Here’s the latest coming out of Lakerland tonight:
- After acknowledging that he won’t be making his season debut against the Kings tomorrow night in Sacramento, Kobe Bryant is tentatively targeting Sunday’s game against the Raptors, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN LA: “We (have) to see how it feels tonight. I’m going to try to get another hard session in and then [Friday] morning try to push it again and the same thing tomorrow evening. Continue to just keep on measuring it.”
- More from Kobe, who added that he was “pleased” with how he’s feeling after three straight days of practice: “I’m not jumping through the gym by any means, but I don’t need to be able to do that in order to be a great player…It just takes awhile, no matter how much running and conditioning you do, to get out there and play is different. So, I’m sure I’ll be limited in some capacity.”
- Hoopsworld’s Eric Pincus reports that the Lakers have re-assigned Ryan Kelly to their D-League affilate, the D-Fenders (Twitter link).
- While Elias Harris had been signed to a partially-guaranteed rookie minimum of $490K, Pincus – in a piece for the L.A. Times – explains how waiving Harris saved the Lakers a total of nearly $1.1MM.
- Mike D’Antoni may not be the most ideal man for the Lakers’ head coaching job for some, but Kevin Ding of the Bleacher Report argues that at least he’s no Mike Brown. Citing Cleveland’s slow start as well as Brown’s indecisiveness with his rotation, Ding characterizes it as the “same tortoise pace of progress” that the former Lakers coach tried to sell in Los Angeles before getting the boot last season.
Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee characterizes the Kings’ move for Derrick Williams as “playing a hunch” – a hope that a new situation will help the former second-overall pick tap into his potential. With the franchise in rebuilding mode, Voisin writes that outside of DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore, and Isaiah Thomas, pretty much everyone else is up for grabs on the trading block. Here’s more out of the Pacific Division tonight:
- Mark Deeks of the Score evaluates the Williams-Luc Mbah a Moute swap for both Sacramento and Minnesota. Keeping Williams’ potential in mind, Deeks writes that the Kings took a gamble that was nearly “impossible to pass up,” whereas the Timberwolves appeared to have created a logjam at the wing with Dante Cunningham‘s minutes to account for as well as the eventual return of Chase Budinger.
- According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni ”hated” that Elias Harris had to be cut today. Both Bresnahan and Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News report that the team isn’t expected to fill in their 15th roster spot anytime soon (Twitter links).
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel says the Lakers dropped the ball in sacrificing future financial flexibility in order to reward Kobe Bryant with a generous extension. The Los Angeles Times relayed a handful of fan reactions this afternoon regarding the deal, and most didn’t seem to be enthused either.
As we inch closer to the start of the regular season, here are some miscellaneous news and notes to pass along tonight:
- Gordon Hayward would love to remain on the Jazz for the rest of his career, reports Yannis Koutroupis of Hoopsworld.
- Kobe Bryant says that he’s scaled back on his activities in order to allow his injured left achilles tendon to heal from the added pressure he felt last week. The Lakers’ superstar had been doing some light jogging and shooting drills last week while the team was in China for exhibition games (Mark Medina of InsideSoCal.com)
- While discussing how much he enjoys his leadership role on the Magic as the team’s most seasoned veteran, Jameer Nelson knows that with a major rebuilding process underway, he’s still a prime candidate to be traded (Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel).
- Gordon Monson of the Salt Lake Tribune makes a strong case for why the Jazz should trade for Kings guard Jimmer Fredette, who he believes would not only contribute with his shooting ability, but also help tickets sales by drawing the innumerable ‘Jimmermania’ fanatics that followed him at BYU.
- Mike D’Antoni admitted that last year’s Lakers roster made it difficult to define roles, especially when “everybody thinks they’re the 1 or 2 guy” (Bill Oram of the OC Register via Twitter).
- Pelicans coach Monty Williams admittedly didn’t find the type of production he was looking for from the center position during the pre-season, writes John Reid of NOLA.com.
Kobe Bryant didn't inform Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni of his latest trip to Germany for a blood-spinning procedure on his right knee, and at least one other NBA coach sees that as a sign of disrespect, according to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News.
Here's more from around the Western Conference…
- The Pelicans announced today in a press release they've waived 6'7" forward Rodney Carney. A product of Memphis, the 29-year-old Carney has been in the league for five seasons, playing in the past for the Sixers, Grizzlies, Warriors and Timberwolves with career averages of 5.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 15.4 MPG.
- Nicolas Batum told CSNNW.com's Chris Haynes today was the first day Blazers coach Terry Stotts let the projected starting lineup of Batum, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez play together. He said they played great (Twitter).
- After suffering a minor injury to his left leg during Blazers practice on Wednesday, Aldridge tells Mike Tokito of the Oregonian that he's feeling better after sitting out Thursday's practice. He was back on the court Friday.
- After coming aboard as the Blazers' GM 16 months ago, Neil Olshey has blossomed into a leader and the voice of a Blazers franchise that needed both, writes Joe Freeman at the Oregonian.
- Scott Rafferty of Ridiculous Upside believes Perry Jones III could use another season in the Development League before being called up to the Thunder.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post
As a number of NBA teams hold their annual fall Media Days, let's check in on a few items out of the Western Conference….
- With Chase Budinger expected to be sidelined with a knee injury for the near future, the Timberwolves are getting calls about potential replacements, says Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (via Twitter). According to Wolfson, Josh Howard is one possibility, but the Wolves aren't making any moves for now.
- Mavericks GM Gersson Rosas sat down with Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com to talk about analytics, his transition from the Rockets, and the advantages of a one-to-one D-League affiliation. He admits that the Mavs must catch a few breaks to be successful this season, pointing to defense and rebounding as weaknesses (video links).
- According to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni and executive Jeanie Buss are now on the same page, despite the fact that Buss had initially hoped to see Phil Jackson hired by the team.
- DeMarcus Cousins' contract extension with the Kings, which was officially announced today, is built on trust between Cousins and the team's new ownership group, writes Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee.
Despite the Knicks having their best year since the 1990s, their coach, Mike Woodson, is on the hot seat, writes ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan [subscription only]. Elhassan goes through five coaches entering the 2013/14 campaign on the hot seat, where their team's success could determine whether they're brought back for the 2014/15 season.
The other four coaches mentioned include Mike D'Antoni of the Lakers, Monty Williams of the Pelicans, Tyrone Corbin of the Jazz, and Randy Wittman of the Wizards.
Conversely, when Roderick Boone of Newsday spoke with new Nets coach Jason Kidd, the new face in Brooklyn told him there was "exciting nervousness" as the team entered training camp. It will be the first training camp for Kidd as a head coach and the first training camp he hasn't begun as a player since the summer before he entered the league in 1994.
Kidd went on to explain to Roderick why he's lucky to start as the coach with the veteran-laden Nets:
"The nice thing about this opportunity with this team is guys being able to sacrifice," Kidd told Boone, "and that's another thing with these guys. Maybe sacrifice a shot or two. Maybe even some of the younger guys will say, 'Yeah, I don't mind not playing the fourth quarter,' and that's sacrifice. It's less minutes and less shots and it gets us a win."
Here's more from around the top-heavy Atlantic division…
The health status of Kobe Bryant's Achilles' tendon has been the focal point this summer and that didn't change as the Lakers went through their annual media day this past Friday.
After getting off a transcontinental flight from a promotional trip to Dubai, Bryant told ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin, "I don't think we really have a particular timetable as far as where I should be right now, but I'm feeling good."
Here is more from the Lakers, including updates on Steve Nash and Pau Gasol:
- Bryant also told McMenamin, "Everybody was really concerned about this injury, and so was I, but the procedure and the therapy right afterwards and things like that really got me ahead of the curve." Bryant added, "so it feels like the hard part's over."
- As to whether Bryant will play in the preseason or even make the opener on October 29th against the Clippers, head coach Mike D'Antoni wasn't sure. "I'm not expecting anything," D'Antoni told ESPN on Saturday. "I don't know. He's going to do everything he can to try to get back as soon as he can. No one knows. He's day to day."
- D'Antoni will be under a lot of pressure this season in his first full year as the head coach. When asked by Los Angeles Daily News scribe Mark Medina whether he felt he was on the hot seat this season, he answered "Hopefully I can make it to practice this afternoon" (Twitter).
- D'Antoni also told Medina, via Twitter, that in an attempt to keep Nash rested and healthy this season he's been debating between resting him on back-to-backs or limiting his minutes all together.
- McMenamin also found time to speak with Pau Gasol, who told him his knees will be fine despite being unable to participate in the start of Lakers' training camp next week. Pau is continuing to recover from procedures he underwent on both knees this offseason: "We're going to get into practices and get a feel of how the knees react and get into training slowly," Gasol said.
- The Lakers big man was cleared by Dr. Steve Yoon of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic this week to continue to "ramp up" his workouts. Gasol told McMenamin, "I haven't done really a lot of basketball stuff. I haven't done a lot of contact yet. So we'll see how it feels. But the goal is to be ready for opening night, and whichever way it takes to get there, that's what we're going to do."
- D'Antoni told McMenamin, "Pau's probably the best offensive center in the league." The Lakers' coach added that "[Pau is] the most talented big guy in the league. So, all of a sudden he's in his natural position where he'll feel good about it."
- The Sporting News' Sean Deveney spoke with new Lakers center Chris Kaman about Bryant's health. “With a healthy Kobe, if everybody stays healthy, I think we have a great opportunity to make a run at the playoffs,” Kaman said.
- Kaman added, "Are we going to be one of the top three or four teams? I don’t know. The big thing—obviously everybody knows, everybody is talking about it, and they’re going to continue to keep talking about it until he comes back—everybody knows a big part is when Kobe returns. That’s a huge added bonus, and the quicker the better.”
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak spoke to L.A. reporters today at a preseason conference, fielding questions on a number of topics related to the club's offseason and upcoming camp. A handful of Lakers scribes, including Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times, and Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, passed along highlights from the presser on Twitter, so let's dive in and round them up….
- As we heard over the weekend, there have been no extension talks yet between Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, though Kupchak expects to sit down and discuss it at some point during the season.
- Even if the Lakers star hits free agency in 2014, he has made it clear he intends to retire with the team, and Kupchak says the club reciprocates that desire.
- Taking into account the league's new CBA, Kupchak anticipates it will be difficult to get free agents to move next summer. However, the GM reiterated that the club is looking ahead not just to the 2014 offseason, but also to 2015 and beyond.
- Lakers ownership may be more open to the idea of carrying 14 or 15 players than it has been in the last few years, according to Kupchak.
- Asked about the reluctance from Lakers fans to accept Mike D'Antoni as head coach, Kupchak replied, "We try to give him all the support we can…. He has to realize, and I'm sure he does, that we back him 100%."
- With so many players on one-year contracts this year, there will be plenty of incentive for them to play their well into long-term deals, says Kupchak.
- The Lakers GM added that 2014 should be a good year to have a first-round draft pick, which is something the team hasn't held in several years.
Jeanie Buss is the Lakers representative on the NBA's Board of Governors, making her as much the primary owner of the team as any member of the Buss family is following the passing of patriarch Jerry Buss in February. She hints at tension between her and brother Jim Buss, writing in the latest edition of her memoir that she wants Jim "to realize that I'm not the enemy." The Los Angeles Times published an excerpt of the updated portion of "Laker Girl" online today that centers around the team's abortive pursuit of Jeanie's fiancee, Phil Jackson, for their coaching vacancy last season. It's plenty revelatory, not just about the Jackson situation but the ongoing dynamics of the Lakers front office, so we'll recap the highlights here:
- Jeanie was moved to tears when the team decided to hire Mike D'Antoni instead. "The sequence of events — Phil almost coming back and then being told someone else was better for the job — practically destroyed me," she writes. "It almost took away my passion for this job and this game. It felt like I had been stabbed in the back. It was a betrayal. I was devastated."
- Jeanie, who oversees the franchise's business operations, says she and Jim had never spoken about basketball before Jim sought her input prior to asking Jackson about his interest in the job.
- Jackson never demanded part-ownership, a "ridiculous" salary, or an arrangement that would have allowed him to miss some of the team's road games, according to Jeanie, but he did ask for input on personnel decisions.
- The Lakers were aware of the negative publicity that choosing D'Antoni over Jackson would bring. When GM Mitch Kupchak called Jackson to tell him that they were going with D'Antoni, Kupchak told him he thought the media firestorm would "blow over in a month," Jeanie writes.
There has been speculation that Chris Hansen's contributions to an anti-Kings-arena movement in Sacramento could hurt Seattle's chances of eventually landing an NBA franchise. However, current commissioner David Stern and future commissioner Adam Silver both recently downplayed concerns about the league or its owners holding a grudge, according to Percy Allen of the Seattle Times. You can find more of this evening's miscellaneous news and notes below, including more from the above article:
- Allen also points out that Hansen still has around four years to secure an NBA team and finalize an agreement with Seattle and King County to build a $490MM arena in Sodo with $200MM in public subsidies.
- Given that there currently aren't any teams for sale, Silver had this to say about possible expansion within the near future: "I would never say it’s never going to happen. There’s nothing in the works at the moment…Obviously the league has grown over the years and there may come a point to look at it…But right now coming off of our new collective bargaining agreement, we really want to make sure we have 30 franchises that are all financially sound."
- RealGM's Jonathan Tjarks makes a case for why the Thunder's core still has enough time to win a title.
- Mark Willard and Arash Markazi of ESPN LA talk about what Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni has to accomplish in order to keep his job in Los Angeles.
- Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com discusses the ten players most likely to be dealt this season (Insiders only). Among the more notable names on the list include Luol Deng (who we recently heard is set to hit free agency next summer), Rajon Rondo, Omer Asik, and Danny Granger.