As Lakers-Celtics rivalry slips, Byron Scott wants changes


BOSTON – Everyone else wanted to talk about Kobe Bryant’s and Rajon Rondo’s breakfast.

Byron Scott wanted to talk about how much Magic Johnson and Larry Bird hated each other.

Many of the familiar faces of the great Lakers-Celtics rivalry were still on hand last night – Scott coaches Los Angeles, and Danny Ainge is Boston’s general manager – but, to Scott, the terms have changed.

“I’m still real old school,” Scott said. “I don’t have breakfast with Danny and all those guys.”

Scott sees this inter-team fraternization taking away from competitiveness.

“How can it not?” Scott said. “You do have to have, I think, a certain dislike for your opponent to go out there and try to kill him and beat him. If you’re friends with a guy, that’s hard to develop that on the court.

“That’s why you don’t have the type of rivalries like we had.”

Another reason this particular rivalry has fallen flat recently: The teams stink.

Scott plans to do something about his.

After the Los Angeles’ 113-96 loss to Boson last night, Scott – who said he has a distinct memory from every Lakers-Celtics game he has participated in – revealed how he’ll recall this one.

“Just sitting in there talking with my coaches, the memory will be of how many changes I make in our starting lineup,” Scott said.

Jeremy Lin, Kobe Bryant, Wesley Johnson, Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill have played more minutes together than any lineup in the NBA. But they’ve been outscored by 15 points per 100 possessions, a net rating lower than the 76ers’. None of the other 30 most-used lineups have fared worse.

“It’s been time enough,” Scott said.

Scott declined to reveal whom he’d bench, but he said the starters will change when the Lakers host the Pelicans tomorrow. Lin and Boozer, who sat the entire fourth quarter against Boston, could be on the outs. So could Johnson, who shot 0-for-5.

“It really just kind of looked like we were disinterested in playing,” said Scott, who called the development “surprising and disappointing to say the least.”

Scott also spoke positively of Hill, and of course, Kobe – who said he’d support whatever lineup changes his coach made – is in no danger of losing his starting spot.

Nobody is questioning the competitiveness of Kobe (or Rondo, for that matter) despite them sharing a meal.

Rondo said he grew to appreciate Kobe when the Lakers star complimented him last season by calling him “an asshole, like me.” So, when in town, Kobe asked where to grab a bite, and they discussed the challenge of leading a strugglin teams.

“Just two assholes having breakfast,” Rondo said.

There was plenty to commiserate about.

With the Lakers 5-15 and Celtics 6-11, these teams are on pace for their worst combined record ever. Yes, even worse than last season, when the Lakers went 27-55 and the Celtics 25-57 as both teams missed playoffs in the same year for just the second time since both entered the league. (1993-94 was the other.)

So, a clearly irritated Scott is doing what he can to restore his team’s standing. After weeks of considering it, he’s holding his starters accountable for their lack of competitiveness.

During Scott’s postgame press conference, where he announced  his plan to change his lineup, Ainge strolled by and offered a fist bump.

“Go to breakfast in the morning?” Ainge asked.

“When you come to L.A., Danny, we’ll go to breakfast,” Scott said.

The rivalry sure has changed.

Report: Celtics reach out to former assistant Larranaga about joining Mazzulla’s staff


The Boston Celtics are reportedly looking for a veteran assistant to put on the bench next to 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla, the man thrust into the head coach’s chair for a title contender in the wake of Ime Udoka’s suspension.

Who better than a guy who spent nine years on the Celtics’ bench? Boston reached out to Jay Larranaga, currently on the Clippers bench, about returning to the East Coast, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Clippers had no turnover on Tyronn Lue’s staff heading into this season. Mazzulla has become a trusted member of the Clippers staff, working a lot with the big me on the roster. However, if the Celtics back up the Brink’s Truck, the Clippers will not stand in his way if he wants to leave. It’s a question of comfort level, lifestyle, and of course money for Larranaga.

The Celtics made Mazzulla their interim head coach after an investigation found a “volume of violations” of team policy by Udoka, who had an improper relationship with a team staff member. So far the Celtics and Udoka have been able to keep the details of what happened under wraps, but league sources described the situation to NBC Sports as “ugly” and “messy,” especially if/when those details do find their way to the public.

For Celtics players, just getting back on the court, practicing Tuesday and focusing on basketball — not the turmoil around the franchise — was a good thing.

“Once we got out on the court, it was just nice to get back out the court and review our defense and to talk about offense and doing what we do,” Al Horford told the Associated Press. “It’s a good thing to just play basketball. That’s what we’re here for. It’s important to just start this thing back up again.”

Getting another coach on the bench will be important for the Celtics as well.

Hawks trade Harkless, second-round pick to Thunder for Vit Krejci


The Atlanta Hawks just saved some money, getting under the luxury tax line. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a second-round pick for their trouble of taking on a contract.

The Hawks have traded Moe Harkless and a second-round pick to the Thunder for Vit Krejci the teams announced (Shams Charania of The Athletic was first).

This saves Atlanta a little over $3 million, which moves them from above the luxury tax line to $1.3 million below it. While the almighty dollar was the primary motivation in the ATL, the Hawks also pick up a development project. Krejci showed a little promise in his rookie season, appearing in 30 games and averaging 6.2 points plus 3.4 rebounds a night, before having his knee scoped in April.

Krejci was on the bubble of making the team in Oklahoma City, now the Thunder pick up a second-round pick for a guy they might have waived anyway.

Harkless, 29, is on an expiring $4.6 million contract, which fits nicely into the Disabled Player Exception the Thunder were granted for Chet Holmgren’s season-ending foot injury.

The Thunder are expected to waive Harkless and buy him out, making him a free agent. However, they could keep him and see if another trade could net them another second-round pick.

Lonzo Ball says ‘I can’t run’ or jump; Bulls’ Donovan has to plan for extended absence

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Officially, Lonzo Ball will be out 4-6 weeks after getting his knee scoped this week.

However, this is his second surgery on his left knee this year — he had meniscus surgery in January, after which he was never able to return to the court — and there are concerns Ball could miss significant time again. And coach Billy Donovan has no choice but to plan for an extended absence.

Ball did a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday and it’s hard to come away from what he said overly optimistic. Rob Schaefer reported on the call for NBC Sports Chicago:

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have, like, no force and I can’t, like, catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The symptoms are something Ball said he has never dealt with and have left doctors, in his words, “a little surprised.”

It’s never good when doctors are surprised. Ball said the doctors don’t see anything on the MRI, but there is clearly something wrong, so they are going in and looking to find the issue and fix it.

Ball has been diligent in his recovery work from the start, the problem was pain in his knee. Something was still not right after the first surgery. Whatever it is.

The 4-6 week timeline would have Ball back in early November, but you know they will be overly cautious with him after the past year. Coach Billy Donovan was honest — he has to plan for a season without Ball.

The Bulls need Ball in a deep and challenging East. He brings defense, pushes the pace in transition, and takes care of the rock. Chicago has other players who can do those things individually — Alex Caruso can defend, Coby White pushes in transition, Goran Dragic takes care of the ball — but the Bulls lack one player who can do all those things. At least they lack one until Ball returns.

Whenever that may be.

Deandre Ayton says he hasn’t spoken to coach Williams since Game 7

Phoenix Suns v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

In a Game 7 against the Mavericks last May, Suns coach Monty Williams benched center Deandre Ayton, who ended up playing just 17 minutes in an ugly, blowout loss for Phoenix. When asked about it after the game Williams said, “It’s internal.”

Ayton and Williams have not spoken since then, according to Ayton.

Yikes. Remember that includes a summer where the Suns would not offer Ayton a max contract extension so he went out and got one from the Pacers, then the Suns instantly matched it. Ayton did not sound thrilled to be back in Phoenix on Media Day, and he was rather matter-of-fact about dealing with his coach.

It’s what every fan wants to hear — “this is just my job.”

Reporters asked Williams about this and he played it off, saying he hasn’t spoken with a lot of players yet.

It’s just day one of training camp, but there are a lot of red flags around the Suns: owner Robert Sarver being suspended and selling the team, Jae Crowder not in camp waiting to be traded, and now not a lot of communication between the team’s star center and its coach.

Maybe it all amounts to nothing. Maybe the Suns get on the court, Chris Paul looks rejuvenated, Devin Booker looks like Devin Booker, and none of this matters. But what had looked like a stable situation not that long ago now has a lot of red flags flying heading into the season, and that has to concern Suns fans.