Washington Wizards

Markieff Morris Undergoes Surgery, Out 6-8 Weeks

SEPTEMBER 22: Morris has undergone surgery to repair his sports hernia and is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, the Wizards confirmed today in a press release. That timeline would put Morris on track to return sometime in November.

SEPTEMBER 20: The Wizards will open camp next week without Markieff Morris, according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. The power forward will have sports hernia surgery Friday in St. Louis and may be sidelined throughout camp.

A source told Buckner that Morris received the recommendation for surgery after summer workouts in Las Vegas and Washington. He was feeling “deep discomfort” and started showing the symptoms of a sports hernia.

Surgery was delayed to just before the start of camp because of family obligations and an assault trial that began this week in Phoenix.

Morris has suffered through a sports hernia before, Bucker notes. He had hernia surgery in 2010 as a junior at Kansas and missed only preseason practices. He recovered to play in 34 of the Jayhawks’ 38 games and posted his best collegiate season.

Morris was a reliable starter last year in his first full season in Washington. He appeared in 76 games, averaging 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per night while shooting 36% from 3-point range. A first-round pick of the Suns in 2011, Morris was dealt to the Wizards at the 2016 trade deadline.

Billy King Looks Back On Tenure With Nets

Former Nets GM Billy King, who is widely blamed for turning the organization into a perennial loser with no lottery picks, tells his side of the story in an interview with The Glue Guys, a Nets-themed podcast.

King touches on several controversial issues in the 45-minute session, including an effort to acquire Chris Paul, the failure to get Dwight Howard when he wanted to join the Nets and the ill-fated trade that sent three unprotected first-rounders to Boston for a package centered around veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

The highlights:

  • King tried to get Paul from New Orleans before dealing with Utah for Deron Williams. King believed he was making progress, but the deal went cold after Jeff Bowers was replaced as GM by Dell Demps. “At that time, I don’t think Dell wanted his first thing to be trading Chris Paul,” King said.
  • The Nets believed they were close to acquiring Howard from Orlando just before the 2012 trade deadline. “We went to bed as a staff — we left the office pretty late — we went to bed pretty much knowing that tomorrow we’re going to get Dwight,” King said. Magic GM Otis Smith had planned to finalize the deal the next morning, but King woke up to a text saying that Howard had elected to opt in for the following season. King reached out to Howard’s agent, who responded, “I don’t think he did,” and even Smith hadn’t heard the news when King called him. However, Smith returned the call an hour later and confirmed the news.
  • The Nets responded by trading their 2012 first-round pick to Portland in exchange for Gerald Wallace in an attempt to appease Williams and discourage him from opting out over the summer. The Blazers used that pick to draft Damian Lillard.
  • King reached out to the Celtics in 2013 because he thought he had a talented nucleus that needed veteran leadership and was interested in acquiring Pierce. Negotiations led to Garnett and Jason Terry being included and the package of picks going to Boston.
  • King made an offer to Pierce in the summer of 2014, but he got a better deal from Washington and the Nets decided not to match it. “Once that decision was made, I think it changed our thought process,” King said. “I think some of the players even thought, ‘What’s going on here? We were committed and now we’re not.” King added that he wouldn’t have made the deal with Boston if he knew he couldn’t keep Pierce longer than one season.

NBA Teams That Can’t Offer More Than The Minimum

At this point in the NBA offseason, most free agents who remain on the open market will have to settle for minimum salary contracts, if they receive an NBA offer at all.

There are some exceptions, particularly on the restricted free agent market, where Mason Plumlee just signed a three-year, $41MM deal with the Nuggets. Within the last week or two though, we’ve seen top remaining unrestricted free agents like Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Allen, and Andrew Bogut settle for minimum salary contracts.

That’s good news for several teams who have used all their available cap room and/or exceptions and can only offer minimum salary contracts for the rest of the 2017/18 league year. They won’t necessarily be at a disadvantage when it comes to signing free agents if those players aren’t being offered more than the minimum by teams with the means to do so.

In some cases though, an inability to offer more than the minimum can handicap a team. Dante Cunningham‘s free agent decision this week reflects this — according to multiple reports, the deal Cunningham agreed to with the Pelicans is actually worth $2.3MM, which is more than his minimum salary of $2.1MM. While we haven’t seen the official terms of Cunningham’s new contract yet, it’s possible that the $200K difference was one reason Cunningham chose New Orleans over a suitor like the Timberwolves, who could only offer the minimum.

Teams with the flexibility to offer more than the minimum could also benefit later in the NBA season. For instance, if Dwyane Wade negotiates a buyout with the Bulls and considers which team to join as a free agent, the fact that the Heat have retained their $4.328MM room exception could be a factor — it would allow Miami to make a stronger offer than the Cavs could.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the teams that currently don’t have the ability to offer more than the minimum salary, which is $815,615 for a first-year player:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Houston Rockets: $350 of mid-level exception available
  • Los Angeles Clippers: $774,770 of mid-level exception available
  • Memphis Grizzlies: $1,440,385 of mid-level exception available, but will use at least $815,615 to sign Ivan Rabb.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder

Meanwhile, the following teams have less than $3.29MM (the value of the bi-annual exception) to offer to free agents:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers: $2,549,143 of taxpayer mid-level exception available
  • Utah Jazz: $1,128,000 of room exception available
  • Washington Wizards: $1,902,000 of taxpayer mid-level exception available

Of course, just because a team has an exception available, that doesn’t mean the club will be eager to use it. Teams like the Bucks or Pelicans, for instance, still have various MLE and BAE exception money available, but their proximity to the luxury tax threshold will make them reluctant to offer more than the minimum salary to anyone the rest of the way.

For a full breakdown of how teams have used their mid-level, room, and bi-annual exceptions for the 2017/18 league year, be sure to check out our MLE tracker and BAE tracker.

Wizards Notes: Frazier, Meeks, Scott

The Wizards are one of nine teams that reportedly lost money this season, even after revenue sharing, though that didn’t stop the team from spending major resources to keep its talent in-house this summer.

Washington inked John Wall to a four-year extension worth $170MM and kept Otto Porter in town on a four-year, $106.5MM deal. The team also made several ancillary moves and here are some notes on a few of the acquisitions:

  • The backup point guard spot in Washington has been a position of weakness over the past several years. However, the Wizards believe Tim Frazier can be the answer to their problem this season, Chase Hughes of Comcast Sportsnet writes. Frazier, who scored 7.1 points and dished out 5.2 assists per night in New Orleans last season, was acquired by Washington on draft night in exchange for a second-round pick.
  • Jodie Meeks appeared in just 39 games over the last two seasons because of various injuries, but despite the injury risk, the Wizards are expecting him to play a major role off the bench this season, Hughes adds in the separate piece. Washington signed Meeks to a two-year, $7MM deal this offseason.
  • The Wizards brought in Mike Scott on a one-year deal this summer to add toughness and defensive awareness to the team’s second-unit, Hughes passes along in a separate piece. Scott is expected to compete with Kelly Oubre and Jason Smith for backup minutes at the power forward position.

NBA’s Board Of Governors To Examine Revenue Sharing System

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst have published an expansive and well-researched report on NBA teams’ finances, providing details on the league’s revenue sharing system, the impact from national and local television deals, and how a lack of net income for NBA franchises could push the league toward considering relocation or expansion.

The report is wide-ranging and detailed, so we’re going to tackle it by dividing it up into several sections, but it’s certainly worth reading in full to get a better picture of whether things stand in the NBA. Let’s dive in…

Which teams are losing money?

  • Nine teams reportedly lost money last season, even after revenue sharing. Those clubs were the Hawks, Nets, Pistons, Grizzlies, Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Cavaliers, and Spurs. The latter two teams – Cleveland and San Antonio – initially came out ahead, but paid into the league’s revenue sharing program, pushing them into the red.
  • Meanwhile, the Hornets, Kings, Pacers, Pelicans, Suns, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers also would have lost money based on net income if not for revenue sharing, according to Lowe and Windhorst.
  • As a league, the NBA is still doing very well — the overall net income for the 30 teams combined was $530MM, per ESPN. That number also only takes into account basketball income, and doesn’t include income generated via non-basketball events for teams that own their arenas.
  • The players’ union and its economists have long been skeptical of NBA teams’ bookkeeping, alleging that clubs are using techniques to make themselves appear less profitable than they actually are, Windhorst and Lowe note. The union has the power to conduct its own audit of several teams per season, and it has begun to take advantage of that power — according to ESPN, the union audited five teams last season, and the new CBA will allow up to 10 teams to be audited going forward.

How does the gap between large and small market teams impact income?

  • Even after paying $49MM in revenue sharing, the Lakers finished the 2016/17 with a $115MM profit in terms of net income, per ESPN. That was the highest profit in the NBA, ahead of the second-place Warriors, and could be attributed in large part to the $149MM the Lakers received from their huge local media rights deals.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Grizzlies earned a league-low $9.4MM in local media rights, which significantly affected their bottom line — even after receiving $32MM in revenue sharing, Memphis lost money for the season. The Grizzlies will start a new TV deal this year that should help boost their revenue, but it still won’t come anywhere close to matching deals like the Lakers‘.
  • The biggest local TV deals help drive up the NBA’s salary cap, with teams like the Lakers and Knicks earning in excess of $100MM from their media agreements. According to the ESPN report, the Knicks made $10MM more on their TV deal than the six lowest-earning teams combined.
  • As one owner explained to ESPN, “National revenues drive up the cap, but local revenues are needed to keep up with player salaries. If a team can’t generate enough local revenues, they lose money.”
  • Playoff revenue from a big-market team like the Warriors also helps push up the salary cap. Sources tell Lowe and Windhorst that Golden State made about $44.3MM in net income from just nine home playoff games last season, more than doubling the playoff revenue of the next-best team (the Cavaliers at about $20MM).

How is revenue sharing affecting teams’ earnings?

  • Ten teams paid into the NBA’s revenue sharing system in 2016/17, with 15 teams receiving that money. The Sixers, Raptors, Nets, Heat, and Mavericks neither paid nor received any revenue sharing money. Four teams – the Warriors, Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks – accounted for $144MM of the total $201MM paid in revenue sharing.
  • While there’s general agreement throughout the NBA that revenue sharing is working as intended, some teams have “bristled about the current scale of monetary redistribution,” according to ESPN. “The need for revenue sharing was supposed to be for special circumstances, not permanent subsidies,” one large-market team owner said.
  • The Grizzlies, Hornets, Pacers, Bucks, and Jazz have each received at least $15MM apiece in each of the last four years via revenue sharing.
  • However, not all small-market teams receive revenue-sharing money — if a team outperforms its expectations based on market size, it forfeits its right to that money. For instance, the Thunder and Spurs have each paid into revenue sharing for the last six years.

Why might league-wide income issues lead to relocation or expansion?

  • At least one team owner has raised the idea of expansion, since an expansion fee for a new franchise could exceed $1 billion and it wouldn’t be subject to splitting 50/50 with players. A $1 billion expansion fee split 30 ways would work out to $33MM+ per team.
  • Meanwhile, larger-market teams who aren’t thrilled about their revenue-sharing fees have suggested that small-market clubs losing money every year should consider relocating to bigger markets, sources tell ESPN.
  • As Lowe and Windhorst observe, the Pistons – who lost more money than any other team last season – are undergoing a relocation of sorts, moving from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, in the hopes that the move will help boost revenue.

What are the next steps? Are changes coming?

  • The gap between the most and least profitable NBA teams is expected to be addressed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting next week, per Lowe and Windhorst. Team owners have scheduled a half-day review of the league’s revenue sharing system.
  • Obviously, large- and small-market teams view the issue differently. While some large-market teams have complained about the revenue sharing system, they’re outnumbered, with smaller-market teams pushing those more successful clubs to share more of their profits, according to ESPN.
  • Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is one of the loudest voices pushing for more “robust” revenue sharing, sources tell ESPN. Some team owners have argued that the system should ensure all teams make a profit, while one even suggested every team should be guaranteed a $20MM profit. There will be “pushback” on those ideas, Lowe and Windhorst note. “This is a club where everyone knows the rules when they buy in,” one owner said.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, some teams have floated the idea of limiting the amount of revenue sharing money a team can receive if it has been taking payments for several consecutive years.
  • Any change to the revenue sharing system that is formally proposed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting would require a simple majority (16 votes to 14) to pass.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Ainge, Pierce, Morris

Kyrie Irving addressed the circumstances surrounding his desire to leave Cleveland during an appearance this morning on ESPN’s First Take (Twitter link). The All-Star point guard dismissed the idea that his trade demand was motivated by a desire to get away from LeBron James, according to a post from Chris Forsberg on ESPN Now. But Irving also told the hosts he didn’t inform James before making the request and doesn’t care if the Cavaliers star took it as a personal insult. “Why would I have to?” Irving responded to a question over whether he talked to James before meeting with owner Dan Gilbert.

Irving also discussed the loss of a potential “supermax” designated veteran extension by changing teams, saying “You can’t put a price on happiness,” relays ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Twitter link). He responded to a question on whether he can win a title without James, first by saying “time will tell,” then “absolutely.”

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • President of basketball operations Danny Ainge may regret not trying harder to get Jimmy Butler from the Bulls when he was available, writes Shaun Powell of NBA.com in his season preview of the Celtics. He states that Ainge could have easily topped Minnesota’s offer and that Butler would have provided a greater upgrade than switching Isaiah Thomas for Irving. Powell speculates that Ainge was reluctant to give Thomas a max extension next summer considering his hip problems and his age.
  • Paul Pierce, who signed a one-day deal with the Celtics in July so he could retire in Boston, is sharing his knowledge with the organization’s younger players, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. He has taken a particular interest in Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ first-rounder, who has a skill set similar to Pierce’s. “I feel I can help out this young generation and impact that way,” said Pierce, who has landed a job as an ESPN analyst. “I can still talk about the game. I enjoy talking about the game, being around it; traveling to see games. It’s always going to be in my blood. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. So, it’s gonna be hard to completely pull me away from the game.”
  • Opening arguments were set to begin today in the felony assault trial for Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, according to The Associated Press. The trial regarding a 2015 beating incident is expected to last 10 days and will conflict with the start of training camp. The Celtics acquired Marcus Morris from this Pistons this summer in a deal to free up cap room to sign Gordon Hayward.

Southeast Notes: Howard, Richardson, Oubre, Spoelstra

Dwight Howard will suit up for his fifth team in seven seasons as he prepares for a new start with the Hornets. The 31-year-old has been an effective player, when healthy, but has regressed from the player that was an MVP candidate in Orlando.

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes Howard views his opportunity with the Hornets as a chance to reestablish himself. Under the guidance of his former and current coach Steve Clifford, Howard feels he can prove doubters wrong and prove to himself he can still be a productive player.

“This opportunity for myself to really get back everything that I would say has been taken away. I’m not too much worried about the naysayers, the rankings and stuff, but just the hearts of the people,” Howard said. “I’m in a much better place mentally, physically and spiritually than I have been in a couple of years.

Despite the downward trend in recent years, Howard posted 13.5 PPG and 12.7 RPG while scoring from the floor at a 63% clip last season in Atlanta. Charlotte has a need for defense and that is one part of Howard’s game that remains a threat.

Read more news around the Southeast Division below:
  • In a separate column, Bonnell writes that the Hornets did not have much financial flexibility to acquire a premier backup point guard after acquiring Howard. That led to the signings of Michael Carter-Williams and Julyan Stone; one player who has not done much since winning Rookie of the Year and the other hasn’t played in the NBA since 2014.
  • In his latest Ask Ira column, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes that Josh Richardsons four-year, $42MM contract extension is a worthwhile investment for the Heat. While he may not consistently crack the starting lineup, Richardson will be a key part of the team’s core going forward, Winderman adds.
  • Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni shared the honors of the new Michael H. Goldberg NBCA Coach of the Year Award, NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner writes.
  • Chase Hughes of CSN Mid Atlantic writes that Kelly Oubre, after a productive sophomore season in Washington, will be one of the team’s most vital players. Hughes notes that Oubre is the “most athletic player and best wing defender” on the Wizards‘ bench and will need to be consistent in that role to help the team.

Southeast Notes: Incentives, Gortat, Kidd-Gilchrist

The Heat found a creative way to pad the contracts of their offseason signees, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes, by loading the deals with impressive bonuses and incentives. Dion Waiters, for example, can net over $1M in addition to his traditional $11M deal by simply appearing in 70 or more games this season.

While Waiters only appeared in 46 contests last year, thereby making this an “unlikely” incentive, he played in 70-plus in each of the four seasons prior to 2016/17. Other sorts of bonuses offered include one that would reward Kelly Olynyk should the Heat make the playoffs and another that would sweeten James Johnson‘s deal provided he meets certain body-fat measurement requirements.

Such contractual maneuvers aren’t new for the franchise, Winderman writes, noting that the Heat employed similar tactics, tying routine weigh-ins to retired point guard Tim Hardaway‘s deals.

Incentives are officially classified as “unlikely” if the condition was not met in the previous season. Unlikely incentives do not count toward a team’s salary cap at the time of the signing but they do at the end of the season if the conditions are met. This allowed the Heat flexibility to successfully juggle their returning free agents.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards decided this offseason to stick with their plan of gradually developing their young core, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. While they may have been able to skip the line in the East by going out and acquiring an additional star, the Wizards’ patience could pay off in the long run.
  • A healthy Ian Mahinmi will eat into Marcin Gortat‘s role with the Wizards, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic writes. At the end of last season, Gortat expressed doubt about his future in Washington, though he said last month that he’s fully committed to the franchise.
  • Without being asked, head coach Steve Clifford has reiterated that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will start at small forward for the Hornets, Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer writes. Concern over the 23-year-old’s offense has some wondering if he may be better suited for a reserve role.

And-Ones: Morris Trial, Kyrie, Pelicans, NCAA

The trial for Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, who are accused of aggravated assault, got underway today in Phoenix, writes Terell Wilkins of The Arizona Republic. Jury selection for the trial, which will take place in Maricopa County Superior Court, concluded on Wednesday, and opening statements will be delivered on Monday, per an Associated Press report (link via ESPN.com).

The trial will be worth watching for fans of the Celtics and Wizards, since the Morris brothers would face suspensions from the NBA if they’re convicted — a violent felony results in at least a 10-game ban. Even if the Morris brothers reach plea deals, they could be subject to discipline from the league, with the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement empowering commissioner Adam Silver to decide on an appropriate suspension in that scenario.

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the NBA:

  • While many NBA observers were dumbfounded by Kyrie Irving‘s trade request, Warriors forward Draymond Green suggests he gained a newfound respect for Irving, as Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post details. “I don’t think people take into account that he put so much pressure on himself by doing that,” Green said. “He’s basically saying, ‘I’m ready to deliver.’ That’s big. That says a lot.”
  • The Pelicans have renounced their draft rights to 2011 second-rounder Ater Majok, according to RealGM’s log of official NBA transactions. New Orleans now holds the draft rights to just one non-NBA player — big man Latavious Williams.
  • The relationship between the NCAA and the NBA wasn’t always strong during David Stern‘s days as commissioner, but Adam Silver has struck a more conciliatory tone, and that’s beginning to show, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN. As Givony explains, the invite list for a recent student-athlete symposium suggests the NCAA’s philosophy on preparing underclassmen for the NBA is evolving.
  • Using the NBA’s response to its DNP-Rest issue as a jumping-off point, Tom Ziller of SBNation.com makes the case that the league is too focused on marketing a small handful of star players, and ought to make an effort to showcase more stars in nationally televised games.

Poll: Washington Wizards’ 2017/18 Win Total

The 2016/17 season was a bounce-back year for the Wizards, who had finished with a 41-41 record and missed the playoffs a year earlier. Not only did the Wizards claim a top-four seed and win a playoff series this past spring, but the team also won 49 games, the most regular season victories by the franchise since the late-1970s, early in the Washington Bullets days.

While the Wizards certainly intend to take another step forward – perhaps breaking the 50-win barrier and making a deeper playoff run – their salary cap situation prevented them from making major upgrades this summer. Matching a maximum salary offer sheet on Otto Porter used up any cap room the club might have had and pushed team salary across the luxury tax line, limiting further acquisitions.

The Wizards did make some changes around the edges of their roster, signing Jodie Meeks to replace departed sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic, and trading for Tim Frazier to replace Trey Burke and Brandon Jennings as the team’s backup point guard. Washington also added a little more size by signing Mike Scott.

Still, those aren’t significant roster moves, so in order to continue improving, the Wizards will likely have to count on their core players to get even better. John Wall is still just 27 years old and Bradley Beal and Porter are 24, so there could be room for further development, but all three players had career years in 2016/17, with Beal finally avoiding injury problems and Porter posting one of the league’s most efficient shooting lines (.516/.434/.832). Expecting even more out of them next season would be asking a lot.

With the Wizards’ roster remaining fairly stable, it’s no surprise that oddsmakers forecast a similar regular season result for the club in 2017/18. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has placed the over/under for Wizards wins at 47.5, following last season’s 49-33 mark.

What do you think? Can the Wizards hold steady (or continue to improve), despite the lack of roster upgrades? Or will they slip a little this season? Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to share your thoughts.

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