Lonzo Ball

Los Angeles Notes: Ball, Bryant, Teodosic, Gallinari

After Lonzo Ball‘s outspoken father, LaVar Ball, recently made critical comments of the Lakers and head coach Luke Walton, the organization held a private meeting with LaVar, asking him to tone down his remarks, ESPN’s Ramon Shelbourne writes.

The elder Ball confirmed the meeting — which was organized by Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka — took place and said both sides finding common ground is critical to both his son and the team.

“It was the best thing, man. Everybody’s going to try to make it an ego thing, like I’m trying to tell them what to do or they’re trying to tell me to tone it down,” LaVar said of the meeting. “It’s not about that. It’s about coming together and to get a solution to this problem.”

Among LaVar’s criticisms were Walton not playing Lonzo for long enough stretches, adding that he could coach his son better. Walton downplayed LaVar’s comments in recent days and has praised Lonzo’s team-first mindset and contributions. As the season — and Lonzo’s career progresses — LaVar said he would continue speaking his mind with the goal of helping his son improve.

“It may sound crazy to other people, but I really just want the best for Lonzo, and the best for Lonzo is going to be what’s best for the organization,” LaVar said. “Because if everybody winning, we good.”

Read up on more news coming out of Los Angeles:

  • Former Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has made several comments about Lonzo in recent days and his latest take on the 20-year-old point guard directly addressed his father, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes. Bryant said that pressure placed on Lonzo is “completely inconsequential” as long as he proves himself on the court. “The only time that matters is when he has to think of an answer,” Bryant said. “What matters is what he does in the gym before practice, during practice and after practice. That’s the only thing that matters.”
  • Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports profiled Clippers rookie point guard Milos Teodosic, chronicling his journey from one of the most creative passers in the game as an international player to a starter in the NBA.
  • Danilo Gallinari returned to the Clippers lineup after missing 13 games with a glute injury and he will now likely miss several games with a new glute injury, ESPN’s Lawrence Murray writes. Injuries have allowed Gallinari to appear in just 11 games this season, averaging 13.4 PPG. “It’s been that type of season thus far,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “Things can change. Right now, they are, they keep changing back to somebody getting hurt.”

Pacific Notes: Ball, Walton, Teodosic, Iguodala, Jackson

Outside of a few standout performances, Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball‘s first professional season has been inconsistent at best. The Lakers’ season has mirrored Ball’s inconsistency as the team is 10-15, good for 10th place in the Western Conference. If the franchise and Ball want to achieve success, Lakers legend Kobe Bryant believes the 20-year-old point guard needs to improve now.

Speaking to Chris McGee on Spectrum SportsNet’s ‘Connected With’, Bryant said that Ball and the Lakers cannot wait and plan for several years to see improvements. Instead, Ball — and several of his young teammates — needs to take initiative and improve on his own accord.

“He needs to get better now,” Bryant said (via ForTheWin’s Nick Schwartz). “Kuzma, better now. Randle, better now. Players, you want that now. We never thought, ‘OK, we’re going to win four years from now. We really thought this is our year. We’re going to get this done. We’re going to push, push, push, push, push to get better now.’ And in the process of having that impatience, you develop. If you’re just patiently going about it, you’ll never get there. For players, it’s kind of patient impatience.”

In 25 games, Ball is averaging 8.6 PPG, 7.1 APG and 6.8 RPG. However, Ball has struggled on offense, shooting .321% from the field and .246% from beyond the arc.

Check out other news from around the Pacific Division:

  • In a well-written and well-crafted feature, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk dissected Luke Walton’s transition from player to assistant coach to head coach. Walton, currently in his second season as head coach of the Lakers, has learned under legend Phil Jackson, current Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, and his legendary father, Bill Walton. As Youngmisuk writes, all three men have shaped the way Walton conducts himself as head coach.
  • While Andre Iguodala is 33 years old, his ability to impact a game on both ends of the floor has made him invaluable to the Warriors. Head coach Steve Kerr said that, in particular, Iguodala’s defense reminds him of Scottie Pippen, Mark Medina of The Mercury News writes.
  • While Clippers rookie Milos Teodosic is close to returning from a plantar fascia injury to his left foot, the team is still unsure when he will be back, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports. “He’s close, I’ll say that,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “Watching him yesterday, I just didn’t think he was ready. But he’s close. It’s a tough one.”
  • Suns rookie Josh Jackson said his adjustment from college to the NBA has gone well, Dennis Chambers of Basketball Insiders writes.

And-Ones: Ayton, Thunder Trades, Wagering, Ball

Arizona freshman center DeAndre Ayton could be the No. 1 overall pick in June, according to Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. The 7’1” Ayton has proven to be a highly productive for the otherwise disappointing Wildcats, averaging 20.4 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 1.4 BPG in his first eight college games. He has a 7-foot-5 wingspan and has shown a high basketball IQ, Brigham continues. At worst, Ayton should be a top-three lock, Brigham adds.

In other news involving the league:

  • The trade packages the Knicks and Pacers received from the Thunder in blockbuster deals this offseason have proven to be far better than expected, as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton notes. Center Enes Kanter, the best player the Knicks got back in the Carmelo Anthony trade, is a good fit as Kristaps Porzingis frontcourt partner, while Porzingis has thrived as a No. 1 option in Pelton’s analysis. Victor Oladipo has actually outperformed Paul George in his expanded role with Indiana, according to Pelton’s metrics. The other player the Pacers received in the deal, center Domantas Sabonis, has improved sharply while playing more often in the post than he did in Oklahoma City, Pelton adds.
  • The league and several owners have positioned themselves to cash in on expanded betting on its games, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst examines in an in-depth piece. The league would prefer changes in current federal laws and the creation of a unified commission to oversee the expanded betting operations, Windhorst continues. The Hornets’ Michael Jordan, the Wizards’ Ted Leonsis and the Mavs’ Mark Cuban have recently invested in a company focused on real-time data distribution, which would facilitate in-game wagering, Windhorst adds.
  • Lonzo Ball‘s younger brother LiAngelo Ball has no chance of being selected if he declares for next June’s draft, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. LiAngelo Ball would have trouble finding a spot in any professional league, including the G-League, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter links). UCLA announced on Monday that the younger Ball intends to leave the program, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic tweets. The freshman was arrested along with two teammates in China on shoplifting charges and suspended by the school after being allowed to return to the United States.

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

Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. has beaten the timetable for recovering from a broken bone in his left hand and is expected to return to the court Monday, according to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Nance was originally projected to be out four to six weeks after the November 2 injury, which affected his second metacarpal. Coach Luke Walton plans to insert him in the starting lineup right away.

“I think our rebounding’s gone down,” Walton said. “Just the versatility at that four spot, the way we like to play, him being able to defend multiple positions. Obviously he’s got some years in the league. For a young team that’s pretty valuable. Larry’s great at doing all the little things that help teams win that don’t get a lot of credit. And he’s got the ability and the skill to do the fancy things too.”

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers remain committed to keeping Lonzo Ball as their starting point guard despite the ups and downs of his rookie season, Ganguli writes in a separate story. Ball has notched two triple-doubles, but he hasn’t solved his shooting problems. At 31.5% from the field, his shooting percentage is the lowest among rookies playing at least 10 minutes per game. “The benefit is he gets the game experience,” Walton said of his decision to keep Ball in the starting lineup. “Whether it’s close games, it’s blowouts, it’s playing against top elite point guards that do different things.”
  • Injuries have decimated the Clippers during the first six weeks of the season, but coach Doc Rivers refuses to let any of his players return to the court until they’re fully ready, relays Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Starting forward Danilo Gallinari missed his ninth straight game Saturday with a strained glute. He has been traveling with the team on its five-game road trip, but still is not able to play. “Gallo is not coming back until he’s right,” Rivers said. “We’re not going to rush anybody back. I don’t care what situation you’re in. Not only is it going to make it worse, because then he’ll come back and get injured, or any of our guys. That’s one thing we’ll never do.” Patrick Beverley is already lost for the season after knee surgery and Milos Teodosic is expected to be out until after Christmas with a plantar fascia injury in his left foot.
  • The Clippers shouldn’t consider a maximum offer for center DeAndre Jordan if he opts out of his nearly $24.12MM salary for next season, writes ESPN’s Kevin Pelton. Jordan, 29, will be in the 35% max category and will be eligible for a deal worth about $205MM over five years. The Clippers could be aided by the market as few teams will be in position to offer a max deal and not many of them need centers.

Pacific Notes: Ball, Looney, Cauley-Stein

When Lonzo Ball ignored an on-court scuffle between some of his Lakers teammates and members of the Suns on Friday, the rookie took heat for not stepping into the fray to defend them. As Jordan Greer of the Sporting News writes, however, head coach Luke Walton doesn’t have any issues with how the first-year guard handled the situation.

I don’t really care about how that looks because our guys love Zo,” Walton said. “I think [the rest of the Lakers] all know what that looked like isn’t what Zo is about and isn’t symbolizing what his feelings are on that type of situation. I know the general public and the internet world likes to do what they do.

Fellow Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma went so far as to call out a double standard between Ball and other players in the NBA. “He’s my teammate and he’s very misunderstood as a person,” Kuzma said. “There’s a lot of media out there and people that expect him to be something that he’s not right now and that’s okay because he’s a rookie.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Despite the fact that his team option for next season was declined, Kevon Looney has impressed with the Warriors so far this season, Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. “Obviously, it’s a tough situation to not get your option picked up. But it’s on you to do something about it, and he’s doing something about it. … The success that he’s having, I’m looking forward to him keeping it up. He’s been helping us win games,” teammate Draymond Green said.
  • In addition to learning the NBA game after years of international ball, Kings rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic is learning three positions. Combined, it’s led to a bit of learning curve, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. “The basketball is really different here. A lot of athletes, the size is different as well. Those are all things that come by time, that’s part of the adjustment,” Bogdanovic said.
  • The Kings have experimented with new lineups over the course of the season, one of the latest being to move Willie Cauley-Stein to the bench and giving him an expanded role on offense. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes that even though Cauley-Stein seemed to enjoy the new challenge, the club will likely continue to experiment with different personnel combinations.

Pacific Notes: Ball, Durant, McGee

The Lakers have no intention of taking Lonzo Ball out of the starting lineup anytime soon, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. The rookie guard has struggled mightily with his jump shot over the course of his first month in the league but the franchise remains committed to his development.

He’s our starting point guard,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said. “So there’s no discussion, no talks as of now of moving Lonzo to the bench. Nah. He’s our starting point guard.

The much hyped Lakers point guard – who cut his hair earlier today(!) – has averaged 9.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game so far this season but is just .303 from the field and .230 from beyond the arc.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division today:

  • Among several excellent aspects of an interview with Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, Warriors forward Kevin Durant spoke candidly about the Thunder and their move from Seattle to Oklahoma City. An under reported asset that the Bay Area offered Durant in free agency is a similarity to the Pacific Northwest town in which he broke into the league. “To be part of a franchise moving, no player, especially a rookie, expects that,” Durant said. “I didn’t even think that was in the cards. Obviously, I wasn’t in on the deal, nobody asked me any questions. So as long as we got to play somewhere, it was cool with me. I was 19, I didn’t know the effect a team moving had on fans or a city. As I got older, I realized how huge a team leaving a city is, how devastating that must have been for the fans. Every time we’d go to the West Coast, we’d see Seattle jerseys and you’d start to realize that was a huge, huge part of people’s lives.
  • A solid debut with his new franchise could boost Greg Monroe‘s trade value, Cody Cunningham of Phoenix’s official team site writes. The big man dropped 20 and 11 in his first game for the Suns since coming over alongside draft picks in the Eric Bledsoe trade.
  • The Warriors haven’t been featuring JaVale McGee heavily in their regular rotation, opting to play him only if matchups call for his length and athleticism. “You definitely have to humble yourself a little bit, just because we’re competitors. We want to play,” McGee told Mark Medina of The Mercury News. “But you can’t complain on a winning team. I understand if we were losing and I’m thinking, ‘I can help.’ But we’re a part of a winning system.”

Lakers Notes: Ball, Kuzma, Free Agency, Deng

The Lakers were hoping Lonzo Ball would be an instant star who would help lure LeBron James and other free agents next summer, but that hasn’t happened yet, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. That was especially obvious during last night’s game with the Sixers that featured a wealth of young talent on both teams. Ball made just one of nine shots from the field and didn’t play in the final 16 minutes.

“What we know he’s going to become requires a lot of work, and a lot of growth,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton. “He’ll get there, and there’s going to be some ups and downs on that path.”

Ball is only 20 and has enjoyed some success, becoming the youngest player in league history to post a triple-double. But he hasn’t been the finished product the Lakers thought they were getting, averaging 9.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 15 games but shooting just 30.3% from the field. L.A. hopes to have enough cap room to offer two max contracts in July, but there’s no guarantee the current roster will be enough to attract elite talent.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma appears to be more of an impact player than Ball, according to Josh Plantos of The Washington Post. The swingman out of Utah, who was taken with the 27th pick, is second on the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game and ranks third among all rookies in win shares, with Ball at 21st. He is also far ahead of Ball in Player Efficiency Rating and is versatile enough to play three positions.
  • Kuzma’s performance is one of several reasons for optimism in Los Angeles, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. The Lakers also have a projected $47MM in cap space for next summer, trade chips such as Julius Randle, Corey Brewer and others, a well-run front office under Magic Johnson, the continued development of Brandon Ingram and Bird rights on Brook Lopez.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report suggests an unorthodox strategy for opening more cap space next summer: an extension for Luol Deng. The proposal would add three years to Deng’s contract with a minimal amount of guaranteed money. The Lakers could then buy him out and stretch his remaining salary over 11 years rather than five, resulting in an annual payment of about $3.3MM. The plan, if Deng is willing to play along, would give L.A. $57.3MM in cap space for 2018/19, almost enough to offer two max contracts. The timing is tricky as Deng isn’t eligible for the extension until July 7, which is a week into free agency.

Western Rumors: Paul, Ball, Nurkic, Noel

Chris Paul is ramping up his workouts and could return to action on Thursday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. The longtime All-Star point guard has been out since suffering a bruised left knee in the Rockets’ opener. “We’ll see how he feels Tuesday and Wednesday,” coach Mike D’Antoni told Feigen. “That [playing Thursday] is what we’re shooting for.”

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is shooting 31.4% but team president Magic Johnson said during a radio interview the coaching staff won’t alter his shooting stroke. Johnson made the comment during an interview on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show, which was relayed by USAToday’s Andrew Joseph. “Let him shoot the way he’s been shooting and hopefully they’ll go in. And so, we’re not gonna mess with it,” Johnson said. “We’re gonna let him shoot and play his game. If after the season, and he’s not shooting well, then we’ll sit down with him and say, ‘Hey, let’s maybe look at different way or let’s try to improve the way you are shooting.'”
  • Jusuf Nurkic isn’t brooding over his lack of crunch-time minutes in recent games, Mike Richman of The Oregonian reports. Coach Terry Stotts has gone with the backup Ed Davis in the fourth quarter the last two games but the starting Trail Blazers center says he’s not upset. “No drama, man,”  Nurkic told Richman. “It’s all about the [next] game.”
  • Nerlens Noel‘s lack of playing time doesn’t mean there’s a rift between him and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. Noel has played just eight minutes over the last three games but he can work his way back in the rotation by playing hard-nosed basketball, Sefko continues. Noel will get a chance to rejoin the rotation in the near future, Sefko predicts.
  • Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler scored 25 points against the Suns on Saturday, and he vows to remain a bigger part of the offense, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Butler had scored 16 points or less in seven of his 10 previous games with his new team.  “I do think I have to start scoring the ball a lot more,” Butler told Zgoda. “I think I’ve come too far to be as passive as I am right now. I’m always going to pass the ball to the open man, but if I feel like I can get my shots off and think I can make it, I’m going to take each and every one of those.”

Western Rumors: Len, Ball, Mavs, Benson

Suns center Alex Len didn’t receive an offer sheet as a restricted free agent this summer but he’s pumping up his value during the early going, according to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Len is averaging 10.2 PPG and 8.4 RPG and one scout told Bordow that Len could receive a four-year deal worth up to $15MM per season if he continues his strong play. Len signed his qualifying offer of $4.2MM in late September after his unsuccessful foray into restricted free agency.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball told reporters that as a floor leader he prefers “to take the blame when we lose,” Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. Ball committed five turnovers in a loss to the Jazz on Saturday. Ball also believes he needs to push the ball more efficiently, Youngmisuk adds. “More pace, run on makes — I feel like we are kind of walking up the ball too much,” Ball said. “And that is obviously my fault because I am the point guard so just got to push the pace a little better.”
  • Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is considering lineup changes after his team got off to a 1-6 start, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. “We’re looking at things all the time,” Carlisle told Sefko and other reporters.“If you’re asking about a change to the starting lineup or rotation, any and everything is in play at this point.”
  • Pelicans and Saints owner Tom Benson was hospitalized Sunday night but is expected to return to his office by the end of the week, according to a statement released by a Saints spokesman. Benson felt weakness while attending the Saints game on Sunday, Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
  • Tyson Chandler shrugs off the rumors that the Suns are trying to deal him, Bordow reports. The team is reportedly trying to package him in any deal involving disgruntled point man Eric Bledsoe. “Just like everybody else, I hear the rumblings,” he said. “I hear my name being involved in things and trade rumors but I’m at the point where I couldn’t care less.”

Pacific Notes: Jackson, Ball, Clippers, Suns

Suns rookie Josh Jackson was fined $35K for making a “menacing” gesture towards a Los Angeles Clippers fan this past weekend, it was announced yesterday by NBA executive Kiki VanDeWeghe.  While it appeared that Jackson was mimicking a gun with his hand gesture toward the fan, he explained that was not the case, but rather that he a“kind of wanted to put up the middle finger to him but … didn’t do that because I felt like I was … being watched, so I kind of halfway did it.”  Clearly, the NBA didn’t buy his explanation.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers see a lot of similarities between rookie Lonzo Ball and former Nets point guard and Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, as detailed in a story by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.  In addition to their comparable styles, ability to run, and passing skills, both were born in California and selected second in their respective drafts.  However, the Lakers are also quick to admit that Ball still has a long way to go to reach Kidd’s level, and no one expects it to happen overnight.
  • Despite losing perennial All-Star Chris Paul this offseason, the Clippers are off to a fast start and have no intention of letting up anytime soon, reports Elliott Teaford of The Daily Breeze.  In fact, according to head coach Doc Rivers, his team still has a ton of room for improvement. “We aren’t even close to as good as I think we can be,” Rivers said.
  • Its been an eventful week for the Suns, to say the least, but as Chris Reichert of 2 Ways & 10 Days reports, the drama has resulted in good news for three of the Suns’ G League affiliate coaches. Ty Ellis, Bret Burchard and Brandon Rosenthal have been promoted to assistants under the Suns’ new head coach, Jay Triano.  As a result, G League assistant coach Tyler Gatlin takes over as interim head coach for the Northern Arizona Suns.
  • In a recent Q&A, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee opined that should the Kings make any trades this season, Kosta Koufos would be the most likely candidate to be traded, based on his contract and the interest he has garnered in the past.  Jones also believes that rookie De’Aaron Fox and second-year man Skal Labissiere have the highest ceilings of anyone on the team.
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