James Harden Arrives At Orlando Campus

Rockets All-Star James Harden has arrived at the NBA’s Orlando restart campus, several days after his team touched down, per a video Tweet from the team’s official account. The 2018 NBA MVP, did not travel with the rest of the Rockets for undisclosed reasons.

Tonight’s arrival is in line with the targeted mid-week estimate that Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said the team had been aiming for as recently as Sunday, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

Harden’s fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook announced yesterday that he did not travel with the team because he tested positive for COVID-19 and hopes to join the Rockets once he recovers.

More to come…

Dennis Schröder Intends To Leave Orlando For Birth Of Child

Crucial Thunder backup guard Dennis Schröder has announced that he will leave the NBA’s Orlando restart campus in “three or four weeks” to join his pregnant wife for the birth of their second child, according to Royce Young of ESPN (Twitter link).

“I love basketball, but the family comes first all the time,” Schroder said (link) on his decision to eventually, albeit temporarily, leave the Thunder during the season’s restart. “I’ll try to make something happen with the organization…. I’m not going to leave my wife by herself while she’s [having] the second baby. [Son Dennis Malick Schroder Jr.] is still 17 months old.”

Missing Schröder for any extended period of time would be a big blow for Oklahoma City as the club battles for playoff seeding in the West’s crowded middle tier. The team, currently the No. 5 seed with a 40-24, currently own the tiebreaker over the sixth-seeded Rockets, who possess the same record.

Schröder ranks third on the Thunder in average minutes per game (31.0), behind All-Star Chris Paul (31.8) and second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (35.1). Coach Billy Donovan has seen great results when playing all three players, each nominally a point guard, together.

Atlantic Notes: Kemba, Martin, Thibodeau, Milton

Following individual workouts in Boston ahead of traveling to the Orlando campus for the NBA’s season restart, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens noted that All-Star point guard Kemba Walker‘s knee gave him “a little discomfort” and he was subsequently held out of practice Monday, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

Though Walker is expected to have an increased role in practice tomorrow, these early reports on the 30-year-old ahead of the season restart on July 30 in Orlando raise obvious red flags. Restrictions will be placed on Walker’s minutes in team scrimmages and any upcoming seeding games ahead of the NBA playoffs in mid-August.

Losing Walker for any amount of time would be a huge blow for Boston’s playoff hopes. Superstar forward Jayson Tatum and two-way force Jaylen Brown have clearly benefitted from Walker’s veteran leadership. In 50 games for the Celtics during the 2019/20 season, Walker is averaging 21.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 4.1 RPG, while shooting 37.7% from three-point range and 86.7% from the free throw line. The 43-21 Celtics are the No. 3 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Rookie Nets point guard Jeremiah Martin, who went undrafted out of Memphis in 2019, has been proving himself a valuable asset to the team, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post“I’d say Jeremiah Martin has been a surprise for us, his ability to compete,” interim head coach Jacque Vaughn. “That’s all we ask at this beginning stage, is to compete. Whether that’s knowing the plays, knowing different implementation, or having yourself ready every day.”
  • Head coach interviews for the Knicks are heating up, according to the New York Post’s Marc Berman. Tom Thibodeau remains the leader in the clubhouse for the gig, though Jason Kidd is nipping at his heels following a strong second interview. Kenny Atkinson also remains in the running for the position. The team conducted at least 11 three-hour second interviews that wrapped up yesterday.
  • Second-year Sixers guard Shake Milton has taken over starting point guard duties in team practices, moving All-Star Ben Simmons to the power forward slot and big man Al Horford to the bench, the significance of which has been unpacked by The Athletic’s Derek Bodner. Horford, 34, signed a splashy four-year, $97MM contract (worth up to $109MM with incentives) in 2019 free agency, but has underwhelmed during his first season of that deal. “I think [Milton] has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can, and he’s been doing an amazing job just running the team,” All-Star center Joel Embiid said of the move.

 

Jock Landale Exploring Move To NBA

Former Saint Mary’s big man Jock Landale is actively exploring the possibility of landing an NBA job for the 2020/21 season, according to Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link).

Landale, who turned down NBA training camp invitations after going undrafted in 2018, joined KK Partizan in Serbia for the 2018/19 season, then spent this past year in Lithuania with Zalgiris Kaunas. In 25 EuroLeague games in ’19/20, the forward/center averaged 11.0 PPG and 4.4 RPG on .532/.302/.821 shooting in 20.6 minutes per contest.

Although Landale has yet to sign an NBA contract, he has been a fixture in the Summer Leagues over the last two years, playing for the Hawks in 2018 and the Bucks in 2019. In four games in Las Vegas last summer, he averaged 18.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG for Milwaukee. The 24-year-old was also part of the Australian squad that made the semifinals of the 2019 World Cup, earning a spot in the Tokyo Olympics.

With three months to go until the NBA’s free agency period begins, it remains to be seen if this is the right time for Landale to try to come stateside. But Urbonas suggests that Zalgiris is preparing for the possibility that the big man will opt out of his contract, which has one more year on it.

Nikola Jokic Reports To Nuggets, Clears Quarantine

After a delay involving a positive coronavirus test and various travel complications, center Nikola Jokic has reported to the Nuggets at the Walt Disney World campus and has cleared quarantine, the team announced today (via Twitter). Jokic had been in his home country of Serbia before arriving in Florida.

Although Jokic has gone through his two-day quarantine period, he hasn’t yet been cleared to participate in practice, according to Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports, who tweets that the big man is still waiting on results from “physical-type testing.” Jokic is watching the Nuggets’ Tuesday practice, Dempsey adds.

If the Nuggets – currently the No. 3 seed in the West – hope to make a deep playoff run, they’ll need Jokic at full health and full strength. The 25-year-old had been in the midst of another excellent season before the NBA went on hiatus, with averages of 20.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 6.9 APG to go along with a .528 FG% in 65 games (32.3 MPG).

Jokic had been one of several Nuggets players whose arrival at the Disney campus had been delayed. A Monday report indicated that Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Torrey Craig, and possibly Monte Morris aren’t there yet. However, there’s no indication that all of those players won’t eventually report and participate in the restart.

Michael Beasley Tests Positive For COVID-19, Leaves Campus

New Nets forward Michael Beasley has tested positive for the coronavirus and returned home, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Malika Andrews and Tim Bontemps of ESPN first reported that Beasley had left the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus.

Beasley, who signed with the Nets last Thursday, arrived at Disney shortly after the rest of the team got there last week. As Andrews and Bontemps note, GM Sean Marks told reporters that Beasley would require negative coronavirus tests for six days before he’d receive the go-ahead to join Brooklyn for practices. Presumably, the veteran forward didn’t clear quarantine before testing positive. Now his roster status is up in the air, per Charania.

No NBA team has a more decimated roster right now than the Nets, who are missing a total of seven players from their original squad. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Nicolas Claxton are sidelined with injuries, Wilson Chandler voluntarily opted out, and DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Taurean Prince have been ruled out following positive coronavirus tests.

Brooklyn has been able to sign substitute players to replace those four non-injured players, bringing aboard Jamal Crawford, Lance Thomas, Donta Hall, and Beasley. Now, however, the Nets may be the first club whose substitute player requires a substitute of his own.

Players who contract COVID-19 don’t have to be replaced, but Beasley had already been out of the NBA for over a year and now won’t be able to participate in the season’s ramp-up period before seeding games begin.

As such, it would make sense for Brooklyn to replace him, and Justin Anderson looks like the logical candidate to do so — he reportedly reached a deal with the Nets back in June and said during an appearance on the JWILLY Show (YouTube link) on Monday that he’s quarantining in an Orlando-area hotel as he prepares to officially sign his contract.

Nets Sign Lance Thomas As Substitute Player

3:03pm: The Nets have made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve signed Thomas as a substitute player.

There’s no word yet on how the deal will affect Anderson.

2:56pm: The Nets have finalized an agreement with free agent forward Lance Thomas, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). Begley first reported over the weekend that Thomas was nearing a deal with Brooklyn.

Thomas hasn’t appeared in an NBA game in 2019/20, having been waived by the Nets before the regular season began last fall. The 32-year-old previously appeared in 392 regular season contests over eight seasons with New Orleans, Oklahoma City, and New York, averaging 5.2 PPG and 2.6 RPG. He last suited up for the Knicks in ’18/19, recording 4.5 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 46 games (17.0 MPG).

Word of Thomas’ agreement with the Nets comes on the heels of Justin Anderson saying during an appearance on the JWILLY Show (YouTube link) that he’s quarantining in an Orlando-area hotel as he prepares to officially sign his contract with Brooklyn, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post relays.

The Nets are allowed to sign substitute players to replace their four players who have either opted out of the restart (Wilson Chandler) or been ruled out due to COVID-19 (Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince). So far, the team has officially signed three substitutes — Jamal Crawford, Michael Beasley, and Donta Hall.

While it’s possible that Brooklyn could sign both Thomas and Anderson, that would presumably mean a fifth player on the roster is being replaced. There has been no word yet that another Net has opted out or contracted the coronavirus, and the club has yet to formally announce the signing of either Thomas or Anderson, so we’ll await further updates.

Harrison Barnes Tested Positive For Coronavirus

Kings forward Harrison Barnes announced today (via Twitter) that he tested positive for COVID-19 before the team traveled to Walt Disney World last week and has yet to report to the NBA’s Florida campus as he awaits medical clearance.

“I’ve been primarily asymptomatic and am doing well,” Barnes wrote. “I’m quarantined and am abiding by the safety protocol until I’m cleared for action. I hope to join my team in Orlando when it is safe to do so!”

The NBA and NBPA announced on Monday that 19 players had tested positive for the coronavirus in their home markets since July 1. Presumably, Barnes was one of those 19 players. He’s at least the fourth Kings player known to have tested positive in the last month. Buddy Hield and Jabari Parker have since recovered and recently reported to Orlando, while Alex Len also contracted the virus in June.

So far, there’s no indication that the Kings intend to replace any of those affected players with substitute players. If Sacramento were to sign a substitute player, the player being replaced would become ineligible to play for the rest of the 2019/20 season.

Unlike teams who are already looking ahead of the postseason, the Kings will face some urgency to win games right away when their season resumes on July 31, since they’re four games out of the final playoff spot in the West. So if Barnes or any other player is affected by COVID-19 symptoms longer than anticipated, it’s possible Sacramento would consider making a move.

Pistons Notes: Tellem, Griffin, Wood, Patton

The Pistons are overhauling their front office this summer, hiring Troy Weaver as their new general manager and David Mincberg as an assistant GM, as former assistant GMs Malik Rose and Pat Garrity leave the organization.

Although Weaver is ostensibly atop the basketball operations hierarchy, basketball decisions figure to be something of a group effort. Senior advisor Ed Stefanski, who has served as the de facto head of basketball operations for the last two years, is still in the picture. And according to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, sources around the NBA believe that vice chairman Arn Tellem “still has a significant voice in front office matters.”

The changing landscape in Detroit makes it unclear whose voice will be the loudest if there’s any disagreement on which player to draft in the lottery this fall. However, Vecenie – who has the Pistons picking seventh in his latest mock – suggests that Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton would be a nice fit, since he’s versatile to play alongside either Luke Kennard or Derrick Rose, if one of the two is traded.

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • James L. Edwards III and John Hollinger of The Athletic examine the Pistons’ future, with Hollinger arguing there’s no urgency to trade Blake Griffin and suggesting that Detroit should be reluctant to re-sign Christian Wood if the cost is higher than about $15-16MM annually.
  • A first-round pick in 2017, Justin Patton has yet to enjoy much success at the NBA level, but the Pistons will give him a chance to earn a place on next year’s roster, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. While Patton is unlikely to replicate Wood’s success, Langlois points out that the signing of Patton is a low-risk, high-upside move not unlike last summer’s Wood waiver claim.
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press revisits Detroit’s pick of Kennard at No. 12 in the 2017 draft, noting that the sharpshooter has been one of the team’s more productive draft picks in recent years, even if Pistons fans would rather have one of the two players selected right after him (Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo).

Dispute Between NBA, NBPA Over Oladipo’s Salary

The NBA and NBPA disagree about how Victor Oladipo‘s remaining salary should be handled, assuming he doesn’t play for the Pacers this summer, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

As Windhorst notes, a player who voluntarily opts out of the NBA’s restart forfeits his game checks for this summer’s remaining contests (up to a maximum of 14 games). Conversely, a player who is unable to participate due to an injury will receive his remaining game checks.

Oladipo’s case falls into something of a grey area. He cited his health when announcing earlier this month that he had decided not to play this summer, and the Pacers haven’t signed a substitute player to replace him. However, he’s not technically considered an injured player since he had returned from his quad tendon injury well before the season was suspended in March. He has also since been cleared by both team and personal doctors to play this summer, sources tell Windhorst.

The players’ union believes that Oladipo should be paid his remaining salary, which works out to nearly $3MM. The league believes the All-Star guard is voluntarily opting out and shouldn’t be paid.

The NBA doesn’t want to set a precedent in case there are other players who decide to opt out despite being healthy enough to play. Oladipo’s public comments – in which he suggested he’s feeling healthy but wants to be cautious – have solidified the league’s position on the issue, Windhorst writes.

As we relayed on Monday evening, Oladipo may be reconsidering his decision to opt out of the restart, since he has felt good and faced no restrictions in practices. If he does suit up, he would – of course – receive the rest of his salary, rendering the dispute moot. If he doesn’t play, his remaining salary will be in jeopardy.

The Pacers, who want to retain Oladipo long-term and will look to avoid upsetting him at all ahead of his 2021 free agency, support the 28-year-old’s decision either way and are willing to pay him his salary whether or not he plays, sources tell ESPN.

While the NBA could defer to the Pacers and leave the decision up to them, that may also set a worrisome precedent, since other teams might not be as willing to pay players who opt out — especially if they’re not stars like Oladipo. I’d personally be surprised if Oladipo receives his remaining salary if he doesn’t participate in the restart, but we’ll have to wait and see how the situation plays out.