Los Angeles Lakers

Six Teams Solidify Meetings With Kevin Durant

8:08pm: Durant will not meet with his hometown Wizards, J. Michael of CSNMidatlantic.com reports. The Wizards have already moved on with their free agency plans, as league sources told Michael that the idea of returning home “doesn’t resonate” with Durant.

MONDAY, 12:41pm: Durant and his representatives have now scheduled meetings with the Celtics, Clippers, and Heat, bringing the total number of meetings on tap for KD to six, reports ESPN’s Chris Broussard. A meeting with the Knicks also remains in play, but hasn’t yet been confirmed.

FRIDAY, 10:44pm: The Warriors, Spurs and Thunder will be the first three teams to land face-to-face recruiting meetings with Kevin Durant, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein adds that the meetings will take place next week and more teams are expected to be granted an opportunity to make a pitch. Durant’s representatives are working to solidify meetings with the Celtics, Clippers and Heat in addition to the aforementioned teams, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports.

Both the Warriors and Spurs are planning on having key members of their respective organizations in attendance, Stein adds. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will be among the attendees for Golden State’s pitch, while San Antonio will have Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan among the attendees at its meeting. Sources tell Stein that the Warriors believe their chances of landing Durant have increased as a result of losing to the Cavs in the NBA Finals. Earlier this week, a source suggested to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that the Warriors appear to be the biggest threat to land the 2013/14 MVP should he leave Oklahoma City.

Durant is expected to have his agent Rich Kleiman and a few family members and friends alongside him during the initial meetings. The meetings are expected to take place in New York, according to Wojnarowski, although teams are still awaiting official word. It was reported last week that the meetings would take place in Los Angeles, where Durant owns a home.

The Knicks and Lakers remain hopeful about getting a meeting, Stein adds. Despite no definite report of a future meeting with Durant, Ian Begley of ESPN.com tweets that the Knicks are expected to get one.

The Rockets are not expected to get serious consideration, as was previously reported, and Stein adds that the Wizards are not optimistic about their chances of landing Durant.

Durant’s top priority for a destination remains competing for a championship and doing it immediately. A source tells Wojnarowski that Durant has plans to go on a publicity tour starting on July 9, and he expects to make a decision before that date.

Mitch Kupchak Discusses Free Agency

  • According to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, one could make the case that his team should target frontcourt players in free agency. However, as Kupchak explains to ESPN (video link), he isn’t entering free agency intent on upgrading a specific position — he believes the Lakers could use help everywhere.

No Meeting Lined Up Yet For Durant, Knicks

We’re just four days away from the start of the NBA’s 2016 free agent period, and while players can’t sign contracts with teams on July 1st, plenty of clubs will be prepared to make pitches to newly-available players on Friday. We’ve heard that the Thunder, Warriors, and Spurs have scheduled meetings for Kevin Durant, with the Celtics, Heat, and Clippers also working to solidify sit-downs of their own. However, it remains to be seen whether the Knicks will be given the opportunity to meet with Durant, per Ian Begley of ESPN.com.

According to Begley, no meeting has been scheduled – or agreed to – between New York and Durant, and while the Knicks remain optimistic that they’ll ultimately receive consideration from the star forward, it’s not a great sign that they aren’t among the initial group of suitors with whom he’ll meet.

Sam Amick of USA Today suggested on Sunday that the acquisition of Derrick Rose had put the Knicks back on Durant’s radar, but Amick conceded within that report that a meeting between the two sides was no sure thing. It’s possible that after meeting with his initial six suitors, Durant will remain undecided and would be willing to take a meeting with the Knicks or another team. Still, the Knicks appear to face long odds, considering the former MVP isn’t expected to take a ton of time to make a decision.

A meeting with Durant at least remains a possibility for the Knicks. For other would-be suitors, such as the Lakers and Wizards, such a meeting appears increasingly unlikely, as Amick wrote on Sunday. The USA Today scribe hinted that if Durant takes a meeting with the Lakers, it may just be a way to help the franchise save face. As for the Wizards, they’re waiting for a call from Durant’s camp “with hopes of being surprised,” but are preparing for free agency as if the D.C. native won’t be a part of their plans.

Lakers Unlikely To Get Meeting With Durant

The Lakers and Wizards are not expected to be granted a meeting with Kevin Durant once free agency begins, reports Sam Amick of USA Today. Amick adds that New York is back on Durant’s radar as a result of the Derrick Rose trade. The Knicks are expected to sit down with the 2013/14 MVP, as are the Spurs, Warriors, Celtics, Heat, and Clippers in addition to the Thunder.

Latest On Al Horford

The list of teams expected to be in the mix for Al Horford‘s services is expanding. It was previously reported that the Magic, Pistons, Lakers and Rockets would be attempting to poach the big man from the Hawks. The Wizards, Celtics and Heat are also expected to pursue the 30-year-old, according to Darren Wolfson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Wolfson adds that the Wolves will likely try to make a run at Horford, but are unlikely to get him to sign.

The Hawks are reportedly viewed as the frontrunner to lock up Horford since they can offer the most money and years. Atlanta intends to put a max deal on the table. He just finished up his ninth year in the league, meaning he’s eligible for the second-tier max salary this summer.

He could certainly take LeBron James‘ path and sign a shorter deal with an opt out after one season. Such a move would vault him into the third-tier max salary next offseason, which would allow him a starting salary of nearly 35% cap instead of the roughly 30% he is currently eligible for. Still, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors pointed out, given his age, he might opt to take long-term security.

Horford played in all 82 games last season for the first time in his career. He is a career 53.5% shooter from the field and a 34.0% shooter from behind the arc. He matched a career high in blocks with 1.5 per contest last season and he ranked 7th in the league among centers in ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus.

Pacific Notes: Rondo, Kupchak, Bender, Clippers

The Kings‘ decision to take big men in the first round of the draft may force them to make an aggressive offer to free agent point guard Rajon Rondo, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Sacramento traded down with its first pick and took center Georgios Papagiannis at No. 13, then later added forward Malachi Richardson at No. 22 and forward/center Skal Labissiere at No. 28. The selections leave the Kings with holes on the roster, Jones notes, and could make them desperate to keep Rondo, who led the NBA in assists this season.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings GM/executive Vlade Divac said his team is “set” in the front court after draft night, Jones tweets. Divac adds that he is open to re-signing Rondo.
  • Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak hopes to surround all his young talent with some veteran leaders, posts Baxter Holmes on ESPN Now. L.A. selected Brandon Ingram on Thursday to team with D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson, if he re-signs with the team. “History tells you that a bunch of young guys on the team is probably not a good thing,” Kupchak said. “They look around for leadership or they look around for advice from somebody who’s been through this a couple times, and if there’s nobody to talk to, well, you don’t know how to handle the situation. So I think we will look to add some veteran leadership and hopefully it’s not only leadership but guys who can help us win games.”
  • The Suns feared Dragan Bender wouldn’t be available later if they didn’t take him at No. 4, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 in Phoenix. The Suns thought Denver would take Bender at No. 7, which is why they nabbed him with the fourth pick and waited until No 8 to take Marquese Chriss.
  • Even though they have limited cap room, the Clippers will make an effort to re-sign all their free agents, coach Doc Rivers told Rowan Kavner of NBA.com“To a man, they all want to come back,” Rivers said. “Then there’s business. We’ll see once July 1st comes. It’s going to be interesting the way the cap’s going up. We have three Bird [Rights] guys we have a chance of signing [Jeff Green, Jamal Crawford and Luc Mbah a Moute], but they all may be — not all of them — but they may outprice and we can’t sign all three. But we’re going to try.

Lakers To Make Aggressive Push For Hassan Whiteside

The Lakers plan to make a strong push this offseason to sign unrestricted free agent Hassan Whiteside, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays. While Los Angeles is still hopeful to land a face-to-face meeting with Kevin Durant when the free agent signing period commences, it is said to be highly intrigued by Whiteside’s nightly double-double potential, Stein adds.

With the Lakers seeking rim protection and perimeter shooting in the free agent market this summer, league sources inform Stein that Whiteside is now a “priority target” for the team. Of course, the Lakers won’t be the only team lining up to make a pitch to the 27-year-old. The Heat would certainly like to re-sign the big man, but cap flexibility is an issue in Miami and could prevent the two sides from working out an acceptable agreement. The Heat have only early Bird rights on Whiteside, meaning they must use cap space to sign him for more than the league average salary and cannot offer a fifth year on his deal. A maximum contract for Whiteside would be a projected $94.8MM over four years, as Stein notes.

The Mavericks are also reportedly prioritizing Whiteside, the Celtics have been mentioned as potential suitors and one would think the Knicks would get involved in the bidding given their cap space and major hole at the pivot after shipping out Robin Lopez in the deal to acquire Derrick Rose from the Bulls.

In 73 appearances this season for the Heat, Whiteside averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in 29.1 minutes per outing. His shooting line was .606/.000/.650.

Lakers Unable To Buy Second-Round Pick

The Lakers were willing to pay cash for a second-round pick on Thursday night, but didn’t want to surrender a future second-rounder to make a deal happen, and ultimately couldn’t find a trade partner, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.

International Prospects: Luwawu, Korkmaz, Zubac

Each year, the draft brings questions about which foreign players are ready for the NBA immediately and which ones will remain overseas for a year or more. A few answers were provided tonight:

  • Greek center Georgios Papagiannis, drafted 13th overall by the Kings, has a buyout cost with his Panathinaikos club, tweets Sean Cunningham of ABC10 in Sacramento. However, GM Vlade Divac says the price is manageable and promises Papagiannis will be with the Kings next season.
  • French swingman Timothe Luwawu, whom the Sixers drafted at No. 24, plans to join the team next season, tweets Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.
  • Furkan Korkmaz, the Sixers‘ pick at No. 26, will not be in Philadelphia for 2016/17, according to international journalist David Pick (Twitter link). The Turkish forward will be stashed overseas for at least a year.
  • The Lakers plan to have Croatian center Ivica Zubac on their roster next season, tweets Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress. L.A. took Zubac with the second choice in the second round. He had received a “soft promise” from the Lakers if he fell to the 32nd pick, according to Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).
  • German small forward Paul Zipser will play for the Bulls during the 2016/17 season, tweets Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress. Givony believes the 22-year-old can find a role in Chicago right away.
  • Egyptian forward Abdel Nader of Iowa State, the Celtics‘ pick at No 58, has agreed to spend next season in the D-League, according to Givony (Twitter link). Players who agree in advance to be stashed in the D-League don’t count against the salary cap.

Draft Rumors: Celtics, Bender, Ingram, Valentine

The Celtics weren’t able to find “realistic deals” for the No. 3 pick, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. There was speculation that several teams, most notably the Sixers, were trying to acquire the pick to get their hands on Providence point guard Kris Dunn, but the Celtics never found an offer they liked. Instead, Boston used the pick to grab California power forward Jaylen Brown, whom the team intends to keep, according to Andy Katz of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said the team never came close to making a deal, tweets Adam Kauffman of WBZ News Radio in Boston. “We did not sniff a trade today,” Grousbeck said. “It was a collection of rip-off attempts, and we laughed at them.”

There’s more as draft night heats up:

  • French power forward Guerschon Yabusele, the Celtics’ pick at No. 16, will probably be a draft-and-stash player, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical.
  • The NBA opt-out clause for Dragan Bender is $1.2MM, according to international basketball journalist David Pick (Twitter link). The Croatian big man, who was selected fourth overall by the Suns tonight, will contribute to his release, says Pick.
  • Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said his team received a lot of trade interest in the No. 2 pick, but was’t offered anything compelling enough to give up the rights to Brandon Ingram, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.
  • The Bulls will keep Denzel Valentine, who was their choice at No. 14, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Chicago had him ranked second on its draft board behind Dunn.
  • Before they made their pick at No. 13, the Kings called the Pistons about the possibility of moving back to No. 18, but Detroit turned down the offer, reports Jake Fischer of Liberty Ballers (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers, who currently don’t have a pick in either round, are trying to obtain a second-round choice, tweets Chris Haynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

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