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NBA AM: Is Brook Lopez The Wrong Guy For The Nets?

Things are not going swimmingly in Brooklyn, could Brook Lopez be the wrong guy?… Spend your cap space now or save it for later?

Steve Kyler



The Wrong Man For The Job?:  Brooklyn Nets big man Brook Lopez isn’t logging the best season of his career. In fact, he’s posting the second fewest points and is shooting 48.2 percent from the field, the lowest of his career.

After three strong seasons, Lopez was catapulted into “best big man in the game” discussion and was generally thought to be a star on the rise. Then injuries set in.

Lopez missed most of the 2011-12 season due to a cracked bone in his foot. He was able to play 74 games in the 2012-13 season and posted solid numbers, but missed all but 17 games last season to the same foot injury that cost him in 2011-12.

As the Nets try and find their way this season, Lopez is logging the second fewest minutes per game of his career. He recently found himself on the bench in the fourth quarter as Nets head coach Lionel Hollins looked for better lineups.

“It’s the usual from game to game,” Lopez said to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “There’s different lineups in depending on who we play, so I think it is pretty standard at this point.”

Hollins, for his part, is still trying to figure things out with his big man, saying Lopez has to get better in a lot of aspects of the game, including trusting his teammates more.

“He can score,” Hollins said. “He needs to be better defensively, he needs to be better rebounding, he needs to be better passing the ball to his teammates.

“If you had been able to see practice today, you would’ve seen some really nice passes. It’s just being aware and trusting that your teammates are going to make plays, and understanding the game better.”

Lopez has the option to be a free agent in July, as the final year of his contract is a $16.7 million player option. That, combined with Hollins’ lack of faith in his big man late in games, has led many to wonder if Lopez could be traded this season before he has the option to walk away in July.

League sources say the Nets are exploring options on deals, but most of them involve disgruntled forward Andrei Kirilenko, and the idea of moving Lopez hasn’t been broached in a serious way, but it is the 800 pound elephant in the room.

Given the escalating salary cap and the large number of teams that are expected to have salary cap space in July, most believe Lopez will opt for free agency if he finishes the season strong. However, with how thing are going now and his injury history, he may not find a $16 million starting salary on the open market, but he may be able to trade the final $16.7 million left on his deal for a new $60 million package similar to what Washington’s Marcin Gortat signed this past summer.

The Nets are currently 5-8 on the season, but have lost seven of their last ten games. Lopez is still working his way back into form after so much time away from the game, so there is a chance things turn for the better not only for Brooklyn as a team, but for Lopez as well.

The problem with that kind of improvement is does it ensure that Lopez hits free agency? How will the Nets handle that?

The NBA trade deadline is February 19, so the Nets have plenty of time, but Lopez is clearly a player to keep an eye on.

»In Related: Who Are The Top NBA Draft Prospects For The 2015 NBA Draft?

Spend It Now, Or Spend It Later?:  A number of NBA teams will face an interesting problem this summer. Do they spend their cap money on what most believe is an average free agent class or do they stock pile the cap cash and wait for the free agent class of 2016 – which will likely feature Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and several other top-tier talents.

Projected 2015 Salary Cap Space

Franchise  Total Salary  Cap Room
 76ers  $24,573,570  $41,726,430
 Blazers  $36,867,556  $29,432,444
 Hawks  $43,725,161  $22,574,839
 Spurs  $43,836,362  $22,463,638
 Grizzlies  $44,543,338  $21,756,662
 Knicks  $46,483,289  $19,816,711
 Celtics  $46,666,312  $19,633,688
 Lakers  $47,002,668  $19,297,332
 Mavericks  $47,450,035  $18,849,965
 Raptors  $49,049,074  $17,250,926
 Pistons  $49,747,793  $16,552,207
 Magic  $52,494,216  $13,805,784
 Kings  $52,971,861  $13,328,139
 Pelicans  $56,233,596  $10,066,404
 Bucks  $58,018,984  $8,281,016
 Suns  $62,470,661  $3,829,339
 Rockets  $62,908,380  $3,391,620
 Jazz  $65,022,082  $1,277,918

Here are the current salary cap positions of every NBA team.

Based on the guaranteed contract dollars NBA teams are carrying now, there are as many as 18 teams that project to have some level of space under what is projected to be a $66.3 million salary cap next July. That number could go up slightly based on actual revenue from this season. NBA teams are updated on where the cap is expected to be and the last estimates pegged $66.3 million as the number. Those projections end up being fairly close when it’s all said and done.

While cap holds and option years will alter the exact amount each team will have to play with, there are several teams, potentially 11, that could have more than $15 million to spend.

So is it smarter to get what you can get now or wait for a bigger, splashier free agent class?

There are a few problems with waiting: There are absolutely no guarantees that any of the bigger name players will change teams and the salary cap in July of 2016 could go up massively because of the new media rights deal. Some are projecting a cap figure in the $80 million per team range. With things like maximum salary amounts tied to a percentage of the cap, major free agents could get massively more expensive in 2016 than this July.

A maximum contract for a player with less than six years in the NBA starts at 25 percent of the salary cap, while players with 6-9 years in the NBA are eligible for a starting salary worth 30 percent of the cap, with players with 10 or more years in the NBA eligible for a starting salary worth 35 percent of the cap.

Running those percentages against a $66.3 million estimated salary cap puts the first year of a max deal for players with six years or less in the NBA at $16.75 million. Players with 6-9 years in the NBA are eligible for first year of $19.89 million and players with 10 or more years in the NBA become eligible for a first year salary of $23.205 million.

Compare that to what is expected to be a potential $80 million cap figure in July of 2016 and those numbers escalate significantly.

Against an $80 million estimated salary cap, the first year of a max deal for players with six years or less in the NBA at $20 million. Players with 6-9 years in the NBA become eligible for first year of $24 million and players with 10 or more years in the NBA become eligible for a first year salary of $28 million.

So for teams pondering their free agency future, the talent pool for the 2015 free agent class might not have the same star power than the 2016 class has, but it will be significantly cheaper.

This isn’t a zero sum equation. Some of the teams with ample space could opt to buy a little from 2015, while keeping options open for 2016, so it isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition.

There are no guarantees in free agency in the NBA, but some teams will have a chance this summer to make some noise, if they choose to.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.


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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future

Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.

James Blancarte



On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.

Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.

Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with athe season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.

Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.

“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”

Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.

“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”

Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.

“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.

While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.

“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.

Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.

There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.

“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”

Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.

“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”

Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.

“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.

Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.

“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.

When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.

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Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers

Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.

Spencer Davies



The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.

The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.

With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.

Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:

“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.

“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.

“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”

There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.

Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.

Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.

Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.

LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.

“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.

“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”

The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.

The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.

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NBA Daily: Calderón’s Late NBA Start

Jose Calderón might be the only player in the league who didn’t grow up dreaming of playing in the NBA.

Joel Brigham



There are a lot of different ways to get to the NBA, but most of them involve lifelong scouting and an unceasing dream to play in the world’s premier basketball league.

Cleveland Cavaliers guard José Calderón didn’t really have either of those things.

“I never even thought of the NBA when I was a kid,” Calderón told Basketball Insiders. “I grew up in a small town in Spain, and I played basketball because my dad played and I loved it. I was having fun, always playing with the older guys because I was good at that age, but I never really even thought about playing any sort of professional basketball.”

Having grown up in Villanueva de la Serena, Spain, Calderón watched his father play for Doncel La Serena, which was his hometown team as a child. He was something of a prodigy, having attended practices and games with his father from a young age, and as burgeoning teenager he left home to play professionally for the lower-level Vitoria-Gasteiz team.

“They wanted to sign me at 13 years old, and we didn’t even know that they could sign people that young,” Calderón remembers. “So I did that, and I tried to get better. I tried to advance into the older clubs, but I never really did think about the NBA at all, honestly.”

That changed as he got older, though, especially after Spain finished 5th in the 2002 FIBA World Championship and Calderón started to get some stateside recognition.

“After that summer, [my agent and I] got a call from Milwaukee asking about my situation, and asked would I think about coming to play over here. It was sort of a let’s-see-what-happens sort of situation, but I couldn’t at that time because I was under contract. That was the first time I was really approached.”

As his teammates from the Spanish National Team made their way to the NBA, Calderón grew increasingly intrigued.

“Pau Gasol obviously opened a lot of doors for us,” he said. “Raul Lopez came, too. I was just playing basketball, though. I didn’t know anything about scouts. Later, when we started to get the calls from Toronto, I started to realize how possible it really was. That’s when I thought, ‘Hey, why not?’”

Despite being eligible for a few drafts in a row, Calderón never did get drafted, which was fine by him. Growing up the way he did, Calderón never had any dreams of his hearing his name called by Commissioner Stern, so playing his way through most of his deal with TAU Vitoria was no big deal for him. He could take or leave the NBA.

“Not getting drafted was the perfect situation for me,” he said. “In my satiation, coming from Europe, I was already playing professionally for a good team and making some good money. That was perfect for me at the time, and I was happy to be a free agent at 23, choosing where I was going to sign instead of going in the second round and having to play for one team.”

He signed with the Raptors in 2005 since they were the most aggressive in recruiting him to the NBA. As a 23-year-old rookie, he wasn’t overwhelmed physically the way a lot of rookies are, but he did find his new league challenging in other ways.

“The hardest part was just having to start over,” he said. “You start over from zero. It doesn’t matter if the other players know you or don’t, you have to prove yourself all over again. You could be the MVP of Europe, but to get respect in the NBA you have to gain it on the court.”

The talent differential was immediately noticeable, as well.

“There are so many guys out there that are better than you. It’s not just like a guy or two; there are six, seven guys on the floor any given time that are better than you.”

That meant making some changes in the way that Calderón played. He was asked to do a lot more offensively for his EuroLeague team. Playing with so many talented scorers completely changed his approach.

“I went from taking 20 shots a game to doing something else, and as a point guard in the NBA I had to approach that point guard role even more, to make those guys respect my game, to make them want to play with me. I had to be able to pass the ball, to do something different from all the other players, so I became a fast-first point guard to make sure we always played as a team. That’s how I get to where I am as a professional.”

Now 36 years old, Calderón is one of the league’s oldest players, making it easy for him to look back at where he came from to transform into the player he is today.

“I’ve grown so much, but I was lucky to be given the opportunity,” he said. “When you arrive from Europe, whether you’re good or bad, it doesn’t always matter if you don’t have the opportunity. Toronto gave me the opportunity to play 20 minutes a night, and that’s a lot. I made a lot of mistakes, but they let me play through those mistakes. All those little things added up for me, and I learned a lot.”

He owns two silver medals and a bronze in the three Olympics he’s participated in over the course of his career, as well as gold medals in FIBA World Cup and EuroBasket, but he’s never won an NBA championship. Joining up with LeBron James improves those odds, but that’s the thing that would really put an exclamation point on an excellent career.

Calderón could have stayed in Spain and been fine. He jokes that while the NBA has been very good to him, he and his family could have stayed in Europe and he could have made good money playing basketball there. He’s been happy with his career, though, however unorthodox his journey here, and he hopes his most prestigious accolades are yet to come.

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