Friday And-1 links: Zach Randolph, trade rumors and more

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Here is our daily look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT).

Zach Randolph is aiming to be back in the Grizzlies lineup next Tuesday against the Lakers. He has been out since Jan. 1 since tearing a ligament in his knee.

Randolph being back is just part of the crazy playoff picture in the West. We know that the Thunder are the team to beat and after that it is wide open. Here is a great breakdown from Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated.

ESPN’s Ric Bucher keeps trying to sell that the Lakers are looking to trade Pau Gasol. That is pretty much the opposite of what I am told — if you want to give them Dwight Howard or another top 8 player the Lakers will talk Gasol, if not he stays.

The asking price for point guard Ramon Sessions is a first round pick. My guess is the Lakers are going to break down and pay it (they can take him into their Odom trade exception). But like everyone, the Lakers are waiting to see what happens in Orlando before making any other moves.

Carmelo Anthony doesn’t want Jeremy Lin to lose confidence.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau says that Richard Hamilton is still “a ways away.”

Adding to the Bulls injury woes, Luol Deng’s wrist is bothering him again.

Orlando’s Jason Richardson sprained his ankle Thursday night and while X-rays were negative he will likely miss a couple of games at least.

Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu protested a call Thursday night by walking over and putting his hands on the shoulders of a referee to get his attention. Touching a referee is a big-time no-no — Turkoglu got an instant technical and can expect at least a fine if not a suspension on Friday.

Andrea Bargnani had a full practice on Thursday and is close to returning to action for the Raptors.

Portland’s Elliot Williams dislocated his left shoulder during practice Thursday and will miss a few games.

Television ratings for this NBA season continue to be stellar — ESPN reports ratings up 14 percent over last year at this time, ABC games are up 11 percent. Lockout shmockout.

There is a Jeremy Lin book coming out. Of course there is.

Clippers ticket prices are going up next season, not a shock since they actually have a product people want to see now.

The Miami Heat worked out free agent forward Shavlik Randolph.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).