Kevin Eastman

Pacific Notes: Walton, Rondo, Cousins, Clippers

Luke Walton has managed to stay focused on his duties as lead assistant with the Warriors, even as his head coaching job with the Lakers awaits, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Walton had his first interview on April 18th — more than two months ago — when he had a phone conversation with Knicks president Phil Jackson. “Luke is a real loyal guy,” said fellow Golden State assistant Ron Adams. “And he’s real loyal to the Golden State Warriors — has been since he was named coach of the Lakers. It might be hard for people to understand that. I would say he’s atypical in that regard. A lot of people, if a team would’ve allowed what the Lakers allowed, I think [the person] would’ve been more fixated on that team than this team. That’s not Luke. That’s not what Luke has been.” Walton will coach his final game with the Warriors tonight, then will likely be introduced as the Lakers’ new coach later this week.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kings point guard Rajon Rondo pronounced himself fully healthy as he prepares for his second straight year of free agency, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Rondo signed a one-year deal with Sacramento last summer, which gave him a first-hand view of the turmoil in the organization, especially between DeMarcus Cousins and former coach George Karl“Obviously it didn’t go the way we wanted it as an exit [missing the playoffs], but I was able to bounce back, I believe,” Rondo said. “I am very healthy. I’ve been working extremely hard on my body and my game. I’m 30 years old and I feel great.” Rondo’s numbers had declined since tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in 2013, but he bounced back to average 11.9 points and 11.7 assists per game this season.
  • Cousins’ younger brother, Jaleel, worked out for the Kings on Saturday, according to James Jones of The Sacramento Bee. The 6-11, 250-pound center was a senior this season at South Florida.
  • Dee Brown and Pat Sullivan have emerged as assistant coaching candidates with the Clippers, tweets Marc Stein of Kevin Eastman, a longtime assistant to Doc Rivers, announced his retirement earlier this week.
  • The Clippers will hold two workouts Monday, tweets Rowan Kavner of The morning session will feature Alabama’s Retin Obasohan, Miami’s Sheldon McClellan, Kentucky’s Alex Poythress, Maryland’s Jake Layman, Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu and UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman. Working out in the afternoon will be Tulsa’s James Woodard, West Virginia’s Jaysean Page, UNLV’s Patrick McCaw, Louisiana’s Alex Hamilton, SMU’s Markus Kennedy and Iowa’s Jared Uthoff.

Pacific Notes: Rondo, Eastman, Lakers, Kings

Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo is eligible for free agency this summer, and while there’s a chance he’ll return to Sacramento, it sounds like those odds would have been very slim if George Karl hadn’t been replaced by Dave Joerger as the team’s head coach. In an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump, Rondo said that the tension between the Kings‘ coaching staff and DeMarcus Cousins was unlike anything he’d seen in his NBA career.

“There were too many distractions on and off the court,” Rondo said. “The organization as a whole, I don’t think was together completely. I think as a team you have to want the best for the next man beside you, and that wasn’t the case with the Sacramento Kings.”

Asked about his free agency, Rondo didn’t rule out a return to the Kings, but suggested he’ll explore his option. The point guard will be prioritizing a landing spot where his teammates are willing to work hard to grow and get better. “I don’t want to be the hardest-working guy in the gym,” Rondo said.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Longtime basketball coach Kevin Eastman has decided to call it a career, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). Eastman, who was an assistant on Doc Rivers‘ staff in Boston before joining him with the Clippers, was named L.A.’s vice president of basketball operations in 2014. In his newsletter, he explained his decision to retire from coaching and outlined what he’ll do next.
  • There’s coaching news on Los Angeles’ other squad as well. According to analyst Dave Miller (Twitter link), Jesse Mermuys will join Luke Walton‘s coaching staff with the Lakers. Last season, Mermuys served as the coach of the Raptors 905, Toronto’s D-League affiliate, so the Raps will have to fill that role for 2016/17.
  • Colorado State guard Antwan Scott, who previously worked out for Denver, will be part of a group workout on Wednesday for the Kings, tweets Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops.

Western Notes: Bryant, Clippers, Nuggets

Kobe Bryant has embraced his role as a mentor for a young Lakers team that is counting on D’Angelo Russell (who is 19),  Julius Randle (20) and Jordan Clarkson (23) to step up, Baxter Holmes of writes. After practices, Holmes adds, several players have been gathering, whether back at the team hotel or elsewhere, just to talk with Bryant.

“The other day, we sat around and talked for about 2 1/2 hours,” Bryant said. “They just wanted to know some of the things that I’ve been through, some of the things that I’ve learned, some of the things that I can help them with. The game really connects us.”

Here’s more on the Western Conference:

  • Kevin Eastman is now an assistant coach for the Clippers after previously serving as assistant vice president of the franchise, Dan Woike of the Orange County Register tweets.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone has prioritized getting to know his players, learning about their lives, their likes and dislikes, their families and what in general makes them tick, Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post relays in an entertaining read.
  • Eric Bledsoe, who is set to make $13.5MM next season in the second year of a five-year, $70MM deal, showed a commitment to the Suns this summer when he stayed in Phoenix and there are indications that his game could take another step forward this season, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes.
  • The Kings have multiple options at the starting power forward position as complements to All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. The team has looked for a power forward with shooting range, or one who can contribute defensively, Jones adds. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, Quincy Acy, and small forward Rudy Gay are all in the mix, according to Jones.