Serge Ibaka

Atlantic Notes: James, Ibaka, Monroe

Speculation about LeBron James signing with the Sixers is a tease, Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes. The scribe opines that it’s more likely the superstar either signs with Los Angeles or, more likely, stays in Cleveland.

Ford writes that it would play well for the Ohio product to stay home after having already departed the city once in his career. What’s more, he adds that the King’s vision of the Sixers may be slightly different than what Philly sees. Technically speaking, much of the club’s future hinges on a big man with a troubling injury concerns and a rookie with holes in his game.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that James looks elsewhere, however, it could be beneficial for the Sixers to build organically from within rather than inking a ringer to take them from The Process to The Endgame.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • After a year with the Raptors, it’s still difficult to gauge Serge Ibaka‘s value, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. The big man has established himself as a more imposing shooter but has been inconsistent so far in 2017/18.
  • The Celtics understand that there will be situations where Greg Monroe can have a major impact on basketball games. The 265-pound big man recently seized an opportunity to impress his new teammates, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes.
  • In an in-depth feature profile, Eric Koreen of The Athletic breaks down the circumstances that brought Fred VanVleet to the Raptors as an undrafted free agent out of Wichita State. These days the 24-year-old is a vital piece of the club’s revered second-unit.

Nikola Mirotic, 15 Others Become Trade-Eligible

Today is January 15, which means that trade restrictions have lifted for most of the rest of the NBA’s 2017 offseason signees. While the majority of those ’17 free agents became trade-eligible on December 15, there was a small subset of free agent signees whose trade ineligibility lasted for another month.

The 16 players whose trade restrictions lift today meet a specific set of criteria: Not only did they re-sign with their previous teams this offseason, but they received raises of at least 20%, their salaries are worth more than the minimum, and their teams were over the cap, using Bird or Early Bird rights to sign them.

The most notable name in this group is Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic. He’s not the best player on the list — Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry would be among those vying for that honor. But Mirotic is the most likely player to be dealt out of the 16 guys becoming trade-eligible today. He has been linked to a handful of teams already, including the Jazz, Pistons, and Trail Blazers.

Here are the 16 players becoming trade-eligible today:

With three and a half weeks left until this season’s February 8 trade deadline, nearly all of the NBA’s players are now eligible to be dealt. The only players still ineligible to be moved are those who signed free agent contracts later than October 15, plus certain players who signed contract extensions in the offseason.

Hawks guard Isaiah Taylor (January 17), Nuggets forward Richard Jefferson (January 19), and Pelicans guard Jameer Nelson (January 22) are now the only remaining players who will become trade-eligible between today and February 8. For the full list of players who won’t become trade-eligible before this year’s deadline, click here.

Serge Ibaka, James Johnson Receive One-Game Suspensions

Raptors big man Serge Ibaka and Heat forward James Johnson have each been hit with one-game suspensions for their roles in an altercation that took place in Tuesday night’s game in Toronto, the NBA announced today. The two veterans exchanged punches midway through the third quarter.

DeMar DeRozan and Goran Dragic were also penalized for getting into it during Tuesday’s game, but they avoided suspensions. DeRozan was fined $25K, while Dragic received a $10K fine.

The Raptors will now be without Ibaka for Thursday night’s showdown with the Cavaliers, a game that Kyle Lowry is also expected to miss due to a bruised tailbone. While Toronto will be short-handed for that game, the team will gain a little more breathing room below the tax threshold with Ibaka losing a game’s worth of salary, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks details in a tweet.

As for Johnson, he’ll miss the Heat’s Wednesday game in Indiana.

Raptors Suspend Serge Ibaka For One Game

The Raptors have suspended forward Serge Ibaka for one game due to a violation of team rules, the team announced in a press release on Friday (via Twitter). Ibaka’s suspension is the result of an altercation with a Raptors staff member after a game against the Thunder on December 27.

“Both parties have apologized. We’ve discussed this internally as a team, and we won’t be discussing it any further,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement about the suspension. “Now we’re focused on moving forward together, and we look forward to having Serge back in the lineup.”

Ibaka, 28, has been solid for Toronto this season, averaging 13.8 PPG and 6.0 RPG in 30 games. He will miss tonight’s game against the Hawks but should be ready for team’s next contest against the Bucks on Monday.

Raptors Re-Sign Serge Ibaka To Three-Year Deal

JULY 7: The Raptors have issued a press release formally confirming their new deal with Ibaka.Serge Ibaka vertical

“We are thrilled with the skills and intangibles Serge brings to our team,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “He is one of the top two-way power forwards in the NBA and his ability to stretch the floor is a valuable asset today’s game.”

JULY 2: The Raptors have reached an agreement on a new deal for Serge Ibaka, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. According to Wojnarowski, Ibaka has agreed to sign a three-year contract worth $65MM to remain in Toronto.

Ibaka, who will turn 28 in February, initially joined the Raptors in a trade deadline deal back in February, as the Magic sent him to Toronto in exchange for a package that featured Terrence Ross and a first-round pick. The veteran big man averaged 14.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 1.4 BPG with a .398 3PT% down the stretch for the Raptors, and there was a sense that the two sides wanted to continue the relationship beyond this year.

Ibaka is no longer the dominant rim protector that he was during his prime years in Oklahoma City, when he led the NBA in blocks in consecutive seasons. However, he has developed into a legitimate outside threat, setting new career bests in three-point percentage (39.1%) and threes per game (1.6) in 2016/17.

With Ibaka back in the fold, it seems likely that the Raptors will also lock up free agent point guard Kyle Lowry. Ibaka and Lowry share an agent in ASM’s Andy Miller, and while the duo isn’t necessarily viewed as a package deal this summer, it makes sense for Toronto to retain both, since the team won’t have the cap flexibility to sign a comparable replacement for Lowry if he leaves. The fact that the Raptors are reportedly discussing a Cory Joseph trade with Indiana also bodes well for Lowry’s return.

[RELATED UPDATE: Raptors to re-sign Kyle Lowry]

It remains to be seen how Ibaka’s new deal with the Raptors will affect incumbent center Jonas Valanciunas. The majority of Toronto’s most effective lineups late in the 2016/17 season had Ibaka playing center, and he seems to be a better fit at the five than the four. Valanciunas would be a pricey backup at $15MM+, and if Lowry gets a big payday, the Raptors will go over the tax line, so the young center could be on the trading block again.

As Zach Lowe of ESPN.com observes (via Twitter), re-signing Lowry to a deal near the max and trading Joseph wouldn’t get the Raptors below the tax threshold. Toronto is looking to move contracts, according to Lowe, who notes that Valanciunas is the most interesting trade chip to watch, since the Raps would have to attach an asset or two to DeMarre Carroll to move his deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Ibaka, Bogdanovic, Knicks

Addressing NBA-wide speculation that he’s older than his listed age of 27, Raptors free agent big man Serge Ibaka issued a statement expressing disappointment with the media for “prejudices” based on his origin. Within his written statement, Ibaka suggested that he needs to take a stand against the “false assumption” that has been circulating.

“I was born in the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville,” Ibaka wrote. “A city with a population bigger than 1 million. A city with hospitals, a civil registry, and an administration. I was born in a caring, loving and united family. I was not born in the jungle.”

Here’s more on free agency:

  • In addition to the Hawks, the Kings and Nuggets are among the teams showing legitimate interest in Wizards RFA sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic, tweets Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. Bogdanovic landing in Sacramento would be a fun scenario for play-by-play commentators, since the Kings have already reached a deal with Bogdan Bogdanovic.
  • Multiple agents who have been in touch with the Knicks get the impression that the team wants to add younger players and is reluctant to spend big money on a single free agent, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com. That could mean that New York’s reported interest in George Hill has waned.
  • As they explore the free agent market, the Pacers intend to target young players with upside who may not have reached their full potential with their previous teams, says Nate Taylor of The Indianapolis Star. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis fit that bill, according to Taylor, who hears from a source that Pacers president Kevin Pritchard has “coveted Oladipo for years.”
  • Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald lays out why the Celtics badly need to land Gordon Hayward this week. As Bulpett explains, Boston’s cap room will no longer be available next summer when new deals are due for Isaiah Thomas and perhaps Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley as well, meaning 2017 is likely the team’s last and best chance to land a top-tier free agent.

Raptors Remain Confident About Retaining Lowry, Ibaka

The Raptors remain confident about their chances of bringing back top free agents Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet (via Twitter).

Lowry and Ibaka share an agent in ASM’s Andy Miller, and Miller met with the Raptors “late into the night” on Saturday morning after the free agent period opened, according to David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link). While neither Lowry or Ibaka agreed to a deal following those meetings, the two sides remain in contact.

If the Raptors do lock up both Lowry and Ibaka to market-value deals, the team figures to go into luxury-tax territory for the first time. That could potentially be avoided by moving another player on a sizable contract – such as DeMarre Carroll or Jonas Valanciunas – but Toronto will likely wait on decisions from Lowry and Ibaka before considering how to address the rest of its roster.

The odds of the Raptors re-signing P.J. Tucker may not be quite as high, as the club is facing “competition” on the veteran forward, according to Grange. The Kings are said to be meeting with Tucker today, while the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Sixers, and Clippers have also been linked to him.

Eastern FA Rumors: Bulls, Teodosic, Nets, Raptors

The Nets were considered the frontrunners in the Milos Teodosic sweepstakes for much of the year, but point guard became less of a priority for the team after last week’s D’Angelo Russell, opening the door for another NBA team to make a play for Teodosic. According to Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune (via Twitter), that team may be Chicago — Jones has heard the Bulls are “close” to reaching a deal with the EuroLeague star.

If the Bulls end up finalizing a deal with Teodosic, he would be the team’s third major point guard addition of 2017. Chicago also acquired Cameron Payne in a trade with Oklahoma City at the deadline, and landed Kris Dunn from Minnesota in last week’s Jimmy Butler blockbuster.

Here are a few more free agency rumors from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Wizards and Pistons are bracing for the Nets to make a strong push on restricted free agents Otto Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, respectively, tweets ESPN’s Marc Stein. Although those players have somewhat similar skill-sets, the Nets aren’t focused on filling a specific need or position in free agency, as head coach Kenny Atkinson tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post.
  • The Raptors‘ brass will likely meet with agent Andy Miller in Orlando this weekend, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Miller represents both Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, Toronto’s top two free agents, who figure to be a part of those meetings as well.
  • Rudy Gay has been linked to the Heat in the past, but Miami isn’t currently among the teams to arrange a free agent meeting with him this weekend, a source tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • Asked if the Knicks were still be seeking free agents who fit into a specific system, head coach Jeff Hornacek suggested this week that the team’s focus will be more on talent than system fit, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com. That sounds like good news for free agents who weren’t fond on Phil Jackson‘s triangle.

Lowe’s Latest: George, Hayward, Ibaka, Gallinari

A proposed scenario that would see the Celtics sign Gordon Hayward, trade for Paul George, and sign George to a contract extension isn’t realistic, writes Zach Lowe in his latest report for ESPN.com. As Lowe points out, there would be no reason for George to re-up with Boston right away in that scenario unless he could renegotiate a maximum salary, and it would be extremely difficult for the C’s to accommodate such a deal without moving Al Horford.

Knowing that if they acquire George, he could be a rental, the Celtics have thus far been unwilling to include Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, or the Lakers’ 2018 first-rounder in any of their offers to Indiana, Lowe reports. Lowe’s best guess at Boston’s offer is a package that would include Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and one of the team’s other first-round picks. The C’s will be reluctant to go much higher than that, given their fear that George could leave in 2018 — Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times wrote on Thursday night that the Pacers forward is still telling friends he expects to be a Laker in 2018.

While George could just be a one-year rental, the Celtics have competition for him. According to Lowe, the Wizards would likely be willing to sign-and-trade Otto Porter and include a first-round pick. The Cavaliers would swap Kevin Love straight up, though that doesn’t interest Indiana much, per Lowe. If the Nuggets get involved again via three-way talks for George and Love, they could offer Gary Harris and a first-round pick, though NBA execs expect Harris to command upwards of $20MM annually on his next contract, which is due soon, says Lowe.

Here’s more from Lowe with the free agent period right around the corner:

  • Lowe views Hayward as less than a 50-50 bet to stay with the Jazz, with both the Celtics and Heat as legitimate suitors. The ESPN scribe adds that he wouldn’t be surprised if a mystery fourth team ends up getting a meeting with Hayward.
  • The market for Raptors big man Serge Ibaka and Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari is expected to be in about the $20MM-per-year range, sources tell Lowe.
  • The Sixers have told player agents that they plan on signing one-year contracts in free agency this summer to preserve future cap space. They may also use some of their current cap room to sign Robert Covington to a renegotiated extension, writes Lowe.
  • Lowe expects the Bucks to sign Tony Snell to a deal in the range of $10-12MM annually.
  • Despite drafting De’Aaron Fox, the Kings may still spend on a free agent point guard as a veteran mentor, particularly if they decide they want to chase a playoff spot right away, says Lowe.
  • The Grizzlies are “crossing their fingers” that the market for RFA power forward JaMychal Green isn’t as competitive as expected, according to Lowe.

Lowe’s Latest: Butler, Nuggets, Wolves, Ibaka

Before they accepted the Timberwolves‘ offer for Jimmy Butler, the Bulls canvassed the league in search of a more appealing offer, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com.

Lowe writes in his latest piece for ESPN that the Bulls spoke to the Suns about a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 overall pick, but the two sides never really got close. Chicago also had discussions with the Nuggets and Celtics, but Denver drew the line at including Jamal Murray in any potential deal, and Boston wouldn’t include the No. 3 pick, according to Lowe.

As Lowe notes, teams like the Suns and Nuggets had to consider the fact that Butler may not have re-signed with them in free agency in 2019 if they acquired him. Although Butler’s contract would give teams an extra year of control over someone like Paul George, the star forward might still have ultimately been a rental if he didn’t love where he ended up. That cooled the market somewhat, as the Bulls explored potential trade scenarios.

Here’s more from Lowe’s latest piece:

  • The Bulls were never entirely comfortable with the idea of Butler as their foundational player, says Lowe. A source tells ESPN that Butler’s bristling at Fred Hoiberg‘s instructions made some people on the team uncomfortable. Lowe suggests that Hoiberg’s calm personality wasn’t a good match for Butler, who requires a coach more like Tom Thibodeau.
  • At one point, the Timberwolves were intrigued by the possibility of pursuing Serge Ibaka in free agency, but their interest “has faded a bit,” according to Lowe, who adds that most teams expect Ibaka to re-sign with the Raptors.
  • The Lakers were dangling a future unprotected first-round pick to teams with cap room recently in an effort to move the Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng contracts, per Lowe. The earliest first-round pick the Lakers could trade at this point is 2020’s selection, so it’s understandable that D’Angelo Russell appealed more to the Nets than a pick that far down the road.