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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: Clippers Looking Forward to Teodosic Return

Clippers hanging on and looking forward to Teodosic return, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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The Los Angeles Clippers have had a season of twists and turns. While the season is still young, they’ve dealt with setbacks, mostly in the form of a multitude of injures. In fact, the team’s misfortunes began almost immediately. On Oct 21 (the NBA season started earlier this year), Clippers guard Milos Teodosic went down with a plantar fascia injury. This stands as the first bump in the road for the Clippers, who have seen a number of key players go down.

Following the loss of Chris Paul this past offseason, the Clippers appeared to have salvaged their immediate future through a number of offseason transactions. Under the direction of the front office, which includes Lawrence Frank, VP of Basketball Operations, and Jerry West, a Clippers consultant, the Clippers traded Paul, which helped to remake the roster. West spoke of his approval of the Paul trade before the season started.

“The Clippers feel comfortable that we made out really well. We could have lost him for nothing,” West stated of the Paul trade. “I think it was kind of a win myself.”

The Paul trade brought in Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker and helped to eventually bring in Danilo Gallinari. A big part of the offseason makeover was the acquisition of European star Teodosic. Losing Paul meant that the Clippers were going to be without a highly talented, pass-first point guard for the first time since Paul’s acquisition during the 2011-2012 season.

Part of the strategy called for replacing Paul with both Beverley, who could match Paul’s defensive tenacity, and Teodosic, who could match Paul’s vision and passing. While neither player could match Paul’s overall brilliance (and Paul has been brilliant this season for the Rockets), the team hoped to create a winning environment around these two players.

Unfortunately, Teodosic went down quickly. Then Beverley experienced issues with his knee, culminating with season-ending microfracture surgery on his knee in late November. Combine this with Gallinari missing nearly a month with injuries and Blake Griffin going down for the next few months with an MCL sprain of his left knee recently, and the Clippers have struggled to stay competitive with lineups that have often included only one of the team’s opening day starters (center DeAndre Jordan). The franchise shouldn’t be completely surprised by the rash of injuries, as their offseason plan banked on players with questionable injury histories such as Griffin and Gallinari.

To fill in, the Clippers have also made use of a number of young, inexperienced players (not at all common in the Doc Rivers era), including playing 2017 second round pick, guard Sindarius Thornwell. Thornwell has benefited from the opportunity as is averaging 16.2 minutes a game and has even started in seven games (of 24 played).  Thornwell confirmed the obvious regarding injuries.

“We’ve been playing without a lot of our core guys,” Thornwell stated.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers also made it clear that injuries have affected the team.

“It’s not just Blake [Griffin]. If it was just Blake, we’d be OK,” Rivers stated recently. “But you miss [Danillo] `Gallo,’ Milos [Teodosic], Patrick Beverley.”

Currently, the team is well below .500 with a 9-15 record, good enough for 11th in the Western Conference. And while the team is ahead of a number of teams destined for the NBA lottery such as the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings, they aren’t too far removed from the eighth seed, currently held by the Utah Jazz, who are below .500 (13-14 record). It’s not reasonable for a team that has already suffered a nine-game losing streak and is only 4-6 in the last 10 games to expect another playoff berth, and the team has not yet signaled they have given up on the season.

The Clippers have stayed afloat by being extremely reliant on the individual offensive output of guards Austin Rivers and Lou Williams. Give Williams credit, as he has been brilliant recently including a game winning shot against the Washington Wizards on Saturday. Over the last 10 games, he is averaging 23.2 points on 62.7 true shooting percentage and 6.2 assists in 34.5 minutes per game, per nba.com. For reference, Williams has a career true shooting percentage average of 53.3 percent, per basketball-reference.com. However, this doesn’t scream long-term winning formula, nor should it — the team hasn’t recently had reliable offensive output outside of these guards who were originally expected to come off the bench for the Clippers.

Gallinari has since returned and played well in his second game back, an overtime win against the Wizards. Now the team has upgraded Teodosic’s condition to questionable and are hopeful that Teodosic makes his return Monday night against the Raptors.

“He’s ready. He’s close,” Rivers stated, speaking of Teodosic at a recent Clippers practice. “And that will help. In a big way.”

In addition to possibly helping their increasingly remote chances at making the playoffs, the Clippers have other goals. Teodosic is signed to a two-year deal, but the second-year is a player option allowing the European guard to leave after the season. Should Teodosic find that the Clippers are somehow not a good fit or a place where he can find success, he may opt out of the second year. If the team wants to ensure that the 30-year-old guard sees a bright future with the Clippers, they should hope that his return leads to the Clippers playing winning basketball.

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Q&A With Cavaliers Rookie Cedi Osman

Basketball Insiders caught up with Cavaliers rookie Turkish swingman Cedi Osman to discuss a number of topics. 

Spencer Davies

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Monday afternoon, Basketball Insiders caught up with rookie Turkish swingman Cedi Osman to discuss a number of topics. 

Basketball Insiders: Your first experience in the NBA, making the transition from international play and Euroleague—has it been what you’ve expected?

Cedi Osman: I mean of course it’s different rules and stuff and a different type of basketball. In international, it’s like more slow, but here it’s like always up and down, a lot of fast breaks.

Actually that’s the kind of basketball that I like. When I was playing overseas, I was also running a lot, up and down. I was that guy who was bringing the energy, so it was not hard for me to adjust to this basketball.

BI: With Euros in this league, it’s a growing amount. What does that tell you about the talent pool over there?

Osman: There’s a lot of talented players overseas—like really, a lot. Like you said, when you look around the NBA there’s a lot of European players. Starting with Dirk Nowitzki, he’s a big legend. He was the one who chose to do Europe [to show] what he can do. I can give you the example of two Turkish basketball players—Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur, he won one championship. I mean, there’s a lot of European players.

BI: Definitely. So how well do you know Hedo and Mehmet?

Osman: With Mehmet Okur, I was talking a couple times. I saw him one time in summer league this year. I talk to Hedo also because he’s president of Turkish Basketball Federation, so I was talking to him also.

BI: You’ve gotten some crucial minutes with the bench in the last couple of games. The same thing can be said when you played in New York and against the Hawks, too. What’s allowed you and that group to click together?

Osman: I always try to think positive. When I’m getting there on the court with the second unit, I’m trying to bring the energy because I’m the youngest one with Big Z [Ante Zizic] together.

Whenever I get on the court I’m trying to bring the energy on both sides of the court—on defense and offense—and I’m trying to run the floor the fastest that I can. Trying to guard players that are really good. And that also just improves my basketball [skills] a lot. I’m really happy that I am a part of this team and it’s also really important for me that I’m getting these crucial minutes.

BI: In a recent interview, you said that you don’t have a reason to be scared. You’re “cold-blooded.” Why do you feel that way?

Osman: I was playing overseas professionally since I was 16 years old…actually, I started getting paid when I was 12. [I’ve been] playing professionally for a long time. I played with a lot of good players. I’ve played also [with] former NBA players like Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic who was on the same team.

I know, yeah this is the best league in the world, but I don’t have a reason why to be scared because I was working for this—to come here, to give my best and to be stable to stay for long, long years. That’s why I said I don’t have a reason to be scared, because I know that I can play here.

BI: When you’re on the floor, what do you expect out of yourself? You said you want to get up and down the floor and give it to both ends, but is there anything outside of that, maybe mentality wise?

Osman: Of course. Not just as a rookie, but every time I get on the court like I said, I want to be always that guy who brings the energy. Also like, when we’re going bad or when we have a bad game, I want to change the momentum of the game. That’s what I’m working for a lot. We have great players and I have a lot of things to learn from them.

That’s why I said I’m really happy to be a part of this team, because we’re one of the best teams in the world. I hope that we’re going to win a championship in my first year. That would be a big thing for me.

BI: What kind of things have the coaching staff tried to help you improve in practice?

Osman: There’s a couple defensive plays that’ll be different. There’s also defensive three seconds. That was a bit of adjusting for me because in Europe you can always stay in the paint no matter what. There’s no defensive three seconds. Here it’s different, so it was a little bit hard for me to adjust in the beginning, but now I don’t have any problems and coaches are really helping me a lot.

BI: This team isn’t fully healthy yet, obviously with Isaiah Thomas coming back, Tristan Thompson coming back and Iman Shumpert down the road. That might affect playing time for some. You’ve gone to the G-League and played with the Canton Charge once before. You had a lot of minutes in that one game and did a really good job there. Is that something that you’re prepared for? Would you mind playing there again if that’s the case for you?

Osman: I was the one who asked for Canton, to go there, because before Shump got injured I didn’t have a lot of playing time. I said that I want to play whenever we have an off day, whenever I can go to play there, to run a lot, to try to do my thing. See that I’m working here before practices. That’s why I asked to go there. I talked to [Cavaliers general manager] Koby [Altman] and he said he supported me about that and that would be good for me.

BI: You have your own hashtag—#TheFirstCedi—can you explain the inspiration behind that and what it means?

Osman: So I’m working with one agency in Turkey and they’re doing a really good job about myself, my profile, my brand (laughs). They’re doing a really good job. “The First Cedi” is because my first name is Cedi and a lot of people are calling me Jedi, so that’s from Star Wars. The First Cedi—because in Turkey, ‘C’ reads as a ‘J’ so Jedi. First Jedi, that’s why.

BI: That’s pretty funny. Are you a Star Wars fan?

Osman: Yeah. I watch. But because it’s like old movies and that kind of stuff, but now new movies are better.

BI: It’s a locker room full of veterans here in Cleveland. Do you feel comfortable with everyone?

Osman: Definitely. I feel really comfortable. We have—I don’t want to say veteran players—but they are so good and they are big, big professionals. I have a lot of fun with them—locker room, when we go on the road, team dinners and that kind of stuff. It’s pretty cool.

The thing is, like it’s my first appearance. Overseas I’m coming to America and I was thinking the adjustment would be a little bit hard for me, but it was actually the opposite. From the first day that I met those guys, they helped me a lot.

BI: Is there anyone that you’ve gotten especially close to? You mentioned Big Z earlier.

Osman: Me and Z are pretty close. We’re speaking the same language. We played in the same league in Turkey. But like, I’m close with everybody. With Channing [Frye], we are always talking about the games and that stuff.

BI: Playing with LeBron—can you put that into words?

Osman: Look, it’s…(pauses), it’s something crazy. Because I was playing a game—obviously 2K—before when I was younger, I was playing with him and that stuff. Of course, it was my dream to be an NBA player, to play in the NBA. But when you’re playing on the same team with [Derrick] Rose, LeBron James, [Dwyane] Wade, Kevin Love, [Isaiah Thomas], it’s crazy.

I didn’t imagine that I would play with those players. And then, I just realize when I’m playing with them, the only thing that I can do is just work a lot and learn from them.

BI: When you hear these guys talk about you in a good light and coach Lue gives you praise, how does that make you feel?

Osman: That’s something really incredible. I mean… from the first day, from the media day when LeBron was in a press conference, he talked about everybody. But he talked also about me and he knew about Euroleague and that kind of stuff, so I was really happy. I was really proud and I was really happy about it. From the first day, he was so close to me. Not just him, but everybody.

BI: What do you think people need to know about your personality? Is there anything that hasn’t been said?

Osman: Actually, nothing special (laughs). I’m the guy who always smiles and with a lot of energy, always being positive talking to everybody, making a lot of jokes, trying to be friendly with everyone and the most important—I’m trying to be a good character.

BI: Last one—based off of this conversation alone, you’ve picked up the English language so easily. Who’s helped you on that side of things?

Osman: I actually had a lot of American players overseas on my previous team—it was Jordan Farmar, Jamon Gordon, Derrick Brown, he also played here, there was Bryant Dunston, Jayson Granger. I played a lot with Dario Saric, too, Furkan Korkmaz. Those were guys that were always talking English.

Just talking to them all the time. When they talked, I would just listen to them. I wasn’t listening to what they talked [about], but just for what kind of words they were using and what kind of sentences, the way they were talking. That’s how I learned English.

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James Johnson: The Latest Product of Miami’s Culture

James Johnson speaks to Michael Scotto about his success within Miami’s culture.

Michael Scotto

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James Johnson went from an NBA nomad to financially set for life.

Over the summer, Johnson signed a four-year, $60 million deal with Miami, as first reported by Basketball Insiders. The deal included a fourth-year player option.

“It really meant everything to me,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders. “To be in a situation in my life to overcome so much, and to finally get something like that where it’s long-term, where it’s somewhere I really want to be too, it was just all-in-all the best scenario.”

Johnson was drafted No. 16 overall in 2009 and spent time with four different teams, including two stints in Toronto, before his career year in Miami last season. During that span, Johnson also spent time in the G-League for the Iowa Energy (2011) and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (2013).

Despite being nomadic through the first eight years of his career, Johnson never doubted his talent nor the hope that he’d find the right organizational fit.

“No, I never doubted myself,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders. “I never doubted the Lord neither. I’m a big firm believer of that. Every team I was on I always enjoyed my teammate’s success. I always was a real part of practice players and being a scout guy. My whole journey is just to figure out and experience all the other aspects of this game that we play. It says a lot where I can start helping other guys out like the rookies now and guys that are not getting any minutes right now, things like that. I’m a big testament to just staying ready, so you don’t have to get ready.”

After playing for the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings, and Memphis Grizzlies, what set Miami’s culture apart?

“Just their want-to, they’re no excuses, act like a champion on and off the court, and just that mental stability of always teaching you, not just drills, not just coaching just because they’re called coaches,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders. “They really inspire, they really help out, and it makes you want to be in that work environment.”

Johnson credits his relationship with President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra for helping him fulfill his potential.

“It’s great, its nothing like I’ve ever experienced before,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a little new still, but the freedom to be able to go into their office and just talk about normal things, you know, is one of the big reasons why I never want to leave this place.”

While playing on a one-year, $4 million deal, Johnson averaged a career-high 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in 27.4 minutes per game. Johnson also shot a career-high 34 percent from beyond the arc.

Looking ahead, can Johnson continue to improve at age 30 and beyond coming off his best year as a pro?

“I got paid, so there’s no pressure of playing for the money,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders. “It’s really playing for the wins, playing for your teammates, and playing with a pure heart, not going out there with any agendas, not going out there looking to live up to something that everybody else wants you to live up to. For me, it’s just gelling with our team and making sure our locker room is great like I was mentioning. Go out there and compete and trust each other.”

Johnson has put up nearly identical numbers through the first quarter of this season, averaging 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 27.6 minutes per game. Johnson is also shooting a career-high 36 percent from beyond the arc.

“It’s my ninth year, and I’m just happy to be able to be part of the NBA for that long,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders.

Looking ahead, Johnson hopes to maximize years 10-12 in Miami during the rest of his contract and the remaining prime of his career.

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