Victor Oladipo

Pat Riley Talks Free Agency, 2021 Rookies, Bam, Oladipo, Future

Heat team president Pat Riley addressed the club’s present and future during his yearly season-ending press conference today, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details.

Following a surprising NBA Finals run within the 2020 restart season’s Orlando “bubble” campus last year, expectations were high for Miami this season. However, many of the team’s key players battled injuries and COVID-19 exposure, and the Heat suffered a first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Bucks. The loss of forward Jae Crowder in free agency, plus some compensatory signing missteps, also contributed to a disappointing 2020/21 season.

When asked about how he wants to build around the team’s two best players, wing Jimmy Butler and big man Bam Adebayo, this summer, Riley kept things fairly open-ended.

“We’ll see,” he said. “We are going to have a lot of [cap] room if we want to use it. You can’t continue to defer your room… We like our core.”

Here’s more from the presser:

  • It sounds like Riley fully expects to replicate the success the club has enjoyed in recent seasons when scouring the market for undrafted rookies. The Heat traded away their first-round draft pick for 2021. “We will get a couple good players out of this year’s draft, I’m sure,” Riley said.
  • Riley was questioned about Adebayo potentially rounding out his offensive game by developing three-point range soon. “It doesn’t need to happen quickly,” he said. “[Head coach Erik Spoelstra] likes to use Bam with a stretch five or four. You might have to change. You might have to think about what’s next thing in the NBA to require you to stay with that kind of play. I’ll leave that to Spo and we will talk about it.”
  • New Heat guard Victor Oladipo, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, had an underwhelming tenure with the team, appearing in just four games after being acquired from the Rockets at the trade deadline. He was felled by a quadriceps injury that required season-ending surgery. “When we made the trade, we knew there was a risk,” Riley acknowledged. “He’s like any other free agent on the team who sustained an injury; he will be rehabbing with us until he’s healthy enough to get out of that cast. … We will monitor him, work with him, and then see what happens in August when we sit down to talk to him.”
  • The 76-year-old Riley would not address his long-term outlook with the club as team president beyond the upcoming season. “I’m getting ready for the [draft combine] and then the summer league,” Riley said. “I’m ready to move forward and try to make this team better. For all of our fans out there, it was so great to see the place packed and I’m really disappointed our fans didn’t get to see what the Heat really are like.” Riley is one of the most decorated personalities in NBA history, having won once as a player, once as an assistant coach, five times as a head coach, and three times as an executive.

Victor Oladipo Could Return In November

Unrestricted free agent Victor Oladipo could return to full contact basketball as soon as November, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports.

Oladipo underwent surgery on May 13 to repair his right quadriceps tendon. It’s the same tendon that he injured in January 2019, which ended his season in 36 games that year and limited him to 19 games last season.

This could positively impact Oladipo’s free agent status, if teams are confident the prognosis is correct. Oladipo would have certainly been one of the hottest names on the market had he not re-injured the quad.

The Heat looked at Oladipo as a key cog for another deep playoff run. Oladipo was also nagged by a right knee injury that caused him to miss several games.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jonathan Glashow, who performed the latest surgery, told Wojnarowski that he was surprised Oladipo had been playing NBA basketball due to the condition of the tendon. Oladipo appeared in just four games after Houston traded him to the Heat.

Miami dealt Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk, and also agreed to a 2022 first-round draft-pick swap, for Oladipo. He turned down a two-year, $42.5MM extension offer from the Rockets in February.

“The quad wasn’t really hooked up. It was torn, and I re-attached it,” Glashow said. “I was amazed he was playing with what he had. I’m very optimistic that I could clear him in six months, by November. … I’m confident he’ll play next year.”

The Heat and Oladipo will hold discussions about his potential future in Miami, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets.

Oladipo would “love” to return and Miami hasn’t ruled out that possibility, Jackson adds. He will rehab the injury under the supervision of the Heat medical staff and Dr. Glashow, per Wojnarowski.

Southeast Notes: Haslem, Oladipo, Brooks, Magic

Udonis Haslem saw his first playing time of the season Thursday night, and it was both eventful and short, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. The 40-year-old forward played less than three minutes, scoring four points and grabbing a rebound before getting two technicals and being ejected. He clashed with Sixers center Dwight Howard after what Haslem thought was excessive contact.

“It was fun,” Haslem said. “For me to just go out there and play the game of basketball, show that I can continue to play at a high level and help my team win, it was fun. It’s a great memory. And, if this is the last one, I finished it the only way Udonis Haslem could: with an ejection.”

Thursday’s appearance officially made Haslem an 18-year NBA player, and he set a record as the oldest player ever to get into a game for the Heat. He only played four games last season and 45 total over the past five years, but Miami keeps keep re-signing him to one-year deals because of his stature as a team leader. Haslem will turn 41 next month, and coach Erik Spoelstra hopes he returns next season.

“It’s not like I’ve been openly recruiting him,” Spoelstra said, “but I just continue to tell him, like, ‘We don’t have to make any kind of decision now. Let’s kick this down the road.’ Everybody knows in this building, but most importantly in that locker room, the level of impact that he has.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Heat remain optimistic that Victor Oladipo will be able to play next season, a source tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Oladipo had season-ending surgery on his right quadriceps tendon this week, and his timetable to return will depend on how much the tendon heals over the next three months. Oladipo will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis sidestepped a question about coach Scott Brooks during a news conference this morning, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports. Leonsis chose to focus on the upcoming play-in tournament, rather than the status of Brooks, who is in the final season of a five-year contract.
  • With seven key players between the ages of 20 and 23, player development will be crucial to the future of the Magic, notes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Coach Steve Clifford said it’s important for young players to understand that playing time has to be earned. “I would say minutes earned (is the better path because) there is accountability.” Clifford explained. “When you play well, you get more. … I tell the guys all the time, ‘If you want to play more, if you want a bigger role, play better.’ It’s really as simple as that. It doesn’t mean numbers. Execute. Know what we’re doing (schematically). All of that comes into play.”

Southeast Notes: Gafford, Harris, Oladipo, Hampton

Standout Wizards center Daniel Gafford has enjoyed his new opportunity with Washington, writes Spencer Davies of Basketball News.

The athletic second-year big man has seen an increased role with the Wizards, who are currently the No. 10 seed in the East with a 32-38 record. Washington is 13-6 since Gafford became a regular part of the lineup.

Gafford averaged 12.4 minutes per game in 31 contests for the Bulls. In 21 games for the Wizards, Gafford is averaging 10.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and an astronomical 1.8 BPG, even though his minutes have increased by just 5.3 MPG a night (to 17.7).

When I got here, it clicked automatically because you got two point guards who really know the game, and really know how to facilitate and play-make,” Gafford said of his perspective on the trade to the Wizards. He hopes to continue to expand his defensive attributes with his new team. “I’m good at blocking shots, [but] at the same time, I can be able to contain the ball up at the key if I put my mind [to it].”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • New Magic wing Gary Harris has proven to be a locker room leader during his brief time with Orlando, writes Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel. “When you have time to spend with him and you watch him in practice, you watch the way he integrates with his teammates and everything, he has character both on the court and off the court,” head coach Steve Clifford raved. “Obviously those are the guys that you want talking in the huddles, talking in the locker room because he believes and he talks about the right things.” Harris will earn $20.48MM in 2021/22 before becoming eligible for free agency next summer.
  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo had a successful season-ending surgery on the pesky right quadriceps tendon that he initially injured in 2019, per a team press release. A timeline for his return has not been disclosed, but he’ll miss the entire 2020/21 postseason. Oladipo will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and his checkered injury history figures to hurt his value.
  • In a wide-ranging interview with Alex Kennedy of Basketball News, rookie Magic guard R.J. Hampton discussed his first NBA season and his tenures in Denver and Orlando thus far. Hampton averaged just 9.3 MPG across 25 games with the championship-contending Nuggets. Since being dealt to the Magic in March, Hampton has seen a significant increase in all his counting stats. He is averaging 24.8 MPG, and putting up 10.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.5 APG a night. “Now, I’m getting an opportunity to play, but I think throughout my whole season, I’ve progressed a little bit day-by-day and just gotten better over the course of these months,” Hampton told Kennedy. “I don’t think there are really any cons for me in Orlando; this is what I wanted. I wanted to be on a team where I could play and grow and help my team get wins. Those were the biggest pros and cons, and differences.”

Victor Oladipo To Undergo Season-Ending Quad Tendon Surgery

Heat guard Victor Oladipo will undergo surgery on the same right quadriceps tendon that he ruptured in 2019, the team announced today (via Twitter). The procedure will end Oladipo’s season and there’s no timetable for his return, per the club.

It’s a disappointing turn of events for Oladipo and for the Heat, who acquired the two-time All-Star at the trade deadline in March. However, if there’s a belief that going under the knife again represents Oladipo’s best path back to full strength, it’s the right call.

According to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link), Oladipo made the decision himself to undergo surgery, but the Heat were in agreement. A source tells Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link) that the quad tendon isn’t ruptured this time around, so there’s hope that Oladipo’s recovery will be quicker than it was in 2019-20.

Oladipo, who returned from his previous quad tendon injury in January of 2020, never seemed to fully recapture his old All-Star form during the last year. In 33 games this season for the Pacers, Rockets, and Heat, the 29-year-old posted respectable marks of 19.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 4.6 APG, but his shooting averages (.408/.326/.754) were well below his career numbers and he didn’t look as explosive as he had during his first two years in Indiana.

With Oladipo unavailable going forward, the Heat will continue to rely on a backcourt rotation headed by Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Goran Dragic.

As for Oladipo, he’s on track to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and his stock will certainly be affected by this development. Teams interested in signing Oladipo will keep a close eye on his recovery process, and it seems possible he’ll end up on a short-term deal that would allow him to try to rebuild his value before he returns to the open market in a year or two.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eastern Notes: Schofield, Magic, Cavs, Heat, Pacers

Word broke last Thursday that the Magic intended to sign Admiral Schofield to a 10-day contract using a hardship exception, but two days later, we learned that the deal had fallen through.

As Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN explains (via Twitter), there were “inconsistencies” in Schofield’s COVID-19 testing that held up his signing and forced the Magic to move on. Orlando ended up bringing back Donta Hall, while Schofield was eventually confirmed to be negative for the coronavirus, per Wojnarowski.

It’s a tough break in what has been a difficult season for Schofield. After spending his rookie season with the Wizards, the 24-year-old was traded and waived in November, struggled in the G League after being selected first overall in the NBAGL draft, and – barring a last-minute signing – ultimately won’t end up playing any NBA games in his second professional season.

Here are a few more notes from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Joe Vardon of The Athletic argued on Monday that the Cavaliers made a mistake by signing Anderson Varejao to a ceremonial contract rather than trying to develop a young prospect using that roster spot, but Evan Dammarell of Forbes says the Cavs have already proven this season that they’re capable of developing young talent, based on the growth of youngsters like Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens, and Mfiondu Kabengele. While I’m not sure that’s a convincing case to not try to develop another player, it’s worth noting that Varejao was signed using a short-term hardship exception — if the Cavs had opted for a prospect instead, they wouldn’t have been able to sign that player to a multiyear contract.
  • Victor Oladipo (knee) still isn’t traveling with the Heat on their current road trip, but the recent return of Tyler Herro to the backcourt has given the team a boost, writes Khobi Price of The Sun Sentinel.
  • Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files makes the case for why letting veteran assistant coach Dan Burke go was the worst move of the Pacers‘ 2020 offseason, while J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star suggests that Pacers swingman Kelan Martin – who began the season on a partially guaranteed contract – has earned more playing time.

Southeast Notes: Hornets’ Centers, Ball, Oladipo, Clifford

James Borrego isn’t satisfied with his options at center and he hasn’t been since he took over as Hornets coach three years ago, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, P.J. Washington and Vernon Carey have all seen time in middle this season, but none of them has been outstanding. Washington will probably be the starter for the rest of the season, Bonnell adds, but he’s a natural power forward at 6-7 and likely isn’t the long-term answer.

“Every night I’m just trying to figure it out with that group. It’s been like that for three years,” Borrego said after watching his team get outrebounded 54-33 in a loss to the Celtics this week. “It may be another three years that we continue to look like that, actually. … Just trying to piece it together.”

General manager Mitch Kupchak was interested in James Wiseman in last year’s draft, but the Warriors grabbed him with the second pick. Charlotte may not be in the lottery this year, but the club will have about $30MM in cap room when free agency begins. Bonnell suggests targeting Kings center Richaun Holmes or trying to trade for Pacers center Myles Turner.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • With LaMelo Ball returning tonight from a fractured wrist, Nekias Duncan of Basketball News examines how the Hornets‘ dynamic rookie impacts the game through play-making, scoring and defense.
  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo may be getting closer to playing, even though he didn’t accompany the team on its weekend road trip, tweets Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Oladipo hasn’t played since hurting his knee in an April 8 game, and the team hasn’t provided much information about a possible return. However, coach Erik Spoelstra said Oladipo is “making progress,” according to a tweet from the team. Tyler Herro, who continues to have issues with his injured foot, missed the road trip as well, notes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (via Twitter).
  • Magic head coach Steve Clifford continues to be sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19, but acting coach Tyrone Corbin said Clifford “feels great,” tweets Roy Parry of The Orlando Sentinel. Corbin said Clifford is still not showing any symptoms of the virus and his oxygen numbers remain good.

Kendrick Nunn Will Draw Serious Interest In Free Agency

At least two teams plan to aggressively pursue Heat point guard Kendrick Nunn in free agency this summer, Alex Kennedy of Basketball News reports.

Nunn is expected to be a restricted free agent, assuming Miami extends a $4.736MM qualifying offer after the season. Nunn would then have to sign an offer sheet and the Heat would have the right to match the offer in that scenario.

Several teams were looking to make a deal for Nunn prior to last month’s trade deadline, Kennedy adds.

Nunn has dropped out of coach Erik Spoelstra’s rotation at times this season but he’s played a major role with Victor Oladipo sidelined by a knee injury until sitting out Monday’s game against Chicago. He averaged 19.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 3.6 APG over the past five games while making half of his 3-point attempts. Overall, he’s averaging 14.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 3.2 APG in 29.0 MPG while starting 35 of 47 games.

He was the runner-up to Ja Morant for Rookie of the Year honors last season, averaging 15.3 PPG and 3.3 APG in 67 starts.

A handful of teams will have significant cap room this summer, which should work in the favor of restricted free agents such as Nunn, Kennedy notes.

When Miami initially acquired Oladipo, it was assumed the Heat would prioritize him in free agency. However, Oladipo’s knee and leg woes could convince the Heat to make more of an effort to hold onto Nunn.

Eastern Notes: Grant, Heat, Jackson, Oladipo, Nunn

Pistons forward Jerami Grant isn’t unfamiliar with lottery finishes, but he feels his current situation is much different from his team’s situation in Philadelphia earlier in his career, writes Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press.

Grant spent just over two seasons with the Sixers from 2014-17, teams that were mostly known for focusing on the future and rebuilding.

“Nah, it’s not the same,” Grant said. “It’s a lot different. It’s not a rebuild, as (general manager) Troy (Weaver) always says. It’s not three or four years into the future. We’re looking forward to doing something big next year. So no, it doesn’t have the same feeling as there.”

The Pistons currently own the league’s third-worst record at 18-43, putting them last in the East. For his part, Grant has averaged 22.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 52 games this season, shooting 43% from the floor and 35% from three-point range.

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Heat could be stumbling toward the play-in tournament barring a final late-season push, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes in his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag. Miami has won four of its last five games, but the team still holds just the seventh-best record in the Eastern Conference at 32-29. The Heat have upcoming games against the Bulls on Monday, Spurs on Wednesday and Cavaliers on Saturday.
  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic examines how the Pistons turned two-way player Frank Jackson into a promising sharpshooter. Jackson is averaging 8.4 points per game on 41% from deep — mostly playing off the bench this season. “Being able to play consistently, every time I step on the court I feel I get a little better,” Jackson said. “It’s nice to have teammates who make the nice reads and make the right play. This is my fourth year in the league. I know what it takes to stay ready.”
  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo could have to beat out Kendrick Nunn for playing time should he return this season, Winderman examines in another “Ask Ira” mailbag. Nunn has stepped up his play since re-entering the team’s rotation, averaging 14 points per game on 47% shooting this season.

Southeast Notes: Gafford, Collins, Hawks Injuries, Olynyk

Daniel Gafford thought there was a “50-50” chance he could be dealt by the Bulls before the Wizards traded for him, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic.

“I was in and out (of the lineup). I wasn’t really playing as much,” Gafford said. “So, there was a lot of stuff going on in my head, just really trying to stay as positive as I could.”

He’s thriving thus far since joining the Wizards, averaging 11.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 2.0 BPG in 17.1 MPG through his first eight games.

The Wizards were not only interested in adding an athletic body in Gafford. They also liked his affordable contract — he has a non-guaranteed $1.78MM salary next season, a guarantee Washington will almost certainly pick up given his production.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks big man John Collins admits that trade rumors affected him mentally before the deadline, he told Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (video link). “It’s not an easy thing to deal with,” he said. Collins will be a highly-coveted restricted free agent this summer, since he was unable to reach an extension agreement with the club last fall. “Very disappointing to not have something done,” he said. “I wanted to stay here, I want to be here. Now the situation being as it is, just (have to) weigh all my options.”
  • De’Andre Hunter, Tony Snell and Kris Dunn missed the Hawks’ game against Orlando on Tuesday and there’s no timetable for their return. Coach Nate McMillan provided updates on the trio on Monday and noted that Hunter (knee) was unable to participate in practice, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets. Snell did some light running and shooting, while Dunn did some live work. They’re both sidelined by ankle injuries.
  • While Heat guard Victor Oladipo is sidelined by an knee injury, one of the players traded to Houston, Kelly Olynyk, has thrived in his new NBA home, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. “It’s different for me coming from Boston and then Miami, just a different role,” Olynyk said. “But it’s been a great opportunity for me to go out there and play and help these young guys and help this team in a different way than my role was in Miami.” He had 10 points and eight rebounds against his former team on Monday.