Do the Lakers have to beat the Spurs tonight?

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If the Lakers lose tonight, there will be full-fledged panic on the part of Lakers fans. You should hear talk radio in Los Angeles today, where the idea of the Lakers trading for Carmelo Anthony is getting serious discussion.

(Two quick thoughts here Lakers fans: 1. The Nuggets want draft picks, great young players and cap relief and you can offer little of any of it; 2. Can you imagine the 10-of-50 shooting nights that Anthony and Kobe Bryant could put up? I don’t think they fit well at all.)

Thursday night’s Lakers game against the Spurs has been hyped as a measuring stick game for Los Angles. The thinking goes the real Lakers will show up now or drastic measures are needed. If the Lakers — already just 1-5 against the league’s elite with stinkers against the Heat on Christmas and the Celtics last week — lay another egg, it will be seen as a sign of the end times. Even though the Lakers are two-time defending champs.

The game is a measuring stick, but a small one. Here are two things we know.

First, the Spurs are executing at a much higher level than the Lakers right now. If the playoffs started today, the Spurs would and should be favorites. Win or lose their reputation is secure. Today they are the better basketball team.

Second, that has little meaning come May.

We did a story months ago talking to scouts and the perception of many around the league hasn’t changed — the Lakers are the only team in the West that can beat the Lakers. The Spurs are better than expected, they have proven championship mettle, but the biggest threat to the Lakers remains the Lakers and their attitude.

The Lakers don’t need to hit the panic button, they need to stop hitting the snooze button.

Clearly those around the Lakers are trying to get them to wake up. Mitch Kupchak is talking trades. Magic Johnson is on board. Jerry West is calling them old. Jerry Buss is showing up to practice.

Those are the signs of a team that is concerned. But when you’ve won back-to-back titles and been to three straight finals, you get some benefit of the doubt. You don’t blow the team up midseason. Unless the deal is too good to pass up.

And while in a season when Gilbert Arenas being traded proves nothing is impossible, the Lakers being able to make any significant moves with the players they have is sitting right next to impossible with its arm around it.

The thing Lakers fans really need to hope for is that the team wakes up. Maybe Thursday against the Spurs.

Salah Mejri kicks at Patty Mills as Mavericks and Spurs leave court for halftime (video)

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Mavericks center Salah Mejri has a history of agitating, including against the Spurs.

Two years ago, Mejri dunked while Dallas got blown out by San Antonio and yapped at the Spurs bench – drawing laughter from Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Last season, Mejri had Trevor Ariza and other Rockets trying to confront him after reportedly saying something about Ariza’s family.

In the Mavericks’ win over the Spurs on Tuesday, Mejri got into it with Patty Mills.

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

Mejri and Rudy Gay received double technical fouls, and Mejri went to the bench. Everything could have cooled down at halftime, but Mejri escalated tension

Watch the full sequence above, but the key moment:

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That’ll probably draw a fine.

NBA introducing 2-for-1 All-Star voting days

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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The NBA changed its All-Star format this season from East vs. West to captain-picked teams (though still naming players equally from each conference).

That apparently wasn’t a big enough overhaul.

After including media and player votes last year, the league is making All-Star starter selection even more complex.

NBA release:

NBA All-Star Voting 2018 presented by Verizon will tip off with an early voting period exclusively on the NBA App and NBA.com beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

Voting via all other channels, including Amazon Alexa for the first time, will launch on Monday, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, new for this season, five “2-for-1 Days” will allow fans to have their votes count twice on Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 when voting through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China.  All “2-for-1 Days” will be designated 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET.

TNT will reveal the All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Thursday, Jan. 18 during TNT NBA Tip-Off

The network will announce the reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET. 

The team rosters for NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET.

I suppose this is to drum up interest on otherwise quiet voting days. After all, this is really just about the NBA selling itself.

But the All-Star voting process has always left something to be desired. I don’t see how this changes that.

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.

DeMarcus Cousins barrels in for powerful putback dunk over Bucks (video)

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When DeMarcus Cousins builds up a head of steam like this… poor John Henson (and kind of Khris Middleton).

This helped the Pelicans pull away for a 115-108 win over the Bucks last night.