Paolo Banchero

And-Ones: Maldonado, Holmgren, Banchero, Fieldhouse

Team Dynasty Academy guard Emmanuel Maldonado has decided to sign with the Overtime Elite League, he announced on social media.

Maldonado, who stands at 6’4″, is the sixth player to sign with the league thus far, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). He’s also a candidate to represent Puerto Rico at the FIBA U19 World Cup in July.

The Overtime Elite league serves as an alternative pathway for players to turn pro. Top recruits Matt and Ryan Bewley became the first prospects to commit to the league last month, as we relayed in a separate story.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Top 2022 prospect Chet Holmgren has been named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, ESPN’s Myron Medcalf writes. Holmgren, a Gonzaga commit, averaged 20.8 points, 12.6 rebounds and 4.7 blocks last season for Minnehaha Academy. As Medcalf notes, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and several other high-profile players have won the award in the past.
  • Paolo Banchero is unable to join Italy for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament this summer, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter links). Banchero, a Duke prospect, will reportedly miss the tournament due to school-related issues despite receiving his passport.
  • Renovations are ongoing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Pacers and the WNBA’s Fever, Scott Agness of FieldhouseFiles tweets. As a result, the Fever will be forced to play the remainder of their season at Indiana Farmers Coliseum — the original home of the ABA Pacers.

And-Ones: Nets Security, Zipser, Mannion, Mozgov, TBT

A Nets security official who made contact with Bucks forward P.J. Tucker during a Game 3 skirmish has been barred by the NBA from working any more games in Milwaukee for the rest of the series, according to Joe Vardon, Eric Nehm and Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. The official, Antjuan Lambert, also won’t be allowed at courtside during the games in Brooklyn.

Lambert is employed by the team, but he has also been working for Kevin Durant since the star forward signed with Brooklyn in 2019. When Durant had an altercation with Tucker in the third quarter of Game 3, Lambert intervened and bumped into Tucker.

“In the heat of the moment you know people are coming to de-escalate things and try to get things under control and not bump and escalate and have things become a problem than what we’re trying to address or de-escalate,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “And, in the 24-48 hours since, if it’s a Nets security guy and he’s bumping our player and things like that, that doesn’t seem like that’s the protocol and what we’d expect from any type of security.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former Bulls forward Paul Zipser had to undergo emergency surgery for a brain hemorrhage this week, writes Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Zipser is now playing for FC Bayern in Germany.
  • Warriors guard Nico Mannion will be part of the Italian team for the upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade, notes Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. Duke prospect Paolo Banchero, who received an Italian passport several months ago, hasn’t made a final decision on whether he’ll join Mannion.
  • Former NBA center Timofey Mozgov is expected to represent Russia in its upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament, Borghesan adds in a separate piece. Injuries limited Mozgov to six games this season for his Khimki team, but he recently returned to action.
  • Veteran NBA big man Amir Johnson will participate in The Basketball Tournament this summer, tweets J.D. Shaw of Hoops Rumors. Also playing will be Bruno Caboclo, who appeared in six games for the Rockets this season (Twitter link).

Draft Notes: G. Brown, Stewart, Mikhailovskii, Hollatz, More

Texas forward Greg Brown is going pro after a single college season, announcing on Instagram that he has decided to enter the 2021 NBA draft and has signed with BDA Sports for representation.

Brown put up relatively modest numbers as a freshman for the Longhorns in 2020/21, averaging 9.3 points and 6.2 rebounds in 26 games (20.6 MPG). However, his athleticism and his long-term upside make him an intriguing prospect — ESPN ranks him at No. 29 on its big board for 2021.

Here are several more draft-related notes and updates:

  • After initially testing the draft waters, Mississippi State sophomore wing D.J. Stewart has decided to hire an agent and remain in the draft, according to Paul Jones of Gene’s Page. Stewart comes in at No. 86 on ESPN’s top-100 list.
  • Russian wing Nikita Mikhailovskii, who sneaks onto ESPN’s big board at No. 94, is entering the draft, agent Arturs Kalnitis tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). The 20-year-old averaged 8.5 PPG on .468/.418/.811 shooting in 24 games (18.3 MPG) for BC Avtodor this season.
  • German guard Justus Hollatz has also declared for the draft, according to agent Dragan Jankovski of BeoBasket (Twitter link). Hollatz currently plays for the Hamburg Towers in Germany.
  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report passes along some of the latest buzz he has heard on this year’s draft-eligible prospects, identifying Joshua Primo and JT Thor as potential risers on NBA teams’ boards.
  • Looking ahead to the 2022 NBA draft, Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Insider link) provides his impressions of some of the top prospects who participated in the Iverson Classic over the weekend, including Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero.

And-Ones: Referees, Play-In Tourney, Iverson Classic

While the NBA and its players’ union have provided weekly updates on the number of positive COVID-19 tests among players, we haven’t heard much about how the league’s referees – who travel commercially – have been affected by the coronavirus this season. Baxter Holmes of ESPN fills in some blanks, reporting that 10 of the NBA’s referees are currently sidelined, primarily due to COVID-related issues, and adding that 24 refs have missed at least one game this season due to the league’s health and safety protocols.

A league spokesperson tells Holmes that most of the current absences are related to contact tracing and that the NBA expects all 10 affected referees to be available for the start of the postseason next month.

In the interim, however, the league has had to “call up” six referees from the G League. According to Holmes, a number of teams and executives around the NBA have complained about the performance of those refs, prompting NBA VP of referee development and training Monty McCutchen to defend their performances.

“These were our top six G League officials who would have been getting some NBA games anyway this year. They had to be pressed into some more service, but they are knocking on the door to being staff members,” McCutchen told ESPN. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s just call any random G League (official) because they live in Portland and we’ll pull them up that night.’ They had already reached levels of excellence that meant they were ready for this.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • NBA executives believe that flattening the lottery odds and introducing the play-in tournament has helped reduce league-wide tanking among non-playoff teams, according to Howard Beck of SI.com, who says that league sources think the play-in tournament will be adopted on a permanent basis beyond this season.
  • The Iverson Classic All-American Game, which will take place on May 8 in Memphis, has received NBA approval as a certified event, meaning team scouts can attend and evaluate prospects, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). Top 2022 prospects such as Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren headline the list of participants.
  • A little over five months after the 2020 draft took place, Sam Vecenie, John Hollinger, of James L. Edwards III of The Athletic completed a re-draft of the ’20 class. Among the big risers in The Athletic’s re-draft are LaMelo Ball (No. 3 to No. 1), Tyrese Haliburton (No. 12 to No. 5), Isaiah Stewart (No. 16 to No. 7), Aleksej Pokusevski (No. 17 to No. 7), and Jaden McDaniels (No. 28 to No. 10).

And-Ones: Wright-Foreman, B. Johnson, Canada, Banchero

A pair of former NBA players who were on two-way contracts during the 2019/20 season have signed new contracts overseas.

Point guard Justin Wright-Foreman, the 53rd overall pick in the 2019 draft, has joined Chorale Roanne Basket in France for the remainder of the season, the team said in a press release. Wright-Foreman spent all of ’19/20 on a two-way deal with the Jazz, but appeared in just four games and wasn’t retained in the fall. He played for the Erie BayHawks in the G League bubble this winter.

Meanwhile, small forward B.J. Johnson, who appeared in 10 games last season while on a two-way contract with Orlando, has inked a rest-of-season contract with the Brisbane Bullets, the Australian team announced. Like Wright-Foreman, Johnson hasn’t played in the NBA at all in 2020/21, but participated in the NBAGL bubble, averaging 18.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 14 games (31.1 MPG) for the Long Island Nets.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

And-Ones: McDonald’s Game Rosters, Cooper, Suggs, More

While the game itself won’t be played this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, McDonald’s formally announced its ceremonial rosters this week for the annual All American Game, a showcase of the nation’s top high school players.

The 24-player boys squad is headlined by a number of prospects who are expected to be lottery selections in the 2022 NBA draft, including Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, and Jabari Smith, whom ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz had as the top three picks in their first ’22 mock draft in December.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Auburn point guard Sharife Cooper, the No. 9 ranked prospect on ESPN’s big board for the 2021 NBA draft, may have played his last game for the Tigers, writes Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. Cooper is in a walking boot after suffering an ankle injury, and ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes said during Tuesday’s Auburn/Florida broadcast that he’d be surprised if Cooper returns this season. “We will see how the week progresses. We never rush guys back,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “He is working to try and get back, but we just don’t know.”
  • NBA teams picking in the top half of the 2021 lottery will have to determine whether Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs – who is the third-leading scorer for the Bulldogs this season – is capable of becoming a primary option at the next level or if he projects to be a star role player, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. Suggs is the No. 4 prospect on ESPN’s 2021 big board.
  • Johnathan Williams, who recently parted ways with Turkish team Galatasaray, didn’t take long to find a new home, having signed with Niners Chemnitz in Germany for the rest of the season, according to the club. Williams, a 6’9″ forward/center, spent time with the Lakers in 2018/19 and the Wizards in ’19/20, averaging 5.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 39 total NBA games.
  • Former first-round pick Jared Sullinger, who hasn’t played professionally since 2019 and hasn’t been in the NBA since 2017, has reportedly agreed to a deal with Anyang KGC in South Korea, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Sullinger spoke last month about his goal of making it back to the NBA.

And-Ones: Giannis, Lillard, 2021 FAs, 2022 Draft

During the offseason, before Giannis Antetokounmpo signed his super-max extension with the Bucks, he and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard discussed the possibility of working out together, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports said on his Posted Up podcast (hat tip to NBC Sports).

The idea of two stars working out with one another during the offseason is hardly novel, but it would have been new for Giannis, who generally never works out with anybody who’s not on his team, per Haynes.

Sources tell Haynes that Antetokounmpo and Lillard also talked about what it would look like if they played together. While the idea of these two stars leaving for bigger markets has been a subject of speculation for years, both Lillard and Antetokounmpo have proven to be extremely loyal to their current clubs — and it doesn’t sound like this conversation was any exception.

“I believe Dame was trying to tell Giannis about what it would look like, him playing in Portland,” Haynes said, per NBC Sports. “And same vice versa, Giannis trying to tell him what it’d be like playing in Milwaukee.”

In other words, neither player expressed any interest in leaving his current team. And with Lillard locked up through at least 2024 and Antetokounmpo through 2025, it seems unlikely it will happen anytime soon.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Despite a flurry of preseason extension agreements that took some top 2021 free agents off the board, there will still be plenty of talent available on the open market next summer, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who ranks his top 21 FAs for ’21. Kawhi Leonard, Victor Oladipo, and John Collins lead the way, while Talen Horton-Tucker sneaks onto the list at No. 21.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype identifies the 10 players most likely to sign maximum-salary contracts in 2021. In addition to top free agents like Leonard, Oladipo, and Collins, Gozlan lists a handful of players who will be eligible for rookie scale extensions later in the year, including Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
  • Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) took a look 18 months into the future and published their first mock draft for 2022. Big man Chet Holmgren is their early projected top pick, while a pair of Duke commits – Paolo Banchero and Adrian Griffin Jr. – are in the top four.