Julian Champagnie

Southwest Notes: Champagnie, Wesley, Thompson, Mavs, Jackson Jr.

Julian Champagnie knows that defense and rebounding must be his calling card to remain a rotation player in the league for years to come. The Spurs forward has started 35 of 50 games this season despite modest averages of 5.9 points and 4.8 shot attempts in 16.7 minutes per game.

“Whether I have five (points) or 15 or 20 or six, I think it’s just make sure I’m not a negative defender on the court,” he told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.

Point guard Blake Wesley, a 2022 first-round selection, has received steady playing time the last two months and wants to keep it that way. He’s cut his turnovers dramatically in his second season, committing only 29 in 36 games.

“I want to stay consistent and build on each and every game,” Wesley said. “Play hard and stay in the rotation. That’s my main goal.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Amen Thompson, the fourth pick of last year’s draft, has seen his role expand this month, including crunch-time minutes, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle notes. Thompson is averaging 13.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals in 30.6 minutes per game across nine February outings. He played 20 second-half minutes in a four-point win over Phoenix on Friday. “He’s growing on a nightly basis,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “He gives us some versatility.”
  • The Mavericks began a tough four-game road trip on Sunday but coach Jason Kidd has plenty of depth now, due to the addition of big man Daniel Gafford and the imminent return of Dante Exum from injury. Kidd said his rotation could include 10 or 11 players for the time being. “We’ve got to be playing our best basketball going into April,” Kidd told Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “That’s the goal.”
  • Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s offensive role has grown due to the heavy toll injuries have taken on his Grizzlies teammates. He’s also had to adjust to playing center often, rather than power forward. “JJ’s handled all these recent growth opportunities beautifully,” coach Taylor Jenkins told Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “We’ve thrown a lot of things at him purposely, the nature of where the roster is at.” Jackson is averaging 25.4 points and 20.7 shot attempts, along with 3.6 assists, per game this month.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Kyrie, Lively, Rose, Champagnie

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd was a part of the 2010/11 Dallas team that won the NBA Finals, but he has already seen enough from Luka Doncic to place him ahead of that year’s Finals MVP – Dirk Nowitzki – on the franchise’s list of all-time best players.

“He’s better than Dirk,” Kidd said of Doncic during a Tuesday radio appearance on 97.1 The Freak (story via Tim MacMahon of ESPN). “He’s in the atmosphere of MJ (Michael Jordan), the best to ever do it, LeBron (James), Kobe (Bryant). And so, just to appreciate what this young man’s doing at the age of 24, (it) is something that Dallas has never seen. I’ve said this internally: He is better than Dirk. He does things that Dirk could never do, and now is the opportunity of getting the right people around him to ultimately win a championship.”

Kidd made his comments in the wake of a record-setting run from Doncic, who followed up a 73-point outburst on Friday with a 17-assist triple-double on Saturday and a 45-point, 15-assist, nine-rebound performance on Monday.

Doncic is now averaging 34.7 points per game this season, far exceeding Nowitzki’s career high of 26.6 PPG in 2005/06. Of course, as MacMahon points out, Luka’s playoff accomplishments fall far short of Nowitzki’s, let alone those of Jordan, James, and Bryant — the Mavs have only advanced beyond the first round once during Doncic’s time in Dallas. However, Kidd is confident that it’s just a matter of time until that changes.

“This young man is 24 and is breaking all the records that stand in front of him,” Kidd said. “He’s a winner, and his ultimate goal is to win a championship. And he will get there and not just win one, but he will win multiple when it’s all said and done.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kyrie Irving (right thumb sprain) will miss a fifth straight game for the Mavericks on Wednesday in Minnesota, according to the official injury report. The banged-up Mavs will be down two more starters besides Irving, with Doncic (right ankle sprain) and Dereck Lively II (broken nose) also having been ruled out.
  • Grizzlies point guard Derrick Rose is nearing a return from the left hamstring strain that has sidelined him for nearly a full month, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Rose, who hasn’t played since January 2, is participating in five-on-five work and is in the “latter stages” of his recovery, per head coach Taylor Jenkins. The hope is that he’ll be able to return within Memphis’ next three games.
  • As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required) details, Julian Champagnie was inserted into the Spurs‘ starting lineup last month and has hung onto that spot for the past 20 games by following some simple advice from head coach Gregg Popovich: “Don’t be Kobe.” Popovich wanted to see the second-year forward blend in with the rest of the starters and not try to do too much — so far, so good. “Fitting in is pretty easy, you know?,” Champagnie said. “Just stick to my role, hit open shots, play defense, play hard.”

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, Champagnie, Johnson, Popovich

Victor Wembanyama is expected to be a game-time decision this evening when the Spurs face Utah, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. The No. 1 overall pick will test out his ankle during a pregame workout. He suffered a mild right ankle sprain when he stepped on a ball boy’s foot during warmups prior to San Antonio’s game on Saturday.

We have more on the Spurs:

  • During that same game, Julian Champagnie started ahead of Keldon Johnson. When asked if he would remain in the lineup Tuesday, Champagnie responded to Orsborn, “I think so.” (Twitter link). It’s a good sign for Champagnie contractually, who is the first year of a four-year deal. He has a non-guaranteed salary for next season — according to Spotrac, San Antonio has until Aug. 1 to decide if he’ll get that guarantee.
  • The Spus enter Tuesday’s game with a four-game losing streak and a 4-24 record. However, coach Gregg Popovich has maintained an even keel and tried to keep his young team’s spirits up, according to Jeff McDonald of the Express-News. “He has been positive for the most part,” forward Doug McDermott said. “He is still going to coach us hard and point out the things that we need to correct, but overall he has remained positive throughout it all.”
  • Wembanyama’s rookie season hasn’t gone as smoothly as many people had expected, given the enormous amount of hype surrounding the big man. Some of the game’s biggest stars know what he’s going through. The Athletic’s David Aldridge spoke with Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis about the struggles they experienced during their rookie seasons.

Spurs Notes: Losing Streak, Bassey, Vassell, Champagnie

The Spurs are searching for answers after dropping their 14th straight game Friday night in New Orleans, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. A season that began with great optimism after winning the lottery and adding Victor Wembanyama has hit a major rough spot as San Antonio has fallen into the Western Conference basement with a 3-16 record.

“Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” Keldon Johnson said. “We understand if we want to win, we have to go out there and do things it takes to win, make the right plays. The whole team understands that. We’ve just got to put it together.”

The Wembanyama era got off to a terrific start as the Spurs ended October and began November with a pair of victories at Phoenix that raised their record to 3-2. They haven’t won since then amid issues with fouling too much and not protecting the ball, which are common for young teams.

“I don’t know any ‘no turnover drills’ or any ‘no foul’ drills,” coach Gregg Popovich said after Friday’s loss. “It’s judgment. It’s decision-making. They’ve just got to figure it out.”

There’s more on the Spurs:

  • San Antonio got a lift Friday from Charles Bassey, who saw extra playing time with Wembanyama sitting out the second night of a back-to-back, McDonald notes in a separate story. Although the third-year center put up eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes, he understands those opportunities aren’t going to be frequent. “I know my role,” Bassey said. “Just go out there and bring energy to the team. I feel like I’m doing a good job of that.”
  • Devin Vassell, the Spurs’ leading scorer, has been coming off the bench in the past four games, but Popovich indicated that will change soon, McDonald adds. Vassell has been on a minutes restriction since a groin issue forced him to miss three games. “It’s a minutes thing,” Popovich said. “If he starts, he doesn’t get enough minutes.”
  • Julian Champagnie got off to a poor shooting start this season, missing 12 of his first 16 three-point attempts, but McDonald points out that he didn’t have to be concerned about his NBA future after signing a four-year contract this summer that includes a $3MM guarantee for 2023/24. Champagnie was 3-of-6 from long distance against New Orleans and has hit 11-of-20 in his last three games. “I just kept shooting, practicing, staying aggressive, getting in the gym and taking shots I know I can make,” Champagnie said. “Staying out of my own head has been the biggest thing for me.”

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, Vassell, Champagnie, Johnson

Victor Wembanyama has been playing in pickup games with his Spurs teammates for several weeks, but sometimes they’re still amazed by what he can do, writes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. The French rookie’s unique combination of size and skill was on display Friday night against Miami as he posted 23 points, four rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 23 minutes.

Included in those points were a couple of spectacular plays that demonstrate how Wembanyama can transform San Antonio’s offense. One came late in the first half on a give-and-go with Tre Jones where Wembanyama leaped for a pass and easily slammed it with two hands.

“Towards me, the problem is rarely that the ball is thrown too high,” Wembanyama said. “It only comes down to how well we know each other.”

Wembanyama also thrilled the crowd by catching a fast-break pass just inside the three-point line and using a Eurostep to get to the basket without dribbling.

“He is going to make special plays,” Devin Vassell said. “I’m going to keep talking about it, he is going to make a play every game where you just look down like what the heck just happened.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • Vassell is already figuring out how his game can improve by having a weapon like Wembanyama, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Vassell was 6-of-7 on three-point shots Friday night, with two of them coming directly off assists from the big man. “With Vic, it makes the game so easy,” said Vassell, who recently signed a five-year extension. “As soon as he rolls and pops, he has so much attention that we are just wide open on the kickout. The thing is just him trusting us and us trusting him and us just building chemistry off of that.”
  • Julian Champagnie is trying to win a roster spot with the Spurs while his twin brother Justin Champagnie is doing the same with the Heat, and it marked a rare occurrence when they were on the court at the same time on Friday, Orsborn adds. The twins said the only other time they have faced each other was in a G League game last season.
  • Keldon Johnson missed his second straight preseason game due to concerns over lingering hamstring soreness, Orsborn states in a separate story. Johnson has been able to practice, but the Spurs are being careful about using him in games. “We know what Keldon can do,” Doug McDermott said. “He will be ready once his body tells him he is ready. But he is still the same Keldon. He is going to be aggressive going to the rim. His jumper looks great as well and he has been a great leader for us in the locker room.”

More Contract Details: White, Lyles, A. Holiday, Draymond, D-Lo, More

Coby White‘s new contract with the Bulls and Trey Lyles‘ new contract with the Kings both include unlikely incentives that could increase the value of those deals, Hoops Rumors has learned.

White’s three-year pact is guaranteed to be worth at least $36MM and has $1.3MM in annual incentives that could push the guard’s earnings up to $40MM in total. As for Lyles, he’ll make $8MM guaranteed salaries in each season of his two-year deal with Sacramento and could earn another $1.2MM in bonuses, which would increase the overall value of the contract to $18.4MM ($9.2MM per year).

Here are a few more details worth noting on several recently signed contracts:

  • Aaron Holiday‘s one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Rockets is only partially guaranteed. Holiday is assured of about $1.05MM and would receive his full $2.35MM salary if he remains under contract through at least January 7.
  • Draymond Green‘s four-year, $100MM contract with the Warriors includes a 15% trade kicker, while Jevon Carter‘s three-year, $19.5MM deal with the Bulls has a third-year player option.
  • Only the first season of Julian Champagnie‘s new four-year, $12MM contract with the Spurs is guaranteed. For each of the following three years, he’ll have to remain under contract beyond August 1 to guarantee his salary for that season.
  • A player who re-signs with his previous team on a one-year deal (or a two-year deal with a second-year option) has the right to veto a trade, since he’d lose his Bird (or Early Bird) rights if he’s dealt. However, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows a player to waive that right to veto a trade when he signs that sort of contract, and Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell became the first player to do so, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Alex Len also waived his right to veto a trade as part of his new one-year deal with the Kings, Hoops Rumors has learned.

Julian Champagnie Signs Four-Year Deal With Spurs

JULY 6: Champagnie’s deal with the Spurs is official, the team announced in a press release.

JUNE 30: Spurs forward Julian Champagnie is re-signing with San Antonio, but instead of receiving another two-way contract, he’ll receive $12MM over four years on a standard deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links). The final year is a team option, Woj adds.

Champagnie went undrafted last year after three college seasons at St. John’s, catching on with the Sixers on a two-way deal. He only made three NBA appearances with Philadelphia, spending most of his rookie year in the G League with the team’s affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.

The 22-year-old averaged 21.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG and 1.1 SPG on .465/.347/.839 shooting in 14 games (35.1 MPG) during the fall Showcase Cup, then put up 14.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.8 APG and 0.9 BPG on .419/.352/.875 shooting in 18 regular season games with the Blue Coats.

The 76ers released Champagnie in February and his two-way deal was claimed on waivers by the Spurs. He spent eight games with their affiliate in Austin, but impressed the NBA club in 15 games down the stretch of the 2022/23 season.

He averaged 11.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG on .461/.407/.824 shooting in 20.9 MPG over that span for San Antonio, which he parlayed into a multiyear standard contract.

Champagnie is the twin brother of Celtics forward Justin Champagnie.

Free Agent Rumors: Pacers, Strus, Brown, Kyrie, Westbrook, QOs

After reporting on Wednesday that the Pacers are “strongly weighing” a three-year offer worth upwards of $48MM for Max Strus, Marc Stein (Twitter links) cautions that the free agent wing shouldn’t be viewed as a slam dunk to end up in Indiana. While it seems likely that Strus will leave the Heat, there still appear to be multiple suitors in play for him, according to Stein.

Who might the Pacers pursue using their cap room if not Strus? Stein says Indiana has emerged as a team to watch in the Bruce Brown sweepstakes, joining the Lakers, Mavericks, and Nuggets, among others. Indiana will have the ability to offer either Strus or Brown more than the $12.4MM non-taxpayer mid-level exception that over-the-cap teams are limited to.

Here are a few more free agent rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • In addition to the Suns, Kyrie Irving has the Lakers, Sixers, and Heat on his list of teams to meet with in free agency, sources tell Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Based on Rankin’s wording, the cap situations for those teams, and a report that cast doubts on whether Kyrie’s meeting with Phoenix will actually happen, it sounds like that list of meetings may be aspirational rather than set in stone.
  • Russell Westbrook won’t be in a rush to make a decision when free agency opens on Friday, so he’s unlikely to be one of the first players off the board, tweets Law Murray of The Athletic, adding that the former MVP isn’t a “dead set lock” to return to the Clippers.
  • Johnny Juzang of the Jazz and Julian Champagnie of the Spurs are among the players on two-way contracts who received qualifying offers by Thursday’s deadline, making them restricted free agents, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter links).

Spurs Notes: Collins, Popovich, Champagnie, Offseason

Zach Collins doesn’t have a guaranteed contract for next season, but coach Gregg Popovich declared today that he’ll be the Spurs‘ starting center, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The 25-year-old big man has revived his career over the past two years in San Antonio after an ankle injury caused him to sit out the entire 2020/21 season. Popovich’s declaration means the Spurs are virtually certain to guarantee Collins’ $7.7MM salary for next year.

Collins has excelled since taking over the starting spot after Jakob Poeltl was traded to Toronto in February, Orsborn notes. Over that time, he has averaged 16.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals in 19 games while shooting 39.2% on three-pointers.

“He’s playing with abandon now, for a long time, for months,” Popovich said. “He’s added the three-point shot to his game, he’s balanced better on the post, he’s playing good defense. “… The fact he can shoot it and has gained confidence in it really makes him that much more dangerous.”

Popovich also revealed that Collins is finished for the season, missing this afternoon’s game and Sunday’s finale after being sent home due to a problem with stitches on his left hand.

There’s more on the Spurs:

  • The pronouncement from Popovich leads to speculation that he has already decided to return to the team next season, tweets NBA writer Marc Stein. The 74-year-old coach, who was announced as a Hall of Fame inductee last weekend, has been running the Spurs since 1996.
  • Julian Champagnie posted his fourth straight double-digit scoring performance on Saturday, Orsborn tweets. The rookie small forward has benefited from an increase in playing time over the past three weeks. “There is really only one way to learn the game, you have to just get thrown out there and learn to play,” Champagnie said. “That’s what they have been giving me.”
  • The most important work for the Spurs will start after the regular season wraps up on Sunday, Orsborn states in another Express-News article. The front office will turn its attention to the draft and free agency after one of the worst seasons in franchise history. However, the Spurs were able to accomplish their main goals, which were maximizing their chances at the No. 1 pick and developing the young talent they already have. “I feel like every single person on the roster got better,” Keldon Johnson said. “Obviously we didn’t win 30, 40, 50 games. We got better every single week and we stayed together the whole time.”

Texas Notes: Irving, Doncic, Porter, Mamukelashvili, Champagnie

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving was held out of Saturday’s game at Memphis because of soreness in his right foot, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd informed reporters of the decision a couple of hours before gametime.

“He tried to go through the shootaround, went through the shootaround and from that point, felt like we needed to take a look at it when we got back home,” Kidd said. “So the best thing was to sit him tonight.”

The team will return to Dallas after tonight’s game and will host the Grizzlies on Monday. Irving’s status for that game will depend on what the medical testing reveals.

Kidd also said Luka Doncic is considered “day to day” with a left thigh strain that prevented him from finishing Wednesday’s game.

There’s more NBA news from Texas:

  • Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. was relieved to be able to play tonight after missing just one game with a left thigh bruise, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Porter expected to be day-to-day after an earlier injury to his left big toe, but he wound up missing 20 games. “It was definitely a frustration,” he said. “I want to play as much as I can. Definitely, missing those 20 games, I want to get as many games back that I missed. Injuries are part of the game. You just have to react and do your work after it happens.”
  • Sandro Mamukelashvili didn’t play until the fourth quarter Friday night, but he scored 11 points in his matchup with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to help the Spurs surprise the Nuggets, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Mamukelashvili has shown some promise in the three games since San Antonio claimed him off waivers last week, McDonald adds.
  • Spurs rookie Julian Champagnie was a big scorer at St. John’s, but he tells Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News that he doesn’t mind being a role player while he tries to earn a steady NBA job. Champagnie has spent most of the season in the G League, but he got to play in a pair of games against the Rockets last weekend. “I don’t need too many shots,” he said. “I am a guy who fills the gap, and I am perfectly fine with that. It’s what I like to do anyway.”