Winners, loser from Rui Hachimura trade to Lakers

Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards
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The first action of trade season goes down and thirsty Lakers fans get a little juice — Los Angeles trades for solid wing depth in a player it can re-sign this offseason. All it cost was a guy on the edge of the rotation and some second-round picks. On the other side, the Wizards… do something.

Let’s break down the winners and losers from the first trade of 2023. We’ll start by reminding everyone of the trade itself:

Lakers receive: Rui Hachimura

Wizards receive: Kendrick Nunn, the Bulls’ 2023 second-round pick, the lesser of the Lakers’ or Wizards’ 2028 second-round pick, and the 2029 Lakers’ second-round pick.

Winner: Lakers front office

This is what Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office wanted: A trade that shows they are working and making the team better — if even marginally — while not giving away the first-round pick assets they are saving for a potential home run swing this summer.

This trade does not bridge the chasm between the Lakers and contending, but that silver bullet trade is not out there to make. This is a solid, safe play, one the Laker front office can tout to fans and say, “look, we’re trying” (and say the same to any superstars potentially unhappy with the roster construction).

Plus, Hachimura is a good fit with the Lakers. This trade makes the Lakers better, starting with the fact he brings shooting to the table. Hachimura has improved as a catch-and-shoot 3-point guy in his NBA career, and when playing with LeBron James and Anthony Davis he should get clean catch-and-shoot looks. (Of course, he will get most of his minutes off the bench next to Russell Westbrook — they were teammates in Washington and have a connection.)

Hachimura needs to stick to that 3-ball or getting to the rim — he takes a third of his shots from the midrange (between 10 feet and the arc) and while he has improved on them, those are still not good shots for him. He needs to get out and run with Westbrook, he’s a good fit with the Lakers on the break.

Hachimura is solid. Is he good? He shows flashes of it but is not consistently there yet. Do the Lakers want to pay him like he’s good? Not necessarily. A deal could get done early because Hachimura has an $18.8 million cap hold heading into free agency and whatever he signs for will be far less than that (likely more like the mid-level exception range of $10 million).

Winner: Rui Hachimura

Hachimura wanted out of the nation’s capital.

“I just want to be somewhere that wants me as a basketball player, and I want to be somewhere that likes my game,” Hachimura said, and when asked if that place is Washington, he responded,” I don’t know. We’ve got to find out.”

It’s not. Hachimura got what he wanted in that he’s out, and he’s on a team that’s going to give him plenty of minutes, a franchise with a much brighter spotlight, he gets to play next to LeBron James, and he’s with a team that wants to reach a new contract deal with him this offseason. That’s about as much as Hachimura could have asked for.

Loser (kind of): Washington Wizards

Loser is relative here, this is like a C- grade for the Wizards.

It’s not a win, however. They used a high draft pick (No. 9) to select Hachimura, spent years developing him, and had hoped to get a first-round pick in return for him. They instead got three seconds, which maybe they turn into a good player but it’s not a home run. Same with Nunn, who if he can return to his Miami form could be a helpful player but he hasn’t looked anything like that guy consistently in Los Angeles.

This also doesn’t answer the question, what is the long-term strategy in Washington? That remains murky.

Winner: Kyle Kuzma

Kuzma is getting paid this summer.

He is having a breakout season – 21.8 points and 7.6 rebounds a game — as he heads into free agency.

The Wizards have been shooting down teams calling about a Kuzma trade, according to Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports, and the Hachimura trade signals they are serious about re-signing him this offseason. This frees up a little more cap room to spend on Kuzma come July (he’s not going to sign an extension with the team, the max they can offer is four years, $69.9 million, he will get an offer north of $100 million as a free agent).

Does Kuzma want to stay in Washington? While he has responded to trade rumors saying all the right things about loving his time with the Wizards and his teammates, the rumors continue to swirl around the league that he is eyeing bigger markets and brighter lights. The Wizards may need to overpay to keep him.

Washington has to pay Kuzma plus Deni Avdija will be extension-eligible this summer. The Wizards are going to have to open up the checkbook.

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest


We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 4 at the New Orleans Pelicans.

However, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the record fall when LeBron returns to Los Angeles on Feb. 7 or Feb. 9.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend


It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.

LeBron livid over no foul call at end of regulation, Lakers fall to Celtics in OT


“The best player on earth can’t get a call. It’s amazing.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham made that comment out of frustration after another game where the Lakers felt robbed at the end. He wasn’t the only Laker.

LeBron James was once again brilliant — 41 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — but with the game tied against the Celtics and 4.1 seconds on the clock, he drove the lane and didn’t get the foul call when it clearly looked like Jayson Tatum hit him on the arm as he shot.

After the game, referee crew chief Eric Lewis admitted the officials missed the call:

There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”

Patrick Beverley picked up a technical foul for bringing a photographer’s camera over to the referee to show evidence of the foul.

These losses are a punch to the gut for a Laker team with little margin for error and trying to make up ground in the West (at 23-27 they sit 13th in the conference). But LeBron sees a pattern — he is scoring 30.2 points per game (sixth in the league) but is getting to the line just 4.9 times per game, fewer than anyone else in the top nine in the league in scoring.

“I don’t get it. I’m attacking the paint, just as much as any of the guys in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night, and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it,” James said postgame in Boston.

The other Lakers were a little more direct.

Boston pulled away in overtime to get the 125-121 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.

LeBron finished with 41, Anthony Davis 16 (on 6-of-15 shooting off the bench) and Beverley had 15 including a key putback dunk. Jaylen Brown scored 37 for Boston, Tatum 30 and Malcolm Brogdon had 26 off the bench.

There are no moral victories for these Lakers more than halfway into the season, playing the team with the best record in the NBA close and almost winning does not count. Time is running out on LeBron and his team, they need to string together some wins. They felt they should have gotten the chance to win this one.