Omer Asik

Central Notes: LaVine, Prunty, Asik

It has been one year since Bulls guard Zach LaVine tore his ACL. Since then, LaVine has changed teams and spent months recovering. As Dan Santaromita of NBC Sports Chicago writes, the 22-year-old has made progress since returning to the court but is still finding his legs.

He’s had stretches in the last few games where I think he’s shown what he can do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Now it’s about getting his rhythm and timing and getting him to understand when we produce good shots he’s got to raise up and shoot those.

LaVine has looked solid in limited action for the Bulls this season, posting averages of 14.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in 10 contests. His shooting percentages are down versus his time with the Timberwolves but that is to be expected from somebody who had been away from the game as long as he was.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers don’t intend to change their trade deadline strategy due to Kevin Love‘s injury, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. Love’s absence will be felt, particularly on the glass, but the organization expects players like LeBron James and Jae Crowder to step up in that regard.
  • Interim head coach Joe Prunty has made major strides with the Bucks in his first few weeks at the helm, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes, and the team’s offensive and defensive ratings have reflected that. “Right now, you can tell guys are a little bit looser,” guard Khris Middleton said. “With Joe, he preaches confidence. His plays are designed for us to move the ball side to side more. And just, not necessarily just playing off one matchup, but just trying to use the matchup as a decoy to get other guys shots.
  • Having started his career with the Bulls, recently acquired Omer Asik is happy to be back in Chicago, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes, but the big man also knows that he may not see a ton of playing time. “They are really young and playing hard, so it will be good to see. I’m not young anymore. As much as they need me, I’ll be ready,” he said.

Scotto’s Latest: Pelicans, Gordon, Carroll, Nuggets

Before sending Omer Asik to Chicago, the Pelicans explored trading the veteran center to a number of other teams, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. League sources tells Scotto that the Hawks and Pelicans recently talked about a deal that would have sent Asik and a first-round pick to Atlanta in exchange for Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.

The Mavericks discussed a deal that would have seen them take on both Asik and Alexis Ajinca – along with a first-round pick – in exchange for Wesley Matthews, but Dallas was hesitant to take on two undesirable multiyear contracts, says Scotto.

Additionally, the Pelicans proposed a pair of trades to the Lakers, according to Scotto, who reports that one would have sent Asik and a first-round pick to L.A. for Jordan Clarkson, while the other would have sent Ajinca and a second-round pick to the Lakers for Julius Randle. That second deal could technically still happen, but I can’t imagine it would appeal to the Lakers.

Scotto’s piece for The Athletic is jam-packed with more noteworthy trade rumors, so let’s dive in and round up some highlights…

  • The Magic‘s front office has “left no stone unturned” as the team explores potential trades. Scotto hears that the club has even quietly gauged trade interest in Aaron Gordon, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. I imagine Orlando would require a pretty overwhelming offer to seriously consider moving Gordon.
  • Several teams have expressed interest in Nets forward DeMarre Carroll, according to Scotto, who identifies the Heat as one of those teams.
  • As we heard on Thursday, the Bulls are still very much open for business. Robin Lopez is a trade candidate, but Chicago wants a first-round pick in a deal for the veteran center, per Scotto.
  • Scotto names Malik Beasley, Kenneth Faried, and Emmanuel Mudiay as trade candidates for the Nuggets, noting that the team could be a suitor for Jazz guard Rodney Hood.
  • Hood isn’t the only Jazz guard who could be available at the deadline — Scotto hears that Utah has also explored the trade market for Ricky Rubio.
  • Several teams are monitoring Pistons forward Stanley Johnson. Scotto notes that Johnson was one player the Magic coveted when they discussed deals with Detroit earlier in the season, and adds that the Spurs have interest too.
  • Speaking of the Spurs, they’re one of the teams – as are the division-rival Mavericks – that has expressed interest in Knicks center Willy Hernangomez.
  • The Wizards are keeping an eye on the trade market and buyout market for a backup point guard, writes Scotto.
  • Fourth-year forward Noah Vonleh has been shopped by the Trail Blazers, according to Scotto. In addition to keeping tabs on DeAndre Jordan, Portland is also interested in acquiring a small forward.
  • Executives around the NBA believe that Raptors swingman Norman Powell could be a trade candidate during the offseason due to the emergence of rookie OG Anunoby.

Pelicans Acquire Nikola Mirotic From Bulls

The Pelicans and Bulls have finalized a trade that sends forward Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans, with both clubs confirming via press releases that the deal is official. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) first reported that the Pelicans and Bulls had reached an agreement in principle.Mirotic vertical

The two teams appeared to be on the verge of a trade earlier this week, but hit a roadblock in the form of Mirotic’s $12.5MM team option for 2018/19. The veteran forward, who had veto rights unless that option was exercised, wanted New Orleans to pick it up, but the Pelicans were initially unwilling to do so due to concerns about their ability to retain Mirotic and re-sign DeMarcus Cousins without going into luxury tax territory.

The Pelicans have now guaranteed Mirotic’s $12.5MM salary for next season, which clinched the deal, per Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Omer Asik and a future first-round pick are headed to Chicago, as was the case in the initial agreement.

New Orleans needed to include at least one more salary to stay under a hard cap, so Tony Allen heads to Chicago too, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Allen will likely be waived by the Bulls, Woj tweets.

The Pelicans will open one extra roster spot by also adding Jameer Nelson to the trade, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Nelson may also be cut, but it probably won’t happen immediately, per Johnson, who tweets that the point guard’s future is unclear. Paxson said that there is a week left until the trade deadline so the Bulls still have time to decide on waiving players, Johnson tweets.

In order to complete a three-for-one deal, the Bulls will have to open up a roster spot, since they currently only have a single opening. Quincy Pondexter looks like the strongest candidate to be waived.

[RELATED: Bulls to waive Pondexter]

Speaking of Pondexter, according to Johnson (Twitter link), the Bulls will also be returning the Pelicans’ own 2018 second-round pick to New Orleans after initially acquiring it in a September trade that landed Pondexter in Chicago. That pick served as an incentive to convince the Pelicans to exercise Mirotic’s second-year team option, Johnson notes (via Twitter).

The first-round pick the Bulls are getting in the swap will be the Pelicans’ 2018 first-rounder, and it will have “minimal” protections, tweets Wojnarowski. TNT’s David Aldridge clarifies (via Twitter) that it’ll be top-five protected this year, while Johnson tweets that it’ll be top-eight protected in 2019. Finally, Woj adds that there will be a pick-swapping option in the 2021 draft, with the Bulls having the opportunity to swap their second-round pick for the Pelicans’ second-rounder.

“The draft asset we acquired was far and away the best thing we had got (in talks),” Bulls executive vice president John Paxson said to reporters, including Johnson. “It’s consistent with the direction and plan we talked about this summer.”

Mirotic, who has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the 2017/18 campaign, was sidelined with facial injuries to start the season after being punched by teammate Bobby Portis during an altercation in practice. Mirotic’s camp reportedly issued an ultimatum in the fall in an effort to get the Bulls to trade either Mirotic or Portis, but the power forwards were willing to bury the hatchet and coexist on the court when Mirotic got healthy.

Since returning to action, Mirotic has enjoyed the most productive year of his NBA career, averaging 16.8 PPG and 6.4 RPG to go along with a .474/.429/.823 shooting line. All of those numbers are career highs. Despite his solid play and the club’s improved record, Mirotic was still said to prefer a trade out of Chicago, and was pulled out of action this week as the Bulls attempted to finalize a deal.

As the Bulls explored the market for Mirotic, the Jazz and Pistons were cited most frequently as potential trade partners. However, Detroit landed a bigger fish on Monday, acquiring Blake Griffin from the Clippers, and Utah was reportedly unwilling to include a first-round pick in an offer for the stretch four.

The Bulls, who were said to be seeking a first-rounder for Mirotic all along, will get that pick from the Pelicans, though they’ll have to give up a second-rounder and take on an unwanted contract in the process. Asik, a former Bull, is earning about $10.6MM this season, with a guaranteed salary worth $11.29MM in 2018/19. The veteran center has one more year on his deal in 2019/20, but it’s only partially guaranteed for $3MM. Allen and Nelson are on expiring minimum salaries, so they won’t have any impact on the cap beyond this season.

As for the Pelicans, they’re set to fill the lineup hole created when Cousins went down on Friday with a season-ending Achilles injury, and they may not be done adding frontcourt help. New Orleans has been strongly linked to Greg Monroe, who is being bought out by the Suns, and Scott Kushner of The Advocate tweets that the acquisition of Mirotic won’t adversely affect the club’s pursuit of Monroe. In fact, by clearing a little salary and opening up a pair of roster spots in this deal, adding Monroe may be even more viable for the Pelicans, who have room to add two players on minimum salaries, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link) — still, the team may not be able to offer him as significant a role with Mirotic now in the mix.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans’ Deal For Nikola Mirotic Falls Apart For Now

1:40pm: In his full report on the story, Wojnarowski suggests that Mirotic’s 2018/19 option is the primary source of the stalemate. Mirotic appears unwilling to sign off on the deal if his option isn’t exercised, and the Pelicans are reluctant to commit to that option due to concerns about next season’s payroll.Nikola Mirotic vertical

12:59pm: Goodwill classifies the trade as having hit a “snag,” while Johnson says the two teams remain in “advanced discussions” (Twitter links). So while nothing is officially done yet, it sounds like the deal isn’t dead either.

12:48pm: The Pelicans and Bulls had a deal in place for Mirotic, but it has fallen apart for now, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter) that the Pelicans’ proximity to a hard cap prevented the team from trading Asik straight up for Mirotic.

If the Pelicans include another player for cap purposes, the deal could still happen, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. However, New Orleans hadn’t yet agreed to pick up Mirotic’s team option, so a trade would also require his OK, assuming the Pelicans don’t relent and agree to exercise that option.

12:40pm: The Pelicans and Bulls have reached an agreement on a trade that would send power forward Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans, according to Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Goodwill reports that the Bulls will receive Omer Asik and a first-round pick in exchange for Mirotic.

There have been no further reports or official announcements confirming the move so far, but it’s possible the two teams are working out details related to Mirotic’s contract. His deal gives him the ability to veto trades unless his 2018/19 team option is exercised, though there was a belief that he’d give his approval to a deal if the Bulls found an offer they liked.

Mirotic, who has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the 2017/18 campaign, was sidelined with facial injuries to start the season after being punched by teammate Bobby Portis during an altercation in practice. Mirotic’s camp reportedly issued an ultimatum in the fall in an effort to get the Bulls to trade either Mirotic or Portis, but the power forwards were willing to bury the hatchet and coexist on the court when Mirotic got healthy.

Since returning to action, Mirotic has enjoyed the most productive year of his NBA career, averaging 16.8 PPG and 6.4 RPG to go along with a .474/.429/.823 shooting line. All of those numbers are career highs. Despite his solid play and the club’s improved record, Mirotic was still said to prefer a trade out of Chicago.

As the Bulls explored the market for Mirotic, the Jazz and Pistons were cited most frequently as potential trade partners. However, Detroit landed a bigger fish on Monday, acquiring Blake Griffin from the Clippers, and Utah was reportedly unwilling to include a first-round pick in an offer for the stretch four.

The Bulls, who were said to be seeking a first-rounder for Mirotic all along, appear poised to get that pick from the Pelicans, though they’ll have to take on an unwanted contract in the process. Asik, a former Bull, is earning about $10.6MM this season, with a guaranteed salary worth $11.29MM in 2018/19. The veteran center has one more year on his deal in 2019/20, but it’s only partially guaranteed for $3MM. By comparison, Mirotic will earn $12.5MM this season and has a $12.5MM team option for ’18/19.

While the Bulls did well to find a first-round pick for a player whose value looked to be on the decline just a few months ago, it’s worth questioning why the team is willing to take on a toxic contract like Asik’s to make it happen, just seven months after selling a high second-round pick to the Warriors for a mere $3.5MM.

As for the Pelicans, they’re set to fill the lineup hole created when DeMarcus Cousins went down on Friday with a season-ending Achilles injury. The move signals that New Orleans still fully intends to make a playoff push this season, pairing Mirotic with Anthony Davis in the frontcourt. The club will also have the financial flexibility to retain Mirotic on his team option next season, since it’ll only cost about $1.2MM than Asik’s guaranteed salary would have. The ability to retain Mirotic is solid insurance in the event that Cousins leaves in free agency — if Cousins re-signs, it’d be interesting to see if the Pelicans would want to carry all three players on next year’s roster.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Woj’s Latest: Pistons, Fournier, Lakers, Hawks

Shooting guards and small forwards are in high demand as the trade deadline approaches, and there simply aren’t that many quality wings expected to be available, Adrian Wojnarowski writes in his latest report for ESPN.com. As Wojnarowski details, the Pistons, Knicks, Pelicans, and Trail Blazers are just a few of the many teams looking for upgrades on the wing.

DeMarre Carroll (Nets), Alec Burks (Jazz), Kent Bazemore (Hawks), and Evan Fournier (Magic) are among the veterans attracting some interest on the trade market, according to Wojnarowski, who notes that the Pistons pursued a deal for Fournier. Such a trade would be hard to pull off without including Reggie Jackson‘s contract, so nothing’s imminent at this point, but the Pistons continue to be aggressive on the trade market, a reflection of Stan Van Gundy‘s desire to win now, says Wojnarowski.

As for the Pelicans, they also remain active in trade talks despite their limited assets, according to Wojnarowski, who notes that Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca have negative value and won’t be movable without New Orleans attaching a draft pick or two. If the Pelicans can’t trade for a wing, they’ll have to count on getting Solomon Hill back healthy for the home stretch of the season.

Here’s more from Woj:

  • The Lakers have “made it clear” that Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. are available in trades, reports Wojnarowski. The club had been planning on waiting until after the season to try to move Clarkson, but there may be a mutual desire to get something done on that front sooner rather than later.
  • Bazemore, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marco Belinelli are expendable in Atlanta, where the Hawks are focused on unloading veterans and stockpiling more young players and draft picks, per Wojnarowski.
  • The Bulls still plan to trade Nikola Mirotic after January 15, assuming he OK’s a deal. According to Wojnarowski, Mirotic is somewhat intrigued by the Jazz and their head coach Quin Snyder, who has a reputation for maximizing offensive talent.
  • It’s possible their outlooks could change by the trade deadline, but the Thunder and Pelicans currently have no plans to trade Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins, respectively. Both players can become unrestricted free agents this July.
  • We passed along more rumors from Woj in full stories earlier today, providing the latest on DeAndre Jordan and examining the Grizzliesasking price for Tyreke Evans.

Southwest Notes: Rondo, Asik, Martin

The addition of Rajon Rondo to the Pelicans lineup helps ease the burden on superstar big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

When the guard was sidelined for 13 games as a result of a core muscle injury, Cousins – the Pelicans’ 6’11”, 270-pound center – ended up handling much of the team’s playmaking responsibilities.

I don’t have to be as much of a playmaker as I’ve had to be in the past,” Cousins said of Rondo’s return to the Pelicans. “Having a floor general like that and missing him from the beginning of the season, it hurt us as a team. But once we get him at 100 percent, I think we’ll be a totally different team.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • For the first time since last February, Pelicans big man Omer Asik was on the Pelicans‘ active list, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes, but that doesn’t mean he’ll start logging big minutes any time soon. “He hasn’t been able to run or condition or anything like that,” head coach Alvin Gentry said prior to the team’s Wednesday night contest. “Even when he’s released to play, it’s going to take a while for him to be able to play anything other than really short spurts.
  • Tennessee native Austin Nichols will suit up in the FedEx Forum as a member of the Memphis Hustle tomorrow night. It will mark the G League affiliate’s only performance in the Grizzlies‘ arena this season. “I was a little burned out on ball, but I’ve fallen back in love with it,” Nichols, once a featured member of the city’s revered college program until his unceremonious exit told Pete Wickham of Grind City Media. “I’ve matured on and off the court, trying to figure out who I wanted to be, and trying to mature as a person. I wanted to stay in the States, and when this option became available, it was great to be back home playing for the city.”
  • Although he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase it, Grizzlies forward Jarell Martin believes that the sky is the limit for his development as a player, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype writes. The 23-year-old, who didn’t start playing basketball until his junior season in high school, has averaged 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game this season.

Southwest Notes: Asik, Parsons, Rockets, Noel

Pelicans center Omer Asik, who appeared in just 31 games during the 2016/17 season, won’t be ready to start training camp this week, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate, who tweets that Asik is being treated for Crohn’s disease. General manager Dell Demps indicated today that Asik will be away from the team for camp, and there’s no timetable for his return to the court (Twitter link via Daniel Sallerson).

For his part, the Pelicans big man says even with no timetable for his return, he’s feeling much better. Asik’s health problems, which began with a parasite, have persisted for much of 2017, and he didn’t start feeling normal until last month (Twitter links via Kushner).

Here’s more from around the Southwest division:

  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace confirmed at the club’s Media Day that Chandler Parsons is healthy and ready to go for camp. Parson, who has been playing five-on-five ball, will be a full participant, tweets Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
  • While some NBA observers have concerns about how Chris Paul and James Harden will mesh in Houston, Rockets president of basketball operations Daryl Morey isn’t worried, suggesting today that the club is “100% certain” it will work (Twitter link via Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle).
  • Ryan Anderson was able to breathe a sigh of relief this weekend when New York sent Carmelo Anthony to a team besides the Rockets. Speaking today to reporters, including Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter links), Anderson said he talked frequently to the Rockets’ brass and believed there was a “low probability” of being dealt, which he appreciated, since he and his family “love” Houston.
  • Addressing Nerlens Noel‘s role with the Mavericks, head coach Rick Carlisle said today that the big man will likely come off the bench, adding that Noel is okay with that (Twitter links via Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com). When he took center stage at Media Day, Noel was asked about signing the one-year qualifying offer with the Mavs and replied, “I love the city of Dallas. I do. But we all know what happens with this business.”

Omer Asik, Quincy Pondexter Out For Season

MARCH 30: The Pelicans confirmed today that neither Asik nor Pondexter will return to action this season. Asik, who is recovering from a gastrointestinal infection, is expected to resume basketball activities in about three or four weeks.

MARCH 24: Two players on the Pelicans’ roster, center Omer Asik and shooting guard Quincy Pondexter, are not expected to return for the rest of this season, head coach Alvin Gentry confirmed today, per Justin Verrier of ESPN.com.

“Both of those guys will be gearing toward the summer and next year, really,” Gentry said.

Asik, who started 19 of the 31 games he played for the Pelicans earlier this season, hasn’t been a real part of the club’s rotation since mid-December. The veteran center has appeared in just three games for New Orleans since December 21, and hasn’t seen the court at all since February 10. As Verrier notes, Asik contracted a bacterial infection that caused him to lose a significant amount of weight.

As for Pondexter, it has been a long road back for the 29-year-old, who has been sidelined by knee injuries for each of the last two seasons. Pondexter hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since April 2015, when he was a starter for the Pelicans in their first-round loss to the Warriors.

While it’s not particularly surprising that Asik and Pondexter won’t return for the Pelicans this season, it will be interesting to see how they fit into the team’s plans going forward. Asik’s contract continues to be an albatross for New Orleans — it will exceed $10.5MM next season and increase to $11.2MM+ in 2018/19. Pondexter, meanwhile, has one more year left on his deal at just under $4MM next season. Both players could be on the trade block this summer, though they’ll probably have very limited value.

Trade Rumors: Chandler, OKC, Pelicans, Raps, Suns

It’s trade deadline day in the NBA, and Hoops Rumors will have you covered with all the latest news and rumors leading up to today’s 2:00pm central deadline. Let’s check in on a few Thursday mornings rumblings…

  • According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, potential Wilson Chandler suitors may be unwilling to meet the Nuggets‘ asking price, which is higher than expected. If that’s the case, Denver would prefer to simply keep Chandler and push for a playoff spot.
  • Arron Afflalo and Nick Young are among the names that have been linked to the Thunder as they seek a wing scorer, according to Kyler.
  • The Pelicans, who now have two pricey big man under contract and will look to re-sign Jrue Holiday to a lucrative new deal this summer, are looking to move some contracts, tweets David Aldridge of TNT. Aldridge identifies Alexis Ajinca and Quincy Pondexter as players who are available in New Orleans. Of course, the Pelicans would love to move Omer Asik‘s deal as well, though that’s less likely.
  • Today’s big decision for the Raptors will be whether to give up a future first-round pick – likely attached to Jared Sullinger‘s expiring deal – for Suns forward P.J. Tucker, says ESPN’s Marc Stein (Twitter link). Sportsnet’s Michael Grange (via Twitter) gets the sense that Toronto would strongly prefer to keep its pick in a loaded 2017 draft. Still, the Raps are fond of Tucker, tweets Doug Smith of The Toronto Star.
  • According to Stein (via Twitter), the Suns continue to explore the market for deals involving Brandon Knight and other veteran players, including Tyson Chandler. However, the team has “struggled all week” to find traction for that sort of trade.

Pelicans Seeking Center, Dangling 2018 Pick

The Pelicans were at the center of an interesting trade rumor on Monday night, having been linked to the Sixers in a possible Jahlil Okafor deal. However, those Okafor discussions weren’t the only talks New Orleans has engaged in recently, as Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. According to Wojnarowski (all Twitter links), the Pelicans have been active on various fronts in their efforts to add a center, dangling multiple assets, including their 2018 first-round pick.

In addition to the Okafor discussions, New Orleans’ search for a center has resulted in a pursuit of Nets big man Brook Lopez, according to Wojnarowski, who reports that the Pelicans have been exploring larger deals in the hopes of unloading Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca. Asik and Ajinca, who will earn a combined $15.56MM next season, are under contract for multiple years and aren’t a part of the team’s rotation.

The Pelicans still own their 2017 first-round pick, but the team is reluctant to move that selection. This year’s draft class is expected to be one of the deepest and most talented in the last decade, and New Orleans is on track to have a lottery pick — our reverse standings show that the Pelicans are currently tied with the Kings for the NBA’s seventh-worst record.

While the Sixers are said to have some interest in a deal with the Pelicans, it’s not clear if a reported offer of Ajinca and New Orleans’ 2018 first-rounder will be enough for Philadelphia. Sam Amick of USA Today tweets that the protection on the 2018 pick is a sticking point for the Sixers, who may be looking for more value anyway. Meanwhile, various reports have suggested that Philadelphia would like to find a way to include Jrue Holiday in any deal.

As for the Nets and Lopez, multiple outlets have reported in recent weeks that Brooklyn wants to secure two first-round picks in any deal for its standout center. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders wrote this morning that Brooklyn is seeking a 2017 lottery pick – plus an additional first-rounder – in any package for Lopez, so the Nets would presumably be interested if the Pelicans wanted to discuss this year’s pick.

I’d be surprised if New Orleans is willing to meet the Nets’ asking price, and it remains to be seen what sort of deal the Sixers would accept. Still, the Pelicans are actively scouring the trade market, and appear to be a good bet to make a deal in the coming weeks.