Lonzo Ball

Lakers Notes: Ball, McGee, Second Superstar

For a young Lakers team still in search of its identity, second-year point guard Lonzo Ball has seen his role vary. At times, Ball has played the prototypical point guard role, setting up his teammates. Other times, the UCLA product has been more of an off-the-ball player who has also displayed an improved long-range game.

As Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes, Ball is still getting adjusted to the current Lakers team, playing off LeBron James.

“Just trying to find my spots on the court,” Ball said. “LeBron is very good with the ball, playmaking. So when he brings it up, (I) just try to go to the wing and get open, cut, set screens … try to do different things.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

 In 14 games (12 starts) this season, Ball is averaging just 8.7 PPG and 4.8 APG — both down from his rookie season. However, he is shooting an improved .409% from the field and .381% from three-point range.
  • Through the early part of the season, Lakers center JaVale McGee is playing the best basketball of his career. He has not been a full-time starter since the 2011/12 season but his numbers across the board are career bests, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Even while he’s scoring more points (14.1 PPG) than Al Horford and shooting better (63%) than DeAndre Jordan, McGee feels there’s room to improve. “I’m underachieving, personally,” McGee said. “People just look at me like, ‘Oh, he’s having a better season than he’s ever had.’ But no, I want more.”
  • Another impact player is off the board for a Lakers team in search of a second star alongside James, as Jimmy Butler was traded to the Sixers. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report looks at the team’s remaining options for a co-star in Hollywood, with Butler, Kawhi Leonard and others having joined new teams or committed to old ones in recent months.
  • Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo underwent surgery on a broken hand this week and is expected to miss four to five weeks.

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.

Lonzo Ball To Remain Starter Over Rondo

According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, the Lakers will keep Lonzo Ball in the starting lineup – where he has excelled during the suspension of Rajon Rondo – when Rondo returns from his three-game absence this evening against the Spurs.

The Lakers, who were 0-2 in Rondo’s starts to begin the season, went 2-1 in Rondo’s absence with Ball averaging 12.7 points on 53.6 percent shooting (40 percent from 3), 7.3 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game.

Meanwhile, Rondo, 32, averaged 13 points on 57.1 percent shooting (50 percent from 3), 10.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in the Lakers’ first two games. So, it’s not like Rondo wasn’t playing well. But, evidently Luke Walton has liked what he’s seen from Ball and wants to continue with the momentum his team has going.

It’s unclear from McMenamin’s report whether this is a permanent move with an eye to the future, or just a temporary one subject to change based on how both players perform moving forward.

Pacific Notes: Lakers’ Lineup, Green, Cousins, Crawford

Lonzo Ball will take over Rajon Rondo‘s starting spot while he serves his suspension, but Lakers coach Luke Walton is still deciding who will fill in for Brandon Ingram, relays Mike Trudell of NBA.com. L.A. will be shorthanded for a while after suspensions were announced yesterday for Saturday night’s fight against the Rockets. Rondo has been docked three games for his role in the incident, while Ingram will miss four.

Walton has several options to slide into the starting lineup, with Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Lance Stephenson all being considered. Hart, who is second on the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game and is hitting 40% of his threes, seems like the most likely choice, Trudell writes. Ball has been playing limited minutes in the wake of offseason knee surgery, but Walton said the coaching staff will consider changing that.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors forward Draymond Green was critical of the short suspensions, telling Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News the league has a “double standard” in handing down punishments. Green suggested he would have been out longer if he had been involved and referred to his suspension in the 2016 NBA Finals. “I’m never in favor of guys losing money,” he said. “But I got suspended in the NBA Finals for attempting to punch somebody. Guys punching each other are getting two games or three games. I attempted to punch somebody, and not in the face, either.”
  • Nuggets coach Mike Malone, who had plenty of experience with DeMarcus Cousins when they were together in Sacramento, thinks he will benefit from joining an established winner like the Warriors, Medina writes in a separate story. Malone calls Cousins “misunderstood” and says he was always professional in his approach to the game. “If the jump ball went up, I never had to worry about if he was going to be ready to play,” Malone said. “My challenge to him was to get him to be the best version of himself.”
  • Devin Booker is thrilled that the Suns were able to add Jamal Crawford, according to Cody Cunningham of NBA.com. Phoenix signed the former Sixth Man of the Year last week to help stabilize its backcourt. “Somebody that I idolized growing up,” Booker said of Crawford. “People just all see his handles, but he’s a player… He’s a good veteran, good guy. He loves basketball. So I think we’ll relate very well.”

Western Notes: Ball, Allen, Schroder, Rose

Magic Johnson knows a thing or two about passing — he ranks fifth in career assists with 10,141 — but Johnson, a three-time NBA MVP, also knows the importance of scoring. Johnson held a stellar mark of 11.2 assists per game in his career, but his ability to keep defenders guessing by also becoming an elite scorer is what truly made him great.

Johnson, who is in his second year as Lakers President of Basketball Operations, strongly believes this is the transition Lonzo Ball must now enter, according to Nick Schwartz of USA TODAY Sports. Ball has already become an accomplished passer, but has plenty of room to grow as a scorer.

“He has to learn how to attack the paint and get his floaters, and then take it all the way to the rim,” Johnson said. “He loves to pass first – and that’s fine, we want him to stay with that – but a lot of times now the defense is baiting him. ‘Go ahead and drive the lane, we know you’re going to kick it out.’ So they don’t really play him. So he’s got to take it all the way.

“He’s got to be able to score. And once he’s able to score… he can do everything else. He can play defense. He’s one of the best rebounding guards in the league. And he knows how to get his teammates great shots. We want him to keep the pace going, because we want to run, run, and run.”

Drafted by Johnson’s group, Ball, 20, can help round-out his overall offensive game by taking these strides. He made his season debut on Thursday against the Trail Blazers, three months after undergoing knee surgery.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers were more than just a team for the late Paul Allen — they were his passion, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Allen passed away this week after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He owned the Blazers for 30 seasons, purchasing the franchise in 1988.
  • Dennis Schroder proved his worth in the Thunder’s season-opener on Tuesday, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Schroder finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 34 minutes of work, filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook.
  • Derrick Rose‘s role will fluctuate with the return of Jimmy Butler, writes Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Rose was labeled as a starter alongside Jeff Teague before Butler’s return, but came off the bench in the team’s first game this week. “[Rose] has the versatility to play with both groups,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So he’s gotten comfortable playing the off guard; his natural position is the point. I think you can mix and match with those guys.”

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: Ball, James, Canaan, Marjanovic

Lonzo Ball is expected to make his preseason debut Wednesday, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, which will also mark his first time on the court with LeBron James as a teammate. The Lakers have been careful with Ball as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, even as they have raved about his progress. Ball and James were both held out of tonight’s contest against the Clippers, but coach Luke Walton plans to use them in the next game against the Warriors.

“That’s one of the things I still need to see that we haven’t had is what lineups look like when both of those guys are playing,” Walton said. “I’m excited and hopeful, but again, we’re going to take it day by day. If any setbacks or whatnot, then we won’t rush it, again. But I would expect Wednesday that happens.”

Ball has received medical clearance to play and participated in full-court, four-on-four matchups with contact this week. The Lakers have been resting James, playing him about 15 minutes in the first half of each of their first three games.

There’s more tonight from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns‘ inexperience at point guard has been on display through the preseason, notes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. With no established veterans at the position, coach Igor Kokoskov has been using a committee approach, giving playing time to  Shaquille Harrison, Isaiah Canaan and rookies Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton. The results have been ugly as Phoenix is averaging more than 20 turnovers per game and had power forward Ryan Anderson handling the ball for part of Friday’s contest.
  • Canaan was on the court Friday for the first time since fracturing his ankle in January, writes Cody Cunningham of NBA.com. Canaan, who had 11 points for the Suns in 32 minutes and drilled three 3-pointers, was grateful to be back in action. “I could barely sleep last night just knowing that I would have the chance to play again,” he said. “It just means a lot to me personally and I just give a lot of credit to this organization and to this training staff for doing an unbelievable job getting me, not only back on my feet, but also competing at a high level.”
  • It shouldn’t be hard for Boban Marjanovic to increase his playing time with the Clippers this season, tweets Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Marjanovic averaged 8.3 minutes in 20 games after coming to L.A. in a January trade, but coach Doc Rivers said all he has to do for more court time is “Just keep being big.”

Lakers Notes: James, Ball, Hart, McGee

The Lakers’ matchup with the Nuggets Tuesday didn’t feel like a typical preseason game, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. A sellout crowd filled the Staples Center — and even arrived early — to welcome LeBron James for his first game in a Lakers uniform. He rewarded them with 13 points in 15 minutes, all in the first half, along with a few highlight plays.

“You always have the buzz about it [playing at Staples Center], but then you hear [in the starting lineup], ‘In his 16th campaign from St. Vincent-St. Mary [High School],’ you just hear the crowd, and it’s like, all right, that’s going to be a little different,” teammate Josh Hart said. “Even [James] said it, I think at halftime, he said it was loud, it was lit.”

James is trying to breathe life into a franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2013. Even though he admits it’s going to take time to develop chemistry with his new teammates, he acknowledged the atmosphere before Tuesday’s game, saying, “It’s a new beginning, a new start. It’s a new excitement for myself.”

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • Lonzo Ball could make his preseason debut in Thursday’s game against the Kings, Youngmisuk tweets. Ball is recovering from offseason knee surgery, and the Lakers’ medical staff will see how he feels tomorrow morning before making a decision.
  • Hart has a few hidden talents that will help him in his battle to take the starting spot at shooting guard away from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, notes Joey Ramirez of NBA.com. Hart’s assets include 3-point shooting, transition offense, rebounding and perimeter defense, but he also brings a strong confidence and a high basketball IQ. “He’s cocky when it comes to defense,” coach Luke Walton said. “… During the timeout he said, ‘Don’t come. I’m fine. I’m good over there. I don’t need it.’ So he takes a lot of pride in the fact that he can guard bigger players.”
  • JaVale McGee is angry about changes in the league that have reduced the importance of centers, relays Dave McMenamin of ESPN. McGee, who left the Warriors this summer to sign with the Lakers, said he has adapted his game to fit the new style and changed his diet to enable him to keep up with smaller and quicker opponents.

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.