Alex Caruso

Pacific Notes: Leonard, George, Caruso, Kings

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George may have permanently altered the perception of the two teams in Los Angeles, writes Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times. At one time, Leonard and George were both considered to be future Lakers. They were two stars who grew up in the L.A. area and wanted to leave their smaller-market teams for the comforts of home. That’s where they wound up, but they’re both Clippers.

Markazi recounts the history of the two franchises and how unbalanced the rivalry has been since the Clippers moved west. The Lakers had the stars, the famous fans and the titles, with 33 playoff appearances, 16 trips to the Finals and 10 championships from 1976 to 2011. Over that same time, the Clippers had just three winning seasons and made the playoffs four times.

The “Lob City” years and the purchase of the team by Steve Ballmer helped changed the balance of power as the Lakers fell onto hard times. Now with George and Leonard together on one side of Staples Center and LeBron James and Anthony Davis roaming the other, there finally appears to be a real rivalry.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers will sign Alex Caruso with part of their $4.8MM room exception, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. A full day of signings on Saturday plus the Davis trade left the team a little more than $1MM below the salary cap, and Marks believes that money may be used to give second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker a contract longer than two years. Dudley, Daniels and Rajon Rondo will all sign veteran’s minimum deals, Marks adds (Twitter link).
  • The Warriors had “significant interest” in Caruso before he opted to return to the Lakers, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
  • The Lakers risk another “reality show” season with their flurry of signings in the wake of losing out on Leonard, observes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. L.A.’s front office was heavily criticized last summer for not surrounding James with more shooters, and although they improved in that area this year with Danny Green, Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels and Quinn Cook, only Green has proven to be a reliable two-way player. Goodwill is also concerned about the lack of young talent, with Kyle Kuzma left as the only prominent player with a chance to improve.
  • The Kings continue to move toward GM Vlade Divac‘s vision of a faster and deeper team with this year’s free agent signings, notes Jason Jones of The Athletic. Sacramento added veteran help for its young core by re-signing Harrison Barnes and adding Dewayne Dedmon, Trevor Ariza, Cory Joseph and Richaun Holmes.

Lakers Re-Sign Alex Caruso

JULY 7: Caruso’s new deal with the Lakers has been finalized, according to NBA.com’s official transactions log.

JULY 6: Free agent guard Alex Caruso will return to the Lakers on a two-year, $5.5MM contract, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The second-year guard became a restricted free agent when L.A. extended a qualifying offer last week. However, his rights may cause complications in the Anthony Davis trade, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link), who speculates that the Lakers may be using their room exception or cap space in the new deal with Caruso.

The 25-year-old first came to L.A. as a two-way player in 2017. He has played a combined 62 games in two seasons and contributed 9.2 PPG in 25 contests this year.

Pincus believes the Lakers may have exhausted all of their cap room with the signings of Caruso, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, DeMarcus Cousins, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley and JaVale McGee, with just the $4.8MM room exception available. If they’re using that exception to add McGee and have included unlikely incentives in some of their new contracts, they could have up to $7.7MM remaining.

Lakers Tender QOs To Alex Caruso, Johnathan Williams

The Lakers have ensured that a pair of their players will be restricted free agents this summer, announcing in a press release that they’ve issued qualifying offers to guard Alex Caruso and forward Johnathan Williams. Both players finished the 2018/19 season on two-way deals.

Caruso, 25, has been with the Lakers on a two-way contract since the start of the 2017/18 season. In 2018/19, he appeared in 25 games for the club, primarily after the All-Star break, recording 9.2 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.7 RPG, and a .445/.480/.797 shooting line in 21.2 minutes per contest.

Because he has spent two seasons with the Lakers on a two-way deal, Caruso’s qualifying offer will be worth the veteran’s minimum (about $1.6MM). The two-way salary portion of that QO must be guaranteed.

As for Williams, the 24-year-old averaged 6.5 PPG and 4.1 RPG in 24 contests (15.5 MPG) for the Lakers last season. His qualifying offer will be a one-year, two-way contract, with a $50K guarantee.

Cap holds for Caruso and Williams will slightly cut into the Lakers’ projected cap room, but if the team needs that space, it won’t hesitate to renounce the duo. If they’re interested, they could each agree to return on new minimum-salary (Caruso) or two-way (Williams) contracts, and could finalize those deals once the Lakers use up their cap room.

Lakers Notes: Walton, Lue, Pelinka, Caruso

Luke Walton‘s fatal mistake with the Lakers was not insisting that everyone else defer to LeBron James, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Tyronn Lue, who won a title with LeBron in Cleveland and is considered among the top candidates to replace Walton in L.A., established a clear order when he took over for David Blatt in 2016. Lue demanded that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love set aside any individual agendas and let James run the show.

Walton never made similar demands after LeBron came to the Lakers, according to Vardon. He was fine with several players serving as the primary ball-handler and didn’t adjust the offense much to feature his new weapon.

“We had our system coming into training camp, and it was similar to the last few years,” former Lakers center Ivica Zubac said after being traded in February. “We all knew LeBron was the guy, but no, that’s not how it was. Luke wants to play fast and he said it right after camp started. I think we played the right way until LeBron got hurt, and then we just didn’t have enough to win.”

There’s more news from Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers haven’t contacted Lue about their coaching job yet, but he is in much better health now than when he had to take a leave of absence last season, Vardon adds. Lue has lost 35 pounds, changed his diet and works out twice a day.
  • GM Rob Pelinka will be in charge of the search for a new coach, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. That’s one more sign that Pelinka’s position with the organization is secure after the departure of team president Magic Johnson. The front office talked briefly to Walton’s representatives to see if they could work out an agreement to retain him as coach, Shelburne adds (Twitter link). However, discussions didn’t go very far.
  • Alex Caruso, Johnathan Williams and Jemerrio Jones may not return next season, but they provided an inspiring effort after the Lakers’ playoff hopes were extinguished, relays Kevin Ding of NBA.com. After making his NBA debut March 31, Jones thanked Walton after each game for giving him a chance to play. Caruso expressed similar gratitude to Walton and Pelinka in his exit interview on Wednesday. Caruso also credits South Bay Lakers president Joey Buss for helping him to land a two-way contract last season. “Might not be here now,” Caruso said. “It’s all butterfly effect getting to this point.”

Lakers Notes: Free Agency, Rondo, Caruso, Howard

The Lakers could steal one of the Warriors’ three star free agents on the open market this summer, adding to a group that’s primarily been centered around LeBron James, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report writes.

Golden State is currently fixated on making a lengthy playoff run this spring, but the futures of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins have quietly loomed over the franchise throughout the season. Thompson and Cousins are set to enter unrestricted free agency on July 1, while Durant holds a player option worth $31.5MM.

“I’ve never played fantasy basketball,” James told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck last week. “But I will be as active as I need to be for this franchise to get better. That’s why I came here. I came here to win. And obviously, we need to get better, as far as our personnel. We have an opportunity to get better. And there’s a lot of talent out there, and a lot of guys that can help our franchise. So I’ll be as active as I need to be for us to get better and go from there.”

The buzz among various NBA executives, scouts and media members suggests that Durant is ready to leave Golden State, according to Pincus. Thompson could remain on the team if he’s offered a max deal, while both Cousins and the Warriors have already agreed that a return is unlikely (albeit not impossible).

The Lakers will look to be aggressive in free agency with an estimated $34MM in cap space. The team also has several young assets that can be included in a trade, should the club look to revive negotiations with New Orleans on star forward Anthony Davis. The idea of having arguably the two best basketball players on the planet could be an appealing factor for Durant if he considers joining the Lakers, as he’s already known to be close friends with James.

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • Rajon Rondo has built equity in the Lakers’ locker room ahead of his upcoming free agency, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Rondo, who has already stated his intentions of wanting to return next season, has helped the team’s younger players in the locker room and during games as a veteran leader this year. “He’s been a bright spot as far as what we’re building and what we’re trying to do,” coach Luke Walton said. “One of our top priorities with a lot of young guys was to continue to grow them as quickly as possible. And his leadership and the way his teammates look at him and toward him has been great.”
  • Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype explains why Alex Caruso deserves to be brought back by the Lakers next season. Caruso, 25, provided a spark off the bench against the Clippers on Friday, adding 32 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in 38 well-rounded minutes.
  • Juwan Howard has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Lakers’ head coaching job if Luke Walton is dismissed, as Andy Kamenetzky writes for The Athletic. Howard has maintained a strong relationship with LeBron James and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, with the former NBA player spending his past six seasons as an assistant coach in Miami.

Malik Newman Signs Two-Way Deal With Lakers

JULY 1: The Lakers have officially signed Newman to a two-way contract, the team announced today in a press release. Having not tendered qualifying offers to Caruso or Payton, the Lakers appear poised to have new players in both two-way slots for 2018/19.

JUNE 22: The Lakers will add Kansas guard Malik Newman on a two-way contract, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Newman, 21, spent just one season with the Jayhawks after transferring from Mississippi State. He put up 14.2 points per game this year and shot 42% from 3-point range. He helped the Jayhawks reach the Final Four with a 32-point performance against Duke in the regional finals.

Alex Caruso and Gary Payton II are the Lakers’ current two-way players, with their contracts set to expire at the end of June.

Pacific Notes: Ayton, Wear, Caruso, Fox, Thomas

Potential top pick DeAndre Ayton indicated during a radio interview that he and Devin Booker could form a duo similar to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant during their Lakers years if he winds up with the Suns, the team’s SB Nation blog The Bright Side tweets“Honestly, I could see myself in Phoenix,” the University of Arizona freshman center said in a CBS Sports Radio interview. “I could see a little Shaq and Kobe 2.0.” The Suns currently have the worst record in the league and will likely remain there. If they get the No. 1 selection, they could draft Ayton and then trade the first-rounders owed to them by the Heat and Bucks to move up and draft a point guard, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. If they fall to the No. 2 pick and Ayton is off the board, they would be happy to land Euro guard Luke Doncic and then move those same picks to get frontcourt help, Bordow adds.

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers have been forced to recall forward Travis Wear and guard Alex Caruso during the G League playoffs due to injuries, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register  notes. They will likely stay with the Lakers for their game against the Jazz on Tuesday if Brandon Ingram is still recovering from a concussion and Lonzo Ball remains sidelined with a knee contusion.
  • The Kings want to see rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox take ownership of the team and become a better playmaker during the remaining games, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. Fox needs to realize he can impact the game without having a hot shooting night, coach Dave Joerger told Jones. “He’s got to demand from the rest of his team that he’s the leader, and going forward, set the tone for what he’s looking for,” Joerger said. “And get the ball out faster, or ‘give me some space and I’ll get you a shot.’ Those kinds of things where you go to the next level of leadership or you can kind of just finish the season.” 
  • Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas will be represented once again by Excel Sports Management, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. Sam Goldfeder will be his agent, Mullen adds. Excel had been representing Thomas before signing with Goodwin Sports last fall.

Injury Notes: Thomas, Paul, Booker, Simmons

The hip injury that caused Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas to miss nearly the first half of the season appears to be acting up again, tweets Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Thomas woke up this morning with stiffness in his right hip and will be held out of the final two games of the team’s road trip.

Thomas first suffered the injury last year in Boston, and the Cavaliers held him out of the first 36 games of this season while he was recovering. The latest flare-up could be a warning sign for any team interested in the 29-year-old guard when he becomes a free agent this summer.

There’s more news on the NBA injury front:

  • Down to eight players for tonight’s game, the Lakers will get some help tomorrow when two-way player Gary Payton II joins the team after the G League regular season ends. However, fellow two-way contract holder Alex Caruso is sidelined by a concussion, according to Bill Oram of The SoCal News Group (Twitter link).
  • Rockets guard Chris Paul will be held out of tonight’s game, but could return tomorrow, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Coach Mike D’Antoni said Paul is making progress after hurting his hamstring Tuesday night.
  • Devin Booker will miss his fourth straight game tonight with a sprained right hand, but coach Jay Triano is optimistic that he can play Monday, tweets Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). T.J. Warren is missing his third consecutive game with left knee inflammation after a non-contact injury last Saturday (Twitter link).
  • Magic swingman Jonathon Simmons, who has missed the past two games with a right wrist contusion, will probably be held out another week, relays Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).
  • Bulls guard Kris Dunn remains in a walking boot with a toe injury, but was able to exercise today on an elliptical machine, reports K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Swelling has gone down and he will join the team on its upcoming road trip, but coach Fred Hoiberg said Dunn will need to be “reconditioned” if the team doesn’t shut him down for the rest of the season.

Lakers, Alex Caruso Agree To Two-Way Deal

The Lakers are signing Summer League standout Alex Caruso to a deal, sources tell Sportando (Twitter link). Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com adds further details, reporting that Caruso will get a two-way, two-year contract from Los Angeles.

Caruso, a 6’4″ guard, went undrafted out of Texas A&M in 2016. He caught in with the Thunder for training camp, but was cut and ultimately landed with the club’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue. In 50 games for the Blue, Caruso averaged 11.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 2.2 SPG, with a .459/.401/.749 shooting line.

Caruso’s G League performance last season earned him a shot with the Lakers in Summer League play this summer, and he has looked good in limited minutes in Vegas, averaging 6.5 PPG, 3.3 APG, and 1.3 SPG in four games for L.A.

By securing him to a two-way contract, the Lakers will gain Caruso’s G League rights, so he’s on track to play primarily for the South Bay Lakers in 2017/18. For more details on how his two-way contract will work, be sure to check out our FAQ on the subject.

NBA D-League Affiliate Players For 2016/17

Throughout the offseason, and in the weeks leading up to the start of the regular season, NBA teams are permitted to carry 20 players, but that total must be cut down to 15 in advance of opening night. However, up to four players waived by teams before the season can be designated as affiliate players and assigned to their D-League squads.

The players have some say in the decision — if they’d prefer to sign with a team overseas, or if they get an opportunity with another NBA club, they’re free to turn down their team’s request to have them play in the D-League. Most NBA and international teams have fairly set rosters by late October though, so having the opportunity to continue playing in the same system is appealing to many of those preseason cuts. Especially since they’ll maintain NBA free agency while they play in the D-League.

There are a few other rules related to D-League affiliate players. A player whose returning rights are held by a D-League team can’t be an affiliate player for another club, which is why undrafted free agents from the current year are commonly signed and assigned. Additionally, an affiliate player must have signed with his team during the current league year, which explains why we often see players signed and quickly waived in the days leading up to the regular season. And, of course, not every NBA team has a D-League affiliate, so clubs like the Hawks, Nuggets, or Clippers have no place to send affiliate players.

With all that in mind, here are the NBA D-League affiliate players to start the 2016/17 season:

Austin Spurs (San Antonio Spurs)

Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Delaware 87ers (Philadelphia 76ers)

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