Posts Tagged ‘Al Jefferson’

Morning Shootaround — Nov. 11


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Nov. 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Nash injures back in loss to Wolves | Woodson rips Knicks’ effort vs. Spurs | Jefferson may return tonight for Bobcats | Adelman cautiously uses advanced stats

No. 1: Nash leaves game with back pain, will see doctor — Through eight games this season, the Lakers find themselves at 3-5 after getting off to a 2-2 start. Point guard Steve Nash has played in only six of those games this season as the Lakers and coach Mike D’Antoni have attempted to keep the point guard as fresh as possible by resting him in the second night of back-to-back games, a plan devised by D’Antoni. But as Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports, Nash suffered a back injury during last night’s loss to the Wolves and will see a specialist soon:

Steve Nash exited the Los Angeles Lakers’ 113-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves early on Sunday night because of back pain and will visit Dr. Robert Watkins, a back specialist, on Monday for evaluation.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni pulled Nash from the game with 1:42 remaining in the second quarter and the point guard did not return, finishing with two points and three assists in 13 minutes.

“It’s tough,” Nash said after the game. “I hesitate to even talk about it now because it’s probably not a good time. I’m a little emotional. It’s hard. I really want to play and I really want to play the way I am accustomed to playing. To be so limited is frustrating and also to not know where kind of a cleanish bill of health is [coming] is a little daunting, too.”

The two-time league MVP told reporters last week he is still struggling with nerve issues stemming from the broken left leg he suffered last season that caused him to miss 32 games.

“I still feel that almost every day all over,” Nash said of the nerve discomfort. “It’s not just in that spot [in his left leg]. It’s like the nerve system and nerve roots are on guard. So the whole system in a way is different now. It’s just a little more sensitive, and you face different things because of it. So, freaky, freaky thing, but I can’t complain. I’m still playing basketball and I’m still effective and I can get better physically and my game will come around the more I play.”

Nash detailed his injuries after the game on Sunday.

“I have, obviously, back issues,” Nash said. “It’s nerves coming from my back. You could call it the back, you could call it the nerves. I’m getting the pain in the hamstring. … It’s basically the same thing from the end of last year.”

Nash missed the Lakers’ final two playoff games in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs last season, unable to play despite receiving three epidural injections in his right hamstring in the span of a week to try to get back on the court.

“I’m trying to play through it but at the same time be smart and try to overcome what I can and see,” said Nash, who added that the same issues had been bothering him for the last several weeks. “But it’s taken a bit of a turn for the worse.”


VIDEO: Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni on loss, Nash’s injury

***

No. 2: Woodson, Anthony rip Knicks’ effort vs. Spurs — The Knicks got J.R. Smith back in the lineup yesterday after he served his NBA-mandated five-game suspension for a substance abuse policy violation, but not even his return to spark New York to a win. The Spurs took care of business against the Knicks in Sunday’s matinee, ripping New York by 31 points, which drew the ire of coach Mike Woodson and star forward Carmelo Anthony, writes ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley:

“We didn’t compete tonight. That’s just unacceptable,” Woodson said. “Right from the start, we let our offense, shots that we missed, dictate how we defended on the other end.”

The Knicks fell behind 10-0 to start the game and trailed by as many as 18 in the first quarter. They heard boos throughout the game from the sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd.

After the game, Woodson was asked if the Knicks showed any pride in the second half as the Spurs’ lead ballooned to 37 points.

“No. No. Not at all. It’s something that will be addressed [in Monday's practice]. It’s just unacceptable,” the coach said. “It’s my job to push them through it and try to get them over the hump. I know we’re a better team than what we’ve shown.”

Carmelo Anthony agreed with his coach’s assertion.

“It was embarrassing for us to come here on our home court and lose a game like this,” said Anthony, who scored 16 points on 10 shots and sat for most of the fourth quarter. “It wasn’t about losing a game. It was just how we lost the game. We didn’t compete today, and it showed out there on the court.”

The loss was one of the worst in Woodson’s 112-game tenure and continued a nightmare start to the season for the Knicks.


VIDEO: Mike Woodson says Knicks ‘didn’t compete’ vs. Spurs

***

No. 3: Bobcats get Clifford back in practice; Jefferson to return soon? — Last Thursday night, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford began experiencing chest pains that ultimately led to him missing Charlotte’s game against New York so that he could have two stents placed in his heart. Clifford has been given the medical OK to coach tonight’s game against the Hawks (7 ET, League Pass) and while he’ll be back on the job, the Bobcats may also get starting center Al Jefferson back tonight, too. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on Charlotte’s news:

Coach Steve Clifford was at practice Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena, two days after two stents were inserted into his heart to guard against blockages. Clifford felt chest pain Thursday night and was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital.

Meanwhile center Al Jefferson, who played in the season-opener against the Houston Rockets, then missed the next five games, returned to practice for the first time since re-injuring his right ankle.

Clifford said he’s “hopeful” Jefferson can play against the Hawks, but that won’t be determined until they see how his ankle responds Monday to a full practice.

Clifford is in a dramatically better position than he was Thursday night, when the chest pains started. A first-time NBA head coach, Clifford said there is a history of coronary disease in his family.

“I was lucky. It was a warning sign and I’ve since been educated that a lot of people who have strokes or heart attacks don’t get warning signs,” Clifford said. “Also fortunate I had great doctors. They have a good plan for me, and I’m going to follow it and get better quickly.”

Clifford will have shorter workdays, at least for the next week. He can coach games and travel, but doctors want him resting most of the time in-between.

Jefferson sprained his right ankle in the second preseason game against the Miami Heat. He played in the season-opener, then was stiff and sore enough that he couldn’t play the second regular-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over a week later, he said it’s now primarily a bone bruise along his ankle that is the issue.

Jefferson played one-on-one games the three days leading up to Sunday’s practice to test the injury. He said he felt out of game shape,but has done enough workouts on a stationary bike that he should recover full game shape in about a week.

A key free-agent acquisition – he signed a three-year, $41 million contract in July –  Jefferson is wary of another setback.

“I don’t want to play one game, then sit out another two weeks,” Jefferson said. “When I come back, I want to come back to stay.”

***

No. 4: Adelman cautiously embraces new-wave stats — Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman is no stranger to the the new-wave stats revolution that has swept up the NBA. He was coach of the Houston Rockets from 2008-11, which coincided with the rise of the team’s GM, Daryl Morey, and his advocacy of advanced stats. Though thought to be an old-school coaching type, Adelman isn’t so gruff that he can’t see the value in advanced stats, but he’s taking a careful view of them nonetheless, writes Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com:

Speaking before his team took on the Lakers Sunday night, he talked about the biggest challenge for a lot of coaches dealing with this — how to get the information from stats across to the players in a meaningful way.

“Maybe I’m just old fashioned or whatever, but when they give us stats and everything like that I kind of know what’s coming,” Adelman said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve observed it, I may not know all the reasons, and they give you very good input, but I think it’s knowing what you run offensively, knowing what your tendencies are, those things all help…

“I think in the playoffs it gives you a bigger factor, because we play so many games in a week you know can have stats one game after another. So you pick and choose what you show players, you pick and choose how to reach them, and I think changes from week to week.”

Adelman in the end said what most coaches and scouts say about the stats — they’re a nice tool, but just another tool.

“There’s so much out there now, we had a ton of it in Houston when we were there, I think all that stuff is a tool that you can use to be better to help your players be better, but that’s what it is,” Adelman said. “You still have to play the game out on the court.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gives the Warriors a big vote of approval … The Lakers’ bench crew is the best in the leagueMarkieff Morris and the Suns continue to sizzle out West

ICYMI Of The Night: Suns coach Jeff Hornacek is showing faith in Gerald Green early in the season, who has played at least 25 minutes in each of Phoenix’s last five games. Green is responding with some great play, including this amazing jam last night against the Pelicans …


VIDEO: Gerald Green shows off his tremendous ups vs. New Orleans

Improved ‘D’ Fuels Quick Start For Bobcats, Suns And Magic

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It’s early.

But the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t the only surprise team of the 2013-14 season’s first 10 days. The Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns – three teams projected by most to finish in the in the bottom five of the league – are all 3-2 entering Friday’s 12-game slate.

When we look at these three rosters, we see a lack of talent. And from that we can predict that they will struggle offensively. But team defense is another story, especially when you have a new coach, like in Charlotte and Phoenix. Organization and energy on defense can help teams with limited talent overachieve. And defense is the common theme in the early success of these three squads, though one of the three has been much more successful on that end of the floor.

Again, it’s early.

But the Magic, Suns and Bobcats rank third, eighth and 13th in defensive efficiency, respectively. And they all rank among the six most improved defensive teams from last season.

Here’s a closer look…

Charlotte

DefRtg: 100.4 (13th)
Improvement: -8.6 (6th)

The Bobcats’ wins have come against the Cavs, Knicks and Raptors, by a total of 13 points. So just like last year’s 7-5 start, there’s a fool’s gold element here.

In only one of their five games – the win over Cleveland – have they held their opponent under a point per possession. And the Cavs currently rank 29th in offensive efficiency. Bobcats opponents have been a hair less efficient (100.3 points scored per 100 possessions) in their 20 games not against Charlotte.

That doesn’t mean that the future Hornets don’t have anything to feel positive about. They had a hobbled Al Jefferson for just their first game and scored 107 points per 100 possessions over their last two wins. Once they add a healthy Jefferson to their Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions pick-and-rolls, the offense should be even better.

And long term, the Cats will be more organized defensively under Steve Clifford than they were under Mike Dunlap. The early defensive numbers are a little inflated though.

Phoenix

DefRtg: 96.4 (8th)
Improvement: -9.3 (5th)

The Suns have beaten Portland, Utah and New Orleans by a total of 22 points. And they also hung in with the Thunder and Spurs on the road. Their opponents have scored 100.0 points per 100 possessions in their 18 games not against Phoenix.

The Suns had the worst 3-point defense in the league last season and were particularly bad at defending the arc (41.5 percent) with Michael Beasley on the floor. There’s definitely an addition-by-subtraction element here.

They’ve also improved quite a bit on the glass, ranking 11th in defensive rebounding percentage (74.8 percent) after ranking 23rd (71.9 percent) last season. More playing time for the Morris twins has helped in that regard. The Suns have grabbed 75.4 percent of available defensive boards and allowed just 90.6 points per 100 possessions in 148 minutes with one of the two twins on the floor.

Time will tell if Jeff Hornacek‘s defense will continue to hold up, but the signs are good so far. They host the Nuggets and Pelicans this weekend and could face their toughest defensive test on Wednesday, when they visit the Blazers, who currently rank sixth offensively.

Orlando

DefRtg: 94.8 (3rd)
Improvement: -11.9 (1st)

Of the three teams, it’s the Magic who have looked most legit, with wins over the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers by a total of 49 points.

Last season, the Magic defense was strong early in the season, but collapsed after Glen Davis got hurt. So the prospects of them being a decent defensive team while Davis was still recovering from foot surgery were not good. But here they are at No. 3 in the league, having held the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers under 90 points per 100 possessions.

Both Brooklyn and L.A. spoke about a lack of effort in their games in Orlando. The Nets were probably feeling themselves after last Friday’s win over the Heat, and the Clippers were maybe looking forward to their own game against the champs.

But Orlando’s defensive numbers are pretty darn impressive anyway. The Pelicans, Nets and Clippers scored a combined 89.5 points per 100 possessions against Orlando, compared to 108.0 in their other 12 games. L.A. currently ranks No. 1 in the league offensively.

Orlando opponents OffRtg

Team vs. ORL Other games Diff.
Indiana 101.0 99.4 +1.6
Minnesota 103.5 94.1 +9.4
New Orleans 91.4 103.7 -12.2
Brooklyn 89.0 102.5 -13.4
L.A. Clippers 88.0 114.5 -26.4
TOTAL 94.8 103.4 -8.5

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

The Magic are forcing 1.2 more turnovers per 100 possessions than they did last season, but the early improvement has been mostly about shot defense. And there’s multiple elements to that.

They’re defending the rim better, defending the 3-point line better, and allowing less of those high-efficiency shots. Only 48.1 percent of their opponents’ shots have come from the restricted area or from 3-point range, the second-lowest rate in the league. Last season, that number was 56.7 percent, the 14th lowest rate in the league.

Of Brooklyn’s 89 shots in Orlando last Sunday, 50 came from between the restricted area and the 3-point line. On Wednesday, it was 55 of the Clippers’ 95 shots.

The Magic had a multiple-prong game plan against the Clips, and it worked. First, they sagged deep on Chris Paul‘s pick-and-rolls.

20131106_paul_sag

Paul stepped into some easy elbow jumpers, but the sagging strategy prevented him from getting past the Magic big men and really compromising the Orlando D.

Second, they dared Blake Griffin to shoot from mid-range.

20131106_griffin_space

Griffin was 3-for-13 from outside the paint before that game, but shot an impressive 7-for-13 from mid-range on Wednesday. Still, he got just three shots at the rim.

Finally, the Magic cross-matched in the backcourt, assigning Jameer Nelson to defend his old teammate J.J. Redick. And Nelson did a fantastic job of running Redick off the 3-point line. Here are a couple of examples…


Redick is a great shooter from everywhere, but three is greater than two, so if you can force him into more mid-range shots than threes, you’re doing your job. On Wednesday, Redick was 1-for-5 from 3-point range and 3-for-8 from mid-range.

One more time: It’s early. But an ability to execute a defensive game plan against a great offensive team like that early in the season is a good sign for the Magic defense.

Jordan Calls Pera Challenge ‘Comical’





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan offered an appropriate response for a laughable challenge from Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera, who wanted to challenge arguably the greatest player of all-time to a game of one-on-one for charity.

Jordan dismissed Pera’s Twitter antics by laughing at his fellow owner.

“I think that’s comical,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer. “It didn’t make any sense. Why would I play one one-on-one? It’s a no-win situation for me no matter what.”

Pera issued his challenge Monday night, accompanied by a video (above) showing off his on-court prowess:

Jordan let it simmer for a while before brushing Pera aside. Pera’s intentions were most noble, he was trying to raise $1 million for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Trying to do it at the expense of a fellow owner who also happens to be a Hall of Fame player and considered by many the greatest player in NBA history, didn’t win him any points with Jordan’s legion of fans and admirers.

Jordan’s response was certainly appropriate. He didn’t take the bait from Pera, who at 35 is 15 years younger than Jordan. He didn’t allow himself to be distracted from his most pressing concerns, which revolve around reviving a Bobcats franchise that is breaking in yet another new coach, Steve Clifford, and several new faces, including veteran big man Al Jefferson and rookie 7-footer Cody Zeller.

Jordan told the Observer that he is pleased with the progress he’s seen on all fronts:

“I’m so happy about Steve. He’s a very professional guy. Professional in a way that the players can respond. He’s worked with some very good programs. I’ve watched him with the players. He has the right patience and rapport – he knows how to position himself with the players.

“That’s a big move for us because no matter how we spend on players, it starts with the coach. I’m not putting down (predecessor) Mike Dunlap. He had some of the same qualities.”

On Jefferson:

“Jefferson is a great addition. He’s been asked to be a leader on the basketball court. He’s never been asked to do that before. But he has some credence with our guys and I think they’ll respond.”

On Zeller:

“I love Zeller. To me, he’s a connector like (Josh) McRoberts, only more talented. He’ll make teammates better. He’s not flashy in what he does, but he’ll be a really solid player for us.”


If Pera wants a challenge he might be able to win, he’d should ask his Grizzlies to challenge Jordan’s Bobcats. But owner-on-owner, he’s a major underdog any way you slice it. (Here are a couple of reminders for you Mr. Pera!):




One Team, One Stat: Utah’s Young Bigs Bring The D

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Utah Jazz, who are going with the youth movement.

The basics
UTA Rank
W-L 43-39 15
Pace 93.4 20
OffRtg 103.6 12
DefRtg 104.3 21
NetRtg -0.7 17

The stat

98.3 - Points per 100 possessions that the Jazz defense allowed with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor together.

The context

That’s 9.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than the Jazz allowed with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on the floor together. The Jazz were basically a top-five defense with the two young bigs on the floor and a bottom-five defense with the two vets.

Overall, the Jazz ranked 21st defensively, because Jefferson and Millsap played a lot more minutes together. Their offense was good enough to make the playoffs, but their D held them back.

It’s a give-and-take with Jefferson, who is a talented interior scorer, but a defensive liability. In his last six seasons (three in Minnesota and three in Utah), his teams ranked 27th, 27th, 28th, 24th, 20th and 21st defensively. And it would be hard to imagine this year’s Bobcats not ranking in the bottom five, especially with Brendan Haywood injured.

If last year’s numbers are any indication, the Jazz should move up the defensive rankings.

Jazz efficiency with big man combinations on the floor

Combination GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Jefferson + Millsap* 75 1,858 92.9 105.1 107.6 -2.5 -104
Favors + Jefferson* 74 725 91.8 102.7 108.5 -5.8 -60
Favors + Kanter** 64 706 95.1 99.4 98.3 +1.0 +29
Favors + Millsap*** 55 445 90.7 107.3 102.7 +4.6 +49
Kanter + Millsap** 37 169 96.9 107.4 93.6 +13.7 +58
Jefferson + Kanter 13 51 95.7 102.3 112.3 -10.0 -6

* = Includes 85 minutes of Favors, Jefferson and Millsap on the floor together.
** = Includes 36 minutes of Favors, Kanter and Millsap on the floor together.
*** = Includes 121 minutes of the two 3-man combinations above.

In regard to their defensive numbers, the Favors-Kanter combination had the advantage of playing, for the most part, against opposing second units, which weren’t as potent offensively as the starting lineups that Jefferson and Millsap faced. They also played less than half the minutes that Jefferson and Millsap played together, and only time will tell if they can sustain a high level of defense over a full season of extended playing time.

But both the numbers and the film are promising. Below are some clips from a Dec. 19 game in Indiana in which Favors and Kanter were a plus-9 in 23 minutes together, holding the Pacers to just 37 points:


Now, that game was a blowout and 12 of the 23 minutes came in the fourth quarter, when the outcome was already decided. The Indiana bench was also pretty terrible offensively last season. But we see Favors and Kanter stopping Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. Their activity, energy, and multiple efforts are clear.

The Jazz were pretty bad offensively with Favors and Kanter on the floor together, and they’re probably going to be pretty bad offensively this season. Gordon Hayward is bound for a breakout year, but Utah will need to see some development from the bigs on that end of the floor as well.

Last year, the good defense outweighed the bad offense. The Jazz aren’t a better team without Millsap and Jefferson, but they might not be as bad as you think. And in the long run, they look to be in great shape with a pair of bigs, ages 21 and 22, who can defend.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Bobcats Rookies Brought Defense To The Table

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. The order will be worst to first, which means that the Charlotte Bobcats — who finished with the league’s worst point differential last season — lead off.

The basics
CHA Rank
W-L 21-61 29
Pace 94.0 16
OffRtg 98.3 28
DefRtg 108.9 30
NetRtg -10.6 30

The stat

99.8 - Points per 100 possessions allowed by the Bobcats in 590 minutes with rookies Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor on the floor together.

The context

Overall, the Bobcats’ defense was terrible. They ranked last in defensive efficiency (see the table on the right), allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions. But the mark with the two rookies on the floor was that of a top-five defense. Considering that rookies are usually defensive liabilities, it’s pretty remarkable. Both guys are long and active, with good instincts.

Here are a few examples of MKG’s and Taylor’s defensive prowess…


The contributions of Brendan Haywood shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s a proven defensive center* who was on the floor for 246 of those 590 minutes. Charlotte was a plus-10 and allowed a paltry 91.2 points per 100 possessions in those 246 minutes with their three best defenders on the floor.

*The Mavs’ defense regressed more when they went from Haywood to Chris Kaman at starting center last year than when they went from Tyson Chandler to Haywood the year before.

Of the 14 Bobcats who logged at least 300 minutes last season, Haywood had the lowest on-court defensive rating. Charlotte allowed 5.7 fewer points per 100 possessions with Haywood on the floor than they did with him on the bench.

So, with the Bobcats’ defense in mind, there are a couple of interesting questions regarding Steve Clifford‘s rotation this season…

1. How much playing time will Haywood get? Al Jefferson is the starting center and was a necessary addition to kick-start an offense that was barely better than the defense last season. But Jefferson is a defensive liability, so the Bobcats will continue to struggle on that end if he takes most of Haywood’s minutes. Jefferson and Haywood could only play together against other big lineups, and if Haywood is the backup center, does that mean that Cody Zeller is a power forward and/or that Charlotte has given up on Bismack Biyombo?

2. Will Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor play together much? A lot of their minutes together came in games that either Gerald Henderson or Ben Gordon missed. If everybody’s healthy, Gordon will back up Henderson and Taylor will likely back up MKG. Taylor might make a decent small-ball four, but that takes away playing time from Zeller, Josh McRoberts (who was pretty good for the Bobcats at the end of last season) and Anthony Tolliver (a solid glue guy).

The Bobcats were the worst team in the league last season and still have one of the weakest rosters, but they strangely might have too much depth at certain positions. If injuries don’t make certain decisions for him, it will be fun to see how Clifford distributes minutes.

Either way, there’s promise in the Bobcats’ returning, second-year small forwards. Kidd-Gilchrist has all the tools except for a jump shot, while Taylor showed some improved offensive skills at Summer League and EuroBasket. If Clifford can find playing time for both of them, the Bobcats’ defense might not be so terrible.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

New Coaches: Heat Is On Already

 

HANG TIME, Texas – It’s not very often that 13 different teams decide to change coaches during one offseason. It’s a sign of these impatient times in which we live, especially when six of those teams finished last season with winning records.

It used to be “what have you done for me lately?” Now it’s “what have you done in the last 10 minutes?”

Of course, not every new coaching situation is the same. No one expects a pair of newcomers like Brad Stevens in Boston and Brett Brown in Philly to perform water-into-wine miracles with stripped-down rosters.

Doc Rivers goes coast-to-coast to show a 56-win Clippers team how to take the next step while Mike Brown returns to Cleveland with a roster full of young talent ready to bloom.

However, not everybody gets to settle in comfortably. Here are the five new coaches who’ll find that seat warm from Day One:

Dave Joerger, Grizzlies – Sure, he’s paid his dues and learned his craft in the minor leagues and as an up-and-coming assistant coach in the NBA. All he’s got to do now is take over a club that is coming off the best season in franchise history, including a run to the Western Conference finals. While that means the Grizzlies have a contending core in Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley and a supporting cast to repeat their feat, it also means that every decision, every move that Joerger makes from the first day of training camp through the end of the playoffs will be judged against his predecessor Lionel Hollins, who evidently could do everything except make his stat-driven bosses appreciate him. In a Western Conference that just keeps getting stronger, it will be tough enough survive, let alone thrive with a ghost on his shoulder.

Larry Drew, Bucks — After spending three seasons in Atlanta, where he always had a winning record but could never get the Hawks past the second round of the playoffs, Drew moves to a Bucks franchise that overachieves if it climbs into the No. 8 seed to play the role of punching bag for the big boys in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee has turned over its backcourt from an inconsistent pair of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to a spotty trio of Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal. Rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has size, athleticism and a bundle of talent. But he’s only 18 years old and the question is whether Drew will be given the opportunity to stick around long enough to watch him grow. The Bucks are one of two teams with plenty of space under the salary cap, but have no real intention of spending it except to get to the mandated league minimum. This is a Bucks franchise that doesn’t have a sense of direction and that hardly bodes well for a coach. It’s not even a lateral move for Drew and could make getting the next job that much harder.

Brian Shaw, Nuggets – After waiting so long to finally get his opportunity to become a head coach, Shaw steps into a situation that is almost the opposite of Joerger. The Nuggets let 2013 Coach of the Year George Karl walk along with Masai Ujiri, the general manager who built the team, and then blew a gaping hole in the side of the 57-win, No. 3 seed in the West roster by letting Andre Iguodala get away, too. Shaw still has Ty Lawson as the fire-starter in the backcourt, but one of these seasons 37-year-old Andre Miller has got to run out of gas. As if the rookie coach didn’t have enough to juggle with the mercurial JaVale McGee, now he’s got Nate Robinson coming off his playoff heroics in Chicago with that ego taller than the Rockies. It’s never a good time to be stepping into a new job when management seems to be pulling back.

Steve Clifford, Bobcats – He’s another one of the longtime assistant coaches that has paid his dues and was ready to slide down the bench into the boss’s spot. But Charlotte? That’s more like the ejector seat in James Bond’s old Aston Martin. The Bobcats have had six coaches in the seven years that the iconic Michael Jordan has been head of basketball operations and then majority owner. From bad drafting (Adam Morrison) to bad trades (Ben Gordon, Corey Maggette), through constant changes of philosophy and direction, the Bobcats simply go through coaches faster than sneakers. Now it’s general manager Rich Cho calling the shots, but that didn’t stop the firing of Mike Dunlap after just one season. Clifford gets veteran big man Al Jefferson to anchor the middle of the lineup, but he’d better have his seat belt fastened tight and watch out for those fingers on the ejector button.

Mike Malone, Kings — Not that anyone expects Malone to be under immediate pressure in terms of wins and losses. What the Kings need now that they have a future in Sacramento is to re-establish a foundation on the court. Of course, the multi-million-dollar question is whether that base will include the talented and petulant DeMarcus Cousins. Everybody knows that he’s physically got what it takes to be a dominant force in the league. But the jury is still out when you’ve played three years in the league and you’re still getting suspended for “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.” Paul Westphal and Keith Smart couldn’t get through to Cousins to make him somebody the Kings can rely on and were spat out. Now as the big man heads toward a summer where he could become a restricted free agent, the franchise needs to know if sinking big bucks in his future is an investment or a waste of time. That’s the intense heat on Malone and the clock will be ticking immediately.

Heat, Thunder (And One Surprise Squad) Lead League In Roster Continuity

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – In the NBA, continuity and success are closely linked. Talented teams need time together — maybe two or three seasons — before they can make the most of that talent. And teams that win usually stick with what they’ve got.

So it should be no surprise that the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs — the three teams that won the most games last season — are keeping their rosters mostly intact.

Despite the departure of Mike Miller, the Heat will return 95 percent of their regular-season minutes leaders, a number that leads the league by a good amount. The Thunder lost Kevin Martin, but are still returning 87 percent of last season’s minutes, a number that ranks second. The Spurs swapped Gary Neal for Marco Belinelli and obviously aren’t bringing back Stephen Jackson, but will have 82 percent of last season’s minutes on this year’s roster, a number that ranks fourth.

Who ranks third at 85 percent?

The Indiana Pacers? Nope. They’re eighth at 74 percent, having said goodbye to Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green.

The Memphis Grizzlies? No. They’re sixth at 76 percent, because the 1,514 minutes Rudy Gay played before he was traded are part of the calculation.

What about the New York Knicks? Not even close. They’re 17th at 66 percent, thanks to the departures of Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland.

No, the team that’s bringing back more minutes than the Spurs is … the 21-61 Charlotte Bobcats.

The Bobcats have a new coach, drafted Cody Zeller with the No. 4 pick and signed Al Jefferson. But they’re also bringing back 11 players who logged almost 17,000 minutes for them last season.

Jefferson and Zeller will take minutes away from some of those guys and help on offense, where Charlotte ranked 28th last season. But this is a group that ranked dead last in defensive efficiency, so Jefferson will hurt more than help there and Zeller needs time to adjust to the NBA.

It’s up to new coach Steve Clifford to change things around defensively. Or maybe the Bobcats can count on their continuity.

Here’s the full list of what each team is bringing back. It’s possible that a number here could change, because a few teams have both open roster spots and available free agents (like Atlanta and Ivan Johnson), but they won’t change much.

Returning minutes from last season

Team Total Min. Ret. Players Ret. Min. Ret. %
Miami 19,880 13 18,858 94.9%
Oklahoma City 19,830 13 17,162 86.5%
Charlotte 19,805 11 16,891 85.3%
San Antonio 19,880 12 16,376 82.4%
Washington 19,855 11 16,018 80.7%
Memphis 19,805 9 15,091 76.2%
Orlando 19,780 11 14,910 75.4%
Indiana 19,590 8 14,589 74.5%
Portland 19,855 8 14,555 73.3%
Chicago 19,830 9 14,352 72.4%
Golden State 19,805 8 14,118 71.3%
Sacramento 19,830 9 13,875 70.0%
Houston 19,780 10 13,839 70.0%
Cleveland 19,730 7 13,207 66.9%
Denver 19,905 11 13,278 66.7%
L.A. Clippers 19,730 8 13,119 66.5%
New York 19,730 8 13,009 65.9%
Toronto 19,980 9 13,117 65.7%
Minnesota 19,730 8 12,539 63.6%
Phoenix 19,805 8 12,231 61.8%
Brooklyn 19,855 8 12,073 60.8%
New Orleans 19,780 8 11,991 60.6%
Detroit 19,805 8 12,004 60.6%
Philadelphia 19,755 8 11,312 57.3%
Boston 19,840 7 10,763 54.2%
Atlanta 19,855 7 10,309 51.9%
L.A. Lakers 19,755 7 9,794 49.6%
Dallas 19,980 6 8,723 43.7%
Utah 19,880 6 8,048 40.5%
Milwaukee 19,830 5 6,226 31.4%

Summer Dreaming: 2014 Rookie Of Year

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HANG TIME, Texas — Maybe it’s the heat. Or the humidity. Or those icy margaritas that have been sipped by the pool.

The beginning of August gets the mind to wandering in all sorts of different directions. Sure, it’s tempting to start thinking about the season openers that are barely three months away. But why stop there? Let’s wander all the way out to next spring when the 2013-14 season is over and get a head start on candidates for all the awards.

Today we’ll look at my hot fun in the summertime top five picks for Rookie of the Year. Send me yours.

Victor Oladipo, Magic The No. 2 pick in the Draft showed in the Summer League that he has a long way to go to run an offense as a point guard. But that doesn’t mean Oladipo won’t get plenty of chances to shine as the young Magic just turn him loose. Arron Afflalo will have to move on in order to let Oladipo fully blossom. However, the nonstop, high-energy guy with the first-class defensive chops will thrive in the transition and find plenty of opportunities to get to the basket with the floor spacing in the NBA. In a Draft that seemed to jump the rails right from the first pick, Oladipo was the player the Magic targeted to be a star for the future. There’s no reason to think that he won’t get off to a fast start on a young team that craves a leader.

Ben McLemore, Kings He came out firing unconscionably and mostly missing in his first two Las Vegas Summer League games, but give him credit for not reacting by crawling into a hole and becoming shy. By the end of the his desert run, McLemore was as hot and flashy as anything on the Vegas strip. The long-suffering franchise wants him to run the floor, use his athleticism and fill up the basket. He’s got a sweet stroke, plenty of range and now that Tyreke Evans is gone to New Orleans, he should have plenty opportunity. The lesson learned from Vegas is not to paint himself strictly as a long bomber and work to improve the other areas of his game. It’s also about his attitude. There is a reason that some folks had him tabbed as the No. 1 pick and could be part of the road back for a Kings franchise that will celebrate staying in Sacramento.

Cody Zeller, Bobcats Zeller was a standout in Las Vegas, showing all the hustle, smarts and athleticism that made him a star at Indiana. Never mind that his arms are short and some think he’ll have trouble on the inside at the NBA level. Playing for the hapless Bobcats, Zeller is going to get all the time he needs to figure things out and find a way to get off his shot. This is the umpteenth time that Michael Jordan’s Bobcats are starting over and rookie coach Steve Clifford will be happy to plug the Zeller’s intelligence and skills into the lineup and let him complement free-agent signee Al Jefferson.

Anthony Bennett, Cavaliers There’s a chance the Cavs will bring the No. 1 pick in the Draft along slowly. That’s especially likely since he is a frontline tweener (6-foot-7) who will have to learn to maneuver around the bigger bodies in the NBA and learn how to get off his shot inside (since he’s not especially mobile). He’s 3-point range and while he may struggle to find his place in the offense, Bennett has a nose for rebounding and could make his presence felt by going to the glass. That’s a good way to make an impact, put up numbers, get attention and maybe even work his way off the bench by the second half of the season.

C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers Can the Blazers go back-to-back on Rookie of the Year winners? After Damian Lillard practically went wire-to-wire to claim the award last season, Portland went out and almost drafted a clone. The conventional thinking is that McCollum will get stuck on the bench playing second fiddle to Lillard and that will limit his production. But there is really no reason to think the Blazers were drafting a sub at No. 10. They’re gonna find a way to get their pair of ball-handling scorers on the floor together as much as possible. There are plenty nuances of the game McCollum has to learn, but he’s got the swagger to take on anything thrown at him and find a way to shine.

Rudy Gobert, Jazz OK, he’s No. 6 and is a longer shot than a mule winning the Kentucky Derby. But give me a personal indulgence after watching the 7-foot-2 Frenchman with the 7-foot-9 wingspan and 9-foot-7 reach — that’s five inches below the rim — swat down everything that came into his airspace in the Orlando Summer League. He’s raw and must bulk up to eventually thrive in the NBA. But he’s only 21 and defensively has a nose for the ball that says he’s going after every shot. Of course, the shot-blocking Gobert will get time sparingly this season, but I’m telling you he’ll be fun to watch whenever he’s on the floor. Besides, you’ve got to love a guy who’s already picked up a classic nickname — the Stifle Tower.

PREVIOUSLY: Sixth Man of Year | Defensive Player of Year | Most Improved Player

Hayward, Favors Fully Prepared For Leadership Roles With Young Jazz



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LAS VEGAS – Ask anyone who has knocked around USA Basketball’s mini-camp this week to name the player who has raised the most eyebrows and Gordon Hayward‘s name will come up. The Utah Jazz swingman showed up here this summer with a simple game plan and the perfect blueprint of how to execute that plan.

“They just want you to play hard and compete in everything you do,” Hayward said. “This camp is full of stars, so you’re not going to impress anyone trying to showboat or do anything spectacular. Everybody in this gym has seen it all plenty of times before. [U.S.] Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski lays it all out for you from the start. And if you listen, it’s pretty simple.”

Simple is the opposite of what awaits Hayward and Jazz big man and fellow mini-camp participant Derrick Favors when they get back to Salt Lake City for training camp. No longer are these two lottery picks from 2010 going to operate in the shadows. They’re going to have to step into leadership roles for a young Jazz team that saw seven free agents depart for other destinations this summer.

Hayward will be the team’s leading returning scorer next season after averaging a career-high 14.1 points while logging 27 starting assignments. Favors is the second-leading returning scorer (9.4 points to go along with his 7.1 rebounds in just 23.2 minutes), after starting just eight games while playing behind Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

They will be the foundation for a green starting five that also includes Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and rookie point guard Trey Burke. Hayward, 23, will be the oldest member of that group and the most seasoned. It’s a role that Hayward seems more than ready to handle, based on his showing here this week and on the Select Team that worked out against the star-studded crew that won gold at the London Olympics last summer.

“He’s been very impressive,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo. “He’s a very impressive player. He knows how to play. He’s aggressive. He can shoot the ball. He’s made a mark in both camps, last year and this year.”

The same goes for Favors, who has spent most of his time this summer in Salt Lake City under thew watchful eye of Jazz great and Hall of Famer Karl Malone. It’s been summer school that Favors, an Atlanta native, says is absolutely necessary if he’s going to realize his potential sooner rather than later.

“There’s no hiding anymore,” Favors said. “I had to tell my mom and my family back home that it was important for me to stay [in Salt Lake City] and put in the work. I couldn’t let myself get home and get too comfortable. There is so much riding on this summer and this season for myself and [Hayward]. I don’t know what they’ve told him but I know I’ve got be ready to go right now. It’s on me and Enes to hold it down up front now that Al and Paul have moved on.”

Hayward’s looked more like the college star he was at Butler during his time here this week than he has the role player he was asked to be in his first three seasons in the league. His ballhandling, slashing and athleticism have been on full display. He’s more than held his own on defense, too, sticking out in this talented crowd on both ends regularly.

“That’s what you love about things like this,” said Favors, who will team up with Hayward on the Blue team in Thursday night’s intrasquad showcase at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. “I know how good he is. I’ve seen him do this stuff in practice every day. But it’s been funny to talk to some of these other guys and see how impressed they are with Gordon this week.”

Hayward said he’s sticking to the plan this week and making sure to ready himself for the increased role he’ll play for the Jazz when summer school is over.

“It’s something Coach K talked about on the first day,” Hayward said. “You have to adapt, adapt the way you play and be a versatile player. Out here, you know, you’re just one of the guys. But when you get back to your respective teams you’re going to be a more dominant player and have a much bigger role. They want me to be more of a leader next season and Derrick and I have talked about it. We’re excited about it. It’s going to be a challenge for us. We’re both naturally quiet guys so we’re going to have to be more vocal and get on guys when we have to. But it’s time, it’s time for us to be the leaders.”

Signing Day: Free-Agent Moves And Trades Around The NBA Become Official



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Somebody has to go first.

Who is it going to be?

It’s only fitting that the first “official” transaction of the free agent summer of 2013 be Dwight Howard putting his John Hancock on that four-year, $88 million deal with the Houston Rockets. Or maybe it will be Chris Paul finally signing the five-year, $107 million deal he agreed to last week with the Los Angeles Clippers. Josh Smith putting pent to paper on that four-year, $56 million deal with the Detroit Pistons is a candidate as well, though, sometime Wednesday afternoon is more likely for that.

Those are the three biggest deals, to date, of the summer of 2013. And any one of them could be the first one to become official now that the league’s moratorium on free agent signings and trades has been lifted, as of 12:01 a.m ET.

But the guessing game is over for many of the players who have been waiting on this day. The salary cap figures for the 2013-14 season are set. And we’ll make sure you are updated on the latest, as these deals — which also includes that blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from Boston to Brooklyn — get the league’s official stamp of approval. (And, as our always-astute John Schuhmann points out, the KG/Pierce mega-deal likely won’t be consummated until Friday because little-used Nets forward Kris Joseph was signed on April 12 and can’t be traded for 3 months per CBA rules).

Keep checking back here all day Wednesday as deals start becoming official …

11:46 p.m. ET

REPORT: BUCKS READYING OFFER SHEET FOR HAWKS’ TEAGUE

Might there be an end in sight to the point guard drama involving the Milwaukee Bucks and Hawks restricted free agent Jeff Teague? There could be as the first 24 hours of signing day comes to an end. (You knew we were going to finish up the first day with a little drama, what with so much of the “official” business still being sorted out.)

While this is hardly a done deal, what with all of the confusing signals that have gone back and forth about potential swapping of restricted free agent point guards Teague and Brandon Jennings, as well as unrestricted free agent guard Monta Ellis, the Bucks are reportedly set to scramble all those other plans and present Teague with a four-year, $32 million-plus offer sheet.

If Teague does indeed sign an offer sheet from the Bucks, the Hawks would have three days to either match the offer or watch him head to Milwaukee and play for his former coach with the Hawks, Larry Drew.

8:49 p.m. ET

BYNUM TO THE CAVALIERS 

Andrew Bynum wasn’t about to be left out of the free agent big man parade, not with a two-year offer on the table from the Cleveland Cavaliers. With only $6 million of the incentive-filled deal guaranteed the Cavaliers, Bynum had to take advantage of the opportunity that isn’t nearly as risky as it appeared to be Tuesday, when ESPN.com first reported that he was considering the Cavaliers’ offer. TNT’s David Aldridge provides some details and perspective:

Bynum agreed Wednesday to sign with the Cavaliers on a two-year deal worth $24 million. But that $24 million, really, is just $6 million in guaranteed money for next season. The other half of Bynum’s salary next season would come if he reaches certain incentives. The Cavaliers have a club option for the second and final year of the deal.

The deal is a small gamble for the Cavs, who continue to rebuild their team in an orderly manner. They had already added first overall Draft pick Anthony Bennett, former Warriors combo guard Jarrett Jack and ex-Laker big man Earl Clark since June to a core that includes guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, forward Tristan Thompson and centers Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller.

Now they add Bynum, whose abilities when healthy are unquestioned. The 25-year-old center averaged 20.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in 2011-12 with the Lakers, his final season in L.A., and looked to be one of the game’s best young big men.

But knee injuries have plagued Bynum throughout his career, and kept him from logging a single game with the Philadelphia 76ers last season after being part of the four-team trade that sent Dwight Howard from the Magic to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala from the Sixers to the Nuggets and several young players and Draft picks to the Orlando Magic.

Bynum, according to sources, is still not able to participate in full-court drills. But the Cavs don’t need Bynum next season. They have the veteran Varejao, recovering from a blood clot that ended his season last January, and Zeller, the second-year center from North Carolina.

So many of the Cavaliers’ main players are in the process of trying to recover from injuries that it’s difficult to identify exactly who or what they might be come training camp. But there is no denying they are a talented bunch with the potential to compete for a playoff spot, provided the key members of their core group get healthy in time for the start of the 2013-14 season and stay that way for as long as possible.

Toss in Bynum at anything close to his best, and the chances of them making some playoff noise go up dramatically.

6:37 p.m. ET

REVISED NUMBERS ON SMITH DEAL WITH PISTONS …

Josh Smith signed a four-year, $54 million deal with the Pistons and not the $56 million figure previously reported here and elsewhere, a source with knowledge of the deal has confirmed to NBA.com.

The dollar amount, however, was only part of what sold Smith on the Pistons, who have already put him front and center on the team’s website. The other was a convincing sales pitch from Hall of Famer and Pistons boss Joe Dumars.

“When I first met with Joe, he had me sold from the word ‘go,’ ” Smith said during his introductory presser Wednesday afternoon. “This is an organization that is a successful organization. I’ve always wanted to be part of a good organization that has a lot of die-hard fans.”

4:12 p.m. ET

CLIPPERS PRESENT FAMILIAR AND FRESH FACES

Everything the Clippers do these days seems to be big-time, and that includes introducing all of the players they signed and/or traded for this summer. And that includes Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, Jared DudleyRyan Hollins, CP3 and J.J. Redick flanking Doc Rivers and the rest of the Clippers’ brain trust:

3:33 p.m. ET

BOBCATS AMNESTY THOMAS

Tyrus Thomas will not be a part of whatever the Charlotte Bobcats do this season or beyond. They have requested waivers on the seven-year veteran and plan on using the one-time amnesty provision on him. That allows the Bobcats to wave him and not have his salary count against their salary cap or luxury tax figures.

2:46 p.m. ET

PACERS KEEP WEST IN THE FOLD
Perhaps no player over the last two seasons has done more to help a team’s on-court and locker room culture than the Pacers’ David West. Since he came aboard before the 2011-12 season, Indiana has returned to its glory days of the mid-1990s with long playoff runs, Central Division relevancy and legitimate contender status in the East.

West got a reported deal from the Pacers early in free agency as he was one of, if not their primary, target. Pacers.com has details on the move, which keeps West with Indiana as it tries to make a run to The Finals:

The Indiana Pacers announced Wednesday they have re-signed veteran free agent and two-time NBA All-Star David West to a contract. Per club policy, terms of the contract were not released.

West, 6-9, 240 lbs, is a 10-year veteran who has played the last two seasons with the Pacers, averaging 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in 139 games. Prior to his time with the Pacers, West had played his entire NBA career with the New Orleans Hornets. He has career averages of 16.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game.

“We said when the season ended, bringing David back was our No. 1 priority and we are very pleased to have him back,” said Larry Bird, Pacers President of Basketball Operations. “He is a leader, he is a professional, he is a great competitor and he is the type of player and person you want on your team if you hope to be successful.”

West played in two All-Star games in 2008 and ’09. Those two seasons, he averaged 20.6 ppg and 8.9 rpg and 21 ppg and 8.5 rpg, respectively.

“You can watch David play and appreciate him, but to coach him and see what he brings to our team on a daily basis really enhances that appreciation,” said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel. “There aren’t many players like him in the NBA and to have him back on our team is very important for what we hope to accomplish.”

2:33 p.m. ET

LAKERS RE-SIGN FREE-AGENT CENTER (SORRY, IT’S NOT DWIGHT)
Sorry to get your hopes up there, Lakers fans, but Dwight Howard still is Houston-bound. But, at least Lakers fans will get to enjoy the sideline antics and celebrations of backup center Robert Sacre for another season! Lakers.com has more on the return of the towel-waving big man:

The Los Angeles Lakers have re-signed Robert Sacre, it was announced today. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released.

Sacre, a 7-foot center out of Gonzaga University, was selected by the Lakers in the second round (60th overall) of the 2012 NBA draft. In 32 games (three starts) with the Lakers last season, he averaged 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 6.3 minutes. Sacre also spent time with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development league during his rookie campaign, appearing in eight games and posting averages of 11.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.33 blocks in 32.8 minutes.

At Gonzaga, Sacre finished his career with the Bulldogs ranked second in school history with 186 blocked shots while averaging 9.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.38 blocks in 135 games. As a senior, Sacre was named the 2012 WCC Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-WCC First-Team honoree while averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.42 blocks in 26.3 minutes.

1:44 p.m. ET

JEFFERSON HEADS EAST, JOINS BOBCATS
Al Jefferson spent his first three seasons with the Celtics before being the lynchpin (for Minnesota, at least) in the deal that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston. After three seasons with the Wolves and the last four with the Jazz, Jefferson is going back to the Eastern Conference on the heels of him signing a deal with the Charlotte Bobcats.

It’s a move that surprised many in the early stages of the offseason given the reported amount Charlotte would pay Jefferson and how it might help reverse the fortunes of a franchise that has often been stuck in hard times. Jefferson joins a youthful frontcourt that features Bismack Biyombo and some veteran bigs (such as Brendan Haywood):

Charlotte Bobcats President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins announced today that the team has signed free agent center Al Jefferson. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are ecstatic to add Al to our roster,” Higgins said. “He gives us a low post presence that we have not had on our roster and brings a skill set that does not become available very often. He is a veteran leader who helps his teammates get better, but at the same time he is only 28 years old so he can be part of the core of this franchise for several years to come.”

The 15th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, the 6-10 Jefferson has played in 628 games for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz during his nine-year career. He has career averages of 16.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 blocks in 30.6 minutes, while shooting .500 from the field.

Jefferson is one of only two players in the NBA to have averaged at least 17.0 points and at least 9.0 rebounds in each of the last six seasons, joining Dwight Howard in doing so. No other player has posted those averages in more than four of the last six campaigns.

1:37 p.m. ET

WIZARDS ADD MAYNOR, RE-SIGN TEMPLEIn our breakdown of teams most likely to crack the playoff party next season, the Washington Wizards were our surprise pick to be postseason bound (with the No. 6 seed, no less!). Part of that comes with the assumption that John Wall plays a full season — a hope that will be helped immensely by Washington’s signing of capable backup Eric Maynor.

Maynor made his name as Russell Westbrook‘s backup for 2 1/2 seasons before getting injured and losing his job to Reggie Jackson. The Thunder moved Maynor at the trade deadline last season to Portland, where he again was a solid backup, this time to Rookie of the Year winner Damian Lillard. The Wizards have more on the addition of Maynor on a day where they also re-signed defensive stopper Garrett Temple:

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has signed guard Eric Maynor. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

“Eric is a solid player who has thrived playing behind some of the league’s best point guards,” said Grunfeld. “He will bring stability and experience in that role and add leadership and character off the floor.”

Maynor averaged 4.5 points and 2.8 assists in 64 overall games with Oklahoma City and Portland last season, including 6.9 points and 4.0 assists in 27 game after being traded to the Trail Blazers.

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has re-signed guard Garrett Temple. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

“Garrett was a good addition to our backcourt rotation last season and we are happy to have him back to give us depth at both guard positions,” said Grunfeld. “His defensive ability, toughness and team-first attitude make him an excellent fit in our system and provide a great example of the culture we are building.”

1:14 p.m. ET

PISTONS SIGN VERSATILE SMITH
This isn’t a big surprise to anyone — particularly after the Atlanta Hawks announced the signing of Paul Millsap two hours earlier — but Josh Smith is officially a member of the Pistons. Smith leaves behind the only NBA team he’s ever known (as well as his hometown of Atlanta) to venture off to the Motor City to play along side young big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the club has signed free agent forward Josh Smith to a multi-year contract. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We’re pleased to welcome Josh Smith to the Pistons organization,” Dumars said. “Josh is a two-way player and we look forward to blending his talents with our young core.”

12:08 p.m. ET

KNICKS, RAPTORS COMPLETE SWAP
As our own John Schuhmann pointed out a few weeks ago, the Raptors’ proposed trade that would send Andrea Bargnani (and his large contract) to New York proved that no player is untradeable. That is apparently true as the Knicks and Raptors officially signed off on the deal that breaks down as follows:

New York receives Bargnani while the Raptors get Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, Steve Novak, a 2016 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2014 and 2017.

11:48 a.m. ET

TRAIL BLAZERS SIGN WRIGHT
Portland owner Paul Allen took to Twitter to announce the signing of Dorell Wright and rookie Allen Crabbe, not to mention the completion of the trade that will bring second-year power forward Thomas Robinson to the Pacific Northwest.

It’s been an interesting offseason, so far, for the Trail Blazers, as they attempt to escape from the Western Conference cellar and move back into the playoff mix. It remains to be seen if their offseason moves will produce the kind of results they desire.

11:23 a.m. ET

HAWKS PICK UP MILLSAP
According to Hawks GM Danny Ferry, ex-Jazz forward Paul Millsap “got the call at 12:01 (a.m. on July 1)” to gauge his interest in coming to the team. Millsap, who was born in Monroe, La., and went to Louisiana Tech, is back in the South again after signing his contract with the Hawks on Wednesday morning.

Millsap, 28, averaged 14.6 points on .490 shooting, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 30.4 minutes per game in 78 starts with the Jazz last season. He is expected to help fill the void in the lineup by Josh Smith, who is reportedly headed to the Detroit Pistons. The Hawks have more in a team release:

The Atlanta Hawks have signed forward Paul Millsap, President of Basketball Operations/GM Danny Ferry announced today. Per club policy, terms were not disclosed.

The 6-foot-8, 253-pound forward has career averages of 12.4 points on .516 shooting, 7.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 27.4 minutes per game in 540 games (265 starts) and has recorded 107 double-doubles. A native of Louisiana, Millsap played collegiately at Louisiana Tech where he became the only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding in three consecutive seasons.

“Paul was one of our top priorities entering the free agency process and we believe he is a great fit with the team and culture that we are trying to build,” Ferry said. “He is a high-character individual and his toughness, high basketball IQ, and selflessness will add to our locker room and give us versatility on the court.”

10:30 a.m. ET

KNICKS RE-SIGN PRIGIONI
Pablo Prigioni made a lasting impression on New York as a 36-year-old rookie with his passing skills and playmaking. While he was mostly a reserve for New York in his first season, Prigioni moved into the starting lineup down the stretch and the Knicks took off, going 16-2 with Prigioni among the first five.

That productivity helped lead the Knicks to re-sign the point guard to a deal, the terms of which were undisclosed by the team. The team released the following statement Wednesday morning:

New York Knickerbockers Executive Vice President and General Manager Glen Grunwald announced today that the team has re-signed guard Pablo Prigioni to a contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Prigioni, 6-3, 185-pounds, was the first Argentine-born player in Knicks history and made his NBA debut at age 35 after signing as a free agent on Jul. 24, 2012. He averaged 3.5 points, 3.0 assists and 1.8 rebounds over 16.2 minutes in 78 games (18 starts) this past season and was inserted into the Knicks starting lineup on Mar. 18 to help lead the team to the franchise’s third-longest winning streak of 13. In 11 postseason games (10 starts), Prigioni averaged 4.5 points, 3.2 assists and 1.27 steals over 20.9 minutes.

“We are very excited to have Pablo back in a Knicks uniform. He is one of our catalysts on both the offensive and defensive end,” Grunwald said. “His tenacity, leadership and experience played an integral role in our team’s success down the stretch, and into the postseason.”

1:08 a.m. ET

BULLS CONFIRM DUNLEAVY DEAL
The Bulls add some depth to a bench crew that did a lot of heavy lifting last season by confirming the signing of veteran swingman Mike Dunleavy. The 11-year pro has become a vital reserve throughout his career, which has included stops with the Warriors, Pacers, Bucks and now, Bulls. As our own John Schuhmann pointed out yesterday, Chicago should be getting a lot of 3-point bang for the buck as Dunleavy is a significant upgrade in the shooting department.

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12:20 a.m. ET

PAUL WASTES NO TIME RE-SIGNING
And the first man to put pen to paper is … CP3 (with Lil’ Chris keeping a watchful eye over the proceedings)! According to the Clippers’ web site, Paul inked his deal almost immediately once 12:01 a.m. ET (9:01 L.A.-time) passed and will be sticking with the Clippers through the 2017-18 season.