Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

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LeBron James scores 30 as Lakers hold off Ja Morant, Grizzlies 109-108

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers knew they would be tired playing their second game in as many nights.

Experience made the difference against the young and rested Memphis Grizzlies.

James scored on a driving layup with 1:30 left to put Los Angeles ahead to stay as the Lakers held off the Grizzlies 109-108 on Saturday night for their seventh straight victory.

“We just kept our composure,” James said. “That’s what we do. We are a very resilient team.”

The Grizzlies had a final chance with the ball and 1.3 seconds left. Jaren Jackson Jr. went sprawling trying to corral Kyle Anderson‘s inbounds pass.

“I was going to catch it and see if I had time to get a shot off or hit Ja (Morant), who would’ve probably been running full speed right next to me,” Jackson said. “Obviously, we didn’t get to do all that.”

James finished with 30 points. Anthony Davis added 22, Rajon Rondo had 14, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 12 and Dwight Howard had 10.

Morant led Memphis with 26 points. Jae Crowder added 21, Jackson finished with 20, Dillon Brooks had 12 and Anderson scored 10, making rookie coach Taylor Jenkins very proud.

“If we can play like that every night, we have ourselves a chance,” Jenkins said.

The Lakers showed the effects of winning in Oklahoma City on Friday night. James made clear on social media he had trouble getting a nap with their hotel across the street from the FedExForum, where No. 16 Memphis beat Mississippi 87-86 earlier Saturday.

“We’re lucky to get out of here with a win. Credit to the Grizzlies for coming out strong,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who used earplugs to help him rest. “There young guys really came after us, in the first quarter in particular. Morant and Jackson are special talents and they put us in a hole.”

LA never led in the first half and trailed by as much as 15 in the second quarter. The Lakers got going in the third and opened the fourth by jumping out to their biggest lead at 94-87.

The Grizzlies led 105-100 on a tip-in by Brandon Clarke with 3:24 to go. The Lakers scored the next nine with James hitting his layup for the go-ahead bucket, and Davis followed by tipping in James’ miss for a 109-105 lead with 53.5 seconds left.

Morant’s layup with 28 seconds left pulled Memphis within a point. James missed a jumper with the Grizzlies grabbing the rebound to set up the final try.

The Grizzlies lost their third straight on a night they wore their Vancouver teal uniforms for the first time to celebrate their 25th NBA season along with a throwback court.

Memphis led 35-25 after the first quarter and 63-55 at halftime.

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.