Ivica Zubac

O’Connor’s Latest: Durant, Clippers, Kawhi, Gallinari

As we’ve mentioned multiple times throughout the 2018/19 NBA league year, there’s a widespread belief among people around the NBA that Kevin Durant will leave the Warriors for the Knicks in free agency. However, uncertainty about Durant’s future has increased in recent months, Kevin O’Connor writes in his latest article for The Ringer.

As O’Connor explains, Durant seems more likely to go to the Knicks if Kyrie Irving goes with him, and there’s no guarantee that Irving will leave the Celtics, given how well things have gone in Boston over the last several weeks. LeBron James‘ struggles during his first year as a Laker could also serve as a cautionary tale for Durant.

One front office executive who spoke to O’Connor suggests that everything should be considered on the table for Durant, since the Warriors forward has proven to be unpredictable in the past.

O’Connor’s piece, which focuses primarily on the Clippers, features a few more items of note, so let’s round them up…

  • The Clippers continue to be viewed as the more likely destination than the Lakers if Kawhi Leonard decides to return home to Southern California, though O’Connor writes that it would be “foolish” to rule out the Lakers.
  • The odds of both Durant and Leonard joining the Clippers are slim, but the team could theoretically make it happen based on its cap situation. As O’Connor details, if the Clippers trade Danilo Gallinari and renounce all their free agents except Ivica Zubac, they’d have more than enough room for two max contracts, and would be able to go over the cap to re-sign Zubac.
  • Of course, in that scenario, the Clippers wouldn’t be able to take money back for Gallinari, which would limit their potential trade partners. Still, O’Connor has spoken to front office executives who don’t think it’d be too challenging to find a deal for Gallinari, especially if the Clips are willing to attach a future pick. O’Connor cites the Nets, Mavericks, Hawks, Jazz, and Pacers as a few teams that might be fits for the veteran forward in that scenario.

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.”

Details On The Failed KCP-Jabari Parker Swap

The Lakers had a tentative deal in place earlier this season to acquire Jabari Parker and send Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Beasley to the Bulls, a source tell Bill Oram of The Athletic. ESPN previously reported that the two teams discussed swapping Parker and KCP.

Caldwell-Pope would have had to agree to the deal, since he re-signed with the Lakers on a one-year contract, giving him the right to veto any trade. The deal was not signed off over the weekend leading up to Anthony Davis‘ public trade request and the Bulls were stuck in limbo for several days. Many within the league viewed Davis’ request as a call for the Lakers to trade for him. The Bulls subscribed to that notion and moved onto other trade discussions.

Parker was eventually sent to the Wizards in the Otto Porter Jr. deal, while KCP remains on the Lakers’ roster. Beasley was dealt to the Clippers along with Ivica Zubac and ultimately waived.

In Beasley’s case, the deal can partially be attributed to a locker room flair-up with coach Luke Walton. Walton wanted Beasley to play more unselfishly; Beasley, along with teammate JaVale McGee, challenged the request.

The Lakers ended up netting Mike Muscala in the Beasley-Zubac trade. Team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka had watched Muscala score 17 points during a spirited Sixers win over the Lakers just days prior and some within the league believe that single performance inspired the front office to make the deal.

Lakers Rumors: Zubac, LeBron, Butler, PG13, Randle

The Lakers‘ decision to trade Ivica Zubac to the Clippers in a deal for Mike Muscala was one of the more questionable deadline moves last month. To make matter worse, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes that the Lakers actually instigated those trade discussions.

Sources tell McMenamin that the Clippers never inquired on Zubac, and that it was the Lakers who made the offer, which the Clips “gladly accepted.” Veteran Clippers executive Jerry West “couldn’t believe how Zubac fell into his lap,” McMenamin writes.

The Lakers had hoped the roster spot they opened up in that swap – which also included Michael Beasley – would clear the way for the team to sign a player like Wayne Ellington, DeAndre Jordan, or Enes Kanter on the buyout market, per McMenamin. However, those players either chose other teams or never became available.

McMenamin’s latest article for ESPN digs into the Lakers’ disappointing season in detail, and includes several more noteworthy tidbits. Here are the highlights from the piece:

  • One team source tells McMenamin that they felt as if LeBron James didn’t fully engage with his younger teammates prior to the trade deadline.
  • Rajon Rondo organized a players-only meeting about a month ago in the hopes that the team would find “a better understanding of one another,” a source tells McMenamin. Players spoke up about LeBron’s “inconsistent body language,” and James took the criticism to heart, making an effort to improve on that going forward. Of course, the meeting hasn’t led to improved on-court results. “Just because [the meeting] was positive doesn’t mean we’re going to win 25 games in a row,” a team source told McMenamin.
  • Anthony Davis‘ name didn’t come up last summer when James met with Magic Johnson on the eve of free agency and discussed future plans. However, it has been clear all year that the Lakers intend to pair LeBron with a second maximum-salary free agent. L.A. was one of several teams to inquire on Jimmy Butler before he was sent to Philadelphia last fall, McMenamin reports.
  • Paul George‘s decision to stay in Oklahoma City last offseason was more about what the Thunder did right than what the Lakers did wrong, sources tell McMenamin. Still, it’s worth noting that George was somewhat familiar with how the Lakers ran things, having spoken to his agent Aaron Mintz and former teammate Corey Brewer about their experiences with the organization.
  • Mintz represents Julius Randle, who never received an offer from the Lakers as a restricted free agency last July, per McMenamin. Randle ultimately signed with the Pelicans because he felt like they really wanted him, which wasn’t a feeling he got from the Lakers, despite the fact that head coach Luke Walton and his staff hoped he’d be back, McMenamin writes.

Los Angeles Notes: Davis, Clippers, Ingram, Zubac

The Lakers and Pelicans paused trade discussions centered around Anthony Davis once the February 7 deadline arrived, but the sides could choose to circle back and open new discussions once the regular season comes to an end.

New Orleans fired general manager Dell Demps and is expected to ramp up its search for a new GM in the coming weeks, someone who will likely assist in moving Davis to a new team this upcoming offseason.

“We get off the phone with (the Lakers), and a minute later, offers are out there,” one Pelicans source told The Athletic’s Shams Charania around the trade deadline.

The Pelicans believed the Lakers were negotiating through the media, coupled with the fact that Davis’ agent Rich Paul — who also represents Lakers star LeBron James — delivered his client’s trade request just months after signing him to his agency. New Orleans’ management was clearly angered by these tactics, and it’s unclear if they’ll even consider moving Davis to Los Angeles this summer.

“I have been told that there’s no way Anthony Davis is coming here (to the Lakers), through the Pelicans,” ESPN’s Marc Spears said this week, as relayed by Dan Feldman of NBC Sports. “They’re just not going to do it.”

The Celtics would likely be considered front-runners to land Davis if they choose to pursue the NBA All-Star, owning a collection of young talent, future picks and promising assets to offer in a deal. Davis has averaged 26.5 points and 12.2 rebounds in 53 games this season.

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler are going through an adjustment process in their first full month with the Clippers, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. All three players were acquired by the team via trade in February, with each player holding multiple years of NBA experience.
  • Andre Ingram is once again taking the stage in his new deal with the Lakers, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Ingram has spent the past 11 seasons in the NBA G League, inking a 10-day contract with Los Angeles this week after briefly shining with the team last spring. “Last year was amazing, but this year, it means a little more,” Ingram said. “This is not just an Andre Ingram Day, it’s a Los Angeles Lakers game that you need to win, and this trip will be a good one to get some wins on. So that’s really the focus, genuinely to help the team win any way I can, whatever part I play in it.”
  • The rim protection of Ivica Zubac has helped the Clippers drastically improve on defense, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. The Clippers acquired Zubac, an underrated two-way center, in a trade with the Lakers last month. “We have a rim-protector. Bottom line,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Trezz [Montrezl Harrell] does it at times. But Zu is a true rim-protector, and Zu has been great at it. So that’s why (we’ve improved).”

Pacific Notes: Zubac, Fox, Lakers’ Issues, Free Agency

Young center Ivica Zubac has kept close tabs on his former team and says he could have made a difference for the Lakers if they hadn’t dealt him, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register reports. Zubac was a part of the deal that landed brought power forward Mike Muscala to the Lakers. Zubac has averaged 8.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG in nine games as the Clippers’ starting center. “I’ve been watching almost every game,” Zubac said. “I feel like every time I watch them, I’m like, ‘If I was there, I would help them. I would definitely make a difference on the floor,’ you know? But they’re not my team anymore.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The longtime trainer of Kings guard De’Aaron Fox is now his agent, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Chris Gaston is newly certified as an agent and has launched the “Family First Sports Firm.” Knicks guard Damyean Dotson has also hired Gaston to co-represent him, Haynes adds.
  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and members of the front office believe that rival teams have taken great pains to cause internal damage to the franchise, a knowledgeable source told Sam Amick of The Athletic. President of basketball operations Magic Johnson felt the Pelicans didn’t negotiate in good faith during Anthony Davis discussions, Amick notes. The fact that specific trade packages were being reported throughout the process gives credence to those suspicions that other teams want to cause the Lakers grief.
  • While the Lakers could trade for Davis and/or land a top free agent, it’s also quite possible that they will strike out in those endeavors, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report writes. The future holds nothing more than “maybes” for the franchise and this disjointed season has given it a black eye, Pincus adds.

Jeanie Buss: Lakers’ Anthony Davis Offer Was “Fake News”

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss says reports of what her team offered to the Pelicans in an attempt to land Anthony Davis were exaggerated, tweets Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. Buss addressed the rumors in a speech today at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. She couldn’t mention Davis by name because of tampering rules, but said leaks that the Lakers were willing to trade “our entire roster” for “a certain player” were “fake news.”

A report just before last month’s trade deadline said L.A. was prepared to give up all its young talent, offering Brandon IngramLonzo BallKyle KuzmaIvica Zubac and Josh Hart to New Orleans, along with a pair of first-round draft picks.

The denial from Buss meshes with a report yesterday by ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, notes Christian Rivas of Silver Screen and Roll.

“My sources have told me within the last 48 hours that what we’ve heard the Lakers offered may not be true,” MacMullen said in an appearance on “The Jump.” “… I think there’s some question about just how much did they offer. Did they even get a chance to offer anything?”

There were rumors in the week before the deadline that former Pelicans GM Dell Demps was refusing to take calls from the Lakers to give them a chance to talk about Davis, so MacMullan may be right when she speculates that a formal offer was never made.

No one has confirmed which players L.A. would have been willing to part with to acquire Davis, but there have been reports that the trade talk had a negative effect on many of those whose names were mentioned. The Lakers haven’t played well since the deadline, falling into 10th place in the West with a 30-32 record.

L.A.’s trade plans involving Davis should become clearer once the season is over and negotiations can resume. However, the Lakers will find a more competitive playing field, with the Celtics and Knicks expected to become actively involved, along with other teams.

Pacific Notes: Thompson, Zubac, Kerr, Warriors

Klay Thompson once again reaffirmed his desire to finish his career with the Warriors prior to the team’s game against Portland on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Dave Pasch (Twitter link).

This isn’t the first time Thompson has publicly stated these hopes, with the All-Star guard also discussing the possibility back in September before the 2018/19 season began.

“Just look around the walls at all the art and to see I was a part of this buildup is what keeps me motivated and keeps me wanting to be a Warrior for my whole career,” Thompson said at the time, as relayed by Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Thompson has spent each of his eight seasons with the Warriors, having being drafted by the team back in 2011. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, along with with teammates Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, both of whom have yet to make similar public declarations about their summer plans.

Of the Warriors’ starting five, only Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are locked into deals past this season (with Green set to reach free agency next summer). Golden State has grown tremendously with Curry, Green and Thompson, dating back to when the trio won their first championship in 2015.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers knew exactly what they were getting when they traded for Ivica Zubac, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. The team acquired Zubac, an improved center on both ends of the floor, in a deal with the Lakers on trade deadline day.
  • Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was fined $25K for verbally abusing and confronting a game official prior to his ejection on Wednesday, the NBA announced today. Kerr was arguing a flagrant foul call on Draymond Green with veteran referee Ken Mauer before losing his temper, causing Mauer to issue two technical fouls and remove him from the game.
  • Kirk Lacob, assistant GM of the Warriors, addressed the team’s approach with the buyout market in an appearance on the “Joe, Lo & Dibs” radio show. “We don’t want to commit to something before we know what’s going to happen with our roster,” Lacob said. “You never know what can happen — there could be an injury or a slump or anything — so, we want to keep our options open. But our goal is to add a really good player — someone who fits in the locker room who fits these team and just really wants to be part of a championship run and will understand their role.”

Lakers Notes: Simmons, Hart, Ball, Zubac

The Lakers released a statement stating that the Sixers had sought their permission for floor leader Ben Simmons to speak with team president Magic Johnson, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia emailed the Lakers in November, according to the statement, asking if Simmons could speak with Johnson about his Hall of Fame career. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka subsequently told Sixers GM Elton Brand that Johnson could only do that with Philadelphia’s written pre-approval. That was the end of the matter, the release adds. The league has launched an investigation to determine if any communication between the parties violated league rules.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Guard Josh Hart received a PRP injection to treat tendinitis in his right knee, according to a team press release. Hart will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break, the release adds. Hart didn’t play in blowout losses against Indiana and Philadelphia and only lasted eight scoreless minutes against Boston.
  • Lonzo Ball isn’t considered a defensive specialist but the Lakers have missed him at that end of the court, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times notes. The Lakers’ defensive rating is the third-worst in the league in the nine games since Ball was sidelined by a severe ankle sprain. “He allows us to switch a lot,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “If they want to run any pick and roll minus the center, the 1-5 pick and roll, we can just switch it. And we feel confident Lonzo can guard most of the other players there. We have Lonzo picking up full-court the other team’s points guard. He’s great at instincts, getting deflections.”
  • Trading young center Ivica Zubac to the Clippers to ‘rent’ power forward Mike Muscala doesn’t make much sense, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report argues. Zubac could have been an inexpensive, long-term contributor for the Lakers, Pincus continues. He would have been a restricted free agent with a modest cap hold of $1.9 million. Muscala’s cap hold is $9.5MM and he might not be any more productive than Zubac would have been the rest of this season.
  • LeBron James claims the reason he drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis for his All-Star team had nothing to do with recruiting, according to another Ganguli story. “That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport,” he said. “It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”

Lakers Trade Zubac, Beasley To Clippers For Muscala

8:07pm: The Clippers have officially announced their trade with the Lakers, issuing a press release to confirm the move. While there’s no indication yet that Beasley has been released, the statement from president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank makes it clear that Zubac is the prize of the deal.

“For two-plus seasons, we have seen Ivica up-close and watched him develop into a skilled center,” Frank said. “For his age, Ivica has proven to be an energetic rim protector who can score around the basket. We are eager for him to join our group of promising young players.”

1:39pm: The Clippers have agreed to trade power forward Mike Muscala to the Lakers for young center Ivica Zubac and journeyman forward Michael Beasley, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The deal will open a roster spot the Lakers, affording them the opportunity to sign a player on the buyout market, with Carmelo Anthony among the players they’ll consider, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter links here).

The Lakers will “seriously look” at Anthony, the Los Angeles Times’ Brad Turner tweets. The Bulls waived Anthony on February 1st after acquiring him from the Rockets last month. Anthony has often been linked to the Lakers since things went sour quickly with the Rockets this season. He’s close friends with LeBron James, who recently stated his desire to play with the longtime All-Star forward.

“I’ve always wanted to play along Melo and if the opportunity presents itself, it would be great,” James said.

Muscala was just acquired by the Clippers in the blockbuster deal with Philadelphia that sent Tobias Harris to the Sixers. He gives the Lakers a big man who can shoot from deep. Muscala, who was averaging 7.4 PPG, is a career 36.5% shooter from distance.

The Clippers’ initial plan is to waive Beasley, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Zubac gives them a young big man to grow in their system. He was averaging 8.5 PPG and 4.9 RPG in limited playing time this season. The Clippers would have to extend him a $1.93MM qualifying offer this summer to make him a restricted free agent.