Kent Bazemore

Pacific Notes: Paul, Booker, Bazemore, Iguodala

As a Hall-of-Fame point guard, Mavericks coach Jason Kidd understands the challenge that Chris Paul presents, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Paul, who will turn 37 this week, is coming off one of the best playoff games of his career, making all 14 of his shots from the field and scoring 33 points Thursday as the Suns closed out the Pelicans.

“He’s perfected the point guard position,” Kidd said. “As you get more reps and you see different defenses, you start to understand what you have to do, and he knows how to move the pieces to get that advantage. When you talk about IQ, it’s off the charts and his competitiveness is off the charts and his will is off the charts. All the things that are off the charts, you’ve just got to make it tough on him.”

Dallas will counter with All-Star point guard Luka Doncic, who was also dominant in the first round after returning from a strained calf. Doncic indicated that the Mavs will try to be physical with Paul, but there’s no set way to contain him.

“It’s hard to slow him down,” Doncic said. “Like you saw in the last game, he didn’t miss. That was pretty crazy.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns were fined $25K for not disclosing Devin Booker‘s status for Game 6 against New Orleans in “an accurate and timely manner,” according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Booker missed three games in the series with a strained right hamstring before returning on Thursday.
  • In an interview with TMZ Sports, Lakers swingman Kent Bazemore defended LeBron James against his critics and said he would like to re-sign with the team in free agency. Bazemore only played 39 games after signing with L.A. last summer, but he said there’s something special about playing for the team. “What I’ll say is nothing ain’t much better than being a Laker, right?” Bazemore said. “So, getting to see (Kobe Bryant‘s) numbers on the wall every day I went to practice was good inspiration for me. … There’s nothing like it, man. It’s a storied franchise.”
  • Warriors forward Andre Iguodala has been ruled out of the first two games of the team’s second-round series vs. Memphis, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Iguodala is dealing with a cervical disc injury in his neck.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Klutch, Carmelo, Offseason

The Lakers‘ front office is internally blaming pressure from Klutch Sports Group for last summer’s acquisition of Russell Westbrook, multiple sources tell Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

As has been reported by several outlets since last August, Klutch clients LeBron James and Anthony Davis played a part in recruiting Westbrook, helping convince the Lakers to go after the former MVP instead of trying to sign-and-trade for DeMar DeRozan or acquire Buddy Hield from Sacramento.

Still, while James, Davis, and their agency may have had a hand in the Westbrook trade, VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and the rest of the Lakers’ front office ultimately had the final say. Pincus, who suggests that assigning the blame to Klutch Sports “may be an epic level of passing the buck,” writes that NBA front offices should consider their stars’ input but that the top basketball executives are responsible for making the decisions they feel are best for the team.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Bazemore, Craig, Biyombo

Magic Johnson stepped down from his post as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations in 2019 but team owner Jeanie Buss still leans on the Hall-of-Famer for advice, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic. “To me, he’s still working with us,” Buss said. “In terms of an official capacity, in the NBA, you have to be very clear as to who can negotiate on your behalf and who can’t. So he doesn’t have that official designation. But in terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kent Bazemore hasn’t been part of the Lakers rotation since mid-November and hasn’t played since February 3. However, he’s not sulking over his lack of playing time, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. “Some nights, it gets hard having to hold back that competitive nature. Especially if a guy gets going, I know defensively, I made a living off of taking guys out of the game, shutting off the water, so to speak. That gets the best of me sometimes,” Bazemore said. “But that’s just the competitor in me. … I’m doing what I love. I don’t mind putting in the work for it, even though I’m out of the rotation.”
  • The Suns wanted to bring back Torrey Craig during the offseason but prioritized signing JaVale McGee with their mid-level exception, John Gambadoro of of 98.7 FM Phoenix tweets. Craig found a two-year deal with Indiana before the contract with McGee was finalized. Craig was traded back to Phoenix last week. The Suns still have a portion of the mid-level available to use on the buyout market, Gambadoro adds.
  • Craig said the trade back to the Suns was a deadline-day surprise to him, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. “It just happened so fast,” Craig said. “I was literally practicing in Indiana and then I noticed it was an hour before the trade deadline. Came to my phone and I had a couple of missed calls from my agent. And then he called me and told me (the) situation and I was like, wow. It had just happened. It was a quick turnaround. I packed and I came here. I’m excited to be back.”  
  • Bismack Biyombo told his agent, former NBA player B.J. Armstrong, that he only wanted to sign with a title contender in free agency, Marc Spears of The Undefeated reports. “That was the hardest part,” Biyombo said. “I talked to my agent and I said, ‘Look, the only way I will do it is for a contender. Otherwise, I’m not doing it.’ Biyombo remained unsigned until a 10-day with Phoenix under the hardship exception. He later signed a rest-of-the-season deal with the Suns last month.

Western Trade Rumors: Covington, Nurkic, Beverley, Culver, Lakers

Of the veteran Trail Blazers who are candidates to be traded by the February 10 deadline, Robert Covington has been described as the most likely one to be moved, says Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Ben McLemore‘s name has also emerged in recent trade discussions, Fischer adds.

Conversely, there doesn’t seem to be any momentum toward a trade involving Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic, according to Fischer. Marc Stein said something similar in a recent Spotify Greenroom session, suggesting he hasn’t heard Nurkic’s name mentioned much in his recent conversations with teams. Stein gets the sense there’s not a “huge amount” of interest in the veteran center (hat tip to HoopsHype).

Nurkic himself recently told Jason Quick of The Athletic that he doesn’t think he’ll be traded this season. If the latest reports from Fischer and Stein are accurate, he may be right.

Here are a few more items from around the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves are exploring some possible trade avenues involving Patrick Beverley ahead of his upcoming free agency, Fischer reports. Responding to that report, Minnesota-based reporters Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter links) said that head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta is casting a wide net and is willing to discuss anyone besides Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. However, neither Wolfson nor Krawczynski expects Beverley to be traded.
  • The Grizzlies aren’t considered likely to make any major moves at the trade deadline, but they may receive inquiries on fourth-year swingman Jarrett Culver, Fischer writes. There’s so much leaguewide interest in wings who can play defense that Culver – who isn’t currently part of Memphis’ rotation and will be a free agent this summer – could appeal to another team, Fischer explains.
  • The Lakers, who continue to shop veteran wing Kent Bazemore, have been mentioned as a potential suitor for big man Paul Millsap if he reaches the buyout market, says Fischer. Brooklyn is still looking to trade Millsap.

Lakers Notes: Trent, Jordan, Bazemore, Monk, Westbrook

As part of their due diligence exploring the trade market, the Lakers have expressed interest in Raptors wing Gary Trent Jr., league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

The Lakers could theoretically put together an offer for Trent, who is earning $16MM, using Talen Horton-Tucker as the primary salary-matching piece. However, there has been no indication that the Raptors want to move on from the former Duke standout, who is one of Toronto’s most-used players (32 starts, 34.0 MPG), most reliable three-point shooters (.368 3PT%), and most active defenders (1.9 steals and 3.5 deflections per game).

Scotto acknowledges that a deal between the two teams appears unlikely for the time being.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Scotto also confirmed on the latest HoopsHype Podcast that the Lakers have made DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore available, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported last week. According to Scotto, the Lakers aren’t interested in attaching a draft pick to move either player, so they’d likely need to use cash to grease the wheels if teams aren’t interested in Jordan or Bazemore on their own. Los Angeles can still trade up to $4,435,000 in cash during the 2021/22 league year.
  • Malik Monk has been a bright spot for an up-and-down Lakers team recently, averaging 20.0 PPG on .523/.475/.900 shooting in his last eight games. However, the better he plays, the more challenging it will be for L.A. to bring him back. As Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report outlines, unless they dip into their mid-level exception, the Lakers will be limited to offering Monk a Non-Bird raise of just 20% more than his minimum salary when he hits free agency.
  • Like teammate Carmelo Anthony has done in recent years, Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook has been asked to accept a lower-usage role this season and is still adjusting to it, writes Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. Westbrook’s 27.9% usage rate would be high for most players, but it’s the first time since 2009/10 that he’s registered a number below 30%.

Lakers Trying To Trade DeAndre Jordan, Kent Bazemore

After opening one roster spot this week by trading Rajon Rondo to Cleveland, the Lakers are hoping to make similar moves involving DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said Wednesday on “NBA Today” (Twitter link).

L.A. wouldn’t be looking for players in return, Windhorst adds, as the team wants to create roster flexibility to add talent on the buyout market. Stanley Johnson, who received a 10-day contract earlier today, is expected to fill the slot vacated by Rondo.

Jordan has started 18 games this season, but he recently fell out of the rotation and hasn’t been used in the team’s last six games. He signed with the Lakers in September after reaching a buyout with the Pistons following a trade from the Nets. His $2,641,691 salary ($1,669,178 cap hit) is fully guaranteed and the team would prefer to trade him rather than waive him because of luxury tax concerns.

The Lakers have begun using a smaller, more versatile lineup with LeBron James starting at center. With Anthony Davis possibly returning later this month from an MCL sprain, there’s not much of a future for Jordan in L.A. The 33-year-old is averaging 4.5 points and 5.7 rebounds this season while shooting 67.5% from the field.

The Lakers have also explored the trade market for Bazemore, according to Windhorst. The 32-year-old forward started 14 games earlier in the season, but has also been pulled from the rotation and has made just one six-minute appearance since December 17. Bazemore started 14 of the 22 games he has played and averages 4.3 PPG and 1.8 RPG.

COVID-19 Updates: Mavs, B. Boston, Cacok, Lakers, C. Thomas

The Mavericks have placed center Boban Marjanovic and guard Brandon Knight – who signed a hardship deal last week – in the health and safety protocols, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Marjanovic and Knight are the sixth and seventh Dallas players currently in the protocols.

As we noted earlier today, the Mavericks reportedly reached an agreement to sign Isaiah Thomas, who will be the team’s seventh replacement player. If Dallas had just five players in the protocols, the team wouldn’t be able to make another hardship signing, so the fact that Marjanovic and Knight are now in the protocols helps explain the Thomas deal.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the league:

  • Clippers rookie Brandon Boston Jr. has entered the health and safety protocols, the team announced today. Boston had been playing an increased role as of late with the Clippers shorthanded, averaging 19.6 MPG in 13 games this month.
  • Spurs two-way big man Devontae Cacok has joined teammate Dejounte Murray in the COVID-19 protocols, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). They’re the only two San Antonio players affected for now.
  • Lakers guards Austin Reaves and Kent Bazemore have cleared the protocols, tweets Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. They won’t be with the team in Memphis tonight, but should be available by Friday’s home game vs. Portland.
  • Nets rookie guard Cam Thomas has exited the protocols and is available, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Frank Vogel, Kent Bazemore Placed Into Protocols

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, along with Kent Bazemore, tweets Bill Oram of The Athletic. Assistant David Fizdale will take over Vogel’s duties until he can return.

L.A. now has eight players either in the protocols or sidelined by injuries, but the team still has enough for tonight’s game in Chicago, Oram adds (Twitter link). Trevor Ariza will suit up, but the Lakers don’t believe he’s ready to make his season debut after ankle surgery, so they will only have nine players available.

Vogel is the third head coach in the protocols, joining the Pacers’ Rick Carlisle and the Kings’ Alvin Gentry.

Lakers Notes: Caruso, THT, LeBron, Bazemore, Jordan

After Alex Caruso shared some details on his free agency during a recent appearance on J.J. Redick’s podcast, Bill Oram of The Athletic touched base with the Bulls guard to discuss the subject further, providing some additional specifics on Caruso’s options and what the Lakers were willing to offer him.

As Oram writes, the Bulls and Timberwolves were among the teams that topped the Lakers’ initial offer of $7MM per year. After he received a four-year, $37MM proposal from Chicago, Caruso went back to Los Angeles to see if the team would do $20MM for two years. However, the Lakers were unwilling to increase their offer from $21MM over three years, prompting the veteran guard to choose the Bulls.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • In his first game since signing a three-year, $30MM+ deal and undergoing thumb surgery, Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker was terrific on Sunday vs. San Antonio, scoring 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting in 27 minutes as a starter. While head coach Frank Vogel wouldn’t commit to Horton-Tucker remaining in the starting lineup, he said the 20-year-old will be a “big part” of what the Lakers do. “We invested in him this summer for a reason,” Vogel said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “We have a strong belief in that young man and what he can do on both sides of the ball. Obviously when we get whole, we got a lot of good choices, but he’s going to be a big part of it.”
  • Vogel said on Sunday that LeBron James (abdominal strain) has yet to participate in contact drills or a full practice yet, but a source tells McMenamin that the star forward is “progressing great” and should be back in the lineup soon.
  • Offseason additions Kent Bazemore and DeAndre Jordan appear to have fallen out of the Lakers’ rotation at least temporarily, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who notes that both players were DNP-CDs on Sunday. Jordan had started 10 games at center before sitting the last two, while Bazemore had started all 13 games for Los Angeles until he was benched on Sunday.
  • The changes to the starting five reflect the Lakers’ preference for smaller lineups for the time being, per Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register, who adds that Vogel left the door open for a return to bigger lineups as the season progresses. Anthony Davis started at center alongside power forward Carmelo Anthony on Sunday.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Westbrook, Bazemore, Cap

The Lakers are considered to be one of the favorites in the West after trading for Russell Westbrook and adding a collection of veteran talent, but they haven’t looked like contenders so far, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. L.A. dropped to 0-4 in the preseason with Sunday’s 29-point loss to the Suns, and Anthony Davis admitted that having so many new players creates adjustment issues that could linger into the start of the regular season.

“We want to be good, but we don’t want to skip steps. You can’t rush the process of what we’re trying to do and win championships,” he said. “We know, possibly, there could be struggles to start the season. … But we never want to get out to a slow start — 0-5, 0-6, whatever — we still want to be able to fight through our mistakes while winning games.”

The Lakers will get their first look tonight at Davis, Westbrook and LeBron James all on the court at the same time, one week before their season opener. Westbrook has struggled in his new surroundings, shooting 1-for-7 Friday in his debut, then following that with an eight-point, nine-turnover performance against Phoenix, but he’s not concerned.

“I never had one good preseason, I mean personally,” he said. “I never really worry about it because it’s preseason.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers are getting the defensive boost they expected from free agent addition Kent Bazemore, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. At 6’4″, Bazemore brings versatility on defense and regularly matches up in practice with both James and Westbrook. “I really think Baze has separated himself some,” coach Frank Vogel said. “His wingspan and athleticism have been more impressive up close, in that regard.”
  • The Lakers’ 2021/22 roster is the most top-heavy group John Hollinger of The Athletic can remember seeing since Miami put together its initial “big three” in 2010. As Hollinger observes, the Lakers’ three stars will make more than $120MM on their own this season, while nine other players on the roster are on minimum-salary contracts.
  • Within Hollinger’s preview of the Lakers’ season, he also recaps the team’s offseason moves, examines Westbrook’s potential fit, and shares his regular season projection for the club. Hollinger has L.A. finishing with 52 wins, good for third in the West.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.