D'Angelo Russell and Byron Scott did not get along.
Like 95 percent of screwed up relationships, both parties shared blame in this one. Russell came in with an ego and was not putting in the work the team wanted to see. Scott responded to this with old-school discipline — benching Russell — and not communicating why. This led to a downward spiral, both of their relationship and the Lakers last season.
Luke Walton relates to players. How good a head coach he will be remains to be seen, but he was a player and is not old enough to have reached Scott’s “get off my lawn” level of distaste for the players entering the league. Check out what Russell told Serena Winters of Lakers’ Nation about his relationship with the new Laker coach.
“He’s one of the best people I know, as far as off the court,” Russell said of his new head coach on Wednesday. “We communicate on and off the court as much as possible. I feel like I can call him anytime. He’s not like a head coach that will sit back and just watch his other coaches and colleagues just train other players, he’s always involved.
“He’ll get out there and play with you if he wants. It’s just great to have a young coach like him in the building.”
Walton comes from being a hands-on assistant in Golden State and still has that approach. He wants to teach, he wants to be part of everything. He’s younger, he probably has Pokémon GO on his phone, and he is an open communicator.
The real test is how Russell feels about Walton the first time Walton disciplines him. It’s easy to be buddies before camp opens.
We don’t know how good Walton the coach will be, but he is someone connecting with the young Laker players. And that is a good start for a Laker team that has a few more years of development and building to get where they want to be.
After shooting down trade inquiries before the trade deadline and brushing off proposals earlier this offseason, the Spurs are reportedly hearing out offers for Kawhi Leonard.
Except from the Lakers.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
The Lakers are reportedly Leonard’s preferred destination. Of course, San Antonio isn’t obligated to send him there. But he can influence the process by stating a plan to sign with only certain team(s) in 2019 unrestricted free agency.
The Celtics and 76ers might have better assets to send the Spurs. But if only the Lakers have a commitment from Leonard to re-sign, they might offer a greater share of their assets than Boston or Philadelphia would (especially if Los Angeles believes acquiring Leonard would be the first domino in also landing LeBron James and Paul George).
Between Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and future first-round picks, the Lakers could offer roughly commensurate value for Leonard. San Antonio might not like those particular players, but a third team could always get involved. Send some combination of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart to a team that wants them and have that third team convey players more desirable to the Spurs.
But that takes thoughtful negotiating, and San Antonio doesn’t seem interested.
There’s a belief San Antonio won’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team, especially another historically strong franchise like the Lakers. That sentiment seems foolish to me, but it didn’t emerge out of thin air. There are real people – and real hurt feelings – involved here. Grudges sometimes trump rationality.
Maybe the Spurs will eventually explore whether the Lakers present the best offer. But this is at least circumstantial evidence San Antonio will handle this crisis stubbornly.
It’s hard to see through all the smoke and tell if things around the 2018 NBA Draft are solidifying as we get to fewer than three hours before the Phoenix Suns go on the clock.
The Suns are a lock to take DeAndre Ayton at No. 1.
After that, the Kings more and more seem to be leaning toward taking Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, according to multiple reports of those close to the team.
At three things really open up. Atlanta is listening to trade offers but one way or another is likely to pick Luka Doncic. There are rumors that multiple teams — Dallas, Orlando, others — would then trade their pick plus some other asset (young player/future pick) to the Hawks for Doncic. Who the Hawks reportedly really want is Trae Young, but they can move down to get him.
If the Slovenian is off the board, it’s more likely that Memphis trades the No. 4 pick, according to sources. However, there are questions about whether Memphis can get what it thinks is fair value for selling the No. 4. So maybe they just take Jaren Jackson Jr.
How is it going to shake out?
That follows my final mock draft, which was put together Wednesday for the video above. It has:
1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson
5. Dallas: Mo Bamba
6. Orlando: Trae Young
7. Chicago: Michael Porter Jr.
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York: Kevin Knox
10. Philadelphia: Mikail Bridges
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12. LA Clippers: Robert Williams
13. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton
14. Denver: Miles Bridges
The problem with any mock draft now is accounting for trades, and those are coming.
The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.
Then, the already strained situation got even worse.
Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.
What are the Spurs doing now?
Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
The Lakers are in that mix.
The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.
But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.
San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.
The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.
The Nets did it in record time.
After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.
Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.
Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.
It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.