Tre Jones

Sixers’ Tyrese Maxey Wins 2023/24 Sportsmanship Award

After being named the league’s Most Improved Player last month, Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey has added another 2023/24 award to his trophy case, having been voted the Sportsmanship Award winner for this season as well, the NBA announced in a press release (Twitter links).

The Sportsmanship Award has been presented annually since ’95/96 and “honors a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.”

According to the NBA, each team nominated one of its players. The 30-player list was then trimmed down to six — one player from each division — by a panel of league executives. Finally, current players voted on the six finalists.

As the full voting results show, Maxey received the most first-place votes and most total points, making him the winner. Heat big man Kevin Love was the runner-up, followed by (in order) Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kings forward Harrison Barnes, and Spurs point guard Tre Jones.

The 21st overall pick of the 2020 draft, Maxey will be eligible for restricted free agency this offseason. After his excellent performances this season, there’s no doubt that the 23-year-old will return to the 76ers.

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, T. Jones, Paul, Young, Questions

No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama just completed one of the most impressive rookie seasons in league history, becoming only the 10th player to ever average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. The other nine players are all Hall of Famers, and Wembanyama was the first to accomplish the feat in fewer than 30 minutes per game (29.7).

In a lengthy interview with O’Connor (YouTube link), the Spurs big man said he wasn’t surprised by his performance in 2023/24.

It’s impossible to be surprised by your own performance, good or bad,” Wembanyama told The Ringer. “Because, ultimately, everything is a result of your own work and your mentality. I always want more, so I’m not surprised.

San Antonio went just 22-60 this season, but Wembanyama more than lived up to his billing as a generational prospect. While he said he has no plans to become involved with potential front office moves right now, the 20-year-old admitted he’s been contacted by players interested in teaming up with him.

Yeah, I’ve received some messages,” Wembanyama said. “Even from prospects. But I try to sustain my role. It’s a whole new world that I’m eager to discover. For sure, one day or the other, I’ll have to be involved in this, I guess, even though I’m staying in my role as a player.”

Here’s more from San Antonio:

  • After starting for the majority of the ’22/23 campaign, Spurs point guard Tre Jones came off the bench to open ’23/24. However, as Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes, experimenting with other players at the point produced lackluster results, and the team played considerably better once Jones was moved back into the starting five. Jones’ chemistry with Wembanyama was particularly noteworthy, McDonald observes, but it still seems likely that the Spurs will pursue other point guards this offseason, whether it comes in the draft, free agency or trades. For his part, Jones said he’s fine with whatever role he’s given. “I just want to improve my game and set myself up to be able to help the team win in any way possible,” Jones said. “No matter what position I’m in.”
  • While both Chris Paul and the Warriors have said they have mutual interest in a reunion, that’s far from a lock, since they’ll lose his Bird rights if they waive his non-guaranteed $30MM salary for next season. If Paul doesn’t return to Golden State, Marc Stein (Substack link) says there are “rumbles in circulation” that the Spurs might pursue the future Hall-of-Famer on a short-term deal.
  • In a subscriber-only story for The Express-News, McDonald explores five “burning questions” the Spurs will be faced with this summer, including whether or not they’ll pursue Hawks guard Trae Young. McDonald hears San Antonio hasn’t ruled out the possibility of going after Young or another star, but suggests the team’s “biggest swing” might come at a later date.

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):

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, Timeline, Jones, Wesley

The Spurs have continued to exercise caution with Victor Wembanyama as they progress through the season, keeping him on a minutes restriction since he tweaked his ankle in December. The No. 1 overall pick has averaged 25.0 minutes per night since Dec. 17 and was held out of one end of a pair of back-to-backs.

However, according to Tom Orsborn of San Antonio Express-News, the Spurs have slightly loosened the reins on Wembanyama, increasing his limit to 30 minutes per game, and all signs point to that restriction being lifted altogether soon.

I think we’re getting close and it’s a good thing for me,” Wembanyama said.

Coach Gregg Popovich also said Wembanyama could “possibly” play both games of a Spurs back-to-back that starts Friday against the Trail Blazers. According to Orsborn, the Spurs and Wembanyama have several “practices and safeguards” in place to help keep him healthy over the course of the season.

The recovery is always the most important [thing], and even though sometimes it’s hard to sleep with time zones and travel, we’ve got to do the best we can, and my body’s reacting pretty well so far,” Wembanyama said.

We have more on the Spurs:

  • The 2023/24 Rookie of the Year races continues to heat up between Wembanyama and Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren and the two young centers duked it out again on Wednesday. Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News applauds Wembanyama’s performance in that game while breaking down the matchup. Wembanyama finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and four assists in a 140-114 loss to Holmgren’s Thunder. Holmgren finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. “I just feel like Victor’s the Rookie of the Year in my opinion,” Spurs forward Keldon Johnson said. “Other guys can feel different ways. That’s just how I feel.
  • The Spurs’ loss on Wednesday was their second blowout defeat at the hands of Oklahoma City this year, and Popovich gave the Thunder their flowers after the game, Orsborn writes. “It has been a good number of years to get where they are right now and that’s the cycle of things,” Popovich said. “We were in that position [of playing playoff basketball] for three decades and now we’re starting over. And so we’ll have to have the same patience and make good decisions in the draft and that kind of thing.
  • Guard Tre Jones started the year as a reserve but was moved to the starting lineup on Jan. 4. Since becoming a starter, he’s averaging 13.7 points and 7.1 assists per game, leading Popovich to emphasize his importance. “He is very, very important to us, more than most people would expect,” Popovich said, via Orsborn. “He is the heart and soul out there as far as keeping us together and showing the grit night after night.
  • Jones suffered an ankle injury on Monday against Philadelphia and sat out Wednesday’s game against the Thunder, Orsborn writes. Popovich said the injury wasn’t serious and Orsborn tweets Jones was upgraded to questionable on Thursday’s injury report.
  • Blake Wesley earned his second career start on Wednesday in the wake of Jones’ injury. He scored 12 points on perfect shooting from the floor, to go along with six assists and four rebounds. “I believe he did a good job,” Popovich said, via Orsborn. “He’s a young man trying to find his way in the league and hasn’t gotten a lot of minutes. I thought he tried to do everything we wanted him to do tonight.

Spurs Notes: Jones, Wembanyama, Wesley, Collins

Tre Jones came off the bench the first two-and-a-half months of the season, but he has returned to the Spurs lineup as the starting point guard. Jones has started the past six games and racked up a season-high 12 assists in a 10-point loss to Atlanta on Monday. Jones is averaging 6.3 assists per game in those starts.

“Tre’s a guy who is going to get everyone organized,” forward Doug McDermott told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s been a big thing for our offense, playing a little faster right out of the gate.”

We have more on the Spurs:

  • Victor Wembanyama likes being coached hard, which makes him an ideal fit for the Spurs. Wembanyama feels his growth is tied to coach Gregg Popovich holding him accountable, McDonald writes in a separate story. Wembanyama bounced back after a scoreless first half against the Hawks by scoring 26 points. “I like to be coached,” Wembanyama said. “I like to be threatened to be sent to the G League if I don’t play the right way. I like when there are consequences to my mistakes.”
  • Blake Wesley has received rotation minutes lately, with 12 appearances in the past 13 games heading into Wednesday’s contest at Boston, according to McDonald. Wesley has cut into the playing time of Malaki Branham. “He’s in a kind of difficult position with the roster that we have right now and not knowing how much he’ll play or if he’ll even play,” Jones said. “I’m just trying to tell him to stay ready and be patient. He’s doing a great job. He’s a professional.”
  • Reserve center Zach Collins is getting close to returning from the right ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the past eight games. He could return as early as this weekend, as McDonald writes. “It’s feeling better,” Collins said. “I maybe just need a couple more games.”

Seventeen More Players Become Trade-Eligible

Today is Monday, January 15, which means that a total of 17 players who signed free agent contracts meeting specific criteria this past offseason are now eligible to be traded.

Most offseason signees became trade-eligible on December 15, but players who met the following criteria were ineligible to be moved for an extra month:

  1. The player re-signed with his previous team.
  2. He got a raise of at least 20%.
  3. His salary is worth more than the minimum.
  4. His team was over the cap and used Bird or Early Bird rights to sign him.

The following players met that criteria and are eligible to be traded as of Monday:

(* Players marked with an asterisk have the ability to veto trades.)

Most of the players on NBA rosters are now eligible to be moved, though a small handful still can’t be dealt. That group includes Heat guard Dru Smith, who becomes trade-eligible on Monday, Hornets guard Ish Smith (trade-eligible on January 24), Lakers star Anthony Davis (trade-eligible on February 6), and Pistons forward Kevin Knox (trade-eligible on Feb. 8).

There are also several players who won’t become trade-eligible prior to this season’s February 8 deadline, including stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Jaylen Brown. Players on 10-day contracts are also ineligible to be dealt.

Spurs Notes: Wembanyama, Jones, Osman, Wesley

The Spurs fell just short on Thursday in a hard-fought battle with Milwaukee, dropping a 125-121 decision to the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, but it was another big night for Victor Wembanyama. As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News details, the rookie big man racked up 27 points, nine rebounds, and five blocks in just 26 minutes of action, earning praise from two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for his performance — and his potential.

“Everything that he dreams of, it’s going to happen for him,” Antetokounmpo said, adding that he’s “never seen anything like” Wembanyama.

Antetokounmpo also suggested that Wembanyama, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday, is ahead of where Giannis was at similar points in their respective careers, telling reporters that the Spurs youngster is having a “Rookie of the Year season.” However, it was Chet Holmgren who earned Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors for a second consecutive time earlier this week, which Wembanyama says he’ll use as motivation.

“Of course, of course,” Wembanyama said (Twitter video link via Hector Ledesma of Clutch Points). “I’m dedicated and I know at the end of the day I’m going to get what I deserve, and every game is a statement from now on.”

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • Wembanyama remains on a minutes restriction for now, which head coach Gregg Popovich has said won’t be lifted until the big man’s ankle gets reevaluated. According to Popovich, that exam is “coming soon,” per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). “It’s within the next week or two, I believe,” Popovich said on Thursday. “But I don’t know the exact date.”
  • With Malaki Branham out on Thursday due to a right ankle sprain, the Spurs moved point guard Tre Jones into the starting lineup for the first time this season. The move worked well, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News, who notes that the ball flowed nicely on offense and San Antonio’s second unit held its own without Jones. Asked why San Antonio hasn’t been starting Jones all season, McDonald explained (via Twitter) that the team already knows what it has in the fourth-year veteran and has been more interested in learning what players like Branham and Jeremy Sochan can and can’t handle when tasked with the job.
  • Forward Cedi Osman, who has seen his role and his production fluctuate in his first season as a Spur, told Orsborn (Twitter link) on Thursday after scoring 19 total points in his previous seven appearances that he’s still working to understand “what the coaches are asking from me” from game to game. Osman expressed confidence that things “will be better” for him and followed up those comments with a nice showing on Thursday — he scored 13 points to go along with five assists and three steals vs. Milwaukee.
  • After not playing more than 12 minutes in any of the Spurs’ first 31 games, Blake Wesley has averaged 17.6 MPG in the past three and has earned praise from Popovich, tweets Orsborn. “He’s played freely,” Popovich said. “He doesn’t look like he is worried about making a mistake. He’s been excellent at the defensive end.”

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Spurs, Mavs’ Sale, Morant

Following his poor performance during the in-season tournament last week, Zion Williamson received plenty of criticism in the media. He responded with a dominant performance against Minnesota on Monday, pouring in 36 points in the Pelicans’ 121-107 win.

As for the criticism, this is what Williamson had to say, as relayed by the New Orleans’ Times-Picayune’s Rod Walker: “If it comes from a great place, and a place where they want to see me do better, thank you. If it comes from anywhere else, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. Can’t control that.”

However, there’s no guarantee he will play against the Wizards on Wednesday. Williamson suffered a left ankle sprain in the late going on Monday and is listed as questionable, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Spurs’ lack of a lead ball-handler was apparent once again in their 17th consecutive loss on Monday. They shot 5-for-41 from the field in the 93-82 loss to Houston and their point total was the lowest for any NBA team this season. Kelly Iko of The Athletic notes that former starting point guard Tre Jones logged just 16 minutes. “He’s definitely the floor general,” Keldon Johnson said. “He gets them (the second unit) into sets.”
  • While Mark Cuban is in the process of selling a majority stake in the Mavericks franchise, there’s one holdout among the minority owners. Mary Stanton informed the franchise she won’t be selling her stake at this time, according to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News, who previously reported that all of the minority shareholders would be bought out. Stanton is the widow of Horace Ardinger, an original shareholder who bought a 4.13% stake in the franchise in 1980. A Board of Governors vote on the sale will be held on Dec. 20.
  • With the 25-game suspension of Grizzlies star Ja Morant nearing its end, he found himself testifying during the first day of an immunity hearing at Shelby County Circuit Court on Monday, Baxter Holmes of ESPN reports. Morant claimed he acted in self-defense when he punched a teenager at his home in July 2022. The incident occurred during a pickup basketball game. Morant said the teen struck him with a basketball. “I hit him first — to protect myself,” Morant said.

Spurs Notes: Collins, Wemby, Sochan, Mamukelashvili, Jones

After starting the first 20 games of the season for the Spurs, center Zach Collins came off the bench for the first time this fall in Friday’s loss to Chicago. While many players would view it as a demotion to be removed from the starting lineup, Collins says he understands why head coach Gregg Popovich made the move and suggested he’s on board with it, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required).

“Having more firepower coming off the bench is always going to help us take some relief off the starters,” Collins said. “Hopefully this spacing-wise will work a little better.”

Popovich said after the game that he “absolutely” intends to stick with this lineup change at least in the short term, so Collins will have to get used to playing with the second unit. After a strong showing on Friday that saw him put up 12 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in 23 minutes of action, the big man told reporters that it’s just a matter of adjusting mentally to the new role.

“I always said when you come off the bench, you don’t have the luxury of starting the game and getting into it fast, getting your body going, getting your mind into the game,” he said. “So you have to stay locked in even though you’re not in the game.”

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • Victor Wembanyama had a monster night in his first start at center, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game (he had 21 and 20, respectively), according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Unfortunately for the Spurs, it wasn’t enough to prevent their 16th consecutive loss.
  • Jeremy Sochan came off the bench for the first time this season on Wednesday before being reinserted into the starting lineup on Friday. Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News says Sochan’s confidence appeared to be shaken after Wednesday’s contest, with the 20-year-old deferring to the coaching staff when asked if he learned something from his time at point guard and whether he wants to keep playing there. Prior to Friday’s game, Popovich said there “is really no point guard” in San Antonio’s starting five, according to Lopez, who notes that Sochan shared ball-handling responsibilities during that game.
  • Reserve center Sandro Mamukelashvili – who hasn’t played much for San Antonio this season, logging 55 total minutes across seven appearances – took advantage of an assignment to the G League this week, McDonald writes. In his NBAGL season debut with Austin on Friday, Mamukelashvili racked up 34 points, 22 rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots. Mamukelashvili and Charles Bassey are expected to be sent to the G League more frequently to make sure they’re getting regular minutes, per McDonald.
  • Despite the Spurs’ frequent lineup changes (eight players have started at least one game), Tre Jones has been unable to crack the starting five this season after making 65 starts a year ago. That doesn’t mean the team is down on Jones though, according to McDonald (Twitter link), who says the Spurs “really, really like” the 23-year-old as a second-unit point guard for both the present and the future.

Southwest Notes: Sochan, Alvarado, Rockets, Mavs

The Spurs‘ efforts to turn forward Jeremy Sochan into a point guard have been a bit bumpy so far, but the team has shown a willingness to stick with it and Sochan has been open to learning, writes Andrew Lopez of The 20-year-old admits it’s “going to be a process” to adapt to the new position, but he’s been getting advice from last season’s starter Tre Jones and said the transition has been “fun.”

“There have been moments where it’s like, ‘Yo, I don’t want to.’ It’s like, ‘f–k this s–t.’ I’m going to be honest,” Sochan said earlier this month. “There have been moments where there isn’t confidence. But there are moments of being confident and just working. Knowing the trust I have from the coaches and players, it helps.”

As Lopez details, the Spurs didn’t have Sochan watch film of any specific point guards when he moved into the role, since they still want him to play like himself rather than trying to emulate someone else.

“He can’t play like Chris Paul or he can’t play like John Stockton,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s got to be Jeremy.”

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, who said his team “studied” Sochan ahead of the 2022 draft, referred to him as a “Swiss Army Knife-type player” with strong play-making skills, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). Jenkins isn’t surprised that Popovich is thinking outside of the box by experimenting with Sochan at the point.

“When you have been around Pop, competed against Pop, he is very open-minded to trying a lot of different things,” Jenkins said. “In the eras he has been here, playing big, playing small, emphasizing the three-ball, emphasizing the paint, emphasizing faster pace, slower pace, not a surprise.”

Here are a few more notes from around the Southwest:

  • Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado said today during a media session that he’ll make his season debut on Monday night vs. Sacramento, per Christian Clark of “I’m back,” Alvarado said. “I feel good. I will go through pregame. But I’m back. That’s the plan.” Alvarado has yet to play this fall due to a right ankle sprain.
  • Mark Medina of Sportsnaut spoke to Rockets head coach Ime Udoka about the strides his team has made so far this season, the impact that newcomers like Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks have had, and the improvement he’s seen from youngsters like Alperen Sengun. “We knew what he was offensively in a lot of ways and how he impacts the game for us,” Udoka said of Sengun, who is averaging a career-best 20.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 5.7 APG. “He can control things there. But defensively, he has taken a huge step. He’s bought in and has improved on that side of the ball.”
  • While the Mavericks are off to a strong start this season, losses like Sunday’s to Sacramento show that they’re still very much a work in progress on the defensive side of the ball, writes Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). Rookie center Dereck Lively II has exceeded expectations but has struggled to slow down star bigs such as Domantas Sabonis, who had 32 points on Sunday. “If we’re not scoring 130, it’s hard to win,” head coach Jason Kidd acknowledged.