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Morning shootaround — Oct. 21

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 20


Buss defends Bryant extension | Aldridge: Kobe was bright spot in Lakers’ pitch | Drummond passes on extension | Noah a sixth man in 2015-16?

No. 1: Buss defends Bryant extension, fires back at Johnson — Los Angeles Lakers executive Jim Buss has not lacked in the critics department. From analysts to ex-Lakers players to fans, many have questioned the moves Buss has made in steering the Lakers back into relevance, let alone NBA title contention. One such move that is questioned was Buss giving Kobe Bryant a two-year, $45.8 million extension in 2013. Since then, injuries have limited Bryant to 41 games (out of a possible 164). But Buss stands by his move and explains why in an interview with USA Today‘s Sam Amick:

The Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations made it clear that he has no regrets about the controversial contract.

“You give Kobe Bryant $50 million for two years,” Buss told USA TODAY Sports in a wide-ranging interview. “Are you kidding me? What did he bring us? In this day and age, what did he bring us, for 20 years? And if that isn’t what you’re supposed to do, then I have no idea what life is all about.

“You pay the guy. You believe in the guy. If he ends up (staying healthy), that’s fantastic. Well everybody (in the media) cut me up for that, but I’d say over 200 fans have come up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for letting my kid see Kobe Bryant for two more years.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m glad I can see him for two more years.’ ”

Even now, as the Lakers approach the start of their latest regular season, Bryant is missing preseason games because of a left leg contusion suffered against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

Give Buss credit for this much: He’s transparent about how he sees the Bryant deal. Yes, there was a lifetime achievement factor, with the Buss family deciding not only to pay Bryant in the future but to honor him for his past. And to anyone who dares bring up the piece from a year ago that so strongly suggested Buss was eager for Bryant to head for the exits so the Lakers’ rebuild could begin in earnest, he is quick to condemn the concept.

“It’s (BS), that’s exactly what that was,” he fired back when asked about the ESPN the Magazine article. “The organization absolutely loves him. You know why? Because he has made a living, as we (have) with the Lakers for the last 20 years, because of this man. Magic Johnson carried us (to) this part (of their history) … and Kobe Bryant has carried us for 20 years. So every person that works in that organization, why would they hate him? Why would they want him out of there? There’s only a basketball or a Kobe hater that would want that. There’s no other reason.”

He laughs.

“You can’t justify (being anti-Bryant),” Buss continued. “If you’re a secretary or a mail room executive or whatever, you can’t justify saying you don’t want Kobe there. He gets a thousand pieces of mail a day, so that keeps your job.”

Additionally, Buss took on one of his biggest critics, former Lakers star Magic Johnson, and had this to say:

“Magic Johnson going nuts on me?” Buss said with a laugh. “It’s like, ‘Really, dude? My dad made you a billionaire almost. Really? Where are you coming from?’ ”

Johnson — who sold his share of the Lakers in 2010 and two years later led the ownership group that paid $2 billion for the Los Angeles Dodgers — earned approximately $43 million during his playing days and has been wildly successful in the business sector ever since (a 2011 Forbes report estimated his net worth at $525 million). In the grander sense, though, it’s well-chronicled that late owner Jerry Buss‘ impact on Johnson went well beyond basketball.

“Dr. Buss gave me the platform to be Magic,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times in Feb. 2013 after Buss’ death. “He gave me the knowledge to be Magic.”

When asked about Buss’ comment, Johnson issued a statement to USA TODAY Sports in response.

“It’s all about winning, Jim,” Johnson said.


No. 2: Aldridge opens up on Portland exit, Lakers’ sales pitch and more — It probably can’t be overstated enough how much of a surprise it was that this summer, free agent LaMarcus Aldridge spurned some big-name squads (ahem, L.A. Lakers) to sign with the San Antonio Spurs. What was also surprising was him leaving his old team, the Portland Trail Blazers, after he had said he wanted to retire as the greatest Blazer ever. So what led him to move on? How did Kobe Bryant factor into the Lakers’ sales pitch? Aldridge answered those questions in a Q&A session with Chris Mannix of In 2014, you said you wanted to re-sign with Portland. When you put off thumb surgery in January, people saw that as a sign of your loyalty to Portland. What changed?

LaMarcus Aldridge: You know I think just weighing my options and just going through the process really kind of helped me see what I valued. It wasn’t easy leaving. I love Portland and I have so much history there and I knew it like the back of my hand, so the decision to leave was never easy. When I put off [thumb surgery] I definitely didn’t think I was leaving. I wanted to maximize that moment. I didn’t want to waste that. I wanted to be in the moment, I wanted to help finish the season out well and to play in the playoffs. So in that moment I was in the mind-set that I was coming back.

But I think as I went through the process more I just value being closer to home, I value seeing my kids more. I feel like, of course, Portland didn’t want me to leave, but I feel like at the end of the day it’s good to have a fresh start. You know we had first round [exits] for so many years, and then we finally got to the second round, but I think for both sides it’s actually really good. It’s better to get a fresh start and now they have no battle with who’s the face of the team. Damian [Lillard] is a very high talent so he’s going to be good for years to come. So I think in a way it actually made it easier on them too. Your relationship with Lillard was believed to be one of the reasons you decided to leave. How would you characterize that relationship?

LA: I thought that stuff was blown out of proportion. I feel like the organization blew it out of proportion and I felt like the media blew it out of proportion. Of course him and I could’ve talked more and been closer. You know we’re both … the issue you have when you have two guys that are very similar as far as competitiveness and drive and kind of being brought up the same way is that they’re both the same way so you don’t have one person that really goes out of his way to make a relationship.

So we didn’t have a bad relationship at all. I enjoyed playing with him. I feel like he learned as time went along to incorporate me and how to give me shots how I like my shot, and of course everyone knows he’s a big-time player so I didn’t have any issues. We both texted and said we both could have probably done better at communicating. I thought that was one thing that we both agreed on, that we both kind of saw each other as “don’t mess with him” because we’re both so to ourselves in a way that we both didn’t want to overstep our boundaries trying to get to know each other. But then we texted and said we both probably should have done more. But I never had an issue playing with him or anything like that or with him being the face or them promoting him or anything like that. If I had an issue like that then why go to the Spurs? They don’t promote anybody.” There was a lot of talk about the Lakers free agent meeting. It seemed like it went badly. What happened?

LA: I’m not going to get into details, but it was just a couple of meetings. The first meeting didn’t go as well as they said and then the second meeting went better. I’ll go on the record as saying Kobe was not an issue at all. He was a very positive part of the meeting. I’ve always had a very cordial relationship with Kobe. I see him all the time in Newport [Beach], and it was really messed up that [the media] put it on him when he was one of the best parts of the meeting. But like I said, the first one didn’t go as well, the second one went a little bit, but at the end of the day going back home was more valuable.

VIDEO: How far can the new-look Spurs go in 2015-16?


No. 3: Drummond passes on signing extension … for now — Breathe easy, Detroit Pistons fans. You’re not about to go through another season with a young big man ready to hit the free-agent market with no idea of whether or not he’ll stay in Michigan. Unlike the saga that unfolded the last two seasons with Greg Monroe, fellow big man Andre Drummond is, like Monroe, passing on an extension with the team. But unlike Monroe, there are no indications he’ll leave Detroit and, unlike Monroe, restricted free agency is still an option for Drummond. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press explains why Drummond is holding off on a contract extension:

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores made an astounding pitch to prized young center Andre Drummond: Wait to sign the contract of many lifetimes for the betterment of the franchise.

Many would have declined, but the trust developed over three years between owner and player ruled the day.

President and coach Stan Van Gundy announced Tuesday that the Pistons and Drummond will let the Nov. 2 deadline for a contract extension pass and begin negotiations next off-season.

The expectation is they quickly will agree on a five-year, $120-million contract soon after the NBA’s free-agency moratorium begins in July, but by delaying the deal, the Pistons will have an extra $13 million in cap space to attract players or facilitate trades.

If the contract were signed before Nov. 2, the first year of Drummond’s extension (roughly $21 million) would count toward the 2016-17 salary cap.


The Pistons will take Drummond’s cap hold of $8.1 million into the off-season, conduct their business, then go over the cap to re-sign Drummond, who will be a restricted free agent with the decision.

“I will tell you I’ve learned from conversations that we had we’re really giving ourselves the flexibility to build this team up and do the right things to get us where we need to be,” Drummond, 22, told reporters. “I’m just ready to prepare for the season, and whenever that time comes again, I’ll be prepared for it.”

Drummond and Gores are close. They talk frequently and attend each other’s family functions.

But this decision goes beyond that.

Van Gundy has made a point of picking Drummond’s brain on personnel moves. Drummond was aware of the team’s interest in point guard Reggie Jackson and forward Marcus Morris, both obtained in trades.

That’s a lot of responsibility for a player who has yet to realize his tantalizing potential.

But if things are to take an uptick at the Palace in the near future, Drummond’s continued growth likely will be a major factor.

“As much as Andre wants to be here, he desperately wants to win and wants to be part of a contender and wants us to have the flexibility to continue to add people to this team,” Van Gundy said. “He has a great relationship with Tom — a very open, honest, trusting relationship. They spend a lot of time talking about this.

“I think it shows Andre’s maturity and leadership that he would step forward and put the team ahead of himself.”



No. 4: Noah may be a sixth man in 2015-16 — Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had a subpar season in 2014-15, especially compared to his 2013-14 season in which he was named Kia Defensive Player of the Year, made the All-Star Game and was on the All-NBA first team and All-Defensive first team. There have been preseason questions already about how Noah and All-Star Pau Gasol can mesh well on the court together, so is the answer to move Noah to a sixth man role to eliminate that problem? It’s hard to say, but Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was tinkering with the idea yesterday as Noah did not start vs. the Indiana Pacers. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times has more:

“Whatever is best for the team,’’ Noah said of his temporary demotion from the starting lineup to the bench prior to the 103-94 win over the Indiana Pacers. “It’s not about me right now. It’s about this team. We have to figure out ways to get better. And we will.’’

They might want to in a hurry, especially with the Bulls scheduled to tip off the NBA regular season Oct. 27 against LeBron James and the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

So while Hoiberg was not exactly admitting that he’s completely sold on the idea that Noah would be better served as a full-time bench player, the fact that he was experimenting with it at least showed that it was in play. Not the kind of news Noah might want to be hearing, especially in a contract year, but news that Hoiberg said his veteran center handled like a professional.

“No, he was great,’’ Hoiberg said of the discussion he had with Noah. “I think he’s excited to get out there and play with [reserve] Taj [Gibson]. He’s excited about the chemistry that those two have out there on the floor together.

“He didn’t fight it one bit. And again, nothing is final to this point.’’

What Hoiberg will be weighing with just one preseason game left is using Pau Gasol and Niko Mirotic as starters, while keeping Noah and Gibson as his second unit frontcourt. If Tuesday was any indication of looking for fast starts, Mirotic did score 11 in that opening quarter against the Pacers, while Gasol had five.

The problem?

The Bulls surrendered 21 of Indiana’s 34 first-quarter points with Gasol and Mirotic playing together in that opening seven-plus minutes.

“We still haven’t made a decision,’’ Hoiberg did say several times, when asked about having a definite starting lineup.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Great read on how NBA player fashion has evolved over the last 10 years … Derrick Rose didn’t look super comfortable in his new protective mask … Brandon Jennings is hoping to be back with the Pistons before Christmas … New Orleans Pelicans combo guard Tyreke Evans had arthroscopic surgery on his right kneePerry Jonesdays with the Boston Celtics may be numbered … Who are the villains in today’s NBA, anyway? … Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari is ready for a position swap this season … Hungry? Here’s all the new food available at the AT&T Center for San Antonio Spurs games this season … Don’t tell Al Jefferson traditional big men are a dying breed in the NBA

ICYMI of the Night: So, who dunked it best last night: was it Zach LaVine on this alley-oop …

VIDEO: Zach LaVine finishes off the alley-oop

Giannis Antetokounmpo on this follow-up slam …

VIDEO: Giannis Antetokounmpo flies in for the jam

… or Paul George finishing with authority in the lane?

VIDEO: Paul George drives in and dunks with authority


  1. Erwin says:

    Yeah this move makes sense income wise. fans knows LA is kobe land. But will this give you titles?!? Hell no! Sorry but i think this is kobe being kobe.. That “me first b4 team mentality”. Lolz

  2. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    LA was too nice to tell the truth.

    Why did D12 left? shaq traded? Gasol left(The yea I love Kome but I want to leave)? If Kome is that “nice”, why NO big names free agent wants to ride to the sunset with Kome?

    Carmelo, Lebron, LA all say nono.

    Hmmm, he must be fun to play with.

    Even nice guy Lin can only stay a year with Dumba. Looking good on the Hornets though!

  3. MagicClue says:

    It’s all about entertainment, Magic. Dumb alpha male comments. Reality check: Basketball means NOTHING. It’s entertainment. Kobe brings the crowds and the entertainment, therefore he is worth every cent.

  4. All that money for a has-been.

  5. minn says:

    as a kobe fan, $50 mill for 2 yrs is insane. He should of signed 50 mill for 5yrs…it would of been $10 mill per year.

  6. NBAfan says:

    Right so the owners buy the team, pay the bills and wages, the players should be thankful to them for all the millions they’ve earned from the owners..
    Who brings in the money, who draws the crowds of paying fans to fill seats, who entertains the audience, who promotes the team band and who sell the most jerseys through popularity??
    Certainly NOT the team owners that is for sure! they should to be thankful to every player for making them and the team truck loads of cash each year.
    We all know it was the rise of Magic and Bird’s duels in the 80s that made the sport explode with popularity and help pave the way for Jordan’s global brand growth in the 90s. To say that these players in particular really should thank the owners for all their success and wealth its pretty damn clueless.

  7. Tom says:

    Don’t bite the hand that feeds you! Be thankful for what it brings. Magic should stop hating on the Lakers…

  8. Nick says:

    Wrong, dude. Magic has Jerry Buss to thank. In fact, every NBA player has an owner to thank Without the owners, they would be playing at the local courts after work!

  9. HighFlyers says:

    Man I love Highflyers in the NBA. It’s a shame that overtime knees become a huge factor whether you get to have a long career or not. I think NBA newbies are fun to watch when they dunk, I just can’t help but think they need look at the predecessors like Vince, T-Mac, JRichardson. Apart from Vince, majority of the high flyers had to hang up their jerseys because of knee injuries. But… That’s non of my Business haha…. Great dunk but Lavine !!

  10. ko0kiE says:

    lakers are just stupid… yeah, kobe did win some championships there, but its about the whole franchise and the team now… forget the past, we don’t live in the past… he crippled the lakers with that move..

  11. mario says:

    is buss serious ? if it wasnt for his name he would be a nobody and Yes magic is right to blame him coz in the end its all about winning something magic and the late jerry buss knew but Jim was still wearing diapers than pretending to be a somebody