Wesley Matthews

Bucks Notes: Middleton, Portis, Connaughton, Matthews

The Bucks‘ defense performed relatively well in their second-round series vs. Boston, holding a Celtics team that led the NBA with a 122.6 offensive rating after the All-Star break to a 108.8 mark in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. However, Milwaukee’s own offense struggled — the team ranked third in the league with a 114.3 offensive rating in the regular season, but its 99.7 second-round mark ranked last by a wide margin among the eight remaining clubs.

One reason for Milwaukee’s offensive struggles was Khris Middleton‘s absence due to an MCL sprain. The Bucks were left wondering after Sunday’s Game 7 loss whether they’d be the ones advancing to face Miami in the Eastern Finals if their second-leading scorer had been available vs. Boston.

“Obviously, we weren’t trying to make excuses, ‘We don’t have Khris, and oh, it’s going to be tough for us.’ No, no, no,” Giannis Antetokounmpo said on Sunday, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “I think everybody went out there and competed, gave everything they had and that’s what we did from Game 3 against Chicago until Game 7 against Boston. But, if we had him, maybe it would have been a different story. But we didn’t.”

“We could’ve used him,” Jrue Holiday said of Middleton. “We definitely could’ve used him. He makes big shots and big plays on both ends, but especially the offensive end. Yeah, we missed him, but we also want him to be OK for the future, too. Yeah, he’s missed.”

Middleton confirmed on Monday that his MCL injury was a Grade 2 sprain and said it will heal on its own in the offseason without any surgical intervention (Twitter links via Eric Nehm of The Athletic and Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Middleton added that he wanted to play in Games 6 and 7 vs. Boston and didn’t experience any setbacks, but team doctors said the risk was too high for him to return so soon (Twitter link via Owczarski).

Here’s more on the Bucks:

  • Asked about his upcoming player option decision, Bobby Portis spoke at length about how much he has enjoyed his two years in Milwaukee, but deferred to his agent on his contract situation. “That’s on the organization and my agent to figure that out,” Portis said (Twitter link via Nehm). “I don’t really discuss numbers or contracts or none of that. I love it here. I love being a Buck, but it definitely comes down to them making it work.” The Bucks would have Early Bird rights on Portis, who has certainly outplayed his $4.56MM option.
  • In his preview of the Bucks’ offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) takes a closer look at Portis’ free agency, noting that the Bucks could offer him up to about $22.6MM over two years using the Early Bird exception. Marks also explores potential new contracts for Pat Connaughton, who can reach free agency by turning down his player option, and Middleton, who is extension-eligible.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype previewed the Bucks’ summer too, examining the upcoming free agent and extension decisions facing the team.
  • Veteran wing Wesley Matthews told reporters on Monday that he’ll definitely continue his NBA career and would like be back with the Bucks (Twitter link via Owczarski). The 35-year-old said that he hopes not to have to wait until December to sign his next contract, as he did this past season.

Bucks Notes: Hill, Matthews, Horst, Antetokounmpo, Ibaka

George Hill returned to action in Game 3 of the Bucks’ series against the Celtics and had no setbacks. The veteran guard is not listed on the injury report for Monday’s game, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Hill, who hadn’t seen action since April 8 due to an abdominal strain, played 11 scoreless minutes with one assist in Game 3.

We have more on the defending champions:

  • Wesley Matthews‘ excellent defense and the Bucks’ scheme frustrated Jayson Tatum in Game 3. Tatum now has to figure out how to get to his sweet spots more frequently, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Weiss takes an in-depth on the Bucks’ plan against Tatum and how he might counter in Game 4.
  • Boston fumed about a no-call in the closing seconds of Game 3. Surprisingly, Bucks GM Jon Horst also felt the officiating wasn’t up to par, as he told Eric Nehm of The Athletic“I couldn’t do their job. You couldn’t do their job,” Horst said. “Officiating is hard, just like playing is hard and coaching is hard, and I think we all have a standard of trying to get better and improve. And at the end of the day, that’s what stood out to me. We have to improve. That wasn’t a quality playoff basketball game, and I think officiating played a role in that.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo takes all kinds of punishment and doles it out, too. His teammates marvel at his mental toughness with defenses constantly collapsing on him, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes. “He’s so good at being mentally strong,” center Brook Lopez said. “He obviously has lots of guys throwing themselves at him when he’s trying to get into his moves and make plays for himself and everyone else. He does a great job of sticking with it, staying in the game, and just keeping his mojo … It can be frustrating at times. He does a great job of just kind of letting it go like water off a duck’s back.”
  • Serge Ibaka was a late scratch from Monday’s game due to a non-COVID illness, Lily Zhao of FOX6 tweets. Ibaka has made two cameo appearances in the series.

Bucks Notes: Middleton, Holiday, Matthews, Tucker, Hill

The Bucks have confirmed that Khris Middleton will miss Games 3 and 4 of their series with the Celtics, but they’re not speculating about his availability beyond that, according to Steve Megargee of The Associated Press. A report last week indicated that Middleton was likely to be sidelined for the entire second-round series and could be in jeopardy for the conference finals.

“We feel really good about where he is,” coach Mike Budenholzer said after Thursday’s practice. “We continue to hope he makes progress.” Budenholzer responded, “We’ll see,” when asked if Middleton could possibly play against Boston.

Middleton suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee on April 20 during Game 2 of Milwaukee’s first-round playoff series against Chicago. An examination was set for this week to reevaluate his condition and determine when he might be able to return. He averaged 14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists in two playoff games against the Bulls.

There’s more from Milwaukee:

  • Jrue Holiday and Wesley Matthews have become the destructive defensive duo they talked about forming nearly five years ago, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. When Holiday was with the Pelicans and became a free agent in the summer of 2017, Matthews tried to convince him to join the Mavericks. However, New Orleans made Holiday a five-year, $150MM offer that was too good to pass up. “It was pretty close,” he said. “But I ended up staying with New Orleans. Money wins.”
  • In an interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape, Heat forward P.J. Tucker says he felt disrespected by the Bucks’ offer after helping the team win an NBA title last season. Tucker added that he loved playing in Milwaukee, but management wasn’t willing to risk going into luxury tax territory to keep him. “For me, it wasn’t even about money,” he said. “It was more about respect because they basically told me to go find an offer and they would match it. After hearing that for me, I’m not coming back even if I had to take less money. To me, that was disrespectful. So, as soon as they said that, I told my agent Andre [Buck], basically, ‘We are moving on, whatever we get out of that, that’s what we’re doing.’”
  • George Hill is making progress toward returning from an abdominal injury, Nehm tweets“He’s getting close. We’ll see how he responds to today,” Budenholzer said on Thursday. “He pretty much did all of practice and did some extra, a play group, afterwards. I think we just gotta see how he comes out of that.”

Five More Players Receive Salary Guarantees

The Hawks are hanging onto forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, guaranteeing his salary for the rest of the 2021/22 season, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). The decision assures Luwawu-Cabarrot of his full $1,939,350 salary, which counts against Atlanta’s cap for $1,669,178.

After two seasons in Brooklyn, Luwawu-Cabarrot signed a one-year, minimum-salary deal with the Hawks in September. He has appeared in 24 games so far, averaging 4.5 PPG and 1.5 RPG on .387/.381/.813 shooting in 13.9 minutes per contest. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022.

Here are more updates on salary guarantees:

  • According to Scotto (via Twitter), Pacers forward Oshae Brissett has survived today’s salary guarantee deadline and is assured of receiving his $1,701,593 salary. Brissett has emerged as a three-and-D piece in Indiana’s rotation since joining the team last April, registering 8.2 PPG and 4.5 RPG with a .399 3PT% in 49 total games (20.7 MPG) across parts of two seasons. The club holds a $1.85MM option on him for next season.
  • The Cavaliers are retaining center Ed Davis and guaranteeing his salary, tweets Scotto. Davis isn’t playing much for Cleveland, logging just 112 total minutes across 12 games so far, but he’s considered a strong veteran presence in the locker room. His salary is $2,641,691, while his cap hit is $1,669,178.
  • The Bucks are guaranteeing Wesley Matthews‘ salary for 2021/22, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Milwaukee decided to move on from DeMarcus Cousins this week, but will hang onto Matthews, who signed a minimum-salary contract with the team last month. Matthews is on the books for a $1,237,494 cap hit and is earning a $1,958,495 salary.
  • Timberwolves wing Jaylen Nowell has received a rest-of-season guarantee, according to Dane Moore of Blue Wire Pods (Twitter link). Nowell, whose $1,782,621 salary and equivalent cap hit are now locked in, is averaging 7.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG, and 1.9 APG in 24 games (13.8 MPG) for Minnesota so far this season. The Wolves will have to make a decision this summer on his $1.93MM team option for 2022/23.

Central Notes: Matthews, DiVincenzo, Olynyk, Rondo

Veteran Bucks reserve shooting guard Wesley Matthews is making the most of his second stint in Milwaukee, writes Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Madison, Wisconsin native, a Marquette alum, made it clear that he wanted to return to the reigning champs. In 11 contests with the Bucks, the 35-year-old wing is averaging 5.6 PPG on a .511/.419/600 shooting line across 16.6 MPG.

“This is what I wanted, this is where I wanted to be,” Matthews said of his Bucks reunion. “I knew in my heart this is where I wanted to be and I felt that from the team, from the organization top-down and now we’re here and I can’t be more excited and happy for it.”

Matthews joined the Bucks on a non-guaranteed contract last month. The team will have to make a decision on whether to keep him around for the rest of the year by the league’s Friday deadline.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Just three games into his return from ankle surgery during the 2021 postseason, Bucks shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo suffered a mild ankle injury. He has already resumed on-court workouts, and Milwaukee will have a better sense of a timeline for his return to action next week, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link). Playing 16.7 MPG in his three games this season, the 6’4″ wing out of Villanova is averaging 7.3 PPG and 5.7 RPG for the Bucks.
  • Pistons big man Kelly Olynyk, who has been out for Detroit since suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain two months ago, has begun working out at the team’s practice facility, per Rod Beard of the Detroit News (via Twitter). Beard adds that the Pistons do not yet have a timeline for Olynyk’s return to game action.
  • New Cavaliers point guard Rajon Rondo is hoping to have a bigger role in Cleveland than he did with his most recent club, the Lakers, writes Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “I’ve always been the underdog my entire career,” Rondo said. “I love the expectations of being ‘done’ or not expected to do things. That’s what I kind of pride myself on, doing the impossible and doing the unthinkable. This group has the talent to do it. I’m looking forward to making some noise.” In 16.1 MPG across 18 games for the Lakers this season, the 35-year-old veteran point guard averaged just 3.1 PPG, 3.7 APG and 2.7 RPG.

Central Notes: Cavs, Matthews, Kalamian, McKinnie

Appearing on the HoopsHype Podcast alongside Michael Scotto, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com said he believes the Cavaliers will look to be buyers at this season’s trade deadline, and could be open to surrendering their 2022 first-round pick, which may not end up in the lottery as initially anticipated.

Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Terrence Ross are among the players who could appeal to the Cavaliers, per Fedor, though some of those players may be more attainable than others. While LeVert and Ross are believed to be available, I’d be surprised if Brooklyn parts with Harris.

Fedor also addressed several more topics during his conversation with Scotto, suggesting that Ricky Rubio has become more likely to be extended than traded and noting that the Cavaliers are comfortable going into restricted free agency with Collin Sexton. Cleveland recognizes that only a handful of teams will have cap room available in 2022 and is skeptical that any of those clubs will make it a top priority to pry away Sexton from the Cavs, Fedor explains.

Here are a few more notes from around the Central:

  • Bucks wing Wesley Matthews is no longer listed in the health and safety protocols, as Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets. Milwaukee still has three players in the protocols, including Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • Rex Kalamian, who has been an NBA assistant coach for 28 years, got a chance to serve as the Pistons‘ acting head coach on two occasions in the past week – including on Tuesday – when Dwane Casey was away from the team for personal reasons. As James L. Edwards III of The Athletic details, Kalamian appreciates the opportunity, but remains happy in his role as an assistant. “As an assistant coach, you do a lot more development with the players than the head coach,” he said. “The head coaches are not nearly as involved with the day-to-day development of players. But as an assistant, that’s something that has always been fun for me and a challenge to step in and get on the court every day with players.”
  • Carving out a role with the Bulls has been a “dream come true” for Alfonzo McKinnie, who is currently on his second 10-day contract with his hometown team. “I’m a West Side kid. I grew up like 10, 15 minutes down the way,” McKinnie said on Monday, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “House was a Bulls house. Watched the Bulls growing up. So just being able to compete on the highest stage in my hometown, on my favorite side of the city, the West Side, it’s been surreal to be honest. Just putting that jersey on has been everything for me.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo Enters Coronavirus Protocols

All-NBA Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss at least Milwaukee’s next game, against the Pacers on Wednesday night, after entering the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (via Twitter). The Bucks announced the news in their latest injury report.

The reigning NBA Finals MVP, Antetokounmpo joins injured fellow Bucks starters Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez on the sidelines ahead of tomorrow’s game, per Agness.Figuratively, of course, since Antetokounmpo will be quarantining in isolation until he records two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart or 10 days have elapsed since he recorded his first positive test result.

Milwaukee role players Wesley Matthews, Semi Ojeleye and DeMarcus Cousins are also listed as unavailable for the Bucks, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Adrian Wojnarowski reveals (Twitter link) that Matthews has also entered the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, and that the Bucks are continuing to test the rest of the team.

Antetokounmpo has enjoyed another stellar 2021/22 season to this point. The 6’11” forward is averaging 27.0 PPG, 11.6 RPG, and 5.8 APG across 26 contests. The team has weathered plenty of injury issues already and still boasts the third-best record in the East with an 18-11 season mark. Should Milwaukee miss Antetokounmpo for the next 10 days, and should Middleton’s knee injury linger, the Bucks could struggle in the short-term.

Antetokounmpo is just the latest All-Star-caliber player to enter the league’s coronavirus protocols this evening, after news broke earlier tonight that Brooklyn guard James Harden would join six other Nets in that team’s COVID-19 protocols. For the Bulls, guard Zach LaVine and probable 2022 All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan are among the 10 Chicago players currently unavailable due to recording positive coronavirus tests. Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant, performing well enough to earn his first All-Star berth this season, has been in COVID-19 protocols for nearly a week.

Bucks Sign Wesley Matthews, Waive Georgios Kalaitzakis

6:14pm: The Bucks have officially signed Matthews and requested waivers on Kalaitzakis, the team announced. Matthews’ contract is non-guaranteed, a source tells Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link).


4:07pm: The Bucks are signing veteran wing Wesley Matthews and waiving rookie forward Georgios Kalaitzakis in order to create a roster spot, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

It’s another win-now move for the defending champions, who signed center DeMarcus Cousins on Tuesday. The Bucks will be on the hook for the guaranteed portion of Kalaitzakis’ salary — he has a partial guarantee of $462,629. However, he’s already earned a good chunk of that amount by this point in the season, which makes it a very understandable move from both a basketball and financial perspective.

Matthews, 35, is entering his 13th season in the NBA. This will be a reunion for both player and team, as he spent the 2019/20 season with the Bucks, starting all 67 games he appeared in with averages of 7.4 PPG and 2.5 RPG on .396/.364/.765 shooting (24.4 MPG). He played for the Lakers last season, appearing in 58 contests (19.5 MPG) while averaging 4.8 PPG and 1.6 RPG on .353/.335/.854 shooting.

Matthews was a top-tier 3-and-D player in the early part of his career prior to tearing his Achilles tendon in 2015. He’s never put up the same type of efficient offensive numbers since suffering the injury, but he’s still regarded as a good defensive player and is a highly respected veteran. In 849 career games (739 starts), he holds career averages of 12.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.0 SPG on .421/.379/.824 shooting.

Kalaitzakis, the 60th pick in the 2021 draft, was signed to a partially guaranteed, three-year deal ahead of his rookie season. The Greece native appeared in nine games for the Bucks for a total of 48 minutes, putting up modest stats of 1.8 PPG and 0.9 RPG in 5.3 MPG. Evidently Milwaukee did not see enough from the 22-year-0ld to justify keeping him on a standard contract.

It’s very unlikely that he gets signed by a team with an open roster spot, as that list is comprised of either contending teams or teams right against the luxury tax, or both. Perhaps a two-way spot could be possible, but all 60 of those spots are taken right now, so that would require a team to waive a current two-way player. Kalaitzakis’ most realistic path back to the NBA is probably through the G League, but returning to Europe could be a viable possibility, too.

Lakers Notes: Davis, LeBron, Schröder, Kuzma, Caruso

Lakers star Anthony Davis is reportedly considered unlikely to play in a pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday due to a strained groin. But even if they’re missing their second-leading scorer and frontcourt anchor, the Lakers remain confident in their ability to hang with the No. 2 Suns, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

“There is plenty of confidence that we have now without AD. That’s not even a question for anybody in the locker room,” center Marc Gasol said on Sunday.

“It’s just gonna be more opportunity for (LeBron James) and obviously we need more guys to step up,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “Not one other guy, but everybody. It’s gotta be a group effort. We need contributions from everyone, and we did have a stretch like this where we played without AD that we’ll draw on to take us into Game 5 if AD’s not available.”

As Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes, the Lakers had a winning record (19-17) without Davis this season, including an 11-7 mark in games that James played and Davis didn’t. The club may have also discovered an effective Davis-less lineup in Game 4, as LeBron, Gasol, Wesley Matthews, Alex Caruso, and Dennis Schröder were a plus-six in seven minutes. All five of those players can make outside shots and are solid defenders, Buha observes.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • James is prepared to shoulder a heavier workload and more responsibilities if the team is missing Davis for the next game or two, as Mark Medina of USA Today relays. “These shoulders were built for a reason,” LeBron said on Sunday. “If it takes for me to put some more on top of it, then so be it. Win, lose or draw. I’m ready for the challenge.”
  • Rival executives expect the Lakers to shake up their roster a little if they don’t make it past the first round of the playoffs, says Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Dennis Schröder will be perhaps the most important free agent worth monitoring — L.A. probably can’t afford to lose him for nothing, so re-signing him or working out a sign-and-trade will be a priority.
  • Within the same Bleacher Report story, Fischer cites sources who say that the Lakers discussed potential Kyle Kuzma trades with teams at the deadline in March. Prior to Spencer Dinwiddie‘s ACL injury, Los Angeles inquired about a swap involving the Nets guard and Kuzma, according to Fischer.
  • There’s a sense among Lakers officials that Alex Caruso has enjoyed playing alongside LeBron and will be interested in re-signing with the team in free agency this summer, reports Fischer.

Lakers Notes: Gasol, Matthews, LeBron, Lowry

The Lakers got important contributions from two little-used veterans as they ended a three-game losing streak Monday night, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Marc Gasol, who has seen his playing time cut sharply since the addition of Andre Drummond, posted 10 points, seven rebounds and a plus-17 rating in 17 minutes. Wesley Matthews scored eight points while hitting all three of his shots from the field.

“I think we have to start thinking more as a team, instead of mentioning guys,” Gasol said. “It’s more who we are as a team and who we’re going to be. Everyone tied to one another regardless of your situation. You play zero minutes, you play 20 minutes, the team success is everyone’s success.”

Both players joined the Lakers as free agents in November, with Gasol getting a two-year deal and Matthews signing for one year. They both expected larger roles, but are trying to make the most of their opportunities as the playoffs near.

“Like I said, basketball, it’s just like life, it’s unpredictable,” Matthews said. “You don’t know what may or may not happen, but you got to be prepared for it. You got to continue to go on. You can either go on with it or it goes on without you.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • LeBron James sat out Monday’s game and is considered day-to-day after aggravating his right ankle injury, Turner tweets. L.A. doesn’t play again until Thursday, and James’ status for that game is uncertain.
  • The Lakers may regret not making a greater effort to trade for Kyle Lowry at the deadline, contends Eric Koreen of The Athletic. L.A. was limited in what it could offer, but Koreen believes there was an opportunity to swoop in after the Sixers and Heat dropped out of the bidding. The Lakers reportedly weren’t willing to part with Talen Horton-Tucker, which left nothing else that the Raptors were interested in.
  • This year’s struggles have shown the dangers of building a team around James, who is 36, and Davis, who has been injury-prone throughout his career, writes Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. He also notes that both players returned from their injuries to a different team, as the Lakers signed Drummond and Ben McLemore while they were out and made other changes to their rotation.