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California Notes: Stephenson, Hibbert, Warriors

Many around the league believe the Lakers can quickly return to the NBA elite, with one executive telling Baxter Holmes of that they’re just “one big deal” from a favorable position. Still, Holmes heard pessimism from many others, including an agent who called them “hopeless” and “the West Coast Knicks,” and those who had pointed criticism for Mitch Kupchak, Nick Young and especially Byron Scott. Legendary Laker Shaquille O’Neal, now a Kings part-owner, pointed to the roster as a whole.

“They need to do the same thing Sacramento did — get new players,” O’Neal said to Holmes.

Little can be done about the top of the roster this time of the year, but the Lakers and other Pacific rivals face multiple decisions about how to fill out their bench, as I examined earlier. See more from California’s NBA teams:

  • Clippers trade acquisition Lance Stephenson believes Doc Rivers and the Clippers are giving him a better chance at success than he had in Charlotte, where he didn’t feel the team used him properly last season, as he tells Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. “I was just sitting in the corner. That’s not trying to be a star. A star normally gets the ball,” Stephenson said.
  • Roy Hibbert, set for free agency at season’s end, has impressed in his first action since the offseason trade that took him to the Lakers, observes fellow Orange County Register scribe Bill Oram. “He’s been absolutely solid,” Kobe Bryant said of Hibbert. “Defensively he’s been great. Offensively he’s been great and he’s another great passer on this team. We look forward to playing off him a lot.”
  • The Warriors purchased the land for their new privately funded arena in San Francisco, the team announced. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed, but team indicated the entire project will cost in excess of $1 billion. “We’ve been the Bay Area’s team for more than 50 years, and this plan keeps us in the Bay Area for the next 50 and beyond,” Warriors president and COO Rick Welts said. “If there were any lingering doubts about our commitment to Mission Bay, purchasing this land should put them to rest. We love this neighborhood – nobody else is getting this land.”

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