Hi this is Tania Ganguli, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, here with your Lakers newsletter.
Well, I don’t know what we’ll talk about today — there isn’t much going on in Lakerland.
*pause for laughter*
As you likely know, that’s not even remotely true. It’s almost never true when it comes to the Lakers, but especially not now. Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans and as soon as his agent Rich Paul made that public, the figurative sirens went off in El Segundo.
Magic Johnson and Pelicans general manager Dell Demps got on the phone Tuesday. On Wednesday the Lakers sent over five proposals. Sources told my colleague Broderick Turner one of the proposals included Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac and a first-round pick.
There is an understandable tug of war happening among Laker fans regarding this. The team is filled with likeable young players to whom people have become attached. On the other hand, the opportunity to acquire a player like Davis is exactly what the Lakers have been preparing for since Johnson and Rob Pelinka took over the Lakers’ front office.
Having not gone all in on Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers knew they had to approach this differently.
Of course, it takes two teams to agree to a deal. If the Pelicans ultimately decide that they won’t do a deal with the Lakers, even if they offer everything they have, there won’t be anything the Lakers can do. Don’t underestimate the power of a general manager not wanting to appear to his peers as if he was bullied. Especially by the Lakers.
I spent some time discussing all of this on our podcast Arrive Early, Leave Late.
The trade deadline is in one week.
There’s another question swirling around the Lakers right now, though.
When will LeBron James return?
Soft tissue injuries, especially ones that deal with the core, are ones that can linger and get worse. If you play through one, you’ll pay for it later.
James is being careful with his return for exactly that reason. But he is getting close. He’ll test out the injury tonight before the Lakers play the Clippers and see how it feels.
He’s finally been able to get back on the court on a regular basis with his teammates and is visibly delighted. He spent several minutes practicing three-pointers after Monday’s practice, making most of them. He was part of a very light-hearted shooting competition with some teammates and coaches after Tuesday’s shootaround, and followed that by attempting a series of full-court shots. Wednesday he finished up with some free-throw practice.
Monday morning a source told me that James had been through a few solid practices and wanted to get a few more in before playing. The Lakers officially ruled him out for tonight’s game, but added that that could change. My read on that is that James will probably miss his 18th game tonight, but his return is imminent.
Whenever it is won’t be a moment too soon for the Lakers.
Since last we spoke…
--Having lost to the Lakers the last time they met, the Warriors exacted revenge by blowing out the Lakers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The good news for people who paid exorbitant prices months ago in hopes of seeing James play the Warriors was that they got to see a little bit of history. Klay Thompson set a record by making 10 three pointers before missing. He missed his 11th attempt and then didn’t play again.
--Lakers owner Jeanie Buss appeared on an ESPN podcast and among her comments was this one: “If somebody doesn’t want to play with the best player playing in the NBA right now, then I don’t want them on the team.”
--Luol Deng was back in town. He wasn’t playing much for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but they dusted him off for 11 minutes and 39 seconds against the Lakers, and he helped the Timberwolves pull away.
--Rajon Rondo returned in that game and had a nice night. But the Lakers still took a really tough loss.
--Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart have been dealing with injuries that they’ve been trying to play through. Kuzma had trouble moving against the Timberwolves and took the next two games off to recover. He said his injury felt like a stabbing pain in his hip. Hart has also been impacted by his knee tendinitis, but so far has been playing with it.
--Our Bill Plaschke made the case for Magic Johnson to go all in with his pursuit of Anthony Davis.
--Davis got fined $50,000 because of his agent’s public comments about asking the Pelicans for a trade. That is less than he makes in one quarter of basketball, but it is also the largest fine the NBA is allowed to levy for such an offense, according to their bylaws.
--Ball’s camp grew concerned when the Lakers set their sights on Davis, given the impacted nature of the Pelicans’ backcourt. Ball doesn’t have much say in where he winds up if a trade happens, and he hasn’t made any demands to that effect. But if the deal were to happen he’d prefer to land with a third team. The Pelicans, though, see Ball as a potential star. My colleague Broderick Turner and I broke down that dynamic.
By the next newsletter everything, or nothing, might have changed.