Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Report: Lakers staffers believe team played Kentavious Caldwell-Pope through incarceration to impress LeBron James

1 Comment

In 2017, the Lakers signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $17,745,894 contract. He was already facing a two-game suspension for DUI. Then, during the season, he violated terms of his probation and spent nearly a month at a detention center. His work-release program allowed him to play in Lakers home games and practices, but he couldn’t leave the state and missed a few games.

Why did the Lakers put up with so much with Caldwell-Pope?

One possible reason: He shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron James – whom the Lakers wanted to court (and ultimately signed) the following summer.

In the meantime, Caldwell-Pope’s interrupted job status caused plenty of resentment.

Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“Anybody [else] would have put him on personal leave or suspended him,” one coaching staff member said.

“I had a major problem with that,” a Lakers front-office executive said.

When asked why Caldwell-Pope played during this time, a Lakers spokesperson said they were simply following the judge’s work-release ruling. Staffers within the organization and sources close to the team say they believe it was because the Lakers were trying to curry favor with Klutch in their efforts to sign James the following summer in free agency.

Another possible reason the Lakers played Caldwell-Pope through his incarceration: He was one of their best players that season. They’d also already traded their first-round pick, effectively eliminating the incentive to tank. Why not use a helpful player who’s available?

Plus, Caldwell-Pope already served his league-mandated suspension for the DUI. Extra punishment from the Lakers could have received pushback from the union.

And Caldwell-Pope’s sentence allowed him to work, a rehabilitative aspect of the court’s ruling. Do these Lakers staffers generally want criminals to face the more punitive sentences? Or just Caldwell-Pope?

That people within the organization were so bothered by Caldwell-Pope playing is indicative of dysfunction under Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Employees clearly didn’t understand/believe in the plan.

That’s the environment LeBron walked into.

So, when his camp expressed desire for Luke Walton to get fired… when LeBron openly pushed for the Lakers to trade for Anthony Davis, who’s also represented by Paul… it felt as if LeBron had major power to make those things happen. That contributed to LeBron’s teammates being wary of LeBron trying to trade them. It might have contributed to Johnson dressing down Walton early in the season.

I doubt the perception of LeBron running things has changed. I recommend reading Holmes’ full story for more examples of people close to LeBron getting special treatment – or the perception of special treatment.

So, LeBron can insist he’s taking a hands-off approach, and I believe he sometimes wants to leave all this up to others. But when everyone thinks he’s in control has been even before he arrived, LeBron has little choice but to deal with that responsibility.

Greek Freak makes himself at home in Paris, scores 30 points, Bucks beat Hornets

Leave a comment

PARIS — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 12 rebounds and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-103 on Friday night in the first NBA regular-season game in France.

Milwaukee improved to 40-6 with its eighth straight victory. The Bucks have the best 46-game start in franchise history. They were 39-7 in 1970-71 when they went on to win the NBA championship.

Eric Bledsoe added 20 points and five assists for the Bucks.

Malik Monk led Charlotte with 31 points. The Hornets have lost eight in a row.

Milwaukee rallied to tie it at 78 going into the fourth quarter. Pat Connaughton put the Bucks in front with a dunk in the fourth. Then Antetokounmpo got going, drawing a foul as he slalomed through the defense.

Report: Needing depth at center, Dallas trades for Willie Cauley-Stein from Golden State

Abbie Parr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dallas took a big hit this week when center Dwight Powell went down with a torn Achilles. The Mavericks’ starting center was a critical pick-and-roll partner with Luka Doncic, a roll man and vertical threat that allowed Kristaps Porzingis to space the floor (along with other Dallas shooters), plus Powell was a solid team defender.

Willie Cauley-Stein is going to get a chance to fill that role.

Golden State is trading Cauley-Stein to Dallas for a second-round pick.

Dallas just made a trade for Justin Patton to waive him and clear out a roster spot for this trade.

Cauley-Stein is averaging an efficient 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds a game for Golden State. More importantly for Dallas, he provides the athletic dive man, a threat on the roll they need to keep things open for Doncic.

Dallas could have waited out the market to try and land a better center, but this gives them a reliable fit for minimal cost (a late second-round pick, they kept Golden State’s own second rounder). Cauley-Stein will split time at the five with Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic.

For those of you crunching the numbers at home:

For Golden State, in the short term, this move creates a couple of open roster spots. One of those likely will be used to re-sign Marquese Chriss, who was waived last week. The other roster spot likely will go to Ky Bowman.

Golden State adds a pick and a trade exception for sending out a player that was not part of their long-term plans anyway.

In trade about money/roster space, Mavericks send Isaiah Roby to Thunder for Justin Patton, cash

Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

We have a trade…

That shifts things around on the end of the bench in Dallas so they could create a roster spot forWillie Cauley-Stein (a trade that was announced later). A trade that is mostly about saving some and rolling the dice on a project in OKC.

Dallas is sending Isaiah Roby to OKC for Justin Patton, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

What is really going on here?

For Dallas, this is about clearing out a roster spot, it plans to waive Patton. That roster spot is going to Willie Cauley-Stein in a trade with Golden State, that was just reported. The Mavericks lost center Dwight Powell to a torn Achilles this week and needed to bring in a player or two — via trade or free agency — to help bolster the existing front line of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic. Here is Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.

The move also clears out a little cash for Dallas.

In Oklahoma City, they get a young player to develop but also save some money.

Roby has not played in an NBA game yet. The rookie out of Nebraska — taken 45th overall last June — is a development project, but one who passes the eye test for an NBA power forward. He did a lot of things well in college — scoring, rebounding, works hard off the ball — but can he do that at an NBA level? He’s played in nine G-League games this season, averaging 9.2 points and 7 rebounds a game.

 

Bulls: Lauri Markkanen out 4-6 weeks

Lauri Markkanen
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lauri Markkanen ranked No. 34 on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years entering the season.

Instead of building toward that promise, Markkanen has underwhelmed. His shot just isn’t falling as hoped.

Now, the news get even worse.

Bulls:

The Bulls (2.5 games and two games out) have been hanging in the playoff race. But there was already little reason to believe they’d make a postseason push. Now, there’s even less rationale to predict a longshot postseason run.

Markkanen will be eligible for a contract extension next offseason. The 22-year-old can still fulfill his potential as a 7-foot shooter with defensive versatility. But he’s running out of time to show consistent contributions. That’ll make it tougher for Chicago to offer a satisfactory extension.

Two of the very things that could happen for the Bulls are Markkanen shaking off his extended slump and landing a high draft pick.

This could help with both.