Julius Randle signs rookie contract, makes Summer League debut for Lakers

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LAS VEGAS — The Lakers selected Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, but due to the team trying to preserve every last dollar of its cap space in case it could convince any of the marquee free agents to come to Los Angeles, he remained unsigned, and was unable to play in Summer League until the contract issue was resolved.

That changed in a hurry on Sunday, moments before L.A. was set to take the floor for its second matchup in Las Vegas against the Pelicans.

Randle wasn’t exactly planning on playing, but things came together quickly, and he was in the Lakers starting lineup for the 1:30 p.m. local time tip-off — but not without a fair bit of scrambling to make it happen.

“I signed it like 20 minutes before the game,” Randle said. “We were on the way to the game, and I was in my polo and shorts. My agent called and he said ‘Hey, Mitch has landed. We’re signing today.’ I was like, what? I don’t even have my shoes. I had to run off the bus, go get my shoes, take a car up here to sign and then get ready to play.”

Randle was rocking a new-looking pair of gray LeBron 11 Elites with pink accents, and his game looked NBA-ready at times, in a performance that saw him finish with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, to go along with two rebounds in just over 21 minutes of action.

“That’s the first five-on-five I’ve done since the national championship game,” Randle said. “It was good to finally get out there and play, and start competing again.”

Randle showcased a high level of activity on both ends of the floor, with far less standing around on possessions than we’ve come to expect from NBA guys of his size and position. He got lost on defense at times, but the effort was evident — and on the offensive end of the floor, Randle was aggressive in attacking the basket by putting the ball on the floor, instead of settling for long jumpers outside.

“He’s been in camp paying attention from the sideline,” said Lakers coach Larry Lewis, who is sharing the Summer League sideline duties with Mark Madsen as the team continues its search to hire a new head coach. “He couldn’t go five-on-five with any contact, so I thought he showed he has some pretty impressive footwork. As a young player, banging against guys his size and even a little bigger, he handled his own. He’ll get in better shape as we go along, and I think he’s an asset. He has a good attitude; when it’s his fault, I think he accepts it. He’s a man.”

Randle would only say his performance was “decent,” but that’s to be expected in his first chance at NBA competition with minimal practice time, and with so much time off between five-on-five, live game situations. Lewis, however, was a bit more optimistic, and liked what he saw out of the team’s newly-drafted rookie prospect.

“I think he’ll get better,” Lewis said. “This is his first experience on the floor as a Laker in competition. To not have been able to be involved in camp like you’d want or expect, for that to be his first action, I don’t think we could have asked for anything better. I think he did a good job, and I only see him going up.”

Important news: Nick Young has gotten over his fear of dolphins

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Where NBA players really make improvements is over the summer. They can get in better shape, work on their jumper, improve their handles…

Or get over their fear of dolphins.

Which is what the new Wizards guard did this summer. Remember these tweets from Young’s then fiancée a couple of years ago?

He’s gotten past that fear.

I gave these dolphins another chance we cool now

A post shared by Nick Young (@swaggyp1) on

Next, just needs to pick up a right with Golden State and show that to the Dolphins — they respect titles.

Report: Mikhail Prokhorov ‘warmed’ to selling controlling stake of Nets

Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
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Mikhail Prokhorov bought 80% of the Nets in 2010. A couple years ago, he tried to sell his stake, but decided to keep it. Then, he bought 100% of the franchise and its arena. After last season, he said he was selling 49% of the team.

Now?

Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, while focused on selling a minority stake in the franchise, has warmed recently to the possibility of offering a controlling slice of the team, sources close to the situation said.

The change of heart comes after the initial reaction to the minority stake sale was weak — and with interest in the Houston Rockets sale heating up, one source said.

The Rockets’ sale could shake out potential Nets buyers, and Prokhorov selling a controlling stake could also help. It’d cost more money than the 49% he’s offering now, but people with the money to buy an NBA team tend to value control.

This might be a good time to sell for Prokhorov, who lost a ton of money as the team paid major luxury tax for an all-in championship pursuit that flopped spectacularly. The NBA’s popularity is rising, and the league is reaping huge revenue from its national-TV contracts.

However, he shouldn’t assume the Rockets’ sale price will predict the Nets’. Buyers might prefer a good team with James Harden and Chris Paul to a bad one short on young talent after years of mismanagement. At least Brooklyn’s payroll is now tolerably low.

The big loser here: Leslie Alexander, who’s trying to sell the Rockets. The supply of NBA teams now available might have just doubled, and unless there’s no overlap in demand for those franchises, that can only drive down Alexander’s eventual sale price.

Report: Clippers paid $3.2 million – second-most ever – for draft pick (Jawun Evans)

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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The Warriors set a record by paying $3.5 million for a draft pick, buying the Bulls’ No. 38 pick and using it on Jordan Bell this year.

That eclipsed the $3 million spent by each the Thunder in 2010 (to the Hawks for the No. 31 pick, Tibor Pleiss) and Nets in 2016 (to move up 13 spots for Isaiah Whitehead).

So did the Clippers’ purchase of the No. 39 pick (Jawun Evans) from the 76ers this year.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

The Clippers also paid the Bucks $2 million for the No. 48 pick (Sindarius Thornwell).

I rated Evans a low first-rounder due to his speed and drive-and-kick game, so getting him in the second round is good value. I’m not as keen on Thornwell, who’s already 22 and built so much of his success at South Carolina on being more physical than younger opponents.

But the more swings the Clippers take on young players, the more likely they are to find long-term contributors. More power to owner Steve Ballmer for greenlighting this expenditure.

Importantly, as players acquired through the draft, Evans and Thornwell will count for the luxury tax at their actual salaries. Players signed otherwise, even if their actual salaries are lower, count at at least the two-years-experience minimum.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can spend $5.1 million in cash this season. That amount will increase (or decrease) in proportion with the salary cap in coming years. So, expect the previous record for draft-pick purchase price – $3 million – to fall again and again.

There’s just more leeway now for the NBA’s haves to separate themselves from the have-nots.

Jeannie Buss says she didn’t understand why Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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Last summer, the Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to contracts that immediately looked like liabilities.

At worst, Deng and Mozgov would help the Lakers win just enough to lose their top-three protected 2017 first-round pick – which would have triggered also sending out an unprotected 2019 first-rounder – then settle in as huge overpays. At best, Deng and Mozgov would provide a little veteran leadership while the team still loses enough to keep its pick… then settle in as huge overpays.

The Lakers got the best-case scenario, which was still pretty awful.

They had to attach D'Angelo Russell just to dump Mozgov’s deal on the Nets. Even if he no longer fit long-term with Lonzo Ball, Russell could’ve fit another asset if he weren’t necessary as a sweetener in a Mozgov trade. Deng remains on the books as impediment to adding free agents (like Paul George and LeBron James) next summer.

Who’s to blame?

Jeanie Buss was the Lakers’ president and owner. Jim Buss, another owner, ran the front office with Mitch Kupchak.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

Within the walls of the Lakers headquarters, Jeanie’s grand corner office had begun to feel like a cell. She could not make sense of the strategy employed by her brother and Kupchak. They had cycled through four coaches in five seasons and under their watch the Lakers won a combined 63 games in three full seasons. Last summer, they spent $136 million of precious cap space on veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who made little sense for the direction of the team.

“I just didn’t understand what the thought process was,” she said, “whether our philosophies were so far apart that I couldn’t recognize what they were doing, or they couldn’t explain it well.”

No. Nope, nope, nope. I don’t want to hear it.

Jeanie empowered Jim and his silly timeline, which made it inevitable he place self-preservation over the Lakers’ best long-term interests. That’s why he looked for a quick fix with Mozgov and Deng, who’s still hanging over the Lakers’ plans.

She deserves scrutiny for allowing such a toxic environment that yielded predictably bad results (even if family ties clouded her judgment).

That said, she also deserves credit for learning from her mistake. She fired Jim and Kupchak – admittedly too late, but she still did it – and hired Magic Johnson. There’s no guarantee Johnson will direct the Lakers back to prominence, but he clearly has a better working relationship with Jeanie than Jim did and, so far (in a small sample), looks more competent in the job.