NBA Notes: Stoudemire to be limited in return

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NBA Notes: Stoudemire to be limited in return

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Knicks coach Mike Woodson says Amare Stoudemire would be limited to about 10 to 15 minutes per game if he is able to return during New York's playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

Stoudemire worked out again Thursday as he nears his return from right knee surgery. He played in 4-on-4 scrimmages and says he felt better than he did after playing 3-on-3 Monday.

The Knicks will wait to see how the veteran forward feels Friday before determining whether he will be in uniform Saturday for Game 3 in Indianapolis.

Stoudemire averaged 14.2 points in 29 games off the bench before surgery March 11 to clean up and remove tissue from his knee (see full story).

Ujiri named top executive
DENVER -- Even as Masai Ujiri accepted the NBA's executive of the year trophy from club President Josh Kroenke on Thursday, the Denver Nuggets general manager said he would have given it up gladly in exchange for a deep playoff run.

"It's a little bittersweet for me," Ujiri said at a news conference a day after the Nuggets' George Karl took the trophy for coach of the year. "I would trade that to be playing right now."

Ujiri, the first African-born GM in major American sports, built the Nuggets team that won an NBA franchise-record 57 games and went an NBA-best 38-3 at home before going down in the first round.

"There was an unbelievable energy in this city and that's why we had kind of a little disappointment when we lost to the Golden State Warriors, who's not such a bad team from what they are doing right now," Ujiri said. "We hope to kick their butts next year but they're not too bad right now. We understand we are a growing team. We knew there were going to be pains. This is part of the process and we'll continue to grow."

Ujiri assembled a team that had nine players average between 8 and 16.7 points and the city, the Nuggets' fans and the organization embraced the club's persona as a team without a superstar that nevertheless got the job done (see full story).

Kobe suit against his mother proceeds
CAMDEN, New Jersey -- Basketball star Kobe Bryant is playing some of his toughest defense yet, demanding his mother keeps her hands off his merchandise.

Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers guard, said in a court filing that he never gave his mother permission to sell mementos from his high school days and early professional basketball career.

Bryant is in a court battle over whether hundreds of items -- from high school jerseys to trophies and championship rings -- can be auctioned off.

Pamela Bryant said the NBA star told her the memorabilia was hers. She arranged earlier this year to auction it off through New Jersey-based Goldin Auctions and received a $450,000 advance.

Last week, lawyers for the son wrote to the auction house demanding it cease the June sale. Goldin is suing to assert its right to sell.

In a filing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Camden, Kobe Bryant says his mother acknowledged to him recently that she did not have permission to sell the items. The suit was filed there because the auction house is located in southern New Jersey (see full story).

Dario Saric reportedly says he's coming to Sixers, but Colangelo still cautious

Dario Saric reportedly says he's coming to Sixers, but Colangelo still cautious

When dealing with a foreign player like Dario Saric, you can't help but wonder if something is being lost in translation. Keeping in mind that language barrier, a Croatian website is reporting that Saric is set on heading to Philadelphia.

The quote from Saric, as translated by Twitter user @CroSports_ reads as follows: "Everything is leading in that direction. I'm waiting for this tournament (Olympic qualifying) to end so that I can sit down and work out a deal, then head over to the USA to sign. 

"I have one more year with Efes (Turkish basketball team Anadolu Efes) and [head coach Velimir] Perasovic wants me to stay, but I gave [the Sixers] my word. My word means more than a paper.”

The speculation over Saric has been an ongoing saga for the Sixers. While president of basketball operations Brian Colangelo is cautiously optimistic about bringing over the No. 12 overall pick, he knows that Saric putting pen to paper does actually matter. 

"It’s a very solid statement on his part and indicates his commitment, but nothing is official until the buyout agreement is finalized and he gets cleared by FIBA. Then he can sign,” Colangelo said to CSNPhilly's Dei Lynam. 

Remember, earlier this month Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown met with Saric in Istanbul, and Colangelo didn't have a strong feeling either way regarding Saric's chances of coming to the Sixers.

“I wasn’t pessimistic, I wasn’t optimistic," Colangelo said at the time. "I was somewhat neutral as to whether or not I felt he would be coming over and I still feel that way."

Saric has until July 17 to notify his current team, Anadolu Efes, of his decision. 

Sixers exercise team option on forward Hollis Thompson

Sixers exercise team option on forward Hollis Thompson

It looks like Hollis Thompson will be back next season. 

The Sixers exercised the forward's fourth-year team option for the 2016-17 season. The option is worth just north of $1 million, according to Basketball Reference. 

Thompson, 6-foot-8, 206 pounds, has played three NBA seasons with the Sixers after going undrafted out of Georgetown in 2012. 

In his 225 NBA games (81 starts), he has averaged 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He's also shot 39 percent from three and his 331 career three-pointers rank him eighth in Sixers history. 

Sixers free-agent fits: Small forwards — Superstars, Barnes, Parsons and more

Sixers free-agent fits: Small forwards — Superstars, Barnes, Parsons and more

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. We've already analyzed point guards and shooting guards. Today, we'll break down small forwards.

Sixers small forwards for 2016-17
Robert Covington (guaranteed — $1,015,696)

Jerami Grant (guaranteed — $980,431)

Current SF situation
When you're a 10-win team, you need help just about everywhere. Small forward is no exception for the Sixers.

Covington worked hard all last offseason to become a more well-rounded player and it paid off in some aspects. He grabbed a career-high 6.3 rebounds and was a much better on-ball defender than the previous season. However, with more freedom the three-point specialist's offensive production actually dropped a bit. Covington's points (13.5 to 12.8), field goal percentage (39.6 to 38.5) and three-point percentage (37.4 to 35.3) all took a dip in 2015-16.

Grant took the next step in his progression last season, but there is still a long way to go. The 22-year-old increased his scoring to 9.7 points per game and rebounding to 4.7 a night while also bumping his field goal percentage from 35.2 percent to 41.9. He also proved to be one of the game's emerging defenders with 1.6 blocks a game (12th in the entire NBA). But with the Sixers already having so many players operating in the paint, they would prefer Grant to step outside to develop his jump shot. That didn't go well at all, as he managed to sink just 35 of his 146 three-point attempts (24.0) a season ago.

The Sixers could get a boost on the wing if international prospects Dario Saric or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot join the club. Luwawu-Cabarrot is more likely to strike a deal, but either way it will be tough to ask a rookie who is also new to the United States to come in and contribute at the game's highest level right away.

Reach free agent(s)

LeBron James and Kevin Durant
Nope. Not going to happen. Moving right along.

Possible fits

Harrison Barnes (restricted)
Yes, we saw the memes with Barnes' face Photoshopped onto milk cartons and trash cans after the Finals. They were both hilarious and semi-accurate after a postseason performance in which he averaged 9.0 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting. However, we're not ready to write Barnes off after a rough two-month stretch and reportedly neither are the Sixers. Barnes, 24, proved to be a key cog of the Warriors' record 73-win team. He put up a career-high 11.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range. That level of consistent floor spacing with the ability to grab rebounds (4.9 per game) and still slash to the rim is exactly what the Sixers need. The big question is will they get that same package or was that just the benefit of Barnes playing with a star-studded Golden State team that won a record 73 games during the regular season?

Nicolas Batum (unrestricted)
Perhaps the most versatile of all the free-agent small forwards, Batum had a strong first season in Charlotte. The Frenchman averaged a career-high 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 35.0 minutes a game for the up-and-coming Hornets. Batum would be a huge upgrade for the Sixers as he doesn't need the ball to be effective, uses his length to play lockdown defense and drains enough three-pointers to keep defenses honest (career 36.0 percent shooter from long range). At 27 years old along with a wealth of NBA and international experience, Batum would instantly be a leader for this young Sixers group. But without ever winning on the top levels of competition, Batum might opt for a more championship-ready team than the rebuilding 76ers.

Chandler Parsons (unrestricted)
A source close to Parsons told ESPN last week that the small forward would be "all ears" during free agency after declining his player option with the Dallas Mavericks. Parsons doubled down on that notion with an Instagram post. He will likely only start listening once the max offers cross his agent's desk. Parsons, a 2011 second-rond pick, has worked his way into being one of the more well-rounded players at his position. He posted 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the Mavs while shooting 49.2 percent from the field and 41.4. Parsons is the classic 3-and-D player the Sixers have been coveting for years ... if he's healthy. He has been shut down in each of the past two seasons with knee injuries, which both led to surgeries. The Sixers would need to be absolutely certain Parsons is back to full health before throwing that kind of money at him to sign in Philly.

Kent Bazemore (unrestricted)
The name may not be the sexiest out there, but he can ball. After going undrafted and biding his time with the Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks for several seasons, Bazemore broke out in his first consistent stint as a starter in 2015-16. In 27.8 minutes a night, he put up 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals. The 26-year-old Bazemore's athleticism fits right into Brett Brown's desire to get out and run while his defensive intensity would help boost a team that needs all the help it can get on that end of the floor. A bonus is the fact he can sink shots from beyond the arc when left open (35.7 percent from three-point range). Doubtful that he will ever turn into a guy you can count on for 20-plus points a night, but would still be a pretty solid fit in a Sixers uniform if they miss out on their other top targets.