Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy talks with CineSport’s Noah Coslov about the latest NBA rumors, including the future of Mark Jackson, Kyle Lowry and Lance Stephenson.
What’s Next for the Grizzlies?
The Memphis Grizzlies had a relatively disappointing season, losing in the first round of the playoffs after advancing to the Western Conference Finals in their 2012-13 campaign.
Memphis played very well in the second half of this year, which allowed them to make the playoffs as the West’s seventh seed despite getting off to a slow start this season. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder eliminated the Grizzlies over the weekend, after a hard fought seven-game series.
Now that Memphis’ offseason is here, what’s next for the team?
Next year’s Grizzlies team could look different, with a number of key players hitting free agency this summer. Zach Randolph has an early termination option in his contract that will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. Ed Davis will be a restricted free agent once Memphis extends a $4,361,788 qualifying offer. Role players such as Mike Miller, Beno Udrih and James Johnson will be unrestricted free agents as well.
Randolph, who will be 33 years old in July, will likely want to sign a new long-term deal. That means he’ll opt out of the final year of his contract, turning down $16,973,333 in the 2014-15 season for a chance to lock in what is likely the last big payday of his career.
Randolph has played extremely well during his five-year stint in Memphis, making the All-Star team twice and helping the Grizzlies become a competitive team in the West. Randolph and Marc Gasol formed one of the best frontcourts in the NBA, which is a big reason why no team wanted to run into Memphis in the postseason. Randolph averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds this season, while shooting 46.7 percent from the field, but his season came to a frustrating end as he was suspended for Game 7 against the Thunder after punching Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams in Game 6.
The veteran power forward will likely attract interest from a number of teams this summer, but he has made it clear that he wants to re-sign with the Grizzlies and finish his career in Memphis. Throughout the season, he said on a number of occasions that he wants to retire with the organization and he reiterated that once the Grizzlies were eliminated from the playoffs.
”This is where I want to be at,” Randolph told Yahoo! Sports. ”This is home for me. My kids go to school here. I bought a house, so Memphis is home. I’m not 21. I’m 32. But I’m still in my prime the way I play.”
”He knows he’s loved,” Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said. ”He knows he’s wanted here. We have a good relationship. A really, really good relationship. He was not difficult for me to coach at all. I really enjoyed coaching him. We’re really on the same page, so I hope we can continue that.”
Randolph’s teammates are hopeful that the big man will be back in Memphis next season. This is a close-knit group that feels like they can compete with any team in the league when they’re at full strength.
“He knows how I feel about him,” Marc Gasol told Fox Sports. “He knows how many battles we’ve been through. But at the end of the day, it’s his life. He has to do what he has to do. I haven’t talked to him about it. I just assume he’s going to be here.”
“He’s part of the reason why I came here,” Tony Allen said. “I don’t want him to go nowhere, but I’m pretty sure he left his mark. I’m pretty sure things will get done. Great brother to have in the locker room. He’s our leader and I wouldn’t want him to go anywhere.”
Joeger, Allen and Gasol all said that they would help recruit Randolph, but that may not be necessary since he seems happy in Memphis. At the end of the day, this will come down to money, but Randolph even admitted that it’s “possible” he’d take a Tim Duncan-type pay cut to re-sign with the team.
While it seems likely that Randolph will stay in Memphis, Davis’ future with the Grizzlies is up in the air. If Memphis brings Randolph back, they may be priced out of keeping Davis. As ESPN’s Marc Stein recently wrote, Davis and his agent Rob Pelinka should “be able to generate an offer sheet in free agency that comes in higher than Memphis was hoping to spend on the 24-year-old.” The Grizzlies can’t afford to spend a ton of money on a backup big man, so while they would love to keep Davis and do have the option to match any contract he receives, his offer sheet may be too big for Memphis to keep him. This isn’t an organization that can afford to spend a ton of money and be in the luxury tax.
As far as the future of Miller, Udrih and Johnson, it seems that re-signing Miller is the biggest priority of the three. The 34-year-old sharpshooter, who signed with the Grizzlies last offseason, gave Memphis a three-point threat who stretched the floor. He was a significant contributor this season, playing in every game and averaging 20+ minutes. He averaged 7.1 points, hitting 48.1 percent of his shots from the field and 45.9 percent of his three-pointers. There was the chance that Miller could retire after this season, but now it sounds like the 14-year veteran wants to continue his playing career.
”I do know after going through this year and the way I feel, I’ve got a lot of good basketball left,” Miller told Yahoo! Sports. ”So it’s going to be a decision I’m going to have to make to see how long I’m going to play.”
Miller signed for the veteran’s minimum last summer, but the Grizzlies had a lot of competition for his services. A lot of contenders reached out to Miller’s camp and tried to bring in the three-point specialist on a minimum deal, and the same thing will likely happen this summer. However, Miller did say that he believes Memphis could contend next season if the same nucleus is back, suggesting that he may remain with the Grizzlies for another year.
Udrih and Johnson could also be back with the Grizzlies, but those are two players who are easier to replace should they decide to leave. Both players signed with Memphis after the start of the season, with Udrih joining the team in February after being bought out by the New York Knicks and Johnson joining in December after being signed from the NBA Development League.
In addition to having some free agency options, the Grizzlies will have the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. This will be an important summer for Memphis and they’re certainly a team to keep an eye on over the next few months.
Free-Agent-To-Be Nowitzki “Not Going Anywhere”
This offseason, Dirk Nowitzki will become an unrestricted free agent, but it sounds like the 35-year-old will remain with the Dallas Mavericks – the only team he has played with throughout his 16-year career.
“Obviously, you know, Dirk’s not going anywhere,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told Mavs.com. “He’s built this franchise and he’s been with us since Day 1. Certainly, there’s a negotiation that’s going to take place, but he loves this city and he wants to call it his home. We certainly reciprocate those feelings, and our hope is that we’ll get something done that’s not only in Dirk’s best interest but also affects the flexibility of the future of the Mavericks.”
Nowitzki has talked about how he doesn’t want to compete for the eighth seed at this point in his career, as Dallas did this season, and how he wants to be on a championship contender. However, when discussing his upcoming free agency several months ago, he made it clear that he wants to remain in Dallas.
“Well, I think the first time I was a free agent was in 2010,” Nowitzki told NBA.com earlier this season. “Other than that, I always extended early. I didn’t even like it. I hated the unknown. Even listening to other teams, I just wasn’t interested. I wanted to be here. My heart’s here. I’ve been here for 16 years now. My family’s here, friends. I’d love to retire here. I think everybody knows that. So hopefully we compete my last couple of years, make the playoffs every year. I think that’s important. And just compete at the highest level. And then, slowly, riding into the sunset. It’s been a great ride here. I can’t even imagine wearing a different uniform. I don’t want to live in a different city. I can’t even imagine it.”
This season, Nowitzki averaged 21.7 points and 6.2 rebounds, while recording a 23.68 efficiency rating (12th-best in the NBA). Despite his age, Nowitzki remains a top player in the league and he’s just the sixth player in NBA history to score 26,000 points with one franchise, joining Karl Malone (Utah Jazz), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls), Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston Rockets) and John Havlicek (Boston Celtics).
The Mavericks added nine new players last offseason, including key pieces like Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. Now, this will be another big offseason for Dallas. The team has just $28,267,575 in guaranteed commitments for next season, so they can definitely be players in free agency this summer, especially if Nowitzki decides to take a pay cut as he has suggested in the past. The Mavs have rarely been mentioned as a possible suitor for top free agents like Carmelo Anthony and Luol Deng, but don’t be surprised if they’re in the mix for those players as they try to build a contender before Nowitzki’s Hall of Fame career comes to an end.
Five Things to Read
Here are five articles from Basketball Insiders that you have to check out this afternoon:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.