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Odds & Ends: Lin, D-League, Ilyasova, Batum

Let's round up a few more Thanksgiving Day notes from around the Association….

  • With Jeremy Lin and the Rockets set to face the Knicks on Friday, most Knicks players don't have much to say about their former teammate, as Howard Beck of the New York Times writes. "I thought he made a great decision for himself, his family and his basketball career," Tyson Chandler said. "I thought the Knicks made the right decision. At the end of the day, it worked out for both parties."
  • Lin, for his part, believes he and Carmelo Anthony could've thrived playing alongside each other with the Knicks, according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • When Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype asked a number of D-League executives and coaches which D-League players would next be called up by an NBA team, JaJuan Johnson's name topped the list.
  • Ersan Ilyasova is at a loss to explain his early-season slump after signing a long-term deal with the Bucks this summer, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Another player that signed a lucrative long-term contract in July, Nicolas Batum is living up to his new deal so far, and tells Joe Freeman of the Oregonian that he wants to keep that up. "It’s what people say about me and what people too scared to say it think about me: ‘Yeah, he’s been good, but it’s only been 11 games. We’re going to see the old Nicolas Batum soon,'" Batum said. "But I’m going to try to avoid that. I’m not the old Nicolas Batum."
  • Darko Rajakovic, who is currently coaching the D-League's Tulsa 66ers, could be just the first of many European coaches to arrive stateside, says Jenni Carlson of the Oklahoman.

And-Ones: Knicks, Batum, Cauley-Stein, ‘Melo

The Knicks have been “very active” in trade discussions this week, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com reports amid a story on the team’s apparent peripheral involvement in Rajon Rondo talks. That seems to jibe with a report from Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck earlier this week that all the Knicks aside from Carmelo Anthony are available. Rumors are indeed flying fast around the NBA these days, and here’s a look at some of the latest news from around the league:

  • Nicolas Batum has pondered what it would be like to play for the Spurs, but he doesn’t see much need to leave the Blazers when he hits free agency after next season, as he tells Shams Charania of RealGM“I still have time and I like low key so there’s no reason to think yet, but why not stay in Portland?” Batum said. “I’ve been here for seven years now, so why not?”
  • Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein has been on quite a tear recently, and this has catapulted him from No. 16 all the way to No. 8 on Chad Ford of ESPN.com‘s insider-only Big Board. Cauley-Stein is currently ranked 10th in Hoops Rumors’ 2015 NBA Draft Prospect Power Rankings.
  • ‘Melo would have been better off joining the Bulls, opines Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that the Bulls lucked out when he decided not to, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com.
  • Three-year NBA veteran Josh Harrellson has been released by the Chongqing Flying Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association, Enea Trapani of Sportando reports (Twitter link). The Pistons had waived Harrellson in mid-July rather than guarantee his minimum salary for the 2014/15 season.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.

FA Rumors: Turner, Batum, Gasol, Lin, Kings

The Knicks, Bulls, Pelicans, Mavericks, Lakers, and Grizzlies are in the mix for Evan Turner, a source tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. No meetings have been finalized yet for Turner, but it sounds like he’ll meet with at least a few of those suitors. According to Deveney, there’s also still a possibility that the Celtics will re-enter the picture for Turner.

Here are more free agent updates from around the NBA:

  • Unsurprisingly, Nicolas Batum, who has generated interest from Dallas, New York, Charlotte, and a few other teams, is seeking a max contract, tweets Deveney.
  • According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, Trail Blazers and the Timberwolves are expected to be among the suitors for Pau Gasol, who has also been linked to Golden State, New York, and San Antonio.
  • Jeremy Lin‘s price tag is expected to be in the neighborhood of $12-14MM per year, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (via Twitter).
  • The Kings have expressed interest in Dion Waiters and Allen Crabbe, per Wojnarowski (link via RealGM.com). Sacramento has also reached out to Courtney Lee, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com.
  • Jazz free agent Trevor Booker is drawing interest from multiple teams and is expected to have a starting salary around $10MM, sources tell Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link).

Warriors Eyeing Horford, Noah, Batum, Others

With free agency around the corner, the Warriors are prepared to make a run at Kevin Durant, the top player on the market. However, the team has plenty of alternate targets lined up in the event that Durant isn’t interested in coming to Golden State.

Sources tell Marcus Thompson II of The Bay Area News Group that the Warriors are eyeing Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Hassan Whiteside as possible frontcourt additions. At small forward, Nicolas Batum and Evan Turner are among the potential targets Golden State is looking at, suggesting that Durant isn’t the only player that would make the club consider replacing pending free agent Harrison Barnes.

As I discussed when I previewed the Warriors’ offseason earlier this week, the team won’t be shy about upgrading the roster via free agency or trades, having vowed to be aggressive this summer. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green aren’t going anywhere, but anyone else on the roster may be expendable for the right incoming piece, and none of Golden State’s eight free agents – including Barnes and Festus Ezeli – are locks to return.

If the team does look to make a big splash, it will have to take into account Curry’s eventual raise. Even with the salary cap on the rise, the Warriors’ roster would start to get expensive if the team signs a max free agent this summer and inks Curry to a max extension a year from now. That scenario could mean paying more than $90MM combined to Curry, Thompson, Green, and a fourth player in 2017/18, with annual raises to follow.

Still, Warriors ownership has exhibited a willingness to spend into tax territory, so they aren’t about to suddenly start playing it safe now. Golden State will certainly be a team to watch when the free agent recruiting period officially gets underway a week from today.

Northwest Notes: Harrell, Batum, Jokic, Ollie

Montrezl Harrell is a dangerous force around the basket, but it’s the former Louisville power forward’s improving midrange game that would make him attractive to the Jazz at pick No. 12, as Jody Genessy of the Deseret News examines. He’d certainly already have been drafted by the time Utah’s other picks, at Nos. 42 and 54, come up, Genessy notes. Harrell worked out for the team Sunday. Here’s more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Nicolas Batum envisions someday returning to play in France to finish his career, mentioning Le Mans and Caen as preferred destinations to Alexandre Lacoste of BeBasket.fr (translation via HoopsHype). Of course, that probably won’t be for a while, since Batum is only 26 even as he’s set to enter the final season of his contract with the Trail Blazers.
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Nikola Jokic has his sights set on joining the Nuggets, tweets David Pick of Eurobasket.com. Pick reported last month that Jokic was holding out for a long-term deal from Denver, but it appears as though the center who plays for Mega Leks in his native Serbia is nonetheless enthusiastic about joining the NBA team that selected him 41st overall last year.
  • The Thunder and Kevin Ollie never engaged in formal talks about the Connecticut coach taking the Oklahoma City job, as Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant writes. There nonetheless appeared to be some contact, as Ollie was reportedly the team’s No. 1 target and apparently listened to overtures before pulling out of the running.

Blazers’ Crawford, Batum, Przybilla Talk Offseason

With the disapointing 2012 Blazers season in the books, Jamal Crawford, Nicolas Batum and Joel Przybilla all discussed their uncertain offseason outlooks with The Oregonian, who posted the videos online:

  • Crawford owns a player option on his contract (which we already heard he may turn down) that he must opt into by June 15, or he will become an unrestricted free agent.  Crawford called his year in Portland the "longest-shortest season ever" and said that he still plans to weigh his options before making a decision.  Crawford goes on to say, "I don’t think this year was any one person’s fault.  I just think it was a bad situation with the short training camp."  Crawford still considers Portland's future bright and says that "seeing where the team is going" will be key to his choice.
  • Batum is a restricted free agent and would be in high demand should Portland balk at matching offers for him.  All indications are that Portland will try to keep the young forward.  Batum indicated his desire to stay"Of course I want to come back here.  This team drafted me and put me on the court at 19 and gave me my chance in the NBA so we will see what happens."  However, Batum went on to add that the basketball situation for him is more important than the city, implying he would have interest if another team had more to offer basketball-wise than the Blazers.  Batum said he is "99 percent" sure he will be back, but is excited about the summer's prospects of a new contract and his first Olympic appearance.
  • Przybilla signed with the Blazers in late February after considering sitting out the lockout shortened season.  He now seems intent on playing next year, citing his knees feeling great and a newfound love for the game as the primary reasons.  He is an unrestricted free agent and  thinks he will draw some interest over the course of the offseason: "With a good summer of working out and a training camp with a team, I think there will definitely be opportunities out there for me."  He added that he would definitely consider resigning in Portland.

Free Agent Notes: Batum, Parsons, Anderson

With Chandler Parsons reportedly seeking a max contract and the Mavs unwilling to pony up that amount, there is virtually “no chance” that the forward will return to Dallas next season, Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com relays. Parsons has added meetings with the Lakers and the Grizzlies to his agenda, the scribe writes. A max contract for Parsons with the Mavs, who own his early Bird rights, would be worth $98.8MM over four years. Other teams can offer him a maximum of $94.8MM over the same span, MacMahon notes.

With NBA free agency set to get underway with a vengeance at midnight, here are the latest news, notes and rumblings from around the league:

  • Unrestricted free agent swingman Nicolas Batum has scheduled face-to-face meetings with the Hornets and Mavericks in Dallas and will talk to the Knicks, Lakers and Wizards via phone, MacMahon tweets.
  • The Knicks are one of the teams scheduled to meet with Evan Turner once free agency kicks off, Ian Begley of ESPN.com relays (Twitter links). The scribe also notes that the Pelicans have strong interest in signing Turner, but Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops tweets that no meeting between the swingman and New Orleans has been set at this time.
  • The Timberwolves are interested in signing Knicks unrestricted free agent forward Lance Thomas for a bench role, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN relays (on Twitter). Minnesota will have some competition for Thomas’ services, with New York reportedly interested in re-signing the player and the Thunder, Nets and Mavericks all expected to make a play for the 28-year-old.
  • The Sixers are interested in bringing back Ish Smith as a reserve for next season, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
  • Unrestricted free agent power forward Jon Leuer has received interest from the Knicks, Lakers and Suns, Wolfson tweets. The 27-year-old made 67 appearances for Phoenix this past season and averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per outing.
  • The Nets have a glaring hole at power forward after trading Thaddeus Young and may make a run at unrestricted free agent Ryan Anderson, Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops relays (via Twitter). The Rockets are trying to schedule a meeting with Anderson for this weekend, adds Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
  • Point guard Rajon Rondo has a meeting scheduled with the Nets, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • The Trail Blazers have a face-to-face meeting scheduled in Los Angeles on Friday with Parsons and Portland guard Damian Lillard is expected to be in attendance, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group relays (via Twitter).
  • The Heat‘s free agent pitches will include the optimism of a return to action next season for big man Chris Bosh and the organizational stability provided by coach Erik Spoelstra, writes Michael Wallace of ESPN.com.

Blazers Notes: Batum, Hickson, Offseason Plans

Earlier today we learned that Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford will decline his 2012/13 option worth $5.23MM.  Here's more on Portland from Jason Quick of The Oregonian..

  • We learned yesterday that the club is likely to match offers for Nicolas Batum.  The Blazers could just sign Batum to a long-term deal but acting GM Chad Buchanan plans to keep the forward in restricted status in order to have more flexibility.  Batum's qualifying offer will place a $5.4MM hold onto the Blazers' salary cap, which should be $3-5MM less than what it would take to sign him under a long-term deal. 
  • The club is not yet sure if they'll make a qualifying offer to J.J. Hickson.  The forward, picked up off of waivers from the Kings this season, has said that he would like to remain in Portland.  The 23-year-old averaged 15.1 PPG and 8.3 RPG in 19 games for the Blazers this season.
  • Buchanan said that the club's top two priorities this summer are finding a starting point guard and finding a starting center.

Southeast Notes: Splitter, Neal, Batum, Ennis

Tiago Splitter admits that he was disappointed when he was traded to the Hawks in a move designed to clear salary cap room, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. The Spurs needed the cap space the trade provided to sign LaMarcus Aldridge, whom Splitter believes makes San Antonio the team to beat in the West, Greene adds. “It’s a great squad,” Splitter said of his former team. “On paper they are the favorites to win the title. They have David West. They have LaMarcus Aldridge. Of course, Tim Duncan. Just a great frontcourt over there. They are a very talented team. Of course you have to see how things work out for them on the practical side of the game, but on the interior they have a great team.

The big man said that his attitude regarding being dealt changed when he realized he’d be playing for coach Mike Budenholzer, a former assistant with the Spurs, Greene adds. “It’s nice to be in an environment where you already know the coach,” Splitter said. “I didn’t know the players before I got here but as soon as I got traded Bud told me that I was going to be in a great situation with great teammates. He gave me a lot of confidence that this team is going to be great once again. I don’t think a [learning curve] is going to be a problem. When I’ve talked to Bud so far I’ve seen that he has his own tricks and personality in the system, but it’s the same system we ran in San Antonio.

Here’s the latest out of the Southeast Division:

  • With the Wizards expected to utilize smaller lineups this season, Gary Neal‘s three-point shooting skills should play a big part in the team’s new offense, J. Michael of CSNMid-Atlantic writes. “The way the NBA is changing and evolving right now, how everybody is going to the four out, one in, the ball movement, not holding the ball, getting away from the isolation play, coach [Randy] Wittman is trying to teach that,” Neal said. “That offense is kind of new to him also. He went to a little bit of that against the Hawks in the playoffs and by playing Paul Pierce at the four he kind of liked that. So he was thinking about that throughout the whole summer. He’s teaching it to us. It’s new to us. Everybody’s learning. We should be alright.
  • Nicolas Batum will take on a much greater role with the Hornets than he had during his time in Portland, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes. “Nic has always been third or fourth option,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “Now he’s going to be second or first option.
  • Heat forward James Ennis said that the tendinitis that he was experiencing in his knees led to his poor showing in summer league play this year, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes. “I was down on myself because I expected more from me,” Ennis told Jackson. “I’m really hard on myself. But I looked at it and said, ‘You’re injured.’ I was playing at 65%. I did a lot of treatment. My knee is a lot better. You’ll see it in the preseason.” Ennis, who has a non-guaranteed salary, is fighting for a regular season roster spot.

Hornets Rumors: Batum, Zeller, Cho, Clifford

The Celtics offered the Hornets a package that included four first-round picks to entice Charlotte to give up the No. 9 pick last month, sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe. Boston was willing to give up its own pick at No. 16, the No. 15 pick that they would tentatively have acquired from the Hawks, an unprotected future first-round pick from the Nets (presumably the 2018 pick Brooklyn owes Boston) and a future first-rounder from either the Grizzlies or the Timberwolves (presumably the ones those teams already owe Boston), as Lowe details. Some front office members in Charlotte liked the idea, but owner Michael Jordan preferred to roll with Frank Kaminsky, whom the Hornets took at No. 9, several sources said to Lowe. The Grantland scribe delves into the implications of that choice, and he touches on more, too, as we highlight amid the latest from the Queen City:

  • Nicolas Batum‘s camp has been talking about how much he’d like to play with the Raptors, given the international appeal of Toronto, several league sources tell Lowe. The native of France, whom the Hornets traded for last month, is set to become a free agent after this coming season.
  • The Hornets have been willing to talk about Cody Zeller when they discuss trades with other teams, sources tell Lowe. That jibes with a report from shortly before the draft that Charlotte was aggressively shopping the big man.
  • GM Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford have had a chilly relationship since last year’s departure of president of basketball operations Rod Higgins, sources familiar with the situation tell Lowe, yet Cho, Clifford and Hornets vice chairman Curtis Polk all downplay the notion. “I would say it’s a good relationship now,” Cho says. “I value his input. We’re not always going to agree, but I wouldn’t expect to.”
  • Polk, Jordan, Cho, assistant GM Chad Buchanan and director of player personnel Larry Jordan, Michael’s brother, are the primary decision-makers for the team, according to Lowe.
  • Charlotte shopped Noah Vonleh and the No. 9 pick in a package to try to move up in the draft before abandoning that pursuit and trading Vonleh in the Batum deal, as Lowe details.
  • The Hornets had interest in Rodney Hood going into last year’s draft, Lowe hears. Hood wound up going at No. 23 to Utah, and Charlotte had an opportunity to move down into a spot where it might have nabbed him instead of Vonleh, as Lowe explains.
  • Hornets brass likes Elliot Williams, whom the Hornets have reportedly agreed to sign to a camp deal, but they see him as an insurance policy and don’t view him as a replacement for backup point guard Brian Roberts, reports Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter links).

Southeast Notes: Splitter, Batum, Jefferson, Frye

The HawksTiago Splitter may miss the start of next season after having surgery on his right hip, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The procedure will be performed Thursday, and Splitter estimates it will take “eight months, at least” to recover, which means he won’t be able to represent Brazil in the Summer Olympics. “I just got here this season and I wanted to help this team more” said Splitter, who was acquired from the Spurs in a July trade. “I wasn’t able to perform 100%, that’s for sure. I’ve been feeling this pain, you guys know, for some time. We tried several techniques and treatments. It ended up being I need the surgery. I hope it goes fast and I’m ready to play again.” Splitter will make $8.25MM next season on the final year of his contract.

There’s more from the Southeast Division on the eve of the trade deadline:

  • Trade rumors have swirled around the Hawks as much as any team during the past month, and coach/executive Mike Budenholzer isn’t offering any hints about whether a deal for Al Horford or Jeff Teague is in the works, as Vivlamore notes in a separate piece. “We are very happy with our group,” Budenholzer said. “We feel strongly about them. I’ve been protective of them and would expect to continue to be that. You never know what can happen.”
  • The Hornets will likely present Nicolas Batum with a full max offer on the first day of free agency, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, passing on a prediction from ESPN cap expert Tom Penn. It’s the only way Charlotte can keep him, Penn said (Twitter link).
  • The Hornets hope to welcome back center Al Jefferson this weekend, Bonnell tweets. Jefferson hasn’t played since undergoing arthroscopic surgery after suffering a tear in the lateral meniscus of his right knee in late December.
  • The Magic’s Channing Frye takes trade deadline talk in stride, tweets Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. The Clippers are reportedly close to a deal that would bring the veteran power forward to L.A. “It’s not my first time being on the trading block,” Frye said. “… I was supposed to get traded at the beginning of the season. I was supposed to get traded last year.”
  • Wizards center Marcin Gortat has officially chosen Todd Ramasar as his new agent, writes J. Michael of CSNMidAtlantic.

T-Wolves Rumors: Batum, Crawford, Gasol, Hill

The Timberwolves are off to an aggressive start in free agency, having reportedly made a "serious offer" to restricted free agent Nicolas Batum. According to Yannis Koutroupis of HoopsWorld, sources believe the Trail Blazers' willingness to match a big offer for Batum will depend on whether they're able to land Roy Hibbert. Here are a few more updates on the T-Wolves' targets in free agency and trades:

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com updates an earlier story to say that Batum has narrowed his options to the Blazers, with whom he's meeting later this week, and the Wolves, and has postponed visits to other teams.

Earlier updates:

Read more

Southeast Notes: Batum, Kaminsky, Wizards, Heat

Hornets coach Steve Clifford wants to have more players involved in the offense this season, and he envisions trade acquisition Nicolas Batum as a facilitator for much of that in a manner similar to how the Magic used to run offense through Hedo Turkoglu, observes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“He’s in a similar place to where Turkoglu was in Orlando as far as size and exceptional feel for the game,” Clifford said. “If he’s open, he shoots it. If he’s not, he’ll drive. He’s as instinctual as you can ask of a player, and you can’t coach that.” 

Clifford was an assistant coach during Turkoglu’s time in Orlando. See more on the Hornets and the rest of the Southeast Division:

  • Frank Kaminsky has more experience than most lottery picks, having gone to college for four years, but he’s having a rough adjustment to NBA competition during informal scrimmages so far, Clifford said, as Bonnell relays in the same piece“The kid has a chance to be really something as a player, [but] right now he’s a kid and they’re beating up on him [in scrimmages],” Clifford said. “They’re 28 or 29 and he’s 22.” Charlotte reportedly turned down an offer of four first-round picks to hold on to the ninth selection and draft Kaminsky this year.
  • The start of construction is set for next year on a new practice facility for the Wizards that is to open in the fall of 2018, the team announced. The Wizards hope it will help them attract free agents, including Kevin Durant when he’s on the market next summer, as Jonathan O’Connell of The Washington Post wrote earlier this week. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said the franchise wants to house a D-League team there, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com notes.
  • The Heat should sign a veteran whom they could bank on rather than relying on a young player at the end of their bench, given their questionable depth, opines Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Batum, Spoelstra, Hezonja

The Wizards and Bradley Beal have kept up a dialogue throughout the offseason, but they haven’t made much progress toward an extension, sources tell Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. That’s not surprising, since the deadline is still weeks away, though both sides have reason not to do an extension at all and wait to strike a deal until next summer, since Beal can get a longer contract then and the Wizards can keep his cap hold low and retain flexibility, Castillo writes. I examined Beal’s extension candidacy further last week. See more from the Southeast Division:
  • Shaun Powell of NBA.com speculates that it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Hornets offer Nicolas Batum an extension. The small forward, whose contract expires after this season, is eligible for a veteran extension, though he could receive better terms if he signs one on or after the six-month anniversary of the June 24th trade that brought him to the Hornets, as I noted here. In any case, Powell likes most of the moves Charlotte has made this summer after the disastrous Lance Stephenson signing of last year.
  • Erik Spoelstra is the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA, but he’s never won a playoff series without LeBron James, so he faces pressure this season with a Heat team expected to advance beyond the first round, opines Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.
  • Mario Hezonja‘s potent, versatile offensive game prevailed upon the Magic to ignore a more pressing need at power forward with the fifth overall pick, writes Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. The Magic are well-stocked at the wing, but Hezonja may well emerge as the ideal sixth man, playing both the two and the three, Schmitz argues.

Odds & Ends: Jefferson, Batum, Brand, Nene

In a busy NBA offseason, the Jazz haven't been talked about a great deal on a national level after adding Randy Foye and Marvin Williams to a talented young core.  However, big man Al Jefferson is certainly taking notice.  Referring to former General Manager Kevin O'Connor and current GM Dennis Lindsey, Jefferson said "The GMs did a hell of a job improving our team. I feel a lot better," tweets Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune.  Jefferson is also entering his walk year, but he says that he hasn't given it any thought (Twitter link).  Here's more from around the league as Sunday turns into Monday..

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian looks at the biggest questions facing the Blazers this season.  Among them is whether Nicolas Batum can take the next big step and justify the $45MM contract he was given this summer.  Part of that leap will be an attitude adjustment as Batum often appears to look passive on the floor.
  • Mavericks forward Elton Brand says that he expects to serve as the club's enforcer in 2012/13, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com.  Dallas claimed the former All-Star off of waivers back in July after he was amenstied by the 76ers.
  • If the Wizards hope to turn things around this year, they'll need a major contribution from forward Nene, writes Michael Lee of The Washington Post.  Nene, acquired at last year's deadline from Denver, has battled back from two major setbacks in his career and will have to stay healthy in order for the Wizards to stay competitive this season.

Northwest Rumors: Kirilenko, Kahn, Darko, Batum

Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune details the reasons why some of the Timberwolves' free agent acquisitions wound up in Minnesota, including Andrei Kirilenko, who signed with the Wolves in part because of his memories of coach Rick Adelman's old Kings teams. "Those Sacramento teams were some of my favorite teams," the former Jazz forward said. "I like that style. It's more like how we play in Europe." We passed along comments about the makeup of the Nuggets from coach George Karl earlier today, and there's more news out of the Northwest Division.

  • In the same piece, Zgoda says it's likely the Wolves must make the playoffs for GM David Kahn to keep his job. Minnesota has been a lottery team in each of Kahn's three seasons in charge of the front office.
  • Kevin Love told Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer press in July that he was glad the Wolves were rid of what he called "bad blood" in the locker room. Zgoda identifies amnestied center Darko Milicic as the player to whom Love was referring.
  • Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum is ready to live up to the four-year, $46.5MM deal he signed over the summer, as he told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. "I signed an All-Star-type contract and now it's up to me to play up to that level," Batum said. "I got team goals and personal goals I want to accomplish and becoming an All-Star one day is one of them. I want to be an NBA champion, I want to be a three-point champion. It's all about winning in this league and I'm ready for that next step in my career."

Blazers Notes: Lillard, Claver, Freeland, Batum

While Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge thinks there's hope for the Trail Blazers in the near future, he also thinks a number of arguments frequently made by fans, players, or the media don't hold water. A team having a "great attitude" or "flying under the radar" doesn't mean a surprise season is coming, according to Deckard.

We have a handful of other Blazer notes to round up this morning, after GM Neil Olshey talked to Joe Becker on KGW on Sunday. Here are a few highlights from Olshey's comments, which Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge transcribed:

  • Olshey felt that Damian Lillard was not only the best fit for the Blazers at No. 6 overall in June's draft, but also the best player available when Portland picked. The GM expects the rookie point guard to be productive immediately.
  • Victor Claver and Joel Freeland should bring a team-first mentality to the Blazers, according to Olshey, who notes that Nicolas Batum is excited about the club's style of play getting some "international flavor."
  • Olshey on Batum's new contract leading to increased expectations: "I think Nic's going to embrace it. It was one of the reasons we were so anxious to embrace the offer sheet. When we met with Nic prior to him signing it, that was something he really wanted. He wanted to embrace being one of the leaders on the team. Having more responsibility on both ends of the ball."
  • Olshey praised Blazers owner Paul Allen and said that his experience in Portland has been "incredible" so far.
  • The Blazers GM mentioned that he was excited to see Blazers players in the gym recently, pointing out that LaMarcus Aldridge, who organized the voluntary workouts, has been a "solid voice of leadership for the young guys."

Odds & Ends: Batum, Turner, Mavericks, Deng

Here's a look around the league this Sunday afternoon. 

Northwest Rumors: Batum, Tolliver, Randolph, Roy

The Wolves' courtship of Nicolas Batum took another unusual turn last night, when Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reported that the league has ruled the offer sheet he signed with the team is invalid, since the Wolves don't have enough cap space to accommodate the four-year, $46.5MM deal. Minnesota moved to clear cap space Friday by waiving Martell Webster and trading Brad Miller to the Hawks. They also renounced the rights to free agents Anthony Tolliver and Anthony Randolph, as fellow CSNNW.com scribe Dwight Jaynes reported. But, as Jaynes noted, Webster won't clear waivers until Sunday at 4:00pm Central, at which time the Wolves can finally submit a new signed offer sheet from Batum. That's not the only news from the Northwest, and we've got the rest here:

Read more

Neil Olshey On Aldridge, Batum, Aminu, Kanter

Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey was coy when Grantland’s Zach Lowe asked him why he signed Enes Kanter to a max offer sheet but hasn’t done so with Tristan Thompson, but Olshey expressed contentment and optimism about the roster he’s built even amid the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge. Olshey, speaking on The Lowe Post podcast, believes the revamped Blazers have the potential to grow like the group he had with the Clippers in 2010/11 that featured Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu, all of whom were 22 or younger.

Aminu, who turns 25 next month, is one of the new Blazers, and Olshey talked about the forward’s four-year, $30MM deal, Aldridge’s exit, and a host of other offseason topics. His entire conversation with Lowe is worth a listen, especially for Portland faithful, and we’ll round up a few highlights here:

On the fluctuation of the team’s chances to re-sign Aldridge:

“I think, honestly, because of how unhappy LaMarcus was when we all joined the Trail Blazers, myself, [coach] Terry [Stotts], our regime, it wasn’t like we were put on notice, Zach, but I think we were all aware that it was going to be an uphill battle, and I think it was an uphill battle that we had fought and won right up until [Wesley Matthews] was injured. … We were 100% confident in LaMarcus right up through the trade deadline, and then when Wes got hurt, and we weren’t playing as well, and we realized our margin for error with that group was more narrow than we would have liked to have believed, I think we felt like, you know what? We’re going to have more of a battle on our hands than we had anticipated in terms of keeping LaMarcus.”

On the Nicolas Batum trade, which Olshey said was made independent of Aldridge’s decision to walk:

“There was a three-fold approach there. One, we felt like if we brought in another starter, then Gerald Henderson would have strengthened the bench. We got a bright, young prospect in Noah Vonleh who we were really high on in the draft, and we created a positive variance in our favor in terms of our cap position to go and be more aggressive in free agency to continue to build with the group that was there. So, that deal was done absent anything with LaMarcus other than the fact that he was aware of the deal prior to us making the decision to move forward with Noah and Gerald in lieu of Nicolas.”

On those who would laugh at the team’s financial outlay in the the Al-Farouq Aminu deal:

“If they’re laughing, they haven’t seen him play, and they haven’t realized that in two years, the cap’s going to be $108MM, so you’re basically talking about a deal that’ll be less than what the mid-level was on previous caps. So, this is a guy that I know well. I drafted him. I had him for a year with the Clippers. He’s tracking up. I think his growth was accelerated by playing for Rick Carlisle in Dallas. I think that was like a three-year tutorial crammed into nine months. He’s a better player today than he was then. Look, we had moved Nic Batum. We wanted to get younger at that position and we wanted to get an athletic guy if we chose to push the floor. We felt like, at that point, he could play in multiple roles with LaMarcus or without, depending on what his decision was, and I really believe, look, when you look at a way a contract is structured, we had a lot of cap room this year [and] it’s a descending deal.”

On whether he truly wanted Kanter on the team:

“We did. We absolutely did. We pursued him. Look, it’s not the first time we went down the road of restricted free agency for a starting center and maybe won the recruiting battle but lost the war in terms of adding him to our roster, and that situation played out. You know, look, we’re really happy with the guys we have right now.”

What do you think of the way Olshey has positioned the Blazers for the post-Aldridge era? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

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