Rob Pelinka

Lakers Notes: Ham, Rivers, Pelinka, Brockington

Bucks assistant Darvin Ham is the only finalist for the Lakers‘ coaching vacancy without previous head coaching experience, but he apparently has the support of LeBron James, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report“He’s the guy LeBron wants,” a source from a rival team tells Pincus.

Ham, 48, also has the advantage of a previous relationship with the Lakers. After his playing career ended, his first NBA job was an an assistant coach in L.A., where he stayed for two seasons before joining Mike Budenholzer‘s staff in Atlanta and later in Milwaukee. Ham possesses a strong personality and plenty of energy, and Pincus believes he could be the best choice to motivate the Lakers’ veteran-laden roster.

Assessing the other finalists, Pincus calls Terry Stotts the “safest choice,” but says he’ll need an experienced assistant to handle the defense, and he views Kenny Atkinson as a “wild card” with a reputation for being rigid in his approach to the game.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • None of the finalists inspire any excitement, in the view of Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times, who says the Lakers need to find a way to acquire Doc Rivers from the Sixers. Rivers still has three seasons left on his contract in Philadelphia and recently received a vote of confidence from president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, but Plaschke cites rumors that Morey would prefer Mike D’Antoni, especially in the wake of the Sixers’ second-round exit. Plaschke theorizes that the Lakers would have already hired Rivers if he weren’t under contract with another team.
  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Nets GM Sean Marks were seen meeting at the NBA Combine this week, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog. While no details of the conversation were made public, it’s worth noting that the Lakers had internal discussions about acquiring Kyrie Irving before he resumed playing in January. Marks is also very familiar with one of Pelinka’s head coaching finalists, having hired Atkinson during his first year in Brooklyn.
  • The Lakers are part of a growing list of teams that have lined up a workout with Iowa State guard Izaiah Brockington, per Spencer Davies of Basketball News. Brockington wasn’t invited to the Draft Combine or the G League Elite Camp, but he has already worked out for the Hawks and sources tell Davies that as many as 14 teams are interested in seeing him in action. The Lakers don’t have any picks in this year’s draft, so they would have to trade for one or hope to sign him as a free agent if he goes undrafted.

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss Discusses Down Year, Front Office, More

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss wasn’t happy with the way her team’s season played out, she said in a wide-ranging interview with Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times. With championship expectations and one of the NBA’s most expensive rosters entering the 2021/22 season, Los Angeles went 33-49 and missed both the playoffs and the play-in tournament.

“I’m growing impatient just because we had the fourth-highest payroll in the league,” Buss told Plaschke. “… When you spend that kind of money on the luxury tax, you expect to go deep into the playoffs. So, yeah, it was gut-wrenching for me to go out on a limb like that and not get the results that we were looking for. … I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied.”

As the final decision-maker on Lakers matters, Buss said it was up to her to “make things better” after an “extremely disappointing” year, which could mean making personnel changes on and off the court.

“Absolutely, if we are not living up to the Lakers standard, absolutely I will look at everything,” she said. “… I will make the hard decisions, because that’s what you have to do.”

Although it sounds like front office changes could be on the table if the Lakers have another down year, Buss appears prepared to give VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka and his group at least one more shot to reshape and upgrade the roster, as well as to hire a new head coach, Plaschke writes.

“In terms of basketball decisions, I have complete confidence in our front office, which is headed by Rob Pelinka,” Buss said. “He is a person that is extremely smart, extremely strategic, everything he does is thoughtful and with purpose. … I have complete confidence that he can put together a roster and find a coach that is going to get us back to where we belong.”

Here’s more from Buss on the state of the Lakers:

  • Buss confirmed that she receives input from Kurt Rambis, Linda Rambis, Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson, LeBron James, and Klutch Sports, but insists that none of those figures have outsized voices within the organization. “Do they have final say? No. Are they running the team? No, no, not at all,” Buss said when asked about James and Klutch Sports, adding that it’s normal for teams to bounce ideas off of their top players. “I am controlling owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m held accountable for every decision that’s made here.”
  • Buss defended Kurt Rambis’ track record against what she perceives as “unfair criticism” and stressed that Linda Rambis has no input in basketball decisions. “In terms of Linda Rambis, she does not have a role in the basketball department; her role is, as it’s been for the last almost 40 years, is as my advisor,” Buss told Plaschke. “She and I have worked together for years and years and years. Why that has become an issue for people, I don’t understand.” Linda helps new Lakers players and their families adjust to Los Angeles, according to Buss: “Every team has somebody like that, in our case it’s Linda. … She’s done that for over 30 years with the Lakers. Not like all of a sudden she’s become the assistant general manager, that’s not true.”
  • Buss believes the Lakers can win another title with James and Anthony Davis as their cornerstones, but declined to speculate on Russell Westbrook‘s future with the team. “Having a conversation like that is premature,” she said. “We have to now find the right coach to lead this team. Depending on the style of play that that coach wants to play, given the roster that we have, it all has to start to come together.”
  • Buss hasn’t given any thought to the idea of selling the Lakers, telling Plaschke that her late father Jerry Buss always wanted to keep the franchise in the family. “I’m not going anywhere. This is exactly what my dad asked me to do. The team is not for sale,” Jeanie said. “… I like to say, my dad had his children, but the Lakers were his baby, and he put me in charge of the baby, and I will make sure that the baby thrives.”

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:

Lakers Notes: Monk, Westbrook, LeBron, Pelinka

The Lakers will likely make a strong effort to retain Malik Monk this summer, but they only hold Monk’s Non-Bird rights and would have to dip into their mid-level exception to sign the 24-year-old to a deal worth more than about $2.5MM. Even a deal using the taxpayer mid-level couldn’t start at more than about $6.4MM.

The Lakers’ cap limitations could open the door for another team to sign the former lottery pick, who will be an unrestricted free agent after enjoying a career year in Los Angeles. According to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, sources around the league believe Monk could get the equivalent of the full non-taxpayer MLE ($10MM+ per year) on the open market.

One general manager who spoke to Deveney speculated that the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Mavericks will be suitors for Monk this offseason and also singled out the Knicks as a team to keep an eye on.

“The team to watch, if he is going to leave the Lakers, which he obviously should, is the Knicks,” the executive said. “They had interest in him last year, and some of it might depend on what happens with Evan Fournier, do they keep him or move him? But that is a team that needs talent, needs shooters and Monk will be a good value even at the mid-level.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report considers six hypothetical Russell Westbrook trade scenarios and evaluates which of them are the most realistic — and which would appeal most to the Lakers.
  • Westbrook exhibited a lack of self awareness during his end-of-season press conference on Monday, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who says the point guard doubled down on past excuses and created new ones to absolve himself of responsibility for his disappointing season. “The famous ‘source’ stories that came out about myself, whether it be between me and the staff, me and Frank (Vogel), me and the fans, there’s just so many made-up stories that are not true,” Westbrook said, though he declined to give specific examples. “It’s just always having to fight against that constantly. It’s just not (being) given a fair chance.”
  • In a column for The Los Angeles Times, Dylan Hernandez argues that LeBron James also didn’t accept enough responsibility for the Lakers’ struggles in 2021/22. While multiple reports have suggested that James and Anthony Davis played major roles in orchestrating the trade for Westbrook last summer, LeBron downplayed his involvement in roster moves. “Ask me my opinion, I’m going to give my opinion,” he said. “But at the end of the day, they’re going to make the decision that they feel is best for the franchise.”
  • Conversely, in his own media exit interview, VP of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka made himself more accountable than he has in the past, though he didn’t look comfortable doing so, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. Pelinka has two years left on his current contract with the Lakers, sources tell Oram, who says the GM is under significant pressure not to repeat this season’s disaster in 2022/23.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, James, Pelinka, Monk, Offseason Preview

Russell Westbrook admitted he and the Lakers had a “very disappointing season” and took a swipe at now-former head coach Frank Vogel during his postseason press conference. Westbrook was often benched in late-game situations and didn’t seem to understand why, according to Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

“I’m not sure what his issue was with me,” Westbrook said of Vogel. “When I first got here, I just felt that I never was given a fair chance just to be who I need to be to better help this team.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • LeBron James, who is eligible to sign an extension with the team this offseason, plans on a major turnaround next season, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. “I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, but I’m still hungry for more,” James said. “I’m confident that this organization wants the same. That’s what this organization has always been about. And I also want to just change the narrative of how this franchise can compete at a high level again.”
  • VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka admits his roster moves last offseason “did not work” and vows to do a better job this summer, Woike and Turner relay in a separate story“This was a disappointing Lakers season at every level,” Pelinka said. “In the face of disappointment, our fans expect more, and that’s at every facet. It starts with the front office led by me and our ability to construct the right roster. It starts with the coaches holding players accountable and making sure that there is on-court execution. It goes to our training staff doing everything they can to make sure we have healthy bodies on the court. And it goes to our players to play at … with on-court execution at the highest level because that’s what Lakers fans expect and deserve from all of us.”
  • Free agent Malik Monk said “me feeling at home” will be a key to deciding where he’ll play next season, Goon tweets. Monk was one of the few bright spots this season, averaging a career-high 13.8 PPG and 2.9 APG.
  • In his offseason preview, ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes the Lakers’ salary cap issues and lack of draft picks to improve the roster. He explores how Pelinka might approach the offseason with those limitations. In his own Lakers offseason primer, The Athletic’s Jovan Buha said youth, athleticism, length, shooting and defense must be prioritized, and they need to sign a starting-level wing with their taxpayer midlevel exception.

Lakers Rumors: Westbrook, Vogel, Front Office, More

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook “never respected” head coach Frank Vogel, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times.

“The moment Frank said anybody who gets the rebound can bring it up the court, which is just how the NBA is played these days, Russ was like, ‘Naw, I’m the point guard. Give the ball to me. Everybody run,'” the source told Woike and Turner. “Frank was like, ‘No, we have Talen (Horton-Tucker). We have Austin (Reaves). We have Malik (Monk). We have LeBron (James). We have AD (Anthony Davis). They can all bring the ball up.’ He was like, ‘Nope, I’m the point guard. Give me that s–t. Everybody get out the way.’

“From that point on, in training camp, it was a wrap, ‘cause now Russ is a fish out of water. He doesn’t know what to do. That’s how that started.”

Both the Times’ report and an in-depth Insider-only story from Ramona Shelburne of ESPN paint Vogel as one of Westbrook’s bigger supporters, resisting pushes from staffers and players to pull him from the starting lineup as the season went on. According to Shelburne, there were people in the organization who felt that only “humiliation” would prompt Westbrook to change his playing style to better fit in, but Vogel wanted to stand by him and give him the chance to figure things out.

However, Shelburne hears from team insiders that – in addition to being a poor on-court fit – Westbrook wasn’t a good “personality fit” alongside a non-confrontational coach like Vogel and a passive-aggressive star like James.

According to Woike and Turner, some Lakers staffers began to wonder during the season if the club had made a big mistake by not re-signing Jared Dudley to be a “locker-room buffer” who could help integrate Westbrook. The team had also wanted to hire Westbrook’s former coach Scott Brooks as an assistant on Vogel’s staff, but didn’t have the spot or the money for him after giving Mike Penberthy a promotion and a raise to prevent Jason Kidd from poaching him for his staff in Dallas, says Shelburne.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Although Vogel appears likely to be replaced after the season is over, the front office leadership group – led by Rob Pelinka and Kurt Rambis – is expected to remain intact and in power going forward, sources tell Shelburne.
  • The Lakers, who were unwilling to attach their 2027 first-round pick to Westbrook at the trade deadline to grease the wheels on a deal, appear similarly reluctant to waive him this offseason and stretch his $47MM salary across three seasons, reports Shelburne. Releasing Westbrook might appeal more to the team if he were willing to give up money in a buyout agreement, but sources close to the guard have expressed pessimism that he’ll do so, Shelburne writes.
  • One reason the Lakers acquired Westbrook rather than DeMar DeRozan last summer was timing-related — the team was able to move on Westbrook around the draft since he was under contract, whereas working out a sign-and-trade for DeRozan would’ve meant waiting for free agency (and coming up with a package that the Spurs would accept). However, sources close to the situation say that James’ and Davis’ enthusiasm for Westbrook were a significant factor in L.A.’s shift in focus as well, per Shelburne.

Lakers Notes: Davis, James, Westbrook, Offseason Approach

Anthony Davis isn’t sure if the Lakers‘ front office will try to trade him after the season, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports. Davis is signed through the 2024/25 season, though there’s an early termination option prior to the final year.

“Obviously I love it in L.A. If that’s something that they’re considering, then we’ll have a conversation about it,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re talking about, what’s the plan.”

Davis missed a chunk of time this season due to a foot injury but he bristles at the notion that he’s injury prone.

“To be honest, my training methods were top tier,” he said. “I can’t control stepping on someone’s foot and I can’t control someone falling into my leg. It’s not like I’m out of shape and I did some crazy (stuff) or it was anything I could control.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Davis (right foot soreness), LeBron James (left ankle soreness), and Russell Westbrook (right shoulder soreness) sat out Thursday’s game against the Warriors, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. It’s unclear if the trio will be shut down for the remainder of the season but the Lakers have little to play for after getting eliminated from postseason contention.
  • The Lakers’ best future option is for the front office to start running the club like a small market team, Moke Hamilton of the Basketball News opines. They need to find a way to get back into the draft, most likely by trading Talen Horton-Tucker, and uncover diamonds in the rough through scouting and player development.
  • The Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner breaks down all the roster decisions that GM Rob Pelinka and senior advisor Kurt Rambis need to make this offseason.
  • The same topics are explored by the Bleacher Report’s’ Eric Pincus, who notes that significant changes are unlikely to occur within the front office.
  • The franchise has come up short of lofty expectations created by the additions of James four years ago and Davis three years ago, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today notes. While the Lakers won a championship in the Orlando bubble in 2020, competing for multiple championships was expected. They missed the playoffs in James’ first and fourth seasons in L.A. and lost in the first round last season.
  • In case you missed it, Trevor Ariza was waived on Thursday.

Los Angeles Notes: Beverley, James, Jackson, Kuzma, Caldwell-Pope, Pelinka

Patrick Beverley felt the contract extension offer he received from the Clippers before they traded him last offseason was “borderline disrespectful,” he said on J.J. Redick’s “The Old Man and the Three” podcast (hat tip to Darryn Albert of Larry Brown Sports).

“Me being there from the beginning, I’m thinking that this contract extension, I’m thinking it’s going to be easy. I walk in and they throw me a number that I felt was borderline disrespectful,” Beverley said.

Clippers executive Lawrence Frank worked out an amicable solution by trading him to Memphis, who then shipped him to one of his top destinations, Minnesota. Beverley signed a one-year extension with the Timberwolves last month.

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • LeBron James carried the Lakers to victory over Washington on Friday with another 50-point performance, and coach Frank Vogel wonders if James best suited to be a center at this stage of his career, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. “Maybe after all these years, him playing center was really the best way to utilize him,” Vogel said. “Because that’s where he’s been doing it, by playing the center position with (Anthony Davis) out. Doing whatever the team needs to win games. And just an incredible, unbelievable, epic performance by LJ.”
  • Reggie Jackson lavished praise on Clippers fans, calling them the heart of the city, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. “I understand what it is in this city, it definitely is overwhelmed by Lakers fans. But I feel like Clippers Nation is like the heart,” he said. “It truly is L.A. It’s more so. No shot to them over there, but they’re the lights. They’re bright lights. They’re Hollywood. That’s the Lakers. … But I feel like we’re definitely the heart of the city – or that’s something we want to embody.”
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope felt that getting traded by the Lakers was almost inevitable, as he told Mark Medina of NBA.com“Every single year with the Lakers, I was in trade talks,” Caldwell-Pope said. Kyle Kuzma, who was also a part of the Russell Westbrook deal, said he’ll always have a place in Lakers history. “I’m cemented as a winner, and I’m cemented as a Lakers champion,” he said. “For me, it’s not about ‘what if.’ It’s time to move on. It’s time to improve my game.” The Lakers honored the duo with a video tribute on Friday, according to Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.
  • The Lakers are suffering from “organizational fatigue” due to the demands of putting a championship-caliber team around James, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN (video link). Windhorst doubts GM Rob Pelinka can do anything significant to fix the team’s issues this offseason, since the Lakers have already dealt most of their assets. “They have nothing they can really trade of huge value,” Windhorst said.

Latest On Lakers: Jackson, Buss, Pelinka, James, Bryant, Westbrook, Vogel

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson has been in frequent contact with owner Jeanie Buss regarding team matters all season long, according to The Athletic’s Bill Oram and Sam Amick.

It’s uncertain if Jackson, Buss’ ex-fiance, will eventually take a formal role in the future. However, she has relied upon trusted members of her inner circle throughout the team’s tumultuous season and will continue to lean on them to map out the franchise’s offseason approach. Jackson has taken a particular interest in the what The Athletic duo describes as the often uncomfortable dynamics surrounding the Russell Westbrook situation.

It’s unlikely that there will be a change at the top of the team’s front office structure, according to Oram and Amick. GM Rob Pelinka still has Buss’ full support and trust. Kurt Rambis, who works alongside Pelinka as a senior basketball advisor, also remains a strong and trusted voice with the organization.

The story also delves into several other hot topics regarding the Lakers:

  • Among LeBron James‘ inner circle, there are already discussions about the roster and what can be done to fix it for next season. Buss is eager to maintain the trust of James and wants to keep her biggest star happy. The post-All-Star break meeting with James’ representative, super-agent Rich Paul, was aimed at keeping both sides on good terms and quelling any controversies regarding James’ future. Sources close to James insist he does not have issues with the team’s power structure, per Oram and Amick.
  • Kobe Bryant, who was represented by Pelinka, would have been offered a hands-on role in the front office by Buss if not for his untimely death.
  • Coach Frank Vogel will likely be fired unless the team makes a surprising postseason run, per Oram and Amick. However, no final decision has been made.
  • The coaching staff made an unsuccessful push for Westbrook to be traded, according to The Athletic’s duo, who also confirm reports that there’s a growing disconnect between the point guard and the staff, even though Vogel has kept him in the starting lineup.

Lakers Rumors: Westbrook, Vogel, Pelinka, LeBron

The Lakers‘ struggles in 2021/22 will have ramifications beyond this season, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says that point guard Russell Westbrook, head coach Frank Vogel, and head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka all have uncertain futures in Los Angeles.

The Lakers didn’t like any of the deals available for Westbrook at this year’s trade deadline, but the two sides have mutual interest in finding the former MVP a new home in the offseason, sources tell Fischer.

Of course, Westbrook’s $47MM salary will make it challenging to find a taker, with one team strategist telling Fischer that his club wouldn’t trade for the veteran guard unless the Lakers were willing to include two first-round picks. However, other team personnel around the league are more confident that Los Angeles will have better luck shopping Westbrook once he’s on an expiring contract this summer, Fischer adds.

According to Fischer, Westbrook gave an “impassioned” speech to Lakers players prior to All-Star weekend, stressing the need to be unified in their push for the postseason. Fischer notes that Westbrook tried to motivate the Wizards in a similar manner last year and it paid off, as the team finished strong and claimed the No. 8 seed in the East. The Lakers haven’t shown signs of turning their season around so far — they’re 1-4 since the All-Star break.

Here’s more from Fischer on the Lakers:

  • Few people in coaching circles that Fischer has spoken to expect Vogel to hang onto his job with the Lakers for the 2022/23 season. Assuming Vogel is replaced, the expectation is that the franchise would focus on finding an experienced replacement rather than a first-timer, Fischer notes.
  • While some league insiders aren’t convinced Pelinka will keep his job atop the Lakers’ basketball operations department, Fischer says the team’s general manager still has strong support from key decision-makers within the organization. “His relationship with Kurt [Rambis] and Linda [Rambis] and Jeanie [Buss], it is very much a mom-and-pop shop,” one assistant GM told Bleacher Report.
  • According to Fischer, there has been “growing speculation” about Omar Wilkes of Klutch Sports emerging as a candidate to replace Pelinka as the Lakers’ GM. However, some of Fischer’s sources dismissed that idea, with a few suggesting that those rumors are being fueled by Wilkes’ competitors at Creative Artists Agency, since Wilkes is competing with CAA to represent top college prospects such as Duke’s Paolo Banchero.
  • Some rival front offices have griped about the way Pelinka operates in his trade talks with other teams, according to Fischer. Last offseason, the Kings were irritated to learn via media reports – rather than from Pelinka himself – that the Lakers were passing on Buddy Hield to acquire Westbrook, and one GM tells Bleacher Report that Pelinka wasn’t returning some teams’ calls at last month’s trade deadline. “He was an a–hole as an agent,” one assistant GM said to Bleacher Report. “He had the most powerful players and if he wanted the player moved, he would’ve eviscerated you as a staff to get whatever he wanted. You can’t do that to people, and then expect them to work with you when you join their side.”
  • Addressing the possibility of LeBron James eventually leaving the Lakers to return to Cleveland, Fischer echoes Marc Stein’s belief that the Cavaliers aren’t itching to pursue that scenario. While the Cavs might be open to the idea, they probably wouldn’t want to break up their young core to accommodate LeBron and wouldn’t want to have him “co-piloting personnel decisions,” Fischer writes. James said during All-Star Weekend that “the door’s not closed” on a return to Cleveland, but later stated that he wants to remain with the Lakers for “as long as I can play.”