San Antonio Spurs

Texas Notes: Jackson, Smith Jr., Clavell, Leonard

Rockets guard Demetrius Jackson can expect a lot of trips to and from Rio Grande Valley over the next few weeks, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Jackson, who is serving as the team’s backup point guard while Chris Paul is sidelined with soreness in his left knee, signed a two-way contract over the summer and is limited to 45 days in the NBA. Every day in Houston will count against that total once G League camps open tomorrow, so Jackson will be making repeated journeys to the Rockets’ affiliate.

Jackson played 17 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Mavericks, delivering four points, five rebounds and two assists. The Rockets may decide to convert his deal into a full NBA contract if Paul’s absence is prolonged and the team can’t find another point guard. “Definitely, a different confidence level after going back, reviewing the film, trying to grow from the positive and the negative,” Jackson said. “I definitely got some good looks. Just have to step up and knock those down.”

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • The left knee effusion suffered by Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. may not be as bad as it sounds, cautions Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. There is concern in Dallas because an effusion, which means swelling due to fluid building up in a joint, is what sidelined Dirk Nowitzki for two months in 2013. However, Sefko notes that Nowitzki was much older, and Smith played a lot in preseason without any knee issues.
  • The Mavericks are getting Gian Clavell, who also has a two-way contract, some NBA experience before G League camps begin, Sefko adds in the same piece. The rookie out of Puerto Rico got into games Friday and Saturday as the third-string point guard. Johnathan Motley, the team’s other two-way player, hasn’t appeared in a game yet.
  • There are indications that Spurs star Kawhi Leonard might return to action sooner than expected, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Leonard, who has been sidelined since training camp with quadriceps tendinopathy, traveled with the team to Chicago Saturday. “He’s progressing,” said coach Gregg Popovich. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Popovich Admits Mistake In Trying To Change Aldridge

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich admits it was a mistake trying to change LaMarcus Aldridge, relays Melissa Rohlin of The San Antonio Express News. After five straight seasons of topping 20 points per game in Portland, Aldridge dropped to 18.0 and 17.3 in his first two years in San Antonio.

More Details, Quotes On LaMarcus Aldridge Extension

LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs haven’t always seen eye to eye over the last two years, but in the wake of a contract agreement that extended Aldridge’s deal by an additional two years, the big man sounds as happy as he’s ever been in San Antonio. As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News details, Aldridge says “everything is great” between him and the Spurs, and that both sides are pleased with the extension.

“I feel like the talks this summer (between Aldridge and the Spurs) were very constructive and were kind of needed, having a heart to heart where you just say how you feel,” Aldridge said. “And I feel like Pop (Gregg Popovich) has been great about the things that I said or kind of needed or wanted, and so far it’s been great.”

Asked by Jabari Young of The Express-News (Twitter link) if he hopes to finish his career with the Spurs, Aldridge said that would most likely be his preference. Still, his new deal doesn’t add a ton of new years to his contract. As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets, the extension adds one guaranteed year worth $26MM, then one additional season that’s partially guaranteed ($7MM of $24MM). The pact also features a 15% trade kicker, Woj adds.

Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge Agree To Extension

OCTOBER 16th, 11:07pm: The signing is official, per team release.

4:11pm: Charania clarifies in his full report on the trade that Aldridge’s extension will actually add just two years to his current deal, with the 2018/19 player option representing the third year. In total, Aldridge will be under contract for four years, with a partial guarantee in year four.Aldridge vertical

3:26pm: The Spurs have reached an agreement with big man LaMarcus Aldridge on a contract extension, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Wojnarowski first reported earlier today that the two sides were engaged in discussions on a possible extension.

Aldridge’s new contract is a three-year extension worth $72.3MM, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). Wojnarowski adds (via Twitter) that the third and final year is only partially guaranteed. The 32-year-old exercised his 2018/19 player option as part of the agreement, per Wojnarowski (via Twitter), so the new deal will begin in 2019/20 and will lock him up for five years in total.

Aldridge, who initially joined the Spurs as a free agent in the summer of 2015, saw his production drop off a little last season. His 17.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and .477 FG% were all below his career averages, while his 18.6 PER was his lowest mark since 2009/10.

The dip in Aldridge’s performance makes the timing of the contract extension somewhat surprising. Wojnarowski noted in his piece earlier today that the relationship between Aldridge and the Spurs has been rocky over the last two years — both sides have been unhappy at times, and the team explored trade scenarios involving the former Blazer earlier this year.

However, according to Wojnarowski, Aldridge arrived at camp this year in better shape than usual, and has strengthened his relationship with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

With Aldridge’s player option for 2018/19 now locked in, the Spurs have approximately $78.4MM in guaranteed money on their cap for next season. With the NBA salary cap projected to increase slightly to $101MM, the Spurs could have some flexibility. But their estimated team salary doesn’t include player options for Danny Green, Rudy Gay, and Joffrey Lauvergne, or possible new deals for free-agents-to-be like Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson.

Because Aldridge’s new contract exceeds the parameters of an extend-and-trade deal, he won’t be eligible to be traded for six months after signing his extension, meaning he won’t be the subject of trade rumors at this season’s deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Aldridge's Extension Includes Partial Guarantee

Tiago Splitter Hopes To Land NBA Contract

Veteran center Tiago Splitter is shopping around for an NBA contract, he told Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype in a Q&A session.

Splitter revealed that he had discussions with the Cavaliers, Jazz and Clippers but nothing came to fruition. He worked out for the Clippers in July.

He also received numerous training camp invites but didn’t get a formal contract offer, he told Sierra. However, the Brazilian native has no desire to explore opportunities overseas.

Injuries have sidetracked his career and Splitter admits he’s still not 100 percent. Splitter, 32, appeared in just eight games with the Sixers last season as he battled hip and calf injuries. He played 36 games with the Hawks the previous season, which was marred by a hamstring issue. Splitter spent his first five seasons with the Spurs.

If he can’t land a player contract, Splitter has decided to pursue a coaching career. He has visited with the Spurs, Hawks and Warriors during camp with that purpose.

“It’s a learning experience with focus on my career once my playing days are over,” he told Sierra. “My plan is to remain involved in basketball. This is a good way to network, meet new people and get to see basketball from a different perspective.”

Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge Discussing Extension

The Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge are discussing the possibility of a contract extension, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Currently, Aldridge remains under contract for two years, with a guaranteed $21.46MM salary for 2017/18 and a player option worth $22.35MM for 2018/19. If he and the Spurs were to reach an agreement today, it would allow him to opt in for ’18/19 and then tack on up to three more years. In that scenario, an extension could have a starting salary worth up to 120% of his ’18/19 figure.

Although today represents the deadline for contract extensions for veterans with multiple years left on their respective contracts, Aldridge would have until June 30 to work out an extension with the Spurs if he were to turn down his player option. An extension along those lines could be worth up to 120% of the big man’s 2017/18 salary.

Aldridge, 32, saw his production drop off a little in San Antonio last season. His 17.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and .477 FG% were all below his career averages, while his 18.6 PER was his lowest mark since 2009/10. It would be an unusual moment for the Spurs to sign him to an extension unless they’re confident in a bounce-back season and believe they can get him at a discounted rate.

Not counting player options for Aldridge, Danny Green, or Rudy Gay, the Spurs currently only have about $56MM in guaranteed money on their books for the 2018/19 season.

Spurs Pick Up Option On Dejounte Murray

The Spurs have picked up Dejounte Murray‘s third-year (2018/19) option, the team announced in a press release Sunday. San Antonio faced an Oct. 31 deadline to pick up Murray’s option beyond 2017/18. Murray’s option will pay $1,544,951 next season.

Murray, 21, was the Spurs’ first-round pick (29th overall) last year. In 38 regular season games, Murray averaged 3.4 PPG, 1.3 APG and 1.1 RPG in 8.5 minutes per game. The University of Washington product also made 11 appearances in the postseason, where his playing time nearly doubled to 15.3 minutes as he posted  5.7 PPG, 2.5 APG and 2.5 RPG.

For all of this year’s decisions on 2018/19 rookie scale options, be sure to check out our tracker.

Western Notes: Leonard, Exum, Hood, Nurkic

Kawhi Leonard won’t be ready when the season opens because of a lingering quad injury, relays the Associated Press. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich confirmed the news to reporters Friday night, saying the team will be cautious with its star forward, who didn’t play in any preseason games or participate in camp. ”He’s still rehabbing and when he’s ready, he’ll be ready,’‘ Popovich said.

Leonard is in a rehab program for quadriceps tendinopathy, and Popovich admitted last month that recovery is taking longer than anticipated. Leonard began experiencing the condition last season, and it is not related to an ankle injury in the Western Conference finals that knocked him out of the playoffs.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Leonard, who finished third in the MVP voting last season, is this year’s favorite for the award, according to Tom Haberstroh and Titus Smith of ESPN. The writers examine the criteria used in MVP balloting and believe Leonard has the strongest case. He averaged a career-best 25.5 points per game last year while helping the Spurs win 61 games.
  • Jazz guard Dante Exum is exploring alternatives to season-ending surgery on his left shoulder, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Exum suffered a separated shoulder with ligament damage in a preseason game last week. The fifth pick in the 2014 draft already missed the 2015/16 season with a torn ACL. Exum has a Monday deadline to work out an extension with Utah or he will become a restricted free agent next summer.
  • Also facing a Monday extension deadline is Rodney Hood, who anticipates a larger role in the Jazz offense this season, relays Jody Gennessy of The Deseret News. The fourth-year shooting guard believes Utah, which went unbeaten in the preseason, will be able to replace the contributions of free agent losses Gordon Hayward and George Hill. “It won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be easier than people think because we’ve got guys who can pass the ball and play without the ball,” Hood said.
  • The Trail Blazers won’t work out an extension with center Jusuf Nurkic before Monday, but that doesn’t mean his future won’t be in Portland, according to Mike Richman of The Oregonian. The Blazers traded for Nurkic in February, and the organization would prefer to watch him for a full season before committing to a long-term contract. Nurkic helped propel the team into the playoffs after being acquired from Denver and makes no secret of his affection for Portland. “I love this team,” Nurkic said Friday. “I love this city. I love these teammates. I enjoy it here.”

Kawhi Leonard's Timetable Remains Uncertain

Jarell Martin is the player most likely to be waived by the Grizzlies despite a lack of depth at power forward, according to Chris Herrington of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.  The Grizzlies need to pare two players to reach the 15-man limit and Martin is an inconsistent player who’s not really a stretch four or a defensive force, Herrington continues. The final roster decision will likely come down to guards Andrew Harrison and Wade Baldwin, since it appears Mario Chalmers has re-emerged as a rotation piece, Herrington notes. Harrison is a useful player at the back end of the roster but it would be difficult to give up on Baldwin, a first-round pick last year, Herrington adds. Memphis will likely explore trades involving those players this weekend to facilitate the decision.

In other developments regarding the Western Conference:

  • Marcus Georges-Hunt‘s ability to guard three or four positions makes him the favorite to nab the 14th spot on the Timberwolves’ roster, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. The 6’5” swingman has the edge over rookies Amile Jefferson and Melo Trimble, who will likely be sent to the team’s G League affiliate in Iowa, while another swingman, Anthony Brown, has already signed a two-way contract. However, Minnesota wants to keep the 15th spot open and could also pursue a player that’s waived or bought out as teams make their final roster cuts, Zgoda adds.
  • Omri Casspi has taken a clear lead over Nick Young for a spot in the Warriors’ rotation, Anthony Slater of The Athletic writes. Young got a bigger contract than Casspi when signing with the Warriors this summer but came to camp out of shape while Casspi quickly showed he’s a better fit for coach Steve Kerr’s system, Slater adds.
  • There’s still no apparent timetable for Kawhi Leonard‘s return from a right quad injury, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News reports. The Spurs All-Star forward has spent the entire preseason rehabbing from an injury he originally suffered last season. “We’ve seen him in the gym and in rehab, but he hasn’t scrimmaged, so it’s hard to tell what stage he is in,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili told Orsborn.
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