Bennedict Mathurin

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.

Raptors, Pacers Engaged In Serious Talks On Possible Siakam Trade

JANUARY 17: Several parties familiar with the negotiations between the Raptors and Pacers were surprised that the two teams didn’t finalize an agreement before Tuesday’s games begin, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

One sticking point, per Fischer, has been Indiana’s unwillingness to include either of their two most recent lottery picks – Bennedict Mathurin and Jarace Walker – in a package for Siakam. Charania has also stated that the Pacers aren’t interested in giving up either of those young players (Twitter video link).

According to Fischer, the other pieces that would be sent to Toronto along with Brown in the latest framework of the proposed deal are Jordan Nwora and either Obi Toppin or Jalen Smith. Buddy Hield hasn’t been a part of the recent discussions between the two teams, says Fischer.

Fischer adds that two of the first-round picks in in Indiana’s proposal are 2024 selections (the Pacers’ own pick and a least favorable pick from Oklahoma City).

JANUARY 16: The Raptors and Pacers are engaged in serious talks about a potential trade that would send power forward Pascal Siakam to Indiana, The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick report.

Indiana’s package would be built around swingman Bruce Brown, other salaries and three first-round draft picks, according to The Athletic’s duo.

The Raptors have discussed potential deals involving Siakam with several teams, but the talks with the Pacers have gained traction in recent days. They have yet to finalize or agree to a deal, although they are far along in the process, with proposals being made back and forth.

The Kings had pulled out of the Siakam sweepstakes in recent weeks, in part because the two-time All-NBA forward reportedly isn’t interested in re-signing with them after the season. The Warriors and Mavericks are among the other clubs that have expressed interest in the 29-year-old.

Siakam has an expiring $37.9MM contract and any acquiring team would want to have a strong indication if he’d commit to their organization beyond this season. Siakam is known to be seeking a max-salary deal and extension talks between the Raptors and his reps have not progressed in recent months.

Brown’s contract features a $22MM cap hit this season with a $23MM club option for 2024/25. Although Brown’s salary is well below Siakam’s, the Pacers have over $8MM in cap room and would only need to send out about $7.6MM in additional salary to make a deal legal, notes cap expert Yossi Gozlan (Twitter link).

As for the draft picks, the Pacers control all of their own future first-rounders, as well as a 2024 pick from Oklahoma City that includes “least favorable” language — it will almost certainly be either the Thunder’s or Clippers’ first-rounder.

The potential acquisition of Siakam would strengthen a Pacers starting lineup that also includes star guard Tyrese Haliburton — currently injured — and center Myles Turner and would make them a more dangerous playoff team.

Indiana reportedly made an effort to acquire OG Anunoby from Toronto before he was sent to New York.

Stein’s Latest: Hield, Wiggins, Finney-Smith, O’Neale, Fultz, McDermott, Osman

The Pistons and Wizards pulled off a trade involving four players and two draft picks on Sunday. Expect a lot more activity in the coming weeks, according to Marc Stein in his latest Substack post.

Stein offers a number of interesting tidbits from around the league:

  • Buddy Hield‘s name was prominently mentioned around the trade market after the veteran guard and the Pacers failed to reach an extension agreement during training camp. Sources tell Stein that Indiana continues to look for ways to move Hield. The Pacers are trying to package his expiring $18.6MM contract and a future first-rounder to get an impact player. Raptors forward Pascal Siakam continues to be talked about as a potential Pacers target. However, Indiana would be reluctant to give up second-year guard Bennedict Mathurin or rookie Jarace Walker in any trade.
  • Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins is looked upon as another potential Pacers target but it may be difficult for Golden State to create a market for him, Stein writes. Wiggins not only has three more years left on his contract, his production has nosedived.
  • Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale could be on the move. The Nets are listening to offers for both of those forwards and Stein suggests the Cavaliers should pursue O’Neale, considering they need a wing and he’s close friends with Donovan Mitchell. O’Neale has an expiring contract, while Finney-Smith is signed through 2025/26.
  • Speaking of expiring contracts, the Magic are “exploring the trade market” the top pick of the 2017 draft. They’ve made guard Markelle Fultz and his $17MM expiring deal available, along with center Wendell Carter Jr, per Stein.
  • Another team dangling expiring contracts is the Spurs. Forwards Doug McDermott and Cedi Osman are available for teams looking to clear cap room this summer or upgrade their second unit, according to Stein.

Central Notes: Haliburton, Mathurin, White, LaVine, Vucevic, Lillard

The Pacers will be without Tyrese Haliburton for at least two weeks, but the diagnosis of a Grade 1 left hamstring strain was a huge relief for the team, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. In a pregame session with reporters tonight, coach Rick Carlisle said there were concerns that the star guard would be out much longer when he slipped on the court Monday night.

“The news that we got on Tyrese yesterday was the best possible news that we could’ve gotten given what everybody saw,” Carlisle said. “The way he fell, the way his legs contorted and all that.”

Haliburton underwent an MRI on Tuesday that was attended by Carlisle and Haliburton’s agent, Dave Spahn. Carlisle told reporters that hamstring injuries can be tricky and indicated that the length of the guard’s absence will depend on how he responds to treatment. Haliburton will travel with the Pacers while he’s sidelined, Carlisle added, explaining that it’s beneficial to keep him close to the team.

“There are things he can do being with our training staff full time on the road that couldn’t be done here unless we left one of our therapists here and we got a whole team,” Carlisle said. “It’s the best scenario, really, to have him travel and have him work on his body and the situation and just keep going. Twelve days is going to go by fast and we’ll see where we are then. This is a 23-year-old world class athlete.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers should consider moving Bennedict Mathurin into the starting lineup while Haliburton is sidelined, Dopirak contends in a separate story. Although the team could opt to replace him with another point guard such as Andrew Nembhard or T.J. McConnell, Dopirak notes that Mathurin is best equipped to take over Haliburton’s role as a perimeter scorer.
  • Bulls guard Coby White took a major step forward with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic injured, and he believes can continue to be just as successful now that they’ve returned, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “Nothing’s really changed. Obviously, we’re returning Zach and Vooch. But including those guys, everybody is telling me to keep doing what I’m doing, be myself and keep playing the way I’m playing,” White said. “They told me to stay aggressive, make the right play and be who I am and who I have been. It’s not going to happen like that every night. We have so many talented players on this team. I just want to stay aggressive and in attack mode.”
  • Minutes restrictions for LaVine and Vucevic have been removed, Bulls coach Billy Donovan said in tonight’s pregame press conference (Twitter link from Johnson).
  • Bucks guard Damian Lillard will be available for Thursday’s matchup with Boston after missing Tuesday’s game for personal reasons, according to an Associated Press report.

Central Notes: Giannis, Griffin, Bogdanovic, Hield, Cavs

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Adrian Griffin appeared to have a “heated” disagreement during the third quarter of Milwaukee’s loss to Boston on Wednesday, but the Bucks‘ head coach downplayed the incident after the game, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Antetokounmpo didn’t want to be subbed out midway through the period after being called for a carrying violation and sat on the scorer’s table talking to Griffin, eventually checking back in at the next dead ball.

He wanted to stay in, I wanted to give him a breather. That’s all it was,” Griffin said. “And then I told him to stay at the table for one possession, and he got right back out there.”

Antetokounmpo simply said “no” when he was asked what transpired.

As Bontemps writes, the matchup between the East’s top two seeds was lopsided for most of the contest, with Boston reeling off 10 straight points to open the game and never trailing. The Bucks made things interesting late, but the Celtics prevailed by a final score of 119-116.

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic is nearing his 2023/24 season debut for the Pistons, writes Mike Curtis of The Detroit News (subscriber link). Bogdanovic, who has been battling a right calf strain, was recently cleared for contact work and was a full practice participant on Wednesday. Getting their top scorer from last season back in the near future is certainly welcome news for the injury-ravaged Pistons, who have lost a league-worst 12 straight games and once again hold the worst record in the NBA at 2-13.
  • Pacers wing Buddy Hield got his second straight start on Wednesday in place of Bennedict Mathurin, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Head coach Rick Carlisle was noncommittal when asked if the lineup change he implemented for Tuesday’s contest would be permanent or temporary. Aaron Nesmith, who replaced Obi Toppin at power forward on Tuesday, was sidelined with a sprained wrist, so Toppin was back in the starting lineup yesterday. Hield, who had been in a shooting slump, has been scorching hot the past two games, averaging 27.5 points while shooting 75.0% from the floor and 72.2% from three-point range.
  • Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell missed his fourth straight game on Wednesday due to a hamstring strain, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (via Twitter). While there weren’t many positives from the Cavs’ blowout loss to the Heat, rookie guard Craig Porter Jr. got his first career start and continued his streak of strong performances, per Chris Fedor of (subscriber link). Porter, who went undrafted in June and is on a two-way contract, recorded 16 points (on 6-of-12 shooting), five assists, two rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 35 minutes.

Central Notes: Holiday, Bucks, Pacers, Allen

The top two teams in the East — the Celtics and Bucks — face off on Wednesday night in Boston. It will be All-Star guard Jrue Holiday‘s first matchup against his former club this season.

Holiday, who was traded to Portland in the Damian Lillard blockbuster before being rerouted to the Celtics, says he has no hard feelings towards the Bucks, though he would’ve appreciated a heads-up that he might get dealt, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Holiday expressed a desire to be a “Buck for life” just days before the trade was made.

I think that they got what they wanted, so I can’t be mad at that,” Holiday said. “A warning would’ve been cool. But other than that, I’m in the best place that I can be to compete against them, which is for the top team in the East and, hopefully, the top team in the league.

Holiday helped the Bucks win their first championship in 50 years in 2021, but he says Wednesday’s matchup doesn’t hold any particular significance to him other than two of the best teams in the league competing against each other.

It’s not like I circled this one on my calendar or anything,” Holiday said. “I think that this is a big game because of the two teams that are playing, I think because of the caliber players that are on the court and all that, so that’s what I would like for it to be about, not me playing against the Bucks.”

Here’s more from the Central:

  • The Pacers made a change to their starting lineup on Tuesday, replacing Bennedict Mathurin and Obi Toppin with Buddy Hield and Aaron Nesmith. Hield and Nesmith started most of last season, but had been coming off the bench in 2023/24. As Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star writes, head coach Rick Carlisle said the move was designed to give the starters more shooting, with the Pacers trying to clinch their in-season tournament group — which they did after defeating Atlanta. All four players performed well in a game that didn’t feature much defense — the final score was 157-152. However, Carlisle wouldn’t commit to that new starting five going forward, and Nesmith will be sidelined for Wednesday’s game against Toronto with a right wrist sprain, Dopirak tweets. Second-year guard Andrew Nembhard will also miss his third straight game with lower back soreness.
  • The Pacers selected Jarace Walker No. 8 overall and Ben Sheppard No. 26 overall in June’s draft, but neither player has been in the team’s rotation this fall. On Wednesday, the two first-round picks were sent to the G League to play for Indiana’s affiliate, the Mad Ants, and were recalled ahead of tonight’s matchup with the Raptors, per Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. “I was happy,” said Walker, who scored 30 points in a Mad Ants win. “Hooping is hooping to me at the end of the day, no matter if it’s NBA, G-League, JUCO, I just love basketball. Just being out there, even with an awesome group of guys that I got to get closer with today, I had a good time today.”
  • A slow 2-3 start for the Cavaliers this fall coincided with the absence of center Jarrett Allen, who was dealing with a bone bruise in his ankle. As Chris Fedor of details in a subscriber-only story, the Cavs have started to climb the standings upon Allen’s return, going 6-3, including four straight victories, despite other players being injured. While he doesn’t always put up gaudy individual stats, the 25-year-old is the defensive anchor for Cleveland, according to Fedor, who notes that Allen did an admirable job slowing Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid the past two games.

Central Notes: Lillard, Middleton, Mathurin, Pistons, Caruso

While there’s no indication that it’s a serious injury, Bucks guard Damian Lillard was ruled out of Thursday’s matchup with Indiana due to right calf soreness, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It’s the second game of a back-to-back for both teams, Owczarski notes.

In all likelihood, the Bucks are just being cautious with their major offseason acquisition. However, Lillard missed several games last season with a pair of right calf strains, so he does have a history of injuries in that area.

Cameron Payne received the starting nod at point guard with Lillard out.

On a more positive note, forward Khris Middleton returned to action after missing Wednesday’s game due to right knee injury management, Owczarski adds. Middleton continues to ramp up his activity following offseason knee surgery.

Here’s more from the Central:

  • After an impressive debut season which saw him earn a spot on the All-Rookie First Team, Bennedict Mathurin had been struggling — on both ends of the court — with the adjustment of being a full-time starter in 2023/24, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. But the Pacers guard snapped out of his slump in Wednesday’s victory over Utah, recording 22 points (on 9-of-18 shooting), nine rebounds, four assists and two steals in 38 minutes. “I thought this was probably Benn’s best game in two years,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “People want to see him shoot a bunch of shots and score a bunch of points, but that isn’t necessarily what wins. What wins is being a part of a system, doing your job within a system, taking the right shots within a system, running to the corner when your job is to run to the corner and making simple plays. I thought tonight he took some major steps.”
  • The Pistons started the season strong, going 2-1 and looking much improved after being the worst team in the NBA last season. However, they have since lost six straight games amid a tough schedule to sit with a 2-7 record. Turnovers, injuries and excessive fouls have been the main culprits for the losing streak, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic and Keith Langlois of Still, there have been bright spots, with the strong play of rookies Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser particularly noteworthy, Edwards writes. And there’s reason to believe Detroit could start turning its close losses into wins if it gets some of its veteran shooters back healthy and fixes some of its preventable mistakes, says Langlois.
  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times argues the Bulls should insert Alex Caruso into the starting lineup, writing that the All-Defensive First Team guard can help mitigate the defensive lapses of the team’s “big three” while providing value on both ends of the court. “A hard worker who is going to do all he can for his teammates,” Suns star Kevin Durant said of Caruso. “That stuff right there (he does) makes up for a lot of mistakes. He’s a phenomenal player. I don’t want to even call him a role player; he’s a guy you can plug with any lineup and he will make the right reads and right plays on the defensive and offensive side and the Bulls are lucky to have him.” Chicago is being cautious with Caruso due to his all-out play-style, but Cowley thinks the Bulls need to make a change to right the ship after a 3-6 start.

Central Notes: Bulls, Cavs, Thompson, Pacers

The starting lineup has received more attention this fall, but the Bulls are also still determining which players will make up their closing lineup, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. While it seems safe to assume that Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic, at least, will be part of those groups, head coach Billy Donovan suggested that different end-of-game scenarios might call for different looks.

“We have a lot of guys that can finish in certain situations,” Donovan said. “Theoretically, you’re up by five points with maybe 20 seconds to go, maybe you decide to go all defense in that situation. The last five minutes of the game, based on who the other team has out there, maybe we feel we have guys that have guarded a guy particularly well. So I do feel we have some versatility certainly defensively, to play a number of guys closing a game.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Cavaliers‘ starting lineup on Monday – in a game its five regular starters sat – could provide a glimpse at what the team’s second unit will look like when the season begins, writes Chris Fedor of Ty Jerome, Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, and Damian Jones made up the team’s replacement starting five, with Georges Niang and Emoni Bates as the first two players off the bench.
  • Pistons rookie Ausar Thompson, whose defensive ability may earn him a starting job, relishes the idea of becoming the club’s perimeter stopper, per Keith Langlois of “That’s the most exciting thing for me, that they trust me to go out and guard those guys,” Thompson said after matching up with Devin Booker and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Detroit’s first two preseason games. “I’ve always believed those are the guys I want and now those are the guys who are going to make me better and learn more.”
  • Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle pushed back on Monday against the idea that his starting lineup is settled, telling reporters that Bruce Brown, Bennedict Mathurin, and Obi Toppin need reps alongside Tyrese Haliburton before any final decisions are made, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Haliburton missed the Pacers’ first two preseason games, but looked good as part of the new-look starting five on Monday vs. Atlanta, expressing enthusiasm about the pace that Indiana’s tentative starters can play with. “With Obi and Benn and Bruce, those are guys that can really get up and down the floor,” Haliburton said. “… As long as we get stops and rebound, not many people are going to beat us up and down the floor.”

Pacers Exercise 2024/25 Options On Mathurin, Jackson

The Pacers have guaranteed a pair of salaries for the 2024/25 season, announcing today in a press release that they’ve picked up their rookie scale team options on wing Bennedict Mathurin and big man Isaiah Jackson.

The sixth overall pick in the 2022 draft, Mathurin made the All-Rookie first team this past spring after averaging 16.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 28.5 minutes per contest. The 21-year-old appears poised to become a full-time starter this fall after coming off the bench in 61 of his 78 games last season.

Mathurin’s $6.92MM salary for the coming season had already been guaranteed. As a result of the option pick-up, his $7.25MM cap hit for the ’24/25 season is locked in as well. Indiana will have decide a year from now whether to exercise his $9.19MM option for 2025/26.

As for Jackson, the 22nd overall pick from the 2021 draft has appeared in 99 games in his two seasons as a Pacer, averaging 7.6 PPG and 4.4 RPG in 16.0 MPG. He’s in the mix for backup center minutes behind Myles Turner this season, but will face competition from Daniel Theis and Jalen Smith.

Now that is has been exercised, Jackson’s 2024/25 team option will pay him a guaranteed salary of approximately $4.44MM. He’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension next July as he enters the final year of his rookie deal.

We’re tracking all of year’s rookie scale team option decisions right here.