Sergio Llull

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Poeltl, Pelicans GM, Llull

Gregg Popovich has the Spurs on the verge of another playoff appearance in a season that could have been a disaster, writes Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Early-season injuries forced Popovich to use a point guard committee until Derrick White was healthy, Bryn Forbes, Davis Bertans and Jakob Poeltl all had to step into important roles and the retirement of Manu Ginobili and the departure of Tony Parker cut the last ties to the Spurs’ glory days. Still, with a 43-31 record, the franchise is on the verge of its 22nd straight trip to the playoffs.

“For guys that have been elsewhere, they come in and they can sense it’s a different environment,” Patty Mills said. “They can notice the difference. It takes some time for players to adjust to how different it is. People have always said you needed to be a certain type of person to be in this environment and to be coached by Pop, and it’s true. The way he coaches his players is a certain way. You’ve seen the way he’s coached Tim (Duncan) and Manu. You see that interaction between coach and player, and everyone else falls in line after that. You know if he yells at you, you can’t say anything back. It’s those little things you have to get guys to understand.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Popovich would like to make Poeltl the Spurs‘ starting center for the rest of the season, but matchups may keep that from happening, notes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. With so many teams playing non-traditional lineups, it’s not always wise to put two big men on the floor. “We like to play big because we do a pretty good job of locking down the paint with myself and (LaMarcus Aldridge) on the court,” Poeltl said. “We’ve got to find the right matchups and the right situations where we can do that.”
  • Interim GM Danny Ferry will be among the candidates as the Pelicans conduct their GM search, according to Fletcher Mackel of WDSU in New Orleans (Twitter link). Owner Gayle Benson said Monday that the franchise will consider five or six candidates to become the replacement for Dell Demps, who was fired in February. Based on what he has heard, Mackel believes that Ferry will be on that list, along with former Cavaliers GM David Griffin, Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon and Rockets VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas.
  • As the NBA marks its 13th annual Latin celebration, Rosas talks with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated about the need to get more Latin Americans involved in management.
  • Spanish guard Sergio Llull, whose rights have been held by the Rockets since 2009, hasn’t ruled out coming to the NBA someday, his agent, Ernest Berenguer, says in an interview with NBA Spain (translated by Sportando). Llull will be 34 when his contract with Real Madrid expires in 2021.

International Notes: Christon, Nogueira, Llull, Melli

Semaj Christon, who appeared in 64 games for the Thunder during the 2016/17 season, will play in Israel this season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Hapoel Be’er Sheva has announced the signing of the 25-year-old point guard, who split last season between China and Puerto Rico.

Christon was part of Oklahoma City’s rotation two seasons ago, averaging 2.9 points and 2.0 assists in about 15 minutes per game. The 55th pick in the 2014 draft, he was waived by the Thunder prior to the start of last season. A former star at Xavier, Christon played in the G League and Italy before coming to Oklahoma City.

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Lucas Nogueira‘s contract with Fuenlabrada in Spain has been approved, tweets Varlas Nikos of Eurohoops.net. Nogueira’s former Estudiantes club in Madrid had objected to the signing, claiming it still owned his rights, but the team refused to send documentation to ACB. Nogueira spent four seasons with the Raptors, who paid a $650K buyout to Estudiantes to get his release. Nogueira was with Estudiantes from 2009 to 2014.
  • Sergio Llull has turned down numerous opportunities to join the Rockets and is now talking about staying with Real Madrid for the rest of his career, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. “It is difficult to say to the NBA because it is an important League,” Llull said in a recent interview with Radio Marca. “But I have said several times that I am happy with Real Madrid. I want to remain here and win again. I would love to finish my career with Real Madrid. I have a contract for a lot of my year. But my goal now is to play a huge season.”
  • The Jazz, Hawks and Nets all have interest in signing Nicolo Melli for next season, tweets Orazio Cauchi of Sportando. Atlanta and Brooklyn both made contact with him this summer, Cauchi adds.

And-Ones: Mexico City, Schedule, Llull, Thompson

The Nets will be involved in both games in Mexico City next season, the NBA announced today on its website. Brooklyn will face the Thunder on December 7th, followed by the Heat on December 9th at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico. The games will be the 25th and 26th in the country, more than other other nation besides the United States and Canada. “They will also mark the 25th anniversary of our first game in Mexico City, a milestone in our relationship with our Mexican fans and a further indication of our desire to strengthen our ties to Mexico and Latin America,” said commissioner Adam Silver.

There’s more news from around the league:

  • The NBA has sent a memo to all its teams explaining the changes in next season’s schedule, relays Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The season will start a week earlier, giving teams more days off with the goal of eliminating the practice of healthy players being rested. The new schedule also cuts out stretches of four games in five days and reduces the number of single-game road trips, among other improvements.
  • Spanish guard Sergio Llull, whose rights are owned by the Rockets, suffered an ACL injury today that will force him to miss EuroBasket and Euroleague for his Real Madrid team, tweets international basketball writer David Pick. Llull sent out a tweet thanking his fans and promising that he will return to action. Houston purchased Llull’s rights from Denver in 2009, but has been unable to convince the 29-year-old to leave Spain.
  • Hollis Thompson, who spent time with the Sixers and Pelicans last season, is in “advanced negotiations” with Olympiacos in Greece, reports Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Thompson began the season with Philadelphia and played 31 games before being waived in early January. He signed a pair of 10-day contracts with New Orleans in February and March, appearing in nine games, but wasn’t retained when the second deal expired.

And-Ones: Stackhouse, Porter Jr., EuroHoops

Sam Fortier of The Ringer detailed Jerry Stackhouse‘s decision to coach in the D-League as opposed to working as an NBA assistant coach. Stackhouse, coaching Raptors 905, often works in front of small crowds with little fanfare, but the two-time All-Star doesn’t mind.

“Until I got this job this year, I hardly even knew the D-League existed,” Stackhouse said. “I’m a pro. I’m an NBA guy, and I’m not wasting time, you know? I get it when people don’t understand the D-League. It’s part of it. But I’m here to tell ’em it’s a gem. A hidden gem.”

Stackhouse explained the frustration of watching Jason Kidd and Derek Fisher seamlessly transition from their playing career to a head coaching job. After a stint as a TV analyst covering the Pistons, Stackhouse pursued a coaching job with the 37-11 Raptors 905.

“Seeing [Fisher and Kidd] get those head-coaching jobs, I was like, I know I’m — you hate to say better — but I know I’m damn as good as those guys when it comes to coaching,” Stackhouse said. “I wouldn’t have been ready [to be a head coach] in 2012–13, but Jason Kidd came in and my mind was like, ‘I have more of a pulse of this team than he could ever have. They respect me.’ I look at all of the other relationships you have to have to make it work, and the people you need to know in organizations. … It’s hard to get that.”

More from around the game…

  • Green Bay’s Kerem Kanter will test the NBA draft process, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reports (Twitter link). Per Rothstein, Kerem (brother of Enes Kanter), will graduate and transfer if he doesn’t remain in the draft.
  • Michael Porter Jr., the nation’s top recruit, announced on Twitter that he has committed to Missouri (link). When speaking to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Porter said “It wasn’t an easy decision at all, but I’m very comfortable with the program and Coach Martin. I trust my dad. I think we have a chance to do something special. … I’m excited beyond words.”
  • International basketball reporter David Pick was asked who the best player in Europe was (Twitter link). Pick replied “Milos [Teodosic] is a magician, but most Euroleague GMs love Nando De Colo. Sergio Llull is a stud, Keith Langford voted best US-born overseas.” De Colo, who has played with CSKA Moscow since 2014, appeared in 119 NBA games with the Spurs and Raptors between 2012-14. In a recent interview with BasketInside.com, de Colo said returning to the NBA is “not a priority” at the moment.

Sergio Llull To Spend Another Year In Spain

Sergio Llull, a Spanish combo guard whose NBA rights are owned by the Rockets, plans to play for Real Madrid again next season. In an interview with the Spanish language site Marca.com, Llull cites the six-year extension he signed with his current team in 2015.

“In the future you never know,” Llull said, “but I’ve renewed for six years and I’m not going to go next summer.”

The announcement adds to the doubt that the 29-year-old will ever have an NBA future. The Rockets have owned his draft rights since purchasing them from the Nuggets in 2009. Over that time, Llull has sent mixed signals about coming to the United States, raising the hopes of Houston management and fans, before deciding to stay in Spain. A report in October said the Rockets were hopeful about bringing Llull over next season, but his comments today seem to rule that out.

Llull’s Real Madrid teammates tell international basketball writer David Pick there’s “zero chance” he will leave the Spanish club (Twitter link).

There have been conflicting reports about the size of the buyout Llull would have to pay to escape his deal with Real Madrid. Some sources said it increased to 12 million euros when he signed the extension, but others indicated it’s far less. Llull wouldn’t be subject to the NBA’s rookie scale if he were to sign with Houston because he was a second-round pick and was taken so long ago. The Rockets would have to use cap room or an exception to fit him on their roster.

Sergio Llull Plans To Play Out Real Madrid Contract

Spanish guard Sergio Llull remains committed to Real Madrid, stating once again during an interview with COPE radio in Spain that he has no intention of leaving his team in Spain to make the move to the NBA (link via Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype).

“I’m not in the NBA because I’m happy in Madrid,” Llull said. “Houston has been waiting for me three [or] four years.”

The 34th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Llull has been under Rockets control for more than seven years, but has spent that time with Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid. An October report from ESPN’s Marc Stein indicated that Houston planned to push to land Llull for the 2017/18 season, and was optimistic about its chances of bringing him stateside. However, the 29-year-old, who signed an extension with Real Madrid last summer, still doesn’t sound overly eager to play in the NBA.

“They tried to convince me, but I am where I want to be in Madrid,” Llull said. “Houston has been very respectful of my decision. They didn’t pressure me, and congratulate me on my success. I’ve never closed the door on the NBA. I live in the present. … I have a contract with Real Madrid until 2021 and I plan on fulfilling it.”

Although Llull’s current deal runs through 2021, it does include an NBA out, so the Rockets could bring him over sooner than that, if he’s interested. A recent report out of Spain indicated that the buyout for Llull’s contract with Real Madrid had increased to 12 million euros with last year’s extension,  but Stein suggested that the buyout isn’t “nearly as onerous” as that report suggests — one of Stein’s sources describes the cost as “manageable.”

In 2015/16, Llull averaged 12.1 PPG and 4.9 APG in Spanish League play, while adding 12.8 PPG and 4.6 APG in 24 Euroleague games. So far this year, playing alongside former NBA vets like Anthony Randolph, Gustavo Ayon, Rudy Fernandez, and Andres Nocioni, Llull has been even better, averaging 13.3 PPG and 6.0 APG in eight Spanish League contests, and 19.4 PPG and 5.8 APG in nine Euroleague games. Real Madrid has a combined record of 14-3 in those games.

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2016/17 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, asking each of the league’s 30 GMs an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. As John Schuhmann of NBA.com details in his piece announcing the results, it comes as little surprise that NBA GMs are just as bullish on the Cavaliers‘ and Warriors‘ chances in 2016/17 as the rest of us are — those are the only two teams GMs predicted to become this season’s NBA champion, with Golden State getting 69% of the vote and Cleveland getting 31%.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more interesting ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • LeBron James led the way in votes for 2016/17’s MVP award, but Karl-Anthony Towns was the clear choice for the player most GMs would want to start a franchise with today.
  • The Warriors were the only team to receive more than two votes for which team made the best offseason moves — Golden State was the runaway winner at 83.3%, largely due to the signing of Kevin Durant. The addition of Durant was easily voted the move most likely to make the biggest impact this season, and it was also viewed as the most surprising move of the summer, just ahead of Dwyane Wade joining the Bulls.
  • The Jazz‘s trade for George Hill received at least one vote for the move likely to have the biggest impact, and it was the winner for the most underrated player acquisition of the offseason.
  • Dejounte Murray (Spurs), Kris Dunn (Timberwolves), and Patrick McCaw (Warriors) were considered the biggest steals of the draft by GMs, who voted Milos Teodosic and Sergio Llull as the top international players not currently in the NBA.
  • NBA general managers view Tom Thibodeau as the new coach most likely to make an immediate positive impact on his new team, and think Chris Paul is the player most likely to become a future NBA head coach.
  • The rules that GMs wants to see changed or modified include the draft lottery system, the number of timeouts per game, and intentional fouling.

Stein’s Latest: Llull, Bucks, MCW, McLemore, Pistons

With the NBA’s regular season inching closer, ESPN’s Marc Stein takes a look around the league and rounds up a handful of noteworthy tidbits from out of training camps. There are plenty of interesting items to pass along, so let’s dive right in…

  • A recent report out of Spain indicated that the buyout for Sergio Llull‘s contract with Real Madrid has increased to 12 million euros. However, Stein hears that the buyout isn’t “nearly as onerous” as that report suggests — one source describes the cost as “manageable.” As such, the Rockets continue to have strong interest in bringing Llull stateside, and the Spanish guard does have real interest in eventually coming to the NBA, despite his proclamations about spending the rest of his career in Madrid.
  • The Bucks continue to scour the market for possible Khris Middleton replacements, and have offered Michael Carter-Williams to the Kings in a deal for Ben McLemore, Stein reports. Sacramento turned down that pitch, but Milwaukee continues to explore deals.
  • One scenario likely not in play for the Bucks is a deal with the Hornets that would involve Jeremy Lamb and Spencer Hawes. According to Stein, Charlotte is said to have no interest in Monroe.
  • As the Pistons consider potential point guard options with Reggie Jackson ailing, they took a look at Norris Cole before he agreed to sign in China, writes Stein. Steve Blake, given his familiarity with the team, is also an option. However, as the ESPN scribe cautions – and as Stan Van Gundy said himself this week – the Pistons are no lock to add another player at the point, since the club would have to eat a guaranteed contract to do so.

And-Ones: McCants, Llull, D-League, Trades

Former UNC standout and 2005 lottery pick Rashad McCants hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since 2009, but he has played in Puerto Rico, China, Brazil, Lebanon, the Philippines, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic since then. Could his next stop be back in America? According to Chris Reichert of Upside and Motor (Twitter link), McCants may sign with the D-League in the hopes of making his way back onto an NBA roster.

While we wait to see what McCants’ future holds, let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the league…

Rockets Hope To Sign Sergio Llull In 2017

Spanish guard Sergio Llull has shown little interest in making the move to the NBA, but the Rockets remain hopeful that they’ll be able to bring Llull to Houston in the near future. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein (via Twitter), the Rockets hope to have Llull join them for the 2017/18 season.

The 34th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Llull has been under Rockets control for more than seven years, but has spent those seven years with Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid. The veteran guard will turn 29 next month and thus far has been resistant to leaving Spain — last summer, he signed an extension with Real Madrid that keeps him under contract through 2021, though it also lowered the price on his NBA buyout.

In 2015/16, Llull averaged 12.1 PPG and 4.9 APG in Spanish League play, while adding 12.8 PPG and 4.6 APG in 24 Euroleague games. Over the weekend, he played a major part in the club’s preseason victory over the Thunder, hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime.

Because Llull was drafted so long ago and was a second-round pick, he wouldn’t be subject to the NBA’s rookie scale, so if the Rockets make a push to sign him next summer, the team would have to use cap room or an exception (likely the mid-level) in order to complete a deal.