Pat Connaughton

Central Notes: Love, DiVincenzo, Pistons, Gottlieb

Kevin Love‘s season was marred by injury and declining production, but Cavaliers GM Koby Altman says the veteran forward is still part of the team’s plans, according to an ESPN report. Love appeared in just 25 games due to a calf injury.

“We want him to be here,” Altman said. “We signed him to an extension for that reason, to be here when we want to make that next step. And so we’re going to hopefully rely on him heavily next year after a significant summer.”

There are still two years and $60.2MM remaining on Love’s extension, which would make it difficult for Altman to trade him.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks have lost a key member of their backcourt, Donte DiVincenzo, due to a torn ligament in his left ankle. The Athletic’s Eric Nehm takes a look at which players might absorb DiVincenzo’s minutes. Bryn Forbes, Pat Connaughton and P.J. Tucker could pick up the slack offensively with Forbes moving into the starting lineup. But it will be difficult to replace DiVincenzo on the defensive end. Coach Mike Budenholzer may give more playing time to Jeff Teague, though he could also opt to slice his rotation to eight players.
  • Nearly half of the players on the Pistons’ roster could become free agents this summer. The Detroit News’ Rod Beard takes a look at who’s likely to stay and who will go.
  • Cavaliers assistant coach Lindsay Gottlieb got a head coaching offer from USC that was too good financially for her to pass up, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com details. “I said, ʻI didn’t come to the NBA to turn right around. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing. I feel like I’m part of something,’” Gottlieb said of her initial reaction when USC came calling. “ʻHowever, I do feel I want to be a head coach again whether that’s men’s college basketball, women’s college basketball, the WNBA. I understand what USC can be and it’s intriguing to me to have a conversation. I got off the phone after 25 minutes and I didn’t feel too strong either way.” The school’s hard sell convinced her to take that job.

Bucks GM Horst Talks Roster, Giannis, Connaughton, More

The Bucks fell short of the NBA Finals in each of the last two postseasons after putting up the NBA’s best regular season record in each of those two years. However, general manager Jon Horst tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic that he believes the club is “young in its evolution of championship contention,” and that the current Bucks roster is its strongest yet.

“I think that this is the best roster that we’ve had in the last three years,” Horst said. “I have a ton of confidence in the work that our coaches have spent on improving our offensive and defensive systems and our style of play and just the way that that they’re going to approach the season and the way that we’re going to work. And then the work that our players did.

“… If you really peel back, how do you get better? I think you get better coaching, player internal development, and from a front office perspective, you improve the roster. I think we’ve checked all those boxes, and I feel confident about those things. The work that’s been put into all those areas and the results in all those areas. That’s why I feel good about this team and that we’re better than last season.”

In his conversation with Nehm, Horst discussed a wide ranging of topics, including his thoughts on all the veteran players Milwaukee added to its roster in free agency or via trade this offseason.

The discussion is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber, but here are a few more notable comments from the Bucks’ GM:

On what Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision to sign an extension with the Bucks says about the organization:

“I think it shows mostly a lot about Giannis and his desire to win and to be part of a culture where winning is first and foremost, and where the resources are going to be provided to you to win and continue to push the envelope and be in a position, year in and year out, to compete at the highest level. But to do it in a family environment, in a healthy environment, where people want to come to work every day and enjoy what they do every day. And for us, the goal from day one has been to create that environment, create that culture, and not just do that, but also to win at a high level. And we haven’t reached the ultimate goal yet, but I think we constantly improve and get better and push toward being great.”

On the NBA’s investigation into the Bucks’ pursuit of Bogdan Bogdanovic, which cost the team its 2022 second-round pick:

“We were fully cooperative with the NBA, very open and transparent. And a decision was made and we’re moving forward from that. We’re excited about the season. I think that at different points in your life or different points in your career, things happen and you’re only as good or as bad as how you respond. And we chose to be very cooperative, forthcoming, transparent and tried to work with the league to come up with the best result. The takeaway is that, be honest and helpful and deal with the result and move on and be better. … It’s not a lesson, but it’s a takeaway.”

On the Bucks’ decision not to sign a true backup center to replace Robin Lopez:

“It’s more a bet that we’re going to be more versatile and more equipped to play against teams that constantly go small. And so really our backup fives are Bobby (Portis), D.J. (Wilson), and Giannis, right? All of which also play the four very well. So we have options and versatility.

“… This season, I think we’re intentionally trying to push our money to the front and be a little bit riskier on the back end. And if we have to adjust and pivot, we’ll figure out a way to do it. Of course, we are always a little nervous, but I’ll tell you, I think our roster fits the NBA and the way teams are going to play us better this season than it ever has before.”

On the perception that the Bucks made a mistake by agreeing to a two-year deal with Pat Connaughton that would have violated CBA rules before amending it to a three-year deal:

“I’m sure it’s a more interesting read to write the story that we don’t know what we’re doing… We know what we’re doing. Maybe (it’s) not as interesting to say a deal wasn’t done, (that) negotiations and discussions are still evolving. We’ve done some complex things in the last few years and got it done and figured it out. We were negotiating and trying to figure out a deal that would work for Pat and us.

“… Frankly, I was surprised by a lot of stuff that was written in the process of negotiating a deal with Pat. There’s not a better answer than that. Again, you’re just trying to figure it out, like you’re literally going through real time. If people want to report stuff in real time as fact and final, that’s fine.”

Bucks Re-Sign Pat Connaughton

NOVEMBER 24: The Bucks have officially re-signed Connaughton, according to the NBA’s transactions log.


NOVEMBER 21: The Bucks and Connaughton have adjusted their agreement and will now complete a three-year, $16MM deal, his representatives at Excel tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The Early Bird/player option noted below likely played a part in this renegotiation, as Milwaukee would have had to use part of its mid-level exception to complete the deal that was initially reported. Now the Bucks will be able to use their Early Bird rights on Connaughton while using their mid-level on D.J. Augustin.


NOVEMBER 20: The Bucks have reached an agreement on a two-year deal for free agent guard Pat Connaughton, his agents inform ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). According to Woj, the two-year contract will be worth $8.3MM with a player option in year two.

Connaughton, who will turn 28 in January, has been a regular rotation player off the bench for the Bucks in each of the last two seasons. He averaged 5.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 1.6 APG with a .455/.331/.775 shooting line in 67 games (18.6 MPG) in 2019/20.

The Bucks held Early Bird rights on Connaughton, allowing them to re-sign him without dipping into their mid-level or another exception. However, players signed using Early Bird rights aren’t permitted to get a second-year option in their contracts, so it seems like something’s got to give there.

Milwaukee will continue to seek ways to upgrade its roster after its rumored sign-and-trade deal for Bogdan Bogdanovic fell apart earlier this week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucks Notes: Connaughton, Bogdanovic, Holiday, Assistants

Appearing on The Hoop Collective podcast with Brian Windhorst, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said he’s had a couple teams with cap room ask him about Bucks free-agent-to-be Pat Connaughton. While Lowe doesn’t necessarily expect a bidding war for Connaughton, he suggests the shooting guard should draw interest for more than the veteran’s minimum, which could make it tricky for the hard-capped Bucks to re-sign him.

Here’s more on Milwaukee:

  • In that same Hoop Collective podcast, Windhorst said it’s his understanding that Bogdan Bogdanovic really wanted to play with Giannis Antetokounmpo and might have been able to get a slightly more lucrative offer elsewhere in free agency. We still don’t know exactly what Bogdanovic’s new deal with Milwaukee will look like, but Windhorst estimated it’ll start in the $14-15MM range.
  • According to Windhorst, when the Pelicans were discussing trades for Jrue Holiday, gauging Holiday’s interest in a longer-team stay with potential trade partners was part of that process. While nothing has been agreed to yet, Windhorst gets the sense that Holiday is open to an extension (or eventually re-signing in free agency) with the Bucks.
  • The Bucks announced on Tuesday in a press release that they’ve officially hired Mike Dunlap and Josh Oppenheimer, naming them assistant coaches on Mike Budenholzer‘s staff. A report last month indicated that Oppenheimer – who worked in Milwaukee from 2013-16 would be returning to the franchise. Dunlap, who has spent the last six years as the head coach at Loyola Marymount University, previously had a brief stint as the Bobcats’ coach.

Cavs Rumors: Thompson, Free Agents, Drummond, No. 5 Pick

The Cavaliers would like to re-sign Tristan Thompson at the right price, but so far, discussions between the two sides have “centered on a number lower than Thompson would want,” according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Thompson had an $18.5MM salary in 2019/20 and presumably won’t want to see that number decrease too significantly going forward. However, that may simply be the veteran’s reality now, Fedor writes.

As Fedor points out, John Hollinger of The Athletic and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst have both recently suggested that Thompson may be no more than a minimum-salary free agent. It sounds like the Cavs will offer him more than that, so the big man may have to decide whether he wants to stay in Cleveland at that higher number or compete for a title elsewhere on a more modest deal. He appears unlikely to get a sizeable offer from a contender, Fedor notes.

If Thompson doesn’t re-sign with the Cavaliers, the team will probably have to dedicate a portion of its mid-level exception to signing a center. Fedor identifies Harry Giles, Aron Baynes, Thon Maker, and Nerlens Noel as some free agents who could be possibilities for Cleveland.

Here’s more from Fedor on the Cavs:

  • Sources tell Fedor that the Cavaliers were hoping to pursue Jerami Grant in free agency, but now expect him to be out of their price range. The team still aims to add athletic, defensive-minded players — Derrick Jones, Maurice Harkless, Kris Dunn, and Pat Connaughton are a few of the potential targets singled out by Fedor.
  • If and when Andre Drummond officially opts in for 2020/21, it’s possible the Cavaliers will view him and his expiring contract as a potential trade chip. However, Fedor’s sources believe Cleveland would have a better chance of moving Drummond at the trade deadline rather than in the offseason, so it sounds like the veteran center will spend at least part of the season in Cleveland.
  • Multiple members of Cleveland’s front office like Tyrese Haliburton, but after using their previous two lottery picks on guards, the Cavs seem unlikely to opt for Haliburton over an “equally-talented” prospect who fills a greater need. Fedor believes Deni Avdija, Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro, and Obi Toppin are – in no particular order – the best bets to be the Cavs’ pick at No. 5.

Pacific Notes: Handy, Clippers, Suns, Warriors

Despite some rumors linking him to Brooklyn in recent weeks, Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy suggested this week in a conversation with Jason Dumas of KRON4 News (Twitter link) that he intends to remain with the 2020 NBA champs.

“I am a Los Angeles Laker. What’s next for me is waiting for (Lakers head coach) Frank Vogel to pick up the phone and… give me what my next directives are,” Handy said.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • New Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue is apparently strongly considering former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson and current Heat assistant Dan Craig as additions for his bench, per Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link). Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets that Atkinson, renowned for his ability to develop young players, could be a fit considering that owner Steve Ballmer is hoping his new coaching staff does just that.
  • Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic assesses the prospects of a 2020/21 Suns squad if the team essentially maintains its 2019/20 roster and rely on internal player growth. Backup center Aron Baynes is the only rotation player entering unrestricted free agency this offseason.
  • As the Warriors look to build at the edges of their roster, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area takes a look at two potential swingman bench fits: sharpshooting Bucks guard Pat Connaughton and hyper-athletic Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr.

Cavs Rumors: Avdija, Toppin, Thompson, More

Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deni Avdija, who won the Israeli League’s MVP award this year, should be considered one of the leading candidates to be drafted by the Cavaliers at No. 5 overall, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

As Fedor explains, the Cavaliers have done “extensive work” on Avdija, who fits the team’s culture both on and off the court. General manager Koby Altman, director of scouting Brandon Weems, and assistant GM Mike Gansey all made trips overseas to see him play prior to the season shutting down, while head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has reached out to former players Omri Casspi, Tyler Dorsey and Tarik Black for intel on their Maccabi Tel Aviv teammate, writes Fedor.

It’s possible that Avdija will be gone by the time the Cavs are on the clock — sources tell Fedor that the previous Bulls regime “loved” the Israeli forward and probably would’ve taken him at No. 4, though it’s unclear if the new decision-makers in Chicago are as high on him.

The Cavaliers also like Isaac Okoro and Devin Vassell, so if all three wings are still on the board at No. 5, it won’t be an easy decision, according to Fedor, who adds that forward Obi Toppin is “very much in play” at that spot as well.

Here’s more from Fedor on the Cavs:

  • There’s no specific mandate from team owner Dan Gilbert for the Cavs to stay out of the tax going forward, but the team would prefer to do so and that will play a role in roster decisions, according to Fedor. Long-term financial considerations may also dissuade the team from taking on an exorbitant multiyear contract such as Tobias Harris‘ or Al Horford‘s in any trade, Fedor adds.
  • Given the money already on the Cavs’ books for 2020/21, the team is unlikely to re-sign Tristan Thompson and use the full mid-level exception this offseason, according to Fedor in a separate story. Cleveland may have to choose one path or the other, per Fedor, who thinks the team should prioritize Thompson.
  • One source estimated to Fedor that the odds of Thompson returning are 50-50. “I believe there’s a chance of him re-signing in free agency,” another source close to Thompson told Cleveland.com. “He hasn’t necessarily played his final game there.”
  • If Thompson departs and the Cavs do look to use their MLE, Derrick Jones and Pat Connaughton are among the free agents they may target, Fedor writes.

Bledsoe, Connaughton, Crawford Cleared To Make Summer Debuts

Three veterans involved in Tuesday’s Bucks/Nets contest have been cleared to play for the first time this summer, the two teams confirmed this morning.

Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton will be available for Milwaukee, according to head coach Mike Budenholzer, who added that both players will see “reasonably low” minutes, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford is set to make his debut for Brooklyn, tweets Andrews.

Bledsoe and Connaughton both arrived late to Orlando this summer after contracting COVID-19. As we noted when they were ruled out for Milwaukee’s opener against Boston last Friday, there was no need for the the club to rush either player back, since the Bucks have essentially locked up the East’s No. 1 seed and just need to get their key guys up to speed for the start of the postseason.

As for Crawford, he signed with the Nets as a substitute player last month, but it took the 40-year-old a little extra time to get back into game shape. Having cleared him for Tuesday’s game, Brooklyn is apparently confident in Crawford’s conditioning level.

The veteran guard may be leaned on to play rotation minutes immediately, since the shorthanded Nets will be without Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen today. Head coach Jacque Vaughn said Crawford will come off the bench and figures to play in “short stints” (Twitter link via Andrews).

Bucks’ Bledsoe, Connaughton Not Yet Ready To Return

The Bucks will be without a pair of rotation players when their season resumes on Friday against the Celtics, as head coach Mike Budenholzer confirmed today that Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton will remain sidelined for now, per Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

Both Bledsoe and Connaughton tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the summer, delaying their arrivals to the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus. They’ve each cleared quarantine and have returned to practice, but Budenholzer believes the two veterans need a little more time to get their conditioning and rhythm up to par.

“Everybody else is getting ready to play in a live game and have had 10 to 12 to 14 days of probably 5-on-5 every other day and individual work and all that, so I think giving Bled and Pat a couple of 5-on-5 sessions at a minimum and getting some 3-on-3 in other situations or days,” Budenholzer said, per Woodyard. “They just need to play, so I think that’s a big hurdle and with playing will come both conditioning and their rhythm, so we’re going to make sure they get some of that before we put them in an NBA game.”

With a comfortable 6.5-game lead on the Raptors for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks can afford to play it safe in the seeding games as they gear up for the postseason. They’ll want Bledsoe and Connaughton to be back at 100% by the time the playoffs get underway on August 17.

Bledsoe, Milwaukee’s starting point guard, averaged 15.4 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 4.6 RPG and played strong perimeter defense in 56 games (27.2 MPG) this season. Connaughton provided depth on the wing, averaging 5.1 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 61 contests (18.3 MPG).

The duo hasn’t been ruled out beyond Friday, so it’s possible one or both of them will be ready to go on Sunday night when the Bucks face Houston.

Eastern Notes: Isaac, Connaughton, Heat, Mokoka

Jonathan Isaac hasn’t played for the Magic in nearly seven months, having suffered a knee injury on January 1. However, it looks like his return is imminent — the team’s performance staff and front office officials have cleared Isaac to suit up for Orlando’s scrimmage on Monday, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

The Magic are being extra cautious with Isaac, one of the franchise’s young cornerstones, so he’ll still have to make it through today’s shootaround before being given the go-ahead for the club’s evening scrimmage vs. Denver. And even if he plays, he’ll face restrictions, Robbins notes.

“It’s been a very long time since he’s played,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said of Isaac. “As always, we will take a very cautious approach, and his playing time will be placed under a very limited minute restriction as he gets reacclimated to the NBA game.”

The Magic had originally been planning to be without Isaac this summer, but the young forward has exceeded expectations, writes Robbins. If he gets through Monday’s scrimmage with no issues, he would be well positioned to contribute in the team’s seeding games and potentially the playoffs as well, which would be a nice boost for Orlando. Isaac was one of the NBA’s best defenders during the first half of the season, with averages of 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game in 32 contests.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Bucks wing Pat Connaughton, who revealed last week that he had tested positive for COVID-19, said on Saturday that he was en route to the NBA’s campus in Orlando, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. Assuming Connaughton began his quarantine that evening and returns two negative coronavirus tests, he should be cleared to rejoin the team today.
  • Heat starters Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn confirmed that their arrivals to Orlando were delayed by positive COVID-19 tests, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Adebayo said that he was essentially asymptomatic, while Nunn had “mild symptoms,” per Winderman. “It felt like a common cold, to be honest,” Nunn said. “I’m just thankful I got over it.”
  • Bulls two-way player Adam Mokoka was named the MVP of a summer tournament in France, as Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago relays. Mokoka scored 18 points in the final of the Amiral League, which took place in Paris and also featured NBA players Frank Ntilikina and Sekou Doumbouya.