Torrey Craig

Western Notes: Leonard, George, Powell, Poeltl, Collins, Craig, Payne

The Clippers have been extremely cautious with Kawhi Leonard this season and he’ll miss another game on Wednesday, though it doesn’t involve his surgically repaired knee. Leonard is listed out due to a right ankle sprain, according to the team’s PR department. The 31-year-old has only played in five games this season.

The Clippers’ other star forward, Paul George, will miss his second consecutive game due to a right hamstring tendon strain.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is touting Norman Powell as a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register writes. Powell is averaging 16.2 points in the past 10 games, including a 30-point outing against Utah on Monday. “Like I said, Sixth Man of the Year, that should be his goal, and he has a great opportunity to do that, having 30 points on 15 shots off the bench,” Lue said. “Very efficient. And we need him to play well especially with guys being out and he’s stepping up, playing well for us.”
  • Jakob Poeltl is in his walk year and the Spurs big man knows he could be traded for assets this season, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News reports. “I’m aware of the possibility, but it doesn’t affect my mindset during this season,” Poeltl said. “It’s a possibility at all times in the NBA. Sometimes there’s more trade rumors, sometimes there’s less.” Poeltl is averaging career highs in points (13.6), rebounds (9.8) and assists (3.6).
  • Another Spurs big man, Zach Collins, is likely to return after a nine-game absence. He’s listed as probable for Wednesday’s game against New Orleans, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. He suffered a non-displaced fracture of his fibula earlier this month.
  • Torrey Craig and Cameron Payne have been thrust into the Suns’ starting lineup due to injuries to Cameron Johnson and Chris Paul, respectively, and they’ve been quite productive, Gerald Bourguet of notes. Craig is averaging 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the last four games, while Payne is averaging 19.3 points, 6.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds through the last seven games. “We’re lucky to have the depth that we have,” Paul said.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Clippers, Conley, CP3, Suns

Even though they lost their first five games of the season, the Lakers were playing fairly solid defense during that slump, but their defensive numbers have dropped off substantially during their recent three-game losing streak. Head coach Darvin Ham is convinced that those struggles won’t last, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I would say this, man. And write it, quote it, however,” Ham told reporters on Monday. “This may be happening now at the outset of what we’re trying to force to be a culture change in terms of getting us back to being highly competitive on a highly consistent basis, but it’s not going to always be like this.

“We’re going to turn the corner. I didn’t come here to lose. They didn’t bring me here to lose.”

As McMenamin writes, Ham believes that significant roster turnover from last season to this season is a factor in the Lakers’ 2-8 start, as are injury issues — three starters, LeBron James, Patrick Beverley, and Lonnie Walker, sat out Monday’s loss to Utah.

“There is a process involved where we have to go through tough times,” Ham said. “Like, I want to bottle this up. I want to embrace it. I want to have it and store it so when things are turned around and we get too comfortable and we start complaining about some problems that are not even necessarily problems — problems that winning teams go through — I want to be able to reflect on these times.”

Anthony Davis told reporters on Monday that a 2-8 start is “a hard pill to swallow,” but noted that there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.

“I think New Orleans was 1-12 or something last year, come back and go on a run,” Davis said. “We’ve got to put it together. Offense has found its rhythm. It seems like we’ve lost all our defensive intensity. And that’s what’s killing us.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Jazz point guard Mike Conley believed at one point during the offseason that he was headed to Los Angeles, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. As Jones reports, Conley received a message from someone he trusted saying that he could be traded to the Clippers, but the team ultimately signed John Wall instead to fortify the point guard spot.
  • Already missing one starter, the Suns lost another in Monday’s game, as point guard Chris Paul exited in the second quarter due to right heel soreness and didn’t return. However, Paul doesn’t believe the injury will be a long-term concern, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Asked if not returning to Monday’s game was mostly about he and the team taking a cautious approach to the injury, Paul replied, “Yeah.”
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams said on Monday that the team may take a committee approach to replacing Cameron Johnson‘s minutes at power forward, Bontemps writes. Torrey Craig has gotten the first chance to take Johnson’s spot in the starting five, but Damion Lee, Dario Saric, and Jock Landale are also candidates for an eventual promotion, according to Williams.

Pacific Notes: DiVincenzo, Kuminga, George, Johnson, Craig

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said on Sunday that injured wing Donte DiVincenzo practiced with the club today, but is not set to return to the floor just yet, per Kendra Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). Golden State is targeting its Friday game for a DiVincenzo return, Andrews reports.

Andrews adds (via Twitter) that second-year swingman Jonathan Kuminga is going to join the Warriors’ revised rotation as the defending champs look to rebound from a five-game losing streak that has sunk their early record to 3-7. Andrews notes that Kerr has indicated he will be making other tweaks to the club’s lineups, but did not expound on that.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • With starting Suns power forward Cameron Johnson now out for a while following meniscus surgery, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports examines how his extended absence could impact the rest of the club’s roster. With Phoenix reserve Torrey Craig shifted into the starting lineup, Bourguet contends that the Suns could struggle thanks to a shortened bench and the loss of three-point shooting that arrives in the transition from Johnson to Craig. While Craig is connecting on 40.9% of his triples, he is taking just 2.4 attempts a game. Johnson was nailing 43.1% of his treys on a much more robust 6.4 looks a night.
  • Craig performed well as head coach Monty Williams‘s choice to replace Johnson in the Suns‘ starting lineup, and appears to be in line for a big uptick in the weeks to come with Johnson out, according to Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic. “It’s been good,” Williams said of Craig’s performance. “He’s been thrown into a number of situations with us and I thought his energy [in the team’s 102-82 blowout of the Trail Blazers Saturday] was great.”
  • Clippers All-Star forward Paul George has stepped up in the absence of injured fellow All-Star Kawhi Leonard, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Leonard has only been able to suit up for two games thus far as he deals with right knee stiffness. In three straight Leonard-less wins, George has averaged 31.2 PPG, 6.1 APG and 5.0 RPG.

Western Notes: Craig, Snyder, Kings, Pelicans

Torrey Craig missed the last two games of the Suns‘ series vs. Dallas due to a right elbow contusion, but said today that he’s ready to go for Game 5, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

Craig only played six total minutes in the first two games of the series and hasn’t logged more than 11 minutes in a single playoff contest to date, so his availability won’t have a major impact on the Suns’ rotation.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

Western Notes: Murray, Green, Craig, Towns

Nuggets star Jamal Murray isn’t close to returning from a torn ACL, head coach Michael Malone said on Sunday, as relayed by Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). Murray suffered the injury 11 months ago and an ESPN report from last month suggested he could return before the playoffs.

Murray, who spent some time with the Grand Rapids Gold earlier this month, may rejoin the team’s G League affiliate for another block of practices, Malone added. No timetable was revealed for a possible return.

Murray averaged a career-high 21.2 points per game before sustaining the injury last season, shooting 48% from the floor and 41% from deep. The Nuggets own the seventh-best record in the West (42-30) despite his absence. The team has also dealt with other significant losses — including Michael Porter Jr. (back) — and should be viewed as a legitimate contender at full strength.

Here are some other notes from the West:

  • In a separate story for the Denver Post, Mike Singer examines how JaMychal Green‘s leadership has been valuable for the Nuggets. Green lit a fire in the team’s huddle against Philadelphia last Monday, helping motivate them en route to a 114-110 win, Singer shares.
  • Suns wing Torrey Craig stepped up in the absences of Jae Crowder (groin) and Cameron Johnson (quad) against the Bulls on Friday, as relayed by the Arizona Republic. Craig finished with 14 points and nine rebounds as a starter, shooting 5-of-5 from the floor in 31 minutes of action.
  • Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns expressed confidence in his squad after winning its fourth straight game, Dane Moore of Bring Me The News tweets. Minnesota defeated Milwaukee 138-119 on Saturday. The team is 9-1 in its last 10 games, leading Towns to make the following statement: “Any time we step on the court, we should win… We feel we can beat anybody.”

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Bazemore, Craig, Biyombo

Magic Johnson stepped down from his post as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in 2019 but team owner Jeanie Buss still leans on the Hall-of-Famer for advice, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic. “To me, he’s still working with us,” Buss said. “In terms of an official capacity, in the NBA, you have to be very clear as to who can negotiate on your behalf and who can’t. So he doesn’t have that official designation. But in terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kent Bazemore hasn’t been part of the Lakers rotation since mid-November and hasn’t played since February 3. However, he’s not sulking over his lack of playing time, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. “Some nights, it gets hard having to hold back that competitive nature. Especially if a guy gets going, I know defensively, I made a living off of taking guys out of the game, shutting off the water, so to speak. That gets the best of me sometimes,” Bazemore said. “But that’s just the competitor in me. … I’m doing what I love. I don’t mind putting in the work for it, even though I’m out of the rotation.”
  • The Suns wanted to bring back Torrey Craig during the offseason but prioritized signing JaVale McGee with their mid-level exception, John Gambadoro of of 98.7 FM Phoenix tweets. Craig found a two-year deal with Indiana before the contract with McGee was finalized. Craig was traded back to Phoenix last week. The Suns still have a portion of the mid-level available to use on the buyout market, Gambadoro adds.
  • Craig said the trade back to the Suns was a deadline-day surprise to him, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. “It just happened so fast,” Craig said. “I was literally practicing in Indiana and then I noticed it was an hour before the trade deadline. Came to my phone and I had a couple of missed calls from my agent. And then he called me and told me (the) situation and I was like, wow. It had just happened. It was a quick turnaround. I packed and I came here. I’m excited to be back.”  
  • Bismack Biyombo told his agent, former NBA player B.J. Armstrong, that he only wanted to sign with a title contender in free agency, Marc Spears of The Undefeated reports. “That was the hardest part,” Biyombo said. “I talked to my agent and I said, ‘Look, the only way I will do it is for a contender. Otherwise, I’m not doing it.’ Biyombo remained unsigned until a 10-day with Phoenix under the hardship exception. He later signed a rest-of-the-season deal with the Suns last month.

Pacers, Suns Swap Torrey Craig, Jalen Smith

7:33pm: The trade is official, according to an announcement from the Suns.

3:57pm: The Pacers will receive the Suns’ 2022 second-round pick in the deal, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link).

1:03pm: The Pacers will send Torrey Craig to the Suns in exchange for Jalen Smith, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Indiana will also receive a future second-round pick in the deal.

Craig, 31, was part of the Phoenix team that reached the NBA Finals last season. He only got into 32 games with the Suns and left in free agency to find a team that would give him a larger role. He signed a two-year, $10MM deal with the Pacers and averaged 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds in 51 games.

There has been speculation that Smith, a 21-year-old big man, would be moved ever since the Suns decided not to pick up his third-year option. The 10th pick in the 2020 draft, Smith got into 29 games this season, averaging 6.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per night. He may get a larger opportunity on an Indiana team that traded away Domantas Sabonis this week.

Because Smith’s option for next season has already been declined, the Pacers can’t offer him a new contract starting at more than $4,670,160, which was the amount of the option.

Pacers Rumors: Brogdon, Hield, Warren, Craig, Turner, Korkmaz

There are rival executives around the NBA who believe the Pacers will trade Malcolm Brogdon this offseason following their acquisition of Tyrese Haliburton, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Brogdon isn’t eligible to be traded this season due to the contract extension he signed in the fall, but could be moved in the summer

The Pacers shouldn’t feel any urgency to deal Brogdon, since he and Haliburton are both solid ball-handlers, defenders, and shooters who could complement one another in the backcourt. But the presence of Haliburton certainly will give Indiana more options if the team wants to try to use Brogdon in a trade to address another area of the roster.

According to Scotto, the Pacers are also open to flipping newly-acquired shooting guard Buddy Hield prior to Thursday’s trade deadline. Hield’s $23MM cap hit and the $40MM he’s owed for the two seasons after this one will probably make it tricky for the club to get much of value for him, especially since he has had a down year — his .368 3PT% is the worst mark of his career.

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Veteran forwards T.J. Warren and Torrey Craig are among the other players the Pacers have made available in advance of Thursday’s trade deadline, league sources tell Scotto. Warren, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, hasn’t played since December 2020 due to a foot injury, so teams may be reluctant to take a flier on him.
  • Myles Turner is expected to remain with the Pacers beyond the deadline, a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking tells Chris Mannix of Mannix and Steve Bulpett of have both heard that the Pistons and Pacers discussed a swap centered around Turner and Jerami Grant, but Bulpett says Indiana rejected it. According to Bulpett, the Bucks have also shown some interest in Turner to fill the Brook Lopez role on their roster, with Lopez’s availability for the rest of the season up in the air.
  • The Pacers have some interest in Sixers wing Furkan Korkmaz, believing that he could benefit from a change of scenery, sources tell Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. A career 37.7% three-point shooter entering this season, Korkmaz has made just 28.7% of his attempts from beyond the arc in 2021/22.

Fischer’s Latest: McCollum, Powell, Simmons, Turner, Hawks, Schroder

Anfernee Simons‘ breakout season is leading to speculation that the Trail Blazers may try to trade CJ McCollum or Norman Powell, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Portland entered the season with plans to be a contender, but injuries and some disappointing performances have left the team in a tight race for a play-in spot. With Damian Lillard sidelined after abdominal surgery, the Blazers may opt to unload some of their assets and take advantage of a high draft pick going into next season.

There have been whispers throughout the league that McCollum might be available, though Fischer wonders how much of a return he’ll provide considering that he’s 30 years old, is in the middle of a down season, and has been out of action for six weeks after suffering a collapsed lung. He also has two full years left on his contract at $33.3MM and $35.8MM.

Powell, who signed a five-year, $90MM extension during the offseason, seems like a more surprising name to be included in trade talks. However, about a dozen teams wanted to acquire him before he went to Portland at last season’s deadline and Fischer found that many league executives see his contract as valuable.

There’s a belief that Powell wouldn’t mind being traded again, as sources tell Fischer that there were “several snags” in his contract negotiations with the Blazers. One of the teams he considered in free agency was the Pelicans, according to Fischer, who notes that New Orleans is seeking to upgrade to improve its chances of reaching the play-in tournament.

Fischer shares a few more trade rumors from around the league:

  • Little has changed on the Ben Simmons trade front since the offseason, as Sixers ownership, the front office, coach Doc Rivers, and star center Joel Embiid are all united in the stance that the team needs to get an elite player in return. Fischer states that Philadelphia is willing to wait for someone along the lines of Lillard, Bradley Beal, James Harden or Jaylen Brown to become available. The Sixers have discussed three-team packages with the Kings, Pacers and Timberwolves, but none of those teams can offer a star that Philadelphia sees as equal value for Simmons.
  • The Pacers are seeking multiple first-round picks in exchange for center Myles Turner. The Mavericks, Timberwolves, Knicks, Kings, Hornets and Trail Blazers have all expressed interest, and several league executives told Fischer that the Raptors might be a team to watch. The Cavaliers and Knicks have asked about Caris LeVert, but Indiana also wants multiple first-rounders for him. The Pacers have gauged the trade value of Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb and Torrey Craig too, Fischer adds.
  • The Hawks are willing to consider a major upheaval before the deadline, with a rival assistant GM telling Fischer that he believes everyone except Trae Young and Clint Capela are available. Atlanta appears willing to move De’Andre Hunter for veteran help, and there may be a market for Danilo Gallinari, who only has a $5MM guarantee next season on his $20MM contract.
  • The Celtics will try to trade Dennis Schröder, who is unlikely to be re-signed next season because of tax considerations. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Mavericks are all possible destinations. Boston has also targeted Suns center Jalen Smith, who will be a free agent after Phoenix declined his third-year option.

COVID-19 Updates: Powell, Kings, Pacers, Lopez, Springer, Pons

Trail Blazers wing Norman Powell entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Sunday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

As our tracker shows, Powell is currently the only Portland player in the protocols. However, the Trail Blazers are also missing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum due to injuries, so Powell’s absence means the team is without its three top scorers. Lillard, McCollum, and Powell are averaging a combined 63.2 points per game so far this season.

Here are more protocol-related updates from around the NBA:

  • The Kings added one big man – center Damian Jones – to the protocols on Sunday as another – forward/center Chimezie Metu – exited, per reports from James Ham of ESPN 1320 and Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter links).
  • Pacers swingman Torrey Craig and center Isaiah Jackson were back at practice on Sunday, signaling they’ve cleared the protocols, tweets James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. Indiana still has four players in the protocols.
  • Robin Lopez remained sidelined for Sunday’s game vs. Washington, but the Magic center was no longer listed in the protocols, having progressed to return to competition reconditioning (Twitter link via Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel).
  • Sixers rookie Jaden Springer has exited the protocols, but has been ruled out for Monday’s game in Houston due to a non-COVID illness, as Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer relays (via Twitter).
  • Grizzlies two-way player Yves Pons was placed in the health and safety protocols on Saturday, but was no longer listed in the protocols for Sunday’s game, suggesting he registered a false positive or inconclusive test (Twitter links).