USA Basketball

Pacific Notes: Suns, Clippers, Kings, Warriors

Although the Suns reportedly met with free agent combo guard Jamal Crawford on Friday, interim GM James Jones said earlier in the day that the team doesn’t mind entering the season with its current group of point guards, as Gina Mizell of The Athletic relays (via Twitter).

“They’ve had their ups and downs, but [Suns] coach Igor [Kokoskov] is adamant that we have enough playmakers to figure it out,” Jones said. “We’ll continue to look to improve and strengthen our team, but right now, we like our young guys.”

After trading Brandon Knight during the offseason, the Suns now have Shaquille Harrison, Isaiah Canaan, De’Anthony Melton, and Elie Okobo at the point. Melton and Okobo have yet to appear in a regular season NBA game, and it’s not clear whether the team will keep both Harrison and Canaan through Monday. Phoenix currently has 14 players on guaranteed contracts, with Harrison, Canaan, and Richaun Holmes on non-guaranteed deals.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Clippers head coach Doc Rivers believes roster cutdown decisions are “always hard,” but this year’s cuts will be especially challenging for his team, as Mirjam Swanson of The Los Angeles Times details. Patrick Beverley and Tyrone Wallace, whose salaries aren’t fully guaranteed, are likely to make the roster, which means L.A. will likely have to trade or waive two players with guaranteed contracts. Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell, and Wesley Johnson are among the candidates.
  • The Kings will be bringing back most of the same players that were on the roster in 2017/18, but with Garrett Temple no longer in Sacramento, the team is without a leader, writes James Ham of NBC Sports California. Head coach Dave Joerger acknowledged this week that Temple is “greatly” missed in the locker room, adding that his club is dealing with a “vacuum of leadership.”
  • Warriors head coach Steve Kerr will be an assistant coach for Team USA during the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics, and several of his players are hoping to join him on those teams, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. Klay Thompson tells Friedell that it would be “awesome” if five current Golden State players – Thompson, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and DeMarcus Cousins – made the Team USA roster.

And-Ones: Team USA, McAdoo, Bennett, Drafts

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Pacers coach Nate McMillan and Villanova coach Jay Wright have been named assistant coaches of the 2019-20 USA Basketball Men’s National Team, USA Basketball announced in a press release. The three assistants will join Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to round out the coaching staff of the Olympic team.

“Led by coach Popovich, we have assembled an incredible coaching staff for the USA National Team, and we are excited to have Steve Kerr, Nate McMillan and Jay Wright join the team as assistant coaches,” said Jerry Colangelo, managing director of USA Basketball Men’s National Team. “It’s special that each coach has prior USA Basketball experience as either a player or coach, and each coach has compiled a successful and impressive resume. I’m very confident that the USA Basketball National Team is in excellent hands the next two years.”

Popovich, Kerr, McMillan and Wright share decades of combined coaching and playing experience, with each coach highly respected by their peers and by players across the NBA.

“I am honored and fortunate to have such gifted coaches share this USA Basketball responsibility with me,” Popovich said. “Steve Kerr, Nate McMillan and Jay Wright are not just knowledgeable, dedicated individuals, but they exhibit the creativity, tenacity and respect for the game needed to compete in the international arena.

“I look forward to joining them as USA Basketball attempts to extend the stellar success they’ve enjoyed over the past 12 years.”

The USA National Team has won 76 straight games, including three straight gold medals in 2008, 2012 and 2016. The impressive coaching staff – followed by an expected All-Star team of talent in 2020 – puts Team USA in a good position to win a fourth straight gold medal.

There’s more news around the basketball world:

  • The Maine Red Claws completed a trade today in the G League, sending the returning player rights of Anthony Bennett to the Agua Caliente Clippers in exchange for the returning player rights to James McAdoo and a 2018 third-round pick in the upcoming G League Draft. The Maine Red Claws are the G League affiliate of the NBA’s Celtics, while the Agua Caliente Clippers are the Clippers‘ affiliate.
  • ESPN.com writers Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz published a detailed story on young prospects, focusing on players from the 2019 recruiting class who could become draft-eligible in 2020. Class of 2019 center James Wiseman remains an intriguing talent, with the 7-footer still considering offers from a handful of schools.
  • We discussed several more basketball odds and ends in our last And-Ones roundup, including an update on the NBA’s new international plans for the 2019 preseason.

Team USA Announces Camp Roster For September World Cup Qualifiers

Fourteen players will participate in a Las Vegas training camp beginning this Thursday, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. Of those 14 players, 12 will be named to Team USA’s roster for the club’s upcoming qualifying games for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

This set of games – the first window for the second round of qualifiers – will take place later this month. Team USA will face Uruguay on September 14, then play against Panama on September 17.

The following players will be vying for Team USA roster spots for these qualifying contests:

In the first round of qualifying games for the 2019 World Cup, Team USA was made up predominantly of G League players. That’s the case to some extent again this time, with guys like Hearn and Warney returning. However, many of the players this time around are currently under contract with NBA teams, including Bacon (Hornets), Ellenson (Pistons), Hicks (Knicks), Mason (Kings), Trice (Bucks), and White (Spurs).

“With our September second-round games marking the start of the most critical part of the World Cup Qualifying, I think it is imperative for us to look for players who possess mental fortitude, who are tough, and who have experience,” said Team USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy. “All of our second-round games are going to very, very difficult and competitive battles. Argentina, Panama and Uruguay are all really good and well coached.”

The second round of the World Cup qualifiers will take place over three windows of competition in September, November, and February. Team USA will play two games apiece vs. Argentina, Panama, and Uruguay during that stretch.

Having posted a 5-1 record during the first round of qualifiers, Team USA is tied for first with Argentina in Group E, which is made up of six teams. If Team USA remains in the top three of the Group E standings by the end of February’s games, the squad will qualify for the 2019 World Cup, which will take place in China next September.

And-Ones: 2019 Draft, Age Minimum, Team USA

After attending a handful of summer events involving top prospects, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz (Insider link) have updated their 2019 NBA mock draft. While Duke freshman R.J. Barrett continues to be viewed as 2019’s top pick, he’s joined in the top three this time around by a fast-rising teammate — Givony and Schmitz have Duke forward Zion Williamson at No. 3 in their latest mock.

Other new names in ESPN’s top 10 include Kentucky freshman wing Keldon Johnson and Oregon freshman center Bol Bol. Johnson excelled in the Wildcats’ exhibition games in the Bahamas, though the ESPN duo was also impressed by Johnson’s teammate PJ Washington, who “looks to be in much better shape” than he was last season. As for Bol, he had a strong showing at the Nike Basketball Academy, as Givony detailed earlier in the month.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Although the NBA’s draft eligibility rule related to a player’s minimum age won’t change within the next couple years, it seems highly likely to be altered or eliminated at some point. Tom Ziller of SBNation.com explores a few possible alternatives to the current rule.
  • In a step toward the elimination of the one-and-done rule, the NBA, NCAA, and NBPA reached an agreement with USA Basketball, announcing today that Team USA will expand its Men’s Junior National Team program to include additional training camps and year-round player development programming. The program will include approximately 80 top high school prospects, or about 20 per high school class. Here’s the official announcement from USA Basketball, along with more details from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
  • Players on two-way contracts who spend the maximum allowable number of days with their NBA clubs in 2018/19 will be able to earn up to $385,612 this season, tweets cap expert Albert Nahmad. That’s still well short of the NBA rookie minimum ($838,464), but greatly exceeds the standard $35K G League salary.
  • Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders examines some potential surprise teams for the 2018/19 season, suggesting that the Bulls, Mavericks, Pistons, Clippers, and Suns are candidates to exceed expectations.

NBA, USAB Execs Caught Off Guard By NCAA Changes

Executives from the NBA and USA Basketball were blindsided by an NCAA announcement that revealed a series of planned reforms involving top prospects, writes ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, the NBA, NCAA, and USA Basketball met to discuss potential changes, but the NBA and USAB didn’t believe they had come to any consensus on how to move forward on multiple issues.

One key aspect of Wednesday’s NCAA announcement was the introduction of a rule that will allow “elite” high school seniors to hire agents. That rule is expected to go into effect once the NBA’s one-and-done rule is abolished, but that’s not a lock to happen — even if it does, it likely won’t be until 2021 or 2022 at the earliest, raising questions about why the NCAA had to make such an early announcement.

Additionally, the NCAA indicated in its press release that USA Basketball would be responsible for determining whether or not a high school prospect is considered “elite.” That’s not a responsibility that USAB officials asked for or want, according to Wojnarowski, who says that USA Basketball believes the NBA is better equipped to make those sorts of decisions.

The NCAA’s rule changes, which include greater flexibility for early entrants to put their names in the draft and later decide to return to school, were initially viewed as a step in the right direction. However, as more details surface on the reforms, there’s skepticism from NBA observers and league insiders about how effective the new measures can be.

While the NCAA says it will allow early entrants to remain in the draft and return to school if they’re not selected on draft night, that rule will only apply to prospects who attended the draft combine. In 2018, just 69 prospects were invited to the combine and the majority of those players were drafted in June — in other words, the new rule will impact a very small group of prospects.

As detailed above, there’s also concern about how the “elite” designation for high school prospects will work, since it could overlook talented players and only benefit a select few.

Here are a couple more pieces reacting to the NCAA’s rule changes:

  • The NCAA’s reforms have been met with confusion and skepticism in many corners of the basketball world, according to Jeremy Woo of SI.com, who writes that the announcement “feels like a grab for positive press.”
  • Sports legal expert Michael McCann of SI.com presents six takeaways from the NCAA announcement, noting that limiting agent eligibility to “elite” male prospects could create antitrust, equal protection, and Title IX issues. McCann also observes that the NCAA appears to be relying on the NBA and NBPA to make rule changes of their own.

Jerry Colangelo’s Time With Sixers Coming To End

Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo resigned from his post last month after burner Twitter accounts that revealed private information about the team were uncovered and linked to Colangelo and his wife. Now, Bryan’s father Jerry Colangelo, a special advisor for the 76ers, is poised to leave the organization as well.

As Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post details, Colangelo refers to his tenure in Philadelphia as being over, later clarifying that it will technically conclude “at the end of the year.” A league source confirmed to Bontemps that Colangelo remains under contract through the end of the calendar year, and while the Sixers will be honoring that contract, it won’t be renewed.

Given the events that transpired in Philadelphia leading up to his son’s departure from the Sixers, the elder Colangelo was put in an uncomfortable position. As he tells Bontemps, Colangelo prefers not to publicly address Bryan’s situation.

“I haven’t made any public comments about what transpired,” Colangelo said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate. It’s a very difficult summer for him, and his family.”

While his time with the Sixers is set to come to an end, Colangelo remains involved with USA Basketball, and he and head coach Gregg Popovich will be responsible for picking which players represent Team USA at the next major international tournaments. Colangelo, who will turn 79 this fall, intends to continue his work with Team USA through 2020, but isn’t sure what his future holds beyond the next Olympics, he tells Bontemps.

And-Ones: Super-Max, Team USA, Evans, Bibby

As ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in his latest column, the “super-max” extension, also known as the Designated Veteran Extension, was included in the NBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement in part as a reaction to Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors in 2016. The thinking was that giving a team the opportunity to give its star player a larger contract (35% of the cap instead of 30%) earlier in his career would help clubs keep their very best players.

However, as Lowe writes, while offering the super-max to a top-five player is a no-brainer, it becomes a dicier proposition for a top-10, top-15, or top-20 player.

The Bulls decided to trade Jimmy Butler rather than having to decide on a super-max offer, and according to Lowe, some members of the Pacers‘ front office had “qualms” about making such an offer to Paul George. John Wall and Russell Westbrook both received super-max extensions, but those deals will run through 2023 and could very well become albatrosses before they expire.

While there’s no indication that the league is considering any changes to the Designated Veteran Extension at this point, Lowe offers up some potential tweaks to the rule, along with thoughts from NBA executives. One idea, for example, would see super-max contracts become exempt from luxury-tax penalties — that proposal wouldn’t do much besides save owners money though, and would complicate potential trades. For more of Lowe’s ideas, be sure to check out his piece in full.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

Western Rumors: George, Schroder, Butler, Harris

Paul George made up his mind to stay with the Thunder weeks before free agency, which is why he didn’t bother meeting with the Lakers, Marc Spears of ESPN relays. George, speaking after a Team USA practice on Thursday, acknowledged Oklahoma City took a gamble by trading for him last offseason after he previously made it known he wanted to play in L.A. That gamble paid off, even though it was “tempting” to meet with the Lakers, according to George.

“Honestly, I wanted to come back home. But again, I got traded to [the Thunder],” he said. “Loved the situation. Loved where I was at. I decided to stick around a little longer. … I just wanted my free agency to be over with.”

George inked a four-year, $137MM deal to stay put.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • George is thrilled with the acquisition of Dennis Schroder from the Hawks, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman passes along. Schroder was biggest piece OKC acquired from Atlanta in the Carmelo Anthony swap. “He’s not going to start, but hands down the best backup point guard in the league,” George said. “He’s that mid-tier star in our league, one of the best point guards in the league in general. … We’ve got another scorer, another playmaker and just another savvy guy in the locker room that can help us win ball games.”
  • Timberwolves shooting guard Jimmy Butler underwent a minor elective procedure on his right hand, the team’s PR department tweets. Butler has already returned to offseason activities.
  • Clippers forward Tobias Harris appreciated the team’s $80MM extension offer but ultimately decided he’d take his chances as an unrestricted free agent next summer, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. “I think that as a player you never know, but just to get that offer was an amazing feeling,” Harris told Turner. “For me, I’m a kid who puts everything into the game and to have an organization come to me with that offer and to be able to present that was a really big accomplishment. It showed that the team valued me as a player.”
  • Warriors forward Draymond Green isn’t participating in the USA Basketball minicamp, Spears tweets. He joins many other stars, including LeBron James and Stephen Curry, who decided to skip it.

Southwest Rumors: Davis, Jordan, Conley, Hartenstein

Anthony Davis learned that DeMarcus Cousins was joining the Warriors while watching TV and didn’t see it coming, Scott Kushner of the Baton Rouge Advocate relays. Davis’ comments were made during a CBS-TV interview.

The Pelicans‘ superstar big man understood why Cousins decided to take a one-year deal with Golden State after entering free agency with hopes of a max contract offer.

“I was a little shocked. But I know DeMarcus, and I know he made the best decision for him and his career at that time and for his family,” Davis said. “Of course, I definitely would’ve loved for that to keep going. But at that point, I wasn’t sure what was going on with his situation or what was going through his head. It’s a lot, coming from being traded and then feeling like you deserve a max contract, and then you tear your Achilles. It was a tough situation; it’s tough on him.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan isn’t expected to show up at the USA Basketball minicamp this week, Dwain Price of Mavs.com tweets. Jordan wasn’t at the camp on Thursday and is likely to remain absent on Friday, Price adds.
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is participating at the minicamp but will not compete in full scrimmages or contact drills, Michael Wallace of the Grizzlies’ website reports. Conley said his foot and heel are pain-free for the first time in two years after undergoing season-ending surgery in January.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein‘s three-year contract with the Rockets is fully guaranteed next season, has a partial guarantee the second year, and a non-guaranteed third year, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. The 7-footer, a 2017 second-round selection, signed the contract on Wednesday after playing in the G League last season. He posted averages of 10.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 2.3 BPG in four summer league games with Houston earlier this month.
  • Dirk Nowitzki‘s one-year contract with the Mavericks does not contain a no-trade clause because he has automatic veto rights over any trade as a One-Year Bird, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Nowitzki signed the $5MM deal this week.

Pacific Notes: McLemore, Davis, Curry, Durant, Knight

Shooting guard Ben McLemore and power forward Deyonta Davis probably won’t stick around with the Kings, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area speculates. That duo was acquired, along with a future second-rounder, from the Grizzlies on Tuesday for veteran guard Garrett Temple. Adding a draft pick and clearing a little more cap space attracted Sacramento to the deal, Ham continues. McLemore joins a crowded backcourt and he could be waived or his $5.4MM contract could be bought out. Davis has a team-friendly $1.5MM salary but also doesn’t have an obvious role with the current roster.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Temple trade gives the Kings more than $20MM of cap room, making it a smarter move for them than the Grizzlies, in the eyes of Kevin Pelton of ESPN. Sacramento can use that additional wiggle room take on bad contracts or chase a restricted free agent, Pelton continues. The 2021 pick it acquired could very well wind up being at or near the top of the second round if Memphis goes into rebuild mode, Pelton adds.
  • Warriors guard Stephen Curry has decided to skip next week’s USA Basketball mini-camp, Chris Haynes of ESPN reports. Curry wants to spend more time with his family. Golden State forward Kevin Durant will take part in the mini-camp, David Aldridge of NBA.com tweets.
  • The Suns will head into the season with Brandon Knight as the starting point guard unless they make a trade, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic declares in his latest mailbag. If Phoenix strikes a deal, the Clippers’ Patrick Beverley would be an obvious target because of Los Angeles’ backcourt logjam, Bordow adds.
  • The Clippers will promote their G League coach, Casey Hill, to Doc Rivers’ staff with coaching associate Brian Adams replacing Hill at Agua Caliente, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links). Natalie Nakase will be promoted to Clippers player development staff, Wojnarowski adds.