- Kentucky point guard Isaiah Briscoe worked out for the Spurs on Wednesday and has workouts scheduled with the Clippers this week and the Lakers after the scouting combine is complete, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress tweets.
- Former Lakers coach Byron Scott said he was surprised and shocked that he was fired by the team, adding that he believed management would give him at least one more season to try to turn around the rebuilding squad, Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com relays. “When you have conversations with guys [team management], you take them for their word,” Scott said. “And that’s what I did. Our conversation a couple of years ago was, ‘This is a rebuilding process. It’s going to take two to three years. It’s going to be very tough. Are you OK with that?’ And as I stated, I said, ‘Yeah I’m OK with it. Are you guys OK with it? If you can deal with it, I can deal with it.’ And so when I said I was ‘blindsided’ by it, I figured I at least had another year to get this thing turned around, and I was preparing for that and looking forward to next year. And then boom, that happened, and I said, ‘Wow.’“
The Lakers will have interest in signing Festus Ezeli this summer, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, citing a source. Still, Ezeli prefers to re-sign with the Warriors, believing he’ll inherit a job in the starting lineup once Andrew Bogut‘s contract expires after next season, a source indicated to Deveney. Golden State has the ability to match all offers for him as a restricted free agent, though several league executives suggested it’ll take a three-year, $50MM deal for any team to secure the 26-year-old center.
It’s nonetheless unlikely Ezeli ends up with a four or five-year deal, Deveney writes, pointing to his history of injuries. The 6’11” former Vanderbilt player has only appeared in 170 regular season games since becoming the 30th overall pick in the 2012 draft. A left knee surgery helped limit him to 46 regular season appearances this year. Still, he’s impressed when he’s made it onto the court, and his performance in Tuesday’s playoff game was vital to Golden State’s win over Portland.
Agent Bill Duffy reportedly talked Ezeli out of signing what would have been a team-friendly extension with the Warriors this past fall, but the center said shortly after extension discussions broke down that he wants to remain with Golden State for his entire career. Warriors assistant GM Kirk Lacob, the son of co-owner Joe Lacob, suggested in January that the team would be willing to pay whatever’s necessary to retain Ezeli and fellow soon-to-be restricted free agent Harrison Barnes this summer.
Still, the Warriors, like the Lakers and just about every NBA team, have aspirations of signing Kevin Durant, and it may well be necessary for the team to let go of Ezeli and Barnes to create enough cap room for the former MVP, given that the Warriors already have more than $73MM in guaranteed salary against a projected $92MM salary cap. Durant is in line for an estimated max of about $26MM for next season.
The Lakers have much greater flexibility with only $23MM in guaranteed salary. They’ll have an opening at starting center with Roy Hibbert headed into free agency.
Where do you think Ezeli will play next season? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
- Incoming Lakers head coach Luke Walton counts Brian Shaw among the assistant coaching candidates for his staff, but executive Jim Buss was opposed to Shaw as a head-coaching option and many around the league are skeptical that Buss wants a Phil Jackson disciple like Shaw around, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Shaw served as a Lakers assistant under Jackson.
Lakers executive Jim Buss was effusive in his praise for the work Luke Walton did while coaching the Warriors in Steve Kerr‘s absence this season, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders relays. “He was thrust into a situation. People might say, ‘Anyone could coach Golden State with their roster.’ No you couldn’t have,” Buss told Pincus. “There’s a lot of pressure in that. There’s a lot of preparation for that.”
Regarding the Lakers waiting 11 days prior to making a decision on former coach Byron Scott‘s fate, Buss told Pincus he thought he was simply being fair to Scott. “There was a lot to go through before that decision was made,” Buss said. “I’m not going to have a knee-jerk reaction because everybody says, ‘You won 17 games, he’s got to go.’ I made a promise to sit with him and [GM] Mitch [Kupchak] and give him a fair shake.”
The Lakers want to make an aggressive run at trading for Paul George this summer, and they’re willing to give up their 2016 first-round pick and more to Indiana, as HBO’s Bill Simmons hears (Twitter link). Such a proposal would be unlikely to sway the Pacers, Simmons concedes, and the Lakers won’t even have a first-rounder to offer if they slip out of the top three in the May 17th lottery, a scenario with a roughly 44% chance of happening.
It would probably require the inclusion of D’Angelo Russell to prompt the Pacers to consider any such offer, Simmons suggests, noting that Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird isn’t sentimental and will make a drastic move if he deems it necessary, as the uncertainty over Frank Vogel‘s job status demonstrates (Twitter links). George, a native of Los Angeles County, is under contract for at least two more years, with a player option worth more than $20.7MM for the 2018/19 season.
The Lakers reportedly offered last year’s No. 2 pick, which they ultimately used on Russell, to the Kings in trade talks about DeMarcus Cousins this past June. Lakers basketball operations chief Jim Buss faces a self-imposed deadline of next spring to have to turned around the franchise’s sagging fortunes, having said he’ll resign if he fails to accomplish that. The team was a franchise-worst 17-65 this past season.
What sort of offer do you think it would take to pry George from the Pacers? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
- Luke Walton‘s track record is short, but he gives the Lakers hope, and it won’t take much for him to top the performance of Byron Scott, opines Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who calls Scott one of the worst coaches in recent memory.
- Former Lakers coach Byron Scott admitted on Dan Patrick’s radio show that he was “a little blindsided” by their decision to let him go after the season (YouTube link). Scott was under the impression he would have “two or three years” to get the team headed in the right direction but added he didn’t have “any ill-will feelings towards the organization.”
The Kings plan to speak with Spurs assistant Ettore Messina this week, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link). It’s not entirely clear whether it’ll be a formal interview, as San Antonio has just begun its second-round series against the Thunder, though the series will be in hiatus between tonight’s Game 2 and Friday’s Game 3. Sacramento reportedly reached out to Messina weeks ago, suggesting that the Spurs have granted Sacramento permission to at least contact their assistant. San Antonio granted the Lakers permission for an interview, and one was scheduled for the gap between Games 2 and 3 of the Spurs-Thunder series before the Lakers called it off and hired Luke Walton instead, a league source told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. The European coaching legend apparently holds particular appeal to Kings GM Vlade Divac.
- His improbable comeback with the Lakers this season has helped Metta World Peace find balance in his life, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The 36-year-old, who entered the NBA in 1999 as Ron Artest, was out of the league for a full season before earning a roster spot with L.A. last fall. “I always tell people there was only one black hole that was able to be a star again,” World Peace said of changing his reputation. “That was Ron Artest. There should be no turning back. Once you’re a black hole, you’re a black hole. But I was able to resurface and do what I had to do. And that’s something I’m proud of.”