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Report: Byron Scott kidded staffers he’d need a contract extension if Lakers drafted project Kristaps Porzingis

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Karl-Anthony Towns was the consensus No. 1 pick last year, and he has emerged as the best player from the 2015 NBA draft. The second-best player from that draft, Kristaps Porzingis, went No. 4 to the Knicks.

Why did Porzingis fall past the second-picking Lakers (who saw their mistake firsthand last night) and third-picking 76ers?

Porzingis wouldn’t meet with Philadelphia. What’s the Lakers’ excuse? After intriguing them in a league-wide workout, Porzingis conducted a private workout with the Lakers.

Kevin Ding of ESPN:

Kupchak structured Porzingis’ private Lakers workout as essentially a challenge of his manhood rather than a validation of his gifts.

In so doing, the Lakers lost sight of how truly unique this 7’3″ player could be, with skills at a size already forcing the NBA to adjust to him rather than vice-versa.

The Lakers, though, wanted to test Porzingis’ physicality, and especially his “bigness,” in that workout. They overvalued Porzingis’ need to prove he could play in the low post and wrongly equated his shaky stamina with his overall NBA readiness.

Then-Lakers head coach Byron Scott, whose outdated mindsets have been well documented, even kidded Lakers staffers after watching Porzingis wilt with exhaustion that Scott had better get a contract extension if the club decided to draft Porzingis and wait for him to grow up.

There’s often a degree of truth to jokes. Scott established himself as out of touch, and nobody would be surprised if he were unable to recognize what makes Porzingis special in the modern game. The Lakers also stumbled into all their young talent despite trying to fast-track their rebuild. Perhaps those flawed outlooks contributed to them passing on Porzingis for D'Angelo Russell.

But I think there’s a degree of assigning a narrative to fit the facts here (not a new concept with Porzingis and the Lakers).

Teams should conduct workouts to challenge players. Maybe the Pistons wouldn’t have drafted Darko Milicic if they tested his toughness in workouts rather than just salivated over his strengths, and there are numerous other examples.

The 76ers were as forward-thinking as any team in the league, and they passed on Porzingis for Jahlil Okafor.

And the Knicks – who drafted Porzingis – could be described as just as backward as the Lakers. At least their president, Phil Jackson, keeps making himself look that way. It sounds as if their Porzingis workout was similarly strenuous. Ding:

Yet Jackson, despite his age and the pressure to win now with Carmelo Anthony, had his mind open enough to endure the draft-night boos and choose Porzingis. Jackson did it even though Porzingis hurt his leg early in his private workout at the Knicks’ practice facility three days before the draft and couldn’t even continue…with Anthony among those watching with frustration.

This jibes with a report Anthony was upset the Knicks drafted Porzingis. (Anthony downplayed a problem with the pick.)

The simple truth: Not the Lakers, not the 76ers, not the Knicks, not Scott, not Anthony knew how good Porzingis would be. Drafting is hard. Maybe the Lakers’ process prevented them from realizing Porzingis’ ability. But the 76ers missed it, too. And Jackson reportedly considered trading the No. 4 pick on draft night.

Credit Jackson with getting the pick right, but also consider plenty of hindsight is necessary to ding the Lakers for passing on Porzingis.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more and Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.