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Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving ready as Bucks-Celtics hits Game 3

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Giannis Antetokounmpo has responded. Now, Kyrie Irving believes, it’s his turn.

Irving and Antetokounmpo traded big games when the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks split decisions in Milwaukee to open their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.

Now the scene shifts to Boston for Game 3 on Friday night, with the best-of-seven having become a best-of-five and the fourth-seeded Celtics holding the home-court advantage over the top-seeded Bucks.

“This is what I signed up for,” Irving insisted to reporters at practice during the two days off between games. “This is what Boston traded for me for: being able to go back in the trenches, get ready for another battle.

“You know, this is what you live for. Basketball is fun when it comes like this, when you have to respond. This is the type of basketball you want to be playing this time of year.”

Irving was the driving force in Boston’s surprisingly easy 112-90 romp in Game 1, but then was a non-factor in Milwaukee’s bounce-back, 123-102 triumph in Game 2.

The Boston star took 21 shots in a 26-point effort in the series opener, but then was a victim of both teams changing tactics in the rematch, getting just nine points.

The Bucks came out with a different look in Game 2, moving veteran Nikola Mirotic into the starting lineup in place of Sterling Brown.

Mirotic scored just nine points, but that was six more than Brown totaled in Game 1, when Bucks starters Brown, Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe combined for just 12 points.

In Game 2, Mirotic teamed with Lopez and Bledsoe for 40.

The move to beef up an attack that had produced 90 points on 34.8-percent shooting worked. But, equally important, the Milwaukee defense also improved, and Mirotic, not considered a strong defender, played a role.

The Celtics attacked Mirotic’s matchup with Jaylen Brown early and often. And while Brown was able to get Mirotic in some foul trouble, going 6 for 7 on free throws after not going to the line in Game 1, more Brown meant less of Irving, and that’s a tradeoff that worked for the Bucks.

“I thought Niko was great,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said at his postgame press conference. “I thought he added a little bit of an energy and an effort, a little physicality. His defense is what stood out to me.”

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo carried a bigger burden offensively. After shooting 7 for 21 and scoring 22 points in the first game, he went for 29 points on six fewer shots (7 for 15) in Game 2.

He also shot 2 for 4 on 3-pointers as the Bucks bombed in 20 of 47 (42.6 percent) after going 10 for 28 (35.7 percent) in Game 1.

The Celtics had the seventh-best 3-point defense (34.1 percent) at home during the regular season, and limited Indiana to 31.1-percent shooting from beyond the arc in two home games in the first round.

The teams split games in Boston during the regular season, with the Celtics winning 117-113 in November and the Bucks prevailing 120-107 in December.

Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fasciitis) remains listed as out for Friday, though his status could be updated before the game. Brogdon appears to be close to a return after missing the last month and a half, dating back to the regular season.


Report: Dell Demps bypassed Rob Pelinka for Magic Johnson in Anthony Davis trade talks

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It appears that Anthony Davis is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. The trade was announced this weekend between L.A. and the New Orleans Pelicans, but won’t be completed until July 6. Earlier this season, it was thought this trade could never happen. Tensions between the two teams were high, and negotiations had broken down.

That was perhaps due in some part to the odd back-and-forth between the teams’ front offices. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, one peculiarity was that former Pelicans GM Dell Demps wouldn’t deal with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka. Demps would only discuss things with Magic Johnson.


Now, calling those discussions in February “negotiations” is a bit of a stretch. The Pelicans were never serious about dealing with the Lakers then. They didn’t like being forced into this position by Davis and his representative, Rich Paul. And they probably weren’t going to let former general manager Dell Demps make this big of a decision anyway.

So the Lakers — really just Johnson, because Demps wouldn’t talk to Pelinka — would call and Demps would write names on the board without giving them any feedback. Those names would leak publicly and do damage to the Lakers’ team chemistry. But eventually, Johnson and the Lakers got the hint and stopped banging up against what had become an incredibly self-destructive wall.

It’s possible that Demps wanted to deal with Magic simply because he thought he had ultimate authority. That, or maybe Demps thought Johnson would be easier to manipulate?

There’s also the idea that Demps could have had a poor relationship with Pelinka from when he was an agent. For example, Pelinka client Eric Gordon had a restricted free agent saga wherein he tried to leave New Orleans for the Phoenix Suns in 2012. The Pelicans matched, and the shooting guard never played more than 65 games in a season. This is conjecture of course, but it’s not as though Demps hadn’t dealt with Pelinka in the past. There’s been reports that Pelinka is unliked by some GMs around the league from his days as an agent.

I think we’re going to keep seeing information about the inner workings of the Lakers and former Pelicans front office like this over the next several months. This one is pretty odd, but it’s not entirely surprising.

Magic Johnson congratulates Lakers, Rob Pelinka, on Anthony Davis trade


Magic Johnson left the Los Angeles Lakers under inauspicious terms. Turn the last game of the season, the Lakers great announced that he would be resigning his position effective immediately. In an extended hallway interview, Johnson said that he hadn’t even informed close friend and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.

Now Magic is back to his old tricks, flashing his pearly white smile on television and tweeting banal observations about the NBA.

Johnson was supposed to be part of the team that got New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis to Staples Center. He couldn’t get the deal done, and things reportedly got testy between the two organizations during the regular season.

The Lakers were able to finally trade for Davis in an agreed-upon deal on Saturday. The trade reportedly won’t be completed until July 6th, but all indications are that Davis will be a Laker.

To that end, Johnson is apparently quite happy. He took to social media to congratulate Buss and the organization on Saturday. Eventually — surprisingly — he even gave props to Rob Pelinka.

Via Twitter:

The Pelicans got a great haul for Davis, and the Lakers got what they wanted in another star to pair with LeBron James.

It’s unclear if Los Angeles will be able to build a roster around their two stars enough to contend deep into the Western Conference playoffs. That’s still up for debate, and health will be a serious question as they try to rely on an aging James and a shaky Davis.

Still, the Lakers are headed in the direction they would like and with the West now more in question than ever. We don’t know what’s happening with the Golden State Warriors, and the Houston Rockets could be in full teardown mode as they look to ditch Chris Paul.

We’re headed into the summer and there’s a bit of daylight for fans in L.A.

Report: Celtics wouldn’t include Jayson Tatum in Anthony Davis trade talks


Anthony Davis is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. The New Orleans Pelicans got a significant haul in exchange for their beleaguered star, and LeBron James is openly happy his team finally got the player they wanted all along.

Other favorites to land Anthony Davis this offseason were the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. Danny Ainge had to wait until after July 1 to make a trade for Davis thanks to some special CBA rules regarding Kyrie Irving‘s contract.

But that no longer appears to be on the table, in part because Boston decided not to offer Jayson Tatum in any deal for Davis. Thought to be the crown jewel of any potential Celtics-Pelicans trade, there was also concern by Ainge that Davis would not re-sign in Beantown.

Via Twitter:

This runs contrary to everything we’ve heard about Boston going after Davis. Ainge has always been one to leverage his assets in a way that’s less conservative than other team execs. Plus, the reports have been that the Celtics were not concerned about Davis re-signing. Perhaps Davis gave them a little extra information, telling them directly that he would not re-sign? Davis’ agent Rich Paul said as much publicly, but what’s posturing and what’s negotiating isn’t one in the same.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pelicans and Lakers will complete the deal on July 6. There’s a lot of time before we hit that date, and Pelicans leader David Griffin won’t back out of his deal with L.A. But the fact there’s still time on the table and the Celtics didn’t change their tune on Tatum tells us all the information we need to know.

Rumor: LeBron James hoping Kyrie Irving might join Lakers despite Nets talk


The Anthony Davis trade saga is finally over. The deal between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers hasn’t been completed yet, and is expected to be done on July 6.

For now, L.A. can move its attention elsewhere to look for another star. The Lakers will have significant cap space — $23.7 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks — and they’ll need another star.

Talk recently has been that former LeBron James running mate Kyrie Irving is headed to the Brooklyn Nets. But no deal is officially in place, and free agency hasn’t started. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there are folks in LeBron’s camp who are hopeful that Irving could still join L.A.

Via The Athletic:

Just days before the Davis deal was done, a source close to James indicated some optimism that – Nets noise be darned – Irving was still in play for the Lakers.

Remember, Irving and James had a heart-to-heart talk earlier in the season. They hashed out what happened in Cleveland, with Irving apologizing to James for how he acted as a younger man.

That sparked speculation that Irving could be looking to join LeBron with the Lakers this summer when he had the ability to opt out of his contract with the Boston Celtics.

We haven’t even reached the 2019 NBA draft yet, and already free agency is ramping up and getting crazy. This July is going to be wild, and until the music stops and the butts are in the seats, don’t count anyone as being a sure thing for any team just yet.