Plenty of big names available to be Lakers next coach. Here’s a list.

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When the Lakers take the court Friday night to take on the banged up Golden State Warriors, Bernie Bickerstaff will coach the Los Angeles Lakers.

Who will coach the team in a couple of weeks is a different question entirely.

The Lakers have fired Mike Brown — when Kobe gives you a death stare it is a DEATH STARE. The Lakers have said they are making a big, national search — which means they are spending to bring in a big name (they just bought out four years of Mike Brown). Before they decide who they hire the Lakers management needs to decide what kind of team they are going to be going forward, what direction to go. Two years ago when Brown was hired it felt more like the Lakers defining themselves as who they were not going to be — they were not Phil Jackson and the triangle. His presence was purged from the organization on several levels.

Here’s a quick list of guys the Lakers could get:

Mike D’Antoni: Lots of Lakers fans asking for him, I don’t think he gets it. On the plus side, he has a great relationship with both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant (remember Kobe grew up in Italy when D’Antoni was a star player over there). He brings a fun and entertaining style of basketball. Although, we can seriously debate whether this roster, outside of Steve Nash, is suited to play D’Antoni’s up-tempo style. This is an old and slow Lakers team. We saw in New York how things went for him with a roster poorly suited to his needs. Also, his teams never even reached the NBA finals, thanks to Robert Horry’s hip.

Most importantly, there is this from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network:

Brian Shaw: This is the guy the Lakers players wanted to replace Phil Jackson, and it would have made sense if the Lakers wanted continuity. But Jim Buss wanted to go another direction, to put his stamp on the organization. Shaw is currently a Pacers assistant coach and after interviewing him and saying no so they could hire Brown, would Lakers management really admit that was a mistake and hire Shaw now? Plus, Shaw has never been a head coach and you’re going to hand him the keys to this car and it’s high-powered engine?

Jerry Sloan: The old-school, hard-a** long-time coach of the Jazz would bring some discipline and accountability to a Lakers roster that seemed to be lacking it. He loves the pick-and-roll and the Lakers have the personnel to kill with that play. But Sloan is not young, had trouble getting along with a star player in Utah (Deron Williams) and brings a flex offense that also can take a while to learn. The guy can win, he is loyal, but does he fit with management and the players?

Nate McMillan: The former Sonics and Blazers coach is well-respected by players if not Portland ownership. His teams were notoriously slow paced, which certainly would give the Lakers a style to stick with. However no team of his ever finished in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession). Could he do better with Dwight Howard in the mix?

Stan Van Gundy: Um… no. He’s a fantastic coach, but did you watch him and Howard in Orlando and how that went down?

Jeff Van Gundy: His teams always defended hard but were not offensively creative or entertaining (as the Lakers prefer). Plus he seems happy broadcasting, making this a long shot. Still, I love the idea of seeing Jeff Van Gundy grabbing on to Dwight Howard’s leg during an on-court fight just for old time’s sake.

Flip Saunders: Don’t laugh — yes he struggled in Washington but he has won with veteran teams. Not a guy that brings a big presence and structure, he’s more easy going and a players’ coach. A long shot.

Phil Jackson: I know a lot of Lakers fans want to see this happen, but I can’t picture it. For a few reasons. First, when he left more than a year and a half ago, you got the sense he was done with being on the sidelines. He was done with the grind of coaching — long hours, lots of travel, too many short hotel beds and massive egos around. Does he really want to coach again.

The bigger issue is that Jim Buss desperately wanted to put his own stamp on the franchise after Jackson left. It wasn’t just him a lot of people — people who had been with the Lakers for many years — were let go (with the impending lockout used as the excuse). In even a bigger way than bringing back Shaw, bringing back Jackson would be to admit a mistake. I’m not sure Lakers management does that even if Jackson wanted to return. Which he may or may not, he can’t exactly coach via Skype from Montana.

That said, at his press conference Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said Jackson is “not coaching you’d be negligent not to be aware” and at least consider it.

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.