Tarik Black

And-Ones: LaMelo Ball, Brooks, De Colo, Black

Like fellow 2020 prospect R.J. Hampton, LaMelo Ball will play in Australia’s NBL next season. After announcing his decision on ESPN’s The Jump on Monday (link via ESPN’s Jonathan Givony), Ball made it official, signing with the Illawarra Hawks for the 2019/20 season. According to Givony, Ball signed a two-year contract, but it has NBA out clauses.

Having spent a year playing in Lithuania, Ball was unlikely to be cleared to play for an NCAA program anyway, but he’s still the second potential 2020 first-round pick to join the NBL for the coming season. LaMelo, who is Lonzo Ball‘s younger brother, is ranked by ESPN as the No. 21 prospect in next year’s draft class.

“My agents did a ton of research on the options I had to play this coming season, and Australia really made sense for me,” Ball told ESPN. “They have a really strong league, with excellent coaches and great players, including former and future NBA players, and great strength and conditioning programs. My goal is to be the top pick in next year’s draft, and I feel they can help me reach that goal. Also, the timing of the season works well with the timing of next year’s draft.”

Meanwhile, the Illawarra Hawks also appear poised to add a former NBA guard to their roster, as Lachy Reid of Channel Ten and Olgun Uluc of FOX Sports Australia (Twitter links) report that Aaron Brooks is set to join the Australian club (hat tip to Sportando). Brooks, a longtime NBA point guard, last played in the league in 2017/18 when he appeared in 32 games for the Timberwolves.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

Tarik Black Signs Overseas

Tarik Black has agreed to a one-year contract with Israeli club Maccabi Tel Aviv, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reports (Twitter link). The financial terms of the agreement have not yet been reported.

The big man played for the Rockets last season, scoring 3.5 points in 10.5 minutes per game. Black has played a total of 220 games over four seasons, making a stop in Los Angeles between Houston stints.

And-Ones: O. White, T. Black, Trail Blazers

Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv appears to be eyeing free agent NBA big men as it looks to fill out its roster for the 2018/19 season. A rumor last week indicated that former Heat and Cavs power forward Okaro White may be nearing a deal with Maccabi, but such an agreement is unlikely to happen, according to Orazio Cauchi of Sportando.

Cauchi reported last week that the Israeli club had interest in former Rockets center Tarik Black, who remains an unrestricted free agent. However, despite rumors that the two sides are closing in on a deal, Black’s agent denies that his client has any sort of agreement in place with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

As we wait to see what’s next for Maccabi, White, and Black, let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world….

  • In the latest installments of their Summer Forecast series, ESPN’s panel projects the Eastern and Western Conference standings and champions for the 2018/19 season. While the teams at the top of those lists aren’t surprising, the playoff predictions in the West are noteworthy — ESPN’s panelists have the Spurs and Trail Blazers outside the top eight.
  • The Trail Blazers also show up in Matt John’s list of teams that could regress in 2018/19 in his latest piece for Basketball Insiders. John suggests that the Rockets, Timberwolves, and Sixers could also take a step back.
  • After several years at Yahoo Sports, top NBA reporter Shams Charania is headed to The Athletic. Paul Fichtenbaum of The Athletic conducted a Q&A with Charania about his own free agency decision.
  • Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders weighs in on some of the best one-year contracts of 2018’s free agent period.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Houston Rockets

The Rockets committed to a certain title contention window when they traded half of their roster in exchange for Chris Paul. The deal has paid dividends considering that the addition of the future Hall of Famer has taken the franchise from solid Western Conference team in a world dominated by the Warriors to a legitimate championship contender.

For that reason, the Rockets will head into the summer with one primary goal: bringing Paul back. If, or perhaps when, that happens, the club will go about filling out the rest of the roster, likely retaining several of the rest of their pending free agents and filling out the lineup with journeymen on minimum deals.

Trevor Ariza, 33, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $32MM deal in 2014
There are few intangibles guys better suited to complement the current Rockets core than Ariza but that doesn’t mean general manager Daryl Morey will overextend the franchise to keep him on-board. Fortunately, he may not have to. While Ariza has serious value as the starting small forward on a very competitive roster, he’s not the type of asset that rebuilding teams would pursue given his age and the price tag may be too steep for another contender, desperate to plug him in alongside their current core. Unless a lottery team foolishly dumps a pile of money on his doorstep, Ariza will be back in Houston in the $10MM range for as long as the club’s title contention window is open.

Tarik Black, 26, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $3MM deal in 2017
Black has shown flashes of promise in spot minutes over the course of his four-year career but he’s not the intriguing bargain bin scratch ticket he used to be. He’s not a bad option for the cash-strapped Rockets if they can bring him back for the minimum but if there’s any other organization desperate enough to offer more than that, it would make sense to let him walk.

Clint Capela, 24, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $6MM deal in 2014
After four years as one of the most cost effective game changers in the NBA, Capela is going to get paid as a restricted free agent. Capela is young, has a proven track record of playing a major role for a serious contender and hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he’d be capable of in starter’s minutes. It would surprise me if Capela doesn’t land a max offer sheet as a restricted free agent this summer and Houston has no choice but to match it if they want to continue being the only team with a semi-realistic chance of unseating the Warriors.

Gerald Green, 32, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1MM deal in 2017
Green went from being practically out of basketball to putting forth his most inspired NBA season in years. In 2017/18, Green went unsigned until December. I anticipate that the Houston native will be back on board with the Rockets for the veteran’s minimum as soon as the dust settles on the rest of the team’s summer plans.

Joe Johnson, 37, SF (Down) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Rockets took a flyer on Johnson after he was bought out of the albatross deal he signed with the Jazz in 2016 but never managed to break into the club’s admittedly stacked rotation. It would make zero sense for any team to pay more than the veteran’s minimum for the greybeard after three years of team changes and pedestrian production.

Luc Mbah a Moute, 31, SF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
The Rockets have done a fine job of surrounding their world-class skill players with defensive-minded role players. Landing Mbah a Moute for the minimum last summer was an incredibly valuable move. It’s hard to imagine that Mbah a Moute would sign for that cheap again this season seeing as he could realistically double or even triple that amount without breaking the bank for another contender. The Rockets would be happy to bring him back but may not be able to afford both he and Ariza.

Chris Paul, 33, PG (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $107MM deal in 2013
It wasn’t long ago that Paul seemed destined to sign a super max contract with the Clippers and retire a franchise legend. Fast forward to the summer of 2018 and we’re living in an entirely different reality. Paul performed brilliantly during his first season with the Rockets and his impact on the legitimate title contender is undisputed. That said, the franchise isn’t automatically compelled to offer a max money, four-year deal that would terminate when Paul is 37 years old. In a perfect world, the Rockets would sign him to a two- or three-year deal instead of going full-term.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Noel, Black, Rondo

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said injured superstar Kawhi Leonard is “gonna be back sooner rather than later” as he recovers from a right quadriceps injury, Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes. Leonard has not played this season due to the injury but the Spurs have performed well — they currently sit in third place in the Western Conference with a 9-5 record.

San Antonio has relied heavily on role players while Leonard recovers. Popovich explained the Spurs’ need to operate as if Leonard does not exist because other teams will not feel sorry for their temporary loss. Thus far, at least, the team has made good on that goal.

“A team just has to play in a sense like he doesn’t exist,” Popovich said. “Nobody cares if you lost a good player, right? Everybody wants to whip you. So it doesn’t do much good to do the poor me thing or to keep wondering when he is going to be back or what are we going to do. We have to play now, and other people have to take up those minutes and we have to figure out who to go to when in a different way, and you just move on.”

Below you can find additional news coming out of the Southwest Division:

Southwest Notes: Noel, Black, Grizzlies

Even if Dallas honors its perceived obligation to Dirk Nowitzki and continues to feature him at the five, there are plenty of minutes available to Nerlens Noel behind him. One of the problems, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer writes, is that the Mavs have one of the most imbalanced rosters in the NBA with a whopping seven centers on the payroll.

While Noel is, on paper, the best option to slot in behind Nowitzki, he hasn’t earned the trust of head coach Rick Carlisle. Suddenly, the 23-year-old long-term Mavs building block that was allegedly offered a four-year, $70MM contract in the summer is watching Salah Mejri take his minutes.

Tjarks spoke with Carlisle about Noel, gaining insight into why the Mavs haven’t made more of an effort to develop the big man in his first full season with the franchise. Noel’s defensive inefficiencies and struggles to fill the exact role requested of him have contributed to the current standstill.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • In another article about Nerlens Noel‘s role with the Mavs, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes that the big man isn’t on a specifically short leash. “There’s no doghouse here,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “There just isn’t. It’s pretty simple. You compete and if you earn minutes, you get minutes. You got to compete. And our guys have to have an edge. No one’s given anything. That’s how we have to do things. The situation is we have a lot of tough opponents, record’s not good right now. Competing is what it’s all about.
  • The Rockets haven’t found a way to incorporate Tarik Black into their regular rotation. Until they do, the productive reserve will need to continue to prepare, as he tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “There’s nothing like basketball rhythm. I have to get back on the court. As far as staying prepared, every day I come in here and prepare like I am playing. I do my same routine and after the game, if I don’t play, do extra work,” Black said.
  • The Grizzlies have drawn from last year to effectively navigate through a plague of injuries, Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. “We had our moments last year when we were down to nine guys. So, you have to figure out how to use them and put them in a position to succeed,” head coach David Fizdale said.

Tarik Black Signs With Rockets

JULY 17th, 4:27pm: The signing is official, the team announced on its website.

JULY 14th, 4:46pm: The Rockets have agreed to a deal with free agent forward Tarik Black, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports (via Twitter). Houston will use its biannual exception ($3.2MM) to sign Black, per Zach Lowe of ESPN (via Twitter).

Black was waived by the Lakers earlier this month before his deal for 2017/18 became guaranteed and hit unrestricted free agency after clearing waivers. Black becomes the second Laker from the 2016/17 team to find a new home today as David Nwaba was claimed off waivers by the Bulls.

Black, 25, is familiar with the Rockets’ organization as he was signed by the team after going undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. After appearing in 25 games for Houston during the 2014/15 season, he was waived and eventually claimed by the Lakers. In parts of three seasons since joining the Lakers, Black posted totals of 5.4 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 144 games.

The 6’9″ center has been lauded for his defensive abilities and rebounding since entering the NBA. With an aging Nene and Clint Capela as the Rockets’ primary big men, Black should find more opportunities to play than in his first go-around with the team.

Lakers Waive Tarik Black

The Lakers have waived Tarik Black, the team announced today in a press release. Black will become an unrestricted free agent, assuming he clears waivers.

Black, 25, has spent the majority of his NBA career with the Lakers, having been claimed off the waivers from the Rockets back in December 2014. After signing a new deal with L.A. last summer, the 6’9″ center appeared in 67 games (16 starts) in 2016/17, averaging 5.7 PPG and 5.1 RPG and playing solid defense.

The timing of Black’s release allows the Lakers to avoid being on the hook for his 2017/18 salary, which would have been worth $6,655,325. It would have become fully guaranteed if Black had remained under contract through July 4.

Lakers Notes: Clarkson, Black, West

Fresh off of his third season in the NBA, Lakers combo guard Jordan Clarkson is familiar with a fluctuating role. According to Mark Medina of Inside the Lakers, that isn’t expected to change after his exit meeting.

The 24-year-old told Medina that he doesn’t know whether he’ll start, come off the bench, play the point or handle duties at the two-guard position. Much of that, naturally, will be determined after the draft and free agent signing period.

In 2016/17, Clarkson thrived in uncertainty, nearly matching his career high in scoring despite playing less minutes than he did when he initially set the mark.

While much of L.A.’s core revolves around players like D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle, the 2014 second-round pick averaged an impressive 14.7 points while playing in all 82 games for the Lakers.

There’s more from the Lakers today:

  • Despite an apparent willingness to accept a consultant role with the Lakers, Jerry West won’t be offered one, Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register writes, citing a team insider.
  • Third-year forward Tarik Black is confident he’ll be back with the Lakers next season, Mark Medina writes for Inside the Lakers. Although there’s no guarantee when it comes to his… non-guaranteed contract. “If they weren’t interested in bringing me back, they would’ve just said, ‘Well, it’s nice having you Tarik, we enjoyed you, we’ll be in touch,” Black said. “The fact they’re sitting there, having the conversation and listening to my questions and they seriously answered them and we talked about development, it just gives me confidence moving forward.
  • The Lakers wrapped up their exit meetings last week, writes the Orange County Register’s Mark Medina, and one item that was stressed consistently was better conditioning. The club appears otherwise optimistic looking forward.
  • After two years with the Lakers, 37-year-old Metta World Peace has tweeted goodbye to the franchise, E. Carchia of Sportando relays.

Western Notes: Nuggets, Motiejunas, Mavs, Lakers

The race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference is wide open, but the Nuggets were unable to grain ground on Tuesday night, losing their third straight game. Tuesday’s loss was particularly frustrating since it came at home against the Kings, the team ahead of Denver for that eighth seed in the West. In the wake of Denver’s defeat, Michael Malone was critical of his team’s performance and effort, telling reporters that the Nuggets have “the worst defense in the NBA.”

“Right now we have no leadership, we have no veteran leadership on this team stepping up,” said the Nuggets head coach, per Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. “I don’t hear anybody speaking, taking the lead. We have two young guys trying to speak up on the team’s behalf, which you applaud them but you need some leadership to shine and step up when we are struggling, which we are.”

One person who didn’t agree with Malone’s assessment? Danilo Gallinari, who took exception to the idea that the Nuggets lack veteran leadership. “That’s definitely not the problem with this team,” Gallinari said, according to Dempsey. “Every veteran on this team can agree with me. So, I don’t agree with that.”

The Nuggets have frequently been mentioned as one of the teams most likely to make a move before the trade deadline, so the situation in Denver will be worth monitoring in the coming weeks. Let’s round up a few more notes from out of the Western Conference…

  • After signing on Tuesday with the Pelicans, Donatas Motiejunas confirmed today that he has been medically cleared by the team (Twitter link via Scott Kushner of The Advocate). Head coach Alvin Gentry indicated that he expects Motiejunas to play primarily at center in New Orleans (Twitter link via Kushner).
  • The Mavericks have a pair of players on non-guaranteed contracts, but Dorian Finney-Smith is safe, and Pierre Jackson looks like a good bet to stick on the roster past the salary guarantee deadline as well, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. The Mavs like what they’ve seen from Jackson so far, so the only reason to cut him would be to maintain roster flexibility going forward.
  • In Larry Nance’s absence, the Lakers have explored using Thomas Robinson and Tarik Black on the floor at the same time, and are intrigued by the pairing, per Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. Both Robinson and Black signed new contracts with Los Angeles during the offseason.