The winds of change appear to be traveling in the direction of Los Angeles this summer, especially after the conclusion of a disappointing injury-riddled season for the Lakers and a first-round playoff collapse by the Clippers. Both teams will certainly have significant decisions to make this summer as they look to regroup and come back strong in 2013-14, and coincidentally, it starts with determining the futures of their respective franchise players. We've got a few rumblings to share from each camp as we inch closer to the NBA offseason:
- When asked if Dwight Howard might try to force Mike D'Antoni out of Los Angeles, Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld (via Twitter) says that the soon-to-be free agent doesn't want to be involved in dictating the job security of the Lakers' coach. As for the player option of Jodie Meeks and the possibility of re-signing Earl Clark, Kyler points to the priority of determining Howard's future before taking care of anything else.
- Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles hears that Chauncey Billups would like to return to the Clippers next season, adding that he's feeling as good as he's felt in two years: "I would love to be back here and continue to help in this process...I feel like we are getting closer. I definitely want to be a part of it and I'll be able to show everybody who I've always been with a summer of getting myself together, so hopefully it works out like that."
- Billups also says that his goal is to play two more seasons and briefly touched upon his desire to be invovled in an NBA front office instead of coaching once his playing career is over.
- Though there were hints about Grant Hill's plans to retire after this season, Markazi writes that Hill could come back for another year if he feels healthy enough. Hill is currently under contract for about $2MM for 2013-14.
- Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles tweets that there's no truth to the rumor which suggests that Chris Paul will be leaving his agent Leon Rose for Rich Paul, who currently represents LeBron James and Clippers teammate Eric Bledsoe among others.
Jodie Meeks has been a critical role player for the Lakers this season under coach Mike D'Antoni after sitting on the pine for much of Mike Brown's tenure. The Lakers hold a team option on Meeks and he believes that it will be exericsed. “Yeah, I think so,” Meeks told Shams Charania of RealGM when asked if he believes he will be part of the Lakers next year. “You can’t really worry about that right now, just finish out this year. I’ll do that and see whatever happens.” Here's more from around the Association..
- If Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman winds up walking away this summer due to family issues, J.B. Bickerstaff won't be considered a candidate for the job, according to Ric Bucher of 95.7 The Game (Sulia link). There are still hard feelings in the Minnesota office when Bickerstaff followed Kevin McHale to the Rockets that would keep him from being considered.
- Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times rounds up the week's news on the future of the Kings, noting that Sacramento City Council's approval of an arena plan is non-binding, just like their endorsement of an ill-fated arena proposal last year (link via the Sacramento Bee).
- The Clippers retooled bench worked hard in the offseason to become arguably the league's best bench, writes Derek Page of HoopsWorld. In order for everything to come together for L.A., it was essential for Jamal Crawford to check his ego at the door and accept being the club's sixth man.
- While we have heard that the Wolves are set to exercise GM David Kahn's option for next season, owner Glen Taylor says that he hasn't made a decision yet, writes Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune.
Yannis Koutroupis and Stephen Brotherston of HoopsWorld both agree that it wouldn't be in the Lakers' best interests to deal Dwight Howard despite how the team has struggled with him thus far. Brotherston also thinks that with Pau Gasol's value to teams looking for some veteran leadership, it would be wise for Los Angeles to cash him in for younger and more athletic players who can provide a better fit next to Steve Nash and Dwight. You'll find more of tonight's miscellaneous links below:
- Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer looks at how the CBA's more restrictive luxury-tax implications (set to take effect in 2013-14) have reconfigured the way trades have been discussed in today's NBA, where cap space and draft picks have become the most coveted bargaining chips in what Celtics coach Doc Rivers calls 'economic trades.'
- Brotherston writes about how the emergence of Earl Clark in Mike D'Antoni's rotation has come at the expense of guard Jodie Meeks, who has gone from averaging 26.5 MPG in December to playing a total of 38 minutes in the Lakers' last seven games. While Meeks admits his frustration, he says there is nothing else to do but remain positive and stay ready for when D'Antoni gives him another opportunity to play.
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer points to inexperience as an explanation for the Bobcats' struggles when trying to close out games. Of their 31 losses this season, 10 have been decided by six points or less.
- While there is no set timetable for Hedo Turkoglu's return to action for the Magic, the 6'10 veteran forward recently participated in fullcourt scrimmages and said that the injured left hand he's been dealing with is "about to be 100 percent soon," notes Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
The latest news and notes from around the Atlantic Division on Sunday afternoon:
- Despite rumors that Dwane Casey's job is in jeopardy, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star backs the Raptors coach and notes that perception around the league is generally optimistic about Casey and the team's future.
- Mirza Teletovic was used to being the focal point of his team in Europe, so it's been a challenge for him to adjust to being on the end of the Nets' bench this season, as Newsday's Roderick Boone chronicles.
- Mark Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer talks to Lakers guard Jodie Meeks, who reflects on the 76ers organization where he spent the first three seasons of his career as his new team prepares to play his former one.
- Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com reports that Iman Shumpert and Amare Stoudemire are making progress toward returning to the Knicks.
The Lakers are in Oklahoma City in advance of their game tomorrow night against the Thunder, and spent the afternoon today at an Oklahoma theater watching Lincoln. At least one Laker has submitted his review already, as the film comes "highly recommended" from Pau Gasol. While we wait with bated breath to see if there are any dissenting options from the team, here are a few Lakers updates:
The NBA released its annual report on the growing international presence on its rosters, noting the Spurs have a record eight players from overseas, notes Art Garcia of Fox Sports Southwest, and that includes players from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy points out (Twitter links). The Timberwolves have five of the league's international players from four different countries, according to the team (Twitter link). As the league continues to attract talent from around the world, here's what's going on around the Western Conference.
- Jodie Meeks couldn't be more content with his decision to sign with the Lakers, even though the Wizards and Bucks offered him more money this summer, Kennedy reports.
- In the same piece, Kennedy also checks in with Jamaal Tinsley, whose deal with the Jazz is non-guaranteed, as we learned last night. The backup point guard is enthusiastic about Utah's veteran offseason additions, but Brad Rock of the Deseret News believes the team's younger players are the key.
- Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at how the Timberwolves plan to use Brandon Roy this season, noting that the plan is for him to see 30 to 32 minutes per game, down from his career 35.6 MPG average.
- The Blazers hired Chris McGowan as team president last night, but he'll take a hands-off approach to the basketball operations side of the franchise, reports Mike Tokito of The Oregonian.
- No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis is set to make his debut for the Hornets on Wednesday against the Spurs, and Davis believes he gained much from going against Duncan as the Hornets conducted voluntary scrimmages against the Spurs in the summer, writes John Reid of The Times-Picayune.
- The focus is on the present in Memphis, where Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace largely stood pat over the summer with a roster on the fringes of contention amid the ownership transfer from Michael Heisley to Robert Pera, as Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal examines.
With the Lakers' scheduled to tip off against the Mavericks tonight to start the 2012/13 season, general manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com about the team's roster, its second-round picks, and his thoughts on the Thunder trading James Harden. Here are a few of the highlights from the conversation:
On how the team decided which players to keep on its 15-man roster:
"In conjunction with our coach (Mike Brown) and (executive VP of player personnel) Jim Buss, we hashed it out. There is a strategic approach to
what you do involving (positions and salary), and amongst the three of
us this is where we ended up. I wouldn't think Robert Sacre (being on
the roster) is a surprise to anybody; he certainly showed that he
deserved an extended look. On the other hand, he's gotten more of an
opportunity than anyone else because of the injury to Dwight (Howard),
and if you talked to some guys that have been here, they'd say they wish
they'd had that opportunity. With that said, they've been here almost
28 days, and we feel like we know them pretty good. We're not always
right, and we had to make decisions, and by and large the decisions have
to be done at the end of camp."
On the decision to carry the maximum 15 players, including two second-round picks:
"As a later second-round draft pick like (Darius) Johnson-Odom, that's the lowest
number that you can be paid of anybody in the NBA. When you look at our
payroll, which is approaching $100MM, as a percentage of payroll,
it's really not that much. On the other hand, I don't expect ownership
to expand payroll, and these contracts do have some flexibility to them
in the fact that they are not guaranteed. (Sacre and Johnson-Odom) are
going to have to continue to perform at a high level, but for the time
being, it gives us some roster flexibility going forward."
On using the Lakers' D-League affiliate to develop Sacre and Johnson-Odom:
"I'd hope with the D-League coming up soon, we'd be able to put
one or both of our second-round picks in that situation. You used to be
limited to sending a player down three times, but they can go an
unlimited number of times now. You could have them practice with the
Lakers every day and then still have them play in every D-Fenders game.
We intend to take advantage of the new rule with one or both of those
players. It's a good development for us, and you're starting to see some
more synergy with the D-League and the NBA."
On how the Harden trade will impact the rival Thunder:
"On the surface, the Thunder had a team that was very successful as a
group, as a unit. There's a piece of that group that's moving on, so you
might take something from that. At the same time, I think by adding
Kevin Martin they have a piece that they can use, that's going to get
minutes, and he can certainly score. They picked up a lot of (draft
picks), plus a kid (Jeremy Lamb) we all liked in college. So you can
argue that this year there may be a ding to their chemistry because
they'd been together for three years, but Martin could fit right in and
Lamb could have a (positive) impact."
On whether any Lakers stood out in training camp:
"I think you saw some flashes of good play from Jodie Meeks, both with
his shooting and the other things he can do like get to the bucket to
draw fouls and play defense. I think Devin Ebanks had a good preseason
and continues to develop. Sacre has been a pleasant surprise. And with
Antawn Jamison, I've seen no decline in his athleticism, which you
wonder about when you get older guys."
Dwight Howard has been a Laker for just over a week, and all signs point to him staying in Los Angeles long-term. However, that has not put an end to the speculation that he may consider signing elsewhere next summer. Here's an update on Howard's situation as well as other notes concerning the Lakers and Mavs:
- Eddie Sefko of SportsDayDFW takes a look at the Mavs' case to lure Howard away from Los Angeles, noting that acquiring Howard in a trade will be difficult now that he is a Laker but pointing out that Dallas will have the cap room to offer him a max deal next summer.
- Sefko has a separate look at some of the other options the Mavs will have next summer during free agency.
- Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times praises the Lakers' acquisitions of Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports that the Heat are currently in talks with free agent Terrel Harris. The 25-year-old guard played in 22 games for Miami last season and was a member of the team’s summer league roster in Las Vegas. Winderman admits that he is suprised that Miami hasn't made a quicker commitment to Harris at this point (Sulia link). Here's what else we've heard from around the league this evening:
- 76ers guard Jason Richardson looks to continue to have the same success playing off of Andrew Bynum the way he was able to with Dwight Howard in Orlando, says John Finger of CSN Philly.
- Howard Beck of the New York Times points out that the Knicks have yet to offer a reasoned explanation for declining to match Jeremy Lin's offer sheet with the Rockets.
- Charlie Westbrook tweeted that he will pass on two opportunities to attend an NBA training camp and will head to Europe instead. Westbrook was not drafted by an NBA team in June but participated in Orlando as a member of the Magic's summer league roster.
- Although he had been considering a job with the Magic, Rob Murphy chose to remain with Eastern Michigan University as the school's head basketball coach (the Detroit Free Press reports).
- Marcus Thompson II of MercuryNews.com reports that Stephen Curry is optimistic that he will be ready for Warriors training camp and will undoubtedly be well enough to play by opening night. Curry, who says the only thing he hasn't done yet is play 5-on-5, had arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle in April and has been working out in Oakland.
- Newsday's Marcus Henry says that Knicks guard Iman Shumpert rehabilitation process is progressing on schedule. The All-Rookie first team selection suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during New York's first-round playoff series in April and is projected to be able to return as early as December or January.
- Greg Payne of ESPN Boston noted Jason Terry's thoughts on his role as a sixth man and what he can bring to the Celtics.
- Jodie Meeks spoke with the Kamenetzky Brothers of ESPN LA today about why he chose the Lakers and what he hopes to accomplish. Andy Kamenetzky provided a breakdown of the talking points from the interview, including a post-interview discussion about the potential effect that Meeks can have on the team.
The Lakers are no stranger to the luxury tax, and with the tax penalties going up in 2013/14 and the team's recent commitments to high-paid veterans, owner Jerry Buss is facing a hefty bill. By my calculations, the Lakers already have $74,831,035 committed for 2013/14, and that doesn't include Dwight Howard, who's likely to command a max contract with a starting salary around $20.5MM. If D12 remains in L.A., salary cap expert Larry Coon estimates the Lakers will owe a record $185MM in salary and taxes (Twitter link). If Buss opens his wallet that wide, expect plenty of complaining from small-market teams whose owners would never dream of spending that much in single season. While we wait to see how high the Lakers will go, there's plenty more from around the Pacific Division:
- The Lakers made their signing of Jodie Meeks official today, and the 6'4" shooting guard tells Mike Trudell of Lakers.com that the team's decorated history and the chance to play with multiple future Hall-of-Famers lured him to L.A.
- Stephen Curry is stepping up his rehab from right ankle surgery as he works toward being ready for camp, Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com reports. Curry will spend four days in a row at the Warriors' practice facility, allowing the team a look at the point guard as they decide whether to pursue an extension. Michael Pina of Hoops Rumors profiled Curry's extension candidacy earlier this month.
- Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic recaps the statements James Harden has made in the past few weeks about either signing an extension with the Thunder or considering the Suns in free agency, and shares a few other Phoenix-related observations from the summer.