Lakers Trade Rumors Laced with Peril and Possibility

Featured Photo Copyright: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Optimism and unease abound as Lakers attempt to shed cap space heading into February trade deadline and 2018 offseason

By: Mason Kern

In yet another attempt for the storied franchise to shed contracts in hope of securing a superstar in the 2018 offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers have placed combo guard Jordan Clarkson, undersized center Julius Randle, and forward Larry Nance Jr. on the trading block. This comes as surprise for many as this is the first time this season that Nance Jr.’s name surfaced in trade rumors, especially considering President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson had referred to him as the Lakers’ “secret weapon” earlier in the season.

“Our secret weapon is Larry Nance…we’ve gotten calls from a lot of teams wanting to trade for him and Brandon Ingram and we’ve said ‘no.’ Larry is such a fundamentally sound basketball player,” Johnson said, as reported by LakersNation.com.

As far as prospective acquisition contenders, the Lakers have been linked to superstar Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Paul George since his days on the Indiana Pacers. Notable since it’s the last season under his current five-year, $91,572,660 contract before his 2018 player option comes into play, where he will most likely opt out of the final year of his contract. With this, teams are circling and making moves to clear space in order to potentially sign George this offseason. George will most certainly command a max contract this summer, which is likely a primary main reason why the Lakers are trying to clear space on their books in order to have a chance at this pricey pick. The fit is seemingly a good one, as George also has ties to Los Angeles, and has been known for wanting to play in L.A. at some point in his career.

Interestingly, one name that has not circulated in the most recent trade rumors is small forward Luol Deng. The Lakers paid massive amounts for the services of Deng and center Timofey Mozgov back in the 2016 offseason, and have paid a significant price both on and off the court ever since. They were able to shed Mozgov’s contract in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets that saw former Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell and Mozgov get swapped for former Nets center Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma— the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft that has turned into a standout rookie now tied for second in points per game amongst rookies with 16.9 points per game. This includes Philadelphia 76’ers small forward Ben Simmons who also averages 16.9 points per game, and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell who leads the rookie class with 18.5 points per game.

The Lakers rumors have also been linked to LeBron James– arguably the best player in the world—for this offseason, as well as Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker. However, the latter is surprisingly less likely to happen than the former. The problem with the possibility of James pivoting to the Lakers lies in the fact that he wants to win a championship… now. He has made six straight NBA Finals appearances, and is 3-5 in his win/loss ratio for his eight total trips. The past three years have seen the same matchup in the championship between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron’s Cavs are 1-2 in the three matchups, mainly because of Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder in pursuit of a ring with the Warriors, which he achieved in the 2016-17 season in a 4-1 rout of the Cavs. It would not make sense for LeBron to jump ship to join the Lakers this offseason, as Cleveland has been dutifully assembling a team that can match the prowess of Warriors in the near-term. The Lakers will most likely be no more than a 35-win team this season at best, which also significantly dampens the likelihood that they can attract the likes of LeBron this offseason, even with a lucrative max contract offer.

In George’s case, this is his first season with the Thunder, rounding out their “Big Three” of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, himself. Even with these heavy hitters, it’s been a shaky first quarter of the season as the Thunder currently sit sixth in the Western Conference with a 22-19 record. The best-case scenario for the Lakers is that the Thunder miss the playoffs entirely, combined with a max contract offer to entice a George to move away from Oklahoma City. It’s said that “money talks”—especially considering the Oakland Raiders new head coach hire of Jon Gruden, who was enticed to leave “Monday Night Football” thanks to a 10-year $100 million contract offer. But in a league where the ultimate goal is winning a ring, which George has never accomplished, even money often isn’t enough to persuade players to switch teams. In fact, players sometimes even take pay cuts in order to team up with other league superstars –a road the NBA seems to be traveling with more frequency as more high-caliber talent manifests, and salary caps increase in kind.

For his part, Jordan Clarkson has been a consistent combo guard that earned his way to a 4 year, $50,000,000 contract. He has continuously been a part of the “Sixth Man of the Year” conversation, and is so again averaging 13.9 points while shooting 34.0% from 3-point land this season coming off the bench. He still has around $26 million guaranteed left on his contract and is the main player, outside of Deng, whose contract the Lakers apparently desire to shed. His consistency and efficiency in a limited amount of time would make him a desirable asset for a number of NBA teams who need a combo point/shooting guard who can create space off the dribble, take it to the rack, shoot the trey ball and find the open man.

Lastly, Randle is finally starting to come into his own having settled into his role with the Lakers, however he has always been a frustrated player who seeks to bully his opponents on the block despite his undersized stature. He committed himself to a strict workout regimen last offseason and clearly came into this season with a vengeance. Even so, he’s seen limited time on the court this season, averaging just 22.9 minutes per game in head coach Luke Walton’s fast-paced system, and finds himself averaging 13.4 points per game. However, with increased minutes he’s increased production, as in the last ten Lakers games Randle’s minutes have increased to 24.5, resulting in an average 16.1 points per game in that timeframe. He’s in the midst of a 4 year, $13,545,962 contract, and hits restricted free agency in the summer of 2019.

Overall, the likelihood of the Lakers scoring a singular superstar this offseason is slim, let alone two, given the NBA is in an era where players are foregoing funds in pursuit of their ultimate goal: to win a championship. Even while it starts maneuvering, the Lakers front office really needs to decide if it’s prudent to go all-in on trading valuable assets in Clarkson, Randle and Nance Jr. in what could very well be futile hopes of landing George or James. Or, they could adopt a “no risk, no reward” mindset and stay the current course and see where the chips fall. At the end of the day, this legendary organization has not made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season in which they were swept in the first-round by the San Antonio Spurs. Even the die-hard Lakers Nation has had its patience and loyalty tested with the limited success this beloved franchise has realized since the 2007-10 seasons.

Time will tell if precarious power-trades this off season gets them back in the game in a meaningful way. Until then, we’ll have to wait and how all the speculation effects the Lakers on the court. They’re currently on a two-game winning streak having beaten the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings in their last two games. They host the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on Thursday, January 11 at 7:30 p.m. PST.

 

Sources:

http://www.lakersnation.com/lakers-news-magic-johnson-calls-larry-nance-jr-teams-secret-weapon/2017/09/13/

 

 

 

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Ron Artest’s Return Key to Lakers Turnaround?

With the return of “Metta World Peace,” AKA Ron Artest, the Los Angeles Lakers look to secure a defensive-minded forward on a team that is vying for a playoff position this year.

In his last stint with the team, which spanned over a four year period, Artest etched his name in the history books for both good and bad reasons. For one, World Peace will definitely be remembered for his on-court antics. Reflecting on the past, World Peace helped secure Los Angeles’ 2010 NBA Championship by knocking down a clutch three pointer in the closing seconds of game seven. However, he also carries notoriety throughout the league due to a controversial play in which he elbowed then Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard James Harden in the face. This is a risky move for an organization who is looking only to improve.

That is exactly what general manager Mitch Kupchak believes World Peace can deliver to the organization: improvement. “Personally, I think [there’s] a lot of things he brings to the table…” Kupchak said. For the past month, World Peace has reportedly been training at the Lakers’ facility, while also mentoring young players such as Julius Randle—a sophomore forward who was injured in his rookie debut last season.

The main motivation Kupchak seemingly has in bringing World Peace to the team is his leadership. The 35 year old veteran clearly has an influence in the locker room, and with such a young squad, he’s reportedly held his own in the practices. However, since his departure from the New York Knicks in 2014, World Peace hasn’t played in an NBA game but rather logged playing time in the Chinese and Italian basketball leagues.

Could World Peace be the missing link the Lakers’ need? He has some steep competition in order to make the team, having received a non-guaranteed, one-year deal in which he will battle for one of three open roster spots against young talent that will pose new challenges all on their own. If he does make the team, he just may get the bench to provide extra defensive mentality in what seems to be shaping up as a turnaround season for the Lakers.

High School Sprinter Breaks Track and Field Record

It’s always my pleasure to cite record-breaking news items of note. Here’s an item pertaining to high school girls’ track and field that isn’t confined to a specific school or state record, but rather a national-level achievement.

In Albany, New York, Rush-Henrietta High School sophomore, Sammy Watson, has set the second fastest 400 meter dash sprint time in the nation…and with no starting blocks! Usually, before a race begins, the runners take their stance on a pair of running blocks intended to help get the runner get off to a good start. However, in a previous race in which Watson used the blocks, she didn’t post a time she wanted, and therefore decided to approach this subsequent race with no blocks whatsoever.

As the starting gun sounded, Watson propelled herself from a standing start, and eventually won the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division I girls 400 final in 52.69 seconds, reflecting a meet record. With that performance, Watson moved up the leaderboard, raising up from a third place position to second place nationwide. This was reportedly the first time Watson had won a state championship, and, in doing so, she also lowered the Section V record she had also notably reset during sectionals the month prior.

Maybe someday we’ll all be watching Watson represent The United States in the Olympics. Only time will tell, but she seems to be sprinting in the right direction!

Source: http://usatodayhss.com/2015/sammy-watson-track-400-starting-blocks-new-york

High School Athlete Breaks Female Weightlifting Record

Anyone who thinks girls aren’t super-strong need only read this story to gain a new mindset.

 

Juliette Chang-Fane, a 15 year old attendee of Edgewood High School in Merritt Island, Florida, broke the American Youth 14-15 weightlifting record for the Clean and Jerk event in very memorable fashion. She ended up lifting a bar full of weights that totaled 175 pounds over her head! She also broke the record for lifting the most amount of weight for a person of her body weight—125 pounds.

 

Juliette’s trainer attributes her success to how she approaches to new challenges and a given task at hand, citing that her mentality is to analyze everything scientifically. Juliette reportedly even films all of her weightlifting sessions so that she can critique herself later on.

 

What’s additionally impressive is that, prior to competing, Juliette had only trained in the sport of weightlifting for 9 months, mainly using the CrossFit method, whereas most of the other youth competing the day she broke the record had trained much of their lives. She had overcome other obstacles as well, including numerous doubters who believed that weight-lifting was a “man’s sport” and that women should stick to more traditional roles. However, Chang-Fane seeks to break that stereotype and prove that female athletes are capable of anything. She hopes to be an inspiration to all the young girls out there to be exactly whoever and whatever to be. Her message is apparently resonating. Juliette has, already accumulated over 9,500 followers on the Instagram social media platform, alone.

 

This high school student reportedly has her eye on making a run at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team that will compete in Tokyo. She seems to be well on her way.

Mason Kern, Youth Sports Watchdog - Photo Copyright SportsWurlz(tm)
Mason Kern, Youth Sports Watchdog – Photo Copyright SportsWurlz(tm)

Source: http://usatodayhss.com/2015/juliette-chang-fane-of-edgewood-fla-sets-national-youth-weightlifting-record

Los Angeles High School Basketball Team Assists the Homeless

Want a feel-good sports report? This is a downright heartwarming story about a high school basketball team in Los Angeles, California that spent the Sunday before this past Father’s Day giving assistance to the homeless around their community.

This act of team generosity was spearheaded by their coach, Harvey Kitani, who, throughout his tenure as the Fairfax High School boys’ varsity basketball coach, has experienced many players with family issues. In one case, one of his players was actually homeless for a short period of time! His 2015 team, which won the Los Angeles City Section title the year prior (finishing with 32 wins and 3 losses), gave assistance to those in need in Los Angeles’ notorious Skid Row area, which has the city’s largest homeless population. The event was organized by the Family Bridge Foundation in collaboration with the Intellect-Mercy-Love Foundation and The Senegalese Association of Los Angeles—a support-system for West Africa’s Senegalese Community in the Los Angeles Region. Most of the food was reportedly cooked by a group of Senegalese natives! Additionally, during the event water bottles and dental supplies were doled out to the homeless as well.

The impact this charitable and selfless experience had on the players cannot be understated. After the team completed the day, two players decided to promote the spirit of generosity at their school in a more formal way, and started a club on campus known as the Fairfax Closet, whereby students take to the streets of Los Angeles to provide clothing and other support for the homeless in their community.

This is a fantastic example of team-based athletes using their power in numbers and their social skills to achieve a greater good. Well played, team.

Source: http://usatodayhss.com/2015/fairfax-basketball-team-spends-day-feeding-homeless-on-skid-row-in-los-angeles

My Top 5 Experiences at WJMC

Throughout the course of the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, us National Youth Correspondents have experienced a multitude of speeches, monuments, and new friendships. The top five that stand out to me are the events that impacted me the most thus far on my trip, and will last with me for the rest of my life, they are as follows.

1. My favorite activity on the trip so far has been the speech given to us by Kevin McCarthy, an entertainment reporter, because it was a Skype call that he took the time to make from Spain! He was very enthusiastic when speaking to us, and we could tell that he was very passionate about what he does. We also ended up creating our own “hashtag” in #nerdtears.

2. Next up on my list would be our adventure to the global headquarters of National Geographic, where we heard another speech by Susan Goldberg, the first female editor-in-chief for the corporation. She was very moving and powerful in how she made her way to the top, and gave great advice to us aspiring journalists in the future. After her speech we had the opportunity to also visit two exhibits inside the building which were the Indian Jones exhibit, and the Monster Fish exhibit.

3. Third on my everlasting list of exciting adventures we have partaken in here at WJMC is the Newseum. This was a great opportunity to see first-hand the evolution of news through time, and get a better sense of what to expect up ahead in the future. There was a multitude of fun games, and a simulator that allowed us to act as a live news reporter, which was very exciting!

4. Number four on my list would be our trip to the National Press Club, where we heard a number of speeches by some of the most powerful journalists in the industry. The one that stood out the most to me was given by Sonya Ross, a Race and Ethnicity reporter for the Associated Press. She really related to all of us and encouraged us to strive for our best because journalism is a life long career, and I really appreciated that extra boost of confidence.

5. Lastly, number five on my list would be our Twilight Monument Tour, in which we went to some of the most major monuments in the Washington DC area. It was very inspiring to read all of the various quotes in each memorial, and to see some of the most influential people in America’s history be glorified forever in such a “monumental” fashion.

These were only five out of the numerous other activities planned out for all of us National Youth Correspondents here at WJMC, all of the information that I have gathered through our speeches, and group meetings will stick with me forever, as I try to make my mark on the world of journalism. As this experience nears its end, I reflect on all of the knowledge I have gained, and am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the Washington Journalism and Media Conference.