Category Archives: NBA

Boston Celtics’ Kemba Walker out until January after stem cell injection in knee

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stated Tuesday that the upcoming NBA season will indicate how much of a long-term problem Kemba Walker’s left knee will be moving forward.

“I think this year will tell us a lot more,” Ainge said Tuesday morning of Walker, who the team informed will be out until at least January after he was given a stem cell injection and put on a 12-week strengthening program after last season ended.

“He saw some specialists over the last six or eight weeks, and they all came to the same conclusion, and I think that gave Kemba a great peace of mind as he went to different, really good doctors in our country and got the same opinions. He’s on a program, and he seems to be in a very good, happy spot.”

Ainge said the anticipation from those meetings was that surgery would not be necessary.

After the Celtics signed Walker as a free agent to a four-year max contract in the summer of 2019 to replace Kyrie Irving, he spent the latter portions of the regular season dealing with ongoing soreness in his left knee — particularly after the All-Star break — before the season was suspended March 11.

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Then, once teams resumed on-court work in late June ahead of the NBA restarting its season in late July, Walker had another setback with his knee, and was put on a minutes restriction both during the weeks leading up to the restart and throughout the seeding games inside the league’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

Walker looked very good versus the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, but he struggled as the Celtics progressed throughout the postseason — particularly after taking a hard fall during the second round versus the Toronto Raptors when he appeared to tweak the knee.

Ainge stated it was possible Boston rushed Walker back too quickly for the bubble — a touchy subject in Boston, given the history surrounding Isaiah Thomas after his hip issues following Boston’s run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2017 — before almost immediately walking back his own statement.

But just when Walker’s season will start — and when he will be a full participant for the Celtics — remains very much up in the air. The Celtics said in their statement that Walker’s game-availability status will be updated in the first week of January, which is roughly when his 12-week strengthening program should end.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Walker is going to start playing 30-plus minutes a game. Instead, the expectation is that Walker will slowly be ramped up over time, in a similar fashion to the restart in Orlando.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Walker’s return was affected in part by the fact that the NBA season is getting started sooner than everyone had anticipated.

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New Orleans Pelicans sign Will Magnay to two-way contract

The New Orleans Pelicans are adding Will Magnay from the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia to a two-way contract, according to ESPN’s Olgun Uluc.

The 22-year-old center posted a line of 8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in an average of 21.8 minutes per match (27 total games) for the Brisbane Bullets. For those efforts, he was awarded the NBL20 Most Improved Player Award.

The numbers do not necessarily jump off the page alone; however, realize those statistics represent substantial improvement from Magnay’s 2018-19 campaign, where he was largely invisible in an average of 4.3 minutes a game. Not a known commodity to the average fan in the United States.

Magnay has sat on the radar of multiple NBA teams for some time.

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There were rumors last February that the Golden State Warriors were going to sign Magnay to a 10-day contract, but the deal never came to fruition. Then another false report was published prior to the restart inside the Orlando bubble that Magnay was likely to join the Dallas Mavericks.

Why are NBA teams so enamored with Magnay? Because the athleticism and talents stand out on his 6’10 frame. While he made only 6 of 32 three-point shots in the NBL, the jumper exhibits a good amount of rhythm and solid enough form.

It’s not difficult to understand what the Pelicans may see in Magnay. In a perfect world, his development continues to noticeably grow under their tutelage, where someday he’ll be able to carve out a meaningful role alongside Zion Williamson, offering stellar shot-blocking and some floor-spreading shooting ability.

If allowed to dream for a moment, can anyone else see a solid screener who will run aggressively to the rim and finish strongly as well as offer pick-and-pop potential out to the three-point line? I think I can, but now for a healthy dose of reality: it took Magnay several years in the NBL to finally make a mark.

This, after leaving the US following his freshman year at Tulsa to turn pro in Australia.

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Miami Heat, Bam Adebayo agree to 5-year max extension

The Miami Heat and Bam Adebayo have agreed to a five-year max extension, Adebayo’s agent, Alex Saratsis, told ESPN’s Zach Lowe on Tuesday.

The deal contains escalator clauses that can take its total to $195 million over five years, Saratsis told ESPN. The contract has not been signed and won’t be until Adebayo finalizes a physical, something that is likely to occur in the next few days.

It will be the richest contract in terms of total value in Heat franchise history, surpassing Jimmy Butler’s $141 million deal from last offseason, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“This is an accomplishment I always wanted to get,” Adebayo stated. “Just being able to reach this milestone and being able to generationally change my family’s life and also take care of the people around me, it’s a big deal to me.”

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Adebayo will make $5.1 million this season, the final year of his rookie contract.

From there, the extension will kick in with a starting salary of somewhere around $28.1 million for the 2021-22 season. And if he makes an All-NBA team or wins another top leaguewide honor this season, his annual salary would only increase.

“It’s another challenge I’m willing to take on,” Adebayo said. “I’m all about helping this team win. If my individual accolades help, then I’m for sure in.”

The Heat had until Dec. 21 to agree with Adebayo on an extension or else would have had to table the matter until next summer. Miami has stated the team’s intention was to give Adebayo a new deal — the only question was when. By waiting until next summer, the Heat would have had more salary-cap flexibility.

Adebayo is coming off what was by far the best season of his career. He was an All-Star for the first time, won the skills competition at All-Star Weekend, had the game-saving block of a Jayson Tatum dunk attempt in the final seconds of Miami’s Game 1 win over Boston in the Eastern Conference finals and made the NBA All-Defensive Team.

When this deal is done, he’ll become the fourth member of the 2017 NBA draft class to secure a max extension; the others were Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell and Tatum.

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Pistons acquire Trevor Ariza, No. 16 pick in NBA draft in trade with Rockets

The Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons have settled to a trade ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft. Houston will send Trevor Ariza and the No. 16 overall pick in this year’s draft to Detroit in exchange for a future first-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

That future pick from the Pistons will be heavily protected, however, according to The Athletic’s James Edwards III, and it’s likely it will eventually turn into multiple second-round picks.

In addition, the Rockets will obtain the Pistons’ 2021 second-round pick — via the Los Angeles Lakers — for $4.6 million.  Earlier this week, the Rockets acquired Ariza and two first-round picks — one of which was No. 16 overall — from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Robert Covington.

With their own first-round pick already owed to the Denver Nuggets, the Rockets now do not have a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. 

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This was, first and foremost, a cost-cutting move by the Rockets, which isn’t surprising given their ownership situation.

It will also give them a bit of cap flexibility by allowing them to use their mid-level exception now that Ariza is off the books. Whether they’ll do so, however, remains to be seen.

There are obviously bigger issues at hand for the Rockets, with both James Harden and Russell Westbrook agitating to move elsewhere.  As for the Pistons, this was a savvy bit of business to take advantage of the Rockets’ financial desperation.

Barring the unlikely scenario that the pick they owe the Rockets conveys, they essentially got a free first-rounder for taking Ariza off the Rockets’ hands. And they’ll probably be able to move Ariza elsewhere for even more future assets.

Even though this isn’t the best draft class of all time, the Pistons need all the young talent they can get, and another shot at the draft surely doesn’t hurt. 

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Phoenix Suns complete trade to acquire Chris Paul from Oklahoma City Thunder

The Phoenix Suns on Monday obtained All-Star guard Chris Paul in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In return for Paul and forward Abdel Nader, the Thunder received Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a 2022 first-round pick from the Suns.

Suns owner Robert Sarver is bringing the future Hall of Fame guard and franchise leader to Phoenix, delivering star Devin Booker a running mate. After ending last season by going 8-0 in the bubble and establishing momentum, the Suns are set to become a factor in the Western Conference this campaign.

“We are excited to welcome Chris Paul and Abdel Nader to Phoenix,” Suns general manager James Jones said in a statement. “Chris’ leadership and competitive approach to the game will have an immeasurable impact on our team. Abdel possesses all the traits on and off the court that will complement our culture.”

Paul, 35, reunites with Suns coach Monty Williams, who coached the point guard for one season (2010-11) in New Orleans. The team went 46-36 that season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

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“His basketball mind,” Paul said of Williams in December, “I used to get so excited before games about the plays he was drawing up.”

Paul was acquired by the Thunder from the Houston Rockets last summer in exchange for Russell Westbrook, two future first-round picks and two pick swaps. Adding another future first-rounder increases the haul for Westbrook to three firsts, plus the pick swaps (along with one successful year with Paul).

Paul had a resurgent season with Oklahoma City, reclaiming his reputation as the “Point God,” as he took command of OKC’s young roster to lead it to a surprising playoff berth. Paul made the All-Star Game for the first time since 2016 and was named to an All-NBA team (second) for the first time since 2016.

He has been plagued by injuries at various times during his career, but Paul had one of his most complete and durable seasons with the Thunder, missing only one match because he was mourning the loss of close friend Kobe Bryant.

In 70 games, Paul averaged 17.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds. He also led the league in clutch-time scoring, spearheading the Thunder in close games, which is what propelled them to the 5-seed in the West.

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Los Angeles Lakers intend to acquire Dennis Schroder from Oklahoma City Thunder

Ahead of the lifting of the transaction window on Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers intend to obtain Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder, sources told ESPN.

The deal can be formally agreed to in principle Monday and finalized after the NBA draft on Wednesday night.

As part of the trade, the Lakers are preparing to send the player they select with the 28th overall pick and guard Danny Green to the Thunder, sources said.

Los Angeles cannot outright send the draft pick to Oklahoma City because there is a rule that restricts teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years. Los Angeles sent the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 draft to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade.

The Thunder already own the 25th pick in Wednesday’s draft.

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Schroder, 27, has been one of the most sought-after guards in the trade market, and he fortifies a Lakers backcourt that potentially could lose veteran guards Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in free agency.

Schroder has one year and $15.5 million left on his contract and would be acquired with the intention of eventually signing him to a new contract to stay with the defending NBA champions, sources said.

Oklahoma City got Schroder in 2018 from the Hawks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony and a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick. If the pick doesn’t convey, it turns into two second-rounders, which is an increasingly likely scenario given the Thunder’s rebuilding plan beginning in action.

Schroder finished runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year last campaign, becoming a key component to one of the best combinations in the NBA, a three-point-guard lineup alongside Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Though he excelled in his role, averaging 18.9 points and 4.0 assists, Schroder was never shy about his wish to return to the starting lineup and the Lakers are poised to give him that chance.

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LaMelo Ball holds first private workout with Minnesota Timberwolves

Projected No. 1 pick LaMelo Ball conducted an individual workout with the Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the top selection in the upcoming NBA draft, on Wednesday in Southern California, sources told ESPN.

It was the first private workout Ball granted an NBA team. He previously met and interviewed with the Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls, who hold picks 1-4, correspondingly.

The NBA relaxed restrictions on in-player evaluations and interviews in mid-October, according to a memo obtained by ESPN, opening the way for teams to meet with prospects in advance of next Wednesday’s draft.

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The Timberwolves sent president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, coach Ryan Saunders and executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta to evaluate Ball, putting him through an array of shooting drills and other activities to test his ballhandling and conditioning. A source stated Ball shot the ball well and had no issues getting through the workout.

Ball is one of three candidates the Timberwolves are expected to select from on draft night.

The others are former Memphis center James Wiseman and Georgia guard Anthony Edwards.

The Timberwolves previously met with and worked out Edwards but have not been able to get much traction with Wiseman. A source told ESPN that Wiseman appears to view situations with the Warriors and Hornets as more favorable to his long-term growth.

Despite that, and the presence of All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, Wiseman remains a candidate for the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves also are expected to conduct trade dialogues with a number of teams interested in acquiring the top pick.

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NBPA reps approve Dec. 22 start date for 72-game regular season

The National Basketball Players Association board of representatives voted on Thursday night to approve a plan for a Dec. 22 start to the season that contains a reduced 72-game calendar, clearing the way for league and union to finalize details on the 2020-21 campaign, sources told ESPN.

The NBPA’s board of player representatives voted to approve the pre-Christmas start in a conference call with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, sources said.

The NBA and NBPA are planning to discuss the opening of free agency as quickly as possible after the Nov. 18 NBA draft to accommodate player movement with such a short window to the opening of training camps on Dec. 1, sources said. The league and players are still negotiating financial terms of an amended collective bargaining agreement and those talks are expected to extend into next week, sources said.

Once a formal agreement is reached, the league will lift a moratorium and re-open the league for business on trades prior to the draft.

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The league thinks that a Dec. 22 start that includes Christmas Day matches on television and allows for a 72-game schedule that concludes before the Summer Olympics in mid-July is worth between $500 million and $1 billion in short- and long-term revenues to the league and players, sources said.

The NBA and NBPA have discussed significant rises in the escrow withholding on players’ salaries to account for the severe losses in league revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sides are working toward spreading out the players’ losses over multiple seasons, so the players don’t take such a substantial financial hit in one year.

The NBA has pushed back a deadline to Friday that keeps open the option of terminating the collective bargaining agreement, which would essentially blow up the league’s financial structure that allows for a 50-50 split of basketball-related income (BRI) under the provisions of the CBA.

Because of the pandemic triggering a force majeure clause in the CBA, both sides have the option of serving notice of 45 days on terminating the agreement, sources said.

The NBA and NBPA split the BRI, and the league recently told teams that 40% of that revenue could be lost without gate receipts this campaign, sources said.

The NBA’s basketball-related income was down $1.5 billion last season, according to data provided to teams and obtained by ESPN.

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Mike D’Antoni joins Steve Nash’s staff with Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets sideline is going to be filled with a lot of offensive masterminds next campaign, as Mike D’Antoni has agreed to a deal to become an assistant coach on Steve Nash’s staff, the team informed Friday.

D’Antoni stepped down as head coach of the Houston Rockets shortly after the team lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Lakers, and many thought he would find another head coaching position around the league. 

Early during his coaching free agency, D’Antoni was attached to multiple jobs, including the Pelicans and the Pacers. But it was reported in mid-October that the two-time Coach of the Year was a potential candidate to join the Nets coaching staff. 

With D’Antoni joining Brooklyn’s staff, it reunites him with Nash, who he coached during two separate stints throughout Nash’s profession. Most notably, though, was their time in Phoenix, where with D’Antoni at the helm and Nash as the star point guard, the two orchestrated one of the most prolific offenses in league history, with the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. 

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Now, with Nash beginning his first head coaching job, he’ll be able to lean on a coach who helped him secure two league MVP awards and played an integral role into him becoming a Hall of Fame player.

Between the two of them, they’ll be able to come up with creative ways to use their two stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and will no doubt have an offense that can put a lot of points on the board. 

Also joining D’Antoni on the coaching staff is Ime Udoka

Udoka spent seven years under Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, and most recently a season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Like D’Antoni, Udoka was being considered for several head coaching gigs around the league, including the Bulls and the Sixers, however both teams went in different directions.

Now, Udoka will be able to bring what he learned under Popovich’s stewardship to a Nets team that has championship objectives next season. With the addition of D’Antoni and Udoka, Nash has assembled quite the impressive coaching staff for a first-timer.

Jacque Vaughn will remain the Nets top assistant coach, and former teammate Amar’e Stoudemire will also join him as an assistant focusing on player development. Stoudemire and Nash spent several seasons together playing for the Suns where they formed one of the best pick-and-roll combinations in the mid-2000s.

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Ty Lue candidacy for Rockets job gains momentum after monday meeting

Clippers assistant coach Ty Lue’s candidacy for the Rockets’ head-coaching job has gathered significant momentum after a meeting with Houston’s ownership and management Monday, sources told ESPN.

The Rockets are competing with the Clippers for Lue and could try to extend an offer before Los Angeles has completed its search process, but that isn’t likely to happen before Houston meets with former coach Jeff Van Gundy this week, sources said.

Both Lue and Van Gundy are prominent parts of the Rockets’ and Clippers’ coaching searches — and Lue has been the Clippers’ front-runner since Doc Rivers was dismissed on Sept. 28, sources said.

Lue’s candidacy has the support of prominent players on both teams, sources said. Houston had originally wanted to hire Rivers to substitute Mike D’Antoni, sources said, but his talks with the 76ers moved quickly to a resolution.

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Van Gundy, currently an analyst for ESPN, has been a favorite of Rockets ownership and management, and he is known to prefer the idea of coaching in his adopted home city to avoid uprooting his family.

Van Gundy, 58, has been active as a coach with USA Basketball in recent years, but he hasn’t coached in the NBA since the Rockets fired him in 2007.

Van Gundy was 430-318 in the regular season and 44-44 in the postseason in parts of 11 seasons with Rockets and Knicks.

Lue coached the Cavaliers to the only championship in franchise history in 2016 and reached the NBA Finals in three consecutive years. He was fired by Cleveland after an 0-6 start in the 2018-19 campaign. Lue is 128-83 overall and 41-20 in the playoffs.

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