Lakers Rumors

Frank Vogel: No Asterisk For Lakers’ Title

Lakers coach Frank Vogel doesn’t accept the argument that this year’s championship should come with an asterisk because of the unusual circumstances of the season, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Vogel believes his players did the best job of adapting to the four-month layoff and the closed atmosphere in Orlando.

“To endure that type of intense pressure environment, where every detail is scrutinized, where the intensity was high,” he said, “to endure those meetings with no outlet of family, or whatever single guys would be doing, without an outlet, was one of the biggest challenges. It was a credit to all the participants to lean on and to support each other.”

With a title in hand after his first season as Lakers head coach, Vogel is enjoying his return to normal life after spending 95 days away from his family. Being on the road is an accepted part of the NBA, but this year was different. Like most coaches and players, Vogel was locked down from mid-March until early summer, when teams began preparing for their long stay at Disney World.

“It’s a really interesting time, to experience that double or nothing,” Vogel said. “Going from being quarantined at home to away from them 24-7 was really a big extreme for me and my family, but at the same time I’m proud it was something we really took in stride.”

Vogel also expressed admiration for the way the league was able to create an atmosphere that remained free from COVID-19 long enough to crown a champion. While Major League Baseball and the NFL have experienced frequent disruptions, no NBA player had to miss a game in Orlando because of the virus. Vogel kept his thermometer and pulse oximeter as souvenirs to remind him of what the league accomplished.

“For something that had never been done before, it was done on a gold-standard level,” he said. “To me, that was the most incredible thing about the bubble: getting that buy-in from 99% of the staff and players. There are things you come away with when you leave, like you felt there was a security blanket when you were there.”

Lakers, Bucks, Sixers Have Interest In Tyrell Terry

  • The Lakers, Bucks, and Sixers are among the teams displaying interest in Stanford’s Tyrell Terry, according to Wasserman.


Clippers Interested In Rajon Rondo

The Clippers have interest in signing veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and are expected to pursue him when free agency opens, sources tell Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

Rondo holds a minimum-salary player option worth about $2.69MM for the 2020/21 season, but the point guard is expected to opt out and seek a raise after playing a key role in helping the Lakers win their 17th championship.

Having returned from a broken thumb during the second round vs. Houston, Rondo averaged 8.9 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.3 RPG, and 1.4 SPG in 16 games (24.7 MPG) off the bench. He even provided some reliable outside shooting, knocking down 40.0% of 3.1 three-point attempts per game during the postseason.

The Lakers are “naturally” determined to re-sign Rondo following his impressive playoff showing, but their L.A. rivals are eager to upgrade their point guard position, Stein notes (via Twitter).

Multiple reports in September indicated that the Clippers will likely target a play-making point guard this offseason, and Rondo would certainly fit that bill. The opportunity to hurt the defending champions by stealing away an important part of their rotation likely appeals to the Clips as well.

The Lakers will hold Rondo’s Early Bird rights, giving the team the ability to offer him a starting salary worth up to approximately $10MM (105% of the league-average salary in the previous season), though contracts signed using the Early Bird exception must run for at least two years, without a second-year option.

The Clippers, meanwhile, could have the full mid-level exception available, depending on what happens with some of their own free agents. The MLE projects to be worth over $9MM, so that would give the club plenty of spending flexibility to make a run at Rondo.

Pelinka Hopes To Find Another Star For AD

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka hopes to not only retain Anthony Davis for the long haul but also pair him with a young superstar in those future years, he told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on a recent podcast (hat tip to Donny McHenry of Davis is expected to re-sign — at least in the short term — with the Lakers, even if he declines his $28.75MM player option.

Pacific Notes: Green, Ayton, Oubre, Lue

Lakers guard Danny Green is confident the team is capable of repeating as NBA champions during the 2020/21 season, Adam Zagoria of writes. 

Los Angeles is coming off its first championship since 2010 with superstar performances from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, plus noteworthy production from rotation players such as Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso.

“For sure, I think we can definitely get one more for sure,” Green said. “It’s going to be tough because we have so many free agents, with 10 guys that are free agents. Trying to bring everybody back and reconstruct the contracts, it’s going to be difficult, but when you have the nucleus of LeBron and AD — if they bring back AD — that’s pretty much what you need. You don’t need much else around them.”

Among the players set to enter unrestricted free agency are Howard and Markieff Morris, with Rondo and Caldwell-Pope expected to decline their player options and do the same. The others include Davis (who’s expected to re-sign), JaVale McGee ($4.2MM player option), Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith and Jared Dudley. Avery Bradley holds a $5MM player option for next season.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Suns center Deandre Ayton could prove to be the ultimate difference-maker for the team next season and beyond, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. Ayton, who turned 22 in July, averaged 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 38 games last season. He was the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
  • Rankin examines five potential trade destinations for Kelly Oubre Jr. in a separate article for The Arizona Republic. Oubre, who’s on an expiring contract for 2020/21, could be used in trade conversations going forward — much like he was around the trade deadline last February. Oubre averaged a career-high 18.7 points per game on 45% shooting this past season.
  • Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times examines how the Clippers are relying on Tyronn Lue‘s ‘Midas touch’ going forward. Lue, who is highly respected by players and officials across the league, was recently promoted to head coach with the team after serving as an assistant last season. “I’ve never found anyone that doesn’t just rave about Ty Lue the person,” one league executive told Greif.

Western Notes: Lakers, Silas, Weaver, Nuggets

The Lakers will have to navigate a difficult and tricky offseason in order to construct a long-term dynasty, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes.

Los Angeles is coming off its first championship in a decade and could have nine players entering free agency this year. While LeBron James and Anthony Davis naturally played the biggest roles in the team’s title run, having a deep bench and productive supporting cast remains essential for the club’s chances of competing in the future.

“This is a historic franchise and to be a part of this is something that I’ll be able to talk about and my grandkids and kids will be able to talk about: Their paw-paw played for the Los Angeles Lakers,” James said after winning his fourth ring. “It’s like playing for the Yankees and winning or playing for the Cowboys and winning a Super Bowl, or the Patriots. It’s like playing for the Red Sox. So to be able to win with a historical franchise is something that, no matter if your mind wavers away, you can always remember what you’re doing it for.”

Assuming Davis re-signs with the franchise, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka will be tasked with filling the holes around his two superstars in order to keep the team at the forefront of contention next season.

There’s more from the Western Conference tonight:

  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman lists five things to know about Stephen Silas, a possible candidate for the Thunder‘s vacant head coaching job. Silas has served in various scouting and assistant coaching roles since 2000, spending the past two seasons as an assistant with the Mavericks under Rick Carlisle.
  • Mussato examines five things to know about Will Weaver in a separate article for The Oklahoman. Like Silas, Weaver is also a candidate for the Thunder’s head coaching vacancy. The 36-year-old coached the Sydney Kings of the National Basketball League last season and also holds experience as an assistant with the Sixers (2013-16) and Nets (2016-18).
  • Ryan S. Clark of The Athletic examines the rebranding of the Nuggets’ arena, which was formally re-named from Pepsi Center to Ball Arena. Kroenke Sports & Entertainment announced a naming rights partnership with the Ball Corporation last week, explaining the new arena name change.

Phil Handy Suggest Desire To Stay In LA

Despite some rumors linking him to Brooklyn in recent weeks, Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy suggested this week in a conversation with Jason Dumas of KRON4 News (Twitter link) that he intends to remain with the 2020 NBA champs.

“I am a Los Angeles Laker. What’s next for me is waiting for (Lakers head coach) Frank Vogel to pick up the phone and… give me what my next directives are,” Handy said.

Lakers Submit Request To Remove Deng’s Salary From Cap

The Lakers have submitted a request to the NBA in an attempt to remove Luol Deng‘s remaining cap hits from their team salary for the next two seasons, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Deng agreed to a buyout with the Lakers before the start of the 2018/19 season. The team stretched his remaining salary across multiple seasons at that point and is still on the hook for cap charges worth $5MM apiece in 2020/21 and ’21/22.

If a player suffers a career-ending injury or illness, the NBA will typically permit his team to remove his remaining salary from its cap after he has been waived, though the player still receives that salary. Chris Bosh, Nikola Pekovic, Mirza Teletovic, Omer Asik, and Timofey Mozgov are some of the players whose cap hits have been removed from teams’ books in recent years due to career-ending ailments.

It’s not at all certain that the Lakers will receive any cap relief for Deng, however. Following his buyout in 2018, the veteran forward signed with Minnesota and played 22 games for the Timberwolves during the ’18/19 season before retiring last fall. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Deng didn’t suffer an injury during his Lakers stint that eventually ended his career, but it will be difficult to prove that, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter).

If the Lakers’ request is granted, it would give the franchise some added flexibility during the next two offseasons for roster moves. An extra $5MM of wiggle room could make it more viable for the team to retain players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo while still using its mid-level exception, as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report points out (via Twitter).

Lakers, Pistons May Resume Derrick Rose Trade Talks

The Lakers talked to the Pistons about a Derrick Rose trade before the February deadline, and a deal is more likely now that the offseason has arrived, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.

The teams never got close to reaching an agreement, Deveney adds. L.A. offered Alex Caruso and a draft pick, but Detroit was asking for Kyle Kuzma. He adds that even if the Lakers were willing to part with Kuzma, the Pistons may not have said yes. Rose wanted to stay in Detroit, and the front office believed Rose’s trade value would rise after the season ended.

The 32-year-old guard is under contract for one more year at $7.68MM. He averaged 18.1 points and 5.6 assists in 50 games this season, mostly as a reserve.

“I think both sides were reluctant when they went into in January, February,” an unidentified general manager told Deveney. “I don’t think the Lakers wanted to make a major move because they thought they could do something on the buyout market. And I don’t think the Pistons wanted to make a major move because Derrick was happy there. You know, the Lakers wanted to be involved in case the Clippers got involved or someone else, the Bucks or the Nuggets, whoever. So there was interest but not too serious. Now, everything has shifted a little. Now, they’re both in a position to where a deal is much more likely.”

The Lakers addressed their backcourt depth by signing Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith, but neither saw much playing time in Orlando. The team is in need of guard help again as Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are both opting out of their deals for next season. Deveney notes that Rondo may return if he’s willing to accept a one-year contract, but Caldwell-Pope wants a longer deal that the Lakers may not be willing to offer.

Detroit has taken steps toward rebuilding since those winter trade talks and may be more comfortable with giving up Rose. The Pistons traded Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers at the deadline and reached buyout agreements with Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris.

Deveney believes the Lakers may be more inclined to move Kuzma now because he’s headed for restricted free agency next offseason. The team is preserving cap flexibility for the 2021 offseason to potentially add another impact player, and giving Kuzma a rookie-scale extension would interfere with that plan.

Community Shootaround: How Many More Rings For LeBron?

Last summer, it appeared LeBron James might have to be content with three championship rings. He was 34, well past the prime for most NBA players, and was coming off the most serious injury of his career. He was also sitting out the playoffs for the first time since the 2004/05 season.

Everything looks different now, of course. LeBron and the Lakers tore through the competition in Orlando, being pushed past five games only by the Heat. James averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists during the Finals and became the second-oldest player ever to win Finals MVP honors.

A fourth championship ring enhances his place in history and gives him a chance to join even more elite company. Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan are among the players with five. Michael Jordan, whom James is frequently compared to, has six, as do Scottie Pippen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Cousy.

The Lakers look capable of winning multiple titles. Anthony Davis turned out to be a perfect complement for James and may be at the peak of his career at age 27. The rest of the roster is a mix of youth and veterans who all fit well into their prescribed roles. Avery Bradley, who opted out of the restart, seems likely to return next season, adding another strong defensive presence to the backcourt.

The biggest wild card is how long James can remain at an elite level. He averaged 34.6 minutes per game this season, which is the lowest of his career, but not by much. James led the league in assists for the first time at 10.2 per game, while adding 25.3 points and 7.8 rebounds. Remarkably, his production per 36 minutes has barely changed from a decade ago.

James is under contract for one more season and holds a $41MM player option for 2021/22. There’s no certainty beyond that, but he hasn’t even hinted at retirement. The Lakers will try to maximize his title opportunities for as long as he’s on the roster and have shown a willingness to spend whatever is necessary.

We want to get your opinion. How many more titles do you believe James will win before retirement? Please leave your answers in the comment section.