Damian Jones

Lakers Expected To Bring Russell Westbrook Off Bench

The Lakers are expected to bring Russell Westbrook off the bench when he returns to action following a hamstring-related absence, allowing him to be the primary play-maker for the team’s second unit, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Westbrook, who missed Wednesday’s game in Denver, was originally listed as questionable for Friday’s contest in Minnesota, but has since been upgraded to probable, tweets Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group.

Anthony Davis continues to be listed as questionable for Friday due to low back tightness and is considered a game-time decision. If Davis misses the game, that could keep Westbrook in the starting lineup, Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter).

However, Davis did participate in the Lakers’ Friday shootaround. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link), the team used a starting five of Davis, LeBron James, Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker, and Damian Jones during that shootaround.

The Lakers attempted to bring Westbrook off the bench in their preseason finale two weeks ago, but the experiment lasted just five minutes before he left the game due to a hamstring injury. The former MVP later said that he thought not being in the starting lineup was a factor in his injury, since he didn’t have the same pregame routine he has grown accustomed to.

Still, it sounds like the Lakers and head coach Darvin Ham still believe the idea of Westbrook joining the second unit has merit. Even if it doesn’t happen on Friday, it appears L.A. will try it again sooner or later — if it works, the team intends to stick with it for the foreseeable future, per Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

L.A. Notes: Clippers, Coffey, George, Lakers, AD

John Hollinger of The Athletic previews the Clippers for the 2022/23 season, writing that with the league’s deepest roster and stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George back and healthy, they should be among the best teams in the league. Hollinger predicts the Clippers will go 54-28 and finish as the No. 1 seed in the West, but thinks the Warriors have a better shot of making the NBA Finals.

There are a couple of question marks on the roster, even though it’s very deep, especially on the wing. According to Hollinger, the Clips need either John Wall and/or Norman Powell to step up and be a “third star” to complement Leonard and George, with shot creation and getting to the free throw line top priorities.

The other weakness of the roster is center, with only Ivica Zubac as a true five on the 15-man roster. Hollinger thinks it might be a tall order to have Robert Covington play full-time backup center in the regular season, and wonders if the team might use its last standard roster spot on a traditional center.

Here’s more on the two Los Angeles teams:

  • Amir Coffey, a Minnesota native who played college ball for the Golden Gophers, says he fulfilled a lifelong dream by signing a three-year, $11MM contract as a restricted free agent. “It’s a dream come true,” Coffey told Marcus Fuller of The Star Tribune. “Just playing in the league and doing something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a kid. Just putting all that work in and having it pay off is a good feeling.” Coffey had a breakout third season in ’21/22 after spending the bulk of his career on two-way deals, averaging 9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 1.8 on .453/.378/.863 shooting in 69 games (30 starts, 22.7 MPG).
  • George recently sat down for an interview with Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (video link) and discussed a number of topics, including joining forces with Leonard, his health, leadership, recruiting Wall, and more.
  • The Lakers started Patrick Beverley and Austin Reaves in place of Kendrick Nunn and Damian Jones during Wednesday’s preseason game against Phoenix as coach Darvin Ham was taking a look at a small-ball lineup, tweets Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. Star Anthony Davis sat out the game for “precautionary” reasons due to lower back tightness, Goon notes (via Twitter).

Lakers Notes: Ham, Davis, LeBron, Westbrook, D. Jones

Last year’s disappointment for the Lakers began with an 0-6 preseason, and new coach Darvin Ham wants his team to be focused from the start, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Anthony Davis agrees, citing the need to quickly build continuity after an offseason filled with change.

“I think our team got put together a little later than most teams,” Davis said. “New coach. New system. So we’re kind of behind the eight ball, and we’re trying to speed that process up by doing it the right way. Not by skipping steps. And we’ve been doing that. We’ve been having competitive practices, getting up and down. We’re locking in on our stations on offense and defense, and it’s been good.”

Although Ham wants to start winning right away, he hasn’t decided if Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook will play against the Kings in Monday’s preseason opener.

“I mean, if possible, yeah,” Ham said when asked about their status. “We’re gonna sit down (Sunday) as a staff and talk about what the rotation is gonna look like on Monday. But definitely. Definitely.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Free agent addition Damian Jones has only attempted 43 three-point shots in six NBA seasons, but Ham believes he can develop into a reliable long-range shooter, Buha states in the same piece. If Jones does pose an outside shooting threat, it would solve some of the spacing issues for L.A.’s potential starting lineup. “If I’m open and I’m in the corner and they pass it to me, I’m shooting it,” he said. “I’m comfortable shooting there. I’ve been getting a lot of reps in. Throughout the years, my percentages have been getting better as I’m shooting them. So, it’s good.”
  • Lonnie Walker, who has been dealing with an ankle issue, was a full participant in today’s practice, Buha adds. Troy Brown is expected to return to full contact in about a week, and newly signed Dennis Schröder will join the team in a few days.
  • Davis, James and Westbrook want to prove they can co-exist after playing just 21 games together last season, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Ham has installed a new approach to try to make their partnership work. “We have a three-man package, actually a play call, that they’re going thrive in and it involves all three of them,” he said. “I look forward to that being at a very, very high level. And there’s different nuances in it that they can play around with. … I trust all three of those guys.”

California Notes: Lakers, LeBron, Hield, Turner, Klay, DiVincenzo, Mitchell

While it’s still early in training camp, Lakers first-year coach Darvin Ham revealed a surprise starting lineup he’s been using in practices, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. The group around Anthony Davis and LeBron James includes Russell Westbrook, Damian Jones and Kendrick Nunn. Westbrook has heard his name mentioned often in trade rumors, Jones has never been a regular starter in the league, and Nunn missed all of last season due to injury.

James plans to play more often this preseason, when he only saw action in two games, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

We have more from the California teams:

  • The Pacers would almost certainly trade Buddy Hield and Myles Turner to the Lakers if Los Angeles is willing to include its 2027 and 2029 first-rounders without any protections, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on the Lowe Post podcast (hat tip to HoopsHype). “My best intel right now is if the Lakers called Indiana right now and said ‘Both picks unprotected,’ the Pacers would do that deal, would probably do that deal.”
  • Klay Thompson was held out of playing in Tokyo this week because he didn’t do any scrimmaging this offseason after the Warriors won the title, according to Kendra Andrews of ESPN. “I didn’t play much this summer,” Thompson said. “With what I went through the last summer, I was healthy, popping my Achilles, it was really hard for me to get out of it, mentally. It’s hard to explain. It’s a mental block or something.”
  • During the preseason opener in Tokyo, Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo played 17 minutes off the bench, contributing nine points, seven rebounds and two assists. He also didn’t commit any fouls or turnovers. Those types of contributions are why the Warriors added him, Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. DiVincenzo signed a two-year, $9.3MM contract early in free agency.
  • Davion Mitchell‘s defensive prowess, paired with his budding talent as a creator, could lead to a breakout season for the Kings’ second-year guard, Ethan Fuller of Basketball News writes.

Pacific Notes: Iguodala, Rollins, Lakers, Murray, Clippers

The Warriors only have 11 players on standard contracts so far, leaving at least three openings on their projected regular season roster. According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, it’s possible one of those spots will be filled by Andre Iguodala.

Golden State hasn’t set any sort of deadline for Iguodala to make a decision on whether or not he wants to continue his playing career, so there will be a roster spot available for him if he decides he wants to continue playing, Slater explains.

Second-round pick Ryan Rollins also appears likely to claim one of the 15-man roster spots. He has a stress fracture in his foot, but Slater says there’s a belief he should be ready to go by training camp and he’ll likely receive a standard contract rather than a two-way deal.

Quinndary Weatherspoon, who received a two-way qualifying offer from the Warriors, is another player to watch, according to Slater, though he says the team’s preference would be to keep Weatherspoon on a two-way contract rather than a standard deal.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • While some rival scouts and executives questioned the Lakers‘ decision to use their taxpayer mid-level exception on Lonnie Walker and didn’t love the signing of Troy Brown, the general reaction to the team’s free agency moves has been positive, says Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. In particular, Los Angeles received “high marks” for getting centers Thomas Bryant and Damian Jones on minimum-salary contracts, according to Woike.
  • In an episode of The Void Podcast, Kevin O’Connor, J. Kyle Mann, and Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer make the case that the Kings made the right choice picking Keegan Murray over Jaden Ivey, suggesting that Murray is an ideal fit for Sacramento’s roster.
  • The contracts signed by Moses Brown, Jay Scrubb, and Xavier Moon with the Clippers are all Exhibit 10 deals, Hoops Rumors has learned. That means they’re one-year, non-guaranteed minimum-salary contracts which won’t count against the cap unless the player makes the regular season roster.

Lakers Officially Sign Jones, Brown, Toscano-Anderson

The Lakers have officially completed three signings, according to a team press release. The trio of players are center Damian Jones, wing Troy Brown and wing Juan Toscano-Anderson.

Jones, Brown and Toscano-Anderson were all signed to minimum-salary contracts. Both Brown and JTA received one-year deals, while Jones got a two-year deal with a player option.

Jones, 27, had a solid season with the Kings in 2021/22 after struggling to find a standard roster spot in ’20/21. In 56 games this season (18.2 MPG), Jones averaged 8.1 PPG and 4.4 RPG while shooting 65.8% from the field and 71.8% from the line.

Brown, 22, was the 15th pick of the 2018 draft and spent his first two-plus seasons with Washington before being traded to Chicago last year. The Bulls declined his qualifying offer after he struggled to make an impact this season, averaging 4.3 PPG and 3.1 RPG on .419/.353/.769 shooting in 66 games (16 MPG).

Toscano-Anderson, 29, spent the last three seasons with the Warriors and recently won a title. In 73 games (13.6 MPG) in ’21/22, he averaged 4.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG and 1.7 APG on .489/.322/.571 shooting.

Because the three players are on minimum contracts, the deals can be completed before the transaction moratorium ends on July 6.

Lakers To Sign Lonnie Walker, Damian Jones, Troy Brown Jr.

The Lakers are signing Lonnie Walker to a one-year, $6.5MM deal, Damian Jones to a two-year, minimum-salary deal with a player option, and Troy Brown Jr. to a minimum deal, according reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (All Twitter links here). Brown’s contract is for one year, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Walker, 23, was the 18th pick of the 2018 draft and spent his first four seasons with the Spurs. He’s a very athletic guard and has shown glimpses of potential, but struggled with efficiency last season (.407/.314/.784 shooting line).

In 70 games (23 MPG) with San Antonio last season, Walker averaged 12.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 2.2 APG. The Spurs decided to withdraw his qualifying offer just before free agency opened, making him unrestricted and free to sign with any team. The move wasn’t very surprising considering the Spurs were better with him off the court (+2.1 net rating) than on it (-3.0), so he’ll be looking to build up his value in Los Angeles after an up-and-down tenure in San Antonio.

Jones, who turns 27 today, had a solid season with the Kings in 2021/22 after struggling to find a standard roster spot in ’20/21. In 56 games this season (18.2 MPG), Jones averaged 8.1 PPG and 4.4 RPG while shooting 65.8% from the field and 71.8% from the line.

After being drafted 30th overall in 2016 by the Warriors, Jones spent his first three seasons with Golden State but struggled to find a consistent role. He’s long and athletic, but was raw coming out of college. He made stops in Atlanta, Phoenix and L.A. from 2019-21 before landing with Sacramento, where he developed into a solid backup center.

Brown, 22, was the 15th pick of the 2018 draft and spent his first two-plus seasons with Washington before being traded to Chicago last year. The Bulls declined his qualifying offer after he struggled to make an impact this season, averaging 4.3 PPG and 3.1 RPG on .419/.353/.769 shooting in 66 games (16 MPG).

By using the taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Walker, the Lakers will be limited to a minimum contract for Max Christie, whom the team selected with the 35th pick of the draft last week. Christie’s deal will be limited to two years, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks relays (via Twitter).

Otto Porter, Gary Harris, T.J. Warren Among Lakers’ Potential FA Targets

The Lakers‘ options on the free agent market this week will likely be limited, since the team will only be able to offer the $6.5MM taxpayer mid-level exception or a minimum-salary contract to potential targets. However, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes, the team will still aim high, hoping to sell players on the opportunity to start and the ability to increase their stock with a strong year in Los Angeles, like Malik Monk did in 2021/22.

According to Buha, youth, length, athleticism, and shooting are among the traits the Lakers will be prioritizing. Two-way wings who could come in and potentially start alongside Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook will be a priority, sources tell The Athletic.

Here are some details on the types of players the Lakers will be eyeing in free agency:

Kings Notes: Gentry, Jones, Metu, Mitchell

Alvin Gentry will likely coach his final game with the Kings today, but he didn’t want to talk about his future Saturday night, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. In a pre-game meeting with reporters, Gentry brushed aside the topic when asked if he wants to remain with the organization beyond this season.

“I’ve not talked to anybody about that and I’m sure that’s going to come quickly after the season is over, so I’ll leave it at that,” Gentry said. “I’m sure that’s something that’s going to happen pretty quickly after the season.”

Gentry, who started the season as the team’s associate head coach, was promoted to interim coach in November when Sacramento decided to fire Luke Walton 17 games into the season. Gentry was previously able to remain as head coach of the Pistons and Suns after taking over those teams on an interim basis, but it doesn’t appear that will happen with the Kings, who are reportedly looking at established names such as Mike D’Antoni and Terry Stotts, among others.

There’s more from Sacramento:

  • More changes are expected after another losing season, and they could include Damian Jones, who is headed for free agency after spending his first full season with the Kings. The 26-year-old center played 55 games this year, starting 14, and averaged a career-high 7.9 points per night. “We’ll see what happens in the summer,” he said Saturday when asked about his free agent plans. “… I’ve gained more chemistry with the guys and we see eye-to-eye on some things, so we’ll see what happens when that time comes.” (Twitter link from Anderson)
  • Chimezie Metu is also uncertain about his future, tweets James Ham of ESPN 1320. Metu became a regular part of a rotation this season for the first time in his four-year NBA career, playing 59 games and averaging 8.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per night. However, his $1.91MM contract for next season is non-guaranteed. “The one thing I learned about this league really fast is that situations can change really fast,” Metu said. “You can’t fall in love with your situation, whether it’s good or bad. Wherever I end up, whether it’s here, another team, it is what it is.”
  • Losing has been an adjustment for Davion Mitchell, who won an NCAA title last season at Baylor, but he believes things are going to improve, Anderson adds in a separate story. Before setting the franchise mark for assists by a rookie in a single game earlier this week, Mitchell addressed Sacramento fans and promised, “This offseason we’re going to get better and make you guys proud.”

COVID Updates: Porzingis, Chriss, Kidd, Jones

Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols and is listed as a probable starter on Saturday. However, it’s not certain he will play, since Dallas has always been cautious regarding Porzingis’ health and he hasn’t practiced for a couple of weeks, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News notes (Twitter links). Porzingis, who is averaging 20.6 PPG and 8.0 RPG, hasn’t played since New Year’s Eve.

We have more COVID-19 related news:

  • Marquese Chriss will remain with the Mavericks but will be inactive with Porzingis off the protocols list, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. The Mavs will look at their options to create roster spot for Chriss after his latest 10-day contract under the hardship exception expires on January 20. Chriss is averaging 6.8 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 12 games with the Mavs.
  • Dallas coach Jason Kidd is also out of protocols and will return to the bench when the team faces Orlando, Townsend tweets.
  • Kings big man Damian Jones has cleared the protocols, James Ham of The Kings Beat tweets. He made his last appearance on January 7 and is now reconditioning.