LeBron James

Lakers Rumors: LeBron, Chandler, Ingram, Carmelo

The Lakers lost their first three games to begin LeBron James‘ tenure in Los Angeles, and fell to 4-6 after an embarrassing home loss to Toronto last Sunday. The team has since rebounded, winning three in a row to move above .500 for the first time this season and allowing James to exhale a bit. Speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the four-time MVP admitted that he had some trying moments in his early days as a Laker.

“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,'” James told Haynes with a laugh over the weekend. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”

The last week hasn’t exactly been the toughest stretch of the Lakers’ 2018/19 schedule — the club’s three most recent wins came against the Timberwolves, Kings, and Hawks. Still, LeBron is looking more comfortable with his new teammates and the recent arrival of Tyson Chandler has clearly had a positive impact on the organization, as head coach Luke Walton acknowledges.

“[Chandler]’s been big,” Walton said, per Haynes. “Not only the way he is on court, but the way he talks in the huddles. We’re very happy to have him.”

Let’s round up a few more Lakers-related items…

  • Here’s a little more of what LeBron told Haynes, regarding the team’s recovery from a slow start: “I had to regroup and remember this is a young team. We’re playing some good ball right now and we’re starting to build some good habits. That’s all that matters right now.”
  • There may be some room for improvement in the on-court chemistry between James and former No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram. As Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype relays, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (podcast link) recently spoke to an executive who has long been a big fan of Ingram and feels as if “it’s not working with LeBron.” Of course, given Ingram’s four-game suspension, the duo only has nine games under its belt so far, so there’s plenty of time to figure things out.
  • Appearing on ESPN, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated suggested that the Lakers are likely done tweaking their roster for the time being, meaning they probably wouldn’t be in play for Carmelo Anthony if the Rockets release him. Dan Feldman of NBC Sports has the details.

Community Shootaround: Carmelo Anthony’s Future

Amidst all of the reports of uncertainty surrounding Carmelo Anthony‘s future with the Rockets, a larger discussion regarding his place in the league itself appears to be on its way.

After being traded from the Thunder and subsequently being released by the Hawks, Anthony signed for the veteran’s minimum in Houston, where he looked to thrive in the team’s offense predicated on 3-pointers and led by two of the best guards in the league.

Unfortunately, Anthony’s offensive struggles have carried over from his lone season with the Thunder, as he is averaging just 13.4 points per game so far and knocking down just 32.8% of his 3-pointers. Anthony has primarily come off the bench but has received a sizable role due to the Rockets dealing with several injuries early in the season.

It’s not only the traditional counting stats that paint this as Anthony’s worst season, as he is posting career-lows in PER, Win Shares per 48 Minutes and Box Plus-Minus. To make matters worse, the Rockets are significantly better when Anthony isn’t on the court. Per Cleaning the Glass, the team’s defense is 9.6 points per 100 possessions worse when Anthony is on the floor.

Considering that Anthony has been a net negative when on the floor for several years and is likely going to find himself without a team sometime soon, what is his role in the league moving forward? Are there NBA teams that would be interested in signing Anthony should he be released by the Rockets?

A common response has been that the Lakers, led by another one of Anthony’s friends in LeBron James could bring him on as another shooter. However, it remains to be seen if that would be the case considering the youth and depth the Lakers have at their disposal (as well as their interest in signing him after his slow start).

Anthony will turn 35 years old at the end of this season, making it appropriate to discuss if this should be his farewell tour. Given his inability to be a capable off-ball player on offense and his dramatic defensive limitations, it’s likely that Anthony won’t find himself on a competitive NBA team moving in subsequent years.

To win at the highest level in the NBA, teams are increasingly relying on capable two-way players, switchable defenders and/or elite shooters and ball-handlers. Anthony meets none of those descriptions, as he is a throwback isolation scorer that best operates out of the mid-range.

What say you, NBA fans? Do you think Carmelo Anthony has a place in the league moving forward? Comment below with your thoughts!

Pacific Notes: Cook, Chandler, Durant, James

Warriors guard Quinn Cook took the place of Stephen Curry against the Nets on Saturday, with Curry out due to a left adductor strain. Cook was red-hot in his first start of the season, finishing with 27 points on 11-16 shooting and registering a plus-16 rating in 29 minutes.

He played exactly the way Golden State needed him to play in Curry’s absence, and it resulted in the team’s 11th win of the season.

“He did the Stephen Curry imitation tonight,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell (Twitter link). “He hit a lot of tough shots, he’s a heck of a competitor.”

Cook showcased his talents and made the most of his opportunity, with the 25-year-old receiving inconsistent playing time when the team is healthy. He’ll likely stay in the starting lineup until Curry returns, then head back to the bench for backcourt depth.

“More than anything, I’m just impressed with Quinn’s professionalism,” coach Steve Kerr said, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “To not play at all for a while and be able to perform all of a sudden, out of nowhere, when we need him, that’s the mark of a pro. He’s a great fit for us and always prepared and always ready.”

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers center Tyson Chandler has impressed in his first full week with the team, Matt Eppers of USA TODAY writes. Chandler tipped back a clutch offensive rebound to help seal a win against the Timberwolves Wednesday, then grabbed 12 rebounds off the bench on Saturday.
  • Kevin Durant toured the Chase Center arena this week, which is under construction and set to open for the Warriors next season, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN. Durant will likely enter free agency on July 1. “I’m thinking about a lot of points being scored,” Durant said as he toured the facility. “The fans are going to love it.”
  • Bleacher Report’s Ken Berger explores the influence LeBron James has on the Lakers and their roster decisions, despite only being with the team for four months. James held similar influence with the Cavaliers and Heat during his first 15 NBA seasons, and requested the Lakers sign Chandler when he reached free agency last week.

Pacific Notes: Chandler, Lakers, Williams, Jones

The free agent signing of Tyson Chandler paid dividends for the Lakers on Wednesday against the Timberwolves, with Chandler grabbing eight rebounds in 23 minutes — including a clutch offensive rebound to help seal the team’s 114-110 win.

“We needed the help now,” coach Luke Walton said postgame, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “And I don’t know how that all works but give [general manager] Rob [Pelinka] and [president] Magic [Johnson] credit for recognizing that and going out and getting that job done for our squad.”

Chandler reached a buyout agreement with the Suns last week, and the Los Angeles native joined the Lakers just in time for their game Wednesday. Chandler, an 18-year veteran who won a title with Dallas in 2011, provides the team with a locker room presence and ability to play center off the bench.

“I love this city the way they love me,” Chandler said when asked about the standing ovation L.A. fans gave him. “When you’re homegrown from here, go to high school and all of that, and you have these same fans that have been watching [your career] and now you represent the jersey that everyone has been cheering for their entire lives, you kind of become one.

“I’ve been on the other side and played the villain. Now it’s great to be on this side and actually rep ’em.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • A panel of ESPN writers voiced their opinions about what’s wrong with the Lakers (article link), with Kevin Arnovitz, Chris Herring and Tim Bontemps among those from the company who participated. The Lakers own a modest 5-6 record despite having LeBron James and an array of promising pieces around him.
  • Kings forward Troy Williams is making a strong bid to land a full-time roster spot with the team, James Ham of NBC Sports contends. Williams signed a two-way contract with the team in October, holding per-game averages of 8.3 points and three rebounds in four contests. “It’s what they ask of me – just to be versatile, just to be athletic, just to defend multiple people,” Williams said. “What I focus on is how I can help this team defensively before anything else.” 
  • Suns president of basketball operations James Jones did LeBron James “a solid” by reaching a buyout with Tyson Chandler and allowing him to join the Lakers this early in the season, a league source told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin“He deserves all the credit,” LeBron told ESPN of Jones. “He was very instrumental. He did right by Tyson as a veteran.” Jones and James were teammates during a four-year run in Miami and three-year run in Cleveland, which produced a total of three NBA championships.

Clippers Rumors: 2019 Free Agency, Rivers, Frank

The Clippers could have enough cap room in 2019 for two maximum-salary free agents, and one rival executive believes that the franchise – often viewed as an afterthought in Los Angeles in the shadow of the Lakers – could be the “most attractive free agent situation of all of them” next summer, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.

“None of the available free agents want to be LeBron [James]‘s caddy,” the executive told Beck, explaining why a star player may choose the Clippers over the Lakers and other teams. “And they can become the greatest player in the history of a franchise in an unbelievable market with the wealthiest owner in the league. Why would that not thrill you?”

The “wealthiest owner in the league,” Steve Ballmer, spoke extensively to Beck for an in-depth feature that explores the Clippers’ plans for the 2019 offseason and beyond, while also looking back on a few major decisions that have shaped the organization’s direction during Ballmer’s tenure.

Beck’s piece is excellent and is worth reading in full, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • One top agent tells Beck that he’s eager to steer clients toward the Clippers, pointing out that Ballmer won’t mind going into luxury-tax territory and “wants to win.” The Clips have “definitely changed” their image in recent years, according to that agent.
  • In a speech to Beck, Ballmer previewed what a pitch to an elite free agent might look like: “You wanna have a legacy? You wanna really say you were involved in doing something super special? You come here. You be in L.A., the greatest market in the world, and you show people: ‘I’m the guy! I went to a franchise who’d never been there! I’m the guy! I made it happen! I get a legacy!'”
  • Ballmer regrets waiting as long as he did to restructure the front office, since he now believes the president of basketball operations job is “all-consuming” and requires someone who can focus on it full-time — head coach Doc Rivers held that position until Lawrence Frank was promoted to fill it last year, allowing Rivers to focus on coaching. “There were too many [basketball operations matters] where I really wanted to talk to Lawrence, not Doc,” Ballmer said. “Doc was, as I would have said at Microsoft, an unnecessary middle layer.”
  • Having everyone in the proper management roles should help the team maximize its assets and avoid making short-sighted moves, as Ballmer explains: “We want a team where we get maximum value out of the guys that we have, that we’re not dummies. I think if you look over the last five, six years, there’s some moves with hindsight I say, ‘God, now that I’ve been around longer, I wouldn’t make a move to give up a first-round pick to get Jeff Green.’ Because we weren’t as close to being a championship contender as we thought we were. So we gave up a pick we shouldn’t have.”
  • Ballmer also admitted that the Lob-City-era Clippers often came off as “whiny” by complaining too often about calls on the court. “I think that was known for the Clippers,” he said. “I don’t want to be that way. That’s not who we want to be.” Ballmer added that, in order to help sell the team to top free agents, he wants to make it clear to the rest of the NBA what the present-day Clippers stand for: “I want us to be playing defense. I want us to be resilient.”

Pacific Notes: Walton, LeBron, Booker, Warriors

Lakers president Magic Johnson has said Luke Walton’s job is safe for the rest of the season, but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders believes rumors of a coaching change will reignite if things don’t improve soon. Teams tend to look at their seasons in 10-game stretches, he explained, and the Lakers had a mix of positives and negatives in their 4-6 start.

However, they could start to slide out of the playoff race if the next 10 games aren’t better, which may cause management to reconsider Walton’s future. Kyler notes that Walton was hired in 2016 to oversee a gradual rebuilding process, but the timetable sped up quickly when LeBron James signed with the team over the summer. L.A. is focused on landing a second star in next year’s free agency, and a winning season could be an essential selling point in a highly competitive market.

Kyler believes it’s also possible that Walton is retained, but some of his assistants will be replaced. He doesn’t think Tyronn Lue, who was recently fired in Cleveland, would be considered if Walton is axed. Although Lue still has a good relationship with James, such a move could lead to a locker room “rebellion,” and James isn’t pushing for Walton to be replaced.

There’s more tonight from the Pacific Division:

  • James supports the decision to televise the All-Star draft, relays Sam Amico of AmicoHoops. He and Stephen Curry served as captains last year as the top vote-getters in each conference, but the draft was done by phone and the order of picks wasn’t released. “What’s bad about it? It’s All-Star Weekend,” James said before tonight’s game. “You got 24 of the best players in the world that’s going to make the team. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last, you’re 24 of the best in the world at that point in time. I don’t think it’ll be bad. We’ll see.”
  • Suns star Devin Booker believes chemistry issues have affected the team as it has stumbled to a 2-8 start, according to an ESPN story. Phoenix fell at home to the Nets by 22 points Tuesday, marking its sixth defeat already by 18 or more points. “I think all good teams have that trust and chemistry, where they’re able to get on each other and know that it’s for a better purpose,” Booker said. “For us, I don’t think we have that right now. We’re not comfortable with each other, we don’t step on each other’s toes, we don’t push each other, and I think that’s what we need to do.”
  • Dieter Kurtenbach of The San Jose Mercury News examines the challengers in the Western Conference and wonders if any of them presents a legitimate threat to the Warriors.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Walton, Chandler

LeBron James made a strong statement in support of Luke Walton and the Lakers’ coaching staff following last night’s win in Portland, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Walton started to feel some heat after a 2-5 start and was “admonished” this week by team president Magic Johnson. The team has responded with two straight wins, and James left no doubt that he is in Walton’s corner.

“Listen, coaching staff put us in a position to win, and it’s up to us to go up and execute,” he told reporters after the game. “Luke can care less about what’s going on outside. We could as well. I’m the last person to ask about scrutiny or anything of that nature. So none of that stuff matters to me. The only thing that matters to me is what goes on inside this locker room, both home and away.”

James has clashed with coaches in both Miami and Cleveland and reportedly played a large role in getting David Blatt fired a year after he took the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. James’ endorsement of Walton should carry a lot of weight with the Lakers’ front office.

There’s more this morning out of Los Angeles:

  • Johnson was less upset about the team’s won-loss record than what he perceived as a lack of identity at both ends of the court, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic. A source tells Amick that Walton’s job wasn’t threatened and that Johnson hasn’t lost confidence in his coach, even though he was hired by the previous administration. Amick also notes that owner Jeanie Buss viewed frequent coaching changes as a weakness of the management team that was in place before Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka were hired.
  • In that meeting, Walton appealed for another big man to back up starting center JaVale McGee, Amick adds in the same piece. That request appears to have been answered with the expected addition of Tyson Chandler, who is nearing a buyout with the Suns.
  • Chandler may not be enough to solve the Lakers’ issues on defense when McGee is off the court, suggests Kevin Pelton of ESPN. Pelton runs the numbers on Chandler and finds that his ability to protect the rim has been on a steady decline over the past six seasons. He states that the Lakers might have been better off waiting for another center to become available, such as the Bulls’ Robin Lopez or the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon.

Pressure Mounting On Lakers’ Luke Walton

Prior to the Lakers‘ win over Dallas on Wednesday, team president Magic Johnson “admonished” head coach Luke Walton for the team’s slow start, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. According to ESPN’s report, the meeting elevated the sense within the organization that Walton is facing “intense and immediate pressure” to improve upon L.A.’s 3-5 record.

Before the regular season began, Johnson stressed in public comments that the new-look Lakers would require patience while they found their footing. However, sources tell Wojnarowski and McMenamin that the team president has a reputation within the organization for an “often-time volatile management style,” which includes his handling of Walton and the Lakers’ assistants.

As Johnson puts more pressure on Walton, the Lakers’ head coach continues to have the support of controlling owner Jeanie Buss and of the team’s new star, LeBron James. James has been both publicy and privately supportive of Walton, as the ESPN duo notes, defending the coach’s frequent lineup shuffling early in the season.

“I think Luke’s trying to figure out what works best,” James said. “We knew it was going to be like that from the summer when ‘Zo (Lonzo Ball) had the knee surgery. We knew we were going to have a lineup change there. Obviously, we had the unexpected one when we had the suspensions (to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram), so we had a lineup change there… We’ll get to a point where we know how comfortable we need to be with different lineups.”

Wojnarowski and McMenamin indicate that Walton’s job security in Los Angeles will ultimately hinge on his ability to significantly improve upon the team’s 3-5 start, though it’s not clear how quickly Johnson expects to see a turnaround. In the short term, the team’s weekend schedule doesn’t bode well for a return to .500 — the Lakers will play in Portland on Saturday before returning home to host the Raptors on Sunday.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Jones, Livingston, James

The new-look Lakers are off to a tumultuous start at 3-5 this season, with the team losing three separate games that have gone down to the wire. One of these tough losses came Monday against the Timberwolves, testing the patience of LeBron James and other veterans on the team.

“There’s obviously frustration that comes with it,” coach Luke Walton said at the time, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “I don’t know what the level [of frustration] is, but it’s going to be a tough flight home.

“But like I told our guys, nobody feels sorry for us. It’s up to us to figure it out and start winning some of these close games. And we will. I can promise you that. We will start to win some of these. But right now we’re taking a couple lumps in the meantime.”

Walton has substituted players in and out of the starting lineup, experimenting different groups of players this season. Part of growing as a new team is having the patience and veteran leadership in turbulent times, something the Lakers possess in James.

James willed his team to a victory Wednesday, but offered a simple answer when asked about his patience earlier in the week:

“You probably don’t want to be around when my patience runs out,” James said. “I’m serious.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Exercising the 2019/20 option in Damian Jones‘ contract was an easy decision for the Warriors, Monte Poole of NBC Sports writes. Jones’ $2.3MM salary for next season is a team-friendly deal when considering his level of play at starting center this year.
  • Shaun Livingston underwent an MRI on his foot this week after dealing with soreness, Mark Medina of The Mercury News tweets. The MRI returned clean, and the Warriors plan to be cautious with his injury. Livingston is listed as doubtful for Friday’s game against the Timberwolves.
  • LeBron James needs more support around him for the Lakers to reach their true potential, The Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike writes. James scored 29 points in a close home win against the Mavericks on Wednesday, knocking down the game-winning free throw. The Lakers have a young nucleus of talent and several veterans around James, who’s seeking his fourth NBA title.

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.