Mitch Kupchak

Report: Trail Blazers interested in Lakers’ Kupchak as GM

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The whispers have been all over Staples Center — Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is not happy and wants out of working with Jim Buss. Kupchak is also the ultimate team player and would never say that publicly and disparage ownership. I’ll say I’ve heard the same rumors of his unhappiness from a couple second hand sources (not something I would write on its own, but I tend to believe them).

Now comes the report from ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Broussard that confirms reports Kupchak is unhappy and that Portland wants to target Kupchak for its vacant general manager position.

Kupchak is one of the Blazers’ top targets, sources told ESPN.com, in their quest to land an executive with experience running a franchise’s basketball operations.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the Lakers would be willing to grant Portland permission to speak to Kupchak, who has spent more than 25 years in L.A.’s front office…. Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Kupchak’s latest contract with the Lakers is a lucrative multiyear deal. But Jim Buss — son of longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss — is widely perceived to have the deciding vote on basketball matters with the Lakers and is regarded as the driving force not only behind the drafting of Andrew Bynum in 2005 but also L.A.’s decision to hire Mike Brown as Phil Jackson’s replacement over Rick Adelman.

Portland would not comment on the report to the Associated Press, but team president Larry Miller did say he he has not reached out to Mitch Kupchak or asked the Lakers for permission to speak with him. (Of course, those things are never done through formal channels first anyway.)

Make no mistake, the Jim Buss is steering the Lakers ship right now. That said, he told ESPN that he has a good relationship with Kupchak and everything is fine with the two of them.

The question is would Kupchak have real interest in a Portland job where two good GMs — Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho — were let go because they couldn’t get along well enough with owner Paul Allen? Kupchak is a loyal company man, so maybe that relationship works better.

It’s something to watch, but one way or another the Kupchak era may be coming to an end with the Lakers in the next couple of years.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.