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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.

Clippers reportedly add Tyronn Lue to coaching staff

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Tyronn Lue will be coaching in Los Angeles this upcoming season, but it won’t be for the Lakers.

News broke on Tuesday that Lue had accepted a job on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lue is yet another big-name addition to a squad that already added players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this offseason.

Lue was a championship-winning coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and he has an innate understanding about how to deal with star players in the NBA.

Via Twitter:

It’s also important to understand what kind of culture Rivers, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clippers front office is trying to build in Los Angeles. In addition to their proposed new stadium in Inglewood, the Clippers are trying to take over L.A. one big-name at a time. That includes everyone from players to coaches, even ones who won championships as the head honcho.

There’s no doubt that Los Angeles is striving for the Finals this season, and adding a guy like Lue to the bench is yet another reiteration of that fact.

Rumor: Stephen A. Smith is coming to ESPN’s NBA broadcasts

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National NBA broadcasts are about to get a little bit different this upcoming season.

We already got word that Michelle Beadle would not be on NBA Countdown on ESPN for the 2019-20 NBA calendar year. In her place will be Rachel Nichols, a favorite of most thanks to her work on The Jump, and Maria Taylor. And apparently ESPN’s studio show is about to get an analyst boost as well.

According to the big lead, Stephen A. Smith will be added to the analyst panel for ESPN studio show, likely on Wednesday nights. The bombastic First Take host will give his NBA takes either to the delight or dismay of fans nationwide.

Via The Big Lead:

Stephen A. Smith is in ESPN’s plans for NBA studio coverage this upcoming season, The Big Lead has learned from multiple people with knowledge of the situation. An ESPN spokesperson declined to comment on the news.

Our sources indicate that Wednesday night is the most likely time for him to be involved, but cautioned that plans are not yet set in stone.

People lost their collective minds on Twitter this summer when it was announced that ESPN had given another huge contract to Stephen A. to continue to do… whatever Stephen A. does. Namely, yell and act incredulous in a way so insincere it’s hard to believe anyone is entertained by it, much less could take it at face value.

No doubt Smith will fill the role, aesthetically, that Charles Barkley does for TNT. He’ll talk in big, wild soundbites that get Twitter all riled up, thereby allowing some VP at the network to pitch his superiors about “leverage” and “engagement” from Smith’s appearances.

Good luck to everyone watching the NBA on national TV this year. Maybe locate where the mute button is on your remote now so you know where it is come autumn.

Gordon Hayward says he’s feeling confident in his ankle for next season

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Gordon Hayward still wasn’t particularly good last season. He never really looked all that comfortable playing with the Boston Celtics, and Brad Stevens’ insistence on playing him led to some reported rifts in the Boston locker room.

But Hayward is expected to come back at full strength this year, and it could be just in time for him to shine in light of Kyrie Irving‘s departure to the Brooklyn Nets.

His severely dislocated left ankle is now long behind him, and it appears that Hayward has been putting in the work necessary this summer. Speaking to Mass Live, Hayward said that he is starting to get more confident in his game.

Via Mass Live:

“Reps is what gives you confidence, so being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle’s feeling, or having to be cautious with it, has been really good, especially for my confidence,” Hayward said. “I think last year was a lot of hoping and not really knowing what was going to happen just because I didn’t have the reps… going into a summer training as hard as I want to, it’s a lot better for my confidence this year and expectations-wise as well.”

A healthy Hayward would really change the dynamic of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference this year. Losing Irving is huge, but Boston is going to have a real depth of talent on its hands if it can add Hayward to other wing talent Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart.

It seems cliche to point out at this point, but people have slept on how good Hayward was on both sides of the ball during his time with the Utah Jazz. He’s a complete player at the small forward position when healthy, and bringing back his superstar firepower could ease the pain of losing Irving to Brooklyn.

Royce White questions why Lakers have Jared Dudley not ‘Melo; Dudley, others defend move

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There are a lot of people surprised that this deep into the summer, with NBA rosters largely filled out, Carmelo Anthony isn’t playing somewhere. Whether on Team USA or training with new teammates for an upcoming NBA season.

Among those confused, former NBA draft pick Royce White, who was outspoken on the issue — and called out both LeBron James and Jared Dudley — in speaking with Fanatics View.

Dudley responded to this, not directly to White but to a retweet of this rant, and did so in Dudley’s calm, rational way. His Tweet has since been taken down, but it said:

“This isn’t Melo vs myself, That man is a 1st ballot HOFer… We all want to see him back in the league… Royce seems uninformed when he speaks and this situation in calling my name out. This league is not about who’s better then who it’s what’s players make for the best Team.”

Kendrick Perkins and Jameer Nelson had Dudley’s back.

Dudley/Perkins/Nelson are spot on here. The reason Dudley is on an NBA roster and Anthony is not is all about willingness to fit in and play a role. Dudley knows exactly how to do that, accepting limited minutes off the bench, staying ready, and when he comes in playing hard, being a pest, and knocking down threes. Anthony is unquestionably still a better scorer, but he was unwilling to accept a role in both Oklahoma City and Houston (and his game now is that of a role player/sixth man). Anthony says that’s different now, but GMs are risk averse in most situations. Teams that might have interest in ‘Melo are concerned about the possible distraction and disruption, and they wonder if that risk is worth what Anthony brings to the court right now. It was the same with Team USA.

Some team should — and one likely eventually will — give Anthony another shot. He deserves it. However, teams thinking about a deep playoff run tend to like their chemistry and are wary of disruptions, so nothing has come out yet. Even if Royce White and a lot of other people think it should have.