Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Lakers’

In a flash, the Los Angles Lakers transitioned from rebuilding a storied NBA franchise amid a down period to featuring a potential championship contender by bringing aboard 14-time All-Star LeBron James in free agency.

Head coach Luke Walton knows the pressure to succeed has increased tenfold, and that there’s going to be a new degree of drama surrounding his squad. Nonetheless, he’s ready to face the challenges head-on after going through a similar song and dance during his rookie year with the Lakers when Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined forces with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

“It’s gonna be completely nuts, but it’s also gonna be awesome,” Walton told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “The whole city’s gonna be behind us. We’re gonna be on SportsCenter every night. If we lose, it’s gonna be the end of the world. If we win, it’s gonna be wild. But no matter what, it’s gonna be fun.”

Walton also recalled the day he was informed of James’ decision to head to Hollywood, and how he spent roughly eight-and-a-half hours on the telephone after the news broke, which took him away from his Sunday family barbecue.

He chatted with his father, Bill, with Bryant, and even with Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, who helped guide James to two titles in South Beach.

“He (Spoelstra) said, ‘First of all, you’re getting a different LeBron,'” Walton said. ‘”We (the Heat) got him eight years ago when he hadn’t won a championship.’ But he’s like, ‘Dude, he works extremely hard. He’s so knowledgeable about the game. You gotta always be honest and prepared and ready to work hard. As long as you do those things, the relationship should be fine.'”

James has appeared in each of the last eight Finals as part of the Eastern Conference representative, while the Lakers haven’t even qualified for the postseason since 2013.

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Damian Lillard‘s heart lies in Rip City.

With rumors and insider scoops circulating linking the All-Star point guard to the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, Lillard made it abundantly clear on Sunday that he’s a Portland Trail Blazer through and through.

“I’m straight up. I’m straight up with Coach. I’m straight up with (general manager) Neil (Olshey). I’m straight up with ya’ll,” Lillard told reporters while appearing at Summer League, according to NBA.com’s Casey Holdahl. “I’m not unhappy. I love where I live, I love the organization, I love our coaching staff, I love who I am.”

While Lillard – who is locked into his current contract through 2020-21 – is enjoying his tenure with the only franchise he’s ever suited up for, the last thing he wants is for complacency to settle in. His goal is to win an NBA title, and with teams like the Lakers and even reigning champions Golden State Warriorsgetting stronger, Lillard hopes the Blazers will try and follow suit.

“Like I said last year, it’s the urgency of wanting to make those steps in the right direction so we can compete,” he added. “You’ve got people out here going all out to try and make it happen and I just want us to do the same thing. I feel like we’re trying to do that.”

Lillard did admit, however, that he was upset to see teammates Ed DavisPat Connaughton, and Shabazz Napier walk in free agency. This rang especially true for Davis, with Lillard tweeting out a broken heart emoji shortly after the news broke that Davis was signing with the Brooklyn Nets.

He also didn’t do much to dispel the Lakers rumors when someone on Twitter asked if he’d be fine with a move to L.A., simply responding with “I’m a typically happy camper.”

Portland finished third in the Western Conference last season on the back of a 49-win campaign, but was swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans, with guard Jrue Holiday helping hold Lillard to just 35.2 percent shooting.

It was the Blazers’ fifth straight postseason appearance, although the team has yet to advance past the second round.

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley is feeling increased pressure to win now that LeBron James is in town.

Gurley spoke about the impact James joining the Los Angeles Lakers will have on the Rams and himself Saturday during an appearance on the “PFT PM”podcast with Mike Florio.

“Once I heard about the LeBron signing, it just kind of made me wanna go out and just work out,” Gurley said. “The guy’s been to the Finals the last seven, eight years so that’s coming to the city. The NBA Finals is coming to the city. That’s what LeBron brings.

“… The Dodgers, who went to the World Series last year, and then you got a guy like LeBron, it just kind of motivates you as a player and as a team. You don’t wanna be the only team not making the playoffs or the Super Bowl or the World Series. So it’s definitely a motivational thing.”

Some Cleveland Cavaliers fans have already made the decision not to tune in next season following the departure of LeBron James.

A study conducted by Qualtrics found that 23 percent of fans who viewed half or more of the Cavs’ games during the 2017-18 season will no longer be watching, according to CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin.

The Cavs went a combined 97-215 with no playoff appearances during the four seasons James was with the Miami Heat, which could explain the lack of interest as fans prepare for another post-LeBron era. As Benjamin notes, secondary ticket marketplaces like StubHub and TickPick have reported price increases and decreases of up to 80 percent when James has arrived or departed in the past.

Interestingly, though, 33 percent of those surveyed said they believe James was fully justified moving to the Los Angeles Lakers, while only 14 percent consider it a cop-out.

A report emerged last week that Lonzo Ball had a torn meniscus in his left knee, but the Los Angeles Lakers know it didn’t leak from their end.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Lakers believe the injury was leaked from Ball’s camp, perhaps in an effort to discourage a trade out of Los Angeles following the curious acquisition of Rajon Rondo in free agency.

The Lakers prioritized player development last season, but their timeline has been expedited by the addition of LeBron James. Their new expectation is to challenge for a title, and the Lakers may potentially deal Ball and other prospects for a second All-Star – such as Kawhi Leonard – to assist James.

However, Ball and his family are situated in nearby Chino Hills, and would presumably love for him to remain with the Lakers.

Ball battled an MCL sprain in his left knee and suffered other small injuries that limited him to just 52 games last season. The Lakers have since placed a priority on his training regiment this summer, but it’s unclear if he’ll be on the roster at the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 20-year-old lead guard averaged 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.7 steals last season, although he only hit 36 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep.

The King is heading to Hollywood.

LeBron James has agreed to join the Los Angeles Lakers on a four-year, $154-million contract, his agency Klutch Sports Group announced. The fourth year of the contract is a player option, sources told Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania.

The 33-year-old point forward leaves his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers after averaging 26.1 points, eight assists, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game over four seasons. James led the Cavaliers to their first NBA championship at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season.

He reportedly did not meet in person with the Cavaliers when free agency commenced at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1, though he is said to have spoken with his former general manager, Koby Altman, shortly after the window opened. James was spotted at a Los Angeles airport on the eve of free agency.

The arrival of the generational talent suggests the Lakers may not be done this offseason. The current roster is largely built around recent blue-chip draftees – 2014 No. 7 pick Julius Randle, 2016 No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, and 2017 No. 2 and No. 27 picks Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, respectively – rather than established veteran talent. Some of those young players could be moved in a possible trade to acquire a second All-Star-caliber player.

The Lakers have long been tabbed as the preferred trade destination of San Antonio Spurs wing Kawhi Leonard, and the Spurs are reportedly engaged in trade talks with both the Lakers and Boston Celtics with regard to the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Free-agent center DeMarcus Cousins, who’s recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, is expected to schedule a meeting with the Lakers, as well.

But if recent history is any indication, James’ presence likely elevates the Lakers to contender status by his own gravitational pull alone. The 14-time All-Star has appeared in the last eight NBA Finals as the representative of the Eastern Conference and nine of the past 12 Finals overall, coming away with the 2012 and 2013 titles with the Miami Heat and the 2016 title with the Cavaliers.

Magic Johnson is putting his money where his mouth is.

The Los Angeles Lakers president said Tuesday that he will step down if the Lakers don’t land top free agents over the next two summers, according to Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus.

“If I fail, I shouldn’t be in this position,” Johnson said, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli.

Earlier Tuesday, Johnson told reporters that he felt no pressure to restore the purple and gold to prominence through free agency, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.

“You know how many (NBA) Finals I’ve been in? So do you think I’m worried about this?” he said.

The Lakers are in the midst of the franchise’s worst playoff drought ever. While they develop young players such as Lonzo Ball, local media and the team’s fan base also expect them to bring established superstars to Los Angeles.

That could include local products such as Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, or even the face of the NBA, LeBron James. That all remains to be seen with free agency beginning July 1, although the San Antonio Spurs have reportedly suggested they won’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team.

Johnson took over the presidency of the Lakers in February 2017.