Caris LeVert

Central Notes: Cavaliers, DeRozan, Dosunmu, Drummond, Rivers, Giannis

The boos that the Cavaliers heard as they left the court after Sunday’s loss to Charlotte weren’t directed at the players, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. There was an organizational decision to rest several rotation members rather than prioritize a win that would have earned the team the No. 2 seed and avoided a potential second-round matchup with the league-leading Celtics. The result was embarrassing, as Cleveland was outscored 18-2 to end the game and will face Orlando in the first round after falling to fourth place.

Vardon notes that the loss of Craig Porter Jr. to a sprained ankle in the first quarter left the Cavs short on ball-handlers. With Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland and Caris LeVert all sitting out, there was no one to run the offense as the lead slipped away.

“It was difficult (to watch), but we had our plan in place with what we were gonna do with our guys,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “(Our starters) were gonna play those three quarters, and then Craig not being out there made it a little difficult to organize and score in the fourth quarter, but we wanted to stick to our plan, and no matter what was going to happen, we were going to give our guys an opportunity to play.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Thirty-four-year-old DeMar DeRozan finished the season as the NBA’s leader in minutes, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The Bulls swingman was on the court for 2,988 minutes, his highest total in a decade, as he became the first player over age 30 to league the league in that category since LeBron James did it six years ago. “And he doesn’t miss practice. He doesn’t miss shootaround,” Coby White said of DeRozan. “He’s early to everything. Those are the things I notice. He’s always on time. He’s always one of the first ones there. You know how some guys can be. And for him, it’s just his professionalism day in and day out never changes.”
  • The Bulls have some injury concerns heading into Wednesday’s play-in game, notes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Ayo Dosunmu has a bruised quad and Andre Drummond is dealing with a sprained left ankle, and neither is certain to play against Atlanta. ‘‘Ayo is having issues with the running and the starting and the sprinting and the stopping,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. ‘‘There’s been some discomfort there for him. He has to get over that hurdle. I think there is hope he can clear those hurdles.’’
  • Bucks coach Doc Rivers is looking forward to a playoff matchup against Indiana, which was 4-1 against Milwaukee this season, according to Jamal Collier of ESPN. They haven’t faced each other since January 3, which was before Rivers took over the team. “Indiana has had our number all year, so perfect opponent,” Rivers said. “They’ve played great against us. They have great confidence against us. We’ll have great focus because we’re going to have to.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo may not be available for the start of that series, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The Bucks star hasn’t played since Tuesday when he suffered a soleus strain in his left calf, and Rivers confirmed over the weekend that there are doubts about his status for the opener.

Injury Notes: Embiid, Sixers, Cavs, Hornets, Rozier

After previously being listed as questionable, reigning MVP Joel Embiid was subsequently ruled out by the Sixers ahead of Sunday’s season finale against Brooklyn, tweets Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports. Embiid’s official injury designation was left knee injury recovery, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

When asked if he expected Embiid to play as long as he didn’t have any issues pregame, head coach Nick Nurse shifted around a bit while saying, “Yeah, same on the (other) questionable guys” (Twitter video link via PHLY Sixers).

De’Anthony Melton (back injury recovery) and KJ Martin (left great toe contusion), the other two players with questionable tags, were later ruled out as well.

In his fifth game back following a torn left meniscus in January, which required surgery, Embiid appeared to tweak the same knee in Friday’s win over Orlando, calling to be subbed out a couple minutes before the first half ended. He returned for the second half and finished the game, but was noticeably grimacing at times.

Sunday’s game has major playoff implications for the 76ers, who currently have the same record as Orlando and Indiana at 46-35 but are the No. 7 seed due to tiebreakers. Still, Embiid’s health outlook is much more critical for the postseason and the future — Philadelphia went just 15-27 without the 30-year-old this season.

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

  • The Cavaliers, who have secured at least the No. 4 seed in the East and could move as high as No. 2, will be without some of their top players on Sunday, writes Chris Fedor of Donovan Mitchell (knee), Darius Garland (lower back contusion), Caris LeVert (knee soreness), Sam Merrill (neck strain) and Dean Wade (knee sprain) are all out. “It’s not rest,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said prior to tipoff. “Those guys have things they are dealing with that we are trying to protect over the long term. Not guys who are just taking today off. That was the thinking going into it — if we can get them yesterday and today and get out throughout this week, hopefully by Saturday or Sunday, whenever we play, that’s an advantage for us. We will go out and compete our tails off to make sure whatever may happen. So much is out of our control. It’s not a situation where we are going in and saying, ‘We need to do this or do that.’ We don’t control the outcome. So many other teams that have their own plans and own minds that they are trying to make up. We’re going out and trying to compete our tails off and see what happens.”
  • The Cavs are facing the Hornets on Sunday, and Charlotte will also be very undermanned, the team announced (via Twitter). Miles Bridges (right wrist), Brandon Miller (right wrist), Davis Bertans (left Achilles), Nick Richards (right plantar fascia) and Grant Williams (right ankle) were all downgraded from questionable to out, joining four other players who are dealing with long-term injuries.
  • Heat guard Terry Rozier underwent additional testing on his neck injury in recent days, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (subscriber link). Head coach Erik Spoelstra continues to refer to Rozier as day-to-day, but he’ll miss his fourth straight game on Sunday, leaving his postseason status up in the air. Rozier has been taking anti-inflammatories to deal with the issue, Winderman adds.

Cavaliers Notes: LeVert, Roster Depth, Altman

Every game is meaningful for Cavaliers swingman Caris LeVert since his recovery from kidney cancer surgery in 2021, writes Marc J. Spears of Andscape. LeVert’s condition was discovered during a physical after he was sent from Brooklyn to Indiana in a four-team trade. An MRI on his lower back revealed a small mass on his left kidney, and after undergoing an operation to treat a renal cell carcinoma, he was able to return before the end of the season.

“Obviously, I’m grateful to still be playing basketball, to be honest with you,” LeVert said. “It was something that was super unexpected. It just gave me perspective as to how lucky I am to be doing this for a living.”

LeVert has been able to continue his career since the cancer scare, but he says hydration is more important than ever. He’s playing a valuable role for Cleveland, where he’s a candidate for Sixth Man honors, averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 63 games.

“He’s been extremely important to us because of his versatility, his willingness to sacrifice and come off the bench because he’s an NBA starter,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It changes the dynamic of what we’re able to do with our second unit. His minutes versus second-unit guys typically gives us an advantage. He’s bought into being our best one-on-one defensive player. So, he helps us finish games because we can put him in and he can play both defensive and offensive lineups.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers have a much deeper roster this season, which is why they were able to post a 17-1 stretch despite injuries to Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, notes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Additions such as Max Strus and Georges Niang provide more options than the team had when it got bounced in the first round last year. “You can never have too much talent, but I will say this: I think it’s a testament to our depth,” general manager Koby Altman said. “We knew last summer we would have to make ourselves deeper, making ourselves more explosive, diversifying our offense.”
  • The Cavs may reexamine everything if they lose in the first round again, but otherwise there’s no reason to believe Altman’s job is in jeopardy, Chris Fedor of states in a mailbag column (subscription required). Fedor argues that the team has overachieved this season considering that virtually every key player has missed time with injuries. He cites the additions of Strus and Niang, the finding of undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. and the recent signing of veteran forward Marcus Morris as positive moves by Altman.
  • Cleveland has to be ready for opponents blitzing Garland and Donovan Mitchell to force the ball out of their hands, Fedor adds in a separate story. That means other players have to be ready to exploit the advantages created by double teaming the ball-handler. “We try to take the play that is there,” Bickerstaff said. “We have enough talent on this team that if we just make the simple play then defenses are going to have to make tough choices. They came out and they were ‘hotting’ us or ‘trapping’ us in the pick and roll, so the play was to get it to the big and let the big do his thing. Our bigs are elite when they catch the ball in the pocket and are capable of making all the plays.”

Central Notes: Antetokounmpo, Bucks, Pistons, LeVert

The Bucks won’t have their best player in uniform for their showdown with Eastern Conference leader Boston tonight. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Antetokounmpo also missed Sunday’s game against Phoenix. Bucks coach Doc Rivers stated earlier this week that his goal is to ensure his superstar is healthy for the postseason.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks still hold the rights to their first-round pick in this year’s draft and also owns Portland’s second-rounder. With that in mind, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm breaks down potential prospects participating in the NCAA Tournament who could be available late in the first round and early in the second.
  • The Pistons’ young core of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren have a fatal flaw that may force the front office to seriously consider whether they can succeed in the long run, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines: Detroit doesn’t have enough three-point threats within that group. Stewart has developed as a solid outside shooter but he lacks the upside of the other four building blocks. Cunningham has improved in that area but Ivey is subpar from deep and the other two aren’t three-point threats at all.
  • Caris LeVert is making a case for the Sixth Man of the Year award and Cavaliers teammate Tristan Thompson feels he needs to spread the word, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. “Gotta start the campaign,” Thompson said. “We don’t reward teams that are in seventh place. We don’t reward guys who start. Caris LeVert for Sixth Man. For real. Start pushing it.” LeVert is averaging 14 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 56 games.

Eastern Notes: Tatum, P. Williams, Nesmith, Cavs, LeVert

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum says he was “devastated” when Boston lost to Golden State in the 2022 NBA Finals, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Tatum was determined to advance as a play-maker after that experience, something he has continually improved upon over the years.

The easiest way to say it is, I was devastated,” Tatum said. “I got so close and didn’t perform the way I wanted to, and we didn’t win. At that time, besides my family, nothing else mattered but getting better and getting back to that point.”

Tatum had plenty of individual and team success through his first six seasons, with three All-NBA nods and three other trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, as Weiss writes, Tatum knows that the only way to become “the face of the league” is by claiming a championship.

I feel like it’s mine to take,” Tatum said. “I do feel like, if we win a championship, it would be more distinguished and clear. But I understand I’m in that shortlist for sure.”

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Bulls forward Patrick Williams is undergoing season-ending left foot surgery. He told reporters on Saturday that he had been trying to get back on the court by the end of February, but imaging revealed a fracture in his injured foot (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago). Williams is scheduled for surgery on March 6 in New York, with an expectation that he’ll resume basketball activities in July. As Johnson writes in a full story, the 22-year-old said he’s open to returning to Chicago as a restricted free agent this summer. “I don’t think anybody knows what their future is to be honest,” Williams said. “I would love to continue to be a Bull. I love it here. I love the opportunity we have to build culture, to build something special with this group and this team. I think I could really be a cornerstone piece for this team. But you never know what the future holds, and I understand it’s a business.
  • Fourth-year forward Aaron Nesmith, who is having a career-best season for the Pacers, was sidelined for Thursday’s win over Detroit due to an ankle injury and is considered day-to-day. Head coach Rick Carlisle said the 24-year-old was able to increase his activity a bit during Saturday’s practice, tweets Tony East of The Pacers’ next game is Sunday against the red-hot Mavericks, winners of seven straight.
  • The Cavaliers dropped their first two games after the All-Star break without Donovan Mitchell, who has been battling an illness. Chris Fedor of (subscriber link) says the Cavs need more from their bench unit, particularly from Caris LeVert, who was just 3-of-21 from the field in those two losses. “I liked my looks tonight, especially in the second half,” LeVert told Fedor after going 1-of-11 on Friday. “I’m happy with how the ball is leaving my hands. Sometimes you go through that. Is what it is. It’s the NBA. Try not to think too much about it. Just continue to do what I do and be who I am. Do the same stuff outside of games and things like that. Just gotta keep going. I’m due for a big game.”

Cavs Rumors: Okoro, Caruso, Fontecchio, Trade Targets

The Cavaliers are making and taking calls leading up to Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline, according to Chris Fedor of (subscriber link), who reports that the team continues to eye players with three-and-D skill sets. However, Cleveland has a limited number of trade assets, including no movable first-round picks, so the club may ultimately stand pat at the deadline and explore the buyout market afterward, Fedor writes.

Any trade of significance – beyond a minor tweak around the edges of the roster – would likely have to include former lottery pick Isaac Okoro, sources tell But the Cavs highly value Okoro both on and off the court, viewing him as their best on-ball defender and the player who figures to take on the most challenging perimeter assignments in the postseason.

If the Cavs did move Okoro, they’d presumably be targeting a player who could provide similar resistance on defense and more punch on offense. Fedor suggests the team has had internal discussions about Bulls guard Alex Caruso, an elite defender who has been a better three-point shooter than Okoro (on a higher volume) this season. However, Chicago’s asking price for Caruso is steep, so Cleveland would have to be willing to give up more than just Okoro.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • The Cavaliers have had some “cursory” conversations with the Jazz about Simone Fontecchio, Fedor reports, noting that the two teams have worked together on multiple trades in recent years, including the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster. Fontecchio has already reportedly drawn interest from Boston and Phoenix.
  • Cleveland has had interest in Hornets forward P.J. Washington in the past and briefly revisited that possibility this season, but the cost will likely be too high, Fedor writes. According to Fedor, Nets forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale are also still on the Cavs’ radar, while Nets guard Lonnie Walker and Grizzlies wing John Konchar are among the other potential targets worth keeping an eye on.
  • Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic could be a fit in Cleveland, but his $20MM salary makes him a long shot, since the Cavs don’t appear inclined to part with any of their key rotation players, says Fedor. It’s safe to assume that group includes Caris LeVert ($15.4MM) and Max Strus ($14.5MM).
  • This was J.B. Bickerstaff‘s response when the Cavs’ head coach was recently asked about the trade deadline, per Fedor: “We’re happy where we are. Our front office has to do their due diligence and do their job and you never know what you can turn over, but we haven’t had a ton of conversations about particulars because we are happy with where we are. We’re pleased with the group of guys we have and the way we have been playing. I don’t want to lose anybody, and we are not desperate for anybody to come in.”

Cavs Notes: Injuries, New Lineup, Mitchell, Roster

Less than an hour after it was reported on Friday that Darius Garland is expected to miss at least a month due to a fractured jaw, word broke that Evan Mobley would undergo knee surgery, which will sideline him for roughly six-to-eight weeks.

It was a crushing one-two blow for the Cavaliers, as Chris Fedor of (subscription required) writes. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said that the team “felt like s–t,” while Dean Wade said it “sucks” to see two key starters go down with injuries. However, the club is determined to remain competitive without Garland and Mobley in its lineup.

“Injury is a part of the game. But you hate to see it. Hate to see with two guys who continuously put the work in to get better and those guys have been working their butts off,” Donovan Mitchell said. “On the flip side, and I think these two will feel the same way, no one’s going to care outside of this locker room. You know what I mean? If anything, teams are going to want to try to come at us even more. I think that’s what kind of brings us together. We have to go out there and hold it down for these two. They’re our rocks. They’re part of what we built.”

“I knew that our team could do it,” Jarrett Allen said of overcoming the two injuries. “We always rely on the next guy to be ready to come in and make an impact.”

The Cavaliers got off to a good start on Saturday in their first game without Garland and Mobley, defeating the Hawks by a score of 127-119.

“I think we just came together,” Wade said. “Everyone likes each other. When things like this happen, adversity comes and hits us, I think we get closer. We still got a lot of weapons, a lot of talent in this room. Even with those guys out, we can still get the job done. What D.G. and Evan bring to the floor, we just had to do a little extra.”

Here’s more out of Cleveland:

  • In deciding on a new lineup, the Cavaliers opted to slide Mitchell to point guard and Max Strus to shooting guard, with Isaac Okoro and Wade entering the starting five at small forward and power forward, respectively. As Fedor explains, undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. isn’t considered quite ready for a starting job and the Cavs seem committed to keeping Caris LeVert in a sixth man role.
  • When Joe Vardon of The Athletic tried to ask Mitchell on Saturday about his contract situation and his long-term future in Cleveland in light of the Garland and Mobley injuries (and the Cavs’ up-and-down play this season), the star guard cut him off. “My job is to focus on this,” Mitchell said. “We have two guys that are out, so I’m not answering anything. And no disrespect. I appreciate that you have to ask the question, but I’m not going there with any of those questions. My focus is on these guys being out, us trying to find a way to get wins.”
  • Mitchell thrived in his first game in place of Garland at point guard, handing out a career-high 13 assists. Mitchell also scored a career-high 71 points last season in a game Garland missed, but the former Jazz star said it’s “damn sure not easier” to play without his usual backcourt mate. “I have to pick up the slack that’s there,” Mitchell said. “When he’s not there, it’s my job to go out there and fill that void. He’s an All-Star guard. We came here and made this for us to be together. It’s definitely not an, ‘Oh, it’s me versus him.’ That’s my brother. That’s my dog. … The only way we make this push is as a group. I can’t do everything. It doesn’t happen with just one of us.”
  • Keith Smith of Spotrac takes a look at some options out there for the Cavaliers if the team decides it wants to add roster reinforcements via free agency or trade. As Smith notes, adding a free agent would push Cleveland’s team salary over the luxury tax line, but if that player receives a non-guaranteed contract and is waived on or before January 7, the club could sneak back out of the tax.

And-Ones: IST, 2024 Draft, Team USA, Trade Candidates

The final of the NBA’s first in-season tournament on Saturday night was the league’s most-watched regular season game (besides Christmas Day games) on any network in nearly six years, according to a press release.

The broadcast of the Lakers‘ victory over the Pacers averaged 4.58 million viewers, peaking at 5.68 viewers. No regular season broadcast has achieved those heights since February of 2018. The audience for Saturday’s final also represented a 64% increase over the average viewership for last season’s prime-time Saturday games on ABC.

While it was already a lock that the in-season tournament wouldn’t be a one-off and that we’d see it again next season, those television ratings are more evidence that the event accomplished what the NBA wanted it to.

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

  • In their latest 2024 NBA draft notebook, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo (Insider link) take a closer look at several prospects, considering whether there will be roles in the NBA for traditional big man Zach Edey and defensive specialist Ryan Dunn, examining the rise of Colorado’s Cody Williams to No. 4 on their big board, and evaluating Bronny James‘ USC debut. James already looks like USC’s best defender but is a work in progress offensively, says Givony.
  • The U.S. men’s national team will face South Sudan on July 20 and Germany on July 22 at London’s O2 Arena ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. South Sudan’s team earned its first-ever Olympic berth earlier this year, while the Germans won the 2023 World Cup, knocking off Team USA in the semifinals.
  • In the latest HoopsHype podcast, Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan identified and discussed several possible trade candidates who will become eligible to be dealt as of December 15, including multiple Lakers, Rockets, and Bulls players. Several of the names on their list – such as D’Angelo Russell, Jock Landale, and Caris LeVert – were ones we singled out in our most recent article for Trade Rumors Front Office subscribers.

Central Notes: Rales, Cavs, LeVert, Wade, Bogdanovic

Businessman Steven Rales is expected to become the minority owner of the Pacers, according to a statement from Pacers Sports and Entertainment chairman and owner Herb Simon (Twitter link).

After considerable discussion, Steven is going to become a minority owner of 20 percent of the franchise pending league approval,” Simon said. “The Simon family is as committed to Indiana today as we have been since we moved here from New York in the 1960s.

A story from The Athletic’s James Boyd provides background on Rales, a 72-year-old founder of Danaher Corporation, a life sciences organization. Rales is a DePauw University graduate and has “strong Indiana connections.”

Simon originally purchased the Pacers for $10.5MM in 1983 alongside his brother, Mel. According to Forbes estimates, the Pacers are now worth $2.9 billion, ranking 27th of 30 NBA teams. Simon will remain the controlling owner and, according to The Athletic, many believe his son Stephen will succeed him in that role in the future.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers lost to the rebuilding Trail Blazers on Thursday, continuing a disappointing start to the season for Cleveland — the team is hovering just above .500 through 19 games at 10-9. According to’s Chris Fedor, the Cavs held a lengthy team meeting after the loss. “We’ve said this since the beginning, we want to be a championship-caliber team. We’re not playing like it,” star guard Donovan Mitchell said. “This is the worst loss of the season. That’s it. Let’s go. We’ll be fine. We’ll fix it.
  • The Cavaliers will be shorthanded against the Pistons when the two division rivals square off on Saturday, as guard Caris LeVert has been ruled out with a left knee injury, Fedor reports. There’s no definitive timeline for how long LeVert will be out, but he missed back-to-back games with the same injury in November, Fedor observes. Cleveland also remains without Dean Wade, who is missing his sixth straight game with an ankle injury.
  • The Pistons listed Bojan Bogdanovic as probable on Friday, meaning he remains on track to make his season debut against the Cavaliers on Saturday, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski. It was previously assumed that Bogdanovic would indeed play on Saturday, but the official status designation all but confirms it. Detroit didn’t win a game in November and is currently amid a 16-game losing streak.

Central Rumors: Pistons, Bulls, Hield, Cavaliers

Veteran forward Bojan Bogdanovic is expected to be the Pistons trade candidate who generates the most interest from rival teams this season, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who hears from league sources that the club turned down two first-round picks from a contender in an offer for Bogdanovic last season.

It’s unclear what sort of protections those first-rounders might’ve had, but head coach Monty Williams “loves” Bogdanovic, per Scotto, so Detroit may set a high asking price for him again at the 2024 deadline.

Alec Burks, Monte Morris, and Killian Hayes are among the other Pistons players who figure to draw trade interest this winter, Scotto writes. League sources tell HoopsHype that Detroit had exploratory talks earlier this year with the Rockets about a trade that would have sent Burks to Houston in exchange for several second-round picks and Kevin Porter Jr. (who would’ve been waived).

Here are a few more of Scotto’s trade-related rumors and notes from around the Central:

  • Bulls guard Alex Caruso would be a hot commodity on the trade market if he’s available, but rival executives who spoke to Scotto say Chicago still hasn’t shown a willingness to move him. Multiple execs believe the Bulls could get a first-round pick and a rotation player for Caruso, Scotto notes.
  • How much might the Bulls get in exchange for Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan? “I think Zach LaVine can get a first back, maybe another first-round pick if it’s in this draft since it’s so weak,” one executive told Scotto. “DeMar DeRozan is worth a first in this draft in the 20s since it’s a weak draft, and he’s unrestricted at the end of the season. He can be a third scorer on a winning team.” Scotto says the Bulls are currently valuing players who could help them win immediately, rather than looking to tear down the roster and stockpile future draft picks.
  • Although Buddy Hield was identified in September as a potential trade candidate, the Pacers have set a high asking price for the veteran sharpshooter and don’t appear particularly eager to move him, according to Scotto. Five NBA executives who spoke to HoopsHype suggested it would take a first-round pick and a rotation player to pry Hield away from Indiana. Rival teams are also monitoring veteran Pacers guard, T.J. McConnell, Scotto adds.
  • Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert had their names pop up in trade speculation last season, but the Cavaliers want to keep both players through the 2024 deadline, barring a deal that moves the club closer to title contention, per Scotto.