Frank Ntilikina

World Cup Notes: Team USA, Portis, K. Antetokounmpo, Poirier

Team USA enjoyed its second straight rout in exhibition play ahead of the FIBA World Cup, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The Americans pulled away in the second half Saturday for a 30-point win over a Slovenian team without Luka Doncic, who sat out the game with a minor knee issue.

Combined with Monday’s victory over Puerto Rico, the U.S. has outscored its opponents by 73 points in two games. The competition will get tougher in today’s matchup with Spain, but head coach Steve Kerr is happy to see his players buy into a team concept so quickly.

“We put together the team with the idea of having a lot of good passers and play-makers,” Kerr said. “And with this team, we’ve seen through the first two exhibition games, everybody can pass. And so we really want to push the tempo and attack closeouts because once we put it on the floor, we know these guys will distribute it and move it all over again.

“And you know, I thought we almost overdid it tonight. I thought at times we had over threes and we drove and kicked it down, which as a coach, you never want to criticize your players for that because you’re always trying to get them involved.”

There’s more on the World Cup:

  • Bobby Portis is disappointed that he won’t get to match up with Bucks teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo when Team USA faces Greece in an exhibition contest next week and again in pool play, Vardon adds. Antetokounmpo announced Friday that he will miss the World Cup as he continues to recover from minor knee surgery. “Obviously I’m sad, he’s sad, that he can’t play in the World Cup, but maybe that’s good for the Bucks,” Portis said.
  • Greece will also be without Kostas Antetokounmpo, who was declared out with an injury on Sunday, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. A former NBA player with the Mavericks and Lakers, Antetokounmpo represented Greece in last year’s EuroBasket and the Olympic qualifying tournament in 2021.
  • Former Celtics and Sixers center Vincent Poirier has joined the French team because of uncertainty surrounding Knicks draft-and-stash player Mathias Lessort, who is sidelined with an ankle issue, per Eurohoops. France is also adding Isaïa Cordinier in the wake of Frank Ntilikina‘s hamstring injury.

World Cup Notes: Doncic, Brunson, Ntilikina, Kerr

Luka Doncic isn’t playing for the Slovenian national team when they take on the United States in tonight’s showcase game, the club announced (Twitter link). Doncic isn’t playing for precautionary reasons after suffering a blow to his left knee in the second quarter of a game against Spain on Friday.

Doncic’s injury likely isn’t serious, given that he completed the second half of the game in which he suffered the injury, finishing with 17 points in about 25 minutes. Still, it’s a disappointing result for Doncic, his team and even USA Basketball. Jalen Brunson, who is on the USA’s World Cup roster and played with Doncic from 2018 to 2022 on the Mavericks, was looking forward to squaring off against his former teammate.

That’s my brother,” Brunson said of Doncic, per The Athletic’s Joe Vardon. “We got drafted together. I’ve been watching him grow since meeting him for the first time, seeing the player he is now. He’s gotten better and better each year to the point where he’s a top-five player, an MVP candidate, year in and year out, so whenever I get a chance to share the court with him, either with him or against him, it’s always been special. I’ve got nothing but love for him.

The exhibition game between Slovenia and the United States tips off today at 3:30 p.m. EST. Former NBA players Zoran Dragic and Mike Tobey are among the Slovenian players who will take the floor against the United States.

There are other notes from the World Cup:

  • New Hornets guard Frank Ntilikina will miss the 2023 FIBA World Cup after suffering an injury in a friendly between France and Lithuania, Eurohoops reports. Ntilikina injured his hamstring and no timetable was given for his return to play. Ntilikina signed a one-year contract with the Hornets earlier this month.
  • Thirty-seven years ago, Steve Kerr was a player for the 1986 USA Basketball World Championship Team, the precursor to the modern World Cup. Kerr’s team played in Malaga, Spain, where the USA is scheduled to play over the coming days. In another piece from Vardon, Kerr reminisces over the time he spent as a player in Malaga and said he wants the Team USA players he’s now coaching to take this experience all in. “Part of this experience has to be the cultural part of it,” Kerr said. “We’re getting to travel the world and see places we may never see again. So, you know, we are going to encourage our guys to get out. A lot of them have family in. Most of them went out to dinner with their families and friends last night. Yeah. We encourage that. It’s a great time to see the city of Malaga, but also prepare for a couple of important games.
  • In case you missed it, Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t be playing in this year’s World Cup because he’s still recovering from a minor knee surgery.

Contract Details: Watford, Ntilikina, Boum

Trendon Watford‘s one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Nets is non-guaranteed for the time being, but the third-year forward could earn partial guarantees if he makes the opening night roster and holds his spot on the team for at least a couple months.

Watford will receive a partial guarantee of $200K if he isn’t waived on or before the first day of the regular season in October, Hoops Rumors has learned. That partial guarantee would increase to $700K if he remains under contract through December 19.

Watford’s full $2.02MM salary would become guaranteed if he isn’t cut on or before January 7. That’s the date that all players on non-guaranteed contracts must be waived by if their teams want to avoid paying their full salaries.

Here are a few more details on recently signed contracts:

  • The one-year, minimum-salary deal that Frank Ntilikina signed with the Hornets is partially guaranteed for $200K, Hoops Rumors has learned. Ntilikina would have to remain under contract through the league-wide salary guarantee deadline of January 7 in order to earn his full $2.53MM salary.
  • Souley Boum‘s non-guaranteed training camp contract with the Nuggets includes Exhibit 10 language, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. Boum would receive a bonus worth $75K if he’s waived before the regular season begins and then spends at least 60 days with the Grand Rapids Gold, Denver’s G League affiliate.
  • In case you missed it, Anthony Davis‘ three-year, maximum-salary contract with the Lakers includes a third-year player option for the 2027/28 season, as Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported on Sunday when the deal was officially finalized.

Frank Ntilikina Signs With Hornets

AUG. 5: Ntilikina’s deal with the Hornets is official, per team release (Twitter link).

AUG. 4: The Hornets are signing free agent guard Frank Ntilikina to a one-year contract, agents Sam Rose and Olivier Mazet tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Wojnarowski says that Ntilikina’s deal will be partially guaranteed, while Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link) hears that it will be non-guaranteed — we’ll have to wait for more clarity on the exact details, but it’s a safe bet it’ll be worth the veteran’s minimum.

Ntilikina, who turned 25 last week, was selected eighth overall in the 2017 draft by the Knicks. He spent his first four NBA seasons in New York before joining the Mavericks for the last two years.

Ntilikina has never developed into much of an offensive threat at the NBA level, averaging a modest 4.8 points and 2.2 assists per game in 316 career contests (17.1 MPG), with a shooting line of .371/.323/.760. However, he’s considered a strong perimeter defender.

While Ntilikina’s partially guaranteed contract won’t necessarily assure him of a regular season roster spot in Charlotte, he has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of another former Knicks guard who was drafted in the 2017 lottery – Dennis Smith Jr. earned regular playing time in the Hornets’ rotation last season due to his strong defensive play. He parlayed that showing into a guaranteed contract with Brooklyn this offseason.

Charlotte only has 12 players on fully guaranteed contracts – not counting restricted free agent P.J. Washington – and doesn’t have much point guard depth behind starter LaMelo Ball, so Ntilikina should have an inside track on a 15-man roster spot as long as he performs well in training camp. It’s also worth noting that two-way player Theo Maledon is still a restricted free agent, so his potential return could affect Ntilikina’s role in Charlotte.

If Ntilikina doesn’t claim a spot on the Hornets’ 15-man roster, it will be interesting to see whether the Frenchman catches on with another team or considers a move back to Europe. As Sportando relays, there had been rumors that French club ASVEL Basket made an offer to Ntilikina.

Stein’s Latest: Sixers, McConnell, Hayes, Ntilikina

A year ago, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey described his relationship with James Harden as a “mutual lovefest” before the star guard hit free agency, eventually taking a pay cut to help Philadelphia build out its roster, Marc Stein writes at Substack.

However, a year later, the relationship between Morey and Harden is said to be “essentially fractured,” with the 33-year-old unhappy about how his free agency played out this time around. He has since issued a trade request and is intent on joining the Clippers. Morey publicly confirmed last week that the rift was over Harden’s contract and the Sixers’ unwillingness to meet his ask.

Should the Sixers regret trading for Harden? Despite rumors to the contrary, sources tell Stein that the Kings never offered Tyrese Haliburton in any trade with the Sixers for Ben Simmons ahead of the February 2022 deadline. Haliburton, of course, ended up getting moved to Indiana in a multiplayer deal that sent back All-NBA big man Domantas Sabonis, while Simmons was sent to Brooklyn as part of the package for Harden.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • The Suns are still interested in Pacers guard T.J. McConnell, league sources tell Stein, but there doesn’t appear to be a viable pathway to a deal at this time. As Stein notes, Phoenix recently traded Cameron Payne to San Antonio, and he was the only obvious salary-matching piece for a possible deal with Indiana. The Suns may revisit a McConnell trade down the road once their free agents become trade-eligible in mid-December, but Stein hears the veteran guard hopes to remain with the Pacers.
  • According to Stein, the Pistons initiated trade conversations with the Mavericks in an effort to unload former No. 7 overall pick Killian Hayes, but those talks “gained little traction.” Detroit has several guards on the roster, including multiple offseason additions. Although Dallas remains intrigued by Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic, the team’s top trade priority is believed to be a center upgrade, Stein adds.
  • Prior to signing Kemba Walker, EuroLeague club AS Monaco considered signing free agent guard Frank Ntilikina, Stein reports. The No. 8 pick of the 2017 draft, Ntilikina spent his first four seasons with the Knicks and spent the past two seasons with the Mavericks. He appeared in 47 games in 2022/23 for an average of 12.9 MPG.

Mavs Notes: Campazzo, Ntilikina, Luka, Dinwiddie, Wood, McGee

When Luka Doncic sat out on Wednesday vs. Houston, it gave backup Mavericks guards Facundo Campazzo and Frank Ntilikina a rare opportunity to see the court. Both players, who were only on the floor in garbage time in the first 13 games of the season, established season highs in minutes, with Campazzo logging 23 and Ntilikina playing 12.

Although Dallas lost the game and the duo was a combined 3-of-11 from the floor, both Campazzo and Ntilikina had positive net ratings on the night, and head coach Jason Kidd said before the game that it would be a boon if the team could rely on one or both players to help reduce the workloads being carried by Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie.

“We’re looking for them to run the team,” Kidd said of Campazzo and Ntilikina, according to Eddie Sefko of “We got to get other guys involved, especially with Spencer and LD and the load they’re carrying now. We got to find other options to get them a little rest during the game than just running those guys 40 minutes every night.”

Doncic was back in the lineup for Friday’s blowout win over Denver, so Campazzo and Ntilikina weren’t part of the regular rotation. However, the one-sided nature of the game allowed Kidd to get them on the floor in the fourth quarter, limiting Doncic and Dinwiddie to 35 and 26 minutes, respectively.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Christian Wood earned praise on Wednesday from both his former head coach (Stephen Silas) and his current head coach. As Sefko details, Silas said he was “proud” of the way Wood has matured over the course of his NBA career, while Kidd lauded the big man for his willingness to accept a reserve role so far in Dallas. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked, he’s been great,” Kidd said. “You look at accepting his role, coming off the bench. He and Timmy (Hardaway Jr.) could easily start for us. But we felt like having those two coming off the bench is something that gives us the advantage. And C-Wood has done an incredible job.”
  • Even though Wood isn’t starting or finishing games, is he the perfect pick-and-roll partner the Mavericks have long sought for Doncic? Michael Pina of The Ringer explores that question, noting that the team has a 123.1 offensive rating with Doncic and Wood on the court together. That’s the 13th-best mark out of 539 duos who have played at least 150 minutes together this season.
  • JaVale McGee joined the Mavericks as a free agent this past summer after the team promised him its starting center job, but he was moved to the bench after just seven starts and hasn’t seen much action as of late. Fortunately, McGee is taking the demotion in stride, tweets Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. “If they feel I shouldn’t be starting, I’ll cheer from the bench,” McGee said. “If they feel like I should start or however many minutes they think I should play, I’m going to play them my hardest.”

Mavs Notes: Wood, McGee, THJ, Ntilikina, Green, Dinwiddie, More

Christian Wood, the biggest addition of the Mavericks‘ offseason, is expected to primarily play a sixth man role in Dallas, head coach Jason Kidd told reporters today (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN).

This is my first time hearing about it,” Wood said during his own media session (Twitter link via MacMahon). However, he said that his focus with his new team will be on winning and he’s not overly concerned about whether he starts or comes off the bench.

While it may come as a bit of a surprise that Dallas wants Wood to come off the bench, MacMahon notes (via Twitter) that – as he reported at the time – the Mavs told JaVale McGee when they recruited him in free agency that they envisioned him as their starting center. It seems that plan remains on course.

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • During his Monday media session, Tim Hardaway Jr. pronounced himself “100%” healthy after missing most of last season due to foot surgery, as Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News relays (video link via Twitter). Kidd confirmed that Hardaway has been back in Dallas playing pick-up games for the last week and said the forward is “ready to go,” tweets Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.
  • Frank Ntilikina and Josh Green are candidates to be Dallas’ third ball-handler behind Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie, Kidd said today (Twitter link via Landon Thomas). Speaking of Dinwiddie, he’s feeling good as he enters his first full season as a Maverick and concludes his first full healthy offseason following his ACL injury. “It’s night and day,” Dinwiddie said of his ACL now compared to last year (Twitter link via Caplan). “Not even close.”
  • New Bulls guard Goran Dragic confirmed today that he talked with the Mavericks as a free agent this summer, but said he was “never close” to a deal with Dallas (Twitter link via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic).
  • Dorian Finney-Smith joked today that he would’ve been upset if Jalen Brunson had remained in Dallas instead of accepting the Knicks’ four-year, $104MM offer. “Man, you see how much money they gave him?” Finney-Smith said (Twitter link via Caplan). “I would’ve been mad if he stayed here.”

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Trademarks, EuroBasket, Ntilikina

Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic is in a legal battle with a family member regarding trademarks, Marc Stein reports in a Substack article.

On Tuesday, Doncic filed a petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office seeking to cancel the registration of the trademark “LUKA DONCIC 7” currently owned by his mother, according to his representative, the firm Brown Rudnick.

Doncic faced a Tuesday deadline with the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to file the petition. He’s been trying to regain full control of trademarks that bear his name, including several owned by his mother, Mirjam Poterbin.

We have more on Doncic and the Mavericks:

  • Doncic led Slovenia past Belgium in EuroBasket 88-72 on Saturday with a game-high 35 points. Slovenia advanced to the quarterfinals. As noted by Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link), Doncic has played 197 minutes in the tournament and produced 168 points and 39 assists.
  • Not everyone is impressed with Doncic’s scoring rampage. Belgium center Kevin Tumba complained to Donatas Urbonas  of that Doncic has benefited from favorable treatment by referees. “We tried to be focused on ourselves. But sometimes referees need to be fair with everybody,” Tumba said. “It’s not because he is Luka and can talk to the referees like he wants. When the other guy tries to talk with the referee very calmly, he responds, “Don’t talk to me.”
  • Despite the big output, Doncic was asked about his weight during the postgame press conference, relays. Doncic responded, “If I cared about what people I don’t hang out with say, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t mind at all.”
  • Frank Ntilikina could benefit from Jalen Brunson‘s departure but only if he can hold his own offensively, Eddie Sefko of writes. Ntilikina is a skilled defender but has been a liability offensively during his career. He averaged under 12 minutes per game last season and even fewer minutes during the postseason.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Ntilikina, Green

Following an exciting, albeit brief, postseason run this spring, the Pelicans face an intriguing 2022/23. The team expects to get 2021 All-Star forward Zion Williamson back from the foot injury that kept him sidelined last year, and hopes to build on the chemistry its players exhibited in their hard-fought six-game playoff loss to the Suns.

In a new mailbag, Will Guillory of The Athletic addresses questions about the team’s willingness to add 33-year-old All-Star forward Kevin Durant in a trade package centered around draft picks and young star forward Brandon Ingram; guard CJ McCollum‘s standing as a scorer in the NBA; the breakout potential of second-year small forward Trey Murphy III; and more.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks reserve guard Frank Ntilikina will not suit up for France in this year’s World Cup qualifiers or EuroBasket competition due to a lingering injury, per a statement from the French Federation of Basketball. Ntilikina showed off his defensive upside during his first season with Dallas, though he boasted relatively modest offensive numbers of 4.1 PPG, 1.4 RPG and 1.2 APG across 58 games.
  • In a conversation with Andrei Felix of CNN Philippines (YouTube video link) young Rockets shooting guard Jalen Green spoke about the skills he’s been focused on developing during the 2022 offseason. Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic supplied the transcript (Twitter link). “I’ve been working on decision-making, tightening up my handle, and knowing what shots I want to get on the floor,” Green said. “Getting comfortable getting to my spots and just rising up. Catch-and-shoot.” He also preached patience to Houston fans hoping for a return to deep postseason runs. We’re working,” Green continued. “We’re in the lab. We’re going to make sure this happens as soon as possible.” The second pick in the 2021 draft out of the G League Ignite, Green made the All-Rookie First Team while averaging 17.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG and 2.6 APG for a rebuilding 20-62 Rockets club.
  • In case you missed it, the Rockets agreed to sign veteran center Willie Cauley-Stein to a one-year deal, with a chance to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

Mavericks To Guarantee Frank Ntilikina’s Salary

The Mavericks plan to retain Frank Ntilikina beyond Monday, fully guaranteeing him the $2MM he’s owed in 2022/23, according to veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein (via Twitter).

Ntilikina, who has a July 4 guarantee date on his contract, appeared in 58 games last season, averaging 4.1 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.5 steals in 11.8 minutes. Ntilikina continues to intrigue teams because of his defense. Offensively, he hasn’t shot over 40% in any of his five NBA seasons.

Dallas is gearing up for another playoff run next year. The team traded for star big man Christian Wood this offseason, pairing Luka Doncic with a frontcourt presence to compete in the West.

Big man Maxi Kleber will also see his salary for 2022/23 ($9MM) become guaranteed, as Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News tweets. Kleber’s contract included a July 3 salary guarantee date.