Los Angeles Lakers

Pacific Notes: Kobe, Lieberman, Walton, Green

The Warriors keep on rolling, but the same can’t be said for Kobe Bryant, whose game has fallen off sharply in what figures to be his final season. Bryant matched the worst shooting performance of his career, going 1 for 14 Tuesday as the Lakers fell to the Warriors, 111-77, sending Golden State to the first 16-0 mark in NBA history. Bryant is shooting just 31.1% this season, a career low, but he leads the Lakers in field goal attempts per game.

“I’m not really worried about it, honestly,” Bryant said, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com (Twitter link). “My shooting will be better. I could’ve scored 80 tonight. It wouldn’t have made a [expletive] difference. We just have bigger problems. I could be out there averaging 35 points a game. We’d be what, 3-11? We’ve got to figure out how to play systematically in a position that’s going to keep us in ballgames.”

The Lakers are 2-12, but coach Byron Scott said he still has “so much confidence” in Bryant, his former teammate, who remains the NBA’s highest-paid player at $25MM this season, as Bill Oram of the Orange County Register relays. See more from the Pacific Division:

  • An agent with ties to the Kings predicts chaos if the team were to make Nancy Lieberman the interim coach in the event of a George Karl firing, reports Chris Mannix of SI.com, who writes in his Open Floor column. Mannix finds it difficult to envision Lieberman getting the nod, despite a report that owner Vivek Ranadive would favor such a move if he dismisses Karl.
  • Warriors interim coach Luke Walton reached out to Phil Jackson before the 2014/15 season to ask whether he should reach out to Steve Kerr, and Jackson, who’d wanted to hire Kerr for the Knicks, told Walton to do so, notes Marcia C. Smith of the Orange County Register. Kerr wound up hiring Walton as an assistant coach, setting in motion the events that would put Walton in charge of the team’s historic run.
  • Draymond Green is one of the six or seven most valuable players in the NBA, as Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group observed Tuesday before Golden State’s game. Green re-signed with the Warriors for $82MM over five years this summer, more than $14MM less than his five-year max.

Western Rumors: Bryant, Rockets, Nuggets

Kobe Bryant is shooting a career-low 33.1% from the field but Lakers coach Byron Scott wants him to stay aggressive offensively, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. Bryant’s desire to score off isolation plays may be hindering the team’s ball movement but Scott doesn’t plan on telling the aging small forward to stop looking for his shot, Holmes continues. “He’s had 20 years of experience in the league,” Scott told the team’s beat reporters. “We might not have six players that have 20 years in this league combined. He has that privilege, basically. From a coaching standpoint, I want Kobe to be Kobe. Other guys haven’t earned that right yet.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Former first-round pick Jordan Hamilton, who finished last season with the Clippers, has left the Russian club Krasny Oktyabr, aka Volgograd, tweets international journalist David Pick. JaJuan Johnson, another former NBA first-rounder who hasn’t played in the league since 2012, also left the team, Pick adds.
  • The struggling Rockets have slowed down offensively and interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff wants to increase the tempo, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Houston was second in pace last season but has slipped to eighth this season. Some of that is due to defensive breakdowns but Bickerstaff also wants to utilize his team’s quickness to a greater extent, especially in the first half, Feigen adds. “That’s one of the things we’re focused on now,” Bickerstaff told the Houston media. “We want to be speedy. We want teams that come in here in the first five minutes of the game … to be overwhelmed by our speed. We have the athletes. We have the skilled players who can get up and down and do those things.”
  • Nuggets first-year coach Michael Malone is generally pleased with his team through the first 14 games, as he relayed to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post on Monday afternoon. “We lost eight games, but, c’mon, two of those to Golden State,” Malone said. “We lost to OKC when they were healthy. Phoenix twice, [which] is a good basketball team; at San Antonio. We’ve had some tough games, and hopefully as long as we keep on staying together, learning from the losses and growing, we’re going to be OK.”

Pacific Notes: Rivers, Butler, Russell, Randle

Doc Rivers said the slow start for the Clippers is “on me” and insisted that the team doesn’t have chemistry problems in spite of heated conversation in the locker room after Sunday’s loss, which dropped the team to 6-7, notes Jovan Buha of Fox Sports (All Twitter links). Rivers’ coaching took some criticism from Hoops Rumors readers in Sunday’s Community Shootaround, as did the roster he assembled as the team’s president of basketball operations. Still, it’s early, and the Clippers have had the poor luck of running into the still-unbeaten Warriors twice so far this season. See more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Caron Butler credits the team meeting the Kings had amid the tumult and rumors after they started 1-7 for sparking the club to a 4-2 record since, reports Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times“Behind closed doors we addressed some things and we came together. Because of that, we’re playing great basketball right now,” Butler said. “It’s about camaraderie; when things go bad, you figure it out. Whatever it is, you figure it out and you move forward, and that’s what we did.”
  • Butler has been a free agent four times, but he hasn’t returned to the Lakers since the team traded him away in 2005. Still, he considers Kobe Bryant a “brother for life” and remains in contact with his long-ago Lakers teammate, as he details to Pincus for the same piece. “Being up under the wing of Kobe Bryant and the relationship that we built over that time, I learned a lot about the game of basketball,” Butler said. “I took the things that I learned from him, and that’s why I had the success that I had in my career.”
  • Lakers coach Byron Scott is urging patience with top-10 picks D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, pointing to the end of next season, notes Janis Carr of the Orange County Register. The Lakers are under pressure to win in the near future, as Jeanie Buss is holding brother Jim Buss to three-year timeline for a return to contention. With D’Angelo, it might be sometime toward the end of next season where he says, ‘Man, I’m starting to get it.’ Same thing with Julius. We’re going to just be patient and keep working them the way we’ve been working them and try to bring them along,” Scott said.

Western Notes: Rockets, Wolves, Lakers

Donatas Motiejunas, who is set to be a restricted free agent this coming summer, is expected to meet with doctors on December 1st and the hope is he would then be cleared for workouts with the RocketsJonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Motiejunas has not been cleared to practice since last season’s back surgery, as Feigen points out. The power forward played well while Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones were out last season, with solid shooting numbers for a  7-footer.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Rockets waived Lakers center Tarik Black last year, but he said he was sorry to see Kevin McHale get fired, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register tweets. “I know he did believe in me,” Black said, per Oram.
  • Wolves interim coach Sam Mitchell will insert Kevin Martin into the starting lineup despite his shooting woes, with Tayshaun Prince going to the bench, Mitchell told reporters, including Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune. Martin was involved in trade rumors last season.
  • Lakers coach Byron Scott believes point guard D’Angelo Russell is playing his best basketball of the season after a slow start, Abbey Mastracco of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. “I looked at it like, ‘This was a sign.’ This is a good sign of things to come. The kid is starting to get it,” Scott said. “So after 12 games, having his best game last night from an offensive standpoint – and even defensively I thought he played pretty good – you look forward to the next 12 to see if he can continue that process of developing.”

Lakers Notes: Williams, Brown, Bryant

While the Lakers experienced some growing pains with their rookies early on, notably with D’Angelo Russell, 10-year veteran Lou Williams has also had issues adjusting with his new team, but coach Byron Scott still has faith in the point guard, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News writes. Williams signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Lakers in the summer after he scored 15.5 points per game on 40.5% shooting last season in Toronto, where he won the Sixth Man of the Year award. Despite Williams’ shooting production being down, Scott has elected to use Williams in the fourth quarter of games instead of Russell, Medina adds.

“I don’t worry about Lou that much,” Scott said. “He’s one of those guys that knows how to create opportunities for himself. When he’s not shooting well, he can still get up numbers for us.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • The Lakers recalled rookie swingman Anthony Brown from the D-League, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders relays on Twitter. The Lakers’ D-League affiliate acknowledged the move (Twitter link).
  • Brown may soon be assigned to the D-League again because Scott wants Brown to work on his ball-handling and develop more experience for the next two months, Medina, in a separate piece, relays. There is a decent chance Brown can make the Lakers’ lineup before that time period, Medina adds, but that would likely depend on the play of Metta World Peace, who has surprised with his conditioning.
  • Kobe Bryant expressed little concern over his season-high 37 minutes played Friday night, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register details. With hints toward retirement at the end of this season, Bryant has averaged 31.1 minutes per game heading into action Sunday, as Oram points out. “My workload has been really light,” Bryant said.

And-Ones: Simmons, Cuban, McHale

A major reason Kevin McHale was fired by the Rockets on Wednesday was the front office’s belief that he had lost the locker room, Chris Mannix of SI.com relays in response to a reader’s mailbag question. Mannix also notes that McHale’s strength as a coach is not in devising strategies or calling plays, but rather in his ability as a motivator. Houston swingman Corey Brewer has gone on record defending McHale, and emphasized that his former coach did not lose the team, and instead placed the blame for the Rockets’ slow start on the players.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, with an assist from three NBA scouts, ran down the top 10 hoops prospects for the 2015/16 season, including Ben Simmons (LSU), Skal Labissiere (Kentucky), and Brandon Ingram (Duke). The top of next year’s draft could be filled with more international players than usual, Spears notes. “The top three picks might not be from the United States next year,” an NBA scout told Spears. “Blame AAU basketball in America for that.”
  • Simmons had the opportunity to play overseas this season rather than in college, but the talented forward wanted to get a head start on acclimating to the U.S. as well as the style of basketball played here, Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News writes. “I felt like it helped me develop my game more,” Simmons says. “I was able to get the chance to experience different teams, different playing styles. For me it was just more going to high school and competing against the best players every day. It helped me mature, living by myself in Orlando while my parents were back home. A lot of different things come into it: new team, new coaches, different style, system, and living in a different country.
  • Mavs team owner Mark Cuban, who isn’t one to mince words, acknowledged that last season’s trade for Rajon Rondo was a risk that didn’t work out as planned for the team, Ben Rohrbach of WEI 93.7 FM relays. “[Expletive] happens, right? There are a lot of risks I’ve taken that have worked out just fine. They’re not all going to work,” Cuban said.
  • Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, speaking about his potential retirement during a radio appearance on SiriusXM, said, “If something changes I’ll come back and play next season. If something doesn’t change this is it for me,” Frank Isola of the New York Daily News relays (Twitter link).

Pacific Notes: Brown, Goodwin, Bryant

Suns shooting guard Archie Goodwin has seen his role in the team’s rotation expand this season, something GM Ryan McDonough credits to Goodwin strengthening himself over the offseason, Matt Petersen of NBA.com writes. During an appearance on the “Burns & Gambo Show,” McDonough said of Goodwin, “I think it’s easy to forget that he’s still one of the younger players in the league. He just recently turned 21 years old. He’s gotten stronger. That allows him to fight through screens, defensively. Offensively, as you guys know he’s got a quick first step and long strides, but when you can’t absorb the contact as well going to the basket, it’s hard to finish in this league, especially through contact.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers coach Byron Scott said that he has high expectations for rookie swingman Anthony Brown, and he hopes the young player can follow the path of Jordan Clarkson, who had a breakout 2014/15 campaign for the team, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders relays (Twitter links). Brown was assigned to the team’s D-League affiliate specifically to work on creating his own shot off the dribble, and the team is interested in seeing if he can learn to play guard in addition to his natural small forward position, Pincus adds.
  • The Clippers intend to leave Branden Dawson and C.J. Wilcox in the D-League through the end of November, Rowan Kavner of NBA.com notes. Dawson is thankful that Wilcox is alongside him because of his previous D-League experience, Kavner adds. “It’s definitely helpful for him to be going through this process with me,” Dawson said. “He was there last year, so having someone to go through this experience with is definitely helpful. He’s told me all about it, about what to expect and what to prepare for.
  • Kobe Bryant acknowledged that his career is likely to end without him winning another NBA title, but the veteran understands he has a duty to help the Lakers develop their younger talent, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. “Of course I want love to win another championship. But my responsibility now is to think outside of what I want,” Bryant said. “My responsibility is to these young players.

Western Notes: Chandler, World Peace, Durant

Nuggets small forward Wilson Chandler underwent successful surgery today to repair a labral tear in his right hip, the team announced via a press release. Chandler initially suffered the injury during the preseason and he will be out for the remainder of the 2015/16 campaign. Despite missing approximately 133 games since 2011 due to hip injuries, the veteran, who signed a four-year, $46.5MM renegotiation and extension with Denver back in July, recently told Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post that he isn’t contemplating retirement.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Lakers have assigned small forward Anthony Brown the the L.A. D-Fenders, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This is the first trip of the season to the D-League for Brown, as our D-League assignments and recalls tracker shows. The rookie has appeared in three games for the Lakers this season, averaging 1.7 points in 3.0 minutes of action per contest.
  • By not signing Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli to rookie scale extensions prior to this season’s deadline, the Warriors have left open the possibility of swinging a sign-and-trade deal for Kevin Durant this offseason, Danny Leroux of the Sporting News posits. Leroux also runs down a number of other scenarios that could result in Golden State potentially trotting out one of the greatest offensive teams of all-time, though the scribe does note that Barnes and Ezeli, both of whom are eligible to become restricted free agents next summer, would have the right to decline any sign-and-trade agreement.
  • Lakers coach Byron Scott was worried that Metta World Peace‘s body wouldn’t hold up through training camp, but the 16th-year veteran who just turned 36 says he’s in better shape than when he was with the Lakers the first time, notes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. World Peace is seeing occasional starting assignments and 19.1 minutes per game. “You have to give him a lot of credit for somebody who was out of the league for a couple of years,” Scott said. “He worked as hard as he worked to get back into the league and be able to be a vital part of what we’re trying to do. It’s been great.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Pacific Notes: Lin, Walton, Goodwin

The Warriors were among the teams to show interest in Jeremy Lin while he was a free agent this summer, as he told reporters, including Marc Berman of the New York Post. Lin instead wound up signing with the Hornets, a team that wasn’t initially within the top six among his preferences, the point guard added, as Berman relays.

“I entertained it,’’ Lin said. “I just felt like they had something great going there, and if I went there, it would be a very limited role. I felt like, ‘I’m 27 now.’ I want to find where I can be as big a part of a successful team as I can.’’

Hornets coach Steve Clifford calls Lin a bargain on his two-year deal worth more than $4.374MM and said that when he was an assistant coach with the Lakers in 2012/13, head coach Mike D’Antoni wanted the Lakers to try to acquire Lin, whom D’Antoni coached on the Knicks, Berman notes. Ironically, Lin played for the Lakers last season, right after D’Antoni left. See more from the Pacific Division:

  • Klay Thompson, in the first season of his four-year extension, says he prefers being on a winner over putting up gaudy stats on a losing team, and interim coach Luke Walton doesn’t see signs of the Warriors growing anxious to see what they could do on their own, observes Chris Mannix of SI.com. I don’t see this team having any of those type of issues,” Walton said to Mannix. “There’s no way to tell, obviously. Contract stuff can come up. But that’s not the type of locker room that it looks like. If I were betting, I’d say it won’t happen.”
  • Archie Goodwin made some noise about his lack of playing time last season, but he’s been a part of the rotation for the Suns the past two games, and Jeff Hornacek won’t rule out making that a permanent role for him, observes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic“He’s played pretty well through the preseason and practices,” Hornacek said. “He’s earned the opportunity. He’s long. He’s quick so he can cover some ground. Now that he’s gotten stronger, he doesn’t get pushed around as much.”

Pacific Rumors: Kings, Bryant, Bogut

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t trust coach George Karl, and they simply don’t get along, writes TNT’s David Aldridge in his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. The relationship is beyond repair, Aldridge believes, and while he thinks Cousins is the best center in the game, the Kings should trade him anyway, he posits, offering a suggestion for a deal he thinks would help Sacramento and send a message that GM Vlade Divac and Karl will be around for the long term. The criticism of Karl’s energy level is unfair, and the Kings should empower one of the best coaches ever, Aldridge opines.

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • Numerous league executives doubt that Kobe Bryant will last the season, Sam Amico of SamAmicoBasketball.com reports. One unnamed GM told Amico that Bryant’s body can no longer hold up to the rigors of an 82-game NBA season. “I hope I’m wrong, because who doesn’t admire an old warrior — but he has nowhere to go but down at this stage of his playing career,” the GM said. “The body doesn’t want to be argued with, and it’s telling him it’s time to go.” Bryant played 36 minutes on Sunday, an indication that Lakers have two priorities regarding their aging superstar: allowing him to do what he wants, and winning during a supposed rebuilding season, Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com argues. By leaving Bryant on the court that long, coach Byron Scott showed that he will let Bryant play as much as he wants when he’s in uniform, Holmes continues. Bryant’s power over the Lakers organization is greater than ever and Scott, being one of his biggest supporters, will let him dictate the terms of his farewell tour, Holmes adds.
  • Andrew Bogut was surprised when interim Warriors coach Luke Walton told the media he would return to the starting lineup as soon as Tuesday, Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group reports. The undefeated Warriors have utilized Festus Ezeli as the starting center while Bogut recovered from a concussion and Bogut has no problem with keeping things status quo, Leung continues. “Like I’ve said from the start, I’ve been starting my whole career, but I understand I missed [six] games there, and we won all of them,” Bogut told Leung. “Maybe the starters are used to having Festus there the first six, seven minutes and get their rhythm that way.”

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