Wenyen Gabriel

World Cup Notes: Hart, Giannis, Giddey, Dellavedova

Several members of Team USA have new contracts to celebrate this summer as they prepare for the FIBA World Cup, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Josh Hart became the latest player with a new deal, signing a four-year, $81MM extension with the Knicks electronically Thursday morning while the Americans prepared for a pair of exhibition games in Spain.

“It was actually pretty cool, I was just laying down on the training table, getting some treatment, on FaceTime with (his wife Shannon) and signing the contract,” Hart said. “It meant a lot. I wasn’t highly touted coming out of high school, wasn’t highly regarded in the draft, went through free agency the first time and I was restricted, it was a terrible experience for me, so to be able to do this, it’s a dream come true – just being able to have something that can take care of my parents, my family, my kids.”

Other U.S. players also had productive offseasons. Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton and Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards both signed five-year, maximum-salary extensions. Cameron Johnson got $100MM over five seasons to stay with the Nets, and Austin Reaves re-signed with the Lakers for approximately $54MM over four years.

“Yeah, that’s my kids’ kids’ money, for sure,” Edwards said. “It don’t matter (which player’s contract we’re talking about), that’s a lot of money.”

There’s more on the World Cup:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo traveled to the United States for more testing on his knee before deciding whether to play for Greece, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. The Bucks‘ medical staff will reportedly work with doctors from the Greek team to determine the best course of action for Antetokounmpo.
  • Wenyen Gabriel is the most recognizable player for South Sudan, which is preparing for its first-ever World Cup appearance, Askounis adds in a separate story. Other team members with NBA ties include Marial Shayok, Mangok Mathiang and Carlik Jones.
  • Thunder guard Josh Giddey is ready to become the new on-court leader for Australia, per Olgun Uluc of ESPN. Coach Brian Goorjian plans entrust his offense to the 20-year-old, who is seen as the future of the Australian basketball. “Giddey sets the standard of, eventually you’re gonna be the guy for this program, and he’s an unselfish player, so that sets the standard straight out of the gates,” teammate Jock Landale said. “He’s already embodied the Boomers mentality, and our culture, just through how he plays. It’s gonna come naturally to him, and he’ll fit in really nicely.”
  • Veteran guard Matthew Dellavedova isn’t part of Australia’s 13-man roster for exhibition games prior to the start of the tournament, according to Eurohoops.

And-Ones: Curry, Pelicans, Fredette, Maddox, NBA Con

The Warriors Stephen Curry won another NBA award, but it wasn’t for his on-court prowess. He’s the recipient of the Professional Basketball Writers Association’s 2023 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his inspiring work in the community, the PBWA tweets. Curry was selected for promoting youth literacy, fitness and nutrition, as well as fostering gender equity in sports. Lakers center Wenyen Gabriel, Clippers forward Paul George and Celtics forward Grant Williams were the other finalists.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • The Pelicans’ lease at the Smoothie King Arena expires next June but they plan to renew it to remain there for several more years, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. However, after renewing the lease, they plan to commission a study on whether renovations can be made to upgrade the arena or whether a new one is needed. Commissioner Adam Silver has stated that every arena in the league needs to be state of the art. New Orleans’ arena has the fewest seats of any lower bowl in the NBA.
  • Former NBA player Jimmer Fredette is among the players chosen for the USA’s Men’s 3×3 World Cup Team, the organization tweets. Timberwolves video associate Kareem Maddox is also on the squad, Minnesota’s PR department tweets. The four-member team will compete in the FIBA 3×3 World Cup from May 30 to June 4 in Vienna, Austria.
  • The NBA is adding a new fan-friendly event at the Summer League in Las Vegas, according to a league press release. NBA Con, a celebration of the best of hoops culture, will debut at Mandalay Bay from July 7-9, 2023.  NBA Con will bring together the fashion, music, cuisine, art and technology that make the league a cultural phenomenon, with appearances by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, top draft prospects Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson and numerous current NBA stars.

Pacific Notes: Sabonis, Gabriel, Poole, Ayton, Shamet

It’s no coincidence that Kings players lead the league with the fewest games missed due to injury, writes Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. Good fortune plays a role, but there’s also a team philosophy that rejects the idea of load management.

Domantas Sabonis is among the players who typify that attitude, Biderman notes. Sabonis only missed one game when he suffered an avulsion fracture to his non-shooting thumb in December and another due to illness in January. Sabonis may need surgery on his thumb, but he refuses to consider it until the season ends and has been playing with a wrap and splint on his right hand.

“We need to win games,” Sabonis said. “We need to put ourselves in the best position for playoffs. If I miss a game and we lose, I’ll never forgive myself.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Wenyen Gabriel played virtually the entire fourth quarter Friday night in the Lakers‘ loss to the Mavericks, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Gabriel was frequently used to double team Kyrie Irving and cut down on his scoring opportunities. “He has a great, great nose for the ball,” coach Darvin Ham said. “(He had) 11 rebounds. He tries to defend, tries to protect the rim. … He’s just a spark plug, another one of our spark plugs. His size, his ability to run up and down the floor, clean up loose balls, and get offensive rebounds and putbacks. Really defends well. And he showed all of that tonight. That’s why we stayed with him.”
  • Jordan Poole, whose four-year extension begins next season, has been alternating between brilliant and exasperating, observes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Monte Poole points out that coming into tonight, the Warriors guard has been a minus-50 over his last six games and he failed to deliver Friday night when four rotation players were sitting out the first game of a back-to-back.
  • The Suns won’t have center Deandre Ayton for Sunday’s game at Oklahoma City due to a right hip contusion, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Ayton didn’t travel with his teammates after suffering the injury in the fourth quarter Thursday night.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Hachimura, Pelinka, Walker, Reaves

The Lakers are using Anthony Davis off the bench in his return to action tonight after he missed five-and-a-half weeks with right foot issues, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. It marks just the sixth time in Davis’ career that he will be a reserve and the first since the 2013/14 season. Team doctors gave him clearance to play after watching his pre-game warmup.

“I’m happy for him, first and foremost,” coach Darvin Ham said. “I know how frustrating this process has been for him, especially at the level at which he was playing. I’m just happy for him, and definitely happy for us. We’ll get him out there, we won’t go too crazy with his minutes, and see how he responds.”

Davis will be kept on a restriction for a while, expected to begin at about 20-24 minutes per game. Ham told reporters he plans to arrange Davis’ playing time so he’s available late in the fourth quarter in case games are close. He also expressed confidence that Davis is fully ready to return after completing rehab.

“He’s gone through some rigorous therapy, weight training, weight-bearing exercises, activity on the court — both individually and some group workouts,” Ham said. “We would save him from himself if we thought there was any type of threat or harm that he could do to himself. So he had these boxes that he had to check, and he’s checked all of them. So we feel comfortable with him appearing tonight.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Newly acquired Rui Hachimura should take minutes away from Troy Brown, Wenyen Gabriel and Juan Toscano-Anderson in the Lakers’ frontcourt, Jovan Buha of The Athletic states in a discussion with fellow Athletic writer Josh Robbins about Monday’s trade. Buha sees Hachimura as an upgrade in terms of size and athleticism, though Robbins cautions that he focused too much on scoring with the Wizards and didn’t develop other parts of his game.
  • After the Hachimura deal, vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said the Lakers will only consider trading their 2027 or 2029 first-round picks if the deal makes them a championship “front-runner,” but Buha observes in a separate story that there doesn’t appear to be an available trade that would do that. Pelinka promised that the team will remain active in the trade market, but Buha doesn’t believe expectations should be high.
  • Lonnie Walker and Austin Reaves will both be reevaluated Friday before the Lakers leave on a five-game road trip, tweets Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Walker, who was listed as questionable for tonight’s game, has left knee tendinitis, while Reaves is recovering from a strained left hamstring.

Contracts For Austin Reaves, Wenyen Gabriel To Be Guaranteed

The Lakers will keep Austin Reaves and Wenyen Gabriel on their roster, guaranteeing their contracts for the remainder of the season, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Players with non-guaranteed deals have to be released by Saturday if teams want to avoid paying their full-season salaries.

Neither decision comes as a surprise, as both players have been consistent parts of the Lakers’ rotation. Reaves has started 12 games and is averaging 28.9 minutes per night, while Gabriel has made two starts and averages 14.4 minutes per game.

A second-year shooting guard, Reaves signed a two-way deal with L.A. in September of 2021 after going undrafted out of Oklahoma. That was converted to a regular contract before the start of last season, and Reaves responded with 7.3 PPG in 61 games as a rookie. His production has been even better this year, as his scoring is up to 10.8 PPG and his shooting numbers have improved to 48.8% from the field and 36% from three-point range.

Reaves, who will make $1.56MM this season, is headed for free agency in July. The Lakers can make him restricted with a $2MM qualifying offer.

Gabriel appears to have found a home with Los Angeles after playing for six teams during his first three NBA seasons. He signed a two-way contract with the Lakers last March and had it converted into a standard deal shortly before the end of the season.

L.A. picked up his second-year option in June, and Gabriel will earn $1.88MM this season. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Lakers Notes: Draft Picks, LeBron, Walker, Davis, Brown, Schröder

Speaking to Chris Mannix of SI.com on The Crossover NBA Show, SI.com’s Howard Beck observes that the Lakers‘ front office vowed after LeBron James signed an offseason extension to upgrade its 2022/23 roster, but now seems less inclined to trade the team’s 2027 and 2029 first-round picks for win-now pieces.

“I’ve heard rumblings, and these are only rumblings, I don’t want people to go too far with this or go crazy with the aggregation,” Beck said. “But a couple people around the league have told me in recent weeks that they believe that the front office has essentially been told not to trade the picks. That they’re guarding those.

“If that’s the case, that speaks to a couple things. One, you’re feeling pretty insecure about your future, post-LeBron. You think those picks are going to be so valuable in 2027 and 2029 that giving them up would be catastrophic for you. You’re also showing a lack of faith in your ability to trade those picks and find another way to rebuild in whatever the post-LeBron years are.

“You’re also indicating — again, if it’s true that they are just completely unwilling to put those picks on the table, then that means you’re also, by definition, willing to flush this season, because those are your best tools… for improving in the immediate term.”

Reports in recent months have indicated that the Lakers are only interested in moving both of those future first-round picks if there’s a deal that significantly improves their title chances. Anthony Davis‘ foot injury also reportedly lowered the chances that the club will trade one or both picks in a major trade, though if L.A. can stay in the play-in mix in the coming weeks and Davis returns later this month, perhaps the club will reconsider that stance at the February 9 trade deadline.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Head coach Darvin Ham said on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect either James (non-COVID illness) or Lonnie Walker (left knee soreness) to be out much longer, according to Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group. Ham stated that LeBron is dealing with a “common cold,” while Walker has “a little bit of tendonitis.”
  • Ham also shared a minor update on Davis’ recovery, indicating that everything is “going right according to plan,” Goon adds. The Lakers have been conducting continuous MRIs on Davis’ injured foot and he hasn’t experienced any setbacks in his recovery process.
  • Lakers wing Troy Brown left Wednesday’s game due to a left quad strain and didn’t return, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. The club has yet to issue an update on Brown’s status going forward, so it’s unclear whether he’ll miss additional time.
  • With the Lakers already shorthanded due to injuries, Dennis Schröder was determined to stay in Wednesday’s game after rolling his right ankle in the fourth quarter, McMenamin writes for ESPN.com. Schröder not only finished the game — he scored a season-high 32 points and helped lead the Lakers to an improbable win over Miami. “I just try to be there for my teammates,” he said. “I felt pretty good after (turning the ankle). Of course, it was sore, and it hurt. But I know my limits.”
  • Schröder was one of several Lakers on minimum-salary contracts to play a major role in the victory, alongside Thomas Bryant (21 points, nine rebounds), Austin Reaves (11 points), and Wenyen Gabriel (10 points). “I just think different guys are settling into their roles, getting more comfortable with more reps, more minutes,” Ham said, per McMenamin. “When we do get our big dogs back, whether it’s Bron, AD, both of them back — Lonnie, as well — it just makes us that much stronger, that much deeper, because now guys have confidence. They have the ultimate confidence because they’ve gotten the reps.”

Lakers Notes: Davis, Trades, Gabriel, Improvement

Lakers fans in Washington, D.C. chanted “MVP!” after Anthony Davis demolished the Wizards with 55 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks on Sunday. Davis has suddenly entered the Most Valuable Player award picture, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“He’s been unbelievable, man,” LeBron James said. “On both sides of the floor. I mean, playing like the MVP of this league. Just straight dominance.”

Entering Tuesday, Davis has averaged 35.3 points on 64.8% from the field, 15.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks over the last nine games. His resurgence has revitalized the franchise, Jovan Buha of The Athletic notes. Buha takes a closer look at Davis’ scoring outbursts.

Davis departed Tuesday’s game at Cleveland with flu-like symptoms, McMenamin tweets.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • With Davis on a roll, the Lakers should consider making a big move to improve their postseason prospects, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report writes.  If they finally decide to move Russell Westbrook, they need a play-maker who can ease James’ burden while helping Davis get high-percentage shots. There’s also a need for a versatile wing, Pincus adds.
  • Wenyen Gabriel will be out at least a week due to a left shoulder sprain, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets. Gabriel, a valuable reserve, will miss all four remaining games during this week’s current road trip.
  • Beyond Davis’ stretches of dominance, first-year coach Darvin Ham sees improvement across the board, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. “Their buy-in is accelerating at a pace a where they’re embracing everything we’re throwing at them, the way we want to play offensively and defensively,” Ham said. “You’re going to go through that period of discovery. Those first 20, 25 games, you’re learning your team, your team is learning you, coming in as a new staff, a new head coach while also managing who’s available, who’s not available, guys out for various illnesses and various injuries and you’re trying to mix and match the lineup. And now, we’re here, we’re becoming more whole by the day.”

And-Ones: Mutombo, Robinson, Gabriel, Bates

Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, the NBA announced today (via Twitter).

“He is receiving the best care possible from a collaborative team of specialists in Atlanta and is in great spirits as he begins treatment,” the league wrote in a statement. “Dikembe and his family ask for privacy during this time so they can focus on his care. They are grateful for your prayers and good wishes.”

Mutombo was an eight-time All-Star and four-time winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He played for six teams during a career that stretched from 1991 to 2009 and saw him play until age 42.

In addition to his basketball accomplishments, Mutombo is also well known for his humanitarian efforts. He won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001 and 2009 and has worked closely with Special Olympics and Basketball Without Borders. His foundation was responsible for building a new hospital that opened in 2007 near his Congolese hometown.

Here are more odds and ends from around the world of basketball:

  • Nate Robinson announced that he’s battling renal kidney failure, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. A three-time winner of the Slam Dunk Contest, the 38-year-old Robinson spent 11 years in the NBA before retiring after the 2015/16 season. “I am currently undergoing treatment for Renal Kidney Failure and have been privately dealing with it for the last four years,” Robinson’s statement read. “I’m sharing this now because I want to be the voice for all those who are having trouble speaking about this illness, and come together for a greater cause – our health. I was never a vocal leader on the court, I preferred to lead by example, but now it’s time for me to speak up and help all those affected by or dealing with Kidney Disease. I am grateful for the care and support I’ve received and continue to receive during this process, and hope through this announcement that I can help others like me.”
  • A trip to South Sudan for a basketball camp this summer has inspired Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel to do more to help his homeland, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Gabriel was overwhelmed by the response from the people he encountered. “I mean a lot of people hold me up high now, trying to be like, ‘This is our child and he made it to the NBA,’” he said. “And I know a lot of people think they can be the next one to make it, too.”
  • Felony charges against Emoni Bates involving a gun-related incident are expected to be dismissed, according to Jeff Borzello and Pete Thamel of ESPN. Bates, who was once considered an elite draft prospect, is now at Eastern Michigan University.

Lakers Pick Up Options On Stanley Johnson, Wenyen Gabriel

The Lakers have exercised their team options for 2022/23 on forwards Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac.

Johnson’s option will pay him a guaranteed salary of $2,351,521. Gabriel’s option is worth $1,878,720, but that salary will remain non-guaranteed until the NBA’s league-wide salary guarantee deadline in January, so the option pick-up doesn’t necessarily assure him of a spot on the regular season roster.

Johnson, 26, joined the Lakers on a minimum-salary contract in January after signing a series of 10-day deals with the team. He earned a spot in the regular rotation, averaging 6.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 1.7 APG on .466/.314/.716 shooting in 48 appearances (22.8 MPG). The former eighth overall pick has never been a major offensive weapon, but is a useful depth piece, given his athleticism, energy, and versatility.

Gabriel, meanwhile, signed a two-way contract with the Lakers in March, then was promoted to the standard roster in April. The 25-year-old averaged 6.7 PPG and 4.3 RPG in 19 contests (16.4 MPG) for the Lakers after spending time earlier in the season with the Nets, Clippers, and Pelicans as well.

With Johnson’s option exercised, the Lakers now have six players on guaranteed contracts for 2022/23. Gabriel and Austin Reaves are on non-guaranteed deals, leaving seven openings on the 15-man roster, one of which will likely go to second-round pick Max Christie.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Klutch, Carmelo, Offseason

The Lakers‘ front office is internally blaming pressure from Klutch Sports Group for last summer’s acquisition of Russell Westbrook, multiple sources tell Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

As has been reported by several outlets since last August, Klutch clients LeBron James and Anthony Davis played a part in recruiting Westbrook, helping convince the Lakers to go after the former MVP instead of trying to sign-and-trade for DeMar DeRozan or acquire Buddy Hield from Sacramento.

Still, while James, Davis, and their agency may have had a hand in the Westbrook trade, VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and the rest of the Lakers’ front office ultimately had the final say. Pincus, who suggests that assigning the blame to Klutch Sports “may be an epic level of passing the buck,” writes that NBA front offices should consider their stars’ input but that the top basketball executives are responsible for making the decisions they feel are best for the team.

Here’s more on the Lakers: