Austin Reaves

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Klutch, Carmelo, Offseason

The Lakers‘ front office is internally blaming pressure from Klutch Sports Group for last summer’s acquisition of Russell Westbrook, multiple sources tell Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

As has been reported by several outlets since last August, Klutch clients LeBron James and Anthony Davis played a part in recruiting Westbrook, helping convince the Lakers to go after the former MVP instead of trying to sign-and-trade for DeMar DeRozan or acquire Buddy Hield from Sacramento.

Still, while James, Davis, and their agency may have had a hand in the Westbrook trade, VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and the rest of the Lakers’ front office ultimately had the final say. Pincus, who suggests that assigning the blame to Klutch Sports “may be an epic level of passing the buck,” writes that NBA front offices should consider their stars’ input but that the top basketball executives are responsible for making the decisions they feel are best for the team.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

California Notes: Lakers, Holmes, Draymond, Clippers

The struggling 29-39 Lakers, winners of just two of their last ten games, are looking to the future, encouraged by the development of some of their youngsters, writes Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register.

Though the Los Angeles front office mostly opted to build its new-look roster around older veterans this summer, a handful of younger role players have emerged around 37-year-old All-Star forward LeBron James this season.

24-year-old guard Malik Monk and 23-year-old rookie wing Austin Reaves, alongside 25-year-old forward Stanley Johnson, have emerged as three of the Lakers’ more reliable players who may have yet to hit their ceilings. 21-year-old swingman Talen Horton-Tucker remains an intriguing option as well, though he has underperformed relative to his new three-year, $32MM contract this season.

“They’ve continued to improve and get better and more comfortable in our system, in our environment,” head coach Frank Vogel said of the Lakers’ youth movement. “Malik, Austin and Talen. That trio is another reason amongst others why I believe we have a chance.”

There’s more out of California:

  • The NBA has fined Kings big man Richaun Holmes to the tune of $25K after he threw a basketball into the crowd during a 134-125 loss to the Jazz on March 12, per a league press release (Twitter link). Holmes was ejected from the game at the time of the incident. It shouldn’t make too big of a dent in his wallet — the 28-year-old is in the first season of a lucrative new four-year, $46.5MM contract he signed with Sacramento during the 2021 offseason.
  • Despite being inactive for the last 30 Warriors contests this season due to a nagging back injury, All-Star power forward Draymond Green remains convinced he can still win his second Defensive Player of the Year Award this season, per Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area“Yeah, I’ve seen guys win with not many more games than I’m gonna play,” Green said. “I don’t know what league everybody else has been watching, but I have not seen anyone solidify themselves as Defensive Player of the Year.” Johnson notes that, should Green be available for all 13 remaining Warriors games during the 2021/22 regular season, he will only have suited up for 48 total this year.
  • With a 36-35 record, the eighth-seeded Clippers are six games behind the sixth-seeded Nuggets in the Western Conference. L.A. has just 11 games left on its regular season slate. The team has little to no chance of avoiding the play-in tournament at this point of the year, barring a collapse from both the Nuggets and the 40-30 seventh seed, the Timberwolves. The team is also a whopping 5.5 games ahead of the ninth-seeded Lakers. Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register examines how the Clippers intend to operate down the home stretch of the season given the reality of their seeding. “We’ll get a chance to experiment with our small lineup, which we gotta get better at once we get everyone healthy and get everyone back and then kinda see how that plays out, head coach Tyronn Lue said. Lue also intends to work through after-timeout plays, with an emphasis on helping shooting guard Luke Kennard improve his timing off screens.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Westbrook, AD, Vogel, Reaves

Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James has to live with the consequences of the disastrous Russell Westbrook trade he pushed his team’s front office to make, opines Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Goodwill writes that, whether James cooked up the Westbrook deal or merely advocated for it, his interest in the idea ultimately compelled Los Angeles team president Rob Pelinka to pull the trigger, and the team is now struggling to stay afloat, currently the ninth seed in the West.

After the team used many of its remaining assets to acquire Westbrook from the Wizards and opted not to re-sign stellar defensive guard Alex Caruso over the summer, it had its hands tied at the trade deadline this past Thursday, ultimately deciding to stand pat. Beyond the maximum salaries of James, the tough-to-trade Westbrook, and big man Anthony Davis, the Lakers had just two players, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn, making more than the veteran’s minimum. Horton-Tucker has struggled in an expanded role, while the injured Nunn has yet to play a single game with L.A.

There’s more out of Lakerland:

  • Lakers star big man Anthony Davis discussed his sense of relief following the trade deadline, now that the team knows its personnel heading towards the end of the season. “[The deadline passing] lifted weight off the [team’s] shoulders,” Davis said, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). “This is our team, let’s go.”
  • Following the Lakers’ inactive trade deadline, Los Angeles head coach Frank Vogel also expressed optimism for the home stretch of the 2021/22 season, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN“It’s a new day,” Vogel said. “I think there’s just a natural reset energy to our group, knowing that the trade deadline has passed. This is the group that we put together to start the year. This is a group we believe in.” That group has led the Lakers, currently on a three-game losing streak, to a 26-31 record and the ninth seed in the Western Conference.
  • One of the lone bright spots in this disappointing Lakers season has been the play of rookie shooting guard Austin Reaves, who has emerged as a reliable bench contributor on both ends of the court. Reaves initially signed a two-way contract with the Lakers after going undrafted out of Oklahoma this summer, then saw that deal converted to a standard NBA contract before the start of the season. The 23-year-old has emerged as a clutch role player of late, as Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times details. “He’s got a great computer to process help and see whether if he’s going to shoot or whether he’s going to make the extra pass and obviously he’s got a lot of guts to make big shots,” Frank Vogel said. “And he really competes on the defensive end and has a good IQ down on that end.” LeBron James also raved about the youngster: “Nothing has impressed me anymore on Austin. He’s made big plays over and over offensively and defensively.” In 21.1 MPG, Reaves is averaging 6.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 1.3 APG, and has supplanted veterans like Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore in L.A.’s perimeter rotation.

Los Angeles Notes: Lakers Injuries, Reaves, Clippers, Kennard

The 24-26 Lakers are struggling to develop consistent chemistry due to injuries across the board, but most importantly to All-Stars LeBron James (currently out with a swollen knee) and Anthony Davis (recently back in the lineup after missing much of the season with knee and wrist injuries), as Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes.

Though starting point guard Russell Westbrook has begun to improve his scoring (if not his late-game decision-making), the absences of Davis and the 37-year-old James have made for choppy waters. The team has also not seen its fifth highest-paid player, Kendrick Nunn, since the preseason.

“It’s a long season; I wouldn’t count this team out,” head coach Frank Vogel said on the West’s current ninth seed.. “[We] have a belief in what we can be when all of the pieces finally come together and have a chance to jell. We’ve seen it in different bursts.”

There’s more out of the City of Angels:

  • Lakers rookie shooting guard Austin Reaves has been one of the few bright spots during what has been an otherwise largely underwhelming season for L.A., opines Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. “He’s doing a great job of learning and adjusting,” future Hall-of-Famer teammate Carmelo Anthony raved. “And figuring out, ‘OK, if I don’t have the ball in my hands, back cut, offensive rebound, loose balls.’ He’s been doing a great job with doing that, and crashing from the weak side, getting tip-outs, diving on the floor for loose balls, taking charges, getting hit in his face. It seems like he gets hit every play down the court.” The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma is averaging a fairly modest 5.9 PPG and 2.7 RPG, with .467/.316/.850 shooting splits, but the numbers belie his impact as a defender and as an occasional scoring option off the bench.
  • A depleted Clippers team missing perennial All-Star forwards Paul George and Kawhi Leonard has managed to find a way to recover from disadvantages of 20 or more points in three January games. Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register notes that the exhausted 25-26 club is in the midst of an epic eight-game road trip.
  • Clippers reserve long-range marksman Luke Kennard is interested in being considered for NBA All-Star Weekend’s three-point contest, writes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. He has the support of his head coach. “I think he would do great,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. The 6’5″ vet is currently the third-best three-point shooter in the NBA by percentage, making 43.9% of his 2.8 triples a night.

Dean Wade, Two Lakers To Receive Full Salary Guarantees

The Cavaliers intend to retain forward Dean Wade through the salary guarantee deadline, ensuring that he receives his full-season salary, sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). The decision will lock in Wade’s $1,782,621 cap hit for 2021/22.

Wade, 25, is in his third season with the Cavs. He has been a regular rotation player for much of this season, averaging 5.1 PPG and 3.5 RPG on .432/.329/.769 shooting in 28 games (20.3 MPG). Assuming he finishes the season in Cleveland, the team will have to decide whether or not to pick up his $1,930,681 team option for ’22/23.

A pair of Lakers players will also have their salaries for this season become fully guaranteed, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that guards Austin Reaves and Avery Bradley will remain with the team.

An undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma, Reaves initially signed a two-way contract with the Lakers, then was promoted to the standard roster prior to training camp. He has appeared in 20 games so far, recording 5.6 PPG and 2.5 RPG on .494/.370/.900 shooting in 20.3 MPG. His rookie-minimum salary of $925,258 will now be fully guaranteed, while his ’22/23 salary ($1,563,518) remains non-guaranteed.

Bradley initially signed with Golden State during the offseason, then was claimed off waivers by the Lakers in October after the Warriors cut him. He has been a crucial part of Los Angeles’ backcourt rotation, starting 26 games and averaging 23.8 MPG in 31 total contests. He has put up 6.4 PPG on .425/.394/1.000 shooting while playing solid perimeter defense. He’ll now earn his full $2,641,691 salary, while the Lakers lock in his $1,669,178 cap hit.

Despite hanging onto both Reaves and Bradley, the Lakers still have an open spot on their 15-man roster, having recently traded away Rajon Rondo.

The remaining players on non-guaranteed contracts can be found right here. At least of the players on that list – Jabari Parker and Miye Oni – are reportedly being waived.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Reaves, Nunn, Monk, Bradley

The Lakers exhibited some “covert interest” in discussing a possible Russell Westbrook trade with rival executives earlier in the season, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Amick is the second reporter in the last month to suggest the Lakers have considered the possibility of a Westbrook trade. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report previously stated that the team had internally discussed the idea and made at least one outgoing call.

Still, as Fischer pointed out in December and as Amick reiterated today, the odds of the Lakers actually making a pre-deadline deal involving Westbrook are slim. His contract, which includes a $44MM+ cap hit for this season and a $47MM+ player option for 2022/23, remains a significant obstacle.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Rookie guard Austin Reaves originally entered the Lakers’ rotation out of necessity, but even with a healthier roster, head coach Frank Vogel has felt compelled to keep playing him, writes Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. “Me trusting him was more brought onto me because he was forced into action due to injuries,” Vogel said. “You get shorthanded and it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s see what he can do.’ And he excelled in those opportunities to the point where when other guys came back, we still wanted to keep him in there.” Reaves’ 2021/22 salary will become fully guaranteed if he remains on the roster through Friday.
  • Within the same story, Goon writes that Kendrick Nunn may finally be nearing a return. Vogel cautioned there’s still no precise timetable, but said Nunn is “getting close” to make his Lakers debut. “Kendrick’s going to get a ton of minutes when he gets back healthy,” Vogel said. “It’s gonna be at the expense of somebody else, at least for that time being, to see how he fits in our system along with our stars. All that stuff will play out.”
  • Following Malik Monk‘s sixth consecutive strong showing on Tuesday night, LeBron James said the Lakers wanted Monk “last year” before eventually signing him over the summer as a free agent. As Bill Oram of The Athletic tweets, James explained that he wanted to find a way to get the former lottery pick to Los Angeles back when his role in Charlotte was inconsistent.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic explores the Lakers’ options for bringing back Stanley Johnson and suggests that Avery Bradley will likely have his 2021/22 salary guaranteed later this week.

COVID-19 Updates: Mavs, B. Boston, Cacok, Lakers, C. Thomas

The Mavericks have placed center Boban Marjanovic and guard Brandon Knight – who signed a hardship deal last week – in the health and safety protocols, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Marjanovic and Knight are the sixth and seventh Dallas players currently in the protocols.

As we noted earlier today, the Mavericks reportedly reached an agreement to sign Isaiah Thomas, who will be the team’s seventh replacement player. If Dallas had just five players in the protocols, the team wouldn’t be able to make another hardship signing, so the fact that Marjanovic and Knight are now in the protocols helps explain the Thomas deal.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the league:

  • Clippers rookie Brandon Boston Jr. has entered the health and safety protocols, the team announced today. Boston had been playing an increased role as of late with the Clippers shorthanded, averaging 19.6 MPG in 13 games this month.
  • Spurs two-way big man Devontae Cacok has joined teammate Dejounte Murray in the COVID-19 protocols, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). They’re the only two San Antonio players affected for now.
  • Lakers guards Austin Reaves and Kent Bazemore have cleared the protocols, tweets Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. They won’t be with the team in Memphis tonight, but should be available by Friday’s home game vs. Portland.
  • Nets rookie guard Cam Thomas has exited the protocols and is available, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

COVID/Injury Notes: Reaves, Hauser, Carter Jr., Birch, Bulls

Rookies Austin Reaves and Sam Hauser have entered the health and safety protocols for the Lakers and Celtics, respectively, according to Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group and Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter links).

If Reaves and Hauser tested positive for COVID-19, they’ll be out for the next 10 days or until they record two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Reaves has been a semi-regular member of the Lakers’ rotation, appearing in 17 games (19.7 minutes per game) with averages of 5.8 points and 2.5 rebounds on .500/.390/.882 shooting. He hit a memorable game-winning three-pointer in overtime against Dallas Wednesday.

Hauser is on a two-way deal with the Celtics and has appeared in just seven total minutes across three NBA games. He’s been a regular for Boston’s G League affiliate, the Maine Celtics, averaging 16.9 points and 5 rebounds on .487/.433/.917 shooting in 10 games (33.5 MPG).

Here are some more COVID-19 and injury-related notes:

  • Magic big man Wendell Carter Jr. was injured Friday night against Miami, suffering what the team called a right lower leg injury, per a team PR announcement (via Twitter). He missed the remainder of the game and will undergo further evaluation, the team adds. Hopefully it’s not a serious injury for both player and team, as the Magic already have several injured and/or COVID-afflicted players.
  • Khem Birch could return for the Raptors on Monday, according to Josh Lewenberg of (Twitter link). Birch has been suffering from a bone bruise which still isn’t 100% healed yet, and says he’ll likely have to deal with it the throughout the season, Lewenberg relays.
  • The Bulls will be able to practice on Saturday for their first official team activity in a week, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago relays (Twitter links). They’ve had several players in the league’s health and safety protocols over the past couple weeks, but a few, including DeMar DeRozan, have returned recently. Two of their games were postponed this week due to the outbreak.

Lakers’ Austin Reaves Out At Least Two Weeks

Lakers guard Austin Reaves will miss at least the next two weeks due to a strained left hamstring, the team announced today, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link).

Reaves was ruled out of Wednesday’s game vs. Miami with what Vogel referred to as a “mild” day-to-day hamstring injury. However, it appears the issue is more significant than initially believed.

Reaves, 23, signed a two-way contract with the Lakers this summer after going undrafted out of Oklahoma. He made a strong early impression on the franchise, first earning a promotion to the 15-man roster, then carving out a rotation role early in the season. In his first 10 NBA games, the 6’5″ guard has put up 6.1 PPG and 2.0 RPG on .478/.321/1.000 shooting in 21.3 minutes per contest.

Of course, Reaves likely wouldn’t have seen much action at all if not for all the other injuries the Lakers have dealt with this fall. Trevor Ariza (ankle), Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb), and Kendrick Nunn (knee) have yet to play at all, and LeBron James (abdominal strain) has missed the last four games.

Reaves isn’t even the first Laker to battle a hamstring issue — Wayne Ellington‘s debut was delayed due to a hamstring strain, while a hamstring ailment sidelined Rajon Rondo for Wednesday’s game.

Russell Westbrook, Avery Bradley, and Malik Monk all saw big minutes on Wednesday in L.A.’s backcourt, with Ellington playing a role as well. In Reaves’ absence, the Lakers will likely continue to lean on those vets.

Lakers Notes: Vogel, Westbrook, Reaves, Ellington

Lakers coach Frank Vogel believes fans and the media are overreacting to an 0-2 start, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. Friday night was particularly bad for L.A. as the team was blown out by the Suns in a game that saw Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard get into a sideline altercation, Rajon Rondo have a dispute with a courtside fan, and Vogel receive a technical foul after running onto the court to question a call.

“We’re just disappointed that we’re not winning, that’s all,” Vogel said. “Look, these are some of the greatest players ever to play because of their competitive spirit. If you don’t win, there’s going to be frustration. That’s what makes them great.”

The Lakers are still learning to play together after having the largest roster turnover in the league during the offseason, with just three players remaining from last year’s team. They added a group of former All-Stars, but there are concerns that the roster is too old and doesn’t fit well together. Oram suggests that Friday’s performance reflects a lack of discipline as well.

“I think that can get overly blown when you lose a game,” LeBron James told reporters. “You have some techs here, you see an altercation. You start saying, ‘OK, these guys are ultimately … the whole thing’s frustration.’ Well, we’re competitors. If you don’t get mad at certain things on the floor that you feel like you should have done better, then what are you here for?”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Russell Westbrook was significantly better on Friday than he was in the season opener, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Westbrook put up familiar statistics with 15 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists and was able to drive to the rim several times. L.A. played without a center for part of the fourth quarter, and Buha expects Vogel to continue to experiment with lineups to find the best combination to go with Westbrook.
  • Austin Reaves helped the Lakers rally in the fourth quarter and is making a bid to be part of the regular rotation, Buha adds. The rookie guard gives the offense another play-maker and a three-point threat. “We’re learning about our team,” Vogel said. “Gave some of the other wings a chance, the first chance. Weren’t getting much done as a group in the first three quarters, and as a coach, when you’re down big, you try to change the game with a small lineup and a different guy at the wing. And Austin came in and played really well.”
  • Wayne Ellington‘s season debut will be delayed at least one more game, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Ellington has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest with a strained hamstring, but the team hopes he’ll be available sometime during the coming week.