Kurt Rambis says he was ‘shocked’ that Mike D’Antoni asked him to be an assistant coach with the Lakers

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The hiring of Kurt Rambis to be an assistant coach on Mike D’Antoni’s staff was interesting, to say the least.

In terms of the politics and constant speculation surrounding the Lakers, it made for some interesting conspiracy theories, considering that D’Antoni is largely believed to be a short-term solution, while Rambis has a long history with the team which includes being a lead assistant during the tenure of Phil Jackson.

If you were surprised by D’Antoni adding Rambis to his staff given all of the things that are in play, you weren’t the only one. Rambis himself said he definitely didn’t see this coming.

From Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:

“Mike D’Antoni came to me several weeks ago and asked if I’d be interested in the job,” Rambis said, in an interview with Lakers Nation. “Quite frankly, I was a little bit shocked about that, and for him, he said it was a no-brainer, and I jumped on it right away. I said, ‘This would be great, I think it would work out well for both of us.’”

Rambis continued by saying that, after their initial meeting, D’Antoni was convinced that after running it by Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, it would be a “done deal.” Prior to meeting over lunch, Rambis couldn’t have imagined that D’Antoni would be asking him to join his coaching staff.

“We rekindled our friendship. We’ve known each other for several years going back in coaching circles. It was kind of an interesting conversation, I just had no idea that that’s the direction it was going to go.”

The wildest theory out there suggests that once the Lakers potentially reload in free agency next summer, that Phil Jackson would return to the bench for one last tour, with Rambis by his side easing that transition. Or, even that Rambis and Jackson would share the head coaching duties, given Jackson’s age and his preference to limit travel over the course of a grueling 82-game regular season schedule as much as possible.

All of that makes for great sports talk radio fodder, but what’s more likely is the fact that Rambis is the most qualified candidate left to fill out D’Antoni’s staff at this point — both due to his NBA coaching resume, as well as his relationship with the Lakers franchise.

The volatile situation the franchise is currently facing scared off guys like Alvin Gentry and Nate McMillan, who took jobs with contenders this offseason instead of signing up to join the Lakers circus.

Rambis knows the family politics, and knows better than anyone the situation he’s stepping into there; credit D’Antoni for reaching out to him and adding a quality assistant coach to his bench.

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.