Mike D’Antoni postpones debut as Lakers coach, plans to retain Bernie Bickerstaff

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LOS ANGELES — Mike D’Antoni will not be on the sidelines for the Lakers on Sunday, postponing his debut until later this week due to health reasons.

He said that the team doctors talked him out of it, knowing that his energy level would be a question mark in the later parts of the game, and that physically, he’d be in a dangerous position should players come flying into the bench area with his lack of mobility while still recovering from knee replacement surgery.

D’Antoni met with the media anyway before tip-off, and with no pressure on him to coach the team to victory tonight, the mood was very light — both for D’Antoni’s presser, and the one held by Bernie Bickerstaff that followed.

“I’m a little disappointed, I wanted to be on the bench,” D’Antoni said. “After talking with [Lakers head trainer] Gary Vitti and going through the why, he convinced me a little bit not to do it. I’m anxious to get out there and get ready to go, but one, I don’t want to be a side show. These are important games at home. Two, the biggest problem I have is just the energy kind of waning toward the end.

“Bernie does a great job, players understand what’s at risk. I do get through practices OK and all that’s good, the next step will be a game. And that could be Tuesday, could be Wednesday, I don’t know yet. But with Gary, we’ll figure it out.”

D’Antoni won’t have contact with Bickerstaff or the team during the game, as he prefers to let the one doing the coaching make those decisions live. He will, however, provide a few words of wisdom along the way.

“Before the game, halftime, after the game, but not during the game,” D’Antoni said. ‘When you coach you coach by instinct and on the fly, and you do certain things so I would never give Bernie a directive or anything. He’s great. He knows the rotations probably better than I do — how guys react and all that, and he’ll have a feel for the game.”

D’Antoni was asked if he plans to retain Bickerstaff once he gets back to the bench, and while no official announcement has been made, his response made it seem like the decision was a no-brainer — pending the outcome of tonight’s game, of course.

“Bernie? Oh yeah, he’s here … unless he loses tonight,” D’Antoni said, which was followed by big laughs all around. “No pressure.”

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.