Bennedict Mathurin

Central Notes: Pistons, Giannis, Hield, Theis, Jackson, Smith

Another Central Division team could be making a deal soon. While the Pistons can’t upstage Milwaukee’s acquisition of Damian Lillard, they have been active in trade talks over the last few weeks, James Edwards III of The Athletic reports.

Edwards speculates that James Wiseman, Marvin Bagley, Killian Hayes, Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks are the candidates to be dealt, which could clear a logjam at some positions and open up more playing time for the Pistons’ rookies. In Hayes’ case, the 2020 lottery pick doesn’t appear to be in the team’s plans after acquiring Monte Morris and drafting Marcus Sasser.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Speaking of Lillard, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst says that despite the acquisition of the longtime All-Star guard, there’s no guarantee that Giannis Antetokounmpo will commit to the Bucks long-term (video link). Antetokounmpo has yet to sign an extension this offseason and has financial incentive to wait but he may want out if Milwaukee doesn’t win another championship this season. “Maybe they’re 10 percent better in terms of this title chase, maybe five percent. The real question is, ‘What does it mean for Giannis?,'” Windhorst said. “Giannis made it clear he was not going to sign an extension with this team. He wanted to see them go all-in. They have gone all-in. But if he still doesn’t sign an extension, they’re still on the one-year window.”
  • Even though general manager Chad Buchanan has downplayed reports that the Pacers are looking to trade Buddy Hield, giving second-year guard Bennedict Mathurin a starting job ahead of Hield could cause chemistry issues, Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star opines. Hield is in the final year of his contract and extension talks have stalled, Buchanan admitted this week, though they could be rekindled.
  • The Pacers have multiple options at center behind Myles Turner. Buchanan indicated that Daniel Theis, Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith will battle in training camp for the backup role, according to Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star. Buchanan added he won’t look to trade any of those players until there’s more clarity regarding the rotation.

Pacers Notes: Hield, Mathurin, Backup Center, Nembhard, McConnell

The Pacers are in a difficult position trying to make a Buddy Hield trade so close to the start of the season, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. No progress has been reported since news broke last Wednesday that the team was working with Hield’s representatives to find a deal after the sides were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension.

Dopirak believes Indiana is justified in asking a high price for Hield, who is one of the league’s top three-point shooters. However, teams are reluctant to shake up their rosters this far into the offseason, especially for a player who has an expiring contract.

It’s also not clear what the Pacers will be seeking in return for Hield. Dopirak notes that the team saw a need after last season to upgrade at power forward and find defensive-minded wings, but that has already been addressed during the offseason. He states that they’ll need three-point shooting help if they part with Hield and may be looking for a younger, less expensive player who can do what he does.

There’s more on the Pacers, all courtesy of Dopirak:

  • Bennedict Mathurin has a chance to win a starting job, but only if he can improve his defense. Dopirak observes that the first-team All-Rookie selection struggled with that part of the game, particularly when he got an opportunity to start late in the season. The Pacers are hoping to see progress from Mathurin in camp and will need him to take on a larger role if Hield gets traded.
  • Daniel Theis‘ impressive showing in the World Cup gives him a strong case to be the primary backup center heading into camp. Dopirak notes that he’ll be competing for minutes with Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith, who are both younger and more athletic than the 31-year-old Theis. He adds that Jackson is the team’s best lob finisher and second-best shot blocker behind Myles Turner, while Smith was Indiana’s leader last season in rebounds per 48 minutes.
  • The Pacers’ improved roster could lead to several other changes, Dopirak adds. If Mathurin and free agent addition Bruce Brown are both starters, Andrew Nembhard could move from shooting guard to backup point guard, which is his more natural position. That could lead to a reduction in playing time for T.J. McConnell, who posted the best scoring average of his career last season.

NBA Announces All-Rookie Teams

Rookie of the Year winner Paolo Banchero was a unanimous choice for the 2022/23 All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced today (via Twitter).

Players receive two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote, and Banchero received the maximum possible 200 points.

Here’s the full five-man squad, listed in order of their total points received via voters:

The All-Rookie Second Team was announced as well, with a couple of teammates headlining the group (Twitter link).

In my opinion, the most surprising omission from the All-Rookie Second Team was Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, who received 46 points. Nembhard was actually listed on one more ballot than Eason, but Eason received two First Team votes versus Nembhard’s zero, giving him a narrow edge.

That’s not to say Eason (or anyone else) was undeserving — he had a strong season as a tenacious offensive rebounder and defender. I just thought Nembhard should have been honored because he started the majority of the season for a competitive Indiana team and was frequently tasked with guarding the opposing teams’ best player, as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files notes (via Twitter).

According to the NBA (Twitter link), others receiving votes included Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe (36), Hawks wing AJ Griffin (26), Nuggets forward Christian Braun, Thunder center Jaylin Williams (seven), Mavericks guard Jaden Hardy (four), Spurs guard Malaki Branham (three), Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels (two), Hornets center Mark Williams (two) and Bucks wing MarJon Beauchamp (one).

In case you missed it, more NBA awards will be coming later this week. The All-Defensive teams will be announced on Tuesday, followed by All-NBA on Wednesday and the Teammate of the Year award on Thursday.

Pacers Notes: Carlisle, Draft, Nembhard, Nesmith, Mathurin

Head coach Rick Carlisle knows that for the Pacers to take a step forward in 2023/24, the team will have to hit on its draft picks. The Pacers control three first-round picks in 2023 — their own, Cleveland’s and Boston’s — as well as a couple second-rounders, though one is still up in the air.

If you look at the standings this year, this is the most parity we’ve seen in probably a number of decades,” Carlisle told Steve Bulpett of “So you’ve got to try to create as many situations as you can to get small edges. You’ve got to draft great. You know, our management team drafted (Andrew) Nembhard in the second round, and the guy’s a hell of a player. We’ve got to hit on more guys like that, and we’ve got to do the right things when we have those opportunities.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Carlisle says the Pacers will have to address the two main weaknesses of the roster — defense and rebounding — both internally and externally, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter links). The current players need to improve, but the team will also look to bolster the roster in those areas via the draft, trades and free agency, Carlisle added.
  • Rookie guard Nembhard and third-year forward Aaron Nesmith have been bright spots defensively, as they’re frequently tasked with guarding opposing teams’ top perimeter players, Dopirak writes for The Indianapolis Star. How can they improve on the less glamorous end of the court? “Both of these guys are so, quite frankly, good defensively,” assistant coach and defensive coordinator Ronald Nored said. “Everybody has areas to improve, but there’s not a lot of area to improve for either one of them. I think both of them are quiet guys, and I think they can both take steps as communicators defensively. … That’s a challenge for both of them. Next season use their voice more.”
  • Indiana may have shut down Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner, but Bennedict Mathurin has actually seen his role expand as the season winds down and that’s by design, Dopirak writes in another story. “I’m getting used to what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my career,” Mathurin said. “Being a starter is one of my main goals, so it has to start somewhere, but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities and a lot of challenges as well, so I’m just trying to get used to it.” Carlisle has tasked Mathurin with more challenging defensive assignments and increased his minutes to push last year’s No. 6 overall pick, Dopirak notes.

Central Notes: G. Hill, McGruder, Pacers, Cavs, Bulls

Pacers guard George Hill was told when he was traded from Milwaukee to Indiana at last month’s deadline that he wouldn’t play much for his new team and that he’d be mostly counted on as a veteran leader, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. That was fine by Hill, who referred to himself as a “team-first guy” and is happy to be playing for his hometown club.

“(Pacers coach) Rick (Carlisle) has done a great job of being open and honest,” Hill said. “When I first got here, he said, you know, ‘We’re developing right now and we want our young guys to get some meaningful minutes, but it doesn’t mean you’re not going to play at all. I want you to still be a leader on and off the court. Show these guys what hard work and a good teammate is and just stay ready at all times.'”

Hill’s 15 years of NBA experience have made him an ideal mentor for All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who says the 36-year-old holds him accountable “every day.” Hill describes Haliburton as a “shining star” and has expressed a desire to continue backing him up beyond this season, if possible.

“Like I tell everybody, I don’t want to be here as a rental,” said Hill, who was born and raised in Indianapolis. “I would love to be here for a while and watch this thing grow to what I think it could be. I’m on board with whatever they need me to do and I’m all in.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Like Hill in Indiana, Pistons wing Rodney McGruder is on Detroit’s roster more for his locker-room presence than his production on the court. However, due to injuries, he has started the team’s last eight games and is playing a regular rotation role for the first time this season. James L. Edwards III of The Athletic explores McGruder’s on- and off-court contributions and digs into why he’s so respected by the Pistons’ young players.
  • The Pacers made history on Wednesday when they became the first NBA team to have three Canadian-born players (Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, and Oshae Brissett) in their starting lineup. And they did it in Canada, in a road game vs. the Raptors, as Dopirak writes for The Indianapolis Star. “Historic night for Canada basketball,” Carlisle said. “… For it to happen in Toronto, it’s pretty cool.”
  • Jamal Collier of ESPN explores the lessons the Cavaliers learned from last season’s second-half collapse and why the club is more confident in its chances of making some noise in the postseason this spring.
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic identifies the seven members of the Bulls most impacted by Lonzo Ball‘s uncertain future. Mayberry’s picks range from center Nikola Vucevic, whose free agency decision this summer could be influenced by Ball’s long-term absence, to president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, whose questionable roster decisions are increasingly under the microscope.

Injury Notes: S. Barnes, Kuzma, J. Johnson, J. Allen

An MRI on Scottie Barnes‘ left wrist came back clean, according to Josh Lewenberg of (Twitter link). However, the wrist – which the Raptors forward injured during Sunday’s loss in Milwaukee – is still sore and will likely undergo more testing, Lewenberg adds. For now, Barnes is considered day-to-day, and Lewenberg believes he’ll likely be listed as questionable to play on Wednesday vs. Indiana after not practicing on Tuesday.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma has been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest in Orlando due to a right ankle sprain, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. It will be the third time in the last four games that Washington will be without either Kuzma or Kristaps Porzingis.
  • Following an MRI, Hawks forward Jalen Johnson was diagnosed with a mild hamstring and groin strain, a league source tells Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). According to Williams, Johnson will be reevaluated early next week.
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, who has been out for four games due to a right eye contusion, is nearing a return. According to Chris Fedor of (Twitter link), Allen was a full participant in Monday’s practice and has a chance to play on Tuesday. He’s currently listed as questionable.
  • After missing four games due to a right ankle sprain, Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin returned to action on Monday, as Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star details. Mathurin showed no ill effects following the brief layoff, scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Central Notes: Middleton, Ingles, Mobley, Allen, Duarte, Mathurin

The good news for the Bucks on their most recent road trip went beyond their 2-1 record, writes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Khris Middleton and Joe Ingles, who both dealt with injuries earlier in the season, appear fully healthy and ready for the playoffs.

Owczarski notes that Middleton played nearly 34 minutes against both the Warriors and Kings and had his best game of the season with 31 points at Sacramento. Middleton missed the first 20 games of the season while recovering from surgery and was sidelined with knee soreness around the All-Star break, but he says he’s finally starting to feel like himself on the court. Ingles returned in mid-December after surgery for a torn left knee ligament, but his play has been up and down until recently.

Middleton and Ingles formed a bond during their rehab sessions, and coach Mike Budenholzer plans to use them together as much as possible.

“We like the idea of Joe and Khris playing together on the wings and having two guys that can really play pick and roll and are great at kind of picking apart (a defense), finding open guys,” Budenholzer said. “They gotta put somebody on both of them so maybe we can find things that we like, ways to attack with both of them on the court.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley said being more aggressive and learning how NBA defenders react has helped him get to the foul line more often, per Kelsy Russo of The Athletic. “I feel like as a big guy, if I give a good pump fake, they’re probably going to go for it,” Mobley said. “If they don’t, I’m already at the basket. I’ve just been pump-faking more, and then once they’re in the air just trying to draw contact and get the foul, and one.”
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen missed his fourth straight game Friday with an eye injury, but coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he has been able to do individual workouts, Russo tweets. “He’s seen a couple of specialists now and structurally everything is OK to this point,” Bickerstaff said. ” … He’s doing more on the court. And it’s just a matter of when he can safely return because of the eye.”
  • Chris Duarte and Bennedict Mathurin will sit out Saturday’s game, but Pacers coach Rick Carlisle suggests there’s a chance they can return Monday, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

Central Notes: Mathurin, G. Allen, J. Allen, Caruso

The Pacers have yet to supply a concrete timeline for rookie guard Bennedict Mathurin‘s return from his right ankle, per Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle did reveal that Mathurin will not suit up for the team in Thursday’s game against the mighty Bucks.

“He may travel, but he’s not going to play in the next game,” Carlisle said on Wednesday. “I’m not going to give you a timetable, but he’s not going to play in Milwaukee. He is doing better.”

Dopirak adds in another tweet that both Mathurin and second-year swingman Chris Duarte will be sidelined for today’s game. Starters Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, plus reserve point guard T.J. McConnell, are all questionable to suit up. Haliburton is dealing with a right ankle sprain.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Bucks wing Grayson Allen will also miss Thursday’s bout against the Pacers, his second straight absence, due to right plantar fascia soreness, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link).
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen will remain out the team’s next game, Friday against the Wizards, due to a right eye contusion, per Chris Fedor of (Twitter link).
  • Bulls wing Alex Caruso was held out of a recent team practice due to an unspecified illness, but is currently somewhat on the mend, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). That said, he is questionable to play on Friday for Chicago, when they will square off against the Timberwolves. Should Caruso sit, it is likely that reserve forward Patrick Williams would returning to the club’s starting five.

Injury Notes: Brunson, Wagner, Zeller, Mathurin, Kuminga, Duren

X-rays on Jalen Brunson‘s sore left foot were negative, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters before Saturday’s game that Brunson is feeling “a little better” and is considered day-to-day. He added that the injury has officially been diagnosed as a bruise.

“When he’s healthy enough, he goes,” Thibodeau said. “So just do the rehab, talk to the medical people and when he gets cleared, he’s cleared and then he’ll play.”

Brunson has missed three of the team’s last four games, playing just 19 minutes Thursday in Sacramento. The Knicks have now dropped three in a row, and it’s uncertain if Brunson will be available as their road trip continues Sunday against the Lakers and Tuesday vs. the Trail Blazers.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • X-rays on Magic forward Franz Wagner were negative after he left Saturday’s game with a right ankle injury, tweets Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Wagner has been diagnosed with an ankle sprain.
  • Heat center Cody Zeller left the same game with a broken nose after a collision with Orlando’s Jalen Suggs in the first quarter, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Miami was already missing Caleb Martin, who sat out the game with knee soreness, and Duncan Robinson, who was placed in health and safety protocols.
  • Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin sat out Saturday after spraining his ankle this week and has already been ruled out of Monday’s game, per Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Coach Rick Carlisle said Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner and T.J. McConnell will also be held out Monday.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Jonathan Kuminga is considered day-to-day after spraining his ankle during warmups on Thursday, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Kuminga didn’t play Saturday, but he was on the team’s bench without a walking boot, Slater adds (Twitter link).
  • Pistons rookie center Jalen Duren feels fully recovered from the bilateral ankle soreness that caused him to miss six games, tweets Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. “Just being out a couple weeks, I was itching to get back and trying to play and finish out the season strong,” Duren said. “I’ve been working, I don’t know if y’all can tell but I got a little bigger. I feel good.”

Injury Notes: Mathurin, Brunson, Kuminga, Giannis

Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin appeared in each of his team’s first 67 games this season, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to suit up for all 82. As Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star writes, Mathurin had to be carried to the locker room after spraining his right ankle in the first quarter of Thursday’s win over Houston, and head coach Rick Carlisle said later in the night that he expects the guard to miss some time.

“It’s gonna look different out there without Benn,” Carlisle said. “… I certainly don’t believe he’ll play either of the Detroit games (on Saturday and Monday.) Other guys will have to be ready.”

Mathurin will likely to be evaluated further on Friday to determine whether he’ll have to be ruled out for a set amount of time or whether the injury will be considered day-to-day. Assuming he does miss multiple games, the Pacers figure to lean more heavily on wings like Aaron Nesmith, Chris Duarte, Jordan Nwora, as Dopirak notes.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who missed two games due to left foot soreness, returned on Thursday in Sacramento but wasn’t able to finish the game and didn’t come out for the second half, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. “He just re-aggravated it, but I haven’t talked to the medical people yet,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Just soreness.”
  • Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga rolled his ankle during pregame warmups on Thursday and was unavailable vs. Memphis, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. X-rays on the injury were negative, but Kuminga was wearing a boot after the game, according to Madeline Kenney of The Bay Area News Group (Twitter link).
  • After initially being listed as probable with a non-COVID illness, Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled out for the Bucks‘ game on Thursday due to right hand soreness. Antetokounmpo, who is also dealing with right knee soreness, sprained his right wrist just before the All-Star break, but head coach Mike Budenholzer doesn’t believe the new injury is related to that, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I think just generally playing and getting hit and stuff like that,” Budenholzer said. “… I don’t think it’s a specific moment or incident or anything like that. We’ll be monitoring and watching it closely.”