Agent denies report Ron Artest wouldn’t mind being traded

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UPDATE 3:44 pm: In a predictable response, Ron Artest’s agent denied that his client wants to be traded from the Lakers and told that to the Los Angeles Times Lakers blog.

“Ron is not looking for a trade,” (David) Bauman said. “The frustration is there among everyone on the team. But Ron is a Laker, and he just wants to win. Ron is frustrated with the losing, as everybody is.”

Is this just an agent wisely covering for his client? Maybe. Does this mean Artest never really wanted to be traded? Maybe. Does this mean Ron Artest’s mind changed in the last couple hours? Maybe.

Predicting the ever shifting reality of Ron Artest is a fools errand I do not wish to participate in.

1:07 pm: The Lakers front office has talked openly about trying to shake things up by a trade.

Ron Artest has raised his hand and volunteered, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

One source close to the situation insists that Ron Artest wants out.

Asked to react to that, Artest’s agent David Bauman declined comment….

I’ve nonetheless been assured this week that Artest — though he hasn’t outright demanded a trade and is likely to publicly deny it — is serious about wanting to be dealt somewhere “he can have fun again” less than a year removed from the pivotal role he played in that ring-clinching Game 7 with Boston that the Lakers so nearly squandered.

Why? Ron Artest is basically offensive option number four in L.A. — go stand in the corner and knock down threes. He’s struggled on offense this season, and traditionally when he struggles on that end of the floor he doesn’t defend as well. Plus, Artest probably takes on more than his fair share of the criticism when things go wrong on the Lakers.

Also, he’s Ron Artest. Not sure he was ever meant to put down basketball roots somewhere forever.

One little problem with this:

There is almost zero chance the Lakers can trade Artest. (I would say there is a better chance of Middle East peace but if the Gilbert Arenas situation taught us anything it’s that no deal is untradeable.)

Ron Artest is in the second year of his contract at age 31 — he has three years and $22 million left after this season. That is the big problem. Heading into an uncertain economic future for the NBA — nobody knows what the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will look like — teams are not going to take on that kind of salary. Especially for a player having the worst offensive year of his career, implying his skills are slipping (whether that is Artest or a function of the offense you can debate amongst yourselves).

To use an easy example, Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince would be a good fit for the Lakers at the three. He’s an expiring $11.1 million deal, so technically a deal like Artest and Luke Walton or Steve Blake would work — but why would Detroit do that? They are a team trying to rebuild, and Walton has two years and Blake three after this season on their deals. Detroit would be committing to salary for years to get players that are not young and not providing more value than they have now. It makes no sense for them at all.

That basic problem repeats itself around the league.

Artest is one guy whose mood can swing quickly and by this time next week he could be loving life with the Lakers again. And with that, his play could pick up.

Right now, if Artest really would be happy to say goodbye to Hollywood, it would not be a shock. But it’s not going to happen. So he needs to find a way to get his head screwed on right before the playoffs, when the Lakes will again need him as they did during Game 7 of the finals last season.

Magic Johnson: “The only player that we… would probably not move is Brandon Ingram”

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The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had flashes, but he largely struggled through his rookie season. He averaged 9.4 points per game, shot 40 percent from the floor, he had a true shooting percentage of 47.4 and a PER of 8.5, and he finished with the fifth worst “value over replacement player” number in the NBA. Watch him play, and he looked better than those numbers — he did better with the “eye test” — showing some tenacity, and his offense improved toward the end of the season. Still, his rookie season tempered expectations somewhat.

Except amongst the Lakers’ front office.

They have been high on him all the way through, higher than D'Angelo Russell, and that’s what Lakers president Magic Johnson said on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.

“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram,” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles. “I think that we’re excited about Brandon, his length, his size, his agility, his athleticism. And then when you think about, you know, he was a baby coming in, in his first year last season and we see that he really has a high ceiling and we’re excited about what he can possibly turn into.”

First off, no this doesn’t mean if the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball No. 2 (as expected) they will look to trade Russell. Expect them to see if those two can play together. It means the Lakers think just one of the guys on the roster is a potential key piece of a contender. Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and on down the line may fit into the rotation, but they are not seen as cornerstone pieces that can’t be moved.

Is Ingram really a cornerstone? The jury is still out, but does anyone feel as confident he will be a star as they did a season ago when he was drafted?

Ingram certainly needs to get stronger, something the team and he have worked on (and will focus on this summer). He also was young coming into the league, and with his style of game it was going to take him a little time to find how he fit in the NBA. He wasn’t going to come in and just overwhelm opponents with athleticism, it was going to be a process for him. Like nearly every rookie, his shooting needs to be more consistent.

The questions are how high is his ceiling, and can the Lakers develop him?

This summer and into next season those will come into focus more, but the early returns don’t have some of us as optimistic as Magic.

Josh McRoberts opting into final year of Heat contract

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Heat power forward Josh McRoberts has missed 165 games over the last three years due to injury.

So, the 30-year-old sure isn’t turning down a guaranteed $6,021,175 salary.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Any long shot chance of Josh McRoberts voiding his Heat contract was eliminated Tuesday when agent Mike Conley told The Miami Herald that McRoberts will exercise his opt-in and return to the Heat for $6.021 million next season.

Miami will have major cap space this summer with Chris Bosh coming off the books. At this point, McRoberts’ salary is just an impediment to even more room to add an impact player.

The Heat could again try trading McRoberts, but they’ll likely have to attach a positive asset just to dump him. They could also waive and stretch him.

But if his salary doesn’t come between Miami and a big-time free agent this summer, perhaps McRoberts returns for one last chance at helping the Heat on the floor with his passing and outside shooting.

Mike Brown thinks it’s “cute” Tyronn Lue thinks Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors

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Celtics’ coach Brad Steven is already one of the best in the NBA. His out of time out plays are brilliant, and his Boston team’s flow of ball and player movement is among the best in the league.

It’s those things that were giving the Cavaliers trouble in the first half of Game 4 Tuesday, and ultimately prompted this comment from Tyronn Lue.

“We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me.”

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle asked Mike Brown about that.

You can certainly make the case that the Celtics have a wider variety in their offense, and that with Isaiah Thomas out the rather balanced, anyone can score nature of the Celtics is challenging to defend for a team with inconsistent help defense like the Cavaliers.

But Boston is running these sets with Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk. Golden State will use ball and player movement to create space for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Which is to say, Golden State is tougher to defend because the space they need to make you pay is much smaller. And even if you do everything right the Warriors may just score anyway.

I get what Lue was trying to say, but don’t give the Warriors more motivation.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat valuable.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.