Los Angeles Lakers

Cavs Lead With 16 Free Agent Signings

The Cavaliers have drawn plenty of attention the past few months for a free agent they haven’t signed, but even though Tristan Thompson lingers in free agency, Cleveland has taken care of more free agent business than any other team in the league during the 2015 offseason. They signed 16 free agents, three more than the Spurs, the team that recorded the next most free agent signings. The Cavs just made their latest signing this weekend, replacing Michael Dunigan with Dionte Christmas on the camp roster.

It might be easy to presume a direct correlation between free agent activity and success, given the teams at the very top and bottom of the list below. The Cavs and Spurs are strong bets to win their respective conferences this season, while the Jazz, Timberwolves and Sixers are nowhere near the title picture. The presence of the Warriors and Thunder on the bottom half of the list and the Kings and Nets close to the top debunk that theory, however. It has more to do with the fact that the Cavs had only four players signed for 2015/16 when they ended last season, while the Jazz had 13. Cleveland simply had more jobs to hand out.

Still, other factors are at play, since free agent signings don’t encompass draft picks, draft-and-stash signings, trades or waiver claims. The Trail Blazers made significant changes to their roster, but they did much of their work via trade instead of free agency. The Rockets had 10 players under contract on July 1st, but they still wound up making 11 free agent signings.

Here’s a look at the number of free agent signings for each team. Click the team’s name to see the names of each of their signees via our 2015 Free Agent Tracker.

  1. Cavaliers, 16
  2. Mavericks, 13
  3. Spurs, 13
  4. Kings, 12
  5. Knicks, 12
  6. Nets, 12
  7. Pelicans, 12
  8. Rockets, 11
  9. Clippers, 10
  10. Grizzlies, 10
  11. Suns, 10
  12. Heat, 9
  13. Pacers, 9
  14. Raptors, 9
  15. Bulls, 8
  16. Hawks, 8
  17. Magic, 8
  18. Wizards, 8
  19. Bucks, 7
  20. Celtics, 7
  21. Hornets, 7
  22. Lakers, 7
  23. Nuggets, 7
  24. Warriors, 7
  25. Pistons, 6
  26. Thunder, 6
  27. Trail Blazers, 6
  28. 76ers, 5
  29. Timberwolves, 5
  30. Jazz, 4

California Notes: Stephenson, Hibbert, Warriors

Many around the league believe the Lakers can quickly return to the NBA elite, with one executive telling Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com that they’re just “one big deal” from a favorable position. Still, Holmes heard pessimism from many others, including an agent who called them “hopeless” and “the West Coast Knicks,” and those who had pointed criticism for Mitch Kupchak, Nick Young and especially Byron Scott. Legendary Laker Shaquille O’Neal, now a Kings part-owner, pointed to the roster as a whole.

“They need to do the same thing Sacramento did — get new players,” O’Neal said to Holmes.

Little can be done about the top of the roster this time of the year, but the Lakers and other Pacific rivals face multiple decisions about how to fill out their bench, as I examined earlier. See more from California’s NBA teams:

  • Clippers trade acquisition Lance Stephenson believes Doc Rivers and the Clippers are giving him a better chance at success than he had in Charlotte, where he didn’t feel the team used him properly last season, as he tells Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. “I was just sitting in the corner. That’s not trying to be a star. A star normally gets the ball,” Stephenson said.
  • Roy Hibbert, set for free agency at season’s end, has impressed in his first action since the offseason trade that took him to the Lakers, observes fellow Orange County Register scribe Bill Oram. “He’s been absolutely solid,” Kobe Bryant said of Hibbert. “Defensively he’s been great. Offensively he’s been great and he’s another great passer on this team. We look forward to playing off him a lot.”
  • The Warriors purchased the land for their new privately funded arena in San Francisco, the team announced. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed, but team indicated the entire project will cost in excess of $1 billion. “We’ve been the Bay Area’s team for more than 50 years, and this plan keeps us in the Bay Area for the next 50 and beyond,” Warriors president and COO Rick Welts said. “If there were any lingering doubts about our commitment to Mission Bay, purchasing this land should put them to rest. We love this neighborhood – nobody else is getting this land.”

And-Ones: Extensions, Kentucky, Lakers

The Pistons do not seem overly concerned about maximizing on cap space and waiting to the summer to strike a deal with Andre Drummond and it’s more likely than any other potential extension other than Harrison Barnes that the center secures a lucrative extension this month, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports. Stein adds that Barnes is also likely to receive a large extension from the Warriors before the league’s deadline for rookie-deal extensions on November 2nd. Stein points out — as we at Hoops Rumors have consistently mentioned where applicable as well — that the window has been pushed back two days (it usually is October 31st).

The Wizards have an opposite approach from the Pistons and instead are hoping to convince Bradley Beal to hold off on a new deal until next summer because the delay could lead to Washington having nearly $10MM in additional salary cap space next summer when it intends to make a run Kevin Durant.

You can view our Extension Candidate series by clicking here.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Rasual Butler likely must beat out Jimmer Fredette and Reggie Williams, among others, for the Spurs‘ final regular season roster spot, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio-Express News writes. Butler, 36, knew what the odds were when he signed with the Spurs last month, McDonald adds. Butler, as McDonald points out, has played for five teams since the start of the 2010/11 season.“Some of us have to work a little harder, and you have to be OK with that,” Butler said. “You have to pick your lunch pail up and go to work if this is what you love do to.”
  • All 30 teams scouted Kentucky’s pro day, Adam Zagoria of SNY.TV reports.
  • Matt Brase will finish the preseason with the Rockets before taking over as coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, their NBA D-League affiliate, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes in a worthwhile profile. Brase was announced as the Vipers’ new coach in August.
  • The Lakers are hopeful rookie Marcelo Huertas, whose $525,093 contract isn’t guaranteed, can stabilize the second unit, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times details. Huertas has been unable to practice because of a hamstring strain, Pincus adds. “He’s a very, very good floor leader,” Lakers head coach Byron Scott said. “He’s a gutsy, pesky-type guy.  He doesn’t back down.  He’s going to try to guard you to the best of his ability, and he’s a guy that can make plays for you.”

Western Notes: Kerr, Spurs, Lakers

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr told reporters, including Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, that he suffered a spinal fluid leak during his July 28th back surgery on a ruptured disk, which has led to his absence from the team during the preseason. There is no timetable for his return. Luke Walton, the team’s lead assistant, is serving as the interim head coach.

“The leak is fixed, but I’m still getting some symptoms. That’s why I’m out,” Kerr said. “I wanted to be clear to you guys and the fans. I want to be upfront about what’s happened. Because I’m still having symptoms, it makes it difficult for me to be on the floor. The prospects are good. I’m going to heal.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge called his preseason debut with the Spurs “a little overwhelming,” Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio-Express News relays. “It doesn’t really hit you until you put on a jersey and go play,” Aldridge said. Aldridge is working on learning where to find his new teammates when he gets doubled, McDonald adds.
  • The Lakers have six players — Ryan Kelly, Metta World Peace, Jabari Brown, Robert Sacre, Tarik Black and Robert Upshaw — competing for the final four roster spots and Upshaw is the “wild card” because of his talent and checkered past, Bill Oram of The Orange County Register writes. Upshaw is a talented shot blocker, but he was also kicked off teams at Fresno State and the University of Washington, as Oram points out. Lakers head coach Byron Scott said it is conceivable that the team will keep four centers, including starter Roy Hibbert, but indicated that would only be in an extreme circumstance, Oram adds.
  • Wolves coach Sam Mitchell believes Zach LaVine‘s shooting woes are a product of LaVine thinking too much, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune tweets.

And-Ones: Hood, Tskitishvili, Sterling, Rookies

Utah’s Rodney Hood impressed his coach with the way he reacted to a dose of NBA trash talking from the LakersKobe Bryant, writes Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. In an exhibition game last week, Bryant reminded the second-year player that he was going up against one of the league’s all-time greats, listing a resume that includes 17 All-Star games and five NBA titles. Hood, on the other hand, is trying to carve out a role with the Jazz after averaging 8.7 points in 50 games during his rookie season, mostly as a backup. “I think Rodney just played like he was playing against another really, really good player,” said Quin Snyder. “The challenge that I like that I saw in that was that Kobe was really physical and that’s something that if you’ve haven’t (experienced), particularly in your second year, if you haven’t played against that toughness and that intensity, that it’s new.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Nikoloz Tskitishvili has signed a deal to play in China, tweets international journalist David Pick. Tskitishvili, who was waived by the Clippers last week, scored 13 points in his audition for the Fujian team. He signed a 48-hour deal, but both sides share an option to extend it (Twitter link). At age 32, Tskitishvili had been hoping to return to the NBA after being out of the league since 2006.
  • Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling has filed an appeal of the probate court decision that gave his wife, Shelly, control of the family trust as well as the authority to sell the team, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. A hearing has been set for October 28th after Sterling’s legal team asked the court to expedite his appeal of the probate case (Twitter link).
  • This season should feature a wide-open race for the Rookie of the Year trophy, writes Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. The columnist names the PistonsStanley Johnson, the NuggetsEmmanuel Mudiay and the SixersJahlil Okafor as the early favorites, but says several other contenders could emerge.

Pacific Notes: Upshaw, Warren, Williams

Lakers rookie center Robert Upshaw saw his first NBA preseason action during the team’s 105-97 loss to the Raptors on Thursday, and the young big man contributed six points, three rebounds, two blocks, one assist and one turnover in 25 minutes. When asked to assess Upshaw’s first showing for the team, coach Byron Scott said, “He was OK. He made a ton of mistakes on both ends of the floor. That’s probably to be expected in his first game,Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News relays.

Scott was pleased with how Upshaw is physically rounding into shape, as well as the athleticism Upshaw displayed during Thursday’s contest, Medina adds. “That’s something we didn’t see in summer league,” Scott said. “In summer league, he was much heavier than he is right now. He’s in much better condition right now. He’s much lighter getting up and down the floor. He’s getting off his feet much better. We’re able to see some of the things we kept hearing about.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said that T.J. Warren‘s overall game has improved since last season, and it may make his decision regarding the team’s regular season starter at small forward difficult, writes Matt Petersen of NBA.com. “When we can get him the ball and get him opportunities, he makes the plays,” Hornacek said. “Defensively, he’s much better than he was last year. I like what he’s doing defensively on guys. He’s taking challenges. He’s got a great knack.P.J. Tucker is Phoenix’s incumbent starter at the three.
  • Despite winning the 2014/15 Sixth Man of the Year award, the Raptors didn’t make an effort to re-sign Lou Williams this offseason, but according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey, “It wasn’t for the fact that we didn’t like Lou or want Lou,” Bill Oram of The Orange County Register tweets.
  • Williams, who signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Lakers back in July, was allowed to depart because Toronto had more pressing roster concerns, and not because the Raptors didn’t think he was a valuable player, Oram writes in a full-length piece. “He has a huge value,” Casey said of Williams, “but it depends on the other needs that you have on the team. He won a lot of games last year for us with his scoring. We had nights where we had nothing going, and he would come in and change the game with his scoring. And there’s a value. There’s a huge value to that.”

Western Notes: Martin, Clippers, World Peace

The Timberwolves are planning to start Zach LaVine at shooting guard instead of Kevin Martin, even though interim coach Sam Mitchell admits Martin is better than Lavine is at this point, notes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. The team is focused on player development, and Minnesota believes LaVine will move past his on-court rookie mistakes from last season, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe examines. Lowe also speculates about a variety of potential trade destinations for Martin, though it doesn’t appear there’s any movement on that front for now, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets. The Mavericks, who were reportedly among the teams interested in him around the trade deadline in February, have backed off, Wolfson adds (via Twitter link).

  • Metta World Peace says he turned down an offer from the Clippers in the summer of 2014 before he signed to play in China last season, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News relays. He reportedly worked out at the Clippers practice facility that summer, but Clips coach/executive Doc Rivers appeared to downplay the idea that his team was eyeing World Peace for a late-season deal. “In China, I had to get my game back,” World Peace said. “Doc asked me to come to the Clippers. I told him, ‘I’m going to China first. When I come back, I’ll come to the Clippers.’ I want to get my game back on.”
  • World Peace never did play with the Clippers, instead signing a non-guaranteed deal with the Lakers, who’ve allowed him to fulfill his wish for a reunion with Kobe Bryant, even if it’s only for training camp, Medina notes in the same piece. “Kobe is the main reason why I worked so hard in the last couple of years,” said World Peace, who, despite that work, admits he’s not in shape. “I always wanted to come back and play with Kobe. I remember playing with Kobe, the sacrifices he made, playing hard, making unbelievable shots and showing unbelievable fundamentals. People can say he’s selfish all they want. But in the game, he’s so fundamentally sound. That’s tough to be fundamentally sound under all that pressure.”

Pacific Notes: Kings, World Peace, Belinelli

Kings coach George Karl sees a world of difference between the team’s culture today and when he first arrived in Sacramento, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. “The spirit in the locker room when I got here last year was, ‘Wow,’ ” Karl said. “I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms and ‘Wow,’ and that wow was not a good wow. It was ‘Wow.’ And now we’ve got a healthy NBA locker room. That’s the one thing I feel right now, and I think we’ve got a vastly improved basketball team.

The improved team chemistry is a by-product of the veterans the team has added, Jones notes. “Without a doubt,” point guard Darren Collison said of Karl’s assessment. “You’ve got vets like CB [Caron Butler], Rajon Rondo, Kouf [Kosta Koufos], guys that have been on teams where it meant something to them. So they try to instill those same principles into the locker room. It’s been a difference.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers are hoping that Metta World Peace, who is in training camp on a non-guaranteed deal, can contribute beyond being a mentor to the younger players on the roster, Bill Oram of The Orange County Register writes. “I think he just needs to show us that he’s still Metta. … He’s been great in training camp with our young guys,” coach Byron Scott said. “But we want to know if he can play at a high level. That’s the big thing.
  • Marco Belinelli was signed by the Kings this offseason for his outside shooting acumen, but he has impressed the team’s coaching staff with his ability to make his teammates around him better, Jones writes in a separate article. “[Belinelli] has a knack of making other people play the right way, which is an off-the-chart compliment even though you might not take it as a high compliment,” Karl said. “For a coach to say someone makes other people better is a high compliment.

Western Notes: Kobe, Morris, Barnes, Davis

The majority of the two dozen team executives, scouts, agents and other figures from around the NBA who spoke with Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com said the Lakers definitely shouldn’t re-sign Kobe Bryant if he decides to play beyond the expiration of his contract at season’s end. Another sizable chunk of respondents said it should depend on his health, while only one said the Lakers should definitely bring him back. Part of the issue involves repeated assertions from people around the league that free agents won’t want to sign with the Lakers and play with their longtime star, as Holmes relays. Bryant has said he won’t play for an NBA team aside from the Lakers, but if he did, few teams would have interest, Holmes hears. One executive mentioned the Knicks as a possibility, and another brought up the Clippers. See more from around the Western Conference:

  • Markieff Morris gave further indication Wednesday that he indeed wants to stick around Phoenix, telling reporters, including Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, that he intends to convince local fans he’s on board. “I’ll win them back,” Morris said. “That’s all I can say about that.” Morris last week backed off his trade demand from the summer, and the Suns apparently have no interest in sending him out, even though the Pistons are reportedly interested.
  • Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger and Matt Barnes sloughed off the notion that reports that Barnes physically attacked Knicks coach Derek Fisher will have any bearing on the team, and Joerger expressed full support for his player, notes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Barnes said that he hasn’t spoken with anyone from the league office, but the NBA is investigating, Tillery adds. Memphis traded for Barnes this summer, and he’s entering the final season of his contract.
  • Ed Davis prioritized the chance for minutes over money when he decided to sign a three-year, $20MM deal with the Blazers this summer, as Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com details. “I was playing well in Toronto my third year, then I got traded to Memphis,” Davis said. “I played behind [Zach Randolph] and Marc [Gasol] for a year and a half, didn’t really get the opportunity. I was playing 13, 14 minutes a game and there’s no way that’s you’re going to be successful in the NBA with those minutes. That set me back for a year and a half. I guess the media or whatever thought I couldn’t play, or whatever it was. Went to L.A. [Lakers] last year, had a decent year and everything turned. Now I’m in a great situation and I’m looking forward to it.”

Pacific Notes: Karl, Cousins, Bass, Russell, Clarkson

Weeks before reports surfaced that coach George Karl was trying to trade DeMarcus Cousins and, subsequently, that the Kings were thinking about firing Karl, the coach remarked that he never felt he had a player who was off-limits for a trade. That comment was a mistake, Karl admitted to Kayte Christensen of CSN Bay Area (video link), and the coach apologized to Cousins, as CSN Bay Area’s James Ham notes.

But it’s my responsibility to be smart enough to not say things like that,” Karl said to Christensen, in part. “So I did apologize because I thought that was the only thing, maybe some other things, but really the only thing that got us separated was that comment that then everybody wrote [that] we’re going to trade [Cousins].”

Time will tell if the relationship between Karl and Cousins will remain on solid footing, but winning would probably go a long way toward keeping both of them satisfied, as Akis Yerocostas of SB Nation’s Sactown Royalty recently suggested in a recent installment of our Top Bloggers series. See more from the Pacific Division:

  • Metta World Peace is with the Lakers during the preseason in large part to mentor Julius Randle, but if World Peace doesn’t stick for the regular season on his non-guaranteed deal, fellow offseason signee Brandon Bass will still be there for Randle, as Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times details. Fostering the development of the 2014 No. 7 overall pick part of the reason why Bass, too, is on the Lakers roster this season, Pincus writes.
  • Bass is also a fan of Lakers coach Byron Scott, for whom he also played at the beginning of his career with New Orleans, Pincus notes in the same piece. “Coach Scott was someone who inspired me to continue to work hard, to be the player I am today,” Bass said. “My first two years I didn’t play much, so he was very motivating to me, letting me know how hard I have to work to be a pro.”
  • D’Angelo Russell was skeptical when Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told him before the draft that the Lakers thought he and Jordan Clarkson could co-exist in the backcourt, but all parties seem on board with the idea now, notes Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com“We’re two totally different players,” Clarkson said. “He’s an excellent passer and I’m real aggressive and it just kind of comes together.” Clarkson is set to hit restricted free agency at season’s end.
  • The Clippers are so far struggling to incorporate the nine newcomers to the team, observes Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.

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