Mikal Bridges

Rockets Rumors: No. 3 Pick, Mitchell, Tate, Green, Landale, Beasley

Prior to the draft lottery, a report indicated that the Rockets were interested in trading their 2024 first-rounder for future draft assets. That’s still a possibility, but after moving up from No. 9 to No. 3 on lottery day, Houston has a more valuable asset on its hands and will consider all potential paths with that pick, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

Team and league sources tell Iko that a handful of clubs have already expressed interest in the Rockets’ No. 3 overall selection, either in a trade-up scenario or by trading into the first round altogether. Houston is open to the idea of moving back and acquiring extra assets, Iko notes, though at the draft combine, the club was doing its homework on potential top-five picks. Team officials spoke to prospects like Donovan Clingan, Stephon Castle, Reed Sheppard, and Matas Buzelis, according to Iko, who hears from a source that Buzelis’ interview, in particular, was “excellent.”

Including that No. 3 pick in a trade package for an impact player is another avenue the Rockets figure to explore, and league sources tell Iko that Houston is among the teams with interest in Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell, having monitored his situation for the last several months. Mitchell wouldn’t be available if he ends up signing an extension to remain in Cleveland, but if he’s on the trade block, the All-NBA guard would be a more “suitable” target for the Rockets than players like Brandon Ingram or Mikal Bridges, opines Iko.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Confirming a report from The Houston Chronicle, Iko says the Rockets have interest in the future Suns draft picks controlled by the Nets. Houston, which controls a handful of Brooklyn’s draft assets, is expected to reengage the Nets in trade talks prior to next month’s draft, team sources tell Iko.
  • According to Iko, “all signs point toward” the Rockets exercising their team options on Jae’Sean Tate ($7.07MM) and Jeff Green ($9.6MM) for 2024/25. That’s somewhat surprising, given that Tate’s role declined significantly last season and Green would be extremely unlikely to match his option salary as a free agent. But those expiring contracts for Tate and Green would perhaps have some value as salary-matching pieces in a trade. For what it’s worth, Houston could pick up Green’s option and then waive him by July 11 to avoid being on the hook for his ’24/25 salary.
  • Iko also suggests that the Rockets may retain Jock Landale, whose $8MM salary for 2024/25 is non-guaranteed until June 29. Landale played better in the second half of his first season in Houston, especially after Alperen Sengun went down, but he’s another player who wouldn’t be a bargain on his current deal and might have more value as a trade chip. He has non-guaranteed $8MM salaries for ’25/26 and ’26/27 too, so his contract could be treated as an expiring deal. If they hang onto Tate, Green, and Landale on their current contracts, the Rockets would still have plenty of breathing room below the projected luxury tax line, with access to the full mid-level exception.
  • Houston’s front office recognizes that outside shooting and floor spacing are areas of need this summer and has some interest in Bucks sharpshooter Malik Beasley, according to Iko, who hears from sources that Beasley is also generating early interest from the Magic and the Warriors.

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, C. Johnson, Bridges, Sixers

The Celtics are hoping Kristaps Porzingis can recover from his right soleus (calf) strain in time for the Eastern Conference Finals, Chris Haynes reported tonight on TNT (video link via ClutchPoints).

Porzingis was ruled out for Game 5 after suffering the injury on Monday, but no official announcement has been made beyond that. Sources tell Haynes that the Celtics are preparing for Porzingis to be out for that second round but that team officials are optimistic that Porzingis can make a full recovery with some time off.

“The Celtics are very ecstatic and happy that this injury wasn’t anything more severe,” Haynes said. “He will use his time to rest and go through rehab and then around the six- or seven-day mark, they will reevaluate him to see how he is feeling and then go from there.”

Appearing on a Boston radio show, coach Joe Mazzulla confirmed that doctors will reexamine Porzingis next week to see how much progress he has made, writes Brian Robb of MassLive.

“I don’t know the specifics of it, they used a lot of fancy words,” Mazzulla said. “But I do know it’ll be kind of a more reevaluated next week. We’ll see how he responds to the treatment and how much better he gets here in the first week. I think that’s kind of the goal is to just get crazy in the next week and see where we’re at from there.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Cameron Johnson was one of two Nets players who showed up to welcome new head coach Jordi Fernandez at his introductory press conference, according to a NetsDaily article. Johnson admitted being disappointed by his performance this season, which played a role in the coaching change and caused him to be pulled from the starting lineup. “Nobody ever says anything will be handed to you, anything will be easy, adversity won’t come up, so it’s part of it,” he said. “You just got to take it, keep it pushing, keep working, and focus on tomorrow, focus on what we can do today.”
  • The Nets have to be careful in how they deal with Mikal Bridges, who will be eligible for an extension this summer, Keith Smith of Spotrac states in his offseason preview for the team. Smith believes Bridges is miscast as a franchise player in Brooklyn because he doesn’t score consistently enough to lead the offense and he doesn’t have enough size to anchor the defense. Smith sees a three-year extension in the range of $100MM to $120MM as reasonable, but adds that anything beyond that could be a bad use of resources.
  • The Sixers are taking steps to make sure Wells Fargo Center isn’t filled with Knicks fans for Game 6 like it was on Sunday, per David Aldridge of The Athletic. The team’s ownership joined with Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin – a former minority stakeholder in the franchise – to purchase and distribute more than 2,000 tickets from the secondary market.

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.

Atlantic Notes: DiVincenzo, Embiid, Melton, Nets, Bridges

Knicks swingman Donte DiVincenzo is one of several notable players who will be ineligible for end-of-season awards this season despite playing in far more than 65 games, as James Herbert of CBS Sports observes. DiVincenzo appeared in 81 games this season, but technically didn’t meet the NBA’s 65-game criteria.

As we outlined in our glossary entry on the NBA’s new 65-game rule, a game only counts toward the 65-game minimum if the player logged at least 20 minutes. A player is also permitted to play 20+ minutes in just 63 games as long as there were at least two additional games in which he played 15+ minutes.

DiVincenzo played 20+ minutes in 62 games and logged at least 19 minutes in seven more, including one in which he played 19:51. If he had reached the 20-minute threshold in one of those games, he would’ve been award-eligible, but he just missed out. The Knicks wing would have been included on Most Improved Player ballots from multiple voters, including JJ Redick, who took to Twitter to express displeasure with the rule.

As Herbert points out, DiVincenzo’s teammate Isaiah Hartenstein is another player who might have received award consideration but is considered ineligible despite appearing in 75 games, since he played 20+ minutes in just 50 of those contests. Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga, another Most Improved candidate, played in 74 games but had 20+ minutes in just 61 of them, so he’s also ineligible.

Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas (82 starts), Mavericks wing Derrick Jones (76 games, including 66 starts), and Clippers swingman Terance Mann (71 starts) likely wouldn’t have been serious candidates for any awards, but they’re a few of the other players who paradoxically failed to meet the 65-game criteria due to the nature of the rule. For what it’s worth, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) says he would have put Jones on his All-Defensive Second Team if he could have.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • As Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes, the Sixers are once again entering the postseason with questions about the health of Joel Embiid, who sat out Sunday’s regular season finale and has played just five games since returning from knee surgery. However, Embiid is on track to play in Wednesday’s play-in game. He practiced on both Monday and Tuesday, per head coach Nick Nurse; 76ers guard De’Anthony Melton (back) did not (Twitter links via Kyle Neubeck and Derek Bodner of PHLY Sports).
  • After a disappointing season in Brooklyn, the Nets‘ roster figures to undergo an overhaul this summer, and the players who finished this season with the team are bracing for that possibility, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “I don’t think (any) of my years in the league I had the same team two years in a row,” Dorian Finney-Smith said. “Even if you win, teams still make moves, so I can only imagine how this summer’s gonna be.”
  • Nets forward Mikal Bridges admitted that it was a challenge to maintain a positive outlook during a “really tough” season and said that working on “being better mentally” will be one of his goals for this offseason, Lewis writes for The New York Post. He pointed to a December 27 loss to Milwaukee in which the Nets rested most of their regulars and the disappointing road trip that followed as low points. “The Milwaukee game and losing on that road trip, that was tough. I think that was a part of it. That didn’t help. For the players, I know that I was pretty hurt from that, I was pretty pissed off about that situation,” Bridges said. “That’s just part of it. I think I’ve failed at that part mentally. I was doing pretty good mentally, but I didn’t do a pretty good job of that this year. I let my emotions get to me.”

And-Ones: Kawhi, Team USA, FAs, Musa, Coaches, More

With 11 of 12 roster spots reportedly locked in for USA Basketball’s 2024 Olympic roster, the program could go in a number of different directions with the 12th and final slot. The list of players in contention for that final roster spot includes plenty of big names, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports that Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard is currently viewed as the leading candidate.

Leonard’s teammate Paul George, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, Magic forward Paolo Banchero, and Nets forward Mikal Bridges are also in the mix, sources tell Charania.

Leonard hasn’t represented Team USA at the Olympics or a World Cup before, but has support from some of the stars on the roster, including Kevin Durant and LeBron James, says Charania. George won gold with Team USA in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, while Brunson, Banchero, and Bridges competed in the 2023 World Cup.

It’s possible that more than one player in that final group of candidates could ultimately make the cut if any of the top 11 have to drop out due to an injury or for personal reasons. Of course, Leonard is currently dealing with a nagging knee issue of his own, though there’s no indication at this point it would prevent him from playing in July.

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

  • Danny Leroux of The Athletic takes a look at the NBA’s 2024 free agent class, evaluating what sort of stars, starters, and rotation players will be available. As Leroux observes, a handful of stars are on track for potential free agency, but few – if any – are good bets to change teams. That group includes LeBron James, Paul George, James Harden, Pascal Siakam, and Tyrese Maxey.
  • In an interview with Dean Sinovcic of Nacional.hr, former first-round pick Dzanan Musa, who spent two seasons in Brooklyn from 2018-20, didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to the NBA as early as this offseason, but said he’s focused for now on trying to win Liga ACB and EuroLeague titles with Real Madrid (hat tip to Sportando).
  • Sam Amick of The Athletic considers what’s at stake for each NBA head coach in the postseason, suggesting that the pressure will be on Joe Mazzulla (Celtics) to at least reach the NBA Finals. Jason Kidd (Mavericks), J.B. Bickerstaff (Cavaliers), and Darvin Ham (Lakers) are among the others who will be motivated to avoid early exits, Amick adds.
  • In a conversation about end-of-season awards, a panel of five ESPN experts weren’t in agreement on who should win Most Improved Player or Sixth Man of the Year. Three different players – Malik Monk, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Naz Reid – earned votes from the five-man panel for Sixth Man honors.
  • Which NBA players were the most underpaid this season? Despite being on a maximum-salary contract, Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tops the list from Frank Urbina of HoopsHype.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Bridges, Oubre, Porzingis

Jalen Brunson isn’t going to be named this season’s Most Valuable Player, but the Knicks point guard deserves real consideration for the award, or at least a spot on voters’ five-man ballots, writes Steve Popper of Newsday (subscription required).

Brunson eclipsed the 40-point mark for a second consecutive game on Tuesday in Chicago, racking up 45 points and eight assists in a victory that gave the Knicks sole control of the No. 3 seed in the East with three games left to play. Asked about the star guard placing sixth in ESPN’s final MVP straw poll, head coach Tom Thibodeau joked that he wanted a recount.

“He’s earned that. It’s not like some hype,” Thibodeau said, per Popper. “If you look across the board, I think it’s a byproduct of the winning and what he’s done. More importantly they’re not empty stats. It’s impacting winning in a great way. And so to be a leading scorer in the league, to do it with the amount of pressure that he’s had on him in terms of double teaming. We’ve had a lot of guys out, got a number of guys with minute restrictions and everything else and this guy has delivered night after night.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Nets forward Mikal Bridges admits that it’s “not fun at all” to be missing the postseason for the first time since 2020, but he’s still looking forward to a future in Brooklyn, as Peter Botte of The New York Post relays. “Yeah, 100 percent. I don’t think I look at anywhere else,” Bridges said. “I don’t think about my contract at all. Just try and come back, and my biggest thing this summer is to be better than I was this year. Take a lot from what I learned. Obviously it was not what I wanted and what we wanted as a team, but you can’t really sulk about it.”
  • Kelly Oubre has significantly outplayed the one-year, minimum-salary deal he signed with the Sixers last summer and put himself in line for a raise in free agency, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required). After averaging over 20 points per game in Charlotte last season, Oubre has been more of a two-way force this season, Pompey writes, making more of an impact defensively while still being a threat on offense. “Kelly has been phenomenal the last two months since I’ve been here,” teammate Kyle Lowry said. “He’s been phenomenal shooting the ball, driving the ball, making aggressive takes to the rim. He’s just been phenomenal.”
  • Jay King of The Athletic takes an interesting look at how big man Kristaps Porzingis has transformed himself into a far more efficient post-up player than he was during his days in Dallas and how Porzingis’ post-up ability could be a difference-maker for the Celtics‘ offense this postseason.

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):

Southwest Notes: Wembanyama, Morris, Green

Spurs rookie star Victor Wembanyama won’t play on Monday against Phoenix due to a left ankle sprain, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets.

Wembanyama, who was ruled out after participating in the Spurs’ morning shootaround to test his ankle, suffered the injury during Saturday’s 131-106 loss to Phoenix. It’ll be the ninth game he has missed in his first season.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it’s a “little better than 50-50” that the No. 1 pick plays at Utah on Wednesday.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Markieff Morris has only appeared in 20 games for the Mavericks this season, but the 34-year-old forward plays a key leadership role, Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com notes. Morris says his practice habits are part of the reason why his words and actions carry so much weight. “You can’t just talk it, you got to still be able to walk it,” Morris said. “And that’s what makes these guys believe in what I say. Obviously, I don’t play (in games much). But if you catch me in practice and see me play, you’d say, he really still can bring it. It’s just not my role for this team (to be in the rotation). I think that’s why people believe what I say. I show it in practice all the time.”
  • Jalen Green has been red hot lately, averaging 27.8 points and 3.5 assists this month. Shams Charania noted on FanDuel’s Run It Back program (video link) that the Rockets were willing to deal him. “Two months ago, the Rockets called the Nets on Mikal Bridges and I’m told they discussed a concept around Jalen Green and multiple first-round picks,” Charania said. “That deal was not accepted by the Brooklyn Nets.” That confirms reports prior to the February trade deadline that Houston was open to moving Green for a top-level wing.
  • Speaking of Green, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko takes a deep dive into how the third-year guard has improved defensively this season.

New York Notes: Anunoby, Randle, Hart, Thibodeau, Bridges

The Knicks will take a conservative approach regarding OG Anunoby’s sore elbow, but the irritation has shown improvement since Monday, SNY TV’s Ian Begley reports.

Anunoby underwent an MRI on his surgically repaired right elbow and the results showed no additional damage. It’s uncertain when he’ll return to action.

As for Julius Randle, Begley says there’s still an expectation that he’ll be back in action at some point this season, though he has yet to be cleared for contact. Randle, who suffered a dislocated shoulder in late January, has been participating in other on-court activities.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Josh Hart played all 48 minutes and recorded a triple-double in Monday’s win over the Warriors, joining Hall of Famers Clyde Frazier and Jerry Lucas as the only players in franchise history to accomplish that feat, Joseph Staszewski of the New York Post notes. Hart also became the first Knicks performer to play a full game since Jared Jeffries in 2010. “I ain’t making any shots, so I’ve got to do something else,” said Hart, who had his third triple-double of the month.
  • Considering all the major injury issues he’s had to deal with this season, this might be the Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau’s best coaching job of his career, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines.
  • Nets forward Mikal Bridges played his 500th consecutive game in the team’s 104-91 loss to the Pelicans on Tuesday. He hasn’t missed a game during his pro career. However, his production has declined lately, including a 15-point outing against New Orleans. Asked if Bridges’ minutes should be reduced, interim coach Kevin Ollie told The New York Post’s Jared Schwartz, “We always sit down with our medical team. We think about what’s best for the organization, what’s best for the players. … We’re all talking about that. We’re gonna make the best decision for Mikal, and the best decision for our organization, if something ever arises like that.”

Nets Notes: Bridges, Thomas, Claxton, Johnson

Cam Thomas returned from an ankle sprain for the last two Nets games and it’s had a positive effect on their top player, Mikal Bridges, according to The New York Post’s Brian Lewis.

Thomas had 29 points and five assists in a win over Cleveland on Sunday, while Bridges had his best offensive output in five games, supplying 25 points and five assists. Bridges shot 9-for-14 from the field.

“It was good for Mikal, too, to see some shots go in, and coming off the curl, playing off [Thomas], just taking the pressure off himself and stepping up,” interim coach Kevin Ollie said. “He puts so much work in, so I know those seeds that he’s planted are going to bloom and blossom at some point.”

We have more on the Nets:

  • Speaking of Thomas, the team is looking for him to be a more well-rounded player instead of just being known as a scorer, Lewis writes. He showed signs of that against the Cavaliers. “Yeah, we challenged him about the EGBs [energy-generating behaviors]. He had seven rebounds, five assists. So it wasn’t all his scoring,” Ollie said. “He was contributing in other ways, and that’s great to see. I want him to keep that up. We’re gonna keep challenging him. We want him to be a masterpiece on the offensive end and a masterpiece on a defensive end. And he can do it. But we’ve got to keep challenging [him].”
  • Thomas is extension-eligible this offseason and it’ll be tough to attach a dollar figure to him due to his reputation as a one-dimensional player, Lucas Kaplan of NetsDaily.com opines. Meanwhile, unrestricted free agent Nic Claxton will be one of the top players on the market. Claxton is the team’s defensive stalwart but his inconsistent performances sometimes lead to bad losses, Kaplan writes.
  • Forward Cameron Johnson has been upgraded to probable for the team’s road game against the Magic on Wednesday, Lewis tweets. Johnson has missed the last three games.