Lonzo Ball

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.”

Pacific Rumors: Ball, Bradley, Warren, Payton

Lonzo Ball went through a full-contact practice on Tuesday but won’t return until after the All-Star break, Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register reports. The Lakers rookie point guard has been sidelined since spraining his left knee on January 13th. Coach Luke Walton remained vague on when Ball would suit up. “When his body is ready, then he’ll play again,” Walton told Teaford and other reporters. “I can’t tell you whether that’s going to be the first game [after the All-Star break], the second game or the third game.”

In other news around the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers shooting guard Avery Bradley admits he’s having trouble finding his place in the team’s offensive scheme, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. Bradley is averaging just 9.0 PPG in 28.6 MPG since he was dealt by the Pistons to Los Angeles as part of the Blake Griffin blockbuster. “I think it’s a mix of me trying to find my rhythm and my game and trying to learn how to play off these guys,” Bradley told Turner. “They have a lot of offensive-minded guys on this team. So I have to figure out, and not only myself, but (coach Doc Rivers) has to figure out how he wants to use me.”
  • Forward T.J. Warren is making the four-year, $50MM contract extension the Suns gave him look like a bargain, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. He’s averaging 19.7 PPG and making over 50% of his field-goal attempts. “Coming into the league, I was known for being a scorer,” Warren told Bordow. “Just getting the opportunity and staying consistent is big for me. I’m just trying to get better, make my way in this league and earn the respect of my peers.”
  • It’s no sure thing that the Suns will try to re-sign restricted free agent point guard Elfrid Payton this summer, as Bordow explains in a separate story. Phoenix, which acquired Payton for a second-round pick from the Magic, could free up $10MM in salary-cap space by renouncing Payton’s rights, Bordow continues. With Brandon Knight expected to return next season from a knee injury, the Suns could then draft a point guard as Knight’s eventual replacement and pursue a center in free agency. Bordow adds.

L.A. Notes: Thomas, Ball, Rivers, Jordan

Isaiah Thomas looked more like his old self in his Lakers debut Saturday night, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Two days after being acquired in a trade with the Cavaliers, Thomas posted 22 points and six assists and showed flashes of the dynamic offense he displayed in Boston.

“I wanted to bring something to the table,” Thomas said. “I felt like I got my powers back playing on this team.”

During a Friday night dinner with coach Luke Walton, Thomas received a crash course in Lakers philosophy. He studied the team’s playbook on his iPad, but admitted he had little knowledge of the plays when he took the court last night. It barely mattered as his natural talents took over.

“He brings another dimension to what we have,” Walton said. “When he is able to control pick-and-rolls and get people shots, obviously we couldn’t run a ton of stuff because he has been with us for one day, but he was good.”

There’s more this morning from Los Angeles:

  • Thomas’ duties with his new team will include serving as a mentor for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, Youngmisuk adds in the same story. Lakers president Magic Johnson said Ball, who has been sidelined since mid-January with a knee injury, will remain in the starting lineup when he returns. “I mean, that’s fine,” Thomas said. “I have been in the league six more years than he has. Obviously, I am going to help him out. We are part of the same team, he’s a special young player, and he is going to be an incredible talent in this league for years to come. My job is to help where I can. I am still in my prime. So it is not like I am taking a backseat to anybody. I am here to be who I am and here to make a difference on this team, and I am excited about the opportunity.”
  • Clippers guard Austin Rivers is focused on making the playoffs after missing nearly six weeks with an injured right ankle, relays Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers was diagnosed with post interior ankle impingement and had to have anti-inflammatory injections to keep the swelling down. He said he did so much conditioning work that he wasn’t tired when he returned to the court Friday. “Yeah, man, it has been 18 games. That’s the most games I’ve ever missed,” Rivers said. “It was new for me. I had to take that rehab process more seriously. But I feel great, though.”
  • DeAndre Jordan remained with the Clippers through the trade deadline, but the veteran center still isn’t sure he’s in the team’s long-range plans. In a video tweeted by ESPN’s Sports Center, Jordan responded to a reporter’s question of whether he feels wanted in L.A. by saying, “What you think?” When the reporter said, “I don’t know,” Jordan retorted, “Me neither.”

Lakers Notes: Magic, Deng, Ball, Hart, Lopez

The Lakers had a busy trade deadline, swinging a blockbuster deal that sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and Cleveland’s first-round pick. With the trade, the Lakers created significant cap space that enables them to pursue two top-tier free agents this summer.

Speaking to reporters, including ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, on Thursday, team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka spoke about the team’s moves. Both Johnson and Pelinka stated that the team’s goal is to acquire elite talent and make a run at the playoffs next season.

“There’s so many different ways you can use that [cap space],” Pelinka said, “And then, of course, the obvious way is we now have in July of 2018 and July of 2019, we now have real 100 percent space to do two max players if that’s what we decide to do, or one in 2018 and then following it up with another one in 2019. So the flexibility is really amazing.”

The Lakers 22-31, are currently 6.5 games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference, so a playoff appearance seems out of the cards. However, Johnson reiterated that Thursday’s moves were made with the intention of getting better.

“I don’t want to stay where we are. I don’t want to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in,” Johnson said. “We have to take another step, right? So this move allows us to position ourselves to hopefully take that next step.”

Check out other news and notes surrounding the Lakers:

  • Johnson was asked by reporters if the Lakers had any substantiative talks at the deadline about moving Luol Deng and his albatross contract. Johnson was brutally honest as he lets out a few laughs and said “we wish, right?tweets Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. Deng has appeared in just one game with the Lakers this season.
  • Lonzo Ball has not played since January 13 as a knee injury has sidelined the Lakers’ rookie point guard. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes that Ball is progressing well but that he still cannot sprint or jump at full strength. Until that happens, Ball will remain a spectator — and may miss the 2018 Rising Stars Challenge.
  • The Lakers won their last three games with Josh Hart — the 30th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft — starting. Hart has played well for the Lakers and is showing himself to be a draft steal, Mike Trudell of NBA.com writes. “I don’t think you ever plan on counting on a late first round pick in their rookie season,” head coach Luke Walton said. “You try to get them minutes where you can, and develop them. But he’s done a nice job every time he’s been called on, being ready, and helping us win.”
  • Despite the Lakers being out of contention, center Brook Lopez does not plan on pursuing a buyout to latch on with a contender, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Lopez is personally having the worst season of his career, and while his plans may change, he is set on playing out the final year of his contract in purple and gold.

Pacific Rumors: Warriors Needs, Mason, Ball, Hill

The Warriors’ top need is a shooting wing off the bench, and their most likely targets are Marco Belinelli of the Hawks and Tyreke Evans of the Grizzlies, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic opines. Patrick McCaw is the player Golden State will most likely move in order to get a wing who also has size and passing ability, Kawakami continues. Belinelli is on an expiring deal and Atlanta would have to believe in McCaw’s long-term ability enough to also take back Nick Young, Kawakami speculates. Evans would also be a rental and Golden State would probably have to pair McCaw with a first-round pick to get him, Kawakami adds.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Kings point guard Frank Mason will not play until after the All-Star break, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. The rookie out of Kansas suffered a heel injury on December 31st. Mason, chosen with the 34th overall pick last June, has appeared in 29 games, averaging 7.6 PPG and 2.9 APG.
  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball was unable to ramp up his workouts last week without experiencing soreness in his sprained left knee, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register reports. His workouts never progressed to lateral movement or running close to full speed, Oram continues. Ball has missed the last 10 games.
  • The Kings were close to dealing point guard George Hill to the Cavaliers but they won’t mind if he’s still on the roster beyond the trade deadline, Jones writes in a separate piece. Sacramento would have received Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert, and perhaps Derrick Rose, in return. The Kings would have to clear roster space to make that deal but their primary goals must be collecting picks, acquiring young talent and retaining financial flexibility, Jones continues. Hill has also endeared himself to the front office and the team’s young core despite losing his starting job, Jones adds.
  • Trade rumors are weighing heavily on the minds of Clippers players, Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register relays. Coach Doc Rivers admits that trade talk has been a distraction. “Sometimes you go talk to a guy and the guy says, ‘Oh, I’m good,’ and that could mean he’s not good or good,” Rivers told Teaford. “You’ve got to read that. Sometimes it’s clear as day. I can tell you I’ve seen that over the last three or four days from a couple guys, and it’s obviously weighing on them.”

Pacific Notes: Rivers, Ball, Clippers, Bell, Warriors

The Clippers pulled off a blockbuster trade earlier this week, sending franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin to the Pistons in a multi-player trade. Griffin was traded a mere six months after signing a massive deal to remain a Clipper in the offseason, changing the direction of his career and the franchise.

In an interview with Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers discussed the trade of Griffin. Rivers, who coached the Celtics to an NBA championship in 2007/08, also discussed his admiration of the success of the New England Patriots. Rivers compared that Celtics team to the Clippers teams he has coached in recent years; despite immense talent, the team never made it out of the first round of postseason play.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a team that’s won a title in any sport where the players haven’t bought into the system,” Rivers said.

Rivers’ comments echo the team possibly not being on the same page when the likes of Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan comprised one of the most feared threesomes in the league.

Check out other news out of the Pacific Division:

  • As part of the Griffin deal, the Clippers acquired three players: Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, and Boban MarjanovicElliot Teaford of the Orange County Register writes that Rivers had his squad play pickup basketball to help integrate the new acquisitions to the team and better learn their games.
  • Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball still feels something in his sprained right MCL and the team is expected to be cautious with his recovery, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. Ball, 20, has missed the Lakers’ past 10 games, including Sunday’s tilt against the Thunder.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider (subscription required and recommended) examined the Lakers‘ options as the Thursday deadline approaches. Among the Lakers’ choices: trading young players (Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson) or possibly dealing a veteran on an expiring deal (Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope). 
  • Warriors rookie Jordan Bell underwent an MRI on his swollen left ankle on Friday and the results revealed the center will miss at least two more weeks, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
  • The Warriors have played more noticeably fatigued basketball recently despite winning their games. Head coach Steve Kerr said the players cannot wait to rest during the All-Star break, ESPN’s Chris Haynes writes. “Hell yeah,” Kerr said. “Guys are dying to get to the All-Star break. We’re limping to the finish line of the All-Star break. But we’ve got to fight through it to the break and then we need to get the hell away from each other and go sit on a beach and relax and then we’ll be in great shape.”

Pacific Notes: Randle, Booker, Ball

A move back into the starting lineup has helped Lakers forward Julius Randle take his game to another level, Bill Oram of The Orange County Register writes. The 23-year-old has averaged 16.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in just 26.5 minutes of action.

Randle, who started the season off the bench after two years as the team’s starting power forward, was promoted by Lakers head coach Luke Walton to be a physical presence for the squad and collect rebounds.

All in, Randle has registered seven double-doubles in the month of January alone while also taking major steps defensively. The move into the starting lineup, Oram writes, comes with more responsibility on that end of the ball considering that the Lakers tend to play man-to-man with their starters while switching everything with their reserves.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • X-Rays of Devin Booker‘s ribs came back negative, Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic writes. The 21-year-old Suns guard missed Monday’s game with a rib contusion but hopes to be back in the lineup Wednesday.
  • The Trail Blazers are playing some of their best basketball of the season of late, Mike Richman of The Oregonian writes, but everything can change at the drop of a hat in the competitive Western Conference. Head coach Terry Stotts cautioned against counting out the Pelicans and Thunder following the recent season-ending injuries to DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Roberson, however.
  • Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has started testing his knee laterally, Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times tweets. Ball still isn’t practicing with the team but seems to be making gradual progress. Ball has missed seven straight games.

L.A. Notes: Ball, Nance, Williams, Jordan

The Lakers are expecting Lonzo Ball to return soon from his injured left knee, possibly before the end of the current road trip, writes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. The injury, which has officially been classified as a sprained MCL, took place January 13.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if within a couple days, a week, whatever it is, they say he’s ready to start practicing again,” coach Luke Walton said. “But we’re still training and approaching it as if it’s long-term.”

Ball joined the team at the end of today’s practice, but spent most of the time getting treatment on the knee, lifting weights and working on his shot. Walton said that once Ball goes through a full practice and feels fine the next day, he can start playing again.

There’s more NBA news out of Los Angeles:

  • Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. was slightly surprised to hear his name brought up in trade rumors for the first time in his career. Appearing on a podcast with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Nance said he realizes it’s part of life in the NBA. “At the end of the day, it’s a business,” he said. “If something like that were to happen, if I were to get traded to a different team, it would be a team that would value me. I try to look at it like that, just as an opportunity.”
  • Clippers guard Lou Williams was passed over for the All-Star Game for a second time today when commissioner Adam Silver picked Oklahoma City’s Paul George to replace the injured DeMarcus Cousins. Williams, averaging a career-best 23.6 points per game after being traded to L.A. last summer, offered his reaction on social media, first tweeting, “What’s crazier than 1 snub??? 2,” then offering a more philosophical response. “Y’all talking to a guy that’s been coming off the bench 7 plus years,” he wrote. “Lol i ain’t hurt about no all star snub. It’s dope to be in the conversation. I wanted it just to represent the underdogs. Not for validation.” (Twitter link)
  • There’s no guarantee DeAndre Jordan will be with the Clippers past the February 8 trade deadline, but if does leave, it will be with the franchise record for games played, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Jordan set the mark of 716 Friday night in Memphis. “It’s been a long journey,” he said. “Coming here when I was 19 and not playing hardly at all my first year, it’s been a cool ride though. They stuck with me and let me grow into a better player and person. Making history is always great, whatever you’re doing.”

Pacific Rumors: L. Williams, Ball, Divac, Kings

Combo guard Lou Williams hasn’t made any progress with the Clippers regarding an extension, Sam Amick of USA Today reports. Williams is enjoying a career year and has an expiring contract that could draw interest from numerous contenders, but it sounds like the veteran wouldn’t mind staying put and reaching an agreement to stay in L.A. “I’m putting everything on the line out here for this organization, and you know the season I’m having I would like to be rewarded for it and just appreciated,” he told Amick.

In other Pacific Division developments:

  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball has missed the last four games with a left knee injury and he may remain sidelined during the team’s upcoming five-game road trip, ESPN.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk reports. Ball is expected to join the team on the trip, which begins Friday in Chicago. The Lakers are 2-8 in games he’s missed. “Whether he plays or not [on the trip], that all depends on the knee,” coach Luke Walton told reporters. “We are not going to rush him back from a sore knee. Once that gets better, we will get him back on the court.”
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac‘s job is safe despite the club’s disappointing season, writes The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones. Divac’s contract runs through the 2019/20 season and it wouldn’t do the organization any good to begin another rebuild with a different GM at this point, according to Jones, who adds that the way that next season unfolds will determine if Divac sticks long-term.
  • With the Kings resting veterans and going all-in on their youth movement in the second half, Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee takes a closer look at several of the team’s young players, exploring what the team wants to see down the stretch from Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, De’Aaron Fox, and others.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Pacific Notes: Hill, Giles, Chriss, Ball

If the trade rumors surrounding George Hill are true, the Kings would be parting with a valuable mentor for first-round pick De’Aaron Fox, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Hill’s playing time has been sporadic lately as coach Dave Joerger tries to commit more minutes to his younger guys. Hill is averaging 27.2 minutes and 10.5 points per game, both down significantly from last season in Utah.

“If it’s me with my leadership skills, if it’s me on the court, if it’s me in the weight room or the locker room,” Hill said. “Whatever, just try to do the best I can, stay professional in every situation and have fun doing it. There’s a reason why I’m here. God put me in this situation for a reason that I don’t know. So I’ve got to stay the course, trust the process and keep being a pro about it and figure it out on the fly.”

There’s more tonight from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings used an analytic approach to the Harry Giles situation before opting to shut down the rookie for the season, relays Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. A franchise that has disdained analytics in the past researched Giles’ condition thoroughly before arriving at the decision. “We trusted modern sports medicine,” said assistant GM Brandon Williams. “That was the start of it. We knew we had to be careful because his ceiling is so high. Until you get to know Harry, you treat him as a fragile being. ‘Banged up. Went to Duke.’ We decided to wait for January, which is two years since his last [ACL] injury, and figure it out from there. What we learned these last few weeks was that the ACL is healed. Then the question became, ‘Do we push it?’”
  • An injury to Suns forward Marquese Chriss appears worse than the team originally thought, according to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Chriss has missed four games with a right hip flexor strain and may need a second MRI. “I don’t really know what’s going on with it,” he said. “Some days it feels good, some days it doesn’t. I’ve been able to get on the floor to shoot. Running is the hardest thing to do right now. It’s frustrating that I’m not able to play.”
  • Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is making progress from a knee injury that has sidelined him for the past three games, but he still isn’t close to returning, tweets Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Coach Luke Walton said Ball is several steps away from playing again.
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