Erazem Lorbek

And-Ones: VanVleet, Crawford, Lorbek

Fred VanVleet has a chance to make the Raptors’ opening night roster and the point guard is making the most out of his opportunity, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. “When I’m out there, try to make it hard to notice who is the guy trying to make the team,” VanVleet said. “[I] try to be seamless in that regard, look like one of the starters, look like a bench player and look like you belong.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Jordan Crawford will return to the D-League and play for the Westchester Knicks, sources tell Chris Reichert of Upside Motor (Twitter link).
  • Center Wally Niang will play in the D-League this season, Reichert reports (Twitter link). Niang played in the Liga ACB League in Europe during the past two seasons.
  • Erazem Lorbek, whose rights right were traded to the Spurs in the Kawhi Leonard deal, has agreed to play for Barcelona’s farm team, Lassa II of LEB Gold, according to international jounralist David Pick (Twitter link).

And-Ones: Whiteside, Brown, Williamson, Griffin

Hassan Whiteside hopes to make a decision on his future on Friday, the first day teams can negotiate with free agents, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The 27-year-old center says several factors will affect his ultimate choice, but a sense of loyalty to the Heat won’t be among them. “I really don’t think it’s about loyalty,” Whiteside said. “I think it’s just about the best situation for myself and that’s what I think it is.” Whiteside said he had a “good” meeting with team president Pat Riley recently to discuss his future in Miami. “So it’s not that I’m really counting the Heat off or I’m counting on another team,” Whiteside said. “It’s just open.”

There’s more news tonight from around the league:

  • Former NBA head coach Mike Brown is a “strong contender” to become an assistant coach with the Warriors, tweets Marc Stein of Brown and Tyrone Corbin were believed to be the finalists for the position, but Corbin will join Earl Watson’s staff in Phoenix. Brown has a 347-216 record as head coach of the Cavaliers and Lakers.
  • The Magic interviewed Corliss Williamson Friday about becoming an assistant to new coach Frank Vogel, tweets Chris Mannix of The Vertical. Williamson is still a member of the Kings‘ coaching staff, so no decision has been made, tweets James Ham of CSNBayArea.
  • Cavaliers GM David Griffin doesn’t expect to make any major changes to the NBA champs this summer, Stein tweets. “We intend to keep this group together and see what we’re capable of,” Griffin said today during an appearance on ESPN Radio.
  • The Spurs will consider bringing over 6’10” Slovenian power forward Erazem Lorbek this summer, according to Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio acquired the rights to the 32-year-old in a 2011 deal that sent George Hill to the Pacers. At one time, Lorbek was among the best big men in the Euroleague, but he sat out last season and the Spurs aren’t sure if he is in NBA shape.

Western Notes: Kobe, Durant, Spurs, Nuggets

Kobe Bryant rejects the notion that he should push for a trade to a contender and professes his loyalty to the Lakers in an interview with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. The team’s lack of success in attracting marquee free agents this summer hasn’t left him questioning whether he wants to remain with the franchise.

“It was really tough to land those free agents just because of the opportunities that they had,” Bryant said. “You got [Carmelo Anthony] going back to New York, LeBron [James] going back home to Cleveland. The odds just weren’t in our favor. But I took comfort in the fact that the Lakers did absolutely everything possible to make it happen. Absolutely everything possible. We offered Pau [Gasol] an incredible deal. I saw them put the work in. It’s much different than in 2007 when I felt like they were just sitting on their hands. This is not that case. They were going after it and being aggressive. I will fight for that till the end. They tried, tried and tried and it didn’t work out. I stand behind them 110%. I bleed purple and gold.”

Bryant has been preaching patience amid an 0-4 start for the Lakers, but as the losses mount, we’ll see how long the Black Mamba can remain serene. Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Kevin Durant cited exhaustion when he withdrew from Team USA this summer, but he reveals in a documentary film that Paul George‘s gruesome leg fracture weighed heavily on his mind, as Michael Lee of The Washington Post chronicles.
  • Injury marked the unofficial end of Spurs draft-and-stash prospect Erazem Lorbek‘s time with FC Barcelona before he officially left the Spanish club this summer, but he has his eye on joining San Antonio after he recovers, as he tells Gigantes Del Basket (translation via HoopsHype). The Spurs were reportedly close to signing Lorbek, a 2005 second-round draftee, in 2012, but the now 30-year-old re-signed with Barcelona instead.
  • The Nuggets, who voted for the league’s failed lottery reform proposal, are one of the NBA’s most vociferous opponents to tanking, as Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post writes in his mailbag column. Still, most teams aren’t nearly as concerned about the phenomenon as fans and the media generally are, Dempsey adds.

Spurs Frontrunners To Acquire Al Jefferson?

As's Chad Ford noted in his chat this afternoon, the Jazz are one of the league's most close-to-the-vest teams, which may explain why we haven't heard a ton of rumors about trade candidates and soon-to-be free agents Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. However, according to Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops, one team has emerged as a frontrunner to acquire Jefferson: the Spurs.

Sheridan points out that various members of San Antonio's and Utah's front offices used to work for the other club, strengthening the relationship between the two teams. As one source tells Sheridan: "Those teams are practically incestuous, they are on such good terms internally."

The Spurs don't have a ton of obvious trade assets, but Stephen Jackson's $10MM+ expiring contract could be used in an offer for Jefferson, who makes $15MM. From there, Sheridan suggests that a package including Tiago Splitter, Patrick Mills, and the rights to European prospects Erazem Lorbek could make some sense for both sides, though he cautions that he's not sure whether that specific deal has been discussed. Like Jefferson and Jackson, Splitter will be a free agent after this season, while Mills has a 2013/14 player option for a modest $1.13MM, so the Jazz wouldn't be giving up much future flexibility in that hypothetical trade.

Some reports have suggested the Jazz would prefer to move Millsap rather than Jefferson, while others have indicated the team would be fine with simply standing pat and keeping both big men. Given the club's secrecy when it comes to trade talks, we likely won't know for sure what Utah's intentions are until a move is made or the deadline passes.

Odds & Ends: Lorbek, Magic, Mavs, Nash

Although the Spurs will bring one international prospect stateside this season, having signed Nando De Colo to a contract, another of the team's top international players doesn't appear headed for San Antonio. Spanish club Regal Barcelona announced today that they have re-signed Erazem Lorbek to a three-year deal to remain with the team (English translation via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). The Spurs, who hold Lorbek's NBA rights, were said earlier this offseason to be "very close" to a deal with the Slovenian forward, so it's a little surprising to see him re-up with Regal Barcelona.

Let's round up a few more Friday morning odds and ends….

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Spurs Shopping DeJuan Blair

Looking to clear space on their roster, the Spurs are shopping DeJuan Blair in trade talks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Blair fell out of the Spurs' rotation this season, and would be open to a move, Wojnarowski adds in a second tweet.

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Southwest Rumors: Landry, Rockets, Cabezas

Tony Parker is seeking $20MM in a lawsuit against the New York nightclub where he sustained an eye injury during a fight involving singer Chris Brown and members of hip-hop star Drake's entourage, the Associated Press reports (via the New York Daily News). Parker isn't expected to miss any time for the Spurs because of the incident. There's plenty of other off-the-court news happening with Southwest Division teams that figures to have a greater on-court impact, as we detail here.

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Odds & Ends: Noel, Spurs Prospects, Thunder

It has been extremely rare for a college basketball team to deliver a number one pick in consecutive years. However, with incoming freshman Nerlens Noel already being touted as the top selection of the 2013 NBA Draft, Kentucky could be the first program to do it since 1955 and 1956, when Duquesne’s Dick Ricketts and Sihugo Green were each selected number one overall on draft day in those respective years. Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld provides some background on Noel, from his early beginnings as strictly a defensive minded player to now, a time when some marvel at the possibility of him being the NBA’s next great big man. 

Here's more of what we've heard this evening, including two possible international gems whose draft rights are owned by the Spurs, an offseason dilemma for the Thunder, and some insight on two former Dream Team members looking for work in the NBA… 

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International Moves: Kirilenko, Lorbek

We'll track today's news from overseas here in this post, with the latest updates on top:

  • Former Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko has been named the 2012 Euroleague MVP and winner of its Best Defender Award as well, according to a Euroleague press release (via Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Earlier today we heard that though the Nets do not have a deal in place for Kirilenko, Brooklyn has been keeping an eye on him, while the Jazz remain Kirilenko's top choice among NBA teams. Former NBA center Nenad Krstic and 6'10" Erazem Lorbek, who's reportedly "very close" to a contract with the Spurs, were also selected to the All-Euroleague First Team.

Odds & Ends: Williams, Lorbek, Thunder

With the Grizzlies looking to stay alive in Los Angeles against the Clippers tonight, it sounds like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will play.  Here are some links from around the league as we wait for that contest to get underway:

  • While we don't yet know who will be the Trail Blazers' new general manager or head coach, we do know who will not be their assistant coach.  Chris Haynes from reports that the team will not renew Buck Williams' deal, as they will let the new head coach choose his own staff. 
  • Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress tweets that the Spurs signing 6-foot-10 center Erazem Lorbek is "very close to being a done deal."  The Spurs acquired the rights to Lorbek via a 2011 draft day trade with the Pacers for George Hill.  The Spurs figure to be desperate for size this summer, and bringing Lorbek over from the Spanish League could prove pivotal.
  • HOOPSWORLD's Tommy Beer gives his take on a question we posed several weeks ago:  Long term, should the Thunder pair Serge Ibaka or James Harden with their already-dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook?  Ideally Oklahoma City would like to keep both promising youngsters, but given their emergence as impact players that doesn't seem likely.