Rudy Gay

Western Notes: Kuzma, LeBron, Gay, Spurs

A rejuvenated Kyle Kuzma helped the Lakers defeat the Blazers 128-120 on Saturday, with the 24-year-old finally healthy and back to leading the team’s bench unit, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes.

Kuzma missed five straight games this month due to a lingering left ankle injury, officially returning to the lineup one week ago in Denver.

“I’m just healthy now,” Kuzma said, as relayed by McMenamin. “I’m confident in my body. I took a little bit of time off, sitting out for five games and really just self-collected what I needed to do and got it done.”

Kuzma scored 20 first-half points against Portland and finished with 24 on the night, proving his worth on 9-for-17 shooting off the bench. He’ll likely be viewed as Los Angeles’ third-leading scorer going forward, naturally behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

“I’m just being in attack mode at all times,” Kuzma said. “Being the third option, you don’t have the luxury of taking it easy sometimes, so just being in attack mode.”

The Lakers broke a four-game losing streak by beating Portland, bringing their record to 25-7 on the season. They’ll begin a five-game homestand by hosting Dallas on Sunday, followed by Phoenix, New Orleans, Detroit and New York.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Lakers star LeBron James has received the honor of being named The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Decade, joining a list that already includes Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and Arnold Palmer, as relayed by ESPN.com. “You add another 10 years of learning and adversity, pitfalls, good, great, bad, and any smart person who wants to grow will learn from all those experiences,” James told the AP. “A decade ago, I just turned 25. I’m about to be 35 [on Monday], and I’m just in a better [place] in my life and have a better understanding of what I want to get out of life.”
  • Spurs forward Rudy Gay plans to continue firing away from three-point territory, doing whatever it takes to help the team win this season, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. “We are just trying to figure out how we can help the team and right now it is with three-point shooting,” Gay said of himself and teammate LaMarcus Aldridge. Gay tallied 16 points in 20 minutes against Detroit on Saturday, connecting on 4-of-7 attempts from deep.
  • The Spurs are ready for a “new season” in 2020, wiping the slate clean and shifting their focus to obtaining a playoff seed this spring, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News writes. San Antonio has the ninth-best record in the Western Conference at 13-18, winning six of its last 10 games.

Southwest Notes: DeRozan, Brooks, Favors, Mavericks

The Spurs are off to a rough start this season. San Antonio currently sits at the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference with an 11-16 record. Head coach Gregg Popovich has been searching for answers all over the roster lately. This has included shaking up some rotational minutes.

During a tilt against Houston on December 16, Popovich pulled starting shoot guard DeMar DeRozan, the team’s highest earner with a $27.7MM salary this season, with 4:46 left in the game and the Spurs down 101-97. San Antonio had led by as many as 25 points in the first half. Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News notes that DeRozan’s disengaged body language while languishing during the eventual 109-107 loss on the bench was criticized.

Following the criticism, power forward Rudy Gay defended DeRozan’s reaction to the late-game benching, calling the two-time All-NBA selection a “competitor.” DeRozan did stay on the court late to help seal the Spurs’ subsequent game, a 118-105 defeat of the Nets on Thursday. Popovich substituted all starters with 47 seconds left and the victory sewn up.

There’s more out of the Southwest:

  • In his latest mailbag column, The Daily Memphian’s Chris Herrington touches on Dillon Brooks‘ value as a 2020 restricted free agent. Brooks, the 45th pick in the 2017 draft, has been solid in his third NBA season thus far. He has shown his mettle as a long-range shooter for the Grizzlies, connecting on 37.1% of his 4.9 three-point attempts a game this year. He can also defend at a position of need — albeit while getting into foul trouble. Herrington considers Brooks’ best fit on a playoff team to be as a bench scorer. Herrington hopes that Memphis waits out the market for Brooks, and exercises caution if offers from other teams venture significantly beyond the mid-level exception ($9.8MM annually).
  • ESPN’s Andrew Lopez (Twitter link) reports that Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has lifted the team’s minutes restriction on starting center Derrick Favors. Gentry anticipates Favors playing 25-27 minutes. He has averaged 20.9 minutes a night in 14 games this season.
  • The Mavericks showed off their roster depth beyond starry headliners Luka Doncic (still out with an injury) and Kristaps Porzingis in a 117-98 road win over the Sixers last night. To be fair, Porzingis scored 22 points, pulled down 18 rebounds, and blocked three opponents’ shots. Still, Tim McMahon of ESPN notes that Tim Hardaway, Seth Curry, and even Ryan Broekhoff have had clutch moments for Dallas so far. “We have so many different weapons and so many different guys that can come in,” Porzingis noted after the victory. “I almost feel bad because we have so many guys that can come in, and sometimes they don’t get the opportunity.”

And-Ones: Lineups, Fournier, Roc Nation, Gasol

The league has made a proposal requiring teams to reveal their starting lineups at least 30 minutes prior to tip-off, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. Currently, teams only have to issue their lineups 10 minutes before the start of the game. The move would most likely facilitate wagering, particularly with daily fantasy leagues, who would have more advance knowledge of any lineup changes.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Magic swingman Evan Fournier, who played for bronze-medalist France in the FIBA World Cup, was disappointed that many NBA stars chose to skip the event, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports. “To be honest, like, when you look at (LeBron) James, KD (Kevin Durant), all these guys, they came here already, they won,” Fournier said. “Whatever, it’s fine. Friends of mine like Tobias (Harris), I thought it was a great opportunity for him to see something different and compete. I don’t think they realize how beneficial this is for their career.”
  • Veteran agent Roger Montgomery has resigned from Roc Nation Sports to focus on other management projects, Jabari Young of The Athletic tweets. Montgomery negotiated Rudy Gay‘s two-year, $32MM contract with the Spurs and also represented Hornets lottery pick PJ Washington.
  • Marc Gasol showed he’s still an effective player during the World Cup, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. Gasol was the defensive and offensive anchor of Spain’s gold-medal winning team and that provides hope for the Raptors that they can still make some noise in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, maligned point guard Frank Ntilikina showed he could be an elite defender for the Knicks with the way he handled Kemba Walker while playing for France.

Brian Wright Becomes Spurs GM

JULY 23: The moves are now official, the Spurs confirmed in a press release.

JULY 20: The Spurs are promoting assistant general manager Brian Wright to the role of GM, Jabari Young of The Athletic reports. R.C. Buford will remain in the organization and Wright will report directly to him, Young adds.

Buford, 58, has been in San Antonio’s organization since 1994 and has served as the team’s GM since 2002. The Spurs have won four championships with Buford running the front office.

Buford will likely help oversee Spurs Sports & Entertainment under his new title, Young adds. He and Gregg Popovich are expected to continue to oversee the team and have final say on personnel decisions.

Wright was hired by the Spurs in his current capacity during the summer of 2016. He was previously an assistant GM with the Pistons after an eight-year stint in the Magic organization.

Initially, Wright focused mainly on scouting with San Antonio. He’s been more active over the past year, fielding trade calls for Kawhi Leonard, leading the negotiations to re-sign Rudy Gay and engineering the sign-and-trade involving DeMarre Carroll, according to Young.

The restructuring of the front office could lead to an additional hire, Young adds.

Contract Details: Porter, Rozier, Spurs, Kings, Raptors

For the first time in several years, a first-round pick has accepted below the standard maximum of 120% of his rookie scale amount, tweets Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights. According to Siegel, No. 30 overall pick Kevin Porter Jr. will only earn 80% of his rookie scale amount during his first season and will continue to get less than 120% of the rookie scale amount in years two through four.

The rookie scale amount this year for the No. 30 pick is $1,613,700, so Porter’s expected salary for his rookie season would have been $1,936,440. Instead, he’ll get just $1,290,960, according to Siegel.

[RELATED: Rookie Scale Salaries For 2019 First-Round Picks]

While this is just my speculation, it seems likely that the Cavaliers would have checked in with Porter and his agent before drafting him to see if he’d be okay with that reduced first-year salary, given how rare it is. Porter, the final pick in the first round, will still earn significantly more than the rookie minimum of $898K that many early second-rounder selections will receive, while the Cavs, who are up against the luxury-tax line, will put themselves in better position to avoid potential repeater penalties.

Here are more contract details from around the NBA, all courtesy of Siegel unless otherwise indicated:

  • Terry Rozier‘s three-year, $56.7MM contract with the Hornets has a declining structure (Twitter link). It starts at $19.9MM in 2019/20 before eventually dipping to $17.9MM by 2021/22.
  • The base value of Rudy Gay‘s two-year deal with the Spurs is $28MM, with $2MM in annual bonuses to bring the potential total value up to $32MM (Twitter link). DeMarre Carroll‘s deal, meanwhile, only has a partial guarantee of $1.35MM in the third year (Twitter link). The Spurs tacked on that third season when they pivoted to acquiring Carroll via sign-and-trade rather than signing him outright.
  • Trevor Ariza‘s two-year, $25MM contract with the Kings only has a $1.8MM partial guarantee in year two (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Sacramento’s deal with Dewayne Dedmon has a base value of $40MM over three years, with $300K in annual incentives (Twitter link).
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic provides details on a pair of Raptors contracts, tweeting that Patrick McCaw‘s new two-year deal is worth $8MM, while Matt Thomas‘ three-year, minimum-salary contract is non-guaranteed in year three. Both of those deals will come out of Toronto’s mid-level exception — Stanley Johnson‘s might too, though if the team has plans in mind for the rest of the $4.36MM on its MLE, Johnson could be signed using the bi-annual exception instead, notes Murphy.

Spurs Re-Sign Rudy Gay

JULY 8: The Spurs have officially re-signed Gay, the team announced today in a press release.

JUNE 30: The Spurs will re-sign forward Rudy Gay on a two-year, $32MM contract, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Gay will remain in San Antonio, a franchise with which he has spent the last two seasons of his career. He held per-game averages of 13.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists last year. He also had an excellent year from beyond the arc, making 40.2% of his three-point attempts.

Gay has previously made stops with Memphis, Toronto, Sacramento across his 13-year career, first joining the Spurs back in the summer of 2017.

The Spurs had Early Bird rights on Gay, which permitted the team to give Gay a raise worth up to 175% on his previous salary ($10.1MM). As such, San Antonio won’t have to use any form of mid-level exception to complete Gay’s deal.

Western Notes: Thompson, Spurs, Allen

Klay Thompson would be open to a meeting with the Clippers should the Warriors not present him with a max salary offer at the start of free agency, Adrian Wojnarowski said on the network’s free agency special. Thompson is expected to re-sign in Golden State.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • San Antonio could be a fit for Trevor Ariza, Jabari Young of The Athletic writes. Ariza earned $15MM last season on a one-year deal and the Spurs had interest in him last summer, Young hears. Ariza is a candidate for the mid-level exception.
  • The Spurs have kept a close eye on Amir Johnson since he played in Toronto, Young adds in the same piece. Young speculates that the 32-year-old big man could be a fit in San Antonio, citing his close relationship with DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay.
  • Grayson Allen, who was traded to the Grizzlies in the Mike Conley deal, aims to improve his defense during Summer League, as he tells David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “When I tell you I’m going to work on defense this summer, I don’t think many people picture guys in summer workouts doing defensive slides,” Allen said. “…But for me it’s going to be continuing to work on that footwork on the defensive end, getting my body in great shape, great conditioning going into summer league and the season.”

And-Ones: Wiseman, Barrett, Dedmon, Barbosa, DeMarco

The latest 2020 mock draft has Memphis freshman center James Wiseman going to the Knicks with the No. 1 pick. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Georgia guard Anthony Edwards going to the Cavaliers at No. 2 and North Carolina guard Cole Anthony heading to the Suns at No. 3.

We have more from around the basketball world:

Warriors Notes: Durant, Thompson, Gay, Lopez

Kevin Durant‘s return appears to be the only thing that can save the Warriors in the NBA Finals, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Golden State’s hopes for a three-peat are fragile as they head to Toronto with a 3-1 deficit. Injuries have hampered the Warriors throughout the playoffs, but the Raptors are the first team to fully take advantage.

There’s no guarantee Durant will return in time to make a difference and there’s not much evidence his condition has improved significantly since he suffered what was called a “mild” calf strain in the conference semifinals. Coach Steve Kerr told reporters last night that he will no longer provide daily updates on Durant’s condition.

“We’re hoping he can play Game 5 or 6,” Kerr said. “And everything in between I’ve decided I’m not sharing because it’s just gone haywire. There’s so much going on, and so it doesn’t make sense to continue to talk about it. He’s either going to play or he’s not.”

There’s more news on the two-time defending champs:

  • Since the injury occurred, the Warriors haven’t put a timeline on Durant’s return other than to say they’re optimistic he will be back, notes Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News. Kerr is leaving all decisions to the medical staff, which has determined that Durant isn’t in condition to play. Medina observes that a mild calf strain would be considered Grade 1, which have a seven- to 10-day recovery time. It’s more likely Durant has a Grade 2 condition, which would sideline him for four to six weeks. He suffered the injury exactly a month ago.
  • Medina identifies Rudy Gay and Brook Lopez as upcoming free agents who might be willing to take the Warriors’ $5.3MM taxpayer mid-level exception for next season. He adds that Golden State will re-sign Klay Thompson “for sure” and will take advantage of Kevon Looney‘s Bird Rights to keep him.
  • Problems at center are among the reasons for the 3-1 deficit, contends Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports. He calls DeMarcus Cousins “a disaster” in Game 4, unable to keep up with the Raptors after returning from a first-round quad injury. Looney, playing with a costal cartilage fracture, didn’t contribute much after halftime, leaving 34-year-old Andrew Bogut as the best choice in the middle.

Spurs, Rudy Gay Have Mutual Interest In New Deal

Rudy Gay has transitioned from a top-flight scorer to a veteran mentor ready to take on whatever role is best for the team. The combo forward has been particularly helpful with the Spurs‘ young prospects.

“He’s a very outgoing individual,” coach Gregg Popovich said (via Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News). “He’s an easy teammate to be with, so he makes people feel comfortable. For young guys just starting out like Lonnie [Walker], it’s important to see the vets and be able to sit down and have a meal with them and laugh. [Gay] does that well.”

Gay appreciates how the organization has treated him and his family, and likes the city of San Antonio, Orsborn writes. Gay will be a free agent this offseason, but both he and the Spurs have a mutual interest in a new deal.

“We are hoping we can figure out a way to keep him here,” Popovich said.

San Antonio has a reputation for cohesiveness even as the franchise shuffles its roster. Gay said he has never experienced a unit as close as this year’s Spurs team.

“We had a lot of new pieces, played through a lot of adversity, the media saying we weren’t going to the playoffs,” he said. “We played through a lot. That forced us to be a tight team.”