Kyle Kuzma

Lakers Notes: LeBron/Buss Dinner, WCF, AD, Lineup

Near the end of a rocky first season together, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and All-Star LeBron James sat down for their first dinner together at Wally’s Beverly Hills in March 2019, alongside James’ agent Rich Paul and Lakers executive Linda Rambis. It was here that the foundation was laid for this season’s relatively drama-free Lakers run in 2019/20, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

“We’re committed to you and we’ll come out of this on top,” Paul told Buss during the dinner, according to a conversation with Shelburne. “We’ll come out of this different than what the world sees. Let the people who talk, talk. We just gotta do the work.”

Shelburne notes that forging this more personal bond helped stabilize the club.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers’ competition in the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets, have earned the respect of Los Angeles’ marquee player, after coming back twice from 3-1 deficits in the 2020 playoffs, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN“It takes a lot of energy, effort, a lot of desperation to be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit,” James said after a team practice today. “They did it twice. So the respect level is out of this world for what we have for this ball club.”
  • Lakers stars James and Anthony Davis have instilled a hardworking mindset that has proved effective this season among their teammates, per Mark Medina of USA Today. “They’ve been the rocks and heart and souls of our team all year,” power forward Kyle Kuzma said of LeBron and AD. “If we don’t do our jobs, they don’t have the success that they have.”
  • Los Angeles is ready to make lineup adjustments against the Nuggets to best handle Denver All-Star center Nikola Jokic, according to Tania Ganguli of the LA Times. Frank Vogel appeared to indicate that he’ll return to playing centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard, who got minimal run during the Lakers’ more speed-oriented attack against the Rockets during the semifinals. Forward Markieff Morris, a solid three-point shooter, started at center in McGee’s stead during most of the Houston series. “In terms of how much we’ll use our centers, I don’t want to get too much into detail, but obviously we’re gonna be the L.A. Lakers, who we’ve been all year,” Vogel said. Starting center McGee is currently on the first year of a two-season, $8.2MM contract with the team, while reserve Howard is on a one-year veteran’s minimum deal.

Western Notes: Westbrook, Kuzma, Payne, Hield

Russell Westbrook missed Thursday’s game against the Lakers, but the Rockets don’t anticipate him sitting out for long. Westbrook, who is dealing with a quad contusion, is expected to play Sunday against the Kings, coach Mike D’Antoni told Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) and other media members. Fellow guard Eric Gordon, who hasn’t played in any games since the restart due to a sprained ankle, is expected to return sometime before the end of the seeding games, MacMahon adds.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Lakers have shot just 24.3% from long range since the resumption of play, but forward Kyle Kuzma has been one of the exceptions, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes. Kuzma is averaging 14.4 PPG while making nearly half (12 for 26) of his 3-point attempts. “I’m a little more healthier, but I’ve had time to really just put in work,” he said. Kuzma is eligible for a rookie scale extension after the season.
  • The Suns found a creative way to reduce their commitment to guard Cameron Payne, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. His $1.98MM salary for next season has a team option but only $25K is guaranteed if the Suns exercise it. Thus, Payne is essentially on a non-guaranteed contract next year even if the option is picked up, Marks adds. The Suns signed Payne to a two-year contract in late June.
  • Kings coach Luke Walton insists he still has faith in Buddy Hield, whose lucrative four-year extension kicks in next season. As Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee notes, Hield logged a season-low 11 minutes and matched his season low with three points against New Orleans on Thursday. “Buddy still has my trust and we need him,” Walton said. “We’re going to need him to come off (the bench) and provide that scoring punch that he’s done for us for most of the season. So it was hopefully just a one-game thing there as far as where those minutes were, but he’s a big part of our team.”

Western Notes: Clippers, Lakers, House, Blazers

The Lakers and Clippers will play in the second game of Thursday’s “re-opening” night. However, both teams could be missing key players.

According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are listed as out on the status report, while Patrick Beverley is considered questionable for the Clippers (Twitter link). For the Lakers, Anthony Davis is listed as questionable, while LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are listed as probable and should play.

With Williams in quarantine for 10 days, the Clippers are hoping Beverley, who just returned to the NBA’s Walt Disney Campus after being away for a personal matter, can step in.

Davis practiced on Wednesday with goggles on after being poked in the eye last week against the Magic. All signs point to the Lakers forward playing tomorrow night.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Clippers head coach Doc Rivers spoke at length about how deep his team’s roster is despite missing multiple players, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Well, a deep roster is built for that,” Rivers said. “And we’ve done that. Now, when you have five and six guys out at one time, that’s asking too much on any roster. By the time the [seeding] games start, we won’t have that many out, but we’ll have maybe two to three key guys out, and that’s asking a lot.” As previously noted, Los Angeles will be without Williams and Harrell on Thursday night. But Kawhi Leonard echoes the same sentiment of his head coach about the depth of the roster.“I knew that we had a pretty deep squad,” he said. “I knew how talented we could be. It’s about executing now.”
  • With Eric Gordon being sidelined for two weeks with an ankle injury, Danuel House will be inserted into the Rockets’ starting lineup, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). This season, House has started in 47 games for Houston, while averaging 10.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG. He is also shooting 36.3 percent from three-point range.
  • Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters this week that he expects to have a full team available for Friday’s seeding game against the Grizzlies, per Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link). Portland currently trails Memphis by 3.5 games for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Pacific Notes: Kuzma, Barnes, Waiters, Okobo

The NBA’s four-month hiatus may have helped Kyle Kuzma rediscover his jumpshot at a much-needed time, Bill Oram of The Athletic writes. Kuzma poured in 25 points off the bench in the Lakers’ scrimmage win against Orlando on Saturday, shooting 10-of-13 from the field and 5-of-7 from deep.

Since arriving in Orlando, much of the talk surrounding the Lakers has been about Kuzma’s impressive play, Oram notes. This includes both scrimmages and team practices.

“What he did today,” coach Frank Vogel said, “he did all through our ‘restart training camp’ so to speak. I’m just really excited about what the restart is going to look like for him.”

Kuzma’s role has been cut back with several veterans joining the team over the past year. He’s averaging a career-low 12.5 points in 24.6 minutes per game, with his shooting marks also declining (43% from the field and 30% from behind-the-arc on the campaign).

The Lakers will rely on Kuzma’s production off the bench despite his reduced role, needing all hands on deck to successfully compete against deep Western Conference teams such as the Clippers, Rockets and Nuggets in the postseason.

Here are some other notes out of the Pacific Division today:

  • Kings forward Harrison Barnes never experienced any symptoms while dealing with COVID-19, head coach Luke Walton said, according to Jason Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Barnes could play in the team’s scrimmage against the Clippers on Monday, Walton added. He’s averaging 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 34.9 minutes this season for Sacramento.
  • Veteran guard Dion Waiters has mostly had a soft landing with the Lakers in Orlando, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Waiters scored 12 points off the bench in the team’s scrimmage on Saturday, shooting 5-of-9 from the field. “Here, it’s like it’s different, man,” Waiters said. “It’s a vibe. Everybody’s just positive. We got our own slang and things like that going on. … It makes you feel good though. You’re excited.”
  • Suns guard Elie Okobo has arrived in Orlando but wasn’t available for the team’s scrimmage against Boston on Sunday, Gina Mizell of The Athletic tweets. Phoenix is slated to play one more scrimmage on Tuesday before re-opening its regular season against Washington on Friday. It’s unclear whether Okobo, who likely must go through quarantine, will be available for those contests.

Young Stars Want NBA To Provide Insurance For Career-Threatening Injuries

Some of the league’s best young players talked to the National Basketball Players Association on Friday about creating an insurance system financed by the league that would protect them in case of career-threatening injuries when play resumes in Orlando, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Kyle Kuzma, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum were part of a call with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and senior counsel Ron Klempner. All five players will be eligible for rookie-scale extensions this offseason, and they want the union to negotiate insurance policies with the NBA that would protect their future earnings.

[RELATED: Players Eligible For Rookie Scale Extensions In 2020 Offseason]

Players in general believe they’re facing a higher-than-normal risk of serious injury after not being able to play for more than three months. Adebayo, Fox, Kuzma, Mitchell and Tatum are hoping their combined voices will help win protections for players on all 22 teams involved in the restart.

The league has been in talks with the union about providing some form of protection for players who are either injured or suffer severe cases of coronavirus during the games in Orlando, according to sources. Negotiations are continuing on possible alterations to the Collective Bargaining Agreement before play resumes.

Sources estimate to Wojnarowski that policies for players on the brink of a maximum extension could cost up to $500K to protect them through the end of the playoffs. He adds that apart from a career-ending incident, it would be difficult to prove that any injury is directly responsible for a reduction in future earnings.

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Mavericks Attempted To Acquire Danny Green

As the trade deadline approached, it seemed Marcus Morris was heading to Los Angeles one way or another; it was just a matter of if it was going to be the Lakers or the Clippers. It ended up being the latter in a deal that saw Maurice Harkless and a 2020 first-round pick, among other pieces, head to New York.

[RELATED: Clippers to acquire Marcus Morris in three-team trade]

Had the Lakers found success with obtaining Morris, the Mavericks would have attempted to take Danny Green off their hands, according to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter links).

As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets, New York was looking to acquire both Kyle Kuzma and Green in talks with the Lakers, who would have had to salary-match Morris’ $15M contract. The Knicks would’ve then flipped Green to Dallas. However, the Lakers were unwilling to part with both Kuzma and Green.

Dallas pursued Green over the summer. The shooting guard decided to sign with the Lakers over Mark Cuban‘s squad. He’s making $14.6M this season and will take home $15.4M next year.

To trade for Green, the Mavericks would have had to give up Courtney Lee‘s expiring contract and Golden State’s 2020 second-round draft pick, a source tells Townsend (Twitter link). That pick currently projects to be 31st overall.

Clippers Talking To Knicks About Marcus Morris; Lakers Won’t Offer Kyle Kuzma

The Clippers are in serious talks with the Knicks about acquiring Marcus Morris, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

L.A. is offering Maurice Harkless, Mfiondu Kabengele, Terance Mann and its 2020 first-round pick, sources tell Jovan Buha of The Athletic (Twitter link). Harkless’ $11MM contract would be needed to help match Morris’ $15MM salary.

There has been progress in talks since this morning, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link). However, it doesn’t appear the Clippers are willing to part with Landry Shamet, whom the Knicks would like to add.

The Lakers, who were also interested in Morris, have decided not to make Kyle Kuzma available, Charania reports (Twitter link). The Knicks aren’t willing to send Morris to the Lakers without Kuzma involved, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne (Twitter link).

Clippers, Lakers Pursuing Marcus Morris

Reports earlier today suggested that the Knicks are expected to move Marcus Morris before Thursday’s trade deadline — it’s just a matter of where.

Los Angeles is one potential landing spot for Morris, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link via Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints), who said today that the Clippers and Lakers are competing for the veteran forward. As Woj pointed out, if either L.A. team lands Morris, it would have the added bonus of keeping him away from a top rival.

Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times provides some additional info on those talks, tweeting that the Knicks are interested in Kyle Kuzma in talks with the Lakers and Landry Shamet in talks with the Clippers. Kuzma is the more attainable player of the two — the Clips are unwilling to part with Shamet, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

While the Clippers have a logical salary-matching piece in Maurice Harkless, the Lakers’ path to absorbing Morris’ $15MM salary is less straightforward. A three- or four-player package of lower-cost guys could work, but Turner suggests in his tweet that the teams may be discussing Danny Green. The Knicks would want to flip Green to another team, according to Turner. For what it’s worth, I’d be pretty surprised if the Lakers are willing to move both Kuzma and Green for Morris alone.

Meanwhile, Marcus Morris may be the more sought-after twin, but his brother Markieff Morris is also drawing interest from contenders, including the Lakers and Clippers, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (via Twitter).

O’Connor (Twitter link) names the Bucks, Sixers, Celtics, and Rockets as other clubs that have interest in Markieff. The Pistons’ forward hasn’t had the type of season his brother has, but wouldn’t cost as much in terms of a trade package and has a modest $3.2MM cap hit.

Amick’s Latest: Rockets, Len, D-Lo, Bogdanovic, Pistons

The Rockets remain on the lookout for a center who can help the team fill the hole that will be created when Clint Capela is officially sent to Atlanta, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic (via Twitter), Houston is moving closer to a deal for a center and is in talks with a pair of Eastern Conference teams.

Both Amick and Iko indicate the Rockets have shown a willingness to take on some “bad” salary if it helps them acquire an asset or two.

Once the four-team trade involving Capela is officially complete, Houston will have limited flexibility to acquire a center or absorb an unwanted contract. However, until that point, the Rockets could try to fold a separate trade into that four-team deal, which would allow them to take back up to $12MM+ in additional salary (up to $5.8MM before reaching the tax line).

Alex Len is one potential fit for the Rockets, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who suggests that the Hawks would want at least a second-round pick for Len. Since Atlanta is already part of the Rockets’ four-team trade, this could be simpler than bringing a fifth club. But I wonder if the Hawks would want to get back the 2024 second-rounder they’re sending to the Rockets in addition to acquiring a separate second-rounder for Len.

Here’s more from Amick and Hollinger:

  • A source confirmed to Amick that the Knicks continue to pursue D’Angelo Russell, but said none of New York’s offers have been “even remotely appealing” to the Warriors.
  • Kings swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic is generating “serious” interest, but a source says the Kings are still happy to keep Bogdanovic and attempt to re-sign him in free agency, according to Amick. As of this afternoon, Sacramento wasn’t discussing a Kyle Kuzma deal with the Lakers, but many teams around the NBA have registered interest in Bogdanovic, including the Sixers and Hornets, Amick notes.
  • The Pistons are “open for business” and willing to discuss just about anyone, per Amick and Hollinger. However, a source with knowledge of the situation downplayed the idea that Derrick Rose will be moved before the deadline.
  • The Magic are unlikely to do anything too significant, but remain in the market for “good, young perimeter help,” says Hollinger.