Report: NBA general manager concerned Dante Exum will force his way to Lakers

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A draft prospect who grew up overseas really wanted to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. But a team drafting before the Lakers also wanted the player. So, the player threated to sign with a foreign team if he couldn’t go to the Lakers.

Safe to say, the Nets wish they had called Kobe Bryant’s bluff/threat (or if you prefer, threat/bluff) and drafted him before the Charlotte Hornets did on behalf of Los Angeles in 1996.

Eighteen years, could the scenario repeat itself?

Dante Exum is working out in Los Angeles preparing for the draft, and he’s said the Lakers would be his ideal fit. Via Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report:

“Definitely L.A. is one option,” he said. “I’ve been to L.A. many times and I love the city, and it is a great city. If I get the opportunity to go to L.A. and play for the Lakers, I know I’ll have love for the city. And their fans are loyal and they have the rivalry with the Clippers. But just to be in an environment where you have a great player like Kobe, where you have a mentor in a way as a rookie, I think that would be the best option.”

Maybe that’s an idle assessment, but maybe it’s the first step of a a bluff/threat (or if you prefer, threat/bluff). After all Exum’s agent is Rob Pelinka, who also represents Kobe (though Arn Tellem represented Kobe as a draft prospect in 1996).

At least one general manager is concerned. Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

But would Exum go so far as to try to angle his way onto the Lakers, who currently have the fifth-worst record in the NBA? That’s the concern among some front-office executives around the league.

“When you hear some of what he says, it does make you wonder how the process is going to go as far as workouts and that sort of thing,” one general manager told Sporting News. “We have seen this story before, of course. I am not sure a player can have that kind of control, though.”

I like Exum as a draft prospect, and I like his fit with the Lakers. (As long as we’re speculating, especially with Kevin Love also joining the tam.)

But Exum might also perform best if he starts his career at shooting guard and eases his way into playing point guard. In Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant obviously has shooting guard locked down. And can the Lakers depend on Steve Nash to become a viable starting point guard again in the meantime?

If the Lakers can remain patient through another season – especially if it includes developing Exum through his growing pains – they’ll be better off in the long run. But will Kobe tolerate another losing season as his career winds down? Will the Los Angeles fans? The Lakers haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons in 20 years.

If Kobe is most-concerned about his legacy, and I think he is, he should focus on winning another title – and passing Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list. The latter would require fewer than 12 points per game in Kobe’s next 50 contests, so that’s inevitable if Kobe can get back on the court.

Back to the championship.

No matter how the Lakers focus on building the strongest team possible next season, I can’t see them creating a title contender. So, Kobe should want them to focus on 2015-16, the final year of his contract extension.

By his second season, Dwyane Wade was the best player on a team that reached Game 7 of the conference finals, pulling an aging but still effective Shaquille O’Neal with him. Could Exum and Kobe fill that role in two years? It’s a longshot, but it might be Kobe’s best shot of getting his sixth title – along with the the Lakers waiting until 2015 to pursue a stronger crop of free agents (including Love).

First, though, the Lakers would actually have to get Exum. Exum and Pelinka can turn down workouts and try to threaten Exum’s way to the Lakers, but the Lakers can do much more themselves to get into position to draft him.

At 19-39, the Lakers are on pace to have the league’s fourth-best lottery odds. Lose a few more games down the stretch, the chance to nab Exum only increases.

As the the chance to draft Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle or anyone else. It’s early in the process. I doubt the Lakers even know yet whom they prefer.

If the interest with Exum is mutual, he and the Lakers can explore exploiting the draft process later. For now, the Lakers should focus on tanking and evaluating, and Exum should focus on developing.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.