Jerry West

L.A. Notes: Bryant, Kupchak, George, West

The Lakers returned to practice today for the first time since Kobe Bryant‘s death on Sunday, writes Greg Beacham of The Associated Press. The mood was reserved as players tried to move beyond the tragedy and focus on basketball. Some of them, including Anthony Davis, spent time looking at Bryant’s two retired numbers hanging in the rafters before practice began.

“We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything,” said coach Frank Vogel, who was the only person to address the media after the workout. “We’ve always wanted to make him proud, and that’s not going to be any different now.”

The Lakers’ game against the Clippers last night was postponed to give the organization more time to deal with the tragedy. Instead, the team held an afternoon gathering where players and coaches shared stories and memories of Bryant. The meeting was “therapeutic and beneficial,” according to Vogel.

“It’s been something that has touched my family, being the father of daughters, and it’s been very emotional,” he said. “It’s something that brings us together. I’m around the people who were closest to Kobe throughout his time here, and it’s been just a deeply saddening time for all of us.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The franchise-altering trade that brought Bryant to the Lakers in 1996 nearly didn’t happen, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak, who served as assistant GM for the Lakers at the time, said Charlotte had second thoughts about going through with the deal. “I think we always felt that we’d get the deal done,” Kupchak said. “Certainly, history would have been a lot different, at least from a Lakers point-of-view. Kobe would have been great no matter where he was.”
  • Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard both spent time working out with Bryant at his Mamba Sports Academy and both credit him with helping to mold their careers, relays Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. “He was my Michael Jordan growing up as a SoCal kid,” George said after today’s practice. “He was what every kid wanted to be here. I started playing basketball because of Kobe.” 
  • Current Clippers consultant Jerry West said when Bryant was thinking of leaving the Lakers as a free agent in 2004, he warned him not to go across town and play for former owner Donald Sterling (video link from TNT).

Southwest Notes: Harden, Self, Ingram, Luka

After Russell Westbrook joined James Harden in the backcourt for the new-look 2019/20 Rockets, the team’s offense struggled with counters against half-court double team Harden traps from smart teams like the Nuggets, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko writes.

Iko details how coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden, Westbrook, and their Rockets teammates devised clever solutions to counter the traps. “We figured out a way it’s going to work for us,” wing Danuel House told Iko. “All we gotta do is be ready to knock … shots down or make the right reads. If we don’t have the shot, pass it or drive to get someone else a shot.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Kansas head coach Bill Self responded to chatter from ESPN’s Seth Greenberg and The Athletic’s Sam Amick and John Hollinger that he is being considered to replace Spurs coach Gregg Popovich when the five-time NBA champion eventually retires. “There’s absolutely zero truth to that,” Self said, according to The Kansas City Star’s Gary Bedore. “The thing that cracks me up about some media types is the more outlandish things you can say … what it was, was [Greenberg’s] ‘Bold Predictions for 2020 [segment].’ You grab something or throw something against the wall and hope something sticks.”
  • Pelicans star forward Brandon Ingram has been having a breakout season in New Orleans, averaging 25.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 3.8 APG this year. Andrew Lopez of ESPN takes a look at how Ingram, in the final season of his rookie contract, has carved out a place for himself on his new team. The 22-year-old, who will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2020, was just named the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week.
  • Clippers consultant Jerry West has very high praise for rising Mavericks star Luka DoncicKevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News reports. “One player has transformed them into a playoff team,” West said. “[Doncic] will be the best player Dallas has ever had… I have great respect for [Dirk] Nowitzki, but Dirk is not him.” West has won nine titles as a player and executive in a storied Hall-of-Fame career.

Western Notes: Collins, Davis, Lillard, West

Zach Collins hasn’t given up on playing this season, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website tweets “For sure, it’s very realistic,” Collins told Holdahl. However, the Trail Blazers big man faces a long rehab after undergoing shoulder surgery last week. He’s expected to miss at least four months, which leaves only about a month before the end of the regular season in a best-case scenario.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Anthony Davis is playing through right shoulder pain, an injury he suffered on a missed dunk attempt two weeks ago, Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays. “There’s really never a play I don’t feel it,” Davis said. He hasn’t missed any games due to the injury and that will continue as long as he doesn’t aggravate it, according to Mark Medina of USA Today. “If he can be out there, he’s going to be out there,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to play through pain. We just got to make sure that it’s being done intelligently.”
  • Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is content to stay the course with the Trail Blazers rather than joining forces with superstars in other organizations, as he explained to Medina in a separate story. Lillard signed a four-year, $196MM extension during the summer. “I just feel like there’s always a reward at the end. When you do things the right way and you do the work, you’re going to get the results,” Lillard said. “I really believe that. We’ve gotten the results. Even after failures, we come back and answer to it. We’re staying the course. That’s worth it to me.”
  • Clippers adviser Jerry West rubber-stamped the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder and explained why to Sam Amick of The Athletic. The Clippers gave up five first-rounders, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. “Everybody talks about all the draft picks we gave away. Well, we did give a lot of draft picks away. But two of them were not ours – period, OK?” West said. Giving up the young point guard was the hard part but worth it in West’s mind. “I think Shai is going to be an All-Star player in this league for a long time, and he’ll keep getting better. But we have two finished products right in the prime of their careers (in Kawhi Leonard and George) – or just getting in the prime of their careers,” he said.

Jerry West To Return To Clippers For Another Season

Jerry West will return to the Clippers as a consultant for another season, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times reports.

West is one of three key front office members who decided to remain with the franchise this offseason. The Wolves pursued GM Michael Winger and the Pelicans aimed to poach assistant GM Trent Redden, though both executives turned down promotions to stay in Los Angeles.

West, whose Hall-of-Fame NBA career began in 1960, joined the Clippers in June of 2017 as an advisor and he assisted in the overhaul from the Lob City era to the current state of the franchise, which is in position to pursue two max-level free agents. Kawhi Leonard is expected to be a top target this offseason. The team will also pursue Kevin Durant.

L.A. Notes: Pelinka, LeBron, Rivers, Lawsuit

All signs point to Rob Pelinka having full power to run the Lakers in the wake of Magic Johnson’s resignation, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Sources tell Amick that the team didn’t contact David Griffin, LeBron James‘ former GM in Cleveland, before he joined the Pelicans earlier this month. They also didn’t try to lure GM Bob Myers from the Warriors or consultant Jerry West from the Clippers.

Pelinka has orchestrated the coaching search ever since the team parted ways with Luke Walton, Amick adds. He identified Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams, Juwan Howard and Jason Kidd as candidates and organized their interviews.

Although Pelinka is running the show, the number of people with a voice in front office decisions has grown since Johnson left. In addition to Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss, the interviews with Lue and Howard were attended by president of business operations Tim Harris, VP of research and development Joey Buss and assistant GM and director of scouting Jesse Buss.

There’s more today from L.A.:

  • James plans to stay out of personnel decisions and will trust Lakers management to assemble a playoff contender, Amick reports in the same story. LeBron bristles at suggestions that he serves as de facto GM wherever he goes and plans to stay out of the spotlight this summer. He released an Instagram video this week proclaiming his faith in the front office.
  • The Clippers‘ performance this year set a foundation for what could be a vastly improved roster next season, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Doc Rivers‘ team gained respect throughout the league by reaching the postseason after trading away leading scorer Tobias Harris in February. “When you are knocked out of the playoffs there’s obviously some times it’s a relief,” Rivers said. “And there are some times you just don’t want it to happen and last night was one of those points. Just the sense of disappointment — even though you know the group you had overachieved, you still don’t want it to end.”
  • A lawsuit contesting the Clippers‘ proposed new Inglewood arena is moving forward, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has rejected an attempt to block the suit, which was filed by Uplift Inglewood, a community group dedicated to affordable housing.

L.A. Notes: Lakers, Lue, Williams, Clippers, West

As we detailed earlier this week, Tyronn Lue‘s meeting with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka about the team’s head coaching vacancy is taking place today, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter).

Lue has experience coaching LeBron James in Cleveland, which could be a point in his favor as Pelinka and the Lakers weigh their options for Luke Walton‘s replacement. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes, coaching James isn’t without its challenges, but if a coach comes in with a game plan, holds LeBron accountable, and is prepared for push-back, he can succeed.

Lue and Monty Williams are among the candidates apparently in the running for the Lakers’ job, though both men have reportedly been warned to proceed with caution. As Colton Jones of Amico Hoops relays, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said during an appearance on 710 ESPN that “everyone in the league” has told Williams not to take the job, while Jorge Sedano of ESPN said one of Lue’s close friends has given the former Cavs coach a similar warning.

It remains to be seen which direction the Lakers are leaning, or whether they’ll expand their search beyond Lue, Williams, and Juwan Howard. However, Shelburne also notes that it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Williams prefers to remain with the Sixers, where he’s an assistant on Brett Brown‘s staff. His family is settled there, and he could be next in line if Philadelphia were to move on from Brown, says Shelburne (via Jones).

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there’s no indication that the Lakers plan to reach out to Clippers consultant Jerry West about the possibility of returning to the franchise following Magic Johnson‘s resignation from his president of basketball operations role. For his part, West said he’s preparing for an eventful offseason with the Clippers, but made no guarantees about his role next season and beyond. “Well, as far as I can tell, I really don’t have a future, OK? My future is now,” West told Amick. “I don’t really worry about that. I worry about getting through this season, and really concentrating – all of us, concentrating – on free agency.”
  • Although they fell back to earth last night, the fact that the Clippers made the postseason and are capable of performances like their Game 2 win over Golden State bodes well for the pitch they can make to free agents this summer, writes Shaun Powell of NBA.com. Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times conveys a similar sentiment, writing that the club’s future is bright regardless of what happens in the playoffs.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a deep dive into the Lakers’ offseason, exploring the head coaching search, the possibility of revisiting Anthony Davis trade talks, the club’s free agency options, and more.

Stein’s Latest: West, Raptors, DeRozan, Budenholzer

While president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank and owner Steve Ballmer will ultimately make personnel decisions for the Clippers this summer, consultant Jerry West – who will represent the franchise at Tuesday’s draft lottery – figures to have a “significant say,” writes Marc Stein of The New York Times.

“I don’t just want to be a figurehead,” West said of his role with the Clippers. “You want to be a part of the decision-making process. I don’t have the final decision here, but I do have a voice.”

Within his look at West’s role in Los Angeles, Stein notes that the veteran executive helped convince the Clippers to go through with the Blake Griffin trade, even if it made the team look bad after having just extended Griffin seven months earlier. West, who felt his influence was fading in Golden State, elected to ink a two-year contract with L.A. last summer, and may ultimately stay with the franchise longer than that.

“If he still wants to do it, we can go beyond that,” said Clippers owner Ballmer. “Now that I know him better, I can’t see him retiring.”

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Within his weekly newsletter for The Times, Stein writes that “word is” the Raptors quietly explored the possibility of trading DeMar DeRozan during the 2017 offseason. That doesn’t mean that the Raps want to move DeRozan or that they’ll explore trade options for him again this summer. However, Stein fully expects Toronto to do its due diligence on the trade market — not just with DeRozan, but with everyone on the roster.
  • There’s a general belief that the Milwaukee head coaching job is the one Mike Budenholzer wants most, but that’s not a lock, according to Stein, who suggests that the former Hawks coach will have multiple meetings with both the Bucks and Raptors. Stein writes that Budenholzer “could well have preferences that outsiders aren’t privy to” after those meetings. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has said that the Raptors opened talks with Budenholzer over the weekend and continued those conversations on Monday, while Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweeted today that Toronto has already met with Budenholzer.
  • Speaking of the Raptors‘ head coaching job, Stein also reported on Monday that Toronto is interviewing assistants Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian for that position today.

Celtics Notes: Hayward, West, Roster

With a series of videos updating his recovery progress, Gordon Hayward has been fueling speculation that despite long odds, he could suit up for the Celtics before the end of the season. However, head coach Brad Stevens gave his most definitive statement to date, declaring Hayward as done for the year, Michael Singer of USA Today Sports writes.

“He’s not playing this year,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what else to say. Is he progressing? Yes. … It’s great, and I think that the videos are great too because it continues to show the progress because sometimes when you’re in the midst of that long rehab you don’t feel the progress of the day-to-day the way now we all might see a video or somebody that hasn’t seen him may see a video, and say ‘man he is really getting better.’ But he’s super long way away from even being in on a 1-on-0 workout where he’s cutting.”

Hayward suffered a gruesome broken ankle on opening night against the Cavaliers — his first game in Boston green. The Celtics have added players to the roster and relied heavily on youngsters such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in Hayward’s absence. He is expected to be ready for the 2018/19 season.

Check out other Celtics news and notes below:

  • NBA legend Jerry West, a current consultant to the Clippers front office, admires the work that Danny Ainge has done to rebuild the Celtics’ roster and put the team near the top of the Eastern Conference, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes. “Danny’s done a nice job back there,” West said. “Are they good enough? They had a terrible break with a very good player (Gordon Hayward), and are they good enough now? At the end of a couple of years, they’re going to be judged by that, by how they’re doing then — not by now. They’ve got some good young players. They’ve got a terrific coach. They’ve got a lot of positive things going, that’s for sure.”
  • One of the most talked-about trade scenarios in recent years has been Anthony Davis joining the Celtics. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer opines that the Celtics would be better off pouncing on the next major name that becomes available instead of waiting on Davis, who may or may not ever become available.

Knicks Reached Out To Jerry West About Executive Role

The Knicks attempted to lure Jerry West to the franchise this past summer after deciding to part ways with Phil Jackson, sources tell Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News. West told the team through back channels that it wasn’t the right time to come to New York, and ended up taking an advisory role with the Clippers instead.

New York’s current regime, led by team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry, appears to be more professionally run than the old group, Lawrence writes — several players have told him that there has been a positive effect from the Knicks’ orderly front office.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” veteran Courtney Lee recently said. “It’s always good to have good air. It’s easier to operate as a team, 100 percent, 100 percent, 100 percent. Every day there’s not something new in the media, about what’s being said about who. The whole situation wasn’t good. It was not good air. But now, the air is clear. It makes it easier to play now. I just wish ‘Melo was still here so he could be a part of it.”

Many expected the Knicks to contend for the No. 1 pick, though surprisingly, they’re 11-12. While injuries to Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. may blanket hope of an unexpected eighth-seed run, the franchise appears to be heading the in the right direction after years of drama and uncertainty.

Clippers Notes: Griffin, Teodosic, Backcourt, Defense

Blake Griffin credits NBA legend Jerry West with influencing his decision to remain with the Clippers, writes Shams Charania of The Vertical. Griffin opted out of his contract over the summer, but elected to re-sign with L.A. before talking to any other teams. The new five-year deal, coupled with the trade of Chris Paul, makes Griffin the team’s clear on-court leader.

Griffin was “captivated” by West’s presence at a meeting just before the July 1 start of free agency, according to Charania. The Hall of Famer left the Warriors after last season and joined the Clippers as a special consultant.

“Jerry had a major voice to me, and he’s had an influence in coming and working on the culture here,” Griffin said. “This franchise had unfinished business, and I had unfinished business here. We had unfinished business together and I valued that. We laid it out there that no matter what was going on around us, both sides hadn’t accomplished what we set out for. I couldn’t abandon this now.”

There’s more Clippers news out of Los Angeles:

  • Coach Doc Rivers offered a health update today on Milos Teodosic, saying he was able to ride a stationary bike but there’s no timetable for him to play again, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Teodosic is out indefinitely after leaving last Saturday’s game with a plantar fascia injury.
  • Rivers is trying not to overtax his backcourt with the loss of Teodosic, relays Elliott Teaford of The Orange County Register. The Clippers have just three healthy, experienced guards currently available, and Rivers admits he has been asking them to do too much. “Too many minutes,” he said after this week’s win over Utah. “I didn’t like the minutes. That’ll change. It’s just got to expand it. What we’ve got to figure out is giving Patrick [Beverley] and Austin [Rivers] rest, playing Lou [Williams] and Sindarius [Thornwell], but making sure we have Blake or [Danilo Gallinari] with them.”
  • One key to the Clippers’ 4-0 start has been a significant improvement on defense, Turner writes in an L.A. Times story. The addition of Beverley, who was acquired from Houston in the Chris Paul trade, provides defensive pressure in the backcourt and shot-blocker DeAndre Jordan erases mistakes in the middle. “They want to play ‘D’, which is nice,” Rivers said. “I think they all are on the same page. We have DJ at the basket and Pat on the ball. That’s a great combination.”