JaVale McGee

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.”

 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, shooting better  (63%) than DeAndre Jordan, McGee wants more. “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 potential superstar is off the board for a Lakers team in search of a co-star to 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 off the board.
  • 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.

Pacific Notes: Beasley, James, Livingston, Temple

In a somewhat surprising move, the Lakers plan to sign veteran forward Michael Beasley to a one-year, $3.5MM deal, using a significant portion of their room exception. Beasley enjoyed a rejuvenated season with the Knicks in 2017/18, averaging 13.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 74 games (30 starts).

Beasley reportedly had opportunities to sign with teams that offered more playing time, but a tough free agent market made the $3.5MM salary hard to pass up, tweets David Aldridge of NBA.com. Also, Beasley has familiarity with LeBron James, as he played alongside the four-time NBA MVP with the Heat.

Since the Lakers signed James away from the Cavaliers, the team has further added Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and now Beasley. While it may not be the super team fans had hoped for, it’s an interesting conglomerate of talent.

Check out more Pacific Division notes:

  • Speaking of James, he made his first public appearance last Sunday to watch his new team in action at NBA Summer League. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report spoke to several Lakers’ executives who were on hand and discussed the prospect of James in Los Angeles and his role on the team. One executive actually believes the Lakers’ best lineup would be with James at center.
  • Shaun Livingston has been a valuable reserve for the Warriors as the team has dominated the NBA the past half-decade, winning three championships in the past four years. Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required) spoke to Livingston during his basketball camp in New York City, where Livingston addressed the Warriors’ success and the perception that Golden State has “ruined” the league with their super team.
  • Ever since Zach LaVine‘s offer sheet was matched by the Bulls, the Kings have not made any major additions to the team this offseason. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes that the Kings’ low-key approach thus far is okay and helps the team in the future.
  • The Grizzlies sent $1.5MM to the Kings as part of the trade for Garrett Temple , tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That figure is the equivalent of Deyonta Davis‘ salary, which would therefore be covered by Memphis if the Kings choose to waive him.

Clark Crum contributed to this post.

Lakers Sign JaVale McGee

JULY 10: The Lakers have officially signed McGee, the team announced today in a press release. The move takes L.A. over the cap, but the team still has its $4.449MM room exception available if it wants to make another signing worth more than the minimum.

JULY 1: The Lakers have reached an agreement on a one-year, minimum deal with center JaVale McGee, Chris Haynes of ESPN tweets. McGee will join Lance Stephenson and LeBron James in Los Angeles as part of the Twilight Zone Big 3 You Never Knew You Always Wanted.

Though the frequent Shaqtin’ A Fool honoree gets flak for the occasional on-court blooper, he has actually carved out a valuable bit role for himself in two seasons with the Warriors. His length and athleticism, though not always deployable in today’s small ball era, can impact the tone of games off the bench.

McGee averaged 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game for the Warriors last year but saw those rates increase to 6.7 and 3.8 respectively in contests in which he played at least 10 minutes. Even if he serves a similar niche role with the Lakers, McGee’s minimum deal – worth $2.4MM with a cap hit of $1.5MM – is an affordable piece for a franchise that us quickly running out of roster spots.

The Lakers currently have McGee, 21-year-old Ivica Zubac, and rookie Moritz Wagner set to man the five, so we’ll see if they consider adding more support at the position.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

L.A. Notes: Leonard, James, Rondo, Rivers

The Spurs continue to seek a high price from the Lakers in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, salary cap expert Larry Coon said in an appearance today on Spectrum SportsNet (Twitter link). Sources tell Coon that San Antonio is asking for Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, two first-rounders and the right to swap two other draft choices. “They’re just saying give us everything,” Coon said.

Coon also outlined the Lakers’ remaining cap situation, noting that the signing of Lance Stephenson with the mid-level exception will probably be the final move in free agency after all other cap space is used up.

There’s more news from Los Angeles:

  • LeBron James‘ decision to join the Lakers may give Leonard more incentive to become a Clipper, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports suggested in an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s radio show (Twitter link).
  • The Lakers are turning their attention to next summer for their next big free agent move, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. The organization’s emphasis on one-year deals helps explain the odd collection of moves that have come down since James committed to L.A. Sunday night. The Lakers re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, then reached agreements with Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo, all on one-year contracts. The team expects to have about $76MM in guaranteed money next summer, possibly less if Luol Deng is waived and stretched, leaving enough to offer another max deal.
  • Rondo, whom Deveney states has wanted to join the Lakers since 2015, could take the starting point guard job away from Lonzo Ball, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. A source tells Amick that the L.A. front office has promised Rondo the chance to compete for a starting spot.
  • During an impromptu interview with TMZ, Doc Rivers explained the decision to trade his son, Austin Rivers, to the Wizards. The Clippers coach called it “the right thing for all of us” and predicts that Austin will excel in Washington.