The Best Of Who’s Left: For most teams, their players have started to filter into the practice facility started to play pick-up and get into a routine. A lot of rosters are fleshing out, and the amount of open spots for free agents is fairly slim.
There are a few notable free agents still on the market, and it’s looking less and less likely that they may land a spot before camps open. Here is the latest.
Bledsoe and his camp swung for the fences in restricted free agency demanding a max level contract from the Phoenix Suns and didn’t get one. To say the situation between Bledsoe and the Suns is strained is likely an understatement, but the Suns believe they’ll have Bledsoe in camp either after he signs his Qualifying Offer or if he finally caves and signs their four-year $48 million offer.
The word from Bledsoe’s side is that he is likely signing the Qualifying Offer and playing out his contract to get to unrestricted free agency next summer. However, there is no rush in doing that. As soon as he signs he is basically locked into Phoenix and that would remove any chance of a trade out of Phoenix.
His camp has gone to great lengths to play up the “unrepairable” rift between Bledsoe and the Suns; however the Suns don’t seem overly concerned with that story line.
Trades involving Bledsoe are not out of the question, it would ultimately come down to what Phoenix gets in return. The other part is there are not many teams out there that view Bledsoe as favorably as Phoenix does, especially not enough to offer more than four-years and $48 million.
If Bledsoe genuinely wants a bigger payday, he may have to play out the season to get it and it seems for now, that Phoenix is fine with that plan.
If Bledsoe does sign his Qualifying Offer, he will gain the ability to veto any trade, so he will have a lot more control over his future if he sign the Offer.
A couple of teams have been trying to secure Sessions before camp and word is he may be closing in on a deal.
The Houston Rockets had expressed a lot of interest in Sessions, but couldn’t get a deal done through Milwaukee. They ultimately agreed to a trade for Jason Terry instead.
A Sessions deal could be coming in the next few days, so he may be coming off the free agent board shortly.
Ray has no shortage of suitors. Virtually every potential contender in the NBA has been linked to Allen in one way or another.
Sources close to the process say he still remains non-committed to playing in the upcoming season and until he decides he wants to play pegging him to one team or another seems unrealistic.
It’s believed Ray may look to join a team into the season, and avoid training camp and the tedious exhibition schedule teams endure in October.
Ray is unlikely to command much more than the league minimum in a salary, so waiting a few months may be more valuable to Ray than signing and getting into camp.
Technically Alonzo isn’t a free agent yet, as the trade that will send him to Sacramento in exchange for Jason Terry can’t be consummated until after September 15. Once the deal goes through Gee is expected to be waived and while it’s possible a team picks up his $3 million non-guaranteed contract in the waiver process. It’s more likely that Alonzo hits free agency.
Word is Alonzo is great shape and ready to play, and will be looking for a chance to log minutes.
A team to keep an eye on is the LA Lakers. Gee had his best seasons in the NBA under head coach Byron Scott and the Lakers have a real need at the small forward spot.
The 6’6 Gee is a little undersized for the three height-wise, but has played some of his best basketball at the three spot.
Beasley continues to be one of the last kids standing on the playground. The LA Lakers have taken a long look at Beasley, but it’s looking more and more likely that Beasley may not get signed.
The word from Beasley’s camp is that he has really put in some solid work this summer and is simply looking for a chance to play. Beasley is still being paid by the Phoenix Suns by virtue of a buyout, so it’s more about fit for Beasley than anything.
His camp understands that if he lands somewhere and flames out, that his career in the NBA may be finished, so there is some deliberateness to the process.
It is very possible that Beasley is not on a roster when camp opens, and looks for opportunities as the season progresses and injuries start to mount.
As things stand today a deal with the Lakers is still possible, it just does not seem likely.
Blatche is arguably the best unrestricted free agent left on the board. However, his name isn’t connected with anyone.
Blatche played well in the World Cup, so it’s possible he lands an international deal if a NBA job doesn’t open up.
Like Beasley, Blatche is still being paid by the Washington Wizards who amnestied him with several years left on his deal. Blatche will be paid $8.4 million by Washington this season, so there is no urgency for him to agree to something that doesn’t make sense for him.
It’s possible that Blatche opens the season as a free agent and sign somewhere after an injury.
The Brooklyn Nets still have a cap hold and rights to Blatche, so a return to Brooklyn isn’t a stretch either.
Okafor might be the most proven center on the board, however he is still rehabbing from a disc injury that claimed his season last year.
Word is Okafor has made a ton of progress, but isn’t ready physically for training camp. He is expected to explore options in January once he’s a little further down the road.
Okafor is unlikely to be in camp with anyone, but it does seem like he wants to play this season, the question is which team lands him and how much will he cost?
NBA teams that will play exhibition games aboard will open Training Camps on the September 27. The rest of the league will open camps on September 29 with media days and orientation.
Silver Comments On Atlanta Mess: The Atlanta Hawks are trying to dig out from under a series of scathing and damaging stories that started with an e-mail in 2012 from majority owner Bruce Levenson, which re-surfaced after comments from GM Danny Ferry sparked an internal investigation and review over racially charged comments made during a phone briefing with minority owners.
As the details of the events have become public, the looming question is would Ferry be fired by the Hawks, and while all indications are that he won’t be. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver put his two cents in, making public comments for the first time since this story surfaced; saying that he didn’t think the situation warranted Ferry being fired.
“The discipline of a team employee is typically determined by the team, and in this case the Hawks hired a prestigious Atlanta law firm to investigate the circumstances of Danny Ferry’s clearly inappropriate and unacceptable remarks,” Silver said to Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. “In my view, those comments, taken alone, do not merit his losing his job.
“It’s a question of context … These words, in this context, understanding the full story here, the existence of the scouting report, the fact that he was looking at the scouting report as a reference when he was making these remarks, what I’m saying is – and frankly my opinion — is that this is a team decision in terms of what the appropriate discipline is for their employee. But if I’m being asked my view, I’m saying that, based on what I know about the circumstances, I don’t think it’s a terminable offense.”
Levenson’s share of the Hawks is up for sale, and it’s believed the team will command a sale price north of $700 million.
League sources say there seems to be a desire for the entire franchise to be sold given the rocky and tumultuous history the current ownership group has, however it’s unclear if the current minority owners would be forced to sell their stake if they cannot buyout Levenson on their own.
There have been reports that former Hawks star Dominque Wilkins is involved with a group trying to buy the team, there is also talk that another New York based investment banker is eying the club as well.
Hawks CEO Steve Koonin has said he’s heard from almost a half-dozen billionaires when the news of the franchise being available surfaced, so there does not appear to be any shortage of interested buyers.
The Hawks have a fairly iron clad arena lease that runs through the 2017-2018 season.
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Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close
Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.
Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.
You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?
Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.
With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?
Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.
For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?
I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.
Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.
I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.
Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?
Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.
Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?
I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.
Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?
Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.
Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.
Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?
Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.
Would you welcome that rematch?
I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.
What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?
Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.
NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense
The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.
“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].
“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.
“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”
Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.
“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”
Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.
According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.
The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.
“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”
Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.
“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”
Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.
“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”
While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.
“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.
The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics
The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.
Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.
Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.
Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.
As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.
Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.
Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by Celtics.com.
“I’m tired of not playing.”
Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.
As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.
What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.
Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.
Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.
Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.
In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.
Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.
With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.
As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.
But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.
And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.