Tyronn Lue

Pacific Notes: Batum, Ayton, Payton, Kings, Lakers

Appearing on the French online show First Team, veteran forward Nicolas Batum was asked about his future and suggested that he plans to remain with the Clippers for the foreseeable future, as Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints relays. Batum, speaking in French, said what translates to Tyronn Lue saved my life,” heaping praise on the Clippers’ head coach.

Batum, who has a $3.33MM player option for the 2022/23 season, was waived by Charlotte during the 2020 offseason and signed a minimum-salary contract days later with the Clippers. He has revitalized his career in the last two years in Los Angeles, starting 92 of 126 games and averaging 26.2 MPG.

“Whenever you have a player speak on you like that, it’s a great feeling because that’s what it’s all about,” Lue told Azarly when asked about Batum’s comments. “It’s about the players and trying to get the best out of players. A lot of times, the players bring the best out of a coach as well. For Nico, a guy who has been in this league for a long time and a great veteran player, just to have him say those words, that means a lot.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) considers it extremely unlikely that the Suns will let restricted free agent Deandre Ayton walk for nothing or that Ayton will accept his one-year qualifying offer. In Gambadoro’s view, a new deal between Ayton and the Suns, a sign-and-trade agreement, or an offer sheet that the Suns match are the only realistic outcomes.
  • Gary Payton II (fractured left elbow) is beginning to increase his on-court activity, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who posted a Twitter video of Payton going through a workout on Tuesday. Assuming the Warriors finish off Dallas, it still seems possible Payton could return at some point in the NBA Finals, Slater adds.
  • Trevion Williams (Purdue), JD Notae (Arkansas), Tyson Etienne (Wichita State), and David McCormack (Kansas) are among the prospects that worked out for the Kings on Monday and Tuesday this week, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Anderson wonders if the Kings could end up drafting two Boilermakers, with Jaden Ivey in play at No. 4 and Williams a potential target in the second round.
  • Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times take a closer look at Darvin Ham, Terry Stotts, and Kenny Atkinson, breaking down the pros and cons of each of the Lakers’ reported head coaching finalists.

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, McNair, Christie, Lue

While many Lakers fans hope they’ve seen the last of Russell Westbrook in a Los Angeles uniform, the front office is proceeding as if Westbrook will remain a part of the team.

Head coaching candidates that the Lakers have interviewed have been asked to discuss how they would use the enigmatic point guard in their system, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports. It appears that maximizing Westbrook’s impact after his disastrous 2021/22 season is considered an important part of the job, Amick adds.

This could be an indication of Phil Jackson’s input on the Lakers’ search, since Jackson is known to have an affinity for Westbrook.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • In the same story, Amick writes that Kings general manager Monte McNair is entering the final season of his contract and there have been no talks about a possible extension. That leads to an awkward situation with their new coach, Mike Brown, having a significantly longer deal (four years) than the GM who played a major role in hiring him. McNair’s contract status was a concern for some of the coaching candidates Sacramento interviewed, Amick adds.
  • Among the priorities that the Kings established before hiring Brown was that the new coach would retain Doug Christie on the staff, Marc Stein reports in a Substack article. Sacramento is also hoping for an improvement mirroring the Timberwolves’ success with their young core to end a league-record 16-season playoff drought.
  • Klutch Sports has many high-profile athletes as clients — they’ve also got another prominent coach now in the Clippers Tyronn Lue. He’s signed up with the agency, Klutch tweets.

California Notes: Fox, Sabonis, Clippers, Wiggins, Gasol

With a 27-49 record, the Kings are on track to miss any kind of NBA postseason for the 16th straight year. Sacramento currently sits at the No. 13 seed in the Western Conference, 4.5 games behind the tenth-seeded Spurs for a chance at a play-in tournament appearance. As the team’s opportunity to qualify for the play-in slips away, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee wonders if top scorers De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis will return to the hardwood this year.

The Kings have just six games left on their schedule for the 2021/22 NBA season. Fox has missed the club’s last five games with right hand soreness, while Sabonis has sat for the last three due to a left knee bone bruise.

“Well, we’ll see,” interim head coach Alvin Gentry commented on the two Kings veterans’ availability this year. “They’re working out every day and they’re trying to get to the point where they can come back and play, so we won’t know that. It’s a day-by-day thing. I don’t know any other way to answer it but that. … Fox is on the [team’s current road] trip with us. He’s spending a lot of time working out and trying to see where it takes him.” 

There’s more out of California:

  • Prior to Paul George‘s return to the floor tonight against the Jazz, the Clippers have had to handle the majority of their NBA season without George or his fellow All-Star Kawhi Leonard, writes Mark Medina of NBA.com. Including tonight, George will have missed 49 of L.A.’s 76 games thus far this season, while Kawhi hasn’t played at all. The team has held steady without George and Leonard, and seems to have a firm grip on the eighth seed in the Western Conference with a 36-39 record as of this writing. “We’re building that foundation and culture that we can win, no matter who’s on the floor,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think we’ve taken on that mentality.” A midseason team meeting helped steady the Clippers’ resolve. Veterans Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson were particularly vocal during the team discussion, Medina reveals. Lue has been open to experimenting with his players this season, opting to employ 24 unique starting lineups so far.
  • After making the first All-Star team — and first All-Star start — of his NBA career, Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins has failed to step up as a scorer with his starrier veteran teammates sidelined or playing hurt, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Instead, Wiggins has regressed. During a recent five-game road trip, the Warriors went 1-4, and Wiggins failed to take on more of the scoring load. He averaged 16.6 PPG on 41.1% field goal shooting, and coughed up the ball 2.4 times a night. “We expected more out of everybody,” starting center Kevon Looney said of the team’s performance. “I wouldn’t just put it all on him… We all had some plays and some things we would want to do better in that game, so I wouldn’t just put it on [Wiggins].”
  • During a conversation on The Old Man And The Three with J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter podcast, retired six-time All-Star big man Pau Gasol said that he is weighing the possibility of an off-court position with the Warriors“I’m exploring a potential role with a team,” Gasol said. “I’ve been going a little bit under the radar with the Warriors, and they’ve kind of opened their doors for me to come in and be part of meetings, see the guys a little bit, and talk to some of the guys.” In a legendary 18-year NBA career, the seven-footer suited up for the Grizzlies, Lakers, Bulls, Spurs and Bucks. Gasol appeared in three NBA Finals and won two titles with the Lakers.

Pacific Notes: Fox, Paul, Warriors, Lue, Westbrook

Kings guard De’Aaron Fox admits that it was “definitely hard” to see second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton depart at last month’s trade deadline, according to Logan Murdock of The Ringer, who says Fox had been planning to mentor his young backcourt partner for years to come.

However, Fox – who is now the Kings’ longest-tenured player – has gotten accustomed to a certain level of turnover since arriving in Sacramento. While his coaches and teammates continue to change around him, Fox himself at least appears to be part of the franchise’s long-term plans.

“The Kings always told us, ‘He’s our guy. He’s our franchise guy. He’s our max player, and we’ll build it around him, man,'” agent Chris Gaston tells Murdock. “That’s what they told everybody else around the NBA is that, ‘Hey, look, you can inquire about De’Aaron all you want, but we’re building around De’Aaron. This is our guy. He’s our main centerpiece.’ And they are true to their word.”

Fox, currently sidelined due to a right hand injury, has shown improvement in his recovery from that injury but hasn’t yet resumed basketball activities, tweets James Ham of ESPN 1320. While Fox is with the Kings on their current road trip, his return isn’t considered imminent, prompting Ham to speculate (via Twitter) that we may have seen the last of Fox and Domantas Sabonis (knee) this season.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Suns point guard Chris Paul has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game, but is doing “more and more” in recent days and is getting closer to returning from his thumb injury, says Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.
  • Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area makes the case that the Warriors should consider replacing Kevon Looney with Otto Porter Jr. in their starting lineup to help jump-start their offense.
  • Since joining the Clippers, head coach Tyronn Lue has emerged from LeBron James‘ shadow and is developing into a star in his own right, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes, examining how Lue has kept his team competitive while missing stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. “When you build a system around your best two players, a lot of stuff we can’t run anymore,” Lue said. “I had to look at the mirror myself and just figure out what’s best for this team. I had to go back to the drawing board.”
  • Criticized for his inability to score efficiently for much of the season, Russell Westbrook has made nearly 50% of his field goal attempts and 40% of his three-point tries in his last six games. Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group wonders if the Lakers are finally getting the version of Westbrook they envisioned when they traded for him last summer.

California Notes: Lakers, Holmes, Draymond, Clippers

The struggling 29-39 Lakers, winners of just two of their last ten games, are looking to the future, encouraged by the development of some of their youngsters, writes Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register.

Though the Los Angeles front office mostly opted to build its new-look roster around older veterans this summer, a handful of younger role players have emerged around 37-year-old All-Star forward LeBron James this season.

24-year-old guard Malik Monk and 23-year-old rookie wing Austin Reaves, alongside 25-year-old forward Stanley Johnson, have emerged as three of the Lakers’ more reliable players who may have yet to hit their ceilings. 21-year-old swingman Talen Horton-Tucker remains an intriguing option as well, though he has underperformed relative to his new three-year, $32MM contract this season.

“They’ve continued to improve and get better and more comfortable in our system, in our environment,” head coach Frank Vogel said of the Lakers’ youth movement. “Malik, Austin and Talen. That trio is another reason amongst others why I believe we have a chance.”

There’s more out of California:

  • The NBA has fined Kings big man Richaun Holmes to the tune of $25K after he threw a basketball into the crowd during a 134-125 loss to the Jazz on March 12, per a league press release (Twitter link). Holmes was ejected from the game at the time of the incident. It shouldn’t make too big of a dent in his wallet — the 28-year-old is in the first season of a lucrative new four-year, $46.5MM contract he signed with Sacramento during the 2021 offseason.
  • Despite being inactive for the last 30 Warriors contests this season due to a nagging back injury, All-Star power forward Draymond Green remains convinced he can still win his second Defensive Player of the Year Award this season, per Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area“Yeah, I’ve seen guys win with not many more games than I’m gonna play,” Green said. “I don’t know what league everybody else has been watching, but I have not seen anyone solidify themselves as Defensive Player of the Year.” Johnson notes that, should Green be available for all 13 remaining Warriors games during the 2021/22 regular season, he will only have suited up for 48 total this year.
  • With a 36-35 record, the eighth-seeded Clippers are six games behind the sixth-seeded Nuggets in the Western Conference. L.A. has just 11 games left on its regular season slate. The team has little to no chance of avoiding the play-in tournament at this point of the year, barring a collapse from both the Nuggets and the 40-30 seventh seed, the Timberwolves. The team is also a whopping 5.5 games ahead of the ninth-seeded Lakers. Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register examines how the Clippers intend to operate down the home stretch of the season given the reality of their seeding. “We’ll get a chance to experiment with our small lineup, which we gotta get better at once we get everyone healthy and get everyone back and then kinda see how that plays out, head coach Tyronn Lue said. Lue also intends to work through after-timeout plays, with an emphasis on helping shooting guard Luke Kennard improve his timing off screens.

Pacific Notes: Fox, Haliburton, Hield, Biyombo, Clippers

It hasn’t been a good season so far for Sacramento, the only team to have fired a head coach since opening night. But with so many other Western Conference teams struggling, the 16-23 Kings currently occupy a play-in spot, with a half-game lead over San Antonio for the No. 10 seed.

The Kings are extremely motivated to make the postseason this year and would be interested in making trades that both improve their playoff chances and give them “a runway for sustained success in the future,” says Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Amick, team owner Vivek Ranadive has given general manager Monte McNair the green light to make any roster moves necessary to meet those goals.

It has frequently been reported that Sacramento’s most likely trade candidates are Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III. Amick confirms that the team’s preference would be to retain – and build around – guards De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. However, Fox and Haliburton aren’t viewed as untouchable, according to Amick, who says no Kings player is considered entirely off the table in trade discussions.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Speaking to Mark Medina of NBA.com, Kings wing Buddy Hield acknowledged that he thought he would be traded to the Lakers during the offseason. However, it doesn’t sound like Hield is dwelling on what could have been — or worried about the possibility of being on the move before the trade deadline. “If it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, it didn’t,” Hield told Medina. “But it’s basketball, and you have to live with it. It’s the business side of it. At the end of the day, I still have a job. I can go to all 30 teams in the league. As long as I have a job, I’m happy.”
  • The Suns‘ addition of Bismack Biyombo on a 10-day contract has been a major success so far, according to Jeremy Cluff of The Arizona Republic. Biyombo has made a case for a rest-of-season deal by averaging 13.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 2.0 BPG on 11-of-13 shooting off the bench in his first two games with the team.
  • The Clippers‘ depth has been tested recently both on and off the court, writes Mirjam Swanson of the Southern California News Group. Besides missing several players due to injuries and COVID-19, the coaching staff has also been depleted, with assistant Dan Craig recovering from knee surgery and several other coaches testing positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, head coach Tyronn Lue exited the protocols today and is prepared to return to the Clippers’ bench, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link).

COVID-19 Updates: Doncic, SGA, Robinson, Hawks, Nuggets, More

Mavericks star Luka Doncic has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link). Doncic, who hasn’t played since December 10, missed a combined 10 games due to a left ankle injury and his time in the protocols. He’s expected to meet his teammates in Oklahoma City and may return to the court on Sunday.

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Maxi Kleber may also be able to exit the protocols in time for Sunday’s game, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Dallas, which has five other players still in protocols, managed to go 5-5 without Doncic and is holding onto eighth place in the Western Conference.

Here are more updates on players entering and exiting the protocols:

COVID-19 Updates: Vogel, Lue, Pelicans, Raptors, Pokusevski

One Los Angeles team is getting its head coach out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols today, while the other has placed their coach in the protocols.

The Lakers got the good news, as Frank Vogel has cleared the protocols and will be back on the sidelines for the team on Friday night vs. Portland, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). David Fizdale will return to his role as Vogel’s lead assistant after serving as the acting head coach for the last 12 days.

Meanwhile, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has entered the protocols, according to an announcement from the team. Lue, the 10th head coach to be affected by the protocols this month, will be replaced in the short term by assistant Brian Shaw.

Here are more protocol-related updates from across the NBA:

  • The Pelicans got Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Naji Marshall, and Jose Alvarado back at practice today following their respective stints in the COVID-19 protocols, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA.com. New Orleans isn’t entirely out of the woods though — center Jonas Valanciunas has entered the protocols, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • According to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link), Raptors rookie Justin Champagnie has exited the protocols, leaving Isaac Bonga as the only player from the team’s standard roster still affected. However, one of Toronto’s replacement players – D.J. Wilson – has now entered the protocols, Murphy notes.
  • Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski is no longer in the protocols and will be available for Friday’s contest vs. the Knicks, says Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link).

California Notes: Thompson, Payton II, Lue, Kings Guards

Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, who has not suited up for Golden State since the 2019 NBA Finals due to an ACL tear and an Achilles tear incurred in two separate seasons, provided new insight into his expected return timeline this season. Per Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area (via Twitter), Thompson revealed on a recent Instagram Live stream that he’s looking to return to action from anywhere between a few weeks to a month.

The Warriors have been doing just fine without Thompson, a five-time All-Star, thus far this season, sporting a 19-4 record, tops in the Western Conference. The 6’6″ Thompson, who will be turning 32 this season, holds career averages of 19.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.3 APG, with a sparkling shooting line of .459/.419/.848.

There’s more out of California:

  • 6’2″ Warriors guard Gary Payton II appears to have finally found a permanent NBA role as a do-everything perimeter defender for Golden State this season, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’s so dynamic defensively,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And when he’s scoring as well – he made a few 3s tonight but also scored around the basket as he does – it’s hard to take him off the floor because of what he does for us… He’s really earned all these minutes.” The 29-year-old out of Oregon State is averaging 14.6 MPG across 22 games with Golden State this year.
  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has explained that whether or not he opts to start two traditional big men – 7’1″ center Ivica Zubac and 6’10” power forward Serge Ibaka – will be contingent on matchups, per Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register“I think it helps us with our rebounding,” Lue said. “It’ll be different on a night to night basis; if teams start a small four then it’d be tough to put Serge out there at the four. With this team starting the way they’re starting tonight then we can try to do it again tonight and get away with it.”
  • A four-guard crunch-time Kings lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Terence Davis and Davion Mitchell, playing alongside traditional center Richaun Holmes, has proven to be effective for Sacramento, observes Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee. This rotation was trotted out against a small-ball Clippers lineup in an eventual 104-99 Sacramento victory this weekend. “It was just about pushing the pace, making them play at our pace and running,” Haliburton said. “So I thought we did a really good job of that.”

Western Notes: Looney, Kerr, Lue, Williams, Cousins

Kevon Looney will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and thus far, he’s enhanced his résumé. Head coach Steve Kerr said the Warriors’ big man is underappreciated and that his contributions go far beyond stats, Mark Medina of NBA.com tweets. “Looney is playing fantastic basketball,” Kerr said. “He’s totally underrated. He’ll never get the credit he deserves.” Looney, an afterthought in the offensive scheme, is averaging 5.5 PPG and 6.6 RPG.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kerr and Clippers coach Tyronn Lue have a mutual admiration, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register tweets. Lue says he hears from Kerr often. “He’s always checking up on me … very positive, motivating guy,” Lue said. “I don’t cheer for too many guys, but I do cheer for Steve… a genuine good person. He is one of my friends in coaching, which is pretty rare, for me.”
  • Thunder forward Kenrich Williams is dealing with an ankle injury suffered in Friday’s loss to Washington, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets. Williams, who is averaging 6.8 PPG, has been ruled out of Monday’s game against Houston.
  • The Nuggets, who have been decimated by injuries, worked out DeMarcus Cousins last week, Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated tweets. Cousins opted to sign a non-guaranteed deal with Bucks. Nikola Jokic has been dealing with a wrist injury and JaMychal Green is his primary backup.