Los Angeles Lakers

Pacific Notes: Karl, Griffin, Russell

Rumors are again swirling of a possible coaching change in Sacramento, but firing George Karl now might not be the Kings‘ best move, contends Sam Amick of USA Today. The columnist warns that an immediate change could make it difficult for the team to conduct a thorough search for Karl’s replacement. He adds that Sacramento has been looking at former Thunder coach Scott Brooks, ex-Bulls mentor Tom Thibodeau and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson for a while.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings should get rid of Karl right away because they have barely improved despite raising their talent level, argues Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Sacramento is just 21-29 and falling out of the playoff picture even though it signed Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli and Caron Butler in free agency and drafted Willie Cauley-Stein sixth overall. Ziller also slams Karl for trying to get rid of DeMarcus Cousins, for having an up-tempo game plan that doesn’t fit the team’s talent and for having a poor defensive team.
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers didn’t waste words when asked about Blake Griffin‘s future in L.A., tweets Ben Bolch of The Los Angeles Times. “Blake’s ours,” Rivers said, “and he’s going to stay ours.” There have been rumors that the Clippers may consider dealing Griffin in the wake of an incident with an equipment manager that the team reportedly believes could keep him out of action for two months.
  • Lakers coach Byron Scott has been trying to make rookie D’Angelo Russell feel like he’s earning his minutes, according to Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. In what he says was an effort to keep Russell’s ego under control, Scott pulled him and Julius Randle from the starting lineup on December 7th. “I didn’t want him to just feel, ‘This is who I am. I should be starting on the Lakers because I’m the second pick,’” Scott said. “No, you’re starting because you work hard and you earn it.”

Pacific Notes: Griffin, Tucker, Simmons

Clippers power forward Blake Griffin underwent a second surgical procedure this week on his broken right hand, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com relays. The latest procedure was related to his initial one and isn’t considered a setback, Shelburne notes. The original expectation that Griffin will miss approximately four to six weeks is still currently in place, according to the ESPN scribe. The Sixers and Nuggets have reportedly checked on Griffin’s availability, though the Clippers have no active interest in trading him in spite of offers that several teams have made. A report from Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports noted that L.A. plans a concerted effort to look for Griffin trades in the offseason if they disappoint in the playoffs this spring. While Griffin waits to learn if he’ll be facing discipline from the NBA, here’s more of what’s happening in the Pacific Division…

  • P.J. Tucker, who is the subject of recent trade rumors involving the Raptors, says he wants to remain with the Suns, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic relays. “I love being in Phoenix,” Tucker said. “It’s been my longest stop of my career and hopefully it continues.” This desire to remain in Phoenix is dampened by the team’s struggles this season, Coro adds. “It would suck,” Tucker said about a potential trade. “I’m not going to lie. I was here when it was down. We came up and now we’re having a tough year this year. Seeing it full circle and not obtaining the goal of making the playoffs since I’ve been here, that wouldn’t be the top of my list of things that I like.
  • The Lakers currently hold a 19.9% chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick this June and there are questions if Ben Simmons, the projected top pick in this year’s NBA draft, and power forward Julius Randle would fit well together, writes Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. “Julius Randle is that 4 guy who handles the basketball,” NBA TV analyst Steve Smith opined. “It would be interesting if they would play them together or not together.” If the Lakers did select Simmons in the draft it would raise questions regarding Randle’s future with the franchise considering the number of similarities between the players’ games, Medina notes. “He has to be the secondary ball-handler,” an NBA executive said of Simmons. “If you’re not going to use him as a point forward, you’re wasting your time.

Pacific Notes: Russell, Hornacek, Kerr, Morris

In an interview with David Aldridge of NBA.com, Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell admitted that he still has much to learn about the game but lamented that the lines of communication between him and coach Byron Scott aren’t more open to help facilitate his growth. When asked by Aldridge if he and Scott communicate freely, Russell responded, “At this day and age, you kind of have a feel for what you did wrong. It might sound weird, but you don’t know what to ask. So like, I turned the ball over. I know I turned the ball over and I’m coming out of the game. I’m not sure if that’s why you’re pulling me out, but I’m not sure what to ask. ‘Cause I know I turned it over. There’s nothing that you can possibly say that’s going to bring that turnover back, or anything that I can possibly do. But it’s like, I don’t know what to ask. It’s like, he wouldn’t, I don’t know, tell me if I don’t ask. So that’s where it’s kind of a blur. ” Russell has previously expressed his frustration at not being on the court late in games and Scott has come under scrutiny for not playing the team’s younger players more this season.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns GM Ryan McDonough noted that one reason former coach Jeff Hornacek was fired is because the players no longer responded to his leadership, Bob Baum of The Associated Press writes. “I realize Jeff was in a tough spot [because of the injuries],” McDonough said, “but at the same time the team wasn’t competing how we hoped it would or how we think it is capable of competing.
  • McDonough recommended firing Hornacek to Suns owner Robert Sarver, but admits it was difficult to do so because of his close relationship with the former coach, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic relays (via Twitter).
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr has not allowed his prolonged absence, nor the team’s stellar record, to curb his fire, and the coach is demonstrating just how valuable he is to the franchise by challenging the team to continue to improve, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post.
  • Suns interim coach Earl Watson intends to make Markieff Morris the focal point of the team’s offense and show him that the organization cares about him as a person, Coro relays. “He is the main focus of our offense moving forward,” Watson said regarding Morris. “I had a feeling that if we gave him positive encouragement and let him know that no matter what we love him, no matter what happens beyond basketball, and gave him an opportunity to play and let him know he is going to play. … Some things are bigger than basketball so when you reach out beyond basketball, players tend to respond well.

And-Ones: Gasol, Barnes, Garnett, Horford

Two executives from other teams aren’t sold on the idea that the Bulls are done gauging the trade market for Pau Gasol in the wake of injuries to Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic, reports K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, who adds that the Bulls want to re-sign Gasol this summer but at a limited price. Gasol said today that he doesn’t view a trade as likely but wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Bulls dealt him, adding that he wished he had a no-trade clause in his contract, notes Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com (ESPN Now link). Gasol also expressed a desire for a no-trade provision in his next contract, which he could only get if he signs with the Grizzlies or Lakers or re-signs with the Bulls on a one-year deal. Formal no-trade clauses are only available to veterans of eight or more years (Gasol qualifies there) who sign with teams they’ve spent at least four seasons with. Gasol is in just year No. 2 with Chicago, but anyone who re-signs with his team on a one-year deal, or a two-year deal with a player option, can veto trades. See more from around the league:

  • Harrison Barnes has fans within the Timberwolves organization, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities says in a podcast, though it’s not entirely certain that Minnesota will pursue the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Barnes engendered an “undercurrent of disenchantment” within the Warriors when he stayed for as long as he did with a sprained ankle that prompted him to miss 16 games this season, as Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com reported earlier. Wolves GM Milt Newton has no guarantee of running the team’s front office beyond this season after inheriting the authority from the late Flip Saunders.
  • Kevin Garnett is “no lock” to play next season, as many people close to him aren’t sure whether or not he intends to do so, Wolfson says in the same podcast. In July, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune raised the specter of Garnett moving into a front office position with the Timberwolves next season if he’s not healthy enough to play. Garnett, who turns 40 in May, has appeared in 38 of Minnesota’s 50 games this year and is set to make $8MM in 2016/17 on the two-year contract he signed this past summer.
  • Soon-to-be free agent Al Horford said he feels like Atlanta is home and added that he isn’t focused on trade talk as the February 18th deadline looms, observes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That echoes the mostly glowing remarks Horford made about Atlanta and the Hawks organization to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, and though the Hawks want to-resign him, it’s unclear whether they’re willing to shell out the max contract he’ll be seeking, according to Spears. Horford also said to Spears that other cities probably offer more business and marketing opportunities than Atlanta does, and the Hawks are expected to listen to offers for Horford out of concern that he might walk in free agency this summer, Spears reports.

Pacific Notes: Durant, Barnes, Scott, Jefferson

The Warriors are “the leaders in the clubhouse” for Kevin Durant, an NBA GM recently said to Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago (Twitter link), a comment that echoes the Tuesday report from Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports that Golden State would be Durant’s preferred choice if he leaves the Thunder. Wojnarowski heard that Durant isn’t leaning one way or another toward leaving Oklahoma City, but Goodwill’s report doesn’t indicate that Durant’s preference for the Warriors is contingent on a decision about the Thunder first. See more from Golden State amid news from the Pacific Division:

  • An “undercurrent of disenchantment” existed within the Warriors organization about the length of time it took for Harrison Barnes to return from a sprained ankle earlier this season, according to Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com. Barnes, who missed 16 games with the injury, hasn’t shown enough to prove he’s worthy of a massive contract in restricted free agency this summer, Poole contends. The uncertainty over his future makes it easier to see why the Warriors drafted combo forward Kevon Looney last year, as Poole explains.
  • The second half of the season is essentially a referendum whether the Lakers retain Byron Scott for next year, sources close to the organization tell Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, who adds that Scott would help his cause if the team becomes more competitive and if the young players on the Lakers show signs of development. A lot of people around the league expect the Lakers will move on from Scott this summer, but the team says he’s definitely sticking around to the end of the season and will undergo an evaluation after that, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News said on NBA TV this week, as Harrison Faigen of SB Nation’s Silver Screen & Roll transcribes.
  • Power forward Cory Jefferson has returned to the Suns D-League affiliate following the expiration of his 10-day contract with Phoenix this past weekend, notes Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor (Twitter links).
  • The Suns have formally hired NBA coaching veteran Bob Hill as an assistant coach, the team announced. Wojnarowski reported Monday that the move would take place.

Pacific Notes: Bogdanovic, Looney, Majerle

With the continued struggles of the Lakers, there is a danger that the losing may have a negative long-term impact on the team’s younger players, something the coaching staff will try to stave off, Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. “I think the challenge for our young guys is to stay the course,” said coach Byron Scott. “Continue to think positive. Continue to work their butts off and good things will happen. But if we can’t figure it out from a mental standpoint at times too, then we’re going to continue to struggle. And I think we’ve all talked about the lack of experience being a factor, and sometimes the game is a little too fast for some of our guys; and they’ve just got to step that part up, and it’s going to take time.”

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The cap hold for Suns 2014 first-rounder Bogdan Bogdanovic will impact the team’s salary cap in July, notes Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports in his trade deadline primer for the team. Phoenix can clear the hold, worth $963K by officially notifying the league that it doesn’t intend to sign Bogdanovic, but if the Suns did so, he would be ineligible to ink a deal with the team during the 2016/17 season, Marks notes.
  • Former Suns player Dan Majerle, who was an assistant coach with the franchise during Alvin Gentry‘s tenure, doesn’t expect to be under consideration for the team’s vacant coaching position, Richard Obert of The Arizona Republic relays. Majerle, who is the head coach at Grand Canyon University, when asked if he had a shot at the Suns’ post, said, “We’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it. I doubt that we will. But if it happens, I’ll have to sit down and think about what’s best for me. I’m extremely happy being at GCU. I’ve got no reservations or no thoughts about leaving here.
  • The Warriors have recalled Kevon Looney from their D-League affiliate, the team announced in a press release. Looney has appeared in seven games with Santa Cruz this season, notching averages of 9.4 points and 8.3 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per contest.

Western Notes: Pierce, Martin, Bass, Batum

The Clippers signed Paul Pierce to a three-year deal in the offseason, but the 38-year-old has shown the ravages of age this season, and coach/executive Doc Rivers admits the team’s maintenance plan for him isn’t foolproof, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register examines. Pierce hasn’t ruled out retirement after the season.

“It has to be [hard for him],” Rivers said. “You could see he didn’t have great rhythm tonight and he didn’t practice and he takes the days off. Again, it’s an imperfect science. I think at the end of the year it will be great for him because now the rhythm will start and he’ll start playing, but I really don’t know. I’m just trying to do the best with him so we can preserve him.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Some teams with interest in trading with the Timberwolves for Kevin Martin would prefer that he picks up his player option worth nearly $7.378MM for next season, but a larger and more seriously intrigued bunch of teams wants him to turn down the option, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders hears. The same is true among suitors for Lakers power forward Brandon Bass, who has a $3.135MM player option, Kyler adds.
  • Soon-to-be free agent Nicolas Batum said after Friday’s game that he “loved” playing for the Trail Blazers, but Portland’s victory over the Hornets, in which Batum struggled, was in large measure about the Blazers moving past Batum and the other players the team didn’t bring back from last season, as The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman details. The Charlotte swingman was the last of the four former Blazers starters to play a game with his new team in Portland.
  • The Rockets have recalled Donatas Motiejunas and K.J. McDaniels from the D-League, the team announced (Twitter link). Motiejunas, set for restricted free agency at season’s end, gave his consent to the D-League trip as a rehab assignment, and he said he’ll again join Houston’s affiliate later in the week, notes Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston (on Twitter). Motiejunas has three previous years of experience, so the Rockets need his permission as well as the union’s to send him to the D-League.

Western Notes: Conley, Mavs, Suns

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace gave a strong indication that Memphis intends to re-sign Mike Conley this summer when the point guard becomes a free agent, Matt Moore of CBSSports.com reports. Conley will be eligible for a projected maximum starting salary of $24.9MM for 2016/17. The Grizzlies are also not interested in trading Conley prior to the deadline, according to Moore. This jibes with earlier reports that stated the top priority in free agency this summer for Memphis is re-signing Conley, who has already said how much he would like to remain with the Grizzlies.

“If you look back at the five years since the tide has turned for this franchise, we have re-signed every core player for the Memphis Grizzlies,” Wallace told Moore.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Mavs owner Mark Cuban said “nothing is really tempting” as the trade deadline nears, Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com tweets. Cuban added that he likes how the Mavs are currently constructed. Dallas is 27-22.
  • The Suns project to have a crowded backcourt next season when Eric Bledsoe returns, so Eric Saar of Basketball Insiders suggests Phoenix could make a trade to make room for Devin Booker, who has shown an ability to make plays consistently and run the offense.
  • The Lakers have recalled Tarik Black from the D-League, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (on Twitter).
  • The Clippers have recalled Branden Dawson from the D-League, the team announced, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register relays (via Twitter).

Pacific Notes: Morris, Stephenson, Randle

Golden State sits atop the Pacific Division with a record of 43-4, which is tied for the best 47 game start in NBA history. The Warriors beat the lowly Sixers in dramatic fashion on Saturday night by a score of 108-105 on a last second buzzer-beater by Harrison Barnes, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. The team will take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden tonight, and as the Warriors await their next opponent, let’s take a look at some notes from their foes in the Pacific Division:

  • Markieff Morris views this year’s Suns differently than the 2012/13 team that lost 57 games, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “Three years ago, when we were losing, we still were having fun,” Morris said. “It was just put together the wrong way. Now, it’s more like a rebuilding type of thing. We’re playing a bunch of young guys. It’s hard because it’s something different every game. Back then, we had a bunch of talented guys but some guys didn’t fit in. It’s a tough situation.” Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors examined Morris as a trade candidate earlier this month.
  • The Clippers may opt to give offseason addition Lance Stephenson a bigger role with Blake Griffin sidelined, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times writes. “I still say he’s going to help us,” coach Doc Rivers said of Stephenson, who was the subject of trade chatter earlier this season. “But I just like his spirit. He’s ready every night, he wants to play. He’s been a great team guy.” The 25-year-old had an impressive game against the Lakers on Friday night, accumulating 16 points and five rebounds while shooting 6 for 7 from the field.
  • Julius Randle is showing signs of improvement and Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders believes he is one of the most promising young power forwards in the NBA. Randle is pulling down 9.7 rebounds per game, which is good for 12th most in the league this season.

L.A. Rumors: Griffin, Russell, Gasol, Black

The NBA’s investigation of Blake Griffin‘s fight with an assistant equipment manager is complete, according Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. An announcement is expected next week, and the Clippers have been talking to league officials about disciplinary action. Griffin is expected to be sidelined for about two months after breaking his right hand in a January 23rd altercation with Matias Testi at a Toronto restaurant. “He feels awful about it, and he’s let everyone know that,” coach Doc Rivers said of Griffin. “That’s all you can do. You have to forgive people at some point. I believe that.” A source tells Broussard that Testi won’t be fired and will probably rejoin the team next week.

There’s more tonight out of Los Angeles:

  • Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are both more valuable to the Clippers than Griffin, contends Tim Kawakami of The Bay Area News Group, who thinks the team should pursue a trade. The columnist cites Griffin’s defensive failings, his tendency to dominate the ball and L.A’s record (now 14-3) without him.
  • Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell has heard plenty of criticism this season, but he tells Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times that he tries to be hard on himself as well. Russell is averaging 3.4 assists and 2.4 turnovers per game in an up-and-down rookie year, but he thinks he understands the prescription for improving his game. “Don’t take plays off on the defensive end, and on the offensive end don’t be nonchalant.” Russell said. “No player in this league — they might be really, really good and they look like they’re playing nonchalant, but they’re not. Me, at this point, I tend to be nonchalant at times — just getting it out of my system.”
  • Pau Gasol had mixed emotions about leaving the Lakers for the Bulls in free agency in 2014, writes Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. Gasol talked about a discussion he had with Kobe Bryant before deciding to move on. “Whatever we talked about, which was probably a year-and-a-half ago in free agency, stays there,” Gasol said. “I did tell him that I wanted to play if I could with him forever. But I was ready to move on and put myself in a situation where I thought I was going to be a lot happier and play the way I’ve been playing.”
  • The Lakers have assigned center Tarik Black to the D-League, tweets the team’s affiliate, the D-Fenders.

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