Nerlens Noel

New York Notes: Sharpe, Bridges, Randle, Jeffries

The Nets fortified their frontcourt depth this month by signing a pair of big men to 10-day contracts — Nerlens Noel got one, then the team brought in Moses Brown following the expiration of Noel’s deal. However, Noel wasn’t re-signed and Brown only played four minutes during his 10 days with Brooklyn, which concluded on Sunday night.

Rather than using Brown, the Nets have leaned recently on Day’Ron Sharpe as their backup center behind Nic Claxton, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Sharpe has responded admirably, averaging 10.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in just 15.8 minutes per game over his last four appearances.

“Sometimes you have to tap into that competitive nature,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Sometimes you can not appreciate the situation that you’re in. It might not look like the way you want it to look on your timing. Sometimes you need a little nudge, and Day’Ron has responded extremely well by having another big on the roster.”

Following the expiration of Brown’s 10-day deal, the Nets have an open spot on their 15-man roster, so they’re in position to bring back Noel or Brown or to add someone new before the end of the regular season. Noel would be playoff-eligible but Brown wouldn’t be, since he has been waived since March 1.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • After attempting 1.9 free throws per game during his four-and-a-half years in Phoenix, Nets forward Mikal Bridges is getting to the foul line 6.7 times per game in Brooklyn. He credited Suns stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul for helping him grow and expand that part of his game during his first few years in the NBA, Lewis writes for The New York Post. “Just trying to get to the line, just trying to be aggressive. That’s just a big thing,” Bridges said. “Coming from Phoenix, watching a lot of and being right there with a lot of Book and CP3 and how they draw fouls, I’ve learned a lot.”
  • Prior to Monday’s blowout win over Houston, Knicks forward Julius Randle had received technical fouls in three consecutive games, all losses. While Randle acknowledged he needs to do a better job of keeping his frustration in check, he doesn’t believe his outbursts adversely impact his standing as a team leader, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “Name a perfect leader,” Randle said. “Name a perfect human being.”
  • The Knicks used a portion of their room exception when they signed DaQuan Jeffries to a two-year contract, Hoops Rumors has learned. A rest-of-season minimum salary for Jeffries would have paid him $163,977, but New York opted to give him $300K for the remainder of the season using the room exception. The swingman’s new deal includes a non-guaranteed minimum salary ($2.07MM) for 2023/24.

Atlantic Notes: McBride, Noel, Pritchard, R. Williams

Miles McBride has been reinserted into the Knicks‘ rotation over the past six games with Jalen Brunson sidelined due to a foot injury. The second-year guard has been making an impact on both ends of the court as of late, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post.

During Sunday’s road victory over the Lakers, McBride recorded eight points (on 3-of-5 shooting) and three steals in 17 minutes, finishing plus-15 in the four-point win.

It’s huge. … But, honestly, if I didn’t score a point and we win, I’d still be happy. Just being able to impact the game however I can always is the number one thing,” McBride said. “I think the second unit knows that when we get in, our job is just look at the score, understand what we have to do as a unit and move the needle. And I think we came in and did that.”

The 22-year-old followed that strong performance with a career-high 18 points (on 6-of-8 shooting), three assists, two blocks and one steal in 25 minutes in Tuesday’s victory at Portland, Botte adds in another story. It remains to be seen if McBride will get minutes once Brunson returns, but he’s certainly building a strong case for himself.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Veteran center Nerlens Noel averaged 14.3 minutes in his three games with the Brooklyn, but a source tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post that the Nets will not bring him back for a second 10-day contract (Twitter link). Noel’s initial deal expires on Wednesday, Lewis notes. Head coach Jacque Vaughn previously suggested that he expected Noel to stick around.
  • Payton Pritchard has switched agents and will now be represented by CAA Sports, the agency announced on Instagram. “At the end of the day, it’s a business decision,” Pritchard told Souichi Terada of “I think when you’re going into making choices on your future and your business, you want somebody that you believe is going to represent you in the best way and really help you. I’m not dissing my previous agent or anything like that. At the end of the day, it’s a nerve-wrecking time so you want to go with somebody that you really believe.” The third-year Celtics guard, who is currently sidelined with a heel injury, will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason. Pritchard previously expressed disappointment that he wasn’t traded ahead of last month’s deadline, as he’s looking for more playing time.
  • Celtics big man Robert Williams could return to action “within the next week or so,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said prior to Wednesday’s matchup with Minnesota (Twitter video link via NBC Sports Boston). Williams has been dealing with a left hamstring strain, but has responded well to treatment and said he was “feeling good” over the weekend.

Nets Notes: Noel, Simmons, Duke, Smith, Ayton

With Spencer Dinwiddie (rest), Nic Claxton (right thumb sprain, left Achilles tendinopathy), Cameron Johnson (right knee soreness), and Royce O’Neale (left knee soreness) all unavailable in Milwaukee on Thursday, the Nets ran out a new-look starting lineup that scored just 15 total points, the lowest mark for any starting five since 2008, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).

One of Brooklyn’s new starter was Nerlens Noel, who was playing in just his second game as a Net. Despite not scoring a single point, Noel was the only starter who had a plus/minus rating better than minus-14 (he was a plus-2) and made a positive impression on head coach Jacque Vaughn, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post relays.

“He continues to get himself in shape,” Vaughn said. “The charge that he took was great, putting his body on the line, so that was great. A (blocked shot) was great. So those things we want to continue to see from him.”

Noel’s contract with the Nets only covers 10 days, but so far he hasn’t been used like a player the team plans to soon part ways with, logging 18 minutes in consecutive games. Vaughn’s postgame comments also hinted that he expects the big man to be in Brooklyn for more than just 10 days.

“He’ll continue to learn conceptually what we want to do on the defensive end, and we’re switching back and forth between defenses, you know, so you got to turn your brain on and off and back on again,” Vaughn said of Noel. “So that challenge is what’s ahead of him.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Ben Simmons, still dealing with knee and back issues, missed his eighth game in a row on Thursday, and Vaughn said Simmons’ back inflammation remains “in the process of settling down,” per Lewis. “A big piece of it is still the strengthening, to make sure that there’s no reoccurrence,” Vaughn said. “And then for a while we had to kind of press pause a little bit in order for the inflammation in the back to kind of settle down a little bit. So last few days, that’s what that’s look like.”
  • Although Brooklyn’s starting five was ineffective on Thursday, the team showed off its depth, scoring 98 bench points. That total was the highest in a regular season game since at least 1982, according to Reynolds, who notes (via Twitter) that Toronto scored 100 bench points vs. Brooklyn in a playoff game in 2020.
  • Nets two-way players David Duke and Dru Smith got a rare chance to play rotation minutes at the NBA level on Thursday and combined for 30 points. Duke and Smith have spent much of the season playing key roles for a Long Island Nets team that won its 16th straight game on Thursday, led by veteran point guard Chris Chiozza, according to NetsDaily. Brooklyn’s NBAGL affiliate now holds a league-best 22-3 record.
  • Sign-and-trade rules would have made it tricky for the Nets to acquire center Deandre Ayton from Phoenix in a package for Kevin Durant last summer, but Ayton would’ve been much easier to move at last month’s deadline. However, Ayton wasn’t part of the Suns‘ package for Durant and league sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link) that Brooklyn was “never much interested” in trading for the former No. 1 pick.

Atlantic Notes: Noel, Anunoby, Harden, M. Brown

After not playing for nearly a month, Nerlens Noel got a workout in his first game with the Nets on a 10-day contract, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn won by a comfortable margin Tuesday night in Houston, allowing Noel to be on the court for nearly 18 minutes.

“I wanted to see could Nerlens play in a basketball game and contribute and be able to pick up what we’re doing as a group. Also see his quickness if he can protect the rim,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He’s on a 10-day, so I decided to use one of those 10 days pretty quickly to see what he was going to give us.”

Noel was playing sparingly in Detroit before agreeing to a buyout and hasn’t logged more than 18 minutes since mid-January. Brooklyn brought him in to provide another big man off the bench and ease the workload on starting center Nic Claxton.

“It felt good to get some rust off,” Noel said. “Yeah, a little winded in the first minutes, but it’s normal. Nobody can get away from that. But I’ve been doing a fair share. But at this point I just want to keep building on that, defensive-first mentality, rebounding, just try and make sure I bring a winning mentality to the game.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • OG Anunoby‘s versatility and defensive prowess made him a popular name heading into the trade deadline, but it appears the Raptors made the right move by keeping him, contends Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Toronto will face some difficult financial decisions this summer, so an Anunoby deal may be revisited, but Koreen is impressed by the defensive potential of lineups with him and newly acquired center Jakob Poeltl.
  • James Harden believes he’s playing better this season because he has become more familiar with his teammates, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers acquired the former MVP at last year’s trade deadline, and he only had a couple of months to get used to his new surroundings before the playoffs started. “Knowing each other on and off the court,” Harden said after handing out 20 assists Monday night. “I think off the court is just as valuable as learning somebody on the court. It helps actually. But just comfortable. When you are comfortable, it makes the game a lot easier.”
  • The two-way contract that Moses Brown signed with the Knicks only covers one season, tweets Ian Begley of Brown plans to report to the team’s G League affiliate in Westchester and play Thursday night.

New York Notes: Knicks, Quickley, Noel, Nets

Two years ago, the Knicks followed up a successful, expectation-defying regular season with a quick playoff exit, as they fell in five games to Atlanta. This year’s team, which has also gotten hot after a shaky start, bears some similarities to that 2020/21 squad. However, forward Julius Randle is higher on the current Knicks’ ceiling.

“I think we’re a better team,” Randle said, per Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. “More talented team.”

As Bondy points out, the ’20/21 version of the Knicks rode the NBA’s fourth-best defense to a 41-31 season, but ranked just 22nd on offense. This year’s club is more balanced, ranking in the top half of the league in both offense and defense and posting the NBA’s seventh-best net rating to date. While it remains to be seen whether that balance will translate to postseason success, RJ Barrett believes the team will be better prepared for the playoffs than it was in 2021.

“Looking back and thinking back about that series (vs. Atlanta), there are things we could have done better,” Barrett said. “Experience now will help us as well. Hopefully when we get there. So that was a good series for us to know what to expect.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Immanuel Quickley‘s breakout season has strengthened his case for a rookie scale extension during the 2023 offseason, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. In an effort to gauge Quickley’s value, Braziller spoke to ESPN cap expert Bobby Marks, who speculated that a deal in the range of De’Andre Hunter‘s extension with Atlanta (four years, $90MM, plus $5MM in incentives) might be about right for the Knicks guard. On the other hand, holding off on a new deal for Quickley would put the team in position to maximize its 2024 cap room. “I think the next month-and-a-half and the playoffs will determine if the value of an extension outweighs prioritizing cap space,” Marks told Braziller.
  • Oddsmakers have made Quickley the new frontrunner to win the Sixth Man of the Year award this season, moving him ahead of Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon, notes Cole Huff of The Athletic.
  • After signing a 10-day contract, Nerlens Noel said he’ll bring “energy” to the Nets and that he’s willing to play whatever role head coach Jacque Vaughn asks of him. “This is already a top-10 defense, I’m pretty sure, especially with what they have, so I’m going to put it over the top,” Noel said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter links). “And however coach sees fit into what position he wants to put me in, I’ll accept regardless.”
  • In a normal season, Vaughn would wait until near the end of the season to start to ramp up his starters’ minutes in preparation for the playoffs, but he’s doing it a bit earlier this year to try to give his newcomers more time together, as Andrew Crane of The New York Post relays. Mikal Bridges, for instance, has played over 40 minutes in each of Brooklyn’s last two games. “In the past … we’ve played our guys not as many minutes, and then as the playoffs start to come around, we wanted to ramp those guys up so they can play, quote-unquote, playoff minutes,” Vaughn explained. “I’m trying to hedge that a little bit with the short time between regular season and this group being together and playoffs.”

Nets Sign Nerlens Noel To 10-Day Contract

MARCH 6, 9:32am: Noel’s signing is official, the Nets announced (via Twitter).

MARCH 4, 9:38am: Noel is expected to receive a 10-day contract from the Nets, Wojnarowski writes in his full story on the agreement.

Brooklyn may wait until Sunday to officially complete the signing to ensure that Noel is available for the team’s next six games instead of five. Noel would earn $151,821 on a 10-day deal, with $105,522 counting against the Nets’ cap.

MARCH 4, 7:18am: Veteran center Nerlens Noel has reached an agreement to sign with the Nets, agent George Langberg tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Brooklyn has had an open spot on its 15-man roster since the trade deadline, so no corresponding move will be needed to create an opening for Noel, who became a free agent on Wednesday after clearing waivers. He finalized a buyout agreement with the Pistons earlier in the week.

The sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Noel has established a reputation as a talented, versatile defender with a limited offensive game.

After beginning his career with the Sixers, Mavericks, and Thunder, Noel thrived in New York in 2020/21, averaging 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in just 24.2 minutes per game for the league’s fourth-best defense. That performance helped earn him a three-year, $28MM contract from the Knicks, but he was slowed by injuries in ’21/22, appearing in just 25 games.

The Knicks sent Noel to Detroit in a salary-dump trade last offseason and he played sparingly for his new team as the Pistons evaluated younger players. Before agreeing to a buyout, the 28-year-old only appeared in 14 contests, averaging 2.3 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 10.9 MPG.

The Nets have been on the lookout for months for a reliable frontcourt player to back up starting center Nic Claxton — Noel is as good as an option as they’ll find on the buyout market.

Following last month’s trades of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn no longer looks like a team with championship potential, but the club remains firmly in the playoff race and still appears invested in upgrading this year’s roster. The Nets’ 35-28 record currently gives them a 2.5-game lead over Atlanta for the sixth seed in the East.

Brooklyn still has a portion of its mid-level exception available, but a rest-of-season, minimum-salary contract is probably the likeliest outcome for Noel. If he were to officially sign a minimum deal on Saturday, the big man would earn about $562K, while the Nets would take on a cap hit of approximately $390K.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Defense, Pace, Noel

Nets big man Ben Simmons is dealing with injuries on multiple fronts. While trying to rehabilitate his sore left knee, he has been afflicted with a sore back, as head coach Jacque Vaughn details.

“During his strengthening process he did experience some back soreness,” Vaughn said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link). “So now we’re in the process of strengthening the knee while also managing the back.”

Vaughn doesn’t know whether Simmons’ back issues are occurring in the same area as his surgically repaired herniated disc, Lewis tweets.

Simmons was shelved for five games due to the knee issues, and now will remain out as a result of the back problem. As Lewis writes, he is running short on time to effectively mount a return to the floor this season.

The 6’10” Simmons has found himself on the fringes of his club’s rotation of late. Across his five games prior to his latest injury, he averaged just 3.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists in a mere 19.1 minutes per.

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • The Nets’ defense has fallen off of late, as the team’s revised roster is struggling to learn each others’ tendencies during the home stretch of the 2022/23 regular season. Lewis examines those struggles in a separate piece (subscriber-exclusive link), exploring how Brooklyn can clean things up on that end of the floor.
  • Brooklyn is aware that it needs to continue playing fast to maximize its personnel, Lewis writes in another article. “Coaches talk about transition and getting out and the guys we have, we’re all unselfish and play the right way,” starting small forward Mikal Bridges said. “We all can run the lanes and get out. So that’s why we always want to get stops, because I feel like we’re a tough team in transition. So that’s just the emphasis that we had, just getting out after getting stops, go in transition trying to get easy ones.”
  • The newest Net, center Nerlens Noel – who is initially joining the team on a 10-day deal that is not yet official – will add more legitimate size off the bench behind starter Nic Claxton, Lewis opines in an additional article. Lewis adds that Brooklyn has recently enlisted two forwards, 6’7″ Dorian Finney-Smith and 6’4″ Royce O’Neale, as small-ball reserve centers.

Pistons Buy Out Nerlens Noel

FEBRUARY 28: Noel has been placed on waivers, the team’s PR department tweets.

FEBRUARY 27: Nerlens Noel and the Pistons have completed a contract buyout, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Noel will now be placed on waivers before Wednesday’s deadline to preserve his playoff eligibility.

Acquired from the Knicks in a draft-day deal, Noel played sparingly this season as Detroit evaluated younger players. He only appeared in 14 games, averaging 2.3 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 10.9 MPG.

Noel, who has played for Philadelphia, Dallas and Oklahoma City, had a $9.24MM salary this season with a club option for $9.68MM next season. That team option will come off the Pistons’ books and this season’s cap hit also figures to be reduced slightly.

Noel reportedly wasn’t actively seeking out a buyout earlier this month but obviously changed his mind. He’s expected to have multiple contenders pursuing his services once he clears waivers.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (Twitter link), Noel is the 10th player to be bought out since the trade deadline.

Detroit now has an open roster spot, though the club doesn’t necessarily have to fill it right away.

Pistons’ Nerlens Noel Hasn’t Actively Pursued Buyout

Veteran center Nerlens Noel has been listed as “not with team” on the Pistons‘ injury report since last Thursday’s trade deadline, leading to speculation that he’s headed for a buyout agreement. However, league sources tell Marc Stein (Substack link) that Noel hasn’t actively pursued a buyout to this point.

Noel, who signed a three-year contract with New York in 2021, was traded from the Knicks to the Pistons last summer in a salary-dump deal that helped New York create salary cap space for Jalen Brunson. The 28-year-old big man hasn’t had much of a role with the Pistons, appearing in just 14 games and logging a career-low 10.9 MPG.

The retooling Pistons have a crowded frontcourt that features a handful of young centers the team will want to take a long look at down the stretch. That group consists of a trio of former lottery picks: rookie Jalen Duren, recently acquired James Wiseman, and former King Marvin Bagley III, who is recovering from hand surgery and is in the first season of a three-year contract.

Given that he’s buried on the depth chart and isn’t owed any guaranteed money beyond this season (he has a $9.68MM team option for 2023/24), Noel looks like a logical buyout candidate. According to Stein, there would be multiple “playoff-bound” teams with interest in the former sixth overall pick if he reaches free agency.

It’s notable that Noel and his reps didn’t immediately seek a buyout last week after he stayed put at the deadline. Still, while he and the Pistons aren’t working on an agreement yet, that doesn’t mean one won’t happen by March 1, which is the deadline for a player to be waived if he wants to retain his playoff eligibility for his new team. Kevin Love, for instance, wasn’t initially considered a buyout candidate, but is now said to be nearing a deal with the Cavs.

On the other hand, agreeing to a buyout and then signing a minimum-salary contract with a new team would force Noel to give up his Bird rights and may pigeonhole him as a minimum-salary player going forward. So he has some incentive to pass on buyout talks and force the Pistons to make a decision on whether they want to simply waive him, paying his full salary, to open up a roster spot.

We’ll keep a close eye on Noel’s status in Detroit during the next couple weeks, but for now, it doesn’t appear that a buyout is imminent.

Eastern Notes: Hill, DeRozan, LaVine, Noel, White

The Pacers gave George Hill the option of being waived after acquiring him from the Bucks, so that he could hook onto a contender. Hill declined the offer and hopes he can stay with the franchise he played for from 2011-16 beyond this season, according to Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star. Hill will be a free agent this summer.

“I’ve thought long and hard and I think that’s the biggest reason why I chose to stay here and not try to get out and go somewhere else. I felt like I still have a lot left to offer, either on the floor or to pick the brain and being a vet,” Hill said of becoming a mentor for the Pacers’ younger players. “Definitely don’t want it to be kind of like a rental opportunity. And would love to stay here for some years and grow with these young guys.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • After a Bulls loss to Cleveland on Saturday, DeMar DeRozan said that he and Zach LaVine must establish a better rhythm during crunch time, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. “We’ve just got to do a better job of understanding possessions in a game,’’ DeRozan said. “I wouldn’t put it on teams having us figured out. I’d say 85% of it is picking and choosing on understanding the possession and not feeling so rushed into trying to hit a home run every possession. … It’s about us playing the game the right way, understanding what needs to be done, how we can play off one another, how we can use each other to help everyone else on the team to be in better position to make plays for us as well. It’s on us more than anything.’’
  • If Nerlens Noel chooses the buyout route with the Pistons, the Sixers would be interested in him as a backup to Joel Embiid, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has been a fan of Noel’s playing style for some time, Pompey writes, noting that the big man could serve as the sort of rim protector Philadelphia is lacking on its second unit.
  • Derrick White has been a solid and steady contributor since the Celtics acquired him from San Antonio last season, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes. White hasn’t missed a game since the trade and has the best plus/minus rating on any player on the team except for Robert Williams, who has missed a chunk of the season. White is signed through the 2024/25 season.