Deandre Ayton Optimistic He’ll Sign Extension

Suns center Deandre Ayton expects to sign a rookie scale extension before the season-opening deadline, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports.

Ayton is eligible for a five-year, $172.5MM max contract that would kick in at the start of the 2022/23 season.

“Honestly, I’m expecting something to get done so that we as a team can finish what we started, which is bring a championship to Phoenix,” he said. “Period. Literally. That’s all it is.”

Mikal Bridges is also eligible for a rookie scale extension. Suns GM James Jones would not elaborate on either player’s contract situation.

“We’ll address that when the time comes, but for us right now, our focus is training camp and getting ready for the regular season,” Jones said.

The top pick in the 2018 draft, Ayton has averaged a double-double in all three of his seasons. His scoring average dropped last season (14.4 PPG) but his efficiency rose (62.6% from the field). He averaged 10.5 RPG during the regular season.

He ramped up his production during the Suns’ Finals run, averaging 15.8 PPG on 65.8% shooting and 11.8 RPG in 22 games.

Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr. have all reached rookie scale max agreements with their respective teams this offseason.

Warriors Notes: Thompson, Wiggins, Curry, Roster

Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers said Klay Thompson can participate in some training camp activities, “just not contact, no 5-on-5,” Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Thompson’s return will perhaps come in January when he feels he’s ready. However, he’ll ramp up activities gradually and will participate in numerous scrimmages, and perhaps high-intensity G League practices, before he returns.

Thompson hints that he’s a little more optimistic about his return date, saying he wouldn’t return until late November or early December, Slater adds in another tweet.

Coach Steve Kerr said Thompson, who has missed two seasons due to knee and Achilles injuries, will make his season debut in a home game, Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets.

We have more on the Warriors:

  • Andrew Wiggins isn’t backing down from his anti-vax stance, though he won’t elaborate on his reasons, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. If Wiggins is not fully vaccinated by October 13, he will not be allowed inside Chase Center for practices or games. For every game he misses, he’ll forfeit more than $350K in pre-tax salary, Poole notes. Myers is hopeful Wiggins will change his stance, according to Friedell. “My belief and my thoughts are that we’ll have the full team,” Myers said. “I’m not preparing really for anything different right now.”
  • Though Golden State is deep into the luxury tax, Stephen Curry would like to see the front office to use its taxpayer mid-level exception, perhaps in the buyout market, if the right opportunity arises, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic tweets.
  • There are no roster changes anticipated heading into the season, Marcus Thompson of The Athletic tweets. “I expect this roster to be our roster, especially in the near term and probably into the season,” Myers said. “I want to see what the team looks like as constructed.” There will be spirited competition for the final roster spots on a team with 13 guaranteed contracts. Golden State recently added veterans Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway and Jordan Bell to the camp roster.

Southeast Notes: Oladipo, Beal, Dinwiddie, Hornets

Heat guard Victor Oladipo is determined to regain the status of being one of the league’s top wings, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes.

Oladipo went under the knife in May, undergoing surgery to repair his right quad tendon. Once considered a top name entering the free agent market, he signed a minimum contract to rebuild his value.

“It’s been really tough. It’s been hard. This is another battle in the books for me,” he said. “I want to show my resiliency and have one of the best comeback stories ever. I want to make the most of my situation. It’s easy to quit and say ‘woe is me,’ but that doesn’t solve the problem. I know there are a lot of eyes watching. Hopefully, I can be a vessel for them and show them they can get through anything if they really put their mind to it.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards star Bradley Beal won’t share his “personal reasons” why he hasn’t been vaccinated, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets. However, Beal was a little more open about the possibility of signing an extension, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. Beal said that he’ll let his agent handle those negotiations: “I’ve got all year to sign it, so I’m not in a rush.”
  • Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie said he tried to buy the Wizards‘ jersey patch before this season to advertise crypto currency, Hughes adds in a separate tweet. According to Dinwiddie, he was willing to meet the $12MM asking price but the league wouldn’t allow it.
  • The Hornets officially announced Marlon Garnett, Nick Friedman and Norman Richardson as assistant coaches under head coach James Borrego in a press release. The team also promoted Jackson Simmons to head video coordinator.
  • Borrego expects the Hornets to be fully vaccinated by the beginning of the season, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer tweets.

Central Notes: LaVine, Vaccines, Warren, Garza, Smith, Livers, Pacers

While the Bulls have yet to sign Zach LaVine to an extension, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promises that the organization is committed to their high-scoring wing, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The one thing we know is that we’re committed to Zach,’’ Karnisovas said. “We want him to be in Chicago for a very long time. I think the trade deadline and free agency moves kind of proved that.’’

That message is resonating with LaVine.

“It means a lot hearing that from them,’’ he said. “I think you guys know I’m a team-first guy, I’m excited with all the moves that were made, and really looking forward to getting into camp and getting to know these guys and getting the season started because we all have a lot to prove.”

LaVine was also asked for his input on offseason moves, Cowley tweets.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Karnisovas said the Bulls are not 100% vaccinated but “pretty close,” K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets.
  • Pacers coach Rick Carlisle hopes T.J. Warren can make a swift recovery from the stress fracture in the navicular bone in his left foot, Akeem Glaspie of the Indianapolis Star reports. “Hopefully, it’ll be weeks and not months, that’s the hope,” Carlisle said. “It’s important for him to keep a very upbeat view of things. The healing process with people is always better and more aggressive when you have a great attitude about it and he has.” Warren has not suffered any setbacks but the location of the injury makes for a tricky rehab, Glaspie adds.
  • The Pistons converted rookie center Luka Garza‘s two-way contract into a two-year standard deal this week. It’s a minimum-salary contract, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets, The first year is guaranteed and Detroit has a team option for 2022/23. If it’s picked up, the second year will also be fully guaranteed.
  • Chris Smith, who suffered a torn ACL in January playing for UCLA, is looking at a couple more months before he’s back, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press tweets. The Pistons signed the forward to a two-way contract in August. Another Pistons rookie forward, second-round pick Isaiah Livers, is aiming for clearance to return from his foot injury at the beginning of November, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets.
  • The Pacers’ arena has officially been renamed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, according to a team press release. It’s a multi-year partnership, replacing the former name Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Gainbridge, a Group 1001 company, is a self-managed digital platform providing clients with direct access to financial products to grow their savings.

Clippers Notes: Ibaka, Zubac, Leonard, George

Clippers big man Serge Ibaka, whose 2020/21 season was sidetracked by a back injury, says he’s close to 100% heading into camp, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. The next step for Ibaka will be to participate in contact practices. His season-ending surgery in June cleaned up a disc, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Ibaka, who regrets not getting the surgery sooner, still has no timetable for his return to action.

We have more on the Clippers:

  • Ivica Zubac, who was slowed by a right knee MCL sprain during the Western Conference Finals, says he’s felt 100% for about six weeks heading into camp, Greif tweets. The team holds a $7.52MM option on his contract for next season.
  • Kawhi Leonard could have signed a two-year, $80.6MM contract with a player option rather than the four-year, $176.3MM deal with a player option he accepted. Leonard said he chose the longer deal in part because he hopes to return from his knee injury before season’s end, according to Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register“One thing, I wanted to secure some money,” he said. “And I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year. If I would have took the one-and-one, I probably would have not played just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year.” Leonard added that he doesn’t expect to change teams unless “something drastic” happens, so he was comfortable locking in a long-term contract.
  • With Leonard out of action, Paul George vows to be the team’s leader, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. “I’m looking forward to taking on all facets, whether it’s scoring, defending, playmaking. I’m looking forward to taking on the whole facet of the game,” George said. “I’m really going into this year as this being one of my most complete seasons as far as doing a little bit of everything. I think I proved it and showed i to myself during the playoffs in that run, that stretch against Phoenix, whether it was rebounding, pushing the tempo, playmaking, scoring the ball. That really just fed my appetite even more.”

Cavs Rumors: Sexton, Love, Vaccinations, Windler, Valentine

Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton was the subject of some trade rumors earlier in the offseason, but he remains in Cleveland and general manager Koby Altman said today that he wants Sexton to stay with the team for years to come, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“We want him here long term. He wants to be here long term. We’re working with his representation to see that through, but this is someone that has been with us since the start of this thing and we love him,” Altman told reporters. “We will deal with that behind closed doors. The feelings are mutual in terms of something long term.”

Sexton is eligible for a rookie scale extension up until October 18, the day before the regular season begins. While Altman didn’t go into much detail about those negotiations, Fedor suggests that De’Aaron Fox, Donovan Mitchell, and Jaylen Brown have been brought up in those talks as possible financial comparables. Fox and Mitchell signed maximum-salary deals, while Brown received slightly below the max.

If the Cavs and Sexton don’t reach an extension agreement in the coming weeks, neither Altman nor head coach J.B. Bickerstaff expects the fourth-year guard’s contract situation to affect his performance on the court this season, for better or worse.

“I don’t think (the contract) will ever affect Collin’s internal drive,” Altman said, per Fedor. “I don’t think contract or anything else will ever affect that. He just innately loves this game and wants to get better.”

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • According to Fedor (Twitter link), Kevin Love told reporters on Monday that there were never conversations this offseason about him accepting a buyout, and he has yet to have a conversation with Bickerstaff about his role for the upcoming season.
  • Altman said his expectation is that everyone on the roster will be vaccinated against COVID-19 within the next few weeks (Twitter link via Fedor).
  • Multiple sources tell Fedor that Dylan Windler‘s left knee is “feeling good” following April surgery, and the third-year wing is expected to be available for training camp. As one of the team’s better shooters, Windler could be in line for a regular role this season, but he’ll have stay healthy, writes Fedor.
  • Denzel Valentine‘s two-year, minimum-salary deal with Cleveland has a $500K partial guarantee in 2021/22, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Valentine’s second-year salary is fully non-guaranteed.

Pistons Waive Anthony Tarke, Announce Camp Roster

The Pistons have waived rookie wing Anthony Tarke, according to the NBA’s transactions log. The team also released its initial roster for training camp.

Tarke bounced around a bit in college, starting at NJIT before transferring to UTEP and Coppin State. He put up an eye-popping 2.6 SPG and 1.9 BPG as a senior for Coppin State, but his shooting stroke might need some work. He most recently suited up for the Pistons’ Summer League squad.

Tarke signed a non-guaranteed Exhibit 10 contract last week that makes him eligible to receive up to $50K if he spends at least 60 days with the Pistons’ G League affiliate, the Motor City Cruise.

The Pistons sit at 17 players under contract for training camp, with reported deals with Derrick Walton Jr. and Cassius Stanley not yet official — there’s been no indication that those agreements have fallen through, so they’ll likely be finalized later in training camp or the preseason.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Udoka, Schröder, Hernangomez

The Celtics dealt with lots of turmoil last season: injuries, a short turnaround from the Orlando bubble, and COVID-19 outbreaks affecting several players, including star Jayson Tatum. The team is hoping to turn the page entering training camp, and Jaylen Brown appears optimistic, particularly about new head coach Ime Udoka.

“I’m completely bought in,” Brown said of Udoka. “I’m looking forward to this season and being an extension of him on the court.” (Twitter link via Keith Smith of Spotrac).

President of basketball operations Brad Stevens, the former head coach, says that Brown has been cleared by the team’s doctors after recovering from wrist surgery, and will be a full participant in practice, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Udoka participated in media day virtually through Zoom, instead of in person, because the first-year head coach is in the last day of quarantine after contracting a breakthrough case of COVID-19, per ESPN News Services. Udoka is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, according to team spokesperson Christian Megliola. He’s expected to join the team tomorrow for the start of training camp.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Dennis Schröder mentioned yesterday that Tatum and Brown both called to recruit him to the Celtics, but they weren’t the only ones. He told reporters today that Stevens, Udoka, and former Hawks teammate Al Horford called him as well, adding, “I know Al Horford will have the locker room under control.” (Twitter link via Keith Smith of Spotrac).
  • Schröder also consulted with Thunder general manager Sam Presti prior to signing with Boston, and Presti endorsed the Celtics organization, per Smith (Twitter link).
  • Juan Hernangomez, who dislocated his left shoulder over the summer in an exhibition game prior to the Olympics, says the shoulder is 100 percent now, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Nuggets, Michael Porter Jr. Agree To Five-Year Max Extension

5:29pm: The fifth year of Porter’s contract will be partially guaranteed, according to Ryan McDonough of Audacy Sports, who reports (via Twitter) that MPJ’s fifth-year salary would become fully guaranteed if he meets certain “lofty” performance benchmarks.


3:45pm: The Nuggets and forward Michael Porter Jr. have reached an agreement on a five-year contract extension worth the maximum salary, agent Mark Bartelstein tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The deal currently projects to be worth $172.5MM, based on the NBA’s projection of a $119MM salary cap for the 2022/23 season. However, the contract will include Rose Rule language, allowing Porter to potentially earn 30% of the cap in the first year of the extension (rather than 25% of the cap) if he makes an All-NBA team in 2021/22. In that scenario, the five-year contract would be worth a projected $207MM.

The deal doesn’t include a player option, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

The Nuggets’ investment signals how far the former 14th overall pick has come since missing his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to a back injury. After playing a modest role in ’19/20, Porter became a key piece for Denver last season, averaging 19.0 PPG and 7.3 RPG with an impressive .542/.445/.791 shooting line in 61 games (31.3 MPG).

Porter still has plenty of room to improve on the defensive side of the ball, but the 23-year-old has displayed the potential to become one of the NBA’s very best scorers, so there was no chance the Nuggets would let him get away.

With extensions for Porter and Aaron Gordon completed this offseason, the Nuggets’ roster is getting very expensive. The newly-extended forwards won’t even be Denver’s highest-paid players — that honor belongs to veteran stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who are earning a combined $60MM+ in 2021/22.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the Nuggets project to carry about $156MM in team salary for the ’22/23 campaign and are on track to be a taxpayer for the first time in over a decade. The team remains below the tax line for the ’21/22 season.

Porter’s deal is the fourth maximum-salary rookie scale extension to be finalized this offseason, with the Nuggets forward joining Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. As our tracker shows, Robert Williams is the only player who has received a rookie scale extension below the max so far in 2021.

Pacific Notes: Booker, Schröder, Lakers, Harkless, Kings

Suns star Devin Booker confirmed on a Twitch stream on Sunday that he’s currently dealing with a case of COVID-19, as Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports relays (via Twitter). The team had announced over the weekend that Booker was in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will miss at least part of training camp.

According to Olson, Booker said on Sunday’s stream that he tested positive about a week ago. He has experienced some symptoms – including losing his senses of taste and smell – but said he’s feeling good now and expects to be back soon.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Addressing the oft-repeated rumor that he could’ve signed a four-year, $84MM extension with the Lakers during the 2020/21 season, Dennis Schröder said today that he technically never had that contract offer in front of him to sign. That may be just a matter of semantics, since it sounds like there was a time when the Lakers were willing to put that offer on the table. However, Schröder said that he never felt like he fit in 100% in Los Angeles, adding that “money isn’t everything” and he still got a “nice deal” for him and his family (Twitter links via Keith Smith of Spotrac and Jared Weiss of The Athletic). Schröder signed a one-year, $5.9MM contract with the Celtics.
  • Kings forward Maurice Harkless said he didn’t explore other opportunities when he became a free agent, preferring to work out something quickly with Sacramento (Twitter link via James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area). Harkless agreed to a two-year, $9MM deal with the team on the first night of free agency.
  • The Kings have a new jersey advertisement sponsor, announcing today in a press release that they’ve partner with Dialpad and will wear the company’s logo on their uniforms in 2021/22 and beyond.