Shamorie Ponds

Rockets Waive Ray Spalding, Two Others

The Rockets have waived three players in advance of the regular season, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston, who tweets that the team has parted ways with forward Ray Spalding, forward Matur Maker, and guard Shamorie Ponds.

Spalding was recently claimed off waivers by Houston, while Maker – the brother of Pistons big man Thon Maker – signed with the team on Friday. Ponds, an undrafted rookie out of St. John’s, spent a little more time with the franchise, appearing in five games for the Rockets’ Summer League team and three games for the club this preseason.

All three players had non-guaranteed contracts, so the Rockets’ cap won’t be affected by today’s moves.

Houston now has 16 players under contract, including one (Chris Clemons) on a two-way deal. Four of the 15 Rockets players on standard contracts don’t have fully guaranteed contracts, but all four of those players – Ryan Anderson, Gary Clark, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Ben McLemore – are ineligible for two-way contracts due to their partial guarantees or years of NBA experience. So if Houston intends to fill its second two-way slot, the team will have to look elsewhere.

Rockets Adjust Contracts For Ponds, McDowell-White

SEPTEMBER 5: After converting Ponds and McDowell-White to two-way contracts, the Rockets have converted them back to standard deals, according to RealGM’s official transactions log and ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

The two players appear to be back on essentially the same contracts they were before, but with one key difference, as Marks explains: The initial Exhibit 10 deals for Ponds and McDowell-White didn’t feature Exhibit 9 language, which limits a team’s liability if a player is injured in training camp or the preseason. Teams must have at least 14 players under contract to add Exhibit 9 language to an agreement, which the Rockets didn’t when they signed the duo in early July.

Without the Exhibit 9 clause, the Rockets would have had to pay either player’s salary if he suffered an injury in the preseason, up until he got healthy. As such, a season-ending injury would have forced Houston to pay the player’s entire salary, which would have compromised the team’s ability to limit its tax bill (or avoid the tax altogether). With Exhibit 9 language in place, Houston will now only be on the hook for $6K in the event of an injury.

The upshot is that Ponds and McDowell-White are back on non-guaranteed salaries and Houston’s two-way slots are once again open.

SEPTEMBER 4: The Rockets have converted the Exhibit 10 contracts for rookies Shamorie Ponds and William McDowell-White into two-way deals, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Previously, Houston had been one of just three NBA teams without a two-way player under contract.

Ponds and McDowell-White were two of the first players signed in July, as the Rockets locked them up to contracts even before the July moratorium ended. Both players suited up for Houston’s Las Vegas Summer League roster.

Ponds, a 6’1″ guard out of St. John’s, averaged 19.7 PPG, 5.1 APG, 4.1 RPG, and an impressive 2.6 SPG in 33 games during his junior year in 2018/19 before declaring for the draft as an early entrant.

McDowell-White spent the last several years playing for teams in Australia and Germany. Having started his career with the Sydney Kings in 2016, the 6’5″ Australian combo guard spent a season and a half with German club Brose Bamberg, leaving the team earlier this year to prepare for the 2019 draft.

As we explained on Tuesday, converting an Exhibit 10 contract into a two-way deal is one of a handful of options that teams have for a player on an E10 pact. I noted within that story that I expected the Rockets to have a few players compete in camp for their two-way slots, but it appears the team has made its two-way decisions well in advance of the preseason.

Rockets Sign Ponds, Clemons, McDowell-White To Exhibit 10 Deals

The Rockets have signed undrafted free agents Shamorie Ponds, Chris Clemons, and William McDowell-White to Exhibit 10 contracts, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The three agreements were reported shortly after last month’s draft.

A 6’1″ guard out of St. John’s, Ponds averaged 19.7 PPG, 5.1 APG, 4.1 RPG, and an impressive 2.6 SPG in 33 games during his junior year before declaring for the draft as an early entrant.

Clemons, a 5’9″ Campbell guard, was the nation’s leading scorer in 2018/19, averaging 30.0 PPG on .448/.357/.869 shooting.

McDowell-White was also draft-eligible this season after spending the last several years playing for teams in Australia and Germany. Having began his career with the Sydney Kings, the Australian combo guard spent a season and a half with German club Brose Bamberg, leaving the team earlier this year to prepare for the 2019 draft.

All three players are on Houston’s Summer League roster and appear on track to join the team for training camp in the fall. Assuming they don’t make the Rockets’ regular season roster, they could end up playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston’s G League affiliate.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Suns, Kings, Oubre

For the first time since 2010/11, when a sophomore Stephen Curry shared a backcourt with Monta Ellis, the revolutionary Warriors guard will go into a season without Klay Thompson. Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic details just what’s in store for him and for the franchise heading forward.

Not only will Curry have to shoulder more of the scoring load without Thompson and Kevin Durant, two of the game’s deadliest offensive weapons, he’ll need to do so after everybody and their grandmother saw Raptors coach Nick Nurse employ a successful series of zones against the Warriors.

Those are new questions that Curry will have to answer, but they aren’t the first questions he’s ever faced. This, Thompson writes, isn’t the guard’s first gut-check offseason. Curry has established and re-established his value after injuries and previous Warriors titles and will look to do so again.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Expect the Suns to either keep their No. 6 pick or look to trade down in the draft, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 Phoenix tweets. The dialed-in radio host says that he can’t envision the team dealing that pick for players like Lonzo Ball, Mike Conley or Spencer Dinwiddie.
  • The Kings have announced that they’ll welcome another batch of prospects for a workout on Monday. The franchise that picks at 40, 47 and 60 will audition Shamorie Ponds, Jaylen Hands and a handful of other candidates.
  • Did Kelly Oubre do enough in his 40-game trial with the Suns this season? Bobby Marks of ESPN writes that Oubre played some of his best basketball in Phoenix after coming over from the Wizards and the Suns were wise to nab him when they did. Phoenix will have the flexibility match an offer sheet the restricted free agent lands and they’ll have his Bird rights.

Eastern Draft Notes: Culver, Wizards, King, Sixers

According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers, who hold the No. 5 overall pick in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft, conducted a private workout with top prospect Jarrett Culver on Monday before hosting him for dinner with general manager Koby Altman, assistant GM Mike Gansey, head coach John Beilein, and assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

As Fedor details, the Cavaliers have been keeping tabs on Culver throughout the entire season, watching him in person multiple times. In addition, both Altman and Gansey were  in attendance for Culver’s 22-point game against Michigan in the Sweet 16. Beilein, of course, coached the Wolverines in that game.

The Cavaliers are still hoping to conduct a workout with De’Andre Hunter as well, but it reportedly hasn’t happened yet. Culver is currently the No. 6 ranked prospect in ESPN’s top 100, while Hunter is No. 5, so both are obviously in consideration for the fifth pick.

The No. 7 overall prospect, forward Cam Reddish, won’t work out with the Cavaliers due to recent surgery on a core muscle, but the Cavs would like to meet with him in person again prior to draft night.

There’s more draft notes tonight from around the Eastern Conference.

Draft Updates: Green Room, Culver, Samanic, More

The NBA continues to invite potential first-round picks to the Green Room for next Thursday’s draft, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who tweets that Nassir Little (UNC), Romeo Langford (Indiana), and Tyler Herro (Kentucky) were the next invitees after the initial nine-player group.

According to Givony (Twitter links), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga), PJ Washington (Kentucky) also received Green Room invites, as did international prospect Sekou Doumbouya. That brings us to 16 prospects who are expected to be in the Green Room on draft night, with four others still expected to be invited, per Givony.

Here are a few more draft-related updates:

  • Within his latest mock draft, Jeremy Woo of SI.com cites league sources who say that both the Suns and Hawks are high on Texas Tech swingman Jarrett Culver. However, it’s possible that neither team will have a shot at him without trading up — Woo has Culver coming off the board at No. 5 to the Cavaliers in his mock.
  • Croatian forward Luka Samanic has a busy workout schedule, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link), who adds the Warriors and Spurs to the list of teams Samanic has auditioned for. He also has workouts lined up with the Hawks and Bucks.
  • UCF guard Aubrey Dawkins has worked out for the Celtics, Pelicans, Knicks, and Raptors, and still has the Mavericks, Rockets, and Hornets on his workout schedule, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.
  • Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter links) provides a pair of updates on pre-draft workouts for prospects, reporting that Chris Silva (South Carolina) is working out for the Heat and Spurs, while Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s) worked out for the Cavaliers and Mavericks and has the Sixers and Rockets on tap.

Eastern Draft Notes: Hawks, Barrett, Knicks, Pistons

With six of the top 44 picks in the 2019 NBA draft, the Hawks have been understandably busy when it comes to bringing in prospects for pre-draft workouts. While Atlanta is unlikely to keep all six of its selections, the club is doing its due diligence on players who might be available at each spot — or as undrafted free agents.

On Sunday, the Hawks worked out Darius Bazley (Princeton HS), Robert Franks (Washington State), Matur Maker (Zlatorog Lasko), William McDowell-White (Baunach), Miye Oni (Yale), and Trayvon Reed (Texas Southern), according to the team.

The Hawks conducted another workout on Monday, bringing in Jordan Bone (Tennessee), Brian Bowen (Sydney), Dewan Hernandez (Miami), Jordan Poole (Michigan), Justin Robinson (Virginia Tech), and Dean Wade (Kansas State) in for a look.

On Tuesday, the Hawks will host yet another workout, with Charlie Brown Jr. (St. Joe’s), Zylan Cheatham (Arizona State), Keldon Johnson (Kentucky), Nassir Little (UNC), KZ Okpala (Stanford), and Kevin Porter Jr. (USC) set to participate.

Here are a few more updates on pre-draft workouts from around the Eastern Conference:

Trail Blazers Notes: Kanter, Aminu, Workout, Durant

Enes Kanter received a hero’s welcome Saturday as he returned to Oklahoma City for his annual youth basketball camp, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The former Thunder center remains popular with local fans, many of whom encouraged him to return to OKC in free agency. While Kanter might be too pricey for the Thunder to consider, he can count on receiving a lot of offers after rebuilding his stock in Portland following his release by the Knicks.

The Trail Blazers were aggressive in recruiting Kanter, who also received interest from the Thunder and Lakers. Repeated calls and texts from coach Terry Stotts, GM Neil Olshey and Damian Lillard were enough to tip the scales in Portland’s favor, which became fortunate when starting center Jusuf Nurkic was lost for the season with a broken leg.

“I’m glad that Portland happened,” Kanter said. “I love Portland, I love the people there, I love the fans there. I just want to go – and Portland counts, too – somewhere I can win games. I’m going into my ninth year. I just want to go somewhere where I have a good situation, have some playing time and just win.”

There’s more Trail Blazers news to pass along:

  • Al-Farouq Aminu‘s agent is open to negotiating an extension with Portland before his client hits free agency, but the Blazers may not be able to afford a substantial raise, relays Jason Quick of The Athletic. “He wants to be there,” Raymond Brothers said. “He’s still committed to the Blazers. He likes the city, the team, the coach, he likes Neil. He’s happy. He just wants to win.” Any extension would be limited to $48MM over four years. Aminu made $6.96MM this season.
  • The Trail Blazers brought in six players Friday for their first pre-draft workout, notes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. The session featured Wake Forest’s Jaylen Hoard, Memphis’ Jeremiah Martin, Arizona State’s Luguentz Dort, Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie, St. John’s Shamorie Ponds and Shaw University’s Amir Hinton. Portland enters the draft with just one pick, its first-rounder at No. 25.
  • Lillard is asking an Oakland-based rapper to help convince Kevin Durant to come to Portland, relays Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. Mistah F.A.B. joined Lillard on Instagram Live following Game 1 of the NBA Finals and asked him which free agent the Blazers should pursue. “Just go in there and tell KD, say ‘KD, just go to Portland, bruh. I’m a Portland fan,'” Lillard responded. “You a Portland fan now, so just be like, ‘Bruh they left Oakland anyways, so just go to Portland.'”

Northwest Notes: J. Howard, Jazz, Nuggets, Noel

Before he reached a deal to become the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Juwan Howard reportedly drew interest from the Timberwolves as they considered whether to retain head coach Ryan Saunders or go in a different direction.

While Minnesota ultimately opted to retain Saunders and Howard left the NBA for a college job, the Wolverines’ new head coach revealed today that the Timberwolves’ interest was real. According to Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (via Twitter), Howard said that the Wolves offered him their associate head coach position – presumably under Saunders – but he declined. “My heart is with Michigan,” he said.

Let’s round up a few more items from around the Northwest…

Blazers Notes: Ownership, Nurkic, Hood, Kanter

While there’s a perception in NBA circles that the Trail Blazers‘ ownership situation is unsettled in the wake of Paul Allen‘s death last fall, the team’s head of basketball operations, Neil Olshey, doesn’t subscribe to that notion, as Jason Quick of The Athletic relays.

“Nothing is unsettled. Jody is our owner,” Olshey said during the Blazers’ exit interviews, referring to Paul’s sister Jody Allen. “She has been fantastic in terms of engagement. She has addressed the team when we’ve asked her to. She was really emotional after the OKC series, that was the validation, knowing how much Paul believed in the core of this group and to see it come to fruition.

“Jody stepped up and spoke to the team in a way that resonated with everybody and struck a chord with the players and staff and everyone there that she has our back, she has a vision for the franchise, she believes in the group, she cares about the players, and the magnitude of what she has had to take on,” Olshey continued, per Quick. “At a time when we needed ownership to show solidarity with the front office, the coaching staff, the business division, she was there for us.”

Allen has exhibited that commitment to the franchise since Portland’s season ended earlier this month, having locked up Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts to contract extensions.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • According to Olshey (via Quick), injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is making “great progress” from his broken left leg. While the team hasn’t offered a specific recovery timetable for Nurkic, Quick speculates that the big man could be ready to return to action sometime just before next season’s All-Star break. “Guys can’t believe where he is relative to what they saw only four weeks ago,” Olshey said of Nurkic. “He is a core piece to this roster, a foundational piece going forward, and we are going to drive him. But also knowing we are going to do what’s best for Nurk on a long-term basis in terms of his recovery and his timeline.”
  • The Blazers aren’t expecting to be able to retain Rodney Hood or Enes Kanter using the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be worth about $5.7MM), writes Quick. If the club can shed enough salary to gain access to the full mid-level exception – or Hood and Kanter don’t receive as much interest as anticipated – Hood would likely be the priority over Kanter, in Quick’s view.
  • Quick doesn’t expect the Blazers’ three big expiring contracts for Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, and Maurice Harkless to garner a ton of interest on the trade market this offseason, contending that they could become more intriguing trade chips during the season.
  • Former St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds is set to work out for the Trail Blazers on Friday, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. According to Quick, Portland will likely only hold “three or four” pre-draft workouts since the club has just one pick (No. 25) in this year’s draft.