Didi Louzada

Central Notes: White, P. Williams, Mobley, Bucks, More

Bulls guard Coby White, the seventh overall pick in the 2019 draft, was eligible for a rookie scale extension up until Monday’s deadline, but he never really thought he’d sign a new deal this year, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“No, no. I didn’t,” White said on Tuesday. “I wasn’t really focused on that. Just play this year out. I put in a lot of work this summer, so let my work show, and take it from there.”

White also dismissed the idea that entering a contract year and playing for his next contract will provide any extra motivation this season: “Nah, I love playing basketball. That’s all the motivation I need. I love playing, I love hooping. I’ve had motivation my whole life. I ain’t gonna change nothing now.”

In other Bulls news, the team’s 2020 lottery pick, Patrick Williams, will open the season as the starting power forward, head coach Billy Donovan confirmed today (Twitter link via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic). Williams came off the bench in multiple preseason games as Javonte Green shone, but Green will be part of the second unit to open the season.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Cavaliers feel as if Evan Mobley has Hall of Fame potential and believe his development is the key to whether the team can become a legitimate championship contender, Chris Fedor writes in an excellent article for Cleveland.com. “Evan needs to be in a position where people look at us and say, ‘Evan is their best player,'” assistant coach Greg Buckner said. “It can’t be, ‘Donovan (Mitchell) is their best player, Darius (Garland) is their best player or J.A. (Jarrett Allen) is their best player.’ It has to be Evan.” That view is shared by head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, according to assistant coach Luke Walton. “J.B. talks about it all the time with us: We need Evan to be one of the best players in this league, if not the best player in this league, if we’re gonna win championships,” Walton said. “That’s our mission coming from J.B. — help him get to that level.”
  • Hoops Rumors has confirmed that Didi Louzada is eligible to become an affiliate player for the Cleveland Charge after signing a two-way contract (rather than an Exhibit 10 deal) with the Cavaliers on Monday and being waived shortly thereafter. Michael Scotto of HoopsHype first reported the Cavs’ plan to secure Louzada’s G League rights.
  • With Khris Middleton and Joe Ingles already ruled out for the start of the season, the Bucks will also be without Pat Connaughton for a few weeks, prompting Eric Nehm of The Athletic to explore how the team will deal with all its injury absences. As Nehm details, George Hill, Jevon Carter, and Wesley Matthews all figure to play increased roles, with young wings Jordan Nwora and MarJon Beauchamp potentially seeing action too.
  • Pacers forward James Johnson was happy to earn the team’s final roster spot, beating out Langston Galloway and Deividas Sirvydis. However, as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files relays, Johnson knows that he can’t get comfortable yet, since his contract still isn’t fully guaranteed for the season. “It’s an honor for this spot, but at the end of the day I’m still vulnerable,” he said.

Mamadi Diakite Signs Two-Way Contract With Cavs

6:20pm: Diakite has officially signed a two-way deal with the Cavaliers, the team confirmed (via Twitter).

5:16pm: After being cut by the Cavaliers on Saturday, big man Mamadi Diakite has cleared waivers and the team intends to bring him back on a two-way deal, sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). However, Fedor says “there are a few hurdles both sides need to clear” before the contract is signed.

Diakite had a strong preseason performance with the Cavaliers on a non-guaranteed Exhibit 9 contract, which cannot be converted to a two-way deal, so that’s why the team had to waive him before giving him a two-way deal. He averaged 9.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG and 1.3 BPG on .824/.571/.833 shooting in four preseason games (16.8 MPG), per RealGM.

Diakite has appeared in a total of 27 regular season games for the Bucks and Thunder since going undrafted out of Virginia in 2020. He spent most of his rookie season on a two-way deal with Milwaukee before being promoted to the standard roster down the stretch. In 2021/22, he signed three separate 10-day contracts with Oklahoma City.

The 25-year-old has averaged 3.7 PPG and 3.4 RPG in his 27 NBA contests (12.2 MPG). He also put up 18.5 PPG and 10.4 RPG in 12 G League appearances (27.7 MPG) for the Lakeland Magic during the truncated 2020/21 season, earning a place on both the All-NBAGL First Team and the league’s All-Defensive Team.

Relatedly, Fedor and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter links) both say the Cavaliers signed and waived Brazilian wing Didi Louzada in order to secure his G League affiliate rights for the Cleveland Charge, the Cavs’ NBAGL team.

Assuming the Cavs signed Louzada to an Exhibit 10 contract for that purpose, the team will be on the hook for two days’ worth of his prorated minimum salary, since he’ll spend the first two days of the regular season on waivers.

However, NBA.com’s transaction log indicates that Louzada was signed to a two-way deal. If Louzada briefly occupied the Cavs’ open two-way slot, it’s possible that’s one of the “hurdles” mentioned by Fedor to be cleared before Diakite signs. But it’s unclear if signing a player to a two-way contract and then waiving him secures his G League affiliate rights.

We’ll have to wait for a little more clarity on the Louzada situation, but in any case, it appears it will be Diakite who ultimately claims the two-way roster spot that opened up when Cleveland waived RJ Nembhard on Saturday.

Rory Maher contributed to this post.

Trail Blazers Waive Didi Louzada

5:12pm: The Blazers will use the waive-and-stretch provision to get under the tax threshold, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets.

4:09pm: The Trail Blazers have waived wing Didi Louzada, according to a team press release.

Louzada was part of the blockbuster deal with New Orleans that sent CJ McCollum to the Pelicans. At the time, Louzada was recovering from meniscus surgery. He wound up making seven appearances for Portland late last season, averaging 5.0 PPG in 17.4 MPG.

Louzada was entering the second year of a four-year, $7,686,312 contract he signed with New Orleans. The Trail Blazers will take a cap hit of $1,876,222 this season but the last two years of the contract were not guaranteed.

Louzada, a 2019 second-round pick, was one of 15 players with guaranteed contracts on Portland’s roster. The Trail Blazers now have 18 players and can add two more before training camp.

The Blazers could elect to use the stretch provision, Bobby Marks of ESPN notes in a tweet. August 31 is the last day to use the waive-and-stretch provision and Louzada would count as $268,032 annually (over seven seasons) if the Blazers go that route. That would put Portland under the luxury tax threshold.

Didi Louzada May Make Blazers Debut This Week

Trail Blazers wing Didi Louzada has been listed as probable to debut for Portland on Wednesday when his new team faces his former team, the Pelicans, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (via Twitter).

Yesterday, Portland revealed that big man Jusuf Nurkic and guards Eric Bledsoe and Anfernee Simons would join star point guard Damian Lillard on the shelf for the rest of the 2021/22 NBA season as the team looks towards the future.

Since being included in the blockbuster trade that sent shooting guard CJ McCollum to the Pelicans, Louzada has been recovering from a meniscus surgery he underwent while still with New Orleans.

The second-year wing has appeared in just two games during the 2021/22 season. He could get some extended time for a tanking 27-48 Trail Blazers club hopeful to avoid a play-in tournament appearance.

The 23-year-old has had a checkered NBA run thus far. Louzada was selected with the No. 35 pick in the 2019 draft by the Hawks, before having his draft rights traded to the Pelicans. He played with the Sydney Kings of Australia’s NBL from 2019-21, then signed a contract with the Pelicans late into the 2020/21 NBA season, and appeared in three contests for New Orleans that year.

The NBA dealt Louzada a 25-game suspension due to a drug policy violation at the start of the 2021/22 season. He tore his medial meniscus in late January while playing a game for the team’s G League affiliate, the Birmingham Squadron. The 6’5″ guard would eventually have a surgical procedure to treat the ailment in February.

Blazers Rule Out Nurkic, Simons, Bledsoe For Season

The Trail Blazers confirmed today in a press release that center Jusuf Nurkic and guards Anfernee Simons and Eric Bledsoe won’t return for the team this season.

According to today’s announcement, Nurkic (left foot plantar fasciitis) and Simons (patellar tendinopathy in his left knee) have responded well to treatment and rehabilitation, with Nurkic’s rehab program reducing his symptoms and increasing the “overall function” of his left foot and ankle.

Nurkic will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Simons will be a restricted free agent. However, both players – especially Simons – are considered good bets to re-sign with Portland.

Bledsoe, who hasn’t played in a game for the Blazers since being acquired from the Clippers prior to February’s trade deadline, received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection last Wednesday to address the tendinopathy in his left Achilles tendon, per the team. Bledsoe technically has one more year left on his contract, but only $3.9MM of his $19.4MM salary for 2022/23 is guaranteed, so he appears likely to be waived in the offseason.

The Blazers issued injury updates on two more players, announcing that swingman Josh Hart, who has missed the club’s last four games due to patellar tendinopathy in his left knee, will be reevaluated in a week. There will only be one week left in the season at that point, so it won’t be a major surprise if Hart doesn’t play again in 2021/22.

Meanwhile, Didi Louzada – acquired from New Orleans last month in the CJ McCollum trade – is in the final stages of his return-to-play protocol after undergoing surgery on a torn mensicus on February 4. The Blazers expect him to play before the end of the season.

Damian Lillard (abdominal surgery), Nassir Little (shoulder surgery), and Joe Ingles (ACL surgery) have previously been ruled out for the season by the Blazers, while Trendon Watford (hyperextended left knee and bone bruise) is also questionable to return within the next two weeks.

Blazers Trade CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. To Pelicans

8:00pm: The trade is now official, according to press releases from the Pelicans and Trail Blazers. Portland waived Cody Zeller to create room on their 15-man roster for the incoming players.

The full deal looks like this:

  • Pelicans acquire McCollum, Nance, and Snell.
  • Trail Blazers acquire Hart, Satoransky, Alexander-Walker, Louzada, the Pelicans’ protected 2022 first-round pick, the Pelicans’ 2027 second-round pick, and either the Pelicans’ or Blazers’ 2026 second-round pick (whichever is more favorable; New Orleans had previously acquired Portland’s 2026 second-rounder).

“On behalf of the Trail Blazers organization, I want to thank CJ McCollum for the integral role he has played in the success of the franchise over the last nine seasons and for his countless acts of service to the Portland community,” Blazers GM Joe Cronin said in a statement. “CJ has cemented himself in Trail Blazers history with his elite skill level and memorable moments on the court as well as with the work ethic, professionalism and generosity he displays behind the scenes.”

10:10am: The Pelicans and Blazers have reached an agreement, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter links), who reports that Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell are also headed to New Orleans in the deal, with Didi Louzada going to Portland.

The Blazers will receive a future first-round pick and two future second-rounder, Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter). As Woj explains (via Twitter), the Blazers will get New Orleans’ 2022 first-round selection if it lands between No. 5 and No. 14. Otherwise, the Blazers will receive a future first-rounder. That Pelicans pick currently projects to be No. 9.

The inclusion of Nance, who has been out for the last month with a knee injury, will give the Pelicans another versatile two-way contributor in the frontcourt while clearing even more multiyear money off the Blazers’ books. The Pels will presumably acquire Nance and his $10.7MM cap hit using a portion of their $17MM trade exception. Nance is under contract for $9.7MM in 2022/23.

Because the Blazers have a full roster, they’ll have to trade or waive a player to accommodate the three-for-four swap.

9:24am: The Pelicans and Trail Blazers are finalizing a deal that will send CJ McCollum to New Orleans, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The package for McCollum will include Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and draft compensation, per Charania (Twitter link).

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who first reported that the two sides were engaged in serious talks, an agreement technically hasn’t been finalized yet and there’s still work to be done, but Woj says there’s optimism a deal will be completed (Twitter link).

McCollum, 30, has been a Blazer since entering the NBA in 2013, making up one-half of the team’s star backcourt alongside Damian Lillard. Portland made the postseason in each of McCollum’s first eight NBA seasons and got as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2019, but the team has taken a step back this year and is clearly in retooling mode, having sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers last Friday.

Trading McCollum will create more future financial flexibility for the Blazers, who are reportedly interested in re-signing free-agents-to-be Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic this offseason. Based on the team’s moves so far, it appears Portland views those players, along with Lillard and Nassir Little, as keepers going forward, though there’s still time for things to change in the 48+ hours before Thursday’s trade deadline.

While we’ll have to wait to see what sort of draft compensation is headed from New Orleans to Portland in the trade, the Blazers did well to acquire a solid two-way player like Hart, and they’ll get a chance to take a flier on Alexander-Walker, who has struggled in 2021/22 after a promising sophomore performance last season.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, are on the verge of adding a talented shot creator to their backcourt as they continue their push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. New Orleans currently leads Portland by a half-game for the No. 10 seed in the West.

McCollum has been hampered this season by health issues, including a collapsed lung, and his numbers have dipped a little as a result, but he’s still averaging 20.5 PPG and 4.5 APG on .436/.384/.706 shooting in 36 games (35.2 MPG).

McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Jonas Valanciunas will be the go-to offensive options in New Orleans for the time being. The Pelicans are also hoping to get Zion Williamson back in their lineup at some point in the second half, though it’s been a while since we’ve gotten an update on Williamson’s recovery from foot surgery.

McCollum is owed $30.9MM this season, $33.3MM in 2022/23, and $35.8MM in ’23/24 before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2024. Hart’s contract is more team-friendly — after earning $12MM this season, he has a $13MM non-guaranteed salary next season, with a $13MM player option (also non-guaranteed) for ’23/24.

Satoransky has an expiring $10MM contract, while Alexander-Walker is earning $3.3MM this season. Alexander-Walker is under contract for $5MM in 2022/23 and will be eligible this offseason for a rookie scale extension. He’ll be a restricted free agent in 2023 if he doesn’t sign a new deal later this year.

The Hawks, Knicks, and Pacers were among the other teams said to have trade interest in McCollum.

Pelicans Notes: McCollum, Hayes, Temple

The Pelicans, who rank 28th in halfcourt scoring efficiency this season, addressed one of their biggest weaknesses when they agreed to acquire CJ McCollum from Portland, says Christian Clark of NOLA.com. McCollum’s new backcourt partner Devonte’ Graham is excited about the move.

“He’s got everything in his bag,” Graham said of McCollum, per Clark. “Obviously, he’s a hell of a player. He’s going to bring extremely good offense and take a lot of pressure off B (Brandon Ingram) in those 1-on-1 situations.”

As Clark notes, the deal hasn’t yet been officially announced, so it’s possible it will be expanded to include a third team before it’s formally finalized. However, if that happens, it seems more likely to affect the Blazers than the Pelicans, since Portland needs to trade or waive a player to complete the move.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Jaxson Hayes‘ recent success in a power forward role boosted his value among Pelicans staffers, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who suggests that’s one reason New Orleans put Nickeil Alexander-Walker and not Hayes into the deal for McCollum.
  • Pelicans wing Garrett Temple exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will be available on Tuesday night vs. Houston, according to the team (Twitter link). Didi Louzada, who is headed from New Orleans to Portland in the McCollum trade, also cleared the protocols this week. There are now just two NBA players still in the protocols, including Pelicans center Willy Hernangomez.
  • Zach Harper of The Athletic likes the McCollum trade more for the Pelicans than the Trail Blazers, giving New Orleans a grade of A-minus for the deal. However, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton isn’t as bullish on the trade from the Pelicans’ perspective, writing that the move reflects “tremendous internal pressure” to win now. Pelton gave the Pels a grade of C-minus.

Pelicans’ Didi Louzada Undergoes Knee Surgery, Out 6-8 Weeks

FEBRUARY 4: Louzada announced today (via Twitter) he has undergone surgery on the torn medial meniscus in his left knee and that he’ll go through a process of “rest and rehab” (hat tip to Andrew Lopez of ESPN).

Louzada’s expected recovery timetable is six-to-eight weeks, the Pelicans announced.

JANUARY 23: Pelicans wing Didi Louzada has suffered a torn medial meniscus in his left knee and is out indefinitely, the team announced. Louzada suffered the injury during the second quarter of a game between the Pelicans’ G League affiliate, the Birmingham Squadron, and the South Bay Lakers on Friday. A surgery date has yet to be determined.

Louzada was suspended for 25 games without pay in November for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. He returned from the suspension less than two weeks ago, but hasn’t suited up for a game with New Orleans since the incident.

A 22-year-old from Brazil, Louzada was the 35th overall pick in the 2019 draft. After spending his first two seasons in Australia, he signed with New Orleans in late April 2021. The Pelicans turned down their team option on him last summer in order to sign him to a new four-year contract that includes two fully guaranteed seasons.

Louzada has logged just seven minutes in two games this season after appearing in three contests as an NBA rookie last spring.

He appeared in four games with Birmingham this season, averaging 11.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.3 minutes per contest.

Pelicans Sign Wenyen Gabriel Via Hardship Exception

The Pelicans have signed forward Wenyen Gabriel to a 10-day contract via the hardship exception, according to a team press release.

This is fourth time Gabriel has signed a 10-day under the hardship provision this season after being waived by the Bucks during training camp. He had a pair of those contracts with the Clippers and an earlier one with the Nets. He has appeared in seven NBA games this season, averaging 2.0 PPG and 2.1 RPG in 6.7 MPG. Gabriel played 21 games for the Pelicans last season.

New Orleans rookie Trey Murphy has been in the league’s health and safely protocols since Monday and the team also listed Didi Louzada in the protocols prior to Friday’s game.

Gabriel has also worn a Trail Blazers and Kings uniform after going undrafted in 2018. He’s appeared in 58 career games, averaging 2.6 PPG and 2.1 RPG in 9.0 MPG.

Most recently, Gabriel has appeared in 14 games (12 starts) for the Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s NBA G League affiliate, averaging 14.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG and  2.1 BPG in 25.9 MPG.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Louzada, Rockets, Porzingis

Pelicans 2019 draft selections Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes have disappointed during their NBA tenures thus far, opines Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Clark argues that reduced roles for Alexander-Walker and Hayes have been a factor in the team’s 11-10 record across its last 21 contests. Alexander-Walker is no longer starting for New Orleans, and Hayes is effectively out of the team’s rotation.

Clark writes that 6’6″ shooting guard Alexander-Walker, drafted with the No. 17 pick out of Virginia Tech, struggles to make the proper choices with the ball, while consistent motivation appears to be an issue for 6’11” center Hayes, the eighth pick out of Texas. The Pelicans could theoretically offer both players contract extensions during the summer of 2022, but that appears unlikely given their play.

There’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans small forward Didi Louzada has officially been available to play since earlier this week for New Orleans after returning from a 25-game suspension, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). Louzada was suspended in November for violating the NBA anti-drug policy. Louzada has yet to play since being reactivated.
  • The rebuilding Rockets offer plenty of promise, but have yet to string together much consistency on the court and have a 12-32 record so far. Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic take stock of the team’s player development this season. Young point guard Kevin Porter Jr. has struggled to mesh with rookie shooting guard Jalen Green, as both Vecenie considers both to be score-first players. The floor spacing provided by shooting guards Garrison Mathews and Armoni Brooks helped the team during an injury absence for Green.
  • The solid return of Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis from a stint in the COVID-19 protocols should encourage Dallas fans, writes Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. The big man notched 19 points and seven boards during a 108-92 Dallas victory over the Magic on Saturday night. “I didn’t want to force anything too much,” Porzingis said of his return to game action. “First game back, lungs are going to feel it a little bit.”