Spurs Rumors

Southwest Notes: Forbes, McDermott, Doncic, Valanciunas

Bryn Forbes has been providing instant offense throughout his career, so he’s comfortable handling that role with the Spurs, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. The latest example came Thursday night when Forbes delivered 16 points in the fourth quarter of a victory at Portland. Forbes didn’t play in the first half, but got an opportunity when Devin Vassell was sidelined by pain in his right quadriceps.

“I’ve been pretty good at doing that my whole career, just getting hot,” Forbes said. “I can make shots. I’m 42 (percent from 3-point range) for my career, so pretty good chance the ball is going in.”

After winning a title with the Bucks last season, Forbes returned to San Antonio, where he played the first four years of his NBA career. His playing time is down this year, but his shooting percentages have remained high — 48.1% from the field and 41.8% from three-point range.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs forward Doug McDermott was back on the court Thursday after missing the previous four games with a sore right knee, McDonald adds. The knee has been a persistent issue that has sidelined him for seven games overall. “It’s a very minor injury, but it was just kind of nagging for a while,” McDermott said. “It’s nothing serious at all. I just wanted to be careful with it.”
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic underwent an MRI on his left ankle today, tweets Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic, who is being held out of tonight’s game, has been dealing with discomfort since suffering a sprain November 15. “He’s been sore. It’s just been a busy stretch of games,” coach Jason Kidd said.
  • Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas has been improving his three-point shot in recent years, but he’s never had a night like Monday when he went 7-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first half, notes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Some of his teammates started calling him “Dirk Valanciunas” in honor of former Mavericks sharpshooter Dirk Nowitzki. “Everybody wants to be (Dirk). He’s one of the greatest big guys in the game,” said Valanciunas. “But I still gotta work a lot to be like him. I’m just taking what’s out there. If I have an open shot, I’ll take it. If I’m making it, I’ll keep taking it. It’s as simple as that.”

Trail Blazers Fire Neil Olshey

The Trail Blazers have fired general manager and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, the team announced (via Twitter).

Olshey has been under a month-long investigation relating to his actions in the workplace, prompted by accusations of misconduct from at least one team employee. Workers have allegedly been subjected to “intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, among other bullying tactics” from Olshey.

The team addressed the investigation in a release announcing the move, stating that Olshey was terminated “due to violations of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Code of Conduct.”

“Out of respect for those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation, we will not release or discuss it,” the release states. “We are confident that these changes will help build a more positive and respectful working environment.”

Director of player personnel Joe Cronin will take over as interim general manager while the team searches for a permanent replacement, the release adds.

Two candidates who will likely receive consideration for the permanent job are Grizzlies VP of basketball affairs Tayshaun Prince and Spurs VP of basketball operations Brent Barry, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Former Celtics executive Danny Ainge may also be in the mix, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

A source tells Jason Quick of The Athletic that Olshey learned of his firing this morning (Twitter link). Olshey got no indication of the move during discussions Thursday night with vice chair Bert Kolde or team owner Jody Allen, Quick adds.

Olshey, 56, had served as Portland’s general manager since 2012, but there have been rumors for some time that his job was in jeopardy. In addition to the workplace investigation, Olshey has been under fire for the team’s string of first-round playoff exits and received criticism for not being more responsive about the hiring of Chauncey Billups as head coach in light of sexual assault allegations against Billups from 1997.

Several pressing issues will face Olshey’s replacement, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). Damian Lillard has repeatedly expressed a desire to play for a contender, and the Blazers are currently in ninth place in the West at 11-12. The organization will also have to decide whether to hold on to Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic, who both have expiring contracts.

Thaddeus Young: Situation With Spurs “Is Not Ideal For Me”

Thaddeus Young has been a steady contributor throughout his 15 years in the NBA, so he’s having difficulty adjusting to a limited role with the Spurs, writes Alex Kennedy of Basketball News.

The 33-year-old power forward was acquired by San Antonio in August in the deal that sent DeMar DeRozan to Chicago. He’s serving as a veteran presence on a very young team, but he’s not getting the minutes that he has been accustomed to. Kennedy notes that over the past two weeks, Young has played eight minutes or fewer four times.

“Right now, this situation is not ideal for me,” Young said during an appearance on Kennedy’s podcast. “I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to settle for four and six minutes a game.” 

Young has remained productive into his 30s and is coming off one of his best seasons last year with the Bulls. He received the NBA’s 2021 Hustle Award, recognizing the player who makes the most energy and effort plays, while averaging 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. Those numbers have fallen significantly this season as Young is playing just 15.6 minutes per night after averaging 24.3 last year.

Young was a part-time starter during his two seasons in Chicago, but he’s filling a back-of-the-rotation role in San Antonio, where the emphasis is on developing young talent.

“It’s super tough. It’s very tough and frustrating at times,” said Young, who is the only player on the roster older than 30. “But at the end of the day, I understand where this franchise is going and I understand what’s happening — the young guys have to play. Whatever happens, happens. It’s just a matter of trusting in my faith and trusting in my craft and trusting in the time that I put into the game each and every day. I’m a 15-year veteran and I’m still one of the last to leave the gym and I’m still showing up early, putting in a lot of time and a lot of work. 

“If I’m not playing in games, then I have to figure out some way to stay in shape, so I’ve been doing my after-the-game conditioning as well as showing up early for three-on-three sessions. I’m not supposed to be playing those three-on-three sessions because I’m a vet, but in order to stay in shape, I have to do something. So I’m playing in three-on-three sessions with the younger guys and some of the coaches and just trying to keep my feel for the game and timing.”

With a $14.19MM expiring contract, there should be plenty of demand for Young before the February 10 trade deadline. The market figures to start opening up after December 15 when most free agents who signed over the summer become eligible to be traded. Until he’s moved, Young plans to do whatever he’s asked to and will avoid becoming a distraction.

“The one thing I’ve prided myself on is just continuing to be professional and making sure that if I’m part of a team, I’m part of that team,” he said. “I’m not one foot in and one foot out. If I’m putting on that jersey and they’re paying me and they’re putting their trust in me, I’m going to make sure that I’m there for them. I think that’s one of the biggest things.”

Keldon Johnson Willing To Sign Extension

Keldon Johnson is open to signing a rookie scale extension with the Spurs, he told The Athletic’s Shams Charania in an interview (video link). Johnson can sign an extension next offseason. “I love being in San Antonio, I love the Spurs, I would definitely love to be there (long-term),” he said. “We’ll cross that road when we get there.” Johnson is averaging 14.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG and 2.1 APG this season.

Spurs Notes: White, Young, Three-Point Shooting, COVID Testing

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said this week that guard Derrick White, in the first year of his new four-year, $68MM contract, is showing significant improvements thanks to his newfound confidence after injuries and the coronavirus derailed his 2020/21 season, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. White, 27, dealt with a toe surgery, an ankle sprain, and a COVID-related absence last year.

“With those injuries, it really wrecked his confidence,” Popovich said of the fifth-year guard. “He had to sit around for a long time. When he came back, he just had no rhythm and wasn’t really confident.”

The 6’4″ White, selected with the No. 29 pick out of Colorado in 2017, is averaging 12.1 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 3.4 RPG in 19 games this season.

There’s more out of San Antonio:

  • New Spurs forward Thaddeus Young spoke with Alex Kennedy of Basketball News on Kennedy’s podcast about his surprise at being traded from the Bulls to the Spurs, as well as several other topics. “Definitely caught me off guard for the simple fact [that]… my agent had just talked to everyone in Chicago, and we were being told that I was coming back,” Young said. “The only thing I had wished was that I had [gotten] the heads-up before [finding out on] social [media].” When asked about how long he hoped to continue playing in the NBA, the 15-year vet remained open-minded. “For me, it’s just a matter of just getting minutes,” Young said. “So far this season I haven’t really played as much as I’ve played in the past, but with the time I have been given I’ve been productive.”
  • San Antonio continues hoping to improve its three-point shooting, several years removed from the tenure of ex-Spur and three-point specialist Davis Bertans, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. McDonald notes that the Spurs are last in the NBA in triples for the second consecutive season thus far. Having made 9.9 three-pointers per game last season, the Spurs are currently converting even fewer threes than that in 2021/22, at 9.7 a night. “You have to keep up with threes or you are in trouble,” Popovich said. “In today’s game, that’s the deal.”
  • The Spurs have been receptive to the league’s more frequent COVID-19 testing around the Thanksgiving holiday, writes Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “I don’t want to get my kids sick,” said Spurs shooting guard Bryn Forbes. “I don’t want to get my family sick. I would never want to risk any of their lives or any of their health for anything. I think it’s important we test.” Spurs big man Drew Eubanks echoed these concerns. “I don’t go out too often … trying to wait until things die down a little bit to go shopping and stuff,” Eubanks said of exercising caution due to the ongoing pandemic. “I just got my (COVID) booster (shot) the other day and am just trying to stay up to date on what to do and what the new developments are.”

Southwest Notes: Poeltl, Landale, Zion, Silas

Spurs center Jakob Poeltl returned to action last Thursday after missing six games due to COVID-19, but he’s still feeling the effects of the layoff, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Poeltl, who is fully vaccinated, was in the league’s health and safety protocols for 16 days and said the adjustment of returning to a full-time schedule has been difficult.

“I had to get my conditioning, but also sitting at home for a week and a half, you’re not shooting the basketball,” he said. “It’s tough to get back in game rhythm. But it’s feeling better with every minute I am out there.”

Poeltl, who moved into the starting lineup in the middle of last season, has been putting up career-best numbers this year with 12.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He said recovering from the virus has been different than coming back after being injured.

“It’s a little weird, because with getting COVID and stuff, it takes the wind away,” Poeltl said. “Everybody is cautious about running or whether you’re putting out too much energy. So even the build-up process was slower than it would be for a regular injury.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs rookie center Jock Landale has also cleared protocols, McDonald adds. Landale, who has only appeared in four games this season, is available tonight for the first time since November 10.
  • The Pelicans are waiting for a foot specialist to process the latest scans on Zion Williamson, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Williamson has been playing 1-on-1 and 3-on-3 games, but hasn’t been cleared to participate in practice. The team expects the results to be available within a few days.
  • Amid rumors about his job security, Rockets coach Stephen Silas hasn’t lost track of his dual responsibilities of trying to get a few wins while developing his young players, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston. “It’s yeah, we want to win a game,” Silas said in tonight’s pre-game session with the media. “We want to get off this (15-game losing) streak. We want to get off this slide and I want it so badly for the group, but I also understand it’s developing these guys and I got to do both.”

Spurs Notes: Players’ Meeting, Landale, COVID Concerns, Walker

The Spurs held a players-only meeting in the locker room after last Thursday’s 25-point loss to the Timberwolves, forward Thaddeus Young informed Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. “We took that butt whooping and we went back into the locker room and we talked for 20, 30 minutes, the whole team,” Young said. “Everyone voiced their issues and their points.”

Second-year lottery pick Devin Vassell was among those who spoke most eloquently.

“He basically said, ‘Come on. Let’s try to figure this thing out. Let’s talk about it. Let’s put everything out there on the table,'” Young said.

Young viewed that as a positive sign for the team building around young players.

“That’s what you want from young guys. I could do it, but at the end of the day, you want these younger guys to start stepping up,” Young said (Twitter links here).

San Antonio had the weekend off and will face Phoenix on Monday.

We have more on the Spurs:

  • Big man Jock Landale has entered the reconditioning phase after being cleared from the league’s health and safety protocols, Orsborn tweets. Landale entered protocols approximately two weeks ago and hasn’t played since November 1.
  • Though the team is fully vaccinated and some have received booster shots, players are wary of contracting the virus and are taking more precautions on the road, forward Doug McDermott told Orsborn. “That (being vaccinated) still doesn’t mean anything because you still see positive tests. I think a good example was in the NFL,” McDermott said. “You are seeing a lot of positive cases there and I think the same will be true of us (in the NBA) around Thanksgiving.”
  • Guard Lonnie Walker IV holds no hard feelings toward Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince, Orsborn writes. Prince was ejected after being issued a Flagrant 2 foul for striking Walker in the chest and face during the second half as Walker drove to the basket. “It was fine,” Walker said. “I’ve gotten hit a lot worse than that. I don’t think it was on purpose. I’m real cool with Prince.”

Spurs Notes: Johnson, Popovich, Murray, Poeltl, Eubanks, Young

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson has signed with Klutch Sports for representation, the agency announced earlier this week (via Twitter). Johnson is still on his rookie contract, but will become extension-eligible for the first time during the 2022 offseason.

As Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes, Johnson was previously represented by Fundamental Sports Management, an agency based in San Antonio. Johnson said he has “nothing but good words to say” about FSM, but decided that a change in representation was the best business move for his career.

“It was long and thought-out, but at the end of the day, I am up and coming, and I just wanted the best representation,” Johnson said.

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • The Spurs’ 4-11 record is tied for the third-worst mark in the NBA, but head coach Gregg Popovich is still having a good time working with his young roster, Orsborn writes for the Express-News. “They are growing, doing little things better all the time,” Popovich said after Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers. “Frustrating to lose, but when a team is working that hard and willing to learn, it’s enjoyable as hell, even in a loss. I’m proud of the way they are competing. Now we just have to make fewer mistakes and have a couple of guys play better.”
  • Dejounte Murray, who is in the second season of a four-year contract with San Antonio, has been a bright spot for the team so far, as Orsborn says in another Express-News story. “We haven’t exactly amazed the world, but if we didn’t have him we would be in big trouble,” Popovich said on Thursday. “He’s looking for other teammates to join him in playing as well as he is.” Murray struggled in the Spurs’ Thursday loss to Minnesota, but still has impressive season-long averages of 18.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 7.8 APG, and 2.0 SPG.
  • After missing seven games due to a symptomatic case of COVID-19, Jakob Poeltl returned to action on Thursday. However, he’s facing a minutes restriction and was limited to a season-low 15 minutes in his return. “I honestly felt pretty good conditioning-wise,” he said after the game, per Orsborn. “But I feel like I still need to get my rhythm again. It’s kind of weird playing these short, limited minutes. It’s tough to get into the game.”
  • In yet another story for the Express-News, Orsborn takes a closer look at the bond that has developed between young center Drew Eubanks and veteran forward Thaddeus Young, who has served as a mentor to Eubanks. “We have a great relationship,” Eubanks said. “He’s always in my ear.”

DeRozan Thought Offseason Move To Lakers Was “Done Deal”

Before he agreed to a three-year, $81MM+ deal with the Bulls over the summer, veteran forward DeMar DeRozan believed he’d be headed to the Lakers, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

According to Haynes, DeRozan’s agent Aaron Goodwin was working “feverishly” behind the scenes with the Spurs in the days leading up to free agency to orchestrate a sign-and-trade deal that would send his client to Los Angeles. However, the Lakers’ talks with San Antonio tapered off as they pivoted to a trade for Russell Westbrook, forcing DeRozan to go in another direction as well.

“I felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal and that we were going to figure it out. I was going to come home,” DeRozan told Haynes after the Bulls’ victory over the Lakers on Monday. “The business side of things just didn’t work out. A couple of things didn’t align. It didn’t work out. It’s just part of the business, part of the game. My next option was definitely Chicago. So, looking back at it, it worked out well.”

Although there were multiple offseason reports linking DeRozan to his hometown Lakers, this is the first indication we’ve gotten that a potential deal gained real traction. The Lakers also reportedly seriously considered the possibility of trading for Buddy Hield before instead opting for Westbrook.

Acquiring a player via sign-and-trade would’ve hard-capped the Lakers’ team salary at $143MM in 2021/22, so it makes sense that the club preferred to trade for a player on an existing contract, avoiding that hard cap. Given how DeRozan and Westbrook have played so far this season, Los Angeles may be regretting its decision, but DeRozan told Haynes he doesn’t look at it that way.

“Nah, Russ is a Hall-of-Fame player,” DeRozan said. “It’s hard to turn down that caliber of player. I can’t speak for the Lakers, but they went with what they felt was best for them. And all due respect to them. No hard feelings. No animosity, but I just look at it as part of the game. A deal is never done until it’s done. I learned that. It just didn’t work out. I’m just happy I’m in Chicago.”

The Clippers were also considered a viable suitor for DeRozan during free agency, and the 32-year-old acknowledges L.A.’s other team was in the mix. However, he told Haynes it “didn’t get as far as the Lakers situation.”

Since the Lakers agreed to trade for Westbrook on draft day (July 29), four days before free agency opened, DeRozan’s comments and Haynes’ report suggest the Spurs and Lakers may have violated the NBA’s gun-jumping rules if they were exploring a sign-and-trade that early in the offseason. Given that the Bulls are currently being investigated for possible gun-jumping in their Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade, perhaps DeRozan’s insinuation that other teams were engaging in similar conversations wasn’t an accident.

Poeltl's Inside Presence Has Been Missed

Jakob Poeltl has been out since November 1 due to the league’s health and safety protocols and the Spurs have missed his inside presence, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. Poeltl is the team’s top rebounder at 9.7 per game.

“We are a small team,” Spurs forward Thaddeus Young said. “We are shorthanded most nights as far as getting rebounds and being physical under the basket.”

Poeltl is back with the Spurs, but won’t play on Tuesday due to reconditioning.