The Lakers know their fans and Kobe Bryant aren’t sold on Mike D’Antoni, but with the team’s free agency focus on 2015, they’re hesitant to bring on a new coach who might not mesh with the players they target then, Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding writes. They’re also not sure that D’Antoni has performed poorly enough to warrant his dismissal, Ding adds, suggesting assistant Kurt Rambis as a possible replacement if D’Antoni is ousted.
More from out west:
- Xavier Henry will indeed miss the rest of the season, as Mike Trudell of Lakers.com confirms.
- Wolves owner Glen Taylor said on WCCO-AM that he doesn’t want president of basketball operations Flip Saunders to coach the team if Rick Adelman doesn’t return next season, notes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Saunders was reticent to address the issue in an appearance with Dan Berreiro on KFAN-FM today, but he said that he enjoys his front office work, according to Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter).
- Wolves forward Dante Cunningham was arrested on Thursday and was today formally charged with domestic assault. This will certainly have a negative impact on the pending free-agent’s options, writes Zach Harper of CBSSports.com. Cunningham is averaging 6.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 19.5 minutes this season. He’s in the final year of his contract, which pays him $2.1 MM. He was jailed and not with the team as it traveled to Florida for a two-game road trip.His attorney’s office said it’s possible that he posts bail of $40,000 this weekend.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The draft is the major story for most of the teams surrouding the Lakers in our Reverse Standings, but the drama is always multifaceted in L.A. Here’s the latest:
- Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss is the team’s governor and ultimate decision-maker, and commissioner Adam Silver recently told her that she should be more assertive in exerting her authority over the team, according to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding. That’s somewhat surprising, given that the league has also acknowledged concerns about a conflict of interest between Buss and her fiance, Knicks president Phil Jackson.
- Four of the six Buss siblings, each of whom owns a share of the Lakers, were in favor of bringing Jackson back to the organization, but Jim and Johnny Buss were not, Ding adds in the same piece. It’s unclear at what point the four siblings wanted Jackson to return.
- Privately, the Lakers, Jeanie Buss included, are relieved that Jackson is off to New York and that he no longer casts a shadow over the organization, Ding observes.
- Jackson never seemed to understand how much of an intimidating presence he is to the Buss family, helping forestall any reunion between Jackson and the Lakers, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
- There was talk among the Buss family of bringing Jackson back to the Lakers in an informal role, but the team never approached Jackson with the idea, Shelburne reports in the same piece.
- Steve Nash “doesn’t disagree” that Kobe Bryant and Mike D’Antoni aren’t a good fit with each other, as the point guard told ESPN radio’s Colin Cowherd on Monday (transcription via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News). Nash nonetheless added that he doesn’t think Bryant and D’Antoni have had enough of a chance to decide how they feel about each other.
- Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com, in an Insider-only piece, weighs the rebuilding jobs facing the Lakers and the Knicks, concluding that New York’s road is easier, given Jackson’s presence and superior existing talent.
The Warriors invited Joe Alexander to training camp over the offseason already knowing that the small forward was dealing with a serious injury, writes Andrew Matheson of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. ”Joe was always a long term play,” said Kirk Lacob, GM of the Santa Cruz Warriors, the team Alexander is with now. “By the time he showed up, we did a lot more sensitive testing and realized he wasn’t ready to go for a while — if we wanted him to be healthy for the rest of his career and regain a lot of the athleticism he lost, because he used to be an absolute freak athlete,” Lacob said. “So we brought him to camp and told him, ‘Here’s the deal: You’re going to miss camp, you’re going to miss a couple of months, but we’re going to get you there. We promise that.’” More from around the NBA.
- After openly questioning Lakers management and declaring he has no patience for a rebuilding effort, Kobe Bryant has since opened up communication with the Lakers front office, the 18-year veteran said in a conversation with ESPN’s Darren Rovell. ”[Jim Buss] and I actually talked after that and it’s important for us to have that conversation because this is their team, it’s been in their family for years and we all know what the track record is for that, but I’ve also been part of this franchise since I was 17 years old,” Bryant said, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I feel like I bleed purple and gold and I want to see this franchise be successful. I don’t want to hear the comments of dissension between Jim and [Lakers president] Jeanie [Buss]. We need to figure this thing out. We’re all moving in the same direction.”
- Irving Azoff is reportedly becoming Knicks owner James Dolan‘s closest confidant, but Azoff tells Scott Cacciola of The New York Times that he won’t play any further role with the Knicks after shepherding the hiring of Phil Jackson as team president.
- Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson is a leading candidate for the newly-vacant University of Houston job, sources tell Pat Forde and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. The gig opened up earlier today when James Dickey stepped down after four years as coach. Dickey was 64-62 in his career at Houston
- Rodrigue Beaubois turned down an offer from Italian team Olimpia Milano, according to catch-and-shoot.com (on Twitter). With Beaubois still available, Paris-Levallois is set to bring him in for a tryout.
Kobe Bryant endorses the Knicks hiring of Phil Jackson despite his well-documented disappointment with the Lakers front office for not bringing Jackson back to Los Angeles. In an article by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles, Bryant said, “I just think his mentorship shifts. I think it goes from having a direct influence on the players themselves to having a direct influence on the coaching staff, which he’s accustomed to doing because that’s how he coached as well. He really had a great rapport with his coaching staff and he was really a great mentor for them, and I’m sure he’ll do the same thing and it will just kind of trickle down from there. It’s really no different from what Pat [Riley] has been able to do in Miami with [Erik] Spoelstra.” According to the article, Bryant also believes that Jackson will be able to help Carmelo Anthony improve as a player. On what Phil can do for ‘Melo, Bryant said, “Phil will be able to provide that knowledge and he’ll learn more about the game and open up dimensions of the game that he never saw before. So, he’ll just continue to improve.”
More from out west:
- The Kings had appeared likely to keep 10-day signee Orlando Johnson for the season, but the team has decided against doing so, notes Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee. Johnson’s second 10-day contract expired Monday.
- The Warriors have assigned Nemanja Nedovic and Ognjen Kuzmic to the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA D-League the team has announced. Both players had just been recalled from the D-League yesterday and played in last night’s victory over the Magic.
- If the Mavericks are able to sign a proven big man after the season, the player most likely to lose his roster spot is DeJuan Blair, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Sefko also says that proven big man target is most likely to be Marcin Gortat.
- In a separate article, Sefko writes that he thinks the Mavs would be well served to pursue Gortat as well as Luol Deng after the season. Both players will be free agents and would fit nicely in the team’s system. Sefko also thinks that Kyle Lowry will be another player the team will take a look at signing, and believes he is ready to be a lead guard on a “top-shelf” playoff team.
Kobe Bryant has reportedly had enough of coach Mike D’Antoni, but in a radio appearance today on The Dan Patrick Show, Bryant gave an ambiguous answer in response to Patrick’s question about whether D’Antoni deserves another season as Lakers coach.
“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “It’s been tough on him. The two years that he’s been here, he’s been dealing with so many injuries left and right. He hasn’t really gotten a fair deal, a fair shake at it since he’s been here.”
Bryant also softened some of his recent public criticisms of Lakers management, expressing confidence that co-owners Jeanie and Jim Buss are cooperating with each other after having called upon them last week to resolve their differences. Jeanie Buss had much to say about that issue and plenty Lakers-related subjects in a one-on-one Tuesday night with Bill Macdonald on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, and Trevor Wong of Lakers.com provides a transcription. We covered a couple of snippets from the interview earlier, but there’s plenty more, as we highlight here:
- Jeanie Buss doesn’t appear upset with Bryant for expressing his frustration with management during last week’s press conference. “I will talk to him and I will commiserate with him because I know how he feels,” Buss said.
- Buss has no regrets over Bryant’s $48.5MM extension that kicks in for next season. “I don’t wear a hat and a t-shirt with ‘cap space’ on it,” she said. “I’m more interested in the players and how the players fit together and how the players come together and creating something than just the sum of their parts.”
- Buss called the prospect of Bryant retiring a Laker “really important,” adding that she’s “thrilled.” Still, Bryant hasn’t definitively said that he’ll retire when his contract is up in the summer of 2016.
- Commissioner Adam Silver told Buss in their meeting on Monday that he doesn’t see a conflict of interest with Phil Jackson, her fiance, joining the Knicks because Buss doesn’t make personnel moves, as Buss explained.
- All six Buss siblings exercise some degree of control over the franchise, but Jeanie Buss told Macdonald that “the buck stops with me,” asserting her role as the ultimate decision-maker for the team. Still, Jim Buss continues to manage basketball operations.
- The relationship between Jeanie and Jim is reportedly still rocky, but she said that “by and large,” the family is still on the same page.
One effect of the Phil Jackson signing in New York has been some fallout on the other coast. Jackson’s estrangement from the Lakers organization he guided to five championships will be permanent, at least professionally, for another five years. As we learned yesterday, the Lakers did have interest in bringing Jackson back to their front office, but weren’t willing to offer the kind of control he could obtain in New York. Here’s more from Los Angeles:
- Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com details how the Lakers ownership structure made the potential to bring in Jackson a virtual impossibility. Former owner Jerry Buss intentionally handed the franchise over to be shared between his six children, preferring for the family to stay at the forefront instead of giving the keys to a basketball legend like Jackson or Jerry West.
- Shelburne says the Buss family considered a return from Jackson for several months leading up to his signing with the Knicks.
- Mike D’Antoni, who won the Lakers coaching job over Jackson last season, told reporters including Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times that the signing is a good move for the Knicks.
- D’Antoni, who often hears “We want Phil!” chants from the home crowd when the Lakers struggle, added that he feels no relief over his job now that Jackson is signed elsewhere.
- Sam Amick of USA Today says that the Lakers decision to let Jackson go to New York without a fight shows that Kobe Bryant has lost his clout with L.A. brass. Bryant recently spoke openly about his disappointment at missing out on Jackson’s return to the league for a second time.
- Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar think that Jackson will do a great job in New York, per Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News.
- Steve Nash told Bill Simmons of Grantland on a recent podcast he knew Dwight Howard wouldn’t work out with the Lakers early on last season (transcription via Sean Highkin of USA Today). “I think everyone could see it was going to be tough from the start. As the season went on, I think Dwight didn’t hide the fact that he didn’t like it,” Nash said.
After Kobe Bryant‘s news conference on Wednesday, the Lakers may have to abandon any strategy not aimed at an immediate turnaround, writes Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. Pincus has an intricate plan in mind for the purple-and-gold that entails trading their 2014 first rounder for Kevin Love, waiving Steve Nash, re-signing Pau Gasol and much more, all designed at arming the aging Bryant with running mates capable of staging one last run at a title.
Let’s take a look at what is going on elsewhere in the Western Conference:
- Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried is happy that the trade speculation is behind him, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Faried is having an impressive March, scoring 21.1 points per game and grabbing 10.1 rebounds on 64.5% shooting from the field. Teammate Ty Lawson also believes that the trade talk was hurting his play somewhat, noting that he has been more aggressive since the trade deadline came and went.
- Thunder trainer Joe Sharpe had a lot to do with Caron Butler‘s decision to sign with Oklahoma City this season, Jeff Caplan of NBA.com writes. Sharpe held a similar position at UConn when Butler was there.
- While we pointed out a pair of D-League success stories earlier tonight, Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram opines (via Twitter) that Ricky Ledo may have become a high lottery pick with the proper collegiate seasoning. Ledo, who has bounced between the Mavericks and the Texas Legends in his rookie season, attended Providence College though he never played for the Friars. He was selected 43rd overall by the Bucks last June.
No one can accuse Steve Nash of not being honest. When asked by reporters today why he won’t retire, the Lakers guard said, ”It’s just a reality. I’m not going to retire because I want the money. It’s honest,” according to Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com (via Twitter links). “You’re going to have people say he’s so greedy he’s got to take this last little bit…Yes, I do. I have to take this last little bit. I’m sorry if that’s frustrating to some but if they were in my shoes they would do the exact same thing.”
- Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni says that he doesn’t think about his job status, despite the constant speculation, tweets Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. ”My job is to finish up as good as we can. Then everybody huddles…and we’ll see what happens,” the coach said.
- D’Antoni also downplayed Kobe Bryant‘s recent criticism of the Lakers organization, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News tweets. There was also a report that Bryant is unhappy with D’Antoni and has no interest in playing for him next season.
- Jason Thompson, the subject of trade talk before February’s deadline, is trying to make the most of his benching by Kings coach Michael Malone, writes the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones.
The Lakers made plenty of news Wednesday, and Kobe Bryant was at the center of it, as usual. The team announced he was out for the season, and the Black Mamba was sharply critical of management at an afternoon press conference. The story that Bryant wants the team to get rid of coach Mike D’Antoni emerged later. There’s still more on the purple-and-gold, as we detail:
- Bryant has yet to meet with management to express his feelings about D’Antoni, notes Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who adds that those talks with happen after the season (Twitter links).
- Bryant wants aggressive moves, but GM Mitch Kupchak isn’t sure he’ll use all of the cap space the Lakers can open up this summer, telling David Leon Moore of USA Today that he’s wary of signing the wrong players and locking the team into mediocrity. “Patience is the key,” Kupchak said. “With the new collective bargaining agreement, there are no quick fixes. You cannot outbid teams for star players.”
- Lakers co-owners and siblings Jeanie and Jim Buss aren’t much closer than when they weren’t speaking to each other before the death of their father, according to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, who examines the Lakers as they reach a nadir in their storied history.
It doesn’t matter whether the Mavericks go one-and-done, miss the playoffs or end up in the conference finals, the offseason game plan is the same, writes Eddie Sefko of Dallas Morning News. He says they are going to figure out a way to use the $34MM dollars of cap space they anticipate having to try and add a premier small forward and/or center. Sefko floats the possibility of Luol Deng and Marcin Gortat being their prime free-agent targets. The article also mentions that the deeper the team goes in the playoffs, the more appealing they will become to any free agent, including LeBron James, though Sefko admits that landing LeBron is a long shot at best.
Here’s some more from out west:
- With the news from earlier that Kobe Bryant wants Mike D’Antoni gone, it seems that he’s not the only Lakers player that would feel that way, tweets Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. He mentions that Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill would also like to see a new coach next season.
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times supports Bryant calling out Lakers management. He hopes the star player’s comments bring about the needed changes in the organization. Plaschke also thinks that it’s a good thing for the team that Kobe is done for the year as it will help them secure a higher lottery pick. The article also questions the decision to re-sign Bryant when they did. Plaschke believes that Bryant would have signed for less now in order to free up cap space to help the team sign players to make a run during his final years.
- Thunder GM Sam Presti shared his thoughts on tanking with Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. Presti said, “Oddly enough, I think it’s a narrative that was created to tweak the league office, and they are showing to be quite reflexive to it. I’m actually a bit surprised they have fed into it and devoted so much public energy to it given the lack of evidence. The records of the teams in the bottom four of the league are in line with those over the last 20 seasons. If anything, they are actually slightly above those averages. I’m missing the epidemic on this, really. I would hope we’d focus our attention on a lot of the great things our players are ding and that the league has in place now.“