New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6), of Latvia, battles Los Angeles Lakers forward Thomas Robinson (15) and teammate forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) for basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

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Then-Lakers head coach Byron Scott, whose outdated mindsets have been well documented, even kidded Lakers staffers after watching Porzingis wilt with exhaustion that Scott had better get a contract extension if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.

Baron Davis figured out why Russell Westbrook isn’t starting All-Star Game: Russian hackers

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When the starters for next month’s All-Star Game in New Orleans were announced this week, there was a mini-uproar on Twitter because Russell Westbrook — the guy averaging a triple-double this season — wasn’t picked. It’s hard for me to get worked up over two-time MVP Stephen Curry getting the nod, but if you want someone to blame it was the fans’ call — they voted Curry first overall, James Harden second, Westbrook third. The players and media had Westbrook first, Harden second, but the tie is broken by the fan vote.

Enter Baron Davis with the timely joke.

We just need to tie in a Zaza Pachulia joke and it will be perfect.

Report: Bucks brought Jabari Parker off bench for discussing with media team’s meeting

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, center, looks for an open teammate as he is surrounded by Miami Heat players during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bucks 109-97. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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The Milwaukee Bucks had lost four in a row and had slid out of a playoff slot in the East. It’s not one end of the court — in their last five games, the Bucks had the second-worst defense and fourth-worst offense in the NBA. After that fourth loss, the team held a players’ only meeting, one where Jabari Parker reportedly ripped his teammates for a lack of togetherness.

In the postgame media sessions that followed, Parker told the press he confirmed there was a meeting and said he had been “thrashed” by his teammates for what he said.

It was that speaking to the media that got him benched for a game — as decided by his teammates — reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker did not start in Saturday’s road loss to the Miami Heat for violating a team rule that prohibits disclosing locker room discourse to the media, league sources told ESPN…

Parker’s teammates deliberated and decided the appropriate punishment for the violation was to bring him off the bench against the Heat, league sources told ESPN. It was the first time this season that he did not start.

The meeting and the benching didn’t help, the Bucks fell to the lowly Heat 109-97. (Team/players meetings are overrated in how often they help teams turn things around.)

The good news for the Bucks is that in a tight East they remain just a game out of the playoffs and three games out of the five seed. It’s going to be a tough week to turn that around with the Rockets, resurgent Sixers, Raptors, and Celtics on the schedule.

 

Denver’s Kenneth Faried gets up, blocks DeAndre Jordan dunk attempt (VIDEO)

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Without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the lineup, the Clippers don’t have much going for them offensively. However, there is one thing: DeAndre Jordan can still run to the rim and dunk with authority.

Denver’s Kenneth Faried took that away Saturday.

Faried hustled back in transition, showed he still had some hops and swatted away a Jordan dunk attempt.

The Nuggets went on to win the game comfortably, 123-98, behind 19 points and 10 boards from Nikola Jokic.

Suns’ Devin Booker sinks three that defeats Knicks (VIDEO)

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The Knicks last three losses have come by a total of six points. The team is not good, a little banged up, and doesn’t play any defense, but New York also has just had a run of bad luck.

The latest example: Phoenix’s Devin Booker draining a three to knock off New York, 107-105. It was a mistake by Derrick Rose, who sagged down to the free throw line watching Eric Bledsoe with the ball coming off the pick, which led to the open pass. Also, notice that Booker set up three feet back of the three-point line — this is a trend a lot of teams and good shooters are following (watch a Rockets’ game) because it makes the closeout harder. Rose would have contested a shot at the arc, but Booker gets a clean look from where he spotted up, and drills it.

Carmelo Anthony got a shot to win it for the Knicks, but his rimmed out.