Mike D’Antoni resigns as Lakers head coach

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After the worst season in franchise history, after multiple players — including Kobe Bryant — suggested they wanted a new coach, and with a fan base up in arms about him, this isn’t really a surprise.

Mike D’Antoni has resigned as the Lakers head coach, the team announced.

“Given the circumstances, I don’t know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did the past two seasons,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said in a released statement. “On behalf of the Lakers, we thank Mike for the work ethic, professionalism and positive attitude that he brought to the team every day. We wish him the best of luck.”

This very likely was a resignation where he was allowed to save face rather than be fired. D’Antonio had wanted his 2015-16 option picked up, the Lakers declines. D’Antoni was owed $4 million next season and got a portion of that to walk away, reports Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

D’Antoni was an odd hire from the start (a start that was 10 games into a season after the Lakers fired Mike Brown thinking “things can’t get worse….”). D’Antoni started off behind the eight ball with Lakers fans because he wasn’t Phil Jackson.

Unlike what many Lakers (and Knicks) fans think, he can coach and his system can win — go watch Miami, they borrow liberally from it. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs borrow from it. D’Antoni has influenced the NBA dramatically.

But he is wed to his system — he has to win his way. (Those other teams have modified what he does to work better with their rosters, and to defend better, but D’Antoni hasn’t really shown that.)

From the day he was hired the Lakers’ roster was a poor fit for the D’Antoni system. Dwight Howard is one of the best pick-and-roll bigs in the game but he wants to play in the post. The Lakers did not have a point guard who fit their system, save for the often injured and well worn Steve Nash. Kobe circa 2004 or so would have been amazing in D’Antoni’s system, but he can’t get up and down the floor and play that style anymore. Kobe’s a post/elbow guy now. Pau Gasol is not a stretch four, just ask him. And it goes on and on down the Lakers roster.

This season the Lakers were ravaged by injuries.

Combine that with D’Antoni’s poor communication skills with players and it all falls apart fast.

In his two seasons D’Antoni was 67-87.

A lot of big names will come to the forefront to be the Lakers coach (no, not Phil Jackson, he’s got what he wants in New York now). Expect Steve Kerr, Stan and Jeff Van Gundy, George Karl, Kevin Ollie, and Lionel Hollins to be mentioned.

That said, expect Byron Scott to be high on the list. After going “outside the family” to hire Brown and D’Antoni, look for the Lakers to stay within their family. Scott has been doing some studio analysis for the Lakers’ cable network in Los Angeles this past season.

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.