Lakers Dwight Howard reacts after being fouled by the Spurs during Game 4 in Los Angeles

Spurs bring Lakers season to its merciful conclusion with Game 4 win, sweep of the series


LOS ANGELES — Coming into Sunday’s Game 4 against the Spurs and dealing with a mountain of injuries that has finally become insurmountable, the only thing left for the Lakers, who were just a single game from this season being brought to its merciful conclusion, was to see whether or not the team would come out with any fight.

“Let’s get people to talk about us, in the sense of, let’s win here and let’s go,” Mike D’Antoni said before the game, when asked what he told his players. “Let’s try to make a miracle. Why not? So they have that mindset, and I think they’ll give it everything they’ve got.”

The sad thing is, the effort the Lakers gave that resulted in a 103-82 destruction at the hands of the Spurs might have been just that — at least for the players that actually gave anything resembling an effort level appropriate for a playoff game, especially one that was more than likely to be the last of the season.

The cliche of playing with nothing to lose couldn’t have been more applicable to the dilapidated state of these Lakers, who are missing Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, and of course, Kobe Bryant, all due to injury.

But while Pau Gasol put in a solid effort, and though Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock did what they could under the circumstances, the other two Lakers starters seemed to mail this game in from the very start.

Earl Clark didn’t arrive at Staples Center until about an hour before the game, which is much later than the customary minimum reporting time most teams have in place of 90 minutes before tip-off. He played like he was still warming up during the first quarter, where he had several defensive lapses and looked completely out of sync.

Dwight Howard decided just after halftime that he didn’t want to stick around for what was left of the season, picking up his second technical foul which got him ejected with 9:51 remaining in the third and with the Spurs leading by 21 points.

The only bright spot for the fans in attendance at Staples Center on Sunday afternoon came a few minutes after Howard went to the locker room, when Kobe Bryant came out of the tunnel on crutches to join what was left of his team by taking a seat behind the Lakers bench.

Bryant received a standing ovation and the loudest cheers of the afternoon, even as the game was going on and Tony Parker hit a jumper to push the Spurs lead to 60-39.

The game’s ultimate result was expected by anyone who’s been paying attention, but all the home crowd was looking for was a little fight out of what was left of their injury-ravaged team for one last time.

Instead, at the end of a season full of disappointments, all that was left was to add the Lakers’ Game 4 no-show to that very long list.

Pizza and soccer on agenda for Celtics on trip to Italy

Perry Jones III, Malcolm Miller, James Young, Jordan Mickey
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MILAN (AP) — After a couple of days in Milan, Isaiah Thomas‘ Italian experience is still lacking a certain something.

“I’m waiting on some pizza,” said a laughing Thomas, who used to do commercials for a regional pizza franchise when he played for the Sacramento Kings. “The place we went to last night didn’t have no pizza so hopefully tonight we go somewhere I can order some pizza for real.”

This trip isn’t just about culinary experiences, though. The Celtics are in Milan to play an exhibition game against Olimpia Milano on Tuesday before traveling to Spain to play Real Madrid as part of the NBA Global Games.

Ahead of the team’s practice session on Sunday, Thomas was also looking forward to his first soccer match, as the Celtics headed to San Siro later for AC Milan’s home match against Napoli in the Italian league – after an afternoon trip to nearby Lake Como.

“That’s going to be fun,” Thomas told The Associated Press at the Celtics’ first practice in Italy. “I’m excited about that. I’ve never been to a soccer match, to have my first soccer match be in Italy is going to be nice.”

Teammate Marcus Smart said the trip was also an important bonding experience for a young roster with plenty of new pieces. They went for a players-only meal in Milan on Saturday night.

“We had a good time with each other,” Smart said. “No phones, so everyone was talking to one other. It was good overall fun.

“We understand the severity of this trip, it is a business trip but at the same time not many people get this chance to travel like we do so we understand its business but we’re here to have fun at the same time.”

Coach Brad Stevens has overseen plenty of rebuilding since taking over the Celtics in 2013 but still led the team to the playoffs last season after trading point guard Rajon Rondo – the only remaining player from the 2008 championship team. After being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team is aiming higher this season. For Stevens, it all starts here in Italy.

“These sessions are really important to get something accomplished in practice and to make sure that we’re continuing to progress,” Stevens said. “It’s still very much a part of our training camp, and so you’ve got all of the great things about being a tourist – getting a chance to see new things and experience new things – and at the same time we’re 24 or 25 days away from our season opener.”

And after spending so many hours in the gym during the offseason, Thomas is ready to start playing actual games again – even if its just preseason.

“We’re ready to beat up on somebody else, we’re tired of beating up on each other,” Smith said.

Kings’ Karl admits mistakes in DeMarcus Cousins trade controversey

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In the NBA, elite players have the leverage. It is just simple supply and demand.

DeMarcus Cousins is an elite player — and a favorite of owner Vivek Ranadive. He is not going anywhere.

Which made this summer’s “George Karl wants trade Cousins” a battle the coach couldn’t ultimately win — the owner wasn’t going to sign off on it, and the fans are going to side with Boogie. Remember Karl said he never had a player that was untradable, and that spiraled into reports Karl probed trade options with other teams, much to the frustration of management and Cousins himself.

Karl owned up to some of his mistakes in an interview on Comcast Bay Area, as reported by James Ham at

“To be honest with you, I apologized to DeMarcus for making the trade comment that I’ve never coached a player that’s untradeable,” Karl told Christensen. “That was wrong for me to say, because you all (the media) took it and blew it up into crazy.”

“But it’s my responsibility to be smart enough to not say things like that,” Karl continued. “So I did apologize because I thought that was the only thing, maybe some other things, but really the only thing that got us separated was that comment that then everybody wrote the we’re going to trade [Cousins].”

The relationship between Cousins and Karl — not to mention Rajon Rondo and other veterans — is the biggest key to the Kings’ season. Karl and Cousins say their relationship is solid now, but what happens when that is put under stress at some point during the season?

In talking to people around the team, the Kings players seemed to have formed a tight bond — even if part of the glue of that bond is a distrust of Karl that can work for them. This is a team that has the talent to compete for the bottom couple playoff seeds in the Western Conference, but everybody needs to be pulling on the rope in the same direction. We will see pretty quickly if the Kings can do that.