The Denver Nuggets have a lot of offseason work to do. They have a lot of expiring contracts at key positions, they have positional logjams to sort out in advance of future draft picks they acquired in the Melo trade, and have to figure out what their identity going forward is. Top of that list, however, is signing Nene to an extension before he activates his opt-out and becomes a free agent. The Denver Post spoke to George Karl, who said while enjoying a well-earned vacation that he planned to speak with Nene, along with team executive Josh Kroenke and GM Masai Ujiri, and that he doesn’t expect the Brazilian Wonder to head anywhere.
Karl seemed optimistic that the Nuggets could persuade Nene to stay. The Brazilian is due to make $12 million next season but could sign a three-year extension with Denver, the team he’s played for his entire career.
“I have no problem with Nene expressing his opinions on his position. I think me and the organization very much want him here,” Karl said. “I think with the situation of this year, maybe he felt like he needed more contact (about the contract). (But) from what I know with my relationship with Nene and his love for Denver, I just think things are going to get worked out, I really do.
“I know (executives) Masai (Ujiri) and Josh (Kroenke) have kind of talked to him, and I’m going to follow up on that — I’m sure it will be in the next couple of weeks.”
Getting Nene to return is a huge part of the puzzle. With Nene in place the Nuggets only really have one positional need, at power forward with Kenyon Martin’s massive contract expiring. They have options to not only start the season with talented players at the other positions, but have enough stock to trade for upgrades short and long-term. Without Nene, they have a huge hole at center and it would force a re-evaluation at the franchise level of their roster. So no big deal for Masai Ujiri, months after trading the franchise player and biggest star in team history, managing to win what seemed an unwinnable situation, he just has to turn around and convince an aging near-All-Star center to return to the Nuggets and not seek out a championship opportunity elsewhere. Another day in Ujiriland.
Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back
But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.
Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.
Re: CJ McCollum: Transverse process fractures of the spine aren’t unheard of in professional sports. Cam Newton & Tony Romo endured the injury while NBA players, including Hedo Turkoglu & Mike Conley, have sustained the injury in recent season.
Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).
That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?
Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner
Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.
The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).
Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.
The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.
Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.
Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.
Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.
Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.
Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.
It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) —Devin Bookerscored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.
Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.