New York Notes: Stoute, Thibs, Temple, Crawford

Knicks “branding manager” Steve Stoute is confident he can recruit stars to the team, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

Stoute, who joined New York’s front office in January, mentioned in a recent conversation with The Breakfast Club show that he, team president Leon Rose and senior vice president William Wesley have strong relationships with some of the NBA’s top stars. Stoute anticipates they will be able to capitalize on these friendships, making the Knicks an attractive free agent destination once again.

“With having Leon in, World Wide Wes and myself, the three of us, we’re the best sort of team as it relates to being able to speak with free agents,’’ Stoute said of the Knicks’ new front office team.

Though every club’s cap situation is fairly up in the air following the anticipated revenue loss caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Knicks could have one of the lowest payrolls in the NBA next season, with only about $55MM currently committed to guaranteed salaries. The club could have even more cap flexibility in 2021.

There’s more out of the Empire State:

  • While speaking in a recent press conference, Knicks GM Scott Perry detailed how new head coach Tom Thibodeau won him over during a series of Zoom interviews, according to a separate Marc Berman piece for The New York Post“During this process, it allowed me personally to get to know the man better and really see how our personalities could come together and mesh,” Perry said. “I felt really good about our time talking basketball. He’s got a lot of the same values about the game that I was raised in that came through clear to me throughout the process.’’
  • Despite the Nets being one of the most injury-ravaged squads among the 22 NBA teams in Orlando, wing Garrett Temple expects his Brooklyn teammates to compete, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “We’re trying to win,” Temple said after the seventh-seeded Nets defeated the East’s top-seeded Bucks today. “We’re not going out here to just mess around or have moral victories.”
  • Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn is cautiously optimistic about the health status of injured 40-year-old guard Jamal CrawfordBrian Lewis of the New York Post noted in a separate article. Crawford played just five minutes before apparently suffering a strained left hamstring. “I’m telling you, I love having him around and it was awesome to see him on the floor, and look forward to him being on the floor again,” Vaughn said.

Rondo Will Return To Florida Wednesday, Away From Campus

Veteran Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo will be returning to Florida tomorrow, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). While discussing Rondo’s new travel plans, head coach Frank Vogel mentioned that the former four-time All-Star will not immediately return to the NBA’s restart campus in Orlando to quarantine.

Rondo fractured his right thumb in a team practice three weeks ago, and underwent surgery to address the injury. At the time, the team projected a six-to-eight-week absence for the veteran point guard.

Rondo’s absence has created more rotation minutes for guards Alex Caruso and Dion Waiters. In the Lakers’ three Orlando games, Waiters is averaging 20.7 MPG and Caruso is averaging 24.9.

Though the 34-year-old Rondo isn’t the defender he once was, the Lakers could still benefit from his playmaking and defensive rebounding acumen in short bursts. Los Angeles is hurting for additional backcourt bodies — the team will be pursuing its 17th title this summer without nominal starting point guard Avery Bradley, who opted out of the season restart due to family health concerns.

Jaren Jackson Jr. Out For Season With Meniscus Tear

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. has been diagnosed with a meniscus tear in his left knee, the team announced today in a press release. The injury, which Jackson sustained during Monday’s loss to the Pelicans, will cause him to miss the rest of the 2019/20 season, according to the club.

Jackson, who will turn 21 in September, is one of Memphis’ most important young building blocks, along with Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke. In his second NBA season, Jackson averaged 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1.6 BPG on .469/.394/.747 shooting in 57 games (28.5 MPG). He missed some time in February and March with a sprain to the same left knee that is now injured again.

Although Jackson is expected to make a full recovery, the injury is an unfortunate development for both him and the Grizzlies, who are clinging to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

Having lost their first three games since play resumed this summer, the Grizzlies are now just two games ahead of the Trail Blazers and Spurs and 2.5 games up on New Orleans. Hanging onto that No. 8 spot – in the eight seeding games and possibly in a play-in tournament – will become an even greater challenge now that Memphis is missing its second-leading scorer.

With Jackson unavailable, the Grizzlies figure to lean more heavily on frontcourt rotation players like Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas, and Anthony Tolliver. Josh Jackson and Gorgui Dieng are among the bench players who should move up on the depth chart.

Jackson, meanwhile, will shift his focus to next season, when he’s under contract for $7.26MM. He’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2021 offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Darren Collison: Rumors Of Midseason Comeback Were Overstated

After making a surprise retirement announcement during the summer of 2019, veteran point guard Darren Collison was said to be mulling the idea of coming out of retirement to join either the Lakers or Clippers earlier this year. However, Collison – who elected to stay retired – said during an appearance on the A Minute Til 6 podcast (video link) that rumors of a comeback were overstated.

“To keep it 100, they overhyped the whole thing,” Collison said. “I wasn’t even thinking about coming back. … Mentally, I just wasn’t in that right frame of mind. I’m still trying to work some things out in my life and trying to help the youth out as well. I always felt like after this season, yeah, I’ll assess everything else. But this season I just never thought about coming back.”

An appearance at a Lakers/Rockets game in early February alongside Lakers owner Jeanie Buss fueled speculation that Collison might want to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, Collison said during his A Minute Til 6 appearance that he was just at that game to watch his friend Russell Westbrook in action.

Reports of Collison’s potential return persisted for weeks in January and February, so if he never seriously considered the idea, it’s odd that he didn’t squash those rumors at the time. Still, it wouldn’t have made a lot of sense for him to sign a prorated minimum salary contract after potentially passing up an eight-figure salary last summer.

Collison, who will turn 33 later this month, played well for the Pacers in 2018/19, with 11.2 PPG and 6.0 APG on .467/.407/.832 shooting in 76 games as the club’s starting point guard, so his retirement was unexpected. He said at the time that he wanted to dedicate more time to volunteer work and his Jehovah’s Witnesses ministry.

Based on his latest comments, it doesn’t sound as if Collison has entirely ruled out the possibility of seeking an NBA return at some point — if he does decide to come out of retirement, he’d be an intriguing option for teams in need of a veteran point guard.

Injury Updates: Crawford, Muscala, Baynes, MKG, Len

The last time Jamal Crawford appeared in an NBA game, on April 9, 2019, he poured in 51 points. His return to action today for the Nets wasn’t quite as successful.

After being cleared to play for the shorthanded Nets against Milwaukee, Crawford came off the bench and racked up five points and three assists in six minutes, but the veteran guard was forced to leave the game early after suffering a left hamstring injury (Twitter link via team).

It’s not clear yet whether the injury is a minor one that Crawford could return from soon, or if it may jeopardize his availability for the remainder of the season. We’re hoping for the former, but we’ll have to wait for an update from the Nets, who have had some awful health luck this summer.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Thunder big man Mike Muscala suffered a concussion during Monday’s loss to Denver and has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol, the club announced today in a press release. Muscala has played limited minutes (12.6 MPG) for Oklahoma City this season, so his absence won’t have a major impact on the team’s rotation.
  • Suns center Aron Baynes, who joined the team late after recovering from the coronavirus, remains unavailable for Tuesday’s game vs. the Clippers, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “(He) had a really light practice yesterday,” head coach Monty Williams said. “Didn’t do much on the court at all. 3-on-3, 4-on-4, 5-on-5. So (he won’t play) at this point.”
  • A pair of players were active for the first time this summer in Tuesday afternoon’s Mavericks/Kings game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was cleared to play for the Mavs (Twitter link via Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News), while Alex Len was available for Sacramento (Twitter link via team). Both players arrived late to the Orlando campus — Kidd-Gilchrist for personal reasons and Len due to COVID-19.

Second Bubble For NBA’s Bottom Eight Teams Now Appears Unlikely

A report one month ago suggested that the NBA appeared likely to create a second campus/bubble environment in Chicago for the league’s bottom eight teams. The idea was for those teams left out of the Orlando restart to spend some time with their players during the offseason, conducting mini-training camps and inter-squad games in a single location.

However, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, there’s a growing belief that a second bubble site won’t happen. The Athletic’s duo reports that there’s also pessimism about those bottom eight teams getting to hold in-market minicamps for group workouts.

“There’s nothing happening,” said one general manager following a Tuesday call with the eight GMs and various league officials. “It’s a shame. It’s a huge detriment to these eight franchises that were left behind.”

With the NBA focusing on the success of the Orlando restart, discussions about plans for the bottom eight teams – the Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls, Pistons, Knicks, and Hornets – have been inconsistent. As recently as last week, there seemed to be momentum building toward a plan to allow those clubs to hold practices and workouts, but that momentum has apparently stalled.

According to Charania and Amick, the National Basketball Players Association has safety concerns related to the idea of a second bubble amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There are also financial and logistical complications associated with creating a smaller-scale version of the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus.

Charania and Amick suggest that the NBPA is more open to the idea of creating smaller, in-market bubbles for teams to host individual mini-camps in their respective cities. But it sounds as if that won’t happen by mid-August as initially hoped, if it happens at all.

The eight teams left out of the Orlando restart believe they’re at a potential competitive disadvantage by missing out on the player and culture development that other teams are getting this summer, sources tell The Athletic. Those clubs are expected to continue pushing for some form of offseason team activities to re-engage players and coaches. For now, they’re only permitted to hold 1-on-0 workouts at their practice facilities, with limited coach involvement.

Haynes’ Latest: Ariza, Blazers, Wizards, Beal, Wall

When Trevor Ariza decided to opt out of the NBA’s restart, he did so because a one-month visitation period with his son overlapped with the Trail Blazers‘ summer schedule. However, as Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports, Ariza’s visitation period was later amended to conclude near the start of August, prompting members of the Blazers to explore the possibility of bringing the veteran forward to the NBA’s Orlando campus.

Unfortunately, the idea was a non-starter, per Haynes, who hears from sources that the Trail Blazers would have to previously apply for a hardship waiver or late-arrival form for Ariza. Even if the team had done so, the NBA would likely have denied any request to clear Ariza, since he voluntarily opted out, wasn’t included on Portland’s restart roster, didn’t travel with the team to Orlando on July 9, and was replaced by substitute player Jaylen Adams.

According to Haynes, the idea of getting Ariza to Orlando was explored in mid-July when players like Zion Williamson and Montrezl Harrell left the NBA’s campus to address family matters. Players within the Trail Blazers organization were “upset” with the outcome of their efforts, sources tell Yahoo Sports.

Here are a few more noteworthy tidbits included in Haynes’ latest article from Orlando:

  • Despite the fact that the Trail Blazers still have an uphill battle to earn a playoff spot in the West, Damian Lillard tells Haynes that he packed for a three-month stay in Orlando and remains confident that Portland can claim the No. 8 seed. “We came here thinking 6-2, or 7-1 and that would get us in there,” Lillard said. “That’s where our heads are at and we can still do that.”
  • Although Bradley Beal, John Wall, and Davis Bertans aren’t with the Wizards in Orlando, they’re watching practices and continue to participate in team meetings, sources tell Haynes. The team has set up live streams of practices and meetings for players and staff who aren’t on the Orlando campus, Haynes notes.
  • According to Haynes, Beal has made an effort to check in with Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard anytime he misses a meeting or practice in order to catch up. Both Wall and Beal have “been in the ears” of Washington’s young players during the restart, Haynes adds.

Lou Williams Set To Return For Clippers

Clippers guard Lou Williams has cleared quarantine and will be available to play on Tuesday against the Suns, agent Wallace Prather tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Williams, who left the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus last month to attend a funeral, was photographed at popular Atlanta strip club Magic City during his absence. Although Williams said he was only there for the food – Magic City’s lemon pepper BBQ wings are named after him – he had to undergo a 10-day quarantine upon returning to Orlando.

Players who leave the NBA’s campus with permission can quarantine for as few as four days when they return, but any potential violations of the league’s protocols can instead result in a 10-to-14-day quarantine period, as was the case for Williams.

The extended quarantine period sidelined Williams for the Clippers’ first two seeding games, but it sounds like he’ll be ready to resume his sixth-man role on Tuesday vs. Phoenix. His return figures to result in a reduction in minutes for the likes of Reggie Jackson and Landry Shamet.

With Williams back, the Clippers are nearing full strength. However, L.A. is still missing Montrezl Harrell, who is taking some time away from the team to deal with his grief following the death of his grandmother.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Trent, Diallo, Norel

With Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton sidelined again, Michael Porter Jr. delivered a career-high 37 points in a Nuggets win on Monday, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. Porter had told head coach Michael Malone he was determined to step up after an underwhelming showing on Saturday vs. Miami.

“Especially with Jamal, Gary and Will out, I got to be a guy that steps up and kind of takes on more of a role,” Porter added. “I told (Malone) that I understand that and that it wouldn’t happen again.”

While the Nuggets will need healthy and productive versions of Murray, Harris, and Barton to maximize their potential postseason upside, the opportunity to increase Porter’s role and confidence is a silver lining of the team’s current situation. The young forward could be one of Denver’s X-factors in the playoffs.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers have a pair of stars – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum – in their backcourt and their frontcourt has been fortified by the return of Jusuf Nurkic and fellow big man Zach Collins. However, the wing has been an area of concern for the team all season, especially with Rodney Hood sidelined due to a torn Achilles. Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian takes a look at how emerging youngster Gary Trent Jr. – a restricted free agent in 2021 – is filling that void this summer.
  • In and out of the Thunder‘s rotation over the course of the 2019/20 season, Hamidou Diallo has reclaimed a key role off the bench, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Diallo – who has a minimum-salary team option for 2020/21 – had nine points in Oklahoma City’s Saturday win over Utah, then was a +19 on Monday in a game the Thunder lost by eight points.
  • Dutch big man Henk Norel announced his retirement this week due to ongoing knee issues, as relayed by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Norel never played in the NBA, but was selected 47th overall in the 2009 draft by the Timberwolves, who still hold his NBA rights.

Bledsoe, Connaughton, Crawford Cleared To Make Summer Debuts

Three veterans involved in Tuesday’s Bucks/Nets contest have been cleared to play for the first time this summer, the two teams confirmed this morning.

Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton will be available for Milwaukee, according to head coach Mike Budenholzer, who added that both players will see “reasonably low” minutes, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford is set to make his debut for Brooklyn, tweets Andrews.

Bledsoe and Connaughton both arrived late to Orlando this summer after contracting COVID-19. As we noted when they were ruled out for Milwaukee’s opener against Boston last Friday, there was no need for the the club to rush either player back, since the Bucks have essentially locked up the East’s No. 1 seed and just need to get their key guys up to speed for the start of the postseason.

As for Crawford, he signed with the Nets as a substitute player last month, but it took the 40-year-old a little extra time to get back into game shape. Having cleared him for Tuesday’s game, Brooklyn is apparently confident in Crawford’s conditioning level.

The veteran guard may be leaned on to play rotation minutes immediately, since the shorthanded Nets will be without Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen today. Head coach Jacque Vaughn said Crawford will come off the bench and figures to play in “short stints” (Twitter link via Andrews).