JaVale McGee

Lakers Notes: McGee, Zubac, LeBron, Davis

Lakers center JaVale McGee was discharged from the hospital on Saturday after dealing with pneumonia, according to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. McGee spent three days at the UCLA Medical Center beginning on Thursday, around the time he produced a 104-degree fever, Haynes wrote.

McGee has missed the Lakers’ past three games with what the team called “flu-like symptoms,” beginning on December 16 against the Wizards. He’ll miss his fourth straight game with the respiratory infection on Sunday against Memphis, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play in Golden State for their Christmas Day showdown on Tuesday.

“I feel a little better,” McGee told Haynes. “Surprisingly, I didn’t lose any weight. All I can do is get healthy and get back in shape as soon as possible so that I can contribute towards making us a playoff-contending team. This is such a great organization, and the way we’re battling and the way our young fellas are holding it down with the injuries we’ve endured is incredible. I’m proud of how we pulled off that game against New Orleans [on Friday]. I just can’t wait to get back.”

McGee was severely dehydrated prior to the Dec. 16 game against Washington, and several attempts to administer an IV were unsuccessful due to complications of finding a vein, Haynes reported. He remains intent on getting better in time to receive his second championship ring this Tuesday, won this past season as a member of the Warriors.

“Of course, that’s the only thing, the only game I’ve been thinking about while being bedridden is the Christmas Day game,” McGee said, according to Haynes. “No offense to the other teams, but that’s really important to me. I’ve got to get better for that game. That’s the homecoming, the ring ceremony. It’s really important.”

McGee has played an important role for the Lakers this season, starting in all 29 of his games while holding per-game averages of 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds. His scoring mark of 11.8 points is the highest of his 11-year career, and his average playing time of 23.5 minutes per contest is the most since the 2011/12 season.

There’s more out of Los Angeles today:

  • The Lakers started Ivica Zubac in place of McGee on Friday, and the 21-year-old made the most of his opportunity to help seal a team win, Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com writes. Zubac recorded 16 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 32 minutes of action. “Zu got the game ball tonight for sure,” teammate LeBron James said of Zubac. “His impact both offensively and defensively was huge for us tonight.”
  • James once again showed the power of his voice this past week, passionately discussing his desire to play with other NBA All-Stars and his displeasure with the mindsets of some NFL owners, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. “People get caught up in bunches sometimes when they wish they could control what you say, and they can’t control me,” James said. “At all.”
  • The Lakers will likely have outside competition for Anthony Davis if they express interest in trading for him, writes Mark Heisler of the OC Register. Several league observers believe the Celtics possess enough long-term assets to make a serious run at Davis, a player whom the franchise has eyed in past seasons. Other wild card teams could join the fray if New Orleans opts to explore moving Davis in the coming months. Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry was adamant this past week that the team wouldn’t trade Davis, explaining that it’s “not an option” for the club.

L.A. Notes: McGee, James, Scott, Teodosic

JaVale McGee is grateful to LeBron James for lobbying the Lakers to sign him, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press reports. The 30-year-old journeyman center is averaging a career-high 13.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 2.4 BPG after signing a one-year, $2.93MM contract over the summer. “He could have said get anybody,” McGee said. “It’s just a reassuring feeling, a confidence-builder I guess, knowing that you’re going into a situation wanted as an option, like you’re really wanted. That’s pretty dope.”

We have more on the Lakers and Clippers:

  • The Lakers haven’t proven whether they’re a quality team yet and they’ll need to give James more help than he required in Cleveland if they want to compete for championships, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times opines. James is now in a tougher conference and while he might be able to drag the team into the playoffs, if would be easier if the players around him were more productive, Woike adds.
  • Forward Mike Scott has become a valuable piece on the Clippers’ second unit since signing a one-year, $4.3MM contract over the summer, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times notes. Scott has taken 64.4% of his shots beyond the arc and made 48.9% of them with top reserves Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell drawing most of the defensive attention.
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers doubts guard Milos Teodosic will wind up in Europe this season, Greif writes in the same piece. Teodosic has expressed frustration over his lack of playing time and speculated he could leave the Clippers before the season’s end despite his $6.3MM contract. Rivers shrugged it off. “We want Milos to be happy, too,” Rivers said. “He’s a great guy and he’s great for this organization. Obviously he hasn’t played the minutes or the way he wants to, but we love him around here, so we’ll figure that all out.”
  • The Lakers are urging point guard Lonzo Ball to stay aggressive on a consistent basis, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Warriors Notes: Centers, Curry, Green, Iguodala

Tyson Chandler‘s statement that he considered signing with the Warriors before joining the Lakers is a sign that Golden State is having second thoughts about its current group of centers, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Steven Adams dominated the Warriors on Wednesday with 20 points and 11 rebounds in Oklahoma City’s 28-point win, elevating concerns that Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell aren’t doing enough in the middle.

The organization made the decision to go with younger centers this summer, letting JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and David West all leave. However, after a few weeks Golden State was already reaching out to a veteran like Chandler to provide more stability.

Jones made his 17th start in 19 games Wednesday, but posted just four points and no rebounds, continuing his season-long struggle. Looney had four points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes, but Slater notes that his offensive limitations make it hard to trust him with a larger role. Bell has fallen out of the rotation and hasn’t played well enough to earn more minutes.

Of course, the Warriors’ problems at center could be solved in a big way once offseason addition DeMarcus Cousins is able to play. But there’s still no timetable for him to return after last season’s Achilles injury, which means center could be a lingering issue for the defending champs.

There’s more Warriors news to pass along:

  • Stephen Curry didn’t appear to be bothered by a groin sprain during shooting drills at Tuesday’s practice, but the Warriors are being careful about bringing back their star guard, Slater relays in the same story. He has already been ruled out for games Friday and Saturday against the Trail Blazers and Kings. Golden State is 2-5 since Curry suffered the injury.
  • Draymond Green, who is sidelined with a sprained toe, may be losing his impact as a vocal leader, Slater adds. Green was caught on camera giving a fiery speech during a first-half timeout, but the reaction of his teammates suggests that it wasn’t inspirational.
  • Andre Iguodala hasn’t been able to provide a scoring boost with Curry and Green sidelined, writes Dieter Kurtenbach of The San Jose Mercury News. Iguodala is averaging just 6.4 PPG since the start of November. Kurtenbach contends he could be filling the roles of playmaker and third scorer, but appears to be coasting through the regular season.

Lakers Notes: Ball, McGee, Second Superstar

For a young Lakers team still in search of its identity, second-year point guard Lonzo Ball has seen his role vary. At times, Ball has played the prototypical point guard role, setting up his teammates. Other times, the UCLA product has been more of an off-the-ball player who has also displayed an improved long-range game.

As Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes, Ball is still getting adjusted to the current Lakers team, playing off LeBron James.

“Just trying to find my spots on the court,” Ball said. “LeBron is very good with the ball, playmaking. So when he brings it up, (I) just try to go to the wing and get open, cut, set screens … try to do different things.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

 In 14 games (12 starts) this season, Ball is averaging just 8.7 PPG and 4.8 APG — both down from his rookie season. However, he is shooting an improved .409% from the field and .381% from three-point range.
  • Through the early part of the season, Lakers center JaVale McGee is playing the best basketball of his career. He has not been a full-time starter since the 2011/12 season but his numbers across the board are career bests, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Even while he’s scoring more points (14.1 PPG) than Al Horford and shooting better (63%) than DeAndre Jordan, McGee feels there’s room to improve. “I’m underachieving, personally,” McGee said. “People just look at me like, ‘Oh, he’s having a better season than he’s ever had.’ But no, I want more.”
  • Another impact player is off the board for a Lakers team in search of a second star alongside James, as Jimmy Butler was traded to the Sixers. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report looks at the team’s remaining options for a co-star in Hollywood, with Butler, Kawhi Leonard and others having joined new teams or committed to old ones in recent months.
  • Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo underwent surgery on a broken hand this week and is expected to miss four to five weeks.

Lakers Rumors: Chandler, Walton, Johnson

Tyson Chandler probably won’t have a major impact as the backup center behind JaVale McGee, according to Matt John of Basketball Insiders. Chandler is expected to sign with the Lakers once he clears waivers after reaching a buyout agreement with the Suns. Kyle Kuzma didn’t handle the role of backup center well and Ivica Zubac hasn’t earned coach Luke Walton‘s trust, John continues. Phoenix’s defensive rating with Chandler on the court wasn’t much different than when he was off it over the past three seasons but he’s still an upgrade over the current options, John adds.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • The team may be hitting the panic button with regularity this season, Mark Whicker of the Los Angeles Times opines. Their poor defensive effort against Toronto on Sunday night was the type that leads to impulsive front office action such as firing the coach, Whicker continues. Walton was the betting favorite to lose his job before any other coach, Whicker notes. And though Walton has remained in charge despite some grumbling from Magic Johnson, more performances like the one against the Raptors could change that, Whicker adds.
  • The way Johnson tore into Walton last week could negatively impact the way free agents view the franchise, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes. Walton deserves a chance to figure things out and Johnson came across as a bully for dressing down Walton in a meeting last week, Plaschke continues. The fact that the story was leaked to the media shows dysfunction in the front office and that’s not a good look for free agents, who will be seeking stability next summer, Plaschke adds.
  • Johnson said Walton’s job was safe after Sunday’s game. Get the details here.

Lakers Notes: James, Ball, Hart, McGee

The Lakers’ matchup with the Nuggets Tuesday didn’t feel like a typical preseason game, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. A sellout crowd filled the Staples Center — and even arrived early — to welcome LeBron James for his first game in a Lakers uniform. He rewarded them with 13 points in 15 minutes, all in the first half, along with a few highlight plays.

“You always have the buzz about it [playing at Staples Center], but then you hear [in the starting lineup], ‘In his 16th campaign from St. Vincent-St. Mary [High School],’ you just hear the crowd, and it’s like, all right, that’s going to be a little different,” teammate Josh Hart said. “Even [James] said it, I think at halftime, he said it was loud, it was lit.”

James is trying to breathe life into a franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2013. Even though he admits it’s going to take time to develop chemistry with his new teammates, he acknowledged the atmosphere before Tuesday’s game, saying, “It’s a new beginning, a new start. It’s a new excitement for myself.”

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • Lonzo Ball could make his preseason debut in Thursday’s game against the Kings, Youngmisuk tweets. Ball is recovering from offseason knee surgery, and the Lakers’ medical staff will see how he feels tomorrow morning before making a decision.
  • Hart has a few hidden talents that will help him in his battle to take the starting spot at shooting guard away from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, notes Joey Ramirez of NBA.com. Hart’s assets include 3-point shooting, transition offense, rebounding and perimeter defense, but he also brings a strong confidence and a high basketball IQ. “He’s cocky when it comes to defense,” coach Luke Walton said. “… During the timeout he said, ‘Don’t come. I’m fine. I’m good over there. I don’t need it.’ So he takes a lot of pride in the fact that he can guard bigger players.”
  • JaVale McGee is angry about changes in the league that have reduced the importance of centers, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. McGee, who left the Warriors this summer to sign with the Lakers, said he has adapted his game to fit the new style and changed his diet to enable him to keep up with smaller and quicker opponents.

Pacific Notes: Kuzma, Lakers, Suns, Jackson, Kerr

Lakers coach Luke Walton will use the preseason to sort out his options at center, Joey Ramirez of the Lakers’ website reports. While JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac are the more conventional centers on the roster, the team is exploring small ball looks with Kyle Kuzma and Michael Beasley at the five spot. Walton was particularly intrigued by what he saw from Kuzma during the team’s preseason game against Denver on Sunday.

“There were a few fundamental breakdowns of how we want to play the defense from that spot, but his effort was there,” said the Lakers’ head coach. “He wants the challenge again, and we’re gonna give it to him again.”

In other developments from around the Pacific Division:

  • LeBron James will play in the Lakers‘ first preseason game at Staples Center on Tuesday but point guard Lonzo Ball will be held out, Ramirez writes in the same story. Ball is participating in full practices but the team is playing it safe in his return from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in July, Ramirez adds.
  • The Suns have become the latest NBA team to enter a jersey sponsorship deal with a corporate partner, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, who reports that the club will display PayPal ads on its uniforms going forward. There are now 25 clubs with jersey sponsors.
  • Josh Jackson is the Suns’ X factor this season, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. The 2017 lottery pick is viewed by new coach Igor Kokoskov as a high-energy player who can make his biggest impact on the defensive end. “In the half court, he’s pretty good, but open court, he’s one of the best,” Kokoskov told Rankin. “So let’s play to his strength and emphasize his defense.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes he’s made significant progress from his prior back issues, Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area relays. Kerr spoke of his health during a Tim Kawakami podcast. “I work every day — I do a lot of stuff to make sure I’m staying on the improving path,” he said. “The worst is behind me … when I had to sit out in the (2017) playoffs, that was a brutally difficult time and I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen. I think all of that is behind me and I’m looking at much better days.” Kerr’s interview with Kawakami from The Athletic can be found here.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Walton, Johnson, James

The Lakers’ brass is encouraged by Lonzo Ball‘s revamped shooting stroke, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register reports. Ball still holds the ball further left than most right-handed shooters but it’s closer to the center than last season, Goon notes. Ball shot 36% from the field and 30.5% from long range during his rookie season. “The way he’s shooting the ball looks a lot more fluid now,“ GM Rob Pelinka said. Ball, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this summer, has been medically cleared for camp but won’t initially participate in five-on-five scrimmages, Joey Ramirez of the team’s website reports. “He’s been 100 percent cleared by our medical staff to return to full basketball activity,” Pelinka said.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Luke Walton‘s job status won’t be in jeopardy if the team gets off to a slow start, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. LeBron James needs time to settle in with his new teammates, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson says, and Walton won’t be penalized during that process. “As I was talking to Luke, we said don’t worry about if we get out to a bad start,” Johnson said. “We have seen that with LeBron going to Miami, and we have seen that when he came back to Cleveland. He is going to struggle because there are so many new moving parts.”
  • Johnson shrugs off criticism of controversial free agent signings following James’ commitment, including Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee, Matt Eppers of USA Today writes. “We love that they all are different individuals and they bring something different to the table,” Johnson said. “We needed some grittiness, we needed some toughness. We needed somebody to come in and be upset that somebody had a defensive lapse.”
  • Johnson can’t hide his enthusiasm over James’ impact, even before training camp officially opens. “LeBron comes in, and he’s already in midseason form and shooting fadeaways and 3-pointers from almost half-court,” Johnson said in an Associated Press report. “And you’re sitting there saying, ‘Man, thank God we signed him.’”
  • Brandon Ingram and Stephenson are the team’s top small forwards and Ramirez takes a closer look at all the options at the position.

Western Notes: Lakers, Beyer, Grant, Morey

The Lakers front office felt they couldn’t fight fire with fire to overtake the Warriors, so their offseason acquisitions beyond LeBron James were aimed toward another approach, as Kevin Ding explains in an extensive piece posted on the team’s website. By signing Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley, the Lakers signaled that they want to rise to the top in a different way. “To try to play the Warriors in their own game is a trap,” GM Rob Pelinka told Ding. “No one is going to beat them at their own game. That’s why we wanted to add these elements: defense, toughness and depth—and try to look at areas where we’ll have an advantage.”

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Thunder have added Bob Beyer to Billy Donovan‘s coaching staff, according to a team press release. Beyer spent the last four seasons on Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons staff, serving as the associate head coach the past two seasons. His NBA coaching experience dates back to the 2003/04 season as an assistant with the Raptors.
  • Thunder forward Jerami Grant anticipates a bigger role during the upcoming season after signing a multi-year contract, as he told Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype in a Q&A session. Grant appeared in 81 games last season, averaging 8.4 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 20.3 MPG. He anticipates even more playing time with the departure of Carmelo Anthony. “I’m definitely excited to be able to play extensive minutes and play important minutes on a contender. Getting a chance to show what you can do while being part of an organization like this, being part of a team like this, it means a lot. They’ve shown a lot of trust in me by giving me this new contract and [and a bigger role].” Grant signed a three-year, $27MM contract to remain with OKC.
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey is just as curious as anyone how DeMarcus Cousins will fit in with the Warriors, as he told radio host Dan Patrick in comments relayed by NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman. “They’ll probably figure out how to make it work, but it’s a little bit hard on paper to figure out how to make it work. But we do that well and so do they, obviously. They’re gonna be a tough out again, obviously. They’re arguably the best team in NBA history,” Morey said.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Bridges, Labissiere, Clippers

The Lakers ensured themselves a successful offseason when they signed LeBron James, but they still need to fill a vacancy at center, writes Matt John of Basketball Insiders. The addition of free agent JaVale McGee doesn’t really solidify the position, and the only other choices on the roster are rookie Moe Wagner and Ivica Zubac.

With David West and Brandan Wright as the best free agents left on the market, John identifies several potential trade targets, including Tristan Thompson, James’ former teammate in Cleveland. Thompson is a physical rebounder and defender with whom James had a good rapport. However, John notes that he may not be available unless Cleveland decides to rebuild.

Other possibilities include the Bismack Biyombo, who finds himself in a center logjam after being traded to Charlotte, the Bucks’ John Henson, the Bulls’ Robin Lopez, the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns rookie swingman Mikal Bridges was a little disappointed he didn’t play more in the summer league, James Blancarte of Basketeball Insiders reports. “It’s tough you know. Coming in mentally, you don’t know what the coach is going to do and how they are going to play you,” Bridges told Blancarte. “Couple of games, not playing as much as I thought I was going to be [playing]. Just staying mentally [tough], going through that.” Bridges averaged 6.2 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 20 MPG during five Las Vegas outings. He will also likely have wait his turn during his rookie campaign but Phoenix thought enough of him to swing a draft-night trade with the Sixers, Blancarte notes.
  • Kings big man Skal Labissiere is looking to improve his durability during his offseason workouts, Jason Wise of the team’s website relays. Memphis-area trainer Raheem Shabazz has made Instagram posts showing the work Labissiere is putting in as he prepares for his third NBA season.
  • Clippers lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson showed flashes of potential in summer league games but they were far from perfect, according to Keith Smith of RealGM. Gilgeous-Alexander has a solid all-around game but needs lot of work with his shot. Robinson has to focus more on the defensive end, Smith continues, while undrafted big man Angel Delgado struggled on the perimeter. However, Delgado displayed strong rebounding instincts and toughness on the interior, Smith adds.