Sasha Vujacic, Maria Sharapova working out together in Florida

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97680635.jpgMaria Sharapova has been working out at the IMG Academy in Florida since before she was a teenager. It’s where she really learned the game and became a No. 1 player in the world with a pocket full of Grand Slam titles.

Sasha Vujacic is her man and just needs to get in some off-season workouts until he goes back to the Lakers camp next month to try and fight his way off the bench. Before they trade him in a salary dump in February.

So Sharapova and Vujacic are working out together in Florida. No, not like that. You people are disgusting, shame on you. What would your mother say? Fortunately, FanHouse we can trust with the clean, real version of this story.

“It’s interesting,” Vujacic told FanHouse over the weekend. “She has helped me. We’ve helped each other, I think. As two pro athletes — in different sports — we both understand what the other is doing and going through, and what it takes to do well in what we do. She’s working hard. I’m working hard. It’s good together.”

It was Sharapova who convinced Vujacic to come to Florida last week to train for the first time at the acclaimed IMG Academy in Bradenton, where she has trained most of her athletic life.

She is preparing for the U.S. Open that begins later this month in New York. And while she was on the tennis court under the steaming midday sun, he was in the gymnasium 50 feet away, sweating through his own shirt, too. They were doing completely different workouts, on different courts, but they were pushing each other.

Vujacic is going to be in an interesting spot this season. The Lakers could use his outside shot, but he is going to have to earn minutes in a crowded backcourt. He is going to have to beat out Shannon Brown for those minutes, and there aren’t a lot of them behind Kobe anyway. (He could play some point, but that’s another can of worms.) Plus in the last year of a $5.5 million deal, his name will come up in countless trade discussions and rumors.

We’ll see if Sharapova can help keep him focused and help him play better. Then again, she’s fallen to 16th in the world right now, so she might have her own things to focus on.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.