24 Jan

Hawks star placed in concussion protocol, out indefinitely

The Atlanta Hawks have placed star point guard Trae Young in the concussion protocol, the team announced on Sunday. Young will be out indefinitely as he begins the NBA’s mandated Return-to-Participation process, which requires players to display symptom-free behavior in order to be cleared for basketball activities.

Young was injured in the team’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 20. Early in the fourth quarter, Young was back in transition defense and stepped in to take a charge on Isaac Okoro. While he was successful in doing so, he took a shot to the face in the process and had to leave the game.

Trae Young is heading to the locker room after taking this charge from Isaac Okoro. pic.twitter.com/Cs8R0syyV1

— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) January 21, 2024
Young, who finished with 15 points and five assists, did not return as the Hawks saw their three-game winning streak snapped. The Hawks are mired in a disappointing 18-24 season, and are clinging to 10th place and the final Play-In Tournament spot in the Eastern Conference. Entering Sunday, they were half a game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets and 2.5 games up on the Toronto Raptors.

Maintaining that spot without Young will be a challenge. The sixth-year guard is 10th in the league in scoring at 26.9 points per game and second overall in assists with a career-high 10.8. Luka Doncic and Devin Booker are the only other players in the league in the top-10 of both categories.

In the final fan voting returns for the 2024 All-Star Game, Young was second among East guards with 1,815,898 votes. Depending on how media and player voting turns out, Young could be named an All-Star starter for the third time in his career. Either way, he will almost certainly be named an All-Star this season.

Whether he’ll be able to participate in Indianapolis next month, however, depends on how he recovers from this concussion. While he has nearly a month to get healthy, there are unfortunately no guarantees when it comes to to head injuries.

With Young sidelined, the Hawks will turn the offense over to Dejounte Murray, who hit back-to-back game-winners earlier this week and has been the subject of near-constant trade rumors. Despite Young’s injury, the Hawks could still move Murray by the Feb. 8 deadline if they receive a suitable offer.

24 Jan

‘Why shouldn’t I be in that?’

Kevin Durant has had a legendary NBA career. He’s an MVP winner, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, a four-time scoring champion and, of course, a two-time NBA champion. There is no doubt that he’s going to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and remembered as one of the greatest players of his generation. But, like most great players, Durant thinks he’s earned an even greater legacy. The Arizona Republic’s Duane Rankin asked Durant why he isn’t widely involved in the greatest of all time conversation, and he suggested that there’s only one thing keeping him out of it.

“Because I went to the Warriors,” Durant told Rankin. “Why shouldn’t I be in that? That’s the question you should ask. Why not? What haven’t I done?”

Durant’s decision to join the Warriors in 2016 was among the most controversial free-agent choices ever. The Warriors had already won a championship in 2015, and in 2016 they won an NBA-record 73 regular-season games. When Durant signed with the Warriors, many considered the two championships he won to be an inevitability.

As far as what Durant hasn’t done? To an extent, he’s right. He’s done pretty much everything a greatest of all time candidate should do… but he hasn’t done those things as often as other candidates. Compare Durant to Michael Jordan, for instance. Durant has two titles and Jordan has six. Durant has four scoring titles and Jordan has 10. Durant has one MVP and Jordan has five. When you line those resumes up next to one another, it’s hard to argue that Durant accomplished more in his career than Jordan. Durant’s career is still ongoing, of course, but at 35 years old, it’s hard to imagine him closing those enormous gaps.

None of this takes away from the tremendous career Durant has had, of course. By almost any measure, he is among the best players ever to touch a basketball. He is even capable of things that players like Jordan and LeBron James aren’t. The NBA has never seen his combination of size, shooting and ball-handling. One could even argue that those qualities make Durant the proper choice for the debate surrounding which player you’d want taking the final shot in a big game. Durant’s size makes him harder to defend in that setting.

But he doesn’t have the overall resume that players like Jordan and James do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no shame in being, say, the 14th-best player of all time. Still, no competitor as accomplished as Durant is going to accept anything less than the No. 1 slot. Ultimately, he’s eventually going to retire as one of the greatest basketball players ever. It doesn’t diminish his accomplishments one bit to say that a few guys were a little bit better.

24 Jan

Mavericks have asked about Kyle Kuzma; Raptors demanding high price for Bruce Brown

The 2024 NBA trade deadline is now just a few weeks away, and the action is starting to heat up. Just a few days ago, the Toronto Raptors sent Pascal Siakam to the Indiana Pacers in a three-team deal, and based on the amount of rumors flying around, there will be more moves to come.

Here’s a look at some of the latest buzz around the league:

Raptors want a first-round pick and more for Brown
As part of the blockbuster Siakam trade, the Raptors received Bruce Brown from the Pacers. Before that deal had even been officially announced by all parties, questions about Brown’s future in Toronto were already being raised. The versatile wing is a strong defender on a reasonable contract, and helped the Denver Nuggets win a title last season, so it’s no surprise that contenders are interested.

The Raptors aren’t going to just give him away, though. Toronto is asking for “a future first-round pick and a quality player … at a minimum,” according to Marc Stein in his latest newsletter.

That’s a steep price, but the Raptors hold the leverage in this situation. The two-year, $45 million deal Brown signed with the Pacers last season includes a club option for the 2024-25 season. That means the team trading for him would have control for another year, or the Raptors can just bring him back.

The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks are among the teams that Stein mentioned as possible suitors, but there are sure to be others in the mix.

Mavericks asking about Kuzma
The Washington Wizards are one of the worst teams in the league, but they do have a few players that other organizations are interested in. That includes Kyle Kuzma, Tyus Jones and Daniel Gafford. Per Stein, the Wizards are asking for at least a first-round pick for all three, and two firsts for Kuzma.

Whether any team is willing to pay that price remains to be seen, but Dallas has been asking the question. The Mavericks owe their 2024 first to the Knicks and their 2029 first to the Brooklyn Nets, but they do still have multiple firsts to offer in any trade.

Kuzma — a big, versatile wing who can play with or without the ball — is exactly the type of player they need next to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and is enjoying a career-season. He’s averaging 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting a solid 34.1% from 3-point land. He also has championship experience from winning it all with the Lakers in 2020.

Blazers uninterested in moving Grant, but likely to deal Brogdon
The Portland Trail Blazers are in the early stages of a rebuild after trading Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in the summer, and veterans on rebuilding teams are always going to draw interest from contenders. Jerami Grant and Malcolm Brogdon are at the top of that list, though the Blazers are split on their willingness to move those two.

Stein reported that they are uninterested in moving Grant, who signed a five-year, $160 million deal with the Blazers in the offseason and seems content in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’m cool here,” Grant told Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. “I’m good with what I’m doing. Keep my head down and keep working, keep trying to help the young guys as much as I can. [Trade speculation is] definitely something you see. It’s not something you can do anything about, especially since I just signed a deal. I’m here for as long as they want me.”

Brogdon, however, is expected to be moved, per Stein. The veteran point guard arrived from the Boston Celtics in the Jrue Holiday trade, and has been mentioned in trade rumors ever since. As the deadline approaches, expect his name to start popping up all over the place. The Knicks, who need a back-up point guard, are one team in the mix.

24 Jan

How Suns fixed their late-game offense vs. Pacers by running the same play over and over again

The Phoenix Suns should have the best fourth-quarter offense in the NBA. When games grind to a halt in the final minutes, they are frequently decided by individual superstars creating and making tough shots coaches would rather avoid at any other point in the game. The Suns have three players capable of making those shots in Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, and they can surround them with as much shooting as the situation requires. Quibble with their overall roster-building approach all you want. Nobody expected the Suns to struggle to generate offense late in games.

Yet if you’ve seen many Suns games this season, you’ll know that their offense, for most of the season, has tended to disappear in the biggest moments. The Suns rank eighth in first-quarter offensive rating, fourth in second-quarter offensive rating, first in third-quarter offensive rating… and dead last in fourth-quarter offensive rating. There are a number of reasons for that ranging from injuries to poor shooting luck to poor lineups to poor design, but regardless of circumstance, it is a problem the Suns needed to solve in the regular season if they hope to have any chance in the postseason.

They’ve taken steps in the right direction lately. Their 22-point fourth-quarter comeback against the Kings came when Frank Vogel decided to embrace his roster’s small-ball destiny and move Kevin Durant to center. They went back to that look again late in their close game against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, and in the process, they took another step toward fixing these fourth-quarter issues. They realized that with a single play, they could all but break most opposing defenses.

Let’s set the stage. The Suns, who have led by as many as 14 points, suddenly find themselves in a bare-knuckle brawl at home against a Pacers team missing Tyrese Haliburton. Neither team scored a single point between the 6:12 and 3:21 marks of the fourth quarter. The Suns turn to their small-ball death lineup of Durant, Booker, Beal, Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon with 3:20 left on the clock. The Suns take a 107-105 lead after a Durant 3-point and a Booker free throw. Indiana ties it back up with two Andrew Nembhard free throws. And then, the Suns found their kill-switch.

It’s an incredibly simple play. Bradley Beal takes the ball up. Grayson Allen screens Pascal Siakam off of him. Beal tortures Buddy Hield one-on-one for the bucket.

Get comfortable, because the Suns are running that same play again. Same setup. Same result. But keep an eye on Siakam as Beal drives. He’s under the basket, theoretically positioned to help… but can’t. Allen and Gordon are too dangerous to leave, so Siakam is stuck in no-man’s land. Hield has no answer for Beal.

Guess what play the Suns run their next time down the floor? Yup, it’s that same Beal-Allen pick-and-roll, only this time, the Pacers aren’t conceding the switch as easily. He sticks with Beal after the first screen, so the Suns adjust. Allen screens for Beal again, but this time, Beal passes it to Allen before Hield can scamper back into position. Allen, like Beal, can beat Hield comfortably.

Good news, Pacers: you don’t have to see the Beal-Allen pick-and-roll for a fourth-straight possession. Instead you get… the exact same play, but with Booker in Beal’s place. Once again, the Pacers refuse to concede the switch, so once again, the Suns hit Allen for a quick pass on the second screen. This time, the help comes, so the Suns put the Pacers in the blender. Allen kicks it to Gordon, who draws Siakam, so he passes it to an open Beal. Obi Toppin has to frantically charge out to the perimeter to challenge Beal, so Beal drives right past him and scores easily at the basket against, you guessed it, Hield. Phoenix pushes its lead to five with 46 seconds left. The game is essentially over from here.

None of this is groundbreaking stuff. It’s a basic switch-hunting concept. The Suns adjusted well when the Pacers decided not to concede those switches. But the way in which the Suns ran it is what separates their offense from other great ones around the league. Remember, they’re not running this through their best player. They’re running it largely through their third-best player. The defense still has to devote the requisite energy to Durant and Booker even when they’re off the ball, but Beal is good enough on it that the Suns lose very little by running their late-game offense through their No. 3 option.

The result here is an unprecedented control over matchups within a switch-hunt. Most teams hunt switches to get to the final matchup, the one in which their star ball-handler is face-to-face with the worst opposing defender. That is ultimately happening here, and Hield is Phoenix’s target, but the quieter impact here is that Phoenix’s three-headed monster also has the capacity to hunt the initial matchup. They don’t just have to think about who is guarding Allen. They can look at who is guarding Beal, Durant and Booker and figure out who they want the second defender in the equation to be as well. They landed on Siakam here. If they would have preferred Andrew Nembhard, Booker would have been the catalyst. Aaron Nesmith has been Indiana’s best perimeter defender this season, and he’s conspicuously kept out of the play.

There’s no good answer here. Let’s say the defense doesn’t offer help, as it didn’t in that second clip. The Suns can therefore not only dictate what defenders are in the play, but which defenders aren’t as well. They got themselves a 2-on-2 pick-and-roll with the two defenders of their choosing. If they do help as they did in the fourth, Phoenix’s overwhelming shooting and ball-handling is equipped to punish defenses in rotation.

The Suns still have a long way to go when it comes to late-game offense. They are going to develop variations and specific counters as they go. They won’t always be able to afford to go small from a defensive perspective, and most of the defenses they’d expect to see late in the playoffs are going to be better than Indiana’s. But many of the best teams have weaker links. Denver isn’t going to take Jamal Murray off of the floor in crunch time. The Clippers will have James Harden in the game. Minnesota can get to five defenders if it wants to, but that requires offensive sacrifices they aren’t really equipped to make.

This is, in essence, what makes the Suns so dangerous. Their firepower gives them a greater degree of control over the matchups they want to face defensively than a typical elite offense, and they’re starting to figure out how to weaponize that control late in games. They can beat plenty of NBA defenses just by spamming the same play over and over and over again.

21 Jan

Survivor Series date, location, start time, how to watch

Only one premium live event remains on WWE’s calendar for 2022. Survivor Series WarGames gets an upgrade from the traditional format of elimination team matches to a battle of attrition fought inside of a cage. WWE’s final major event of the year takes place at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on Nov. 26.

The Bloodline and Damage CTRL are expected to battle their rivals in men’s and women’s WarGames matches, respectively. WarGames is a team-based match featuring two rings contained within a large cell. The match begins with one representative from each team duking it out. The remaining competitors enter in a staggered format and the contest cannot conclude until all participants are locked in the cage. The winner is determined by pinfall, submission, surrender or knockout.

SmackDown women’s champion Ronda Rousey will defend her crown against Shotzi at Survivor Series. Shotzi was awarded the title shot after defeating Lacey Evans, Liv Morgan, Sonya Deville, Raquel Rodriguez and Xia Li in a Six-Pack Challenge on the Nov. 11 episode of SmackDown.

In order to ensure you stay up to date with all of WWE’s signature events — each of which will be covered right here by CBS Sports — check out the entire 2022 pay-per-view schedule (at least the events we know about at this time) below along with the dates and locations of all key upcoming events.

21 Jan

Sheamus reveals how a visit to Edge’s home sparked the best run of his 20-year career ahead of Survivor Series

A near career-ending concussion and a willingness to open up have led Sheamus to what many consider his best WWE run. Sheamus has already carved out a Hall of Fame career. Oddly, it is the version of Sheamus with 20 years of experience, one in pursuit of a secondary title, that has connected with WWE fans the most.

Sheamus headlines WWE Survivor Series on Saturday, teaming with the Brawling Brutes (Butch and Ridge Holland), Drew McIntyre and Kevin Owens to take on The Bloodline (Roman Reigns, The Usos, Sami Zayn and Solo Sikoa) in a WarGames match. Sheamus’ status at the top of the card is partially a reflection of his renewed passion for the art.

“I love what I do. I’m still very passionate about what I do,” Sheamus — who was promoting his Celtic Warrior Workouts YouTube channel — told CBS Sports. “I’m probably more passionate than I’ve ever been.”

Sheamus suffered a terrible concussion at WrestleMania 35 in 2019, that sidelined him for nearly eight months. It was a visit to Hall of Famer Edge’s house that sparked a yearning to craft an undeniable legacy. There he was confronted with the one roadblock to achieving a career Grand Slam (winning the world, tag team, intercontinental and United States titles).

“When I got the concussion at Mania in New York, I thought my career was going to be over,” Sheamus said. “I kept doing Celtic Warrior Workouts and I was actually at Edge’s house and I saw the titles on the wall. I saw the intercontinental title, and I was like, ‘I can’t give up now. I’m so close to getting that final piece of the puzzle.’ That motivated me to come back in the best shape possible.”

Check out the full interview with Sheamus below.

Sheamus is only the second superstar in WWE history, coincidentally behind Edge, to win the King of the Ring tournament, Money in the Bank ladder match and Royal Rumble. A main roster superstar since 2009, Sheamus won the WWE championship in his third year by defeating John Cena. Labeled a product of the corporate machine, Sheamus often had difficulties winning over fans.

“It didn’t matter what I did, the crowd had turned against me because they felt the machine was behind me and it just didn’t matter how hard I beat up my body,” Sheamus said. “I just wasn’t going to win them over.”

There were pockets of fan enthusiasm here and there, but nothing holds a candle to the appreciation Sheamus, now 44, experienced after his universally acclaimed match against intercontinental champion GUNTHER at Clash at the Castle.

“Every time I get in that ring, it’s a blessing,” Sheamus said. “It’s an opportunity to show everybody what I could do because that literally could be my last time in the ring. I don’t want to go out that way. I don’t want to do it in a way where it’s so lackluster. So my mentality is to treat every match… like a WrestleMania moment. I can’t go out there and half-ass anything. It’s just not in my DNA. I want to go out there and want to put on banger-after-banger and I want to raise everybody.

“The biggest thing is the weight off my shoulders. I’m not so concerned about everything and paranoid about everything and every nitty-gritty little thing. I’m just going out there totally relaxed and totally worry-free.”

Sheamus had trouble pinpointing exactly why the fan sentiment towards him has changed so much. His friend pointed out a simple and very personal truth.

“I’m finally letting the crowd in,” Sheamus said. “I’m not pretending anymore. I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I’m just me and I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve.

“I’m more aware of that now and I love bringing them in. I love bringing them in for those moments. Involving them and just feeding off their energy. It’s great for me. I guess before… I was a little bit reluctant.”

Sheamus and nine other participants will duke it out in a physically demanding WarGames match. His delight in dishing out and absorbing punishment should be amplified by the energy of the Irish faithful at the TD Arena in Boston.

“I love it,” Sheamus said. “I’m just having the most fun I’ve ever had.”

21 Jan

How Mia Yim went from contemplating retirement after WWE release to a marquee match at Survivor Series

Mia Yim hit the ground running when returning to WWE in November. In less than 30 days, Yim has aligned with The O.C. in their ongoing feud with Judgement Day and linked up with Raw women’s champion Bianca Belair for Survivor Series WarGames.

It is a complete reversal of fortunes for Yim who, one year prior, was released by WWE. Yim had a promising run on the NXT developmental brand before graduating to the main roster as Reckoning in the terribly maligned Retribution stable. The group was an immediate dud, due in great part to a lack of direction and a silly presentation. Yim and her husband, current AEW star Keith Lee, were handed their walking papers on Nov. 4, 2021, as part of a larger round of releases.

“When I originally got released, I honestly knew it was coming so it wasn’t that much of a surprise,” Yim told CBS Sports ahead of Survivor Series. “I was more surprised with my husband getting released.

“We were getting ready to get married in a month or two. Real life outside of wrestling was really starting to pick up and the momentum was going. It was the first time in my life where it was a rearrangement of my priorities because wrestling has been my life since I turned 18 and started training.”

Check out the full interview with Mia Yim below.

For the first time in nearly 15 years, Yim questioned if her time in the sport was up. A concoction of new priorities, self-doubt and a dwindling passion tempted Yim down a different path.

“Wrestling took a backseat and it made me realize that wrestling isn’t everything, life still goes on and to focus on the people you love,” Yim said. “I really had to evaluate if I wanted to continue to wrestle because I wasn’t sure that I did.

“Not only was I not sure if I wanted to do it, but I felt like maybe my time was up. Maybe I’m not as good as I was five or 10 years ago, so maybe it was just time to hang it up. I just needed to find myself and see if I could still go with all these new talents.”

Motivated by her friends, Yim returned to her old stomping grounds of Impact Wrestling in May. She measured herself against up-and-comers and legends. She hadn’t lost a step. Yim got the call six months later to return to a very different WWE than she exited. A meandering role in the Retribution stable of Vince McMahon’s regime had been replaced with an invitation to The O.C. under Triple H’s creative lead.

“Coming back, it was like ‘Let’s go!'” Yim said. “I have such high respect for Triple H and what he’s done with NXT.

The O.C. is compromised of A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. It is a spiritual successor to Bullet Club, a faction that originated in New Japan Pro Wrestling and is arguably the most renowned stable since NWO took over the wrestling world in WCW in the ’90s.

“I never thought I’d be part of that group just because they are so notable and memorable and they mean so much in the wrestling world,” Yim said. “When I was invited, it was an honor for me. I’ve known the boys for a while.”

14 Jan

Sixers star to miss next game against Hawks

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid will miss Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks due to swelling in his left knee. The NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player also missed Saturday’s 120-109 loss against the Utah Jazz due to the same injury.

On Monday, Embiid did some light shooting after practice, wearing a heavy brace around his knee. Unlike Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton and Furkan Korkmaz, who all sat out against Utah, however, Embiid did not take part in what Nurse described as a “training camp–style practice today in length and in competition.”

Joel Embiid after practice shooting with a wrap around his knee #Sixers pic.twitter.com/k4mehcl1Is

— Ky Carlin (@Ky_Carlin) January 8, 2024
Embiid has missed eight games this season and Philadelphia has lost six of them. The Jazz loss followed an ugly performance on Friday in which Embiid played 36 minutes and the Sixers lost 128-92 against the New York Knicks. Nurse said Monday that they needed to prioritize transition defense, point-of-attack defense and challenging shots.

“The easy way out is to say, “Oh, we’re beat up and we don’t have enough people,’ and all that kind of stuff,” Nurse said “But I can’t accept that as a coach. There is a way we want to play regardless of who’s out there.”

After what he described as a training camp like practice, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse gave an update on the playing status of Joel Embiid (knee), Tobias Harris (ankle), De’Anthony Melton (back) and Furkan Korkmaz (illness). pic.twitter.com/GBaIU4otDs

— PHLY Sixers (@PHLY_Sixers) January 8, 2024
For Embiid to be eligible for the All-NBA team and another MVP award, he must play in 65 of Philadelphia’s 82 games this season.

The Sixers have lost three of their last four games and are 5-5 in their last 10, but, at 23-12, they are third in the Eastern Conference. After visiting Atlanta, they’ll begin a three-game homestand on Friday during which they’ll face the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets.

In 27 games, Embiid is averaging a league-high 34.6 points, plus 11.8 rebounds and a career-high 6.0 assists.

14 Jan

Lakers’ Darvin Ham not in immediate danger of losing job despite recent turmoil, per reports

Despite all the noise surrounding Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham recently, he is not about to get fired, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein.

Stein’s latest newsletter indicates that, as mediocre as the Lakers’ 2023-24 season has been, it would have to get much worse for the front office to make a coaching change:

The current signals in circulation suggest that things would have to worsen significantly — significantly — for the 18-19 Lakers to truly put Darvin Ham’s job under immediate threat. That was the messaging in circulation even before Sunday night’s stirring 106-103 victory over the Clippers despite some crunch-time shakiness against their co-tenants at Crypto.com Arena.

League sources say Ham continues to enjoy very strong support from Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka … especially after the leadership Ham provided in his first season as the frequent voice and face for the franchise as it spent months in sub-.500 purgatory before finally surging into the playoffs with a 9-2 closing kick.

[…] But it’s believed that the Lakers are determined to get through the season before seriously pondering any semblance of drastic changes and still hope offseason signee Gabe Vincent can be a difference-maker when he returns from injury.

Separately, Ham told The Athletic’s Sam Amick that he has the support of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss. After a report in The Athletic last week about a “deepening disconnect” between Ham and the players, Buss reportedly sent the coach “a lengthy text message of support.”

On an episode of ESPN’s “The Hoop Collective” podcast published Monday, Brian Windhorst said that Ham was not going to be fired after Sunday’s game against the Clippers, regardless of the result.

“Let’s put it this way: There have been a number of stories in the last few days that have emerged about player or agent frustration at the head coach,” Windhorst said. “And [there are] many examples in the history of the NBA where player frustration with the head coach has led to the head coach being replaced. But in this case, the organization — at least for now — fully supports Darvin Ham. And of the players who might be frustrated at Darvin Ham, I don’t think that the players who have the power with the frustration are in that space yet.”

Here’s a quick recap of the last few days of Ham/Lakers chatter:

Wednesday, Jan. 3: Lakers miss 26 of their 30 3-point attempts and lose by 14 points to a Miami Heat team missing Jimmy Butler. LeBron James leaves the arena without speaking to reporters after scoring 12 points on 6-for-18 shooting. Austin Reaves describes the vibe in the locker room as “shitty.”
Thursday, Jan. 4: The Athletic publishes its story on the divide between Ham and the team, which it attributed to his decisions regarding the rotation and the starting lineup. (This echoes an Anthony Irwin story published Dec. 27.)
Friday, Jan. 5: In another The Athletic story, a “high-ranking Lakers source” pushes back on the notion that Ham is on the verge of losing his job. Before Los Angeles’ game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Ham says that he’s “aligned” and “on the same page” with Buss and team president Rob Pelinka, adding that he wishes people would be “firm enough to stand on what they’re saying” instead of talking to reporters anonymously. Then the Lakers lose by 14 points and James tells reporters, “We just suck right now.” It is their fourth consecutive loss and ninth in 11 games, but Ham says, “It’s the NBA, man. This is a marathon, and you have to look at the totality of the picture. I’m tired of people living and dying with every single game we play. It’s ludicrous, actually.”
Sunday, Jan. 7: Irwin reports that, while the Lakers’ game against the Los Angeles Clippers “won’t be considered a win-or-go-home game for Darvin Ham,” Buss and Pelinka will have “no choice” but to “take a serious look at Ham and whether he is capable of turning this around” if they suffer an embarrassing loss. Irwin cites several sources saying that Lakers players and officials are sick of Ham telling them to play harder and don’t feel that he has taken accountability. Before the game, Ham says he does not feel as if he’s coaching for his life and Clippers coach Tyronn Lue says that the criticism of Ham is “definitely unfair.” Then the Lakers beat the Clippers by three points and James goes out of his way to compliment Lue, who coached James in Cleveland. (The Lakers made Lue an offer to be their coach in 2019, but the two sides did not come to terms on a contract, with Lue later saying that that he “didn’t think I was treated fairly” during the negotiations.)
The Lakers are not quite a .500 team and their offense ranks 23rd in the NBA. They entered the season expecting to be championship contenders, but are 10th in the West, with both the Golden State Warriors (17-19) and Utah Jazz (17-20) right behind them. There are serious problems here, and some of Ham’s decisions regarding the rotation — Reaves didn’t start for almost two months; for four games both he and D’Angelo Russell came off the bench — have been pretty strange. That does not, however, mean that Ham is necessarily going to take the fall.

Based on multiple reports Monday, the Lakers’ preference is to not make a coaching change. If they’re going to stick with Ham, though, they’ll need to play well enough that this storyline goes away naturally (or at least avoid the type of meltdowns that will bring it to the fore). Next up are home games against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, before Los Angeles visits the Utah Jazz on Saturday. Eight of the Lakers’ next nine games are at Crypto.com Arena, including a “road” rematch against the Clippers on Jan. 23. Let’s see if they can string some wins together.

14 Jan

Warriors won’t trade Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Jonathan Kuminga

On Monday, Marc Stein reiterated a previous report from Michael Grange that the Golden State Warriors do not intend to trade Jonathan Kuminga, who reportedly had lost faith in head coach Steve Kerr as his playing time and rotational consistency wavered.

Additionally, in his newsletter, Stein also reported that there is “zero indication” that the Warriors “would even explore trading franchise legends Klay Thompson or Draymond Green.”

Andrew Wiggins, on the other hand, appears to be available. From Stein:

There likewise continues to be zero indication that they would even explore trading franchise legends Klay Thompson or Draymond Green. The Warriors are also known to be resistant to the idea of trading Kuminga, who was selected with the No. 7 overall pick in 2021.

Given the limited success Golden State has found when pairing Kuminga with Andrew Wiggins, there is a rising belief among rival teams that the Warriors are increasingly open to the idea of trading Wiggins, who was an integral component of their title run in 2022.

The question persists: What sort of market exists for Wiggins, even though he possesses what is regarded as a team-friendly contract, so soon after he was relegated from the Warriors’ starting lineup? Wiggins, 28, is in Year 1 of a four-year, $109 million deal.

Previously, Grange had noted that Golden State was reluctant to move Kuminga despite recent drama, even in a potential swap for Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam. This is what he reported then:

Still, according to multiple sources, the Warriors are loathe to trade Kuminga, who is seen as a potential star who can help them win now and in the future, the rare piece on the roster who can help Golden State both support Steph Curry in the present and transition to a successful post-Curry future, should it ever come.

And a not insignificant detail is that Kuminga is said to have a very close relationship with Warriors owner Joe Lacob who has historically been reluctant to part with any of the young talent that represents the Warriors’ so-called ‘two-timelines’ strategy of meshing a group of young draftees with their established championship core.

This news followed the final 18 minutes of the Warriors’ loss to the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 4, where Kuminga did not play and had to watch helplessly from the bench as their 18-point lead melted away in the final few minutes. “[Thursday night] was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” a source told Shams Charania then.

This was not the first time that Kuminga and his camp have voiced their frustration, either.

“Sometimes, I come out the game not knowing what I did,” Kuminga said after the Warriors’ loss to the Nuggets on Christmas. “And that messes with my head. It’s like, ‘What they want me to do?’ I can pass and I can do different s—.”

Kerr told reporters prior to the team’s win over the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 5 that he had met with Kuminga and discussed the reports.

“We talked,” Kerr said then. “Obviously those things are better discussed behind the scenes. Any time something like that goes public it creates a distraction. It’s important for all of our guys — and I talked to our whole team about it — you got an issue? I’m here. I am the most accessible coach in the league probably. My door is always open.

“It’s a difficult situation because every player naturally has his own goals, his own dreams. Everybody wants to flourish, everybody wants to blossom. We have a lot of guys who are capable of playing and I have very difficult decisions to make each and every night. [Kuminga] is a young player, he’s growing, he’s getting better, that’s why he’s been in the starting lineup. He will continue to grow and this is all part of his growth.”

As for the idea of trading Green and/or Thompson, well, there is a few obstacles in the way. First and foremost, the Warriors are incredibly loyal to the pair and the contributions they made to a dynasty; it seems as if they’re willing to absorb the downside of their careers to make sure they honor their legacies.

But even if Golden State was open to the idea of trading one or both of them, Thompson’s game has fallen off considerably, and he’s an impending free agent who is going to want a decent-sized deal. Green, meanwhile, is about to come of his second suspension of the season, and allegedly threatened retirement before being talked out of the decision by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Regardless, Green has a hefty contract still on the books — a four-year, $100 million deal that extends through the 2025-26 season, with a player option for the 2026-27 campaign.

Finally, Wiggins, has been a shell of the player that he once was. He’s averaging just 11.9 points (down from 17.1 last season), 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists (a career low). He’s in his age-28 season, and, like Green, is signed through at least through the 25-26 season. As it currently stands, the Warriors would be hard pressed to find a potential suitor for the 6-foot-7 former No. 1 overall pick.

Golden State is currently sitting at 11th place in the Western Conference with a 17-19 record (5-5 over the last 10 games), which, if the season ended today, puts them outside of the Play-In Tournament. Having dropped Sunday’s game to the Raptors, the Warriors pick up play on Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans after a two-day layover.