When the Los Angeles Lakers cut Trevor Ariza and gave Wenyen Gabriel a two-year deal to replace his spot on the roster, they opened up a two-way contract in the process. And according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the team won’t wait long to fill it, as they’re promoting Mac McClung of the South Bay Lakers to their open two-way spot.
McClung himself seemingly confirmed the move on Twitter by quote tweeting the scoop, and the team confirmed the report on Saturday morning:
McClung was waived by the Lakers in training camp after spending summer league and the preseason with the team, and immediately joined their G League affiliate in South Bay, where he averaged 21.7 points per game, second on the team to only now-fellow Lakers two-way player Mason Jones (who finished third in G League MVP voting). McClung also shot 47% from the field and 37.3% from three to go with 6.7 rebounds and 7.6 assists in his first G League season.
For more on McClung, Jovan Buha of The Athletic wrote an excellent feature on the trials and tribulations of his rookie season, including the advice from Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy on what he’d have to do in order to earn a real NBA opportunity:
Handy told McClung that he’d have to become a pass-first point guard to carve out a role at the NBA level.
“I was like, ‘Say no more,’” McClung said. “I could always pass. I could always make the right play and make reads. But I just shifted my mindset. … I started scoring more because I was looking to pass first, and it made my shots more open. So once I found that rhythm, it all clicked and I was like, ‘Man, I love playing the game this way.’
“I fell in love with the point guard role.”
The length of McClung’s deal hasn’t been reported, as it could simply be a glorified call-up for the rest of the season, or one of the two-year, two-way deals the Lakers had success with signing Devontae Cacok and Alex Caruso to over the last few years.
Either way, with LeBron James officially shut down for the rest of the season and Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook likely to join him, the Lakers should have plenty of ballhandling opportunities available for McClung to prove himself at the NBA level during their final game of the year against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
Other South Bay Lakers Updates
In addition to McClung getting a promotion after South Bay lost in the Western Conference Semifinals on Thursday, other G League Lakers also got more opportunities as a result of their elimination.
Jones, for example — the Lakers’ other two-way player besides McClung — got his first extended run with the parent team all season on Friday, dropping 13 points off the bench on perfect 4-4 shooting in 18 minutes as part of the team’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also had one of the most fun and unfiltered postgame interviews of the year:
Jones' post-game interview is one of my favorites this season. "Coming in every day, many people don’t see the G-League as a blessing but it really is a blessing in disguise," he says. Just a humble, genuine and grateful dude.— Nicole Ganglani (@nicoleganglani) April 9, 2022
"Coach Vogel came up to me in the pregame and told me I was going to play and my eyes lit up." Mason Jones (13 PTS, 3 REB) talks with @LakersReporter about making his way to the #LakeShow through the @SouthBayLakers. pic.twitter.com/C5YwuCRPpO— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) April 9, 2022
Elsewhere on the SBL roster, former Lakers camp standout Chaundee Brown Jr. got a two-way deal of his own, with his coming on the Atlanta Hawks (who had previously called him up earlier this season when the whole league was looking for replacement players during the league-wide Omicron variant-fueled COVID-19 outbreak).
The Atlanta Hawks are signing forward Chaundee Brown of NBA G League South Bay to a two-way NBA deal, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Brown averaged nearly 10 points on a hardship stint with the Hawks after beginning the season with the Lakers.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 9, 2022
The point is, even if the parent team didn’t really bear a ton of meaningful fruit from it over the course of the entire season, between finding Austin Reaves in undrafted free agency and promoting him from his own two-way deal to the regular rotation and all these call-ups, the Lakers’ vaunted scouting apparatus clearly hasn’t lost its fastball. South Bay will continue to be a genuine bright spot for the organization as they — and other teams — look for help on the fringes.