Serge Ibaka

Serge Ibaka, Robin Lopez Get One-Game Suspensions

The NBA has suspended Raptors forward Serge Ibaka and Bulls center Robin Lopez one game apiece for their roles in Tuesday night’s on-court incident in Toronto, per a press release. Lopez will miss Chicago’s game tonight against the Pistons, while Ibaka will sit out the Raptors’ game on Thursday night in Miami.

During the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game between the Raptors and Bulls, Lopez and Ibaka got into an altercation that escalated into a near-fistfight. Both players threw punches, though Lopez missed hitting Ibaka, and Ibaka’s blow just grazed Lopez.

Although the fight could have been worse, it’s still a bit of a surprise that both players received just one-game bans. There was speculation that Ibaka could get a two- or three-game suspension and that Lopez could get an extra game on top of taht for throwing the first punch. Instead, both players received relatively light punishments, though they’ll lose a game’s worth of pay as they serve their respective suspensions.

Raptors assistant Jamaal Magloire was also penalized as a result of the altercation, having been fined $15K for pushing Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, the league announced.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Ibaka, Bradley

Despite the fact that the Nets mortgaged their future for a shot at short-term success back in 2013, the franchise has shown flashes of promise throughout a long rebuild. Buddy Grizzard of Basketball Insiders recently wrote about the years-long process, pointing out that for all the up-hill challenges the club’s general managers have faced, they’ve done a decent job drafting young talent.

When the club first moved to from New Jersey to Brooklyn, first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 were all sent to Boston in exchange for a package surrounding Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Suffice it to say, the bold gamble didn’t pay off for the franchise but the organization is making the most out of the scant cards they dealt themselves.

Grizzard mentions former general manager Billy King‘s selection of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the 2015 draft as an intriguing aspect of the current roster, as well as current general manager Sean Marks‘ decision to nab Caris LeVert at No. 20 in 2016.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • After missing 18 games with an Achilles injury, Avery Bradley had been on a minute restriction for the Celtics. As of March 12th the limitations are no longer, says A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England.
  • Say what you will about Cory Joseph backing up the injured Kyle Lowry, but one thing the reserve hasn’t been able to replicate is Lowry’s three-point shooting. “We’re more of a spread-it team,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said Monday night, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “Cory’s an attack guy, but he’s going into where everybody else is. It’s not that Cory’s doing something wrong; that’s just his game. When Kyle’s in there, he can space out and be one of the (pass) receivers out there.”
  • When the Raptors acquired Serge Ibaka, they added a rare force capable of impacting a basketball game without scoring a point, Ryan Wolstat of the National Post writes. Ibaka did just that on Monday night, finishing with a plus-18 rating despite not scoring a single basket.

 

Five Key 2017 Free Agents Impacted By Trades

Expiring contracts are a popular form of currency at the NBA trade deadline when teams are looking to get deals done and create future cap flexibility. In some cases, that means including a player like Andrew Bogut, who has an $11MM expiring contract, can be advantageous for both teams involved in a trade — by moving Bogut, the Mavericks avoided pushing up against the luxury tax, while the Sixers reached the salary floor.

Bogut was waived shortly after being traded to Philadelphia though, so his 2017 free agency wasn’t impacted in a real way by the deadline deal. However, there were several players moved in the hours, days, and weeks leading up to last month’s trade deadline who will be free agents in 2017 and whose change of scenery will significantly impact their situation this summer.

Here’s a closer look at five players eligible for free agency in 2017 who were affected by being traded in February, including one player who was involved in that Sixers/Mavs swap along with Bogut…

Nerlens Noel, Mavericks (RFA)Nerlens Noel vertical

For much of the 2016/17 season, Noel’s long-term outlook was cloudy. The Sixers certainly had no shortage of future cap room, which would have made it easy for them to match any offers Noel received in restricted free agency and retain him for several more years. It’s possible that – if they hadn’t found an acceptable trade offer at the deadline for Noel – they would have done just that this summer, rather than losing him for nothing.

But the Sixers never seemed like a logical long-term fit for Noel, with Joel Embiid in place as the team’s franchise center and Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes also in the mix. While the club may have found a way to make an Embiid/Noel pairing work if the former sixth overall pick had remained on the roster, Noel reportedly preferred to be dealt to a team where he’d have the starting center job to himself.

In Dallas, he’ll have exactly that, and the Mavericks like Noel enough that they’re expected to match any offer sheet he signs this summer. Pursuing Noel in restricted free agency might have saved Dallas a couple second-round picks and the rights to Justin Anderson, but there was no guarantee the club could have pried him away from the Sixers or another team. Now, the Mavs will be the overwhelming favorites to retain Noel for the next few seasons.

Serge Ibaka, Raptors (UFA)

Ibaka is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so where he finishes the season isn’t as significant as it would be for a restricted free agent like Noel. Still, for rival suitors hoping to land Ibaka, his move from Orlando to Toronto is a big deal.

When reports first began swirling about the Magic’s efforts to move Ibaka, several sources suggested that the odds of the big man re-signing in Orlando were slim. The Magic held Ibaka’s Bird rights at the time, giving them the opportunity to offer five years instead of four, with slightly larger raises, but with Orlando headed for the lottery, Ibaka seemed likely to seek out a team closer to contention.

Having been sent to the Raptors, Ibaka has found a team that fits that bill. GM Masai Ujiri has long coveted the former Thunder power forward, and all signs point to Toronto making a strong effort this summer to lock up Ibaka. Before (and after) the trade, the Raptors were in no position to open up a real chunk of cap room this summer, barring a major roster overhaul. So the fact that they now hold Ibaka’s Bird rights, giving them the ability to go over the cap to re-sign him, means they’ve gone from being a non-contender for his services to the new frontrunner.

Taj Gibson, Thunder (UFA)

Like Ibaka, Gibson is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s also not a candidate for a maximum salary offer or a five-year contract, so the fact that the Thunder hold his Bird rights isn’t as important as it would be for some other free agents.Taj Gibson vertical

Still, when an NBA veteran has spent the better part of eight seasons with a single franchise and that team trades him a few months before he hits free agency, the odds of him returning to that team probably aren’t great. During the last couple weeks, we’ve seen Gibson wear a different NBA uniform for the first time in his NBA career, and it’s possible that he’ll put on a third uniform later this year.

That’s not to say the Thunder should be ruled out as a candidate to sign Gibson though. Oklahoma City projects to remain over the cap this summer, so holding Gibson’s Bird rights could be important — if he proves to be a solid fit in OKC, the team would be able to go over the cap to re-sign him.

Bojan Bogdanovic, Wizards (RFA)

Despite playing in New York City, Bogdanovic was toiling in relative obscurity on the NBA-worst Nets this season. Now he’s a key contributor on the No. 3 seed in the East, and he has gotten off to a scorching start in Washington, making 3.3 three-pointers per game at a rate of 58.8% so far. He won’t stay that hot all season, but if he continues to make big shots and remains productive in the playoffs, he’ll improve his free agent stock much more than he could have in Brooklyn.

Bogdanovic’s move from Brooklyn to Washington also could create some interesting new scenarios when it comes to offer sheets. The Nets have plenty of long-term cap flexibility and could have matched any offer for Bogdanovic if they’d wanted to. The Wizards, on the other hand, have already committed major money to John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Ian Mahinmi, among others, and they’ll likely have to go up to the max – or close to it – to re-sign Otto Porter this summer. Will the team be willing to spend on Bogdanovic as well? That remains to be seen.

Mason Plumlee, Nuggets (RFA)

After re-signing three restricted free agents last offseason, the Trail Blazers apparently had no interest in going through the process again this year, and sent Plumlee to a team that has more flexibility to retain him this summer — Denver only has about $55MM in guaranteed salary on its 2017/18 books, as opposed to an incredible $132MM+ for Portland.

After starting every game he played in for the Blazers this season, Plumlee is coming off the bench in Denver, but that shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign that the Nuggets don’t like him. Having sent a first-round pick to Portland in the deal, the Nuggets presumably intend to match any offer sheet Plumlee gets as a restricted free agent, even though he’ll be a second-stringer behind Nikola Jokic. That’s discouraging news for any rival teams that had been hoping to swoop in and steal Plumlee away from the cap-strapped Blazers later this year.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Knicks, Horford

It doesn’t make sense for the Sixers to bring Joel Embiid back before the end of the season, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The big man has been sidelined for 17 of the past 18 games with a bone bruise and has also suffered a slightly torn meniscus.

At this point all the Sixers will say is that their rookie is out “indefinitely,” an escalation, we suppose, from the “day-to-day” label he’d been sitting under previously. For Embiid, however, the club should just come out and say that he’ll rest for the remainder of the season.

It would be great for us as a unit to have him out there as we continue to strive forward toward winning as the season concludes,” general manager Bryan Colangelo said. “But at the end of the day, the health and performance of our athletes is first and foremost, we don’t want to jeopardize the long-term health.”

In the games that he did see this season, Embiid impressed, averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per contest. He was named the Eastern Conference rookie of the month in the first three months of the season and even won Eastern Conference players of the week once in January.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks have elected to bring back the triangle offense, tweets Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. The club will use the remaining months of the season to determine which players best fit the system. Head coach Jeff Hornacek tells Ian Begley of ESPN that it will be a part of this summer’s player evaluations, too.
  • It’s clear that the Celtics believe they need two major pieces in order to compete for a title, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. That explains, he says, why the team didn’t jump on opportunities to nab Paul George or Jimmy Butler at the trade deadline.
  • The Raptors‘ defense has been rebranded, writes Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun, and players have already taken notice. “I just know that the defence behind me is strong,” says guard Cory Joseph. “When the pick and roll comes I’m going to get the early calls and will understand exactly what to do. It just allows me to do what I need to do, executing the task at hand and play more aggressively.” The Raps, of course, added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker prior to last week’s trade deadline.
  • Summer acquisition Al Horford hasn’t been utilized as well as he could be, writes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. The big man is too often left on the perimeter while the Celtics shoot threes. Washburn writes that head coach Brad Stevens ought to devise better ways to get the center involved now that the trade deadline is in the rearview mirror.

Pacers Notes: George, Ibaka, Trades

The Pacers are banking on Paul George to make the All-NBA team this season so they can offer him the new designated mega-extension this summer, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Lowe opines that George is unlikely to earn that honor this season, which would limit what Indiana can offer and therefore would decrease the likelihood that the star forward stays in town long-term.

George could still qualify for that mega extension if he makes an All-NBA team next season. If he earns the honor at that time, the Pacers would only have months to negotiation an extension, as he will be a free agent come July 2018.

Here’s more from Indiana:

  • The Pacers weren’t interested in acquiring Serge Ibaka, Lowe hears. The team reportedly is interested in trading its first-rounder in exchange for an established wing or frontcourt player.
  • George would like the team to add a player who can shoot and defend on the wing, J.Michael of Comcast Sportsnet relays. “We definitely need shooters, somebody that can defend and stretch the floor for us a little bit more. Just go with the trend what the NBA is doing,” said George. “A lot of teams have stretch bigs or playing four perimeter guys that can shoot the ball. We got to follow the trend and put ourselves on that level to compete against those stretch teams.”
  • Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star believes the clock is ticking on George’s time with the Pacers. George wants to play for a championship-caliber team and Indiana doesn’t appear to be a serious contender. Doyel argues that the team should consider trading George as it can’t risk losing him for nothing next summer.

Atlantic Notes: Ibaka, Raptors, Knicks

When the Raptors return from the All-Star Break they won’t have long to incorporate newly acquired Serge Ibaka into their lineup. Team leaders DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are well aware of the fact that they’ll have to hit the ground running, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

With a veteran like Serge who understands fitting in and everything about the league, I don’t think it should take long,” Raptors guard DeRozan said. “It’s on us to hop out the gate and take advantage. […] It’s given us a jolt.”

The Raptors currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 33-24 record but a recent slide has pushed the club out of the No. 2 spot that they occupied for the first few months of the season. The decision to ship core guard Terrence Ross to the Magic in exchange for Ibaka raises the stakes for the franchise.

We ain’t got time. You know that,” Lowry said. The Raptors return to action Friday.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

Hoops Links: Lowry, Embiid, Antetokounmpo, Porzingis, Nicholson

On Sundays, we link to some of the very best work from around the basketball blogosphere. Do you have a link to a great basketball blog post – either your own or someone else’s – that you want to see featured on Hoops Rumors? Send it to us at [email protected]. Here’s this week’s rundown:

Atlantic Notes: Jackson, Okafor, Atkinson, Ibaka, Porzingis

Knicks legend Willis Reed had an interesting take on the team’s leadership woes. The Hall of Famer suggested Phil Jackson take the helm as head coach, replacing Jeff Hornacek. 

“Unfortunately for us as Knicks fans, if Phil Jackson had been coaching all year, we would’ve won more games,’’ Reed told Marc Berman of The New York Post. “His toughness and ability to make guys concentrate, that’s what I loved about him as a coach. He got guys to play harder and smarter…He’s got a history with Kobe, Jordan and Shaquille and made them champions.”

Reed was critical of Jackson’s inability to find a suitable head coach during his run as Knicks president, citing Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis, and Hornacek as disappointments. Jackson’s most recent season as a head coach came with the Lakers in 2010/11, in which L.A. finished with a 57-25 record.

More from the Atlantic…

  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN discussed Jahlil Okafor in a recent mailbag, calling the Pelicans the best fit for the former #3 overall pick. In the event that Okafor isn’t traded at the deadline, however, Pelton named the Bucks as a potential landing spot over the offseason. Milwaukee big man Greg Monroe may opt out of his contract, making Okafor a logical candidate to slide into his role.
  • Brian Lewis of the New York Post handed out individual grades to the 9-47 Nets. Kenny Atkinson received a B-, as the rookie head coach has done a good job of keeping his players focused despite their gaudy record. GM Sean Marks was given a C+, largely due to his inability to capitalize on Yogi Ferrell‘s potential, and wasting $4MM on Greivis Vasquez.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr gave props to the Celtics, saying Brad Stevens‘ squad is well-positioned for the future. “Because of the young talent, because of the coach [Brad Stevens] and because of the draft picks that they have coming up. They could end up with the number one pick in the draft, which is remarkable,” Kerr said. “Boston’s in a great place. I have a lot of respect for Brad and Danny [Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations] for what they’ve done and obviously, Isaiah Thomas. They’ve been a great story this year.”
  • According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, the Raptors received assurances that Serge Ibaka would re-sign after the season. Ibaka, who has yet to make his team debut, will be expected to help lift Toronto out of their recent funk- entering the All-Star break having dropped six of their last 10. As Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders points out, if Toronto doesn’t retain Ibaka over the offseason, their cap space can expand to $21.2MM.
  • Kristaps Porzingis has struggled to get on the same page as Derrick Rose, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “We’re still trying to find that connection between us, where we know exactly where the guy’s going to be,’’ Porzingis said. “We have to get a really good feel for each other. That doesn’t happen overnight. We’re still trying to work on that.’’ An anonymous NBA source added fuel to the fire, observing “I don’t think Derrick is helping Porzingis’s growth, with his head down going to the basket, not really looking for him.’’

Celtics May Pursue Danilo Gallinari

The Celtics may try to pick up Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari before Thursday’s trade deadline, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.

Boston GM Danny Ainge has long been a fan of Gallinari, according to Bulpett, and has tried to deal for him before. There haven’t been any trade rumors linking the Celtics and Gallinari this year, but the author notes that was also true with Isaiah Thomas before Ainge dealt for him two years ago.

Gallinari has been slowed by a groin injury and hasn’t played since February 1st. He has a player option worth $16.1MM next season.

Boston is hoping to add another scorer through trade, and Ainge has been active in talks during All-Star Weekend, both as a main participant and a facilitator, according to Bulpett. So far, Ainge hasn’t found a deal worth giving up his most valuable assets, which include the Nets’ first-rounders this season and in 2018.

“Danny’s let it be known that he’s willing to talk about the Nets’ picks,” said an unidentified executive. “But you want one of those guys, you have to be willing to give up a star.”

Ainge would also prefer to stay away from players whose contracts expire this year or next year. The Celtics had some interest in Serge Ibaka before Orlando traded him to Toronto, but they weren’t willing to part with much because they weren’t sure they could re-sign him in free agency.

Bulpett adds that the Celtics are very protective of their cap space and are reluctant to make a move that would hurt them on the free agent market. He speculates that it would take someone like Jimmy Butler or Paul George to tempt Boston to add significant salary in a pre-deadline trade.

The Celtics are also significantly less interested in trading for Jahlil Okafor than they were a year ago, Bulpett notes. They had talked to the Sixers about an Okafor deal at last year’s deadline, but after signing Al Horford the Celtics only want front-line players who they believe are compatible with him. Boston might have more interest in Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel, but the team won’t offer as much as it would have in 2016.

The author believes the Celtics would love to pick up Andrew Bogut from Dallas if the Mavericks decide to be sellers, but again wouldn’t pay a high price in a deal.

Southeast Notes: Battier, Beal, Ibaka, Ross, Mahinmi

Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel wondered if Shane Battier, recently hired as the Heat‘s Director of Basketball Development and Analytics, will eventually assume leadership of the franchise from Pat Riley. For the interim, Winderman writes, Battier’s position will be the “first step” toward a post-Riley front office. Battier will work alongside Andy Elisburg and Nick Arison, executives with an advanced “business-of-basketball” acumen. While there is no reason to believe Riley is ready to step away from the game, Winderman could see Riley moving into a role similar to Jerry West’s with the Lakers; an executive board member who isn’t accountable for mundane, day-to-day front office operations.

More from around the Southeast…

  • Jared Dudley of the Suns stuck up for his former teammate, claiming Bradley Beal was snubbed of an All-Star roster spot. “The @NBA tells us players that winning matters! Wizards are the hottest team in the NBA! Bradley Beal is healthy and balling!”, Dudley tweeted on Thursday. (Twitter link) Keely Diven of CSN Mid-Atlantic argued that Carmelo Anthony received the All-Star nod due to his ability to attract media attention. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today gave further insight to ‘Melo’s selection, noting that Anthony received more votes from coaches than Beal.
  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders described it as “a little obvious” that Serge Ibaka did not bond with his teammates in Orlando. Ibaka, who was dealt to Toronto on February 14, didn’t mesh with the playing styles of Orlando’s younger players (Twitter link). By Kyler’s account, it seems that Ibaka’s teammates “had real issues” with the 27-year-old, and welcomed a change.
  • Terrence Ross told Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders that he embraced the “fresh start” in Orlando. “I was kind of aware that something could have been happening before the deadline so it wasn’t too shocking,” Ross said. “At the same time, being drafted to a team and playing for one team, it’s a little different, but I’m enjoying the process. It’s a good opportunity. It’s a new fresh start for me and I’m looking forward to it. I just kind of hope we can bring some of that experience I got in Toronto and bring it here, and really just helping wherever I can.” Ross, who has averaged 10.4 points through 54 games in 2016/17, is in the first season of a three-year, $31.5MM contract.
  • Jason Smith will likely see a dip in minutes as the Wizards ease Ian Mahinmi into the lineup, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes. Smith, who has averaged 7.8 points with 4.8 rebounds over his last six games, has been a serviceable back-up to starter Marcin Gortat“What he’s [Smith] done the last two or three months is what he’s done his entire career and he’s been terrific,” said Coach Scott Brooks. “But if you have a good team, everybody’s going to have to sacrifice. It’s not just Jason, starters are going to have to sacrifice.”
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