Kyle Kuzma

Kyle Kuzma Suffers Lower Back Contusion

3:37pm: Kuzma’s MRI confirmed the diagnosis of a lower back contusion, tweets Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Having avoided a more serious injury, Kuzma will be listed as questionable for Friday’s game against New York.

10:10am: The Lakers‘ injury woes continued on Wednesday, as forward Kyle Kuzma left the team’s loss to Oklahoma City at halftime and didn’t return. Kuzma, who was diagnosed with a lower back contusion, is undergoing an MRI today to determine the extent of the injury, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com relays.

“He got hit somewhere in the game, something happened during the game,” head coach Luke Walton said. “You could notice he was starting to limp in those last couple minutes he was playing. He said he was fine. They worked on it at halftime; just said, ‘No go.'”

Los Angeles is already without a pair of key rotation players in LeBron James and Rajon Rondo. There has been no indication that James – who is dealing with a strained groin – is ready to return yet, and Rondo is expected to be sidelined for a few more weeks after undergoing hand surgery. As such, the Lakers will have to hope that the injury to Kuzma, who leads the team in total minutes, isn’t serious.

Kuzma is the Lakers’ second-leading scorer this season behind LeBron, averaging 18.3 PPG and 5.8 RPG on .472/.302/.780 shooting. If he has to miss time, players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Josh Hart figure to be leaned on more heavily, while Lance Stephenson and Svi Mykhailiuk are among those who could see a bump in minutes.

Pacific Notes: Ingram, Cousins, Bjelica

As the Lakers‘ young players continue to adjust to playing alongside LeBron James, Brandon Ingram has struggled to take the next step in his development. While others such as Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma have thrived this season, Ingram has taken a step back, averaging fewer points, rebounds and assists per game than last season — his efficiency has also taken a dip.

Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer explores the issues plaguing Ingram and the troubling fit he has with James. While Hart and Kuzma have more complementary skill sets, Ingram doesn’t have such a game as a result of his limited shooting and the fact that he thrives with the ball in his hands.

Tjarks explores the notion of the Lakers trading Ingram if they sense that they can make a run in a crowded Western Conference. It will be interesting to follow how Ingram continues to adapt his game alongside James or if it eventually spells the end of his Lakers tenure.

There’s more from the Pacific division:

Woj: Lakers Keeping Young Players To Pursue Anthony Davis

The Lakers refused to break up their young core to acquire Trevor Ariza from the Suns because they’re saving their assets for a run at Anthony Davis, NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said today on ESPN (Hat tip to Real GM).

Davis will be eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension from the Pelicans next summer, which could pay him a record-setting $239.54MM over five seasons. However, if Davis decides not to accept that offer, he is guaranteed just one more season in New Orleans before his player option arrives in the summer of 2020.

The Lakers are among several teams preparing for that scenario, stockpiling as much young talent as they can to offer the Pelicans in a potential trade.

“Here’s the line they have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season,” Wojnarowski said, “because they have to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency.”

L.A. has been careful about preserving cap room for next season to be able to make a max offer in a talented free agent class that will include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and several other stars. The pursuit of Davis won’t affect that plan, according to Wojnarowski.

“The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent,” he said. “The dream scenario is they do both.”

ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who co-hosted the show with Wojnarowski, explained that the Lakers plan to take a shot at free agency first, then will try to swing a deal for Davis. If it works, that could produce a Big Three that would eclipse what LeBron James had in Miami or Cleveland.

Assuming none of them are traded away during the season, L.A. will have Lonzo Ball ($8.72MM for next year), Brandon Ingram ($7.27MM), Kyle Kuzma ($1.97MM) and Josh Hart ($1.93MM) available to offer in a potential deal for Davis.

Lakers Won’t Give Up Top Young Players For Ariza

The Lakers have made four key young players unavailable in their pursuit of wing Trevor Ariza, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The team will not include Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart in a potential trade, according to Turner. The Suns turned down a three-team proposal, Turner adds.

The Lakers’ keen interest in working out a deal with the Suns for Ariza, an unrestricted free agent after the season, surfaced in an ESPN report over the weekend. That report indicated Phoenix was seeking playmaking guard, presumably either Ball or Hart, and a draft asset.

Los Angeles has plenty of competition for Ariza as at least eight teams have reached out to Phoenix. Ariza can’t be traded until Saturday, when restrictions on trading players who signed free agent contracts this summer are lifted. Ariza inked a one-year, $15MM contract with the Suns after being a key member of the Rockets last season.

He is averaging 9.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 3.3 APG in 33.9 MPG this season for the floundering Suns.

Acquiring Ariza would not only help the Lakers in the short run, his expiring contract would also give them more flexibility in the summer when they pursue top-tier free agents.

Sources confirmed to Turner that the Rockets called about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s availability two weeks ago but no trade is imminent. A report from The Athletic on Wednesday revealed the Rockets were trying to put together a multi-team trade to acquire the Lakers’ shooting guard, who has veto power over any deal.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Beal, Rondo, Kokoskov

Warriors point guard and two-time MVP Stephen Curry could be back in action this week, according to an NBA.com post. He will go through a full practice on Tuesday with the possibility of playing against the Raptors on Thursday, coach Steve Kerr told the media. Curry has missed 10 consecutive games with a left groin strain.

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • Any potential Lakers trade for Wizards guard Bradley Beal would likely have Brandon Ingram as its centerpiece, according to Eric Pincus in a Bleacher Report column. Los Angeles probably wouldn’t agree to deal Ingram plus either Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart, Pincus opines. However, a package of Ingram, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley would add up to enough salary to absorb Beal’s hefty contract. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope couldn’t be substituted for Rondo unless he agreed to the deal, due to a quirk in rules regarding players who re-sign one-year contracts, Pincus adds.
  • The Lakers’ offense has suffered without Rondo, who is currently out with a broken hand, Joey Ramirez of the team’s website reports. The Lakers ranked fourth in scoring (116.9 ppg) and fifth in assists (26.0) before Rondo’s injury, but are 22nd in points (106.6) and 29th in assists (18.6) in the first five games without him. Rondo has been cleared for non-basketball activities but is still several weeks away from returning, Ramirez adds.
  • Suns first-year coach Igor Kokoskov believes his days as an assistant in Detroit were pivotal in his coaching career, as he explained to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. He was a young coach with the Pistons when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals on a regular basis. “I had the privilege of being with Larry Brown for two years and Flip Saunders for three years,” Kokoskov told McCosky. “I was very fortunate to learn from those great coaches and those great players. Just being a part of that group, with those guys all in their prime, I had a chance to steal the best from those guys. I learned a lot. Especially when you are winning.”

Lakers Rumors: Chandler, Walton, Johnson

Tyson Chandler probably won’t have a major impact as the backup center behind JaVale McGee, according to Matt John of Basketball Insiders. Chandler is expected to sign with the Lakers once he clears waivers after reaching a buyout agreement with the Suns. Kyle Kuzma didn’t handle the role of backup center well and Ivica Zubac hasn’t earned coach Luke Walton‘s trust, John continues. Phoenix’s defensive rating with Chandler on the court wasn’t much different than when he was off it over the past three seasons but he’s still an upgrade over the current options, John adds.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • The team may be hitting the panic button with regularity this season, Mark Whicker of the Los Angeles Times opines. Their poor defensive effort against Toronto on Sunday night was the type that leads to impulsive front office action such as firing the coach, Whicker continues. Walton was the betting favorite to lose his job before any other coach, Whicker notes. And though Walton has remained in charge despite some grumbling from Magic Johnson, more performances like the one against the Raptors could change that, Whicker adds.
  • The way Johnson tore into Walton last week could negatively impact the way free agents view the franchise, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes. Walton deserves a chance to figure things out and Johnson came across as a bully for dressing down Walton in a meeting last week, Plaschke continues. The fact that the story was leaked to the media shows dysfunction in the front office and that’s not a good look for free agents, who will be seeking stability next summer, Plaschke adds.
  • Johnson said Walton’s job was safe after Sunday’s game. Get the details here.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Okobo, Cousins, Lakers

The Warriors have been ordered to pay approximately $40MM for prior renovations at Oracle Arena, according to an Associated Press report. The dispute stemmed from renovations to the arena back in 1996. The government agency that manages the arena took out a $150MM bond for basketball renovations and the team agreed to help finance with annual payments. The Warriors argued their debt obligation should end when they terminate their lease and leave Oakland for San Francisco at the end of the season. An arbiter disagreed and ruled that the team must continue making payments through 2027.

We have more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Rookie Elie Okobo may have emerged as the Suns’ answer at point guard in a loss to the Thunder over the weekend, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Okobo posted a team-high 18 points and eight assists after he replaced Isaiah Canaan, who suffered a left ankle injury early in the contest. “He played with confidence, he played with a presence. He played like, ‘I belong here,’” Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said.
  • Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins apologized to coach Steve Kerr for getting ejected from the bench during the team’s game against the Knicks on Friday, Nick Friedell of ESPN relays. Cousins, who is still rehabbing from his Achilles injury he suffered last season, got tossed for trash talking to Knicks center Enes Kanter. “That kind of stuff is not going to help us win a championship, it’s not going to help his reputation, and I think he understands that,” Kerr said. “And I think he immediately regretted what happened, so I really appreciated him coming to me and making that pretty clear, and I don’t expect it to happen again.”
  • The Lakers need to ride their young players — Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart — to complement LeBron James and build a brighter future, Martin Rogers of USA Today argues. It’s important for that quartet to grow and develop chemistry with James, rather than playing veterans like Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley, Rogers adds.

Lakers Exercise 2019/20 Options On Ball, Kuzma, Hart, Ingram

The Lakers have made a series of procedural moves, announcing today in a press release that they’ve exercised their 2019/20 team options on Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram.

All four moves were expected, given the modest costs of those options. For Ball, Kuzma, and Hart, their third-year options will count against L.A.’s cap in ’19/20 for approximately $8.72MM, $1.97MM, and $1.93MM respectively. Each 2017 first-rounder also has a fourth-year team option for 2020/21, which the Lakers will have to exercise or decline by October 31, 2019.

As for Ingram, his fourth-year option will lock in a $7.27MM cap charge on the Lakers’ 2019/20 books. With that option officially picked up, he’s now on track to become extension-eligible next July 1. If he and the Lakers don’t reach an extension agreement by mid-October in 2019, he’d be in line to reach restricted free agency during the summer of 2020.

Our breakdown of all of this year’s rookie scale option decisions for 2019/20 can be found right here.

Pacific Notes: Kuzma, Lakers, Suns, Jackson, Kerr

Lakers coach Luke Walton will use the preseason to sort out his options at center, Joey Ramirez of the Lakers’ website reports. While JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac are the more conventional centers on the roster, the team is exploring small ball looks with Kyle Kuzma and Michael Beasley at the five spot. Walton was particularly intrigued by what he saw from Kuzma during the team’s preseason game against Denver on Sunday.

“There were a few fundamental breakdowns of how we want to play the defense from that spot, but his effort was there,” said the Lakers’ head coach. “He wants the challenge again, and we’re gonna give it to him again.”

In other developments from around the Pacific Division:

  • LeBron James will play in the Lakers‘ first preseason game at Staples Center on Tuesday but point guard Lonzo Ball will be held out, Ramirez writes in the same story. Ball is participating in full practices but the team is playing it safe in his return from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in July, Ramirez adds.
  • The Suns have become the latest NBA team to enter a jersey sponsorship deal with a corporate partner, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, who reports that the club will display PayPal ads on its uniforms going forward. There are now 25 clubs with jersey sponsors.
  • Josh Jackson is the Suns’ X factor this season, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. The 2017 lottery pick is viewed by new coach Igor Kokoskov as a high-energy player who can make his biggest impact on the defensive end. “In the half court, he’s pretty good, but open court, he’s one of the best,” Kokoskov told Rankin. “So let’s play to his strength and emphasize his defense.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes he’s made significant progress from his prior back issues, Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area relays. Kerr spoke of his health during a Tim Kawakami podcast. “I work every day — I do a lot of stuff to make sure I’m staying on the improving path,” he said. “The worst is behind me … when I had to sit out in the (2017) playoffs, that was a brutally difficult time and I wasn’t sure what was gonna happen. I think all of that is behind me and I’m looking at much better days.” Kerr’s interview with Kawakami from The Athletic can be found here.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Kuzma, LeBron, Mykhailiuk

Lonzo Ball isn’t showing any effects of the knee injury that sidelined him for most of the summer, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Bell had surgery in July to fix a torn left meniscus, but he has been operating at full speed in training camp, impressing new teammate LeBron James.

“I didn’t know he was gonna be full go so fast,” James said. “He’s been going through live drills the last 2½ days. His bounce is there. His speed is there.”

Ball tried to address his knee problem with platelet-rich plasma injections early in the offseason before deciding surgery was necessary. His summer was filled with weight training and film sessions, and he wasn’t cleared for a full-contact practice until Thursday. Coach Luke Walton said he was “shocked” by Ball’s progress, but still plans to be careful with the second-year point guard.

“We’re gonna be patient,” Walton said. “No need to rush it right now. We’ll put minutes restrictions on him as he starts coming back in the preseason. And everything will be, ‘How do you feel?’ the next day, ‘How do you feel?’ that night. As long we keep checking those off and he’s fine, the minutes restrictions will go up and up until we decide to get rid of it altogether.”

There’s more news from L.A.:

  • Kyle Kuzma added weight over the summer and will be used at center occasionally in small-ball lineups, Youngmisuk adds in a separate story. Kuzma hasn’t played center since high school, but he’s confident he can make it work. “You got to be the anchor of the defense, that five position calls out pick-and-rolls, screens,” Kuzma said. “The five is usually around the rim so you see, you know, everything in that backcourt, everything. So watching film has really helped in that area of trying to be that type of anchor when I am playing the five.”
  • The plan to keep James on a limited schedule during the preseason may be a mistake, suggests Martin Rogers of USA Today. At 33, James may want to conserve his energy for the regular season, Rogers writes, but he also needs game conditions to create chemistry with his new teammates.
  • The Lakers feel like they might have gotten another “steal of the draft” in second-rounder Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, relays Mike Trudell of NBA.com. Those were the words used at media day by veteran teammate Alex Caruso, who said the Lakers may have found another gem, just as they did with Kuzma last year.