Lakers snap four-game losing streak with win over Wizards

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It’s been an ugly stretch for the Lakers recently. With the team losing four straight and six of its last seven, a win by any means necessary would be welcome in Los Angeles — even against the team with the league’s worst record, the Washington Wizards.

Thursday night’s destruction at the hands of the Knicks was a low point, but heading into Washington presented its own set of challenges.

The Lakers were playing the second night of a back-to-back, and playing a Wizards team that starts the likes of Chris Singleton and Martell Webster isn’t exactly as exciting as facing Carmelo Anthony in Madison Square Garden.

But the Lakers can’t afford to be overlooking any opponent these days, and to their credit, managed to get out to the strong start that eluded them the night before against the Knicks. L.A. forced nine first-quarter turnovers and led by as many as nine early, before Washington closed the gap.

The Wizards got out to a nine-point lead of their own before halftime, behind 12 second-quarter points from Cartier Martin. Jodie Meeks had 12 in the period for the Lakers, and seven points late from Metta World Peace helped L.A. get the lead back by halftime.

This game was won in the third quarter — or, perhaps more appropriately, it was lost there. Washington shot a dismal 20.8 percent from the field in the period, making five of its 24 shot attempts while scoring just 14 points.

The Lakers didn’t make it easy on themselves, and Kobe Bryant was the main reason why.

Bryant finished with 30 points, but it took him 29 shot attempts to get there — as many as Dwight Howard (8), Devin Ebanks (10) and Metta World Peace (11) combined. By all accounts he was shooting way too much, especially when you consider he was playing through back spasms for the second consecutive game.

Bryant did manage seven assists, but when dominating the ball in that way, it’s almost impossible not to. He made just nine field goals, and finished just 1-of-8 from three-point distance.

Meeks was a bright spot off the bench for the Lakers, and finished with 24 points in 30 minutes, on an efficient 9-of-14 shooting. Ebanks proved to be a better option defensively in the starting lineup given his activity level, and Mike D’Antoni went nine deep into his bench, with Robert Sacre and Darius Morris each chipping in limited contributions in about 15 minutes apiece.

This is no way to get the team’s offense back on track, however, with Bryant in full-blown chucker mode, and with his teammates largely uninvolved — especially when he continues to force up shots when they simply aren’t falling. But for the Lakers, falling to this Wizards team would have been unacceptable even by their vastly lowered standards, so they’ll gladly take this win no matter how questionable the means were to that end.

Report: LeBron James being hands off, letting Cavaliers front office handle Irving trade

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Okay, Koby Altman — the Cavs interim general manager about to have the first part of that title removed — and Dan Gilbert, the ball is in your court.

Kyrie Irving has told the Cleveland Cavaliers he wants to be traded, and he’s given them a list of preferred landing spots. Normally in this kind of situation, the team’s biggest star would not only be informed but consulted and asked his opinion, however this time around LeBron James is going to be hands off, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

LeBron James intends to let the Cleveland Cavaliers front office and owner Dan Gilbert take the lead in dealing with Kyrie Irving’s trade demands, sources told ESPN.

As the Cavs consider their options, sources said James has expressed to the team that he is focused on his offseason workout regimen and is planning to report to training camp with the intention of leading his teammates to a fourth consecutive Finals — no matter who those teammates are.

Despite the perception — and some reality, the team did try to make him happy — LeBron has not wanted to play GM of the Cavaliers in recent years. He has wanted to be more hands off, but has let his feelings be known at times. Part of that was he grew to trust David Griffin to make decisions. With Griffin out of the way, a lot of things feel different in Cleveland.

Consider this part of the crumbling of the foundation in Cleveland. LeBron is acting like an employee, one who shows up to do his job and that’s it — which is what he is, but stars can take on a larger role in the franchise. LeBron has, and does still to a degree, but he has scaled it back after his experiences over the years. Things feel like they are closing in on the Cavaliers, the only question is how fast?

Report: Cavaliers unhappy Kyrie Irving news leaked because it hurts trade value

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The news Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland came as a bolt of lightning to a finally slowed NBA offseason. Speculation about the future of LeBron James had been rampant, but discussions of Kyrie Irving’s future were usually tied to LeBron (if he left the Cavs, Irving would go, too).

Cleveland wanted to keep it under wraps, because it’s easier to do business that way. Now the word is out — including that he prefers to be traded to San Antonio, Minnesota, Miami, or New York — and the Cavaliers are not happy, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

It means that there will be a lot more leaks — teams that want to look like they are trying to do something but have no real interest/assets will make a call then leak it so it looks like they are trying. It will mean a lot of distracting headlines.

However, unlike Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks, the Cavaliers have leverage here. Irving doesn’t have a no-trade clause so the Cavaliers can take the best offer. Irving is an All-Star level point guard, one of the five to eight best in the NBA (depending on how much you knock him for his defensive lapses, and who you classify as a point guard). He also has two seasons left on his contract, so teams that trade for him have a chance to win him over to stay.

That said, leaked info or not, they are not getting equal value back. It doesn’t work that way with stars generally. That said, everyone knowing he wants out doesn’t help the Cavaliers cause here.

Kyrie Irving’s reported preferred trade destinations: Knicks, Heat, Spurs, Timberwolves

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Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers.

He even apparently provided a list of teams he prefers to join.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

That’s quite an eclectic mix.

The Knicks play in a major market near Irving’s native New Jersey, but they’re lousy. The Heat have a merely good team, excellent basketball culture, beautiful weather and a state with no income tax. The Spurs also offer a great basketball culture and no state income tax – plus Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard. The Timberwolves are an up-and-comer with multiple players – Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler (a friend) – on Irving’s timeline (though one would likely have to be traded for him) and a coach in Tom Thibodeau who worked with Irving through USA Basketball.

But Irving doesn’t possess a no-trade clause. Cleveland can trade him anywhere – or not at all.

Teams that Irving greenlights might offer more than teams he doesn’t, believing he’d be more likely to re-sign when his contract expires. But his free agency is still two years away. It doesn’t seem that will play a huge factor.

For Irving to work his way to a team he prefers, it will take a little luck in which team offers the Cavs the best package – or impressive finagling by his agent.

Report: Spurs re-signing Pau Gasol to three-year contract

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Even after Pau Gasol opted out, there it nearly certain he’d stay with the Spurs.

Now, a deal is done.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised San Antonio guaranteed Gasol’s salary next season. By rule, it must be within 5% of what he’ll earn this year.

The Spurs could have major flexibility to chase free agents next summer, making keeping the books clean a priority. Their only constraints with Gasol this year are paying him up to 120% of his prior salary (which comes out to $18.6 million), the hard cap ($125,266,000) and whatever expense ownership would endure. So, if Gasol were willing to play ball, San Antonio could have paid him a sizable salary this year and far less – the room exception or even the minimum – next year.

Instead, Gasol’s compensation will be more balanced between the seasons. We’ll see how much he’ll earn.

Gasol remains an effective scorer, in part because he increased his range beyond the 3-point arc. He rebounds well in his area, and his length and basketball intelligence make him a passable defender given his other skills. His immobility can be a major defensive liability in certain matchups, though.

He’s also 37, an age where players can drop off quickly – another reason a one-year deal would’ve been preferable. At least the partial guarantee in the third year will help San Antonio.