Gayle Benson

Pelicans Notes: Murphy, Alvarado, Valanciunas, Draft, Arena

A rookie scale extension for Trey Murphy will be one of the Pelicans‘ offseason priorities, but it will take a significant offer to make it happen, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Clark sees a new contract for Murphy falling somewhere between the four-year, $94.5MM deal that Brooklyn gave Cameron Johnson last summer and the five-year pact Devin Vassell signed with San Antonio that includes $135MM in guaranteed money.

Murphy came off the bench in 34 of the 57 games he played this season, but Clark points to an April matchup with Golden State as evidence that he can handle a full-time starting role. With Brandon Ingram sidelined by an injury, Murphy scored 24 points and sank six three-pointers, three of which were from 30 feet or longer.

New Orleans reportedly plans to explore trades involving Ingram this summer, creating an opportunity for Murphy to replace him in the starting lineup. Clark views Murphy as a better fit alongside Zion Williamson and Herbert Jones, adding that all three will be under long-term deals if Murphy signs an extension.

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • The Pelicans are very likely to pick up their $1.99MM team option on Jose Alvarado, Keith Smith of Spotrac states in an offseason overview of the team. Option decisions on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl ($2.2MM) and Matt Ryan ($2.4MM) are less certain, but Smith expects New Orleans to keep both players unless the front office decides it needs to open a roster spot. The more difficult choices, according to Smith, are what to do with center Jonas Valanciunas and small forward Naji Marshall, who will both be unrestricted free agents if they don’t agree to extensions by late June. Smith expects a one- or two-year deal for Valanciunas if he’s brought back, while Marshall seems likely to wind up elsewhere.
  • The Pelicans need to find a big man in the draft, and there should be plenty of decent options when they pick at No. 21, Smith adds, listing Zach Edey, Yves Missi, DaRon Holmes II and Kel’el Ware as players who could still be on the board. Smith expects New Orleans to defer the first-round pick that it’s owed from the Lakers, which is at No. 17, and take L.A.’s first-rounder next year instead.
  • The Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District voted to delay planned improvements to Smoothie King Center because Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, who also owns the NFL’s Saints, is delinquent on payments for upgrades to the Superdome, Clark and Jeff Duncan write in a separate story. ASM Global, which manages the Superdome, contends the Saints are $11.5MM behind and haven’t made a payment since December. The NFL team issued a statement (via Twitter) saying it has no problem paying the $11.5MM — or its $41MM share of the $58MM project — but added, “We have, however, asked for certain documentation over an extended period and we have not received that documentation.” Last year, the Pelicans extended their lease at the arena through June of 2029.

Southwest Notes: G. Williams, Pelicans, Green, Morant

In an appearance on J.J. Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast, Grant Williams talked about the thrill of teaming up with Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (hat tip to Eurohoops). Williams, who was acquired from the Celtics in a sign-and-trade, is looking forward to the easy scoring opportunities that Doncic can create for him.

“Whenever you are open, he is going to find you,” Williams said. “I am excited just because he brings so much pressure and attention to himself. He does a good job of getting others involved. His growth and his next step is understanding that as much as that happens he also has to power others to play their games as well.”

Williams is part of a revamped roster in Dallas, which is hoping to bounce back after missing the playoffs last season. He will restore a defensive presence that the Mavs lacked after trading for Kyrie Irving in February, while Doncic and Irving will be counted on to power the offense.

“Kyrie has been in this league long enough that he knows how to make a tough shot and also get off the ball,” Williams told Redick. “And Luka does a good job of seeing the full court from the beginning.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The upcoming season will provide a good test of whether the Pelicans are willing to pay the luxury tax, writes Christian Clark of NOLA. New Orleans is currently about $3MM over the tax line after moving E.J. Liddell from a two-way contract to a standard roster spot. If the Pelicans remain at that figure when the tax is calculated after the end of the regular season, they will pay a $4.4MM penalty and won’t be able to share in the leaguewide distribution for non-taxpaying teams. New Orleans and 20 other clubs each received $17.3MM this summer. Sources told Clark that they believe owner Gayle Benson will eventually be willing to pay the tax, but they’re skeptical that she’ll do it this season with the Pelicans coming off a non-playoff year.
  • New Rockets head coach Ime Udoka wants to see Jalen Green start to build “winning habits,” per Michael Shapiro of The Houston Chronicle. Green has put up impressive scoring numbers in his first two seasons, but Udoka has instructed him to improve other aspects of his game. “The one thing we have stressed to him is being an all-around player,” Udoka said. “He is a natural scorer. But he has to do it on each side of the ball. He is a guy who can get anywhere on the court.”
  • Davonte Pack, a close friend of Grizzlies star Ja Morant, was arrested this week for misdemeanor assault stemming from a pick-up basketball game at Morant’s house last summer, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Morant and others are involved in a civil lawsuit for allegedly striking a teenager during the game.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Williamson, Silas, Adams, Lecque

The Pelicans have never paid the luxury tax but that could change soon, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Owner Gayle Benson is willing to pay the tax, according to Pelicans executive VP David Griffin, since the team has the ability to become a serious contender.

We’re not bound by, ‘We won’t pay the tax,'” Griffin said. “We will not frivolously pay the tax. If this team is in a position to be as good as we hope to be, I don’t think resources are going to be the reason we won’t get where we need to go.”

The Pelicans are currently approximately $3.6MM below the NBA’s luxury tax line of $150.3MM.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Following a season in which he rehabbed a foot injury, Pelicans big man Zion Williamson left his coach and teammates awestruck in two practices Tuesday, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN. “What stood out was his force more than anything,” coach Willie Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.” Williamson inked a five-year, max extension this summer.
  • Rockets coach Stephen Silas wasn’t thrilled by what he saw during Wednesday’s practice, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “I saw we have a lot of work to do,” Silas said. “(It’s) day two, obviously. We did a good job of putting things in. We scrimmaged quite a bit today and it’s evident, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to be a process for us. We’re going to have to learn from mistakes and watch film and get better as a result.”
  • Steven Adams taking 3-pointers this season? It’s not out of the question. “He’s definitely putting in the work over the summer,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins told Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “I even told him if you’re open, shoot it. I want him to be aggressive.” However, Adams hopes to keep it a secret weapon. He’s only made one 3-pointer in 14 career attempts.
  • The Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets’ G League affiliate, acquired the returning player rights to guard Jalen Lecque from the Raptors 905, the team tweets. The Vipers traded away the returning player rights to Christian Vital. Lecque played four games with the Pacers in 2020/21.

Pelicans Ownership Reluctant To Offer Zion Fully Guaranteed Extension

During his end-of-season media session last month, Zion Williamson expressed enthusiasm about the possibility of signing a long-term contract extension with the Pelicans this offseason.

However, a fully guaranteed maximum-salary offer is unlikely to be on the table for Williamson, according to Brian Windhorst, who said on ESPN’s Get Up (video link) that team ownership is expected to seek protections in any extension agreement.

“From what I have been told, the Pelicans at this point are not willing to offer a full five-year guaranteed deal,” Windhorst said (hat tip to RealGM). “And a lot of it is flowing down from ownership. Gayle Benson, the owner, is also the owner of the New Orleans Saints and I have been told they are going to take a football-style, Saints-style mentality with this contract negotiation. They will offer him a huge contract, but will not guarantee all of it.

“If Zion accepts those terms and still protects himself and maybe gets $100-plus million guaranteed, he signs it and everything’s fine. If he doesn’t sign it and wants the full thing guaranteed, we could have some drama into the fall.”

A former No. 1 overall pick, Williamson missed the entire 2021/22 season while recovering from right foot surgery and has appeared in just 85 career games since entering the NBA in 2019. The 21-year-old has played at an All-Star level when healthy, averaging 25.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 3.2 APG in 31.7 minutes per contest.

Williamson’s situation has frequently been likened to the one Joel Embiid was in following his third year with the Sixers, a comparison Windhorst invoked during his appearance on Get Up.

Following Embiid’s third season, injuries had limited him to just 31 career games, but Philadelphia was confident enough in his superstar potential to offer him a five-year, maximum-salary extension that included injury protection. The deal was worth $146.45MM, but would have been guaranteed for as little as $84.2MM if Embiid sustained a “contractually agreed upon injury” and the 76ers waived him. Embiid, of course, stayed healthy enough and played at such a high level that the Sixers never considered the possibility of letting him go.

The Pelicans could take a similar route with Williamson, offering him a maximum-salary contract that includes a substantial guarantee while also giving the team an out if he continues to be impacted by injuries. As Windhorst notes, it remains to be seen whether Zion would be willing to accept such an offer now that he no longer has any restrictions related to his foot surgery.

While Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin figures to take the lead on negotiations with Williamson, Windhorst stresses that the desire to reduce the team’s risk is being driven more by the club’s owners than by the front office.

“From what I understand, it’s not even about the Pelicans, it’s about ownership,” Windhorst said. “It’s about them saying, “Look, we have to make decisions on football players all the time that we’re worried about their injuries. We’ll guarantee them a certain amount of money and if they play, they can have all the money.’ And that’s what’s going to be presented.”

Southwest Notes: Hardaway Jr., Burke, Vaccinations, Benson

Tim Hardaway Jr. re-signed with the Mavericks this summer on a four-year, $75MM contract. He was given the option by head coach Jason Kidd of being a starter or sixth man. Hardaway chose the former, Dwain Price of the team’s website writes.

“I asked him in the summer what he wanted to do, and he wanted to think about it,” Kidd said. “So when he came back – that was enough time for him to think – and I asked for the answer, and he wants to start.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Guard Trey Burke has a sketchy future with the Mavericks, as Marc Stein of Substack details. The Mavericks explored the trade market for Burke during the offseason before signing Frank Ntilikina. With 15 fully guaranteed contracts and one partially guaranteed deal, the team has a decision to make. Waiving Burke would cost the team $6.45MM, since his contract runs through next season, which includes a player option for 2022/23. Dallas is expected to explore more trade scenarios before waiving a player with guaranteed money, Stein adds.
  • The Pelicans hope to be fully vaccinated by opening night, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune relays. “The league has done a really, really good job of making it almost unanimous that almost everyone is fully vaccinated,” executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin said. “I would say that by the time the regular season rolls around, we get to that point.”
  • The Pelicans have received numerous offers from interested buyers but owner Gayle Benson isn’t selling, Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune reports. Despite disadvantages such as having one of the lowest TV revenue deals in the league, Benson is intent on keeping the franchise and leaving it in New Orleans. “There is no way, as long as I’m going to be alive, that I would sell the Pelicans,” Benson said.

Pelicans Notes: Ingram, Zion, Murphy, Succession Plan

As he prepares to play for his third head coach in the past three seasons, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram is looking for more stability under Willie Green, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Ingram has added some muscle mass to his lean frame, and he thinks it will help him be more efficient around the rim.

I thought it would help my game out a lot, just the way I’m playing,” Ingram said. “Driving to the basket. Taking a lot of contact. I wanted to be able to deliver the blows. Being able to finish. Being in good, low positions. And being able to finish. It was something I just wanted to work on this summer.

Ingram has also taken on a leadership role for the Pelicans, Clark notes, helping to organize voluntary workouts in Phoenix over the summer. Green believes the key to Ingram’s new role as a team leader is to be himself.

I’m looking forward to seeing him lead in his way. I think that’s the key for Brandon. Not to try to do something that is not him. I can see that early with who he is and what his personality is. He’s been great all summer.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • William Guillory of The Athletic recently spoke to Jeff Stotts, a certified athletic trainer who runs a website tracking injuries and how they affect NBA players, about whether Zion Williamson‘s injury might be a cause for long-term concern. Stotts says that Williamson’s fractured fifth metatarsal on his right foot has a relatively high re-injury rate, and can be especially problematic for larger players, noting that Kevin Durant, Brook Lopez, and Glen Davis all suffered setbacks with similar injuries. Guillory adds that this is the third injury to Zion’s right leg since 2019, which is certainly worrisome. However, Stotts says that Pelicans head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson is elite, as his teams have consistently been in the top tier for fewest games missed due to injury or illness, and Robin Lopez had a successful recovery from the same injury while under Nelson’s care in Phoenix.
  • Rookie Trey Murphy is “one of many” players in the running for a starting roster spot, Clark writes for NOLA.com. Clark thinks Murphy’s ability to space the floor and make quick reads could be a nice complement for stars Ingram and Williamson.
  • Pelicans owner Gayle Benson recently revealed the franchise’s long-term succession plan, per Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com, with the primary goal to keep the team in New Orleans.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Benson, Brandon Boston, THJ

In an extensive new mailbag, Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian addressed the possibility of the Grizzlies considering trades for incumbent wings Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson, among other topics. Herrington wrote that, though an offseason Anderson trade appears unlikely, he could see the veteran forward’s expiring $9.9MM contract being moved during the year.

Because Brooks’s current three-year, $35MM contract extension with the club is fairly favorable, Herrington considers him less likely to be moved. Herrington also speculates on how the new-look Grizzlies can improve in a stacked Western Conference.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans owner Gayle Benson has donated $1MM towards Hurricane Ida relief, per an official press release from Benson and the Pelicans.
  • The Pelicans received $2.5MM in cash considerations from the Clippers in New Orleans’ trade of No. 51 pick Brandon Boston out of Kentucky, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. The Pelicans also received a heavily-protected 2022 second-round draft pick in the deal that appears unlikely to convey.
  • Mavericks swingman Tim Hardaway Jr., newly re-signed on a four-year, $75MM deal, registered his optimism about the future performance of former All-Star big man Kristaps Porzingis, as Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com relays. So far during his time in Dallas, Porzingis has been a shadow of his former self as the result of a series of injuries. “I know he’s back in Latvia busting his tail right now to get back to where he was before the injury when we were with the Knicks,” Hardaway said. “I know how much he loves the game and how much he works. He’s going to do whatever he can to get back to that level. Injuries do play a part in the game.”

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Morey, Benson, Van Gundy

Former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey took out a full-page newspaper advertisement to thank the city of Houston, Rockets fans, James Harden, and more this past weekend.

Morey spent 14 years with the team and announced his plans to step down from the position last week. He was responsible for a number of major transactions during his time with the franchise — most notably in recent years — which includes acquiring All-Star Russell Westbrook and trading away Clint Capela.

“Thank you for an amazing 14 years. Your love, support and energy has meant the world to me,” Morey wrote. “My family and I came to Houston as yankees, nervous about how the city would welcome us and honored that [previous owner] Leslie Alexander had trusted me to help run a legendary franchise. I came into an organization with Hall of Fame players Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady already in place and a championship legacy built by Houston legends like Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

“Walking into work on the first day was exciting, daunting and inspiring. Soon enough, the nervousness washed away and we came to feel like adopted Texans. What followed was the most amazing 14 years of my life.”

Morey dedicated the final part of his ad to Harden, who he credits for ‘changing his life’ during their time together in Houston.

“An entire page could be dedicated just to James,” Morey wrote. “He not only transformed my life but also revolutionized the game of basketball — and continues to do so — like almost no one has before. The game is played differently because of James, and on every playground in the world, the next generation of talent is studying and imitating his game.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Morey had a major impact on the NBA during his time with the Rockets, also causing some unintended consequences along the way, David Aldridge of The Athletic writes. Aldridge examines how Morey impacted players, teams and small-ball, particularly in his final years.
  • A man attempted to steal a car with Pelicans owner Gayle Benson sitting inside of it on October 10, as relayed by Ramon Antonio Vargas and Amie Just of Nola.com. The man aborted his plan after Benson screamed at him to leave the vehicle, fleeing the scene in a white Nissan Titan. “While she was very shaken at the time, she was unharmed and is doing fine,” Pelicans spokesman Greg Bensel said of Benson. “She wanted to send her sincere gratitude to the men and women of the New Orleans Police Department that responded so quickly and professionally.”
  • William Guillory of The Athletic ponders whether Stan Van Gundy could provide the structure and winning mentality the Pelicans crave. Van Gundy appears to be one of the finalists for New Orleans’ head coaching job, which was made vacant when the team fired Alvin Gentry in August.

And-Ones: Adebayo, Olympics, NBA Foundation, Tsai

Although he didn’t make the final 12-man squad that took part in the 2019 World Cup, Heat center Bam Adebayo participated in Team USA’s training camp leading up to that event and received consideration to represent the U.S. in the international competition.

With the Tokyo Olympics on tap for the summer of 2021, however, another national program is hoping to recruit Adebayo away from USA Basketball, according to Colin Udoh of ESPN, who says Nigeria wants to add the big man to its Olympic roster. Adebayo’s father is Nigerian, Udoh notes.

“Having Bam in our national team is a possibility that we are considering as a federation ahead of the 2020 Olympics and beyond,” Nigeria Basketball Federation president Musa Kida said in a statement to ESPN. “We are excited about how far he has gone and what he can achieve in his career with D’Tigers if he chooses to play for Nigeria.”

Nigeria has already earned an Olympic berth and – assuming next season’s schedule allows for it – is expected to feature NBA players such as Josh Okogie, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chimezie Metu, and potentially Spencer Dinwiddie. It remains to be seen if the team will be able to land Adebayo, but he has said in the past that he’d consider Nigeria if asked. He also may be more open to the idea after being cut from last year’s Team USA roster.

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

  • The NBA and NBPA issued a joint press release today announcing the board of directors for the NBA Foundation, a new organization dedicated to driving “economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement.” In addition to Harrison Barnes and Tobias Harris, whose involvement was previously reported, the NBA Foundation’s board of directors will be made up of Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, and four team owners (Gayle Benson, Tony Ressler, Larry Tanenbaum, and Michael Jordan).
  • As we relayed earlier today, China’s CCTV has lifted its year-long ban on NBA broadcasts, citing the league’s role in fighting COVID-19 in China as a primary reason for that decision. NetsDaily suggests Nets owner Joe Tsai may have played a key part in that effort, having sent a $3.7MM donation to China in February to help fight the pandemic.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks lists the trade assets held by all 30 teams, including moveable players, surplus draft picks, and trade exceptions.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Mavericks, Benson, Aldridge

Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram, recently crowned the Most Improved Player for the 2019/20 season, made significant strides this season after his trade from the Lakers, per William Guillory of The Athletic.

Ingram specifically credits the time he logged watching game tape, both of himself with the Lakers and of the Pelicans’ offense, with his performative improvement. “When I wasn’t on the court, I just had to visualize things,” Ingram said during a media Zoom conversation Monday. “I had to watch film … It helped me out.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Following an exciting 2019/20 campaign that ended in a 4-2 loss to the Clippers, Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at the Mavericks‘ roster. Caplan assesses player performance this season and projects how players will fare next year, looking at everyone from All-Star Luka Doncic to crucial veteran role player Trey Burke.
  • After testing positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Pelicans (and Saints) owner Gayle Benson has been cleared to return to team activities by doctors, per Jeff Duncan of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • The Spurs apparently tried to shop big man LaMarcus Aldridge at this season’s trade deadline, though potential trade partners balked at San Antonio’s requested return haul, as we previously reported.