Max Christie

Draft Notes: Combine, Players To Watch, Wells, Kalkbrenner, Salaun

Prospects are in Chicago for an important week of pre-draft activities, write Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN. After the draft lottery takes place on Sunday, players will participate in the three-day combine from Monday through Wednesday. Also set this week are the G League Elite camp, which began today, and agency pro days, all of which will give NBA scouts and executives an up-close look at an unsettled draft pool.

Through an agreement with the players union, the NBA is requiring all invited prospects to take part in the combine. However, they will still be given the option to skip the scrimmages, with Givony and Woo noting that 37 combine participants declined to play in the scrimmages last year.

Numerous players at this year’s combine have retained the option to withdraw from the draft, the authors add, so the process could affect the balance of power in college basketball. Givony and Woo identify Kansas’ Johnny Furphy, USC’s Bronny James, Minnesota’s Cam Christie, Washington State’s Jaylen Wells, BYU’s Jaxson Robinson, Alabama’s Mark Sears, New Mexico’s JT Toppin, Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins, Florida State’s Jamir Watkins and North Florida’s Chaz Lanier as some of the top names who could opt to return to school.

There’s more on the draft:

  • Cam Christie is among the players in position to significantly improve their draft stock this week, Givony and Woo add. They say the brother of Lakers guard Max Christie has “plenty of fans” among NBA scouts after a strong freshman season with the Golden Gophers. Christie, who ranks 36th on ESPN’s Big Board, has a chance to move into the first round with a good showing at the combine. However, he’s also in the NCAA’s transfer portal and has options available if he stays in school. Other players to watch, according to Givony and Woo, are Wells, Watkins, Iowa’s Payton Sandfort and UConn’s Alex Karaban.
  • The NBA has officially confirmed (via Twitter) that Jaylen Wells has been invited to the combine and Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner has withdrawn from the draft. The Wells invitation was reported earlier this week, and Kalkbrenner’s decision had been expected.
  • Potential lottery pick Tidjane Salaun won’t be available for the combine after his Cholet team qualified for the playoffs in France, Givony tweets. The 6’10” power forward is 15th in ESPN’s latest rankings.

Injury Notes: Ball, Ayton, Exum, Reddish

LaMelo Ball has been sidelined since January 26, having missed the Hornets‘ past 16 games due to what the team initially referred to as right ankle soreness and later diagnosed as ankle tendinopathy. Asked on Thursday where the star guard is in his recovery compared to two weeks ago, head coach Steve Clifford offered few specifics and didn’t give any indication that Ball’s return is imminent.

“It’s hard to tell,” Clifford said, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). “Look, he’s doing the same stuff now that he was doing two weeks ago. I don’t know that stuff. He does what they allow him to do. There’s a lot of factors in that, obviously. Like today, he did a lot of shootaround. He’s been doing that for a while.

“He wants to be back. Again, he doesn’t feel healthy enough and people aren’t comfortable enough that he should play. I don’t really know how to answer that. He does shootaround and things like that. He does his work. I know he wants to get back. There’s just a lot of factors on that one.”

The Hornets are 11 games back of the final play-in spot in the East with just 23 contests remaining, so the team has little to play for down the stretch and can afford to be extremely cautious with Ball, whose five-year, maximum-salary rookie scale extension will go into effect in July.

Here are a few more injury notes from around the league:

  • Trail Blazers center Deandre Ayton underwent further testing on the right hand injury he sustained on Tuesday, and those tests confirmed the hand is sprained, a source tells Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report (Twitter link). Ayton is considered day-to-day, per Highkin. The former No. 1 overall pick is listed as doubtful to play on Friday in Memphis.
  • Mavericks guard Dante Exum – who missed nine games in January due to a right plantar sprain, then 13 more in January and February due to right knee bursitis – played on Wednesday for the first time in over a month (Twitter link). A starter for 14 games in the first half of the season, Exum may not reclaim that role for a Dallas team that is deeper and healthier than it was earlier in 2023/24, but he played nearly 17 minutes off the bench in his first game back, recording four points, five assists, and three rebounds.
  • Cam Reddish returned this week from a right ankle injury that cost him 14 games, but he doesn’t appear to be feeling 100% quite yet. Reddish was on the court for just four minutes in the Lakers‘ win over Washington on Thursday, with head coach Darvin Ham telling reporters after the game that the forward experienced soreness in that ankle, prompting the team to sit him for the rest of the game in favor of Max Christie (Twitter link via Jovan Buha of The Athletic).

Pacific Notes: Wiggins, Suns, S. Lee, Fox, Huerter, Reddish

Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins will miss his second straight game on Thursday vs. New York due to personal reasons, with Anthony Slater of The Athletic describing the absence as a “family matter.” It’s unclear when Wiggins will return to the lineup, though head coach Steve Kerr said the team expects him back at some point.

Don’t know,” Kerr said of a return timeline. “We’ll obviously respect Andrew’s wishes for this to remain private. Personal reasons.”

As Slater notes, Wiggins missed the final 25 games of the 2022/23 season due to personal reasons, returning just before the postseason began.

Here are a few more notes from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns have an open roster spot. Veterans Mike Muscala (Pistons) and Patty Mills (Hawks) were recently waived by their former clubs, with Muscala reaching a buyout agreement. Would Phoenix be interested in either of those players? John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 says the answer is no (Twitter links). The Suns are much more likely to convert Saben Lee‘s two-way contract to a standard deal, according to Gambadoro, who says (via Twitter) the odds of that happening are “very high.” It’s worth noting that Lee, who was the 38th pick of the 2020 draft, is in his fourth NBA season — he will not be eligible for two-way contracts in 2024/25 and beyond.
  • After building an early lead on Wednesday against the Nuggets, the Kings wound up being blown out in Denver without star point guard De’Aaron Fox, writes Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. Fox, who sustained a left knee contusion in Monday’s loss to Miami, went through the team’s shootaround yesterday morning and his pregame shooting routine prior to being ruled out, which seemingly indicates the injury is relatively minor.
  • According to Biderman, guard Kevin Huerter was frustrated with his lack of playing time following Wednesday’s game, in which he played just 18 minutes. “I don’t know if I could put my finger on one (thing),” Huerter said of the Kings being outscored by 35 points over the second and third quarters. “I wish I was out there to help us more though.” Huerter declined to expand on those comments, but Biderman points out that the 25-year-old is playing a career-low 25.2 minutes per game and briefly lost his starting job in December before reclaiming it.
  • After missing the previous 14 games with a right ankle sprain, Lakers wing Cam Reddish returned to action in Wednesday’s win over the Clippers, per Khobi Price of The Southern Califnornia News Group. The former lottery pick played 20 minutes and supplanted second-year guard/forward Max Christie in the rotation, Price adds.

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.

L.A. Notes: Tucker, Clippers, Reddish, Christie

Clippers forward P.J. Tucker expressed disappointment he wasn’t moved at Thursday’s deadline after being sparsely used following his trade from Philadelphia. However, the Clippers indicated that he’s in their plans following the deadline.

We like P.J. here and he’ll get an opportunity,” head coach Tyronn Lue said (Twitter video link via The Athletic’s Law Murray). “That’s part of the game, you’re going to get frustrated because everybody wants to play. P.J. will be OK.

The Clippers did try to trade Tucker, but his age and $11.5MM player option for next season limited his value on the market, Murray writes. Despite the fact that he lost his rotation spot, the front office still believes Tucker is capable of being a playoff contributor and guarding bigger forwards, according to Murray.

We have more notes out of Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers had a quiet trade deadline and appear to be happy to avoid any more midseason roster changes, The Orange County Register’s Janis Carr writes. The team already made a big splash this season by trading for James Harden in October. L.A. struggled to find consistency right away but has since lost just nine of 31 games and is a single game out of first in the Western Conference. “I think what we’ve done since acquiring James and the different rotations, different combinations and finally getting it down to where it works for our team is really good,” Lue said. “Just having familiarity with each other on the floor, I think guys are feeling comfortable in their roles, their minutes, and how we’re playing. So, to break that up, I’m glad that didn’t happen. I’m happy for the team we have, the guys we have in the locker room, and we’ll see what we have going forward.
  • Lakers forward Cam Reddish was cleared to begin on-court progression and ramp-up work, according to The Orange County Register’s Khobi Price (Twitter link). The hope is that Reddish will be able to return soon after the All-Star break. Reddish is averaging 6.7 points this season in 35 games (26 starts).
  • After exiting the second quarter of the Lakers‘ Thursday game against the Nuggets with an ankle sprain, Max Christie underwent an MRI on his right ankle, tweets ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. The team is awaiting the results. Christie is averaging 5.0 points per game this season.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Christie, Warriors, Kuminga, Thompson, Duarte

While it was trending that way for a while, the Lakers officially did not make a trade at the 2024, one year removed from a busy 2023 deadline that saw them add D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and more. Though they reportedly pursued players like Hawks guard Dejounte Murray and Raptors wing Bruce Brown, the Lakers ultimately didn’t find a deal that appealed to them and will instead look to get healthy, maintain continuity, and attempt to recreate their Western Conference Finals run from a year ago.

Addressing reporters following the deadline on Thursday, general manager Rob Pelinka emphasized the fact that nothing stood out to them around the league, per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha (Twitter link).

You can’t buy a house that’s not for sale. … The right move wasn’t there,” Pelinka said.

In addition, it was important to the Lakers to maintain as many assets as possible for a potentially bigger swing in the offseason, according to Buha. The offseason will unlock up to two more first-round picks for Los Angeles to trade for “a greater or bigger swing.” According to The Orange County Register’s Khobi Price, Pelinka didn’t want to “shoot a small bullet now that would only lead to marginal improvement” and would inhibit their ability to make moves down the line (Twitter link).

As for this season’s team, Pelinka specifically mentioned getting Vanderbilt and Gabe Vincent back from their current injuries and being “very aggressive” to add a “really good player” with their open roster spot on the buyout market (Twitter links).

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Max Christie suffered a right ankle sprain and left in the second quarter of the Lakers‘ Thursday matchup against the Nuggets. He did not return, according to Buha, and Taurean Prince started the second half in his place (Twitter links). Christie was starting in place of Russell, who missed the game due to knee soreness.
  • The Warriors made just one small move at the deadline, sending out Cory Joseph to the Pacers. While players like Andrew Wiggins were involved in rumors throughout the season, there wasn’t an appealing offer out there. “We explored a lot and frankly there wasn’t a lot out there that we thought could improve us significantly at an appropriate price,” general manager Mike Dunleavy said, via The Athletic’s Anthony Slater (Twitter link). Dunleavy added that Jonathan Kuminga, who also came up in rumors early in the season before averaging 21.1 points since the New Year, was “virtually untouchable.” “As untouchable as guys can be in this league,” Dunleavy said (Twitter link via Slater). “Didn’t see a scenario where Jonathan wouldn’t be on our team after this deadline.
  • Warriors guard Klay Thompson has seemed discouraged throughout the season by his play. While his 17.1 points per game and 37.7% clip from deep are impressive for any player, he’s not quite the same as he was when he was a multi-time All-Star and All-NBA selection. The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II explores Thompson’s situation and laments the injury that cost him two seasons of his prime. While he might not be an All-Star anymore, he still has the ability to help the Warriors win, Thompson notes.
  • Kings guard Chris Duarte suffered a right ankle sprain ahead of Wednesday’s matchup with the Pistons, Fox 40 Sacramento’s Sean Cunningham tweets. He will be out against the Nuggets on Friday and will be re-evaluated in seven-to-14 days, according to The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Anderson (Twitter link). Duarte is averaging 3.7 points this season.

Lakers Rumors: Murray, D-Lo, Hood-Schifino, Reaves, More

The buzz connecting Hawks guard Dejounte Murray to the Lakers has increased to “noisy levels” as of late, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who hears that the two teams have discussed possible frameworks for a trade.

One concept the Lakers and Hawks talked about late last week would’ve included guard D’Angelo Russell, rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino, the Lakers’ 2029 first-round pick, and additional draft compensation, multiple team and league sources tell Buha.

Los Angeles can only currently trade one future first-rounder (either the 2029 or 2030 pick), so any additional draft assets would’ve been second-rounders. Plus, as Michael Scotto reported on Thursday, Atlanta has little interest in Russell, so he may need to be rerouted to a third team.

Talks between Los Angeles and Atlanta have since stalled, but the two clubs are expected to revisit those negotiations prior to the February 8 trade deadline, says Buha.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Unless an unexpected opportunity arises, the Lakers are expected to take at least a couple more weeks to evaluate their trade assets and options before pulling the trigger on any deal, according to Buha. As Buha explains, the team would like to address various needs – including three-point shooting, speed, and athleticism – but is still weighing whether it makes more sense to make a smaller move or to do something bigger that would more significantly reshape the rotation.
  • No Lakers players besides Anthony Davis and LeBron James are untouchable, but Jarred Vanderbilt is ineligible to be dealt this season and Austin Reaves is “close” to being off the table, says Buha. Team and league sources tell The Athletic that L.A. values Reaves highly and has no interest in moving him, even though almost every trade discussion starts with a prospective trade partner asking for Reaves and a first-round pick. If the Lakers were to part with Reaves, they’d want the deal to net them a clear All-Star (ie. someone a tier above Murray or Zach LaVine) or multiple rotation upgrades, Buha adds.
  • Russell, Rui Hachimura, and Gabe Vincent are generally considered to have neutral-to-negative trade value, per Buha. Second-year guard Max Christie is viewed by some teams as an underrated three-and-D prospect, but the Lakers would prefer to keep him, Buha notes.
  • The Lakers, who had interest in Bruce Brown during the offseason, would still be interested in Brown if the Raptors make him available, Buha reports. Other potential targets the Lakers have discussed in recent weeks include Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant, Hornets guard Terry Rozier, Raptors wing Gary Trent Jr., and Nets forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale, says Buha.

Southeast Notes: Murray, Love, Butler, Swider, Fultz

Before Immanuel Quickley was traded to Toronto, the Hawks discussed a deal that would have sent Dejounte Murray to the Knicks in exchange for Quickley and a first-round pick, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Woike references the trade talks as part of a look at what the Lakers might do ahead of the February 8 deadline. L.A. has been mentioned as a possible suitor for Murray, who is considered likely to be dealt soon.

Woike expects the Hawks to ask for Austin Reaves in any deal with the Lakers involving Murray. He adds that if the cost is a first-round pick and a young player capable of contributing right away — which is what Atlanta asked from New York — then it’s hard to picture L.A. meeting it without parting with Reaves. However, sources tell Woike that the Lakers’ front office hasn’t included Reaves in any trade discussions.

Second-year guard Max Christie has moved into the rotation, but Woike notes that his value is lessened because he’s headed toward restricted free agent this summer. Woike identifies the Lakers’ 2029 first-round pick as their greatest trade asset, but he’s not sure if the team would give it up without at least some light protection.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Kevin Love is the latest addition to the Heat‘s injury list, according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. After playing 16 minutes Friday night, the veteran big man is listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup with Charlotte because of a left knee contusion. Jimmy Butler is doubtful with a joint sprain in his right toe, meaning he’ll likely miss his seventh straight game, but Chiang says there’s hope he might be able to return Monday at Brooklyn.
  • Travel issues will prevent Cole Swider from joining the Heat for Sunday’s game, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Swider was sent to Miami’s G League affiliate in Sioux Falls earlier this week and is stuck because of severe weather in the Midwest. He’s expected to join the team in Brooklyn for Monday’s contest.
  • The Magic aren’t using Markelle Fultz in back-to-back games while he works his way back from tendinitis in his left knee, tweets Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel.

Los Angeles Notes: Kawhi, Harden, Christie, Davis

According to Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, star wing Kawhi Leonard practiced for “a little bit” on Thursday, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Leonard, 32, has been inactive for the Clippers’ last three games due to a hip injury, and is considered questionable against the Grizzlies Friday night.

When healthy, Leonard has looked like his All-Star self this season. The two-time Finals MVP is averaging 24.4 points per game on .521/.429/.877 shooting, along with 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.7 blocks per night.

There’s more out of the City of Angels:

  • Clippers star point guard James Harden is maintaining an approach of consistent, positive communication on the floor, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. “You see after practice James is grabbing six guys every day and just going through pick-and-roll drills, how he wants the bigs to screen it,” Lue said. Carr notes that Harden’s two-man game with starting center Ivica Zubac is also doing well. “I don’t think there was one point where it clicked,” Zubac said. “We do it a lot at the facility and we do it a lot in the games and all that repetition game after game helps and we’re still not there yet. He still gets mad at me sometimes when I slip out or if I don’t flip a pick. I still sometimes don’t know what he wants so there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but with repetition and with games it’s going to get better.”
  • In a Thursday blowout win over the Hornets, second-year Lakers shooting guard Max Christie earned rotation minutes for the first time since December 15, observes Jovan Buha of The Athletic (Twitter link). Christie made an instant impact on both ends of the floor, scoring 10 points while making 3-of-4 field goals and 2-of-2 free throws. He also chipped in seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal while registering a +18 during his 24 minutes of action. Though 12 of those 24 minutes happened during a garbage time fourth quarter, Christie was also a key contributor during the 12 meaningful rotation minutes he logged.
  • After helping propel his team to a 133-112 demolition of the Hornets, Lakers star center Anthony Davis discussed the club’s intriguing versatility and mentioned that he believes the team’s recent starting lineup will stick, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Head coach Darvin Ham is currently starting LeBron James at point guard, Taurean Prince at shooting guard, Cam Reddish at small forward (he was injured Thursday), Jarred Vanderbilt at power forward, and Davis at center. “I think that’s going to be the lineup,” Davis said. “And that first group — me, Bron, TP [Prince], Cam, Vando — we just got to keep logging minutes and keep figuring it out, especially on the defensive end. We’re all five defensive-minded players and we like playing defense so we’ll keep figuring out these schemes and how we can be better, and then, offensively, we’ll just figure it out.”

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.