- Gina Mizell of The Athletic observes that center Aron Baynes‘ return to the court on Monday against the Wolves marked the first step toward the Suns replenishing their frontcourt assets. Baynes had been sidelined with hip and calf injuries for three weeks prior to his suiting up for the Suns, on his 33rd birthday no less. In just 15 minutes Baynes scored 12 points and pulled down four boards in a Phoenix win. Starting center (and 2018 No. 1 draft pick) Deandre Ayton remains out of commission while serving a 25-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy.
Before being hired by the Knicks in the spring of 2018, David Fizdale was a highly sought-after head coaching candidate, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, who suggest that Fizdale had offers from the Hawks and Suns and was the leading candidate for the Hornets‘ opening as well. However, Fizdale was focused on New York and turned down other offers even before he received any assurances from the Knicks.
- Former Suns coach and current Kings assistant Igor Kokoskov has no regrets about his draft input with Phoenix, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. “I will tell you that I sleep peacefully and peaceably,” Kokoskov said to Index regarding his recommendation for the Suns’ No. 1 overall pick in 2018. Kokoskov is believed to have wanted Luka Doncic, whom Kokoskov coached on the Slovenian National Team, but Suns owner Robert Sarver pushed for Deandre Ayton, Feldman adds.
The Trail Blazers, Nuggets and Suns are some of the teams that might be interested in Cavaliers forward Kevin Love but his trade value has diminished due to his health and contract, Sean Deveney of Heavy.com writes. Love is in the first year of his $120MM extension and he’s experienced back issues after missing most of last season with a toe injury, Deveney notes. He also missed significant time the previous two seasons with hand and knee injuries. Cleveland’s haul for Love would likely involve a first-round pick, salary-cap relief, and perhaps an underachieving young player, Deveney adds.
We have more from around the Central Division:
- Love isn’t sure if he’ll be dealt but he understands why there’s so much speculation regarding his status on the rebuilding Cavaliers, Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays. “I imagine, in a rebuild, it’s easy to look at it, especially when it’s down and out at this point, and say, ‘Hey, we want to completely reset the deck and go young,'” Love said. “I understand that. But despite that, whether it’s five months or five years, I’m always going to be able to come back to Cleveland no matter what, and I’ll always love the fans, and be part of this organization, one way or another.”
- Pistons first-rounder Sekou Doumbouya has taken a positive approach to his G League assignments, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. In 13 games with the Grand Rapids Drive, Doumbouya is averaging 17.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG while shooting 40.9% on 3-point attempts. The forward doesn’t turn 19 until December 23. “He’s coachable,” Grand Rapids coach Donnie Tyndall said. “He will look you in the eye when he’s talking to you. He doesn’t cop an attitude or have bad body language. He gets disappointed in himself a little bit, he’s pretty hard on himself.”
- Pistons coach Dwane Casey is baffled when center Andre Drummond‘s energy level is criticized, as he told The Free Press this weekend. Drummond, who can become an unrestricted free agent if he opts out this summer, leads the league in rebounding by a wide margin and recorded his 37th career 20-20 game against Indiana on Friday. “If he makes a mistake, they say he doesn’t have energy,” Casey said. “To get to 20 rebounds, somebody show me how to get 20 rebounds with two guys trying to box you out. That’s energy. I struggle when people say that Andre’s not playing with energy. To do what he does takes a lot of energy.”
The frustrations in Cleveland are becoming too much for Kevin Love to hide, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The Cavaliers lost by 47 points last night in Philadelphia, a day after a report that players are unhappy with first-year coach John Beilein. Fedor notes that at one point in the game Love wandered off by himself for a while during a timeout after rookie Darius Garland opted to shoot a fadeaway rather than pass the ball to him in the post.
“Just complete and utter frustration,” Love admitted after the game. “I think that’s natural. I really want to compete. I think most guys want to compete. Just really, really frustrated. I don’t know. Getting myself going is just … I don’t know what else I can do.”
Saturday marked the 12th loss in 13 games for the Cavs and the second straight in which a member of the organization commented on Love’s body language. He committed to the team last year by agreeing to a four-year extension after LeBron James left, but finds himself in an unfamiliar role as part of a rebuilding project after making four straight trips to the NBA Finals. A report surfaced Friday that Cleveland is ready to listen to trade offers involving Love.
“I’m really trying to be engaged,” he said. “I’m trying to be a good teammate. I don’t think any of these guys would say that I’m not a good teammate. It’s tough.”
- Beilein received some encouragement last night from Sixers coach Brett Brown, who understands rebuilding as well as anyone, Fedor adds. Overseeing “the Process,” Brown won a combined 47 games during his first three seasons in Philadelphia, but now has his team in title contention. He promised to text Beilein advice on how to handle the constant losing
- The Cavaliers can make Beilein’s job a lot easier by getting rid of the veterans who refuse to give him a chance, contends Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Beilein claims he has changed his college style to adapt to the NBA, but Lloyd notes that he’s really coaching two teams at once — a young core set for the future and seven veterans who are in the final year of their contracts. Lloyd believes general manager Koby Altman already knows which players need to be traded.
- Frank Urbina of HoopsHype lists the Jazz, Nets, Suns and Celtics as four possible landing spots for Love.
The Suns will get suspended center Deandre Ayton back in less than two weeks, but coach Monty Williams believes it will take 10 games or so for the team to get used to playing with him again, writes Gina Mizell of The Athletic. The top pick in last year’s draft played just one game this season before being suspended by the league after testing positive for a diuretic.
“We’re really gonna see who we are in the next month,” Williams said. “Most teams know all your plays. Most guys are setting their rotations. I think we’ll find out what our team looks like with the addition of DA.”
Ayton raised a lot of expectations with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks on opening night. The Suns want to see if he can become the anchor of their defense and an effective pick-and-roll partner for Ricky Rubio or if he’ll slip back into some of the bad habits of his rookie season.
There’s more out of Phoenix:
- Power forward could be a position of need if the Suns decide to become active on the trade market, Mizell adds in the same piece. Dario Saric has played well, but he’s the only Phoenix starter without a long-term contract and he stands to get a sizable offer as a restricted free agent. Mizell states that the Suns have to be intrigued by Arizona alum Aaron Gordon‘s 32-point performance against them last night, but the Magic may want to hold onto him as long as they’re in the playoff race. She lists Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge as veterans who might become available by the February trade deadline.
- Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer examines whether the Suns and Kings are better off without Ayton and Marvin Bagley III, who are both slated to return soon. In Phoenix’s case, veteran center Aron Baynes stepped in for Ayton and helped the Suns to a surprising 7-4 start. They didn’t slip down the standings until he suffered injuries to his hip and calf. Baynes has always been a strong defender, but he has developed his offense since coming to Phoenix, averaging a career best 14.7 points and 2.9 assists per game.
- Hornets guard Terry Rozier explained to reporters why he gave serious consideration to the Suns in free agency this summer (video link from The Arizona Republic). “Their identity is guys just play hard,” Rozier said. “Young, physical team, wanna win … obviously I’m not with them so I don’t really care about that no more.”
Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. 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 Pacific Division:
Montrezl Harrell, Clippers, 25, PF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $12MM deal in 2018
The Rockets had no idea what they were giving up when they tossed Harrell into the Chris Paul blockbuster. Harrell doesn’t have a three-point shot but otherwise, he’s a terror. He was a prime candidate for Sixth Man of the Year last season and will be once again. He’s averaging 19.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 2.2 APG despite starting just two of 22 games. Harrell will be a hot commodity as an unrestricted free agent and the Clippers will be pushed into luxury tax territory if they want to retain him. It would be worth the cost.
Glenn Robinson III, Warriors, 25, SF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.9MM deal in 2019
Robinson’s last season in Indiana was a washout due to an ankle injury. His one season in Detroit was a washout due to a lack of production. With an expanded role on a bad team, Robinson is upgrading his resume. He’s averaging 32.1 MPG as a starter and averaging 11.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 2.0 APG while making 38.9% of his 3-point tries. Stats compiled under these circumstances can be deceiving but Robinson has at least regained his confidence and shown he’s worthy of a rotation spot on most teams.
Avery Bradley, Lakers, 29, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $9.8MM deal in 2019
Bradley started 10 games for the streaking Lakers this season, though he didn’t shoot well (28.6% from deep) playing alongside two of the league’s biggest stars. The big issue for Bradley in recent seasons has been staying on the court and once again, the injury bug has bitten him. He’s out at least another week with a lower leg issue. Bradley’s contract includes a $5MM player option and he needs to show he can stay healthy and productive for a long stretch in order to decline that option and test the free agent waters.
Aron Baynes, Suns, 32, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $10.6MM deal in 2018
The popular Australian big man has gotten off to a terrific start in Phoenix with Deandre Ayton serving his 25-game league-imposed suspension. Baynes is averaging 14.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 2.9 APG in 24.0 MPG through 13 games. He’s also turned into a solid three-point shooter (43.9%), adding a new element to his game. He’s been slowed recently by a calf injury but with a dearth of quality centers around the league, Baynes will get some multi-year offers as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Harry Giles, Kings, 21, PF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $6.6MM deal in 2017
The 20th pick of the 2017 draft, Giles has battling injuries since entering the league. He didn’t make his NBA debut until last season, then appeared in 58 games off the bench. The Kings declined their fourth-year option on him prior to this season, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer. He doesn’t have a rotation spot under new coach Luke Walton, averaging just 7.4 MPG in seven appearances this season. The same age as a college senior, Giles will get a second chance somewhere but his offers will be modest.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.