Lonzo Ball

Lakers Rumors: Free Agency, KCP, Frye, Lopez, Walton

The Lakers’ long-awaited 2018 offseason is now underway, but after months of speculation about which top free agents the team will land this summer, president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka are working to keep expectations in check.

Speaking today to reporters, including Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com, the Lakers’ top execs made it clear that they plan to be flexible when it comes to free agency. In the view of Johnson and Pelinka, the team could just as easily end up making a splash in 2019 as in 2018.

As Youngmisuk details, Johnson said the Lakers won’t “give away money” this offseason just to say they signed someone, which is perhaps a veiled reference to the team’s infamous summer of ’16. Pelinka, meanwhile, stressed that the summer of ’18 “is not a litmus test” for the front office’s ultimate success — if L.A. comes away empty-handed this July but maintains flexibility for 2019, management wouldn’t view that as a disaster.

Here’s much more on the Lakers:

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, an unrestricted free agent this summer, says he’s looking for a long-term deal in order to establish some stability for his family, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Within the same piece, UFA-to-be Channing Frye says he’d be interested in re-signing with the Lakers. “I want to allow them to make the right decisions with bigger-name guys,” Frye said. “I’€™m a pretty dang good backup, emergency, break-the-glass type guy.”
  • Brook Lopez, yet another UFA, isn’t sure whether he’ll be back with the Lakers, but endorsed the franchise for other free agents, per Rodrigo Azurmendi of Lakers.com. “It’€™s a great place to be going forward, not just for myself, but for a free agent looking to sign somewhere,” Lopez said.
  • As Lonzo Ball prepares for a summer that Johnson and Pelinka told him would be the biggest of his life (link via ESPN.com), insiders around the NBA are marveling at the Lakers’ 2017 draft class, which looks like a potential all-timer, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. In addition to Ball, the Lakers also nabbed Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart – who both look like steals – late in the first round.
  • Although there was some speculation during the season about his job security, Luke Walton appears very safe as the Lakers’ head coach. Johnson said today that he and Pelinka “look forward to working with Luke for many years to come” (Twitter link via Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times).
  • For his part, Walton would love to keep working with restricted free agent Julius Randle (Twitter link via Oram). “I think it’€™s obvious that, yes, I would love to have Julius back next year,” Walton said today after raving about the big man’s play. “There’€™s other factors … but from a coaching standpoint I would love to have Julius back.”

L.A. Notes: Wallace, Williams, Ball, Ingram

Rather than bringing in an outside free agent to fill the open spot on their 15-man roster, the Clippers opted to elevate one of their players on two-way contracts. According to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link), the Clippers engaged with Tyrone Wallace‘s reps about a possible deal, but weren’t able to get close to an agreement, leaving C.J. Williams as the logical choice.

Williams signed a new three-year deal with the franchise on Monday, and the 28-year-old was emotional when he met with his parents to tell them about his new NBA deal, as Turner writes in a piece for The Times.

“When I got there, I couldn’t get the words out,” Williams said. “I was crying. So my parents are like, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Oh, my God, what’s wrong? What’s going on? What’s going on?’ I’m like, ‘I got the deal done!’ They were like, ‘Boy!’ I scared them at first. They kind of realized what I was trying to do. It was a great moment.”

Per Turner, Williams’ new contract isn’t fully guaranteed for the second and third years, but he’ll receive some partial compensation beyond this season.

Here’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • A pair of former No. 2 overall picks, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, may not make it back from injuries for the Lakers‘ final two games, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Ball, who is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s contest, appears more likely than Ingram to return for at least one of L.A.’s last two games, but it’s no lock.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks previews the Lakers‘ upcoming offseason, exploring Julius Randle‘s restricted free agency, the cost of trading Luol Deng, and the team’s need for a Plan B if it can’t land a premier free agent. Marks, who has plenty of experience in an NBA front office, believes the Lakers would need to attach two first-round picks to Deng in order to dump his contract.
  • Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the latest developments in a legal battle between Madison Square Garden Co. – the owners of The Forum in Los Angeles – and the city of Inglewood, plus Clippers-controlled company Murphy’s Bowl LLC. The case is related to the Clippers’ interest in constructing a new arena in Inglewood.

Injury Updates: Thomas, Ball, Irving, Curry

Isaiah Thomas is declaring his right hip to be “fixed” after season-ending surgery, relays Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Thomas played just 17 games for the Lakers before opting for the March 28 procedure to address lingering problems in the hip. He talked to reporters at Friday’s game and proclaimed his time with in L.A. to be successful.

“I came in here with … nothing on my agenda and nothing in my plans,” Thomas said. “I just wanted to play basketball and get that joy back and being on the Lakers brought that joy back from having a tough couple of months in Cleveland.”

Thomas added that the pain in his hip never went away, even as he sat out for seven months in an attempt to rehab the joint. He expressed confidence that the situation won’t affect his offers in free agency, believing that teams will understand he was trying to play through an injury.

There’s plenty of news tonight on the injury front:

  • The season may not be over for rookie guard Lonzo Ball, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Ball, who has missed the past five games with a left knee contusion, participated in some drills today and the Lakers have upgraded him to questionable for Sunday’s contest. Teammate Kyle Kuzma is also questionable after suffering a mild sprain to his left ankle Friday night.
  • The Celtics expect Kyrie Irving to be ready for training camp after having knee surgery today, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPN. Irving had two screws removed from his left knee and has a projected recovery time of four to five months. “The surgery went exactly as planned, and we expect Kyrie to be fully healthy for training camp in the fall,” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a prepared statement.
  • Celtics center Daniel Theis, who had season-ending surgery on his left knee, said he hopes to be able to get off his crutches in two to three weeks, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.
  • Celtics forward Guerschon Yabusele will have an MRI on his knee after sitting out practice today, according to Tom Westerholm of MassLive“They don’t think it’s anything,” coach Brad Stevens said of team doctors, “but they’re going to get some imaging just to make sure.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr declined to offer an update on Stephen Curry before tonight’s game, tweets Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. The star guard will miss at least the first round of the playoffs with an MCL sprain. “There’s nothing there,” Kerr said. “[Check back] next week.”
  • The Nuggets are preparing to finish the season without guard Gary Harris, who is recovering from a knee injury, relays Gina Mizell of The Denver Post (Twitter link). “Right now, I’m not expecting Gary Harris back [in the regular season],” coach Michael Malone said before today’s game. “We have to continue to find ways to win games and compete at a high level with the players that are available, and Gary’s not on that list right now.”
  • The Bucks had hoped that Malcolm Brogdon could play tonight, but decided to hold him out for another game, writes Matt Velazquez of The Journal Sentinel. Brogdon hasn’t been available since since partially tearing his left quadriceps tendon more than two months ago. “Honestly there hasn’t been many setbacks,” Brogdon said. “I’ve had maybe two or three sore days in the whole rehab process and that’s not many at all. Very few setbacks. I’ve made progress, progress, taken big steps almost every day so it’s been a very smooth rehab so far.”

Injury Notes: Gallinari, Ball, Nowitzki, Kanter

Both Los Angeles teams may be without key players for the rest of the season, according to various reports. For the Clippers, Danilo Gallinari is once again back on the shelf. Having recently returned from an 18-game absence due to a hand injury, Gallinari re-aggravated that hand injury during a fall in Sunday’s game against Indiana.

According to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, the Clippers are simply calling Gallinari’s injury a sore right hand for now, and the forward will travel with the club for Thursday’s game in Utah. However, the club doesn’t expect to get Gallinari back during the regular season after his latest setback, Turner says.

Meanwhile, the Lakers will “most likely” be without rookie point guard Lonzo Ball for Wednesday’s game against San Antonio, per head coach Luke Walton. As Bill Oram of The Orange County Register details, Walton acknowledged that a left knee contusion could keep Ball sidelined for the rest of the season. “Could he play?” Walton said. “Probably, but with six games left we’re not going to put him back out there when his knee’s hurting like that. Wait until he’s all the way healthy – if that happens.”

Here are more injury updates from across the NBA:

  • Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek isn’t sure whether Enes Kanter – who is dealing with a back injury – will return to the court this season, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. If Kanter doesn’t make it back, it’s possible he has played his last game as a Knick, since he can opt out of his contract this offseason. However, the veteran center is considered a good bet to exercise that option.
  • Dirk Nowitzki didn’t accompany the Mavericks on their final road trip of the season as he battles a left ankle impingement, per Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. While Nowitzki could still join the team on the road trip or play in the regular season finale in Dallas, the lottery-bound Mavs may play it safe with the franchise icon and hold him out for their final four games. Nowitzki has said he hopes to play one more year in 2018/19.
  • Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist, the team announced in a press release. The procedure brought Whitehead’s second NBA season to an early end. He appeared in just 16 NBA contests this year after playing 73 in his rookie season.

Pacific Notes: Ayton, Wear, Caruso, Fox, Thomas

Potential top pick DeAndre Ayton indicated during a radio interview that he and Devin Booker could form a duo similar to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant during their Lakers years if he winds up with the Suns, the team’s SB Nation blog The Bright Side tweets“Honestly, I could see myself in Phoenix,” the University of Arizona freshman center said in a CBS Sports Radio interview. “I could see a little Shaq and Kobe 2.0.” The Suns currently have the worst record in the league and will likely remain there. If they get the No. 1 selection, they could draft Ayton and then trade the first-rounders owed to them by the Heat and Bucks to move up and draft a point guard, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. If they fall to the No. 2 pick and Ayton is off the board, they would be happy to land Euro guard Luke Doncic and then move those same picks to get frontcourt help, Bordow adds.

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers have been forced to recall forward Travis Wear and guard Alex Caruso during the G League playoffs due to injuries, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register  notes. They will likely stay with the Lakers for their game against the Jazz on Tuesday if Brandon Ingram is still recovering from a concussion and Lonzo Ball remains sidelined with a knee contusion.
  • The Kings want to see rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox take ownership of the team and become a better playmaker during the remaining games, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. Fox needs to realize he can impact the game without having a hot shooting night, coach Dave Joerger told Jones. “He’s got to demand from the rest of his team that he’s the leader, and going forward, set the tone for what he’s looking for,” Joerger said. “And get the ball out faster, or ‘give me some space and I’ll get you a shot.’ Those kinds of things where you go to the next level of leadership or you can kind of just finish the season.” 
  • Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas will be represented once again by Excel Sports Management, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. Sam Goldfeder will be his agent, Mullen adds. Excel had been representing Thomas before signing with Goodwin Sports last fall.

Pacific Notes: Thomas, Ball, Giles, Looney

Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas was facing a tough free agent market even before Wednesday’s announcement that he will have season-ending surgery on his right hip, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports.

Only a few teams have the cap room available to give Thomas the kind of contract he was expecting, and most of them aren’t good fits. The Sixers already have Markelle Fultz, the Mavericks are set with rookie Dennis Smith Jr. and the rebuilding Bulls and Hawks aren’t likely to invest heavily in a 29-year-old guard with serious injury concerns.

“No one is going long there [with a deal], in all likelihood,” former Cavaliers GM David Griffin said. “[The hip] is a very significant factor. His whole game is predicated upon quickness and creating shot separation. If he can’t do that, he is a small non-defender.”

The Lakers have expressed interest in re-signing Thomas, but that’s only if they strike out on their primary targets in free agency.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Lonzo Ball will have an MRI on his left knee today, but the Lakers rookie isn’t overly concerned about the results, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Ball had to leave last night’s game after being kneed in the back of the leg in the third quarter. “It wasn’t in the spot that I previously hurt that caused me to miss a lot of games, so I wasn’t too worried about it,” Ball said. “It’s just kind of like a bruise. It just hurts, but I should be back soon.”
  • The Kings believe injured rookie Harry Giles has a bright future, but that won’t stop them from drafting a big man if they get an early lottery pick, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Giles, who has sat out the entire season after undergoing three knee operations in four years, tells Alex Kramers of NBA.com he knows he will eventually get a chance to prove himself. “I know that my time is coming,” he said. “It’s not like I’m [thinking], ‘I might not play. I might not do this or do that.’ I know it’s about just me working and getting better. I have to look at it like it’s only getting me ready for when my time really comes.”
  • Kevon Looney is making the most of his playing time with the injury-ravaged Warriors, writes Monte Poole of NBC Bay Area. The third-year power forward/center has finally gotten past the hip problems that required surgery early in his career. “He’s always had that game,” said teammate Andre Iguodala. “But the NBA is all about that confidence and opportunity. He’s feeling better, too. But even when he was hurting with his hips, I could always see his game.”

California Notes: Ball, Lillard, Joerger, Sampson

For the second time this season, the Lakers were visibly upset with Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Head coach Luke Walton said that Murray’s trash talk was “disrespectful” and several Lakers players were just as critical, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk writes.

In particular, Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball said the Lakers did not forget Murray’s antics from Dec. 2 when he forcefully dribbled past Ball late in the game. Ball’s teammate Julius Randle fouled Murray as a sign of frustration.

“We remembered it,” Ball said. “It’s a punk move. But like I said, we’re not going to get into it. [Murray will] do whatever he’s going to do.”

This is an out of character statement from Ball, who is normally even-tempered and speaks highly of his opponent. However, with two separate incidents with Murray in the last three months, it’s clear that Ball and the Lakers agree that Murray’s antics are out of line.

“Like I said, he going to do the circus stuff — I’m not feeding into it,” Ball said.

Check out other news from California’s teams:

  • California native Damian Lillard lit up the Staples Center earlier this week, scoring 39 points in a victory over the Lakers. He will not be a free agent until 2021, so the possibility of the Lakers trying to lure Lillard to Los Angeles is far away and far-fetched. However, Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register writes that Lillard’s performance is indicative of how having superstars on the roster change the entire dynamic of a team.
  • When the Kings hired Dave Joerger as head coach, he was 53 wins shy of 200 for his career. It has taken him nearly two full seasons to reach the milestone; the Kings have not played well and their roster has generally been underwhelming. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee relays that Joerger hopes to continue building something with the Sacramento.
  • JaKarr Sampson has bounced between the G League and the Kings as a two-way player this season. Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee profiled Sampson, who still lives with his mother, earns a modest $75K salary and hopes to latch on the Kings full-time. By his own words and that of his peers, Sampson’s energy has made him a favorite with the Kings organization and its fans.
  • The Kings have not made the postseason in over a decade as the organization tries to figure out a path to compete. Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders examines the steps the team can take to improve and eventually compete for the postseason.

Lonzo Ball Returning Friday For Lakers

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball is set to return to the court for the Lakers on Friday night, head coach Luke Walton confirmed today (Twitter link). Ball, who has been recovering from a knee injury, last played on January 15.

According to the Lakers (Twitter link), Ball won’t play in back-to-back games for the time being, which means he’ll sit out Saturday’s game against Sacramento. The rookie point guard will also be on a minutes restriction for now.

Still, Ball’s return is an encouraging step for a Lakers team that will be focusing on developing its young players like Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram down the stretch this season. It will also be interesting to see how the team splits minutes at point guard between last year’s No. 2 overall pick and Isaiah Thomas, acquired from Cleveland two weeks ago in a deadline deal.

As we noted earlier today, Ball has talked enthusiastically about teaming with Thomas, suggesting their styles make them an ideal match, since Ball is a pass-first point guard while Thomas is more of a shooter and scorer. Still, it’s not clear how often they’ll play together, or if they’ll both get a chance to start for L.A. during the last couple months of the 2017/18 season.

L.A. Notes: Bradley, Clippers, Thomas, Ball

As the Clippers headed to Phoenix for Friday night’s game against the Suns, Avery Bradley stayed behind in Los Angeles to receive treatment on a sports hernia injury that has nagged at him for much of the season, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. The Clippers, who could have used Bradley on defense during Thursday’s 134-127 loss to Golden State, aren’t sure exactly when the veteran guard will return to action.

“We are concerned,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “We’ve got to go through the right stuff and make sure he’s in a good place with his health. I think we’re going to send him to a doctor and let him check and see.”

Here’s more out of Los Angles on both the Clippers and Lakers:

  • The Clippers currently have one opening on their 15-man roster, which would allow the team to give a full-fledged roster spot to one of its two-way players. However, it’s not clear whether Tyrone Wallace or C.J. Williams would be first in line for that spot, as both players are expected to receive consideration, according to Turner. “Hopefully we can get something resolved pretty soon,” Rivers said. “We just got to figure out what we’re going to do. We may be able to sign one.”
  • With the Lakers focusing on developing younger players and Isaiah Thomas in need of a showcase before he hits free agency, the union between the two doesn’t exactly look like a marriage made in heaven, writes Rob Mahoney of SI.com. Still, Lonzo Ball is looking forward to playing with Thomas, suggesting that his pass-first style and Thomas’ score-first mentality should mesh well together, as Bill Oram of The Orange County Register details.
  • In a conversation with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma addressed several topics, including the team’s recent trades of Larry Nance and Jordan Clarkson, his friendship with Ball, and the possibility of the Lakers landing a star in free agency.

Pacific Notes: Ball, Chriss, Harrell, Randolph

When the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball, they acquired a package deal that included his outspoken father, LaVar. In his rookie season, Lonzo has fielded questions about his father’s critiques of the Lakers, the Big Baller Brand, and his brothers’ basketball careers.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne outlines a tense, if not somewhat hostile, environment since the Ball infiltrated the Lakers organization. Among the issues Shelburne reports: The Lakers didn’t allow the family’s production team to film games for their ‘Ball In The Family’ Facebook show for free, charged Lonzo regular price for tickets, and privately admonished LaVar when poor reviews of BBB’s products were directed to the team.

While the organization has stayed mostly silent in regards to LaVar’s comments, privately, the team views him as a major distraction. One official tells Shelburne that LaVar is viewed as someone that, “reaches out with one hand and slaps us with the other.”

It has been a tumultuous, injury-filled rookie season for Lonzo, but he has shown signs of promise. While it remains to be seen whether he’ll deliver promise on that promise to an extent that makes his father’s presence worth tolerating, Magic Johnson has plenty of confidence in the partnership and no regrets about drafting the young point guard.

“He’s everything we thought he would be and more,” Johnson said. “Things are gonna work out for the Lakers and for Lonzo.”

Check out other Pacific Division news and notes below:

  • While it appeared that Marquese Chriss turned a major corner less than two months ago, his game has seemingly regressed back to rookie status in his second season with the Suns, Scott Bordow of Arizona Central Sports writes.
  • Acquired in last summer’s Chris Paul trade, Montrezl Harrell has played well for the Clippers and has solidified his role as the backup center. It’s not easy to pinpoint one specific thing Harrell does well, but he says he just maximizes his minutes, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. “I just took the minutes I had and made the best of it when I got in,” Harrell said. “I just kept working on my game, off the court and on the court.”
  • In spite of his team’s youth movement, Kings veteran Zach Randolph has played more than expected in recent weeks, which has allowed him to get into a groove offensively, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. “You get a good rhythm,” Randolph said. “Especially something that I’m not used to, the team developing our young players. So you get into a good rhythm, it’s important, playing and getting that feel.”