- Sixers coach Doc Rivers is optimistic George Hill will make his team debut in the coming week, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Hill was acquired from Oklahoma City in a three-team deadline deal last month. The veteran guard had surgery on his right thumb on February 2, and hasn’t played since January 24. Hill’s $10MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed and Philadelphia is looking for him to be a postseason factor.
Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Atlantic Division:
Blake Griffin, Nets, 32, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.23MM deal in 2021
Well, Griffin proved he could still dunk after agreeing to a buyout with the Pistons and joining the Eastern Conference favorite. He’s also proven that he’s a shadow of the All-Star performer who carried Detroit into the playoffs just two years ago. Other than a 17-point outing against his former team and drawing some charges, Griffin has made a minimal impact with Brooklyn. He went scoreless in 41 minutes of floor time against the Lakers and Timberwolves this week before getting rested on the second game of a back-to-back. Griffin might go from a max player to a veteran’s minimum backup as soon as this offseason.
Dwight Howard, Sixers, 35, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2020
Speaking of former perennial All-Stars playing on a veteran’s minimum contract, Howard has managed to stay healthy again after playing just nine games for Washington two seasons ago. Howard helped the Lakers win last season’s title but his production has dropped as a second-unit center in Philadelphia. His turnovers are up and his field goal percentage is down, though he does lead the league in one category – most technical fouls. Howard has nearly as many turnovers (12) as shot attempts (16) in the last six games. Perhaps Howard will get another minimum contract to stay in the league but it appears the end is near for an NBA career that began in 2004.
Reggie Bullock, Knicks, 30, SF/SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $8.2MM deal in 2020
While the playing time of the Knicks’ younger players has fluctuated quite a bit under Tom Thibodeau, Bullock has been a steady presence in the starting lineup. He’s the quintessential 3-and-D player, spacing the floor offensively and providing hard-nosed defense at the other end. Bullock is attempting 8.1 field goals per game, with 5.6 of them beyond the arc. He’s made 39.9% of his long-range attempts, connecting with incredible consistency. He drained 40% in both January and February, 40.5% in March and 43.1% this month. He’ll be in demand when he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
Gary Trent Jr., Raptors, 22, SG/SF, (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.92MM deal in 2018
The Raptors traded away Norman Powell to the Trail Blazers in part because they weren’t sure they could re-sign him in unrestricted free agency. Trent, one of the two players they acquired for Powell, will be a restricted free agent this summer. While Toronto can match any offer, the team may have a dilemma if another suitor makes a big offer to the young sharpshooter. He’s averaging 17.4 PPG in 11 games with the Raptors, including a 44-point eruption against Cleveland on Saturday when he missed just two of 19 field-goal attempts. He tossed in a clunker against Atlanta on Tuesday but no doubt, Trent is hitting restricted free agency at a very good time.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Though the Nets certainly wouldn’t mind being the top seed in the Eastern Conference, what matters most to them is player health, writes Brian Lewis of the New York Post. The Nets are currently the second seed in the East with a 37-18 record, one game behind the 38-17 Sixers and 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks.
“Health is everything,” head coach Steve Nash noted. “It’d be great to have the No. 1 seed — I think it means a lot, it’s valuable — but not at the expense of losing players or prolonging our injury situation.”
There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:
- Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca wonders about the recent past and current trajectory for the Raptors if Toronto had never traded franchise stalwart DeMar DeRozan for 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who departed for the Clippers in free agency after leading the Raptors to a title during his lone season in Canada.
- With injured center John Henson not expected to be re-signed to a second 10-day contract, the Knicks are considering other veteran big men for the newly-opened roster spot, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman reports that one option on New York’s radar is 31-year-old power forward Kenneth Faried, who most recently suited up for the Zhejiang Lions of the CBA in 2019.
- Nets head coach Steve Nash appreciates that the team has had to adjust creatively to various absences. “We may not get any games with our whole roster,” Nash conceded, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “I don’t want to worry about or be concerned about things that are out of our control.” The club has employed 29 different starting lineups this season. Nash also acknowledged that, following a surgery on a fractured third metacarpal of his right hand, two-way Brooklyn point guard Chris Chiozza will be unavailable “basically for the regular season.”
Veteran power forward Anthony Tolliver will join the Sixers on Wednesday, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Tolliver officially signed a 10-day contract on Monday and will provide some frontcourt depth, at least in short run. Philadelphia has home games against two of the league’s top teams this week, the Nets on Wednesday and the Clippers on Friday.
APRIL 12: The Sixers have officially signed Tolliver to a 10-day contract, the team announced today in a press release.
Tolliver, 35, will join the 11th team of his well-traveled career which began in 2007 after he went undrafted. The Missouri native last played for Memphis during the bubble in Orlando last season.
Tolliver split the 2019/20 campaign between the Grizzlies, Kings and Blazers, appearing in 55 total games while averaging 3.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG. He’s a career 37.3% shooter from beyond the arc.
While Tolliver will not be relied on to make a major impact, he will be expected to give Philadelphia some quality minutes off the bench.
- Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid is learning to adjust to playing with a left knee brace, according to Rich Hoffman of The Athletic. “It just feels like every shot that I take, I just have a hitch. Like it’s not a full motion,” Embiid said. In the same piece, head coach Doc Rivers noted that new addition Anthony Tolliver could help the club, though he may not receive much playing time. “He’s a veteran, can shoot the ball, been around the block, which I think this team needs,” Rivers said. “So I think he can help.”
After missing nearly a month due to a positive COVID-19 test, Celtics big man Tristan Thompson returned earlier this week, a welcome sight for a Boston team struggling to play consistently. However, Thompson detailed a difficult battle with the virus while he was away from the team.
“That s–t’s no joke,” Thompson told reporters, including Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter link). “That was a battle. I had all the symptoms except losing my taste and smell, so at least I could enjoy my food.”
Thompson, 30, has appeared in 38 games (31 starts) in his first season with the Celtics, averaging 7.9 PPG and 8.3 RPG. While his production is down, Boston is happy to have some size back in the frontcourt, especially given Thompson’s postseason experience. In the meantime, Thompson is looking forward to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“…I’m definitely going to get the vaccine as soon as I can get it,” Thompson said, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link).
Check out more news and notes from the Atlantic Division:
- Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced that trade deadline acquisition Evan Fournier will not travel with the team during its upcoming road trip, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link). Fournier has appeared in four games for the Celtics since being shipped to Boston, averaging 11.5 PPG off the bench, but is currently sidelined due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
- Alize Johnson‘s second 10-day pact with the Nets is ending this Sunday and it remains to be seen what the team does with him. Johnson said he wants to keep showing the club “that I belong and I wanna be here,” per NetsDaily. Brian Lewis of the New York Post breaks down the Nets’ upcoming decision on whether or not to keep Johnson.
- After missing a series of games due to an ankle injury, Landry Shamet is expected to return for the Nets on Saturday, Lewis writes in a separate story. Brooklyn has dealt with a series of injuries but are slowly seeing players return, including Kevin Durant after a two-month absence.
- While it remains unclear when it will happen, Sixers guard George Hill, whom the team acquired at the trade deadline, expects to return this season, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Twitter link). “No one knows the timetable yet,” Hill said. “But I will be back this season for sure. I will be back before playoffs for sure.”
10:13am: The Sixers have officially waived Brazdeikis, according to the team (Twitter link).
The 76ers acquired Brazdeikis at the March 25 trade deadline along with George Hill in a three-team, six-player trade with the Knicks and Thunder. The 22-year-old was included in that deal for roster and salary purposes and wasn’t thought to be a player Philadelphia was specifically targeting, so it doesn’t come as a major surprise that he’s being released.
Brazdeikis was originally selected with the 47th overall pick in 2019 and acquired by the Knicks in a draft-night trade. However, the Lithuanian failed to earn regular playing time in New York, appearing in just 13 games in a season-and-a-half with the team. He did play well in the G League, however, with 20.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 3.3 APG in 36 total appearances (33.7 MPG) for the Westchester Knicks.
Assuming Brazdeikis goes unclaimed on waivers, Philadelphia will remain on the hook for the rest of his $1.52MM salary this season, but won’t owe him any of his $1.78MM team option for 2021/22. If he becomes a free agent, the second-year forward would be eligible to sign with any team except the Knicks.
“He played above his pay grade the first few months,’” said former Sixers scout Michael VandeGarde, who now runs a scouting service. “He’s coming back down to earth. It happens a lot with kids for short periods when they play so well early. Only time will tell what he really is.’”
- Sixers head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that he does not know when new addition George Hill will make his Philadelphia debut, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic. The veteran point guard is still recovering from a February thumb surgery. “I can’t see it anytime soon,” Rivers said. “I had that same injury. That’s not anything you mess around with. Just one whack, you may not get injured, but the pain is excruciating because the nerves are so raw. So we’re gonna try to be as tentative as possible with his injury.”
- After missing one game due to the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, first-year Sixers point guard Tyrese Maxey has been cleared to return to the court, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter). Maxey, the No. 21 pick out of Kentucky in the 2020 NBA draft, has shown plenty of promise across a limited 14.9 MPG, averaging 7.4 PPG, 1.7 RPG and 1.6 APG in 42 appearances.