Frank Ntilikina

Olympic Notes: France, Australia, Germany, Brazil

Ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the host nation has announced its preliminary 19-man roster (Twitter link). As Eurohoops relays, the headliners on France’s squad are big men Victor Wembanyama and Rudy Gobert, the top two finishers in this year’s Defensive Player of the Year vote.

However, there are several more notable NBA names on the list, including Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Bilal Coulibaly, and Ousmane Dieng. Other recent NBAers who didn’t finish the 2023/24 season on a roster include Killian Hayes, Frank Ntilikina, and Theo Maledon.

One player not on France’s roster is veteran guard Mike James. The 2023/24 EuroLeague MVP is an American, but according to a report from L’Equipe (hat tip to BasketNews.com), the French Basketball Federation explored the possibility of getting a French passport for James, who has played for AS Monaco in France’s LNB Pro A since 2021. That effort didn’t make any real headway, however.

“We do not have the culture of other nations which use naturalized players in a systematic way,” an unnamed executive told L’Equipe. “But we have a duty to explore all possibilities. In this case, we were asked, we looked at it and quickly established that it was not a question.”

The French national team will have to make seven cuts and set a 12-man roster for this July’s event.

Here are a few more updates related to the 2024 Olympics:

  • The Australian national team has trimmed its preliminary Olympic roster from 22 players to 17, the Boomers announced in a press release. None of the NBA players on the roster – including Josh Giddey, Joe Ingles, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Matisse Thybulle, and Dyson Daniels, among others – were among the cuts, but potential 2024 first-round pick Johnny Furphy was. The plan is for those 17 Australian players to attend training camp this summer before setting the final 12-man roster.
  • The German national team announced this week that head coach Gordon Herbert won’t continue on in that role after the conclusion of the Paris Olympics (hat tip to Sportando). The two sides are going their separate ways after a fruitful partnership that included a gold medal at the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • The Brazilian national team has announced its preliminary roster for this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Latvia. The notable names include veteran point guard Raul Neto, former first-round pick Bruno Caboclo, Warriors rookie Gui Santos, and former NBA guard Didi Louzada. The Brazilians will need to win the six-team qualifier to earn a spot in the Olympic men’s basketball tournament.

And-Ones: Paris Games, Ntilikina, Porter Jr., Broadcast Rights

Victor Wembanyama will return home next winter as the Spurs and Pacers meet for a pair of games in Paris, the NBA announced (via Twitter). The contests, which are scheduled for January 23 and 25, will mark the league’s first time playing two regular season games in the city in the same season.

“Playing in Paris has been an incredible experience for our organization in the past and we are thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of The NBA Paris Games 2025,” Spurs CEO RC Buford said in a press release. “Thanks to our deep international history, we are fortunate to have Spurs fans in France, across Europe and around the world. We are excited to continue to honor that legacy by purposefully connecting and engaging with our fans in France on and off the court.”  

These will be the fourth and fifth games in France for the Spurs, who played in Paris in 2003 and 2006 and traveled to Lyon in 2006. In addition to Wembanyama, the team’s roster features 2023 draft pick Sidy Cissoko, a native of Saint-Maurice.

The games will mark the first trip to France for the Pacers, who also issued a press release about the event. They will be the second and third regular season games in Europe and the 10th and 11th international contests for Indiana.

“The Pacers enjoy tremendous support from fans globally, and we are excited about the opportunity to be a part of the NBA’s efforts to continue bringing the game to new generations of fans all around the world,” said Kevin Pritchard, the team’s president of basketball operations.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA guard Frank Ntilikina has resumed training with an eye on representing France in the Olympics, relays Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. Ntilikina, who only appeared in five games for Charlotte before being waived in February, talked about his plans in an interview with SKWEEK. “Everything is going in the right direction,” he said. “We are all very confident about my form, two months before the start of the training camp.”
  • If he doesn’t get an NBA opportunity this summer, Kevin Porter Jr. is interested in spending another season with PAOK in Greece, Askounis adds in a separate story. After sitting out most of the year while dealing with an assault charge, Porter joined PAOK early this month and helped the team reach the playoffs in Greece’s top-tier division. “I am very grateful,” he said. “It is very family-oriented here. That is what I needed to get out of the shell I was in. So, I can’t see myself playing for any club overseas besides PAOK, no matter the league. If it is not the NBA, I will probably be here again.”
  • Andrew Marchand and Richard Deitsch of The Athletic examine the NBA’s new arrangement with Amazon Prime Video and speculate on whether it means the end of the league’s long-running relationship with TNT.

And-Ones: Officiating, Stewart, Eubanks, Ntilikina, Bronny

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr once again lamented the way that NBA games are called, suggesting that offensive players get the benefit of the doubt too often, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

“I think there just needs to be a general rule: No bulls–t allowed. Really. It’s the truth,” Kerr said. “And I could go through a tape with you and show you: A guy dribbles off a high ball screen and the defender tries to fight over (the screen) and the guy (with the ball) jumps backwards and the ref calls a foul. Like, what are we doing? Can you imagine calling that in the pickup game? It would start a fight. We just have to get back to (determining) what’s basketball.”

With scoring numbers reaching record heights, NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Joe Dumars confirmed last month that the league has formally launched a review into whether rule changes are necessary to slow that trend and restore the offense/defense balance. Kerr believes that tweaking the way fouls are called would be a good start.

“Let’s make players create an advantage in order to call a foul,” Kerr said. “But we have these exact phrases — ‘illegal guarding position.’ Sometimes a guy will just slam right through the defender and the ref will call a foul on the defender. (The referee will) say, ‘It’s an illegal guarding position.’ The refs have to call that. That’s how they’re judged and taught.

“Like I said, the officials are great. It’s just that we have to recognize what’s happening. I think it’s been about a decade where the offensive players are so smart, they see what’s happening and they’re just completely manipulating the rules to let them go.”

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

  • TMZ Sports has obtained the Phoenix Police Department incident report on the altercation between Pistons forward/center Isaiah Stewart and Suns center Drew Eubanks. According to the report, Eubanks told police that Stewart confronted him while he was entering the arena due to physical play between the two big men in a previous game. Stewart, who punched Eubanks in the face, was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge and issued a citation, but Eubanks later told police he wanted the charges dropped, per TMZ.
  • Frank Ntilikina is reportedly looking to return to his home country after being waived by the Hornets last month. Alessandro Maggi of Sportando, relaying a report from French outlet BeBasket, says Ntilikina has been linked to ASVEL and Paris Basketball but would need to be signed as an injury replacement to be eligible suit up for either team down the stretch. The guard is said to be hoping to use the rest of this season to make his case for a spot on the French national team for the Paris Olympics this summer.
  • As he considers whether to enter the 2024 NBA draft or remain at USC, Bronny James is expected to weigh specific team interest more heavily than draft position, agent Rich Paul told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN over the weekend. That would mean seeking out the best developmental fit rather than trying to get drafted as high as possible. Paul added that getting Bronny on the same team as father LeBron James isn’t a top priority, though LeBron would be “head over heels excited if that were to happen organically.”

Hornets Cut Ish Smith, Frank Ntilikina

The Hornets have officially waived veteran guards Ish Smith and Frank Ntilikina, the team announced today in a press release. Charlotte has now cut three backcourt players since the trade deadline, having also parted ways with James Bouknight.

The Hornets needed to make a series of cuts in order to accommodate their deadline deals. Dropping Smith and Ntilikina allowed the team to take on three players while sending Gordon Hayward to Oklahoma City.

A journeyman who has played for 13 teams across 14 NBA seasons, Smith was the Hornets’ primary backup point guard this season, averaging 3.2 points, 3.4 assists, and 1.8 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game across 43 appearances (five stats). The 35-year-old shot 41.8% from the field.

Ntilikina was initially expected to be LaMelo Ball‘s backup this season, but leg and hip issues have sidelined him for nearly the entire 2023/24 campaign. He played only 43 minutes across five games for Charlotte prior to his release.

Tre Mann and Vasilije Micic, acquired from the Thunder in the Hayward trade, figure to get a shot to earn regular playing time at the point.

Smith and Ntilikina will both become free agents and will be able to sign with any team this weekend once they clear waivers. The Hornets will remain on the hook for their matching $2,019,706 (minimum-salary) cap hits.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Ntilikina, Hayward, Murray

Heat forward Jimmy Butler was able to play 40 minutes on Monday after missing 11 of the previous 12 games with a toe and calf injuries. Butler supplied 31 points in the overtime win over the Nets.

“I got my rhythm as I was coming back,” he said. “Guys were looking for me, got out in open court.”

It was only the ninth time all season that the Heat’s top three players — Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro — all played in the same game, and the seventh time all season they finished the game, Tim Bontemps of ESPN notes.

“We just have to keep playing basketball the right way with or without myself, Tyler, and Bam in the lineup,” Butler said. “We’ve always found a way to win games. We will continue to do so. But I like the idea of us three being on the court at the same time.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Frank Ntilikina has yet to make his Hornets debut, but that should change soon, according to Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer. The guard is currently in the advanced stages of his rehab and on-court work. He suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left tibia in the preseason finale. Ntilikina had a non-guaranteed deal but the team chose to keep him past the league-wide January 10 salary guarantee date. “I want one thing: “I just to get back on the court with these guys. I feel like everybody out here trusts me, the coach, my teammates,” Ntilikina said. He’s listed as questionable to play Wednesday against New Orleans, Boone tweets.
  • Another injured Hornets player, Gordon Hayward, will need more time to recover from his latest injury. Hayward has missed the last nine games with a strained left calf and has only been able to do light work, Boone reports. “It’s a tricky situation with a calf strain like that,” Hayward said. “I’m not there yet, so it’s not like there’s a timeline or anything. But it is getting better.” Hayward’s $31.5MM salary will come off the Hornets’ books after the season, if he’s not dealt in the coming weeks.
  • Hawks guard Dejounte Murray is well aware of the trade rumors enveloping him. Murray told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears “I love my teammates,” adding that he tries to keep the chatter out of mind. “I know what the main goal is. The main goal is today,” he said. “Today, I’m an Atlanta Hawk and that’s all that matters. Help do my job and try to get a win. That’s the most important.”

Hornets’ LaMelo Ball Expected To Return Friday

JANUARY 12: Ball participated in this morning’s shootaround and is expected to return tonight, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).


JANUARY 11: Hornets guard LaMelo Ball could return to action on Friday against the Spurs after missing over a month and a half due to a sprained ankle, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter link). Ball has been upgraded to questionable for the contest. He hasn’t appeared in a game since Nov. 26 against the Magic, when he left action after just 14 minutes.

Having Ball back is undoubtedly a major boost for a struggling Hornets team who sits at 8-27, 13th in the Eastern Conference. In the 14 games Ball was healthy for, the Hornets were 5-9 compared to 3-18 without him. Charlotte sits 9.5 games back on a play-in spot though, so they’d have to quickly catch up in the standings to have a shot at the postseason.

In his 14 healthy games this season, Ball averaged 25.9 points, 8.6 assists and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 38.9% from three on 9.4 attempts per game. His 15th game is the one in which he left due to his injury.

Additionally, guard Frank Ntilikina, who has missed the entire season with a leg injury, could make his season debut on Friday. Like Ball, Ntilikina was upgraded to questionable ahead of the contest against San Antonio, according to The Charlotte Observer’s Rod Boone (Twitter link).

The Hornets signed Ntilikina, the former eighth overall pick, to a minimum contract in the offseason. Ntilikina spent the first four seasons of his career with the Knicks before signing with the Mavericks in 2021. In six NBA seasons, the 25-year-old guard holds career averages of 4.8 points and 2.2 assists.

With both Ball and Ntilikina sidelined for a portion of the season, the Hornets primarily turned to Terry Rozier to take over primary point guard duties, often playing him alongside other guards like Bryce McGowens. Ball and Ntilikina both returning may spell fewer minutes for backup point guard veteran Ish Smith, along with McGowens or Nick Smith, with Rozier playing alongside Ball in the starting lineup.

Southeast Notes: Ball, Hornets, F. Wagner, Queen, Jones

The Hornets have dealt with several injuries this season, most notably to point guard LaMelo Ball, who has been out since November 26 with a right ankle sprain. However, the former All-Star was a full practice participant on Sunday and also scrimmaged 5-on-5, which means he’s nearing a return, reports Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

Ball, 22, has averaged 24.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.4 steals on .443/.388/.857 shooting in 15 games this season (33.4 minutes). He’s under contract through 2028/29 after signing a five-year, rookie scale max extension last summer.

According to Boone, reserve guard Frank Ntilikina has also been practicing and scrimmaging with the Hornets and could make his 2023/24 season debut in the near future. Ntilikina fractured his left tibia in the team’s preseason finale, but Charlotte decided to keep him past Sunday’s salary guarantee deadline.

As for P.J. Washington, he sustained a right foot sprain on Friday and it’s unclear how much time he might miss, Boone adds. All three players will be out for Monday’s contest vs. Chicago, per the league’s official injury report.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • Franz Wagner underwent an MRI on Thursday which confirmed a right ankle sprain, the Magic announced (via Twitter). Orlando is typically vague when it comes to injuries and recovery timelines and this was no exception; the team simply said “Wagner’s return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment.”
  • While the Magic‘s update didn’t reveal much about Wagner’s injury, head coach Jamahl Mosley sounded relieved it wasn’t more serious, according to Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel, who notes that Wagner had to be helped off the court on Wednesday vs. Sacramento. “Seeing how he went down and how he was grimacing through that,” Mosley said, “to be an ankle sprain at that level is very great news to have at this moment.”
  • Injuries — including Wagner’s — recently created an opportunity for major minutes for Magic two-way guard Trevelin Queen, Beede writes for The Orlando Sentinel. The former G League MVP had only played one minute in one game leading up to Wednesday’s contest in Sacramento, but he played 38 minutes that night and 31 minutes two days later in Denver. As Beede notes, Queen was recently named to the NBAGL’s All-Showcase Team and he will likely continue bouncing back and forth between the NBA and G League. “I stay ready because I know it’s bigger than me,” Queen said. “For me, I don’t care what I’ve got going on, I’m just ready to hoop at any time. It’s just being mentally ready. Whether it’s for Osceola or Orlando, it’s just being the best teammate I can be.”
  • The Wizards‘ 6-29 record is underwhelming to say the least, but one bright spot in their season has been the leadership and play of point guard Tyus Jones, per Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. A full-time starter for the first time in 2023/24, Jones is averaging career highs in several categories, Wallace notes, and has helped cultivate a good locker-room environment for the Wizards despite their lack of on-court success.

Frank Ntilikina Out At Least Four Weeks With Fractured Tibia

Hornets guard Frank Ntilikina has sustained a non-displaced fracture of his left tibia and will be out at least four weeks, which is when he’ll be reevaluated, the team announced (Twitter link via Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer).

Ntilikina suffered the injury during Thursday’s preseason finale against Boston. He was originally diagnosed with a hyperextended knee, but further testing revealed the fracture.

A former lottery pick (No. 8 overall in 2017) who is still just 25 years old, Ntilikina spent his first four NBA seasons with the Knicks and the past two seasons with the Mavs. In August, he signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract with Charlotte as a free agent, but his deal is only partially guaranteed for $200K.

It’s unclear if the injury might cause the Hornets to release Ntilikina. Being out at least four weeks with the regular season about to begin in a handful of days certainly isn’t ideal for either party, to put it mildly.

After Charlotte waived Kai Jones, Ntilikina’s path to a spot on the opening night roster appeared secure. His leg injury makes it a bit more of a question mark.

While he has never been great on offense, posting a subpar career shooting slash line of .371/.323/.760 over 316 regular season games (17.1 MPG), the French guard is a talented defensive player and the Hornets don’t have many strong defenders on their roster.

Ntilikina was likely competing for backup point guard minutes alongside first-rounder Nick Smith, Edmond Sumner and Theo Maledon, who is on a two-way deal. Ntilikina’s injury seemingly makes Sumner even more likely to make the team — he’s on a non-guaranteed Exhibit 9 contract.

Eastern Notes: Simmons, Ntilikina, Middleton, Harden, Dick

Ben Simmons continues to brim with confidence during training camp. The Nets guard said he’ll be even better than what he showed early in his career, when he was named to the All-Star team three times.

“I’m going to be better than I was,” Simmons told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “My job is just to show up, perform, work my ass off and lead this team the right way. So it’s doing all the little things, and everything else takes care of itself.”

We’ve got more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Hornets guard Frank Ntilikina departed their preseason game on Thursday with a hyperextended left knee, the team’s PR department tweets. Ntilikina’s $2,528,233 minimum salary won’t be fully guaranteed until January 10. He signed a one-year deal in August.
  • Khris Middleton hasn’t played in the preseason but that appears likely to change on Friday. The Bucks swingman, who has been working his way back from right knee surgery, says he’s good to go for the preseason finale, according to Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “As of right now, I definitely feel like I’ll be out there playing tomorrow,” Middleton said. “Don’t know how long, how many minutes, but I do expect to be playing, which is exciting for me.”
  • James Harden missed practice for a second straight day on Thursday but coach Nick Nurse said it didn’t distract his Sixers teammates.  “I think the organization has made it clear what’s going on,” Nurse told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They are working on stuff, as we say, day by day. We had a really good practice today. Very energetic, the guys that were here. And that’s what we are focused on.” Nurse said it’s “unlikely” Harden will play in the preseason finale on Friday even if he returns to the team by then.
  • Gradey Dick may be a fan favorite but he’s unlikely to be in the Raptors’ rotation early in the season, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. The first-round pick requires “a lot of patience and time,” coach Darko Rajakovic said. “He’s got to slow down himself before the game slows down for him,” Rajakovic added.

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.