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Locker room dust-up between Laker veterans, Luke Walton after loss no big surprise

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Teams that are losing a lot often have tense locker rooms.

Veteran players on one-year contracts who see their roles shrink don’t like it.

Teams that bring in a bunch of players with big personalities often have locker-room issues.

Players don’t like hearing their names in trade rumors.

Meet your 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James. He sat out Saturday against the Warriors feeling “pretty sore” after playing 40 minutes into overtime Thursday night against the Clippers. The Lakers promptly lost to the Warriors 115-101.

After the game, Laker coach Luke Walton called out some of the Lakers for their selfish play and a couple of them — JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley in particular — pushed back on Walton, leading to a locker room dust-up where others stepped between the two sides to make sure things didn’t escalate, according to reports. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin had a great description of what went down.

Sources told ESPN that Walton criticized veterans for contributing to the Lakers’ downfall by not playing a team game and making poor decisions in crunch time. Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee, in particular, took exception with the feedback.

The veterans — both signed to the Lakers on one-year contracts this past offseason — countered Walton’s criticism by expressing frustration with Walton’s inconsistent rotations this season, sources told ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the story.

If you had said the Lakers would have a mid-season locker room issue back in July — when “the Meme Team” of McGee, Beasley, Lance Stephenson, and Rajon Rondo was put together — the reaction would have been “well, what did you expect?” Add in the 6-12 record without LeBron in the last few weeks, shrinking roles for McGee and Beasley as younger Lakers get their minutes and, well, this seems more inevitable than a surprise.

The anti-Luke Walton forces in Los Angeles — which may include the Laker front office of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka — will want to pin this on the coach they think has lost the locker room.  As with a lot of issues surrounding these Lakers, if Magic wants to blame someone he needs to start by looking in the mirror.  — he put this roster together.

Teams have tensions and issues — the team the Lakers lost to on Saturday had a very public flare-up between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green that became a national discussion. The Warriors moved on and are back to being the best team in the NBA. Most teams have issues during the season — if they don’t, it’s often a sign of a team that doesn’t care. If a team is full of competitive guys there will be tensions.

Next season LeBron will be back with the Lakers. Jeanie Buss will still own and run the team, Magic and Pelinka will still be in the front office. After that, nothing is set in stone. Every other player could be gone and Walton’s job is certainly not safe. Insecurity breeds tension. Especially on a team two games out of the playoffs in the West.

What happened with the Lakers on Saturday night should not come as a surprise, and should not be blown out of proportion. LeBron will return for the next game — Tuesday against a Pacers team without Victor Oladipo — and the ship will right itself. But while the incident itself may have been predictable, the fallout from it long-term is not. Right now, on these Lakers heading into the trade deadline (where they are pushing hard to land Anthony Davis), just about anything is possible.

Jaylen Brown: Celtics nicknamed Grant Williams ‘Ben Simmons’ due to missed 3s

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Celtics rookie Grant Williams on 3-pointers in his first 20 games: 0-for-25.

0-for-25!

Nobody else has ever started a season that cold.

Of everyone else to attempt at least 25 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody made fewer than two. Of everyone else to miss all their 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody attempted more than 17.

Finally, Williams made a 3-pointer in Boston’s win over the Cavaliers yesterday.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, via NBC Sports Boston:

We were calling him Ben Simmons for the longest. But he knocked one down, and knocked them down, too. So, shoutout to both of those guys.

Yes, 76ers guard Ben Simmons barely shoots, let alone makes, 3-pointers. But it seems as if Brown realized mid-answer he shouldn’t provide bulletin-board material to a rival.

Too late.

Simmons has gotten called a coward numerous times by people in Boston due to his refusal to shoot 3s. Becoming the butt of the joke with fellow NBA players? That’s something else entirely.

We’ll see how Simmons responds, but many around him – including Philadelphia coach Brett Brown – have been urging him to hoist more 3s. It’s hard to see this inspiring Simmons to actually change his game.

Paul George says there’s more to his Pacers exit: ‘I promise you, I’m not the one to boo’

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In 2017, Paul George told the Pacers he planned to leave in free agency the following year. It wasn’t a trade request, but George knew his message would likely prompt Indiana to deal him. He wanted out.

George said he preferred the Spurs. (Or was it the Lakers?) The Pacers dealt him to the Thunder.

Now with the Clippers, George returned to Indiana and got booed.

George, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”

“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George later added. “… I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”

Maybe George felt he got wronged. Maybe George actually got wronged.

But fans generally side with their favorite team over a star player who chose to leave.

It’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances where Pacers fans would boo someone other than George for his exit. My hunch: His grievances are significant to him but wouldn’t persuade Indiana fans. Still, I’m at least curious about his full story.

LeBron James on 2011 NBA Finals: ‘I lost my love for the game’

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LeBron James became a villain by leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat on The Decision in 2010. He arrived in Miami promising “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships.

By the end of his first season with the Heat, he was beaten down. The Mavericks topped Miami in the NBA Finals, winning the last three games of the series. While Miami blew its 2-1 lead, LeBron averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 turnovers per game. He shot 2-for-12 on 3-pointers and 4-for-10 on free throws.

After Game 6, he callously mocked his critics:

“All the people that were rooting for me to fail… at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today,” James said. “They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.”

ESPN:

LeBron emerged from his funk and led the Heat to consecutive titles. He returned to Cleveland and won another title there. He’s now with the Lakers leading another championship pursuit.

He plays well. He plays smartly. He plays with joy. He often rises to the biggest occasions.

LeBron probably had to go through a setback like the 2011 Finals to sharpen his mental edge. But it’s incredible how far he has come from the defeated player who left that series against Dallas.

Tristan Thompson on Cavaliers anonymously griping about John Beilein: ‘Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now’

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The Athletic – quoting at least three unnamed players – reported the Cavaliers are rebelling against John Beilein’s collegiate coaching style.

Cleveland big Tristan Thompson, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now,” Thompson said. “You can’t do that s—.

“At the end of the day if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty s— going on. That s— is whack to me. Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, there’s only so much coach can do and there’s only so much we can do. Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. But we’re going to go out there and compete every night. Guys got to look in the mirror. So I hope whoever reported that was just bulls——g and blamed it on a player.”

That’s quite the rhetoric from Thompson. I wonder whether he has the same energy in the locker room.

Thompson confronting his teammates would certainly raise the stakes. And make no mistake: His teammates are among the unnamed sources. The report not only specifically cited players, it said “Veterans and younger players, from all corners of the roster” are having issues with Beilein.

Even if he supports his coach, that’s a lot for Thompson to take on.

But if he’s looking for a place to start, I have a guess.