Patty Mills

And-Ones: Australia, Evans, Masks, Free Agency

Ben Simmons heads the list of players named by Basketball Australia to the country’s preliminary Olympic squad, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Among some of the other NBA notables on the 24-player list are Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, Patty Mills, Josh Green, Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova. The squad will have to be pared to 12 players for the Olympic tournament in Tokyo this summer.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The Erie BayHawks waived guard Jacob Evans to make room for forward Jordan Bell, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Bell was released from his 10-day contract with the Wizards over the weekend. Evans played for the Warriors and Timberwolves the past two seasons.
  • The NBA will soon require players to wear KN95 or KF94 masks on the bench and all other areas where masks are necessary, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes. The new rule will go into effect over the next week. Starting with games on Friday, the NBA will more strictly enforce current rules regarding the use of face masks, Bontemps adds.
  • The Athletic trio of James Edwards III (Pistons), Mike Vorkunov (Knicks) and Chris Kirschner (Hawks) take a closer look at their teams’ free agent moves during the offseason, how well those players have worked out so far, and what those franchises could have done differently.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Mills, Ball, Tillman

Grizzlies star Ja Morant returned to the lineup on Saturday days ahead of his initial timetable, energizing his teammates and leading the club to a 106-104 victory over Philadelphia, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.

Morant suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain on Dec. 28 and was given a 3-to-5 week timeline, a brutal blow for a team already playing without Jaren Jackson Jr. In nearly 31 minutes against the Sixers, Morant finished with 17 points and six assists, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor.

“It was huge, in the fact that he wanted to come back so fast,” teammate Xavier Tillman said, as relayed by Bontemps. “For a guy who .. is a franchise kind-of-guy, they’re usually able to take their time and make sure they are 110 percent before they come back. I’m not saying he wasn’t 110 percent, but he was dying and itching to come back and help us win games.

“To see that from your head guy motivates everybody else, including me, being one of the rookies on the team. It’s like, ‘Hey man, forget nicks and bruises. The dude looked like he broke his ankle and he’s itching to get back. If I have nicks and bruises, I can play, and I can give my heart.'”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Spurs guard Patty Mills confirmed he plans to play for Australia in the Olympics, as relayed by ESPN (hat tip to Sportando). “Everyone who’s a part of that program right now, from the head coach all the way to the equipment manager, everyone’s gotta be locked in and feel the exact same way as we feel: determined, fire burning inside, desire to do everything we possibly can to win this gold medal,” Mills said.
  • Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy issued a brief injury update on Lonzo Ball, who’s currently dealing with bilateral knee tendinopathy. Though Ball didn’t practice on Saturday, Van Gundy is hopeful he can return relatively soon. “He says he feels a lot better,” Van Gundy said, as relayed by Jacob Rude of USA Today. “(He’s) really working hard on strengthening the muscles around that knee which seems to really help. I think he’s pretty optimistic about being able to come at full strength and pretty optimistic that’s (his return) is not in the distant, distant future. I think we’re talking more days to a week than we are weeks.”
  • Grizzlies forward Xavier Tillman also discussed his increased role with the team (as relayed by Evan Barnes of the Commercial Appeal). The rookie finished with 15 points and four steals off the bench on Saturday, proving his worth on both ends of the floor.

Spurs Shopping Mills, Aldridge, DeRozan?

As we detailed on Wednesday, there has been increasing chatter as of late about the possibility that the Spurs will have an active offseason. Addressing that possibility within his latest mock draft, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports that San Antonio is shopping point guard Patty Mills and is also “looking to unload” veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan.

All three players are entering contract years in 2020/21, with Mills set to earn $13.3MM, Aldridge to make $24MM, and DeRozan on the books for $27.7MM.

According to O’Connor, the Bucks and Sixers are among the teams that have expressed interest in Mills. If the Spurs were to make a deal with Philadelphia, Josh Richardson would likely head to San Antonio in the swap, O’Connor notes.

As for Aldridge and DeRozan, O’Connor confirms that there is buzz – first reported by ESPN’s Zach Lowe – about the possibility of the Warriors pursuing Aldridge in a deal that would involve the No. 2 pick in the draft. It’s not clear exactly what such a trade would look like, but Andrew Wiggins would presumably have to be included for salary-matching purposes.

Meanwhile, O’Connor has also heard that the Lakers have some interest in acquiring DeRozan, suggesting that Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma would be part of a hypothetical deal. In order to match DeRozan’s $27.7MM cap hit, the Lakers would have to add a few million more dollars to that package.

The Spurs typically don’t make major splashes on the trade market unless their hand is forced, as in the case of 2018’s Kawhi Leonard blockbuster. However, with virtually all of their veteran players – including Rudy Gay – expected to be on expiring contracts next season, the team could have some interesting options available as it looks to pivot to building around its younger generation of players.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Mills, McLemore, Johnson

Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram said on Monday that New Orleans will number among his “top choices” in free agency during the 2020 offseason, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Ingram, 22, will be a restricted free agent this summer. Considering his growth with the team, whatever offer is tendered to Ingram by another club would almost certainly be matched by the Pelicans. Ingram hailed his current NBA home as a “special place with a lot of really, really good people.”

A 2-4 showing thus far in the NBA’s Orlando campus has doomed the 30-40 Pelicans to miss the playoffs this season, but with Ingram and promising rookie Zion Williamson established as the team’s two cornerstones, they look to be an attractive destination for free agent players.

Here’s more out of the NBA’s Southwest Division:

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has addressed the fact that point guard Patty Mills has not played much during the NBA’s season restart in Orlando, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link).  “Might as well stay whole and take a rest,” Popovich said of Mills. “(He’s) kind of like a humming bird. He plays at such a high level of competitiveness, I’d rather have him whole for next season.”
  • Rockets guard Ben McLemore, who has had a stellar showing for Houston during the team’s Orlando tenure, has just rejoined Klutch Sports for representation, per Ben DuBose of USA Today. McLemore’s previous agent was Jarinn Akana of Dynasty Sports Management. McLemore is currently signed to a two-year veteran’s minimum contract with a team option for the 2020/21 season. Given his recent play, it seems probable that Houston will retain him.
  • Spurs rookie forward Keldon Johnson has started to come into his own during the NBA’s Orlando seeding games, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. Johnson, drafted with the No. 29 pick in 2019 out of Kentucky, has emerged as a rotation player for San Antonio during the season restart. He notched career highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds in a crucial victory over the Rockets today. “He’s a high energy guy,” Popovich said of the rookie. “Very physical. Very competitive. Very coachable.”

Injury Notes: Embiid, Robinson, Harris, Barton, Mills

Joel Embiid missed the Sixers’ last two scrimmage games due to right calf tightness. However, he’s expected to play on Saturday in the team’s seeding opener against the Pacers, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Embiid suffered the calf injury during a July 24 scrimmage against the Grizzlies and played just 13 minutes. He also battled injuries prior to the stoppage of play in March. He missed nine games with a torn ligament in his right hand, and sat out five others with a left shoulder sprain, Pompey notes.

The Sixers can improve their playoff seeding during the next eight games. They are tied for fifth place in the East with Indiana at 39-26.

We have more injury-related news:

  • Sixers forward Glenn Robinson III is doubtful to play on Saturday, Pompey notes in the same story. He has a left hip pointer, which he suffered during a scrimmage against the Thunder on Sunday.
  • The Nuggets will go without at least two key players in their seeding opener on Saturday, the team’s PR department tweets. Guard Gary Harris has a right hip muscle strain while Will Barton is dealing with right knee soreness. Reserve big man Vlatko Cancar (left foot fracture) will also miss the game. Starting point guard Jamal Murray is questionable duo to left hamstring tightness.
  • Spurs veteran guard Patty Mills didn’t play in the team’s first game in Orlando but it wasn’t injury-related, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk tweets. Coach Gregg Popovich simply wanted to use his younger guards more extensively. Shooting guard Bryn Forbes‘ absence was injury-related — he’s dealing with a sore right quad.

And-Ones: Maker, Lawson, Mills, Zion

Makur Maker spurned traditional college powerhouses to attend Howard University, but he may not be there long, Adam Zagoria of Forbes.com relays. The 6’11” Maker, cousin of Pistons center Thon Maker, admitted on ESPN’s First Take talk show that he may only be there one season.

“We’ll see how the future goes but if you’re a one-and-done talent, why not leave? That’s how I look at,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA and if that’s going to take me a year, I’m definitely all for it. If it’s going to take me two years, I’m definitely all for it. I know I’m an NBA lottery talent.”

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Duke is closing in on Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson as its new women’s basketball head coach, according to The News & Observer’s Steve Wiseman. Lawson, a former WNBA star and ESPN analyst, traveled with the Celtics to the Orlando campus this week. She would replace Joanne P. McCallie, who resigned this month after 13 years with the Blue Devils.
  • Spurs guard Patty Mills plans to donate his game checks during the league’s restart to social justice organizations, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News writes. “I’m playing in Orlando because I don’t want to leave any money on the table that could be going directly to Black communities,” Mills said.
  • According to a federal court filing, Zion Williamson‘s stepfather allegedly solicited and accepted a $400K payment from a marketing agent in October 2018 prior to his season at Duke, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. If true, Williamson would have been ineligible to play for the Blue Devils. The court motion and sworn affidavit was filed by his former marketing representative’s attorneys. Prime Sports Marketing sued Williamson and Creative Artists Agency for $100MM in state court in Florida for Williamson’s alleged breaching of their marketing agreement and signing with CAA.

Kris Dunn Meets Starter Criteria, Increases Value Of QO

Bulls guard Kris Dunn has been deemed to have met the starter criteria as a result of the shortened season, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). As a result, Dunn will receive a qualifying offer of $7,091,457 instead of $4,642,800 this offseason if Chicago wants to make him a restricted free agent.

We broke down Dunn’s situation in greater depth earlier this month, but the abridged version is this: A player eligible for restricted free agency receives a more lucrative qualifying offer if he starts 41 games or plays 2,000 minutes in the season before he reaches free agency, or if he averages 41 starts or 2,000 minutes in the two seasons before his free agency.

Dunn, who started 32 games this season and 76 in total over the last two years, fell slightly short of the 41-game-per-season requirement, but the criteria became prorated due to the Bulls only playing 65 of their 82 games this season. As a result, the former No. 5 overall pick was considered to have met the starter criteria, increasing the value of his qualifying offer.

As we’ve previously pointed out, the $2.5MM difference could have a real impact on Dunn’s free agency. It’s possible the Bulls will be less inclined to tender a qualifying offer now that it’s worth $7.1MM instead of $4.6MM. If they do move ahead with the QO, it’s possible Dunn will be more inclined to accept it.

If Chicago doesn’t tender a qualifying offer to Dunn, he’d become an unrestricted free agent.

As Marks and ESPN have previously reported, the NBA and NBPA also agreed to prorate the criteria for bonuses and incentives available to players in 2019/20, based on the shortened season. As a result, the following players have now achieved bonuses, according to Marks (Twitter link):

  • Rudy Gobert (Jazz): $250K for a rate of one rebound per 2.52 minutes in 62 games played.
    • Original criteria: A rate of one rebound per <3.2 minutes in 67 games.
  • Solomon Hill (Heat): $532K for 992 minutes played.
    • Original criteria: 1,000 minutes.
  • Jrue Holiday (Pelicans): $255K for 1,922 minutes played; $255K for 55 games played; $255K for 4.9 RPG in 55 games.
    • Original criteria: 2,075 minutes played; 66 games played; 3.15 RPG in 67 games.
  • Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): $858K for 32 wins.
    • Original criteria: 33 wins.
  • Kyle Lowry (Raptors): $200K for All-Star berth and 52 games played.
    • Original criteria: All-Star berth and 65 games played.
  • Patty Mills (Spurs): $250K for 149 three-pointers made.
    • Original criteria: 185 3PM.
  • T.J. Warren (Pacers): $250K for 184 three-pointers made and .375 3PT%.
    • Original criteria: 185 3PM; .370 3PT%.

Southwest Notes: Mills, Fertitta, Grizzlies

Although the Spurs were having a disappointing season before the NBA’s hiatus began, Patty Mills was enjoying one of the best years of his career, averaging a career-high 11.7 PPG. Mills, who will be entering the final season of his four-year, $50MM contract in 2020/21, has been “worth every penny” of that deal due to his play on the court and his locker-room contributions, in the view of Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News.

As McDonald writes, Mills’ future beyond next season remains unknown, but no player on the current roster embodies the “Spurs Way” like Mills, so the club will be glad to keep him around at least through the end of his deal.

  • Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has been “absolutely devastated” financially over the last several months, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on a Hoop Collective podcast. As Windhorst explains, Fertitta is believed to have lost “tens of millions” of dollars in Chinese sponsorships as a result of the Daryl Morey controversy in the fall, and his hotel and casino businesses have been shut down as a result of the coronavirus. Windhorst notes that it’ll be interesting to see how the Rockets handle their payroll going forward, considering they’ve already been tax-averse since Fertitta’s arrival.
  • In a Q&A with Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com, Grizzlies president Jason Wexler spoke about how his role and responsibilities have changed during the NBA’s hiatus, how the team’s employees have been impacted, and his thoughts on an impressive season from his young team.
  • Justise Winslow‘s Memphis debut and Marc Gasol‘s return to the FedExForum are two of the notable Grizzlies-related events that may no longer happen in 2019/20, with the rest of the season up in the air, writes Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

World Cup Notes: Nurse, Team USA, Mills, Scola

Team Canada coach Nick Nurse is frustrated by the lack of commitment from the nation’s top stars, according to a Canadian Press report (link via Sportsnet.ca). The Canadians had a disappointing performance in this year’s World Cup, being relegated to the classification round rather than fighting for a medal or an Olympic berth. Seventeen NBA players were invited to Canada’s training camp, but Cory Joseph and Khem Birch are the only ones representing the country in China.

“I see it as a really interesting unique time in Canada basketball,” Nurse said. “The talent’s really pouring out, the young talent continues to pour out, the Raptors had a pretty good season, the fan base, the people are interested all over the country in basketball, I think it’s an important time for a group of six, eight, 10 guys to stick together for five or six years.”

Eight of the 12 berths for next year’s Olympics will have been decided once the World Cup ends, leaving Canada with an uphill fight to qualify. They will have to win one of four second-chance tournaments next summer, but they’ll likely be given a low seed because they didn’t advance at the World Cup. Former Gonzaga star Kyle Wiltjer agrees that a unified effort is necessary.

“It’s building that cohesion, and even for myself as a player, I didn’t really know what to expect because we brought in a new coach and with that comes a new system,” he said, “and if we have to play next year guys like Cory, Khem, me, we know the system now, we feel comfortable in it.”

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Team USA had its best performance of the tournament in today’s win over Greece, and much of the credit should go to Gregg Popovich and his staff for devising a plan to control Giannis Antetokounmpo, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Even though Antetokounmpo posted 15 points and 13 rebounds, he wasn’t the dominant force that Greece needed and wound up sitting out the entire fourth quarter to rest for Monday’s game. “Everything is always a compilation of experiences. Obviously we’ve seen him play, and he’s a great player,” Popovich said. “It’s a little bit of everything. Overall we did a good job of being active.”
  • Australia’s Patty Mills transforms from sixth man to superstar in international competition, writes Dan Devine of The Ringer. He’s the top scorer among teams that advanced past the first group stage.
  • Luis Scola, the last link to Argentina’s “golden generation,” has remained productive at age 39, Devine observes. Scola averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game as Argentina cruised through Group B with a 3-0 record.

World Cup Notes: Popovich, Mills, Mitchell, Harris

Team USA coach Gregg Popovich believes the loss to Australia in Saturday’s exhibition game may turn out to be a positive experience, relays Steve Drumwright of USA Basketball. The Americans split a pair of games in Australia, pulling away in the second half Friday before dropping a 98-94 decision yesterday. It was the team’s first loss in international play in 13 years.

“The loss means that we need to play better,” Popovich said. “It’s a measure of who you are. Nobody wins forever. This is a group of guys that’s worked very hard, like I said, to get to know each other and get to know a system. And whatever comes, we can handle. Our job is to try to get better every day. We learned some things tonight. We’re actually a better team now than at the start of the game, because of the knowledge from the game. So, now we move on.”

The defeat raised more doubts about whether Team USA should be considered a heavy favorite heading into the World Cup, which starts Saturday. The Americans have been left short-handed after a series of stars withdrew from the team and will face several talented clubs who have a lot more experience playing together. The U.S. will play its final exhibition game tomorrow against Canada.

There’s more World Cup news this morning:

  • Popovich was happy for Spurs guard Patty Mills, who had 30 points in the game, although he joked with reporters that “we’ve already traded Patty.” (Video link from Bleacher Report).
  • Donovan Mitchell, one of only two Americans to reach double figures in the loss, tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic that the outcome wasn’t important. “Obviously it hurts to lose, but I look at this and we look at this as more of a learning experience as opposed to we just lost,” Mitchell said. “That’s the mindset. If you think of this as a loss, you start to get carried away with all that. We’re focused on the film. … We’re going to watch it on the plane and we’re going to be ready for Canada. That’s the best thing. You want to win every game, but you learn a lot in losses too.”
  • Unlike many of his high-profile teammates, the NetsJoe Harris came a long way to earn a spot on Team USA, observes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. He received an invitation to the Select Team and worked his way onto the main roster. It’s a familiar story for Harris, who had to struggle to win an NBA roster spot after being traded, waived and undergoing foot surgery in 2016, all on the same day.