Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter begin contract negotiations with the Lakers

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While teams all around the league are spending big to keep pace with the league’s elite, the league’s elite is quietly making moves to get better and better. Last year’s Lakers were only good enough to win the championship, and yet with a handful of small, conservative moves, L.A. looks stronger than ever. Kobe seems like such a likable guy in the wake of LeBronanza, but when his team is tromping through January (and February and March…)? We’ll see if his approval rating is quite so high.

The Lakers signed Steve Blake to a modest deal, added Matt Barnes at a major discount, picked up Theo Ratliff for fun, and are likely to retain Shannon Brown. Andrew Bynum will hopefully be heathier, and now, according to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times, the Lakers are negotiating with second round picks (and Summer League standouts) Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks.

Caracter and Ebanks were some of the top performers at the Vegas Summer League, and while they may not be pegged for consistent minutes next season, they could conceivably give the Lakers the depth they need as they pace themselves for the long haul. Ebanks’ offensive game was better than advertised, but he’s still the most intriguing as a wing defender. The guy is long, athletic, and intuitive, and while he has a ways to go before he’s ready for a bigger defensive role, Vegas offered a promising beginning.

Caracter, on the other hand, could be ready to chip in immediately. The Lakers already signed Theo Ratliff to fill in for Josh Powell, but that spot on the depth chart may be more fitting for Caracter. If Ratliff could instead push D.J. Mbenga down a notch (should he return) and give Caracter some room to stretch his legs, the Lakers could have a rookie beast on their hands, capable of competing with NBA 4s on the boards while chipping in a few garbage buckets.

Regardless of whether Ebanks and Caracter are significant players in ’10’-’11, both would be fantastic additions for a veteran team like the Lakers. If L.A. eases them into comfortable roles while working on their weaknesses, they could be rewarded in a few seasons with surprisingly consistent role players at a very affordable cost.

Report: Bulls hire North Carolina State’s Bobby Lutz as D-League head coach

WORCESTER, MA - MARCH 18:  Charlotte 49ers coach Bobby Lutz looks up in the first half a game against the N.C. State Wolfpack during the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at the DCU Center March 18, 2005 in Worcester, Massachusetts.  (Photo By Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Bulls are one of the teams getting a D-League affiliate franchise this season. The Windy City Bulls will play in the suburb of Hoffman Estates, and now they have a head coach: North Carolina State assistant Bobby Lutz.

Via Upside & Motor‘s Chris Reichert:

Lutz was previously linked to the Bulls’ D-League job in July but there was confusion as to whether he would actually get the job. Now, it appears he has. And he has familiarity with the coaching staff, having served as an assistant coach at Iowa State under Fred Hoiberg in 2010-11, prior to going to NC State.

Evan Fournier pokes fun at his ‘NBA 2K’ likeness

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 07:  Evan Fournier #10 of the Orlando Magic dribbles the ball against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on March 7, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The release of NBA 2K17, the latest edition of the popular 2K video-game series, is less than a month away. Players are starting to get their likenesses in the game, as well as their player ratings, and tweet them out. Magic forward Evan Fournier wasn’t too happy with the way his came out.

Fournier’s countryman Rudy Gobert got in on the fun, too, changing his Twitter avatar to Fournier’s screenshot and encouraging others to do the same. He even created a hashtag for it.

At least they’re having fun with it.

Report: Sixers expected to waive Tibor Pleiss after trade with Jazz

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Tibor Pleiss #21 of the Utah Jazz controls the ball in the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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On Friday, the Jazz traded German center Tibor Pleiss to the Sixers along with two second-round picks for Kendall Marshall. The big draw of the trade for Philly was the picks, and Pleiss is not expected to stay with the Sixers, according to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Jessica Camerato.

Pleiss had a forgettable season with Utah, and the Sixers have a glut of bigs including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. It would have been virtually impossible for Pleiss to crack the rotation, and it’s unlikely another team picks up his contract, which has $3 million guaranteed this season.

Jordan releases new Russell Westbrook ad, may include a shot at Kevin Durant

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (L) and Russell Westbrook #0 look on during a press conference after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-101 in game six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”

Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.