Darvin Ham

Pacific Notes: Paul, Labissiere, Warriors Rookies, Lakers

The Warriors made one of the splashiest moves of the offseason when they acquired Chris Paul from Washington after he was sent to the Wizards by Phoenix in the Bradley Beal trade. Even though the Warriors sent out Jordan Poole in the deal, lineup questions arose for Golden State, who return 2022/23 starters Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney — that could leave CP3 as the odd man out in the starting five.

However, appearing on a recent episode of Yahoo Sports’ Vince Goodwill’s “Good Word With Goodwill” podcast (Podcast link), Andscape’s Marc J. Spears said he expects the Warriors to start Paul.

I do expect him to start. And I think it’s like five-minute spurts,” Spears said on the podcast. “I don’t know that they really want his minutes to be high, but I think they’re gonna try it. I could be wrong, but that’s the gist I’m getting. This isn’t an opinion that he’s expected to start; it’s what I’m hearing. He’s never not started in his career.

As Spears notes, Paul has started in all 1,214 of his NBA appearances. If that streak continues, it means one of the Warriors’ entrenched starters would have to move to the bench. Looney is a natural candidate, but the Warriors are lacking size and going that route would put them at a disadvantage in that regard, since it would make 6’6″ Green and 6’7″ Wiggins the tallest players in the lineup.

We have more notes from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings plan to sign and then waive Skal Labissiere on the same day, meaning he won’t report to the team’s training camp The Kings Beat’s James Ham tweets. This was always the expected outcome for Labissiere, especially after the team secured his G League rights in a trade on Friday. Labissiere, 27, played for the Kings from 2016-19 after being drafted by the team with the No. 28 overall pick in the 2016 draft. He holds career averages of 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in 148 NBA appearances between the Kings and the Trail Blazers.
  • Warriors rookies Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis are becoming closer throughout the offseason, recently touring several attractions in San Francisco, Shayna Rubin of The Mercury News writes. Podziemski and Jackson-Davis, who could both play rotational roles for a Warriors team seeking to contend, are becoming acclimated to the city and the franchise, according to Rubin. Rubin reports that the two were part of a players-only mini-camp hosted by Curry at the end of August, and the entire team grew closer as a result of the event.
  • Signing Christian Wood is the latest in a series of flashy Lakers moves this offseason, but Heavy’s Sean Deveney writes that rival executives believe coach Darvin Ham is going to have his hands full with developing and sticking to a rotation. “They’re deep,” the executive said, per Deveney. “They’re 12 deep. That’s great when you look at it on paper. But when happens when the ball goes up and you’re playing nine guys, and one of those guys is playing eight minutes? That gets sticky for a coach. [Ham] is as good as anyone at relating to players, but a depth chart like that can be a coach’s nightmare.” Deveney suggests that Wood wouldn’t have joined the Lakers if his role wasn’t going to be big. Los Angeles also brought in a handful of players in free agency, including Gabe Vincent and Taurean Prince, while retaining Rui Hachimura, Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell. Second-year player Max Christie is also in line for more playing time.

Lakers Notes: Wood, Davis, Frontcourt Minutes

Part of the reason it took Christian Wood so long to find a new team in free agency is he was waiting to see what would happen with the trade requests made by Damian Lillard and James Harden, sources tell Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

As Buha explains, Wood might have found an opportunity for more playing time and/or more money had one of the stars been moved, but since there hasn’t been much — if any — traction in either of those situations, he decided to join the Lakers on a two-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum (the second year is a player option).

Team sources tell Buha the “early expectation” is that Wood will come off the bench as L.A.’s primary backup center, with Rui Hachimura likely to start in the frontcourt alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Wood’s ability to space the floor should open up some two-big pairings, with Davis sliding down to power forward at times after spending last season exclusively playing center.

Wood’s addition could also reduce the minutes and roles of Jarred Vanderbilt and Jaxson Hayes, Buha adds. Vanderbilt was a rotation regular after being acquired from Utah in February, while Hayes signed as a free agent this summer after spending the past four seasons with New Orleans.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • In a statement to Marc J. Spears of Andscape (Twitter link), Wood says his relationship with head coach Darvin Ham — the two briefly worked together on the Bucks — was a factor in signing with the Lakers. “We’ve had great conversations everyday about this opportunity,” Wood wrote. “He believes in me and told me I’ll be playing a big role and knows what I can do.” The former Mavericks big man added that he was “motivated after what Dallas did,” though he didn’t specify what he meant.
  • While there are some risks to signing Wood, the Lakers believe they’re the right organization to bring out the best in the talented scorer, writes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Having better defensive personnel around Wood might help mitigate some of his shortcomings on that end, Woike notes.
  • The Lakers prioritized finding depth at center because Davis told the team he didn’t want to spend all his regular-season minutes manning the middle, sources tell ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Davis signed a three-year, maximum-salary extension last month to remain with L.A. long term, so there was motivation from both sides to find another big man to help ease his workload.

Lakers Notes: Wood, Hachimura, Vanderbilt, Reddish

Anthony Davis played with Christian Wood in New Orleans, while Lakers head coach Darvin Ham briefly worked with Wood as an assistant in Milwaukee, notes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Davis’ and Ham’s familiarity with the free agent big man is one reason why the Lakers targeted him as soon as it became clear he might be attainable for the veteran’s minimum.

[RELATED: Christian Wood Agrees To Two-Year Contract With Lakers]

Although Wood remained on the free agent market for more than two months, he’ll likely enter Los Angeles’ training camp as a candidate to start, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who suggests Wood will battle Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt for a role in the starting five.

Even if he ends up as a reserve, Wood projects to be Davis’ primary backup in the middle and should play approximately 20 minutes per night, Buha writes. He’ll also provide important insurance if Davis has to miss time due to an injury. Given that AD hasn’t played more than 62 games in a season since 2017/18, that’s a pretty viable scenario.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Team sources tell Buha that the Lakers’ roster will likely be set once Wood’s deal is official. That doesn’t mean that the team won’t bring a few more players to training camp on Exhibit 10 contracts, but it means L.A.’s 14 players on guaranteed contracts and three on two-way deals should be the ones who make up the opening-night regular season roster.
  • Shortly after word of Wood’s agreement with the Lakers broke on Tuesday night, he tweeted, “It’s always been my dream to be a Laker.”
  • Recapping the Lakers’ offseason and previewing their upcoming season, Shaun Powell of NBA.com praises the job that head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka has done in 2023 to add complementary talent around LeBron James and Davis, suggesting that whether or not the club contends for a title this season will ultimately be up to those two superstars.
  • In a video clip posted on the Lakers’ official Twitter account, newcomer Cam Reddish said that he’s “really looking forward to” playing with James and Davis. “Two Hall of Fame players,” Reddish said. “I’m just trying to be a sponge, learn everything that I can.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Draymond, Preston, Duarte, Kings

The Lakers made some roster changes yesterday, agreeing to free agent deals with guard Gabe Vincent and forwards Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish. They’re also signing big man Jaxson Hayes to fortify their frontcourt depth.

Vincent will replace Dennis Schröder, who wound up signing with Toronto after the Raptors lost Fred VanVleet in free agency. That transaction came after the Vincent deal was reported.

Team sources tell Jovan Buha of The Athletic that the Lakers contemplated re-signing Schröder, but believe Vincent is a better player and will provide more value. According to Buha, head coach Darvin Ham was one of the people “strongly in favor” of bringing Schröder back.

Despite waiving Mohamed Bamba before his $10.3MM salary became guaranteed, the center is still interested in returning to Los Angeles, a source tells Buha. However, Buha’s article was released before the team agreed to sign Hayes, and the Lakers still have Wenyen Gabriel and Tristan Thompson as free agents.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • Draymond Green and the Warriors both had negotiating wins for his new four-year, $100MM contract, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. As Slater explains, the Warriors got significant tax savings for 2023/24 by Green taking a first-year pay cut compared to his declined player option, while Green got a fourth year tacked on to the end of the deal.
  • Clippers and guard Jason Preston mutually agreed to push back his salary guarantee date to July 18, a source tells Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). The 33rd pick of the 2021 draft out of Ohio University, Preston missed his entire rookie season after undergoing right foot surgery. Preston only appeared in 14 regular season games for a total of 124 minutes this past season. The 23-year-old spent most of ’22/23 in the G League with the team’s G League affiliate. His salary will remain non-guaranteed for now.
  • The Kings and Pacers were reportedly nearing an agreement Friday morning on a trade that would send wing Chris Duarte to Sacramento in exchange for draft compensation. However, as of Friday night, the two teams had yet to agree to terms, a league source tells Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Lakers Notes: Russell, Game 4, Strategy, Injuries

For all the adjustments Lakers coach Darvin Ham has made in the playoffs, he has remained committed to keeping D’Angelo Russell in his starting lineup, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Russell has been a starter since he was acquired from the Timberwolves in February, and Ham indicated that he’s likely to remain in that role even though he hasn’t played well in the first three games against Denver.

“Sometimes the greatest adjustment is just to play better,” Ham said at Sunday’s practice. “Play harder. Play better. Sometimes that’s the most key adjustment. It’s funny, (how) it’s almost becoming cliché. (People say), ‘What’s your adjustments, adjustments, adjustments?’ Sometimes you go in there, and you take a long, hard look at the film to clean up what you need to clean up, and you try to do what you’re doing better.”

Russell is averaging 7.0 PPG in the Western Conference Finals while shooting 29.6% from the field and 14.3% from three-point range. The Nuggets are also targeting him on defense to get easy scoring opportunities. While a recent report indicated the Lakers are concerned about the possible long-term effects of taking away Russell’s starting job, Ham said he still believes in his point guard, who was effective in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

“We know he can make those shots,” Ham said. “So the biggest thing is not to get depressed, not to get down, continue to be aggressive, continue to be assertive, and eventually that ball will go in.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Facing the nearly impossible task of winning a playoff series after falling behind 3-0, the Lakers have narrowed their focus to just getting a victory Monday night, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Historically, NBA teams with that deficit are 0-149, but Ham doesn’t want his players to believe the situation is hopeless. “We’re alive, man. The series is not over,” he said. “… The only thing we have to do is just focus on one game. We don’t have to be overwhelmed about the outside noise or the overall series. We just have to worry about one game, what’s exactly in front of us.”
  • The Lakers may want to use Jarred Vanderbilt or another tall defender to slow down Jamal Murray, who has strung together two 37-point games, suggests Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Zillgitt offers a few other strategy recommendations, including larger roles in the offense for LeBron James and Austin Reaves.
  • James (right foot stress injury) and Anthony Davis (right foot soreness) are the only names on the Lakers’ injury report for Game 4 and they’re both listed as probable, Turner tweets.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Davis, Bamba, Reaves, Hachimura

General manager Rob Pelinka reshuffled the Lakers‘ roster to give LeBron James and Anthony Davis their best shot at another NBA title, but the two stars haven’t lived up to expectations so far in the Western Conference Finals, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.

L.A. trails the series 2-0 after letting a pair of winnable games slip away in Denver. James missed a layup and botched a wide-open dunk in the second quarter Thursday, while Davis shot just 4-of-15 from the field after a 40-point night in Game 1. Amick notes that neither player is as dominant as they were when L.A. defeated Denver in the 2020 conference finals, which is understandable with James considering that he’s 38, but it’s more puzzling for Davis, who should still be in his prime at age 30.

“I got the same looks,” Davis told reporters after Game 2. “… I liked all the looks that I got today. Just a lot of them (were) short. I’m going to continue to shoot those shots and I’ve got to be better, more efficient, (to) help the team win. So, I’ll be better.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • James isn’t concerned about his three-point shooting, even though he’s off to an 0-for-10 start in the series, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. James shot 32.1% from beyond the arc this season, his lowest figure in seven years, but his teammates are encouraging him to keep shooting whenever he’s open. “It’s LeBron James. I don’t think anybody bats an eye when he shoots a shot or questions his shot,” Austin Reaves said. “We want him taking whatever he feels comfortable with, just because he’s a winning basketball player for his whole career and that’s all he wants to do, he wants to win.”
  • Coach Darvin Ham altered his starting five for Game 2, but the change he made wasn’t the one he needed, contends Kevin Pelton of ESPN. There was speculation that Rui Hachimura might start after he did an effective job guarding Nikola Jokic late in Game 1, but Ham opted to replace Dennis Schröder with Jarred Vanderbilt instead. Although Vanderbilt controlled Jamal Murray early on, he bogged down the offense due to his lack of shooting range. Pelton argues that Ham should consider starting Hachimura and Schröder while bringing D’Angelo Russell off the bench.
  • Mohamed Bamba, who hasn’t played since April 28 because of left ankle soreness, may be able to return in Game 4 or 5, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
  • The Lakers are virtually certain to match any offer sheets signed by Reaves or Hachimura, who are both restricted free agents, Wojnarowski states on the latest edition of his podcast (hat tip to Silver Screen and Roll). “I don’t see any scenario where the Lakers would not match on both,” Wojnarowski said. “They have to. … They’ve proved themselves to be win-now players with LeBron and Anthony Davis on their timeline (and) these are both starting-level players.”

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Ham, Davis, Reaves

At age 38, LeBron James is still reaching new heights, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. For the first time in his 20 NBA seasons, James posted 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game Monday night as the Lakers rallied for an overtime win to take a commanding 3-1 lead over Memphis.

James’ performance was about much more than stats, however, as he banked in a layup high off the backboard to tie the game with less than a second left in regulation, then delivered a three-point play late in the extra session to put the game out of reach. He followed that final basket with a show of emotion, flexing his biceps and screaming toward the crowd.

“These are the moments that I love,” James said. “I love the postseason. I’ve been a part of a lot of the games and I just love being able to make plays and be out there with my teammates to give them experiences that they maybe never had before.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • First-year coach Darvin Ham understands that it’s a rare experience to have one of the league’s all-time greatest players in his lineup, per Jim Alexander of The Orange County Register. Ham strikes a balance between marveling at James skills’ and still trying to make him better. “I don’t take it for granted,” he said, “being in the position to coach him.”
  • James’ heroics came on a rare down night for Anthony Davis, who sources tell McMenamin was slowed by pain in his right hip, which he hurt two and a half weeks ago. Davis made just one of his first eight shots from the field, but still managed 12 points and 11 rebounds while playing 42 minutes. “Things aren’t always going to be perfect,” he said. “Sometimes you got to win ugly. Sometimes you don’t play well, but still try to leave your imprint on the game. And that’s what I tried to do tonight on the defensive end.”
  • Austin Reaves was L.A.’s leading scorer on Monday with 23 points to go along with four rebounds and six assists. Appearing in his first playoff series, Reaves said he continues to feed off the crowd, which showered him with “MVP” chants once again. “The way that they support me, the way I believe that they love the way that I play. … I’m gonna give it everything I got every night,” Reaves said (video link from HoopsHype)

LeBron Expected Back Before Regular Season Ends

LeBron James is expected to return before the end of the regular season, Lakers coach Darvin Ham told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and other media members on Sunday.

James hasn’t played since Feb. 26 due to a tendon injury in his right foot. He was averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists prior to the injury.

“We anticipate him coming back at some point,” Ham said.

Los Angeles had gone 5-5 since James was sidelined, entering its home game against Orlando. The Lakers have 10 games remaining after Sunday’s contest.

The Lakers were 11th in the Western Conference standings prior to their game against the Magic but trail Minnesota and Utah by just a half-game.

James is expected to have his foot reevaluated by Lakers medical staff this week. He shed his walking boot a week ago.

It stands to reason James will only return if the team is still in the playoff hunt.

“I think Bron, him being out has revealed that we have a lot of different weapons that are very capable players on both sides of the ball that can help us achieve the goal that we’re trying to achieve,” Ham said. “And when he comes back, he’s just going to add to it.”

Lakers’ Westbrook, Ham Had Heated Halftime Exchange

Before LeBron James became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Tuesday night, Lakers guard Russell Westbrook and head coach Darvin Ham had a “brief, heated verbal exchange” in the locker room at halftime, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

According to Wojnarowski, Ham expressed displeasure with the way Westbrook lingered on the court after being subbed out of the game late in the second quarter.

However, Wojnarowski says that after voices were raised, the discussion turned back to trying to win Tuesday’s contest vs. Oklahoma City. Westbrook and Ham dapped up before leaving the arena later in the night, according to Woj, who points out that the former MVP was part of the Lakers’ closing lineup in the loss to the Thunder.

Westbrook and assistant coach Phil Handy also had a heated discussion on the bench in the first half of the game, says Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Verbal confrontations between coaches and players aren’t exactly rare in the NBA, and the Lakers will surely downplay the heated discussion Westbrook and Ham had at halftime. Still, both the team and the veteran guard are under a microscope this week with the trade deadline looming.

Westbrook has been viewed as a trade candidate for the better part of a year and his name popped up in rumors again as of late. In addition to having reportedly talked to both Charlotte and Utah about possible deals involving the 34-year-old, the Lakers included him in their offer for Kyrie Irving before Brooklyn sent Irving to Dallas. James subsequently expressed disappointment that the Lakers were unable to land Irving.

Tuesday’s halftime exchange is unlikely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and convinces the Lakers to trade Westbrook, but with the guard’s future in Los Angeles very much up in the air and the 25-30 Lakers looking for a shot in the arm, it’s one more reason to keep an eye on the situation in L.A.

Injury Updates: Haliburton, Jones, Sochan, Fox, Robinson, Reaves

Star Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton will play on Thursday night for the first time since January 11, he confirmed to reporters, including Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link).

The 6’5″ guard sprained his left elbow and incurred a mild left knee bone contusion last month against the Knicks. When healthy, Haliburton has been performing at an All-Star level during his third pro season. He’s averaging 20.2 PPG on .480/.399/.880 shooting splits, 10.2 APG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.8 SPG for Indiana.

We have more notable injury updates:

  • Spurs point guard Tre Jones and rookie power forward Jeremy Sochan had to leave Wednesday night’s game with injuries and were ruled out for the rest of the evening upon being examined by the team’s medical staff, reports Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (via Twitter). Jones suffered a left foot injury, while a sore lower back sidelined Sochan. Orsborn adds that Sochan will miss Friday’s game against the Sixers, but Jones is probable to play.
  • Personal reasons will keep Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox sidelined for the team’s next game Friday, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.
  • Knicks starting center Mitchell Robinson will sit tonight as he continues to recuperate from right thumb surgery, reports ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link).
  • Lakers head coach Darvin Ham indicates that reserve shooting guard Austin Reaves may return to the floor for Los Angeles as early as Saturday against the Pelicans, in the final contest of the team’s current five-game road trip, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic (via Twitter). Reaves has been sidelined with a sprained hamstring since early January.