- With the playoffs slipping out of reach, the Lakers will spend the rest of this season deciding which free agents they want to keep, states Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. With only five players under contract for 2018/19, Brook Lopez, Isaiah Thomas and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be among those auditioning for jobs, as will Channing Frye if he returns after an appendectomy.
- Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari will have his right hand examined next week to determine if he needs surgery, tweets Tomer Azarly of Clutch Points. Gallinari added that swelling and discoloration in the hand have subsided since he suffered a non-displaced fracture late last month. Gallinari is averaging 15.9 points per night, but has been limited to 19 games by a variety of injuries.
- Rookie Clippers guard Sindarius Thornwell made his first start in nearly three months Friday and responded with a career-high 14 points in a win over the Cavaliers, notes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Thornwell’s playing time had slipped as the team tried out two-way guards C.J. Williams and Tyrone Wallace, but he was ready when coach Doc Rivers called on him to match up with James. “I guess it’s just Doc’s way of seeing if I’m ready to play,” Thornwell said. “He just wants to see if I’m focused and locked in. But my starts are always on somebody tough.”
Clippers guards Avery Bradley and Jawun Evans are both suffering from ailments that could result in offseason surgery, writes Elliott Teaford of The Orange County Register. For the first time today, coach Doc Rivers brought up surgery as an option for Bradley, who has a sports hernia. The organization is hoping the 27-year-old, who was acquired from the Pistons late last month, can return in a week or two, but they’re being careful with him. He has played six games for L.A. since the trade and hasn’t been on the court since February 14.
“He’s one of the, if not the best, he’s one of the top five defensive guys on the ball in the league,” Rivers said. “And that’s all movement there [in a players’ core muscles]. So it’s tough blow.”
Evans, who has been diagnosed with a “sore lower abdominal ailment,” hasn’t been able to play since January 20.
There’s more news from the Pacific Division:
- Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has played much better since resolving his legal issues last month, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. With free agency looming, Caldwell-Pope has been showing off his scoring ability, hitting eight 3-pointers in a 34-point performance Saturday night. “It was kind of hard with that situation I had, but now that’s behind me,” he said. “I can focus on just one thing — that’s basketball. It’s been good just to be able to get my work when I need it and just be ready for games.”
- The Suns have the rest of the season to determine if they want to team Elfrid Payton with Devin Booker as their backcourt of the future, relays Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Payton has solidified the point guard position since coming to Phoenix in a trade at the deadline, but the front office has to decide if Payton’s abilities are the best complement for Booker and if he is worth the estimated $10MM annually it will cost to keep him when he hits restricted free agency this summer. The Suns will also consider whether they want to draft a new point guard or keep Payton and use their pick on a center.
- Shooting guard Danuel House has reached the 45-day NBA limit under his two-way contract, Bordow tweets. House has returned to the Suns‘ Northern Arizona affiliate and can’t come back to Phoenix until the G League season is over unless his contract is converted to a regular NBA deal.
As the Knicks consider their options at the trade deadline and look ahead to the summer, the front office is prioritizing the addition of an athletic wing, sources tell Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. According to Bondy, one player on the team’s radar is Lakers swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The idea of trading for Caldwell-Pope and his $17.75MM cap hit probably isn’t practical for the Knicks, since KCP will be an unrestricted free agent in a few months. The club is more likely to target the fifth-year wing in free agency this offseason, Bondy writes.
As Bondy points out, the recent jail sentence Caldwell-Pope served for violating probation will be a red flag for the Knicks and other potential suitors. However, if New York’s front office does its homework on KCP and is confident that off-court issues won’t be an ongoing problem, the club could have the opportunity to land the UFA-to-be at a discounted rate, given that legal history.
Caldwell-Pope, who will turn 25 next month, failed to land a lucrative long-term deal during the 2017 offseason and settled for a one-year contract with the Lakers. He has played fairly well in L.A., posting career-best rates in a few categories, including 3PT% (.357). However, given the lack of teams projected to have real cap room in 2018, it remains to be seen whether KCP will have better luck securing a big payday this time around.
While the Knicks could create a chunk of cap space this summer, player options for Enes Kanter, Ron Baker, and Kyle O’Quinn complicate that equation — if all three players pick up their options, New York’s cap room would all but disappear, leaving the club with the mid-level exception. As for the Lakers, they’ll have plenty of flexibility to re-sign Caldwell-Pope if they so choose, but they figure to focus on higher-profile targets when free agency opens in July.
The Lakers mishandled the latest controversy involving LaVar Ball, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. The outspoken father of rookie Lonzo Ball said over the weekend that coach Luke Walton has lost control of the team and that players no longer enjoy playing for him.
The comments drew a harsh reaction from other coaches such as the Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle, the Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy and the Warriors’ Steve Kerr, but Bontemps says Lakers management failed to speak out swiftly to defend Walton.
GM Rob Pelinka turned down two requests to talk to reporters at Sunday’s game, then team president Magic Johnson did the same at Monday’s practice. Bontemps notes this would have been a perfect opportunity to support Walton and send a message to LaVar Ball, but the team leaders remained silent.
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is ready to move on after completing a 25-day jail sentence, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Caldwell-Pope was released for games and practices, but wasn’t permitted to leave California for road trips. “Paid my debts and all,” he said. “… Everything is done. Put that behind me. Moving forward, finish my season. Just happy to be home. Just a minor setback for me, [but there’s a] lot of things I gotta change. Lotta things I gotta improve on. Had a lot of time to think about it.”
- Warriors forward David West heard a lot of second guessing when he turned down a $12.6MM option with the Pacers in 2015, but he tells Chris Hayes of ESPN he doesn’t think he would still be playing without that decision. He signed a $1.4MM contract with the Spurs that year and has taken similar deals with the Warriors the past two seasons. “I would have retired, man,” West said. “That would have been it, because I wanted to compete for a championship. I needed to experience that. So, if I played out my contract there, that would have been it. I was walking away. I wanted to feel like I was playing for something.”
- After hitting a game-winning shot Monday, Clippers guard C.J. Williams has another important occasion coming up, notes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Playing on a two-way contract, Williams has used 40 of his 45 allowable days in the NBA. Injuries have forced Williams into the rotation, as he has started 12 games and is averaging nearly 20 minutes per night. To keep him, the Clippers will have to sign him to a regular contract or a 10-day deal by the end of the week. “We’re going to start a ‘GoFundMe Fund’ for C.J.,” coach Doc Rivers joked after the game. “We need some donations.”
Lonzo Ball‘s father is creating headlines in Los Angeles this morning with comments about Lakers coach Luke Walton, relays Jeff Goodman of ESPN. Lavar Ball claims Walton has lost control of the team and that Lakers players would like to see him replaced.
“You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more,” he said. “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him. … Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high-fives when they come out of the game. People don’t know why they’re in the game. He’s too young. He’s too young. … He ain’t connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he’s not connecting with not one player.”
There’s more news out of L.A.:
- Ball’s comments came shortly after a report from Ohm Youngmisuk on ESPN Now that Walton believes he still has the support of Lakers management. Majority owner Jeanie Buss recently offered her backing on social media with an “InLukeWeTrust” hashtag, and Walton is confident that the organization is standing behind him during a nine-game losing streak. “As I preach to my players that control what you can control in life, that has to be my philosophy as a coach as well,” Walton said. “… [Team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka] have been great, they have been supportive. They obviously understand where we are at as a team and what we are trying to do and what the big picture is… [Buss] has been incredible. I’ve talked with her a lot during the season. She has been around this game for a long time. She knows when to be supportive and she has been really great to work with.”
- The chance to take a shot at James in free agency can’t come soon enough for the Lakers, writes Frank Isola of The New York Daily News, who says this season is unraveling both on the court and behind the scenes. Players expressed frustration with the play of Julius Randle during a recent team meeting, but he was inserted into the starting lineup for the following game, which Isola suggests was mandated by the front office in an effort to increase his trade value. He adds that such a move damages the coach’s standing in the locker room.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be released from a detention center Monday and will have his travel restrictions lifted, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN. Caldwell-Pope has been barred from leaving California while serving a 25-day sentence for a probation violation and has missed four of the team’s last five road games.
Lonzo Ball‘s shoulder sprain will keep him out at least another week and the team isn’t setting a timetable for his return, according to The Orange County Register. Ball played through the injury after getting hurt in Saturday’s game, but the pain was much worse the next morning. The Lakers plan to re-evaluate him prior to their New Year’s Eve game in Houston, and with coach Luke Walton‘s policy that players practice before they play, Ball’s return could be pushed into the new year.
“There’s no target [date] at least from my standpoint,” Walton said. “The only thing that matters with him is getting him healthy. There’s no reason to try to target a date and get him back. Obviously we want him back as soon as possible but big picture and what he means to us. We need him to be healthy so once he’s back he stays back.”
There’s more this morning out of Los Angeles:
- Walton understands Andrew Bogut‘s recent comments that some players are distracted by off-court rumors, the Register relays in the same article. It’s well known throughout the league that the Lakers would like to maximize their cap room for next summer, which means roster moves could be upcoming that involve Luol Deng, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and others. “I think that every team deals with it,” Walton said, “the outside influence. Whether it is one-year deals, or trade rumors in the media, whatever is going on in the outside world that as a player you read or hear about or agents tell you about, is a very real distraction.”
- Kyle Kuzma‘s 31-point performance Monday was the latest reminder to general managers that they made a huge mistake by letting him slide to the 27th pick, writes Mitch Lawrence of Forbes. Kuzma was viewed as “a non-range shooter and an average athlete” coming out of Utah, an unidentified Western Conference GM tells Lawrence. But the Lakers have been watching Kuzma closely since he was a sophomore, tipped off by former assistant coach and scout Bill Bertka.
- The Lakers are being supportive of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as he resolves a legal issue, although it has resulted in some locker room teasing, notes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Caldwell-Pope is serving a 25-day sentence in a Seal Beach detention center for violating a probation agreement. He is released for games, but is not allowed to leave California until all his time is served. “I think we have that mutual bond within the group that we can all talk (trash) to each other and not take it personally,” Bogut said. “KCP is no different.”
Lakers shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is in the midst of serving a 25-day jail sentence as a result of violating his probation, writes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. As part of a work-release program, Caldwell-Pope is allowed to leave the Seal Beach Police Department Detention Center to participate in Lakers’ practices and games, but he’s not permitted to leave the state during his 25-day sentence.
Caldwell-Pope was stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence back on March 29, and was sentenced to a 12-month probation period. He was required submit to and pay for random drug testing during that time as part of the agreement. However, according to Ganguli, court records show Caldwell-Pope failed to comply with those terms, having missed several drug and alcohol screenings.
Per Ganguli, court records show that Caldwell-Pope must wear a GPS monitor whenever he leaves the detention facility, and must submit to a breath test upon returning. If he violates any of the terms of his new agreement, KCP will be sentence to 93 days in Oakland County Jail.
Caldwell-Pope’s 25-day sentence initially had him ticketed for Oakland County Jail, but he petitioned the court to serve his sentence at the Seal Beach Detention Center instead, and that petition was approved. Ganguli describes the pay-to-stay Seal Beach facility as one that has “a reputation as a refuge for wealthy offenders.” It costs $120 per day for inmates who are part of the work-release program.
While Caldwell-Pope’s current situation is a rare one for NBA players, his 25-day jail sentence was fortuitously timed — nine of the Lakers’ next 12 games are at home, and tonight’s road game is in California (Golden State). As such, KCP should only miss two more road games: December 31’s contest in Houston and January 1’s game in Minnesota.
Caldwell-Pope was sentenced to 12 months’ probation after pleading guilty in May to a misdemeanor offense of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence. He had been cited with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, but pleaded down to the lesser charge. On Thursday, he began what Shelburne described as an “intensive” 25-day program that will result in an early end to the probation.
Caldwell-Pope is not permitted to leave California until the program is completed, tweets Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. The Lakers have just three games outside the state during that time — Wednesday and December 31 in Houston and January 1 in Minnesota.
“While a member of the Detroit Pistons last year, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense of allowing someone to operate his vehicle under the influence,” read a statement released by attorney Jeffrey Lance Abood. “As a condition of that plea, he was subject to extremely strict and challenging compliance terms by the court. Kentavious complied with most of the terms of his probation and he has had no further driving or other infractions since that time.
“As a result of his professional basketball work schedule, the court has modified the sentence and released him from probation early so long as he completes an intensive program over the next 25 days. There will be some travel restrictions, but we are pleased that Kentavious will now continue with his NBA season and move forward in a positive manner from this experience.”
Caldwell-Pope, who signed with the Lakers in July, was suspended for the first two games of the season under the NBA’s personal conduct policy. Shelburne reports that he is expected to rejoin the team this weekend for practice.
He is averaging 14.2 points in 24 games, all as a starter, and is shooting a career-high 42% from 3-point range.
“I am grateful for the Court’s consideration and for the support of the Los Angeles Lakers and all involved in allowing me to continue with my NBA season while I complete the strict requirements set by the Court,” Caldwell-Pope said in a prepared statement. “I understand the seriousness of this matter and I apologize for my past actions that have created this situation. Now I am committed to becoming a better person and professional from now on.”
Rookie power forward Kyle Kuzma had a feeling the Lakers would draft him after his stock rose, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports. Kuzma, who declared after his junior season at Utah, was originally pegged as second-round material who might even go undrafted. Kuzma wound up getting picked 27th overall and has taken the league by storm, posting three double-doubles and three 20-point games. “I knew I was way better than that, better than how people pegged me,” he told Charania. “After I killed draft workouts and the combine, I knew I would go in the first round. I had a good hint that it would be L.A., just because of the workout and my combine interview with them, but I didn’t know until draft night.”
In other items concerning the Lakers:
- The offense has perked up in recent games and center Brook Lopez has played a big role in that improvement, as Joey Ramirez of the team’s website notes. Lopez, who was acquired in an offseason deal with the Nets, is the NBA’s sixth-highest scorer over the last three games, averaging 27.3 PPG. Kuzma believes improved health has led to Lopez’s offensive outburst, as he told Ramirez. “The whole preseason he was really bad with a back injury and little nicks and bruises,” Kuzma said. “You can tell he’s getting back to the Nets version of Brook Lopez.”
- Lopez and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have helped to stabilize a mostly youthful roster, coach Luke Walton told NBA.com’s David Aldridge. Lopez has provided a steadying force on offense, while Caldwell-Pope has helped establish a defensive mindset, Aldridge adds. Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18MM free agent contract after the Pistons renounced his rights during restricted free agency. “I think KCP coming over, just a hard-nosed player,” Walton told Aldridge. “He’s been in that Eastern Conference, hard worker. He kind of helps set that tone. Brook’s been a solid vet in this league for a long time.”
- Larry Nance Jr. is frustrated by his latest injury setback, as he told Bill Oram of the Orange County Register and other media members. Nance Jr., who missed multiple games with knee injuries the last two seasons, is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured left hand. He was averaging 10.6 PPG and 7.4 RPG in 23.1 MPG before suffering the injury Thursday. “I was given a really good chance, was making the most of it,” he said. “So I’m just anxious to get back and keep making a good impression.”
Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala were both fined for their behavior during the Warriors‘ 111-101 loss to the Grizzlies on October 21st. Curry was docked $50K for flinging his mouthpiece at an official. Iguodala’s fine was less severe — $15K for verbally abusing an official.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was not too rattled by Curry’s antics, sarcastically offering, “I think he should be suspended eight, maybe 10 games. It was egregious. It was awful.”
Here’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Austin Rivers proffered that the Clippers are a better team without Chris Paul. While careful to note that Paul is a great player, Rivers said that the team has improved its cohesion and competitiveness. “I think we have more talent this year,” Rivers said, per Elliott Teaford of The Daily Breeze. “Look how many pieces we got for one guy. We got a defensive dog (Patrick Beverley). We drafted well.”
- With the Suns exploring potential trades involving Eric Bledsoe, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders notes (via Twitter) that Phoenix “looked hard” at Cavaliers swingman Iman Shumpert over the summer, but Shumpert’s player option is a problem for the club.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made an immediate impact on the Lakers during his debut against the Pelicans. As Bill Oram of The Orange County Register details, Caldwell-Pope nailed a three less than 30 seconds into the game and gives coach Luke Walton a legitimate “3-and-D” option.