Marc Stein: Los Angeles Lakers

The New York Knicks are increasingly optimistic about their chances of re-signing star Carmelo Anthony even as he readies himself to talk to other teams next week, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told that Knicks officials, while not willing to trumpet it publicly with free agency fast approaching, are quietly confident about their odds of retaining Anthony thanks in part to the idea that new team president Phil Jackson and the high-scoring forward have "connected" to some degree.

Furthermore, one source close to the process told's Ramona Shelburne that Jackson is planning to make a determined attempt to try to recruit his former Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol to replace the freshly traded Tyson Chandler alongside Anthony on the Knicks' front line, despite the fact New York is limited to offering Gasol less than $4 million for next season.

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Dwight Howard's comeback from a persistent ankle problem will not come Tuesday night when the Houston Rockets visit Los Angeles to play the Lakers, according to sources familiar with Houston's plans.

Sources told that Howard is indeed traveling with the Rockets this week on a three-game trip with subsequent stops in Denver and Minnesota. But Howard has been ruled out of making his return against his old team.

Howard received a second shot in his sore left ankle last week and has missed Houston's past five games. But the Rockets' All-Star center has expressed confidence that the injury won't be an issue that lingers into the playoffs.

The Rockets are closing in on securing the West's No. 4 seed after recently clinching their first 50-win season since 2008-09. But they are being cautious with Howard, especially in the wake of the recent worrisome knee injury suffered by backcourt defensive ace Patrick Beverley.

Howard, remember, has lined up against the Lakers on the road this season when Houston visited Staples Center in February to play Howard's old team.

Marshall University has reached out to Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni to gauge his interest in coaching his alma mater, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told that the Thundering Herd have pursued D'Antoni before and made this latest inquiry -- which coincides with his uncertain future in Los Angeles -- because they "always sound him out" any time Marshall has an opening in a bow to D'Antoni's stature in school history.

But sources stressed D'Antoni is highly unlikely to make such a switch even if the Lakers opt for a change at season's end. Although he has served as an unofficial sounding board for school officials in the past, D'Antoni has coached only at the pro level, with three stops in Italy and stints with the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks and Lakers in the NBA.

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This is an excerpt from today's 5-on-5:

True or False: Carmelo Anthony will become a free agent in 2014.

True. The line is right there in Brian's excellent story that Melo, by all accounts, is not considering a revision to his original plan and still intends to become a free agent on July 1. So it's the same principle as the LeBron answer: Gotta go with what we know right now. Maybe Melo will have a rethink after the chatter this story inevitably sparks, but for now we're somewhat forced to base our forecasts on the hints Melo has dropped to this point.

True or False: The Lakers should be worried about their 2014 options.

True. This is the easiest question on the board to answer because the Lakers are privately concerned about their options this summer and the prospect of a third straight season in 2014-15 when they're not in the title mix. But they needn't expect much sympathy from the other 29 teams because the current Lakers are cratering all the way into a top-five pick in the most highly anticipated draft in years and will inevitably field some interesting trade possibilities because they figure to be picking so high up in the lottery. They also are well-positioned to make a big 2015 splash, when the free-agent class that summer is a lot stronger, so no one is shedding any tears for Kobe & Co.

Read the full 5-on-5 roundtable here.

The Herd: Talking Kobe, Heat and more

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
Here's the audio from Friday's visit to The Herd to break down Kobe Bryant's reaction to Steve Blake's exit, where the Lakers stand now and the fear factor Miami can still inspire during the regular season when the Heat are in the mood.

Listen to the podcast Listen

More fresh dribbles of trade-deadline chatter:

Lamar Odom to launch comeback in Spain

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
Lamar Odom is on the verge of launching his basketball comeback in Spain.

Sources with knowledge of Odom's thinking told that the 34-year-old has reached an agreement in principle to sign a deal with Laboral Kutxa in Spain's top league.

Such deals typically contain out clauses that allow established veterans such as Odom to return to the NBA if the opportunity arises, but sources said Monday that Odom's plan is to play out the rest of this season in Spain before determining whether to attempt an NBA comeback.

Misko Raznatovic, who heads up European operations for the agency that represents Odom (Excel Sports Management), hinted at the signing by tweeting that "the biggest bomb on European market is coming for this year!!!" on Tuesday.

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Here's the latest on the Suns' pursuit of Pau Gasol ... co-authored with's Ramona Shelburne:
LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers and Phoenix Suns engaged in a fresh round of trade discussions Monday focused on four-time All-Star center Pau Gasol as both sides continued to assess their options in advance of the Feb. 20 trade deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Sources told that, while there is substantive interest on both sides, it's believed Suns officials want to see how Gasol recovers from a strained groin before deciding whether to take talks to the next level.

Gasol noted on his Instagram page that he'd received a PRP injection on his groin on Monday.

"Today I got a PRP shot to help the healing of my groin injury," Gasol wrote on Instagram. "I will work hard to be back with the team as soon as possible."

After averaging a robust 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in January, Gasol is expected to miss the next three games with the groin injury, which the Lakers do not regard as serious.

ESPN reported on Sunday the Suns were strongly considering trading for Gasol as part of their well-chronicled desire to acquire an established player as they make a playoff push this season.

Read the full story here »

Suns explore deal for Pau Gasol

February, 2, 2014
Feb 2
The Phoenix Suns have emerged as a potential trade suitor for Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told that the Suns, among the options being weighed as part of their well-chronicled desire to acquire an established player as they make an unexpected playoff push this season, have been exploring the feasibility of trading for the Lakers' four-time All-Star.

One option for the Suns, by virtue of their $5.6 million in available salary-cap space, is swapping the expiring contract of injured big man Emeka Okafor for Gasol, even though Okafor's $14.5 million salary this season falls well shy of Gasol's $19.3 million.

See the full news story

In the year 2014 ...

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
This is an excerpt from today's New Year's edition of 5-on-5:

1. One year from now, LeBron James and the Heat will be ...

Stein: Retooling. Or reloading. Or another one of those R words. I was certainly high on the list of know-it-alls who said LeBron would stay in Cleveland, so I know it's risky to simply presume that Miami won't suffer the same fate. But if you're asking me now, more than six months out before LeBron has to decide, I continue to regard staying in Miami as by far LeBron's most appealing option. It just ain't right, in my eyes, for a player of LeBron's stature to switch addresses again after just four years in Miami. When you're the undisputed No. 1 player on the planet, with Pat Riley at your side to orchestrate, you recruit other good players to join you. You don't go looking for another place to play as if to say, "South Beach, like Cleveland, can no longer do it for me."

2. One year from now, the Lakers, Nets and Knicks will be ...

Stein: One year from now I'll still be wondering how the 5-on-5 Bot thought it could squeeze three messes this big and complicated into one short-answer question. History tells us that the Lakers always find a way. And I believe that. It might take longer than 12 months, but the mere fact that the Lakers are suddenly considering this Andrew Bynum deal to get their finances in order makes me think that Laker Haters better enjoy this down cycle while they can. Come the summer of 2015, or 2016 at the latest, they'll inevitably have a new star in place to either partner with Kobe Bryant or take over as face of the franchise. But when it comes to the Knicks and Nets, who've combined to mortgage countless future draft assets for a win-now present that no longer exists, I'm gonna need way more time and space to deal with those two. Sorry.

Read the rest of the 5-on-5 roundtable »

The five best dunks of 2013

December, 31, 2013
Blake GriffinAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesBlake Griffin beats out his own teammate and a host of others for the top spot on our dunk list.
Here's one man's tally, as 2013 draws to a close, of the absolute finest five dunks witnessed in the NBA over the past 12 months:

1. Jamal Crawford's deliciously creative alley-oop to Blake Griffin

The heart is not rational. We feel what we feel. So I refuse to apologize for loving the pass part of great dunks as much as the throwdown itself. I know; I'm weird. But I can't help it. And I, speaking purely for myself, loved the creativity of Crawford going between the legs before he lobbed the ball -- just the sheer fun of such improvisation in the heat of the moment -- more than any other dunk we could list here. One man's opinion.

2. LeBron James' lefty finish off the window on Christmas Day

If I made a mistake, this is it. The case could be made that LeBron's latest gem, no matter how late it came in the competition, should have snagged top billing, such was the degree of difficulty involved. Jeff Van Gundy raised the question on the broadcast as soon as it happened: Has anyone ever finished an oop off the glass with his off hand? Seen-it-all vet Antonio Davis echoed those same thoughts on the set of "NBA Coast 2 Coast" last Friday, saying he couldn't even imagine another right-handed player trying to pull off the combo of a left-footed jump and a left-footed finish that LeBron gifted to all of us in L.A. Ridiculous

3. DeAndre Jordan's near-assassination of Brandon Knight

This is the one, I suspect, that will top most of your lists. And I get it. The finish was absolutely lethal. DeAndre's dunk face after driving Knight into floor was priceless. And the lob from Chris Paul was plenty sweet, too. Maybe it's just me, but the apparent newness of the first two -- how they stood out in terms of uniqueness -- is what made the difference on this scorecard. (P.S.: We really shouldn't be docking Blake style points just because he made his windmill finish of Crawford's lob look as easy as a finger-rolled layup.)

4. Kobe Bryant turning a corner and dunking on a bunch of Nets

Something else about me that regular readers know by now: I'm a nostalgic sap to the core. So when Kobe turned back the clock in Brooklyn, got a step on Gerald Wallace and thundered home over both Wallace and Kris Humphries with Brook Lopez lurking nearby, there was no chance my sentimental side could exclude it. You could certainly argue that Xavier Henry's lefty pile driver over New Orleans' Jeff Withey was truly the best dunk submission of 2013 from the Lakers. But I admit it: I wanted to give the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer his due.

5. J.R. Smith's reverse alley-oop on a low pass that didn't look oop-able

In the first week of 2013, Smith was a Knicks darling whose stunning athleticism on a seemingly routine basket cut enabled him to slam home a down-the-middle feed Pablo Prigioni threw at crotch level. In the first week of 2014, New York will drag into San Antonio with a 9-21 record, clinging to hope that Carmelo Anthony can finally shake his recent ankle woes to return to the lineup ... and wondering how long Smith will stay submerged in a season-long funk that has dragged his PER all the way down to (yikes) 10.7. I'm guessing I'm not the first person to ever say this: What a difference a year makes.

Are Lakers interested in changing course?

December, 30, 2013
Pau Gasol for Brook Lopez?

It would seem, on the surface, that merely posing such a question is a moot point given that Lopez is out for the season after re-breaking his troublesome right foot.

Beneath the surface, though, there are at least two reasons to address it here:

1. Sources with knowledge of the discussions told that the Lakers did indeed engage the Nets earlier this month in some exploratory talks to see if Brooklyn had interest in such a swap. Sources say that the Nets balked at the idea when it was presented before Lopez's injury, but it's still noteworthy if it happened.

2. The Lakers were known to be, at the very least, calling around to gauge Gasol's value before they decided to pull Pau off the market earlier this month. So determining how serious the Lakers really were with their Lopez interest is tricky ... especially since Lopez's health misfortune extinguishes any realistic hope of Pau-for-Brook talks re-igniting between now and the Feb. 20 trade deadline. Yet the mere concept of Gasol and Lopez exchanging jerseys nonetheless gets you thinking, because Lopez is owed $32.5 million over the next two seasons after this one.

And because trading for a player with guaranteed money due beyond 2014-15 would almost certainly affect the Lakers' free-agent flexibility in the summer of 2015.

Which runs counter to what we've all assumed about the Lakers for some time.

Trading for players whose contracts expire in 2015 is one thing. There have been whispers in circulation for some time now that the Lakers, as opposed to wasting time with the long-shot pursuits of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, might be willing to go that route if they knew they could indeed get a difference-maker or two back to pair with Kobe Bryant in Year 1 of Kobe's new two-year, $48.5 million contract extension.

But trading for a highly paid player whose contract stretches into 2015-16 is something else entirely. That strategy has long been seen as a non-option for the Lakers, based on the premise that -- depending on how the rest of the roster looks at that point in terms of guaranteed money -- acquiring someone like Lopez would almost certainly complicate L.A.'s long-held desire to make a free-agent splash in the summer of 2015.

The harsh reality for both teams, let’s not forget, is that they’d have to get under the luxury-tax threshold twice in the next three years to avoid the looming repeater penalty, which will surely factor into any serious trade discussions either franchise pursues in the remaining 52 days until the deadline.

Yet you can’t help but wonder: Has there quietly been a policy shift in L.A. when it comes to certain trade targets?

That's a question very much worth asking.

Deadline day nears for 50 players

December, 27, 2013
It's not a festive season for everyone in the NBA.

We're actually entering a period of high anxiety for 50 players around the league whose seasons are about to reach a make-or-break point.

All non-guaranteed deals in the NBA become fully guaranteed for the rest of the 2013-14 season if the player in question is still on his current team's roster as of Jan. 10. It's a date that always leads to a handful of roster cuts once the calendar flips to 2014, as teams either look to save a few luxury-tax bucks or perhaps open up a roster spot to take advantage of the 10-day contracts they're allowed to start handing out Jan. 5.

When it comes to this season specifically, teams looking to waive players to prevent their contracts from becoming fully guaranteed must do so by 5 p.m. on Jan. 7, thus allowing sufficient time for the player to clear waivers before the magical Jan. 10 date.

The list of players technically at risk includes some who face zero chance of getting snipped; Andrew Bynum, Patrick Beverley and Michael Beasley jump off the page in terms of vets who have noting to fret about. Yet it's a generally nervy time for anyone possessing a non-guaranteed contract until Jan. 7 passes to assure safety.

One interesting certainty here, for the record, is Orlando's forthcoming divorce from veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu. The sides have spent the past several months discussing a buyout with no success, but the Magic have to either cut or trade Turkoglu by Jan. 7 or face the prospect of paying him a full $12 million for the entire season. Only $6 million of that salary is guaranteed, but it behooves Orlando to keep Turkoglu all the way to guarantee-date buzzer just in case a trade materializes where his expiring deal becomes handy.

Atlanta: Shelvin Mack, Cartier Martin, Mike Scott
Boston: None
Brooklyn: None
Charlotte: Jeff Adrien, Chris Douglas-Roberts
Chicago: D.J. Augustin, Eric Murphy
Cleveland: Andrew Bynum, Matt Dellavedova, C.J. Miles, Henry Sims
Dallas: None
Denver: Quincy Miller
Detroit: Josh Harrellson, Peyton Siva
Golden State: Hilton Armstrong, Kent Bazemore
Houston: Patrick Beverley, Greg Smith
Indiana: Rasual Butler
L.A. Clippers: Stephen Jackson, Maalik Wayns
L.A. Lakers: Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall, Shawne Williams
Memphis: Seth Curry, James Johnson
Miami: Michael Beasley, Roger Mason Jr.
Milwaukee: None
Minnesota: Robbie Hummel
New Orleans: Lou Amundson
New York: Cole Aldrich, Toure' Murry
Oklahoma City: Ryan Gomes, Hasheem Thabeet
Orlando: Solomon Jones, Hedo Turkoglu
Philadelphia: James Anderson, Lorenzo Brown, Brandon Davies, Daniel Orton, Hollis Thompson, Elliot Williams
Phoenix: Dionte Christmas
Portland: None
Sacramento: Hamady N'diaye
San Antonio: Malcolm Thomas
Toronto: Julyan Stone
Utah: Ian Clark, Diante Garrett, Mike Harris
Washington: None

P.S.: Even before the January rush, nine players on non-guaranteed contracts have already been waived since the regular season began. They are:

Charlotte: James Southerland
Chicago: Mike James
Golden State: Dewayne Dedmon
L.A. Lakers: Elias Harris
New Orleans: Josh Childress, Arinze Onuaku, Lance Thomas
Philadelphia: Darius Morris
Utah: Jamaal Tinsley

The Day In Tweets: Thursday, Dec. 19

December, 20, 2013

The Day In Tweets: Wednesday, Dec. 18

December, 19, 2013