Morning Column: August 3, 2021
The Lakers are 'putting the band back together,' Caruso leaves for Chicago, Kawhi Leonard is likely staying (for now), trash cans at Dodger Stadium and the next jersey to be retired at Staples Center
☀️ Good morning on a beautiful Tuesday and welcome to The Morning Column. It was a wild Monday so let’s get right to it.
1. 🏀 “We’re putting the band back together”
It’s one of the most memorable lines from Blues Brothers and it also appears to be the offseason mission for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who spent the first day of free agency bringing back Dwight Howard, who had two previous stints with the Lakers (2012-13, 2019-20,) Trevor Ariza, who was with the Lakers from 2007 to 2009, Wayne Ellington, who was with the Lakers during the 2014-15 season, and Kent Bazemore, who was on the Lakers during the 2013-14 season.
The Lakers are also in the running to bring back Danny Green, who won a championship with the Lakers during the 2019-20 season, and are also rumored to be interested in welcoming back Avery Bradley.
While the reunion sounds great, there is one player who won’t be back that has Lakers fans disappointed with the front office.
2. 🐐 Lakers let ‘The GOAT’ walk
In a puzzling move that made little sense for a cap-strapped team unable to do much in free agency outside of signing veterans to minimum contracts, the Lakers let fan favorite Alex Caruso leave without much of a fight and got nothing in return.
Caruso, 27, wanted to stay with the Lakers. When the Chicago Bulls gave him a four-year, $37 million deal, he didn’t immediately sign it. His representatives presented it to the Lakers. If they matched it, he would have stayed. He might have even stayed if they had countered for slightly less. They know the value of being in Los Angeles and playing with the Lakers.
But the Lakers weren’t interested. No counter. No offer. No nothing.
Even if the Lakers didn’t value Caruso as much as the Bulls and other teams willing to give him the midlevel exemption, they should have at least appreciated his value on the market, realized they weren’t going to sign a better replacement in free agency and brought him back. His contract would have been easily movable in the future and they could have at least gotten something in return for the player LeBron James nicknamed, “The GOAT.”
3. 👨🦯 Old school Lakers
The Lakers will begin next season with at least six players who are 32 or older, which is the most in franchise history.
LeBron James – 36 years old
Trevor Ariza – 36 years old
Marc Gasol – 36 years old
Dwight Howard – 35 years old (turning 36 Dec. 8)
Wayne Ellington – 33 years old
Kent Bazemore – 32 years old
No team in the NBA has had at least four 36-year old players on its roster during the season since the 2016-17 Cleveland Cavaliers. The good news? That team was also led by James and played in the NBA Finals after winning the title the previous season.
Richard Jefferson, who was on that Cavaliers team and lives less than 15 minutes away from the Lakers’ training facility, jokingly (I think) threw his name in the hat to join this Lakers team after their run of signing older veterans on Monday.
4. ⛹️♂️ Gasol brothers retire from Spanish national team
For the fifth straight Olympics, the USA men’s basketball team ended Spain’s dreams of winning a gold medal with a 95-81 win in the quarterfinals. The loss was the end of the national team careers of Pau Gasol (41) and Marc Gasol (36). While Marc is retiring from international play, he will be on the Lakers next season for what could be the final season of his career. While Pau hasn’t officially retired yet, I have always thought it would be great to see Pau sign a ceremonial final contract in Los Angeles, retire as a Laker and get his jersey raised at Staples Center.
Whenever I mention the Lakers retiring Pau’s jersey, there’s always a small contingent of fans who question his hall of fame credentials. It’s ridiculous. He’s a first ballot hall of famer who will get his jersey retired one day. It’s not even debatable.
5. 🏀 Kawhi likely to return to Clippers
While Kawhi Leonard declined his $36 million player option for next season and is currently a free agent, most expect Leonard will remain with the Clippers next season on a one-and-one deal where he will be able to rehab from surgery to repair a partially torn right ACL and become a free agent next year. In that scenario, Leonard could potentially sign a five-year contract worth around $235 million in 2022.
The Clippers are also essentially “putting the band back together” as they re-signed Nicolas Batum to a two-year contract after Serge Ibaka exercised his player option to return to the Clippers. The biggest remaining piece for the Clippers to bring back now is guard Reggie Jackson, who averaged 17.8 points during the playoffs last season.
6. ⚾️ Astros return to Dodger Stadium
For the first time since the cheating scandal that tainted the Houston Astros’ 2017 World Series win over the Dodgers, the Astros will be playing in front of a capacity crowd at Dodger Stadium. (There were obviously no fans at Dodger Stadium last year.)
“Our fans have waited a long time to have these guys at our place,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “We’ll leave it at that.”
7. 📆 Aug. 2, 2018: The Dodgers hang 21 on Milwaukee
On this date in 2018, the Dodgers set a Dodger Stadium record with 21 runs in a 21-5 blowout win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Of course, that record was just broken last month when the Dodgers set a new Dodger Stadium record in a 22-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 11.
8. 🎂 Happy birthday Cedric Ceballos
Happy birthday to Cedric Ceballos. He will probably be best remembered for winning the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest with a blindfolded dunk and leading the NBA in field goal percentage with the Phoenix Suns during their NBA Finals run in 1992-93, but he had his two best statistical seasons with the Lakers. He led the Lakers in scoring in 1994-95 (21.7) and in 1995-96 (21.2) and made the All-Star team for the only time in his career in 1995 but was unable to play due to an injury. He was traded back to the Suns in 1997 in a four-player deal that sent Robert Horry to the Lakers.
9. 💵 Today’s Best Bet Powered by Bovada
Dodgers -1.5 RL (+135)
Lance McCullers, Jr. (8-2, 3.23 ERA) will take the mound at Dodger Stadium tonight against Walker Buehler (11-1, 2.19 ERA). McCullers gave up four runs in six innings or less in his last two starts against the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners. I like the Dodgers run line here. I think the Dodgers bats will have a big night with the trash cans banging and fans letting the Houston Astros have it at Chavez Ravine tonight.
10. 📻 The Arash Markazi Show
On yesterday’s show, Ji Hae Wiley and I discussed NBA free agency and what the Lakers and Clippers need to do in order to compete for a championship next season.
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That’s it for today. Talk to you all tomorrow!