JaVale McGee

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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
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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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.

Los Angeles Lakers officially sign Markieff Morris and waive DeMarcus Cousins

(Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers made official what had been reported a couple of days ago and signed forward Markieff Morris. In a corresponding move to open a roster spot, the Lakers waived center DeMarcus Cousins.

Morris was with the Detroit Pistons earlier this season and reached a buyout agreement last week. For the season, Morris has averaged 11 points per game on 45% shooting from the field. He’s extended his range and is hitting 39.7% on a career-high 4.3 attempts per game from behind the arc this season.

The Lakers signed Morris using the $1.75 million Disabled Player Exception they received after Cousins tore his ACL before the season. Los Angeles giving Morris the full DPE gave him almost three times the amount he would have earned via signing a prorated veteran minimum contract for the rest of the season.

Cousins was signed to a $3.5 million deal this summer with the hopes of him holding down the center position, as the Lakers rebuilt their roster following trading for Anthony Davis. Instead Cousins tore his ACL during workouts in mid-August and has missed the year.

Morris will give LA additional depth up front behind Davis, centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard and sixth-man Kyle Kuzma. Morris’ presence will also allow Frank Vogel to spot Davis some rest days over the last two months of the regular season.

‘There’s a possibility’ DeMarcus Cousins returns to Lakers for playoffs

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It remains a real longshot, but Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel isn’t shutting the door.

DeMarcus Cousins has not stepped on the court this season for the Lakers, having torn his left ACL in workouts over the summer. He’s still at Staples Center nearly every game, and is working on his rehab.

Deep into his press availability Saturday, Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel was asked if it’s possible Cousins could return this summer (hat tip to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports for noticing).

“He’s on track to get healthy by the playoffs, and we’ll have to see where he’s at with rhythm and conditioning and timing and all that stuff,” Vogel said. “But there’s a possibility he returns this season, yes.”

As much as Cousins is hungry for a ring, don’t bet on getting any serious run. The Lakers are legit title contenders who have gotten good play out of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard at center this season, and in the playoffs they likely will lean even more on Anthony Davis at the five (with LeBron James playing more four). Mix Cousins into that and it could throw off the rotations and rhythm of the team just as they enter the postseason.

How much Cousins could help the Lakers also would be up for debate. In last season’s NBA Finals, when Cousins was with Golden State, he was forced into heavier minutes because of injuries to Kevon Looney. While he had a strong Game 2 for them in a win — 11 points and 10 rebounds — for most of the series he hurt the Warriors. Cousins averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds a game, but shot 42.5 percent overall, 22.2 percent from three, and was a bigger liability on the other end of the court where the Raptors repeatedly attacked him through the pick-and-roll. The Warriors were offensively better with a very limited Looney on the court, once he was able to return.

Cousins is not the most mobile of players at this point, not surprising coming off an Achilles and ACL injury, but opposing teams will show no mercy.

Still, the door is open. If Cousins can get some run in less-stressful minutes and get his legs under him, who knows what we might see deep in the Lakers’ playoff run.