Austin Reaves

Lakers Notes: Russell, Starters, Davis, LeBron, Wood, Pelinka

After the Lakers signed Gabe Vincent to a three-year, $33MM contract in July, there was some speculation that he might supplant D’Angelo Russell as the team’s starting point guard. However, that’s not the plan to open the season, head coach Darvin Ham told reporters on Thursday.

“He’s our starting point guard,” Ham said of Russell, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “I’m going to encourage him to be assertive. He’s a highly intelligent basketball player who’s coming back with a chip on his shoulder. He chose us, we believe in him and he’s one of those guys who has a ton of pride and passion about not only his individual performance, but those of his teammates as well.”

Ham also confirmed that Austin Reaves will start alongside Russell in the backcourt, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis obviously penciled in for starting roles in the frontcourt. The fifth spot in the starting lineup will be up for grabs heading into training camp, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Every Lakers player is healthy and is expected to be fully available entering camp, according to Ham (Twitter link via Buha).
  • Although James and Davis have battled injuries in recent years, the Lakers are optimistic about the stars’ chances of staying healthy in 2023/24. Head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka acknowledged that “unexpected” injuries are always a possibility, but said that Davis has been focused this offseason on getting “leaner, stronger, quicker, (and) more explosive,” while James has taken his training regimen to a new level. “It’s staggering for a player who has 20 years under the hood already and is preparing for 21 like he’s a rookie,” Pelinka said of LeBron (link via Mark Medina of Sportskeeda). “He’s been doing 6 a.m. workouts. Probably been in our building as much as any player this offseason.”
  • Pelinka told reporters, including McMenamin (Twitter link), that he spoke to Christian Wood‘s agent almost daily for much of the summer and that the big man ultimately chose Los Angeles’ offer over others from contenders. Pelinka likened Wood to Malik Monk and Dennis Schröder, who each signed a minimum-salary contract with the Lakers and parlayed a strong season into a bigger payday the following year.
  • Pelinka spoke during Thursday’s press conference about prioritizing continuity and “trying to improve around the edges” this offseason, which is an approach that Ham appreciated, as Khobi Price of the Southern California News Group writes. “The sustainability of bringing back the main part of our core, and also adding to that – Rob used the phrase of not just going after star players, but players that star in their roles,” Ham said. “I thought we did a phenomenal job doing that, executing that.”
  • In a column for the Los Angeles Times, Bill Plaschke refers to Pelinka as the Lakers’ “most improved player,” praising him for admitting to and correcting his mistakes (such as the trade for Russell Westbrook) and for making a series of moves that have turned the club into a legitimate contender.

Team USA Notes: Reaves, Haliburton, Anthony, Curry

Team USA will leave the World Cup without a gold medal, but it may have developed a few players who will be useful in future international competitions, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. This version of the American squad was built around young talent than established stars, and many of them could return for future World Cup or Olympic tournaments.

Vardon points to Lakers guard Austin Reaves as one of those players. The 25-year-old is third in scoring for the U.S. at 12.4 PPG and second in steals at 1.3 per game. He has also regularly been on the court late in close games.

“I think I’ve been able to learn a lot from a lot of really good players, a lot of really good coaches, and basically just see that I belong,” Reaves said.

International play has often been the springboard for players to assert themselves as future stars, such as Kevin Durant in the 2010 World Championship, Vardon notes. Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards appears ready to move into that role, and Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton may be as well.

“I think being the point guard with other great scorers, other great players and understand that they want to be on the court at the same time as me, they want me to be in there to get them involved,” Haliburton said.

There’s more on Team USA:

  • Friday’s loss to Germany was among the topics addressed by global ambassadors Pau Gasol, Luis Scola and Carmelo Anthony during an appearance on a talk show, relays Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. Anthony, one of the most accomplished international players in American history, considers the result an “upset,” but not a huge surprise. “You have to take your hat off to Germany, and for Serbia as well,” Anthony said. “That’s good for the sport, everybody has to think differently when approaching these competitions. The game has grown globally. Everybody has an opportunity to go there and win a gold medal.”
  • Lack of size was an issue for the U.S. not only against Germany but throughout the World Cup, observes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. He notes that in three games against larger European teams, the Americans gave up 53 offensive rebounds and 64 second-chance points.
  • Stephen Curry is Team USA’s “must-have guy” for the Paris Olympics, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Instead of turning to LeBron James and Durant again, Rankin would like to see the 2024 roster built around Curry with Jayson Tatum, Jimmy Butler, Devin Booker, De’Aaron Fox, Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Bam Adebayo and Jarrett Allen all in prominent roles.

Pacific Notes: McGee, Durant, Reaves

The Kings have signed JaVale McGee to a one-year contract. McGee got a guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal but that doesn’t mean he’s assured of making the roster out of training camp, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee writes.

The Kings have McGee, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Neemias Queta and Skal Labissiere on the camp roster as potential backups to star center Domantas Sabonis. Labissiere is ticketed to the G League but Len has a fully guaranteed one-year deal, while Noel and Queta have partial guarantees. That means four players are essentially vying for two roster spots.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors won championships in 2017 and 2018 with Kevin Durant on their roster. Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic compares those Warriors teams to the current Suns group with Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal as the main trio, evaluating how Phoenix might emulate those championship clubs.
  • The Lakers have tried to acquire a third star in recent years to join forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Do they now have that player on the roster in the form of Austin Reaves? Jovan Buha of The Athletic explores that topic, considering how well Reaves has performed for Team USA. With several weeks to adjust to his new role as a primary ball-handler during training camp, Reaves can cement his status as an All-Star-level third option, Buha concludes.
  • Reaves said the World Cup hasn’t taken a physical toll on him, he told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times in a Q&A session. “I feel great. It’s been better than I expected,” the Lakers guard said. “You look at it, you go down the list of minutes guys have played and nobody plays more than 25 minutes. On max, someone might play 30 minutes a game. So, it’s not really like the NBA season where you’re playing 32, 35, maybe 40 minutes. The minutes are way shorter.”

World Cup Notes: Haddadi, USA, France, Dominican Republic

Following a two-decade run with Team Iran’s national club, 38-year-old center Hamed Haddadi is retiring from international competition, according to Eurohoops.

“I have had a long career with the national team since the 2000s,” Haddadi said following his final stint, against Team Lebanon, in which he notched 14 points and eight boards. “I try to play when I can even if I’m out of shape. I feel good but upset too because I’m leaving my team.”

Haddadi has been playing abroad since his last NBA experience, in 2012/13 with the Suns. All told, the 7’2″ big man spent five seasons in the league, averaging 2.2 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 151 regular season bouts.

Here are more notes from the World Cup:

  • Massive disadvantages in rebounding and three-point shooting efficiency, along with a general height disadvantage, doomed Team U.S.A. to its first 2023 FIBA World Cup defeat on Sunday, a 110-104 loss to Lithuania, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Shooting guard Austin Reaves considers the loss a potentially galvanizing moment for the now-4-1 club, heading into the quarterfinals of the tournament, per Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews. “We were down by 17 at the halftime,” Reaves said. “It’s hard to climb back from a deficit like that. When you do that, it’s hard… But tip the hat off, they shot the ball from three really well. Offensively, they were really well. Congrats to them.”
  • Hall of Fame point guard Tony Parker recently spoke to RMC Radio’s The Stephen Time Show at length about his native France’s upset early ouster from World Cup competition (hat tip to Eurohoops for the transcription). “There, we really experienced a fiasco,” Parker said. “It’s not normal for such a team to lose in the first round. We have never seen Spain and the United States go out in the first round. And it’s a shame because our generation worked so hard to bring France back to a certain level, so that we could be respected, by FIBA, the referees, the other countries. It’s so hard to have respect… We have to improve the team [ahead of next year’s Paris Olympics], we need changes, but it’s not going to be easy.”
  • After a 112-79 defeat against Team Serbia, Karl-Anthony Towns Dominican Republic national team was eliminated from the World Cup prior to the tournament’s quarterfinals. Towns told reporters after the loss that he deeply enjoyed his experience despite the ouster, according to Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. “This is some of the most fun basketball I’ve ever played,” Towns said. “Coming here, the world expected us to fall flat in our faces, not being a contender and not winning games. Being one of those easy opponents to face, but we didn’t do that at all. We came out here and I hope we made our country proud with the way we competed. The way we fought. And I think the biggest word is we made our country believe.”

And-Ones: Executives, Value Deals, Super-Max, Milestones

Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports recently ranked 25 of the NBA’s top decision-makers in terms of how successful they’ve been at drafting, making trades, and signing free agents over the course of their respective careers. The other five lead executives were not evaluated due to a small sample size.

As Rohrbach writes, with how his system is set up, having a high score over a long career is more impressive than an executive who performed similarly with fewer years of experience. Still, there’s an obvious caveat: his evaluation process is subjective.

Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison is ranked No. 25, followed by Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak and Bulls executive VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. The top three executives in Rohrbach’s system are Jazz CEO Danny Ainge (No. 1), Raptors president Masai Ujiri, and Spurs GM Brian Wright.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype created three all-contract-value teams comprised of players at each of the five positions. Players on rookie deals and those with maximum salaries were excluded from consideration. Gozlan’s first team features four members of the United States’ World Cup roster — Jalen Brunson, Austin Reaves, Mikal Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen takes the final spot.
  • Signing players to a Designated Veteran contract, also known as the “super-max,” is a polarizing topic among NBA executives, according to Steve Bulpett of “Super-max isn’t a guarantee of the result you’re looking for,” one general manager told Heavy Sports. “Just because you qualify doesn’t make you that guy. Inflated contracts are even harder to move. The additional penalties in the new CBA should slow the roll of everybody giving out a super-max deal the first time a guy qualifies for it. Just because a guy qualifies for it doesn’t necessarily make him entitled to it. That’s become the issue in the league. If you’re going to call yourself a franchise-level player, which is what I think the super-max number says, you’ve got to have more than just putting up numbers.”
  • lists some noteworthy milestones and anniversaries to watch for the 2023/24 season, noting that Lakers superstar LeBron James is on track to surpass 40,000 career points if he maintains his stellar production and stays healthy. James became the league’s all-time leading scorer last season.

World Cup Notes: Quarterfinals, USA, Canada, Fontecchio

Four teams at the 2023 World Cup punched their tickets to the quarterfinals with victories on Friday, as the U.S., Lithuania, Germany, and Slovenia all pushed their records to 4-0 and secured their spots in the eight-team knockout round, eliminating Montenegro, Greece, Australia, and Georgia.

As Armando Caporaso of Sportando tweets, that leaves four win-or-go-home games set for Sunday to determine the other four World Cup quarterfinalists. Those matchups will be Italy vs. Puerto Rico, Brazil vs. Latvia, Serbia vs. the Dominican Republic, and – perhaps most intriguingly – Canada vs. Spain.

Any European team that doesn’t advance to at least the quarterfinals will fail to clinch a spot at the 2024 Olympics in this event and would have to win a qualifying tournament next year in order to try to claim one of the last four Olympic berths.

Puerto Rico, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Canada would keep themselves in the running for an Olympic spot with a win on Sunday. If just one of those four teams makes the quarterfinals, that club would join Team USA as the two Americas clubs that will qualify for the Olympics through the World Cup.

As we wait to see how the second round of the World Cup plays out, here are a few more notes on the tournament:

  • Team USA earned its spot in the quarterfinals by defeating Montenegro in what was its toughest test yet. Montenegro led at halftime and kept the game close until the final minutes, but a closing lineup that included reserve guards Tyrese Haliburton and Austin Reaves helped the U.S. put the game away, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Haliburton and Reaves took the place of starters Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart while Anthony Edwards scored all 17 of his points in the second half to help lock up the victory.
  • Team Canada head coach Jordi Fernandez had harsh words for his players after Friday’s upset loss to Brazil, tweets Oren Weisfeld.Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander) has to score the ball and play-make and he didn’t,” Fernandez said. “And I can go down the line. Kelly (Olynyk) has to play-make, rebound and score efficiently – he didn’t. RJ (Barrett) has to run the floor and score efficiently and defend and he didn’t.”
  • As Blake Murphy of notes (via Twitter), a loss on Sunday for Canada would ensure that Brazil finishes ahead of them in their group standings, regardless of whether the Brazilians win or lose on Sunday. So the Canadians will need a victory if they want to hang onto a chance to clinch an Olympic berth this year.
  • Italian forward Simone Fontecchio played a limited role for the Jazz in his first NBA season in 2022/23, but he showed in Friday’s upset victory over Serbia what he’s capable of. As Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops details, Fontecchio led the charge in Italy’s comeback win over the Serbians, pouring in 30 points on 11-of-15 shooting.

Team USA Notes: Portis, Hart, Jackson, Kerr

Team USA continues to look comfortable in the favorite’s role in this year’s World Cup. After going undefeated in five exhibition games, the Americans routed Greece on Tuesday for their second straight double-digit victory in pool play. Austin Reaves, a favorite of the Manila crowd because of his ties to the Lakers, led the way with 15 points, five rebounds and six assists.

Bobby Portis told reporters, including Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops, that the U.S. team quickly formed a bond despite not playing together before training camp began early this month.

“We stand together, obviously, it’s a journey, a long road ahead for us,” Portis said. “Two more weeks left with this team, and hopefully, we can get to the final round. We’ve been together for three and a half weeks now. Nobody complains about playing time, everybody plays for each other, playing for the name you find on this jersey. That’s what this brand is about: playing for each other, going out here, winning and having fun.”

There’s more on Team USA:

  • Head coach Steve Kerr was especially impressed by Josh Hart, who came off the bench to grab 11 rebounds in 20 minutes against Greece, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Hart missed the first exhibition game while waiting to finalize his extension with the Knicks, but he has become one of the team’s primary reserves. “People ask, what position does he play? He plays winner,” Kerr said. “I don’t know what position he plays, but he gets loose balls. He guards anybody. At one point, Spo (Erik Spoelstra) turned to me and said, ‘Some people get 50-50 balls. He gets to 30-70 balls,’ and I thought that was really well said.”
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. found himself in foul trouble in the opener against New Zealand, much like he often has with the Grizzlies, observes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year believes he needs to challenge as many shots as he can, but Kerr is encouraging him to be more discerning. “He’s foul-prone in the NBA,” Kerr said. “So, there’s always one or two plays where you just want him to let it go, because he’s too important to us. So we share those clips and just remind him sometimes the best play is to just let the guy go and don’t pick up the foul.”
  • The American players quickly learned that the international game is officiated differently than the NBA, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Defenders tend to be more aggressive and are allowed to get away with more contact. “Everybody is going to try to beat the crap out of us because that’s their best chance to beat us,” Kerr said.

World Cup Notes: Banchero, Reaves, F. Wagner, Fernandez

Team USA got an early taste of the physical approach that World Cup opponents are likely to try, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. For all their talent, the Americans only have one true center on their roster and they aren’t as big and strong as many of the teams they’ll face. New Zealand attacked the U.S. frontline from the outset in Saturday’s opener and built a 14-4 lead before the game turned around.

“They came out right away and were very physical and took it to us,” said head coach Steve Kerr said. “We need to feel that, because that’s what these games are going to be like.”

With Jaren Jackson Jr. in foul trouble early in the second half, Kerr turned to Paolo Banchero, a natural forward who’s being asked to play center during the tournament. Banchero wound up leading Team USA with 21 points while blocking four shots, several of which led to fast-break opportunities.

“Being in the World Cup, my role is my role. I kind of have accepted it,” Banchero said. “I just want to do it to the best of my ability. J.J., he’s a great player. I gotta be able to pick up where he left off when he comes out the game.”

There’s more from the World Cup:

  • The fan favorite in the Philippines is Austin Reaves, who benefits from playing for the Lakers, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. L.A. is the nation’s favorite NBA team because of past visits to Manila by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. “I was talking to (Lakers assistant) Phil Handy, and he was telling me that they love the Lakers out here,” said Reaves, who got a huge ovation during pre-game introductions. “So I kind of seen it coming. It’s special for me.”
  • Magic forward Franz Wagner is considered day-to-day after turning his ankle in Germany’s first game, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN. Team doctor Oliver Putz provided an update Saturday, telling reporters that the injury doesn’t appear to be serious. “Nothing is broken, torn or anything like this, things that would end the FIBA World Cup for him,” he said. “Franz feels better this morning than yesterday. We did another MRI this morning. But the problem is that we don’t have the imaging yet, so we can’t say exactly what’s hurt yet.”
  • Spain’s Rudy Fernandez set a European record Saturday by playing in his fifth World Cup tournament, notes Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.

Lakers Notes: Reaves, Team USA, Lineups

Lakers guard Austin Reaves had a strong official debut with Team USA in the 2023 World Cup, notching 12 points (on 4-of-6 shooting), six assists and three steals in 22 minutes of action as the Americans defeated New Zealand. Still, those numbers might be underselling his impact, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who says Reaves’ “all-around production, spirit and poise” made a big difference off the bench in the comeback win.

As Windhorst writes, Reaves has become a fan favorite around the world due to his breakout performance with Los Angeles last season, with the crowd in the Philippines going wild after his normal pose following a made three-pointer. He says it’s something he doesn’t take for granted.

I was one of those kids watching the World Cup [and] the Olympics, so every day I wake up and cherish those moments,” Reaves said. “I’m from a super small town, and not a lot of people expected me to be here representing our country. So for the [crowds] to accept me the way that they accept me, it means a lot to me.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • In an interview with Khobi Price of The Southern California News Group (subscriber link), Reaves says the last two years have been a whirlwind. As Price notes, the 25-year-old went undrafted in 2021, initially signing a two-way contract with the Lakers. Reaves was promoted to a standard deal prior to 2021/22, excelled down the stretch in ’22/23 in helping L.A. make the Western Conference Finals, signed a four-year, $54MM contract in free agency, and then received an invitation to the World Cup roster. “It’s been crazy,” Reaves said. “To get here and be rewarded with the contract [and] being on Team USA … all those dark days not getting recruited, not getting drafted, all that’s come to light. The basketball gods are real. If you’re pure to the game, the game will be pure to you back eventually. It’s been a beautiful two years.”
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic lists five lineups he’d like to see the Lakers use in ’23/24. According to Buha, the lineup with the most intriguing two-way potential features Reaves, Max Christie, Rui Hachimura, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A second-round pick in 2022, Christie is coming off a strong Summer League showing last month.
  • In case you missed it, the Lakers are unveiling a statue of the late Kobe Bryant during the upcoming season. You can find the details right here.

Southwest Notes: VanVleet, Green, Reaves, Pelicans

Rockets fans shouldn’t expect Fred VanVleet‘s production to match up with the three-year, $128MM+ contract he received in free agency, Eric Koreen of The Athletic states during a discussion with fellow Athletic writer Kelly Iko.

VanVleet’s salary is based on the amount of money the Rockets had to spend and a late bidding war with the Raptors, who were trying to keep him. Although Koreen expects VanVleet to help move the Rockets in the right direction, he adds that the veteran point guard won’t become the number one option in clutch situations.

Houston’s disorganization over the past three seasons began with the lack of a true point guard, which is why there was a desire to add VanVleet. Koreen points out that he averaged 3.54 assists per turnover last season, which ranked third in the league. VanVleet should create better scoring opportunities for his young teammates while avoiding costly turnovers that have plagued the Rockets during their rebuilding process.

Koreen also expects VanVleet to make a difference as a team leader. New coach Ime Udoka doesn’t mind challenging players directly, so VanVleet won’t have to do that. Koreen sees his role as a “translator” who can help make sure that Udoka’s harsh messages are received constructively.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rockets officials are happy with the commitment they’ve seen from Jalen Green this summer, team sources tell Iko in a separate story. Green trained extensively with other NBA players in California, and Udoka was often in attendance. Green was reportedly “stronger, fitter and most importantly, smarter” when he showed up in Las Vegas to be part of the Select Team.
  • The Spurs considered two potential offers for Lakers guard Austin Reaves in free agency, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. San Antonio pondered a maximum contract that would have paid Reaves about $100MM over four years and a shorter arrangement valued at $60MM over three years. The Spurs and everyone else were eventually dissuaded by L.A.’s insistence that it would match any offer given to Reaves.
  • The Pelicans are offering fans a chance at cash prizes if the team wins the first-ever in-season tournament, writes Christian Clark of NOLA. One hundred fans would split a $1MM cash prize, giving them $10,000 each. To be eligible, fans must purchase a mobile ticket and attend at least one tournament game in New Orleans.