Pau Gasol says the Lakers don’t need to make big changes

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After winning back-to-back NBA titles, the Lakers looked flat in the playoffs last season. Pau Gasol looked flat. The Dallas Mavericks looked anything but flat, they were playing smart and passionate ball. The result was Dallas unceremoniously sweeping the champions aside.

That led some Lakers fans — a fan base that can have the disposition of a nervous poodle at times — to call for big changes.

Pau Gasol doesn’t see it that way. That’s what he told Brian Kamenetzky over at ESPNLosAngeles.com.

“It’s not that we have to change who we are. We are who we are, and I think we’re perfectly fine with that. We just have to make sure we work as hard as anybody in the league, or the hardest. Want it as bad as anybody, or the [most], and that’s it. Be on the same page. Those three things are the basics of success, as being champions and becoming champions. I think that’s what we do. It’s not about doing fundamentally, or even tactically– you can have the tactical strategy that you want, but you have to have the basics.”

There is one big change — Mike Brown is in and Phil Jackson is out as coach. That will mean changes in offensive and defensive philosophy. And a very different energy.

“Well, we haven’t had a chance to work with our new coach yet, but from the feeling I got, he comes in with a lot of energy, and a lot of passion, and wants to help this team continue to be successful. That’s a plus. I think that’s a good way to go.”

Here’s what it comes down to with the Lakers — will they play defense for Brown? That is the key. They didn’t for Jackson last playoffs. This lineup with Gasol, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum is going to score. Yes, they need to figure out the point guard spot now, but the offense will be there.

But will the Lakers buy into what Mike Brown sells? They don’t really have a choice, they don’t have a year to waste fighting change, they need to buy in from day one. And then they need to recommit to the defensive end. Do that, and the Lakers are again title contenders. Fail and their window closes fast.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.