Joakim Noah

Seven veteran free agents that could help teams now

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Cuts have been made and NBA rosters are set for the start of the season. Optimism abounds around the league.

However, it will only take a couple of weeks before glaring holes are exposed, injuries inevitably hit, and some GMs are scrambling to repair their rosters get their team back on track.

That’s where these veterans come in. Here are seven guys that can step in and help a team right now. They’re flawed players (or they wouldn’t still be free agents), but they’re names that will pop up once teams start scrambling in the coming weeks and months.

1) Iman Shumpert

Wing is a position of need around the NBA, and wing defenders in particular are in demand. While everyone knows Shumpert is not the peak defender he once was, he can still provide some solid play on the perimeter. Shumpert shot 34.8 percent last season, played in eight of the Rockets’ playoff games, and continues to be a respectable role player. The Grizzlies and Bulls are reportedly interested in Shumpert.

2) Jamal Crawford

Crawford may be 39 but he can still get some buckets off the bench. No doubt the three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, and his defense is an issue, but the man still averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season. He’s also improved the playmaking aspect of his game. Some team is going to turn to him for bench scoring.

3) Joakim Noah

He’s the best big man still on the board, and a guy the Lakers seriously considered until Dwight Howard convinced members of the staff there he is is a changed man. Noah had a good run the second half of last season with the Grizzlies — 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds a night, plus solid defense in the paint, playing more than 16 minutes a game — which showed he can still help a team out.

4) J.R. Smith

Cleveland waived Smith in a cost-cutting move, the Bucks quickly talked to him, but since then nothing has materialized. Smith is 34 and his skills are in decline, including shooting just 30.8 percent from three last season, but it’s too early to write him off. In the right situation, he could help a team off the bench with veteran play. Just don’t have him on the floor to close NBA Finals games anymore.

5) Kenneth Faried

When Clint Capela was out injured for the Rockets last season, Faried stepped in and played well — he averaged 12.9 points per game on 58.7 percent shooting in 25 games for the Rockets. He’s just 29, and he can be counted on to get buckets. What he can’t be counted on to do is defend very well, which is why no team has snapped him up (and why he fell out of the Rockets’ rotation last season). Still, he can bring energy off the bench for a team.

6) Corey Brewer

He came off the bench for the Kings at the end of last season, in a very limited role, and while he had a workout with the Rockets, Brewer has not found a new home. Wings are in demand, and Brewer would be a good fit for a team that likes to get out and run (he’s at his best in transition), but the fact he struggles as a shooter from three has teams hesitant. Still, once the season starts, don’t be surprised if some team picks Brewer up.

7) Carmelo Anthony

The reason he is on this list is his poor defense. Teams have questions about his willingness to play a role, the number of midrange jumpers he takes, his efficiency, how he would be a big story wherever he lands, and how the game has moved away from ‘Melo’s style of play, but in the end his defense remains the biggest stumbling block to landing on a new team. That said, nobody questions his talent or that he can still get buckets. If a team believes he will take a role off the bench, he could be a good pickup.

How Dwight Howard convinced the Lakers to take a chance on him

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Laker fans Friday sounded like your friends after an ugly relationship and breakup, when you suddenly consider taking that person back. Laker nation took to Twitter screaming “ARE YOU SERIOUS? What are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”

The Lakers, however, are entering a second relationship with Dwight Howard with their eyes wide open — he will sign a non-guaranteed contract to be the team’s center (sharing duties with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee). Howard will have to prove himself, on and off the court. The Lakers have leverage and can waive Howard and move on to Joakim Noah or someone else quickly if things do not pan out.

But how did it even get to this point? How did Howard — who did his annual summer media tour saying “I have changed, I am taking the game and my conditioning seriously, I just want a chance” and league observers shrugged because they have heard the same thing for years — convince the Lakers to roll the dice on him again? Shams Charania of The Athletic laid it all out.

Howard’s message to [Laker assistant coach Jason] Kidd and the Lakers was the same one he delivered to The Athletic in July from NBA summer league: He’s learned from the past several seasons, learned that, at age 33, he is simply one of the guys now. Howard believes he can contribute at a high level for any NBA team, but the eight-time All-Star also understands he has to focus on rebounding, defense, blocking shots, finishing around the rim and simply playing whenever he is asked… Kidd became convinced about Howard’s newfound awakening…

The Lakers then began setting workouts for free agents, and Howard traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Wednesday. His meeting and workout with the Lakers was set for Thursday, but Howard went to the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Wednesday afternoon for his own training session. The Lakers were surprised to see him, sources said, and many key decision makers were in attendance…

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

Howard has said all that before. Multiple times. To multiple teams and teammates. Maybe this time he has genuinely figured things out, but whatever he did and said was enough to convince the Lakers to buy in…

To a point.

One could argue — and I would make the case — that Noah would be a better fit on the court for the Lakers’ needs in terms of passing and defense, but he comes with plenty of risks as well (health, getting along with LeBron James, and how much he liked the nightlife as a Knick in New York and what that would mean in L.A.). At least with Howard, the Lakers mitigated that risk with the non-guaranteed contract. If Howard will not accept his role and is disruptive (as he has been in recent stops), if he is still eating candy like a bingeing 10-year-old on Halloween night, if he can’t stay healthy, the Lakers can waive Howard and move on. If the Lakers brought in Noah, they would have been smart to have the same non-guaranteed contract (if Noah would have signed that kind of deal).

For now the Lakers have their man, but he’s basically on probation. Howard has to prove in deeds everything he has said in words.

Report: Dwight Howard agrees to buyout with Grizzlies, will join Lakers on non-guaranteed deal

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Once again, the Lakers are betting that Dwight Howard and his back are healthy. However, this time the Lakers have hedged that bet.

After a workout this week in front of Lakers’ coaches and front office staff, Howard’s agent has worked out a buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies, and Howard will sign with Los Angeles, filling the role that had belonged to DeMarcus Cousins before he tore his ACL this summer. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added vital details.

There’s a segment of Lakers’ fans — a large, vocal segment — that is going to hate this move because of the history. The Lakers get that, but the coaches and staff also know this: If he’s healthy, and if he’s willing to accept a role on the court, if he’s willing to adapt how he is in the locker room and with the staff and front office (there are reasons Howard has bounced from team to team to team in recent years), Howard is the best fit for the Lakers on the court.

Last time Howard was a Laker back issues limited him on the court, and his not taking the game or his conditioning very seriously (Howard has a legendary candy-eating habit) rubbed Kobe Bryant the wrong way. To put it mildly. LeBron James is going to bring that same work ethic and attitude, but now the Lakers have some leverage on Howard with the non-guaranteed contract.

The Lakers had planned to lean heavily on Cousins this season. The Lakers have arguably the best center in the game today in Anthony Davis, but he does he want to play 30+ minutes a night banging away down in the post (nor is he physically built for that). Cousins was going to be the center much of the game, with Davis sliding over to the five for key stretches. But Cousins is almost certainly lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Howard was the best potential fit to replace Cousins on the court, or at least do so in combination with JaVale McGee (it’s going to take both of them to soak up all the minutes at the five the Lakers need). For three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Howard averaged 13+ points and 12 rebounds a night, was a big body on defense, and played at least 71 games in averaging 30 minutes a night. Exactly the kind of player the Lakers could use. The problem was Howard was never happy just playing that role and doing those things, which led to disruptions as he pushed for a larger role.

There are two key concerns bringing in Howard. Health is one, Howard played just nine games for the Wizards last season following another back surgery and some hamstring issues. The other is Will Howard accept the role he is given, play hard, and not be a distraction?

If Howard doesn’t fit, the Lakers also worked out Joakim Noah — who impressed a lot of people around the league with his solid 41 games for Memphis the second half of last season — and Mo Speights. They will have other options.

But for now, the Lakers are betting on Howard.

 

 

Report: Lakers working out Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Marreese Speights; interested in Marcin Gortat

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
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What will the Lakers do at center after DeMarcus Cousins‘ injury?

They’re apparently progressing with a couple reported candidatesDwight Howard and Joakim Noah. Marreese Speights and Marcin Gortat are also seemingly in the mix.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Howard was effective as recently as two seasons ago (at least on the court). But he missed nearly all of last season due to injury. If the 33-year-old looks healthy in his workout, he’s probably the choice.

Howard has talked big annually about being a better teammate and filling his role. Expect the Lakers to hear the same message from him. There’s no way he can credibly convince anyone he’s serious this time. In a limited market, Los Angeles might have to just roll the dice.

Noah looked good with the Grizzlies after getting bought out by the Knicks last season. The Lakers could use a defensive-minded low-usage player like him – if he can sustain the production he showed in Memphis. With Noah 34 years old, that’s far from guaranteed. Playing in Los Angeles would also raise questions about his partying, though I think there were unique factors for Noah in his native New York.

Would LeBron James approve of Noah? They have a history, including Noah calling the big-three Heat, “Hollywood as hell.” That’s a very specific insult by someone who could join LeBron on the Lakers.

Speights is more of a gunner than it seems the Lakers need with LeBron and Anthony Davis. At least Speights would space the floor for those two. However, Speights – never a great defender – looked way too slow with the Magic two years ago. The 32-year-old spent last season in China.

Gortat, 35, is the oldest of the over-the-hill centers under consideration. He was pretty limited for the Clippers before they waived him last season.

Lakers reportedly doing ‘due diligence’ in talking to Dwight Howard

Associated Press
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The Lakers were going to lean heavily on DeMarcus Cousins this season. Los Angeles has arguably the best center in the game today in Anthony Davis, but he is not built for nor does he want to play 30+ minutes a night banging away down in the post. Davis wants to face up, run the floor, and play most of his minutes at the four next to a more traditional center, then slide over in key matchups and situations. Cousins was going to be that center (he and Davis have some chemistry from their time together in New Orleans).

Now Cousins is almost certainly lost for the season with a torn ACL, and the Lakers are left looking through the guys other teams have yet to sign to try to find a Cousins replacement. There are not a lot of good options, which is why the Lakers wisely plan to take their time and look at everyone.

Dwight Howard is part of that process. While the Howard camp may be excited about the prospect of returning and gaining redemption in Los Angeles, for the Lakers this is more about part of the process, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Again, as with all of free agency, when you read about a sourced story (about Howard and the Lakers for example), think about who benefits from it being public and telling a reporter about it. Think about the reporter’s connections. Shelburne is very well connected to the Laker organization, for example.

The Lakers absolutely need to take a long look at Howard. After he left Los Angeles, Howard eventually found a groove as a quality NBA center. From the 2015-16 to 2017-18 seasons, Howard averaged 13+ points and 12 rebounds a night, was a big body on defense, and played at least 71 games in all of those seasons at about 30 minutes a night. Exactly the kind of player the Lakers could use right now. However, Howard played just nine games for the Wizards last season following another back surgery and some hamstring issues. He was not healthy.

The Lakers have to decide how healthy Howard is and would he be able to bounce back to the level he was in those previous three seasons? Even if he can, is he a better option than Joakim Noah, who impressed a lot of people around the league with his solid 41 games for Memphis the second half of last season? What about Kenneth Faried?

Los Angeles has a lot to consider. Howard should be part of that mix, but don’t expect a quick decision here. The Lakers have almost a month until training camp opens and are not in a rush, they want to get this right.