Lakers Rumors

Restart Notes: Scheduling, NBPA, Testing, TV Deals

Although the National Basketball Players Association is expected to approve the NBA’s return-to-play plan, a long list of financial, competitive, and scheduling details need to be negotiated for the 2020/21 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). As Wojnarowski details, most of the new dates shared and/or confirmed today – such as August 25 for the draft lottery and October 15 for the draft – are still considered tentative for the time being.

Meanwhile, Wojnarowski passed along several more “preliminary expectations” on how the schedule will work this summer in Orlando. According to Woj (via Twitter), there will be a 16-day regular season, with five or six games played each day. Each team is expected to play one back-to-back set within its eight regular season games, while the NBA Finals will feature games every other day.

Here’s more on the NBA’s restart:

  • NBPA executive director Michele Roberts admitted she was caught off guard by the NBA’s aggressive turnaround plan between this season and next, writes Wojnarowski. The league is tentative targeting November 10 for opening training camps for next season, with December 1 tentatively penciled in to be opening night. The NBA Finals may not end until October 12, meaning a couple teams could get less than a month off. “I was surprised to see it,” Roberts told ESPN. As Woj notes, the NBPA will have to sign off on changes to the league’s calendar, so those dates aren’t set in stone yet.
  • Tim Bontemps and Brian Windhorst of ESPN have published a helpful primer on the NBA’s return, sharing details on where games will actually be played at Disney (The Arena, HP Field House, and Visa Athletic Center) and how often the league plans to test individuals inside the bubble for COVID-19 (daily, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne).
  • In a wide-ranging look at the NBA’s restart, Sam Amick of The Athletic cites sources who say that the eight games teams will play before the postseason this summer will all count toward those clubs’ regional sports network TV deals. That’s significant from a financial perspective — Amick notes that the Lakers make approximately $1.5MM per game from their deal with Spectrum SportsNet, while even the lower-end deals net about $200K per game.

L.A. Notes: West, Caruso, Davis, Rivers

If the NBA decides to eliminate conferences for this year’s playoffs, it could clear the way for a Finals matchup between the Lakers and Clippers, which Hall-of-Famer Jerry West believes would be the “ultimate competition,” relays Melissa Rohlin of Sports Illustrated. West, a Clippers consultant who spent decades with the Lakers as a player, coach and executive, discussed the possibility during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show.

“I think in Los Angeles, they have so many Laker fans. My goodness,” West said. “The enormous success that the Lakers have had over the years, they are a really good team now, two of the best players we’ve seen in a long time on one team. I think it would be incredible for the people in the west. I’m not sure how that would go over for the teams back east who want to see their respective teams get an opportunity to play.”

West would like to see all teams play nine or 10 more games before the playoffs begin. He also supports having two bubble sites, putting all the Western teams in Las Vegas and the Eastern teams in Orlando.

There’s more from L.A.:

  • Lakers guard Alex Caruso believes the rivalry between the two franchises is more important to the fans than the players. He discussed the dynamics involved during an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe (hat tip to Silver Screen and Roll). “That’s not to diminish how big of a rivalry the battle for L.A. is, just in a sense of history and how long it’s been a Clippers vs. Lakers thing,” Caruso said. “But them being as good as they are this year doesn’t add any more, I don’t know … I feel bad saying it because it’s obviously one of the biggest matchups and names in the game playing against each other, but I’m sort of robotic in the sense of ‘this is another game.’ I know what they’re gonna bring, and we gotta know what we’re gonna bring to prepare for it.”
  • Although Anthony Davis‘ preference to play power forward is well known, the Lakers will probably need him at center in the most important moments of the playoffs, writes Pete Zayas of The Athletic.
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers has been “Doc on demand” as a motivational speaker during the hiatus, notes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers’ appearances have included virtual meetings with three NFL teams, the Bears, Rams and Colts.

O’Connor’s Latest: GM Survey, Roster Expansion, Lottery, More

On Thursday, the NBA held a call with its 30 teams’ heads of basketball operations – general managers and those with similar titles – to discuss a potential return to play, as well as the results of the survey the league sent those GMs earlier this month.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, half of the league’s GMs voted to proceed directly to the playoffs without playing any more regular season games. And just over half of the league’s GMs were in favor or reseeding playoff teams one through 16, regardless of conference. Meanwhile, support for a play-in pool similar to the World Cup’s group stage was lukewarm — approximately 75% of GMs voted for a play-in tournament, with just 25% or so supporting the play-in pool concept.

As O’Connor notes, the call was about gathering information rather than committing to a specific plan. The NBA still has a Board of Governors call scheduled to happen today, and even then, talks are expected to continue through the weekend without a formal vote on a return to play quite yet, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter).

As for which plans received more support in the GM survey, the NBA is aware that the results, in many cases, reflect a team’s particular interests — for instance, the Lakers and Bucks supported a play-in tournament over a play-in pool, since the latter would result in a more challenging path to the second round.

“Adam isn’t taking the results seriously,” one team executive told O’Connor earlier in the week. “Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”

Here’s more from O’Connor:

  • General managers “unanimously” favor the idea of expanding rosters for the postseason, sources tell The Ringer.
  • According to O’Connor, the NBA’s preference is for no group workouts to take place until teams arrive in Orlando, since the league will be in a better position to implement its own safety measures and COVID-19 testing procedures there. However, teams are pushing back against that idea, arguing that their players need more of a ramp-up period, and multiple executives expect the NBA to relent, O’Connor writes.
  • Teams on Thursday’s call had questions about how the draft lottery would work in the event of a play-in tournament or other tweaks to the usual playoff format. There are no clear answers yet on that issue, per The Ringer.
  • According to O’Connor, every source he has spoken to this week believes that the NBA would prefer to have at least some of its teams stay home. The league is prioritizing health and safety – ie. minimizing the amount of people in its “bubble” – over fulfilling certain regional television contracts.

L.A. Notes: Lakers, Green, Clippers, Morris

As the top-seeded team in the Western Conference when the NBA went on hiatus in March, the Lakers have a vested interest in what form the league will take upon its return this summer. With that in mind, Brett Dawson, Bill Oram, and Brian and Andy Kamenetzky of The Athletic explore how each of the proposed playoff formats would impact the Lakers and discuss which ones the team might favor.

The Athletic’s panel agrees that the Lakers, who are already losing home-court advantage – assuming the NBA resumes play in Orlando with no fans in attendance – would be opposed to a World Cup-style, play-in pool, which would increase the likelihood of a top team being knocked out early in the postseason.

However, The Athletic’s writers think L.A. would be all over the idea of reseeding the playoff teams one through 16, regardless of conference. In that scenario, the Lakers wouldn’t have to get past the Clippers to get to the NBA Finals — they’d instead be pitted against the Jazz or Rockets in round two and likely the Nuggets or Raptors in the semi-finals.

Here’s more on the NBA’s Los Angeles teams:

  • Lakers guard Danny Green has stayed busy during the NBA’s layoff in part due to his role as the team’s union representative, writes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. It’s a responsibility Green takes seriously, having kept his teammates up to date on the latest discussions between the NBA and NBPA. “I care about the game of basketball and the next generation and want to make it better for them,” Green said of his NBPA role. “I’ll be, in the future, the old guy. It’s a fraternity you gotta make sure that it comes full circle where everybody is getting taken care of.”
  • Jovan Buha and John Hollinger of The Athletic dig into the Clippers‘ outlook beyond this season, with Hollinger arguing that retaining Marcus Morris should be a top priority for the club after surrendering a first-round pick for him at the trade deadline. The team also figures to try to re-sign Montrezl Harrell, though Hollinger notes that there are a number of potential center alternatives on the free agent market if the Clips get outbid for Harrell.
  • In case you missed it a few weeks ago, we previewed the Lakers‘ and Clippers‘ salary cap outlook for the 2020/21 season, taking a closer look at how much spending flexibility each team will have this offseason.

LeBron Holding Limited Home Practices, Rondo Excited To Return

With a potential return to NBA activity on the horizon, Lakers All-Star LeBron James has recently been conducting private workouts in a home court, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (Twitter link). According to Charania, James has played with up to two teammates per session, but Charania maintains that “all the (necessary) safety measures have been taken, I’m told, in these private workouts.”

The Lakers were having one of the best seasons in the NBA when league play was paused in March due to the spread of the pandemic. Led by All-Star starters James and Anthony Davis, the squad currently boasts a 49-14 record, good for the top seed in the Western Conference.

  • Brett Dawson, Bill Oram and the Kamenetzkys of The Athletic examines how the Lakers are being impacted by the extended season suspension. On May 16, the Lakers reopened their practice facility, the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo. The team is allowing its players to access the facility while respecting pandemic-imposed restrictions. The Lakers’ older veteran players (including James) may struggle to get back into game shape, the authors speculate.
  • During the NBA season intermission, Lakers bench guard Rajon Rondo was actively supporting the community in his childhood home town of Louisville, Kentucky, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The 2008 NBA champion has recently returned to Los Angeles and is staying in touch with his Lakers teammates over Zoom workouts. “We are still training like we are coming back to make a run for it,” Rondo said.

Jared Dudley Explains How Proposed ‘Bubble’ Would Work

Assuming the NBA can resume its season, the league appears to be leaning strongly toward doing so in one or two centralized “bubble” locations, where players and teams will stay and play their games for two or three months. Discussing that scenario during a video conference call on Wednesday, Lakers forward Jared Dudley explained that players and others inside the bubble wouldn’t be forced into quarantine during their time there.

“You will be allowed to leave,” Dudley said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “Now just because you leave, if we’re going to give you that leeway, if you come back with corona, you can’t play.”

[RELATED: NBA Discussing Possibility Of July Return]

As Dudley noted – citing discussions with commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts – the plan is for frequent COVID-19 testing to take place within that bubble, which Silver has referred to as a “campus”-like environment in which players can spend time at hotels, gyms, and dining areas. However, the veteran forward suspects that not every player will be satisfied to remain within that limited space for the duration of the season.

“When you’re dealing with 300 different players — if you’ve seen (The Last Dance), every team’s got a (Dennis) Rodman. He just doesn’t have green and blue hair,” Dudley said. “There’s always someone who’s outside the box, who does that, takes the risk and says, ‘Hey, listen, man, I’m healthy, and I feel good.'”

Still, Dudley doesn’t think there are many players who would take that risk, pointing out that contracting the coronavirus during an outside excursion would force the player out of action for at least a couple weeks and would put his teammates at risk. As such, there will be “added pressure” not to do so. Dudley also believes that individual teams, like his Lakers, would impress upon their players that they don’t want them to leave, even if the NBA doesn’t explicitly prevent it.

“Bron, AD and all the top guys we have, we’ll be wrapping them in a bubble and not letting them go anywhere,” Dudley said. “You’ll have that be a team rule. Now, it won’t be a league, an NBA rule, but you’d want to say, ‘Listen, guys, we’ve come too far. We’re going to put our family on hold. … It’s going to be hard for two months, but it’s something we have to sacrifice.'”

As we relayed on Wednesday, Walt Disney World – near Orlando – has emerged as a “clear frontrunner” to host a potential NBA return. McMenamin notes within his report that ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe have heard the league is considering a two-site format which would also include Las Vegas.

LeBron James Talks Michael Jordan, Cowboys’ Interest

The LeBron JamesMichael Jordan debate will continue raging among basketball fans, media, and those close to the game for years, but the Lakers star would rather think about other things — like playing alongside Air Jordan.

“Me personally, the way I play the game — team first — I feel like my best assets work perfectly with Mike,” James said (as Brian Windhorst of relays). “Mike is an assassin. When it comes to playing the game of basketball, scoring the way he scored the ball, [then] my ability to pass, my ability to read the game plays and plays and plays in advance.”

James has been watching The Last Dance and admitted that it inspires him. James said he could envision the two superstars finding success together on the court.

“I saw the things (Scottie Pippen) was able to do with Mike. I just think it would’ve been a whole nother level,” James said. “Pip was one of my favorite players … It would’ve been a whole other level with me being a point forward, with me being that point forward alongside of him during those Chicago runs.”

The three-time NBA champ also touched on his time playing pickup with Jordan years ago. James first got a chance to play with the Space Jam star as an 18-year-old after signing his deal with Nike.

“We used to play around 9 p.m. The camp would end … and we would stay along with the college kids that he would invite,” James said. “We would get a good-ass run in for about an hour, an hour (and) 15. I was on the same team with MJ, and we didn’t lose a game.”

James grew up a Bulls fan, watching Jordan. He also grew up a Cowboys fan, watching the NFL squad, and he considered switching sports, akin to Mike’s baseball stint, back in 2011, as we passed along earlier today on Pro Football Rumors. Dallas even had a contract ready for James during the NBA’s lockout, but the Akron native opted to stay on the court.

Cook Shares Details Of Practice Facility Precautions

  • Lakers guard Quinn Cook detailed all the precautions being taken at the team’s practice facility after it was reopened. In an Instagram post relayed by The Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli, Cook said even his shoes were not exempt. “We had to leave whatever we wore, whatever shoes and flip-flops we wore, we had to leave them outside,” he said. “We had to wash our hands as soon as we walk in the door. Once we get inside, all of our stuff is kind of right there on the court.” Cook and Devontae Cacok were the only two players to use the facility on Saturday, according to Ganguli. Veterans Jared Dudley and Danny Green were planning to use the facility on Monday.

Lakers To Reopen Practice Facility On Saturday

The Lakers intend to reopen their practice facility on Saturday, according to Shams Charania of Stadium (video link), who says the team has received clearance from Los Angeles County government and health officials.

In addition to following the NBA’s strict guidelines for individual player workouts – including having no more than four players in the building at a time – the Lakers also don’t plan to immediately make the facility available seven days a week, Charania notes.

Since the NBA began permitting teams to reopen their practice facilities for voluntary workouts last Friday, more than one-third of the league’s franchises have taken advantage. Portland, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Denver, Atlanta, Indiana, Sacramento, Toronto, Utah, Miami, and Orlando have all reopened their facilities on a limited basis within the last week.

The Lakers will be the 12th team known to have reopened its facility. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this week that the NBA thinks 22 clubs will be able to do so by Monday (May 18), though it’s not clear if the league has had to adjust that estimate in recent days as various states update the terms of their stay-at-home orders.

With the Lakers reopening for workouts, it seems likely that the Clippers will be able to follow suit soon. However, teams like the Nets and Warriors are still believed to be a little ways away.