DeAndre Jordan

Northwest Notes: Murray, Jordan, Thunder, Finch

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray struggled mightily through three quarters on Monday, going just 3-of-16 from the floor as the defending champions trailed the Lakers by as many as 20 points. As Tony Jones of The Athletic writes, when Murray told his teammates he wanted to affect the game in other ways by becoming more of a play-maker, they emphatically disagreed and told him to stay aggressive.

The thing about Jamal is that we know what he’s capable of,” reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic said. “We obviously would like him to make every shot, but we know that everyone goes through a bad stretch. We know what he’s capable of, and we want him to shoot the ball because we know he can make all kinds of shots.”

Murray responded by catching fire in the fourth quarter, going 6-of-8 from the field and scoring 14 of his 20 points, Jones notes, including a game-winning buzzer-beater over Anthony Davis (YouTube link).

There really is a playoff Jamal,” head coach Michael Malone said. “All of those commercials you see, the persona is real. He will never shy away from the moment, and all he needs is to see one go in.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • He only appeared in 36 regular season games this season for the Nuggets, but DeAndre Jordan played nine minutes off the bench in Game 1 when other players were in foul trouble, notes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “I told D.J. as we approach these playoffs, last year every time we called upon him — foul trouble, whatever’s going on in the game — he delivered,” Malone said as part of a larger quote. “He stays ready. … And I felt that he had a real positive impact (in Game 1). His size, his presence.”
  • Tyler Parker of The Ringer compares and contrasts the current Thunder squad to the era featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Oklahoma City finished with the West’s No. 1 seed in 2023/24 and is currently up 1-0 in its first-round series with New Orleans after a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander game-winner in Game 1.
  • Coach of the Year finalist Chris Finch is “clearly the right coach” for the Timberwolves, argues Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune. As Reusse writes, many media members picked the Suns to defeat the Wolves in their first-round matchup after Phoenix went 3-0 against Minnesota during the regular season. But Finch has pushed all the right buttons thus far as the Wolves hold a 2-0 lead behind a suffocating defense and perhaps the best game of Jaden McDaniels‘ career.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Nnaji, Playoff Rotation, Spurs

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray missed his seventh consecutive game in Thursday’s two-point loss to the Clippers, but head coach Michael Malone said his team’s second-best player is “getting closer and closer,” to a return, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link).

Murray is officially questionable for Saturday’s contest vs. Atlanta due to right knee inflammation, tweets Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette.

Here are a few more notes on the defending champs:

  • While he didn’t get any playing time, big man Zeke Nnaji was active on Thursday for the first time since March 17. He has been dealing with a right adductor injury the past few weeks. The 23-year-old isn’t on the injury report ahead of Saturday’s game.
  • In addition to Christian Braun and Reggie Jackson, Malone mentioned Peyton Watson and Nnaji as players who might crack the playoff rotation, though he suggested others could get a look depending on the matchup, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “A lot of it’s gonna come down to who we’re playing, to be honest,” Malone said. “If we’re playing a team that’s really big, I’ll probably have to play a bigger lineup and some other guys. Obviously, trying to get Zeke Nnaji back healthy. He’s been out for a little while now. We know that we can go with Aaron (Gordon) as our backup five. … But there’s a lot of guys that we can throw into games. And obviously, Christian, Reggie, Peyton, Zeke, D.J. (DeAndre Jordan) — whoever the game calls upon, those guys will all be ready. I have no doubt about that.”
  • It’s a tall order, to be sure, but general manager Calvin Booth says the Nuggets hope to emulate the Spurs‘ dynasty in the years to come, per Troy Renck of The Denver Post. Led by Tim Duncan, San Antonio won four championships from 1999-2007, and a fifth title in 2014. “It is of utmost importance and something I believe in a lot. As a front office, we understand the importance of studying historical patterns and what things have worked,” Booth explained. “The Spurs are the standard.”

And-Ones: Embiid, NBA Cup, Taxpayers, Sochan, Rising Stars, More

Team USA head coach Steve Kerr, who texted Sixers center Joel Embiid this week to say hello and wish him well in his recovery from knee surgery, remains hopeful that the reigning MVP will be able to play in this summer’s Olympics, writes Dan Gelston of The Associated Press.

“Our fingers are crossed he’ll be healthy this summer and able to play,” Kerr said. “He’s an amazing player and we’re really excited to have him be part of the program.”

While the Sixers are hopeful that Embiid will be able to return before the end of the season and compete in the playoffs, it wouldn’t be surprising if the big man decided to forgo the Olympics and take the summer to rest and recuperate, given the nature of his injury. There’s still plenty of time to figure out his plan though, since the Paris games are still over five months away.

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

  • The NBA’s in-season tournament will have a new name going forward, according to the league, which announced on Thursday in a press release that the event will be known as the NBA Cup and will be sponsored by the airline Emirates. NBA referees will also begin wearing Emirates patches on their uniforms later this month, per the announcement.
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link) breaks down what the luxury tax figures for 2023/24 look like after the trade deadline, noting that nine of the 10 teams projected to be taxpayers a month ago either shed salary or stood pat. The Sixers and Pelicans ducked out of the tax, while the Suns were the only one of those 10 teams to increase their payroll. The 22 non-taxpayers currently project to receive $11.5MM apiece this offseason, Marks adds.
  • Spurs sophomore Jeremy Sochan has replaced injured Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe in next weekend’s Rising Stars game, the NBA announced in a press release. The league also shared (via Twitter) the results of the Rising Stars draft, with coaches Jalen Rose, Pau Gasol, and Tamika Catchings building seven-man rosters from a 21-player pool.
  • Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan would be open to the possibility of playing in Europe later in his career, he said during an interview with Toni Canyameras from Mundo Deportivo (hat tip to BasketNews). Jordan specifically named Barcelona as a team that would pique his interest, since he loves Spain.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic shares some observations on the trade deadline, noting that many of the would-be buyers didn’t have the assets necessary to take a big swing this week.

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Holmgren, Nnaji, Scoot, Grant

The significance of the Thunder‘s victory in Denver on Saturday night can’t be ignored, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic, who points out that it’s extremely rare for any team to steal a win at Ball Arena. The Nuggets lost just seven times in Denver during the 2022/23 regular season and had won 10 of 11 home games so far this season before Saturday’s defeat.

“It showed that we can play with anybody when we are playing well,” Thunder forward Jalen Williams said of the thrilling 118-117 win. “Obviously, we have a ton of respect for Denver. In regards to that, they did a lot to win this game as well. But we feel that we can compete with anybody, and I think this solidifies those thoughts that we have.

“Honestly, I don’t think that we’ve ever not thought that way. But this just gives us more and more confidence as we head into the rest of the season. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us and a long way to go. But we know that we can play with anyone when we are on our game.”

With the victory, the Thunder moved ahead of the Nuggets in the standings and once again hold the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. As Jones writes, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also continued to strengthen his Most Valuable Player case on Saturday, outplaying two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and hitting the game-winning shot in the final second of the fourth quarter.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Jokic had high praise for Thunder big man Chet Holmgren, who had an incredible nine blocked shots on Saturday. As Bennett Durando of The Denver Post relays, the Nuggets’ star center thinks Holmgren is capable of being much more than just a Rookie of the Year winner. “I think that’s not supposed to be his goal,” Jokic said. “I think he can be much better than that.”
  • Zeke Nnaji has been a DNP-CD in six of the Nuggets‘ past eight games, as head coach Michael Malone has leaned on DeAndre Jordan as the team’s primary backup center. However, Malone is unwilling to classify Nnaji as “out of the rotation,” referring to him as “an effective player for us,” tweets Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. Nnaji signed a four-year, $32MM rookie scale extension prior to the season; it will begin in ’24/25.
  • Trail Blazers rookie Scoot Henderson has been showing his explosiveness more often as of late, which the team views as another sign that he’s getting more comfortable after a slow start to his NBA career, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. “I think Scoot is getting better every day, to be honest with you,” Billups said of the No. 3 overall pick, who has averaged 18.3 points on .468/.500/1.000 shooting in his past three games. “You can actually see the progress in the games. In the early part of the season he really struggled, and I thought most of his struggles came from him just wanting so badly to play well. So, he could never slow down.”
  • Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant returned to action on Saturday after spending four games in the concussion protocol and didn’t miss a beat, scoring 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting in 38 minutes of action. Grant is one of several players around the NBA who won’t become trade-eligible until January 15.

Clippers Notes: Westbrook, Harden, Jackson, Jordan

Clippers guard Russell Westbrook got into a heated exchange with a fan at Arena near the end of the Clippers’ 113-104 loss to Denver on Monday night, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. Westbrook and the fan were jawing back and forth near midcourt while the Clippers inbounded the ball and brought it up the floor (Twitter video link via Ben Golliver).

“I mean, it’s unfortunate,” Westbrook said. “Fans think they can say whatever they want. I’m not going to say [what was said] now because it’s not appropriate, but I’m just protecting myself. It’s just unfortunate fans think they can get away with saying anything and, personally, I won’t allow it. I’ve [taken] a lot of people saying anything and getting away with it, but I won’t stand for it.”

As Youngmisuk notes, Westbrook has had verbal confrontations with fans in Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Utah in recent years. The former MVP, who has spoken in the past about not wanting his name or family to be disrespected, reiterated that point following Monday’s incident.

“Now having kids and understanding how important it is, not just myself but my last name,” he said. “Understanding what Westbrook means, understanding how important that is to my dad, my grandfather, my family. It’s very important. It’s something I stand on, and the respect is a big thing that I value.

“So the moment that line gets crossed, I won’t allow [it] no more. I’ve stood for it for years, and now my son is old enough to know what’s going on, asking me, ‘Hey Dad, what does that mean? What’s that?’ Now I got to stand on it, and regardless of where I’m at, what’s going on, I’m always standing on that.”

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • Monday’s loss was the fourth straight game in which James Harden attempted eight or fewer shots. As Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times observes, the star guard passed on multiple catch-and-shoot opportunities, and fans could be heard in the game’s final minutes imploring him to shoot. “Habit is a thing and I think he’s just, his rhythm has been so accustomed to off the bounce and creating space and catching rhythm off his dribble that it is different now in catch-and-shoot situations,” teammate Paul George said. “I just think the more reps he get at it, the more he sees in-game that those catch-and-shoots are available, I think more in rhythm he’ll be. But it’s an adjustment.”
  • Former Clippers Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan led the way on Monday in a game the Nuggets won without Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, or Aaron Gordon. Jackson, who had 35 points and 13 assists on 15-of-19 shooting, said the win over his old team was “definitely one of the sweeter ones,” per Law Murray of The Athletic. Head coach Michael Malone, meanwhile, wants Jackson to treat every game as if he’s playing the Clippers. “He loves playing against the Clippers, that’s two games where he’s played really well against this team,” Malone said. “I challenged him for the rest of the year, just in his mind, no matter who we’re playing: just tell himself he’s playing the Clippers again, because he’s great against that team.”
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, published prior to Monday’s loss, Murray explores what the Clippers learned from Harden’s first 10 games with the team.
  • Helene Elliott of The Los Angeles Times argues that Monday’s loss was the Clippers’ worst of the season and that it showed the Harden experience remains very much a work in progress.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Hardy, Holiday, Gobert

Last season changed dramatically for Russell Westbrook when he landed with the Clippers, and he’s grateful to the Jazz for the role they played in making it happen, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Westbrook spent 12 days on Utah’s roster in February after a trade that ended his embattled relationship with the Lakers. The veteran guard agreed to a buyout when the opportunity with the Clippers arose, but he said he was willing to stay with the Jazz and help the team in any way he could.

“I would have come in and did whatever they asked me to do,” Westbrook said. “I told them I could be a mentor. Whatever I needed to do to help, I would have done it. Like always I do whatever is best for the team. If that’s to come and sit my ass there in street clothes and make sure I help the young guys, I’ll do that.”

Westbrook never left Los Angeles after the trade, Greif adds, but he talked to members of Utah’s coaching staff and front office, along with former teammates, as he considered the possibility of playing for the Jazz. Greif points out that Westbrook wanted to be with a contender, and Utah couldn’t offer that or a guaranteed spot in the rotation. However, team officials told Westbrook they would welcome him if he decided to finish the season there.

“I just wanted to make sure that he knew how much I respect him as a player,” head coach Will Hardy said. “And that whatever the decision ends up being, that he’s always welcome here with me. I’ve had a lot of respect for him for a long time. I’ve been on staffs in San Antonio in particular where we played Oklahoma City in the playoffs a lot, so I’ve seen Russell up close and personal. You know, his reputation speaks for itself.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Hardy abandoned his four-guard experiment after just one game, observes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. With an abundance of guards worthy of playing time, Hardy used four of them together with one big man at times on opening night, but he never had more than three guards on the court at one time on Friday as the Jazz defeated the Clippers. “The speed of the smaller lineup feels good and looks good in practice, because there’s times where you’re like, ‘Man, they’re really moving and they’re pressuring the ball!’ And then you get in a game and it’s not quite the same,” Hardy said. “You find out, ‘Man, we didn’t rebound well, and offensively it was just OK.’”
  • There was speculation that Justin Holiday might see rotation minutes with the Nuggets, but it doesn’t appear like it’s going to happen right away, tweets Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “It’s great to have guys like Justin, guys like DeAndre (Jordan), who understand that right now we’re gonna play our young guys,” coach Michael Malone said. “And they’re gonna stay ready and be pros while awaiting their opportunity.”
  • Rudy Gobert claims to be in the best shape of his career as he enters his second season with the Timberwolves, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Nuggets Notes: Watson, Porter Jr., Murray, Braun, Jordan, Nnaji

Nuggets forward Peyton Watson isn’t lacking for confidence. He feels he’ll have a breakout season, he told Harrison Wind of Watson is looking to be a rotation player and earn an invite to the Rising Stars game on All-Star weekend.

“I feel like I’m one of the best second-year guys in the league,” he said.

Watson keeps close tabs on Nikola Jokic and wants to emulate the superstar center’s approach.

“I literally watch everything he does,” Watson said. “He never takes any shortcuts. He does everything the right way every day. He doesn’t cut any corners. I really watch all those things because I want to be on that level one day. I feel like I can be an All-NBA player one day. And I take it very seriously. So I watch everything he does. I admire his game and I admire what he does to have his game on that level.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Michael Porter Jr. is unlikely to play in Denver’s preseason opener on Tuesday due to an ankle injury. Jamal Murray and Christian Braun were both limited at practice on Monday, coach Michael Malone told Wind and other media members (Twitter links). Murray has a mild hamstring issue while Braun has a calf injury.
  • Jokic’s backup could vary depending upon the opponent and situation, according to Bennett Durando of the Denver Post. DeAndre Jordan and Zeke Nnaji are the two candidates. “I think sometimes it will be dependent on who we’re playing,” Malone said. “There are a few teams in the Western Conference that play really big, and those could be great games for D.J. We love the defensive versatility that Zeke brings in terms of being able to switch one through five. So having the balance of using either one of those guys depending on who you’re playing I think is helpful for us.”
  • Jordan, who re-signed with the Nuggets on a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal, is unconcerned about his playing time, Durando adds. “I want to win basketball games. I want to win another championship,” he said. “I want to win with this group of guys. And we all have different pieces that make this machine work. Whoever’s out there, they give us the best chance to win. … I think this group last year was big on being selfless. And if it’s Zeke’s night, I’m going to be the first one that’s cheering for him because I want him to be successful.”

Contract Details: Noel, Dowtin, White, Jordan, Matthews, More

The one-year, minimum-salary contract that Nerlens Noel signed with the Kings is currently only partially guaranteed for $300K, Hoops Rumors has learned. Noel would see his partial guarantee increase to $600K if he hasn’t been waived by the first game of the regular season this fall. In order to receive his full salary, he’d need to remain under contract through at least January 7.

Here are more details on a few recently signed NBA contracts:

  • Jeff Dowtin‘s one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Raptors is fully non-guaranteed for the time being. However, the guard would receive a partial guarantee worth $900K if he’s not waived on or before October 21, reports Blake Murphy of (Twitter link).
  • The Thunder signed Jack White to a two-year, minimum-salary contract that includes a $600K partial guarantee in year one and a team option for 2024/25, Hoops Rumors has learned.
  • The one-year, minimum-salary deals signed by DeAndre Jordan (Nuggets) and Wesley Matthews (Hawks) are fully guaranteed, Hoops Rumors has learned.
  • The two-way contracts signed by Omari Moore (Bucks) and Leaky Black (Hornets) cover two years rather than just one, Hoops Rumors has learned.
  • Sixers center Montrezl Harrell and Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson waived their right to veto trades during their 2023/24 season, Hoops Rumors has learned. As we detailed earlier today, players who re-sign with their previous teams on one-year deals (or two-year deals with a second-year option) get trade veto rights by default, but can choose to give up those rights.

Nuggets Re-Sign Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Jordan

JULY 21: Jordan’s contract is also official, the Nuggets announced in a press release.

JULY 16: The Nuggets have officially re-signed Jackson to a multi-year contract, according to a team press release.

JUNE 30: The defending champion Nuggets are bringing back two of their free agent veterans.

Point guard Reggie Jackson is staying in Denver on a two-year, $10.25MM deal, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Jackson’s new contract will feature a second-year player option, Charania adds.

Center DeAndre Jordan has also reached an agreement to remain with the Nuggets, Chris Haynes of TNT and the Bleacher Report tweets.

Jackson, 33, has been in the league since 2011. He appeared in 16 regular-season games and six postseason contests for Denver after signing with the franchise as a free agent. He was bought out and waived by the Hornets after he was dealt by the Clippers at the trade deadline.

Jackson started 38 of 52 games for the Clippers prior to the trade. Denver has younger backcourt options off the bench behind Jamal Murray and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, most notably Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, but Jackson won’t simply be an insurance policy.

The Nuggets, who lost Bruce Brown to the Pacers in free agency, are hopeful that Jackson can be more effective with a full offseason and training camp to adjust to their system and personnel, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. His salary could also come handy in a potential trade down the road, Wind adds.

Jordan didn’t play much for the Nuggets — 39 regular-season appearances and four playoff cameos — but he’s a highly-respected locker room and bench voice. He averaged 5.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in those regular-season games. He’ll be the third — or even fourth — option behind franchise player Nikola Jokic.

Nuggets Notes: Brown, Jordan, Green, Jackson, Rookies, Braun

After winning a title during his first year as the Nuggets‘ head of basketball operations, Calvin Booth has no appetite for major roster changes heading into his second season. He tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required) that he’d like the team’s 2023/24 roster to look a lot like the ’22/23 group.

“Hopefully we get the whole crew back,” Booth said, in reference to a group of free agents that includes Jeff Green, Ish Smith, DeAndre Jordan, Reggie Jackson, Thomas Bryant, and – of course – Bruce Brown. The Nuggets can only offer Brown a limited raise, but hope to re-sign him.

“Obviously Bruce is the biggest fish,” Booth said. “He has a million options. Waiting eagerly to see what’s going to happen when the moratorium ends. Hopefully he’s back in a Nuggets jersey.”

Asked specifically about veteran leaders Green and Jordan, Booth expressed more confidence in the club’s odds of bringing back Jordan, noting that Green will have “options” and adding that he’ll have to check in with the forward’s agent.

Interestingly, while Jackson wasn’t a key contributor down the stretch for the Nuggets and didn’t have a rotation role in the playoffs, a league source tells Singer that the team would like to re-sign the veteran point guard.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Denver’s roster will look at least a little different in ’23/24 due to an influx of rookies — the club drafted Julian Strawther (No. 29), Jalen Pickett (No. 32), and Hunter Tyson (No. 37) on Thursday. Tony Jones of The Athletic explores what the Nuggets are getting in those newcomers and considers how the team is attempting its own version of a “two-timeline” plan that didn’t work out for the conference-rival Warriors.
  • Explaining why the Nuggets targeted Strawther at No. 29, Booth told reporters this week that he liked the fact that the former Gonzaga sharpshooter has played in “high-pressure games” and believes he can improve Denver’s shooting off the bench (subscriber-only story via Singer). However, if the Nuggets’ roster remains relatively healthy, Booth expects Strawther to spend some time playing in the G League as a rookie.
  • Despite playing rotation minutes during the Nuggets’ championship run this spring, second-year wing Christian Braun may suit up for Denver in the Las Vegas Summer League, tweets Singer. Some team executives would like to see him seek out his shot and be aggressive in a way he wasn’t asked to during his rookie season, Singer explains.