Festus Ezeli

And-Ones: BIG3, Canada, Hezonja, Coaches

Ty Lawson, Corey Brewer, Jordan Crawford, Jonathon Simmons, Norris Cole, Festus Ezeli, and Jordan Hill are among the many former NBA players whose names are in the BIG3 draft pool for the 2022 season, per the league’s official website.

The BIG3 will hold its draft on Wednesday evening in Los Angeles as it gears up for the coming season. As we previously relayed, the first games of 2022 are scheduled for June 18 and this will be the first year in which the BIG3 holds an All-Star Game.

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

G League Notes: Ezeli, Lin, Tyree, Postseason

Veteran NBA center Festus Ezeli, whose playing career was jeopardized by health issues, is joining the Westchester Knicks for the home stretch of the NBA G League season, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

Ezeli, who appeared in 170 regular season games and 55 more playoff contests for the Warriors from 2012-16, hasn’t appeared in a game since the 2016 NBA Finals, as major knee and leg problems threatened to end his career. As Connor Letourneau of The San Francisco Chronicle recently detailed, Ezeli hasn’t given up on making it back to the court — he’ll apparently get a chance to do so in the G League.

“I’ve put so much into this process, but this is my dream,” Ezeli told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link), confirming that he’s joining Westchester. “Chasing your dreams is worth every inch of the cost.”

Here’s more on the G League:

  • The G League is investigating a claim from Santa Cruz Warriors guard Jeremy Lin that he was called “coronavirus” during a game, as Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. In the Facebook post in which he made the allegation, Lin wrote that his generation of Asian Americans “is tired of being told that we don’t experience racism.”
  • Former Mississippi guard Breein Tyree, who was in camp with the Heat in December and was playing for the Raptors 905 in the G League bubble, suffered a torn ACL that will prematurely end his season, per Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link). Although he’s unable to play, Tyree is sticking with Toronto’s G League affiliate for the rest of the NBAGL bubble.
  • While it may seem like the NBA G League season just began, it’s already entering the final week of the regular season. The season will wrap up on March 6, with an eight-team, single-elimination tournament to follow from March 8-11. The G League Ignite, at 7-4, are currently tied for the No. 6 seed and will look to clinch a postseason spot this week.

And-Ones: Williams, Ezeli, China, Koumadje

Former NBA center Johnathan Williams has parted ways with Turkish team Galatasaray, according to a team press release. The undrafted big man appeared in 15 games, including six starts, with the Wizards last season. He also saw action in 17 games for Washington’s G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. He played in 24 games with the Lakers during the 2018/19 season.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former Warriors center Festus Ezeli is in quarantine in the G League bubble in Orlando and will be out Sunday, Marc Spears of ESPN tweets. He’s in the player pool there, making him eligible to be picked up by any team. Ezeli, 31, logged 170 NBA games but hasn’t played since the 2016 NBA Finals due to knee injuries.
  • China Central Television (CCTV) still isn’t showing NBA games, Bill Shea of The Athletic reports. CCTV stopped airing games prior to last season after then Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. CCTV did show two NBA Finals games in October.
  • Free agent Christ Koumadje has reached agreement with Alba Berlin in Germany, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. The 7’3” center was the G League Defensive Player of the Year for the Delaware Blue Coats last season. Koumadje, 24, was in training camp with the Sixers in 2019. International journalist Christos Harpidis first reported the sides were in advanced talks.

NBA G League Officially Announces Plans For Disney Bubble

The NBA G League has officially announced that its shortened 2020/21 season will take place in a “bubble” at Walt Disney World, confirming the news in a press release. An exact start date has yet to be announced, but the season will tip off in February, per the NBAGL. Previous reports suggested a tentative opening night of February 8.

“We worked closely with our teams, the Basketball Players Union, and public health experts to develop a structure that allows our teams to gather at a single site and safely play,” NBAGL president Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “We are thrilled to get back to basketball and to fulfill our mission as a critical resource for the NBA in developing players, coaches, referees, athletic trainers and front-office staff.”

Since at least November, a G League bubble has been in the works in order to avoid the frequent commercial travel associated with a typical NBAGL season. A late-December report indicated that the bubble would be set up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, where the NBA resumed its ’19/20 season last summer.

As expected, 18 teams, including the G League Ignite, will participate in the season. Those teams are as follows:

  1. Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario (Clippers)
  2. Austin Spurs (Spurs)
  3. Canton Charge (Cavaliers)
  4. Delaware Blue Coats (Sixers)
  5. Erie BayHawks (Pelicans)
  6. Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Pacers)
  7. G League Ignite (Select Team)
  8. Greensboro Swarm (Hornets)
  9. Iowa Wolves (Timberwolves)
  10. Lakeland Magic (Magic)
  11. Long Island Nets (Nets)
  12. Memphis Hustle (Grizzlies)
  13. Oklahoma City Blue (Thunder)
  14. Raptors 905 (Raptors)
  15. Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Rockets)
  16. Salt Lake City Stars (Jazz)
  17. Santa Cruz Warriors (Warriors)
  18. Westchester Knicks (Knicks)

As we previously relayed, the G League didn’t anticipate being able to accommodate all 29 of its teams in a Disney bubble, so clubs were asked to volunteer to opt out the season. That’s why 11 NBA teams’ affiliates won’t be in action this season. Those NBA franchises will have the ability to assign players on standard contracts and transfer players on two-way deals to another G League team via the flexible assignment rule.

According to previous reports, NBAGL teams are expected to play between 12 and 15 games before advancing to the postseason, which will begin in early March. Today’s press release indicates that the top eight teams will advance to a single-elimination playoff.

G League rosters will be made up of affiliate players, who signed Exhibit 10 contracts with NBA teams and were waived in December, and returning-rights players, who were on NBAGL contracts in previous years. Teams will also be able to directly add one “designated veteran” who has five or more years of NBA experience, and can select players in the G League draft, which will take place on Monday, January 11.

We passed along word on Thursday that NBA veterans such as Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Emeka Okafor, Justin Patton, Jacob Evans, and Shabazz Muhammad, among many others, will be eligible to be drafted next week.

Reports in the last 24 hours from Nicola Lupo of Sportando and G League expert Adam Johnson (all Twitter links) have indicated that Justin Dentmon, Josh Huestis, Mario Chalmers, and Festus Ezeli are among the other former NBA players who have signed NBAGL contracts and are draft-eligible.

The Ignite is the one team whose roster is made up a little differently. The newly-introduced squad consists of top prospects who decided to forgo college ball – including Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga – as well as a handful of veteran NBA and G League players – including Amir Johnson – who will serve as mentors.

Trail Blazers Waive Festus Ezeli

The Festus Ezeli era in Portland is over. In a move that was long expected, the Trail Blazers have officially waived Ezeli, the team announced today (via Twitter).

Ezeli, 27, signed a two-year deal worth about $15MM with the Blazers last summer, with Portland envisioning him as a rotation player who could provide rebounding and rim protection. However, Ezeli’s troublesome left knee kept him out of action in the preseason and then the regular season as well — the veteran center ultimately underwent a season-ending procedure in March.

Although Ezeli’s contract was for two years, most of his $7.73MM salary for 2017/18 was non-guaranteed, and would have become guaranteed if he remained on Portland’s roster beyond June 30. The Blazers will now be on the hook for just $1MM of next season’s salary.

Ezeli will become an unrestricted free agent once he clears waivers, though it remains to be seen whether he’ll be back on the court to start the 2017/18 season. His knee surgery, which reportedly involved a cadaver donor, didn’t exactly sound like a routine procedure, but hopefully he’s able to resume his playing career.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Napier, Snyder

After an excellent debut season with the Nuggets, 20-year-old guard Jamal Murray has undergone successful surgery to repair “core muscle-related” injuries, the team has stated in a press release.

When the procedure was announced by Nuggets personnel yesterday, we relayed that the rookie had been plagued by a sports hernia for much of the season.

The Kentucky product averaged 9.9 points per game for the Nuggets and played in all 82 contests, once taking Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors.

Murray is expected to return to basketball activities this summer and will be at full strength when the Nuggets open training camp.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • If we learned anything from the Rockets/Thunder series in the first-round of this postseason, it’s that a franchise need not choose between investing in either a system or a superstar. Daryl Morey and Mike D’Antoni did both. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN writes about how Oklahoma City may be wise to embrace a similar attitude heading forward as opposed to so heavily relying on Russell Westbrook.
  • While it’s already been announced that the Trail Blazers won’t be bringing Festus Ezeli back next season, the big man officially said farewell to Portland over Twitter.
  • In a candid exit interview, backup Trail Blazers point guard Shabazz Napier said that while he understands coming off the bench and has bought into the team’s process he isn’t necessarily comfortable with it. Sean Meagher of the Oregonian broke down the guard’s comments about the organization.
  • The Jazz have wrested control of their first-round series with the Clippers in large part to the return of Rudy Gobert. The big man has resumed shutting down the paint, which teammate Rodney Hood discussed with the Associated Press. “Rudy erases a lot of mistakes,” Hood said. “And he cleans up a lot of bad offensive possessions by rebounding the ball. It’s great just to have him back.
  • Although it’s his first time serving as a head coach in the NBA playoffs, Jazz bench boss Quin Snyder has no shortage of experience. Jody Genessey of the Deseret News discussed the coach’s leadership with club point guard George Hill. “He’s one of the smartest coaches I’ve been around. His mind’s always going other places. He’s very technical with what we do,” Hill said. “We listen to him. I think he’s got a great coaching staff around him that give us one heck of a game plan. It’s our job to follow him.


Olshey: Trail Blazers Won’t Bring Back Festus Ezeli

Festus Ezeli‘s Trail Blazers career will end without him appearing in a single game for the team, according to general manager Neil Olshey, who confirmed today that Portland won’t be bringing back Ezeli for the 2017/18 season (link via Tim Brown of The Oregonian).

Ezeli, 27, signed a two-year deal worth about $15MM with the Blazers last summer, with Portland envisioning him as a rotation player who could provide rebounding and rim protection. However, Ezeli’s troublesome left knee kept him out of action in the preseason and then the regular season as well — the veteran center ultimately underwent a season-ending procedure in March.

As we outlined earlier today in our breakdown of this summer’s salary guarantee dates, Ezeli’s full $7.73MM salary for 2017/18 would become guaranteed if he remains on Portland’s roster beyond June 30. The Trail Blazers figure to waive him at some point before that date, which will leave the team on the hook for just $1MM of next season’s salary.

Although Ezeli will become a free agent when the Blazers officially waive him, he may not catch on with another team anytime soon. His knee surgery, which reportedly involved a cadaver donor, didn’t exactly sound like a routine procedure, but hopefully he’s able to eventually make it back onto the court and resume his playing career.

“Not A Chance” Blazers Bring Back Festus Ezeli

Jason Quick, CSN’s Trail Blazers Insider, rejected the possibility of Portland picking up Festus Ezeli‘s team option for 2017/18, saying there’s “no chance” of it happening (Twitter link). Should Neil Oshey decline Ezeli’s options, he’ll join the 2017 free agent class as a bounce-back candidate.

Ezeli didn’t play a game this year, suffering a left knee injury before undergoing season-ending surgery. The 27-year-old Ezeli made $7.4MM in 2016/17, and would be owed $7.733MM if Portland picked up his option for next season. Quick discussed other big men Portland could pursue over the offseason, suggesting the team look for a trade partner or hope for a return to form from Ed Davis, who will be entering the final season of his three-year deal (Twitter link).

Prior to his season-ending surgery, Ezeli spoke to reporters in December about the frustration of a lost season.

“I’m kind of past the point of frustration because at first it was — I’m not going to lie, it definitely was,” he said. “I’m at the point where I’m just trying to find a solution. The sooner I can, the sooner I can get on the court and help my team win games. I just can’t wait to get on the court, that’s my biggest thing. I miss basketball, I haven’t played basketball in a while, so that’s my biggest thing right now.”

Festus Ezeli Undergoes Knee Surgery

MARCH 8, 11:32am: Ezeli has undergone surgery on his left knee and has been officially ruled out for the remained of the 2016/17 season, the Trail Blazers announced today in a press release.

MARCH 4, 10:01pm: A cadaver donor will be used in Ezeli’s surgery, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. Ezeli had been awaiting a donor for months, but because he is 6’11” it wasn’t easy to find a match.

A doctor recently submitted the name of a potential donor, and the surgery has been set for an undetermined day next week. Ezeli is believed to be the first NBA player ever to rely on a cadaver donor for an operation.

Haynes notes that NFL quarterback Carson Palmer had a cadaver donor when he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in the 2006 playoffs. Palmer was able to return to the field for the start of the following season.

Ezeli’s recovery time is projected to be much longer, with one source saying it could take up to a year.

6:05pm: Festus Ezeli will undergo surgery next week to fix his left knee, the Trail Blazers posted on their website.

President of basketball operations Neil Olshey made the announcement, saying Ezeli’s operation will be performed by Dr. Robert LaPrade at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado.

Ezeli hasn’t played this season after signing a two-year, $15MM deal with Portland last summer. He had offseason surgery on the knee, but it started hurting again early in training camp. He announced in December that he was considering another operation because he believes his long-term health is at stake.

Ezeli’s contract creates the possibility that he will never play a game for the Blazers. He is owed $7.73MM for 2017/18, but only $1MM of that is guaranteed through the end of June. With the Blazers possibly looking at luxury tax payments next season, Ezeli’s deal seems like a good way to save money, either by waiving him or trading him. Portland reportedly tried hard to find a taker for Ezeli before last week’s trade deadline.

The 26-year-old center is in his fourth NBA season. He averaged 4.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game during three years in Golden State.

Northwest Notes: Stephenson, Hayward, Ezeli, Cole

After appearing in four games with Minnesota earlier this season, Lance Stephenson appears likely to rejoin the team on a second 10-day contract. According to Jon Krawczynski‏ of The Associated Press, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Stephenson is “coming along” in his recovery from an ankle sprain and should sign a new contract soon (Twitter link). Injuries have sidelined Stephenson’s 2016/17 campaign; “Born Ready” has played in a combined 10 games with the Pelicans and Wolves. 

More from around the Northwest…

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that Gordon Hayward is “one of the most coveted upcoming free agents” that no one is noticing. Hayward, who is expected to decline his 2017/18 player option, has averaged a career-high 22.1 points per game, helping the Jazz maintain a comfortable hold on the fourth seed in the Western Conference. Hayward doesn’t register on casual fans’ radars, O’Connor writes, but the seventh-year wing “might be the key to unlocking Utah’s title chances.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman answered some questions about the Thunder for his online chat. Tramel called Domantas Sabonis “one of the few bright spots” in a recent loss to the Suns, with the caveat that he will soon be moved to the bench. Similarly, Tramel forecasts a move to the bench for Alex Abrines once Victor Oladipo returns from injury. When it comes to the offseason, Tramel writes “OKC doesn’t have the flexibility to sign a big free agent. It would have to do some kind of sign-and-trade deal, and the Thunder doesn’t have the kind of assets (draft picks) to pull that off. Plus, you have to convince free agents to come. So the likelihood is not strong that the Thunder can change the roster via big-name free agent.”
  • Festus Ezeli‘s season-ending surgery will involve tissue from a cadaver donor, Tim Brown of The Oregonian writes. Per Brown, Ezeli received bone marrow injections in his left knee in August, with the intention of helping him play in 2016/17. It would be pretty surprising to see the Trail Blazers exercise Ezeli’s $7.733MM option for 2017/18.
  • Norris Cole, who has scored 13 points over three games with the Thunder, is “learning on the job,” Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. “I think for him, being pressured and coming into a new system and a new style and having to be a point guard and run the team, it was a difficult task for him,” Billy Donovan said of Cole. “These are the moments I think that will probably help him get better. He’s a veteran guy. He’s smart, he’s bright and he’ll be able to get better from this.”