Spurs Rumors

Bulls Notes: Roster Turnover, LaVine, Markkanen, Ball

The Bulls were among the most active teams at the trade deadline, adding five new players to their roster, but so far the changes haven’t worked out the way they hoped, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports. Chicago has gone just 3-7 since then while playing a difficult schedule that featured nine road games and seven against playoff contenders.

“Every night we have one category I would say we don’t perform well,” said center Daniel Theis, who was one of the new additions. “One night it’s turnovers that cost us a game. (Sunday), we didn’t get to the line a lot. (Monday) we didn’t shoot the ball well from 3. Now we’ve got to put together a complete game. If we play defense like (Monday) and we make our shots, we’re gonna win games.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Before the Bulls hosted Orlando tonight, Magic coach Steve Clifford talked to his former center, Nikola Vucevic, about the adjustment to a new team, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “He’s getting comfortable here (with Chicago),” Clifford said. “I think it’ll be a great place for him. He’s very upbeat, very excited about his teammates … loves (Bulls coach) Billy (Donovan).”
  • The decision to trade for Vucevic was a way for the Bulls’ front office to show Zach LaVine that they’re serious about winning, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report. LaVine is expected to turn down an extension offer from Chicago and test the free agent market in 2022.
  • The addition of Vucevic has cut into Lauri Markkanen‘s playing time and there’s reason to question whether he’ll return next season, Blakely adds. Vucevic and Markkanen both excel as scorers, but haven’t been effective as a defensive combo. “In the right kind of system, Markkanen could be a really good player,” an Eastern Conference executive told Blakely. “I don’t know if Chicago is it; it’s certainly not it if they think him and Vucevic can play together.” The Spurs may make a strong effort to sign Markkanen this summer, according to Blakely.
  • The Knicks are eyeing Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball in free agency and their main competition could come from the Bulls, sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. Chicago was involved in trade talks regarding Ball at last month’s deadline.

Concerns Growing Over Injury Risks With Compressed Schedule

The tightened schedule the NBA adopted to squeeze 72 games into five months is being criticized amid an increase in injuries, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Holmes talked to several general managers and training staff officials who believe players are more at risk than ever.

The torn ACL suffered this week by Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is the latest example of a high-profile injury that could alter the course of a team’s season.

“Hands down, it’s the worst schedule I’ve seen in 25 years in the league,” a veteran assistant coach said. “It’s utterly insane.” Another called it “brutal,” while a head athletic trainer said the situation is worse than what teams experienced during the restart in Orlando last summer.

“Going into the bubble, we had all these different anxieties about the games, but without travel,” the trainer said. “This is literally exponentially more difficult. It’s such a cumulative effect.”

Data from the Elias Sports Bureau indicates that 2021 All-Stars have missed 15% of games this season, which would be the second-highest rate in league history. Several executives told Holmes that prior to the season, general managers voiced concerns over the schedule to the NBA office, including to commissioner Adam Silver, but the league was determined to complete the season in time to give players the chance to compete in the Summer Olympics, which will begin July 21.

An NBA spokesperson contends that through 50 games, the number of injuries is actually down from last season and is within the normal range for the past five years. The league took steps this year to cut down on travel, such as having teams play a two-game series at some stops and reducing the number of one-game road trips.

Complicating the schedule was the high number of games that were postponed during the first half of the season because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Those games are being made up in the second half, forcing some teams to play far more often than normal.

The Grizzlies, for example, play three games in four nights 22 times over the second half, although some of those overlap. Memphis also has eight instances of five games in seven days, which is the most in the league, followed by the Spurs with seven and the Pistons, Rockets and Mavericks with five each. The Heat went 51 games without more than one day of rest between games, which is the longest stretch since the lockout season in 2011/12.

The NBA is coming off a shortened offseason as some playoff teams played into October last year, then started the new season in December. Silver has expressed optimism that next season will start on time, so players will again have limited time to recover this summer. The NBA Finals could go last late as July 22, and Summer League in Las Vegas is expected to be held in August.

“This whole two-year period will have a marked long-term effect on players many years down the line,” a general manager said. “It’s like if your power goes out. You have to burn candles if you want light. If you burn them, you won’t have them the next time your power goes out. We are burning through the players right now at an alarming rate. But again, what’s the alternative? Twenty-five-man rosters? Fewer games? It’s not just a ‘league thing.’ It all required collaboration with the NBPA. It’s a shared responsibility, driven almost exclusively by the seduction of (money).”

Walker Dealt With Wrist Pain All Season

  • Spurs forward Lonnie Walker revealed that a wrist injury has nagged him throughout the season, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Walker missed nearly three weeks of action before returning this past weekend. “It was extremely frustrating,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with this hand/wrist injury for a few months prior to me sitting down. For me to sit down is probably one of the hardest things in the world for me to do.”

Dieng Dealing With Shoulder Injury

Big man Gorgui Dieng is dealing with a right shoulder injury that will nag him the rest of the season but he’ll play through the pain, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News. Dieng banged his shoulder into Kings forward Chimezie Metu while making his Spurs debut late last month. Dieng signed with San Antonio after getting bought out and waived by Memphis. “It’s going to hurt throughout the whole season, but from this point on it cannot get worse,” Dieng said.

Free Agency Notes: Cap Room, Kawhi, DeRozan, Paul

In an early look at the NBA’s 2021 free agent period, Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic write that three NBA teams – the Knicks, Thunder, and Spurs – project to have more than enough cap room for a maximum-salary contract this offseason, even if they were to win the draft lottery.

Besides those clubs, the Mavericks and Hornets should be among the clubs with the most space, according to Amick and Hollinger. The Athletic’s duo projects Dallas to be about $35MM below the cap if Josh Richardson opts out, while Charlotte will have about $26MM of room.

Other teams could create cap room, but that will hinge on one or two major roster decisions. For instance, the Raptors could get up to about $25MM in space, but not if they intend to re-sign Kyle Lowry. The Suns (Chris Paul) are in a similar position, with the Heat, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Hawks, Cavaliers, Bulls, and Pistons among the other teams whose cap space – or lack thereof – will depend on what happens with certain free agents.

Here’s more from Amick and Hollinger on 2021 free agency:

  • Although Kawhi Leonard projects to be the top free agent on the market this summer, team sources and rival executives widely expect him to re-sign with the Clippers, per The Athletic. It’s possible that could change if Los Angeles exits the postseason early, but there’s no indication at this point that Leonard’s free agency will be as dramatic as it was in 2019.
  • A source with knowledge of DeMar DeRozan‘s outlook tells The Athletic he’ll take a “wide open” approach to free agency. That doesn’t necessarily rule out a new deal with the Spurs, though a March report suggested DeRozan has interest in playing elsewhere next season and perhaps returning to the Eastern Conference.
  • Amick and Hollinger believe both DeRozan and Paul will keep Jrue Holiday‘s new four-year deal ($135MM guaranteed, $25MM in incentives) very much in mind when they negotiate their next contracts. However, it’s not a perfect comparable for either player, since Paul is five years older than Holiday and DeRozan isn’t the defender that Holiday is.

Johnson Discovering How To Weather Up-And-Down Play

  • Second-year Spurs wing Keldon Johnson is discovering how to navigate erratic output as he continues to hone his NBA game, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News“That’s just the NBA for you,” his teammate Derrick White said. “The league kind of figures you out, and you just got to make adjustments.” Even still, Johnson has increased his contributions on the floor for San Antonio. He has started 42 of his 44 contests with the Spurs this year, after starting just one game last season, and has seen his minutes and touches increase significantly.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Southwest Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southwest Division:

Justise Winslow, Grizzlies, 24, SF/PF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $39MM extension in 2019

The Grizzlies waited a long time to see what they had in Winslow after acquiring him from the Heat last February. The 25-year-old was injured when he was traded and never returned to action last season. During the summer restart in Orlando, he suffered a left hip displacement, which also caused him to miss the first 25 games this season.

Winslow appeared in 16 games off the bench since returning to action and hasn’t provided much punch, averaging 7.1 PPG and 4.8 RPG with a woeful PER of 5.28. He’s currently sidelined by a sore thigh. The team holds a $13MM option on his contract for next season and Winslow, whose career seemed to be taking off two seasons ago as a point forward, will be hunting for another fresh start this summer.

Gorgui Dieng, Spurs, 31, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1MM deal in 2021

The Grizzlies couldn’t find a trade for Dieng because his contract was too big but after he cleared waivers, he reportedly had at least eight teams interested in signing him. The Spurs, who had just reached a buyout with LaMarcus Aldridge, won him over with a recruiting pitch. Dieng’s popularity as a free agent last week bodes well for him this summer, though he’s currently sidelined by a sore shoulder. Minnesota overpaid him for him in 2017 (four-year, $62.8MM). Dieng’s next contract will probably be closer to veteran’s minimum numbers but he’s still valued as a quality second-unit big.

Boban Marjanovic, Mavericks, 32, C (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019

Boban still has enough star power to land a Goldfish cracker commercial. In another era, Marjanovic might have been one of the game’s biggest draws. Alas, there’s little use for a slow-footed 7’4’’ center the way the game is played today. Marjanovic can still dominate in spurts against certain opponents but those opportunities are few and far between. The gentle giant is always fun to watch when he gets a chance to play but he’s only seen spot duty in 22 games. Hopefully, Dallas or another team will give him at least a minimum deal this summer so he can make a few more commercials with his pal Tobias Harris.

Avery Bradley, Rockets, 30, PG, (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $11.6MM deal in 2020

Bradley started 44 games for the Lakers last season, then opted out of the restart and watched the team win the championship from afar. He declined a $5MM option to stay with the Lakers and signed a two-year deal with Miami to join its guard rotation. That didn’t go well, as Bradley has been injured most of the season. His salary was thrown into the Victor Oladipo trade and he now finds himself on one of the league’s worst teams. It’s hard to imagine that Houston will exercise its $5.9MM option on Bradley’s contract for next season, so he’ll be shopping his services again this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dieng Out At Least A Week With Sprained Shoulder?

  • Newly-signed Spurs center Gorgui Dieng sprained his shoulder during his San Antonio debut and will miss tonight’s contest against the Hawks, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. Head coach Gregg Popovich speculated that, while there was fortunately no structural damage to the shoulder, the big man will miss at least a week, per Orsborn (Twitter link). “I am just going to make a guess, which is probably not wise, but it’s pretty much going to be on pain tolerance,” Popovich said. “I think it’s going to be another good week before he is able to use that.”

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

A total of 46 players were traded on deadline day last Thursday, and more have been waived and signed since then, resulting in major roster upheaval around the NBA.

With the dust settling a little, it’s worth checking in on which teams across the league now have open roster spots, and which clubs will need to fill at least one of those openings soon in order to meet the minimum roster requirements.

Let’s dive in…


Teams with two open spots on their 15-man rosters:

  • Golden State Warriors
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Miami Heat
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks
  • Portland Trail Blazers
  • Toronto Raptors

The NBA allows team to carry fewer than 14 players on standard (or 10-day) contracts for up to two weeks at a time. So these clubs are allowed to have just 13 for now, but will soon need to add a 14th, either with a 10-day signing or a rest-of-season addition.

The Warriors, Heat, Trail Blazers, and Raptors all dipped below 14 players on deadline day (March 25), so they’ll all have until next Thursday (April 8) to get back up to the required roster minimum. The Knicks will have even longer, since they just waived Terrance Ferguson and Vincent Poirier on Sunday — they’ll have to add a 14th man by April 11.

The Pelicans and Clippers, meanwhile, reduced their roster counts to 13 players on March 20 and March 22, respectively, so they’ll need to make their moves sooner. New Orleans will have to add a player by this weekend at the latest, while the Clippers will do so by next Monday.

The Pels are right up against the luxury tax line, so they’ll likely sign someone to a 10-day contract. The Clippers have enough breathing room below their hard cap to complete a rest-of-season signing if they so choose.


Teams with one open spot on their 15-man rosters:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Orlando Magic

A report last Thursday indicated that the Pacers were signing Oshae Brissett, but they still have completed that 10-day deal, so they have an open roster spot for now. The Bucks technically have two open roster spots as of this writing, but are expected to sign Jeff Teague to fill one of them as soon as today.

The Lakers, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, and Magic all have 14 players on standard, rest-of-season contracts, with no obligation to fill their 15th spots anytime soon. The Cavaliers currently have 14th man Quinn Cook on a 10-day contract. When his deal expires on Wednesday night, the team will dip to 13 players and will have two weeks to re-add a 14th.


Teams with open two-way contract slots:

  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Portland Trail Blazers

The Thunder opened up one of their two-way slots when they promoted Moses Brown to the standard roster over the weekend. I’d expect them and the Timberwolves to be more interested in filling their open two-way spots than the Suns and Trail Blazers. Oklahoma City and Minnesota are lottery teams and could benefit from a look at one more young player, while Phoenix and Portland are playoff clubs that have shown no desire to add a second two-way player all season long.


Also worth mentioning:

  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Detroit Pistons
  • San Antonio Spurs

The Nets, Spurs, and Pistons currently have full 15-man rosters, but won’t for much longer, as all three teams have players on 10-day contracts. Alize Johnson‘s deal with Brooklyn runs through Wednesday, while Cameron Reynolds‘ with San Antonio runs through Sunday and Tyler Cook‘s with Detroit expires after next Tuesday.

Note: Our full roster count breakdown can be found right here.

Spurs Notes: Dieng, Walker, Aldridge, Samanic

While other bought-out veterans have joined the Lakers and Nets in pursuit of a championship, Gorgui Dieng opted to sign with the Spurs, the No. 7 seed in the West. Explaining his decision to join San Antonio, Dieng said he was won over by the team’s pitch to him.

“It was like college recruiting all over again,” Dieng said, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter links). “Everybody is going to talk to you and tell you why they want you to be on their team, and I felt comfortable with what I heard here.

“I like the team, I like the way they play. … They have a good system. The ball doesn’t stop. It moves around. They play together and they have a Hall-of-Fame coach that knows how to run his team. I am pretty excited to see what they are all about.”

It remains to see how much playing time Dieng will see with the Spurs, but he thinks he’ll be a good fit, given his ability to shoot threes and play defense. Dieng told reporters today that he’s willing to play whatever role coach Gregg Popovich envisions for him (Twitter link via Orsborn).

Here’s more on the Spurs:

  • Popovich said on Saturday that Lonnie Walker, who is currently sidelined with a sore right wrist, could miss “another week or so,” Orsborn writes for The San Antonio Express-News. Walker hasn’t played since last Monday.
  • Popovich wished veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge well following his agreement with the Nets, Orsborn notes in the same story. “He was a wonderful teammate, and he will do a very good job in Brooklyn,” Popovich said.
  • Since being drafted 19th overall in 2019, Luka Samanic has seen more action in the G League (39 games) than in the NBA (19 games), but the second-year power forward could be in line for an increased role down the stretch, says Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “He’s beginning to prove himself deserving of time,” Popovich said of Samanic, who averaged a double-double (21.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG) in six NBAGL games for the Austin Spurs last month.
  • In case you missed it earlier today, we relayed details on how much cash the Spurs received in the Marquese Chriss trade, the amount of Aldridge’s buyout, and Dieng’s rest-of-season salary.