Precious Achiuwa

COVID-19 Roundup: Raptors, Kings, Thunder, Knicks

The hits keep coming for the NBA. While some good news has arrived regarding the health status of a handful of players, several more have been sidelined in the league’s coronavirus protocols. Here are the newest developments concerning which players have entered or exited the health and safety protocols:

  • Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa and point guard Malachi Flynn have exited the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN. Lewenberg notes that power forward Pascal Siakam and wing Gary Trent Jr., who cleared protocols yesterday, have been listed as probable ahead of Toronto’s game against the Sixers this evening. Center Khem Birch, who also cleared protocols yesterday, remains questionable to play, as do Achiuwa and Flynn. Following this news, the total sum of Raptors players still in the league’s COVID-19 protocols has fallen to five.
  • Kings center Alex Len has exited the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, per James Ham of ESPN 1320 (via Twitter). Because the 7-footer has not played a game since December 15, Ham notes that Len remains questionable to play tonight against the Thunder.
  • Thunder center Derrick Favors is now in the league’s coronavirus protocols, reports Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. Favors is the sixth Oklahoma City player currently in COVID-19 protocols. Head coach Mark Daigneault also entered the protocols today.
  • The Knicks have announced (Twitter link) that little-used guard Wayne Selden has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The 6’5″ veteran wing has not been a part of the rotation this season for New York, having suited up for just three games thus far.
  • Keep tabs on all the NBA’s current coronavirus absences via our daily tracker.

Raptors’ Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa Enter Protocols

After placing guards Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn in the health and safety protocols earlier in the day, the Raptors have now added two frontcourt players to that list. Rookie forward Scottie Barnes and center Precious Achiuwa have become the sixth and seventh Raptors in the COVID-19 protocols, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

If Barnes and Achiuwa have tested positive for COVID-19, they’ll be out for 10 days or until they return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. VanVleet, Flynn, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., and Dalano Banton are the other players in the protocols for Toronto.

The injury report is getting crowded for the Raptors, who will also be without Justin Champagnie (non-COVID illness), David Johnson (left calf strain), and Goran Dragic (not with team) for Wednesday’s game in Chicago. That leaves the club with just six of its initial 16 players available, and one of those six – Khem Birch – is listed as questionable due to a right knee issue.

However, as Wojnarowski reports (Twitter links), there’s no indication at this point that Wednesday’s game will be postponed. Toronto has reportedly reached deals with four replacement players – Nik Stauskas, Brandon Goodwin, Tremont Waters, and Juwan Morgan – and could sign more before tip-off tomorrow night,, assuming there’s time for those players to clear COVID-19 testing and travel to Chicago.

The NBA already postponed one Raptors/Bulls contest last Thursday, so the league will likely want to avoid having to push back a second game between the two teams.

Lakers’ Westbrook, Cavs’ Okoro Enter COVID-19 Protocols

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin (Twitter link). Lakers guard Avery Bradley has also been placed in the protocols, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Westbrook and Bradley are the fourth and fifth Lakers to enter the protocols within the last three days, joining teammates Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, and Malik Monk.

It’s unclear if the two Lakers guards have registered confirmed positive tests for COVID-19, but if they have, they’ll be sidelined for at least 10 days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

The news of Westbrook and Bradley entering the protocols coincides with reports that the Lakers have agreed to sign Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day contract using a hardship exception. Westbrook’s and Bradley’s absences should open the door for Thomas to get some run at the point guard spot.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Cavaliers forward Isaac Okoro has entered the health and safety protocols, sources tell Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (Twitter link). No other Cavs players are currently in the protocols, so we’ll have to wait to see if Okoro is a one-off or if any of his teammates join him in the coming days. If Okoro tested positive for COVID-19, he’ll be in the protocols for at least 10 days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan told reporters, including Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, that Coby White and Javonte Green are the only two players on the team who have cleared the health and safety protocols and have been conducting individual workouts. That leaves eight players in the protocols, and many of them – including Zach LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Alize Johnson, and Troy Brown Jr. – may not be back until after Christmas, according to Donovan.
  • Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa has cleared the health and safety protocols, tweets Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen also provides a few injury updates on Raptors players — Dalano Banton (illness) is good to go, while OG Anunoby (hip) and Khem Birch (knee) will be listed as questionable for the club’s game vs. Golden State on Saturday.

Raptors Notes: Practice, Sabonis, Turner, Achiuwa, Banton

Like the Pacers, the Raptors opted to cancel their practice on Thursday due to an “abundance of caution” related to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic.

As was the case with Indiana, Toronto didn’t provide any additional details to explain the decision. However, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) hears that it’s “not a player issue,” which suggests that perhaps a staff member either tested positive for COVID-19 or is a close contact of someone who did.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • The Raptors will have to decide in the coming weeks whether they intend to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Grange writes for Sportsnet.ca. As Grange observes, upgrading the center spot or adding a reliable backup point guard could help make Toronto a more legitimate playoff contender, but the team could also decided to take a longer-term view toward the future and shop a couple veterans.
  • A league source tells Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca that the Raptors have had “their eyes on” Pacers big men Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner for years, so they’ll likely at least kick the tires on the two veteran centers. Doug Smith of The Toronto Star (subscribers only) argues that Toronto should seriously pursue either Sabonis or Turner in an effort to solidify the five spot.
  • Raptors center Precious Achiuwa is once again sidelined due to shoulder tendinitis, and head coach Nick Nurse isn’t sure how long Achiuwa will be out, writes Lewenberg. “Obviously, it’s aggravated again,” Nurse said of the injury. “I don’t know what to say. Hopefully it’s short-term, but you never know.”
  • Rookie guard Dalano Banton is pulling double duty this season, playing frequently for both the Raptors in the NBA and the Raptors 905 in the G League. As Smith writes for The Toronto Star, Banton welcomes that challenge, knowing that current Raptors stars like Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam spent plenty of time with the 905 when they first entered the league. “I’m not getting tired of it,” Banton said. “I’m just kind of trusting in the process that they have going on for me. … I trust in the development of the Raptors and I’ve seen it countless times of guys who came before me.”
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic addressed a handful of Raptors-related topics in his latest mailbag, including Yuta Watanabe‘s future and what the team could get back in a trade involving Chris Boucher.

Injury Notes: Okongwu, Embiid, Raptors, Harris, B. Brown

Hawks big man Onyeka Okongwu played some 3-on-3 this week and “came out OK,” head coach Nate McMillan said on Tuesday (Twitter link via Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). McMillan added that the Hawks will continue to be cautious with Okongwu and that there’s no set timeline for his return from shoulder surgery. Atlanta initially estimated a recovery period of about six months when Okongwu went under the knife in July.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • After ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Tuesday that the Sixers are hopeful Joel Embiid will be able to return as soon as Saturday, Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) reiterated today that there’s growing optimism about Embiid’s ability to play on Saturday. The star center hasn’t suited up since November 6 due to a case of COVID-19.
  • For the first time this season, the Raptors may have a fully healthy roster later this week, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Smith writes, Yuta Watanabe (calf) and OG Anunoby (hip) are both close to returning, while Khem Birch (knee) and Precious Achiuwa (shoulder) are day-to-day. All four players are currently listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. Memphis.
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash doesn’t expect Joe Harris (ankle) to be back for Saturday’s game vs. Phoenix, but is optimistic Bruce Brown (hamstring) will be available by that point, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Nash said Brown wanted to play tonight, but the team is opting to give him a little more recovery time.

Atlantic Notes: Noel, Korkmaz, Harris, Achiuwa

Knicks center Nerlens Noel made his season debut on Wednesday and drew some praise from his coach, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Noel had been sidelined by knee and hamstring soreness. He had two points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. “For the first game I thought he gave us some really good minutes,” Tom Thibodeau said. “Good activity. Rim protection. Effort plays. A lot of good things.” Noel re-signed with New York this summer on a three-year, $32MM contract.

We have more on the Atlantic Division:

  • Furkan Korkmaz has changed agents, according to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. The Sixers wing will now by represented by Jason Glushon and Dan Tobin. Korkmaz re-signed with the team on a three-year, $15MM contract this summer.
  • Sixers forward Tobias Harris was placed under the league’s health and safety protocols on Wednesday and he’s experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “He’s doing OK, but not great, honestly,” coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s the most I’m gonna say about it. But it hit him, for sure. A lot of guys have had this and they are mad like, ‘What the hell? I’m fine.’ Tobias is not in that category right now.”
  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse said that Precious Achiuwa earned the starting nod at center and doesn’t plan on making a change despite inconsistent play, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets.  “We don’t expect (the young guys) to play great every night,” Nurse said. “It doesn’t mean we’ve got to change the starting lineup. I think we just stick with it and see how it goes.” Achiuwa has gone 5-for-27 from the field in his last three games.

Raptors Notes: Dragic, Dekker, Bonga, Achiuwa, Barnes

The Raptors are on a four-game winning streak, but Goran Dragic has been a DNP-CD in all four games, raising questions about his place on the roster. While the veteran point guard clearly isn’t a long-term keeper for the Raptors, there’s no indication that he’ll be traded or bought out anytime soon, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.

As Grange explains, it’s too early in the season for any real trade market to develop for Dragic, and it’s unlikely that either the player or the team wants to make significant concessions in a buyout arrangement.

For now then, the two sides remain in an “amicable” holding pattern, says Grange — Dragic will remain on the roster as a respected veteran and talented backup, and his situation will be revisited closer to the February trade deadline.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Within the same story, Grange says the Raptors seem likely to cut either Sam Dekker or Isaac Bonga in the coming days. Both players’ salaries for 2021/22 will become guaranteed if they remain on the roster through November 6 and Toronto can duck under the luxury tax line by waiving one or the other. Dekker and Bonga have played a combined eight total minutes this season, and would be pushed further down the depth chart once Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe return from their respective injuries.
  • Precious Achiuwa was one of the Raptors’ key offseason acquisitions, but the young center has experienced some growing pains so far this season. As Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes, head coach Nick Nurse benched Achiuwa in favor of backup center Khem Birch to open the second half of the team’s win over the Knicks on Monday. Although Birch doesn’t have Achiuwa’s upside, the veteran has exhibited better fundamentals, playing solid team defense, setting screens, and rebounding.
  • Rookie forward Scottie Barnes will miss a second straight game on Wednesday vs. Washington due to a right thumb sprain, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

Raptors Exercise 2022/23 Options On Achiuwa, Flynn

The Raptors have exercised their third-year team options on big man Precious Achiuwa and guard Malachi Flynn, the team announced today in a press release. Both options are for the 2022/23 season.

Achiuwa, the 20th overall pick in the 2020 draft, averaged 5.0 PPG and 3.4 RPG in 61 games (12.1 MPG) for the Heat as a rookie last season. He was dealt to the Raptors this summer along with Goran Dragic in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade. His 2022/23 option will pay him approximately $2.84MM.

Flynn, selected nine spots after Achiuwa at No. 29 in last year’s draft, averaged 7.5 PPG and 2.9 APG in 47 games (19.7 MPG) in his rookie year. He saw most of his playing time in the second half when Lowry was sidelined, and could take on a more regular role this season with the six-time All-Star no longer in the picture, though veteran point guards Fred VanVleet and Dragic are still ahead of him on the depth chart. Flynn’s ’22/23 option is worth about $2.15MM.

Teams have until November 1 to pick up their 2022/23 rookie scale options on first-round picks from the 2019 and 2020 drafts. We’re tracking all the decisions right here.

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Gillespie, Birch, Achiuwa, Simmons, Millsap

Despite dealing with a calf strain, Yuta Watanabe is a safe bet to make the Raptors’ opening-night roster, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca. Watanabe is a multi-position defender and the coaching staff is looking for him to play a bigger offensive role. His partially guaranteed contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the 15-man after training camp.

Freddie Gillespie, whose partially-guaranteed deal also becomes fully guaranteed on opening night, may be playing his way off the Raptors’ roster, Murphy writes. Gillespie struggled in summer league games and hasn’t looked any better in preseason action.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors center Khem Birch was cleared to make his preseason debut on Monday after a bout with COVID-19, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweets. Birch, along with his wife and daughter, caught the virus and he experienced symptoms despite being fully vaccinated. Birch re-signed with Toronto on a three-year deal this summer.
  • Birch and Precious Achiuwa will split the minutes at the center spot on an almost even platoon when the regular season commences, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. It’s not certain who will start but the Raptors will ease Birch back into action. Chris Boucher will be out at least another 2-3 weeks as he recovers from finger surgery.
  • Amid reports that the possibility of Ben Simmons reporting to the Sixers is growing, coach Doc Rivers said on Monday that “we would love to get him back,” Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Rivers has spoken with Simmons’ agent, Rich Paul, adding that “our position hasn’t changed at all.”
  • Nets forward Paul Millsap was also sidelined briefly by the league’s health and safety protocols during camp but he was cleared to play in Monday’s preseason game, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Millsap only missed one preseason contest.

Raptors Notes: Roster Battles, Mykhailiuk, Bjorkgren, Banton, Achiuwa

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse cited COVID-19 and injuries as reasons why the battles for the last two or three spots on the team’s regular season roster are more important than ever, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. As Nurse pointed out, even if a player makes the team as a 13th or 14th man, he may end up being thrust into a rotation role if others ahead of him are sidelined.

Ishmail Wainright, Yuta Watanabe, Freddie Gillespie, Sam Dekker, and Isaac Bonga are the five players believed to be fighting for spots on the 15-man squad. Toronto has 12 players with fully guaranteed salaries — assuming none of those players are traded or cut, there would be room on the roster for up to three players from that five-player group.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk said on Friday that he received interest in free agency from the Trail Blazers and Lakers before deciding to sign with the Raptors, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic (Twitter link). Mykhailiuk likes the opportunity he has to earn playing time and develop his game in Toronto.
  • Former Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren is at the Raptors’ training camp as a consultant, tweets Koreen. Bjorkgren was an assistant on Nurse’s staff before being hired by Indiana.
  • Raptors rookie Dalano Banton has been able to recognize two dreams this year — being selected in the NBA draft and joining his hometown team in Toronto. Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (via The Toronto Star) has the story on the first Torontonian to be drafted by the Raptors.
  • Doug Smith of The Toronto Star and Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca lay out what newly-acquired big man Precious Achiuwa can bring to the Raptors. The franchise is hoping that Achiuwa – who was the centerpiece of the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade – can become a long-term cornerstone.