Phil Jackson would be a perfect mentor for LeBron. But it's not going to happen.

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Thumbnail image for pjackson.jpgPhil Jackson’s team is once again peaking right as it heads deep into the playoffs. Again. Why does this surprise us? Sure, there were the injuries and the ugly last couple weeks of the regular season for the Lakers, but we should have all seen that. We should have known better. History has shown us time and again Jackson knows how to get players ready to perform their best on the biggest stages.

LeBron James could use that.

We don’t really know how badly LeBron’s elbow was bothering him. Or how much his teammates play was bothering him. What we know is that for two straight years the Cavaliers fell short. And by extension, James has fallen short.

James and this team have not come through on the big stage. Jackson’s teams do. That led Kevin Ding (best of the Lakers beat writers, for my money) to talk about how LeBron could use Jackson.

James clearly needs someone who understands how to manage him through the daily grind, press firmly on psychological buttons without apparent malicious intent and provide just enough open-ended structure to ensure it’s not going to be a one-overworked-man show.

Jackson’s teams respond when it matters because he teaches them to grow, he teaches them self-reliance. Lakers fans scream at their televisions in December when Jackson sits passively while his team flounders against Memphis or keep turning the ball over in Philadelphia. Jackson wants his players to figure it out for themselves. No timeout to bail them out. No substitutions. You determine your own fate.

It’s more than that, it’s psychological efforts to get the team to understand itself all season long, that is just the most visible part of it. But players beat drums and meditate as a unit. Call it mumbo jumbo. Call it BS if you want. You have to call it successful. A lot of other coaches have had talent and not won with it — including in LA and Chicago before he got there.

He could do the same with LeBron. But he won’t.

Sure, Jackson has no deal for next year right now, he is a free agent too. The media keeps asking and prodding Jackson about what he is going to do next, then read the tea leaves about what he said. But as Ding notes it’s all a big waste of time. And he is not leaving LA right now.

The reason these media sessions with Jackson about his future are so pointless is that he doesn’t even know himself what he’ll do. He honestly puts off deep thinking on the issue until after it’s over and he can take stock of everything. According to those close to him, though, there is no reason to believe he is ready to stop doing what he does so well when he feels so fine.

Given Jackson’s ongoing relationship with Jeanie Buss and his comfort in this zone at his advanced age, no one expects him to restart elsewhere, even if the most logical thing in the world would be proving his absolute pre-eminence in basketball history by turning Michael, Kobe and LeBron all from losers to winners.

Plus, who else is going to pay $12 million a year for all that mumbo jumbo? That much money to go against the Midwestern sensibilities of Cleveland or Chicago?

Only in LA.

Watch best of Wendell Carter Jr. at Summer League

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I will own my mistake: Coming into the NBA Draft I was not high on Wendell Carter Jr., particularly how well he would defend at the NBA level.

I missed on that one — he has impressed me and everyone else in Las Vegas at Summer League. While nobody should ever read too much into Summer League perormances, he has shown potential on both ends of the court. Check out his highlights above

His offensive game is everything that was advertised — versatile and polished. He has nailed turnarounds in the post, can score with either hand, has a jump shot with real range, and he is a smart and willing passer. Defensively he has been physical, works hard and uses his athleticism to be dispruptive.

We will see how he fares against NBA-level competition (and how he pairs with Jabari Parker and the rest of the Bulls frontcourt), but the work ethic and tools are there. The Bulls may have something in Carter Jr.

Stephen Curry nailing putts, doing shimmy at American Century Championship

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If there’s one thing Stephen Curry loves as much as draining a 28-foot three over the outstretched arms of a defender, it’s golf. Curry is a golf fanatic.

Which is why he never misses — and always has fun at — the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. And when he makes a putt, he will do a little shimmy, as you can see above.

Curry is currently tied for 19th in the tournament. The highest NBA player on the leaderboard is retired sharpshooter Ray Allen at seventh, and on top of the leaderboard heading into the final day is San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski.

You can watch the final round live on NBC at 3 ET Sunday.

Here’s Curry and his father Dell talking a little golf and family.

And here is Curry talking a little golf before the tournament.

NBA Summer League down to elite 8 in tournament format

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The NBA Summer League has its elite eight.

The quarterfinals were set by the end of play Saturday, and include a few surprises.

Philadelphia and Toronto, the two lowest seeds in the 30-team tournament, both pulled out close games Saturday to stay alive. Toronto, the No. 29 seed that was winless in the preliminary round, has put together two straight wins in the tournament and will face 12th-seeded Cleveland and rookie Collin Sexton, who like Lonzo Ball last year is a highly touted point guard trying to win a summer title.

No. 27 Memphis is next up for Philadelphia. Detroit, the No. 25 seed, is also still alive.

The top-seeded Lakers and No. 2 Portland had byes into the quarterfinals. No other single-digit seeds remain in the field.

Saturday’s results:

76ERS 91, BUCKS 89

Furkan Korkmaz scored eight of his 19 points in the final 40 seconds, including the go-ahead points on a three-point play with 3.6 seconds left for the No. 30 seed 76ers (2-3).

Jonah Bolden added 13 points and eight rebounds and Isaiah Miles scored 12 points for Philadelphia.

Christian Wood had 27 points and 12 rebounds for the 14th-seeded Bucks (2-3). Sterling Brown added 15 points, Trae Bell Haynes scored 13 and Tim Quarterman 12.

The 76ers will play the Grizzlies in the quarterfinals.

CAVALIERS 92, ROCKETS 87

Collin Sexton shook off a 5-for-17 night to score 17 points for the Cavaliers (4-1). The No. 8 pick in the draft had scored 25 in the first round of the tournament.

Scoochie Smith also scored 17, Jamel Artis had 13 and Billy Preston 12 for Cleveland.

Danuel House finished with 30 points for the fifth-seeded Rockets (4-1) in their first loss of the summer.

RAPTORS 87, HORNETS 84, OT

Rawle Alkins made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 32 seconds left in overtime and finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors (2-3). Rookie Malachi Richardson added 14 points.

Dwayne Bacon had 28 points and rookie Miles Bridges added 18 points and 11 rebounds despite shooting just 5 for 20 from the field for the Hornets (3-2).

CELTICS 74, HEAT 72

Pierria Henry scored 15 points and Guerschon Yabusele had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the 10th-seeded Celtics (4-1).

They advanced to meet second-seeded Portland.

Boston turned to its defense again, limiting Miami to fewer than 20 points in all but the fourth quarter, when the Heat scored 22.

Derrick Walton Jr. finished with 15 points for the Heat (2-3), but missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the No. 6 seed to the quarterfinals.

PISTONS 72, BULLS 66

Henry Ellenson scored 21 points and No. 25-seeded Detroit (3-2) advanced to a quarterfinal matchup against the top-seeded Lakers.

Antonio Blakeney scored 24 points for the Bulls (2-3). Rookie Chandler Hutchison had 11 points for the No. 24 seeds.

Rookie lottery pick Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed 16 rebounds but shot just 1 for 8 for six points.

GRIZZLIES 92, JAZZ 86

Second-round pick Jevon Carter had 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals for Memphis (3-2). Markel Crawford scored 19 points, hitting 5 of 8 from 3-point range, and first-round pick Jaren Jackson Jr. had nine points, nine rebounds and seven blocks for the No. 27 seed Grizzlies. Kobi Simmons added 13 points.

Georges Niang led 22nd-seeded Utah (2-3) with 18 points and nine rebounds, Trey Lewis was 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. Naz Mitrou-Long scored 14.

Jackson made a layup and then Crawford and Carter hit back-to-back 3s to spark an 11-2 run that gave Memphis a 91-81 lead with 24 seconds left.

The Grizzlies will play No. 30 seed Philadelphia in the quarterfinals.

 

Sixers’ Furkan Korkmaz comes up huge in clutch for Summer League win

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Furkan Korkmaz played a total of 80 minutes for the Sixers since the 2016 first-round pick joined the NBA.

But in Summer League he came up huge in the clutch for Philadelphia n Saturday.

Korkmaz had a series of crucial late plays and finished with a team-high 19 points on the Sixers win. That includes the and-1 game winning drive — check it out above in a highlight package.