Dan Gilbert

And-Ones: K. Smith, NBL, Salary Cap, Ishbia, Gilbert

Former NBA champion and current TNT analyst Kenny Smith is getting involved in Australia’s National Basketball League, according to a press release. Smith has been appointed as the head of the NBL’s Next Stars player initiative and will “actively recruit, develop and mentor new Next Stars players” in that role.

The Next Stars initiative has served as an alternative to college basketball (or to the G League Ignite) for NBA prospects who are not yet draft-eligible, with LaMelo Ball, Josh Giddey, R.J. Hampton, and Ousmane Dieng among the notable players who have chosen that path. Alexandre Sarr, a candidate to be this year’s No. 1 overall pick, is currently in the program.

“Legitimate pathways to the NBA are evolving, and the NBL has a proven track record of getting players drafted,” Smith said in a statement. “The NBL identified a key role for me to mentor and support young talent and equip them with the tools to compete at a professional level with a view to making the leap into the NBA.”

In addition to heading up the Next Stars initiative, Smith will also become the part-owner of an NBL expansion team that will be announced in the near future, according to the announcement.

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

  • The NBA shared new salary cap projections for 2024/25 with its teams this week, but the estimated figures haven’t changed since January’s update, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). As Wojnarowski relays, the cap is still projected to be $141MM next season.
  • Suns owner Mat Ishbia has been in the news for non-basketball reasons over the past week. Baxter Holmes of ESPN put out a story detailing the feud between Ishibia and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert due to the billionaires’ rival mortgage companies, while Hunterbrook Media published an investigative report about the questionable legality of Ishbia’s business practices as the CEO and chairman of United Wholesale Mortgage. As Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic details, Ishbia suggested during a media session that Hunterbrook’s investigation was funded Gilbert’s Rocket Mortgage, which a Rocket Mortgage spokesperson adamantly denied.
  • Noting that the teams near the bottom of the NBA’s standings have been historically bad since the All-Star break, John Hollinger of The Athletic considers ways the league might address the issue and improve its product in March. Hollinger suggests eliminating the buyout market entirely and making any player waived after the trade deadline ineligible for the postseason, but acknowledges that the impact may be marginal.

Gilbert: Cavs Confident Mitchell Will Sign Extension

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert believes star guard Donovan Mitchell will eventually sign a long-term extension to remain in Cleveland, per Larry Lage of The Associated Press.

We’ve been talking to him, sure, for the last couple of years about extending this contract,” Gilbert said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. “We think he will extend. I think if you listen to him talk, he loves the city.

He loves the situation in Cleveland because our players are very young and we’re just kind of putting the core together that he’s clearly the biggest part of.”

Mitchell is currently in the third season of a five-year rookie scale extension he signed with Utah prior to being traded to Cleveland in 2022. However, the 27-year-old could become a free agent in 2025 if he declines his $37.1MM player option for 2025/26.

A five-time All-Star, Mitchell made his first All-NBA appearance in ’22/23. While Mitchell won’t earn an All-NBA spot this season (he has missed too many games to qualify), that won’t have any impact on his next contract, since he’s no longer eligible for a super-max deal after being traded. He will be extension-eligible as of this July, however.

The Cavaliers could offer Mitchell a new contract that’s worth 30% of the ’25/26 cap and covers up to four seasons (through ’28/29), with 8% annual raises. Based on the latest cap projections, that four-year max extension would be worth an estimated $199MM.

Mitchell, who has been dealing with a nagging knee injury as well as a nasal fracture, could reportedly return to action on Friday. He has missed the past six games — and 13 of the past 15 — as he recovers from the injuries.

The Cavaliers have been in a skid of late, going 4-8 over their last 12 games to currently hold a 44-29 record, good for the No. 4 seed in the East. They’ve gone 11-13 without Mitchell this season, Lage notes.

And-Ones: Boomers, Awards, Thibodeau, Butler, Gilbert

All but one of the 11 Australian players in the NBA have been named to the extended Australian Boomers squad for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Olgun Uluc of ESPN reports. The exception is a notable one — the Nets’ Ben Simmons, though there’s a possibility he’ll be added ahead of the selection camp.

Simmons recently expressed interest in playing for Australia in this year’s World Cup.

Some of the NBA current or past players who made the 18-man list include Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Josh Green, Jock Landale, Matisse ThybulleJosh Giddey, Dyson Daniels, Xavier Cooks and Thon Maker. The team will eventually be pared to 12 players.

We have from around the basketball world:

  • It’s going to be a busy week in terms of NBA awards announcements, the league’s communications department tweets. The All-Rookie team will be revealed on Monday, the All-Defensive Team will be unveiled on Tuesday and the All-NBA team will be announced on Wednesday. The Teammate of the Year award will be announced on Thursday.
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is looking for ways to slow down red-hot Jimmy Butler and the Heat. ESPN’s Nick Friedell takes an in-depth look at the relationship between Thibodeau and his former player.
  • Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, has died at the age of 26, according to ESPN’s News Services. Nick Gilbert had a lifelong battle with neurofibromatosis (NF1), which causes noncancerous tumors to grow on the brain, spinal cord and skin. He became well-known to NBA fans for being Cleveland’s good luck charm at the draft lottery, as the Cavs twice got the top pick when he was the team’s lottery representative.

Suns Owner Ishbia: Durant Trade Involved “No Risk”

New Suns majority owner Mat Ishbia believes the Kevin Durant blockbuster deal wasn’t risky at all, he told Chris Mannis of Sports Illustrated.

Ishbia made a big splash and acquired of one of the league’s biggest stars right after being approved by the league’s owners to take control of the franchise.

“I don’t look at it like a risk at all. I know what the vision is,” he said. “I’m going to own this team for 50 years, so like zero [risk]. I don’t need to come in and win in the first year. But at the same time, there’s nothing in my life that I don’t want to win at. We’re going to try to win everything we do.”

The fact that Durant is in the first season of a four-year extension played into the decision to make the deal with the Nets. The Suns gave up Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and several first-rounders in the deal, which turned into a four-team swap.

“It wasn’t a tough decision. We really didn’t want to give up some of the guys, because we love those guys,” Ishbia said. “They were winners and we didn’t want to give them up. But at the end of the day the right decision was, what do we do to maximize our team for today and for the next three to four years? This is going to be what the Phoenix Suns are about.”

Ishbia touched on a number of topics with Mannix:

  • Potential luxury tax penalties didn’t factor into the decision to make the trade. Ishbia is also unfazed by any future tax issues: “The financial piece was five seconds. They know I’m ready. That doesn’t bother me.”
  • Ishbia won’t meddle with GM James Jones and head coach Monty Williams in their jobs: “James will pick the best player. And that’s his job. I’m not calling Monty Williams to ask him why we played someone. That’s not my thing. I’ll watch the game like a fan and cheer the team on. That’s what my job is to do, is to be the biggest supporter, to give Monty Williams all the support he needs, to give James Jones all the support they need, to give the players all the support they need.”
  • Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was the only owner who abstained from approving him as Phoenix’s owner. Gilbert and Ishbia both own major mortgage companies based in Michigan, but Ishbia says there’s no bad blood between them. “If I saw Dan today, we’d shake hands and say hello. We’re normal people. But we’re not giving each other advice and being friendly in the business side. I have no negativity towards him. He’s probably not one of the first owners I’ll call for advice on ticket sales or sponsorships, but I’m friendly to everybody. But I’m fine talking with him.”

Mat Ishbia Officially Becomes Suns’ Owner

FEBRUARY 7: Ishbia has officially completed the purchase of a majority stake in the Suns, the team announced today in a press release.

“This is the culmination of a lifelong dream. I love the game of basketball deeply but it’s so much more than that for me,” he said in a statement. “Throughout my life, basketball has given me a second family, an education, and so much joy. I am honored to be the next steward of this community’s franchises in the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury and am totally committed to building an incredible organization on and off the floor.”

Ishbia and his group paid $2.28 billion for a 57% stake in the team, sources tell Baxter Holmes of ESPN. That’s the equivalent of a $4 billion valuation. Sarver received $1.48 billion for his 37% stake in the club, Holmes adds.

FEBRUARY 6: Mat Ishbia has been approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors as the Suns’ new owner, according to a league press release. The transaction is expected to close this week.

As Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets, the vote was 29-0 with the Cavaliers abstaining. Dan Gilbert, Cleveland’s owner, is also the majority owner of Rocket Mortgage. Ishbia is the chairman and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, which – like Rocket Mortgage – is based in Michigan.

Mat Ishbia and his brother Justin agreed to buy the Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury from Robert Sarver at a valuation of approximately $4 billion. Sarver, who was suspended by the league for a year and fined $10MM for behavior that “clearly violated common workplace standards,” subsequently decided to sell his controlling stake in the franchise.

Ishbia reached an agreement with Sarver in December.

Typically, it takes at least a couple months for the NBA to officially approve and complete the sale of a franchise because the process involves extensive criminal, financial, and background checks on prospective buyers, who also have to meet with the NBA’s advisory and finance committees.

Ishbia is reportedly eager for the Suns to seek upgrades prior to Thursday’s deadline and his impact may have already been felt, as Phoenix pursued a trade for Kyrie Irving.

Ishbia’s agreement to buy the Suns will give him control of more than 50% of the franchise, as he and his group are also buying out some of the minority shareholders.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Sarver, Lakers, Davis, J. Green, Ballmer

After handing Robert Sarver a one-year suspension and a $10MM fine following the investigation into the Suns owner’s workplace misconduct, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told some concerned players that he considered having the league’s Board of Governors vote on Sarver’s fate, but had some legal concerns about the process, report Baxter Holmes and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN (Insider link). Instead, Silver repeatedly spoke directly to Sarver in an effort to encourage him to sell the franchise.

As Holmes and Shelburne outline, Sarver was upset by his punishment and questioned why it was more severe than the one Mark Cuban received following an investigation into the Mavericks’ front office in 2018. Silver explained that the differences stemmed from the fact that Cuban wasn’t accused of misconduct himself.

While persistent nudging from Silver may not have been enough on its own to convince Sarver to sell, the Suns were facing the prospect of losing several key sponsors if he remained on as the team’s owner. Sources tell Holmes and Shelburne that nearly 30 sponsors are up for renewal after the coming season, including PayPal, which issued a statement calling for Sarver’s removal. There were indications that many companies would follow PayPal’s lead and put out similar statements.

“The walls were closing in on (Sarver),” a source close to the process told ESPN. “A group of sponsors were all moving towards this common position.”

After Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic reported last week that a “high-end estimate” for the sale price of the Suns could be $3 billion or more, ESPN’s duo is hearing the same thing. Multiple sources who spoke to Holmes and Shelburne, noting that the NBA has rebounded well from the impact of COVID-19 and has a new TV deal around the corner, predicted that the franchise could sell for more than $3 billion.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • As he preaches defensive effort and intensity to his new team, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said on Tuesday that he likes the fact that multiple starting lineup spots are for grabs in training camp, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are locked in as starters and Russell Westbrook will “absolutely” join them if he shows the effort Ham is looking for on defense, but that would still leave two spots open. “I think it adds a little spice to camp, and LeBron and AD, they are who they are, as well as Russ, those guys are going to go at them,” Ham said. “That’s only going to make everybody better. It’s a controlled competitive environment.”
  • Davis told reporters on Wednesday that he was affected last season by a wrist injury that he suffered in January, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. The Lakers‘ big man added that it’s not an excuse for his poor three-point shooting (18.6%), but that it affected the follow-through on his shot.
  • According to head coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors viewed JaMychal Green as a “critical” offseason addition because he adds some much-needed veteran experience to a young bench. Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area has the story.
  • Steve Ballmer of the Clippers remains the richest owner in sports, according to a report from Forbes, which estimates Ballmer’s net worth at $83 billion. Robert Pera of the Grizzlies ($17.6 billion) and Dan Gilbert of the Cavaliers ($17.3 billion) are the other NBA owners who rank in Forbes’ top 10.

Central Notes: Bulls, Cavaliers, Gilbert, Joseph

The Bulls are 3-8 since adding five new players in two big trade-deadline moves. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic assesses the players club’s new additions in an extensive piece.

Though All-Star center Nikola Vučević has produced offensively, the team is struggling to cling to the No. 10 seed (and thus a play-in tournament opportunity) in the East.

Vučević’s biggest weakness on offense is a low free throw rate, but otherwise he has been in line with expectations thus far. Daniel Theis, too, has been a helpful contributor right away. Troy Brown Jr. has shown flashes of promise, while Javonte Green and Al-Farouq Aminu have not cracked the team’s rotation, and have shown why when they have seen playing time.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers anticipate that they will add a player via their newly-opened two-way player slot “soon,” reports Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Lamar Stevens held that spot until he was promoted to the 15-man roster this week.
  • Though Pistons point guard Cory Joseph looked like a throw-in as part of a trade deadline deal with the Kings that netted Detroit two second-round draft picks, he has turned into a helpful mentor for Detroit’s players, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “Cory’s been through it,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “His style of play, his personality and his leadership, everything rubs off and he’s doing the same thing with Killian [Hayes] and Saben [Lee] and that group.” Joseph has also proven that he has something left in the tank, averaging 11.7 PPG and 6.1 APG since the deal.
  • Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has bought out former majority owner Gordon Gund‘s remaining 15% minority share in the franchise, writes The AP’s Tom Withers“Gordon will remain part of the Cavaliers family and we thank him greatly for his leadership, dedication and long-standing support of the franchise,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

Eastern Notes: Wizards, Gordon, Nets, Gilbert

Bradley Beal remains content to stay in Washington, and the Wizards don’t appear headed for a major deal before Thursday’s deadline, according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. There’s no sense of panic even though the team has dropped to 13th place in the East after losing eight of its past 10 games, with one rival executive saying Washington’s front office is “operating as if they’ve got time on their hands.”

The Wizards aren’t considered a definite buyer or seller heading into the deadline, Wallace adds. Washington is just three-and-a-half games out of the 10th spot, and Davis Bertans is expected to return from a calf strain in about two weeks. The team could use a third scorer and an upgrade on defense, but there’s no urgency to get anything done right away.

“We’ve got some young players that need experience, and when you (also) have some high-level players on your team, it’s a fine line,” coach Scott Brooks said. “You have to find the sweet spot. I think we’re doing a fairly good job. We’d like to have some more wins. A lot of the things that’s happened to us, we can’t control. … (General manager Tommy Sheppard) is going to look. … If there’s something out there, we’re definitely going to look.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic forward Aaron Gordon is very likely to be traded by the deadline, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). Orlando will listen to offers for Gordon and the Celtics will be in the mix, adds Woj, who expects the Magic and Raptors to “set the tone” for this year’s trade deadline.
  • The Nets will try to move injured guard Spencer Dinwiddie, but they don’t want to take on any guaranteed salary past this season, Wojnarowski said in a trade deadline discussion hosted by Rod Perez on Twitter Spaces (hat tip to NetsDaily). The Nets are also focused on Cavaliers center Andre Drummond and Pelicans guard J.J. Redick in the buyout market, according to Woj, along with Heat forward Maurice Harkless.
  • In his podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst indicated that the Nets are interested in acquiring Raptors forward Norman Powell. Windhorst doesn’t expect the Nets to pursue Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge if he gets bought out, suggesting there’s not a need for Aldridge after adding Blake Griffin.
  • With Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert still recovering from a 2019 stroke, his 23-year-old son Grant Gilbert could eventually be in line to run the team, according to Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The younger Gilbert is already in the organization as director of content and brand strategy.

Central Notes: Bledsoe, Cavs, Boylen, Bulls

Like most other NBA head coaches who have been asked about players not yet in attendance at the league’s Orlando campus, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer was somewhat cagey on Sunday when asked about Eric Bledsoe‘s situation. However, as Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, Budenholzer sounded optimistic about his point guard, who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

“The NBA has protocols that I think are trying to keep us all in our best place, our safest, to have a positive experience,” Budenholzer said. “When he clears those and when there’s something new to share with you guys we will, but we do feel like he’s on the closer end of the spectrum (to returning) than the longer.”

According to Velazquez, the expectation is that Bledsoe will be able to rejoin the Bucks before they resume play on July 31, though it will likely take him a little more time to get up to full speed. George Hill and NBA G League MVP Frank Mason III figure to handle point guard duties until Bledsoe is ready to go.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic explores how Dan Gilbert‘s decision to take Quicken Loans public could impact the Cavaliers, noting that there’s no indication Gilbert has any intention of selling the franchise. Within the story, Lloyd adds that the Cavs owner is “turning up the pressure” on the team to show improvement next season in the third year of its rebuild.
  • Bulls head coach Jim Boylen said last week that he’s encouraged by his relationship with the team’s new top executives (link via WGNTV.com). K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago takes a closer look at Boylen’s comments, noting that the head coach dined with Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley in Chicago earlier this month, and both execs have been watching the individual voluntary workouts taking place at the Advocate Center. Boylen’s status for 2020/21 remains unclear, but the longer the Bulls go without making any announcements, the more likely he seems to keep his job.
  • In a pair of articles for NBC Sports Chicago, Rob Schaefer looks at how Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono performed in 2019/20 and what sort of future the two guards might have with the Bulls. Dunn is a restricted free agent this fall, while Arcidiacono has a guaranteed salary for ’20/21 and a team option for ’21/22.

More Details On Cavaliers/John Beilein Split

John Beilein‘s stint as Cavaliers head coach has come to an abrupt end halfway through his first season in Cleveland, and there were warning signs even before the regular season began that things could be headed in this direction, according to a new report from Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd, and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

The Athletic’s trio suggests that players began to tune out Beilein during training camp, and there were already signals at that point that the new head coach was unhappy in Cleveland. After a pair of preseason blowout losses to the Celtics, league sources were saying that Beilein was second-guessing his decision to leave college for the pros, per The Athletic.

Beilein’s tone toward players was said to be an issue throughout the season, as he allegedly nitpicked fundamentals and displayed an inability to adapt to the NBA’s offensive and defensive structures, according to Charania, Lloyd, and Vardon.

“He was a dictator — not a coach suited for today’s NBA,” one source told The Athletic.

While players were immediately turned off by Beilein’s style, the longtime college coach was “stunned” by the culture in the NBA, according to The Athletic. He was surprised by players’ “revulsion” to long film sessions and practices, and wasn’t accustomed to things like load management – such as Kevin Love sitting out half of back-to-back sets – or trades, which he didn’t have to deal with in college. The Athletic’s report indicates Beilein had a hard time adjusting on offense after the Cavs sent Jordan Clarkson to Utah in December.

The Athletic’s report paints a picture of a marriage between team and coach that was doomed from the start. Here are a few more of the most notable details from the story:

  • Recently-acquired center Andre Drummond didn’t take to Beilein at all upon joining the Cavs earlier this month. One source told The Athletic that Drummond said the situation in Cleveland was worse than the one he’d come from in Detroit. The veteran center reportedly indicated he’d walk in free agency if Beilein was still the Cavs’ coach, Lloyd said in a radio appearance (Twitter link via Keith Britton of 92.3 The Fan).
  • After Beilein said in a January film session that his team had been playing like “thugs,” he apologized, claiming that he had meant to say “slugs.” But several players never really bought that explanation, per The Athletic. “There was no coming back from that,” said one player, who suggested the excuse was an insult to the players’ intelligence. After that incident, a handful of players began blasting songs that prominently featured the word “thug” when Beilein was within earshot, sources told Charania, Lloyd, and Vardon.
  • The Athletic trio suggests that team owner Dan Gilbert may have had a hand in steering the head coaching search toward Beilein, despite his denials that it was his decision. One source told The Athletic that GM Koby Altman and his front office were at least more on board with Beilein than the previous group – led by David Griffin – was with the David Blatt hire in 2014.