Wenyen Gabriel

Southwest Notes: Zion, Daniels, Pelicans, Rockets, Gabriel

The Pelicans have been on a roll lately, going 6-1 since the start of March and 15-5 since January 31. Former No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson has played his best basketball of the season of late, coinciding with the team’s surge up the standings — New Orleans is currently 41-26, the No. 5 seed in the West, one game back of the slumping Clippers.

On his Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said he’s heard from people around the team that Williamson has lost a considerable amount of weight since December, when the Pelicans were embarrassed by the Lakers in the semifinal of the in-season tournament.

I’ve got people in New Orleans telling me that since December when the in-season tournament happened, that Zion Williamson has lost 25 or more pounds, and his performance has been excellent,” Windhorst said (hat tip to Doric Sam of Bleacher Report). “He’s playing fewer minutes and I think that helps as well, but I’ve got people telling me he’s lost 25 pounds. And I don’t mean like in the past where they say, ‘Oh, he’s added muscle’ and it’s like, ‘Has he?’

Windhorst’s ESPN colleague Andrew Lopez has heard the same from his own sources, noting that Williamson “looks completely different,” both physically and as a player.

While Williamson has mostly been known for his offensive ability to this point in his career, he played impressive defense on Kawhi Leonard late in Friday’s victory over the Clippers, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Leonard finished with just two points on 1-of-3 shooting in seven minutes in the final period.

At the end of the game, I was like, ‘I got Kawhi,’Trey Murphy said. “He was like, ‘Nah, I got it.’ I was like, ‘You got it then. I’m not going to fight you then.’ That’s what you want out of your stars. You want them to take on the challenge.”

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels, who is recovering from a torn meniscus in his left knee, was a full participant in Monday’s practice, head coach Willie Green told reporters, including Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). Daniels was doing 3-on-3 work post-practice as well, Guillory relays (via Twitter), which is another positive sign for the second-year guard, though Green said the 21-year-old still has to check a few more boxes before being cleared to return. Herbert Jones (back) and Larry Nance Jr. (non-COVID illness) were also full practice participants after missing Saturday’s game, Guillory adds.
  • The Rockets have gone 7-1 over their last eight games and now trail the Warriors and Lakers by 3.5 games for the final spot in the play-in tournament. It’s a stark contrast from the past few seasons, when the team was stuck at the bottom of the standings. As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link) writes, the Rockets know playing in high-pressure games is the next step in their development. “I’ve been on teams myself where you knew you were done by December, January,” head coach Ime Udoka said. “That’s not the best feeling. To have something to play for, but also change the mindset and mentality around here, was one of the main objectives this year. I think we did that from the start. To have a chance to play for something still at this point in the season but also finish on a strong note, guys are continuing to grow. It’s year one with me, and I think we’ve seen the progress. Things are starting to round out a little bit here and there. We’d like to have that momentum going into next year regardless of where we land.”
  • Wenyen Gabriel‘s 10-day contract with the Grizzlies expired overnight, notes Keith Smith of Spotrac (via Twitter). The Sudanese forward/center is now an NBA free agent, though Puerto Rico’s Vaqueros de Bayamon announced last week that Gabriel had signed a contract with the team for the coming season. The 26-year-old averaged 3.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in five games with Memphis.

Wenyen Gabriel Signs With Team In Puerto Rico

Big man Wenyen Gabriel has signed with Puerto Rico’s Vaqueros de Bayamon, the team announced (Twitter link; hat tip to Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype).

The timing of the announcement is curious, since Gabriel just inked a 10-day hardship contract with the Grizzlies on Friday. The press release from Bayamon didn’t indicate when Gabriel would join the team, but it would make the most sense to occur once his deal with Memphis expires on March 17.

Gabriel, 26, had been an NBA free agent for most of the 2023/24 campaign until signing his 10-day deal with the Grizzlies. He has averaged 4.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 1.0 SPG in 17.0 MPG in two appearances with Memphis. The veteran forward/center signed a non-guaranteed Exhibit 9 contract with Boston last fall, but he was released before ’23/24 began, having spent most of the season with the G League’s Wisconsin Herd.

In total, Gabriel has appeared 147 career regular season games with the Kings, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Nets, Clippers, Lakers and Grizzlies over the past five seasons. His most consistent role came last season with the Lakers, when he averaged 5.5 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 68 games (15.1 MPG).

Last summer at the World Cup, Gabriel helped South Sudan secure its first-ever appearance in men’s basketball at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Grizzlies Sign Wenyen Gabriel To 10-Day Contract

MARCH 8: The Grizzlies have officially signed Gabriel to a 10-day contract, the team confirmed today in a press release (Twitter link). The deal will run through March 17, covering Memphis’ next five games.

MARCH 7: The Grizzlies have agreed to a 10-day contract with Wenyen Gabriel, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto (Twitter link). Gabriel is a four-year NBA veteran who most recently played with the Lakers in 2022/23.

Gabriel has played for six teams across four years after making his NBA debut in the ’19/20 season with the Kings. The 26-year-old has also spent time with the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Nets, Clippers and Lakers. He saw his most extensive playing time with the Lakers last year, averaging 5.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 68 games (two starts).

Gabriel played two collegiate seasons at Kentucky from 2016-18, where he averaged 5.7 points and 5.1 rebounds before going undrafted. He has appeared in 40 games in the G League this season with the Wisconsin Herd, with whom he’s averaging 14.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest.

This is almost assuredly a hardship signing from the Grizzlies, who have a full 15-man roster. The team is still dealing with long-term injuries to Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Marcus Smart, and Brandon Clarke, among others.

Matthew Hurt was signed to a 10-day hardship contract that expired overnight, so Gabriel is likely taking his place. Hurt’s 10-day deal with Memphis was his second of the season, so the Grizzlies are exploring other options instead of signing him for the remainder of the season.

Bucks Notes: Lillard, Herro, G League Invites

Damian Lillard didn’t get his wish to be traded to Miami this summer and he doesn’t want that to be a distraction as his Bucks prepare to face the Heat tonight, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Miami was Lillard’s first choice when he asked the Trail Blazers for a trade in July, but despite weeks of rumors, the teams were never able to get close to a deal. Now that he’s in Milwaukee, Lillard wants to move past any connection with the Heat.

“I’m not going into (Monday) like, ‘This is the team I was supposed to be playing for,’” Lillard said. “None of that. I know Jimmy (Butler), I know Bam (Adebayo). We’re cool. But I play for the Bucks and I’m not going into it like that’s my former team or we were tied in or nothing like that. It’s just another game.”

Lillard also addressed reports that Adebayo was encouraging him to push for a deal to Miami. Although they became friends during their time with Team USA during the Olympics in 2021, Lillard said Adebayo wasn’t very involved in the process.

“I think on the outside, people made more of it than what was actually taking place,” Lillard said. “It’s not like I was calling him every day or nothing like that. I said what I needed to say to the team that I was on at that time and I went on about my time. I did my training, I spent time with kids and that was it. I’m telling you the real when I say it’s not that deep. Bam was my boy before I asked for a trade, he still is and that was the extent of it.”

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • Heat guard Tyler Herro has “a couple different reasons” to look forward to tonight’s game, Chiang adds in a separate story. Playing in Milwaukee means a homecoming for Herro, but he’s also eager to face Lillard after having his name mentioned in trade rumors all summer. “I’ve never spoken to him,” Herro said. “I probably won’t (talk to him on Monday). We’ll see what happens. I respect his game, for sure. There’s no hate toward him at all. He’s a great player. I’ve been watching him my whole life. So I’m excited to continue to compete against the best.”
  • The Bucks were sharp on Thursday in Lillard’s first regular season game with Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the results looked much different in Sunday’s loss to the Hawks, observes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Lillard shot just 2-of-12 from the field and committed six turnovers by halftime as the offense appeared out of sorts.
  • Wenyen Gabriel, Alex Antetokounmpo and Glenn Robinson III are among the players waived before the start of the season who received invitations to join the Wisconsin Herd, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Journal-Sentinel. Drew Timme and Jazian Gortman are also on the G League team’s 18-man roster, but Omari Moore isn’t, Owczarski adds (Twitter link). Moore signed an Exhibit 10 contract with Toronto after being waived from his two-way contract by Milwaukee, so the Raptors 905 hold his NBAGL rights.

Celtics Waive Wenyen Gabriel, DJ Steward

5:40pm: Both Gabriel and DJ Steward have been officially waived by the Celtics, per NBA.com’s transactions log.

9:56am: The Celtics are placing big man Wenyen Gabriel on waivers ahead of the regular season, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A four-year NBA veteran, Gabriel spent last season with the Lakers, appearing in 68 games and averaging 5.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per night.

Gabriel signed with Boston at the start of training camp after the team included Robert Williams in its trade package for Jrue Holiday. Given the hit the Celtics’ frontcourt depth took in that deal, it appeared the 26-year-old had a path to a regular season roster spot.

However, Gabriel only received a non-guaranteed Exhibit 9 contract, which offered no assurances beyond training camp and the preseason, and he was outperformed by two-way player Neemias Queta this month. Boston has also typically kept a 15-man roster spot open into the regular season in recent years, notes Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

In addition to their 10 players with guaranteed salaries, the Celtics have Luke Kornet, Svi Mykhailiuk, Dalano Banton, and Lamar Stevens on partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed deals, with DJ Steward on an Exhibit 10 pact. It seems likely that Steward will be cut when Boston sets its regular season roster, with the other four making the team, though that has yet to be confirmed.

As for Gabriel, it’s unclear where his next stop might be. Since his contract with Boston didn’t include an Exhibit 10 bonus, he’s not an obvious candidate to join the Maine Celtics, the club’s G League affiliate.

Celtics Notes: Payroll, Gabriel, Pierce, Tatum

The Celtics, on track to be a taxpaying team in 2023/24 for a second consecutive year, extended Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis to lucrative new contracts this offseason and may do the same with Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday within the next year. Those financial commitments mean the franchise is projected to remain over the second tax apron in the coming years, but co-owner Wyc Grousbeck downplayed any concern about the payroll, according to Souchi Terada of MassLive.com.

“We haven’t blinked at all,” Grousbeck said. “I was part of the committee that put the aprons in place with the players committee and we’re aware of all that. We’re going to be over the second (apron), I believe, and paying those penalties and that’s the way life is. But it’s designed also we can have more competition in the league, and we’re fine with competition, as long as we win.”

While paying increased tax penalties is one thing, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will also place additional free agency and trade-related limitations on teams above the second tax apron. The rules that apply to teams over the second apron will become more restrictive in future seasons, limiting the Celtics’ ability to continue upgrading their roster as long as they maintain their high payroll.

Let’s round up a few more notes out of Boston…

  • Wenyen Gabriel‘s new one-year contract with the Celtics is a non-guaranteed Exhibit 9 contract, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Boston only has 10 players only fully guaranteed contracts, with three on non-guaranteed standard deals, so Gabriel (along with Lamar Stevens, who also signed an Exhibit 9 deal) still has a path to a regular season roster spot.
  • Former Celtics star Paul Pierce, who attended the team’s practice on Thursday, plans to be a “more visible presence” around the organization this year, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. When Pierce was a Celtic, he explained on Thursday, former Boston stars like Bill Russell and John Havlicek often visited and spent time around the club. He wants to continue that tradition. “It just (brought) a certain energy to the building whenever I saw those guys in practice or at the game,” Pierce said. “So I think it kind of continues the brotherhood. It’s all part of our culture and that is something that the Celtics have always been about.”
  • Speaking to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, Tatum expressed excitement about the Celtics’ addition of Holiday, discussed the departures of some longtime teammates, and said he’s not thinking about the possibility of signing a record-setting contract extension next summer.

Celtics Notes: Holiday, Mazzulla, Gabriel, Redick

Celtics owners, front office members and even Hall of Famers were raving about Jrue Holiday‘s performance Wednesday in his first practice with the team, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said the energy reminded him of the first practice session after Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were acquired in 2007. Co-owner Steve Pagliuca said Paul Pierce told him he had never seen anything to match Holiday’s intensity, then Pagliuca offered a few superlatives of his own.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen Jaylen Brown be stopped going to the hoop with a full head of steam, and he just ran right into Jrue,” Pagliuca said. “And that was it. It was incredible. One of the most incredible things I’ve seen in practice.”

Pagliuca added that the organization has been enamored with Holiday for years and had been hoping he would eventually become available. That opportunity arose after he was sent to Portland last week in the Damian Lillard trade, and the Celtics were determined that they wouldn’t be outbid when the Trail Blazers put him back on the market. Holiday said that as soon as the trade was finalized, Boston coach Joe Mazzulla sent him video clips of the team’s pick-and-roll coverages and offensive sets.

“From the beginning, (Mazzulla’s) told me my role is to do everything,” Holiday said. “Do everything, be all over the floor defensively, be able to control situations offensively, situations to calm us down and get good shots toward the end of games. But I think when it comes down to it, it’s about winning. It’s about keeping this culture of winning and Joe’s a part of that and the way he’s communicated with me has been awesome.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Holiday told reporters that the Celtics have already had discussions with him about a contract extension and are hoping to reach an agreement on a long-term deal as soon as he becomes eligible, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • Holiday credits Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin for helping him get to a place where he wanted to be, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “Portland blessed me,” Holiday said. “Joe Cronin did a great job of communicating with me on how I wanted to proceed. … Working with him was very easy, very seamless, and made all of this possible.”
  • Wenyen Gabriel, who signed with the Celtics on Tuesday, hopes to provide an answer to the team’s need for frontcourt depth, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Gabriel isn’t guaranteed a roster spot, but he believes he can provide what the team needs. “I’m not thinking they’re expecting me to do anything new that’s out of the character of what I’ve already done in terms of bringing energy, toughness, getting us extra possessions, being able to switch, being versatile out there, running the floor, being athletic, blocking shots,” Gabriel said. “There’s a lot of different things I can do defensively, being a good help defender. So there’s a lot of things that I already do as a player.”
  • Former NBA guard JJ Redick revealed on his podcast that the Celtics offered him a job as an assistant coach last September and again when Damon Stoudamire left in March, relays Brian Robb of MassLive.

Celtics Sign Wenyen Gabriel

OCTOBER 3: Gabriel’s signing is official, the Celtics announced in a press release.

OCTOBER 1: Journeyman power forward/center Wenyen Gabriel is signing with the Celtics, sources inform Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

With Robert Williams III now en route to the Trail Blazers, the Celtics have acted quickly to shore up their frontcourt depth. Charania notes that Gabriel will hope to carve out rotation minutes off the bench with Boston. He will play behind expected starters Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford.

The 6’9″ big man out of Kentucky spent the past two seasons as a springy reserve with the Lakers.

In 2022/23, Gabriel was mostly employed by head coach Darvin Ham as a small-ball five. Across 68 contests with Los Angeles, the 26-year-old averaged 5.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.5 BPG and 0.5 APG in just 15.1 MPG. He largely fell out of the team’s rotation during its run to the Western Conference Finals this spring, as his shooting deficiencies and inability to guard true centers made him something of a liability.

Charania tweets that Boston had brought in Gabriel for workouts recently as the club looked to fill out its roster. Gabriel helped his native South Sudan nab its first Olympic berth ever during the FIBA World Cup this summer. He averaged 9.2 PPG and 6.8 RPG during the tournament, Charania notes.

Gabriel has also played for the Kings, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, and Nets during his four-year NBA career.

Celtics Notes: Pritchard, Kornet, Holiday, Luxury Tax

The Celtics have started extension talks with Payton Pritchard, sources tell Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Although Pritchard’s representatives are talking to the front office about a long-term deal, there’s still “a gap to close” before an agreement can be finalized, Weiss adds.

The 25-year-old guard figures to have a much larger role in a revamped Boston backcourt after offseason trades that sent out Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon and brought in Jrue Holiday. Playing time has been an issue for Pritchard, who expressed a desire to be traded in February because he wasn’t seeing consistent minutes.

That shouldn’t be a problem anymore, as Pritchard’s smooth shooting stroke makes him a welcome backcourt partner for Holiday or Derrick White. Pritchard has connected at 40% from three-point range during his three seasons in Boston.

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Coach Joe Mazzulla was preparing to utilize more double-big lineups after Boston traded for Kristaps Porzingis, but those plans have changed with Robert Williams being sent to Portland in the Holiday deal, notes Jay King of The Athletic. Luke Kornet should have a larger role with Williams gone and may see time next to Porzingis, but Mazzulla will likely rely on smaller lineups with the current roster. The Celtics are bringing in Wenyen Gabriel and could look to add more frontcourt help, with King noting that Bismack Biyombo, Dewayne Dedmon and Gorgui Dieng are all free agents, along with Blake Griffin, whom president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said the team would like to bring back if he doesn’t retire.
  • The Celtics had to consider Holiday’s next contract when deciding to acquire him, per Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype. The 33-year-old guard will become eligible for an extension on February 22, but he’ll only be able to add two more years to his current deal, if he declines his $39.4MM option for 2024/25. If he waits until six months after the trade date, he can add four years and will have the choice of extending at a lower starting salary than his player option under changes made in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Gozlan points out that Holiday can also pick up the option and extend on a “team-friendly” deal similar to what Porzingis did.
  • Boston’s team salary will reach $222.6MM once the team signs a 14th player, increasing its tax penalty by $14.4MM for this season, Gozlan adds. With Jaylen Brown‘s super-max deal taking effect next year, team payroll is set to rise into the $260MM range. That figure could increase to $350MM to $400MM in 2025/26, Gozlan notes, when Jayson Tatum‘s expected super-max takes effect, if the club extends Holiday and White.
  • The Celtics have options to improve their roster even after sending two first-round picks to Portland to acquire Holiday, per Brian Robb of MassLive. Boston still has first-rounders to trade in 2024, 2026 and 2031, along with eight second-round picks through 2030. The team also has a $6.2MM TPE from the Grant Williams trade.

World Cup Notes: Hart, Giannis, Giddey, Dellavedova

Several members of Team USA have new contracts to celebrate this summer as they prepare for the FIBA World Cup, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Josh Hart became the latest player with a new deal, signing a four-year, $81MM extension with the Knicks electronically Thursday morning while the Americans prepared for a pair of exhibition games in Spain.

“It was actually pretty cool, I was just laying down on the training table, getting some treatment, on FaceTime with (his wife Shannon) and signing the contract,” Hart said. “It meant a lot. I wasn’t highly touted coming out of high school, wasn’t highly regarded in the draft, went through free agency the first time and I was restricted, it was a terrible experience for me, so to be able to do this, it’s a dream come true – just being able to have something that can take care of my parents, my family, my kids.”

Other U.S. players also had productive offseasons. Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton and Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards both signed five-year, maximum-salary extensions. Cameron Johnson got $100MM over five seasons to stay with the Nets, and Austin Reaves re-signed with the Lakers for approximately $54MM over four years.

“Yeah, that’s my kids’ kids’ money, for sure,” Edwards said. “It don’t matter (which player’s contract we’re talking about), that’s a lot of money.”

There’s more on the World Cup:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo traveled to the United States for more testing on his knee before deciding whether to play for Greece, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. The Bucks‘ medical staff will reportedly work with doctors from the Greek team to determine the best course of action for Antetokounmpo.
  • Wenyen Gabriel is the most recognizable player for South Sudan, which is preparing for its first-ever World Cup appearance, Askounis adds in a separate story. Other team members with NBA ties include Marial Shayok, Mangok Mathiang and Carlik Jones.
  • Thunder guard Josh Giddey is ready to become the new on-court leader for Australia, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN. Coach Brian Goorjian plans entrust his offense to the 20-year-old, who is seen as the future of the Australian basketball. “Giddey sets the standard of, eventually you’re gonna be the guy for this program, and he’s an unselfish player, so that sets the standard straight out of the gates,” teammate Jock Landale said. “He’s already embodied the Boomers mentality, and our culture, just through how he plays. It’s gonna come naturally to him, and he’ll fit in really nicely.”
  • Veteran guard Matthew Dellavedova isn’t part of Australia’s 13-man roster for exhibition games prior to the start of the tournament, according to Eurohoops.