Jim Buss stands by Kobe Bryant contract, says Lakers turned corner

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Jim Buss knows he got it right.

His critics — and they are legion — would say he’s deluding himself, that he has made numerous mistakes that have set the Lakers’ franchise back. That starts with giving Kobe Bryant a massive two-year contract and comes around with other player/personnel decisions the team has made in recent years. Even the release of Robert Upshaw on Tuesday frustrated fans.

Buss knows this for sure — if the Lakers start to win and return to the top of the NBA, everything said about him will fade away. Winning cures all ills.

He talked about all of it in a must-read series of articles written by Sam Amick of the USA Today.

That starts with the rational to give Kobe a massive contract.

“You give Kobe Bryant $50 million for two years,” Buss told USA TODAY Sports in a wide-ranging interview. “Are you kidding me? What did he bring us? In this day and age, what did he bring us, for 20 years? And if that isn’t what you’re supposed to do, then I have no idea what life is all about.

“You pay the guy. You believe in the guy. If he ends up (staying healthy), that’s fantastic. Well everybody (in the media) cut me up for that, but I’d say over 200 fans have come up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for letting my kid see Kobe Bryant for two more years.’ And I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m glad I can see him for two more years.’ “

The question was never “should the Lakers keep Bryant?” He’s an iconic part of the franchise, arguably the greatest Laker ever (at least in Jerry West’s mind). The question was the price. As has long been the conventional wisdom around the league, if Bryant had been offered and taken a Tim Duncanesque $10 million or so a year (and there is no guarantee Kobe would have accepted it), the Lakers would have had far more flexibility to make moves the past two seasons. Would they have landed a huge star free agent? Probably not. But their efforts to put together a foundation that would draw one of those stars in the next couple years could have been accelerated with some smart moves. We’ll never know how that timeline works out.

Buss sees paying Bryant as showing that next star the Lakers take care of their own. Plus, Kobe’s financial value to the Lakers — in terms of sponsors, ticket sales, luxury box sales, even television ratings (that massive local Lakers television deal is tied to ratings) — is far more than the checks they are cutting him. Even at that price Kobe is a good business deal.

Buss thinks the Lakers’ rebuilding is on course and the they are headed the right direction with D'Angelo Russell (selected over Jahlil Okafor, a move some questioned), Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson.

“We’re ahead of (the schedule), so I’m fine with it. I think we’ve turned the corner, exactly like we have (planned). Get a free agent next (summer), and then I think we compete.”

While there are certainly reasons for optimism, how good those three players turn out to be remains to be seen. Also in question is whether Byron Scott and the Lakers’ organization can develop those players, it has not needed to be an organization strong suit in the past. That said, the Lakers may have some good young players they can keep or use as assets to acquire more.

Saying Jim Buss is not his father is an unfair comparison — no NBA owner was his father. What’s more, the change in the NBA’s business rules over the last couple CBA’s have tied the hands of big market teams to a degree, removing some advantages. The Lakers for years were a combination of smart and having an enormous financial advantage; now the financial advantages have been drastically reduced.

Whether they are still smart in today’s, Buss feels he knows the answer to that.

If he’s right or not will become very clear over the next couple years.

NBA Finals Schedule 2020: Dates, times, odds, where to watch

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It’s happening in October, not June, but the 2020 NBA Finals are finally here — and we have the schedule.

These Finals feature a team in the Lakers and a player in LeBron James who expects to be in the Finals — this is LeBron’s 10th trip to the Finals, only three other players had done that before him. The Lakers are making their 32nd trip to the Finals as a franchise and are going for their 17th title.

It also features a gritty Miami Heat team that nobody expected to be here, except themselves. Led by Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Goran Dragic, the Heat have thrived in the bubble in a way no other team in the East could match, plus Miami makes it rain threes.

The Lakers are fairly heavy favorites, -400, to win the series, while the Heat are +300 (Odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

As has nearly all the playoffs in the NBA’s restart bubble, the Finals will run every other day.

Here is the 2020 NBA Finals schedule (all times are Eastern):

NBA FINALS

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Sept. 30, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.

NBA playoffs, Finals schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
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It may be five months after they were originally planned, but the NBA playoff schedule has reached the point the 2020 Finals are here.

It is down to the final two. There is LeBron James leading the Lakers against the team where he first won his ring. And then there is the gritty Miami team that nobody expected to be here — except themselves.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except for one two-day break between Game 4 and Game 5
Even more members of families for the players, coaches, and team staff are in the bubble.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

NBA FINALS

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Sept. 30, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

No. 5 Miami beat No. 3 Boston 4-2

Western Conference Finals

No. 1 L.A. Lakers beat No. 3 Denver 4-1

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Bam Adebayo sparks Miami fourth quarter run past Boston and into NBA Finals

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In the fourth quarter of a win-or-go-home game for them, the Boston Celtics cranked up their defensive ball pressure. Grant Williams was getting run and gave them more athleticism inside, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown were being aggressive on the ball, and Boston rose that pressure to a 96-90 lead. The Celtics looked like they would live to play another day.

Then Bam Adebayo took over.

He relentlessly went to the glass and seemed to own every rebound. Then he just started attacking downhill when he had the ball.

Combine that with rookie Tyler Herro not knowing he is supposed to wilt in big moments, and Andre Iguodala stepping up in big games as he is known to do, and the Heat went on a 24-6 run. Boston completely melted down on offense and started to try to make up their 7-10 point gap with one shot.

Miami was better in the clutch and with that earned a trip to the NBA Finals. The Heat won Game 6 125-113 to take the Eastern Conference Finals 4-2.

The NBA Finals, a high-powered matchup where LeBron James gets to face the team with whom he won his first title, begins Wednesday night.

Adebayo was the most frustrated of the Heat players after their Game 5 loss on Friday.

“I played like s***. Bottom line: I can’t. I’ll put that game on me. It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made… I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been.”

Adebayo’s teammates said that wasn’t true, but what mattered most on Sunday was Adebayo believed it and stepped up — 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting plus 14 rebounds.

“Bam’s one of the great competitors already in this association,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game. “He’s going to become one of the great winners in history just because he’s so competitive. He moves the needle in every single way.”

Most of this game between two of the better defensive teams in the bubble was all about the offense.

After missing a handful to open the game, the Celtics couldn’t seem to miss from three, at one point hitting 11-of-22 from deep. Marcus Smart was 4-of-8 from deep at that point, and when his shot is falling the Celtics are a threat. Jayson Tatum hit some too, but more importantly he was setting the table as a playmaker and that had Boston’s offense clicking. That and they had solved the Miami zone defense.

On the other side of the ball, Miami shot 56.1% as a team in the first half and Iguodala started 4-of-4 from three.

After three quarters it was 88-86 Miami, and it seemed like the side that found any defense first was going to win.

What Miami found was Bam Adebayo.

“They were just more aggressive,” Boston’s Marcus Smart said of the difference in the fourth. “They were getting whatever they wanted. Got to the free throw line, down the lane, open shots. That’s part of it. Unfortunately, we didn’t combat it. We didn’t respond the way we should have.”

For Boston, they took a step forward this season but showed they need more athleticism and depth inside, and they need to have Gordon Hayward healthy. While he returned from his sprained ankle and was on the court plenty, he wasn’t moving and scoring the same way by Game 6. Against Miami, Boston needed vintage Hayward.

“This is just our first year together,” Kemba Walker said postgame. “This is going to be a fun group the next couple of years…

“I learned a lot just about the intensity of the playoffs. Every possession matters so much, things switch from game to game.”

The Celtics learned from those experiences.

The Heat are about to learn what the NBA Finals are like.

LeBron James looks back with regret on meal he never shared with Kobe

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LeBron James has led the Lakers back to the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade.

The last guy to do that? Kobe Bryant, back in 2010, when the Lakers had to go seven games to beat Boston and collect Kobe’s fifth ring.

When LeBron first signed with the Lakers, he got a “welcome to the team” text from Kobe and they talked about setting up a dinner where Kobe could give LeBron the lay of the Los Angeles land, LeBron told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. LeBron also said not having that meal is one of his regrets.

Due to the conflicting and chaotic schedules of each superstar, the two could never establish a firm date. Each time they came across one another, the meeting was brought up, but it kept getting put on the backburner.

It’s something that still bothers James to this day.

“Of course, you think there’s going to be time for us to get together and I understand that there are regrets in life, but I definitely wish I had that moment with him,” James told Yahoo Sports. “I do remember when I decided to come here, he sent me a text right away and said, ‘Welcome, brother. Welcome to the family.’ That was a special moment because at the time, Laker faithful wasn’t [fully in on me]. A lot of people were saying, ‘Well, we might not want LeBron at this point in his career,’ and, ‘Is he right? Is he going to get us back [to the Finals]?’ So to hear from him and get his stamp of approval, it meant a lot. I don’t ever question myself, but when it’s coming from Kobe, it definitely meant a lot.”

We’ve all been there, the friend you keep meaning to get together with but you’re busy, they’re busy, and it just never comes together. LeBron’s story, however, had a more tragic twist with Bryant’s death.

The Lakers talk about Kobe and his presence still being felt around the franchise and the city. Winning a title for him this year would seem fitting, and LeBron has the Lakers on the doorstep of doing just that.