Luke Walton admits what many teams thinking: Warriors make this good time for slow rebuild

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There is an inpatient segment of Laker fandom — and just about every other fan base — that wants then to go after Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Russell Westbrook (if he becomes a free agent) and any other star they can. Do whatever it takes to become a contender again as fast as they can, it’s what they see as the Lakers’ rightful place in the universe.

The problem is the Golden State Warriors.

They have dominated these Finals, have been to the Finals three straight years, every one of their core players is younger than 30, and after they re-sign Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant this summer their core four are locked in for at least two more seasons (Klay Thompson is the next free agent, in 2019). They are the Mount Everest nobody may be able to scale for a few years.

That has up-and-coming teams in the West thinking three, four, or five years out with their rebuilds. It’s something teams don’t generally talk about publically but admit privately. Which is why it was nice to hear Lakers’ coach Luke Walton say on Bleacher Report’s “The Full 48” podcast he recommends a patient rebuild right now (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“I joke a lot. I said ‘if there’s a time to be rebuilding, this is the time to do it.’ The Warriors don’t look like they’re going anywhere for a while. They’re pretty darn good right now,” said Walton….

“Obviously there’s players in this league that if you can get, it’s really tough to say no to because the superstars in this league are good enough to make you a contender or not. It’s the difference between having a very good team with lots of role players or having a team that can actually, legitimately win an NBA championship…

“My only caution would be let’s not give up too much of our young core for one superstar because, like we just talked about before, let’s not forget that those Golden State Warriors are just a little bit north of us and it’s going to take a lot more than one superstar to dethrone them from the West. There’s that fine line in trying to get there quicker rather than developing our own guys. I think Rob (Pelinka) and Magic (Johnson) are very aware of that. They’re constantly looking at the best way to get us to be a true contender, not just on paper.”

To use an “it’s never going to happen” example, trade D'Angelo Russell and one of the Lakers’ oversized contracts (say Timofey Mozgov), draft Lonzo Ball, and where are the Lakers? They jump from 26 wins to maybe 36 (depending upon the improvement of Brandon Ingram and others), and they miss out on the playoffs by a few games (and George has shifted to essentially Pacers West). The Lakers are better drafting Ball (or whoever), developing their young players, then in the summer of 2018 — or better yet, maybe 2019 — target big free agents. Build a core and a system that works, then add to it, as Boston did (they won 41 games before adding Al Horford). Think a few years out.

Maybe by then, the Warriors will not look like quite as daunting a force.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.