Patty Mills

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.

Six NBA Players On Australia’s World Cup Roster

Team Australia has formally announced its 12-man roster for the 2019 World Cup, and the group features six NBA players.

Aron Baynes (Suns), Joe Ingles (Jazz), Patty Mills (Spurs), Matthew Dellavedova (Cavaliers), and Jonah Bolden (Sixers) are part of the 12-man squad. So is former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut, who is technically back under contract with the NBL’s Sydney Kings, but was part of the Warriors team that appeared in the NBA Finals this spring.

Australia’s roster is rounded out by NBL players Cameron Gliddon, Chris Goulding, Nathan Sobey, and Nicholas Kay, along with Jock Landale and Xavier Cooks. Landale currently plays for Lithuanian club Zalgiris Kaunas, while Cooks is a member of SIG Strasbourg in France.

Although Team Australia has a strong roster, there are no guarantees that the squad will make a deep run in next month’s event. The Boomers finds themselves in Group H, which features a handful of tough competitors — Lithuania, Canada, and Senegal. Only the top two teams will advance to the second round.

Popovich Expected To Continue Coaching Spurs

Gregg Popovich is expected to return to the Spurs next season, with one member of the team’s staff telling Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express News that he has “no doubt” about the legendary coach’s future. Popovich’s current contract expired when San Antonio’s playoff run ended last night. He will coach Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer, but has remained guarded about his plans beyond that.

“I’m a head coach in the NBA,” Popovich said in response to a pre-game question Saturday on whether he was considering retirement. “I don’t think about what that means in the future.”

At age 70, Popovich still embraces the challenges of coaching and had a particularly good time this season, notes Jabari Young of The Athletic. In looking for clues about his future, Young cites a quote from Popovich before a March game in Boston.

“This is actually one of the more enjoyable seasons,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch Bryn Forbes develop, and Davis Bertans, and Derrick White and so forth. It’s satisfying.”

The chance to reach a milestone may also play into Popovich’s thought process. He moved into third place on the career victories list this season with 1,245 and is just 90 away from catching Don Nelson for the top spot.

There’s more on the offseason decisions facing the Spurs:

  • Rudy Gay will be the team’s only significant free agent this summer, but San Antonio has to decide how much it wants to invest in a player who will be 33 by the start of training camp. The Spurs will have Early Bird rights on Gay, Young notes, meaning they can offer up to a 75% raise on his $10MM contract. Gay will be eligible for a one- to four-year deal starting at about $17MM per season.
  • Regardless of what happens with Gay, San Antonio will likely be operating above the salary cap but under the tax line, Young adds. That will give the team a $9.2MM mid-level exception to use on the free agent market.
  • It’s not too early to start thinking about DeMar DeRozan‘s free agency, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN. DeRozan can decide next summer to opt out of his $27.7 million salary for 2020/21, and could join Draymond Green and possibly Anthony Davis as the top names in an otherwise sub-par free agent class. The Spurs can eliminate that possibility by reworking DeRozan’s contract when he becomes eligible for a four-year, $149.1MM extension on July 6.
  • The Spurs also face a difficult decision on Dejounte Murray, who will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension through October 21, according to Marks. Murray appears to have a bright future, but he is coming off a torn ACL that wiped virtually his entire season. Jakob Poeltl is also eligible for a rookie scale extension, but by waiting on both players and DeRozan, the Spurs could have up to $30MM in cap room to spend next summer.
  • Patty Mills will be eligible for a veteran extension on August 4, and LaMarcus Aldridge becomes eligible on October 1, Marks adds.

Southwest Notes: Parsons, House, Mills, Capela

Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons is set to rejoin the rotation for the remainder of the season, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Parsons has played just three games this season, mutually agreeing to separate from the team early last month as trade talks began to heat up.

“He’ll get minutes like everybody else,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Parsons, according to Cobb. “Because of the layoff, he’ll probably have to play through some bumps. But the expectation is for him to contribute and help us win. Those are the guys I’ll always play.”

Parsons’ tenure with the Grizzlies has been tumultuous since he originally joining the franchise on a maximum-salary deal in the summer of 2016. Despite his future looking murky before this month’s deadline, Parsons insists he had no interest in leaving the team in a trade.

“Honestly, no,” Parsons said. “This is just as new a start as going to a new team, except that I’m familiar with the city, familiar with the coaching staff, the defensive terminology. I wanted to play. I’ve wanted to play since I was cleared two months ago. That hasn’t changed. I chose to come here, and I still want to be here. I wasn’t going to just stay in L.A. and watch my team play for the last six weeks of the season. I was going to come, and that’s that.”

Parsons was sidelined to start the season with knee soreness, but has worked his way back to game shape after several months away from the court. The Grizzlies own the second-worst record in the Western Conference at 23-36.

There’s more from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Danuel House is hopeful to return to the Rockets this season, he stated in an interview with David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders. “Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title,” he said. “There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys. And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.” House was unable to agree on a new contract with the Rockets last month, currently playing for the team’s G League affiliate in Rio Grande.
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News details how Patty Mills became the heart and soul of the Spurs, labeling his leadership, commitment and selfless style of play with the franchise over the past eight seasons. “It’s much bigger than me, much bigger than what all of us here today are,” Mills said. “It’s about the past, and about the future. I think it’s really important for the new guys to understand that.”
  • The Rockets are excited about the return of Clint Capela, who missed 15 straight games following thumb surgery and is set to return on Thursday against the Lakers, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. “We’re excited to get Clint back,” teammate P.J. Tucker said. “Clint is a huge piece to our team and he makes a lot of other people’s jobs a lot easier. He makes our defense be able to switch on to guards and be able to guard guards and protect the rim as well, changes the dynamic for us.”