Game of the night II: Lakers take trip down memory lane, including sloppy win


Laker fans filled Staples Center to relive the glory of last year, to see the rings handed out and banner number 16 unveiled.

They got that and more. They got the full Lakers treatment from last season (the regular season). They got the good and the bad. There was a half of sloppy defense, a half where the Lakers passed up good shots and took bad ones, the half of Kobe being inefficient, a half where they get outworked by the opponent.

And of course, they got a win. Not tacos, but a win. Lakers 112-110.

The Rockets did their part of not making anything easy — they work harder than maybe any team in the league. That’s why the Rockets were up 15 in the third quarter. That and fantastic play from Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin in what will be one of the best backcourts in the league — they combined for 50 points in this one.

Midway through the third quarter those Lakers fans got to see the team that earned those gaudy rings. The Lakers that hit big shots — Shannon Brown has developed a jumper and isn’t afraid to use it. The Lakers that feed off those big shots to up their defense intensity, in this case creating 11 second-half turnovers and slowing the Rockets transition game (Houston had five fewer possessions in the second half compared to the first).

The Rockets hustled and scrapped, like they did last season. This season Yao Ming is supposed to be the leader that can convert that hustle into more wins. Maybe he can in a month. But Tuesday he looked rusty, missing chip shots and generally looking out of synch, fouling out in his 24 minutes. He made some plays, he missed a lot more. He looked like a guy who just missed 15 months of competitive basketball.

“I’m not worried about that,” Yao said of his 4 of 11 shooting. “Those will take a little bit of time. I feel pretty good out there. I’m running up court, up and back, and I’m helping the team on defense.”

But these are the Lakers. They will get points from Kobe Bryant (27) and Pau Gasol (29 and 11 rebounds) but it is the other guys that kill you. And every night it’s a different guy. Or guys.

Tuesday it was Shannon Brown and Steve Blake’s turn.

Brown spent another summer working on his outside shot, and in the preseason he showed off not only it but also the confidence to use it. A guy who only wanted to get to the rim before no longer fears pulling up from 15. Or 23 feet, as he was 4-5 from three on the night.

The there was Blake, who was tentative in the first half, hesitating on good looks to pass to a man more covered in the post. Then late in the first half he got a wide-open look when his man got picked off on down screen, and Blake nailed the three.

Blake saved his best for last. With 20 seconds remaining Bryant drove the lane as Gasol cut with him, so four Rocket defenders crashed the paint. Bryant whipped a pass back right over the head of a confused-looking Gasol to a wide open Blake who buried the dagger three.

It’s like that with the Lakers. Almost never a blowout, but always somebody you can’t account for with the dagger. Just like last season.

Quote of the Day: Joel Embiid says he learned to shoot by watching ‘just regular white people’ on the internet

CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26: Joel Embiid #21 and Dario Saric #9 of the Philadelphia 76ers participate in media day on September 26, 2016 in Camden, New Jersey. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Joel Embiid couldn’t endear himself by playing in an NBA game, because he’s been too injured to do that in two pro seasons.

He’s had to resort to witty nicknames, practice-gym dunks, fun-loving stunts, attention-seeking tweets and self-deprecating humor.

Embiid is scheduled to make his NBA debut tonight, when the 76ers play the Thunder. Soon, we’ll judge him more for what he does on the court.

But, first, Embiid went out with one last bang of a quote.

Embiid, via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

“You know how I learned to shoot?” Embiid says. “I watched white people. Just regular white people. They really put their elbow in and finish up top. You can find videos of them online.”

Tyronn Lue says ‘they said’ LeBron James has a body of a 19-year-old, but nobody else knows where Cavaliers coach got that

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LeBron James might be the greatest athlete in NBA history.

But even he has shown signs of decline at age 31.

He has gotten multiple back injections and even took a break during the season to rehabilitate in Miami. The forward has treated the last two regular-seasons as glorified warmups for the playoffs.

Just where does LeBron stand physically?

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue gave quite the answer.

Joe Vardon of

Lue said James, at 31, “had a chance to get tested this summer and they said he had a body of a 19-year old. Maybe he’s getting younger. Benjamin Button.”

It was a little perplexing because neither James, nor his personal trainer, Mike Mancias, nor general manager David Griffin had any real idea what test Lue was talking about.

This reminds me of Derrick Rose attributing the Knicks and Warriors being super teams to “They’re saying.” Who is they, and what are they smoking?

That LeBron, Mancias and Griffin won’t cop to knowing is quite revealing.

LeBron does not have the body of a 19-year-old. Years of other-worldly play and long playoff runs has taken a toll.

Because he’s declining from such a high peak, LeBron should remain elite for a while. His athleticism might even fluctuate as it trends downward overall.

But Father Time is undefeated, and LeBron didn’t just get a mid-career reset to his rookie physical form.

Draymond Green says technical foul won’t dissuade him from yelling after dunks

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Draymond Green has apologized again and again and again in the last year.

But the Warriors forward has also maintained he must remain true to himself.

So, after getting technical foul for yelling (presumably because it was toward LaMarcus Aldridge) following a dunk in Golden State’s loss to the Spurs last night, Green – under more intense scrutiny than ever – dug in.

Green, via Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area:

“Next time I dunk, I’m gonna yell again,” Draymond declared after the loss. “I mean, it’s kind of universal. I’m gonna continue to be me, and whatever happens, happens.”

Expect Green to keep getting technicals. Even if the one last night was relatively weak, Green nearly constantly toes the line. He had 12 technical fouls last season, and a league-high five in the playoffs (boosted by Golden State advancing all the way to Game 7 of the NBA Finals).

And if the Warriors are winning, that’s fine. His emotional energy does more to lift the team than hinder it.

But, as we’ve seen, there is a definite downside.

Report: Hawks signing Dennis Schroder to four-year, $70 million contract extension

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Dennis Schroder #17 of the Atlanta Hawks poses during media day on September 26, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Update: Marc Stein of ESPN:

That’s an even better deal for the Hawks.


The Hawks traded a former All-Star in his prime (Jeff Teague). They waived two experienced backups (Jarrett Jack and Will Bynum), leaving only rookie Malcolm in Delaney in reserve.

Atlanta is putting all its point guard eggs in Dennis Schroder‘s basket – not just as the starter on a team that expects to make the playoffs, but a long-term building block.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Paying Schroder $17.5 million per year seems fair, because he could wind up drastically underpaid or drastically overpaid.

Schroder drives into the lane with abandon and usually produces quality outcomes as a result. He possesses impressive tools and is already beginning to utilize them, including in several clutch situations.

But he must make better decisions with the ball, finish better at the rim and shoot better from outside for Atlanta’s bet to pay off. It’s also help if he becomes more than just an occasionally pesky defender.

Just 23, time is on his side.

If Schroder develops into a quality starting point guard, he’ll be a bargain. The Hawks will have done well to lock him up before he proved his ability, and their other moves indicate they believe in him making this step.

But if a larger role just exposes Schroder’s flaws, this could backfire. For all the justifiable reasons to have faith in Schroder’s ascension, it’s important to remember he’s not there yet.

This is a relative high-variance bet by Atlanta, which I like in principle. Teams are generally too conservative with rookie-scale contract extensions.

If Schroder doesn’t break out as they hope, the Hawks will have problems regardless of whether or not they extend him. It’s not as if handling him restricted free agency would be a walk in the park.

Now, if Schroder lives up to the hype in Atlanta, the Hawks’ return on investment will be even greater.