Gordon Hayward Expected To Return Against Heat

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward will likely return next round from a Grade 3 right ankle sprain, head coach Brad Stevens said after the team’s series-clinching Game 7 win over Toronto, as relayed by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).

Hayward cleared a four-day quarantine on Friday and was seen putting up shots pre-game, with the 30-year-old last seeing in-game action on August 11.

“Great effort by all the guys picking each other up tonight. Excited for the Conference Finals! #BleedGreen,” Hayward wrote on social media.

Boston has managed to defeat the likes of Philadelphia and Toronto without Hayward, a reliable option who averaged 17.5 points per game this season. While it appears likely he’ll return against the Heat, a specific timeline hasn’t been released by the club. It’s also unclear whether Hayward will be brought off the bench, as he started in all 52 games this season.

The Celtics are set to open the Eastern Conference Finals against an impressive Miami team on Tuesday night, with Game 2 slated to commence on Thursday and Game 3 on Saturday. The team lost its only meeting against the Heat in Orlando 112-106 on August 4, with Jimmy Butler sitting out due to injury.

Stevens has coached the Celtics to the conference finals in three of the last four seasons, but the team hasn’t made the NBA Finals since 2010. The franchise lost a seven-game battle to the Heat during the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, with the only remaining member of both clubs being Miami’s Udonis Haslem.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Rajon Rondo, Lakers, 34, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $5.2MM deal in 2019

Just when it seems that Rondo’s career is winding down, he reinforces how effective he can be when he’s healthy. Rondo was an afterthought when play resumes, as he was still recovering from a busted right hand. Coach Frank Vogel didn’t hesitate to give Rondo a large role once he was ready to play again in the conference semifinals. Rondo piled up 10 points, nine assists and five steals in the Lakers’ Game 2 win over Houston and 21 points and nine assists in Game 3. He came up two assists shy of a triple-double in Game 4. Rondo has a $2.62MM player option for next season. He’s given himself the flexibility of opting out and getting a better offer in free agency.

Jae Crowder, Heat, 30, SF (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $35MM deal in 2015

Crowder has played a major role in the Heat’s surprising run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. His defense against Giannis Antetokounmpo and 3-point shooting were instrumental as Miami knocked off the top seed. He averaged 15.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 2.2 APG in 33.6 MPG and made 43.2% of his shots during the conference semifinals. When Miami acquired Crowder from the Grizzlies before the trade deadline, it was assumed Andre Iguodala would make the biggest impact. Instead, Crowder has re-established his value. He’ll attract plenty of attention on the free agent market and could get a full mid-level from a playoff contender.

Mason Plumlee, Nuggets, 30, C (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $41MM deal in 2017

Plumlee got steady playing time as Nikola Jokic’s backup during the regular season, averaging 7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 2.5 APG in 17.3 MPG. As the playoffs have progressed, Plumlee’s minutes have plummeted and so has his confidence. Even with his six-point outing in Game 5 against the Clippers on Friday, the big man is averaging more fouls (2.2) than points (1.6) in 10.3 MPG uring the postseason. That, plus the fact Plumlee doesn’t stretch defenses, complicates his ability to find a home in unrestricted free agency this offseason. Plumlee will probably be staring at veteran’s minimum offers, a far cry from what he received three years ago.

Stanley Johnson, Raptors, 24, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $7.4MM deal in 2019

Johnson’s representatives did their client a big favor by securing a player option on the second year of his contract. It would be foolhardy for Johnson to pass up the guaranteed $3.8MM and test the free agent waters, considering he’s spent most of the season at the end of Toronto’s bench. Johnson’s postseason minutes have consisted of three late-game appearances in blowouts. He wasn’t in the rotation throughout the regular season, either. Johnson was the eighth pick of the 2015 draft and his first team, Detroit, is still lamenting the fact it picked him instead of Devin Booker, Myles Turner or Justise Winslow.

Brad Wanamaker, Celtics, 31, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1.44MM deal in 2019

Coaches often shorten their rotations during the postseason but Wanamaker has continued to receive steady bench minutes from coach Brad Stevens. He’s averaged 5.8 PPG and 1.7 APG in 17.8 MPG and made the most of his limited 3-point opportunities (52.6%). Wanamaker, who spent most of his career overseas, re-signed with the Celtics last season on a minimum deal. He’s a restricted free agent but his qualifying offer of $1.82MM is peanuts by NBA standards. He’s improved his chances of the Celtics extending that offer, unless they have their eyes on another free agent point guard to back up Kemba Walker.

Community Shootaround: Pacers’ Coaching Search

Shortly after the Pacers parted ways last month with Nate McMillan, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard spoke about wanting the team’s head coaching search to “start with a big pool, then get down smaller and smaller.” Based on reports this week, it sounds like Pritchard is delivering on that promise.

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski identified 14 initial candidates for the Pacers’ head coaching job. He later added a 15th, reporting that former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups is also receiving consideration.

Pritchard and the Pacers will be seeking a coach who has a “modern approach” to the game and an ability to connect with younger players. Even with that criteria in mind, it’s hard to know which of the team’s initial candidates may make the strongest impression.

A number of the candidates being interviewed by the Pacers – including David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbetts, Will Hardy, Becky Hammon, Stephen Silas, Jamahl Mosley, Darvin Ham, Ime Udoka, and Pat Delany – are experienced assistants who have interviewed for other head coaching jobs. It’s possible one of them will stand out during the process and make the Pacers comfortable with hiring a first-time head coach.

Other assistants on Indiana’s list, including Charles Lee, Chris Quinn, and Dan Craig, may be a bit more under the radar, having not been linked to many – or any – head coaching jobs in the past, so they should probably be considered dark-horse candidates.

Dave Joerger and Jacque Vaughn are the two candidates who have previously held head coaching jobs. Joerger’s on-court results in Memphis and Sacramento were actually pretty solid, but he clashed at times with players and executives during those stops. Vaughn, meanwhile, overachieved with a depleted Brooklyn team this summer in Orlando, but was passed over by the Nets for their permanent job.

Billups is a wild card in the Pacers’ process. According to Wojnarowski, people around the league have long believed that the former Pistons guard would land a significant role with an NBA organization due to his leadership style and “basketball savvy.” But he has never even served as an assistant, so it remains to be seen if the Pacers would be comfortable rolling the dice on him.

Another wild card is current Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, who was the first name connected to Indiana on the day the team fired McMillan. D’Antoni still has a job, and GM Daryl Morey recently spoke about wanting to retain the veteran coach.

However, D’Antoni’s contract is up, and if his Rockets are dispatched by the Lakers in Game 5 on Saturday with a fourth straight loss, it would end the season on a sour note. It’s possible he and the Rockets wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about a new deal at that point, freeing him up to join a team like the Pacers, who would surely welcome his free-wheeling offense.

What do you think? Is there a candidate on the Pacers’ current list who stands out to you as an obvious choice? Are there any candidates not on their list that you think they should be considering? Who do you expect to become Indiana’s next head coach?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Lowry, Ivey, Gasol

The Celtics’ Gordon Hayward has cleared the quarantine process in Orlando, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets, but it’s uncertain whether he’ll be able to play in the conference finals if his team advances on Friday. Hayward suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the first round of the playoffs last month against the Sixers. He averaged 17.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 4.1 APG during the regular season.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Kyle Lowry doesn’t need any added incentive after leading the Raptors to a Game 7 showdown with Boston, but he’ll benefit monetarily if the Raptors reach the conference finals for the second consecutive season. Lowry will earn a $500K bonus if Toronto advances, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.
  • Knicks player development coach Royal Ivey is drawing interest from other teams, according to SNY’s Ian Begley. The Knicks aren’t sure whether they want to hold onto Ivey and it’s likely he’d be allowed out of his contract to pursue another job. At least one team was interested in giving Ivey a more prominent assistant’s role last season but the Knicks’ previous regime wouldn’t allow an interview. New York had plans to add a sixth assistant, but it’s unclear if that will happen, Begley adds.
  • Marc Gasol‘s stint with the Raptors is heading toward an unceremonious end, Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada writes. The impending free agent center is averaging just 5.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG and 2.0 APG in the conference semifinals against Boston. Gasol is making $25.6MM in the final year of his contract.

NBA Aims For Fans In Arenas, Reduced Travel Next Season

The NBA is looking toward having fans in the stands and reduced travel next season rather than holding games in “bubble” or campus facilities, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports.

The amount of fans to be allowed in arenas is yet to be determined but the league would prefer in-market competition, Charania continues.

In recent weeks, the projected start date for next season has been pushed back.

Originally projected for the beginning of December, commissioner Adam Silver expressed skepticism for that target date last month. Silver told the league’s Board of Governors during a conference call on Thursday that the season won’t start earlier than Christmas, while NBPA executive director Michele Roberts suggested that opening night may not happen until the new year.

The league will announce next season’s structure with eight weeks‘ notice of the start date, Charania adds.

The NBA also had a call with the league’s 30 GMs on Friday.

The league still hopes to play a full 82-game regular season schedule but the dates for games and other events remain in flux.

In-Person Interviews With Draft Prospects Allowed Next Month

The NBA will allow teams to hold in-person interviews with this year’s draft prospects in mid-October, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. For the time being, in-person workouts will still be prohibited, Wojnarowski adds.

The in-person interviews are the second half of a two-step process for the Draft Combine, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. From mid-September to early October, in-market medicals and virtual interviews will be held. The league has also given the go-ahead for on-court drills, Charania adds.

The draft itself is still tentatively scheduled for November 18 but that’s still subject to change, Wojnarowski reports in another tweet. It’s also still expected that the draft will be held virtually, allowing teams to have “war rooms” at their facilities, Wojnarowski adds.

It has been a long and strange journey for draft prospects and NBA front office executives and scouts due to the coronavirus pandemic. Normally, teams are busy in the spring evaluating prospects at the combine as well as at their practice facilities. Thus far, the only communication between this year’s draft class and NBA personnel has been done remotely.

The draft lottery was moved from May to August 20, with the Timberwolves winning the right to make the first pick. The draft was originally scheduled on June 25.

Danuel House Leaving NBA Campus, Done For Season

The NBA announced today in a press release that it has concluded its investigation into Rockets forward Danuel House following an apparent violation of campus health and safety protocols. According to the league, the investigation found that House had an unauthorized guest in his hotel room “over multiple hours” earlier this week.

“Mr. House is leaving the NBA campus and will not participate with the Rockets team in additional games this season,” the Rockets said in their statement.

As we detailed in a pair of stories on Wednesday and Thursday, the league’s probe into the Rockets was focused on the belief that a female COVID-19 testing official entered the team hotel without authorization for several hours late on Monday night.

When asked about the incident, the staffer reportedly implicated Tyson Chandler and another Rocket, but those players were cleared and the investigation focused on House, who was held out of Games 3 and 4 of Houston’s series vs. the Lakers as he quarantined. The league was said to have circumstantial evidence implicating the forward.

House “vehemently denied” violating the league’s safety protocols, but the Rockets and the NBPA were essentially powerless during the investigation, since the NBA is in charge of medical and safety protocols. That was a source of frustration for the Rockets, who were “blindsided” by the investigation, per Ben Golliver of The Washington Post.

“If it was a star player, there’s no way (the NBA) would handle it this way,” a person close to House with direct knowledge of the investigation told Golliver. “They want to make an example out of somebody.”

Another source told Golliver that the NBA was “prioritizing their perception of safety over everything else.”

House is a key rotation player for Houston, having averaged 11.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG on .435/.358/.769 shooting in the Rockets’ first nine playoff games (31.0 MPG). The Rockets have lost both games with House sidelined and find themselves in a 3-1 hole that may be too big to climb out of — especially without an important role player.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2020 NBA Offseason Preview: San Antonio Spurs

Hoops Rumors is previewing the 2020 offseason for all 30 NBA teams. We’re looking at the key questions facing each club, as well as the roster decisions they’ll have to make this fall. Today, we’re focusing on the San Antonio Spurs.


Salary Cap Outlook

Unless DeMar DeRozan unexpectedly opts out and the Spurs don’t re-sign Jakob Poeltl and/or Bryn Forbes, the odds of the team creating any cap room are slim. On the other hand, bringing back DeRozan, Poeltl, and Forbes might put San Antonio into luxury-tax territory unless the club cuts costs elsewhere.

I don’t expect Spurs ownership to pay the tax for the current roster, so perhaps the team will let Poeltl or Forbes walk or trade one of its many veterans on expiring contracts. Depending on certain roster decisions, San Antonio could have the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($9.26MM) and bi-annual exception ($3.62MM) available, but may ultimately be limited to just the taxpayer MLE ($5.72MM).

Our full salary cap preview for the Spurs can be found right here.


Roster Decisions To Watch

Options:

  • DeMar DeRozan, player option: $27,739,975 (Oct. 13 deadline)

Non-Guaranteed Contracts:

Two-Way Contracts:

Free Agents:


2020 Draft Assets

First Round:

  • No. 11 overall pick

Second Round:

  • No. 41 overall pick

The Spurs don’t make a habit of trading away draft picks – or stockpiling extra ones – so it comes as no surprise that their only two selections in the 2020 draft are their own.


Three Key Offseason Questions

1. Will the Spurs run it back again with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge?

DeRozan and Aldridge were as efficient as ever on offense in 2019/20. DeRozan’s .531 FG% was easily a career high, while Aldridge enjoyed the best three-point shooting season of his career (.389 3PT% with 1.2 makes per game).

However, DeRozan is now 31 years old and Aldridge is 35. Both players are entering potential contract years, with DeRozan considered likely to exercise his $27.7MM player option for 2020/21. And San Antonio is coming off a 32-39 season — that’s the team’s worst record and the first time it has missed the playoffs since 1997.

On top of all that, the Spurs reportedly shopped Aldridge at this year’s trade deadline, and there were rumblings shortly thereafter that DeRozan wasn’t thrilled with his situation in San Antonio. In other words, all signs point to the team considering the idea of seeing what it can get for its two veterans on the trade market this offseason and handing the reins to its young up-and-comers.

Still, the Spurs have never really shown a taste for making biggest splashes on the trade market unless their hand is forced, as it was in the case of Kawhi Leonard. And the aforementioned report which said the club shopped Aldridge at the deadline also noted that rival teams believed San Antonio’s asking price was far too high. It may be difficult for the Spurs to extract a ton of value for DeRozan at $27.7MM or Aldridge at $24MM.

Gregg Popovich‘s status is also an X-factor here. He turns 72 years old in January and presumably doesn’t plan to coach the Spurs for a whole lot longer. Would a pivot to the team’s youth be what San Antonio’s longtime head coach and president of basketball operations has in mind for his final year(s)?

2. Is this Gregg Popovich’s last year with the Spurs?

While we’re on the subject, it’s worth considering what exactly Popovich’s future holds, since it could have an impact on how the Spurs approach the next year or two.

In recent years, there had been a general perception – unconfirmed by Popovich – that the Spurs’ head coach would stick around through 2020, then coach Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics as a possible last hurrah.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated matters. Not only have those Olympics been postponed until 2021, but there’s uncertainty about whether NBA players and coaches will even be able to fully participate, since a delayed ’20/21 season could very well overlap with the rescheduled Olympics.

Assuming the NBA can figure out a plan to either finish its season before the Olympics or include a break in its schedule to accommodate them, it seems likely that Popovich will still coach Team USA as long as he can safely do so. And it sounds as if the Spurs expect Popovich back on their sidelines for the 2020/21 season.

While it may look a little different than what we initially envisioned, perhaps the original theory – that Popovich will coach the Spurs up until the Olympics and then call it a career after the Tokyo games – is still in play.

Of course, even if the upcoming season is Popovich’s last, it’s possible it won’t have a major impact on the franchise’s roster decisions. It probably wouldn’t fit Popovich’s style to seek out any sort of win-now moves for his final go-round — I could just as easily see him embracing a partial rebuild before handing things off to a successor such as Becky Hammon, Will Hardy, or Tim Duncan.

Either way, Popovich has had such a hand in shaping the Spurs’ culture over the last 25 years that it will be fascinating to see how the team transitions out of his tenure and looks to carry over that culture to a new era.

3. Will Jakob Poeltl and Bryn Forbes be back?

Poeltl, who was one of the players the Spurs acquired in the Leonard blockbuster, will be a restricted free agent this offseason and is entering his age-25 season. Forbes, who just turned 27, has been a full-time starter for San Antonio in each of the last two seasons.

As I noted above, re-signing both players to market-value deals would potentially put the Spurs in tax territory if no cost-cutting roster moves follow. Still, I’d be a little surprised if the team lets either player get away.

Poeltl’s numbers per 36 minutes (11.5 rebounds, 2.9 blocks) show his value as a rebounder and rim protector, and it feels as if he has more room to grow. The Spurs’ front office will want to recoup as much value as it can from the trade that helped send the Raptors to a championship. With the ability to match any offer sheet for Poeltl, San Antonio should retain him.

As for Forbes, he has been one of the Spurs’ most reliable three-point shooters over the last two seasons, knocking down 40.8% of his attempts during that stretch as the club ranked 30th and 28th in three-point tries.

San Antonio’s backcourt is loaded with young players, but Forbes is capable of sliding up to the three and playing alongside a pair of guards. Since he’ll be unrestricted, there’s no guarantee he won’t look for a new deal elsewhere, but the Spurs have a history of overpaying a little to retain their own guys if they really want them back.

Assuming both Poeltl and Forbes are re-signed, the most logical way for the Spurs to shed some money would be to move one of their veterans on expiring contracts. Besides DeRozan and Aldridge, Rudy Gay ($14.5MM) and Patty Mills ($13.3MM) would also fit that bill.

Information from Basketball Insiders and ESPN was used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cavs Rumors: Avdija, Toppin, Thompson, More

Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Deni Avdija, who won the Israeli League’s MVP award this year, should be considered one of the leading candidates to be drafted by the Cavaliers at No. 5 overall, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

As Fedor explains, the Cavaliers have done “extensive work” on Avdija, who fits the team’s culture both on and off the court. General manager Koby Altman, director of scouting Brandon Weems, and assistant GM Mike Gansey all made trips overseas to see him play prior to the season shutting down, while head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has reached out to former players Omri Casspi, Tyler Dorsey and Tarik Black for intel on their Maccabi Tel Aviv teammate, writes Fedor.

It’s possible that Avdija will be gone by the time the Cavs are on the clock — sources tell Fedor that the previous Bulls regime “loved” the Israeli forward and probably would’ve taken him at No. 4, though it’s unclear if the new decision-makers in Chicago are as high on him.

The Cavaliers also like Isaac Okoro and Devin Vassell, so if all three wings are still on the board at No. 5, it won’t be an easy decision, according to Fedor, who adds that forward Obi Toppin is “very much in play” at that spot as well.

Here’s more from Fedor on the Cavs:

  • There’s no specific mandate from team owner Dan Gilbert for the Cavs to stay out of the tax going forward, but the team would prefer to do so and that will play a role in roster decisions, according to Fedor. Long-term financial considerations may also dissuade the team from taking on an exorbitant multiyear contract such as Tobias Harris‘ or Al Horford‘s in any trade, Fedor adds.
  • Given the money already on the Cavs’ books for 2020/21, the team is unlikely to re-sign Tristan Thompson and use the full mid-level exception this offseason, according to Fedor in a separate story. Cleveland may have to choose one path or the other, per Fedor, who thinks the team should prioritize Thompson.
  • One source estimated to Fedor that the odds of Thompson returning are 50-50. “I believe there’s a chance of him re-signing in free agency,” another source close to Thompson told Cleveland.com. “He hasn’t necessarily played his final game there.”
  • If Thompson departs and the Cavs do look to use their MLE, Derrick Jones and Pat Connaughton are among the free agents they may target, Fedor writes.

Grizzlies Hire Sonia Raman As Assistant Coach

The Grizzlies have added a new assistant coach to Taylor Jenkins‘ staff, announcing today in a press release that they’ve hired Sonia Raman, MIT’s longtime women’s basketball head coach.

“We are beyond excited to welcome Sonia to the Memphis Grizzlies,” Jenkins said in a statement. “She has a high basketball IQ and a tremendous ability to teach the game, as well as a strong passion for the game. She is going to be a great addition to our current coaching staff.”

Raman, who spent 12 years running the woman’s basketball program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led the team to its first-ever NEWMAC championships in 2018 and 2019, as well as a pair of NCAA tournament berths. She’ll take the spot on the Grizzlies staff vacated by Niele Ivey, who left this spring to become the new women’s basketball head coach at Notre Dame.

According to former Grizzlies executive John Hollinger, sources told The Athletic that Raman “blew away” the Grizzlies during the interview process with her “Xs and O’s knowledge and personal skills.” She joins a group of assistants that also includes Brad Jones, Neven Spahija, Vitaly Potapenko, David McClure, and Scoonie Penn.