E.J. Liddell

Southwest Notes: Wembanyama, Holmgren, Liddell, Borrego, Irving

The Spurs and Thunder will match up in Oklahoma City on Monday night. It will mark the first meeting between this year’s top pick, Victor Wembanyama, and 2022’s No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News notes. It could be the beginning of a rivalry between two highly-touted bigs.

Both players are looking forward to getting it started.

“There’s an eagerness and an excitement for sure,” Holmgren said.

“Chet Holmgren, he’s a really good player,” Wembanyama said. “He is part of the great players of this generation, I would say.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • E.J. Liddell had his rookie season delayed by a devastating right knee injury in July 2022. The Pelicans forward, who was on a two-way deal last season, received a three-year contract after a strong Summer League showing this July. He’s eager to show what he can do in regular season action. “I’m like a freshman again,” Liddell told Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune. “It’s my rookie year. Having fun right now. Wherever that leads me, it leads me.”
  • Former Hornets coach James Borrego is in charge of the Pelicans‘ offense this season. Head coach Willie Green, one of Borrego’s former players in Orlando, anticipates Borrego’s schemes will upgrade the attack, Clark writes in a separate story. “I don’t think it’s going to be a big overhaul,” Green said. “It’s just a matter of tweaks and adjustments that we feel can make us a better team. We want to play fast offensively. It’s no secret. I said it last year. We want to put teams on their heels. We want to get out and run.”
  • Kyrie Irving is dealing with left groin soreness and he’ll sit out the Mavericks’ exhibition game against Real Madrid in Spain on Tuesday, Marc Stein of The Stein Line tweets.

Southwest Notes: Wembanyama, Kyrie, Bane, Rockets, Liddell

Victor Wembanyama‘s Summer League experience is over after just two games, the Spurs confirmed on Monday (story via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press). Wembanyama had an up-and-down debut on Friday, making just 2-of-13 shots from the floor, but showed on Sunday why he’s considered the best prospect to enter the NBA in years, racking up 27 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks in 27 minutes of action vs. Portland.

As Reynolds writes, shutting down Wembanyama at this point will give the Spurs an opportunity to evaluate other young players during the club’s remaining games in Vegas. It will also give the No. 1 overall pick a much-needed break — his season in France didn’t end until June, and he has had a demanding schedule of media obligations since arriving stateside last month.

“In the past month, I think basketball wasn’t even 50% of my schedule,” Wembanyama said on Sunday. “I can’t stand it. I know it’s a special moment in my life, but I’m glad it’s over. Honestly. I just want to hoop. I just want to work out, lift because this is my life. Obviously, every first pick is going to go through this. And it just makes me better for the future.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kyrie Irving‘s new three-year, $120MM+ contract with the Mavericks features a 15% trade kicker, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). There’s also a 15% trade kicker in Desmond Bane‘s five-year, $197MM+ extension with the Grizzlies, Hoops Rumors has learned.
  • New Houston forward Dillon Brooks sees similarities between his new team and his old one, suggesting that the Rockets are where the Grizzlies were a few years ago, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link). “I feel like it’s almost the exact same team,” Brooks said. “Three, four years ago, we had almost the same type of players. Jalen Green (is) like Ja Morant. Jabari (Smith) is like Jaren (Jackson Jr.). Young guys that can expand their game to be among the best or the best in the league. I feel like those two guys are almost the same type of deal.”
  • After missing his entire rookie season due to an ACL tear, E.J. Liddell was thrilled to get a promotion from his two-way deal to the Pelicans‘ standard roster, as he tells William Guillory of The Athletic. “They told me how happy they were about my approach during the recovery process, and that meant everything to me,” said Liddell, whom New Orleans signed using a small slice of the mid-level exception. “I’m just going to keep embracing this opportunity. Keep showing up and doing what I’ve got to do everyday. I’ve just got to keep being me, and it’s great to know they appreciate me for being me. It means the world.”

Pelicans Convert Liddell’s Two-Way Contract To Three-Year Deal

5:59pm: The signing is now official, according to NBA’s transactions log.

5:37pm: The Pelicans are signing forward E.J. Liddell to a new three-year, $6,224,049, with a team option in the third season, Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic tweets.

Liddell is having his two-way contract converted to a standard one. He suffered a torn right ACL in summer league last summer.

Liddell, a 6’6” forward, was the 41st pick in the 2022 draft out of Ohio State. Liddell occupied one of the Pelicans’ two-way slots last season despite his inability to play.

As The Athletic’s John Hollinger points out (Twitter link), handing Liddell a standard contract actually helps New Orleans in terms of the luxury tax. It’s cheaper for the Pelicans to give Liddell a minimum deal than signing another player on a veteran’s minimum to fill their 14th roster spot.

Liddell will return to action on Friday night when he returns to Las Vegas for the New Orleans Pelicans’ summer league opener, Rod Walker of the New Orleans Times Picayune reports.

“Wooh, lot of nerves,” Liddell said. “If you see me smiling, a lot of nerves. But just know (I’m) super excited to be out there.”

During a 2021/22 NCAA season in which he was named a Third Team All-American, an All-Big Ten First Teamer, and a Big Ten All-Defensive Team honoree, Liddell averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 BPG and 2.5 APG for the Buckeyes.

Pelicans Notes: Williamson, McCollum, Temple, Liddell

If the Pelicans had advanced beyond the play-in, Zion Williamson might have had a chance to return from his hamstring injury this spring, but that was far from a lock. Executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin confirmed on Friday that Williamson hadn’t even begun participating in full-court 3-on-3 scrimmages, let alone 5-on-5 action (Twitter link via Andrew Lopez of ESPN).

Elsewhere on the Williamson front, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (YouTube link) noted during a TV appearance that Zion’s maximum-salary extension, which will go into effect in 2023/24, features several benchmarks related to the forward’s weight, conditioning, and games played totals.

Portions of Williamson’s salary will become non-guaranteed if he doesn’t meet those thresholds, though the Pelicans would only be able to realize those savings by waiving him.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Sources tell William Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link) that CJ McCollum, who will undergo surgery on his injured thumb, was also dealing with a torn labrum in his shoulder for the final seven games of the regular season.
  • The Pelicans’ “big three” of Williamson, McCollum, and Brandon Ingram played just 10 games together this season, Guillory observes in a story for The Athletic. “If you would’ve told me we’d only play 10 games together this season, and we still won 42 games, I would’ve said that’s crazy,” McCollum said. “For us to be successful in the future – in the long-term – we’ve got to be able to play together. We need our best players on the court. We need to be able to play extended minutes together, especially in meaningful games, and showcase what we offer.”
  • Veteran wing Garrett Temple will turn 37 years old next month, but he hasn’t considered retiring and would like to remain in New Orleans in 2023/24, tweets Guillory. Although Temple is under contract for next season, his $5.4MM salary is non-guaranteed and I don’t expect the Pelicans to keep him at that price — they could be more open to a minimum-salary deal.
  • E.J. Liddell, a 2022 second-rounder who suffered a torn ACL last July at the Las Vegas Summer League, has progressed to playing 1-on-1 and is hoping to be able to play in this year’s Summer League, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Liddell’s two-way deal with New Orleans covers two seasons, so he’s under contract for 2023/24 and won’t need to be re-signed.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype previews the decisions facing the Pelicans this offseason, pointing out that Jaxson Hayes and Josh Richardson will be free agents, while Herb Jones will be among the players eligible for contract extensions.

Western Notes: Lakers, Nuggets, Rockets, Potter, Liddell, Spurs

Although he didn’t play in the Lakers‘ preseason finale on Friday due to lower back soreness, Anthony Davis will have “no restrictions, whatsoever” when the team’s regular season tips off on Tuesday in Golden State, head coach Darvin Ham said (link via Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times).

Russell Westbrook, who sustained a left hamstring injury in Friday’s game, could “definitely” be available for the opener, according to Ham, but reserve point guard Dennis Schröder likely won’t be, as Turner writes.

Ham said that Schröder’s thumb ligament injury was still being evaluated as of Sunday, and while he’s still considered day-to-day, the ailment may take a little time to heal, tweets Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nikola Jokic (wrist) and Jamal Murray (hamstring) are both expected to be available for the Nuggets‘ regular season opener on Wednesday in Utah, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Barring an unexpected setback, it will be the first time Denver’s two stars have shared the court in a regular season game since April 2021.
  • The Rockets will likely have a handful of players on the injury report to start the season, but head coach Stephen Silas said on Sunday that he’s hopeful rookie Jabari Smith (ankle) will be available for the team’s opener, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Silas added that Garrison Mathews (illness) and Daishen Nix (back) are “close” to being ready too. Jae’Sean Tate (ankle) is the least likely of the group to be available for the opener, Feigen writes.
  • The two-way contracts signed in recent days by Jazz center Micah Potter and Pelicans forward E.J. Liddell both cover two years, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. As our tracker shows, those are the fifth and sixth two-way deals signed this offseason that are for two years instead of one.
  • Noting that the Spurs have had “so many guys over the years” develop their games in the G League, head coach Gregg Popovich said two-way players Dominick Barlow and Jordan Hall will likely spend most of their time in Austin this season, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “He’ll spend some time in the G League and play lots of minutes,” Popovich said, specifically addressing Barlow’s situation. “If he was with us right now, he’s not going to get on the court that much, which doesn’t help him develop.”

E.J. Liddell Signs Two-Way Deal With Pelicans

Rookie forward E.J. Liddell, who tore his right ACL during Summer League this year after being drafted 41st overall out of Ohio State, has signed a two-way contract with the Pelicans, the team announced in a press release.

During a 2021/22 NCAA season in which the 6’7″ forward was named a Third Team All-American, an All-Big Ten First Teamer, and a Big Ten All-Defensive Team honoree, Liddell averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 BPG and 2.5 APG for the Buckeyes.

Though he will most likely not be healthy until at least 2023, the 21-year-old will join Dereon Seabron in filling the team’s pair of two-way player contracts heading into the 2022/23 season. Liddell figures to rehab his ACL injury with the Pelicans and the Birmingham Squadron, New Orleans’ G League affiliate.

Looking to capitalize on a promising postseason berth with a newly healthy Zion Williamson, New Orleans is now fielding a team with 15 players signed to its standard roster, plus a pair of two-way players.

Checking In Again On Unsigned 2022 Draft Picks

We’re about a month-and-a-half removed from the 2022 NBA draft, and – as our tracker shows – 46 of the 58 players selected on June 23 have signed their first NBA contracts.

The 12 unsigned players are as follows:

  1. Toronto Raptors: Christian Koloko, F/C
  2. Detroit Pistons: Gabriele Procida, G
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Khalifa Diop, C
  4. New Orleans Pelicans: E.J. Liddell, F
  5. Denver Nuggets: Ismael Kamagate, C
  6. Indiana Pacers: Kendall Brown, F
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Matteo Spagnolo, G
  8. New Orleans Pelicans: Karlo Matkovic, F
  9. Washington Wizards: Yannick Nzosa, C
  10. Golden State Warriors: Gui Santos, F
  11. Cleveland Cavaliers: Luke Travers, G/F
  12. Milwaukee Bucks: Hugo Besson, G

Most of these prospects will likely spend the 2022/23 season playing in non-NBA leagues around the world. Procida, Diop, Kamagate, Spagnolo, Matkovic, Nzosa, Santos, Travers, and Besson are all good bets to be draft-and-stash players.

That essentially just leaves three 2022 draftees in limbo: Koloko, Liddell, and Brown.

A player selected within the first five picks of the second round, like Koloko was, virtually always receives a multiyear contract that includes at least a year or two of guaranteed money. It’s hard to imagine that won’t be the case for Koloko, despite the Raptors‘ roster crunch. Toronto already has 13 players on guaranteed contracts, with three players on partial guarantees vying for a regular season spot, so if Koloko signs, it would leave one fewer spot up for grabs.

It’s worth noting that once Koloko officially signs, he’ll be ineligible to be traded for 30 days, so it’s possible the Raptors are keeping their options open in case their Kevin Durant trade talks with the Nets get serious.

Toronto may also be mulling whether to use a portion of its mid-level exception to sign Koloko to a contract that spans three or four years. Taking that route, instead of signing him to a two-year, minimum-salary contract, would ensure he remains under team control for an extra season or two, but would hard-cap the Raptors for the 2022/23 season, since the club already used $6MM of its MLE to sign Otto Porter.

Liddell, meanwhile, suffered an unfortunate break to begin his professional career, tearing his ACL during the Las Vegas Summer League. Before he sustained that injury, the question was probably whether Liddell would receive a standard contract or a two-way deal. Now, the question is whether New Orleans still willing to sign him to a two-way contract or whether the team wants to use that slot on someone who could actually contribute on the court in 2022/23.

If they fill their two-way slots, the Pelicans would probably like to see Liddell sign a G League contract and spend the season rehabbing with the Birmingham Squadron before he signs his first NBA deal a year from now.

As for Brown, it remains to be seen whether he’ll begin the season on the Pacers‘ standard 15-man roster or on a two-way deal. For now, Indiana could go in either direction, but the club could be waiting to see whether there are any more trades to be made before training camp begins — if the Pacers were to complete a deal involving Myles Turner and/or Buddy Hield, the number of players they receive in that trade would have an impact on whether or not there’s room on the standard roster for Brown.

For example, if Indiana send Turner and Hield to the Lakers in exchange for Russell Westbrook and draft assets, then bought out Westbrook, it would open up two extra spots on the projected 15-man roster. In that scenario, signing Brown to a three- or four-year standard contract would make sense.

Western Notes: Liddell, Jordan, Knight, Hardy

Pelicans rookie forward E.J. Liddell has undergone surgery to reconstruct the torn ACL in his right knee, the team announced in a press release. The surgery was performed Monday by Dr. Scott Montgomery and Liddell remains out indefinitely.

Liddell, a second-round pick out of Ohio State, suffered the injury during a Vegas Summer League contest.

The former Ohio State forward averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG over 33.2 MPG last season and was projected as a first-round pick. He remains unsigned and the Pelicans don’t currently have an opening on the 15-man roster, though they have a two-way slot available.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Why did the Nuggets choose DeAndre Jordan as a backup big rather than re-signing DeMarcus Cousins? According to Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com, there were concerns about Cousins staying healthy for a full season. He battled calf and foot injuries after signing with Denver last season. The Nuggets also wanted more rim protection at backup center and a lob threat for Denver’s current group of guards.
  • Nathan Knight‘s two-year, minimum-salary contract with the Timberwolves includes a $350K partial guarantee in year one and a $380,718 partial guarantee and team option in year two, Hoops Rumors has learned. Knight, who was on a two-way deal with Minnesota last season, signed a standard contract over the weekend. The 6’10” forward appeared in 37 NBA games last season.
  • New Jazz coach Will Hardy has spent a lot of his time this month getting acquainted with the players on the current roster, he told Tony Jones of The Athletic. “The conversations with the players, they have been great,” the former Celtics assistant said. “I’ve talked to all of our guys, and some in person. My expectation is to get to know each other as people before we get to know each other as co-workers. I want us to create and develop trust with each other. We want an environment of honesty with each other.”

Pelicans Rookie Liddell Has Torn ACL

Pelicans second-round pick E.J. Liddell suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during a Vegas Summer League game on Monday, according to a team press release.

An MRI on Monday night confirmed the injury, which occurred during the third quarter of a game against the Hawks. A date for surgery has not yet been determined and he’ll be out indefinitely.

Liddell, who was selected with the No. 41 pick, was unable to put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the floor. Liddell also felt some knee pain in the first half but it subsided and he re-entered.

The former Ohio State forward averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG over 33.2 MPG last season and was projected as a first-round pick. He has yet to sign a contract and the Pelicans don’t currently have an opening on the 15-man roster, though they have a two-way slot available. It’s unclear how New Orleans will handle the contract situation regarding a draft pick who will likely be out most or all of next season.

Pelicans Rookie Liddell Injures Right Knee

Second-round pick E.J. Liddell injured his right knee during the third quarter of the Pelicans’ summer league game against the Hawks on Monday. He’ll have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Liddell, who was selected with the No. 41 pick, was unable to put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the floor. The Pelicans are calling it a right knee sprain. Liddell felt some knee pain in the first half but it subsided and he re-entered.

“It’s tough,” summer league coach Jarron Collins said. “We mentioned it the other day with Dyson (Daniels). Injuries are part of the game. You don’t want to see anyone get injured out there. We’ll have more information for you guys tomorrow.”

The former Ohio State forward averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG over 33.2 MPG last season and was projected as a first round pick. He has yet to sign a contract and the Pelicans don’t currently have an opening on the 15-man roster, though they have a two-way slot available.

Daniels, the team’s lottery pick, sprained his right ankle on Saturday.