Julius Randle

Pelicans Notes: Davis, Holiday, Payton, Randle

While it has long been considered a formality that the Pelicans will move Anthony Davis during the offseason, the star center acknowledged today that, with his contract set to run through at least 2020, it’s not a given that he’ll be playing for a new team next fall.

“I’m under contract still,” Davis said, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. “I have a year left. Obviously it’s a possibility it could happen. I don’t have ill will towards anybody. I know that it’s a possibility that next year I could be here as well. So I can’t be mad if I’m here next year.”

Davis, who said that he has no regrets about requesting a trade from the Pelicans earlier this year, admitted that the saga was a “wild” experience, but said he’s excited to see what the future holds. Davis’ future figures to be in the hands of New Orleans’ next general manager — while Danny Ferry assumed interim GM duties, Dell Demps‘ permanent replacement has yet to be hired.

“Seeing who the Pelicans make their GM and having a conversation with that person about the future,” Davis said when asked about his next step. “My time here has always been great. I love playing here. It’s something that I will definitely hold in my heart forever, but the next step is waiting on the Pelicans [to fill] that GM job.”

Here’s more on Davis and the Pelicans:

  • As Friedell details within the same article, Davis also attempted to sidestep responsibility for wearing a Looney Tunes shirt reading “That’s All Folks” on the day of what could have been his final game as a Pelican. “I didn’t choose it,” AD said. “I actually didn’t choose it. It was hanging for me already when I put my clothes on.”
  • Addressing the Davis situation, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said the 26-year-old is a “great kid” who got some “bad advice,” Friedell writes in another ESPN.com story. “We’re going to move on regardless of what [happened],” Gentry said. “We’ve got great ownership. We’re going to have great leadership. We got a bunch of guys in there that believe in each other. So it doesn’t matter what [happens], we’re going to be good next year.”
  • In his end-of-season presser, Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said that Demps used to keep him in the loop on major decisions, adding that he hopes the franchise will continue soliciting his input (Twitter link via Will Guillory of The Athletic).
  • Holiday also offered his two cents on free-agents-to-be Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle — he’d like to see the team bring both players back, if possible (Twitter link via Guillory).

Jeanie Buss Has Faith In Lakers’ Front Office Despite Lost Season

The Lakers failed to put the right pieces around LeBron James during year one of The King’s reign in Los Angeles. Despite the disappointment, owner Jeanie Buss still has complete faith in both team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka, a source close to the situation tells Bill Oram of The Athletic.

The two executives have had their share of missteps during their time with the team. For instance, as Oram details, when the Lakers signed James, neither Pelinka or Johnson put in the kind of research that rival organizations typically do when landing a top star.

When the Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving, the team made calls to former coaches and those around him in pursuit of intel on the point guard. Had the Lakers put in that type of work, they may have known, for example, that LBJ playing off the ball wasn’t going to be something they should plan around even if the four-time MVP had signed off on the strategy during July 2018 discussions.

The team will chase stars like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson this summer, though the Lakers don’t appear to be atop any of those players’ lists, per Oram’s piece, which Shams Charania, Joe Vardon, Sam Amick, and Frank Isola also contributed to.

The thinking process may be shifting behind the scenes in Los Angeles as a result of the lack of interest in the Lakers. “You don’t need names, you need games,” a source close to James tells Oram. That differs from Johnson declaring last year that this summer would bring another superstar.

Regardless of which players the Lakers roster, Luke Walton is unlikely to coach them. Johnson clashed with Walton throughout the season with tension rising during an early-season meeting. Oram writes that Johnson delivered Walton with a “closed-door tongue lashing.” From that point on, Walton had reason to be concerned about his job security.

According to Isola, the Lakers reached out to former Bucks coach Jason Kidd during the season. However, a high-ranking official within the organization refutes the claim.

Oram shares more details from a lost season in the extensive piece, which is worth a read on its own. Here are some more of the highlights:

  • Kyle Kuzma was told prior to his trip to Charlotte for All-Star weekend that he would be a key part of the Lakers and that unless the team was acquiring one of the league’s best three players, it wasn’t trading him. Pelinka delivered a similar message to Larry Nance Jr. prior to the deadline last season. According to Oram’s source, Pelinka reassured Nance of the team’s plan for him and told the big man to buy the house he was pursuing in Los Angeles — Nance luckily was unable to complete all the necessary steps to buying the home before the team traded him to Cleveland.
  • Some within Walton’s circle felt that agent Rich Paul was attempting to use the Anthony Davis saga to get the team to fire Walton. If the team acquired Davis, the franchise would need a more decorated coach. However, the Lakers heard through back channels that Davis liked Walton and that bought the coach more time.
  • Members of the Lakers’ coaching staff had hoped that management would bring back the Julius RandleBrook Lopez pairing last offseason. The team allowed both to walk in free agency. Sources tell Oram that Walton and his staff were not consulted about potential free agent targets last year until late in the process.
  • Oram writes that Johnson is seen as an “absentee executive,” as evidenced by Johnson’s lack of response when LaVar Ball made allegations that Walton was losing control of the locker room last season. Johnson was in Hawaii at the time and didn’t publicly back his coach.
  • Pelinka has been active in his involvement with the Lakers. He’s hands-on with scouting and coaches’ meetings, though his level of micromanagement has drawn criticism.
  • Johnson caught the attention of James for his comments during an interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio. Johnson said the team needed to get the ball out of James’ hands because otherwise, the situation would be “Cleveland all over again and we don’t want that.” LBJ publicly said he wasn’t sure what Johnson meant.

Lakers Rumors: Zubac, LeBron, Butler, PG13, Randle

The Lakers‘ decision to trade Ivica Zubac to the Clippers in a deal for Mike Muscala was one of the more questionable deadline moves last month. To make matter worse, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes that the Lakers actually instigated those trade discussions.

Sources tell McMenamin that the Clippers never inquired on Zubac, and that it was the Lakers who made the offer, which the Clips “gladly accepted.” Veteran Clippers executive Jerry West “couldn’t believe how Zubac fell into his lap,” McMenamin writes.

The Lakers had hoped the roster spot they opened up in that swap – which also included Michael Beasley – would clear the way for the team to sign a player like Wayne Ellington, DeAndre Jordan, or Enes Kanter on the buyout market, per McMenamin. However, those players either chose other teams or never became available.

McMenamin’s latest article for ESPN digs into the Lakers’ disappointing season in detail, and includes several more noteworthy tidbits. Here are the highlights from the piece:

  • One team source tells McMenamin that they felt as if LeBron James didn’t fully engage with his younger teammates prior to the trade deadline.
  • Rajon Rondo organized a players-only meeting about a month ago in the hopes that the team would find “a better understanding of one another,” a source tells McMenamin. Players spoke up about LeBron’s “inconsistent body language,” and James took the criticism to heart, making an effort to improve on that going forward. Of course, the meeting hasn’t led to improved on-court results. “Just because [the meeting] was positive doesn’t mean we’re going to win 25 games in a row,” a team source told McMenamin.
  • Anthony Davis‘ name didn’t come up last summer when James met with Magic Johnson on the eve of free agency and discussed future plans. However, it has been clear all year that the Lakers intend to pair LeBron with a second maximum-salary free agent. L.A. was one of several teams to inquire on Jimmy Butler before he was sent to Philadelphia last fall, McMenamin reports.
  • Paul George‘s decision to stay in Oklahoma City last offseason was more about what the Thunder did right than what the Lakers did wrong, sources tell McMenamin. Still, it’s worth noting that George was somewhat familiar with how the Lakers ran things, having spoken to his agent Aaron Mintz and former teammate Corey Brewer about their experiences with the organization.
  • Mintz represents Julius Randle, who never received an offer from the Lakers as a restricted free agency last July, per McMenamin. Randle ultimately signed with the Pelicans because he felt like they really wanted him, which wasn’t a feeling he got from the Lakers, despite the fact that head coach Luke Walton and his staff hoped he’d be back, McMenamin writes.

Trade Rumors: Randle, Mirotic, Raptors, Celtics

The Pelicans remain on the lookout for potential trades involving players besides Anthony Davis, but Will Guillory of The Athletic suggests (via Twitter) that Julius Randle seems unlikely to be moved this week. According to Guillory, Randle has developed a strong bond with the coaching staff in New Orleans and the club has interest in keeping him around long-term.

Another frontcourt Pelicans player, Nikola Mirotic, remains a trade candidate, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who names the Jazz, Trail Blazers, Nets, and Spurs as clubs that have expressed interest in Mirotic. League sources tell O’Connor that New Orleans is seeking a first-round pick in exchange for Mirotic, with one source calling the club’s asking price “excessive.”

Of course, the Pelicans gave up a first-rounder for Mirotic a year ago, but at that time they got a year and a half of team control rather than just a a half-season, and also shed Omer Asik‘s unwanted contract in the deal.

Here are more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • Although the Raptors have been linked to big names like Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, sources tell Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca that a move around the periphery of the roster is far more likely than a major deal. Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca confirms that a move involving Kyle Lowry is “highly unlikely,” but says the Raptors have been aggressive on the trade market and would move anyone on their roster if they feel like it makes them a better team. On the other hand, Toronto has no intention of moving Pascal Siakam unless the club gets a superstar-level return, Lewenberg notes.
  • Before Thursday’s trade deadline, the Celtics may try to attach cash to Jabari Bird in a trade to lower their projected tax bill, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. However, Bird’s legal issues complicate matters. Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) has heard that Boston wants the NBA to expedite a decision on Bird, but the league is in no rush to set a precedent under the CBA’s domestic violence policy.
  • While Nuggets guard Gary Harris has been cited as a potential trade candidate, Matt Moore of ActionNetwork.com hears from a source that Denver hasn’t engaged in any “substantive” trade talks involving Harris and doesn’t currently plan to (Twitter link). While it’s possible that stance could change, Moore thinks the Nuggets would only consider moving Harris in a deal that lands the club a clear upgrade.

Pelicans, Lakers Discuss Anthony Davis

1:44pm: The Lakers let Demps know that one of their potential scenarios for Davis would include Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, and a first-round pick, a source tells Turner (Twitter link). ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link) hears that it’s “common sense to assume no one but LeBron James would be untouchable.”

1:33pm: The Pelicans and Lakers have connected on the phone to discuss Davis and are expected to talk again before next week’s deadline, tweets Wojnarowski.

Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times adds a few more details, reporting that Magic Johnson presented Demps with five different trade scenarios and is waiting to hear back from the Pelicans about which scenario would interest them the most (Twitter links). According to Turner (Twitter link), the Lakers want to get a deal done now, and don’t plan on trying to outbid the Celtics and other teams in the summer, when they plan to shift their focus to free agent targets.

10:39am: Although he’s getting back to other teams that have inquired on Anthony Davis, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps has yet to return the Lakers‘ call, according to a new report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe. While Demps is expected to eventually get back to the Lakers well before next week’s trade deadline, the “sluggish response time” is perhaps intended to send a message to the team.

As Wojnarowski and Lowe observe, the Pelicans may blame the Lakers in part for Davis’ trade request, and will want to show that they fully intend to make a deal on their own timeline, rather than at a time that would most benefit the Lakers. We relayed earlier today that the Pelicans plan to play the long game with Davis, and ESPN’s latest report reiterates that point, indicating that owner Gayle Benson is “enthusiastically carrying the small market banner,” resisting a union of AD and LeBron James in L.A.

New Orleans’ mantra so far, per Woj and Lowe, is that Davis is welcome to become a Laker in 2020 when he can reach free agency. If the Lakers are willing to wait that long, they’ll have to preserve cap room for an extra year, complicating their plans for the 2019/20 season.

It’s the latest in a series of “icy” receptions the Lakers feel they’ve received as they try to trade for star players. According to Woj and Lowe, the Lakers got the “unmistakable impression” last summer that the Spurs had no intention of ever trading Kawhi Leonard to L.A., though the Spurs simply said they weren’t interested in the Lakers’ package.

Here’s more from Woj and Lowe on the Davis situation:

  • For now, Davis’ camp is treating any potential trade destination besides the Lakers as a temporary stop, since his plan would be to sign with L.A. in 2020. However, teams are curious to see if that stance softens after the trade deadline. It may be a leverage play to encourage a trade to the Lakers within the next seven days.
  • Davis’ view of Boston is linked to Kyrie Irving‘s future, sources tell Woj and Lowe. Davis and his camp aren’t convinced that Irving will re-sign with the Celtics this summer. The Celtics believe they’d be capable of keeping both players long-term, as there’s a sense in Boston that trading for AD would help convince Irving to stay.
  • Jayson Tatum is an important wild card for the Celtics — the ideal scenario for Boston would be to use other assets in an AD trade and build a Big Three of Tatum, Davis, and Irving. But if it helps convince the Pelicans to wait until the offseason to deal Davis, the C’s could tell New Orleans now that they’re open to moving Tatum. If they tell the Pelicans as much, they’ll have to keep their word in the summer to avoid damaging their league-wide reputation, Woj and Lowe note.
  • The Pelicans continue to explore the market value of Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle, and E’Twaun Moore, sources tell ESPN.
  • Kristaps Porzingis would be reluctant to approve a sign-and-trade to New Orleans as part of a package for Davis, which could make things tricky for the Knicks, since the value of their 2019 first-rounder remains up in the air due to the lottery. If they’re willing to include Porzingis in an offer, they’d probably have to do so this week, before the precise value of their 2019 draft pick is clear.
  • For the time being, Davis plans to play for the Pelicans again before the deadline, sources tell ESPN.

Pelicans Shopped Mirotic, Randle, Moore

The Pelicans spent the weekend trying to trade Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle and E’Twaun Moore in exchange for draft picks, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his weekly podcast (hat tip to Andrew Lopez of The Times-Picayune).

“Over the weekend, I had heard from two separate teams that Mirotic, Randle and Moore had all been made available for picks,” Lowe said. “New Orleans is known for perhaps playing some misdirection, so teams didn’t know what to think of this. One team made of it, their guess and/or impression was, New Orleans was trying to get picks that it then flips for a big, big piece in a save-the-season trade.”

The other team told Lowe it also wasn’t sure how to interpret the Pelicans’ move and speculated that they might be giving up on this season and trying to build for the future. New Orleans is 13th in the East with a 22-28 record and is five and a half games out of a playoff spot.

Mirotic, who was acquired from the Bulls last season, will be a free agent in July and will be seeking a raise on his $12.5MM salary. Randle, who signed with the team over the summer, has a player option for next season worth a little more than $9MM. Moore is in his third season with the Pelicans and has one year left on his current contract at nearly $8.67MM.

New Orleans is trying to plan for the future without star big man Anthony Davis, who informed the team over the weekend that he won’t sign an extension this summer and wants to be traded.

Bobby Portis Talks Future, Betting On Himself

Bobby Portis turned down the long-term security of a contract extension with the Bulls with the hopes of landing a more lucrative deal on the open market during the summer of 2019. While it may appear as if Portis made a bad bet, the former No. 22 overall pick believes he’s still in position to cash in.

“Obviously I’ve had some injuries up to this point, but I still feel like everything is lined up,’’ Portis said of his plan to become a restricted free agent this summer (via Joe Cowley of The Chicago Tribune). “It’s about me just staying healthy now and me doing my thing. The wins and losses obviously, come and go from game-to-game. You really can’t control that part all the time. We control our effort.”

The upcoming market should be much better than it was in 2018 due to the number of teams with available cap space. Many of the sour contracts from the 2016 offseason will come off the books, leaving teams the ability to make major additions. However, the competition for deals will be fierce with roughly 50% of NBA players eligible to hit the open market. Portis will likely be behind other power forwards, such as Tobias Harris, Julius Randle, Harrison Barnes, and former sparring partner Nikola Mirotic, when teams set their wish lists for a forward.

Portis has had opportunities to improve his stock, particularly during the stretch of games Lauri Markkanen missed to begin the season, but he hasn’t been able to capitalize them due to health problems. He suffered a knee injury near the start of the season and has since been sidelined during two separate stretches with ankle and elbow woes.

“I just need to stay healthy, be on the court, play as hard as I can when I can,” Portis said. “With the minutes that Coach Jim [Boylen] gives me, go out there and play with force. At the end of the day everybody wants to make as much money as they can in this game, but with me I’m just focused on my team, turning this around, and going out there and having fun. Enjoy the ride the rest of the year.’’

Entering Tuesday, Portis’ ride with the Bulls this season has only spanned 13 games. He’s been outspoken about his desire to remain with the Bulls past this season and he believes the feeling is mutual.

“Obviously I know that I really want to stay a Bull,’’ Portis said. “I can’t see myself in any other jersey. It would be weird to start the next season off in another uniform. I’ve been here for four seasons now, time flies fast, but I think I will be a Bull. It’s not only in my control, but honestly I’ve loved this opportunity to be a Bull and don’t see that changing.”

Portis will be a restricted free agent, meaning Chicago can match any offer sheet he receives. The franchise’s recent strategy has been to let RFAs hit the market and then decide whether to match, as the organization did with Zach LaVine‘s deal last offseason. Drafted in 2015, Portis is the Bulls’ longest-tenured player and he doesn’t “want that to change.’’ 

“To be around this long … obviously Bulls across my chest means a lot to me. I really take pride in that every time I step on the court. It’s a big-time honor to be the longest-tenured Bull, but at the same time I feel like I’ve got a long way to go,” Portis added.

Pelicans Rumors: Porter, Moore, Bazemore, Lin

Few players have made a bigger impact on their teams this season than Anthony Davis, whose Pelicans have a +10.7 net rating when he’s on the court and a -13.7 rating when he sits. However, Davis could use some help, so Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer devotes his latest article to exploring a number of potential trade options for New Orleans, providing a handful of interesting tidbits along the way.

Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • There are “whispers” that the Pelicans have interest in Wizards forward Otto Porter, according to O’Connor, who believes that Porter could thrive in New Orleans’ up-tempo offense and would fill a major need for the team. While there’s no indication that the two teams have engaged in trade discussions, O’Connor suggests that a package along the lines of Solomon Hill, Julius Randle, and a first-round pick might work.
  • Following up on a report suggesting that the Pelicans offered Nikola Mirotic and a first-round pick to the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler, O’Connor writes that E’Twaun Moore was included in a version of New Orleans’ offer for Butler. Sources tell O’Connor that the Pels declined to make Jrue Holiday available in those trade talks, and also resisted offering an unprotected 2022 first-round pick.
  • O’Connor identifies Kent Bazemore, Wesley Matthews, James Johnson, Trevor Ariza, and DeMarre Carroll as some other wings and forwards who could be of interest to New Orleans, and who may end up being available. The Pelicans made a play for Bazemore in the offseason, O’Connor notes.
  • Scott Kushner of The Advocate recently argued that the Pelicans could use another playmaker, even when Elfrid Payton is healthy. O’Connor makes a similar point, observing that New Orleans had interest in Jeremy Lin before he signed with the Nets in 2016. Lin could be a trade candidate to watch, according to O’Connor, who points to Milos Teodosic (Clippers) and T.J. McConnell (Sixers) as others to keep an eye on.

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2018/19 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs to answer an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors are once again viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorites to be the last team standing, with 26 of 30 GMs (87%) picking Golden State to win the NBA championship for the fourth time in five years.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more noteworthy ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • LeBron James (30%) and Kevin Durant (27%) are viewed as the frontrunners for the 2018/19 MVP award, but two younger players led the voting for the player GMs would most want to build a franchise around starting today. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (30%) and Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (23%) led the way in that category. Interestingly, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t receive a single vote this year after leading the way with 29% of the vote in 2017.
  • The Lakers‘ signing of James helped them earn 70% of the vote for the team that made the best overall moves this offseason. The Raptors, buoyed by their acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, finished second at 20%.
  • A ton of different signings and trade acquisitions received votes for the most underrated addition of the summer, with the Pacers‘ signing of Tyreke Evans barely leading the way with four votes. The Spurs‘ trade for DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls‘ signing of Jabari Parker, the Pelicans‘ addition of Julius Randle, and the Thunder‘s acquisition of Dennis Schroder received three votes apiece.
  • DeMarcus Cousins‘ decision to join the Warriors (35%) was considered the most surprising move of the offseason, followed by the Spurs/Raptors blockbuster trade (29%) and Paul George remaining with the Thunder (19%).
  • While Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the strong frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, GMs expect Suns center Deandre Ayton and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. to be the best players five years from now. Meanwhile, the Clippers‘ selection of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11 was viewed by the most GMs as the steal of the draft.
  • The Sixers (47%) and Celtics (33%) dominated voting for the teams with the most promising young cores.

Southwest Notes: Anthony, Okafor, Randle, Grizzlies

Carmelo Anthony is looking to make the game fun again in his first season with the Rockets, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Anthony is set to enter his 16th professional season, with the 34-year-old having his vision set on winning an NBA championship.

“Just enjoy the game and play basketball … I’ve been doing it for a long time,” Anthony said. “I still know how to do it. I’ve just got to make it fun. The game just has to be fun.”

The Rockets are expected to be a championship contender this season, with the team featuring a deep bench, star center and All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and James Harden. The level of production Anthony gives will help determine how far the team gets in its journey.

“He’s a great basketball player, so we just try to make it optimal for him and us,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s always a little bit of a challenge, but if you had asked me the same question (last year) about James and Chris I would have said the same thing: ‘Well, it looks good. I’m excited.’ So same thing with him.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division: