JaVale McGee

Restart Notes: Assistant Coaches, McCollum, Health Risks

Assistant coaches around the NBA aren’t sure if they will all be headed to Orlando when the season resumes, writes Sean Deveney of Forbes. On the advice of medical professionals, the league is trying to limit the number of people being brought into the bubble environment, and some teams carry huge coaching staffs.

“Honestly, I don’t know if they’re gonna consider me essential,” said an unidentified assistant. “We’ve got teams who are seven, eight coaches deep, 10 if you count the scouts. They haven’t told us if they’re taking us all. I don’t know how many of us they think they need. I am not sure I want to be there.”

Deveney points out that head coaches are always in the spotlight, but assistants handle the majority of studying film and breaking down match-ups. Head coaches also make significantly higher salaries, which means assistants will be asked to face the same coronavirus hazards for smaller paychecks.

“Look, the head coaches, they’ve got plenty of reason to go back and coach and win,” the assistant said. “There are only 30 head jobs. I want our team to win, too. Coaches at all levels invest a lot personally. But you start talking about the health risks and then the health risks to families? It changes the conversation. We are not getting the same level of pay as everyone else on the floor but we’re taking as much risk.”

There’s more regarding the NBA’s restart:

  • Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum wants contact to resume in workouts before players travel to Orlando, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic. Only individual workouts are permitted at the moment, with contact and group activities banned under the rules regarding the reopening of team facilities. “We have players that need to get contact in for the last steps of clearance,” McCollum said. “I don’t want anyone to get injured because of having over 100 days of no games.”
  • Although there’s strong support among players for finishing the season, some are concerned about the health risks they will face, notes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Ganguli talked to Lakers center JaVale McGee, who is at greater risk because he has asthma and suffered from pneumonia last year, and Maurice Harkless, who discussed his concerns before learning that the Knicks wouldn’t be part of the resumption. Harkless didn’t visit family members after the hiatus began because he had just played against the Pistons and Jazz — both teams had players who had tested positive.
  • Joe Vardon of The Athletic examines whether the NBA can recover from what is shaping up to be its worst season ever.

Wizards Notes: Draft, Avdiji, Hachimura, Giles

Deni Avdija, who is expected to go in the top 10 of the NBA draft, plays the style of basketball that the Wizards like, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports details. His versatility and passing skills would fit well in Washington’s system, though his lack of shooting and rebounding may force the franchise to look at other options in the draft.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • The Wizards may see Rui Hachimura as their best young prospect on the roster, but former NBA executive John Hollinger believes that distinction goes to Troy Brown, as he explains on The Athletic. Brown, who is nearly 18 months younger than Hachimura, has play-making skills and Hollinger is curious why the young team didn’t feature the 20-year-old more often.
  • Washington is hoping that Hachimura can improve on defense and be the team’s go-to defender for larger wings, Hollinger passes along in the same piece.
  • The Wizards were terrible on the defensive end in 2019/20, but the franchise is hoping to acquire a rim protector this summer. Hollinger notes that either Thomas Bryant or Moritz Wagner could find themselves on another team as a result of Washington’s pursuit of a big.
  • Harry Giles is a name to watch for the Wizards’ mid-level exception, Hollinger relays in the same piece. JaVale McGee is another name worth monitoring, though the former executive cautions that it may not be feasible for the Wizards to use all of their mid-level, as they don’t want to enter the tax.

Two Lakers Players Test Positive For Coronavirus

8:14pm: JaVale McGee has tested negative, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. The veteran center has asthma and battled pneumonia last season.

6:58pm: The Lakers plan to test a small group of coaches and staffers who had close contact with the players, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Both of the players with positive tests are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of a team physician, according to the team’s Twitter feed (Twitter link).

6:25pm: A pair of Lakers players have tested positive for the coronavirus, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

The number could grow as the team could test other players who were not tested on Wednesday morning, Charania adds.

The amount of players and personnel testing positive for COVID-19 throughout the league continues to rise at an alarming rate.

The news regarding the Lakers players broke just minutes after the Sixers revealed that three members of their organization – not necessarily players – tested positive.

With the addition of the Lakers duo, nine NBA players are known to have tested positive for COVID-19 so far: Jazz stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, Pistons big man Christian Wood, former MVP Kevin Durant, and three other unidentified Nets players and the Lakers pair. Adding the trio from the Sixers and a member of the Nuggets’ organization who has also tested positive, the total number of NBA players and personnel with the coronavirus has jumped to 13.

[UPDATE: Marcus Smart tests positive for coronavirus]

In their last four games before the stoppage of play, the Lakers played Philadelphia, Milwaukee, the Clippers and Brooklyn.

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Lakers Notes: Caruso, Rondo, KCP, McGee

Lakers guard Alex Caruso received assurances from the new coaching staff that he’d have a legitimate chance to make the rotation before he agreed to re-sign, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register reports.

Caruso’s conversation with coach Frank Vogel convinced him to ink a two-year, $5.5MM deal in July, though Caruso did not receive a bigger offer in the early stages of free agency.

“I knew there was opportunity,” Caruso said. “Coach Vogel called me when I was pretty close to making a decision and said there’s opportunity for minutes and that’s all I’ve ever needed in my career.”

Vogel has delivered on that pledge. Caruso has played in 27 of 29 games, averaging 5.4 PPG in 20.4 MPG.

Goon provided a number of other insights regarding the players who re-signed with the Lakers in free agency:

  • Rajon Rondo knew when he agreed to a two-year, $5.26MM contract with a player option that he’d have a reduced role. Rondo has appeared in 17 games, averaging 7.7 PPG and 5.6 APG in 21.36 MPG. “Very transparent,” the veteran point guard said of the front office’s plans for him. “Told me my role coming in, what they expected from me and how I could be a part of this run we’re trying to make.”
  • Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said it wasn’t a slam dunk he’d return, even though agent Rich Paul also represents the Lakers superstars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis“I wanted to be back, but with my agent, went through the process of free agency,” he said. “Pros and cons, where I want to be. It was all about what I wanted, and we just took it from there.” Caldwell-Pope signed an incentive-laden two-year, $19MM deal with a player option.
  • Center JaVale McGee was intent on returning, especially when he learned that Davis preferred to play power forward, opening a starting spot for him. McGee took a two-year, $8.2MM deal with a player option. He’s averaging 7.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG in 27 starts. “I felt like this is the best opportunity for me to possibly start and win the championship out of any other team,” he said. “I took it.”

L.A. Notes: George, Leonard, Rondo, McGee

Paul George is almost ready to return to the court after going through his first five-on-five practice yesterday, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Coach Doc Rivers told reporters that George’s debut with the Clippers could come tomorrow against the Raptors, although Wednesday against the Rockets or Thursday against the Pelicans remains more likely.

No matter when it happens, George, who was involved in one of the highest-profile trades of the offseason, is eager to stop rehabbing and start playing. He had surgery on both shoulders shortly after the Thunder were eliminated from last season’s playoffs and has been operating on a limited basis since training camp opened.

“I’m used to being in this rehab stage and knowing what it takes to get my body prepared,” George said, referring to a broken leg he suffered in 2014. “It’s a long process. But with me going through it and having a drastic injury in my leg, I know what to expect. I know what pressure to put on myself and what pressure not to put on myself.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Monday’s game will mark Kawhi Leonard‘s first meeting with the Raptors since leading the team to the NBA title in June, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Leonard said he meets a lot of Canadians in Southern California and they thank him for bringing a championship to the country. “The guys, the journey,” Leonard responded when asked what he will remember from his season in Toronto. “Also the country. The city was amazing. And it’s just so much, you can keep going on and talking about it.”
  • Rajon Rondo is getting closer to his season debut for the Lakers, but it won’t come today against Toronto, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The veteran guard, who is recovering from a calf injury, went through a full workout Saturday and will participate in another practice today to help build his endurance.
  • Lakers center JaVale McGee won’t complain about a reduced role as long as the team keeps winning, relays Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. McGee is playing 25% fewer minutes and taking half as many shots as he did last season, with much of his time going to Dwight Howard. “Being on Golden State set me on (a path), let me have a mindset to where I’m not worried about minutes,” McGee said. However, he added, “If we’re losing and this is happening, then it’s a different situation.”

Lakers Notes: Howard, McGee, PGs, Kuzma

When Dwight Howard signed with the Lakers in August, he pledged to come to camp with an adjusted mindset. After pushing for increased touches and a prominent role during his previous stops, Howard said he had been humbled by his recent struggles and would come to Los Angeles ready and willing to play whatever role was asked of him.

While it’s still early, it sounds like Howard has delivered on that promise so far. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes, head coach Frank Vogel praised the three-time Defensive Player of the Year this week as the Lakers went through their first few days of training camp.

“Dwight Howard has been all business since he came in this time around,” Vogel said. “We’re asking our whole group to have a seriousness about ourselves. He’s been an all-business type of guy. It’s really helped us to be focused and working on the task at hand.”

Howard is on a non-guaranteed contract, but the Lakers only have 14 players with guaranteed salaries, so the big man is the top candidate to slide into the club’s 15th and final roster spot to start the season.  Based on his performance so far in camp, there’s no reason to think that he won’t claim and hang onto that final roster spot.

“Dwight has it on his mind that he wants to help this team win,” teammate Anthony Davis said. “And whatever that entails, he’s going to do it.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Howard isn’t the only veteran Lakers center who has made a good impression so far in camp. According to McMenamin, Vogel also lauded the work of JaVale McGee, who re-signed with the club in July. “JaVale’s performing at a really high level,” the head coach said.
  • It’s not yet clear who will start at point guard for the Lakers, as Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley offer different skill sets and both saw time with the first team early in camp, per Mike Trudell of Lakers.com. As Trudell notes, Bradley’s ability to play off the ball could make him a good fit next to LeBron James, though the team could turn to Rondo if it wants more play-making on the court.
  • Of course, Rondo and Bradley won’t be the only players competing for minutes at the point guard spot. Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register takes a closer look at Alex Caruso, who will be pushing for a regular rotation role after re-signing with the Lakers in the offseason.
  • Kyle Kuzma is still a year away from being able to sign a rookie scale extension, but he has inked another long-term deal that will secure him a nice payday. According to Nick DePaula of ESPN.com, Kuzma signed a five-year footwear and apparel endorsement contract with Puma which is expected to be worth north of $20MM.

Pacific Notes: Ballmer, Ariza, Caruso, Howard

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer invested $100MM in the city of Inglewood, California this week, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

The investment was created as part of the city’s new arena development agreement, with the Clippers labeling it as the largest funding commitment for community programs related to a sports or entertainment venue in California.

“We’re close to a residential neighborhood and we are being very mindful,” Ballmer told ESPN in July about building a potential arena in Inglewood. “Investing well into the community, being a good citizen of the community. No homes need to get moved but we need to be a good neighbor.”

Ballmer’s proposal for a new Clippers arena, according to Youngmisuk, would include a corporate headquarters, team training facility, sports medicine clinic and much more.

“I want it to be beautiful,” Ballmer said. “But I want it to be about basketball. I want it to be comfortable. But I want it to be about basketball.”

There’s more today out of the Pacific Division:

  • James Ham of NBC Sports Sacramento examines how Trevor Ariza could fit in a crowded Kings rotation this season. Ariza, a veteran 3-and-D forward, signed a two-year, $25MM deal to join the Kings in free agency this past summer.
  • Mike Trudell of Lakers.com discusses several Lakers-related items in his mailbag, including the possibility of Alex Caruso starting at point guard this season. Caruso was better than Rajon Rondo while playing alongside LeBron James last season, though head coach Frank Vogel also has the option of testing Quinn Cook at starting point guard in training camp.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com examines whether former All-Star Dwight Howard could help solve the Lakers‘ depth issues at the center position. Howard is expected to fill in the role that injured center DeMarcus Cousins was supposed to fill before tearing his ACL, likely playing back-up center behind JaVale McGee to start the season and controlling the team’s interior presence on defense.

Details On Dwight Howard Signing With Lakers

Dwight Howard is returning to Los Angeles in a rebounding and rim-protecting role to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The signing of the center was a complex process for the Lakers, as Shams Charania of The Athletic explains.

The Grizzlies gave Howard and representatives permission to seek out a deal. Once that happened, the big man met with Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd, with whom Howard played during USA Basketball activities in 2007. The two have a solid relationship and mutual respect for each other from their time in the NBA together, Charania writes in a full-length piece.

In the past, Howard wanted an expanded role on the teams he’d played for. Now, he would be fine with simply rebounding, defending and staying in his lane. Howard has reportedly made these kind of declarations before with no actions to follow up his words. However, Kidd was convinced that Howard had sincerely shifted his mindset.

Next came getting on the same page with Lakers’ stakeholders, from James and Davis to ownership and front office members, Charania writes. Howard then got the green light for the workout with the team, which went well — “amazing” was what one source told Charania about Howard’s performance.

Here’s more on Howard’s path back to the Lakers:

  • Charania hears that Dwight actually arrived at the Lakers’ training facility the day before his scheduled workout, showcasing initiative which impressed the team’s brass.
  • Howard was convincing during an emotional meeting with Lakers’ players and staff, explaining how he had hit rock bottom and understood what he needed to do to remain in the league.
  • Davis, who was one of the players with whom Howard met, prefers to play alongside a true center during the course of the NBA season, a source tells Charania. Davis is comfortable playing the five during the playoffs but his preference is part of the reason the Lakers were targeting centers to begin with after DeMarcus Cousins went down.
  • By multiple accounts, Howard is fully healthy and truly motivated. Charania writes that Howard treated his workout with the Lakers like a post-college player participating in a pre-draft workout.
  • Howard doesn’t feel a need to start at the five but he will compete for it along with JaVale McGee. He’s willing to play any amount of minutes the team needs of him with a source close to Howard telling Charania that “Dwight is ready. He can’t wait.”

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, Contracts, Green, Cousins

The Lakers are taking an all-or-nothing mentality into next season with the acquisition of Anthony Davis and numerous veteran free agents, including DeMarcus Cousins. GM Rob Pelinka said there’s only one goal for next season, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN“For us, anything short of a championship is not success,” Pelinka said. “So we have to learn from last season, because we didn’t win a championship. And a lot of that went into the construction of the roster this year.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Pelinka notes the benefit of signing players to short-term contracts. While Davis is expected to be a long-term Lakers, only James (player option) is currently on the books beyond 2021, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times relays. “It gives us the ability to not only contend in the short term with the players we wanted, but also add a superstar or max player in that July of 2021,” Pelinka said.
  • Shooting guard Danny Green, another off-season free agent addition, said he waited for Raptors teammate Kawhi Leonard to make his decision before he chose his destination, according to another Ganguli story. Green may have stayed in Toronto or gone to Dallas if Leonard hadn’t joined the Clippers. “Those five days seemed like five months. … You think a day, it goes by pretty fast but the way it was happening, the way I was talking to him, you would think it was a week. Like, ‘I got to wait another day, dude? Like, come on!’” Green said.
  • The Cousins signing will only work if he’s willing to come off the bench and split the center spot with JaVale McGee, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times opines. That could be a tough for Cousins to accept, given that he was a premier player prior to rupturing his Achilles two seasons ago, Woike notes. Cousins is thrilled to be reunited with former Pelicans teammate Davis, Youngmisuk writes in a separate story“We realized how much better we made one another and how much we made the game easier for each other. We both appreciate each other’s presence,” Cousins said. “To add LeBron James to the mix, his résumé speaks for itself.”