Wizards Rumors

Southeast Notes: Beal, Maledon, Washington, Strus, Heat

Responding to reports that Wizards guard Bradley Beal is under police investigation for a postgame altercation with fans in Orlando, agent Mark Bartelstein told Marc J. Spears of ESPN (Twitter link) that his client is “one of the NBA’s classiest and outstanding citizens” and blamed the fans for their “abusive” language.

“The comments and words that were spewed at Brad in Orlando have no place anywhere in our society,” Bartelstein wrote in a statement. “For him to be subject to that type of verbal abuse is absolutely unacceptable. I believe the league is going to have to take a much closer look as to what is happening in NBA arenas to protect the players and I know that where we have advanced with gambling is certainly having a huge impact on this behavior!”

As we previously relayed, a man in the stands who had made a bet on the game allegedly told Beal, “You made me lose $1,300, you f–k,” while the guard was heading toward the locker room. The police report stated that Beal turned around and walked toward the stands, then swatted at a friend of the man who made the comment, making contact with his head and knocking his hat off.

According to TMZ Sports, the fans involved in the confrontation, who were sitting courtside, were heckling Beal for much of the night and made multiple “disparaging” comments aimed at the Wizards star. There has been no clarity yet on whether or not Beal will face any charges for the incident.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The Hornetssigning of Xavier Sneed to a 10-day contract helped clear the way for Theo Maledon to have a career night on Tuesday, as Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer explains. Teams are limited to having their two-way players active for just 90 combined games (instead of 100) if they don’t have full 15-man rosters, so adding Sneed as a 15th man allowed the team to start Maledon. He responded with 19 points and nine assists in a road win over Oklahoma City.
  • Hornets forward P.J. Washington may have played his last game before he becomes a restricted free agent. Washington left Friday’s loss to Chicago due to a sprained right ankle, and Boone isn’t sure whether he’ll return for any of the four games left on Charlotte’s schedule.
  • Heat guard Max Strus, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, admitted that he can’t help but think about what his next contract might look like and whether he’ll remain in Miami going forward, but he doesn’t feel like it’s affecting his play at all, per Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. “It wouldn’t be human to not think about it,” Strus said. “I wouldn’t say it’s added pressure or anything like that.”
  • Following the bankruptcy of crypto exchange company FTX, the Heat‘s arena will be getting a new name. As Douglas Hanks of The Miami Herald details, the arena will be called the Kaseya Center, assuming a $117MM agreement with a local software company is approved next week by Miami-Dade County commissioners.

Wizards, Kristaps Porzingis Discussing Contract Extension

The Wizards and big man Kristaps Porzingis have engaged in “serious” discussions about a possible contract extension, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Porzingis, who holds a $36MM player option for the 2023/24 season, is currently eligible for a veteran extension as long as he turns down that option as part of any agreement. In that scenario, his first-year salary would have to match or exceed his $36MM option salary.

If he were to decline the option, Porzingis would be eligible for an extension worth up to approximately $180MM over four years, beginning in ’23/24, as Charania observes. However, The Athletic’s report doesn’t make it clear exactly how high the Wizards are willing to go with their offer.

Porzingis is enjoying arguably his best season since entering the NBA in 2015. He has averaged 23.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.5 blocks in 32.6 minutes per game for the Wizards, with an impressive shooting line of .498/.385/.851. In addition to his increased production, the 27-year-old has avoided the injured list this year — his 65 games are the most he has played in a single season since 2016/17.

Despite Porzingis’ strong performance, the Wizards will likely finish in the lottery in the Eastern Conference. At 34-42, they’re currently 2.5 games back of Chicago for the East’s No. 10 seed with just six left to play.

The Wizards have reportedly shown interest in re-signing both Porzingis and forward Kyle Kuzma, who also holds a 2023/24 option that he’s unlikely to exercise. While Kuzma has also been productive in D.C., Josh Robbins of The Athletic questions whether it makes sense to double down on the team’s current core, given this year’s underwhelming record. Robbins notes that the price tags on new deals for Porzingis and Kuzma will go a long way toward determining the wisdom of investing in the duo.

Because players who sign veteran extensions are limited to 20% raises in the first year of their new deals, Kuzma will become a free agent rather than signing an extension between now and July. He’s earning just $13MM this season, so a 20% raise would result in a first-year salary of $15.6MM on an extension — he believes he can exceed that, though Charania says he and the Wizards have mutual interest in working something out in free agency.

Porzingis is earning $33.83MM this season, so his limit in the first year of an extension would be either 120% of that amount or the league-wide maximum salary for a player with between seven and nine years of NBA experience (whichever is lesser). Based on the NBA’s latest cap projections, that would mean a maximum salary of $40.2MM for Porzingis.

Bradley Beal Under Police Investigation

Wizards guard Bradley Beal is under police investigation due to an incident that occurred after a loss in Orlando last Tuesday, per David Purdum of ESPN.

As Beal and the Wizards were headed to the locker room, a man in the stands who had apparently bet on the game told the three-time All-Star, “You made me lose $1,300, you f–k,” per a police report obtained by ESPN. The police report states that Beal turned around and walked toward the stands, then swatted at a friend of the man who made the comment, making contact with his head and knocking his hat off.

According to Purdum, police reviewed video footage of the altercation and determined that Beal made a comment about this being his job and taking it seriously, while the man who made the comment is heard apologizing. There’s a possibility that the Wizards star will face a battery charge, Purdum adds.

Wizards Notes: Beal, Kuzma, Davis, Tanking

Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma didn’t play on Sunday and the Wizards’ high-scoring duo may be shut down the remainder of the season.

Beal has a mild left knee sprain, while Kuzma is nursing a sprained right ankle. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said he “hopes” they return this season, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets. However, the Wizards are now tied with the Pacers and 3.5 games behind the Bulls for the final play-in spot, so it may not make sense to play the duo again.

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Without Beal and Kuzma, as well as point guard Monte Morris, the Wizards fell to the Raptors 114-104. That ensured the team would finish with a losing record for the fifth consecutive season. Kristaps Porzingis admits that without those players, the team is in a tough spot. “Those guys (Toronto) right now are a level higher. Us without our main guys, it’s different,” Porzingis told Wallace. “Difficult task.”
  • The play of lottery pick Johnny Davis was a bright spot on Sunday, Wallace noted in the same story. He scored a career-best 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. “I feel like I just needed to see one go down,” Davis said. “It’s been a while since I hit a three. So once I saw that first one go, it just built up my confidence to be able to take and make open shots.”
  • The best thing for the Wizards’ long-term outlook would be to have the losses pile up the rest of the way, David Aldridge of The Athletic opines. The team needs another impact player and its best hope of getting one would be to have some lottery luck.

Injury Notes: Beal, Haliburton, Simmons, Huerter, Hornets

Wizards guard Bradley Beal underwent testing on his sore left knee and it revealed a “mild” knee sprain, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. told reporters, including Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Beal and Kyle Kuzma (right ankle sprain) were already ruled out of Friday’s game vs. San Antonio, and both players are considered day-to-day, according to Unseld. Friday will mark Beal’s second straight missed game and Kuzma’s third.

The Spurs — who hold the third-worst record in the NBA — might look like an easy target, but the Wizards certainly shouldn’t treat them as such. Washington has gone just 2-9 over its last 11 games — including four straight losses —  to drop to 32-41, the No. 12 seed in the East. The Wizards trail the Bulls by 2.5 games for the final spot in the play-in tournament with nine games left, so they need every win they can get.

Here are some more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton will return to action on Friday against Boston, but second-year wing Chris Duarte will miss his fifth straight game with an ankle sprain, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. As Dopriak writes in a full story, Haliburton was a full participant in Friday’s shootaround. The third-year guard had missed the previous six games with knee and ankle injuries.
  • After being reevaluated today, Ben Simmons was diagnosed with a nerve impingement in his back, according to the Nets (Twitter link via Michael Scotto of HoopsHype). He will remain out as Brooklyn determines the best treatment for the injury long term. Based on the wording of the statement, it sounds highly unlikely that Simmons will play again in 2022/23. The 26-year-old has been out of action since February 15 due to a combination of knee and back injuries.
  • Kings shooting guard Kevin Huerter was able to practice on Thursday and is questionable for Friday’s game against Phoenix, per Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (Twitter link). The sharpshooter has missed the past three games with a mild strain of the popliteus muscle, which is behind the knee.
  • After leaving Thursday’s loss to New Orleans with injuries, Kelly Oubre (right shoulder strain) and Terry Rozier (right foot soreness) are listed as questionable and doubtful, respectively, for Friday’s game in Dallas, the Hornets announced (via Twitter). On a positive note, rookie center Mark Williams, who has missed six straight games with a right thumb sprain, is listed as probable — there’s a good chance he’ll return to action tonight.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Southeast Division

For the rest of the regular season and postseason, Hoops Rumors is taking a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents during the 2023 offseason. We consider whether their stock is rising or falling due to their performance and other factors. Today, we’re focusing on a handful of Southeast players.

Kristaps Porzingis, F/C, Wizards

  • 2022/23: $33.8MM
  • 2023/24: $36MM player option
  • Stock: Up

I think Porzingis has been the Wizards’ best player this season. You could interpret that as a backhanded compliment since they aren’t very good, but I don’t mean it to be — he’s having a career year.

Through 62 games (32.6 MPG) in 2022/23, the 27-year-old is averaging 23.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.9 SPG and 1.5 BPG on .492/.375/.849 shooting. The points, assists and steals per game represent career highs, and he’s scoring more efficiently than ever, recording career bests in FG%, 2PT% (.556), free throw attempts (6.5 per game), free throws made (5.5) and true shooting percentage (.621).

Porzingis is also playing solid defense, with opponents shooting just 56% at the rim against him, per NBA.com‘s data — a strong mark. He has generally been an active deterrent, and it’s tough to shoot over someone 7’3″.

The biggest question mark surrounding Porzingis has always been his health, as he could surpass the 70-game mark for just the second time in his career this season. Maybe something in the three-year, $105MM range could be within reach – I’d be hesitant to go out four or five years.

Kevin Love, F/C, Heat

  • 2022/23: $28.9MM + $3.1MM
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Down

Love was the runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year in 2021/22 after putting up 13.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 2.2 APG on .430/.392/.838 shooting in 72 games (22.5 MPG) for Cleveland. He had a solid start this season, averaging 11.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.6 APG on .425/.409/.861 shooting in 15 games (21.3 MPG).

Unfortunately, he sustained a thumb injury that impacted his outside shooting – a huge reason why he had been an effective bench piece. Over the following 26 games (19.3 MP), he averaged just 6.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 1.4 APG on .364/.308/.926 shooting. The Cavs subsequently pulled him from the rotation, but he still wanted a chance to play, so the two sides reached a buyout agreement, with Love catching on with the Heat.

In 14 games (21.4 MPG) with Miami, he’s averaging 7.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 2.0 APG on .383/.286/.850 shooting. Love has always been a very good defensive rebounder, and he is a terrific outlet passer. However, he is an overall poor defensive player, he’ll be 35 years old before next season begins, and he has a lengthy injury history.

It’s hard to envision him getting more than a one-year contract in the offseason, and I’d be very surprised if it’s for more than the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be $7MM).

Max Strus, G/F, Heat

  • 2022/23: Minimum salary
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Down

Strus is already a success story as an undrafted free agent who originally caught on with Boston and then Chicago on two-way deals before tearing his ACL in December 2019. He worked his way back through the G League and caught on with Miami before ‘20/21, inking another two-way deal.

He impressed the Heat enough to earn a two-year, minimum-salary contract, and had a terrific season in ‘21/22, averaging 10.6 PPG and 3.0 RPG while shooting 41% from deep on high volume in 68 games (23.3 MPG). Strus was so important that he was starting for the Heat in the playoffs as they came very close to making it back to the Finals.

As with Love, Strus started the season well, averaging 15.1 PPG and 3.8 RPG on .460/.378/.864 shooting 15 games (33 MPG). He has been in a prolonged shooting slump for much of the rest of the season though, averaging 10.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 2.3 APG on .387/.328/.892 shooting over the past 57 games (27.9 MPG).

Strus isn’t a great defender, but he’s not a liability. The main reason he plays is to make timely cuts and space the floor. He’s shooting just 34% from three this season.

He’s only 26, so I have no doubt that he will get a multiyear contract and a raise on his minimum salary. But his stock is definitely down compared to last year.

Moritz Wagner, F/C, Magic

  • 2022/23: Minimum salary
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Up

Part of the reason Orlando was comfortable trading Mohamed Bamba at the deadline is that he had been supplanted in the rotation by Wagner, a fifth-year big man who played his college ball at Michigan. Wagner missed the first 18 games of the season while recovering from a foot injury, but has played well since he returned.

A talented, energetic and decisive scorer, Wagner is averaging a career-high 11.1 PPG along with 4.7 RPG on .496/.310/.844 shooting in 51 games (20.2 MPG). He has played well as a fill-in starter, averaging 14.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 1.1 SPG on .525/.339/.869 shooting in 17 games (26.7 MPG).

At 6’11” and 245 pounds, Wagner has an interesting blend of ball skills and footwork for a center. He’s quite effective at using pump fakes to drive and spin his way to the basket, frequently drawing fouls. He’s converting 62.8% of his twos and 84.4% of his 3.4 free throw attempts per game, which is why his true shooting percentage is well above average (62.8%) even though he’s only shooting 31% from deep.

The 25-year-old has outplayed his minimum-salary deal, and the Magic have his Bird rights if they want to bring him back. Wagner is not a rim protector and he’s just an OK rebounder. Perhaps something in the range of $5-8MM per season could be within reach.

Kelly Oubre, G/F, Hornets

  • 2022/23: $12.6MM
  • 2023/24: UFA
  • Stock: Neutral

Oubre brings prototypical size on the wing at 6’7″ with an enormous 7’2″ wingspan. He’s an excellent athlete and excels in the open court.

Through 48 games (32.2 MPG), the 27-year-old is averaging a career-high 20.3 PPG along with 5.2 RPG and 1.4 SPG. He missed a good chunk of time after undergoing hand surgery in January.

The scoring looks nice, but it’s paired with below average efficiency, as Oubre has posted a .431/.319/.760 slash line for a 53.4 TS%. He has also recorded just 54 assists against 819 field goal attempts in ‘22/23, a remarkably low percentage. That isn’t an aberration – he’s only averaged 1.0 APG in 527 career games (25.8 MPG).

As a free agent in 2021, Oubre signed a two-year, $24.6MM contract with the Hornets, with the second year only guaranteed at $5MM. He has spoken multiple times about wanting to remain in Charlotte. I find it hard to believe he’ll get much more than he’s currently making on a short-term deal, but he hasn’t hurt his value either.

Injury Notes: Embiid, Wizards, Raptors, Simmons, Gallinari

Sixers All-NBA center Joel Embiid sat out the second half of Philadelphia’ 116-91 blowout victory over the Bulls Wednesday with mild right calf tightness, but he’s expected to suit up for the Sixers’ next game on Friday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

While the injury is considered minor, Rich Hoffman of The Athletic suggests it could impact how Philadelphia handles its final 10 games of the 2022/23 season. The Sixers’ other top scorer, point guard James Harden, sat out the win with a sore left Achilles.

Hoffman notes that Philadelphia is prioritizing postseason health over regular season wins down the home stretch, a strategy that could cost the team’s the East’s second seed and home court advantage in the second round of the playoffs should it match up with the Celtics.

“We’ve gone into the playoffs two years in a row with injuries,” head coach Doc Rivers said in a postgame presser. “We all know that you don’t win in the playoffs when your key guys aren’t healthy, period. So, we’re going to do whatever we can to be healthy.”

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the league:

  • Wizards power forward Kyle Kuzma and shooting guard Bradley Beal will both miss Washington’s game Friday against the lowly Spurs, reports Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Kuzma is dealing with a sprained right ankle, while the oft-injured Beal is currently grappling with left knee soreness.
  • Deep-bench Nets big man Ben Simmons is currently only engaging in individual workouts and not yet working out with the team as he continues to rehabilitate his sore left knee, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link). Head coach Jacque Vaughn was noncommittal when he was asked if the team would be able to ramp up Simmons before the end of the regular season.
  • Raptors forward Scottie Barnes, big man Precious Achiuwa, and shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. did not practice on Thursday and are questionable Friday in a winnable game against the rebuilding Pistons, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter). Grange observes (Twitter link) that Barnes is exercising caution with his ailing left wrist. Achiuwa is dealing with a hamstring injury, while Trent has an elbow ailment.
  • When Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL six months ago, the injury was considered very likely to end his season. Though it remains a long shot, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes that the Celtics forward continues to keep the door ajar for a potential return for the postseason. “Playoffs, it’s still in my head,” Gallinari said. “A lot of steps that need to be done before you play an actual game. And even maybe after all those steps, you are not ready for a playoff game because when you don’t play the whole season and then be ready to play a playoff game is not easy for anybody, not just body-wise but mentally-wise. But like I said, it might happen. So we’ll see.”

Wizards Notes: Play-In Race, Beal, Kuzma

The Wizards are spiraling at the worst possible time, having lost six of their last seven games as multiple teams around them in the Eastern Conference play-in have heated up. During their recent slump, a two-game lead on the Bulls for the No. 10 seed has turned into a 2.5-game deficit, prompting Bradley Beal to declare that the team must “be better,” per Ava Wallace of The Washington Post.

“We know that. It’s not rocket science. It’s not a secret,” Beal said. “We got — 10 left? We’ve got to push the last 10.”

Second-year sharpshooter Corey Kispert believes the Wizards have made the mistake of “playing to other teams’ games” during their recent slide.

“Cleveland (played more physically than) us — that’s what they do. Tried to go toe-to-toe with (Sacramento) in pace; you’re not going to win that game,” Kispert explained. “And when you try to beat teams that are really, really good at their own games, that doesn’t work out too well. The Magic played really well together, got to their spots, took advantage of mismatches. And we’re trying to find the right formula.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • The Wizards will be in tough as they try to snap their three-game losing streak on Wednesday. They’re playing on the second night of a back-to-back, are up against the West-leading Nuggets, and will be without their leading scorer. A late addition to the injury report due to left knee soreness, Bradley Beal has been downgraded from questionable to out, according to the team (Twitter link).
  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma will also be unavailable on Wednesday, having been ruled out for a second straight game due to a right ankle sprain (Twitter link). Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said on Tuesday that he was surprised Kuzma was able to continue playing after suffering the injury on Saturday per Wallace. “He’ll be reevaluated as he progresses — hopefully sooner rather than later,” Unseld said. “But it was a pretty significant sprain.”
  • Speaking to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, Kuzma said he has enjoyed living in D.C. since joining the Wizards. “It’s central and it’s low-key and chill,” he explained. “I love where I live. People are not really bothering me too much. It’s an easy pace of life out here, it’s nice.” While that may be a factor in Kuzma’s free agency decision, the forward, who is expected to turn down a 2023/24 player option this summer, sounds like he’s looking forward to considering all his options. “I have the opportunity to go through that process, go through team pitches and go through the back end of being a free agent and learning and getting to know different people,” he said.

Injury Notes: S. Barnes, Kuzma, J. Johnson, J. Allen

An MRI on Scottie Barnes‘ left wrist came back clean, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). However, the wrist – which the Raptors forward injured during Sunday’s loss in Milwaukee – is still sore and will likely undergo more testing, Lewenberg adds. For now, Barnes is considered day-to-day, and Lewenberg believes he’ll likely be listed as questionable to play on Wednesday vs. Indiana after not practicing on Tuesday.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma has been ruled out for Tuesday’s contest in Orlando due to a right ankle sprain, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. It will be the third time in the last four games that Washington will be without either Kuzma or Kristaps Porzingis.
  • Following an MRI, Hawks forward Jalen Johnson was diagnosed with a mild hamstring and groin strain, a league source tells Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). According to Williams, Johnson will be reevaluated early next week.
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen, who has been out for four games due to a right eye contusion, is nearing a return. According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link), Allen was a full participant in Monday’s practice and has a chance to play on Tuesday. He’s currently listed as questionable.
  • After missing four games due to a right ankle sprain, Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin returned to action on Monday, as Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star details. Mathurin showed no ill effects following the brief layoff, scoring 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Xavier Cooks Join Wizards After Winning A Title In Australia

Cody Martin is doing his best to help the Hornets as a leader from the sidelines, but it’s not a role he enjoys, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. A troublesome left knee has limited Martin to seven games in his first season since signing a four-year, $31MM contract.

Martin’s injury problems began in training camp, Boone notes, and he was only able to suit up for one of the team’s five preseason games. Martin played just 56 seconds in the regular season opener and underwent arthroscopic surgery on November 11. He returned in early January after missing 37 games, but could only play six more times before being sidelined again.

“You never go into a season thinking something like this is going to happen,” Martin said. “You are not really ever prepared for it. It’s very, very frustrating. This is the first time I’ve ever had to sit out for an extended period of time. So I’m just trying to do my best to be positive mentally and just continue to do whatever I can rehab-wise and do what the training staff is saying. Unfortunately, it’s taken this long. I’m just trying to be smart with it, I’m just trying to be consistent with it, just do whatever I can.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • After undergoing ankle surgery three weeks ago, Hornets guard LaMelo Ball said he’s dedicated to rehab and plans to be 100% by the start of training camp, Boone tweets. Ball added that he still enjoys being in Charlotte, saying, “Yeah, I love it here.”
  • Fresh off winning an NBL title with the Sydney Kings, Xavier Cooks hopes to help the Wizards with their playoff push, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Australian forward signed with the team on Friday and made his NBA debut Saturday night. “It’s been a lifelong dream to get here,” Cooks said. “It’s taken me 27 years to get here. I’m, what, five years out of college? My dream is a little bit different than everybody else’s.”
  • Hawks guard Dejounte Murray feels like he got “closure” when Spurs fans gave him a warm reception in his return to San Antonio for Sunday’s game, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I felt like it was what it should be,” Murray said. “We showed nothing but love, both sides, from myself, the fans, the organization.”