Los Angeles Lakers

Central Notes: LeBron, Hibbert, Bulls

The Cavaliers and Bulls looked like the two clear-cut favorites in the Eastern Conference a year ago, and while the Bulls’ roster is still largely the same, the Cavs zoomed past them in the playoffs and other Eastern Conference contenders appear to have gained ground. The Heat, Wizards, Raptors, Hawks and perhaps even the Bucks, whom Chicago dispatched in the first round this spring, all appear capable of posing a threat and then some to the Bulls this coming season. While we wait for training camps to open later this month to see how it all unfolds, there’s more on the Bulls and Cavs amid the latest from the Central Division:

  • LeBron James has structured his past two deals with the Cavaliers to give himself a chance to exit every summer, but the Cavs don’t think he’d dare to leave Cleveland a second time, as Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher said recently in a video and as Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk notes. That falls in line with a suggestion that Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports made last October, though Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer heard in December that James would be prepared to leave the Cavs if he felt it would be the “appropriate business decision.”
  • The Pacers agreed to trade Roy Hibbert to the Lakers with the caveat that the Lakers would pull out of the deal if they signed a marquee free agent center, Lakers Executive VP of Basketball Operations Jim Buss told Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times“[Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird] was fine with that,” Buss said. “Bird wanted to put the kid into a spotlight like this.” Hibbert praised Bird for having been up front with him, though David West cited the Pacers’ handling of their desire to move on from Hibbert as one of the reasons he opted out.
  • Sam Smith of NBA.com, writing in a mailbag column, wonders about the lineup choices new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg will make and looks at whether the season ahead will have as little roster movement for Chicago as the summer did.
  • We asked for your input on the Pistons roster dilemma as part of Tuesday’s Community Shootaround.

Pacific Notes: Morris, Clarkson, Sims, Koufos

Markieff Morris demanded a trade last month, but the Suns are giving no outward appearances of a rift, going so far as to tweet birthday greetings with an illustration of the now 26-year-old, which strikes an awkward tone in light of the power forward’s recent comments. The Suns “need and want” Morris, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic wrote last week, so it would appear the team is making its best to attempt to patch up the relationship before the start of training camp at month’s end. Morris wasn’t planning a verbal offensive when he came across Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, to whom he expressed his demand, Coro notes, though John Gambadoro had heard a week before Morris made the demand that the former 13th overall pick wanted out of Phoenix. See more on the Suns amid the latest from the Pacific Division:

  • The Excel Sports Management agency has ended its relationship with Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson, reports Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press. It’s an unusual move, since players typically make the call to change agents, and not the other way around. Clarkson, the 46th overall pick from last year’s draft who far outstripped expectations as a rookie, is set for restricted free agency next summer. Agent Mike George had been Clarkson’s primary representative.
  • Suns camp signee Henry Sims is determined to prove his production for the Sixers wasn’t merely a product of playing for an inferior team, as he tells tells Coro for a separate piece. The three-year NBA vet saw inconsistent playing time in his season and a half in Philadelphia, though he doesn’t begrudge the chances the Sixers gave him when they did put him on the floor, Coro notes. “Being gritty is how I made my name,” Sims said to Coro. “It’s how I earned my way. But getting up and down like they do here is something I can do. Here, the talent is off the chart. Even though they’re young guys, they’ve been in the league a while. You’ve got the head of the snake, Eric Bledsoe, making it easier — he and B-[Brandon] Knight. I’ve still got tons to prove.”
  • Kosta Koufos left an elite Western Conference team when he departed the Grizzlies for Sacramento this summer, but he believes the Kings can make the playoffs, and he has enduring respect for George Karl, who once coached him on the Nuggets, as Koufos expressed on SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter links; full audio here).

Northwest Notes: Rubio, Harkless, Claver

Ricky Rubio answered affirmatively when asked whether he wanted to remain with the Timberwolves and praised the team’s offseason additions in an interview with Jamie Goodwin of the Gulf News in Dubai, where the point guard had traveled for a basketball camp. Reports conflicted this spring on the subject of whether Rubio’s camp was pushing for a trade, though comments since that time from Rubio and Wolves coach/executive Flip Saunders have downplayed the notion that a trade is forthcoming. See more on Minnesota’s Northwest Division rivals here:

  • The Trail Blazers were eyeing Maurice Harkless long before they traded with the Magic this summer to acquire him, as GM Neil Olshey tells Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe“Mo was very high on our board a few years ago in the [2012] draft,” Portland general manager Neil Olshey said. “We were excited about him. He has a lot of potential. He fits our model right now; he’s an emerging young player. He’s got a lot of talent. We have a lot of faith in our player development staff and our coaches that guys hit their ceilings, and we know Mo’s not even close to his ceiling at this point. He’s going to get a great opportunity with us to be the player we loved coming out of the draft.”
  • Former Blazers small forward Victor Claver has officially signed with Lokomotiv Kuban of Russia, the team announced (hat tip to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). International journalist David Pick first reported the deal this weekend. It had appeared that Claver would return to his native Spain to play, but he’s instead headed to Russia, where he finished up this past season with Khimki Moscow after hitting NBA waivers. The Blazers traded him to the Nuggets in the Arron Afflalo deal, and Denver released him a few days later.
  • The Jazz have hired Jordan Brady as an assistant coach for their D-League affiliate, the team announced. He spent last season as a Lakers D-League assistant coach. He’ll work under D-League head coach Dean Cooper and replace Andrae Patterson, who moved into a front office role with the Jazz this summer.

Western Notes: Allen, Hayes, Majok

Despite having already proven his versatility to the team, Tony Allen knows that he’ll have to fight for minutes this season on a deep Grizzlies squad, Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal (subscription required) writes. For his part, Allen indicated that he’d willingly accept any role the team asked him to play, Tillery adds. “I don’t get into that. It is what it is. It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” Allen said. “I just want to come in, go to work and when I leave [the coaches] will be like, ‘He put his all out there on the line.’ Starting doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve already shown that.” The 33-year-old appeared in 63 games for Memphis in 2014/15, including 41 starts, and averaged 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 26.2 minutes per contest.

Here’s more from out West:

  • Chuck Hayes‘ one year, minimum salary deal with the Clippers is non-guaranteed, former NBA executive Bobby Marks confirms (via Twitter). Dan Woike of the Orange County Register first reported that no guaranteed salary would be a part of the agreement. That means his salary wouldn’t have bearing on any would-be hard cap unless he makes the opening night roster, as Marks points out (Twitter link).
  • Lakers draft-and-stash power forward Ater Majok has signed with the Polish club Trefl Sopot, the team announced (translation courtesy of Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Majok was selected by Los Angeles with the No. 58 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
  • Timberwolves combo forward Anthony Bennett hopes to use his strong play for Team Canada this Summer as a springboard to a strong NBA season, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca writes. Former NBA player and current GM of the Canadian senior men’s team, Steve Nash, is a firm believer in Bennett’s potential, Lewenberg notes, with Nash saying of the young forward, “For me, just to be around him and to see how seriously he’s taking it and how hard he’s worked and how hard he’s trying to pick up the details, like I said, those are the ingredients that are going to make him a great NBA player and a guy that plays in the league for a long time. So I’m [incredibly] proud of Anthony and the work he’s put in this summer.” Minnesota would reportedly be willing to deal Bennett for the right price, though the team isn’t actively shopping the 2013 No. 1 overall pick.

Heat Notes: Dragic, Andersen, Chalmers, Wade

Some of the teams with interest in Goran Dragic retreated from the idea of trading for him at the deadline because they felt the Heat had him essentially wrapped up for a long-term deal, sources from across the league tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe. Still, no one registered a tampering complaint, and a Heat spokesperson said to Lowe that there was no prearranged deal for when he hit free agency in the summer. The Lakers seemed to hang around as a threat, but the Heat appeared to have the inside track to re-sign Dragic right from the time he got to Miami. The All-Star combo guard indeed re-signed on a five-year deal worth slightly more than $85MM last month.

The Heat’s latest move became public this morning, with Miami reportedly having agreed to a camp deal with former Georgetown small forward Greg Whittington. See more from South Beach here:

Pacific Rumors: Bryant, Kings, Rivers

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant addressed their previous feuds as Lakers teammates and made it clear they now have an amicable relationship during a podcast hosted by O’Neal and his co-host John Kincade, with the transcript posted on the team’s website. O’Neal declared that his disagreements with Bryant gave both of them motivation to play their best. “I just want to clear the air and let everyone know that: No, I don’t hate you,” O’Neal said. “We had a lot of disagreements. We had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us.” Bryant reflected that his issues with O’Neal made him understand how to handle future problems with teammates. “To me, the most important thing was really to just keep your mouth shut. You don’t need to go to the press with stuff,” he said. “You keep it internal. We have our arguments and our disagreements, but I think having our debates within the press was something I wish would have been avoided. … But I enjoyed playing with him. I had a great, great, great time playing with him, and I appreciate it to this day.”

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers will “probably” sign one to three more players before training camp, a league source told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. That will apparently include Marcelo Huertas, who agreed to a one-year deal with the club on Monday. Metta World Peace has also discussed a contract with the team, Medina adds.
  • Vlade Divac has been named Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the Kings amid a number of front office personnel moves announced by the club via the team’s website. Divac had been hired in March as the club’s VP of Basketball and Franchise Operations. Mike Bratz has been named Assistant GM, Roland Beech was hired as VP of Basketball Strategy and Data Science and former Kings player Peja Stojakovic was announced as Director of Player Personnel and Development.
  • Austin Rivers has signed with ASM Sports, according to Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal (Twitter link). Andy Miller and Andrew Vye will represent the Clippers guard. Earlier in the day, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that Clippers teammate DeAndre Jordan had dropped Relativity Sports agents Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana as his representatives.

Lakers, Marcelo Huertas Agree To Deal

The Lakers and Brazilian point guard Marcelo Huertas have come to terms on a one-year deal, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (on Twitter). Ismail Senol of the Turkish outlet NTV SPOR had reported earlier today that Huertas would sign with a Western Conference team (Twitter link; translation via Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi). Huertas had reportedly agreed to a deal with Galatasaray of Turkey, but he asked for more time to scan NBA interest, as Cauchi relays via Senol.

Wojnarowski first reported four months ago that Huertas was planning to sign with an NBA team this year and that he was expected to draw aggressive pursuit from teams seeking a backup. The 6’3″ Huertas, who turned 32 in May, seemed to change his mind shortly thereafter, but agent Gerard Darnes said a month ago that Huertas was still focused on landing an NBA deal and that Octagon colleague Alex Saratsis continued to negotiate toward that end on his behalf.

Huertas went undrafted back in 2005 and has played each season since in Spain, save for a year in Italy. He’s been a mainstay for FC Barcelona the past four seasons, and he averaged 7.7 points, 4.3 assists and 1.8 turnovers in 21.1 minutes per game in 2014/15.

It’s unclear whether the Lakers are exceeding the rookie minimum of $525,093 for Huertas, though that’s often required to convince European players to sign stateside. If that’s the case, the Lakers have their $2.814MM to dip into. They only have 12 fully guaranteed contracts, as our roster count shows, so there’s plenty of roster flexibility and a decent chance for Huertas to stick for opening night if he isn’t the 13th Laker with a guaranteed deal.

The Lakers are taking some risks this offseason. What do you think of their approach? Leave a comment to tell us.

Western Notes: Upshaw, Claver, Franklin

The Lakers hope to have Robert Upshaw in training camp, but he has some private things he needs to take care of first, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders relays in a series of tweets. As Pincus points out, Upshaw has battled personal issues that plagued him in college. Pincus adds that Upshaw has the Lakers’ support. The undrafted center reportedly reached an agreement with the Lakers a month ago, but Pincus later clarified that he was merely a possibility for the team.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Victor Claver, who played in 10 games last season with the Blazers, is finalizing an agreement with Russia’s PBC Lokomotiv Kuban, international reporter David Pick tweets. Claver, whom Portland chose with the 22nd overall pick in 2009, averaged only 3.2 points per game in his three seasons in the league. The big man finished up this past season playing in Russia after the Nuggets waived him following his inclusion in the Arron Afflalo trade.
  • China’s Guangdong Southern Tigers are considering signing Jamaal Franklin, Enea Trapani of Sportando reports. Franklin was waived by the Nuggets in July. Franklin is just two years removed from having been the 41st overall pick in 2013. The Grizzlies waived him using the stretch provision last summer, so the Brian Elfus client will continue to pick up NBA paychecks through 2018/19. The shooting guard spent time playing in China and for the Lakers D-League affiliate last season before the Nuggets picked him up.

L.A. Notes: World Peace, Russell, Clippers

If the Lakers sign Metta World Peace, which they are thinking about doing, as reports indicate, the primary job for the 15-year NBA veteran who turns 36 in November would be to mentor forward Julius Randle, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Randle, the Lakers’ first round draft pick in 2014, suffered a broken leg in his NBA debut last season, but is on track to be recovered by the start of the 2015/16 season.

Here’s more news out of Los Angeles:

  • D’Angelo Russell, who reportedly has Lakers‘ part-owner Jim Buss excited about the upcoming season, plans to meet with current star Kobe Bryant and retired star Steve Nash to pick their brains about how to stick around in the league, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News reports.
  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer turned down a $60MM per year offer for local TV rights and is going ahead with a plan to start his own streaming network, reports Claire Atkinson of the New York Post. While there has been talk since last year of the Clippers using a streaming service, the belief is that FOX Sports will find a way to keep them, Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweets. Atkinson cites experts who doubt that the 59-year-old owner would be able to pull it off. To make $60MM in revenue, the Clippers would have to sign up around 10% of the city’s five million households and get a pretty high price for the service, Atkinson writes.

Pistons Favorites To Sign Eric Moreland

Free agent Eric Moreland will soon decide between the Pistons, Lakers and Kings, with Detroit being the front-runner, league sources tell Shams Charania of RealGM. Details on any offers are not yet known.

There’s a strong chance Moreland would make the roster on any of the three teams. The Lakers and Kings have openings with 12 and 14 fully guaranteed contracts, respectively, as Charania points out. While the Pistons appear to be the favorite, they have a roster that provides much less flexibility. Detroit is carrying 17 fully guaranteed contracts, as our own Chuck Myron examined.

The Lakers worked out Moreland earlier this summer. The Kings waived Moreland in July because, reportedly, his playing style was too similar to that of No. 6 pick Willie Cauley-Stein. If the Kings had not released Moreland, his salary would have became guaranteed. Sacramento, however, is interested in re-signing Moreland, according to vice president of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac.

Moreland, 23, had a labral tear in his left shoulder end his rookie year prematurely after he’d made it into only three games this past season.

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