The Lakers only have two players under guaranteed contracts for next season in Steve Nash and Robert Sacre, and just a little more than $10 million in total salary committed.
That means there’s a wealth of possibilities in terms of how the team could decide to fill out its roster for 2014 and beyond, and questions will loom large next summer about how L.A. will handle its two biggest stars.
Kobe Bryant is going to be a Laker for as long as he wishes to play; the only question will be at what cost. Considering he’s eligible to make in excess of $30 million, Bryant will likely re-sign for far less if he’s serious about his goal of trying to win one more title before he hangs ’em up.
Pau Gasol, however, might not see things the same way.
From Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
In the interest of the Lakers maximizing their financial flexibility, would Gasol accept taking a significant paycut?
“Probably not,” he said. “You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table.”
Gasol has been the subject of trade rumors off and on for a couple of seasons now, and has often been the one to take the blame when things aren’t going well in Los Angeles. Just last season, he was completely marginalized when the team tried to cater to the whims of Dwight Howard in hopes of making him happy enough to re-sign in free agency.
Now that the Dwight problem has been solved, the Lakers might have another one on their hands with Gasol. If he’s healthy and plays the way he’s capable of as the featured big man, he’ll have significant value as the trade deadline approaches. Extension talks will likely occur before then to gauge Gasol’s interest in staying in relation to his asking price, but whatever happens, it doesn’t appear as though Gasol is looking to give his current team a hometown discount.
The Clippers don’t just play second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. They play second fiddle to the Lakers in their own arena.
Unless the Clippers want to move from the NBA’s second-biggest market, the former isn’t changing.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
The Clippers want to escape the Lakers’ shadow. Leaving the Staples Center wouldn’t turn the Clippers into L.A.’s team, but it’d give them a new avenue for attention — and revenue.
Of course, if the Clippers stay in the Staples Center, they’ll want the best terms possible. Leaking interest in a new arena only helps their bargaining position.
The small forward of the Wizards’ dreams, Kevin Durant, plays for the Warriors.
So, Washington is left with Otto Porter.
How do the Wizards feel about that?
J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
Otto Porter appears likely to become a restricted free agent next summer, with no movement towards an extension to his rookie scale contract with the Wizards before starting the 2016-17 season, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com.
Porter, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft, has steadily improved in his three NBA seasons. He didn’t exactly take off last season from his breakout 2015 playoffs, but he’s still on an upward trend.
Just 23, Porter should continue in the right direction.
The combo forward a good and long defender. He gets out well in transition, shoots reasonably well from outside and minimizes his mistakes.
Without knowing offer terms, it’s impossible to say whether the Wizards are waiting to see more or Porter is betting on himself. Quite possibly, it’s somewhere in between.
Thunder players were reportedly bothered by the relationship between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green last season.
The Warriors recruited Durant throughout the year, but that got complicated when Golden State met Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.
But Green says the players didn’t cross a line.
Green (hat tip: Erik Horne of The Oklahoman):
Me and KD weren’t really talking during the playoffs. During the playoffs, it’s a little different. More is at stake. So, we weren’t talking much, and that’s normal. So, I heard something come out where they said, “Oh, Kevin Durant and Draymond was talking during the playoffs.” They were lying. But if that’s what they want to believe, if that makes them feel better about themselves — and when I say “them,” I’m talking about whoever, whoever’s saying it — then believe it. But they’re wrong.
If Green and Durant kept their distance during the postseason, that seems reasonable.
Durant’s former co-workers shouldn’t have a right to dictate his friends outside work, but when there’s direct competition, it’s a little different. It’s fair to ask Durant to separate himself from Green then.
There’s still no perfect solution. Durant’s and Green’s prior relationship opened the door for questions. But suggesting Durant and Green never should have bonded in the first place is unrealistic.
So, there’s little left to do but hope Durant and Green handled it was well as Green said they did.
Kevin Durant might have left the Thunder, in part, because he grew tired of playing with Russell Westbrook.
But does that mean nobody wants to play with Westbrook?
Presented with that claim, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter refuted it strongly:
Of course, many players want to play with Russell Westbrook. He’s a great player and even better competitor. People want to be around someone so maniacal about winning and capable of delivering.
But there’s an obvious difference between Kanter and Durant. It’s much easier for a pick-and-roll big man than a superstar wing to play with Westbrook.
Westbrook tends to over-dribble, and he can be selfish. I’d understand Durant preferring a team with more ball movement like the Warriors.
Kanter doesn’t have the cachet to pick any team at any salary like Durant did. Of his options, Kanter is probably genuinely happy to play with Westbrook. And the Thunder should be happy to have Westbrook (as long as they do). His strengths far outweigh his flaws.
No scoring star seamlessly blend with each other. Even LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — close friends and one an elite passer — struggled to mesh early in their Heat days. It’s just hard when there’s one ball.
So, it’s unfair to kill Westbrook for this drawback to his game. Maybe he’d click better with another star who’s more aggressive than Durant. And it’s not even as if Westbrook and Durant failed together. Oklahoma City won a lot of games with those two.
Plenty of players would sign up to replace Durant as Westbrook’s partner in crime.