Associated Press

Trae Young laid bricks, Jaren Jackson Jr. got buckets in Summer League debuts

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SALT LAKE CITY — Trae Young did not enter the draft NBA ready. He needs space to make mistakes and learn. He can shoot the rock, but the adjustment to the speed and length of the NBA — and how to get his dangerous shot off in that environment — is going to take some time. Atlanta, both as a fanbase and as a rebuilding team, will give him that space. They’re not going to kill Young and his confidence when his shot is off for a night.

Which is good, because in his debut his shot was off.

Way off. Airball off.

Young missed his first 10 shots, including going 0-of-7 from three with a couple of airballs, in his Summer League debut in Utah Monday night, before finishing the game 4-of-20 with 16 points (1-of-11 from three).

And that didn’t bother anybody on the Hawks.

“I don’t know if you guys expected that, but I expected that,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said (the new head coach is taking on Summer League duties for a year). “That’s the beauty of having young guys, I just told them in the locker room, I said ‘I’ve done this 11 years now, you come out for your first Summer League game and everybody thinks it’s going to be a home run, a success. Then you see I’ve got a lot of work to do.’”

Through it all, Pierce told him to just keep shooting. Be himself.

“I’m excited for Trae, he got 20 shots up. He can get his shot off,” Pierce said. “He’s gonna make a lot of shots, we’re going to be fine.”

“I definitely didn’t want this, but overall it’s a process,” Young said after the game. “This is just the first one of Summer League, I definitely felt a lot more comfortable in the second half. I guess I can just carry that over to tomorrow, getting better each and every day.”

Young’s slow start was a stark contrast to the No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Grizzlies, who drained two threes in the first 50-seconds on pick-and-pops. He showed it all — a smooth jumper, handles and ability to score inside — on his way to dropping 29 points and hitting 8-of-13 from three in that same game. Jackson also blocked two shots at the rim.

After the game, Jackson was dancing down the corridor out to the bus, belting out some T.I. for all to hear. During the game, he was shimmying on the court.

“I like shooting threes,” Jackson said after the game. “When you’re open, you got to take it. There’s 24 seconds on the clock, you may not get a better shot sometimes. Coach told me, ‘If I get a good look, just shoot it.'”

He did and it was an impressive performance for the former Michigan State star some scouts thought was the big who best fit the modern NBA game in this draft. But it was just one game.

Which is what Young was saying.

“My shot’s going to fall, my shots going to fall eventually,” Young said. “I’m not too worried about it. It’s just one game.”

Young had a better second half and had his moments.

What Pierce wanted to see was getting Young into more playmaking, for him to be a point guard, and from there, his shot will be in the flow of the game.

“We practiced for four days, and the biggest thing his teammates enjoyed with Trae is he’s just finding them, on the pick and roll, rolling to the basket, he found guys behind the three-point line,” Pierce said. “That’s his strength, that’s going to be his blueprint, and we just couldn’t get him in enough pick-and-rolls early on.”

They will try that in Game 2. It’s just Summer League, and it’s all going to take some time.

• Two other guys stood out in this first game. For the Grizzlies, second-round pick Jevon Carter was the guy locking up Young early and causing problems. He is tenacious on defense, has a great motor, and showed potential. Can he do it against the quicker point guards of a regular NBA game remains to be seen, but there was promise there.

For the Hawks, No. 30 pick Omari Spellman moved well, had some buckets (11 points), a couple of blocks, and just seemed to make smart plays. How much time he’s going to get behind John Collins — who was efficient and didn’t get fed the rock enough — is a question for another day. But it was a good debut.

Report: Lakers have no plans to replace Magic Johnson, who’ll still help team recruit FAs

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Magic Johnson’s stunning resignation as Lakers president caused a commotion.

It didn’t create a power vacuum.

Rob Pelinka is clearly in charge. He’s the highest-ranking member of the front office. His title – general manager – is the one many teams give to the leader of their basketball operations. He’s running the Lakers’ coaching search.

Though they’ve been linked to big-name candidates for president, the Lakers could easily keep the status quo with Pelinka running the show. And it sounds as if that’s what Lakers owner Jeanie Buss will do.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer.

Allowing Pelinka to hire a head coach – which, again, he’s in the process of doing – then supplanting him would be absurd. At least it seems the Lakers aren’t doing that.

But Pelinka was part of the organization while it made a comedy of errors. The former agent also had front-office experience until getting hired with Johnson a couple years ago. It’s hard to believe he’s the right choice to lead the team as it enters this critical stage.

LeBron James is 34. The Lakers will have max cap space this summer. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are progressing toward establishing clearer value – one way or the other.

To entrust Pelinka in this situation, Buss ought to have a clear explanation for why Pelinka doesn’t deserve a fair share of blame for all the mistakes that occurred the last couple years. There are plenty of people, inside and outside the Lakers, who question him.

The wildest part about this report: Johnson still helping the Lakers recruit this summer. He’s an all-time great player and charismatic. But he also just said while resigning:

What I didn’t like is the backstabbing, the whispering. I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.

How will he sell that to free agents – especially if Pelinka, suspected to be whom Johnson is referring to, remains in charge?

Russell Westbrook goes from ‘Next question’ to ‘That’s a good question. Not sure’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook can be a pain.

Pain to his opponents. Pain to his teammates. Pain to the media.

Sometimes, it seems Westbrook even takes pride in being a jerk. Which is fine. His cutthroat attitude is part of who he is, and it has gotten him a long way.

Lately, Westbrook has clashed with Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. For months, Westbrook has answered all Tramel’s questions with, “Next question.” Yet, Tramel keeps asking them – as he should. Westbrook has earned control over a lot of things. Tramel shouldn’t cede control of his job to Westbrook.

The back-and-forth has gotten increased prominence during the playoffs, when postgame press conferences are nationally televised. Both sides have found plenty of support. Westbrook’s fans love that his intensity never relents. Many also respect Tramel’s professionalism.

Four years ago, Westbrook infamously told Tramel, “I just don’t like you.” Westbrook got into it with Tramel again two years ago. But Tramel continues to cover the Thunder the best he can.

Likewise, Westbrook is trying to lead Oklahoma City the best he can. That means picking battles, even small ones like this, and pushing himself to win them all.

But after the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Trail Blazers last night, Westbrook finally gave an inch. But just an inch.

Tramel asked how the Thunder’s defense of Damian Lillard changed from the first half to the second half.

“That’s a good question,” Westbrook said. “Not sure.”

Tramel asked about the lessons learned about overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the Grizzlies in the 2014 playoffs. (Oklahoma City trailed 2-1 and 3-2 in that series, but never 3-1).

“Really don’t know,” Westbrook said.

For Westbrook, those answers were a huge breakthrough. They surprised everyone, even Tramel. Just a few days ago, the columnist predicted Westbrook wouldn’t change his two-word answers anytime soon: “He’s not going to give in this playoff series.”

Maybe this means the series is over.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse leaves mouth agape a loooong time after odd call (video)

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The Raptors got called for an extremely quick three-second violation during their Game 4 win over the Magic yesterday.

Toronto coach Nick Nurse couldn’t believe it.

Really couldn’t believe it.

Just couldn’t believe it one bit.

Bucks on brink of first playoff series win in 18 years

Associated Press
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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The Milwaukee Bucks can wipe away 18 years of frustration on Monday night.

They haven’t won a playoff series since the 2000-01 season, when they reached the Eastern Conference finals. That drought can end in Detroit if they complete a sweep of the Pistons.

The top-seeded Milwaukee cruised through the first three games, winning by an average of 24 points. If they lose in Game 4, the Bucks would have three more chances in the best-of-seven series to end their streak of eight straight first-round exits. The earlier the Bucks eliminate eighth-seeded Detroit, the more time they’ll have to prepare for the conference semifinals.

“It’s going to be nice if we can finish it here and get six days of rest,” superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said.

In Game 3 on Saturday, Antetokounmpo had a quiet night and the Bucks still led by double digits most of the way. Antetokounmpo finished with 14 points, three assists and four turnovers and only played 27 minutes due to foul trouble. The Pistons couldn’t take advantage of his off night, though, as Milwaukee had six other players in double figures in its 119-103 victory.

“It’s good to see my team doing really well out there without me,” he said. “It means a lot to me. There’s going to be nights like this. My teammates did a great job of picking me up.”

The Bucks were up 13 points when Antetokounmpo sat early in the third quarter after getting whistled for his fourth foul. When he re-entered late in the quarter, they were leading by 22 points.

“It’s something we’ve been trying to build all year,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’re a team that plays together, tries to take what the defense gives us. Guys have a lot of confidence to make plays. It’s not just all about Giannis, as amazing and great as he is. If and when we need more from other people, it’s a credit to Giannis to let his teammates carry him some nights, carry him some stretches.”

The Bucks will try match their regular-season feat against the Pistons. Their four-game sweep was the first by either team in the all-time series. They have met in the postseason four other times, with Detroit winning each time.

“We might be the number one seed and best team in the NBA (record-wise) but at the end of the day, we haven’t won a playoff series in a while,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re hungry, everybody’s hungry.”

The Pistons’ best player, power forward Blake Griffin, made his debut in the series after sitting out the first two games with a sore left knee. Griffin toughed it out for 31 minutes and posted 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists. His teammates let him down, as Detroit shot below 40 percent for the third straight game.

“That young man is giving us everything he has,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He said he was feeling good. I was concerned about his conditioning with as much time as he’s missed. You can’t really simulate 5-on-5 basketball when you’re rehabbing. But he came in and gave us what he could. He just has a presence that we can’t replicate.”

The Pistons haven’t shown enough of a defensive presence against a team that averaged a league-high 118.1 points.

“We had some situations where we make a mistake or miss a shot, now we go down to the defensive end and don’t carry out our assignments,” Casey said. “That’s part of growth. That’s a team that makes you pay for mistakes that you make.”