Zach LaVine

Western Notes: Williams, LaVine, Plumlee, Afflalo

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle did not hesitate to insert veteran point guard Deron Williams into the starting lineup despite the emergence of rookie  Yogi Ferrell, Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com reports. Carlisle called Williams “a better player” than Ferrell, adding that Williams was “playing at close to All-Star caliber” before a toe injury sidelined him for eight games, MacMahon adds. Williams played 16 minutes in a blowout victory over the Magic on Saturday night, contributed seven points, four assists and three steals. Ferrell, who earned a two-year contract while filling in for Williams, played 32 minutes off the bench with Williams on a minutes restriction.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Timberwolves shooting guard Zach LaVine will undergo surgery to reconstruct the torn ACL in his left knee on Tuesday, according to a league press release. Lavine, who suffered the season-ending injury driving to the basket against the Pistons on Friday, February 3rd, was averaging 18.9 PPG and 3.0 APG. Brandon Rush and Shabazz Muhammad have shared the shooting guard spot since LaVine was sidelined.
  • The Nuggets got the better of the pending trade with the Blazers, Ben Golliver of SI.com opines. While it’s unlikely that the pairing of Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee would work defensively, it gives Denver coach Michael Malone the ability to establish a clear offensive identity across his rotations if Plumlee is used in a backup role, Golliver continues. The Blazers were smart to get something now for Plumlee, who will become a restricted free agent, before he became too expensive to keep but the return of Jusuf Nurkic and a first-rounder the Grizzlies owed the Nuggets was modest, Golliver adds.
  • Kings guard Arron Afflalo is getting some minutes at point guard due to injuries, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. Afflalo has not played the point since high school but is unfazed by the situation, Jones adds. “It’s not really that much different; it’s just making sure the team gets into a play, into a set,” Afflalo told Jones. “I’m pretty familiar with the sets, and a lot of our spots are interchangeable.”

And-Ones: Christmas, Calderon, Fultz, Parker, Dolan

A right Achilles tendon rupture has brought an end to Dionte Christmas‘ season, Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com reports. It’s an unfortunate development for the 30-year-old, as Christmas had averaged 14.9 points with 3.2 assists in 31 games with the Delaware 87ers. Delaware’s GM, Brandon Williams, lauded Christmas’ efforts in a team statement:

“[Christmas] has been a consummate professional, positive influence on the development of our young roster, and vital to our energy and drive. We will certainly miss his leadership on the court, but are inspired by his confidence as he attacks the next steps on the road to recovery.”

Other stories from around the league-

  • Bobby Marks of The Vertical profiled the Lakers, Nets, and Heat in his trade deadline series; three teams “in the rebuilding process that have limited assets.” Marks cites Jose Calderon as a buyout candidate for GM Mitch Kupchak; Calderon has previously been reported as a target for the Cavs. Trevor Booker and Brook Lopez, who are each under contract for the 2017/18 season, would provide “good value” for contending teams. While Miami’s front office have made deals in three straight trade deadlines, the Heat may be quiet come February 23. Miami has “depleted draft assets,” and appear unlikely to trade Goran Dragic or Hassan Whiteside.
  • The Vertical’s writing staff released their 2017 NBA Mock Draft, with Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Jackson going to the Celtics, Suns, and Lakers, respectively. The Vertical has Malik Monk of Kentucky falling to the Knicks at #10, calling him a good fit “under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.”
  • Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker‘s ACL injuries will create “tricky” rookie extension negotiations, Kevin Pelton of ESPN writes. While Parker’s value has been better established than LaVine’s entering contract discussions, Milwaukee GM John Hammond could limit risk by adding “guarantees based on games played” in Parker’s next contract.
  • James Dolan and Knicks management were subject to a scathing write-up from Michael Powell of the New York Times, who criticized Dolan’s lack of accountability in their confrontation. Phil Jackson, too, was targeted by Powell: “He [Jackson] fires off obscure Twitter posts poking Anthony in one rib or another, suggesting his skills are eroding and his hoop IQ low.”

Zach LaVine Tears ACL, Out For The Season

Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune.

The injury happened during Friday’s loss to the Pistons and will require surgery, which will be scheduled at a later date.

LaVine has become a full-starter for Minnesota in his third NBA season. He was averaging 18.9 points and 3.0 assists through 47 games.

In October, the Wolves exercised their fourth-year option on LaVine, who will make more than $3.2MM next season. He will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension this summer.

Northwest Notes: Rubio, LaVine, Ingles, Blazers

A year ago, when his name came up in trade rumors, Ricky Rubio wanted to meet with management to discuss his role with the Timberwolves. However, this time around, Rubio is finding it easier to shrug off those rumors, like the one about Minnesota “actively shopping” him.

“My name or every name is going to be out there at some point, but you can only worry about things you can control,” the Timberwolves’ point guard said, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “Right now, what I can control is playing my best and do what I’ve been doing.”

Here’s more on the Wolves and some of their Northwest rivals:

  • While Rubio’s name has surfaced in trade talks, one team that spoke to the Timberwolves recently was told that Minnesota “will not entertain” any trade discussions about Zach LaVine, per Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
  • The Jazz have no shortage of depth at wing, but Joe Ingles‘ strong effort on defense has earned him a role in Utah, and he’ll continue to see plenty of playing time with Rodney Hood sidelined, as Jody Genessy of The Deseret News writes. Ingles, who is shooting a career-best 46.0% on three-point attempts, will be eligible for restricted free agency in the summer.
  • According to Brett Koremenos of RealGM.com, the Trail Blazers are one of the NBA’s teams that finds themselves in no-man’s land, not good enough to contend for a title, but not bad enough to land a strong draft pick. Koremenos takes a closer look at how Portland got here, and what the next step is for a team that finds itself somewhat hamstrung financially.

Northwest Notes: Motiejunas, LaVine, Nurkic, Oladipo

The Timberwolves had planned to work out free agent forward Donatas Motiejunas, but the Pelicans swooped in before that could happen, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Minnesota brought Motiejunas into town, but his agreement with New Orleans stopped a planned meeting and workout session. “His agent cancelled and we never got a chance to sit down with him,” said Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau. The Rockets drafted Motiejunas in 2011 with a pick they acquired from Minnesota. He spent four seasons in Houston before becoming a restricted free agent over the summer.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Wolves guard Zach LaVine has become a candidate for Most Improved Player, contends Shams Charania of The Vertical. The third-year guard has raised his scoring average from 14.0 to 21.1 points per game and has become an important part of what Thibodeau calls the team’s “core three” along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Charania added that owner Glen Taylor plans to commit financially to keeping all three.
  • Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic has vowed to be professional about his reduced role, even though he’s clearly unhappy with the arrangement, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Nurkic started the season’s first 25 games, but even then he didn’t always get starters’ minutes. Nurkic shared time with Nikola Jokic and only once topped 30 minutes in a game. His playing time has been cut even further since the Nuggets got healthier, and he was stuck on the bench for four straight games last week. “For sure it’s tough,” Nurkic said. “I’m 23 years old. I’m not here to sit on the bench. I’m here to play basketball. And it’s a tough decision for me, from a starting spot and 20 minutes to four straight [games of not playing]. … You control what you control, and I let my agent do the rest of the stuff.” The Nuggets have already exercised Nurkic’s option for 2017/18 at nearly $3MM.
  • Victor Oladipo returned to the Thunder lineup Saturday after a nine-game absence, relays Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Oladipo hadn’t played since spraining his right wrist in a December 11th game.

Timberwolves Exercise Options On Four Players

The Timberwolves have exercised third-year options on Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones and fourth-year options on Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins, the team announced today.

Adreian Payne has been told his fourth-year option will not be picked up, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis (Twitter link).

Towns and Wiggins are the last two Rookies of the Year and Levine is part of the rotation, so all of those moves were expected. Minnesota has reportedly been in ongoing trade talks involving Jones, with the Sixers as the current front-runner.

Payne, a 6’10” power forward, appeared in 52 games for the Wolves last season, averaging 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in 9.3 minutes per night. He was acquired from the Hawks in a 2015 trade.

Northwest Notes: Durant, Ibaka, Murray, Dunn

Oklahoma City remains the favorite in the Kevin Durant free agency sweepstakes, according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. The Thunder have a significant advantage in the amount they can offer Durant, Slater notes, as he can make $229.5MM over the next six seasons if he opts out of a two-year deal next summer and signs a five-year max contract. OKC can also offer a guaranteed contender, as the Thunder just fell one game short of reaching the NBA Finals. Slater rates the Warriors, Spurs and Celtics as having the best chance to take Durant away, with the Heat and Clippers as long shots and the Wizards and Rockets as “delusional pipe-dreamers.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Durant gave at least his unspoken approval to the draft-day trade that sent Serge Ibaka to the Magic, writes Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. Given the uncertainty surrounding Durant, Amick says the Thunder never would have made such a major deal if they didn’t know he was on board with it.
  • New Nuggets guard Jamal Murray can expect to begin the season in a sixth-man role, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Denver GM Tim Connelly says veteran shooting guard Gary Harris will continue to start, with Murray used for instant offense off the bench. “It’s Gary’s job,” Connelly said. “Certainly I hope Jamal does everything he does to potentially take the job, but Gary’s our starting two guard. [Drafting Murray] was an addition to what we think is a very strong backcourt already. We like the flexibility he provides us.”
  • The Nuggets haven’t decided whether to bring over No. 15 pick Juan Hernangomez next season, Dempsey writes in the same piece. The 20-year-old power forward played for Real Madrid this season. “Both options are open,” Connelly said. “There are some pretty good international situations, if we want him to marinate a bit overseas. I think certainly he has the game to come over. If you’re productive at the ACB level, it usually translates. But it’s a conversation we’re going to have with his representatives and figure it out.”
  • No. 5 pick Kris Dunn likes the situation he is entering with the Timberwolves, relays Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun. The Providence point guard will be surrounded by young talents such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine“All those athletes … [who] like to play up and down, and that’s how my game is,” Dunn said. “I like to play at a fast pace, that up-tempo. We’re all young so I think it’s going to make the relationship even stronger because we’re all trying to learn together, we’re all trying to build together, and we’re going to try to compete every game.”

Timberwolves, Bulls Discussing Dunn, Butler Deal

8:41pm: The Bulls’ negotiations with the Celtics at No. 3 for Dunn were more serious than their talks with the Wolves for Dunn, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne adds that Chicago was listening on Butler, rather than shopping him.

Shelburne agrees that the Bulls’ talks with Boston more serious than their discussions with Minnesota, and says Butler looks poised to stay put for now. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link), the Wolves haven’t given up on a potential deal, but the longer they go without an agreement, the less likely it is to happen.

8:06pm: There are plenty of conflicting reports out there on the Bulls/Timberwolves talks now. ESPN’s Marc Stein tweets that discussions are in the advanced stages, and other reporters have suggested the deal is still very much in play. However, NBA.com’s David Aldridge (Twitter link) has been told there’s “no chance” of the trade being completed, and some reporters have echoed that report as well.

7:45pm: The Bulls and Wolves continue to have “serious talks” about a trade that would involve Butler and Dunn, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (via Twitter). According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter), there is a strong sentiment within the Bulls front office to enter full rebuilding mode and trade for Dunn. There’s “rising optimism” on both sides that a deal can get done, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

7:22pm: The Timberwolves are still trying to get the Bulls to agree to a deal involving Jimmy Butler and Providence point guard Kris Dunn, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. A potential deal between Minnesota and Chicago broke down earlier because the Bulls wanted Zach LaVine to be included rather than Ricky Rubio, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link).

The Bulls and Sixers were both trying to obtain the No. 5 selection before the Wolves took Dunn, Stein tweeted. Philadelphia offered the same package to Minnesota that it presented Boston for the third pick, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (Twitter link).

If the Timberwolves hold onto Dunn, that probably means Rubio’s days in Minnesota are numbered, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, who adds that Rubio has been shopped all week. The initial feeling is that the Wolves are likely to hold onto Dunn, despite aggressive offers from interested teams, according to Stein (Twitter link). Dunn was atop the draft board of new coach executive Tom Thibodeau, Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link).

Trade Rumors: Butler, LaVine, Russell, Gay

The Bulls and Celtics are still discussing a deal involving Jimmy Butler, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Chicago, which traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks on Wednesday, reportedly wants to draft Providence point guard Kris Dunn, but isn’t enamored with Boston’s latest offer, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link).

More trade rumors are heating up as the draft is under way:

  • Another deal the Bulls received came from the Timberwolves, who offered the fifth pick and Zach LaVine, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN.com. Minnesota is willing to listen to offers for anyone besides Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, but he doesn’t believe that offer will be enough to land Butler.
  • The Kings have been “heavily engaged in trade talks” with several teams this week and are targeting Lakers‘ point guard D’Angelo Russell, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN. Sacramento is seeking a possible replacement for starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who is headed toward free agency.
  • Before picking up Thaddeus Young in a deal with the Nets today, the Pacers talked to the Kings about Rudy Gay, according to Wojnarowski.

And-Ones: Grant, LaVine, D-League

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said during a live chat on Lakers.com (h/t to Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times) that the team has no immediate plans to make any trades. “The trade deadline’s not for a couple of months. We’ll sit and monitor our team — make calls, take calls, see where where we are a month from now,” Kupchak said. “If something comes up that we think will help us down the road, we’ll look at it.” Here’s more from around the league:

  • Knicks coach Derek Fisher doesn’t want rookie point guard Jerian Grant to take his first game not in the Knicks lineup to heart, and says that learning to deal with adversity will be good for the young player, Fred Kerber of The New York Post writes. “For your entire career there are going to be [these] ups and downs that can break you or make you,” Fisher said. “When the opportunity comes back around, you capitalize, and that shows a level of professionalism and sustainability that as a young player you have to develop. So there isn’t anything he’s doing wrong, it’s just night to night I’m going with what fits best.
  • Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell wants to get Zach LaVine more minutes but he is finding it difficult because of the team’s depth at the position, Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune writes. “We have Kevin Martin, who has to play,” Mitchell said regarding the calls for LaVine to have an increased role. “We have Shabazz Muhammad, who has to play. And so, I understand when everybody is sitting there and tweeting and blogging about it. But come put my shoes on. It doesn’t work like that. We have a team. We have a cohesive locker room. And we have to keep it that way. Eventually, all this stuff gets worked out. Until it gets worked out, it’s my job to manage the minutes, manage the egos and keep everyone playing at as high a level as possible.
  • The Thunder have assigned Josh Huestis and Cameron Payne to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Huestis’ sixth stint with the Blue on the season and Payne’s second.
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