Category Archives: NBA

Foot injury to keep New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson sidelined for start of season

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will miss the beginning of the regular season because of a right foot injury that required offseason surgery, Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said on Thursday.

Williamson received scans on Wednesday, and after reviewing the scans with Dr. Richard Ferkel and Pelicans team doctor Dr. Scott Montgomery, Griffin stated the doctors were “very encouraged” by the healing of the bone.

However, there was no “fixed timeline” given on Williamson’s return-to-play status. Griffin said Williamson will get more scans in two to 2½ weeks and the team will go from there.

“It’s everyone’s goal that Zion return to play as soon as safely possible,” Griffin said. “Obviously, two to 2½ weeks from now means he will not be on the floor for the first week of games. When he is able to return safely, we will do that.”

At media day on Sept. 27, Griffin said Williamson injured the foot prior to summer league in the early part of the offseason but added at the time that “his timeline should get him back on the court in time for the regular season.”

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Williamson followed that up by saying, “I expect to be back for the first game. First official game, I would say.” Griffin said there have been no setbacks in Williamson’s recovery and that nothing has gone wrong, either.

“It just takes a certain amount of time for guys to lay the bone that the doctors want to see,” Griffin said. “This is where our timeline is.”

Williamson was cleared to start running and to do individual on-court work, Griffin said. But it was unclear when he would be specifically cleared for more activities.

“Throughout the process, we’ll be heading toward that,” Griffin said of Williamson getting to the point where he could play 5-on-5. “It may be well before the 2½ weeks that he does that. It’s really just a function of how things progress.”

For first-year Pelicans coach Willie Green, he now has to start year at the helm without Williamson.

“It’s a part of [the game]. We miss him,” Green said. “He’s here and he’s progressing, as Griff spoke about. But we gotta get other guys ready — there’s a game coming up Wednesday against Philly. We just need to be prepared.”

How the Pelicans line up on opening night versus the Sixers remains up for debate. For the first preseason game when Brandon Ingram played, Green went with Ingram and Naji Marshall as the starting forwards. When asked about playing Ingram up at the power forward position, Green mentioned the fluidness of NBA lineups today.

“I think 3, 4, 2 are interchangeable in the NBA right now,” Green said. “Unless you play certain teams, you play the Lakers, they could be a little bit bigger. You play Milwaukee, they could put a big lineup out there. That’s when you really gotta think about your starting 4, 3. But against a lot of teams, 3 and 4 guys are interchangeable and BI can play either of those positions.”

Williamson and Ingram, two All-Stars, were supposed to anchor a Pelicans lineup that featured more shooting this season — something that was going to ease the burden and number of bodies each player saw on the defensive end of the floor. Now, as the team had to do in Williamson’s rookie season, they’ll have to get off on the right foot without their big man.

In 2019, Williamson also suffered an injury in the preseason that delayed the start of his season. A torn meniscus in his right knee pushed Williamson’s NBA debut to Jan. 22, 2020.

“It’s not ideal, obviously,” Griffin said. “It’s also not terribly debilitating either. The idea again is to return as soon and safely as possible. I think the way the doctors are handling this gives a great deal of confidence that that’s going to be the case. We would love to not have to deal with it. But we’re really happy with the way it’s gone so far.”

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Los Angeles Lakers debut LeBron James-Anthony Davis-Russell Westbrook combo in preseason loss to Golden State Warriors

The Lakers’ brand-new Big Three made its preseason debut in a 111-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. And while the result of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ first court time together was another defeat to drop L.A.’s record to 0-5 in its exhibition calendar, the postgame message echoed by the stars was one asking for patience but exuding positivity.

“It’s going to take a minute for us to become the team that we know we are going to be capable of being,” stated James, who put up 17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 6 turnovers. “We’re going to have moments where we’re not quite right there. We may take steps backwards. But that’s all part of … I think nothing is worth having if it’s not worth working for.”

Westbrook, who worked his way to the Lakers in the offseason by convincing the Washington Wizards to seek a deal, looked the best he has yet in purple and gold — which isn’t saying much, considering he combined to shoot 4-for-19 with 16 turnovers in his first two outings. But his speed in the open court when flanked by so much talent will be a difference-maker this season.

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“We had some good spurts,” Westbrook said after finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 turnovers. “Obviously, it’s the first game. But there are some good things we can take from it. … We can be a little encouraged by it.”

For James, who comes into the season seeking a fifth ring that would tie his career total with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan, moral victories mean little. Yet the 19-year veteran pledged to guide his group through its nascent stages.

“Me, as a leader, my job is for myself not to get frustrated,” he said. “If I don’t get frustrated, I think it will trickle down to everyone else. I’ve never been a person that’s OK with not being excellent. But I understand things take time as well. As long as I keep the main thing the main thing, stay even keel throughout whatever is going on with our ballclub, then we’ll be fine.”

Davis was more than fine versus Golden State, leading the Lakers with 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. He was encouraged by his first glimpse of L.A.’s new-look lineup with him starting at the 5, along with James, Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Kent Bazemore.

“We saw some great things with me, Bron and Russ in action,” Davis said. “There’s endless possibilities, the things we can run and we can do. … And even though there were good things, a lot of things that we can do better.”

The Lakers close out the preseason Thursday on the road versus the Sacramento Kings and have a week until the regular season opens up, back home against the Warriors again.

There is plenty of more work to do before the Lakers come close to a final product, starting with getting all their players healthy. 

Trevor Ariza (ankle surgery) is expected to miss at least two months; Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb surgery) will be sidelined around a month; and Kendrick Nunn (right ankle) and Wayne Ellington (left hamstring) both sat out Tuesday, along with Malik Monk (groin), who will be out about another week.

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Ben Simmons reports to Philadelphia 76ers

After staying away for the first two weeks of the preseason, 76ers All-Star guard Ben Simmons reported to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Monday night, sources told ESPN.

As the Sixers played the Brooklyn Nets, Simmons took a COVID-19 test in the arena, sources said. The initial test starts several days of testing required by the NBA to clear him for a return to the team.

Simmons’ arrival settled several weeks of discussions between the organization and Simmons’ representative, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, to get Simmons back into the marketplace, sources said.

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Simmons had held out in hopes of accelerating a trade. However, under the terms of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, for each preseason game he missed, he lost roughly $360,000 for failing to show up — totaling more than $1 million for the three games that he missed.

In addition, the 76ers could fine Simmons for missed practices: $2,500 for the first, $5,000 for the second, $7,500 for the third and for every practice after that it being left to the discretion of the team, with the ability to go up to $50,000.

Simmons, 25, has four years and $147 million left on his contract.

Simmons hadn’t spoken directly to team officials since a late August meeting in Los Angeles in which he reiterated his desire for a trade, sources said.

He had recently become more open-minded about the possibility of ending his time away from the team and reporting to Philadelphia, but the next step will be him committing to not just a return to the city — but returning the team on the court.

The Sixers have canvassed the league throughout the offseason for trades but have been unable to find a deal that would bring them a comparable star they’d want to continue to build a championship contender around All-NBA center Joel Embiid, sources said.

Those trade talks would likely continue with a Simmons return, but president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and coach Doc Rivers are hopeful to keep working to convince Simmons on remaining long-term with the franchise, sources said.

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Kyrie Irving returns to practice as coach Steve Nash acknowledges Brooklyn Nets will face games without him

Kyrie Irving returned to practice Sunday, but the Brooklyn Nets sound like a team coming to grips with the realization that its starting point guard will not play in home matches for the foreseeable future.

While the situation around Irving’s availability for home games due to New York City’s COVID-19 protocols could change, Nets coach Steve Nash stated he knows the team will have to play games this season without Irving.

“We recognize he’s not playing in home games,” Nash told reporters after Irving practiced with the team in Brooklyn for the first time this preseason.

“We are going to have to for sure play without him this year. So it just depends on when, where and how much.” New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate requires a person to have proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot to enter indoor gyms — counting Barclays Center, the home of the Nets, and Madison Square Garden, the home of the Knicks.

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But on Friday, sources confirmed to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps that Irving would be allowed to practice at the team’s HSS Training Center after the city determined that the Nets’ practice facility in Brooklyn is a “private office building” as opposed to an indoor gym.

“We are just starting to navigate this,” Nash told reporters Sunday. “A new rule comes in Friday and here we are. We are trying to look at the big picture. The near term, right now I am not sure we have as many answers.”

“I think right now we assume he’s not going to be available for home games, but anything can change,” Nash later added. “Who’s to say? The city ordinances could change. Anything could change. Right now we are just trying to remain flexible, open-minded and figure it out as we go because information is coming in by like the half-day here. … We found out Friday he can come back in the building. Things are shifting. No one’s been through this before, and we are just trying to figure it out as we go.”

The city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate prevented Irving from taking part in the team’s media day at Barclays Center on Sept. 27.

Irving ended up participating via a videoconference call from his home. He practiced with the team for a week during the Nets’ training camp in San Diego.

Upon returning to Brooklyn, Irving missed four consecutive practices and a home preseason match Friday. But on the same day as the preseason game, the city made its determination on the HSS Training Center. Irving joined his teammates Saturday at an outdoor team event at Brooklyn Bridge Park and then practiced Sunday at the team’s facility.

Nash stated Irving will not play on Monday in Philadelphia, where the Nets play the 76ers in a preseason game. The Nets finish their preseason with a home game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday. If Irving does not get a vaccination shot before then, he will go the entire preseason without playing in an exhibition match since the Nets held him and several other veterans out of the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 3.

Nash said Irving was cleared to participate in everything in practice Sunday. “It’s not something we, I have experienced before,” power forward Blake Griffin said of what the Nets will do if Irving cannot play in home games. “Whatever he decides, whatever the team decides, whatever agreement we come to or whatever happens, we are just going to support him. When he is here, we can use him. He’s amazing. I’m not even going to waste time trying to wrap my head around something that I don’t know the situation yet. We will adjust and act accordingly.”

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Pau Gasol, two-time NBA champion, announces retirement from basketball

Pau Gasol revealed his retirement from basketball Tuesday, ending a career that lasted more than two decades and earned him two NBA titles and a world championship gold with Spain’s national team.

The 41-year-old had already announced his farewell from international basketball in August after Spain lost to the United States in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Games, which marked his fifth Olympics.

Gasol had been with Spanish club Barcelona since February. His career had stalled before that because a stress fracture in his left foot that lingered and kept him from playing for nearly two years.

“I’m going to retire from professional basketball,” Gasol said. “It’s a difficult decision after so many years, but it’s a decision that I really thought over.”

The retirement announcement was made in an event at an opera house in Barcelona attended by former teammates and family members, including Pau Gasol’s wife, his young daughter and his brother Marc.

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Gasol acquired two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, in 2009 and 2010, playing a vital role in the back-to-back championships.

“Pau Gasol brought hope and talent to the Lakers,” former coach Phil Jackson said in a statement to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “The effect was immediate. His game put LA back into championship contention. He was also a gentleman and generous hero.”

Gasol averaged 17.0 points and 9.2 rebounds in 1,226 regular-season games with five NBA teams, including the Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks. He was the No. 3 pick in the 2001 NBA draft, being selected by Atlanta and traded to Memphis.

Gasol last played in the NBA with the Bucks in 2019.

He signed with the Portland Trail Blazers that year but never got to play.

Gasol won a world championship title with Spain in 2006, in addition to European titles in 2009, 2011 and 2015.

He helped Spain win Olympic silver medals in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London, as well as a bronze in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. Gasol recently won an election to represent athletes for the next seven years with the International Olympic Committee.

He joined an IOC membership list drawn variously from European and Middle East royal families, international sports bodies, business leaders and 12 athletes elected by their peers.

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Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors thrilled to have ‘the old Klay’ Thompson back at official practice

Golden State Warriors swingman Klay Thompson is starting to look more like his old basketball self amid his rehabilitation from a torn right Achilles injury.

Participating in his first official team practice since suffering the injury in an offseason workout Nov. 18, 2020, Thompson knocked down shots from all over the court, much to the delight of his teammates and coaches.

“Klay looked great,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr stated after his team’s first practice Tuesday. “Shooting the lights out. His team won the daily shooting competition. And he was smiling, laughing, joking around, it was really fun to see the old Klay back.”

Thompson, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since June 13, 2019, after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, has been bouncing around the team’s facility in good spirits in recent days as he looks forward to the opportunity to play competitively again.

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“Everyone’s excited that Klay is out on the floor,” Kerr said. “He basically did every single thing in practice today. We didn’t scrimmage, we didn’t have any live contact, but Klay is just so happy to be playing and we’re all so happy to see him part of it. So just a really good first day, first couple of days, and good energy as we start to get rolling.”

While Thompson’s return is still several months away, Kerr acknowledged that the former All-Star’s presence in practice has given the rest of his group an emotional boost.

“Part of it is his spirit, his energy, his joy,” Kerr said. “A big part of it too is, ‘Yeah, we got Klay.’ The confidence level as a group — we’re getting Klay back. It makes us all feel better. And that’s the sense that I have from our guys.”

While the Warriors are hesitant to put a specific return date on Thompson’s comeback as he continues rehabbing, general manager Bob Myers said during Monday’s media day that the organization’s hope is that some time, likely in December or January, Thompson comes to the coaches and front office and says he’s ready to play again — in consultation with the team’s medical staff.

Thompson noted on Monday that “I’m probably like 75 or 80 percentile of what I need to do,” as far as rehab goes. Either way, the Warriors are glad that Thompson is inching closer to a return — and they can see that the extended rehab process from two career-altering injuries has made the 31-year-old embrace the game, and the world around him, even more.

“I think his time away brought him a lot of suffering,” Kerr said. “Because the thing he likes best was taken away from him. It’s the first time that’s ever happened. And so, while he was away he had to go through some struggles that probably illuminated some of the struggles that other people have every day.

So it’s a pretty natural time to be sort of growing at that age, and emotionally expanding. And none of that surprises me given what we’ve known about Klay over the years. “He’s a deeply compassionate, aware person. He just doesn’t always show it to the world.”

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‘No one knows’ time frame for Kawhi Leonard’s return from ACL injury

Lawrence Frank reiterated that Kawhi Leonard has a “significant rehab” from his ACL injury and that “no one knows” the time frame for when the LA Clippers star will return and whether he will play this campaign.

Leonard underwent surgery to repair a partial tear in his right ACL on July 13 and is expected to be out for an extended period of time.

“Oh, we don’t even breach that,” Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, stated when asked if he anticipates Leonard playing this season.

“I think at this point, it’s just no one knows when you’re dealing with a recovery from an ACL [injury], the time frame.

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“Even just to save you guys [from asking] throughout the year, is no one knows. You just attack it day by day. He has a very detailed plan with a great group, and we’ll just let his body and the doctors tell us when it’s the right time.”

Leonard injured his knee during the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals versus the Utah Jazz on June 14.

He missed the Clippers’ final eight playoff matches with what the team called a sprained right knee.

Center Serge Ibaka, who is recovering from back surgery in June during the playoffs, will be limited and participate in noncontact drills to start training camp, Frank said.

Rookie point guard Jason Preston, the 33rd overall pick in the 2021 draft, injured his foot in a group workout this week and will not be available to start training camp next week in San Diego. Frank stated the severity of the rookie’s injury will be determined in the next couple of days.

Frank also would not discuss whether Clippers players and staff members were fully vaccinated as camp is set to start Tuesday.

“Personally, I’m a huge advocate of the vaccinations. I believe in the science and believe in the evidence as a personal viewpoint,” Frank said.

“But in regard to speaking on behalf of players or staff, I’m not comfortable sharing that type of information other than personally, what my beliefs are and what we spread and what we educate everyone in the organization. But ultimately, that’s not my news to share.”

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Chicago Bulls exercise contract options on Coby White, Patrick Williams

The Bulls have exercised a pair of rookie scale team options, locking in guard Coby White and forward Patrick Williams for the 2022/23 campaign, the team revealed wednesday in a press release.

While decisions on standard team options are typically due right before free agency begins, teams have to make their decisions on rookie scale team options a year in advance.

By October 31, clubs must either exercise or decline third-year options for first-round picks from 2020 and fourth-year options for 2019’s first-rounders.

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White was a starter for the Bulls this past season, but figures to come off the bench following the team’s acquisition of Lonzo Ball in free agency.

The 21-year-old averaged 15.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 4.1 RPG on .416/.359/.901 shooting in 69 games (31.2 MPG) in 2020/21. His ’21/22 debut may be delayed, since he’s coming off left shoulder surgery.

Williams, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft, was also a full-time starter last season as a 19-year-old rookie.

His role for 2021/22 stays unclear, but the former Florida State standout looks like a key part of Chicago’s long-term plans. He put up 9.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG on .483/.391/.728 shooting in 71 games (27.9 MPG) last season. White’s fourth-year option for 2022/23 is worth $7,413,955.

He’ll now be extension-eligible during the 2022 offseason and would be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023 if he doesn’t sign a new contract next year.

Williams’ third-year option for ’22/23 will pay him $7,775,400. The Bulls will have to decide on his fourth-year option for 2023/24 by October 31, 2022.

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Dallas Mavericks sign free agent Frank Ntilikina, No. 8 pick in 2017 draft

The Dallas Mavericks bolstered their backcourt by signing former New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina.

The Mavericks revealed the signing of Ntilikina on Thursday. Terms of the contract weren’t disclosed.

Ntilikina played four seasons for the Knicks, who selected him with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. In that same draft, the Mavs took Dennis Smith Jr. with the ninth selection, later trading the guard to the Knicks in the blockbuster deal that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas.

The 23-year-old Ntilikina averaged 5.5 points, 2.7 assists and two rebounds over 211 career games (55 starts) with the Knicks. He had career-worst averages of 2.7 points and 0.6 assists over 33 games (four starts) last season, his final in New York before becoming a free agent.

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Born in Belgium, Ntilikina moved to France when he was 3 years old and started his professional basketball career in 2015 in a French pro league.

Ntilikina competed in the Summer Games in Tokyo for the French national team, which lost to the United States in the gold medal game.

The Mavericks have focused on guards this off-season, previously adding veterans Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown in free agency. Dallas also re-signed shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

The Mavericks made a point guard selection of their own during that draft. With Ntilikina off the board by the pick prior, Dallas selected Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 overall selection.

Neither Ntilikina nor Smith Jr. had successful tenures with their original NBA team. They are each looking to put together a strong training camp performance to earn a contract for the 2021-22 season.

There was speculation that Smith Jr. could receive a camp invite from the Mavericks, but instead, he received and accepted one from the Portland Trail Blazers.

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Los Angeles Lakers again trade Marc Gasol to Memphis Grizzlies, who plan to waive veteran

The Los Angeles Lakers traded Marc Gasol, a 2024 second-round pick and cash ($250,000) to Memphis on Friday.

The Grizzlies plan to work on a waiver and release to let Gasol to stay in Spain with his family, sources told ESPN.

The Lakers will save approximately $10 million in salary and luxury tax and acquire the draft rights to Memphis’ Wang Zhelin. The Lakers have 13 guaranteed contracts before the beginning of training camp this month.

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After the tumult of the Orlando bubble in 2020 and the COVID-19 restrictions of the 2020-21 season, Gasol made a decision to remain with his family in Spain for the start of the 2021-22 season, sources said.

His professional career started in 2003 with FC Barcelona in Spain, and his NBA career started with Memphis in 2008.

It was a Lakers-Grizzlies trade before his rookie season that included his older brother, Pau, that set the stage for a successful 11-year run with the Grizzlies.

Gasol, 36, has won an NBA championship, won two Olympic silver medals, made three All-Star teams and earned an NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award and All-NBA first-team honors.

After the Lakers signed two former All-Star centers this summer — Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan — it appeared Gasol’s role would be increasingly limited.

Gasol had a $2.7 million deal for the 2021-22 season. The Lakers signed him to a two-year free-agent deal in 2020 after he spent a season-plus in Toronto Raptors, where he was part of a 2019 NBA championship team.

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