Rui Hachimura

Pacific Notes: Primo, Hachimura, Jasikevicius, Poole

The Clippers signed guard Joshua Primo to a two-way contract on Friday, the same day the league suspended him for four games after the league determined he “engaged in inappropriate and offensive behavior by exposing himself to women.” Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes that the Clippers felt comfortable with signing Primo after meeting with him for months and hearing from specialists who spent time with him.

Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, said that the decision to sign Primo came with “a great deal of conversation with people throughout the organization,” according to Greif. Frank also said that female employees who most frequently interact with players were consulted on the decision, per Greif.

We took many steps to make sure that we could feel very confident that we will be able to create a safe and comfortable workplace,” Frank said.

The specialists who met with Primo worked in mental health fields, Frank said, according to Greif.

We’re not disputing allegations or condoning the alleged conduct, but why we’re here is because of all the work he’s put in since those allegations,” Frank said.

Primo was drafted with the 12th overall pick by the Spurs in the 2021 NBA Draft but was waived four games into his second season after a psychologist who worked for the Spurs, Dr. Hillary Cauthen, alleged in a civil complaint against the Spurs that Primo exposed himself to her nine times during individual private sessions.

Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News pointed out that the NBA said its investigation found Primo exposed himself to “women,” tweets San Antonio Express-News’ Tom Orsborn. Orsborn confirms that, in addition to Dr. Cauthen, Primo exposed himself to two other women, with all incidents occurring while he was with the Spurs.

Orsborn adds that it’s possible that charges could arise in other counties like they did in Bexar County (Twitter link).

In addition to being suspended for the first four games of the season, Primo is ineligible to appear in the NBA’s preseason, Greif writes.

We have more notes from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers have four of their five starting positions relatively locked in, according to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. In addition to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell are entrenched as starters to begin the season. According to Buha, Rui Hachimura enters camp as the internal favorite to earn the third starting frontcourt spot, though Taurean Prince and Jarred Vanderbilt could also build their own respective cases.
  • Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius will be with the Kings for the preseason, according to EuroHoops. Jasikevicius parted ways with FC Barcelona after the 2022/23 season, though he won the ACB championship in 2021 and 2023, along with the Copa del Rey in 2021 and 2022. Jasikevicius holds 138 games played during his stint as a player in the NBA, playing for the Pacers and the Warriors.
  • While getting Chris Paul is an overall positive, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area writes that losing Jordan Poole is nothing to look over. Poole writes that the former Michigan guard was one of the quickest players on the team, and that the Warriors may miss his burst and overall offensive production.

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 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.”

Japan Becomes Fourth Team To Qualify For 2024 Olympics

The Japanese men’s basketball team has claimed a spot in the 2024 Olympics by winning a pair of World Cup classification games against Venezuela and Cape Verde.

The two victories boosted Japan’s record for the tournament to 3-2 (the team also defeated Finland in round one), making it the only FIBA Asia club to win three World Cup games this year.

Just one other FIBA Asia club earned more than a single win at the event — Lebanon picked up victories over Iran and Cote d’Ivoire in the classification games. China and the Philippines each had one win, while Jordan and Iran went 0-5.

Japan played in the 2020 Olympics as the host nation, but hadn’t qualified outright for the Olympics since 1976, so this represents a major achievement for the national team.

The World Cup squad was led by Suns forward Yuta Watanabe (14.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and former Washington State big man Josh Hawkinson, a naturalized Japanese citizen who has played professionally in the country’s B.League since 2017 and averaged a double-double (21.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG) in five World Cup contests.

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura – who wasn’t part of the World Cup team but who played in the 2020 Olympics – will be a prime candidate to join next year’s Olympic roster.

A total of seven teams will qualify for the Olympics based on their World Cup results. The top-ranked team from each of Asia, Africa, and Oceania make the cut, as do the top two clubs from both Europe and the Americas.

Although Japan, South Sudan (Africa) and Australia (Oceania) have all been eliminated from World Cup medal contention, they’ve each qualified for the Paris Olympics based on their overall finish. France, the host nation, also receives an automatic Olympic berth, which means four spots are still up for grabs at the World Cup.

Germany, Slovenia, Lithuania, Italy, Latvia, Serbia, and Spain remain in the running for the two Europe spots, while the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico are vying for the two Americas openings.

The teams that don’t qualify for the 2024 Olympics via the World Cup will get one more opportunity to do so at a series of four Olympic qualifying tournaments next year.

Lakers Notes: Reaves, Team USA, Lineups

Lakers guard Austin Reaves had a strong official debut with Team USA in the 2023 World Cup, notching 12 points (on 4-of-6 shooting), six assists and three steals in 22 minutes of action as the Americans defeated New Zealand. Still, those numbers might be underselling his impact, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who says Reaves’ “all-around production, spirit and poise” made a big difference off the bench in the comeback win.

As Windhorst writes, Reaves has become a fan favorite around the world due to his breakout performance with Los Angeles last season, with the crowd in the Philippines going wild after his normal pose following a made three-pointer. He says it’s something he doesn’t take for granted.

I was one of those kids watching the World Cup [and] the Olympics, so every day I wake up and cherish those moments,” Reaves said. “I’m from a super small town, and not a lot of people expected me to be here representing our country. So for the [crowds] to accept me the way that they accept me, it means a lot to me.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • In an interview with Khobi Price of The Southern California News Group (subscriber link), Reaves says the last two years have been a whirlwind. As Price notes, the 25-year-old went undrafted in 2021, initially signing a two-way contract with the Lakers. Reaves was promoted to a standard deal prior to 2021/22, excelled down the stretch in ’22/23 in helping L.A. make the Western Conference Finals, signed a four-year, $54MM contract in free agency, and then received an invitation to the World Cup roster. “It’s been crazy,” Reaves said. “To get here and be rewarded with the contract [and] being on Team USA … all those dark days not getting recruited, not getting drafted, all that’s come to light. The basketball gods are real. If you’re pure to the game, the game will be pure to you back eventually. It’s been a beautiful two years.”
  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic lists five lineups he’d like to see the Lakers use in ’23/24. According to Buha, the lineup with the most intriguing two-way potential features Reaves, Max Christie, Rui Hachimura, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A second-round pick in 2022, Christie is coming off a strong Summer League showing last month.
  • In case you missed it, the Lakers are unveiling a statue of the late Kobe Bryant during the upcoming season. You can find the details right here.

Lakers Notes: Rotation, Point Guards, Christie, Hayes, Davis

Breaking down the Lakers‘ potential lineup decisions for the 2023/24 season, Jovan Buha of The Athletic forecasts a 10-man rotation, led by stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

At this point, Buha favors incumbent Lakers D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura – all of whom signed lucrative new contracts this offseason – to fill out the starting lineup. He predicts the 10-man rotation will be filled out by Jarred Vanderbilt, Max Christie, and newcomers Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, and Jaxson Hayes.

As Buha notes, the Lakers will want to avoid overworking James and Davis to ensure that they’re healthy for the playoffs, so players outside his projected 10-man rotation, including free agent addition Cam Reddish and rookies Jalen Hood-Schifino and Maxwell Lewis, could get a chance to earn some minutes too.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Although Buha has Russell penciled in as the starting point guard, he acknowledges that could change, observing that Vincent’s 3-and-D skill set is a better fit next to the Lakers’ stars. It’s a “coin flip” as to who will end up as the go-to point guard, Buha writes, suggesting that both players will have important roles.
  • Christie is the most difficult Laker to project for the 2023/24 season, says Buha. If he breaks out like he believes he can, he should have no problem securing a spot as the eighth or ninth man in the rotation. If not, he may end up battling Reddish for minutes as the 10th man.
  • According to Buha, the Lakers hope that Hayes will be able to start alongside Davis in scenarios when the team opts to roll with a two-big lineup. However, Buha doesn’t foresee a major regular role for Hayes, noting that there are only so many frontcourt minutes to go around as long as James, Davis, Hachimura, and Vanderbilt are healthy. If the Lakers were to sign another free agent center such as Christian Wood or Bismack Biyombo, Hayes’ spot in the regular rotation would be even less certain, though injuries and/or load management could ultimately open the door for him to play frequently.
  • In the latest Hoop Collective podcast (YouTube link), ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Tim Bontemps, and Tim MacMahon discuss the fact that Davis will become extension-eligible later this week and consider the odds of he and the Lakers working out a deal before the season begins. Windhorst doesn’t necessarily expect the two sides to reach a deal immediately, but believes there’s mutual interest in working something out. “There’s no time crunch. He doesn’t have to make a decision by August 5 or anything,” Windhorst said. “But I do think there is an expectation that the Lakers do make some sort of offer this week, or at least show their intention to make such an offer.”

Lakers Sign Rui Hachimura To Three-Year Deal

JULY 6: The Lakers have officially re-signed Hachimura, the team confirmed today in a press release.

JUNE 30: The Lakers have reached an agreement with Rui Hachimura, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Sources tell Charania that the restricted free agent forward will sign a three-year, $51MM contract to remain in Los Angeles.

According to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link), Hachimura’s deal will be fully guaranteed.

The ninth pick of the 2019 draft, Hachimura spent his first three-plus NBA seasons with the Wizards, averaging 13.0 PPG and 5.1 RPG on .479/.356/.776 shooting in 177 games over that span (118 starts, 27.8 MPG). In 30 games with the Wizards in 2022/23, he averaged 13.0 PPG and 4.3 RPG on .488/.337/.759 shooting in 24.3 MPG off the bench.

Hachimura was traded to the Lakers in January in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and three second-round picks. His regular-season numbers actually declined with L.A., with the Japanese forward posting 9.6 PPG and 4.7 RPG on .485/.296/.721 shooting in 33 games (nine starts, 22.4 MPG).

However, he had a scorching hot playoff run, posting a .557/.487/.882 shooting line across 16 postseason appearances. He also chipped in 12.2 PPG and 3.6 in 24.3 MPG during the Lakers’ journey to the Western Conference Finals.

Hachimura was eligible for a rookie scale extension before last season started and reportedly received an offer in the range of $12-14MM per year, but passed on that opportunity in search of a bigger deal in free agency. It turned out to be a wise financial decision, as he’ll be making $17MM annually on his new contract.

In case you missed it, the Lakers have also reached free agent agreements with guard Gabe Vincent and forward Taurean Prince.

Lakers Extend Qualifying Offers To Reaves, Hachimura

As expected, the Lakers have extended qualifying offers to Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, making both players restricted free agents, the team’s PR department tweets.

Reaves qualifying offer will be worth a projected $2,219,706 ($200K above his minimum salary); Hachimura’s QO carries a $7,744,600 price tag.

The Lakers have prioritized re-signing both players, who sparked the team as it reached the Western Conference Finals. Reaves averaged 13.0 points and 3.4 assists in 28.8 minutes during the regular season. His breakthrough campaign continued into the postseason, where he averaged 16.9 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 36.2 minutes per night.

Hachimura was acquired from Washington in January. He averaged 9.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 33 regular-season appearances with the Lakers, then put up 12.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game during the postseason.

By making the duo restricted free agents, the Lakers can match any offer sheet, and reports in recent weeks have indicated they fully plan to do so.

Western Notes: Hachimura, H. Barnes, Mavs, Grizzlies

Lakers forward Rui Hachimura has decided not play for Japan in this year’s World Cup, according to a press release from Japan Basketball. Hachimura apologized to fans in his home country and called it a “very difficult decision,” but explained that he wants to focus on resolving his contract situation and preparing for the coming NBA season after the Lakers made a deep playoff run this spring.

Hachimura will be a restricted free agent later this week, assuming the Lakers issue him a qualifying offer, which is expected. Although the 25-year-old will have the ability to sign an offer sheet with a rival suitor, reporting in recent weeks has indicated that Los Angeles fully intends to bring him back, either by matching an offer sheet or by directly negotiating a new deal with him.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Kings have discussed a possible contract extension with Harrison Barnes within the last few weeks, a league source tells James Ham of The Kings Beat. However, those conversations “went quiet,” according to Ham. Barnes remains extension-eligible until June 30 before officially becoming a free agent.
  • Heading into last Thursday’s draft, there was speculation that the Mavericks would trade their No. 10 overall pick for a veteran. Instead, they ended up with a pair of first-rounders at No. 12 and No. 24, which they used on Dereck Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper. They also swapped out Davis Bertans for Richaun Holmes as part of their draft-night dealings. “We feel like we killed the draft,” GM Nico Harrison said, according to Tim Cato of The Athletic, who takes a closer look at how Thursday night’s moves set up the team for the rest of the offseason.
  • International reporting suggests that the Grizzlies are attempting to hire former NBA player and FC Barcelona coach Sarunas Jasikevicius as an assistant. According to Home of Glory (Twitter link; hat tip to Sportando), Memphis offered Jasikevicius a three-year deal worth an estimated $6MM.

Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks Atop Rockets’ FA Wish List?

The Rockets have been connected to several notable players in the weeks leading up to free agency, but league sources are increasingly identifying point guard Fred VanVleet and wing Dillon Brooks as the team’s top targets, according to Marc Stein at Substack.

While James Harden was once viewed as Houston’s number one free agent priority, there has been a sense in recent weeks that a return to Philadelphia has become the more likely outcome for Harden, which would require the Rockets to pivot to other targets. According to Stein, there have been “compelling signals” that the team will be a strong candidate to land both VanVleet and Brooks.

The Rockets may have an easier path to signing Brooks, given that his former team – the Grizzlies – has conveyed no desire to bring him back. Houston will likely face competition from rival suitors for the controversial forward, but it doesn’t sound like Memphis will be among them.

That won’t be the case with VanVleet, whom the Raptors are expected to attempt to retain. According to Stein, Toronto recognizes that it will likely need to offer the veteran point guard at least $30MM per year on a multiyear contract to keep him. With Gary Trent Jr. having picked up his $18MM+ player option and Jakob Poeltl considered a good bet to re-sign with the Raptors for a salary in the range of $20MM annually, per Stein, a lucrative new contract for VanVleet might push Toronto into luxury tax territory.

While it remains to be seen whether the Rockets will be able to pry VanVleet away from the Raptors, Stein says one league source considers Houston the favorite for Brooks. There’s a belief around the NBA that the Rockets are willing to make Brooks an offer that would exceed the $12.4MM mid-level exception, Stein adds.

Besides VanVleet, Brooks, and Harden, the Rockets also have interest in Poeltl, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Bruce Brown, Jordan Clarkson, Donte DiVincenzo, Dwight Powell, Rui Hachimura (RFA), Austin Reaves (RFA), and Cameron Johnson (RFA), a person with knowledge of the situation tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required).

That’s a long list, but the Rockets project to have more than $60MM in cap room and will want to have several fallback options in place in case they’re unable to sign their top targets.