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Rob Pelinka pledges ‘to make the Lakers the greatest sports franchise in the world’

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — During his two-decade career representing Kobe Bryant and other prominent NBA players, Rob Pelinka developed an enormous respect for the Los Angeles Lakers, both as a team and a global phenomenon.

Pelinka is getting the chance to restore that tarnished brand as the Lakers’ new general manager, and he is approaching his new job with evangelical zeal.

“It didn’t feel like a decision,” Pelinka said Friday. “It felt like a true calling.”

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson introduced Pelinka at a news conference, hiring Bryant’s longtime agent as his top deputy in the team’s new leadership regime. Both men spoke glowingly of a 16-time NBA champion franchise currently mired in the worst four-year stretch in team history.

Pelinka is recognized as a sharp negotiator on the other side of the NBA’s bargaining tables. In moving to the Lakers’ front office, he described his goals in terms far beyond dollars and cents.

“To put the Lakers back on the proper place of being the gold-standard franchise in all of sports for others to look at and try to emulate,” Pelinka said. “Because that’s what Dr. (Jerry) Buss did with this team, and what our calling is here. … We’re going to deliver on Jeanie’s challenge to us to make the Lakers the greatest sports franchise in the world. That will happen.”

Jeanie Buss fired her brother, Jim, and general manager Mitch Kupchak last month to clear the way for Johnson and Pelinka.

While the Hall of Fame point guard will be the Lakers’ frontman and big-picture leader, Pelinka will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day work of contract negotiations, talent scouting and salary cap management. Together, they’ll attempt to rebuild the Lakers, who are wrapping up what’s certain to be their fourth straight non-playoff season, a franchise record for futility.

“When I thought about who I really wanted to start this journey with, and who could I pick that would complement my style and the way I am, and also who is strong where I’m weak, there was no other than Rob,” Johnson said. “We have the same personality. We have just a passionate love for this franchise. I wanted somebody who understood the Lakers and what it means to represent the Lakers, and Rob knows that better than anybody out here.”

Johnson’s word choice was bold at a news conference attended by none other than Bryant, who wrapped up his 20-year career last spring with five championship rings. Johnson also won five NBA titles in the 1980s with the Showtime Lakers.

Pelinka described Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, as his “best friends,” recounting group camping trips and mutual concern for each other’s children.

He also echoed the strong support for rookie coach Luke Walton voiced by Johnson and Jeanie Buss, calling Walton “a championship coach.” The Lakers have made it abundantly clear they’re thrilled with Walton’s work despite the current team’s 20-45 record.

While he offered few specifics about his plans for the Lakers, Pelinka spoke with enormous optimism about the importance of the Lakers’ reputation and location. He plans to highlight the abundant opportunities in endorsements, business deals and Hollywood exposure as factors in attracting free agents.

Yet Pelinka is also thinking much bigger. During an anecdote about a friend who saw a child in a Kobe jersey at a Syrian refugee camp, Pelinka spoke of the purple and gold as a worldwide force for good.

“This brand resonates around the world,” Pelinka said. “This brand, this Lakers brand, can give hope in the corners of the globe. If we’re doing our job here, and we’re the Lakers, we can bring joy and hope to everyone across the world.”

Reports: Nick Nurse to become Canadian national team head coach

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Nick Nurse got the Toronto Raptors to their first ever NBA Finals appearance. The Raptors beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night. Already a budding Legend in Canada, it appears that Nurse is going to increase his sway in Ontario.

According to multiple reports, Nurse will become the head coach of the Canadian men’s national basketball team. He will also hold executive duties for that organization.

And the kicker? Nurse will also apparently have more involvement and interaction with Drake’s brand OVO.

Via Twitter:

Everything is coming up roses for Nurse. If he can eat some tape and figure out a way to slow down the Warriors the way he did with Antetokounmpo, he might just be able to give the two-time defending champions a run for their money.

Report: Cavs owner Dan Gilbert hospitalized after possible stroke

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Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has reportedly suffered a stroke but is resting comfortably in the care of medical professionals.

According to the Detroit News, Gilbert was hospitalized on Sunday morning after evidencing stroke-like symptoms. His current condition is not known, but his company released a statement saying his family was seeking privacy.

Via Detroit News:

“He received immediate medical attention and is currently recovering comfortably,” said a statement issued by the Quicken Loans family of companies following inquiries from The News. “Our collective thoughts and prayers are with Dan for a speedy recovery.”

Details of his diagnosis and prognosis were not released; the family requested privacy.

Gilbert, 57, is the founder of Quicken Loans and the majority owner of the Cavs. He was scheduled to speak on Wednesday at a conference on Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan. It’s unclear if Gilbert will be keeping that appearance date as we don’t yet know the severity of his injuries.

The often-bombastic Cavaliers owner has made waves over the years, most recognizably with his Comic Sans letter. Recently, Gilbert said that he felt the Kyrie Irving trade was a winner for his team, and that Irving was likely to leave the Boston Celtics.

Gilbert has owned the Cavs since 2005.

Report: Raptors could get OG Anunoby back during Finals

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The Toronto Raptors are headed to the 2019 NBA Finals, and they are going to need every player on their roster if they want a chance at dethroning the Golden State Warriors.

Forward OG Anunoby has been out since early April after needing an emergency appendectomy. He has not played in the playoffs yet this season, but a new report says the Raptors may be hopeful he could return before the end of this final series.

Via Twitter:

Anunoby Is a useful second-year forward who plays hard on both ends of the floor. Toronto is going to have a hard time matching up with the Warriors defensively, whether Kevin Durant plays or not. Having Anunoby available would help Toronto be more switchable and more adept at taking on some of Golden State’s smaller lineups.

We don’t have a timetable for Anunoby’s potential return yet, but the way the Finals are spaced out (Game 1 is on Thursday, Game 2 is next Sunday) it could help get players healthy and ready.

That could be good news for Kawhi Leonard, who sat out several games this year simply to rest. Leonard has looked a little banged up through these playoffs, as has just about everyone else. The bad news for Toronto is that this time between games could also help the Warriors get Durant ready to play.

Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals is on Thursday at 6 p.m. PST in Canada.

Drake gave Nick Nurse another shoulder rub (VIDEO)

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People are already getting tired of Drake being a prominent figure in the storyline of the Toronto Raptors. They will have to just deal with it for now as Toronto is headed to the 2019 NBA Finals after beating the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night.

That said, Drake is actually an ambassador for the Raptors. Some folks seem to forget that.

There was a dust-up during the Eastern Conference Finals about Drake having given Raptors coach Nick Nurse a shoulder rub during Game 4. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer thought that fans shouldn’t be interacting with members of the coaching staff or players, but the Raptors didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal.

After the Raptors won on Saturday, Drake embraced Nurse yet again, playing off of the initial kerfuffle.

Via Twitter:

Get ready to see more Drake than you’ve ever wanted.