Do the Lakers have to beat the Spurs tonight?

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If the Lakers lose tonight, there will be full-fledged panic on the part of Lakers fans. You should hear talk radio in Los Angeles today, where the idea of the Lakers trading for Carmelo Anthony is getting serious discussion.

(Two quick thoughts here Lakers fans: 1. The Nuggets want draft picks, great young players and cap relief and you can offer little of any of it; 2. Can you imagine the 10-of-50 shooting nights that Anthony and Kobe Bryant could put up? I don’t think they fit well at all.)

Thursday night’s Lakers game against the Spurs has been hyped as a measuring stick game for Los Angles. The thinking goes the real Lakers will show up now or drastic measures are needed. If the Lakers — already just 1-5 against the league’s elite with stinkers against the Heat on Christmas and the Celtics last week — lay another egg, it will be seen as a sign of the end times. Even though the Lakers are two-time defending champs.

The game is a measuring stick, but a small one. Here are two things we know.

First, the Spurs are executing at a much higher level than the Lakers right now. If the playoffs started today, the Spurs would and should be favorites. Win or lose their reputation is secure. Today they are the better basketball team.

Second, that has little meaning come May.

We did a story months ago talking to scouts and the perception of many around the league hasn’t changed — the Lakers are the only team in the West that can beat the Lakers. The Spurs are better than expected, they have proven championship mettle, but the biggest threat to the Lakers remains the Lakers and their attitude.

The Lakers don’t need to hit the panic button, they need to stop hitting the snooze button.

Clearly those around the Lakers are trying to get them to wake up. Mitch Kupchak is talking trades. Magic Johnson is on board. Jerry West is calling them old. Jerry Buss is showing up to practice.

Those are the signs of a team that is concerned. But when you’ve won back-to-back titles and been to three straight finals, you get some benefit of the doubt. You don’t blow the team up midseason. Unless the deal is too good to pass up.

And while in a season when Gilbert Arenas being traded proves nothing is impossible, the Lakers being able to make any significant moves with the players they have is sitting right next to impossible with its arm around it.

The thing Lakers fans really need to hope for is that the team wakes up. Maybe Thursday against the Spurs.

Karl-Anthony Towns misses free throw as Mavs fans chant ‘Jimmy Butler’

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Jimmy Butler is still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, largely for reasons that are beyond the capacity of most rational NBA fans.

Butler continues to play with a team as they enter the beginning part of the season, although owner Glen Taylor and his front office are professing to still be looking for a suitable trade partner.

Meanwhile, the tension between Butler and teammates Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns must be palpable. It certainly has affected Towns at least in one way, as the Timberwolves big man missed a free throw after Dallas Mavericks fans chanted Butler’s name during one of Towns’ trips to the line

Via Twitter:

It’s hard to say whether Towns missed that free throw simply because of the chance or because sometimes guys miss free throws. Towns is an 84 percent shooter from the charity stripe, so you’d expect him to miss one once in a while.

Things continue to be weird in Minnesota, and this odd homeostasis can’t last for long.

Video appears to show Rajon Rondo spitting at Chris Paul

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Did Rajon Rondo spit on Chris Paul?

That’s the question everyone’s asking after Saturday night’s big brouhaha between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets which led to several objections and coming suspensions from the league office.

Various angles have been analyzed at length on social media, and indeed it was always apparent the NBA viewing public-at-large would get to the bottom of things. Around 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, we came to our logical endpoint.

Thanks to this new video, it does appear that Rondo spit at Paul.

Via Twitter:

The NBA league office is still reviewing the tape, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski they appear to have the clip in question in hand.

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to the coming suspensions. First, how much Brandon Ingram will be penalized for instigating the entire thing with his shove in the back of James Harden. Ingram also came in with a flying punch to Paul’s face that might be looked at a bit more severely.

Second, both Paul and Rondo landed punches, but if Rondo indeed did spit on his competitor that’s a level of disrespect — not to mention responsibility for making the first move against Paul — that might get him a tougher sentence.

We haven’t seen a real fight in the NBA in some time, where actual punches were landed and things got more serious than just guys running between tunnels underneath Staples Center. How the league punishes these guys this early in the season will dictate to us in the future how they feel about this kind of tension spilling over into violence.

Check out Nikola Jokick’s perfect shooting triple-double

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Phoenix star rookie Deandre Ayton, welcome to the NBA. Please try to guard Denver’s Nikola Jokic in your second game.

That didn’t go well. Jokic finished with a triple-double of 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. However, it’s how he got there that was impressive: 11-of-11 from the field shooting, 10-of-11 from the free throw line, zero turnovers, four steals, and he threw in a blocked shot for good measure.

Jokic was +29 on the night and the Nuggets won 119-91. Denver is 2-0 to start the season.

Report: Knicks’ Kevin Knox out 2-4 weeks with sprained ankle

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This is a blow — not just for the Knicks on the court, or the development of the team’s new young star, but for Knicks fans. With Kristaps Porzingis out for the foreseeable future, promising rookie Kevin Knox was the reason for hope, the reason to tune in and watch every night.

Now he’s going to be out for a couple of weeks, and maybe a month.

Knox went down after Boston’s Terry Rozier tried to cut Knox off in transition and fouled him. Knox was in a lot of pain and had to be helped off the court.

That sprained ankle will take 2-4 weeks to heal, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Ugh. The good news is this is not more serious and Knox will fully recover. But it’s a setback both for him and the watchability of the Knicks for a few weeks.