Byron Scott: Lakers ‘better be ready to play some defense’

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Byron Scott will be the new head coach of the Lakers.

Even though the team hasn’t yet officially announced the hiring due to “some little details” that need to be ironed out, he’s agreed in principle to the four-year, $17 million deal that was originally reported on Saturday.

Scott is already giving interviews explaining his excitement over his new role, and wants to make it clear that he will be trying to make the Lakers a defensive team above all else.

From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:

“I’m a little tired tonight,” Scott told ESPN.com late Sunday night after returning from a trip to the Caribbean. “But I’m extremely excited about the job, extremely excited about the opportunity to bring the purple and gold back up to championship-caliber basketball.”

Scott said he’s been texting with Lakers star Kobe Bryant throughout the summer and conferring about this year’s team. Bryant texted Scott this weekend after news broke that he had accepted the job.

“He told me he was working out with Wesley [Johnson] and Nick [Young],” Scott said. “I told them that sounded great, but ‘they better be ready to play some defense.’ “

The Lakers finished 28th in defensive efficiency last season, and sure, part of that can be blamed on Mike D’Antoni and his diminished interest in stressing the importance in playing on that end of the floor. But a lot of it also has to do with personnel, and the injuries that forced so many random lineups to be thrown together at various points throughout the season.

The question becomes whether or not Scott is capable of getting the desired results.

As we’ve detailed previously (with some help from John Schuhmann at NBA.com), Scott’s Cavaliers team was historically bad defensively. In fact, he’s the only coach since the league expanded to 30 teams to lead one that finished in the bottom five in defensive efficiency for three straight seasons. You can blame that on the roster if you want, but Mike Brown, for example, took Cleveland immediately from 27th to 17th in that category last season.

Scott is right to want to stress defense, but saying it and implementing the proper schemes are two different things. Maybe he fills out his coaching staff with some strong defensive-minded assistants, but if not, and he is able to turn the defense around, it’ll be the first time in a long time he’s proven capable of doing so.

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.