Lakers' Gasol, Bryant and Bynum react after losing to the Nuggets following their NBA Western Conference basketball playoff game in Los Angeles

In Game 7, can Lakers finally answer questions haunting them?

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It’s a do-or-die Game 7, but the questions are the same ones we had before Game 1.

Can the Nuggets get the Lakers to play their up-tempo, scattered game? Can anyone on the Lakers stop Ty Lawson? Can the Lakers slow the game down, pound the ball inside to their big men and use their size and skill? Maybe the biggest of all, will the Lakers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol play with passion or coast through the game and their defensive assignments?

We have a lot more context for those questions now, but it is Saturday night we will get the answers.

Home teams win 8 out of 10 Game 7s, and the Lakers as a franchise have won 10 straight home Game 7s. I don’t care. Those games don’t impact this one.

What it does point to is that role players tend to play better at home and in a game where everyone can be a little tight that level of comfort can be the difference. Remember the last Game 7 the Lakers were in, against the Boston Celtics in the 2011 NBA finals? Who was the Lakers best player that game? Ron Artest. The one guy with the mentality not to be bothered by such things as pressure and nerves.

Artest is now Metta World Peace and the Lakers get him back for this game, following his seven-game suspension for elbowing the Thunder’s James Harden in the head. Having him back will be huge for the Lakers because of the energy and passion he brings — so long as he stays within the offensive system and doesn’t try to take it over.

For the Lakers, that is the key — work inside out. Get Bynum and Gasol going early and focused, Denver does not have anyone who can match up with them.

That does not mean no Kobe — if anything, the Lakers need Kobe on the court more. As Forum Blue and Gold noted, when Kobe is on the bench the Lakers have shot 38.3 percent and just 20 percent from three. Their offense stagnates and is defendable. The Lakers cannot afford that kind of stretch.

We know what we’re going to get from Denver — effort and passion. They are going to play hard. Danilo Gallinari is a hard matchup for any team, Andre Miller has played his best ball in recent memory (PER of 21.6 in the playoffs) and Kenneth Faried is everything the Lakers are not. Their only wild card, and the guy that could be the difference is JaVale McGee. When he has played well Denver has won as they balance out the Lakers advantage inside.

You know the Nuggets will bring it. The question that remains to be answered is will the Lakers?

Watch the 50 best long-distance shots of last season (video)

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There’s something majestic about the ball floating through the air on a long shot headed toward the rim, especially when it splashes through the net.

Enjoy the top 50 of those baskets from last season.

Kevin Durant doesn’t like Durantula nickname either

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) poses with an emoji cutout during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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Kevin Durant is long and thin, a combination that has inspired two great nicknames: “Durantula” and “Slim Reaper.”

Durant has already disavowed “Slim Reaper.”

Now, he’s professing his dislike for “Durantula.”

Henry Wofford of CSN Bay Area:

https://twitter.com/HenryWoffordCSN/status/780502572264075264

I see Durant is embracing his role as villain. This is a terrible opinion.

That leaves just loathsomely boring “KD” as a nickname, which is unjustifiable with such better options on the table. Durant might just have to buck up and accept “Durantula” and “Slim Reaper.” At least neither rolls off the tongue easily enough for people to address him that way in person.

Joakim Noah skips Knicks dinner with West Point cadets due to anti-war stance

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Professional Basketball Player Joakim Noah (C) attends the DKNY Women fashion show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows September 2016 at High Line on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week)
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week
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The Knicks have held training camp at West Point the last few years, and last night, the team dined with Army cadets:

But Joakim Noah didn’t participate.

Noah, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“It’s hard for me a little bit – I have a lot of respect for the kids here fighting — but it’s hard for me to understand why we go to war and why kids have to kill kids all around the world,’’ Noah said. “I have mixed feeling about being here. I’m very proud of this country. I love America. I don’t understand kids killing kids around the world.’’

Noah received permission from Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek to skip the team function. He was the only member of the team not in attendance. Noah said his decision to skip the dinner and speech was not intended as a form of protest.

“It’s not my way of saying anything – I was not comfortable,’’ Noah said.

Noah has dual citizenship in the United States and France, the home of his father, Yannick Noah, the former tennis star. Noah admitted he’s “not very patriotic,’’ believing people should respect people more than “flags.’’

Noah’s view will be unpopular, but he has every right to hold it. There’s a growing current of people asking for more athlete activism, but people better realize: You might not always like the stance players take. For those who claim to value politically minded players, this is part of what you get.

Personally, I disagree with Noah. The Revolutionary War helped him secure the right to speak out on this. World War II kept his beloved France from being run by a tyrannical Nazi regime. Just because some wars are unjust doesn’t make all wars unjust. I also believe in honoring American soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.

But I also respect Noah’s right to seek a comfortable situation for himself. Some people can be anti-war and easily separate the soldiers as individuals. For others, apparently including Noah, all war machinery is intertwined.

Keep in mind, Noah didn’t actively disparage any soldiers. He’s not seeking supporters for a cause. He just chose not participate in an event he never asked to be apart of.

LeBron James on Cavaliers negotiations: ‘I just hate to deal with this s— again,’ J.R. Smith ‘did his part’

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 22:  Kyrie Irving #2, LeBron James #23 and J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
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LeBron James has implicitly loomed over contract negotiations between the Cavaliers and J.R. Smith. LeBron shares an agent – Rich Paul, whose clientele (including Tristan Thompson) LeBron considers to be family – with Smith.

Now, LeBron is getting more explicit.

Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

LeBron has frequently praised Smith, including this offseason. If the Cavs haven’t gotten the message by now, it ought to be clear: LeBron values Smith and winning and believes the former will help the latter.

This doesn’t mean LeBron will leave in free agency in 2018, but with a rumor that LeBron believes delivering a title to Cleveland frees him to bolt if he so chooses, do the Cavaliers really want to test him? Do they really want to restrain a team capable of defending its championship?

I respect the Cavs’ desire to sign Smith to a sensible contract, and LeBron is well within his rights to advocate for a fellow player (and himself getting a better supporting cast). These negotiations are all about leverage – and LeBron is using his.