Lonzo Ball

Lakers Notes: Walton, Meeks, Ingram, Ball

Controlling owner Jeanie Buss holds the key to Luke Walton‘s future as head coach, Bill Oram of The Athletic opines. If team president Magic Johnson urges Buss to make a coaching change in the near future or at the end of the season, she would have to choose between her loyalty to Johnson and her faith in Walton, Oram continues. There is growing uneasiness about Walton’s job security following a loss to the woeful Cavaliers, making the team 3-7 with LeBron James sidelined by a groin injury. Johnson’s unpredictable, ultra-competitive nature and his concerns about the staff increase the possibility of him pushing Buss to make a move, Oram adds.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Free agent shooting guard and former Laker Jodie Meeks is a potential roster addition as the team looks to improve its outside shooting, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin tweets.  The career 37.2% 3-point shooter worked out for the Sixers on Monday. The Lakers, who have an open roster spot, rank 27th in long-range shooting at 33.5%.
  • Andre Ingram set a G League record for most career games played over the weekend, according to a G League tweet. Ingram, currently with the South Bay Lakers, played his 402nd game on Saturday. The 33-year-old guard made his NBA debut last season with the Lakers, appearing in two games.
  • Lonzo Ball would rather lead by example because he’s not as vocal as veterans like James, Rajon Rondo and Tyson Chandler, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN reports. Ball has stepped up his efforts to be a leader with James and Rondo nursing injuries.

Lakers Notes: Playoffs, Walton, Ball, Ingram

In an NBA Insiders piece for ESPN, writers Kevin Arnovitz, Chris Herring, Brian Windhorst, Andre Snellings, and Kevin Pelton discuss the Lakers’ playoff chances with superstar LeBron James missing extended time with the groin injury he suffered on Christmas Day against the Warriors.

As one may expect, the consensus among the writers is that the Lakers will still probably make the playoffs, assuming James doesn’t suffer a setback during rehab and miss additional time beyond what was reasonably foreseen.

With approximately 40 games remaining, the general opinion from the ESPN scribes is that James will probably have to play somewhere around 30 to 35 of those games for the Lakers to feel safe about their playoff chances, meaning LeBron needs to be back relatively soon.

In addition to the playoff race, other topics discussed include the identity of the Lakers’ second-best player, whether the team should and/or will make a big trade before the deadline, and where the Lakers’ ceiling stacks up relative to other teams in the Western Conference. The entire article is worth a read.

There’s more from the purple and gold this afternoon:

  • If the Lakers do miss the playoffs, it will be a “nightmare scenario” for the NBA and its “broken playoff format,” writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. The Lakers could potentially miss the postseason with 45 wins while the sixth, seventh, and eighth seeds in the Eastern Conference could all have losing records. Having one of its most popular franchises shut out of the playoffs while three teams in the East make the playoffs with inferior records could be the catalyst for change the NBA playoff system needs.
  • Sam Amick of The Athletic sat down for an extensive one-one-one conversation with Luke Walton to discuss him working in his dream job as the head coach for the Lakers, the team’s much-needed win in Dallas earlier this week after his challenge to his young players to play with more passion, and the overall challenge of both coaching and playing without James.
  • The Lakers continue to wait for both Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to blossom into what a team ultimately expects of players taken No. 2 overall in the draft. But as Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register writes, time is running out. On July 1, the Lakers could potentially trade for the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, one of the best players in the NBA. And if they do so, both Ball and Ingram may be going to the Big Easy unless they show their worth the rest of the season.

Lakers Notes: Ingram, Ball, George, Robinson

The Lakers are wasting an opportunity to prove they can be successful without LeBron James and may be getting a clearer picture of the value of Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. L.A.is 1-4 since James suffered a strained left groin, and the team learned Friday that he won’t be re-evaluated for another week.

The most troubling game in that stretch was last night’s loss to the Knicks, who have been near the bottom of the East all season. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Oram writes, Ingram became a one-dimensional player, making just one of five shots, while Ball tried to force passes and committed a couple of key turnovers.

“Brandon and Lonzo right now are our primary ballhandlers,” coach Luke Walton said, “and I think they led us in turnovers tonight. I’m not putting the blame on them, but that’s part of the responsibility of being a point guard, or being a primary ballhandler-slash-playmaker, is taking care of the ball and getting guys going, getting other guys easy looks.”

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • Ingram may be the next young talent sacrificed in the quest to build a super team in L.A., suggests Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. The Lakers have already parted with D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle to clear cap room, and it may become necessary to do the same with Ingram to have a shot at Anthony Davis. If the Pelicans hang onto Davis and he becomes a free agent in 2020, the Lakers can’t afford the $21.8MM cap hold Ingram would have as a restricted free agent. However, he could turn out to be a valuable trade piece if Davis turns down a supermax offer and New Orleans feels compelled to move him this summer.
  • Paul George got an unfriendly reception from Lakers fans this week, but he explained that he made a business decision to stay in Oklahoma City, relays Brett Dawson of The Athletic. There was hope last season that George might return to his native Southern California in free agency, but he decided he had a better situation with the Thunder. “The Lakers is one of the best, most historical franchises in the world,” George said. “It is what it is. I’m with another great organization.”
  • The Lakers gave strong consideration to taking Mitchell Robinson with their first-round pick last summer, but the rookie center believes he’s better off with the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. With L.A. hoping to make the playoffs, Robinson thinks he might have spent much of the season in the G League rather than as an NBA starter.

And-Ones: Trade Deadline, Goodwin, Watson, Williams

There probably won’t be significant activity prior to the trade deadline, according to Keith Smith of RealGM (Twitter links). The biggest trades this season may have already occurred, one source told Smith, because teams are intent on preserving salary-cap space for 2019. Still, some expiring contracts could be moved and there’s always a possibility that a team “might get desperate” and do something bold, the same source suggested.

A front-office member from another team believes many of the trades coming before the deadline could be motivated by trying to stay below the luxury-tax line, even if it results in a talent downgrade. However, that executive also believes that there should be more sellers in a month than there are now. “Some of us will get real about our chances and start moving guys,” the source said to Smith.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Guard Archie Goodwin has returned to the United States to join the G League’s Maine Red Claws, the team announced in a press release. Goodwin most recently played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season, when he appeared in a combined 15 games with New Orleans and Brooklyn. The shooting guard played his first three seasons with Phoenix. The Red Claws acquired his returning player rights in a trade prior to the season. Goodwin lost his roster spot with China’s Zhejiang Golden Bulls to former Spurs guard Brandon Paul in late December.
  • Lakers guard and former UCLA star Lonzo Ball has endorsed former Suns coach Earl Watson to be the Bruins’ next coach, Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times report. UCLA recently fired Steve Alford and replaced him on an interim basis with assistant Murry Bartow. “I know Earl personally,” Ball said. “I think he has coaching experience in the league. Obviously, he went there, he’s alumni, so I think he’s a good fit.”
  • Veteran big man Alan Williams is in advanced talks with China’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Williams was waived by the Nets this week to allow him to pursue the overseas opportunity. He was on a two-way deal after getting released by the Suns during the offseason. Williams was playing well in the G League but did not make an appearance with Brooklyn.
  • Forward Okaro White, who was waived by the Wizards last month, has signed with the G League’s Long Island Nets, according to NetsDaily.com. Long Island acquired his G League rights last year. The Nets are not using their available two-way slot on White, according to the report. White made three appearances with Washington this season.

League Executives Expect Summer Trade For Anthony Davis

Talking to NBA executives at this year’s G League Showcase, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report finds that most expect Anthony Davis will be with the Lakers or Celtics next season.

Although Pelicans officials have repeatedly stated they have no intention to trade Davis, his contract situation may leave them with no choice. He is eligible for a supermax extension this summer that could be worth up to $239.5MM, but is only one season away from his player option if he doesn’t accept that offer.

Davis changed his representation over the summer, signing with LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, in a move that some believe was made to get him out of New Orleans.

“I’m not worried about James tampering to the media about AD,” a Western Conference GM told Pincus. “It’s that James and Paul are mafioso mob bosses of the NBA that’s the problem.”

Several small-market GMs raised concerns about tampering this week after James said Davis would be “amazing” to have as a teammate. Commissioner Adam Silver refused to take any disciplinary action against James, and the Lakers’ star raised more speculation by having dinner with Davis after their teams played on Friday.

The executives that Pincus spoke to don’t believe Davis will be moved before the February 7 trade deadline, but they do expect something to happen by draft day. The feeling is that Davis will decline the Pelicans’ extension offer and force them to move him for a package that’s stocked with young talent and draft picks.

“It’s going to be up to [Pelicans general manager] Dell [Demps] to decide where Davis plays next,” an Eastern Conference executive said. “Paul will get him traded, but it’s going to be up to Demps to get the best deal.”

That could work to the advantage of the Celtics, who, depending on protections, may own the Clippers’, Grizzlies’ and Kings’ picks next summer as well as their own. Boston can’t trade for Davis until Kyrie Irving opts out of his current contract, so the Celtics would need to reach an agreement with New Orleans before the draft that wouldn’t take effect until the moratorium is lifted in early July.

Pincus speculates Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will be the cornerstones of Boston’s offer, although Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Al Horford are all potential pieces. He sees Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball as the key players in a Lakers deal, along with a few others to match salaries.

A 15% trade kicker in Davis’ contract could give the Lakers the advantage in their pursuit, Pincus adds. The Pelicans would have to pay Davis an additional $5.4MM if he gets traded during the season or $4.1MM if the deal happens over the summer. If Paul wants to get Davis to the Lakers, he could agree to waive the trade kicker only if Davis is sent to L.A.

Pincus also notes that because the Lakers will be under the cap this summer, they will have the freedom to restructure Davis’ contract, giving him $32.7MM for next season and extending the deal through 2021/22 at a total of $70.3MM for the following two years. When Davis hits free agency in 2022 as a 10-year veteran, he would be eligible for a starting salary at about $46MM, giving him a total deal only about $16MM less than his supermax offer.

Woj: Lakers Keeping Young Players To Pursue Anthony Davis

The Lakers refused to break up their young core to acquire Trevor Ariza from the Suns because they’re saving their assets for a run at Anthony Davis, NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said today on ESPN (Hat tip to Real GM).

Davis will be eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension from the Pelicans next summer, which could pay him a record-setting $239.54MM over five seasons. However, if Davis decides not to accept that offer, he is guaranteed just one more season in New Orleans before his player option arrives in the summer of 2020.

The Lakers are among several teams preparing for that scenario, stockpiling as much young talent as they can to offer the Pelicans in a potential trade.

“Here’s the line they have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season,” Wojnarowski said, “because they have to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency.”

L.A. has been careful about preserving cap room for next season to be able to make a max offer in a talented free agent class that will include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and several other stars. The pursuit of Davis won’t affect that plan, according to Wojnarowski.

“The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent,” he said. “The dream scenario is they do both.”

ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who co-hosted the show with Wojnarowski, explained that the Lakers plan to take a shot at free agency first, then will try to swing a deal for Davis. If it works, that could produce a Big Three that would eclipse what LeBron James had in Miami or Cleveland.

Assuming none of them are traded away during the season, L.A. will have Lonzo Ball ($8.72MM for next year), Brandon Ingram ($7.27MM), Kyle Kuzma ($1.97MM) and Josh Hart ($1.93MM) available to offer in a potential deal for Davis.

Lakers Won’t Give Up Top Young Players For Ariza

The Lakers have made four key young players unavailable in their pursuit of wing Trevor Ariza, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The team will not include Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart in a potential trade, according to Turner. The Suns turned down a three-team proposal, Turner adds.

The Lakers’ keen interest in working out a deal with the Suns for Ariza, an unrestricted free agent after the season, surfaced in an ESPN report over the weekend. That report indicated Phoenix was seeking playmaking guard, presumably either Ball or Hart, and a draft asset.

Los Angeles has plenty of competition for Ariza as at least eight teams have reached out to Phoenix. Ariza can’t be traded until Saturday, when restrictions on trading players who signed free agent contracts this summer are lifted. Ariza inked a one-year, $15MM contract with the Suns after being a key member of the Rockets last season.

He is averaging 9.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 3.3 APG in 33.9 MPG this season for the floundering Suns.

Acquiring Ariza would not only help the Lakers in the short run, his expiring contract would also give them more flexibility in the summer when they pursue top-tier free agents.

Sources confirmed to Turner that the Rockets called about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s availability two weeks ago but no trade is imminent. A report from The Athletic on Wednesday revealed the Rockets were trying to put together a multi-team trade to acquire the Lakers’ shooting guard, who has veto power over any deal.

Lakers Have Not Made Lonzo Ball Available In Trades

Despite recent speculation, the Lakers have not made point guard Lonzo Ball available in trades, a league source tells Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops. While this does not indicate that Ball is untouchable, the 21-year-old is currently not part of active trade talks, per the report.

After inking LeBron James this past summer, Los Angeles’ interest in finding another star has been made clear and Ball is one of the organization’s best trade chips. Names such as Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard have been floated as potential trade and free agent targets for the Lakers.

Los Angeles selected Ball with the second overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. After a solid rookie campaign, Ball’s numbers have dipped this season but he’s still averaging a solid 8.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 4.6 APG. Ball has also been praised for his defensive improvements, with his newest teammate James has been at the forefront.

“I think he just sometimes doesn’t realize how great he is,” James said. ”The things that he possesses out on the floor … when Zo realizes how good he is on the floor, it makes him a very dynamic player and it makes us even better. And he’s been doing that as of late, his aggressiveness.”

Pacific Notes: Curry, Beal, Rondo, Kokoskov

Warriors point guard and two-time MVP Stephen Curry could be back in action this week, according to an NBA.com post. He will go through a full practice on Tuesday with the possibility of playing against the Raptors on Thursday, coach Steve Kerr told the media. Curry has missed 10 consecutive games with a left groin strain.

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • Any potential Lakers trade for Wizards guard Bradley Beal would likely have Brandon Ingram as its centerpiece, according to Eric Pincus in a Bleacher Report column. Los Angeles probably wouldn’t agree to deal Ingram plus either Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart, Pincus opines. However, a package of Ingram, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley would add up to enough salary to absorb Beal’s hefty contract. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope couldn’t be substituted for Rondo unless he agreed to the deal, due to a quirk in rules regarding players who re-sign one-year contracts, Pincus adds.
  • The Lakers’ offense has suffered without Rondo, who is currently out with a broken hand, Joey Ramirez of the team’s website reports. The Lakers ranked fourth in scoring (116.9 ppg) and fifth in assists (26.0) before Rondo’s injury, but are 22nd in points (106.6) and 29th in assists (18.6) in the first five games without him. Rondo has been cleared for non-basketball activities but is still several weeks away from returning, Ramirez adds.
  • Suns first-year coach Igor Kokoskov believes his days as an assistant in Detroit were pivotal in his coaching career, as he explained to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. He was a young coach with the Pistons when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals on a regular basis. “I had the privilege of being with Larry Brown for two years and Flip Saunders for three years,” Kokoskov told McCosky. “I was very fortunate to learn from those great coaches and those great players. Just being a part of that group, with those guys all in their prime, I had a chance to steal the best from those guys. I learned a lot. Especially when you are winning.”

LeBron On Lonzo: ‘He Doesn’t Realize How Great He Is’

When LeBron James joined the Lakers this summer, the dynamic between him and the team’s second-year point guard Lonzo Ball was one of the biggest questions. After the Lakers’ win over the Jazz on Friday, James spoke glowingly of Ball.

“I think he just sometimes doesn’t realize how great he is,” James said, per The Sporting News. “The things that he possesses out on the floor … when Zo realizes how good he is on the floor, it makes him a very dynamic player and it makes us even better. And he’s been doing that as of late, his aggressiveness.”

Ball, 21, has had an interesting start to the season as veteran point guard Rajon Rondo opened the year as the starter while the youngster recovered from surgery. In 18 games (16 starts) this season, Ball’s totals from last year are down. He’s averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.8 APG, but James feels that his impact on the team is not confined to his stats.

“He missed a couple of them, that’s absolutely fine. He had a couple charges, that’s absolutely fine,” James said. “When he’s aggressive it just changes our dynamic of the team, and he’s been doing it of late and we need him to continue to do that because he’s very good.”

With Rondo set to miss at least another month, Ball will have the chance to not only cement his role as the starter but prove James’ endorsement correct.