Southwest Notes: Hardaway, Ball, Tate, Louzada, Porzingis

Tim Hardaway Jr. has been improving his free agent stock with some high-level offensive performances in recent games. The Mavericks guard erupted for 42 points against Detroit last week and tore up Miami’s defense for 36 points on Wednesday, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News notes. He drained a franchise record-tying 10 three-pointers against the Heat. “When you have been hot like that, had it going, you’re not really focused on any records or anything like that,” said Hardaway, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. “The game was just coming to me.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball tied his career best with 33 points against Golden State on Tuesday, bouncing back from a 3-for-18 shooting performance the previous game. He vowed to franchise player Zion Williamson in a text message that he wouldn’t have two bad outings in a row, according to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “I’m glad he’s my teammate,” Williamson said. “You love to have teammates like that can say stuff like that and come the next day and show out. He just wants to win.” Williamson’s “love” for Ball could be a factor in how aggressive the franchise is willing to be in retaining the point guard as a restricted free agent this summer.
  • The Rockets, who already have numerous players sitting out, added another one to the inactive list when forward Jae’Sean Tate was placed under the league’s health and safety protocols, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The undrafted rookie has appeared in 65 games, including 53 starts, averaging 11.2 PPG and 5.4 RPG.
  • Didi Louzada has finally completed the work visa process and joined the Pelicans, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. New Orleans officially signed the draft-and-stash prospect on April 27. The Brazilian signed a multiyear contract after playing in Australia this season. He’ll be available to play on Friday, Lopez tweets.
  • Kristaps Porzingis is making progress from his sore right knee and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle expects him to return before the postseason, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets“I anticipate that he will play regular-season games at some point, but I don’t know when,” Carlisle said. The big man has been out since April 29.

Draft Notes: Withdrawal Date, Bagley, Tampa Combine, More

The NCAA’s withdrawal deadline for early entrants who test the draft waters will be July 7, reports Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, citing an NCAA official (Twitter link).

The NBA’s early entry deadline will be on May 30, so that gives college underclassmen who declare for the draft while maintaining their NCAA eligibility over a month to make their final decisions. It will also allow some of them to take part in the draft combine, which is scheduled for June 21-27.

Technically, the NBA’s own early entrant withdrawal deadline falls on July 19, so prospects could take a little extra time to decide whether to remain in the draft or pull out. But if they finalize that decision after the NCAA’s deadline, they’ll lose their remaining college eligibility.

Here’s more on the 2021 NBA draft:

  • Although Arizona State’s Marcus Bagley entered the transfer portal, he tells Rothstein (Twitter link) that his focus is on the 2021 draft. Bagley, who ranks 27th on ESPN’s big board, announced a month ago that he was testing the draft waters.
  • The Tampa Bay Pro Combine has joined the pre-draft circuit, according to Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com, who shares the details on the scouting event whose prospects will be selected by a committee that includes draft analysts Matt Babcock and Fran Fraschilla. The inaugural TBPC will take place from June 3-5 in Florida.
  • Kyree Walker, a former four-star recruit who signed with training program Chameleon BX rather than attending college, has declared for the 2021 NBA draft, he announced on Twitter. Meanwhile, a pair of international prospects, Polish center Aleksander Balcerowski and Croatian big man Danko Brankovic, have also declared for the draft, per agent Misko Raznatovic (Twitter links).
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has updated his 2021 mock draft, with Jalen Suggs (No. 2), Scottie Barnes (No. 6), and Davion Mitchell (No. 9) among the more noteworthy lottery picks.

Raptors’ Trent Reaches Starter Criteria, Qualifying Offer Increases

Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. has reached the starter criteria in his contract, jumping his qualifying offer from $2.1MM to $4.7MM, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. It also increases his cap hold by the same amount.

Trent reached that threshold by starting against Washington on Thursday. The starter criteria requires an RFA-to-be to start at least half of his team’s games in the two seasons leading up to his free agency.

He started only eight of 61 regular-season games with Portland last season. He made 24 starts in 41 games with the Trail Blazers this season before he was traded. He’s now made 13 starts in 15 games with Toronto.

It would be a shock if the Raptors didn’t extend the QO to Trent but they could have to match a lucrative offer sheet for him in restricted free agency. Trent averaged 15.0 PPG with Portland this season on 39.7% shooting from deep. He has averaged 15.9 PPG on 36.4% shooting from deep in his first 14 games with Toronto.

Oubre Doesn’t Need Surgery, Out 1-2 Weeks

Warriors forward Kelly Oubre Jr. will not need surgery on his ailing left wrist, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. He’s expected to miss one to two weeks of action, Haynes adds.

Oubre was diagnosed last week with a torn ligament in his left wrist and a fracture on the palm of his left hand. He injured the wrist twice this season while falling to the floor after dunks. One happened in practice and the other was in a game against the Wizards on April 9.

Golden State entered Thursday’s action in ninth place in the Western Conference. The timeline gives the Warriors some hope Oubre would be able to suit up for the play-in tournament.

Oubre is averaging 15.4 PPG and 6.0 RPG through 55 games after being acquired from Phoenix in a November trade.

The fact that surgery is not required should preserve Oubre’s value in unrestricted free agency this summer.

Warriors Mulling Reunion With Jordan Bell

The Warriors are considering a contract offer to big man Jordan Bell, Marcus Thompson of The Athletic tweets.

The 2017 second-round pick spent his first two seasons with Golden State. He appeared in 125 regular-season games but his time there was marred by controversy, including a team-imposed suspension after he charged hotel items to then assistant coach Mike Brown.

Bell has played for three teams in the last two seasons. He signed two 10-day contracts with the Wizards this year but they didn’t offer him a standard contract after the second one expired. In total, Bell averaged 2.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in five games for Washington, playing 13.4 minutes per night.

The Warriors currently have two open roster spots and have until next Thursday to fill one of them. Bell could add depth to a frontcourt depleted by the loss of rookie James Wiseman, who is out for the season.

G League To Launch Franchise In Mexico Next Season

The NBA G League will launch its new franchise in Mexico City next season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The team’s nickname is the Capitanes.

Nick Lagios, who has worked for the Lakers‘ South Bay affiliate since 2016, will serve as their GM, Charania adds. Lagios expressed his excitement about running the franchise in an Instagram post.

“It’s an absolute dream to be named the first GM of the Mexico City Capitanes. We will play in the (G League) starting next season. This is the first Mexican team ever in a USA sports league, which is an honor to be a part of. I hope we can make all of Mexico and Latin America proud and elevate basketball within central and South America. Laker family, I will miss you all but I won’t be leaving LA quite yet!!”

The original announcement that the NBA would add a G League franchise in Mexico City was made in December 2019. The pandemic pushed back the inaugural season by one year. The Capitanes will play their home games at Gimnasio Juan de la Barrera, an arena that holds about 5,000 fans, and will spend at least the next five years in the G League. They  won’t be affiliated with a specific NBA franchise.

By bringing aboard a franchise like Capitanes that has an existing infrastructure – including a home arena and an ownership group – the NBA was able to expedite the process.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Haslem, Capela, Wizards

Within the last two years, the Magic‘s medical staff has been tasked with helping Chuma Okeke, Jonathan Isaac, and Markelle Fultz rehab from ACL tears. As the player who suffered his injury most recently, Fultz is reassured by observing how the club’s staff has handled his teammates’ recoveries, he tells Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

“Seeing what my (team’s) medical staff has done with people who had ACL injuries, I know they have some experience with that,” Fultz said. “That also gives me a little bit of confidence going into it, and I have a little bit of a blueprint to see how it goes and how it feels. I have people to ask questions that are my peers, somebody who I can relate to, which also gives me a boost of confidence going into it knowing that they’ve come back stronger and better.”

Although Fultz won’t get back on the court until the 2021/22 season, he said his knee “feels amazing,” and he told Robbins that he can’t wait to suit up again for a Magic team that has shifted into rebuilding mode.

“It just puts another chip on my shoulder again, to come back and play for this organization and the city, and just give it my all,” the former No. 1 pick said. “(I want to) just show them the love that I have for the city and how thankful I am for the opportunities that they’ve given me.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • In what has become an annual tradition, Heat center Udonis Haslem said this week that he’s unsure whether or not he’ll play another year and that he plans to make that decision sometime after the season (Twitter link via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel). The big man, who will turn 41 next month, has signed one-year contracts with Miami for five consecutive years.
  • As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Hawks center Clint Capela passed the 1,757-minute threshold on Wednesday, making him eligible to earn a $500K bonus based on defensive rebound percentage. Capela needs that number to be higher than 30% to receive his bonus — it’s currently a league-best 34.4%, per Basketball-Reference.
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington contends that a handful of GM Tommy Sheppard‘s roster moves – including drafting Rui Hachimura, trading for Russell Westbrook, and acquiring Daniel Gafford – have the Wizards on a positive trajectory.

Sixers Waive Mason Jones

The Sixers have released rookie shooting guard Mason Jones, the team announced today (via Twitter). Jones had been on a two-way contract with Philadelphia.

Jones, who began the season on a two-way deal with Houston, was waived in early March, signed a 10-day contract with the Rockets, then found his way to the 76ers later in the month when two-way player Paul Reed was promoted to the 15-man roster.

For the season, he has averaged 5.3 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in 32 contests (10.4 MPG), with a respectable shooting line of .423/.364/.625. However, he didn’t see much action for the Sixers, logging just 27 total minutes in six appearances.

Philadelphia now has an open two-way slot, which the team could fill in the next 10 days before the regular season ends.

Knicks Sign Luca Vildoza To Four-Year Deal

MAY 6: The Knicks have officially signed Vildoza, the team announced in a press release. While the deal has been finalized, it remains unclear exactly when the 25-year-old will be able to report to the team.

New York now has a full 17-man roster.


MAY 5: The Knicks and Argentinian guard Luca Vildoza have reached an agreement on a four-year deal worth $13.6MM, agent Alex Saratsis of Octagon Sports tells Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

According to Wojnarowski, Vildoza intends to fly to New York once he clears the immigration process, but it remains unclear exactly when he’ll complete his deal or whether he’ll be available for the Knicks at all this season. His exact timeline will depend on how long it takes him to go through the immigration process, to undergo a physical, and to clear the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Wojnarowski reports that only the first year of Vildoza’s contract will be guaranteed. New York will have a chance to evaluate him in the Olympics, Summer League, and training camp before having to commit to a second-year guarantee, Woj notes.

Vildoza, 25, has been playing basketball professionally since 2012, having started his career with Quilmes in Argentina. He joined Baskonia in 2017 and has spent the last four seasons in Spain, playing a key role in the club’s backcourt. In 31 EuroLeague games in 2020/21, he averaged 10.1 points and 3.4 assists in 25.2 minutes per contest, posting a shooting line of .410/.376/.761.

Reports last week indicated that the Knicks were eyeing a deal with Vildoza, who had reportedly agreed to a buyout with Baskonia. The club still has cap room available, which will be used to accommodate a long-term contract worth more than the veteran’s minimum. The signing will push the Knicks above the minimum salary floor for 2020/21, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

Once Jared Harper‘s 10-day contract expired on Sunday night, the Knicks had one open spot on their 15-man roster and one open two-way contract slot. The team announced that Harper received a second 10-day deal, but the league’s official transactions log showed that he was actually re-signed to a two-way contract, which Hoops Rumors has confirmed. As such, there’s an open spot on the 15-man squad for Vildoza.

Nets Expected To Sign Mike James To Rest-Of-Season Deal

Mike James‘ second 10-day contract with Brooklyn will run through next Wednesday, but there’s already an expectation that the Nets intend to sign him for the rest of the season when that deal expires, according to a report from Dionysis Aravantinos of Eurohoops.com.

James, 30, has appeared in seven games for the Nets so far, averaging 6.7 points and 3.6 assists in 16.1 minutes per contest. He had 11 points and eight assists in a win over Toronto last Tuesday, and put up 15 points in a loss to Portland on Friday.

Since there’s still nearly a full week before James will be eligible to sign a rest-of-season contract, it’s possible the Nets’ plans could change between now and next Thursday. However, the veteran guard has produced as expected so far, providing backcourt depth and knocking down 35.7% of his three-point attempts.

As Aravantinos notes, James is only in the NBA temporarily, as his rights will belong to CSKA Moscow in Europe for the next two seasons after 2020/21. So if and when Brooklyn re-signs him, he won’t be able to get a multiyear deal.