Chris Emens

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Porzingis, Hawks, Fernando, Sixers

Nets guard Ben Simmons will not partake in this year’s World Cup, Basketball Australia has announced in an official statement (Twitter link).

According to Basketball Australia, Brooklyn and Simmons have opted to withhold the former No. 1 overall pick so that he can continue to rehabilitate his ailing back ahead of the 2023/24 NBA season. Net Income of Nets Daily writes that the club is hopeful Simmons will be recovered by the start of September, just in time for training camp.

The former All-Star appeared in just 42 games for Brooklyn in 2022/23 after returning from back surgery, averaging 6.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.3 SPG and 0.6 BPG in 26.3 MPG.

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference:

  • New Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis is excited about his new opportunity to play for a perennial Eastern Conference contender, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Porzingis explained his decision to opt into his $36MM option for next season, which helped enable his trade from the Wizards. “[It was] an opportunity to play for a really good team already and be able to add to that,” Porzingis said. “And hopefully to help these guys, make their life easier, and being on a high-level organization like Boston, historic franchise, iconic franchise, it made it extremely easy for me to make that decision.”
  • The Hawks have made some changes to their front office personnel, Atlanta has announced in a press release. Longtime league agent Chris Emens is joining the team as an executive advisor. The Hawks are also adding Blake Johnson as the club’s director of player engagement. Atlanta also revealed that a variety of executives have been promoted to new positions: vice president of player personnel Dotun Akinwale Jr.; senior vice president of salary cap administration Michelle Leftwich; vice president of basketball operations Grant Liffmann; senior vice president of team operations Dan Martinez; vice president of player personnel and basketball intelligence Tori Miller; principal advisor to the governor Nick Ressler; and vice president of cap strategy/player personnel Ryan Silverstein.
  • The Hawks have pushed back reserve center Bruno Fernando‘s salary guarantee deadline from June 29 to July 10, reports Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). Upon being shipped to Atlanta in February from Houston, the 6’9″ big man appeared in just eight contests for the team, averaging 3.4 PPG and 1.9 RPG in 5.1 MPG. Fernando will receive his full $2.58MM salary for 2023/24 if he remains under contract through July 10.
  • Assistant coaches Fabulous Flournoy and Toure’ Murry are joining new Sixers head coach Nick Nurse‘s bench, a team source has informed Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. The addition of another assistant, Doug West, had previously been reported.

Eastern Notes: Dinwiddie, Kuzma, Giannis, J. Brown, Hawks

Former Wizards teammates Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Kuzma traded a couple barbs back in January after Washington defeated Dinwiddie’s Mavericks, with each casting doubt on the other’s commitment to playing “winning basketball.” Now a member of the Nets, Dinwiddie was asked during an appearance on FanDuel TV (Twitter video link) about that exchange and didn’t hesitate to reignite his beef with Kuzma, questioning whether the Wizards forward has his priorities straight.

“There’s a lot of guys in the NBA that really pour their heart and soul into basketball, are willing to do whatever it takes to win,” Dinwiddie said. “There are a lot of guys that have different things that drive or motivate them. I think if we look at him and the way he approaches life, fame, all that stuff, we can see that his priorities tend to vary. That’s why he dresses the way he does, he approaches basketball the way he does, the comments he makes.

“Like I said with the Draymond (Green) quote, ‘Insecurity is loud.’ You know that you’re there shooting shots to try to get a contract. You’re probably not even a third star really on a good team, because if you were, the Lakers would’ve kept you.”

Several hours later, Kuzma fired back in a Twitter thread, writing that he and the Wizards have “so much real estate on Dinsh–tie island.” Kuzma criticized Dinwiddie for being traded just months after he signed a three-year, $54MM contract in D.C. and suggested that his Nets are only in the postseason because of the pre-Dinwiddie success the team had with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Dinwiddie and Kuzma won’t face each other until sometime next season, but the latest grenades lobbed in their back-and-forth war of words should make things all the more interesting when that happens.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo tells Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he legitimately considered the possibility of walking away from the NBA due to the mental health toll he was dealing with in 2020. “I had that conversation – yes – with the front office,” Antetokounmpo said. “And, you know, very normally, everybody is looking at me like I was crazy. ‘You just signed the largest contract in NBA history and you want to walk away from the game and all that money?’ … But I don’t care about that. I care about joy. I’m a joyful person.”
  • Jaylen Brown would become eligible for a super-max extension if he makes an All-NBA team this spring, and Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens is hoping that happens, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “I think both Jayson (Tatum) and Jaylen should be on the All-NBA team,” Stevens said. “I think what they’ve done throughout the course of this year — and you asked about Jaylen so I’ll talk about Jaylen in particular — he’s also really played his best basketball, I think, in the last couple of months, and he was an obvious All-Star right out of the gate.”
  • Former Octagon agent Chris Emens has joined the Hawks‘ front office in an advisory role, reports Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). Emens represented Hawks general manager Landry Fields during Fields’ playing days, Vorkunov notes.