Cody Martin

Steve Clifford “Really Optimistic” As Hornets Prepare For Camp

In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, coach Steve Clifford describes himself as “really optimistic” as he prepares for his second season since returning to the Hornets. Clifford had a full offseason to get ready for the upcoming campaign, unlike last year when everything felt rushed as he got hired shortly after the draft.

Clifford is particularly encouraged by the level of commitment he saw during the summer, with as many as 13 players showing up for optional workouts last month. Veterans Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward had a hand in organizing those sessions, which Clifford believes will set the tone for training camp.

“Terry, Gordon, they were great,” Clifford said. “They kind of set the whole thing up. When we do the drills — because you are limited to what you can do — they are the first guys in. So I really feel like we got a lot out of September.

Charlotte was just 27-55 in Clifford’s first year back with the team, but the season was derailed by injuries to key players and the suspension of Miles Bridges. Clifford has a much healthier roster heading into camp and hopes to fully instill his vision for the team, which involves an up-tempo approach and stresses good decision making with the ball. He points out that the Hornets ranked eighth in transition opportunities a year ago, but only 27th in efficiency.

“This team was built to run, and so last year we actually did a good job in terms of our pace, getting the ball up and down the floor,” he said. “But we were inefficient in the first eight seconds of the clock.”

Clifford touches on a few other topics in the interview:

On Bridges’ performance after being out of the league for an entire year:

“I thought he’d be a lot further behind, But he’s obviously spent a lot of time in the gym. You can see it when he works out. I think his individual skills and stuff are good and he’s on it, but also playing. He was in a lot better shape and everything. So he’s already getting back to where he was. And we still have training camp and then we have to have a good plan for him through the first 10 games (as his suspension continues). But he’s put himself in a good spot.”

On second overall pick Brandon Miller and how he’s fitting in with his teammates:

“They like playing with him already just because to me it’s his decision-making. To me, everything makes sense when you watch him. And he can really shoot. But he can really pass. He knows how to play without the ball. He’s been coached. He plays in a way that helps his teammates play better. So even in pickup games, the ball moves quickly. He knows who he’s on the floor with, where they want the ball and he’s a very quick learner. So he’s also coming off the mono. His Summer League, he wasn’t quite back to full strength. He’s done a good job in the weight room. He’s gained a lot of that weight back and you can tell he’s getting more and more confident here as we get through September.”

On the importance of having Cody Martin back after missing almost all of last season because of knee issues:

“Yeah, look guys like him, there’s just not many of them. Tough-minded, very smart player, plays well at both ends of the floor. He’s a winning-type player. He’s a throwback. He’s got great toughness and his teammates love him when he’s on the floor. So, obviously we miss him, we missed him last year. He’s worked really hard all summer to get ready, and I think he does feel a lot better about where he’s at right now. We just have to be smart because he’s had a couple times where he felt good and then we’d have a setback. So, we’ve got a great performance staff here and they are all over it and we just hope for the best.”

Hornets Notes: Washington, Bouknight, Jones, Martin

The situation surrounding Hornets forward P.J. Washington has been “amazingly quiet,” Marc Stein states in his latest Substack chat. With nearly a month elapsed since free agency began, Washington remains the most prominent player without a new contract and there’s little indication that the impasse will be resolved soon.

Washington is restricted, so Charlotte can match any offer sheet he might receive, but free agency money dried up weeks ago. No one has the resources to offer him a contract starting at more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception of about $12.4MM without working out a sign-and-trade. Stein speculates that Washington may decide to accept the Hornets’ $8.5MM qualifying offer and test the market again next summer when he’s unrestricted.

That same theory is floated by Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer, who notes that threatening to take the QO is the only way Washington can gain any leverage in negotiations. Like Stein, Boone reports that everything appears to be “status quo,” but cautions that doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made behind the scenes.

There’s more from Charlotte:

  • There’s no clear path to playing time for either James Bouknight or Kai Jones, Boone adds in the same piece. The selection of Brandon Miller with the No. 2 pick in the draft creates another obstacle for Bouknight, who hasn’t made a significant impression during his first two NBA seasons. Another wing player may have to be injured for Bouknight to get a shot at rotation minutes. As for Jones, he’s third on the depth chart behind Mark Williams, a first-round pick last year, and Nick Richards, who recently signed a three-year, $15MM extension. Boone states that coach Steve Clifford doesn’t like using three centers, so there doesn’t seem to be a role for Jones.
  • The Hornets may be in the market for a ball-handling guard after Dennis Smith Jr. signed with the Nets, according to Boone. He notes that there’s no one on the roster who would be a natural backup to LaMelo Ball, so that role would likely go to Terry Rozier, which would push his minutes above where the team wants them to be.
  • It’s encouraging that Cody Martin hasn’t undergone surgery for the knee issues that limited him to seven games last season, Boone adds. However, he points out that the Hornets won’t know how Martin’s knee will hold up until he resumes playing a regular schedule. The small forward has three seasons left on his four-year, $31MM contract.

Southeast Notes: Martin, Ball, Cooks, Murray

Cody Martin is doing his best to help the Hornets as a leader from the sidelines, but it’s not a role he enjoys, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. A troublesome left knee has limited Martin to seven games in his first season since signing a four-year, $31MM contract.

Martin’s injury problems began in training camp, Boone notes, and he was only able to suit up for one of the team’s five preseason games. Martin played just 56 seconds in the regular season opener and underwent arthroscopic surgery on November 11. He returned in early January after missing 37 games, but could only play six more times before being sidelined again.

“You never go into a season thinking something like this is going to happen,” Martin said. “You are not really ever prepared for it. It’s very, very frustrating. This is the first time I’ve ever had to sit out for an extended period of time. So I’m just trying to do my best to be positive mentally and just continue to do whatever I can rehab-wise and do what the training staff is saying. Unfortunately, it’s taken this long. I’m just trying to be smart with it, I’m just trying to be consistent with it, just do whatever I can.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After undergoing ankle surgery three weeks ago, Hornets guard LaMelo Ball said he’s dedicated to rehab and plans to be 100% by the start of training camp, Boone tweets. Ball added that he still enjoys being in Charlotte, saying, “Yeah, I love it here.”
  • Fresh off winning an NBL title with the Sydney Kings, Xavier Cooks hopes to help the Wizards with their playoff push, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Australian forward signed with the team on Friday and made his NBA debut Saturday night. “It’s been a lifelong dream to get here,” Cooks said. “It’s taken me 27 years to get here. I’m, what, five years out of college? My dream is a little bit different than everybody else’s.”
  • Hawks guard Dejounte Murray feels like he got “closure” when Spurs fans gave him a warm reception in his return to San Antonio for Sunday’s game, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I felt like it was what it should be,” Murray said. “We showed nothing but love, both sides, from myself, the fans, the organization.”

Deveney’s Latest: Lowry, D. Robinson, Crowder, Okoro, G. Williams, Warriors

The Heat haven’t been able to find a taker for Kyle Lowry and may not be able to work out a significant deal before the deadline, writes Sean Deveney of Heavy. Sources tell Deveney that Miami had Lowry trade offers rejected by the Nets, Mavericks and Timberwolves and wasn’t able to generate much traction with any other team.

Lowry’s age (36) and contract (fully guaranteed at $29.68MM next season) have been major impediments to finding a trade partner. In addition, he has been limited to 44 games because of injuries, including a current bout with left knee soreness that could sideline him through the All-Star break.

The Heat also haven’t found much of a market for Duncan Robinson, who is under contract for $57MM over the next three years, although the last season isn’t fully guaranteed. Robinson has seen his playing time reduced this season and underwent finger surgery in January. Deveney suggests Miami will need to attach a future first-round pick and a young player to trade Lowry or Robinson, and he notes that some teams have expressed interest in rookie Nikola Jovic and Max Strus.

“They thought they were going to have more assets at this point, that Robinson might be playing better, that (Victor) Oladipo would be better, that Omer (Yurtseven) would be better, that Strus would be better, that Lowry would have value,” an NBA executive told Deveney. “That is why they were confident they would make a move. But they missed on pretty much all of those bets, and it is going to be hard to pull something off.”

Deveney passes along a few more rumors:

  • The Suns appear willing to accept Caleb Martin from the Heat in exchange for Jae Crowder, but Miami is reluctant to part with Martin, who is 27 and has an affordable contract. Sources tell Deveney that Phoenix is talking to several other teams about Crowder, including the Nets.
  • The Cavaliers likely won’t deal for another wing if the cost is Isaac Okoro, according to Deveney, who notes that Cleveland has discussed Josh Hart with the Trail Blazers, Bojan Bogdanovic with the Pistons and Malik Beasley with the Jazz.
  • The Celtics aren’t exploring Grant Williams trades before the deadline, Deveney adds. Although Williams will be a free agent this summer after not reaching a contract extension, Boston prefers to hold onto him at his current bargain price of $4.3MM and may consider a sign-and-trade in the offseason.
  • The Warriors are listening to offers for Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and James Wiseman, but Deveney hears that their trade value may have decreased from a lack of playing time.

Injury Updates: LaMelo, Martin, Dragic, Gallinari, Ingram

Star Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball will not play in tonight’s contest against the Jazz, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Ball has been sidelined since the 18th due to ankle and wrist injuries. Ball has missed 25 games thus far this year with various ailments, mostly related to his left ankle.

When he has been available, Ball has put up solid numbers. The 6’7″ guard is averaging 23.5 PPG on .409/.370/.875 shooting splits, 8.2 APG, 5.2 RPG and 1.1 SPG for the 13-34 Hornets.

Boone adds that Charlotte small forward Cody Martin, who has appeared in just seven games all year due to a knee injury, has also been ruled out for this evening as a result of left knee soreness.

We have more injury news:

  • Bulls reserve point guard Goran Dragic will miss tonight’s game against the Hawks and possibly all of the team’s forthcoming three-game road trip, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (via Twitter). Bulls head coach Billy Donovan indicated that, should Dragic begin to feel better, there is a chance he catches up with the team later on during the road jaunt.
  • Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla offered a minor update on the recovery of injured forward Danilo Gallinari, who tore his ACL before the start of the season, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). “I saw him jogging on the treadmill and I was like, ‘I haven’t seen you run much faster than that in a game,'” Mazzulla joked. “So I thought he was playing tonight.” The Celtics still expect Gallinari to miss the whole 2022/23 season.
  • The Pelicans are “hopeful” that star forward Brandon Ingram can rejoin his club at some point during New Orleans’ current stretch of home games, per Erin Summers of the ACC Stars podcast (via Twitter). “I’m going to see how I feel, but that’s the plan,” Ingram said of his return timeline (Twitter link). Ingram has been unavailable since November 25 due to a toe contusion. Summers adds that Naji Marshall played in half of the team’s practice, and that All-Star forward Zion Williamson will undergo imaging this week.

21 More NBA Players Become Trade-Eligible

Today is Sunday, January 15, which means that nearly two dozen players who signed free agent contracts meeting specific criteria this past offseason are now eligible to be traded.

Most offseason signees became trade-eligible on December 15, but players who met the following criteria were ineligible to be moved for an extra month:

  1. The player re-signed with his previous team.
  2. He got a raise of at least 20%.
  3. His salary is worth more than the minimum.
  4. His team was over the cap and used Bird or Early Bird rights to sign him.

The following players met that criteria and are eligible to be traded as of Sunday:

(* Players marked with an asterisk have the ability to veto trades.)

Most of the players on NBA rosters are now eligible to be moved, though a small handful still can’t be dealt. That group includes Thunder guard Isaiah Joe, who becomes trade-eligible on Monday, Bucks swingman Pat Connaughton (trade-eligible on Wednesday), and Thunder forward Kenrich Williams (trade-eligible on Friday).

There are also several players who won’t become trade-eligible before this season’s February 9 deadline, including Lakers star LeBron James. Players on 10-day contracts are also ineligible to be dealt.

Southeast Notes: Suggs, Isaac, Adebayo, Martin

After being a “full go” at practice Monday and Tuesday, Magic guard Jalen Suggs is hoping to be ready for game action this week, according to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Suggs has been sidelined with right ankle soreness since November 25 and has only played in 14 games this season.

It’s been a frustrating start for Suggs, who was limited to 48 games as a rookie after being taken with the fifth pick in the 2021 draft. At Wednesday’s shootaround, coach Jamahl Mosley said Suggs won’t play tonight against the Thunder, but “there’s a possibility” he might be available when Orlando hosts the Grizzlies on Thursday.

“I’ve had the biggest smile on my face these past two weeks, just being able to do more every day, ramping up,” Suggs said. “Going from the weight room to actual on-court workouts to (1-on-1 games) to 3s to now playing 5s. All of it’s been great.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Although Jonathan Isaac also practiced this week, the Magic aren’t planning for him to start playing soon, Price tweets. Isaac, who hasn’t played since the NBA bubble at Disney World, is recovering from a torn ACL in 2020 and a setback he suffered in March. “Jalen is obviously going to be further along than (Isaac),” Mosley said. “JI’s going to be sometime down the road. Have to get some more practices under his belt to get comfortable with these guys and group.”
  • Heat center Bam Adebayo has responded to management’s desire for him to take on a larger role in the offense by averaging career highs this season with 21.5 points and 15.6 shots per game, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Adebayo posted his second consecutive 30-point game in Monday’s victory over the Clippers. “I saw him this summer,” Victor Oladipo said. “I saw the work he put in, I saw his growth. It’s no shock to people who’ve seen his grind. So, it’s no shock. I’m not surprised he’s having the year he’s having.”
  • Hornets forward Cody Martin feels ready to return following his long absence caused by an opening-night knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, tweets Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer. Martin has been listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against Memphis. “It’s just tough,” he said. “Nobody wants to sit out any games, much less however many games I sat out. So, I’m just looking forward to getting back.”

Injury Updates: Beal, Martin, Bol, Gilgeous-Alexander, James

Bradley Beal returned to action on Tuesday after missing three games due to left hamstring soreness. However, the Wizards’ franchise player aggravated the injury and didn’t finish out the game, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets.

We have more injury news:

  • The Hornets’ Cody Martin is listed as questionable to play against Memphis on Wednesday, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer tweets. Martin played one minute in the season opener, then was sidelined by a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery in November, but it appears he’s on the verge of returning.
  • Magic big man Bol Bol was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols on Tuesday, according to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. He will miss Wednesday’s home contest against the Thunder and possibly more games beyond that.
  • Thunder star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed the team’s game against Boston on Tuesday due to a non-COVID illness, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Oklahoma City did just fine without him, setting a franchise record with 150 points.
  • LeBron James is listed as questionable to play against Miami on Wednesday due to left ankle soreness, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. The Lakers’ superstar scored 43 points in 40 minutes against Charlotte on Monday.

Southeast Notes: Martin, McGowens, Butler

Injured Hornets small forward Cody Martin has recently joined his teammates during Charlotte’s pregame warmups, and has been working on his lateral cutting, Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer notes (Twitter video link). Boone writes that this could be an indication that Martin is nearing his return.

Martin left the Hornets’ first game of the season after just one minute of play due to a quadriceps injury and has been sidelined ever since. Martin inked a four-year, $32MM deal over the summer after a career-best season in 2021/22 as a key backup. Across 71 contests that year, he averaged 7.7 PPG on .482/.384/.701 shooting splits, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 1.2 SPG.

There’s more out of the Southeast:

  • The play of Hornets rookie Bryce McGowens has been one of the few positive storylines of an otherwise miserable season in Charlotte, Boone writes in another piece. “There’s a lot of positives going forward and he’s right at the top of that list to me,” head coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s got size, he has instincts, he has a feel for the game. But the biggest thing is he steps out there like he belongs. He’s poised, he’s smart.” Boone notes that McGowens has played big minutes in the team’s last six contests. In those games, the 20-year-old out of Nebraska is averaging 5.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG and 1.7 SPG in 21.5 MPG. Though he is making just 38.7% of his total field goal tries, he is nailing an excellent 45.5% of his triples and 85.7% of his free throws.
  • Heat All-Star small forward Jimmy Butler did not mince words following perhaps the team’s worst loss of a loss-heavy season, a 115-111 defeat to the tanking Spurs. Butler sought accountability up and town Miami’s roster, noting that “everybody has to be better,” per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We show flashes of what we can be and who we are. It’s just, damn, whenever we get away from that, it looks bad.” The Heat are currently 12-15 on the season. Butler has already missed 10 games, but when he has played he has been as good as ever, averaging 21.8 PPG with a .525/.378/.858 slash line, playing at an elite defensive level, and chipping in 6.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, and 1.7 SPG for good measure. The team has gone 8-9 when the six-time All-Star has been available.
  • In case you missed it, the Heat recently made a new addition, waiving two-way guard Dru Smith to make way for returning center Orlando Robinson on a two-way contract.

Southeast Notes: Harris, Banchero, Martin, Herro, Beal

Magic guard Gary Harris feels like he’s close to playing again following arthroscopic surgery during the offseason to repair a torn meniscus, writes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Harris has been participating in full-court games with coaches and taking part in pre-game shootarounds as he prepares to make his season debut.

“I’m moving around a little bit right now,” he said. “I’m really trying to get my timing back. Get back in basketball shape. I’m testing stuff out each day. I get more comfortable around the court.”

Harris who signed a two-year, $26MM extension with Orlando before the start of free agency, has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. But the meniscus tear was the first one that required him to undergo surgery.

“It’s just different,” Harris said. “Different movements. It’s something I have to get back comfortable and familiar with after my first one. Just seeing how my body responds.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Magic coach Jamahl Mosley gave a medical update on top draft pick Paolo Banchero at today’s practice, Price adds. Banchero was able to participate in drills, but he remains day-to-day with a sprained left ankle and will be a game-time decision Monday.
  • Caleb Martin was looking forward to facing his twin brother as the Heat and Hornets met twice in three days in Miami, but an injury changed those plans, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Cody Martin has played just one minute this season because of a knee injury, and Charlotte announced Friday that he had an arthroscopic procedure. He’ll reportedly miss approximately six weeks. “It’s tough on him, man,” Caleb said. “He’s obviously like me in terms of competing and wanting to be out there and contributing. It’s hard for him to need to sit out and watch other guys play.”
  • Tyler Herro missed his third straight game tonight with a sprained left ankle and he’ll need some more time to recover, Chiang tweets. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Herro is doing “everything he needs to do” to get back on the court.
  • Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis are helping the Wizards remain competitive during Bradley Beal‘s latest stint in the health and safety protocols, notes Tyler Byrum of NBC Sports Washington. Beal cleared the protocols Friday, but he didn’t play tonight and coach Wes Unseld Jr. said he will likely be held out of Sunday’s game.