Will Barton

Northwest Notes: Ingles, Towns, Nuggets, Jones, Conley

Jazz forward Joe Ingles has sought advice from San Antonio’s Patty Miles and New Orleans’ J.J. Redick as he adjusts to a sixth-man role, Aaron Falk of the team’s website reports. “It’s been a few years since I’ve come off the bench,” Ingles said. “I’m just figuring out different ways, what they do, their routines. If there’s anything I can steal or use to help our team win games, I’m going to do it.” Ingles is off to a slow start in his new role, averaging 7.6 PPG and 3.4 APG with a .400 FG%.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns has no regrets about his scrap with Joel Embiid that resulted in a two-game suspension, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets“Listen I’m going to defend myself. I ain’t going to take nothing,” he said. “That’s a very … talented player. I just had to defend myself in that situation.”
  • The Nuggets are getting an average of 36.7 points from their bench, putting them in the middle of the pack in the league, but forward Will Barton says they’re way better than that, Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post relays. “We’ve got the best bench in the league when we’re clicking on all cylinders,” Barton said.
  • Tyus Jones was grateful he had the chance to play for his hometown team, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune relays. Jones grew up in Minnesota and played four seasons for the Timberwolves. He signed a three-year offer sheet with the Grizzlies this offseason and Minnesota declined to match it. “Last year it was like, ‘Man, I might not get this chance again to play for my hometown team.’ … It was just a cool experience, something I’m grateful for because not everyone gets to do something like that. It’s pretty unique and pretty cool,” the point guard said.
  • Mike Conley is going through a bigger adjustment than anticipated, as the Jazz guard told Sam Amick of The Athletic. “It’s kind of a little bit out of my routine because I’ve had to watch more film on us than I can on the other teams because I’m still learning. … I’ve got a big guy now (in Rudy Gobert) who can go get it. I can throw pocket passes, but it’s a little different. We’ve got lob threats and shooters around. You’re just trying to figure out where guys like to come off screens, and which hand, and then just remembering the terminology,” he said. Conley, who was traded by the Grizzlies over the summer, is making a combined $67MM this season and next season.

Northwest Notes: Bazemore, Wolves, Nuggets, Ingles

After being traded from the Hawks to the Trail Blazers in the offseason, Kent Bazemore has become rejuvenated, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. As Quick writes, the veteran wing had become frustrated playing in Atlanta last season as the team – which won 60 games during his first year as a Hawk – fully embraced its youth movement.

“The game is changing with the young guys coming in and getting an opportunity right away,” Bazemore said. “It wasn’t like that when I first came in. I’m old school in that respect. All you have to do is be respectful, work your way up. But the league is changing in that respect, and that frustrated me.”

According to Quick, before Bazemore was traded, he provided the Hawks with a list of preferred destinations. The Blazers were number one on that list. Now, his new teammates can see that Bazemore is enjoying the opportunity to get a fresh start in Portland.

“The environment here will light him up,” Rodney Hood said. “And you can already tell with him, coming from Atlanta and not playing competitive basketball, that he wants to taste it again, that he’s hungry, prepared and ready. He was telling me last year he was so frustrated that he got a lot of technicals. But we can all see he’s excited about the season.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Before Kyle Lowry signed an extension with Toronto, the Timberwolves looked into his availability, tweets Darren Wolfson of SKOR North. There has been no indication that the Raptors were considering moving their All-Star point guard, so it may have been as simple as an inquiry that went nowhere. Still, as Wolfson points out, it shows that new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas will kick the tires on every potentially available impact player — even those that don’t necessarily fit Minnesota’s timeline.
  • The battle for the Nuggets‘ starting small forward job appears to be down to Will Barton and Torrey Craig, writes Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. Barton, who was more effective in Denver’s final preseason game on Thursday, has said he’d “prefer to start,” as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays.
  • Joe Ingles may have emerged this preseason as the de facto backup point guard for the Jazz, says Tony Jones of The Athletic. Dante Exum is still making his way back from knee surgery and Emmanuel Mudiay hasn’t shown the ability to consistently run an NBA offense, so Ingles figures to take on some ball-handling responsibilities for the second unit, Jones explains.

Northwest Notes: Barton, Gallinari, OKC, Bell

After being limited to 43 games in 2018/19 due to injuries, Nuggets swingman Will Barton has been slowed in camp due to a nagging hamstring ailment, which he admits has been frustrating, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

“Definitely a little deflating, coming off an injury-plagued season last year,” said Barton, who is entering the second season of his four-year, $53MM contract with the Nuggets. “The good thing is I feel good when I’m out there, I’m real confident, I’m not really holding back very much. Doing the things I like to do. Got a good rhythm, so not too depressed, but it is a little deflating because I don’t want to hold back, I want to be able to practice fully and play fully and do everything.”

The Nuggets have indicated that the starting small forward position is up for grabs, with Torrey Craig, Juan Hernangomez, and Michael Porter among the players vying for the role. Barton would seemingly be the favorite if and when he’s healthy, but his hamstring may put him behind the eight-ball in that competition to start the season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Danilo Gallinari, acquired by the Thunder for salary-matching purposes in the Paul George blockbuster, is on an expiring contract and may not have a long-term stay in Oklahoma City, but a productive season could benefit both him and the team, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. As Horne points out, if Gallinari is healthy and effective, the Thunder could flip him at the deadline, and he’d be in position to cash in as a free agent in 2020.
  • Royce Young of ESPN.com explores how the Thunder are adjusting to life in the post-Russell Westbrook era.
  • The Timberwolves are encouraging newly-acquired big man Jordan Bell to reclaim his basketball identity after playing a limited role in Golden State, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “Jordan is not used to shooting. We want him to shoot,” Karl-Anthony Towns said of his new frontcourt mate. “Be a scorer. Be who you are. … Don’t feel you can’t use the talents that you’ve been practicing for so long but you don’t get to show.”

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Barton, Rubio, Jazz Workouts

Russell Westbrook dealt with significant pain in his left hand for approximately six weeks before the Thunder were eliminated from the postseason, Brett Dawson of The Athletic reports.

Westbrook, who shot 36% from the field during the opening round, and fellow Thunder All-Star Paul George underwent surgical procedures this week. Westbrook had a ligament repaired in his left hand as well as arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. George had a tendon repaired in his right shoulder and will soon undergo surgery to address a small labrum tear in his left shoulder.

It’s difficult to know how the injuries might impact the Thunder next season, though Westbrook should be ready in plenty of time for training camp, Dawson continues. Expected roster changes over the next four months will have a bigger impact, Dawson adds.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazers traded Will Barton to the Nuggets four years ago but Barton downplays the significance of trying to eliminate his former team, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Barton is averaging 9.2 PPG and 4.9 RPG this postseason. “I’m past that. That was a long time ago in my career,” Barton said. “They just happen to be the opponent that we’re playing against and I just want to beat them, not because I used to play with them, just because they’re in our way for trying to advance. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about. I can’t try to make it personal or anything like that.”
  • The Pacers, Bulls and Suns are the most likely landing spots for Ricky Rubio if he doesn’t remain with the Jazz, Frank Urbina of Hoops Hype opines. Rubio could come at a lower cost than other point guard options for Indiana, while he could give Chicago and Phoenix a veteran presence while also grooming a younger player at the position, Urbina adds. Rubio will be an unrestricted free agent after making nearly $15MM this season.
  • The Jazz brought in six draft prospects on Wednesday, according to a tweet from the team’s media relations department. Power forwards Mamadi Diakite (Virginia) and Dewan Hernandez (Miami, Fla.), wings Tyus Battle (Syracuse) and Brandon Randolph (Arizona) and guards Matt Mooney (Texas Tech) and T.J. Gibbs (Notre Dame) were the visitors. Big men Neemias Queta (Utah State), Zylan Cheatham (Arizona State), Silvio De Sousa (Kansas) and Australian Harry Froling and guards Payton Pritchard (Oregon) and Devon Dotson (Kansas) are coming in on Saturday, according to another Jazz tweet.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Millsap, Murray, Harkless, Nuggets

The Trail Blazers are focused on executing their game plan more than using their emotion for Sunday’s Game 4 in Oklahoma City, Sekou Smith of NBA.com writes. 

Portland will look to take a 3-1 series lead in a hostile playoff environment and quiet the boisterous Thunder crowd, one of the league’s toughest arenas to win games in.

“We’ve just got to focus on us,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We’ve got to be us and do what we do and all of the peripheral stuff … doesn’t have to do with us.”

The Blazers protected home court in Games 1 and 2, jumping out to a 2-0 series lead. Stealing Game 4 on Sunday would allow the team to wrap the series up in five games at their arena on Tuesday, but the mission will prove to be challenging.

“It’s going to be talk, it’s going to be fouls, it’s going to be all that stuff. All that stuff is going to be part of it. But it’s who can deal with that stuff and not be too emotional,” Lillard said on Saturday, one day after a crazy Game 3 atmosphere. “Who can be more even-keeled. Who can handle it more and still have the right mentality through all of those things. And we just stay within ourselves, play hard and we compete.

“And if something is brought to our doorstep, we’re going to open the door and see what’s going on. And that’s all it was. Because we don’t go out there talking and acting no type of way. But like I said, if it comes to our doorstep, we’re going to open the door and see what’s going on.”

There’s more today from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets forward Paul Millsap opened up on “little brother” and teammate Jamal Murray, as detailed by Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “The main thing is just playing the game,” Millsap said of Murray. “Not getting focused on what people want him to do but just playing the game. Seeing him having 19 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds instead of focusing in on just scoring and trying to be going for 50 every single night. He’s actually playing the game now, and I’m super proud of him by how far he’s come.”
  • Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless was fined $15,000 for throwing his headband into the spectator stands during Game 3 of the team’s series against Oklahoma City, the league announced on Saturday. Harkless’ incident marks the fifth separate fine the NBA has issued since the weekend began.
  • Nuggets coach Mike Malone made a change to his starting lineup in Game 4 against San Antonio, starting Torrey Craig in place of Will Barton. The adjustment played a part in Denver stealing a road victory and regaining homecourt advantage, with Craig scoring 18 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in 37 minutes. “Torrey’s size and physicality, his hustle, like Torrey Craig was leaving it all on the floor, which I love,” Malone previously said after Game 3, as relayed by Mike Singer in a different story for the Denver Post. “And then Malik’s obviously shooting (well).  He’s been one of our best offensive players this whole series, shooting the ball very confidently. Attacking the basket and also playing pretty good defense. Both of those guys warrant more minutes, and I’m sure they’ll both get a great chance to play extended minutes [in Game 4].”

Decision Behind Game 4 Start For Torrey Craig

Mike Singer of The Denver Post, writing before the Nuggets Game 4 win over the Spurs, talked about Nuggets coach Michael Malone considering “all options” when it comes to making a starting lineup change ahead of Game 4.

“We’ll continue to look at it,” Malone said on Friday after Game 3. “All options are on the board. Obviously it’s never about any individual, it’s gotta be about what’s best for our team.”

As Singer noted beforehand, small forward Will Barton looked out of rhythm the first three games of the series, leading to Torrey Craig getting the start in Game 4. Through the first three games, Barton was 9 for 31 from the field.

Ultimately, the decision to go with Craig was in order to put more defensive pressure on the Spurs, allowing Craig and Gary Harris to match up with DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White.

Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Denver.

Community Shootaround: Second-Best Team In The West?

The 2018/19 NBA season is now over a quarter of the way through, with many teams having played at least 30 games. At this point, the Western Conference is still extremely crowded, with 12 teams that are .500 or better fighting for playoff spots. Even the top of the conference is tough to figure out, with teams like the Nuggets, Thunder and Lakers battling to distinguish themselves as the second-best team in the conference (behind a healthy and engaged Warriors team).

The Nuggets have continued to impress after a fast start, as they have withstood several injuries to key players such as Paul Millsap, Will Barton and Gary Harris. They currently own the league’s 8th ranked offense and 5th ranked defense while posting a 19-9 record, good for first in the conference.

The Thunder have used the league’s best defense to carry them to a 20-10 start. Paul George is having the best season of his career as the Thunder continue to stifle opposing offenses. The addition of Dennis Schroder has stabilized the team’s bench units, something previous Thunder teams couldn’t rely on.

Finally, the Lakers have rebounded from their slow 0-4 start to find themselves at 18-12. LeBron James has been his usual terrific self while several of the team’s young players have continued to settle in around him. Of course, it’s also possible that the Lakers make a trade to further improve their team as a result of the crowded playoff picture in the West.

When fully healthy and engaged, the Warriors are still regarded as the clear favorites in the Western Conference. However, the battle for second-best in the conference will likely continue throughout the season and early rounds of the playoffs.

With all that being said, who do you think is the second-best team in the Western Conference? Perhaps you believe that it could be a team that hasn’t been mentioned here. Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Northwest Notes: Harris, Wolves, Barton, Blazers

Nuggets guard Gary Harris is considered day-to-day with a right hip injury sustained Monday when the team played Toronto, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Harris didn’t play in Wednesday’s game against Orlando, and has already been ruled out for Friday’s game in Charlotte.

“He’s out,” coach Mike Malone said this week, according to Singer. “Just a hip injury, and he’ll continue to get some treatment and see where it’s at and how long he’s gonna be out. But as of right now, he’s just day-to-day.”

Harris is a key piece in the Nuggets’ core group, averaging 16.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game this season. Malone said he’ll take it game-by-game to determine who should start in Harris’ place for the time being.

“On that given night, which player we feel is going to be a better matchup for us in terms of who they’re guarding, who the other team offers in their starting lineup and also, it’s not just about how it affects the starting unit — how does it affect the bench unit?” Malone said. “Whether it’s Torrey, whether it’s Malik (Beasley), whether it’s somebody else, we have options and I think we can look at it game-by-game while Gary is out.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves had a shouting match during halftime of the game against Houston on Monday, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. As a result, the team then worked together in the second half to pull off an impressive victory. “We screamed at each other about how we wanted to fix our mistakes on defense and how we were as a group going to do it before Thibs talked to us,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “And we went out there and did it.”
  • Will Barton will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis moving forward, the Nuggets announced on Thursday. Barton continues to progress in his rehabilitation from right hip and core muscle surgery.
  • John Canzano of The Oregonian casts a vote for Merritt Paulson to end up with ownership of the Trail Blazers if the team get put up for sale. Paulson is the majority owner of the Portland Timbers, a Major League Soccer team, as well as the Portland Thorns, a National Women’s Soccer League team.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Barton, Jokic, Westbrook

The Timberwolves are back to where they started before the first Jimmy Butler trade with a young nucleus built around Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, writes Chip Scoggins of The Star-Tribune. Coach/executive Tom Thibodeau changed the blueprint in Minnesota last year when he acquired Butler from the Bulls in hopes of finding a veteran leader who could vault the team to the top of the West. Now the Wolves are back to square one, only instead of having Zach LaVine, who was sent to Chicago in the Butler deal along with a draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen, their core will include Dario Saric and Robert Covington.

Thibodeau has reduced job security after the Butler incident, and Scoggins suggests his first move should be to try to repair relationships within the organization. He let Butler virtually run the team over the past two months — catering to his outrageous behavior in an effort to convince him to stay —  which created dissension in the locker room that won’t be easy to erase.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets guard Will Barton is making progress in his rehab after surgery to repair core and hip muscle injuries, according to an Associated Press story. There’s still no timetable for his return, but Barton said he’s “getting stronger every day.” Team doctors planned to re-evaluate his progress six weeks after the October 23 procedure, so his comeback could start in early December. Barton said strengthening core muscles is the focus of his rehab work.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone defended center Nikola Jokic, who was fined $25K this week for using “derogatory and offensive language” in a postgame interview, relays Mike Singer of The Denver Post“There’s so many things being said about this poor kid, and I understand some of it, but those of us who know him, like most people in this hallway, give the kid a break,” Malone said. “He made a mistake, he’s paying for it, get off his back a little bit. He’s a great kid. He loves everybody, and he meant no offense to anybody.”
  • The Thunder are citing progress for Russell Westbrook, who is recovering a a sprained left ankle he suffered in Monday’s game, writes Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. With a packed schedule this week, OKC hasn’t had time to fit in a practice to fully evaluate Westbrook’s condition. “He’s got to get out there, he’s got to practice, move and cut and do those things, so that’s going to take a little bit of time,” coach Billy Donovan said at Saturday’s shootaround.

Nuggets’ Will Barton To Miss At Least Six Weeks

OCTOBER 23: Barton has undergone successful surgery to repair core and hip muscle injuries, according to the Nuggets, who noted in a press release that the veteran swingman will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

OCTOBER 22: Nuggets swingman Will Barton will have surgery for an adductor muscle injury on Tuesday and is expected to miss 5-6 weeks, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears tweets. The injury is in the right hip area.

Barton was off to a solid beginning as the team’s starting small forward. He averaged 16.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.0 APG during the team’s first two games before he felt something pop during the second half against Phoenix on Saturday. He missed Denver’s victory over Golden State on Sunday.

Barton, 27, averaged career highs in points (15.7) and assists (4.1) last season.

It’s unlikely Denver will pursue trade options unless the timetable for Barton’s injury changes. With the 6’6” Barton on the shelf, Torrey CraigJuan Hernangomez and Malik Beasley will see an uptick in minutes.

The undrafted Craig, 27, broke into the league last season and started on Sunday. Hernangomez, a 2016 first-rounder, is a career 37.1% 3-point shooter. Beasley, another 2016 first-round pick, appeared in 62 games in reserve for Denver last season.