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Lonzo Ball working out on court with Brandon Ingram, Caldwell-Pope

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Lonzo Ball has been high profile this summer.

He’s leading the Lakers to the Summer League title. He — along with his father LaVar and the rest of the family — are the focus of a new “Ball in the Family” reality series streaming on Facebook. He’s even dropping some rhymes.

But he’s also in the gym daily getting his body and game ready for the season. He’s been working out with the other young player the Lakers hope is a cornerstone of their future, Brandon Ingram.

“Brandon’s in the gym every day and works extremely hard,” Ball told NBCSports.com. “I didn’t know he’s as vocal as he is. He definitely talks a lot. Speaking for myself, I definitely appreciate it, everything he does for the team. Like I said he’s in there every day so we’re just getting to know each other more and more as the days go on and I look forward to playing with him this year.”

Same is true of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a young two-way player the Lakers snapped up when the Pistons couldn’t reach a deal with him and moved on this summer.

“I have (worked out with him), I definitely like his game a lot,” Ball said. “he plays hard, and he plays on both sides of the ball. I like his game a lot, a true competitor… He plays defense but he’s a very capable scorer as well. Just based on my experience playing with him he’s great in transition, great athlete, and he can shoot.”

As for what Ball is focused on, it starts with getting stronger to be ready for the marathon grind of the NBA season.

“Strength, because I’m going against men every night,” Ball told NBC of what Luke Walton told him to work on after Summer League. “But the biggest thing on the court was probably ball screens, playing point guard ball screens is a big part of the game, especially in today’s game. So he definitely put a lot of emphasis on that.”

That’s in the halfcourt (and early in the clock, expect a lot of drag screens from the Lakers this year where a center trailing the transition play, such as Brook Lopez, stops out high and sets a screen for Ball). What the Lakers are really counting on from Ball is to change their style of play, as he did the Summer League team, by pushing the ball and making the Lakers a transition team.

The question is can Ball, who is not as gifted athletically as star point guards such as Russell Westbrook or John Wall, keep that up in the NBA.

“Luke Walton wants to play fast and I feel like the NBA is becoming a faster game every year,” Ball said. “The way I play, getting my teammates the ball, just doing whatever I can to help the team win. I feel like I’m different than the some of the point guards the NBA is used to, but I feel I can still be effective.”

In Summer League he didn’t pick up the team’s pace because he was fast up the court with the ball, but rather because he had his head up and passed the ball ahead to guys running the floor, which got Kyle Kuzma and others some easy buckets.

“From a young age that’s one of the first things my dad taught me, the ball always travels faster than a person,” Ball said. “I mean, I don’t find it necessary to dribble up the court if you can kick it ahead for an easier bucket. Especially in less time. So it just makes more sense to me to kick it up.”

In a couple of weeks, Ball will be kicking it up in Lakers training camp. The “Ball in the Family” cameras are not going to be following him there much, the reality show will focus more on him after practice and the Ball family life. What Ball wants people to see is what he has always seen — his father can be bombastic, but there’s much more to his personality.

“I think they’re already seeing it because I get a lot of feedback on the show, and a lot more people are seeing the person that he really is,” Ball said. “I’m happy for him, I’m happy people get to see the person I have known my whole life.”

Stephen Curry loses bet to JaVale McGee, must wear fanny pack to three games

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Outside of a couple of college campuses and a handful of people in Las Vegas sports books, not a lot of people were paying attention to the Davidson vs. Nevada college basketball game Tuesday night.

Also, the Warriors’ locker room cared — Davidson alum Stephen Curry and Nevada alum JaVale McGee had a bet.

Nevada stayed undefeated with a comfortable 81-68 win.

So the fashion conscious Curry is going to have wear a fanny pack as he arrives — and his rival is always met with cameras — for three Warriors games this season. Well played JaVale, well played.

Curry, I think there are designer fanny packs…

FLORENCE, ITALY – MAY 29: A model walks the runway at the Gucci Cruise 2018 show at Palazzo Pitti on May 29, 2017 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Pietro D’Aprano/Getty Images)

 

J.R. Smith on Celtics start: “We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break”

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I’m not sure any LeBron James team can fly under the radar, but the Cavaliers have relatively quietly won five in a row. Most importantly, in those five games, Cleveland’s defense is 8.6 points per 100 possessions better than their season average (and eighth in the league in that stretch). The Cavaliers may be finding their groove.

Not that anyone is noticing because Boston has rattled off 16 wins in a row to have the best record in the NBA.

Hey, J.R. Smith, are the Cavaliers paying attention to Boston’s hot start? (Via Bleacher Report.)

“Nah,” JR Smith told B/R when asked if they’re paying attention to the league-leading Celtics. “It’s too early. Too early. We don’t start paying attention until after All-Star break when you see teams spacing out (in the standings). You start getting your best shot after the All-Star break.”

Cleveland, even after the win streak, is 5.5 games back of the Celtics. While it’s too early to say anything with certainty, much like last season it seems probable that Boston will be the No. 1 seed and the Cavaliers will need to go on the road to secure another trip to the Finals. Which is just fine with the Cavs if they can be healthy and rested when the postseason rolls around.

Healthy means getting LeBron a little more rest at some point — he leads the NBA in minutes played at 37.9 per game, and he’s in his 15th season. He’s played more regular season games than Michael Jordan. At some point, the Cavaliers need to get him some rest.

But LeBron said postgame he’s not playing the hard minutes, yet.

“Are all 40-minute (games) created equal?” James repeated.

Dwyane Wade elaborated: “If you play 40 minutes and you’re banging around, or you play 40 minutes, an easy up-and-down? You still play 40 but it’s different.”

James: “Forty minutes in a playoff game and 40 in a regular-season game is totally different. For me and him, we don’t just sit on the perimeter. We’re slashing.”

Bucks’ Mirza Teletovic out 4 weeks; Henson to miss Suns game

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Injuries are thinning the Milwaukee Bucks’ frontcourt as they begin a Western Conference road trip.

The team says forward Mirza Teletovic is expected to miss four weeks following arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday to repair cartilage in his left knee. He has missed the last six games.

The 6-foot-9 Teletovic is a key player off the bench for Milwaukee. He is averaging 7.1 points in 10 games this season, shooting 46 percent from 3-point range.

The Bucks also say starting center John Henson will miss Wednesday night’s game in Phoenix after what they call a “successful eye procedure.”

Henson is expected to rejoin the Bucks before Saturday’s game at Utah. He is averaging 6.7 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Guard Matthew Dellavedova also remains out with left knee tendinitis.

Three Things to Know: If playoffs started today Lakers would be the eight seed

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) After beating Bulls, if playoffs started today Lakers would be the eight seed. The Lakers have been better than advertised this young season… but a playoff team?

Yes. If the playoffs started today, the Lakers would be the eighth seed.

While everyone seems to focus on Lonzo Ball’s lack of a jumper (he was 3-of-13 Tuesday, 2-of-8 from three), the Lakers have produced the fourth-best defense in the NBA, allowing just 100.3 points per 100 possessions. It’s a shocking improvement from the team with the worst defense in the NBA last season, they are allowing 10.3 points fewer per 100 possessions than a season ago. Los Angeles runs out a long, athletic lineup with a well-positioned backstop big in Brook Lopez in the paint. Maybe fourth in the NBA is not sustainable (teams are shooting just 31.9 percent from three against L.A., and that’s not so much defense as luck), but the Lakers are improved defensively.

That defense keeps the Lakers in games, then thanks to flurries from an inconsistent offense the Lakers 8-10 to start the season after knocking off the Chicago Bulls 103-94. Chicago led by 19 in the second and early third, but the Lakers rallied behind Julius Randle and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The Western Conference that was expected to be so deep going into the season is watching good teams stumble (Oklahoma City) and other teams struggle with injuries (Memphis, Utah, L.A. Clippers). It has opened the door for now, and the Lakers have stepped in. Or, at least not fallen out.

I still don’t expect the Lakers in the postseason when we get to April, and their young core is still a work in progress, but this start is a big boost to the confidence of the team. It’s a step in the direction they want to go.

2) Denver loses Paul Millsap for three months due to wrist surgery. Last season, Denver had one of the worst defenses in the NBA. This season they are middle of the pack — a substantial improvement. Paul Millsap is a big part of that, the Nuggets have been 4.5 points per 100 possessions better when Millsap has been on the court this season.

Which is why it’s going to hurt so much that he is out to have wrist surgery, he is out three months or so (think return after the All-Star Game).

Millsap inked a team-friendly three-year, $90 million contract with Denver over the summer (the third season is not guaranteed). He is averaging 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, numbers are down a little from previous years (as were his shots as he adjusted), but things have looked up lately. Millsap seemed to be finding a groove during the recent streak when Denver won 4-of-5. He and the Nuggets were figuring out how to play together. Now that is on hold, and Denver goes from a team that looked like a playoff lock in the West to one to watch. Injuries are shaping the West playoff race right now in a massive way.

3) Worst. Free throw. Ever. This was on Shaqtin’ last week, but it is too good not to post, in case you haven’t seen it.

"This is the worst free throw of all-time!" 😂 Shaq goes overseas for Week 5's #Shaqtin winner 🏆

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