Norris Cole

And-Ones: Van Gundy, G League, Cole

Former Knicks coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy discussed a variety of subjects with Justin Terranova of The New York Post, including his opinions on David Fizdale, his brother Stan, and whether he’d ever want to coach in the NBA again.

Van Gundy, who last coached in the NBA with the Rockets in 2007, didn’t rule out a possible return to the sidelines in the future. He currently coaches the USA Basketball men’s national team, a roster comprised of mostly G League and former NBA players, doing his best to stay active outside of his job at ESPN.

“It’s been about the same. I always missed it,” Van Gundy said when asked about NBA coaching. “With any job you take the good with the bad and it’s hard to find the right fit. I am really fortunate to have a really good job that I enjoy. So, there’s no angst about coaching. If it happens, great. That’s why I like the Team USA and I’ve really enjoyed it. … I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what’s next.”

Jeff’s brother, Stan Van Gundy, also joined ESPN this past summer to become an analyst. Stan was head coach and president of the Pistons last season, with both brothers working several different jobs with NBA teams across their respective careers. When asked about the possibility of the brothers calling an NBA game together for ESPN, Jeff gave an honest response.

“If we did, that’d be great. If we didn’t, that’d be fine, too,” Jeff said, according to Terranova. “I talk to [Stan] enough on the phone. It’s not like the only form of communication is if we do a game together. He’s doing his thing, and he’s doing really well. If we do a game it’d be a lot of fun.”

Here are a few other basketball odds and ends:

  • New G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim hopes that every NBA team will have a G League affiliate by 2022, according to Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated. Abdur-Rahim is set to officially take over as G League president on Jan. 11, replacing Malcolm Turner. “I’ve seen the evolution of the league and the great work that Malcolm and has group has done,” Abdur-Rahim said. “To see where we are sitting now. … Going towards 30 teams, the professional path, the rebranding, it’s such a great situation with so many opportunities. You’re positioned really with a great team around it. There is so much opportunity to help craft with folks, craft a vision, craft ideas, move forward.”
  • Despite Abdur-Rahim’s goal, NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes the league can have 30 affiliates within “the next two years or so,” as we detailed in a recent story. Currently, 27 NBA franchises have a G League team.
  • Former NBA guard Norris Cole is leaving Sidigas Avellino in Italy, according to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. Cole will join Buducnost Voli as a free agent, a team located in Montenegro, Carchia reports. He last played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season.

Norris Cole To Play In Italy

Longtime NBA point guard Norris Cole will remain overseas for the coming season, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando, who confirms that Cole will play for Italian club Scandone Avellino in 2018/19. The deal was first reported by Sportchannel214 (Twitter link).

It will be the second consecutive season in Europe for Cole, who spent the 2017/18 campaign with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. In 28 EuroLeague games for Maccabi, Cole posted 12.6 PPG, 3.8 APG, and 2.5 RPG. He also averaged 11.8 PPG, 3.6 APG, and 2.2 RPG in 32 Israeli League contests.

Before he headed overseas last year, Cole had appeared in 360 total NBA regular season games for the Heat, Pelicans, and Thunder. He also played in 68 postseason contests, winning titles with Miami in 2012 and 2013. The 29-year-old’s last NBA action came during the 2016/17 season, when he appeared in 13 games for Oklahoma City.

Point Guard Norris Cole Headed To Israel

Point guard Norris Cole will sign a one-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Euroleague, international journalist David Pick tweets via a source.

Cole, 28, appeared in 13 games with the Thunder last season after finally landing an NBA job in March. He averaged 3.3 PPG and 1.1 APG in 9.6 MPG and shot just 30.8% from the field. The previous season, he started 23 of 45 games with the Pelicans and averaged a career-high 10.6 PPG and 3.7 APG in 26.6 MPG. He spent his first 3 1/2 seasons with the Heat.

According to earlier tweet from Pick, the contract is worth $700K.

Cole didn’t generate much buzz on the free agent market, though he did work out with the Hornets last month.

Norris Cole Receives Euroleague Offer

Free agent point guard Norris Cole has received a contract offer from Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv, according to international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link). The deal, which Cole has not yet accepted, would be worth $700K and would bring the veteran guard to the Euroleague.

A former first-round pick, Cole spent the first three and a half years of his career with the Heat, winning a pair of titles with the franchise. He has since spent time with for the Pelicans and Thunder, though he appeared in just 13 games for Oklahoma City last season, playing limited minutes. For his career, the 28-year-old has averaged 7.0 PPG and 2.7 APG in 360 regular season contests.

While Cole has yet to find an NBA home, it makes sense that he’d continue to explore every avenue stateside before heading back overseas — as a six-year veteran, Cole’s minimum salary with an NBA team would be $1,841,849, more than double what his offer from Maccabi Tel Aviv is worth.

Still, Cole had trouble finding an NBA landing spot last season, having not signed with the Thunder until March. And even if he were able to secure an NBA contract, it wouldn’t necessarily be fully guaranteed. Cole also has some international experience, having played in China in 2016, so he may not be averse to returning overseas.

Cole is one of the more notable names among an increasingly sparse group of free agent NBA point guards. Aaron Brooks, Deron Williams, and C.J. Watson are a few of the others who remain unsigned.

Hornets Work Out Free Agent Guards

JULY 25, 11:03am: Michael Scotto (via Twitter) fills out the list of free agent guards who worked out today for the Hornets — Demetrius Jackson, Marcus Paige, Jared Cunningham, and Nick Johnson were also part of the group.

JULY 25, 8:16am: The Hornets will also work out free agent point guard Isaiah Canaan, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN, who tweets that the group session will take place on Tuesday.

JULY 24, 2:47pm: Former Georgia guard J.J. Frazier will also take part in the Hornets’ workout this week, tweets Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

JULY 24, 11:48am: The Hornets are bringing in free agent guard Donald Sloan for a workout, according to international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link). Another free agent point guard, Norris Cole, will also work out for the club, per Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

While Charlotte’s starting backcourt figures to look the same heading into the 2017/18 season, the team is making some changes on the bench. Backup point guards Ramon Sessions and Brian Roberts aren’t returning, and Marco Belinelli was traded to Atlanta. Belinelli’s roster spot has been claimed by lottery pick Malik Monk, and the Hornets signed Michael Carter-Williams as the probable backup for Kemba Walker at the point, but the club may add one more point guard to its roster for depth purposes.

Currently, Briante Weber holds that third point guard spot on the roster, but his deal is non-guaranteed. Per Basketball Insiders, Weber’s salary is believed to become fully guaranteed if he remains under contract through August 1, so the fact that the Hornets are taking a closer look at veteran point guards now may not bode well for Weber’s hold on a roster spot.

Sloan, 29, has more than 200 NBA regular season games under his belt, but spent the 2016/17 season in China with the Guangdong Southern Tigers. His team-high 23.6 PPG and 6.5 APG helped buoy the club to an appearance in the CBA Finals.

As for Cole, the 28-year-old played sparingly for the Thunder last season, but has extensive NBA experience with the Heat and Pelicans, having appeared in 360 total regular season contests since 2011.

Northwest Notes: Stephenson, Hayward, Ezeli, Cole

After appearing in four games with Minnesota earlier this season, Lance Stephenson appears likely to rejoin the team on a second 10-day contract. According to Jon Krawczynski‏ of The Associated Press, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Stephenson is “coming along” in his recovery from an ankle sprain and should sign a new contract soon (Twitter link). Injuries have sidelined Stephenson’s 2016/17 campaign; “Born Ready” has played in a combined 10 games with the Pelicans and Wolves. 

More from around the Northwest…

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that Gordon Hayward is “one of the most coveted upcoming free agents” that no one is noticing. Hayward, who is expected to decline his 2017/18 player option, has averaged a career-high 22.1 points per game, helping the Jazz maintain a comfortable hold on the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Hayward doesn’t register on casual fans’ radars, O’Connor writes, but the seventh-year wing “might be the key to unlocking Utah’s title chances.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman answered some questions about the Thunder for his online chat. Tramel called Domantas Sabonis “one of the few bright spots” in a recent loss to the Suns, with the caveat that he will soon be moved to the bench. Similarly, Tramel forecasts a move to the bench for Alex Abrines once Victor Oladipo returns from injury. When it comes to the offseason, Tramel writes “OKC doesn’t have the flexibility to sign a big free agent. It would have to do some kind of sign-and-trade deal, and the Thunder doesn’t have the kind of assets (draft picks) to pull that off. Plus, you have to convince free agents to come. So the likelihood is not strong that the Thunder can change the roster via big-name free agent.”
  • Festus Ezeli‘s season-ending surgery will involve tissue from a cadaver donor, Tim Brown of The Oregonian writes. Per Brown, Ezeli received bone marrow injections in his left knee in August, with the intention of helping him play in 2016/17. It would be pretty surprising to see the Trail Blazers exercise Ezeli’s $7.733MM option for 2017/18.
  • Norris Cole, who has scored 13 points over three games with the Thunder, is “learning on the job,” Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. “I think for him, being pressured and coming into a new system and a new style and having to be a point guard and run the team, it was a difficult task for him,” Billy Donovan said of Cole. “These are the moments I think that will probably help him get better. He’s a veteran guy. He’s smart, he’s bright and he’ll be able to get better from this.”

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, Cole, Nuggets

Acquired from the Nuggets in the days leading up to the trade deadline, Jusuf Nurkic is a valuable component already breathing new life into the Trail Blazers, writes Joe Freeman of the Oregonian. In five games with his new club, Nurkic has averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in 29.8 minutes per game.

I think his energy is definitely good for our team,” Damian Lillard told Freeman of the big man, later adding that the fiery 22-year-old adds a valuable emotional boost. “I guess you would call him a tough guy — every play he’s saying something.”

This isn’t the first time Nurkic has shown impressive potential, he flashed signs of promise during his rookie campaign in 2014/15. Still, a 2015/16 injury coupled with the emergence of Nikola Jokic this year and last inhibited the Bosnian’s development in Denver.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • So long as the Trail Blazers are within reach of the playoffs, Damian Lillard will be competing at the highest level, writes Jason Quick of CSN Northwest. “We have an opportunity to make the playoffs and I’m going to play until that opportunity is gone, and then I’m still going to play. We have a whole summer until the next season, so I’m going to play.” The veteran understood the appeal of tanking during his rookie campaign when the postseason was never an option but has no desire to rely on the draft for immediate help.
  • The recent signing of Norris Cole gives the Thunder a reliable veteran to back up Russell Westbrook at the point, writes Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman. “[We] just need him to run our team when he’s in there, make good decisions, defend,” says head coach Billy Donovan, “All the things he’s done for most of his career.
  • The Timberwolves have experimented with both Tyus Jones and Kris Dunn in the lineup at the same time, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune. The pair of point guards has been deployed of late when starter Ricky Rubio takes a seat. “I like Tyus and Kris together; that’s a big plus,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “They have good chemistry together. It gives you a second pick-and-roll player.”
  • Rookies have stepped up and made an impact for the Nuggets this season, writes Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. He speaks, of course, about the emergence of Jamal Murray and Juan Hernangomez as valuable contributors even as Denver competes for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Northwest Notes: Cole, Oladipo, Nurkic, Davis

Veteran point guard Norris Cole is thrilled to be back in the NBA after nearly a year away from the league, writes Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman. The Thunder signed Cole for the rest of the season on Wednesday, giving them a veteran point guard to back up Russell Westbrook. The job belonged to rookie Semaj Christon when the season started while Cameron Payne was rehabbing from a foot injury. Christon got it back again when Payne was traded to the Bulls last week. Now Oklahoma City has a more experienced option in Cole, who saw plenty of playoff action during his three and a half seasons in Miami. “I think he understands what he’s walking into and what he’s got to do,” said coach Billy Donovan. “And it will take some time. I think he understands that. Just need him to run our team when he’s in there, make good decisions, defend – all the things he’s done for most of his career.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Donovan isn’t worried that Victor Oladipo‘s back injury will become a long-term problem, Dawson tweets. Oladipo missed his fourth straight game with back spasms Thursday night, but the coach believes it’s just a muscular issue and the recovery time is normal.
  • Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic made a powerful impression Thursday in his first home game since being acquired in a trade with the Nuggets, notes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Nurkic put up  18 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals, making him the first Portland player ever to reach all those numbers in a single game. “I feel great to be here, excited every day to spent with those guys in this city,” Nurkic said. “They give me a lot of opportunity when I came here, so I just try to play and have fun. I know who I am… I know I’m going to be on the court. I just go there and play.”
  • Blazers big man Ed Davis discusses his decision to have season-ending shoulder surgery with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian and says he will definitely be ready for the start of next season.

Thunder Sign Norris Cole

MARCH 1: The Thunder have officially signed Cole, the team announced today in a press release.

FEBRUARY 28: The Thunder have reached an agreement on a rest-of-season deal with free agent point guard Norris Cole, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical. Oklahoma City had opened up a spot on its roster at the trade deadline when the club sent three players to Chicago and received just two in return, so no corresponding move will be required.Norris Cole vertical

[RELATED: Thunder acquire Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott from Bulls]

Cole averaged a career-high 10.6 PPG and 3.7 APG last season in 45 games for the Pelicans, but was unable to land a deal with an NBA team as a free agent during the 2016 offseason. The 28-year-old ended up signing with a Chinese team, the Shandong Golden Stars, and averaged 19.1 PPG and 4.3 APG in nine CBA games before being released due to an injury.

A report in January suggested that Cole was nearing a return to full health after battling hamstring problems, so he should be good to go for for the Thunder. According to Charania, Cole recently received clearance from the CBA to sign with an NBA club.

Although there had been some rumblings that the Thunder might use their newly-opener roster spot to bring back former OKC big man Kendrick Perkins, it made more sense for the club to add a point guard. The deal with the Bulls sent Cameron Payne to Chicago, creating some potential depth issues at the position behind Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder could technically create approximately $3MM in cap room by renouncing a trade exception, but a minimum-salary contract for Cole is likely, in which case cap space would be unnecessary. Assuming the veteran guard formally signs a minimum deal with Oklahoma City today, his cap hit for the remainder of the season would be just under $254K.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Stein’s Latest: Cousins, Dragic, Butler, Matthews

The latest piece from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is packed full of noteworthy trade rumors and tidbits, many of which we’ve already passed along. As Stein reported, the Trail Blazers are eyeing Tyson Chandler, the Nuggets are “openly shoppingJusuf Nurkic, the Hawks are seeking at least a “quality” first-round pick to headline a Paul Millsap trade, and the Nets are looking for two first-rounders in any deal for Brook Lopez.

That’s not all though. Here’s a round-up of several more interesting notes from Stein:

  • With the new designated player extension set to become available when the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement goes into effect in July, the Kings are preparing a summer extension pitch for DeMarcus Cousins, according to Stein. Given the opportunity to present Cousins with a strong extension offer, and the fact that they remain in the playoff hunt in the West, the Kings would require a “monster offer” to consider changing their plans and considering a Cousins trade.
  • The Heat‘s asking price for Goran Dragic remains “too high to encourage any serious trade discussions,” according to Stein.
  • Sources with knowledge of the situation have emphatically denied that the Bulls have made Jimmy Butler available, despite recent speculation to the contrary, Stein reports.
  • Stein is also told that Mavericks swingman Wesley Matthews isn’t currently on the trade block. Sources tell Stein that Dallas has been “batting away pitches” for Matthews.
  • While the Warriors are relatively short on trade options, they’re a strong candidate to add a player who gets bought out of his contract later in the season, says Stein.
  • Stein also relays a report from ESPN colleague Chris Haynes, who says that Norris Cole is nearing a return to full health after battling a hamstring issue. Cole could draw interest from teams seeking point guard help, such as the Cavs.