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Lakers loving LeBron’s leadership in first practice together

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Although the Lakers’ first official practice of the LeBron James era was focused on defense and learning new terminology, they ended it with a good old-fashioned 3-point shooting contest.

The Lakers’ new superstar was just another teammate during the spirited back-and-forth competition Tuesday. When James wasn’t draining his own 3s, he marveled along with everybody else at the surprising perimeter prowess shown by JaVale McGee, the 7-foot veteran with exactly one 3-pointer during a game in his 10-year NBA career.

The Lakers have many weeks of work ahead to become a cohesive team assembled around James, but he can already sense they’re heading down the right path. They’re planning to have plenty of fun along the way, too.

“I’m not a very patient guy, but I understand that I have to be patient right now,” James said. “I’ve got to be patient with myself, too, because this is a new start for me. It’s my first year in a new system. I know how to play the game of basketball, but this is all new to me, too. So I have to be patient with myself, not only with my teammates.”

James was both upbeat and businesslike after his first workout under coach Luke Walton, who entered the NBA in the same draft class as James in 2003. The Lakers will hold double practices and a scrimmage on the first two days of camp leading toward their preseason debut in San Diego on Sunday night.

James intends to enjoy the process in his new city.

“We’re here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to someday hoist the trophy,” James said. “Obviously that’s the end of the road, but you have to have those types of championship habits every day, not only on the floor, but off the floor as well. … Everyone is excited to get back to work. That’s a good thing. No one is coming in today and wishing it was still summer. It’s the best time of the year. Basketball season is back up, baseball season is on its way to the playoffs, and the NFL is in Week 4. So what could you ask for as a sports fan?”

James naturally becomes the center of attention on any team, and he quickly assumed a leadership role for the Lakers. He’s also eager to see his veteran teammates assert themselves to help the Lakers’ young returning core, whether it’s Rajon Rondo instructing his fellow guards on assignments, or Lance Stephenson vocally calling out defensive instructions in half-court work.

“He’s LeBron. He’s one name,” Rondo said. “It speaks for itself. He’s been a leader and a mentor in this league for a long time, on and off the court. He has a blueprint off the court as well. So he embraces his role. He embraces all the pressure that he’s ever dealt with in his career, and he’s always risen above the occasion.”

Although Walton and James are just getting to know each other, the coach is grateful that his new star is leading by example from the opening practice.

The Lakers have lacked this level of respected on-court leadership in the two seasons since Kobe Bryant’s retirement, but LeBron and his fellow new veterans have strong ideas about how an NBA team must approach its work to be a winner.

“I could see it yesterday,” Walton said. “The way he’s approaching (practice) has changed from the pickup we were playing in the summer. It definitely set the tone. We’re on a journey that started today, and we’re very serious about the business that we got done today.”

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Sounds like Cavaliers will draft Darius Garland No. 5 if they don’t trade pick

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The top of the draft has become clear:

1. Pelicans: Zion Williamson

2. Grizzlies: Ja Morant

3. Knicks: R.J. Barrett

4. Hawks: De'Andre Hunter

What will the Cavaliers do at No. 5?

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Those follow-up reports emerged quickly and from multiple reporters. The Cavaliers apparently want to make it very clear they’re open to trading the pick.

For good reason.

My highest-rated prospects available are both point guards: Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland and North Carolina’s Coby White. Cleveland already has Collin Sexton, last year’s lottery pick, at point guard.

I generally favor drafting the best prospect available then figuring it out. Sexton isn’t good enough to justify deviating from that.

But this situation demands the Cavs explore trading the pick – or Sexton. Cleveland shouldn’t just blindly walk into a conundrum.

Still, it seems if the Cavaliers don’t find a trade, they’ll make the smart move and draft Garland.

Report: Minnesota trades up to No. 6 pick, sends Phoenix Dario Saric, No. 11 pick

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New Minnesota president Gersson Rosas has a reputation around the league: He’s aggressive. He learned in Houston to go hard after what he wants.

Rosas wanted to move up in this draft, and he found a partner, the Phoenix Suns. The Timberwolves will draft sixth after a trade with the Suns for the 11th pick and Dario Saric. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news.

This trade can work out for Minnesota, depending upon who they draft and develop.

Who will the Timberwolves pick at six? Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and R.J. Barrett will be off the board for sure. The Hawks, who just traded for the No. 4 pick, are expected to take De'Andre Hunter out of Virginia. Cleveland at No. 5 now is the breaking point of the draft but reports are they like Darius Garland out of Vanderbilt, unless they trade down from this spot. That makes Jarrett Culver the likely Timberwolves pick at six. Coby White, the North Carolina point guard, is another option.

For Phoenix, Saric can be a good fit at the four if they acquire a good ball-sharing point guard this summer.

Saric gives the Suns a sharpshooter to help space the floor. The Suns starting lineup now has Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., Saric, Deandre Ayton, and they are expected to chase a veteran point guard in free agency. That has some potential.

 

Report: Hawks trading up for Pelicans’ No. 4 pick to get De’Andre Hunter

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As soon as they got control of the No. 4 pick from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade, the Pelicans have been looking into flipping it.

New Orleans found a taker in the Hawks, who want Virginia forward De'Andre Hunter.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is excellent value for the Pelicans.

I’m not enthused about the No. 4 pick in this draft – especially for New Orleans. My top prospect available, Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, would be somewhat redundant with Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball. Reaching for another position would be even worse.

Instead of facing that dilemma, the Pelicans get a nice set of assets and additional flexibility.

The No. 8 pick could yield a player similar to whomever New Orleans would have taken No. 4. The No. 17 pick could could come just before this draft thins too much. That Cavaliers pick is top-10 protected next year then converts into two second-rounders.

By clearing Solomon Hill‘s burdensome $12,758,781 salary, the Pelicans project to open $29 million in cap space. There are plenty of exciting possibilities for spending that.

New Orleans – which landed the No. 1 pick in the lottery and got a haul for Davis – is having such a good offseason. The future looks bright with Zion Williamson and a restocked cupboard.

The Hawks clearly believe in Hunter. I’m not as high on him, but I like his fit in Atlanta between Trae Young and John Collins. Hunter will complement scoring guard Kevin Huerter as a defensive-minded combo forward. This strikes me as an overpay, but at least the young Hawks should mesh well.

This puts pressure on Cleveland, which picks No. 5. My next two prospects available before a tier drop: Garland and North Carolina point guard Coby White. The Cavs drafted point guard Collin Sexton in last year’s lottery. Will they take another point guard, look to another position or also trade out of their pick?

Report: Suns trading T.J. Warren, No. 32 pick to Pacers

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Most rotation Pacers will hit free agency this summer.

That’s why Suns forward T.J. Warren was a logical target. The combo forward can provide insurance for Indiana losing Bojan Bogdanovic or Thaddeus Young.

Getting an extra second-round pick doesn’t hurt, either.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Suns now project to have about $21 million in cap space. They could use that then exceed the cap to re-sign Kelly Oubre.

Or they renounce Oubre and open about $29 million in cap space. But in that scenario, they could no longer exceed the cap to re-sign Oubre.

There’s plenty of pressure now on Phoenix to optimize that cap room.

Warren (three years, $35.25 million remaining) might be overpaid. But he’s a good scorer who has refined his offensive game, becoming a solid 3-point shooter and reducing bad shots. He also avoids turnovers (in part because he doesn’t distribute much, but still). Defense is a weak spot, but Pacers center Myles Turner can erase mistakes in front of him.

This is a nice addition by Indiana with the second-round pick incoming.

The Pacers must open space to to acquire Warren. So, it seems highly unlikely all of impending free agents Bogdanovic, Young, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph will return. Indiana might even know one of those forwards is heading out, adding impetus for the trade.

But this is just good value for the Pacers, anyway.