Lakers News: Latest Surrounding Free-Agent Workouts, Nick Young’s Flop and More

Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Lakers are on a winning streak. All right, so it’s only a two-game streak, but every team needs to start somewhere, right? With the Lakers now closer to full strength, it’s clear this team has enough talent to make a run and possibly get something good going this season.

Still, there are some missing pieces to the puzzle due to the season-long losses of forward Julius Randle and guard Steve Nash. Well, there’s been some recent news on that front, as well as some talk regarding Nick Young’s warning from the Association and a surprise tribute to Jeremy Lin.

What’s being said about these recent developments, and how do they affect the Lakers going forward? Let’s take a look.

 

Latest on Lakers Workouts

There has been plenty of talk regarding which players the Lakers will be bringing in to fill empty roster spots. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders was the first to tweet several names rumored to be heading to Los Angeles for workouts:

Obviously, not all four players will be joining the team, but it was difficult to gauge which were front-runners in the eyes of Byron Scott and Co. On Thursday, Shams Charania of RealGM shed some light on the topic:

So, Dwight Buycks and Gal Mekel were apparently the top two performers who earned second workouts. With one of these two players seemingly the favorite to join the team, one thing becomes clear: The added depth will come at point guard rather than power forward.

It’s difficult to tell whether Buycks or Mekel has the upper hand right now, but the Lakers need to decide if they would rather have the facilitating ability of Mekel or the aggressiveness of Buycks. The smart money is on Mekel.

 

Nick Young’s Flop

According to NBA.com, Young has received a warning from the NBA for flopping. The swingman is always one for theatrics, but this time, he may have gone a little too far. At full speed, it doesn’t exactly look like a flop, but when you take a closer look, you see that Young hits the deck without being touched.

This Vine from K L Chouinard is some pretty telling evidence:

Luckily, the result of that nontouch by Kyle Korver was simply a warning; however, Young must be careful going forward. After all, the Lakers are a far superior team with the forward on the court, and that has been evident, as Los Angeles is 2-0 since his return.

Young had this to say about his return to action, via Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding:

There’s no doubt Young is one of the Lakers’ most valuable players. In just two games this season, he’s averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals off the bench. Staying in the Association’s good graces will be key for Young to remain on the court and continue his stellar play. Let’s hope that bad flop was a one-time thing.

 

Jeremy Lin Tribute

The Houston Rockets may have been a little freaked out by Lin’s strong performance against the Atlanta Hawks, as the guard went 6-of-7 from the floor for 15 points, adding 10 assists for a stellar double-double. As a result, the team pulled out all the stops to throw Lin off his game Wednesday.

Despite Lin’s checkered past with Houston, the Rockets decided to honor the guard with a video tribute on their scoreboard in the middle of the first quarter, and the home crowd cheered for the former player, according to Chris Baldwin of CultureMap Houston.

Ding’s Instagram featured a picture of the tribute:

The end result was Lin’s worst performance of the season. The guard shot 1-of-5 from the floor, scoring three points and adding four assists, one block, one steal and five turnovers. Luckily, the rest of the team picked up the slack, and the Lakers left Houston with a win.

Before Lin’s stint in Houston, he played 29 games with the Golden State Warriors and 35 games with the New York Knicks. Will we see both of those teams paying tribute to the guard when the Lakers come to town? It isn’t likely, but it would sure be an interesting strategy.

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Lakers News: Latest on Kobe Bryant’s Historical Accomplishment and More

Stop the presses. The Los Angeles Lakers won a basketball game.

The Lakers picked up their second win of the season Tuesday night in a 114-109 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Kobe Bryant led the way with 28 points, but it was the fact that he reached 32,000 on his career that made the most headlines. 

Read on to see the latest on that development plus more out of Los Angeles.

 

Kobe Bryant Reaches 32,000

Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com provided an update on Bryant’s historical accomplishment: “Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant broke through the 32,000 career-point barrier against the Atlanta Hawks here Tuesday, joining an elite group that includes only three others: Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar.”

Bryant came into the game needing 27 points to reach 32,000 and finished with 28. 

Here is a look at who is in front of him, courtesy of that same Holmes piece:

While the Lakers may have gotten the victory Tuesday, they are not going to compete for anything but a favorable draft spot this season (their pick needs to be in the top five to keep it). What will keep fans coming to the games and tuning in on television as the win-loss record gets even bleaker is the presence of Bryant as he guns for the scoring record.

He is arguably this generation’s biggest superstar, with five rings to prove it, and he is moving up the scoring list in his final chapter. Basketball fans will make sure they watch it unfold.

 

Ryan Kelly Joins the Walking Wounded

Mike Trudell of Lakers.com noted that it will be some time before Lakers fans see Ryan Kelly back on the court:

Julius Randle is out for the year after a heartbreaking leg injury, Steve Nash is out for the year and may never play in an NBA game again, and Nick Young has dealt with injuries in the early going.

In three games this year, Kelly averaged 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds a night in 8.3 minutes. He never looked fully comfortable on the floor with lingering injuries, and things have taken a turn for the worse.

This is unfortunate timing, as the Lakers could really use healthy bodies for depth purposes. What’s more, Kelly was looking to build on a solid rookie campaign, in which he averaged eight points a night and was a threat to stretch the defense as a versatile forward who could shoot from the outside and play either the 3 or the 4. 

Now, he simply has to focus on recovering and rejoining the team as soon as possible.

 

Pau Gasol Update 

Beto Duran of ESPN Radio LA provided a tidbit on the Pau Gasol negotiations from the offseason:

Gasol and his Chicago Bulls were in Los Angeles for a game against the Clippers on Monday, so discussion of his time with the Lakers in the Staples Center naturally arose. Gasol didn’t play in that game, but the Bulls came away with the victory. 

Duran also passed along some comments from Gasol on the situation:

The move to Chicago seems to make some sense from Gasol’s point of view, even if he did feel a connection with Los Angeles.

For as close as he and Bryant appeared to be, the Lakers had no hope of seriously contending for a title in 2014-15, even with Gasol on the roster. He is 34 years old and in the final stages of his career and certainly would love another championship ring to add to the two he won in purple and gold.

In Chicago, Gasol teams up with Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and a deep set of role players every night, and the team appears primed to at least challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. 

Gasol will always be a part of Lakers lore for his role in two NBA championships in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, but it was time for the rebuilding team and the aging star to move in separate directions.

 

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Los Angeles Lakers breaking news: They stink

The Los Angeles Lakers’ first ten games have left them with a record of 1-9. This is not what the team envisioned when over the summer they added Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and promising rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. At that time, it appeared the team would be solid and much improved from the disasters of last season. Ten games in, that is not the case as the team has not only had the worst start in franchise history, but is rated as one of the worst defensive teams of all time.
The team’s recent loss to the Warriors sums up the season for the Lakers. The team lost 136-115 despite 44 points from Kobe Bryant. The Lakers allowed the Warriors to shoot nearly 54 percent overall along with 50 percent from three. Even worse, the Lakers were held to under 40 percent shooting with an atrocious 18.8 percent from three. Sadly, these two stats are quite common for the Lakers. They continuously struggle on defense and have really struggled to make three pointers.
So far, this season has been

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Bulls News: Latest Updates on Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol Injuries and More

Chicago Bulls injury updates are almost like a rite of passage for every NBA season, and the 2014-15 campaign is no different.

Fortunately, Derrick Rose has not suffered any debilitating, long-term injuries in the early going, but he has been in and out of the lineup all year. What’s more, his new teammate Pau Gasol is dealing with a minor health issue of his own, which is concerning for a team that needs his offense.

With that in mind, read on to find out the latest from the Windy City.

 

Derrick Rose Injury

Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago passed along an update on Rose before Chicago’s showdown with the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday:

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was not in the lineup on Monday night because of a strained left hamstring. ‘[It's] getting better every day, still taking my time,’ Rose said after Monday’s shootaround. ‘[The hamstring] is just calming down. It’s not as sore, just really trying to listen to my body again and get the most out of every day.’

Monday’s game marked the sixth time that Rose has missed action this season with hamstring or ankle problems. The latest setback came in the final minutes of a win over the Toronto Raptors when he lost his balance and fell to the floor in pain. 

Friedell passed along some more reaction from Rose:

Bulls fans are undoubtedly frustrated by the missed time from their star point guard, especially given Rose’s injury history over the past two-plus seasons. However, taking the long-term approach with any ailments, no matter how big or small, is the right path for this Bulls team.

November games against the Clippers are far less important than eventual May showdowns with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. Rose seems to understand that. 

Chicago has serious title aspirations this season, but it needs Rose healthy for that to be a realistic possibility. Resting him now and preventing any serious issues will pay dividends when the Bulls are grinding in the postseason.

 

Pau Gasol Injury 

Arash Markazi of ESPN provided an update on Gasol before Monday’s game:

It is only a strain, so there is probably not much reason to worry for Bulls fans, but Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders took the glass half-empty approach:

Much like Rose, it is best for the Bulls to err on the side of caution with Gasol. He may not have the devastating injuries in the past that Rose does, but he is 34 years old and has a lot of basketball mileage on his legs. 

What’s more, the Bulls have Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson to man the paint until Gasol comes back. You could do a lot worse than a Noah-Gibson combination when fully healthy, so Chicago should be able to tread water until Gasol returns.

 

Gasol’s Free-Agency Decision Process 

With the Bulls visiting Los Angeles on Monday (for a game against the Clippers in the Staples Center), questions about Gasol’s decision to leave the Lakers were only natural. Friedell passed along the big man’s response:

It is clear that Kobe Bryant and Gasol had a close relationship, and it is no wonder that the two combined to bring championship hardware back to the Purple and Gold. However, it also wasn’t difficult to see the short-term writing on the wall when it came to the Lakers entering the 2014-15 season, and Gasol is in the stretch run of his career.

Competing for championships clearly took precedent over loyalty to the Lakers.

It remains to be seen whether he made the right choice, but it’s a fairly safe bet that Chicago is going to experience more success in the next couple of seasons than the Lakers. 

Gasol did all he could in purple and gold, and he has the jewelry to prove it. Now he wants a matching ring in a Bulls uniform.

 

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Lakers News: Latest on Kobe Bryant, Pursuit of Quincy Miller and More

Even when the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the worst teams in the NBA, they make headlines.

After all, there are 16 championship banners hanging in the rafters at the Staples Center and one of the best players in the history of the league taking the floor there in every game. The Lakers make news every night, even if they will lose far more games than they win this season.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest from Los Angeles.

 

Kobe Bryant Laker for Life?

Kobe Bryant discussed any potential possibility of leaving Los Angeles recently, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career. But that’s not what I do. I’m extremely loyal to the Lakers.

I believe in fighting through the tough times as well as enjoying the good times. It’s my responsibility to get us to be the best that we can be. It’s important that we approach that on a day-to-day basis.

On the surface, the loyalty is certainly admirable, especially in today’s age of basketball when so many superstars jump to a contender at the earliest possible moment instead of sticking around to participate in a rebuilding project.

However, Spears pointed out that Bryant did ask for a trade in 2007 when the Lakers did not make any notable moves and then rescinded that request after the team acquired Pau Gasol. It’s not as if Bryant has always been 100 percent willing to stick out rebuilding projects in purple and gold.

The New York Knicks would be an intriguing option if Bryant was to leave or get traded in the near future. It would reunite Bryant with Phil Jackson and give him the opportunity to play alongside Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks don’t have a ton of young assets, but the two teams could probably work something out if the desire was there on both sides. 

Alas, that is just speculation, and it looks like Bryant will be a Laker for life if his latest comments are any indication. That should put fans’ worries to rest during this trying season.

 

Pursuit of Quincy Miller 

Shams Charania of RealGM noted that the Lakers could look to add Quincy Miller in the near future:

Miller will only be 22 years old for the majority of this season, so he is a potential young asset who could help the team out in the long term. Last year, he scored 4.9 points a game for the Denver Nuggets and played in 52 contests, which was a drastic improvement from the seven appearances he saw as a rookie.

Los Angeles is likely interested in Miller because of the rash of injuries it has suffered recently. 

Steve Nash and Julius Randle are both out for the season, and Nick Young and Ryan Kelly are dealing with physical setbacks as well. The bottom line is that the Lakers need healthy bodies and more depth over the course of a grueling NBA season, and Miller would provide them with just that.

 

Isaiah Thomas Almost Chose the Lakers

Isaiah Thomas, in a Q&A session with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, noted that he was almost a member of the Los Angeles Lakers this season:

First off, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers. Who wouldn’t want to play for them? Second off, I felt like they always needed a point guard — a small guard like myself. I always envisioned myself playing with the Lakers, but like you said, they were waiting on Carmelo and other moves. The Suns came out of nowhere and showed a lot of interest, and I fell in love with them.

Thomas’ presence would have drastically improved the Lakers’ 2014-15 outlook. Last year, he posted nightly averages of 20.3 points, 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals, and he is a career 36 percent shooter from three-point range.

Thomas could have been a second banana in the scoring department behind Bryant in that scenario, especially with Randle injured, and he would have benefited from plenty of open looks from distance when defenders collapsed on Bryant.

Steve Mason of ESPNLA 710 had an interesting take on it when Thomas was busy lighting the Lakers up for the Phoenix Suns in a recent game:

At this point, it is not worth worrying about what could have been for Lakers fans.

This 2014-15 season will likely be a lost cause, but that doesn’t mean the team will stop looking toward the future. Los Angeles could get a favorable draft pick in the top five after losing plenty of games and will look toward future free-agent classes. 

At least that’s what fans have to keep telling themselves.

 

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Lakers News: Kobe Bryant Comments on Trade Talk, Nick Young Update and More

The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t exactly begun the 2014-15 season in they way they had hoped. The team is coming off a historically bad season plagued by injuries, and while the team features a different cast, it’s involved in a similar story.

Los Angeles is already dealing with several injuries, perhaps the most devastating being the loss of rookie Julius Randle due to a broken leg, and that’s resulted in an 0-4 start to the season. Although, there is a bit of good news for the team before it takes on the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night.

So, what kind of good vibes are headed the Lakers’ way? Here’s a look at three bits of information that should bring smiles to the faces of the team’s faithful.

 

Kobe Shuts Down Trade Talk

Kobe Bryant appears fully healthy, and he’s already taking on a larger workload than expected through four games this year. He’s played well so far, averaging 24.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 steals per contest.

Of course, since the Lakers have yet to win a game, and the guard is in the twilight of his career, that sparked chatter of a possible trade demand. Well, during an interview with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, Bryant was quick to halt such talk:

I hear the chatter of Kobe should ask out and he should go and play for a contender in this latter stage of his career. But that’s not what I do. I’m extremely loyal to the Lakers. 

I believe in fighting through the tough times as well as enjoying the good times. It’s my responsibility to get us to be the best that we can be. It’s important that we approach that on a day-to-day basis.

Sure, the season is still very early, but Bryant does appear committed to Los Angeles. After all, he’s already claimed NBA titles during his lengthy tenure. It’s not as if he’s 19 years in the Association without a single NBA championship to his name.

This team will get stronger, it will win games and Bryant will be content to remain in place.

 

Nick Young Injury Update

One big blow to the Lakers was the loss of Young before the season began. He was prolific off the bench for the team last season, averaging 17.9 points per game. His talents are sorely missed by a team in dire need of more offense this year.

Luckily, Young’s recovery took a big step in the right direction, as Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News tweeted the small forward graduated to a soft cast:

Young previously had a hard cast on his shooting hand and was unable to do any significant work. He had the hard cast removed in late October, and the soft cast will allow him to gradually increase his practice regimen.

While he still does have several weeks until he’s cleared to be back in action, this small step forward is a great sign.

 

Return of Ryan Kelly

Kelly has yet to play in a game for the Lakers this year due to a nagging hamstring injury. The power forward served as a good option off the bench during the 2013-14 season, averaging 8.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists while averaging 22.2 minutes of on-court time.

Due to the severe need for depth, the Lakers will be welcoming back this second-year player with open arms. The good news is that he may suit up as early as Tuesday against the Suns, according to the team’s official Twitter account:

Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times noted that the team also declared Kelly as probable:

As long as the forward doesn’t experience any setback, we should expect to see him in his first action of the year against the Suns. That’s a good start for a Lakers team in need of some kind of spark.

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Suns Show Depth Is Their Secret Weapon, and Other News from Friday’s NBA Action

The San Antonio Spurs may be known for a second unit that led the league in scoring and assists last season, but it was the Phoenix Suns‘ depth on display Friday night.

Head coach Jeff Hornacek‘s up-and-comers moved to 2-0 on the young season with a 94-89 victory over the reigning champs, riding a 10-0 fourth-quarter run to take their first lead in a game San Antonio had otherwise controlled.

Suns sixth man Isaiah Thomas led the way with his second straight 23-point game, making up for a mediocre evening from starting guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, who made just seven of their 25 combined attempts from the field.

Acquired from the Sacramento Kings this summer in a sign-and-trade deal, the 25-year-old spark plug tallied 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, showing the kind of composure needed to knock off heavyweights like the Spurs. His continued efficiency has quickly added a new dimension to the Suns’ already potent attack.

With under five minutes remaining in the game, Hornacek left Thomas on the floor with Dragic and Bledsoe, riding a trio of point guards through a stretch in which San Antonio struggled to score or defend.

Thomas got some help from fellow reserves Alex Len and Gerald Green, who scored 10 points apiece. Taken with the fifth overall pick in 2013, Len added 11 rebounds to claim his first career double-double.

The 21-year-old turned some heads in the process.

Whereas the Spurs struggled to supplement strong outings from Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, Phoenix highlighted just how many weapons it has this season—getting 20 points and 11 rebounds from Markieff Morris in addition to the strong bench play.

It wasn’t that Dragic and Bledsoe—the closest things to stars on this team—were bad Friday night. It’s just that the complementary pieces were the ones making the difference, which could prove invaluable moving forward.

Hornacek and Co. handed San Antonio a surprising 106-85 loss a season ago, so there’s some precedent for Friday’s outcome. Phoenix’s quickness and energy makes it a formidable opponent, one that stands a strong chance of besting last season’s 48 wins and firmly cementing itself in the playoff conversation.

That’s all the more apparent with Thomas now in the fold.

The 5’9″ floor general made 10 of his 17 field-goal attempts against San Antonio, regularly using his speed to create space in the mid-range or strike from the painted area. It was a different look from a Phoenix debut in which he did his damage on the perimeter with five three-pointers in a 119-99 win against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thomas’ multidimensionality is no coincidence.

“I’m going to take what the defense gives me,” he recently told Grantland’s Zach Lowe. “I’ve worked on my mid-range game. If it’s there, I’m going to shoot those. But for the most part, with the style of play the Suns run, we’re gonna shoot a lot of threes. If the ball goes in, I’m fine, either way.”

The Suns couldn’t have asked for a better start from their most recent arrival, and there’s little doubt the added backcourt depth will remain a factor as the franchise continues to cultivate its newfound winning pedigree. It’s a factor that just might garner some individual accolades.

So far, so good.

 

Around the Association

LeBron Looking More at Home in Cleveland

Four-time MVP and all-around mega-icon LeBron James bounced back from an icy debut to his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a 17-point season opener in which he made just five of 15 field-goal attempts, James scored a far more efficient 36 points in Friday night’s 114-108 overtime victory against the Chicago Bulls.

The two-time champion scored Cleveland’s first eight points in the extra session, helping even the Cavaliers’ early record and steal the first match of what may be an emergent Eastern Conference rivalry.

The Bulls and Cavaliers have set themselves apart from the rest of the East, boasting deep rosters and superior star power. Neither side disappointed in the first regular-season go-around since LeBron’s return.

 

Captain Kirk Almost to the Rescue

With starting point guard Derrick Rose relegated to just 25 minutes after a mild left ankle sprain, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau turned to 33-year-old Kirk Hinrich for 34 minutes of Chicago’s overtime loss to the Cavs on Friday night.

He didn’t disappoint, scoring eight of his 20 points with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Hinrich nailed back-to-back three-pointers and temporarily gave Chicago a five-point lead, ultimately assuring the Bulls a chance to win the game in OT.

Hinrich started the game at shooting guard with Jimmy Butler still recovering from a thumb injury. His opportunities for heroics may be limited this season, but his experience running an offense will remain a valuable asset as Thibodeau attempts to keep Rose fresh and healthy.

 

Grizzlies Still Go As Z-Bo Goes

Zach Randolph has made 19 of his first 30 field-goal attempts to start the season, scoring a combined 47 points in the Memphis Grizzlies‘ first two contests—both wins. He tallied 11 of those points in the decisive third quarter of a 97-89 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night. Randolph and Co. outscored Indiana by 19 points in the period, recovering from 53-45 halftime deficit in short order.

The Grizzlies have long been known for grinding out games with their talented big men, and this season isn’t departing from the script.

Center Marc Gasol—set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer—has been equally impressive in his first two outings, scoring a total of 52 points and otherwise filling up the stat sheet.  

 

Easy on the Mayo

Shooting guard O.J. Mayo is coming off a disappointing first campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks in which he averaged 11.7 points per game and made just 40.7 percent of his field-goal attempts. Limited to 52 games by injury, the 26-year-old never found his rhythm.

And while it’s too soon to certify his 2014-15 season as a legitimate turnaround, the first two games have been a promising sign for the USC product.

After an efficient 17-point season-opener, Mayo sank five of his seven three-point attempts in route to a 25-point outing. He led the way as the Bucks pulled their record to 1-1 with a 93-81 win over the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers

Mayo was selected with the third overall pick in 2008 and has shown flashes of potential stardom, but he remains in search of some stability. Can he find it in Milwaukee?

 

Rudy Nears Career High in Win vs. Portland

It took 40 points from swingman Rudy Gay for the Sacramento Kings to secure a 103-94 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, and they weren’t just any 40 points.

The 28-year-old made 13 of his 19 field-goal attempts (including 3-of-4 from three-point range) and 11-of-13 free-throw attempts. It was an efficient display from the veteran and perhaps an indication that Gay’s ready to carry the scoring load as Sacramento’s first option.

The University of Connecticut product will make $19.3 million this season, the last of his contract with the Kings. He just might land a similarly lucrative deal from the organization if he churns out a few more games like this one.

His career high for a single game remains 41 points—for now.

 

Blake Griffin Keeps Lakers Winless

Though the Los Angeles Lakers took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers, they had no answer for four-time All-Star Blake Griffin. The 25-year-old tallied 39 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a 118-111 victory that deals the Lakers their third loss of a still-winless season.

Meanwhile, the Clippers remain undefeated after a narrow 93-90 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.

The offense was more in sync Friday, thanks in part to sixth man Jamal Crawford’s 22 points and five assists. But while these Clippers have a variety of scoring options, there’s little doubt Griffin is their most dominant one.

This won’t be the last time he fills it up this season.

 

The Dotted Line

The deadline to sign players to extensions passed Friday, spurring several late agreements and a number of unresolved contract situations.

Here’s what you need to know:

The Minnesota Timberwolves paid an arm and a leg to keep point guard Ricky Rubio around for the next four years. He’ll make $56 million over that span, a generous amount for a guy who made only 38.1 percent of his field-goal attempts a season ago—a career-high mark.

Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors secured their immediate future by coming to an agreement with shooting guard Klay Thompson on a maximum four-year deal worth around $70 million. The Utah Jazz locked up a shooting guard of their own after coming to terms on a four-year arrangement with Alec Burks at $42 million.

The more notable deals, however, may be the ones that didn’t happen.

Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Reggie Jackson and Tristan Thompson all top the list of eligible candidates who didn’t reach extension agreements with their respective clubs. They’ll instead become restricted free agents next summer, meaning their current teams can match any offers they receive on the open market.

Jackson’s situation is especially intriguing given his preference to be a starter.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that “Jackson is determined to pursue restricted free agency as a means to hunt a starting job in the NBA.” He adds, “Jackson has been described as eager to get on the market next summer, out of All-Star Russell Westbrook’s shadow and prove his value as a frontline NBA point guard.”

 

Friday’s Big Fail

Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders found himself with a rare open path to the basket Friday night, and he was ready to take advantage. The only problem is that it wasn’t the correct basket.

Sanders finished with eight points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in the winning effort. Fortunately he didn’t finish with any big regrets.

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Kevin Durant Injury Update: Latest News and Comments on Thunder Star

Kevin Durant is one of the NBA‘s best players, but he will start the 2014-15 season on the sideline after suffering a foot injury.

The league’s reigning MVP was forced to undergo surgery for a Jones fracture in his right foot after getting hurt in a preseason practice.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman provided a full look at the initial injury in a statement from Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti:

This six-to-eight week timeline puts a return likely at early December, which would represent close to one-quarter of the regular season. Bleacher Report’s Injury Expert Will Carroll provided a bit more information on the potential return:

Carroll does note this could be a lingering issue if the recovery does not go completely according to plan.

On the plus side, there are already positive signs from Durant. According to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman, Durant was out of a cast within the first two weeks:

While Thunder fans are hoping he could possibly return even sooner than projected, the five-time All-Star reminded everyone that he will remain patient. Speaking to the media for the first time since the injury, Durant explained his plan:

I’m not going to rush it all. That’s the one thing I don’t want to do. I’m sure I’ll feel better in two or three weeks, but definitely don’t want to rush it and wind up hurting it even more. I’m taking my time with it. I’m just blessed it happened early in the season where I can get past it, and hopefully by December I’ll be ready to play.

It is hard to argue against this strategy, especially with such a long season. After seeing someone like Derrick Rose reinjure himself after returning, Durant wants to make sure he is at 100 percent before starting back onto the court.

The question at this point is how the Thunder survive until he gets back. One likely scenario is that Russell Westbrook becomes not only the go-to option offensively but the only option. ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh (subscription required) broke down how frequently the guard looked for his own shot when Durant was on the bench:

Over the past three seasons, Westbrook has shot the ball 265 times in 356 minutes without Kevin Durant on the floor, which translates to a ludicrous rate of 26.8 shots per 36 minutes. To give you an idea how crazy high that is, Basketball-Reference tells us that no guard in NBA history has shot that frequently over a full season; only Wilt Chamberlain has topped it.

On the other hand, ESPN’s Amin Elhassan (subscription required) notes that the Thunder have “built a roster that is deep enough to weather the storm.” He notes young wings, such as Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb, can handle the responsibility for the short term.

That being said, everyone in Oklahoma City will be counting down the days before Durant is able to return. It is important to think long term with a player as talented as this, but the squad will hope it can survive without him for the immediate future.

 

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NBA News: Latest Buzz Surrounding Kemba Walker, Rajon Rondo and More


The 2014-15 NBA season is finally underway, but not all the news from around the league is about box scores and starting lineups.

No, there is still business to be done in front offices across the Association. It seems there is always a move to make, whether it’s wrapping up a player for the long haul or making sure that there is the proper amount of depth in the short term.

Point guard is a premium position in the NBA, and it’s important that teams are all set with their floor generals for both the present and the long haul. Let’s take a look at the latest buzz surrounding three well-known point guards.

Kemba Walker Reportedly Inks Contract Extension 

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, point guard Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets have agreed to a contract extension that should keep the veteran point guard in light-blue duds for quite some time:

The Charlotte Hornets have reached terms on a contract extension with prized guard Kemba Walker, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that Walker will receive a four-year, $48 million extension from the Hornets that will kick in starting with the 2015-16 season.

The sides were facing a Friday deadline to finalize a deal to prevent Walker from becoming a restricted free agent in July.

With newly arrived shooting guard Lance Stephenson wrapped up for three years (the final year being a club option, per Spotrac), the Hornets have two darn good-looking pieces of the puzzle locked in for the next few years. 

Walker averaged 17.7 points, 6.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game in 2013-14. Advanced stats are a little less kind to him and his new $12 million a year salary: He ranked just 17th among point guards in player efficiency rating (PER) last season, per ESPN’s Hollinger rankings. He was also 13th at his position in estimated wins added.

ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton felt the signing made sense in the current context:

Walker’s chemistry with center Al Jefferson, professor emeritus of the left block, was an integral part of Charlotte’s relatively successful 43-39 campaign last season.

The new deal puts the onus on Walker to step up his game and lead the Hornets to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. There are wins to be had in a diluted East, and the Hornets could surpass the likes of the stagnant Brooklyn Nets and injury-riddled Indiana Pacers.

Locking up an exciting point guard who is still just 24 years old is a solid bit of business for a franchise that has mostly been a flop since its establishment in 2004. Walker’s youth, durability and consistency could be a key selling point for prospective free agents should the Hornets need to replace an aging Jefferson or round out the rest of their roster.

Rajon Rondo Potentially Available for Celtics’ Season Opener

The Boston Celtics will need a healthy Rajon Rondo if they are to have any shot at relevance in the 2014-15 season. The freewheeling point guard played in just 30 games last season, and his availability for the start of the upcoming season has been in doubt ever since he broke his left hand in September.

However, his return may be imminent, according to The Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn:

Apparently, the game-day decision isn’t set in stone until Rondo has had a chance to sleep on it.

“When I wake up from my nap, I’ll let [reporters] know. Around 4:30,” Rondo said, via ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg. “If I sleep really, really well tonight, and [Wednesday] afternoon with my nap, I’ll let you know how I’m feeling.”

Rondo is certainly coming to a crossroads in the 2014-15 season. Due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, Rondo could be a valuable trade asset for the rebuilding Celtics should he prove that he can stay healthy and still perform at a high level.

Then again, if he proves those two things, the Celtics would be crazy not to make a huge push to re-sign him in 2015.

When Rondo is healthy, he is one of the league’s premier distributors, averaging at least 11 assists per game in three of his eight NBA seasons. He’s also an accomplished rebounder and an excellent defender in his own right. Should he be unable to start the season, the Celtics will likely rely on a combination of rookie Marcus Smart, Evan Turner and Will Bynum, whom the Celtics acquired in a trade with the Detroit Pistons earlier in October. 

 

Milwaukee Bucks Pick up Kendall Marshall’s Contract

The Milwaukee Bucks did well in the offseason to snag point guard Kendall Marshall after the Los Angeles Lakers released him due to cap concerns. It appears that they are ready and willing to commit to their pickup for the 2014-15 season, per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski:

Despite holding the flexibility to wait until January for a decision, the Milwaukee Bucks have guaranteed the contract of point guard Kendall Marshall for the 2014-15 season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Marshall had a non-guaranteed contract, but is assured now to make his full $915,000 for the season.

Marshall made a strong impression in training camp and earned the Bucks’ backup point guard spot. The Bucks acquired Marshall on a waiver claim in July after being released by the Los Angeles Lakers.

The point guard situation in Milwaukee should be very interesting to observe this season. Head coach Jason Kidd has experimented with 6’11″ Giannis Antetokounmpo at the point, an unorthodox move that could pay dividends for a young team looking to escape the Eastern Conference cellar. However, the ploy may have just been a way to give the young man confidence, according to Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Kidd experimented with Antetokounmpo at point guard in summer league in Las Vegas and early in the preseason. It was all part of a plan to give the youngster more responsibility.

He’s likely to play primarily at small forward but is versatile enough to play both guard positions.

Antetokounmpo appears to be grateful for the experience.

“It helped my confidence,” Antetokounmpo said, per Gardner. “My confidence is really high right now. I feel like I can contribute more on this team than last year.”

Should the summer tinkering amount to little more than a psychological ploy, Marshall might be a better option for the young Bucks than the other big-name point guard in the fold, Brandon Knight.

Knight averaged 17.9 points and 4.9 assists per game last season, his first with Milwaukee. He is a shoot-first, pass-when-he-can point guard. As Grantland’s Zach Lowe pointed out in July, Knight struggles to read the game adequately:

Knight on the pick-and-roll is often out of sorts, slow to spot passing lanes, unable to engineer those lanes, and a step behind in understanding how and where the defense is rotating.

Experience and work can refine those skills, but Knight’s struggles have been so profound as to call into question, even at his young age, whether he will ever be a competent starting point guard on a good NBA team.

Marshall has gaps in his game but proved with the Lakers in 2013-14 he can make plays without marquee talent around him.

The 23-year-old out of North Carolina averaged 8.8 assists per game last season. Even better, he put up a staggering 44.3 assist percentage in 2013-14, which measures the percentage of teammate field goals he assisted while on the floor, per Basketball-Reference.com. Marshall has great vision and likes to do favors for others. He could spot a discarded contact lens in a swimming pool and then dive in to retrieve it. 

He also features an unusual but delightful set shot from long range, which resulted in a 39.9 shooting percentage from beyond the arc last season. The drawbacks to his game are a lack of athleticism, poor defense and an inability to attack the basket.

Just 23.2 percent of Marshall’s shots came from within three feet of the basket last season, per Basketball-Reference. Knight, on the other hand, put up 30 percent of his shots from that range.

Both players will have to compete with the likes of Jerryd Bayless and Nate Wolters at point guard. Bayless averaged 8.1 points and 2.1 assists per game with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. Wolters put up 3.2 assists in 22.6 minutes per game last season, but shot just 43.7 percent from the field. There is certainly a glut of players at this position. Kidd’s first priority this year may be figuring who and what works.

Bucks fans will likely be clamoring for rookie Jabari Parker and Antetokounmpo to get the ball early and often, something that may not happen very often if Knight is the lead point guard. If there is one thing Marshall can guarantee, it’s that everyone will spend time with the ball.

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Miami Heat News: McRoberts Likely To Miss Regular Season Opener

It would appear that Josh McRoberts won’t make his return in the season opener after all.
Less than a month after undergoing toe surgery, McRoberts is still not 100 percent. The Sun Sentinel’s Shandel Richardson reports that the power forward is likely to sit Wednesday’s opener versus the Washington Wizards. All previous reports indicated that McRoberts would be ready in time for the regular season opener, despite sitting out the entire preseason.
It has been a rough start to the veteran’s Heat career, as he has yet to even participate in a training camp practice with his new teammates. Throughout the preseason, coach Erik Spoelstra played around with different starting lineups due to McRoberts’ injury. For the majority of the preseason, Shawne Williams started in McRoberts’ power forward spot. Danny Granger even received a start at the four spot during the eight-game preseason schedule.
While it’s surprising to Heat fans that the 6’10″ forward might miss the opener, McRoberts didn’…

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