Dan Feldman

Report: Lakers moving closer to picking Lonzo Ball No. 2

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The 76ers are trading up for the No. 1 pick to take Markelle Fultz.

After that, there has been uncertainty with the Lakers pick.

Lonzo Ball was long expected to be the selection, but the Lakers kept sending signals they weren’t enthralled with him. Were those smokescreens? A consequence of a divided front office? Another possibility – that the Lakers truly don’t want to draft Ball – seemed, by far, the least likely.

Especially now.

Chad Ford of ESPN:

Sources in L.A. say that the Lakers have been moving closer and closer to selecting Ball in the past 48 hours. More than ever, he’s the heavy favorite to get his wish to play for his hometown team.

This’ll be welcome news to Ball, who wanted to stay in Southern California.

It’ll also create an awkward fit with D'Angelo Russell. They can somewhat complement each other offensively, Ball pushing the pace and Russell running the half-court offense. But there’s too much overlap for comfort with the lead ball-handlers. (And there all those defensive questions.) Of course, the Lakers could always trade Russell, especially in their push for another first-round pick.

Still, if Ball is the best prospect available after Fultz – I think he is – the Lakers should draft him and sort out the rest later.

The Celtics are now seemingly down to Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum – if they keep the No. 3 pick.

Report: Lakers trying to acquire another first-round pick

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The Lakers, who have the Nos. 2 and 28 picks in the upcoming draft, were reportedly discussing trading the second pick.

What do they want?

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Los Angeles Lakers are trying to acquire another first-round pick for Thursday’s NBA draft, league sources told ESPN.

The Lakers have engaged at least two teams in the lottery, sources said, as they search for players to improve their outside shooting and perimeter defense.

While there have been inquires on the No. 2 pick, sources said it remains unlikely the Lakers would trade out of that position.

Trading down from No. 2 with the Kings, who have the Nos. 5 and 10 picks, would be a relatively simple way to land an extra first-rounder. But, as Shelburne says, the Lakers don’t seem particularly keen on parting with the second pick.

The Lakers have a roster full of players new team president Magic Johnson didn’t acquire, a fact he made glaringly clear when he declared everyone but Brandon Ingram tradable. D'Angelo Russell or Julius Randle – and maybe even Jordan Clarkson or Larry Nance Jr. – could fetch a first-rounder and allow Johnson to choose a player he wants rather than inherits.

We’re past the days of big-market teams like the Lakers just buying first-round picks. The salary scale and team control makes first-rounders just too valuable. But the Lakers have ammo to acquire another first-rounder.

They must be mindful of Paul George – what assets, if any, they want to trade for him. If they don’t trade, they need a plan to open max cap space for him next summer.

As long as they keep that in mind, there are plenty of logical ways for the Lakers to add a first-rounder while keeping the second pick. It’ll just cost them one of the talented young players they already have.

Report: Celtics rate Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball as top four of 2017 NBA draft

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The Celtics – for an extra first-round pick next year or in 2019 – are willing to embrace uncertainty.

Boston is on track to trade the No. 1 pick this year to the 76ers for the No. 3 pick and either the Lakers’ 2018 first-rounder or Kings’ 2019 first-rounder. (The Lakers pick conveys if it lands 2-5. If not, Sacramento’s pick conveys.) Not only will the Celtics miss an opportunity to draft Markelle Fultz – this draft’s most polished, safest prospect – they don’t even know who will be available at No 3.

The presumption is Boston wants Josh Jackson, but the Lakers could pick him at No. 2. What would the Celtics do then? Would they definitely take Jackson if the Lakers, as expected, take Lonzo Ball?

Maybe we can at least narrow Boston’s options.

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:

The Celtics could still flip the No. 3 pick in another trade. I’m also curious how Murphy got the top four of Boston’s draft board, even in this vague form.

But this is an interesting list. It’s comprised of four players commonly thought to be in the top five for most teams, omitting De'Aaron Fox. The Celtics have limited use for another point guard with Isaiah Thomas, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Ball’s talent might trump fit, but if the Lakers pick Jackson, maybe Tatum is the pick.

There are still so many ways this draft could unfold, but a look inside Boston’s thinking at least provides clues.

Lithuanian team president: Teams should be limited to two black players, or they’ll form a gang

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Lithuania has a proud basketball legacy.

This is not contributing to it.

BC Lietuvos Rytas president Gedvydas Vainauskas said some racist things about the construction of his team:

As translated by Simonas Baranauskas:

Vainauskas later released a statement:

„While talking about the lessons learned during the last season, I had in my mind the situation with foreign players.

The principal position of BC Lietuvos Rytas is that a basketball player first of all is a professional.

Unfortunately, a few our foreigners did not meet expectations of the club.

During the play-offs they acted irresponsibly and that had a great negative impact on our team’s performance. In my interview, I expressed my disappointment about some of the  foreign players selected for the season.

I apologize, if I was improperly understood.“

Translation: I didn’t use enough code words initially to describe my concerns about black players, but I still want to express similar sentiments.

This should not fly. Euroleague Basketball is proposing consequences.

Michael Sweetney: I attempted suicide during rookie year with Knicks

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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The Knicks picked Michael Sweetney with the No. 9 pick in the 2003 NBA draft, but his pro career didn’t get far. He spent just four seasons in the league, getting limited minutes and gaining weight that made it even more difficult to contribute.

Years later, Sweetney opened up about his first few months in the NBA.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Sweetney was in a very dark place. He was mourning since his father, Samuel, died just before the start of New York’s training camp and he was also battling serious depression. After struggling to find peace and refusing to ask for help out of fear of being judged, he attempted suicide.

“I remember the night,” Sweetney told HoopsHype. “We were in Cleveland one night and I just took a bunch of pain pills, hoping it would take me out. But I woke up the next morning thinking, ‘Well, it didn’t work.’ That’s how bad it was.

“I didn’t like basketball and I just didn’t like life at the time. I went from being a star at Georgetown and having my father at every game, to losing him and not even playing in the NBA. I knew I wasn’t going to be given a chance as a rookie because my coach told me, ‘Hey, I’m not going to play you.’ I had a lot of things going on that were rough for me to handle. I had dug myself into a really deep depression and, at that point, I was really scared to tell anybody. At that time, you had a guy like Ron Artest and people would just say, ‘He’s crazy.’ In reality, he just had some issues that could be resolved. But people were quick to call him crazy and I was suffering from something similar, so I didn’t want to tell anyone. Even after I tried to commit suicide, nobody really knew. I was suffering really bad. I was in New York, battling this while the media was writing articles about me, and I felt like I had nowhere to go. I just kept digging myself into a deeper hole of depression.”

Sweetney, thankfully, appears to be doing better now. So, why share this?

Sweetney, via Kennedy:

“I just really wanted to make my story into a positive. When I go talk to kids, I use my life as an example. I tell them, ‘Google my name. All you’re going to see is a bunch of fat jokes and bad stuff about me. You won’t find anything positive.’ A lot of these kids get cyberbullied, so I try to use myself as an example to help them get through it. I tell them what I went through, show them articles that were written about me and make it clear that everything is going to be okay – even if they don’t understand or believe that right now.

This is awfully brave – and awfully important – thing for Sweetney to do. Hopefully, he succeeds in his mission to inspire others.