Rajon Rondo

Hawks Notes: Playoff Prospects, Okongwu, Hunter, Rondo

The Hawks have assembled a roster that could be a surprise force in the East when the playoffs start, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. General manager Travis Schlenk focused on adding shooting over the offseason, signing Bogdan Bogdanovic as a free agent and trading for Danilo Gallinari and Tony Snell.

Atlanta made a powerful impression on the Suns this week, putting up 135 points in a 32-point victory.

“They have a lot of guys who can knock down shots, but not just 3-point shots,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “Bogdanovic and Trae (Young) are two guys who can get into the paint and make shots creating off the dribble. (Clint) Capela has been huge for them. He generates offense diving and gets extra possessions. His defense covers up a lot of the mistakes that the guards can make. Gallinari is a versatile scorer. They’re deep. They look like a playoff team. They look like they’re getting into playoff shape. I don’t think many teams want to play them if they’re going to continue to shoot the ball like that.”

There’s more on the Hawks:

  • Lottery pick Onyeka Okongwu hasn’t been impactful during his rookie season, playing just 11.6 minutes per night and averaging 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds, but he’s turned in some recent performances that may cause coach Nate McMillan to consider him for the postseason rotation, Kirschner adds. One of those came against the Suns, when he had 14 points and seven rebounds off the bench. “A young guy like that, he seems to get better each time he steps on the floor,” McMillan said. “… As long as he continues to play like that and show growth, he’ll get minutes. This year is basically a year for him to get his feet wet and get out there and just play.”
  • De’Andre Hunter continues to make progress toward returning from an injured right knee, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was able to play five-on-five today, and the team will wait to see how his knee responds Sunday before planning his next step.
  • Former Hawks guard Rajon Rondo praised the organization this week for how it handled his trade to the Clippers, relays KL Chouinard of NBA.com (Twitter link). “Travis (Schlenk) and I talked a couple of days before and that morning as well,” Rondo said on a TNT interview. “We had a conversation. It was a pleasant one, and one that I never had in my entire career. Big ups to the Hawks organization. I wish those guys well.”

L.A. Notes: Davis, Gasol, Cousins, Rondo

Lakers star Anthony Davis has been cleared to participate in full-contact practices and is close to returning to action, head coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Thursday (link via ESPN’s Dave Mcmenamin).

The eight-time All-Star, who has been dealing with a right calf strain and tendinosis, has now been sidelined for over two months, having last played on February 14. According to Vogel, Davis is unlikely to suit up for either of the Lakers’ games against Utah on Saturday and Monday, but the head coach didn’t entirely rule out that possibility, McMenamin writes.

When Davis does return, the plan is to incorporate him back into the lineup slowly, beginning with a playing-time limit in the 15-minute range, per Vogel.

“Whenever it is that he returns, it’s not going to be a full return to playing 30-something minutes a night,” Vogel said. “Especially with the nature of practice and how shorthanded we are, he’s going to have to use some games to try to get himself back in shape. So the first two games he’s back will likely be short-minute performances.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • Lakers center Marc Gasol sustained a volar plate fracture in his left pinky finger on Thursday, but he may not miss much – or any – time, according to Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group, who tweets that Gasol has been listed as questionable for Saturday’s game vs. Utah. “It’s my left hand, I don’t use it much anyways,” Gasol said. “So we’ll see.”
  • Before DeMarcus Cousins‘ 10-day contract with the Clippers expired on Wednesday night, head coach Tyronn Lue said the team was looking forward to continuing on with the veteran center, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. The Clippers didn’t re-sign Cousins to a new deal on Thursday, so we’ll see if they do so today before tonight’s game in Philadelphia.
  • The Clippers paid a high price at the trade deadline for Rajon Rondo (Lou Williams, two second-round picks, and cash), but the veteran point guard has made that deal look like a smart one so far, as Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group details. Since Rondo made his debut on April 4, L.A. is 7-0 and has a staggering +32.0 net rating when the 35-year-old is on the court.

L.A. Notes: Drummond, Gasol, George, Rondo

Andre Drummond is giving the Lakers a lot of what they expected, but he still hasn’t found his scoring touch, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Drummond scored just four points Tuesday in Charlotte and three points Monday at New York. He’s averaging 9.2 PPG in his five games with L.A.

“Offensively, this is probably the worst I’ve played in my career,” he said. “I’m still trying to figure it out here. I’m not allowing it to take me out of my game. I know why I’m here, which is to help this team defensively. Offensively, it will come for me.”

Part of the problem is the absence of Anthony Davis and LeBron James, who have been injured since Drummond signed with the team late last month. Drummond believes he’ll settle into a more natural role once the two stars return.

“We’re going to find a way to get it done when guys come back healthy,” he said. “Because you got to think, we’re playing with a different five every night when we’re stepping on the court. So you can’t expect us to have much chemistry when we don’t know who we’re playing with each and every night. So we’re hanging our hat on defense and allowing that to project us to a win.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Marc Gasol became the Lakers‘ third center after Drummond was signed, but Jovan Buha of The Athletic contends there are games where he should play ahead of Montrezl Harrell. Gasol has outplayed Harrell lately, Buha notes, and is a better fit in certain matchups.
  • Clippers forward Paul George is determined to not let his injured toe affect him mentally, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. George knows the pain may last for the rest of the season, but he has learned to accept it, scoring at least 30 points in each of his last four games. “The injury allowed me to kind of make an excuse for myself,” he said. “But then I put it in perspective … if I’m gonna play, then don’t let it limit me. I feel like I’ve had a breakthrough because of that mindset.”
  • By playing in 33 games this season, Rajon Rondo is in line for a $750K bonus if and when the Clippers reach the first round of the playoffs, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The bonus was switched from unlikely to likely when Rondo was traded to L.A. last month.

Los Angeles Notes: Drummond, Jackson, Rondo, LeBron

Lakers center Andre Drummond put forth a key performance in the team’s win over the Nets on Saturday, guiding the club to a 126-101 victory, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes.

Drummond finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds in just over 22 minutes of action. He served as an enforcer on both ends of the floor, controlling the interior and pounding Brooklyn on the glass.

“He can do that against opposing centers,” coach Frank Vogel said of Drummond. “He can beat them up with his physicality, on the post or on drives, on the offensive glass and then he can more than hold his own and guard his position defensively as well as all the pick-and-roll defensive coverages that we put him [in] as well. He’s a two-way player and it’s a great sign to see him stepping up as a leader the way he did tonight.”

There’s more from Los Angeles today:

  • The Clippers plan to start Reggie Jackson at point guard for “the long haul” with Patrick Beverley sidelined, coach Tyronn Lue said, as relayed by Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Beverley is expected to miss at least three-to-four weeks after suffering a fracture of the fourth metacarpal bone in his left hand.
  • Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe explores Clippers veteran Rajon Rondo‘s case for the Hall of Fame. Rondo is a two-time NBA champion, four-time All-Star and has made four All-Defensive teams in his career, playing 15 seasons with eight teams.
  • Mark Medina of USA TODAY examines LeBron James‘ ankle injury, with the help of opinions from various medical experts. James sustained a high ankle sprain on March 20 and has missed 11 straight games for the Lakers, though a recent report from ESPN indicated that he’s likely to return in three weeks.

Clippers’ Beverley Has Fractured Hand, Undergoes Surgery

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley underwent surgery on Friday to repair a fracture of the fourth metacarpal bone in his left hand, the team’s PR department tweets. He’ll be re-evaluated in three or four weeks and there’s no timetable for his return.

Beverley suffered the injury while pursuing a rebound in the fourth quarter against Phoenix on Thursday. He had just returned to action after missing nearly four weeks due to a right knee injury.

Beverley has started all 31 games he’s played this season. The defensive specialist is averaging 8.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 2.1 APG.

Beverley, 32, is signed through next season. He’s making $13.3MM this season and will bank $14.3MM in his walk year.

Given there’s no timetable for his return, Beverley could be out until the postseason. Beverley’s injury opens the door for more playing time for Reggie Jackson, recently-acquired Rajon Rondo and Terance Mann. Luke Kennard could also see additional ball-handling duties.

Clippers Notes: Rondo, George, Cousins, Zubac, Kennard

Rajon Rondo will try to maximize the production of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George when he’s on the court for the Clippers, Mark Medina of USA Today writes. “I’ll try to get our two main guys the ball in a lot easier spots as far as them not having to work so hard to get the ball against a set defense,” Rondo said. “If we’re able to create the stops and get out on the break, it’s my job to advance the ball and let those guys attack one-on-one before the defense gets set.” Rondo has already noted opponent tendencies that his teammates have found helpful, Medina adds.

We have more on the Clippers:

  • George has no issue with Rondo jumping right in as a team leader and sage voice, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN“Rondo’s a leader, you know the point guard, he’s a leader,” George said. “We’re going to listen to him. I look at him as a leader, a leader of this group. He’ll hold a lot of weight. He holds a lot of weight in the locker room. As he gets more comfortable within our system, getting games under his feet, he’ll hold us accountable.”
  • DeMarcus Cousins‘ 10-day contract will pay him $175,668, with $110,998 counting toward the cap, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. Cousins was officially signed on Monday to provide frontcourt depth with Serge Ibaka currently out due to a back injury.
  • A couple of tweaks could help both the starting lineup and second unit. A Western Conference scout told the Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike the team should keep Ivica Zubac in the starting lineup, even when Ibaka returns. A executive within the conference believes the coaching staff should unleash Luke Kennard as the primary second-unit point guard.

Clippers Notes: Rondo, Batum, George, Mann

Ten days after the Clippers acquired him in a trade with the Hawks, Rajon Rondo may make his debut for his new team Sunday afternoon, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. L.A. could use help in the backcourt as Patrick Beverley continues to deal with a knee issue that has limited him to one brief appearance since March 4.

Rondo has been dealing with an adductor injury and is officially listed as questionable for the Sunday showdown with the Lakers, tweets Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. Since the trade, Rondo has been resting and trying to learn the Clippers’ playbook. The veteran guard was averaging a career-low 14.9 minutes per game with Atlanta.

“Just kind of plugging him in, just seeing what he picks up,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “It’s easy to go through plays in practice, but then you got a game on the fly, it is a little different. And I know how smart he is. Just seeing what he picks up and just seeing what we can incorporate while he is in the game and just try to go from there. It is going to be good to see him get on the floor.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • Nicolas Batum was wondering if he still had a future in the NBA after the Hornets benched him last season, but he learned he was still in demand following his release in November, Youngmisuk adds in a separate story. Batum heard from several teams, but the Clippers were the most aggressive, with Lue, owner Steve Ballmer and executive Lawrence Frank all calling to recruit him, along with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
  • The toe injury that sidelined George for seven games in February has flared up again, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. George was able to play 32 minutes Thursday against the Nuggets, but he was in pain the entire time. “It’s really no pop on the right foot,” he said. “I can’t really bend my toe and have it flexing all the way on that second toe. It’s just figuring it out. I gotta figure it out. Most importantly, if I can play, and play with minimal pain, that’s what I’m going for. We gotta figure it out though.”
  • Second-year guard Terance Mann has become a reliable scorer lately, which made the Clippers feel comfortable with trading Lou Williams in the Rondo deal, states Shaun Powell of NBA.com.

Pacific Notes: Dinwiddie, Oubre, Craig, George, Rondo

The Warriors turned down pre-deadline overtures from the Nets for Kelly Oubre with Spencer Dinwiddie as the bait, Marc Stein of the New York Times reports in his latest newsletter. Dinwiddie, who is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a partially torn ACL, holds a $12.3MM player option on his contract next season. There’s been speculation he’ll opt out, which made him an attractive trade option.

However, the Warriors’ declined the Nets’ offers because they still want to make the playoffs this season. Golden State wouldn’t give up Oubre and his expiring contract unless the team got a healthy, productive player in return.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns were interested in small forward Torrey Craig last offseason, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets. Phoenix acquired Craig on March 18 from the Bucks for cash considerations. After spending his first three NBA seasons with the Nuggets, Craig spurned Phoenix’s overtures and signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Bucks during the 2020 offseason.
  • Paul George has been in the NBA since 2010 but he believes he can learn a thing or two from trade deadline acquisition Rajon Rondo, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets“I’m looking forward to learning from him,” the Clippers forward said. “He has one of the most beautiful basketball minds. It is going to help me down the road and evolve my game and open my game up to see the floor and read teammates better.”
  • Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank hated to give up Lou Williams but felt Rondo filled a crying need, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. Frank said the team required an “orchestrator” and “someone who can really help elevate everyone’s game.”

Lou Williams Considered Retirement After Trade

Veteran guard Lou Williams contemplated retirement following the trade that sent him from the Clippers to the Hawks on Thursday. As the three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner explained in a post on Instagram, being dealt away by the Clippers – his team for the last four years – hit him hard.

I thought about retiring yesterday. You give so much to an organization and you wake up and boom, it’s no more,” Williams wrote. “Then in true Clipper nation fashion I was reminded that my talent and contribution was appreciated and it made me reflect on what’s to come. There’s plenty left in my tank and I’m privileged to continue my career in my backyard.”

The Clippers didn’t want to move Williams, but he was the only salary-matching piece that made sense in their deal for Rajon Rondo, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

The Hawks, incidentally, received high marks on that trade from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link). Rondo hadn’t been effective this season and was owed a guaranteed $7.5MM salary for 2021/22, so trading him for Williams’ expiring $8MM deal and multiple second-round picks was an “enormous win” for Atlanta, Pelton argues.

Here’s more on the Hawks:

  • Although it’s a win for the Hawks overall, the Rondo trade will cost the team a respected veteran leader in the locker room, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, who says some players were going to the point guard for guidance over former head coach Lloyd Pierce. Kirschner notes that Williams, a 16-year veteran, should help replace Rondo’s leadership.
  • With Rondo gone, the Hawks don’t have a clear-cut backup point guard, but general manager Travis Schlenk said today that he thinks Williams can fill that role, with Bogdan Bogdanovic and others also sharing ball-handling responsibilities, per Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Schlenk added that the team will count on Williams to inject more offense into a second unit that has often struggled to score without Trae Young on the floor.
  • Atlanta never had any “serious conversations” about a John Collins trade prior to Thursday’s deadline, Schlenk told reporters. “We’ve been steadfast that we view John as a big part of our team, a big part of our franchise,” the Hawks’ GM said, according to Spencer. “Like with all our players, we do our due diligence to see what their value is, but I don’t think that you’ve ever heard myself or anybody else in the Hawks organization say that we don’t place great value on John. We do.”
  • Schlenk told reporters today that the plan is for Kris Dunn (ankle) to scrimmage on Monday, and that the guard could make his Hawks debut near the end of the team’s current West Coast road trip, tweets Spencer. That trip concludes on April 2 in New Orleans.

Pacific Notes: Oubre, Warriors, Clippers, Zubac, Kings

The subject of a few trade rumors leading up to the deadline, Warriors forward Kelly Oubre ended up staying put. Oubre – a free agent at season’s end – said on Thursday that he’d “love” to remain with Golden State beyond this season, though he didn’t sound particularly enthusiastic about the idea of moving to the bench to accommodate Klay Thompson‘s return, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I can’t speak for the future, brother,” Oubre said. “You keep asking me questions like I’m a psychic. But at the end of the day, I’m growing, I’m honing in on my skills in this league and I can offer a lot more than coming off the bench, so at the end of the day, this is my life. I can’t tell the future. Only God can.”

As Friedell observes, the Warriors have the NBA’s most expensive roster this season and there’s no real relief coming next year, especially if the team re-signs Oubre to a deal that matches or exceeds his current $14.38MM salary.

According to Friedell, when asked if he’d accept a below-market deal this offseason to remain in Golden State, Oubre simply replied, “Next question.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Head coach Steve Kerr said last night that about 12 Warriors players and coaches received their COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, tweets Friedell.
  • The Clippers‘ hope that Rajon Rondo will become ‘Playoff Rondo’ this spring was the motivating factor behind their decision to send Lou Williams and two second-round picks to Atlanta for the veteran point guard, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. As Greif notes, Rondo has a long-standing relationship with head coach Tyronn Lue, who began his coaching career as an assistant in Boston in 2011, when Rondo was an All-Star for the Celtics. That relationship – and the trust Lue has in Rondo – was a factor in the Clippers’ decision to make the trade.
  • Within the same story, Greif says the Clippers received calls from multiple teams about center Ivica Zubac, but didn’t seriously consider moving him, as they believe he’s a key part of the roster going forward.
  • James Ham of NBC Sports California broke down the Kings‘ deadline acquisitions after the team completed three separate trades.