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.

LeBron James says he has scratched cornea, could sit Saturday vs. Wizards

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With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.

It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.

 

 

That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.

James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.

The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.

And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.