Malik Monk

Lakers Notes: Trent, Jordan, Bazemore, Monk, Westbrook

As part of their due diligence exploring the trade market, the Lakers have expressed interest in Raptors wing Gary Trent Jr., league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

The Lakers could theoretically put together an offer for Trent, who is earning $16MM, using Talen Horton-Tucker as the primary salary-matching piece. However, there has been no indication that the Raptors want to move on from the former Duke standout, who is one of Toronto’s most-used players (32 starts, 34.0 MPG), most reliable three-point shooters (.368 3PT%), and most active defenders (1.9 steals and 3.5 deflections per game).

Scotto acknowledges that a deal between the two teams appears unlikely for the time being.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Scotto also confirmed on the latest HoopsHype Podcast that the Lakers have made DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore available, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported last week. According to Scotto, the Lakers aren’t interested in attaching a draft pick to move either player, so they’d likely need to use cash to grease the wheels if teams aren’t interested in Jordan or Bazemore on their own. Los Angeles can still trade up to $4,435,000 in cash during the 2021/22 league year.
  • Malik Monk has been a bright spot for an up-and-down Lakers team recently, averaging 20.0 PPG on .523/.475/.900 shooting in his last eight games. However, the better he plays, the more challenging it will be for L.A. to bring him back. As Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report outlines, unless they dip into their mid-level exception, the Lakers will be limited to offering Monk a Non-Bird raise of just 20% more than his minimum salary when he hits free agency.
  • Like teammate Carmelo Anthony has done in recent years, Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook has been asked to accept a lower-usage role this season and is still adjusting to it, writes Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. Westbrook’s 27.9% usage rate would be high for most players, but it’s the first time since 2009/10 that he’s registered a number below 30%.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Reaves, Nunn, Monk, Bradley

The Lakers exhibited some “covert interest” in discussing a possible Russell Westbrook trade with rival executives earlier in the season, sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Amick is the second reporter in the last month to suggest the Lakers have considered the possibility of a Westbrook trade. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report previously stated that the team had internally discussed the idea and made at least one outgoing call.

Still, as Fischer pointed out in December and as Amick reiterated today, the odds of the Lakers actually making a pre-deadline deal involving Westbrook are slim. His contract, which includes a $44MM+ cap hit for this season and a $47MM+ player option for 2022/23, remains a significant obstacle.

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  • Rookie guard Austin Reaves originally entered the Lakers’ rotation out of necessity, but even with a healthier roster, head coach Frank Vogel has felt compelled to keep playing him, writes Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. “Me trusting him was more brought onto me because he was forced into action due to injuries,” Vogel said. “You get shorthanded and it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s see what he can do.’ And he excelled in those opportunities to the point where when other guys came back, we still wanted to keep him in there.” Reaves’ 2021/22 salary will become fully guaranteed if he remains on the roster through Friday.
  • Within the same story, Goon writes that Kendrick Nunn may finally be nearing a return. Vogel cautioned there’s still no precise timetable, but said Nunn is “getting close” to make his Lakers debut. “Kendrick’s going to get a ton of minutes when he gets back healthy,” Vogel said. “It’s gonna be at the expense of somebody else, at least for that time being, to see how he fits in our system along with our stars. All that stuff will play out.”
  • Following Malik Monk‘s sixth consecutive strong showing on Tuesday night, LeBron James said the Lakers wanted Monk “last year” before eventually signing him over the summer as a free agent. As Bill Oram of The Athletic tweets, James explained that he wanted to find a way to get the former lottery pick to Los Angeles back when his role in Charlotte was inconsistent.
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic explores the Lakers’ options for bringing back Stanley Johnson and suggests that Avery Bradley will likely have his 2021/22 salary guaranteed later this week.

Lakers Notes: Johnson, Collison, Rondo, Bradley, Monk

There’s mutual interest between the Lakers and Stanley Johnson to reach a contract agreement, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets.

Johnson has been playing on a 10-day contract under the hardship exception but that expired on Monday. The Lakers currently have no players in the protocols but traditional 10-day contracts can be signed as early as Wednesday. Johnson could sign up to two traditional 10-day contracts, since the hardship contract didn’t count against those deals. The team could also bring back Johnson on a standard contract.

Johnson has averaged 6.8 PPG on 45.8% shooting, 2.8 RPG and 1.2 SPG in five games, including three starts. He has also made a strong impact with his defense.

Darren Collison‘s 10-day hardship deal also expired on Monday.

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  • The club has an open roster spot due to the three-team deal that sent Rajon Rondo to Cleveland. That deal was made official on Monday. Los Angeles wasn’t eager to move on from Rondo but needed the roster flexibility, McMenamin writes. “It wasn’t like we wanted to depart from Rondo,” coach Frank Vogel said. “But it’s just one of those front office decisions that you have to make difficult decisions and to lose a guy like Rondo is obviously very difficult.”
  • The Lakers could also open up another roster spot if they waive Avery Bradley before Friday, when his veteran’s minimum contract becomes fully guaranteed, McMenamin notes in the same story.
  • Malik Monk, who is on a one-year, minimum-salary contract, has been making the most of his recent opportunities, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Monk, who has averaged 20 PPG over the last five contests, was motivated by other teams’ lack of interest in the free agent market. “It kind of hit me hard when nobody really wanted me besides the Lakers, man,” he said. “So I just put fuel in my tank and just held it in until the time until I get time to play, man, and prove I can play for a long period of time. That’s what I’m doing right now.”

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, LeBron, Monk, S. Johnson

Russell Westbrook is being criticized for a poor shooting night Saturday against the Nets, but LeBron James came to the defense of his teammate after the Lakers suffered their fifth straight loss, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Westbrook turned in another triple-double, but he shot just 4-of-20 from the field, committed five fouls and three turnovers, and missed a shot at the rim in the closing seconds of the game.

“He gave us extra possessions, he gave us a lot of looks around the basket, which I know that he can’t stand (failing to convert) as well,” James said. “But as far as the effort piece, if a guy plays hard, if a guy leaves it all out on the floor, I got no problem with that. It’s a make-or-miss league.”

L.A. sent three rotation players and a draft pick to the Wizards over the summer to acquire Westbrook, who they hoped would form a dangerous Big Three with James and Anthony Davis. However, the results have been mixed at best as the Lakers are 16-18 and Westbrook is averaging just 19.6 points per game, shooting 45.1% from the field and 30.4% from three-point range and committing 4.6 turnovers per night. There have been rumors that the front office has already discussed trading him, but his contract, which includes a $47.1MM player option for next season, makes that difficult.

“A big part of it is he just wants it so bad,” acting head coach David Fizdale said. “I mean, you can just see it in him, everybody does. He wants it so bad. And I know that’s just hard for him when it doesn’t work out. And I know he cares like crazy.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • L.A. is in danger of becoming the first franchise not to maximize James’ considerable talents, contends Bill Oram of The Athletic. LeBron’ presence used to mean an almost automatic trip to the NBA Finals, but apart from the title run in 2020, the Lakers haven’t won a playoff series since signing him and may be headed for another appearance in the play-in round.
  • The team got a boost from Malik Monk, who returned to the lineup Saturday after missing five games while in the health and safety protocols, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Monk learned he was in the protocols during the team’s recent road trip and wound up spending five days in Minnesota.
  • Appearing in his first game since signing a hardship contract, Stanley Johnson was happy to be back on the court and playing for his hometown team, Turner adds. “I kinda just like let it happen,” Johnson said. “I was in quarantine a day ago, like 36 hours ago … and I have barely time to do anything and they throw me in the game and I play a lot of minutes. I’m just, one, blessed and grateful to even be here right now and just learn as much as I can to be as useful as I can for this team.”

COVID-19 Updates: Celtics, Lakers, Raptors

Celtics reserve point guard Dennis Schröder has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will not play in today’s Christmas game against the Bucks, the team has announced (Twitter link). He joins eight other Celtics in the protocols.

In a more positive twist, Juancho Hernangómez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas have exited the league’s COVID-19 protocols and are available for today’s game, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (via Twitter). Guards Marcus Smart, who has been dealing with a hip injury, and Romeo Langford, who has missed time due to an Achilles injury, are also available. Boston center Al Horford is out of the league’s coronavirus protocols but is still working on his conditioning and has been ruled out for the contest.

Here are more COVID-19 protocol updates from around the NBA:

  • Lakers guards Avery Bradley and Malik Monk have left the league’s COVID-19 protocols and will be able to suit up today for Los Angeles against the Nets, per Bill Oram of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Raptors players Khem Birch, Isaac Bonga, and Justin Champagnie have entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols, though Dalano Banton has apparently exited, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link). A total of 10 Toronto players are now in the protocols. Toronto’s previously-scheduled game on Wednesday, against the Bulls, was canceled as a result of the Raptors not having enough players available. The team’s next game is scheduled for tomorrow against the Cavaliers. Lewenberg adds (via Twitter) that Raptors rookie shooting guard David Johnson (calf) and veteran point guard Goran Dragic (personal) also continue to be unavailable.
  • Keep track of all the NBA players within the league’s health and safety protocols on our tracker here.

NBA, NBPA Agree To Adjust COVID-19 Protocols

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have reached an agreement to adjust the league’s COVID-19 protocols amidst a wave of positive tests among players and coaches, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. ESPN obtained a memo stating that the NBA will increase testing and face mask use for players and staff during the holiday season.

Beginning on December 26, players and staffers – besides those who received their booster shot at least 14 days ago or those who recently recovered from the virus – will be tested for COVID-19 on game days. For most of the season, vaccinated players haven’t been tested unless they showed symptoms or were a close contact of someone who contracted the virus.

Additionally, as Wojnarowski details, players and staffers will be required to wear face masks on the bench, in their team’s workout facility, and while traveling with the team.

With so many teams shorthanded and taking advantage of the hardship provision to sign extra players, sources tell Wojnarowski that there’s been some league-wide discussion about finding an easier way to expand rosters.

The Magic added forward Ignas Brazdeikis to their injury report on Thursday night due to the health and safety protocols, making Orlando the 12th team to have at least one player currently in the protocols. A 13th team – Indiana – has its head coach, Rick Carlisle, in the protocols.

Of course, that number seems very likely to change in one direction or the other by the end of the day, since players are entering and exiting the protocols with increasing frequency this month. Lakers guard Malik Monk was the latest player to test out of the protocols on Thursday, per Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link).

Dwight Howard, Malik Monk In Coronavirus Protocols

Lakers role players Dwight Howard and Malik Monk have joined starting wing Talen Horton-Tucker in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, per Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). Goon adds that none of the triumvirate will be available to play with Los Angeles tomorrow against the Mavericks.

Monk flew with the club to Dallas before recording his positive result, but Howard remained in Los Angeles, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). McMenamin adds that L.A. is currently determining a plan to fly Monk back home safely. The fact that Monk traveled with his teammates in close proximity on a private plane makes this situation certainly worth monitoring.

Howard and Horton-Tucker started in the Lakers’ most recent game, a 106-94 victory over the visiting Magic. Monk has proven to be a helpful offensive contributor off the bench during his first season with the franchise. Should Lakers All-Star big man Anthony Davis miss tomorrow’s game, the Lakers will be at a significant frontcourt disadvantage against the Mavericks. Davis remains day-to-day with a sore left knee that has sidelined him for the team’s last two contests.

The 23-year-old Monk, signed to a veteran’s minimum contract this summer, is averaging 9.7 PPG on .447/.361/.800 shooting splits, along with 2.8 RPG and 2.2 APG across 28 games with the 15-13 Lakers. The 36-year-old Howard, in his third stint with the team, is averaging a more modest 5.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.8 SPG and 0.7 BPG, while shooting .625/.750/.609. Howard’s anomalous three-point shooting conversion rate is the result of an extremely low volume of output, just 0.3 a night.

Injury Notes: Diakite, P. Williams, C. White, Zion, Lakers

Thunder forward Mamadi Diakite has been diagnosed with a left hip fracture and has been ruled out indefinitely, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter links). Diakite sustained the injury during Sunday’s preseason game against Milwaukee, Mussatto adds.

It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Diakite, who was claimed off waivers by the Thunder last month and was trying to prove he deserved a spot on the regular season roster. Only $100K of Diakite’s minimum-salary contract is guaranteed, making him a potential casualty of a roster crunch.

Although the Thunder haven’t revealed their plans for their 15-man regular season roster, they’re carrying 13 players on guaranteed contracts, and Kenrich Williams is a lock for the roster despite his non-guaranteed salary. That leaves just one available 15-man spot — if Diakite’s injury takes him out of the running, Gabriel Deck and D.J. Wilson would likely be the top contenders for it.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Bulls forward Patrick Williams appears to be nearing a return. He participated fully in Wednesday’s practice and said his injured ankle “feels good,” per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic (Twitter link). Meanwhile, Bulls guard Coby White, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, still isn’t close to being cleared for contact. Head coach Billy Donovan said on Wednesday the team is about three or four weeks away from determining the next step in White’s rehab process (Twitter link via Cody Westerlund of 670TheScore.com).
  • Pelicans head of basketball operations David Griffin said last month he thought Zion Williamson, who underwent offseason foot surgery, would be ready for opening night. However, head coach Willie Green confirmed on Monday that Williamson still isn’t running or participating in team activities, according to William Guillory of The Athletic, who says Zion’s uncertain status leaves New Orleans in limbo with the regular season around the corner.
  • Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is hopeful that Malik Monk (groin) and Kendrick Nunn (ankle) will be ready to go by opening night, per Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group (Twitter links). However, veteran guard Wayne Ellington is dealing with a hamstring strain that makes him more of a question mark for the start of the season.

Talen Horton-Tucker Undergoing Thumb Surgery

Talen Horton-Tucker has been diagnosed with a torn ligament in his right thumb, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Sources tell Charania that the Lakers guard will undergo surgery to repair the ligament.

Horton-Tucker, who will turn 21 next month, emerged as a regular rotation player for the Lakers in 2020/21, averaging 9.0 PPG, 2.8 APG, and 2.6 RPG on .458/.282/.775 shooting in 65 games (20.1 MPG). He signed a three-year contract worth nearly $31MM during the 2021 offseason, with the team making a big bet on his continued development.

While a recovery timeline for Horton-Tucker hasn’t been provided yet, it seems safe to assume he’ll be sidelined to open the regular season. Recovery from a thumb surgery is typically measured in weeks or months, not days.

It’s another blow to a Lakers team that will be missing Trevor Ariza (ankle) for several weeks to start the season. Head coach Frank Vogel said on Sunday that Malik Monk will also be out for “probably about a week” due to a strained groin, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link), so the Lakers’ backcourt and wing depth will be tested early. Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore, and Kendrick Nunn could see increased roles.

Lakers Notes: Centers, Monk, Two-Ways, Brown, Queen

With Anthony Davis expected to see more action at the center spot this season, it remains to be seen how much playing time former All-NBA big men Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan will get at the five for the Lakers. However, as Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times writes, Jordan isn’t overly concerned about how many minutes he’ll play.

“That’s the blessing of it, having a lot of different lineups that you can use. And I think each game is gonna have a say on what we do,” Jordan said on Saturday. “We can be rolling with a huge lineup. And, you know, we’ll win with that. And some games may need us to go small. And I think that at this point of my career, of all of our careers, you know, at the end of the day, ultimately, we just want to be able to win and be able to achieve something as a collective.”

Howard, who played a career-low 17.3 minutes per contest last season in Philadelphia, shares Jordan’s philosophy.

“Leave the ego at the door, leave it at home when you wake up,” Howard said of his role. “There’s no need to have it. We all represent this emblem that’s behind me, this Laker logo. We understand that, and it’s whatever the team needs to win.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Malik Monk‘s impressive preseason debut on Sunday further complicates an already-crowded battle for playing time at shooting guard, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who observes that the Lakers will have to find time at the two for Monk, Wayne Ellington, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kent Bazemore, and Kendrick Nunn. Nunn has generally played point guard, but may not see much action there if Russell Westbrook plays big minutes and Rajon Rondo has a regular role, Buha notes.
  • Cameron Oliver, Mac McClung, Chaundee Brown, and Trevelin Queen are the camp invitees currently in the mix for the Lakers’ second two-way contract slot, but the team could end up going outside of the organization to fill that spot, as Buta writes in the same story. “We’re gonna see how the preseason plays out,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “See who all is available, both the guys that are here, or who are around the league, guys that might get cut, and we’ll make a decision closer to opening night.”
  • If the Lakers do convert one of their current camp invitees to a two-way contract, Brown and Queen may be the frontrunners, says Buha. Both of those players are wings, which might be the Lakers’ biggest need.