Rumors Surrounding the Lakers
There are only eight days left in the NBA’s regular season. Once April 16 rolls around, the offseason will begin for 14 teams. The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be one of those teams for just the third time since 1994. It’s not something they’re accustomed to as an organization and as a result, talk about potential changes they could make have surfaced left and right.
Last night was supposed to be about UConn and Kentucky, two teams who persevered through tough seasons (two in UConn’s case), facing off for a national championship. Instead, with one tweet from Rex Chapman, a former NBA player and a member of the Kentucky broadcast team, the biggest story prior to the tip was that Kentucky head coach John Calipari was set to become the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers regardless of the outcome. Calipari’s Wildcats went on to lose the game to the Huskies, although it’d be unfair to blame the loss on anything other than their poor free throw shooting and just how good the Huskies are. Still, it was an unnecessary distraction that really became amplified due to the followings that the Lakers and Kentucky have and the way that rumors can now spread like wildfires with today’s technology.
The rumor became so rampant that both Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and Calipari had to address them before the end of the night. Kupchak denied the report of course, while Calipari said he wouldn’t “dignify” the question with a response, which wasn’t exactly the flat out denial that Big Blue Nation was hoping for. Calipari did say that he has the greatest job in the country, though, and he does have a team capable of competing for a national championship again based on the stellar recruiting class that he has coming in. They’ll likely be hit hard by the NBA Draft, but nobody is better at reloading with premier talent than Calipari.
That doesn’t mean this is the end of the Calipari-Lakers rumors. In fact, fuel was thrown on that fire today when ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin said on a radio appearance that the Lakers were leaning toward relieving Mike D’Antoni of his head coaching duties at the end of the season. This lines up with reports of D’Antoni clashing with Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, but it contradicts a report from Bleacher Report a week earlier that the Lakers were leaning in the opposite direction and actually considering keeping D’Antoni.
Lakers backup point guard Jordan Farmar said it best today that the Lakers season should have an asterisk next to it because it’s not really fair to strongly evaluate what anyone on the team has done. Injuries have wreaked havoc on their team and have held D’Antoni back as much as anybody. Still, if the fit isn’t right, the Lakers are going to have to go in another direction. Their fan base is certainly encouraging it and it appears that the most important voices in their locker room are doing the same.
Only time will tell if Calipari is a guy that they would legitimately have interest in should they let D’Antoni go. The Lakers have a history of trying to lure away some of the best coaches in college basketball recently, although they were unsuccessful with both attempts. They pinned Duke’s Coach K as their top target when Phil Jackson originally retired, only for him to politely decline as he has every coaching offer that’s come his way since he’s taken over at Duke. Shortly after, Kupchak also had a “feeler” conversation with North Carolina’s Roy Williams, just to see what his interest level in the position was. Kupchak, a fellow former Tar Heel, may have been willing to go with Williams if he was willing to make the jump, but he too passed.
Basketball Insiders contributor and Los Angeles Times blogger Eric Pincus recently presented the idea that the Lakers should go after UConn head coach Kevin Ollie to be their next top guy on the sideline. Ollie’s stock has never been higher after UConn’s surprising run to a national championship. He was already on the rise after the way he guided them through last season’s postseason ban, but by winning the title this year he proved that he is a rising star and NBA offers are likely to start coming his way. Ollie has a close relationship with Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, so while Ollie may not bring an immense amount of head coaching experience and none at the NBA level, he holds about as much potential as any new hire would – perhaps even more considering the Durant ties. Right now it may seem like the chances of Durant leaving OKC are low, but remember he’s still a couple of years away from free agency and the Lakers are an organization that still isn’t sure why Dwight Howard left this summer and believes they have a shot to lure LeBron James away from Miami. They always set their sights on the best, no matter how unlikely landing them may be.
Another interesting tidbit regarding the Lakers that came out today was from USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick, who said that the Lakers could be one of the teams that go after Luol Deng this offseason. Bryant has made it clear that he’s not willing to wait a year for the Lakers to try to swing big for the top free agents in 2015. He wants to be back to contending next year and Deng would certainly help in those efforts.
The Lakers face the Houston Rockets tonight in their last national television game of the season. Howard won’t be playing, but it will still be a frustrating evening as the Lakers take on a team that is looking fierce going into the playoffs thanks largely in part to the center they let get away. The Lakers are used to being one of the teams to fear going into the playoffs, and while there’s no telling what moves are ahead for an organization that does a pretty good job of playing their cards close to the vest, changes certainly appear to be on the horizon.
Pistons Leadership Changing
If you heard a collective sigh of relief coming from the Detroit area earlier today, it was because of a report from Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News that stated Pistons president Joe Dumars has told people close to him he’ll be resigning at the end of the season. If true, Dumars’ resignation would likely beat his termination by seconds at best. It’s been clear for years that it was time for the organization to go in a different direction, but Dumars, who did build a championship team in 2004 that almost won it again in 2005, managed to keep control. With the Pistons set to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year, Dumars’ shot calling days in Mo Town appear to finally be over.
The first order for business for Dumars’ replacement will be figuring out who is going to be the team’s next head coach. The coaching market is littered with quality candidates, including former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, who was interested in the job when it became open midseason and jumps out as a particularly good fit based on their personnel.
Next will be deciding what to do with the mismatched frontline Dumars has put together. Andre Drummond is clearly the keeper and they may be stuck with Josh Smith’s big contract, but they cannot allow Greg Monroe to walk away without receiving some type of value in return. There’s going to be a sizable market for him this offseason when he can become a restricted free agent, and the Pistons have to capitalize rather than letting one of the league’s top young big men get away from them.
We should know in relatively short order by the end of the season just how much validity there is to the report of Dumars’ departure. The organization is going to want to start building for next year immediately and they’ll want a new leader in place rather than letting Dumars continue to dictate the path.
Sources: Gregg Popovich, Kawhi Leonard Held Meeting on Tuesday
San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard met with coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday in San Diego, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The meeting between the two faces of the Spurs’ franchise was done professionally and confidentially, league sources said.
Source: Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports
NBA Daily: Lots Of NBA Draft Chatter
With the 2018 NBA Draft less than 50 hours away, Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler digs into the last from around the NBA.
Lots Of NBA Draft Chatter
With the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday, things in NBA circles are getting interesting, specifically on the trade front.
The final 2018 Consensus Mock Draft will drop tomorrow, just after the media availabilities in New York, from there we’ll be tracking the minute to minute news, trades and rumors in the 2018 NBA Draft Diary.
So, with that in mind, let’s dig into what we know some 50 hours until the draft gets underway.
Kawhi Watch In Full Swing
With the news last week that San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard may no longer want to be a Spur breaking, there is still a sense in NBA circles that the Spurs are not going to listen to trade offers until the hear from Kawhi directly.
If you know anything about the Spurs organization, you know that we won’t hear the details of this situation in a minute by minute way like we do from some organizations, especially considering the Spurs have never had to deal with a scenario quite like this.
The interesting part of this story is how split the “sourcing” is on what’s real. There have been reports from several different reporters suggesting that the situation isn’t as dire as initially reported and that the Spurs and Leonard have had dialogue, but not the face-to-face meeting the Spurs covet.
It’s unclear why there hasn’t been a meeting, and that is what has some in NBA circles believing the Spurs will open up the phones on Wednesday and see what they can extract for Leonard if only to do their due diligence.
One league source commented that it might be tough for the Spurs to get value out of Leonard mainly because of his injury situation and the idea that he’d only re-sign with the Lakers. The same source doubted that Leonard’s camp would fence themselves inmto just the Lakers because that would make getting him traded extremely difficult, especially if the Lakers wouldn’t offer value to San Antonio.
The sense today is the Spurs are standing their ground. The thing to know is that this situation still seems very fluid, and that face-to-face conversation (or lack of one) could swing this thing in either direction. It is clear several teams would have interest if the Spurs decide to listen to offers, even if it just a rental for the upcoming season.
Trades At The Top Still Viable
It a typical NBA draft there is chatter about top tier picks being traded, but usually, it dies off the week for the draft as teams look in on who they ultimately want to draft.
This year, and unlike previous years there is a sense that several of the picks at the top of the board could be had, especially if it returns draft picks later in the draft and solid veterans.
The Sacramento Kings seem to be leaning towards keeping their pick at number two, and it’s looking more and more likely that Marvin Bagley III is their guy. The Kings took a very long look at Michael Porter Jr, and as of this weekend there was a sense they were OK with where Porter Jr is at medically, but he may lose out to the less risky Bagley. League sources continue to doubt the Kings grab Euro sensation Luke Dončić, so we’ll see if that holds true as we get to draft day.
The Atlanta Hawks have had the third overall pick on the market from almost the moment they landed it. The Hawks seem ready to use the pick but are said to still be exploring their options. The prevailing thought this week is it’s down to Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young for the Hawks, with more and more league sources believing the Hawks will draft Young at three. While the notion of grabbing Young at three may seem high, the Hawks have had eyes on Young from the start of the process, and not much seems to have changed. The Hawks have made it clear they would take on contract money in exchange for additional draft assets, so it seems likely the Hawks will be active, even if it’s not moving the third pick.
Things start to get interesting with Memphis at number four. There have been numerous reports that the Grizzlies have dangled the fourth pick in an attempt to shed the contract of Chandler Parsons. Sources close to the situation say the Grizzlies have had some offers, and most of them involve the Grizz picking up expiring contracts and additional draft assets lower in the draft. It’s unclear if the Grizzlies will pull the trigger, but they seem to have deals if they want one.
The prevailing thought in NBA circles is the Grizzlies are the first real landing spot for Dončić. There is also talk of Wendell Carter Jr., and Mo Bamba landing at four.
The Dallas Mavericks at five seem open to taking on contract dollars and could be the landing spot for the fourth pick and Chandler Parsons, but league sources say the Mavericks would not give up the fifth pick unless it returned an All-Star or would-be All-Star.
There are a few other situations to watch as several teams have expressed interest in moving up. The Clippers hold two pretty solid selections and 12 and 13 and seem willing to combine them to move into the top 5. The Denver Nuggets have also expressed some interest in moving to the top five.
The Lakers and Celtics have expressed similar interest at points in the process, but both seem reluctant at this point to part with future assets to pay the price to jump to the top of the draft.
Porter Still A Possibility
The Michael Porter Jr. situation is murky. After two visits from NBA teams, the word on Porter is mixed. NBA teams have seen his MRIs and his medical, and select teams were allowed to bring their doctors and trainers to his most recent “workout.”
The worst case from one team that’s not considering him is that he may require an additional surgery down the line. This same team said their doctors didn’t think anything going on with Porter would jeopardize his career, but they felt like he’d have to be on a program and has a ways to go before they’d deem him a 100 percent.
The upside case, from a team with Porter squarely on their board, is that there wasn’t anything going on they didn’t expect and that their staff felt fairly positive they could not only manage his situation, but they felt they could get him right fairly quickly.
Amusingly, the narrative around Porter is that he could be the next Kevin Durant-type scorer in the NBA (Porter clearly isn’t as long and lanky as Durant) – but he does possess the ability to get his offense against almost anyone.
As one executive whose team wasn’t considering Porter joked, you could get Durant or you could get Greg Oden, hinting at the injury-riddled career of the former top pick back in 2007.
Where Does Luka Go?
There isn’t a more polarizing NBA Draft prospect than Real Madrid’s Luke Dončić. You would be hard-pressed to find an NBA executive who didn’t think Dončić could be special in the NBA. But you might also be hard-pressed to find one willing to bet their job on it.
Throughout this process, more than a couple of executives have expressed they are hopeful Dončić goes high, mainly because it would give them cover in future drafts to do the same thing, which is draft what appears to be the most NBA ready player in the class, despite his flaws.
The problem is if Dončić isn’t special or struggles like some have concerns he might, not only would a team leave a potential franchise cornerstone on the board to in passing on uber-talented collegiate prospects, it might cost the lead executive their jobs.
While that seems somewhat short-sighted, think about the executives drafting in the top six. How many are not under pressure to turn their franchises around? And would a huge draft miss seal their fate?
Atlanta’s Travis Schlenk at three seems pretty secure. Dallas’ Donnie Nelson at five seems pretty secure. Orlando’s Jeff Weltman and John Hammond at six seem fairly secure, but it gets dicey elsewhere in the top 10.
As we’ve seen in previous drafts, NBA executives can and often do outthink themselves, which why every draft has quality impact guys falling later in the process.
There is little doubt Dončić is going in the top 10; it would be pretty surprising if he got past Dallas at five.
Sexton Over Young?
The Orlando Magic seems to be dialing in on what’s there for them at six, assuming they don’t trade up, which they have explored with both Atlanta and Memphis. The prevailing thought among fans is that if Trae Young is there at six, the Magic will pounce.
Early on in the process, though, the Magic seemed to be seriously interested in Collin Sexton, and word is that be might the Magic’s guy at six. The Magic ultimately will catch what falls to them, and if Dončić, Bagley or Jackson are there, things get interesting. However, if the draft goes as scripted, Orlando seems more likely to go, Sexton, Bamba, Carter or Knox than Young – at least at this point.
The draft is a fluid domino effect process, so at six the Magic have to cover a lot of bases, and it seems they have with their individual workouts.
The Magic desperately covet an impact player, so don’t be surprised if the Magic pull the trigger on a move-up deal, especially as we get closer and closer to the moment of truth.
Bamba Could Slide
You won’t find many NBA executives who don’t find Texas big man Mo Bamba intriguing. The problem for Bamba if there are some many super talented bigs in the 2018 NBA draft he is caught in a numbers game.
League sources said recently that Bamba is in the mix at two to the Kings, four to Grizzlies, five to Mavericks, six to the Magic and seven to the Bulls. The problem is he doesn’t seem to be the first or second option to any of those teams at this point.
According to league sources there continues to be questions about how his offensive game fits into the modern NBA, and with more versatile guys sitting at the top of the draft, Bamba is looking more like the consolation prize later in the draft. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think Bamba will be a monster defensively in the NBA, but the question remains which team is drafting defense at the top of the board?
If there is a player outside of the top five that could tumble a little, it might be Bamba, especially if the Mavericks pass at five.
Over the next few days, we’ll be posting all of the draft-related news, notes, rumors and trades in the 2018 NBA Draft Day Diary, so if you want a one-stop shop for all things NBA Draft, bookmark it.
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NBA Daily: Kaiser Gates Determined To Silence His Doubters
He may not be listed on some draft boards or seen as an impact player by certain individuals, but Kaiser Gates knows what he’s made of.
If you’re looking to further your career at the next level but coming out of college as a prospect on the fringe, you’d better be willing to work twice as hard to draw attention from the basketball world.
Attending the Preparation Pro Day in Miami with team representatives and scouts watching, Kaiser Gates wanted to show everybody who was there that the chip on his shoulder would drive him to silence his doubters.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove,” Gates said in Miami. “I feel like a lot of the guys in the draft this year, I’m just as good if not better than (them), so I gotta show that.”
After three years at Xavier University, the 22-year-old decided it was time to move on from the program and passed on his senior year to enter the NBA Draft. The news came as a surprise to many, considering he might’ve gotten the opportunity to earn an even more expanded role next season with the departure of Musketeer favorites Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura.
The numbers across the board weren’t exactly eye-catching. Primarily a wing, Gates knocked down 37.8 percent of his threes as a junior. He averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in almost 24 minutes per game.
Looking at conference play in the Big East, those figures took a dip. Gates shot less than 30 percent from deep and really struggled to contribute offensively for Xavier against tougher opponents.
There was an incredible discrepancy in shot selection over his three-year collegiate career. Astoundingly enough, 300 of his 409 career attempts came outside of the arc. The other 109 tries were twos, which he converted at a 54.1 percent rate.
It’s hard to ignore statistical evidence when it comes to evaluating players, but misuse and fit could have been more prominent factors in this case. It’s something that happens quite a bit at school programs with prospects, and Gates believes that he could be added to that list of mishandled talent.
“I don’t think I’m inconsistent at all,” Gates said. “At Xavier, I know my stats showed that I was inconsistent. Playing at that school it was a great experience—great guys, great coaches.
“Just kinda like my situation and the way I was playing at that school didn’t really allow me to showcase my full talents, and with that being said, it’s kinda hard to stay consistent not doing something I’m used to doing.”
Furthering the point, it’s not easy to be judged off that information, which some use as the only indication of what you’ll bring to the pros. Gates plans on using that as motivation whenever he meets with different teams.
“I would come in and people would just assume like, ‘Oh he could shoot a little bit, play defense, a little athletic.’ But I know on the flip side, I know what I can really do and like, my full potential.
“So when I know that and see what teams already think, already have in their head, just now it’s up to me to prove to them what I can do and show them what I can do.”
So what does that exactly entail?
“My first few years or so, I’ll probably be more of a three-and-D guy—stretch the floor, play defense make hustle plays, rebound the ball, things like that,” Gates said. “But as I’mma grow, (I’ll) look to expand on my game. Maybe work out the pick-and-roll a little bit and expand from there.”
Thus far, the 6-foot-8, 228-pounder has reportedly worked out for multiple organizations, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. He is enjoying the draft process and his growth as a player since it started.
He may not be listed on some draft boards or seen as an impact player by certain individuals, but Gates knows what he’s made of. And if he can attract the right set of eyes, he’ll be in good shape.
“You could get 30 workouts and that one team could fall in love with you,” Gates said.
“That’s what [my agent] Aaron Turner’s always talking to me about. He’s always said, ‘It only takes one team.’”