Lonnie Walker

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.”

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.

Lakers Notes: Nunn, Backcourt, Westbrook, Outlook

Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn was recently cleared for increased contact in workouts, league sources tell Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Head coach Darvin Ham told reporters, including Buha, that Nunn has primarily been working on individual drills and working out in the weight room.

According to Buha, Ham also said that Nunn, Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker are all in consideration for the starting lineup, and the trio will have “notable roles.”

Nunn, who missed all of last season with a knee issue, said he was “100%” healthy back in July, but subsequent reports from Buha have cast a cloud on his status. Still, additional contact was an important hurdle to clear for the 27-year-old, so we’ll see if he’s ready to go once the season starts next month.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • The “combustible” pairing of Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook could provide the spark necessary to ignite the Lakers, or it could blow up in their faces, opines Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California Newsgroup (subscriber link). As Swanson observes, both players are well-known for being stubborn, and their previous run-ins have been well documented. Everyone in L.A. is saying the right things right now, but only their on-court play and actions will prove whether the backcourt pairing will work or not, Swanson adds.
  • Westbrook needs to reinvent his game in order to make things work with the Lakers, argues Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. Westbrook’s refusal to adjust his playing style was a primary reason why he fit so poorly with the team last season, Hernandez notes. Asking him to make drastic changes this late in his career might not be fair to the former MVP, but he’ll have to play much better defense and make offensive adjustments for the team to find success in year two, Hernandez writes.
  • League insiders are pretty skeptical regarding the Lakers’ outlook for the 2022/23 season, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. One common thread brought up by the insiders was that the defense might not be good enough to hold up the poor shooting of the roster. Only one of the seven insiders Pincus spoke to was confident the Lakers would make the playoffs outright.

Lakers Notes: James, Westbrook, Trade Options, Randle, Horton-Tucker, Walker

LeBron James became eligible on Thursday to sign a one- or two-year contract extension. While the Lakers and James have next June 30 — the day before James would become an unrestricted free agent — to reach an agreement, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin indicated on NBA Today that there’s mutual interest in getting an extension done (video link).

“All signs point toward both sides looking to extend their partnership together,” McMenamin said, adding “Overall, both sides recognize they can help one another get to their mutual goal, which is to compete at a high level and stay relevant.”

James and his representative, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, met with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka and head coach Darvin Ham at the team’s practice facility on Thursday. Paul told McMenamin that they were “productive talks” and he “expects them to continue.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • The start of training camp could be a soft deadline to trade Russell Westbrook, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Buha says both sides would like to avoid the massive off-court distraction of a media circus constantly speculating about Westbrook’s future.
  • In the same mailbag piece, Buha indicates that, for now at least, the Pacers seem more willing to get a Westbrook deal done than the Nets or another other possible suitor.
  • Despite issues of spacing and long-term contract concerns, Julius Randle would still be a better fit with James and Anthony Davis than Westbrook as a third star, Buha argues. However, Westbrook is mainly a fallback option for the Knicks if they’re unable to acquire Donovan Mitchell.
  • Talen Horton-Tucker isn’t likely to be a regular member of the team’s rotation due to his skill set, in Buha’s view. His primary strengths are ballhandling and shot creation and the team already has plenty of players who can provide that.
  • Free agent acquisition Lonnie Walker will fill Malik Monk‘s former role of instant offense off the bench, Buha adds. Walker is a streaky shooter but shot selection and defense are concerns.

Pacific Notes: Iguodala, Rollins, Lakers, Murray, Clippers

The Warriors only have 11 players on standard contracts so far, leaving at least three openings on their projected regular season roster. According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, it’s possible one of those spots will be filled by Andre Iguodala.

Golden State hasn’t set any sort of deadline for Iguodala to make a decision on whether or not he wants to continue his playing career, so there will be a roster spot available for him if he decides he wants to continue playing, Slater explains.

Second-round pick Ryan Rollins also appears likely to claim one of the 15-man roster spots. He has a stress fracture in his foot, but Slater says there’s a belief he should be ready to go by training camp and he’ll likely receive a standard contract rather than a two-way deal.

Quinndary Weatherspoon, who received a two-way qualifying offer from the Warriors, is another player to watch, according to Slater, though he says the team’s preference would be to keep Weatherspoon on a two-way contract rather than a standard deal.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • While some rival scouts and executives questioned the Lakers‘ decision to use their taxpayer mid-level exception on Lonnie Walker and didn’t love the signing of Troy Brown, the general reaction to the team’s free agency moves has been positive, says Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. In particular, Los Angeles received “high marks” for getting centers Thomas Bryant and Damian Jones on minimum-salary contracts, according to Woike.
  • In an episode of The Void Podcast, Kevin O’Connor, J. Kyle Mann, and Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer make the case that the Kings made the right choice picking Keegan Murray over Jaden Ivey, suggesting that Murray is an ideal fit for Sacramento’s roster.
  • The contracts signed by Moses Brown, Jay Scrubb, and Xavier Moon with the Clippers are all Exhibit 10 deals, Hoops Rumors has learned. That means they’re one-year, non-guaranteed minimum-salary contracts which won’t count against the cap unless the player makes the regular season roster.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Collison, Monk, Leonard, Wall

The Lakers‘ five additions in free agency were targeted for speed, defense and shooting, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. New head coach Darvin Ham is determined to bring a fresh approach to a team that finished in the bottom third of the league in both offensive and defensive rating last season. All five players who were introduced at today’s press conference talked about how they will blend into that system.

“I think I can fit on any team,” said former Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson. “I think I can guard one through five. I’ll do whatever it takes to win, and when I say whatever, I mean it. I’ll dive over scorer’s tables. I’ll rebound. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Along with a renewed emphasis on defense, L.A. hopes its free agency moves will provide increased spacing for its star players. Ex-Spur Lonnie Walker is coming off a season where he connected at just 31.4% from three-point range, but he vows to be better.

“Last year, you can look at the percentages, but I kid you not: Leave me open, we’re going to see what’s happening,” Walker said. “I’m honing into what I got to get better on, and I’m not just strengthening my weakness but I’m strengthening my strengths as well. So, I’m ready to show everyone what I’m about.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Free agent point guard Darren Collison worked out for the Lakers again today, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Collison, who was at a mini-camp with the team last month, is interested in returning to the NBA at age 34.
  • Malik Monk‘s long friendship with De’Aaron Fox played an important role in his decision to sign with the Kings, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Monk and Fox have been friends since high school and they were backcourt partners at Kentucky. “They speak all the time,” a source told Anderson. “They’re still in their college group chat, so they speak every day. Those guys are real brothers, so I’m excited for them both.”
  • Clippers star Kawhi Leonard hasn’t been cleared to play 5-on-5, but he continues to make progress in his return from an ACL injury, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk said on “NBA Today” (video link). Newly signed John Wall will compete with Reggie Jackson for the starting point guard spot, Youngmisuk adds.

Lakers Officially Sign Lonnie Walker

The Lakers have officially announced the signing of swingman Lonnie Walker, confirming the move today in a press release. Walker’s agreement with Los Angeles was first reported last Thursday night.

It’s the fourth free agent deal the Lakers have made official since the start of free agency last week. Minimum-salary contracts, like the ones signed by Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Troy Brown, can become official during the July moratorium, but Walker’s one-year, $6.5MM contract is being completed using L.A.’s taxpayer mid-level exception and had to wait until the moratorium lifted today.

Walker, the 18th pick of the 2018 draft, spent his first four seasons with the Spurs. The 23-year-old has displayed a ton of athleticism and has shown glimpses of potential since his entering the NBA, but struggled with his scoring efficiency last season, posting a .407/.314/.784 shooting line.

In 70 games (23 MPG) with San Antonio in 2021/22, Walker averaged 12.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 2.2 APG.

The Spurs decided to withdraw Walker’s qualifying offer just before free agency opened, making him an unrestricted free agent and clearing a path for him to sign with any team.

Walker should have an opportunity to play a regular rotation role on a revamped Lakers roster and will be looking to build his value back up before he returns to free agency in 2023. He said today that he’d welcome the opportunity to start for L.A., but his primary focus is winning (Twitter link via Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group).

Lakers To Sign Lonnie Walker, Damian Jones, Troy Brown Jr.

The Lakers are signing Lonnie Walker to a one-year, $6.5MM deal, Damian Jones to a two-year, minimum-salary deal with a player option, and Troy Brown Jr. to a minimum deal, according reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (All Twitter links here). Brown’s contract is for one year, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Walker, 23, was the 18th pick of the 2018 draft and spent his first four seasons with the Spurs. He’s a very athletic guard and has shown glimpses of potential, but struggled with efficiency last season (.407/.314/.784 shooting line).

In 70 games (23 MPG) with San Antonio last season, Walker averaged 12.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 2.2 APG. The Spurs decided to withdraw his qualifying offer just before free agency opened, making him unrestricted and free to sign with any team. The move wasn’t very surprising considering the Spurs were better with him off the court (+2.1 net rating) than on it (-3.0), so he’ll be looking to build up his value in Los Angeles after an up-and-down tenure in San Antonio.

Jones, who turns 27 today, had a solid season with the Kings in 2021/22 after struggling to find a standard roster spot in ’20/21. In 56 games this season (18.2 MPG), Jones averaged 8.1 PPG and 4.4 RPG while shooting 65.8% from the field and 71.8% from the line.

After being drafted 30th overall in 2016 by the Warriors, Jones spent his first three seasons with Golden State but struggled to find a consistent role. He’s long and athletic, but was raw coming out of college. He made stops in Atlanta, Phoenix and L.A. from 2019-21 before landing with Sacramento, where he developed into a solid backup center.

Brown, 22, was the 15th pick of the 2018 draft and spent his first two-plus seasons with Washington before being traded to Chicago last year. The Bulls declined his qualifying offer after he struggled to make an impact this season, averaging 4.3 PPG and 3.1 RPG on .419/.353/.769 shooting in 66 games (16 MPG).

By using the taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Walker, the Lakers will be limited to a minimum contract for Max Christie, whom the team selected with the 35th pick of the draft last week. Christie’s deal will be limited to two years, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks relays (via Twitter).

Spurs Withdrawing QO For Lonnie Walker, Making Him UFA

The Spurs are pulling their qualifying offer for wing Lonnie Walker, making him an unrestricted free agent, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

San Antonio initially issued Walker that qualifying offer, worth $6,311,564, on Wednesday, which came as a bit of a surprise, as I noted at the time. Unlike some of this summer’s top restricted free agents, the 23-year-old wasn’t a lock to receive his qualifying offer, given the up-and-down season he had in 2021/22.

Walker averaged a career-high 12.1 PPG and 2.2 APG, but saw his shooting percentages dip to 40.7% from the floor and 31.4% on threes, well below his career rates. The Spurs were better with him off the court (+2.1 net rating) than on it (-3.0). Furthermore, a Wednesday report stated that Walker was unlikely to remain in San Antonio.

With the QO off the table, the Spurs will create some extra cap flexibility and Walker will have the opportunity to sign anywhere without the risk of San Antonio matching an offer sheet.

Charania says to expect a “strong market” for the former first-round pick.

Lonnie Walker, Anfernee Simons Get QOs; Kevin Knox Doesn’t

The Spurs have issued a qualifying offer to guard Lonnie Walker, making him a restricted free agent, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). The qualifying offer will be worth $6,311,564.

Unlike some of this summer’s top restricted free agents, Walker wasn’t a lock to receive that qualifying offer, given the up-and-down season the 23-year-old had in 2021/22. He averaged a career-high 12.1 PPG and 2.2 APG, but saw his shooting percentages dip to 40.7% from the floor and 31.4% on threes, well below his career rates. Furthermore, a report earlier today stated that Walker was unlikely to remain in San Antonio.

By issuing the qualifying offer, the Spurs are at least opening up a path for Walker to return, either by accepting the one-year QO or by negotiating a new deal with the team. However, McDonald says there’s an expectation that Walker will “fully” test the market.

Spurs swingman Joe Wieskamp also received a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent, tweets McDonald. Because Wieskamp was promoted from his two-way deal to a standard contract last season, his qualifying offer will be worth approximately $1.8MM ($200K more than his minimum salary).

Here are a few more qualifying offer updates from around the NBA:

  • The Trail Blazers have formally issued a qualifying offer to guard Anfernee Simons, making him a restricted free agent, the team announced in a press release. Simons’ QO is worth $5,758,552, but the 23-year-old is expected to negotiate a far more lucrative long-term deal. Multiple reports have suggested a four-year contract worth in the neighborhood of $80MM is possible.
  • Hawks forward Kevin Knox isn’t getting a qualifying offer and will become an unrestricted free agent, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Knox didn’t get regular minutes last season and his qualifying offer would have been worth $7,228,448, so it comes as no surprise that Atlanta is passing.
  • The Warriors aren’t giving qualifying offers to either Juan Toscano-Anderson ($2,126,991) or Chris Chiozza ($1,968,175), according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Both players will be unrestricted free agents and are unlikely to remain in Golden State, Slater adds.
  • The Celtics have tendered a two-way qualifying offer to guard Brodric Thomas, making him a restricted free agent, a source tells our JD Shaw (Twitter link). Boston hasn’t reached a deal to fill either of its two-way slots for next season yet, so Thomas could end up taking one of them.
  • Two-way players Jay Scrubb (Clippers) and Trevelin Queen (Rockets) won’t receive qualifying offers and will become unrestricted free agents, according to reports from Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). Queen, the 2021/22 NBA G League MVP, is expected to receive interest on the open market, per Haynes.