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Celtics, Lakers, and Magic headline 2017 NBA Draft Lottery winners and losers

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The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery is over, and the Boston Celtics — a team in the Eastern Conference Finals — hold the No. 1 overall pick. The Los Angeles Lakers will pick at No. 2, and the Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3. Who will take Markelle Fultz and who will take Lonzo Ball isn’t yet clear, but they seem slated to go right next to each other at the top of the draft.

A dizzying amount of picks changed hands thanks to protections and swap rights, but the final order ended up looking like this:

1. Boston (via Brooklyn)
2. L.A. Lakers
3. Philadelphia
4. Phoenix
5. Sacramento
6. Orlando
7. Minnesota
8. New York
9. Dallas
10. Sacramento (via New Orleans)
11. Charlotte
12. Detroit
13. Denver
14. Miami

We won’t know who really wins this thing until we get deep into next season, but an initial reaction of winners and losers thanks to aforementioned pick swaps and ping pong balls I think looks pretty clear.

Winners

Celtics
Boston traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen during the summer of 2007, then took home the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2007-08. The Celtics then traded Garnett and Pierce in 2013 for three of Brooklyn’s first round picks as well as the right to swap picks in 2017.

Boston traded for a championship, then traded those guys to either add the best player in college basketball or to be able to swap for an existing superstar. They’re doing all that with a team that was already the No. 1 seed in the East and is in the conference finals. That is getting some serious run out of the Big 3. Paul Pierce even thinks so himself.

Celtics fans have to know they came up huge on this one, and even though there might be some overlapping talent with Isaiah Thomas and either Fultz or Ball, that also gives them more weapons to be able to take down LeBron James and the Cavaliers in coming seasons. Or, as Celtics GM Danny Ainge hinted at after the lottery, they might be looking to use that pick to trade for a guy like Jimmy Butler or Paul George.

Lakers
Los Angeles didn’t get the pick they wanted, but they got the next best thing. It’s entirely possible that Ball is a serious talent and missing piece for LA, and they have burgeoning young talent on the roster. Couple that with rumored interest from 2018 free agent Paul George, the Lakers could be on their way back up.

They also keep their 2019 first round pick, which would have gone to Orlando, so things definitely worked out well for Lakers fans.

Sixers
Philadelphia didn’t get the top pick, and someone like Fultz would fit in nicely especially as the 76ers look to add competent ball handlers. But without Fultz or Ball on the board, the Sixers can look at guys like Josh Jackson and De'Aaron Fox to fill out their roster as they add a healthy Ben Simmons next season.

The important thing is that the 76ers still wound up in the Top 3, with the availability to now use that pick to keep building on The Process or to swap for veteran talent, something not many have talked about. The other good news here is that because of pick swaps, the Sixers not only got a high selection this season but have the Lakers’ first round pick unprotected for next year.

Losers

Magic
A serious blow here for the Orlando Magic, who wound up with the No. 6 pick and do not get to keep the Lakers’ 2019 first round pick. Orlando is without a GM at the moment, and finished just 29-53 this season. Their roster is in flux, they’re back toward the bottom of the league, and their new GM will need to knock it out of the park with that No. 6 pick if they want to be able to capitalize with the young talent they already have.

Heat
Miami wound up with the No. 14 pick, which is right where they should be. The Heat had a 98 percent chance to end up at the end of the lottery, but I still think that’s some kind of bummer. Miami had an awful start to the season, but finished 30-11 to tie the Chicago Bulls for No. 8 in the East, just narrowly missing the playoffs. The up-and-down nature of Miami’s season combined with missing out on the postseason and getting the last pick in the lottery sort of sums up a weird, frustrating season in Florida.

USA’s 78-game international win streak ends at hands of Australia, Patty Mills, 98-94

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Gregg Popovich wanted his USA team to face some adversity. For them to be challenged and see how they’d respond.

He got his wish on a Saturday afternoon in Australia and has to be disturbed by the result.

Australia, behind a red-hot Patty Mills who finished 30 points and drained seemingly every big bucket down the stretch, tore up the USA defense and outplayed the Americans when it mattered most, beating Team USA 98-94 in an exhibition match in front of a raucous 52,000 people in Melbourne.

Team USA had won 78 consecutive games — including both friendlies and in international tournaments — before this loss. The last USA exhibition game loss was in the run-up to the 2004 Olympics (when the Americans took home the bronze).

The USA opens FIBA World Cup play in just more than a week, facing the Czech Republic in their first game on Sept. 1. The Americans enter that tournament as the favorites, but the combination of improved international play and a lot of elite American talent staying home has made the USA’s margin for error very slim. Teams such as Serbia have to see this result and gain confidence.

This loss comes just two days after

“They wanted it more than us tonight,” Kemba Walker said after the game. “Lesson learned for us.”

Those lessons include needing to clean up a defense that still has communication issues, and to find more consistent shot creation outside of pick-and-rolls with Kemba Walker or Donovan Mitchell.

Walker, who came off the bench to score 22, was clearly America’s best player. His ability to penetrate was the only thing all night that either forced the Aussie defense to collapse, or it allowed him to get space for a good shot. Donovan Mitchell, who finished with a dozen points including seven straight late in the game, was able to provide a little shot creation, but the Americans lacked much ball or player movement in this one. Harrison Barnes finished with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Popovich is clearly still experimenting with lineups and combinations, and that is the silver lining of this USA loss. This was not the American’s best foot forward.

But don’t take anything away from Australia, which played a physical and feisty game all afternoon. They put the ball more in the hands of Utah’s Joe Ingles and he responded with 15 points, seven assists, and he and Andrew Bogut set up the offense and were smart with their passes. Bogut finished with 15 points.

Team USA takes on Canada in a final exhibition game in a couple of days, before heading to China for the World Cup.

Report: Dwight Howard gave back $2.6 million in buyout with Memphis, what he will make in L.A.

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Dwight Howard will get his money, the full $5.6 million he opted into this summer. The man is getting paid.

The checks are just coming from two different teams.

To facilitate a move to the Lakers, Howard is giving back $2.6 million in a buyout with the Grizzlies — exactly how much he makes on a minimum contract with Los Angeles. From Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks of ESPN:

My guess is the Grizzlies will just take the cap hit this season to get Howard off the books.

This is exactly how this was expected to go down financially if Howard came to Los Angeles. The risk for Howard is he will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers — they can waive him for whatever reason, pay a small buyout fee, and Howard loses out on the $2.6 million.

That’s motivation for him to follow through on what he promised the team.

 

Former NBA, ABA coach Tom Nissalke dead at 87

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tom Nissalke, who won coach of the year honors in the NBA and ABA, has died. He was 87.

Nissalke passed away at his home in Salt Lake City on Thursday after facing a “series of health-related problems” in recent years, according to the Deseret News.

He was the first coach of the Utah Jazz after the franchise relocated from New Orleans in 1979.

Nissalke was also an NBA head coach in Seattle, Houston, and Cleveland.

Nissalke got his start in the pro ranks as an assistant with Milwaukee and helped guide a team featuring Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to an NBA title in 1971. His work with the Bucks landed him a head coaching gig with the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals. He led them to a 42-42 record in his first season and was named the league’s top coach.

He was hired the next season in Seattle but was fired after a 13-32 start. Nissalke then coached the Utah Stars and San Antonio before returning to the NBA with the Rockets. He won 124 games in three seasons with Houston, twice taking the team to the playoffs and the 1977 Eastern Conference finals.

Nissalke was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year after going 49-33 in 1976-77.

After retiring, he was active with the YMCA and worked as a radio analyst.

Nissalke is survived by a daughter, Holly, son Thomas Jr, and two grandchildren. His wife, Nancy, died in 2006.

 

How Dwight Howard convinced the Lakers to take a chance on him

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Laker fans Friday sounded like your friends after an ugly relationship and breakup, when you suddenly consider taking that person back. Laker nation took to Twitter screaming “ARE YOU SERIOUS? What are you thinking? Are you even thinking?”

The Lakers, however, are entering a second relationship with Dwight Howard with their eyes wide open — he will sign a non-guaranteed contract to be the team’s center (sharing duties with Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee). Howard will have to prove himself, on and off the court. The Lakers have leverage and can waive Howard and move on to Joakim Noah or someone else quickly if things do not pan out.

But how did it even get to this point? How did Howard — who did his annual summer media tour saying “I have changed, I am taking the game and my conditioning seriously, I just want a chance” and league observers shrugged because they have heard the same thing for years — convince the Lakers to roll the dice on him again? Shams Charania of The Athletic laid it all out.

Howard’s message to [Laker assistant coach Jason] Kidd and the Lakers was the same one he delivered to The Athletic in July from NBA summer league: He’s learned from the past several seasons, learned that, at age 33, he is simply one of the guys now. Howard believes he can contribute at a high level for any NBA team, but the eight-time All-Star also understands he has to focus on rebounding, defense, blocking shots, finishing around the rim and simply playing whenever he is asked… Kidd became convinced about Howard’s newfound awakening…

The Lakers then began setting workouts for free agents, and Howard traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Wednesday. His meeting and workout with the Lakers was set for Thursday, but Howard went to the Lakers’ facility in El Segundo, Calif., on Wednesday afternoon for his own training session. The Lakers were surprised to see him, sources said, and many key decision makers were in attendance…

League sources said Howard had a convincing and emotional meeting with the players and Lakers officials, explaining how he had reached rock bottom a season ago and needed to find a new mindset in his life. On and off the floor. He was not the teammate he needed to be in playing for three teams in the past three years. He did not take the game seriously enough, he did not understand what was needed to turn the corner.

Howard has said all that before. Multiple times. To multiple teams and teammates. Maybe this time he has genuinely figured things out, but whatever he did and said was enough to convince the Lakers to buy in…

To a point.

One could argue — and I would make the case — that Noah would be a better fit on the court for the Lakers’ needs in terms of passing and defense, but he comes with plenty of risks as well (health, getting along with LeBron James, and how much he liked the nightlife as a Knick in New York and what that would mean in L.A.). At least with Howard, the Lakers mitigated that risk with the non-guaranteed contract. If Howard will not accept his role and is disruptive (as he has been in recent stops), if he is still eating candy like a bingeing 10-year-old on Halloween night, if he can’t stay healthy, the Lakers can waive Howard and move on. If the Lakers brought in Noah, they would have been smart to have the same non-guaranteed contract (if Noah would have signed that kind of deal).

For now the Lakers have their man, but he’s basically on probation. Howard has to prove in deeds everything he has said in words.