P.J. Tucker

COVID Updates: Towns, Russell, Tucker, Hyland, Robinson, Bryant, Neto

Players around the NBA continue to enter and exit the league’s health and safety protocols. Here’s the latest update:

  • Timberwolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell have exited the protocols but won’t play against the Clippers due to reconditioning, the team’s PR department tweets.
  • Heat forward P.J. Tucker has been upgraded to questionable to play on Monday against Golden State after exiting the protocols, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets.
  • Nuggets rookie Bones Hyland has exited the protocols and is expected to be available for Monday’s road game against Dallas, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets.
  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has cleared the protocols, the team’s PR department tweets.
  • Wizards center Thomas Bryant and guard Raul Neto have cleared the protocols, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. However, Tremont Waters, who is on a 10-day hardship contract, has entered the protocols, Robbins adds in a separate tweet.
  • Bucks forward Jordan Nwora has entered the protocols and will miss Monday’s game against Detroit, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets.
  • Rockets big man Usman Garuba has entered the protocols, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets.

Three More Heat Players Enter COVID-19 Protocols

P.J. Tucker, Gabe Vincent, and Zylan Cheatham have entered the health and safety protocols, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). As Chiang notes, there are now six Heat players in the protocols, with Tucker, Vincent, and Cheatham joining Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, and Udonis Haslem.

Tucker had already missed the last four games due to a left leg injury, but Vincent and Cheatham were two of nine players active for Miami on Tuesday.

With six players now in the protocols and four others – Bam Adebayo, Dewayne Dedmon, Victor Oladipo, and Markieff Morris – dealing with injuries, the Heat will need to make at least one roster move to ensure they meet the required minimum of eight players before their game on Wednesday in San Antonio.

The Heat are reportedly expected to add Kyle Guy on a 10-day contract, which will get them up to eight players as long as the other seven who were active on Tuesday are good to go on Wednesday. That’s not a given though — as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets, Jimmy Butler (ankle) and KZ Okpala (wrist) are banged up and may not be available. For what it’s worth, Okpala is currently listed as questionable, while Butler isn’t on the team’s injury report.

Miami is eligible to complete up to four more hardship additions, but it’s unclear how many more signings the team will be able to complete before tip-off tonight.

Injury/COVID Notes: J. Green, P. Tucker, E. Davis, T. Brown

Rockets rookie Jalen Green is on track to play on Thursday in Indiana, reports Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston has a back-to-back road set on Wednesday and Thursday vs. the Bucks and Pacers, respectively, so the team is eyeing the second game in that back-to-back for Green’s return.

The No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, Green has been sidelined for nearly a month due to a strained left hamstring, which he suffered on November 24. He averaged 14.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 2.3 APG on .382/.378/.807 shooting in his first 18 NBA games (30.8 MPG) and will be looking to improve upon those numbers when he returns to the court.

Here are a few more updates from around the league related to injuries and COVID-19:

  • Bulls wing Troy Brown has exited the health and safety protocols and is rejoining the team, a source tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Chicago still has five players in the protocols.
  • The Cavaliers have placed veteran big man Ed Davis in the health and safety protocols, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Cleveland is facing a significant COVID-19 outbreak, with eight players in the protocols, but should have enough players available to continue its schedule, says Wojnarowski.
  • An MRI on P.J. Tucker‘s left knee injury revealed no structural damage, says Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. The Heat have diagnosed Tucker’s injury as lower left leg nerve inflammation and ruled him out for Tuesday’s game vs. Indiana. It’s unclear how much more time he might miss.

Bucks Notes: Tucker, Lopez, Cousins

P.J. Tucker didn’t spend much time in Milwaukee, but he became a fan favorite while helping the Bucks capture their first NBA title in 50 years, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Acquired at the trade deadline, Tucker played a vital role on defense during the team’s playoff run. Even though he signed with the Heat during the offseason, Tucker can expect an enthusiastic reception when he returns to the city Saturday night.

“I’ll always love Milwaukee,” he said. “I’ll love the people of Milwaukee forever. They embraced me so much from day one when I first got there to the day I left; they were always there, they always had my back. That’s not something you get right away. You don’t normally get the trust and the love of the city so fast. It was an amazing experience and journey.”

There’s more Bucks news to pass along:

  • The organization is optimistic that Brook Lopez will be able to return sometime this season after undergoing back surgery Thursday, a source tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Coach Mike Budenholzer declined to speculate about a possible timeline, but said Lopez will start rehab soon and remains in the team’s plans for later in the season. “The feedback, the conversations, the follow-up after this morning was very, very positive, including expecting him to be able to play and be productive,” Budenholzer said on Thursday. “I think the surgery today has been done on multiple basketball players, multiple athletes, multiple sports. Return to play is very, very often successful.”
  • Veteran center DeMarcus Cousins, who was signed to help fill the void left by Lopez, had a strong debut with seven points and four rebounds in 15 minutes in Wednesday’s win over the Hornets, Nehm adds. Because Thursday’s game was a back-to-back, Cousins was held out for “return to competition reconditioning.” “The guy has been dominant for so many years,” Khris Middleton said. “He’s been on a bad path with the injuries so far, but I’m glad to see him back on the court healthy. I’m definitely excited and I know the rest of the guys are excited to have him on the court with us.”
  • Cousins is grateful to the Bucks for giving him an opportunity after being out of the league since the end of last season. “It’s always a great feeling to be wanted or appreciated, so when my name is called, I’ll be ready to play,” he said in an interview with Zora Stephenson of NBC Sports (Twitter link).

Southeast Notes: Tucker, Kuzma, Avdija, Harrell, Magic

New starting Heat power forward P.J. Tucker has grown comfortable taking on the less-heralded dirty work necessary for contending clubs to thrive, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

“If you want recognition, then my job isn’t a job for you,” Tucker said. “I don’t do highlights. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me.” A 36-year-old veteran, Tucker most recently served as a key three-and-D contributor on the 2021 champion Bucks before signing a two-year, $15MM deal with the Heat in free agency. In 13 games with Miami, Tucker is averaging 6.2 PPG and 6.5 RPG. The 8-5 Heat are currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“He’s just a winning player,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said of Tucker. “You’ll notice it when he’s on the other team’s best player defensively. But it’s the block-outs, it’s the rotations, it’s the protect-side defense, and then offensively just getting people open constantly. And he does it in every way possible, whether he’s screening pick-and-roll basketball or off-ball screening. He’s just elite in helping guys get open.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards forwards Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija are building a quick chemistry both on the hardwood and beyond it, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington“I think that he does a great job defending, that’s the No. 1 thing I love about him,” Kuzma said of Avdija. “He’ll mix it up, he’ll defend. He’s coachable, you can talk to him, he receives things. He’s a very sweet kid, a very sweet kid.” Surprisingly, the new-look Wizards have emerged with an Eastern Conference-leading 9-3 record to start the season, and the team’s depth around All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal is a big reason why. “He’s very professional, he loves the game and likes to work extra,” Avdija said of Kuzma. “Guys that like to work and want to do extra shots or extra work, I’m always getting along with them because I’ve got that mindset, too.”
  • New additions Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma have brought a relentlessness to an improved Wizards team, writes Spencer Davies of Basketball News. “They were around in September, so we didn’t wait ’til the first official day of training camp to say, ‘Hey, let’s start putting in work,'” new head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Those guys were trying to play together, do a small side of [pickup] games, get workouts [in], finding ways to be on the floor and build that chemistry. So it’s paid off for us thus far.” Kuzma explained why he and Harrell appear to be helping contribute to wins right away. “We know how to win in this league. Trezz has always been an underdog his whole entire career being a second-round pick and fighting his way through the G League and all the way to being the Sixth Man [of the Year].”
  • Though the rebuilding 3-10 Magic are currently the lowest-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, Austin David of the Orlando Sentinel contends that the team’s young players are showing plenty of promise. Orlando may be struggling to score consistently, but intriguing prospects like point guard Cole Anthony, rookie wing Franz Wagner and even big man Mohamed Bamba have given fans plenty to watch thus far. “We’re a young team that won’t take anything from anybody,” an optimistic Bamba said. “We just want to be a smash-mouth team, making winning plays for not only themselves, but for each other. It’s truly a domino effect.”

Central Notes: Tucker, Brogdon, Pistons, Bulls Offseason

Forward P.J. Tucker was surprised and disappointed the Bucks didn’t make a competitive offer to retain him, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Tucker wanted to stay but Milwaukee didn’t show interest in doing so despite his contributions to its championship run.

I was pretty surprised,” said Tucker, who signed a two-year, $15MM deal with the Heat. “You win a championship and you are part of winning something special like that, you would expect that. A chance of it not happening? There’s a chance. It didn’t happen. … You watch role guys in series in the past, usually those guys go back.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • One of the reasons why the Pacers agreed to an extension with Malcolm Brogdon is the way he embraces his leadership role, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files notes. “Malcolm Brogdon is a special player and a special person, and he’s our leader,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “And one of the reasons I feel so great about this extension is that he really wants to be here. He wants to be in a position of high responsibility and leadership. He’s stepped those things up to a very high level.” Brogdon signed a two-year, $45MM extension.
  • The Pistons could have the youngest starting five in the league this season and coach Dwane Casey hopes they can establish a hard-nosed identity this season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “We’ve got to be patient. We’re a young group,” Casey said. “One thing we can control is how hard we come out and compete. We’re going to coach to win each and every possession – not every game, every possession – and compete as such. We want to establish who we are.”
  • The Suns’ ability to make the Finals with a young group fortified by key veteran additions helped convince Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to take an aggressive approach to the offseason, Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated writes. “It was very motivating to see how big a jump a team like Phoenix was able to make,” Karnisovas said. Herring takes a close look at how the pieces acquired by the Bulls could fit together.

Heat Notes: Tucker, Morris, Yurtseven, Lowry, Battier

New Heat power forwards P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris believe they’re ideal fits on a team known for its work ethic and strong veteran culture, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Tucker called it a “match made in heaven,” while Morris said he had a strong sense that he’d eventually end up playing for the Heat.

“(We’re) going to bring toughness and will and dog (mentality), which they already have,” Morris said of the impact that he and Tucker can have in Miami. “We’re just adding to it. Me and Tuck played together a couple years in Phoenix; he’s one of my good friends. We’re both (NBA) champions.”

Here’s more on the Heat:
  • Young center Omer Yurtseven is receiving on-court mentoring from former Heat big man Alonzo Mourning, who is the team’s VP of player programs and development, Jackson writes for The Miami Herald. “He comes in and watches me play and gives me words of wisdom,” Yurtseven said. “It’s really helpful. He dominated his time. I hope to do the same.”
  • New Heat point guard Kyle Lowry joked during his Media Day presser that his good friend Jimmy Butler is “a little bit more crazy” than the stars he has played alongside in the past, as Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald relay. “He wears his emotions on his sleeves,” Lowry said. “(DeMar DeRozan) and Kawhi (Leonard) are very quiet. (Jimmy) makes sure everyone knows there’s no (messing) around. You appreciate players like that.”
  • Head coach Erik Spoelstra is eager to see how the Heat’s new pieces fit together after adding Lowry, Tucker, and Morris to the roster this offseason, per Jackson and Chiang. “I’m just as curious to see as anyone how this all works together,” Spoelstra said. “We checked some boxes of things we wanted to accomplish from a personnel standpoint. We acquired some like-minded people.”
  • Shane Battier stepped down from his front office position with the Heat (VP of basketball development and analytics) earlier this year, but he’s still with the team in a less formal capacity, according to Chiang. Battier is now a strategic consultant for the club and was among the executives in attendance at Miami’s first practice on Tuesday.

Heat Notes: Lowry, Power Forwards, Martin, Camp Questions

New Heat starting point guard Kyle Lowry is looking forward to building an on-court relationship with incumbent stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Lowry, a six-time All-Star and 2019 title winner with the Raptors, inked a three-year, $85MM contract with Miami in a sign-and-trade deal this summer. Butler and Lowry have been friends since winning a Gold medal together for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics. Lowry is the godfather to Butler’s daughter.

“Having that common interest in the love of the game and how hard we work and how much we want to win, that was the first thing of us being on the same page,” Lowry explained of the origins of his relationship with the All-NBA swingman.

Lowry also expressed excitement about what Adebayo brings to the floor. “Bam can handle the ball,” Lowry raved. “He can make plays, super athletic. He’s high energy. He’s competitive.” Lowry expects that his own facilitating abilities will benefit the big man. The 35-year-old hopes that he can help Adebayo “be in better spots” and get “easier looks, layups and dunks.”

There’s more out of South Beach:

  • Questions remain about how much three-point shooting the Heat will be able to get out of their power forward corps, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The team’s two new power forward additions, recent champions P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris, have seen their long-range output dip recently. Tucker, 36, is a career 35.9% shooter, but his shooting fell to 32.2% from deep during the Bucks’ 2021 playoff run. Morris connected on 38.6% of his 3.9 triples per game with the Pistons and Lakers during the 2019/20 season, but saw that number fall to 31.1% in 2020/21. KZ Okpala and re-signed big man Dewayne Dedmon could also see time at the power forward position alongside starting Adebayo in Miami’s frontcourt, though both have been unreliable from long range. Dedmon had two seasons with the Hawks, in 2017/18 and 2018/19, in which he averaged 35.5% or better on a decent volume of three point attempts, but has not connected on more than 21% of his threes in a single season since. Seven-footer Omer Yurtseven, meanwhile, is a solid three-point shooter, but Jackson wonders if the Heat will trust him enough to give him meaningful minutes in their rotation.
  • With training camp just around the corner, new two-way player Caleb Martin will do his darnedest to prove his mettle as a candidate for legitimate Heat roster minutes, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel“At the end of the day, regardless if I’m on a two-way or if I was on an Exhibit 10, it doesn’t matter,” Martin said. “I’m just coming into training camp to try to play the best basketball I can and contribute any way I can and impact enough in a way to where I earn minutes.”
  • The Heat are figuring out rotational questions for the fringes of their roster ahead of training camp, says Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Winderman notes that, in the absence of Kendrick Nunn (now with the Lakers) and Goran Dragic (traded to the Raptors as part of the Lowry deal), Gabe Vincent looks like he will begin the season as the Heat’s prime backup point guard. 6’5″ backup shooting guard Tyler Herro could see an uptick in ball handling duties. The rotational fate of forward Okpala, on the last season of a three-year deal, could be figured out in the club’s preseason. Winderman anticipates that Micah Potter, Javonte Smart, Dru Smith and D.J. Stewart will have plenty to prove in the preseason, though they will most likely spend the majority of the 2021/22 season with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Each player will hope to intrigue the Heat enough in training camp to encourage a call-up to Miami during the season.

Contract Details: Pangos, Exum, Heat, Robinson

Although new Cavaliers guard Kevin Pangos has no years of NBA service under his belt, he’s not receiving the rookie minimum on his new two-year deal with the team. As Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets, Pangos’ guaranteed first-year salary is $1,669,178, while his non-guaranteed second-year salary is $1,752,637.

Interestingly, while they don’t align with the rookie minimum, those two figures do show up on our minimum-salary chart for this season. Pangos’ first-year salary is the equivalent of the minimum salary for a player with two years of NBA experience. His second-year salary is the equivalent of the second-year minimum salary for a player who currently has one year of NBA experience.

Here are a few more contract details from around the league:

  • Dante Exum‘s new three-year deal with the Rockets is even more complicated than initially reported. Exum’s base salaries increase by 8% annually ($2.5MM, $2.7MM, and $2.9MM), while his likely bonuses decrease by 8% per year ($2.5MM, $2.3MM, and $2.1MM). Exum also has some unlikely incentives which increase by 8% annually ($375K, $405K, and $435K). In total, his three-year deal could be worth as much as $16.215MM, but only his first-year base salary ($2.5MM) is guaranteed.
  • As Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald notes, several of the Heat‘s newly-signed contracts include up-front payments. For instance, Kyle Lowry can get $21.25MM of his $26.98MM salary for 2021/22 by opening night, rather than receiving it in equal installments all season. Jimmy Butler‘s extension also features a substantial advance payment, while Duncan Robinson and P.J. Tucker are entitled to more modest ones.
  • Speaking of Robinson, the final year of his new five-year contract with the Heat isn’t just an early termination option — it’s also only partially guaranteed. That means even if he opts into his fifth year, the Heat could save $10MM of his $19.888MM salary by waiving him. However, Robinson’s fifth-year salary would become fully guaranteed if Miami wins a title by that point and he meets certain minutes and games-played thresholds.

Eastern Contract Details: Lowry, Birch, Heat, Dinwiddie, Niang, More

Kyle Lowry‘s new three-year, $85MM contract with the Heat is a standard increasing deal, starting at about $26.98MM and rising annually by 5%, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac.

Based on Lowry’s 2021/22 salary, we now know the value of the traded player exception the Raptors created in their sign-and-trade deal with the Heat, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. That TPE will be worth $4,832,848, which is the difference between Lowry’s new salary and the combined cap hits of Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa.

Murphy also confirms that Khem Birch‘s three-year, $20MM deal with the Raptors is a standard increasing contract with no options or partial guarantees — it eats up about $6.35MM of Toronto’s mid-level exception, leaving $3.187MM on that MLE.

Here are more contract details from around the East, courtesy of Smith:

  • As expected, the new deals for Max Strus, Omer Yurtseven, and Gabe Vincent with the Heat are each two-year, minimum-salary contracts with one year guaranteed and the second year non-guaranteed (Twitter link). P.J. Tucker, meanwhile, got a two-year, $14.35MM contract that uses $7MM of Miami’s mid-level exception in year one. Tucker’s second year is a player option (Twitter link).
  • Spencer Dinwiddie‘s three-year contract with the Wizards only has a base value of $54MM, rather than the previously-reported total of $60MM+ (Twitter link). The deal, which features unlikely incentives that could push its value higher, has a partial guarantee worth $10MM (of $18.86MM) in year three.
  • Georges Niang‘s deal with the Sixers came in at $6.765MM over two years, both of which are fully guaranteed (Twitter link).
  • Trae Young‘s five-year, maximum-salary extension with the Hawks includes a 15% trade kicker (Twitter link).
  • The numbers are also in for the finalized deals between Jarrett Allen and the Cavaliers (Twitter link), Bobby Portis and the Bucks (Twitter link), George Hill and the Bucks (Twitter link), and Danny Green and the Sixers (Twitter link), with no surprises among that group. As expected, Green’s second year is non-guaranteed and Portis has a second-year player option, while Allen and Hill have fully guaranteed salaries.