R.J. Hampton

Southeast Notes: McDaniels, Porzingis, Hampton, Griffin

It has been a rough season so far for the Hornets, who have battled the injury bug and rank 13th in the East with a 6-15 record. However, the emergence of forward Jalen McDaniels as reliable rotation piece has been a bright spot, writes Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

The No. 52 overall pick in the 2019 draft, McDaniels appeared in 118 games in his first three seasons, averaging 17.7 minutes per contest. This season, that number has jumped to 25.8 MPG and he has played in all 21 of Charlotte’s games to date, averaging new career highs in PPG (9.7), RPG (3.6), and APG (2.2), among several other categories.

“It feels great because I really know I’m not supposed to be here,” McDaniels said. “Statistics for the second-round, 52nd pick, 54th pick or whatever it was is like, ‘Not supposed to be here, out (of) the league second year.’ That’s what the statistics say. So it’s just me being an underdog. Even in high school I wasn’t recruited like that until my last year. I just know how this goes, I feel like I’ve always got to take the long route every time I do something.”

Having signed a four-year contract as a rookie in 2019, McDaniels will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in 2023 if he doesn’t sign an extension before then.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Kristaps Porzingis may be the primary factor in determining how far the Wizards can go this season, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic, who says the big man being healthy and productive at both ends of the court is crucial to the team’s success. Porzingis’ effectiveness as a rim protector this season has helped improve a Washington defense that ranked 25th in defensive rating in 2021/22, Aldridge notes.
  • After having his 2023/24 team option declined last month, Magic wing R.J. Hampton doesn’t have a defined role in Orlando in the short- or the long-term, but he’s not letting that bother him, according to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. “It really (doesn’t) change anything,” Hampton said when asked about his fluctuating minutes. “The coaches give me confidence every game whether I’m playing or not. My teammates give me confidence every game, so whether I don’t play for two games or 10 minutes (in) one game, I feel like I’ve been prepared by them.”
  • Hawks rookie AJ Griffin tells Spencer Davies of BasketballNews.com that he has felt at home in Atlanta, which has made the adjustment from college to the NBA smoother. “Just the love from the veterans here, I appreciate it. I just really enjoy being here and being able to play with everyone and being able to play on the court with each other. It’s special so far,” Griffin said, singling out guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. “It’s fun to watch, just to be able to play with those guys. It’s still early in the season, and I feel like something special is brewing.” Griffin only played double-digit minutes once in Atlanta’s first nine games, but has done so in all 12 games since then, averaging 21.4 MPG during that stretch.

Southeast Notes: Wright, Carter, Hampton, Bogdanovic, Clifford

With veteran guard Delon Wright sidelined indefinitely due to a strained right hamstring, the Wizards missed his perimeter defense in a 127-117 loss to the Pacers Friday night, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

Though the 6’5″ combo guard is averaging a modest 6.5 PPG, 3.3 APG and 2.5 RPG in his four games with Washington, he gives the team size as a reserve guard and wing toughness that it had lacked last season, Hughes opines.

“It’s tough,” shooting guard Bradley Beal said of life without Wright. “You could see it tonight because he’s a pest on defense, he gets us those deflections. He’s just everywhere. He’s a pest. He gets in on the bigs, he gets those reach-ins, a lot of those things. He gets into the ball. Really good defender.”

The 30-year-old out of Utah signed a two-year, $16MM deal with Washington during the offseason. He suffered a grade two hamstring strain, and is expected to be unavailable for six-to-eight weeks. Hughes thinks that Beal, Monte Morris, and Will Barton will need to step up on the defensive side of the ball in the absence of Wright, as will small forward Deni Avdija, who has emerged as a versatile defender thus far, capable of defending smaller backcourt players.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Magic starting center Wendell Carter Jr. has made a representation change. Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel tweets that the 6’10” big man has inked a new deal with LIFT Sports Management. Meanwhile, Price reports in a separate piece that Carter’s Orlando teammate R.J. Hampton is departing LIFT after the Magic opted not to exercise its team option on his fourth season.
  • Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic is gradually moving through his recovery process from a May knee surgery. Atlanta is excited about the progress Bogdanovic has managed to make through his rehabilitation thus far, writes Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m back to the court activities, and I feel good, just a little out of basketball shape,” Bogdanovic told Williams. “You know, I need a rhythm back, you know, change of direction, explosive moves. But now I’m focusing on that.” Retired Hawks sharpshooter Kyle Korver, now the team’s director of player affairs and development, has made himself available to Bogdanovic so that the current Atlanta wing can tweak the mechanics of his shooting form post-surgery. “He helped me a lot, you know, especially through the challenging times, where I couldn’t, like, figure it out, how to make that transition, from use, to what I’m doing in the weightlifting room with the strength coaches, and everybody else, (physical therapy), how to translate it on the court,” Bogdanovic said.
  • Hornets head coach Steve Clifford can be credited at least in part with the club’s solid 3-3 start to the 2022/23 season, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “I think Steve is one of the most underrated coaches in the league,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “His defensive schemes are really sharp. He always does some interesting things against us to make us think, to make us work for baskets. His teams tend to execute really well on the offensive side.” Clifford’s players appreciate the organization he is bringing to bear for the club during his second go-around running the show. “He communicates very well on what he wants from us, and if we don’t do that he holds us accountable,” Kelly Oubre said. “That’s everything in this league because obviously we have a young team, but at the end of the day we are trying to grow and learn and be the best in our profession.”

Magic Decline R.J. Hampton’s 2023/24 Option; Exercise Four Others

The Magic will decline to exercise their 2023/24 rookie scale option on guard R.J. Hampton, multiple sources tell Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel (subscription required). The third-year combo guard will now be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

Hampton, 21, was the No. 24 pick of the 2020 draft. He was technically drafted by the Bucks, but was traded to the Nuggets shortly thereafter. During his rookie season, he was sent to Orlando along with Gary Harris as part of the Aaron Gordon trade.

In 94 games (22.4 MPG) with the Magic, Hampton has averaged 8.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 2.5 APG on .402/.343/.649 shooting. His declined option was worth $4,220,057, which means the Magic will be prohibited from offering him a first-year salary worth more than that in free agency next summer if he finishes the season on the roster.

Price also reports that the Magic have exercised their 2023/24 options on guards Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony, as well as forwards Chuma Okeke and Franz Wagner. The team confirmed the news (via Twitter).

Suggs, the No. 4 pick of last year’s draft, will earn a guaranteed $7,252,080 in his third season, while Wagner, the No. 8 pick last year, will earn $5,508,720. Anthony (No. 15 in 2020) and Okeke (No. 16 in 2020) will make guaranteed salaries of $5,539,771 and $5,266,713 for their fourth seasons, respectively.

Wagner, Suggs, Anthony and Okeke have all been rotation players for the Magic when healthy, so it was expected that their options would be picked up. Hampton, however, is only averaging 11.0 minutes per night in four games this season despite several injuries to the backcourt (including Suggs and Anthony) after averaging 21.9 minutes last season.

The deadline for ’23/24 rookie scale team options is October 31. The full list of those decisions can be found right here.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Martin, Hampton, Banchero

The Heat lost P.J. Tucker to the Sixers and reached agreements with Victor Oladipo and Dewayne Dedmon but they still have some unfinished offseason business, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes.

Restricted free agent Caleb Martin remains unsigned but since the Heat do not have his Bird Rights, they are unable to match offers above the $10.49MM mid-level exception. They are not likely to go above the $6.5MM taxpayer mid-level exception, since that would trigger a hard salary cap. They also have to decide whether to bring back Markieff Morris.

They have both the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions at their disposal to pursue other free agents, but using the bi-annual would also result in a hard cap.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Martin’s restricted free agency buys the Heat a little more time to wait out the Kevin Durant saga while keeping Martin as an option, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald notes. Even if Martin receives an offer sheet in the first day of free agency on Wednesday, the Heat have two days to decide whether to match it.
  • R.J. Hampton has impressed the Magic brass by his willingness to play in the Summer League, according to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. Hampton wanted to play despite appearing in 64 games during his second NBA season. “I only got to play one summer league,” Hampton said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to get run and get extra reps.”
  • Top pick Paolo Banchero has been displaying his strength in summer league practices, Price tweets. “He’s a very strong individual. I don’t think he even understands how strong he really is,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said of the former Duke forward. “That’s the great part of his willingness to learn and ask questions, that he’s going to find out how he can use his body in different ways to obviously punish defenses but then defensively, how to guard multiple positions.”

Southeast Notes: Adebayo, Wizards, Hampton, Hawks

Heat center Bam Adebayo dominated the first two games of the series against the Sixers, but Joel Embiid‘s return changed that, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. After averaging 23.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in Games 1 and 2, Adebayo put up nine points and three rebounds Friday night while shooting 2-of-9 from the field.

Embiid admitted being upset while watching Adebayo while he was sidelined with a concussion and a broken orbital bone and felt like he needed to make a statement in Game 3. Now it’s Adebayo’s turn to respond when the series resumes Sunday night.

“I still got to be aggressive,” Adebayo said after today’s practice. “That’s part of the game. You see different lineups, you see different personnel and then you’ve just got to adjust your attacks.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Poor team chemistry was among the things that sank the Wizards after a 10-3 start, but the organization believes it has already made moves to fix it, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Team president Tommy Sheppard thought the atmosphere in the locker room was better after Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans and Montrezl Harrell were moved at the trade deadline. More continuity next season could help, adds Hughes, who points out that Washington used a franchise-record 29 players this year and made significant roster changes twice in six months.
  • Magic guard R.J. Hampton improved in some areas but regressed in others as he was asked to adapt to a new role this season, observes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. The addition of lottery pick Jalen Suggs and the late-season comeback by Markelle Fultz meant Hampton didn’t handle the ball as much as he did after Orlando acquired him in a trade midway through his rookie season. He also became less efficient in finishing at the rim, which caused his scoring average to fall to 7.6 PPG after averaging 11.2 PPG last year in 26 games with the Magic.
  • The Hawks hosted six players in a draft workout Friday, tweets Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. On hand were San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea, Washington State big man Mouhamed Gueye and four wing players, Quenton Jackson of Texas A&M, Abu Kigab of Boise State, Kenneth Lofton Jr. of Louisiana Tech and Hunter Maldonado of Wyoming.

Southeast Notes: Kuzma, Oladipo, Spoelstra, Hampton

Versatile Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma is enjoying his new opportunity as Washington’s highest-usage player following a trade from the only NBA team he had ever known, the Lakers, during the 2021 offseason, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Kuzma won a title as a key rotation player for Los Angeles in 2020.

“I’ve referred to him on a number of occasions as our Swiss Army knife,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Whatever we need in that moment, he’s capable of doing.”

The 6’9″ Kuzma is averaging 17.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 3.4 APG in 60 games for Washington, with shooting splits of .456/.342/.725.

“It’s been a great change of pace for me, a change of scenery,” the 26-year-old said of his new club. “I did as much as I (could) to maximize (myself) when I was with my former team, with changing my role every single year for the betterment of the team and trying to fit in with great players.

“But here, it’s been a lot different, because I don’t necessarily have to do that. My role has changed here. If you think about the first 25 games, I was in a different type of role than I am now: more scoring and just doing more things with the ball. It’s just great to be in a situation where I can just be myself and do what I do, and not dummy myself down.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Heat reserve guard Victor Oladipo returned to the court with Miami for the first time this season on Monday. He logged 11 points while shooting 4-for-7 from the floor in a 123-106 win over Oladipo’s former team, the Rockets. Oladipo called his return from a right knee quadriceps tendon surgery “everything I wanted and more,” per Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. A former two-time All-Star and 2o18 All-Defensive First Team honoree for the Pacers, Oladipo returned with a 15-minute cap. He has appeared in just 53 contests since the beginning of the 2019/20 NBA season due to a variety of injuries. When asked about when the guard would exceed his current strict on-court time limit, head coach Erik Spoelstra was quick to establish that the club is taking a longer-term approach. “I’m going to temper those expectations,” Spoelstra said. “He’s been out a year. Three years of injuries. Fifteen minutes, that feel amazing to him and to everybody in the locker room. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves on anything else.” 
  • Now that Oladipo is back as a contributor on the hardwood for the Heat, Spoelstra looks forward to having to make some roster adjustments with his perimeter players, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. Miami guards Max Strus and Gabe Vincent rode the bench, until the game was well out of reach in the fourth, to accommodate Oladipo’s return. “Big shout out to Max and Gabe, who have been playing really well,” Oladipo said after the contest. “For them to sacrifice their minutes tonight, I know that’s not easy.” Spoelstra acknowledged the roster crunch but appeared to dismiss it as being an issue for team chemistry. “That’s for amateurs,” Spoelstra said. “Guys understand the opportunity with this group. It’s not all going to be perfect. Everybody is not always going to be happy, but we have a really mature group in this locker room… We have a bunch of guys who can fit in and impact the game. Max and Gabe didn’t play much, but they can come in and do the same thing.”
  • With rookie Magic guard Jalen Suggs missing Orlando’s last two games due to a right ankle sprain, second-year guard R.J. Hampton has been tasked with bigger-ticket defensive assignments, writes Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. The 6’4″ guard may still be struggling on offense, as he is averaging 7.3 PPG on 38.4% field goal shooting this season, but he has exhibited plenty of promise on the other side of the floor.

Injury Updates: Oladipo, Morris, Nets, Brooks, Hampton

Heat guard Victor Oladipo (knee) and forward Markieff Morris (neck) traveled with the team to New York, but won’t play in Friday’s game vs. the Knicks and still don’t have timelines for their respective returns, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

“They were able to do a lot (in Thursday’s practice),” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, per Chiang. “I’m not going to give you all the details. There’s nothing that’s imminent right now. This is all just part of the process. But it was good to have the entire group here at practice and getting after it, and getting a little bit of the rust off by competing and try to get ready for the stretch run.”

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

  • Nets head coach Steve Nash said it’s possible Kevin Durant (knee) and/or Goran Dragic could play as soon as Saturday, but said it’s more likely to happen at some point next week, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Nash expressed optimism that both players will be active beginning either Monday vs. Toronto, Tuesday in Toronto, or Thursday vs. Miami.
  • Dillon Brooks‘ recovery from a left ankle injury is “progressing well,” per Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins (Twitter link via Grizzly Bear Blues). A previous report stated that Brooks is expected to be back at some point in early March, and that timeline hasn’t changed.
  • Magic guard R.J. Hampton had been expected to return to action on Friday night after missing 14 games due to an MCL sprain and bone bruise in his left knee. However, Hampton sprained his left ankle during Friday’s shootaround and is now questionable to play, tweets Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel.

Southeast Notes: Hampton, Williamson, Smart, Collins

Magic guard R.J. Hampton is expected to be in uniform on Friday, Dan Savage of the team’s website reports. Hampton missed the last 14 games due to an MCL sprain and bone bruise in his left knee. He got through back-to-back full contact practices on Wednesday and Thursday without any issues.

“It felt very good to get back on the court with the guys,” Hampton said. “I’ve missed doing what I love for the last month.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hawks should go all-in to acquire Zion Williamson this offseason if the Pelicans make him available and the medical records come back clean, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic argues. Despite some red flags regarding Williamson, he can be as dominant as Joel Embiid if he overcomes his injury and conditioning issues, says Kirschner, citing Williamson’s stats and advanced metrics from last season.
  • Javonte Smart‘s two-way contract with the Heat is a two-year deal, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets. The rookie guard signed with Miami on February 15th.
  • Hawks forward John Collins missed Thursday’s game due to a right foot strain, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Collins hasn’t played since February 11. He’s averaging 16.8 PPG and 7.9 RPG after signing a five-year, $125MM contract.

Southeast Notes: Hampton, Kuzma, Porzingis, Capela

R.J. Hampton is showing progress from the MCL sprain that has sidelined the Magic guard since January 19th, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel writes.

Hampton said in an Instagram post he’ll be back to action soon, though he still has to ramp up his activity, according to coach Jamahl Mosley. Hampton. a 2020 first-round pick, has averaged 7.2 PPG and 2.4 APG in 42 appearances this season.

“He’s on the court doing a little bit of contact with our coaches, going through some rehab work and continuing to see how he responds to it,” Mosley said. “He’s slowly going against coaches right now and some conditioning as well.”
We have more from the Southeast Division:
  • Though Bradley Beal is sidelined, the Wizards have been playing better since the trade deadline, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington notes. Kyle Kuzma believes players are settling into roles now that the fear of getting traded has passed. “I think we’re great chemistry-wise,” he said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good understanding of roles right now on the team. Everybody’s gelling, fitting in. Everybody’s just doing what they’re supposed to do.”
  • Kristaps PorzingisWizards debut is likely to happen next Friday (February 25) against San Antonio, Hughes tweets. “I anticipate he will, but once again we’ll just have to see,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said of Porzingis, who was acquired from Dallas at the trade deadline.
  • The Hawks are 10th in the East and below .500 after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Center Clint Capela said to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic it’s a product of unexpected success for a young team. “Our approach the entire season, we were already thinking we were going to the playoffs,” Capela said. “Our approach wasn’t about the next game; it was, ‘Oh, we won this. We won that.’ That’s the problem with teams that are not used to this. I’m not so shocked.”

R.J. Hampton Expected To Miss Multiple Weeks With Knee Injury

After undergoing an MRI on his injured left knee, Magic guard R.J. Hampton has been diagnosed with an MCL sprain and a bone bruise, the team announced today (via Twitter).

Hampton, who sustained the injury in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s loss in Philadelphia, will likely be sidelined for about two-to-four weeks, barring any setbacks in his recovery process, a source tells Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel.

It’s worth noting that the Magic typically take an extremely cautious approach to their players’ recoveries from injuries and rarely provide specific timelines. In other words, I’d be surprised if Hampton is back on the court two weeks from now. Orlando has the NBA’s worst record (8-38) so far this season, so there’s little incentive to rush back one of the team’s young prospects.

Acquired from Denver in last season’s Aaron Gordon trade, Hampton has averaged 7.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, and 2.4 APG in 42 games (19.4 MPG) for the Magic in 2021/22. While his 36.4% rate on three-point shots is solid, he has struggled to consistently knock down two-pointers (39.3%) and free throws (60.8%).

In Hampton’s absence, the Magic figure to lean more heavily on guards Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs, as well as wings Gary Harris and Terrence Ross. Markelle Fultz, who is practicing with the team as he recovers from his ACL tear, will also figure into the backcourt mix once he’s ready to make his season debut.