Victor Oladipo

Central Notes: Pistons, Dotson, Boylen, Pacers

Following up on conflicting reports about the Pistons‘ apparent interest in Damyean Dotson, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News confirms (via Twitter) that Detroit has expressed interest in trading for the Knicks‘ swingman. It’s not clear how enthusiastic New York would be about moving Dotson, but both the Pistons and Nets have been linked to him within the last couple weeks.

While the Pistons could use a little more stability on the wing, Bondy’s report, which noted that Luke Kennard hadn’t yet found a fit in Dwane Casey‘s system, came just hours before Kennard went off for a career-high 28 points on Monday night. If the 2017 lottery pick can get it going, Detroit’s need for reinforcements figures to be less urgent.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In the wake of Monday’s report that Bulls players contacted the National Basketball Players Association of Jim Boylen‘s coaching tactics, a front office sources stressed to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times that the team’s new head coach is “safe.” That source also had no complaints about what happened over the weekend: “Jim handled [Sunday] really well. It was a teachable moment for our young guys.”
  • Indiana has turned Victor Oladipo‘s absence into a positive, with several Pacers playing their best ball of the season while Oladipo has been sidelined, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. With Oladipo on the verge of returning, the Pacers will certainly be happy to welcome him back, but they’ll need to make some tweaks to their rotation to accommodate him, says Mark Montieth of Pacers.com.
  • Rodney Hood and Alec Burks were traded from the Jazz to the Cavaliers in separate deals, with Donovan Mitchell‘s emergence in Utah playing a major part in the change in their career paths. Joe Vardon of The Athletic spoke to both Hood and Burks about adjusting to Cleveland and what comes next for them.

Central Notes: Boylen, Smith, Bucks, Pacers

New Bulls coach Jim Boylen is trying to rebuild the struggling team on the fly, explaining his thoughts this past week on where the club stands. Boylen was promoted to head coach two weeks ago when the team suddenly fired Fred Hoiberg.

“My focus is that we’re not where we need to be to compete, and so obviously we want to win but I want us to be at a level where we get the full force of what we do,” Boylen said, according to Mark Strotman of NBC Sports. “I don’t think our conditioning allows us to do that.

“We’re on the first floor, We’re on ‘A.’ I’d like us to get to ‘D’ and ‘E.’ Maybe in two weeks we’ll see. We can’t get to ‘D’ and ‘E’ if we’re not in shape.”

These comments from Boylen came before his team lost 133-77 against the Celtics on Saturday, giving Boston its largest margin of victory in franchise history. Boylen ripped his team’s effort after the game, clearly trying to motivate his young squad and change their mindsets. The team held a lengthy meeting on Sunday to discuss their play.

Boylen, a veteran assistant with several NBA teams, has the opportunity to prove to management that he deserves to coach past this season. The Bulls are currently 6-21 and have lost eight of their last 10 games.

Here are some other notes from the Central Division:

  • Pistons guard Ish Smith is said to be drawing interest on the trade market, according to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Smith is expected to miss roughly three to six weeks with a right adductor muscle tear. Before getting injured, Smith was averaging 9.2 points and three assists per contest.
  • Steve Aschburner of NBA.com stresses the importance of retaining Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton in free agency for the Bucks, with both talents playing key roles on the team around Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. “It is our mission statement,” Bucks GM Jon Horst said, explaining the importance of building around Antetokounmpo. “What Giannis means to our team, our franchise, our city, our state kind of goes beyond words. We have to make the most of the opportunity to find and build things that fit with him.” Milwaukee is 16-8 on the season and holds the No. 2 spot out East, sporting an impressive 12-3 record at home.
  • The Pacers have found strength in numbers this season, using a collective approach to overcome the loss of All-Star Victor Oladipo, writes Mark Montieth of NBA.com. Oladipo has missed the team’s last 10 games to injury, but the Pacers are 6-4 this season without him. Last season, Indiana held a 0-7 record in games Oladipo missed.

Pacers Rule Victor Oladipo Out Indefinitely

4:18pm: Oladipo has no structural issues with the knee and is expected to return in the near future, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

3:56pm: The Pacers issued an update on Victor Oladipo‘s status today, announcing in a press release that the All-Star guard has been ruled out indefinitely. Oladipo is battling a sore right knee and had previously been considered day-to-day.

After enjoying a breakout season in his first year as a Pacer in 2017/18, Oladipo was off to another great start this season, averaging 22.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 4.9 APG in his first 15 games. However, he left Indiana’s game on November 17 vs. Atlanta with a knee issue and has missed the club’s last six contests.

While being ruled out “indefinitely” doesn’t necessarily mean that Oladipo’s absence will be a long-term one, it does mean that there’s no timetable for his return to the court at the moment. According to Scott Agness of The Athletic (via Twitter), Oladipo was encouraged after playing 4-on-4 during Thursday’s shootaround, but has also been frustrated by the injury and said he won’t return until he feels 100%.

As long as Oladipo remains on the shelf, rookie guard Aaron Holiday should continue playing a key rotation role. Holiday has averaged 19.4 minutes per game since Oladipo went down, after playing very sparingly in the early going.

The Pacers also have an open roster spot, should they feel the need to add any backcourt reinforcements while they await Oladipo’s return.

Central Rumors: Griffin, McDermott, Markkanen, Oladipo

When Blake Griffin was traded by the Clippers to the Pistons in late January, many people wondered how motivated and happy he would be leaving sunny L.A. for chilly Detroit. In fact, Griffin is glad he was dealt just months after signing a long-term max contract, as Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times details. Griffin is averaging 24.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG and 5.1 APG for the Pistons this season and has endeared himself to his teammates and people around the organization, Woike adds. “Yeah, I’m glad it happened,” Griffin told Woike. “I’m not saying I don’t miss certain people. There were some awesome fans that I got to know and I felt like I was very close with them. And there are some people you miss over there, but it was just time for a fresh start.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pacers coach Nate McMillan vows to make better use of sharpshooter Doug McDermott, Mark Monteith of the team’s website reports. McDermott was signed to a three-year, $22MM contract as a stretch four over the summer. He is in the rotation but has averaged just 4.6 PPG this month while making 32.1% of his long-range attempts. He’s scored six points or less 13 times this season. “In the flow of the game you have to know who (the shooters) are,” McMillan said. “It’s like playing with a Reggie Miller. The bigs should look to get him open, it doesn’t have to be a set play. … Doug’s going to be OK. We’re going to get him better opportunities.”
  • Lauri Markkanen is close to returning from the right elbow injury that has sidelined him all season, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune and other media members. Markkanen has been medically cleared and will go through a full practice on Tuesday after participating in Monday’s non-contact morning shootaround. If he doesn’t have any setbacks, the second-year power forward will most likely return on December 4th.
  • The Pacers feel they are better equipped to handle situations when star Victor Oladipo can’t play, according to J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star. The team went winless in seven games without him last season. Oladipo missed his fourth consecutive game on Monday due to a right knee injury. He suffered the injury in the opening minutes against Atlanta on November 17th and the Pacers managed to win that game. They were 1-2 without him last week. “For us, it really doesn’t make a difference who’s out on the floor. We want to play the game the same way,” McMillan said. “Play the game with a lot of energy. Play the game together. We want that ball movement regardless of who is in the lineup.”

Injury Notes: Markkanen, Howard, Dragic, More

Pelicans point guard Elfrid Payton is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks as he recovers from finger surgery, as we relayed earlier today. While the news on Payton is today’s most notable injury update so far, there are items to pass along on several other health issues that could affect teams’ lineups and rotations. Let’s dive in and round up a few…

  • Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen, who has yet to make his season debut, participated in the non-contact portion of the Bulls’ practice today, head coach Fred Hoiberg confirmed (Twitter link). A return isn’t imminent for Markkanen, but it sounds like the injury-ravaged Bulls are moving closer to getting him back on the court. We heard last week that the youngster’s injury recovery was taking longer than initially anticipated.
  • The Wizards‘ weekend, which featured a pair of home losses, went from bad to worse, as the team’s big offseason acquisition, Dwight Howard, re-aggravated his glute injury and left Sunday’s game early. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington has the story on Howard, who didn’t participate in Monday’s practice (Twitter link).
  • Heat guard Goran Dragic had his right knee drained this morning and will miss at least the next two games, the team announced today (via Twitter). The hope is that the inflammation in Dragic’s knee will subside and it won’t be a long-term issue.
  • James Johnson returned to action for the Heat on Sunday, appearing in his first game of the 2018/19 season. As Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel relays, head coach Erik Spolestra said that Johnson, who picked up five fouls in 15 minutes, “needs game minutes to get into rhythm.”
  • Pacers guard Victor Oladipo will miss the team’s next game, but doesn’t view his right knee injury as serious, per J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). “A little sore, but I’m good,” Oladipo said.

Central Notes: Oladipo, Moore, J.R. Smith, G. Robinson III

A week-long delay in completing the Victor Oladipo trade last summer could cost him a significant amount of money down the line and may affect whether he remains with the Pacers, according to Danny Leroux of The Athletic. The deal that sent Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana in exchange for Paul George was agreed to on June 30, 2017, but couldn’t be completed right away due to the poison pill provision impacting Oladipo’s contract.

Because the NBA calendar starts on July 1, Oladipo was considered to be traded during his fifth year in the league. That’s significant because the Designated Veteran extension outlined in the latest collective bargaining agreement excludes players who have been dealt after their first four seasons. Designated Veteran extensions allow players to receive a starting salary worth up to 35% of the cap, rather than the standard 30%, provided they were recently named MVP, Defensive Player of the Year or made an All-NBA team.

Oladipo will be eligible for a 20% raise on his $21MM salary in 2020/21 or a new deal in 2021/22 that begins at 30% of that year’s cap. Although the situation saves money for the Pacers, it also lessens their financial advantage once Oladipo becomes a free agent. Leroux notes that Oladipo will become eligible for an extension of his current deal on October 31 of next year. Indiana may try to work out a new contract then and avoid the free agency experience.

There’s more news from the Central Division:

  • After being waived by the Pacers on Saturday, Ben Moore has joined the team’s G League affiliate in Fort Wayne, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. Moore hadn’t played this season and got into a pair of games as a two-way player last year.
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith, who has been told twice this season that he was being removed from the rotation, will make his first start of the year tonight, coach Larry Drew says in a video tweeted by Cleveland.com. Injuries to Kevin Love and Sam Dekker have forced the Cavs to adjust their lineup, with Smith getting the starting nod at small forward and Cedi Osman moving to power forward.
  • The Pistons are also making a lineup change, with offseason addition Glenn Robinson III taking Stanley Johnson‘s spot in the starting five, relays Rod Beard of The Detroit News. The move is being made to add more shooting to a unit that has been frequently misfiring, adds Ansar Khan of MLive.

Pacers President Kevin Pritchard On Contracts, Cap Room And Developing Players

The decision to implement the salary cap increase all at once instead of smoothing it out over several years has led to increased player movement across the NBA, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard contends in an interview with Scott Agness of The Athletic.

Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young are the only players on Indiana’s roster who were with the team two seasons ago, and Pritchard said that is becoming a trend around the league. Teams are opting for shorter contracts, which preserve future cap space at the expense of unity.

“Two collective bargaining agreements ago, I remember you could do six- and seven-year contracts,” he said. “And now we’re talking about over half our team this year is on a one-year deal. So I think it has some uniquenesses, but it also has some challenges. One of the big things for us is we do want to start establishing continuity.

“Every year is its own set of challenges and opportunities. The thing about this team is we brought back the top seven and we feel like we added to the bench. We’re going to miss some players, there’s no doubt. We’re going to miss Lance [Stephenson]. We’re going to miss Al [Jefferson]. We’re going to miss Joe [Young] and Glenn [Robinson III]. Those guys were part of a culture that was very unique and will be hard to duplicate.”

Pritchard shares his thoughts on several topics in the wide-ranging interview:

On the team’s projected $57MM in cap room next summer:

“I would say that adding really good players is always the highest priority. So sometimes flexibility is good and sometimes you’d just rather have the better player. For us, there are so many free agents next summer. But if things go as planned and we have a great season, our free agents become the priority.”

On the progress of Victor Oladipo, who was named the league’s Most Improved Player last season: 

“He’s done an amazing job of trusting his teammates, of making that right play at the right time. Part of that was [GM] Chad [Buchanan] and I and [senior VP of basketball operations] Peter [Dinwiddie] trying to put a more complimentary team around him — with him making reads and then elevating everyone else. At the end of the day, he’s a star and stars can do it for themselves. He’s got to raise the level of everybody else around him.”

On the development of the team’s younger players:

“I looked at the way Villanova has been evaluating what they do player wise. They bring a guy in and it’s like they redshirt all of their freshman. That’s kind of how I felt with T.J. [Leaf] last year. Draft T.J., have him work on his body, and then he’ll be more prepared for an NBA season versus just throwing him at the wolves and seeing what happens. I feel like T.J. worked on his body, he gained 17 pounds, physically he’s more ready, mentally he’s more ready. And so now he has a better chance for success long term.”

On LeBron James‘ departure to the Western Conference:

“He put a pretty big road block in front of the Pacers, but not just the Pacers. A lot of other teams, too. He’s beaten us five times in the playoffs. That’s not a lot of fun.”

Central Notes: Pacers, Oladipo, Cavaliers, Vonleh

The Pacers took the conference champion Cavaliers to seven games in their playoff series and feel good about their chances to contend in the upcoming season, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Coach Nate McMillan is especially encouraged by Indiana’s offseason moves, which included the free agent additions of Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott and Kyle O’Quinn, along with drafting Aaron Holiday.

“We feel good about our draft picks and our free agents that we were able to pick up,” McMillan said. “We felt like we added a need to our roster. We felt like we were able to strengthen our bench. All of those were guys we felt like if we could improve that position, we wanted to. Aaron is going to be a real solid guard in this league.”

“Is it open? With LeBron [out]? Yes. We’re happy that he’s gone west,” McMillan said. “But we know that it’s still going to be a challenge and we have to make sure we work on us and not assume anything. It’s going to be a challenge for us to do the things we did last season and do it better.”

There’s more tonight from the Central Division:

  • Victor Oladipo‘s summer is a mixture of workouts and marketing opportunities, relays J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. The league’s reigning Most Improved Player adopted a new diet and upgraded his offseason routine last year before posting the best season of his NBA career. The Pacers star is also taking advantage of his new-found fame to help build his brand. “I decided to take control on and off the court and really make decisions that are best for me instead of relying on other people,” Oladipo says. “It’s about growth, getting a little wiser, a gray hair here or there. I’m trying to grow up.”
  • The Cavaliers have 12 players on their roster with guaranteed contracts and are keeping two spots open for David Nwaba and Rodney Hood, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Cleveland was reportedly finalizing a deal with Nwaba at the start of the month, but nothing has been made official. Hood remains the top restricted free agent on the market, but has little bargaining power with so few teams having cap space remaining. Point guard Isaiah Taylor, who signed a non-guaranteed $1.5MM deal yesterday, will also compete for a roster spot, Marks adds.
  • The Cavaliers were the second choice for former Bulls forward Noah Vonleh, who signed with the Knicks this summer, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post. The Bucks and Spurs were also in the running.

Southeast Notes: Waiters, Fournier, Adebayo, Howard

In order to improve upon their 2017/18 campaign without having made any significant changes this offseason, the Heat had better hope that Dion Waiters, who missed 52 games last season, becomes this season’s Victor Oladipo, opines Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

There are some unquestionable similarities between Oladipo and Waiters. As Winderman notes, both were traded from Oklahoma City, both were top five selections in their respective drafts, and both are now playing for their third NBA franchise.

“You can never predict anything in this league,” Riley said. “You look at what happened last year to Indiana and how good they became getting [Domantas] Sabonis and Oladipo, how they changed, how their mentality changed. They made some good additions. Very few people talk about them.”

Per Winderman, it’s that type of under-the-radar approach from Riley that has defined the Heat’s offseason thus far. Riley seemingly believes that his team is good enough to complete already.

“One thing we have going for us is we have familiarity, we have continuity,” Riley said. “There is a system that’s been intact here. (And) not having Dion Waiters play hardly at all, you’ve got to give it another shot. You can’t just keep ripping things up every year and changing your roster.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

And-Ones: Kelly, O’Bryant, Leonard, Booker, Curry

Former Lakers and Hawks forward Ryan Kelly has signed a contract to play for SunRockeres Shibuya of Japan next season, according to a Sportando report. Kelly spent last season with Real Betis in Spain and averaged 13.3 PPG and 4.5 RPG.

Kelly, 27, last appeared in the NBA during the 2016/17 season with Atlanta, when he saw action in 16 games. He spent his first three seasons with the Lakers. The 6’11” power forward has averaged 6.0 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 19.2 MPG in his 163-game NBA career.

In other basketball news domestically and overseas:

  • Maccabi Tel Aviv is close to signing power forward Johnny O’Bryant, according to another Sportando report. O’Bryant, 25, played 36 games last season with the Hornets, averaging 4.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 10.5 MPG. O’Bryant, 25, was traded to the Knicks in February and then waived. The 6’9” O’Bryant has also played for the Nuggets and Bucks, who selected him 36th overall in the 2014 draft.
  • Kawhi Leonard, Devin Booker, Victor Oladipo and Ben Simmons are among the dark-horse candidates to win the Most Valuable Player award, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. A healthy Leonard would quickly become a prime MVP candidate, O’Connor opines, while Booker could have a breakout campaign after showing steady progress in his first three seasons.
  • DeMarcus Cousins (Warriors) and Isaiah Thomas (Nuggets) are obvious choices as the best bargains in free agency but as Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated notes, there are several other players who could fall into that category. Ed Davis (Nets), Seth Curry (Trail Blazers) and Brook Lopez (Bucks) should all provide production that far outweigh the deals that they signed, in Mahoney’s view.