Kurt Helin

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) and guard Russell Westbrook, right, shout after a 3-point basket by Durant in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Associated Press

Rumor: Lakers believe Russell Westbrook coming in 2017


Go to your local grocery store and buy a box of Kosher salt (the good stuff) for this one. You’re going to need it.

Lakers management does believe that in the next couple summers they are going to land a major free agent that is going to quickly change the 9-40 team’s fortunes. Someone who can lead a young core with D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance to contender status again.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith (hence the need for all the salt) was on ESPN 710s Mason and Ireland show Friday (as transcribed by the LA Examiner) and stuck by his Kevin Durant to the Lakers this summer rumor and said the reason is Russell Westbrook (who is a free agent in 2017).

“Keep in mind this, one of the biggest reasons I’m told, that Kevin Durant may have the Lakers at the top of his list, is because the Lakers have been led to believe, by whom specifically I do not know, but the Lakers have been led to believe that it is a very good chance that the following year Russell Westbrook is coming….

“It’s a big possibility,” Smith said. “It’s a big possibility.”

Again, sprinkle liberally with salt.

What this rumor has going for it are twofold: There are people with ties to Durant who would like to push him to a larger market like L.A. or New York; also there is a sense among some observers that Westbrook is the guy more drawn to the bright lights of a big city and might be more likely to leave Oklahoma City than Durant. If Westbrook told Durant he was leaving (far from a given) then Durant would have to consider a move, too.

The problems with this rumor… well, there’s too many to list them all here. At the top: Durant is not a guy swayed by the bright lights, he’s in his prime at age 27, he wants to win now, and going to the Lakers from OKC — with Westbrook and Serge Ibaka — would be a step back. The Lakers do not have a third player as good as Ibaka, and while there is potential with their depth, there is still development needed. Plus, who will be the Lakers’ coach next season? What is their team identity? The Thunder are starting to figure that out under Billy Donovan of late; the Lakers are much farther down the curve.

And the Thunder can offer both Durant and Westbrook more money.

My guess? Durant signs a two-year deal with the Thunder this summer with an opt-out after one — he gets a big payday and sets himself up for a bigger one in 2017 (when the salary cap is projected to jump to $108 million, up from $90 million next season and $67 million this season). At that point, Durant and Westbrook may make choices about what’s next. But right now winning a title matters and they are far closer to that in Oklahoma City than L.A. or New York.

DeMarcus Cousins leaves game with sprained ankle, X-rays negative

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The Sacramento Kings are 19-20 in games DeMarcus Cousins plays (including a couple he had to leave early due to injury). They are 1-7 when he is out. Put more bluntly, the Kings are a playoff team when Cousins plays, they are a mess without him.

Which is why when Cousins’ left the eventual loss to Memphis late in the fourth quarter, Kings fans held their breath. Good news eventually followed — X-rays were negative. Cousins is now officially listed as day-to-day.

The Kings are home against the Bucks Monday and the Bulls Wednesday.

The injury happened when Memphis’ Marc Gasol dove for a loose ball and rolled up on Cousin’s leg. After the game, Kings’ coach Karl said the injury cut short the Kings’ comeback bid in an eventual 121-117 loss.

Cousins is an All-Star averaging 27 points and 11.3 rebounds a game for the Kings.

Wizards’ Randy Wittman coached Saturday despite death of brother

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Washington picked up a physical, hard-fought win against Houston Saturday night — the kind of win they need if the Wizards plan to climb back into the playoff race in the East.

Wizards’ coach Randy Wittman coached that game just hours after learning that his older brother had died.

From J. Michael at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

“Tough day,” said Wittman, who also endured the death of his coaching mentor, Flip Saunders, when he passed away suddenly earlier this season. “But he was here. He watched every game in a La-Z-Boy and he’s up in heaven watching it in a La-Z-Boy.

“Tough day but I’m proud of our guys. They fought tooth and nail for 48 minutes. Not every call went our way. Not every play was executed right but they fought and flew around for 48 minutes and came away with a win. I can’t be more proud of them and proud of my brother.”

Our thoughts are with the Wittman family in these tough times.

Kyrie Irving was scoring with his left hand all over Spurs (VIDEO)


Call it a statement, call it the Cavaliers getting closer to their true selves, whatever you call it they picked up an important win 117-103 over the Spurs Saturday night on national television.

One key reason — Kyrie Irving‘s left hand.

He had 21 on the night, but picked up some key buckets with his handles and finishing with the left.

Watch Jrue Holiday’s game winner for Pelicans to beat Nets

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The New Orleans Pelicans have won five-of-six, which not coincidentally has happened just as Jrue Holiday has gotten healthy and played his best ball of the season.

Including hitting this game winner against Brooklyn Saturday night.

The Nets defended this well, Thomas Robinson switched onto him off the pick and didn’t allow him a driving lane, and after a stumble with the ball Holiday had to take a leaning 19-footer over his arms. But it’s a make-or-miss league, and that’s a make.

Holiday had 26 points off the bench in the 105-103 win, Ryan Anderson added 24. Brook Lopez had 33 for Brooklyn.