Byron Scott: ‘I just felt in my heart and in my mind’ that Lakers would end up with one of top two picks

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NEW YORK — Byron Scott already went through a season where he was the figurehead responsible for guiding the Lakers to their worst year in franchise history. The last thing he wanted to add to his résumé was to represent the team during a Draft Lottery where the franchise’s pick was ultimately lost.

But Scott wasn’t concerned about any of that.

Once it was all over, and it was revealed that the Lakers would not only get to keep their pick, but moved up from the five spot all the way to No. 2, Scott revealed that he had a feeling all along that this was how things would turn out.

“To be honest with you, even coming here I said, we’re going to get the first or second pick,” Scott said afterward. “I felt real good about it. And obviously when we weren’t called third, everything kind of came to fruition.”

Before the announcement of the third pick would matter to the Lakers, they had to make it past the revealing of the seventh and sixth envelopes to see if they would even have a pick at all. If it fell out of the top five, it would go to the Sixers.

“Once that passed, OK, at least we get a chance to keep our pick,” Scott said, describing his brief feeling of relief. “But I really didn’t think about that. I really was thinking about the first or second pick. I really felt that’s what we were going to get this year. I had too many people come to me in Los Angeles and tell me that we were going to get the second pick. So I have to go back to my gym in L.A., which is Equinox (in Santa Monica) and tell all of ‘em that, you guys were right.’”

“I just felt in my heart and in my mind that we were going to get one or two,” he said.

Setting Scott’s clairvoyant claim aside, this was a big night for the Lakers. The team is desperate to rebuild with talent that can be cornerstones for years to come, and most expect that to be the case with either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor being available to them in the second spot. Scott, however, wouldn’t discuss players the team might consider specifically.

“Really? You’re really going to ask me that question,” Scott said with a laugh, when asked who he likes at two. “There are a lot of good players. I’m just happy we got the second pick, and we’ve got numbers 27 and 34 as well so we’re looking forward to a great draft.”

Scott also looks forward to Kobe Bryant, entering what is presumed to be his final NBA season, being around to mentor that special player who is chosen.

“Whoever we bring in, obviously these three picks, they’re going to have to hear from [Kobe] on a day-to-day basis, because he’s going to be in their ear,” Scott said. “And they should want to learn from him. He’s one of the greatest players to ever play this game. There’s no better guy to have on a team to teach some of these young guys what this league is all about, and what type of work ethic they’ll have to have to hopefully even get to somewhere near his level.”

Perhaps Scott’s psychic powers can work once more, and help Mitch Kupchak determine which player will in fact be the one to transition the Lakers into their next era of greatness. Until then, he’s content in knowing that he was able to be the one sitting there, representing the franchise when a rare piece of positive news was finally announced.

“You guys know how much pride I have in the organization, so this was a big deal to me,”Scott said. “To be able to come here and secure the second pick, I guess I can go back home and say, “Damn, I’m sorry I didn’t get the first pick for you guys. But No. 2 ain’t bad.”

LeBron becomes oldest player with 39 points, 11 boards, seven 3-pointers (he’s also the youngest)

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The first question after LeBron James put up 21 and 8 to help the Lakers beat the Spurs Friday night was whether he would play in the back-to-back Saturday. He had just missed five games with a groin strain, after all.

Not only did LeBron play Saturday, he had a historic night.

LeBron had 39 points, 11 rebounds, and shot 7-of-12 from 3 — making him the oldest player in the history of the NBA with a 35+, 10+ with seven 3-pointer game.

The youngest player ever to put up that stat line? Also one LeBron James.

The 39 points were also the second most points ever scored by a player in his 20th NBA season, trailing only Kobe Bryant gunning his way to 60 in his final game.

The Lakers got the second straight win over the Spurs on Saturday behind LeBron, 143-138, a game more likely to be remembered for Zach Collins getting ejected for a foul that left Russell Westbrook bloody. The Lakers have won three straight and 5-of-6 but have done it against a very soft part of the schedule (three of the wins were over the tanking Spurs). Los Angeles beat the teams in front of it and started to show signs of life this season, but now they have to carry that over into a stretch against better teams, beginning Monday against the Pacers.

Watch Deandre Ayton put up 29 points, 21 rebounds, lead Suns past Jazz 113-112

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PHOENIX (AP) — There was much debate during the NBA offseason about whether Deandre Ayton was worth a max contract.

On nights like Saturday, the answer is a resounding yes.

Ayton notched season highs with 29 points and 21 rebounds, Devin Booker added 27 points and the Phoenix Suns held on for a hard-fought 113-112 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz led 81-78 after three quarters, but the Suns pushed ahead 99-93 by midway through the fourth. The game remained tight through the final minutes, but Phoenix never lost the lead. On top of Ayton’s scoring and rebounding, he also had a crucial steal in the final minutes that helped thwart a final Jazz rally.

“I don’t know what he ate for Thanksgiving,” Booker said. “I should have been over there.”

Ayton grabbed his 21st rebound of the game on the final possession, securing Booker’s miss off a 3-pointer to keep the Jazz from a final possession. Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million deal during the offseason after the Suns matched an offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers.

“That young man has been coming to the gym at crazy hours, lifting with (coaches), so that he can be prepared for moments like this,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s just good to see the work pay off. It’s good to see him have monster games against really good teams on a back-to-back. That’s pretty impressive.”

Ayton was the first player to have at least 28 points and 20 rebounds in a game for the Suns since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. He shot 11 of 19 from the field and added three assists and two blocks.

“I want to do more, I feel like I can do more,” Ayton said. “I’m just trying to do what I can to contribute to my team.”

Curiously, the Jazz didn’t foul the Suns on their final possession, essentially allowing them to run out the clock. Utah coach Will Hardy said the last play simply didn’t unfold like the team expected and there was some miscommunication.

“We wanted to get the ball out of Booker’s hands, and then foul,” Hardy said.

Ayton scored a season high for the second straight night. He poured in 28 points against the Pistons in a 108-102 win on Friday. Booker had a tough night shooting, making just 8 of 27 shots.

Utah was one of the NBA’s surprise teams in the first few weeks of the season, starting with a 10-3 record. The Jazz are just 3-7 since that point.

“One game, one stretch of the season doesn’t define your season,” Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk said. “You’ve got to go through ups-and-downs. Adversity – learn from it and come out the other side better for it.”

The Suns have an 11-1 record at home this season and have won four straight games.

Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points for the Jazz. Collin Sexton added 20 while Lauri Markkanen had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jazz had a 54-51 lead at halftime. Clarkson led the Jazz with 12 points while Ayton had 11 points and seven rebounds.

Watch Spurs Collins bloody Russell Westbrook with a foul, get ejected

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs
Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
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Jakob Poeltl was dominating the paint, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds in 10 minutes, and giving the Lakers serious trouble. Then he had to leave the game with a sore quad, meaning Zach Collins would get more run.

Collins was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 on Russell Westbrook that left the Lakers guard bloodied. Westbrook bounced back up and LeBron James had to hold him back from going after Collins.

Collins plans to appeal the ejection he said after the game.

Collins will face a fine or suspension from the league, although he doesn’t have a history of this kind of foul, something the league takes into consideration. Westbrook also got a technical for going after Collins.

The Lakers went on to beat the Spurs 143-138, behind 39 points from LeBron James. It’s the second time the Lakers have defeated the Spurs in three days, the kind of wins over tanking teams the Lakers need if they are going to turn their season around.

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France

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Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.