Shootaround (July 19) -- Los Angeles Lakers get veteran presence in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Plus, Jonathon Simmons is taking advantage of a new opportunity and more NBA news from around the league
This morning’s headlines:
- Caldwell-Pope brings leadership to Lakers
- Beverley highlights pack of new Clippers
- New opportunity for Simmons in Orlando
- Perry free to shake things up in New York
For young Lakers, Caldwell-Pope represents veteran leadership — The Lakers recently agreed to a one-year free agent deal with former Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who will bring a defensive presence and outside shooting out West. But for this young Lakers team, KCP will also bring a much-needed veteran presence, despite being just 24 years old, as Tania Ganguli writes in the Los Angeles Times …
“I’m laughing,” Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson said. “You’re old at five years in the league.”
Caldwell-Pope chuckled too.
“I’m just hope to bring the leadership,” he said. “Just try to get the guys’ motor going. Get them going in different ways. You gotta come at people in different ways. You gotta figure out how they work.”
The event to introduce the Lakers’ latest free-agent acquisition was attended by the team’s four 2017 draft picks — 19-year-olds Lonzo Ball and Thomas Bryant, 21-year-old Kyle Kuzma and 22-year-old Josh Hart — as well as second-year forward Brandon Ingram, 19.
The Lakers signed Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal worth about $18 million last week, hoping that his experience, defensive prowess and offensive skill will elevate their roster.
“There was a time when the Israelites were wandering the desert and all of a sudden bread came down from heaven,” general manager Rob Pelinka said. “That’s kind of what today feels like for us to have KCP join.
“When Magic and I were really thinking about the architecture around this team and how we wanted to build it, the two of us could not tailor stitch more of a perfect [shooting] guard. He has a mentality that is consistent with what Magic brought to the table, what Kobe Bryant brought to the table. KCP is about winning and he’s about playing the game the right way. What he’ll do for this team as a leader and with his basketball skills is going to be critical to what we’re building.”
Caldwell-Pope was a restricted free agent before the Detroit Pistons renounced his rights July 7, making him an unrestricted free agent.
His agent, Rich Paul, then called the Lakers. He knew they had been saving salary cap space for a one-year deal, he knew they needed a shooting guard and he knew they could be a good fit for his client.
“Rich had called us with a possibility he would consider us for a one-year deal,” Johnson said. “Rob and I really started watching film and we were just blown away. … I wanted somebody mean and tough that we could count on to get that big stop for us.”
Caldwell-Pope was brought in for a visit July 11 and the two sides agreed to a deal that evening. Johnson and Pelinka both thanked Paul for his work in helping the deal go smoothly. Paul also represents LeBron James, so the Lakers could be working with the agent again next summer.
Johnson believes that Caldwell-Pope’s defensive mentality will rub off on his younger teammates. The Lakers team ranked last in the NBA in defense last season, so improving in that area has been a point of emphasis.
“If we don’t’ defend, we can’t run,” Johnson said. “And we want to run, run, run, run, run. I’m gonna love to see him on one wing, [Ingram] on the other, Ball in the middle, Julius [Randle] trailing, [Brook] Lopez trailing after that, man. It’s gonna be awesome. Larry Nance, on and on and on. But we gotta defend. And he’s gonna set the tone on the defensive end.”
* * *
Beverly brings defensive mindset to Los Angeles — The Los Angeles Clippers moved Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, but in return they received a package of players headlined by defensive specialist point guard Patrick Beverly. While Beverly made clear during a press conference yesterday that he is not Chris Paul, the two may always be linked, as the Associated Press explains …
“Let me get this out of the way: I’m not Chris Paul,” Beverley said. “I reiterate, I am not Chris Paul. Understand, he is not me either.”
And that was that.
Beverley wants the comparison to Paul to end there, but it will follow him as long as he’s the point guard for the Clippers and Paul is with the Rockets.
They’re inextricably linked, like it or not.
Beverley, no longer playing in the same backcourt with James Harden, is expected to have more freedom in an offense that will feature more ball movement than when Paul ran the system under coach Doc Rivers.
He will be counted on to provide the same stingy defense for which he is known. He matches up against opponents’ best guards and has done it well, being selected to the NBA’s first-team all defense last month. In 2016, he proclaimed that he was the best defensive player in the NBA.
“We’ve been big fans of Pat for a long time,” said Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ executive vice president of basketball operations. “He’s an instigator (and) agitator but sometimes what gets lost in that (is) extremely talented. It seems like every time the bar is raised, he meets it. Size is irrelevant. You look at the rebounds and assists and his size. He shoots a high percentage from 3. He’s first-team all defense, but we think there’s a complete game with it.”
Beverley averaged 9.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists and shot 38.2 percent from 3-point range last season. He will fit in with former Rockets teammates Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell just fine. Also introduced Tuesday were rookies Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell.
“We have some dog in us, that’s how we play the game,” Dekker said of the recently traded Houston contingent. “We have a chip on our shoulder. . The way we got here was playing hard and playing scrappy, getting in scuffles on the court. That’s what we do. Last year, in Houston, with the second unit when they threw Pat with us, Trez and a couple other guys, when we went on the court, we always said: ‘Let’s bring the dog out. Let’s do what we do and do what we do best, that’s making them work and make them hate us.’ That’s what we did. Our second unit was one of the best in the league, we thought. That’s what we’re going to bring to LA.”
* * *
Simmons seeks opportunity — After the initial flurry of free agency signings and trades, one of the more interesting names on the market was swingman Jonathon Simmons. After a few seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, where he eventually took on a starting role in the recent Western Conference finals, the Orlando Magic took a big chance on Simmons in free agency. As Josh Robbins writes in the Orlando Sentinel, this deal has a chance of being a win-win for both sides …
“I’ll be farther away from family and friends, but it’s a sacrifice,” Simmons said Tuesday. “Everybody understands that in my circle. So I’m looking forward to it.”
He’s making the move from the San Antonio Spurs to the Magic for the opportunity. The Magic will pay him an average salary of $6 million per year over the next three seasons and also will give him a chance to broaden his game.
In San Antonio, the 6-foot-6 swingman was a third wheel of sorts behind perennial All-Star Kawhi Leonard and also Danny Green.
In Orlando, he’ll join a team that needs a boost.
“A lot of things about Jonathon Simmons impress us,” said Jeff Weltman, the Magic’s president of basketball operations.
“I think that the first element when you look at a player and try to add someone to an organization is you want fighters. You want guys who are going to compete to win and make those around them better. And we see a lot of that in Jonathon.”
Simmons demonstrated his fighting spirit during his long, up-and-down road to the NBA. Undrafted out of the University of Houston in 2012, he played for a semi-pro club before he attended a group tryout for the Spurs’ minor-league affiliate. He latched on with that team, and after two years, the Spurs signed him.
He earned a reputation as a tenacious defender.
“I think a lot of guys in the NBA are just happy being in the NBA, and I’m not one of those guys,” Simmons said. “I want to be able to compete at a high level against elite guys.”
The Magic need more competitors on the defensive end. The team finished last season ranked 24th in points allowed per possession.
Simmons, who will turn 28 in September, began July as a restricted free agent, which gave the Spurs the right to match any offer sheet he might have received from another team. Last week, however, the Spurs withdrew their qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
“It’s a business, and I had to look out for myself,” Simmons said.
The Magic signed him to a relatively team-friendly contract — a contract that is guaranteed for only $1 million in its final season.
Signing Simmons will be remembered as a bargain if he can upgrade the Magic’s defense and if he can improve his 3-point shooting, which dipped from 38.3 percent as a rookie to 29.4 percent last season.
But Weltman stressed Tuesday that Simmons brings more elements to his game than only defense.
“Jonathon’s such a good defender, he’s such an aggressive player that that kind of captures your attention,” Weltman said. “But Jonathon gets to the rim. He’s a capable passer, and I think his shooting has shown improvement. So at this stage of his career, he’s still a young guy. If he can kind of continue to stair-step progress with his perimeter abilities, there’s a whole other level in store for him.”
* * *
Perry has freedom to shake things up — New Knicks GM Scott Perry has plenty of projects on his plate, of course including figuring out what to do with Carmelo Anthony. But looking bigger picture, according to the New York Post, whatever it is Perry wants to do, he has the freedom to do it…
While former Cavaliers boss David Griffin said he didn’t want the Knicks’ general manager job partly because he wasn’t clear whether he could bring in new blood to the front office, team president Steve Mills said emphatically his new hire Scott Perry will have leeway to tinker where needed.
Mills said the goal is to become “a first-class organization.’’ Mills’ remarks have put some of the current, longtime Knicks personnel men in potential danger.
“We’re going to rebuild what the front office of the Knicks looks like,’’ Mills said at Monday’s press conference. “I feel really good about a lot of the people we have working for us. But we also know there’s room for us to grow and get better if we want to be a first-class organization, and Scott will have the freedom to meet with everyone in our organization.
“Where he sees there’s opportunities to bring new people into the organization, he has the flexibility to do that, and we’ll work as a tandem in making sure that we have a first-class operation.”
Mills and Perry make up the league’s only active all-black front-office tandem — something Perry said was “not lost on me.’’ Nevertheless, the Knicks already had among the most diverse front-office staffs in the NBA. Personnel men Allan Houston, Mark Hughes, Clarence Gaines Jr., Walker Russell and Makhtar Ndiaye are black.
Because Gaines, the former Bulls scout, is closely tied to departed team president Phil Jackson, and sought players only adaptable to the triangle, his situation seems most uncertain.
“One of my first tasks is going to be to come in and evaluate the entire [basketball] operations department,’’ Perry said. “I’m going to start doing that ASAP and meeting with everybody and getting an opportunity to hear everyone’s story and learn about their roles and contributions, and then I’ll be in a position to make strong suggestions to Steve that maybe we need to add some more to our group.
“In terms of Detroit [where Perry served as a Pistons exec from 2000-12], people talk about culture all the time, winning cultures. The biggest thing I learned there, you can have a lot of signs and printouts that have a lot of fancy statements. But at the end of the day you have to live culture every day, hold people accountable, that’s everybody having a shared vision.
Steve and all of us are in agreement it’s great to have diversity of thought with unity of purpose though. We want varying opinions. But that’s how you come to some of the best decisions.’’
* * *
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Spurs are working to bring back Manu Ginobili for another year … “The Man with the Golden Arm,” Wayne Ellington is excited to return to the Miami Heat next season … One of presumably many suitors looking to buy the Houston Rockets is former Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo … The Grizzlies are looking to bring back Mario Chalmers … Danny Ainge is used to dealing with criticism and adversity … The Raptors don’t want to just give away Jonas Valanciunas