AJ Griffin

Southeast Notes: Russell, Johnson, Griffin, Gueye, Miller, George

The Magic may take a run at D’Angelo Russell in free agency this summer. The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, who covers the Lakers, has heard that Orlando would be the biggest threat to sign away the combo guard (hat tip to Jesse Cinquini of LakersDaily.com).

“Orlando is the team that — talking to people with the Lakers, talking to people outside the Lakers — Orlando is the team that probably gives them the most concern in terms of a potential suitor,” Buha said.

Russell would give Orlando’s backcourt an offensive boost. He’s averaging 18.1 points and 6.4 assists per game while shooting a career-best 41.9% from deep this season. Russell holds an $18.7MM option on his contract for next season and can become an unrestricted free agent by turning down that option.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks forward Jalen Johnson will return to action on Monday night against the Bulls, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweets. Johnson, who is averaging 16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest, has been out since March 18 after suffering an ankle sprain against the Lakers. The Hawks currently hold the final spot for the East’s play-in tournament at No. 10 in the conference.
  • Several other Hawks players still require more time to come back from their injuries, the team’s PR department tweets. AJ Griffin (right high ankle sprain) has progressed to individual basketball activities and will be re-evaluated in seven-to-10 days. Mouhamed Gueye (right UCL sprain) has progressed to full contact workouts, while Onyeka Okongwu (left big toe sprain) has resumed individual basketball activities. He will also be re-evaluated in seven-to-10 days.
  • Hornets rookie forward Brandon Miller has labeled Clippers forward Paul George the “Greatest Player of All-Time.” Miller got a chance to match up against his idol on Sunday, contributing 22 points, six rebounds and four assists in 40 minutes during Charlotte’s 12-point loss. George paid back Miller with a compliment, according to Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer. “He’s got a ton of game, and a ton of talent and I’m in his corner,” George said. “So can’t wait to see him fully blossom and be one of those guys that carried the league for a long time.”

Southeast Notes: Coulibaly, Rozier, Hawks Injuries, Fultz

Wizards rookie wing Bilal Coulibaly is out for the rest of the season with a wrist injury, but he left a strong impression on his teammates and coaching staff in his first year in the league, Chase Hughes of Monumental Sports Network writes, cementing his place as one of the franchise’s cornerstones moving forward.

Fantastic [season]. He made the Rising Stars Challenge. Going to All-Star weekend in your first year is huge,Jordan Poole told MSN. “He got a lot of playing time, a lot of experience, which is huge, especially for a rookie… he had a really good season and I’m excited for his future.

Coulibaly, 19, averaged 8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.8 blocks per game while often guarding opposing star players like Luka Doncic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the season wore on, Hughes writes.

Interim head coach Brian Keefe raved about Coulibaly’s work ethic as he heads into his first full NBA offseason. According to Hughes, Keefe described the rookie’s maturity as “beyond his years.”

There’s still going to be growth, there’s still going to be an opportunity to learn,” teammate Anthony Gill said. “But this offseason is going to be very important for him getting stronger and understanding his body more, understanding the game and getting more confident in what he can do at a high level. It’s going to be a very important offseason for him, but I know he’s ready to attack it. We’ve already talked about it.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Terry Rozier‘s transition to the Heat hasn’t gone smoothly at times, with the ex-Hornet having endured an injury, a three-point shooting slump and the Heat’s longest losing streak since 2008. However, as The Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang writes, games like the one Rozier had on Wednesday against the Cavaliers make it all worth it. He scored nine points in the final 1:24 of the game to lead Miami to a much-needed victory. Heat players and coaches are continuing to tell Rozier to be aggressive, Chiang writes, since his usage rate and shot volume have decreased.
  • The Hawks provided injury updates for several players on Thursday. Kobe Bufkin (toe) was reevaluated Tuesday and is making progress from his toe sprain. He’ll be reevaluated again in seven-to-10 days. AJ Griffin (ankle) underwent an MRI on Wednesday, confirming a right high ankle sprain. He’ll also be reevaluated in seven-to-10 days. Jalen Johnson (ankle) left Monday’s game against the Lakers due to a right ankle sprain, and he’ll be looked at again in one week.
  • Magic guard Markelle Fultz continues to face obstacles in his seven-year NBA career, having gone from being touted as the final piece of Philadelphia’s “The Process” to enduring numerous injuries to being traded to Orlando, where he has become a rotation player. As The Ringer’s Nick Friedell observes, Fultz is still just 25 years old despite his long road to where he is today. “I think a lot of people forget that,” Fultz said. “And I forget it as well. And at the same time, I feel like I’m older because I’ve been through so much.” Friedell examines how Fultz is building himself into a different kind of cornerstone for the Magic.

Hawks Notes: Snyder, Johnson, Gueye, Griffin, Young

Hawks head coach Quin Snyder received a rousing ovation and a video tribute as he returned to Utah Friday night, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. It was Snyder’s first time back at the Delta Center since parting ways with the Jazz following the 2021/22 season, and fans were eager to celebrate the success he had during his eight years as head coach.

“There were so many people here in Utah that me and my family came across that touched our lives,” Snyder said. “Those relationships are timeless for me, even if I’m not here. I have so much gratitude for the people that I worked here with and for, particularly Ryan Smith and Justin Zanik and Danny Ainge. So to come back here to Utah and be reminded of that brings a lot of emotion. But life is about change, and it’s about adapting, and we all have to do these things at some point.”

Jones notes that Snyder had to build a winning team from scratch after he took over the Jazz in 2014, and he’s still early in that process with Atlanta. The Hawks are holding onto the East’s final play-in spot at 29-37 in Snyder’s first full season, but they aren’t nearly where he wants them to be.

“I think we know that we have a lot of work to do, but that’s what makes it fun,” Snyder said. “The most important thing for us is to make sure that we improve each day and that we are doing the right things. We have to make sure that we have the right habits and then work from there.”

There’s more on the Hawks:

  • Jalen Johnson, who returned Friday after missing three games with a sprained right ankle, is one of the few NBA players who spends the All-Star break training rather than relaxing, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. While most of the league is on vacation, Johnson undergoes an intense three-day workout in Los Angeles. “It lets you know how unsatisfied he is,” said his trainer, Chris Johnson. “He’s a starter now, he’s getting everything he wants, and he’s still unsatisfied. He has this desire to be the best version of himself. … Jalen Johnson is the next superstar in the making.”
  • Rookie big man Mouhamed Gueye suffered an ulnar collateral ligament sprain to his right elbow/forearm area in a G League game this week, the Hawks announced (via Twitter). Gueye will undergo rehabilitation in Atlanta and will be reevaluated in seven-to-10 days.
  • Second-year wing AJ Griffin has missed four straight G League games because of pain in his lower right leg and ankle, the team tweeted. He will be examined by the Hawks’ medical staff next week.
  • Michael Cunningham of The Journal-Constitution (subscription required) argues that Trae Young should try to return from hand surgery if the Hawks are still in strong position for the play-in tournament when he’s healed, but that’s not a guarantee considering their recent performance. Young’s timeline has him set to be reevaluated in about a week.

Fischer’s Latest: Carter, Brogdon, Smart, Hawks, Jones, Hornets

While there will likely be plenty of trades completed between now and next Thursday’s deadline, many of the players whom rival teams had hoped would hit the market aren’t expected to be available this season, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

As Fischer details, that list of players who are believed to be off-limits includes several current and former All-Stars, such as Lauri Markkanen, Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, and Karl-Anthony Towns. It also features talented forwards Mikal Bridges and Jerami Grant, as well as rising talent Jonathan Kuminga.

Fischer isn’t the first to report that those players likely won’t be on the move at the deadline, so no names in that group come as real surprises. However, Fischer adds a few more players to the list of unlikely trade candidates, writing that Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. is no longer considered available and citing league personnel who are skeptical that the Trail Blazers will part with Malcolm Brogdon.

Additionally, while a handful of clubs – including the Bucks and Lakers – have called the Grizzlies to inquire about Marcus Smart, according to Fischer, Memphis has shown no interest in moving the veteran guard, who remains in the team’s plans beyond this season.

Here are a few more trade-related notes and rumors from Fischer:

  • The Hawks are viewed by rival executives as the most “active and aggressive” team in the trade market, with Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela, De’Andre Hunter, and AJ Griffin among the players who could be moved. While previous reports have indicated that Trae Young and Jalen Johnson are Atlanta’s only two untouchable players, Fischer says the club values Bogdan Bogdanovic as highly as any player on its roster outside of Young and Johnson.
  • Even though the Wizards are seeking a first-round pick for Tyus Jones, rival executives are confident that Washington will ultimately accept a package consisting of multiple second-rounders for the veteran point guard, per Fischer. Jones is on an expiring contract and wouldn’t be a starter on many teams, so a first-rounder would be a high price to pay.
  • Hornets forward P.J. Washington and center Nick Richards are generating a good deal of interest from potential trade partners, league sources tell Fischer. Kyle Lowry, Gordon Hayward, and Miles Bridges are among Charlotte’s other trade candidates.
  • We also passed along several of Fischer’s trade rumors related to Western Conference teams in a separate article.

Knicks Rumors: Clarkson, Olynyk, Grimes, Griffin, Randle, More

Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson and big man Kelly Olynyk are among the players the Knicks have inquired on ahead of next Thursday’s trade deadline, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Scotto says New York registered trade interest in both Utah players earlier in January.

According to Scotto, Knicks wing Quentin Grimes came up in separate discussions with the Jazz for Clarkson and Olynyk. Ian Begley of SNY.tv previously identified Utah as one of the teams with interest in Grimes.

Sources tell HoopsHype that Olynyk has drawn interest from several clubs and is viewed by rival executives as the Jazz’s top trade candidate, though one NBA scout who spoke to Scotto is more bullish about Clarkson’s ability to make an impact for a new team.

“Whatever team can get Clarkson will be a game changer,” that scout said. “I think he’s the best of the volume scorers available on the trade market.”

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • According to Scotto, Grimes has also come up in New York’s discussions with the Hawks, another team previously named by Begley as a team with interest in the third-year swingman. The two clubs discussed Grimes in separate negotiations involving Dejounte Murray and AJ Griffin, per Scotto, who adds that Atlanta views Grimes as a potential three-and-D fit next to Trae Young.
  • Knicks forward OG Anunoby missed a second consecutive game on Tuesday due to inflammation in his elbow, but he’s still considered day-to-day, so it doesn’t sound like his absence should be a lengthy one, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. As Botte relays, head coach Tom Thibodeau said on Tuesday that he hopes to have more information on Julius Randle‘s recovery timeline for his dislocated right shoulder within “a day or two.”
  • Despite being without Anunoby and Randle again, the Knicks won their eighth consecutive game on Tuesday, registering a 118-103 victory at home over Utah. Precious Achiuwa played a significant role in his second start as a Knick, scoring 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting in a season-high 40 minutes. “I’m getting more and more comfortable with my teammates,” Achiuwa said, per Andrew Crane of The New York Post. “They’re getting comfortable with me and my style of play as well, and just playing the right way, making the right reads.”

Southeast Notes: Griffin, Johnson, M. Williams, Wizards

After being inactive for the past eight games due to personal reasons, second-year wing AJ Griffin is back with the Hawks and spoke to the media on Thursday, tweets Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Yeah, I would say I’m glad to be back,” he said. “The team has been great to be able to support me through that time stepping away for a little, just for personal reasons. I definitely want to keep it brief and not put it all out there.”

Griffin added (Twitter link via Brad Rowland) that being back on the court and around the team was kind of like opening a present for Christmas Day. That joy. Coming back and doing what you love and knowing that people just love being around you.”

The 16th overall pick of the 2022 draft, Griffin had a solid rookie campaign in 2022/23, averaging 8.9 PPG and 2.1 RPG on .465/.390/.894 shooting in 72 games, including 12 starts (19.5 MPG). However, he hasn’t played much so far in his second season, averaging just 9.2 MPG in 12 appearances.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Jalen Johnson‘s return to the Hawks will provide a needed boost to a team that went just 4-10 without him in the lineup, according to Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscriber link). Johnson, who missed a month with a distal radius fracture in his left wrist, recorded 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal in 29 minutes during Tuesday’s loss to Chicago, his first game back from the injury. The former first-round pick will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the 2024 offseason.
  • Second-year center Mark Williams has missed the past eight games for the Hornets with a lower back contusion and is officially doubtful for Thursday’s contest against the Lakers, per the latest injury report. “He did more (Tuesday at morning shootaround) than he’s done for a while,” Clifford said of Williams, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “But I don’t think we have a definitive timetable.” The Hornets are 0-9 without Williams in the lineup this season.
  • The Wizards currently have the worst defense in the NBA and the team looked particularly listless on that end during Wednesday’s blowout loss to Toronto, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. The Raptors had gone just 3-10 over their past 13 games entering the contest, but scored 132 points while shooting 57.1% from the field last night. Rebounding issues continue to plague the 5-25 Wizards, Wallace notes, with Toronto winning the battle of the boards 53-34.

Hawks Announce Several Injury Updates

Hawks forward Jalen Johnson has been cleared to resume practicing in full, the team announced today in a press release, adding that Johnson’s status will be updated “as appropriate.”

Johnson was in the midst of a breakout season before suffering a left distal radius fracture on November 25. In his 14 healthy games this year, the 22-year-old averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 31.4 minutes per night, with a .590/.421/.774 shooting line.

The Hawks have gone 3-8 without Johnson and have a +4.6 net rating when he’s on the court this season, which is the highest mark for any player on the roster. The fact that he seems to be nearing a return is great news for the slumping club.

Here are a few more injury updates announced today by the Hawks:

  • Hawks rookie guard Kobe Bufkin, who fractured his left thumb on November 2, has also been cleared to practice in full. His recovery timeline was said to be eight-to-10 weeks from the date of his injury, which occurred approximately seven weeks ago, so it sounds like his return isn’t far off.
  • Another rookie, forward Mouhamed Gueye, underwent a CT scan on his right low back stress fracture on Monday and has been given the go-ahead to begin light on-court individual work. Gueye isn’t close to returning, however, with Atlanta announcing he’ll be reevaluated four weeks from now.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has missed the past two games due to right ankle inflammation, received treatment on Tuesday and is questionable to play in Wednesday’s game vs. Houston.
  • Reserve forward AJ Griffin remains unavailable for personal reasons and will miss a fifth consecutive game on Wednesday. The 2022 first-rounder hasn’t been a part of the Hawks’ regular rotation this season, averaging just 9.2 minutes per game in 12 appearances.

Southeast Notes: Lowry, Haslem, Poole, Wright, Griffin

With guard Tyler Herro out for at least the next two weeks, the Heat want to see a more aggressive version of veteran guard Kyle Lowry, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.

Lowry has been effective for the Heat, averaging 6.9 points, 5.3 assists and 4,9 rebounds per game while leading the team in deflections and drawn charges. However, he’s only taking 5.8 shots per night, his lowest output since the 2008/09 season.

At this point in his career, it’s all about winning,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s what I really love about Kyle. He’ll sacrifice points, he’ll sacrifice stats. He does so many other things that impact winning. With that said, I don’t want him to be an afterthought, either. His aggressiveness and finding those moments in between where he can create some chaos is one of the greatest strengths that he’s had over the course of his entire career.

Lowry has just a 10.6 usage percentage, Chiang adds, which is not only the lowest of any Heat player this season but would also be the lowest in his career.

But Kyle is smart and he knows his aggressiveness is important to our team,” Spoelstra said. “The aggressiveness comes from the attacks, getting in the paint. But also being a recipient behind the three-point line and aggressively hunting those open catch-and-shoot threes. That’s really important for our team. It’s part of his brilliance. He’s been able to find ways to be effective on the ball or off the ball, and that’s important for our team.

Herro currently leads the Heat in shot attempts and points, so there’s plenty of production left to pick up for Lowry and the Heat’s other guards. Lowry, 37, is in the final season of a three-year, $85MM contract.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Udonis Haslem played for the Heat for 20 years, officially retiring after the conclusion of the 2022/23 season. Haslem stuck around Miami, helping players at practice and then taking on the role of vice president of basketball development. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman, Haslem isn’t allowed to unretire and suit up for the Heat as a player now that he’s receiving a salary in a front office role, something the big man was unaware of. “I didn’t know that. But I don’t miss it. I wasn’t planning on that. I’m fine with that,” Haslem said.
  • Wizards guard Jordan Poole is taking what he learned from the Warriors to Washington, he told Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer in an interview. After winning a championship with the Warriors in 2022, Poole is getting the chance to help lead a team, something that always intrigued him, according to Fischer. “Obviously, I wanted to be in a position to have my own team, and then if it did come, how would I go about that?” Poole said. “Luckily, I’m able to do that so young, after learning from some of the best. It’s cool. It’s a smooth transition. We’re building everything from scratch, essentially. Building up a new foundation. Everything in Golden State was already established, so we kinda had to fit into the mold that they have there.
  • Wizards guard Delon Wright exited Friday’s game against the Hornets with a left knee injury, according to the team (Twitter link). According to The Athletic’s Josh Robbins, Wright won’t play in Washington’s games on Sunday in Brooklyn or Monday in Toronto and will undergo further testing to determine the severity of the injury (Twitter link).
  • Following a promising rookie season in which he immediately impacted the Hawks rotation, AJ Griffin hasn’t played much in his sophomore year. Griffin averaged 8.9 points in 19.5 minutes across 72 games (12 starts) last year compared to 3.2 points in 9.2 minutes this year. Head coach Quin Snyder explained that Griffin is working on his defense. “I think not just AJ, we want growth from others,” Snyder said, per Lauren L. Williams  of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). “As I’ve said before, sometimes minutes are hard to come by with this group… I think he’s focused.”

Hawks Exercise 2024/25 Options On Johnson, Griffin

The Hawks have exercised their rookie scale team options for the 2024/25 season on forward Jalen Johnson and guard AJ Griffin, the team announced in a press release.

The moves had been expected, given the relatively modest cost of Johnson’s and Griffin’s ’24/25 option salaries. Johnson’s fourth-year option is worth $4,510,905, while Griffin will earn $3,889,920 in his third NBA season. Those salaries are now fully guaranteed.

Johnson, who will turn 22 in December, emerged as a regular rotation player for Atlanta in 2022/23, averaging 5.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 14.9 minutes per game across 70 appearances. He’s expected to take on a more prominent role this fall following the offseason trade of John Collins.

Exercising Johnson’s fourth-year option means the Hawks will have the ability to sign him to a rookie scale extension next summer. If he doesn’t sign a new deal at that point, the former Duke standout will become eligible for restricted free agency in 2025.

As for Griffin, he had a promising rookie year that saw him average 8.9 PPG on .465/.390/.894 shooting in 72 games (19.5 MPG). Another ex-Blue Devil, the 20-year-old has a fourth-year option worth $5,967,137 for the 2025/26 season — Atlanta will have to decide by next October 31 whether to pick it up.

The full list of 2024/25 rookie scale team options decisions can be found right here.

Scotto’s Latest: Bufkin, Wizards, Payton, Las Vegas

The Hawks tried to trade for Raptors forward Pascal Siakam this summer, but they weren’t willing to part with first-round pick Kobe Bufkin, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Atlanta’s offers focused on De’Andre HunterAJ Griffin and draft picks, but Bufkin wasn’t included, sources tell Scotto.

Toronto considered selecting Bufkin with the 13th pick before opting for Gradey Dick, Scotto adds. He also hears that Hawks coach Quin Snyder is a huge proponent of Bufkin, who is coming off an impressive sophomore season at Michigan.

Scotto notes that Atlanta’s options will expand when Bogdan Bogdanovic becomes trade-eligible on Saturday. The veteran swingman, who was named to the All-Star 5 at the World Cup, is under contract for $68MM over the next four years, including a $16MM team option for 2026/27.

Scotto offers more inside information from around the league:

  • The Wizards aren’t looking to make a move right away, but they expect to get trade offers for Danilo Gallinari, Landry Shamet and Delon Wright. Scotto points out that Gallinari at $6.8MM and Wright at $8.2MM both have expiring contracts. Shamet is signed for three more years, but his only guaranteed money is $10.25MM for 2023/24. Sources tell Scotto that Gallinari hasn’t engaged in buyout talks with the Wizards and is focused on making a comeback after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. The Hornets considered making a trade offer for Wright before targeting Frank Ntilikina instead, Scotto adds, and league executives told him that Washington could probably get a second-round pick or two in exchange for the veteran guard.
  • Elfrid Payton recently had workouts with the Timberwolves and Hornets, sources told Scotto. Payton spent part of last season in the G League, then signed to play in Puerto Rico in late March. He hasn’t been in the NBA since playing 50 games with the Suns during the 2021/22 season.
  • When Las Vegas hosts the semifinals and finals of the in-season tournament in December, the response could go a long way toward securing an expansion team for the city, multiple executives told Scotto. The NBA has been expanding its presence in Las Vegas in recent years with the annual Summer League and the G League Showcase. Seattle and Las Vegas are widely considered the leading contenders for the next round of expansion.