NBA News, Rumors 2014: Latest on Heat, Spurs, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Lakers, Hawks, Pelicans, Team USA

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
September 10, 2014 Updated: September 11, 2014

The NBA news and rumors keep coming this offseason.

Check out the latest buzz below.

Battle for Zoran Dragic Heats Up

A number of teams have jumped into the competition to sign Zoran Dragic, the brother of Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic who had an impressive showing at the FIBA World Cup before Slovenia was knocked out by the United States.

Zoran, 25, has never played in the NBA but the 6’5″ guard has received interst in the past couple summers and played for the Houston Rockets summer league team in 2012.

MORE: USA vs Lithuania: Live Score, Video Highlights for 2014 FIBA World Cup; United States Wins

League sources told Real GM that the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic have jumped into the fray to try to sign Zoran.

The Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns have also reportedly showed interest.

There’s an October 5 buyout deadline in the language of his contract with Unicaja Malaga of the European League.

Calipari Setting Up Scouting Combine

John Calipari, the University of Kentucky head coach, is finalizing plans for an unprecedented two-day campus scouting combine for NBA executives.

Calipari has been known for sometime now for fielding players who stay in school for a short time, most for one or two years.

“Calipari has invited officials of the 30 NBA teams to send personnel to Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 11-12 to watch his players do everything from run full-court five-on-five and NBA-style pick-and-roll sets to individual skill work,” reported Yahoo Sports, citing league sources.

“The event is a chance for Calipari to impress a throng of top high school recruits on campus visits and once again frame his program as college basketball’s best NBA feeder system. Kentucky is expected to be a consensus preseason No. 1 in the polls.

“After the combine, Calipari plans to shut out NBA executives and scouts from his practices for several weeks – perhaps even months – into the season. This way, Calipari can avoid the distractions that a constant parade of NBA scouts can present to so many talented young players in the practice gym.”

Lakers to Emphasize Defense

Byron Scott is introduced as the successor to Mike D'Antoni as the Lakers' head coach during a news conference in Los Angeles Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Scott is coming home for his fourth NBA coaching job. He inherits a team that missed the playoffs for just the third time in 38 years. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Byron Scott is introduced as the successor to Mike D’Antoni as the Lakers’ head coach during a news conference in Los Angeles Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Scott is coming home for his fourth NBA coaching job. He inherits a team that missed the playoffs for just the third time in 38 years. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

New Lakers head coach Byron Scott talked about the team’s emphasis on defense.

“We’ve got a great relationship, we’ve been texting each other all summer, you know, just talking and talking and talking,” Scott said, talking about Kobe Bryant, according to SCPR.org.

“We’ve visited a couple times in person. He came in about three weeks ago, so we keep in contact. His biggest thing right now is to get these guys up to speed and make sure they’re all on board with what we’re trying to do. We both have the same thought process as far as what it takes to win.

“His first words to me were, ‘We gotta play defense.’ And it just brought a smile on my face because that’s exactly what we have to do. It’s gotta be defending first and if we can rebound that ball second, then we can get up and down the floor.”

Scott added that he’s communicated his desires for the Lakers to play better defense after last season’s dismal performance.

“Oh yeah. I’ve text guys, I’ve had other guys that I’ve text tell the guys that they’re with, you know, ‘Let him know that this is how it’s going to be, and we’re going to play defense every single night,’ and the response has been good — has been great. A lot of guys right now are a little afraid because of training camp, and they’ve heard about my training camps. So right now I’m kind of smiling on the inside just getting ready for our training camp,” he said.

Cavs Search for Big Man

The Cavs reportedly reached out to the Denver Nuggets about center Timofey Mozgov and have even reportedly offered the Nuggets a first round pick for Mozgov, but it seems that the deal won’t happen.

A fan asked Chuck Myron of Hoop Rumors if Mozgov would be on the team come October.

“Those chances are a lot lower than the Cavs would hope. The Nuggets like you a lot, and for good reason, since you’re the most proven commodity that team has at center, outside of the undersized J.J. Hickson,” it said.

“If I were Denver, I’d ask for Tristan Thompson as a part of any deal, and I imagine Cleveland would want more than just Mozgov to part with him.”

Sam Amico previously said that it’s “100 percent” sure that the Cavs will land a rim protector before the season starts. It’s unclear who the Cavs are targeting outside of Mozgov, though.

Hawks discipline GM Ferry for racist comments

Epoch Times Photo

In this June 25, 2012, file photo, Atlanta Hawks president of operations and general manager Danny Ferry speaks during a news conference in Atlanta, as team co-owner Bruce Levenson, right, looks on. (AP Photo/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnny Crawford)

ATLANTA—The Atlanta Hawks are sticking with general manager Danny Ferry even though the team’s new majority owner wants him fired for racially charged comments about Luol Deng.

CEO Steve Koonin on Tuesday told the Hawks’ flagship radio station that he made the decision to discipline Ferry but allowed him to keep his job managing the team. He did not say what the punishment was, but noted that he relied on a law firm’s three-month investigation of Ferry and him describing Deng as someone who “has a little African in him.”

Ferry made the inflammatory comments about Deng in a conference call with the Hawks’ ownership group in June when the team pursued Deng as a free agent.

Deng, who now plays for the Miami Heat, responded saying, “I’m proud to say I actually have a lot of African in me, not just ‘a little.'”

A letter from co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. recommends that Ferry resign or be fired. Gearon said Ferry made that description of Deng to the team’s ownership group.

His June 12 letter to co-owner Bruce Levenson said Ferry went on to say, “Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”

Added Gearon: “Ferry completed the racial slur by describing the player (and impliedly all persons of African descent) as a two-faced liar and cheat.”

Deng, 29, was born in what is now South Sudan. His father moved his family to Egypt and then England. The 10-year NBA veteran is now a British citizen, played for England in the 2012 Olympics and said he’s proud to represent his heritage “on the highest stage.”

Deng, like Ferry, also played at Duke.

“Every person should have the right to be treated with respect and evaluated as an individual, rather than be reduced to a stereotype,” Deng said. “I am saddened and disappointed that this way of thinking still exists today. I am even more disturbed that it was shared so freely in a business setting.”

Koonin said Atlanta law firm Alston and Bird went through 24,000 documents, conducted 19 interviews and read “every email Danny Ferry has ever sent as general manager of the Atlanta Hawks.” Koonin said no other negative information on Ferry was found in the probe.

“I took their advice and far exceeded their advice,” Koonin said of the undisclosed punishment he imposed on Ferry.

Hawks spokesman Garin Narain said the investigation of Ferry’s comments uncovered a racially inflammatory email written two years ago by Levenson. That discovery led to Levenson’s announcement Sunday that he will sell his controlling share of the team.

Despite Gearon’s desire to remove Ferry, Koonin is standing by him.

“I understand that emotion,” Koonin said of Gearon’s recommendation. “I certainly understand that emotion. I know people who have said that to me. But if we sentence people based on what everybody wanted, we wouldn’t have a justice system.

“I listened to what (the law firm) said because they had done the work … so that’s a decision I’m willing to live with.”

US, Lithuania win to set up World Cup semifinal

Epoch Times Photo

Turkey’s Omer Asik, second right, vies for the ball against Lithuania’s Renaldas Seibutis, second left, during Basketball World Cup quarter finals between Lithuania and Turkey at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

BARCELONA, Spain—Lithuania will have another chance to upset the United States after the two teams set up a semifinal rematch at the Basketball World Cup.

Renaldas Seibutis scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and Lithuania outshot Turkey from behind the 3-point line to win their quarterfinal 73-61 on Tuesday.

The U.S. then turned a seven-point halftime lead into a 119-76 blowout of Slovenia as six Americans scored 12 or more points, led by Klay Thompson’s 20.

Thursday’s semifinal at Palau Sant Jordi will be a rematch of the 2010 meeting when a Kevin Durant-led U.S. beat Lithuania 89-74 en route to taking the world title.

“Everybody counts on that USA is the favourite, but we would have to give a fight against them for the semifinal,” said Lithuania forward Jonas Maciulis. “We have to fight and seize the chance to play the final.”

Backup guard Martynas Pocius added 13 points off the bench for the reigning bronze medalists as Lithuania’s substitutes outscored Turkey’s 28-6. Kerem Gonlum paced Turkey, the 2010 silver medalists, with 13 points.

A game featuring two NBA big men in Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas and Turkey’s Omer Asik was decided from beyond the arc.

Turkey had needed two last-minute 3s by Emir Preldzic to overcome a five-point deficit and stun Australia in the round of 16. But the Turks only shot 3-of-18 from long range against a Lithuania team that made 10-of-19.

As Lithuania coach Kazlauskas put it: “All Lithuanians can shoot. Me too.”

“They were concentrating on the inside so we had a lot of space on the perimeter,” Kazlauskas added.

Asik started strong for Turkey with six of his 11 points in the opening period to help build an early 14-6 lead. But the New Orleans Pelicans center was limited by fouls as the game wore on and Turkey’s guards lost their shooting touch. Preldzic looked set for another big night when he made his first three baskets, only to manage just four more points.

Valanciunas kept Lithuania afloat with six first-quarter points while its guards struggled early.

The Toronto Raptors center finished with 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, after several bruising battles with Asik in the low post. One no-call on what he deemed a foul earned Valanciunas a technical for protesting. After cooling down on the bench he returned to help Lithuania dominate the final quarter when its shots started to fall.

“For most of these games we managed to make a comeback,” said Turkey guard Sinan Guler. “But today, if we compare the 3-point percentages it shows how the game went. That took us out of our rhythm and at the end not making our shots brought the result of the game.”

The Americans’ outside scorers also struggled early as James Harden Stephen Curry combined to miss all 12 shots they took in the first half.

No matter. The U.S. was still ahead on the strength of its offensive rebounding and its defense.

The U.S. fueled its eventual rout with a 53-38 advantage on the boards, including a 23-12 edge on the offensive glass. It also scored 40 points off turnovers to 10 for Slovenia.

“Under the basket we lost the battle from the very first second,” Slovenia coach Jure Zdoc said.

Kenneth Faried set the tone on the boards as it took the U.S. less than 90 seconds to pull in its first five rebounds.

The Denver Nuggets forward finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow big man Anthony Davis had 13 points and 11 boards.

Harden exploded for 14 points as the second half turned into a series of breakaway dunks for the Americans that delighted the crowd, except the large swath of Slovenian fans in their chartreuse shirts.

Individual tickets for Pelicans on sale Wednesday

NEW ORLEANS—Individual tickets for all regular season New Orleans Pelicans home games go on sale to the general public on Wednesday at 8 a.m.

The New Orleans Advocate reports tickets will be available in all seating categories through all Ticketmaster outlets, on www.Pelicans.com, by calling 1-800-4NBATIX or by visiting the box office at the team’s practice facility in Metairie.

Pelicans single-game ticket offers have also been introduced and select games will be announced Friday on the team’s website. The first package, starting at $48, is Pierre’s Party Pack which includes three tickets, three combo meals and a postgame free throw shoot on the court with Pierre.

The Pelicans are also launching a Guys Night Out 6-pack that includes two tickets, four beers and two t-shirts starting as low as $46.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.