<span class="vcard">Dan Feldman</span>

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell, Byron Scott
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Byron Scott benches D’Angelo Russell for ‘trying to take over the game’


D'Angelo Russell passed on just 64% of his touches in the Lakers’ loss to the Mavericks last night – Los Angeles’ lowest mark. He didn’t assist any baskets.

He also shot just 4-of-12. None of his makes were assisted, and most of his misses wouldn’t have been if they’d fallen, either.

Finally, Lakers coach Byron Scott benched him after this shot:

Scott, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“I saw the last couple minutes that he was in that he was really trying to take over the game, and that’s not him yet,” Scott said. “I want the ball to move a little bit. I thought it stuck with him. He tried to make the big shots and things like that. I understand that, but to me, that’s not him right now.”

Benching a young player who was playing out of control is generally good coaching. It gets an important message across.

But where’s Scott’s credibility? He said Kobe Bryant earned the right to take bad shots. Is it surprising Russell felt he deserved his turn?

Russell, via Holmes:

“I feel like I was taking advantage of what they were giving me. It was a small split window of taking a shot or passing it up with a shot-clock violation on the line. It was always in my hands and I had to take a shot. I missed it. I don’t know if [Scott] would’ve said that if I was making those shots.”

On that last shot, the shot clock was only a factor because Russell held the ball then over-dribbled – repeated problems. The shot might have made sense when it was released based on the shot clock, but even that’s dubious. More importantly, Russell should’ve never gotten himself into the position in the first place.

I’m mostly struck by this comment: “I don’t know if [Scott] would’ve said that if I was making those shots.” That sounds like a player who doesn’t trust his coach to help him improve.

Process trumps results. Scott’s reaction to Russell’s attempts should have been identical whether or not they’d fallen. We’ll never know how the coach would’ve handled Russell if he’d made his last, bad shot.

But we know how Russell feels about the situation – and that’s telling.

France, Turkey, Canada in loaded Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament

Canada coach Jay Triano gives directions to his players during a FIBA Americas Championship semifinal basketball game against Venezuela, in Mexico City, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo
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Andrew Wiggins called Canada’s loss to Venezuela in last fall’s FIBA Americas semifinals – with a berth in the 2016 Olympics up for grabs – the worst of his career.

This is why.

The Canadians still qualified for an Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but yesterday’s draw gives them stiff competition to reach Rio.

Here’s the full slotting for all three Olympic Qualifying Tournaments with each team’s FIBA ranking:

Belgrade, Serbia

Group A

6. Serbia

15. Angola

16. Puerto Rico

Group B

35. Latvia

42. Czech Republic

48. Japan

Manila, Philippines

Group A

8. Turkey

26. Canada

31. Senegal

Group B

5. France

21. New Zealand

28. Philippines

Turin, Italy

Group A

10. Greece

17. Iran

19. Mexico

Group B

12. Croatia

23. Tunisia

35. Italy

Each Olympic Qualifying Tournament is conducted separately. The winners fill the final three spots in the 2016 Games. (Nine teams – United States, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, Lithuania, Nigeria, Australia and China – are already qualified.)

Within each tournament, teams in each group play each other once. Then, the top two teams advance. Group A’s top team plays the second-place team in Group B, and Group B’s top team plays the second-place team in Group A. Winners of that game play in the championship game.

A quick breakdown of each tournament:

  • Serbia appears to have a relatively easy path playing in its own country, though it could have to beat Angola or Puerto Rico twice. The three lowest-ranked teams in the OQTs are in Belgrade’s Group B.
  • The Manila OQT is the strongest on paper. France, Turkey and Canada are all formidable.
  • Greece and Croatia should be a fun matchup in Turin, though I wouldn’t rule out host Italy getting it together.

It’s difficult to prognosticate too deeply. Most of the games will be played during the NBA’s July moratorium, when free agents can negotiate – but not sign – contracts. That likely means significant absences across the board.

Report: Billy King pushing for Danny Ferry to become Nets’ GM

FILE - In a Thursday, July 18, 2013 file photo, Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King speaks during an NBA basketball news conference, at Barlcays Center in New York. The Brooklyn Nets have fired coach Lionel Hollins and reassigned general manager King, they announced Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
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The Nets fired general manager Billy King, but he was reportedly advising Brooklyn in its search for his replacement. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov downplayed Kings’ involvement, saying King could offer input as a friend.

Well, he apparently is.

King’s favored candidate: Former Hawks general manager Danny Ferry.

Mike Mazzeo of ESPN:

Behind the scenes, former GM Billy King has been pushing Ferry’s candidacy.

And despite being demoted, King still manages to hold influence with owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s No. 2, Dmitry Razumov.

King and Ferry are longtime friends. Kings’ support is hardly surprising.

But will it be enough? Ferry’s case in Brooklyn, after his tumultuous end with the Hawks, is complicated at best.

There have been plenty of questions about Prokhorov’s involvement with the Nets. He said he’d be around more during this state of transition, but it wouldn’t be the first time he didn’t deliver on a pledge. If Prokhorov is leaving the search in Razumov’s hands, that could give King – and therefore Ferry – more consideration.

Ferry still has a deep pool of competitors to beat for the job, though.

Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love must focus less on ‘their brand,’ more on winning


New Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is unafraid to speak his mind.

First, he said he’d do things better, not differently, than fired David Blatt – reversing a tried-and-true axiom for a coaching change.

Then, he said his players weren’t conditioned well enough to play up-tempo.

Now, he’s taking aim specifically at Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“With our young stars, with Kyrie and Kevin, they’re young, so it’s still about their brand and different things, it’s just way different,” Lue said.

If you’re shifting in your chair, perhaps concerned that Lue, in one of his first acts as coach, went to the media to rip Irving and Love, relax. He apparently said the same thing in front of the entire team on Saturday, too.

“I talked to our team about, ‘if you win, everybody’s brand is better,'” Lue said Monday, before the Cavs beat the T’Wolves. “If you win as a unit, everybody gets credit for it. Just trying to keep instilling that in our guys because, you know, we still have a young group of guys. Just gotta keep instilling that message. If we win, everybody’s taken care of, so that’s the message.”

Another way of putting it: The Cavs are at their best when everything goes through LeBron James. Know your place, and get in line behind him.

Mostly, Lue is right.

LeBron remains Cleveland’s top player, and his passing ability means funneling the offense through him won’t make it a one-man show. Irving and Love will still get plenty of touches.

And winning does improve perception, especially when expectations are so high. Love was already viewed as a failure in many circles for not winning enough in Minnesota, and his play with the Cavs hasn’t changed minds. It’s only a matter of time until Irving faces similar criticism if this loaded team doesn’t win a title. Is that fair, especially for a team that – despite injuries to Love and Irving – pushed the Warriors in last year’s Finals? Probably not. But fair and reality don’t always overlap.

Lue just has to be careful not to offend the wrong people. More than Irving and Love need to fit in with a LeBron-led team, Lue needs those stars to buy into his message.

Kobe Bryant kicks Larry Nance Jr. off Lakers bench to open seat for himself (video)


Kobe Bryant (shoulder) didn’t play in the Lakers’ loss to the Mavericks last night, but he arrived to the bench – a full bench – early in the first quarter.

So, someone had to go.

Kobe gave rookie Larry Nance Jr. the hook and took a seat as Nance made himself comfortable on the floor.