Michael Carter-Williams hospitalized with bacterial infection

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So, I had this whole thing written and ready about how Sixers coach Brett Brown doesn’t believe that Michael Carter-Williams is injury-prone, despite the fact that after sitting out Saturday, the rookie will have missed six of his team’s first 21 games.

But then the news broke that Carter-Williams had been hospitalized with a bacterial infection on his right knee, so let’s get to that before the other, now less-relevant injury stuff is discussed below.

From Jason Wolf of Delaware Online:

Michael Carter-Williams, a front-runner for NBA rookie of the year, is spending his third consecutive night at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with a skin infection on the front of his right knee, according to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The infection is bacterial and now under control, according to a source close to the situation. The 6-5 point guard is under the care of Sixers team physician Dr. Brian Sennett and infectious disease specialist Dr. Neil Fishman.

“It’s a right knee infection that really is just being monitored closely, but nothing to really get too overly concerned with,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

Thankfully this doesn’t seem too severe, though there is no timetable for Carter-Williams to return.

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Michael Carter-Williams is the early leader for Rookie of the Year honors, with his play in the early part of the season being almost as stellar as it is surprising.

He’s missed significant time due to injuries, however — five of his team’s first 20 games, with a sixth likely to come on Saturday — and that’s led some to wonder if the young and slender guard may be injury-prone, and limited by that fact as his career progresses.

But Sixers head coach Brett Brown isn’t buying into all that just yet. He believes it’s been more bad luck and unfortunate circumstances that have led to Carter-Williams’ injuries, and is willing to give his star rookie the benefit of the doubt.

From Christopher A. Vito of The Reporter Online:

Brown does not view the injuries to Carter-Williams, the latest of which prompted the Sixers to keep him from traveling with the team, as an ongoing trend.

“Some of it is related to bad luck. Some of it is his body and (he’s) young and (playing) big minutes and other things,” Brown said of Carter-Williams. “I’m sticking more with luck than a trend. I think his competitiveness and his toughness is a good thing where he’ll learn to get through some things as time unfolds. But these recent things, he should be sat. He should be left at home.”

“We all wish we was playing, and so does he. It’s not something that you look at as a negative. It’s a series of bad-luck and unfortunate circumstances,” Brown said. “Ultimately those people that can play and avoid injuries, it’s an interesting statistic or part of persevering with people, re-signing people, chasing in a free-agent market, determining somebody’s worth. That’s bottom-line stuff, how many games in a long period of time do they normally miss?

“Some people fall into that too-high-a-risk basket. For Michael, this is all early days and part of the process. I’m leaning on his toughness and his competitiveness. Whenever anything minor comes up, he’ll be there.”

There are a couple of factors in play here.

First of all, Carter-Williams needs to pack some muscle onto his 6’6″ frame that carries a listed weight of just 185 pounds. And it’s more than likely that he will — that’s a legitimate knock on many young players entering the league, and hitting the weight room over the next couple of summers will easily fix that.

More importantly, despite the Sixers having some early-season success, the reality is that they were expected to be the worst team in the league; the fact that they’re sitting at 7-13 and just two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East doesn’t change the organizational plan.

There’s no rush for Carter-Williams to return to this team, and you can bet that with the franchise taking a long-term view of things, they’ll hold him out if he’s being bothered by any injury in the slightest — making Brown’s opinion on the matter more than likely to be the accurate one at this very early stage of his star-in-the-making’s career.

Report: Rockets becoming “increasingly serious threat” to sign Chris Paul

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The Houston Rockets are one of only a handful of teams in the NBA with a legitimate ability to add a couple of key pieces and try to make a run at the Golden State Warriors.

Chris Paul would be that kind of piece, and the Rockets are ramping up efforts to land him.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Houston Rockets have emerged as an increasingly serious threat in the chase for soon-to-be free agent Chris Paul, according to league sources.

The Rockets still have work to do in terms of clearing sufficient salary-cap space to make a representative offer for Paul, but sources told ESPN that Houston star James Harden has been advocating hard in favor of the Paul pursuit and has made his interest in teaming with the Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard known directly to Paul.

Sources say Houston also remains at the heart of the trade hunt to acquire Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, despite the fact George is only under contract through next season and is known to be angling to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in July 2018.

The challenge in all of this is the Rockets have just about $10 million in cap space this summer, which is about a third of what it will take to land Chris Paul. That means they need to trade Ryan Anderson and his $19.6 million owed next season and take no salary back, and while there are a few teams in a position to be able to take on that salary — Philadephia, Brooklyn, Sacramento and others — they are going to want a young player or first-round pick as a sweetener. The Rockets also are considering moving Lou Williams and his $7 million salary, or Patrick Beverley and his $5.5 million. However, even moving both of the later two is not getting near the salary Paul will demand.

Chris Paul met with the Clippers front office on Tuesday to talk about the future, but he’s expected to meet with a number of teams in free agency, with the Rockets and Spurs being key suitors. The question is, will any of these teams bring him closer to toppling the Golden State Warriors, and is it worth it to take less money for that chance? Especially after he got the CBA changed so that as of July 1 the “over 36” rule becomes the “over 38 rule” so the Clippers can give him one more five-year max contract.

How much will Dion Waiters earn as a free agent?

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Dion Waiters had the best season of his career last year at age 25 in Miami. The Heat pushed Waiters to get in the best shape of his life (just check out his Instagram), and combine that with the fact that Justise Winslow went down Waiters got the ball in his hands more with a chance to create for himself, and you had a little rush of scoring. He’s still not the most efficient player ever (to be kind), but he’s close to average.

Waiters opted out of his $3.2 million he is owed next season, and he is now a free agent. How much is he will he get now on the open market? Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote this:

One scout said he would be surprised if the bidding for Waiters soars much above $10 million, if that, because of his small sample size of high-level play this past season. One prominent agent who does not represent Waiters predicted he would get $8 million to $10 million annually.

That number seems about right, if it’s a two-year deal (or a team option on the third year). The league average salary will be around $8.5 million, and that’s where Waiters should fall next year.

Whether Miami has that money to spend comes down to whether they land a big free agent such as Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin (both max guys). If so, the Heat will not have the money, and what they do have would be more focused on keeping James Johnson. However, if the Heat strike out then Waiters could be back in Miami.

One way or another Waiters is going to get a raise. That doesn’t mean teams are not still leery.

Report: Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose

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Were they watching the games last year?

Derrick Rose put up decent numbers last year — 18 points per game, PER of 17, true shooting percentage of 53 — but was a mess defensively and does not fit in the triangle offense. He’s a decent point guard now, a replacement level player who can help in the right system.

Since the Knicks point guard rotation right now consists of rookie Frank Ntilikina plus whoever the team signs this summer, turns out Rose is not out of the picture, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

The New York Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose, league sources familiar with the matter said….

The Knicks’ interest in the point guard is dependent on several factors, including his health and his asking price. When asked last week about New York potentially re-signing Rose, team president Phil Jackson said “we’re listening.”

Money will be the key — it’s not going to be anywhere near the $21.3 million Rose made last season. No team is going to offer that.

Can the Knicks get him for less than $10 million? Will another team come in and offer $12 million or more for him? The market for point guards this summer is going to be interesting because after the big name on the free-agent market — Chris Paul (we’re not counting Stephen Curry, he’s not leaving) — there are some quality players out there that can help teams such as Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Patty Mills, Jeff Teague and Shaun Livingston. There aren’t that many teams with money to really spend on free agent point guards, so while a couple (Holiday, maybe Lowry) re-sign with their old teams there are a number of guys who may find the market softer than they expected. Rose is among them.

And that’s where the Knicks come in. Rose is far from a perfect fit, but if the soft market drives his price down closer to the midlevel ($8.4 million) or just above, that may be worth it for the Knicks for a year while they try to develop the rookie.

Report: Russell Westbrook may sign “designated player” extension with Thunder on July 1

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Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP, coming off a historic season where he averaged a triple-double.

Westbrook also could see a massive pay raise this summer. Yes, you remember correctly that Westbrook signed one last summer after Kevin Durant left, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that kicks in July 1 grandfathered him (and James Harden, who also signed an extension last summer) in to get the “designated veteran” max contract. That would start at about $34.7 million (if the cap is at $99 million as expected) and go up from there.

Thunder management’s first call at midnight July 1 will be to Westbrook to offer the deal, and he may well take it reports Royce Young of ESPN.

Those close to Westbrook fully expect him to take the Thunder’s offer, quite possibly at 12:01 a.m., and stabilize the franchise and present a clear road map. Westbrook signed an extension last summer and invoked the word “loyalty” for a reason. He wanted to make a statement — a public declaration — and take on the burden of leading the franchise forward.

He likes the existing roster and has a close relationship and confidence in Presti and Weaver. He has built a strong bond with head coach Billy Donovan. He knew what he signed for and, with the Thunder coming off a successful first post-Durant season and with pieces in place to improve the team, there are a lot of reasons to commit again.

If Westbrook signs this, the Thunder can get on with the business of improving this roster — which will be next to impossible. The Thunder are capped out and have to re-sign restricted free agent Andre Roberson. Sam Presti is a smart man, but his hands are mostly tied due to some of the big contracts on the roster (ones that would have been no issue if Kevin Durant had stayed). The Thunder will make moves around the edges, but it’s going to take time to do anything substantial.

If Westbrook doesn’t sign this, more than just red flags will go up in OKC — this will be sirens and flashing red lights. The Thunder will be forced to think about trading Westbrook, or finding a way to keep him happy and in house. They will basically be right back to where they were last summer.

If Westbrook signs it — and he likely will, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table — it at least gives the Thunder a clear direction. Which is about all they can hope for this summer.