Jabari Parker

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Report: Tyronn Lue at contract impasse with Lakers, who want him to hire Jason Kidd

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Tyronn Lue was favored to coach the Lakers next season before they even dumped Luke Walton. Once the Suns hired Monty Williams, the Lakers clearly turned their attention toward Lue. The Lakers and Lue opened contract negotiations. Lue even began assembling his coaching staff.

But…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Hiring the runner-up in a coaching search as the lead assistant? That’s just asking for the head coach to get fired and replaced by that assistant. Lue knows.

There are many signs Jason Kidd is a bad coach. He also favors a slow tempo while Lue likes to play fast. This would be a rough match.

Assigning credit or blame for a player’s improvement (or lack thereof) is incredibly difficult, especially from the outside. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton developed into stars under Kidd’s watch, but they were already promising young players when Kidd arrived in Milwaukee. Jabari Parker floundered under Kidd, though injuries obviously affected the forward. Michael Carter-Williamsseemingly Kidd’s handpicked point guard – had his career completely untracked while being coached by Kidd.

Maybe Kidd would be better as an assistant coach. He was an incredibly smart player, and a lesser role could allow him to grow into coaching. But there’s a lot of rough edges to work through.

Kidd is not a good enough coach to force on Lue – not with management’s fondness for Kidd and Kidd’s campaigning to be head coach. The setup would be terrible for trust and chemistry, especially if Lue isn’t on board.

I still think the Lakers will hire Lue. They’ve gone too far down this road to simply turn back now. But this is a messy situation.

Report: Lakers president Magic Johnson viewed as ‘absentee executive’

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Magic Johnson did a nice job setting up the Lakers to land a star free agent last summer. He even lured the biggest star free agent of all – LeBron James.

And then it all went downhill from there.

Johnson had terrible ideas of how to build a supporting cast around LeBron. The Lakers prioritized their notion of tough playmakers – Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley – over shooters. As if LeBron would truly be content playing off the ball. Of course, the player with the greatest combination of scoring and passing in NBA history wanted the ball in his hands. That left LeBron surrounded by ill-fitting, and just plain not-good-enough, teammates.

How did Johnson think this was a good plan?

Maybe by not working hard enough to come up with a better one.

Bill Oram of The Athletic:

Johnson is seen as an absentee executive

If Johnson isn’t putting in the work, that’d be a major problem for the Lakers. He wouldn’t be alone throughout the league, and the Lakers have other executives, including general manager Rob Pelinka. But Johnson is in charge of the front office. Running an NBA team’s basketball operations is a hard job that requires a lot of work to do well. It’s on him to move the Lakers forward – especially because he has so much job security.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss has repeatedly stated her faith in Johnson. She also defended Phil Jackson after the Knicks firing him despite him being unprepared, out of touch, unavailable and low energy. Buss just might have too much patience for lackluster work ethics, especially by people she’s close with.

And no wonder Johnson’s comments after not trading for Anthony Davis went over so poorly within the Lakers. Executives who build strong connections with their players can get through those situations. It’s much more difficult when the team president isn’t around to establish a bond in the first place.

To be fair, the Lakers were right to pursue Davis. He’s a superstar. The opportunity to land him justified potential chemistry disruptions.

But that wasn’t the Lakers’ only discussed move that showcases the organization’s flaws.

Oram:

on the weekend of Jan. 25, the Lakers had a tentative deal in place to acquire Bulls forward Jabari Parker in exchange for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Beasley, league sources told The Athletic.

Because he’s on a one-year contract and would have Early Bird Rights, Caldwell-Pope had the right to veto a trade. The Lakers also got into the mix for Davis, putting other deals on the backburner. So, the Parker trade never happened.

But it would have been awful for the Lakers. Parker would have been yet another player who doesn’t do enough without the ball.

At least the Lakers avoided that mistake.

To avoid the next one, they’ll probably need a front-office leader more focused on the job.

Otto Porter valued in Chicago

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DETROIT – Bulls guard Zach LaVine summarized the scouting report on the Wizards the last couple years.

John Wall and Bradley Beal: “A lot of the shots were going that way.”

Otto Porter: “He was just stuck in the corner.”

Porter is spreading his wings now. After getting traded to Chicago last month, Porter is filling a bigger role on a team pleased to have him.

The Bulls, especially after trading Justin Holiday, were desperate at small forward. Denzel Valentine has missed the entire season due to injury. Chicago’s option for a bigger wing were oversized (Jabari Parker), undersized (LaVine, Wayne Selden) or inexperienced (Chandler Hutchison).

“Every team needs a guy like Otto,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “But we definitely did.

“He comes in, and it’s like a calming of the sea.”

Chicago is 7-6 with Porter and 12-44 without him. Even just since acquiring Porter, the Bulls have outscored opponents by 1.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and gotten outscored by 9.0 points per 100 possessions without him.

Importantly, Porter has thrived with Chicago’s other healthy core players. The Bulls are +6.6 points per 100 possessions when Porter, LaVine and Lauri Markkanen share the court.

Effectively, Porter was an early free agent addition for Chicago. The Bulls dealt two players with expiring contracts – Parker (who definitely wasn’t returning) and Bobby Portis (who might’ve returned) – and a 2023 second-rounder to Washington.

The reason Porter was available: His large contract. He’s earning $26,011,913 this season and due $55,739,815 the next two years.

The tax-dodging Wizards were ready to move on. After stumbling with Parker, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo as big additions in free agency recently, Chicago wanted the known quantity.

Porter’s $26,011,913 salary is now the third-highest by a Bull. Only Michael Jordan ($33,140,000 in 1997-98 and $30,140,000 in 1996-97) earned more.

Here are the highest salaries by anyone on Chicago’s roster in the given season:

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The Wizards’ financial commitment to Porter was brief and forced upon them. Porter signed a four-year max offer sheet with the Nets in 2017. Coming off its best season in nearly four decades, Washington matched.

Yet that same offseason, Wall openly courted Paul George as an upgrade over Porter. This January, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said his team wouldn’t trade Porter then obviously did anyway.

Porter said the Wizards never told him their intentions had changed before trading him.

“It was all business,” Porter said. “It was nothing personal.”

Porter seems more welcomed by Chicago. LaVine lights up when discussing Porter. Asked whether Porter appears to be enjoying his expanded role, LaVine offered an enthusiastic “Hell yeah!”

In Washington, Porter contributed quietly. He shot well from the perimeter and spaced the floor. He avoided mistakes. He usually played sound defense. Teams need someone to create, but Porter looked like an ideal complementary player.

Porter has been tasked with much more in Chicago. He’s averaging 18.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game with the Bulls. His usage percentage (21.7) is 3.3 percentage points higher than it ever was with the Wizards. He has already finished more plays as pick-and-roll ballhandler in Chicago (75) than he did in Washington (64) this season.

“Anything that I can bring to this team, I’m going to do it,” Porter said. “There’s no holding back.”

I’m not sold on Porter having the ball in his hands so much long-term. It makes sense with these Bulls, but better teams will likely have other players more suited for creating shots. Still, this experience should at least aid Porter’s development for Chicago’s next phase – whatever that is.

The Bulls are in line for a high draft pick and project to have about $20 million in cap space this summer. Nail those opportunities – especially by upgrading at point guard, where Kris Dunn hasn’t been the answer – and Chicago could be onto something.

Porter said he loves playing for the Bulls. He has gotten a fresh start and a leadership position.

The 25-year-old Porter has played more playoff games (31) than any other Bull. Heck, he has played nearly as many as the rest of the roster combined. Robin Lopez (28 games), Wayne Selden (six games) and Cristiano Felicio (six games) are the only other Bulls with postseason experience.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Porter said. “But the thing that it is, we can grow together, learn together.”

The Bulls needed a competent small forward. They got one much better.

Porter doesn’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he has already improved the team’s dynamic. Young players develop better in steadier situations. The addition of Porter should help now and down the road.

“He’s a winning person and a winning player,” Boylen said, “and we’re really thankful for him.”

Bradley Beal’s late surge lifts Wizards to 121-115 win over Kings

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Bradley Beal scored 21 of his 27 points after halftime, helping the Washington Wizards beat the Sacramento Kings 121-115 on Monday night despite twice giving back double-digit leads.

Beal added nine rebounds and nine assists on the night.

With the win, the 11th-place Wizards moved within 3 1/2 games of the eighth Eastern Conference playoff spot currently held by idle Miami.

Jabari Parker added 18 points off the bench and Bobby Portis had 17 points and 13 rebounds as Washington began a five-game homestand.

De'Aaron Fox scored 23 points for the Kings, who started Monday four games back of three teams tied for the last three Western Conference playoff spots.

Reserve Nemanja Bjelica added 15 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento, which has lost six straight in Washington dating back to 2013.

After erasing all of the Wizards’ 14-point, first-half lead by the break, the Kings did the same to the Wizards’ 12-point edge in the second.

Buddy Hield‘s transition layup gave Sacramento its first lead after halftime with 3:41 to play, capping a 6-0 spurt and making it 112-111.

Jeff Green and Beal each hit a pair of free throws to answer before Beal followed with a tough contested layup to stretch it to 118-112 with 51 seconds left.

The Kings hit just one of their last seven shots after Hield’s layup.

 

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: ‘Recruiting process is really going alright…I’m trying’

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LeBron James went out of his way to say he was not recruiting guys on his free-agent heavy All-Star Team.

Bradley Beal had no such hesitation, he tried to recruit guys, as he told Chase Huges of NBC Sports Washington.

“The recruiting process is really going alright. It’s going alright. I’m trying,” Beal said. “This is new for me. I’m definitely getting some ears and seeing what guys are looking for.”

Beal was too smart to name names — that would have brought a fine from the league — but he said some guys asked if he was happy where he was, while other guys he talked to about the possibilities in Washington.

The problem is while the Wizards will have some cap space after trading Otto Porter and Markieff Morris (and assuming they don’t pick up the option on Jabari Parker) but they will be nowhere near the max cap space needed to land the elite free agents at the All-Star Game (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, etc.). Even the second-tier All-Star free agents such as Khris Middleton will get max offers. Same with players who just missed the game, such as Tobias Harris.

If the Wizards renounce free agents they can get to $9 million in cap space, stretch and waive Ian Mahinmi and they can get to $18 million. That’s the top end. Meaning the Wizards will have room to make moves for good rotation players, but with John Wall‘s supermax extension kicking in at $38 million next season flexibility is limited. Genuine upgrades will be hard to come by.

Predicting what Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld will do next summer is a fool’s errand, but Beal is doing his part to try and bring more talent into Washington.