LeBron James

LeBron James Reiterates Desire For NBA Team In Las Vegas

After playing a preseason game in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday, Lakers star LeBron James once again made it known publicly that he wants the NBA to expand to Las Vegas, and that he wants to be part of that expansion team’s ownership group, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I would love to bring a team here at some point. That would be amazing,” James said, before directly addressing NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “I know Adam is in Abu Dhabi right now, I believe. But he probably sees every single interview and transcript that comes through from NBA players. So, I want the team here, Adam. Thank you.”

James previously expressed a desire to own an expansion team in Las Vegas during an episode of his show ‘The Shop: Uninterrupted.’

Las Vegas has been arguably the fastest-growing U.S. sports city in recent years, getting an expansion franchise in the NHL (the Golden Knights) and serving as the new home base for the NFL’s Raiders, who relocated from Oakland. Basketball also has a significant presence in the city — in addition to hosting the NBA’s annual Summer League, Vegas is the home of the 2022 WNBA champions, the Aces.

“I remember a day when you barely knew the NBA was in the city during Summer League,” Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said on Wednesday, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. “Now it’s a huge extravaganza. It’s a whole rollout, a whole layout of excitement and entertainment built around those 14 or 15 days the guys are here. I think Las Vegas is a hotbed for entertainment, obviously, and having the Raiders here now and the Aces.

“… I think it’s only a matter of time before Jerry West shows up permanently — that logo is on the jersey representing the city of Las Vegas. I think it’s a great city, the natural organic energy that’s here built into the city, it goes hand in hand with the level of sports that have been considered to be placed here. … It’s a no-brainer. Down the road, I don’t want to speak for the NBA or the commissioner, but I think at some point you’ll see a permanent NBA team here calling Las Vegas home.”

While Las Vegas and Seattle have been the subject of expansion rumors for years, Silver and the NBA have consistently pushed that conversation down the road. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), the league intends to negotiate its new television deal and Collective Bargaining Agreement before seriously considering expansion. So while the prospect of expanding to Vegas and Seattle is legitimate, it’s probably still a few years away.

That timeline would work out well for James, who is under contract for at least two more years, with a player option for the 2024/25 season. He would have to be retired as a player in order to own a team, according to McMenamin, who notes that LeBron would also need to link up with a deep-pocketed partner — the longtime NBA star reportedly has a net worth exceeding $1 billion, but a new NBA franchise would cost significantly more than that.

As James makes a public push for expansion to Vegas, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times explores where things stand in Seattle, another city that is hosting NBA preseason games this fall. Those preseason games are being played at the Climate Pledge Arena, which was developed by the Oak View Group at the site of the SuperSonics’ old home, KeyArena. CEO Tim Leiweke believes the building is ready for an NBA team, but said he doesn’t want to pressure Silver and the league into making a decision.

“You don’t want to get ahead of the league, you don’t want to force a decision,” Leiweke said. “You don’t want to think at the end of the day that you have leverage or you have the ability to force an issue like this. You don’t. This is really first and foremost if and when Adam and the Board of Governors want to even consider it.”

Lakers Notes: Ham, Davis, LeBron, Westbrook, D. Jones

Last year’s disappointment for the Lakers began with an 0-6 preseason, and new coach Darvin Ham wants his team to be focused from the start, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Anthony Davis agrees, citing the need to quickly build continuity after an offseason filled with change.

“I think our team got put together a little later than most teams,” Davis said. “New coach. New system. So we’re kind of behind the eight ball, and we’re trying to speed that process up by doing it the right way. Not by skipping steps. And we’ve been doing that. We’ve been having competitive practices, getting up and down. We’re locking in on our stations on offense and defense, and it’s been good.”

Although Ham wants to start winning right away, he hasn’t decided if Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook will play against the Kings in Monday’s preseason opener.

“I mean, if possible, yeah,” Ham said when asked about their status. “We’re gonna sit down (Sunday) as a staff and talk about what the rotation is gonna look like on Monday. But definitely. Definitely.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Free agent addition Damian Jones has only attempted 43 three-point shots in six NBA seasons, but Ham believes he can develop into a reliable long-range shooter, Buha states in the same piece. If Jones does pose an outside shooting threat, it would solve some of the spacing issues for L.A.’s potential starting lineup. “If I’m open and I’m in the corner and they pass it to me, I’m shooting it,” he said. “I’m comfortable shooting there. I’ve been getting a lot of reps in. Throughout the years, my percentages have been getting better as I’m shooting them. So, it’s good.”
  • Lonnie Walker, who has been dealing with an ankle issue, was a full participant in today’s practice, Buha adds. Troy Brown is expected to return to full contact in about a week, and newly signed Dennis Schröder will join the team in a few days.
  • Davis, James and Westbrook want to prove they can co-exist after playing just 21 games together last season, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Ham has installed a new approach to try to make their partnership work. “We have a three-man package, actually a play call, that they’re going thrive in and it involves all three of them,” he said. “I look forward to that being at a very, very high level. And there’s different nuances in it that they can play around with. … I trust all three of those guys.”

California Notes: Lakers, LeBron, Hield, Turner, Klay, DiVincenzo, Mitchell

While it’s still early in training camp, Lakers first-year coach Darvin Ham revealed a surprise starting lineup he’s been using in practices, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. The group around Anthony Davis and LeBron James includes Russell Westbrook, Damian Jones and Kendrick Nunn. Westbrook has heard his name mentioned often in trade rumors, Jones has never been a regular starter in the league, and Nunn missed all of last season due to injury.

James plans to play more often this preseason, when he only saw action in two games, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

We have more from the California teams:

  • The Pacers would almost certainly trade Buddy Hield and Myles Turner to the Lakers if Los Angeles is willing to include its 2027 and 2029 first-rounders without any protections, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on the Lowe Post podcast (hat tip to HoopsHype). “My best intel right now is if the Lakers called Indiana right now and said ‘Both picks unprotected,’ the Pacers would do that deal, would probably do that deal.”
  • Klay Thompson was held out of playing in Tokyo this week because he didn’t do any scrimmaging this offseason after the Warriors won the title, according to Kendra Andrews of ESPN. “I didn’t play much this summer,” Thompson said. “With what I went through the last summer, I was healthy, popping my Achilles, it was really hard for me to get out of it, mentally. It’s hard to explain. It’s a mental block or something.”
  • During the preseason opener in Tokyo, Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo played 17 minutes off the bench, contributing nine points, seven rebounds and two assists. He also didn’t commit any fouls or turnovers. Those types of contributions are why the Warriors added him, Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. DiVincenzo signed a two-year, $9.3MM contract early in free agency.
  • Davion Mitchell‘s defensive prowess, paired with his budding talent as a creator, could lead to a breakout season for the Kings’ second-year guard, Ethan Fuller of Basketball News writes.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Beverley, Nunn, Brown, Walker, Schröder

New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham isn’t committing to having Russell Westbrook in his starting lineup to open the 2022/23 season, telling reporters on Monday that the team has a “variety of options to fill in our backcourt,” as Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group tweets.

It might have made a bad situation in Los Angeles worse if Westbrook had been pulled from the team’s starting lineup last season, but the former MVP appears to be keeping an open mind as he prepares for the coming year. Prior to his Media Day session, Westbrook told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that it doesn’t matter whether or not he feels “wanted” by the Lakers and that he’s “all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” even if that means coming off the bench.

Westbrook – who told Wojnarowski that he thinks he, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James can be “unstoppable” – said to reporters on Monday that he has talked to Davis and James at length this summer about what worked and didn’t work last season, and has found those conversations “very beneficial” (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic).

While there’s no guarantee that Westbrook – long considered a trade candidate – will spend the entire season in Los Angeles, Lakers head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said today that the point guard is still one of the NBA’s great players, and expressed confidence that Ham will bring out “another level” in him this season (Twitter link via Goon).

Even Westbrook’s longtime nemesis Patrick Beverley had nothing but praise for his new teammate, suggesting that the rumored animus between the two guards has been overblown and telling Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link) that Westbrook has been his “best friend” on the team since he was traded to L.A. last month.

As we wait to see whether this season goes any smoother for Westbrook than his first season in Los Angeles did, here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Now that James has signed an extension with the team this offseason, the Lakers are willing to trade future draft assets to upgrade the roster, Pelinka confirmed today. However, Pelinka stressed that the team will only get one chance to trade those 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and said that any deal involving those draft assets must clearly improve the club’s title chances (Twitter links via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin).
  • Kendrick Nunn has been cleared for all contact work after missing the entire 2021/22 season with a knee injury, but new additions Troy Brown (back) and Lonnie Walker (ankle) are limited for the time being, Pelinka said today. Walker downplayed his ankle issue, telling reporters that he has been running, jumping, and cutting on it, and is pretty close to being fully healthy (Twitter links via Goon).
  • Dennis Schröder isn’t at training camp yet because he’s working through a visa issue, per Pelinka, but it shouldn’t be too long before he joins the team (Twitter link via Goon).
  • Neither Pelinka nor Ham is worried about the Lakers’ wing defense, tweets Buha. “We should be one of the elite defensive teams in the league,” Ham said. “… We have the personnel for it.”
  • In a full story for The Athletic, Buha poses 10 key questions facing the Lakers, starting with Westbrook’s role and future. Buha also considers the team’s starting lineup battles, where the shooting will come from, and what to realistically expect from LeBron in his 20th NBA season.

LeBron, Paul, NBPA Director React To Sarver Decision

The NBA continues to receive criticism for its ruling in the Robert Sarver case, including a scathing review from its most prominent player.

In a pair of tweets tonight, LeBron James said the league “definitely got this wrong” in reference to Commissioner Adam Silver‘s decision to suspend Sarver for one year and fine him $10MM rather than taking action to force him to sell the team.

“Read through the Sarver stories a few times now,” James wrote. “I gotta be honest…Our league definitely got this wrong. I don’t need to explain why. Y’all read the stories and decide for yourself. I said it before and I’m gonna say it again, there is no place in this league for that kind of behavior. I love this league and I deeply respect our leadership. But this isn’t right. There is no place for misogyny, sexism, and racism in any work place. Don’t matter if you own the team or play for the team. We hold our league up as an example of our values and this ain’t it.”

Also reacting was Suns star Chris Paul, who agrees that Sarver deserves much stronger sanctions. Paul has largely avoided comment on the topic since the allegations against his team’s owner were made public last November, other than to stress the need to avoid letting it become a distraction. But tonight he issued a strong statement disapproving of Sarver’s behavior.

“Like many others, I reviewed the report. I was and am horrified and disappointed by what I read. This conduct especially towards women is unacceptable and must never be repeated,” Paul tweeted. “I am of the view that the sanctions fell short in truly addressing what we can all agree was atrocious behavior. My heart goes out to all of the people that were affected.” (Twitter link)

A nearly year-long investigation of Sarver determined that he used racially insensitive language in the workplace, including the N-word at least five times while recounting – or purporting to recount – statements from other people. He also treated female employees poorly, making many sex-related comments and inappropriate statements about their appearance, according to the report from the law firm that conducted the investigation.

Silver’s decision also drew a rebuke from NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio, who called Sarver’s actions “horrible” and said they “have no place in our sport or any workplace for that matter.” (Twitter link)

“Additionally, the investigation confirmed that Mr. Sarver’s deplorable behavior did not just come to light in November 2021,” she tweeted. “In fact, the report indicated Mr. Sarver’s long history of inappropriate conduct, including racial and gender insensitivity, misogyny and harassment. All issues that led to a toxic work environment for well over a decade. I have made my position known to Adam Silver regarding my thoughts on the extent of the punishment, and strongly believe that Mr. Sarver should never hold a managerial position within our league again.” (Twitter link)

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Buss, James, Iguodala, Thompson

Suns GM James Jones said there have been talks with Cameron Johnson‘s reps regarding a possible rookie scale extension, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets.

“We’re having discussions. Cam is a big part of what we do,” Jones said. “Really excited for the progress he’s shown over the last few years, especially last year. He’s primed to take some steps forward.”

We broke down a potential extension for Johnson this week, including what the numbers might look like.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers owner Jeanie Buss told Howard Beck in a Clutch Points podcast that she wants LeBron James to retire as a Laker. “With LeBron we have a line of communication between the two of us, and he knows that he can reach me anytime and vice versa,” Buss said. “I think he feels appreciated. I know I appreciate that he signed an extension to stay here and continue to lead the Laker team. He’s a fantastic leader both on and off the court. I feel like we’re blessed to have him as a Laker. I want to see him retire as a Laker.”
  • A decision on whether Andre Iguodala will retire or return to the Warriors will be made in the coming days, coach Steve Kerr said in an interview with 95.7 The Game (Twitter link). “We’ll touch base in the next couple days. (GM Bob Myers) and I are giving him the space to make whatever decision he wants. We’ll support him either way, but we hope he comes back.” Iguodala said on his podcast hasn’t yet decided what he wants to do, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets.
  • Klay Thompson‘s brother Mychel Thompson has been named as video coordinator for the Warriors, according to a team press release. On the coaching staff, Hilton Armstrong and Anthony Vereen have been named player development coaches and Will Sheehey has been named player development analyst.

And-Ones: Wembanyama, Henderson, James Lawsuit, Cole, Las Vegas

The top two projected picks in next year’s draft will square off in Las Vegas next month, Jonathan Givony of ESPN reports.

Projected No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama and his team, Metropolitans 92 from Paris, will face the G League Ignite and projected No. 2 pick, Scoot Henderson, on October 4 and 6 in a pair of exhibition games in Henderson, Nevada.

Rafael Barlowe revealed earlier that discussions were ongoing about a potential matchup featuring those two teams (Twitter link).

They naturally won’t be guarding each other. Wembanyama is a 7’4” center with an eight-foot wingspan, while Henderson is a lightning-quick 6’3” point guard.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • LeBron James and rappers Drake and Future are accused in a $10MM lawsuit filed by former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter of stealing the “intellectual property rights” to a film, according to Carl Campanile and Priscilla DeGregory of the New York Post. Hunter is seeking a share of profits from the documentary as well as $10MM in damages in a complaint filed in Manhattan State Supreme Court. The film, “Black Ice,” focuses on a segregated hockey league for black players in Canada.
  • Former NBA guard Norris Cole and Craig Sword combined for 28 points as Team USA rolled past Panama 88-58 in the AmeriCup basketball tournament on Monday, ESPN reports. Sword appeared in three games with the Wizards last season. Another former NBA guard, Jeremy Pargo, added 10 points.
  • A $3 billion sports and entertainment center, including a $1 billion, 20,000-seat arena, near the Las Vegas Strip could be a stepping stone for the city to get an NBA franchise, Tashan Reed of The Athletic writes. The complex, which will break ground in 2023 and is set to be completed in 2026, will also include an amphitheater, hotel and casino. “There are no guarantees the NBA is coming, and that’s been made very clear,” Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke said. “So, what you’ve got to do is go build (the arena) and make it work on everything else. My guess is they’ll get more interested and fascinated by Vegas if there is a world-class, billion-dollar arena.”

Cavaliers Rumors: Mitchell, Love, Rubio, LeBron

The Cavaliers‘ trade for Donovan Mitchell came together quickly last week after the Knicks decided to give an extension to RJ Barrett, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com says in a HoopsHype discussion with Michael Scotto. The Cavs and Jazz held unproductive talks regarding Mitchell in July at the Las Vegas Summer League, but president of basketball operations Koby Altman reached out again after news leaked of Barrett’s extension, asking if Utah would accept a package that didn’t include Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen or Evan Mobley.

The resulting deal gives Cleveland four potential All-Stars who are under contract for the next three seasons, along with $2.5MM in remaining cap room to fill out the roster. Fedor notes that the Cavaliers have a history of keeping a roster spot open for flexibility, so the next move may not happen right away. He suggests Cleveland may try to package Caris LeVert or Cedi Osman along with second-round picks in an effort to trade for a reliable small forward.

Scotto points out that Collin Sexton was a big winner in the trade because he had to be re-signed before he could be sent to Utah. Scotto hears that Sexton’s new four-year, $72MM contract is far beyond what Cleveland would have offered to keep him. The Cavs had been unwilling to exceed the luxury tax threshold to re-sign Sexton or to attach assets in an Osman trade to clear more room below the tax to increase their offer to Sexton.

There’s more on the Cavaliers from Fedor and Scotto:

  • Kevin Love‘s expiring $28.9MM contract could be used for another major trade, but Fedor believes the team is more likely to keep Love and take advantage of the cap relief after the season. Love accepted a reserve role under coach J.B. Bickerstaff last season and is well-liked in the locker room. Scotto can see him re-signing next summer for roughly the mid-level exception.
  • The Cavs brought back Ricky Rubio on a multiyear contract because they aren’t certain how much he’ll be able to play this season, according to Fedor. Rubio was examined by the team’s medical staff recently, and there’s still no timetable for him to return from the ACL tear he suffered last December. Fedor hears that Rubio might be ready in January or February, but the Cavaliers are mostly focused on getting a fully healthy season from him in 2023/24.
  • Cleveland wouldn’t turn down a LeBron James return after his current contract expires, but it would be on much different terms than when he came back in 2014, Fedor adds. Management feels good about the roster it has put together and wouldn’t be willing to give James the power that he typically demands.

Western Notes: Gobert, Mitchell, Jazz, Westbrook, Vezenkov

Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert had some differences with Donovan Mitchell over the years but he feels his former Jazz teammate will thrive with the Cavaliers, he told Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops.net.

“I think he has a bright future,” Gobert said. “He’s one of the best young players in his position. He’s going to keep getting better. I think it’s a great opportunity for him to just get to a new system, a new team and be able to show what he can do.”

Gobert also praised Utah executive Danny Ainge for the players and draft picks he collected from Cleveland in the trade: “I think he definitely did a great job in getting as many assets as possible.”

We have more Western Conference news:

  • Jazz fans will need to get acquainted with all the players the team has acquired in the Gobert, Mitchell and Patrick Beverley trades. Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune takes a quick look at each of the acquisitions, highlighted by Collin Sexton and lottery pick Ochai Agbaji.
  • Russell Westbrook is expected to show up if LeBron James hosts a players-only minicamp before Lakers training camp, as James has often done in the past, Marc Stein reports in Substack article. The mini-camp would help ease any lingering tensions among their veteran players. Citing well-placed sources, Stein adds that the franchise won’t sit out Westbrook if he remains on the roster, unlike what the Rockets did with John Wall last season. New coach Darvin Ham will carve out a role for Westbrook if he’s not dealt.
  • Kings draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov said he’s not focused on a potential jump to the NBA for the 2023/24 season, according to Semih Tuna of EuroHoops.net. “It’s a big season, I have a big priority with my team Olympiacos in what will be a very difficult year,” he said. “My only thought is to stay focused and stay healthy, to give everything I can [to Olympiacos]. And then we will see. Next summer is ten months away.” Vezenkov, 27, was a 2017 second-round pick. The Bulgarian star is the leading scorer in the EuroBasket event.

Pacific Notes: Landale, Westbrook, LeBron, Iguodala

Jock Landale concentrated on the basics of the game during his rookie season in San Antonio and he expects to fill the same role now that he’s with the Suns, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. The Australian center focused on rebounding, running the floor and knocking down open shots in the 54 games he played with the Spurs. He got traded twice this offseason — first to Atlanta, then to Phoenix — and has been adjusting to his new situation with one of the NBA’s best teams.

“That was kind of my first wake-up call that this is a business and there isn’t a whole lot of loyalty involved in the sport,” Landale said. “That’s just the way it is and just came to terms to that pretty quickly I suppose, but obviously, I’m super pumped to be with the Suns now because they’re always an organization I looked at and watched play from afar. Just love the way that they operate. Now just being here and actually experiencing the level of care and the level of winning mentality and attitudes around the locker room and the organization as a whole, you realize they’re putting so much into this year as I’m sure they have the last two years.”

Landale said he talked to several members of San Antonio’s front office during the Las Vegas Summer League, and they all spoke positively about Phoenix coach Monty Williams. Landale also got a glowing recommendation on the Suns from fellow Australian Aron Baynes, who was in Las Vegas in hopes of an NBA comeback.

“Baynes, he spoke really highly of the guys, the organization, Monty, all of that,” Landale said. “I think it’s getting to that point that Monty’s reputation kind of speaks for itself. Everybody has great things to say about him and that’s kind of the testament to the body of work he’s put in with his players as a coach. Now being on such a highly regarded winning team, nothing I say will be out of the ordinary because his reputation speaks for itself. He’s a fantastic man and coach.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers will have to give up a first-round pick to unload Russell Westbrook and two first-rounders if they’re hoping to land more than one rotation player, sources tell Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Depending on the deal, that price could increase to include pick swaps or it could decrease if L.A. is willing to take on unwanted contracts.
  • Lakers star LeBron James is a bargain even at his new two-year, $97.1MM extension, according to Sopan Deb of The New York Times. In addition to his on-court value, James brings in a lot of revenue from the attention he attracts to the franchise.
  • Warriors veteran Andre Iguodala defended teammate Jonathan Kuminga after ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith raised questions about the young forward’s attitude, relays Nathan Dougherty of Heavy“My young fella, I’m on his head,” Iguodala said Friday on his “Point Forward” podcast. “He took some licks from Stephen A. I don’t know how warranted they were because from what I heard he been doing what he supposed to do this summer.”