Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Lakers’

Morning shootaround — Aug. 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bryant willing to help Lakers’ youngsters | Report: Pierce likely to play next season | Holiday organizes Pelicans’ team workouts in L.A.

No. 1: Bryant talks Lakers’ future, next steps in career — Kobe Bryant couldn’t have written a better farewell to the NBA than his final game: a 60-point showing on April 13, 2016 against the Utah Jazz. Since then, Bryant has kept a fairly low profile, popping up here and there but for the most part easing into his retirement life. In an interview with Mike Bresnahan of TWC SportsNet, Bryant — who now sports a beard — opens up about what he’s been up to lately, the Lakers’ offseason (and rookie Brandon Ingram), and his willingness to help L.A.’s next generation of stars:

On Team USA: “I’m around for them and I still speak to several of them. I think they’ll be fine. It’s tough competition and basketball is a global game now. It’s not going to be easy.”

On he and his wife expecting child No. 3: “What a blessing. If I look at the month after retirement and all that kind of happened and all the blessings we’ve been enjoying to find out we’re having another baby girl coming, its icing on the cake.”

On transitioning from NBA life to retirement life: “It’s always hard for athletes to transition out of something that you’ve been identified with your entire life. Being able to transition into what comes next. That’s always a big challenge. Hopefully, I can kind of lead the charge there and show other athletes that it is possible to have something that you love and transition into something that you love equally.”

On the Lakers’ offseason and future: “They have a really young core and a really good core. Now it’s just a matter of them growing together and having those pieces mesh. I think It’s a great opportunity. Now at this age where their games are still developing, they can develop their games and their strengths around each other. They have a lot of potential. Hopefully they can put it together sooner rather than later.”

On Brandon Ingram: “I think he plays with great tempo, great pace. I like his length. His ball-handling ability is very good, he can get to spots on the floor. I think defensively he has the potential to be fantastic — he has long arms, long legs. So, hopefully he starts really paying attention to that just as much as the things he can do offensively.”

On D’Angelo Russell: “There are certain things he’s really picked up: body positioning, using his size to get to places, recognizing defensive packages and where to position guys on the floor. He’s developed very nicely over the summer.”

On new coach Luke Walton: “He’s going to have them play the game the right way. He’s going to have the foundation of the team is going to be a championship foundation.  It’s not going to be isolation ball. It’s going to be a lot of ball movement, but ball movement with purpose. Players are going to understand why they’re moving the ball in certain situations, which then makes you a very dangerous team. Because now you have players on the floor that can think on the fly and think together.”

On helping the Lakers’ youngsters develop their games: “If I can, yeah. I’m certainly busy doing a bunch of other things, but I would love to come by. I’ve spoken to Luke several times and B-Shaw [assistant coach Brian Shaw]. I let the players know I’m always around, man. I’m always around. If they want to come out and work out, we can get up early in the morning an work out, walk them through some things. The Lakers are in my blood. It’s family to me, so I’m always around.”

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Clippers’ Jordan, Warriors’ Durant share deep bond | Report: LeBron to host team workouts in L.A. | Young, Russell mending relationshipReport: Grizzlies tried to sign Teodosic

No. 1: Durant, Clippers’ Jordan share deep bond — In just about every sense of the word, the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors are rivals in the NBA. With Kevin Durant moving from Oklahoma City to Golden State this summer, that rivalry takes on added spice as the Clippers were one of the teams attempting to woo him. Yet despite the added aspects to that rivalry, Durant and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan remain as close as ever. Michael Lee of The Vertical details that bond as he catches up with the pair of Team USA teammates in Rio:

“If I were to get married today, he’d be in my wedding,” Durant told The Vertical about Jordan. “That’s how it is. That’s my brother.”

Numerically, Durant and Jordan were bound to be attached at the hip at some point during these Olympic games. Number 5 and No. 6, respectively, in your program for Team USA, the tallest players on the roster – don’t bother looking at the height listings in your program – are always side-by-side during the pregame introduction and national anthem.

But they have also been almost inseparable off the floor since the games began. They were seated next to each other, pumping their fists and cheering, and using their cellphones to record Michael Phelps collecting a couple more gold medals. They’ve joined teammates on trips to the Ipanema Beach to play volleyball, to Copacabana Beach to watch volleyball, to Olympic Stadium to see Usain Bolt scorch the track and to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue to admire one of the world’s great wonders.

The newest Golden State Warrior and the longest-tenured Los Angeles Clipper are proving that players from those hated rivals can get along. It helps that they’ve been friends almost a decade – beginning when Durant failed in recruiting Jordan to Texas, growing stronger a few years ago when Durant decided to make Los Angeles his offseason home and continuing through now, as they try to bring a third consecutive gold medal back to the United States.

When relayed Durant’s comments about being in his whenever wedding, Jordan nodded and told The Vertical, “For sure, he’s going to be in mine.”

Durant first met Jordan shortly after he committed to Texas and tried to convince Jordan, who was a year younger, to join the program. Jordan wasn’t swayed because he had little confidence they’d ever be college teammates, and signed with rival Texas A&M.

“I said, ‘Why would I come there, when you’re going to leave after your first year?’ He said, ‘No, I don’t think I’m going to leave. I think I’m going to stay.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘I’m telling you.’ And obviously, you know what happened,” Jordan told The Vertical with a laugh. “Ever since then, we’ve been really, really cool and he’s one of my best friends in the world.”

This summer, Jordan was on the other end, heading up to the Hamptons, along with Steve Ballmer, Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin and Lawrence Frank, to make a recruiting pitch for Durant to join the Clippers. “I tried every day,” Jordan told The Vertical. “We had a shot. And if you ask him, he’d say we had a shot. People can be happy for him, mad at him, but at the end of the day, he did what was best for Kevin, and he can live with that.”

In addition to hanging out with Durant, the Olympics have also given Jordan the chance to connect with players whom he’d always viewed as the enemy. Those differences have been put aside in pursuit of a similar goal, quarrels that become more difficult to maintain once those guys have been to your home, dining on your mother’s cuisine. Before leaving for Brazil, Jordan invited his Olympic teammates over for dinner at his mother’s home in Houston.

“Six months ago, I never would’ve thought I would’ve invited Draymond [Green] to my house,” Jordan told The Vertical, adding that his relationship with Durant had no influence on befriending the other Warriors on the Olympic team. “Once you’re around these guys you realize, ‘Oh, they’re cool.’ Before, I only looked at Draymond as Draymond who played for the Warriors. We always clashed. So, now that we’ve been together for over a month, it’s been amazing. We hate each other during the season, but it’s bigger than those two teams. Winning a gold medal, representing your country. We don’t even think about that anymore. Which is crazy. I’m happy to be playing with these 11 guys and we’ll be bonded for life after this.”

With Griffin missing most of last season with a nagging quad injury and a broken hand from a fight with a former team employee, Jordan was able to earn some of the appreciation he has long sought when he made first-team All-NBA despite never making the All-Star team. “I could care less about the All-Star team now,” Jordan told The Vertical. “Yeah, I really don’t care about it anymore. I’d rather go on my week vacation, to be honest. And being an Olympian, and potentially a gold medalist, that’s better than that. It’s cool to be appreciated and highly valued by your peers. That, to me, is the biggest thing.”

Durant believes the recognition was long overdue. “As a basketball player, you an appreciate what someone like him does, he sets screens, does all the small things, rebounds, blocks shots, talks out there, he’s an anchor on defense,” Durant told The Vertical. “If you’re really into the game of basketball, you can really appreciate him. That’s why he’s paid like a max player, because the Clippers know what he brings and how he helps the team. He helps everyone win.”

Fom the Donald Sterling fiasco, to Paul and Griffin both getting injured in a first-round loss to Portland last season, the Clippers haven’t been able to catch many favorable breaks, but Jordan is undeterred.

“Every team goes through ups and downs, and some dark times, but you’ve got to keep fighting through and find a way,” Jordan told The Vertical. “That makes for a better story for me. This is my ninth season, and I definitely want a chance at winning something that’s never happened before, with the Clippers. It’s big. I want a chance at the title.”

Jordan said there wasn’t any more urgency to win next season, simply because Paul and Griffin can both become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2017. “They’re both extremely talented players,” Jordan told The Vertical. “I believe whatever decision they make is going to be a great decision. I’m not worried about it right now. I don’t expect it to be a distraction during the season. I can’t speak for them, but at the end of the day, they’ve got to make the best decision for themselves and their families. Whatever happens, happens.”

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 4

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Mitchell unsure about KG’s future | Irving ready to seek gold with Krzyzewski | World Peace: ‘I can still play’

No. 1: Mitchell thinks Garnett is still weighing his future — As a player for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 1995-2002, Sam Mitchell was the veteran voice who often guided a young Kevin Garnett during his formative NBA years. When Garnett returned to the Wolves in the 2014-15 season via a trade deadline-day deal, Mitchell was an assistant coach on the team and, following coach Flip Saunders‘ passing before the 2015-16 season, Mitchell was the team’s interm coach. But Mitchell is no longer with the Wolves, having been fired at season’s end as Minnesota hired Tom Thibodeau. In an interview with Sirius XM NBA Radio (transcribed by CBSSports.com), Mitchell opened up about his former teammate/player:

Kevin Garnett has been in the NBA for 21 seasons. If he decides to come back for the final year of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016-17, K.G. will have played more seasons than anybody in NBA history. That decision hasn’t been made yet, at least as far as anybody outside of Garnett knows. Sam Mitchell, Garnett’s former teammate and coach believes the way the 2015-16 season ended could possibly lead to Garnett’s retirement, rather than coming back for another season at the age of 40.

Mitchell is referring to the way he was fired as Minnesota’s interim coach and how general manager Milt Newton was pushed aside for the full-time position. They took over their respective interim positions after the passing of Flip Saunders right before the season ended. At the end of a strong finish to the season, Mitchell was informed a couple hours before the last game that he would not be coming back as coach in 2016-17. The Wolves would eventually hire Tom Thibodeau to be the president and coach of the team with Scott Layden helping him in the front office.

“Last time I talked to him, he hadn’t made up his mind. I just think the way last year ended with the owner at the very last minute — and people don’t understand, we all felt pretty good about us. Myself, Milt Newton, and the coaching staff, we all felt pretty good about us coming back. We felt like we did a good enough job to at least earn us a couple of years, a year or two, to keep that thing rolling. And I just think KG was just so hurt by the way things happened.

“For people to send you messages as if you were going to be back and your staff was going to be back and we had everything going in the right direction, and to get a phone call [from owner Glen Taylor] two hours before your last game basically saying, ‘I’ve changed my mind and I’m going in a different direction,’ it just kind of knocked us all for a loop. We’ve all recovered from it and moved on but if you know Kevin, Kevin is very sensitive and he’s very loyal. And there was a lot of people in that organization that was let go, and the way it was done just left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouth.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know how he’s going to deal with that. Kevin takes that stuff personally and it’s going to be interesting to see ultimately what he decides to do. It’s a shame that if he doesn’t come back and play, that his last year in Minnesota ended the way it did.”

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No. 2: Irving looking forward to run for gold with Krzyzewski — Five seasons into his NBA career, Cleveland Cavaliers guard and former Duke standout Kyrie Irving has amassed three All-Star appearance, a Rookie of the Year trophy, an All-Star Game MVP and, roughly two months ago, hit one of the biggest Finals shots ever to give Cleveland its first NBA title. Yet there remains a longing to accomplish a feat he missed out in college — winning a championship with coach Mike Krzyzewski. Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com has more on how a quest for gold is driving Irving as the U.S. team heads to Rio:

Kyrie Irving has gone all the way to Rio this summer seeking the culmination of a conversation that started in Irving’s parent’s New Jersey home back in 2009.

That’s when he and Mike Krzyzewski first talked of winning a title together.

“I did win a World Championship with him (in 2014), and this will cement our relationship of finally getting to play for a championship that we envisioned when I was 17 years old and he was recruiting me,” Kyrie Irving said. “I’m glad I have this opportunity with him.”

Seven years ago when that conversation began, Krzyzewski and Irving pictured that title as one in Durham — but the basketball gods were not going to let that happen. Irving played just 11 games at Duke due to a toe injury his freshman year. Rather than return to the Blue Devils, he went on to the NBA where he was the No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011 (the season after LeBron James left them to take his talents to South Beach).

Now, the culmination of that title conversation could come with a gold medal at the Rio Olympics — in Coach K’s final run as the coach of USA Basketball.

“It’s definitely emotional — and I don’t shy away from that at all,” Irving told NBC Sports during a break in the shooting of a Kids Foot Locker commercial in Las Vegas, after a Team USA practice. “The 2014 World Championships was great, but being this is his last hurrah, thinking about the storyline of him and Jerry Colangelo taking over USA Basketball and what they did just to shape American basketball in general, and the honor of playing for USA Basketball.

“We were all reminded when they took over. It was a prestige honor before, but once they came in and built up a culture, it totally changed into a different dynamic. Every generation that is coming up has to come through USA Basketball if you’re, quote/unquote, a top player in the country. I enjoy that it’s now a generational shift. Constantly, constantly, we’re getting kids coming in and playing a part of USA Basketball. I myself played when I was 17 years old going into Duke. I end up going (to college) for one year, then I end up playing on the select team that I’m playing against today (the NBA rookies and young stars that the USA scrimmages against). I get a chance to, every summer, get better with USA basketball.

“That it’s being his last year is definitely an emotional one, but I’m glad I could be part of it.”

Sure, it Coach K’s last run and they feel the pressure to win for him. However, just putting that USA on your chest brings pressure, Irving said — adding that he welcomes it.

“There’s pressure every single year,” Irving said. “I mean American basketball is at the top of everything, we’ve proven that through the World Championships as well as the Olympics, and as well as the NBA — everyone wants to be part of this. So for us it’s not any added pressure — because I don’t know what pressure is — all I know is going out there, going all out, leaving it all on the floor and living with the results after that.”

While the title didn’t change his summer plans for Rio, Irving admitted this summer has been different — being a champion raised his profile.

“Not any other summer in my life have I won an NBA championship, which has been great,” Irving said. “It’s just been awesome because of partnerships I’ve had throughout the years in my career, and now we get to put a lot of great ideas out there, and I get to be part of a lot of great things. I’m just thankful and I’m just trying to take advantage of it, but also do it in a creative space I’m comfortable with.”

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No. 3: World Peace: ‘I can still play’ — Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace is long since removed from his glory days as a top-flight scorer for the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings. His highly regarded defense remains there in flashes, but more or less, World Peace served as a veteran voice and mentor for the young Lakers last season. But even after 16 seasons of the NBA grind, he tells ESPN.com’s Ian Bagley that he can still play at a high level and even average double-figure scoring if given the chance:

Metta World Peace has been in New York City for the past few days playing in summer hoops tournaments, visiting with family, supporting his father’s Artest Foundation and spreading the word about his new clothing line, The Panda’s Friend. We caught up with World Peace and asked about his plans for next season:

Q: What are your plans for next season? Are you headed back to training camp with the Lakers? You’ve talked about a potential future in coaching. Is that on your radar?

A: Right now, I’m life coaching a lot of people that are in the NBA. I can’t say [who]. But I coach a couple players. But it’s not a thing where I’m going to hide and be that perfect mentor. I just give them the best advice I can and live my life accordingly. I’m doing that now and one day I would love to coach. The Lakers are tattooed in my heart. They gave me a second chance when everyone was down on me, they gave me a chance to win a ring. The city of Los Angeles, they put up with me. Because in our world, the world of corporate basketball, you should act accordingly, you know? And I don’t like to act accordingly (smiles). I’m just trying to be authentic. I’m trying, as much as possible, to keep that if I coach one day.

Q: So is the NBA on the back burner right now?

A: No, the NBA’s always on the front burner.

Q: Are you still planning to play next season?

A: Absolutely. The NBA is always on the front burner.

Q: Are you talking with teams right now?

A. I’m waiting for teams. I can still play. I can play, it’s not even a question man. But, you know, sometimes you don’t get in the game, man. What are you going to do? I’m not going to be upset, I’m going to support. So if I don’t play, like this year on the Lakers I could have averaged 15 or 20 on the Lakers if I played, easily. But you know, I’ll be supportive [if I don’t play]. But the only thing that gets me frustrated with the whole basketball is people think I can’t play anymore. So as a man, I take that personally. But at the same time I’m able to still focus on making sure Julius Randle is doing his thing, and he’s focused, making sure I can give back. But when the season’s over, then I like to explain that I can play, and I can bust people’s ass. But the fans have to understand, it’s not up to me. It’s so frustrating to keep hearing it from the fans. ‘Come back to New York, come to Chicago. Why didn’t you play.’ It’s so frustrating at times.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former New York Knicks star Latrell Sprewell says the thing he disliked the most about former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller was that ‘he was a flopper’ … Back in the day, Michael Jordan was very, very unhappy when he wasn’t offered a front-office job with the Washington Wizards after he played for them …  Minnesota Timberwolves youngster Andrew Wiggins tried to throw down a 540-degree dunk

Dwight Jones, former Olympian and NBA big man, dies at 64

NEW YORK CITYDwight Jones, a big man who played for a decade in the NBA and represented the United States in the 1972 Olympics, passed away earlier this week at 64 years old. According to the Houston Chronicle, Jones, perhaps the greatest high school player in Houston history, had been battling a heart ailment for several years.

A first-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in 1973, Jones would go on to play for his hometown Rockets, as well as the Bulls and Lakers. Jones retired in 1984 after playing 766 NBA regular season games, amassing career averages of 8.1 ppg and 5.9 rpg.

Jones was also known for his participation in the controversial 1972 Olympics Men’s Basketball finals, when Team USA lost the gold medal game in overtime against the Soviet Union. As the New York Times recounts, even years later Jones remained frustrated by the loss

“For some of the guys, it’s eased over the years,” he was quoted as having said by The Houston Chronicle in 2002. “But for most of us,” he added, “we’re not that way.”

The American and Soviet teams had dominated the competition leading up to the championship game. The Americans initially struggled against the more experienced Soviet team, but managed a comeback and were trailing, 49-48, with seconds left in the game. Doug Collins sank two free throws, giving the Americans their first lead of the night with one second left on the clock.

An official, however, ordered that two seconds be put back on the clock. When the Soviets failed to score and a horn sounded, the American team began to celebrate and spectators swarmed the court. But officials then ruled that the clock had not been set properly, and they resumed the game with three seconds on the clock, giving the Russians yet another chance.

This time, Ivan Edeshko hurled a full-court pass to Aleksandr Belov, who scored the winning layup over Kevin Joyce and Jim Forbes. It was the first time the Americans had ever lost a game in the Olympics.

Jones was off the court when it happened. He had been ejected with about twelve minutes left for scuffling with Mishako Korkia.

The American team appealed the results before a five-member jury set up by basketball’s global governing body, but lost, 3-2. The three members who voted to uphold the Russian victory were all from Communist countries. The Americans unanimously refused to accept their silver medals.

“It all came down to the Robin Hood theory — they took away from the good to give to the bad,” Jones said. “It’s the only game in history that has ever been played like that and ended like that.”

University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson (via ESPN.com) said in a statement…

Dwight was a tremendous competitor, who represented the University of Houston and his nation well during his playing career. While his health declined in recent years, he faced those challenges with the same courage and spirit that made him one of our program’s greats. Tonight, our hearts go out to Dwight’s family and friends and all those who knew and loved him.

Morning shootaround — July 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Team USA rolls in opener | Paul George shines in long-awaited return for USA | Harden looks forward to fresh start | Ingram’s tough road to the NBA

No. 1: Team USA rolls in opener — They might have had just four days of practice together, but Team USA came out in their exhibition opener and looked nothing like a team that needed more time to bond. Behind prime time performances from Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George, Team USA coasted to a 111-74 win over Argentina. And as Steve Aschburner writes, it was a dominant performance from start to finish…

By halftime, the USA led 56-33, thanks largely to a 35-15 rebounding edge that produced second chances and defensive pressure that stymied Argentina’s attack. Led by Carmelo Anthony‘s three steals and Cousin’s two in the first 20 minutes, the NBA stars shook loose 14 turnovers and turned them into 25 points. All those offensive rebounds — they grabbed 19 of their missed shots to Argentina’s 14 defensive boards in the half — showed up in a 19-2 advantage in second-chance points.

George, playing for USA Basketball for the first time since fracturing his right leg in an August 2014 intrasquad scrimmage, shot 6-for-9 with a pair of 3-pointers. Cousins had nine points and 10 rebounds in the half, while DeAndre Jordan maintained USA’s inside advantage with six points and four boards.

Andres Nocioni scored eight points in the first half, and Manu Ginobili had six. Argentina was better from distance — 6-for-14 on 3-pointers vs. 4-for-12 on 2-point field goals — thanks to cleaner looks. In the paint, USA dominated in the half 34-6.

Taking better care of the ball in the third quarter — just two turnovers — Argentina stayed even with the Americans at 80-56. They got 22 shots, compared to 26 in the first half, and only allowed USA one offensive board.

The Americans got their swagger back in the fourth, though, outscoring Argentina 24-8 through the first six minutes of the quarter.

The game was the first of five that Team USA will play over the next 11 days before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Americans will play the Chinese national team twice — Sunday in Los Angeles and Tuesday in Oakland — before traveling to Chicago and Houston for games against Venezuela and Nigeria, respectively.

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No. 2: Paul George shines in long-awaited return for USA — It was two years ago in Las Vegas during an exhibition that Paul George suffered a gruesome broken leg that changed the course of his career. Now back and healthy, George came off the bench to score 18 points last night for Team USA, and as Yahoo’s Michael Lee writes, George showed everyone that he’s all the way back …

George is back in the Team USA fold, ready to complete what he started before his career was interrupted by what he now calls a “bump in the road.” The venue for George’s long-delayed international debut changed to the brand-new T-Mobile Arena, but he admitted playing an organized game in Las Vegas again was “eerie.” Any uneasiness quickly subsided shortly after Krzyzewski brought him off the bench in the first period. After scoring 18 effortless points in an emphatic 111-74 demolition of Argentina, George was quick to state that the injury that rocked USA Basketball was “behind me.”

All week, George’s Olympic teammates avoided discussing with him a setback that he has little interest in reliving but remains a defining moment in his career that he has been unable to escape – especially since his will to overcome that incident continues to define his character. Krzyzewski said after Friday’s game that George is playing “the best basketball in his life.”

Determined to not only come back, but to continue his steady improvement after missing nearly an entire season, George made his return since breaking his right leg the best of his career. He led the Indiana Pacers back into the postseason, came one point short of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star Game scoring record with 41 points and earned third-team All-NBA and second-team All-Defensive honors.

Colangelo said the incentivized gesture USA Basketball extended in the aftermath of George’s injury was the “right thing to do,” but George also rewarded that blind faith, making easy the decision to add him to the 12-man roster.

“I’m here for a reason,” George told The Vertical. “I’m not just a guy that Coach K brought along.”

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No. 3: Harden looks forward to fresh start — It was a season of discontent for James Harden and the Houston Rockets, who went through a coaching change and then made a quick postseason exit. But with new coach Mike D’Antoni on the sideline this season and several new free agents signed up, Rockets’ star Harden tells Lang Whitaker that he’s excited for the new opportunity…

Q: How do you feel you fit into Mike D’Antoni’s system, and how do you feel his system benefits you?

HARDEN: You know what? The day he got hired, we watched film. We’ve communicated several times a week. You know, it’s going to work. I’m really excited about it because he’s prepared. He’s prepared, he’s given me knowledge, he’s given me things where I can fit into his offense and what he’s trying to do. And not only myself but the entire team — I asked him questions about how Patrick Beverley fits and the new guys that we got fit. So it’s exciting. And [we added Jeff] Bzdelik, who was the head defensive coach for Memphis. You know, everybody talks about, ‘The Rockets aren’t a good defensive team.’ Well, we got one of the best defensive coaches in the league now. So it’s all about preparation. In this league it’s all about preparation, putting guys in positions where they’re successful, and good things happen.

Q: Do you feel like you get a bad rap for your defense?

HARDEN: Yeah, yeah. But everybody makes mistakes. I can look up the same amount of plays for myself as the other top guys in the league. So I don’t really worry, I don’t focus on it. And now with the more talent that’s going to release some offensive pressure off me, I’m going to be able to go out there and play both ends of the floor at a high level. It’s really difficult to go out there, play all 82 games, lead the league in minutes and have to do everything offensively. I mean, no one else had that weight on their shoulders in the league. So like I said, it doesn’t really bother me. I focus on what I gotta do and I just go out there and do it.

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No. 4: Ingram’s tough road to the NBA — The Lakers used the second overall pick in this summer’s draft on Brandon Ingram, a lanky forward out of Duke who showed everyone in his one year of college that he is an elite scorer. But making it to the NBA wasn’t an easy path for Ingram, and as Chris Mannix writes for Yahoo, Ingram getting to the NBA was a family affair

As he got older, his basketball obsession grew. He played after school. When he got home, he challenged Bo to one-on-one on the battered hoop in the backyard. “I was a senior in high school before I beat him,” Ingram said. When it got dark, his father, Donald, who managed the local rec center, opened up the gym. “It was an all-access pass,” Ingram laughed.

The work paid off. Ingram won a state championship his first year at Kinston. He went on to win three more. A stringy, 6-foot-2 guard as a freshman grew, by his own estimation, two inches every year to finish high school as a slender 6-8 forward. Spins, fadeaways, step-backs — Ingram had it all. He averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. Legend had it that in four years, Ingram never missed a free throw. So? “Most definitely, that’s true,” Ingram said.

Last month, the Lakers tabbed Ingram with the second overall pick in the draft. Overnight, Ingram, 18, became the face of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises. It’s not the type of position he has always been comfortable in. For years, Ingram was shy about playing in front of crowds. It wasn’t until eighth grade, when he joined Jerry Stackhouse’s AAU team, that he took to it. He was a star in high school but needed Mike Krzyzewski to tell him at the 2015 McDonald’s All-American Game that he had pro potential. He could score on anyone but wasn’t always assertive in high school and was briefly benched for listless play at Duke.

The Lakers hope he grows into the role. They see Ingram as a multi-position player. At 6-9, 190-pounds, Ingram will need to bulk up. He was eating six meals a day, some 5,000 calories, Ingram said, before the draft and he hopes to be 210 pounds next season. But the talent is undeniable.

Durant sees it. For months, scouts have compared Ingram to Durant. And Durant understands why. “He reminds me of myself, but he’s a little farther along than I was at that stage,” Durant told reporters at Team USA practice in Las Vegas on Wednesday. For Ingram, there is no higher compliment. He grew up wearing Durant’s sneakers. His walls were covered with Durant posters. He mimicked many of Durant’s moves. He worshipped him when he was at Texas, cheered him in Seattle, followed his career closely in Oklahoma City. The Lakers hope they found the next Durant; Ingram knows it will be a while before he gets there.

“It’s a very special comparison,” Ingram said. “But, of course, I know I’m not him. I know I’m not him yet, but I have the potential to make my own brand. Of course, you grow up with him as an idol, and in a few months he’s going to become my rival. It’s going to be a dream come true. I think just watching him for so long and having the ability to actually learn and play against him is just going to be a special motivation for me as a competitor and someone who really looked up to him.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks have agreed to an extension that will keep Dirk under contract until he’s 40 years old … The Pelicans have signed free agent forward Terrence JonesDraymond Green reached a plea deal with prosecutors in Michigan … Luis Scola isn’t thrilled with the real estate prices in Brooklyn …

Blogtable: Biggest team turnaround with new coach?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Which team is poised to have the most dramatic jump in winning percentage next season: Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves, Scott Brooks’ Wizards, Luke Walton’s Lakers, Dave Joerger’s Kings, Nate McMillan’s Pacers, David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, Jeff Hornacek’s Knicks, Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets, Frank Vogel’s Magic or Kenny Atkinson’s Nets?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Thibodeau’s Timberwolves will improve the most. No one coaches harder in the 82-game regular season, and Minnesota’s three youngest core players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — would naturally take a step or two in their development under almost any coach. Combine that, along with a pretty easy act to top (29 victories in 2015-16) and I’m expected an improvement of 10-15 games.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe 17-win Lakers have the most room to work with, but the Lakers are also the farthest away. Frank Vogel’s solid defensive base will make the Magic jump if they can sort out the sudden glut of big men. But I’m making it a two-team race for biggest improvement. The Grizzlies and David Fizzle with a healthy Marc Gasol should go from 42 back to their customary 50-plus level. But I’ll give the nod to Minnesota. All that young talent combined with Thibs’ defensive chops will have the Wolves howling with a possible leap from from 29 to 40+ wins.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comLuke Walton’s Lakers, but in large part because they have the most realistic room to grow. It’s not hard to see L.A. adding 10 wins based on the energy of the coaching change, the experience D’Angelo Russell and (basically) Julius Randle didn’t have last season, the arrival of Luol Deng as a veteran presence and the addition of Brandon Ingram in the Draft. Ten wins is close to a 60-percent jump. A lot of the other options you mention will improve — Minnesota, New York, Orlando — but the Magic, for example, aren’t going to be 60-percent better in the standings. They will have more wins than the Lakers, just not a bigger increase.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll say the Lakers only because they were mostly dreadful and won just 17 games. Only one way to go, and if they win 30, which is somewhat realistic, that almost a 50-percent jump. Can’t see anyone else in this group pulling that off (where are the Sixers?) But again, it’s a backhanded compliment to the Lakers, who if nothing else should be exciting to watch even in defeat.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Wolves are going to the playoffs next season. Tom Thibodeau will have them improve at least 10 spots in defensive efficiency, where they ranked 27th last season. The development of their young players — along with, hopefully, Zach LaVine playing a lot more shooting guard than point guard — should have them improved offensively as well. Karl-Anthony Towns is the league’s next star and should do well with his first summer of work after finding out what the league is all about. He could make a huge leap.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As entertaining as I believe the Minnesota Timberwolves could be under Tom Thibodeau, I’m going to have to go with Luke Walton’s Lakers. They’ve got as much ground to gain (in percentages and raw numbers) as any team in the league, given their dreadful performance last season and the fresh new look they’ll have under Walton. David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, however, will go into the season as my potential surprise team in the Western Conference (provided they have a healthy roster to work with), where things could shift dramatically with all of the changes that have occurred in free agency.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Timberwolves may reach the playoffs next season because of Thibodeau, who will hasten their development defensively and turn their athleticism into a force. D’Antoni has a history of elevating the value of his players and the Rockets appear to be in the mood to rally around him after embarrassing themselves last year.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI don’t know if there is a “most dramatic” winner out there. Scanning past those names, I don’t see any one team that immediately jumps out at me and looks like sudden a title contender. If I had to pick one, I’d pick a team in the East, where improvement may be easier to come by, and say either the Knicks (if they are healthy, which is a gigantic if) or maybe Frank Vogel’s Magic show in Orlando.

Morning shootaround — July 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Iguodala says OKC should have won title | Lakers’ Nance Jr. injures handConley builds a legacy in Memphis

No. 1: Iguodala says Thunder should have won 2016 title — It will likely be a long time before any NBA fan forgets the epic seven-game series the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder waged in the Western Conference finals. From the storylines to the impact the Warriors’ rally to win the series had on both franchises, this playoff matchup will live on in NBA lore for years. One of the key performers in that series, Golden State forward Andre Iguodala, had some praise for the Thunder after the Warriors’ loss in The Finals has settled. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman has more on what Iguodala told Power 105.1 radio in New York:

More than a week later, Kevin Durant‘s stunning departure still stings Thunder fans for a variety of reasons. Andre Iguodala just added another one.

Appearing on a recent New York City radio show, Iguodala told the hosts that the Thunder, not the 73-win Warriors or NBA champion Cavaliers, was the best team in the playoffs and should’ve won the title.

Quite infamously, OKC blew a 3-1 series lead and a double-digit second half cushion in Game 6, melting away its title hopes to the same Warriors who snagged away the face of the franchise a month later.

“Now that we got KD, I can say it: They were the best team last year in the league in the playoffs,” Iguodala said. “They were better than us. They were better than Cleveland. They were the best team in the playoffs. They should’ve won a championship.”

Why didn’t they?

“I mean, we just hawked them down,” Iguodala said. “But they were better than us. They played us better than anyone. They played us better than Cleveland. Some of the stuff they was doing, it’s like…oh, man. We gotta play perfect.”

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Blogtable: Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: More surprising move: Durant’s or Wade’s? | Your lasting memory of Duncan? | Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?


> Has any NBA player meant more to a franchise than Duncan has to the Spurs? How about any pro athlete, in any sport?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDuncan and the Spurs are inseparable, based on longevity – one player, one team, one coach over 19 years?! – but I’d go with Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics for everlasting impact on a franchise. Eleven titles in 13 seasons is hard to top. As far as opening this up to other sports, Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees set up the Evil Empire for decades to come. I’m not sure how the Spurs will do, post-Duncan, over the next 10 or 20 years.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comOne might almost think the blogmaster hails from San Antonio. There’s also Bill Russell to the Boston Celtics; Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls; Magic Johnson to the Los Angeles Lakers; Larry Bird to the Celtics; Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter to the New York Yankees; Sandy Koufax to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tom Brady to the New England Patriots. And don’t forget Joe Montana to the San Francisco 49ers, Bob Lilly to the Dallas Cowboys, Gordie Howe to the Detroit Red Wings and Wayne Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers. Let’s just say Duncan belongs on the list.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Not in recent years in the NBA that I can think of. That would require not only finding someone even close to his level of franchise success, but also in a smaller market. That was part of the Duncan impact, after all. He was brilliant in a city where the team was the team, the one major-league organization in town and therefore part of the community. Duncan was a guy who made fans proud to root for the Spurs. He set the right example to teammates, took less money to make it easier for management to maneuver the salary cap and was the driving force on the court behind year after year of winning. Within the model franchise, he was the model player.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWell, I’m not so sure he beats Babe Ruth and the Yankees, Cal Ripken Jr. and the Orioles, Joe Montana and the 49ers, because football and baseball are far more ingrained in the American sports landscape than basketball. But off the top of my head, only Magic Johnson and the Lakers beats Duncan and the Spurs, because Magic essentially made the Lakers into a now-billion-dollar brand.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Given the duration and infinite, championship-level excellence, I don’t think anyone in any sport can compare. No other all-time great superstar spent more time with one team and had said team competing at the level the Spurs did during Duncan’s tenure. Think about it: we’re talking about two decades of individual and team excellence. Had LeBron James stayed in Cleveland for his entire career and won title(s) in a Cavaliers uniform only, that might have come close to matching what Duncan has meant to the Spurs and San Antonio. But we’re talking about the entire culture of an organization and city resting on this man’s shoulders. It is truly unprecedented when you put his career in context. It’ll take another 19 or 20 years post-Duncan to truly appreciate what he’s meant to the franchise, its fans and the city of San Antonio … and to see if there any titles won after he’s exited the stage.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: We can’t say that he means more or less. What we can say definitely is that Duncan joins the exclusive NBA room that includes Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. They occupy a larger building shared with the likes of Tom Brady, Dick Butkus, Jim Brown, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and on and on. There may be no higher praise.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Michael Jordan in Chicago is the first name that comes to mind. Or perhaps Bill Russell in Boston. Outside of the NBA, maybe Chipper Jones with the Atlanta Braves, although he only won one title. Derek Jeter with the Yankees. Tom Brady with the Patriots. No matter how you look at it, not many people have had that much success with one franchise.

Morning shootaround — June 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bulls side with Butler over Rose | Report: George to play for Team USA | Russell reassured by Lakers about trade chatter

No. 1: Bulls make their choice for future, deal Rose — If you somehow missed it yesterday, the Chicago Bulls sent their former MVP, Derrick Rose, to the New York Knicks in a trade that ends a memorable-yet-difficult era in Chicago. Yes, Rose was the league’s top player in 2010-11, the Rookie of the Year in 2008-09 and a three-time All-Star. But his greatness was sapped by a multitude of knee injuries and in his absence, swingman Jimmy Butler emerged as a star. In dealing Rose, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago made it clear who it is siding with as the face of its future:

It’s Jimmy Butler’s team now.

Gar Forman hesitated to call it that, but the general manager couldn’t hide from the obvious on Wednesday, after the Bulls announced that they had traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks in a five-player deal.

That meant Rose’s long-standing health concerns are no longer a Bulls problem. His camp’s inability to consistently have civil conversations with his hometown organization? His brother/manager, Reggie, spouting off? Rose’s questioned work ethic by Butler and others?

All of it, sent packing in a deal with the New York Knicks that now has Rose in the “Big Apple,’’ along with Justin Holiday and a 2017 second round pick.

“Knowing Derrick as I do makes this trade a hard one,’’ Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “Everyone knows him as the local kid who became MVP for his hometown team, but not everyone got to know him like I did. While he is a terrific basketball player, he is an even better person with a tremendous heart.

“I wish him the best of health for the remainder of his career, and I want to personally thank him for everything that he did on the court and in the community during his time with the Chicago Bulls.’’

Forman reiterated that sentiment.

“It’s always difficult when you’re going to trade somebody like Derrick Rose,’’ Forman said in a news conference at the Advocate Center. “Derrick obviously has meant quite a bit to this team, to this organization, and to this city, and we’re very thankful with everything Derrick brought to the table.

“Even though it’s very difficult to move someone like Derrick, we thought it was the right decision for the direction that we’re headed.’’

Privately, the Bulls were getting the sense that Rose would want a max deal coming off a 2016-17 season in which he was scheduled to make $21.3 million, and rather than have to deal with the headache of negotiating or the public relations hit they might take, the decision was obviously made to move on now.

Forman called it a “basketball decision’’ rather than a financial decision, but reiterated that the cost uncertainty of free agency over the next few seasons because of a rising salary cap was a factor.

A graduate of Simeon High School, Rose’s game hit its ceiling during the 2010-11 season in which the 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists per game. It was a year later in the playoffs, however, that Rose’s climb would come to an abrupt ending.

Tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia, Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, and when he did return lasted only 10 games because of a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Since those injuries, Rose’s game was never the same, with his healthiest season coming this year, as he averaged 16.4 points and played in 66 games.

With Hoiberg and Butler both signing five-year deals last season, staying power wasn’t favoring the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year.

“The decision really was what I said,’’ Forman said, when asked if the clash of egos between Butler and Rose played a factor. “We felt that we needed to start changing the roster. We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic. It was more from a team building standpoint in trying to get this process started.’’

With Rose now out the door, it was further evidence of the break-up between free agent-to-be Joakim Noah and the Bulls also underway.

As the Sun-Times reported last month, Noah had already set his mind on going elsewhere because of a mistrust in the front office, specifically Forman. The Rose trade does very little to change that, especially with how tight Noah and Rose were.

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Analytics Art: Breaking down LeBron’s Finals MVP performance

By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com

LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 Finals deficit to win a championship. James was the unanimous choice for Finals MVP after fueling this comeback and became just the third player ever to notch a triple-double in a Game 7 of The Finals (something only James Worthy and Jerry West did).

Staring down a seemingly insurmountable deficit against the best regular-season team in NBA lore — previous teams in The Finals were 0-32 all time after falling down 3-1 — James responded with back-to-back 41-point outbursts in Games 5 and 6 before his Game 7 triple-double.

As if his individual performances were not impressive enough, James also led The Finals in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he’s the first player to ever lead a playoff series in five stats categories.

It ultimately didn’t matter, but James’ efficiency throughout the Game 7 triple-double performance was grim. James shot 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) and made 1 of 5 3-pointers. His performances in Games 5 and 6, however, were tremendous.

In terms of Game Score — a statistic developed by John Hollinger to provide a rough measure of a player’s individual performance in a given game — those 41-point explosions were by far the best games James had played all season.

A Game Score of 40 is considered an amazing while a 10 is average. LeBron’s Game 5 Game Score was 39.2 and his Game 6 netted a 42.5.

All told, James’ Game Score average in The Finals was a 26.5. That’s remarkably impressive, but where does it rank among past Finals MVPs?

The PointAfter team found the Game Score of each Finals MVP dating back to 1985. In those 30-plus years, James’ Finals performance ranks in the top eight all-time.

Only Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson trump James in this context, but the list also shows just how phenomenal those players were in their prime.

O’Neal averaged 38.0 points, 16.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.7 blocks while shooting 61.1 percent in The 2000 Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

In The 1991 NBA Finals, Jordan averaged 31.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 11.4 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks and shot 55.8 percent in a five-game series win against the Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers.

In 1987, Johnson nearly averaged a triple-double for the series (26.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 13.0 assists) while collecting 2.3 steals per game. He also shot 54.1 percent overall and 96 percent on his free throws as the Lakers topped the Boston Celtics.

In this year’s Finals, James proved once again how elite he is in the scope of the NBA annals. He orchestrated the most impressive Finals series comeback ever against arguably the best team in ages, added a third championship ring to his résumé and brought Cleveland its first NBA title.

Nevertheless, even for as flat-out good as LeBron was throughout the series (sustaining a high level through seven games), the numbers other guys posted somehow make James’ look human.

Even the most devoted LeBron doubters should, logically speaking, acknowledge his status as an all-time great. That being said, several former NBA superstars somehow were even more dominant than James was The Finals’ stage in 2016.

This article was originally published on PointAfter, a partner of NBA.com.

Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA Players, NBA Historical Teams and dozens of other topics.