- After Spurs assistant Ettore Messina accepted a job running Olimpia Milano as their president and head coach, veteran guard Marco Belinelli was asked if he’d consider joining Messina in Italy, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Belinelli didn’t rule out the possibility down the road, but said he’d like to sign at least one more NBA contract after his deal with San Antonio expires in 2020.
Kawhi Leonard didn’t feel like discussing his upcoming free agency after leading the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship, but he did talk about trust, relays Sam Amick of The Athletic. Leonard completed a comeback story by being named NBA Finals MVP a year after being limited to nine games because of a quad injury. That led to a messy divorce with the Spurs, whose team doctors disagreed with the diagnosis of Leonard’s personal physicians.
“Last year, a lot of people were doubting me,” Leonard said. “They thought I was either faking an injury or didn’t want to play for a team. That was disappointing to go me that that was out in the media, because I love the game of basketball. Like I always say, if we’re not playing this game, if we’re hurt, I mean you’re down. So me just going through that, and I just knew that I would have to make myself happy and no one else. And I have to trust myself. And whatever, it doesn’t matter what anybody has to say about me. I know who I am as a person, I know how I feel, and always just trust yourself. And that was my goal and my focus. And that’s why one of the things that I take on the floor.”
There has been speculation about Leonard’s next move since he was traded to Toronto last July, and Amick acknowledges that originally that’s not where he wanted to go. There’s no guarantee that leading a team to a title will make Leonard interested in a longer relationship, but he now has a bond with the city and the organization that wasn’t there before.
“You bring a championship to this country, man – not just this city, but this country and this organization – within one year, that’s legendary type stuff,” longtime teammate Danny Green said.”Regardless of what he does, he did his job.”
There’s more this morning from Toronto:
- The Raptors will give Leonard and his representatives freedom to pick whatever contract length they want, ranging from one to five years, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Leonard is eligible for a five-year deal worth $189.7MM, but there have been rumors he might want a shorter commitment. Marks speculates that he may seek a three-year pact worth $106MM with a player option after the second year, putting him back into free agency in 2022 with 10 years of service.
- Marks believes the team should wait before giving an extension to Pascal Siakam, who will be eligible this offseason. A strong contender for Most Improved Player, Siakam would have just a $7MM cap hold next summer without an extension, roughly $22MM less than the first year of a max salary. If Leonard doesn’t re-sign, Toronto projects to have $69MM to $86MM in cap space available for 2020.
- The Raptors tried to sign the recently retired Channing Frye last summer, but he opted to stay with the Cavaliers because of his familiarity with the organization and a pledge from the front office to try to contend, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
The NBA continues to invite potential first-round picks to the Green Room for next Thursday’s draft, according to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who tweets that Nassir Little (UNC), Romeo Langford (Indiana), and Tyler Herro (Kentucky) were the next invitees after the initial nine-player group.
According to Givony (Twitter links), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga), PJ Washington (Kentucky) also received Green Room invites, as did international prospect Sekou Doumbouya. That brings us to 16 prospects who are expected to be in the Green Room on draft night, with four others still expected to be invited, per Givony.
Here are a few more draft-related updates:
- Within his latest mock draft, Jeremy Woo of SI.com cites league sources who say that both the Suns and Hawks are high on Texas Tech swingman Jarrett Culver. However, it’s possible that neither team will have a shot at him without trading up — Woo has Culver coming off the board at No. 5 to the Cavaliers in his mock.
- Croatian forward Luka Samanic has a busy workout schedule, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link), who adds the Warriors and Spurs to the list of teams Samanic has auditioned for. He also has workouts lined up with the Hawks and Bucks.
- UCF guard Aubrey Dawkins has worked out for the Celtics, Pelicans, Knicks, and Raptors, and still has the Mavericks, Rockets, and Hornets on his workout schedule, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic.
- Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com (Twitter links) provides a pair of updates on pre-draft workouts for prospects, reporting that Chris Silva (South Carolina) is working out for the Heat and Spurs, while Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s) worked out for the Cavaliers and Mavericks and has the Sixers and Rockets on tap.
11:09am: Olimpia Milano has made it official, announcing today in a press release that Messina has signed a three-year contract to serve as the club’s president of basketball operations and head coach.
8:01am: Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina has agreed to a deal with Italian club Olimpia Milano, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). According to Charania, Messina will run the team’s basketball operations and will become its new head coach.
Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reported on Monday that Messina had interviewed for that dual role with Olimpia Milano, the only Italian club in the EuroLeague, and was expected to make a decision on his future this week. Prior to Charania’s report, Carchia had indicated that Messina was leaning toward accepting Milano’s offer.
While the details of Messina’s new agreement aren’t known, Carchia classifies it is a multiyear deal and suggests that Olimpia Milano made the veteran coach a “rich” offer to lure him away from San Antonio. Messina will replace Milano head coach Simone Pianigiani on the sidelines, and is expected to name a new general manager soon, per Carchia.
A longtime head coach overseas for CKSA Moscow, Real Madrid, and other clubs, Messina joined the Spurs in 2014 as Gregg Popovich‘s lead assistant. He has received interest from multiple NBA teams as a head coaching candidate since then, interviewing with the Hornets, Bucks, and Raptors in 2018, and the Cavaliers in 2019. He also coached Italy’s national team from 2015-17.
With Messina’s imminent departure, the Spurs will have some holes to fill on Popovich’s coaching staff for the 2019/20 season. After James Borrego left for the Hornets last spring, Messina and Ime Udoka are departing this year — Udoka recently accepted a job as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
Assistants Will Hardy and Becky Hammon are in position to take on more prominent roles in San Antonio.
The typically drama-free Spurs underwent some turmoil during the 2018 offseason. Having lost faith in the team after the way his quad injury was handled, Kawhi Leonard – the superstar who was supposed to lead the organization into the post-Tim Duncan/Manu Ginobili/Tony Parker era – asked for a trade.
The Spurs, who don’t often make blockbuster deals, granted his request, sending the star forward to Toronto in a four-player trade that saw another All-Star (DeMar DeRozan) land in San Antonio. Gregg Popovich‘s squad didn’t miss a beat, winning 48 games and extending its NBA-best playoff streak to 22 consecutive seasons. But with Leonard no longer around, the Spurs’ path back to championship contention looks murkier.
Here are five key questions facing the franchise this summer:
1. Are the Spurs content to move forward with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the way?
As noted above, the Spurs generally don’t head into offseasons – or trade deadlines – looking to shake up their roster with deals involving core players. Assuming they continue to operate that way, we can probably count on seeing a 2019/20 team that looks pretty similar to the 2018/19 squad, with San Antonio aiming to take a step forward by betting on Dejounte Murray‘s return and improvements from young players like Derrick White and Lonnie Walker.
Still, while the Spurs looked great at times last season, it’s fair to question the upside of a roster led by DeRozan and Aldridge. They’ve each made multiple All-NBA teams and – even as they enter their age-30 and age-34 seasons, respectively – should continue to produce going forward. But their heavy reliance on mid-range shots is unusual by modern NBA standards, and creates an increased degree of difficulty in a league where the most efficient and successful clubs are leaning heavily on three-pointers, shots at the rim, and free throws.
DeRozan and Aldridge each have just one guaranteed year left on their contracts — DeRozan has a 2020/21 player option, while Aldridge has a partial guarantee for that season. In other words, there could be some uncertainty about their status beyond the ’19/20 campaign.
If the Spurs want to get out ahead of that uncertainty, they could consider the possibility of moving one of their stars. Popovich has never shown much interest in dealing with the Lakers, but I can’t help but think that they’d be a good trade partner for the Spurs if they miss out on other top targets. The Lakers made a run at Aldridge in 2015 and DeRozan is a Los Angeles native, while some of their young players could really blossom under Popovich.
Again, given what we know about the Spurs, the idea that they’d make a blockbuster deal for a second straight summer is unlikely, but it’s still a concept worth considering.
Israeli Yovel Zoosman, a 6’6” small forward, will keep his name in the draft, Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets. Zoosman plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv, which just advanced to the Israeli league playoff finals. Zoosman is ranked No. 53 on Givony’s Top 100 prospects list.
We have more draft decisions and workouts:
- German point guard Josh Obiesie will stay in the draft, according to another Givony tweet. Givony has Obiesie ranked No. 64 overall and No. 10 among point guard prospects.
- Forward Paul Eboua, Cameroon native, has withdrawn his name from the draft, according to Givony (Twitter link). He joins 11 other international players — Gytis Masiulis, Abdoulaye N’Doye, Digue Diawara, Aleksandr Balcerowski, Aleix Font, Zoran Paunovic, Dalibor Ilic, Louis Olinde, Jonas Matisseck, Tadas Sedekerskis and Vrenz Bleijenbergh — who have also decided to pull out of the draft. Matas Jogela, a Lithuanian forward, and William McDowell-White, an Australian guard, will remain in the draft, according to Givony (Twitter links).
- Mississippi State forward Aric Holman worked out for the Raptors on Monday, according to Ian Begley of SNY TV (Twitter link). He visited the Knicks last week and will work out for the Kings, Lakers and Cavaliers this week, Begley adds.
- First round prospect Tyler Herro (Kentucky) has worked out for the Spurs and will also visit the Pacers and Timberwolves, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets. Herro is ranked No. 18 overall and No. 4 among shooting guards by Givony.
Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina was in Italy this week with his agent for an interview, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. As Carchia details in a pair of reports, Italian club Olimpia Milano is interested in bringing Messina back to Europe.
The only Italian club that currently plays in the EuroLeague, Olimpia Milano is in the market for a new head of basketball operations and may name a new head coach as well, though Simone Pianigiani still holds the HC position for now. The team has interest in Messina for the dual role, per Carchia.
A longtime head coach overseas for CKSA Moscow, Real Madrid, and other clubs, Messina joined the Spurs in 2014 as an assistant. He has received interest from multiple NBA teams as a head coaching candidate since then, interviewing with the Hornets, Bucks, and Raptors in 2018.
Messina, who coached the Italian national team between 2015 and 2017, also served as the Spurs’ interim head coach for three games during the 2018 postseason following the death of Gregg Popovich‘s wife Erin.
According to Carchia, Messina is expected to make a decision this week on whether to join Milano or remain with the Spurs.
Former Michigan guard Charles Matthews suffered some bad luck with the 2019 NBA draft right around the corner, as agent Adam Pensack tells Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com that his client has a torn ACL. The injury occurred during a workout with the Celtics, Givony adds.
Matthews, who had been ranked as the No. 60 prospect on ESPN’s big board and was receiving second-round interest, will head to his hometown of Chicago to undergo surgery to repair the ACL. He hasn’t given up hope of being selected in next week’s draft.
“Injuries are tough, but Charles is an extremely hard worker and will be back stronger than ever,” Pensack told Givony. “He had a series of outstanding workouts lately and has helped himself. Charles will continue that momentum when he returns to action. As of now, we have interest in the second round as Charles is OK signing a two-way contract like Edmond Sumner did with the Indiana Pacers in 2017.”
Let’s round up a few more draft-related items…
- Bol Bol, who is recovering from a foot fracture, will hold an invite-only workout for select teams on Wednesday, according to Jeremy Woo and Jake Fischer of SI.com (Twitter link). Bol is one of the biggest wild cards in the draft for health-related reasons, so Wednesday’s session could have a major impact on where he’s selected.
- Kevin Porter Jr., a probable first-round pick, has worked out for the Nets, Spurs, and Hornets, and has sessions lined up with the Magic and Hawks, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Porter’s previously-reported upcoming workouts with the Heat and Wizards will take place on June 13 and June 17, respectively (Twitter links via Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald and Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington).
- With Monday’s withdrawal deadline looming, several international early entrants are pulling their names out of the 2019 draft pool. According to reports from Givony and Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas (all four Twitter links), the following players are withdrawing: Nikita Mikhailovskii (Russia), Arturs Zagars (Latvia), Henri Drell (France), Tadas Sedekerskis (Lithuania), Gytis Masiulis (Lithuania), and Arnas Velicka (Lithuania).
- Lithuanian early entrants Deividas Sirvydis and Matas Jogela intend to remain in the draft pool, sources tell Urbonas (Twitter link). According to Givony (all Twitter links), Sekou Doumbouya (France), Goga Bitadze (Georgia), Luka Samanic (Croatia), Adam Mokoka (France), and Marcos Louzada Silva (Brazil) will also stay in the draft.
Longtime NBA point guard Tony Parker has decided to retire from the NBA, he tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Parker, who had spoken in the past about wanting to play 20 seasons, will instead call it a career after spending 18 years in the NBA.
“I’m going to retire,” Parker told Spears. “I decided that I’m not going to play basketball anymore.”
Parker, the 28th overall pick in the 2001 draft, made his debut for the Spurs later that year and played in San Antonio for the next 17 seasons. During that stretch, he made six All-Star appearances and earned four All-NBA nods. He won four championships with the Spurs and was named the NBA Finals MVP in 2007.
Over the course of his career, which include with one season with the Hornets in 2018/19, Parker averaged 15.5 PPG and 5.6 APG in 1,254 regular season games (30.5 MPG). The Frenchman appeared in 226 postseason contests, averaging 17.9 PPG and 5.1 APG in those games.
Parker, who turned 37 years old in May, tells Spears that he feels like he’s physically capable of playing two more seasons in the NBA. However, he feels like the time is right to move on from his playing career.
“A lot of different stuff ultimately led me to this decision,” Parker said. “But, at the end of the day, I was like, if I can’t be Tony Parker anymore and I can’t play for a championship, I don’t want to play basketball anymore.”
While Parker moved on from the Spurs last summer, his retirement still represents the end of an era in San Antonio, where Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili also retired in recent years. The NBA has now lost three future Hall-of-Famers at the end of the 2018/19 season, with Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade also playing their final games.
According to Spears, Parker plans to continue living in San Antonio during his retirement, but will also spend time in France, where he’s the owner and president of French basketball club ASVEL. Spears’ article includes a lengthy Q&A with the veteran point guard, and is worth checking out in full.
Technically, Parker’s contract remains on the Hornets’ books for the 2019/20 season, but his $5.25MM salary is non-guaranteed. The club figures to release him at some point before his guarantee date on July 4.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Kevin Durant‘s return appears to be the only thing that can save the Warriors in the NBA Finals, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Golden State’s hopes for a three-peat are fragile as they head to Toronto with a 3-1 deficit. Injuries have hampered the Warriors throughout the playoffs, but the Raptors are the first team to fully take advantage.
There’s no guarantee Durant will return in time to make a difference and there’s not much evidence his condition has improved significantly since he suffered what was called a “mild” calf strain in the conference semifinals. Coach Steve Kerr told reporters last night that he will no longer provide daily updates on Durant’s condition.
“We’re hoping he can play Game 5 or 6,” Kerr said. “And everything in between I’ve decided I’m not sharing because it’s just gone haywire. There’s so much going on, and so it doesn’t make sense to continue to talk about it. He’s either going to play or he’s not.”
There’s more news on the two-time defending champs:
- Since the injury occurred, the Warriors haven’t put a timeline on Durant’s return other than to say they’re optimistic he will be back, notes Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News. Kerr is leaving all decisions to the medical staff, which has determined that Durant isn’t in condition to play. Medina observes that a mild calf strain would be considered Grade 1, which have a seven- to 10-day recovery time. It’s more likely Durant has a Grade 2 condition, which would sideline him for four to six weeks. He suffered the injury exactly a month ago.
- Medina identifies Rudy Gay and Brook Lopez as upcoming free agents who might be willing to take the Warriors’ $5.3MM taxpayer mid-level exception for next season. He adds that Golden State will re-sign Klay Thompson “for sure” and will take advantage of Kevon Looney‘s Bird Rights to keep him.
- Problems at center are among the reasons for the 3-1 deficit, contends Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports. He calls DeMarcus Cousins “a disaster” in Game 4, unable to keep up with the Raptors after returning from a first-round quad injury. Looney, playing with a costal cartilage fracture, didn’t contribute much after halftime, leaving 34-year-old Andrew Bogut as the best choice in the middle.