Will Luol Deng stay in Cleveland beyond this year? While there has been speculation that he’ll bolt this summer, execs tell Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio the Cavs can hang on to him if things change. That means getting hot to close out the season and possibly shaking up the roster/coaching staff. More from Amico’s column..
- Most execs feel LeBron James will either return to the Heat or shock everyone and aim for the ultimate redemption story by returning to the Cavs. The Heat, however, are believed to be way in front of everyone.
- One GM told Amico that it’s hard to know whether the Lakers are a real possibility for Carmelo Anthony or if it’s just wishful thinking from Lakers fans.
- It seems most GMs feel Chris Bosh, and not Anthony, is the second biggest potential prize on the upcoming market. But if James goes back to the Heat, Bosh will, too. If James flees Miami, the Lakers are secretly interested, sources tell Amico.
- Kobe Bryant is probably the only one who can convince Pau Gasol to stay with the Lakers. Gasol would love a return to Memphis, but the Grizzlies aren’t exactly big spenders.
- If Kevin Garnett retires, Amico gets the sense that fellow Nets vet Paul Pierce could wind up anywhere.
In their first game with the Lakers, new trade acquisitions MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore both played a season high in minutes, helping lead Los Angeles to a win over the Celtics. It will be interesting to watch whether the young, athletic guards continue to make the most of the opportunities coach Mike D’Antoni gives them. D’Antoni has built a reputation of giving players a chance to shine, even if they haven’t lived up to previous expectations as in the case with Brooks. Here’s some more from L.A.:
- The main reason Brooks and Bazemore will have opportunity in L.A. is that the Lakers roster has been in shambles all year. Kobe Bryant will miss at least another three weeks, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. He will be re-evaluated again at the three-week mark, so there’s a strong likelihood he misses more time than that. Even a return this year isn’t a given for the 18-year veteran, and the plummeting Lakers don’t have any competitive reasons to rush him back now that they are all but eliminated from the playoff hunt.
- Both Bazemore and Brooks say that playing on Kobe’s team is one of the more exciting aspects of the trade, reports Ben Bolch of The Los Angeles Times. “That’s a dream come true, growing up idolizing Kobe Bryant,” Bazemore said. Brooks offered, “I grew up a Lakers fan, a big Kobe Bryant fan, so I’m just excited to get to work.”
- Nick Young wouldn’t comment on his player option for next year, which Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak believes the small forward will decline, per Mark Medina of Inside the Lakers (Twitter link). Young’s option is worth approximately $1.2MM, but there is mutual interest for a longer stay in Los Angeles, which will have plenty of cap space to work with should he opt out for a new deal.
- In his “GM for a Day” series, Bradford Doolittle of ESPN Insider [subscription only] focuses on the Lakers. Doolittle explores upcoming Lakers decisions, including whether to agree to buyouts with veterans they were unable to move or try and squeeze value out of their Bird Rights this summer. He also touches on whether they will waive the beleaguered Steve Nash at season’s end with the stretch provision and whether they’ll re-sign Pau Gasol this summer.
We saw plenty of trades go down before the deadline and Yannis Koutroupis of Basketball Insiders looked at the winners and losers. The Pacers top the list of winners for their acquisition of former No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner. While the Wizards and Warriors also get nods, Koutroupis says that the Lakers and Knicks should have done more. Here’s tonight’s look around the league..
Earlier tonight, we learned that former Lakers and Clippers standout Lamar Odom has agreed to play in Spain for the remainder of the season. Odom was once deadset on making his NBA return with Doc Rivers and the Clippers, but he’ll presumably be more open to other opportunities as he tries to work his way back. Here’s the latest out of the Staples Center..
- The Clippers won’t re-sign Sasha Vujacic to a second 10-day contract, tweets Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Coach Doc Rivers says that the club could re-sign the veteran guard later on if they don’t use the roster spot on someone else.
- Word from the Clippers camp indicates that they won’t part with a meaningful asset like Reggie Bullock or a first-round draft pick to avoid the luxury tax, tweets Zach Lowe of Grantland.com. However, Lowe is somewhat skeptical and believes that might not prove to be true.
- Kobe Bryant thinks the Lakers are well-positioned for the summer ahead, but he says doesn’t want to have input on the team’s decision-making, observes Brett Pollakoff of NBCSports.com.
- Former Lakers guard Kareem Rush says he isn’t through playing just yet, writes Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver gave his first official State of the Union address this evening. He touched on a number of different topics, and you can check out the full range of them in this article by Ben Golliver of SI.com. Silver spoke on the subject of tanking, which in light of this season’s talented draft class, has been a prime source of discussion around the league. Silver stated, “There’s absolutely no evidence that any team in the NBA has ever lost a single game, or certainly in any time that I’ve been in the league, on purpose.” Silver also addressed the NBPA’s lack of an executive director. He said, “I would love to have a partner across the table from me that had the backing of the entire Players Association and with whom we could do business with.” The commissioner also stated that he would like to alter the current “one-and-done” system that requires players to be at least one year removed from high school before they are draft eligible. His goal would be to change the rule and require incoming players to be at least 20 years old.
More from around the league:
- Former D-League coach Eric Musselman stressed the importance of that league for helping to prepare players for the pros, and runs down a number of the league’s success stories who made an impact in the NBA in this article from Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside.
- The Warriors still seem to be trying to put some sort of deal together before next Thursday, tweets Steve Kyler of Baskeball Insiders. There have been reports that Golden State is seeking depth at the point guard position.
- A group of supporters for the new Kings arena went to court with Sacramento city officials on Friday to fight back against the lawsuit demanding a public vote on the proposed project. Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee has the full story.
- Mark Heisler of The Orange County Register takes a look at how Kobe Bryant‘s extension came about, as well as the long-term impact it will have on the Lakers future cap flexibility.
Charlie Adams contributed to this post.
During Friday night’s game against Golden State, the Jazz will honor former head coach Jerry Sloan by raising a banner with the number “1223″ embroidered on it, which denotes the total number of wins (regular season and playoffs) he helped deliver to Utah over his coaching career. Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune caught up with former Jazz and current Nets guard Deron Williams to get his current thoughts on Sloan:
“A big part of my success early in my career was due to him and the things he kind of instilled in me…So I’m definitely happy for him, and it’s going to be a special moment. The fans there just love him to death.” Williams also elaborated on the halftime argument with Sloan several years ago which reportedly triggered the former coach’s resignation:
“We got into a little argument — nothing more than we’ve ever done…So the way the fans perceive it is just one thing I can’t really control. Like I said, there’s no hard feelings on my end, and I enjoyed playing for him. I miss playing for him.”
Here’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:
- During an appearance on NBA TV, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson said that while he agreed with the decision to give Kobe Bryant a two-year extension, he also thinks the team “paid him more than I would have gone for” (Bill Oram of the OC Register via Twitter).
- Oram also wrote about Steve Nash‘s return to practice today, noting that the former MVP is eight days away from celebrating his 40th birthday. Nash hasn’t had much to celebrate about since arriving in Los Angeles, and was candid about his frustration with injuries: “This is the toughest thing I’ve been through in my career…I came to L.A. with nothing but the highest hopes and expectations, and it’s been nothing but personal disappointment.”
- Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles has more from Nash: ”Ever since I broke my leg, nothing’s been the same. Nothing’s been easy. But I also look for challenges in life, so this is a great opportunity for me to learn about myself and try to fight through it and hopefully on the other side, I’ll be a better person.”
- Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune discussed his thoughts on the Timberwolves’ struggles: “At times they have no energy whatsoever…They need a great point guard, and (Ricky Rubio) is not a great point guard.” Rubio is averaging 8.5 PPG, 8.2 APG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.6 SPG on the season, but Hartman appeared to imply that Rubio’s struggle to score points in the fourth quarter is a glaring weakness.
- Grizzlies guard Mike Conley may not have been selected to the All-Star team this year, but opposing coaches know his value, writes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal (Subscribers only).
- Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders presents his list of this year’s All-Star snubs from the Western Conference.
Although he had been voted into his 16th All-Star Game by the fans, Kobe Bryant told Bill Oram of the OC Register among others that he has no plans of participating even if he returns to play for the Lakers before then. If the NBA chooses to make him play, Kobe said: “Back ups will be playing a lot, because I’ll go in there, do my two minutes and sit down” (Twitter links). As many relayed on Twitter, including ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin, Kobe would like to see younger and more deserving guards get the nod to play:
“With all due respect to the fans that voted me in…you (have) to reward these young guys for the work that they’ve been putting in.”
Here’s more out of the purple-and-gold side of Los Angeles tonight:
- Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times points out that there isn’t an official rule which requires a healthy player to participate in the All-Star Game and suggests there’ll be a compromise, pointing to the event in 2008 in which Kobe played just under three minutes because of a torn ligament in his pinkie. The Lakers superstar is yet to make a return to the active list, and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports says that Kobe doesn’t plan to follow up with a doctor until the first week of February (All Twitter links).
- Head coach Mike D’Antoni says the team will wait until Saturday to make a decision on guard Manny Harris, notes Oram (via Twitter). Harris, who is currently signed to a 10-day contract, has reportedly drawn high praise from D’Antoni.
- Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles writes about why the Lakers and their fans alike shouldn’t accept tanking at all.
Instead of coming back and playing for the Lakers chances to play in June for a 17th NBA Championship, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times thinks Kobe Bryant should “play for June” by not coming back from his injury this season and hurting the Lakers June draft position. Plaschke believes the Lakers chances of winning it all this season are impossible so any improvement Kobe would bring hurts their draft chances this summer.
A few other notes about players that will be playing in the NBA for years to come.
- Joel Embiid is a player that has rapidly climbed in draft stock this season. One person whose draft board he hasn’t risen on is Bill Self, his coach at Kansas, and that’s because he has always been at the top of Self’s draft board. Self told Eric Prisbell of USA TODAY that he informed Embiid the moment he stepped on campus that he would be the No. 1 pick, whenever Embiid decided to come out (Twitter link).
- The Rockets have called up Robert Covington from their D-League affiliate according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. The rookie scored 33 points Friday for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and was on Houston’s active roster Saturday night. Coming into tonight, Covington had yet to log any minutes in the NBA.
- Someone who may be heading to the D-League is Cavaliers rookie Anthony Bennett. According to Bob Finnan of The News-Herald, Cleveland needs to send Bennett to their D-League affiliate in order to rectify what has gone wrong this season.
Some people, including Lakers legend Magic Johnson, have said that Kobe Bryant should shut things down for the remainder of the season given his injuries, health, and the Lakers’ position at this stage of the year. However, the Black Mamba told reporters today, including Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com (on Twitter), that he has no plans of spending the rest of the year on the sidelines.
Bryant said that he will be reevaluated in February and could be back on the hardwood if he gets the greenlight from doctors at that point, tweets Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. The Lakers could drift well below the .500 mark between now and then but Bryant says that “his job” is to play, period, tweets Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
Bryant and the Lakers agreed to a two-year, $48.5MM extension back in November.
Earlier today, Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak spoke to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com regarding questions every Lakers fan has seemed to ask so far this season. It is a great read for anyone interested in the direction the Lakers are headed in the near future. Here are a few takeaways from the discussion.
- It was no coincidence at the beginning of this season that the Lakers’ payroll aligned to only have Steve Nash under contract beyond this season. Kupchak and the Lakers made a conscious decision to plan their roster this way so they could take a fresh look at everyone on their roster. Kupchak’s didn’t want to fall in the same trap as other championship teams who sign star players a few years beyond their prime. Although extending Kobe Bryant was a diversion from this plan, Kupchak believes the Lakers still have plenty of flexibility to sign a max contract free agent each of the next two summers.
- Which free agent the Lakers pursue is still up in the air because according to Kupchak, the league is “too competitive” to plan for one player’s contract actions. Kupchak did hint however that if the 2014 free agent market doesn’t turn out like he hopes the Lakers may not sign a maximum contract player this summer and instead wait until the 2015 or 2016 free agent markets.
- Looking at the young players on the team, Kupchak credited his familiarity with watching the college careers of Xavier Henry and Kendall Marshall as selling points in signing both of them this season. For Nick Young, it was the conversations between his agent, Mark Bartelstein, and Kupchak that sold Young on the Lakers as a place he could thrive with playing time and style of play. Kupchak would like to continue giving Young playing time as he hopes Nick will opt in to his player option this summer and become “a Laker for a long time”.
- On an older player on the roster, Pau Gasol, Kupchak thinks he is having a great year given the circumstances. Gasol never planned to return from major surgery to a Lakers lineup sans Bryant, Steve Nash, and Steve Blake but has handled it well according to Kupchak. Regarding Gasol’s upcoming free agency, Kupchak knows Pau will have other offers but thinks if all things remain constant, Gasol would “love to continue to play here, and we’d love to have him here”. He also believes Gasol is bound for the Hall of Fame.
- On the luxury tax, Kupchak said the “ownership here has never been afraid to be in the tax.” He also agreed with Trudell that the luxury tax is a major factor to be aware of but for the Lakers it is not a black and white line they aren’t allowed to cross.
- Regarding next summer’s draft, Kupchak thinks the first 10 players drafted will be as “good as [he's] seen in a long time”. Kupchak also noted he prepares for every draft so that he could make every pick, 1 through 60.