Tar Heels in NBA: G-League for Pinson, Jackson; Barnes, Bullock, Ellington, Green likely starters

By R.L. Bynum

When the NBA season starts Tuesday, two members of the 2017 UNC national championship team — Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson — will be waiting for the G-League season to begin late this month. Meanwhile, Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock, Danny Green and Wayne Ellington should be regular NBA starters, Coby White is still recovering from surgery and Ed Davis has a new team.

Pinson signed with the Boston Celtics before preseason camps opened but was waived Friday. The team will send him to play for the Maine Celtics, its G-League team in Portland, Maine. Pinson spent all of last season in the NBA with the New York Knicks but played sparingly.

In Pinson’s only exhibition game, Orlando’s 103–102 home victory last Wednesday over Boston, Pinson scored 11 points in 16 minutes on 4 of 7 shooting from the floor, and had three rebounds and two assists. Cole Anthony had 11 points in 28 minutes in that game with six rebounds and three assists.

Pinson hoped to earn the Celtics’ available two-way contract, but that went Monday to free agent Brodric Thomas.

Jackson signed with the Dallas Mavericks on Friday and was later waived, all so that they could retain his G-League rights. He is expected to be on the roster of the Texas Legends, their G-League team that plays in Frisco, Texas.

The Oklahoma City Thunder waived Jackson on April 5. He signed a two-way deal with the Milwaukee Bucks on April 21, and won an NBA title last season as a reserve.

Jackson played 34 regular-season games last season (one with the Bucks), averaging 7.2 points and 17 minutes per game. He played in five playoff games for Milwaukee.

Barnes is back with the Sacramento Kings and will start again at small forward after averaging 16.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season. He put up similar numbers in four preseason games.

“It’s been a good camp for us,” said Barnes, who is under contract through the 2022–23 season. “I think we’ve competed at a high level every single day. Guys are coming together, so I think we’re looking forward to a new season. I’m just happy with where we’re at. I think we’ve gotten better. I think we’re developing some continuity every single day we’re playing.”

Bullock only played in the first exhibition game with his new team, the Dallas Mavericks, but is expected to start. He was away from the team for a few days dealing with a family matter and rejoined the team Monday. Bullock had six points and one assist in 14 minutes of the Mavs’ 111–101 win Oct. 15 over Utah.


Ellington, who signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason, is listed as day-to-day for their Tuesday opener against Golden State (10 p.m., TNT) with a hamstring issue. He averaged 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in four exhibition games. He shot only 6 of 21 from the floor (28.6%) and 4 of 16 from 3-point range (25%).

Green is back for a second season for the Philadelphia 76ers, hoping for a better outcome after they lost the seven-game Eastern Conference finals series to the Atlanta Hawks. He averaged 9.5 points a game last season while shooting 40.5% from 3-point range.

Green, who got married in a lavish Houston ceremony in August, says he expects to again be a leader.

“I was one of the bigger voices in the locker room last year and I have to do the same thing this year,” Green said. “I’m just going to be a little more help for the other guys that are a little younger.”

Another Tar Heel who dealt with a frustrating end to his season was Cameron Johnson, whose Phoenix Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA finals.

Johnson, who will compete for playing time with Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder, averaged 11 points in four exhibition games after averaging 9.6 during the last regular season. Johnson shot 50% from the floor and 44.6 from 3-point range in the playoffs.

Day’Ron Sharpe, according to The Athletic, is likely to spend part of his rookie season in the G-League with the Long Island Nets so that he can get regular playing time.

Sharpe, competing for time with likely starter LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Blake Griffin and Nicolas Claxton, averaged 7.5 points and two rebounds in two exhibition games.

Anthony averaged 11.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and four assists in four exhibition games for the Magic. He will compete for point guard time with likely starter Markelle Fultz. Rookie Jalen Suggs from Gonzaga is expected to play at shooting guard.

According to The Athletic, Anthony should start the season backing up Suggs at point guard.

Tony Bradley has been dealing with a lower back strain and didn’t play until the Chicago Bulls’ preseason finale Friday. He had four points and two rebounds in their 118–105 win over Memphis.

The rehabilitation process for White isn’t going as well as the Bulls had hoped after offseason left shoulder surgery. The team was once optimistic that he could be re-evaluated before November. Now, mid-to-late November is expected to be the earliest that he might take the next step in the process.

‘‘I would say we’d probably have a better feel in maybe another month,’’ Bulls coach Billy Donovan told the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘Besides him being cleared to shoot and to dribble and to pass, he’s really got to work on his range of motion and his strength in his range of motion. So he’s not even in a position to do any contact at all. There’s no contact for him in the foreseeable future.’’

Once White returns, his role is unclear with the offseason backcourt additions of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.

Veteran center Ed Davis, who played sparingly for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, signed last Wednesday with the Cleveland Cavaliers. With plenty of big men ahead of him on the depth chart, Davis, 32, is expected to make his biggest contributions off the court pushing their younger players. He was a member of the 2009 NCAA championship team. This is his eighth NBA team.

When Tar Heels play

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic guard
Roster situation —
Competing for point guard time with likely starter Markelle Fultz; Michael Carter-Williams will also get time. Rookie Jalen Suggs from Gonzaga is expected to play at shooting guard.
2020–21 statistics — 47 games, 12.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 39.7FG%, 33.8%3P, 83.2FT
Preseason statistics — 4 games, 11.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 39.0FG%, 42.1%3P (8 of 19), 7–7 FTs
Season opener — 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at San Antonio
Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings forward
Roster situation —
Will start at small forward spot ahead of Maurice Harkless, Terence Davis and Louis King
2020–21 statistics — 58 games, 16.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 49.7FG%, 39.1%3P, 83.0FT%
Preseason statistics — 4 games, 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 50.0FG% (21 of 42), 40.7%3P (11 of 27), 87.5FT% (7 of 8)
Season opener — 10 p.m. Wednesday at Portland
Tony Bradley, Chicago Bulls center
Roster situation —
Will likely backup Nikola Vučević at center with Marko Simonović also getting time
2020–21 statistics — (20 with Sixers; 22 with Thunder) 42 games, 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.9 of an assist, 66.5 FG%, 0–2 3FG, 69.2FT%
Preseason statistics — 1 game, 4 points, 2–5 FG, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Season opener — 7 p.m. Wednesday at Detroit
Reggie Bullock, Dallas Mavericks guard/forward
Roster situation —
Will compete for time at shooting guard with Tim Hardaway Jr. and at small forward with Dorian Finney-Smith
2020–21 statistics — (with Knicks) 65 games, 10.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 44.2FG%, 41.09%3P, 90.9FT%
2021 playoffs statistics — (with Knicks) 5 games, 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 38.5FG%, 34.5%3P, 80FT%
Preseason statistics — 1 game, 6 points, 2–5 FG, 2–5 3FG, 1 assist
Season opener — 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Atlanta, TNT

Ed Davis, Cleveland Cavaliers center
Roster situation —
He’ll likely play sparingly with Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love on the roster.
2020–21 statistics — (with Timberwolves) 23 games, 2.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.9 of an assist, 43.2FG%, 0–0 3FG, 83.3FT%
Preseason statistics — Didn’t play in the only exhibition after he signed with the team
Season opener —  8 p.m. Wednesday at Memphis
Wayne Ellington, Los Angeles Lakers guard
Roster situation —
Likely starter at shooting guard, ahead of Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kent Bazemore and Kendrick Nunn
2020–21 statistics — (with Pistons) 46 games, 9.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 44.1FG%, 42.2 3P% 80.0FT%
Preseason statistics — 4 games, 5.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 28.6FG% (6 of 21), 25.0%3P (4 of 16)
Season opener — 10 p.m. Tuesday vs. Golden State, TNT
Danny Green, Philadelphia 76ers forward
Roster situation —
Starter at small forward, ahead of Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Georges Niang and Tobias Harris
2020–21 statistics — 69 games, 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 41.2FG%, 40.5%3P, 77.4FT%
2021 playoffs statistics — 8 games, 7.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 43.8FG%, 37.8%3P,
Preseason statistics — 3 games, 6.3 points, 38.9FG%, 33.3%3P, 3.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists
Season opener — 8 p.m. Wednesday at New Orleans
Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns wing
Roster situation —
Will compete for time at small forward with likely starter Mikal Bridges and power forward with Jae Crowder
2020–21 statistics — 60 games, 9.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 42.0FG%, 34.9%3P, 84.7FT%
2021 playoffs statistics — 21 games, 8.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.8 of an assist, 50.0FG%, 44.6%3P, 90.6FT%
Preseason statistics — 4 games, 11.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 61.5FG%, 57.1%3FG (8 of 14), 4–4 FTs
Season opener — 10 p.m. Wednesday vs. Denver, ESPN
Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers forward/guard
Roster situation —
Will compete for time at power forward with likely starter Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr. and at small forward with Norman Powell and Tony Snell
2020–21 statistics — 48 games, 4.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 43FG%
2021 playoffs statistics — 3 games, 1.7 points, 0.3 of a rebound, 25FG%, 25.0%3P, 50FT%
Preseason statistics — 1 game, 3 points, 1–9 FG, 0–3 3FG, 1–2 FT, 8 rebounds 1 assist
Season opener — 10 p.m. Wednesday vs. Sacramento
Day’Ron Sharpe, Brooklyn Nets center
Roster situation —
Will compete for playing time at center with likely starter LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Blake Griffin and Nicolas Claxton
2020–21 statistics — (with UNC) 29 games, 9.5 points, 52.3FG%, 0–2 3FG, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists
Preseason statistics — 2 games, 7.5 points, 55.6FG%, 0–2 3FGs, 2.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists
Season opener — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Milwaukee, TNT
Coby White, Chicago Bulls point guard
Roster situation
— Recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t play until likely late November; Lonzo Ball will start at point guard; White should see time at both guard spots.
2020–21 statistics — 69 games, 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 41.6FG%, 35.9%3P, 90.1 FT%
Preseason statistics — Didn’t play
Season opener — 7 p.m. Wednesday at Detroit
Tar Heels in G-League
Justin Jackson, Texas Legends forward (Dallas Mavericks’ team)
Theo Pinson, Maine Celtics guard (Boston Celtics’ team)

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