Lakers reportedly quiet at trade deadline in part because they didn’t want to take on money

Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat
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The Lakers stood pat at the NBA trade deadline in large part because it was the right basketball move — their options were not that good and came at a high cost. Russell Westbrook and his massive contract were virtually untradable, and there isn’t a lot of demand around the league for Talen Horton-Tucker after his play this season, nor for Kendrick Nunn (who has yet to play this season due to injury). The Lakers’ most valuable trade chip was their 2027 first-round pick, and the return on that in a deal was not worth giving it up.

However, there was another factor, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne said on the Hoop Collection Podcast (hat tip CBSSports.com) — the Lakers would not take on more money.

“There was an iteration of the John Wall [for Russell Westbrook] trade that included Christian Wood that would have involved more money,” ESPN’s Dave McMenamin said… “I’ve been told from other sources in Houston that there was a message that the Lakers were not willing to take on more money.”

“That’s kind of the word around the league that the Lakers were making calls, if there was a trade that made sense, they would do it. I’ve heard it described as ‘maybe half-hearted efforts,'” Shelburne added on the same show. “They would do something if it was low-hanging fruit but they weren’t really willing to feel any pain, whether that was luxury tax money, whether that was more encumberment in the future, whether that was draft compensation. In other words, they called, they tried to do some things but there wasn’t a sense of the same kind of urgency I think you heard from the players the night of the Milwaukee game and especially after the Portland game.”

Fans hate to hear their team won’t spend money because it’s not their money. Make no mistake, the Buss family and the Lakers are spending big — their $151 million payroll is the fifth highest in the league, and they are $19.6 million into the luxury tax, which is going to cost them an additional $43.7 million at the end of the season. They are pushing $200 million in salary and tax — that’s a lot of scratch for a below .500 team. And while the Lakers generate more revenue than any other team — thanks in part to their massive $3 billion local cable deal — this is still the Buss family business and there are limits to their spending.

That appears to be impacting the product on the court. They didn’t spend an extra $8.7 million to keep Alex Caruso around in part because of the tax implications, for example.

John Hollinger at The Athletic asked another deadline money question of the Lakers.

On the other hand, if the Lakers are going to do anything in the buyout market at all — as they claim they will — their inactivity on minor salary dumps was borderline organizational malpractice. The Lakers should have sent cash, DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore to a team with an open roster spot and room below the tax (there were several). Because both are on minimum contracts, it didn’t even require cap room. Trading those two and filling their roster spots with a free agent for the rest of the year would have saved the Lakers about $8 million in luxury-tax payments alone and created two small trade exceptions. With the going rate on minimum-contract salary dumps being in the low $1 million range, this was a rather obvious opportunity to net millions in savings while opening two roster spots.

In the end, standing pat on big trades at the deadline was the right move by the Lakers — there is no silver bullet answer to salvage this season. These are your Lakers, and the only hope is that a healthy and fully engaged LeBron James and Anthony Davis can surprise some teams and carry this team farther than expected. Then, come the offseason (when the Lakers can trade their 2029 first-round pick), they can find a way to overhaul this roster.

The Lakers don’t need to spend more but need to spend what they have more wisely.

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

Three things to know: Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks in 76ers win

The 76ers went 3-1 with Joel Embiid sidelined by a left mid-foot sprain, but they are so much more a dangerous team with him.

Embiid scored the 76ers’ final 11 points of the game against the Hawks, including the go-ahead 10-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, to cap a 30-point night and lift the Sixers past the Hawks 104-101.

Embiid was making critical defensive plays down the stretch as well.

Embiid finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. That’s five straight 30+ point games for Embiid, who picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Well, not exactly pick up at the start as Embiid was 1-of-7 shooting to open the game, and he wasn’t the only Sixers rusty at the start. Embiid seemed focused on sharing the ball early but settled into an offensive balance as the game went on. Philly was saved by a solid defensive night.

The 76ers continue to pick up wins with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, which is a good sign going forward.

That’s three-straight losses for the Hawks, a loss that stings because they should have been able to dominate the shorthanded 76ers backcourt and get the win.

2) Karl-Anthony Towns goes down with concerning leg injury

Let’s hope the optimistic report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is right and this isn’t as severe as it looked. Because it looked bad.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony simply was pushing off to run back upcourt when he fell to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf.

Towns was helped back to the locker room and did not return, with the Timberwolves officially saying he was out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A calf strain would be the best possible outcome. An MRI Monday will tell us more.

Towns’ stats are down this season as he adjusts to the odd fit of playing next to Rudy Gobert, but he is still averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

The Wizards got a monster night from Kristaps Porzingis — a career-high 41 points — on their way to a 142-127 victory. When Porzingis is on this Washington team is tough to beat.

3) Big shots fall at Lakers’ game

Two big shots defined the night at the crypto.com arena Monday.

First, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 with a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

The second one hurt the Lakers more. Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

The Lakers got lost in the scramble. On the initial action, Russell Westbrook doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner, which left the screen setter Myles Turner open at the top for a clean look at a 3 — but he was short and came off the front of the rim. Tyrese Haliburton out-hustled everyone to the rebound and tried to create his own shot but 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.

The Lakers had won 5-of-6 against a soft part of the schedule but that is about to change and over the next few weeks we will get a sense of where this 7-12 team really stands.

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.