Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Lakers’

Scott’s reported return to L.A. brings sketchy defensive history


VIDEO: Lakers reportedly get Scott as coach

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Only 86 days after Mike D’Antoni resigned as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, the team has a replacement. As reported by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers have reached a deal with Byron Scott, who won three championships with them as a player.

As a coach, Scott has been to The Finals twice. But in 11 full seasons with the New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers, he’s had a winning record only four times. And his years in Cleveland gave him a distinction that no coach would want to have.

The Cavs ranked in the bottom five in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) in each of Scott’s three seasons. That’s not just bad. It’s unprecedented.

Before Scott, the last coach to lead his team to the bottom five in defensive efficiency in three straight seasons was Mike Dunleavy, who did it with Milwaukee from 1993-94 to 1995-96, a streak that started when the league had only 27 teams. So Scott is the only coach to do it in a 30-team league.

Note: Before Scott’s Cavs, the last team to rank in the bottom five at least three straight seasons was the Warriors, who did it four seasons in a row, from 2008-09 to 2011-12. But three difference coaches — Don Nelson, Keith Smart and Mark Jackson — were responsible for that run.

You could look at those Cleveland rosters (2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13) and note their youth and lack of talent. Indeed, Scott didn’t have much to work with. But bottom five for three straight years speaks for itself. Scott had a No. 1 defense in New Jersey and top 10 defenses twice with the Hornets, but he wasn’t able to coach the young Cavs up. Under Mike Brown last season, Cleveland jumped from 27th to 17th in defensive efficiency.

The Lakers went in the opposite direction, dropping from 19th to 28th in D’Antoni’s only full season in L.A. With no real center and guys like Nick Young and Jodie Meeks playing big chunks of minutes on the perimeter, that’s what you’re going to get.

But the personnel won’t be any better this season. They’ve added noted defensive liabilities Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer to their rotation along with rookie Julius Randle and 36-year-old Kobe Bryant, who is coming off of two leg injuries and who played some pretty terrible weak-side defense the last time he was healthy.

Bad defensive personnel and a coach with a bad defensive history. For the second straight season, opposing offenses are going to love facing the Lakers.

Morning shootaround — July 20


VIDEO: Highlights of the Summer League quarterfinals played July 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lance is the Hornets’ hobby now | It’s about Klay’s defense | The L-Train runs to Brooklyn | Giving World Peace another chance

No. 1: Lance is the Hornets’ hobby now — His talent is undeniable. His persona is irrepressible. And now Lance Stephenson is the Charlotte Hornets’ hope and challenge, a budding, two-way star who might reach his All-Star potential with his new team or yield to some distracting ways with the validation of a new three-year, $27 million contract via free agency. Al Jefferson, the Hornets’ main man up front, will find out (if he doesn’t already know it) that Stephenson is an adept passer and managed to deliver the ball to Indiana’s Roy Hibbert better than anyone else on the Pacers roster. He also might find out why David West, Paul George, George Hill, Hibbert and Rasual Butler stayed so busy keeping Stephenson on task and occasionally talking him down from emotional ledges. Here is some Jefferson quotage on Charlotte’s strong summer move courtesy of ProBasketballTalk.com:

“I’m excited about Lance,” Jefferson said in the hall outside the Hornets locker room at the Thomas & Mack Center, where he had shown up to watch Charlotte eliminate New York from the Summer League tournament. “We’re all going to be on the same page as far as defense, and defense dictates the offense.

“But Lance is a playmaker. That’s the reason he led the NBA in triple-doubles last year. He’s got this nastiness about his game that you want on your team. I was really excited to hear he signed with us and he wanted to do that. I think he’s got a lot to prove, and he wants to show people he can be a great superstar in this league.”

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No. 2: It’s about Klay’s defense – One of the head-scratching snags in what many see as a helps-both-teams deal between Golden State and Minnesota that would deliver Kevin Love to the Bay Area is the valuation of off-guard Klay Thompson. Thompson became an issue in the haggling early – beyond, as many saw it, his actual capabilities with either team. Turns out, it’s his defense that has been getting short shrift from many of the so-called experts. Golden State’s roster isn’t built to withstand the loss of Thompson’s backcourt defense as long as Stephen Curry is back there handling so much of the offensive load. As USA Today’s Sam Amick writes:

In short, they’re not willing to ditch the defense.

Their recent refusal to include guard and Timberwolves target Klay Thompson in the deal is rooted in this reality, as losing Thompson would not only leave Curry overexposed defensively in the backcourt but is compounded by the fact that Love — much like incumbent power forward David Lee, who would head to Minnesota if this deal got done — isn’t exactly known as a two-way player. From Lacob on down, this is a major part of the Warriors’ internal analysis and something that belies all the initial speculation about how this Kerr era might be defined.
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Thompson, meanwhile, left a lasting impression on his bosses with the way he played in his most recent postseason. Kerr wasn’t part of the program just yet, but he had a front-row seat as a TNT analyst and was just as impressed as the rest of them.

“Klay guarded Chris Paul the entire Clippers series,” Kerr, who spoke about Thompson but did not discuss the Love situation, told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “He has allowed Steph to conserve some energy at the defensive end, and to slide over to a shooter. The versatility that we have defensively between Klay and (new point guard) Shaun Livingston and (small forward) Andre (Iguodala), it’s really important for us…We’re excited about our roster.”

In addition to becoming a scorer on the rise (18.4 points per game last season on 44.4% shooting overall and 41.7% from three-point range), Thompson’s task of guarding the other team’s point guard is significant here. The Warriors need Curry to continue playing like the face of their franchise that he is, but overburdening him with a backcourt partner who doesn’t live up to Thompson’s standards defensively is seen as a major threat to this crucial component.

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No. 3:  The L-Train runs to Brooklyn — Run was the operative word when Lionel Hollins, most recently head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies who spent last season in media gigs, got the call from the Brooklyn Nets to come a-interviewing. Jason Kidd, last season’s coach, had torpedoed his position with a failed power play that sent him in the recoil to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets wanted to fill the void fast, and that’s how Hollins went about landing the job. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe had other nuggets from the erudite and candid Hollins that makes him an asset not just to Brooklyn but to NBA reporters’ notebooks:

“Yeah, it was sudden,” Hollins said of the call from Nets general manager Billy King. “Saturday I was sitting at home with no job and Sunday night I’m flying to New York, Monday I’m having dinner with Billy and his staff, Tuesday I’m interviewing, Tuesday night I’m on my way home, and when I get home contract negotiations had already started, and Wednesday it was a done deal.”
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The Nets still have talent but there are questions. [Brook] Lopez is coming off yet another foot injury. [Deron] Williams underwent ankle surgery during the offseason and there are murmurs that he is in decline. [Joe] Johnson will be 33 when the season begins and the salary cap-strapped club has made no major offseason acquisitions.

“I think that [Lopez], Joe, and Deron are the three big names in the nucleus, and KG [Kevin Garnett] if he decides to come back and play will certainly be in that mix, and I look for him to start and play,” Hollins said.
Hollins has spent the past few weeks trying to find housing in Brooklyn, reaching out to players on the roster, and assembling a staff.

“Yes, I was surprised by the fact that it did open,” he said of the Nets job. “It’s not something that you think. But I always say that every year you go through and all the job opportunities fade away and then something happens where somebody decides to resign, or somebody does what happened in the Brooklyn case. It’s not like I was dead to coaching — I’m watching TV, I worked for NBA TV, I worked for NBA Radio, and so I never shut down from looking and thinking about the game and what I would do in certain situations. It just flows. It’s what I do.”

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No. 4: Giving World Peace another chanceMetta World Peace‘s greatest NBA success came under Phil Jackson in Los Angeles. The New York Knicks already are on the hook to MWP for $250,000 this season, residue of his brief (29 games, one start) stint with them under coach Mike Woodson in 2013-14. So now that Jackson is running the basketball operation in New York and former Lakers guard Derek Fisher is the head coach, it doesn’t take a super-computer to calculate the likelihood of World Peace (who had asked for his release from the Knicks) being invited to training camp on a make-good deal. Marc Berman of the New York Post did some of his customary pot-stirring on the topic:

“[World Peace] has the utmost respect for Phil and Derek,’’ his agent, Marc Cornstein, told The Post. “There’s a history there. They know he’s out there.’’
The Knicks are trying to add another good-sized small forward to the roster. After Carmelo Anthony, only rookie Cleanthony Early is a true small forward. During summer league play, Early is trying to prove he is ready to be Anthony’s backup, but hasn’t shown he can create his own shot.
The World Peace camp has expressed interest to the Knicks. Under the buyout, the Knicks already are paying World Peace $250,000 for next season. If World Peace were invited and made the team, he’d be eligible for the veteran’s minimum, $1.4 million.
The Queensbridge product was disillusioned with his ballyhooed return to New York, which ended with a buyout Feb. 22 after he was buried in Mike Woodson’s doghouse and needed his left knee drained five times. Woodson didn’t like his offbeat act after signing him last July.
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If he doesn’t an invite to the Knicks’ training camp, he may become the assistant coach for the Palisades High girls basketball team in Los Angeles.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Lakers had hoped to bring back Kendall Marshall but Milwaukee stymied that plan. … Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving is like a lot of other Clevelanders: Excited about this LeBron guy. … Coach Doc Rivers showed his loyalty by bringing Delonte West to summer league, but the Clippers have “1,000 guards,” so West’s NBA comeback might have to happen elsewhere. … Former Wizards’ big Jan Vesely is headed back to Europe, and no one in the NBA is stopping him. … Don’t expect to see Kosta Koufos on the Greek national team. … It’s not quite of Kevin Love-Klay Thompson proportions but Golden State faces a decision on Nemanja Nedovic.

Lakers ‘win’ Boozer via amnesty auction

The often criticized and productive Carlos Boozer gets a new start in L.A.

The often criticized and durable Carlos Boozer joins a glut of power forwards in L.A.

CHICAGO – It is a measure of Carlos Boozer‘s reputation 12 years into his NBA career that, with his acquisition by the Los Angeles Lakers Thursday, both the Lakers-are-tanking and the Lakers-aren’t-tanking crowds felt like winners.

Such is the polarizing game and persona of Boozer, a former All-Star power forward and the Chicago Bulls’ expensive discard.

On the floor, Boozer’s production last season (17.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists per 36 minutes) dropped off modestly from his career numbers (18.8, 11.0, 2.6 per 36). His decline was most noticeable in shooting – he’s a career .523 shooter who fell to .456 in 2013-14 – and in a player-efficiency rating (14.4) that was the worst of his career. His minutes were down as well (from 32.2 as recently as 2012-13 to 28.2) largely due to his defense; Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau preferred to have Boozer sitting on the bench near him in many fourth quarters last season.

Still, Boozer was a decent offensive option with his high-arcing jump shots and slick work from both sides of the rim. And he was durable, no small asset on a Chicago team beset again with injuries.

But the folks at United Center didn’t much care about the fine points. They held Boozer accountable for who he wasn’t and what he got paid in spite of that. He came to Chicago in the summer of 2010, when the Bulls cleared cap space for stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson, only to settle for and spend on Boozer.

His impact never was quite good enough (despite four trips to the playoffs), given his contract (five years, $75 million).

Also, his boisterous ways and his Teflon demeanor – Boozer seemed too much the prototype professional athlete to many, a clock-puncher unfazed by losses or setbacks – chafed in a sports town that can smell paper tigers. Let’s just say that talk about amnestying Boozer began as soon as the clause was put into the collective bargaining agreement in November 2011 – before Boozer’s second Bulls season.

This was typical of the fan perception of Boozer, expressed by a Chicago sports talk-show host on The Score 670AM:

So a good-riddance vibe carried the day in Chicago when Boozer was cut free this week, the Bulls on the hook to pay his $16.8 million salary for this season but freeing up the cap space to sign Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. That had fans in Lakerland wondering what they had just landed.

Teams with cap space could bid on Boozer, and the Lakers won his amnesty-waivers right with a bid reported to be $3.25 million. That offsets what the Bulls owe him. But it doesn’t do anything about the logjam at power forward, with the 27-55 Lakers drafting Julius Randle, re-signing Jordan Hill and acquiring Ed Davis.

It smacks of window dressing for a team that got snubbed by Carmelo Anthony and had little else to show for free agency’s big names this offseason. In that way, even if it required the amnesty process to deliver him, it felt a little like 2010 again.

Except of course Boozer is four years older and the Lakers can’t legitimately target the conference finals the way Chicago did in his first season there.

One way for Lakers fans to look at it is that they traded Gasol for Boozer, and the Bulls have to pay most of the combined salaries. That might not make them feel any better, either.

Blogtable: L.A.’s long coaching search

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Free agency winners & losers | Thoughts on LeBron | Lakers’ coaching search



VIDEO: Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak talks about the Lakers’ coaching search thus far

> What is taking the Lakers so long to hire a coach? And who should get that gig?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Byron Scott is the right guy. Maybe he didn’t take his cell onto the golf course with him. Better send out Mitch Kupchak in a cart to intercept soon.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: They are too busy trying to assemble an NBA team. Your worst enemy.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The Lakers wanted to take a stab at landing a superstar before they hired a coach supposedly to reduce complications. Fact is, there was no one out there that blows their socks off. I mean, reports say they’re going to bring in Byron Scott for a third interview. A third interview? Give the man the job already.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Nothing is taking the Lakers so long that we weren’t told to expect. It was pretty clear from the beginning they wouldn’t make a hire before July, unless it was someone like Kevin Ollie or Tom Thibodeau. Maybe this has gone a few days or a week longer than you would have though, but it’s not like they’re on the clock now. Who are they racing for candidates? Byron Scott should get that gig.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Well, they obviously wanted their big free-agent signing to have the opportunity to choose the coach. And now that Jordan Hill is back on board for $9 million a year, the Lakers can go ahead and make his selection. Byron Scott has reportedly been the lead candidate, but I’d talk to George Karl first. That team is bound to be awful defensively, but Karl had a top-seven offense in each of his last five seasons in Denver (with and without Carmelo Anthony).

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Why the Lakers are taking so long to hire Byron Scott is beyond me. He’s clearly moved to the top of the list, Kobe Bryant‘s list, and that should be more than enough to seal the deal. It made sense for them to wait on hiring a coach until after their free-agent haul was complete. Now that we know they won’t be landing any of the big dogs, it’s time to handle this business of finding a coach. Scott has Lakers ties, is crazy enough to want the job right now, when the franchise is at a true crossroads. He will have the full blessing of the legion of former Lakers who watch over the franchise from wherever they are (near and far). Scott knows what sort of outlandish expectations exist in Hollywood, which makes him uniquely qualified to at least dive in on a job that will no doubt provide the drama we’ve always enjoyed out of the Lakers.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I don’t know why they’re taking so long to hire a coach, although everything I’ve heard points to Byron Scott being their next coach. Who should be the coach? Well Kobe, obviously. He’s eating up most of their cap room, and because of that they can’t splash out cash for multiple free agents, so let Kobe run the show and let’s see what he can make of all this. And if not Kobe, I nominate my Hang Time Podcast cohost Rick Fox. Nobody rides for the Lake Show like Rick, so put him in charge of a Kobe/Linsanity/Swaggy P/Bobby Sacre/Jordan Hill team and let’s see Pretty Ricky fight for a title with them.

Report: Lakers to interview Scott for third time

The Lakers reportedly are giving Byron Scott a long look for their head coach position.

The Lakers reportedly are giving Byron Scott a long look for their head coach position.

From NBA.com staff reports

The Los Angeles Lakers quickly hired (and fired) Mike Brown in 2012. They then quickly hired Mike D’Antoni to replace Brown. Neither coach lasted long in Los Angeles and it looks like the Lakers have learned from their speedy decisions.

According to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers reportedly plan to interview Byron Scott for the third time.

The Lakers are the only team in the NBA currently without a coach, but they don’t seem pressured to make a decision just because it’s already mid-July.

Scott played his first ten seasons in the NBA with the Lakers, winning three championships (1985, ’87, ’88). Since his playing days, he’s coached three teams (Nets, Hornets, Cavaliers) for a total of 13 seasons, including two NBA Finals appearances with New Jersey.

Earlier this summer, Kobe Bryant said he would welcome Scott as coach. Scott and Bryant were teammates during the 1996-97 season.

Morning shootaround — July 15


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony took pay cut to return | Parsons ‘offended’ by how Rockets treated him | Marion, Williams out of Mavs’ mix? | Report: Lakers may make coaching hire soon

No. 1: ‘Melo took small pay cut to stay with Knicks — When Carmelo Anthony announced he was re-signing with the New York Knicks on his website, he said he is a Knick at heart. That may be truer than you think as Anthony took a $6 million paycut on the overall value of his deal to free up future cash for New York. Team president Phil Jackson confirmed that fact to reporters during his chat with them at Summer League in Las Vegas, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Phil Jackson said Carmelo Anthony took less than the maximum $129 million contract, and the Zen Master declared he needs his star player to maximize his teammates to win a championship.

Anthony took less to stay with the Knicks — estimated at $122 million to $123 million over five years. But it was still a lot more than what the cap space-challenged runner-up Bulls could offer — four years, $73 million.

Jackson confirmed The Post’s reports Anthony structured the deal to give the Knicks more cap space in 2015. It is believed he didn’t take his annual 7.5 percent raise in Year 2 and may have taken a tiny pay decrease. Under collective bargaining agreement rules, a player can receive as high as a 7.5 percent pay raise annually.

“He did exactly what we kind of asked him to do,’’ Jackson said. “Give us a break in the early part of the contract when we have some wiggle room — hopefully big enough wiggle room — next year when we can exploit it.’’

Anthony’s sacrifice in Year 2 likely opens up about $2 million more in cap space for 2015, but the rest of his annual wages suffer by not taking the raise.

Meanwhile, Jackson emphatically said Anthony has to buy into this triangle-like new system that will promote sharing the ball and taking the load off him offensively. Otherwise, Jackson feels the Knicks won’t compete for a title anytime soon.

“It depends how quickly our team evolves,’’ Jackson said of how soon the club will be in title contention. “If we evolve as a team, we can do it rather quickly. If we’re still going to sit and rely on Carmelo to do everything, it’s not going to happen.

“We put that load on him, it’s not going to happen. That’s what we’ve wanted to assure him. We want to evolve as a team and that sometimes means the old buying into the system and giving in to the process. And the process can take time. Hopefully shorter time than longer.’’


VIDEO: Phil Jackson talks with NBA TV about the Knicks’ offseason to date (more…)

Morning Shootaround — July 9


VIDEO: Howard Beck of Bleacher Report discusses Carmelo Anthony’s free agency

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Heat ready for Vegas meeting with LeBron | Lakers, Knicks in ‘Melo race | Key moment arrives for Jazz’s front office | Van Gundy wants Monroe back | Report: Brooks meets with Gasol

No. 1: Big day for Heat in Las Vegas — Say this much for LeBron James and his free-agency mulling this time around — it’s the complete opposite of his 2010 “The Decision” special. Other than a few social media posts here and there, James has been a recluse since opting out of his deal a few weeks ago and news surrounding what team he’ll sign with next has been sparse to say the least. That may all change today, though, as James will reportedly meet with the Miami Heat’s braintrust. According to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, James will meet with the Heat today in Las Vegas:

LeBron James and Pat Riley will have their long-awaited face-to-face meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, according to league sources.

James is in Las Vegas for his annual basketball camp, the LeBron James Skills Academy, and Riley has flown in for the meeting.

The meeting with Riley on Wednesday is believed to be the first meeting James has participated in since opting out of the final two years and $42 million of his Heat contract.

Some other Heat heavy-hitters will be at the meeting too, as Broussard tweeted this morning:

And, per The Associated Press, some more details about how LeBron has spent his free agency period have emerged:

Asked by The Associated Press how free agency was going when his afternoon meeting agenda was apparently complete, the four-time MVP said “no complaints.” He offered a quick greeting, and provided no hints of anything – including when his next “Decision” will be known – before leaving with a wave.

The entire exchange lasted about eight seconds. James, who has been relatively quiet while weighing his options, never broke stride.

He was upstairs in an exclusive part of a Las Vegas hotel Tuesday, holding court for a little more than three hours before emerging in the lobby, walking toward his assembled brain trust – including longtime manager Maverick Carter and Nike representatives, a sponsor of the LeBron James Skills Academy he’ll be hosting in Las Vegas starting Wednesday – and got whisked away.

James is expected to meet with Miami Heat President Pat Riley before making a final decision on his NBA future, and a person close to the situation said that meeting had not happened as of Tuesday afternoon. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no one has publicly announced the date of the meeting.

Some of James’ representatives have met with several teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After filming a TV commercial in Coral Gables, Florida on Monday, James flew to Las Vegas, which was planned because of his academy. Later this week, he’s expected to travel to Brazil to the World Cup final.

He took time Tuesday morning to work out with Dwyane Wade in Las Vegas before his meetings, another person close to the situation told the AP. Like James, Wade has also not announced his plans for next season and beyond, though it is still largely expected that the 2006 NBA Finals MVP and three-time champion will remain in Miami.


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down the latest news on LeBron James’ free agency

(more…)

Report: Farmar, Clips agree on 2-year deal

Jordan Farmar

Jordan Farmar will replace Darren Collison as Chris Paul’s primary backup.

From NBA.com staff reports

Free-agent point guard Jordan Farmar is staying in Los Angeles … but switching teams.

Farmar is moving from the Lakers to the Clippers after accepting the team’s bi-annual exception, a two-year deal worth $4.2 million that was first reported by the Los Angeles Times. The second year of the deal is a player option, according to reports.

The 6-foot-2 Farmar, a seven-year veteran, averaged 10.1 points and 4.9 assists in 41 games with the Lakers last season, shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

With the Clippers, he primarily will back up Chris Paul, replacing Darren Collison, who agreed to a reported three-year, $16 million deal with the Sacramento Kings over the weekend. Farmar and Collison were teammates on UCLA’s 2006 Final Four team.

Morning Shootaround — July 6


VIDEO: TNT analyst David Aldridge reports the latest free-agent news

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lakers make move for Melo | Heat meet with Deng | Gortat’s return to D.C. was easy call | Novak traded to Jazz

No. 1: Lakers make move for Melo — In the earliest days of free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to be the odd team out, as free agents and reps for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony met with and considered various franchises, from Chicago to Miami to Houston to Dallas, not to mention the incumbents — the Knicks and the Heat. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers entered the summer with just a handful of players under contract and significant room to maneuver under the luxury tax.

But you can never count the Lake Show out. While many reports had Melo choosing between the Knicks and Bulls, last night Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers are definitely in the picture. After his meeting with Lakers execs, reports are that Carmelo is absolutely considering a move to the coast, to join Kobe Bryant in a west side connection…

The Los Angeles Lakers have ascended into serious contention to sign New York free agent Carmelo Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Lakers moved into strong consideration with the front-running New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls over this weekend, sources told Yahoo Sports.

No one with direct knowledge of the process would declare the Lakers had overtaken New York and Chicago in Anthony’s mind, but one source close to Anthony said of the Lakers, “They’re in the game now.”

The Lakers met with Anthony on Friday, offering him a four-year, $97 million contract. Lakers star Kobe Bryant has been in constant contact with Anthony, and the Lakers could re-sign Pau Gasol to pair with Anthony on the frontline.

This story kicked off when ESPN’s Bill Simmons noted via Twitter…

Of course, Melo signing with the Lakers would mean him leaving over $30 million from the Knicks on the table — as his former team, the Knicks can offer Anthony a larger and longer contract than any other team. There’s also the question of whether a pairing of Anthony and Bryant (with Gasol) in the rough-and-ready Western Conference would give Anthony the best and quickest chance to win.

Whatever happens, after weeks of speculation and simmering, free agency is finally reaching the boiling point. Get your popcorn ready.

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No. 2: Heat meet with Deng — While several NBA teams are loaded with cap space, the Miami Heat are still a work in progress. While James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opted out of their contracts and seemed interested in returning, the path forward for the Heat has seemed less clear, both in terms of financials and personnel. With an aging roster and burgeoning payroll, the Heat have to find a way to get their Big Three some help, without breaking the bank.

Yesterday, according to an ESPN report, Heat president Pat Riley took another step forward by meeting with one of the top free agents on the market, Luol Deng

The meeting was described as “preliminary,” according to a source, as Riley attempted to sell Deng on the benefits of joining the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions.

Sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that Deng will not take a salary significantly below his market value, believed to be above $10 million annually, merely to sign with the Heat.

Deng has several suitors, including Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers, but a source said Riley’s pitch intrigued him.

Adding Deng would give the Heat experience, depth, and help on both ends of the court. It may also be something of a dream — can the Heat actually create enough room to make Deng an offer he can’t refuse?

The task facing Riley and the Heat is anything but easy. But then, the best things very rarely are. Four seasons ago, Riley defied many expectations when he successfully constructed the Big Three. Now he’s got a different kind of difficult task ahead of him.

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No. 3: Gortat’s return to D.C. was easy call — Not long before last season began, the Wizards gave up a first-round pick along with the rights to injured center Emeka Okafor in exchange for Marcin Gortat. While Gortat has always been a solid interior performer, he was going to be a free agent this summer, and the Wizards were gambling they’d be able to convince him to re-sign in D.C. After showing promise during the regular season and making a run into the second round of the playoffs, Gortat felt confident enough in the future of the Wizards to stick around.

In an interview yesterday from Orlando Summer League on NBA TV, Gortat said re-upping with Washington was a simple decision

“A lot of different reasons,” Gortat said, when asked why he elected to stay with the Wizards. “First of all, I like the city. I like the team. I definitely feel comfortable over there. The team really took me under the wing and they help me since the day one. I definitely love the chemistry between me and John Wall. I think Bradley Beal is going to be a great player one day. Coach Randy [Wittman] believes in me, and I have a great relationship with him. So, the decision was real easy for me. I believe that we will be a special team for the next four or five years.”

Gortat was asked about interest from the Miami Heat and bobbed his head side to side, “We had a few teams, but I don’t think it [makes] any sense to talk about that now.”

If they’re planning to get the entire band back together, the Wizards still have to convince Trevor Ariza to re-sign — and as an in-demand swingman, Ariza may take a little more convincing than Gortat.

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No. 4: Jazz trade for Novak — Sweet-shooting swingman Steve Novak spent the last few seasons knocking down 3-pointers for the Knicks and the Raptors. While out enjoying the 4th of July holiday with his family in his hometown of Milwaukee, Novak found out he would have a new NBA home next season: The Raptors reportedly agreed to move Novak to the Jazz for Diante Garrett, who the Raptors could waive to create salary cap space.

One of the interesting bits of this story is how Novak discovered he was being traded: According to the Desert News, Novak found out via a series of text messages from his Toronto teammate Kyle Lowry

Novak, who was dealt to the Raptors from the Knicks just a year ago after thinking he’d finally found his long-term NBA home in New York, wasn’t expecting that news. He even wrote back to Lowry, “Are you kidding me?”

Traded again? To Utah? On Independence Day?

What!?!

“It was the Fourth of July. I didn’t have any idea that you could get traded on a national holiday,” Novak said, laughing, Saturday evening in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “I didn’t think GMs worked so hard.”

The gift and the curse for Novak is his combination of shooting and size (he is 6-10) simultaneously makes him a hot commodity and a tradeable asset. For his part, Novak seems to be embracing his new home…

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The long wait to see Nerlens Noel in a Sixers uniform may have been worth every second … If the Rockets need to move Jeremy Lin to create cap space, Philadelphia might be an option … You know who’s not happy about players being asked to take pay cuts? Their agents and their union. … Looks like Devin Harris will agree to a three-year extension with the Mavericks …

A superstar from contending, Mavs wait

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Dirk Nowitzki will have to be patient with the Mavs’ plans to add help

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks are waiting on a superstar. They’re not holding their breath. Still, they must sit tight.

When Dirk Nowitzki agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract with Dallas on Thursday it likely signaled the end of the club’s very brief courtship of Carmelo Anthony. Dallas was also among a select few teams to speak with the agent of LeBron James, and no they wait to see if they’ll be summoned to speak with the King himself, perhaps next week.

Still, it’s difficult to see James selecting the Mavs over a return to the Heat or teaming with James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston, or even with newly minted max point guard Kyrie Irving and No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins in Cleveland, which possesses the added pull of James’ heartstrings.

The willingness of Anthony and James this week, and Howard a year ago, to visit with the Mavs seems more a hat tip to highly visible and player-friendly owner Mark Cuban than bona fide interest in giving it a go alongside Dirk Nowitzki in his twilight years.

Even so, the fact James’ agent granted face-to-face meetings means you’re in the running, even if you’re a long shot. Cuban certainly believes that where there’s an ear, there’s a way. So you wait, holding off on chasing other big-ticket free agents until James and Anthony make their decisions. Only then can the dominoes begin to fall.

Some might believe a more prudent step for Dallas is to strike now at coveted targets, such as Luol Deng (Cleveland) or Trevor Ariza (Washington) or restricted free agent Chandler Parsons (Houston).

Agreeing to terms with any of those players would financially eliminate Dallas from the superstar sweepstakes, and until James or Anthony officially tells Dallas no, the front office must operate as if yes remains a possibility. Houston, Chicago, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers all must do the same.

Anyways, it’s a virtual guarantee that none of those players, unless offered an unimaginatively lucrative contract, will agree to a deal anywhere until James and Anthony — and possibly even wild card Chris Bosh — set the landscape.

So they wait.

On Saturday, Dallas did move forward with its own free-agent point guard Devin Harris. ESPN.com reported the two sides were closing in on a three-year deal for approximately $9 million. If those terms are accurate, it would be an identical deal to the one Harris signed last summer with Dallas before discovering he needed toe surgery and then agreed to a one-year contract at a reduced rate. This deal would be a bargain for the Mavs considering some the terms reached by guards in the first few days of free agency.

Harris is a key returnee for Dallas, which sent starting point guard Jose Calderon, along with three other players and two second-round draft picks, to New York in exchange for center Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton, who Cuban had to take back in order to get Chandler. Unless the Mavs can move Felton, he is expected to compete for the starting job with Harris.

Three-point specialist and free agent Mo Williams (Portland) is also tied to Dallas. The Mavs want to re-sign Vince Carter, who has suitors, including contending teams, and Shawn Marion, while Dallas would like him back is looking to upgrade the position in its starting lineup.

If the Mavs don’t land LeBron or Melo, it will be an intriguing race to sign the likes of Deng and Chandler (and his future is totally hinged to the Rockets acquiring James, Anthony or Bosh). Deng has interest from Atlanta and was reportedly meeting with Miami on Saturday.

This is the third consecutive summer that Cuban has entered free agency with the cap space to sign a max (or near-max) free agent. With Nowitzi, Monta Ellis and Chandler back, they truly are one superstar away from once again becoming contenders in the brutally competitive Western Conference.

Yet without one, matching last season’s 49 wins, good for the last playoff spot, stands to be a difficult task.

So they wait.