Lakers snap four-game losing streak with win over Wizards


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.

Stan Van Gundy goes off on officials: “We got absolutely screwed all night”

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The Pistons were likely to lose to the red-hot Trail Blazers on the road, and that came to be Saturday night 100-87, Portland 12th straight win. The Pistons shot 38.8 percent for the game and had a dreadful offensive rating of 93.8 (points per 100 possessions).

Portland is one the top five defensive teams in the NBA this season, but that’s not what Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy thought was the problem — he laid the blame on the officiating.

That’s going to be a fine.

Van Gundy is frustrated — with this game and with this season. So are Pistons fans, and seemingly so is Detroit owner Tom Gores after his lukewarm vote of confidence in Van Gundy recently. They should be, this team is a disappointment and the Blake Griffin trade was a big swing that has yet to work out. The Pistons are going to miss the playoffs. Around the league, the sense is that Van Gundy will lose his GM job to former super agent Arn Tellem, who was brought in to guide the Pistons into their new building but now whose talents would better serve the basketball side of the operation. The only question is will Van Gundy still be coaching in Detroit next season — just coaching, like Doc Rivers with the Clippers — or of the change will be more sweeping than that.

Hornets’ coach gives savage, frank assessment of Willy Hernangomez

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When Willy Hernangomez was not getting much run with the Knicks this season, especially as injuries opened up space in the front line rotation, there were questions as to why. Then the #freeWillyHernangomez movement popped up.

Eventually, Hernangomez was traded to the Hornets where… he barely plays. He’s gotten more than 10 minutes just once since coming to Charlotte.

What gives? Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford didn’t hold back when answering that question to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“If you were in one place and didn’t play much, if you want to play more in the next place, I’d say work harder and kill myself,” Clifford said at the Hornets shootaround at the Players Association’s midtown headquarters. “The reality is he wasn’t playing here for a reason. He’s got to change things…

“He’s not up to speed on what we’re doing to play a lot,” Clifford said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for him. He’s smart, but he’s not this high-flier, phenomenal, natural athlete able to make up ground. He’s got to be on top of things, especially on the defensive end. If he’s not detailed defensively, he’s not that [athletic] guy…

“To be an every-night player, and I’ve told him this, he’s got to improve his shooting,” Clifford said. “He is right now, in my opinion, a back-to-the-basket player who can pass. But the reality is his passing doesn’t come into play until they have to get close to him and know he’s not going to knock down a shot. And he’s not a knockdown shooter.”

Well then.

Just to be clear he’s got to put in a lot more effort, become smarter on the defensive end, and improve his shooting. That’s a healthy off-season checklist.

Hernangomez has another year on his contract at a very reasonable $1.5 million before the Hornets have to make any kind of decision on him, which means whoever is the new GM in Charlotte he will choose to keep Hernangomez around. For now. He flashed potential his rookie season with the Knicks, when asked to play strictly to his strengths, but Clifford and the Hornets — and basically every other team in the NBA — is going to ask more of him.

Clifford was clear, as no doubt he has been clear to Hernangomez (Clifford is as straight a shooter as the league has). The ball is in Hernangomez’s court.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis denies drug charges while eating Popeyes on a charter plane

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Best. Denial. Ever.

Last month, former NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis was arrested last month at a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore by Jimmy McNulty and Lt. Daniels with 126 grams of marijuana and more than $96,000 in cash, according to a police report. He has been charged with possession and intent to distribute.

Davis has declared his innocence in the best denial video ever — eating Popeyes chicken and flashing cash and a championship ring.

I have no idea whether Davis is guilty or not, I was not at a Hampton’s Inn outside Baltimore last month. The court system will sort that out, that is what it’s there for.

But I know a brilliant video when I see one. This is it.

Report: Michele Roberts to seek second contract as players’ union head

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Michele Roberts entered the NBA’s player union in a tumultuous time — long-time union president Billy Hunter had been ousted in a rancorous fight, the union felt adrift, and negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were looming (and players felt they had been screwed in the last CBA, following the lockout).

Roberts, the first female head of a professional sports labor union, settled things down. She cleaned up the union finances and made them more transparent to players, she worked hard to establish relationships with the players, and while she rattled some sabers with the NBA in negotiations, she also worked in a non-combative way with Adam Silver and team (unlike the Billy Hunter/David Stern relationship) and got a deal done the players liked without a lockout or labor mess.

Roberts’ contract with the union is up, but she is going to ask for a new deal — one she likely gets — reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With an original four-year agreement set to expire in September, Michele Roberts plans to seek a new contract as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sources tell ESPN…

Roberts had strongly considered staying in the NBPA’s executive director role for only the length of her original contract — and expressed that to the union’s senior membership — but has recently decided to pursue a longer tenure, sources said.

NBPA president Chris Paul played a significant part in Roberts’ hiring in July 2014 and he has built a strong working relationship with Roberts.

Roberts also has a good relationship with the star-heavy executive committee of the union — CP3, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and others — making it likely she gets a new deal.

As for what’s next, at the front of that list Roberts is working with Silver and others on reforming the NBA’s one-and-done rule (it was supposed to be part of the CBA negotiations but was too big and complex an issue to fold into that timeline).

Neither the owners or players can opt out of the CBA for four more years (and if neither side does it runs a couple more beyond that) so labor peace will continue in the NBA for a while.