With D’Angelo Russell out of the Lakers‘ lineup due to knee woes, Jose Calderon has assumed the role of starting point guard and has pleased coach Luke Walton with his play, Mark Medina of The Orange County Register writes. “He helps stabilize the first unit that has been a different lineup way too many times this year already,” Walton said. “Just having a veteran that knows how to play and can run an offense and knock down open shots, it’s been nice to have him to lean on when D’Angelo is out.”
Veteran NBA big man Jeff Ayres is back in the D-League, according to a press release issued today by the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The Lakers’ NBADL affiliate announced that it has acquired Ayres’ rights as a returning player.
Ayres, who was named a D-League All-Star last season after being selected first overall in the NBADL draft, averaged 16.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, and 1.0 BPG in 27 total contests for the Idaho Stampede and L.A. D-Fenders. The 29-year-old was acquired in a trade by the D-Fenders during the season, and received an NBA call-up just two games later, when he signed with the Clippers.
After playing on two 10-day contracts, Ayres signed with the Clippers for the remainder of the 2015/16 season. He appeared in 17 games for L.A., averaging 1.8 PPG and 1.3 RPG in limited playing time. Ayres has also played for the Trail Blazers, Pacers, and Spurs over the course of his six-year NBA career, winning a championship in 2014 with San Antonio.
Ayres signed with Russia’s CSKA Moscow earlier this year, but was let go by the club last week and was said at the time to be seeking an NBA return. Previously represented by Impact Sports Basketball, Ayres hired BDA Sports for representation, and will now attempt to showcase his skills in the D-League as he looks for a new NBA home. The man formerly known as Jeff Pendergraph is expected to suit up tonight for the D-Fenders against the Salt Lake City Stars.
After leaving Tuesday night’s game against the Pelicans with what was initially called an Achilles injury, Lakers guard Nick Young has been diagnosed with a strained calf muscle in his right leg, the team announced today in a press release. According to the Lakers, Young is expected to be sidelined for approximately two to four weeks, putting him on track to potentially return in late December.
Young, 31, was widely viewed as a candidate to be traded or even released during the offseason, but the Lakers kept him on the roster and he has started all 18 games he’s played for the club so far this season. While Young may still end up on the trade block prior to February’s deadline, he has been a key part of the Lakers’ early-season success, averaging 13.3 PPG on a career-high .458 FG%.
In Young’s absence, the Lakers figure to turn to players like Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams for larger roles. With D’Angelo Russell also out of action for at least another week, the Lakers will be a little shorthanded in the backcourt for their next few games. However, with neither Young nor Russell expected to be sidelined into the new year, a roster move likely won’t be necessary.
Lakers shooting guard Nick Young will undergo an MRI on Wednesday after leaving tonight’s game with a strained right Achilles tendon, writes Mark Medina of The Orange County Register. Young suffered the injury about two minutes into the game in New Orleans and had to be helped off the court. The Lakers are concerned that he might be out for an extended period, according to Medina. Young, who many observers thought might get waived during the offseason, has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers and one of the reasons they are in playoff contention. He claimed a starting job and has averaged 14.6 points per game while shooting 45.8% from the field. The team’s starting point guard, D’Angelo Russell, is already sidelined with soreness in his left knee.
There’s more out of the Western Conference:
- Pelicans guard Anthony Brown isn’t holding a grudge against the Lakers for waiving him during the preseason, according to Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News. Brown said he understands it would have been hard to earn playing time on a team filled with wing players such as Young, Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Brandon Ingram and Luol Deng. “He’s a smart kid and a smart player. I think it means he has the right attitude,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said of Brown. “It’s the truth. You can take these situations and pout and blame other people. Or you can use it to make you better and motivate you.”
- Anthony Davis is rising to the defense of his much-maligned teammates, relays Justin Verrier of ESPN.com. Davis is putting up All-Star numbers once again, but the Pelicans are off to a 7-12 start amid complaints that the front office hasn’t put enough talent around their franchise big man. “I’m on social media, so I see it all the time,” Davis said in a recent interview with ESPN’s Marc Stein. “But I think, for me, it’s just about the guys in that locker room. I know they come out here every day in practice and every night in the game and fight and leave everything on the floor. It’s nothing that I try to pay attention to as much. But you see it. You have to pay attention to it. For me, that’s not my M.O. to get into all the media and all that stuff. I just worry about what’s going on in that locker room and on the floor with the guys I have in the locker room.”
- Veteran shooting specialist Anthony Morrow is starting to get more playing time with the Thunder, writes Susan Bible of Basketball Insiders. Coach Billy Donovan has expanded Morrow’s minutes over the past three games and he has responded by averaging 15 points per night. “He can score,” teammate Russell Westbrook said. “I’m not worried about A-Mo. This is not a surprise to me. Maybe it surprised some other people, but to me, I’ve seen him do this since I’ve been here.”
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins frequently talks to his former Kentucky teammates about reuniting in the NBA, tweets Ben Standig of Locked on Wizards. Speaking to reporters before tonight’s game at Washington, Cousins addressed the possibility of someday joining forces with Wizards point guard John Wall. “He wants me here,” Cousins said. “Eric [Bledsoe] wants us in Phoenix.” Cousins will be a free agent after the 2017/18 season, and although he has been the subject of trade rumors, his public stance is that he wants to remain with the Kings. Wall won’t be a free agent until 2019. “Do we ever talk about playing with one another? Is that your question? It’s come up,” said Cousins. “They’re going to all come to Sac. Come to Sac.”
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Arron Afflalo is willing to be flexible as Kings coach Dave Joerger searches for the best lineup, relays Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Afflalo, who signed with Sacramento in July for $25MM over two years, was used as both a starter and a reserve last week. “You can’t fault a coach for trying to win and trying to find guys that work together,” he said. “But for me personally, I take pride in being a versatile basketball player, so sometimes coaches can see the benefit of me coming off the bench, and sometimes I’m a necessary stability piece in the starting lineup. It just depends.” Joerger has used a different starting lineup in each of the team’s last five games.
- Offseason additions have made the Lakers better able to handle injuries than they have been in recent years, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Veteran point guard Jose Calderon, who was picked up in a July trade with the Bulls, has stepped into the starting lineup with D’Angelo Russell sidelined, and well-traveled power forward Thomas Robinson, who signed a non-guaranteed deal in September, started a game in place of Julius Randle. That has enabled coach Luke Walton to keep his bench rotation intact.
- The Suns are willing to be patient through rookie power forward Marquese Chriss‘ growing pains, including Sunday’s bench technical, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Chriss had one of his worst game as a pro with just two points and five fouls in 10 minutes. “Bench Ts put you on the bench in the second half,” said coach Earl Watson. “So it’s an accountable moment. But he’ll learn. He knows I love him. He’ll learn. He’ll move forward.”
Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell said his left knee felt “better” Saturday as he hoisted a few set shots after practice, relays Mark Medina of The Orange County Register. Russell made his first public comments since receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection on Wednesday. He is undergoing a rehab regimen that includes poll and low-impact cardio exercises and will be re-evaluated later this week. “Definitely don’t want to force anything back,” said Russell, who will be reevalauted later in the week. “I feel like I got to be 100 percent perfect before I step back on the floor.” He will likely be out of action for two more weeks.”
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- The Clippers‘ rebuilt bench makes them a legitimate challenger to Golden State in the West, contends Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. The reserves have been a liability in the past, but the Clippers addressed that issue this summer with the signings of Marreese Speights and Raymond Felton. Add in Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford and the return of Wesley Johnson from a heel injury, and the bench seems ready to support a strong starting lineup.
- Being assigned to the D-League gave Kings rookie Malachi Richardson the chance to enjoy the thrill of hitting a game-winning shot, writes Shahbaz Khan of NBA.com. It came in Reno’s recent victory over Texas and the Kings were happy to see how Richardson responded in a pressure situation. “The great players take those type of shots,” he said, “and one day I want to be one of those players, so I decided to take it.”
- Alex Len, who will be a restricted free agent after the season, has played well as a starter, but does not mind shifting back to the Suns‘ bench because of Tyson Chandler‘s return from injury, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic relays.
There’s still an even-money chance that Phil Jackson could be running the Lakers next season, according to Mark Heisler of The Orange County Register.
The current Knicks president has an opt-out clause in his contract effective July 1st, and Heisler said some insiders from both organizations expect Jackson to wind up in L.A. The writer describes the situation as “fluid” and says the odds of a move are about 50-50, with a lot of things left to determine whether it will happen.
One of those factors is whether Knicks owner Jim Dolan sees enough improvement to want to keep paying Jackson $12MM per year. Coming off three straight seasons of missing the playoffs, New York is off to an 8-8 start after major moves such as the hiring of coach Jeff Hornacek, a trade for Derrick Rose and the free agent signing of Joakim Noah. Also, players have openly complained about the team’s adherence to the triangle offense, with Carmelo Anthony saying, “I’m getting tired of hearing about the triangle.”
Heisler describes Jackson as naturally shy and only comfortable with a few people, which helps to explain the hiring of former Laker Derek Fisher as head coach. Fisher was fired midway through last season and replaced with Kurt Rambis, another former Laker.
Add in the recent controversy over his “posse” comments, and there is reason to believe that Jackson may be looking to escape the turmoil of New York.
In Los Angeles, his fiance, Jeanie Buss, seems poised to assume complete control of the Lakers in the wake of her brother Jim’s comments that he would step down if he couldn’t make the team a contender in two years. The expiration date on that promise is about to arrive, and there is speculation that her first move would be to bring Jackson back to the organization.
Buss tried to hire him before he joined the Knicks, but was turned down by the rest of the management team. She chose not to fight because she knew her late father didn’t want bickering within the organization, but by next summer there may be no one to stand in her way.
- Injuries have put a damper on the Lakers’ hot start, Eric Pincus of the Bleacher Report writes. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Nick Young all sat out against the Warriors on Friday with various ailments. Jose Calderon, Jordan Clarkson and rookie Brandon Ingram were thrust into the lineup, weakening the team’s bench. “It’s hard. It’s hard losing big pieces of our team,” Clarkson told Pincus. “We need a team to beat anybody in this league. With everybody back, we’re a complete team.”
Kevin Durant shared his thoughts on the state of Lakers franchise, noting that Los Angeles’ collection of young talent reminds him of his early seasons with the Thunder, Mark Medina of The Orange County Register relays. “You can tell they enjoy playing with each other. You can tell [Lakers coach] Luke Walton has come over there and changed the culture a bit,” Durant said. “I’ve been on a team like that. You’re young and just want to go out there and have fun with the game with no expectations. You’re just playing. It did wonders for me at that age, being around a bunch of guys that were just as hungry as me and wanting to win. But when we lost games, we weren’t upset with ourselves. There weren’t any feuds. We knew it was a process.”
Durant continued to praise Walton, telling Medina, “They got great management, ownership and that seeps through the organization. It falls down to Luke Walton. Being here now, you can tell the atmosphere they have and how it’s the same. A lot of stuff we run, they run. A lot of things we do, they do over there with the Lakers. It starts with being in an environment where it’s about the players and it’s about wanting them to get better.”
Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell will be out of action for at least two weeks after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection in his left knee today, the team announced on its website. His condition will be re-evaluated in a week.
PRP injections are used to stimulate the flow of blood and help with healing in areas with decreased blood flow, explains Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet (Twitter link). The minimally invasive procedure was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Steve Yoon.
Russell has been part of the reason for the Lakers’ early-season success, averaging 16.1 points, 4.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds through the first 13 games. He sat out the team’s last two games and wasn’t expected to play tonight, even before the procedure.