Storyline: Training Camp Invitations

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The Portland Trail Blazers have signed forward Keljin Blevins to a training camp contract, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. Blevins, 23, appeared in three games for the Trail Blazers during the 2019 NBA Summer League, totaling five points, three rebounds and one steal in 28 minutes. Undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft, Blevins (6-6, 200) played two seasons at The University of Southern Mississippi (2014-16) before transferring to Montana State.

Keith Smith: I’ve gotten a bunch of questions about how Boston has 22 guys on their camp roster after signing Bryce Brown and John Bohannon. The easy answer is: they don’t. Kaiser Gates and Yante Maten never officially signed with the Celtics. Still could happen, but Boston is at 20 for now.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed to an Exhibit 10 training camp deal with center Marques Bolden, league sources tell cleveland.com. After not being selected in the 2019 NBA Draft, Bolden played for the Cavaliers during summer league. He will now come to training camp to compete for one of the final roster spots. Following JR Smith’s departure, the Cavs have 13 players under contract, two below the maximum number allowed. The Cavs also have an open two-way contract.

Bolden, 6-foot-11, averaged 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in summer league action. Because of Cleveland’s roster makeup, Bolden will be one of the few bigs invited to training camp. Last week, the team agreed to an Exhibit 10 deal with shooting guard J.P. Macura, who will also be looking to claim one of the final spots. According to sources, the Cavs are not expecting to have a full roster going into the season opener. They have a few minimum-level players on their radar for the 14th spot, but nothing lined up quite yet. They might even wait until after camp to see which players get released from other NBA teams.

The Chicago Bulls have signed free agents Kaiser Gates and JaKarr Sampson to round out their 2018-19 training camp roster. Per team policy, terms of the contracts were not disclosed. Gates (6-8, 227) played in three games on the Bulls’ 2018 MGM Resorts NBA Summer League team, averaging 6.7 points per game. Prior to his Summer League experience, Gates played three seasons at Xavier (2015-18), appearing in in 97 games (22 starts). He finished his career with an average of 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Gates’ statistical averages improved in each season at Xavier, averaging 7.2 points, 4.6 rebounds per game and scoring in double figures in 11 games in his final season. As a junior in 2017-18, his .378 shooting percentage from behind the arc ranked second on the Big East-champion Musketeers.

The L.A. Clippers today announced their 2018-19 training camp roster. The team signed free-agent forward Desi Rodriguez to bring the roster to 20 players. Rodriguez, 22, played four collegiate seasons at Seton Hall University, appearing in 129 games (97 starts) and averaging 12.8 points and 4.9 rebounds, while shooting 36 percent from three-point range in 26.3 minutes. The 6’6”, 220-pound swingman was named to the Second Team All-Big East as a senior, after averaging 17.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in his final collegiate season. A native of the Bronx, NY, Rodriguez went undrafted in 2018.

Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace today announced the team’s roster for Grizzlies 2018 Training Camp, presented by Mid-South Ford Dealers. The Grizzlies will hold training camp from Sept. 25-28 at the Grizzlies Built Ford Tough Training Facility inside FedExForum. The Grizzlies’ training camp roster, included below, will be available to the media at the team’s annual Media Day starting at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 24 at FedExForum along with coaches, players and select members of the front office.

The Miami HEAT announced today that they have signed forward Marcus Lee. As per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Lee began his collegiate career at the University of Kentucky before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley for his senior season where he appeared in 32 games (all starts) with the Golden Bears last season and averaged 11.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.63 blocks, 1.3 assists and 27.8 minutes while shooting 56.3 percent from the field.

Charlotte Hornets President of Basketball Operations & General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced today that the team has signed guard Joe Chealey to the team’s training camp roster. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Chealey, an undrafted free agent out of the College of Charleston, participated in the 2018 MGM Resorts NBA Summer League with the Hornets. In four games, he averaged 6.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 17.4 minutes per game. The Orlando, Florida, native played in 129 collegiate games over four years (2014-18) for the Cougars, finishing his career with averages of 14.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 31.1 minutes per game.

Charlotte Hornets President of Basketball Operations & General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced today that the team has signed guard Jaylen Barford and forwards Zach Smith and Isaiah Wilkins to the team’s training camp roster. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. In two years at Arkansas, the 6-3 Barford averaged 15.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 28.3 minutes per game in 71 contests. An undrafted free agent, Barford recorded averages of 17.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 35 games as a senior in 2017-18. The Jackson, Tennessee, native finished the season amongst the SEC leaders in the following categories: field goals made (first, 224), points scored (third, 628), points per game (third, 17.9), three-point field goals (fourth, 87) and field goal percentage (sixth, .470). As a junior, he averaged 12.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

The Miami HEAT announced today that they have signed DeAndre Liggins. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Liggins, who was originally signed by the HEAT to two 10-day contracts in 2014, spent two seasons with Miami’s NBA G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, helping them capture the 2016 Championship after appearing in 34 games (33 starts) and averaging 13.0 points, 7.0 assists, 6.3 rebounds, 2.06 steals and 38.4 minutes while shooting 42.8 percent from the field, 43.4 percent from three-point range and 71.1 percent from the foul line.

By cutting Williams, the Cavs can keep center Kendrick Perkins in camp. Perkins, a friend of LeBron James, is trying to make an NBA comeback after missing last season. With Cleveland’s roster constructed as is, Perkins’ chance of making the team is small. The Cavs will have to waive or trade a player with a guaranteed contract before the start of the season because of Wade’s arrival. Wade is expected to clear waivers at 5 p.m. Wednesday and sign with the Cavs.

Fourteen of the roster spots are accounted for by players on guaranteed deals. The last slot, though, is up for grabs. Over the next three weeks, six players — Joel Anthony, Gerald Green, Kendall Marshall, Gary Payton II, Brandon Rush and James Young — will compete to earn a place on the team. Five of those players have multiple years of NBA experience, with Anthony and Green each with 10 years in the league, Rush with nine, Marshall with four and Young with three. Payton, a rookie last season, may not be as long in the tooth, but he is the incumbent, so to speak, considering he signed with the Bucks late last season and has been with the team all summer.

It’s possible the Bucks could keep three of the six players under their control. With both of their two-way contracts open, the Bucks could add Young and Payton — each of whom fit the criteria of have three years or fewer of NBA experience — in those two-way spots. That would allow them to spend most of their time in the G League with the Wisconsin Herd while easily moving up to the Bucks if needed. That’s a scenario that has not yet been discussed with Payton or Young, who are focused on making the NBA roster. For Payton, that means defending the spot that’s been his this summer. “All these guys know what it takes to make a team,” Payton said. “For me, it’s just to do what I do best, lock down and play defense and do what I can and just play and compete.”
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August 8, 2020 | 9:01 am EDT Update
The NBA has told teams that the plan remains to start on Dec. 1, but pushing back that date would require a level of confidence that a delay would ultimately result in the reopening of arenas to the public. If so, the NBA would be willing to hold back the start — perhaps even months. An opening night of Martin Luther King Jr. Day — Jan. 18 — is a consideration. February and March are realistic too if a combination of vaccines, therapeutics and rapid-response testing for COVID-19 could contribute to the possibility of public gatherings.
There’s hope for vaccines, but the league has prepared teams for the reality that mass distribution would be unlikely for a full year, sources said. For now too there’s a skepticism about the reliability of rapid-response testing. They’re hopeful that advances in the technology could facilitate ways to get fans into arenas — even if it means less than capacity. Teams are already modeling options that include a few thousand fans to buildings filled closer to capacity.
Were those teams chasing the Western Conference’s play-in tournament thrilled with the Utah Jazz’s decision to sit four starters with injuries and rest center Rudy Gobert in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs? Among teams trying to catch the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed, they were somewhere between displeased and livid, sources said. The Jazz violated nothing of the league’s resting rules with Gobert, and properly documented injuries to four more starters, but the optics of the starting five sitting out in an eminently winnable game against the Spurs were harsh.
Is the Orlando bubble a possible destination for the eight teams left out of the restart to run offseason training camps once the first batch of 22 teams are eliminated? The NBPA has no interest in that idea, sources said. It’s a non-starter. The inevitable solution for the eight teams left out of Orlando: The NBA and NBPA agreeing upon voluntary workouts in the team facilities, sources said. The NBPA won’t agree to mandatory reporting for players on the eight teams outside of the restart but will eventually allow it on a voluntary level, sources said. Several of the teams are frustrated and angry over how far they feel they’re falling behind the teams in the bubble, and are aggressively voicing that to the league office.
Storyline: Bubble Next Season?
Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote to the commissioner of the NBA on Thursday, demanding answers over the organization’s relationship to a basketball training camp in the Xinjiang region in China — and accusing the organization of having misled lawmakers. In the letter, dated Thursday, the senators say “it is our understanding that the NBA has not been forthcoming with members of the Senate regarding questions surrounding the NBA’s relationship with the Xinjiang basketball academy.”
August 8, 2020 | 4:02 am EDT Update

Regional bubbles next season?

We’re a ways off from next season, but league sources have told me that the NBA is looking at options that include creating regional bubbles, should the COVID-19 pandemic still prevent normal business in the fall. Teams would report to a bubble for short stints—around a month—which would be followed by 1-2 weeks off. Ideally, the NBA would like to play an 82-game schedule that starts in December. A December start would allow the league to end the season in late June, putting the NBA back on a normal schedule and, importantly, not compete with the Olympics next summer. The players union is expected to take issue with that, preferring teams, particularly those making deep playoff runs, have more time off.
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For the Heat, COVID-19 hasn’t been an issue since Derrick Jones Jr., Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn returned after testing positive for the virus in June while in Miami – something each of them subsequently disclosed. (Nunn is now out for other reasons, as detailed below.) But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some behind-the-scenes glitches. According to a league source briefed by a member of the Heat’s traveling party, at least four Heat players have had some uneasy moments or been ensnared in COVID testing glitches, with the Heat and the players not at fault for any of those.
Storyline: Coronavirus
Heat guard Kendrick Nunn will miss Saturday’s game against Phoenix for personal reasons and has left the NBA bubble, according to multiple sources. Erik Spoelstra did not mention any issue with Nunn during a Zoom session earlier in the day. Nunn – who previously confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19 in June – has left the bubble for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, according to a source. He’s expected back soon, according to another source, but it’s undetermined how many days he would be required to quarantine when he returns.
Storyline: Orlando Bubble
Durant, who didn’t play at all this 2019-20, said he’d like to see a panel of ex-coaches or ex-players involved in choosing awards moving forward. “To me, if you’re averaging 30 points a game, you’ve gotta be one of the 15 best players in the league,” Kevin Durant said about Bradley Beal’s All-NBA case during an interview on Elite Media Group’s Play For Keeps Podcast (via SNY). “That’s hard to do. I know the pace and more shots up and it’s somewhat easier to do (in today’s game) but it’s still hard to average 30.”
“In between games I got three texts from Michael…saying, ‘I have to be better, I can do better, stay with me,’ all those things,” Malone explained. “I said, ‘Michael, I’m not going anywhere. I’m gonna stay with you. You’re a hell of a young player and you’re gonna continue to grow.’” “I just told him that I could bring a lot more,” Porter said of the texts he sent Malone. “I didn’t bring the energy, I didn’t bring the effort and enthusiasm last game, and that can never be the case.” “I just told him that I know that, and especially with Jamal and Gary and Will out, I gotta be a guy that steps up and kind of takes on a role,” Porter added. “So I told him I understand that, and it would not happen again.”
At 1-4 in the NBA restart, the Kings have shown they aren’t ready for the fire and they might not be ready for prime time. “I think it starts with individual accountability, just in terms of the effort we are putting out there on a consistent basis,” veteran Harrison Barnes said following the Kings’ 119-106 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. “It’s hard to win in this league and to be consistent, you have to do that every single night.”
It’s nice to hear about Jeffries’ plans for the future because sometimes it can be hard to hear him at all. He is notoriously quiet and reserved. In Stockton, Ellis would occasionally designate practices where only Jeffries was allowed to talk. He wanted the 22-year-old prospect to come out of his shell and lead with his words, not just his actions. “When I first got here, or when I first got to the league, I was pretty hesitant to speak up on anything like that,” Jeffries said. “But I feel like as time went on I spent more time with the guys and during practice I felt more comfortable.”
The Philadelphia 76ers have no clarity on how long All-Star forward Ben Simmons will be sidelined after partially dislocating his left knee cap. For the sake of preparing his team for the postseason, however, has Sixers coach Brett Brown told his players to brace for the worst-case scenario? “No,” Brown told USA TODAY Sports following the Sixers’ 114-108 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday. “Everybody thinks different things, so I don’t want to be full of (BS) and say, ‘No, everybody thinks he’s playing tomorrow.’ People know we were just trying to play tonight knowing we didn’t have Ben and that we’re going to learn more later. But no is the short answer.”
Storyline: Ben Simmons Injury
The Miami Heat will be without Jimmy Butler for a third consecutive game Saturday against Phoenix, while Goran Dragic is getting closer to a return from an ankle injury. Erik Spoelstra said on Friday that there was “no change” in the status of Butler, who has missed two games with what the team is now officially listing as foot soreness. A source said it’s primarily the ankle that is bothering him.
Speaking of coaches, they have spoken—and polos should be here to stay. Several head coaches told me they love the new semi-casual sideline attire approved by the league for the restart. Erik Spoelstra says not only is it more comfortable, it’s more functional for coaches who move around a lot. Scott Brooks said while he was initially against it, he has enjoyed dressing down in Orlando.

Stephen Curry to have his own brand?

I’ve been told by a “sneakerhead” source in China that Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry will soon have his own brand under the umbrella of Under Armour, just like how Michael Jordan has his Jordan Brand at Nike. His new “Curry8 Flow” is supposed to drop sometime in the Fall. I have heard both August and September as possible release time frames, so I don’t have strong intel on that.
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The shoe that the NBA banned Michael Jordan from wearing 36 years ago is finally returning this weekend — but it won’t be easy to get. Italian retailer Back Door Bottega on Instagram is currently hosting a raffle for a chance to buy the Nike Air Ship Pro when it releases tomorrow. Retail images show that the premium leather upper dons the iconic black and red — or “Bred” — color scheme inspired by the Chicago Bulls, while incorporating the original duo-lacing setup seen on the midfoot. The brand has given the classic shoe a modern twist by adding its latest React foam in the midsole and the sole unit of the classic Nike Pro Circuit tennis shoe.
Still, it makes for great entertainment when they do trade barbs. And the scene was set for more entertaining moments when Green joined Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith on Friday’s episode of “Inside the NBA” on TNT. As expected, it didn’t take long for the jokes to ensue. Early in the show, their seemingly contentious relationship was brought up, and the panel addressed it with plenty of humor. “So you started it,” Smith said to Barkley. “I never had any kind of beef. You started the beef.” “And I love the way you punked him,” Smith told Green. “I’ve seen triple-single on my Instagram too many times, man,” Green responded amid plenty of laughter. “Way too many times.”
Storyline: Barkley-Green Beef
Steph Curry is not physically in Orlando for the restart to the 2019-20 NBA season. But the Warriors superstar could be making a virtual appearance in the bubble when the Dallas Mavericks take the court in the playoffs. “When they get to the first round, I might be in there and wear my Dallas uniform and make everybody go crazy,” Steph recently told CNBC’s Jabari Young.
August 7, 2020 | 10:05 pm EDT Update
Donovan Mitchell: It’s been a long five months. Surreal. Scary. Confusing. Boring. Terrifying. I don’t even know anymore. How many emotions can you fit into five months? It’s been everything. March 11, 2020. Jazz vs. Thunder. It feels like it’s one of those moments where 10 years from now people will be like, “Man, where were you when it went down?” I know everybody says it felt like being in a movie, but to actually be on the floor when the security guards came running out to shut down the NBA season … surreal doesn’t even explain it.
Storyline: Coronavirus
We knew some people were feeling sick, but it didn’t even enter our minds that somebody could have coronavirus. Back then, it was still such an unknown thing. It was something you saw on the news. It wasn’t real life, you know? So when the dudes in the Men in Black suits came running out onto the floor, my first thought was literally, O.K., there’s probably a leak in the ceiling or something. Then there’s more and more dudes in suits, and you’re like, Is the FBI swarming this building right now? They took us back to the locker room, and everybody’s phones were going crazy. Calls, not just texts. That’s when you know something’s up. Then they told us that nobody was allowed to leave, and that’s when you really know something’s up.
When we found out that Rudy had tested positive, that was a really difficult first hour. You’re thinking of everybody you came in contact with (I was just with my mom and sister in New York), you’re googling stuff (always a bad idea), you’re trying to respond to all the people who are worried about you. It was so many different emotions. But we were locked down in there for eight hours, man. There’s only so long you can be nervous. After the first hour, we couldn’t take it anymore. We shut off all the TVs and we put our phones on silent and we just tried to break the tension by talking and just enjoying each other’s company. We learned a lot about one another in that moment. And I know this is going to sound weird, but when I think back on those seven hours, it was a really important moment in my life. It was deep.
That was a really profound moment. Especially with everything that came after it. When I tested positive myself, I was in full isolation at my mom’s house in Connecticut. They put me down in the basement with a blanket and an Xbox. No windows. No fresh air. Full-on vampire mode. My mom would leave a plate of food at the top of the stairs for me, and I’d crack the door open and snatch the plate and a beam of sunlight would hit me like … I don’t even know … like I was Count Chocula or something. I was down there for two weeks, just waiting. Just hoping that I wouldn’t wake up the next day showing symptoms. And the weirdest part was that I guess I was like Patient Zero or whatever, so my mom was telling me that there were cars camped outside the house 24/7. What they were looking for, I don’t know. Meanwhile I’m down in the bunker playing Call of Duty.
Storyline: Coronavirus
On the other side of the table, a former state senator from rural Minnesota who had built an empire thanks to business success in printing and agriculture stared right back at him after handing over an 8 1/2-x-11 sheet of paper with his offer to buy the team. After listening to his accountants and attorneys tell him there was no way they could consider an offer presented in such simplistic form, the beleaguered Marv Wolfenson stood up, walked around the table and approached an opportunistic Glen Taylor. Wolfenson extended his hand to accept the offer. Taylor stood up and accepted. Having just spent $88 million to rescue the Timberwolves from extinction, Taylor just had one more question. “Does somebody have the phone number for the NBA?”
A few weeks before it became known that he is seriously exploring selling the Timberwolves, Taylor reflected on the chaotic process that thrust him into the owner’s chair back in 1994. It is a wild tale filled with visions of runaway horses, vampire sightings and white-knuckle negotiations that prevented the team from hopping a riverboat down to New Orleans just five years after the league made a celebrated return to the Twin Cities. And it all came together for the famously frugal Taylor during a meeting in his hotel room with the 32-year-old chief of staff for Commissioner David Stern, a lawyer by the name of Adam Silver. “It was one of those rooms where when you open the door, it just barely makes it past the bed,” Silver said with a chuckle. “It was a very small room.”
The twists and turns are befitting a franchise that has spent the vast majority of its 32 years of existence trying to find its way. That lifespan — at least in Minnesota — would have been a lot shorter had Taylor not emerged out of nowhere to hammer out a deal during a breakneck week of negotiation, and without speaking to a single soul at the league office. After shaking hands with Wolfenson in that law office, Taylor returned to his hotel room, dialed a general number for the NBA and a receptionist picked up. “I said, ‘I just bought the Minnesota Timberwolves and I would like to speak to somebody about that,’” Taylor said. “She laughed just like you just did. Like, what are you talking about?”
Fifteen minutes later, Taylor received a phone call from Silver. Twenty-six years later, Silver and more than a dozen others still have a clear picture of those harrowing days during the summer of ’94 when the future of the Timberwolves was hanging in the balance. Every person interviewed includes their job title at the time of the transaction. “It was a difficult situation, there’s no question, until Glen emerged and put the deal together,” Silver said in a phone call from Orlando, where the NBA is finishing out the 2020 season. “It was very unclear we would’ve been able to keep the team there. Glen saved the team in Minneapolis.”