- Some potential contenders – such as the Lakers – were hoping that the Suns viewed Aron Baynes as a salary dump when they acquired him on draft night and would eventually buy him out, Charania writes. Instead, the veteran center has emerged as a key part of Phoenix’s lineup. Baynes is on an expiring contract and one team executive believes the big man is “positioning himself for well over $10MM per year,” as Charania relays.
The Lakers will be without Avery Bradley for at least a few games. The team announced today in a press release that an MRI on Bradley’s injured right leg revealed a hairline fracture in a non-weight bearing bone. He’ll be re-evaluated in one or two weeks, according to the club.
Bradley initially suffered this injury on November 3 in San Antonio, according to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link), who says an X-ray at the time revealed no fracture. Since the leg was still bothering him, the team conducted a follow-up MRI this week, which showed the hairline fracture.
Outside of Anthony Davis and LeBron James, Bradley has been the Lakers’ most-used player this season, averaging 27.4 minutes per contest. The veteran guard has averaged 9.6 PPG on 48.8% shooting and has typically guarded top opposing perimeter scorers.
The Lakers will host Sacramento tonight before facing Atlanta on Sunday and Oklahoma City on Tuesday and again on Friday. Assuming Bradley’s absence extends beyond to two weeks, he’d also miss games in Memphis (November 23), San Antonio (Nov. 25), and New Orleans (Nov. 27).
After a year on the Sixers‘ bench assisting Brett Brown, Monty Williams went into the offseason as a highly coveted coaching candidate and had meetings with the Suns and Lakers. While the Lakers reportedly had Williams near the top of their wish list, Phoenix ended up hiring him, and the Suns’ coach said that Los Angeles never officially made him an offer, as Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Time relays.
“They didn’t make me an offer, Mr. Sarver [Robert Sarver, the Suns’ owner] made me an offer, so it wasn’t part of my thinking,” Williams said. “I had conversations with the Lakers, they were really gracious. I was humbled to sit down with [Lakers owner] Jeanie Buss and that whole crew but it never came down to that. The Suns offered me a great opportunity and I took it.”
Williams joined Phoenix on a five-year contract and early returns have been promising. The Suns are off to their best start in the Devin Booker era and Anthony Davis, who played under Williams when he was the coach of the Pelicans, was among the few to see this coming.
“The league wasn’t as fast as it is now with the way things have changed,” Davis said. “He always wanted to play fast. He brought guys in who knew the game of basketball who were tough and physical and surrounded Devin Booker with a lot of guys that know how to play the game. So I expected nothing less from him coming in.”
The 2019 offseason won’t be remembered for the fierce battle (or lack thereof) for Williams’ services but it’s turning out to be among the major storylines early in the 2019/20 season. Phoenix has a 6-3 record heading into its matchup with Los Angeles.
“He wanted to be back on the front of the bench and be a head coach,” Davis continued. “He’s proving why he should be there.”
- Anthony Davis is playing through right shoulder pain, an injury he suffered on a missed dunk attempt two weeks ago, Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays. “There’s really never a play I don’t feel it,” Davis said. He hasn’t missed any games due to the injury and that will continue as long as he doesn’t aggravate it, according to Mark Medina of USA Today. “If he can be out there, he’s going to be out there,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to play through pain. We just got to make sure that it’s being done intelligently.”
Prior to the trade deadline last February, with Davis seeking to move out of New Orleans, Johnson and then-Pelicans GM Dell Demps engaged in a serious of discussions with hopes of finalizing a trade to land Davis in Los Angeles. The Lakers never believed Demps was truly looking to accommodate Davis’ request, and Johnson used a noteworthy level of honesty while discussing the matter in his appearance on Fox.
- Despite originally targeting a Sunday return date, Lakers guard Rajon Rondo (calf) will wait to make his season debut, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes (Twitter link). Rondo participated in a workout on Saturday and will work out again on Sunday to ramp up his endurance, Haynes notes. The Lakers have games scheduled this week against the Suns on Tuesday, Warriors on Wednesday and Kings on Friday.
Paul George is almost ready to return to the court after going through his first five-on-five practice yesterday, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Coach Doc Rivers told reporters that George’s debut with the Clippers could come tomorrow against the Raptors, although Wednesday against the Rockets or Thursday against the Pelicans remains more likely.
No matter when it happens, George, who was involved in one of the highest-profile trades of the offseason, is eager to stop rehabbing and start playing. He had surgery on both shoulders shortly after the Thunder were eliminated from last season’s playoffs and has been operating on a limited basis since training camp opened.
“I’m used to being in this rehab stage and knowing what it takes to get my body prepared,” George said, referring to a broken leg he suffered in 2014. “It’s a long process. But with me going through it and having a drastic injury in my leg, I know what to expect. I know what pressure to put on myself and what pressure not to put on myself.”
There’s more from Los Angeles:
- Monday’s game will mark Kawhi Leonard‘s first meeting with the Raptors since leading the team to the NBA title in June, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Leonard said he meets a lot of Canadians in Southern California and they thank him for bringing a championship to the country. “The guys, the journey,” Leonard responded when asked what he will remember from his season in Toronto. “Also the country. The city was amazing. And it’s just so much, you can keep going on and talking about it.”
- Rajon Rondo is getting closer to his season debut for the Lakers, but it won’t come today against Toronto, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The veteran guard, who is recovering from a calf injury, went through a full workout Saturday and will participate in another practice today to help build his endurance.
- Lakers center JaVale McGee won’t complain about a reduced role as long as the team keeps winning, relays Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. McGee is playing 25% fewer minutes and taking half as many shots as he did last season, with much of his time going to Dwight Howard. “Being on Golden State set me on (a path), let me have a mindset to where I’m not worried about minutes,” McGee said. However, he added, “If we’re losing and this is happening, then it’s a different situation.”
The Lakers should get another injured player back this week as veteran point guard Rajon Rondo is aiming to make his season debut against the Raptors on Sunday, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
Rondo, 33, has missed L.A.’s first eight games this season due to a calf injury. Once he returns, the Lakers will be at full strength as Kyle Kuzma returned to the lineup one week ago. The thing to watch will be how Rondo is integrated back into the regular rotation.
After the Lakers’ opening night loss to the Clippers, head coach Frank Vogel indicated that Rondo would see 25-30 minutes as the starting point guard upon his return. However, the Lakers have gone undefeated since then and LeBron James, the team’s primary point guard in Rondo’s absence, is leading the league with 11.1 APG.
Additionally, Rondo — once considered an elite defender — has regressed in that department and was a major weakness on that end for the Lakers last season. Rondo has also never been considered a great shooter, which does not bode well given the Lakers’ lack of strong perimeter shooting in the starting lineup.
The 2008 NBA champion with the Celtics will likely need to prove he can hold up his end defensively before L.A. trusts him with the workload Vogel mentioned weeks ago. For his career, the four-time All-Star has averages of 10.4 PPG and 8.5 APG.
“If I’m hurt, I don’t play. If not, I’m playing,” James said to ESPN after L.A.’s Lakers’ 95-80 victory against the Heat Friday night. “That’s what has always been my motto.”
James, who will turn 35 in December, is in the midst of another characteristically strong season. He’s averaging 26.1 PPG and an NBA-best 11.1 APG for the Western Conference-leading Lakers. However, he is also coming off a season in which he suffered his first major injury, a torn groin that sidelined him for several months.
With fellow California superstar Kawhi Leonard regularly missing games for “load management,” there has been a lot of talk this fall about players sitting games despite being healthy enough to play. The Clippers were, however, fined $50K for providing conflicting statements on Leonard’s health status.
James refused to address Leonard or any other player and their plans to stay healthy for the duration of a season.
“I’m healthy, I play,” he said. “I probably got a good 45 years to not play basketball.”
- Dwight Howard has emerged a legitimate candidate for the Sixth Man award, Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype writes. Not only has Howard been a force with the Lakers’ second unit, he’s also blended surprisingly well with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, according to statistical measures, Kalbrosky adds. Howard, working on a non-guaranteed contract, is averaging 6.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 2.1 BPG in 21.7 MPG.
Over his last few NBA stops, Lakers center Dwight Howard earned a reputation for rubbing teammates the wrong way, in part because of his “poorly-timed playfulness” that led some people in league circles to believe he lacked professionalism, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Since arriving in Los Angeles this summer though, Howard has been all business, with noticeable changes to his “dedication and demeanor.” As the veteran center tells Amick, that new approach has been deliberate.
“I’m the same person. I love to have fun, love to enjoy life. I just separate it,” Howard said. “There’s a time and a place for everything. I’m here for business. When I go home, that’s when I can be who I want to be. But right now, when I put on that jersey and when I come in this locker room, it’s about the Lakers. And that’s it.”
Howard, who made a strong early impression by studying game film with head coach Frank Vogel on the Lakers’ flight back from China last month, is also off to a strong start on the court. He has averaged 6.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 2.1 BPG in a part-time role through seven games, with a league-high .786 FG%.
- After being held to 19 and 16 minutes in his first two games this season, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma had a more lenient minutes limit on Tuesday against the Bulls, writes Eric Woodyard of ESPN.com. Although Kuzma only ended up playing 21 minutes, Vogel is prepared to increase that figure going forward. “To me, it’s not so much what his limitations are,” Vogel said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s really about rhythm and timing and conditioning, for me, in terms of what his minutes end up being. But he’s allowed to play 26 now.”