Wendell Carter

Injury Updates: Ball, LaVine, Nader, Collins, Lopez, Carter

Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine will both miss the Bulls‘ upcoming three-game road trip so they can receive treatment for knee injuries, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Coach Billy Donovan updated their conditions in a media session before tonight’s game, saying the team’s first treatment plan for Ball’s knee was unsuccessful.

Ball, who was sent back to Chicago before Monday’s contest in Memphis, had his diagnosis changed from soreness in the knee to a bone contusion. Donovan said a timetable for his return won’t be set until the medical staff sees how he responds to the new treatments, adding that doctors haven’t considered the possibility of surgery yet.

“I think the biggest thing right now is what are the steps that we can do to get him back and get him healthy,” Donovan said. “I haven’t gotten into any detail with them (doctors) about that other than, hey, we’ll try this treatment, we’ll try this therapy, see how it goes, and then whatever the next step is that will be. But I haven’t been told what any next steps are gonna be.”

LaVine, who hasn’t played since leaving last Wednesday’s game in the first quarter, is responding to therapy for pain in his left knee, Donovan added. There’s no timeline for LaVine’s return either, but Donovan said he has been shooting free throws and doing strength training.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Suns forward Abdel Nader is making progress after missing the last 28 games with an injury to his right knee, but it will be a while before he can play again, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “He’s starting to ramp up,” coach Monty Williams said. “He hasn’t done any 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3. So he’s still a ways away.”
  • Spurs center Zach Collins is getting closer to making his season debut after playing in the G League Monday, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News (Twitter link). Collins expects to play another G League game Friday, and coach Gregg Popovich said there’s not a definite time when he’ll be called up.
  • The Bucks haven’t set a timetable for center Brook Lopez to return after having back surgery in early December, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We felt positive when we had the surgery,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “All the reports coming out of it, the hopes and the expectations. So nothing’s changed, nothing’s new. … This is all kind of to some degree what we expected, planned and we’ll continue to monitor and see how he progresses.”
  • Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. missed his seventh straight game tonight with soreness in his left hamstring, but acting head coach Jesse Mermuys said he’s “very close” to returning, tweets Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel.

Southeast Notes: Carter, Magic, Hornets, Capela

Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. is relieved that the injury he suffered on December 17 against Miami wasn’t worse, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Carter exited the game in a wheelchair after experiencing leg pain, but an MRI revealed that he suffered a lower right leg muscle strain.

“I was just scared that it was going to be something that was going to take me a while to come back from,” Carter said. “To hear the news that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was was good. They told me to take it day by day and continue to get treatment on it.”

Carter missed six days and returned this past Thursday against New Orleans. He played just under 30 minutes in the contest, recording 17 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. He also registered a plus-11 net rating in the six-point loss.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • In a separate article for the Orlando Sentinel, Khobi Price examines the good and bad of the Magic‘s season so far. The team, which is currently missing several players due to injuries and health and safety protocols, owns the second-worst record in the league at 7-27.
  • Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer asked experts and officials around the NBA for their input on the Hornets, who rank eighth in the East at 17-17. Charlotte has played 22 games on the road (9-13) and just 12 games at home (8-4) this season.
  • Hawks center Clint Capela discussed a variety of subjects with The Athletic’s Kelly Iko, including his post-Rockets career and playing with Atlanta. Capela has been one of the better centers in the East since joining the Hawks, averaging 11.3 points and 12.7 rebounds per game so far this season.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Carter Jr., Ball, Ross

The Heat’s undrafted players have been stepping up in the absence of several key talents this month, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. As Chiang notes, players such as Duncan Robinson, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent have increased their production, keeping the Heat afloat in recent games.

“These guys, they’re the lifeblood of our player development program,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Guys that haven’t been drafted that have big dreams, are willing to put in the work and gradually incrementally get better over time. That’s what you have seen with both of these guys. This is not something that just happened overnight.

“Obviously, neither one of them were selected during draft night. It takes an incredible amount of perseverance, belief in yourself and a crazy work ethic to keep on working every single day because you have a lot more days of adversity when things aren’t necessarily going your way or you’re not getting playing time or you’re not really seeing progress.”

Miami is currently missing Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Markieff Morris and Victor Oladipo due to injuries. The team is also playing without Caleb Martin, who scored 28 points in his last game, due to health and safety protocols.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

COVID/Injury Notes: Reaves, Hauser, Carter Jr., Birch, Bulls

Rookies Austin Reaves and Sam Hauser have entered the health and safety protocols for the Lakers and Celtics, respectively, according to Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group and Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter links).

If Reaves and Hauser tested positive for COVID-19, they’ll be out for the next 10 days or until they record two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Reaves has been a semi-regular member of the Lakers’ rotation, appearing in 17 games (19.7 minutes per game) with averages of 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds on .500/.390/.882 shooting. He hit a memorable game-winning three-pointer in overtime against Dallas Wednesday.

Hauser is on a two-way deal with the Celtics and has appeared in just seven total minutes across three NBA games. He’s been a regular for Boston’s G League affiliate, the Maine Celtics, averaging 16.9 points and 5 rebounds on .487/.433/.917 shooting in 10 games (33.5 MPG).

Here are some more COVID-19 and injury-related notes:

  • Magic big man Wendell Carter Jr. was injured Friday night against Miami, suffering what the team called a right lower leg injury, per a team PR announcement (via Twitter). He missed the remainder of the game and will undergo further evaluation, the team adds. Hopefully it’s not a serious injury for both player and team, as the Magic already have several injured and/or COVID-afflicted players.
  • Khem Birch could return for the Raptors on Monday, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). Birch has been suffering from a bone bruise which still isn’t 100% healed yet, and says he’ll likely have to deal with it the throughout the season, Lewenberg relays.
  • The Bulls will be able to practice on Saturday for their first official team activity in a week, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago relays (Twitter links). They’ve had several players in the league’s health and safety protocols over the past couple weeks, but a few, including DeMar DeRozan, have returned recently. Two of their games were postponed this week due to the outbreak.

Trade Rumors: Sabonis, Kemba, Celtics, Pelicans, Magic

On an episode of The Ringer’s podcast The Mismatch last week, Kevin O’Connor mentioned that Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis wants out of Indiana. The comment was made in passing and wasn’t expanded upon by O’Connor in any subsequent article or tweet, so it wasn’t clear whether it was something he was reporting or something he’d heard but hadn’t fully confirmed.

Following up on that rumor, Matt Moore of Action Network says he has also heard from multiple sources that Sabonis wants out of Indiana, adding that the big man’s desire for a change of scenery dates back to last season. However, all of Sabonis’ public comments have indicated that he’s happy to stick with the Pacers, and Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files, who is plugged in with the team, called O’Connor’s initial report “false” (Twitter link).

The Pacers are reportedly open to the idea of moving Sabonis, so whether or not he wants to be dealt may ultimately be a moot point — Indiana could trade him either way.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the league:

  • Knicks guard Kemba Walker hasn’t generated much – if any – trade interest from rival teams, since his knees are viewed as too much of a risk, Moore reports.
  • Two sources who spoke to Moore suggested the Celtics are more likely to pursue a third impact player to add to their core of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, rather than breaking up the duo.
  • The Bulls are in the market for a wing defender who could come off the bench, says Moore.
  • Some executives were surprised by Jake Fischer’s report that the Pelicans could be buyers this season, since they’d gotten the impression New Orleans is more interested in long-term assets, Moore writes. Josh Hart is viewed as possibly the most likely trade candidate on the Pels’ roster, Moore adds.
  • Despite Mohamed Bamba‘s strong season, the Magic are considered unlikely to discuss center Wendell Carter Jr. in trades, per Moore, who notes that the team also hasn’t yet indicated that Bamba is available.
  • According to Moore, the Thunder are a good candidate to be a third team in a Ben Simmons trade, since Sam Presti and Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey have had multiple past dealings and Oklahoma City is well positioned to take on unwanted contracts.

Southeast Notes: Collins, Johnson, Carter Jr., Dedmon

John Collins re-signed with the Hawks on a five-year, $125MM contract as a restricted free agent during the offseason. So far, it’s working out well for both sides, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Collins is averaging 16.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.3 BPG.

“He’s had stretches like this all of the time,” Hawks star Trae Young said. “Now he’s being so consistent with it. This is normal for him. He’s playing really well on the offensive end. On the defensive end, he’s just as good if not better. “

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Jalen Johnson‘s only path to playing time with the Hawks this season is more frontcourt injuries, head coach Nate McMillan told Kirschner (Twitter link). The 20th overall pick of this year’s draft, Johnson is playing with the G League’s College Park Skyhawks to develop his game, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. “That’s what it’s for and that’s what we want him to do,” McMillan said.
  • Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. was fined $35K by the league for forcefully throwing his protective glasses at a game official, Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw tweets. The incident, for which Carter was assessed a technical foul and ejected, occurred in the fourth quarter of the Magic’s loss to Cleveland on Saturday.
  • Heat center Dewayne Dedmon was fined $15K by the league for kicking a seat cushion from his team’s bench into the stands, Shaw adds in another tweet. Dedmon was assessed a technical foul and ejected for his action, which occurred in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s win over Chicago on Saturday.

Bulls Notes: Vucevic, Carter, White, DeRozan

There was plenty of nostalgia for Bulls center Nikola Vucevic on Friday night as he returned to Orlando for the first time since being traded in March, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Vucevic, who spent eight-and-a-half seasons with the Magic, got a warm reception from fans during player introductions and again after a video tribute.

“It was definitely emotional just being back in this building and seeing all the people I’ve met throughout the years and friendships I’ve built,” Vucevic said. “It was a lot to take in for sure.  … It’s a special place for me and it always will be special for me to come back.”

Vucevic nearly missed his return to Orlando because of COVID-19, but he was able to start playing again Wednesday after being sidelined for about two weeks. After posting 16 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes against the Magic, he said his comeback is going well.

“It’s been a little better than I thought it would be, for sure. But I’m still not there 100%, which is expected,” Vucevic said of his conditioning. “It’s difficult because it’s not like an injury where you can do the bike or lift. For 10 days, I was not allowed to do anything. As much as I enjoy laying on my couch, after 10 days it’s not easy to come back. Just gotta work through it.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Wendell Carter Jr. was surprised to be sent to Orlando in the trade for Vucevic, but he said he’ll be “forever grateful” to the Bulls for drafting him with the seventh pick in 2018, Johnson tweets.
  • With 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, Coby White turned in his best performance Friday in the seven games since returning from shoulder surgery, notes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. White has also looked more active on defense than he was in his first two NBA seasons, according to Schaefer. “It’s been a real focus point since I’ve been back,” White said. “We’re so good defensively, I’m just trying to fit in.”
  • DeMar DeRozan has transformed his game by moving to power forward, per Seerat Sohi of The Ringer. The switch has been happening gradually over the last two seasons, but it became necessary after DeRozan signed with a Bulls team that already had Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso in the backcourt.

Southeast Notes: Oubre, Carter, Hachimura, Johnson

The Hornets lost handily to the Warriors in Kelly Oubre‘s first trip back to the Chase Center, 114-92. He says it was strange to be back in the arena on an opposing team, but is happy with how he’s fit in thus far with the Hornets, writes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.

It’s definitely weird being on the opposite side of the arena,” Oubre told Boone. “But at the end of the day, man, we are in the moment. So I’m really happy to be able to go against these guys and just get the jitters out for myself. It’s always weird when you go get comfortable somewhere and then you’re uprooted to another place where you have to become comfortable as well.

Oubre signed a two-year, $24.6MM deal with Charlotte in free agency over the summer. The second year is partially guaranteed at $5MM. Oubre says his energetic play is a good match with the young Hornets.

This is just a young, energetic group and we are just trying to figure this thing out,” Oubre said, per Boone. “We are all trying to become our best selves and we’re all trying to set up a culture with this team. And I’m just more so happy to be a part of the culture forming in this organization rather than being somewhere the culture is already formed, guys are pretty much older so they are relaxed in how they approach the game.

And here it’s just more like, ‘Let’s get it. Let’s go. Let’s go to war, let’s have fun while doing this.’ So I’m just super excited and ecstatic to be on this team.”

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • The young Magic are 2-7 to start the season. Fourth-year big man Wendell Carter Jr. knows it’s going to take time for the team to improve, writes Matt Murschel of The Orlando Sentinel. “Teams do not become great overnight,” Carter said. “It’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of time.”
  • Wizards forward Rui Hachimura is back with the team, but there’s still uncertainty about when he’ll rejoin the lineup. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said that he tentatively expects Hachimura back “sooner rather than later,” according to Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. “I don’t have a timetable, but I would agree with [‘sooner rather than later’],” Unseld said on Thursday. “He’s been around more, he’s working out, so it’s good to have him in the building and be present.
  • Hawks rookie forward Jalen Johnson, the 20th overall pick of the 2021 draft, has been assigned to the College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G League affiliate, tweets Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Kirschner notes that two-way players Sharife Cooper and Skylar Mays were transferred to the Skyhawks as well.

Cap/Contract Notes: Taxpayers, Allen, Carter, Shamet, Gafford

Now that all 30 regular season rosters have been set, 10 teams project to be taxpayers, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The Warriors, Nets, Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, Jazz, Sixers, Celtics, Trail Blazers, and Raptors are currently over the luxury tax threshold.

Some of those teams are in better shape than others. While the Warriors ($159.9MM) and Nets ($110.4MM) project to have nine-figure tax bills, the Raptors are barely into tax territory and should be able to sneak below the line, perhaps by waiving one of their two players who have partially guaranteed deals.

Besides Golden State and Brooklyn, the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, and Jazz all have projected tax bills exceeding $33MM, according to Marks. The Sixers, Celtics, Blazers, and Raptors would owe less than $8MM each based on the current numbers.

Of course, these numbers can and will change over the course of the season as teams make roster moves, since tax bills are determined by the team’s year-end salary. For now though, the 20 non-taxpayers project to receive year-end payments of $12.7MM, Marks notes.

Here are a few more cap- and contract-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Grayson Allen‘s two-year extension with the Bucks features a base value of $17MM ($8.5MM per year) in guaranteed money, plus incentives, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The exact value of the incentives is $1.275MM annually, Hoops Rumors has learned. Currently, those are a mix of likely and unlikely bonuses, but since the deal doesn’t begin until 2022/23, those likely/unlikely designations will ultimately be based on what happens this coming season.
  • Wendell Carter Jr.‘s four-year extension with the Magic has a descending structure, Scotto tweets. It starts at $14.15MM in year one and dips to $10.85MM by year four. The deal is fully guaranteed, with no options.
  • In addition to having a team option on its fourth year, Landry Shamet‘s extension with the Suns has a non-guaranteed salary in year three, Hoops Rumors has learned. The last two years both have June 29 trigger dates, in 2024 and 2025. Only $19.75MM of Shamet’s $42.5MM deal is fully guaranteed for now.
  • Daniel Gafford‘s three-year extension with the Wizards doesn’t include any options or incentives, tweets John Hollinger of The Athletic.

Magic Notes: Carter, Bamba, Anthony, Trade Exception

The new four-year extension for center Wendell Carter Jr. is a good deal for both him and the Magic, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Robbins sees the $50MM extension as a much safer investment than the five-year, $100MM contract the Cavaliers gave Jarrett Allen this summer. Carter, who was acquired from the Bulls in March, is a year younger than Allen and appears to have a long career ahead as a reliable big man who can rebound and switch on defense.

New head coach Jamahl Mosley has asked Carter to start taking more three-pointers and has used him at power forward during the preseason alongside Mo Bamba. With Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke both sidelined by injuries, Carter and Bamba could be in the starting lineup for Wednesday’s season opener.

“The one thing that helps him is that he’s got great, active feet, and I think him understanding who’s a shooter, a non-shooter, those are going to be some scenarios that we’re going to have to continue to monitor,” Mosley said about Carter’s ability to defend outside the lane. “But I think he did a really good job of understanding how he could guard some of these fours in the league.”

There’s more from Orlando:

  • The Magic have one more day to work out an extension with Bamba, but Robbins doesn’t expect it to happen. He notes that Bamba was slowed by an injury and then COVID-19 during his first two offseasons, and this summer was his first chance to really improve his conditioning. If Bamba turns in a strong season, he could be in demand as a restricted free agent in July.
  • Cole Anthony was productive in the preseason after a disappointing performance during Summer League, Robbins notes in a separate story. Anthony may have been dealing with an injury in Las Vegas as he said, “It’s a world’s difference just how much better I feel right now.” He will likely start the season as the back-up point guard, although that could change when Markelle Fultz returns after offseason knee surgery.
  • The Magic are in position to make a significant move before the trade deadline, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Orlando has a $17.1MM trade exception after sending Evan Fournier to the Celtics last season, along with $22.5MM in breathing room below the tax line.