Rob Pelinka

L.A. Notes: Ham, LeBron, Pelinka, Harden, Ballmer, George

There were signs throughout the season that head coach Darvin Ham was going to take the fall if the Lakers couldn’t make another long playoff run, writes Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. Ham was officially fired on Friday after L.A. was dispatched by Denver in five games, but it had been clear that move was coming for a long time, Shelburne adds.

Sources tell Shelburne that LeBron James was resistant to Ham’s idea to limit his minutes early in the season. James’ wishes prevailed and that plan was discarded after a few games. Players also openly questioned Ham’s strategies throughout the season, culminating with Anthony Davis saying after the Game 2 loss to Denver, “We have stretches where we don’t know what we’re doing on both ends of the floor.”

Shelburne notes that the Lakers have cycled through head coaches ever since Phil Jackson‘s retirement in 2011, with none lasting more than three seasons. That list includes Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, who both went on to win Coach of the Year honors with other teams after leaving L.A. To avoid another short-term hire, Shelburne advises Lakers management to approach this coaching search with a clear idea of its vision for the team.

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Ham was undermined internally, which made it impossible for him to succeed, contends Jim Alexander of The Orange County Register. Alexander speculates that anonymous complaints were leaked by general manager Rob Pelinka to deflect blame from his questionable personnel moves, along with James and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. The danger, according to Alexander, is that the front office may have fired Ham without having an obvious candidate in mind to replace him.
  • James Harden declined to speculate on his future after the Clippers were eliminated Friday night in Dallas, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Harden demanded a trade out of Philadelphia after president of basketball operations Daryl Morey refused to give him the long-term contract he was expecting, but it’s uncertain if the Clippers will be willing to meet his demands this summer. “I don’t even know,” Harden responded when reporters asked about his upcoming free agency. “You’re asking me a question that I don’t have the answer to. I haven’t even thought about it.”
  • Coach Tyronn Lue is working out his own future with the Clippers, but he was gratified that owner Steve Ballmer addressed the team after Friday’s loss, Turner adds. “You have the seventh-, eighth-richest man in the world and he’s a real fan. Like, he’s a real fan. Like, he treats us like family,” Lue said. “He actually genuinely cares about each individual and we’ve seen that time and time again. So, when you have an owner that really respects who you are, not as a basketball player, but a person and who you are, that means a lot. Not just putting you on a basketball court and saying, ‘OK, you work for me.’ Like, he really genuinely cares about each individual. He cares about the wins. He’s fired up. He’s passionate about it. And, so, that’s what I love the most about Mr. Ballmer. He treats everyone as equals.”
  • The Clippers‘ reluctance to guarantee a fourth year has held up extension talks with Paul George, sources tell Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints. George is eligible for up to $221MM over four seasons, but Azarly’s sources say the team’s latest offer falls short of that figure.

Lakers Notes: Ham, Backcourt, Murray, Reddish, Schröder

After ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Substack reporter Marc Stein suggested earlier this week that Lakers head coach Darvin Ham isn’t in any immediate danger of losing his job, two more reports have confirmed as much — in even stronger terms.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss sent a “long text message” to Ham reiterating her support for him. Meanwhile, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report says that both Buss and president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka have informed Ham that his job isn’t in any jeopardy.

“I speak to Rob every day and we’re always discussing ways to improve our team and what we can do better as a coaching staff,” Ham told Haynes after the Lakers dipped back below .500 with a Thursday loss to Phoenix. “It’s an open dialogue that I embrace and that is helpful. We’re all trying to get this right and we will.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • As they scour the trade market, the Lakers are seeking “speed and quickness” in their backcourt, according to Haynes, who adds that the team would like to be able to play faster offensively and to acquire a guard who plays solid point-of-attack defense. Rival executives expect the Lakers – along with the Raptors, among others – to begin talking more seriously to Atlanta about Dejounte Murray in the near future, Haynes writes, though he cautions that the Hawks are making it known they’d be comfortable hanging onto Murray and revisiting his trade market in the offseason.
  • The Lakers appeared to have broken out of their recent slump with victories over the Clippers and Raptors earlier this week, but Thursday’s blowout loss at home to the Suns was a discouraging setback, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. “I think it’s just a lot of holes in our system right now,” D’Angelo Russell said. “You use the regular season to figure those things out, the ups and downs, the digression, the setbacks, all these things. Injuries just keep playing a part in our success. … I think we can still find the light at the end of the tunnel. We just got to get better, got to keep getting better.”
  • Lakers forward Cam Reddish, who missed games in December due to right knee and left groin ailments, continues to deal with leg issues. He left Thursday’s contest early after experiencing left knee soreness, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • As part of a larger conversation with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, Raptors guard Dennis Schröder looked back on the 2021 extension offer from the Lakers that he turned down. The guard’s former representatives advised him to pass on it, Fischer writes. “I would have signed it,” Schröder said. “I would never just leave money on the table. My mom didn’t raise me that way.” While reports at the time indicated the offer was worth $80MM+ over four years, Fischer suggested in a follow-up tweet that that figure may have been overstated.

Lakers’ Ham: “Aligned” With Owner, GM

Amid a report of a “deepening disconnect” between Darvin Ham and Lakers players due to Ham’s erratic lineups, which have partially been a result of injuries, the team’s head coach says he’s “solid” in his job security and is “aligned” with owner Jeanie Buss and vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, according to Khobi Price of The Southern California News Group and Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It comes with the territory,” Ham said of the criticisms. “I’m solid. My governor, Jeanie Buss, the boss lady; our president, Robert Pelinka – we’re all aligned. As long as they’re not saying it, I guess I’m good.

Which I know how they feel about me and the situation we’re currently in. So, we’re all on the same page. My two captains (LeBron James and Anthony Davis), I communicate with them. Our communication has been at a high level.”

Ham didn’t directly mention the report from The Athletic, but he criticized the general use of anonymous sources, like the ones cited in the story.

The one thing that’s crazy is that it reminds me of when I used to watch ‘60 Minutes’ with my father in the ’80s,” Ham said. “And one particular show they were talking about La Cosa Nostra and the mafia and these guys were starting to go to trial and their star witness shows up with a black potato sack over his head and shades. And due to fear, the name can’t really be released.

This seems to be the standard of reporting now for [the] NBA. People on the internet and whatever. And not all reporters – I don’t want to disrespect anybody in the room – but when you say the source is anonymous by choice and they don’t want to put their name on something but they want to give you the information and then you take the information and now everybody gets a chance to dissect it and spread it all out in their own way, it’s kind of disingenuous. And I wish we would get to a place where people are firm enough to stand on what they’re saying and then maybe we can have real dialogue and get to it.”

Ham said he welcomed critiques of his performance and brushed off the speculation.

I don’t mind people critiquing the job I’m doing,” he said. “All I’m going to do is keep my head down and continue to do my job until I can’t do it anymore. Just be solid with what you’re putting out there and please don’t intertwine it with personal attacks either.

That’s what it is, that’s what I signed up for when I decided to become a coach and I’ve been around some great guys who have handled it well and some coaches that haven’t handled it so well. But me? I’m solid. I’ve been through a ton of ‘ish’ in my life and this is a walk in the park. Trust me.”

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

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

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

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

Here’s more on the Lakers:

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

Magic Johnson: Pelinka Did Better Than Any GM This Offseason

Magic Johnson has high praise for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, called Pelinka the “No. 1 GM in the NBA this offseason,” he told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times in a wide-ranging interview.

Johnson was impressed with Pelinka’s trade deadline acquisitions, which propelled the Lakers into the playoffs and all the way to the conference finals. This offseason, Pelinka has re-signed Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and D’Angelo Russell, and added Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish and Jaxson Hayes.

“I think he followed it up with another outstanding job, first from the trade deadline and then he kept it going in the summer,” the Hall of Famer and former Lakers executive said. “He did better than anybody in the summer. All the moves he made, he was the No. 1 GM in the NBA this offseason. No question about it. All the guys that we signed will help (LeBron James) and the other guys because now we are deeper. Rob is going to be executive of the year.”

Johnson sees the Lakers as a serious contender for the title.

“This is a Western Conference championship team. We could actually win everything if we can stay healthy,” he said. “This team has a real shot. … It’s not going to be easy for Denver to repeat, even though you always got to pick the champion as the favorite right now, and I do. But the Lakers, Memphis with the trades they made, Phoenix and Golden State, and Sacramento and Denver, man, the West is going to be hard.”

Johnson is part of the ownership group that purchased the Washington Commanders of the NFL. Johnson said he has ties to Washington, D.C. than many people don’t realize.

“I’ve done business there in Washington, D.C.,” Johnson said. “And I told this story — and people forget this — I was the last person [former Lakers owner] Jack Kent Cooke signed and he had to sign me so that he could then sell the team to Dr. Buss [in 1979]. So, when Dr. Buss wrote him that check, he needed that check to buy the Washington Redskins. It’s that crazy. People don’t know that. That [$67.5 million] went a long way. So, I guess it’s destiny that I’m supposed to be a part of this because I’ve done so much in the city.”

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Buss, Pelinka, Davis, Fudge

Regardless of how much longer LeBron James spends with the Lakers or how his remaining time with the team plays out, the franchise intends to eventually retire his number, team owner Jeanie Buss tells Mark Medina of SportsKeeda.

“The standard for having your jersey retired as a Laker is when a player is inducted into the Hall of Fame. I have absolutely no doubt that LeBron will make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame,” Buss said. “When he does so, then we will retire his jersey. Knowing that he will make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he will have his Lakers jersey retired, no doubt about it.”

As Medina observes, James wore a No. 23 jersey during his first three years with the Lakers and will switch back to No. 23 in 2023/24 after wearing No. 6 for the last two seasons. Buss wasn’t prepared to say whether the Lakers would eventually retire both numbers, but stressed that the team would still retire LeBron’s jersey even if he doesn’t finish his career with the franchise.

“It would mean a lot (if LeBron retires as a Laker). But it won’t change his contributions to Lakers history,” Buss said. “… A player like Shaquille O’Neal has meant so much to Lakers history, but he wasn’t a Laker when he retired from the NBA. But that didn’t change what his part of Lakers history was. When he retired from the NBA, we retired his Lakers jersey.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • In her full interview with Medina, Buss addressed a wide range of Lakers-related topics, including her thoughts on the team’s finish in 2022/23, Rob Pelinka‘s performance, and much more. Regarding Pelinka, Buss explained why she stood by the club’s head of basketball operations when he was facing criticism for the acquisition of Russell Westbrook: “I always felt then and now that Rob was the right person to be in charge of our front office. I continued to do so. Every decision that is made isn’t always the perfect one. But it’s the decision you make after that that counts. We had a roster that didn’t work and wasn’t working. But you can’t change things overnight in the NBA. But you can set yourself up by making the next right decision. That’s exactly what Rob did. … Every decision, you have the opportunity to make the next right decision. That’s what Rob has proven.”
  • Asked about a possible contract extension for Anthony Davis, Buss declined to discuss the subject in any depth. However, in deferring to Pelinka, she hinted that she’d be on board with a new deal for Davis: “Rob said it best. Our intention is that we want to keep continuity with our team. I’ll leave it at that.”
  • The two-way contract that undrafted rookie Alex Fudge signed with the Lakers will cover two years rather than one, Hoops Rumors has learned. Fudge is the sixth player to sign a two-year two-way deal this offseason, as our tracker shows.

Pacific Notes: Paul, Warriors, LeBron, Schröder, Walker

Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are looking forward to teaming up with longtime rival Chris Paul, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Paul’s ball-dominant style will bring a new look to Golden State’s backcourt, but Curry believes the combination can be successful.

“Every team that CP has been on gets better,” he said. “That’s the most consistent thing about him, and who he is and what he brings to the team. Everybody’s going to talk about the age. It’s on us to put that all together and figure out how all the pieces work.”

Thompson called Paul one of the best players of his generation and speculated that having him on the court should lead to better shots for everyone. He admits it will be “a little weird” to have Paul on his team after battling him in the playoffs for nearly a decade.

“I think he’s just going to add such a calming presence and leadership component that we need,” Thompson added.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors have been a popular destination for free agents throughout their run at the top of the league, but their reputation will be tested in this year’s free agency, observes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Golden State’s financial crunch, early playoff exit and the loss of general manager Bob Myers may make veteran players less likely to accept veteran’s minimum contracts to join the team.
  • LeBron James won’t pressure the Lakers to make any specific signings or trades during free agency, according to Mark Medina of Sportsnaut. Medina adds that despite his retirement talk after the Western Conference Finals, James is fully expected to play next season in the final year of his current contract.
  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is committed to keeping the roster that finished last season intact, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. L.A. has five free agents and must decide by today whether to guarantee contracts for Mohamed Bamba and Malik Beasley. “Teams are going to be aggressive,” Pelinka said. “There’s a lot of parity in the league right now, and everyone smells an opportunity to chase the championship, but we’re going to try our best to stay in that pack or at the head of that pack.”
  • The Lakers are hoping to re-sign Dennis Schröder and Lonnie Walker IV, even though they’re both unrestricted and the team doesn’t have full Bird rights on either player, states Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Draft Rumors: Miller, Henderson, Pistons, Howard, Jaquez

Numerous insiders have stated that the Hornets are leaning heavily toward taking Brandon Miller with the No. 2 pick in tonight’s draft, but Miller indicated Wednesday that he hasn’t been promised anything, writes Adam Zagoria of

“Probably when I get drafted is when I’ll know where I’m going,” Miller said. He added that he’ll be equally happy heading to Charlotte with the second pick or Portland at No. 3.

In an updated mock draft released this morning, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic moved G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson up to No. 2 ahead of Miller. Vecenie has been skeptical of rumors that Charlotte is leaning toward Miller because he’s a better fit, and he continues to doubt leaks that the Hornets have decided on Miller after bringing both players in for a second workout on Monday.

Vecenie points out that general manager Mitch Kupchak said at a news conference Wednesday that team officials didn’t get a lot of new information from that second visit. Vecenie adds that incoming owners Gabe Plotkin and Rich Schnall will be involved in the draft decision, and they may view Henderson as the better prospect.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • The Pistons are listening to offers for the No. 5 pick, but their asking price is “prohibitively high,” Jonathan Givony states in ESPN’s updated mock draft (subscription required). He cites the Jazz, who hold the ninth and 16th picks, as a team that would like to move up if Detroit eases its demands. Givony adds that Pistons’ ownership may be reluctant to trade down, hoping to add an exciting prospect after such a difficult season. Givony lists Ausar Thompson as his choice for Detroit, noting that Cam Whitmore has likely fallen into the 6-9 range.
  • Michigan’s Jett Howard tells Sean Deveney of that he worked out this week for the Lakers, who hold pick No. 17. Deveney points out that the freshman guard already has a connection with L.A. general manager Rob Pelinka, who played with Jett’s father, Juwan Howard, for two seasons with the Wolverines. “Rob was there, talked to him a little bit,” Howard said of the 30-minute session with the Lakers. “I have known him so long, it was kind of an organic conversation. And yeah, if they pick me, I would be more than happy to play for them.”
  • The Lakers, Heat (18) and Warriors (19) may all have interest in UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez, Deveney adds in a separate story. Jaquez credits strong workouts with helping to raise his draft stock. “I think I did well in the workouts, I went out there and showed what I can do, and hopefully teams saw what I was capable of,” he said. “There were question marks going into those workouts, I went into those workouts trying to answer those questions. I think that is why I got this invite here.”
  • Jaquez is one of the final additions to the Green Room list issued by the NBA (Twitter link), along with Brandin Podziemski and Rayan Rupert.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Pelinka, Schröder, Bamba

LeBron James and Stephen Curry represent the marquee matchup in the Lakers-Warriors series, but Game 1 belonged to Anthony Davis, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Davis posted 30 points, 23 rebounds and five assists Tuesday night as L.A. picked up a road victory in the series opener. He also had five blocks and provided a deterrent to Golden State shooters on numerous other attempts.

“He’s one of the few guys that can defend laterally and vertically,” coach Darvin Ham said. “By that I mean he can get down in a stance and move his feet, keep a guard in front of him, force a tough, contested shot. I knew watching him during his days in New Orleans, watching him in the bubble, he’s an elite defender.”

Davis’ most significant number on Tuesday may have been the nearly 44 minutes that he played. He had a few days of rest after the Lakers closed out their first-round series on Friday, so Ham felt comfortable leaving him in the game longer than usual, including the entire second half.

Goodwill notes that the injuries that limited Davis to 56 games this season prevented him from making the All-Star Game and will likely keep him from earning an All-NBA spot. But when he’s healthy, Davis has always been recognized as one of the league’s best talents.

“He’s doing exactly what I anticipated him to do,” Ham said. “He’s playing like the top-five NBA player that he is.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Rob Pelinka’s 11th-place finish in the Executive of the Year voting doesn’t reflect the job he did in turning the team around at midseason, states Sam Amick of The Athletic. L.A. got off to a miserable start and wasn’t able to reach .500 until the end of March, but Pelinka’s rebuilt roster now looks like it can compete with anyone in the league. “I mean, we went 2-10 to start the year,” Austin Reaves said. “Darv wrote it on the board the other day, where I think they gave us like a 0.3 percent chance of making the playoffs at that time. For us to really just keep our head down and grind through it, like you said — it’s felt like a long year. But you look up, and you’re 1-0 against the defending champs. Anybody in the world would take that scenario.”
  • Dennis Schröder made several clutch plays late in Game 1 to help the Lakers hold off a Golden State rally, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Schröder, who’s headed back into free agency this summer, said he’s feeling good after being slowed by an Achilles issue in the first-round series.
  • Mohamed Bamba missed Tuesday’s game with soreness in his left ankle, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The backup big man received an injection to help ease the pain before the start of the series, McMenamin adds.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Barnes, Kings, Pelinka

With Portland poised to establish a G League team in time for the 2023/24 season, just one NBA club will enter this fall without an NBAGL affiliate of its own. The Suns previously controlled the Northern Arizona Suns, but sold that G League franchise in 2020 to the Pistons, who relocated and rebranded it as the Motor City Cruise.

While the sale of that G League team was viewed as a cost-cutting move under former Suns owner Robert Sarver, new owner Mat Ishbia has shown more of a willingness to spend since taking control of the franchise earlier this year. And in a conversation with Shlomo Sprung of Boardroom.TV, Ishbia made it clear that it’s just a matter of time until the Suns reestablish a G League presence.

“One hundred percent I will have a G League team,” Ishbia said. “We were trying to get it done for this upcoming season, but it looks like the timing of it will be for the following season. We’re doing that as soon as we can. I’m trying to get it ready for next season, I just don’t think it’s going to work with getting the location and everything set up. But we are 100% going to have a G League team here in Phoenix, and it’s going to be in the local community, not seven states away.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Whether or not Chris Paul is available to return for Game 3, the Suns will need more from several other players – starting with Kevin Durant – if they hope to come back from a 2-0 deficit against Denver in the Western Conference Semifinals, says Doug Haller of The Athletic.
  • Given that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, there’s no guarantee Harrison Barnes will remain with the Kings in 2023/24 and beyond. However, the veteran forward expressed interest in sticking with the team, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee relays (via Twitter). “We’ve all been around and we know it’s a business … but to continue with this group, I think that would be a special thing,” Barnes said.
  • Even though the Kings‘ first playoff appearance since 2006 ended with a first-round exit, the season should still be considered a success, writes Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee. As Lillis outlines, the Kings had to deal with the threat of relocation in 2013, but a decade later, the organization’s future looks bright both on and off the court.
  • Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group praises the job Rob Pelinka did this season to turn the Lakers‘ ill-fitting roster into a group capable of legitimate contention, without giving up any unprotected first-round picks to do so.