Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Knox, Houston, Robinson

While 25th overall pick Immanuel Quickley has shown signs he could be the Knicks’ answer at point guard, lottery pick Obi Toppin has gotten off to a surprisingly slow start to his NBA career, Mike Vornukov of The Athletic writes. The No. 8 pick is averaging 12.0 MPG after coming into the draft with the reputation as the most NBA-ready player in his class, Vornukov points out. Part of the problem is he’s been used as a big wing, rather than as a rim runner and pick-and-roll threat, Vornukov adds.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • Kevin Knox vows to stay positive despite the fact he’s fallen out of the rotation, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. “I’m going to continue to be ready, because anything can happen, at any moment, any given time,” Knox said. “So I want to make sure that I’m ready. I’ll continue to get my reps up, continue to shoot the ball well, focus a lot on defense, watch a lot of film, so when they do call my number and my time does come, I’m ready.”
  • Allan Houston’s new front office title is Vice President, Player Leadership & Development, Ian Begley of SNY tweets. Last season, Houston was GM for the organization’s G League affiliate in Westchester. He was also a former assistant GM in the organization. Pops Mensah-Bonsu is now Director of Minor League Operations, Begley adds.
  • Center Mitchell Robinson reminds coach Tom Thibodeau of a young Joakim Noah, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. “(Noah) started off as a defensive player, an energy guy, a guy who ran the floor well,” Thibodeau said. “He was an excellent passer, decision maker, very good with dribble handoffs and I think that’s a part of Mitch’s game that can grow. And so we’ll challenge him in that way.”

Atlantic Notes: Smith Jr., Irving, Boucher, Mensah-Bonsu

Dennis Smith Jr. has done nothing to boost his trade value during the Knicks’ first two preseason games, Marc Berman of the New York Post notes. Though new coach Tom Thibodeau praised Smith last week, the guard hasn’t produced on the court. Smith, who could be a restricted or unrestricted free agent next offseason, logged 37 minutes and shot just 33% from the field. He also looked out of sorts when the Pistons trapped him on Sunday while posting a minus-15 in 16 minutes, Berman adds.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets guard Kyrie Irving finally complied with league rules and met virtually with the media on Monday, Malika Andrews of ESPN writes. Irving had called the media “pawns” in an Instagram post and was fined by the league for refusing to speak to journalists prior to Monday. Irving made a point of praising coach Steve Nash, after previously making a comment that was construed as a knock on Nash when Irving said on a podcast he didn’t see the team “as having a head coach.” “Steve’s been amazing,” Irving said. “He kind of commands the respect. I think I’ve got to take back my comments in terms of the head coach back a few months ago.”
  • Chris Boucher will have an expanded role with the Raptors this season now that Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are gone, and he plans to do the dirty work, according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. The big man re-signed with the club on a two-year, $13.5MM deal as a restricted free agent.  “You’ve got to come in the game, play defense, block shots, rebound, make the good reads,” Boucher said. “I think I was a little trigger happy before … We’ve got good shooters with me when I’m playing now, so I don’t really need to be taking those shots.”
  • The Knicks are planning to hire Pops Mensah-Bonsu as president and director of their G League operations, The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov and Shams Charania tweetMensah-Bonsu was the GM of the Wizards’ Capital City Go-Go G League team last season after a stint as a Spurs scout.

Wizards Notes: Beal, Grant, Hachimura, Go-Go

Wizards guard Bradley Beal still hasn’t finalized a decision on whether or not he’ll participate in the NBA’s restart, but head coach Scott Brooks said today that Beal is expected to join the club on its flight to Florida this week, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes.

Beal said last week that he remains undecided about whether he’ll play this summer, expressing some concerns about the shortened ramp-up period and the possible injury risk. Brooks, who said there’s no specific timeline for Beal’s decision, said today that his All-Star guard is looking “great” in workouts.

“His physical condition has been pretty good and continues to improve every day along with our other guys,” Brooks said, per Youngmisuk. “We are all getting tested every day and as of right now he’s a go and we are all going down there ready to compete and get better and play to get in a playoff position. He looks great.”

The Wizards, who are 5.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the East, will be without All-Star point guard John Wall and sharpshooter Davis Bertans during the restart — Wall continues to rehab his Achilles injury, while Bertans opted out due to his impending free agency and his ACL injury history.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Jerian Grant, who replaced Bertans on the Wizards’ summer roster as a substitute player, called it a “dream come true” to join his hometown team, as Jackson Filyo of WashingtonWizards.com details. Grant, who grew up in the D.C. area, worked as a ball boy for the franchise as a kid, and his father Harvey Grant played for the then-Bullets from 1988-93.
  • Rui Hachimura, who would be preparing to represent Japan in the Tokyo Olympics this summer if not for the coronavirus, remains hopeful that he’ll be able to play for his home country in 2021, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “I’m honestly so sad about it. We can’t do anything about it,” Hachimura said of the postponement, adding that he has been looking forward to the event for years. “Of course, I would like to play in the Olympics. Next year, we’ll see how things go.”
  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu, the general manager of the Capital City Go-Go, won’t return to the Wizards’ G League affiliate for the 2020/21 season, according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. “I wanted to pursue some other things at this moment in time,” Mensah-Bonsu said. The remainder of the 2019/20 NBAGL season was canceled and it’s unclear when next season will start — that uncertainty played a part in Mensah-Bonsu’s decision, per Buckner.

Southeast Notes: Anderson, Young, Go-Go, Magic Big Men

The Heat aren’t particularly interested in acquiring Rockets forward Ryan Anderson, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. A rumored trade that would involve the Houston power forward and a draft pick in exchange for either Tyler Johnson or James Johnson doesn’t appeal to Miami’s front office, Jackson continues. Anderson has a higher salary than both of those players, so bringing him in would worsen the team’s luxury-tax issues. Additionally, even though James Johnson has three years left on his deal compared to Anderson’s two remaining seasons, Miami values his versatility, Jackson adds.

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Rookie Trae Young realizes the commitment the Hawks made to him by trading starting point guard Dennis Schroder to the Thunder, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. While Young was non-committal about whether he or Jeremy Lin should start, Young knows he’ll get ample playing time. “Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told Vivlamore. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate.”
  • The Wizards’ new G League team, the Capital City Go-Go, will share the same practice facility as the NBA team. The G League team’s GM, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, sees that as an incentive for his players, as he explained to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington“I think it’s going to help motivate these guys. We’re going to be practicing in the same place that the Wizards do and the Mystics do,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “I think if these guys can see Dwight Howard and John Wall and Bradley Beal walking around every day, it will help motivate them to get to that next level.”
  • The Magic are bucking the league trend by building around big men, as Nick Zappulla of RealGM details. The trio of rookie Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon provide versatility and game-changing ability on both ends of the floor, Zappulla adds.

Wizards’ G League Affiliate Announces GM, Coach

Twenty-six NBA teams had their own G League squads in 2017/18, and a 27th will enter the league in 2018/19, with the Wizards introducing Capital City Go-Go, their new NBAGL affiliate. Today, the franchise issued a press release announcing that Pops Mensah-Bonsu will serve as the Go-Go’s first general manager, while Jarell Christian will be the team’s head coach.

Mensah-Bonsu, who played his college ball at nearby George Washington University, entered the NBA as a player in 2006 and spent time with the Mavericks, Spurs, Raptors, Rockets, and Pelicans (then the Hornets) over the course of his career. He also had an extensive professional career in international leagues as a player before retiring in 2015 and working for the Spurs and the NBPA.

“I am humbled to be entrusted with this position and would like to thank the Wizards organization for the opportunity,” Mensah-Bonsu said in a statement. “Washington is my second home and the city has embraced me ever since I stepped on the George Washington campus. I am excited to be able to give back by making sure that the Go-Go is a pillar in the community and a team that the city can get behind.”

As for Christian, he has served as an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G League affiliate, for the last four seasons. He briefly held the interim head coach position for the club during the 2016/17 season when Mark Daigneault was promoted to the Thunder’s staff.

With the Wizards’ affiliate set to join the G League for the 2018/19 season, only three NBA clubs – the Nuggets, Pelicans, and Trail Blazers – are still without an NBAGL affiliate of their own.

And-Ones: Hansbrough, Bogut, Jennings

Tyler Hansbrough has signed a contract with the D-League, Chris Reichert of The Step Back reports (Twitter link). Now 31 years old, Hansbrough played 44 games with the Hornets last season, receiving a career-worst 7.8 MPG. Hansbrough went unsigned as an unrestricted free agent over the offseason, but expressed interest in returning to Charlotte after 2015/16.

“Personally, when I was called, I felt like I went out there and helped the team in the ways that I could. I’d be glad to be back,” Hansbrough told Sam Perley of Hornets.com.

Other goings-on around the game…

  • The Rockets are unlikely to sign Andrew Bogut, sources tell Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The Rockets would like to add Bogut as insurance in case of a Clint Capela or Nene Hilario injury, but the big man may be looking for a bigger role.
  • The Pistons don’t appear to be interested in a reunion with Brandon Jennings, Rod Beards of The Detroit News relays. “With Ish here, I don’t think [Jennings] would be a fit. From Brandon’s standpoint, my guess is he wants to go somewhere he can play,” Van Gundy said. “In a contract year, especially, he needs to get playing time and get seen. I hope it works for him. I really like him and he’s able to land something good this summer.”
  • The BIG3 announced five additional players will register for its draft pool: James White, Andre OwensPops Mensah-Bonsu, Lawrence Moten, and Ndudi Ebi (press release). In April, BIG3 will hold a player combine for all players in the draft pool. While all five players have NBA experience, White most recently appeared in an NBA game- scoring 25 points over 57 games with the 2012/13 Knicks.
  • The Cavaliers could be the winner of the Nerlens Noel trade if Bogut decides to join the defending champs, John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Rumors linked Bogut to Cleveland over the weekend, but it was reported today that the big man has “strong interest” in joining the Celtics.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post

Western Notes: Durant. Westbrook, Grant

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook never got along when both were members of the Thunder, a one-time teammate of both told Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net, also adding that the reports of animosity between the pair since Durant signed with the Warriors are real, not a product of the media. “It’s real, and [since Durant left] the relationship has gotten worse,” the ex-teammate told the scribe. “They got along before because they sort of had to. There is no relationship now, and what is there is all bad.

Westbrook believes KD joining Golden State “exposed Durant as a big chicken,” the ex-teammate told the scribe. Responding to Durant’s comments to reporters that the Warriors are an unselfish bunch that treats each other like family, which many believe was a slight at his former teammate, Westbrook told reporters, “That’s cute. My job is to worry about what’s going on here. We’re going to worry about all the selfish guys we’ve got over here, apparently.

For those wondering, the first time Westbrook and Durant will square off against one another on the court is November 3rd in Oakland. Here’s more from out West:

  • The Spurs have hired former Cavs GM Chris Grant as a team scout, Chris Haynes of ESPN.com reports. During his time in Cleveland, Grant was responsible for drafting Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, as well as selecting Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick.
  • The Nuggets‘ impressive depth at multiple positions could end up being problematic, given the lack of minutes and numerous players deserving of playing time whose development may be stunted as a result, Keith P. Smith of RealGM.com opines in his analysis of the team. The scribe notes that Denver desperately needs to make a trade to consolidate that depth and land a star player to build around, which is also something that I noted previously in my look back at the Nuggets’ offseason.
  • The Spurs made another addition to their staff, hiring former NBA player Pops Mensah-Bonsu as an advance pro scout, international journalist David Pick relays (on Twitter).

Northwest Notes: Mitchell, Mensah-Bonsu, Neto

Raptors coach Dwane Casey believes that Timberwolves interim head man Sam Mitchell will be an improved leader now that he is getting another head coaching opportunity, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune writes. “Huge,” Casey said of the difference between the first and second times around as a coach. “You learn so much from your mistakes, more from your mistakes than the success you have. So I’m sure Sam has learned. I don’t know a coach who has been fired who felt like he should have been fired. I didn’t feel like I should have been fired in Minnesota. We were in the playoff hunt. You never feel that way. I made mistakes in Minnesota. Everybody does. But you learn from them, you grow from them. I’m sure Sam has. He’ll tell you that.

Mitchell agrees with Casey’s assessment, and said that he is a better coach now because of his past failures, Zgoda notes. “You just try to get better,” Mitchell said. “You try to have more patience. You understand Rome wasn’t built in a day and you’re not going to win a championship in a day. You understand the process, the ups and downs a little bit better. You understand how difficult the league is. Everybody wants to win right now, but it just doesn’t work. You put in your time and you keep your players focused, understanding it’s a process.

Here’s the latest from the Northwest Division:

  • Former NBA player Pops Mensah-Bonsu has officially retired from the game, Mark Woods of MVP247.com relays. The 32-year-old was in training camp with the Nuggets last year, but left the team due to personal reasons. Mensah-Bonsu appeared in 61 combined games over the course of his career and owns averages of 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds to accompany a shooting line of .410/.000/.589.
  • Rookie Jazz point guard Raul Neto, who will be counted on in Utah’s rotation with Dante Exum expected to miss the season, is becoming more comfortable with the team’s system as well as life in the U.S., Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News writes. “Each game I’m getting more comfortable with the team and with the plays, with everything, so I’m feeling great,’’ Neto told Sorensen. “You always have somebody close to you, helping you. I really like it here.’’
  • With the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge via free agency this summer, Damian Lillard is poised to have big season, according to teammate C.J. McCollum, Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders relays. “I just expect him to continue to do a lot of the things he has done in the past: being a good leader, orchestrating the offense, being aggressive like he has been and just being a killer,” McCollum said of Lillard. “I always joke with him and tell him this is just like when he was at Weber State only he’s got more help. He’s going to take on the bulk load of attention from an in-game standpoint and a media standpoint so a lot of pressure is going to be on him, but I think he’s ready for it. Offensively, he has all the tools to be an All-Star again….

And-Ones: Allen, Pistons, Pierce, Mensah-Bonsu

Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders compiled a list on his take of who the best available free agents are. At the the very top is Ray Allen, who we learned earlier today is mulling retirement. We’ll look at the latest on Allen and round up more from around the league below:

    • The news that Allen is considering retirement is hardly surprising to Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk, who heard as early as last summer that the veteran guard would be unlikely to move on to Cleveland with LeBron James since it would require relocating his family and living in a cold climate.
    • Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy isn’t shy about praising team owner Tom Gores, as Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reveals. “I’ve said this for a few months, I absolutely mean it: I’ve got confidence that over time here we’re going to get this turned around, but if we don’t it ain’t gonna be on Tom Gores,” Van Gundy said. “He’s doing absolutely everything anyone can do. I can’t imagine an owner doing more or even close to what he’s been willing to do.
    • Long-time Celtics player Paul Pierce understands Boston’s decision to trade Rajon Rondo, writes Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. “It was either ‘We’re going to build around him’ or ‘We’re going to build for the future,’” Pierce said. “That’s what most teams do. When you have a star player, an all-star-caliber player and if you aren’t able to put the other star players around him or you have other young guys, you’re either going to build with him or you build without him.. They decided to move forward and build around the young pieces that they have.
    • The Greek club AEK Athens is finalizing a deal with Pops Mensah-Bonsu, David Pick of Eurobasket.com reports (Twitter link). The only hurdle at this point is his physical exam, Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia tweets. Mensah-Bonsu, who was briefly in training camp with the Nuggets this fall, has been free since Hapoel Jerusalem released him earlier this month.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.

Western Notes: Allen, Kuzmic, Crawford

One of the Warriors’ few weaknesses this season is the backup shooting guard spot, a void that free agent Ray Allen would fill perfectly, Tim Kawakami of The Bay Area News Group opines. Golden State has been having internal discussions about making a run at adding Allen to its roster, should he decide to play this season. With Corey Brewer once again being made available by Minnesota, he could also become a potential trade target, though that is just my speculation.

Here’s more from out west:

  • The Warriors have assigned Ognjen Kuzmic to the Santa Cruz Warriors, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Kuzmic’s second trek to the D-League this season.
  • Sources close to the Kings have denied reports that team owner Vivek Ranadive tried to dictate who ex-coach Mike Malone played, Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). Although, one known instance of Ranadive suggesting whom to play was this past Saturday when Ranadive suggested that Ryan Hollins start after the death of his father, a move that Malone reportedly agreed with, Broussard adds.
  • The ClippersJamal Crawford has parted ways with agent Andy Miller, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group reports (Twitter link).
  • Crawford has said that the trade rumors regarding himself don’t bother him, and though he would prefer to stay with the Clippers, Crawford intimated that he could play “wherever,” Dan Woike of The Orange County Register tweets.
  • Most league executives unsurprisingly believe Brook Lopez will pick up his $16.744MM player option for next season with the Nets, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes amid a broader look at the Warriors and possible trade fits for David Lee.
  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu is set to be released by Hapoel Jerusalem, David Pick of Eurobasket.com reports (Twitter link). Mensah-Bonsu, who was briefly in training camp with the Nuggets this fall, was brought in by Hapoel on a month-to-month deal for the EuroCup competition, and is no longer needed since the team has been eliminated from the tournament, Pick adds.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.