Pat Connaughton

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.

Bucks’ Connaughton Tested Positive For COVID-19, Not Yet In Orlando

Bucks wing Pat Connaughton revealed today, in a statement to ESPN and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that he recently tested positive for the coronavirus and has not yet reported to the NBA’s campus in Orlando (Twitter link via Matt Velazquez of The Journal Sentinel).

“I am healthy and I feel great and I am excited to join my teammates in Orlando once I meet all the NBA protocols,” Connaughton said.

Connaughton, 27, has been a key part of Milwaukee’s rotation in 2019/20, appearing in 61 games and averaging 5.1 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 18.3 minutes per contest. This is his second season with the Bucks after he began his NBA career by spending three years in Portland.

The Bucks are missing two rotation players due to COVID-19 — Eric Bledsoe also hasn’t yet reported to Orlando after testing positive earlier this month. While it remains to be seen whether either player will be ready for the Bucks’ first of eight seeding games on July 31, the club will be more concerned with making sure both players are back to 100% by the time the postseason begins in mid-to-late August.

The 53-12 Bucks have a 6.5-game lead on the Raptors and have essentially already locked in the No. 1 seed in the East, so they’re unlikely to be going all-out during those eight seeding contests.

Poll: Who Will Win 2020 Slam Dunk Contest?

Bulls guard Zach LaVine, a two-time Slam Dunk Contest winner, flirted with the idea of taking part in this year’s event in his home arena. However, after suggesting that he’d only participate if he was named to the All-Star team, LaVine has stuck to that stance. That means fans in Chicago this weekend won’t get the opportunity to see a rematch of the 2016 final, which pitted LaVine against Aaron Gordon in perhaps the most memorable Dunk Contest of the decade.

Gordon will participate though, and he’ll be one of the most experienced dunkers on the court this Saturday night. Besides finishing as the runner-up to LaVine in 2016, Gordon also took part in 2017’s contest. Having fallen short twice before, the Magic forward is confident the third time will be the charm, telling Josh Robbins of The Athletic, “I’m gonna win.”

However, it’s Dwight Howard – not Gordon – who has the most Dunk Contest experience of any of this year’s participants. This will be Howard’s fourth time taking part in the event, and he even has a win under his belt.

That win came in 2008 though, and the Lakers center hasn’t participated in a Dunk Contest since 2009, more than a decade ago. A win this year for the 34-year-old Howard would be unprecedented in an event that’s typically a young man’s game. Dominique Wilkins, who had just turned 30 when he won 1990’s contest, is the oldest all-time winner. The second-oldest? Nate Robinson, who was 26 when he beat Howard in 2009.

If you believe that youth will win out in 2020, you’ll have to consider Bucks wing Pat Connaughton an underdog as well. The 27-year-old will be participating in his first NBA Dunk Contest, and is flying under the radar as Saturday’s festivities near — something he says is just fine with him.

No one’s worried about me and hopefully Saturday night they’ll be like, ‘Damn, I should have been worried about him,'” Connaughton said this week, per Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The fourth contestant this year will be Heat swingman Derrick Jones Jr., who will also be celebrating his birthday on Saturday, as he turns 23. Jones finished as the runner-up to Glenn Robinson III in 2017’s event and will likely have some new tricks up his sleeve this time around.

What do you think? Will Howard defy the odds and win his second Dunk Contest? Will Gordon or Jones get over the hump after placing second in past competitions? Will the first-time Connaughton make a name for himself with a win on Saturday?

Vote below our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Team USA Updates: Millsap, Plumlee, Harrell, Select Team

USA Basketball has issued a press release announcing a series of updates relating to the team it’s putting together for the 2019 World Cup in China, as well as the training camp that will take place in August before that event. Here are the highlights of that announcement:

More withdrawals:

Nuggets big man Paul Millsap has joined the ever-growing list of players from Team USA’s initial 20-man roster who have decided not to participate in this year’s World Cup. As expected, Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has also withdrawn from Team USA’s 2019 roster.

Millsap and Love join Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Tobias Harris, Damian Lillard, and CJ McCollum among the original invitees who have removed their names from World Cup consideration.

New invitees:

Team USA confirmed that Thaddeus Young, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, and Jaylen Brown will join the training camp roster for next month, as previous reports indicated.

In addition to those four players, two big men will join the roster as well, with Clippers center Montrezl Harrell and Nuggets center Mason Plumlee have received invitations from USA Basketball. Assuming the remaining 11 players from the original 20-man roster remain committed, that would bring the roster back up to 17.

[UPDATE: Harrell may turn down his invitation]

Those 11 other players are Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kyle Kuzma, Brook Lopez, Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Myles Turner, and Kemba Walker.

Select Team:

For the first time, USA Basketball confirmed the players who will make up the Select Team at next month’s training camp in Las Vegas. The members of the 13-man Select Team will practice and scrimmage with Team USA’s training camp invitees, and will be coached by Jeff Van Gundy.

It’s possible that a player could be elevated from the Select Team to the primary roster and eventually find his way onto the 12-man squad that will play in China, but that’s probably a long shot.

The 13 players who will play for the Select Team are as follows:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Nets)
  2. Marvin Bagley III (Kings)
  3. Mikal Bridges (Suns)
  4. Jalen Brunson (Mavericks)
  5. John Collins (Hawks)
  6. Pat Connaughton (Bucks)
  7. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
  8. Joe Harris (Nets)
  9. Jonathan Isaac (Magic)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Landry Shamet (Clippers)
  12. Derrick White (Spurs)
  13. Trae Young (Hawks)

Team USA’s training camp will take place during the week of August 5, while the World Cup itself is scheduled to run from August 31 to September 15.

Bucks To Keep Pat Connaughton, Sterling Brown Past Guarantee Date

The Bucks plan on keeping Pat Connaughton and Sterling Brown on the roster through July 1 when each players’ contracts will become guaranteed, Matt Velazquez of the Journal Sentinel reports (Twitter link).

Connaughton will make slightly over $1.72MM while Brown will receive just under $1.62MM next season. Neither player’s contract runs past this upcoming season.

Milwaukee could have waived either player today and given themselves some minor cap relief. However, the franchise had no need for the additional cap room after re-signing both Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez earlier today.

Connaughton and Brown project to be low-cost rotation players next season before they reach the open market in 2020. Connaughton will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, while Brown can be restricted.

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Smith, Griffin, Connaughton

Former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff is “definitely interested” in the Cavaliers’ head coaching opening, he said in a SiruisXM interview with Mitch Lawrence, Zach Harper and Sarah Kustok (Twitter link). “It would be an honor to have an opportunity to work with that group,” said Bickerstaff, who was fired by Memphis two weeks ago. Bickerstaff is reportedly on Cleveland’s radar screen, though there has been no indication if he’ll be interviewed for the job.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Backup point guard Ish Smith is willing to return to the Pistons but it’s uncertain if there’s mutual interest, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. Smith will enter unrestricted free agency this summer. “Obviously, if they call, I’m for sure going to pick up,” Smith said. “This has been home the last three years.” The cap-strapped Pistons could look to re-sign Smith at a lower cost than the $6MM he made this season. Otherwise, they might go with an in-house alternative, such as Luke Kennard or Bruce Brown.
  • Pistons All-Star forward Blake Griffin said he won’t get involved in personnel decisions this offseason unless his opinion is requested, Beard writes in a separate story. “I’m not here to make decisions; it’s the front office. (Senior adviser) Ed (Stefanski) and all those guys do a really good job, in the short time I’ve known them,” Griffin said. “They have plans and an idea and a direction. It might not happen overnight because of the (financial) situation. They have a great grasp on that. If they ask my opinion, I’ll, of course, give my honest opinion. I’ve never been the type of player to go in and make demands, just because sometimes as players and coaches, we’re all about winning right now, which is very important but not at the expense of the next year or however that may be.”
  • Bucks reserve guard Pat Connaughton hasn’t given up his dream to play major league baseball, as he explained to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner in a Q&A session. Connaughton was a minor-league pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles system five years ago before choosing to pursue his basketball dreams. “Obviously I’ve wanted to be as successful at both sports as possible. You have to shoot for being an All-Star to have a chance to even make it in either, right? But I did think, “If I really went into baseball right now, if I dropped basketball when I was coming out of high school, I fully believe I’d have had the chance to be an All-Star, to be one of the top two pitchers on a championship team.” But something drew me to basketball, something drew me to having success in two sports,” Connaughton said. The Bucks have until July 1 to guarantee his $1.723MM salary for next season.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Eastern Conference

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. With the playoffs underway, we turn our attention to the Eastern Conference:

Michael Carter-Williams, Magic, 27, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $60K deal in 2019
Carter-Williams was scrounging for work six weeks ago after getting traded from Houston to Chicago in early January and then immediately getting waived. The former Rookie of the Year had to settle for 10-day contracts with Orlando before he was signed for the remainder of the season. Not only did he help the Magic reach the playoffs, he’s been one of their main cogs off the bench against Toronto. He posted 10 points, five rebounds and two assists in Orlando’s Game One upset. Carter-Williams has played well enough to receive offers commensurate to other veteran backup point guards.

Glenn Robinson III, Pistons, 25, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $8.35MM deal in 2018
With Blake Griffin sidelined by a knee in the first two games against Milwaukee, Robinson got one last chance to convince the Pistons that they should exercise their $4.3MM option on him for next season. Robinson has been utilized as an undersized power forward in the series but his perimeter shooting woes have continued. After shooting just 29% from deep and falling out of Dwane Casey‘s rotation during the regular season, Robinson has made just one of his eight 3-point attempts in the first two games. Robinson will assuredly return to the free agent market this summer.

Pat Connaughton, Bucks, 26, SG (Up) — Signed to a two-year, $3.36MM deal in 2018
Connaughton’s modest salary of $1.723MM for next season becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the roster July 1st. That already seemed like a good bet heading into the postseason; now it’s a no-brainer. He’s taken advantage of an expanded role with Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell sidelined by injuries. Connaughton has been a difference-maker against Detroit, averaging 14.0 PPG on 73.4% shooting and 8.5 RPG in 29.5 MPG. He also recorded four blocks on perimeter shooters in Game Two. He’ll be one of the league’s best bargains next season.

Jeremy Lin, Raptors, 30, PG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $487K deal in 2019
Lin chose the Raptors after agreeing to a buyout with the Hawks in mid-February. The expectation was that he would bolster the playoff rotation behind Kyle Lowry. But Lin has had trouble finding his footing in Toronto and with Fred VanVleet healthy, he has been the odd man out in the postseason. He never left the bench in the Game One loss to Orlando and played four meaningless minutes in Game Two. Lin should still find work this summer but he’ll likely have to settle for something close to the veteran’s minimum.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucks Sign Pat Connaughton

AUGUST 1: The Bucks have officially signed Connaughton, the team announced today in a press release.

“Pat is a talented wing player with a tremendous work ethic and great character,” GM Jon Horst said in a statement. “We believe he will continue to grow and develop his skills working with Coach Bud and his staff. We are excited to welcome him to the Bucks organization and we know he will be a positive addition to our roster both on and off the court.”

JULY 27: The Bucks have reached an agreement to sign free agent swingman Pat Connaughton, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). According to Charania (via Twitter), Connaughton will ink a two-year deal that will be worth slightly more than the minimum in each season. The first year will be guaranteed.

The Bucks are over the cap and used their entire bi-annual exception to sign Brook Lopez. However, the team still has a bit of its mid-level exception available. Having used $7MM of the $8.641MM exception to add Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee could give Connaughton a starting salary of $1.641MM, which would exceed his minimum salary of $1,567,007.

Assuming Connaughton gets the rest of the Bucks’ MLE and the maximum allowable 5% raise in year two, the two-year pact would be worth about $3.36MM.

Connaughton, 25, spent the last three seasons in Portland, carving out a regular rotation role in 2017/18. Appearing in all 82 games for the Blazers, the former Notre Dame standout averaged 5.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 1.1 APG in 18.1 minutes per contest, with a .423/.352/.841 shooting line. However, he didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the team last month, making him an unrestricted free agent.

While he’s unlikely to see an increase in minutes in Milwaukee, Connaughton will provide solid depth for the Bucks. We had mentioned him earlier today in our look at the top free agent wings still available.

Once Connaughton is officially under contract, the Bucks will have 14 players on guaranteed salaries, with Brandon Jennings and Tyler Zeller on non-guaranteed deals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.