Kobe Bryant hasn’t been nearly as willing to sacrifice money for the betterment of his team the way Tim Duncan has. Still, with the Lakers raking in $100.1MM in basketball-related revenue last season, an amount that far outstrips any other team in the league, USA Today’s Sam Amick argues that Bryant is simply more valuable to his team, in a financial sense, than Duncan is to the Spurs. San Antonio netted $26.1MM from their basketball operations last season, a source tells Amick. Here’s more from around the Western Conference:
- Big men still command attention on the market even in an era of small-ball, and next summer’s free agent class figures to see plenty of centers garner top dollar, as Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com examines in an Insider-only piece. The majority of the bigs he spotlights are on Western Conference teams, including Marc Gasol, Omer Asik, Robin Lopez and Tyson Chandler.
- The Suns have assigned 2014 first-round picks Tyler Ennis and T.J. Warren to the D-League, the team announced (on Twitter). Suns coach Jeff Hornacek indicated that the rookies won’t stay with the Bakersfield Jam for long, and it’s likely they return to the big club in time for an East Coast road trip that begins Monday in Boston, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic (Twitter links).
- Toure’ Murry is headed on D-League assignment from the Jazz, the team announced. Murry has yet to appear in a game for Utah after signing as a free agent this past summer. We’ll be keeping track of D-League assignments and recalls throughout this season in this post.
Kobe Bryant needs to take a step back and allow some of his teammates to take charge of the Lakers, opines Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. Coach Byron Scott agrees. “I’ve talked to a couple individuals about just being a little bit more assertive, not relying on Kobe as much,” Scott said. “You guys can ask Kobe this. I think he wants to get those guys to step up. He really does. Take shots when they have them. Not defer to him as much.” Earlier this week in a loss to the Suns, Bryant took 37 shots, while the rest of the team’s starters combined to take only 35.
Here’s more from the Western Conference:
- Diante Garrett will be returning to the Iowa Energy, who are the D-League affiliates of the Grizzlies, the team announced. The Blazers recently waived the Iowa State product after spending just a month on their roster.
- Aaron Craft is mulling a contract offer from Partizan Belgrade of the Serbian League, Orazio Cauchi of Sportando reports. Craft spent training camp with the Warriors and was set to play for Golden State’s D-League affiliate this season. Though the amount of Partizan Belgrade’s offer to Craft has not been reported, it’s likely for more than the guard would have earned playing in Santa Cruz this season, though that is just my speculation.
- Ish Smith is excited to be the newest member of the Thunder because of his relationship with his new teammates, writes Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman. “I’m really good friends with a lot of guys, played against them. Russ (Russell Westbrook), (Kevin Durant), Lance (Thomas), all in the ’06 class, so I know a lot of them,” Smith said.
- Canada is producing basketball prospects at unheard of rates, writes Dave Skretta of the Associated Press. Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett of the Wolves are the past two No. 1 overall NBA draft picks and are each of Canadian descent. Many, including Bennett, have attributed their interest in basketball to watching Vince Carter when he was on the Raptors. “That’s when we seen him doing all these types of dunks,” Bennett said of watching Carter. “We just had a love for his game.”
Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.
Kobe Bryant told Gregg Downer, his high school coach, in July that he planned to retire when his contract expires in 2016, as Downer tells Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Bryant spoke in 2012 of perhaps retiring in 2014, so much can happen in two years, and the Black Mamba hasn’t made any definitive public statement. Still, there have been no shortage of hints that the 2015/16 season, which would be Bryant’s 20th, will be his last, and the latest dispatch only advances that presumption. While we wait to see what happens with the 36-year-old who leads the league in scoring so far, here’s the latest from around the league:
- Adam Silver defused a situation that might have become a contentious dispute as the union and the league totted up revenues this past July, satisfying the concerns of the players, sources tell Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. It’s an example of the more player-friendly approach that Silver has attempted to take since inheriting the commissioner’s office from David Stern, as Beck examines. “Any opportunity where it’s possible to accommodate the players, I’m looking to do that, both as a sign of good faith, but also because it’s better business,” Silver said.
- Thunder GM Sam Presti touted the importance of the draft as a tool for small-market teams to improve as he successfully campaigned against lottery reform, but Silver doesn’t see it as inordinately crucial, as he told Harvey Araton of The New York Times. “I am concerned by the often cited conventional wisdom that finishing at the bottom [in order to acquire better draft picks] presents the only reliable path for some teams to build a championship roster,” Silver said. “The draft is structured to help the teams with the worst records, but it’s an imperfect system. In fact, many top picks do not transform their teams.”
- Steve Kerr has yet to complete the sale of the small portion of the Suns that he owns, tweets Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group. Kerr must divest that stake within a league-mandated timeframe after having taken the Warriors head coaching job.
Three unbeaten teams rule the Western Conference, but behind them, the Kings are surprisingly the West’s only one-loss club. Offseason signees Darren Collison and Omri Casspi have paid dividends so far, but it’s early, and a four-game road trip with stops in Phoenix, Dallas and Memphis will provide a closer look at just how far Sacramento has come. In the meantime, here’s the latest from California’s capital, home to one of just three NBA teams with open roster spots:
- Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro backed off his aggressive pursuit of trades even before the club started the season on a roll, as he tells Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com. Howard-Cooper cautions that it doesn’t necessarily mean the Kings won’t aggressively seek deals again after a while, whether or not their strong play persists. “When you talk about thirst, last year when we came in, we knew we had to disrupt the whole roster,” D’Alessandro said. “Dismantle. I don’t know if that was a thirst as much as — well, it was a thirst. It was a necessity, right? Our eyes are always open. We’re always looking to get better. But we are very happy with the acquisitions that we made. We’re going to take a wait-and-see approach and see how this thing goes. Obviously every team in the league is looking for that one magical guy, but let’s see if this chemistry’s right for a little bit.”
- Ben McLemore didn’t consult LeBron James before joining the Klutch Sports Group this week, as the second-year shooting guard told reporters, including Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter link). James, whom McLemore considers a mentor, is a founding Klutch client.
- Isaiah Thomas isn’t sure whether DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay wanted him to remain with the Kings, but the point guard figures that if they had, he’d probably still be in Sacramento, as he tells USA Today’s Sam Amick. “The only thing is I wanted to be back because I loved the coaching staff,” Thomas said. “I love [coach] Mike Malone. He was in my corner 100%. I know that for a fact. And then the city of Sacramento, with the love they showed me. [Sacramento mayor and former NBA player] Kevin Johnson. That was all I knew coming into the NBA. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be wanted — that’s what I keep telling people — and I didn’t feel like they wanted me as much.”
Not surprisingly, three of the NBA’s four unbeaten teams reside in the Western Conference, where the Warriors, Rockets and Grizzlies are all 3-0. The East’s lone unbeaten is the franchise that’s won the last four conference championships, but it’s nonetheless surprising to see the Heat back atop the conference standings after they lost LeBron James this past summer. While we wait to see if Miami will continue to reign without King James, here’s the latest from around the league:
- The Cavs feel like they made concessions in their final extension offer to Tristan Thompson, which exceeded $48MM over four years, but neither side has any hard feelings in the wake of the failed negotiations, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio.
- NBA teams kept the D-League rights to 47 players cut during camp this year, the D-League announced, listing all of them. The Mavs, Warriors and Suns used all four spots available to each NBA team to reserve the rights to such players, so they can’t keep the D-League rights to anyone they waive during the regular season, unlike the rest of the teams in the NBA. Renaldo Balkman, Bernard James, Doron Lamb, Hasheem Thabeet, Peyton Siva, Malcolm Lee and Earl Barron are this year’s “affiliate players” with NBA experience.
- Garrett Temple refrains from drinking, smoking and tattoos, and he’s convinced the straight-arrow approach has helped him win jobs during his career, as Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post observes. Injuries to others have thrust Temple into the starting lineup for the Wizards, who re-signed him this summer for two years at the minimum salary.
Workers broke ground today on a new arena for the Kings that’s set to open in two years, the team confirms via press release. It’s the latest in a long line of steps toward a new building that the NBA has mandated must take place in a timely fashion in advance of a 2017 deadline for completion. The league would have the power to take control of the team and move it to another city if the Kings either miss the deadline or don’t show sufficient progress, but it seems the franchise is well on its way to opening the doors of its new home in Sacramento. There’s more on the Kings amid our latest look around the Pacific Division:
- The Kings are indeed looking for help on the wing even though they’re not ready to sign Terrence Williams at this point, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter links). Williams, a four-year NBA veteran, reportedly worked out for Sacramento recently, and the Kings, who have an open roster spot, are looking for experience, Jones says.
- New Suns guard Isaiah Thomas confirms that he had interest in signing with the Lakers this summer, adding that the interest was mutual, as he tells Grantland’s Zach Lowe. “First off, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers. Who wouldn’t want to play for them? Second off, I felt like they always needed a point guard — a small guard like myself,” Thomas said. “I always envisioned myself playing with the Lakers, but like you said, they were waiting on Carmelo [Anthony] and other moves. The Suns came out of nowhere and showed a lot of interest, and I fell in love with them.”
- A report early in free agency indicated that the Lakers, Heat and Pistons were Thomas’ preferred teams, and he says to Lowe that all three, as well as the Mavs, showed interest, noting that Miami’s pursuit took place before LeBron James left, as Lowe passes along in the same piece.
- Steve Ballmer can write off about half of the $2 billion he paid to buy the Clippers as he files his federal taxes over the next 15 years, report Arash Massoudi and Alan Livsey of the Financial Times (hat tip to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News).
6:45pm: The options for Len and Goodwin have officially been picked up, the team announced.
3:27pm: The Suns are picking up their rookie scale team options on Alex Len and Archie Goodwin for 2015/16, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter links). Charania indicates that the moves have already taken place, though the team has yet to make any formal announcement. Len will make more than $3.807MM and Goodwin more than $1.16MM next year, as our Rookie Scale Team Option Tracker shows. The Suns also have decision due by Friday’s deadline on a rookie scale team option of more than $2.109MM for Miles Plumlee, but they’ll almost assuredly pick it up, too.
Len, the fifth pick in 2013, had a slow start to his rookie campaign last season as injury kept him from contributing much at first. He still wound up appearing in half the team’s games, averaging 2.1 points in 8.8 minutes per contest. Goodwin, the 29th overall pick in the same draft, saw similar playing time, and he also appeared in five games for Phoenix’s D-League affiliate.
Picking up the options for both would bring the Suns up to about $50.3MM in commitments for 2015/16, and Plumlee’s option would take that figure to roughly $52.4. That still leaves at least some flexibility beneath a projected $66.5MM salary cap.
1:54pm: Barron has been officially waived, the team has announced.
1:34pm: The Suns have waived Earl Barron, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic reports (Twitter link). No official announcement from the team has been made, but this move would reduce Phoenix’s preseason roster count to 15 players, which is the regular season maximum. Barron’s contract was non-guaranteed, so the team’s look at Barron didn’t cost them anything.
Apparently, Barron didn’t impress the Suns enough to unseat one of their younger big men from the team’s rotation. If he’s healthy Barron should have an opportunity to catch on with another team now, or later on during the season on a 10-day contract, as veteran big men tend to be in higher demand as the season progresses and injuries begin to take their toll on rosters.
In 124 career games, Barron has averaged 4.9 PPG and 3.7 RPG. His career slash line is .375/.071/.716.
The Clippers tied for third among the teams most likely to win the NBA title as the league’s GMs see it, as John Schuhmann of NBA.com details amid the results of the league’s annual GM survey. Still, they figure to receive a strong challenge in their own division from the Warriors. While we wait to see how it plays out, here’s the latest from the Pacific:
- Jordan Hill confirmed rumors from this past spring that he wouldn’t have re-signed with the Lakers if Mike D’Antoni were still the coach, as he tells Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. Medina adds the Heat, Spurs and Magic to the list of suitors who went after the power forward this summer.
- Byron Scott stopped short of acknowledging that Ronnie Price is a lock to make the opening-night roster for the Lakers, but the coach said that injuries to the team’s other point guards would make it tough to let him go, Medina notes in a separate piece. “If you look at it that way, we have to [keep him],” Scott said. “Ronnie gets more of an opportunity. So far in my opinion, he has taken full advantage of it.”
- The Suns told Isaiah Thomas when they pitched him in free agency this summer that they valued him as a starter even though they made it clear they wanted to retain Eric Bledsoe, as Thomas tells Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Thomas isn’t concerned with whether he starts, but he did express continued bitterness toward the Kings, telling Kennedy he wasn’t surprised that they didn’t re-sign him and that he always felt the Sacramento organization underappreciated him.