Tar Heels in NBA: Bullock, Barnes to start again, Little may start and Green will spend most of season rehabbing

By R.L. Bynum

There are plenty of interesting storylines involving former Carolina players as NBA teams begin training camp.

Two small forwards and a power forward will start, with one other possible starter, while Danny Green will likely spend most of the season rehabbing after an offseason trade.

Training camps opened Monday. Exhibition games start Sunday, and regular-season openers begin on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

The Dallas Mavericks’ Reggie Bullock and the Sacramento Kings’ Harrison Barnes are back as starters. But the Tar Heel whose season might be the most anticipated is the Portland Trail Blazers’ Nassir Little, who was having a breakout season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.


Little may have the edge over Josh Hart for the Blazers’ small forward spot. However, General Manager Joe Cronin characterized it as an “open competition,” mentioning Little, Hart, former Duke player Justise Winslow and Gary Payton II.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity, man,” Little said. “My first three years have just been a progression from year to year. Now being in the conversation for being the potential starting small forward is one of the only things I can ask for. So, just have a good training camp, go out there and compete and live the results.”

Cronin said the team had a brief conversation with Little’s agent about an extension, and there’s a mutual desire to make it a long-term relationship. Little is under contract through the end of the season, with a qualifying offer for the 2023–24 season.

Star Damian Lillard said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Little produce his best season to date.

“I’m expecting a lot from him,” Lillard said. “That doesn’t mean numbers, but his energy. I’ve worked out with Nas a lot this summer. You see a lot of guys in the NBA who just bring fake energy. The energy that he brings is really who he is.”

Little averaged 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds over 42 games but had several outstanding games in January before the injury ended his season. He scored double figures in seven of his last nine games, including 20 points on Jan. 25 when he got hurt against Minnesota.

Little appeared to have bulked up in the offseason while speaking with the media Monday.

“Being away from the game for so long was really tough,” Little said. “But having that physical and mental break has me super hungry or rejuvenated and excited just coming into the season. I feel really good. I’m feeling healthy. So I’m just ready to get back out there with my teammates and  compete and have a really successful year.”


Bullock comes into the season hungry after Golden State ousted the Mavericks 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference finals a year ago.

“We put up a great effort and fell short,” said Bullock, who averaged 8.6 points and 3.5 rebounds last season but significantly improved his play as the season progressed. “But, at the same time, we know what it takes to get there, and we have to start off from the beginning of the season with that [in mind].”

Dallas teammate Theo Pinson enters training camp as likely the third-string shooting guard behind Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr.


Barnes averaged 16.4 points per game last season while shooting 39.4% from 3-point range and will have to match or better those this season if the Kings are going to improve on a 30–52 record and 12th-place finish in the Western Conference. The Kings’ head coach is former Golden State Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown.


Green begins his 14th NBA season on his sixth team and fourth in five seasons.

His final season with the Philadelphia 76ers ended when he tore the ACL and the LCL in his left knee on May 12 in Game 6 of their second-round series with the Miami Heat. During the NBA draft, the Sixers traded Green and the draft rights to David Roddy to Memphis in exchange for De’Anthony Melton.

Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said that he expects Green will return at some point in the season.

“I’m just blessed to be a part of an organization while rehabbing an injury,” Green said. “Obviously, my goal is always to keep playing and be healthy and get back as soon as possible. Some people thought I wouldn’t be able to play this year. Some people weren’t sure. I think Zach believed in me and believed that I can get and be able to play when it matters.”

He’s excited about his new team.

“Instantly, I could feel how great the organization is and how good the energy is,” Green said. “They put their players and team first and take care of everybody.”


Cameron Johnson will start at power forward for the Phoenix Suns, Coach Monty Williams said Thursday. Read more about Johnson in this Tar Heel Tribune story.

Jae Crowder started at that spot last season but isn’t reporting to training camp, and the Suns have agreed to try to find a trade destination.


Cole Anthony enters Orlando Magic training camp penciled in as the backup point guard behind Markelle Fultz.

The often injured Fultz fractured his big left toe in a preseason workout, though, and is out indefinitely. No surgery was needed, and his return timetable will depend on how he responds to treatment. Fultz missed most of the past two seasons after tearing an ACL in January 2021 and returned last February.


After getting most of his playing time during his rookie season in the G League, center Day’Ron Sharpe is likely to stick with the Brooklyn Nets this season. He’s expected to back up starter Nic Claxton.

Sharpe, who shot 28.6% from 3-point range in 32 NBA games and 33.3% in 14 G League games, said he worked on his perimeter shooting in the offseason.

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“I think I can knock the three-ball down at a good clip. If the opportunity presents itself, I can hit that shot,” said Sharpe, who added pounds and muscle in the offseason. “If I’ve got to play more minutes, I’m ready. I’ve been working out all summer. Whatever my time is, I’m ready to compete.”


Other than Green, the Tar Heel in a training camp who faces the most uncertainty probably is fourth-year Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, whom many expected to have been traded by now.

White may have trouble breaking through for playing time even before starting point guard Lonzo Ball returns after he recovers from left knee surgery on Wednesday. Ball is expected to be out for a few months. Still, White also has to beat out Goran Dragic, Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu for time at point guard and Zach LaVine, Caruso and Dosunmu for time at shooting guard.

Bookmark this page for scores and schedules for all UNC teams.

Bulls teammate Tony Bradley enters training camp as likely the third-string center behind Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond.


Justin Jackson will probably need an outstanding training camp with the Boston Celtics to avoid another G League assignment. The other small forwards on the roster are starter Jayson Tatum and reserves Grant Williams, Jalen Brown, Marcus Smart, Sam Houser, Jake Layman and Bruno Caboclo.


Wayne Ellington, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, hasn’t signed but could play in the league for a 15th season if a team gives him a chance.

It was assumed that Ed Davis would retire after the 2020–21 season, but he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers in a role as a mentor off the bench. After 13 seasons, his playing days may be over.

Garrison Brooks signed a week ago with the New York Knicks but was waived over the weekend.

A look at how Tar Heels stand as training camps start

Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic guard

Age 22, 6–3, 185, third NBA season

Roster situation He will likely back up Markelle Fultz at point guard but Fultz suffered a fracture in his big left toe. No surgery is required, and his return timetable will depend on how he responds.
2021–22 season statistics
— 64 games, 16.6 points, 39.3 FG%, 33.9 3FG%, 85.4 FT%, 5.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists
Exhibition opener — 8 p.m. Monday at Memphis
Season opener — 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Detroit
———————————————

Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings forward

Age 30, 6–8, 225, 11th NBA season

Roster situation Expected to start at small forward ahead of Terence Davis, who missed the second half of last season with a right wrist injury.
2021–22 season statistics — 77 games, 16.4 points, 46.9 FG%, 39.4 3FG%, 82.6 FT%, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists
Exhibition opener — 10:30 Monday at Los Angeles Lakers, NBATV
Season opener — 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 vs. Portland
———————————————

Tony Bradley, Chicago Bulls center

Age 24, 6–10, 248, sixth NBA season

Roster situation Likely the third-string center behind Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond.
2021–22 season statistics —
55 games, 3.0 points, 58.5 FG%, 65.5 FT%, 3.4 rebounds, 0.5 of an assist
Exhibition opener — 9:30 Tuesday vs. New Orleans, TNT
Season opener — 7:30 Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Miami
———————————————

Reggie Bullock, Dallas Mavericks small forward

Age 31, 6–6, 205, 10th NBA season

Roster situation Expected to start at small forward ahead of Josh Green and Tim Hardaway Jr.
2021–22 season statistics — 68 games, 8.6 points, 40.1 FG%, 36.0 3P%, 83.3 FT%, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists
Exhibition opener —
8 p.m. Wednesday vs. Oklahoma City in Tulsa
Season opener — 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Phoenix, ESPN
———————————————

Danny Green, Memphis Grizzlies forward

Age 35, 6–6, 215, 14th NBA season

Roster situation He’ll spend most of the season rehabbing after tearing his ACL and LCL in his left knee in a May 12 playoff game. When he plays, he’ll compete for playing time at shooting guard (where Desmond Bane is the likely starter) and small forward (where Dillon Brooks likely starts) with several players, including reserves John Konchar and Zaire Williams.
2021–22 season statistics (76ers) — 62 games, 5.9 points, 39.4 FG%, 38.0 3FG%, 20–24 FT, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Exhibition opener — 8 p.m. Monday vs. Orlando
Season opener — 7:30 Wednesday, Oct. 19 vs. New York, ESPN
———————————————

Justin Jackson, Boston Celtics forward

Age 27, 6–8, 220, sixth NBA season

Roster situation He will battle for a roster spot at small forward behind starter Jayson Tatum and reserves Grant Williams, Jalen Brown, Marcus Smart, Sam Houser, Jake Layman and Bruno Caboclo. Another G League assignment is likely without an outstanding performance in training camp.
2021–22 NBA season statistics — 7 games, 2.1 points, 33.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 1.0 rebounds, 0.3 of an assist
G League statistics (2022 part of season) — 28 games, 22.1 points, 41.5% FG, 36.3% 3FG, 88.2 FT%, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists
G League statistics (2021 part of season) — 10 games, 22.7 points, 47.3% FG, 41.4% 3FG, 79.2 FT%, 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.0 steals
Exhibition opener — 1 p.m. Sunday vs. Charlotte, NBATV
Season opener — 7:30 Tuesday, Oct. 18 vs. Philadelphia, TNT
———————————————

Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns power forward

Age 26, 6–8, 210, fourth NBA season

Roster situation Will start at power forward. The incumbent starter Jae Crowder isn’t reporting to training camp and the Suns have agreed to find a trade destination for him.
2021–22 season statistics —
66 games, 12.5 points, 46.0 FG%, 42.5 3FG%, 86.0 FT%, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Exhibition opener — 10 p.m. Sunday vs. Adelaide 36ers, NBATV
Season opener — 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 vs. Dallas, ESPN
———————————————

Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers small forward

Age 22, 6–5, 220, fourth NBA season

Roster situation He’s expected to compete for the starting small forward spot with Josh Hart after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in February and fully recovering.
2021–22 season statistics — 42 games, 9.8 points, 46.0 FG%, 33.1 3P%, 73.4 FT%, 5.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Exhibition opener — 10:30 Monday vs. Los Angeles Clippers at Seattle
Season opener — 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Sacramento
———————————————

Theo Pinson, Dallas Mavericks guard

Age 26, 6–5, 212, fifth NBA season

Roster situation He’ll likely be a third-string shooting guard behind Spencer Dinwiddie and Tim Hardaway Jr.
NBA 2021–22 season statistics —
19 games, 2.5 points, 35.9 FG%, 33.3 3FG%, 10–10 FT, 1.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists
G League 2021–22 season statistics — 14 games, 15.7 points, 40.4 FG%, 38.6 3FG%, 84.8 FT%, 4.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.2 steals
Exhibition opener — 8 p.m. Wednesday vs. Oklahoma City in Tulsa
Season opener — 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Phoenix, ESPN
———————————————

Day’Ron Sharpe, Brooklyn Nets center

Age 20 (turns 21 on Nov. 6), 6–9, 265, second NBA season

Roster situation He’s expected to back up starter Nic Claxton.
NBA 2021–22 season statistics — 32 games, 6.2 points, 57.7 FG%, 28.6 3P%, 58.5% FT, 5.0 rebounds, 0.5 of an assist
G League statistics (2021 part of season) — 4 games, 18.0 points, 47.8 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 85.7 FT%, 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 2.6 blocks
G League statistics (2022 part of season) — 10 games, 18.8 points, 51.0 FG%, 33.3 3FG%, 40.0 FT%, 13.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists
Exhibition opener — 7:30 Monday vs. Philadelphia, NBATV
Season opener — 7:30 Wednesday, Oct. 19 vs. New Orleans
———————————————

Coby White, Chicago Bulls guard

Age 22, 6–4, 195, fourth NBA season

Roster situation Enters season battling for point guard time with likely starter Lonzo Ball (who will have left knee surgery Wednesday and be out another four to six weeks), Goran Dragic, Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu and at shooting guard with Zach LaVine, Caruso and Dosunmu.
2021–22 season statistics —
61 games, 12.7 points, 43.3 FG%, 38.5 3P%, 86.7 FT%, 3.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists
Exhibition opener — 9:30 Tuesday vs. New Orleans, TNT
Season opener — 7:30 Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Miami
———————————————

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