Rodions Kurucs

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Embiid, Kurucs, Ntilikina

Higher expectations may put Sixers coach Brett Brown’s job in jeopardy if the team suffers an early playoff exit, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Brown has amassed a 168-308 record in his six years on Philadelphia’s bench, but much of that came as the franchise was trying to rebuild through the draft. With a pair of stars in place in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and two more acquired in trade in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, the pressure to win right away has become intense.

Brown refused to comment on the situation after Friday’s loss, which was the Sixers’ third in their last four games. However, the mini-slump is understandable, given the 76ers’ tough schedule and the absence of their top two centers, Embiid, who has tendinitis in his left knee, and Boban Marjanovic, who’s dealing with a right knee bone bruise and a mild sprain.

Still, Brown has to be feeling the heat, especially in light of a recent quote from co-managing partner Josh Harris, who indicated a first-round loss wouldn’t be acceptable. “We’re going to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Harris told ESPN. “We have enough talent on our roster that if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we can beat any team in the East.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • After missing eight games, Embiid is expected to return for this afternoon’s showdown with the Pacers, according to an ESPN report. Embiid, who hasn’t played since the All-Star break, approached the team about taking a few games off to make sure he’s rested and healthy for the playoffs.
  • Rodions Kurucs may have solved the Nets‘ search for a stretch four, suggests Brian Lewis of The New York Post. The rookie has started the past three games, helping Brooklyn to wins in all of them. He posted 16 points and six rebounds in Saturday’s victory at Atlanta. “I don’t know what neighborhood he grew up in in Latvia, but that’s a tough neighborhood. That’s a tough dude,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He might not look the part, looks like a good-looking choirboy; but him and [John] Collins were going at it the whole game, and he doesn’t back down from anybody. That’s Rodi from Day 1: No fear.”
  • Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina was re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff yesterday, but it still isn’t clear when he might return from a groin injury, relays Peter Botte of The New York Post. Ntilikina, who has missed 18 straight games, said he hopes to receive clearance “to do more” this week.

Nets Notes: Rotation, Kurucs, LeVert, Davis

Now that the Nets have a healthy lineup again, it’s up to coach Kenny Atkinson to find the right combinations to break them out of a slump, writes Greg Joyce of The New York PostCaris LeVert, Allen Crabbe and Jared Dudley recently returned from injuries, leaving Spencer Dinwiddie, who had thumb surgery in late January, as the only player still sidelined. However, Brooklyn has lost six of its last eight games and has fallen back to .500.

“I think part of getting healthy again is just getting that chemistry and getting our lineups right,” Atkinson said. “That’s where we’re a little — confused is the wrong word, but we’re trying to figure it out what the best thing is and who’s getting the minutes and all that. It’s almost like another new season for us with all our returning players.”

LeVert was off to a sizzling start before suffering a dislocated foot in November, and backcourt partner D’Angelo Russell didn’t begin to excel until LeVert got injured. Atkinson has to find a way for them to be effective together, while also working out a logjam at power forward, where Treveon GrahamRondae Hollis-Jefferson and Dudley are all battling for playing time.

There’s more today out of Brooklyn:

  • Also competing for minutes at forward will be rookie forward Rodions Kurucs, even though he was held out of the lineup Thursday, Joyce adds in a separate story. Atkinson said the 21-year-old, who was part of the Rising Stars Challenge, will remain in the mix for a spot in the rotation.
  • LeVert expected to be out for the season when he first suffered his injury, relays Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily“I looked down and I was like, ‘Man, this is bad,’” LeVert said in an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “But I think, probably 15-20 minutes after it happened, they kind of told me that it may have only been a dislocation. And that was the best case scenario in that situation.”
  • Ed Davis was happy to get a one-year, $4.4MM offer from the Nets last summer, but he wasn’t sure he would be joining a contender, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “When I signed here in July, I didn’t think this was a playoff team, honestly,” Davis said. “But when I got here and started to see players and how good guys were — and see coach, his philosophies and his schemes — my mindset changed.”

Nets Notes: Russell, Kurucs, Musa, Marks

As Brian Lewis points out for The New York Post, Nets GM Sean Marks didn’t offer D’Angelo Russell a contract extension in October mainly because he wanted to see if the young point guard could prove himself to be a go-to option and leader. So far, so good on that end as Russell has stayed healthy this season and is averaging career highs of 20.3 points and 6.6 assists per game going into his first All-Star game appearance.

Russell has been the leading force on a Nets team that is surpassing expectations, having already won more games (30) than they did all of last season (28). Russell’s improvements have coincided with steady improvement from Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, and Spencer Dinwiddie, with veterans and rookies contributing in other spots as well.

The Nets will now look to build on their strong record and claim their first playoff spot since 2015, as Russell will look to lead the way and play his way into a big contract this summer.

There’s more on the Nets:

Nets Notes: Allen, Russell, Trades

There aren’t many “untouchables” in the NBA when it comes to trade talks, though most teams have a few players that it would take a king’s ransom to part with. Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, and D’Angelo Russell have earned their place in the Nets‘ long-term outlook and barring an overwhelming return, Michael Scotto of The Athletic doesn’t envision any of the three going anywhere anytime soon.

Before the season, Russell’s inclusion on the list may have seemed silly, but the former No. 2 overall pick is having his best season as a pro and he’s become a key part of the team’s success.

“Everything that we do offensively, he is sort of the lifeblood of us,”  Joe Harris said after a recent Nets win. “Everything flows through him. He does a really good job of dictating the pace, getting guys in rhythm, and just doing a really good job on every level. He does a really good job facilitating for others and for himself. Obviously, we’re really lucky to have a player of his caliber on our team.”

Russell will be a restricted free agent after the season. GM Sean Marks has a history of going after other team’s RFAs and this offseason, he’ll likely get a taste of his own medicine with rival teams looking at Russell.

Scotto offers more in his piece for The Athletic. Here are the highlights:

  • Ed Davis, who signed a one-year deal last summer, hopes to remain with the Nets long-term, as he tells Scotto. “I’m at a point in my career where I don’t want to keep bouncing around,” Davis said. “This is my fifth team. I’ve got a wife and kids. They like it here. It’s close to home, so hopefully, when the season is over, we can figure something out and make something work.
  • The Nets love Allen’s ability to pick up schemes quickly and his coachability, Scotto adds in the same piece. Allen has made highlight reels with his ability to make monstrous blocks but he’s actively working on his offense, including a corner 3-point shot.
  • Harris and Rodions Kurucs are unlikely to be traded but if either player was put on the trade block, the Nets would likely garner a first-round pick in return, Scotto speculates. The scribe adds that if there were a re-draft of this year’s rookie class, Kurucs, who was selected with the No. 40 overall pick, would be a first-rounder.

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, Kurucs, McCaw, Tsai

Kristaps Porzingis has missed nearly an entire calendar year since he suffered a torn ACL but his recovery is going well, Newsday’s Steve Popper writes. The Latvian is expected to miss the Knicks‘ four-day trip to London next week when the team faces the Wizards, but Porzingis’ recent practices have been encouraging.

“I don’t see a drop,” head coach David Fizdale said. “That I don’t see. I haven’t seen him move in a way that makes me go “uh-oh.” I think we’re going about it the right way. His body looks great. He looks strong, he’s defined. It’s just a matter of time, and when we get him, we’ll be happy.”

As we relayed on Friday, Porzingis has passed the point of meeting the starter criteria for restricted free agency this summer. Thus, the Knicks’ qualifying offer drops from $7.5MM to $4.5MM. His cap hold will be $17.1MM and he will qualify for a $158MM contract over five years with a starting salary set at $27.25MM.

The Knicks, currently 10-32 in the Eastern Conference, are setting themselves up for a top-five draft pick this summer. A healthy Porzingis would go a long way to helping New York compete next season.

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:

  • Fellow Latvian Rodions Kurucs has fared well for the Nets after being selected 40th overall in the second round this past summer. Kurucs has been solid on both sides of the ball and eclipsed both his and the team’s expectations, Chris Milholen and Net Income of NetsDaily write.
  • Patrick McCaw‘s first few months of the season have been eventful. He sat out the start of the year as he looked to maximize his earnings from the Warriors as an RFA, then signed an offer sheet with Cleveland. However, days later, the Cavaliers waived him. After signing with the Raptors, he’s thrilled with the new opportunity, Laura Armstrong of The Toronto Star writes.
  • Nets minority owner Joseph Tsai is reportedly close to acquiring the WNBA’s New York Liberty, the AP’s Doug Fienberg reports. Tsai purchased 49% of the Nets in April 2018 and the James Dolan-owned Liberty — which were placed for sale in November 2017 — are close to being added to his portfolio.

Atlantic Notes: Kurucs, Celtics, Bolden, Ntilikina

As the Nets have played well in recent weeks, one of the bright spots has been the play and development of Rodions Kurucs, the 20-year-old rookie selected in the second round of the 2018 draft. As Greg Joyce writes for The New York Post, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson believes that there is more to come for Kurucs.

Kurucs is coming off a career-high 24 points against the Pacers, a game in which he often spent his time on the floor guarding Victor Oladipo. As Joyce points out, Atkinson thinks that his recent play isn’t a flash in the pan situation, as he has been impressed with the rookie’s awareness on the floor.

Kurucs received his opportunity to start when Allen Crabbe went down with an injury, but with the way Kurucs is playing, it will be tough for the Nets, winners of eight of the past nine games, to take Kurucs out of the starting lineup.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

Nets Notes: Graham, Russell, Kurucs, Marks

Forgotten Nets guard Treveon Graham is close to returning after missing the last two months of action, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. 

Graham, 25, has watched 28 straight games from afar as he rehabs from a hamstring injury. He was assigned to the Long Island Nets on Saturday, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, and practiced with the team to continue working toward a return.

“He’s practiced a little bit, but that one I don’t want to put a date on it yet,” coach Kenny Atkinson said, according to Botte. “That’s obviously good news, that he’s starting to participate in practice and in some game activities. But no timetable for him. We love him and we miss him and I think he brings a defensive piece that I think really can help us. I think he’s gonna be a good player for us.”

Graham signed a free-agent contract to join the Nets this past July, coming off a season where he played 63 games with the Hornets. He scored 4.3 points per game on 43% shooting from the floor and 41% from 3-point range last year, with the VCU product currently in his third NBA season.

There’s more out of Brooklyn today:

  • Billy Reinhardt of NetsDaily ponders whether there’s any room left for D’Angelo Russell after the Nets agreed to a contract extension with Spencer Dinwiddie. Russell has started in all 30 games this season, but Dinwiddie’s stellar play off the bench has earned him early praise for a larger role.
  • Rodions Kurucs may have played his way into the Nets’ rotation after a strong game against the Wizards on Friday, Botte writes in a different story for the New York Post. Kurucs scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds in his first career start, earning some respect in the process. “The big question is can you do this long term, as the league gets to know him better?” Atkinson said of Kurucs. “This is a small pocket of games, but my experience says I believe this will be a season-long thing where he’s getting minutes now.”
  • General manager Sean Marks explained his decision to ink Dinwiddie on a multi-year extension last week, as relayed by Bryan Fonseca and Anthony Puccio of Nets Daily. “You want to reward a guy who has bought in entirely,” Marks said. “Go back three years when we first signed him. I think Spencer has showed terrific ability to improve, to develop, to be part of this culture and it’s deserving of him right now.”

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Kurucs, Fultz, Ujiri

According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, the Sixers start to this season should be considered a minor miracle given everything they’ve dealt with in the past nine months. Windhorst details Joel Embiid and his fractured orbital bone at a time when the Sixers had just won seven games in a row. Embiid needed surgery and missed 10 games, and when he came back in the playoffs he wasn’t himself.

Then, the team had to deal with the Bryan Colangelo drama earlier this year after their former GM’s purported Twitter accounts had some not-so-nice things to say about Embiid and Ben Simmons. As Windhorst surmises, would the absence of that debacle have helped the Sixers close on Nemanja Bjelica or another free agent?

On top of all that, the Sixers’ 2018 first-round pick, Zhaire Smith, has still not played this year and probably won’t after undergoing a thoracoscopy for a severe allergic reaction to sesame. The team apparently knew he was allergic to peanuts, but not sesame.

Then, just recently, guard Markelle Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and is expected to miss three to six weeks as he rehabs his right shoulder away from the team. Time will tell what happens with Fultz, but the Sixers should be commended for how well they’ve done this season given all of the above.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets are in a bit of a lull, to say the least, but one bright spot could be the play of rookie Rodions Kurucs, writes Bryan Fonseca of NetsDaily. Kurucs, 20, scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds in 14 minutes in Brooklyn’s loss to the Cavaliers on Monday.
  • For a more thorough explanation of thoracic outlet syndrome, the medical condition that Fultz is currently working through away from the Sixers, take some time to read this informative piece from Stephania Bell of ESPN.
  • In an appearance on today’s episode of The Jump on ESPN, Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri laughed off the interview Kyle Lowry gave in which he didn’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of Ujiri, who said, “Kyle Lowry is always mad at me, every year!” (Hat tip to Faizal Khamisa of Sportsnet).

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/3/18

Here are Saturday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/2/18

Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Pistons assigned third-year forward Henry Ellenson and rookie guard Khyri Thomas to the Grand Rapids Drive, the team announced in a press release. Ellenson, a first-rounder in 2016, has been buried at the end of Detroit’s bench or inactive this season. The front office decided against picking up his option for next season. Thomas, a second-round pick out of Creighton acquired from the Sixers in a draft-night deal, has not made his NBA debut.
  • The Nets recalled rookie forwards Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa from the Long Island Nets, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. Kurucs, a second-round pick, has averaged 8.7 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 14.3 MPG through three NBA games. Musa, a late first-round selection, has made three short appearances this season. Kurucs was assigned to the Long Island team earlier in the day.
  • Rookie Celtics center Robert Williams has been assigned to the Maine Red Claws, the NBA team’s PR department tweets. The first-round pick has made four cameo appearances with the Celtics and knocked down his only field-goal attempt.
  • The Sixers assigned power forward Jonah Bolden to the Delaware Blue Coats, according to a team press release. Bolden, a second-round pick in 2017 who signed a four-year, partially-guaranteed contract in July, has seen action in four games this season but none of those stints were longer than seven minutes.