/Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on the Los Angeles Lakers, the Eastern Conference and more

Morning Tip Mailbag: Your questions on the Los Angeles Lakers, the Eastern Conference and more

NBA9 July, 2018

Someone dig up Randy Newman. They’re back. From Buddy Phipps:

It seems to be fashionable to issue hot takes on the Lakers — that their signings post-LeBron make no sense; or they are bringing in ball-dominant veterans to build a win-now club with LeBron in the post as a secondary creator.

I always thought it made more sense for him to be a secondary creator if he went to the Lakers — he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands, but his relative value compared to the rest of the roster is far higher as a threat off-ball, which might also let him conserve some more energy for defense. But the greatest value I see from Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson is in what they could bring to the culture of the team. Rajon is a proven leader and culture builder from his last two stops who could help train Lonzo Ball to maximize his skillset even if he doesn’t develop a reliable jump shot.

Lance is a poor man’s Draymond Green from a culture standpoint; bringing energy and fearless communication to the team culture. Certainly, that could still work with maximizing the current roster, and with trying to get great free agents in the future — it’s a high-quality, flexible plan. Still, it makes me wonder if they are truly building for the present, or even with free agency in mind, or if the focus is really on developing the young talent that they have?

There’s another shoe to drop next summer, Buddy — with all due respect, LeBron didn’t leave Cleveland and his home because of Lance, Rondo, etc. With James on the ground in L.A., the Lakers are all but assured to get one of the group of elite players who’ll be unrestricted in 2019 — Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker or someone else who shakes free or is otherwise available. In the interim, James will be surrounded by tough-minded, veteran, defense-centric players (along with the re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) who’ll create turnovers and allow LeBron to take a break at that end of the court — where his effectiveness has dropped off significantly the last couple of seasons.

 
How will LeBron James and the Lakers work out together next season?

They’ll all help the young guys advance their learning curves. I wouldn’t pencil them in for a Western Conference finals just yet, but they’re just starting their rise back up to the top. This will be a 2-3 year process.

Indy Films Are Almost Always Compelling. From Nicholas Small:

Soooo I know Indy isn’t the biggest market, but Pacers had a great season when nobody expected and gave top teams in East all they could handle last year. They picked up Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans and got better under the radar. Why are people (not) mentioning the fact that in an East without LeBron, the Pacers should be contenders? Now have four lottery picks in the last five years: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and McDermott. They can possibly be a top-three team in East.

Indy’s had a productive offseason, to be sure — Evans was a great pickup, and Kyle O’Quinn might be even better for the cost outlay. (I hope McDermott can stick; I still think there’s a good player in there.) Definitely agree that a top three finish is possible; the Pacers can score, will have quality depth and are well coached.

When D.C. doesn’t stand for Disappointing, Constantly. From Tucker Morris:

I think my team, the Wizards, did pretty well in free agency. We finally traded Marcin Gortat (who was often a liability on the court) for a still young Austin Rivers (who could possibly be a sixth man of the year candidate if it works out well). We are set to sign Dwight Howard who, despite being heckled by the media, is still a great big who grabs boards and rises above the rim. We also brought in Jeff Green for the minimum. Getting Green and Rivers adds depth to our team that we have never really had before. If everyone steps up, I think the Wizards have a chance at winning the East. If that’s too much to ask, maybe getting a top-three seed is more realistic. What do you think?

Considering their cap limitations, the Wizards did fine — though I wouldn’t be thrilled with an option year for 2019 for Howard if I were a Wizards fan. Next summer is so crucial for them. If they don’t make a major move to upgrade their talent, it’s going to be very, very difficult to do so any time later, with John Wall and Bradley Beal eating up increasingly large chunks of the cap. And any dollar already spoken for hurts that effort (though I suppose it’s possible an opted-in Howard could have some trade value next summer). But, to your point: bringing in Howard, Rivers and Green should give Washington a more versatile nine-man rotation to use in a more navigable East next season.

 
The Clippers and Wizards pulled off a swap early in the summer.

Pencil me in. From Roderick Moy:

When will the NBA schedule be released?

Normally, it comes out in early August. My guess is it’s not yet finalized, given some of the player movement we’ve seen already — starting obviously with LeBron opting for the Lakers. The Lakers tend to be close to maxed out every year with national TV appearances no matter how good or bad they are, such is their national appeal; but LeBron leaving Cleveland means his old team, the Cavs, are now being excised with haste from ESPN and TNT master schedules. And if the Spurs decide to trade Kawhi Leonard, my guess is they’ll also not be a priority for the networks and have their TV footprint reduced as well. So, another few weeks.

Send your questions, comments and cool drinks when it’s too hot for the hot tubto [email protected]. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

BY THE NUMBERS

6,829 — Career assists for Tony Parker, 19th all-time in NBA history and the Spurs’ franchise leader, after reportedly agreeing to a two-year deal last week to join the Charlotte Hornets after spending 17 seasons in San Antonio. Parker is second on the Spurs’ all-time list in games played (1,198) and minutes played (37,236), and is fourth in points (18,493).

14 — Players in Lakers franchise history who have worn the number 23, the latest being Gary Payton II. LeBron James will be the 15th after reportedly agreeing to a four-year deal in Los Angeles last week, joining Ed Kalafat, Boo Ellis, Jim Barnes, Stu Lantz (the team’s long-time TV analyst), Lou Hudson, Tony Jackson, Jerome Henderson, Reggie Jordan, Cedric Ceballos, Mario Bennett, Mitch Richmond, Von Wafer, Lou Williams and Payton II.

$50,000,000 — Potential luxury tax payments the Nuggets saved for 2019 by agreeing to trade Wilson Chandler and future Draft picks to the 76ers last week for cash. After agreeing to a max extension for center Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets had to shed at least one significant contract — one of either Chandler or Kenneth Faried ($13.7 million next season) — to avoid significant luxury tax jail next year. Philly says it plans to keep the31-year-old Chandler rather than re-route him in any potential trade packages.

I’M FEELIN’ …

1) I wouldn’t plan a parade down Beale Street just yet, but the Grizzlies have had a good couple of weeks, drafting Jaren Jackson, Jr., and Jevon Carter, and then getting Spurs forward Kyle Anderson after San Antonio declined Sunday to match the Grizzlies’ four-year, $37 million offer sheet for the third-year forward. Memphis lost Tyreke Evans to Indiana in free agency, and that’s not nothing; the Grizzlies, as everyone around the league watched in shock, didn’t move Evans at the trade deadline last February while in full tank mode, when they could have gotten a good asset for him, insisting they’d be able to re-sign him. But getting Jackson, Carter and SloMo are a good recovery, and if Mike Conley, Jr., is back and healthy next year, the debut of Grit-N-Grind 2.0 shouldn’t be too far away.

 
Jaren Jackson Jr. has shown solid flashes of potential in Summer League play.

2) Dan Gilbert used both the right tone and the right font this time in his statement after LeBron James announced he was leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to play for the Lakers. As Gilbert wrote, no one can ever take away the Cavs’ historic 2016 championship — and both James and Gilbert were chiefly responsible for making that happen. They’ll be linked forever.

3) Congrats to the Lynx’s Rebekkah Brunson on becoming the WNBA’s all-time rebounder last week.

3a) And congrats to the Mystics’ Mike Thibault, who became the first coach in WNBA history to win his 300thgame in the league last week, a big road triumph over the L.A. Sparks.

4) The President of the United States refers to people like this in my business as The Enemy of the People.

NOT FEELIN’…

1) You lose the ability to be stunned if you work in this business long enough, but hearing that former UCLA star Tyler Honeycutt was killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police Friday is hard to process. When he came out of Westwood, I thought Honeycutt had a real shot to make an NBA roster. It never worked out for him, though, after being taken high in the second round in 2011 by Sacramento; he played briefly in two years there before being traded to Houston in 2013. He never played for the Rockets, though he did play briefly for their G League affiliate, but had been playing well overseas the last few years. We will find out in due course what led him to where he was Friday in L.A., and what happened there. It will not erase the monumental sadness at contemplating the end of a life far too soon.

1A) RIP as well to Cliff Rozier,who passed last week to a heart attack at age 45. The former first-round pick of the Warriors in 1994 played in 173 games over three-plus NBA seasons, mostly for Golden State.

1B) And, RIP to Hall of Famer Frank Ramsey,who passed away Sunday. The seven-time NBA champion was one of the great Celtics in the Bill Russell era, playing all nine of his pro seasons in Boston from 1954-64 (he served in the Army during the 1955-56 season). On a Celtics roster full of All-Stars, Ramsey was one of the first NBA players to thrive in what came to be known as the “sixth man,” totaling 8,378 points, 16thmost in franchise history. His number 23 was retired by the Celtics in 1964 after his final season with the team.

1C) What an awful week.

2) Almost every NBA career ends the way Tony Parker’s will — not with the team with whom he became famous and will be remembered when he goes into the Hall of Fame. But they almost all end this way. So, Parker will reportedly play for the Hornets this coming season and next, and hopefully after that will re-sign for a valedictory in San Antonio, where he was one of the best point guards of his generation — a Finals MVP in 2007 and a fierce competitor at the highest level, the winner of four championships and a central figure with one of the best organizations in the history of team sports.

Tony Parker remains one of the all-time greats in Spurs lore.

3) The sudden and startling end of microfracture surgery for almost all NBA players.

4) I like Thon Maker, a lot.This was a terrible lapse in judgment, though.

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Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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