Russ Smith

Andrew Nicholson, Russ Smith Sign With Chinese Team

A pair of former NBA players, Andrew Nicholson and Russ Smith, have both signed with the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball Association, per a report from Sportando. We relayed yesterday that Nicholson was expected to sign with Fujian.

Nicholson teamed with former NBA veteran Yi Jianlian and Donald Sloan last year for Guangdong Tigers. He posted 22.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and 1.6 APG in 46 CBA games. The Tigers went to the CBA semifinals before being eliminated by the Liaoning Flying Leopards.

A former Magic first-round pick (19th overall), Nicholson appeared in 285 total NBA regular season games from 2012 to 2017 with Orlando, Washington, and Brooklyn before heading to China last September.

As for Smith, the former second-round pick (47th overall) by the Pelicans spent last season with the Sturgeons. Smith is arguably best known for his 81-point game last July in the Chinese National Basketball League. Smith appeared in 27 NBA games with the Pelicans and Grizzlies from 2014-16, averaging 2.0 PPG.

And-Ones: Free Agents, D-League, Bennett, Oden

Several under-the-radar players who will be free agents this summer are improving their bargaining position with their performance in the playoffs, writes Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. He identifies six players, starting with Golden State big man JaVale McGee, who is averaging 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks through five games despite playing just 11.8 minutes per night. McGee signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Warriors for the veteran’s minimum and could be in line for a huge pay raise in July. The others that Kennedy singles out are Serge Ibaka of the Raptors, Joe Ingles of the Jazz, Nene of the Rockets, Andre Roberson of the Thunder and Deron Williams of the Cavaliers.

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • The Texas Legends, the Mavericks‘ affiliate in the D-League, have given coach Bob MacKinnon a two-year extension, tweets D-League Digest. The D-League veteran is in his first season with the Legends.
  • Invitations have been issued for the D-League’s Elite Mini Camp, which will be held May 8-9 in Chicago, relays Chris Reichert of FanSided. Many players have used this showcase to earn spots on summer league rosters, with alumni such as Jonathon Simmons, Hollis Thompson and DeAndre Liggins. Among the best-known names at this year’s camp will be Russ Smith, JaKarr Sampson, Ray McCallum and Cliff Alexander.
  • Former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, who played 23 games for the Nets this season, has been replaced on his Fenerbahce team in Turkey, according to Bugra Uzar of Eurohoops. Taking his spot on the roster is Pero Antic, who played for the Hawks from 2013 to 2015. Bennett will remain with the club and is expected to be part of the upcoming EuroLeague Final Four.
  • Greg Oden, another former No. 1 pick, is hoping to be part of The Basketball Tournament this summer on ESPN, relays Alysha Tsuji of USA Today. Oden’s team is called Scarlet and Gray and is made up of Ohio State alumni. “We think we’re a team that can win it,” he said. “We look at the talent we’ve had here in the last 10 years or so, and we can match up with anybody. We want the state of Ohio supporting us. We’re called Scarlet and Gray, but this team is a representation of the whole state.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Temple, Warriors, Suns

Jordan Clarkson nearly didn’t became a Laker on draft night in 2014, according to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, who writes that the team had a “real, down-to-the-wire temptation” to select former Louisville guard Russ Smith with the second-round pick that was ultimately used on Clarkson. Lakers layer personnel director Ryan West and Jesse Buss were high on Clarkson, which helped to tip the scales, per Ding.

The tidbit on Clarkson and Smith is part of a larger piece examining how the Lakers acquired their current core players. As Ding observes, for several years, the Lakers were focused on building their roster by carrying roster-filling players to maximize cap room, then pursuing top free agents. However, the club has moved away from that approach over the last couple years, focusing instead on accumulating young talent.

Here’s more from around the Pacific division:

  • Garrett Temple, one of a few veteran free agents who signed with the Kings this summer, has impressed the team on and off the court, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee details. “There’s nothing negative I could ever say about him,” DeMarcus Cousins said of his new teammate. “He’s a guy I love to talk to. He sits next to me in the locker room. He’s a positive guy at all times. Got to love guys like that.”
  • Golden State is now among the top five teams in the NBA in blocked shots per game, and concerns about the Warriors‘ rim protection appear to have quieted down over the course of their eight-game winning streak, writes Anthony Slater of The Bay Area News Group.
  • The Suns have one of the NBA’s youngest starting lineups, which Devin Booker views as a positive sign for the future, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. “Everybody is getting experience,” Booker said. “Everybody is getting a chance to play, so it should be good for us.”
  • Earlier today, we passed along comments from Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, who said the duo’s relationship is “better now than ever.” Read the full story here.

And-Ones: Cap Room, L. Sanders, R. Smith, RFAs

The Sixers, Nuggets, Nets, Thunder, and Lakers have the most cap room still available, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders details. In addition to those five clubs, the Timberwolves, Suns, Jazz, Celtics, Pacers, and Bucks also have some wiggle room remaining. While some of those clubs could use that cap space to try to sign a free agent like J.R. Smith or Lance Stephenson, I’d expect many of those teams to stay well below the cap throughout the year. Remaining $10-15MM below the cap would allow a team to accommodate a mid-season salary dump, potentially picking up a draft pick or two in the process.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NBA:

  • Larry Sanders, who has been working out and is considering an NBA comeback, may be willing to play for a minumum-salary contract, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (via Twitter). It remains to be seen whether a team will take a flier on the former Bucks big man.
  • Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders identifies a few players who will be under pressure to perform in 2016/17 due to big new free agent contracts or roles that changed as a result of other players’ deperatures.
  • Former Louisville guard Russ Smith, who appeared in 15 games for the Grizzlies last season, has accepted a $1MM contract offer from Galatasaray, according to international basketball reporter David Pick (via Twitter). Mete Budak of Eurohoops pegs the former second-round pick’s salary at $850K, so the Turkish team may have included some bonuses in the deal.
  • Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders explains why he thinks the NBA’s restricted free agency system has problems, and puts forth some suggestions to potentially improve it. Donatas Motiejunas of the Rockets is the only RFA still on the market this summer.

And-Ones: Jones, Exum, Smith

Potential first-round pick Damian Jones has undergone surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, reports Jonathan Givony of The Vertical. Jones suffered the injury while bench pressing in a workout with the Magic. He should be ready to play near the end of training camp for whatever team drafts him.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Dante Exum will not play for the Australian national team in the Olympics this summer, according to the team’s website. Exum was recently cleared for full-contact basketball activity and he is focused on preparing himself for the 2016/17 season with the Jazz.
  • Russ Smith, who averaged 27.8 point per game in the D-League this past season, has worked out for the Nuggets, Blazers and Clippers, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders passes along (Twitter link).
  • The Raptors will workout Trey Freeman, Fred VanVleet, Malachi Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Tyler Harris and Venk Jois on Sunday, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link).

Northwest Notes: Henderson, Jazz, Wolves

Earlier in his career, Gerald Henderson‘s top priority as a free agent might have been to find a team that would give him the opportunity to start. However, with his Trail Blazers contract set to expire, Henderson will prioritize contending teams this offseason, recognizing that being a starter isn’t as important to him as it once was.

“It’s great to start; starting the game is a special thing,” Henderson said, according to Cody Sharrett of Blazers.com. “To be a starter in the NBA is a cool thing, I’ve done it for a long time, but what’s really more important to me is playing significant minutes in times where a team needs you and more of your impact while you’re out on the floor – just being a part of what’s going on. You look at different teams, sometimes the best player comes off the bench, it all depends on what kind of team you have. I’d probably say three or four years ago, [starting] was much more important to me.”

Let’s check in on a few more items from out of the Northwest…

  • The Jazz are hosting six more players for pre-draft workouts today, the team announced (via Twitter). The list of participants: Josh Gray (LSU), Rosco Allen (Stanford), Tanner Plomb (West Point), Trey Lewis (Louisville), Brannen Greene (Kansas), and James Webb III (Boise State).
  • The Timberwolves worked out Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere individually on Tuesday, and also had Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova), Tim Quarterman (LSU), Wes Washpun (Northern Iowa), Devin Thomas (Wake Forest), and Josh Scott (Colorado) in for a group workout, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter links). Damion Lee (Louisville) had also been scheduled to participate, but pulled out due to an injury.
  • The Trail Blazers are hosting multiple free agent mini-camps and are saying they may end up signing multiple participants from those camps, tweets Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Russ Smith and Erick Green were among the free agents in attendance at Portland’s first veteran mini-camp.
  • As Erik Horne of The Oklahoman details, Andre Roberson enjoyed a breakout season in 2015/16, and is becoming a reliable two-way wing just in time for the opening of his contract extension window. If the Thunder don’t sign Roberson to an extension this year, he’ll be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.

Free Agent Notes: Durant, Rockets, Clippers

Kevin Durant would give himself a better chance at winning a title if he were to leave the Thunder and join the Warriors or sign with an Eastern Conference team, Bill Simmons of The Ringer writes. Many believe that Durant will sign a two-year deal with OKC that contains a player option for year two, as was reported earlier this week.

Simmons offers an unconventional viewpoint on Durant’s impending decision. Two years ago, Durant signed a $300MM deal with Nike. At the time, he and LeBron James had the best selling sneakers among all NBA players, Simmons points out. The 2014 MVP then injured his foot and missed a significant amount of time during the 2014/15 campaign. Durant’s comeback 2015/16 season was overshadowed by Kobe Bryant‘s retirement and the Warriors’ historic 73-9 record. Now, the conversation is between Nike with James and the Jordan Brand and Under Armour with Stephen Curry, Simmons adds. Simmons argues that Durant, his representatives and Nike know they won’t be competing with the top brands unless Durant wins a ring or he leaves the Thunder and he speculates that if Nike had its way, Durant would sign elsewhere this summer.

The piece, which is must-read, is a reminder that the NBA is a business and there are several off the court factors that play into basketball decisions. Selling sneakers likely won’t be the primary force that drives Durant to stay or leave, but it’s an interesting perspective nonetheless.

Here’s more on the NBA’s upcoming free agency:

Southwest Notes: Brewer, Barnes, Williams

More than two dozen players became eligible to be traded today, and among them is Corey Brewer, about whom the Rockets and Suns reportedly had serious discussions as they entertained a swap that would also include Terrence Jones going to Phoenix for Markieff Morris. Still, Suns GM Ryan McDonough denied that any deal was prearranged or pending as he spoke Wednesday on the “Burns & Gambo” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, as Kellan Olson of ArizonaSports.com transcribes. McDonough predicted lots of activity between now and the February 18th trade deadline and promised he’ll take an aggressive approach, though he said he can envision Morris remaining with Phoenix through the end of the season, adding that the Suns are “under no pressure to do anything immediately.” While we wait to see what happens on that front, there’s more on the Rockets and other Southwest Division teams:

  • Improved defense, better 3-point shooting and the presence of Patrick Beverley in the starting lineup instead of Ty Lawson have sparked the Rockets to improved play, as Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com details, but GM Daryl Morey isn’t satisfied. “I’m worried given our goals,” Morey said, according to Watkins. “We still have a lot of improvement to do and we’re working towards that.”
  • The performance Matt Barnes has put on for the Grizzlies lately makes it clear his controversial October encounter with Knicks coach Derek Fisher isn’t a distraction to the team and that he’s been one of the most valuable Grizzlies on the court, writes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. The 35-year-old has maintained his high level of defensive play all season, and more recently he’s begun to regain his usual shooting touch, Tillery notes. Barnes delivered pithy comments to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, saying, “I don’t talk to snakes” when asked if he’ll speak to Fisher while the Knicks are in Memphis for Saturday’s game. Barnes sent threatening text messages to Fisher in the weeks preceding Barnes’ alleged physical attack on Fisher at the home of Barnes’ estranged wife, a source told Marc Berman of the New York Post.
  • A pair of small trade exceptions expired for Southwest Division teams this week, vestiges of the three-team trade that sent Jeff Green to the Grizzlies. The Pelicans allowed their $507,336 Russ Smith trade exception to lapse, while the Grizzlies didn’t find a use for the $396,068 leftover scrap of the Quincy Pondexter trade exception. Memphis used most of that Pondexter exception, originally valued at $3,146,068, to take in Luke Ridnour, whom the Grizzlies promptly flipped for Barnes.
  • Chris Herrington of The Commericial Appeal doesn’t think the Grizzlies will issue a second 10-day contract to Elliot Williams, whose existing 10-day deal expires at the end of Sunday (Twitter link).

Russ Smith To Play For Sixers D-League Affiliate

WEDNESDAY, 11:14am: The affiliate of the Sixers has claimed Smith’s D-League rights, so he’ll play for the Delaware 87ers, Reichert hears (Twitter link).

TUESDAY, 10:50am: Former Grizzlies and Pelicans point guard Russ Smith has signed with the D-League, a league source tells Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor (Twitter link). The 24-year-old has spent plenty of time on D-League assignment during his season and half in the pros, but this is the first time he has a D-League contract instead of an NBA deal, so the D-League waiver system will determine which affiliate he plays for. He’ll remain eligible to sign with any NBA team regardless.

Memphis waived Smith on December 29th, despite the existence of a full guarantee on his minimum salary, to clear room for Ryan Hollins, whom the Grizzlies released about a week later. Still, the team filled the roster spot with Elliot Williams on a 10-day contract instead of re-signing Smith. The Grizzlies reportedly believed as of early this season that Smith wasn’t ready to ascend to the role of primary backup behind Mike Conley, which helped precipitate the Mario Chalmers trade. Smith saw playing time in only 21 NBA games for Memphis in between the time it acquired him from the Pelicans in the Jeff Green trade a year ago today and the time of his release. He made it into only six games for New Orleans prior to that deal.

Still, he was a consensus First Team All-American in his senior season at Louisville in 2013/14, when he averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2.8 turnovers in 29.3 minutes per game. The Sixers drafted him 47th overall in 2014 and dealt his rights to the Pelicans shortly thereafter.

Do you think we’ll see Smith back in the NBA this season? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Grizzlies Sign Ryan Hollins, Waive Russ Smith

TUESDAY, 11:30am: The signing of Hollins is official, the Grizzlies announced. The team also confirmed that Smith has been waived.

MONDAY, 11:00pm: The Grizzlies will waive Russ Smith in order to make room on the roster for the signing of center Ryan Hollins, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reports. Hollins was with Memphis during training camp prior to the season and he made a strong impression on the team, Charania adds. The Grizzlies are limited to giving Hollins the minimum salary, though it’s unclear if he’ll have any guaranteed money.

Smith’s contract runs through the 2016/17 season and he’ll make slightly more than $845K this year, all of which is guaranteed. His salary for next season was set to be roughly $980K, though that salary is non-guaranteed.  The Louisville product was averaging 1.5 points in 4.4 minutes per game this season.

The move to add Hollins isn’t expected to be a temporary one, Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal reports (Twitter links). Backup center Brandan Wright remains out with a knee injury, so Hollins shouldn’t have to wait too long to see minutes for the Grizzlies.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.