Ivica Zubac

Los Angeles Notes: Schröder, LeBron, Zubac, Cousins

Starting Lakers point guard Dennis Schröder has played particularly well as of late, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Schröder has been the single most important element of the team’s offense without All-Stars LeBron James or, until recently, Anthony Davis, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic. As the team’s lead ball-handler without James, Schröder has taken on more of the scoring and passing burden.

“He had to,” Davis said. “But he’s been playing huge for us, since I’ve been back and when I was out, figuring it out for us while still keeping us afloat and in the mix.”

Schröder has averaged 17.4 PPG and 7.8 APG across the 20 games since James’s injury, making a push for a lucrative new contract ahead of his upcoming unrestricted free agency. The 27-year-old has reportedly turned down an extension offer from the Lakers in the range of $80MM+ over four years.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James posted what must be a tantalizing missive to L.A. fans recently, per Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. A black-and-white video featuring James enacting a layup drill in Dallas was accompanied by a promising quote: “Coming soon to a city near you.” James has been sidelined with a high-ankle sprain since March 20, and the Lakers officially remain cagier than James himself has been, sticking with the “indefinite” line in addressing his availability.
  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac has delivered in his new role as the club’s starter with Serge Ibaka injured, writes Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register. A back injury has kept Ibaka on the shelf since March 14. Zubac’s play has been one reason why L.A. boasts a league-best 18-4 record since Ibaka’s last game as starter — there’s a chance Ibaka may have lost his starting slot for good.
  • Veteran Clippers center DeMarcus Cousins is comfortable with his firmly-established position in the pecking order for his new team (the fourth and final California club to have signed him), tweets Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. Cousins is the third center on the team, behind Zubac and Ibaka. The well-traveled former four-time All-Star praised the club’s “one of a kind” culture and organization.

Clippers Notes: Rondo, George, Cousins, Zubac, Kennard

Rajon Rondo will try to maximize the production of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George when he’s on the court for the Clippers, Mark Medina of USA Today writes. “I’ll try to get our two main guys the ball in a lot easier spots as far as them not having to work so hard to get the ball against a set defense,” Rondo said. “If we’re able to create the stops and get out on the break, it’s my job to advance the ball and let those guys attack one-on-one before the defense gets set.” Rondo has already noted opponent tendencies that his teammates have found helpful, Medina adds.

We have more on the Clippers:

  • George has no issue with Rondo jumping right in as a team leader and sage voice, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN“Rondo’s a leader, you know the point guard, he’s a leader,” George said. “We’re going to listen to him. I look at him as a leader, a leader of this group. He’ll hold a lot of weight. He holds a lot of weight in the locker room. As he gets more comfortable within our system, getting games under his feet, he’ll hold us accountable.”
  • DeMarcus Cousins‘ 10-day contract will pay him $175,668, with $110,998 counting toward the cap, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. Cousins was officially signed on Monday to provide frontcourt depth with Serge Ibaka currently out due to a back injury.
  • A couple of tweaks could help both the starting lineup and second unit. A Western Conference scout told the Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike the team should keep Ivica Zubac in the starting lineup, even when Ibaka returns. A executive within the conference believes the coaching staff should unleash Luke Kennard as the primary second-unit point guard.

Pacific Notes: Oubre, Warriors, Clippers, Zubac, Kings

The subject of a few trade rumors leading up to the deadline, Warriors forward Kelly Oubre ended up staying put. Oubre – a free agent at season’s end – said on Thursday that he’d “love” to remain with Golden State beyond this season, though he didn’t sound particularly enthusiastic about the idea of moving to the bench to accommodate Klay Thompson‘s return, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I can’t speak for the future, brother,” Oubre said. “You keep asking me questions like I’m a psychic. But at the end of the day, I’m growing, I’m honing in on my skills in this league and I can offer a lot more than coming off the bench, so at the end of the day, this is my life. I can’t tell the future. Only God can.”

As Friedell observes, the Warriors have the NBA’s most expensive roster this season and there’s no real relief coming next year, especially if the team re-signs Oubre to a deal that matches or exceeds his current $14.38MM salary.

According to Friedell, when asked if he’d accept a below-market deal this offseason to remain in Golden State, Oubre simply replied, “Next question.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Head coach Steve Kerr said last night that about 12 Warriors players and coaches received their COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, tweets Friedell.
  • The Clippers‘ hope that Rajon Rondo will become ‘Playoff Rondo’ this spring was the motivating factor behind their decision to send Lou Williams and two second-round picks to Atlanta for the veteran point guard, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. As Greif notes, Rondo has a long-standing relationship with head coach Tyronn Lue, who began his coaching career as an assistant in Boston in 2011, when Rondo was an All-Star for the Celtics. That relationship – and the trust Lue has in Rondo – was a factor in the Clippers’ decision to make the trade.
  • Within the same story, Greif says the Clippers received calls from multiple teams about center Ivica Zubac, but didn’t seriously consider moving him, as they believe he’s a key part of the roster going forward.
  • James Ham of NBC Sports California broke down the Kings‘ deadline acquisitions after the team completed three separate trades.

L.A. Notes: AD, Schröder, Zubac, Lakers Skid

Veteran big man Anthony Davis recently chatted with Bill Oram of The Athletic to discuss the strained right calf that will keep him off the floor for the Lakers for the next several weeks, as well as his efforts to serve as a de facto coach as he travels with the club.

“Something might happen while a player is in the game and they want to see it to see how they can adjust,” the Lakers’ All-Star forward/center said. “And so that’s kind of my job. I see something on the floor, I kind of use the iPad and film because film never lies.”

Davis also addressed his progress in his recovery from the calf injury. He could return to the court for the Lakers by mid-March at the earliest. “(Physical therapy) stuff on it every day,” he said. “Nothing too crazy, but a lot of stuff in the weight room.”

There’s more out of the City of Angels:

  • Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is holding out hope that starting point guard Dennis Schröder can clear the COVID-19 protocols that have sidelined him since last week in time for tomorrow’s game against the Trail Blazers, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets. Schröder has been held out for each of the Lakers’ last four games, all losses.
  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue seems to be maximizing reserve center Ivica Zubac, according to the Orange County Register’s Mirjam Swanson. Lue has been focused on ensuring that Zubac finishes with power around the rim lately. “He’s been on me about finishing, being aggressive, dunking the ball every time I can,” Zubac said of Lue. “Every time I get a dunk over someone, next to someone, I come up to him  and ask him if that was good enough.”
  • As the Lakers battle through a season-worst four-game losing skid (thanks in part to the absences of Davis and Schröder), the champs are hoping the experience will toughen them ahead of the coming postseason, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register.

L.A. Notes: Davis, Vogel, Zubac, Ballmer

Anthony Davis missed two games this week because of Achilles tendinosis, but the Lakers star doesn’t expect it to be a long-term concern, writes Jovah Buha of The Athletic. After returning to the lineup with a 35-point performance Friday, Davis explained to reporters how the injury is affecting him.

“It felt great going into the game,” he said. “But as you play, I’m always using that Achilles tendon. It got sore towards the end from just constantly moving on it. But it felt great coming into the game, felt great throughout the game, but late game it was kind of bothering me a little bit. I felt like we had the game in hand when I was able to — and Coach felt that way — when I was able to sit down the last two and a half (minutes).”

Davis added that doctors told him the pain isn’t coming directly from the Achilles tendon, but from an adjacent body part in the same area of the leg. He said the quickest way to recover is through rest, but he doesn’t want to sit out a lot of games in a row.

“The doctors and training staff feel comfortable enough for me to go out there and perform as well,” Davis said. “So it’s something that’s gonna continue to get better. (I’m) constantly doing treatment on it throughout the day, throughout the night, and wearing stuff in my shoes to help out the pain level and wearing tape and all these things to make it feel better throughout the course of time, and basically, I’m very — I’m able to just go out there and play and not worry about it.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • After trimming his rotation during the week, Lakers coach Frank Vogel expanded it to 10 players Friday with the return of Davis and Alex Caruso, Buha adds in the same story. Vogel called it “impossible decisions” to determine what to do with Wesley Matthews and Markieff Morris when the full team is healthy, noting that both of them “deserve to be in the rotation.”
  • The Clippers lost Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, but their bench remains among the most productive in the league, according to Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. One of the new components is center Ivica Zubac, who was a starter last season. “I am just in a space where I want Zu to be great,” said reserve guard Lou Williams. “I want to push him, I want to challenge him to be the best player that he can be and at the same time, we can feed off each other’s success and continue to build.”
  • Seattle will be at the top of the list whenever the NBA decides to expand, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said on a Clubhouse podcast.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Lakers, Kings, Zubac

Through lineup additions and subtractions, as well as new offensive sets implemented by their new coach, the Clippers are feeling more confident in their chemistry this season than they did during their disappointing 2019/20 run, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“I feel like our energy is way better this season,” forward Marcus Morris said. “It’s a new season; it’s a new team.”

The Clippers have won four straight games, even with key rotational players missing. New additions Serge Ibaka and Luke Kennard have managed to fit in nicely.

“Hopefully, you guys see it, just how well we are meshing,” star forward Paul George said. “We are going to continue to build off of that; we like where we are at and like where we are heading, and we want to see this thing play all the way through.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Adjusting to their not-insignificant roster turnover has yet to be an issue for the Lakers, says Rob Mahoney of The Ringer. The team has added four core new rotation players: new starters Dennis Schröder and Marc Gasol, plus key new bench additions Wesley Matthews and Montrezl Harrell.
  • The slumping Kings are 5-10 despite an encouraging 3-1 season start, and James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area opines that it may be time to infuse the starting lineup with new blood. The club is on a four-game losing streak, and has lost nine of its last 11 contests. “It sucks losing. You can never accept it, well, I can never accept it,” big man Marvin Bagley III said after a lopsided 115-96 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday.
  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac, who started for the club last year, has looked more comfortable in his new role off the bench this season, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. The newly-signed veteran Ibaka has supplanted Zubac as the starter.

Clippers Notes: Kennard, Batum, Zubac, Ibaka

Luke Kennard and Nicolas Batum, two important offseason additions for the Clippers, haven’t played a regular season NBA game in nearly a year, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Both players are trying to use the shortened preseason to get ready for opening night, which is just six days away.

The Pistons shut down Kennard last December 21 because of knee tendinitis. He had been hoping to return March 14, but the hiatus kept that from happening. Batum appeared in just 22 games last season, limited by injuries and the Hornets’ preference to give minutes to their younger players.

“The first (preseason) game was kind of weird,” Batum said. “I just wanted to go out there and just be back on the court and just play basketball and do some stuff and be sure I don’t do some crazy mistake. That’s really my goal the first two games, to be back on the court and get through the motion and get my rhythm and the feel for the court.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • Ivica Zubac is adjusting to his new role as backup center, notes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Zubac is expected to play similar minutes as in the past, but he will be on the court with a different set of teammates. “Zu specifically, he just has to get better with his hands,” said Lou Williams, the leader of the team’s second unit. “That was a conversation we spoke to. I’m a willing passer and he knows that. And so for him to be successful and get a lot of easy looks, we’re gonna have to get better and get on the same page with that. Other than that, I look forward to growing with him.”
  • Kennard and Serge Ibaka are both better fits for the Clippers than the players they replaced, contends John Hollinger of The Athletic. He sees Kennard, who can help run the offense, as a more complete player than Landry Shamet and notes that Ibaka’s ability to space the floor makes him more versatile than Montrezl Harrell. Hollinger opines that Paul George won’t be able to live up to his new four-year, $176MM contract, but thinks it still makes sense for the team, since the focus is on competing for a title in the next two seasons.
  • Reggie Jackson and assistant coach Chauncey Billups both returned to the team after being excused from Sunday’s game due to health and safety protocols, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Clippers Notes: Ibaka, Zubac, George, Morris, Williams, Beverley

Serge Ibaka started at center in the Clippers‘ preseason opener and coach Tyronn Lue will continue to have the prized free agent acquisition work with the first unit, according to Jovan Buha of The AthleticIvica Zubac started regularly last season when Doc Rivers was the head coach.

“Zu started the last couple of years and did a great job,” Lue said. “Just kind of seeing this team, what style of play we want to play at, right now, tonight we went with Serge and we’ll continue to see how that looks.”

Ibaka has the ability to stretch defenses and defend the perimeter more adeptly that Zubac, while Zubac is a better screener and roller and rim protector, Buha adds.

We have more on the Clippers:

  • The front office checked around the league to determine Paul George‘s trade value before deciding that an extension was the best option, The Ringer’s Paolo Uggetti reports. George signed a max four-year extension that kicks in for the 2021/22 season. George could have opted out of his contract after the upcoming season without the extension. The market for George around the league would have likely gotten him that same contract elsewhere, Uggetti adds.
  • Forward Marcus Morris sat out the preseason opener due to minor knee soreness, Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times writes. “We’re just being cautious,” Lue said. The Clippers re-signed Morris on a four-year, $64MM deal after acquiring him in a trade last season.
  • Patrick Beverley and/or Lou Williams could be traded during the season, though Beverley’s contract might be tough to move, some anonymous front office executives and scouts told Sam Amick of The Athletic. The Clippers didn’t truly address their point guard situation in the offseason but that could change as the season progresses.

Pacific Notes: Harrell, Zubac, Oubre, Kings

Montrezl Harrell decided to sign with the Lakers because he wasn’t convinced the Clippers wanted to keep him, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Speaking to the media for the first time since accepting a two-year, $19MM offer to change teams, Harrell indicated that he would have remained with the Clippers if he believed they were interested.

“I feel that if you spend your career in any place long enough, you’re going to want to still keep playing there and keep growing there,” he said. “So, of course I still have great respect for those guys and for that organization. But like I said, as far as they wanted me back, obviously it doesn’t seem that way, does it?”

The new deal for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year contains a player option for 2021/22 that could have him back on the market in July. Some observers have suggested his connection to Klutch Sports prompted him to join fellow clients LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but Harrell said that wasn’t a factor.

“As far as my decision, it didn’t have any effect, because at the end of the day, my decision doesn’t affect neither one of those guys’ lives as far as their living conditions,” he said. “I have a family I have to provide for, so my decision was my decision.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Any further roster upgrades for the Clippers may have to come through trades, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times, who identifies Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams as their best assets. A rival executive tells Greif that Zubac would likely bring the greatest return because he’s only 23 and can still develop his game. Zubac is under contract for three more seasons at a total of $21MM. Williams, who is in the final year of his deal at $8MM, may have limited trade value because of his age and defensive liabilities. Executives who Greif spoke to believe it would be difficult to unload Beverley’s contract, which pays him $27MM over the next two seasons, and the Clippers would likely have to attach draft picks to move him.
  • After being traded from Phoenix to the Warriors, Kelly Oubre appeared to take a shot at Suns owner Robert Sarver, notes Nick Friedell of ESPN“I can play for an owner — somebody who actually cares about the organization and not just the perception of the organization on the media end of it,” Oubre said in a radio interview.
  • New Kings general manager Monte McNair looked for versatile players in the draft and tried to alter the roster to better fit De’Aaron Fox‘s timeline, writes Greg Wissinger of The Sacramento Bee. That’s why he pursued 25-year-old Wesley Iwundu and 26-year-old Willy Hernangomez, although both signed with other teams.

Clippers Rumors: Lue, Young Players, Kawhi

After parting ways with Doc Rivers, the Clippers initially put together a list of about 10 possible candidates to replace him, according to Jovan Buha and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The team seriously considered five of those candidates before narrowing their search to three finalists.

Although the Clippers did conduct a full search, Tyronn Lue was the first candidate they contacted following Rivers’ departure and was one of just two candidates who checked every one of the team’s boxes. As Buha and Vardon explain, the Clippers consider Lue an “elite tactician” and viewed his familiarity with the roster as a positive — having spent the 2019/20 season as Rivers’ lead assistant, Lue got to see first-hand what went wrong, and has ideas for potential solutions.

[RELATED: Clippers to promote Tyronn Lue to head coach]

According to The Athletic’s duo, the Clippers also like that Lue isn’t a “staunch idealist” like Mike D’Antoni or Tom Thibodeau, and is more willing to tinker with lineups and styles, adapting to the roster he has. The club hopes to keep Kawhi Leonard and Paul George around for multiple seasons but recognizes that the roster might change around them. L.A.’s front office believes Lue is capable of adjusting to those changes and getting the best out of his players.

Speaking of Leonard and George, they were consulted by the Clippers’ top decision-makers during the search, per Buha and Vardon. However, neither star forward wanted to steer the search in a particular direction and told the team that they trusted the front office. They were both ultimately on board with the choice of Lue.

Here’s more on the Clippers and their new head coaching hire:

  • Lue will be aiming to bring more ball movement and a faster pace to the Clippers next season, sources tell Buha and Vardon. He also intends to switch up defensive coverages more often and give the club’s younger players – such as Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet, Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele – more playing time.
  • Lue’s five-year contract is believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $7MM per year, according to Buha and Vardon.
  • The Clippers would like to establish better “synergy” between the coaching staff and front office, sources tell The Athletic. Lue is willing to work with the front office as he fills out his staff.
  • Buha and Vardon also reiterated a point that we’ve heard in the past, writing that some Clippers players – including Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams – bristled at the preferential treatment that Leonard received during his first season in L.A. The star forward was allowed to dictate to Rivers when he came out of games and was often late for team flights because he lived in San Diego, according to The Athletic’s reporters.
  • In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton offers up three areas for Lue to focus on as he attempts to get the Clippers to the NBA Finals. Those include tightening up the defense and not overreacting to a disappointing postseason outcome.