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NBA PM: Bazemore Weighs Free Agency Options

Kent Bazemore is weighing all of his free agency options, including a potential return to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Alex Kennedy

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Brooklyn Nets big man Mason Plumlee talks about the drama surrounding Jason Kidd’s departure, playing for new head coach Lionel Hollins, participating in the Orlando Summer League and more.

Bazemore Weighs Free Agency Options

Some players enjoy going through free agency – being courted, hearing from multiple teams and weighing their options. Other players can’t stand the fact that their future is up in the air and they just want the process to end as soon as possible.

Unrestricted free agent Kent Bazemore, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, falls into the latter category. While his name has come up quite a bit in the early stages of free agency since he has received interest from 10 teams, he is just looking forward to signing his name on a dotted line and moving on with his NBA career.

“It’s really testing my patience; it’s been a little nerve-racking,” Bazemore told Basketball Insiders. “Everyone is trying to make room for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony so guys like myself, we have to wait patiently to see if they have enough room to even get us on the roster or offer us some money.”

While Bazemore is looking forward to ending this process, he does appreciate that so many teams have been in contact with his camp.

Bazemore has meetings scheduled with the Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets, and has been contacted by the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors. Considering he knows what it’s like to be on the outside of the league looking in after being undrafted in 2012, he isn’t taking the interest for granted.

That’s been the thing that’s kept me from jumping off a bridge,” Bazemore said with a laugh. “It’s real gratifying. Being undrafted, making the summer league team and playing down in the D-League has actually paid off. The work I’ve put in on those levels – the D-League and summer league – has definitely opened a lot of teams’ eyes. It was an unfortunate situation for myself with Golden State, I did make the team, but they were so guard heavy. My first year with Jarrett Jack, Steph [Curry], Klay [Thompson], Harrison [Barnes] and even Draymond [Green] playing some three and then the next year they brought in Andre Iguodala, the minutes weren’t there. I was fortunate enough to go down to LA, where there were a lot of minutes out there on the floor and I was able to kind of show [what I can do]. All that I’ve been through has definitely paid off.”

In Los Angeles, Bazemore made the most of the opportunity he was given. He was acquired by L.A. at the trade deadline in exchange for Steve Blake, and thrived when given minutes. In 23 games, he averaged 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals in 28 minutes per game. Prior to tearing a tendon in his right foot late in the season, he had emerged as a significant contributor for the Lakers.

The Lakers have met with Bazemore’s camp since free agency started and expressed some interest in re-signing him. When asked if he’d be open to returning to the Lakers, Bazemore didn’t hesitate.

Sure,” Bazemore said. “With Kobe [Bryant] coming back, one of the greatest players to ever touch the ball, I could learn a lot from him. That’d be great. I learned so much from Steve Nash and Pau Gasol last season, just being out there playing with them. If I made a mistake, they would be quick to pull me to the side and say, ‘Hey look, this is what you should of done’ or, ‘This what you should look for.’ Those guys have a track record where have played in the big games, they’ve been to the Finals, they’ve won championships, so it would be great to play with a guy like [Kobe], who is very demanding. A lot of people give Kobe a bad rap because he is very demanding, but with a guy like that, I’m all ears. This is a guy who knows how to win. He has a different method of getting his point across to you, but it’s within the context of the game, and I’ll do anything to get better. I’d love to return to that franchise, but we’ll see how things shake out.”

Bazemore speaks very highly about his time in Los Angeles, donning purple and gold.

“The swagger and the prestige of that franchise, that organization, speaks for itself,” Bazemore said. “They have the second-most championships in the NBA, all the greats on that wall in the back and then actually being able to share a locker room with my childhood favorite player Kobe Bryant, it was an amazing experience. To be able to run up and down with the Laker logo in the middle of floor, it was crazy. I remember staying up to 1 a.m. watching those games late at night on the East Coast as a kid. Then to actually be playing on that court, scoring baskets, it was [surreal]. It just so happened, my luck, that the first game we played was against the Celtics, one of the greatest rivalries of all-time, and I had a pretty good showing, so it was great.”

As Bazemore weighs all of his options, the most important factor to him is playing time. He wants to land in a situation where he’ll be able to receive significant minutes and be compensated at a fair rate based on the market.

“Right now, I still need to play,” Bazemore said. “I only played 23 games down there with heavy minutes for the Lakers; I only averaged like six minutes with the Warriors. My [sample] size is very small. I just need a chance to prove myself again, so minutes are definitely the first thing I’m after. Everything else is just basketball. You hear a lot of guys talking about the bad cities of the NBA and all of that, but a guy like me, I just want another opportunity to go out there and show that I can really be a great player in this league.

“For me, the biggest thing is we just want to have leverage. We want to make this team offer more than the last and see if the situation is going to be different as far as minutes. One team may be planning to give us a lot of minutes with less money and vice versa. You never know. My agent Austin Walton will gather everything, gather all the pros and cons for each team, which he is very good at, and we’ll sit down and figure it out. Like I said, the biggest thing for me right now is just being able to play. That definitely comes before everything else.”

In recent days, fellow free agent shooting guards like Jodie Meeks and C.J. Miles have received lucrative contracts, and Bazemore could be next in line to get paid. He has shown that he can be very productive when put on the floor, and he has a reputation around the league for being an excellent teammate and outstanding individual in the community. Every team could use a player like Bazemore, who is willing to do anything he can to help his team win when he’s on the court and completely supportive of his teammates.

“I bring energy, effort and I do all the things that other guys are hesitant to do like guard the best player, dive on the floor, all the little things,” Bazemore said. “I’m a great person in the community and I like to bring some fun to the games. I like to make it as fun as possible. I want the fans to get kind of a hands-on experience. I’m always out in the community, doing different stuff just so they can know me more. I want them to be like, ‘Hey, that’s my friend Kent’ instead of, ‘That’s No. 6 for the Lakers’ or whatever team I end up going to, so when good things happen to me they can feel a part of it. Community outreach is something I really hang my hat on.”

But for now, Bazemore waits. He has meetings with teams throughout this week, but he understands that he likely won’t be able to finalize an agreement until the big-name players like James and Anthony make their much-anticipated decisions.

The water stops running for a reason – they’re arguably the best players in the league and it’s a very big decision,” Bazemore said. “LeBron choosing so late last time, leaving Cleveland, I’m almost certain he didn’t take long on purpose – there’s just a lot of things that go into it. When you go to meet a team, I’m sure they show you who they’re going after and [the stars] can probably weigh in on who they want on their team, and it’s a lot of things that go into it. At the end of the day, when you do choose your team, you want the best thing for you. For me, it would be minutes. For LeBron, he wants to win a few more championships. It’s a lot of factors that go into it; they’re just taking their time. With things like that, they can’t make rash decisions or go through this quickly. I understand it.”

Even though Bazemore is receiving plenty of interest on the open market, he says the chip on his shoulder isn’t going anywhere after being overlooked for much of his life.

This is second nature to me,” Bazemore said. “Growing up, I wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. When I got to college, I used to be the last person picked my red-shirt year; I went from the last person picked and then when I left I was the guy picking the teams. It’s always been a journey for me as far as proving people wrong and leap-frogging people every year. The NBA ranked players my first year in the league, and I was number 499. Then, I jumped 167 spots to 332. Things like that are what I really hold onto. I let my game do the talking. I could easily walk around and say, ‘Hey, I’m underrated and ya’ll think I’m sorry or ya’ll aren’t giving me the respect I deserve,’ but you just have to go out there and show people why you should be talked about as one of the best in the league. I just work hard and let everything else take care of itself.”

Bazemore has no timetable to make his free agency decision, but he’s looking forward to ending the process as soon as possible.

The Latest Free Agency News and Rumors

Today has been a busy day in the NBA, with a number of agreements surfacing.

Everyone is waiting to see what happens with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, but in the meantime a number of role players have agreed to contracts including Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger and Aaron Gray.

For all of the latest free agency news and rumors – on the stars and role players alike – be sure to check out Basketball Insiders’ free agency diary. We update it whenever something surfaces, so we’ll keep you connected throughout the NBA’s free agency period.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Daily: Larry Nance Jr. Is Ready To Move On

At All-Star Weekend, Larry Nance Jr. talked about moving on from being traded, Dr. J and the love that Los Angeles still has for him.

Ben Nadeau

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At the end of the day, the NBA is a business and Larry Nance Jr. found that out the hard way when the Los Angeles Lakers traded him and Jordan Clarkson for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2018 first-rounder just a few weeks ago.

Naturally, Nance was due back at the Staples Center nine days later to compete in the league’s annual slam dunk contest. Although he would finish second to the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, Nance was frequently reminded just how many fans he still has out on the West Coast.

“It’s either one of two responses,” Nance said over the weekend. “Either people don’t understand how a trade works and they ask me why I left, or, you know: ‘Larry, we miss you, come back in free agency’ and stuff like that. So, either way, they’re kinda on my side — I mean, I’m still a little bit of purple and gold.”

Over his first three seasons, Nance had become a familiar contributor for the Lakers, using his rim-rocking athleticism to carve out a steady role under two different head coaches. Before he was moved to the Cavaliers, Nance was on pace to set career-highs in points (8.6), rebounds (6.8) and steals (1.4). This statistical rise also comes in the midst of his field goal percentage jumping all the way up to 59.3 percent — a mark that would rank him fifth-highest in the NBA if he qualified.* Given the noteworthy change of scenery, his current average of 3.6 field goals per game could grow as well.

But as the Lakers prepare for a potentially crucial offseason, the front office remained committed to shedding salary ahead of free agency, where they may or may not chase the likes of LeBron James, Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins. In just three short years, Nance had quickly become a fan favorite as a jaw-dropping in-game dunker and an improving prospect on a cheap rookie contract, so his involvement at the deadline may have come as a surprise to many as it was for him.

“It’s been a week, so, no, it’s still kinda like: ‘Jeez, I gotta pick up and move right now,’” Nance said. “So, no, I’m not fully adjusted, I’m not, for a lack of a better term, over it. But it’s still fresh in my mind, it’s something that is still kind of shocking.”

Nance, for his worries, is now a key member of the James-led Cavaliers, a franchise that has won 11 more games than the Lakers and sits in third place in the Eastern Conference. While the Cavaliers will likely have to go through the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors to reach their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, James himself has reached the championship series every year since the 2009-10 postseason. With the Cavaliers’ maniacal mid-season reboot — which also brought in Rodney Hood, George Hill and the aforementioned Clarkson — they could be poised for an encore performance.

Since he was acquired by Cleveland, Nance and the Cavaliers are 3-0 and, just like that, much of the lingering narrative has been reversed. As the Cavaliers look to further stabilize their season, Nance figures to play a large part down the stretch, particularly so as All-Star Kevin Love continues to rehab from a broken hand.

Still, Nance knows that the Cavaliers will certainly face some speed bumps along the way.

“It’s a learning process, obviously we started out super fast, but there will be a learning process,” Nance stated. “Just like there is with every team and every new group, so we’ll figure it out and we’ll get past it [for the] playoffs.”

But before he makes his first-ever postseason appearance, Nance returned to Los Angeles in an attempt to capture a slam dunk title, something his father — Larry Nance Sr. — did in the inaugural competition way back in 1984. In that contest, the older Nance famously upset Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins to take home the crown in a nine-person field. On Saturday, Nance paid homage by changing into a retro Phoenix Suns uniform to execute his father’s signature dunk — the rock-the-cradle throwdown that won it all 34 years ago.

“For me, [his highlights were] like normal kid Sesame Street or Barney or something. I was watching his clips when I was growing up, so, yeah, I see it all the time,” Nance recalled.

But when asked what he remembers the most about those distant memories, the second generation son decidedly kept it in the family.

“The fact that he beat Dr. J,” Nance said. “Dr. J is normally thought of as almost like the dunk inventor, kinda brought the dunk contest back — but, really, [I remember] my dad.”

Although Nance couldn’t replicate his father’s success in the contest, his emphatic, springy dunks indicated that the 6-foot-9 skywalker could be an event staple for years to come. In one of the best dunks all night, Nance pulled off the rare double tap — a jam so technically difficult, that he immediately told the judges to look at the jumbotron to make sure they understood what exactly he had just pulled off.

Nance, for his original acrobatics, earned a perfect score of 50.

Earlier that day, Nance discussed the difficulty in standing out amongst a field of explosive guards.

“I think the guys that are taller and longer have a different skill-set than smaller guys,” Nance said. “Obviously, if the smaller guys do something, it looks super impressive because they got to jump a little bit higher, or it looks like they got to jump higher.

“There are ways for bigger guys to look good and I think I’ve got that hammered out.”

For now, Nance doesn’t know if he’ll return to the dunk contest next season after his narrow two-point loss to Mitchell. Instead, Nance wants to focus on helping the Cavaliers in their hunt for the conference’s top seed and, of course, with James, anything is possible. But it’s fair to say that Nance, who nearly pulled down a double-double (13 points, nine rebounds) in his second game with Cleveland, has gone from a rebuild to a legitimate contender in a flash.

“At the same time, I can’t wait for all this to be done with so I can just get back to learning how to gel and mesh with my new team,” Nance said.

From the West Coast to the Midwest, Nance is clearly ready to make some waves once again.

* * * * * *

*To qualify, a player must be on pace for 300 made field goals. As of today, Nance is on pace for 252.6.

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Updating the Buyout Market: Who Could Still Become Available?

Shanes Rhodes examines the buyout market to see which players could soon be joining playoff contenders.

Shane Rhodes

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While it may not be as exciting as the NBA Trade Deadline, another important date is approaching for NBA teams: the Playoff Eligibility Waiver Deadline.

March 1 is the final day players can be bought out or waived and still be eligible to play in the postseason should they sign with another team. As teams continue to fine-tune their rosters, plenty of eyes will be on the waiver wire and buyout market looking for players that can make an impact.

So who could still become available?

Joakim Noah, New York Knicks

This seems almost too obvious.

The relationship between Joakim Noah and the New York Knicks hasn’t been a pleasant one. Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016, has done next to nothing this season after an underwhelming debut season in New York and has averaged just 5.7 minutes per game.

After an altercation between himself and Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek at practice, Noah isn’t expected to return to the team. At this point, the best thing for both sides seems likely a clean break; there is no reason to keep that cloud over the Knicks locker room for the remainder of the season.

Noah may not help a playoff contender, but he should certainly be available come the end of the season.

Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo isn’t the player he once was. But he can still help any contender in need of some shooting.

Afflalo is averaging a career-low 12.9 minutes per game with the Orlando Magic this season. He is playing for just over $2 million so a buyout wouldn’t be hard to come by if he went asking and he can still shoot the basketball. A career 38.6 percent shooter from long distance, Afflalo can certainly get it done beyond the arc for a team looking to add some shooting or some depth on the wing. He doesn’t add the perimeter defense he could earlier in his career, but he could contribute in certain situations.

Vince Carter, Sacramento Kings

Vince Carter was signed by the Sacramento Kings last offseason to play limited minutes off the bench while providing a mentor for the Sacramento Kings up-and-coming players. And Carter may very well enjoy that role.

But, to a degree, the old man can still ball — certainly enough to help a contender.

Carter is 41-years-old, there is no getting around his age, but he can still provide some solid minutes off the bench. Playing 17.1 minutes per night across 38 games this season, Carter has averaged five points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 35.3 percent from three-point range. Combining all of that with his playoff experience and the quality of leadership he brings to the table, Carter may be an ideal addition for a contender looking to make a deep playoff run.

Zach Randolph, Sacramento Kings

Like Carter, Zach Randolph was brought in by the Kings to contribute solid minutes off the bench while also filling in as a mentor to the young roster. Unlike Carter, however, Randolph has played much of the season in a starting role — something that is likely to change as the season winds down.

Randolph has averaged 14.6 points, seven rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25.6 minutes per game; quality numbers that any team would be happy to take on. But, in the midst of a rebuild, the Kings should not be taking minutes away from Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and (eventually) Harry Giles in order to keep Randolph on the floor.

As he proved last season, Randolph can excel in a sixth-man role and would likely occupy a top bench spot with a team looking to add rebounding, scoring or just a big to their rotation down the stretch.

Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks

Wesley Matthews remains one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He provides positional versatility on the floor and is a solid player on both sides of the ball.

So, with Mark Cuban all but saying the Mavericks will not be trying to win for the remainder of the season, Matthews is likely poised for a minutes dip and seems like an obvious buyout candidate. Matthews, who has a player option for next season, has averaged 12.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals this season across 34.1 minutes per game this season.

If Cuban is true to his word, both parties would be better served parting ways; the Mavericks can attempt to lose as many games as possible while Matthews can latch on to a team looking to win a title. It’s a win-win.

Isaiah Thomas, Los Angeles Lakers

Isaiah Thomas’ three-game stint with the Los Angeles Lakers before the All-Star break looked much like his short tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers: up-and-down. Thomas shined in his Laker debut, putting up 25 points and six assists in just over 30 minutes.

He then followed that up with three points and two assists, and seven points along with five assists in his second and third games with the team, respectively.

Thomas needs time to get himself right before he can start playing his best basketball. Re-establishing his value is likely his top priority.

But will he be willing to come off the bench for a team that won’t be making the postseason?

With Lonzo Ball close to returning, Thomas will likely move to the Laker bench. Adamant in recent years that he is a starting guard in the NBA, Thomas may be more inclined to take on that role for a team poised to make a deep playoff run — there is no shortage of teams that would be willing to add Thomas’ potential scoring prowess while simultaneously setting himself up for a contract and, potentially, a starting role somewhere next season.

Other Names to Look Out For: Channing Frye, Shabazz Muhammed, Kosta Koufos

There are still plenty of players that can make an impact for playoff-bound teams should they reach a buyout with their current squads. And, as the Postseason Eligibility Waiver Deadline approaches, plenty of teams out of the running will move quickly in order to provide their guys an opportunity to find their way to a contender.

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NBA Daily: Eric Gordon, The Houston Rockets’ Ex-Factor

James Harden and Chris Paul are stars that have faltered in the playoffs. Eric Gordon could be their ex-factor

Lang Greene

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The 2017-18 Houston Rockets are shaping up to be one of the league’s best regular-season teams over the past decade. The squad features a fan-friendly and fun to watch style, two legitimate superstar talents and a seemingly well-rounded contingent of role players willing to do whatever it takes to help the team get to the next level.

But as strong of a force as the Rockets appear to be developing into, there are still major question marks about how this team will perform in the playoffs when the game gets tighter, bench rotations are reduced and the spotlight glares the brightest.

All-Star guard James Harden has played in 88 career playoff games over the course of his career – 45 with the Rockets where he’s averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The statistics look good in the aggregate, however, Harden has noticeably faded down the stretch during pivotal playoff moments in the team’s recent runs. The most recent example being Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs where Harden finished with just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting from the floor.

The Rockets other superstar, Chris Paul, has never reached the Western Conference Finals in a career dating back to the 2005-06 season. Paul’s most memorable playoff collapse came when he was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. His team surrendered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals to the Harden’s Rockets back in 2015.

While there are undoubtedly questions at the top, their bench unit is anchored by 2017 Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon, once considered one of the rising shooting guards in the league while he was a member of the Clippers.

Gordon, was traded as part of a package by Los Angeles to acquire Paul from New Orleans. Since then, a combination of injuries and reported frustration in New Orleans seemingly derailed Gordon from the once promising ascent and trajectory he was projected to achieve. But Gordon has gotten his career on track. Once injury prone, Gordon suited up for 75 games in 2017 and is on pace to play 73 games this season.

“It’s almost like it is consistent to be here now,” Gordon said during All-Star weekend. “It’s been great. When I’ve been healthy, I’ve always had that chance to do some good things.

When you’re winning things come easier. You’re scoring easier [and] it’s easier to come into work and play well every single practice and game.”

Gordon believes there’s something special about this Rockets team because of how quickly they have gained cohesion since training camp. Gordon is averaging 18.5 points in 32 minutes per contest on the season. The guard will play an integral role off the Rockets’ bench and will play heavy minutes in any playoff series involving the Western Conference elite teams – namely Golden State and San Antonio. In three games versus the Warriors this season, Gordon is averaging 20 points on 43 percent shooting from the field.

“We definitely have to figure things out but we just clicked so quickly and early in the season,” Gordon said. “We just knew we had a chance to maybe win it. I’d say at this point we know what we need to do and it’s all about being consistent enough on both sides of the ball for us to have a chance.”

Golden State, as defending champs, have to be respected as the better team until proven otherwise. Many do believe the Rockets have at the very least a puncher’s chance because of how they can score the ball in bunches. The Warriors, for all of their past defensive prowess, have slipped on that side of the floor this season with declining efficiency numbers. But is that slippage enough for the Rockets to gain ground or are the Warriors’ defensive struggles a combination of regular season boredom and a lack of enthusiasm.

In a seven-game playoff series, the cream rises to the top. Are the Rockets legit? Or are they a team best suited for the regular season as in seasons past? They currently lead the season series against the Warriors 2-1 and are 2-0 versus the Spurs to date. We have witnessed regular-season dominance from Paul and Harden in the past. Is this the year both guys put it all together and finally get over the hump? Time will tell and Eric Gordon figures to play a big role in determining the outcome.

The Rockets resume play on Friday versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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