News and notes from around the NBA:
Hassan Whiteside earning a hefty raise
On Friday night, fourth-year Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside notched a triple-double in a 98-95 win over the Denver Nuggets, scoring 19 points with 17 rebounds and 11 blocks. Earning just under $1 million for the current season, Whiteside has set himself up to earn a massive raise in July when he'll be an unrestricted free agent.
Averaging 12.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and a league-best 4.0 blocks a game, Whiteside could end up signing a maximum contract this summer, worth over $90 million, starting at $21 million for the 2016-17 season. Since Whiteside is in just his second season in Miami, the Heat does not have his Bird rights, limiting any Whiteside offer to four years, similar to what any other prospective suitor can give. Although he doesn't have a long, proven NBA track record, playing scant minutes through his first two seasons with the Sacramento Kings, Whiteside could be on the radar of a number of teams — including the Lakers.
Whiteside wasn't the only NBA player to reach a triple-double on Friday. There were three recorded, and nearly a fourth. Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook helped his team defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Boston Celtics second-year guard Marcus Smart delivered 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Phoenix Suns.
While Whiteside, Westbrook and Smart were all victorious, Brooklyn Nets guard Donald Sloan fell short on both accounts with 15 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, the Nets losing to the Portland Trail Blazers. Sloan has taken on starting duties in Brooklyn for Jarrett Jack, out for the season because of a knee injury.
NCAA loosens draft rules
On Wednesday, the NCAA made a significant change, allowing underclassmen to explore their NBA draft prospects more thoroughly, before deciding to back out and return to school. Now players will be able to participate in the NBA's draft combine and work out for teams, with the deadline to withdraw moved back to late May — instead of mid-April.
The extra month will allow young players to better gauge their chances of landing two years of guaranteed money in the first round of the draft. Staying in school is typically preferable than dropping to the second round (or out of the top-60 picks altogether), without any financial guarantees.
Nets fire Hollins, reassign King
Last Sunday, the Nets let go of their coach, Lionel Hollins, installing assistant Tony Brown in the interim. The team also reassigned General Manager Billy King. Brooklyn has one of the worst records in the NBA at 11-29. Making matters worse, the team will send its 2016 first-round pick to the Celtics in June, as part of the 2013 trade that landed Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce with the Nets. Neither player is still in Brooklyn, and the Nets are rebuilding without the benefit of help in the draft.
On Thursday, the Toronto Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic in London, as part of the "NBA Global Games" to widen the league's reach internationally. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, on hand for the Magic home game played over 4,000 miles away from the Amway Center, said the league is not currently looking to add teams in Europe. The logistical issues are just too much to bear with scheduling and travel.
Former Clippers guard Baron Davis, who is hoping to make his way back into the NBA, signed a contract to play in the NBA Development League. Davis last played for the New York Knicks, suffering a significant right knee injury in May of 2012. Davis tore his patellar tendon and both his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. Now 36 years old, Davis is hoping to join one of the D-League's 19-teams, to show he is back and ready to once again help a team in the NBA.
Golden State at Cleveland
When: 5 p.m. PST, Monday. TV: TNT.
Dating to the NBA Finals, the Warriors have won four straight against LeBron James' team. The latest win came on Christmas Day in Oakland, with the Warriors edging the Cavaliers, 89-83. In that game Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving shot a woeful four for 15 from the field, but it was his first week of action since fracturing his kneecap in the Finals. However, in recent games Irving has found his shot and his scoring has put more pressure on defenders, who can't always rotate over to double-team James.
— Barry Stavro