The Lakers announced that Steve Blake will miss at least six weeks with a torn ulnar ligament in his right elbow, and while GM Mitch Kupchak doesn’t expect to find a player worth signing, he’ll nonetheless look for one, tweets Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. Kupchak says players with ties to coach Mike D’Antoni, including Leandro Barbosa, Chris Duhon and Darius Morris, are among those the team will pursue, Pincus adds (via Twitter).
The injury to Blake leaves the Lakers without a healthy point guard, as Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar are also hurt. They plan to go with Kobe Bryant as the starter with Xavier Henry backing him up.
Barbosa is scorching the Brazilian league and appears fully recovered from his torn ACL, as Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com notes (Twitter link). Morris was supposed to work out with the Grizzlies this week, but Memphis appears to be looking in a different direction. There’s been little recent chatter about Duhon, who wasn’t in camp with an NBA team.
The Lakers have an open roster spot, so they wouldn’t have to waive anyone to sign a free agent. If they want to make a splashy trade, Kyle Lowry is available, but the Lakers aren’t among the teams that have reportedly been pursuing him.
In discussing Chris Paul's election as the new NBPA president, ESPN's Brian Windhorst writes that neither Paul nor former union vice president Jerry Stackhouse would commit to a timetable nor discuss whether a search firm was in place to find a replacement for ex-NBPA executive director Billy Hunter. Stackhouse, who will remain active with the union in an advisory role, said they aren't in a rush but have already identified a number of candidates. Windhorst also says the union would ideally want a new executive director in place by February 1st, when Adam Silver is set to begin his job as the new commissioner. Here are more of tonight's miscellaneous news and notes, along with more from the above piece:
- Some comments from Paul: "I've been thinking about (running) for a while on and off…I've had a lot of dialogue about it with committee members. I wouldn't have taken on the role if I was going to do it alone."
- There are a few specific issues that were tabled during the 2011 CBA which still need to be resolved, especially blood testing for performance enhancing drugs (including human growth hormone) and the current age limit to declare for the NBA draft.
- Lakers guard Steve Blake and Bobcats forward Anthony Tolliver were added as new members to the executive committee, joining Paul, Roger Mason Jr., Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, James Jones, Matt Bonner, and Willie Green.
- The union has turned to Deloitte Financial Advisory Services to examine its structure and will make necessary changes, such as adding a human resources and information technology department (J.A. Adande of ESPN.com).
- Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today notes that the NBPA has hired Reilly Partners to help with restructuring and forming a job description for the executive director position, and that two names have surfaced as potential candidates for the opening: former NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson and former NBA and Madison Square Garden executive Steven Mills.
- Suns forward Caron Butler says he's looking forward to being a mentor to teammate Michael Beasley, gives his thoughts on the Clippers, and talks about how he's approaching the upcoming season in Phoenix. Butler adds that no one from the Clippers front office has spoken to him since he was notified by his agent about being traded, but insists there's no ill will: “I don’t leave with bitterness or anything, but a phone call would have helped the situation…But it’s cool, it’s no hard feelings because that’s the nature of the business" (NBA.com's Jeff Caplan).
- Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy looks at a list of 11 of the top 13 players drafted this past June and discusses their chances at winning Rookie of the Year.
- In the same piece, Kennedy relays a clip from Gary Payton's interview on FOX Sports, in which the Hall of Fame point guard reveals that he may have had something to do with Allen Iverson's "practice" rant on the 76ers several years ago: "(Iverson) asked me…'How do you keep your body is so good of a shape, and don’t get hurt, and stay always on the court?’ And I just told him for real, my coach George Karl didn’t let me practice. So that was it. I said, ‘You have to stop practicing." While watching the actual rant, Payton recalled thinking: ‘Don’t say it like this! Don’t do it like that, Allen…When he said it, I said, ‘No, that was not our conversation.’”
Clippers point guard Chris Paul has been elected as the president of the NBA Players Association, the union announced via Twitter. The NBPA tweeted that Roger Mason Jr., who was also interested in the top position, has been named first vice president.
Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal first reported the surprising announcement via Twitter. The union was expected to announce their decision tonight according to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, who tabbed Mason as Derek Fisher's probable successor. Mason announced his candidacy last week.
Paul, previously a union vice president, will be the first star player to head the players' union since Patrick Ewing, who held the position from 1997 to 2001, and the first "in-his-prime" president since fellow point guard Isiah Thomas. As LeBron James indicated when he was considering the position, a player of his or Paul's caliber would likely have a louder voice as president than their predecessors — something the union sorely needs after being shrouded in controversy in the late stages of Fisher's reign. Fisher served as the union's president until his term expired this summer. He was preceded by Antonio Davis and Michael Curry, who, like Fisher, were also role players. James decided he would not pursue the presidency early last week.
The union also tweeted that it will add Steve Blake and Anthony Tolliver as vice presidents and executive committee members. As USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt reports (via Twitter), Jerry Stackhouse has resigned as first vice president and will accept some sort of special advisory role within the NBPA. The league will also hire an executive director in the near future to replace Billy Hunter, who was ousted earlier this year. With Paul and a new executive director in place, it could be an interesting first year for commissioner Adam Silver.
The Knicks have evened their conference semifinal against the Pacers at one. While the Grizzlies try to do the same, here are some news and notes from around the league:
- ESPN Boston's Chris Forberg examines the chances that Courtney Lee will stick in Boston as the Celtics head into their offseason. After being traded three of the last four summers, Lee struggled to carve out a role in his first year as a Celtic despite being given every chance to do so. Lee is under contract and the Celts coveted him a year ago, so it would make sense if they gave him another year to assimilate.
- Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com has a litany of Sixers coaching updates in his latest story. According to Moore, the team won't interview Michael Malone or Jeff Hornacek until next week at the earliest. Moore reiterates the team's interst in Brian Shaw and Michael Curry, while also adding a new name, Quin Snyder, to the coaching mix in Philadelphia. Snyder coached on Doug Collins' staff in Philly during the 2010-11 season and was mentioned earlier tonight as a possible fit in Atlanta.
- While Steve Blake is one of four Lakers to be amnesty eligible, his strong play this season as a role player makes it unlikely that he will be the one to go, writes Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times. Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol are his other three amnesty eligible teammates.
- Alex Len and his agent, Michael Lelchitski, contemplated delaying last week's ankle surgery until after pre-draft workouts in an attempt to move into the conversation for the No. 1 pick, writes RealGM's Shams Charania. “If he had a chance to work out, I truly believe he could have moved up and gone No. 1,” Lelchitski said of the Maryland center. While it was clearly the right decision, Len's injury will certainly affect his draft stock, as it will sideline him for anywhere from four to six months.
- In an Insider-only blog, ESPN's Fran Fraschilla breaks down five underrated draft prospects he believes will rise up boards as team's get a better look at them in the coming weeks. Among them, Frachilla lists Murray State's Isaiah Canaan, Cal's Allen Crabbe, Brazil's Lucas Nogueira, NC State's Lorenzo Brown and Baylor's Pierre Jackson.
Not only were they swept by the Spurs, but the Lakers lost all four games to San Antonio by double digits, culminating in Sunday's game four defeat at the Staples Center. Today was exit interview day for the Lakers in Los Angeles. Let's round up all the news coming out of those meetings here as it is reported throughout the night:
- D'Antoni expressed confidence that a full offseason with the talented Lakers squad could make a world of difference under his command, writes Trudell. The Lakers coach thought the team progressed in the second half and that their playoff hopes were largely derailed by injury.
- Like D'Antoni, Blake thinks the Lakers have the talent to win now, per Trudell. Blake thought he fit well into D'Antoni's system, but admitted that either the system or the roster would probably have to be tweaked to make it work.
- Pau Gasol acknowledged on Tuesday that he may not be back with the team next season, writes Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times. As Pincus points out, what happens with Dwight Howard in the offseason will go a long way to determining Gasol's fate in Los Angeles. If the Lakers re-sign Howard, speculation that Gasol will be traded or amnestied is sure to accelerate. Gasol did express his desire to remain a Laker.
- One Laker who seems to want both Gasol and Howard back is injured guard Kobe Bryant, writes Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. Bryant's torn Achilles has him unsure of his own NBA longevity, but in the short term he plans to help sell Howard on the Lakers as well as continuing to lobby for the retention of Gasol. Bryant said, “I want Pau here. It’s not a question or discussion. He gives us the best chance to win titles."
- Howard was continuously asked about his offseason plans after his exit interview, writes Lakers.com's Mike Trudell. Howard didn't hint one way or another, per Trudell, but did say that he needs to "clear his head" to think. He also expressed relief that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said he wouldn't pressure him into making a decision.
- Kupchak reiterated as much during his media session on Tuesday, adding that he is "hopeful" and "optimistic" that the Lakers will be able to re-sign Howard, writes Medina. Kupchak said that because of how the Lakers lost, "everything is in play" when it comes to improving the team, which includes bringing back Howard and Gasol. The Lakers GM insinuated that Howard's decision won't affect Gasol's future in Los Angeles more than that of any other of the current Lakers.
- Finally, Kupchak maintained that Mike D'Antoni will be back and dodged a question about the state of the Lakers amnesty provision. Medina writes that of the possible candidates – Bryant, Gasol, Metta World Peace and Steve Blake – only Gasol and World Peace seem to make sense as amnesty candidates. World Peace has a $7.7MM player option to consider. Kupchak said he has "no idea" if he plans to exercise it.
Although the Lakers' short-term focus is on finishing the regular season strong and earning a playoff spot in the Western Conference, the team will face a number of questions this summer and beyond, with luxury-tax penalties set to increase starting in 2013/14. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com spoke to a number of agents, executives, and players about the Lakers' cap situation, so let's round up the highlights:
- One general manager on free agent big man Dwight Howard: "No matter what, they have to re-sign Dwight. Even if they don't want to move forward with Dwight, you gotta re-sign him because he's a tradable asset no matter what he makes…. You can always move him, but if you don't have him under your control, then you've got nothing."
- The general belief is that if Howard is re-signed, the Lakers will look to move Pau Gasol, but there are mixed opinions on how much trade value he would have, and how strong a package the Lakers could acquire. Said one GM: "He'll have value as a super expiring contract. There are 12 teams with $12MM or more in [cap space] this summer. Multiple teams will be open to doing an uneven deal to acquire him…. They would probably have to take back a multiyear deal at a lower number. Say, somebody with two or three years left at 6 million a year. They can't incentivize a deal because they have no assets — no [draft] picks and no young players of value."
- Gasol could also be amnestied, which would significantly lessen the Lakers' tax burden, but it would be a purely financial move rather than a basketball one. Rival GMs are skeptical that the team would make such a move in what could be Kobe Bryant's last year.
- Metta World Peace is a more likely amnesty candidate, though if he decides to opt out of the final year of his deal, Steve Blake could be amnestied as well. World Peace told NBA.com last week that he'd consider declining his '13/14 option, and the knee surgery he underwent since then hasn't changed that stance, according to Shelburne.
- One Lakers player said he believes World Peace would like to secure a two- or three-year contract rather than exercising his one-year player option.
- There were also varying opinions among GMs on coach Mike D'Antoni's future with the Lakers. One GM's thoughts: "I like Mike D'Antoni, but if I was them, that's the move I'd make (letting him go). You can talk about amnestying players and trades, but players are still assets. Coaches are different."
While the Lakers are unlikely to make a major move today, the team is exploring smaller moves, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Wojnarowski tweets that the Lakers are offering Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Devin Ebanks, and Darius Morris in search of second-round picks.
Given Blake's undesirable contract, which pays him $4MM this year and next, it's unlikely that the Lakers will be able to move him without giving up a pick of their own. I'd also be surprised if L.A. could land a second-rounder for Duhon. Ebanks and Morris could draw some interest though, as both players are young and on minimum-salary contracts.
If the Lakers were to move one or two players for picks, it would give the team the opportunity for a late-season free agent addition with the free roster spot(s). Alternately, it could simply allow the team to reduce its luxury-tax bill a little.
The starters for the All-Star game were announced on Thursday, and two members of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, were among those selected. Here are the latest updates around the Lakers:
The Lakers' new game plan involves increasing Kobe Bryant's role on defense, having him guard opponents' top wing players. The approach was certainly effective last night, as the Lakers beat the Bucks by 16, and Brandon Jennings told reporters after the game that Kobe played "probably the best defense anybody's played on me since I've been in the league" (Twitter link via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register). As the Lakers look to continue their winning ways on the court, here are the latest off-court notes on the club:
- Brook Lopez is now trade-eligible, which would suggest that trade rumors connecting Dwight Howard to the Nets may be renewed. However, Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com hears from a source close to Nets management that Brooklyn's interest in D12 may not be as strong as it once was: "It's not as cut and dried as it was last year, when the feeling was go ahead and pretty much gut the team for Dwight, give up a bunch of draft picks and players and take back bad contracts. That feeling isn't there anymore."
- Regardless of the Nets' interest or lack thereof, exploring trades involving Howard isn't even something that's on the table for the Lakers, says Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld.
- The Lakers are leaning toward keeping Pau Gasol at the trade deadline in part because they're not 100% sure Howard will remain in L.A. long-term, and they don't want to risk losing both of their All-Star bigs in a matter of months, writes Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
- Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details on how Gasol and Steve Blake are recovering from their respective injuries.
- GM Mitch Kupchak confirmed to reporters, including Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, that the Lakers have requested a disabled player exception for Jordan Hill. Kupchak expects to hear back from the league within a week or so. I outlined on Monday what a DPE would mean for the team.