Just as we figured, the LeBron James decision has started a flurry of moves around the league as teams now move on to their own plans. That includes the Lakers who have helped facilitate the Rockets’ pursuit of Chris Bosh by taking Jeremy Lin off their hands. From ESPN:

The Houston Rockets have traded guard Jeremy Lin and a future first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers, a league source told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The Lakers were amenable to this deal, according to sources, because Lin is only under contract for one more season, thus preserving their cap space next summer. They also covet draft picks, after trading away their first-round picks in 2015 and 2017 to Phoenix and Orlando as part of the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades, respectively.

If the Lakers are going to miss out on the big name free agents this summer — and with each passing minute that seems increasingly likely — they needed to move on to their Plan B and start to fill out their roster. Acquiring Lin helps in that.

Lin is the exact type of asset the Lakers have said to be pursuing this summer. He’s a good player (we will get into this later with a full analysis) and he is only signed for one more season. This allows the Lakers to preserve their cap space and financial flexibility for next summer when they can again pursue the top free agents on the market.

The sweetner here, however, is the 1st round pick the Lakers will also receive. While the Rockets are likely to be one of the top 5-10 teams next season and deliver a pick in the mid-20′s next June, that pick is much better than the one the Lakers would be slated to have should they finish outside the top 5 selections — which would be no pick at all. Now the Lakers will be armed with a pick that can be used in another trade or used to select another young player who can potentially be part of the team.

Viewing the deal through this dual prism, I am quite happy with what the Lakers have accomplished. When the Lakers talk about “financial flexibility”, this is one of the ways in which they use the term. Having money under the cap isn’t just about signing FA’s, it is about leveraging that space to absorb players and getting additional assets for their trouble. The fact that Lin can actually play, fills a position of need, and has other marketing qualities that will help the Lakers is icing on the cake.

It is about time the Lakers got creative and started to use all the assets at their disposal to improve the team in the short and the long term. Drafting Julius Randle was step one in this process. It remains to be seen what becomes of Lin as a player next year or what the pick they will receive from the Rockets produces, but the hope is that they too become pieces that improve the short and long term trajectory of the team.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  July 10, 2014 — 106 Comments

Some links and thoughts to hold you over while we wait for the free agency dominoes to fall…

  • Julius Randle remains unsigned, though is on his way to Las Vegas as part of the Lakers’ summer league team. Randle isn’t likely to suit up until he puts his name to a contract and at this point we will wait — a day, more? — for that to occur. All signs point to Randle remaining unsigned so the Lakers can preserve the extra bit of cap space that will be tacked on to his contract. Rookies generally sign for 120% of their slotted salary and every little extra bit helps. As an aside, with Randle unsigned the Lakers could still, technically, trade his rights to a different team whereas if he was signed there would be a waiting period before they could do so. I don’t believe that will happen, but it is something to keep in mind.
  • Speaking of summer league, Ben Rosales of Silver Screen & Roll has a nice breakdown of the players who will suit up for the Lakers. Get to know these guys, they should be fun to watch.
  •  While summer league will be a nice distraction, all eyes do remain on the free agent ticker. Several Lakers from last year’s team have already inked deals with other teams, for good money too. If you’re keeping score at home, Jodie Meeks got $6 million a year for 3 years from the Pistons, Chris Kaman got $10 million over 2 years from the Blazers, Jordan Farmar got $4 million over two years from the Clippers, and Steve Blake just got similar money as Farmar from the Blazers. I wish all these guys nothing but the best on their new teams. Last season they all showed they could be rotation players in the league and they will get their chances on their new rosters.
  • Of course, some would have liked the Lakers to bring back one or more of those guys. Personally, I could go either way. While all are serviceable players, none truly stood out to me last season. The closest were probably Meeks and Farmar. Meeks had an excellent season and showed growth in several areas, but when his career is over, last season’s numbers may stand as his best season. Farmar, while showing he is now a very good shooter, was also injured for half the season and didn’t quite show as much next level passing as you’d like from a starting caliber guard. Again, I like both players fine and would have welcomed them back, but losing them to another team isn’t the end of the world. Best of luck to them.
  • This is nearly two weeks old, but if you missed it, give Zach Lowe’s piece on Jason Kidd departing the Nets for the Bucks a read. The Kidd stuff is very good and worth your time on its own. But the bullet points also have a couple of Lakers’ related nuggets that speak to the team’s financial health.
  • On that note, Brian Kamenetzky wrote a very good piece on why the Lakers should be patient this off-season.
  • Lastly, Kobe Bryant is holding his annual basketball camp in Santa Barbara right now and did a press conference to open things up. He spoke on a variety of topic, but in this clip he speaks on his health noting that he feels “great…strong and crisp” and notes that he doesn’t think about his knee or his achilles when he’s training. He also talks about the way he “pitches” the Lakers as a free agent destination.

On Thursday, July 10th the free agent moratorium period is officially over. What this means, is, all the deals you’ve been reading about — Farmar to the Clippers, Channing Frye to the Magic, Kyle Lowry back to the Raptors, Dirk re-upping with the Mavs — become official. So, expect a lot of tweets from athletes with pictures of them inking their new deals.

What you can also expect is for the dominoes start to fall in terms of the major free agent decisions coming.

It’s not just your imagination that we have been waiting longer for the biggest fish to make up their minds on where they are going to sign. As someone pointed out to me on twitter, last year Dwight made his intentions to sign with the Rockets on July 6th. When LeBron left Cleveland for Miami, he made his decision public on July 8th. We are now beyond those dates and none of the LeBron, Carmelo, or Bosh trio have made their decisions known.

Sure, there have been stories about LeBron choosing between the Heat and the Cavs, Bosh mulling an offer from the Rockets should he not re-sign in Miami, and Melo choosing between the Knicks, Lakers, and Bulls. But nothing concrete has emerged and all we have is rumor and innuendo. That will likely change very soon, however.

In fact, it could be as early as Wednesday.

That is the day that LeBron will meet with Pat Riley in Las Vegas (where LeBron is holding his basketball camp). One can only guess what James will tell Riles, but it’s likely to be more than just a check-in on the Heat’s progress in making moves beyond the deals they inked Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger to.

No, LeBron is likely going to tell Riles whether he’s staying or going. After all, everyone’s chips are now on the table. It’s pretty much known that LeBron wants the maximum contract allowable (at least in terms of dollars per year) that he can make under the collective bargaining agreement. Riley knows what that means in terms of being able to sign Bosh and Wade while honoring the commitments he just made to McRoberts and Granger.

After LeBron informs everyone of what his plans are, expect soon after for Anthony and Bosh’s plans to also be made public. If not by them, then through leaks reported to the masses. And then the floodgates should really open as teams who were waiting on the stars to sign start to ink the Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, and Lance Stephenson types to their respective deals.

So, be patient for just a couple more days and we should have our answers. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done the Lakers will be getting some good news.

The absolute chaos formally known as the NBA’s annual free agency period toys with fans’ imaginations each and every year. In an instant, a team’s fanbase can go from being depressed about what the next five years will look like to fantasizing about a starting five that includes every marquee free agent. I have to admit that during this free agency period, I’ve fallen into the trap. You guys, I’m really, really excited about having even a slight chance of landing Carmelo Anthony. And you should be too.

There’s a belief among a troubling amount Lakers fans on the Twittersphere that the purple blue and gold should not offer Carmelo the maximum 4-year, $97 million dollar contract that they’ve put on the table. Those who believe this claim that Carmelo isn’t a “winning player” because he’s yet to make it to the Finals in his first eleven years in the league. And while I respect the passion of the fanbase (it’s what makes ours the greatest in the sport), I feel as though the anti-Carmelo camp needs a stern talking to from the voice of reason. And I personally volunteer to act as the voice of reason.

I’d like to start by dispelling the rumors that Carmelo isn’t a winner. Sure, Carmelo hasn’t enjoyed deep playoff runs during his stellar career. But last season was the first of his career that he missed the playoffs. Carmelo has been the first option on every team he’s ever played on, so it’s not like he’s riding the coattails of other superstars, also. Clearly, Carmelo knows what it takes to win in the NBA. To knock the dude for not having won a championship is lazy; as a certain team from South Florida has shown, one, and probably even two, superstars aren’t enough to get a title in today’s NBA. I have zero doubts that if given a sublime supporting cast like LeBron was in Miami, Carmelo could contend and win championships.

And as Melo passes the 30 benchmark and heads toward the tail end of his career, you have to believe his main focus above all will be winning. He’s looking for his Miami, a place to go and join other players that he can trust in order to get that elusive championship. And for those of you who have watched Carmelo play for Team USA, you know that when he wants to be, he can move the ball very well within an offense and isn’t always the gunner ball-stopping type that his haters label him as. If he leaves New York, he’ll be desperate to win, no matter what it takes.

Kobe and Carmelo’s friendship has been well-documented and probably a bit exaggerated by the media these past couple days. But it’s true that the two are very close and that Kobe admires and respects Carmelo, and we all know that Kobe doesn’t give compliments easily. They’ve won two gold medals together and both share the ability to hit mind-blowingly difficult fadeaway jump shots (they probably don’t bond over this, but I have an image in my mind of the two playing absolutely epic HORSE games that last until the early morning). So the locker-room chaos that took place last year with Dwight having such a different approach to his job than Kobe and Nash wouldn’t realistically be an issue.

I’m somewhat confident in suggesting that Laker fans do, and should, trust Phil Jackson’s judgement. Hell, Phil is a borderline deity to Laker fans, and rightfully so. So my question is this: If Phil badly wants to keep Carmelo in New York, shouldn’t you want him in Los Angeles? Phil Jackson understands the inconvenient truth that these type of players don’t come along too often, and when they do, you simply can’t let them walk despite the fact that sometimes they may shoot too often.

Let’s be honest here. Signing Carmelo is virtually the only chance the Lakers have to get Kobe his coveted 6th ring, which seems to be the number one priority for the front office whether you agree with it or not. That’s why it blows my mind that some people truly believe the team would be in a better position to win and win soon without Carmelo. When you accept the reality that the Lakers have no shot of landing LeBron, it becomes shockingly evident that the Lakers don’t have many options here. Some are proposing LAL sign a younger player whose best days are ahead of him, like a Lance Stephenson or an Eric Bledsoe type. But those type of players are still 2 or 3 years away from entering what I like to call “prime championship years.” While your physical prime might come around 25, it takes more than being in your physical prime to win championships. It’s during a player’s late 20′s/early 30′s, when he’s still in the tail end of his physical prime while simultaneously understanding what it takes mentally to be a champion that he’s most likely to win (see James, LeBron or Jordan, Michael). Carmelo is in his championship prime. He’s ready to win now.

Lastly, let’s revisit just how special of a player Carmelo is. Sure, he has his flaws, but I don’t think people realize just how good Carmelo Kyam (isn’t that a sweet middle name) has been over the past two seasons. Over the past two years, he’s averaging exactly 28 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 45% FG, 39% 3FG and 83.9% from the line. For those of you who claim he’s not efficient, he’s finished in the top-10 in each of the past two seasons in Player Effeciency Rating. Those are bonafide superstar-in-his-prime numbers. And that’s exactly what Carmelo Anthony is- a superstar in his prime.

When you have the opportunity to get a superstar in his prime, you should be pumped.

There are few things certain with the Lakers right now. Whether it’s their coaching search, their pursuit of free agents, or the production their holdover players can provide to next season’s roster this is a team with more questions than answers.

One open question, though, has been answered. After being drafted with the 7th overall draft, the questions shifted from Julius Randle’s talent to whether a pre-draft report about him potentially needing foot surgery would turn out to be true. On Wednesday the Lakers sent Randle to a foot specialist and, for what seems like the first time in a couple of seasons, the Lakers actually got some positive injury news:

This, of course, is a huge sigh of relief. Concerns that a screw would need to be removed and, with that, deal with a recovery period of up to 6 months were quite real. Instead, Randle will likely be in Las Vegas with his summer league mates, showing off his skills and generating excitement for the fans.

In the midst of all the wondering, at least the Lakers have something they can hang their hats on. And hopefully for a long time to come, too.