Lakers Rumors

L.A. Notes: Westbrook, Howard, THT, Mann, Batum

Before squaring off against Paul George in Friday’s Lakers-Clippers matchup, Russell Westbrook spoke to the media about the way their partnership with the Thunder ended, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. They developed a friendship in Oklahoma City that still exists, and Westbrook was one of the reasons that George decided to re-sign with the Thunder in 2018.

According to ESPN and The Athletic, Westbrook approached free agent Kawhi Leonard the following summer about possibly teaming up in L.A., with Leonard signing and Westbrook being traded. Leonard reportedly took that idea and presented to George, which resulted in them both joining the Clippers.

When asked about the situation Thursday, Westbrook challenged the media to reveal the source of the report, then cast doubt on its veracity.

“That’s a lesson for all y’all,” he said. “Just always remember, just because somebody writes something … you don’t know where they got it from. That’s the truth. That’s the problem. That’s how rumors and things get started.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Lakers used their 12th starting lineup in 24 games Friday, with Dwight Howard and Talen Horton-Tucker replacing DeAndre Jordan and Avery Bradley, notes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. It’s a clear upgrade based on performance, Buha adds, but the group was minus-7 in its 11 minutes on the court. “Dwight changed the game for us in Sacramento,” Anthony Davis said. “He was really good for us, and Coach wanted to go back to that. And I think he played well tonight as well. Protecting the paint, rebounding, setting screens, doing everything he’s supposed to do.”
  • Clippers swingman Terance Mann tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that the two-year, $22MM extension he received in training camp was meaningful because of how hard it was to get NBA scouts to notice him. Mann took part in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and the G League Elite Camp, then received a last-minute invitation to the draft combine.
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is optimistic about Nicolas Batum, who has missed the past seven games while in health and safety protocols, tweets Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “I don’t know (when he’ll return),” Lue said. “… but it was good seeing him back in the building, I can tell you that. It’s getting close and we definitely need him.”

James: Protocols "Handled Poorly"

Lakers superstar LeBron James returned to action on Friday after clearing health and safety protocols and felt the process was “handled poorly,” Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. James entered protocols on Tuesday, missing a game, then was cleared on Thursday after a series of negative tests.

Lakers Notes: Ariza, Bradley, Howard, Jordan

Lakers forward Trevor Ariza participated in his first non-contact practice since preseason ankle surgery on Thursday, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Coach Frank Vogel says Ariza will need a “build-up” period before he’ll play. Ariza was projected as a starter after signing a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum.

  • Lakers guard Avery Bradley will not need surgery on his sprained right thumb, Bill Oram of The Athletic tweets. Bradley will be available to play on Friday but he’ll require a splint to protect the injury. Vogel is unsure whether he’ll play Bradley or to give him more time to recover.
  • It’ll be one veteran center or the other in the foreseeable future for the Lakers, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets. Vogel plans to use either Dwight Howard or DeAndre Jordan on a game-by-game basis. Howard will get the start against the Clippers on Friday, so Jordan probably won’t play.

LeBron James Clears Protocols, Eligible To Play

LeBron James has been cleared to exit the league’s health and safety protocols after producing two consecutive negative PCR tests conducted more than 24 hours apart, NBA Communications tweets.

James was placed in the protocols on Tuesday after a series of tests produced conflicting results, including an initial positive test on Monday. Additional tests showed that he’s not positive for the COVID-19 virus.

James will be able to play in the Lakers’ game against the Clippers on Friday.

The NBA statement gave further details on James’ tests: The sample that produced the initial positive test was re-run twice and returned one negative and one positive result on two different PCR instruments.  As a result, James underwent additional testing on Tuesday, with one test returning a negative result and a second test producing a clinically inconclusive result.

According to Dave McNemin of ESPN (Twitter link), James has had eight tests since Saturday, all of which have come back negative. His test in Sacramento was a false positive.

Los Angeles Notes: Vogel, Davis, LeBron, Ibaka

Amidst speculation about his job security, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel lit a fire under his team on Tuesday, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic.

The Lakers trailed by nine at half, but dominated the second half 67-33 after Vogel gave a fiery halftime speech, leading to the team’s largest margin of victory of the season, a 117-92 win over the Kings. Vogel said the speech came out of necessity.

Every now and then the coach has to light a fire under his team,” Vogel said. “And today was one of those games.”

Dwight Howard said his coach told the team that its effort wasn’t good enough.

His whole point was, ‘Stop talking about wanting to win a championship and not giving the correct effort,'” Howard said, per Oram.

Here’s more from L.A.:

  • Anthony Davis is finding his voice as a leader with LeBron James sidelined with COVID-19, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “It’s like I’m being tested with my leadership,” Davis told Yahoo Sports following Tuesday’s game. “‘Bron has been out with injuries and now also with the COVID situation, so it’s a good test for me. It’s a good experience for me to lead these guys and the good thing about it, I have other vets on my side who’ve been in the game for a while to help me through the obstacles. It’s a good test, not just for our team, but for me to lead these guys.”
  • Speaking of James, Davis said he’s doing well and is asymptomatic so far, tweets Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group.
  • Veteran big man Serge Ibaka, recently returned from back surgery, gave the Clippers‘ offense a boost as they battle through a slump, writes Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group. Ibaka had 13 points and six rebounds Monday against the Pelicans, shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 from deep. The Clips could really use more of that type of output, as they currently rank 25th in the league in offensive rating. The Clippers are 2-5 in their last seven games and 11-10 on the season.

Lakers Notes: Ariza, Vogel, Bradley, Westbrook

As Lakers forward Trevor Ariza continues to recover from an October 6 scope of his right ankle, he will remain unavailable for Los Angeles for the immediate future, per Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register (Twitter link). Goon notes that an Ariza reincorporation into lineups for L.A. would help the club use big man Anthony Davis at the center position more frequently.

Head coach Frank Vogel said that Ariza remains “a ways away” from suiting up for Los Angeles, Goon writes. Without an explicit timeline for Ariza’s 2021/22 season debut, the 6’8″ veteran will soon be re-assessed by team doctors when he officially has been out for eight weeks, writes Mike Trudell of Lakers.com.

“I don’t have a definite date or anything like that,” Ariza said. “It’s all on when the doctors clear or the way my body feels and responds to more loading, more work. That’s kind of the gauge on when I’ll be able to be out there safely.”

There’s more out of the soon-to-be-Crypto.com Arena:

  • With the Lakers having sputtered to an 11-11 start, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated contends that blaming head coach Frank Vogel for the team’s problems is short-sighted. The team’s significant roster churn appears to be the prime culprit. The Lakers’ main errors this season, Mannix writes, appear to have been the front office’s trade for pricey former All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and the decision to let guards Alex Caruso and Dennis Schröder depart in free agency.
  • An MRI has revealed that Lakers combo guard Avery Bradley has suffered a UCL sprain in his right thumb, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com. As a result of the injury, Bradley will miss tonight’s contest against the Kings. The 30-year-old has started 16 games of the 21 games he has played for the Lakers this year, averaging 5.0 PPG and 2.5 RPG over 22.2 MPG.
  • New Lakers starting point guard Russell Westbrook has put up typically impressive, albeit inefficient, counting stats during his first two months with his hometown club, but Malika Andrews, Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins of ESPN’s NBA Today (video link) wonder if L.A. might already be regretting its decision to go all-in for the aging vet.

LeBron James Enters COVID-19 Protocols

6:24pm: Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets that James will be sidelined for at least 10 days unless he tests negative for COVID-19 twice within a 24-hour span. Though it’s not confirmed, this timeline generally indicates a positive test.


5:39pm: Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James looks set to miss even more time in this young 2021/22 NBA season. Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that James has entered the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and will be unavailable for Tuesday’s contest against the Kings.

With this absence tonight (and potentially more to come, depending on his coronavirus testing status over the ensuing days and weeks), James will have now been sidelined for 12 of the Lakers’ 23 contests already this season, and it’s still only November.

The 36-year-old future Hall of Famer has put up gaudy numbers when available this year, his 19th in the league. He is averaging 25.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, and 5.2 RPG on .484/.344/.755 shooting across 11 games this season. The shorthanded Lakers are also without combo guard Avery Bradley and forward Trevor Ariza tonight.

Entering coronavirus protocols does not necessarily mean James, who is vaccinated, has tested positive for COVID-19. It does, however, at least indicate exposure to someone else who registered a positive test. Tim Bontemps of ESPN notes (via Twitter) that, should a player have a confirmed positive test, they will be sidelined for at least 10 days. During that timeline, the Lakers are set to play only four games, though three of those will be against playoff-caliber clubs in the Clippers, Celtics and Grizzlies.

Plenty Of Questions For Lakers After 21 Games

The Kingscoaching change has provided a new opportunity for Marvin Bagley III, writes James Ham of Kings Beat. Bagley was out of the rotation under former coach Luke Walton and reportedly refused to check into a game earlier this month. His role has increased under Alvin Gentry, who gave him 35 minutes in Friday’s triple-overtime victory against the Lakers.

  • The Lakers have plenty of questions after the first quarter of the season, including Frank Vogel’s job status and whether it’s time to panic over the roster following a 10-11 start, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Barnes, Holmes, Klay, Bridges

The Lakers are still contemplating how often to use LeBron James at center this season, Harrison Faigen of SB Nation’s Silver Screen and Roll writes. Los Angeles has seen success with James at the five, albeit in a small sample size, but the team doesn’t want to overextend its 36-year-old superstar.

“It’s something we talk about,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “It’s something we consider. But you have to measure what that does for his workload… and whether that’s something that we just want to use in small doses when needed, or if it’s going to become part of us on a regular basis.”

James has played positions 1-through-4 at different points of his career. Having the ability to also play the five is unprecedented, but it’s something he may need to do when Anthony Davis sits this season. Having lost to the Kings on Saturday, the Lakers dropped to seventh in the Western Conference (10-11).

Here are some other notes from the Pacific:

  • Kings forward Harrison Barnes and center Richaun Holmes both missed Saturday’s game, but interim coach Alvin Gentry is confident the duo won’t be sidelined for long, James Ham of ESPN 1320 tweets. Barnes is day-to-day with a sprained right foot, while Holmes is dealing with a non-COVID-related illness.
  • Klay Thompson had a vulnerable moment after the Warriors‘ victory over Portland on Friday, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic writes. Thompson was seen sitting on the bench once the game ended for 35 minutes, clearly wanting to be part of the team’s success. He last played in an NBA game during the 2019 Finals, but he appears to be moving closer toward a return. He suffered torn ACL in 2019 and tore his Achilles in 2020 during a pick-up game.
  • Suns forward Mikal Bridges is making an early case for Defensive Player of the Year, Evan Sidery of BasketballNews.com opines. Bridges has provided a serious defensive boost for Phoenix, who ranks second in the Western Conference at 16-3. The team has also won 15 straight games.

Poll: Will The Lakers Reach Their Projected Win Total?

A little more than a quarter of the way into the season, the Lakers are below .500 again with a 10-11 record.

They lost at home Friday night in triple-overtime against a Sacramento team that had lost eight of its past 10 games. The Kings were without two of their best players, starters Harrison Barnes (foot) and Richaun Holmes (non-COVID illness), per Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee.

The Lakers were up by 13 points in the fourth quarter and led by seven in the first overtime before letting both leads slip away, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook played a combined 150 minutes in the loss, which was the team’s second straight overtime game, and fifth of the season.

The on-court fit of the “big three” has been rough thus far, but Davis thinks a winning streak could be around the corner.

You know, 10-11, I mean, we could go on a 10-game winning streak, 12-game winning streak, now the narrative is different,” Davis said. “You know, 10-game winning streak, we’re 20-11. Now we’ll shut everybody up. But it’s on us. We’re going to have to do it. It’s not just going to be easy.”

Coach Frank Vogel might be on the hot seat despite the team winning a championship a little over a year ago.

Projected rotation pieces Kendrick Nunn (knee) and Trevor Ariza (ankle) have yet to play for Los Angeles this season. Third-year wing Talen Horton-Tucker missed 13 games due to thumb surgery, while LeBron has missed 11 (10 to injury, one to a suspension). The team is 6-4 with James in the lineup and 4-7 without.

However, the Lakers have had a relatively easy schedule, having played 13 home games versus eight away. They’ve already played the Rockets, Spurs, and Thunder twice each, and barely beat the Pistons (they went 5-2 in those games, blowing big leads in both losses to the Thunder).

The season numbers look pretty troubling; the Lakers are 23rd in the league in offensive rating, 20th in defensive rating, and 24th in net rating (-3.0), per Basketball-Reference.

During preseason, we ran our annual Over/Unders for the 2021/22 season. 58.2% of our readers predicted that the Lakers would eclipse their projected win total of 52.5 games. In order to win 53 games, the Lakers would need to finish their remaining 61 games with a 43-18 record — a .705 win percentage.

What do you think? Do you still think the Lakers will win 53-plus games? Vote in our poll, then head to the comments below to share your thoughts!