CJ Wilcox, Trail Blazers Reportedly Agree to 2-Way Contract

The Portland Trail Blazers reportedly agreed to a deal with free agent guard CJ Wilcox on Tuesday.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the news, citing league sources. Wojnarowski noted it was a two-way deal with the Trail Blazers.

The Washington product appeared in 22 games last season as a member of the Orlando Magic.  

Wilcox averaged a mere 1.0 points per game in 2016-17 for Orlando—shooting 25.8 percent from the field in the process—and spent some time in the then-named NBA Development League.

The Los Angeles Clippers drafted him with the No. 28 overall pick in 2014, but he hasn’t lived up to the expectations that typically surround a first-round selection. He posted just 2.0 points a night as a rookie and 3.0 points a night in his second year before Los Angeles traded him to Orlando.

Wilcox impressed in his four collegiate seasons at Washington, averaging 14.4 points per game. He was particularly dangerous on the offensive side in his senior year, when he poured in 18.3 points a night behind 39.1 percent shooting from three-point range.

The Trail Blazers will look for him to rediscover his shooting stroke from college after a slow start to his NBA career.

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Darrell Arthur Says Nuggets Can Be Contenders ‘Right Up There with Golden State’

The Denver Nuggets finished the 2016-17 season with a 40-42 record and missed the playoffs, while the Golden State Warriors won their second title in two years. However, forward Darrell Arthur envisions a different situation in 2017-18. 

“We can be a contender for sure, right up there with Golden State,” he said Tuesday, per Harrison Wind of BSNDenver.com.

The Warriors are one of the best teams in league history and are coming off three straight trips to the Finals with a core that still includes Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

While Arthur’s statement likely sounds like hyperbole to NBA fans, the offseason is a time of hope.

It would be a bigger story if an NBA player publicly said his team didn’t have a chance to compete in the upcoming season at this point in the calendar.

Denver may have some catching up to do on paper with the Warriors, but they did add four-time All-Star Paul Millsap to a promising core that already featured talented youngsters Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic.

It is likely too soon to start talking championship for the Nuggets, but they finished a mere one game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs last season. The addition of Millsap, as well as the continued growth of some of their younger players, could push the Nuggets into the playoffs.

Then they will have a chance to prove they truly are contenders against the likes of Golden State and other Western Conference powerhouses.

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Jahlil Okafor Says He ‘Couldn’t Be Happier’ Being a 76er, Talks Trade Rumors

Jahlil Okafor said Tuesday he “couldn’t be happier” to be a member of the Philadelphia 76ers and reinforced that he’s committed to the team despite the uncertainty swirling around his future.

“I hear trade rumors and stuff like that, realizing that having a new scenario, I think it might be better than what it is now,” he said, per GateHouse Media’s Tom Moore (h/t NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin). “When it comes to the NBA, this is all I know is wearing a Sixers uniform. And the city’s been great to me, the coaches have been great to me, and my teammates have been great. So I couldn’t be happier.”

Moore shared a video with Okafor’s comments: 

The Sixers selected Okafor third overall in the 2015 draft, but he’s failed to live up to expectations after thriving as the centerpiece of a Duke Blue Devils team that won a national title. 

Each of his past two seasons has been cut short due to right knee injuries, and even when he’s been healthy, his production has been spotty. 

Although Okafor has averaged a respectable 14.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks through 103 career appearances, he’s been a liability on defense. 

According to NBA.com’s lineup data, the Sixers posted a defensive rating of 109.5 with Okafor on the floor last season—a mark that would have ranked as the third-worst in the league—and were outscored by 14.5 points per 100 possessions during those same minutes. 

With Okafor due a club option worth $6.3 million for the 2018-19 season and Richaun Holmes steadily rising up the depth chart thanks to his shot-blocking and rim-running capabilities, it’s fair to wonder if the 21-year-old’s days in Philadelphia could be numbered. 

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NBA Details Schedule Changes to Enhance Players Rest, Protect National TV Games

The NBA has reportedly eliminated several old scheduling practices to ensure teams will have more rest built into their schedules for the 2017-18 season.

According to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, a memo sent to teams by the league office confirmed there will no longer be stretches that include four games in five nights. There will also be fewer back-to-backs this season with an average of 14.9 per team. 

Windhorst reported teams previously played an average of 16.3 back-to-backs per season. 

Those moves come after the NBA decided to start the 2017-18 campaign nearly two weeks earlier so it had the flexibility to give players more time to heal and avoid its biggest stars from resting for nationally televised games. 

In March, commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to teams stating rest was “an extremely significant issue for our league” after the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors sat their star players for prime-time Saturday showdowns on ABC last season, according to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner

“We [at] the league office can do a better job at looking at, obviously, the prior night in terms of back-to-back, but also the several days leading up to that game so that players are at peak performance for those games,” Silver later said, per Aschburner. 

With more rest built into the schedule, the NBA has reportedly decided to add 19 weekend games to next season’s slate, with the bulk of those games coming on Saturdays, per Windhorst. 

The NBA has not yet announced when the 2017-18 schedule will be released, but Windhorst reported Tuesday it’s “expected to be finalized this week and portions are expected to be announced soon.”

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Lakers Rumors: Briante Weber Reportedly Signed to Partially Guaranteed Contract

The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly have agreed to terms on a partially guaranteed contract with guard Briante Weber, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical. 

Weber, 24, appeared in 13 games for the Charlotte Hornets last year, averaging 3.8 points and 1.2 assists in 12.2 minutes per contest.


This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Michael Beasley Reportedly Expected to Sign Contract with Knicks

The New York Knicks and veteran forward Michael Beasley are reportedly closing in on an agreement on a one-year contract.                      

Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders first reported the news Tuesday. Ian Begley of ESPN.com noted the free-agent signing is expected to be complete later in the day.

Beasley is coming off a solid campaign as an option off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks. He averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds while playing 16.7 minutes per contest. He also rated ninth among qualified small forwards with a 17.91 player efficiency rating, per ESPN.com.

The Bucks highlighted some of his best moments from the 2016-17 campaign:

Along with his on-court production, the 28-year-old Kansas State product embraced his role as a mentor to Milwaukee’s budding frontcourt.

Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel passed along comments Beasley made about working with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker to help make them more complete players.

“The biggest thing for them is playing with a live dribble,” Beasley said in January. “That’s one thing I’m trying to put in Giannis’ head and Jabari’s, everybody really. If we play with a live dribble, we give ourselves more options, and we can see the floor a lot better.”

Beasley has traveled a long road that includes stints with the Shanghai Sharks and Shandong Golden Stars in the Chinese Basketball Association since the Miami Heat selected him with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft.

Although he’s never lived up to that high billing, he’s emerged as a useful reserve capable of providing valuable per-minute numbers off the bench. His willingness to take on that role has helped make it a smooth transition, and his time with the Bucks showed he’s capable of producing at a high level when placed in the right system.

Look for him to serve as depth as small forward behind Carmelo Anthony with New York, though his usage and overall impact would jump significantly if the Knicks deal Melo before the 2017-18 campaign gets underway in October or at some time ahead of next season’s trade deadline.

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Donatas Motiejunas Reportedly Agrees to Contract with Shandong in China

Free-agent forward Donatas Motiejunas reportedly agreed to a $3 million contract with Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association on Tuesday.

Lithuanian news outlet 15min.lt reported the news (h/t Sportando). 

Motiejunas, 26, played 34 games last season for the New Orleans Pelicans. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, shooting 41.3 percent from the floor.

After emerging as a promising stretch 7-footer early in his career, Motiejunas’ last two years have been a constant struggle. His minutes were cut nearly in half by the Houston Rockets from 2014-15 to 2015-16, and a contract standoff with the Rockets cost him $37 million before last season.

Houston had matched a four-year, $37 million deal Motiejunas signed with the Brooklyn Nets but later pulled its offer and let him hit the open market. The Pelicans signed him in January, with Motiejunas never really getting comfortable in the rotation. When New Orleans added DeMarcus Cousins at the All-Star break, it was all but impossible for Motiejunas to get any extended minutes.

“This season has definitely not been close to what I wanted to have, or how I wanted to play,” Motiejunas said in April. “But it is what it is. I was put in—or I put myself, however you want to look at it—in this situation. I did it to myself. This season was not what I looked forward to.

“It was a tough situation. From one side, I was forced into it. From the other side, it was my choice, too. I cannot blame anyone besides myself about it.”

Motiejunas all but confirmed his exit from New Orleans in a May interview with Lithuanian sports writer Donatas Urbonas. He cited the Pelicans’ existing logjam in the frontcourt as a major reason for his departure and listed San Antonio, Golden State, Utah and Washington as possible destinations. 

“I want to play for a team where I would be a good fit and which play team basketball,” he said. “The money will come later.”

If Motiejunas finds regular playing time in China and takes advantage of lesser competition, he should have an easy path back to the NBA. It’s unclear whether his contract has an NBA out, but the CBA season ends during the latter half the NBA campaign. He might wind up being a piece added late in the season by a title contender.

If his performance continues to falter or his back issues flare up again, though, he might look back on that $37 million as the biggest missed opportunity of his career. 

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