Rajon Rondo

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.

Spears’ Latest: Crawford, Rockets, Rondo, Evans

We heard on Thursday that multiple Warriors players are lobbying for the front office to go after Jamal Crawford in free agency, but Golden State isn’t the only team that will kick the tires on the veteran scorer. According to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, the Pelicans, Sixers, Cavaliers, and Nuggets are also expected to show interest in Crawford, who is focusing on finding the right fit.

“For any player in free agency, fit and situation is so important,” Crawford told Spears. “You see players in one situation and they go to another and they look totally different. I’ve been around long enough to know that the player didn’t change. May just be the situation that he’s in. There is nothing wrong with that either. It’s all a part of growing and taking something positive out of that.

“For me, fit and situation may be even more important, because coming off the bench, you have to be able to make something happen for your team in a smaller amount of time,” Crawford continued. “So I truly have to have the right fit, and that was part of the reason I opted out (of his contract with the Timberwolves).”

Spears passes along several more notes on free-agents-to-be, so let’s round up the highlights…

  • In addition to working on re-signing Chris Paul and Clint Capela, the Rockets will also make an effort to retain Luc Mbah a Moute and Gerald Green, according to Spears, who suggests that Trevor Ariza could end up as the odd man out in Houston.
  • Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins are good friends, but Rondo would like to re-sign with the Pelicans regardless of whether Cousins stays or goes, per Spears.
  • The Grizzlies have interest in re-signing Tyreke Evans, but there’s a belief that he’ll be too expensive for Memphis to retain him, according to Spears. The Grizzlies don’t have Evans’ Bird rights, so they can only offer him their mid-level exception.
  • Although Avery Bradley is considered likely to land elsewhere, the Clippers do have interest in re-signing him, a source tells Spears.

Western Rumors: Warriors, Hammon, Suns, Clippers

With no cap room available this summer, the mid-level exception represents the Warriors‘ best chance of signing a free agent who can become a part of the club’s rotation. However, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic details, it’s not a lock that Golden State will use its full taxpayer MLE, which figures to be worth approximately $5.3MM in 2018/19.

“It depends,” general manager Bob Myers said earlier this week when asked about the possibility of using that mid-level exception. “[Warriors owner] Joe [Lacob] has always shown a high level of aggressiveness. So if it makes sense for us and if it helps us win, he’s always said yes. But that’ll be the markers that have to be met.”

Because the Warriors project to be well over the luxury-tax threshold next season, a player signed using the MLE figures to cost exponentially more than $5.3MM due to the tax penalties. So if the Dubs do use the exception, they’ll want to do it on a player who they feel is worth a $15-20MM investment. Avery Bradley, Tyreke Evans, Trevor Ariza, Will Barton, and J.J. Redick are some potential targets mentioned by Slater, though those players figure to receive larger offers on the open market.

Here are a few more items from around the Western Conference:

  • The Spurs have promoted Becky Hammon to a role on the front of the team’s bench, the club announced on Wednesday in a press release. According to the club, Hammon will be taking over the role previously held by James Borrego, who was hired as the Hornets’ new head coach this spring.
  • The Suns will be on the lookout for point guard in free agency, but John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 doesn’t think Rajon Rondo or Marcus Smart are likely to end up in Phoenix, and essentially rules out the possibility of the team pursuing Milos Teodosic (Twitter links).
  • The Clippers have worked out several free agents who had been playing overseas, a source tells international basketball reporter David Pick (Twitter link). In addition to Chris Babb, whose workout was previously reported, the club also took a look at Quincy Miller, Victor Rudd, and others, according to Pick.
  • In a piece for The Oklahoman, Erik Horne takes a look at several potential luxury-tax scenarios for the Thunder, depending on whether players like Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Jerami Grant stay or go.

Pelicans Notes: Cousins, Rondo, Carr, Staff

DeMarcus Cousins is still recovering from a torn left Achilles he suffered in January, but the All-Star center, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, has been documenting certain aspects of his rehabilitation process on social media and appears to be fully embracing the challenge, reports William Guillory of The Times-Picayune.

According to Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps, Cousins has been working out in Las Vegas and hasn’t experienced any setbacks during his recovery, with the big man’s desire to get back on the court as strong as ever.

“He’s right on schedule. He’s right where he’s supposed to be (and) he’s committed to getting back and ready to play.”

That being said, it remains to be seen whether the Pelicans will be able and/or willing to sign Cousins to a new contract this summer, with the Mavericks being one of many teams who will likely have interest in Cousins’ services going forward.

As Guillory notes, New Orleans was once poised to offer Cousins a five-year maximum-salary contract this summer. However, a story from ESPN’s Zach Lowe in April reported that the Pelicans were now considering the idea of offering Cousins a shorter deal at less than the max because of the uncertain future that often accompanies an Achilles injury.

Despite that report, Demps continues to reiterate that the team wants Cousins back in New Orleans, telling reporters that Cousins has been a big part of the Pelicans’ success and that he hopes the team is able to being Cousins back next season.

There’s more from New Orleans:

  • In the same article, Guillory also touches upon the upcoming free agency of point guard Rajon Rondo, who like Cousins, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The Pelicans are planning to enter into negotiations on a new deal with Rondo, per Demps, who notes that “in a perfect world,” both Cousins and Rondo would be back in New Orleans next season.
  • With their only selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Pelicans selected Penn State guard Tony Carr with the No. 51 overall pick. Carr, 20, averaged 19.6 points and five assists per game for the Nittany Lions last season, but his role for New Orleans next season is still up in the air. Per Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com, Demps has already expressed that Carr will need to compete for a roster spot as a rookie
  • In another story for The Times-Picayune, Guillory writes that the Pelicans are emphasizing stability with their coaching staff this offseason, with the front office recently denying a request from Toronto to hire away assistant coach Chris Finch.
  • Per Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated, the Pelicans’ front office scouting department has been retained with two-year extensions.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Grizzlies, Rockets, Mavericks

The Pelicans may have put themselves in position to be competitive on their free agent market, but GM Dell Demps hasn’t indicated if that’s the strategy he plans to pursue, writes Scott Kushner for The Advocate. New Orleans earned the sixth seed and swept its way into the conference semifinals, giving the team a reputation that it didn’t have last year when P.J. Tucker passed on an offer and signed with the Rockets for $3MM less.

Demps will have to decide whether to chase free agents or devote his resources to re-signing DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. Backup point guard Ian Clark will also be seeking a raise from the minimum salary he agreed to last summer. Kushner notes that when the Pelicans last made the playoffs, Demps opted to keep the core of the team together.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Grizzlies need to guess right with this year’s No. 4 pick to help make up for past draft mistakes, claims Peter Edmiston of the Commercial Appeal. Memphis has just two of its first-rounders still on the roster, Mike Conley from 2007 and Jarell Martin from 2015. The Grizzlies have helped themselves by getting players such as Dillon Brooks, Ivan Rabb, Andrew Harrison, Deyonta Davis and Wayne Selden in the second round, but they need a first-round star to help build their future.
  • After falling a game short of the NBA Finals, the Rockets are confident they can land a top free agent this summer, relays Stefano Fusaro of ESPN. Houston has its own concerns with Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute all headed for free agency, but owner Tilman Fertita has expressed a willingness to pay the luxury tax to compete for a title. “With our winning and the stories around the league about our locker room, our players and our coaches, we are going to have our pick of plenty of free agents out there,” said GM Daryl Morey.
  • The Mavericks‘ front office scandal shouldn’t affect the team’s pursuit of free agents, writes Matt Mosley of The Dallas Morning News. A bigger factor will be the lack of competitiveness, he adds, as top free agents don’t view the Mavs as a team that can win soon. Mosley expects the organization to make a play for Cousins and Julius Randle, but states that neither addresses the need for outside shooting.