Report: Byron Scott now the leading candidate to become Lakers head coach

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The Lakers haven’t exactly been in a hurry to replace Mike D’Antoni, who resigned as Lakers head coach in late April with one year still remaining on his contract.

There have been interviews, but only with tenured coaches that have had experience in that job at the NBA level. It’s been largely quiet in terms of the team getting closer to making a decision, with the Lakers reportedly wanting to see what happens in free agency (i.e., whether or not they can land someone like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love or even LeBron James) before pulling the trigger on their next coaching hire.

The latest report, however, has Byron Scott as the man at the top of the list.

From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles:

While the Lakers remain focused on Thursday’s draft and the start of free agency July 1, sources tell ESPN.com that former Lakers star Byron Scott has emerged as the leading candidate for the head-coaching job after impressing in three interviews with the team.

Scott, former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, former Suns coach Alvin Gentry and former Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy have had formal interviews with general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss.

Most Lakers fans have been underwhelmed by this list, even though Gentry or Hollins seem like fine choices. The main reason being, while other clubs have made bold decisions in hiring first-time NBA coaches — like Brad Stevens in Boston, David Blatt in Cleveland or even Derek Fisher in New York — L.A. seems content to pursue what many would consider to be re-tread candidates.

Scott had some success in his first head coaching gig, taking the New Jersey Nets to two straight NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. He then coached five full seasons in New Orleans, peaking with a run to the second round of the playoffs in the 2008 season.

His most recent experience, however, was a dismal one in Cleveland, taking over in the team’s first year following the departure of LeBron James and never winning more than 24 games in any of his three seasons.

The Lakers are holding off to see what free agency brings. But if (as expected) they don’t land any of the major players available, Scott appears to be in line to become the team’s next head coach.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.