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NBA PM: Lakers Land Lin at Perfect Time

The Lakers have tried for years to acquire Jeremy Lin and have finally landed him at a perfect time for him to show what he can really do.

Yannis Koutroupis

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Lakers Land Lin at Perfect Time: What a lot of NBA prospects don’t realize in the pre-draft process is that all of the workouts and interviews they do don’t just impact where they are going to land on draft night. Teams are often doing research and putting together files on players for when they hit free agency or become available in trades years later as well.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets after the moratorium was lifted is a prime example. The Lakers have had eyes for Lin for years now, trying to sign him before he landed with the Golden State Warriors and also putting in a claim for his rights when he was on waivers afterward, only to see him ultimately land with the New York Knicks where Linsanity was born.

Lin’s career has undergone a string of reality checks since that point. He spent the last two years with the Rockets. He came in as a top target for the Rockets that offseason, but his role decreased with the additions of James Harden and Dwight Howard. Toward the end of his tenure with the team, he was coming off of the bench behind overseas import Patrick Beverley and had his jersey number used during the recruiting pitch for Carmelo Anthony like he wasn’t even on the team anymore.

The Rockets may have fallen out of love with Lin, but the Lakers were eager to take him off of their hands. Having no issue with paying the final year of his contract, which only counts from $8.3 million against the cap but actually costs the team closer to $15 million, the Lakers have finally landed the player they’ve sought after for years. The path that kept Lin away from the Lakers couldn’t have prepared him better for the situation he’s going into with them now.

“I’m a more mature person,” Lin said at his introductory press conference. “That’s one thing I’ve experienced. I’ve gone through the highs and lows of an NBA career in the spotlight. Going through New York has prepared me and given me a different perspective, then going to Houston where things settled down and there wasn’t as much spotlight, now coming to L.A. where there’s a bigger market and spotlight, hopefully I’m able to handle it better each and every year. One of the ways I want to handle it is not letting it affect my play. Now, more than ever, I’ve learned to just play for God and ignore everything on the outside.

“It’s been an up and down year for me. I think when I look back on not just this past year but the past two years I’ve learned and grown a lot as a person, Christian and basketball player. From the minute I stepped into Houston to now, I’m definitely a much more complete player. I’ve learned how to do a lot of things I haven’t had to do before, playing off the ball, cutting, really challenging myself on my weaknesses I’ve tried to improve on.”

Acquiring Lin was clearly a contingency plan for the Lakers, as they went into the offseason with aspirations of luring the top free agents on the market to join forces with Kobe Bryant. However, when they missed out, they quickly went to forming a team of guys like Lin who have been counted out and have something to prove. They put in the winning bid for Carlos Boozer after he was amnestied by the Chicago Bulls and also signed Ed Davis, along with re-signing Jordan Hill, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly. They may not be the most talented team on paper, but there may not be a team in the league with a bigger chip on their shoulder.

Bryant is determined to finish his career on a high note and shock his doubters one more time. He’s already started reaching out to his new teammates to get them on the same page.

“We’d exchange texts,” Lin said of his communication with Bryant. “I was in Shanghai at the time, we’ve talked a little bit here or there. The one thing he told me is we have a lot of work to do and I think that’s 100 percent accurate. As long as we come in with that mindset of really having to work and earn everything, I think we’ll be okay.

“I think [the chemistry with Kobe] will be great. I’ve had the opportunity to play with a few really great players. I’ll be able to learn a lot from him; he’s been there, done it and won at the highest level. I’m excited to learn from him, to be honest, and see how he approaches things. I’ve made my own structure and rhythm to what my workouts look like for the season, but I’d like to see what his look like as well.”

Lin also mentioned Lakers veteran point guard Steve Nash as someone he is excited to learn from, as he has studied his game in the past and tried to emulate him. He’s even open to the idea of playing behind him or even off of the ball with him in the case that Nash has a resurgent year and is able to contribute more than he has so far in his injury-plagued two-year Laker career.

“If you ask any player, they’ll believe they’re capable of starting,” Lin said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned this year it’s not about who starts, it’s more about who finishes and how you play with the time you’re given. That’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned this past year. I believe I can start for a NBA team and help that team win. As a competitor I would obviously love to, but that’s not me coming in and saying I need this or that. I just want to be a part of the team.

“My approach won’t change. I think my approach shouldn’t ever change. It should just be to be on attack mode all the time because that’s who I am as a player. Regardless of his health or anyone else’s health, I’m going to be on the attack. One thing I thought worked good in Houston was when I played with Pat Beverley. I’d like to play with Steve Nash… I think that’d be really fun.”

The decision on how playing time is split up and what combinations are used will eventually be made by whoever the Lakers tap as their next head coach. They are currently the only team in the NBA without a coach in place. They made it clear from the start that they were going to take their time and used their head coaching vacancy as a part of their recruiting efforts for free agents like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh among others. Now, even without any star’s voice other than Bryant’s to really take into consideration, they continue to take their time and be methodical with their process.

Longtime Laker Byron Scott, who has been a head coach with the Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers, has been the perceived favorite for some time and recently had another interview with the team. However, the fact that they have yet to hire him has created speculation that they may be going in another direction.

With training camp still a couple of months away and no other team looking for a coach, the Lakers could really drag this thing out another couple of weeks and re-evaluate candidates they previously ruled out now that they know what their roster looks like. The team is basically set, outside of perhaps a couple signings for the veteran’s minimum.

No matter who gets put in charge on the sidelines, the timing couldn’t be better for Lin to finally land on the Lakers after multiple failed attempts to acquire him. He’s basically auditioning again, which may not be ideal for him at this stage of his career, but he’s doing so for a team that has wanted him for years and has nothing prohibiting them from keeping him long-term should he flourish like they’re hoping he will. He’s going to have every opportunity to showcase his full repertoire in this contract year and doesn’t have overwhelming expectations for the first time since the Linsanity storm.

“To be honest I have the least amount of pressure, feel the least amount of pressure than I ever have,” Lin said. “I’m trying not to let my situation as a player dictate my play. I know what I want to accomplish as a player and how I want to play. As long as I do that, I can hold my head high.”

Cavaliers Sign Wiggins, Harris: The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed their 2014 NBA Draft picks, Andrew Wiggins and Joe Harris, to contracts, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin announced today from Cleveland Clinic Courts. Per league policy, terms of the contracts were not released.

Wiggins was the first overall pick in the June draft. An early entry candidate from Kansas University, Wiggins, 19, was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-League in his only year at Kansas. In 35 contests with the Jayhawks last year, the 6’8, 194-pound guard averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 block in 32.8 minutes per game. In four games during the 2014 NBA Summer League, Wiggins averaged a team-high 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks in 29.9 minutes per game.

Harris was selected 33rd overall after playing four years at Virginia where he was named Second Team All-ACC as a senior and First Team All-ACC as a junior. The 6’6, 225-pound guard averaged 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 30.3 minutes for his career at Virginia (135 games). In four games during the 2014 NBA Summer League, Harris averaged 7.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.6 minutes per game.

Once rookies are officially signed like Wiggins and Harris now are, they cannot be traded for 30 days. Wiggins has been at the center of trade rumors involving Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. His signing does not mean that trade talks are off, in fact it makes a trade easier to consummate as he goes from not counting for anything financially as an unsigned rookie to now $5.5 million. A trade involving Wiggins could still be agreed to in principle, just not made official until August 24 at the earliest. The Cavaliers, at the urging of LeBron James, are hot in pursuit of Love and may have to part with Wiggins in order to land him. However, the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors are also firmly in the mix with offers that are comparable to what Cleveland can give.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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