NBA finals Lakers Celtics Game 2: Allen's triples versus Bynum's ferocity versus Rondo's triple double

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Rondo_Celtics.jpgIn Game 2, we saw the series we hoped we would get. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics put in huge performances in a back and forth affair that featured tremendous individual efforts on both sides of the green and yellow divide. Unfortunately, this meant that one team was going to be left with a disappointing waste of a phenomenal game under the biggest of circumstances.

When the Lakers made a strong start to the second half, it looked like it would be Ray Allen’s phenomenal shooting performance that would be for naught. But after the buzzer sounded, Andrew Bynum finished as the player who unfortunately had to watch his best work go unrewarded.

Kobe Bryant? 21 points on 20 shots.Pau Gasol? Four field goal attempts in the second half, despite leading all Lakers with 25 points. No huge veteran play from Derek Fisher. No X-Factor play from Shannon Brown.

But Andrew Bynum showed up to play. Bynum had arguably his most important game as a Laker. He was dominant. The drop hook, working. Tenacious on the glass. Seven blocks to go with 21 points and six boards. And it wasn’t just the numbers. He was the answer for the Lakers on possession after possession, battling and battling and forcing the Celtics to recoil from the sheer force of his aggression. It was the kind of performance we’ve been waiting to see from Bynum as he constantly forced us to second guess him with his work ethic and injury history. That he accomplished all this on a torn ligament in his knee is simultaneously impressive and depressing. That he accomplished it in the loss is just depressing.

But there was of course a flip side to the bad news. The victors had their share of heroes, chief among them the cyborg Ray Allen (who we told you about earlier) and Rajon Rondo, returning to the triple double hall with 19-12-10 and 2 steals for good measure. It should be noted it took Rondo 18 points to score 19, but hey, a triple double is a triple double. (Unless it involves turnovers, in which case it’s a cruel joke.)

Rondo’s postseason was summed up perfectly on a possession late where repeated Glen Davis misses resulted in another loose ball. Rondo snatched it out of the air for another huge offensive rebound and immediately went up for a putback. It was exemplary of Rondo’s approach tonight, which was playing the numbers game. He gambled that going to the rim was better than not going to the rim and if he kept going, good things would happen. What’s odd is that his arguable biggest shot was a pull-up jumper late that seemed to dagger the Lakers’ hearts.

So now the series is tied, and the Lakers are faced with an interesting double edged sword. Frustrated because they gave up homecourt advantage and wasted a huge effort from Bynum. Comforted because it took two phenomenal efforts from Rondo and Allen to put it away in a tight one.

The battle rages on.

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.