Eric Bledsoe Seeking Trade?

An eventful year on NBA Twitter continued on Sunday, as Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe posted a tweet this afternoon that simply read, “I don’t wanna be here.” Bledsoe’s tweet comes in the wake of an awful to start the season for Phoenix, with the club losing its first three games by an average margin of 30.7 points per contest.

While Bledsoe’s tweet lacks context, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 helps provide that context, tweeting that the veteran guard wants to be moved, and will be moved at some point. Gambadoro adds that he spoke to Bledsoe earlier today and isn’t surprised that the 27-year-old has made his dissatisfaction public. Gambadoro also hears that Suns owner Robert Sarver will meet with head coach Earl Watson later today (Twitter link).

Bledsoe, who began his career with the Clippers, has been with the Suns since the 2013/14 campaign. The team had a great year in his first season in Phoenix, winning 48 games, but fell shy of the postseason that spring and has seen its win total crater since then. The Suns explored the possibility of adding an impact veteran in the offseason, but ultimately opted to remain patient with their rebuild, drafting Josh Jackson and making only modest investments in free agency.

Entering the year with the NBA’s youngest roster, Phoenix has lost multiple games by more than 40 points in the season’s first week, so it would hardly be a surprise if Bledsoe is indeed seeking a trade. The point guard was the subject of trade rumors earlier this year, with his name coming up frequently when the Suns were said to be exploring a possible trade for Kyrie Irving, but he stayed put through the offseason.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter links), the NBA has the ability to fine a player for a “public statement detrimental to the NBA,” and fined Markieff Morris $10K two years ago when Morris publicly demanded a trade. Bledsoe’s tweet leaves some room for interpretation, so it will be interesting to see if the NBA responds.

Central Notes: Pistons, Rose, Wade, Markkanen

Despite a disappointing 2016/17 campaign, in which the Pistons finished 37-45 and missed the playoffs, owner Tom Gores still has confidence in coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy, reports Ansar Khan of MLive.com. “Do I believe in Stan? Absolutely,” Gores said. “He works hard. He told me the other day how hard this team is working. They practice hard. The game is one thing, but practice is important, so Stan really feels good about it … We’re seeing this through, absolutely.”

Gores also touched on the Pistons’ return to Detroit after spending the prior 29 seasons in Auburn Hills. “Back in Detroit. I think that’s a big deal. The city’s worked really hard for this. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure exactly how to express it other than I’m just so happy for you guys, for the community … I feel really fortunate to be here.” Despite last season’s frustration, the Pistons are off to a 2-1 start; enough to place them atop the Central Division in the early going of the 2017/18 season.

Here’s more news from the Central:

  • Derrick Rose is unconcerned about his left ankle injury that kept him out of the Cavaliers’ 21-point loss against the Magic on Saturday night, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. In fact, Rose seems more concerned about the effect his absence may have on his conditioning level rather than the ankle itself. “It’s a mild sprain, nothing too serious,” Rose said. “Been getting lot of treatment since this morning, actually (Friday) night. They’re staying on top of it. Like I said, I just don’t want to lose my conditioning because I feel like I’m in great shape right now.” 
  • While Rose looks to make his return to the court in the near future, teammate Dwyane Wade is still trying to find his rhythm on the court with the Cavaliers, reports Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Wade is averaging a mere 5.7 PPG on 28% shooting in his first three games with the Cavaliers. “I’m trying to find it, man,” Wade said. “It’s very different, different than I’ve ever played. Just trying to find my way, as we go on, see how I can be best for this team. Everything’s happened so fast.”
  • In the midst of a rebuilding year and an embarrassing altercation between teammates, the Bulls seem to have found at least one bright spot in rookie Lauri Markkanen, reports Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. Scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in Saturday night’s loss to the Spurs, Markkanen received high praise from a future Hall-of-Famer, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich“Markkanen is a wonderful player. He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.” With both Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the next several games, at least, Markkanen will continue to have an opportunity to showcase his talent against the rest of the league.

Isaiah Hartenstein Joins Rockets’ G League Affiliate

Isaiah Hartenstein, the Rockets’ lone 2017 draft pick, is among the players listed on the training camp roster for Houston’s G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Twitter link via Chris Reichert of 2 Ways & 10 Days).

After being selected with the 43rd overall pick in the 2017 draft, Hartenstein didn’t sign an NBA contract, with the Rockets opting not to carry him on their 15-man roster in his rookie season. Instead, it appears Hartenstein signed a straight G League contract, which will allow him to play for the Vipers without the Rockets losing his NBA rights.

The approach is similar to the one the Celtics took with second-round pick Abdel Nader a year ago. Although he wanted to sign an NBA contract, Nader agreed to ink a G League deal and joined the Maine Red Claws, with Boston hanging on to his NBA rights. Nader had an outstanding season for the Red Claws, earning All G League honors, and the C’s rewarded him this summer with a multiyear NBA contract that’s guaranteed for 2017/18.

Hartenstein, who is still just 19, spent most of his teenage years playing overseas in Germany and Lithuania, and was viewed as one of the top international prospects in this year’s draft. The seven-footer remains raw, but is viewed as a versatile big man who is capable of earning an NBA rotation spot in the coming years.

International basketball reporter David Pick first reported back in late July that the Rockets were expected to have Hartenstein play in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Weekly Mailbag: 10/16/17 – 10/22/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com.

Will the Pistons blow up their roster? — Sundeep Kothari, via Twitter

It all depends on the results. Detroit has just one playoff appearance during the current decade and needs to give fans a reason to keep coming to the team’s new home at Little Caesars Arena. The postseason is certainly within reach in a weakened Eastern Conference, and the Pistons will probably still be in the race when the trade deadline arrives in early February. If something goes terribly wrong, the first player on the trading block will be Andre Drummond, who is owed more than $52.5MM over the next two seasons and has a player option of more than $28.75MM for 2020/21. Next would be Reggie Jackson, who had a disappointing season while battling injuries last year and is owed more than $35.1MM over the next two seasons. Detroit isn’t projected to have any significant cap room until 2019/20, so there’s no way to blow up the team without moving those two.

Are the Suns the worst team in the NBA? — Dalai Llama, via Twitter

Anyone who watched their season opener against the Trail Blazers or Saturday’s rout by the Clippers could certainly reach that conclusion. Phoenix has chosen to rebuild with youth and the results aren’t going to be pretty, especially with so many good Western Conference teams on the schedule. The Suns might have as much talent as the Bulls, Hawks or Nets, but playing in the West will put them in the running for the league’s worst record. With Phoenix so far from contention, it makes sense to find the best possible deals for Eric Bledsoe, who has one year left on his contract at $15MM, Tyson Chandler, who is signed for one more season at $13.585MM, and Jared Dudley, who has another year left at $9.53MM. It’s time to fully embrace the rebuilding process and use those assets to create a brighter future.

What do the Wizards have to do to get a good seed and advance to Eastern Conference finals? — Swaggtastic Jackson, via Twitter

The season-ending injury to Celtics forward Gordon Hayward improved Washington’s chances. Boston and Cleveland both had massive roster overhauls this summer, while the Wizards kept their key pieces together. Markieff Morris is expected to return next month from abdominal surgery, which will put all of last year’s starting unit back in place. The bench remains unremarkable, however, and won’t be easy to improve with Washington already projected to be in tax territory for this season and the next two. The front office will have to be aggressive with trades between now and February for the Wizards to reach the top of the Eastern Conference.

Raptors Waive K.J. McDaniels

12:35pm: The move is official, according to a tweet from the team.

11:56am: The Raptors plan to waive K.J. McDaniels, tweets Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

The fourth-year swingman won a roster spot in Toronto after signing with the team in August. He didn’t play in either of the Raptors’ first two regular season games.

McDaniels only has a $100K guarantee on his $1,524,305 salary, so the Raptors won’t lose much by parting with him. The team, which had a full roster heading into the season, now has one opening.

McDaniels has bounced around the league since being drafted by the Sixers in the second round in 2014. He was traded to the Rockets in 2015, then was dealt to the Nets in February. The 52 games he played with the Sixers as a rookie remain his career high.

Texas Notes: Jackson, Smith Jr., Clavell, Leonard

Rockets guard Demetrius Jackson can expect a lot of trips to and from Rio Grande Valley over the next few weeks, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Jackson, who is serving as the team’s backup point guard while Chris Paul is sidelined with soreness in his left knee, signed a two-way contract over the summer and is limited to 45 days in the NBA. Every day in Houston will count against that total once G League camps open tomorrow, so Jackson will be making repeated journeys to the Rockets’ affiliate.

Jackson played 17 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Mavericks, delivering four points, five rebounds and two assists. The Rockets may decide to convert his deal into a full NBA contract if Paul’s absence is prolonged and the team can’t find another point guard. “Definitely, a different confidence level after going back, reviewing the film, trying to grow from the positive and the negative,” Jackson said. “I definitely got some good looks. Just have to step up and knock those down.”

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • The left knee effusion suffered by Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. may not be as bad as it sounds, cautions Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. There is concern in Dallas because an effusion, which means swelling due to fluid building up in a joint, is what sidelined Dirk Nowitzki for two months in 2013. However, Sefko notes that Nowitzki was much older, and Smith played a lot in preseason without any knee issues.
  • The Mavericks are getting Gian Clavell, who also has a two-way contract, some NBA experience before G League camps begin, Sefko adds in the same piece. The rookie out of Puerto Rico got into games Friday and Saturday as the third-string point guard. Johnathan Motley, the team’s other two-way player, hasn’t appeared in a game yet.
  • There are indications that Spurs star Kawhi Leonard might return to action sooner than expected, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Leonard, who has been sidelined since training camp with quadriceps tendinopathy, traveled with the team to Chicago Saturday. “He’s progressing,” said coach Gregg Popovich. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Knicks Notes: Hernangomez, Hardaway, Porzingis, Ntilikina

Knicks center Willy Hernangomez isn’t hiding his anger after playing less than four minutes in the team’s first two games, relays Fred Kerber of The New York Post. Hernangomez looked like part of the team’s future after a promising rookie season, but he has fallen to third on the depth chart, with Enes Kanter, acquired in the Carmelo Anthony trade, as the starter and Kyle O’Quinn as the backup.

Hernangomez played the final 3:46 of Thursday’s blowout loss in Oklahoma City, then never left the bench in Saturday’s home opener. After the game, he let reporters know that he’s not happy with the current situation. “I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.” Coach Jeff Hornacek met with Hernangomez this week and told him he needs to improve on defense.

There’s more news today out of New York:

  • Tim Hardaway Jr. hasn’t done much so far to ease the concerns of Knicks fans about his four-year, $71MM contract, writes Howie Kussoy of The New York Post. New York’s prize free agent addition of the summer made just four of 16 shots Saturday, following a 3-of-10 performance in the opener. “I missed a couple easy ones here and there, shots that I would normally make,” Hardaway said. “Just tough to see those not go down. My teammates did a great job of keeping me in it, telling me to keep shooting. … I just didn’t get it done. It’s still a new offense, but at the same time, [I] just got to find ways to get to the line, get to the basket a little more, finish around the basket when I’m there. I missed a lot of bunnies I wish I could take back.”
  • Kristaps Porzingis is still getting used to the role of primary scorer in the wake of the Anthony trade, according to Ian Begley of ESPN. Porzingis hit 3-of-7 shots late in Saturday’s game, but passed up a 3-pointer in the final seconds for a layup that was blocked.
  • The early part of Frank Ntilikina‘s NBA career has been marked by injuries, but the Knicks remain excited about the French point guard, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Ntilikina, who was limited to one preseason game because of a bruised knee, sat out Saturday’s contest after spraining his ankle at Friday’s practice. “I think what everybody first saw is I think he can touch everyone out there in TV land, you know his arms are so long,” Hornacek said. “Even this week in practice, when he guards guys, they don’t think he’s close enough to steal the ball, and then he just reaches out and hits the ball and gets a steal.”

L.A. Notes: Teodosic, Gallinari, Randle, Deng

Milos Teodosic, the Clippers‘ 30-year-old rookie out of Serbia, will have an MRI on his left foot today after injuring it Saturday night, according to ESPN.com. X-rays on the foot were negative after Teodosic had to be carried off the court, but he was on crutches after the game. “I just saw him laying down,” said coach Doc Rivers. “I didn’t see what happened. He said that he felt something in his foot. So it’s definitely a foot injury. But we don’t know what it is.” Rookie guard Jawun Evans will be activated while Teodosic is out, and Austin Rivers is expected to take his place in the starting lineup.

There’s more this morning out of Los Angeles:

  • Free agent addition Danilo Gallinari is still trying to get used to his new Clippers teammates after an injury wiped out most of his preseason, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Gallinari, who spent the past six and a half years with the Nuggets, strained his left foot in the second exhibition game and wasn’t able to practice until last Sunday. That didn’t keep him from earning a starting role, and now he has to adapt to playing alongside Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the frontcourt. “I think we did a pretty good job as far as chemistry with us three,” Gallinari said. “But everybody is trying to learn how to play with each other. Everybody is new so it’s going to take a while. It’s going to be a learning process the whole season.”
  • The Lakers are concerned about Julius Randle‘s reaction to the loss of his starting job, reports Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. Coach Luke Walton said he decided to make Larry Nance Jr. the starting power forward because he was playing better with the first team, while Randle fit in well with the reserves. But Walton didn’t like Randle’s effort in the season opener and quickly pulled him from the game. “When he stepped on the court for whatever reason he wasn’t ready to go,” Walton said, “like he has been for the past week [of practices]. So I pulled him out to tell him about it. I know he wasn’t happy with me but that’s my job.” Adding to Randle’s frustrations is the team’s decision not to offer him a rookie scale contract extension this week. He will be a restricted free agent next summer and may be nearing the end of his time with the Lakers.
  • After starting Thursday’s game, Lakers forward Luol Deng was inactive Friday as Corey Brewer took his place, notes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Deng still has two more seasons and $36.81MM left on his contract.

Central Notes: Portis, Doncic, James, Antetokounmpo

Bulls forward Bobby Portis issued a public apology today for the punch that injured teammate Nikola Mirotic, relays K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. The altercation left Mirotic with a concussion and two fractured facial bones that will sideline him for about a month. Portis received an eight-game suspension, cutting further into Chicago’s frontcourt depth.

Portis expressed regret for the punch and said he hopes Mirotic will heal quickly. He has tried calling and texting his teammate, but Mirotic hasn’t responded. There’s a possibility that Mirotic will take legal action, which could extend the story through the rest of the season. “Going forward, I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and that we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I’m pretty sure we can. We just have to repair the relationship.”

There’s more news from the Central Division:

  • If Chicago winds up with the top pick in the draft, former Bulls center Pau Gasol knows who they should take, Johnson writes in a separate piece. Gasol, who was in town with the Spurs for a game tonight, offered a hearty endorsement of Slovenian star Luka Doncic, whom he faced in this year’s Eurobasket semifinals. “He’s a very, very talented player. It’s really rare how well this guy plays at his age [18]. He just continues to grow,” Gasol said. “It’s the right path. You see a guy who has done really well so far and is an exceptional young player with great size, great fundamentals, great composure, great poise to his game for his age — for any age for that matter.”
  • Friday’s matchup between the Bucks and Cavaliers was the latest opportunity for Giannis Antetokounmpo to show he’s on LeBron James‘ level, notes Vincent Goodwill of Bleacher Report. Although Antetokounmpo outscored James, 34-24, the Cavs claimed a decisive victory. The “Greek Freak” is posting MVP numbers through the first week of the season, and at age 22 he seems destined to someday become the best player in the league. “You understand the magnitude of it, and you still wanna claim your throne as well,” said Cleveland guard Dwyane Wade. “You don’t want them to push you off it. It was a great matchup watching those two guys do everything that’s needed for their team.”
  • J.R. Smith believes offseason moves have given the Cavaliers the league’s deepest team, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN.  “You can go around from 6 through 12 or whatever and mark it up against anybody else’s bench, and by far, we got the best bench,” said Smith, who became part of that reserve unit when the Cavs signed Wade. “And we have more experience too.”

Community Shootaround: Boston Celtics

After a summer upheaval that included adding a pair of All-Stars, the Celtics appeared headed for at least another trip to the Eastern Conference finals. Their fortunes may have changed Tuesday when Gordon Hayward took a hard fall less than six minutes into the season opener that left him with a dislocated and fractured left tibia.

It was a shocking way to start the year for Celtics fans and for Hayward, who left Utah for Boston and a four-year, maximum-salary contract. He was expected to be one of the top forwards in the East and part of the foundation for the team’s future, along with newly acquired point guard Kyrie Irving.

The Celtics still have plenty of talent, including the No. 3 picks in the last two drafts, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. They have both moved into the starting lineup and added youthful energy to the team. Still, it’s hard to replace someone who can score [21.9 points per game last season] and shoot [nearly 40% from 3-point range] like Hayward.

The injury plunges the Celtics into a pack of teams that will fight to be the chief challenger to Cleveland in the East. The Wizards took Boston to seven games last season in the conference semifinals, the Raptors are back with a wealth of talent and the young Bucks could be ready for a major step forward.

That brings us to tonight’s question: With the loss of Hayward, are the Celtics still among the two best teams in the East? Please share your thoughts in the space below. We look forward to your responses.

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