Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Quinn Cook says Lakers chemistry impressive, some players already working out together

12 Comments

The Lakers enter this season title contenders. Which is where the franchise always believes it belongs.

To be a threat to win it all, two things have to happen for the Lakers. First, LeBron James and Anthony Davis need to stay healthy for the playoffs (health matters to every contending team).

Second, the interesting and diverse patchwork of role players the Lakers put around LeBron and Davis have to come together and contribute in meaningful ways. There needs to be real chemistry.

Quinn Cook, one of those role players the Lakers need, told Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype that relationship is coming together.

We have our team group chat going and the guys are very active in it. It feels like this team has been together for a while. Everyone has been really active in the group chat. Ever since I signed, I went straight to Los Angeles and I’ve been working out with Bron, Kuz, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale [McGee]. We’ve been working on a lot of stuff and I’m getting a chance to learn from the coaching staff, getting a chance to talk to Coach Vogel a lot and work out with Coach [Miles] Simon. Everyone has been so welcoming since day one when I signed. I know the other guys will start to trickle in; it’s still really early in the summer. As guys trickle in, we’ll keep working hard and getting ready for the season. All of the guys are really excited to get things going, man. I know this NBA season will be one of the better ones for everyone – from players to coaches to fans. If you’re a fan of basketball, this season will be amazing.

It’s a good sign for the Lakers this is happening organically, especially with a roster loaded with new faces.

Also, know that just about every team can say the same thing right now as players start to ramp up their workouts heading into the season. Each team is different and some have more established chemistry already, but this is not uncommon.

It’s going to be a wild NBA season in Los Angeles. This is just the start.

Report: Lakers to make LeBron James starting point guard

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
3 Comments

The Lakers pitched LeBron James on playing more off the ball.

That plan predictably flopped.

His supporting cast was lacking. Though he indicated a desire to spend more time off the ball, when push came to shove, LeBron took over. Just like always.

This year, there won’t be any pretenses.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The new-look Los Angeles Lakers are heading into the 2019-20 season with the intention of starting LeBron James at point guard, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Lakers’ other options at starting point guard:

So, LeBron will now fill a position of need while opening a starting forward spot that can be filled by someone better than those other point guards. The Lakers could start Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Kyle Kuzma in the frontcourt. But who besides Danny Green will defend opposing guards?

The Lakers could also start Green and either Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Avery Bradley in a three-guard lineup with LeBron running the point but defending a forward. At that point, there wouldn’t be a massive difference in LeBron’s role relative to what he has always done.

No matter what, the offense will run through LeBron. By naming LeBron point guard, the Lakers just avoid starting another player who operates primarily with the ball. In the micro, this is a good, clarifying move.

In the macro, LeBron is 34 years old. If he’s tasked with bring up the ball and initiating the offense every time, that adds to his load. When playing forward next to a point guard, it’s easier for LeBron to defer at times.

Expect this to make the Lakers better – as long as LeBron’s health holds up.

Report: Lakers signing Avery Bradley for two years, $9.7 million

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
2 Comments

When the Clippers traded Tobias Harris last season, many assumed they’d fall from the playoff race. But they went 18-9 down the stretch and came as close to the No. 1 seed as ninth place.

Why did the Clippers finish so well? One key reason: They traded Avery Bradley.

That wasn’t the only reason. They got a couple useful players for Bradley – JaMychal Green (whom they’re re-signing) and Garrett Temple. L.A. also unloaded Marcin Gortat, another starter who was quietly struggling.

But make no mistake, the Clippers shedding Bradley – whose stature kept him in a major role – helped them win.

Now that the Grizzlies are waiving him, Los Angeles’ other team will take a swing on Bradley.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This looks the room exception, which is worth $9,772,350 ($4,767,000 next season, $5,005,350 the following season). That’s a lot for Bradley.

The 28-year-old appears to be past his prime. Bradley’s rank among shooting guards in real plus-minus the last few years:

  • 2015-16: 13th
  • 2016-17: 47th
  • 2017-18: 65th
  • 2018-19: 90th

Maybe Bradley can reverse that decline in a limited role around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But there are many flaws to fix.

Bradley is an OK 3-point shooter, but he’s woeful inside the arc. Yet, he frequently forces 2-pointers off the dribble, and he rarely draws fouls or sets up teammates. His defense has slipped significantly.

Though he has theoretical skills for the role, Bradley hasn’t looked like a complementary player in a while. That’ll have to change quickly for him to help the Lakers.

Danny Green should start ahead of Bradley. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is also better and better-fitting than Bradley. But the Lakers are thin at small forward, so there will likely be minutes for Bradley as the team uses three-guard lineups.

The big questions: Will Bradley play well enough to deserve the opportunity his stature will surely provide? If not, how will he and the Lakers handle it?

Report: Lakers signing DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
4 Comments

Anthony Davis called the Pelicans losing DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondotough.” Maybe relatedly, Davis decided to leave New Orleans.

Now, Davis, Cousins and Rondo will reunite with the Lakers.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers’ first several free-agent agreements were with players who contribute without the ball – Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels. That’s important on a team led by LeBron James, who should have the offense run through him.

Cousins and Rondo are departures from the strategy of loading up on complementary players.

LeBron can’t do everything alone. There’s a fine line between a helpful additional creator and someone who clashes with LeBron.

Both Cousins and Rondo appear to be past their peaks. Cousins, who turns 29 this summer, has missed substantial time the last couple years with a ruptured Achilles and torn quad. It’ll take major work for him to regain his star status or anything close to it. Rondo, 33, has exited his prime.

Cousins likely came cheap, maybe even a minimum contract. The market on him had cooled. Considering his upside, this was a fine bet by the Lakers based on basketball ability. He’s so skilled for his size. Cousins could work well enough with LeBron and Davis.

Rondo, on the other hand, has already shown to be a terrible fit with LeBron. Rondo might even be the Lakers’ starting point guard. Though the fit is awful, there aren’t many capable point guards remaining in free agency. The problem was the Lakers putting themselves in position where Rondo has even a case as the best option.

Cousins and Rondo also bring a lot of, um, personality to a team that already has plenty. There is risk of increasing locker room combustibility, even at their low salaries. As everyone predicted, that became a problem last season. Apparently, the Lakers aren’t too concerned about a repeat.

Lakers move fast to bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee

Harry How/Getty Images
11 Comments

Kawhi Leonard taking his time to come to a decision — it was less than six days, remember LeBron’s “The Decision” was July 8, but free agency moved a lot faster this year — hurt the Lakers more than any other of the teams in the mix for Leonard.

The Lakers had two top-seven NBA stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but now rather than add a third star the Lakers were scrambling early Saturday morning to round out their roster. A lot of the players they might have targeted — J.J. Redick, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Ross, even bringing back D'Angelo Russell, just to name a few — were off the table.

The Lakers moved fast to get Danny Green but paid a lot to get him at two-years, $30 million. Then they moved to bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Last season McGee started 62 games for the Lakers and averaged 12 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, with an efficient True Shooting percentage of 63.4. While Davis is far and away the best center on the Laker roster, he prefers to play as a four next to a more traditional five, which means McGee likely starts at center this season for the Lakers. (As a side note, this is where the Ivica Zubac trade last season hurts the Lakers even more.)

Caldwell-Pope averaged 11.4 points per game and shot 34.7 percent from three, plus he played solid defense. He was overpaid and certainly was brought in originally (two seasons ago) in part because he was a Rich Paul client (the agent of LeBron and Davis), but he has played solidly for them. This contract is at a reasonable rate, close to the league average.

The Lakers made decent moves to start rounding out their roster without Leonard, as much as could be expected with where the market stood on July 6. However, the fits are not going to be ideal at this point and it’s going to take adjusting throughout the season as well (both with trades and grabbing guys off waivers from other teams who fit).