Taj Gibson

NBA’s Bottom Eight Teams Gearing Up For Group Workouts

Monday, September 14 marks the first day of the three-week offseason workout window for the NBA’s bottom eight teams. The first phase of these de facto training camps will last for one week, through next Monday. During that time, activities will continue to be limited to individual workouts, as participants begin being tested daily for the coronavirus.

After one week, once participating players have returned multiple negative COVID-19 tests – or have been quarantined if they test positive – the second phase of the camps will take place in bubble-type environments. Group workouts, including practices and intra-squad scrimmages, will be permitted during the next two weeks as coronavirus testing continues.

The eight teams not invited to Orlando – the Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Knicks, Pistons, Bulls, and Hornets – won’t congregate at a single site like the top 22 teams did at Walt Disney World. Their “bubbles” will be created in their respective markets.

[RELATED: Eight Teams Left Out Of Restart To Conduct Workouts At Home Sites]

For instance, as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes, the Bulls will stay at a downtown hotel and will be transported back and forth between there and the Advocate Center. The Hawks, meanwhile, are working to secure their players a hotel that has not yet opened to help avoid any outside contact, per Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The other clubs will make similar arrangements.

These workouts – both the individual sessions this week and the group activities beginning next week – are entirely voluntary. However, since these players have been unable to take part in organized basketball activities with teammates since March and are likely itching to get back on the court, there’s an expectation that attendance will be robust for most clubs.

Chris Kirschner of The Athletic reports, for example, that the Hawks anticipate all their core players – including Clint Capela – will take part in the camp. Jeff Teague is one of the only players not expected to participate, per Spencer, who notes that the veteran point guard is ticketed for free agency.

The Pistons are in a similar situation — James L. Edwards III of The Athletic reports that free-agent-to-be Langston Galloway isn’t expected to be in attendance, but most of the rest of the team’s players will participate.

There are some cases where players who could reach free agency in the coming months will take part in workouts. For instance, Marc Berman of The New York Post says that Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson will likely be in attendance for the Knicks. Portis has a pricey team option for 2020/21, while only $1MM of Gibson’s $9.45MM salary is guaranteed, so both vets could be let go by the team this fall.

Berman does caution that some veteran Knicks players intend to participate in individual workouts but won’t join the rest of the club in the “bubble.”

Teams that want to fill gaps on their roster and make sure they have enough players to hold intra-squad scrimmages will be able to invite players who suited up for their G League affiliates this past season. For example, Lindell Wigginton and Canyon Barry of the Iowa Wolves will join Minnesota for the team’s mini-camp at Mayo Clinic Square, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.

With these offseason camps set to end on October 6 and the NBA Finals likely to wrap up shortly thereafter, the next time clubs meet for organized activities will presumably be for training camps at the start of the 2020/21 season.

Eastern Notes: Mahinmi, Sabonis, Nunn, Knicks

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said on Wednesday that center Ian Mahinmi will not play in tomorrow’s regular-season finale against the Celtics, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link).

Since the Wizards landed in Orlando for the seeding games, Mahinmi has not played a single minute. This season, the 33-year-old center only played in 38 games, averaging 7.4 PPG and 5.7 RPG.

The Wizards were expecting Mahinmi to be their veteran rim protector when they signed him to a four-year, $64MM contract in the summer of 2016. However, that never came to fruition due to injuries. Over the last two seasons, Mahinmi has only played in 72 games. The veteran center is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Here’s more from across the Eastern Conference:

New York Notes: Nets, Crawford, Thibodeau, Forbes List

The Nets were overmatched in their first reseeding game Friday against the Magic, and it’s a trend that will likely continue throughout their stay in Orlando, writes Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. Brooklyn started out strong in the 128-118 loss, which dropped the team into eighth place in the East, but a lack of proven NBA talent was too much to overcome. The Nets are missing seven members of their regular roster.

“We need to embrace that stuff a little bit,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We’ll have to be extremely gritty, put a body on someone every single possession. That gave us more than 40 opportunities to shoot 3s and when teams do that you have to make them pay.”

There’s more on the New York teams:

  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford was held out of Friday’s game and may not make his debut with the Nets tomorrow, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Crawford is listed as questionable for the contest with the Wizards because of conditioning issues. Brooklyn holds a six-game lead over Washington and can effectively clinch a playoff spot with a win.
  • Now that Tom Thibodeau is officially the new head coach of the Knicks, Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated looks at five of his former players who could potentially play for him in New York. He notes that when Thibodeau was hired in Minnesota, he brought in several of his ex-players from Chicago. In addition to Taj Gibson, who is already on New York’s roster and is waiting for the team to make a decision on his $9.5MM option for next season, Macri’s list includes D.J. Augustin, Zach LaVine, Jeff Teague and Dario Saric.
  • The Knicks are this year’s highest-valued NBA team on the annual list from Forbes. Despite seven straight losing seasons, the Knicks are third overall at $4.6 billion, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. The Lakers rank fourth at $4.4 billion and the Warriors are fifth at $4.3 billion.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Woodson, Gibson, Hayes

Tom Thibodeau has been doing extensive film study on the Knicks in case he gets hired as the team’s next head coach, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Thibodeau, who is among 11 candidates to receive an interview, is considered to be the favorite for the job.

Thibodeau recently had a second interview that lasted three hours, Berman adds. He is reportedly very interested in helping to develop second-year center Mitchell Robinson, who has already emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous shot blockers.

Former Knicks coach Rick Pitino, who has a long history with Thibodeau, talks with Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News about the coach’s reputation for being prepared. “He was meticulously organized, almost scary organized, and he reminded me of (New England Patriots coach) Bill Belichick,” Pitino said. “I’ve spent a lot of time with Belichick and Thibodeau’s got a lot of the same mannerisms, the same attention to detail that Belichick has. And that’s about the highest compliment I could give someone.”

There’s more on the Knicks this morning:

  • Mike Woodson will be a candidate to join the staff in New York even if he doesn’t get hired as the head coach, Berman adds in a separate story. David Fizdale reportedly wanted to bring on Woodson as an assistant when he was hired, but the front office turned him down.
  • Taj Gibson, who played for Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota, didn’t say much about the coaching search during a rally Saturday in New York, but he expressed confidence that the organization will make “the right decision,” Berman writes in another piece. Gibson, who is waiting for the Knicks to decide on his $9.5MM player option for next season, was disappointed that the team wasn’t invited to be part of the NBA’s restart in Orlando. “Any competitor type would want to be out there and competing,” he said, “but we’re not and I’m just working hard in the gym getting ready for next season.’’
  • The agent for French point guard Killian Hayes confirmed that the Knicks are among several teams that conducted video interviews with the projected lottery pick, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

New Dates Set For Option Decisions, Salary Guarantees, More

As part of the revised Collective Bargaining Agreement terms that the NBA and NBPA have agreed to, a series of option decision deadlines, salary guarantee dates, and other offseason dates and deadlines have been pushed back.

We don’t yet have a full list that outlines how every date and deadline will be adjusted, but in cases where a deadline fell slightly before or after the start of the 2020/21 league year, those dates have been pushed back to coincide with the new start date for the league year, which will begin on October 19 rather than July 1.

For instance, as Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets, player option decisions for Gordon Hayward (Celtics), DeMar DeRozan (Spurs), Mike Conley (Jazz), and Andre Drummond (Cavaliers) will now be due on October 17 instead of June 29. Lakers big man Anthony Davis will have to decide on his 2020/21 player option by October 14, one day after a potential NBA Finals Game 7, Charania adds.

[RELATED: Re-Examining NBA Player Options For 2020/21]

Meanwhile, the salary guarantee date for four Knicks veterans – Reggie Bullock, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, and Elfrid Payton – who currently have $1MM partial guarantees for 2020/21 will be October 17 at 3:00pm eastern time, rather than on June 28, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Additionally, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link) reported over the weekend, traded player exceptions that were set to expire in early July will have their expiry dates moved to corresponding dates in October. For example, since the free agency moratorium will now expire on October 23 instead of July 6, the Warriors‘ $17.2MM TPE that would have expired on July 7 will instead do so on October 24.

[RELATED: Outstanding NBA Trade Exceptions]

There are other deadlines that figure to be closely tied to the new league year as well. For instance, the deadline to tender a qualifying offer to a potential restricted free agent will likely be on October 17 rather than June 29.

Some date adjustments may be trickier to determine and will require further clarification. For instance, some players had been scheduled to receive full or partial guarantees if they remained under contract through August 1. That date may simply be shifted to November 19, one month after the ’20/21 league year begins. But the NBA has proposed opening training camps for next season on November 10, complicating that timeline.

Latest On NBA’s Plans To Reopen Teams’ Facilities

After ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the weekend that the NBA will allow some teams to reopen their practice facilities beginning on May 1, clubs around the league are attempting to determine the viability of doing so.

As we detailed on Saturday, the NBA can’t unilaterally direct teams to open up their facilities, since some franchises play in states that have stricter stay-at-home orders than others due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Even in cities where facilities can be reopened, group workouts and organized team activities will continue to be prohibited.

According to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link), teams expect to receive further directives from the NBA at some point this week outlining what will and won’t be permitted as facilities begin to reopen.

Here’s more on the subject:

  • Toronto mayor John Tory said on Monday morning that he has preliminary discussions with Raptors management about reopening the team’s practice facility in May (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca). Tory doesn’t want the Raptors to be at a disadvantage relative to other teams, but is prioritizing safety and will allow public health officials to make the final call.
  • It was unclear as of Sunday whether the Heat will be permitted to reopen their practice facility this Friday, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “As of right now, under current orders, the AmericanAirlines Arena is closed,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s Office of Communications told The Herald in a statement. “But, we have until Friday to gather information on what the NBA plans are and to work with the Miami Heat on what could be possible, safe and acceptable.”
  • The Warriors‘ facilities are expected to remain closed as long as the City of San Francisco keeps its current lock-down ordinances in place, league sources tell Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area. Social-distancing guidelines have been instituted in the city through May 3 and will likely be extended beyond that.
  • New York City’s lock-down regulations are expected to run through at least May 15, but the NBA figures to be proactive in helping Knicks and Nets players find somewhere to work out next month, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. As Berman notes, Taj Gibson and Frank Ntilikina are believed to be the only Knicks players still staying in the New York area, with the rest of the club’s players spread across North America.
  • Chris Mannix of SI.com explores the competitive imbalance that may affect a resumed season if certain teams are permitted to reopen their facilities days or weeks before others.

Knicks Notes: Harkless, Dolan, Gibson, Gallinari

The Knicks acquired Maurice Harkless because his contract was needed to complete the deal that sent Marcus Morris to the Clippers, but his performance since the trade has made him a strong candidate to return next season, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

Harkless started eight of the 12 games he has played since coming to New York and has impressed the team with his strong defensive play and his desire to be a Knick. New team president Leon Rose had been hoping to closely evaluate Harkless over the final 16 games of the season, but the league’s hiatus may eliminate that opportunity.

“It was a chance for him to showcase to the Knicks and to see if he wanted to be here,’’ a source told Berman. “He always wanted to be a Knick.’’

Harkless is in the final season of a four-year, $40MM contract. Berman expects him to get more than the minimum in free agency.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Owner James Dolan was exhibiting some mild symptoms before being tested for coronavirus, Berman tweets. Dolan was courtside for a March 8 game against the Pistons, who had one of the first players to test positive for the virus in Christian Wood. No Knicks players were tested before returning to their homes because they were all asymptomatic.
  • The best chance for Taj Gibson to return to the Knicks is for Tom Thibodeau to become the next head coach, Berman notes in a separate story. Gibson is a favorite of Thibodeau, who has coached him with the Bulls and Timberwolves, but his $9.5MM salary may be more than the organization wants to spend on a backup big man. Gibson has a $1MM guarantee if he is released. “Taj was solid on the court, but he was even better in the locker room,’’ a source said. “He helped (Mitchell Robinson) understand the pro game and how to carry yourself if you want to play in the NBA and have an impact.’’
  • Jonathan Macri of Sports Illustrated lays out an ideal scenario for the Knicks’ offseason, which involves trading Julius Randle, moving on from Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr., drafting a point guard, trading veterans for draft picks and hiring Kenny Atkinson as head coach. As a bonus, Macri suggests signing former Knick Danilo Gallinari in free agency, speculating that a two-year guaranteed offer might be enough.

Knicks Not Planning To Buy Out Veterans

The Knicks have no plans at the moment to buy out any of their veteran players on expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts, according to Steve Popper of Newsday.

New York began its post-All-Star schedule hoping to make a push for a playoff spot in the East and not intending to prioritize playing youngsters over veterans if it compromised the team’s ability to win games. That philosophy has meant that players like Reggie Bullock, Bobby Portis, and Taj Gibson are still key contributors rather than buyout candidates.

While it’s possible the Knicks will adjust their approach to late-season player development as their postseason hopes continue to fade, their position on buyouts isn’t expected to change, says Popper. The team still views many of its veteran contracts – several of which include team options or small partial guarantees for 2020/21 – as potential trade assets for the offseason, Popper adds.

Besides Bullock, Portis, and Gibson, Wayne Ellington and Maurice Harkless are among the vets who fit the mold of a typical buyout candidate, at least to some extent. However, if those players aren’t interested in buyouts, the Knicks would have little to gain from pursuing them — the team already has one of the NBA’s lowest payrolls for 2019/20 and the savings would be minimal.

Additionally, none of those players have more than $1MM in guaranteed money on their contracts for next season, so they could be easily cut loose if no trade materializes in the offseason and the Knicks decide to move on. The only real benefit to moving on from them now would be to open up an immediate roster spot or two for developmental projects.

For what it’s worth, players like Portis and Harkless have publicly suggested they’re not looking to go the buyout route.

Knicks Notes: Miller, JVG, DSJ, Front Office

Although Mike Miller‘s hold on the Knicks‘ head coaching job beyond this season looks tenuous, multiple people within the organization support the idea of keeping Miller around in some capacity even if the team hires a new head coach, says Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

Begley and Marc Berman of The New York Post both point out that Miller is on good terms with Jeff Van Gundy, who is expected to receive consideration for the head coaching job from new president of basketball operations Leon Rose. Berman, who suggests Miller could stay on as an assistant coach if Van Gundy were to be hired, notes that JVG expressed support for the current interim coach during an appearance on NBA SiriusXM Radio.

“Mike Miller, to me, deserves every opportunity to finish this season out and win the job,” Van Gundy said. “And I think anybody plotting as a coach to try to undermine that opportunity is doing it wrong.”

Talk of Miller’s job security was reignited this week when brand consultant Steve Stoute suggested during an ESPN appearance that the Knicks will be looking to replace Miller this spring. The team and Stoute himself released statements hours later disavowing those comments. Interim head of basketball operations Scott Perry was among those “particularly bent out of shape” by Stoute’s comments on ESPN, a source tells Berman.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • Sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News that Marcus Morris lobbied earlier this season for Dennis Smith Jr. – with whom he shares an agent – to receive more playing time. Smith, who lost an advocate when the Knicks traded Morris last week, has appeared in the team’s last eight contests, but logged fewer than eight minutes in each of the last two games.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday suggests (via Twitter) that Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas may be a name to watch as the Knicks seek an experienced basketball executive to work with Leon Rose in their new-look front office. However, Popper cautions (via Twitter) that Karnisovas signed an extension with Denver last year.
  • Before the Knicks decided on Rose for their president of basketball operations opening, there was speculation that Kevin Durant‘s manager Rich Kleiman could be a candidate for the job. That wasn’t the case, according to Kleiman, who tells Ian Begley of SNY.tv that he never heard from the club.
  • Tom Thibodeau has been cited as a potential head coaching candidate for the Knicks, and while Taj Gibson isn’t openly campaigning for his former coach, he believes Thibodeau can have success in today’s NBA. “He’s been misunderstood,” Gibson said, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “A lot of players have different mindsets. His mindset is winning. To win games you got to go through a lot of hard work. Sometimes young players don’t understand it.”

Celtics Notes: Trades, Tatum, Irving, Stevens

The Celtics are concerned about facing Sixers center Joel Embiid in a potential playoff series, and the trade market may not offer the help they need, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Embiid posted 38 points and 13 rebounds in Thursday’s win over Boston, giving Philadelphia a 2-0 record against its arch rivals. Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis combined for 36 points and 14 rebounds, but the Celtics might prefer one center who matches up better with Embiid and some of the other front line talent in the Eastern Conference.

Forsberg notes that the Celtics’ options are limited because they don’t have any substantial contracts to trade outside of their core players. That eliminates an option like Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams, who has a $25.8MM salary. The Celtics might have to send Gordon Hayward to the Thunder in return, which Forsberg says they won’t consider.

A more realistic possibility that Forsberg identifies is the KnicksTaj Gibson, who is making $9MM this year and has a non-guaranteed contract for next season. Gibson has fared well against Embiid in limited minutes and played alongside Kanter when they were both with the Thunder.

There’s more today from Boston:

  • Jayson Tatum believes Kyrie Irving has been made an unfair scapegoat for last year’s disappointing season. Brown defended his former teammate this week in an interview with ESPN’s Maria Taylor (video link). “No, it’s not Kyrie’s fault. There was 15 guys on that team and coaches and front office,” Tatum said. “Everybody played a part in that. I feel like he gets a lot of blame undeservingly. He’s a great person. We still have a great relationship. He helped me out a lot, on and off the court, my first two years, that I’m thankful for. But no, he shouldn’t get all the blame, any of the blame.”
  • Coach Brad Stevens thinks the league is on the right track by experimenting with its schedule and considering an in-season tournament, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. He admits it’s hard to deliver “your best product” 82 times a season. “I do appreciate the NBA looks at things and says, ‘We’re not just going to stay status quo because it’s status quo,’” Stevens said. “We have to continue to look at what’s best for the game, what’s best for the players, all the people in the travel party, all that stuff. So I appreciate the leadership in the league.”
  • The Grizzlies have moved into eighth place in our Reverse Standings with three wins in their past four games, Forsberg tweets. The first-round pick that they owe the Celtics is top-six protected for 2020, then unprotected after that.