Archives For rumor mill

I don’t know if it is like this for Bulls’ fans, but Phil Jackson will always be that dude for a lot of Lakers fans. His two stints as Lakers’ coach led to seven trips to the NBA Finals and five Larry O’Brien trophies. It’s not that the man can never do wrong, it’s just that, when he does, it’s almost immediately written off or shrugged away because his history of doing so much right overwhelms it.

Basically, Phil being Phil has a way of being the overriding sentiment whenever he might do or say something Lakers’ fans might get really upset about if it were someone else saying it. His ties to the organization — not only as a former coach, but as the team governor’s/part owner’s fiancé — only add to this familial quality he possesses.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, as we all know, Phil has always had a way of just saying things to the press that don’t always fly so well with any number of listeners. And today, when talking to the NY Press in advance of the Knicks’ opening training camp, he was back at it, this time regarding Kobe Byrant and his future with the Lakers.

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What once seemed like a late August part fun rumor, part feel good story which wasn’t likely to happen, now seems to have more legs. Could it be the Lakers may really sign Metta World Peace? According to Adrian Wojnarowski, they are getting closer:

As I noted when I wrote about the initial reports of the Lakers’ interest in Metta, I did not think he was a particularly good fit. From a roster construction and position crunch standpoint, his addition would seem to be redundant. However, that perspective was shaped mostly by what Ron might provide on the court. Eric Pincus of the LA Times has a different perspective:

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The Lakers and Metta World Peace may once again become an item. Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story on Monday afternoon:

The Los Angeles Lakers are discussing the possibility of signing free agent forward Metta World Peace to a one-year contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

No deal has been agreed upon, but there have been talks between the Lakers and World Peace’s representatives, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

There are varying degrees of interest within the Lakers organization about bringing him back to the franchise at 35 years old, although the idea has been met with enthusiasm from Lakers star Kobe Bryant, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The LA Times’ Brad Turner called the discussions between Metta and the Lakers “casual conversations”, but did add he has been a presence around the team this summer:

World Peace has been working out at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo with Julius Randle the last two months, and the two have played pickup basketball at the Clippers’ practice facility in Playa Vista, an official said.

While these reports clearly state nothing is imminent, this is all very fun to discuss.

When Ron — he’ll always be Ron to me — first arrived to play for the Lakers, I was skeptical about his fit and weary of his reputation as a ball stopping wing who had a tendency to play outside of his role and on the verge of doing something that would compromise his team’s chances to win.

By the time the team waived him via the amnesty provision, however, my views had evolved:

Ron always played with an intensity and competitive fire that was distinct. And while playing on the edge in the way that he did would sometimes lead to him crossing the line between fair and foul, his determination and desire to give his all on the floor was something that many don’t always provide. When you combine his temperament with some of his big game performances, Ron will live on in Lakers’ lore for a lifetime.

I mean, I will never forget his put-back against the Suns in the 2010 Western Conference Finals nor the even bigger performance — and clutch 3 pointer — he provided in game 7 of the NBA Finals. His post game press conference is also the stuff of legend, but that just obscures the fact that without Ron in uniform, it’s unlikely the Lakers defeat their long time foes to claim the title, or even get that far for that matter.

That was two years ago, though. Regarding his current fit, there is a logic that the Lakers are thin at SF, Ron plays SF, and, hence, this is the reason to sign him — or at least explore the option. However, I would argue that Ron is much more of a small-ball PF at this stage of his career. He was already skewing that direction in his final season with the Lakers and, in the limited time he saw in New York, was also moving in that direction for the Knicks.

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Part of any building process is the acquisition of assets. While in this stage, whoever is responsible for raising a roster from the ashes has to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves as competitors deal with their own issues. In this case, the Lakers could benefit from the Phoenix Suns and an extremely unhappy Markieff Morris.

Anytime a player demands a trade, though, the scenario is obviously pretty complicated. Morris’ situation is no different and the outside variables cannot be ignored. Before we get to those, though, let’s first examine why the Lakers should kick the tires.

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The Lakers have been quiet on the personnel front in the last few weeks, though have reportedly agreed to a contract with undrafted free agent Jonathan Holmes. Adding a combo forward doesn’t necessarily seem like the biggest need, but his combination of youth, skill set, and versatility are worth a longer look.

More of a need, at least according to Mitch Kupchak, is another big man. The Lakers were rumored to have interest in former Wizard F/C Kevin Seraphin, but the Knicks signed him to a deal earlier this week. With one former Wizard off the market, maybe the Lakers would explore signing a different former Wiz:

As long as McGee remains unsigned, his combination of name recognition, athleticism, and “potential” will have some fans intrigued. And, with the report above — a report, it should be noted, comes from sources “close to McGee” — those same fans will likely get a bit more excited.

I, for one, am not a fan of McGee and don’t see him as a particularly good fit on the Lakers despite front office desires to add another big man. For all of McGee’s ability, it’s rarely been channelled into long stretches of productivity. And while a lot of his “issues” that have earned him a questionable reputation seem to just stem from a quirky personality or a general aloofness, I’m of the mind that the Lakers could probably do just as well without him in the fold as with him.

This doesn’t make him a bad person or a bad player. Again, his combination of size, athleticism, and ability to impact a game by using both well is not the question. The question is whether he can provide this ability for long enough stretches over the course of a full season. Based on his injury history and how he has shown a proclivity for either checking out mentally or simply making boneheaded plays, I think these questions have probably already answered themselves. Or at least they have for me.

In saying all that, though, McGee is out there and sources close to the player seem to be saying the Lakers have an interest. Whether that interest turns into anything more than a summer flirtation remains to be seen.

After missing out on every free agent they targeted this summer, the Lakers are looking to add talent a different way. In sore need of a big man to man the pivot, Marc Stein is reporting the Lakers are in talks with the Pacers:

This was a topic we discussed yesterday, so I won’t rehash a lot of that now.

For more background on Hibbert’s availability, though, he had a player option on his contract that he exercised shortly after draft night. That option will pay him a shade over $15 million this season, the final of his contract. Hibbert is available mostly because the Pacers drafted his successor (Myles Turner) with their lottery pick and would like to play faster than they have with Hibbert manning the middle.

For the Lakers, the fit would likely be a mixed bag. They too would like to play faster with their young athletes, and Hibbert doesn’t really fit that mold. However, Hibbert fills a major positional need, is a fine compliment to Randle defensively, and could even serve as a bit of a defensive mentor for Robert Upshaw should he end up sticking with the team beyond summer league.

For all these reasons, I’d support the Lakers making this type of move. Especially if they could nab another asset from the Pacers in the process of absorbing such a large contract and allowing the Pacers to dump a lot of money with, essentially, nothing likely going back in return. For a team like Indy who does not want to pay the tax and would like a manageable payroll, that is a not a minor point.

We’ll see if it is enough to get a deal done, however.

For the past week, there have been strong rumors linking the Lakers to Goran Dragic. The current Sun will be a free agent this summer and, up until now, the rumors (originally reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein) said the Lakers would strongly pursue him in free agency by offering him a max contract. The thought of trading for Dragic was not really an option because the Suns were reportedly not interested in dealing the Slovenian PG, preferring to try and re-up him this July.

It seems, however, that those plans are about to change:

Wait, there’s more:

And then, there’s this:

So, to recap: Goran Dragic will not re-sign with the Suns this summer and the Suns will try to trade him by this Thursday’s trade deadline. The Lakers are among the teams on Dragic’s short list of preferred trade destinations. If Dragic is not traded, the Lakers will still try to pursue him in free agency where they will likely offer him a boatload of money ($80 million over 4 years).

After digesting all that, there are two ways to look at this:

  1. The Lakers should try to trade for Goran Dragic
  2. The Lakers should wait until free agency and try to acquire him in July.

Both of these sides have solid arguments, so let’s quickly tackle both, starting with the latter.

Pursuing Dragic in free agency only requires two things: for Dragic to be a free agent and the Lakers to have the money to pay him. Luckily for the Lakers, both of those things will be true come July. The benefits to taking this approach are two fold. First, the Lakers do not have to surrender any assets in their pursuit of the point guard. This is important since the Lakers do not have many assets to offer. The second is  that the Lakers really do not need to do anything that would improve their team right now. Being that the Lakers draft pick is only protected if it falls in the top five of the draft, it’s to their benefit to not acquire players who help them win more games right now. Whether or not you like watching a losing team (I do not) or if you are pro “tank” (I am not; though I’m more ambivalent on this now than 3 months ago), there is no argument in which not having a top 5 pick is better than having it. If you find that argument, please tell me as I am happy to listen.

It’s difficult to stress how meaningful those two points above really are. The Lakers are a team who really cannot afford to give up anything of value for a player they can chase in free agency. You want to give up the Houston pick? Fine, but just remember you can have that pick and Dragic if you are good enough in selling your franchise and convincing him your money and vision are worth it. Further, that top 5 pick may not yet be an asset, but if it becomes real it will instantly become as valuable an asset as the Lakers have possessed since they turned Andrew Bynum into Dwight Howard.

In saying all that, trading for Dragic now does have its benefits.

At the top of that list is the fact that trading for Dragic nets you his Bird Rights. While the Lakers were burned with that line of thinking when they acquired Dwight Howard, Dragic is a bit different for a key reason: Dragic’s cap hold this summer is only $11.25 million. This low-ish cap number allows the Lakers a certain amount of flexibility in how they negotiate with Dragic while still chasing other free agents. For example, let’s say the following things occur:

  • The Lakers trade for Dragic
  • The Lakers decline Jordan Hill’s team option (or trade him before Thursday)
  • The Lakers are left with roughly $20 million in cap “space” this July after all relevant cap holds for players not named Dragic are accounted for (NOTE: This is not a real number and is for example purposes only)

Of that $20 million in cap space, $11.25 million of it will be tied up in Dragic, but the Lakers would still have $8.75 million to pursue another free agent (or more). Maybe that means the Lakers ink Ed Davis. Maybe they chase another big man. Maybe they go after a wing who can defend (like DeMarre Carroll). Or maybe they just roll that space over into the season, giving them flexibility in other trades that allows them to take on salary in a move. The key is, though, that they have the ability to do something besides just sign Dragic in free agency due to controlling his Bird Rights. And, yes, while those rights also mean the Lakers could pay him more than any other team (and would likely be pressured to do so by his agent), that flexibility has value.

On the flip side, if pursuing Dragic in free agency all of the Lakers’ cap space is likely devoted to making him an offer. And this would be after renouncing rights to all their current free agents and not picking up Jordan Hill’s option. So, presented in this context, would you rather only have the ability to pay Dragic or would you like to have the ability to pay him and pursue one or more other options in free agency?

Of course, your answer may well be that you don’t want Dragic at all. Not in free agency, not in a trade, not ever. That’s a perfectly valid opinion. I mean, if the choice is paying Dragic $20 million to have him on your roster or not paying him at all, it’s perfectly reasonable to say “thanks, but no thanks” and move on to other options. And, despite typing all those words in the paragraphs above, it’s not like it’s some sort of given the Lakers just snap their fingers and end up with him via a trade or in free agency. Any deal for him requires the Suns to say yes or for him and his agent to agree to terms. As we’ve seen in years past, this isn’t a gimme.

But, this is the rumor season, the trade deadline is on Thursday, and the Lakers are prominently mentioned as a viable option for a very good player. Plus, there are good arguments on both sides of the argument on how to best pursue him. So, what say you?

*I should add that ESPN’s Beto Duran explains that Goran Dragic speaks fluid Spanish and that he could become the face of TWC Deportes. This may or may not be something that should be considered and left me only responding with !!!!! to Beto’s tweet at me. But, considering the Lakers’ broadcast partnerships was a variable in the Dwight and Carmelo free agency pitches, it’s probably a variable worth considering.

UPDATE: Well, so much for a potential chase of Kyle Lowry. The free agent guard has decided that Toronto is the “right place” for him and has re-signed with the Raptors to the tune of 4 years/$48 million. He will have an early termination option after the 3rd year of his deal, giving him the chance to opt out and test the free agency waters again when he’s 31 years old. As noted below, it was always a long shot that Lowry would be a Laker, but the idea of pursuing him still intrigued. The Lakers, though, never really got that chance. Instead, they will meet with Carmelo Anthony tomorrow as planned, hoping to land the superstar forward.

While I am admittedly a bit skeptical of how the Lakers’ free agency plans will play out, it doesn’t mean they should not be putting their best foot forward by exploring all their options and pursuing a path to improve the team. After all, even after the draft, the Lakers still have as many as seven roster spots to fill just to get to the minimum of 13 to carry for the season. There is work to do.

That work seems to involve exploring the tier below the superstar gets and targeting two perimeter players:

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, I’m not incredibly encouraged that either player will be a Laker next season. There are hurdles to clear in the form of contract terms likely to be offered (the Lakers are rumored to only do a 2 or 3 year deal for free agents not named LeBron or Carmelo) and the competition the Lakers face from other suitors who offer more complete rosters to join. Not to mention the Lakers are merely listed as “interested” or “bidders” which only amounts to so much.

In saying all that, I would be on board with the Lakers signing either or, if possible, both free agents.

For those who have followed this site for some time, you likely remember Reed, a fantastically astute basketball fan who posted thoughts here both on the main board and in the comments. Over the summer we have discussed all things Lakers’ and early this summer he had thoughts on these exact two players:

I see two really interesting unrestricted free agents this summer that are young, have room to grow, and reasonably likely to be all star level producers — Kyle Lowry and Lance Stephenson. They are rare unrestricted free agents in that they are very young and have room to grow. There is some likelihood they both produce at 15M a year levels. If we could lock up both for beginning at 9-10, stretch Nash to free up another 6, and bring back Gasol, I’d be pretty happy.

More on Lowry:

Point Guard is a critical position given the breadth of PG talent in the league, and he can match up physically with other elite players at the position. He would provide playmaking and take pressure off of Kobe going into hero mode. Plus, he is pretty low risk to bust, and would be a valuable trade chip in the future when going after even bigger fish (Westbrook, Durant, etc.)

And on Lance:

I think we see if we can land Stephenson on a favorable deal. I was actually happy to see his erratic behavior during the playoffs as I believe it drove down his price and probably limited the number of interested suitors. But I believe that Kobe + the right coach could maximize his talent, which is prodigious.  He’s the one FA out there that could probably be had for $8-9M a year, but who could provide max level returns. Maybe you give him an opt out after a year or two in case he breaks out, but try to get him in the door this year at a favorable price.

You can quibble with what it might cost to get either player (Lance just turned down $8-9 million a year from the Pacers), but this analysis is sound. Both Lowry and Stephenson offer prodigious talent are relatively young (28 and 23 respectively), and are physically gifted for their positions. (Yes, Lowry is only listed as 6 feet, but he is sturdy and strong and offers very good quickness as well.)

Of course there are questions about both players too. Lowry has bounced around the league in large part because he can be a pain in the butt to his coaches. He has reportedly matured in last couple of years, but there’s a reason that he’s 28 and just now seen as a player who will command $10+ million on the open market. And Lance is, well, Lance. He’s been seen as a head case since he came into the league and his antics in the second half of this season and in the playoffs (especially against the Heat) drew heavy critique and countless eye-rolls around the league.

There is a reason both players are on the market as unrestricted free agents as they hit or will soon hit their primes.

But, the Lakers are devoid of talent. Especially high end talent. Sure they have Kobe. And the hope is that Julius Randle becomes a steal of this draft and produces like a top 3 pick he was touted to be when enrolled at Kentucky. Beyond them, however, the cupboard is basically bare. It’s time to stock up and these two players have what the team can use.

Getting them to sign is another story. Will short term, high dollar salaries work? As I mentioned on twitter, would Lance decline a 5 year/$44 million deal from the Pacers and sign with the Lakers for 2 years/$23 million? Would Lowry sign for something similar? Again, this seems doubtful, but that is where the allure of the LA market, the franchise’s history, and the current front office brass making a solid pitch on building towards the future would need to close the gap.

As I said at the top, I am skeptical. But this is a plan, if executed, that I could get behind.