Los Angeles Lakers Rumors

Western Notes: Howard, Saunders, Thunder

November 23 at 10:19am CST By Arthur Hill

The Rockets’ Dwight Howard is out indefinitely after undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy on his strained right knee, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. Coach Kevin McHale said there is no timetable for the center to return after going through the PRP therapy that Kobe Bryant experimented with in 2013. “It feels a lot better,” Howard said after the treatment. “I had to get a shot in it to clear some of the stuff out of it. I’m trying to do whatever I can to get back on the floor.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Wolves’ Flip Saunders has been putting in late hours trying to find a replacement for the injured Kevin Martin, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Martin is out indefinitely after breaking his right wrist Wednesday, adding to an injury list that already includes Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf. Saunders, who serves as team president and coach, has been talking to agents and looking at D-League prospects for potential roster help.
  • The injury news is better in Oklahoma City, where Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook participated in practice Saturday, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman. The Thunder stars were limited to a few non-contact drills, but coach Scott Brooks was encouraged. “They looked good,”  Brooks said. “They’ve been with the group the whole time, but (Saturday) was the first day they’ve actually participated in some of the drills.” Durant, the league’s reigning MVP, had surgery on his right foot. Westbrook has a surgically repaired right hand. Both are scheduled to have their medical progress evaluated this week.
  • Kobe Bryant’s refusal to demand a trade from the Lakers undermines his public image as a cut-throat competitor, opines Shaun Powell of NBA.com. Powell notes that the woeful Lakers were in a similar situation a decade ago, and Bryant responded by threatening to sign with the Clippers if the talent around him didn’t improve. This time, Powell says, Bryant “agreed to serve as the conductor” on a train wreck in exchange for a two-year, $48MM contract extension that runs through next season.

Western Notes: Lakers, Parsons, Thunder, Ibaka

November 22 at 10:37pm CST By Chris Crouse

The Lakers are not making any immediate roster moves after holding free agent workouts this week, according to David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). Los Angeles brought in Roscoe Smith for a tryout yesterday. Smith joined Gal Mekel, Jordan Hamilton, Dwight Buycks, Quincy Miller and Tyrus Thomas as players who are candidates for a roster spot on the team. The 3-10 Lakers will host the Nuggets on Sunday after giving up 140 points to the Mavs on Friday night.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Mavs and Rockets squared off in Houston tonight and Chandler Parsons reflects on his relationship with his old team, writes Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle.  “This was home for me for three years so I have no hard feelings toward them,” Parsons said. “It obviously got a little ugly during free agency but (Rockets general manager) Daryl (Morey) told me it was gonna, so it didn’t surprise anyone. That’s just how it goes and it’s business and at the end of the day, my friendship with these guys will stay the same.”  The stellar play of Parsons has been key to the Mavs offense, which is scoring a league-best 111.3 points per game this season.
  • The injuries to the Thunder this season could help the team in the long run, opines Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times. Hoffman looks at the 1996/97 season, when the Spurs lost David Robinson to an injury and ended up with the top pick in the 1997 draft, as a potential blueprint for what Oklahoma City could strive for this year. Entering Saturday, the Thunder own a record of 3-11, which is second worst in the league. While this strategy might be tempting, Hoffman notes that more likely than not, the next top pick isn’t another player of Tim Duncan‘s caliber.
  • The rash of injuries to the Thunder have allowed Serge Ibaka to include the three-point shot in his game more frequently, and this new wrinkle isn’t going anywhere once the team’s stars return, writes Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. “I think it continues,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “He doesn’t necessarily have to live out there and shoot 10 a game. But three or four a game is a good number for him.” Ibaka is shooting 38.3% on 60 attempts from behind the arc in 14 games this year, which already ties his career high.
  • The Lakers have assigned Jordan Clarkson and Xavier Henry to the D-League, the team announced. The pair went to the D-League for a one-day assignment a week ago.

Western Notes: Bryant, Cousins, Cuban

November 22 at 12:43pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Kobe Bryant has been criticized for the Lakers‘ current woes because of his two-year, $48.5MM contract extension, which, despite Bryant granting the team a small discount, is looked at as a huge reason that Los Angeles is likely headed for the draft lottery for a second straight year, Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. Speaking about his contract, Bryant said, “Did I take a discount? Yeah. Did I take as big a discount as some of you fans would want me to? No. Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah.”

Here’s more from out west:

  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the discount his star Dirk Nowitzki accepted when re-signing with the team made a huge impact in helping shape their roster, and Cuban took a not so subtle poke at Bryant, Holmes adds. “To me, it’s not about money, it’s about winning,” Cuban said. “Different players have different attitudes. Could a player make $24 million in the NBA’s current punitive financial climate [as Bryant does this season] and legitimately say they’re interested in winning? Yeah, of course, as long as you can convince everybody else that you need to come play for the minimum.”
  • Bryant also weighed in on the fans who think players should take less so franchises can build winning teams, Dwain Price of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. “It’s the popular thing to do — the player takes less, blah blah, blah, blah,” Bryant said. “I think it’s a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money, because if you don’t, then you get criticized for it. It’s absolutely brilliant. But I’m not going for it. I know that the new head of the players association [Michele Roberts] ain’t going for it either.
  • DeMarcus Cousins credits his increased maturity this season to his time spent with Team USA this past summer, Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders writes. The Kings‘ center said, “It [playing in the FIBA tournament] helped out a lot. I’d say the biggest thing is learning how to sacrifice for your team.  Doing the small things to help the team.  That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve taken away.  I mean, I played with an incredible group of guys, a very talented group of guys.  So, me playing the way I usually play, it wasn’t really needed for the team.”

Lakers To Work Out Roscoe Smith

November 21 at 12:58pm CST By Chuck Myron

Training camp cut Roscoe Smith is the latest in the procession of players the Lakers are bringing in for tryouts, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link). The 23-year-old small forward, who’ll audition for the team today, joins Gal Mekel, Jordan Hamilton, Dwight Buycks, Quincy Miller and Tyrus Thomas, all of whom have reportedly either worked out for the Lakers in recent days or are scheduled to do so.

Smith signed with the Lakers for training camp on a non-guaranteed one-year deal for the minimum salary after going undrafted out of UNLV, and the team let him go in advance of opening night after he averaged 3.1 points in 14.9 minutes per game during seven preseason contests. The Lakers retained his D-League rights, and he’s put up 18.3 PPG in 35.5 MPG in three games so far for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The Lakers must notify the D-League before the workout and ensure that Smith doesn’t miss a D-League game to avoid running afoul of the rules governing NBA teams and their D-League affiliates, notes Gino Pilato of D-League Digest (Twitter link).

The Lakers have won two in a row to improve to 3-9, but their 1-9 start was the worst in franchise history. They possess a Disabled Player Exception worth nearly $1.499 for Julius Randle and may also obtain another such exception worth nearly $5MM for Steve Nash, since both players are out for the season. Still, none of the players to whom the Lakers have been connected of late would appear to merit more than the minimum salary.

Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington, who have partially guaranteed deals, are the only Lakers without fully guaranteed salaries, though Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report recently suggested Xavier Henry is in danger of being cut despite his one-year guaranteed contract for $1.082MM. Ellington had been on leave from the team as he mourned the recent murder of his father, but he returned to the Lakers today, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (Twitter link).

John Lucas III Spurns Lakers To Play In China

November 21 at 7:49am CST By Chuck Myron

FRIDAY, 7:49am: Lucas is joining the Fujian Sturgeons, the team that signed Al Harrington this past summer, Stein reports (Twitter link).

WEDNESDAY, 8:40am: Seven-year NBA veteran John Lucas III has called off a scheduled workout with the Lakers this week to sign with a Chinese team instead, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Sportando’s Enea Trapani first reported that Lucas was finalizing a deal in China, and while the identity of the club isn’t entirely clear, Trapani suggests that it’s the Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks, who just let go of Delonte West. The financial terms of the Chinese pact for Lucas are unclear, but it likely involves guaranteed money of the sort that the Lakers would be hesitant to offer.

Lucas turned down offers from Chinese Basketball Association teams Jilin Northeast and Fujian, as agent Bernie Lee told Shams Charania of RealGM earlier this month, shortly after the Wizards released him at the end of the NBA preseason. The Thunder, Pacers and Grizzlies were showing interest in the point guard, too, as Charania reported, adding that Lucas was looking for a longer-term arrangement than any Chinese or NBA teams were willing to provide. Lucas appeared to be targeting a return to the Bulls, for whom he played in 2010/11 and 2011/12, but it doesn’t look like there’ll be a reunion in the near future.

It’s been a whirlwind past few months for Lucas, who turns 32 on Thursday. The Jazz had him under contract for a non-guaranteed $1.6MM at the beginning of the offseason, but they traded him to the Cavs in July. Cleveland flipped him two months later to the Celtics, who promptly waived him. The Wizards picked him up in late October, presumably with an eye on keeping him for the start of the regular season, but Washington put him back on waivers before opening night.

Reports have indicated the Lakers are working out Quincy Miller, Tyrus Thomas and Dwight Buycks as they seek upgrades for their 2-9 squad. Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding suggested this week that Xavier Henry would be the odd man out if Miller came aboard, though Henry has a guaranteed salary. Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington have partially guaranteed deals. In any case, the Lakers would have to let someone go if they were to make a signing, since they already have a full 15-man roster.

Lakers To Work Out Gal Mekel, Jordan Hamilton

November 20 at 1:33pm CST By Chuck Myron

1:33pm: The Lakers remain fond of Price, as Charania notes in a full story. Price and Ellington are the only Lakers without fully guaranteed contracts, as we noted below, and Ellington is expected back Friday from the leave of absence he took to mourn the murder of his father, as Mike Trudell of Lakers.com notes via Twitter.

THURSDAY, 12:59pm: Mekel will work out a second time for the Lakers on Friday, and he’ll again be matched up against Buycks, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link).

WEDNESDAY, 11:35am: The Lakers are set to audition Gal Mekel this week, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com, while Jordan Hamilton is scheduled to work out for the team Thursday, reports David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). They’re just two of several players the 2-9 Lakers are eyeing, joining Dwight Buycks, Quincy Miller and Tyrus Thomas among those trying out for the purple-and-gold. John Lucas III also reportedly had a workout scheduled with the team before taking a deal to play in China instead. Mekel will audition head-to-head against Buycks, according to Pick (Twitter link).

Visa issues scuttled a deal that Mekel was set to sign earlier this month with the injury-hit Pacers, who inked A.J. Price instead rather than wait an extra day for the problem to be resolved. There’s reportedly been widespread interest in Mekel, the 26-year-old former Mavs point guard, whom Dallas waived shortly after opening night in spite of his guaranteed contract to accommodate the signing of J.J. Barea.

Hamilton opened the season with the Jazz after they claimed him off waivers from Toronto, where he had an impressive preseason showing for the Raptors. The 26th overall pick from 2011 nonetheless lasted only about a week in Utah before the team let him go. He’s spent most of his NBA career with the Nuggets, who traded him to the Rockets at the deadline in February.

The Lakers are at the 15-man roster maximum, so they’d have to unload a player to bring someone aboard. They have partially guaranteed salary out to Ronnie Price and Wayne Ellington and fully guaranteed pacts with their other 13 players, though Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding suggested this week that Xavier Henry was the most likely cut if the team were to ink Miller.

Western Notes: Nash, Len, Gay, Shaw

November 19 at 10:26pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Steve Nash has finally touched base with Lakers coach Byron Scott, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. Last week it was reported that Nash wasn’t returning his coach’s phone calls while he was away from the team nursing his injured back. Nash is expected to have a presence around the team and hopefully serve as a mentor for some of the franchise’s younger players, notes Medina.

Nash didn’t speak with Scott, but instead left a voicemail, Medina adds. “He [Nash] did say on his message that he’s definitely going to come back and see everybody,” Scott said. “He just needed some time, which we all understood. But he didn’t give me a set time. It was a very simple message: ‘I heard that you called me. I don’t check my voicemail, but I’m calling you back. Hope everything is well. Hang in there. See you guys soon.’ 

Here’s more from the west:

  • With the Nuggets off to a 3-7 start to begin the season there has been some speculation about head coach Brian Shaws job being in jeopardy. In his weekly mailbag Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post asserted that Shaw is unlikely to be fired during the season, though he also believes that Shaw needs to settle on a regular rotation as soon as possible.
  • Rudy Gay‘s contract extension with the Kings will pay him $12,403,101 for the 2015/16 season, $13,333,333 for 2016/17, and it includes a player option for 2017/18 worth $14,263,566, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link).
  • Alex Len‘s improved play this season could serve as redemption for Suns GM Ryan McDonough‘s decision to draft Len over Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore in 2013, Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic writes. “I really felt bad for Alex a year ago,” McDonough said. “As people tend to do in our society, there was a rush to judgment way too quickly on who he was as a player and what he could become. He’s very mobile for his size, and now that he’s healthy, he has his agility back. And he’s gotten a lot stronger.”
  • Nuggets GM Tim Connelly is shouldering a healthy share of the blame for the team’s woes, but it is former GM Masai Ujiri who is actually responsible for most of Denver’s problematic contracts, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. Ziller cites the deals given to JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler, and Danilo Gallinari as examples of burdensome holdovers from Ujiri’s tenure.

Goran Dragic Not Sold On Re-Signing With Suns

November 19 at 10:10am CST By Chuck Myron

Goran Dragic plans to explore his options in free agency next summer and isn’t sure he’ll re-sign with the Suns, sources tell Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Dragic said this past offseason that he plans to turn down his $7.5MM player option for 2015/16. A report at the time indicated that he would do so with the idea of signing a new contract with Phoenix, but he doesn’t necessarily want to commit to the team at this point, Deveney hears, suggesting that the club’s crowded backcourt is playing a role in Dragic’s thinking. The Sporting News scribe seconds a September dispatch from Marc Stein of ESPN.com indicating that the Rockets plan to pursue The Dragon and that the Lakers figure to do so as well.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough said shortly after re-signing Eric Bledsoe that he and his staff “fully anticipate taking care of” Dragic, who’s coming off of a career year in 2013/14. The 6’4″ former second-round pick averaged 20.3 points on 40.8% three-point shooting last season, when he played part of the time alongside Bledsoe, a fellow point guard, and the rest as the team’s lone elite playmaker with Bledsoe hurt. Dragic’s numbers and minutes are down in the early going this year as the Suns have tried to shoehorn him along with Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, yet another high-level point guard, into their attack. The Suns also possess Tyler Ennis, this year’s 18th overall pick, as a fourth point man, while shooting guard Gerald Green, averaging 20.8 minutes per game this season, eats up playing time in the backcourt. Dragic’s brother Zoran Dragic, a shooting guard whom the Suns signed to a guaranteed two-year deal seemingly in an effort to keep Goran around, has played just two minutes this season.

Goran Dragic, a BDA Sports Management client, plans to give the Suns the first pitch meeting this summer, Deveney writes. Still, it appears that he intends to listen to others, too, and at No. 8 on the initial Hoops Rumors 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more teams join Houston and the Lakers in the mix for the seventh-year veteran who turns 29 in May.

Lakers To Work Out Dwight Buycks

November 19 at 8:05am CST By Chuck Myron

NOVEMBER 19TH: Buycks is set to work out for the Lakers, among other clubs, Pick reports (on Twitter).

NOVEMBER 12TH: There’s a strong chance that Buycks ends up in China, a source tells Pick (Twitter link).

NOVEMBER 9TH, 7:20pm: Buycks is also under consideration by the Grizzlies, who waived guard Kalin Lucas earlier today, David Pick of Eurobasket reports (Twitter link). No signing is imminent, Pick adds.

5:28pm: Buycks had attempted to get out of his contract with Valencia last week in order to land a deal with the Thunder or Pacers, Pick reports (Twitter links). Pick also adds that Buycks is talking with a few NBA teams, but the Lakers aren’t currently one of them.

1:54pm: Buycks and Valencia have officially parted ways, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi).

NOVEMBER 7TH, 12:48pm: Dwight Buycks and his camp have reached a buyout agreement Valencia of Spain and are in discussions with the Lakers and Thunder, reports Shams Charania of RealGM. The Lakers had reportedly invited Buycks to training camp before he accepted a one-year deal with Valencia in July.

The 25-year-old point guard has put up 12.0 and 2.0 assists in a little more than 20 minutes per game in three Euroleague competition contests and 7.6 PPG and 1.4 APG in 16.6 MPG across all eight of Valencia’s games so far. Buycks earned a deal with the Raptors for last season after a breakout performance in the 2013 summer league, as Charania notes, but he made only 14 appearances, and Toronto waived him in July rather than guarantee his salary for another year.

The Thunder just signed Ish Smith to a non-guaranteed deal to become the club’s 16th player, an allowance the NBA has given them to offset their multitude of injuries. Oklahoma City is reportedly poised to seek a 17th player if Perry Jones III is to miss significant time, so perhaps Buycks is whom they’re targeting for that would-be opening.

Point guard is also an apparent need for the Lakers, who are without Steve Nash for the season. Ronnie Price has been seeing backup minutes on his non-guaranteed deal, but that deal becomes partially guaranteed if the Lakers don’t waive him by the end of November 15th. The Lakers have a similar arrangement with shooting guard Wayne Ellington, but all the rest of their contracts are guaranteed, and they haven’t received an allowance for a 16th player.

Western Notes: Thomas, Johnson, Hayward

November 18 at 10:24pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers admits he was mystified when the Suns signed-and-traded for Isaiah Thomas this past offseason, adding that he thought Phoenix was merely insuring itself against the loss of Eric Bledsoe, relays Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. Rivers has gained appreciation for the Suns‘ three point guard strategy since then. “When you think of those three guards they have, it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s hard for everybody to guard. I didn’t see it but now I do.

Here’s the latest from the Western Conference:

  • Tyrus Thomasworkout with the Lakers is scheduled for this Thursday, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). Thomas also gave the Grizzlies a look at his skills last week, though he left without receiving a contract offer.
  • The Rockets have assigned guard Nick Johnson to the Rio Grande Vipers, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. The rookie has appeared in three games for Houston this season, totaling two points and a rebound in 11 minutes of action.
  • Gordon Hayward‘s contract with the Jazz is based more on what he’ll become than what he has done thus far in the league, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. But with continued improvement and the new TV deal set to kick in, there’s a decent chance the deal will look like a bargain in the near future, Powell adds.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.