Mario Hezonja

And-Ones: Tomjanovich, Cooper, Hezonja, SuperSonics

Rudy Tomjanovich, who won two NBA titles as head coach of the Rockets after a long playing career in Houston, is this year’s recipient of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Basketball Coaches Association, per ESPN. Tomjanovich led the Rockets to championships in 1994 and 1995, becoming one of just nine coaches with consecutive titles. At a press conference Sunday, he admitted being moved to tears after learning about the award from NBCA president Rick Carlisle.

“And the reason is, when something like this happens, I’m not thinking about the championships,” Tomjanovich said. “I’m not thinking about all the good stuff. I’m thinking about the dark days — the days when I doubted myself. Much like the coach here in Boston (Joe Mazzulla), I got a job out of the blue. Didn’t know what was going to happen.”

Tomjanovich touted two of his former players in his acceptance speech, pushing for Celtics assistant Sam Cassell to get a head coaching job and for Robert Horry to be voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“He’s proven it time and time again,” Tomjanovich said of Horry. “He’s made so many teams champions playing a role, and that’s so important. It isn’t about just the stats. It’s about getting results. I pray that one day he’s going to be able to stand up there and accept that honor.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Former Lakers great and WNBA head coach Michael Cooper talked to Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register about his upcoming Hall of Fame induction. Cooper, who won five NBA titles in L.A., sees his career as proof that flashy numbers aren’t necessary to earn a place among the game’s legends. “The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is not about how many points you had or how many dunks, it’s about what you’ve done to improve this game and help grow it,” he said. “And I’ve had an opportunity to do that at almost every level.”
  • Mario Hezonja is denying a report that he’s close to a contract extension with Real Madrid, Eurohoops relays. Speaking with ONDA Cero’s Radioestadio by Alberto Pereiro following Game 1 of the ACB Finals, the former NBA forward said, “It’s a lie. We are trying to reach an agreement, but now it’s not the time to talk about that.”
  • In a video segment for ESPN (Twitter link), Michelle Steele examined whether there’s an NBA future for the Seattle SuperSonics, who could be revived if the league decides to expand. A spokesperson told Steele that the arena the team would share with the NHL’s Kraken is NBA-ready, and Kraken co-owner Samantha Holloway “will pursue an (NBA) team when the time is right.”

And-Ones: West, Finals Predictions, Spain, Hezonja

Former NBA guard Delonte West was arrested in Virginia on Thursday morning on misdemeanor charges of violating the conditions of his release and resisting arrest, ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reports. West is being held on a $2,000 bond at the Fairfax County Detention Center. An arraignment is scheduled for Friday morning.

Local police say they spotted West around 1 a.m. ET and attempted to serve a warrant. West allegedly fled and was found unresponsive after police lost track of him during the pursuit, per Holmes.

According to the Faifax County police, West was administered Narcan — which is used to treat overdoses — but it didn’t have the desired effect. Narcan was administered a second time after West was transported to a hospital, and the second dose was effective.

The former St. Joseph’s guard discussed his struggles with bipolar disorder while he was playing and he has battled substance abuse in recent years, Holmes notes.

West, 40, played eight NBA seasons from 2004-12. In 432 career regular season games, he averaged 9.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 27.4 minutes per contest.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • While the Celtics are the betting favorites to win the NBA Finals in 2023/24, ESPN’s panel of experts believes the Mavericks will emerge victorious and claim their second championship. Nine voters selected Dallas, with eight going for Boston, so it was a very slim margin.
  • The Spanish basketball federation announced its preliminary 22-player roster ahead of the country’s Olympic qualifying tournament this summer, per Eurohoops. While the team features several former NBA players, Santi Aldama (Grizzlies) and Usman Garuba (Warriors) are the only two who finished the 2023/24 season on 15-man rosters. Former NBA guards Ricky Rubio and Sergio Rodriguez are among the noteworthy players who are not on Spain’s 22-man roster.
  • Former NBA wing Mario Hezonja, who is on Croatia’s preliminary roster for its qualifying tournament in Greece, is nearing a contract extension with Real Madrid, per Ramón Álvarez de Mon of La Galerna (Twitter link). The fifth pick of the 2015 draft, Hezojna last played in the NBA in 2019/20. A report in March said the 29-year-old was “aggressively exploring” the viability of a return to the league.

International Notes: Slovenia, Doncic, Croatia, South Sudan, Siulepa

The Slovenian national team has officially announced the 16 players who will make up its preliminary roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Greece next month (Twitter link). While the 16-man group features currently Nuggets forward Vlatko Cancar and a couple other players with prior NBA experience (Zoran Dragic and Mike Tobey), the headliner is Mavericks guard Luka Doncic.

Slovenia obviously hopes that Doncic will be available to help the team try to claim one of the final four Olympic berths this summer, and the Mavs star said on Wednesday that he wants to do so, despite battling knee issues this spring, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets. Doncic still has one more series to get through, so his availability in Greece will presumably hinge on how he’s feeling at the conclusion of the NBA Finals.

Here’s more from around the international basketball world:

  • Croatia, which will be in Slovenia’s group at the qualifying tournament in Greece, has also announced a preliminary roster for that event. Warriors forward Dario Saric and Clippers center Ivica Zubac are among the 17 players who are candidates to make up the 12-man roster, while former NBA wing Mario Hezonja is one of the other notable names in that group.
  • South Sudan, which has already qualified for the Olympics based on its results at last year’s World Cup, revealed a 25-man preliminary roster for Paris (Twitter link). Some of the biggest names in the mix for roster spots include Bol Bol, Wenyen Gabriel, Thon Maker, JT Thor, and World Cup star Carlik Jones.
  • Seventeen-year-old Australian prospect Roman Siulepa is signing with the Tasmania JackJumpers as part of the National Basketball League’s Next Stars program, he tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN. Givony identifies Siulepa as one of the most promising international prospects in his age group, noting that the 6’7″ small forward has averaged 21.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in the second division of Australia’s NBL this season.

And-Ones: West Playoffs, Tavares, EuroLeague Players, Ignite, Draft

Much of the NBA’s Western Conference could be in turmoil this offseason, The Athletic’s John Hollinger writes. There are multiple teams that are all in on their stars but are in or hovering just above play-in territory in the West, including the Warriors, Lakers, Mavericks and Suns. Those four teams could all be in the play-in while being over next year’s projected luxury tax and with numerous first-round picks depleted from their assets.

The Clippers are another team in a different, but similar dilemma. While they were in contention for the No. 1 seed at one point this season, they’re now 5.0 games back, are deep in the tax, don’t control a first-rounder until 2030, and their best players are 32, 33 and 34 years old. Paul George, meanwhile, hasn’t signed a max extension yet and could be an unrestricted free agent this summer if he declines his player option.

The Timberwolves and Nuggets are happy right now given their placement in the standings (and Denver’s 2022/23 title) but are both in win-now mode.

While this is the case every year in both conferences, the stakes feel extremely high given the repercussions each team could face if they bow out of the playoffs early. Many of the aforementioned teams don’t have the cap flexibility or the assets to make significant moves to bolster their chances, Hollinger points out. For some teams, their current iteration is the best chance they’ll have at a title for some time.

The Pelicans, Thunder and Kings are the only three of the top 10 who, at least on paper, have the wherewithal to make obvious and meaningful external improvements/acquisitions this offseason, Hollinger opines. With seven of the conference’s top 10 teams all in, or nearly there, on their current builds, this postseason will be a pivotal one.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA and current Real Madrid center Edy Tavares is exploring his NBA options before he becomes a free agent this offseason, Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews tweets. According to Urbonas, Tavares is looking for a substantial role on a competitive NBA team and is looking for an annual salary that approaches the mid-level exception, worth roughly $12.5MM. Tavares received a multiyear offer from the Trail Blazers last offseason but his buyout clause got in the way. Now set to be a free agent after averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in EuroLeague, he’ll likely receive massive offers to stay in EuroLeague, which could dissuade NBA teams from signing him.
  • Tavares headlines a list from Urbonas of 10 EuroLeague names who could make the jump to the NBA this offseason. Tarik Biberovic is one young name making waves, shooting 57.1% from three as of late. He was selected by the Grizzlies in the second round of the 2023 draft and could eventually find his way stateside. A similar article from HoopsHype’s Dionysis Aravantinos explores the same topic, with Gabriele Procida and Markus Howard among the names discussed. Of note, Urbonas writes that Mario Hezonja, who once criticized the NBA, is intending to return to the league at some point and is aggressively exploring the market.
  • With news that the G League Ignite is shutting down after the season, several of the team’s young players are left in limbo in regards to their future options, Yahoo Sports’ Krysten Peek writes. Thierry Darlan, Babacar Sane and London Johnson are among players who could test the NBA draft waters and go to the combine but aren’t facing pressure to stay in the draft. Meanwhile, Dink Pate signed a two-year deal with the Ignite and doesn’t qualify to play college ball next year, so he would need to either play overseas, sign with a different G League team, or join Overtime Elite.
  • With March Madness underway, HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor all published mock drafts for the 2024 class. Both Scotto and O’Connor have Alexandre Sarr as the No. 1 pick, while Vecenie gives Zaccharie Risacher that honor. O’Connor moved Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard up to the second slot and Vecenie has him going fourth, but Scotto has him at No. 8. UConn’s Stephon Castle is mocked sixth in Vecenie’s and O’Connor’s drafts but is 15th in Scotto’s. Providence’s Devin Carter (10th in O’Connor’s) and Duke’s Kyle Filipowski (ninth in Scotto’s) are among the other notable differences between the various mocks.

Eastern Notes: Turner, Richardson, Bulls, Nets

Myles Turner was selected by the Pacers with the No. 11 overall pick in 2015. Turner revealed that he expected to go much higher in the lottery, Tidal League tweets.

“I thought I was going number 5 to Orlando. … I’m at the table in the green room. ‘With the number 5 pick the Orlando Magic select Mario Hezonja.’ I’m like, ‘Who the (expletive) is this?'” Turner said, adding that it was a “blessing in disguise” when he ended up going to Indiana at No. 11.

We have more notes from the Eastern Conference:

  • Josh Richardson joined the Heat in 2015 after playing four seasons at Tennessee, making him a polished, ready-for-prime-time player.  Entering his second stint with the franchise, Richardson continues to play with an intelligent, measured style that has aged well, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines. Richardson rejoined Miami as a free agent on a two-year contract.
  • The Bulls remain outside the top six in the Eastern Conference’s pecking order, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times. They are not a serious threat as currently constructed, though all the teams above them are flawed, Cowley writes. The Bucks and Celtics take the top two spots in Cowley’s rankings.
  • The Nets earned a B-minus for their offseason moves, according to The team’s two biggest question marks remain unanswered — namely, do they have enough scoring and can they improve their rebounding?

International Notes: Caboclo, Silas, Hezonja, Embiid

Free agent power forward Bruno Caboclo, most recently with the Celtics, has signed with the NBA G League’s Mexico City Capitanes, a source informs Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Caboclo, 27, was initially drafted with the No. 20 pick in the 2014 draft by the Raptors. From 2014-21, the 6’9″ big man split his time between the Raptors, Kings, Grizzlies, and Rockets, plus their respective G League teams. He joined Brazilian team São Paulo FC for the 2021/22 season. Following a 2022 Summer League stint with the Jazz, he joined the Celtics on a training camp deal, before being released late last month.

Caboclo was always a tantalizing athlete, thanks in part to his raw athleticism and 7’7″ wingspan. He failed to make an impact at the NBA level. Across 105 games, Caboclo holds averages of 4.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.7 APG and 0.6 BPG in 12.3 MPG.

There’s more basketball news from beyond the NBA:

  • Former NBA pro and, more recently, G League assistant coach Xavier Silas will make his debut as a head coach for Puerto Rican club the Guaynabo Mets, writes Spencer Davies of Basketball News. “It’s a team that has had a really good history,” Silas told Davies. “They went to the championship not last year, but the year before, so they have a really nice base and foundation of what they’re trying to do. The owners [Marc Grossman and Mark Linder], everybody has been super nice and helpful with everything, so I think it’s gonna be a good situation.” In the NBAGL, Silas has enjoyed stints with the Delaware Blue Coats and the Motor City Cruise.
  • 2015 lottery pick Mario Hezonja hasn’t closed the door on an NBA comeback, though for now he is enjoying his time with Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid, per Alex Madrid of Eurohoops. “I have a lot of things to do in Europe and well, in the future, if something happens we’ll see,” Hezonja said. “But really, I want to be here as long as I can, I want to earn a lot and I am happy.” After being selected with the fifth pick in 2015 by the Magic, Hezonja spent five seasons in the NBA, splitting his time between Orlando, the Knicks and the Trail Blazers, before returning overseas, where he has since suited up for clubs in Greece, Russia, and now Spain, where he also got his professional start prior to his NBA journey. Prior to being drafted stateside, the 6’8″ forward played in Barcelona from 2012-2015.
  • Cameroon-born Sixers All-NBA center Joel Embiid can suit up for either France or the U.S. in the 2024 Paris Olympics, as he possesses citizenship in both countries. French national team coach Vincent Collet told Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press that he hopes the seven-foot big man will choose his club. All-NBA Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert currently mans the middle for the French national team. “Now he has both nationalities, and he has to choose one basketball nationality, which is not the same,” Collet said. “So, that is a choice. Nobody can do anything to change it.”

International Notes: Schröder, Theis, Giannis, Satoransky

Free agent guard Dennis Schröder won’t accompany his German teammates to Sweden for Thursday’s opening game of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, according to Eurohoops. Schröder is recovering from an ankle injury he suffered in the Hamburg Super Cup tournament and will remain in Germany for treatment. There’s a chance he may recover in time for next Sunday’s home contest against Slovenia.

Schröder remains unsigned after splitting last season with the Celtics and Rockets. Although he received positive reviews in Houston after being acquired at the trade deadline, the team is emphasizing youth and doesn’t appear interested in bringing back Schröder.

Germany is already without Pacers center Daniel Theis, who will miss the World Cup Qualifiers and possibly next month’s EuroBasket tournament due to an undisclosed injury. He is training individually and being monitored by the German national team’s medical staff, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.

The Germans are also missing Maxi Kleber, Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga due to injuries.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Greece’s final exhibition game with back soreness, but he’s expected to be ready for Thursday’s World Cup Qualifier against Serbia, Askounis writes in a separate story. Antetokounmpo underwent an MRI that showed no damage to his back.
  • NBA players Dario Saric, Ivica Zubac and Bojan Bogdanovic are all on the final roster for Croatia, Eurohoops reports. Mario Hezonja is also part of the Croatian team, which missed out on the World Cup Qualifiers but will participate in EuroBasket. Saric sat out all of last season with a torn right ACL.
  • Czech Republic guard Tomas Satoransky appears to have avoided a major injury to his right ankle, Eurohoops adds in another piece. Satoransky was hurt in Saturday’s game against Germany, and while there has been no official announcement on his condition, Czech reporter Jakub Kanta offered encouraging news. “The X-ray has already ruled out a fracture,” he tweeted, “but the extent of the injury will only be determined by an MRI in the Czech Republic after the swelling subsides.” Satoransky recently signed with FC Barcelona after spending six seasons in the NBA.

And-Ones: BIG3, Canada, Hezonja, Coaches

Ty Lawson, Corey Brewer, Jordan Crawford, Jonathon Simmons, Norris Cole, Festus Ezeli, and Jordan Hill are among the many former NBA players whose names are in the BIG3 draft pool for the 2022 season, per the league’s official website.

The BIG3 will hold its draft on Wednesday evening in Los Angeles as it gears up for the coming season. As we previously relayed, the first games of 2022 are scheduled for June 18 and this will be the first year in which the BIG3 holds an All-Star Game.

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

And-Ones: Hezonja, Lemon Jr., Summer League, Expansion

Former NBA forward Mario Hezonja has no interest in returning to the league, Johnny Askounis of relays. Speaking to Russia’s Tatar-inform, Hezonja said, I didn’t get the respect I deserved. Also, in my opinion, the NBA is more a show than the game itself.”

Hezonja, who is playing for UNICS Kazan this season, spent five seasons in the NBA, most recently on a 53-game stint with Portland in 2019/20.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Free agent guard Walt Lemon Jr. is signing a summer contract in the Canadian Elite Basketball League with the Ottawa BlackJacks, Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw tweets. Lemon holds NBA experience with the Pelicans and Bulls. He played 42 games with Fort Wayne, the Pacers’ G League affiliate, this year.
  • The Salt Lake City Summer League will be held on July 5-7, according to a Jazz press release. The Grizzlies, Thunder and Sixers will be the other participants along with the host Jazz.
  • Tamika Tremaglio, the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, favors expansion, Andrew Cohen of reports. “We do want more teams, I think it’s good for the business,’’ she said. “Ideally, we hope that there will be more teams popping up in the U.S.’’ In a Spotrac piece, Keith Smith outlines a few compelling reasons for expansion, including the amount of cities interested in having an NBA team, the deep talent pool, and the cash infusions from expansion fees. 

Free Agency Notes: D. Robinson, Nuggets, Vanderbilt, Hezonja

Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson has told associates that his preference is to remain with the Heat, a source tells Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Robinson is a restricted free agent and Miami wants to retain him, so he wouldn’t have had much leverage if he wanted to go to a new team, but the fact that he wants to return is good news for the Heat. They’ll be able to keep his small cap hold on their books while they address other free agent business before circling back to finalize a new deal with Robinson.

Here are a few more updates related to free agency:

  • The Nuggets are unlikely to make any major splashes during free agency, as they’ll focus on re-signing their own free agents, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Singer views Will Barton and JaMychal Green as good bets to return to Denver, and suggests that one of Paul Millsap and JaVale McGee could be back too. If the Nuggets are only able to re-sign one of Green, Millsap, and McGee, they’ll shop for another big man on the open market, according to Singer, who notes that Green’s market is expected to be in the $7-9MM range — a previous report stated a $16MM-per-year deal is a possibility for Barton.
  • The Timberwolves had discussions with forward Jarred Vanderbilt about a possible contract extension, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, but those talks went nowhere. Minnesota tendered Vanderbilt a qualifying offer, so the team will have the ability to match any offer he gets as a restricted free agent.
  • Former fifth overall pick Mario Hezonja, who played for Panathinaikos in Greece last season, won’t be returning to the NBA this offseason. As Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando relays, Russian club UNICS Kazan has signed Hezonja to a one-year contract with an option for a second season.