Your Los Angeles Lakers are in shock. Losers of five straight games, the Lakers have fallen to a 16-18 record and face an intimidating schedule once the NBA schedule moves to 2022.
LA is also still without six players at the time of writing, including All-Star big man Anthony Davis and starting shooting guard Avery Bradley. Bradley recently cleared the league’s coronavirus health and safety protocols and is working on his conditioning, so our fingers are crossed that he returns as soon as possible. The same goes for the three Lakers still in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.
Of course, the club got some relief from their various player absences when they started adding new players through 10-day hardship exception contracts. There are currently four new LA players on these deals.
The Lakers have 13 players inked on guaranteed contracts, two fairly essentially signed players for unsecured deals that look likely to see those contracts guaranteed ASAP, and two two-way roster slots. But the reality of this team, as it is currently constituted, is that they are far from competing for a championship. Yes, it seems unlikely that LA would have lost those last five straight games if Anthony Davis had been available, but those recent losses have been pretty deflating nonetheless.
Los Angeles has some realistic options. The team could give up a player on a veteran guaranteed minimum contract that turned out to be a bust, à la Rajon Rondo, Kent Bazemore or DeAndre Jordan. LA could also give up one or both two-way players and sign one of the 10-day players to a two-way contract.
Each of the four 10-day players can be signed for an additional 10-day deal before LA has to make that sort of decision. Did anyone show enough promises to warrant an all-season commitment? We will unpack this in chronological order.
The 5’9 “veteran playmaker signed his first 10-day contract with the Lakers on the 17th, which means LA can re-sign him for a second 10-day contract on the 27th. Given their continuing problems Lockdown of secondary ball handlers and helpful shooters, it seems worth taking a longer look, even though it has proven inconsistent on offense and occasionally disengaged in defense.
Thomas, 32, a former All-Star double, posted good numbers in his first two games with LA. He scored 19 points on 5 of 12 shots in a 110-92 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, then 13 points while shooting 5 of 11 from the floor in a 115-110 loss to the Bulls. Then his production fell off a cliff, as he averaged 2.5 points on 2 of 16 shots from the ground in his next two games. He was a DNP-CD to David Fizdale in the Christmas Day 122-115 loss to the Nets last night, which would have been his fifth game with LA.
Sadly, the story of Thomas’ return seems likely to end with just one ten-day contract in Los Angeles. He’s averaging 9.3 points per night, while shooting 30.8% from the ground (only 22.7% from depth) and 72.7% from the free throw line. He also scores 2.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in four games.
The Lakers have officially announced the signing of forward Jemerrio Jones, as Thomas yet another ex-Laker, on the 21st. Although there may be a little more time for LA to see what Jones can do on the pitch. before making a decision, it looks like he’s already fallen out of favor with David Fizdale. Along with Thomas, Jones was also a DNP – CD last night.
Jones, 26, enjoyed a six-game cup of coffee with the Lakers at the end of the 2018-19 NBA season. Because Rob Pelinka’s front office seems determined not to look past the players he’s already brought to Staples Center / Crypto.com Arena, Jones’ signing perhaps shouldn’t have come as a surprise to fans of the Lakers who paid attention.
The 6’5 “winger from New Mexico State has only played two games so far. He’s yet to break through the Lakers’ rotation in any meaningful way. In 7.5 minutes per night, Jones averages just 2.0 points and 1.5 rebounds.
Darren Collison chose to retire in the summer of 2019 at the age of 31, rather than land a new lucrative independent agent contract of around $ 40-50 million. He had apparently found a niche in the NBA as a reliable shooter with some defensive moxie, and the decision came as a surprise to many.
The following season, LA native Collison openly flirted with a return to one of his two hometown teams before ultimately choosing to stay in retirement.
This year, however, even Joe Johnson is dusted off and trotted for a 10-day contract. Collison finally decided to jump into the action and put his mild intimacies to the fore in Los Angeles, signing with the Lakers on Christmas Eve.
Ahead of last night’s game, Collison, now 34, had career averages of 12.5 points (with a slash line of 0.471 / 0.394 / 0.853), 5.0 assists and 2 , 7 rebounds in 708 games in 10 years of NBA action.
Until last night, the 6’0 “vet hadn’t played in an NBA game for two and a half years. Rust was on. He didn’t score any points going 0 of 2 on the field in 12 : 05. Collison pulled down two boards and poured a dime in that amount of time. Assuming he could get closer to the player he was with a bit more run, Collison seems worth a longer look. Considering he’s not a spring chicken and missed so much time, it’s unrealistic to expect much beyond a deep bench role as a secondary ball handler. and occasional occasional shooter.
Stanley Johnson could be the smartest of the Lakers’ four rookies to date. The team suffers on both sides of the ball. However, the club clearly need great attackers with a focus on defense. The athletic, switchable Johnson can play anywhere forward and is quick enough to shield shooting guards, to boot.
The 25-year-old Arizona native may not have much of a jumper (he’s a career 37.5% shooter from the field), but the 6’6 “vet still seems to have a untapped potential.
Johnson signed his contract with LA on Christmas Eve and was immediately thrown into the deep end against the Nets. Johnson played 27:24, the team’s sixth-highest total minutes in loss. He shot 2 of 4 from the ground and 2 of 2 from the foul line to score seven runs. He also scored a rebound, an assist and a steal. Johnson recorded a solid +6 during his stint on hardwood. He’s played a lot more minutes than Wayne Ellington or two-way striker Mason Jones.
Trevor Ariza, signed this summer to be the Lakers’ main defensive forward, is 35 and has struggled with injuries and coronavirus this young season. Johnson may not have Ariza’s shot (despite going 1 of 3 from away over Christmas), but he’s a better defender. He at least seems destined for a second 10-day contract, but could (and should) stay a little longer than that if he can continue.