Paul Millsap

Three Nets Rookies Enter Protocols; Harden, Two Others Exit

The Nets announced some good news and some bad news on Thursday morning. Three players – James Harden, Paul Millsap, and Jevon Carter – have exited the health and safety protocols, but three others – rookies Cameron Thomas, David Duke, and Kessler Edwards – have entered the protocols, tweets Adam Zagoria of Forbes.

You could make a strong case that no team has been hit harder in the last couple weeks by COVID-19 than Brooklyn, which still has 10 players in the league’s protocols after today’s updates. Of the 17 players the team had been carrying on its standard roster, 13 have been in the protocols this month, while Joe Harris (ankle) and Nicolas Claxton (wrist) have dealt with injuries.

Patty Mills and Blake Griffin have been the only players unaffected, and even Griffin is playing through knee pain. The Nets have also signed four replacement players – Langston Galloway, James Ennis, Shaquille Harrison, and Wenyen Gabriel – via hardship exceptions to help fill out the roster.

Brooklyn’s game in Portland on Thursday has been postponed, but the NBA will certainly want to avoid having the team’s Christmas Day game vs. the Lakers endure a similar fate. Head coach Steve Nash said today that Harris won’t play on the Nets’ current road trip, but the team hopes to have Claxton return on either Saturday vs. the Lakers or Monday vs. the Clippers (Twitter link via Brain Lewis of The New York Post).

If Harden, Millsap, and Carter are all cleared to return and Mills, Griffin, and the four replacement players are good to go, Brooklyn would have at least nine players available, even without Claxton. The Nets remain eligible to complete more hardship signings before Saturday too, if they so choose.

COVID-19 Updates: Rivers, Millsap, Hornets, Holiday, Brooks

The Nuggets are expecting Austin Rivers to exit the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. It may take an extra day or two before Rivers is fully cleared to play, but his impeding return means Davon Reed‘s time with the team is likely done for the time being, Singer notes.

Denver signed Reed to a 10-day contract using the hardship exception on December 4. That deal will expire after Monday’s game, and with Rivers due back, the Nuggets will no longer be eligible to carry an extra player via the hardship provision.

Although Reed will likely head back to the Grand Rapids Gold – the Nuggets’ G League affiliate – he made a strong impression on the team during his time in the NBA and could be back later this season, says Singer (via Twitter).

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Nets forward Paul Millsap has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Malika Andrews and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Millsap is averaging a career-low 11.2 minutes per game in Brooklyn this season, so his absence shouldn’t create a huge hole in the team’s rotation.
  • Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels and center Mason Plumlee cleared the league’s health and safety protocols on Monday and were sent to the G League to complete a conditioning/rehab assignment with the Greensboro Swarm, the club announced (via Twitter). Charlotte still has LaMelo Ball and Ish Smith in the protocols, but the team is moving closer to getting all its affected players back after Terry Rozier was cleared on Sunday (Twitter link).
  • Pacers wing Justin Holiday, who has missed the team’s last five games while in the health and safety protocols, returned to practice on Sunday and said he’ll likely remain unvaccinated after having contracted COVID-19, writes James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. Assuming his stance doesn’t change, Holiday won’t be eligible to cross the Canadian border to play in Toronto on March 26.
  • Dillon Brooks‘ stint in the health and safety protocols was a short one. The Grizzlies forward received clearance on Saturday after being placed in the protocols on Thursday, as Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. The quick reversal suggests Brooks may have registered a false positive test.

Nets Notes: Millsap, Durant, Mills, Claxton

Free agent addition Paul Millsap turned in his best game since joining the Nets in Saturday’s loss to the Bulls, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. The veteran power forward is only averaging 11.3 minutes of playing time in 18 games, but he got an expanded opportunity with James Johnson sidelined by a shoulder injury and delivered 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals.

“He was great. He did a little bit of everything,” coach Steve Nash said. “He scored the ball. He was able to initiate some offense. He got some rebounds, offensive rebounds. Got some steals. Just did a bit of everything. His intensity was great and I thought his impact on the game was really good.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Kevin Durant played 38 minutes in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday, and Nash hasn’t given any thought to cutting his playing time, Botte adds. Durant has only missed one game this season and welcomes the heavy workload. “Kevin’s mentality is a huge reason why he’s one of the best players of all-time,” Nash said. “He loves the game. He comes in every day and has a laser focus on his routine, he finds the most happiness when he’s on the basketball court. The success he has is really the mentality as much as it is the gifts. The joy that the game gives him makes him sacrifice every day. So to tell him, ‘Hey, we’re going to limit your minutes on a back-to-back’ is not going to get over very well.”
  • Patty Mills wasn’t expecting to be a starter when he signed with the Nets over the summer, but that has changed because of Kyrie Irving‘s absence and an injury to Joe Harris, Botte notes in a separate story. Mills made his ninth straight start Saturday and may be in that role for a while. “Patty has been great, and we’re asking for a lot from him now with guys being injured,” Durant said. “But he’s taken on that challenge, and we’re going to need a lot more from him going forward.”
  • Nash was excited to welcome back center Nicolas Claxton, who returned Friday after missing 17 games with a non-COVID illness, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “He’s an athletic, active big that can guard multiple positions, protect the rim, roll on offense and just be disruptive with his energy, length and athleticism,” Nash said. “That’s a unique profile for our team. If we can get him back to where he’s confident and comfortable physically, mentally and emotionally and adapting to our play, there’s no reason he can’t regain that.” 

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Knicks Offense, Irving, Millsap

The Raptors’ Yuta Watanabe initially feared he tore his Achilles when he injured his left leg early in the preseason, he told Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Watanabe was diagnosed with a calf strain that has continued to keep him out of action. He aggravated the injury in a preseason practice with the team’s G League squad.

“Really frustrating,” Watanabe said. “My leg is painful, but what is the most painful is now that (my teammates are) playing basketball — like, that’s what I love doing it. So it’s been very stressful, to be honest. I just love playing basketball.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks retooled their roster with the additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier but the offense has deteriorated almost game by game, Steve Popper of Newsday notes. The Knicks are 19th in the league in field goal percentage. “It’s just weird out there right now,” Julius Randle said. “That’s the best way I could describe it. It’s just kind of weird and just a little bit choppy and we’re just trying to figure it out. I think everybody’s hearts and intentions are in the right place. It’s just a little weird right now.”
  • A lopsided loss to Golden State and Stephen Curry this week showed how much the Nets miss Kyrie Irving, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines. Curry had 37 points, including nine 3-pointers, on just 19 shots as Brooklyn couldn’t keep up with the red-hot Warriors.
  • Nets forward Paul Millsap has been away from the team but it’s not related to his limited playing time this season, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. “Paul’s away for personal reasons and that’s totally separate from basketball,” coach Steve Nash said. Millsap joined the Nets on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal.

Nets Notes: Griffin, Aldridge, Two-Way Slot, Harden, Irving, Thomas

The Nets are likely to move away from their approach of spreading the court and could field one of the tallest rotations in the league, writes Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News. That decision was forced partially by the uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving, but Brooklyn focused heavily on the frontcourt in its offseason moves, re-signing Blake Griffin and adding veteran big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap.

Griffin played alongside center Nicolas Claxton with the first unit in Saturday’s practice, Winfield notes, but he frequently started at center after joining the team last season and can be effective at either position. Millsap and Aldridge have spent most of their careers as power forwards, but they will also see time in the middle.

“It’s not a traditional big lineup. Blake can switch a lot. I can switch at times. (Kevin Durant) can do it all,” Aldridge said. “I think it’s a big lineup, but it’s not traditional. You’re going to need that. I think teams can play big and play small, and I think having the ability to do both is nice for us.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets’ decision to give David Duke Jr. their final two-way spot and waive Devontae Cacok was based on their philosophy related to two-way deals, Winfield adds. “I think it’s more development at this point,” coach Steve Nash said. “I think when you look at a team like this, it’s hard for those guys fighting for two-way spots to be guys that are playing in the rotation. So it’s not impossible, but it’s more of a development spot, someone that we can groom and help grow into a piece of this organization’s future.”
  • The Nets were determined to trade for James Harden last season because they already had doubts about whether they could trust Irving, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on his podcast (hat tip to RealGM). Woj added that Brooklyn and Philadelphia haven’t discussed a trade involving Irving and Ben Simmons, and he doesn’t believe the Sixers would have any interest in such a deal. He also said the Nets are preparing to play the entire season without Irving.
  • Cameron Thomas put together a strong preseason after being named co-MVP of the Summer League, but he’s still not likely to have a spot in the Nets’ rotation, according to Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Brooklyn has an experienced backcourt after the offseason additions of Patty Mills and Jevon Carter, and there may not be many minutes available for the rookie guard. “I think there’s some ground for him to make up, but we love him as a player and think he’s got a bright future, but it might take some time,” Nash said. “He’s joined a pretty tough team to crack into.”

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Gillespie, Birch, Achiuwa, Simmons, Millsap

Despite dealing with a calf strain, Yuta Watanabe is a safe bet to make the Raptors’ opening-night roster, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca. Watanabe is a multi-position defender and the coaching staff is looking for him to play a bigger offensive role. His partially guaranteed contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the 15-man after training camp.

Freddie Gillespie, whose partially-guaranteed deal also becomes fully guaranteed on opening night, may be playing his way off the Raptors’ roster, Murphy writes. Gillespie struggled in summer league games and hasn’t looked any better in preseason action.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors center Khem Birch was cleared to make his preseason debut on Monday after a bout with COVID-19, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweets. Birch, along with his wife and daughter, caught the virus and he experienced symptoms despite being fully vaccinated. Birch re-signed with Toronto on a three-year deal this summer.
  • Birch and Precious Achiuwa will split the minutes at the center spot on an almost even platoon when the regular season commences, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. It’s not certain who will start but the Raptors will ease Birch back into action. Chris Boucher will be out at least another 2-3 weeks as he recovers from finger surgery.
  • Amid reports that the possibility of Ben Simmons reporting to the Sixers is growing, coach Doc Rivers said on Monday that “we would love to get him back,” Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Rivers has spoken with Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, adding that “our position hasn’t changed at all.”
  • Nets forward Paul Millsap was also sidelined briefly by the league’s health and safety protocols during camp but he was cleared to play in Monday’s preseason game, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Millsap only missed one preseason contest.

Kyrie Irving Cleared To Practice, Still Can’t Play Home Games

A New York City Hall official has informed Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter) that Kyrie Irving has been cleared to practice with the Nets in Brooklyn, but Irving still can’t play home games until he meets the city’s vaccination requirement.

The reasoning for the change, according to Charania, is that the city has deemed the Nets’ practice facility, the HSS Center, a private office building (Twitter link).

Coach Steve Nash was cautiously optimistic upon being informed of Charania’s reporting, saying, “It’s positive to be able to welcome (Irving) back into the building him and have him be part of the team…it sounds like it’s positive news.” (per Brian Lewis of The New York Post, via Twitter).

Nash is hopeful Irving will be able to practice tomorrow at the Brooklyn Park Bridge, but couldn’t confirm his availability. He also said that Paul Millsap is out for tonight’s preseason game due to health and safety protocols, meaning he either tested positive for COVID-19 or was deemed a close contact of someone who did (Twitter links via Lewis).

Check out the latest reports on Irving here.

Nets Notes: Irving, Millsap, Aldridge, Luxury Tax

Nets guard Kyrie Irving wasn’t present at the team’s first practice in Brooklyn on Tuesday, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

In order to enter public indoor venues in New York City, individuals must have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Irving, who deflected questions about the subject last week, is reportedly unvaccinated. He was able to take part in the Nets’ training camp, which took place last week in San Diego, but as long as he remains unvaccinated, he’ll be unable to play or practice in New York.

Head coach Steve Nash didn’t provide any additional details on Irving’s status, as Youngmisuk notes.

“No further update,” Nash told reporters when asked about Irving, adding that he’s “not really worried” about the point guard’s absence. “We support him. We are here for him. Things change. When there’s a resolution, we’re here for him.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • With Nicolas Claxton expected to get regular minutes at center for the Nets, it’s unclear if veterans Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge will both be a consistent part of the rotation to start the season. However, the two big men have made strong cases for themselves so far and even showed on Sunday vs. the Lakers that they might even be capable of playing alongside each other, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “They both had a really good camp,” Nash said. “Both moved well, played well, showed their intellect and skill set. I thought they played quite well together even though it’s not something that we’ve necessarily done traditionally, played the two bigger guys.”
  • Even if they don’t end up playing big minutes, Millsap and Aldridge are looking forward to passing their knowledge onto the team’s younger players, per Lewis. “Me and LaMarcus are veteran guys, two of the oldest in the locker room,” Millsap said. “So we’re going to help try to guide some of these younger guys into knowing what the NBA’s all about.”
  • Within his preview of the team’s 2021/22 season, John Hollinger of The Athletic speculates that the Nets could explore trades that reduce their projected luxury-tax payment. Hollinger identifies Sekou Doumbouya and DeAndre’ Bembry as two possible trade candidates in that scenario. For what it’s worth, Brooklyn can’t include cash in any more deals this season, having used the maximum $5.785MM in last month’s DeAndre Jordan trade. The Nets do still have some future second-round picks they could use as sweeteners.

Nets Notes: Carter, Aldridge, Jordan, Millsap

The Nets will open their preseason Sunday afternoon against the Lakers, but most of their big names won’t be playing, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The expected starting five of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris and Blake Griffin will all be held out of the game, along with offseason additions Patty Mills and James Johnson. Coach Steve Nash explained that he didn’t want to put his best players on the court six days after the opening of training camp.

“The game came so quickly, preseason, and we have three more,” Nash said. “We’ll hold back some guys, and other guys will get more opportunity.”

Among the players who will see more court time is fourth-year guard Jevon Carter, who was acquired from the Suns in an offseason deal. Carter averaged just 12 minutes per game with Phoenix last season and is aiming for a spot in Brooklyn’s rotation.

“I’m just expecting to go out there and just do my job, honestly. Whatever comes with it comes with it,” Carter said. “They told me just keep doing what I’m doing. They just kept telling me that they like what I’m doing, and just go out there, stay aggressive and lead the group.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Sunday will mark the first game action for LaMarcus Aldridge since he received medical clearance to start playing again, Lewis adds. “I think LaMarcus will play,” Nash said. “Nobody’s going to play a ton, so we’ll spread it around pretty evenly. We don’t want anyone doing too much and exposing themselves this early. Hopefully he plays enough that he feels good about it, and at the same time isn’t playing too much.”
  • The Nets will have a quick reunion with DeAndre Jordan, who spent the past two seasons in Brooklyn before being traded last month, notes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Jordan says he still has a lot of friends on the team, but he’s concentrating now on helping the Lakers. “I got a lot of love for those guys over there,” he said. “So I’m not thinking about ‘Oh, I should’ve stayed.’ I’m not thinking about that. I’m thinking about where I’m at now and my focus is here with this group of guys.”
  • Free agent addition Paul Millsap is willing to accept a reduced role to help the Nets win a title, per Tom Dowd of NBA.com. The 36-year-old was fully aware of what would be expected when he chose to sign with Brooklyn. “This team is not going to need me to get out there and go to work on the block and score 15, 20 points,” he said. “I understand that. Knowing my role on this team is going to be big and crucial and everybody knowing their role is going to be big and crucial to winning.”

Nets Notes: Irving, Harden, Millsap, Aldridge

Nets guard Kyrie Irving, who reportedly hasn’t received the COVID-19 vaccine, deflected questions about his vaccination status when he spoke to reporters on Zoom today, as Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN write.

Irving presumably wasn’t able to attend Brooklyn’s Media Day in person due to New York’s regulations prohibiting unvaccinated individuals from indoor venues, but he repeatedly requested privacy when asked about that issue, telling reporters he’d provide more information at a later date.

“I know that I’ll be there every day no matter what and just be present for my teammates as one of the leaders on the team and be there for my growing tribe off the court,” Irving said. “I know the focus has to be at an all-time high, no distractions. This is the last thing I wanted to create, was more distractions and more hoopla and more drama around this. I’m doing my best to maintain this with good intentions and a good heart.”

The Nets’ training camp is taking place in San Diego, so Irving will be able to take part in it. However, once the team returns to New York, he won’t be able to practice at Brooklyn’s facility or play in home games unless he gets vaccinated or receives an exemption.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Both Irving and James Harden confirmed they’ve talked to the Nets about potential contract extensions, but indicated they’re not rushing into new deals. “I’m focused on trying to bring a championship to the city. But as far as an extension, I’m just being patient with it,” Harden said, per Adam Zagoria of Forbes. “I went through a lot last year and I want to make sure I’m in the right mind set and knowing long-term that ultimately I want to be in Brooklyn for the rest of my career. So it’s no rush.”
  • Irving offered the following comments on his own extension talks, according to Zagoria: “I’m just taking it one day at a time, and I’m same as James, just being patient and we’re still openly communicating and just wait and see. We know that the future is on our side, just being able to maximize our potential in these next coming years.”
  • Speaking today to reporters, Paul Millsap said he chose to sign with the Nets in free agency because earning a championship ring is his top priority and he believes it’s “definitely possible” in Brooklyn (Twitter link via Zagoria). Millsap drew interest from a handful of teams as a free agent, including some that might’ve given him a larger role.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge said he talked to one other team in free agency, but preferred to return to the Nets, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Aldridge added that he announced his retirement in the spring following his health scare because he didn’t want to leave the Nets hanging while he figured out his situation (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post). Once he had more time to evaluate all his options this summer, he realized he wanted to resume playing.