Rajon Rondo

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Rondo, Kings, George

Former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson recently appeared on Fox Sports 1 to discuss his old team, the well-documented trade conversations involving Anthony Davis and more.

Prior to the trade deadline last February, with Davis seeking to move out of New Orleans, Johnson and then-Pelicans GM Dell Demps engaged in a serious of discussions with hopes of finalizing a trade to land Davis in Los Angeles. The Lakers never believed Demps was truly looking to accommodate Davis’ request, and Johnson used a noteworthy level of honesty while discussing the matter in his appearance on Fox.

“He was looking at me like I caused Anthony Davis to want to be traded,” Johnson said (h/t Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). “So, we’re on the phone, and he’s blaming me. I said, ‘What are you blaming me for, Dell?’ I heard he wanted to be traded, so I’m giving you a call. ‘Are you going to trade him?’ ‘You’re not going to trade him.’ So, he had me send three or four proposals, but he never got serious, Shannon. He never got serious. And I said, I told Rob [Pelinka], I told Jeanie [Buss], ‘He doesn’t want to trade AD to us.’ And sure enough, the last one was, ‘Give us your whole team and five first-round picks.’ I said, ‘Listen, man. [Laughter.] I can’t give you five first-round picks and the whole team.’ He wanted all our young guys. I said, ‘No, I can’t do it now.’ That’s when I said he doesn’t want to trade him.

“And look what happened. When they found out, the owner found out what was the trade proposal from us, she was like, ‘Oh, what are you doing?’ And then the new general manager comes.”

Johnson didn’t mince words about what failing to trade Davis did for Demps’ job security, either.

“It got him fired,” he proclaimed.

There’s more from the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Despite originally targeting a Sunday return date, Lakers guard Rajon Rondo (calf) will wait to make his season debut, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes (Twitter link). Rondo participated in a workout on Saturday and will work out again on Sunday to ramp up his endurance, Haynes notes. The Lakers have games scheduled this week against the Suns on Tuesday, Warriors on Wednesday and Kings on Friday.
  • In his latest mailbag, Jason Jones of The Athletic examines the situation of Kings big man Harry Giles, where coach Luke Walton stands with the front office, and more. Sacramento has opened the 2019/20 season with 3-6 record, including a 1-3 mark at home.
  • Clippers star Paul George could make his season debut as early as Monday after being cleared for five-on-five practice this weekend, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. George had separate surgeries earlier this year to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder and a small labrum tear in his left shoulder.

L.A. Notes: George, Leonard, Rondo, McGee

Paul George is almost ready to return to the court after going through his first five-on-five practice yesterday, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Coach Doc Rivers told reporters that George’s debut with the Clippers could come tomorrow against the Raptors, although Wednesday against the Rockets or Thursday against the Pelicans remains more likely.

No matter when it happens, George, who was involved in one of the highest-profile trades of the offseason, is eager to stop rehabbing and start playing. He had surgery on both shoulders shortly after the Thunder were eliminated from last season’s playoffs and has been operating on a limited basis since training camp opened.

“I’m used to being in this rehab stage and knowing what it takes to get my body prepared,” George said, referring to a broken leg he suffered in 2014. “It’s a long process. But with me going through it and having a drastic injury in my leg, I know what to expect. I know what pressure to put on myself and what pressure not to put on myself.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Monday’s game will mark Kawhi Leonard‘s first meeting with the Raptors since leading the team to the NBA title in June, notes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Leonard said he meets a lot of Canadians in Southern California and they thank him for bringing a championship to the country. “The guys, the journey,” Leonard responded when asked what he will remember from his season in Toronto. “Also the country. The city was amazing. And it’s just so much, you can keep going on and talking about it.”
  • Rajon Rondo is getting closer to his season debut for the Lakers, but it won’t come today against Toronto, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The veteran guard, who is recovering from a calf injury, went through a full workout Saturday and will participate in another practice today to help build his endurance.
  • Lakers center JaVale McGee won’t complain about a reduced role as long as the team keeps winning, relays Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. McGee is playing 25% fewer minutes and taking half as many shots as he did last season, with much of his time going to Dwight Howard. “Being on Golden State set me on (a path), let me have a mindset to where I’m not worried about minutes,” McGee said. However, he added, “If we’re losing and this is happening, then it’s a different situation.”

Rajon Rondo Close To Season Debut

The Lakers should get another injured player back this week as veteran point guard Rajon Rondo is aiming to make his season debut against the Raptors on Sunday, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.

Rondo, 33, has missed L.A.’s first eight games this season due to a calf injury. Once he returns, the Lakers will be at full strength as Kyle Kuzma returned to the lineup one week ago. The thing to watch will be how Rondo is integrated back into the regular rotation.

After the Lakers’ opening night loss to the Clippers, head coach Frank Vogel indicated that Rondo would see 25-30 minutes as the starting point guard upon his return. However, the Lakers have gone undefeated since then and LeBron James, the team’s primary point guard in Rondo’s absence, is leading the league with 11.1 APG.

Additionally, Rondo — once considered an elite defender — has regressed in that department and was a major weakness on that end for the Lakers last season. Rondo has also never been considered a great shooter, which does not bode well given the Lakers’ lack of strong perimeter shooting in the starting lineup.

The 2008 NBA champion with the Celtics will likely need to prove he can hold up his end defensively before L.A. trusts him with the workload Vogel mentioned weeks ago. For his career, the four-time All-Star has averages of 10.4 PPG and 8.5 APG.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Baynes, Rondo, Oubre

The Clippers have a ton of potential on the defensive end this season, something that could propel the team deep into the campaign, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes.

As written by Greif, the Clippers quickly became a “scary” team over the NBA’s first week, defeating the Lakers 112-102 and Warriors 141-122 without the likes of Paul George. The team has tremendous talent on both sides of the ball outside of George, including Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley and others.

“We’re scary defensively,” Beverley said. “Very, very, very scary. … We just grind people down, grind people down. We come in waves.”

Los Angeles wound up losing in Phoenix on Saturday, but the team has yet to reach its full potential. With several newcomers getting acclimated and their second-best player still on the shelves, the Clippers are favored by many to eventually become the best team in the Western Conference.

One scenario that’s largely stayed off the radar for fans, however, is the possibility of adding Andre Iguodala from Memphis. League observers have privately wondered whether the Clippers could eventually swoop in to acquire Iguodala by trade or signing (should he get bought out), which would undeniably make them even more elite defensively.

There’s more from the Pacific Division tonight:

  • New Suns center Aron Baynes impressed in his first start with the team, filling in for the suspended Deandre Ayton against the Clippers on Saturday, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Baynes finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes of action, helping Phoenix win an important game at home.
  • Lakers guard Rajon Rondo underwent a precautionary MRI that revealed a mild strain of his right calf, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com (Twitter link). He’ll miss the team’s game against Charlotte on Sunday and be listed as day-to-day.
  • Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. was fined $10K by the NBA this weekend for directing inappropriate language toward a game official, the league announced in a press release. The incident occurred after the Suns lost 108-107 to Denver in overtime Friday.

Pacific Notes: Rondo, Jones, Ayton, Bogdanovic

Rajon Rondo could be available tonight against the Jazz if his sore calf doesn’t flare up again, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. The veteran Lakers point guard participated in a scrimmage during Thursday’s practice. Rondo, who missed Tuesday’s opener, will start “a lot” at point guard, according to coach Frank Vogel, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Rondo will play 25-30 minutes on a regular basis whether or not he starts, McMenamin writes in a separate post.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns GM James Jones is “disappointed in the actions” of center Deandre Ayton, who was suspended for 25 games by the league on Thursday for using a banned substance, Gina Mizell of The Athletic tweets. Jones added that the franchise remains “committed to his growth and development on and off the court.” Aron Baynes is expected to move into the starting lineup while Frank Kaminsky could see more action at center, Mizell writes in a separate story. Cheick Diallo, who was not part of Wednesday’s opening-night rotation,  could also be in the mix, Mizell adds.
  • The Suns will likely add a center once they’re able to move Ayton to the suspended list, John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Phoenix tweets. Phoenix will be permitted to add a 16th player to their roster after their game against Memphis on November 2.
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic isn’t thrilled about the prospect of being a sixth man with the Kings, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon and Brian Windhorst (hat tip to NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman). There’s no spot for him in the lineup with Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes at the wings and locked into long-term contracts. Bogdanovic, who scored just two points points in 22 minutes during the Kings’ opener, will be a restricted free agent after the season.

NBA/China Notes: LeBron, Silver, Yao, Tencent

After making some eyebrow-raising comments about Rockets GM Daryl Morey and the NBA/China controversy on Monday, LeBron James briefly addressed the subject again on Tuesday, telling reporters that he hopes tension between the two sides dies down. However, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com details, James made it clear that he doesn’t want to continue discussing the situation going forward, preferring to focus on the Lakers‘ quest for a championship.

“I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us,” James said. “We’re trying to win a championship. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not politicians. It’s a huge political thing. But we are leaders and we can step up at times. I’m not saying at this particular time, but if you don’t feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn’t have to.”

James’ critical comments of Morey didn’t go over well in Hong Kong, where protestors chanted support for the Rockets’ GM on Tuesday, per an ESPN report. At that protest, LeBron jerseys were trampled and even burnt.

Here’s more on the ongoing NBA/China situation:

  • Commissioner Adam Silver never did meet with Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming while he was in China, but they were speaking at least 10 times per day, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times.
  • Ganguli also writes that the NBA’s Chinese streaming partner Tencent, which suspended its broadcasts of preseason games in the wake of Morey’s tweet, resumed those broadcasts on Monday without explanation.
  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN shares an engaging deep dive into the Lakers‘ and Nets‘ meeting last week with Silver in Shanghai, providing details on how LeBron and Kyrie Irving spoke up during that session. Among McMenamin’s interesting tidbits: James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and Rajon Rondo all had promotional appearances in China canceled, with one unnamed Lakers player losing a $1MM endorsement deal with a Chinese company due to the controversy. Based on a separate report from Bill Oram of The Athletic, that player may have been Kuzma.
  • In a column on the China controversy, Sam Amick of The Athletic notes that Morey’s initial tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors was sparked by a specific development. Sources tell Amick that Morey’s message came in response to a new law enacted in Hong Kong banning face masks during public gatherings. The law is “widely seen as a tactic to identify dissidents,” Amick adds.

Lakers Notes: Howard, McGee, PGs, Kuzma

When Dwight Howard signed with the Lakers in August, he pledged to come to camp with an adjusted mindset. After pushing for increased touches and a prominent role during his previous stops, Howard said he had been humbled by his recent struggles and would come to Los Angeles ready and willing to play whatever role was asked of him.

While it’s still early, it sounds like Howard has delivered on that promise so far. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes, head coach Frank Vogel praised the three-time Defensive Player of the Year this week as the Lakers went through their first few days of training camp.

“Dwight Howard has been all business since he came in this time around,” Vogel said. “We’re asking our whole group to have a seriousness about ourselves. He’s been an all-business type of guy. It’s really helped us to be focused and working on the task at hand.”

Howard is on a non-guaranteed contract, but the Lakers only have 14 players with guaranteed salaries, so the big man is the top candidate to slide into the club’s 15th and final roster spot to start the season.  Based on his performance so far in camp, there’s no reason to think that he won’t claim and hang onto that final roster spot.

“Dwight has it on his mind that he wants to help this team win,” teammate Anthony Davis said. “And whatever that entails, he’s going to do it.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Howard isn’t the only veteran Lakers center who has made a good impression so far in camp. According to McMenamin, Vogel also lauded the work of JaVale McGee, who re-signed with the club in July. “JaVale’s performing at a really high level,” the head coach said.
  • It’s not yet clear who will start at point guard for the Lakers, as Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley offer different skill sets and both saw time with the first team early in camp, per Mike Trudell of Lakers.com. As Trudell notes, Bradley’s ability to play off the ball could make him a good fit next to LeBron James, though the team could turn to Rondo if it wants more play-making on the court.
  • Of course, Rondo and Bradley won’t be the only players competing for minutes at the point guard spot. Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register takes a closer look at Alex Caruso, who will be pushing for a regular rotation role after re-signing with the Lakers in the offseason.
  • Kyle Kuzma is still a year away from being able to sign a rookie scale extension, but he has inked another long-term deal that will secure him a nice payday. According to Nick DePaula of ESPN.com, Kuzma signed a five-year footwear and apparel endorsement contract with Puma which is expected to be worth north of $20MM.

Pacific Notes: Ballmer, Ariza, Caruso, Howard

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer invested $100MM in the city of Inglewood, California this week, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

The investment was created as part of the city’s new arena development agreement, with the Clippers labeling it as the largest funding commitment for community programs related to a sports or entertainment venue in California.

“We’re close to a residential neighborhood and we are being very mindful,” Ballmer told ESPN in July about building a potential arena in Inglewood. “Investing well into the community, being a good citizen of the community. No homes need to get moved but we need to be a good neighbor.”

Ballmer’s proposal for a new Clippers arena, according to Youngmisuk, would include a corporate headquarters, team training facility, sports medicine clinic and much more.

“I want it to be beautiful,” Ballmer said. “But I want it to be about basketball. I want it to be comfortable. But I want it to be about basketball.”

There’s more today out of the Pacific Division:

  • James Ham of NBC Sports Sacramento examines how Trevor Ariza could fit in a crowded Kings rotation this season. Ariza, a veteran 3-and-D forward, signed a two-year, $25MM deal to join the Kings in free agency this past summer.
  • Mike Trudell of Lakers.com discusses several Lakers-related items in his mailbag, including the possibility of Alex Caruso starting at point guard this season. Caruso was better than Rajon Rondo while playing alongside LeBron James last season, though head coach Frank Vogel also has the option of testing Quinn Cook at starting point guard in training camp.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com examines whether former All-Star Dwight Howard could help solve the Lakers‘ depth issues at the center position. Howard is expected to fill in the role that injured center DeMarcus Cousins was supposed to fill before tearing his ACL, likely playing back-up center behind JaVale McGee to start the season and controlling the team’s interior presence on defense.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Wade, Howard, Rondo

Entering his first season with the Lakers and eighth season in the league, Anthony Davis is focused on expanding his game by improving a key part of the modern player’s arsenal: Three-point shooting.

The Lakers ranked 20th in three-point makes last season with 847, shooting 33.3% from deep on the campaign. Only the Suns managed to shoot at a worse clip, finishing at 32.9%.

“This summer I improved the most on my 3-ball. I wanted to be able to stretch the floor,” Davis said, according to Joey Ramirez of NBA.com.  “As a big, the game is definitely going that way now. … I for sure want to get that [percentage] in the high 30s. By me doing that I’ll be able to help the Lakers as much as possible … and hopefully win a championship.”

Davis, who made just three three-pointers in his first three NBA seasons, shot 48-of-145 (33%) from deep last season with New Orleans in 56 games.

Los Angeles struck a major trade to acquire Davis in June, sending away Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, the 2019 No. 4 pick, a 2021 first-round pick, the right to swap picks in 2023 and a first-round pick in 2024 for his services.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

Pacific Notes: Leonard, George, Caruso, Kings

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George may have permanently altered the perception of the two teams in Los Angeles, writes Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times. At one time, Leonard and George were both considered to be future Lakers. They were two stars who grew up in the L.A. area and wanted to leave their smaller-market teams for the comforts of home. That’s where they wound up, but they’re both Clippers.

Markazi recounts the history of the two franchises and how unbalanced the rivalry has been since the Clippers moved west. The Lakers had the stars, the famous fans and the titles, with 33 playoff appearances, 16 trips to the Finals and 10 championships from 1976 to 2011. Over that same time, the Clippers had just three winning seasons and made the playoffs four times.

The “Lob City” years and the purchase of the team by Steve Ballmer helped changed the balance of power as the Lakers fell onto hard times. Now with George and Leonard together on one side of Staples Center and LeBron James and Anthony Davis roaming the other, there finally appears to be a real rivalry.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers will sign Alex Caruso with part of their $4.8MM room exception, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. A full day of signings on Saturday plus the Davis trade left the team a little more than $1MM below the salary cap, and Marks believes that money may be used to give second-round pick Talen Horton-Tucker a contract longer than two years. Dudley, Daniels and Rajon Rondo will all sign veteran’s minimum deals, Marks adds (Twitter link).
  • The Warriors had “significant interest” in Caruso before he opted to return to the Lakers, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
  • The Lakers risk another “reality show” season with their flurry of signings in the wake of losing out on Leonard, observes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. L.A.’s front office was heavily criticized last summer for not surrounding James with more shooters, and although they improved in that area this year with Danny Green, Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels and Quinn Cook, only Green has proven to be a reliable two-way player. Goodwill is also concerned about the lack of young talent, with Kyle Kuzma left as the only prominent player with a chance to improve.
  • The Kings continue to move toward GM Vlade Divac‘s vision of a faster and deeper team with this year’s free agent signings, notes Jason Jones of The Athletic. Sacramento added veteran help for its young core by re-signing Harrison Barnes and adding Dewayne Dedmon, Trevor Ariza, Cory Joseph and Richaun Holmes.