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Frank Vogel officially hired to be head coach of Lakers

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The Lakers got their guy… or at least the guy third on their list. Or fourth.

Monday night the Lakers made it official, hiring Frank Vogel as their new head coach.

“We are excited to add Frank Vogel as the next head coach of the Lakers,” Laker GM Rob Pelinka said in a statement.  “Coach Vogel has a proven track record of success in the NBA Playoffs, and he reflects the core qualities we were looking for in a head coach – including, detailed game preparation, extreme hard work, and holding players accountable to the highest basketball standards.”

“I am very excited for this opportunity to join the Lakers, a prestigious organization that I have long admired,” Vogel said in the press release (his official press conference is Monday). “I look forward to coaching such phenomenal talent and bringing my strategic vision to the team.”

Vogel took a reported three-year contract — two fewer than first-time NBA coach John Beilein got in Cleveland — and agreed to take on Jason Kidd as his lead assistant. Tyronn Lue was offered that same contract but valued control and power more than the job itself and turned it down. Vogel did not.

That said, Vogel could succeed as the Lakers’ coach. He has a good Xs and Os mind and is respected in the coaching community. In a vacuum this is a solid, if unspectacular, hire. It also didn’t happen in a vacuum.

Vogel’s ultimate success will depend on several things, some beyond his control:

• How will LeBron James respond to this behind closed doors? Publicly he backed the hire on social media, but rumblings around the league suggest he was less than pleased. This was not his guy. That said, he’s going to buy in on some level — he wants to win, he’s still in legacy mode, he’s not getting traded — but will it stay that way when things get tough? He has long gravitated toward former players as his preference as a coach (Luke Walton is the exception) and now Kidd, a guy LeBron won a gold medal with during the 2008 Olympics, will be right there.

• More importantly, what kind of roster will Vogel have to coach? The real challenge for Pelinka — and Kurt Rambis, who has grown into a more significant role with the Lakers — is to land another star player then put good fitting role players around them. This needs to be a win-now team. It’s easy to say “this is the Lakers, they will get somebody” but when those somebodies have other options will they look at the Lakers management, and the expecations, and think that they like the other options better?

Vogel is seen as a good defensive coach who can be a bit simplistic with his offensive sets, although “give the ball to LeBron and get out of the way” is not the worst offensive strategy. Vogel coached the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals twice, both times losing to LeBron James’ Heat. Vogel struggled to coach a rebuilding team in Orlando, a squad Steve Clifford did much better with this season. That said, he’s a solid coach. If he gets a real chance.

The Lakers got their man… and their potential fall guy if this season doesn’t live up to the expectations, either.

Is FIBA’s decision to move World Cup to year before Olympics reason for USA drop outs?

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FIBA made a mess of World Cup qualifying moving the games from the summer to during the season for the NBA and all the major European leagues. The USA qualified thanks to a team of G-League players coached by Jeff Van Gundy, but the process was not pretty. For anyone.

Now it could be another FIBA decision that has led to the rash of stars — James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and others — deciding not to play for Team USA this summer.

Traditionally, the FIBA World Cup took place every four years, on the even-numbered year between Summer Olympic cycles. For example, the last World Cup was 2014, the Rio Olympics were 2016 with the Tokyo games in 2020. However, FIBA pushed this World Cup back a year to 2019 (instead of 2018) and that has changed the calculus for players, something Michael Lee of The Athletic speculated about.

For American players, the Olympics are the bigger draw, when more people watch. We grew up with the Dream Team at the Olympics, not the World Championships. That means if players have to choose, despite the allure of the Chinese market, they will choose the Olympics next year.

The other factor: The NBA feels wide open, with as many as eight teams heading into the season believing they can win the title. A lot of those contending teams have new players, which is leading players to prioritize club over country this time around.

This is different from 2004, when the NBA’s top players stayed home from the Athens Olympics because of a combination of terrorist concerns and players not liking coach Larry Brown. Today’s players love Gregg Popovich, but other concerns are weighing on them more.

It has left team USA without the biggest stars of the game — Kemba Walker is the only All-NBA player on the roster — but USA Basketball has such a depth of talent that they are still the World Cup favorites. The margin for error just got a lot smaller, however.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was working on jump shot with Kyle Korver (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s jumper is getting better. Last season after the All-Star break he shot 31.5 percent from three (up from 22.3 before the ASG) and in the playoffs that jumped to 32.7 percent. He struggled on catch-and-shoot threes in those final 19 games after the ASG, shooting just 16.7 percent, but off the bounce he shot 33.8 percent after the break. Also, all of last season he didn’t take many long twos, but when he did he shot 41 percent on them.

What would make his jumper better? Working on his shot with the newest Buck, Kyle Korver.

Which is happening.

Be afraid NBA. Be very afraid.

Antetokounmpo recently said he is only at about 60 percent of his potential. If he can start to consistently hit threes off the bounce when defenses sag back off the pick-and-roll (trying to take away his drives), he might become unstoppable. Or, more unstoppable. If that’s a thing.

Zion Williamson signs shoe deal with Nike’s Jordan Brand

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Russell Westbrook. Jimmy Butler. Blake Griffin. Chris Paul.

And now Zion Williamson has joined them as a Jordan Brand athlete. Williamson announced that he had signed with Jordan on his Instagram.

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Let’s Dance #JUMPMAN

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Williamson was probably the biggest shoe free agent on the market this summer. While still a rookie, he already is a huge marketing presence — Summer League in Las Vegas sold out to see him the first two nights (people ended up disappointed) — and it was estimated he would make north of $10 million a year on his rookie shoe deal.

While we have not heard official numbers yet, the rumors are he did get that money.

If true, this is the second-largest rookie shoe deal in history. LeBron James got seven-years, $87 million, however, Williamson is second and bumps Kevin Durant to third (seven years, $60 million).

There are rumors Puma had offered even a larger contact, but Williamson wanted to be a Jordan brand guy.

“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family,” Williamson said in a statement. “Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league & having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had & continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to.”

“Zion’s incredible determination, character and play are inspiring,” Michael Jordan said in a statement. “He’s an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future. He told us he would ‘shock the world,’ and asked us to believe him. We do.”

Nike continues to dominate the NBA and basketball shoe market, with more than two-thirds of NBA players wearing Nikes. Even still, landing Williamson — who will play for the New Orleans Pelicans — was such a big score that Nike stock jumped up one percent on the news. He has the potential to be the next LeBron or Durant for Nike, if he can live up to the hype and weight of being the most discussed No. 1 pick in a decade.

He’s the kind of player who could sell a lot of shoes, and Jordan is betting on just that.

Al Horford calls Celtics’ reported tampering allegations ‘ridiculous’

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The Celtics have reportedly complained about the 76ers tampering with Al Horford.

Horford opted out, and it seemed he could return to Boston. But more than a week before free agency officially began, a report emerged he’d leave the Celtics while expecting a four-year, $100 million contract elsewhere. He committed to the 76ers on the first day of free agency, getting $97 million guaranteed and up to $109 million over four years.

What did Horford make of tampering allegations coming from Boston, where Danny Ainge runs the front office?

Horford on The Dan Patrick Show:

It’s pretty ridiculous. But it is what it is. Danny – I love Danny. Danny was always really good to me. I know that he’s definitely frustrated with things didn’t work out with us.

Notice the lack of a denial.

But Horford is right: It’s ridiculous. Because the Celtics are hypocrites who locked up Kemba Walker before free agency officially began.

Though Boston’s specific complaints don’t hold water, there are legitimate issues with the wider landscape.