Atlantic Notes: Nets, Anunoby, Trent Jr., Thibodeau

The Nets lost to the red-hot Suns 113-107 on Saturday, dropping a marquee home game in front of the largest crowd the team has hosted since moving to Brooklyn (18,071).

Phoenix was led by Devin Booker, who recorded 30 points and four assists, while Brooklyn was led by Kevin Durant, who finished with 39 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Despite owning the best record in the East at 14-6, it’s clear the Nets still have work to do.

“We’re a team that’s still forming, still trying to find an identity,” head coach Steve Nash said, as relayed by Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “This [Suns] team has a clear identity, a clear understanding of what they’re trying to do offensively and defensively — something we’re still in the very early stages of. 

“We get away from our game when we go behind. Those are signs of a new team, a team trying to understand each other and find some clarity and identity.” 

Southeast Notes: Heat, Nuggets, Plumlee, Wizards, Beal

With a rematch against the Nuggets set for Monday, players from the Heat are moving on from the Nikola JokicMarkieff Morris incident that happened earlier this month, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes.

The November 8 altercation started with Morris giving Jokic a hard foul in transition, then continued when Jokic blindsided him from behind. Morris has missed the Heat’s last 10 games with a neck injury caused by the hit.

“It’s over with, man. It’s over with,” veteran Udonis Haslem said, according to Chiang. “Nobody got time for that. Life is too short. It’s over with. It happened. In the heat of the moment, everybody reacted. OK, let’s move on.

“It’s over with. It is so far over with. I don’t have time for that. You’re talking to somebody who has seen everything but the wind. I’ve seen it all. That’s over with.”

Jokic is questionable to play in the contest due to a wrist injury, while Morris has been ruled out. Morris also didn’t accompany the Heat during the team’s recent four-game road trip.

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets are being cautious with Mason Plumlee‘s calf injury, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer tweets. Head coach James Borrego mentioned it shouldn’t be a long-term issue. Plumlee’s status for the team’s brief road trip (Chicago on Monday and Milwaukee on Wednesday) is unknown.
  • The Wizards are encouraged by their strong start to the season, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. The team owns the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 13-7, winning an impressive road game against the Mavericks 120-114 on Saturday. “I trust my teammates. I trust them to make the right play, and it means the world to me not having to make every one,Bradley Beal said. “I have guys I can throw the ball to and then go get a shot, go create a play for somebody else. I can have a hockey assist. Those are all — I’m definitely proud of [it], and it’s a stepping stone for me, too. It’s a learning process.”
  • Speaking of Beal and the Wizards, Josh Robbins of The Athletic examines how the All-Star guard is maturing and why it’s so important. In 17 games this season, Beal is averaging 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists, shooting 44% from the floor, 28% from deep and 93% from the free throw line.

Ja Morant To Miss Multiple Weeks

Grizzlies star Ja Morant will be re-evaluated in a few weeks after suffering a knee sprain during Friday’s game, head coach Taylor Jenkins said, according to Evan Barnes of The Commerical Appeal (Twitter link).

As previously relayed, Morant avoided a serious injury and is expected to make a full recovery. Memphis will still be without its best player for several games, meaning guards Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton will likely see increased minutes. The team started Jones against Sacramento on Sunday.

After sustaining the injury, Morant was able to return to the club’s bench without crutches. He underwent an MRI later that night to confirm a knee sprain, but an official timetable still hasn’t been issued by the Grizzlies.

Morant was in the midst of an electric season, averaging 24.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game on 48% shooting. Memphis entered Sunday’s game with a 9-10 record, good for the ninth-best in the Western Conference.

Warriors Assign Klay Thompson, James Wiseman To G League Affiliate

The Warriors have assigned Klay Thompson and James Wiseman to the team’s G League affiliate in Santa Cruz, the club announced on social media.

Thompson, who has missed the past two seasons due to a torn ACL and torn Achilles, will practice with Santa Cruz on Sunday. Joining the club’s G League affiliate is the latest step in his lengthy recovery.

Wiseman underwent surgery to repair a torn right meniscus in April. Golden State cleared him to participate in full team practices earlier in the month, but he has yet to play in a game this season. He averaged 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 21.4 minutes in 39 games during the 2021/22 campaign.

Despite Thompson and Wiseman being sidelined, the Warriors have opened the season with an impressive 17-2 record. Guards Jordan Poole and Damion Lee have helped make up for Thompson’s absence, while big men Kevon Looney and Nemanja Bjelica have impressed during their respective minutes.

DeMarcus Cousins Signing Non-Guaranteed Deal With Bucks

Former All-Star DeMarcus Cousins is signing a non-guaranteed deal with the Bucks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Cousins, 31, split time with the Rockets and Clippers last season, averaging a combined 8.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 1.9 APG in just 17.4 MPG across 41 games (11 starts).

“Boogie” is a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA member. He spent his prime seasons with the Kings and Pelicans before suffering a series of devastating leg injuries — first a torn Achilles tendon with the Pelicans, then a torn quad with the Warriors, and finally a torn ACL that sidelined him for the entire 2019/20 season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes (via Twitter) that Cousins stayed in shape while awaiting an opportunity, and the Bucks were one of a handful of teams to have an open roster spot.

The Bucks have dealt with a series of injuries to open their title defense. Center Brook Lopez (lower back) has played just one game for the team, while Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Bobby Portis all missed significant time. Donte DiVincenzo has yet to suit up this season after undergoing left ankle surgery in June.

Cousins could see action immediately with the frontcourt depth thin at the moment. He was productive in limited minutes last season and Milwaukee could use his size and toughness off the bench. The Bucks have won six games in a row and sit with a 12-8 record after 20 games.

Goran Dragic Away From Raptors For Personal Matter

Raptors guard Goran Dragic will be away from the team for an undetermined period of time to attend to a personal matter, the team announced.

The former All-Star has played just five games for Toronto after being included in the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade with Miami in the offseason.

Here is the full statement from general manager Bobby Webster:

Goran is taking some time away from the team, with our full support, to manage a personal matter. He has been a complete professional in the time that he has been with the Raptors – Goran has been a great mentor to our younger players and a valued teammate for our veterans.

He will continue to work out and stay in shape during his time away. There is no definite timeline for this process, and we will advise updates as appropriate. Goran has the backing of Masai [Ujiri], Nick [Nurse] and the entire organization, and we wish him nothing but the best.

Michael Grange of tweets that this could be a long-term situation, with Dragic staying in Slovenia to attend to the personal matter until a trade or buyout agreement is reached.

Dragic, 35, holds career averages of 13.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.8 assists over 872 games (27.9 MPG). He averaged 8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in the five games with the Raptors (18.0 MPG).

John Wall Wants To Start, Rockets Disagree; Will Continue To Sit Out

November 28: Wall met with the Rockets on Sunday and informed the team he would like to be a starter again and have a chance to compete to keep a starting role, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic.

However, the Rockets disagreed, and want Wall to come off the bench in order to return to play. Wall will continue to sit out until the two sides find a resolution, per Charania.

After the news broke, Wall reportedly posted an Instagram video with the hashtag “#FreeMe”, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

November 27: Rockets guard John Wall has expressed a desire to return to the court and start playing again, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Wall and the franchise had mutually agreed that he would sit out until a trade was found back in September.

For a return to happen, Wall and Houston may need to compromise and solidify his role, Wojnarowski writes. At 31 years old and playing in a backcourt that consists of Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green, Wall doesn’t exactly fit with Houston’s current direction.

His massive salary of $44.31MM this season and a $47.37MM player option next season also make it difficult to find a trade partner. A five-time All-Star, Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game with the Rockets last season, shooting 40% from the field.

Wall never asked to be traded this fall, but it became clear that he was no longer part of the team’s plans. He talked to general manager Rafael Stone on Friday and the two sides plan to speak again on Sunday to further discuss a potential return, according to Wojnarowski.

Nuggets Notes: Injuries, Losing Streak, Hyland, Nnaji, Cancar, Bol

The Nuggets have had a run of bad luck over the past several months. They looked like a championship-caliber team last season, and then playoff star Jamal Murray tore his ACL in April.

Michael Porter Jr. looked very out of sorts to start the season. It turns out he was dealing with a nerve issue in his back, and he might be out for the season.

Despite losing two of their three best players, the Nuggets started the season 9-4 after reeling off five straight home wins. Two games later, MVP Nikola Jokic suffered a wrist injury.

A few games after that, with their top three players all sidelined, backup wing PJ Dozier suffered a torn ACL that will sideline him for the remainder of the season. Dozier was one of the team’s best and most versatile defenders.

The Nuggets now sit at 9-10 after losing six in a row. Jokic has missed the past four games, and it’s not clear when he’ll return. With the string of bad luck, Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post wonders what the team’s next steps should be.

Kiszla opines that veterans Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, and Facundo Campazzo, all 30-plus years old, are not the future of the team, and coach Michael Malone should trust in Denver’s player development and give the young players a chance to play meaningful minutes.

He states that rookie Bones Hyland, currently sidelined with a sprained ankle, should have a significant role upon his return. He also thinks young forwards Zeke Nnaji (who’s also dealt with an ankle sprain) and Vlatko Cancar should get a chance to prove themselves as NBA players, instead of defaulting those minutes to the veterans.

Here’s more from Denver:

  • In a mailbag Q&A for The Denver Post, Mike Singer answers several questions about the team. He says 7’2″ center Bol Bol doesn’t have the trust of Malone, which is why he remains stuck on the bench despite all the injuries. One major reason for that is the lack of hustle from Bol in the few times he’s received opportunities. Singer agrees with Kiszla that Nnaji should get more of an opportunity, and is curious how Lance Stephenson might fit defensively if he gets called up from Denver’s G League team at some point.
  • Within the same column, Singer says there’s still a lot of unknowns about Porter’s back injury, but he does know that MPJ is trying to avoid having another back surgery. Both Kiszla and Singer agree that tanking isn’t an option for the Nuggets with Jokic in the middle of his prime.
  • The defense has collapsed during the losing streak, Singer writes in a separate article. The team is preaching a defense-first mindset with so many important offensive players out. Singer states that the team desperately misses Jokic’s high defensive IQ and MPJ’s length and rebounding. Malone jokingly said Jokic should receive award consideration for something he’s not known for. “In the last six games, I know for a fact we’re the 30th-ranked defense in the NBA,” Malone said. “And that is a far cry from the defense that we started the year off playing. And that’s why … I think Nikola (Jokic) might be Defensive Player of the Year.”

Pacific Notes: Bagley, Gentry, George, Lakers

The Kingscoaching change has provided a new opportunity for Marvin Bagley III, writes James Ham of Kings Beat. Bagley was out of the rotation under former coach Luke Walton and reportedly refused to check into a game earlier this month. His role has increased under Alvin Gentry, who gave him 35 minutes in Friday’s triple-overtime victory against the Lakers.

Bagley appears to have a new attitude with Gentry in charge, Ham observes. Instead of posting up and clogging the lane, he has been spacing the floor and attacking the glass for rebounds. Gentry is also trusting Bagley on defense, matching him up at times with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on Friday.

On Wednesday, Bagley hit a clutch three-pointer to ice a win over Portland and responded with an enthusiastic show of emotion that has been rare during his four seasons in Sacramento.

“I was probably talking crazy, I was just hyped, man, the passion came out,” Bagley said. “It was a big play for my team, I was just happy to make it.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee examines whether Gentry can turn the Kings‘ season around and break the franchise’s long playoff drought. Gentry has plenty of experience with this situation, as this is the fourth time he has taken over a team in midseason. “Obviously, it’s a change of coaching, and, basically, there’s not a whole lot that’s going to change from the standpoint of what we’re trying to accomplish and what we’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s just getting the players to perform at a higher level, and then, obviously, finding a way to complete games.”
  • Clippers star Paul George deserves to be included in the MVP discussion, contends Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined, George has become an outspoken leader of the team. He’s also putting up MVP-level numbers with 25.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game, along with the highest usage rate of his career. “We need him to do everything that he’s doing for us to be in position that we are,” Reggie Jackson said. “I think he’s playing at the best level and he’s in the best mindset that he’s been in.”
  • The Lakers have plenty of questions after the first quarter of the season, including Frank Vogel’s job status and whether it’s time to panic over the roster following a 10-11 start, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Rockets Notes: Wood, Mathews, Wall, Silas

After losing 15 straight games, the Rockets have now won two in a row and the turnaround started with a lineup change, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Free agent addition Daniel Theis, who had been the starting center, hasn’t played the last two games as coach Stephen Silas opted for a smaller starting lineup with Christian Wood in the middle. Wood set two career highs this week with six assists Wednesday and 33 points Saturday.

“We’re moving the ball, we’re taking open shots and we’re making shots,” Silas said after Saturday’s win over Charlotte. “How many games in a row did we shoot under 30% from three? We shot 47 (percent) tonight. Part of it is playing Armoni (Brooks) a little bit more, playing Garrison (Mathews) a little bit more. But also having some space out there so we can get our drive-and-kicks. Once a few go, you get a lot more confident about shooting your shots. Pretty confident shooting right now.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • Another part of the new lineup is Mathews, who was claimed off waivers before the start of the season and given a two-way contract, Feigen adds. With Jalen Green sidelined by a strained hamstring, Mathews made his first start Saturday and provided 20 points while going 5-of-9 from three-point range. “He’s showing up when his name is called,” Wood said. “That’s all you can ask for a guy like that. He’s shooting the ball great. I told him, whenever he sees the rim and he’s open, let it go. Same with Armoni Brooks. Whenever those two guys see it, shoot it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t try to take a dribble. Just shoot it. That’s what you’re on the floor for. That’s what you’re great at.”
  • Silas told reporters that he hasn’t talked to John Wall about his interest in starting to play again, Feigen states in a separate story. Wall spoke to general manager Rafael Stone on Friday, and another meeting is planned today. According to Feigen, it will focus on what Wall’s role might be on a team that remains committed to its young backcourt. “Being around John and him working out all the time and him being around the team and him being the competitor that he is, John just being John, of course you know that he is itching (to play),” Silas said. “As far as a conversation between he and I as far as him wanting to come back, no.”
  • Saturday’s game against the Hornets was special for Silas, who still feels a strong connection to the organization after spending 10 years there as an assistant coach, Feigen adds in another piece.