Paul Pierce on LeBron James: ‘I think he’s pretty much still injured’ (VIDEO)

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What is going on with the Los Angeles Lakers? That’s a question I’m saddened to say we’re probably going to be asking for the next four years unless, by some miracle, the team goes 82-0 en route to a perfect playoff performance in each of LeBron James‘ final seasons.

Even then, that might not be enough.

The media storm around LA is exactly what LeBron should have expected when he arrived in Southern California, but things have not gone as planned on the basketball court for The King. James has suffered a real injury, and the team is floundering, currently sitting outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference. James, meanwhile, isn’t playing great and people are publishing video lowlights of his poor defense.

James has appeared increasingly prickly, peaking with a quote on apparent urgency and whether his teammates are really committed to basketball as the top thing in their life.

It’s a routine we saw in Cleveland as well and, at this point, is wearing thin.

James smartly has been able to simply coast through parts the regular season in recent years, making him one of the most durable top players the NBA has ever seen. However, coupled with his constant harping about teammates not giving enough effort to make up for the lack of his own James has been a less sympathetic figure in 2019.

Plus, it seems like he might just be getting old.

That was the supposition Paul Pierce levied on ESPN on Tuesday, saying that he felt James was probably still injured during a taping of “The Jump”.

Via ESPN:

“If I were the Lakers, I would shut LeBron down. No, seriously. He’s getting older, he has to do too much for them to win. Just look at … he puts out a triple-double, and they can’t win. Just imagine if he really goes out and really exerts himself and has to go for 40… This season was a wash coming in to it. They weren’t contending from the jump.”

“Why am I gonna put more wear and tear on LeBron? I need him for three more years. This window is this short. This window is this short to take advantage of LeBron now. He’s still — to me — I think he’s pretty much still injured.”

Pierce’s claim is pretty level-headed, at least in terms of the reality of this Lakers roster. LeBron knew what the plan was, the team knew what the plan was … now that the plan is working how it’s supposed to, why is James surprised?

If anything it lends insight into just how difficult it’s going to be for LeBron when he eventually does start to decline, or as often happens with older players, starts to get injured with more frequency. Will he accept his aging gracefully, and adapt in the vein of Vince Carter? Or will he beeline for the path of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, who did not appear to have full recognition of their own situation?

The Lakers were always going to be bad. Buying into the idea that “LeBron guarantees 45 wins” in 2019 was always a doubt, even if everything went perfect, because of who is on this L.A. roster. Things don’t always go perfectly in the NBA, and hiccups here or there — not just with James but with injuries to guys like Lonzo Ball — were part of the realistic risk.

For the rest of the NBA, the real issue is probably having to listen to arguments made in bad faith about how good the Lakers should be, and what LeBron’s expectations are of everyone around him. It’s extreme, but Pierce’s idea isn’t totally crazy. People might lose their mind if James just cashed out on this season, but how much can he really recover in face value this year?

If the Lakers miss the playoffs, no doubt this conversation will rage all summer long.

Doc Rivers says Los Angeles Lakers counting Minnesota titles “actually bugs me a little bit”

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Los Angeles is a Lakers town.

The Dodgers can get close to energizing the city the same way, although Dodger fans are a little cautious after the past few playoffs. The Rams and Chargers are in a league that ignored Los Angeles for a couple of decades, lost a couple of generations of fans, and it’s going to take time to win them back. The Kings’ following is passionate but not massive (same with the two MLS teams in town).

The Lakers are the team that fathers take their sons to see, like their fathers did before them. The Lakers have won 16 NBA titles…

About that, it’s really 11 in Los Angeles. The first five carried over from Minnesota (where the name Lakers makes more sense). That kind of bothers’ Clippers coach Doc Rivers, something he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated in a story previewing the Clippers’ season.

“It is a Lakers town. I’m good with that. I have no issues with that,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told The Undefeated from his Staples Center office recently. “They have how many titles that they’ve won here? You know, they claim them all, but they only won a certain amount here. I will say that. That actually bugs me a little bit. … Having said that, that’s generations of loyalty.

“I look at us as, we’re creating our own movement. … We’re not trying to take away shine from the other. We’ve got our own thing going. I never thought we could get our own thing going. That was what I was so frustrated with being here. And now we got our own thing going.”

Carrying titles over is common… and controversial. Should the Dodgers be able to count Brooklyn titles? It feels wrong to think Oklahoma City could count Seattle’s titles. Should Sacramento be able to count the 1951 Rochester title? Personally, the Lakers carrying Minnesota’s doesn’t seem a big issue, but you know Rivers is going to take a shot at the Lakers when he can.

That hallway rivalry at Staples Center is building.

Few things seem to irritate Lakers fans like the Clippers putting posters of players over the Lakers’ title banners at Staples Center for Clippers home games. Lakers fans think of Staples as their building — and it might not exist but for the draw of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. However, Staples is owned by AEG (whose primary owner is Philip Anschutz, who owns the NHL’s Kings), not the Lakers. It’s a hockey building.

Doc is right about one thing: The Clippers have their own thing going.

The Clippers, on paper, are the better Los Angeles team and better built for the playoffs with versatile wings such as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers have more trusted depth with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Tuesday night’s Clippers’ home opener will go how it goes — LeBron James and Anthony Davis will go for the Lakers, Paul George is out for weeks still for the Clippers — but a playoff battle between these teams this season could be epic.

And decide who gets to hang the next banner in Staples Center.

Utah Jazz extend Joe Ingles for one additional season at $14 million

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Joe Ingles is part of the Utah Jazz core. He’s a key forward in their system who serves mostly as a stretch four — more than 60 percent of his shot attempts last season were from three and he hit 39.1 percent of them — but also can put the ball on the floor and is a smart passer. While the past couple of seasons Donovan Michell has been Utah’s primary shot creator, when teams focused on him and bottled up the offense it fell to Ingles to be the man.

The Jazz like him enough to lock him up for one more season. He had two years, $22.7 million left on his contract but now the Jazz have added a third year, the team has announced. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that additional year will be for $14 million.

“As one of our longest tenured players, Joe’s shooting acumen, playmaking ability and unselfishness have been integral to our team’s identity,” Jazz General Manager Justin Zanik said in a statement. “We are excited to keep a player like Joe, as his character and leadership are critical for the foundation of our team.”

Ingles is now locked up until the summer of 2022. The only other key player whose contract currently extends out that far is Bojan Bogdanovic, who Utah signed this summer for four years, $73 million.

The Jazz are going to have some big money to pay out in the coming years, and with that some ownership decisions about the luxury tax. Donovan Mitchell is eligible for his rookie contract extension next summer and that certainly will be a max deal. Rudy Gobert has two years remaining on his contract ($51.5 million total), then will have to be extended, again likely for the max. Mike Conley has a $34.5 million player option for the 2020-21 season (he likely picks that up), after that the Jazz need to decide what to do at the point guard spot.

A lot of those decisions will come down to how the Jazz perform the next two seasons. Some pundits (*raises hand*) see them as a top-three team in the West that, if they come together, can challenge the Clippers and Lakers for a trip to the Finals. If that happens, how ownership wants to proceed will be different from if the team falls short of those goals.

Cavaliers reportedly snap up Alfonzo McKinnie off waivers

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Going into training camp, Alfonzo McKinnie was expected to be the starting small forward for the Warriors this season.

However, injuries along the front line — Willie Cauley-Stein is out for weeks still, plus Kevon Looney and rookie Alen Smailagic are banged up — and some strong play from Marquise Chriss meant he was going to make the Warriors roster. With the team being hard capped after signing D'Angelo Russell this summer, the Warriors had no choice but to cut McKinnie.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have snapped him up off waivers.

This is a good move by the Cavaliers, a low-risk pickup — McKinnie is on a minimum contract — that could get them a 3&D wing on a young team. He played in 72 games for the Warriors last regular season plus got playoff minutes, and shot 35.6 percent from three. He’s long and athletic and a player both the Raptors and Warriors liked but had to move on from because of other roster situations.

For the Warriors, they will have Glenn Robinson III starting at the three with Alec Burks behind him. They could have really used McKennie.

Report: Nets signing Taurean Prince to two-year, $29M extension

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The Nets traded two first-round picks to the Hawks to clear double-max(-ish) cap space for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

And get Taurean Prince.

Prince was an afterthought in his trade to Brooklyn, which signaled the Nets’ big summer. But Brooklyn acquired him for a reason and will pay to secure him longer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Considering this information came from his agent, this is almost certainly the most favorable framing of terms. Maybe Prince got all $29 million guaranteed. But if there are any incentives, I bet that $29 million counts them as achieved.

The Nets are trying to build a championship contender. This deal gives them multiple avenues for uisng Prince.

His contract could help for salary-matching in a bigger trade. I can’t recall the rookie-scale extension so short, if there ever was one. Two years are not an especially long commitment. That hints at using this deal as a trade chip. So does Brooklyn extending Prince before he played a regular-season game there.

Of course, Prince has a track record from Atlanta. He’s a good outside shooter with the frame to defend well when engaged. Maybe the Nets really believe in his long-term potential. He fell out of favor with the Hawks only after they changed general managers.

The Nets needn’t decide on Prince’s long-term future now. They have paid for team control for the next three seasons (including this season, the final year of his rookie-scale contract). They can monitor how he plays – and what trades become available.