Dan Feldman

LaVar Ball: Lakers would be Lonzo Ball’s team, as they ‘really don’t have a leader’

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Lonzo Ball declined a workout with the Celtics, who have the No. 1 pick. He hasn’t been shy about his desire to get drafted by the second-picking Lakers, because they play in his native Southern California.

Lonzo’s father, LaVar Ball, expanded on how the Lakers are preferable for the UCLA guard.

via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

“Team-wise, the Lakers are a better fit,” LaVar Ball said on the CSN CelticsTalk Podcast with Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. “They (Lakers) really don’t have a leader. Boston already went to the playoffs. They have a leader.”

“Now going straight to the Lakers, they’re super-young,” LaVar Ball said. “It’s Lonzo’s team; that’s my opinion of it. Everybody else might think about it differently or something. But I’m just being realistic and thinking about it. He would be a better fit with the Lakers instead of Boston because (the Celtics are) already established and on their way up.”

How do D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and every other Laker feel about it being Lonzo’s team?

If the Lakers draft Lonzo, his dad is setting him up to walk into a resentful locker room. And it’s not as if Lonzo is helping. His earlier comments on the Lakers – “They have a lot of good players. Obviously they need a leader, a point guard, and I feel like I can bring that to the team – could have been spun as more benign:

The Lakers need another leader. They need another point guard.

Lonzo wasn’t necessarily stepping so directly on Russell’s toes (though it mostly seemed he was). LaVar’s declarations make it harder to spin.

LaVar’s hunt for attention has also angered Lonzo’s future opponents, who are paying him special attention. Lonzo will have a target on his back next season.

Now, his own team might have more reason to begrudge him.

This won’t be the easiest path for a rookie to acclimate.

Report: Gordon Hayward interested in Heat in free agency

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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The Jazz reportedly fear the Heat just as much as the Celtics – a known suitor – for Gordon Hayward.

Is Utah right about Miami?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

But a source connected with Hayward said this morning that Hayward now has interest in the Heat, as well as other teams. (The Heat should by no means be called the favorite – Utah warrants that position – but Miami is positioned to at least be in the mix.)

The Heat can offer warm weather and a state with no income tax – things neither the Jazz nor Celtics can match. Why wouldn’t Hayward at least be interested, especially considering Miami also presents a strong basketball culture and a good fit between Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic?

But Utah and Boston would probably be better with Hayward than the Heat would, and the Jazz can offer more money. It’s not as if the Jazz and Celtics are lacking for basketball culture, either.

Hayward could wind up in Miami. It just seems unlikely.

Technical-foul count through the roof in NBA Finals

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Did the style of Game 4 of the NBA Finals – emotional, physical, intense – benefit the Cavaliers over the Warriors?

“It benefited them tonight, for sure,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.

Kerr was admitting a defeat, not perpetual defeat, in this area. But the Warriors will have to rise to the challenge, because Cleveland sounds committed to maintaining it.

“The first two games, we were being too nice,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “The first three games, helping guys up off the floor, smiling, talking to guys and – yeah, I didn’t like that. So I’ll take Game 4 over anything else. Talking trash, being physical – whatever you got to do to try to get that edge to win, you’ve got to do it.”

The Cavaliers, with the help of the referees, brought a chaotic feistiness to Game 4 – and thrived in it. This Finals, the first matchup of teams that met the previous two years, already featured plenty of testiness. Game 4 just upped the hostility.

The first three games of the series saw three technical fouls. There hadn’t been an entire NBA Finals with more than that in six years. Game 4 added seven (!) technical fouls.

Here’s how many technical fouls each team and each Finals had called since 2009 (as far back as the NBA’s available records went back):

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The 2017 Finals are only four games in. Per game, the technical-foul rate blows the other Finals on record out of the water:

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Obviously, not all these technical fouls speak to resentment between the teams. Officiating so bad, the referees acknowledged their errors, led to a lot of frustration. But just two Game Four techs – one on Steve Kerr (or Draymond Green for the conspiracy theorists) and one definitely on Green – came for arguing with the referees. The others stemmed from player-player disputes:

The Cavs want this tumultuousness. That and making 3-pointers is their best chance for a comeback. Draymond Green, arguably Golden State’s emotional leader, is happy to oblige in this spirit of play.

So, bring on the technical fouls – baited, earned and in between.

James Dolan says he’s not meddling at all with Knicks

AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Knicks owner James Dolan said he’d give Phil Jackson space to run the Knicks. After some initial hiccups, Dolan pledged he was really done meddling into basketball operations.

And maybe Dolan is holding up his end of the bargain.

The only headlines he has made in a while are for things like feuding with Charles Oakley, calling a fan an a—hole and telling Carmelo Anthony to apologize to a heckler.

Dolan, via Ian Begley of ESPN:

“No, no,” Dolan said when asked during an appearance on Fox 5 if he’s engaged in basketball decisions surrounding the Knicks. “It’s all Phil (Jackson, Knicks team president). It’s all Steve (Mills, Knicks general manager)…. I’m working on my music, they’re working on the basketball team,” Dolan, who in the past has been hands-on in Knicks basketball decisions, said on Fox 5 that people ask him all the time about the Knicks. His response? “Ask Phil.”

Knicks fans had been hoping for years that Dolan would stop meddling. They just didn’t realize it’d mean turning over power to Jackson, who has overseen a comedy of errors.

Dolan might not be actively involved, but he implemented this poor organizational structure. There’s no escaping him.

Report: Lonzo Ball out of shape for Lakers workout

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Lonzo Ball reportedly didn’t blow away the Lakers in his workout.

What did he leave to be desired?

Mark Medina of The Orange County Register:

Many qualities have made the Lakers impressed with Ball, including his leadership potential, passing and scoring. They are not impressed, however, with his level of conditioning.

Some observers of Ball’s workout last Wednesday thought he came in out of shape. Ball acknowledged that the “drills get you tired, so you got to stay focused.”

Was Ball out of shape at UCLA? If so, that’d actually be encouraging. He played so well anyway. Better conditioning would be a clear path to improvement.

If he fell out of shape after the college season, that’d be more concerning. If he got back in shape by October, it’d be fine. Perhaps, he’s just not good with this once-in-a-lifetime limbo period between college and the NBA. But why he slipped would still raise questions, as well as his ability to respond.

It’s also worth asking: Is Ball actually out of shape? The Lakers appear to be trying hard to sell the idea they’re not set on drafting him. Not everyone is buying it, but this specific rumor could add plausibility.