Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Lakers on the brink of a breakthrough

15 Comments

The Lakers have been fined for tampering two years in a row.

Magic Johnson’s banal tweets while holding a ceremonial front-office position last year barely caused a murmur. The Lakers’ Paul George pursuit, seemingly comprised of commonly accepted tactics, became a major storyline because the Pacers – and, implicitly, their legion of backers – pushed the issue.

The subtext to the differing responses: The Lakers are again striking fear in their opponents.

The Lakers aren’t back, but a savvy summer has positioned them to regain their status as behemoth. After years of being saddled by Kobe Bryant’s extension and Jim Buss’ pledge, the Lakers can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Johnson has them poised to burst out of the darkness in 2018.

For now, the Lakers added two players better (Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and another more valuable (Lonzo Ball) than anyone they had last season while clearing considerable cap space for next summer. They dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s toxic contract and held firm on not offering multi-year guarantees to anyone besides their three first-round picks.

The retooling came at a cost – chiefly 2015 No. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell, who was sent to the Nets with Mozgov for Lopez and a late first-rounder. But the upside justifies the risk in Los Angeles, where cap space goes further.

Though market matters, nothing recruits like winning, and the Lakers are better positioned to do that, too. Lopez is a good center whose floor spacing will help his new teammates. Caldwell-Pope is far better than anyone the Lakers could have expected to sign this summer while limiting themselves to one-year contracts, but a late entrance into unrestricted free agency and no satisfactory offers left him willing to sign short-term in Los Angeles and hit the market again next year. The Lakers should have their best season in five years, which could open doors.

George? LeBron James? Russell Westbrook? DeMarcus Cousins?

Two of those stars could be on the table next summer.

There’s still plenty of heavy lifting left to do. The Lakers want to dump Luol Deng (three years, $54 million remaining) and maybe Jordan Clarkson (three years, $37.5 million). They also face a decision on Julius Randle, who’ll have a $12,447,727 cap hold as a restricted free agent next summer. Renouncing him to sign a star would obviously be fine, but the Lakers might try to trade him before the deadline and get value for him rather than hedging their bets next summer.

Signing a star is clearly the priority, but even if the Lakers strike out, rebuilding around Ball, Brandon Ingram, Randle and Larry Nance Jr. is fine. The Lakers have multiple paths to a bright future.

They even got the smaller moves right. The early returns on No. 27 pick Kyle Kuzma are promising, though I’d caution against reading too much into hot summer-league shooting. Josh Hart was a sound selection at No. 30. Re-signing Tyler Ennis for two years with the second unguaranteed was excellent value.

Johnson looks like he knows what he’s doing – especially because the Lakers avoided the harshest tampering penalties, like losing draft picks or being prohibited from signing George.

Ultimately, this summer was just a precursor to next. But everything is starting to line up.

Offseason grade: B+

Heat forward James Johnson expected to miss 7 to 10 days

AP
Leave a comment

MIAMI (AP) The Miami Heat will be without starting forward James Johnson for at least two games and probably more after bursitis was found in his right ankle.

Johnson left Miami’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday with ankle pain, and an MRI performed Sunday led to the bursitis diagnosis. Johnson is not traveling with the team for its trip for games at Atlanta on Monday and Boston on Wednesday.

The team says Johnson could miss seven to 10 days, which would also mean his status for home games against Dallas on Dec. 22, New Orleans on Dec. 23 and Orlando on Dec. 26 is in some doubt.

Johnson is averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Heat this season.

LeBron James wears one black, one white LeBron 15 shoes with “Equality” on back (VIDEO)

1 Comment

LeBron James notched his third-straight triple-double on Sunday, this one coming against the Washington Wizards. But before the game, the story was all about how James was voicing a silent protest — in Washington D.C., no less — by wearing a special version of his shoes.

LeBron took to the floor wearing his LeBron 15s, but this player edition had the word “Equality” on the back of them. James wore one black shoe and one white shoe.

James wore the black versions of this shoe in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ opener to start the season.

Via Twitter:

LeBron finished the game with 20 points, 15 assists, and 12 rebounds. The Cavaliers beat the Wizards, 106-99.

Stephen Curry says he’d want in on potential Panthers ownership

Getty
3 Comments

The Carolina Panthers are up for sale. Owner Jerry Richardson said he would sell the team late on Sunday following an announcement by the NFL that Richardson was under investigation for “workplace misconduct”. The NFL’s investigation and Richardson’s decision to sell was preceded by a report from SI saying Richardson had paid out settlements amid sexual harassment and racial slur claims.

Enter Sean Combs and Stephen Curry.

Combs — that’s Diddy, you to and me — has previously voiced his interest in being involved with the NFL, and after seeing that Richardson would be selling the team, jumped at the chance to boost his profile. Combs tweeted that he wanted to buy the team, and that’s when Curry joined in.

Via Twitter:

Naturally, Curry is from Charlotte and went to both high school and eventually college in the area, playing at Davidson. He’s an avid Panthers fan and has been on the sideline for the team publicly many times over the years.

Curry being part of an ownership group for the Panthers would be pretty wild. Perhaps Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan would like to join in? It seems like they would have the liquidity and credit availability between the three of them to get the team.

Then again, the asking price for the Panthers could be north of $2 billion. The last team to be sold was the Buffalo Bills in 2014 for $1.4 billion. In September, Forbes released a valuation for the Panthers that put them at $2.3 billion.

Might need to get a few others involved in this one.

Watch Raptors fans give Vince Carter a standing ovation in Toronto (VIDEO)

Twitter
Leave a comment

Vince Carter is 40 years old and playing in what could possibly be his final NBA season. The Sacramento Kings guard started his career with the Toronto Raptors, and on Sunday he played what could possibly be his final game at the Air Canada Centre.

And so, when Carter was subbed out late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the folks in Toronto did what came naturally: they cheered.

The whole thing was pretty great to watch, and a real testament to how Carter is viewed by fans in Toronto.

Via Twitter:

Carter scored just four points in 25 minutes for Sacramento, going 2-of-5 from the field while adding three blocks, two assists, a rebound and a steal.

The Raptors got the win over the Kings, 108-93.