Darius Songaila

COVID-19 Updates: Grant, McConnell, Doumbouya, More

Pistons coach Dwane Casey said forward Jerami Grant has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols and is currently reconditioning, according to Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link).

In 21 games this season (33.2 MPG), Grant is averaging 20.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG and 1.1 BPG. He was cleared for on-court work earlier this month in his recovery from thumb surgery, but then was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols.

At least 10 teams are reportedly interested in dealing for Grant, who’s one of the hottest names on the trade market.

Here are some more COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Pacers guard T.J. McConnell has exited the health and safety protocols and is back with the team, but he’s still unable to play as he rehabs from hand surgery, Scott Agness of FieldhouseFiles tweets. McConnell might miss the rest of the season with the injury.
  • Lakers two-way forward Sekou Doumbouya has cleared the protocols and is back with the team’s G League affiliate in South Bay, per the NBA’s injury report.
  • According to the same report, Raptors two-way rookie David Johnson has exited the protocols and is back with the Raptors 905, Toronto’s G League affiliate. Johnson was the 47th overall pick of the 2021 draft out of Louisville, but has appeared in just two games for the Raptors for a total of two minutes.
  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan informed reporters, including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link) that assistant coaches Maurice Cheeks and John Bryant both tested positive for COVID-19 and have entered the health and safety protocols.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said that assistant coach Chip Engelland has entered the protocols, but assistants Becky Hammon and Darius Songaila have exited. “It’s like a merry-go-round,” Popovich said, as Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News relays (via Twitter). Mike Finger of the Express-News tweets that all of the Spurs’ front-bench assistants and a dozen players have been placed in the protocols this season.

Spurs Name Landry Fields GM Of NBAGL Affiliate

The Spurs have announced a series of changes to their coaching staff and basketball operations staff, issuing a press release to confirm the moves. Most notably, former NBA swingman Landry Fields, who joined the franchise as a scout in 2016, has been promoted to general manager of the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s G League affiliate.

Fields, a member of the NBA’s 2010/11 All-Rookie squad, is still just 31 years old, having played his last game in the NBA as a 26-year-old in 2014/15. The former Knick and Raptor has spent the last three years as a college scout for San Antonio and will now have the opportunity to take on a greater role within the organization. He’ll be joined by Tyler Self, Austin’s new assistant GM.

Dave Telep (director of player personnel), Phil Cullen (director of basketball operations and innovation), and Adam Glessner (senior director of basketball intelligence) are among the Spurs’ other basketball operations executives who have earned new titles.

On the coaching side, Mitch Johnson has been promoted to an assistant coach role, while former NBA big man Darius Songaila has been named a player development assistant. They’ll join Gregg Popovich‘s new-look staff, which no longer features veteran assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina.

Spurs Hire Darius Songaila

According to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News, retired NBA big man Darius Songaila has indicated via social media that he has been hired by the Spurs in a player development role.

The Lithuanian-born Songaila played eight seasons in the NBA from 2003 to 2011 after a stellar career at Wake Forest. He was drafted by the Celtics in 2002 but played a season with CSKA Moscow before coming over to the NBA.

He continued playing professionally overseas from 2011 to 2015 before retiring and becoming an assistant coach for Zalgiris Kaunas in his native country, where he remained before being hired by the Spurs.

Darius Songaila Signs In Lithuania

According to a tweet from Emiliano Carchia of Sportando, Darius Songaila has signed a one-year contract with Lithuania’s Lietuvos Rytas.

Songaila spent eight seasons in the NBA playing for five teams. He most recently appeared two seasons ago, in a 10-game stint with the Suns. He holds career averages of 6.9 PPG and 3.4 RPG on 49.9% shooting from the floor.

Odds & Ends: Spurs, Bulls, Knicks, Louisville

The rumor mill has begun to pick up as the calendar turns to September, with news that the Pacers have reached a deal with Blake Ahearn, while the Nets look at Andray Blatche and the Knicks eye Sean Williams. There's plenty more this afternoon, so let's get right to what's happening around the league:

Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors also contributed to this post.

Darius Songaila Could Return To NBA This Season

Wednesday we heard that eight-year NBA veteran Darius Songaila signed with the Ukrainian team BC Donetsk, but apparently that doesn't mean he won't play in the Association this year. He told Lina Motužytė of the Lithuanian website Irytas.lt (translation via LithuaniaBasketball.com) that his contract includes an out in case an opportunity to play in the NBA arises. It's unclear how much his deal is worth, but Motužytė reports that Songaila passed up more lucrative offers from elsewhere in Europe for the flexbility BC Donetsk offered.

“I don’t want to spend the whole year somewhere in Europe far away from my daughter. It would be much better if I could live in the States, where I could visit her without too much effort,” Songaila said.

The 6'9" forward averaged 7.1 minutes per game over a 10-game stint with the Sixers in 2010/11, his last NBA action. Before that, he averaged double-figure minutes in each of his first seven seasons, and has career numbers of 6.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game with a 13.3 PER. Songaila split last season between Galatasaray Istanbul in Turkey and the Spanish team Blancos de Rueda Valladolid, averaging a combined 8.8 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 16.6 MPG.

International Moves: Songaila, Woods, Armstrong

Many of the overseas leagues begin their seasons about a month earlier than the NBA does, meaning international training camps are getting under way. Some of the player movement involves guys with NBA ties, and we'll round up all today's international news here, with the latest on top:

  • Darius Songaila has signed with BC Donetsk in the Ukraine, according to the team website (translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Songaila, an eight-year NBA veteran, had expressed an interest in returning to the NBA after a strong performance with the Lithuanian Olympic team, but he apparently won't be coming back this year. 
  • Former first-round draft pick Qyntel Woods confirmed via Twitter that he's heading to Lagun Aro of Spain, Carchia reports. Woods was taken 21st overall by the Blazers in 2002, and spent parts of four seasons in the NBA with Portland, the Heat and the Knicks.
  • Hilton Armstrong wants to return to the NBA, but is drawing interest from Panathinaikos of Greece, a source tells Carchia. The 12th overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Hornets, Armstrong hasn't played in the NBA since a 12-game stint with the Hawks in 2010/11.
  • We heard last night that guard Sergio Llull is content to remain with Real Madrid in Spain, and the Spanish website Marca.com reports the team has offered him a six-year contract with an option for a seventh season (translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). It's not clear whether the contract would include a clause that would allow him to sign at any point with the Rockets, who hold his NBA rights.

Odds & Ends: Howard, Williams, Songaila

The latest news and notes from around the NBA on Saturday night:

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel writes that the Magic need to move on from Dwight Howard as soon as possible.
  • John Manasso of Fox Sports South has quotes from the Hawks' press conference introducing Lou Williams and Devin Harris, and an analysis of the guards' ability to fit together.
  • ESPN's Marc Stein tweets that, after a strong performance against the United States, Lithuania's Darius Songaila says he intends to play in the NBA again.

Minor Moves: Songaila, Wright, Graham, Williams

We'll keep tabs on the day's notable international or D-League-related transactions here:

  • Darius Songaila, an eight-year NBA veteran who played 10 games for the 76ers last season, has signed with Spanish team CB Valladolid, tweets Sportando.
  • Former NBA players Antoine Wright and Stephen Graham have joined D-League teams, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Wright will play for Reno while Graham is heading to Fort Wayne.
  • The Mavericks have re-assigned Sean Williams to their D-League affiliate, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas. Williams had been recalled from the Texas Legends earlier this month.