Connect with us

NBA

Six Things the Bucks new Owners Need to Address

With new ownership taking over the Milwaukee Bucks recently, Basketball Insiders takes a look at the top six things for them to address.

John Zitzler

Published

on

On April 16 Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens purchased the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million from Herb Kohl. This move has rejuvenated the franchise and provides a new found optimism that hasn’t surrounded the organization in quite some time. Lasry and Edens will have a massive undertaking ahead of them but if done right could build something very special here in Milwaukee.

New Arena

The first thing on the to-do list of new Bucks owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens is to secure funding to build a new home for the team. The Bucks current lease with the Bradley Center expires September 30, 2017, which for now is the deadline the team must adhere too. However it has been reported that the team may receive a two-year extension from the NBA if considerable progress is made towards the planning and construction of a new building. Also it was recently reported by Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN that if progress isn’t made towards a new arena there is a provision in the sale of the team which allows the NBA the option to purchase the team back for $575 million from the new owners. This provision ensures that Lasry and Edens must push to build a new arena and not just sit by idly for a few years before attempting to resell to a higher bidder who could potentially relocate the franchise.

The biggest obstacle which Lasry and Edens must overcome will be just how exactly to finance the new arena. Herb Kohl very graciously pledged $100 million to the fund as a parting gift to the franchise, and the new owners have agreed to match that adding $100 million of their own to pot. The new arena will reportedly cost somewhere between $400 to $500 million when it’s all said and done. While $200 million down is a great start there is still a considerable amount of work left to be done. There has been some backlash from the local community over the possibility being taxed to help raise funds, many citing the tax that they are still paying to help finance Miller Park. The Miller Park tax is a 0.1% sales tax applied to purchases in Milwaukee County and four surrounding counties and was recently estimated to be in effect until 2020. It is certainly possibly that we may see something similar to help acquire funding for the new arena. If this is the case it will be up the new owners to present the benefits a new arena could provide the city and how appreciated taxpaying citizens would be.

“For a project of this size and one that is both a private transaction and also in this case a public-private transaction where there is a number of different constituents, I think getting something designed, financed and ready to come out of the ground in the next 12 months is a very aggressive but a very realistic timeline so long as there is engagement locally, which I believe there will be,” Edens said in a Q&A. “So as soon as we are mandated as the owners, we will jump into it with both feet and get after it. I think it’s a challenge, but it is a tremendous opportunity.”

Team Branding

Lasry and Edens need to find a way to get the people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin in general to get excited about the Bucks. For many the team is an afterthought behind the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, Marquette basketball and both the University of Wisconsin football and basketball teams. Lasry and Eden have the tall task of trying to bring the same enthusiasm associated with those teams to the Bucks. With a new arena potentially on the horizon it would be a great chance to completely revamp the organization and change the perception, whether it be new uniforms, increased media coverage and even something as simple as making more team merchandise available. Bucks fans out there know that even in Milwaukee getting your hands on some Bucks gear can be nearly impossible outside of the Bradley Center Pro Shop. The team right now seems to have a small but very knowledgeable and loyal fan base that couldn’t be happier to have Lasry and Edens at the helm going forward. The new owners need to focus on expanding the fan base and bringing back some of the casual fans the team has lost due to their lack of success.

Luckily for Lasry and Eden they already have one piece that they should be shoving down Wisconsin’s throats in Giannis Antetokounmpo and will have chance to land another in the draft. The young Antetokounmpo has shown in his short time in Milwaukee that he has a fantastic personality and is embracing the city whole heartedly. Right now Antetokounmpo has somewhat of a cult following in Milwaukee and throughout of the league because of his infectious demeanor and sky high potential on the court. The average Milwaukee resident would likely just give you a funny look if you brought up his name, though. It should a priority for Lasry and Eden to make Antetokounmpo as visible as possible and allow for others to see just why there is some much excitement in certain circles about future of Antetokounmpo.

An Honest Timeline

One way which Lasry and Eden could win over some of the good folks of Milwaukee who may be skeptical about a new arena and the franchise in general is by being as transparent as possible. Let the city see that progress is being made and make it known that there is a master plan in place to bring the team back to prominence.

Lasry and Edens recently took part in a Q & A with Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where they discussed the future. When asked about his business philosophy Lasry said:

“For me, when we look at it, you need to have excellent management. When I look at companies like this, especially owning the Bucks, I think we have an obligation to the city, to the fans, to everyone. But at the same time I think our view is we want to build a world-class organization. And to do that, that’s how you succeed. That’s how we succeeded at businesses having exceptional people doing exceptional things.

“First of all, I love underdogs, and I think Marc loves underdogs. The notion of buying into a team at this time in some respects is perfect. There is no doubt there is a tremendous fan base in Milwaukee and in the Wisconsin area for sports. All you have to do is look at the attendance figures for the Brewers. Go to a Packers game. There is no doubt there is a huge fan interest for it. We just have to create a product that everybody is excited about…In the NBA you can become competitive in a very short time if you get the right people in charge and you get the right players on the court playing the right way. I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Both Lasry and Edens seemed poised and ready to take some big plans for the franchise, however this isn’t going to happen overnight and will require some patience from the both the city of Milwaukee and the fan base throughout the state. It will be important for Lasry and Edens to continue to be open about the progress of the organization going forward.

John Hammond

Current Bucks general manager John Hammond signed a three-year extension worth $5.5 million in January 2013. Hammond seemed to have a positive relationship with former owner Herb Kohl, but is now left in limbo with the sale of the team. Lasry and Edens will have to decide whether or not they will honor that contract or choose to go in a different direction and bring in their own guy.

Hammond has been criticized in the past for some of the moves he has made, particularly some of the win-now deadline deals of the past few seasons. Herb Kohl was always one to push for the playoffs and was never afraid to move younger players in favor of veterans who could have an immediate impact. When evaluating Hammond, Kohl’s agenda must be taken into account as it certainly had influence over many of the roster decisions made while Hammond has been GM. With Kohl and his presumed playoffs or bust mandate out of the picture it very possible that we could see a different approach taken from Hammond going forward.

Hammond has been relatively strong in terms of drafting, landing numerous serviceable players in the second round and of course most recently hitting a home run with 15th pick of 2013 draft in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 2014 draft will obviously be a pivotal point for the franchise and is just couple months down the road, the new owners will have decide relatively soon if Hammond will be the one making what could be one of most important picks in franchise history.

Larry Drew

Larry Drew, like Hammond, will be sweating out the next few weeks with his future being very uncertain. Drew signed a four-year, $10 million dollar deal to coach the team last offseason after coaching the Atlanta Hawks the previous three seasons and reaching the playoffs in each of them. While Drew was able to make the playoffs with the Hawks every year, only once during his tenure did the team have an offensive rating higher that the league average. The team never had a defensive rating above the league average, showing that even during his most successful seasons his teams weren’t really exceptional on either end of the court.

This season was long one for Coach Drew as the team struggled to compete on a nightly basis and ended the season with the worst record in the league (15-67); yes, even worse than the tanking Philadelphia 76ers that at one point this season recorded an NBA record-tying 26 straight losses. The team was riddled with injuries and incidents that left them shorthanded for much of the season, forcing Drew to piece together lineups throughout the year. Like Hammond a decision on Drew’s fate should come relatively soon as the team prepares for the offseason.

Larry Sanders

After signing a four-year, $44 million dollar extension prior to start of season it was expected Larry Sanders would continue to grow as a player and develop into a leader in the locker room. Well that didn’t happen – not even close. It seemed for Sanders everything that could wrong, did, both on and off the court.

It didn’t take long into the 2013 season for things to take a turn for the worse. In early November he was involved in bar fight where video shows him swinging champagne bottles while struggling to maintain his balance on a slippery dance floor as he fights off his assailants. This fight resulted in Sanders tearing ligaments in his thumb that would require surgery to repair. The injury sidelined Sanders for nearly two months early in the season and by the time he returned the team was already buried in the standings. A month or so after returning from the thumb injury in a game against the Rockets, Sanders caught and elbow to the eye fracturing his orbital bone, which would also require surgery, keeping Sanders out for the remainder of the season. However, even just sitting on the sideline Sanders was unable to keep his name out of the news. On April 4 Sanders was suspend five games for violating the league’s anti-drug policy testing positive for marijuana. Fortunately for the team and Sanders he was able to be activated April 9 and served his five game suspension during the last five games of this season, meaning he will not miss time to start 2014 season. In Sanders limited time on the court he regressed from the immense progress he had made the previous season, his per 36 numbers are down across the board.

Lasry and Edens need to make sure that Sanders is committed to the team and understand that his actions not only reflect poorly on him but bring negative light to the franchise. When he is right he can be difference maker in the paint protecting the rim but the new owners will have to decide whether his potential on the court outweighs his potential as overpaid distraction.

This is John's second year with Basketball Insiders, after spending last season working as an intern. Based out of Milwaukee, he covers the NBA with a focus on the Milwaukee Bucks and the Central Division.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

Georgetown Prospect Omer Yurtseven is Ready for Center Stage

Omer Yurtseven spoke with Drew Maresca about playing for coach Patrick Ewing, training for the NBA during a pandemic and why he feels he’s the best center in the 2020 draft class.

Drew Maresca

Published

on

Omer Yurtseven, the 7-foot tall, Georgetown center, posted an impressive junior season in 2019-20; he averaged 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. With legitimate NBA size and skills, it’s no mystery why he’s confident. “I don’t think anyone has my combination of tools and versatility,” Yurtseven recently told Basketball insiders. But he’s also a student of the game –well aware of the game’s history and where it’s headed.

“I wouldn’t put anyone ahead of me. I haven’t seen anyone with the tools that I have. I can shoot the ball, the three-ball, and that’s where the big man is headed,” Yurtseven said.

But he’s not satisfied with what he’s accomplished thus far. He wants more. And he understands that he’ll have to continue working to ensure his spot in the league.

“Some guys might be more athletic [than me], but there are a lot of athletic bigs in the league who don’t stick,” Yurtseven continued. “The skillset is just as important, if not more. So is the [willingness to put in] the work. I think I’m better or as good as any other players, and my rookie year, that’s my goal, to prove that.”

Yurtseven transferred to Georgetown from N.C. State in 2018 after a successful Sophomore season in which he shot over 50 percent on three-point attempts. He sat out the 2018-19 season voluntarily to play for Georgetown and coach Patrick Ewing. The opportunity to work with the Hall of Famer was too good to pass up.

“That’s what I was looking for coming in [working with Ewing]. I needed someone to see the game from my perspective,” Yurtseven said. “I was looking for that feedback and I demanded to be coached. I wanted to learn from him. The thing he stayed on me the most about was the pace of the game and how quick my moves would have to be at the next level.

“The turnaround jumper was one of his major weapons,” Yurtseven continued. “He was ahead of his time, but he wanted to see me do the same thing and give 100 percent effort every time.”

Yurtseven jumper is a major weapon in his arsenal, so a pairing with Ewing was an obvious fit. His numbers remained strong during his junior year season with Georgetown, but with one glaring drop off – three-point percentage. Ewing demanded that Yurtseven operate from the low post, a role that the prospect didn’t love, but accepted. Could a new role be to blame for a down shooting year? Yurtseven would never blame anyone other than himself, especially not Ewing. But it’s clear that he felt like he could have done even more if given the opportunity.

“The biggest thing is, I played how I played because that was the role demanded of me. All I had to do was be the inside presence, the defense collapser, and we had to stick to the strategy that coach thought was best for the team.

“I would love to have caught the ball at the top a little more,” Yurtseven continued. “But I was happy to be the post guy. I knew I had to get into my moves quick, so that’s what I did. I sacrificed what I think is my best skills for the team, and I was fine with it.”

It’s evident that Yurtseven is a team-first guy but his three-point shooting took a significant hit. As mentioned above, Yurtseven shot 50 percent on 1.3 three-point attempts as a sophomore in 2017-18, but only 21.4 percent on only half an attempt from long range per game in 2019-20. However, it’s not in his nature to look back – only ahead.

“That’s been my main focus,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “In April, I was shooting 30 or 40 percent two steps behind the college three. That percentage has added up 5 or 10 percent each month. Doing it isn’t easy, but it pays off and that’s why we do it. Now I’m at 75 or 80 percent (in practice sessions) and I’m really confident in my ability.

“And that’s the most important skill set for big men right now,” Yurtseven said. “You’ve got to be a perimeter shooter, as well as a perimeter defender, because big men are evolving away from the rim.”

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yurtseven – and all of the 2020 class – received longer than normal between the end of the 2019-20 NCAA season and the 2020 NBA Draft. And while mock drafts have slowly whittled down the number of prospects, Yurtseven is working tirelessly to improve his stock in any way possible. impressive game.

“No one knew this offseason would be so long. It’s been 6, 8 months already,” Yurtseven continued. “But the team around me has been a blessing – coordinating workouts and making sure I’m taking steps to improve, from nutrition to training lateral quickness to shooting.

“It’s speed and agility, studying the game and having the knowledge about how to position yourself,” Yurtseven continued. “It’s timing and positioning and footwork. It’s all pieces of the puzzle. But the league is another level than college. That’s why I’ve been preparing, increasing lateral quickness, strengthening my glutes, making sure my quads and hips are firing well and that my lateral push-off is explosive as I want.”

“And seeing it translate on the court in two-on-twos and three-on-threes. Switching on guards and providing I can do it to myself. It’s been really fun and fulfilling.”

Yurtseven could have opted to play professionally in Europe – he had numerous professional offers as an 18-year-old prior to coming to joining N.C. State. But Yurtseven is driven by more than money and fame. He is family-oriented and understands the long game. His parents wanted him to receive a college degree before pursuing basketball – a decision that Yurtseven is happy to have made.

“The education was the main reason [I chose to play in the NCAA]. My family’s dream was that I get a college degree.

“When I was 18, [Turkish teams] offered me a huge contract. I’ve never seen so many zeros in my life,” Yurtseven continued.

“Now it’s time to chase my dream. And my team, my circle, it’s our goal to find a franchise that allows me to grow into a player for 10-plus years – and I’ll never stop working at it.”

Where Yurtseven ultimately plays is anyone’s guess – but he’s already spoken with 17 NBA teams.

Whatever franchise selects the center will add a hard-working and versatile big man that looks well-suited for the modern game – or he may not be selected at all.  Yurtseven is currently ranked outside the top 50 according to some mocks – but if he gets an opportunity, he knows how he’d like to play.

“My aim is to get a double-double, year one,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “And, of course, guarding 1 through 5 is another big thing that coaches are looking for. Look at the Bucks, they were ranked first in offense (in 2019-20). Most of their points come from spot-ups. Defenses collapse on Giannis and Middleton – and Brook Lopez stays alone in the corner. I think that’ll be where I get my shots, too.”

Only three rookies in the past 10 years have averaged a double-double in their first season in the league – Blake Griffin, Karl-Anthony Towns, Deandre Ayton. That’s an elite club in which Yurtseven is seeking membership. Can he surprise the basketball world? Only time will tell.

There isn’t much data on him against elite big men. But there is one relevant contest worth examining: a Nov. 22 matchup against Duke and Vernon Carey, who is projected to be drafted No. 26 overall by Basketball Insiders.

Carey filled the stat sheet with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but so did Yurtseven (21 points, five rebounds and four blocks). That night, his entire repertoire was on full display – decisive drop steps, smooth turnaround jump shots over both shoulders, baby hooks, midrange jumpers and hard-nosed defense.

“He was the only true big man that I played against,” Yurtseven recalled. “He was quick and Duke did a good job putting the ball in his hands as soon as he stepped in the paint. I had to exert a lot of energy keeping him off his spot, but I adjusted quickly.

“I figured he would be very strong, but he ultimately didn’t feel as strong as I expected. My maturity and strength helped me a lot.”

Yurtseven’s skill and build render him tailor-made for the NBA. But for most, sticking at the professional peak is about more than skill and body. IQ, on and off of the floor, play a major role, too.

“A lot of guys [in this draft class] haven’t played many games,” Yurtseven told Basketball Insiders. “Having a college degree and that experience is a huge tool.

“Playing overseas as a pro is another layer of experience that I have compared to these guys. My IQ has improved. Those one-and-done guys are gonna be thrown into the fire, but I’ll be more ready.

“I saw a study,” Yurtseven explained. “Guys that come in 21-and-under stay in the league two or three years on average. Guys that come in and are 21-or-older stay seven or eight years on average. That just shows how much time it takes to mature your game.”

Comparatively, only four players were 22 or older as on draft night in 2019 – Yurtsevein is 22.

At the end of the day, it will be about how he performs on the court, and he’s comfortable with that.

“If I get drafted, I’ll be the first guy coming out of Turkey with a college degree,” Yurtseven said proudly.

“I’m ready for the next step. I appreciate everyone wishing me luck and supporting me from afar. I can’t wait to show my game’s evolution and reap the benefits of all of the work I’ve put in.”

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: Tyronn Lue is the Right Coach for the Clippers

Is Lue the right coach for the Los Angeles Clippers? David Yapkowitz thinks so.

David Yapkowitz

Published

on

When Doc Rivers was first hired by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013, the expectation was that he would be the one to guide the franchise into respectability. A laughingstock of the NBA for pretty much their entire existence, marred by bad coaching, bad management and bad ownership, Rivers was supposed to help change all of that.
For the most part, he did.

Rivers arrived from the Boston Celtics with the 2008 championship, and he helped the Celtics regain their standing as one of the NBA’s elite teams. The Clippers were a perennial playoff contender under him and were even in the conversation for being a possible championship contender. The Lob City Clippers led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin certainly were talked about as being a title contender, and this season’s group led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were definitely in the mix as well.

Not only did Rivers steady the team on the court though, but he was also a very steadying presence off the court. He guided the franchise through the Donald Sterling controversy and he was a positive voice for the team as they navigated the bubble and the ongoing charge for social reform in the country.

But when things go wrong with a team, the coach is usually the one who ends up taking the fall. While Rivers did bring the Clippers to a level of respectability the franchise has never known, his record was not without blemishes. Most notably was his team’s inability to close out playoff series’ after holding three games to one on advantages two separate occasions.

In 2015, the Clippers had a 3-1 lead over the Houston Rockets only to squander that lead and lose Game 7 on the road. In Game 6, their shots stopped falling and neither Paul nor Griffin could do anything to halt the Rockets onslaught.

This season, in an incredibly similar fashion, the Clippers choked away a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets and ended up getting blown out the second half of Game 7. Just like before, the offense stalled multiple games and neither Leonard nor George could make a difference.

There were also questions about Rivers’ rotations and his seeming inability to adjust to his opponents. In the end, something had to change, and whether it’s right or wrong, the coach usually ends up taking the fall.

Enter Tyronn Lue. Lue, like Rivers, is also a former NBA player and has a great deal of respect around the league. He came up under Rivers, getting his first coaching experience as an assistant in Boston, and then following Rivers to the Clippers.

He ended up joining David Blatt’s staff in Cleveland in 2014, and when Blatt was fired in the middle of the 2015-16 season, Lue was promoted to head coach. In the playoffs that year, Lue guided the Cavaliers to victory in their first 10 playoff games. They reached the Finals where they famously came back from a 3-1 deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors to win the franchise’s first championship.

The Cavaliers reached the Finals each full year of Lue’s tenure as head coach, but he was let go at the start of the 2018-19 season when the team started 0-6 after the departure of LeBron James.

In the 2019 offseason, Lue emerged as the leading candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job, before he ultimately rejected the team’s offer. After rejoining Rivers in LA with the Clippers for a year, he once again emerged as a leading candidate for multiple head coaching positions this offseason before agreeing to terms with the Clippers.

Following the Clippers series loss to the Nuggets, many players openly talked about the team’s lack of chemistry and how that may have played a factor in the team’s postseason demise. Adding two-star players in Leonard and George was always going to be a challenge from a chemistry standpoint, and the Clippers might have secured the perfect man to step up to that challenge.

During his time in Cleveland, Lue was praised for his ability to manage a locker room that included James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. In Game 7 against the Warriors, Lue reportedly challenged James at halftime and ended up lighting a fire that propelled the Cavaliers to the championship.

Lue’s ability to deal with star egos isn’t just limited to his coaching tenure. During his playing days, Lue was a trusted teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers during a time when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant weren’t seeing eye to eye. He also played with Michael Jordan during Jordan’s Washington Wizard days.

Now, he’ll be tasked with breaking through and leading the Clippers to a place where no Clipper team has ever been before. He’ll be expected to finish what Rivers was unable to accomplish and guide the Clippers to an NBA championship.

For one, he’ll have to change the Clippers offensive attack. This past season, the Clippers relied too much on an isolation heavy offense centered around Leonard and George. That style of play failed in the playoffs when after failing to adjust, the Clippers kept taking tough shot after tough shot while the Nuggets continued to run their offense and get good shots.

With the Cavaliers, Lue showed his ability to adjust his offense and work to his player’s strengths. In the 2018 Playoffs, Lue employed a series of off-ball screens involving Love and Kyle Korver with James reading the defense and making the correct read to whoever was in the best position to score.

When playing with James, the offense sometimes tends to stagnate with the other four players standing around and waiting for James to make his move. Lue was able to get the other players to maintain focus and keep them engaged when James had the ball in his hands. Look for him to try and do something similar for when either Leonard or George has the ball in their hands.

He’s already got a player on the roster in Landry Shamet who can play that Korver role as the designated shooter on the floor running through off-ball screens and getting open. Both Leonard and George have become efficient enough playmakers to be able to find open shooters and cutters. That has to be Lue’s first task to tweak the offense to find ways to keep the rest of the team engaged and active when their star players are holding the ball.

The defensive end is going to be something he’ll need to adjust as well. The Clippers have some of the absolute best individual defensive players in the league. Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, George was a finalist for the award in 2019 and Patrick Beverley is a perennial All-Defensive Team selection.

When the team was locked in defensively this season, there wasn’t a team in the league that could score on them. The problem for them was they seemingly couldn’t stay engaged on the defensive end consistently enough. The other issue was Rivers’ inability to adjust his defense to his opponent. Against the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic had a field day whenever Montrez Harrell was guarding him.

Lue’s primary task will be to get this team to maintain their defensive intensity throughout the season, as well as recognize what matchups are and aren’t working. Both Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green were more effective frontcourt defenders in the postseason than Harrell was. Look for Lue to play to his team’s strengths, as he always has, and to trot out a heavy dose of man-to-man defense.

Overall, Lue was the best hire available given the candidates. He’s got a strong rapport among star players. He’s made it to the finals multiple times and won a championship as a head coach. And he already has experience working with Leonard and George.

Given the potential free agent status of both Leonard and George in the near future, the Clippers have a relatively small window of championship contention. Lue was in a similar situation in Cleveland when James’ pending free agency in the summer of 2018 was also a factor. That time around, Lue delivered. He’ll be ready for this new challenge.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: The Lakers’ Third Scorer Is By Committee

The Los Angeles Lakers have a whole unit of third scoring options – and that’s why they’re one win from an NBA Championship.

David Yapkowitz

Published

on

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers once the NBA bubble began was who was going to pick up the mantle of being the third scoring option.

Even before the 2019-20 season began, it was obvious that LeBron James and Anthony Davis would be the primary offensive weapons, but every elite team with championship aspirations needs another player or two they can rely on to contribute on the offensive end consistently.

The obvious choice was Kyle Kuzma. In his third year in the NBA, Kuzma was the lone member of the Lakers’ young core that hadn’t been shipped elsewhere. His name had come up in trade rumors as possibly being included in the package to New Orleans for Davis, but the Lakers were able to hang on to him. He put up 17.4 points per game over his first two seasons and had some questioning whether or not he had All-Star potential.

For the most part this season, he settled into that role for much of this season. With Davis in the fold and coming off the bench, his shot attempts dropped from 15.5 to 11.0, but he still managed to be the team’s third scorer with 12.8 points per game.

But here in the bubble, and especially in the playoffs, the Lakers’ role players have each taken turns in playing the supporting role to James and Davis. Everyone from Kuzma to Alex Caruso, to Dwight Howard, to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to Markieff Morris and even Rajon Rondo have had games where they’ve given the team that additional scoring boost.

Earlier in the bubble, James himself said they need Kuzma to be the team’s third-best player to win, but Kuzma himself believes that it’s always been by committee.

“We don’t have a third scorer, that’s not how our offense is built. Our offense is really AD and Bron, and everyone else plays team basketball,” Kuzma said on a postgame media call after Game 4 of the Finals. “We’ve had a long season, hopefully by now, you’ve seen how we play. Everyone steps up at different times, that’s what a team does.”

On this particular night, when the Miami HEAT got a pregame boost with the return of Bam Adebayo and wealth of confidence from their Game 3 win, it was Caldwell-Pope who stepped up and assumed the mantle of that third scoring option.

He finished Game 4 with 15 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range. He also dished out five assists and grabbed three rebounds. Perhaps his most crucial moments of the game came late in the fourth quarter with the Lakers desperately clinging to a slim lead and the Heat not going away.

He hit a big three-pointer in front of the Miami bench with 2:58 to go in the game, and then followed that up with a drive the rim and finish on the very next possession to give the Lakers some breathing room.

Caldwell-Pope has been one of the most consistent Lakers this postseason and he’s been one of their most consistent three-point threats at 38.5 percent on 5.3 attempts. He was actually struggling a bit with his outside shot before this game, but he always stayed ready.

“My teammates lean on me to pick up the energy on the defensive end and also make shots on the offensive end…I stayed within a rhythm, within myself and just played,” Caldwell-Pope said after the game. “You’re not going to knock down every shot you shoot, but just staying with that flow…Try to stay in the rhythm, that’s what I do. I try not to worry about it if I’m not getting shots. I know they are eventually going to come.”

Also giving the Lakers a big offensive boost in Game 4 was Caruso who had a couple of easy baskets at the rim and knocked down a three-pointer. He’s become one the Lakers best off the ball threats as well, making strong cuts to the rim or drifting to the open spot on the three-point line.

He’s had his share of games this postseason when it’s been his turn to step up as the Lakers additional scoring threat. During Game 4 against the Houston Rockets in the second round, Caruso dropped 16 points off the bench to help prevent the Rockets from tying the series up. In the closeout Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets, he had 11 points and finished the game in crunch time.

For him, it’s about staying ready and knowing that the ball is eventually going to come to whoever is open. When that happens, it’s up to the role players to take that pressure off James and Davis.

“Our third star or best player is whoever has the open shot. We know what AD and LeBron are going to bring to the table every night. They’re going to get their attention, they’re going to get their shots,” Caruso said after the game.

“It’s just about being ready to shoot. We have two of the best passers in the game, if not the best, so we know when we are open, we are going to get the ball. We have to be ready to do our job as soon as the ball gets to us.”

And if the Lakers are to close out the series and win the 2020 NBA championship, head coach Frank Vogel knows that it’s going to take a collective effort from the rest of the team, the way they’ve been stepping up all postseason.

“We need everybody to participate and contribute, and we’re a team-first team,” Vogel said after the game. “Obviously we have our two big horses, but everybody’s got to contribute that’s out there.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Online Betting Site Betway
Advertisement
American Casino Guide
NJ Casino
NJ Casino

NBA Team Salaries

Advertisement

CloseUp360

Insiders On Twitter

NBA On Twitter

Trending Now