Bennedict Mathurin

Central Notes: Bulls, LaVine, Pistons, Mathurin, Morris

Speaking to reporters on Sunday in Las Vegas, Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas explained why the front office waited until this summer to shake up a roster that finished below .500 in each of the past two regular seasons.

“I think three years ago when we came up with our plan, our formula, that worked for a short period of time until we got into injuries. The reactions, the second year and then obviously, we waited a third year to see where we at,” Karnisovas said, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “Now, we’re kind of making these changes. You could argue it’s too late or early. But that’s where we are right now. We felt that we owed to that group to give them a chance to figure it out. And when we cannot figure it out, that’s when it’s up to us to have direction of the team and make changes. And that’s what happened.”

Those changes have included trading Alex Caruso for fourth-year guard Josh Giddey and letting DeMar DeRozan leave for Sacramento in a sign-and-trade deal. As Johnson relays, Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley both raved about DeRozan’s three years in Chicago, referring to him as a player who represented the team’s values and who was an “extension of (head coach) Billy (Donovan) on the court and off the court.”

While a trade involving Zach LaVine remains possible before the 2024/25 season begins, the Bulls’ top executives suggested on Sunday that they don’t want to make a bad deal to just get LaVine – who has three years left on his maximum-salary contract – off their books. Karnisovas spoke as if the team is preparing for the two-time All-Star to remain on the roster this fall, and Johnson says management believes injuries contributed to LaVine’s slow start last season.

“We expect Zach being fully healthy. And he is healthy. I think he can help this group next year. He’s been professional,” Karnisovas said. “Again, he’s healthy. We expect him to be with us at the start of training camp.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Pistons‘ roster isn’t necessarily a finished product, but with 14 players on guaranteed standard contracts, it’s getting pretty close, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. With that in mind, Edwards explores what the team’s depth chart for 2024/25 might look like, explaining why he’s penciling in Ausar Thompson over Simone Fontecchio as a starter at small forward.
  • Bennedict Mathurin, whose 2023/24 season came to an early end due to shoulder surgery, has “almost been cleared for contact,” according to Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle (Twitter link via Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files). The expectation is that Mathurin will be ready to go for training camp this fall.
  • The Pacers announced on Saturday that Jim Morris, the vice chairman of Pacers Sports and Entertainment, has died at the age of 81. “There are no words that would do justice to how consequential Jim’s life truly was,” Pacers governor Herb Simon said as part of a longer statement. In a statement of his own (Twitter link), NBA commissioner Adam Silver referred to Morris as “Indiana royalty.”

Trade Rumors: LaVine, Johnson, Ingram, Pacers, Carter

The Bulls don’t appear to have made any progress on the Zach LaVine trade front, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (YouTube link). Chicago has made an effort this offseason to find a taker for LaVine, but hasn’t found many teams with interest — even if a draft pick is attached to the two-time All-Star.

“Literally, there is no market for Zach LaVine,” Marks said. “They are trying to give him away and attach a first-round pick. I’ve been told that by multiple people.”

LaVine’s maximum-salary contract looks especially onerous as teams grapple with the implications of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. He’s owed $43MM next season coming off foot surgery and has a guaranteed salary of $46MM in 2025/26, with a player option worth nearly $49MM for ’26/27.

Here are a few more trade rumors from across the league:

  • Nets forward Cameron Johnson is generating trade interest from the Raptors and Kings, with the Pacers and Magic among the other teams to register exploratory interest, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The Cavaliers have been mentioned as another possible suitor for Johnson, but “nothing has materialized on that front” yet, according to Scotto. Brookyn is believed to be open to inquiries to most of the veterans on its roster after having agreed to send Mikal Bridges to New York.
  • The Kings are a team to keep an eye on as a possible suitor for Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, Scotto writes, confirming reporting from Jake Fischer. For now, Sacramento’s interest in Ingram has only been exploratory, Scotto notes.
  • Teams talking to the Pacers have inquired about youngsters Bennedict Mathurin and Jarace Walker, per Scotto. While there has been no indication that Indiana is looking to move either player, the team made the Eastern Conference finals without Mathurin available and has reached lucrative new free agent deals for two power forwards who are ahead of Walker on the depth chart (Pascal Siakam and Obi Toppin), so it’s fair to wonder whether they’ll be available this summer.
  • With the Magic considered a potential suitor for Isaiah Hartenstein, teams have expressed interest in trading for Orlando center Wendell Carter, according to Scotto, who says the Pelicans are among the clubs to inquire on Carter.

Gilgeous-Alexander, Murray Headline Canada’s Preliminary Olympic Roster

Canada Basketball has formally announced its preliminary roster for the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris. The 20-man group will have to be trimmed to 12 players for Paris.

Here are the 20 players vying for spots on Team Canada’s Olympic roster, which will be coached by new Nets head coach Jordi Fernandez:

All 12 players who helped Canada clinch an Olympic berth and claim a bronze medal at the 2023 World Cup are included in the preliminary roster, along with several notable newcomers, including Murray, Wiggins, Lyles, and Nembhard.

Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe and Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin, whose seasons ended earlier due to injuries, will also attend training camp with Team Canada, but won’t be in the mix for roster spots this summer, according to today’s announcement.

Even without Sharpe or Mathurin in the mix, the Canadians can put together a formidable NBA-heavy squad that should be in contention for a medal in Paris. Gilgeous-Alexander, Barrett, Brooks, Dort, Powell, Olynyk, and Alexander-Walker were the top seven players on last year’s squad and look like relatively safe bets to represent Canada again. If Murray, Wiggins, Lyles, and Nembhard were to join them, that would leave just one open spot for the remaining nine invitees.

One notable omission from the 20-man preliminary roster is veteran guard Cory Joseph, who spoke to Michael Grange of earlier this week to express his disappointment about being left off the list. Joseph was unable to compete for a spot on the World Cup team last year due to a back injury, but was among the 14 players who made a commitment in 2022 to be part of Canada’s “summer core” for the current Olympic cycle.

“I took the honor of playing for your country very seriously and did it many times over the years,” Joseph told Grange. “This is not me complaining, I’m not a complainer. But there were times when I put FIBA basketball and playing for my country over my NBA situation at the time, whether I was in a contract year and I had no contract at the time and I went to go play for my country, whether I had little bumps and tweaks, I was there. Whether guys came or not, I always thought we still had a chance. For me it’s a little disheartening to be like, ‘Wow, I wasn’t even given an opportunity to compete for whatever position?’

“… I had planned to go to camp, and when you’re talking about the (last three or four spots) on the roster, there’s a pool of talented guys you could put on the roster, (but) I don’t see, in that situation, where I wouldn’t at least be invited to camp to be one of those guys (to compete for a spot), so that’s where my disappointment is with the organization. … I don’t want to take away from the fact that Canada Basketball is in a great place. This is not that. I love all those guys. I want them to do well. Quote that. I just think I should have been invited to camp at the very least, 100 per cent.”

Team Canada will hold its training camp in Toronto from June 28 to July 7 before heading to Las Vegas for an exhibition game vs. Team USA on July 10. The Canadians will also play exhibition matches with France on July 19 and the winner of the Puerto Rico Olympic qualifying tournament on July 21.

Canada will be in Group A at the Olympics, along with Australia. The group will be filled out by the winners of the qualifying tournaments in Spain and Greece.

Pacers Notes: Defense, Toppin, McConnell, Workouts

Having already taken one big swing this year by trading for Pascal Siakam in January, the Pacers aren’t opposed to having a relatively quiet offseason and running it back with a similar group to the one that made this year’s Eastern Conference finals, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required).

“You always gotta look and see what’s out there on the market,” general manager Chad Buchanan said this week during his end-of-season press conference. “Is there a player or players out there who are available who make sense for your team? You’re also very excited about the young core we have. It’s a balance. It’s going to be a lot of discussion, a lot of debate. Maybe there’s nothing out there that makes sense, and we’re fine with that. We really like this team. If we come back with this same group next year, we still believe there’s a lot of upside with this group.”

Improving the defense will be an offseason priority in Indiana, though it’s possible that could happen without making any outside additions, according to Dopirak, who points to young players like Aaron Nesmith, Andrew Nembhard, Ben Sheppard, Bennedict Mathurin, and Jarace Walker as guys who are capable of getting better on that end of the court. Buchanan acknowledged that the defense will be a focus for the front office after the team ranked 24th in defensive rating during the regular season.

“As you watch the team that eliminates you, it’s always fresh in your mind what they did to beat you,” Buchanan said. “I think Boston, obviously they have more experience than us, No. 1, but they have a tremendous defensive foundation. When we needed to try to score these last couple of games, it’s been very, very challenging. That’s one thing we take away that’s going to be important for us moving forward if we want to make another step.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • While Indiana’s spending power will be limited if Siakam signs a maximum-salary contract, the team hopes to continue its relationship with restricted free agent forward Obi Toppin, per Buchanan. “I thought Obi had a tremendous year for us,” the Pacers’ GM said, per Dopirak. “… I thought he really blossomed this year. We envisioned him being a good with a team that played fast; he was exactly that. His three-point shooting really developed and improved as we saw this year. The way we play, you get a lot of open shots. If you can catch and shoot, you’re going to have some success. His defense grew as the season wore on. He seems to be happy here too. Would like to continue the relationship.”
  • Buchanan also raved about the contributions of backup guard T.J. McConnell, who will be extension-eligible this offseason as he enters a contract year. It sounds as if Indiana will explore an extension for McConnell, as Dopirak relays. “He’s not slowing down. You’re not seeing any sign of an aging player,” Buchanan said. “… His value to us is very, very high, and that has not changed by anything that happened this year and we hope he’s with us for a long time as well.”
  • In a separate story for The Indianapolis Star, Dopirak observes that the Pacers‘ first pre-draft workout on Friday only consisted of prospects who played college basketball for four or more years and started for at least three seasons. As Dopirak writes, Indiana has three picks in this year’s draft but none higher than No. 36, so the team may be targeting seasoned prospects capable of stepping in and contributing right away, rather than focusing on upside. Dopirak notes that head coach Rick Carlisle frequently said during the season that Sheppard’s four years of college experience made it a smooth transition to the NBA for the No. 26 pick in last year’s draft, since he understood his role without requiring much instruction.
  • The Pacers’ second pre-draft workout, scheduled for Tuesday, will feature several more experienced college players, including Reece Beekman (Virginia), DJ Horne (NC State), Lance Jones (Purdue), Cam Spencer (UConn), and Harrison Ingram (UNC), tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Mantas Rubstavicius, who has played professionally in Lithuania and New Zealand since 2018, will fill out the six-man workout group.

Central Notes: Mathurin, Pacers, Atkinson, Borrego, Bucks

Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin, who missed Indiana’s entire playoff run due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder, struggled with having to watch from the sidelines as his team advance all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

“It was hard,” Mathurin said. “It was harder than expected, honestly. Watching the playoffs, watching the guys have fun and just being out there and competing at the highest level was hard for sure. But I think it has a positive side, just seeing the guys out there hooping. It definitely builds fire in me coming into next season.”

His head coach, Rick Carlisle, believes the former No. 6 overall pick can eventual blossom into stardom at the pro level.

“Benn Mathurin has a chance to be a star caliber player for the Indiana Pacers,” Carlisle said. “He has gotten to see over the last two-and-a-half months what wins. It is defense, speed, quick decision making and recognition. And so his workouts this summer are going to be geared toward fast, efficient, quick decision making and developing defensively. He has the ability to be a terrific two-way player in this league.”

This year, Mathurin saw his touches and minutes reduced somewhat as the club realigned itself around All-Star Tyrese Haliburton‘s orbit. Mathurin averaged 14.5 points on a .446/.374/.821 shooting line, plus 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.6 steals per game.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Pacers’ first pre-draft workout is slated for Friday, and will feature six players, per a team press release. Pittsburgh’s Blake Hinson, Tennessee’s Josiah-Jordan James, Weber State’s Dillon Jones, Florida’s Zyon Pullin, Liberty’s Kyle Rode, and Houston’s Jamal Shead will all attend the workout.
  • The Cavaliers have gotten the green light to interview Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson and Pelicans assistant coach James Borrego, sources inform Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). Cleveland fired coach J.B. Bickerstaff, even after he led the club to the second round in the East for the first time since LeBron James departed in 2018 free agency.
  • Though the Bucks finished their 2023/24 season with a respectable 49-33 record and the East’s No. 3 seed, injuries to All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard doomed them to a swift first-round playoff upset against Indiana. Keith Smith of Spotrac previews the 2024 offseason in Milwaukee as the club looks to retool and hopefully return to the Finals for the first time since 2021.

Pacers Notes: Haliburton, Title Contention, Siakam

If Tyrese Haliburton was given the choice of playing in Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he would have suited up. However, the Pacers star isn’t upset with the team over its decision to hold him out as the Celtics completed a sweep, according to Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star.

Haliburton suffered a hamstring injury in Game 2. He could barely walk after the contest.

“There was obviously an organization-wide meeting with our front office, with agents, with everybody,” he said. “They did what their job is, to protect me from myself and wouldn’t allow me play Game 3. I understand the long-term implications of the chances of re-hurting my hamstring. I’m just very thankful for this organization from protecting me from myself.”

Haliburton said this hamstring strain was different from the one he suffered during the winter, which caused him to miss 10 games.

“It’s a whole new thing,” Haliburton said. “Same hamstring. Just a different spot. It’s definitely frustrating. Anyone who watched me play understood that I was never really 100% after the first time dealing with that. But I wanted to be on the floor. I wanted to play. The 65-game rule (to qualify for postseason awards) was obviously a thing, but I wanted to play. I wanted to play basketball.”

We have more on the Pacers:

  • Haliburton says he’ll hang around Indianapolis and rehab the injury to get ready for the Paris Olympics, Dopirak adds. “I have no concern,” Haliburton said of the injury potentially affecting his Olympic status. “Basically, I have six weeks until I have to report to camp. I’ll be in Indy for the majority of my treatment and rehab. Six weeks is a pretty long time. I didn’t have that ever during the year with the previous injury, so there’s no concern. The organization will be sending medical staff with me the whole time. I don’t really have concern.”
  • Despite getting swept, they are closer to being championship contenders than some experts may believe, according to Seerat Sohi of The Ringer. They will have the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception to acquire another impact rotation player, plus plenty of draft capital along with a relatively young roster than will continue to develop. The Athletic’s Eric Nehm expresses a similar view, noting the Pacers were without Bennedict Mathurin during the postseason due to shoulder surgery and that seven of their top eight players in minutes played could be back next season.
  • The Pacers’ biggest priority this offseason will be re-signing Pascal Siakam and coach Rick Carlisle says it’s essential that the franchise retains the veteran power forward, Dopirak relays. “The first very important step is to begin recruiting Pascal Siakam in earnest,” Carlisle said. “That will start today with exit meetings. He’s a great player. He was tremendous for us. The acquisition of him in late January really was a key enabler for us to not only make the playoffs but be able to advance in the playoffs. That’s something you simply cannot take for granted.” The Athletic’s Shams Charania stated on FanDuel’s Run It Back program (video link) that the Pacers are prepared to offer Siakam a max contract and “there’s mutual interest in getting a deal done.”

Pacers’ Mathurin To Undergo Season-Ending Shoulder Surgery

Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski, Mathurin is expected to make a full recovery in advance of the 2024/25 season.

The Pacers have issued a press release officially confirming the news. The procedure will be performed next week in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, per the team.

It had been a promising sophomore season for Mathurin, who finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2022/23 and had become a more efficient scorer in his second year in the NBA.

The MVP of this year’s Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend in Indianapolis, he averaged 14.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 26.1 minutes per game this season, with a .446/.374/.821 shooting line across 59 appearances (19 starts).

Mathurin’s injury is an unfortunate development for a Pacers team that sacrificed some wing depth earlier this season by trading away Bruce Brown and Buddy Hield in separate deals. As Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Bobby Marks note (via Twitter), the 21-year-old was a key contributor to the NBA’s No. 1 offense and one of the league’s best second units.

Mathurin ranked third on the roster in total minutes played this season, behind only Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner, but will now have to watch from the sidelines as the club continues its push for a playoff spot without him. The Pacers currently hold the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference with a 35-29 record. They have a 3.5-game cushion on the ninth-place Bulls and are only 2.5 games behind the No. 4 Knicks.

With Mathurin unavailable, Aaron Nesmith, Andrew Nembhard, Ben Sheppard, and Jarace Walker are among the Pacers role players who are candidates for increased roles. Trade deadline addition Doug McDermott also figures to take over some of Mathurin’s minutes once he’s healthy, but he has been sidelined since February 26 due to a calf injury.

As Michael Grange of notes (via Twitter), it’s not clear if Mathurin would have been in the mix for a spot on the Canadian national team this summer, but playing in the 2024 Olympics is almost certainly out of the question for him now.

Pacers Notes: Mathurin, McDermott, Hield, Smith

Pacers second-year guard Bennedict Mathurin is set to miss at least the next three games, and probably a fourth, as he deals with a sprained right shoulder, according to IndyStar’s Dustin Dopirak.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said Mathurin will be reevaluated after Indiana’s upcoming two-game road trip that concludes March 12 in Oklahoma City. That reevaluation will come before the Pacers play the second half of a back-to-back against the Bulls on March 13, so it’s unlikely he plays in that game, according to Dopirak.

We hope it’s not serious,” Carlisle said. “He’s a guy who bounces back very quickly and hates missing game. We hope that it’s relatively short term, but he will miss a week at least.

Mathurin is averaging 14.5 points per game in his second year in the league.

We have more notes on the Pacers:

  • There’s still no return timetable for Doug McDermott, who is dealing with a right calf strain. According to Dopirak, as of Saturday, McDermott hadn’t engaged in any on-floor work since suffering his injury on Feb. 26. He’s averaging 5.7 points and shooting 41.5% from three this season.
  • Buddy Hield recently opened up about his trade from the Pacers, explaining how he didn’t see a future with the organization. “I love Buddy. I wish we could have kept him. The whole organization wishes they could have kept him,” Carlisle said in response to Hield’s comments (Twitter links via Dopirak). “And we could have, but it would have been self-serving for the organization. … He’s one of a kind. I loved him. I loved working with him for two years. He was a total pro with everything with he did.”
  • Jalen Smith is knocking down a career-high 61.2% of his field goals and 44.3% of his three-point attempts. According to Smith, the key to his better shooting is to stop thinking about knocking them down, Dopirak writes in another story. “I guess it’s just an ‘F-it’ mentality,” Smith said. “I’m pretty much saying if it goes in, it goes in. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.” Smith is playing just 17.7 minutes per night in a crowded frontcourt, but has been highly efficient in his limited time and is averaging 20.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes.

And-Ones: Olympic Qualifiers, Rubio, R. Miller, All-Star Weekend

FIBA has officially announced the schedule for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournaments, which will determine the final four men’s basketball teams who will compete for gold in Paris. Each of the four tournaments will tip off on July 2, with the finals taking place on July 7.

The four qualifying tournaments are being played in Spain, Puerto Rico, Latvia, and Greece, with 24 teams vying to advance to the 2024 Olympics. The results of those tournaments will determine whether we get the opportunity to see a handful of notable NBA stars – such as Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) and Luka Doncic (Slovenia) – playing in Paris.

A total of 12 men’s basketball teams will compete at the Olympics and eight of those spots have already been claimed. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Serbia, South Sudan, and the U.S. have punched their tickets to Paris. Details on the other 24 teams competing in the qualifying tournaments – and how they’ve been split up – can be found right here.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Ricky Rubio may make his season debut with Barcelona on March 1 when the team faces AS Monaco in EuroLeague play, as Kevin Martorano of Sportando relays. Rubio announced his retirement from the NBA in January, but remains on track to make a comeback in his home country, having signed with Barcelona earlier this month. Teammate Alex Abrines mentioned March 1 as a possible target date for the veteran point guard.
  • TNT Sports and analyst Reggie Miller have reached an agreement on a multiyear contract extension, according to a press release from the company. Miller is in his 19th season with TNT Sports and will continue to be part of NBA broadcasts for the network for the foreseeable future.
  • A current Pacer and a former Pacer earned honors at the secondary events at All-Star weekend in Indianapolis. Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin was named the Rising Stars MVP on Friday while Magic two-way guard Trevelin Queen earned MVP honors in Sunday’s G League Up Next game (Twitter links via the NBA). Queen spent most of the 2022/23 season on a two-way contract with Indiana.

NBA Announces Player Pool For 2024 Rising Stars Event

The NBA has officially revealed the 11 rookies, 10 sophomores, and seven G League players who will take part in the Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend in Indianapolis next month.

The following players, as voted on by NBA coaching staffs, made the cut:



G League Players

As was the case last season, the Rising Stars event will consist of four teams and three games. The seven G League players will comprise one team, coached by former NBA forward Detlef Schrempf. The other 21 players will be drafted to three squads coached by former NBA and WNBA stars Pau Gasol, Jalen Rose, and Tamika Catchings.

The four teams will be split into two first-round matchups and the winners of those two games will face one another for the Rising Stars championship. The two semifinals will be played to a target score of 40 points, while the final will be played to a target score of 25 points.

All three contests will take place on Friday, February 16 as part of All-Star weekend’s opening night.