JaVale McGee

Pacific Notes: McGee, Redick, Thompson, Suns

At 36, Kings center JaVale McGee is one of the NBA’s oldest players, but he doesn’t feel like he’s close to the end of his career, writes Marcus D. Smith of The Sacramento Bee. McGee, a first-round pick in the 2008 draft, just wrapped up his 16th season. He’s played for nine teams and won three titles, but there’s a lot he still wants to accomplish, including joining a select list of players who’ve spent two decades in the league.

Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) played 20 years also and (he) played at a very high level for 20 years,” McGee said. “This is before you had a (physical therapist) for every player and the ACL surgery that you can come back from in six months, you know what I’m saying? So there’s a lot of progress and a lot of things in the world now where it’s easier. I don’t say it’s easy, but it’s easier to last that long, so I definitely think it’s possible.”

McGee will be an unrestricted free agent after signing a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Kings last summer. He hopes to stay in Sacramento, a city where he spent part of his childhood when his mother played for the WNBA’s Monarchs, and he wants to help the Kings get back to the playoffs after being eliminated in this year’s play-in tournament. He talked about the team’s chances, saying it will be vital to re-sign free agent guard Malik Monk and make a few other roster additions.

“Definitely getting Malik back is important,” McGee said. “… Getting some more dogs on the team is really important also. I feel like the squad is well put together. We just need to make sure everybody’s on the same page.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • As expected, J.J. Redick had a formal interview with the Lakers on Saturday to discuss their head coaching job, sources tell Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (subscription required). Multiple members of the organization reportedly talked with Redick, including general manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss.
  • Heading into free agency, longtime Warriors guard Klay Thompson has stopped following the team’s Instagram account, according to Sam Gordon of The San Francisco Chronicle. Gordon points out that unfollowing social media accounts is becoming a common practice for NBA players during negotiations, so it may not be a sign that Thompson intends to leave the Bay Area. However, he reportedly turned down a two-year, $48MM offer before the start of the season, and several suitors figure to be waiting if he can’t reach a new agreement before June 30.
  • Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports examines opportunities the Suns might have to trade up or down in the draft. Bourguet notes that past deals have gutted the team’s supply of draft assets to the point that it only controls the 22nd pick this year and its first-rounder in 2031. He identifies the Pacers, Bucks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Jazz and Wizards as potential trading partners if Phoenix wants to move down, while the Spurs’ pick at No. 8 and the Trail Blazers’ selection at No. 14 could entice the Suns to trade up.

Kings Waive Robin Lopez

The Kings have officially waived newly acquired center Robin Lopez, as expected, per an announcement from the team.

Sacramento acquired Lopez from Milwaukee in a salary dump deal on Thursday, with the Bucks sending enough cash to the Kings in the trade to make it worth their while. With JaVale McGee and Alex Len already on the roster as backups for starting center Domantas Sabonis, the Kings weren’t interested in hanging onto another veteran big man, preferring to open up that 15th roster spot.

Lopez appeared in 16 games for the Bucks this season, recording just 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists on 7-of-19 shooting in 65 total minutes of action.

Sacramento will eat Lopez’s minimum-salary ($2,019,706) cap hit and he’ll be free to sign with any team except for Milwaukee once he clears waivers.

Kings Notes: Losing Streak, Rotation, Murray, NBAGL Team

The Kings remain in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race with a 23-18 record, but they’re in the midst of their worst stretch of the season, having dropped a fourth consecutive game on Thursday. While road losses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee last Friday and Sunday were understandable, Sacramento blew a big fourth quarter lead in Phoenix on Tuesday and fell at home to a depleted Pacers team last night.

“It’s a lot of little things that are turning into big things,” Keegan Murray said of the Kings’ on-court issues, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

One of those issues is free throw shooting. The Kings’ 72.5% rate from the foul line this season is easily the NBA’s worst mark and the team made just 25-of-44 (56.8%) free throws in its past two losses.

“That’s two games in a row we shoot 50% from the free throw line,” head coach Mike Brown said on Thursday. “I’m not sure what it is. Today we shot more free throws in a shootaround than we ever have in a shootaround since I’ve been here. And yesterday, we shot more free throws in a practice than we ever have since I’ve been here.”

“You go back to the work. You get in the gym,” wing Kevin Huerter said. “You’ve got to build your confidence by trusting the work you put in. We shot ourselves in the foot. This is the third game in a row this has happened against three good teams. It feels like it’s all self-inflicted and that’s why it’s frustrating for us. It’s no secret. We can’t miss 14 free throws at home and expect to beat a team that’s this good, even with the players they have out. That’s stuff that we can control.”

Here’s more on the Kings:

  • Despite the losing streak, Brown seems to have settled into a rotation he likes, with Huerter back in the starting five and Malik Monk, Trey Lyles, Sasha Vezenkov, and Alex Len playing regular minutes off the bench, notes Anderson. “I hate to say this, but I feel fairly comfortable (with the current rotation),” Brown said prior to Thursday’s loss. “Now, that doesn’t mean I may not change again with the way our rotation is right now, but I feel fairly comfortable with what we’re doing right now, and I’m going to ride with it a little bit and give it an opportunity.” Davion Mitchell, Chris Duarte, Keon Ellis, and JaVale McGee are among those not seeing regular playing time as of late.
  • Anthony Slater of The Athletic outlines why the Kings consider Murray essentially untouchable in trade talks, writing that the team views the former No. 4 overall pick as a player who could round out a long-term big three alongside Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox. “Keegan is a huge part of our future,” Brown said. “We rely on him for a lot and, to a certain degree, it is a little unfair. Because we’re a playoff team. There aren’t many guys that are in year two that are expected to do what he does.”
  • Anjali Ranadive, the daughter of Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, has stepped down from her position as the general manager of the Stockton Kings, Sacramento’s G League affiliate announced today in a press release. She’ll be pursuing a Ph.D. and focusing on her non-profit organization while assistant general manager Gabriel Harris takes on the day-to-day GM responsibilities in Stockton. “We are grateful to Anjali for her contributions to the Stockton Kings over the past two seasons,” Kings GM Monte McNair said in a statement. “Under her leadership the team has excelled on the court and is set for success in the future.”
  • In other Stockton news, the Kings’ G League team added a former NBA first-round pick earlier this week, announcing in a press release that veteran swingman Shabazz Muhammad has joined the roster. The No. 14 pick in the 2013 draft, Muhammad last played in the NBA in 2018 for Milwaukee, but continues to try to make it back to the league.

Suns’ Bradley Beal Exits Friday’s Game With Ankle Injury

In just the second game featuring all of the members of Phoenix’s “big three,” Suns guard Bradley Beal sustained a right ankle injury in the first quarter of Friday’s contest against New York, per Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports (all Twitter links here).

Beal appeared to be in a lot of pain after attempting a shot and having Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo step under his foot as he landed, which caused him to roll his right ankle (video link). DiVincenzo received a Flagrant 1 foul on the play.

Beal stayed in the game to shoot free throws and was able to walk off the court without assistance, but he seemed to have a limp and immediately headed back to the locker room. The Suns later ruled him out for the remainder of the contest, Bourguet adds.

It’s a tough setback for Beal, who was making just his sixth appearance of the 2023/24 season after battling a back injury for much of the fall, which caused him to miss 19 games. Phoenix’s other two stars — Kevin Durant and Devin Booker — have also missed time this season due to various injuries (four absences for Durant, nine for Booker).

As Bourguet tweets, the sample size is extremely small, but the Suns are plus-15 in the 23.8 minutes the trio have shared the court together thus far.

Hopefully the injury turns out to be minor, though it certainly looked like a bad sprain. Despite dealing with several injuries, the Suns have held their own to this point and had a 13-11 record entering Friday’s game.

Here are a few more injury notes on the Suns:

  • Sharpshooter Grayson Allen was questionable heading into the game but he returned from a three-game absence on Friday after dealing with a right groin strain, as Bourguet relays (via Twitter). Allen, who was acquired via trade in the offseason, is averaging career highs in several statistics, including points (12.3), rebounds (4.5), assists (2.9) and three-point percentage (46.8) through 19 games, all starts.
  • Josh Okogie missed his second straight game on Friday with a right hip injury, but it’s not a long-term concern, head coach Frank Vogel told reporters, including Bourguet (Twitter link). The 25-year-old is in his second season with the Suns after re-signing on a two-year deal in free agency over the summer.
  • Forward Nassir Little, who was acquired in the same blockbuster trade as Allen, recently returned from an orbital fracture, which requires him to wear a face mask on the court. He thinks the play he was injured on (video link) was a “dirty” one by Kings center JaVale McGee, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). “I feel like it was a dirty play, I watched it over and over,” Little said. “He had hooked my arm … I could have broke my arm.”

Mike Brown Talks Kings, Fox, Sabonis, Monk, Murray

Second-year Kings head coach Mike Brown is aware that the club is heading into the 2023/24 season with serious expectations for the first time in a good long while. As the reigning Coach of the Year tells Mike Scotto of HoopsHype in an extensive new interview, his team is hoping to improve on last season’s 48-34 record. Sacramento did secure the West’s No. 3 seed, but was ousted in a seven-game, first-round playoff slugfest by the Warriors.

“We’re a good team,” Brown said. “We established that narrative with our play last year and our connectivity and work throughout the summer. Now, we’ve got to continue building on that. We’ve got to go from good to great. Our expectations aren’t just to make the playoffs again. We know that’s who we are. Our expectations are to go from good to great and be an NBA champion, just like every other team out there, that’s competing as hard as we feel like we’re going to compete this year.”

The whole conversation is well worth reading in full. Below are just a few key highlights.

On winning his second Coach of the Year award in 2023:

“The reality to me is I have a fantastic staff, and you appreciate their work. At the end of the day, I recognize greatness, and I truly mean that our players stepped up, and everybody in the organization did too. I’m not just talking about my coaching staff. I have at least four or five guys on my staff right now who are ready to be head coaches. I’ve been saying that. I’ve tried to tell people about Jordi Fernandez. Others on my staff are ready to be head coaches right now.”

“I recognize how blessed, fortunate, and lucky I am to have not just a great coaching staff but a great medical staff, and a great performance and conditioning staff. I love the guys in the front office, ticket sales, community relations, and (COO) Matina Kolokotronis. To see the vertical and horizontal levels of trust we have with all the levels in the organization, in my opinion, showed itself in the best possible way with me being named the unanimous Coach of the Year because I know I didn’t do it by myself.”

On the chemistry between All-Stars De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis:

“Those two guys have to continue taking leaps forward, but part of the reason why we brought so many guys back is because I firmly believe in order to have a winning culture at the highest level, you have to have a core of guys that you believe in and are able to play together year after year so that connectivity can grow to an insurmountable level. This is our first year of trying to bring our guys back to establish that core, so that means everybody we bring back has to elevate their game. Keegan Murray, Kevin Huerter and Harrison Barnes all have to elevate their game, especially knowing the way we like to play on both ends of the floor.”

On Malik Monk‘s shot at Sixth Man of the Year honors:

“He has a chance. Malik Monk is one of the most talented guys I’ve been around. He’s not 6-foot-7, but if he was, he’d be All-NBA. He’s that talented. It’s going to be up to him what he wants to be. I thought last year, coming in, his work ethic and his focus were pretty good. Just like how everyone else can help us improve internally to help us become a better team, Malik can, too. His talent level is there. Now, he’s got to be locked in 24/7, 365 days a year, when it comes to hoops. If he is, and he doesn’t take anything for granted, he’s in great shape and locked in by playing every possession, the sky’s the limit for him. He can shoot the three. He’s got a medium (mid-range) game. He’s one of the best I’ve seen in pick-and-rolls.”

On the growth of second-year forward Keegan Murray:

“If you think about it, last year, the way we played with our pace and our body and ball movement, he got a lot of his shots off the catch-and-shoot. Now, we expect Keegan to bring the ball up if he gets a rebound and initiate the offense, be a little selfish, and go get his shot, which you saw a couple of times throughout the preseason and when he played in Kings Summer League action in Sacramento. Not only that, but offensive rebounding. He’s worked hard on his body. Defensively, don’t get bullied… Be able to guard the ball in pick-and-roll situations. These are some areas, like going to get shots off the bounce that Keegan worked on that we’ve been fortunate to see throughout the offseason. Now, we expect him to do that come game time.”

Kings Notes: Barnes, Vezenkov, Murray, Second Unit

Harrison Barnes has played for the Kings the last four-and-a-half seasons and he’ll be around even longer after signing a three-year, $54MM extension. After being subjected to so many trade rumors, Barnes is appreciative of his longevity with the organization, he told Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

“I’m humbled and honored. Because there hasn’t been a whole lot of stability here,” he said. “But to be able to build, to see an entire process go through in the same place and say I was part of a successful rebuild, it’s great. I was part of a rebuild in Dallas and wasn’t able to see that go through. But to actually see it through here and hopefully much further, it’s special.”

We have more on the Kings:

  • Sasha Vezenkov scored 12 points in 11 minutes of second half action in a 112-99 loss to the Raptors during the team’s preseason opener Sunday, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee notes. Vezenkov signed a three-year, $20MM contract with Sacramento after winning the EuroLeague MVP award with Olympiacos last season. He’s looking to break into the second unit.
  • Sacramento is looking for Keegan Murray to expand his offensive game in his second season. There were signs of that on Sunday, according to Hunter Patterson of The Athletic. Murray, who attempted almost twice as many threes as twos during his rookie season, looked to create more off the bounce in the preseason opener.
  • Davion Mitchell and Malik Monk, as usual, were the first players off the bench, Patterson adds. Newcomers JaVale McGee and Chris Duarte rounded out the second unit with Trey Lyles, who re-signed with the club this summer.

Kings Waive Nerlens Noel, Neemias Queta

8:12pm: The duo has officially been waived, according to a team press release.

5:02pm: The Kings are waiving centers Nerlens Noel and Neemias Queta, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Both big men were signed by Sacramento this offseason to partially guaranteed one-year deals, but the Kings subsequently signed JaVale McGee to a guaranteed one-year deal after he cleared waivers.

The Kings want to give Noel and Queta an opportunity to hook on with another organization before training camp rather than hanging onto them and then waiving them shortly before the season begins.

Noel was signed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal as a free agent this summer. He received a $300K guarantee, which would have increased to $600K if he made the 15-man opening night roster.

Noel has appeared in 467 career regular season games since being drafted sixth overall in 2013 but didn’t play much in 2022/23. After being traded from New York to Detroit during the 2022 offseason, the 29-year-old appeared in 14 games for the Pistons, who bought him out at the end of February. He signed a 10-day contract with Brooklyn and played in three games for the Nets, but didn’t get a second 10-day and finished the season as a free agent.

The Kings signed Queta to a two-year, minimum-salary contract. His $2,019,706 salary for the upcoming season included a $250K guarantee, while the second season was non-guaranteed. The guarantee for the upcoming season would have doubled if he was on the opening night roster.

Queta has been on Sacramento’s roster the past two seasons, appearing in a total of 20 NBA games. The 7’0” Queta was a second-round pick in 2021 out of Utah State.

Noel and Queta were projected to fight for one roster spot as the No. 3 center behind Domantas Sabonis and Alex Len. That changed when the Mavericks waived McGee and the Kings signed him after he cleared waivers. Sacramento has 14 guaranteed contracts and could explore other options, or just leave open the 15th roster spot.

Western Notes: Doncic, Tenzer, Watson, McGee, Len, Spurs

Luka Doncic isn’t doing himself any favors with his constant complaining to the officials, Tim Cato of The Athletic writes. The Mavericks superstar was tossed from Slovenia’s quarterfinal loss to Canada in the FIBA World Cup. Doncic’s technical fouls in the NBA have risen in each of his five seasons. Cato notes. Doncic has publicly acknowledged over the years he needs to pipe down, but his actions haven’t reflected it. He’s a master at drawing contact but complaining about non-calls serves no useful purpose, as Cato writes.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Nuggets’ new G League general manager, Ben Tenzer, believes forward Peyton Watson will blossom in his second NBA season, he told Bennett Durando of the Denver Post. “(He) has all the potential in the world. I think it starts with his defense and his energy,” Tenzer said. “He’s such a unique player with his size and his ability to cover the court. His shot-blocking ability. I think we were able to see it a little bit when he played with the Nuggets toward the end of the season, how good he can be. So I think for him it starts with the defensive side. The offensive side will come because of his natural ability to be able to handle and attack the rim.”
  • Alex Len and JaVale McGee are expected to make the Kings’ opening night roster and compete for backup minutes at center, James Ham of tweets. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering they both have guaranteed contracts. That also means Neemias Queta and Nerlens Noel, who have partially guaranteed deals, will essentially be competing for the final roster spot, assuming Sacramento decides to carry 15 players.
  • The Spurs have 18 players on guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals. So who will be the odd men out? The Athletic’s John Hollinger and Kelly Iko explore that, plus other Spurs-related topics. Khem Birch and Charles Bassey appear to be the most vulnerable, according to Hollinger. If San Antonio is unable to deal one of its guards, then either Doug McDermott, Reggie Bullock or Cedi Osman could be bought out.

Pacific Notes: McGee, Warriors, Kings, Vanderbilt, Vogel

The Kings beat out the Warriors for free agent center JaVale McGee, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic, who suggests both Pacific clubs were in pursuit of the big man after he was waived by Dallas last week.

McGee’s new deal with Sacramento is only for one year and is worth the veteran’s minimum, but it’s fully guaranteed. It’s unclear whether or not Golden State was willing to offer a fully guaranteed contract to the former Warrior. According to Amick, the Kings envision McGee playing a “significant” role in 2023/24 if he shows he’s capable of handling it.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Stockton Kings – Sacramento’s G League affiliate – announced in a press release on Thursday that they’ve acquired Skal Labissiere‘s returning rights from the Mexico City Capitanes in a three-team trade that sent DJ Steward‘s rights to the Maine Celtics. Labissiere has agreed to sign an Exhibit 10 contract with the Kings, while Steward has reached an agreement on an Exhibit 10 deal with the Celtics. This trade will ensure both players are in line to receive their Exhibit 10 bonuses.
  • Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt became extension-eligible on Thursday, notes Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Vanderbilt, whose maximum extension would be $75MM over four years, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024 if he doesn’t sign a new contract before then.
  • In a two-part interview with Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, new Suns head coach Frank Vogel discussed several topics, including the philosophy he’ll bring to his new job and what he’s looking for in Phoenix’s fifth starter alongside Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, and Deandre Ayton. “We’ll have a lot of guys that have an opportunity to be that fifth guy,” Vogel said. “The versatility of maybe being able to guard multiple positions or maybe it’s an elite shooter. Maybe it’s just another play-maker. I think we have a lot of guys with a lot of different skill sets and we’ll put a lot of different combinations throughout the year.”

Southwest Notes: Luka, Brooks, Mavs, Whitmore, Branham

Speaking to reporters after Slovenia’s loss to Canada on Wednesday, Mavericks star Luka Doncic claimed that the FIBA officials said they weren’t inclined to give him foul calls due to the way he was arguing with them all night, as Aris Barkas of Eurohoops relays.

“The refs told one of the guys, ‘We’re not going to call a foul on him because he’s coming at us,'” Doncic said. “I know I complain a lot, but I don’t think this is fair. They were playing physically against me, but that’s not fair, to say something like this.”

Both Doncic and Rockets forward Dillon Brooks were ejected from the game with technical fouls in the fourth quarter — Doncic for objecting to a non-call and Brooks for taunting. Brooks was the primary defender on Doncic and guarded him aggressively for much of the game. However, Doncic said his anger wasn’t aimed at Brooks.

“I respect Dillon, he is very physical,” Doncic said. “People may not like him, but I respect him for what he does. And he does that really good.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Mavericks will benefit a little financially from JaVale McGee‘s contract with Sacramento, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Dallas will receive $697,340 in “set-off” based on McGee’s new deal, and that amount will spread across the five years he remains on the team’s books, reducing his annual cap hits by $139,468.
  • Rockets rookie Cam Whitmore, the MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League in July, spoke to Kelly Iko of The Athletic about his experience in Vegas and his expectations for his first NBA season. According to Whitmore, his focus when he reports to the team this fall will be on learning his role. “Whatever the coaching staff wants me to do, I’ll do it,” Whitmore said. “If they mention something to me, I’ll make sure it’s taken care of. I’m all ears in training camp.”
  • As he prepares for his second NBA season, Spurs wing Malaki Branham has spent the offseason in gyms in San Antonio, Washington, D.C., and even in Madrid during his first ever trip overseas, part of an NBPA retreat. As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes in a subscriber-only story, Branham is optimistic that the work he has put into improving his game this summer will be readily apparent in the fall. “Even the guys I’ve seen since I’ve been back are like, ‘I see you’ve been in the gym a lot this summer,'” Branham said.