Lakers firm up roster, ready to rumble

LOS ANGELES • The Los Angeles Lakers made it official on Saturday night, announcing the signing of centre Anthony Davis, whom they hope will form a dynamic one-two punch with fellow All-Star LeBron James and lead the team to their first championship since 2010.

In an official statement, general manager Rob Pelinka said: “Anthony Davis is arguably the most dominant all-around young player in today’s National Basketball Association. (He) represents everything we stand for, with his unwavering commitment to excellence as both a person and athlete.

“This is a historic moment for the Lakers franchise, and we couldn’t be more proud to have him.”

The signing of Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans took place on the first day that NBA teams were allowed to officially sign free agents to contracts that were already negotiated in the past week.

The Lakers also put more pieces of their revamped roster together on Saturday, agreeing to a one-year deal with free agent DeMarcus Cousins, while bringing back guard Rajon Rondo on a two-year deal.

Having already acquired veteran guard Danny Green from NBA champions Toronto Raptors, they also strengthened their back court.

They re-signed guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, centre JaVale McGee, restricted free-agent guard Alex Caruso and reached a two-year, US$6 million (S$8.1 million) deal with free-agent guard Quinn Cook, in addition to agreements with veteran forward Jared Dudley and guard Troy Daniels.

Citing Cousins’ agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports, ESPN reported his annual contract was worth US$2.3 million, reuniting the All-Star, who was on the Golden State Warriors’ roster last season, with Davis, his former Pelicans teammate.

If the centre can stay injury free – he was limited to just eight games in the former champions’ run to the Finals owing to a torn quad muscle – he could form part of the team’s Big Three as they now have the potential to field an explosive offence.

And with the Los Angeles Clippers signing Kawhi Leonard, this year’s Finals Most Valuable Player, from the Raptors, and fellow All-Star forward Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder, their meetings with the Lakers will be among the most hotly anticipated games on next season’s NBA calendar.

Both teams share the Staples Centre and league great Magic Johnson believes “Los Angeles has just become the king of basketball”.

The former Lakers president of basketball operations tweeted: “It’s going to be awesome to watch NBA basketball in Los Angeles this (coming) season.”

Separately, the Raptors extended their appreciation to Los Angeles native Leonard and Green for helping lead them to their first NBA title, after the pair departed as free agents.

Team president Masai Ujiri said: “We are very thankful for the year Kawhi and Danny played with us in Toronto, and I know the city and the entire country of Canada are grateful for everything they did.”

Raptors coach Nick Nurse also told reporters he had no hard feelings over Leonard’s departure as “you can’t blame a guy for wanting to go home”, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted he was “sad to see you go”.


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