Rajon Rondo

Western Notes: Lakers, Beyer, Grant, Morey

The Lakers front office felt they couldn’t fight fire with fire to overtake the Warriors, so their offseason acquisitions beyond LeBron James were aimed toward another approach, as Kevin Ding explains in an extensive piece posted on the team’s website. By signing Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley, the Lakers signaled that they want to rise to the top in a different way. “To try to play the Warriors in their own game is a trap,” GM Rob Pelinka told Ding. “No one is going to beat them at their own game. That’s why we wanted to add these elements: defense, toughness and depth—and try to look at areas where we’ll have an advantage.”

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Thunder have added Bob Beyer to Billy Donovan‘s coaching staff, according to a team press release. Beyer spent the last four seasons on Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons staff, serving as the associate head coach the past two seasons. His NBA coaching experience dates back to the 2003/04 season as an assistant with the Raptors.
  • Thunder forward Jerami Grant anticipates a bigger role during the upcoming season after signing a multi-year contract, as he told Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype in a Q&A session. Grant appeared in 81 games last season, averaging 8.4 PPG and 3.9 RPG in 20.3 MPG. He anticipates even more playing time with the departure of Carmelo Anthony. “I’m definitely excited to be able to play extensive minutes and play important minutes on a contender. Getting a chance to show what you can do while being part of an organization like this, being part of a team like this, it means a lot. They’ve shown a lot of trust in me by giving me this new contract and [and a bigger role].” Grant signed a three-year, $27MM contract to remain with OKC.
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey is just as curious as anyone how DeMarcus Cousins will fit in with the Warriors, as he told radio host Dan Patrick in comments relayed by NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman. “They’ll probably figure out how to make it work, but it’s a little bit hard on paper to figure out how to make it work. But we do that well and so do they, obviously. They’re gonna be a tough out again, obviously. They’re arguably the best team in NBA history,” Morey said.

Pelicans Still In Need Of A Wing Player?

A bigger issue with the Pelicans this upcoming season may be the absence of a reliable player on the wing rather than the loss of Rajon Rondo or DeMarcus Cousins, as newcomers Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton are capable of replicating their production, at least in part, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate.

Kushner opines that nobody on the Pelicans’ roster is capable of being a solid “3-and-D” player, as Solomon Hill has struggled to recover from a torn hamstring and E’Twaun Moore, limited by his 6’4” frame, has been asked to play against players much taller than him and seemingly taken out of his comfort zone as a result.

“If it was up to me — it doesn’t really matter as long as I stay on the floor and help my team win — but I would like to say that maybe I hopefully could be playing a little bit more guard (this season),” Moore said. “Last year, I was more of a wing, but it worked out well for the team because we played so fast. But it would be kind of cool to be going back to being a guard again.”

So, the Pelicans will now hold a three-man competition between Troy Williams, Garlon Green, and Kenrich Williams in order to find someone who may be able to crack the team’s wing rotation this season.

The Pelicans could also be active around midseason, as they were when they acquired Cousins in 2017 and Nikola Mirotic last season. But for now, they’ll rely on MVP-candidate Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Randle and Mirotic, which should be enough to keep them in the Western Conference playoff race.

Southwest Notes: Capela, Rondo, Chalmers, Temple

Rockets CEO Tad Brown sounded an optimistic note regarding negotiations with restricted free agent Clint Capela, Marc Berman of KRIV tweets. While much of the talk surrounding the Rockets in recent days has been focused on the possibility of signing Carmelo Anthony, Capela is a more important piece. He’s the only player on our list of the top 10 free agents this summer who hasn’t signed a contract. Brown believes that will change quickly.

“We love Clint. Clint is a big part of our team…We are very hopeful we’re going to get something done very soon,” Brown told Berman. “I know (Rockets GM) Daryl (Morey) and (Clint’s) representatives are working on that every day.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Rajon Rondo‘s leadership will likely be missed more by the Pelicans than his on-court contributions, according to Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate. The Pelicans believe they can replace Rondo, who signed with the Lakers, at the point with a combination of Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Ian Clark and Frank Jackson. But Rondo’s innate ability to understand nuances of the game and translate them to teammates, his professionalism in film study and his role in team bonding experiences will be hard to replace, Kushner adds.
  • Former Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers is confident he’ll find an NBA job even though he remains unsigned, Gary Bedore of the Kansas City Star reports. Chalmers, 32, appeared in 66 games last season with Memphis, averaging 7.7 PPG and 3.0 APG in 21.5 MPG. “It’s just a matter of time,” he told Bedore. “They [NBA teams] are getting all the young guys, all the big free agents out of the way now. I’m just waiting my turn.”
  • Garrett Temple could step into a starting role with the Grizzlies, Peter Edmiston of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Temple, who was acquired in a trade with the Kings, can provide above-average defense at the shooting guard spot. Offensively, he will be a factor in catch-and-shoot situations, Edmiston notes. His unselfishness will also facilitate the offensive flow, Edmiston adds.
  • The Mavericks have hired former WNBA head coach Jenny Boucek as assistant to the basketball staff/special projects, Tim McMahon of ESPN tweets. She spent last season as a player development coach with the Kings.

Pacific Notes: Beasley, James, Livingston, Temple

In a somewhat surprising move, the Lakers plan to sign veteran forward Michael Beasley to a one-year, $3.5MM deal, using a significant portion of their room exception. Beasley enjoyed a rejuvenated season with the Knicks in 2017/18, averaging 13.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 74 games (30 starts).

Beasley reportedly had opportunities to sign with teams that offered more playing time, but a tough free agent market made the $3.5MM salary hard to pass up, tweets David Aldridge of NBA.com. Also, Beasley has familiarity with LeBron James, as he played alongside the four-time NBA MVP with the Heat.

Since the Lakers signed James away from the Cavaliers, the team has further added Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and now Beasley. While it may not be the super team fans had hoped for, it’s an interesting conglomerate of talent.

Check out more Pacific Division notes:

  • Speaking of James, he made his first public appearance last Sunday to watch his new team in action at NBA Summer League. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report spoke to several Lakers’ executives who were on hand and discussed the prospect of James in Los Angeles and his role on the team. One executive actually believes the Lakers’ best lineup would be with James at center.
  • Shaun Livingston has been a valuable reserve for the Warriors as the team has dominated the NBA the past half-decade, winning three championships in the past four years. Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required) spoke to Livingston during his basketball camp in New York City, where Livingston addressed the Warriors’ success and the perception that Golden State has “ruined” the league with their super team.
  • Ever since Zach LaVine‘s offer sheet was matched by the Bulls, the Kings have not made any major additions to the team this offseason. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes that the Kings’ low-key approach thus far is okay and helps the team in the future.
  • The Grizzlies sent $1.5MM to the Kings as part of the trade for Garrett Temple , tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That figure is the equivalent of Deyonta Davis‘ salary, which would therefore be covered by Memphis if the Kings choose to waive him.

Clark Crum contributed to this post.

Southwest Notes: Cousins, Rondo, Doncic, Belinelli

Pelicans GM Dell Demps made his first public comments on the loss of free agents DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo in an interview with Rod Walker of The New Orleans Advocate.

According to Demps, team officials met with Cousins on the first two days of free agency, but the two sides weren’t able to find “common ground.” Demps called negotiations with Cousins “respectful” and “cordial,” but said the uncertainty over his physical condition in the wake of a torn Achilles made it difficult to reach a deal. Cousins eventually signed a one-year contract with the Warriors for their $5.3MM taxpayer mid-level exception.

“The unknown of returning to play made it difficult for both sides to find a common ground,” Demps explained. “We enjoyed DeMarcus in New Orleans and wanted him back. We had multiple discussions with his representatives. It was just very difficult for us to find common ground.”

Rondo also headed west for a one-year contract, signing with the Lakers for $9MM after a single season in New Orleans. Demps hopes the intangibles that Rondo brought will influence other players.

“Ultimately, it was a tough situation because we had so much success with Rondo with his leadership and on-court presence,” Demps said. “We felt like we had a chemistry. Unfortunately, he’s not back. At the same time, we believe that his impact will stay with our team.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks made the correct move in holding first-round pick Luka Doncic out of Summer League play, writes Dwain Price of NBA.com. Doncic’s buyout with Real Madrid wasn’t finalized until Monday, and he would have faced a difficult adjustment in joining the team in Las Vegas after it had already played two games.
  • Manu Ginobili was among the first people to text congratulations to Marco Belinelli after he committed to return to the Spurs, notes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News. That doesn’t guarantee Ginobili will be back for another season, but he’s glad to see his former teammate return after winning a title together in 2014. “We didn’t talk about [Ginobili playing], but I can say he was really happy about me coming back,” Belinelli said. “Winning a championship with that great team was amazing. Nobody is going to take that away from me.”
  • Rockets second-round pick De’Anthony Melton has turned in a standout performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Melton slipped to the 46th pick after not playing last season at USC, and he has looked like a steal so far. Melton struggled with his shot in the opener, but is 10 of 23 from 3-point range since then and has impressed the coaching staff with his defense and play-making.

Lakers Rumors: LeBron, Lineup, Ball, Randle

While LeBron James is – of course – a lock to open the season in the Lakers‘ starting lineup, the team isn’t ready to pencil in the rest of its starting five quite yet, general manager Rob Pelinka said today. As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com (Twitter link) relays, Pelinka told reporters that the other four spots in the Lakers’ lineup will be up for grabs. That includes the point guard position, where Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball are expected to engage in open competition.

Here are a few more Lakers-related notes and updates:

  • Lonzo Ball and his management group are evaluating options for his injured knee, according to Pelinka (Twitter link via Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet). None of the options being considered would involve a long-term recovery though, so Pelinka expects the second-year point guard to be “100% available for training camp.”
  • Asked if the Lakers considered signing Julius Randle to a long-term deal this offseason, Pelinka pointed out that the team didn’t give multiple years to anyone except LeBron, tweets Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. “We did identify going into this offseason to keep cap flexibility going into 2019,” Pelinka said.
  • ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Ohm Youngmisuk pass along some Lakers contract details, with Lowe tweeting that James’ new four-year contract includes a 15% trade kicker, while Youngmisuk writes that Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk‘s 2018/19 salary of $1.5MM is guaranteed, but his second and third years are non-guaranteed. It looks like L.A. gave Mykhailiuk a larger-than-usual first-year salary in exchange for allowing the team to maximize its 2019 flexibility.
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com and Lee Jenkins of SI.com both published excellent, in-depth looks at LeBron’s free agent decision. Each piece is packed with interesting tidbits and is worth checking out in full.

Lakers Sign Rajon Rondo To One-Year Deal

JULY 6: The Lakers have officially signed Rondo, the team announced today in a press release.

“We are thrilled to have Rajon bring his off-the-charts basketball IQ to the Lakers,” Pelinka said in a statement. “He has a proven ability to play at an elite level during playoff and championship runs, and that is a highly valued skill. Rajon is also respected around the NBA as an extremely hard worker and relentless competitor and that mentality is key to how we want build our roster.”

JULY 2: The Lakers continue to make noise on the free agent market, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports (via Twitter) that Rajon Rondo has agreed to a deal to join the club. Rondo will sign a one-year, $9MM deal with the Lakers, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

Playing last season on a one-year, $3.3MM deal in New Orleans, Rondo was an important part of the Pelicans’ lineup, averaging 8.3 PPG, 8.2 APG, and 4.0 RPG and serving as one of the club’s veteran leaders. He increased those rates to 10.3 PPG, 12.2 APG, and 7.6 RPG during an impressive playoff run.

Rondo will join a Lakers roster that’s set to look much different in 2018/19 than it did last season. The team is surrounding LeBron James with a fascinating collection of veterans that includes Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com (Twitter link) hears that communication between James and the Lakers is “strong,” so it’s safe to assume that he’s on board with all the moves the team is making.

Shelburne adds (via Twitter) that LeBron told the Lakers he likes Lonzo Ball‘s game and is excited to play with him, but assuming Ball isn’t traded, he figures to compete for playing time with Rondo. A source tells Shelburne (Twitter link) that the best man will win the point guard job for the Lakers, who are in win-now mode.

Having renounced Julius Randle, the Lakers had a projected $13.83MM in cap room to accommodate the Rondo deal, which will take up $9MM in space. That will leave the Lakers with about $5.67MM for now. The team could get up to $16.29MM in cap room by waiving and stretching Luol Deng, so we’ll see if Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have another big move up their sleeves.

As for the Pelicans, they had wanted to bring back Rondo even after reaching an agreement to sign point guard Elfrid Payton. According to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), New Orleans made Rondo an offer, but the Lakers’ proposal was “significantly better.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

L.A. Notes: Leonard, James, Rondo, Rivers

The Spurs continue to seek a high price from the Lakers in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, salary cap expert Larry Coon said in an appearance today on Spectrum SportsNet (Twitter link). Sources tell Coon that San Antonio is asking for Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, two first-rounders and the right to swap two other draft choices. “They’re just saying give us everything,” Coon said.

Coon also outlined the Lakers’ remaining cap situation, noting that the signing of Lance Stephenson with the mid-level exception will probably be the final move in free agency after all other cap space is used up.

There’s more news from Los Angeles:

  • LeBron James‘ decision to join the Lakers may give Leonard more incentive to become a Clipper, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports suggested in an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s radio show (Twitter link).
  • The Lakers are turning their attention to next summer for their next big free agent move, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. The organization’s emphasis on one-year deals helps explain the odd collection of moves that have come down since James committed to L.A. Sunday night. The Lakers re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, then reached agreements with Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo, all on one-year contracts. The team expects to have about $76MM in guaranteed money next summer, possibly less if Luol Deng is waived and stretched, leaving enough to offer another max deal.
  • Rondo, whom Deveney states has wanted to join the Lakers since 2015, could take the starting point guard job away from Lonzo Ball, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. A source tells Amick that the L.A. front office has promised Rondo the chance to compete for a starting spot.
  • During an impromptu interview with TMZ, Doc Rivers explained the decision to trade his son, Austin Rivers, to the Wizards. The Clippers coach called it “the right thing for all of us” and predicts that Austin will excel in Washington.

Pelicans Notes: Cousins, Rondo, Randle, Payton

The Pelicans made a two-year, $40MM offer to DeMarcus Cousins between his Achilles injury in January and the end of the season, Marc Stein of The New York Times states in his latest newsletter. Cousins rejected the offer, and New Orleans’ front office responded by taking it off the table.

Cousins committed to Golden State last night, taking the Warriors’ MLE of $5.3MM for next season. The Lakers had an opportunity to get Cousins for a similar price, Stein adds, but once they passed, it was an easy decision for him to join the Warriors.

The Pelicans hadn’t given up hope of retaining Cousins when free agency began, but the door closed when they signed Julius Randle for $18MM over two years. Stein notes that Anthony Davis played an aggressive role in recruiting Randle to New Orleans.

There’s more Pelicans news to pass along:

  • The trade with the Kings that brought Cousins to New Orleans will be remembered as a mistake, according to Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune. The Pelicans gave up two first-round picks in Buddy Hield and a 2017 selection that turned out to be Zach Collins. In exchange, they got just 65 games out of Cousins.
  • Rajon Rondo and Cousins both made shrewd business decisions, Duncan adds in the same story. The Lakers gave Rondo more money than the Pelicans were offering, along with the chance to team up with LeBron James. Cousins found a low-stress environment to rehab his injured Achilles while getting an excellent chance to win a ring. The Pelicans also showed they’re not ready to pay the luxury tax, with Randle and Elfrid Payton providing cheaper alternatives to Cousins and Rondo.
  • The free agent drama in New Orleans could be repeated next summer, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate. The Pelicans took a little bit of the sting out of losing Cousins and Rondo by agreeing to deals with Randle and Payton. However, Randle can opt out after one season and Payton is only signed for a year. Nikola Mirotic, who fit well alongside Davis after arriving from the Bulls in a midseason trade, will also be a free agent.

Pelicans Sign Elfrid Payton

JULY 8, 6:57pm: The Pelicans have officially signed Payton, according to the NBA’s transactions log. With Julius Randle taking up New Orleans’ mid-level exception, the team is expected to use its bi-annual exception on Payton.

JULY 2, 9:30am: Payton’s one-year deal with the Pelicans will pay him $2.7MM, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link). Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link) first reported that it would be worth more than the minimum, but less than the bi-annual exception ($3.382MM).

JULY 1, 9:57pm: The Pelicans have reached an agreement on a deal with point guard Elfrid Payton, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links), who reports that it’ll be a one-year contract. Payton, who didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Suns, had been an unrestricted free agent.

Payton, 24, spent the first three and a half seasons of his NBA career in Orlando before being sent to Phoenix in a midseason trade earlier this year. In 19 games with the Suns, the former 10th overall pick averaged 11.8 PPG, 6.2 APG, and 5.3 RPG, numbers that were about in line with his career averages.

While Payton has the ability to fill up the stat sheet on a given night, his shooting and defensive shortcomings have limited his impact throughout his four-year NBA career. During his time in Phoenix, he shot just .435/.200/.685, and the team had a 115.7 defensive rating when he played (108.9 when he sat). He fell out of the Suns’ rotation by the end of the season.

Still, the Pelicans will look to unlock Payton’s full potential, adding him to a backcourt that features Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, and Frank Jackson. New Orleans also has interest in re-signing free agent point guard Rajon Rondo, and remains hopeful of bringing him back into the fold even after reaching a deal with Payton, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Payton’s deal with the Pelicans represents a homecoming for the 6’4″ guard, who was born in Gretna, Louisiana and played his college ball at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.