “I’m going to be a little bit more rigid to the injury reporting because we obviously don’t want to put the organization in that situation again.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Bones Hyland has a flashy playing style that could get under the skin of some coaches but the Nuggets Michael Malone doesn’t want to bottle up any of the point guard’s swagger, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. “This is how Bones plays,” Malone said. “I’m not going to take a player and try to make him into John Stockton when he’s not John Stockton.” Hyland had 24 points and seven assists in 25 minutes against San Antonio on Saturday.
  • Malone admits that shot-blocking is one of the Nuggets’ weak points since Nikola Jokic doesn’t provide that type of presence, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. “We don’t have great rim protection,” Malone said. “It’s just not one of Nikola’s strengths. He’s a phenomenal player, but he’s not a shot-blocker.” Jokic has averaged 0.7 blocks per game during his career.
  • Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert won’t play against New York on Monday, the team tweets. Gobert was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols on Saturday.

Northwest Notes: McDaniels, Timberwolves, Brown, Jokic

Timberwolves power forward Jaden McDaniels gets his offense by being in the right space in the right time. A high-scoring night for McDaniels is usually indicative of good ball movement from his Minnesota teammates, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“He’s a really good cutter,” head coach Chris Finch said. “Our offense relies on cutting a lot, and a lot of guys don’t have a great feel for that or are reluctant to cut, because they’re way more ball-dominant, but he’s such a good cutter, and the ball has to be moving in different spots that allows those cuts to open up to be there… He’s going to be the beneficiary of good offense, good flow.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves are emphasizing a motion-heavy offense this season, per Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. All-Star center Rudy Gobert is excited to be sharing the floor, and the rock, with fellow All-Star teammate Karl-Anthony Towns. “I think this is where we can really punish teams,” Gobert said of Towns. “It’s really important that we keep working on it. The fact that he can pass and he’s willing to pass has made him even more of a threat.” 
  • New Nuggets shooting guard Bruce Brown has a fan in head coach Michael Malone, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). “I’m so thankful that we were able to sign Bruce Brown in free agency,” Malone told reporters after Wednesday’s win.
  • Sean Keeler of The Denver Post writes that Brown, known primarily as an unorthodox roll man and defender during his time with the Nets, is looking more multifaceted in Denver, thanks to a solid shooting start. “[His] shooting, in Brooklyn, he really wasn’t known for it because of the way he had to play,” Nuggets power forward Jeff Green said. “He had to sacrifice a lot (there). So I think now, people are going have to respect what he can bring to the table.” The 6’5″ vet did connect on 40.4% of his three-pointers during his 2021/22 season with Brooklyn, albeit on a fairly low-volume 1.3 attempts a night. Thus far with Denver, Brown is shooting 50% on his 3.2 looks from long range.
  • Though Nuggets All-NBA center Nikola Jokic is not an elite rim protector, his court sense on defense allows him to remain underrated on that side of the floor, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post in a new mailbag. Singer also discusses the team’s apparent plan to employ a switch-heavy defense for every position beyond Jokic, the three-point shooting prowess of Michael Porter Jr., and Denver’s road-heavy early season schedule.

Northwest Notes: Timberwolves, Braun, Jokic, Vanderbilt, Beasley

The 1-1 Timberwolves are continuing to adjust to their new-look roster as the 2022/23 season gets going, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“The smaller we go, the better it is for me,” star Minnesota shooting guard Anthony Edwards said after the team’s 132-126 overtime loss to the rebuilding Jazz Friday night. Given that the team’s highest-paid players are seven-foot frontcourt starters Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, Krawczynski notes that this is a loaded statement.

“I have to get him the ball more,” head coach Chris Finch said of Edwards. “We ran a couple things to get the ball in his hands. And then, again, the ball got sticky. We tried to play through KAT there. But he’s got to get some looks. That’s on me.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets rookie shooting Christian Braun seems to be carving out a solid bench role already, having logged a productive 23 minutes as a reserve for the Warriors, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. The 21-year-old Braun, selected out of Kansas in this year’s draft with the No. 21 pick, has emerged as a multi-faceted defender, and could prove to be a vital role player for a team with championship aspirations.
  • Reigning two-time Nuggets MVP Nikola Jokic, one of the league’s best passers, looks set to thrive surrounded by sharpshooting colleagues, notes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. New additions Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Braun raved about the depths of the center’s hoops knowledge. “Jok is unbelievable,” Caldwell-Pope said. Braun added: “You try to learn from him because he knows your spot probably better than you do.”
  • Jazz role players Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley have already been through their share of rebuilds, and hope to use their wealth of experience to help guide the youth movement in Utah, writes Sarah Todd of Deseret News. “Just trying to bring those same qualities and pretty much we’re in the same boat, trying to rebuild and establish a culture and create winning habits,” Vanderbilt said. “[W]e’ve been on three programs [with the Nuggets and the Timberwolves] that before we got there they weren’t playoff contending teams. “We ended up helping be a part of rebuilds and being a part of changing culture. This is not new for us.”

Western Notes: Lakers, Nuggets, Rockets, Potter, Liddell, Spurs

Although he didn’t play in the Lakers‘ preseason finale on Friday due to lower back soreness, Anthony Davis will have “no restrictions, whatsoever” when the team’s regular season tips off on Tuesday in Golden State, head coach Darvin Ham said (link via Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times).

Russell Westbrook, who sustained a left hamstring injury in Friday’s game, could “definitely” be available for the opener, according to Ham, but reserve point guard Dennis Schröder likely won’t be, as Turner writes.

Ham said that Schröder’s thumb ligament injury was still being evaluated as of Sunday, and while he’s still considered day-to-day, the ailment may take a little time to heal, tweets Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nikola Jokic (wrist) and Jamal Murray (hamstring) are both expected to be available for the Nuggets‘ regular season opener on Wednesday in Utah, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Barring an unexpected setback, it will be the first time Denver’s two stars have shared the court in a regular season game since April 2021.
  • The Rockets will likely have a handful of players on the injury report to start the season, but head coach Stephen Silas said on Sunday that he’s hopeful rookie Jabari Smith (ankle) will be available for the team’s opener, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Silas added that Garrison Mathews (illness) and Daishen Nix (back) are “close” to being ready too. Jae’Sean Tate (ankle) is the least likely of the group to be available for the opener, Feigen writes.
  • The two-way contracts signed in recent days by Jazz center Micah Potter and Pelicans forward E.J. Liddell both cover two years, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. As our tracker shows, those are the fifth and sixth two-way deals signed this offseason that are for two years instead of one.
  • Noting that the Spurs have had “so many guys over the years” develop their games in the G League, head coach Gregg Popovich said two-way players Dominick Barlow and Jordan Hall will likely spend most of their time in Austin this season, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “He’ll spend some time in the G League and play lots of minutes,” Popovich said, specifically addressing Barlow’s situation. “If he was with us right now, he’s not going to get on the court that much, which doesn’t help him develop.”

Western Notes: Huerter, Murray, Jokic, Lewis, Mavs

Kings coach Mike Brown is leaning strongly toward Kevin Huerter as his starting shooting guard, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reports. Acquired from Atlanta this summer, Huerter is competing with Malik Monk and Terence Davis for the starting nod.

“The more I watch, I just think Kevin might be the right fit at that two-guard spot,” Brown said. “But for me, right now, that power forward spot can be wide open.”

The list of the candidates at the ‘four’ spot includes lottery pick Keegan Murray. KZ Okpala, Trey Lyles and Chimezie Metu are the other options.

We have more info from the Western Conference:

  • The Nuggets got a scare on Friday when Jamal Murray exited early with an apparent thigh injury. However, Murray just dismissed it as a cramp, he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “It was frustrating, but it’s OK,” Murray said. “It’s just a cramp. It’s not like it was a pull. Nothing serious. My body hasn’t had this much since training camp, three-hour practices and all that. I guess I’m just adjusting to the workload, that’s all.”
  • Nikola Jokic didn’t even go to Chicago for the game due to a sprained right wrist. An MRI came back clean and coach Michael Malone is optimistic Jokic will soon return, according to Singer“The word back in Denver is that he had a good day,” Malone said. “He’s getting more movement, more function with that wrist. We’ll get home late (Friday), we’ll figure out what the plan is (Saturday). Can he practice? Do we need to hold him out further? Come Monday, we’ll make a decision if he’ll be available for the Phoenix Suns game.”
  • Pelicans guard Kira Lewis continues to progress in his rehab of a torn ACL. He has been cleared for 3-on-3 scrimmages, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Lewis tore his ACL last December and the recovery period for a torn ACL is typically 12-plus months.
  • The Mavericks are playing three preseason games, the fewest of any team in the league, and that’s by design, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd wants to keep his team fresh and healthy for the regular season. “I wanted to see less preseason games just to have the data to see how we handle it,” Kidd said. “A lot of teams are playing four, five or six, so I went on the other side to see if we can play three. … It could be something that we don’t ever do again, or if the players say they like it, it’ll be something we’ll do again.”

Northwest Notes: Grant, Blazers, Jokic, Murray, Vanderbilt

New Trail Blazers starting power forward Jerami Grant is working on his chemistry with center Jusuf Nurkic and the rest of his new Portland compatriots, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Fentress writes that the team’s 2022 training camp tipped off on Tuesday in Santa Barbara.

“His length is incredible,” Nurkic raved of the 6’8″ forward. “Layups. Dunks. It’s so effortless.”

“I’m still learning the way he passes,” Grant said of the 6’11” center. “I’m figuring out when to cut, where to cut and kind of reading him.”

As Fentress notes, the Blazers could look to play Grant some minutes at small forward and even as a small-ball center. Like Nurkic, other teammates are also impressed with Grant’s two-way play and athleticism.

“Looking at Jerami, and the size, the athleticism and versatility sticks out,” star point guard Damian Lillard said of watching Grant from afar. “But then being able to see his skill set up close, he has been impressive.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • With four of the team’s starting positions set, three Trail Blazers players will compete in training camp for the remaining opening: the starting small forward gig. In a separate piece, Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian examines the pros and cons of swingman Josh Hart, Nassir Little and Justise Winslow. “I think as a competitor we all want to start, we all want raises,” Winslow said of the process. “But at the same time, you understand that you’re part of a bigger team.”
  • Nuggets MVP center Nikola Jokic and guard Jamal Murray are hoping to pick up right where the dynamic duo left off before Murray’s ACL tear in April 2021, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post“It was fun,” Jokic said of a recent training camp practice together. “Like I said, it feels really natural, it feels easy. I think we’re gonna be back really soon.” Head coach Michael Malone registered his excitement for the return of the pairing this season. “It looks good, but I know it’s going to look better once Jamal gets back into game shape where he completely has no concerns about his knee.”
  • The Jazz view recently-added 6’9″ big man Jarred Vanderbilt as primarily a power forward, and intend to only play him as a center in spot minutes, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jones cites that thinking as one of the incentives behind the club’s trade for former Pistons center Kelly Olynyk.

Northwest Notes: Russell, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jokic, Brown

D’Angelo Russell has an expiring $31.4MM contract, but the Timberwolves guard doesn’t want to dwell on becoming a free agent after the season, he told Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“Nothing changes,” he said. “You see guys approaching a contract year and doing it incorrectly and it becomes magnified if you’re doing it incorrectly. You might not be going about things the right way or ways you would be going about it if it wasn’t a contract year. I try to keep it consistent, my approach.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who begins a five-year, $179.3MM extension this season, believes that the Thunder are ready to turn the corner, he told Andrew Schlecht of The Athletic“I know what I signed up for when I signed a five-year extension… and I don’t think we’re going to be losing for much longer,” he said. “I believe in this team.”
  • Fresh off signing a super-max extension, Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic says he hopes to play his entire career with the organization, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “That’s the goal,” Jokic said.
  • The Nuggets finished last season ranked No. 15 in team defense. Coach Michael Malone wants to see dramatic improvement, Singer relays in another tweet“Our goal this year is to be a top-five defense,” he said.
  • Bruce Brown left the Nets and signed a two-year contract with the Nuggets in free agency. Malone has big plans for him, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets“I don’t think people understand the importance that Bruce Brown is going to bring to this team,” he said.

Northwest Notes: Sexton, Jazz Vets, Jokic, Favors

Details have emerged on the new contract signed by combo guard Collin Sexton, a key return piece from the Jazz‘s trade of All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. According to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link), Sexton agreed to a four-year, $70.95MM guaranteed deal as part of a sign-and-trade with the team that drafted him in the 2018 lottery, the Cavaliers.

Marks reveals that Sexton will earn $16.5MM during the 2022/23 season, with 5% salary bumps in each subsequent season, ending in an $18.975MM cap hit in 2025/26. Marks notes that the deal includes $500K in annual unlikely incentives — if all were reached, the 6’1″ guard would earn a total of $72.95MM over four years.

Sexton, still just 23, missed all but 11 games in 2021/22, after which control of the Cavaliers’ offense landed primarily at the feet of eventual 2022 All-Star point guard Darius Garland. In his 11 healthy games, all starts, Sexton averaged 16.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.1 APG and 0.9 SPG.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets that he is skeptical of the Nuggets being able to land any Jazz veterans. Utah appears to be open to trading all of the older players on its roster for future draft picks and younger pieces, having already made four such deals thus far this offseason, including of its two 2022 All-Stars, Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Wind notes that, among Utah’s older players, jump-shooting power forward Bojan Bogdanovic would help Denver the most.
  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, the reigning two-time NBA MVP, is looking to tear it up overseas in EuroBasket for the Serbian national team, writes Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Jokic, along with fellow All-NBA European stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic, is set to play five group stage games before even getting to elimination rounds.
  • Following the Jazz’s aforementioned decision to enact a roster teardown and accrue future assets to kick off a rebuild, it seems likely that the heavily protected 2024 first-round draft pick included as part of last year’s trade of bench big man Derrick Favors from Utah to the Thunder will remain with Utah, writes Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. The selection is top-1o protected from 2024-25, and then top-eight protected through 2026. If it lands in its protected range for all three years, it would stay with the Jazz and the Thunder wouldn’t get anything.