lance stephenson

Report: Lance Stephenson ahead of schedule on recovery, could play by mid-January


Lance Stephenson was playing well and had become a vital part of the Pelicans rotation early on — he got 27 minutes a night averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game. They needed his shot creation.

Then he tore his groin muscle and needed surgery. The Pelicans were already shorthanded (at the time Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, and Quincy Pondexter were all out) so they waived Stephenson to create a roster spot so they could sign Archie Goodwin.

But Stephenson is making a quicker than expected recovery, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

It’s likely a few teams would have interest in him, he played well in New Orleans, although some teams may be cautious because of Stephenson’s reputation as disruptive to team chemistry (a reputation he says is undeserved). He had not landed a contract over the summer and came to training camp in New Orleans trying to play his way onto the team — and he did. Someone will give him another chance, though likely on a minimum contract (possibly with team options for next season).

Report: Atlanta Hawks listening to trade offers for All-Stars Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver

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Al Horford left last summer, and now Paul Millsap might be the next big name out the door in Atlanta as the Hawks organization is undergoing a major on-court shift.

Millsap has been expected to opt out this summer because, as a 10-year veteran, he can chase a massive, $35 million a year payday with a new deal. That apparently is not going to be happening in Atlanta. Chris Haynes tweeted about the issue, then Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN added details.

S‎ources told ESPN.com that the Hawks, fearful of losing Millsap in free agency in the summer without compensation, are not openly shopping him but taking calls on the 31-year-old and their other pending free agents, notably sharpshooter Kyle Korver and swingman Thabo Sefolosha.

Although the Hawks managed to sign Dwight Howard in free agency last summer to fill a frontcourt void, they were stung by the free-agent departure of Al Horford from the perspective that Horford, in the words of one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, got away “for nothing.”

The feeling within the organization now, sources said, is that it’s best to gauge the trade market for Millsap, Korver and Sefolosha between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline to guard against a repeat scenario as much as the Hawks can.

Millsap is a three-time All-Star with a versatile game — he can score around the basket, he can hit threes (30.8 percent this season), he is a smart defender who plays very well as a help defender in the system (he’s made the NBA’s All-defensive team), and he is strong on the glass. He could fit into any system. Plenty of teams could use him.

Kyle Korver can still space the floor as a shooter, and Thabo Sefolosha is a “3&D” wing who still defends well but who has struggled some with his shot.

The Hawks will not get near equal return for Millsap, in part because he can be a free agent and seems to want to test the market — he’s a rental. Millsap also is going to be expensive to keep, demanding a max contract that he would be able to live up to for a couple of years, but he will turn 32 in February and in a four or five year deal the last year or two could see him in decline (and still very expensive).

Korver and Sefolosha also could be rentals, which will depress their trade value.

Also factoring into the trade equation: How badly do the Hawks want to make the playoffs. As of Sunday before games started they are the five seed in the East, but in the middle of a large group — only four games separate Charlotte at the four seed and Orlando with the 11 seed. Without Millsap, the Hawks could easily fall out of the playoffs.

Atlanta has Dwight Howard, Dennis Schroder, and Kent Bazemore locked up for a few years, but are undergoing an organizational shift now that will test Mike Budenholzer’s skills as a GM and team builder.

Chase-down blocks and deep threes: Check out top 100 plays of 2016

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We’re officially into 2017, but we’re not quite done looking back at 2016 yet.

The team at NBA.com put together the top 100 plays of 2016, and it’s got LeBron James chase-down blocks, Stephen Curry threes, game winners, circus shots, and more jaw-dropping plays than you can count. Well, you can count them, there’s 100.


Report: Donatas Motiejunas near deal to sign with Pelicans


The Houston Rockets saw so little future in Donatas Motiejunas, they decided to release him after he failed a physical with the team. The Rockets could have easily held on to his rights (by just failing him on the physical, which would have returned him to restricted free agent status) but they chose to let him go and seek his next chance somewhere else.

That chance appears to be in New Orleans, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports and Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Pelicans have waived veteran wing Reggie Williams to create a roster spot for this move.

This is a good roll of the dice by the Pelicans, and getting Motiejunas on a veteran minimum contract (likely with options for next season and incentives if he plays well) minimizes the risk. The Pelicans are looking for anyone who could play next to Anthony Davis — we know it’s not Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca — and Motiejunas’ ability to space the floor with his shot seems like a natural fit. Especially with the up-tempo, pace-and-space style Alvin Gentry would prefer to run.

This is a big financial step back from where Motiejunas was just a few weeks back. Brooklyn had signed him to a team-friendly, incentive-filled four-year, $37 million contract, but Houston matched the core $31 million of it (all they had to do). After Motiejunas refused to report, he reached a four-year, $35 million deal with Houston (that gave the team more time to decide on future year options), but then came in a failed his physical.

Now we just need to see if Motiejunas can get healthy and back on the court.

Rajon Rondo has meeting with Bulls GM after benching


Rajon Rondo didn’t just lose his starting spot to Michael Carter-Williams, Saturday night he got the dreaded DNP-CD — he didn’t even get in the game.

One of the Bulls’ big acquisitions over the summer, he simply has not been a good fit next to Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, he does not provide the shooting this team needs (37 percent overall), and while he wants to control the flow of the offense more and more coach Fred Hoiberg has taken that away from him.

On New Year’s Eve, after another Bulls’ loss (this time to Milwaukee), Rondo had a meeting with Bulls GM Gar Forman to discuss his future in Chicago, reports Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

“Gar (Forman, Bulls GM) and I will have a talk. We’ll talk tonight and go from there. I don’t know if it’s right now, maybe the next 30, 18, 45 minutes. Tonight, before ’17 (the clock strikes midnight).”

By then, one wonders if the Bulls and Rondo will be working on a buyout to free him from the remainder of his contract — one that includes a $3 million buyout that has to be exercised before next July.

“No, I’m not surprised. Not surprised,” Rondo said. “It’s been a tough season. Certain buttons are being pushed and the Bulls are trying to figure things out.”

Rondo was professional during the interview (unlike the dust up with a Bulls assistant coach recently), but he’s not happy with the Bulls and the Bulls are not happy with him. Coach Fred Hoiberg told Rondo he had looked slow the last five games, Rondo disagreed. But it doesn’t look like he will be injected back into the starting lineup anytime soon, or maybe even the rotation.

The Bulls could buy Rondo out and he could go somewhere else on a minimum deal (although, if he wants to move to a team playoff bound, finding a landing spot may be difficult). It will come down to money — how much of his $14 million salary is Rondo willing to eat to get out of the contract? But things seem headed in the direction of a divorce more than reconciliation.