LaVar Ball on Luke Walton: “Nobody wants to play for him.”

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Ok, I’m just going to take a deep breath before we dive in here.

In.

Out.

Let’s get on with it.

During a recent interview with ESPN, LaVar Ball told Jeff Goodman that he thinks Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton has lost control of the team and that, “Nobody wants to play for him.”

This goes against the wishes of the Lakers organization, who asked Ball to tone down his comments and criticisms of Walton and the team.

Ball based his opinion on players’ body language and that LA has lost nine straight games going into Sunday’s matchup against the Atlanta Hawks.

Via ESPN:

“You can see they’re not playing for Luke no more,” Ball said from a spa resort in Birstonas, where he is staying while his two youngest sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, get ready to make their professional debuts with Lithuanian team Prienu Vytautas. “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”

“That’s a good team,” he added of the Lakers, who have lost nine straight games. “Nobody wants to play for him. I can see it. No high-fives when they come out of the game. People don’t know why they’re in the game. He’s too young. He’s too young. … He ain’t connecting with them anymore. You can look at every player, he’s not connecting with not one player.”

Once Ball got on camera with Goodman, his tone seemed more conventional and his conviction lessened. Ball even went so far as to walk back on his comments — perhaps unintentionally — by saying, “The guys look like they don’t want to play. That’s what I see. They probably want to play for him as hard as they can.”

Yes, you read that quote correctly and it does not make sense.

Meanwhile, Walton was asked about Ball’s comments and said he felt his players were playing hard and that he was fine with Ball.

“My only concern with any of it is for Zo,” said Walton. “As long as Zo is fine with it, and Zo can come in and it doesn’t affect mine and his relationship, it doesn’t bother me at all.

This is detrimental to just about everyone involved. Ball was supposed to pull back on his criticism, a pipe dream that lasted a few weeks before waking to groggy reality.

The Lakers are bad and they were always going to be bad. This is still a growing year for their young players — including Lonzo Ball, who has some mixed stats and efficiency indicators — so LaVar Ball’s irritability with losing is a representation of his inability to judge context and performance in professional basketball.

Meanwhile, LaVar’s comments have come to irritate those outside the Lakers as well. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who is head of the NBA coaches association, took umbrage to both LaVar’s opinions and that ESPN chose to give him a platform.

Via Star-Telegram:

“I view the recent ESPN article as a disgrace. ESPN is an NBA partner, and they’ve been a great one. But part of that partnership is that the coaches do a lot of things to help them with access, interviews, all those kinds of things. In exchange for that, they should back up the coaches. Printing an article where the father of an NBA player has an opinion that’s printed as anything like legitimate erodes trust.”

“I’m saying they should look at their sources and do a better job of determining whether they have any merit or any validity. Or are they just blowhard loudmouths?”

Carlisle taking issue with ESPN is an interesting thing to consider. On one hand, personal preference may dictate that some never want to see LaVar Ball utter another word about the NBA. His opinions aren’t valid, and instead are groundless observations by someone who is trying to shimmy his way up the ladder in order to improve his financial standing by profiting off of free marketing allowed by coverage of his bloviation.

Then again, newsworthiness isn’t defined by personal preference and, much to my chagrin, my own years working in journalism tells me that LaVar Ball’s comments are sometimes newsworthy. Whether what he says is valid or not doesn’t have complete bearing on whether it’s worth posting. The cult of personality around Ball still demands interest from readers, and so ESPN has reasonable right to publish what LaVar Ball says, pending editorial oversight.

Ball saying he could beat Michael Jordan 1-on-1 isn’t worth publishing. Ball explicitly criticizing the head coach of the Lakers after the team asked him not to and after they reinforced a rule banning reporters from the friends and family area at Staples Center probably is worth coverage.

Still, giving Ball carte blanche to speak without commentary from writers themselves — or offering response from those who Ball is talking about — is probably too far at this point. Ball’s opinions are often baseless, and without added expansion by writers, even relevant quotes from Ball devoid of context and expertise from reporters don’t carry a lot of weight.

Market saturation, coverage fatigue, and context determine whether something from the Ball family is printable at this juncture. I’m fully with Carlisle on exhaustion of LaVar Ball, as well as supportive of shielding Walton from unearned sniping from the peanut gallery. Most of what Ball says is complete nonsense, and so some outlets may be more selective than others in posting what he says.

Stepping aside from Carlisle’s comments on journalism best practices, the issue at hand is the continued haranguing of Walton by LaVar Ball. Walton is more important to the franchise (and has deeper roots) than Lonzo or LaVar Ball. The Lakers’ market presence would not suffer if the Balls were suddenly ejected from LA, especially if the team attracts big free agents this summer like Paul George or LeBron James.

It seems like we are at the precipice, about to see a larger issue peek over the horizon as the team deals with the Ball family. Why would a superstar franchise with potential superstar players want to deal with a loudmouth helicopter parent as they try to fight their way into championship contention in the coming years?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: LaVar Ball won. He got his son to the Lakers just as he wanted after UCLA. But he doesn’t realize it, and the more he keeps pushing the more marginalized he and his son will become in the Lakers organization.

Enes Kanter’s teammate told him “You’re about to get 50 dropped on you” after LeBron troll

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Enes Kanter likes to inject himself in situations he doesn’t belong in.

The New York Knicks forward likes to take aim at the biggest star in the game, LeBron James, and has said in the past that he would fight LeBron if he had to.

Some previous comments from LeBron riled up members of the Knicks organization, and there’s been animosity between the two sides ever since.

So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Kanter had something to say on Twitter about his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, dropping 148 points during a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Heck, even former Cavaliers coach David Blatt jumped in on that one, albeit immediately before his own team got 151 scored on them.

Kanter took to Twitter, using LeBron’s own catchphrase against him:

Of course, that’s probably not the best idea. Kanter is a role player and LeBron is one of the best who ever played. Even if the Cavaliers are stinking it up lately, you can’t go after the King like that. You just might miss.

Via ESPN:

“One texted [teammate] me just to say — I’m not going to say who — but he texted me ‘You’re about to get 50 dropped on you, boy.'” Kanter said before Sunday’s matinee against the Los Angeles Lakers. “I responded something back, but I’m not going to say what it is.”

Kanter added that he’s just “having fun” and wanting to put “a smile on people’s face” with his constant prodding.

We’ll see if he ends up smiling the next time Cleveland and New York meet on April 9 at MSG.

David Blatt’s troll on the Cavaliers backfires when opponent scores 151 (VIDEO)

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David Blatt, perhaps sensing his time to pounce as rumors swirl around Tyronn Lue’s departure, decided to troll the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. It did not go so well.

Blatt, who was fired from the head coaching spot in Cleveland in 2015, now heads Darüşşafaka S.K. in the Turkish Super League. Coaching Team Europe vs. Team Asia in the Turkish BSL All-Star Game, Blatt joked during a TV interview that he was just hoping his team didn’t give up as many points as the Cavaliers did to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. That game ended with a score of 148-124.

Via Twitter:

So what happened to Blatt’s Team Europe in the All-Star Game?

According to Erik Gundersen over at LeBron Wire, Team Europe promptly got rolled on with a tally of … 151 points.

The final total in the Turkish All-Star matchup was 151-142 in favor of Team Asia.

Oops.

Salah Mejri threatened to come to Blazers locker room after Jusuf Nurkic tussle

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The Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks had a game of many emotions on Saturday night at Moda Center. Of course, the game wasn’t that close — Portland led by 17 at the half and finished the game by beating Dallas, 117-108.

But as we’ve seen in the NBA recently, the propensity for NBA players to get into physical spats is high. So it was no surprise that we saw yet another scrum between NBA players on the east side of the Willamette on Saturday as Dallas’ Salah Mejri got tangled up with Jusuf Nurkic and Evan Turner.

The play began with Nurkic getting a clean block on Mejri. Because of the position of the two players, Nurkic’s arm was angled as such that after the block it came clean through to rest on Mejri’s shoulder. Mejri turned, and the whole thing became a tangle of arms and elbows.

Neither Mejri or Nurkic took kindly to that, so the two squared off. Nurkic gave Mejri an ineffectual little push, while Portland’s Evan Turner jumped in to hold Mejri back. The Mavericks center promptly flopped all the way to the ground, inexplicably grabbing his face. It was Premier League-level flopping from Mejri, just top notch stuff.

Via NBC Sports Northwest:

After the game, Turner told media that Mejri threatened to come get the Blazers.

“He’s like ‘I’ll come to the locker room!'” said Turner. “Out of a 225 lb. dude [Turner] a 275 lb. dude [Nurkic] and a 7-footer [Mejri] who hit the ground?”

Portland’s CJ McCollum didn’t seem too impressed with the threat.

“If they really want to fight, they know where to find people,” said McCollum.

Much like any arena, the visiting locker room is just down the hall from the home squad at Moda Center, so it would have been easy for Mejri to get to. Nothing happened, so it turned out as an empty threat.

Meanwhile, Turner was assessed a technical foul for the tussle — presumably for “pushing” Mejri. There was notable tension the rest of the game between Mejri, Nurkic, and the crowd at Moda Center, but nothing else of consequence happened.

LeBron James: “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs”

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Cleveland’s defense was pathetic Saturday and the Thunder routed them because of it. The Cavaliers gave up 148 points, allowed the Thunder to shoot 58 percent, and basically were little more than traffic cones for Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the rest of the Thunder to dribble and pass around. The Cavaliers have lost 8-of-11 and coach Tyronn Lue’s seat is getting warm.

Can the Cavaliers even get out of the East? LeBron James wasn’t even asking that question after the Saturday loss, he wants his team to get to the conference finals first. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Playoffs? We can’t even start thinking about that, not the way we’re playing right now,” James said. “We could easily get bounced early in the playoffs if they started next weekend. Haven’t even began thinking about the postseason.”

It’s January, it’s far too early to write LeBron and the Cavaliers off — his teams have won the East for seven straight seasons in a row for a reason. Cleveland’s mid-season malaise is a thing and they snap out of it, Isaiah Thomas will find his legs and play better, but this season has shown some troubling structural flaws in the Cavaliers. Ones that could bite them in the playoffs. Ones they are active in the trade market trying to address, or at least shore up a little.

Nobody around the league is comfortable picking against a LeBron team in the East — he has been to seven straight Finals for a reason (and how impressive an achievement that is gets overlooked). But this seems to be the weakest LeBron team since he bolted Cleveland (the first time?), and a second-round matchup vs. Toronto is no gimme anymore. LeBron is right to be concerned.