Lakers’ selection of D’Angelo Russell with No. 2 pick in NBA Draft causes chaos for Sixers, Knicks

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NEW YORK — In the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft, the expectation was that Karl-Anthony Towns would go number one overall to the Timberwolves, and that Jahlil Okafor was too talented for the Lakers to pass up at two.

But even if Okafor does eventually evolve into the once in a generation post player that some project, L.A. is in the business of attempting to win now. And with its eyes on landing someone like LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love in free agency, or a disgruntled talent like DeMarcus Cousins in trade from a dysfunctional organization, that bevy of big man options was enough to send the Lakers looking in another direction.

D’Angelo Russell got the call, a 6’5″ point guard who can shoot the three and has as good a chance as anyone in this class of becoming a real star. And once he did, that threw a fairly large wrench into the plans of the Sixers at three, and the domino effect could have been strong enough to remove some very real options the Knicks may have had at four.

“I didn’t know at all, man,” Russell said, when asked if he had any advance notice that he’d be heading to Los Angeles. “I’m still in shock.”

That might be too strong a word to describe the feeling in the war room of the Philadelphia 76ers, but they had to at least be a little bit surprised. Having Okafor still on the board made the choice for Sam Hinkie and company easy, because taking the best available player, regardless of need, is the team’s currently prevailing philosophy.

But the rebuilding Sixers now have a logjam of talented frontcourt players, all of whom would seem to need a healthy dose of minutes in order to speed their development. Nerlens Noel averaged 30.8 minutes per game last season, and Okafor would like to see in the neighborhood of the same. But there’s Joel Embiid to consider, provided the setback he’s experienced with his foot injury doesn’t force him to miss some or all of a second consecutive season.

“Joel Embiid texted me last night and said, ‘See you in Philly,'” Okafor said. “He kind of jinxed me.”

Okafor has said all along that he wasn’t concerned with whether or not he might fall from one of the top two spots on draft night, and reiterated that stance after his fate became known.

“I wasn’t shocked,” Okafor said of ending up with the Sixers. “I knew I was going to be going to the NBA tonight. I was going to be a top-five pick no matter what happened, so I wasn’t shocked.”

Philadelphia needed to grab a guard here, after dealing a reigning Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams in part because he simply couldn’t shoot. With a seemingly sure thing in Russell now gone, however, and with Emmanuel Mudiay perhaps feeling like too big of a risk, the Sixers are now forced to try to make it work with three potentially franchise-changing big men, perhaps all at the same time.

“It’s not my job to figure it out,” Okafor said. “I’ll just go there and work as hard as I can.”

Similar words were spoken by Kristaps Porzingis, the international seven-footer with the sweet shooting stroke who was mercilessly booed after being selected by the Knicks.

“I mean, a lot of fans weren’t happy that they drafted me, but I have to do everything that’s in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans,” Porzingis said. “For me it’s an honor to be a part of this organization, and I just can’t wait to let the season start and just get to work.”

Porzingis may vey well have ended up in New York because of L.A.’s unexpected choice. Phil Jackson told reporters that he had offers from other teams, but they were all contingent on how the first three picks played out. Had Okafor been gone as had been projected, the Sixers may very well have gone with Porzingis at three if they believed he was the best player left on the board — a possibility which had been previously reported, and one which could have unlocked all kinds of attractive offers for the Knicks.

The result, instead, is chaos in Philadelphia, and uncertainty in New York — all thanks to D’Angelo Russell landing in Los Angeles with the Lakers.

Arizona State leading scoring Remy Martin declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Arizona State junior Remy Martin has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot point guard took on more of scoring role in his third season with the Sun Devils than he had in his first two seasons. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Martin also dished out 4.1 assists per game, after averaging 5.0 assists as a sophomore.

Arizona State’s leading scoring may just be testing the waters, as he’s expected to go undrafted. NBA scouts have concerns over Martin’s size at the NBA level. One concern is his ability to hold up defensively, as NBA point guards are trending bigger and bigger in recent years.

As a smaller guard, Martin was one of the players who could have benefited from the traditional pre-draft process. With in-person workouts on hold, and potentially cancelled entirely, players have limited opportunities to improve their draft stock. Teams may be drafting off previous in-person scouting and off of tape.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.