Christian Wood

Lakers Notes: James, Davis, Vanderbilt, Russell, Wood

Lakers All-Stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James submitted good-but-not-great outings in L.A.’s 114-103 Game 1 defeat against the Nuggets on Saturday, writes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times.

Guided largely by the efforts of those two stars, Los Angeles led Denver by as many as 12 points in the first half. James had 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 shooting from the charity stripe, along with eight assists, six rebounds, a steal and a block. He also turned the ball over seven times.

Davis scored 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the floor and 8-of-9 shooting from the foul line. He also grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked four shots.

No other Laker scored more than 13 points. Woike notes that Denver enjoyed distinct advantages in offensive rebounding and combined second-chance and fast-break points, which also seemed to help make the difference.

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Backup Lakers combo forward Jarred Vanderbilt is in a walking boot as he continues to deal with a right foot injury, per Khobi Price of The Orange County Register (Twitter link). Los Angeles head coach Darvin Ham claims the boot is not a setback, noting that “everything’s still going to plan” with regard to Vanderbilt’s recovery.
  • Starting point guard D’Angelo Russell had been on a tear for much of the second half of the 2023/24 regular season, and seemed primed to avenge his forgettable showing in last year’s Western Conference Finals defeat to Denver with this first round rematch. He had a rough Game 1, however, scoring just 13 points on 6-of-20 shooting from the floor. Ham made a point to defend Russell after his uneven showing, per Dave McMenmain of ESPN. “D-Lo is a huge reason why we’re here in the first place,” Ham said. “I’m not going to bail out on my player just because he’s missing the shots that he normally makes. So same shots were going in against New Orleans [in the play-in tournament] and other games that he’s played in to help us get to this point. So it just wasn’t his night.”
  • Reserve Lakers big man Christian Wood is hoping to return in time for Game 3 of the series, when the action moves to Arena in Los Angeles, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). He has been sidelined since a February knee surgery. Ham, however, cautioned that Wood “still [has] a couple boxes to check” before he can come back in this series, according to McMenamin (via Twitter).

Lakers Notes: Vanderbilt, Hachimura, Wood, Prince, Reddish, Offense

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has tinkered with the team’s starting lineup over the course of the season, but no matter what he tried, he was having difficulty finding one that stuck. According to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, Ham planned to start Jarred Vanderbilt as the fifth starter alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves in early February, but injuries to James and Davis sidetracked that plan.

Then, shortly after, Vanderbilt suffered a foot injury and hasn’t played since Feb. 1. A player with a unique skillset who helped propel last year’s late-season run, Vanderbilt’s absence was and is a big blow to the Lakers. According to Buha, there is internal optimism that Vanderbilt will return before the regular season ends next month.

Someone needed to step up in Vanderbilt’s absence and, so far, the Lakers have seen success with Rui Hachimura taking over the fifth starter spot from Vanderbilt and Taurean Prince, the latter of whom has been a starter for most of the year. The Lakers moved to 12-5 with Hachimura in the starting five next to James, Davis, Russell and Reaves after beating the Sixers on Friday.

I’ve been telling them, like, this is who we are,” Hachimura said. “We’ve been trying a lot of different things, some lineups and all this stuff, but this is the lineup we had in the playoffs and that’s how we won, so it’s simple. … It’s just that we know, we’re just really comfortable playing each other.

Buha further explores why it took so long for the Lakers to get back to lineups featuring Hachimura, which had success last postseason. As Buha explains, Vanderbilt’s preseason injury caused the team to pick between Hachimura and Prince for early-season starter, and Prince won out due to his professionalism and consistency. Prince’s ties to Ham also helped keep him in the lineup for as long as he was.

But with the team floundering and lineups featuring Prince next to the stars continuing to be outscored, the team made the move to Hachimura. So far, the new starting group is outscoring opponents by 42 points and has a plus-8.0 net differential.

We have more from the Lakers:

  • In the same article, Buha writes that while Christian Wood is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with his knee injury, there’s a chance he can make a return for the Play-In Tournament or the playoffs, if the Lakers make it. Wood is averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds this season.
  • Prince missed Friday’s game against the Lakers due to personal reasons but he’s expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday against the Pacers, according to Buha (Twitter links). Prince is averaging 9.0 points and shooting 38.7% from beyond the arc in 66 appearances (49 starts) this season.
  • After he’s been in and out of the lineup due to injury over the past couple months, the Lakers are optimistic that Cam Reddish will be available and able to help the team during the final stretch of the season, The Orange County Register’s Khobi Price writes. Reddish has missed 19 of the last 24 games due to a sprained right ankle after originally suffering the injury on Jan. 23. Ham expressed confidence he’ll be able to help sooner than later. “He should be able to find his rhythm pretty quickly,” Ham said of Reddish. “Obviously, there’s gonna be a little bit of rust and it’s always like that when you’ve been out of the lineup. But for the most part, the things he needs to do to help us win, he should be able to fall right back in the pocket pretty smoothly.
  • The Lakers are running more sets and organized offense, leading to the second-best offensive rating in the league over the past two months, Price observes in a separate article. L.A. is continuing to put forth solid halfcourt offensive displays and are thriving in games with controlled offense. “Getting off to good starts, when the offense gets stagnant, we can run a few sets to get the ball popping again,” Russell said. “It’s vital for us. We’ve got a lot of guys, a lot of talent, can easily get in ‘Hero Mode’ and it can hurt us as a team. So just keeping that ball popping. Having everybody trust the pass. It’ll be contagious, making us hard to guard.

Christian Wood To Undergo Arthroscopic Surgery On Left Knee

Lakers big man Christian Wood will undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin tweet.

Back on Feb. 21, a report suggested that the Lakers felt Wood’s knee soreness was relatively minor and that he’d be back in action in a couple of weeks. However, the injury obviously hasn’t healed to expectations.

Wood appeared in 50 of the team’s first 56 games, averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per night in his first season with the Lakers. He hasn’t played since Feb. 14.

Wood surprisingly remained on the free agent market until early September last year, when the Lakers signed him to a two-year, veteran’s minimum contract. He holds a $3MM option on his contract for next season.

Wood and the Mavericks failed to reach an extension agreement last season and he didn’t generate the type of interest normally conveyed to players who averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest during their walk year.

The Lakers currently hold the final play-in spot in the Western Conference. Wood probably won’t be available until later in the postseason, if the Lakers advance.

Lakers’ Wood To Be Reevaluated In Two Weeks; LeBron To Miss Thursday’s Game

9:34pm: The Lakers are optimistic that Wood’s injury is relatively minor and that he won’t miss more than a couple weeks, a source tells Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link).

7:15pm: Lakers backup big man Christian Wood has been diagnosed with swelling in his left knee and will be reevaluated in about two weeks, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Wood has appeared in 50 of the team’s first 56 games and was able to play 16 minutes last Wednesday in L.A.’s final game before the All-Star break. He’s averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per night in his first season with the Lakers.

The team is listing LeBron James as out for Thursday’s game with Golden State due to the peroneal tendinopathy in his left ankle that has been affecting him for a while. He also missed last Wednesday’s contest and sat out the second half of Sunday’s All-Star Game.

James has been receiving treatment on the ankle this week, but it hasn’t responded well enough for him to take the court. Thursday will mark the eighth game he has missed this season, and it comes at a crucial time as the Warriors are just a game-and-a-half behind L.A. in the Western Conference play-in race.

Lakers Notes: Dinwiddie, LeBron, Russell, Reaves, Injuries

After going through his first practice with the Lakers on Monday, veteran point guard Spencer Dinwiddie explained why he chose Los Angeles over the Mavericks when he became a free agent last week, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“The two situations kind of felt like this: Let’s say you were a kid and you got your ass whupped by the bully,” Dinwiddie said. “Dallas would’ve been like your momma being like, ‘It’s OK, baby. Don’t worry about it.’ Lakers are like your dad: ‘Nah, you better go out there and fight ’til you win.’ You feel me? And I just felt like that was what I needed at the time. I’m a big believer in kind of doing what you need to do at whatever time it is.”

As McMenamin notes, Dinwiddie played for the Mavericks and head coach Jason Kidd from 2022-23, but has never played for his hometown Lakers or Darvin Ham, so that represented the more challenging, less familiar route for the 30-year-old. Dinwiddie added that Rob Pelinka was the first team executive to call him after he was waived by Toronto, which made a strong impression.

The veteran guard will be reuniting with a few former teammates in L.A., including D’Angelo Russell, Taurean Prince, Rui Hachimura, and Christian Wood. However, as McMenamin writes, Dinwiddie made it clear that none of those players were the most influential voice in his ear as he made the decision to join the Lakers.

“How the hell we going to give C-Wood the credit? Bro, what are we doing?” Dinwiddie said with a laugh. “Look, C-Wood was impactful. … (But) I’m giving the credit to Bron (LeBron James).”

Here’s more on Dinwiddie and the Lakers:

  • While Dinwiddie will slot in behind Russell and Austin Reaves‘ on the Lakers’ backcourt depth chart, Ham said he can envision using all three guards in certain lineups, perhaps even to close games, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. “All three of those guys can play together,” Ham said. “His size, he can guard bigger wings. So if we have to finish the game with those three, he’s definitely more than capable of doing that. We will look at some lineups with the three of those guys, along with Bron and AD. But I think he complements them well. He can defend, he can pass, he can dribble, he can shoot.”
  • Like he did in his previous contract, Dinwiddie negotiated a $1 incentive in his new deal that he’ll earn if the Lakers win the championship, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. His base salary will increase from $1,554,654 to $1,554,655 in that scenario. Dinwiddie told reporters that the $1 championship incentive has become something of inside joke between him and agent Jason Glushon (Twitter video link via McMenamin).
  • Cam Reddish (right ankle sprain), Max Christie (right ankle sprain), Jarred Vanderbilt (right mid-foot sprain), and Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery recovery) will all be reevaluated after the All-Star break, the Lakers said on Monday (Twitter link via Khobi Price of the Southern California News Group). Some of those players are closer to returning than others, with Vanderbilt’s status for the rest of the season notably still up in the air.

Western Notes: Kuminga, Lakers, Wolves, Watson

At 20-24, the No. 12 seed in the West, the Warriors certainly aren’t where they hoped to be in the standings at this point in the 2023/24 season. However, one bright spot of late has been the play of third-year forward Jonathan Kuminga, says Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

As Slater writes, Kuminga has been highly efficient attacking the paint over the past seven games, scoring 20-plus each game in averaging 25.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 61.9% from the field (32.0 minutes). Star guard Stephen Curry thinks Kuminga is turning a corner in his development.

(He has) clarity on how he can impact the game,” Curry said. “Defensive intensity, pressure, taking what the defense gives him on the offensive end. Whether it’s attacking driving lanes, finishing at the rim, getting transition buckets for us, and knocking down open shots. There’s just an element of aggressiveness. You don’t want him out there second-guessing anything.”

Playing Kuminga more and letting him learn from mistakes shows the team finally realized it needed to shake things up, especially on offense, according to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, who notes that Andrew Wiggins has played well lately too with Draymond Green starting at center.

Kuminga’s prominent role is in stark contrast to the uneven minutes he received earlier this season, with a report just a few weeks ago suggesting the 21-year-old was losing faith in head coach Steve Kerr. However, Slater recently said Kuminga has felt better about his situation since he met with Kerr in the wake of that report.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Christian Wood sent out a tweet saying “lol” shortly before the Lakers announced their starting lineup on Tuesday featured Jaxson Hayes starting at center with Anthony Davis sidelined, but he said after the game it wasn’t related to basketball, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. “I meant to quote (tweet) something,” Wood said. “I thought I did and I just pressed send, and I couldn’t check my phone before because we have to go out (to the court), but it was an accident. … I looked at it just now. … It came off a certain type of way. I didn’t mean it that way.” After the loss to Atlanta, LeBron James also sent out a cryptic hourglass emoji, Buha adds. The trade deadline is next Thursday, and the Lakers are currently 24-25.
  • The Timberwolves have only advanced past the first round of the playoffs once in franchise history. How will they handle the pressure of being considered a title contender? ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explores that topic, writing that Karl-Anthony Towns‘ willingness to adjust his game has paid dividends thus far in 2023/24. “The winning helps. It’s good when you’re able to sacrifice to see the result you wanted and share the success,” Towns said. “We’re all making this happen. This is not just a singular effort. This is a team coming together and saying ‘We really want to do something special.’
  • Already an impressive defender in year two, Nuggets forward Peyton Watson says he’s looking to expand his game on the other end of the court, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. Watson has been taking far more mid-range shots lately, an area he’s comfortable in. “Coming in as a young player and trying to make a name for yourself and get a spot in the rotation, you’re not just coming in shooting of the dribble jumpers,” Watson told DNVR. “That’s not analytically the best shot, especially if you’re someone just coming in and trying to create his role. Now that I’ve created my role and people know what I’m going to do on the defensive end, it’s just been more about me expanding my game offensively, seeing what works, trial and error, and getting ready for when it counts in the playoffs.”

Pacific Notes: Warriors Rumors, Wood, Huerter, Monk

Every player on the Warriors, except for franchise icon Stephen Curry, appears to be “on the table” for trade in some capacity, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter link). Charania says this comes with an asterisk, though, with the team likely to want to avoid moving other longtime staples Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

It would be truly shocking to see Golden State trade Thompson or Green, given their significance to the franchise, but Charania’s reporting indicates it’s not absolutely out of the question for the floundering Warriors. Thompson has had a well-documented down season this year and Green is still serving out a long-term suspension that he says made him contemplate retirement. Rumors earlier on Thursday indicated neither may have a long-term future with the franchise. Still, a trade involving either at the deadline would be surprising.

Charania says the Warriors like Jonathan Kuminga, Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis, but singles out Andrew Wiggins as someone who could be on the move before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. It could have been an oversight, but it is interesting that Moses Moody was not mentioned in that group of young players. Both Kuminga and Moody recently expressed discontent with their playing time.

According to Charania, the Warriors don’t want to take back any long-term money, which makes them unlikely to pursue Bulls guard Zach LaVine. Dejounte Murray, another player whose name has come up around the league, is under contract for four years after this season at $114MM. Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, conversely, is in the final year of his contract and has been tied to the Warriors.

Chris Paul, Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II are among Golden State’s other sizable contracts that could be attractive or purely salary-matching trade assets.

Another subject looming over the Warriors and their desire to get back to contention is the contract status of head coach Steve Kerr, who is on an expiring contract. Erik Spoelstra‘s eight-year, $120MM deal signed earlier this week is likely a decent target figure for Kerr’s potential deal, but Charania hears that there is no traction on an extension between Kerr and Golden State as of now.

We have more from the Pacific Division

  • Lakers big man Christian Wood bounced in and out of the lineup throughout December but was inserted back into the rotation on Dec. 28 and has been a rotation regular since then. He’s been impressive since rejoining the rotation, The Orange County Register’s Khobi Price writes. Wood is averaging 9.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game since regaining the backup center role, with a 52.6% mark on three-point attempts. “Now he’s settled down and become more and more comfortable with his teammates,” head coach Darvin Ham said. “He’s understanding the guys that he’s out on the floor with and the rhythm in which they play with and he’s finding his spots and keeping it simple.
  • Kings guard Kevin Huerter left Sacramento’s Wednesday game against the Hornets after 41 seconds and did not return due to a left ankle injury, The Sacramento Bee’s Chris Biderman observes. Replays showed Huerter stepped on Keegan Murray‘s foot during the opening tip. Huerter said after the game he was unsure how much time he would miss with the injury. According to Biderman, Chris Duarte and Colby Jones, along with Malik Monk, took over Huerter’s minutes.
  • Monk helped the Kings secure their 25-point victory over Charlotte by scoring 20 points off the bench, Biderman writes in the same article. Monk was the 11th overall pick by the Hornets in 2017 but got off to a slow start to his career under Steve Clifford, Charlotte’s current coach. In four career games vs. Charlotte prior to Wednesday, Monk had averaged just 8.8 points against his former team, according to Biderman. “I don’t think I’ve had one [good game against the Hornets] yet,” Monk said. “So it was good to come back and kick their a– like we did. Put that out there, too. But, nah, it feels great, especially all the love I get here.

Los Angeles Notes: Clippers’ Streak, Coffey, Davis, James

The Clippers have won seven straight, demonstrating how far they’ve come since the James Harden trade, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes. Kawhi Leonard has scored 30-plus points in six of the last 10 games, and Leonard, Paul George and Harden are developing into a dominating trio.

“It’s exactly what I envisioned just how we should play and how we can play,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “The biggest thing is just PG, Kawhi and James making each other better on a night-to-night basis.”

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • Amir Coffey played 29 minutes for the Clippers on Thursday, scoring 18 points against Golden State. He saw 17 more minutes of action against the Knicks on Saturday after playing sparingly in the first 23 games. Lue said Coffey, who is signed through next season, bulled his way into the rotation, Greif tweets. “He’s earned the right to have the opportunity to play,” Lue said.
  • The Clippers’ defense will be tested in all of their games before Christmas, Law Murray of The Athletic notes. They face top-10 offenses in the Pacers, Mavericks and Thunder during their upcoming three-game road trip, then host another top-10 offense in the Celtics. “We’re a defense-first team, and we’ll watch film, see what they like to do, prepare for them and do our best,” Ivica Zubac said. “We know Indy is a great offensive team, and then you got Dallas and OKC, some great offensive teams. But we got some good defenders on this team and guys with high IQ that read very well on defense that can make plays. It’s going to be a great test for us.”
  • The Lakers list Anthony Davis (left adductor, hip spasm) and LeBron James (left calf contusion) as questionable for Monday’s home game against the Knicks, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Christian Wood (non-COVID illness) is also listed as questionable.

The Lakers Players Who Benefited Most From IST Prize Money

The Lakers‘ team salary this season is just above the $165.3MM luxury tax line, far exceeding the $126MM or so on the Pacers‘ books.

However, not a single player on Indiana’s roster is on a minimum-salary contract and only four Pacers players on standard deals are earning less than $5MM this season. By comparison, Los Angeles has eight players with cap hits below that $5MM threshold, including five earning the minimum.

While the $500K bonus for winning the NBA’s in-season tournament (IST) may be a drop in the bucket for maximum-salary stars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it serves as a significant pay raise for the players on the lower half of the Lakers’ cap sheet, as well as the players on two-way contracts who will receive bonuses worth $250K.

Here are the Lakers players for whom the NBA Cup prize money represents more than a 10% raise on their 2023/24 base salary, which is noted in parentheses:

Players receiving a $500K bonus:

Players receiving a $250K bonus:

The bonuses for Lewis and the Lakers’ two-way players represent a raise of roughly 44.7% on their respective base salaries.

The Lakers’ coaching staff also benefited financially from their in-season tournament success. Head coach Darvin Ham earned the same $500K bonus that his players did, while his assistant coaches divvied up $375K in bonus money.

The Pacers’ players and head coach Rick Carlisle went home with bonuses worth $200K (or $100K for two-way players).

None of this prize money will count against the salary cap, so the Lakers’ team salary for cap purposes remains unchanged, as do the team salaries for Indiana and the other six clubs who made the knockout round of the IST.

Lakers Notes: Trade Market, Reaves, Vanderbilt, Hachimura, Vincent

The Lakers will be patient about assessing potential trades, team sources tell Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Numerous injuries have made it difficult to evaluate the current roster, so the front office will continue to study the type of moves that need to be made and wait to see what opportunities might develop if teams such as the Raptors, Wizards, Jazz, Nets or Hornets decide to have a “fire sale” before the February deadline, according to Buha.

December 15 marks the unofficial start of trade season as most of the free agents who signed this summer will become eligible to be moved. For L.A., that list includes D’Angelo Russell, Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish, Christian Wood and Jaxson Hayes. Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves will become trade-eligible a month later.

Buha notes that the Lakers have already been linked to Zach LaVine in trade rumors, along with fellow Bulls DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso. But it appears any deal may be a couple of months away.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Finding the best role for Reaves should be one of coach Darvin Ham‘s priorities for the rest of the season, Buha states in the same story. Reaves began the season as a starter, but he has put up better stats since being moved to a sixth-man role. Buha says the early-season slump could have been caused by fatigue from playing for Team USA in the World Cup or it could have been a result of adapting to more minutes at point guard. Regardless, Ham will eventually have to settle on a fifth starter from a group that includes Reaves, Prince, Reddish and Max Christie.
  • Meeting with reporters before tonight’s game, Ham confirmed that Jarred Vanderbilt will make his season debut after missing 20 games with bursitis in his left heel, Buha tweets. Hachimura has been medically cleared after missing the past four games following surgery for a nasal fracture, but Ham said “it’s more of a touch-and-feel thing with Rui” regarding how much he will play.
  • Vincent has only appeared in four games because of a left knee effusion, but he’s getting closer to a return, Ham added, saying that he’s lifting weights, shooting and running on an anti-gravity treadmill (Twitter link). “He’s progressing along,” Ham said. “Not as of yet, but he’s progressing really, really good.”