JaVale McGee

Pacific Notes: McGee, Front Office, Beverley, Cauley-Stein, Suns

While the Lakers are out of the playoff picture, and LeBron James will not play again this season, several players on the roster have incentive to finish the year strong. As Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Mike Muscala are set for unrestricted free agency this summer.

Without the postseason as a motivating factor, the next pay check for those players is a strong consideration. Head coach Luke Walton commended those players’ efforts to close out the season.

“I think they’ve done a nice job of staying focused on the team. And that is a big thing, a real thing,” Walton said. “Guys should be concerned about their futures. You have to take care of that as players. But when you take care of your team and play with that type of attitude, the other teams in the league see that. That’s what they want.”

Particularly, Walton praised McGee, stating that the NBA champion “looks good right now,” and adding that his contributions recently have been “meaningful numbers.”

Check out more Pacific Division notes:

  • Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register opines that the Lakers‘ front office needs to be cognizant of its missteps this past season. Unable to pair James with another elite talent, this summer will be another chance to do so and the team will need to be smart with its approach.
  • As the Clippers prepare for the postseason, the team hopes to get Patrick Beverley back on the court and healthy, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. “So, it’s an injury of concern, but nothing that I think is that serious,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “He will play in the playoffs. I’ll say that.”
  • Willie Cauley-Stein is set for restricted free agency this summer and the Kings will need to decide whether or not to retain his services. Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee examines Cauley-Stein’s value and why Sacramento will face a tough decision.
  • Matt John of Basketball Insiders looks at how the Suns can accelerate their rebuild. Phoenix has a solid star piece in Devin Booker but will need to maximize acquisitions via free agency and the draft.

Pacific Notes: Cousins, Fredette, Kokoskov, McGee

The Warriors won’t use center DeMarcus Cousins in back-to-back games for the rest of the season, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN. Cousins returned to action in mid-January after a severe Achilles injury last season and has expressed frustration over the slow progress of his recovery. The Warriors have two back-to-backs left on the schedule.

Coach Steve Kerr told reporters tonight that the team will prioritize having a healthy roster heading into the playoffs over trying to capture the top seed in the West. Kerr talked with Rick Celebrini, the team’s director of sports medicine and performance, about the need to rest several players over the final two and a half weeks.

“With DeMarcus, we made the decision based on Rick’s assessment [that] he should just not play back-to-backs this season, so he’s not going to,” Kerr said.Andre [Iguodala] and Shaun [Livingston], both periodically we’ve been given rest to the last several years, based on the age and wear and tear. Every once in a while, it’ll just come up that Rick will recommend let’s give somebody a rest. Last night it was [Stephen Curry]. He’s been going a couple months straight. Has looked a little tired the last couple of weeks, so it made perfect sense. I think we’ll be better for it in the long run.”

There’s more tonight from the Pacific Division:

  • Jimmer Fredette played four minutes and went scoreless in his return to the NBA last night and said he’s thankful to the Suns for giving him a chance, relays Cody Cunningham of I was just excited to get back out there and try to help the team in any way that I can,” Fredette said. “Obviously, it’s towards the end of the year. My job is to come in and try to keep these guys positive, be a veteran guy and go in there and try to be aggressive.”
  • First-year Suns coach Igor Kokoskov is staying focused on the end of the season instead of his shaky future with the team, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Despite having a three-year contract, Kokoskov isn’t certain to return after leading Phoenix to the worst record in the West.
  • Although the Lakers are out of the running for the playoffs, JaVale McGee had the best night of his 11-year career on Friday, notes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. McGee, who will be a free agent again this summer, lit up the scoreboard with 33 points and 20 rebounds in a win over the Nets. “Get wins and play hard,” he said of his philosophy for the rest of the season. “That’s what our mentality is. There is no slacking. As a team that’s not making the playoffs, I’m planning on playing teams that are supposed to make the playoffs and knocking them out too. Might as well.”

Walton, Lakers’ Veterans Clash After Loss

The Lakers are downplaying a “heated” exchange between coach Luke Walton and a pair of veteran players following Saturday’s loss to Golden State, writes ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

Walton singled out several players in the locker room, accusing them of having a selfish approach and making poor decisions late in games, McMenamin relays. Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee lashed back, expressing their frustration over Walton’s changing rotations.

Beasley, who also clashed with Walton last month, repeatedly referred to his coach as “bro,” which Walton took exception to. The confrontation was described as tense, but it died down quickly.

“It never got close to getting out of control, people are always emotional after a loss,” a source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.  Another claimed to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk that it was “way overhyped.”

“Nothing crazy happened,” an unidentified Lakers player explained to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears. “Luke said some things. The players said some things back. No one was disrespected. Nothing crazy was said.”

Another veteran, Lance Stephenson, posted a message on his Instagram account denying any involvement in the dispute.“Media decided to add Lance Stephenson … I’m in a very happy place … Nothing but positive,” he wrote. “If u going to write a story get the real facts please.”

Saturday’s dust-up offers a window into the tension that exists in the Lakers’ locker room, where no one except LeBron James is guaranteed to be part of the team’s future. Beasley, McGee and Stephenson are among several veterans on one-year contracts, while L.A’s young players are believed to be part of a package offered to the Pelicans in an attempt to land Anthony Davis.
Walton has been coaching for his job most of the season after being called out by management in the wake of a 3-5 start. A rumor that James’ representatives would prefer a coaching change was floated again last week.

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 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 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.