Pau Gasol, Steve Nash to sit out Lakers’ preseason opener vs. Warriors

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The Lakers had all the talent in the world last year on paper, but as was well-chronicled just about everywhere, the season ultimately was a complete disaster that saw the team barely sneak into the playoffs before being swept in the first round.

A lack of chemistry with a certain center who shall not be named was a big part of that, but really, injuries were the main issue. Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant all missed significant time, as did key reserves like Jordan Hill and Steve Blake.

Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni is taking every precaution to ensure his players are as healthy and rested as possible to begin the regular season, and with that in mind, he’s choosing to sit two of his stars for L.A.’s preseason opener against the Warriors on Saturday.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

The Los Angeles Lakers have three future Hall of Famers on their roster in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, but none of them will be in the lineup in the team’s exhibition opener Saturday against the Golden State Warriors.

Bryant being a scratch, of course, is no surprise. He is in Germany for a knee procedure until early next week and also continues to rehab the Achilles in his left leg.

Nash and Gasol, on the other hand, are healthy, but Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni wants to give them a day off with Saturday’s game in Ontario, Calif., to be followed Sunday in the second night of a back-to-back against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center. …

“He’s obviously going to err on the side of being conservative,” said Nash, who missed 32 games in 2012-13 because of a variety of injuries. “It’s early in the year and obviously, the kind of year I had last year, I was continually fighting something so he just wants to be cautious.”

D’Antoni has already said he’s planning on limiting Nash’s minutes once the season begins, and may even hold him out of games where he’s perfectly healthy simply to keep him fresh as the season progresses.

The Lakers starting lineup on Saturday will likely consist of Steve Blake and Nick Young at guard, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill at forward, and Chris Kaman at center.

Jared Dudley: Giannis Antetokounmpo practiced mean mugging in locker room

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Game 3 dunk over Aron Baynes was great.

Antetokounmpo’s Game 4 dunk over Al Horford (seen above) is even better, because of the fantastic mean mug that followed.

The rise of Antetokounmpo is no accident. He worked hard to develop his on-court skills. And that includes all aspects.

Suns forward Jared Dudley, who played with Antetokounmpo on the 2014-15 Bucks:

This is the inside info we need.

Report: Knicks are Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s top choice for job

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Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer withdrew from the Suns coaching search, but that he was even involved with another opening while under contract with Atlanta is telling. It probably wasn’t about the Phoenix job being special. He’s also talking with the Knicks – and maybe that goes somewhere.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Mike Budenholzer is genuinely interested in the Knicks’ job, according to an NBA source who has spoken to the Hawks coach.

“New York’s his top choice,’’ the NBA source said. “If they offered him the job, he’d say yes. He wants to live in New York.’’

“Phoenix and the Knicks are trying to win every game,’’ said the NBA source who has spoken to Budenholzer recently. “There’s a good chance Atlanta is not looking to win games the next two years. This wasn’t Mike’s decision. He didn’t expect it. He doesn’t want to lose games.’’

Going to the Knicks to win? What a time to be alive.

But the Hawks are only one year into what appears to be a multi-year rebuild. Relative to that, New York is ahead.

When Kristaps Porzingis returns is the biggest variable. But Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke are all in their primes. Atlanta is much thinner.

The Knicks would probably also offer Budenholzer a raise and the Hawks compensation. Though dealing with James Dolan carries downside, this could be a financial boon to everyone else involved. It’s no wonder Budenholzer and the Hawks are both into this.

The big question is whether New York, which is casting a wide net, tabs Budenholzer. He doesn’t have a clear connection to Knicks president Steve Mills or general manager Scott Perry. But Budenholzer is a demonstrably good coach, and that ought to matter plenty.

Andrew Bogut signs to play in NBL in native Australia

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Back in January, the Los Angeles Lakers waived Andrew Bogut. He had a very limited role on a Los Angeles team that was not making the playoffs, serving as a backup big man against teams who use a traditional center. That’s not much of a role anymore. He’s a center who can pass, shoot from the midrange a little, and knows where to be defensively, but the game has evolved as Bogut’s skills have faded. Bogut tried to latch on with a contender for the playoffs, but could not find a team to take him.

So he is going home.

Bogut is signing to play for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL.

Bogut was the first No. 1 draft pick from Australia when he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005. He made the All-Rookie team that season, was All-NBA in 2010, but may be best known for his role as a crucial part of the defense of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in 2015 (and his injury during the 2016 Finals is an underrated reason Cleveland was able to pull off a miracle comeback).

At age 33 Bogut may not have a spot in the NBA, but in the NBL he both will thrive for a few more years but also be a huge draw and get the welcome home from fans that he deserves.

When Lance Stephenson gets a traveling call, he earns it (VIDEO)

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Yes, guys get away with traveling in the NBA. James Harden on the step back (sometimes, not always), or guys sliding left/right to avoid a closeout at the arc and not bothering to dribble while they do it.

Lance Stephenson got called for traveling Sunday in the Pacers’ loss to the Cavaliers. In a game where Stephenson got under the skin of LeBron James and drew a technical (and tied him up for a jump ball at one point), this was the best Lance highlight of the game. Because if you’re going to travel, you should go all in.

Never change Lance. Never change.