Paul Millsap

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Jazz, Blazers, Roberson

While the Trail Blazers were the only NBA team to vote against the NBA’s return-to-play plan, they weren’t the only Northwest club that would have preferred a solution besides the 22-team format the league settled on.

Two league sources tell Mike Singer of The Denver Post that the Nuggets initially voted in favor of a plan that would have sent the 16 current playoff teams immediately to the postseason. According to Singer, Denver was “strongly” opposed to a 20-team format that would’ve involved a World Cup-style group stage, believing it undermined the team’s regular season success.

While those 16- and 20-team plans received consideration, Silver ultimately decided that the 22-team format was in the NBA’s best interest, and when he brought it to the league’s Board of Governors for a vote on Thursday, the Nuggets voted to approve it.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Now that the Nuggets have officially clinched a playoff spot, Nikola Jokic ($466K) and Paul Millsap ($150K) have secured their playoff bonuses for the 2019/20 season, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks observes (via Twitter).
  • In a series of pieces for The Athletic, Tony Jones examines what the NBA’s return-to-play format means for the Jazz, while Jason Quick does the same for the Trail Blazers and Jon Krawczynski explores what’s next for the Timberwolves now that they’ve been left out of the league’s return. Although Utah is assured a playoff spot and Portland isn’t, the Jazz will be missing injured forward Bojan Bogdanovic, while the Blazers should get big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back in their lineup.
  • Within his own look at what the restart plan means for the Thunder, Erik Horne of The Athletic reports that Andre Roberson would be ready to play now if the season hadn’t been suspended. Without being able to scrimmage or practice at all over the last three months, it’s not clear if Roberson will return this summer, but it sounds like it’s a possibility. The veteran forward, who has battled multiple knee issues, hasn’t played in an NBA game in over two years.

Northwest Notes: Millsap, Schroder, Nuggets, Ingles

Nuggets forward Paul Millsap is optimistic about his squad’s title odds, per The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider. The 35-year-old veteran has hardly rested on his laurels during the two-month pandemic-mandated league shutdown. Millsap revealed in a team Instagram interview recently that he has focused his workouts around a plyometrics-strengthening program, working toward getting stronger and quicker than he was in March.

Millsap, a two-time All-Star with the Hawks, is earning $30.35MM in the final year of his contract with Denver. The 43-22 Nuggets, led by All-Star center Nikola Jokic and promising young point guard Jamal Murray, are the No. 3 seed in the West. Millsap thinks that the team’s familiarity will give them an edge in a season with so many changing faces among the league’s elite teams. “I think we have an advantage,” Millsap said. “We’ve been together probably longer than any team out there.”

There’s more out of the Northwest:

  • On July 1, Thunder guard Dennis Schroder will become the majority owner of his German hometown team, Löwen Braunschweig in the Basketball Bundesliga League, per Nick Crain of Forbes. Schroder’s first pro experience was with Löwen Braunschweig’s farm team in 2010. After three seasons in the BBL, Schroder took the leap to the NBA, where he’s currently in the third year of a four-season, $62MM contract extension he signed with the Hawks before being traded to Oklahoma City in 2018/19.
  • Colorado University forward Tyler Bey could be an enticing fit for the Nuggets in the 2020 draft given his defensive skill set and rebounding skills. Bey’s raw offensive game and lack of a clear position at the level give The Denver Post’s Mike Singer pause about the fit. Elsewhere in his mailbag, Singer addresses other pressing Nuggets questions, including the Denver futures of post players Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, and Millsap.
  • Following up on March comments that suggested Jazz forward Joe Ingles might avoid a return to league play this season due to safety concerns, Ingles clarified his stance on the matter in a recent tweet“When it’s safe to go back and play, I will not let my teammates down!” he said, in part.

Northwest Notes: Collins, Millsap, Hernangomez, Jazz

Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins is optimistic about finishing the season after participating in Friday’s conference call with commissioner Adam Silver, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic.

“I feel confident after hearing him talk that we will play again — it just might not be for a while,” Collins said. “The way he was talking, there will be some kind of regular season — whether it’s a tournament or not as many games — there’s going to be something. There’s too many teams, especially in the West, that can make (the playoffs). And he was speaking like there is a lot of time to finish everything, so that was encouraging to hear.”

Collins, who was among the players that worked out at the Blazers’ facility when it reopened yesterday, was left in a unique situation by the hiatus. He had shoulder surgery in November and hoped to return to action by the end of March, but the ban on competition leaves his status uncertain until full practices resume.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will face a difficult decision when Paul Millsap becomes a free agent this offseason, notes Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. They picked up a team option on Millsap last summer, but that was before they were able to acquire Jerami Grant from the Thunder. Grant is expected to opt out of a $9MM salary for next season and seek a multi-year deal. Millsap is Denver’s oldest player by far at age 35, and the Nuggets will have to determine if they can afford to keep both him and Grant.
  • The Timberwolves have resources available to upgrade at power forward, but they may decide they don’t need to now that they have Juan Hernangomez, suggests Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune. Minnesota acquired Hernangomez in a four-team deal in February and he was productive in 14 games, improving his 3-point shooting to 42% after hitting 25% in Denver. Minnesota expects to have two first-round picks this year and could be in position to target Aaron Gordon if the Magic decide to shake up their roster.
  • The Jazz will be affected by furloughs announced Friday by the Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment group, writes Art Raymond of The Deseret News. There will be a 40% reduction in staff throughout the organization, but a spokesman said all employees are expected to return to work when coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

Northwest Notes: Conley, Millsap, Butler, Timberwolves

Jazz point guard Mike Conley isn’t concerned about a rift between teammates Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. Gobert and Mitchell are trying to repair their relationship after Mitchell felt Gobert’s careless actions led to his positive test for COVID-19. “They’re fine,” Conley said. “They’re competitors. They want to win.” Conley feels confident that there won’t be any locker room issues when the hiatus ends. “Our team chemistry has been as solid as ever and I am excited to hopefully get out there soon once this thing gets under control,” he said.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Paul Millsap‘s contributions to the Nuggets go beyond his raw statistics, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Millsap provides a solid defensive presence and his leadership is unquestioned. He kept up the spirits of Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. when they endured rough times this season and he’s been a mentor for Jamal Murray and former Nugget Malik Beasley, Singer adds. Millsap will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
  • The fortunes of the Timberwolves probably wouldn’t have changed even if they passed on trading with the Bulls for Jimmy Butler, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune opines. Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t have had the patience to nurture a young core into a playoff team, Hine continues. Meanwhile, Chicago hasn’t been able to win with the players it received in the deal and is undergoing front-office changes, Hine adds.
  • The Timberwolves’ biggest priority this offseason is likely to be re-signing their restricted free agents, particularly Beasley, Hine writes in a mailbag piece. They’d also like to retain Juan Hernangomez, though that would leave them very little wiggle room for a splashy free-agent acquisition, Hine adds.

Northwest Notes: Pritchard, Paul, Millsap, Thunder

Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard and Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman are two potential draft targets for the Jazz, Tony Jones of The Athletic opines. Pritchard could replace free agent Emmanuel Mudiay, while Tillman would add toughness and defensive versatility, Jones continues. Utah owns a late first-round pick. Vanderbilt swingman Aaron Nesmith, a prolific shooter, is another player the franchise could consider at that spot, Jones adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder’s best chance for long-term improvement is to cash in on Chris Paul‘s big season and move him this offseason, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Paul — who still has two years left on his contract, including a $44.2MM player option in the final year — will never again be higher in value than this summer, in Hollinger’s view. Paul’s situation is similar to that of Mike Conley‘s last offseason, when he was traded to Utah due to the size of his contract and the numbers of players likely to be required to match salaries, Hollinger adds. Hollinger and The Athletic’s Erik Horne break down the Thunder’s roster and outlook in their comprehensive story.
  • If unrestricted free agent Paul Millsap re-signs with the Nuggets, it will be at a vastly reduced rate, Mike Singer of the Denver Post speculates. Millsap, who is making $30MM this season, would probably have to settle for a short-term contract with a starting salary of $10-13MM.  Re-signing fellow power forward Jerami Grant, who is likely to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent, is probably a bigger priority, Singer adds.
  • The Thunder are in danger of losing their first-round draft pick, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman points out. It’s a scenario that we previously noted. Oklahoma City traded the pick in November 2016 with top-20 protection to Philadelphia for Grant. OKC is tied for the ninth-best record in the NBA, which means if the draft order remains in place, the 76ers would get the Thunder’s pick at No. 21 or 22.

Northwest Notes: Grant, Millsap, Anthony, Conley, Napier

What the Nuggets decide to do with Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap provides an intriguing subplot to the offseason, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Millsap will be an unrestricted free agent and Grant can join him on the market by declining his $9.35MM option.  Grant is undersized at the power forward spot but brings more agility and shot blocking to the four spot. The Nuggets will probably try to re-sign Grant but could also bring back Millsap if he’s willing to meet their price, Singer adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony is still too distraught over Kobe Bryant’s passing to take the court, especially at the Staples Center. Anthony will sit out the Portland-Los Angeles Lakers game on Friday, Stadium’s Shams Charania tweets, as he continues to grieve over the loss of his close friend.
  • The Jazz are close to returning point guard Mike Conley to the starting lineup, according to Charania. Conley has come off the bench in six games since he recovered from an aggravated hamstring strain. Utah wants Conley to reestablish chemistry with the other starters, most notably backcourt partner Donovan Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert, Charania adds.
  • The lack of a good plan regarding their point guard rotation has been the Timberwolves’ biggest issue, Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune opines. Jeff Teague wasn’t a good fit prior to being traded to Atlanta because Minnesota needed a floor leader adept at pushing the tempo. Shabazz Napier has been a good pickup but he’s probably best suited for a 15-20 minute backup role while Jordan McLaughlin is more of an emergency backup than a second-unit player, Rand adds.

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Nuggets, Towns, Wiggins, Dort

The Trail Blazers will entertain offers for center Hassan Whiteside, a free agent after the season, and The Athletic’s Jason Quick estimates the chances of him being traded at 50/50. Quick also dealt with a few other Blazers-related topics.

Their recent trade with the Kings which involved five players and two second-round picks was a solid one, according to Quick, because the Trail Blazers saved approximately $12MM and upgraded at the wing with Trevor Ariza replacing Kent Bazemore. Portland is unlikely to deal its first-round pick because president of basketball operations Neil Olshey covets draft choices, even if the draft class is considered weak, Quick adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will continue to be without three rotation players when they face the Grizzlies on Tuesday, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Starting point guard Jamal Murray will miss his sixth straight game due to an ankle sprain while power forward Paul Millsap will sit out for the 11th consecutive game due to a knee injury. Backup big man Mason Plumlee will miss his fourth straight game due to a foot ailment.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins get the blame when things aren’t going well with the Timberwolves but the players around them need to do more, Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Guard Shabazz Napier told Youngblood that the role players need to do their jobs better. “This team is so used to KAT and Wigs doing all the work that when it doesn’t happen, we just stand around,’’ Napier said. “That’s how it is. We just gotta find ways to help them guys out. … We all, the role players, have to figure out, how do we help them out better?’’
  • Undrafted rookie guard Luguentz Dort has earned playing time with the Thunder for his defense while showing more of an offensive game, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays. Over the last five games, Dort is averaging 7.2 PPG and 1.8 APG while shooting 5-for-12 on 3-pointers and making seven steals. “You can’t tell me he’s a rookie,” guard Chris Paul said of the two-way player.

Injury Updates: R. Jackson, Hachimura, Wagner, R. Williams

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson hopes to play tonight after being sidelined since the second game of the season with a back injury, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Jackson is officially listed as questionable for the game against the Kings. He’ll be on a minutes restriction and isn’t sure if he’ll be used as a starter or a reserve (Twitter link).

“I don’t know how well I’m going to feel. Adrenaline is a different thing so I imagine I’ll probably be winded a little early,” Jackson said (Twitter link).

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura has been cleared for all basketball activities, head coach Scott Brooks told reporters, including Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter link). Hachimura hasn’t played since suffering a groin injury December 16. “It’ll be great to have him back before the All-Star break, but you never know,” Brooks said (Twitter link).
  • The Wizards also got good news on Moritz Wagner, who has been cleared for non-contact activities after a check-up in New York City, Buckner tweets. Wagner has missed the past month with a sprained left ankle.
  • Injured Celtics center Robert Williams was able to do some running Tuesday and is set for another scan and evaluation February 4, the team tweeted. Team doctors expect to have a more concrete idea of when he can start playing again after that session. Williams has a bone edema in his left hip and won’t return until after the All-Star break.
  • Cavaliers center Ante Zizic is out indefinitely, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. He has been diagnosed with a vestibular condition that has forced him to miss the past five games.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters that among his injured rotation players, Gary Harris is the closest to returning, relays Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). “When I say closest, I don’t know how close that is,” Malone explained.Paul (Millsap) and Jamal (Murray) are still a ways off.”

Northwest Notes: Collins, Nuggets, Millsap, Westbrook

Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins remains on track to return in March after undergoing shoulder surgery, Jason Quick of The Athletic relays.  Collins suffered a left shoulder dislocation and had the surgery performed in early November. “That’s definitely my goal,” Collins said of returning in March. “We will be in the playoff race and I’ll be able to come back and make a really good push. And hopefully Nurk (Jusuf Nurkic) comes back around that time and we can all just really come together at the right time for the playoffs.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone hopes the current roster remains in place through the trade deadline, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. However, he also knows that some reserves would have better opportunities elsewhere. Among those players are guard Malik Beasley and forward Juancho Hernangomez. “I hope we can keep this team because I know what this team is capable of… I also know it’s a business, I also know these guys all want to play,” Malone said.
  • Nuggets forward Paul Millsap wishes he would have played it safer regarding the left knee contusion he suffered in a collision with Jamal Murray on December 20, Singer reports. Millsap has missed three games and hasn’t played up to his usual standards when he has suited up. “Probably should’ve got it taken care of and sat down and make sure it was good at that time,” Millsap said. “It’s a little lingering effect to it, and a few other things going on because of it. But, best-case scenario is just sit down and make sure I’m fully healthy.” Millsap, who insists the injury isn’t serious, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook returned to Oklahoma City on Thursday night and indicated he had no regrets about his tenure with the Thunder, Mark Medina of USA Today writes. “I have no bad blood or nothing here in this city with no fans or nobody in the organization,” Westbrook said. “They gave me all they had, and I gave them all I had.” Westbrook, who was traded in July, scored 34 points against his former team but OKC rolled to an easy victory.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Millsap, Wolves, Bol

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard isn’t expressing concern over the team’s slow start to the season, reminding fans of the successful campaigns the team has had in the past despite being wildly overlooked.

“Just watch,” Lillard said calmly, as relayed by Jason Quick of The Athletic. “Just watch. You’ve seen this movie before.”

Portland has opened the 2019/20 season with a 5-12 record, good for second-worst in the Western Conference. The Blazers have dealt with various injuries and have yet to play with starting center Jusuf Nurkic (fractured leg rehab), but the team’s performances have been nothing short of worrisome.

The Blazers signed Carmelo Anthony, exiled from the league over the past year for a variety of reasons, to a non-guaranteed contract and immediately named him a starter. They rank No. 21 in FG% (44.3%), No. 23 in free throws attempted (21.6 per game) and No. 22 in defensive rating (111.6) on the season.

“You all probably don’t want to hear it, but it’s such a long way to go,” Lillard told reporters. “Because of that, there are two things you can do: you can either pout and say we should have won that game [against Cleveland on Saturday], or ‘We should have did this’ or ‘We are not doing this.’

“I think our team understands that there are certain things we are not doing well enough to win games. But we really do as a group believe it is going to turn around. So, we are just going to stay with it and keep working towards improving. That’s all we can do.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division tonight:

  • Nuggets veteran Paul Millsap is feeling rejuvenated in his 14th NBA season, Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post writes. Millsap is averaging 13.9 points and 6.4 rebounds through the team’s first 14 games, proving his worth on both ends of the floor — including a variety of posterizing dunks in the season’s first month. “A lot of my teammates, they appreciate it, so I try to do it for them sometimes,” Millsap said of the slams. “But a lot of times it’s for myself to get going to show what I can do. One of my goals this year is trying to be more aggressive going to the basket and finishing above the rim.”
  • A trio of G League players received major opportunities with the Timberwolves on Saturday, as the team needed their services due to multiple players being sidelined to illness or injury, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune details. Minnesota recalled Jaylen Nowell, Kelan Martin and Keita Bates-Diop to play against Phoenix, with Bates-Diop recording 22 points and four rebounds in 37 minutes of work. “He’s capable,” teammate Andrew Wiggins said of Bates-Diop. “Keita’s a very versatile player. He can knock down a shot, great defender, even though he’s very good at getting to the rim and amazing off-the-ball player.”
  • Bol Bol might be the Nuggets’ latest second-round steal, Mike Singer writes for the Denver Post. The Nuggets selected Bol at No. 44 overall in the draft, and the 7-foot-2 center has impressed in the G League so far.