Saturday, May 18, 2024

Trade rumor looms over Lakers-Pacers game

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LOS ANGELES — Here’s a story about a trade with the Indiana Pacers.

No, not that potential trade – though it seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

On February, 20, 1997, Darvin Ham was a rookie with the Denver Nuggets. He took a ride on the team bus to the arena in Indianapolis, and when he arrived, he was told his things had been moved to the home locker room of the Pacers. He had been traded for Jerome Allen, a second-year guard.

It was a harsh introduction to the business of the NBA. In the 25 years since, Ham has seen a lot of trades, trade rumors and players cracking under the pressure. In his time, players learned about trades via the newspaper – these days, however, social media keeps the chatter constant.

“I’ve dealt with that myself personally,” he said. “But you just have to have an approach that whatever jersey you put on, it’s a blessing to be in this league and handle it like a professional.”

The reason Ham was talking about trade rumors in the first place: They’ve been swarming around the Lakers and Pacers, the two teams that met on Monday night at Arena.

The details are well-established to even the casual fan at this point: The Lakers got deep into discussions with the Pacers this summer about trading Russell Westbrook and other draft assets for big man Myles Turner and shooter Buddy Hield.

The trade never materialized, but the specter that it still could hangs over Lakerland. Even when they were introduced as Pacers starters on Monday night, the home crowd cheered two prospective future Lakers. It was just last month when Turner seemed to appeal to the Lakers directly on Adrian Wojnarowksi’s podcast: “If I’m the Lakers, I take a very hard look at this with the position that you’re in. I know what I can provide for a team.”

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle grinned when reminded of that episode on Monday night. In the weeks since, Turner (18.6 ppg, 2.3 bpg, 44.2% from 3-point range) has been on a heater for Indiana, which entered Monday night in the top four of the Eastern Conference standings. Hield’s shooting has been down (33.6% from behind the arc), but he’s still regarded as one of the league’s most productive and dangerous 3-point volume shooters.

Carlisle said his discussion with Turner was “private,” but pointed to the team’s success as a product of how Turner and Hield have played over the past month.

“It’s been great to be with those guys,” Carlisle laughed. “I can see where people would have interest in them. I have a lot of interest in not trading them, you know?”

It might be a while before the buzz picks up: The Lakers can’t trade free agents the team signed this summer until Dec. 15. ESPN reported Monday that it might be January before NBA front offices begin to stir for deals like the ones the Lakers could be in the market to make.

For Ham, there’s a more immediate concern: Westbrook. Ham has been one of Westbrook’s most vocal advocates despite moving him into a bench role.

On Monday, Ham called Westbrook “a true professional” for how he’s handled the never-ending trade speculation. Pointing to the Lakers’ five wins in their previous six games heading into their tilt with the Pacers, Ham said he wanted to see how the group he has now will continue to grow.

“I can just say this: We’re totally thrilled with the way our current group is progressing, and we’re excited about the success we’ve had here recently,” he said. “And we just hope to build on it in that locker room.”

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