Royce O'Neale

New York Notes: Robinson, Brunson, Nets’ Small Ball, Simmons

After Mitchell Robinson vented about his role on social media, coach Tom Thibodeau and guard Jalen Brunson spoke to the Knicks center privately, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Another of the Knicks’ big men — Isaiah Hartenstein — said Robinson hasn’t allowed his frustration to seep into the locker room and onto the court. “It’s not like he’s coming into practice b—-ing,” Hartenstein said. “He’s always there. He’s always interactive. He’s always been a good teammate.”

We have more on the New York teams:

  • Speaking of Brunson, he hasn’t played since March 9 due to what the team describes as a sore left foot. However, Brunson himself calls it a bone bruise, Katz tweets. Brunson went through a full practice on Friday and is listed as questionable against Denver on Saturday.
  • The Nets have gotten stellar results from their small lineup, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. Lacking a backup big, Dorian Finney-Smith has been playing center with Royce O’Neale at power forward when Nic Claxton rests. That small-ball unit has produced a plus-13.5 net rating. “It allows us to fly around,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “If you don’t cover for each other, we’ll get punished: We’ll get punished on the glass, we’ll get punished just by overall strength and the size of dudes that you have to guard. So (you’ve seen) us fly around, cover for each other, really have a tight shell and be in the right spots.”
  • Klutch Sports negotiated Ben Simmons‘ five-year, $177MM extension in 2019 before he was traded to the Nets. Now, the agency and Simmons are parting ways, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets. The enigmatic Simmons is expected to hire veteran agent Bernie Lee, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. Simmons hasn’t played since Feb. 15 due to a knee injury.

New York Notes: Brunson, Hartenstein, Nets’ Defense, O’Neale

Jalen Brunson seems likely to miss the Knicks’ game on Tuesday in Portland. He was spotting wearing a walking boot on Sunday night, according to Peter Botte of the New York Post.

“Just continue to do his treatments and we’ll see where he is. When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of the Knicks’ star guard. “It’s not Jalen by himself. It’s Jalen with the medical. So he’s got a say in it, but the medical has to clear him. So there’s a number of people involved in a decision. We’re not going to put him in harm’s way.”

Brunson said the boot isn’t as ominous as it might appear. He wore it during the Lakers game as a protective measure in case it got kicked or stepped on and isn’t wearing it away from the court, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets.

We have more from the New York teams:

  • Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein earned a $350K bonus by hitting his minutes requirement for the season, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. He needed to play at least 1,350 minutes to earn the bonus and surpassed that in the win over the Lakers. Hartenstein reached another $350K bonus threshold with the Knicks winning their 40th game on Sunday, New York Basketball tweets. He can collect one more $350K bonus in his contract if the Knicks make the playoffs.
  • The Nets have won five of their last six games, thanks to an improved defense, Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes. “We had to challenge that group to shift the mentality of not thinking you have to score but to first of all let’s be a defensive-oriented team,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I think we’ve responded, started to form an identity with this group and hopefully they realize that.”
  • In another Lewis story, The Post’s beat writer notes that Royce O’Neale has exceeded the franchise’s expectations after acquiring him from Utah. He’s averaging career highs in points (9.0) and assists (3.7) per game while playing superior defense. “Whether I’m starting or coming off the bench, no matter how many minutes I’m playing, I’m going to play as hard as I can, do things that I got to do for us to win the game, and just be myself,” O’Neale said. His $9.5MM contract for next season is partially guaranteed for $2.5MM.

Nets Notes: Noel, Simmons, Duke, Smith, Ayton

With Spencer Dinwiddie (rest), Nic Claxton (right thumb sprain, left Achilles tendinopathy), Cameron Johnson (right knee soreness), and Royce O’Neale (left knee soreness) all unavailable in Milwaukee on Thursday, the Nets ran out a new-look starting lineup that scored just 15 total points, the lowest mark for any starting five since 2008, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link).

One of Brooklyn’s new starter was Nerlens Noel, who was playing in just his second game as a Net. Despite not scoring a single point, Noel was the only starter who had a plus/minus rating better than minus-14 (he was a plus-2) and made a positive impression on head coach Jacque Vaughn, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post relays.

“He continues to get himself in shape,” Vaughn said. “The charge that he took was great, putting his body on the line, so that was great. A (blocked shot) was great. So those things we want to continue to see from him.”

Noel’s contract with the Nets only covers 10 days, but so far he hasn’t been used like a player the team plans to soon part ways with, logging 18 minutes in consecutive games. Vaughn’s postgame comments also hinted that he expects the big man to be in Brooklyn for more than just 10 days.

“He’ll continue to learn conceptually what we want to do on the defensive end, and we’re switching back and forth between defenses, you know, so you got to turn your brain on and off and back on again,” Vaughn said of Noel. “So that challenge is what’s ahead of him.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Ben Simmons, still dealing with knee and back issues, missed his eighth game in a row on Thursday, and Vaughn said Simmons’ back inflammation remains “in the process of settling down,” per Lewis. “A big piece of it is still the strengthening, to make sure that there’s no reoccurrence,” Vaughn said. “And then for a while we had to kind of press pause a little bit in order for the inflammation in the back to kind of settle down a little bit. So last few days, that’s what that’s look like.”
  • Although Brooklyn’s starting five was ineffective on Thursday, the team showed off its depth, scoring 98 bench points. That total was the highest in a regular season game since at least 1982, according to Reynolds, who notes (via Twitter) that Toronto scored 100 bench points vs. Brooklyn in a playoff game in 2020.
  • Nets two-way players David Duke and Dru Smith got a rare chance to play rotation minutes at the NBA level on Thursday and combined for 30 points. Duke and Smith have spent much of the season playing key roles for a Long Island Nets team that won its 16th straight game on Thursday, led by veteran point guard Chris Chiozza, according to NetsDaily. Brooklyn’s NBAGL affiliate now holds a league-best 22-3 record.
  • Sign-and-trade rules would have made it tricky for the Nets to acquire center Deandre Ayton from Phoenix in a package for Kevin Durant last summer, but Ayton would’ve been much easier to move at last month’s deadline. However, Ayton wasn’t part of the Suns‘ package for Durant and league sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link) that Brooklyn was “never much interested” in trading for the former No. 1 pick.

Central Notes: Cavs, O’Neale, Crowder, Wiseman, Noel, Pacers

Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman has made 14 in-season trades since taking the reins in Cleveland’s front office in 2017, but he had an uncharacteristically quiet deadline this season. As Chris Fedor of writes, the Cavs are one of just two teams (along with Chicago) that hasn’t made a trade since the 2022/23 season got underway.

“We just didn’t feel like anything was going to really move the needle for us,” Altman said on Thursday. “Scoured the market and talked to every team I could. We could have made a move that was lateral, multiple moves that were lateral, that I didn’t think appreciably made us better. I really wanted to see what this group looked like together, fully healthy, and the potential of this group, which we’ve seen right in front of our eyes, continue to grow.”

Royce O’Neale, Dorian Finney-Smith, Cameron Johnson, Grant Williams, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Bojan Bogdanovic were among the top targets on the Cavaliers’ wish list, according to Fedor, but the team either didn’t have the assets to acquire those players or deemed the asking prices too high.

Sources tell Fedor that the Cavs made a strong push for O’Neale and tried to line up other deals to get the Nets the sort of assets they wanted, but Brooklyn – which was seeking more than a first-round pick – didn’t bite.

“I think there’s value in continuity,” Altman said. “I think there’s value in giving this group a runway. Sometimes you just say to yourself, ‘Don’t mess this up.’ I think that was a big key for us this deadline. It was not easy for me. We’re the fifth-best team in the NBA right now — 35 wins, which is the fourth-most in the NBA — and some really good numbers to back up what I think you guys see on the court every day. I didn’t see anything that was going to put us over the top.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (subscription required) explores what Jae Crowder can bring to the Bucks and contends that hanging onto Grayson Allen through the trade deadline was a win for the team, since he’s having a strong two-way season.
  • Adding former No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman to an already crowded frontcourt in a trade that sent out Saddiq Bey may be Pistons general manager Troy Weaver‘s biggest gamble yet, argues Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). James L. Edwards III of The Athletic spoke to colleague Anthony Slater about what to expect from Wiseman in Detroit, with Slater noting that the young center still has a ways to go on the defensive end.
  • After not being included in a deadline deal, Pistons center Nerlens Noel has been listed as “not with team” on the club’s injury report, Edwards notes (via Twitter). Noel isn’t owed any guaranteed money beyond this season and finds himself buried even further down the depth chart following Wiseman’s arrival, so he could be a buyout candidate.
  • The Pacers‘ relative inactivity at the trade deadline reflected president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard‘s desire not to shake up his core or disrupt the chemistry that the current roster has built, says Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required). As Dopirak observes, Indiana’s lone deadline deal was primarily about using their remaining cap room to add more draft assets, but it will also give the team to take a low-risk look at young wing Jordan Nwora.

Trade Rumors: Anunoby, Poeltl, O’Neale, Simmons

The Raptors‘ trade discussions involving forward OG Anunoby are carrying over into Thursday and are expected to continue into the final hours before the trade deadline, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

While the Suns’ trade for Kevin Durant will take one prime suitor for Anunoby off the market, that deal could help increase the value of the Raptors forward among other Western Conference teams, Wojnarowski notes.

The thinking there is that Phoenix’s rivals – including the Grizzlies and Pelicans, among others – may now be more motivated to acquire a three-and-D wing capable of matching up defensively against a player like Durant in the postseason.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • Before the Spurs agreed to trade Jakob Poeltl to Toronto, the Celtics, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, and Wizards had offers on the table for the big man, according to LJ Ellis of SpursTalk. Ellis says San Antonio opted to accept Toronto’s offer because it included the strongest draft capital and because the Raptors were the team Poeltl preferred to be traded to. He began his career in Toronto in 2016 and spent two seasons with the team before being traded to the Spurs in 2018.
  • Add Nets forward Royce O’Neale to the list of wings the Cavaliers are eyeing as potential trade targets, says Chris Fedor of (subscriber link). There are people within the organization who believe O’Neale would be an ideal fit on Cleveland’s roster and there’s a sense he could be more available now that Brooklyn has traded away Durant and Kyrie Irving, Fedor explains.
  • The Nets were speaking to some teams on Wednesday about Ben Simmons, according to Ian Begley of (Twitter video link), who expects those talks to continue into Thursday. While Brooklyn is in the midst of reshaping its roster, it may be difficult to find a strong offer for Simmons, whose trade value has declined due to his inconsistent play, health issues, and the $78MM+ still owed to him for the two seasons after this one.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Warren, Marks, Rupert, O’Neale, Claxton

Nets’ Ben Simmons, who is dealing with left knee soreness, is questionable to play Monday against the Lakers, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweetsT.J. Warren, who has a left shin contusion, is listed as doubtful.

Simmons didn’t play in the 122-115 win over the Knicks on Saturday after suffering the injury against Detroit on Thursday. Warren also missed Saturday’s game after playing on Thursday. Both are considered day-to-day.

We have more on the Nets:

  • GM Sean Marks has been traveling far and wide to scout a point guard, Nets Daily relays. Marks has reportedly twice scouted 18-year-old French point guard 6’7” Rayan Rupert, who plays for the New Zealand Breakers. Marks, who watched Rupert play in Australia and New Zealand, was accompanied on the trip by Nets director of player evaluation, B.J. Johnson. Rupert is currently ranked No. 18 on ESPN’s big board of 2023 prospects.
  • They traded with Utah for Royce O’Neale this summer and it’s worked out well, according to another Nets Daily story. He’s leading the team in minutes played while enjoying a career year. “[He’s] a guy that you trust at the end of the game, who’ll take the right shot, who’ll make the right decision at the end of the game, who doesn’t mind playing on both ends of the floor,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “He has the trust of his coaching staff, his teammates and he’s in the right spot.” O’Neale’s $9.5MM contract for next season is only partially guaranteed at $2.5MM but they’re likely to fully guarantee it, considering his value to the team.
  • Nic Claxton is enjoying the intra-city rivalry with the Knicks, especially since his team has won nine straight against them, Zach Braziller of The New York Post writes. “It does feel like a rivalry just because you felt the energy in there (Saturday),” he said. “We’re here at Barclays and they had a lot of fans and it was definitely a good atmosphere. But me, I’ve never lost to the Knicks since I’ve been in the league, I don’t think. It’s always fun playing the Knicks.” 

Nets Notes: O’Neale, Claxton, Simmons, Warren, Frontcourt

The Nets agreed to give up a first-round pick in exchange for Royce O’Neale last summer on the same day that news of Kevin Durant‘s trade request broke. The timing created some confusion among NBA observers about why a Brooklyn team in flux would give up a valuable future asset for a veteran role player. Seven months later, it’s clear why the Nets felt O’Neale was worth investing in, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post (subscription required).

“It’s the total confidence that he gives you, the effort and the care factor that he has on a nightly basis … going over the scouting report and looking to see who he might guard that night,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “His teammates get a chance to see him be extremely professional. Whether it’s the conversations that I have with him on an off day about how our group is, what’s important, how can we get better.

“To see the concern that he has of doing his part as a teammate, that goes a long ways when there’s been nights where maybe he didn’t have a great shooting night but he’s still finished the game for us. Or he’s in a position where he’s able to shoot a crucial three because he’s in the game. At the end of the day, the trust that he’s garnered amongst the coaching staff, his teammates, (is) because he shows up every single day. Every day, every practice and every game. And nearly every minute of those games.”

As Lewis notes, O’Neale’s availability has been one of his most valuable assets for the Nets this season. The forward has started 45 games – tied with Nic Claxton for the team high – and his 1,563 total minutes are easily the most on the team, ahead of No. 2 Kevin Durant (1,403).

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Already emerging as a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender, Claxton has taken his offensive game to a new level since Durant went down, having averaged 21.1 points per night on 77.5% shooting in his last seven games. Vaughn has been just as impressed with Claxton’s mindset and preparation between games as his production on the court, according to Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. “That professionalism, that maturity will go a long ways for Nic Claxton. It’s paying off for him,” Vaughn said. “The preparation, the dedication to your craft, to show up and be prepared to play every single night — there’s something to it, and he’s getting rewarded for it.”
  • Ben Simmons (left knee soreness) and T.J. Warren (left shin contusion) both departed Thursday’s game vs. Detroit early. While both players could miss a little time, it doesn’t sound as if either injury should be a long-term issue. Joe Vardon of The Athletic indicated that Simmons wasn’t expected to undergo an MRI on his ailing knee, and the former No. 1 overall pick is listed as questionable for Saturday’s contest vs. New York. Warren is listed as doubtful.
  • Alex Schiffer and John Hollinger of The Athletic check in on the state of the Nets and consider what the team will be looking for at the trade deadline and on the buyout market. Hollinger suggests that Brooklyn should keep an eye on big men like Damian Jones and Mason Plumlee, since the club could still use one more frontcourt player to help match up with bigger centers.

Nets Notes: Irving, Claxton, Simmons, O’Neale

The Nets have pulled out of their 0-4 tailspin since Kevin Durant‘s injury, thanks to another huge performance from Kyrie Irving, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn won its second straight road game Sunday night, rallying past the Warriors behind Irving’s 38 points and nine assists. He said he doesn’t mind carrying the scoring load with Durant sidelined, but he believes it’s important to get everyone involved.

“It doesn’t matter who has the ball in their hands as long as they’re being aggressive [and] it’s the best shot for our team,” Irving said. “Objectively this team sport is to win basketball games, not identify one person to carry everybody every single night … it’s just a team attitude, team atmosphere and living with the results.” 

Following an early-season suspension, Irving’s relationship with the Nets has improved significantly, to the point that there’s now a belief that an offseason extension might be in play. In a separate story, Lewis notes that Irving has become more comfortable in a leadership role and the rest of the team is benefiting.

“That’s what he does,” Royce O’Neale said after Irving scored 48 points Friday at Utah. “Right now he’s leading us, and we follow his lead. We’re trusting him, he’s trusting us. So to see him go off like that is always special. You could just tell he had it going.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Opponents are resorting to a hacking strategy with center Nic Claxton, but he’s not intimidated by it, Lewis adds in another piece. Claxton is shooting just 47.1% from the foul line this season and was 6-for-15 against Golden State. “I definitely take it as a challenge,” Claxton said. “I don’t care. If teams are fouling me, it’s almost a sign of respect. They can’t stop us, our team defensively and I just got to go up and knock the shots down. I’m going to take on that challenge every single time.” 
  • The Nets had to figure out a new offensive strategy without Durant, and they’ve been more effective with Irving as the primary ball-handler rather than Ben Simmons, Lewis observes.
  • O’Neale was grateful to get a warm reception Friday in his first game back in Utah since being traded to Brooklyn over the summer, according to Lewis. “It’s a great feeling, all the love they showed,” O’Neale said. “I was here for five years, had a lot of great memories here and to feel that welcome back meant a lot.”

Nets Notes: Durant, Irving, Olympics, Warren, O’Neale

The Nets have been defined by chaos for most of the past year, but things have been quiet lately in Brooklyn as the team has moved up the Eastern Conference standings, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. The early-season drama caused by a coaching change and Kyrie Irving‘s suspension has died down as the Nets have won 11 of their last 12 games to rise into fourth place.

“I get that other people don’t look at our roster as a championship roster, but when we get wins the way we get wins, you gotta pay attention to that,” Kevin Durant said. “When Kai (Irving) and Ben (Simmons) didn’t play, we beat teams by (nearly) 40 points. Any other team, it’s, ‘Hold on, what they doing over there?’ They take us for granted, me and Kai especially. We gotta jump through a Hula-Hoop of fire to be impressed.”

Brooklyn’s surge has been led by Durant, who is playing at an MVP level, averaging 32.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his last 11 games. Jacque Vaughn has provided a steady hand since taking over as head coach, and Irving has avoided controversy since his suspension ended.

“On the floor, it’s remarkable, God-like Hall-of-Fame level,” Durant said of Irving. “You see how he scores, how he makes plays. Just the fact his options, and his personal life … that’s what people have a (problem) with. But now that he’s playing and he’s here consistently, that hasn’t been a conversation surrounding anything.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Warriors’ Steve Kerr, who will coach Team USA in the 2024 Olympics, said Wednesday that he plans to ask Durant to participate, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Durant told reporters he’s willing to consider another Olympics appearance, but he believes it’s too early to make that decision.
  • After missing almost two full seasons, T.J. Warren is still trying to regain his touch on his three-point shot but his defense has been a pleasant surprise, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. It has helped him post a plus-8.1 net rating through eight games, which would be the highest of his career. “I feel like a lot of people didn’t think I can play defense,” Warren said. “I don’t know where that narrative came from, but I’ve been improving on that end as well as being a scorer. Just being aggressive when I’m locked in.”
  • Royce O’Neale, who ranked second in the league in minutes earlier this season, has seen his playing time reduced somewhat since returning from a two-game absence for personal reasons, Lewis adds. “It was great to get a rest,” O’Neale said. “I didn’t know I was number two in minutes, but that’s just me putting in a lot of hard work and being ready to play every game, every minute.”

Eastern Notes: Niang, Sixers, Nets, Pistons

Georges Niang was excited to get back on the court for the Sixers on Sunday after missing two games due to right foot soreness, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m excited to get there and play today. So I’m feeling good.”

Niang, an unrestricted free agent after this season, has been a key piece for the Sixers off the bench. He’s averaging 9.7 points and shooting 43.1% on 3-point attempts.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Sixers beat the Lakers in overtime on Friday after squandering a nine-point lead in the final 34 seconds to snap a three-game losing streak. Pompey breaks down the team’s recent struggles, noting that turnovers have been a major issue. “Sloppy, but good win for us,” Tobias Harris said after the Lakers win. “So we’ll take it. Obviously, we didn’t want it to happen that way, but we’ve got to learn from it and figure it out in those moments. especially when teams are presenting that type of pressure.”
  • The Nets found a way to beat the Pacers without eight rotation players on Saturday. They’ll be close to full strength when they face the Wizards on Monday, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving, Nic Claxton and T.J. Warren are all expected to be in uniform. Royce O’Neale, who missed the Indiana game for personal reasons, is still not with the team.
  • Cade Cunningham‘s shin injury has dealt the Pistons a major setback through the one-third mark this season but there are silver linings, Keith Langlois of writes. Killian Hayes has begun to blossom in his third NBA season and rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren have shown major talent while jumping right into the rotation.