Chauncey Billups

Blazers Rumors: Grant, Thybulle, Reddish, No. 3 Pick, Sharpe, More

Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant still appears on track to become a free agent this offseason rather than accepting the maximum four-year, $113MM extension he can sign until June 30. Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report said he doesn’t expect the annual salary on Grant’s next deal to be worth more than about $30MM, but suggests that the forward may be waiting until free agency in order to get a fifth year from Portland.

“I think it’s going to come out around five years, $150 million, with probably a player option,” Highkin said. “I know he gets talked about as one of the top free agents on the market, but I’d expect that gets done pretty quickly. It might even be a (6:01 pm) on June 30th type of signing.”

As for restricted free agents Matisse Thybulle and Cam Reddish, Highkin views Thybulle as the player who is more likely to re-sign with the Blazers, suggesting that the former Sixer will be a priority for the front office. Highkin is less certain about Portland’s appetite for a new deal with Reddish, telling Scotto that the team would probably have interest in bringing back the former lottery pick if the price is right.

Here are more highlights from the conversation between Scotto and Highkin:

  • Scotto has gotten the sense that the Trail Blazers are comfortable keeping the No. 3 overall pick and drafting either Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson, even as they plan to continue building around Damian Lillard. However, Highkin believes Portland is far more likely to trade the pick for an established veteran, mentioning two-way forwards like Jaylen Brown and Pascal Siakam as potential targets while downplaying the likelihood of the club pursuing offensive-minded players like Zach LaVine. Another Raptors forward, OG Anunoby, has also been linked to the Blazers and would be a good fit on the roster, but Highkin doesn’t expect Portland to give up the No. 3 pick for Anunoby.
  • There are some people in Portland who believe Shaedon Sharpe has All-Star potential, according to Scotto. Highkin agrees that the Blazers are high on Sharpe and expects he’ll be kept out of any trade that doesn’t return a superstar (Joel Embiid or something like that”). Anfernee Simons is the more likely trade candidate, Highkin explains, given his larger cap hit and his fit next to Lillard. Sharpe, who has more size and defensive upside than Simons, is the more logical long-term backcourt partner for Dame.
  • The Blazers may make some changes to their coaching staff this summer to give Chauncey Billups some more experienced assistants, Highkin notes. The organization remains optimistic about Billups’ potential as a head coach and wants to give him an opportunity to lead a more competitive roster, Highkin adds.
  • When the Blazers signed Jusuf Nurkic to a four-year, $70MM contract last offseason, that didn’t necessarily mean they thought he was their center of the future, according to Highkin, who believes the team is “very open” to moving Nurkic and will explore trade possibilities this summer. Highkin suggests that Nurkic’s willingness to be shut down with a leg injury in 2021/22 when Portland went into tank mode played a part in Portland’s decision to “take care” of him in free agency last summer.

Northwest Notes: Malone, Watson, Edwards, Billups

The Nuggets have clinched the top seed in the West, but coach Michael Malone isn’t happy about the way his team is ending the regular season, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Even though there was little at stake, Malone used his regular starting lineup for Saturday’s game at Utah. They saw regular minutes for three quarters before the reserves took over in the final frame of a 118-114 loss. Malone was visibly upset after watching his team give up 59 rebounds and get dominated inside.

“Maybe I’m just wired a little differently, man, I’m (ticked) off right now,” Malone said in his postgame press conference. “… The moment you think that losing is OK, it’s just another game, that starts to seep into who you are, the essence of who you are. And I heard a long time ago, there’s two types of people, those who like to win and those who hate to lose.”

Malone added that he hasn’t determined who will play in Sunday’s regular season finale. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were both productive despite recent minor injuries, and Aaron Gordon said it’s important for all the regulars to stay active with the playoffs approaching.

“It’s not so much about motivation,” Gordon said. “It’s more about continuing to build good habits. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Peyton Watson has been a late-season bright spot for the Nuggets, and some of the league’s best players are noticing, Singer adds in another Denver Post story. Kevin Durant praised the rookie guard, whom he worked out with during the pandemic. “Just liked the type of dude he is, man, and we just built the friendship since there,” Durant said. “I’m rooting for him. He has a bright future.”
  • Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards feels like he’s getting back to normal after dealing with a sprained right ankle and an illness that affected most of the team, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Edwards scored 33 points in Saturday’s win over the Spurs, and he hopes it will lead to better things in the postseason. “I feel like I’m back to myself, the young guy in the locker room who bring all the energy,” Edwards said. “… I mean, it was a little frustrating, for real, because I couldn’t play how I wanted to play. I wasn’t having the best games. I wasn’t feeling like myself out there. It was just something I had to go through.”
  • Coach Chauncey Billups would like to see the Trail Blazers add more size and experience this offseason, tweets Mark Medina of “We’re one of the youngest teams in the league,” Billups said. “It’s tough to win that way. It’s almost impossible to win that way.”

Blazers’ Billups Has Support Of Front Office, Players

Unless they turn things around quickly and drastically, the Trail Blazers will miss the playoffs and the play-in tournament for a second consecutive year since hiring Chauncey Billups as their head coach. However, a high-ranking source within the organization tells Jason Quick of The Athletic that the idea of firing Billups “hasn’t even crossed our minds.”

Billups has also received endorsements from several of Portland’s most important players, including Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Jerami Grant, according to Quick. Grant, who is eligible for free agency this summer, said that outsiders calling for Billups to be let go are “stupid,” adding that he’s “ready to run through a wall” for his coach.

For his part, Billups told Quick that he’s in frequent contact with Blazers general manager Joe Cronin and isn’t afraid of losing his job.

“I don’t worry about that, at all,” Billups said. “We have our talks and everything, and that will remain between us, but I don’t worry about that at all.”

Billups, who is in the second year of a five-year contract, has led the Blazers to a 58-94 (.382) record since taking the reins from Terry Stotts in 2021. Portland had hoped the first-time head coach could help stabilize a defense that had been one of the NBA’s worst during Stotts’ last two seasons, but there has been no improvement in that area — the Blazers ranked 29th in defensive rating in 2021/22 and currently sit at 27th in ’22/23.

Still, as Quick points out, Billups hasn’t been dealt an easy hand in Portland. The team underwent a front office overhaul just a few months after he was hired and saw its franchise player (Lillard) limited to just 29 games last season due to a major abdominal injury. Several key players, including CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, and Larry Nance Jr., were traded at the 2022 deadline, and others – Josh Hart and Gary Payton II – were on the move at this season’s deadline.

“It’s been unbelievable … crazy,” Billups said of the Blazers’ front office turmoil, injury woes, and roster turnover. “How is that my fault? Last year I had so many coaches who are either in the league or past coaches saying, ‘Bro, I’ve coached 15, 17 years and I didn’t go through that once.’

“… The sad part about this season is we never got to see our team play. We had Josh, GP, Justise (Winslow) … veterans we know who were really going to help you win. And early in the season, we had a lot of those guys playing, and we were kicking up some dust, playing well. But an injury here … and all the stuff that happened (trades of Hart and Payton) … it was just tough.”

Acknowledging that his win-loss record hasn’t been strong so far, Billups said that his performance should also be evaluated based on the culture he has cultivated in Portland, the buy-in he has gotten from his players, and the progress he has made in developing the Blazers’ youngsters, including Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, and Nassir Little. According to Quick, Billups rated himself “good” on the first point and “very good” on the other two.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Payton II, Simons, Agbaji

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. participated in practice on a limited basis Monday for the first time since he suffered a heel injury, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Porter is unlikely to play Wednesday against the Wizards but the team is hopeful he can keep progressing at practice this week, including contact and live drills. He hasn’t played since Nov. 22.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Guard Gary Payton II is targeting his season debut in the next week or two, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. Payton signed a three-year, $26MM contract with the Trail Blazers as an unrestricted free agent in July, then had core muscle surgery during the offseason. Payton was a key rotation player on the Warriors’ championship team and the Blazers view him as a valuable reserve.
  • Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups has invested more time with Anfernee Simons than anyone else on the roster and it’s paying off, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. Simons, who signed a four-year, $100MM extension during the summer, is averaging 24.2 points and is shooting 39.2% from 3-point range. “He’s still like PlayDoh; we are still shaping him,” Billups said. “He’s still scratching the surface, in my opinion.”
  • It’s been a rough rookie campaign for the Jazz’s Ochai Agbaji thus far, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News notes. The No. 14 overall pick has only appeared in 11 games, averaging 9.5 MPG, and has also struggled at the G League level. The Jazz are still sold on the former Kansas standout’s raw talent and athleticism.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Billups, Markkanen, Jazz, Wolves

The Trail Blazers‘ success so far this season is a reminder not to overreact to trades before waiting to see what the follow-up moves look like, says ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

As Marks outlines, the return in the Trail Blazers’ deadline trades involving CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Norman Powell, and Robert Covington was initially considered underwhelming, but those deals set them them up to acquire Jerami Grant (using a trade exception and draft pick from the McCollum/Nance deal) and to re-sign free agents Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic while avoiding the luxury tax.

In addition to Grant, two pieces acquired in last season’s trades – Josh Hart and Justise Winslow – have played crucial roles for the Blazers’ seventh-ranked defense, Marks adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • In what was a lost season for the Trail Blazers in 2021/22, Chauncey Billups didn’t get to make much of an impression as a first-time head coach. However, as Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, Billups has earned praise from Damian Lillard, among others, for his game management so far this season. “I beat myself up every night after games when I come home and watch it over again, wondering what I could have done better,” Billups said. “Could I have made an adjustment earlier? Could I have subbed a little earlier? Should I have taken my timeout … But I also and say, ‘I did it right there.'”
  • The Jazz aren’t viewing Lauri Markkanen as simply a wing, a stretch four, or a small-ball five, preferring to let him take advantage of his full skill set in a variety of roles, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. “For us, he’s all of those (things),” head coach Will Hardy said. “It’s like, why would we try to pigeonhole him into one thing?” Shelburne adds that the Cavaliers didn’t want to give up Markkanen, but when the two teams started discussing Donovan Mitchell trades, Utah insisted that the veteran forward be part of the return.
  • Although the Jazz lost to New York on Tuesday, Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune notes that the players mentioned most enough in Knicks-related Mitchell trade rumors over the summer (RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, Quentin Grimes, and Immanuel Quickley) haven’t played all that well so far this season. In Larsen’s view, that group of players may not be worth even Markkanen, let alone Collin Sexton and Ochai Agbaji as well.
  • In a look at what lineups and player groupings have and haven’t worked for the Timberwolves this season, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune observes that the team’s up-and-down starting five has a net rating of +10.5 in its last three games together.

Northwest Notes: Nowell, Reid, MPJ, Billups, Jazz

After Shams Charania of The Athletic reported earlier this week that the Timberwolves have engaged in talks with center Naz Reid and guard Jaylen Nowell about possible contract extensions, Keith Smith of Spotrac decided to examine what extensions for the two 23-year-olds might look like.

As our Luke Adams wrote on Monday, veteran extensions for players on minimum-salary contracts like Reid and Nowell can begin at 120% of this season’s estimated average salary of $10,792,000, so 120% of that amount is $12,950,400. Therefore, a maximum four-year extension that includes 8% raises would be worth about $58MM.

It would behoove Nowell to wait until unrestricted free agency next summer rather than sign an extension, according to Smith, who believes Nowell could receive $15-20MM in annual average salary on a new contract if he has a breakout fourth season, as several teams are expected to have a significant amount of cap room in 2023 (it’s worth noting that Charania reported that Nowell was likely to opt for unrestricted free agency). Smith compares Nowell’s situation to Jalen Brunson‘s, who wound up signing a four-year, $104MM contract with the Knicks in free agency after a big season with Dallas in ’21/22.

As for Reid, Smith thinks a three-year, $22MM descending contract makes sense for the Wolves and Reid, comparing it to the three-year, $18.5MM extension Dean Wade received from the Cavaliers. Since Minnesota will be over the salary cap for the next handful of years, Smith says the Wolves should aggressively pursue extensions for both Nowell and Reid.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. explained what happened when he suffered a back spasm during Monday’s game vs. Portland, which caused him to miss Wednesday’s game against the Lakers, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). “I couldn’t really move the same as I wanted to in the second half, so that’s when we were just like, ‘Let’s just calm it down for a couple of days,’” Porter said on Friday. “But it was just a little tweak in a muscle. It wasn’t anything related to a prior injury.” Despite the minor setback, Porter says he still expects to play the “vast majority” of Denver’s games in ’22/23 after appearing in just nine contests last season after undergoing a third back surgery.
  • Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups says that Damian Lillard missing most of last season after undergoing core muscle surgery forced Portland to acknowledge that the team around the star guard wasn’t good enough. The Blazers revamped their roster over the past year, adding Josh Hart, Jerami Grant, Gary Payton II, Justise Winslow and No. 7 overall pick Shaedon Sharpe, among others. “He’s the guy,” Billups told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “He’s our guy. We’re always gonna play through him. But we want to be good enough that when he goes 5-for-18 (from the field), that we can win a game. They’ve never been able to do that, you know what I’m saying? So it gives him confidence to know that (he doesn’t) have to be the best player in the league every night.” Lillard is currently sidelined with a right calf strain and will be reevaluated in one-to-two weeks, though he said he didn’t think the injury was serious.
  • The Jazz have gotten off to a surprising 4-1 start, but the “general consensus around the league” is that opposing teams will take them more seriously going forward, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Head coach Will Hardy is telling his players to keep proving people wrong. “He’s tired of looking at media or even his friends telling him, ‘Wow, you guys are winning, this is crazy,’” Malik Beasley said of Hardy’s message. “It’s not crazy. We’re not even playing well and we’re still winning.”

Trail Blazers Notes: Little, Domingo, Billups

As we noted on Tuesday, Nassir Little‘s four-year, $28MM deal with the Trail Blazers features the lowest average annual value of any rookie scale extension since Jeremy Lamb inked a three-year, $21MM contract in 2015.

Explaining his decision to accept a relatively modest long-term extension offer, Little said the new deal gives him “security” and “peace of mind,” as Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report details in a Twitter thread.

“For me, it’s more money than I make now, it’s more money than I’ve ever made in my life,” Little said. “I can bet on myself to make more money, but I don’t play this game just to make money. I have $28 million on the table, I’ll just take it.”

With a strong, healthy season in 2022/23, Little likely could’ve done much better as a restricted free agent next summer, which he acknowledged in his comments to reporters. However, he’s comfortable with opting for stability instead of attempting to maximize his earnings.

“I’m not gonna lie, I think my talent level is worth more than that,” Little said of his $28MM contract, per Highkin. “But with me having an injury history, and them still taking a chance on me, I want to be here. I’ll probably perform at a level that’s worth more than that, but being in Portland is what I want.”

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • Little’s four-year extension is a win-win for him and the Blazers, Jason Quick writes for The Athletic. While Portland is in position to get a potential bargain on a rotation player through 2027, Little can relax and not have to worry about playing for a contract this season. “You’ll have guys tell you that contract years are stressful years and I just think for me, it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders,” Little said. “Just a lot of anticipation goes away, so now I can just focus in and secure stuff for myself and my family. I should be good for the rest of my life.”
  • The Trail Blazers have made a new addition to their front office, announcing today in a press release that they’ve hired BJ Domingo as director of player personnel. A former scout for the Bucks, Domingo became the assistant director of the U.S. men’s national team in 2021 and will help bolster Portland’ “global scouting efforts”, according to general manager Joe Cronin. “BJ has evaluated talent at the pro level, collegiate and amateur ranks while developing great relationships across the world,” Cronin said in a statement.
  • Chauncey Billups‘ first season as a head coach went about as poorly as possible, as his superstar (Damian Lillard) played just 29 games, the man who hired him (Neil Olshey) was dismissed less than two months into the season, and a team with playoff aspirations won just 27 games. However, as Bill Oram of The Oregonian relays, Billups is unfazed by how year one played out and looking forward to showing what he’s capable of in year two.

Western Notes: Poole, Billups, Nuggets, Rockets

Warriors guard Jordan Poole is confident he’ll work out a new contract agreement with the team, Marc J. Spears of ESPN tweets. Poole added he’s looking forward to those negotiations progressing when Golden State returns from Toyko in early October.

Poole may have faith that something can be worked out, but it’s still possible the sides won’t agree to a deal in the coming weeks. Should that happen, Poole would become a restricted free agent in 2023. The sides have until October 17 to reach a rookie scale extension.

Poole played a significant role in the Warriors’ championship campaign last year, averaging 18.5 points on 45% shooting during the regular season. The 23-year-old also averaged 17.0 points per game during the playoffs, shooting 51% from the floor and 39% from three-point range.

There are some other notes from the Western Conference tonight:

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Mitchell, Billups, Nurkic

Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly realizes it was a risk dealing so many draft picks and rotation players for Rudy Gobert but felt the club needed another impact player to get to the next level, he told Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune on a podcast.

“We’re trying to redefine how the league views us,” Connelly said. “We knew we gave up a lot, but the hardest thing to find is elite talent and elite ‘happy’ talent is even harder to find.”

However, there will be a transition period. “It won’t be easy or seamless,” Connelly added. “I’m sure there will be some clunky moments initially. But we felt like we took a huge step forward with the acquisition of Rudy.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Donovan Mitchell thanked former Jazz coach Quin Snyder and Utah fans in an Instagram post as he waits for the blockbuster deal with the Cavaliers to become official. “Thank you for the memories and the incredible times… you guys watched me grow up on and off the floor… Coach Quin thank you for giving me the opportunity and trusting me to lead this team for the past 5 years‼️”
  • Grading the impending deal, Sarah Todd of the Deseret News gives the Jazz a B-plus and the Cavs a B. Todd notes the Jazz accomplished their goal of trying to get younger and to come away with some assets for future use. There’s also the possibility of Mitchell or some of Cleveland’s other stars eventually bolting in free agency, which would make those unprotected picks and pick swaps even more valuable.
  • Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups is at the EuroBasket tournament in Germany and feels it’s important to show support for his players, such as Bosnia’s Jusuf Nurkic, he told Antonis Stroggylakis of “I love to see guys go play on their national teams,” Billups said. “Because you’re playing the right way. You’re playing with a purpose and obviously because of that experience  you’ll be in shape.”

International Notes: Brown, Basketball Without Borders, World Cup

Former NBA wing Anthony Brown has agreed to terms on a deal with Russian club Unics Kazan, writes Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. A former EuroLeague club, Unics Kazan now competes in the VTB United League.

After being selected with the No. 34 pick by the Lakers in 2015 out of Stanford, Brown bounced the NBA and G League for several seasons. He suited up for the Lakers and their NBAGL affiliate, at the time called the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now the South Bay Lakers), the Magic and their affiliate team the Erie BayHawks/Lakeland Magic, the Timberwolves and their NBAGL club the Iowa Wolves, and the Pelicans. In 41 total NBA games, the 29-year-old has averaged 3.9 PPG and 2.5 RPG across 18.6 MPG.

Brown first headed overseas in 2018, and has since suited up for teams in Serbia, France, Spain, Turkey and Israel. While playing for Maccabi Rishon LeZion in Israel Super League competition last season, the 6’7″ swingman posted averages of 16.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.0 SPG, with a shooting line of .465/.396/.821.

Here are more international basketball odds and ends:

  • Several NBA players and coaches will head overseas to take part in a Basketball Without Borders camp set for Cairo, Egypt, per a league press release. The event will run from this Sunday, August 28, through next Wednesday, August 31. Sixty-four of the best boys and girls hailing from 26 African nations, aged 18 and under, will travel to the camp. Jazz center Udoka Azubuike, Magic center Mohamed Bamba, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Grant Williams, and retired Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo will be among the camp’s coaches, with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups, Pelicans head coach Willie Green, Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr., Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee, and Hornets athletic trainer Quinton Sawyer also participating. The camp’s roster of directors will be pretty star-studded as well, led by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Cavaliers GM Mike Gansey, and Clippers scout Lance Blanks.
  • With almost exactly one year to go before the 2023 FIBA World Cup tips off, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press checks in on USA Basketball as the organization ramps up its preparation for the event. The first games in next year’s competition are scheduled to be played on August 25, 2023. Fielding a lineup that features G League and international-caliber American players, Team USA currently has a 6-1 record in the World Cup qualifiers. Next year, Steve Kerr will coach Team USA, featuring a likely-star studded roster. This year, that task falls to former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen. “We’re learning a lot because the NBA game has changed over the last seven or eight years, too,” Sean Ford, the U.S. men’s national team director, said. “There’s much more shotmaking. It’s just unbelievable, incredible the amount of 3-point shots that are taken, the freedom of movement, the flow of the game. But the international game has stayed the physical way.” 
  • Former Thunder swingman Terrance Ferguson has made the jump to overseas play, signing on with Polish team GTK Gliwice. Get full details here.