Could Lakers be planning to make 2014 run at LeBron?

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It’s a series of coincidences… or are they?

• In the summer of 2014, LeBron James can opt out of his deal with the Miami Heat and become a free agent. (So can both Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.)

• While the Lakers have geared up for an expensive two-year run at a title, in the summer of 2014 Kobe Bryant may well retire and every player not named Steve Nash comes off the payroll (although the Lakers want to and likely will re-sign Dwight Howard to a max deal next summer).

A lot of NBA executives do not believe in coincidences — they think the Lakers are targeting LeBron, reports Brian Windhorst at ESPN.

Several teams’ executives have told ESPN.com they believe the Lakers are positioning themselves to make a run at LeBron James in 2014, when the Miami Heat star can choose to become a free agent….

“It’s not a mistake that all those deals end the same year Kobe’s does. They have probably been planning for their next phase for a while,” said one general manager. “The Busses and [Lakers GM] Mitch [Kupchak] are always thinking about the next big deal.”

There are a whole lot of things that could blow that plan up.

For one, LeBron James could win another ring or two and decide he doesn’t want to break up the big three in Miami. He may well opt out in 2014 only to re-sign in Miami with a max deal (remember he took less to make the Heat come together). After his last free agent experience he may not be eager to go down that road again (although you have to think it would be handled better).

Then there is Kobe, who has talked openly about retirement, but if the Lakers win a ring and they have Nash and Howard that next season, Kobe may come back for another year or two to chase more titles. He likely would take a Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan style pay cut for that next contract, but that likely kills a shot at James.

And those are just the obvious ones.

But after the moves the Lakers have pulled off, both this past summer and really throughout the franchise’s history, it would not be a shock that they are thinking about it.

Frankly, I’m not sure it’s a shock if they pulled it off.

Jusuf Nurkic trolls Nuggets, tells former team to enjoy their summer (VIDEO)

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Jusuf Nurkic did not enjoy his time as a member of the Denver Nuggets. His trade to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Mason Plumlee was a welcome change of scenery.

On Tuesday night, Nurkic got to take on his old team with huge playoff implications at stake. Portland beat the Nuggets, 122-113, moving a game ahead of their rivals in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and giving them the best tiebreaker between the two.

Nurkic was impressive, blasting his old squad with 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting, adding 16 rebounds, three blocks, and two assists.

Nurkic was interviewed in the arena after the game, and he was obviously happy he helped his team while also sticking it to Denver. Speaking with Portland reporter Brooke Olzendam, Nurkic took one last shot at the Nuggets, telling them to enjoy their summer.

Via Twitter:

Nurkic quite possibly sent the Nuggets packing for the year with the game at the Moda Center on Tuesday, so he might have been the guy who helped start their summer.

Still, that is ice cold.

James Johnson decimates Marcus Morris with huge one-handed dunk (VIDEO)

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Miami Heat forward James Johnson is one of the NBA’s best in-game dunkers. On Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons, he yammed down a huge one-handed slam that embarrassed Marcus Morris and drew gasps from the crowd at the Palace.

The play came midway through the fourth quarter with Johnson at the top of the key. After a quick pass over to him, Johnson gave a quick hesitation before driving to his left and past his defender.

With the quick step, Johnson’s only remaining opponent at the basket was Morris, who was unfortunate enough to find himself between the high-flying Heat and the rim.

This is what happened next:

Morris was whistled for a foul on the play.

Watch Hassan Whiteside beat the Pistons at the buzzer with tip-in (VIDEO)

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The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.

The play came with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.

That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.

Via Twitter:

Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.

Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again:

Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)

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Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.

Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.

Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”

Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.

Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.

“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.

The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.