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After Laker loss to Pelicans, LeBron James frustrated with team’s ‘sense of urgency’

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Saturday night seemed to perfectly encapsulate where the race for the final playoff spot (or spots) in the West stands. In Oklahoma City, the overachieving and feisty Kings got 34 points from Buddy Hield and held on to beat the Thunder, a victory that moved Sacramento within 1.5 games of San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers, the teams tied for the 7/8 seed.

In contrast, the Lakers, coming off an impressive win over Houston, were flat against a Pelicans team that sat Anthony Davis. The Lakers could not get stops and ultimately fell 128-115 to a team all but tanking. The inconsistent Lakers are now 29-30 on the season and 3.5 games out of the playoffs with 23 to go.

After this latest loss, LeBron James sounded a combination of frustrated and philosophical as he questioned the urgency his team played with. Here is his full quote, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“How many know what’s at stake if you’ve never been there?” James asked Saturday… “I’m playing devil’s advocate, you know? It’s kind of a fine line when you talk about that, because when you’ve never been there or know what it takes to actually shoot for something like that, sometimes you’re afraid to get uncomfortable.

“So you got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. So I’m not saying that’s what we are as a whole. It kind of looks that way at times, that sometimes we’re afraid to be uncomfortable and kind of get out of our comfort zone and kind of, you know, have that sense of urgency from the jump, and not be afraid to actually go out and fail to succeed. So, I mean we have, what? Twenty-three games left. We’ll see what happens.”

He’s right — this is the first time through anything like this for the young Laker core. Much like the dreadful loss to Indiana right before the trade deadline when their minds were elsewhere, the young players are going through their first playoff push and they don’t grasp what is needed nightly if they are to make the postseason in a deep West. They are learning as they go — and learning some hard lessons.

The Lakers’ goal this season was to make the playoffs, but also to evaluate which of their young core — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. Which ones of those players can work as part of a LeBron led contending team, and fit in with another star player (whoever that ends up being). The results have been mixed. After these final 23 games, there is going to be some harsh assessments.

First though, if this team is going to reach its first goal of simply making the playoffs LeBron is going to have to carry the squad. He can’t count on that young core nightly, not yet.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!

Warriors Kevon Looney cleared for on-court basketball work, will return soon

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At least someone on the Warriors is getting healthy.

Big man Kevon Looney, who played opening night and has since been sidelined with a sore hamstring and neuropathy (what the team described as “nerve-related symptoms”), has been cleared to return to on-court basketball activities, the team announced Tuesday. From the official press release:

He will participate in select practice sessions with the Santa Cruz Warriors this week and will re-join the Golden State Warriors over the weekend. We will continue to monitor his progress and will provide another update on his status on Sunday.

Looney has already been officially assigned to Santa Cruz.

This is good news for the Warriors, who have been starting Willie Cauley-Stein but desperately need more shot blocking and depth up front.

Anyone getting healthy is good news for a Warriors team that is 2-12 and has the worst net rating in the NBA (-10.4).

Carmelo Anthony to start first game for Portland, apparently thinks he’s wearing number infinity

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Carmelo Anthony will wear No. 00 with the Trail Blazers.

Why?

Apparently because 00 kind of looks like ∞.

Anthony:

Somewhere, Kyrie Irving is nodding in support.

In terms of numbers that make sense…

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

That’s a sizable role for a 35-year-old in his first game in more than a year. But Portland needs scoring with Damian Lillard sidelined, and – at last check (though, again, a while ago), Anthony was accustomed to big minutes.

Besides, we all want ample opportunity to see Anthony back on the court after his lengthy absence.