Zion Williamson

Southwest Notes: Dieng, Wall, Thomas, Williamson

Big man Gorgui Dieng is dealing with a right shoulder injury that will nag him the rest of the season but he’ll play through the pain, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News. Dieng banged his shoulder into Kings forward Chimezie Metu while making his Spurs debut late last month. Dieng signed with San Antonio after getting bought out and waived by Memphis. “It’s going to hurt throughout the whole season, but from this point on it cannot get worse,” Dieng said.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets guard John Wall will not play both ends of a back-to-back set for the remainder of the season, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reports. “Moving forward, we are going to make sure we’re smart with his injury management, the wear that he has, all of these things,” head coach Stephen Silas said. Wall has started 33 games in his first season with Houston, averaging 20.5 PPG and 6.8 APG, after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon that sidelined him last season.
  • Isaiah Thomas is back in the NBA on a 10-day contract with the Pelicans and he claims his hip injuries are now a non-issue, Andrew Lopez of ESPN writes. “I’m 102%. I’m more than good,” Thomas said. “This is the best I ever felt since before I got injured. It’s not even a question no more.” In his first two appearances with New Orleans, Thomas has averaged 10.5 PPG and 2.5 APG in 22.o MPG.
  • Zion Williamson is increasingly serving as a point forward for the Pelicans and coach Stan Van Gundy believes that’s the role the All-Star will have going forward, according to William Guillory of The Athletic. Williamson piled up 37 points and eight assists against Philadelphia on Friday. “We want to get him more experience with that stuff going forward because I think that’s where his future is in this game. I really do,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve increased it throughout the year, giving him more and more opportunities. We’d like to get him more moving forward.”

Pelicans Notes: Redick, Bledsoe, Williamson, Ball

Veteran reserve guard J.J. Redick is expected to be traded or bought out this month. If he’s dealt before Thursday’s trade deadline, the Sixers make the most sense, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Redick’s $13MM salary could be matched with some of Philadelphia’s expiring contracts (Mike Scott, Tony BradleyVincent Poirier). The Sixers could also throw in a second-round pick and they have a couple of extra ones, including the Knicks’ 2021 second-rounder, Hollinger notes.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • In the same Athletic story, William Guillory expresses doubt that the front office could move Eric Bledsoe. Acquired from the Bucks in the Jrue Holiday deal, Bledsoe is averaging 11.7 PPG and 3.8 APG — his lowest totals since the 2012/13 season — and has been a liability on defense. He’s owed $18.1MM next season, though his $19.4MM salary in 2022/23 is non-guaranteed.
  • The team should run more of its offense though Zion Williamson, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times Picayune argues. New Orleans has struggled to put opponents away due in part to a lack of crunch time touches for Williamson, Kushner notes. Coach Stan Van Gundy needs to make adjustments to ensure the ball gets in the hands of his top offensive threat when the Pelicans need a basket, Kushner adds.
  • Redick, Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball are the players that could possibly be moved prior to the trade deadline, according to Christian Clark of the Times Picayune. The franchise is in a tough spot with Ball, since they already have approximately $88MM committed to seven other players next season. Re-signing Ball as a restricted free agent would force the Pelicans to take a piecemeal approach to the remainder of the rest of the roster.

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).

Southwest Notes: Silas, Griffin, Mavericks, Zion

Rockets head coach Stephen Silas is trying to maintain a rosy outlook despite Houston’s recent 13-game losing streak, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“It’s encouraging to know when we get back and we’re healthy and we’re whole and we’re in a position [where] we have enough guys to compete, we’re going to be just fine,” Silas said.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • During a recent interview with team broadcaster Todd Graffagnini of ESPN New Orleans, Pelicans team president David Griffin explained the reasoning behind the team prioritizing its veterans over its youth. “So where we’re struggling right now is finding a way to play those guys in a way that makes sense within the framework of a system that doesn’t allow for practice to put them in a position to succeed when they’re on the court,” Griffin said (a transcript is viewable here). “So it’s complicated, and I think the coaches have done a remarkable job of trying to find the balance there. I really take exception to the idea that, well, if you’re losing, you might as well be playing the young kid, that that doesn’t make any sense.”
  • The Mavericks have brought back rookies Josh Green, Tyler Bey and Tyrell Terry from the G League, according to The Dallas Morning News. Green and Bey were playing for the Salt Lake City Stars while in Orlando for the NBAGL “bubble” campus. Terry suited up for the Memphis Hustle.
  • Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will start in place of Sixers center Joel Embiid in the starting lineup for tonight’s All-Star game, Adrian Wojnarowski of EPN tweets. Embiid and his Philadelphia teammate Ben Simmons will be missing the contest as a result of COVID-19 contact tracing. Scott Kushner of The Times-Picayune details how Williamson’s exciting offensive game makes him an ideal fit for the All-Star stage.

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

And-Ones: All-Star Game, Olympics, Dunk Contest, SPACs

Speaking to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, NBA commissioner Adam Silver went into more detail on why the league felt compelled to hold an All-Star Game this season amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Silver, who has previously cited fan engagement as a key reason for not canceling the game, reiterated that point in his conversation with Reynolds.

“It’s the largest factor, the amount of engagement we get from our fans around All-Star,” Silver said. “Historically, in the modern digital age, we have roughly 100 million people vote for our All-Stars, and we came out about the same this year even with a shortened voting period.”

While Silver has insisted that the NBA is thinking about its fans, it’s safe to assume the league is also considering the interests of one of its largest broadcast partners, Turner Sports. The All-Star Game is one of TNT’s biggest annual events, and the network presumably pushed for the game to take place. If the game had been canceled, the league likely would’ve had to renegotiate aspects of its TV agreement with Turner Sports.

“My personal view is very few people do anything just for the money,” Silver told Reynolds. “But at the same time, while we’re clearly in a health emergency in this country, we’re also in the midst of an economic crisis and that extends to the NBA as well. There are tens of thousands of people who are dependent on the NBA for their livelihoods. So, for those who say we’re doing it for the money, they could say the same thing about our entire operation, about the fact that we’re even playing our season.”

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Team USA’s pre-Olympic camp in Las Vegas is scheduled to coincide with the NBA’s conference finals this summer, meaning one of the many difficult decisions USA Basketball will face relates to whether certain players are worth waiting for, Reynolds writes in another Associated Press story. The program is expected to have to make a handful of contingency plans as it prepares its roster for the Tokyo Olympics.
  • Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, and Hornets forward Miles Bridges are among the players who have turned down invitations to participate in the 2021 slam dunk contest, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Pelicans star Zion Williamson also passed on the event, Haynes adds (via Twitter). The NBA will officially announce the participants for this year’s dunk contest, skills challenge, and 3-point contest tonight.
  • In a story for The New York Post, Josh Kosman and Thornton McEnery explore how the NBA will have soon have to make a decision on how to handle “special-purpose acquisition corporations” (SPACs) that want to purchase shares of franchises. The Warriors approached the NBA about selling a minority stake in their team to such a company, but withdrew that request when the league put off a decision, per Kosman and McEnery.

Pelicans Rumors: Ball, Redick, Bledsoe, Picks, Zion

In the weeks since the first Lonzo Ball trade rumors began surfacing in January, the point guard has busted out of his early-season slump, averaging 16.2 PPG and 5.4 APG on .453/.453/.846 shooting in 18 games. As a result, there’s “little expectation” for now that the Pelicans will move the former No. 2 overall pick in advance of this month’s trade deadline, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

However, veteran guards J.J. Redick and Eric Bledsoe still appear to be very available, according to Fischer, who hears that Alvin Gentry‘s coaching staff last season lobbied the front office to move Redick. Now, it seems the Pelicans are hoping to do right by the 36-year-old sharpshooter by sending him to a team close to his family in Brooklyn, Fischer writes.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • When the Pelicans dealt Jrue Holiday last fall, the belief was that they’d prefer to receive a package of established players who could help immediately, according to Fischer. When they couldn’t find an appealing deal fitting that bill, the Pels opted for a pile of draft picks instead. Now, with players like Redick and Bledsoe on the block, New Orleans is thought to be after more draft capital. “They just want to accumulate more and more picks,” a league source told Bleacher Report. “They’re in an arms race with OKC.”
  • The prevailing thought is that the Pelicans hope to eventually take advantage of their collection of draft picks by packaging them for an impact player, per Fischer. “Their interest is definitely to consolidate and do something sooner rather than later,” a Western Conference official said.
  • Having received massive packages in exchange for Holiday and Anthony Davis, the Pelicans will have to be realistic about the far more modest return they can demand for a player like Redick or Bledsoe, Fischer writes. “They’re going to have to lower the asking price,” one scout said.
  • The Pelicans are still weighing what position best suits franchise player Zion Williamson, according to Fischer, who says president of basketball operations David Griffin likes the idea of Williamson having the ball in his hands more. So far, the team has focused on playing him at power forward alongside another traditional big man, opting not to add a reliable stretch five to the roster. As Fischer notes, the Pelicans targeted Steven Adams rather than Al Horford in their offseason talks with the Thunder, and they also didn’t seriously inquire on Myles Turner.

Southwest Notes: Curry, Mavs, Murray, Ball, Pelicans

Seth Curry played a key role in the Sixers‘ win over the Mavericks on Thursday, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and recording a plus-17 rating in his 29 minutes. Asked after the game if playing against the team that traded him away in the fall provided any extra motivation, Curry responded with a smile.

“Nah, never nothing personal, man,” the Sixers guard said, per Jordan Greer of Sporting News. “I got a lot of respect for a lot of those guys over there (with the Mavericks). I just think they made a bad business decision, but it happens all the time, you know what I’m saying? It is what it is.”

Curry’s ability to knock down 3-pointers has been crucial this season for the Sixers, who weren’t getting that same floor spacing from Josh Richardson. Curry has made a career-best 46.8% of his attempts from beyond the arc this season, while Richardson has a career-worst .301 3PT% for the Mavericks.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Spurs guard Dejounte Murray was hit with a $25K fine by the NBA for kicking the game ball into the stands at the end of the team’s loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, the league announced in a press release.
  • After getting off to a slow start this season, Lonzo Ball has played well in his past 20 games, creating a difficult decision for the Pelicans, writes Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Moving Ball before the trade deadline would open up more minutes for youngsters Kira Lewis and Nickeil Alexander-Walker and would allow New Orleans to avoid paying Ball in restricted free agency, but it would also mean moving on from an improving 23-year-old point guard who has developed good chemistry with franchise player Zion Williamson.
  • Speaking of Williamson, Clark notes in a separate NOLA.com story that the partnership between the former No. 1 overall pick and Pelicans teammate Brandon Ingram has come a long way. “Our relationship off the court has always been there,” Williamson said. “It’s never been a problem with that. I think when it came to on the court, we wanted to learn each other and certain parts of the game. Now, we just kind of know.”

2021 NBA All-Star Reserves Revealed

The 2021 NBA All-Star reserves have been revealed. Below is the full rundown of the 14 players scheduled to join the previously announced 10 starters for the March 7 contest in Atlanta. All-Star reserves are selected by the league’s head coaches.

Eastern Conference Reserves:

Notable omissions this season include recent Heat All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, two-time Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton, recent Hawks All-Star point guard Trae Young, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, recent Pacers All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, and Sixers forward Tobias Harris.

Brown, LaVine, and Randle are making their All-Star debuts. Harden is the most decorated among the All-Star vets among the East reserves, as he will be appearing in his ninth All-Star contest.

Western Conference Reserves:

Lillard, who just barely missed out on a starting nod to Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, earns his sixth All-Star mention as he mounts a sleeper MVP campaign with the Trail Blazers. Paul will be playing in his 11th All-Star game, for a fourth different team (he did not earn an All-Star nod in either of his two Rockets seasons, but made it with the Clippers, New Orleans Hornets, and Thunder).

Snubs in the West include recent Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker, Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, and 33-year-old Jazz point guard Mike Conley, the latter of whom may go down in history as the best NBA player never to make an All-Star team. Williamson, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, is a first-time All-Star. Last year, his teammate Brandon Ingram made his own All-Star debut.

Conley may still have his day in the sun, however. Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes that Lakers All-Star big man Davis, recovering from a right calf strain, will likely not be healthy in time to partake in the currently-planned All-Star game, and thus another Western Conference All-Star should eventually be named by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to replace the eight-time All-Star.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Oladipo, Hinton, Point Zion, Tucker

Even before his recent right foot injury, new Rockets shooting guard Victor Oladipo has been wrestling with his productivity this season, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

The sore right foot, meanwhile has hampered his mobility of late and may keep him unavailable during the Rockets’ upcoming road trip. At a high 31.8 usage rate, Oladipo is shooting just 38.6% from the floor and 29.9% from long range through his first 11 games in Houston.

“Victor’s gonna get there,” Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said, going on to highlight Oladipo’s contributions on the other side of the ball. “Hopefully, his injury isn’t too bad. He is a big part of what we do, and one of the of the reasons we’re top five defensively is because of Victor Oladipo.”

There’s more out of the Southwest:

  • Whilst on the NBAGL Orlando “bubble” campus, two-way Mavericks rookie shooting guard Nate Hinton has been recalled from the Long Island Nets and transferred to the Santa Cruz Warriors, according to a team tweet. Dallas’ own affiliate, the Texas Legends, isn’t active this season.
  • The Pelicans‘ offense has benefited from second-year forward Zion Williamson being utilized at the point, according to Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Williamson has frequently been starting the team’s offensive actions during the last five games. “That’s how I grew up playing the game,” Williamson said. “When I’m bringing it up, I take a quick snapshot of the court. I know where all my teammates are and I know where all my teammates are going to be.”
  • Defensive-oriented 35-year-old Rockets iron man forward P.J. Tucker has yet to miss a game since joining Houston in 2017. writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. This season, Tucker and rookie forward Jae’Sean Tate are the only Rockets to have not missed any of Houston’s 26 games this season.