Anthony Davis

Western Notes: Howard, Davis, Mitchell, Doncic, Dragic, Beverley

Dwight Howard tried to downplay his altercation with Anthony Davis during the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix on Friday night, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The two big man had a verbal exchange on the bench during the second quarter.

“We squashed it right then and there,” Howard said. “We just had a disagreement about something that was on the floor. We’re both very passionate about winning.”

Davis said of the spat, “it’s over with.” Howard is one of many Lakers bench players signed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Kings surprised a lot of people when they drafted a guard, Davion Mitchell, in the lottery for the second straight year, but Mitchell is already making an impression with his ball-hawking defense, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets. Swingman Buddy Hield has high praise for the rookie. “I think he’s the best on-ball defender in the league,” he said. “The way he hawks the ball is different. His lateral movement. The way he closes out is different. It’s just a special gift he has.”
  • The Mavericks will play Toronto on Saturday in a matchup of Luka Doncic and Goran Dragic at the point. The Slovenian national team members could soon join forces in the NBA, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News notes. There were rumors swirling during the offseason after Dragic was traded to the Raptors that he could eventually wind up in Dallas. That could happen closer to the trade deadline or perhaps next summer, when Dragic becomes a free agent.
  • Patrick Beverley will make his Timberwolves debut on Saturday after serving a one-game league suspension. He’s says his impact on the young Minnesota roster will go beyond the stat sheet, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “Born leader, came natural for me since I was a kid, very outspoken,” Beverley said. “Even some of my ex-Clippers guards, teammates [Thursday] night after their loss to Golden State, they called me and we chopped it up a little bit. I always have a good positive spirit, positive energy. That just kind of rubs off on people every night.”

Lakers Notes: Davis, Westbrook, Bazemore, Cap

The Lakers are considered to be one of the favorites in the West after trading for Russell Westbrook and adding a collection of veteran talent, but they haven’t looked like contenders so far, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. L.A. dropped to 0-4 in the preseason with Sunday’s 29-point loss to the Suns, and Anthony Davis admitted that having so many new players creates adjustment issues that could linger into the start of the regular season.

“We want to be good, but we don’t want to skip steps. You can’t rush the process of what we’re trying to do and win championships,” he said. “We know, possibly, there could be struggles to start the season. … But we never want to get out to a slow start — 0-5, 0-6, whatever — we still want to be able to fight through our mistakes while winning games.”

The Lakers will get their first look tonight at Davis, Westbrook and LeBron James all on the court at the same time, one week before their season opener. Westbrook has struggled in his new surroundings, shooting 1-for-7 Friday in his debut, then following that with an eight-point, nine-turnover performance against Phoenix, but he’s not concerned.

“I never had one good preseason, I mean personally,” he said. “I never really worry about it because it’s preseason.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers are getting the defensive boost they expected from free agent addition Kent Bazemore, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. At 6’4″, Bazemore brings versatility on defense and regularly matches up in practice with both James and Westbrook. “I really think Baze has separated himself some,” coach Frank Vogel said. “His wingspan and athleticism have been more impressive up close, in that regard.”
  • The Lakers’ 2021/22 roster is the most top-heavy group John Hollinger of The Athletic can remember seeing since Miami put together its initial “big three” in 2010. As Hollinger observes, the Lakers’ three stars will make more than $120MM on their own this season, while nine other players on the roster are on minimum-salary contracts.
  • Within Hollinger’s preview of the Lakers’ season, he also recaps the team’s offseason moves, examines Westbrook’s potential fit, and shares his regular season projection for the club. Hollinger has L.A. finishing with 52 wins, good for third in the West.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, LeBron, Davis, Anthony

Russell Westbrook not only wanted to play in his native Southern California, it was important to him to join the Lakers after being a long-time fan of Kobe Bryant. Westbrook talked about his connections to the late Hall-of-Famer in an interview with Spectrum Sports Net (video link).

“That is something I think about daily. Coming into the gym, you come in here, you look up in the practice facility, you see 8 and 24, and I know he is looking down and making sure that I need to do what I need to do,” Westbrook said. “And that’s the only thing I could think about is knowing, being in this uniform, understanding the impact I can have of being home and being a Laker and creating a legacy not just for myself but for my kids, for the community of Los Angeles, for the people here. I’m gonna make sure I just do my part in going out and playing for him and through him as I complete in this uniform.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • LeBron James sees a renewed energy in training camp stemming from a longer offseason break, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Last year, the Lakers won the NBA title on October 11 and had to report for camp less than two months later. This offseason felt more normal after L.A. was ousted from the playoffs in early June. “Last year after coming off the bubble it literally took everything away from you,” James said. “Any little bit of energy that you had, it was completely gone when we left there. … To come back into the season with the quick start that we had, kind of the life of the party was a little bit, just like, it was just kind of stale. You know, rightfully so. Guys just didn’t have an opportunity to get a mental break.”
  • Westbrook and James will sit out Sunday’s exhibition opener against the Nets, but Anthony Davis will play during the first quarter, McMenamin tweets“AD didn’t finish the season,” coach Frank Vogel explained. “He finished in street clothes because of injury. He wants to get out there, so we’ll support him on that.”
  • Brian Windhorst of ESPN examines why it took so long for James to team up with his long-time friend Carmelo Anthony after both entered the NBA in 2003.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Davis, LeBron, Vaccinations

One of Russell Westbrook‘s priorities with the Lakers will be to help unleash Anthony Davis, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. After their first practice together on Tuesday, Westbrook called Davis “the ultimate weapon” because of his unique skills for a big man.

“He’s one of a kind,” Westbrook said. “There’s nobody like him who can do everything he’s able to do at his size. And my job is to make sure I continue to push him each day, each practice, each game, so he can be at the top of his game each and every night.”

Davis said he welcomes having someone who will drive him to be his best. He has been an All-Star the past eight years, but he’s coming off an injury-plagued season that saw him post career-low numbers with 7.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting career-worst percentages from the field and the free-throw line.

“I like teammates who are going to push me,” Davis said. “Encouragement — I don’t need encouragement. I want to be pushed. I want guys to tell me when I’m messing up. Me and Russ had numerous conversations in this first practice alone about things we can do together as a duo when we’re both on the floor.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Coach Frank Vogel was impressed by how fast Westbrook still is at age 32, per Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Vogel called his new point guard “a blur out there” and said he plans to take advantage of it with an up-tempo approach. “When the ball’s outleted to (LeBron James), Russ has gotta fly; when the ball’s outleted to Russ, Bron’s gonna fly,” Vogel said. “And that’s the best way to complement those guys.”
  • James was instrumental in assembling the Lakers’ new roster, and Vogel believes he will adjust his game to make it successful, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. concentrated on veteran talent during the offseason, putting together a roster that’s very accomplished but is also the oldest in the league. “All these other stars that he’s played with, he’s adapted his game, done whatever’s necessary to win and put himself in position for the ultimate goal,” Vogel said. “The willingness to do it is one thing, but when you have his skill set and his mind, he literally can do it all. So I’m very confident that that’s going to work itself out.”
  • The Lakers plan to be fully vaccinated by the start of the season, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “It was never a team discussion,” James said at media day, “but I think at the end of the day you’re figuring out ways to always be available and protect one another.”

Lakers Notes: Russ-LeBron, Nunn, AD, Reaves

Pricey new Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook expressed confidence in his fit alongside LeBron James, one of the most ball-dominant teammates with whom the very ball-dominant Westbrook has ever played. The decorated 6’3″ vet also made it clear that Los Angeles is heading into the 2021/22 season with title expectations.

“LeBron out of anybody else, he knows what it takes to win a championship,” Westbrook said during the team’s Media Day on Tuesday, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “And that’s the ultimate goal. So anything along the way … we cannot get distracted, cannot get deterred from our ultimate goal.”

The Lakers will be Westbrook’s fourth team in four years, following stints with the Thunder in 2018/19, the Rockets in 2019/20, and the Wizards in 2020/21. Last year, Westbrook was not named to the All-Star team during a relatively healthy season for the first time since 2009/10. His backcourt mate Bradley Beal was the lone Wizards player to earn that honor in 2021.

Though he averaged 22.2 PPG, a league-leading 11.7 APG, and 11.5 RPG (his fourth triple-double in five seasons), Westbrook was relatively inefficient as a shooter during his Wizards tenure. Westbrook posted a shooting line of .439/.315/.656. The Lakers are hoping that the 2017 MVP, 32, can help expedite their offense and relieve 36-year-old LeBron James of his playmaking burden, especially during the regular season.

He ups our pace right away,” James raved about his new teammate. “He’s always in the top five as far as pace. Whatever team is what he with, so being able to get out and being able to get out on the break and be able to try to get some early buckets before the defense is set. That creates that. But also he’s just a flat-out playmaker. I think what a lot of people don’t talk about in his game is how unbelievable of a passer he is. Everyone sees the rebounds, everyone sees the scoring and things of that nature, but his passing, his ability to make guys around him better, that does not get talked about a lot.”

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • New Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn has joined many of his L.A. teammates on the decorated roster of Klutch Sports clients, McMenamin reports (via Twitter). Nunn, who faced off against the Lakers in the 2020 Finals as a rookie on the Heat, signed a two-year, $10MM deal with Los Angeles this summer. After going undrafted out of Oakland in 2018, the 6’2″ point guard carved out a role for himself on a veteran-laden Miami squad in the 2019/20 season, and was named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2020. Nunn averaged 15.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.9 APG and 0.9 SPG during his two seasons with the Heat. The 26-year-old boasts an impressive career shooting line of .458/.364/.881.
  • Lakers All-Star big man Anthony Davis acknowledged during the team’s Media Day that he has had conversations with head coach Frank Vogel about finally becoming the club’s starting center, per Mark Medina of USA Today (Twitter video link). Los Angeles rebuilt its frontcourt rotation around Davis during the offseason, adding veteran former All-Star centers DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard on minimum deals. “That was discussed and I expect to play center,” Davis said. “Obviously there’s times where Dwight or DJ might get the start at center depending on games, but for the most part, I think the plan is to go with me playing center.” In the past, Davis has preferred to start at the power forward position. He has shared the floor alongside a variety of veteran centers while with the Lakers, though Los Angeles found its most success in the 2020 playoffs with Davis at the center position.
  • Further details have emerged concerning the new contract of Lakers guard Austin Reaves, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (via Twitter). Smith reports that the deal is a two-year contract at the league minimum. Reaves has a partial guarantee of $100K for the 2021/22 season, and his full first-year salary will become guaranteed on January 10, 2022. The second year of the agreement is fully non-guaranteed. The 6’5″ rookie, 23, went undrafted out of Oklahoma this summer.

Russell Westbrook Helped Engineer His Trade To Lakers

Russell Westbrook “took control of his situation” when he saw a chance to join the Lakers, according to Bill Oram, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic in a thorough look at how the team remade its roster over the offseason.

A Southern California native, Westbrook had dreamed of returning home to play and thought he might be headed to the Clippers along with Kawhi Leonard two years ago. When a second chance emerged with the Lakers in August, Westbrook was determined to make it happen.

He was among several potential additions discussed in a “war room” setting of players that was led by LeBron James and included Anthony Davis and Jared Dudley. They saw Westbrook as an asset because he’s a perennial All-Star who can share playmaking duties with LeBron. However, he still had two years remaining on his contract and the Wizards weren’t looking to move him.

Although The Athletic’s sources say Westbrook would have been willing to stay in Washington if a trade didn’t happen, he decided to act on the morning of the draft when he heard that the Lakers were near a deal with the Kings to acquire Buddy Hield. Westbrook approached Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and asked him to work out a trade with L.A.

Leonsis agreed and Washington general manager Tommy Sheppard called Lakers GM Rob Pelinka to start trade talks. Within a few hours, a deal was in place to give up Westbrook and a pair of second-round picks in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 selection in this year’s draft.

There’s much more information packed in The Athletic report, which is worth checking out in full. Here are a few highlights:

  • Another player who received serious consideration from the Lakers was DeMar DeRozan, who also hails from Southern California and eventually signed with the Bulls. He met twice with James and had several other phone calls. DeRozan’s representatives had concerns over whether the Lakers’ front office was on board with the players’ plans, but sources tell The Athletic that Pelinka “strongly considered” a sign-and-trade offer that would have sent Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope to the Spurs. L.A. couldn’t come to an agreement with San Antonio or on a new contract for DeRozan, and the proposed sign-and-trade never advanced to the stage where it was presented to owner Jeanie Buss.
  • The Kings’ front office was left “steaming” over the Lakers’ decision to pull out of the Hield deal. It would have come at a lower cost — only Kuzma and Harrell were needed to match salaries — so the Lakers could have kept Caldwell-Pope and their first-round pick. As an elite three-point shooter, Hield might seem like a more natural fit alongside James and Davis, but the Lakers believe Westbrook will make them a better team in the playoffs.
  • With limited resources to fill out their roster after the trade, both James and Westbrook contacted Carmelo Anthony before the official start of free agency. Anthony was still hoping to hear from the Trail Blazers and ultimately received interest from the Knicks and Sixers, but he opted to join James, who was a longtime friend. The chance to win a title attracted other low-cost veterans such as Trevor ArizaWayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore to what became the league’s oldest team with an average age of 30.9 years.
  • James has always enjoyed close relationships with the veterans on his team and was particularly upset when Dudley wasn’t re-signed. Dudley was 36 and coming off an MCL tear, and the Lakers felt it was important to maximize every roster spot. He was offered other positions with the organization, but opted to become an assistant to Jason Kidd in Dallas.
  • James, Davis and Dudley also talked about Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, but the Lakers didn’t have the assets to land either of them. Sources tell The Athletic that Westbrook tried to convince Beal that they should both ask to be traded out of Washington. Although Beal didn’t agree, he supported Westbrook’s desire to get to L.A. The Lakers’ group also targeted free agent guard Kyle Lowry, who eventually signed with the Heat.
  • The Lakers announced an extension this summer with Frank Vogel to avoid having him enter the season as a lame-duck coach. However, multiple sources told The Athletic that the extension only covers one year, which takes Vogel through the end of the 2022/23 season.
  • Many people in the Lakers’ organization were frustrated by the decision not to compete with the four-year, $37MM offer that Alex Caruso received from the Bulls, per The Athletic. He has become of the NBA’s best role players after starting in the G League, and many believed he was worth what it would have cost to keep him.

Pacific Notes: Davis, Lakers, Moore, Clippers

Add Lakers legend James Worthy to the growing list of people who believe Anthony Davis should play more at center this season. While speaking on Spectrum SportsNet (hat tip TalkBasket), Worthy was adamant about Davis playing at the five, citing a variety of reasons why it would make sense.

“I think initiating Anthony Davis in the post is the best option,” he explained. “I’ve never been one of those players to say ‘I don’t wanna play three, I wanna play four. I wanna play.’ I don’t know what the problem is, maybe who he defends or where he is on the floor. I think the five is a good spot for him. Because other fives don’t have a shot at guarding him.

“You want to make opponents make adjustments. Him at the five shooting three is going to pull Gobert out and they’re going to have to put somebody small on him and he can take advantage of that. I think he needs to look at what position best suits the team and what position best suits how they wanna play before he just says ‘Ahh, one or the other.’”

Giving Davis more minutes at center could also help with the Lakers’ potential floor-spacing issues. The team added Russell Westbrook to its core this offseason, wisely signing shooters such as Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore and Wayne Ellington to fill around its star trio.

There’s more from the Pacific Division today:

  • Speaking of the Lakers, Jovan Buha of The Athletic examined a number of topics related to the team in his latest mailbag, including Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker and more. Buha also examined which new addition (outside of Westbrook) could have the biggest impact on the club this season.
  • New Magic guard E’Twaun Moore had hoped to re-sign with the Suns after reaching the NBA Finals last season, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Moore also believes Phoenix would’ve had a better chance at winning the Finals if he played. “Just being another playmaker,” he said. “Somebody else that can make shots. Somebody else that can handle. Man, I felt like we would’ve gave Milwaukee some problems if I would’ve played. I felt like I could’ve helped us win for sure in the Finals. So, I definitely do wish I played more towards the end of the season and into the playoffs. I ain’t going to lie. I was itching for it.”
  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer recently brought up an interesting point about his team sharing Staples Center with the Lakers, as relayed by Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. “I attended a whole lot of 12:30 p.m. games with sleep-deprived players rubbing bleary eyes in timeouts,” Ballmer said. “Don’t like those 12:30 p.m. games on Saturdays and believe me, in our own building we don’t have to play as many.” Team consultant Jerry West echoed the same sentiment. “The Clippers have been in a great building in Staples but when you are the third tenant in the building, I mean, my goodness, we have the worst schedule every year.” The Clippers held a groundbreaking party on Friday to celebrate the team’s new Intuit Dome arena, which will open in 2024.

Lakers Notes: Rondo, Davis, Lineups, G League

While the Lakers have high hopes for guards Kendrick Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker, both players are relatively young, so the decision to sign Rajon Rondo reflects the team’s desire to hedge its bets in the backcourt, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

Los Angeles may not lean heavily on Rondo, who will turn 36 during the 2021/22 season, but he gives the team a proven backup at the point in case Nunn and Horton-Tucker struggle at all. Rondo is also more of a distributor than Nunn and Horton-Tucker, who are score-first guards, so he could be a better fit in certain lineups and situations.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Within his article on the Rondo signing, Pincus cites a source who says Anthony Davis was frustrated at times last season with the looks he got in the post from Dennis Schröder compared to the ones he got from Rondo the year before. That may have been one factor in the Lakers’ decision to let Schröder walk in free agency.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic identifies five Lakers lineups he’s looking forward to seeing in 2021/22, including a switchable, center-less unit (LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, and Horton-Tucker) and one in which LeBron is surrounded by shooters (Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington, Carmelo Anthony, and Marc Gasol).
  • The South Bay Lakers – Los Angeles’ G League affiliate – officially announced Miles Simon as the team’s head coach for the 2021/22 season. Simon has spent the last four seasons as an assistant on the Lakers’ staff and coached the team’s Summer League squad in 2017 and 2018.

Jared Dudley Had Hoped To Return To Lakers

Veteran NBA forward Jared Dudley appears prepared to retire as a player, having reportedly agreed to become an assistant coach on Jason Kidd‘s Mavericks staff. However, Dudley tells Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times that his first choice this summer would’ve been to return to the Lakers as a player.

“I thought I was coming back to the Lakers,” Dudley said. “This is crazy.”

As Plaschke explains, Dudley would have been willing to accept a non-guaranteed contract, and veteran Lakers like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook wanted him to return (James published a series of tweets expressing his dismay over Dudley’s departure). However, Los Angeles appears to be prioritizing filling out its last couple open roster spots with younger players.

“I talked to (executives) Rob (Pelinka) and Kurt (Rambis), I thanked them, but I told them, ‘You’re valuing youth more than a locker room presence guy,'” Dudley told Plaschke. “I said, ‘I respect you for doing that, but I think you’re wrong.’

“… My job was way more than a locker room presence,” Dudley added. “You’re a guidance counselor, a relationship expert. … I’m the middle-man that brings it all together.”

Even if the Lakers didn’t want to re-sign Dudley as a player, it would have made sense for the team to offer him a spot on its coaching staff. Perhaps Dudley preferred to join Kidd in Dallas, but Plaschke’s story makes it sound as if the Lakers didn’t discuss the possibility of the 36-year-old retiring and becoming a coach.

With Dudley no longer in the picture, the Lakers continue to consider how to fill out the openings on a 15-man roster whose only returning players are James, Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Marc Gasol.

“No one owed me anything, Rob and Kurt were honest and upfront, nothing but respect and gratitude to them and (team owner) Jeanie (Buss), I will be forever thankful for the opportunity they gave me,” Dudley told Plaschke. “But I did want to come back. I did think I could help the team, especially having so many new players, but I understand they wanted to get younger.”

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Lakers, Davis, Hield, Kings

Draymond Green was on board with the Warriors‘ selections at Nos. 7 and 14, according to president of basketball operations Bob Myers, who said Green texted him with the names “(Jonathan) Kuminga” and “(Moses) Moody” a few spots before Golden State was on the clock for each selection (video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic).

Myers also said in his post-draft press conference that the Warriors will need to add some veteran players in free agency. After weeks of rumors that Golden State was looking into trading its lottery picks for veteran contributors, the team ended up using those selections to draft an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old, making a massive bet on its player development program, Slater writes for The Athletic.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • An earlier report indicated that when LeBron James and Anthony Davis spoke to Russell Westbrook about teaming up in Los Angeles, the Lakers‘ stars expressed a willingness to play more at positions they’ve resisted in the past (power forward for James, center for Davis). Jovan Buha of The Athletic confirms (via Twitter) that the plan is, in fact, to have Davis play more minutes at center next season.
  • With his deal to land Westbrook, Lakers president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka provided a reminder that he’s one of the NBA’s “most audacious operators,” says Bill Oram of The Athletic.
  • The Kings, who had been in serious discussions with the Lakers about a Buddy Hield trade, will now have to pivot and explore other options for Hield after L.A. chose to use its assets to acquire Westbrook instead, writes Jason Jones of The Athletic.
  • Kings general manager Monte McNair on Thursday when he used the No. 9 pick to add Davion Mitchell to a crowded backcourt headlined by De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. However, McNair isn’t worried about the positional overlap, as James Ham of NBC Sports California relays. “Best player available and Davion just won a national championship in a three-guard lineup,” McNair said, referring to a Baylor team that featured Mitchell, Jared Butler, and MaCio Teague.