LeBron James, Lakers Front Office Split on Coaching Move, NBA Execs Say

Lakers star LeBron James

Getty Lakers star LeBron James

The rampant NBA speculation regarding Sixers coach Doc Rivers and the Lakers goes back more than a month now, but in that time a couple of significant things have happened. First, Sixers general manager Daryl Morey stated, rather strongly, that Rivers would be back next season. Second, the Lakers plowed ahead with coaching interviews, with respected assistant and former NBAer Darvin Ham emerging as a frontrunner.

Yet, Rivers remains connected to the Lakers job, even after having met with Sixers owners earlier this week. He has a house in Los Angeles, and is expected to be a short drive from the Lakers offices for much of the spring, should they decide to chat.

Most of the front office, it seems, has zeroed in on Ham, with former head coaches Terry Stotts (Portland) and Kenny Atkinson (Brooklyn) also in the mix. Ham was briefly an assistant with the Lakers, and according to league sources, he is the favorite of the Phil Jackson-Kurt Rambis layer of Lakers decision-makers.

“I think those guys want a young coach they can mold a little bit,” one Western Conference executive told Heavy.com. “I do not think Darvin is a pushover by any means. I just think that they want a guy they can point in the direction they want to go, more traditional basketball, using Russell Westbrook a certain way.”

And the Rivers rumors? Seems the players, and perhaps general manager Rob Pelinka, too, would rather see an experienced, win-now coach on the sidelines. “If LeBron could pick,” the executive said, “it’s pretty certain he’d pick Doc.”

The exec was quick to point out that the Lakers had hoed to be united on the coaching front, considering their last foray into a coaching hire, in 2019, was bungled. The team pursued Ty Lue then but would not meet his contract request, and lost out on Monty Williams to Phoenix almost at the same time. Recently fired coach Frank Vogel was the Lakers’ third choice.

Alas, the united front has, apparently, failed to materialize.

Knicks’ Assets Could Lead to Draft Trade

The Knicks hold the No. 11 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, and in all likelihood, they will remain there and choose a point guard. But they can be expected to make a push for one of the Top 4 picks in the draft in hopes of coming away with a young big man like Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith.

The Knicks have assets on hand, starting with their full complement of picks going forward. But they also have Dallas’ pick next season as well as Detroit’s second-rounder in 2023 (and possibly three other second-rounders).

“A lot of teams would rather have that Detroit pick than the Dallas pick, you have more flexibility with second-rounders and they won’t be that far apart,” one GM told Heavy.com. “If they can make a pick swap only, and it costs them the Dallas pick next year and the Detroit second-rounder, it is a lot to give up, but that could land them in the Top 4. It is a significant move for them.”

Nets Could Keep Pick as Trade Chip

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice reported this week that the Nets are expected to defer their right to the Sixers’ first-round pick (No. 23 this year) to instead register in next year’s draft, and sources around the league confirmed that with Heavy.com. That does not mean it’s likely that the Nets will make that pick next season, though. It could be a valuable trade chip.

The Nets are still foggy on what the roster will look like for 2022-23, and they’re not going to have any answers by draft time. This roster has only six players under contract for certain next year, and at least five major free agents to consider: Kyrie Irving, Bruce Brown, Nic Claxton, Goran Dragic and Patty Mills. Putting the pick off a year gives the Nets the option to include it in an in-season trade next year to address injuries or roster shortcomings.

“There is too much for them to figure out to be able to make that pick this year,” one NBA source told Heavy.com. “They want young players to bring into the mix, Sean Marks wants to draft guys. But he’s got to think about winning a championship while he can. If you can put off that decision, it’s the right thing.”


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