NBA Finals, Lakers Celtics: How the Lakers can force a game 7

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The Lakers are 48 minutes away from losing their second NBA Finals in three years. They’re also 48 minutes away from forcing a game seven in their building. Their backs are against the wall at the current moment, but this is a 57-win team who has only lost one home game in these playoffs. And they have the best player on the floor. How can the Lakers shake off what’s been plaguing them over the course of the last two games and put themselves a game away from a championship? Here are a few possibilities:
Get Pau Gasol going:

Sometimes Pau Gasol looks like the best big man in basketball. Sometimes he looks invisible. When Gasol and Bynum have owned the paint in these playoffs, the Lakers have been invincible. The Lakers can’t count on Bynum and his bad knee giving them good minutes in game six, so the onus is on Pau to fight KG and Big Baby for low-post position and on the Lakers to get him the ball when he does. Pau has looked dominant at times in this series. He needs to get back to what he was doing earlier in the series if the Lakers don’t want Tuesday night’s game to be their last.

The Celtics are not a great half-court offensive team, but you wouldn’t have known that if you watched game five. Ron Artest needs to get on the same page as everybody else and get back to locking down Paul Pierce. He should make Paul Pierce wear him. Gasol needs to get tough with Garnett. Fisher needs to keep giving the same kind of effort that he’s been giving on Ray Allen. The Lakers have to swarm, play with energy, and play with passion on the defensive end. Pack the paint, play physical, and make the Celtics earn everything they get. 

Get Kobe going early:

Traditionally, Phil Jackson likes Kobe to distribute early and try and take over late. In game six, he may be well served by flipping the script. Kobe doesn’t need to try and throw in bombs early; he can attack off the drive, post guys up, or get into the middle of the lane and drive-and-kick. It’ll get the crowd into it, it’ll give the role players the confidence they need, and it will keep the Boston defense from settling in and demoralizing the Lakers and their crowd. The Lakers are comfortable playing from behind and know they can make a run at any time; Boston has trouble responding when they get put on their heels early.

Confidence From The Role Players:

The Celtics are up 3-2 because they have more rotation players playing with extreme confidence on both ends of the floor. When the Laker role players have the ball, they alternate between looking scared to do anything and forcing something because they panicked. The Boston defense is hard enough to score on when five players are attacking it; if only one or two players are making an honest effort to get it done, there’s no way to score on them. 
Artest needs to play with confidence, move the ball quickly, and work for garbage baskets. Fisher needs to get the Lakers into their offense, knock down open shots, and keep the Celtics off balance by driving the lane when they don’t pay attention to him. Odom has to be aggressive, especially on the glass and in transition. 
If the Lakers want to win these next two games, everyone from Kobe to Sasha Vujacic has to believe they can make the right play if they have to. That doesn’t mean everyone should be looking to jack up shots or force passes, but they have to have the confidence to make quick, decisive moves on the fly with all the pressure on them. The Staples crowd will help with that, but ultimately it’s going to be up to the players to find that confidence within themselves and turn this series around. 

Rumor: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope demanding more than $20 million annually to sign contract extension with Pistons

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 27:  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #5 of the Detroit Pistons reacts after a basket against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on October 27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading andor using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Pistons owner Tom Gores said he’d pay the luxury tax if a contract extension for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope put Detroit over next season.

Yet, Caldwell-Pope hasn’t signed an extension with the deadline six days away.

What will it take?

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

There was gossip over the summer that it would take a deal worth north of $20 million per year to get Caldwell-Pope’s signature.

That’s not an unreasonable demand. It’s up to Caldwell-Pope whether he’d accept less in exchange for more security, but I think he’d get even more as a restricted free agent next summer – maybe even a max contract, which projects to start at more than $24 million.

Caldwell-Pope is a good shooting guard in a league with a dearth of quality wings and a greater need for them as teams go smaller. He’ll be just 24 next offseason, so his next deal should last through his prime.

His preseason didn’t foreshadow a breakout year. He remains a good defender and streaky 3-point shooter. But it’s possible Caldwell-Pope steadies his outside stroke and/or becomes an even more impactful defender. He could also improve his off-the-dribble skills, though his bread is buttered as a 3-and-D player.

Still, it won’t take massive improvements for Caldwell-Pope to hold value. To some degree, the Pistons could view every dollar under the max on a Caldwell-Pope extension as savings.

If his demands remain high, the Pistons could always take another year to evaluate the fourth-year guard. With matching rights, they can always re-sign him in the offseason.

NBA sets record with 113 international players, a plurality from Canada, on opening-night rosters

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 21: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs go after a loose ball during the first quarter of the game on November 21, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Spurs defeated the Timberwolves 121-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Until last season, the NBA set or tied its record for number of international players on opening-night rosters the previous three years.

But after peaking at 101 in 2014-15, the number dropped to 100 last season.

A sign the league has hit its foreign saturation point?

Probably not.

The NBA boasts a record 113 international players from a record 41 countries and territories to begin this season. Canada, with 11, leads the league for the third straight year.

A count of international players in the NBA on opening night:

  • 2016-17: 113
  • 2015-16: 100
  • 2014-15: 101
  • 2013-14: 92
  • 2012-13: 84

Here’s a full list of 2016-17 international players, but before you read it, take our quizzes on opening-night rosters.

Trivia: Name every player on a 2016-17 NBA roster

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks the ball against the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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NBA teams cut their rosters to a maximum of 15 players yesterday. Only one team, the Bulls, has just 14 players.

That means there are 449 players in the NBA as the season tips off tonight.

How many of them can you name?

Take these two quizzes, one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference. Players are in a random order within their teams.

Chandler Parsons out for Grizzlies’ opener

Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons poses for a picture on NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. Parsons signed with the Grizzlies in July. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Chandler Parsons missed the Mavericks’ final 18 games last season, including the playoffs, due to knee problems.

Now with the Grizzlies, his games missed streak will hit 19.

Michael Wallace of

Maybe this is just a blip. Parsons will get healthy soon enough and diversify Memphis’ offense.

But Dallas didn’t make a stronger push to keep Parsons due to his knees. We could look back on this and chastise the Grizzlies for signing someone to a max contract who wasn’t even ready to play in the first place. They have big plans for Parsons, but he must play for those to work.

Brandan Wright just can’t get healthy. Maybe Memphis will believe this injury warrants missing time.