JaVale McGee

J.R. Smith at Lakers game
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Report: Lakers to sign J.R. Smith

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The lasting memory of J.R. Smith in the NBA: Forgetting the score in the NBA Finals.

He’ll have a chance to change the narrative.

The shooting guard is set to reunite with former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James on the Lakers, who won’t have Avery Bradley for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Smith will turn 35 during the scheduled playoffs. He hasn’t played well in four years.

I wouldn’t expect much.

But Smith has chemistry with LeBron, who excels at attracting attention and dishing to 3-point shooters like Smith. On a good team, Smith won’t face the issues that doomed his finish in Cleveland.

Smith will likely fall behind Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo in Los Angeles’ perimeter rotation. Though Smith might get spot minutes, the Lakers will definitely miss Bradley’s feisty defense. Smith isn’t duplicating that.

Also: Smith, Dion Waiters, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee now all play for the same team. Nay, the same championship contender.

Pau Gasol: ‘Playing my last year with the Lakers would be great’

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Pau Gasol planned to come off the bench in Portland this season, but he could never recover from foot surgery and the team ended up waiving him.

Gasol has contemplated retirement, but he wants to play for Spain in the Tokyo Olympics. With those games pushed back into the summer of 2021, Gasol would like to play one more NBA season, his 20th.

How about returning to the Lakers? He’s open to it, Gasol told Ryan Ward of ClutchPoints.

“It’s something that has been on my mind. Kind of like the potential of maybe finishing or playing my last year with the Lakers would be great. It’s appealing if you will, but the opportunity never really kind of presented itself in a serious official manner.

“I have a great relationship and love for Jeanie [Buss] and the Lakers organization and the city of Los Angeles, which is always going to remain extremely meaningful to me no matter what, but we’ll see.”

This seems unlikely but never say never in the NBA. Gasol is beloved in Los Angeles, where he won two titles playing next to Kobe Bryant.

Gasol signing anywhere for next season would have to start with him proving healthy enough to play and contribute — he only played 30 games in 2018-19, zero this season, and he will turn 40 before next season. It feels like Gasol’s Hall of Fame career may have come to an end, he would need to convince a team he still has gas in the tank.

The Lakers’ center spot is more fluid. Dwight Howard will be a free agent after this season and has played well enough — and fit in well enough — that he might get offers for more than the minimum he made this season. Then there is JaVale McGee, who has a $4.2 million early termination option (basically a player option), but he likely sticks with the Lakers for another season. With the decreased salary cap next season, and considering the NBA is already shifting toward treating the center spot as a position to save money (except for the handful of truly elite bigs), the Lakers should not need to spend money to have options at center next to Anthony Davis (who will play some key minutes at the five, just not steady minutes, he wants to be at the four).

It would take a lot for Gasol to fill that role. That said, one of the smartest and best guys in the league, Gasol will fit in any locker room. Including the Lakers.

Two Lakers players test positive for coronavirus

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NBA players union Executive Director Michelle Roberts said Wednesday to expect more NBA players would test positive for the coronavirus.

That didn’t take long.

Two Lakers have tested positive for the virus, the team confirmed Thursday (Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news). Players were tested Wednesday in the wake of the announcement that members of the Brooklyn Nets — who the Lakers played the Tuesday night before the league was shut down — tested positive.

The Lakers players were not identified. We know it is not JaVale McGee, who is relatively high risk for a professional athlete because he has asthma.

“We learned today that two Lakers players have tested positive,” the team said in a statement. “Both players are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team’s physician.

“All players and members of the Lakers staff are being asked to continue to observe self-quarantine and shelter at home guidelines, closely monitor their health, consult with their personal physicians and maintain constant communication with the team.”

There is no way to know if the Lakers’ players caught the virus during the Brooklyn game, with this fast-moving strain it could have come from a number of other possibilities.

Throw in the positive test of Boston’s Marcus Smart and that makes 10 players and seven franchises (if you count basketball operations staff) who have someone test positive for the coronavirus. Most have been asymptomatic, but a few have shown the impact of COVID-19.

The NBA remains suspended, with games likely on hold until June at the earliest and the playoffs potentially stretching into August. The Lakers sit as the top seed in the West and a serious title contender, when (if?) play resumes.

Mock NBA expansion draft: Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Kings

Mock NBA expansion draft
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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division and the Central Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Pacific:

Golden State Warriors

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: The Warriors have their core together with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Ky Bowman, Marquese Chriss, Damion Lee and Eric Paschall provide value on minimum contracts. That’s all the Warriors need to protect.

Golden State wouldn’t mind seeing Kevon Looney or Jordan Poole selected to get the salaries off the cap sheet. The rest of the players are ones the Warriors won’t lose any sleep over if they’re drafted.

L.A. Clippers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: L.A. has its main guys with four starters under contract. They aren’t being exposed here. The other three players are key bench contributors on good contracts. And Kabengele and Mann were just drafted. Easy decisions across the board for the Clippers.

L.A. could lose Green as a free agent. The Clippers also bet he does undrafted and could return. Rodney McGruder makes too much money for his role.

Los Angeles Lakers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: The Lakers and Anthony Davis will work out that he’ll opt out before the expansion draft, which makes him ineligible. The rest of the players are role players that Los Angeles would rather keep around LeBron James than risk losing.

Los Angeles won’t be upset to see Quinn Cook or Rajon Rondo selected. They’re both replacement-level players for the Lakers at this point.

Phoenix Suns

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Phoenix keeps it simple and protects all the guys who are part of its core. The Suns could have left Dario Saric unprotected, but by protecting Saric, they keep the flexibility to re-sign him as a restricted free agent. The rest are all easy decisions.

Of the unprotected players, none of have established themselves as NBA rotation players. If any are selected, Phoenix won’t lose any sleep over it.

Sacramento Kings

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Kings will protect their five starters and three key reserves. Cory Joseph is a decision-point, but considering De’Aaron Fox’s injury issues, Joseph is too valuable to let walk away.

Sacramento won’t mind if Jabari Parker is selected, but they aren’t going to pay anyone to do it. Justin James has been an interesting prospect, but the Kings won’t stress if he gets selected.

Lakers, DeMarcus Cousins reportedly may talk new contract next summer

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Sunday, the Lakers waived DeMarcus Cousins to clear out a roster space for Markieff Morris. Cousins was signed last July to be the team’s starting center, but he tore his ACL in training and has not stepped on the court this season. It wasn’t personal, it was business, and under the terms of the CBA Cousins can continue his rehab in the Lakers’ practice facilities.

Cousins may be officially gone, but he could return next season to the Lakers, reports Joe Vardon at The Athletic.

But the Lakers could re-sign him this summer, something both sides have expressed interest in pursuing, sources said.

This would be a one-year minimum contract deal, and it makes sense for both sides. Dwight Howard is a free agent and, after a resurgent (but not elite) season in Los Angeles, likely will get offers for more than the Lakers can pay him. JaVale McGee has a $4.2 million player option. Whatever McGee decides, the Lakers will be looking for another big man (and maybe two). Cousins could step right in.

What he can offer on the court coming off a torn Achilles and ACL remains to be seen, but the Lakers will not ask a lot of their centers. Cousins is a two-time All-NBA, four-time All-Star player who should still be able to give the Lakers some solid minutes in the paint.

The Lakers will keep their options open, but don’t be surprised if the two sides reunite.