Dante Exum

And-Ones: Ball Lawsuit, McCollum, Australia’s Olympic Team

LaMelo Ball and the Hornets are being sued by a North Carolina woman who claims Ball allegedly struck her son with his vehicle during an attempt to obtain Ball’s autograph, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday. The alleged incident occurred in October 2023, when the Hornets hosted a fan event at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.

A number of fans, including the woman’s 11-year-old son, approached Ball’s vehicle at a traffic light. According to the lawsuit, when the light turned green, Ball drove “in a grossly negligent and reckless manner in that he accelerated his vehicle forward suddenly and without warning and struck” her son, “severely injuring him.” She claimed that Ball then left the scene.

The youngster suffered foot and back injuries due to the incident, according to the lawsuit.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The Pelicans’ CJ McCollum was chosen for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award by the Pro Basketball Writers’ Association (Twitter link). The honor is presented annually by the PBWA to a player, coach or athletic trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community. McCollum was honored for his extensive community work in and around New Orleans, with a focus on education, social-justice reform and efforts to provide equitable resources and opportunities for youth.
  • The Australian National Team recently announced a 17-man roster that will take part in the official training camp in late June, before two games against China in Melbourne on July 2 and 4. The roster will then be pared to 12 players for the Paris Olympics. ESPN’s Olgun Uluc breaks down the roster player by player to determine who will make the cut. Josh Giddey, Jock Landale, Josh Green and Dante Exum are among the NBA players Uluc considers locks to make the squad.
  • Kendrick Nunn is thriving overseas but he has not ruled out an NBA return. Get the details here.

Mavericks Notes: Irving, Doncic, Gafford, Hardy, Kleber

After the Game 5 win at Oklahoma City, Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving called the matchup with the Thunder “one of the hardest series I’ve ever played,” according to a Dallas Morning News article (subscription required). It’s a significant statement for a player who holds a championship ring and has made three trips to the NBA Finals, but Irving explained why OKC has been an especially difficult opponent.

“It’s just really just the pace and just the physicality,” he said. “And last series was physical too, and the pace was a little different. But I think just this series, it’s challenged me physically, mentally, emotionally. I’ve accepted that and I’ve focused on the things that I can control and focused on getting my guys going early. And however the game plays out, it’s going to play out. But I’m really laying my hat on the defensive end and giving a lot of effort and and just trying to make the right plays offensively. They’re putting three on the ball at times for me and I could obviously take a lot of tough shots and I think that’s coming in the near future when it’s needed. But for right now just reading the game and allowing the basketball gods to shower me with a lot of love when you’re playing the right way.”

Irving also discussed the increased focus that Luka Doncic brought to Game 5. Doncic told his teammates before the contest that he wasn’t going to complain to the officials and was focusing on playing basketball and having fun.

“I think he’s just being smart and taking advice from the guys that have been in situations like this before and trusting that we have his back,” Irving said. “Some of the times when he’s going to the refs, he really feels like that’s an individual thing, and I think he could speak on it, too. He’s just in the moment and he’s very emotional as we all are as competitors. But the bigger picture is what matters. And him focusing his energy on the right places and specifically focusing on his shots and also doing the little things for us on the defensive end, getting rebounds like he’s doing and he’s been doing all season, it works well for us.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • The Mavericks have virtually remade their roster over the past 20 months, surrounding Doncic with a much better defensive team, observes Zach Lowe of ESPN (subscription required). Lowe suggests that the Thunder might be regretting the role they played in helping the Mavs acquire Daniel Gafford, who has provided an interior anchor for the defense. OKC traded a 2024 first-round pick to Dallas in February in exchange for the right to swap first-rounders in 2028. The Mavericks sent that pick to Washington as part of the Gafford deal.
  • Second-year shooting guard Jaden Hardy appears to have replaced Dante Exum in the Mavericks’ playoff rotation, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Hardy played nearly 15 minutes in Game 5 and although he shot just 1-of-5 from the field, coach Jason Kidd was impressed by his overall game.
  • Kidd indicated that injured big man Maxi Kleber has a chance to return if Dallas reaches the conference finals, Townsend adds in a full story. Kleber suffered a right shoulder AC joint separation in a May 3 game and was scheduled to be reevaluated after three weeks. He was able to do some light shooting during Friday’s practice, Townsend adds.

Olympic Notes: France, Australia, Germany, Brazil

Ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the host nation has announced its preliminary 19-man roster (Twitter link). As Eurohoops relays, the headliners on France’s squad are big men Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert, the top two finishers in this year’s Defensive Player of the Year vote.

However, there are several more notable NBA names on the list, including Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Bilal Coulibaly, and Ousmane Dieng. Other recent NBAers who didn’t finish the 2023/24 season on a roster include Killian Hayes, Frank Ntilikina, and Theo Maledon.

One player not on France’s roster is veteran guard Mike James. The 2023/24 EuroLeague MVP is an American, but according to a report from L’Equipe (hat tip to BasketNews.com), the French Basketball Federation explored the possibility of getting a French passport for James, who has played for AS Monaco in France’s LNB Pro A since 2021. That effort didn’t make any real headway, however.

“We do not have the culture of other nations which use naturalized players in a systematic way,” an unnamed executive told L’Equipe. “But we have a duty to explore all possibilities. In this case, we were asked, we looked at it and quickly established that it was not a question.”

The French national team will have to make seven cuts and set a 12-man roster for this July’s event.

Here are a few more updates related to the 2024 Olympics:

  • The Australian national team has trimmed its preliminary Olympic roster from 22 players to 17, the Boomers announced in a press release. None of the NBA players on the roster – including Josh Giddey, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, and Dyson Daniels, among others – were among the cuts, but potential 2024 first-round pick Johnny Furphy was. The plan is for those 17 Australian players to attend training camp this summer before setting the final 12-man roster.
  • The German national team announced this week that head coach Gordon Herbert won’t continue on in that role after the conclusion of the Paris Olympics (hat tip to Sportando). The two sides are going their separate ways after a fruitful partnership that included a gold medal at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • The Brazilian national team has announced its preliminary roster for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Latvia. The notable names include veteran point guard Raul Neto, former first-round pick Bruno Caboclo, Warriors rookie Gui Santos, and former NBA guard Didi Louzada. The Brazilians will need to win the six-team qualifier to earn a spot in the Olympic men’s basketball tournament.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Exum, Zion, Wembanyama

At this morning’s shootaround, Mavericks star Luka Doncic was still feeling the effects of a right knee sprain he suffered in Game 3, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Dallas had two days off after Sunday’s Game 4 loss, but the extra time may not be enough to make a difference for Doncic. Townsend observed that he did limited running at the shootaround, and the knee seemed to stiffen up whenever he tried to do anything more than jog.

“Nothing, honestly,” Doncic said when asked what he did during the session. “Just treatment, a lot of treatments. Fitness. But basketball, I just shot. Nothing explosive.”

Doncic was noticeably slowed by the knee in Sunday’s game, even though he scored 29 points and posted a triple-double. He shot just 10-of-24 from the field and 1-of-9 from three-point range as Kyrie Irving led a comeback after the Mavs fell behind by 31 points.

On top of the knee issue, Doncic is dealing with an upper-respiratory illness. He admitted that he probably wouldn’t try to play tonight if it were a regular season game, but that’s not an option in the playoffs.

“I’ve been in this situation a lot, been playing through injuries a lot, so nothing,” Doncic said. “Just go out there, have fun and do everything you can do for your team to win.” 

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • After resurrecting his NBA career with the Mavericks this season, Dante Exum has struggled in the first four games of the playoffs, notes Mike Curtis of The Dallas Morning News. A 49% shooter from beyond the arc during the regular season, Exum has missed all five of his three-point attempts during the series and is shooting just 1-of-11 overall. His playing time has been cut to 8.5 minutes per game as coach Jason Kidd has tightened his rotation, but Exum is determined to help any way he can. “No matter if it’s one minute, two minutes, it’s trying to provide that energy,” he said. “If I can make an impact in the time I get, that’s the goal. Hopefully it can just grow off that and I continue to get more minutes.”
  • Zion Williamson has made the Pelicans more confident that he can be the cornerstone of their future, multiple team sources tell William Guillory of The Athletic. Injury and conditioning concerns hung over Williamson during his first four NBA seasons, but he was much more durable this year, appearing in 70 games and logging 31.5 minutes per night. In addition to his on-court production, Williamson also became a more vocal leader.
  • Nick Moyle of The San Antonio Express-News examines how the SpursVictor Wembanyama was able to incorporate a step-back jumper into his arsenal during his rookie year.

And-Ones: Australia, McLemore, York, Jerebko, Calipari, Klutch

The Australian national team has revealed its preliminary roster for the 2024 Olympics, announcing a list of 22 players that are in the mix to play in Paris. That group will have to be cut down to 12 players ahead of this summer’s tournament.

Australia’s preliminary roster includes several NBAers, including Thunder guard Josh Giddey, Mavericks guard Dante Exum, Trail Blazers forward Matisse Thybulle and big man Duop Reath, Mavericks wing Josh Green, Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels, Magic forward Joe Ingles, Heat guard Patty Mills, Rockets center Jock Landale, and Grizzlies forward Jack White.

As Olgun Uluc of ESPN notes, the newest addition to the Boomers’ roster is 19-year-old Johnny Furphy, who played for the Kansas Jayhawks in 2023/24 and is projected by ESPN to be a potential first-round pick in this year’s draft.

The most notable absence is Ben Simmons, as the Nets guard underwent back surgery last month that will sideline him for the Olympics. Simmons doesn’t have much history with the Australian national team, so it’s unclear if he would’ve been part of the Boomers’ roster in Paris even if he’d been healthy.

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

  • Former NBA guard Ben McLemore was arrested and jailed this week in Oregon and faces multiple felony sexual assault charges, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN. The charges, which include first-degree rape, stem from an alleged incident in 2021, when McLemore was a member of the Trail Blazers.
  • Former NBA guard Gabe York, who appeared in five games for the Pacers across two seasons from 2021-23, has signed with Basquet Girona, the Spanish team announced this week in a press release. York played for the G League Ignite earlier this season.
  • Following a two-year hiatus from basketball, Swedish forward Jonas Jerebko is making a comeback, having signed with Puerto Rican team Santeros de Aguada, according to Eurohoops. Jerebko, who turned 37 last month, appeared in 635 NBA regular season games for four teams from 2009-19. He last played professionally for CSKA Moscow in 2022.
  • Shams Charania and Kyle Tucker of The Athletic take an in-depth look at John Calipari‘s decision to leave Kentucky for Arkansas after 15 years with the Wildcats, detailing how Calipari’s deal with the Razorbacks came about.
  • One Legacy Sports Management, led by veteran agent Mike George, is becoming part of Klutch Sports, CEO Rich Paul tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Jamal Murray, Dillon Brooks, and Shaedon Sharpe are among George’s clients, per RealGM.

Southwest Notes: Kidd, Washington, Rockets’ Loss, Graham

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd likes his team’s spirit with the postseason nearing, Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com relays. Dallas pulled out an OT win over the Rockets on Sunday and strengthened its grip on the fifth spot in the Western Conference.

“We have each other’s backs. We’re playing for something bigger than just the back of the jersey,” the Mavericks’ coach said. “We’re playing for one another. You can see the chemistry, the celebration at the end. It takes a long time to build that. That just doesn’t happen overnight. But the beauty of (Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic) hugging there at the end . . . those two trusting in their teammates that were out on the floor was huge.”

The Mavs’ backcourt duo combined for 85 points.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • In their previous game, which Doncic sat out, the Mavericks got a big game out of midseason acquisition P.J. Washington. He erupted for 32 points, five rebounds, five steals and two blocks and also made the game-winning shot against the Warriors on Friday, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Washington grabbed 13 rebounds on Sunday.
  • The Rockets were seemingly in control on Sunday but Dante Exum sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer. Houston was officially eliminated from the postseason picture with the loss. “Right now, probably not a whole lot of good (to take from the tough loss),” Rockets guard Fred VanVleet told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “High-level game. Big shots. Big games. But ultimately, we found a way to lose down the stretch. Usually, you try to find ways to win. We gifted that one to them. That stings.”
  • The Spurs’ Devonte’ Graham tried to keep an even-keeled approach this season despite limited playing time, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. Graham has only appeared in 18 games off the bench. “I get to play basketball for a living and life isn’t really that bad….If not playing basketball is the worst thing going on in my life, I think I am doing pretty well,” he said. “I just don’t look at the negatives.” Graham’s $12.65MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed at $2.85MM.

Southwest Notes: Exum, Alvarado, Grizzlies, Rockets

In an interesting story for Yahoo Sports, Jake Fischer describes how Mavericks guard Dante Exum was able to make it back to the NBA after spending two seasons out of the league.

An Australian who sustained multiple major injuries early in his career, Exum only had G League offers in the U.S. and Canada after he was released by Houston in October 2021, and he decided that playing in Europe (for Barcelona and Partizan) was a better pathway for his future.

It’s always a risk. Not many people go to Europe and are able to come back,” Exum said. “It’s hard to get back.

Exum, 28, was considered a raw prospect when he was drafted fifth overall back in 2014. While he showed promise defensively and as a play-maker, he often struggled with scoring efficiency. However, he posted impressive shooting splits in Europe and that has continued in his first season in Dallas — he’s shooting 50% from deep (40-of-80) through 43 games (19.4 MPG), with an excellent 65.6 true shooting percentage.

I think it’s just comfortability, consistency and confidence,” Exum said, per Fischer. “That was the one thing I’ve tried to improve. But I think a lot of times when you’re shooting and you miss one, you kinda get in your head a little bit. I try not to let that happen anymore. At what point do you become a shooter in the sense of how many am I willing to miss before I stop shooting? And I want that number to be high.”

The Mavericks have been much better when Exum is on the court in 2023/24, Fischer writes, particularly when he’s been paired with Luka Doncic. Exum’s $3.15MM salary for next season is non-guaranteed, but it would be surprising if Dallas doesn’t keep him around, considering how well he has fit in as a role player.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Pelicans backup point guard Jose Alvarado makes a big impact on the defensive end despite his diminutive stature, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com (subscriber link). “It starts with his heart,” head coach Willie Green said. “He plays with his heart and soul every game. It’s hard to bottle that up into a stat. Then you add his instincts. He has tremendous on-court defensive instincts. It’s why he was ACC Defensive Player of the Year. With all the talent in that conference, it was him. He only knows how to play one way. That’s the beautiful part about Jose. He brings it 110% every time he steps on the floor.” New Orleans has a 104.9 defensive rating — 3.5 points per 100 possessions stingier than Minnesota’s league-best mark — when Alvarado is on the court, Clark notes.
  • The injury-ravaged Grizzlies set an unfortunate franchise record on Wednesday when 10-day signee Maozinha Pereira made his NBA debut, per Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. The Brazilian forward, who had been playing for Mexico City in the G League, became the 29th player to appear in a game for the Grizzlies this season, breaking a 28-player mark set in two previous seasons.
  • Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link) lists 14 college prospects for Rockets fans to monitor with the NCAA Tournament underway. Some players mentioned include Purdue’s Zach Edey, UConn’s Stephon Castle and Donovan Clingan, and Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham. The Rockets control Brooklyn’s 2024 first-round pick, which is currently projected to be No. 8 overall. The fate of their own first-rounder depends on multiple different factors, but as of right now it would likely be conveyed to Oklahoma City as part of a previous trade.

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Mamukelashvili, Pelicans, Mavs

Gregg Popovich is the only active NBA head coach who also holds the title of president of basketball operations. But when he was asked on Tuesday about the Spurs‘ offseason plans and whether Victor Wembanyama‘s strong rookie season would accelerate the club’s rebuild, Popovich didn’t offer any real hints, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).

“I don’t pretend to know what we’re going to do,” he said. “We have a lot of possibilities ahead of us, whether it’s money in the bank or draft picks or being creative trade-wise. All those things are on the table. But aren’t they for every team? I don’t know why we’re any different. We’re just younger.”

There has been some speculation that Wembanyama’s rapid development might make the Spurs feel more urgency to build a competitive roster around the rising young star, but Popovich made it clear that he and general manager Brian Wright aren’t feeling any pressure from team ownership to make win-now moves.

“If your organization is unable to understand that rebuilding takes time, then you just never get there,” Popovich said. “We’re fortunate because we’ve always had under the leadership of the Holt family the ability to do what we think has been best. So we’re always grateful for that.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Spurs big man Sandro Mamukelashvili got a rare chance to play a rotation role on Tuesday vs. Houston, logging double-digit minutes for just the second time in the past two months. After recording six points, five rebounds, and three assists in 11 minutes, Mamukelashvili earned praise from Popovich for his performance. “Sandro was exceptional,” Popovich said, per Orsborn. “He moved well without the ball. He pursued rebounds. He was really good for us tonight.” The 24-year-old will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer.
  • The Pelicans have quietly emerged as one of the NBA’s best teams since the calendar turned to 2024, according to Danny Chau of The Ringer, who suggests they’ve flown under the radar in part because their stars have been merely very good rather than transcendent. Buoyed by excellent depth, New Orleans has a 20-11 record since January 1 and the team’s +7.9 net rating during that time is comfortably the best mark in the Western Conference.
  • Tim Cato of The Athletic poses four burning questions that he believes could define the rest of the Mavericks‘ season, starting with which of the team’s players can be relied upon in the postseason. As Cato details, Dallas has leaned on reserves like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber a little less as of late, with Dante Exum taking Hardaway’s place as the first player off the bench.

Injury Notes: Ball, Ayton, Exum, Reddish

LaMelo Ball has been sidelined since January 26, having missed the Hornets‘ past 16 games due to what the team initially referred to as right ankle soreness and later diagnosed as ankle tendinopathy. Asked on Thursday where the star guard is in his recovery compared to two weeks ago, head coach Steve Clifford offered few specifics and didn’t give any indication that Ball’s return is imminent.

“It’s hard to tell,” Clifford said, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). “Look, he’s doing the same stuff now that he was doing two weeks ago. I don’t know that stuff. He does what they allow him to do. There’s a lot of factors in that, obviously. Like today, he did a lot of shootaround. He’s been doing that for a while.

“He wants to be back. Again, he doesn’t feel healthy enough and people aren’t comfortable enough that he should play. I don’t really know how to answer that. He does shootaround and things like that. He does his work. I know he wants to get back. There’s just a lot of factors on that one.”

The Hornets are 11 games back of the final play-in spot in the East with just 23 contests remaining, so the team has little to play for down the stretch and can afford to be extremely cautious with Ball, whose five-year, maximum-salary rookie scale extension will go into effect in July.

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

  • Trail Blazers center Deandre Ayton underwent further testing on the right hand injury he sustained on Tuesday, and those tests confirmed the hand is sprained, a source tells Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (Twitter link). Ayton is considered day-to-day, per Highkin. The former No. 1 overall pick is listed as doubtful to play on Friday in Memphis.
  • Mavericks guard Dante Exum – who missed nine games in January due to a right plantar sprain, then 13 more in January and February due to right knee bursitis – played on Wednesday for the first time in over a month (Twitter link). A starter for 14 games in the first half of the season, Exum may not reclaim that role for a Dallas team that is deeper and healthier than it was earlier in 2023/24, but he played nearly 17 minutes off the bench in his first game back, recording four points, five assists, and three rebounds.
  • Cam Reddish returned this week from a right ankle injury that cost him 14 games, but he doesn’t appear to be feeling 100% quite yet. Reddish was on the court for just four minutes in the Lakers‘ win over Washington on Thursday, with head coach Darvin Ham telling reporters after the game that the forward experienced soreness in that ankle, prompting the team to sit him for the rest of the game in favor of Max Christie (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic).

Southwest Notes: Wembanyama, McCollum, Mavs, Exum, Hill

Victor Wembanyama has been posting eye-popping numbers across the board but the Spurs coaching staff knows he’s just scratching the surface of his true potential, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes.

The Spurs wants the star rookie to grow at a comfortable pace.

“We want to continue the process. We consistently remind him to be disciplined, and to do the little things. We want him to be strong when he’s catching the ball. We go over different nuances on the scouting report, things like that,” Spurs assistant coach Mitch Johnson said. “One of the hardest things for us is knowing that he’s capable of doing so much. So, we don’t want to open up the floodgates and put too much on him. We want him to figure things out as he goes. We want to provide the structure where he can continue to grow.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum didn’t play against Chicago this weekend due to a sore left ankle but he went through a full practice on Monday, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. McCollum and Zion Williamson (left foot contusion) are listed as questionable to play against the Knicks on Tuesday, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets.
  • The Mavericks have an open roster spot but that may change in the near future. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News hears that the front office is definitely looking to add a player if it finds the right fit.
  • Mavericks swingman Dante Exum hasn’t played since Jan. 26 due to a knee injury but he’s close to returning. Exum practiced on Monday, though he’s listed as doubtful to suit up against Cleveland on Tuesday, Townsend tweets.
  • Malcolm Hill‘s two-way contract with the Pelicans is a two-year deal, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets. Hill, a third-year swingman, signed his two-way deal on Thursday.