Kevin Durant didn’t consider signing with the Lakers because the timing wasn’t right, Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com passes along (Twitter links). “Nothing against the Lakers, but I already had my eyes set on who I wanted to talk to,” Durant said. “I really respect their team, but I just thought they were a couple years away from where I wanted to be.”
Jeanie Buss believes the Lakers‘ situation just wasn’t right for Kevin Durant, which is why he didn’t join the team in free agency, as she tells Hannah Storm of ESPN (video link). Buss added that she feels the free agents that Los Angeles did land will be able bring the franchise back to its historic level of play. The team added Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng in free agency this summer.
Here’s more from Los Angeles:
- The Lakers have reason for excitement because of how their young core performed during summer league, Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com writes. The team believes they have several players on the summer league roster who will become contributors down the line.
- The biggest surprise from summer league may have been Ivica Zubac‘s game and the Lakers believes he has a chance to become a great player in the league, Baxter adds in the same piece. “He knows how to play,” assistant coach Theo Robertson said. “It’s hard to teach that size. He establishes good position. He has soft hands. He can do a variety of things, whether it’s pop out to the 3-point corner, hit those types of jump shots. I feel like he can be a percentage free throw shooter and he has good touch around the rim. He’s starting to feel more power and understand the level of physicality that it takes to be successful in this league.”
- Being part of a winning culture was a key factor in Wesley Johnson‘s decision to re-sign with the Clippers, Rowan Kavner of NBA.com writes. “Just being around those guys every day, getting to know them at practice, getting to know their families, I think that all factored in,” Johnson said. Johnson also added that his foot injury, which caused him to be limited toward the end of last season, is feeling “100% better.”
During a news conference today in Miami, Heat president Pat Riley expressed his sorrow over losing free agent Dwyane Wade to the Bulls and said he should have done more to prevent it. “I have great regret I didn’t put myself in the middle of it,” Riley said in a quote relayed by Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel (Twitter link).
Wade officially signed with Chicago on Friday after reportedly being unhappy with the offers he was getting out of Miami. Riley says he wishes he had taken a more active role in the negotiations, adding that he should have “gotten in a canoe and paddled to The Mediterranean” if it meant keeping Wade, tweets Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post.
Riley said he had been trying to get “another guy” to pair with Wade since LeBron James returned to Cleveland in 2014 (Twitter link). He added that he hadn’t spoken to Wade since his decision, but has been putting together a long e-mail for him (Twitter link).
Wade, a 12-time All-Star, had been with the Heat since they drafted him in 2003. He is the franchise’s leader in career points, assists and several other categories.
“It’s not going to be the same without [Wade] but we will forge ahead,” Riley said. “Dwyane is unique. There will always be a key under the mat [for Dwyane], I just hope it doesn’t get too rusty. We will miss him.” (Twitter links).
Riley touched on several other topics during the news conference:
- Any decision on Chris Bosh’s future is “on hold” until August or September, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Bosh, who didn’t play after blood clots were discovered in his left calf during the All-Star break, would like to return next season, but the Heat aren’t sure if it’s medically feasible. Riley said the team is considering a restricted travel schedule or limited workload to help Bosh get back on the court (Twitter link). “I know Chris wants to play, and we would be open to that,” Riley said “But this is still fluid. There’s not an answer.” (Twitter link).
- Riley believes Justise Winslow is ready to be Miami’s starting small forward after a promising rookie season. “Are we ready for Justise Winslow to start at the 3,” Riley asked. “I am.” (Twitter link). The Heat lost last year’s starter when Luol Deng signed with the Lakers.
- The Heat offered a more balanced contract to Tyler Johnson than the deal he signed with the Nets, but Johnson insisted on taking the offer sheet from Brooklyn (Twitter link). That contract, which the Heat matched on Sunday, pays Johnson $5.628MM in the first year and $5,881,260 in the second, followed by $18,858,765 in season three and $19,631,975 in season four.
- Kevin Durant, who chose Miami as one of the five teams he met with in free agency, told Riley that he wants to win right away and viewed the Heat as being in a rebuilding phase (Twitter link). “I’ll never not take an offer from a free agent who calls and says we’d like to talk to you,” Riley said. “We had to do it, it didn’t slow us down.” (Twitter links).
- Riley is working toward a contract extension with head coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff (Twitter link).
- The Heat don’t plan to use their $2.9MM room exception this offseason. (Twitter link).
5:31pm: According to the Lakers (via Twitter), an MRI showed a sprained right wrist for Nance, but no fracture or ligament damage.
8:49am: The Lakers fear that power forward Larry Nance Jr. suffered a broken right hand late in Thursday’s Summer League game, according to Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. Nance took a hard fall while driving to the basket with 35 seconds left. Post game X-rays revealed an apparent fracture to the base of the third metacarpal, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times.
“I’ve seen his condition,” Lakers rookie center Ivica Zubac said. “He says it’s broken.”
The Lakers are officially calling the injury a “probable fracture,” and Nance will see a hand specialist today in Los Angeles. After that examination, the team will issue a statement on the extent of the injury and Nance’s estimated recovery time. He has about two and a half months to heal before training camp starts in late September. Six to eight weeks is the normal recovery time for an injury of this type, tweets Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times.
“If it’s not great news, he’s a great kid and a hard worker,” said Lakers Summer League head coach Jesse Mermuys. “He’ll be back sooner than whatever they say.”
Nance, a late first-round pick in 2015, emerged as a pleasant surprise for L.A. last season, averaging 5.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and starting 22 of the 63 games in which he appeared.
Calderon, who was later traded from the Bulls to the Lakers, will get his wish to be a reserve in L.A., where he will back up second-year point guard D’Angelo Russell. Currently training for the Olympics with the Spanish National Team, Calderon has one year left on his contract at $7.6MM, and said he hopes to play three more seasons in the NBA.
A delay in working out an extension with Tyronn Lue has several Cavaliers assistants working in the summer league without contracts, according to Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com. The deals for Jim Boylan, Phil Handy, James Posey and Vitaly Potapenko expired July 1st. Lue, who has promised they will all be kept on his staff, is negotiating an extension after winning an NBA title in his first season as a head coach. He is still under a four-year, $6.5MM contract that he had as an assistant after refusing a three-year, $9.5MM offer when he replaced David Blatt in midseason. Lue has a year left on his current deal and said he isn’t worried about the status of the extension. “It’ll eventually get done,” he said.
There’s more coaching news around the league:
- The Cavaliers are expected to make Damon Jones an assistant coach, Haynes writes in the same piece. Jones will replace Bret Brielmaier, who recently joined the Nets‘ staff.
- After a two-month wait while the Warriors made their way through the playoffs, former Golden State assistant Luke Walton finally got to coach the Lakers, writes Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. Walton made his debut Friday night in the Las Vegas Summer League and received a rousing ovation from Lakers fans in attendance. “I know I still have a lot to learn, but I think everybody does, no matter how long you’ve been doing any job,” Walton said. “I’m excited and I feel like I’m ready for this and I’m looking forward to it.”
- The Lakers did not keep player development coach Thomas Scott, tweets Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. Scott is expected to pursue other opportunities.
- The Kings have added Bob Thornton and Larry Lewis as assistants to new head coach Dave Joerger, tweets Sean Cunningham of KXTV in Sacramento.
- Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is optimistic that the team’s offseason additions will move the franchise in the right direction, but the executive stopped short of predicting a playoff berth in 2016/17, Mark Medina of The Orange County Register relays. “I’m not quite sure what to expect,” Kupchak said. “A lot has to be seen from our young players before determining how much they can help us. With the veterans, they’re going to need some help from the younger players. They need to give them energy and quickness.”
JULY 8: The Lakers have formally announced their deal with Mozgov, via a press release.
JULY 1: The Lakers have reached an agreement with free agent center Timofey Mozgov on a four-year contract worth $64MM, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). We heard earlier tonight that the two sides were in serious discussions and were nearing a deal.
It’s an eye-popping payday for Mozgov, who will turn 30 later this month. He was a part-time starter and rotational piece for the Cavaliers’ championship team this past season, averaging 6.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 0.8 BPG in 17.4 minutes per contest. However, he was essentially a non-factor in the playoffs, averaging less than six minutes per game in the 13 postseason contests in which he played.
A year ago, Mozgov was a full-time starter in the postseason for the Cavs, averaging 14.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, and 2.4 BPG during the team’s 2015 playoff run. That’s the sort of production the Lakers will likely be hoping for from the seven-footer going forward.
Before agreeing to sign Mozgov, the Lakers had been linked to a number of other free agent centers, including Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside, among others. However, it’s not clear how much interest there was from the players’ sides in those cases. For what it’s worth, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets that Pau Gasol wouldn’t have been entirely opposed to a Lakers reunion.
By reaching a non-max deal with a center, the Lakers will also now have a little extra cap flexibility to address other positions.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.