Festus Ezeli

Trade Rumors: KCP, OKC, Afflalo, Knight, Ezeli

While the Pistons have been open to listening to inquiries on anyone, few – if any – players on their roster have received as much interest as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Speaking to reporters, including Rod Beard of The Detroit News, Stan Van Gundy confirmed that KCP’s future has been one of the main topics discussed as of late by the Pistons, who will have to make a big long-term commitment to the shooting guard this summer if they keep him.

“That’s something you have to make decisions about and deal with. I’m not getting into specifics at this point, but that has been a significant part of what we’ve talked about,” Van Gundy said of the RFA-to-be. “He was probably the most urgent decision because of that and the money coming and what it means in terms of the cap and the (luxury) tax. We’ve talked about it internally and we’ve talked about it with (team owner) Tom (Gores). We know exactly what’s coming and we’re making informed decisions.”

Here are several more trade rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • The Thunder are being aggressive as the trade deadline nears, according to Royce Young of ESPN.com (Twitter links), who adds Doug McDermott to the list of players on Oklahoma City’s radar. OKC was linked to another Bulls forward – Taj Gibson – earlier today.
  • League executives believe the Kings will move Arron Afflalo today, says Chris Haynes of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee adds (via Twitter) that Afflalo is more likely to be dealt than Ben McLemore, who has impressed some people within the organization lately. Afflalo has been linked to Indiana and Oklahoma City this week.
  • Brandon Knight wouldn’t mind a change of scenery, but the Suns have set their asking price too high in the past in talks with the Magic, Kings, Sixers, and Bulls, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today. As Amick observes, it remains to be seen whether that will change today.
  • The Trail Blazers continue to try to find a taker for Festus Ezeli‘s contract, per ESPN’s Marc Stein (Twitter link).
  • Although Bucks general manager John Hammond likes to make trades, league executives say Milwaukee has been “low key” in trade talks this week, according to Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers continue to work on deals that could fortify their roster, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team ultimately rely on the buyout market instead, tweets Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.

Blazers Looking To Trade Festus Ezeli

The Blazers are “determined” to move Festus Ezeli before the trade deadline, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports. Portland is talking to teams that are below the salary floor and it may be willing to send draft picks to a team willing to take on the big man’s contract.

Ezeli signed a two-year, $15MM deal with the team during the offseason, but he hasn’t been able to play because of a knee injury. Portland is currently slightly under the luxury tax, but the team will be well over the luxury tax line next season once C.J. McCollum‘s extension kicks in.

The center will make $7.4MM this season, but only $1MM of his salary for next season is guaranteed. Stein notes that the Nuggets, Sixers, and Nets are the three teams that sit the farthest under the salary floor with all three being at least $6MM under.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Nuggets, Turner, Murray

The Trail Blazers will probably wait until the offseason to start making trades to decrease salary, writes Bobby Marks of The Vertical. Portland is looking at the highest payroll in the league next season and has gotten limited production in return, a half game out of the West’s final playoff spot entering tonight’s action. The Blazers have their own draft pick as well as Cleveland’s to offer, but Marks believes those will be more valuable in a possible June deal than they are now. Portland can also deal the contract of Festus Ezeli, who hasn’t played this season and has a $7.733MM salary for next year with just a $1MM guarantee through June 30. However, Marks warns that luxury tax concerns should make the team think twice about taking back any long-term deals.

There’s more news out of the Northwest Division:

  • History suggests that Nuggets GM Tim Connelly will be active at the trade deadline, Marks writes in the same piece. Since taking over in 2013, Connelly has been involved in five deadline deals, along with the trade of Timofey Mozgov to the Cavaliers in January of 2015. Marks also notes that Denver is $7.6MM below the cap floor and could be active on the waiver wire to try to reach that figure.
  • Former Blazer Nicolas Batum believes the team needs to be patient with Evan Turner, relays Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Turner has been going through a rocky transition since signing a four-year, $70MM deal over the summer. Batum, who was traded to the Hornets in 2015, says Turner gives Portland many of the same attributes that he used to. “He’s one of the best playmakers in this league,” Batum said. “I really appreciate his game. He showed that in Boston the last two years. He just needs time. This is a new team for him.”
  • Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson is teaching the position to Nuggets rookie Jamal Murray, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. “I don’t like to talk about too much of what’s going on in the locker room, but I just encourage him,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what it is to be his age [19] in the NBA. But I can just tell him or help him out with plays or certain situations. And he’s real receptive of it. He’s a great kid. That’s why I’m able to get through to him, because he’s such a great kid.”

Northwest Notes: Ezeli, Hayward, Hood, Sabonis

The Trail Blazers may be considering a Disabled Player Exception for Festus Ezeli, according to Oliver Maroney of Basketball Insiders. Today is the deadline to apply to the league for a DPE, and NBA officials would have to agree that Ezeli’s injury will keep him out for the rest of the season. The 27-year-old center hasn’t played since signing a two-year, $15MM deal with Portland over the summer. He had offseason surgery on his left knee, but wasn’t able to do more than a couple of practices before it started hurting again. Ezeli said last month that another operation, which would sideline him for the rest of the season, might be necessary to save his career. If the DPE is approved, the Blazers would be granted half of Ezeli’s cap hit to sign a free agent or to use in a trade.

There’s more this morning from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz star Gordon Hayward might be tempted to reunite with former college coach Brad Stevens in Boston, but Utah will be able to make a substantially better offer when he becomes a free agent this summer, writes Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. The Jazz can offer Hayward a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $180MM, while other teams will be limited to $132MM over four seasons. Another option for Hayward is to sign with Utah for one year and hope to make the All-NBA team, which would make him eligible for the new Designated Veteran Player status and a $235MM deal over six seasons. Hollis thinks the Jazz can improve their chances with Hayward by re-signing George Hill, who has become an effective complement to Hayward.
  • Rodney Hood will be re-evaluated today after suffering a hyperextended right knee late in Saturday’s game, the Jazz tweeted. He had to be helped off the court after the knee buckled on a drive to the basket. “Hopefully it’s not serious,” coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s serious enough that he had to leave the game, but we don’t know when he’ll be back.”
  • The Thunder are urging rookie forward Domantas Sabonis to shoot fewer 3-pointers, relays Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. That was the plan even before a recent shooting slump in which he has missed 18 of his last 19 shots from long distance. “What I don’t want to see him just become is just a stretch four, a guy that’s just shooting 3s,” said coach Billy Donovan. “We’ve got to be able to utilize his ability to handle the ball and pass, his ability to play with his back to the basket. And certainly face up and shoot the basketball when it’s there.”

Blazers Rumors: Stotts, Ezeli, McCollum, Turner

The Trail Blazers are just a single game out of the playoffs in the Western Conference, but with a 15-21 record, it has been an extremely disappointing season so far in Portland. Still, the organization isn’t panicking at this point, as there’s a belief that the team will work its way back into the postseason picture, writes Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. According to Haynes, Terry Stotts‘ job as the team’s head coach isn’t currently in jeopardy.

In a lengthy and interesting piece, Haynes provides several other notable Blazers-related tidbits, so let’s round up some of the highlights…

  • The Blazers went into free agency aiming to retain their own key free agents, as well as adding another ball-handler and a rim-protecting big man. The club targeted players like Hassan Whiteside, Joakim Noah, and Dwight Howard, but came up short. According to Haynes, Portland was ready to renounce a player – perhaps Meyers Leonard – in order to free up cap room to sign Pau Gasol, but the free agent center opted to sign with San Antonio instead.
  • Ultimately, the Blazers landed Festus Ezeli on a two-year, $15MM deal, but Ezeli may end up not playing a single game for the team, as he’s expected to undergo season-ending surgery. According to Haynes, Ezeli gave a “stern” locker-room speech after a tough loss last month — when the big man launched into a similar speech a couple games later, he was cut short by C.J. McCollum. As Haynes puts it, “being lectured by someone who wasn’t even playing wasn’t received favorably” by other Blazers players.
  • Potential trade targets like DeMarcus Cousins and Nerlens Noel aren’t currently on the Blazers’ radar, sources tell Haynes. Cousins likely isn’t available anyway, and Noel is eligible for restricted free agency, so Portland may be turned off by his contract situation.
  • The Blazers are open to making a trade, but don’t feel obligated to make a move. According to Haynes, the team isn’t looking to trade McCollum or Evan Turner.
  • Team owner Paul Allen was insistent on retaining Portland’s own assets during the offseason, and as such, the team “never thought twice” about matching Allen Crabbe‘s offer sheet from the Nets, per Haynes.
  • Be sure to check out Haynes’ full piece for more on the Blazers.

Festus Ezeli: Long-Term Health Is At Stake

Festus Ezeli hasn’t made a final decision about season-ending knee surgery, but adds that it might be necessary to save his NBA career. In an interview posted on the Trail Blazers’ website, Ezeli discusses the condition of his knee and admits that it may have been a mistake to rush back to play for the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

“You don’t think twice about making those decisions,” he said. “We were in the Finals and we had a historic season, so for me to be able to contribute to my team getting to the Finals and possibly winning the championship, I’ll make that decision every time because you never know when you’re going to get back to the Finals. But that’s a decision that I’m paying for right now, so we’re going to correct it and we’ll be better for it.”

Golden State chose not to re-sign Ezeli as a way of opening up cap room to add Kevin Durant. The 27-year-old center agreed to a two-year deal topping $15MM with Portland, but the balky left knee has kept him off the court. He underwent an operation over the summer, but apart from a couple of practices in mid-October, Ezeli hasn’t played at all for the Blazers.

“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.”

Ezeli remains optimistic about an eventual return, even if he opts for surgery again and this becomes a lost season. He and the team are consulting several doctors and trying to determine his best option. He continues to go through rehab and is working to strengthen his legs, but the knee remains painful and eventually will have to be addressed.

He has another year left on his contract, but only $1MM of his $7.733 salary for next season is guaranteed through June 30, meaning the Blazers could waive him this summer at a minimal cost if they don’t see improvement in his health. Ezeli is hoping to get the knee structurally sound before the team faces that decision.

“I’ve had lingering issues for a while and I want to address them now because I’m at a crossroads at this point where my long term health is at stake,” he said. “I love this team, I love what I’m doing here, I want to continue what I’m doing. I want to give them my 100 percent, I want to be able to get out on the court and be able to affect the game. When I can do that, I will be out there on the court. Right now I can’t, so I’m just going to keep working my best way and try to figure out the best way to get on the court.”

Season-Ending Surgery ‘Likely’ For Festus Ezeli

7:47pm: Ezeli stresses that he hasn’t made a decision yet on surgery, tweets Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW. “I don’t know yet,” he said. “We are still gathering information… talking to a lot of people.”

5:02pm: Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli may miss the entire season, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical.

Ezeli is considered “likely” to opt for season-ending surgery on his left knee. The decision has not been finalized, but the 27-year-old center hasn’t been able to find a solution for his troublesome knee, which has prevented him from even practicing since mid-October.

Portland was counting on Ezeli to stabilize its defense when it gave him a two-year deal worth more than $15MM over the summer. Ezeli averaged more than a block per game for the Warriors last season in just 16.7 minutes of playing time. Without him protecting the rim, the Blazers have allowed 112.2 points per night, which ranks 28th in the league.

The team could be eligible to file for a Disabled Player Exception if Ezeli is ruled out for the season, tweets Bobby Marks of The Vertical. That would give them $3.7MM to sign another player. Portland would have until January 15th to apply to the league for the DPE and would be limited to signing, trading for or making a waiver claim on a player with no more than a year left on his contract (Twitter link). However, Marks notes that the Blazers are only $27K out of tax territory and they would need to open a roster spot to use the DPE (Twitter link).

Ezeli has a $7.733MM salary for 2017/18, but only $1MM of that is guaranteed through June 30. If he doesn’t respond well to the surgery, Portland may seek another option at center for next season.

Northwest Notes: Turner, Blazers, Lauvergne, Payne

Evan Turner says it’s nice to know he’s missed in Boston, even as he struggles to find a role in Portland, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Turner accepted a four-year, $70MM deal this summer to head to the Pacific Northwest. However, the Trail Blazers haven’t used him as a primary ballhandler the way the Celtics did, and he has found it hard to adjust to a backcourt rotation with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum“I was most definitely comfortable there [in Boston],” Turner said. “There were certain situations where there were coaches that didn’t really sort of comprehend my game, and sometimes I wasn’t always in position to be comfortable or successful. So when you finally find that mixture of great basketball and off the court and things like that, you definitely don’t take it for granted.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Blazers haven’t shown significant improvement so far despite raising their payroll from $62MM to $112MM, contends Bobby Marks of The Vertical. Portland will have a hard time shaking things up until at least December 15th when the trade restrictions expire for Turner and Festus Ezeli. Restrictions for Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless will remain in effect until January 15th. Crabbe cannot be traded without his approval for a year because the Blazers matched an offer sheet from Brooklyn.
  • Offseason addition Joffrey Lauvergne is taking away minutes from Enes Kanter in Oklahoma City, notes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Lauvergne, acquired in an August trade with the Nuggets, has impressed the Thunder with a combination of defense and long-range shooting. “A lot of it’s going to be based on matchups, how the game’s going, who’s alongside of him, do we have the speed and quickness in the frontcourt,” OKC coach Billy Donovan said when asked about Kanter’s playing time. “That’s not to say the last couple of games with Enes, with his minutes, he’s not going to play more because I do think he and Steven [Adams] together is a good combination for us.”
  • Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne‘s option wasn’t picked up last month, but his role with the team is growing, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Payne got a chance to show what he could do after Shabazz Muhammad was sidelined with a sore knee. “Being patient is part of the NBA, being ready,” Payne said. “You just have to continue to work. Just going through this has been tough. It can break a lot of people. You just have to stay positive and continue to work.”

Injury Roundup: Mahinmi, Noel, Thomas, Ezeli

Wizards center Ian Mahinmi could return to practice on a limited basis next week, J. Michael of CSNMidatlantic.com reports. Mahinmi underwent left knee surgery on October 15th to repair cartilage. The initial recovery period for his return to action was 4-6 weeks, according to Michael. The former Pacers big man signed a four-year, $64MM contract with Washington over the summer despite the presence of Marcin Gortat.

In other injury-related news around the league:

  • Sixers big man Nerlens Noel could return to Philadelphia this week to continue his rehabilitation from a left knee injury, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Noel underwent surgery during training camp to repair inflamed tissue above the knee after appearing in just one preseason game.
  • Knicks forward Lance Thomas has a bone bruise in his left ankle and is out indefinitely, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. Thomas has played in eight games off the bench, averaging 3.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 17.5 minutes. Justin Holiday will likely pick up most of his minutes.
  • Bulls small forward Doug McDermott could miss the team’s entire six-game road trip because of a concussion, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com relays. McDermott entered the concussion protocol for the second time this season after a hard fall on Saturday. McDermott has appeared in nine games this season, averaging 10.6 points. Nikola Mirotic will need to be a bigger factor with McDermott sidelined.
  • Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli is receiving another medical opinion on his left knee injury, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The former Warriors reserve, who signed a two-year, $16MM contract to join Portland, hasn’t appeared in a game this season since undergoing a knee procedure this summer.
  • Jazz power forward Derrick Favors will be sidelined “for a while,” coach Quin Snyder told Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link). Favors was diagnosed with a bone contusion in his left knee on Wednesday. Trey Lyles will likely take Favors’ starting spot while he mends.

Festus Ezeli Suffered Minor Rehab Setback

One of the Trail Blazers’ free agent additions this summer, center Festus Ezeli, has yet to make his debut with the team, and suffered a minor setback last month in his effort to return from a knee issue, writes Jason Quick of CSNNW.com.

According to Quick, Ezeli took part in a pair of Portland practices in mid-October, which led to swelling in his troublesome left knee. The Blazers pulled back on his activity at that point, and have only allowed the big man to participate in 5-on-0 drills since then. The team has said recently that there’s no definite timeline for Ezeli’s return.

“I practiced, and that’s what happens sometimes – it reacts, swells up, you go back, regress and come back,” Ezeli said. “I’m just continuing to work and grind through this rehab. That’s all I can do.”

Ezeli, who signed a two-year, $15MM+ deal with the Blazers earlier this year, had his left knee injected with a bone marrow aspirate concentrate back in late August. At that point, the Blazers indicated that the ex-Warrior was expected to be sidelined for six weeks. However, he continues to rehab his knee two and a half months later.

Ezeli underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee back in February, and according to a July report by Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, a number of teams passed on signing the big man because they were worried about his durability. Ultimately, the deal he landed with Portland was for far less money than other solid free agent centers – such as Ian Mahinmi and Timofey Mozgov – received, and is only guaranteed for one year.