Georges Niang

Eastern Notes: Wade, Allen, J. Brown, Claxton, Bucks

Cavaliers forward Dean Wade, who continues to recover from a right knee injury, hasn’t played since March 8, but it’s possible he’ll return to action at some point in the Eastern Conference semifinals, writes Chris Fedor of (subscription required). Sources tell Fedor that there’s hope Wade will be able to play later in the series, possibly as early as Game 3 or 4 in Cleveland.

Wade is ramping up his on-court activity, having conducted an individual workout on Monday and then doing some light shooting and conditioning work at Tuesday’s shootaround, according to Fedor. His availability later in the series will depend on how his knee responds to the increase in activity.

After averaging a modest 5.4 points per game in 54 regular season appearances, Wade likely won’t be a difference-maker in the series vs. Boston. However, as Fedor observes, the Cavs haven’t gotten much this postseason from Georges Niang, who has made just 6-of-29 (20.7%) shots in six games and has nearly as many fouls (15) as points (17). Having another frontcourt option available off the bench could come in handy for Cleveland.

The presence of another power forward in the rotation would be even more crucial if center Jarrett Allen remains sidelined. Allen, who missed the final three games of the Cavs’ first-round series vs. Orlando, is listed as questionable to play in Game 1 on Tuesday.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Celtics wing Jaylen Brown spoke back in the fall about wanting to take on more challenging defensive assignments and play at an All-Defensive level in 2023/24, and he has delivered on that promise, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who says that Brown will likely “draw a heavy dose” of Donovan Mitchell in the second-round series vs. Cleveland. “He’s picking up point guards, he guards bigs,” teammate Derrick White said of Brown. “Just an athletic freak. He can guard so many different positions and he just really bought in this year. I think he was a good defender before the season but just taking it to that next level, just consistently night in, night out, and wanting those challenges. Taking on those challenges and stepping up big time.”
  • Within a look at the Nets‘ upcoming offseason, Lucas Kaplan of NetsDaily cites sources who say Brooklyn remains “very confident” in its ability to re-sign unrestricted free agent Nic Claxton, even if his price is in the neighborhood of $25MM per year.
  • Adding athleticism to their roster figures to be a priority for the Bucks ahead of the 2024/25 season, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic, who notes that the team will also benefit from many of its key pieces having their first full offseason together — Damian Lillard was acquired just ahead of training camp last fall, while Doc Rivers was hired in January. “I told Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and Dame I’m going to send them things all summer we’re working on for them to work on,” Rivers said. “And they both were very excited about that. I’m assuming Khris (Middleton) will like the same thing. That gives us an advantage.”

Wolves’ Mike Conley Named 2023/24 Teammate Of The Year

Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley has been named the NBA’s Teammate of the Year for the 2023/24 season, the league announced today (via Twitter).

The Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award “recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and a role model to other players, and commitment and dedication to team,” per the NBA.

The award isn’t voted on by media members. A panel of league executives select the 12 finalists (six from each conference) for the award, while current players vote on the winner. Players receive 10 points for a first place vote, seven for second, five for third, three for fourth, and one point for fifth place.

Here are this season’s full voting results, according to the NBA, with the player’s point total noted in parentheses:

It’s the second Teammate of the Year award for Conley, won also won it in 2018/19 when he was a member of the Grizzlies.

The award, which was introduced in ’12/13, had gone to Jrue Holiday in each of the past two seasons (and three of the past four), with Damian Lillard taking it home in 2021.

Magic Notes: Chippy Play, Fultz, Game 1 Flop, Lineup, Mosley

Game 1 between the Magic and Cavaliers had an edge to it and it could get even more chippier as the series goes along, The Athletic’s Josh Robbins opines. Orlando’s Markelle Fultz was assessed a Flagrant-1 foul and the Cavs’ Georges Niang received a technical foul for an altercation during the series opener.

“Either he was going to hit me first or I was going to hit him,” Fultz said. “So, I just took the initiative to body up, not trying to hurt nobody or anything like that but just deliver a hit, make it be known that we’re not soft.”

Cleveland’s Isaac Okoro received a technical foul for shoving Moritz Wagner during another incident.

“We love that stuff,” Magic guard Cole Anthony said. “Especially for us, we’re a hard-nosed team. We want the game to be physical. So, I think that for us that works in our favor.”

We have more on the Magic:

  • The Magic tried to quickly move on from their 97-83 loss in Game 1, in which they shot a woeful 32.6% from the field. “It’s the first game,” center Wendell Carter said. “We don’t want to overreact to anything. The first game on the road, we got to see what kind of game they want to play. I think we’re good. I thought we did really good defensively. I think offensively we struggled. Holding a team under 100 is always a good defensive outing.”
  • There will be no changes to the starting lineup for Game 2 tonight, Robbins tweets. Jalen Suggs, Gary Harris, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Jonathan Isaac will take the court for the opening tip.
  • In a subscriber-only piece, Jason Beede of the Orlando Sentinel details how Jamahl Mosley‘s methods propelled his team to the postseason, comparing and contrasting him to other recent first time head coaches who flopped on rebuilding teams.

Cavaliers Notes: LeVert, Roster Depth, Altman

Every game is meaningful for Cavaliers swingman Caris LeVert since his recovery from kidney cancer surgery in 2021, writes Marc J. Spears of Andscape. LeVert’s condition was discovered during a physical after he was sent from Brooklyn to Indiana in a four-team trade. An MRI on his lower back revealed a small mass on his left kidney, and after undergoing an operation to treat a renal cell carcinoma, he was able to return before the end of the season.

“Obviously, I’m grateful to still be playing basketball, to be honest with you,” LeVert said. “It was something that was super unexpected. It just gave me perspective as to how lucky I am to be doing this for a living.”

LeVert has been able to continue his career since the cancer scare, but he says hydration is more important than ever. He’s playing a valuable role for Cleveland, where he’s a candidate for Sixth Man honors, averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 63 games.

“He’s been extremely important to us because of his versatility, his willingness to sacrifice and come off the bench because he’s an NBA starter,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “It changes the dynamic of what we’re able to do with our second unit. His minutes versus second-unit guys typically gives us an advantage. He’s bought into being our best one-on-one defensive player. So, he helps us finish games because we can put him in and he can play both defensive and offensive lineups.

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers have a much deeper roster this season, which is why they were able to post a 17-1 stretch despite injuries to Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, notes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Additions such as Max Strus and Georges Niang provide more options than the team had when it got bounced in the first round last year. “You can never have too much talent, but I will say this: I think it’s a testament to our depth,” general manager Koby Altman said. “We knew last summer we would have to make ourselves deeper, making ourselves more explosive, diversifying our offense.”
  • The Cavs may reexamine everything if they lose in the first round again, but otherwise there’s no reason to believe Altman’s job is in jeopardy, Chris Fedor of states in a mailbag column (subscription required). Fedor argues that the team has overachieved this season considering that virtually every key player has missed time with injuries. He cites the additions of Strus and Niang, the finding of undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. and the recent signing of veteran forward Marcus Morris as positive moves by Altman.
  • Cleveland has to be ready for opponents blitzing Garland and Donovan Mitchell to force the ball out of their hands, Fedor adds in a separate story. That means other players have to be ready to exploit the advantages created by double teaming the ball-handler. “We try to take the play that is there,” Bickerstaff said. “We have enough talent on this team that if we just make the simple play then defenses are going to have to make tough choices. They came out and they were ‘hotting’ us or ‘trapping’ us in the pick and roll, so the play was to get it to the big and let the big do his thing. Our bigs are elite when they catch the ball in the pocket and are capable of making all the plays.”

NBA Announces Finalists For Sportsmanship, Teammate Of The Year Awards

The NBA announced the 2023/24 finalists for a pair of awards on Tuesday, naming the six players who are eligible to win the Sportsmanship Award for this season, as well as the 12 players who are in the running for Teammate of the Year honors.

The Sportsmanship Award honors the player who “best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court,” per the NBA. Each of the league’s 30 teams nominated one of its players for the award, then a panel of league executives narrows that group to six finalists (one from each division) and current players voted for the winner.

The trophy for the Sportsmanship Award is named after Joe Dumars, the Hall-of-Fame guard who won the inaugural award back in ’95/96. This season’s finalists are as follows (via Twitter):

None of this year’s finalists for the Sportsmanship Award have earned the honor in the past, so the 2023/24 winner will be a first-timer. Mike Conley won the award last year for a record fourth time.

Meanwhile, the NBA also announced its finalists for the Teammate of the Year award for 2023/24. According to the league, the player selected for the honor is “deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.”

The voting process is similar to the Sportsmanship Award — a panel of league executives selects 12 finalists (six from each conference) for the award, then current players vote on the winner.

Like Conley with the Sportsmanship Award, last season’s Teammate of the Year – Jrue Holiday – has the record for most times winning the award (three), but isn’t among the finalists for 2023/24. Of this season’s 12 finalists, the only one to take home the award in the past is Conley, who claimed it in 2019.

The Teammate of the Year finalists finalists are as follows (via Twitter):

Central Notes: Wade, Cavs, Thompson, McDermott, Stewart

After missing the Cavaliers‘ past three games for personal reasons, forward Dean Wade rejoined the club and participated in Friday’s practice, according to Chris Fedor of (subscription required).

With forward Evan Mobley unavailable due to a left ankle sprain, Wade had been inserted into the starting lineup prior to his stint away from the team. Georges Niang was elevated to the starting five during Wade’s absence, and it’s unclear whether Wade will reclaim that spot once he’s ready to return, Fedor writes. The Cavaliers can put off that decision for at least one more game, since Wade will be out on Saturday in Houston due to knee soreness (Twitter link via Fedor).

As for Mobley, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the big man is doing some “light work” and making progress in his recovery. A source tells Fedor that Mobley did some shooting work on Friday, but didn’t participate in practice and is unlikely to play on the Cavaliers’ current road trip, which runs through Monday.

There’s also still no specific timeline for the return of Max Strus from a left knee strain, Fedor adds. The Cavs’ starting small forward will miss his seventh straight game on Saturday.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In a separate subscriber-only story for, Fedor notes that Tristan Thompson‘s 25-game suspension has come to an end, meaning he can once again be active for the Cavaliers as of Saturday. Thompson, who expressed excitement about returning, joked that he was so anxious to play that he “thought about sneaking into the arena a couple times” during his suspension. Bickerstaff, meanwhile, lauded Thompson’s impact in the locker room and referred to the veteran center as “this group’s big brother.”
  • Pacers forward Doug McDermott is “getting close” from returning from the right calf strain that has kept him on the shelf for the past eight games, head coach Rick Carlisle said on Friday, per Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. McDermott has been ruled out for Saturday’s contest against Brooklyn, but practiced on Friday. Indiana should benefit from re-adding him to a second unit that recently lost Bennedict Mathurin for the season.
  • In an interesting conversation with James L. Edwards III of The Athletic, Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart discussed what it was like coming to terms with the knowledge that he won’t become a superstar at the NBA level after starring at every level prior to being drafted. “You definitely have to swallow some ego,” Stewart said. “… Once you get to a certain point … I guess, you see it for what it is. I’m just shooting you straight — there aren’t often plays called for me. For me, it’s, ‘How can I still impact the game?’ To me, I’d rather have the impact that I have, on defense. I feel like I can control the game that way.”

Eastern Notes: J. Johnson, Thompson, Niang, Bagley

Hawks forward Jalen Johnson will undergo further testing on his left wrist, which he injured during Saturday’s win in Washington, writes Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Johnson left the game about two-and-a-half minutes into the second quarter after taking a hard hit from Kyle Kuzma as he attempted to complete a fast-break dunk (video link). Johnson fell into the stanchion and landed on his left hand, which he immediately grabbed in obvious pain. After taking his free throws, he exited to the locker room and didn’t return.

The Hawks haven’t provided any updates on the injury since ruling out Johnson for the rest of Saturday’s game. He’ll be further evaluated in the coming days, a source tells Williams.

If he’s forced to miss time, it would be a blow to the Hawks, who have benefited from a breakout year from Johnson so far in 2023/24. Entering Saturday’s contest, the 21-year-old had averaged 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 31.4 minutes per night (14 games), with a .590/.421/.774 shooting line.

[UPDATE: Johnson Expected To Miss 4-6 Weeks]

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Only two players in NBA history who are 6’6″ or shorter have ever averaged at least 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.0 steal per game over the course of a season (Charles Barkley and Gar Heard). Pistons guard Ausar Thompson is flirting with that feat through 16 games (9.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.1 SPG), which makes him something of a unicorn, according to James L. Edwards of The Athletic, who says the rookie likes the label. “I’m a unicorn, even if it doesn’t appear that way because of how people see ‘unicorns’ in their head, physically,” Thompson said. “What I’m out there doing, as you pointed out, only two people have done it before.”
  • Now a member of the Cavaliers, forward Georges Niang faced his former team this week and spoke about how much he enjoyed his time with the Sixers, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It felt like home while I was here,” Niang said during his return to Philadelphia. “It’s a place that I’ll always enjoy coming back to. … It jolted me into the next part of my career. So I’m super thankful for the organization, the fans, the people, staff. It was an amazing place to be.” Niang also praised former teammate Tyrese Maxey and suggested the experience the 76ers gained from going through the Ben Simmons saga in 2021/22 helped them navigate James Harden‘s trade request this year.
  • Pistons big man Marvin Bagley III is playing some of the best basketball of his career this season, making a career-high 58.6% of his shots from the floor, as Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press details. Bagley credits a newfound focus on his mental health as one important reason for his strong start, noting that he has given up social media and is meditating when he can.

Central Notes: Bulls, Cavs, Thompson, Pacers

The starting lineup has received more attention this fall, but the Bulls are also still determining which players will make up their closing lineup, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. While it seems safe to assume that Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic, at least, will be part of those groups, head coach Billy Donovan suggested that different end-of-game scenarios might call for different looks.

“We have a lot of guys that can finish in certain situations,” Donovan said. “Theoretically, you’re up by five points with maybe 20 seconds to go, maybe you decide to go all defense in that situation. The last five minutes of the game, based on who the other team has out there, maybe we feel we have guys that have guarded a guy particularly well. So I do feel we have some versatility certainly defensively, to play a number of guys closing a game.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Cavaliers‘ starting lineup on Monday – in a game its five regular starters sat – could provide a glimpse at what the team’s second unit will look like when the season begins, writes Chris Fedor of Ty Jerome, Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, and Damian Jones made up the team’s replacement starting five, with Georges Niang and Emoni Bates as the first two players off the bench.
  • Pistons rookie Ausar Thompson, whose defensive ability may earn him a starting job, relishes the idea of becoming the club’s perimeter stopper, per Keith Langlois of “That’s the most exciting thing for me, that they trust me to go out and guard those guys,” Thompson said after matching up with Devin Booker and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Detroit’s first two preseason games. “I’ve always believed those are the guys I want and now those are the guys who are going to make me better and learn more.”
  • Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle pushed back on Monday against the idea that his starting lineup is settled, telling reporters that Bruce Brown, Bennedict Mathurin, and Obi Toppin need reps alongside Tyrese Haliburton before any final decisions are made, according to Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Haliburton missed the Pacers’ first two preseason games, but looked good as part of the new-look starting five on Monday vs. Atlanta, expressing enthusiasm about the pace that Indiana’s tentative starters can play with. “With Obi and Benn and Bruce, those are guys that can really get up and down the floor,” Haliburton said. “… As long as we get stops and rebound, not many people are going to beat us up and down the floor.”

Central Notes: Wade, Jerome, Cavs, Nesmith, Middleton

After an injury-plagued 2022/23 season, Cavaliers forward Dean Wade is feeling healthy and confident entering ’23/24, according to Chris Fedor of (subscription required). However, after the Cavs signed Georges Niang to a three-year, $25MM+ deal, Wade’s path to a rotation role is less clear than it was a year ago.

Still, Wade is happy to have Niang in Cleveland, referring to the veteran forward as “a difference-maker with his energy and how well he shoots the ball.” Wade is focusing on making his case this preseason for regular playing time. His performance in Thursday’s preseason game – 14 points and six rebounds while making 4-of-6 threes – was a step in the right direction.

“We’ve had a lot of love for Dean for a long time,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Dean has size. He has shot-making ability. He can guard multiple positions. He can move his feet, keep people in front of him and switch onto smaller guys. It’s our responsibility and his teammates’ responsibility to continue to foster his confidence. But he is an asset for us, and he is someone who can help us play the style we want to play.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In a mailbag for, Fedor takes a closer look at the Cavaliers‘ potential rotation, noting that the team views newcomer Ty Jerome as its backup point guard. Still, it’s unclear how much Jerome will play, Fedor notes, since Donovan Mitchell and Caris LeVert are also comfortable stepping in as primary ball-handlers when Darius Garland sits.
  • After spending significant time at power forward last season, Pacers wing Aaron Nesmith worked this offseason to tweak his game to prepare for a move to small forward, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required). “I knew I’d be playing a lot more three this year and there are minutes to be had,” Nesmith said. “The biggest difference is the ability to make those reads, to play above the break more, being able to get downhill and do those things. … It’s spacing and making the right reads and making life easier for others. Creating problems.”
  • Although forward Khris Middleton has been the Bucks‘ second offensive option behind Giannis Antetokounmpo for years, he’s happy to take a step back to allow recently acquired guard Damian Lillard to play the role he’s accustomed to, he tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “I mean, you’ve seen how good that guy is,” Middleton said of Lillard. “It would be selfish to try to compete with him for shots and touches when a guy like that wants to come and help us win. Everybody knows that I’m about winning, so I have no problems with putting my pride to the side, sacrificing a couple things for the team to succeed. I think that’s what it’s all about.”

Cavs’ Bickerstaff Talks Strus, Niang, Mitchell, More

Cleveland’s 51-31 record in 2022/23 was the best mark for a Cavaliers team without LeBron James since 1992/93 and resulted in the franchise’s first playoff berth since James’ most recent departure in 2018. Unfortunately for the Cavs, their postseason run was short-lived, as the Knicks quickly dispatched them in a one-sided first-round series.

Speaking to Chris Fedor of, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff admitted that the playoff loss “took some time to process.” But now that he’s a few months removed from it, Bickerstaff is more willing to focus on the Cavaliers’ regular season success and to find silver linings in their early postseason exit.

“I think when you sit back, look at the regular season – and I think the regular season was a test that was passed – and then you get to the playoffs where things ramp up a notch, it was the greatest learning experience our guys could have had, that I could have had,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s the opportunity to be in a position you have never been in before and a responsibility that you’ve never had before. Nothing worth having has ever come easy to anybody.

“At the end of the day, you sit back and look at it and the season was successful. The experience our young guys gained in the playoffs is only going to make them better. That’s the reality of it. We get caught up in the emotion of it all in the moment because we are all so competitive. But in reality, we’re not above the process either. There are steps that just can’t be skipped.”

As Bickerstaff notes, many of the Cavaliers’ core players – such as Evan Mobley and Darius Garland – are still young and were experiencing a playoff environment for the first time. He believes they learned important lessons during that five-game series and will benefit from the experience going forward.

Here are a few more highlights from Fedor’s interview with Bickerstaff:

On how adding Max Strus and Georges Niang as free agents will impact the Cavaliers’ playing style in 2023/24:

“I don’t want to give away too much. But the spacing on the floor becomes different. The attention that goes to those two guys because of Georges’ career 40% 3-point shooting and Max Strus’ ability to make shots off the move, defenses have to make different decisions now than they had to last year. Those are different dynamics that we added.

“Our offense can improve and be more dynamic and difficult to guard — even though we were a top-10 offense in the regular season. You learn from the playoffs about how to become more difficult to guard in that setting. I think there is a more dynamic nature that we can have offensively. Those are things I’m studying now and we will implement this coming season.”

On Donovan Mitchell‘s potential long-term future in Cleveland:

“He was with us in Las Vegas and stayed longer than most. He worked out with the guys and went to dinners. … There were conversations we had with him during free agency about trying to get the people we needed in here. There were conversations he had with the guys we were able to bring in.

“All those things tell you that Donovan is all in. If a guy is not attentive to free agency and how we are going to get better as a team, if he is not attentive to his teammates over the summer, if he is not attentive to working on the individual things that may make him uncomfortable but also are best for the team moving forward, to me that would be a guy who is not engaged. I have seen the opposite. I have seen a guy who is all in.”

On whether he’s feeling pressure to live up to increased expectations in 2023/24:

“Pressure from what? I think the funny thing for us coaches when it comes to pressure is you want to have a good team and you want expectations. If you have a team with no expectations, as a coach, competitor, and player, that is ultimately not the job you’re looking for. The word pressure is kind of comical, to be honest with you, because you have a good team and that’s what you want.

“… Pressure isn’t a word that coaches really think about because it’s our job to continue to get better. I think we have done that here. From where we started with this team to where we are now, there is no way to say we haven’t done the job building this the right way. Look at the environment. Look at individual development. Look at team development. There are no holes. Our job is to continue to do what we’ve already done but also continue to get better. That’s what we want.”