Hey D’Antoni, are Lakers starting to get your offense? “No.”

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Here’s a little overlooked fact — the Lakers have the ninth-best defense in the NBA right now. Seriously. They are giving up 99.5 points per 100 possessions (according to Hoopdata), tying them with the Spurs in the top 10. That despite some ugly performances on that end of the floor against the Grizzlies and Kings. The Lakers inconsistent play has led to some wild swings in their numbers.

The offense in recent games has not looked as smooth, like the 77 points against Indiana Tuesday. The season overall numbers look much better than the product on the court. And why should that product look polished — they added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard last summer, tried to learn the Princeton offense, had Howard out for most of training camp then Nash got injured early in the season, then they fired Mike Brown and brought in Mike D’Antoni with a totally new offensive system. Nothing about that says smooth.

But now that it’s been a few games, are the Lakers starting to get the D’Antoni offense? Via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

“No,” he said bluntly. “Next (question)…

“Within the numbers, there is some good stuff, defensively mostly,” D’Antoni said. “Stuff that in the long run will make us a contender. In the short run, our offense is anemic right now. We don’t move the ball, we don’t do a lot of things we should be doing and we have to figure that out.

“We have to get better than 77 points.”

You think?

Steve Nash will help somewhat but right now you have players like Pau Gasol who played the last few years in the triangle, then Mike Brown’s more traditional sets, and now he is being asked to play on instinct. Well, after all those years his instincts aren’t to do what is best for the free-flowing D’Antoni offense. He has to relearn that.

And a lot of Lakers are in the same boat.

What should encourage Lakers fans in this is D’Antoni talking results in the long term — he gets it. This is not about what is happening in November, it’s about steps in a process that gets them to June. Right now those are stumbling baby steps. But when Nash returns those steps will start to get steadier, as will the ones they start to gain through experience.

And then we’ll see. Talk to me about where the Lakers are after the first of the year and we’ll start to have a better sense than we do right now.

By then the Lakers might have started to figure out the D’Antoni offense.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.

Kristaps Porzingis reportedly gave Knicks wish list of trade destinations: Nets, Clippers, Heat, Raptors

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.

But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.

Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.

The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.

But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.

Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.

Kyrie Irving on video with Kevin Durant: ‘Me and one of my best friends talking’

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The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.

Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).

Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:

Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):

It’s just crazy. This is the stuff that just doesn’t make the league fun. It doesn’t make the league fun. Nobody helps promote the league even more by doing bulls— like that, of just putting fictitious things on what we’re talking about. It’s crazy.

It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.

That wasn’t a denial.

Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.

Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:

I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.

But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.

So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.