Lou Williams

L.A. Notes: Leonard, L. Williams, LeBron, Bradley

Kawhi Leonard understands that he has an opportunity to make history by leading a third team to an NBA title, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Robert Horry and John Salley both won rings with three franchises, but neither played a starring role like Leonard did in San Antonio and Toronto. He’s a team leader now for the Clippers and has a chance to bring a championship to the city where he grew up.

“That would be a great accomplishment,” Leonard said. “That feat would be something to talk about once I’m done playing, and being able to do that in my hometown would be amazing. Growing up, [Staples Center] was one of the first NBA arenas I ever went to. So to do all of that here would be special. But we have work to do first.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The addition of Leonard and Paul George will mean a reduced role for Lou Williams, but the three-time Sixth Man of the Year is ready to adapt to whatever is necessary, relays Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Even though he came off the bench, Williams often ran the offense and served as the top scorer late in games. Having two stars on hand means those duties will now be shared. “At the end of the day, I am a sixth man, I am a backup,” Williams said. “No matter how much you dress it up, no matter how much history I’ve made, no matter how many special things I’ve done off the bench, I’m still a backup and I understand that to the core of me.”
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers tells Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times that he briefly quit the team in 2013 after former owner Donald Sterling vetoed the signing of J.J. Redick. The incident happened less than a week after Rivers was hired, and he changed his mind when Sterling relented the next day.
  • LeBron James is ready to prove he’s still among the league’s elite players after the longest offseason of his career, Vardon writes in a separate story. LeBron’s summer included shooting “Space Jam,” working on his game and spending time with family and friends, but for the first time in 13 years it didn’t include the playoffs.
  • Avery Bradley has quickly emerged as the Lakers‘ most feared defender, observes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Bradley is glad to be back in Los Angeles after ending last season with the Grizzlies“This is a whole new opportunity for me to prove myself each and every night,” he said. “There’s no bigger stage than this. Each and every night, every opportunity I get I’m going to try to prove, to show the world I’m the best perimeter defender in the NBA.”

Western Notes: Kerr, Clippers, Melli, Mavs

All the changes to the Warriors roster will make training camp “critical,” coach Steve Kerr told Anthony Slater of The Athletic. While in recent years the Warriors have only made tweaks to their scheme, this training camp will involve sorting out the rotation and finding the team’s strengths.

“This year, it’s totally different,” Kerr said. “Nobody really knows each other that well. We’re really going to have to examine our team in camp, the exhibition season, early in the season. Figure out the best way to play on both ends.”

Kerr sees the need to take more control of the offense.

“When you lose continuity, it’s more important to have sets and calls that you can rely on,” he said. “Random stuff gets more difficult if you don’t know each other well.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Sixth man Lou Williams was the Clippers’ closer the last couple of seasons, but the additions of superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George change that dynamic, as coach Doc Rivers explained to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. “Lou is always going to be a closer, but it’s more closing plays now than who the closer is,” Rivers said. “You know who the closers are. The fact that that’s plural is a very good thing. Now it’ll be the closing lineups, the closing sets, the closing formations.”
  • Pelicans forward Nicolo Melli has returned to the court after undergoing offseason knee surgery, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. Melli skipped the FIBA World Cup due to the injury. The 28-year-old signed a two-year, $8MM contract in July after playing professionally in Europe for over a decade.
  • The Mavericks have prioritized continuity on their roster, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News notes. More than half of the players on the training camp roster have played at least half a season for Dallas, Townsend notes. The Mavs have also invested $320MM in guaranteed contracts over the next four seasons, Townsend adds.

Clippers Guarantee Lou Williams’ 2020/21 Salary

The Clippers and Lou Williams have reached an agreement to fully guarantee the Sixth Man of the Year’s salary for the 2020/21 season, agent Wallace Prather tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Lou Williams Named Sixth Man of the Year]

Williams has two years left on his current contract, with a fully guaranteed $8MM salary for 2019/20. Previously, the final year of that deal had only been partially guaranteed for $1.5MM. As a result of this agreement, the full $8MM for ’20/21 will now be guaranteed.

As Charania notes in a follow-up tweet, it’s rare for a team to agree to increase a player’s guarantee without any real impetus to do so, since it reduces the club’s flexibility. But Williams’ contract is already one of the most team-friendly deals in the league and it’s unlikely that the Clippers would have taken advantage of the partial guarantee to waive him in 2020, so it makes some sense to reward him early.

Of course, the move also comes at a time when the Clippers are courting free agents, including Kawhi Leonard — a gesture of goodwill toward one of their top players probably won’t hurt the perception of the franchise in the eyes of players considering joining the team.

In 2018/19, Williams averaged 20.0 PPG and posted new career bests in APG (5.4) and RPG (3.0), with a shooting line of .425/.361/.876. Although he came off the bench for all but one game, he was Los Angeles’ leading scorer (not including Tobias Harris, who departed in a midseason deal).

Lou Williams Named Sixth Man Of Year Again

For the third time in five seasons, Clippers guard Lou Williams was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year. The announcement was made at the NBA’s annual awards show on Monday.

There was little suspense that Williams would gain the honor for the second straight year. While the other finalists, Williams’ teammate Montrezl Harrell, and Pacers’ big man Domantas Sabonis, had plenty of big games, no bench player made a bigger impact than the veteran guard, who seems to get better with age.

Williams, 32, averaged 20.0 PPG and a career-high 5.4 APG in 26.6 MPG, more than six minutes less per game than the previous season when he averaged a career-high 22.0 PPG. He’s signed for two more seasons, though his $8MM salary for 2020/21 is not guaranteed.

He was Hoops Rumors’ unanimous choice for the award as well.

Harden, Giannis, George Named MVP Finalists

Defending champion James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are the finalists for this season’s Most Valuable Player award, the league announced in a press release.

The voting is expected to be close between Harden, who averaged 36.1 PPG and 7.5 APG during the regular season, and Antetokounmpo, who carried the Bucks to the best record in the league while averaging 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 5.9 APG. George averaged 28.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 4.1 APG.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2019 NBA Award Picks: Most Valuable Player]

The league also released the finalists for its other awards. The winners will be revealed during a TNT broadcast on Monday, June 24. Here are the rest of the finalists:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Michael Malone (Nuggets)
  • Doc Rivers (Clippers)

Rivers: Lou Williams Could Miss 2-3 Weeks

Clippers guard Lou Williams, who left Monday’s game against Phoenix with a hamstring issue, could miss the next two or three weeks due to that injury, head coach Doc Rivers said on Tuesday night before the club’s game against Toronto (link via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com).

“My guess, two weeks,” Rivers said, per Youngmisuk. “I don’t know. Honestly. They said it was not a bad hamstring, but I have never heard of a good one. I think when you hurt those things, those are really tough injuries.”

Williams has struggled a little with his shot so far this season, posting a .398 FG% which would match his career low. However, he’s still a go-to option for the Clippers in the clutch, and is averaging 17.2 PPG.

While the Clips will miss Williams in his absence, they have a deep roster and shouldn’t find themselves too shorthanded over the next couple weeks. Patrick Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Avery Bradley will continue to play major roles in the backcourt, with Milos Teodosic, Tyrone Wallace, and Sindarius Thornwell among the candidates to pick up a few extra minutes.

Lou Williams Wins Sixth Man Award

Lou Williams career year earned him the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award, it was announced at the NBA’s annual awards show. The 31-year-old Clippers guard easily beat out the other finalists, the Rockets’ Eric Gordon and the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet.

Williams had always provided instant offense off the bench during his career but he turned it a couple of notches this past season. He easily surpassed his previous scoring standards by averaging 22.6 PPG while dishing out 5.3 APG, another career best. Williams shot 43.5% from the field and 35.9% on 3-point attempts in 79 games in 19 career starts.

Williams scored 30 or more points in 17 games and blew up for a career-best 50 points against the Warriors on January 10th. Gordon won the award in 2017 while Williams was one of the finalists.

Finalists For NBA Awards Announced

The top three finalists for each of this year’s NBA awards are being released on tonight’s TNT pre-game show. The trophies will be presented June 25 at the league’s official awards show.

Here’s an ongoing list that we will update as the candidates are announced, along with links to our staff’s picks for each honor:

Rookie of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: ROY

Most Improved Player

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MIP

Sixth Man of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: Sixth Man

Coach of the Year

  • Dwane Casey (Raptors)
  • Quin Snyder (Jazz)
  • Brad Stevens (Celtics)

Hoops Rumors Analysis: COY

Defensive Player of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: DPOY

Most Valuable Player

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MVP

Grizzlies Notes: Evans, Chalmers, Bickerstaff

Throughout the entire second-half of the 2017/18 NBA season (i.e. after the trade deadline), the Grizzlies have maintained that they plan to re-sign guard Tyreke Evans to a new deal this summer, most likely with an offer for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception worth an estimated $8.6MM for the 2018/19 season.

This is because the Grizzlies only possess Non-Bird Rights on Evans, meaning the most they could pay him next season without the MLE or cap room is $3.948MM, 120% more than the $3.29MM he made this season.

And while the optimism in Memphis has not yet publicly waned, Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com writes that general manager Chris Wallace didn’t sound as convincing after the season that a successful pitch would be made to Evans in free agency as he did when he said the same thing after Evans was retained at the trade deadline.

As Wallace points out, Evans is unfortunately probably just as likely to sign a deal similar to Lou Williams – which would fit under the MLE – as he is to signing a one-year, high-paying contract, a la Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, for a team looking to clear cap space for the summer of 2019.

There’s more out of Memphis:

  • In another article for Grizzlies.com, Wallace focuses on veteran Mario Chalmers‘ pending free agency, writing that the soon to be 32-year-old point guard is likely only to return to the Grizzlies, if at all, as an end-of-free-agency option, likely on another minimum-salary contract.
  • New head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has not yet made any decisions on who he plans to hire onto his coaching staff, tweets Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Bickerstaff was just yesterday officially named head coach.
  • In a full article for The Commercial Appeal, Tillery reports that franchise cornerstone Marc Gasol is pleased with the hiring of Bickerstaff. “J.B. deserves a real shot at this without any restrictions,” Gasol said. “He has earned it… He’s always so positive. He always helps me understand, ‘Do your job. Control what you can control and the rest will take care of itself.’ Our communication has been really good. We’re both going in the same direction. And that’s important.” Both Gasol and Mike Conley were known supporters of Bickerstaff, so Gasol’s contentment should come as no surprise.

Los Angeles Notes: Thomas, Cap Space, Williams

Isaiah Thomas was traded from the Cavaliers to the Lakers on Thursday, ending a tumultuous 15-game run in Cleveland. Coming off a serious hip injury, Thomas’ MVP-caliber performance from Boston disappeared and his public and private comments during the Cavs’ slump contributed to turmoil in the locker room.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News examines Thomas’ value as he heads for unrestricted free agency in the summer. Thomas was legitimately a top-five player in the league with the Celtics who did not mince words about wanting a maximum deal once he hits the market. Now that he’s gone from Cleveland, Thomas lost the chance of the Cavaliers using Bird rights to sign him to a max contract. Instead, he is unlikely to stay in Los Angeles and one general manager told Deveney before the trade that Thomas’ chances at a max deal are unlikely.

“It’s a tough position because he has certain expectations but it’s hard to see where he could have those expectations met,” the GM said. “He is going to be disappointed, a lot, if he is not with Cleveland but still thinks he is getting a max deal out there. The money is just not there.”

Check out other Lakers news below:

  • Thomas’ agent Aaron Goodwin spoke to USA Today’s Sam Amick after his client was dealt on Thursday. Goodwin made it clear that Thomas worked hard to get back to health with the Cavs and wanted it to work out. However, Goodwin insisted that Thomas does not want to come off the bench in Los Angeles and wants to prove he is still an impactful player. Per ESPN’s Chris Haynes and Ohm Youngmisuk, Thomas will come off the bench for the Lakers in his debut on Saturday. However, sources tell Haynes and Youngmisuk that the plan is for Thomas to eventually start.
  • ESPN Insider’s Bobby Marks (subscription required and recommended) examined the Lakers’ healthy salary cap entering this summer and beyond. Shedding the contracts of Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. gives the Lakers enough cap space this summer for two elite free agents. However, Marks also looks at the possibility of the team being patient and waiting for summer 2019 to avoid another situation of Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng.
  • Lou Williams signed a three-year extension with the Clippers before the deadline, ending any rumors he would be dealt. After suiting up for four teams in four years, Williams was happy with the Clippers and wanted a sense of stability, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN.