VIDEO: Highlights from games played Feb. 2
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Johnson won’t ask for trade, may seek buyout — Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson is two seasons removed from his last All-Star appearance and stats-wise at his lowest point in terms of scoring average (11.3 points) since 2002-03. But Johnson is also in the final year of the six-year, $119 million deal he inked back in 2010. While his high-scoring days are long gone, Johnson could be a vital pickup for a contender at the trade deadline. As he languishes on one of the East’s worst teams, Johnson told The Record‘s Andy Vasquez he won’t force a trade:
“I’m a professional, man,” Johnson said after practice. “Obviously this late in my career this isn’t the ideal situation. Obviously. But I’m not forcing anything, I haven’t went to management and asked for anything. I come to work day in and day out to compete and have fun, that’s what it’s about. And whatever happens, happens. Obviously this is a tough situation, but we’re all in this together and everybody in this locker room is who we’ve got. So no pointing fingers, we’re just coming out and just competing.”
It wouldn’t be easy for the Nets to trade Johnson’s nearly $25 million expiring contract. But there’s also the possibility of a buyout. Last month, ESPN reported that Johnson isn’t interested. But when asked about the possibility on Tuesday, Johnson left the door open and said he’ll explore the possibilities this week with his agent, Jeff Schwartz.
“Honestly, I don’t even know,” Johnson said when asked if he was open to a buyout. “My agent was here last night, and me and him are supposed to sit down and talk within the next week or so. So, I’m sure — whether or not it comes up, I don’t know, but we’ll talk.”
But even if Johnson demanded a trade, or wanted to negotiate a buyout, it’s unclear who would make the decisions on the Nets’ end. The franchise is still looking for a new general manager after Billy King was removed from the job on Jan. 10.
Johnson also reiterated what he told The Record earlier this season: playing for a contender will he his top priority when he becomes a free agent this summer.
“I just want a winning situation,” said Johnson, who added he plans to play two or three more seasons after this one before retiring. “It’s not going to be to no highest bidder or nothing like that, I just want to make sure the situation’s right for me. … the last couple years man I really just want to enjoy it and play on great teams.”
“I’m not saying that’s not possible,” Johnson said of a return to Brooklyn. “We’ll see what happens, I think a lot can happen between now and then.”
It’s been a struggle of a season for Johnson, who is averaging 11.3 points per game (his lowest since 2002-03) and shooting 39.0 percent (which would be the lowest shooting percentage for a season in his career). But he showed flashes of a resurgence in January when he shot 48.5 percent, 47.0 percent from three-point range and averaged 13.5 points.
No. 2: Report: Rest of season a tryout of sorts for Scott — Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott has been on the job for 1 1/2 seasons now, compiling a 31-102 record. That’s a lot of losses to take on and although the Lakers have young talent in the stables in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Jr. and others, many Lakers followers have criticized Scott’s reluctance to let the young guys play. According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the last 2 1/2 months of 2015-16 will be a prime opportunity for Scott to both disprove that reluctance and show progress in Lakerland (or else he may be gone):
It swerves the conversation toward Scott in the second season of his four-year, $17-million deal. Only one more year is guaranteed, and the Lakers have shown no fear in this department. Mike Brown was fired with $10 million and almost three years left on his contract; Mike D’Antoni was given more than half of the $4 million he was owed after resigning in 2014 with one more year on his deal.
Will Scott be back? People close to the organization think this season’s final 2½ months are a trial of sorts. It would help Scott’s chances if the young players showed growth and the games were more competitive. There has to be hope, not despair.
Scott has been criticized for being too rough on the Lakers’ youth, and fans wonder whether the game has charged past him in the budding era of analytics.
He’s not going to change. Not at age 54.
“I am who I am,” Scott told The Times. “Pat Riley wasn’t easy on us. Larry Brown wasn’t easy on me [in Indiana]. I think that’s the reason I was successful because I had a coach that pushed me and tried to get the very best out of me.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m no different. I want to see how great these guys can be. I want to push them to the limit. I want to push them to things they’ve never done before. If that’s being too tough, so be it.”
Scott is expected to coach through the rest of the regular season, according to a person familiar with the situation, but even he realizes nine victories in 50 games is stretching the limits of acceptable reality.
Scott, 30-102 in his Lakers coaching career, has the undesirable role of balancing Kobe Bryant‘s final lap with five young players in their first or second NBA season.
Sometimes Bryant plays. Sometimes he doesn’t. Often he plays and isn’t effective. It certainly affects the Lakers’ youth, even though they don’t say it publicly.
If it’s all about the future, Scott isn’t giving up. He wants to be here next season. He’s hoping D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle can follow a flailing-to-Finals template.
“Take Steph Curry,” Scott said. “Four years ago, everybody was talking about, ‘Did Golden State give him too much money? Is he injury-prone? Is he this and that?’ Now he’s the reigning MVP and arguably the best player in our league.
“It’s not going to happen in a year so I don’t understand why people get so carried away over it. D-Russ is going to be a good player. Does he have to learn? Absolutely. Do I have to push him? Absolutely. Same thing with Julius. And I understand that and I’m willing to do that.”
No. 3: Watson vows to keep Morris involved in Suns’ offense — One of the bigger storylines in Phoenix regarding former coach Jeff Hornacek was the communication (or lack thereof, at times) between him and talented-but-petulant forward Markieff Morris. Morris has basically been unhappy with the team since it traded his twin brother, Marcus, in the offseason and found himself out of the playing rotation at times this season. That wasn’t the case last night in Morris’ first game in the Earl Watson regime — Morris had 30 points and 11 rebounds in a loss to the visiting Toronto Raptors. According to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic, Watson has big plans for Morris going forward:
Watson pledged to “nurture and embrace” Morris in his first day on the job since replacing fired head coach Jeff Hornacek. Morris made 13 of 20 shots and recorded his first double-double of the season and fourth 30-point game of his career with the offense being tweaked to go to and through Morris more. It was part of Watson laying out roles immediately with the team, including Morris’ first start since Jan. 19.
“I knew where I was going to get the ball at and was picking my spots well,” said Morris, who said Hornacek was “my guy” and “a great coach” who will be missed. “We were just trying to find it previously. We didn’t have too much structure. We were just freewheeling it. … I think I heard over 20 times today how much faith he had in me.”
Morris had only one 20-point game this season before scoring 30 on Tuesday, when he said his conditioning felt better for three dunks, post spin moves and better engagement on the boards and defense.
“He is the main focus of our offense moving forward,” Watson said.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: How does New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis‘ first 50 games stack up against other notable big men in their rookie seasons? … Veteran power forward Elton Brand is on the Philadelphia 76ers roster, but he’s basically another coach for them … Detroit Pistons All-Star center Andre Drummond talks about his breakout season … Speaking of the Pistons, coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t think injured guard Jodie Meeks will be able to contribute this season … The Utah Jazz’s fearsome frontline is finally healthy. Is their defense back now, too? … According to a report, the Brooklyn Nets have received permission to talk with Houston Rockets executive Gersson Rojas about their GM vacancy … More tough news for the Phoenix Suns as youngster T.J. Warren (broken foot) is done for 2015-16 …