Jarred Vanderbilt

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: Role Players, Russell, Bamba, KCP, James

Among the many issues the Lakers face as they try to dig themselves out of a 3-0 hole in the Western Conference Finals is the lack of production from their role players, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register writes.

Beyond their two superstars and Austin Reaves, the Lakers got modest contributions from the remaining members of the rotation in Game 3 against the Nuggets. D’Angelo Russell (three points), Dennis Schröder (five points) and Jarred Vanderbilt (two points) were non-factors offensively.

“I thought they did the best they could, all of them,” coach Darvin Ham said. “They competed. I’m disappointed but I’m not upset. Yeah, it sucks to lose, but those guys, they fought their hearts out. They tried to do it. They tried to execute what we gave them.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Russell admitted he’s baffled by his ineffective play, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Russell, who’s headed to free agency, shot just 1-for-8 from the field on Saturday. “I really don’t. I don’t know,” he said when asked about how his approach needs to change. “I’ll try to figure it out.” He’s averaging just 7.0 points in the series after contributing 14.7 PPG in the second round against Golden State.
  • The Lakers will have another frontcourt option for Game 4 on Monday. Mohamed Bamba is expected to be available, Ham told Chris Haynes of TNT (Twitter link). Bamba, who has appeared in only three postseason games due to a left ankle injury, hasn’t played since Game 6 in the first round against Memphis.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s defensive contributions and 3-point shot-making were often taken for granted during the Lakers’ 2020 title run at the Orlando bubble. His all-around contributions for the Nuggets in this series are a painful reminder of the ill-fated Russell Westbrook trade in 2021, which included Caldwell-Pope as part of the package, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN notes. KCP is averaging 15.3 points on 51.4% shooting in the series.
  • LeBron James is showing his age by his inability to carry the Lakers in this series, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times opines. James played well enough in Game 3 but wasn’t great, and he needed to be great to bridge the gap that exists between the Nuggets and Lakers.

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.”

Suns Notes: Lee, Vanderbilt, Hachimura, Williams

Damion Lee saw his playing time diminish after the trade deadline, but the Suns guard still appeared in 74 games during the regular season and posted solid offensive numbers, averaging 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes while shooting a career high 44.5% on 3-point attempts and 90.4% from the foul line.

After signing a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Suns last offseason, Lee feels confident as he heads back into free agency, Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic writes.

“You guys know the numbers: essentially top five all year in NBA 3-point percentage, that’s huge on a team that finished top four in the West; and the number one 3-point percentage in the fourth quarter all year. That stuff matters,” Lee said of his year with the Suns. “That’s not something I’m saying to toot my own horn, but that stuff to me matters because it put away all doubt that he’s here for a favor, stepped out by the grace of God. A lot of people counted me out that, ‘He’ll go to Phoenix, he won’t do anything, he’ll fizzle out.'”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Phoenix was involved in trade talks for Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt, both of whom wound up in Los Angeles and helped the Lakers end their season, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic notes. The Suns tried to acquire Vanderbilt from Utah along with Bojan Bogdanovic prior to the season while attempting to deal Jae Crowder. That proposal fell through when Utah balked at trading Vanderbilt. In January, the Suns tried to work out a three-team deal involving Crowder and Hachimura.
  • Monty Williams developed a winning culture within the organization. That’s now threatened by the Suns’ dismissal of Williams last week, according to Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com. If new owner Mat Ishbia wants to sustain what Williams built, he and the front office will have to nail this coaching hire, Bourguet writes.
  • The Suns are casting a wide net for their head coaching opening with as many as 10 candidates on the early internal list, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse and Suns assistant Kevin Young are among the candidates who have previously been mentioned as potential candidates.
  • In case you missed it, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul could also head out of door as the Suns desperately search for a championship.

Lakers Notes: James, Davis, Bamba, Schröder, Vanderbilt

Despite his age and two decades as an NBA player, Lakers superstar LeBron James continues to defy Father Time with his All-Star level performances. Teammate D’Angelo Russell has a simple explanation for why James continues to excel at an age when most NBA players have already retired, according to Greg Beacham of The Associated Press.

”Bron’s niche has always been preparedness,” Russell said. ”A lot of guys’ niches is shooting the ball, working hard, outworking guys. LeBron is a film junkie, a basketball junkie, a leadership junkie. To be able to watch it all from the front row, it’s almost like a cheat code.”

James has played in a league-record 278 postseason games, and his 7,912 career postseason points are nearly 2,000 more than Michael Jordan (5,987) atop the NBA’s career playoff scoring list, Beacham adds.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • The team’s Game 1 injury report didn’t have any surprises. James and Anthony Davis were both listed as probable for Tuesday’s game, as they were for much of the Warriors series, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Both have been playing through right foot ailments. Mohamed Bamba is listed as out due to left ankle soreness.
  • Bamba wasn’t at Monday’s practice in Denver because he’s back in Los Angeles after getting a PRP injection in his ankle earlier this postseason, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. He has a follow-up appointment there on Tuesday and will rejoin the team afterward, Buha adds. Bamba has only made three cameo appearances during this postseason.
  • Coach Darvin Ham tweaked his lineup in the series finale against the Warriors, inserting guard Dennis Schröder in favor of small forward Jarred Vanderbilt, Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register notes. Will Ham stick with the lineup switch for the Nuggets’ series? That’s TBD, though Ham liked how Schröder hounded Stephen Curry, which could lead to a similar defensive assignment against Jamal Murray. “Dennis came in and set an unbelievable tone defensively,” Ham said.

Schröder Replacing Vanderbilt In Lakers’ Game 6 Starting Lineup

Guard Dennis Schröder is replacing forward Jarred Vanderbilt in the Lakers‘ starting lineup for Friday’s Game 6 versus Golden State, tweets Marc J. Spears of Andscape.

It will be the first change head coach Darvin Ham has made to L.A.’s starting lineup in the 2022/23 postseason. Vanderbilt had gotten the nod in the previous 11 playoff games.

After a solid first-round series against Memphis and a strong defensive performance in Game 1 against the Warriors, Vanderbilt has struggled mightily over the past four games against the defending champions, averaging just 2.5 PPG and 3.8 RPG and going a combined 2-of-15 from the field in 14.4 MPG.

He has been particularly ineffective over the past two contests, recording a minus-23 plus/minus in his 22 minutes of action after the Warriors went small by inserting Gary Payton II into the starting lineup. Now the Lakers will match the guard-heavy approach with one of their own.

Schröder, on the other hand, had a quiet first-round series against the Grizzlies, but has come to life against the Warriors, averaging 11.8 PPG, 2.6 APG and 1.0 SPG on .476/.333/.778 shooting over five games. The team is plus-28 in his 64 minutes over the past two contests.

The Lakers currently lead the series 3-2 and have a chance to eliminate Golden State tonight at home. In case you missed it, Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins will be active despite dealing with a left costal cartilage fracture.

Lakers Notes: Schröder, Hachimura, Vanderbilt, Reaves

A starter in 50 of his 66 games this season, Lakers point guard Dennis Schröder came off the bench in Tuesday’s play-in game, but proved to be a difference-maker in Los Angeles’ overtime win. Schröder scored 21 points and was a team-high plus-22 in his 33 minutes. And while it didn’t end up being the game-winner, his three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left in regulation was the biggest clutch shot of the night.

“Whatever the team needs right now, I just try to get it done,” Schröder said of shifting to a reserve role, per Elliott Teaford of The Orange County Register (subscription required). “I didn’t even know before I got here. I see my name, that I’m not starting. End of the day, to play with those guys is easy, whether I’m coming off the bench or I’m starting. So, we are just competing on the highest level. We showed it again, and I’m glad we got the win.”

A free agent last summer, Schröder had to settle for a minimum-salary contract with the Lakers. That deal only covered one season, meaning he’ll be back on the market this offseason, and he’s making a strong case for a larger payday this time around. Since the Lakers will only hold his Non-Bird rights, it’ll be tricky for them to give the veteran guard much of a raise, but head coach Darvin Ham sounds like someone who’d like to see the team figure something out.

“Yeah, man, the kid is just – his heart, his competitive spirit, just his ability to make big plays and take tough matchups in the biggest of moments, his attitude, his confidence,” Ham said after Tuesday’s victory. “He’s unbelievable, extraordinary.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Fourth-year forward Rui Hachimura, a restricted free agent this July, played nearly the entire fourth quarter against Utah on Sunday and has showed that he’s capable of handling a larger role as the postseason begins, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Hachimura, who averaged 22.4 minutes per game in 33 regular season appearances with L.A., played 27 minutes in Tuesday’s play-in win — the Lakers outscored Minnesota by 20 points with Hachimura on the floor.
  • Since joining the Lakers two months ago in a deadline trade, Jarred Vanderbilt has established a reputation as the team’s “Energizer Bunny” capable of making “Dennis Rodman plays” with his defense and energy, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Unsurprisingly, Buha says the Lakers fully intend to exercise their team-friendly option worth $4.7MM on Vanderbilt for the 2023/24 season.
  • In a Q&A with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link), Lakers guard Austin Reaves discusses a handful of topics, including his upcoming restricted free agency. “I want to be a Laker, so hopefully we can get this done and I can stay there for hopefully my whole career,” Reaves said.

Lakers Notes: LeBron, AD, Russell, Bamba, Offseason

Lakers stars LeBron James (right foot soreness) and Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) are both active for Wednesday’s game against the Clippers, tweets Mark Medina of NBA.com. Both players had previously been considered game-time decisions, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, the availability of the team’s two best players was up in the air leading into tonight’s game after going to overtime to defeat the Jazz in Utah on Tuesday night. James played in 38 minutes, while Davis played 42 — both high marks since returning from their respective foot injuries in March and January.

The extra five minutes definitely didn’t help,” James said. “It definitely didn’t help but we needed to get the win.”

Wednesday will also mark the first time Davis has played in back-to-back games for several months, McMenamin notes, with the Lakers’ medical staff concerned about a possible re-injury due to overuse. Head coach Darvin Ham said the team wouldn’t risk jeopardizing anyone’s long-term health for a short-term situation — the Lakers and Clippers are tied with identical 41-38 records.

If we see that they won’t have any issues, in terms of their health, and we’re not putting them at risk, then we’ll proceed,” Ham said. “If there’s any kind of question marks, we’ll walk through them, talk through them, and go from there.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Guard D’Angelo Russell (left foot soreness) was ruled out of Tuesday’s game for precautionary reasons, tweets McMenamin. Ham said Russell has been dealing with the issue for over a year and called it “bad timing” that it started to bother him recently. However, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on Get Up (YouTube link) that there was optimism Russell would be able to return on Wednesday and that was indeed the case — he started at point guard.
  • Backup center Mohamed Bamba, who has been out for a month with a high left ankle sprain, was initially probable for Wednesday’s game (Twitter link via McMenamin) and was later upgraded to available. It will be interesting to see if Bamba gets minutes over Wenyen Gabriel, who has played well this season off the bench.
  • In another story for ESPN, McMenamin explores how the Lakers can retain six players who helped reshape the roster. The six are Russell, Bamba, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura and Davon Reed, all of whom could be free agents in the offseason, though the Lakers are extremely unlikely to release Vanderbilt, who only has a small partial guarantee ($300K) on his team-friendly $4.7MM salary for 2023/24 (it becomes fully guaranteed if they don’t waive him by the end of June).

Pelicans Reportedly Came Close To Acquiring Beasley, Vanderbilt

Before the Jazz agreed to trade Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers as part of a three-team deal last month, the Pelicans came close to acquiring the duo from Utah, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on The Lowe Post podcast this week (YouTube link).

“The Pelicans were close to getting Beasley and Vanderbilt from Utah at the trade deadline, or close-ish,” Lowe told ESPN colleague Kevin Pelton. “They had a pretty good offer on the table. It was a draft equity-based offer with a pick that maybe was not as good as the Lakers pick that they ended up trading, but pretty close, I think, from what I’ve heard.

“But one of the issues was – maybe the picks weren’t exactly equivalent – but then another issue was (Mike) Conley and the Jazz’s determination to get off of Conley (who is owed at least $14MM in 2023/24), and could the Pelicans figure that out somehow? And it became a little complicated.”

The trade that the Jazz eventually completed also included the Timberwolves, who acquired Conley and flipped D’Angelo Russell to the Lakers. Los Angeles, in turn, send a top-four protected 2027 first-round pick to Utah as part of the three-way agreement.

The Pelicans still possess all of their own future first-rounders and control a couple others, including the Lakers’ unprotected 2024 pick (which could be deferred to 2025) and the Bucks’ unprotected 2027 selection.

It’s not clear which of those first-rounders they offered to the Jazz, but based on Lowe’s comments, it’s possible the Pelicans wanted to protect the pick they were offering more heavily than the Lakers protected theirs. Or Utah may have simply liked the upside of the ’27 Lakers first-rounder more than any single pick New Orleans was willing to put on the table.

It’s also worth noting that matching salaries for Beasley and Vanderbilt (who earn a combined $20MM) using only expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts would have been nearly impossible for the Pelicans, whose prime salary-matching piece at the deadline was Devonte’ Graham ($11.55MM).

Adding either Jaxson Hayes ($6.8MM) or Garrett Temple ($5.2MM) to Graham would have been sufficient outgoing salary, but Utah likely wouldn’t have been eager to take on Graham’s guaranteed $12.1MM cap charge for 2023/24, especially without Conley involved in the swap. So the Pelicans may have offered additional draft compensation beyond a single first-rounder if Graham was part of the package.

In any case, the Jazz ultimately decided to deal with two other teams in the Western Conference playoff race rather than the Pelicans. That presumably increased the sting of missing out on Beasley and Vanderbilt for New Orleans, as Lowe and Pelton point out.

At the trade deadline, the Pelicans were in a virtual tie in the standings with the Wolves and were 3.5 games up on the Lakers. The slumping Pels – who ended up trading Graham and four second-round picks to San Antnio for Josh Richardson – now trail both teams.

Pacific Notes: Green, Brooks, Warriors, Lakers, Clippers

Warriors forward/center Draymond Green and Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks continued to trade barbs after Memphis blew out Golden State on Thursday night, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

At the end of the second quarter Brooks stole the ball and converted a contested layup over Green, then turned back and the two bumped chests. He eventually started jawing at Green and they had to be separated by an official, but Green remained silent.

I kind of wanted that play, just to see what he was going to say,” Brooks said. “But he took the media approach with that and didn’t say nothing, which is cool. I was expecting him to talk a little bit more, but I guess he needs to get all his facts together and talk.”

Green downplayed the incident, saying Brooks was trying to bait him into his 16th technical foul, which would have resulted in a one-game suspension. According to MacMahon, Green also scoffed at the notion that the Warriors and Grizzlies are rivals, despite eliminating each other in the past two postseasons.

One team has to win, and then another team has to win,” Green said. “That’s what creates a rivalry. Not because one team gets up for you and talk like they can beat you and then not. That doesn’t create a rivalry. Rivalries are created by you win, I win. Clearly, we’ve won four times, and I think their organization has zero championships, so I can’t consider that a rivalry.”

On his podcast, Green questioned whether Brooks’ teammates liked him. Brooks’ sneering retort was certainly valid, given the practice incident involving Green and Jordan Poole this past fall.

Just the fact that he was trying to pin my teammates against me, that was a low blow,” Brooks said, per MacMahon. “So that’s what type of player he is. These are my guys. We grew it all together. I ain’t out there getting in physical altercations with my teammates. I sit there and talk to them, try to not break them down, but build them up.”

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • The Warriors will continue to be shorthanded for Saturday’s home game against Milwaukee, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Second-year forward Jonathan Kuminga, who sprained his right ankle in warmups prior to Thursday’s game, has been ruled out, while Andrew Wiggins remains away from the team for personal reasons.
  • Entering Friday’s victory over Toronto, the Lakers held the NBA’s top defensive rating since the trade deadline, according to Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. While Dennis Schröder, Troy Brown and Austin Reaves have been solid perimeter contributors on defense, Goon points out that the tandem of Jarred Vanderbilt and Anthony Davis has been particularly effective, with excellent defensive numbers when they’re paired together. “Him being able to communicate but also to be able to react, that’s what makes him so unique,” Vanderbilt said. “He can do both. He can talk and he can react, too. For me being on the perimeter, having a guy like A.D. behind me, I can be a lot more aggressive, knowing that I have a second line of defense.” The Lakers have gone 8-3 since they reshaped their roster.
  • After a five-game losing streak, the Clippers have rebounded with back-to-back victories, and they believe they’re heading in the right direction, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “We’re figuring it out, I think we’re getting better game-by-game, definitely from these last two games,” Eric Gordon said Friday. “The sense of urgency is there. A lot of those losses came down to one possession and now we’re figuring it out a little bit more.” According to Greif, part of the team’s optimism stems from the health of Paul George, who says he can “do anything and everything I want to do” after dealing with a right knee injury last month.