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Rockets Notes: Wall, Cousins, Harden, Hard Cap

John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon all practiced today for the first time since being forced to quarantine after an ill-fated haircut last week, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The Rockets‘ Dec. 23 season opener was canceled because they didn’t have enough active players, and they were short-handed for the two games that followed.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Wall said. “All I did was get a haircut in my apartment. And one of the teammates tested positive and the next four or five tests I had all came back negative. So, I was like ‘Oh, it was me and three people can’t get a haircut.’ I’d rather get a haircut in my apartment than be in a barbershop somewhere where random people are coming in constantly. Even the barber tested negative. That was a frustrating thing.”

Assuming no more setbacks, Wall will play his first game in more than two years on Thursday. He and Cousins, who responded to the quarantine with an online post of an angry emoji, will both make their debuts with the Rockets.

“It’s tough in general to be sitting around for seven days, no type of activity,” Cousins said. “It’s tough for any person, but especially for a professional athlete, sitting at home for seven days straight then jumping back in a full-speed practice or game. There’s not a lot of positive on that side.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Head coach Stephen Silas said league protocol requires Ben McLemore and KJ Martin, who are believed to have tested positive for COVID-19, to remain in quarantine through the weekend, tweets Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
  • The Sixers are farther away from trying to acquire Rockets star James Harden than they were two weeks ago, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on today’s episode of “The Jump” (video link). With a 3-1 record and Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid playing well together, Philadelphia doesn’t feel any urgency to make a move. Windhorst believes Simmons gives the Sixers the best asset of any of the teams rumored to be involved in talks for Harden, but he doesn’t think either side is in a hurry to complete a deal.
  • The Rockets are currently $1.077M below the hard cap, which means they will be able to add a pro-rated 15th player to their roster starting February 9, tweets salary cap expert Albert Nahmad. Teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts on February 23 (Twitter link).

Draft Notes: Achiuwa, Jones, Hampton, Terry

Potential top-10 selection Precious Achiuwa has interviewed with a number of lottery teams, Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype tweets. Achiuwa, a power forward who averaged 15.8 PPG and 10.8 MPG as a Memphis freshman last season, has talked to the Kings, Wizards, Knicks, Nets, Cavaliers, Suns, Spurs, Pistons and Thunder, among others. He’s currently listed at No. 10 overall on ESPN’s list of this year’s top 100 prospects.

We have more on the draft:

  • Duke point guard Tre Jones has spoken with the Bucks, Suns, Thunder and Timberwolves, among others, according to Kennedy (Twitter link). Jones had an interview lined up with the Bulls, but it was postponed due to their coaching change. Jones anticipates he’ll be a mid- to late-first round pick. He’s currently listed at No. 34 overall by ESPN.
  • Combo guard RJ Hampton, who played last season in Australia’s NBL, has talked to the Wizards, Kings, Thunder, Pistons, Suns, Trail Blazers, Knicks and Bulls, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. He posted modest stats in 15 NBL games before suffering a hip flexor injury and returning the U.S. Hampton is currently ranked No. 13 by ESPN and Hughes speculates he could be a late lottery steal like Michael Porter Jr., who sat out for a year after getting drafted by the Nuggets.
  • Stanford point guard Tyrell Terry has interviewed with the Suns, Thunder, 76ers, Raptors, Knicks, Nets, WarriorsTimberwolves and Bulls, Kennedy tweets. He’s pegged at No. 42 in ESPN’s rankings. He averaged 14.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 3.2 APG as a freshman.

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Injury Updates: Doncic, Beverley, Westbrook, Harris, Green

The Mavericks are listing star guard Luka Doncic as questionable for Game 4 against the Clippers, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. In today’s session with reporters, coach Rick Carlisle said Doncic, who left Friday night’s contest with a sprained left ankle, might be a “game-time decision” for Sunday.

“I wish I knew right now, but I don’t,” Carlisle said. “We have good depth to play without him, but he’s one of the best players in the world, so if we have to play without him, it’s a big loss.”

Doncic was scheduled to have an MRI on the ankle today, but the test was delayed because of an issue with the machine. He briefly returned to Game 3 after suffering the injury in the third quarter, but was removed again after about three minutes.

“I could run,” he told reporters, “but I couldn’t push off my left leg.”

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Clippers guard Patrick Beverley is listed as doubtful for Sunday, according to a tweet from the team. If he can’t play, it would mark the eighth game in the past nine that Beverley has missed with a strained left calf.
  • Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni continues to cite improvement from Russell Westbrook as he recovers from a strained quadriceps muscle, but hasn’t speculated on when he might return, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Westbrook’s running has been limited to an alter-G device that restricts how much of a player’s weight is placed on the treadmill. D’Antoni said Westbrook is “doing better, as expected. Every day he does a little bit more.”
  • Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris has been upgraded to doubtful for Game 4, raising hopes that he might soon be ready to play for the first time in five months, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. A right hip strain has kept Harris out of action since the team arrived in Orlando.
  • The Celtics announced that small forward Javonte Green will miss his second straight game Sunday with a sprained right knee (Twitter link). Green’s court time in the playoffs has been limited to a brief appearance in Game 2.

New York Notes: T. Johnson, M. Jackson, Thibodeau, Randle

It took four years, but Tyler Johnson is finally a member of the Nets and he’s thrilled about the opportunity, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks presented Johnson with a four-year, $50MM offer sheet in 2016, hoping to snare the young guard as part of a rebuilding project.

Johnson’s stock has fallen considerably since Miami chose to match that offer. He has been out of the league since the Suns waived him in February after a disappointing season following knee surgery. The Nets signed him last month to fill one of their many roster openings.

“Maybe I wasn’t at 100 percent. I was working through it, trying to get right,” Johnson said, adding that his knee is now fully healed. “But I didn’t have that pop, that bounce I used to have where I’d try to go up over the top of people. Who knows if that played a role in anything. I don’t put any blame anywhere but myself. At the end of the day I can only control myself. … Unfortunately it didn’t work out. But fortunately, I’m here. I find myself in a position where I can have a little bit of redemption.”

There’s more on the New York teams:

  • There may be hints that Kevin Durant is throwing his support behind Mark Jackson to be the Nets‘ next head coach, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest podcast. Windhorst notes that Rich Kleiman, Durant’s friend and business partner, has started tweeting frequently about Jackson, the former Warriors coach and current ABC/ESPN broadcaster.
  • Former player and current agent B.J. Armstrong believes Tom Thibodeau would be an excellent choice as the Knicks‘ head coach, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Armstrong represents Derrick Rose, who played for Thibodeau in Chicago in Minnesota and maintains a tight relationship with the coach. “I always admired how (Thibodeau) coached,’’ Armstrong said. “He brings the fire and the heat. And most importantly, he’s always prepared for the game. He loves the game. He had an excellent career in this league. He made a life commitment to the game. I’ll be really happy for him (if he gets the job).’’
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic looks at how the Knicks might be able to find a better role for Julius Randle if he remains with the team next season. New York is reportedly willing to trade Randle, but his salary may make that difficult in the current financial climate.

Nets Notes: Durant, Irving, LeVert, Luwawu-Cabarrot

Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been “brutally honest” with their input into the team’s coaching situation, but neither will be in Orlando to watch interim coach Jacque Vaughn in action, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. General manager Sean Marks discussed their input during a Friday interview with WFAN.

“It would not be smart of us if we were not to involve some of these key players in this decision,” Marks said. “Kevin, Kyrie, we’re going to pick their brains on what they’re looking for in a leader, what they need. They’ve been brutally honest so far. I’m not going to be asking Kevin to come down to Orlando to evaluate anybody. When you get to the level of those elite players, they have ultimate goals in mind. They want to be held accountable. Kevin and Kyrie have told me they want to win a championship in Brooklyn.”

Marks noted that Irving is “doing well” in his recovery from shoulder surgery in March, but implied that the team never gave serious consideration to having Irving or Durant play in Orlando, citing the “risk-reward” factor and how it could affect the franchise in the long run.

There’s more Nets news this morning:

  • With a severely short-handed team headed for the NBA’s restart, Brooklyn’s next decision will be how much to use Caris LeVert, Lewis adds in the same piece. LeVert has a history of being injured and is considered the team’s best trade asset if it decides to pursue a third star. “I don’t make those decisions; I feel like that’s outside of me. That’s Sean and ownership. That’s not really my job to think of those things,” LeVert said.
  • The Nets’ roster woes will provide an opportunity for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to prove he deserves a larger role, Lewis states in a separate story. After being waived in a preseason, then working his way onto the roster through a two-way contract and a pair of 10-day deals, Luwawu-Cabarrot should see plenty of playing time in Orlando. “It’s huge for us, huge for me,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to miss them. But as we say this year and as it’s always been, it’s next man up. You have to stay ready and be ready to play … I’m sure they’ll support us and we’ll try and do the best job we can.”
  • Matt Brooks and Chris Milholen of NetsDaily discuss potential replacements for DeAndre Jordan, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Highlights From Adam Silver’s Presser On NBA Restart

Speaking to reporters today on a virtual news conference, NBA commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the league’s level of concern about the coronavirus situation in Florida has increased along with the number of cases in the area. However, Silver said that the NBA’s campus plan is designed to be isolated from cases in the surrounding community (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel).

Of course, the NBA’s “campus environment” in Walt Disney World won’t be a true bubble, since Disney staffers will be permitted to come and go and could bring the virus in with them. According to Silver, the NBA is considering extra precautions to protect its players and staffers, including increased COVID-19 testing for those Disney employees who are in the same room as players (Twitter link via Winderman).

Here are a few more highlights from Silver’s conference call today:

  • The NBA will proceed with its season even if some individual players test positive for the coronavirus, and the league doesn’t have a formal policy in place for how it would handle a major outbreak of COVID-19 within its Disney campus. However, Silver said today, “If we were to have significant spread of coronavirus through our community, that ultimately might lead us to stopping (the season) (Twitter links via Mike Singer of the Denver Post and Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports).
  • Along similar lines, Silver said that an individual coronavirus case will essentially be treated like an injury, but acknowledged that a severe outbreak within a single team could force the league to change that approach (Twitter links via Winderman).
  • Responding to an ESPN report that said the NBA will use local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to secure its Disney campus, Silver stressed that those agencies won’t be present within the campus (Twitter link via David Aldridge of The Athletic). That doesn’t contradict the ESPN report, which noted that those law enforcement agencies would only be used outside of the campus to keep it secure.
  • According to Silver, it wasn’t the NBA’s first choice to resume its season on a “closed campus,” but data on the spread of the coronavirus forced the league’s hand (Twitter link via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press).
  • Silver confirmed there will be daily COVID-19 testing on the Orlando campus, “at least to start” (Twitter link via ESPN’s Andrew Lopez).
  • Addressing the 16 positive tests among players this week, Silver said that none of those players is seriously ill (Twitter link via Rod Beard of The Detroit News).

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Pistons Notes: GM Search, Kennard, Bone

The Pistons will focus on external candidates in their search for a new general manager, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. The new GM will work alongside senior advisor Ed Stefanski to chart a course for the future of the franchise, while Malik Rose and Pat Garrity will be retained as assistant GMs.

Edwards identifies several potential candidates for the position: Pelicans assistant GM Bryson Graham, former Hawks GM Wes Wilcox, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes, who was considered for the GM job in Chicago, and Thunder VP of basketball operations Troy Weaver. Edwards also suggests that University of Memphis assistant coach Mike Miller, who had Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem as an agent during his playing career, could be brought in as another assistant GM.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News agrees on Hughes and Weaver and offers a few other candidates who might be in play. Shane Battier grew up in the Detroit area and serves as VP of basketball development and analytics with the Heat, but Beard believes it would be difficult to talk him into leaving Miami. Chauncey Billups is a Pistons hero from his playing days and has been considered for other front office openings. Tayshaun Prince, who teamed with Billups on the 2004 championship team, became VP of basketball operations for the Grizzlies last year. Celtics assistant GM Michael Zarren has spent 14 years with the organization and has turned down other opportunities, but Beard believes the Pistons should contact him.
  • Working Luke Kennard back into the rotation would have been a priority if the season had continued, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Kennard, who had been battling tendinitis in both knees since December, was set to return in the Pistons’ next game when the hiatus was imposed. With Kennard about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, Detroit will have to decide soon whether to make a long-term commitment or try to trade him, and Langlois sees his shooting skills as an important element for a rebuilding team.
  • The Pistons may have other priorities at point guard that will prevent Jordan Bone from earning a roster spot next season, Langlois adds in the same piece. Derrick Rose has another year on his contract, and Langlois expects the team to find a veteran to complement him. Also, there will also be plenty of opportunity to fill the position in a draft that’s heavy on point guards. Bone saw limited time in 10 NBA games as a two-way player this season, but averaged 19.9 points per 36 minutes and shot 38% from 3-point range in the G League.

Knicks Notes: Thibodeau, Perry, Atkinson, Anthony

Tom Thibodeau should have plenty of opportunities to return to the NBA next season, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Thibodeau, who was fired by the Timberwolves in the middle of the 2018/19 season, is frequently mentioned among the candidates to take over the Knicks. However, the Nets and Rockets are two other teams that might be interested, Bondy notes, while the Pelicans, Bulls and Hawks may also be in the market for a new coach, along with the Spurs if Gregg Popovich retires.

Sources tell Bondy that Thibodeau is confident he will be a head coach somewhere next season and has been getting advice around the league on the best opportunity. Bondy argues that Thibodeau doesn’t deserve all the blame for all that went wrong in Minnesota, suggesting that he had a good relationship with Andrew Wiggins, but couldn’t find a way to motivate Karl-Anthony Towns.

Bondy adds that interim coach Mike Miller remains a candidate to get the job on a full-time basis as new team president Leon Rose is impressed with his performance since taking over, while Kentucky coach John Calipari shouldn’t be counted out because of his close ties to Rose.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • The NBA shutdown has increased the chances that general manager Scott Perry will remain with the team, Bondy adds in the same column. The Knicks aren’t making personnel moves during the hiatus and are preparing for the draft with the current front office, which includes Gerald Madkins, Michael Arcieri and Harold Ellis, who all came to New York with Perry in 2017.
  • Kenny Atkinson isn’t the best choice for the Knicks despite his previous ties to the organization, contends Marc Berman of The New York Post. The former Nets coach hails from Long Island and served as an assistant with the Knicks under Mike D’Antoni, but a source tells Berman that Atkinson’s management late in games is considered questionable and he wasn’t able to win the respect of Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. Berman expects Rose to seek a more experienced coach with a better track record.
  • Zach Braziller of The New York Post examines the divided opinions on North Carolina’s Cole Anthony, whom the Knicks may consider drafting, given their need for a point guard.