NHL Season Cancelled

Scouts, other basketball staff already feeling lockout pain

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Jason Smith, the backup forward for the New Orleans Hornets, said that he was told when he came into the league in 2007 there might be a lockout coming this summer — four years ago there were thoughts this could get ugly. Smith is not highly paid by NBA standards (he made $2.1 million last season) but he said players knew what was coming and most have put money aside to be ready for a potentially long lockout.

Which you can do if you are “only” making $2.1 million, but what if you make a real entry-level salary and work for a team?

For example, the Lakers laid off about 20 scouts, video staff and the like, according to a story on ESPN Los Angeles (a story largely about 24-year-Laker front office guy Ronnie Lester being let go). The guys in the team video room, the advanced scouts, European scouts and more, the guys who make a salary you and I fully relate to and now have no job — and don’t know if and when they will get hired back. This is not just the Lakers (who also did some staff house cleaning in the post Phil Jackson era), this is all across the league.

They’ve been told little by the team, except that employees whose contracts expire on or after June 30 would not have their contracts renewed, and their jobs may or may not open up again down the line.

“I’m not worried about myself, I’m worried about the other people on our staff that are really good and have young families and mortgages,” Lester said. “I’ll land on my feet, but those guys who aren’t as established, I think they’re in a little trouble.”

Other teams have seriously scaled back salaries of staff until a resolution is reached between the owners and players. It makes business sense, you don’t want to pay all these people when they have nothing to do. But it hurts.

But this is just the start of the pain that this lockout is going to cause people who have nothing to do with it. If games are missed it’s guy who owns the pub across the street from the arena (and his bartender), the workers at the arena who sell concessions and jerseys, team marketing staffs, and countless other people who are going to be hurt while the owners and players figure out how to divide up the fans money between them.

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.