Opposing players, according to Byron Scott, have told the Lakers head coach that they’d love to play in the purple-and-gold, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. Scott would not name any players because of tampering rules and did not say how many potential free agents expressed interest to him in joining the Lakers, Medina noted. Still, Scott believes the Lakers “will have a real good summer,” in terms of free agency, according to Medina.
“You have a lot of free agents out there who would love to play for us. They’ve been making it pretty clear,” Scott said. “You have guys during the games come by the bench saying, ‘Hey Coach, I would love to be in L.A. next year.’ That makes you feel good there are players out there that want to be here. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re taking it in a different direction. They know this organization and the history of the organization is going to be back.”
Here’s more from around the NBA:
- There’s still a chance that the Clippers could sign Nate Robinson for the rest of the season after a 10-day evaluation of Lester Hudson, according to Arash Markazi of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Naturally, their decision on what to do with Robinson will hinge heavily on how Hudson performs.
- France’s Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot said he would withdraw his name from the 2015 Draft if he deems workouts with teams after the NBA season unsuccessful, as he told the French outlet Be Basket and as Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia transcribes. The 19-year-old is averaging 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in 19 minutes per contest for the Olympique Antibes, according to Carchia. The swingman announced in February he planned to enter this year’s draft.
- Daemen College big man Gerald Beverly, who was recently named a Division II All-American, signed with agent Roger Montgomery of the Montgomery Sports Group, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link).
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook teaming up and playing for the Lakers is a real possibility, opines Nick Dudukovich of Fansided.com. Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com discussed the rumors of Love leaving Cleveland either this season or next on his podcast, which airs on ESPN Cleveland. Windhorst notes that out of all the stars in the league, the player that Love has the best relationship with is Westbrook.
Here’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Robert Sacre would like to play for Los Angeles next season, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “I would love to be back here. It would be fun,” said Sacre. “You’re a Laker. What else can you ask for? There’s no other franchise like it. It’s an honor to wear purple and gold.” Sacre has a non-guaranteed salary for the 2015/16 season, which is worth slightly more than $981K.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic believes that Alex Len is the center of the future for the Suns. Phoenix picked up Len’s rookie scale option before the season and the team is likely to make the same decision regarding Len’s 2016/17 option, although that is just my speculation.
- Pablo S, Torre of ESPN The Magazine chronicles Jeremy Lin‘s time to date for the Lakers and his career up to this point. Lin is in the last season of a three-year deal worth slightly over $25MM that he originally signed with Houston. The point guard will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
The Lakers, Knicks, Sixers and Hawks have been linked to soon-to-be restricted free agent Tobias Harris, but the belief is that the Magic would match just about any offer of less than $13MM a year, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, who looks at Harris and other top free agents. It’s unclear whether those four non-Orlando teams are interested, Harris is interested in them, or both, though the Knicks are reportedly planning a pursuit amid conflicting reports about whether he’s eager to play for them. Kyler wrote earlier this month that there’s a sense that the Sixers will make a play for Harris, too. Here’s more from around the Southeast Division:
- It’s likely that Al Jefferson will turn down his $13.5MM player option for next season, Kyler writes in the same piece, adding that while the belief is that he’d like to remain with the Hornets, there’s also a sense that the 30-year-old will go to the highest bidder in free agency.
- Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel wonders whether the Heat will sign a big man to help a thin frontcourt rotation in the wake of Hassan Whiteside‘s injury. Whiteside is out at least a few more days with a hand laceration that will probably take two weeks to heal completely, as Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post relays. The Heat were reportedly among the teams with interest in signing JaVale McGee earlier this month.
- Coaches rarely last in the NBA, but SB Nation’s Tom Ziller argues that the Wizards have been too patient with Randy Wittman.
Two coaching changes and more losing for the Kings have thrown DeMarcus Cousins for a loop this year, but he’s determined to learn from adversity, as Michael Lee of The Washington Post details.
“It’s been a circus, man. It’s been a complete circus,” Cousins said of this season. “We got off to a hot start. Unfortunately, I got sick, so it ruined the look of the team. I take some blame for that. I know for a fact, if I wouldn’t have gotten sick, things wouldn’t have happened the way it happened. It was no way it could. At the same time, a lot of it is not my fault and we all know why. But this has been a disappointing year.”
George Karl‘s up-tempo system doesn’t really fit Cousins but the center will keep an open mind about it, Lee writes. Cousins is in the first year of a four-year max extension. Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:
- DeAndre Jordan said he loves the city of New York but isn’t thinking about his free agency this summer, as he told reporters, including Marc Berman of the New York Post, after the Clippers beat the Knicks on Wednesday.
- Amar’e Stoudemire‘s said his interest in joining the Suns after his buyout with the Knicks was “extremely high,” according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. “But I wanted to compete for a championship this year,” Stoudemire added. “That’s one reason why I didn’t choose the Spurs, because I knew it’d be a letdown for all my Phoenix Suns fans. I couldn’t do it. It was a tough decision, but I wanted to win this year.”
- Wesley Johnson is finds it frustrating to be hitting free agency for a third year in a row, observes Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. The Lakers have a general affection for him, and Johnson has been considering a new deal with the team this summer, in spite of L.A.’s hesitance to give him more than a one-year deal the past two offseasons, as Bresnahan also relays. “It’s one of those things where you definitely don’t want to jump ship when something’s going bad,” Johnson said of the Lakers. I actually want to be a part of it to see if we can get back on the right foot. We’ll see what happens this offseason, see what direction they’re going.”
Speaking at his retirement press conference Steve Nash said that he considered his time with the Lakers a failure, Joey Ramirez of NBA.com relays. “I came here with huge hopes and dreams and was incredibly excited and humble to have the opportunity to come here and play for the Lakers and the world’s biggest fan base,” Nash said. “For it just not to be in the cards was a failure and a huge disappointment. It’s been a difficult period of my career and my life to battle through that and to try to make something of it, which was fruitless in the end. But I know I’ve never worked harder. I never wanted something more, and I never worked harder. It just wasn’t to be.”
Here’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Nash said that he understands the backlash he received from Lakers fans regarding him not being around the team this season, Bill Oram of The Orange County Register writes. “I really needed to get away,” Nash said. “I had an incredible amount of stress and anxiety. I wanted something so bad and held on way too long. Probably over-trained to get there. I needed to get some space.”
- Suns coach Jeff Hornacek insists that center Alex Len will be “a great player,” and his rapid progress is seen on almost a daily basis, Matt Petersen of NBA.com writes. “He’s getting smarter and smarter every day,” Hornacek said. “He’s backed off a little bit on the pick-and-rolls. He knows the speed of the guys better, it seems like. He made a couple plays where I thought guys were going to have lay-ups…yet he can block it late. Those are big plays.”
- Quite a bit has changed with the Kings organization since David Wear, who recently inked a 10-day deal with the team, was in training camp with them earlier this season, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. The forward is excited to get a shot to play in the NBA, Jones adds. “Of course I’ve been waiting, hoping for a call-up, so when I got the call, I was thrilled,” Wear said. “That’s what this whole year’s been all about, and it’s good to finally be here.”
Omri Casspi has seen an encouraging change in the Kings organization since George Karl took over as head coach, Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee writes. Casspi, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, says he absolutely wants to re-sign with Sacramento this summer, Voisin adds. “I want to come back here so badly,” Casspi said. “I love the community and I feel like the team is finally moving in the right direction. George Karl’s system is great, and I’m not just saying that because I play for him, but because I really do believe this is the right way to play basketball. Spacing the floor. Moving, making extra passes, sharing the ball. Getting our hands on balls, deflections, then getting out and running. Unfortunately, coach Karl has not had a lot of time to teach us everything, but these last two games, you can see what we can become.”
Here’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Despite the Lakers‘ 18-50 record on the season coach Byron Scott has the approval of GM Mitch Kupchak, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. “He said I’ve been doing a great job in getting all these guys to play hard every night,” Scott said. “With all the injuries that we’ve had and to be in the games that we’ve been in, he thinks I’ve done a terrific job.”
- Scott also said that Kupchak reiterated that the team is still in a rebuilding phase and that the process would continue during the 2015 offseason, Medina adds. “We’re still on the right course and still sticking to what we talked about,” Scott said. “All of the things we talked about before they hired me and all the things we talked about since they hired me hasn’t changed.”
- The Warriors took an unconventional and roundabout path in their rebuilding efforts, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes in his look at the team’s success this season.
Metta World Peace has signed a contract with Italy’s Pallacanestro Cantù for the remainder of the season, the team announced (Twitter link). The former Ron Artest’s brother, Daniel Artest, said this weekend that the 15-year NBA veteran would sign with the team, though Cantù’s coach wouldn’t confirm the news, saying only that the club was in talks with World Peace. The 35-year-old forward hooked up with Octagon Europe and agent Georgios Dimitropulos to facilitate the deal, as Dimitropulos tweets (hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia).
It’s the second overseas excursion this season for World Peace, who played 15 games with China’s Sichuan Blue Whales after signing with the team in August. He had reportedly been seeking deals with the Knicks, Lakers and Clippers over the summer, and while the Knicks apparently considered the possibility, no deal materialized, and World Peace made it clear once the season started that he no longer wanted to play for the Knicks or the Lakers. There appeared to be some level of interest from the Clippers in a late-season deal, but coach/executive Doc Rivers downplayed that, and now it appears World Peace is off the table.
World Peace put up 19.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game in China this year after a season of career lows in New York that ended shortly before former coach Phil Jackson took over as team president. The 2003/04 Defensive Player of the Year regretted buying out his contract before the Zen Master arrived in New York, but a reunion never came to pass. A four-year tenure with the Lakers ended in 2013 when the team used the amnesty clause to waive him.
Jeremy Lin will start the remainder of the season but it probably won’t affect the Lakers’ decision whether to re-sign the veteran point guard, according to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register. Oram writes that many people around the league believe it’s a given that Lin, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, will sign elsewhere. Coach Byron Scott told Lakers beat reporters that the team’s draft choices will affect Lin’s chances of returning. “It’s just a matter of what happens in the draft and everything else that determines what we’re going to do with the free agent market,” Scott said.
In other news around the Western Conference:
- Interim coach Melvin Hunt has taken an upbeat approach to improve the Nuggets, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports. Hunt has used positive reinforcement to inspire his players, a stark contrast to predecessor Brian Shaw, who often criticized players in his postgame press conferences, Kyler continues. Ty Lawson told Kyler that he appreciated the change in philosophy. “He is giving everybody confidence,” Lawson said. “He is a very upbeat person. I think he just wants everybody to succeed; you feel it when he walks into the room and when he talks to us. He has us all on the same page, that’s helping us out right now.”
- Wesley Matthews‘ season-ending Achilles injury has had a major impact on the Trail Blazers’ defense, Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes. Portland has gone 3-5 since Matthews suffered the injury and its defense has ranked 27th in defensive efficiency in those games, allowing 110.5 points per 100 possessions, Richman notes. The Blazers were No. 3 in that category up to that point, Richman adds. While all of the Blazers’ defensive problems cannot be attributed to Matthews’ absence, backcourt partner Damian Lillard tells Richman that he definitely sees a difference. “His ability to lock guys up defensively and kind of spark us at that end of the floor,” Lillard said of what the team is lacking. “His passion. Just the fire that he brought to our team is something that we definitely miss.”
- Jazz coach Quin Snyder is less concerned about making the playoffs than showing improvement the remainder of the season, Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News reports. Utah has made a late run but Snyder isn’t worried about wins and losses, McDonald adds. “I don’t think playoff awareness is necessarily going to improve our play as much as a focus on game to game, moment to moment,” Snyder said.
The Atlantic Division has only one team above .500, but it could send as many as three teams to the playoffs as the Celtics and Nets try to chase down the final two postseason berths in the Eastern Conference. Here’s the latest from around the Atlantic:
- One Eastern Conference executive has trepidation about the Sixers‘ radical roster approach becoming the model for the rest of the league if it’s successful, as that exec expressed to Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Holmes contrasts what Philadelphia is doing to the vastly different approach the Lakers have taken to rebuilding in spite of a shared history of success between the two franchises.
- Terrence Ross took his first free throws in March on Sunday, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star points out, a remarkable fact given his pedigree and athleticism that’s a disturbing sign for the Raptors, Smith opines. The Star scribe figures GM Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey are already thinking about what they can do in July, when Ross will become eligible for a rookie scale extension and the team can seek alternatives.
- Ricky Ledo hasn’t made much of an impact yet for the Knicks on his 10-day contract, but injuries will likely give him a chance to do so before the deal expires at the end of Saturday, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.