Kurt Helin

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Six

Report: Wizards, Bradley Beal still not progressing toward contract extension

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Bradley Beal is a guy poised to take a leap forward this season — if he can stay healthy. He wants to prove he can do for season what he did in the playoffs last season when he lead the Wizards in scoring at 23.4 points a game. He’s an elite sharpshooter and two guard, and he and John Wall proving they are the best backcourt in the East is key to Washington making it to the conference finals or beyond.

Does that make Beal a max player?

He wants a max extension; the Wizards haven’t been ready to give that up. The two sides have until Oct. 31 to get a deal done, but there has been no progress of late reports J. Michael at CSNmidatlantic.com.

While talks remain open, CSNmidatlantic.com was told, there hasn’t been any movement. Beal, who believes he’s worth a max deal, just returned from Taiwan and president Ernie Grunfeld had been on vacation.

The lack of reaching a compromise isn’t an indication of any greater problems, but the Wizards aren’t in a position in which they must commit to a four-year deal fully guaranteed right now with so many moving parts ahead in free agency in the summer of 2016.

There are two key reasons for the Wizards not to give Beal a max deal right now.

First is Kevin Durant. The Wizards want him to return to his hometown, and believe they have a legitimate shot to land him when he becomes a free agent next summer.But that is going to take boatloads of cash. If Beal and the Wizards do not reach a deal, Beal’s cap hold next summer will be $14.2 million; if he signs a max extension he would cost  $20.9 million against the cap. That’s $6.7 million would come in handy landing Durant (or another free agent).

Second is Beal needs to prove he’s worthy of a max. When he’s on he certainly is — he shot 40.9 percent from three last season. But also last season he was inconsistent, and he has missed time for three straight seasons due to a stress reaction in his leg. Do the Warriors want to bet big on that now?

If no extension is reached, Beal becomes a restricted free agent next summer, and if Beal has earned a max the two sides can reach a deal — or even if another team offers him one the Wizards can match. The Wizards can afford to wait. Beal may have no choice.

Utah’s Dante Exum underwent knee surgery Thursday, likely out for season

Dante Exum

As we told you before, Utah’s Dante Exum tore his ACL playing for the Australian National team last month, in what was a friendly game against Slovenia. Thursday he underwent surgery on his knee, the Jazz announced. From the official press release.

Exum underwent successful surgery today to repair the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. The surgery was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache of Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic following consultations with Jazz physician Dr. Travis Maak and University of Utah Health Care as well as Dr. Brian Cole of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush in Chicago. Jazz head athletic trainer Brian Zettler accompanied Exum. Once he is cleared to travel, Exum will return to Salt Lake City to begin his rehabilitation.

The Jazz would not give a timeline, but don’t expect to see Exum this season.

Utah is everyone’s favorite team to climb into the crowded playoff picture in the West, based on their 19-10 record after the All-Star break last season. I don’t think that changes with Exum out.

Trey Burke will become the starter, and his defensive numbers when paired with Rudy Gobert are still impressive — they gave up 99.7 points per 100 possessions, which would have been fourth best as a team in the NBA (and just 1.7 per 100 worse than the Exum/Gobert pairing).

The bigger challenge with Burke is on the offensive end — Exum didn’t make a lot of shots, but he didn’t take a lot either (usage rate of 13.8). Burke struggled with his shot and shot selection but he takes a lot more (23.9 usage rate). Every time Burke is dominating the ball better players like Gordon Hayward do not have the ball in their hands. Burke’s growth is key to the Jazz.

That and Exum getting right for the long-term.


Ricky Rubio is confident Timberwolves not looking to trade him

Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings

Ricky Rubio’s name has come up in increased trade speculation the last few weeks. And we mean speculation. An international basketball site took reports that Phil Jackson says the Knicks need more talent in the backcourt and combined with a Boston Globe report the Timberwolves are a little frustrated with the pace of improvement in Rubio’s game to create a trade rumor where nothing of substance exists. Other speculation surrounds the Nets. It’s August, so some people are talking about it.

Rubio says he doesn’t buy it.

He is in Dubai right now and said this to Gulf News (hat tip Fox Sports).

“I have confidence that the team wants me but you know in this league anybody can get traded,” said the flashy playmaker. “You don’t listen to the rumours. You just live day-by-day and that’s it.”

When asked if he wanted to stay with the long-suffering Timberwolves, Rubio gave a firm: “Yes.”

It would be a mistake for Minnesota to trade Rubio right now as their starting point guard unless they have a viable backup plan. And Zach LaVine is not a viable backup plan. (His athleticism is not in question, but his understanding of the game, his rate of turnovers, and his poor defense do not project as someone you want to be your starting point guard.) If Minnesota wants to move on from Rubio, the question becomes who do they move on to? Andre Miller is on the roster but he’s not the long-term answer, and Tyus Jones is a long ways off if he gets there at all.

Rubio has the potential to elevate the games of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns with his creativity on the floor. Minnesota has so much potential with this roster; they need to play it out for part of the season and evaluate how the pieces fit, then start to think about moves. Moving Rubio now — especially for what the Knicks or Nets can offer in return — is a bad idea.

But it’s August, so discuss it if you want.

Deron Williams excited for fresh start in Dallas

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets - Game Six

When he played in Utah, Deron Williams was mentioned in same breath with Chris Paul. By the time they got to this summer in Brooklyn, the Nets were willing to buy him out, to pay him to play elsewhere. They were excited that their chemistry would be better now.

D-Will is in Dallas now trying to show that when healthy he can still be one of the best point guards in the game. Mostly he’s just excited for the chance to rewrite the script, he told the Mavericks’ official Web site.

“Just getting started, man. A fresh start is what I’m most excited about,” Williams said Wednesday during an exclusive interview with Mavs.com while making an appearance at the organization’s fantasy camp. “You know, playing with this group of guys, I feel like we have a great group of guys here, and so (I’m looking forward to) just getting everybody healthy and getting on the court with them.”

Getting healthy will be key for Dallas, with both Wesley Matthews (Achilles) and Chandler Parsons (knee) coming off major injuries. Dallas has talent but questions about depth, rebounding, and how they fit all the pieces together.

Williams is not worked about his chemistry with Dirk Nowitzki.

“It’s going to be great. I mean, Dirk could play until he’s 50, man, the way he shoots the ball,” Williams explained. “He’s always going to be able to shoot the ball, and he does so much more. I’ve always had a lot of respect for his game and what he does and brings to the court, and so I’m definitely excited as a point guard to be able to play with someone of his caliber.

“I mean, I’m definitely excited about that. You know, there’s definitely a stability about this organization that’s definitely intriguing.”

On paper, Williams ability to play off the pick-and-roll plus knock down threes should work well for Rick Carlisle.

Well, that is if Carlisle can get along with him — Williams has clashed with Jerry Sloan, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, basically every coach he has had. Carlisle is next in line. Plus there are the reports that Williams has been a drag in the locker room in Brooklyn. That is the new start Williams needs to get away from.

If everything comes together for Dallas, they are a dangerous team, and a lot of those “ifs” start with D-Will.

Doc Rivers says Paul Pierce chose Clippers over Celtics this summer

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce reacts to a call by the officials in Boston

Paul Pierce will chase one more ring this season with Clippers, ending his career near where he grew up, near the playgrounds and gyms where he learned the game. He brings Los Angeles a guy who knows what it’s like to climb the mountain, a guy who can play some stretch four, and a guy fearless in the big moments. The Clippers need all of that.

But he almost chose the Celtics over the Clippers.

That according to Doc Rivers, speaking to Jay King of MassLive.com.

“I think he wanted to go one of two places,” said Rivers. Standing inside the TD Garden, the Clippers head coach continued, “He wanted to come back here or he wanted to finish his career at home where he grew up, and I think it’s really cool for me that I can be a part of that.”

I’m not sure how seriously the Celtics were considered, but Pierce was thinking of how to cap off his Hall of Fame legacy. He will be remembered as a Celtic, that is where he spent the first 15 years of his career, that’s where he won a ring. He may come back and play some role in the organization someday. It’s easy to see the allure of that.

But the Celtics will be fighting for a playoff spot near the bottom of the East as they (hopefully) take the next steps in their rebuilding. The Clippers are a team with a legitimate chance to come out of the West and contend for a title.

I think he made the best decision for him. It doesn’t make him any less a Celtic.