Last year’s Lakers had the swagger and game of a champion from the start (despite some in-season lapses). These Lakers are much harder to figure out — they beat the Celtics in Boston, but lose to the Cavaliers. Pau Gasol is Black Swan and White Swan. Andrew Bynum’s focus is spotty.
Sure, Los Angeles playing well since the All-Star break, but does even Jack Nicholson have confidence they will carry this through to the playoffs?
As for what Phil Jackson thinks of this team… ask him again in a week after this four-game road trip.
The Lakers start Sunday in San Antonio against the best team in the NBA (just ask the Heat). Then the trip goes to Atlanta, Miami and Dallas. Jackson told ESPNLosAngeles this trip will define his team.
“This trip is really like a make-or-break point of the season for us,” Jackson said before the Bobcats game. “If we play really well on this road trip, we have a chance to do things. If we don’t, we’ll settle in and assume that we’re fighting for either second or third place, hopefully.”
This is Jackson playing his motivation mind games with the Lakers. He’s not even being subtle about it. This is the push to the playoffs, and they need these wins to move up out of third in the West and fourth overall in the league (with the Bulls and Heat just half a game back of them). It’s about home court in the playoffs, and he needs his team to be focused now. They can catch Dallas and Boston (2.5 games back) and have maybe the second best record heading into the playoffs. (They will not make up the 7.5 games they are behind the Spurs.)
This is a real test for the Lakers, we will learn something. Maybe they have found their stride. If not, the questions about them beating the Spurs or any contender out of the East become a lot harder to answer.
Hawks sign two-way Tyler Cavanaugh to standard contract
ATLANTA (AP) — Rookie forward Tyler Cavanaugh, who originally came to Atlanta on a two-way contract, has signed a multi-year deal with the Hawks.
Cavanaugh has averaged 5.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 19 games, including one start, since signing the two-way contract on Nov. 5.
Cavanaugh, from Syracuse, New York, played two seasons at Wake Forest before transferring to George Washington, where he averaged 18.3 points and 8.4 rebounds last season. He was selected the National Invitation Tournament Most Outstanding Player in 2016 after leading the Colonials to the NIT title.
Carlos Boozer went from being known as a gritty second-rounder to an overpaid defensive liability.
In some ways, that’s the ultimate success story.
Now, after playing last season in China, he’s walking away.
Boozer on ESPN:
I’m officially retired.
The Cavaliers drafted Boozer with the No. 35 pick in the 2002. After he spent a couple productive seasons in Cleveland, the Cavs declined his cheap team option to make him a restricted free agent – with an agreement he’d re-sign at a reasonable rate if you ask them, with no handshake deal if you ask him.
Boozer bolted for the Jazz, who gave him a six-year, $68 million contract. He made a couple All-Star teams and helped Utah reach the conference finals.
The Bulls are 5-0 since Nikola Mirotic returned from an injury suffered when Bobby Portis punched him in the face during a preseason practice. Mirotic and Portis are both excelling individually, and Chicago has outscored opponents by a whopping 34.3 points per 100 possessions when those two share the court.
When asked if the two former combatants have spoken yet, Mirotic said, “We did on the floor. We’ve always spoken because we need to have good communication.” As for whether they’ve talked off the floor, however, Mirotic was succinct in his response: “No.”
I guess Mirotic hasn’t completely moved on, though he said he did. But that’s fine. How could someone get past a teammate punching him in the face?
Importantly, this is becoming just a regular NBA problem. The extent of that practice punch was practically unprecedented. But plenty of players have loathed teammates while making it work on the court. That happens more than people realize.
Mirotic and Portis can make this their status quo – at least the on-court cooperation. I’m not convinced Chicago will keep winning like this.
Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)