Young stars’ struggles reminder to Lakers that rebuilding is long process

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LAS VEGAS — Lakers fans are not exactly renowned for their patience.

Nowhere was that more in evidence than Monday night at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, when after an ugly first quarter — 5 points on 2-of-17 shooting, with seven turnovers — Lakers fans that filled the Thomas & Mack booed their young players.

That may have been the lowlight, but the Lakers’ young stars have had their struggles in Sin City. Through two games Julius Randle is shooting 29.4 percent, and has averaged just 3.5 rebounds a game in 20 minutes a night. D’Angelo Russell is averaging 10 points a night on 33 percent shooting through three games, but the bigger issue he has two turnovers for each assist he has dished out. Jordan Clarkson has looked like a guy who has been through an NBA season and scored 18.3 points a game, but he’s shooting just 40.4 percent overall and 26.7 percent from three. Clarkson and Russell have some work to do on their chemistry.

All these struggles should serve as a reminder to the Lakers organization and their fans:

Rebuilding is a long process. Patience is required.

If that seems hard, just recall how the last quick fix — bringing in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash — went.

Plus, there are things to like from the young Lakers, things they have shown in Vegas. That starts with their attitudes.

“Every game matters to me, and me being competitive I forget that it’s just Summer League,” Russell said. “I’m trying to get better so fast, rather than being patient and letting things come to me.”

“I’ve got to get my teammates going, get myself going,” Randle said, clearly frustrated by the rust in his game. “Everything starts with me; I’ve got to be better. End of story.”

Randle looked better in the second half against the Knicks Monday, but he remains a guy with limited moves. When he gets the ball and faces up he has a great first step and but tries to use that and power to get to the rim, not a variety of moves (he did show one spin that drew a foul). He looks in Vegas like a guy who has been away from the game for a year — which is exactly what he is after he broke his right leg on opening night a year ago and had to have surgery. Rust was to be expected.

For Russell, the game just seems to be moving too fast, and he isn’t letting it slow down yet, which is leading to 6.7 turnovers a game. It will eventually start to slow down for him.

“I’m just trying to force the issue to get big guys involved, and for myself forcing the issue on the offensive end trying to just get something out of nothing when it’s not there,” Russell said. “Realizing it’s Summer League and being patient is my problem right now…

“Summer League is great for the adjustment process. I’m young, I feel like I’m going to get better every game, every practice, once I get under the system and get the hang of it a little more.”

While Lakers Summer League coach Mark Madsen has put in plays, the nature of Summer League — a thrown-together roster that doesn’t get a lot of practice time together and is devoid of veterans — leads to an unstructured game. For much of the time in Vegas the Lakers offense has been “watch Jordan Clarkson create stuff” and that hasn’t helped build cohesion and chemistry.

For the Lakers, hope sells.

The strength of that hope and the Lakers brand has been evident in Vegas — Russell and Randle again packed the house Monday, where fans sat in the upper deck (never before at summer league has the curtains had to be pulled back from the upper deck at the Thomas & Mack). When the Lakers have played there have been attendance records this summer.

But there needs to be patience. This coming season those young players will grow while the fans celebrate Kobe. With roster additions such as Lou Williams, Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert — plus hopefully a dash of health thrown in the pot — the Lakers will be respectable on the court.

From there, and as Clarkson/Russell/Randle show their potential, then the big free agents the next couple years will give the Lakers a longer look.

It’s all just going to take time.

LeBron, other NBA players react to Kyrie Irving trade to Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets
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Is there going to be a football game of some kind next weekend? You’d never know the way the NBA trade deadline can dominate the headlines.

Kyrie Irving is getting traded to the Mavericks, which has blown up the NBA world — Dallas looks like a threat in the West, and there is a countdown clock over Kevin Durant‘s time in Brooklyn. It wasn’t just fans and pundits stunned by the news, NBA players past and present took to Twitter and social media to react and give their thoughts on the Irving trade. Starting with LeBron James and one of the guys in the trade.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets
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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Irving reportedly will land in Dallas Monday, take the standard post-trade physical, and could be available for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Clippers.

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

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This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.