Getty Images

LaVar Ball says Lakers are Lonzo’s team, not LeBron’s. Should we care?

19 Comments

This summer, the Lakers fired a clear shot across the bow of Lonzo Ball. First, they went out and got veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. Then, after Summer League, Magic Johnson effusively praised Josh Hart‘s point guard play, saying he could see Hart starting for the Lakers.

The message to Lonzo was clear — you’re no longer treated like The Golden Child. There will be no codling. You had a good rookie season (the only reason it was seen as a disappointment to some was Magic’s ridiculous praise after the draft set the bar unfairly high), but it’s time to take a big step forward. Show the Lakers you’ve developed a more consistent shot. Show them you can be part of winning right now. Show you can fit with LeBron James and play well off the ball (something he did at UCLA). LeBron is here and the Lakers are about wins now, not development, and if another point guard gives them a better chance to win than Lonzo, the other guy will get the minutes.

Of course, none of that is going to stop LaVar Ball from saying stupid… things. Over-the-top braggadocio has worked for him so far, it’s built him a brand and got him a big Facebook show, why stop now?

The senior Ball’s latest comments came on Los Angeles hip-hop powerhouse radio station Power 106, where LaVar said the Lakers’ are Lonzo’s team, not LeBron’s.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: we all know that’s crap. Anywhere LeBron goes, it’s his team. His locker room. It’s not even up for debate.

LaVar also said Lonzo and LeBron together will win at least two titles.

The question is, do we care anymore what he says? Honestly, I don’t. However, I also have a feeling this story will generate a lot of traffic. I sense a lot of people care.

I doubt LeBron knows or cares what LaVar says. Much like dealing with the current president on Twitter, better not to respond because it drags LeBron down to that level.

Last season in Los Angeles, LaVar and his sideshow were a much bigger deal outside the locker room than in it, where Lakers’ players brushed off LaVar’s antics and comments. Lonzo was bothered least of all. Most players have been around a lot of over-the-top, pushy AAU and college parents, they just tune all that out. As the NBA season wore on, LaVar focused more on his other two sons (and playing in Lithuania).

However, for the Lakers’ organization, LaVar is a distraction. The shot across the bow this summer was not just at Lonzo — the Lakers with LeBron are back near the top of the NBA food chain, and they don’t want the distractions. The Lakers are not going to trade Lonzo because of his father (in fact, it makes him harder to trade, something the team found in talks this summer — a fact not lost on LaVar), but at some point, there may be blowback. The Lakers are now past the rebuilding phase, they want to win now and figure out what players on the current roster can be part of a contender once they land another star (via trade or free agency). Lonzo needs to prove he can stay healthy, his shot has improved, and that he should be part of that future.

If not, he’ll be out. And it won’t matter what LaVar wants or says.

Young guys out: Sixers’ Ben Simmons, Knicks’ Kevin Knox leave games with (hopefully) minor injuries

Associated Press
Leave a comment

When the team’s young star goes down, or heads back to the locker room mid-game with a hitch in his step, an entire fan base holds their breath.

That happened tonight in Philadelphia with Ben Simmons and New York with Kevin Knox, but fortunately neither seems to be serious.

Simmons had hit a couple of layups but ran back up the court gingerly, like he was in pain, before asking out of the game at the 4:19 mark of the first quarter. He is not returning.

Simmons has been tearing it up for Philadelphia, averaging 16 points, 14 rebounds, and 9.5 assists per game through the Sixers first two. Philadelphia is off until Tuesday when they start a back-to-back in Detroit then head to Milwaukee.

New York’s Knox went down after Boston’s Terry Rozier tried to cut Knox off in transition and fouled him.

The Knicks announced it was a sprained ankle.

Knox drags that ankle behind him in an awkward way after the collision, let’s hope it’s nothing more than a mild sprain.

Both a tight back and a sprained ankle are things that can be worse the next day, keep your eyes out for updates on these guys.

Grizzlies’ starter JaMychal Green suffers broken jaw, has surgery, out at least 4 weeks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For a team that needs everything to go right to make the playoffs in the deep West, this is a significant setback.

Grizzlies starting forward JaMychal Green will be out at least a month, likely more, with a broken jaw suffered against the Hawks on Friday night, the team announced.

“Resume basketball activities” means start to practice, which would make his return more like six weeks. For some comparison, when Nikola Mirotic has his jaw broken last season (in very different circumstances, thanks again Bobby Portis) it took about seven weeks for him to return to the court.

For Green and Grizzlies fans, this is the worst kind of deja vu — last season Green sprained his ankle four minutes into the team’s home opener and missed the next dozen games.

Green is a solid three for the Grizzlies, averaging 7.5 points and 6 rebounds through two games this season (which is right in line with his numbers this season).

This likely means rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. — who has impressed coming off the bench in two games, as he did at Summer League — moves into the starting lineup. That should be interesting for the Grizzlies.

Maintenance rest starts early: Kawhi Leonard, Gordon Hayward, Jimmy Butler all out Saturday

Getty Images
3 Comments

Last season the NBA leaned in on teams resting players, particularly in high-profile, televised games. The NBA built in rest before those games to help, and teams mostly played along, but players who teams wanted to be cautious with still got their rest. That is not changing now, NBA teams have science to back it up.

The rest is starting early this season — Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, Boston’s Gordon Hayward, and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler are all out Saturday night on the second night of back-to-backs.

Neither of these should be a surprise. Both Hayward and Leonard are coming off injuries that cost them a season and both are clearly feeling their way back into this season (Leonard seems ahead of Hayward on that front so far). Both Toronto and Boston have their eyes on May and June, there is no reason to push a player and risk injury in October that could be a much more significant setback.

In Toronto, OG Anunoby will start on the wing for Leonard. In Boston, Aron Baynes will start as Brad Stevens goes big.

In Minnesota…

It will be interesting to see how the Timberwolves come out against Dallas without Butler, who is their spark plug. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns should step up and have big nights to lead the team, this is a game Minnesota should still will, but how will they respond on a back-to-back? Something to watch.

Lakers’ James to make home debut against Rockets tonight

Getty Images
1 Comment

ASSOCIATED PRESS — LeBron James will make his regular-season home debut as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers when they host the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

James, a four-time NBA most valuable player, signed with the Lakers in July after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to four straight NBA Final appearances, including their first championship in 2016.

He has played in every NBA Finals since 2010, also winning titles in 2012 and 2013 with the Miami Heat.

James had 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in his Los Angeles debut against the Trail Blazers in Portland on Thursday night, but the Lakers lost 128-119.

The Lakers will likely need a better start with their long-range shooting against the Rockets. Los Angeles missed its first 15 tries from 3-point range before finishing 7 for 30 (23.3 percent) against Portland.

James said he and his new teammates are still going through a feeling-out period.

“It takes a while to get to where you can close your eyes and know exactly where your guys are,” he told reporters after his Lakers debut. “It’s going to take patience from our team, from all of us, to just figure out one another, figure out what we are good at, figure out what we are not so good at, how we can be better at it.”

The Rockets returned their core players from last season’s team that lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, and they added 10-time NBA All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony to the mix. They seemed to run low on energy in their season opener against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, however.

After getting outscored by 17 points in the first half, the Rockets were unable to generate a push against the Pelicans and lost 131-112. New Orleans shot 53.1 percent from the floor.

“I thought they were tired,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who coached the Lakers for two seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14).

James Harden, who averaged an NBA-leading 30.4 points last season en route to winning NBA MVP honors, was held to 18 points on 6-for-15 shooting.

Anthony, who played the last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, scored nine points off the bench on 3-for-10 shooting.

Harden, a Los Angeles-area native, is averaging 30.3 points in 32 career games against the Lakers.

One of the bright spots for the Lakers in their season opener was the play of reserve shooting guard Josh Hart. The second-year player scored 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range.

Hart played 27 minutes, the same as starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. who was limited to five points on 1-for-3 shooting from the floor.

Hart didn’t want to talk about his offense afterward, but rather how he could improve on his defense after Portland reserve shooting guard Nik Stauskas scored 24 points and shot 5 of 8 on 3-pointers.

“Just got to make sure we get the adjustments down and get better on defense,” he told Spectrum SportsNet.