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Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan could be NBA’s first immediately clear and enduring star-for-star trade in nearly two decades

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In 2011 – well before DeMar DeRozan earned even serious All-Star or All-NBA consideration – Kawhi Leonard called him a “great player.”

In 2014 – before Leonard became Finals MVP and arguably the NBA’s best two-way player – DeRozan said, “If Kawhi gets his hands on you, you’re not going anywhere.”

Leonard and DeRozan were ahead of the curve on assessing each other, but the rest of us have caught up. Both players are universally recognized as stars. Traded for each other this week, they could fulfill the Raptors-Spurs deal as a rare trade that was recognized immediately and in hindsight as star-for-star.

Sometimes, we don’t realize when a star-for-star trade is made. Paul George for Victor Oladipo was a star-for-star trade, but we didn’t yet grasp Oladipo’s abilities.

Sometimes, we think a star-for-star trade was made and it wasn’t. Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas looked like a star-for-star trade, but Thomas hasn’t been healthy since and the odds are strongly against him regaining star status.

I’m looking for trades immediately recognized as star-for-star and then stood the test of time. To set a parameter, both players were All-Stars before and after the trade. There have been just nine such trades in NBA history:

2008: Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson (Denver Nuggets-Detroit Pistons)

I needed some way to define star-for-star trades, and this deal technically fits. But it completely violates the spirit of the exercise and is included here for only posterity. Allen Iverson deteriorated rapidly in Detroit. He made a couple more All-Star games from the fan vote, nothing to do with his remaining ability.

2001: Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury (New Jersey Nets-Phoenix Suns)

Kidd pleaded guilty to spousal abuse earlier that year, perhaps opening the door for his exit from Phoenix. He was clearly the better player and only continued to prove it after the trade, leading the Nets to consecutive Eastern Conference titles.

Marbury was at least intriguing – four years younger and a flashy scorer. He was legitimately good during the two All-Star seasons of his career, his last in New Jersey and second in Phoenix. But he mostly confirmed he was a big-stats-on-a-bad-team player.

1997: Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker (Cleveland Cavaliers-Seattle SuperSonics-Milwaukee Bucks)

This actually looked like a star-for-star-for-star trade with Kemp (Seattle to Cleveland), Baker (Milwaukee to Seattle) and Terrell Brandon (Cleveland to Milwaukee). Brandon was coming off consecutive All-Star seasons with the Cavs, but he never regained that level. Kemp and Baker didn’t maintain it for long. Each remained an All-Star the season following the trade then never made it again.

Kemp was unhappy with the Sonics because he got paid less than Jim McIlvaine, who signed a seven-year, $33 million deal. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allowed no feasible way for Seattle to renegotiate Kemp’s contract, so he rebelled by arriving late to practices and flights. His weight ballooned in Cleveland, and cocaine and alcohol issues steadily derailed his career over the next several years.

Baker appeared disenchanted with the Bucks after they posted losing records his first four seasons, and Milwaukee feared him leaving in 1999 free agency. The result for the Sonics was far worse than the one the Bucks feared for themselves. Baker began drinking heavily in Seattle. Before, after and even during games. But the Sonics still re-signed him to a seven-year, $86 million deal in 1999 that proved to be highly toxic. Baker hung around longer than Kemp, but both trended sharply downward after this trade.

1982: Bernard King for Micheal Ray Richardson (New York Knicks-Golden State Warriors)

Coming off an All-Star year with the Warriors, King signed an offer sheet with the Knicks. Golden State matched and King planned to return. But just before the season, the Warriors traded him to the Knicks for Richardson.

Richardson was a perennial All-Star in New York, but the Knicks had tired of his attitude and contract demands. Unfortunately, this trade contributed to his spiral. While his agent negotiated terms with the Warriors, Richardson remained in New York and abused drugs. He didn’t kick the habit in Golden State and lasted less than a season there, getting flipped to the Nets. He got clean in 1985, winning Comeback Player of the Year and regaining his All-Star status. But it didn’t last, and Richardson was banned from the league in 1986 for his third positive test for cocaine.

King was no stranger to off-court problems himself. He won Comeback Player of the Year in 1981 after issues with alcohol and pleading guilty to misdemeanor attempted sexual assault (and facing more serious related charges). He starred for the Knicks a couple seasons, hurt his knee then was never the same player again.

1980: Dennis Johnson for Paul Westphal (Phoenix Suns-Seattle SuperSonics)

This is another trade that fits by technicality, not spirit. Westphal got hurt, crossed the wrong side of 30 and underwhelmed in his lone season in Seattle. He was never the same player again. But fans voted the popular guard an All-Star starter that year with the Sonics, anyway.

1978: Bobby Jones for George McGinnis (Philadelphia 76ers-Denver Nuggets)

George McGinnis possessed so much size, athleticism and natural talent, people always wanted more from him. So, every problem involving him in Philadelphia felt huge. He fit poorly with Julius Erving. McGinnis had some bad moments in the playoffs on a team with championship expectations. His practice habits were poor even when he wasn’t sneaking cigarettes.

Eventually, the 76ers had enough and shipped him to Denver for Bobby Jones.

Jones, still a star in his own right, was much more adept at fitting in. He made six All-Defensive first teams in Philadelphia. After consecutive All-Star appearances with the 76ers, Jones won Sixth Man of the Year on their 1983 title team.

McGinnis remained an All-Star his first year with the Nuggets, but his experience in Denver largely made everyone there miserable. Nuggets coach Larry Brown endorsed trading for McGinnis, loathed the forward’s practice habits then wanted McGinnis traded. Larry Brown changing his mind – who ever heard of such a thing? When Denver kept McGinnis, Brown resigned. But McGinnis got hurt and lost his confidence, and the Nuggets traded him back to Indiana, where he played in the ABA before signing with Philadelphia and finished his career.

1972: Elvin Hayes for Jack Marin (Baltimore Bullets-Houston Rockets)

Drafted No. 1 by the Rockets, Elvin Hayes led the entire NBA in scoring as a rookie. But four losing seasons later, Hayes and the Rockets were losing patience with each other. Houston blamed him for posting stats – 27 points and 16 rebounds per game – that were more gaudy than actually helpful. He blamed the team for putting so much pressure on him, it caused health problems.

Despite already having Wes Unseld – who actually won Rookie of the Year over Hayes – as a big and sharing widespread concern over Hayes’ mindset, the Bullets rolled the dice on Hayes anyway. Asked whether the trade was a one-for-one, Bullets coach Gene Shue quipped, “No. We get Elvin’s psychiatrist, too.”

The Bullets eventually realized what a steal they got. Hayes was an all-time great. In nine years together, Hayes and Unseld led the Bullets to three conference titles and the 1978 NBA championship.

Marin had just two All-Star seasons – the year before this trade and the year after. The Bullets just wisely traded him at age 27, in the middle of his short prime.

1968: Wilt Chamberlain for Archie Clark (Los Angeles Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers)

This trade is often listed as one of the most lopsided in NBA history – for good reason. The Lakers got Wilt Chamberlain, arguably a top-five-ever player coming off an MVP season. Philadelphia got the unmemorable trio of Archie Clark, Darrall Imhoff and Jerry Chambers.

But Clark was an All-Star, both the season prior to this trade and a few years later after the 76ers flipped him to the Baltimore Bullets.

Chamberlain declined from peak form in Los Angeles, but he remained excellent during his five years there and helped the Lakers win a title.

1964: Bailey Howell and Don Ohl for Terry Dischinger (Baltimore Bullets-Detroit Pistons)

The first star-for-star trade was actually a star-and-star-for-star deal. And Baltimore got the two best pieces in the deal.

The Pistons had just suffered through a miserable year – losing a lot while playing for a tyrant coach. Charlie Wolf imposed strict rules that alienated his players. Howell and Ohl were happy to leave town, and each remained very good with the Bullets.

Dischinger, 1963 Rookie of the Year, certainly seemed to be worth acquiring. And he continued to produce like a star his first season in Detroit. But he went into active military service, missed the following two seasons and returned a far lesser player.

Who could have predicted the escalating conflict in Vietnam would swing the Pistons’ fortunes so significantly?

That uncertainty is why we don’t know whether the Leonard-DeRozan trade will join this club.

Each player must make an another All-Star team. Leonard is a lock if healthy, but his quad issues are a huge uncertainty. DeRozan will turn 29, and he’s heading to the better conference. But he’s joining a well-coached team built to win now, and success will boost his chances. The NBA, with captain-picked All-Star teams, might even pick All-Stars regardless of conference. The league should also increase All-Star rosters to 13 players each, matching the regular-season active-roster size, but that idea has less traction.

There are so many variables.

But this trade has a better chance than any recently to fit my star-for-star criteria.

Complete list of 2019 NBA draft early entrants

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Who’s the best senior in the 2019 NBA draft?

Washington’s Matisse Thybulle? North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson? Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield? Villanova’s Eric Paschall? Belmont’s Dylan Windler?

They’re all only borderline first-round picks. Though I think at least one will get picked in the opening round, this could be the first NBA draft without a senior selected in the first round.

Like most drafts in this era, the top prospects are largely underclassmen. They had to declare for the draft by Sunday. Some will definitely stay in. Others will withdraw by the NBA’s deadline (June 10) or, more importantly, the NCAA’s deadline to retain eligibility (May 29). Unlike previous years, players can hire agents while retaining college eligibility. But they had to enter the pool by now to stay in.

Here are all 2019 early entrants, players who came through the American system followed by international players:

Player Team Height Status
Milan Acquaah California Baptist 6-3 Sophomore
Bryce Aiken Harvard 6-0 Junior
Nickeil Alexander-Walker Virginia Tech 6-5 Sophomore
Al-Wajid Aminu North Florida 6-7 Junior
Desmond Bane TCU 6-5 Junior
RJ Barrett Duke 6-7 Freshman
Charles Bassey Western Kentucky 6-11 Freshman
Tyus Battle Syracuse 6-6 Junior
Troy Baxter Jr. FGCU 6-8 Sophomore
Darius Bazley Princeton HS (OH) 6-9 Post-Graduate
Kerry Blackshear Jr. Virginia Tech 6-10 Junior
Phil Bledsoe Glenville State (WV) 6-6 Junior
Bol Bol Oregon 7-2 Freshman
Marques Bolden Duke 6-11 Junior
Jordan Bone Tennessee 6-3 Junior
Ky Bowman Boston College 6-1 Junior
DaQuan Bracey Louisiana Tech 5-11 Junior
Keith Braxton St. Francis (PA) 6-4 Junior
Ignas Brazdeikis Michigan 6-7 Freshman
Oshae Brissett Syracuse 6-8 Sophomore
Armoni Brooks Houston 6-3 Junior
Charlie Brown Jr. St. Joseph’s 6-7 Sophomore
Moses Brown UCLA 7-1 Freshman
Nico Carvacho Colorado State 6-11 Junior
Yoeli Childs BYU 6-8 Junior
Brandon Clarke Gonzaga 6-8 Junior
Nicolas Claxton Georgia 6-11 Sophomore
Amir Coffey Minnesota 6-8 Junior
RJ Cole Howard 6-1 Sophomore
Tyler Cook Iowa 6-9 Junior
Anthony Cowan Jr. Maryland 6-0 Junior
Jarrett Culver Texas Tech 6-5 Sophomore
Jarron Cumberland Cincinnati 6-5 Junior
Tulio Da Silva Missouri State 6-8 Junior
Caleb Daniels Tulane 6-4 Sophomore
Aubrey Dawkins UCF 6-6 Junior
Silvio De Sousa Kansas 6-9 Sophomore
Javin DeLaurier Duke 6-10 Junior
Mamadi Diakite Virginia 6-9 Junior
Alpha Diallo Providence 6-7 Junior
James Dickey UNCG 6-10 Junior
David DiLeo Central Michigan 6-7 Junior
Davon Dillard Shaw (NC) 6-5 Junior
Luguentz Dort Arizona State 6-4 Freshman
Devon Dotson Kansas 6-2 Freshman
Jason Draggs Lee College (TX) 6-9 Freshman
Aljami Durham Indiana 6-4 Sophomore
Carsen Edwards Purdue 6-1 Junior
CJ Elleby Washington State 6-6 Freshman
Steven Enoch Louisville 6-10 Junior
Bruno Fernando Maryland 6-10 Sophomore
Jaylen Fisher TCU 6-2 Junior
Savion Flagg Texas A&M 6-7 Sophomore
Daniel Gafford Arkansas 6-11 Sophomore
Darius Garland Vanderbilt 6-2 Freshman
Eugene German Northern Illinois 6-0 Junior
TJ Gibbs Notre Dame 6-3 Junior
Quentin Goodin Xavier 6-4 Junior
Tony Goodwin II Redemption Christian Acad. (MA) 6-6 Post-Graduate
Kellan Grady Davidson 6-5 Sophomore
Devonte Green Indiana 6-3 Junior
Quentin Grimes Kansas 6-5 Freshman
Jon Axel Gudmundsson Davidson 6-4 Junior
Kyle Guy Virginia 6-2 Junior
Rui Hachimura Gonzaga 6-8 Junior
Jaylen Hands UCLA 6-3 Sophomore
Jerrick Harding Weber State 6-1 Junior
Jared Harper Auburn 5-11 Junior
Kevon Harris Stephen F. Austin 6-6 Junior
Jaxson Hayes Texas 6-11 Freshman
Dewan Hernandez Miami 6-11 Junior
Tyler Herro Kentucky 6-5 Freshman
Amir Hinton Shaw (NC) 6-5 Junior
Jaylen Hoard Wake Forest 6-8 Freshman
Daulton Hommes Point Loma Nazarene (CA) 6-8 Junior
Talen Horton-Tucker Iowa State 6-4 Freshman
De’Andre Hunter Virginia 6-7 Sophomore
Ty Jerome Virginia 6-5 Junior
Markell Johnson North Carolina State 6-1 Junior
Keldon Johnson Kentucky 6-6 Freshman
Jayce Johnson Utah 7-0 Junior
Tyrique Jones Xavier 6-9 Junior
Mfiondu Kabengele Florida State 6-10 Sophomore
Sacha Killeya-Jones NC State 6-11 Junior
Louis King Oregon 6-9 Freshman
V.J. King Louisville 6-6 Junior
Nathan Knight William & Mary 6-10 Junior
Sagaba Konate West Virginia 6-8 Junior
Martin Krampelj Creighton 6-9 Junior
Romeo Langford Indiana 6-6 Freshman
Cameron Lard Iowa State 6-9 Sophomore
Dedric Lawson Kansas 6-9 Junior
A.J. Lawson South Carolina 6-6 Freshman
Jalen Lecque Brewster Academy (NH) 6-3 Post-Graduate
Jacob Ledoux Texas-Permian Basin 6-3 Junior
Nassir Little North Carolina 6-6 Freshman
Tevin Mack Alabama 6-6 Junior
Malik Maitland Bethune-Cookman 5-9 Guard
Trevor Manuel Olivet (MI) 6-9 Junior
Jermaine Marrow Hampton 6-0 Junior
Naji Marshall Xavier 6-7 Sophomore
Charles Matthews Michigan 6-6 Junior
Skylar Mays LSU 6-4 Junior
Jalen McDaniels San Diego State 6-10 Sophomore
Davion Mintz Creighton 6-3 Junior
EJ Montgomery Kentucky 6-10 Freshman
Ja Morant Murray State 6-3 Sophomore
Andrew Nembhard Florida 6-5 Freshman
Kouat Noi TCU 6-7 Sophomore
Zach Norvell Jr. Gonzaga 6-5 Sophomore
Jaylen Nowell Washington 6-4 Sophomore
Joel Ntambwe UNLV 6-9 Freshman
Jordan Nwora Louisville 6-8 Sophomore
Chuma Okeke Auburn 6-8 Sophomore
KZ Okpala Stanford 6-9 Sophomore
Miye Oni Yale 6-6 Junior
Devonte Patterson Prairie View A&M 6-7 Junior
Reggie Perry Mississippi State 6-10 Freshman
Lamar Peters Mississippi State 6-0 Junior
Filip Petrusev Gonzaga 6-11 Freshman
Jalen Pickett Siena 6-4 Freshman
Shamorie Ponds St. John’s 6-1 Junior
Jordan Poole Michigan 6-5 Sophomore
Cletrell Pope Bethune-Cookman 6-9 Junior
Nik Popovic Boston College 6-11 Junior
Kevin Porter Jr. USC 6-6 Freshman
Jontay Porter Missouri 6-11 Sophomore
Myles Powell Seton Hall 6-2 Junior
Payton Pritchard Oregon 6-2 Junior
Neemias Queta Utah State 6-11 Freshman
Brandon Randolph Arizona 6-6 Sophomore
Cam Reddish Duke 6-8 Freshman
Isaiah Reese Canisius 6-5 Junior
Naz Reid LSU 6-10 Freshman
Nick Richards Kentucky 6-11 Sophomore
LaQuincy Rideau South Florida 6-1 Junior
Austin Robinson Kentucky Christian 6-2 Sophomore
Isaiah Roby Nebraska 6-8 Junior
Ayinde Russell Morehouse 6-3 Junior
Kevin Samuel TCU 6-11 Freshman
Paul Scruggs Xavier 6-3 Sophomore
Samir Sehic Tulane 6-9 Junior
Josh Sharkey Samford 5-10 Junior
Simisola Shittu Vanderbilt 6-10 Freshman
Nike Sibande Miami (OH) 6-4 Sophomore
Justin Simon St. John’s 6-5 Junior
D’Marcus Simonds Georgia State 6-3 Junior
Ja’Vonte Smart LSU 6-4 Freshman
Justin Smith Indiana 6-7 Sophomore
Derrik Smits Valparaiso 7-1 Junior
Lamar Stevens Penn State 6-8 Junior
Jalen Sykes St. Clair College (Canada) 6-5 Junior
Marlon Taylor LSU 6-6 Junior
Ethan Thompson Oregon State 6-5 Sophomore
Killian Tillie Gonzaga 6-10 Junior
Donnie Tillman Utah 6-7 Sophomore
Tres Tinkle Oregon State 6-8 Junior
Obi Toppin Dayton 6-9 Freshman
Rayjon Tucker Arkansas-Little Rock 6-5 Junior
Justin Turner Bowling Green 6-4 Sophomore
Nick Ward Michigan State 6-8 Junior
PJ Washington Jr. Kentucky 6-8 Sophomore
Tremont Waters LSU 5-11 Sophomore
Kaleb Wesson Ohio State 6-9 Sophomore
Coby White North Carolina 6-5 Freshman
Jimmy Whitt Jr. SMU 6-3 Junior
Joe Wieskamp Iowa 6-6 Freshman
Lindell Wigginton Iowa State 6-2 Sophomore
Kris Wilkes UCLA 6-8 Sophomore
Charles Williams Howard 6-6 Junior
Emmitt Williams LSU 6-7 Freshman
Grant Williams Tennessee 6-7 Junior
Zion Williamson Duke 6-7 Freshman
Holland Woods II Portland State 6-0 Sophomore
Kenny Wooten Oregon 6-9 Sophomore
Dikembe Andre Paulistano (Brazil) 6-9 1999 DOB
Felipe Dos Anjos Melilla (Spain) 7-2 1998 DOB
Darko Bajo Cedevita (Croatia) 6-10 1999 DOB
Aleksander Balcerowski Gran Canaria (Spain) 7-1 2000 DOB
Goga Bitadze Buducnost (Montenegro) 7-0 1999 DOB
Vrenz Bleijenbergh Antwerp (Belgium) 6-9 2000 DOB
Adrian Bogucki Radom (Poland) 7-1 1999 DOB
Leandro Bolmaro Barcelona (Spain) 6-6 2000 DOB
Ognjen Carapic Mega Bemax (Serbia) 6-4 1998 DOB
Leo Cizmic Girona (Spain) 6-8 1998 DOB
Digue Diawara Pau Orthez (France) 6-9 1998 DOB
Nenad Dimitrijevic Joventut (Spain) 6-1 1998 DOB
Sekou Doumbouya Limoges (France) 6-8 2000 DOB
Henri Drell Baunach (Germany) 6-9 2000 DOB
Paul Eboua Roseto (Italy) 6-8 2000 DOB
Osas Ehigiator Fuenlabrada (Spain) 6-10 1999 DOB
Biram Faye Avila (Spain) 6-9 2000 DOB
Ivan Fevrier Levallois (France) 6-9 1999 DOB
Aleix Font Barcelona (Spain) 6-4 1998 DOB
Philipp Herkenhoff Vechta (Germany) 6-10 1999 DOB
Dalibor Ilic Igokea (Bosnia) 6-8 2000 DOB
Matas Jogela Dzukija (Lithuania) 6-6 1998 DOB
Panagiotis Kalaitzakis Holargos (Greece) 6-6 1999 DOB
Mate Kalajzic Split (Croatia) 6-2 1998 DOB
Lukasz Kolenda Trefl Sopot (Poland) 6-5 1999 DOB
Marcos Louzada Silva Franca (Brazil) 6-5 1999 DOB
Andrija Marjanovic Mega Bemax (Serbia) 6-8 1999 DOB
Gytis Masiulis Neptunas (Lithuania) 6-9 1998 DOB
Jonas Mattisseck Alba Berlin (Germany) 6-5 2000 DOB
William McDowell-White Baunach (Germany) 6-5 1998 DOB
Nikita Mikhailovskii Avtodor (Russia) 6-6 2000 DOB
Nikola Miskovic Mega Bemax (Serbia) 6-10 1999 DOB
Adam Mokoka Mega Bemax (Serbia) 6-5 1998 DOB
Muhaymin Mustafa Tofas (Turkey) 6-5 1999 DOB
Abdoulaye N’Doye Cholet (France) 6-7 1998 DOB
Toni Nakic Sibenik (Croatia) 6-8 1999 DOB
Tanor Ngom Ryerson (Canada) 7-2 1998 DOB
Joshua Obiesie Wurzburg (Germany) 6-6 2000 DOB
David Okeke Fiat Torino (Italy) 6-8 1998 DOB
Louis Olinde Brose Baskets (Germany) 6-9 1998 DOB
Zoran Paunovic FMP (Serbia) 6-7 2000 DOB
Dino Radoncic Murcia (Spain) 6-8 1999 DOB
Sander Raieste Baskonia (Spain) 6-8 1999 DOB
Neal Sako Levallois (France) 6-10 1998 DOB
Luka Samanic Olimpija (Slovenia) 6-10 2000 DOB
Yago Dos Santos Paulistano (Brazil) 5-10 1999 DOB
Tadas Sedekerskis Baskonia (Spain) 6-8 1998 DOB
Njegos Sikiras Tormes (Spain) 6-9 1999 DOB
Borisa Simanic Crvena Zvezda (Serbia) 6-11 1998 DOB
Deividas Sirvydis Rytas (Lithuania) 6-7 2000 DOB
Khadim Sow ASVEL (France) 6-11 1999 DOB
Filip Stanic Mega Bemax (Serbia) 6-10 1998 DOB
Michael Uchendu Coruna (Spain) 6-10 1998 DOB
Bastien Vautier Nancy (France) 6-11 1998 DOB
Arnas Velicka Tartu Ulikool (Estonia) 6-4 1999 DOB
Warren Woghiren Cholet (France) 6-10 1998 DOB
Arturs Zagars Joventut (Spain) 6-3 2000 DOB
Yovel Zoosman Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) 6-7 1998 DOB

LeBron James denies that Lakers must repair relationship with him

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Lakers president Magic Johnson reportedly planned to fire coach Luke Walton and wanted to fire general manager Rob Pelinka. Instead, Johnson resigned with a stunning public announcement without first telling owner Jeanie Buss. Pelinka, who has many detractors throughout the league, is now in charge of the front office. The Lakers reportedly offered to keep Walton, but he bolted for the Kings. The Lakers have no coach. They do have a roster LeBron James described as “[fart noise].” Johnson will reportedly help the team recruit free agents.

Nearly one year after signing LeBron James, the Lakers are a mess.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

I think it’s very precarious right now. I think the trust that LeBron James has in the Lakers organization has been damaged – maybe irrevocably. I’m not saying it can’t be repaired. But right now, there’s a tough bridge that has fallen that’s going to be need to be put back together. And that’s going to have to be a proving ground for Jeanie Buss, for Rob Pelinka, for Kurt Rambis, for Linda Rambis – whoever else is involved in this process now. And there’s going to be an initial thing proven with whoever is hired as the coach and then this summer.

LeBron, via Instagram:

Even if LeBron has lost confidence in the Lakers, his denial is important. It means he doesn’t want to escalate this issue.

LeBron, for good reason, holds extreme confidence in himself. I’m sure he believes, as long the Lakers have him, they’ll be alright.

But he can’t do everything, and he knows that, too. He often held the Cavaliers’ feet to the fire. He signed a series of short-term contracts, creating the threat of departure. He demanded Dan Gilbert spend more. He, often passive-aggressively, called on executives, coaches and teammates to perform better.

LeBron hasn’t shown that same urgency in Los Angeles, starting with locking in for three years – longer than any contract in his return to Cleveland.

Maybe this is an older and more mature LeBron trying to present steadiness amid chaos.

Or maybe this is yet another sign LeBron went to Los Angeles with priorities other than winning. After all, the Lakers’ shoddy operation won’t prevent him from enjoying his L.A. lifestyle and Hollywood proximity.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts makes Russell Westbrook ‘next question’ jokes (video)

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Damian Lillard took a well-deserved victory lap after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer sunk Russell Westbrook – who seemingly took a shot at Lillard last year – and the Thunder.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts had fun at Westbrook’s expense, too.

Westbrook has repeatedly answered questions from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoma with, “Next question.” Though Westbrook shifted to variants of “not sure” after the last couple games of the series, he still didn’t meaningfully answer Tramel’s questions.

Stotts interjected himself into Westbrook’s feud with Tramel before Game 3.

Clay Horning of The Norman Transcript:

Also, when former Sooner standout Terry Stotts, who is head coach of the Trail Blazers, entered the pregame interview room on Friday, the first thing he said was, “Go ahead, I’ll answer your question, Berry.”

Then, Stotts really laid it on thick after Game 5 last night, as shown in the above video. He specifically called on Tramel to ask a question then joked how badly he wanted to answer with “next question.”

Stotts landed on the hot seat after Portland got swept in the first round last year. He kept his job and did a fantastic work with the Trail Blazers this year. It’s great to see him enjoying himself.

I also can’t help but wonder how Westbrook feels about Stotts.

Kyle Lowry’s ring finger “popped out” during Game 5, he will be ready for Game 1 vs. 76ers

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In the second quarter of the Raptors’ close-out win against the Magic, Kyle Lowry injured his finger, apparently dislocating the ring finger on his right hand, his shooting hand.

However, it’s the playoffs, he was back in the game quickly and he will certainly be ready to go Saturday when Toronto begins a second-round showdown against Philadelphia. Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN has the details.

Lowry jammed the finger while deflecting a ball in the second quarter. During the subsequent timeout, the Raptors’ medical staff attended to Lowry’s hand on the bench. He returned to play but went back to the locker room with 2:41 remaining in the first half.

Lowry, who was wearing a splint on the finger during the postgame news conference, started the second half for the Raptors and finished with 14 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes.

“It popped out, but it’s fine,” Lowry said. “I popped it back in. Got a couple days to get it back and recover, and hopefully it will be better by Game 1. Well, it will be better by Game 1.”

It needs to be because the Raptors can’t have another 0-of-7 shooting start from him, which is what they got in an ugly Game 1 loss to Orlando. The 76ers are not the Magic, Toronto can’t have another dreadful start in Game 1 and dig themselves a hole at home.

Lowry’s shooting and playmaking will be a big part of that next series.