The Los Angeles Lakers are into the second half of their season, and it appears that rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is dealing with a sore left knee that may keep him out of the MLK Day game in Memphis.
Officially, Ball is listed as questionable for Monday's game.
With Ball's availability in question, the Lakers did not waste any time in recalling point guard Alex Caruso from the South Bay Lakers, the team's minor league team. In addition, the team announced that it had signed Gary Payton II, the son of former Seattle Supersonics and Lakers point guard Gary Payton, to a two-way contract.
Payton went undrafted in 2016 and joined the Houston Rockets before being released and joining the Rockets' D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Vipers for the 2016-17 season.
Payton joined the Milwaukee Bucks in April of 2017 and even started six games for the Bucks in the 2017-18 season while on a two-way contract. Payton was waived in December after averaging 2.5 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 8.8 minutes with the Bucks and 18.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists with the Wisconsin Herd.
The Lakers signed Payton on a two-way contract with hopes that the 25-year-old can help provide more options at the point guard position, which has been heavily reliant on Ball and backup Tyler Ennis. Ball recently missed six games with a shoulder sprain, and the team went winless over that stretch, so the move to get Payton may fill a short-term need should the rookie miss time with his sore knee but also potentially provide a longer-term solution for Ball's backup.
The team recently released Vander Blue from his two-way contract to open the roster spot Payton now occupies. Payton should expect to play with the South Bay Lakers a fair amount if Ball is able to maintain his health for the remainder of the season.
With the team currently 6.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and on a four-game winning streak, a postseason berth is still a possibility but not likely. Payton is likely a player the team has scouted and views as a potential piece to help both the G-League and NBA club in the future.
With the signing announced on Monday, one would expect that Payton will be available to assist the team in Memphis.
The Lakers' MLK Day game against Memphis has a tip-off time of 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
Notes: Several Lakers visited the National Civil Right Museum in Memphis on Sunday, evidenced by photos appearing on social media. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss joined NBA commissioner Adam Silver in touring the museum, though ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reporter that Buss did not have dinner with Lakers coach Luke Walton, as the coach has been ill. However, both Buss and Lakers president of basketball operations Eavin "Magic" Johnson took to social media to support their coach on Saturday after the coach's job became a national NBA story line in recent days.