Lonzo Ball

Western Notes: Exum, Kerr, Ball, Aldridge

Jazz point guard Dante Exum has opted for surgery on his separated left shoulder, the team announced in a press release. The surgery, which will take place on October 24th, will stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The team did not announce a timetable for Exum’s return but he’s likely to miss most or all of the season, Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune speculates.

Exum, 22, missed the 2015/16 season with an ACL tear. He returned last season and played in 66 games, averaging a career-high 6.2 PPG and 1.8 APG. The Jazz acquired Ricky Rubio during the offseason to start at the point. Raul Neto and Donovan Mitchell will back him up in Exum’s absence.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • The Warriors have not discussed a contract extension with coach Steve Kerr because of his health issues, Monte Poole of NBCSports.com reports. Neither side has prioritized an extension because Kerr is focused on finding ways to eliminate the headaches and dizziness he’s suffered after undergoing back surgeries, Poole continues. Kerr is in the fourth season of a five-year deal worth $25MM. “I’m just not ready to look that far ahead,” Kerr told Poole and other media members.
  • Wing Royce O’Neale got the nod over big man Joel Bolomboy for the Jazz’s final roster spot based on need, according to Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News. O’Neale, who spent the last two seasons in Spain, provides coach Quin Snyder with a defender who can guard multiple spots. “I think positionally, he’s a fit for our group right now,” Snyder told McDonald and other media members. “He’s got instincts defensively. Coupled with the toughness, it makes him a good wing defender.”
  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball says he’s good to go for the team’s season opener on Thursday, he told Law Murray of ESPN and the assembled media. Ball injured his ankle during camp and missed the last four preseason games. He practiced in full on Monday.
  • The final year of LaMarcus Aldridge‘s three-year, $72.3MM extension with the Spurs has a $7MM guarantee, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. San Antonio came to an agreement with Aldridge on Monday.

Pacific Notes: Ball, Thompson, Bogdanovic, Len

Lonzo Ball sprained his left ankle last Monday during a preseason contest against the Nuggets and the Lakers think their first-rounder may sit out the remainder of the preseason, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. Ball, 19, also sat out a portion of the Summer League a few months ago due to a calf strain.

Lakers head coach Luke Walton did not rule out Ball missing the season opener if his balky ankle does not improve. Walton said that Ball does not feel pain running straight but side-to-side movements are causing the UCLA product discomfort. Ball tried practicing on Sunday but he could not do it pain-free, Walton said.

“If he is not ready, he won’t [play],” Walton said. “Again, it is day to day so I assume he will be back by then. If he’s not ready to play basketball and really cut and move and do everything that you need that ankle you need it to do for you, we are not going to play him.”

Check out other tidbits of news out the Pacific Division:

And-Ones: Pay Cuts, Rookies, Returning Rights

The idea of an NBA player taking a pay cut in order to help a franchise save funds for other players is a noble one but it doesn’t always work out for the individuals who sign at a discount, Steve Kyler or Basketball Insiders writes.

Most recently, Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson was asked if he would consider taking less pay when he hits free agency in the summer of 2019, like his teammate Kevin Durant did this summer.

I probably could, yeah. That much? I don’t know. I don’t make as much as Kevin off the court,” Thompson told The Athletic. “If it’s a few million… It’s a blessing whatever contract I sign. I would definitely consider it cause I don’t want to lose anybody.”

Kyler discusses several cases of players who took pay cuts to play for a winner only to see that shot at a title quickly fade. Back in 2015, David West left eight digits on the table in order to chase a ring with the Spurs but ultimately came up short. The following summer he had to sign on with the Warriors instead, in order to take home a championship.

Jameer Nelson is another striking example of what can go wrong for a player. Nelson was bought out by the Magic in the summer of 2014 and turned around to sign at a discount with the Mavs. Dallas, however, shipped the veteran guard off less than two months into the 2014/15 campaign in the deal that landed them Rajon Rondo.

Of course there are success stories and Kyler references both Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade taking pay cuts to appease franchises that have supported them over the course of their careers. Tim Duncan is another example of a superstar that happily left money on the table in order to preserve the Spurs‘ financial flexibility.

There’s more from around the NBA:

  • While it’s only natural to get excited about the potential of the point guards at the top of the 2017 NBA Draft, don’t expect them to steamroll their way through the league right away. Kevin Pelton of ESPN (Insider) took a deep dive into the statistical projections of players like Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith Jr. only to conclude that genuinely performing as a Top 100 player in the NBA is exceedingly difficult for a first-year guard.
  • The NBA’s age limit has been a common talking point ever since it was implemented last decade but change could be inevitable, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes. The scribe writes that the prohibition of traditional high school seniors in the NBA draft isn’t about skill but rather about maturity. He also highlights the fact that many of the eligibility rules related to the NCAA-to-NBA pipeline come from the NCAA and not from the big league, itself.
  • Ever wonder what G League writers like Chris Reichert of 2 Ways, 10 Days are talking about when they refer to players’ returning rights? Consider the following an introduction to the contract mechanism and a crash course in who the most valuable players to whom returning rights apply currently are.

L.A. Notes: Griffin, Rivers, Bogut, Ball

The Clippers enjoyed their trip to Hawaii both on and off the court, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. split a pair of games with the Raptors, and the players believe the experience helped to unify a team that lost Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford over the summer.

There was good news regarding star forward Blake Griffin, who was able to play without any lingering effects from surgery on his right big toe in May. Milos Teodosic showed off the passing that made him highly sought after in Europe, Patrick Beverley brought the hard-nosed defense that was his calling card in Houston and Lou Williams showed he can replace Crawford’s scoring off the bench. Also, the Lob City swagger lives on without Paul. “I don’t think we ever lost that,” said DeAndre Jordan. “We’ve got guys who can make passes like that. We’ve got myself, Blake, Willie [Reed], Montrezl [Harrell], guys like that rolling and able to play above the rim.”

There’s more tonight from Los Angeles:

  • The only bad news for the Clippers is on the injury front, Turner adds. Austin Rivers “is going to be out for a while” after straining a right gluteal muscle in the first game, said coach Doc Rivers.
  • Veteran center Andrew Bogut believes his young Lakers teammates can benefit from his experience, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Bogut signed a one-year, partially guaranteed deal with the Lakers last month as he tries to prove he can come back from a tibia fracture he suffered in March. He is projected as a backup to Brook Lopez, one of the few veterans on the squad. “I have been through pretty much everything in this league, especially injury-wise, and been on championship teams, winningest teams, crappiest teams, teams with a lot of turnovers,” Bogut said. “I have seen everything.”
  • Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball has already become the face of the Lakers, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. The team has a lot invested in the overall No. 2 pick, who  impressed his older teammates with his performance in camp. L.A. has lost at least 55 games in each of the past four seasons and needs the 19-year-old to emerge as a leader. “The way he plays the game of basketball, everywhere he goes … if he went to a rec center, people would follow him because he makes people better,” said coach Luke Walton. “That’s what great leaders do.”

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2017/18 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. To no one’s surprise, the Warriors are viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2017/18 championship, with 28 of 30 GMs (93%) picking Golden State to repeat.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more interesting ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • Although half of the league’s GMs picked LeBron James as the 2017/18 MVP winner, LeBron only finished third in voting for the player GMs would want to start a franchise with today. Karl-Anthony Towns (29%) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (21%) were the top vote-getters for that question.
  • NBA general managers loved the Thunder‘s acquisition of Paul George. George received 59% of the vote for which offseason addition would make the biggest impact, easily beating out Jimmy Butler (17%), Chris Paul (10%), and Kyrie Irving (7%). Additionally, Oklahoma City was chosen as the team that made the best offseason moves, with 43% of the vote. The Celtics (25%), Timberwolves (14%), and Rockets (11%) were runners-up.
  • The Nuggets‘ signing of Paul Millsap (24%) and the Pistons‘ trade for Avery Bradley (17%) were regarded by NBA GMs as the most underrated acquisitions of the summer.
  • The Timberwolves (69%) were the runaway choice for most improved team, beating out the Sixers (17%) and a handful of other clubs. Of course, it’s worth noting that Minnesota was also the GMs’ pick for that question a year ago.
  • While Dennis Smith Jr. of the Mavericks (37%) was voted the biggest steal of the 2017 draft, most GMs expect Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball (62%) to win the Rookie of the Year award.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Kuzma, Blue, Bogut

Lonzo Ball‘s NBA debut brought an electric atmosphere to Saturday’s preseason opener, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The second overall pick had a rough shooting night, going 2 for 9 from the field and finishing with five points, but he contributed eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals and showed a sell-out crowd his triple-double potential. “He is so unselfish that sometimes he has good shots for himself and he tries to get someone else a shot,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton. “We want him taking those. We are looking for him to be a little more aggressive to score the ball, especially early on. I thought he was great the way he was moving around out there and getting people involved.”

There’s more news out of Los Angeles:

  • Fellow first-rounder Kyle Kuzma had no shooting problems, sinking 9 of 12 shots and scoring 19 points. The 27th pick out of Utah sparked the Lakers’ offense in the third quarter with four buckets in 91 seconds and showed the same explosiveness he displayed during summer league. “It’s not so much 100 miles per hour like you’d think it is,” Kuzma told Joey Ramirez of NBA.com about the adjustment to the pro game. “It’s really pace, stop and go — I definitely learned a lot out there just in that one game.”
  • Reigning G League MVP Vander Blue is trying to use every advantage as he competes for a roster spot, Ramirez writes in a separate story. Blue has been showing up to practice three hours early each day and scouted all his potential teammates on video before camp began. Blue has been a productive G League player over the past three years, but has just five NBA games on his resume since leaving Marquette in 2013.
  • Andrew Bogut has resolved his visa issues and is ready to join the Lakers, the veteran center tweeted. Bogut agreed to a one-year, minimum-salary deal with L.A. in mid-September but hasn’t been able to come to the United States because of the visa problem. Bogut is eager to prove that he is fully recovered from a fractured tibia that ended his season in March.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Ball, Randolph

The Suns were painfully bad at defense last season, allowing 113.3 points per game and fouling more than any other team in the NBA. This year, experience and the addition of Josh Jackson could change that, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic writes.

With a young core anchored by Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis and Dragan Bender it’s understandable that the team struggled to contain opposing veterans.

You get hit by these NBA players, these veterans and it pretty much hurts,” coach Earl Watson said. “Your natural reaction is just to grab.”

The bench boss believes that the addition of Jackson, whose calling card is perimeter defense, will hold teammates accountable on that end of the ball.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The legend of Lonzo Ball has grown throughout training camp, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. The rookie point guard is said to have made an impression in his first scrimmage and has impressed Lakers head coach Luke Walton with his defensive work and ability to communicate.
  • Don’t rule out seeing Blake Griffin spend time as the Clippers‘ tallest man on the floor, only to turn around and bring the ball up the court, Doc Rivers tells the Associated Press. Quite frankly, the 28-year-old will do a bit of everything now that Chris Paul is with the Rockets.
  • After a busy summer, in which he says he was wrongfully arrested, Zach Randolph will settle into a new role with a new franchise. Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee writes that the 36-year-old back-to-the-basket big man will complement the Kings young frontcourt.

Lakers Notes: Bogut, Blue, Ball, George

Lakers coach Luke Walton will have the final say on who wins the 15th roster spot in training camp, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. GM Rob Pelinka made the comment during the team’s media day. Bresnahan hints that it could come down to center Andrew Bogut or guard Vander Blue. Bogut signed a one-year, $2.3MM contract but only $50K is guaranteed. Blue hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since the 2014/15 season. Pelinka added that the team isn’t actively seeking another veteran player, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times tweets.

In other news regarding the Lakers:

  • President of basketball operations Magic Johnson isn’t concerned about LaVar Ball’s antics or comments unless it impacts the on-court effectiveness of son and rookie point guard Lonzo Ball,  he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN and other media members. “Only time I am going to concern myself with what [Lonzo] does off the court is if it is affecting his play on the court,” Johnson said.  The Hall of Famer already considers the rookie as the team’s leader heading into his first season. “We needed a leader on this team,” Johnson said. “And we have one now.”
  • Johnson is mainly concerned that the team displays improvement this season and demonstrates to future free agents that the franchise is once again an attractive destination, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Johnson does believe this season’s group is talented enough to make the playoffs, Ganguli adds. LeBron James and Paul George, among others, are expected to seriously consider the Lakers next summer.
  • George said he’s more concerned with winning than joining his hometown team, Sam Amick of USA Today relays. George believes he can win a championship with the Thunder“You ask anybody, and who wouldn’t want to play for their hometown team?” George said. “Who wouldn’t want to go home and win a championship for their home? So yeah, a lot of me wanted to be a Laker. Even in the draft, coming out of the draft, I wanted to be a Clipper, to have a chance to play at home…(But) I’m not solely tied to LA. This feels like a championship team. Like I said, man, I’m in a good place.”

Lakers Notes: Bogut, Walton, Ball, Ingram

The one-year, $2.3MM contract Andrew Bogut signed with the Lakers is only guaranteed for $50K, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Bogut and his agent spent the summer trying to convince teams there would be no lingering effects from the broken left tibia he suffered in March while with the Cavaliers. Other organizations expressed interest, but Bogut opted for the Lakers, even though the guarantee is extremely low for a veteran of his caliber.

The 32-year-old center was plagued by injuries last year, well before the mishap in Cleveland. Knee and hamstring issues limited him to just 26 games in Dallas before he was shipped to Philadelphia at the February trade deadline. Bogut’s agent, David Bauman, said last week that a CT scan showed a “complete healing” of the break. If that means Bogut can contribute the way he did in Golden State, the Lakers may have nabbed a major bargain.

There’s more today out of Los Angeles:

  • GM Rob Pelinka said Bogut was signed because the team needs a defensive presence in the middle, tweets Serena Winters of LakersNation.com. Pelinka said the Lakers were among the worst teams in the league last season at stopping opponents at the rim, and he sees Bogut as a “paint protector.” Coach Luke Walton, who talked to Bogut on the phone before the signing, is excited about what he can bring. “It was a very honest conversation about where he’s at and where we’re at and what possible minutes would be at,” Walton explained, “and I said I would obviously love to have you, you can anchor our defense, the way you can pass the ball, the fact that you are a champion around our young players is something that can be huge for us.”
  • The addition of Lonzo Ball should transform a team that was in the bottom five last season in assist percentage, writes Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer. Observers raved about Ball’s passing and court vision as the Lakers captured the Las Vegas Summer League title, and Uggetti thinks those skills will be even more evident with veteran teammates. However, he expects L.A. to keep struggling on defense, although the signing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will help on the perimeter, and believes another 50-loss season might lie ahead.
  • After a summer filled with roster upheaval, Ball and Brandon Ingram are the only players certain to be long-term Lakers, according to Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report.

NBA Rookies View Dennis Smith Jr. As ROY Favorite

For the last decade, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann has been surveying several incoming rookies to get their thoughts on their fellow first-year players.  Schuhmann asks the newest NBA players to identify which rookie they expect to have the best career, which was the steal of the 2017 draft, and which is the frontrunner for the 2017/18 Rookie of the Year award, among other questions.

This year, Schuhmann polled 39 rookies, and more than a quarter of those players made Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. their pick for Rookie of the Year favorite. The No. 9 overall pick received 25.7% of the vote, beating out top picks like Lonzo Ball (20%) and Markelle Fultz (17.1%). That may be good news for the Mavs, though as Schuhmann observes, the rookies he has surveyed haven’t accurately predicted the Rookie of the Year winner since 2007/08, when they made Kevin Durant the overwhelming favorite.

Here are a few more items of interest from Schuhmann’s survey:

  • Smith was the landslide winner (43.6%) as the most athletic rookie. But while his fellow rookies believe the Mavericks point guard will have the best first year, Ball and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum received the most votes (18.4% apiece) for which rookie will have the best overall career.
  • Donovan Mitchell (18.9%) was the top choice for biggest steal of the draft, after the Jazz nabbed him at No. 13. Some of the second-round picks that the rookies viewed as steals included Jordan Bell (Warriors; No. 38) and Dwayne Bacon (Hornets; No. 40).
  • Luke Kennard (Pistons) and Malik Monk (Hornets) were widely considered the top two outside shooters in the draft. Among their fellow rookies, Kennard (48.6%) easily topped Monk (13.5%) as the pick for the No. 1 shooter of the 2017 class.
  • Suns forward Josh Jackson (26.3%) was narrowly voted the best rookie defender, while Ball (71.8%) was the overwhelming pick for best rookie playmaker.
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