Lakers Rumors

Poll: Which Team Will Win NBA Cup?

The NBA’s first-ever in-season tournament final will take place on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, as the veteran Lakers take on the upstart Pacers for the right to hold the NBA Cup — and to earn championship bonuses worth $500K per player.

The Lakers may have the home-court advantage, given Los Angeles’ proximity to Vegas and the franchise’s huge fan base, but the Pacers have earned plenty of fans of their own in recent weeks with their fast-paced, high-scoring style of play. And they’ll enter the game as the lovable underdogs looking to knock off another highly star-studded opponent after defeating Boston in the quarterfinal and Milwaukee in the semifinal.

The Pacers’ 123.5 offensive rating is easily the NBA’s best mark, as is their pace (104.13 possessions per game). Tyrese Haliburton, who is submitting an MVP-caliber season thus far, leads the attack with 26.9 points and an NBA-best 12.1 assists per game, but the Pacers have no shortage of offensive options, with six other players averaging double-digit points per night (a seventh, Jalen Smith, won’t be available on Saturday).

They’ll be going up against one of the NBA’s stoutest defenses — the Lakers’ 110.3 defensive rating is tied for sixth-best in the league. Los Angeles also holds a significant edge in big-game experience. While Haliburton and several other Pacers have never played in the postseason, LeBron James alone has 282 playoff games on his résumé.

Of course, Saturday’s game isn’t a playoff contest, and Haliburton and the Pacers certainly haven’t shied away from the spotlight so far in the in-season tournament, having talked repeatedly about how they’re embracing the rare opportunity to play for a national audience.

Both teams have taken the tournament seriously so far and that doesn’t figure to change on Saturday, with $300K on the line (the runners-up will go home with bonuses worth $200K rather than $500K).

We want to know what you think. Are you taking the Pacers or the Lakers to win the first NBA Cup?

Place your vote below, then head to the comment section below to share your predictions.

Pacers, Lakers Advance To Tournament Final

The Pacers and Lakers advanced to the final of the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament on Thursday by defeating the Bucks and Pelicans in their respective semifinal matchups.

The championship game between the two undefeated teams (both are 6-0 in the tournament) will be held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday at 7:30 pm CT. The final will be the lone game of the in-season tournament that does not count towards the regular season schedule.

Indiana’s win over Milwaukee was a back-and-forth affair that came down to the final minutes, with guard Tyrese Haliburton delivering another stellar performance (27 points, 15 assists, seven rebounds, zero turnovers), including clutch baskets to seal the victory. Center Myles Turner also had a strong outing, recording 26 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

However, the other semifinal wasn’t competitive, as Los Angeles demolished New Orleans behind a brilliant showing from LeBron James, who finished with 30 points (on 9-of-12 shooting), eight assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers in just 23 minutes. The Lakers wound up winning by 44 points.

Pelicans head coach Willie Green was understandably disappointed in his team’s effort, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic.

Tonight was a total letdown… A lack of competitive spirit,” Green said. “Tonight, we took a step in the wrong direction.”

Players on standard contracts with the Pacers and Lakers have now secured bonuses worth at least $200K (two-way players will earn half that amount). The champs will earn $500K apiece.

The Bucks and Pelicans, meanwhile, earned bonuses of $100K per player for reaching the semifinals, but have been eliminated from contention for the first NBA Cup.

Poll: Which Teams Will Win In-Season Tournament Semifinals?

The semifinals of the NBA’s first-ever in-season tournament will be played on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with the winners advancing to Saturday’s final.

It’s a safe bet the early game will be a shootout. The high-octane Pacers have the NBA’s best offensive rating by a significant margin at 123.6. But they give up plenty of points too — their 120.2 defensive rating ranks 28th in the league, ahead of only Charlotte and Washington.

The Bucks are poised to take advantage of the holes in Indiana’s defense. Milwaukee’s 119.2 offensive rating is the NBA’s third-best mark and the group has been firing on all cylinders as of late, putting up 132 points on Saturday vs. Atlanta and a season-high 146 in Tuesday’s quarterfinal victory over New York.

Tyrese Haliburton has perhaps been the breakout star of the in-season tournament, but he and the Pacers will be underdogs against a Bucks squad led by superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. currently lists Milwaukee as 5.5-point favorites.

Still, Indiana knocked off Boston in the quarterfinals and will perhaps benefit from what should be a neutral crowd in Las Vegas. The Pacers have a winning record away from home this season, while the Bucks are a modest 5-5 on the road.

The Lakers, on the other hand, may have a home-court edge in Thursday’s late game, given Vegas’ proximity to Los Angeles and the franchise’s sizable fan base. But they’re only favored by two points against a Pelicans team that’s as healthy now as it has been in quite some time.

While both Los Angeles and New Orleans have had to deal with injury issues during the first quarter of the 2023/24 season, they’re nearly at full strength heading into Thursday’s semifinal, with only Gabe Vincent expected to be out of action for L.A., while the Pelicans are just missing reserves Larry Nance Jr. and Matt Ryan.

Forwards LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram – along with guard CJ McCollum – are the headliners in this matchup, and a superstar-type performance from one or two of them could ultimately decide the game, but the Lakers’ and Pelicans’ supporting casts shouldn’t be overlooked. Role players like D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, and Trey Murphy are capable of being game-changing X-factors.

What do you think? Which two teams will prevail on Thursday and meet in the first-ever in-season tournament final on Saturday?

Lakers Notes: Tournament, Reaves, LeBron, Uniforms

D’Angelo Russell called it “playoff intensity” as the Lakers hung on for a dramatic win against Phoenix on Tuesday night that gave them a trip to Las Vegas for the in-season tournament semifinals, writes Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. The game was noticeably competitive throughout, and any concerns that players and fans wouldn’t respond to the NBA’s new experiment seemed to be put to rest.

“You got some of the most alpha-male competitors in the world, and if you give us an opportunity to play for something meaningful with an incentive, then you’ll get what you’re getting,” LeBron James said at a post-game press conference alongside Anthony Davis. “And I know the competitive nature in myself, and the competitive nature of this guy next to me, and our DNA that we’re trying to build for this team. The in-season tournament is what it is, and we have an opportunity to play on a big stage, be on national television, be able to represent our families and represent our cities and communities, where we come from.”

L.A. also defeated the Suns in group play, but had an otherwise soft path to the quarterfinals with the lowly Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Jazz making up the rest of West Group A. There was nothing easy about Tuesday’s matchup, which wasn’t decided until Kevin Durant missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, and Lakers coach Darvin Ham savored the experience.

“It makes it really exciting,” he said. “And so exciting that we can’t wait to conquer it. Pretty simply put.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Austin Reaves added to his legacy of clutch shots, sinking a huge three-pointer late in the game to stave off a Suns rally, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Reaves’ propensity to deliver in big situations is one of the reasons the Lakers signed him to a long-term deal during the offseason. “Man, Austin is a big-time player,” Ham said. “It’s the reason we wanted him here for the present and the future. Everybody saw what he did to finish last year, what he did for Team USA. He has just grown, grown and grown and he thrives in those moments, those big moments.”
  • At a media session today in Las Vegas, James reiterated his desire to eventually own an NBA team in the city, Price tweets. James discussed the area’s growing sports culture, adding, “Hopefully I can bring my franchise here someday.”
  • The NBA won’t allow the Lakers to wear their “city edition” uniforms for Thursday’s semifinal, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. L.A. went 3-0 during the tournament in the black ensemble, but the league has mandated gold “icon” uniforms for the matchup with New Orleans, which will wear its white “association” look. A source tells McMenamin that the NBA office has concerns about the contrast between the jerseys and the specialized court being used for the game.

In-Season Tournament Notes: Banner, Lakers’ Timeout, Tatum, Ratings

Winning the first in-season tournament will be a historic accomplishment, but is it worth hanging a banner in the rafters? Joe Vardon of The Athletic suggests the answer may depend on which team leaves Las Vegas with the trophy. The Lakers, who already have 17 banners, and the Bucks, who were crowned champions three years ago, may be less likely to hang up a banner than the Pacers or Pelicans, who’ve never won an NBA title.

“I think you’ll see a banner of some sort,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “This is not an insignificant thing at all. … This being the first one is extra special.”

“I think at this point in my career, because I haven’t done anything yet, I’ll take a banner, but certainly Bron (LeBron James) would not answer the same way,” Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton added.

Players and fans have embraced the tournament, but the event is too new to determine how much significance it will carry each year. Cash prizes are helping to fuel the competition — with $500K per player for the winners, $200K for the runners-up and $100K for the other two semifinalists — but Haliburton believes bragging rights are a bigger incentive, with everyone wanting to be part of the first tournament winner in league history.

The Pelicans also recognize how much a tournament title would mean, with coach Willie Green saying he would “absolutely” want a banner if New Orleans wins. Brandon Ingram said the money and a chance at history have inspired the team to work extra hard.

“I think my motivating factor is just seeing my teammates really get ready for these games like this – it’s a different approach,” he said. “You see some of my teammates who don’t get extra shots (after practices) like, locked in an exercise center at the shootaround. This is just like a different deal. I know how bad they want it.”

There’s more on the tournament:

  • The NBA’s last two minute report claims the controversial timeout the Lakers received Tuesday in their win over the Suns was justified, tweets Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. The report cites three mistakes, which were all fouls that should have been called against Phoenix.
  • Celtics star Jayson Tatum is the latest player to criticize the importance given to point differential in breaking ties during group play. Appearing on the Point Forward podcast with Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner, Tatum said he had to play expanded minutes in Boston’s final group game, which was a blowout against Chicago (hat tip to SB Nation). “We was in the game and I was like,” Tatum said, “I remember I tapped, I think it was Torrey Craig. I was like, ‘Yo bro, I don’t really want to be out here right now.’ Cause we were up 30 going into the fourth. If it was a Wednesday I would have been sitting on the bench and the younger guys would have gotten in. It just didn’t feel right.”
  • The quarterfinal matchup between the Lakers and Suns drew 1.97 million viewers, up 89% from games at a similar time last season, according to a tweet from the league.

Tournament’s Final Four Set, Regular Season Schedule Finalized

The Bucks and the Lakers earned quarterfinal victories on Tuesday night, joining the Pacers and Pelicans as the final four teams that will head to Las Vegas to compete for the championship in the NBA’s first-ever in-season tournament.

Milwaukee pulled away from New York in the second half in Tuesday’s early game, with superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard combining for 63 points in the 146-122 victory.

In the late game, the Lakers benefited from a generous timeout call in the closing seconds (Twitter video link) and eked out Phoenix in a 106-103 nail-biter, led by LeBron James‘ 31 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, and five steals.

The schedule for Thursday’s semifinals at T-Mobile Arena is as follows:

  • Milwaukee Bucks vs. Indiana Pacers (4:00 pm Central time)
  • Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Pelicans (8:00 pm CT)

The winners of those semifinal matchups will square off in the in-season tournament final at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday at 7:30 pm CT.

Players on standard contracts with the Bucks, Pacers, Lakers, and Pelicans have now secured bonuses worth at least $100K (two-way players will earn half that amount). A semifinal victory would increase those bonuses to at least $200K, while the champs will earn $500K apiece.

The Celtics, Knicks, Kings, and Suns, meanwhile, will come away with bonuses worth $50K per player for making the knockout round, but won’t get the opportunity to head to Vegas for the tournament’s final stage.

Instead, the Knicks will travel to Boston on Friday, while the Kings will visit Phoenix on the same night. Those newly added regular season contests represent the 82nd game on each team’s schedule. Thursday’s semifinals will also count toward the NBA’s regular season standings, but Saturday’s final won’t, since that will be the 83rd game on those teams’ schedules.

Reddish Becoming Fan Favorite

  • Cam Reddish has endured a rocky start to his NBA career but he’s flourishing with the Lakers as a hustle player, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. He’s become a favorite among fans and teammates alike. “Cam is great,” LeBron James said. “He has a knack for just being around the ball, getting deflections. I guarantee in the minutes that he’s played, he’s probably one of the league leaders in deflections, steals. Anything around the ball, he’s just really good.” Reddish was averaging 23.7 minutes in 17 games, including 10 starts, heading into Tuesday’s tournament quarterfinal.

Injury Notes: Grant, Simons, Duarte, Hachimura, Wolves

Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol, Portland announced on Monday (via Twitter). Grant sustained the injury during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Utah and did not return, per the team.

Grant, who re-signed with Portland on a five-year, $160MM contract over the summer, is averaging 22.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists on .437/.412/.830 shooting in 19 games this season.

In other injury news for the Blazers, guard Anfernee Simons is nearing a return, tweets Sean Highkin of the Rose Garden Report. Simons, who has been out since Oct. 25 after tearing a ligament in his thumb and undergoing surgery, practiced on Monday and is considered day-to-day, according to Highkin.

Here are some more injury notes from around the league:

  • Kings wing Chris Duarte will miss Monday’s in-season quarterfinal matchup against New Orleans due to knee soreness, league sources tell Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (Twitter link). It will be the second straight absence for the former first-round pick, who is averaging 4.7 points and 2.0 rebounds in 15.1 minutes in his first season with Sacramento.
  • Lakers forward Rui Hachimura was cleared for Saturday’s contest against Houston, but head coach Darvin Ham opted to be cautious and held him out after he missed a week due to nasal fracture surgery. “In all likelihood” Hachimura will play in Tuesday’s quarterfinal against the Suns, Ham said on Monday (Twitter link via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin). Hachimura practiced today while wearing a face mask and he thinks he’ll be ready tomorrow, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic.
  • Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards was a partial practice participant on Monday and is day-to-day after missing the past two games with a hip injury, head coach Chris Finch told reporters, including Chris Hine of The Star Tribune (Twitter link). Jaden McDaniels (ankle sprain) did not practice and will not play this week, but the team is hopeful he might be able to practice next week, Finch added. As for Jordan McLaughlin, who has missed the past month with a knee sprain, he was a full practice participant and he could return as soon as later this week, according to Hine.

And-Ones: Bronny James, Ndongo, Reaves, Messina

Bronny James‘ debut with USC could happen as early as Sunday in a home game against Long Beach State, according to Seth Davis of The Messenger Sports.

The son of Lakers star LeBron James recently received medical clearance from his doctor for a full return to basketball after suffering cardiac arrest in July. He still has to be cleared by the school’s medical staff, Davis adds, but that’s expected to happen sometime this week. If Bronny isn’t ready by Sunday, the next possibility is a December 17 contest against Auburn.

“He’ll have to get in game shape and have full-contact practices and get his timing back before we just throw him into a college basketball game,” Trojans coach Andy Enfield told Davis. “I’d like it to happen sooner rather than later, but right now I just don’t know.”

Bronny is an important name in NBA circles because he’s considered a potential first-round draft pick, and his father has indicated in the past that he would have an interest in joining the team that selects him. On a more immediate level, LeBron said last week that he would skip a Lakers game to watch his son’s first NCAA contest, but L.A. isn’t scheduled to play either this Sunday or December 17.

Enfield said it’s been an enjoyable experience to watch Bronny overcome the health scare that could have derailed his career.

“It’s a great feeling for sure,” he said. “He’s worked out quite a few times with our coaching staff and is able to go through non-contact workouts. It’s just a matter of giving him time to get into basketball shape and learn our system before he plays in it.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Georgia Tech freshman Baye Ndongo got the attention of NBA scouts with his performance in Saturday’s upset of Duke, observes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Ndongo had 21 points and five blocks for the Yellow Jackets and showed NBA potential in his ability to roll to the basket and pass to cutting teammates, according to Hollinger. Although Ndongo is undersized for an NBA center at 6’9″ and 214 pounds, Hollinger notes that he was able to match up effective with Blue Devils’ 7-footer Kyle Filipowski.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports takes a look inside the process of quickly scheduling two additional regular season games for the 22 teams that didn’t advance in the in-season tournament. Among the obstacles was figuring out which teams had open arena dates for Wednesday and Friday, which is when all the games will be played.
  • Lakers guard Austin Reaves has a new arrangement with Chinese sportswear brand Rigorer that will make him a part owner of the company, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. A new version of Reaves’ signature shoe will hit the market Friday.
  • Former Spurs assistant Ettore Messina has a contract extension with Milan that will run through the end of the 2025/26 season, according to Eurohoops. The club made the announcement after rumors that a coaching change was imminent.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Vanderbilt, Reddish, Hachimura

The in-season tournament could represent the last chance to watch LeBron James play for a meaningful prize, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. James’ Lakers will host the Suns on Tuesday with a spot in the semifinals at stake. A victory would match them against Sacramento or New Orleans for a berth in the finals, giving one of the league’s most successful franchises an opportunity to add the first-ever NBA Cup to its long list of accomplishments.

While James continues to play at a remarkable level for his age, Hollinger points out that he will turn 39 later this month and can no longer carry a team the way he used to in his prime. He notes that even though L.A. is 12-9, the team was embarrassed in games at Philadelphia and Oklahoma City last week and may not have the roster for another long playoff run.

If that’s true, Hollinger recommends that fans should savor this week’s opportunity to watch James in the spotlight. The Lakers appear to have favorable tournament matchups — they’ll host a Phoenix team that they’ve beaten twice already and then would advance to Las Vegas, where the arena would be packed with L.A. fans. Hollinger adds that the potential of James playing in the in-season tournament final would bring even more prestige to what has turned out to be a successful experiment.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Jarred Vanderbilt didn’t score in his first game of the season Saturday, but he said it felt good to be back on the court after being sidelined for nearly two months with bursitis in his left heel, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Vanderbilt managed to play nearly 14 minutes, grabbing four rebounds and providing his usual active presence on defense. “Basically just trying to take care of the injury and then building it back up efficiently and smart,” Vanderbilt said of his recovery process. “I didn’t want to get back out there too fast. So that was part of the ramp-up, kind of slowly going through progressions: two versus two, three versus three and then some five-on-five. That’s pretty much it.”
  • Coach Darvin Ham considers Cam Reddish a “laid-back dude,” but he showed another side of his personality during a confrontation with Houston’s Tari Eason on Saturday that resulted in a technical foul, Turner states in the same piece. The players were separated before their verbal battle could escalate. “He has a toughness to him, a quiet toughness,” Ham said of Reddish. “I like him being aggressive and assertive. He showed that tonight. Some of the plays he made, that steal he got and kept alive and getting an and-one. I want him passionate about the game.”
  • Rui Hachimura was medically cleared to play Saturday, but Ham opted to give him more time to recover from last week’s nasal surgery, Turner adds. “He went through his pre-game workout and still was a little iffy,” Ham said. “… So, just coming off that nose surgery, we felt it was best just to be proactive, to be precautionary, so that’s where we landed.”