Damian Lillard fed up with Patrick Beverley

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If you want to understand Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley, watch the sequence with just under 15 seconds remaining of Sunday’s game against the Trail Blazers.

Holding a two-point lead, Portland tries to inbound to Mo Williams. Beverley swipes at the pass from behind, and the ball goes out of bounds with Beverley chasing it into the stands.

The officials rule the ball went off Beverley, but as he returns to the court, he manically gestures with his right hand for the referees to review the call.

As he does that, he walks to Damian Lillard and plants his left hand in Lillard’s chest. At best, Beverley was preparing to defend Lillard in case there were no review and the Trail Blazers quickly inbounded the ball. At worst, Beverley was being a pain.

Either way, Lillard slaps Beverley’s hand away. Beverley removes his mask – something he often does during dead balls, but in this case, something that also looks like a scrap-starting gesture.

An official steps between the two, and they both go their benches.

The review concludes Portland keeps the ball. On the next inbound, Beverley fouls Wesley Matthews.

Though he didn’t succeed in forcing a turnover, Beverley at least sent an 83 percent free-throw shooter (Matthews) rather than an 87 percent free-throw shooter (Williams) to the line.

Matthews splits the pair, allowing James Harden to hit the game-tying 3-pointer on the other end. Houston wins in overtime.

That’s Beverley – always pushing the line between pesky and dirty, seeking any edge possible.

Unsurprisingly, Lillard doesn’t like that.

“You’ve got somebody out there that want to try to be bumping and doing little slick stuff. You know what I mean?” Lillard said in a CSN Northwest video. “I’m not going to buy into it, but I’m also not going to just let it fly. I’m going to say something. I mean, that’s what he does. I don’t really care for that, but I’m just not going to let somebody be all in my chest, doing all this extra stuff. That’s not basketball.”

During their mini altercation late in regulation, Lillard said he told Beverley only, “What are you doing?”

In overtime, Lillard fouled out on an offensive foul, striking Beverley in the face as he drove by. Beverley – often to Lillard’s dismay – drew most of the six fouls.

“Everybody knows what he does to get under people’s skin,” Lillard said.

Personally, I love Beverley’s scrappy style. But I don’t have to play against him.

The first step to beating Beverley is understanding his tactics, and it sounds like Lillard is there. The next step is using that knowledge to prevent Beverley from bugging the heck out of you.

Good luck.

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.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).

 

 

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.