It’s official: Pacers sign Andrew Bynum for rest of season

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UPDATE  #2 11:02 a.m.: It’s official, the Pacers have announced that Andrew Bynum has signed with Indiana for the remainder of the season.

Bynum had wanted to play for more than the league minimum (we don’t yet know the details of the contract yet but the Pacers could offer more than the minimum) and for a contender, he got those things in Indiana.

“It really wasn’t a hard decision, I think it’s the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we’ve got the best chance of winning,” Bynum said in a statement released by the Pacers. “It will be great to back up Roy and I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”

“We are obviously happy to have him join our team,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said in a statement. “He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition.”

 This gives the Pacers an even bigger and more formidable front line. They start Roy Hibbert up front with David West and now off the bench can bring Bynum, Ian Mahinmi, Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. Just as importantly for them, the Miami Heat can’t sign Bynum and throw him at Indiana in what seems an inevitable Eastern Conference Finals matchup. 

UPDATE 8:53 a.m.: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that “barring an unforeseen snag,” Indiana will sign Andrew Bynum today.

8:00 a.m.: Conventional wisdom has been the only reason the Indiana Pacers were in the discussion to sign Andrew Bynum was to keep him away from the Heat. However, since Greg Oden has played fairly well in limited minutes for Miami, talk of signing Bynum to bring him to South Beach kind of cooled and interest in Bynum overall seemed lukewarm.

Now it appears the Pacers are close to inking a deal with Bynum.

At least that’s the report from the Indy Star, something confirmed by Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Bynum and his agent met with the Pacers Friday night, according to the Indy Star.

Bynum’s agent David Lee told The Indianapolis Star that he and Bynum were in town. According to Lee, Bynum and the Pacers have not reached a contractual agreement.

“(Bynum) has not signed as yet,” Lee said on Friday night.

The Pacers have All-Star center Roy Hibbert as the starter and bring Ian Mahinmi off the bench in a rotation that has worked very well — the Pacers at 35-10 have the best record in the East. They are strong up front, a defensive force — they are not signing Bynum to plug a hole in their rotation. Which makes the signing curious, if it goes through.

Bynum started the season injured under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He went on to play 24 games for them, starting 19, and he averaged 8.4 points a game on just 41.9 percent shooting, plus he grabbed 5.3 rebounds a game. On the court he was limited and with that lost favor with coach Mike Brown. Off the court he was enough of a distraction that the team suspended Bynum the day after Christmas. The Cavaliers traded his contract at the deadline to the Bulls, who instantly waived him.

Bynum has ongoing knee issues which have required multiple surgeries and there are questions of if Bynum has the will, dedication and love for the game to push through them in play.

Bynum was a free agent for more than two weeks and what was holding teams back was both the concerns about his desire and that he reportedly wants more than the league minimum to play (and teams were loath to offer that)

If the Pacers do sign Bynum at whatever may get a little run, but mostly this would be a preventative strike.

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.

Karl-Anthony Towns helped off court after non-contact calf injury

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Hopefully this is not as bad as it looks.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony was trying to run back upcourt and went to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf. He had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves officially ruled Towns out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A right calf strain would be the best possible outcome, but an MRI will provide more details in the next 24 hours. This had the markings of something much worse, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports optimism that Towns avoided something serious.

Towns is averaging 214 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are off this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers, down from 39.3% for his career — as he tries to adjust to playing next to Rudy Gobert, he’s still one of the game’s elite big men.

The Wizards went on to beat the Timberwolves 142-127 behind 41 from Kristaps Porzingis.

Suns promote GM James Jones to to President of Basketball Operations

Phoenix Suns Open Practice
Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images
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James Jones put together the roster that took the Suns to the Finals two seasons ago and had the best record in the NBA last season (64 wins). At 13-6, the Suns sit atop the Western Conference this season.

The Suns have rewarded Jones, giving him the title of President of Basketball Operations on top of GM.

“In the nearly 15 years I have known James, he has excelled in every role he performed, from player to NBPA Treasurer to his roles in our front office, most recently as general manager,” Suns interim Governor Sam Garvin said. “James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none. We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”

Jones moved into the Suns’ front office in 2017 at the end of a 14-year playing career, then became GM in 2019. The move gives Jones a little more stability during the sale of the franchise. Not that the new owner would come in and fire a successful GM.

“I am grateful for the privilege to work with and support the players, staff and employees of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury,” Jones said in a statement. “The collective efforts of our business and basketball operations have allowed us to provide an amazing atmosphere and best-in-class experience for our fans and community. I remain excited about and dedicated to driving success for our Teams on and off the court.”

Jones has made several moves that set the culture in Phoenix, including hiring Monty Williams as coach then, after an undefeated run in the bubble (that left Phoenix just out of the playoffs), he brought in Chris Paul to take charge at the point.

Report: Leaders in Lakers’ locker room think team ‘only a couple of players away’ from contending

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There’s a sense of optimism around the Lakers: They have won 5-of-6 and are expected to have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy Monday night, plus Russell Westbrook has found a role and comfort level off the bench and other players are settling into roles. They may be 7-11, but it’s early enough there is a sense this could be turned around.

That is echoed by “locker room leaders” who think the team is just a couple of players away from being a contender in the West (where no team has pulled away), reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers’ locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.

Let’s unpack all of this.

• “Leaders in the Lakers’ locker room” means LeBron and Davis (both repped by Rich Paul). Let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

• If the Lakers don’t make a move to significantly upgrade the roster, how unhappy will those leaders become? How disruptive would that be?

• It is no coincidence that McMenamin’s report comes the day the Lakers face the Pacers, a team they went deep into conversations with this summer on a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade, but Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka ultimately would not put both available Lakers’ first-round picks (2027 and 2029) in the deal and it fell apart. Turner said the Lakers should “take a hard look” at trading for him. The thing is, the Pacers are now 11-8, not tanking for Victor Wembanyama but instead thinking playoffs, so are they going to trade their elite rim protector and sharpshooter away? Not likely. At least not without an overwhelming offer, and the Lakers’ two picks may not get there anymore.

• While Westbrook has found a comfort level coming off the bench (and not sharing the court as much with LeBron), he is still a $47.1 million contract that no team is trading for without sweeteners. To use NBA parlance, he is still a negative value contract, even if it feels less negative than a month ago.

• Are the Lakers really a couple of players away from contending? While they have won 5-of-6, three of those five wins came against the tanking Spurs, the others were against the so-injured-they-might-as-well-be-tanking Pistons, and the Nets before Kyrie Irving returned. The Lakers did what they needed to do and thrived in a soft part of the schedule, but that schedule is about to turn and give the Lakers a reality check on where they really stand. After the Pacers, it’s the Trail Blazers (likely still without Damian Lillard), then an East Coast road trip that includes the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers. The next couple of weeks will be a better marker for where the Lakers stand, and if they can build off of the past couple of weeks.