NBA Playoffs: You can’t tarnish the Lakers’ franchise legacy, but their team sure tried

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So this is how it ends. What felt like an inevitable run to the second three-peat for Kobe Bryant, the fourth three-peat for Phil Jackson, and yet another championship for the Los Angeles Lakers, ended in nothing but misery and classlessness in Dallas, Texas. A Hall of Fame coach most known for his motivational tactics witnesses his team outright quit, then conduct themselves in a reprehensible manner, down 30.

Observe, first Lamar Odom, after getting words from Dirk Nowitzki after missing front iron on free throws. Yes, free throws.

This from a veteran, the guy who when plugged in is the difference between a Lakers win and a loss more often than not. It wasn’t the worst foul, it was just so blatantly intentional. Odom was ineffective, along with the entirety of the Lakers. But to respond with such a petty approach as he is being swept out? It’s not even outrageous. It’s just sad.

Not as sad as Andrew Bynum, though.

Classless? Check. Unnecessary? Check. Predictable? You betcha. This is Andrew Bynum, who put Gerald Wallace in the hospital, and cracked Michael Beasley on a similar play this season. He was excused for it being an accident both times, but this just reaffirms the fact that Bynum’s still emotionally volatile to the point of recklessness. It’s a shame because if there was one Laker who actually played with intensity and execution, it’s Andrew Bynum. But Bynum won’t be displaying those skills for several games next season as he’ll be serving a very well-deserved suspension.

So what was more disgusting? A champion going down in such an effortless failure or the players responding to said adversity by committing petty fouls and drawing ejections? The winner is no one.

But the lack of effort should be noted as well. Instead of fighting to the bitter end and making a simple adjustment: defending the three and forcing the Mavericks to beat them inside, the Lakers stood by and watched as Jason Terry nailed three after three after three. Derek Fisher occasionally strolled by to try and “run him off” but on several possessions, no one was there.

This is the franchise of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, of Robert Horry, the .04 shot, the Shaq alley-oop, and the past two championships. And instead the Zen Master watched as his troops failed to commit, then committed an epic display of petulance to send him off. Nothing can tarnish the legacy of the Lakers, arguably the greatest franchise in the NBA, in all of sports.

But man, did they try hard in Game 4.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.