Nets Rumors

Thunder Sign Markieff Morris

FEBRUARY 20: The signing is official, the Thunder announced on their website. Morris will make $573,295 over the next four months and will have a $427,288 cap hit, Bobby Marks posts on ESPN Now. Between Morris’ salary and luxury tax penalties, the total cost to OKC will be $2.2MM.

FEBRUARY 14: The Thunder have reached a contract agreement with free agent forward Markieff Morris, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Even after signing Richard Solomon and Scotty Hopson to 10-day deals today, Oklahoma City has an open roster spot, so no corresponding move will be required.

Morris, 29, spent most of the season with the Wizards, averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG on .436/.333/.781 shooting in 34 games (26.0 MPG). However, conscious of their proximity to the luxury tax threshold, the Wizards opted to trade him at last week’s deadline, saving some money by sending him to New Orleans along with a future second-round pick for Wesley Johnson.

After being subsequently waived by the Pelicans, Morris – who had been recovering from a neck injury – was cleared to resume full basketball activities and reportedly drew interest from the Rockets, Raptors, and Lakers in addition to the Thunder. The Nets were among the other clubs in the mix for him, tweets Charania.

[RELATED: 2019 Buyout Market Watch]

Morris represents an intriguing addition for the Thunder, who had been on the lookout for a stretch four due to Patrick Patterson‘s inconsistent play. While Morris wasn’t exactly having a career year in Washington, he’ll be an upgrade on Patterson, assuming he’s healthy. He should also help replace the shooting previously provided by Alex Abrines, who parted ways with Oklahoma City last week.

It’s not clear whether or not the Thunder will sign Morris right away. Postponing the transaction until after the All-Star break would create some savings on OKC’s cap and projected tax bill, so if Morris is on board with it, the club may wait.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atkinson Offers No Timeline For Dinwiddie's Return

  • Spencer Dinwiddie, who continues to recover from a thumb injury of his own, still doesn’t have a set timeline for his return, according to Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post details, Atkinson wouldn’t confirm that he expects Dinwiddie back on the court for Brooklyn’s upcoming 17-day road trip, which begins on March 13.

Eastern Notes: Griffin, Turner, Kurucs

Blake Griffin, who is in year two of a five-year, $171MM deal, is enjoying a resurgence a year after he was traded to the Pistons, Noah Trister of The Associated Press writes. Griffin expanded his offense, adding the 3-pointer to his game, which is something he credits for his success this year.

“It helps a lot, especially in today’s NBA, with everybody spacing the floor a little bit more, and playing with a guy like Dre (Andre Drummond), who’s so effective inside,” Griffin said. “To be able to give him a little bit more space is a good thing. I always see guys working to expand their range, and when you do, you see them add years to their career.”

Griffin has already made a career-high 134 shots from behind the arc this season. Here’s more on the Pistons and a few other teams in the Eastern Conference:

  • Pistons coach Dwane Casey believes Griffin’s basketball I.Q. has helped the team stay in the playoff race, Trister relays in the same piece. “He’s thinking the game. He’s a couple steps ahead,” Casey said. “I’ve had a lot of great forwards, power forwards, and he’s right up there with the best, whether it’s [Dirk Nowitzki], [Kevin] Garnett, Detlef Schrempf — just a lot of great players that I’ve been around. He’s right in that category.”
  • Myles Turner, who signed a four-year, $72MM extension with the Pacers earlier this season, should be considered a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star contends. Turner is leading the league in blocks per game (2.7) and he has the league’s third-best defensive rating (99.6), giving him the credentials to be in the conversation for the award.
  • Michael Scotto of The Athletic examines how the Nets got a steal in the secon -round with Rodions Kurucs. Kurucs, who was the No. 40 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, has worked his way into Brooklyn’s starting lineup after beginning the season buried on the depth chart.

Marks Sees Brooklyn As Free Agent Destination

  • The Nets have made so much progress over the last three seasons under GM Sean Marks that they’re in play for top-level free agents, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Brooklyn has turned into a playoff-caliber team under Marks’ guidance. “Things surrounding the team probably look a lot more attractive to the outside,” Marks told Lewis. “We’re a more attractive destination. The young guys we know are going to be Nets for the foreseeable future, we’re proud of their development and that’s a pretty good foundation. People have taken notice and said, ‘Hey, I [could] play with that group.”

Community Shootaround: D’Angelo Russell’s Free Agency

Last July, Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell spoke about using the new five-year, $158MM extension signed by his good friend Devin Booker as “motivation” during the 2018/19 season. Seven months later, Russell has delivered on that promise, positioning himself for a huge payday of his own.

In the midst of a breakout season in Brooklyn, Russell is averaging career highs in PPG (20.3), APG (6.6), FG% (.436), and 3PT% (.372), among other categories. He earned a spot in the All-Star Game in Charlotte this past weekend, and has the Nets in position to make the postseason for the first time since 2015 — at 30-29, the club has already exceeded its win total from each of the last three seasons.

Russell, who will turn 23 years old this Saturday, is poised to hit free agency at the right time. Several teams around the NBA – including the Nets – have the flexibility to offer huge deals, and there are only so many star free agents available. For teams that miss out on the very best options like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving, Russell may look like a tantalizing Plan B.

While the idea that Russell is a maximum-salary candidate may seem surprising, there won’t be many elite point guards available once Irving signs. Russell is six years younger than Kemba Walker and has emerged as a far more intriguing option than Terry Rozier. For a club in need of a point guard – like Booker’s Suns – an aggressive bid on Russell makes a ton of sense.

Of course, Russell will be a restricted free agent, meaning the Nets will have the chance to match any offer he receives. The two sides could also negotiate directly, since Brooklyn is the only team eligible to give Russell five years instead of four. A five-year deal could be worth up to a projected $158MM, while a four-year deal would max out around $117MM.

[RELATED: Maximum Salary Projections for 2019/20]

If the Nets are focused on veteran free agents like Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Tobias Harris when July 1 arrives though, it could open the door for another team to swoop in and sign Russell to a player-friendly offer sheet (perhaps with big up-front payments and a trade kicker), forcing Brooklyn into a tough decision.

Given Sean Marks‘ history of pursuing other teams’ restricted free agents – such as Otto Porter, Allen Crabbe, and Tyler Johnson – and forcing those teams to match massive offer sheets, I expect there will be clubs out there looking to return the favor when Russell reaches restricted free agency. However, the ex-Laker has raved about his time in Brooklyn and may be happy to deal directly with the Nets rather than seeking out an offer sheet.

What do you think? Will Russell get a maximum-salary offer this summer? Will he sign directly with the Nets, or will Brooklyn be forced to decide whether to match another team’s offer? Would the Nets happily match a max offer? Do you expect Russell to ultimately remain in Brooklyn, or can you envision a scenario where he changes teams?

Head to the comment section below to make your predictions on Russell’s upcoming free agency.

Nets Notes: Russell, Kurucs, Musa, Marks

As Brian Lewis points out for The New York Post, Nets GM Sean Marks didn’t offer D’Angelo Russell a contract extension in October mainly because he wanted to see if the young point guard could prove himself to be a go-to option and leader. So far, so good on that end as Russell has stayed healthy this season and is averaging career highs of 20.3 points and 6.6 assists per game going into his first All-Star game appearance.

Russell has been the leading force on a Nets team that is surpassing expectations, having already won more games (30) than they did all of last season (28). Russell’s improvements have coincided with steady improvement from Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, and Spencer Dinwiddie, with veterans and rookies contributing in other spots as well.

The Nets will now look to build on their strong record and claim their first playoff spot since 2015, as Russell will look to lead the way and play his way into a big contract this summer.

There’s more on the Nets:

Atlantic Notes: Russell, Giannis, Knicks, Mudiay, Irving

For D’Angelo Russell, getting traded from the Lakers to the Nets in 2017 was a blessing in disguise. Russell has excelled with the team this season, leading the Nets in points, assists and minutes played through 59 games so far.

“I came here with open arms,” Russell said, as relayed by Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report. “I always knew I could do what I’m doing, it’s just all about opportunity in this league. For [Nets GM] Sean Marks and those guys to come get me and make it happen here, give me the opportunity to help myself thrive, I think it was more than necessary.”

Russell, who has held averages of 20.3 points, 6.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game in his first All-Star season, then went on to call the trade the “best thing that happened” in his career.

The Lakers, of course, moved Russell to Brooklyn as part of a salary dump that included the contract of Timofey Mozgov, and saw several of their young players featured in rumors around the trade deadline this month.

“I can’t imagine what they’re trying to block out,” Russell said, later adding, “if [the Lakers] didn’t let me go then, they were gonna let me go now, and I’d be going through what they’re going through. Best thing that happened in my career.”

Russell understood why the Lakers made the move, but immediately became motivated to lead a team in Brooklyn. The Nets now hold the sixth-best record in the East at 30-29, surprising many league observers and fans with their success.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Every NBA team except the Knicks scouted Giannis Antetokounmpo as a prospect in Greece, according to Greg Joyce of the New York Post. “Scouts started flying to Greece,” Antetokounmpo’s agent Giorgos Panou said. “Every day at practice, at games, executives, GMs, assistant coaches — every team came. Twenty-nine teams, except the Knicks, New York Knicks.” The Knicks have since refuted this claim, as relayed by ESPN’s Ian Begley (Twitter link).
  • Speaking of the Knicks, Emmanuel Mudiay is unsure of his current role with the team’s new rotation, Marc Berman writes for The Post. New York traded for starting point guard Dennis Smith Jr. earlier in the month, likely taking minutes away from Mudiay. “That’s out of my control,’’ Mudiay said. “That’s something you have to ask [coach] Fiz. I’m going to support my teammates.”
  • Celtics guard Kyrie Irving will be joined by team physical therapist Brian Dolan and personal trainer Robin Pound during the All-Star break in Charlotte, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes. Irving will continue rehab from a strained right knee suffered against the Clippers last Saturday, but his status for Sunday’s All-Star Game with Team LeBron has yet to be announced.

New York Notes: Nets, Knicks, Robinson

The Nets had a quiet trade deadline last week, making just one small move when they acquired a second-round pick by taking on Greg Monroe‘s contract and sending a little cash to Toronto. While Brooklyn is having its best season in years and is in position to make the playoffs, general manager Sean Marks isn’t concerned about not making any moves to upgrade the roster, as Tom Dowd of BrooklynNets.com writes.

“As it pertains to our particular trade deadline, maybe one of the biggest things was getting guys back healthy,” Marks said. “That might have been the biggest addition to our group without trying to cause too much disruption to the culture and to the group. Let’s see what we’ve got first and foremost.”

As Dowd relays, Marks said that the Nets are definitely “headed in the right direction.” However, he’s not going to let the club’s success this season change the long-term plans, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

“We’ll continue to be systematic and strategic along the way. Does that mean we pivot along the way here and there? Sure. We’ve had to do that in the last couple years,” Marks said. “But I would hope that we don’t skip a step as you mentioned before, that’s never been the goal here. Again, it’s always been about putting something sustainable there with a strong foundation.”

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • After waiving Monroe, the Nets were left with an open spot on their 15-man roster. Michael Scotto of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at options the team figures to consider for that opening.
  • Knicks head coach David Fizdale has talked throughout the season about sticking to the franchise’s long-term plan, but presumably that plan didn’t involve trading Kristaps Porzingis, writes Newsday’s Steve Popper. Nonetheless, Fizdale defended the move: “Well, you don’t have a choice. What’s your option? You’re going to lose him. So you’re going to sit there and not have nothing sitting there? Or do you want to have two picks, cap space and a heck of a point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., who’s in his second year?”
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post, pointing out that Fizdale said 10 days before the trade that Porzingis was “really engaged” with the team, calls out the head coach for not being willing to admit that the Knicks‘ plans went awry.
  • Ognjen Jaramaz, the 58th overall pick in the 2017 draft, has moved from Spain to Serbia, joining KK Partizan, agent Misko Raznatovic confirms (via Twitter). As Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports notes (via Twitter), Jaramaz’s NBA rights are held by the Knicks, though it’s not clear if he’s in the team’s long-term plans at all.
  • Rookie Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has changed agents again, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.com, who tweets that Robinson has signed with Dynasty Sports and will be repped by Mayar Zokaei.

Russell's Relationship With Atkinson Is Key To Success

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/8/19

Here are Friday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Nuggets briefly assigned Isaiah Thomas to the G League today before recalling him. We have the full story on that here.
  • Jarred Vanderbilt has been assigned to the NBAGL by the Nuggets, according to the official G League transaction log. Denver does not have its own G League affiliate, so Vanderbilt is spending time with the Delaware Blue Coats.
  • The Hornets have recalled Dwayne Bacon and Devonte’ Graham from the Greensboro Swarm, according to the team’s website. Bacon has had 10 assignments in the G League this season. Graham has had seven.
  • The Warriors have recalled Jacob Evans from their G League affiliate, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Evans has played 16 games with the Santa Cruz Warriors so far this season.
  • The Grizzlies have assigned Tyler Dorsey to the Memphis Hustle, per the team’s Twitter feed. The Hawks traded Dorsey to the Grizzlies at the trade deadline.