Just how good are the Lakers? Ask again in a week.

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Has anyone figured out these Lakers?

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.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

Associated Press
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Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

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Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

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The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

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Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.

Report: ‘Tremendous concern’ for Jeremy Lin’s knee injury

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The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?

Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:

If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.

The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.

It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.