Pacific Notes: Biyombo, LaVine, Holmes, Kings

Suns center Bismack Biyombo expects to be fined for his altercation with Mavericks big man Marquese Chriss in the closing seconds of Tuesday’s game. They both ran down the same tunnel after being ejected and had to be separated by security. Biyombo explained his side of the incident in a video posted by Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

“I think it was nothing serious,” Biyombo said, adding that Chriss seemed upset that Phoenix was still trying to score with the game already in hand. “… I think when we play here they play all the way until the end, and I think that’s understandable. It’s the playoffs, you know.”

Any fines or suspensions will be announced sometime in advance of Thursday night’s Game 6. Biyombo is only averaging 8.6 minutes in seven games in this year’s playoffs and Chriss is at 3.8 minutes in four games, so any disciplinary action won’t have a significant impact on the series.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers may be a long shot to land free agent guard Zach LaVine, but they shouldn’t be discounted entirely, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. There has been speculation this week that LaVine may be interested in joining the Trail Blazers, but L.A. could be another option if he wants to head west, particularly since LaVine is represented by Klutch Sports. Pincus examines potential trades involving the Bulls, Thunder, Pacers and Magic that could clear LaVine’s path to the Lakers if he decides he wants to join them.
  • Kings big man Richaun Holmes has won a court victory in the custody battle that led to him missing the season’s final 11 games for personal reasons, according to James Ham of ESPN 1320. Holmes was accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife, but judges in Los Angeles and Georgia ruled in his favor, granting him sole physical and legal custody of his son.
  • The Kings hosted six players Wednesday in their second round of pre-draft workouts, Ham tweets. On hand were Grayson Murphy of Belmont, AJ Green of Northern Iowa, Jalen Adaway of St. Bonaventure, Buddy Boeheim of Syracuse, Keve Aluma of Virginia Tech and Grant Golden of Richmond. Sacramento owns two second-round picks at No. 37 and 48. Its first-round pick will be determined by next week’s lottery.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Morant, Grizzlies, Pelicans

The Mavericks will need a vintage performance from Luka Doncic to avoid elimination Thursday night, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic is averaging 32 PPG in the series with the Suns, but his shot has been off the past two games as he’s gone a combined 19-of-48 from the field and 3-of-18 from three-point range. He was limited to two assists in the Game 5 loss.

“That’s on me, for sure,” he said. “That’s on me and I’ve got to attack the paint more.”

Ball movement was an issue Tuesday for Dallas, which had just nine total assists, and Doncic thought the Mavs “relaxed” after taking an early lead. Coach Jason Kidd remains confident that Doncic can turn things around in Game 6, noting that he has a history of performing well in high-pressure environments.

“He’s not afraid of the stage at 23,” Kidd said. “You saw that in the Olympics. You see it in the playoffs this year. You saw it in the playoffs last year. That’s a good trait to have.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The bone bruise in his right knee that might sideline Grizzlies guard Ja Morant for the rest of the playoffs isn’t related to an injury he suffered toward the end of the regular season, tweets Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian. “Everything I hear is non-surgical,” coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters, including Geoff Calkins of The Daily Memphian, in regard to treatment options for Morant (Twitter link). When asked why he accused Warriors guard Jordan Poole of causing the injury in Game 3, Jenkins responded, “That is what our medical team and Ja said. … I was stating what was in-house.” (Twitter link from Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN)
  • The Grizzlies‘ playoff run could end tonight, but their young roster gives them a very bright future, observes Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated. With Morant only 22 and no players older than 28, Memphis has a chance to be among the NBA’s best for many years to come. Desmond Bane looked back about a decade to find a team in a similar situation. “That Oklahoma City team when (Kevin Durant), James Harden and (Russell Westbrook), all those guys were young and fairly new,” Bane said. “Other than that, I don’t know too many other teams that were young and seen as title contenders.”
  • With the Pelicans seemingly ready to take another step next season, William Guillory of The Athletic compares them to other No. 8 seeds from recent years.

Lakers To Interview Kenny Atkinson In Coaching Search

The Lakers have been granted permission to interview Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson for their head coaching job, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Atkinson also interviewed for the coaching vacancy in Charlotte and was mentioned as a possibility in Sacramento. He joined Steve Kerr’s staff prior to the start of the season after spending last year as an assistant with the Clippers, and has served as an assistant with the Knicks and Hawks as well.

Atkinson’s only previous head coaching experience came with the Nets from 2016-20. He posted a 118-190 record in Brooklyn, but helped to turn around a floundering franchise by developing young players. He resigned in March of 2020, reportedly amid dissatisfaction from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The Lakers have already interviewed ABC/ESPN broadcaster Mark Jackson, former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin since Frank Vogel was fired in April. A recent report suggested they may be waiting to see if Sixers coach Doc Rivers or Jazz coach Quin Snyder becomes available.

The Warriors are already set to lose one member of their coaching staff when Mike Brown takes over the Kings after Golden State’s playoff run ends.

Central Notes: York, Middleton, Ball, Brown

An unexpected conversation with Kevin Durant left a huge impression on Pacers guard Gabe York, who finally reached the NBA last month after years of trying, writes James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. York, 28, signed a two-way contract with Indiana and appeared in two games, including the season finale against the Nets.

“He comes up to me talking about, ‘Yo, I seen the struggle. I seen the journey that you went through to get here, bro, like for real, congrats. I know it’s been work,'” York said. “And just knowing that KD said that (expletive), I’m really like, ‘Wow, bro. People really watched (my journey).'”

After going undrafted out of Arizona in 2016, York spent time in Germany, Greece, Israel and Italy before joining the Pacers’ G League affiliate in Fort Wayne. He admits being nervous before his NBA debut, but that stopped once he got into the game.

“My nerves went away instantly and for whatever reason in my brain, in my mind it told itself, ‘It was like, ‘Nah, you belong here,'” York said. “It felt right. Nothing felt forced. Nothing felt too fast, too nothing. … When you’re in the G League or when you’re overseas, you just keep watching TV, keep watching the NBA and you just see stats and you see players, you think they’re bigger than what they are. And then once you get on the court with them, you’re like, ‘I played basketball for 20 years, bro.’ You need to guard me, (too).”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks guard Khris Middleton is making progress in his recovery from an MCL sprain in his left knee, but he’s not ready to start playing again, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Coach Mike Budenholzer, who expressed hope last week that Middleton might be able to return at some point during Milwaukee’s second-round series with the Celtics, told reporters today that Middleton has been able to do “a little” on the court, but there’s nothing significant to update.
  • After playing just 35 games this season, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is focused on being healthier in the future, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Ball suffered a bone bruise, then had surgery for a torn meniscus and didn’t play after January 14.
  • The Bulls are unlikely to bring back Tristan Thompson and Matt Thomas next season, but they face a more difficult decision on  Troy Brown Jr., Johnson states in a mailbag column. They have a June 29 deadline to extend a qualifying offer to Brown to make him a restricted free agent.

Nikola Jokic Repeats As Most Valuable Player

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has won his second straight Most Valuable Player Award, topping the SixersJoel Embiid and the BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo by a comfortable margin, the NBA announced in a press release.

Jokic received 65 first-place votes and 875 total points, putting him well ahead of Embiid, who finished second with 26 first-place votes and 706 points. Antetokounmpo came in third with nine first-place votes and 595 points.

Nobody else received a first-place vote, but Suns guard Devin Booker was fourth with 216 points and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was fifth at 146 points. With 100 total voters, the balloting system awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for second, five points for third, three points for fourth and one point for fifth.

Other players receiving votes were the Celtics‘ Jayson Tatum (43 points), the GrizzliesJa Morant (10), the Warriors‘ Stephen Curry (4), the SunsChris Paul (2), the BullsDeMar DeRozan (1), the LakersLeBron James (1) and the NetsKevin Durant (1).

Jokic is the 13th player to win MVP honors in back-to-back seasons. He averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists in 74 games and helped the Nuggets earn the sixth seed in the West despite the absence of Jamal Murray and  Michael Porter Jr. Jokic was named Western Conference Player of the Month twice this season and reached the All-Star Game for the fourth straight year.

Robert Williams Will Miss Game 5

Celtics center Robert Williams will miss Wednesday’s game against the Bucks because of soreness in his left knee, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

Williams, who underwent meniscus surgery on the knee March 27, returned midway through the first-round series with the Nets and was able to play in the first three games against Milwaukee. Coach Ime Udoka said the swelling that kept him out of Monday’s Game 4 has subsided, but the pain is persisting.

“Still has some soreness and is going to be overly cautious coming off of surgery until it’s pain free,” Udoka said, adding that the soreness affects Williams’ mobility (Twitter link).

Grant Williams will once again take his place in the starting lineup. The series is tied at 2-2.

Nets GM Sean Marks On Irving, Simmons, Offseason, More

At his season-ending press conference on Wednesday, Nets general manager Sean Marks was noncommittal when asked about Kyrie Irving‘s future with the team, according to a report from The Athletic.

As Marks noted, he predicted last year that the Nets would come to terms on extensions for Irving and James Harden prior to the season and neither came to pass, so he wants to avoid making that mistake again.

That’s something that we’ve been discussing and we’ll continue to debrief on and discuss throughout this offseason … we haven’t had any of those discussions yet,” Marks said. “We’re looking for guys that want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but everybody here.”

Irving holds a player option for $36.9MM next season, and if he opts out, he’d become an unrestricted free agent and eligible for a five-year, $247.7MM maximum-salary contract if he re-signs with Brooklyn. He’s also eligible for a four-year, $185MM extension if he picks up the option.

Irving missed most of the season due to his vaccination status and it clearly had a negative impact on the team, with Marks saying “it’s obvious” that Irving’s absence was a factor in how the season played out. Brooklyn entered the season as championship favorites but finished with just a 44-38 record and needed to win a game in the play-in tournament to advance as the No. 7 seed in the East before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by Boston.

Brooklyn has up to 10 players who could become free agents this summer, so both the players and the organization have important decisions to make.

What drives them? Do they want to be part of this? Are they motivated by something that maybe is not good for the whole team?” Marks said, per Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. “So those are questions we’re going to have to ask ourselves and also the players that we want to bring back in here.”

Here’s more from Marks’ press conference:

  • According to The Athletic, Ben Simmons had an MRI after his back soreness returned prior to Game 4 against Boston and it revealed that his herniation had gotten worse, which necessitated the surgery. Marks said Simmons is feeling better and the team plans to have him around as much as possible. “We’re gonna be doing everything we possibly can to get him around our group. That is the key,” Marks said. “He needs to be in here, smell the gym again, around his friends, around his family and participate in this and let us help him build the culture together, build up together, build him back up because as (coach) Steve (Nash) alluded to, he is a big, big part of this.”
  • Irving said after the season ended that he planned to stay with Brooklyn, but he raised eyebrows by stating that he’d work with Kevin Durant, owner Joe Tsai, and Marks to manage the team. “When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean,” he said.
  • However, Marks clearly wanted to put an end to that notion. He said that he is the Nets’ primary decision-maker and that he hadn’t spoken to Durant about the state of the team, the season, or about Irving’s future with the club, as Mahoney relays. “But at the end of the day, I mean more often than not, it’s myself making those decisions,” Marks said, “and it’s not me going to Kevin and saying: ‘Do you want this person? Do you want that person? Do you want that guy?’ I don’t think that’s fair to place that on Kevin. Now, is he surprised by anything? Absolutely not, because he will know ahead of time what we’re doing, what we plan on doing with, to be honest with the entire roster.”

Kyle Lowry Ruled Out For Thursday’s Game 6

Point guard Kyle Lowry has been ruled out for Thursday’s Game 6 between the Heat and Sixers, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Lowry will travel to Philadelphia tomorrow but won’t play in a potential series-clinching contest for Miami. He re-injured his left hamstring in Sunday’s Game 4 and missed Game 5 on Tuesday.

Put it this way, you don’t want to play with it,” Lowry said after Game 4, per Nick Friedell of ESPN. “But we’re in a situation in the playoffs where we’re in a hostile environment, we’re in this together no matter what. Just trying to be out there for my guys, no matter what happens, no matter what the situation is.”

Lowry originally injured the hamstring during Game 3 of Miami’s first-round series against Atlanta and wasn’t able to return until Friday’s Game 3 at Philadelphia, a two-week absence. He played 25 minutes in his first game back, but went scoreless while missing all four of his shots from the field. He was on the court for 30 minutes Sunday, posting six points, three rebounds and seven assists on 3-of-10 shooting.

I appreciate him,” Jimmy Butler said. “We all do. The fact that he wants to play, he wants to compete, he knows our best chance of winning is with him on the floor. We understand that, but we also want our guy to be safe, man. We always have more than enough to win. We always say that. We do believe that.”

Although it would be disappointing for both Lowry and the Heat, Joe Vardon of The Athletic argues that Lowry shouldn’t risk further injury by playing again vs. the Sixers. Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladipo have proven capable of handling additional responsibilities in Lowry’s absence, Vardon notes.

For our team, his versatility just really fits,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of Oladipo. “His ability to guard multiple positions but also be able to organize a little bit, have that kind of experience and talent when Kyle is out — that could be devastating to some teams. (But) we have a lot of other guys that have been able to step up and Vic is one of them.

Atlantic Notes: Jokubaitis, Knicks, Butler/Sixers, Raptors

Knicks draft-and-stash prospect Rokas Jokubaitis has been named the EuroLeague’s Rising Star, per Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com (Twitter link). Jokubaitis, 21, was the No. 34 pick in the 2021 draft and was acquired from the Thunder (along with No. 36 pick Miles McBride) in exchange for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (No. 32).

Jokubaitis has appeared in 35 games with Spanish club FC Barcelona this season, averaging 7.2 points and 2.8 assists along with an eye-popping .565/.595/.757 shooting line in 17.1 minutes per contest. Barcelona will face long-time rival Real Madrid in the EuroLeague Final Four, which takes place from May 19-21 in Belgrade, Serbia.

As Urbonas notes, the young Lithuanian guard joins an impressive list of Rising Star recipients, including Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Mirotic, Ricky Rubio, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Luka Doncic, and Usman Garuba, among others.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • In the second part of a discussion with colleague Fred Katz about New York’s offseason, John Hollinger of The Athletic says the Knicks are “unquestionably” looking to trade for a star player, because the roster is too good to tank, but not good enough to contend. Hollinger expects coach Tom Thibodeau to be back at the helm next season, as he’s done a solid job developing young players. Australian guard Dyson Daniels, who played for G League Ignite this past season, would be a good fit alongside Immanuel Quickley if New York’s pick lands at No. 11 or 12, says Hollinger.
  • The stellar play of Jimmy Butler in the Heat/Sixers matchup is a reminder of what could have been for Philadelphia, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Philly famously chose to placate Ben Simmons instead of retaining Butler, even though Butler was (and still is) close with Joel Embiid. Both Simmons and Butler needed the ball and didn’t complement each other well offensively, and the team felt forced to pick between the two, sources tell Shelburne. “When you get into a competition, he understands the full deal — that you have to do it on both ends,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Butler. “And he’s able to compete with a ferocity and an incredibly stable mind. That is really unique — when it gets the craziest is when he’s really locked in on making sure that it’s solid winning basketball for our team.” The Heat lead the second-round series 3-2, with Butler averaging 26.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.8 steals on .534/.318/.842 shooting.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic ranks the Raptors‘ trade assets, from untouchable (Scottie Barnes) to salary matching/low-stakes moves (Malachi Flynn, Khem Birch, others). Koreen notes that Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa have both drastically improved their trade values with strong seasons in 2021/22.

2022 NBA Offseason Preview: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers entered the 2021/22 season with playoff aspirations, but some bad luck and tight losses derailed the first half of their season, and a series of injuries contributed to their inability to get back on track.

By the trade deadline, the Pacers were looking ahead to the future and decided to send All-Star center Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento in a six-player deal for potential franchise cornerstone Tyrese Haliburton.

The move was typical of an Indiana team that has historically been reluctant to launch a full-fledged rebuild. As was the case when they traded Paul George to Oklahoma City in 2017 for Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, the Pacers preferred to acquire a promising young player rather than far-away draft picks, in the hopes of accelerating their return to the postseason.

With a top-10 pick in hand and some intriguing talent under contract, it will be interesting to see how much patience the front office is willing to exercise this offseason as the retooling process continues.


The Pacers’ Offseason Plan:

We know that Haliburton will be part of the future in Indiana, and it’s a safe bet that 2021 first-rounders Chris Duarte and Isaiah Jackson aren’t going anywhere either. Beyond that, there are some unanswered questions.

Myles Turner was viewed as one of the NBA’s top trade candidates early in the 2021/22 season. With Sabonis gone, will Turner stick around or will the Pacers still be willing to discuss him trade talks? If he’s part of the long-term plans, will Indiana be able to extend him this offseason as he prepares to enter a contract year? Would Turner be open to an extension?

Malcolm Brogdon, meanwhile, is under contract for three more seasons, and could theoretically fit alongside Haliburton, since both players can handle the ball or play off it and neither is a defensive liability. However, there has been some speculation that Brogdon could be dealt, especially if the Pacers want to clear some long-term money from their books. He wasn’t trade-eligible during the season after signing an extension, but he will be this summer. Will Indiana look to move him?

When Buddy Hield was included in the Haliburton trade in February, it wasn’t clear whether he was simply thrown in for salary-matching purposes or if the Pacers envisioned him remaining on the roster beyond the season. His performance in Indiana made that an even more interesting question — his 18.2 PPG and .447 FG% were significant steps up from the numbers he was putting up in Sacramento, and he flashed newfound play-making skills (a career-high 4.8 APG).

Hield has two years and $40MM left on his contract, which looks a little more team-friendly than it did three or four months ago. The Pacers should be able to move him without having to attach other assets, but it’s unclear what their intentions are.

Jalen Smith played well for the Pacers after arriving in a deadline deal, but because his 2022/23 rookie scale team option was declined last year, the team can’t offer him a starting salary higher than about $4.7MM, which may not be enough to bring him back.

I also wouldn’t expect Ricky Rubio or T.J. Warren – neither of whom played a game for Indiana this season – to return, but the team’s final unrestricted free agent, Lance Stephenson, is a good candidate for a new deal. He seems to have found a home in Indiana.

Of course, before they have to make any free agent decisions, the Pacers will have a lot riding on the draft lottery results. Their offseason will take a much different shape if they’re picking in the top three or four than it would if they slip to No. 7 or No. 8.


Salary Cap Situation

Note: Our salary cap figures are based on the league’s latest projection ($122MM) for 2022/23.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 5 overall pick ($7,155,120) 4
  • No. 31 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • No. 60 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total: $7,155,120

Extension-Eligible Players

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2022/23 season begins.

  • Goga Bitadze (rookie scale)
  • Buddy Hield (veteran)
  • Myles Turner (veteran)

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

Taking into account their returning players, Brissett’s team option, and a cap hold for their first-round pick, the Pacers project to have about $95MM in guaranteed money. That number could fluctuate a little one way or the other, depending on their lottery luck, but it puts the team in position to open up at least $20-25MM in cap space.

Taking that route would mean renouncing most of their free agent cap holds, as well as about $35MM in free agency and trade exceptions, detailed below. So the Pacers would need a good reason to renounce those cap charges and operate under the cap. If they have no specific use for the space, they could simply continue to function as an over-the-cap club, retaining all their exceptions.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $10,349,000 6
  • Bi-annual exception: $4,050,000 6
  • Trade exception: $10,500,000
  • Trade exception: $7,333,333
  • Trade exception: $2,320,000
  • Trade exception: $420,049

Footnotes

  1. Taylor’s salary will become fully guaranteed after July 10.
  2. Brissett’s salary will remain non-guaranteed even if his option is exercised.
  3. Washington’s salary will become fully guaranteed after July 6.
  4. This pick is dependent on the lottery results. It could land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 9. The Pacers’ lottery odds can be viewed here.
  5. The Pacers can’t offer Smith a starting salary worth more than his cap hold, since his 2022/23 rookie scale option was declined.
  6. These are projected values. If the Pacers decide to go under the cap and use cap room, they’ll forfeit these exceptions (and their trade exceptions) and instead gain access to the room exception ($5,329,000).

Salary and cap information from Basketball Insiders and RealGM was used in the creation of this post.