T.J. McConnell

Atlantic Notes: Hezonja, McCaw, Sixers, Morris

Mario Hezonja is seeing fewer minutes on the court this season with the Knicks, but that hasn’t stopped the 23-year-old from enjoying his time in New York, Steve Popper of Newsday relays. Hezonja is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“No, no, no. I love New York. As I said, this coaching staff, I wish I had them in my rookie year,” Hezonja said. “I’m not saying anything about what I had. It was just rough and unfortunate situation what happened to me. I wish they were my coaching staff in my rookie year. We’d be talking a different story right now. 

“Yeah, I’m happy to be around them. Even when I wasn’t playing, I just said, how important they were for me and how much room I still have for growth, for learning the game and all that stuff, so it’s big time for me. I love this team. I love everybody over here. I was surprised as soon as I came here. I’m focusing only on here. This is not a typical BS talk. ‘I’m only thinking about this, I don’t know what it’s gonna be.’ I know. This is it. I love this. I want to be in New York.”

Along with Hezonja, other Knicks players set to reach unrestricted free agency this summer include Enes KanterNoah Vonleh and Trey Burke. Hezonja is averaging 7.6 points and 17.8 minutes per game on the season, shooting 40% from the floor and an underwhelming 29% from 3-point range.

New York is reportedly exploring trades for several players ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline, but Hezonja’s name has yet to surface as a candidate.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division today:

  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic examines how the NBA’s roster rules brought the Raptors to sign Patrick McCaw as a free agent. The Cavaliers waived McCaw days after signing him in restricted free agency, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent and sign with any team. McCaw is expected to provide backcourt depth for the Raptors as they ready themselves for a deep postseason run.
  • The Sixers still hope to re-sign Jimmy Butler this summer despite the team’s recent drama, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes. Lowe provided details on Butler’s comments to Brett Brown at a recent 76ers film session, with Butler reportedly speaking up for himself and teammate T.J. McConnell. McConnell, who’s averaging 20.7 minutes per game, also voiced his concerns during the session when Brown asked if anyone else had something to add, Lowe notes.
  • Celtics forward Marcus Morris relayed the importance of winning as his major long-term focus, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports. Morris, who’s making $5.3MM this season, is also set to become a free agent this summer. “That’s all I care about; winning,” Morris said. “That other stuff, the big-money contract, being in the conversation for All-Star, none of that happens if you’re not winning. So for me, that’s what all this is about, keeping finding ways to win.”

Dinwiddie Extension Good News For Rozier, Russell?

League executives at last week’s G League Showcase in Las Vegas were “raving” about the Nets‘ deal to lock up Spencer Dinwiddie to a three-year, $34.3MM extension, comparing it to the Clippers‘ three-year, $24MM agreement with Lou Williams, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider-only link).

According to Marks, two teams he spoke to in Vegas had Dinwiddie ranked as the third-best point guard in the 2019 free agent class before he signed his extension, placing him behind only Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. That would have put Dinwiddie ahead of younger players like Terry Rozier (Celtics) and D’Angelo Russell (Nets), both of whom are on track for restricted free agency.

Rozier and Russell should benefit from Dinwiddie’s deal, since it takes one of 2019’s top FA point guards off the board and could create additional competition for their services. According to Marks, league execs in Vegas last week identified the Magic and Suns as probable suitors for Rozier and Russell, though the Celtics and Nets will have the upper hand until an offer sheet is on the table.

Here’s more from Marks:

  • Teams are monitoring Markelle Fultz, not just to keep an eye on his health and future, but also to see how Fultz’s status will impact Sixers teammate T.J. McConnell, according to Marks. McConnell is headed for unrestricted free agency and is unlikely to get an in-season extension if Philadelphia intends to maximize its 2019 cap room. McConnell could command a salary in the $5-7MM range, Marks notes.
  • Teams around the NBA believe there could be a strong group of buyout candidates available later this season. According to Marks, the veteran players that clubs are keeping an eye on include Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez, Zach Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Enes Kanter, Kenneth Faried, Jerryd Bayless, Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos, Alec Burks, J.R. Smith, and Jabari Parker. Some of those vets may be traded and some figure to remain with their current teams, but I could definitely see several of them ending up on the buyout market.

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, McConnell, Celtics, Burke

As Frank Ntilikina has fallen out of the Knicks‘ rotation, a handful of other teams around the NBA have been linked to the second-year guard, with the Magic, Suns, and Grizzlies among the clubs said to have shown some interest in Ntilikina.

Ian Begley of ESPN.com added another name to that list over the weekend, reporting (via Twitter) that the Nets have also expressed interest in the Knicks guard. Brooklyn already has a pair of solid point guards – Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell – in its backcourt, but both players will be free agents at season’s end, while Ntilikina remains under team control through 2021.

However, if the Nets did inquire on Ntilikina, it sounds like they were just doing its due diligence — a team source tells Brian Lewis of The New York Post that Brooklyn has no interest in acquiring the former eighth overall pick from the crosstown Knicks.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Appearing last week on The Russillo Show, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned that he’s “very confident” the Sixers could have acquired a first-round pick in exchange for T.J. McConnell within the last few weeks, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays. Wojnarowski had previously reported that the 76ers weren’t looking to move McConnell. Woj is obviously more plugged in than any other NBA reporter, so it’s hard to doubt his intel, but I’d have to think that there’s a catch here — perhaps the pick would have been heavily protected, or the Sixers would have had to take on some salary.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton explores the Sixers‘ options with Markelle Fultz, writing that the team doesn’t have to make a decision on the former No. 1 overall pick right away, with the trade deadline still two months off.
  • While the Celtics still have an enviable collection of assets to put in play if they take a big swing on the trade market, the value of some of those assets has depreciated a little this season, as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report details. Boston’s first-round picks from the Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies may not be as valuable as initially anticipated, given how those teams have performed, and Jaylen Brown has taken a step back in his development so far.
  • Trey Burke sustained a mild MCL sprain on Saturday and will be re-evaluated sometime this weekend, the Knicks announced today (via Twitter). Earlier today, we passed along some comments Burke made about his upcoming free agency.

Sixers Aren’t Looking To Deal McConnell

The Sixers have stopped listening to trade inquiries on backup point guard T.J. McConnell, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.

McConnell has become the primary backup to Ben Simmons in the absence of Markelle Fultz, who hasn’t played the last three games. Fultz will see two specialists in New York this week to examine his ailing right shoulder.

With all the uncertainty surrounding Fultz, the organization knows they’ll need to rely more heavily on McConnell, Wojnarowski continues. A report earlier this month suggested that McConnell was one of the Sixers most likely to be traded but that was before McConnell rejoined the rotation.

McConnell’s $1.6MM contract for this season doesn’t become fully guaranteed until January 10th but that looks like a formality now. His stats have been modest over the last three games — 3.0 PPG and 1.7 APG in 15.7 MPG. He had a 16-point, 7-assist game off the bench against Memphis earlier this month when the Jimmy Butler deal was being finalized.

Despite turning away overtures for McConnell, the Sixers still expect Fultz to return and reclaim a backup role, Wojnarowski adds.

Markelle Fultz Scheduled To See Shoulder Specialist

At the direction of agent and attorney Raymond Brothers, Sixers point guard Markelle Fultz is scheduled to visit a shoulder specialist in New York within the next week, per David Aldridge and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links). Brothers tells Aldridge that Fultz won’t participate in practices or games until after the specialist has had the opportunity to evaluate him.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Fultz missed nearly all of his rookie season last year, in large part due to ongoing shoulder issues. While the young guard has appeared healthy this season, he has continued to struggle with his shot, inadvertently creating viral highlights due to unusual hitches in his shooting form — even on free throws.

It’s not clear whether Fultz’s shooting problems are primarily physical or mental, but either way, he has struggled to make an impact early in his NBA career, averaging just 7.7 PPG, 3.4 APG, and 3.4 RPG with a .414/.267/.534 shooting line in 33 games (20.6 MPG).

Although he was a starter for Philadelphia for the first 15 games of the team’s 2018/19 campaign, Fultz has moved to the bench since the Sixers acquired Jimmy Butler. The 20-year-old played a season-low seven minutes in Monday’s win over the Suns, ceding playing time to T.J. McConnell.

As Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com relays, head coach Brett Brown declined to commit after the game to Fultz or McConnell as his backup point guard going forward. However, based on Aldridge’s report, it sounds like McConnell will take over that role, at least for the time being.

Pelicans Rumors: Porter, Moore, Bazemore, Lin

Few players have made a bigger impact on their teams this season than Anthony Davis, whose Pelicans have a +10.7 net rating when he’s on the court and a -13.7 rating when he sits. However, Davis could use some help, so Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer devotes his latest article to exploring a number of potential trade options for New Orleans, providing a handful of interesting tidbits along the way.

Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • There are “whispers” that the Pelicans have interest in Wizards forward Otto Porter, according to O’Connor, who believes that Porter could thrive in New Orleans’ up-tempo offense and would fill a major need for the team. While there’s no indication that the two teams have engaged in trade discussions, O’Connor suggests that a package along the lines of Solomon Hill, Julius Randle, and a first-round pick might work.
  • Following up on a report suggesting that the Pelicans offered Nikola Mirotic and a first-round pick to the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler, O’Connor writes that E’Twaun Moore was included in a version of New Orleans’ offer for Butler. Sources tell O’Connor that the Pels declined to make Jrue Holiday available in those trade talks, and also resisted offering an unprotected 2022 first-round pick.
  • O’Connor identifies Kent Bazemore, Wesley Matthews, James Johnson, Trevor Ariza, and DeMarre Carroll as some other wings and forwards who could be of interest to New Orleans, and who may end up being available. The Pelicans made a play for Bazemore in the offseason, O’Connor notes.
  • Scott Kushner of The Advocate recently argued that the Pelicans could use another playmaker, even when Elfrid Payton is healthy. O’Connor makes a similar point, observing that New Orleans had interest in Jeremy Lin before he signed with the Nets in 2016. Lin could be a trade candidate to watch, according to O’Connor, who points to Milos Teodosic (Clippers) and T.J. McConnell (Sixers) as others to keep an eye on.

Atlantic Notes: Lee, Irving, Sixers, McConnell

Knicks swingman Courtney Lee is feeling a little better after receiving an injection to calm the nerve irritation in his neck, but it’s still not clear when he’ll be able to return to the court. As Steve Popper of Newsday writes, the team has struggled to diagnosis and treat Lee’s injury, which he describes as both a neck strain and neck spasms, but the veteran is hoping to get the go-ahead soon to do more than non-contact shooting drills.

Once Lee is ready to return, a regular role in the Knicks’ rotation isn’t a certainty, with the club focused on developing its younger players. However, while fellow veteran Enes Kanter hasn’t seemed entirely on board with his demotion to the second unit, Lee sounds ready to do whatever he’s asked by a team in the midst of a transition period, as Popper relays.

“That was a no-brainer, man,” Lee said of the Knicks’ decision to give their young players more minutes. “You look around the locker room, everybody is young. It’s not the team going young. It’s what we have. I’m a guy that’s just going to go out there, man, know my role, compete, help the team as much as possible, whether it’s leading vocally or by example. That’s my mindset: Is just to go out there and do whatever the team needs me to do.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics guard Kyrie Irving received a $25K fine for throwing the ball into the stands at the end of Monday’s loss to Denver, the NBA announced today in a press release. Irving’s toss came after Jamal Murray took a last-second shot in an attempt to break the 50-point mark after the Nuggets had already secured the victory.
  • The Sixers‘ rotation is in flux to some extent, with the team struggling to integrate newcomers Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala as smoothly as they integrated Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli last season. As Sarah Todd of Philly.com details, injuries and a lack of defined roles for Chandler and Muscala have helped magnify those issues.
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Derek Bodner examines T.J. McConnell‘s future with the Sixers, suggesting that he’s one of the more likely players on the roster to be traded this season. In Bodner’s view, it’s hard to envision McConnell having a role on the club beyond this season unless something goes “terribly wrong” with Markelle Fultz.

Sixers Notes: Brown, McConnell, Redick, Fultz

Philadelphia was projected to be among the best teams in the East, but that status appears far away after Sunday’s 25-point loss in Brooklyn, writes Marcus Hayes of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers dropped to 0-5 on the road and 6-5 overall, causing coach Brett Brown to call the performance “unacceptable” and say, “We’re not among the Eastern Conference royalty.”

He also suggested that the team’s problems stem from a roster that leans heavily on youth. For all their talent, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are young players whose NBA experience has been limited because of injuries. Markelle Fultz, the first choice in the 2017 draft, has gone through a similar experience.

“If you were to go back and just study Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, John Wall — if you took, like, 10 great players, looked at the first few years, and did some division — and say, ‘It looks like it plays out to about this,'” Brown said. “You’re going to see: It’s not soon. … It’s the reality of the ages of the people that we have.”

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Brown is calling reserve guard T.J. McConnell a “tremendous teammate” for the way he is handling a reduction in playing time, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. McConnell got on the court for about five minutes at the end of last night’s game, following a pair of DNPs. He has dropped behind Fultz in the rotation and is averaging just 13.7 minutes per game, down from 22.4 a year ago. “As a competitor, I know it’s hard,” McConnell said. “But I have to continue being a good teammate and work hard in practice and get better and stay in shape. I’m not going to pout about it. I’m just going to be ready when my name’s called.” McConnell is in his fourth season with the team, but still doesn’t have a guarantee on his $1.6MM contract.
  • Rich Hofmann of The Athletic examines the Sixers’ problems on offense and finds that the team doesn’t have enough players who can create their own shot and no reliable 3-point shooters outside of J.J. Redick. He notes that Philadelphia hasn’t found replacements for Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who were both lost in free agency.
  • The Sixers and Celtics are both experiencing the pains of trying to work key players into their rotations, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. In Philadelphia’s case, it’s Fultz, who still hasn’t solved his shooting woes.

Atlantic Notes: McConnell, Vonleh, Morris, Fultz

The Sixers plan to let the season play out before committing to guard T.J. McConnell long-term, according to Keith Pompey of Philly.com. McConnell is eligible for a contract extension, with the 26-year-old set to reach free agency in July on his current deal.

The 76ers have held brief discussions on possibly extending McConnell, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (podcast link), although the sides appear unlikely to reach an official agreement. Philadelphia hopes to keep space for a maximum-salary player in the summer of 2019, when talents such as Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard become free agents.

Several teams have expressed interest in trading for McConnell, including the Suns, Pompey wrote. Philadelphia recently rejected a trade proposal from Phoenix that included a second-round pick.

In 76 games with the Sixers last year, McConnell held per-game averages of 6.3 points, four assists and three rebounds in 22.4 minutes per contest. He scored four points and dished out three assists in Tuesday’s loss against Boston.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • New Knicks forward Noah Vonleh explained his decision to sign with the team this week, as relayed by Zach Braziller of The New York Post. “I felt like this was great spot for me, great opportunity,” he said. “Young team, being able to play with a bunch of guys around my age, a bunch of guys who have been in similar situations as me, being former lottery picks, teams giving up on them pretty quick. I felt like it was a good group to come join.”
  • Marcus Morris is prepared for the uncertainty that comes with earning minutes on the Celtics, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Morris could be asked to play major minutes on some nights, and significantly less minutes on other nights. “The only thing I can do is go out there and be effective with the minutes I’m given and that’s my whole motto during the season,” he said.
  • The Sixers could find more success by playing Markelle Fultz off the bench, Marcus Hayes of Philly.com opines. Fultz started in the first half on Tuesday, then came off the bench in the second half behind J.J. RedickHe finished with five points on 2-7 shooting from the floor.

Woj’s Latest: McConnell, Clippers, Kawhi, Butler

The Sixers have discussed a possible contract extension for T.J. McConnell, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said during the latest edition of The Woj Pod. Despite some “conversations” about a new deal, Wojnarowski doesn’t suggest that those talks have gotten serious, and Zach Lowe adds that he doesn’t expect Philadelphia to extend McConnell early, since the team wants to maximize its cap room for next summer.

[UPDATE: Sixers not planning on in-season extension for McConnell]

Still, it will be interesting to see what happens with McConnell, who would be eligible for up to four years and about $47.5MM on an in-season extension. Wojnarowski indicates that the Sixers‘ backup point guard is “in demand” on the trade market, but has always been a favorite of head coach Brett Brown. As long as Markelle Fultz remains a question mark, McConnell is an important part of the club’s rotation.

[RELATED: Sixers turned down Suns’ trade offer for T.J. McConnell]

Wojnarowski and Lowe relayed a few more noteworthy tidbits on their latest podcast, so let’s round up the highlights….

  • Wojnarowski believes that the Clippers’ chance of landing Kawhi Leonard in 2019 are “better than not.” However, while he thinks L.A. is in a great position for Leonard, he cautions that anything can happen between now and next July.
  • Wojnarowski also expects the Clippers to “be heard from again” in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes, though the ESPN scribe expects many other potential trade partners to re-engage the Timberwolves once Minnesota gets “more realistic” about its asking price.
  • Elsewhere on the Butler front, Wojnarowski notes that the All-NBA swingman has made it clear that the Lakers are “not really a consideration” for him. Conversely, the Lakers think they can do better than Butler with their potential max-salary slot, Woj adds.
  • Both Wojnarowski and Lowe raved about Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, with Woj suggesting that Spoelstra could command $10MM annually as a “free agent” coach. An executive from a rival team asked Lowe last season if he thought the Heat would be willing to part with Spoelstra for a first-round pick — both Woj and Lowe agree that they wouldn’t.