Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton “will definitely finish the season,” a source close to the situation told the Los Angeles Times. Walton’s status has been a topic of discussion among fans and the media as the Lakers have slid to 28-29 in an injury-plagued season.
But the Times on Wednesday cited sources saying Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka agree that Walton should coach the rest of the season.
Walton is in his third season with the Lakers, finishing 26-56 in 2016-17 and 35-47 in 2017-18 with young rosters. The addition of superstar LeBron James in the offseason raised expectations, but injuries to James, as well as point guards Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball, among others, have helped put Los Angeles on the outside of the playoff picture with 25 games to go.
ESPN reported in late January that James’ camp would prefer a coaching change. Recent results — such as a 136-94 loss at Indiana on Feb. 5, a 23-point loss at Philadelphia on Sunday and Tuesday’s setback at Atlanta — have increased speculation about Walton’s leadership.
—Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid has been fined $25,000 for his criticism of the officiating in the team’s latest loss to the Boston Celtics, the NBA announced.
“The referees f—-ing suck,” the All-Star center said during his postgame press conference on Tuesday. Embiid tallied 23 points and 14 rebounds, but he was whistled for five personal fouls as Philadelphia fell to 0-3 this season against Boston.
Embiid’s frustration was fueled by a sequence in the closing seconds of Tuesday’s 112-109 loss. He missed a potential game-tying jumper after Boston center Al Horford appeared to hit his arm. There was no call from the officials.
—Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet had surgery to repair a partial ligament injury to his left thumb, the team announced. He will need to wear a splint for about three weeks, and the Raptors will update his condition after that.
Also, as expected, the Raptors signed veteran guard Jeremy Lin for depth at the position.
In 51 games this season (22 starts), VanVleet is averaging 10.5 points, 4.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game. He has scored in double figures 30 times this season, including a career-high 30 points in a 119-101 road win over Atlanta on Feb. 7.
— Enes Kanter joined the Portland Trail Blazers following a split with the New York Knicks last week. The deal was reported by ESPN and NBA TV and confirmed by Kanter’s agent.
The Lakers were among other suitors for the center.
The 26-year-old Kanter averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds in 44 games with the Knicks, who released him only minutes after the NBA’s trade deadline. He was in the final year of a four-year, $70 million deal that paid him $18.6 million for the 2018-19 season.
— One day after Memphis forward Bruno Caboclo’s second 10-day contract expired, the Grizzlies signed the former first-round pick to a multi-year deal.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Grizzlies.com reported it would cover the rest of this season and the 2019-20 season.
Caboclo has averaged 6.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 21.1 minutes in 10 games (one start) with Memphis. The 23-year-old Brazilian was the 20th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. He struggled to earn playing time with the Raptors and was traded to the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 8, 2018.
—Field Level Media