Wenyen Gabriel

Southwest Notes: Wood, Aldridge, Jackson, Hinton, Pels

There was some optimism that Rockets center Christian Wood, who has missed the team’s last 13 games due to a right ankle injury, might be able to return to start the second half, but it appears he’ll need a little more time to get back on the court.

Wood has been listed as out for the Rockets’ Thursday game in Sacramento, after ESPN’s Tim MacMahon first reported (via Twitter) that he was expected to miss the game. Wood has resumed basketball activities, per MacMahon, so his absence shouldn’t last much longer.

The odds of the Rockets making a run at a play-in spot are long, but if they want to have a chance, they’ll need Wood back in action — they’ve lost all 13 games he has missed.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The impending divorce between LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs has been a long time coming, according to Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News, who suggests the team was starting to move on from the veteran big man last summer, when it made a push for a playoff spot without him. As the Spurs have adopted a new offensive approach, they’ve played better this season with Aldridge off the court (+2.5 net rating) than on it (-5.6 rating).
  • Grizzlies power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who has yet to play at all this season due to a knee injury, will be out for a while longer. A source tells Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal that Jackson is continuing to ramp up his basketball activities and will be back this season, but his status won’t be updated until later this month or early next month.
  • With the NBA G League season about to end, more young players are being recalled to their NBA clubs. The Mavericks have transferred two-way guard Nate Hinton back to the NBA from the Santa Cruz Warriors (Twitter link), while the Pelicans brought back Wenyen Gabriel, Naji Marshall, and Will Magnay from the Erie BayHawks (press release).

Southwest Notes: Harden, Johnson, Gabriel, Spurs

Nets guard James Harden will have his No. 13 jersey retired by his former team, the Rockets, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. In a 132-114 victory tonight, Harden recorded a triple-double in his first game against his Houston since being traded earlier this season. The loss marks Houston’s 13th straight.

“James Harden will always be a Rocket,” team owner Tilman Fertita said via text message. “Of course, we will retire his jersey. He made my first three years of owning this franchise unforgettable. The success he brought this franchise over eight years and the memories he created for our fan base/community (are) truly remarkable.”

In postgame comments made tonight, Harden revealed that he discovered the news of his impending jersey retirement online, per Malika Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). “My reaction was hopefully I did something right,” he said.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Second-year Spurs small forward Keldon Johnson returned to the floor for San Antonio yesterday after clearing the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, tweets Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
  • The Pelicans sent forward Wenyen Gabriel to join their G League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, according to a team press release. The BayHawks clinched a spot in the upcoming NBAGL playoffs thanks to their play on the Orlando “bubble” campus.
  • Even with key Spurs rotation players Derrick White, Rudy Gay and Devin Vassell unavailable, a thinned-out San Antonio roster has proved resilient against opponents, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News“They have dug down deep all year,” head coach Gregg Popovich said. “They never give in.” Trey Lyles, in his second year with the club, has flourished as a starter in his last four games for San Antonio, averaging 11.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG.

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Ingram, Rockets, Gabriel

The Spurs have started the season with a 2-3 record, but the franchise believes the best is still yet to come, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes.

Although San Antonio finished with just a 32-39 record last season, the club is recognized as a world-class organization with a proven track record. Before the 2019/20 campaign, the Spurs had reached the playoffs 23 straight seasons.

“It’s about learning now and not later,” DeMar DeRozan said. “As long as you get the heartaches and the learning curve out of the way the first 10 games of the season, it can take a big turn in the next 60 games. We are leaning toward that.”

The Spurs competed with the defending champion Lakers on Friday, ultimately losing 109-103. The team has a healthy mix of veterans and young players that could propel it to the play-in tournament or possibly beyond, with four of those veterans (DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay) set to reach free agency next summer.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Pelicans star Brandon Ingram continued to build on his impressive campaign last game, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez writes. Ingram has been the team’s leading scorer in four of six games so far, and had a season-best 31 points on Saturday. “Brandon has been playing great overall,” teammate Zion Williamson said of Ingram, who recently was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. “He always steps up for us. When we need him, he’s there for us.”
  • The Rockets are still searching for answers when it comes to their rotation, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Houston has a talented roster led by former Most Valuable Player James Harden, but health issues and COVID-19 protocols have prevented Houston from establishing a consistent rotation so far.
  • Pelicans big man Wenyen Gabriel (right knee/quadriceps tendinosis) recently participated in some three-on-three work and hopes to play in Monday’s game against Indiana, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). The team is currently listing his status as questionable.

Pelicans Sign Jarrod Uthoff To Non-Guaranteed Deal

DECEMBER 2: The Pelicans have officially signed Uthoff, according to RealGM’s transactions log.

NOVEMBER 30: The Pelicans are signing free agent forward Jarrod Uthoff to one-year contract, reports Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). The minimum-salary deal will be non-guaranteed, Guillory adds.

Uthoff, 27, has played for a handful of teams in the NBA and the G League since going undrafted in 2016, as well as spending a stint in Russia in 2018/19. Last season, he signed a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies in February and then joined the Wizards as a substitute player during the summer restart.

Although Uthoff only got into seven NBA games in 2019/20, he had a big year in the G League, averaging 19.0 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 3.1 APG with a shooting line of .491/.367/.790 in 34 games (34.9 MPG) for the Memphis Hustle. He was named to the All-NBAGL First Team.

Uthoff is probably unlikely to make the Pelicans’ regular season roster, but the team doesn’t have a full 15-man squad of guaranteed salaries, so the door’s not entirely closed if he impresses during the preseason.

New Orleans has also officially announced its previouslyreported deals with free agents Willy Hernangomez and Wenyen Gabriel.

Pelicans Sign Wenyen Gabriel, Sindarius Thornwell

NOVEMBER 30: Both signings are now official, per RealGM’s NBA transactions log.

NOVEMBER 23: The Pelicans are filling two of their roster spots with forward Wenyen Gabriel and guard Sindarius Thornwell, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets.

Both will play on veteran minimum deals. Gabriel is receiving a two-year contract with a team option for the 2021/22 season.

New Orleans plans to go with a 14-player roster, including restricted free agent Brandon Ingram, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Ingram has yet to sign but he’s expected to get a max contract.

The Pelicans also plan to fill both two-way slots, Guillory adds.

Gabriel began last season with the Kings and was traded in midseason to the Trail Blazers. The undrafted Gabriel appeared in a combined 30 regular-season games as a rookie and also saw action in four postseason games.

Thornwell was part of the Clippers’ rotation for two seasons but appeared in just two games with the Pelicans last season after signing as a substitute player during the restart. Otherwise, he spent the 2019/20 season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G League.

Western Notes: Collins, Dort, DeRozan, James

The Trail Blazers will be down a starter for Game 1 of their first-round series against the top-seeded Lakers on Tuesday. Power forward Zach Collins will sit out due to left ankle inflammation, Marc J. Spears of ESPN tweets. Wenyen Gabriel will start in Collins’ place.

Collins, who missed most of the season after undergoing left shoulder surgery, appeared in all eight of the seeding games for the Trail Blazers. He averaged 6.3 PPG and 7.1 RPG in those outings.

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Thunder wing Luguentz Dort is unlikely to play in their opener against Houston on Tuesday due to a knee sprain, Royce Young of ESPN tweets. However, head coach Billy Donovan said Dort is progressing well, which suggests the rookie will play in the series. Dort was injured against Miami on Wednesday. He could be a key defensive factor against the small-ball Rockets.
  • DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs have some tough decisions to make regarding his future, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes. DeRozan must decide by October 13 whether to exercise his $27.7MM option for next season. That won’t necessarily mean DeRozan will remain with the club. He could get traded, whether or not he opts it. The club could also work out an extension with DeRozan or decide during next season whether to extend or trade him if he opts in.
  • Lakers superstar LeBron James believes this will be his most difficult playoff run, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. James sees a number of challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic and the league being forced to play in a neutral venue. “As far as me locking in on an opponent and individuals, that hasn’t changed. What’s different is this is the environment, not home,” he said. “Not with my family, not in my own bed, I’m not in our own practice facility. I’m not preparing to be at Staples [Center] tomorrow with our fans. I’m not with a lot of things that’s essential to my everyday regimen.”

Northwest Notes: Kings, Wolves, Whiteside, Noel

New Trail Blazers trio Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel are excited for their opportunity in Portland, according to Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. And their new teammates are looking forward to integrating them into the team’s system as 19-27 Portland competes for the eighth seed in the West.

The Trail Blazers are currently the No. 11 seed, just 2.5 games shy of the current eighth seed, the 21-24 Grizzlies. The 34 year-old Ariza appears the most likely new player to be incorporated into the current rotation. He is in the first of a two-year, $25MM contract he signed with the Kings in 2019.

“At this point, we’ve really simplified everything that we’ve done over the years, so… I don’t think it will be that hard to catch on to,” said star Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. “Like today at practice, they put in some of the sets that we’ve been running, the things that we do a lot and we didn’t have to stop practice to be like ‘Alright, this what we gotta do.’ [Ariza] just kinda remembered it, it was pretty simple for him.” 

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • During halftime of a seventh straight Timberwolves loss, irked coach Ryan Saunders berated his team, according to Chris Hine of the Minnesota Star Tribune. Much of that frustration was directed at disappointing $148MM wing Andrew Wiggins. “He was yelling at me a lot of the time,” Wiggins confirmed. “I needed it. The first half was a bad first half. I wasn’t aggressive.”
  • Though the Trail Blazers are clearly eager to cut more contracts to get under the luxury tax this spring, The Athletic’s Jason Quick suspects that GM Neil Olshey may have trouble offloading $98MM center Hassan Whiteside. Quick puts Whiteside’s odds of remaining in Portland through the February 6 trade deadline at 50/50.
  • Thunder backup center Nerlens Noel will miss tonight’s tilt against the Timberwolves due to a surgical procedure for a left cheek fracture, according to an ESPN report. The timeline on Noel’s absence will be updated next week. Noel, the No. 6 pick in 2013, has been productive in limited minutes for Oklahoma City, averaging 8.2 PPG and 5.2 RPG.

Kings, Trail Blazers Complete Five-Player Trade

JANUARY 21: The trade between the Kings and Trail Blazers is now official, according to press releases issued by both teams.

JANUARY 18: The Kings and Trail Blazers have agreed to a trade that will send Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento in exchange for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported (via Twitter) that the Blazers are trading Bazemore to Sacramento.

The Kings will also receive Portland’s second-round picks in 2024 and 2025 as part of the deal, a source tells Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link). ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter) that the swap can’t be officially completed until Tuesday, when Gabriel’s trade restriction lifts.

For Portland, the deal represents a cost-cutting move that shouldn’t impact the team’s on-court performance too drastically, if at all. Both Ariza and Bazemore have had down years so far, but Bazemore’s drop-off has been more precipitous —  he has posted a career-worst .347 FG% to go along with a .327 3PT%. Ariza is at least still knocking down his threes (.352 3PT%) at his usual career rate, even as his role was reduced in Sacramento.

Tolliver had been a rotation player for the Blazers, with 16.8 minutes per game in 33 contests, but hasn’t been at his best either — his .368 FG% is his worst mark since he was a rookie in 2008/09.

Bazemore and Tolliver are earning a combined $20.89MM, compared to a total of $15.68MM for Ariza, Swanigan, and Gabriel. Besides trimming more than $5MM off the Blazers’ team salary, the deal will also reduce the organization’s projected tax bill by $12.6MM, according to Marks (via Twitter).

Additionally, the Blazers will create a pair of traded player exceptions, including one worth just over $7MM, since they have a disabled player exception available to acquire Swanigan. The team will have the opportunity to keep Ariza for the 2020/21 season if he finishes the year strong. His $12.8MM salary for ’20/21 is partially guaranteed for $1.8MM, per Basketball Insiders.

It’s not clear if Swanigan and Gabriel fit into Portland’s plans, though it’s worth noting Swanigan was originally drafted by the Blazers before being traded to the Kings a year ago. Both players are on expiring contracts. Portland won’t need to cut anyone to make room to accommodate the three incoming players, since the club already had an open roster spot.

As for the Kings’ side of the deal, Amick observes (via Twitter) that it opens up a roster spot immediately and also creates slightly more flexibility moving forward, since Bazemore and Tolliver are on expiring contracts. The Ariza signing hadn’t worked out like the franchise had hoped, so Sacramento will hope that Bazemore can bounce back and that Tolliver looks more he did when he was a member of the Kings in 2016/17 and shot .442/.391/.744.

There are no plans to buy out Bazemore, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, who tweets that the veteran swingman has a “great relationship” with head coach Luke Walton and the Kings’ front office.

Even if the Kings’ new additions keep slumping, the team will come away with a pair of future assets in the trade by picking up the Blazers’ 2024 and 2025 second-round picks. Sacramento had already acquired multiple extra second-rounders for 2020 and 2021, so the team is building up quite a stash of draft picks, which could be useful in future deals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/15/20

Here are Wednesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/14/20

Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Thunder have assigned Justin Patton to the G League, according to the team’s website. Patton has appeared in 22 games for the Oklahoma City Blue, averaging 10.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.77 blocks per game.
  • The Kings are sending Wenyen Gabriel and Justin James to the Stockton Kings, per the team’s Twitter feed.  Neither player has received consistent playing time with the NBA club this season.