Pau Gasol with the monster slam dunk to seal Lakers win over Knicks (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES — With the game on the line and the Lakers clinging to a three-point lead with possession of the ball, it wasn’t Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, or Steve Nash who found themselves taking the final shot.

No, that honor went to Pau Gasol, whose diminished role on a newly-stacked team this season hasn’t impacted his will to win, or his ability to remain engaged.

Gasol’s emphatic drive and dunk down the middle of the lane sealed the Lakers win over the Knicks, a hard-fought and competitive 100-94 victory that finally brought L.A.’s record to the .500 mark on the season.

Nash was inbounding along the baseline, and appeared to be looking to get the ball to Bryant initially. As Bryant tried to free himself, however, he found two defenders right there with him — Jason Kidd, and Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony initially was checking Gasol, but passed him off to Kidd on the switch in order to stay close to a streaking Bryant. Kidd followed Bryant as well, which probably wasn’t a bad decision considering the Lakers propensity to force the ball into his hands in virtually every end-of-game situation.

After Gasol set that brief screen and once he was left by both Knicks defenders, he wisely drifted to the three-point line, where Nash found him.

Gasol had a clear path to the basket, and didn’t hesitate for a second. He immediately put the ball on the floor and drove down the lane for a powerful two-handed slam dunk that put the game in the win column for the Lakers.

Anthony was asked afterward how he saw it all unfold.

“I think Jason was trying to set a trap on Kobe,” he said. “I was trying to switch. I switched off and I think Jason was trying to trap, so it was just a miscommunication on both our behalfs.”

Anthony was also asked if he thought the play made by Nash to find Gasol was a special one that maybe not a lot of players in the league were capable of. But he laughed off that notion when giving his response.

“Well, I mean, s—, he was wide open,” Anthony said with a laugh. “You could find him. Anybody would have found that, he was wide open down the lane, and he made a crucial play.”

Gasol simply basked in the moment afterward, as well he should have. He’s been heavily criticized both this season and last, but showed in this one just how capable he remains, even as merely the occasional fourth option on a team loaded with talent.

“I don’t dunk as often as I used to so it felt good,” Gasol said. “I took it right down the lane and finished strong.”

Markelle Fultz’s agent denies rumor shooting woes due to motorcycle accident

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Why is 76ers guard Markelle Fultz‘s shot so screwed up?

Did he suffer an injury? Did he change his mechanics? Does he have the yips? Some combination?

Another theory presented by Brandon Robinson: Fultz got into a motorcycle crash last year.

Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers, via Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice:

“Markelle and the motorcycle, I saw the article that was sent, 100 percent not true,” said Brothers. “Quote me on that.”

The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits players from riding on motorcycles, though this theoretically could have been before Fultz signed his contract with Philadelphia. So, if this is true, there could be even more complications.

But Robinson’s report is too far-fetched to believe. Without more evidence, I’m not buying it.

Judge sounds skeptical of accuser’s arguments in appeal of Derrick Rose case

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Derrick Rose was found not liable during a civil rape trial in 2016.

The plaintiff appealed, and her argument was heard today. It doesn’t sound like it was well-received.

One of the appellate-court judges, Hon. Barrington D. Parker Jr., via Kyle Bonagura of ESPN:

“The main issue in this case is what happened that night between Doe and the three defendants,” Parker told Anand. “And you did a good job of presenting your case that what happened on that evening was nonconsensual, that she was raped.

“The defendants, as I look at the record, had powerful defenses to that presentation, which at the end of the day, the jury bought. You had a nine-day trial and this jury was out in what, 15 minutes? And you lose on every single claim. The jury just didn’t buy your case. No trial is perfect, but your evidence concerning the night in question came in and the jury had an opportunity to hear that.”

Following the trial as it unfolded, it seems the jury made the correct decision. Doe’s case was presented and considered. There wasn’t nearly enough evidence against Rose to find him liable.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t rape Doe. Her accusation counts for something. But at a certain point, if her claims can’t be credibly substantiated, Rose deserves a chance to move on. Police also investigated Rose and didn’t charge him.

The Court of Appeals has not yet ruled on Doe’s appeal, but it sounds like Rose is one step closer to putting this behind him legally.

Mark Cuban on Mavericks’ sexual-harassment scandal: ‘It’s behind us now’

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he erred by not being involved enough in the franchise’s business side, allowing a predatory work environment to fester.

But he also didn’t appear at the press conference after the investigation’s results were released, leaving new CEO Cynthia Marshall to face the public.

Why?

Cuban on 1310 The Ticket, via Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

Because it’s Cynthia’s company now to run on the business side.

I’m the owner of a lot of different companies and I have CEO’s who run them. And it’s her’s to run and she’s good. And when you find someone that’s great at what they do, you let them do their job. Now, did I learn and I’ll communicate more with it? Yeah. But I’m not going to go into any of the details other than do say she is phenomenal at what she does and she deserves the respect that she’s earned and the Mavs are a much better organization and will be. And the NBA will be better because other teams and the NBA itself also are using her as a resource.

all the people that were involved are gone. . . The reality is, it’s behind us now. We did what we had to do. We’ve moved immediately. We brought in Cynt. Cynt’s a superstar. She’s changed the culture completely. That’s all you can do.

No organization is perfect. I’ve made my mistakes. The organization made its mistakes and we fixed them. There’s really no reason to suspend me or do a lot of the things people speculated about.

The difference between now and before is I talk to Cynt almost every day. Whereas the previous leadership . . . I talked to Cynt more the first month than I did per year, or five years, than I did in the past, because I was focused on basketball. And I don’t care what anybody writes. I don’t care what anybody thinks. I don’t care what anybody says. Anybody who watched and was there, recognized it.

Cuban clearly trusts Marshall to run the organization well. But he also trusted the previous regime to run the organization well, and look how that turned out.

I hope Cuban talking to Marshall daily creates the appropriate level of accountability. I hope Cuban is correct that the Mavericks’ problems are behind them.

But a new problem – the continued employment of a team photographer accused by multiple women of sexual harassment – arose under Marshall’s watch. The photographer, Danny Bollinger, was still travelling with the team and fired only after his accusers – felt unheard by the Mavericks – went public.

That creates plenty of questions about whether the appropriate mechanisms are in place to protect employees.

Cuban and the Mavericks must prove much more before deserving the benefit of the doubt this is behind them.

Nuggets hire WNBA legend Sue Bird to front office

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Sue Bird is the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists, and she just helped the Seattle Storm win the WNBA championship.

What’s next for her?

Nuggets release:

The Denver Nuggets have added current WNBA Champion Sue Bird to their front office staff as Basketball Operation Associate, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced today.

“We are very excited to have Sue join our organization,” said Connelly. “Her resume certainly speaks for itself and as a still active player she will offer an extremely unique perspective.”

NBA teams have hired from too narrow of pools for too long. Teams that consider candidates who wouldn’t usually draw consideration – including women – will be rewarded with better employees.

Bird has long been considered one of the WNBA’s smartest players. She appears to have the aptitude for a job like this. There’s no guarantee anyone successfully transitions from playing to executive work, especially with the added complication of crossing leagues, but an NBA front office is a big place. There’s plenty of room for Bird and evaluating her from here.

This is a good hire, both for what Bird can seemingly bring now and her potential to grow into a bigger role.