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Report: Lakers staffers believe team played Kentavious Caldwell-Pope through incarceration to impress LeBron James

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In 2017, the Lakers signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $17,745,894 contract. He was already facing a two-game suspension for DUI. Then, during the season, he violated terms of his probation and spent nearly a month at a detention center. His work-release program allowed him to play in Lakers home games and practices, but he couldn’t leave the state and missed a few games.

Why did the Lakers put up with so much with Caldwell-Pope?

One possible reason: He shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron James – whom the Lakers wanted to court (and ultimately signed) the following summer.

In the meantime, Caldwell-Pope’s interrupted job status caused plenty of resentment.

Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“Anybody [else] would have put him on personal leave or suspended him,” one coaching staff member said.

“I had a major problem with that,” a Lakers front-office executive said.

When asked why Caldwell-Pope played during this time, a Lakers spokesperson said they were simply following the judge’s work-release ruling. Staffers within the organization and sources close to the team say they believe it was because the Lakers were trying to curry favor with Klutch in their efforts to sign James the following summer in free agency.

Another possible reason the Lakers played Caldwell-Pope through his incarceration: He was one of their best players that season. They’d also already traded their first-round pick, effectively eliminating the incentive to tank. Why not use a helpful player who’s available?

Plus, Caldwell-Pope already served his league-mandated suspension for the DUI. Extra punishment from the Lakers could have received pushback from the union.

And Caldwell-Pope’s sentence allowed him to work, a rehabilitative aspect of the court’s ruling. Do these Lakers staffers generally want criminals to face the more punitive sentences? Or just Caldwell-Pope?

That people within the organization were so bothered by Caldwell-Pope playing is indicative of dysfunction under Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. Employees clearly didn’t understand/believe in the plan.

That’s the environment LeBron walked into.

So, when his camp expressed desire for Luke Walton to get fired… when LeBron openly pushed for the Lakers to trade for Anthony Davis, who’s also represented by Paul… it felt as if LeBron had major power to make those things happen. That contributed to LeBron’s teammates being wary of LeBron trying to trade them. It might have contributed to Johnson dressing down Walton early in the season.

I doubt the perception of LeBron running things has changed. I recommend reading Holmes’ full story for more examples of people close to LeBron getting special treatment – or the perception of special treatment.

So, LeBron can insist he’s taking a hands-off approach, and I believe he sometimes wants to leave all this up to others. But when everyone thinks he’s in control has been even before he arrived, LeBron has little choice but to deal with that responsibility.

Four Nets players who tested positive for COVID-19 showing no symptoms

Kevin Durant
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On a conference call with the media Wednesday morning, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks shared some good news. The four Nets players who had tested positive for coronavirus are no longer showing symptoms.

Kevin Durant was one of the four Nets to come forward and say he had tested positive for COVID-19. Durant said at the time that he was feeling fine, but this report clarifies that he’s now clear of symptoms. Durant has been out for the entirety of the 2019-20 season as he rehabs from the torn Achilles’ he suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals.

Over a dozen NBA players tested positive for coronavirus since mid-March. About half of those players have been identified. Multiple reports have surfaced over the last two weeks of players being cleared of symptoms.

Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics was recently cleared of COVID-19 after a positive test. Reports are that he plans to donate his blood plasma to National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project for research on the blood of those recovered from coronavirus.

Watch Kevin Love talk mental health in time of coronavirus on “The Daily Show”

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Since coming forward with his own anxiety issues, Kevin Love has become a person at the forefront of a more public discussion of mental health in society.

Wednesday, he went on the social isolation edition of Trevor Noah’s “The Daily Show” and talked about how the isolation and loneliness caused by social distancing can be “devastating” at this time for people battling depression and anxiety.

“I think continuing to create community at this time, that’s a huge thing… speaking of social isolation, it has made navigating this time very, very different,” Love said. (See his full comments in the video above.)

Noah also asked Love about the return of the NBA — Love said he had no idea but thinks this makes it even more open to any team getting the title — and about the Cleveland forward becoming one of the first players to donate money toward a fund to help arena workers who have no job to go to right now.

“I thought it was important to take care of people who had taken care of me so long,” Love said of his donation.

Watch the video above. You get a real sense of how Love is trying to adapt to a new reality, just like the rest of us.

This Date in NBA History: James Harden goes off for then career-high 51 vs. Kings (VIDEO)

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The 2014-15 season is one of several years where James Harden feels he should have been MVP but was robbed by voters. It’s become almost an annual tradition.

Stephen Curry won the award that year — he was bombing threes on his way to 23.8 points and 7.7 assists a game, leading the 67-win Warriors to an NBA title — but Harden put up raw numbers that were right there, 27.4 points and seven assists a game.

Harden made his case for the award on Feb. 1, 2015, with a 51-point outburst against Sacramento that was, at the time, his highest-scoring game ever. He shot 16-of-25 from the field overall, a ridiculous 8-of-9 from three, and he got to the line 13 times. Sacramento had no answer.

Harden has scored more points since — he’s had 60+ point games each of the last three seasons — but this was his first 50+ point game, and to this day remains one of his signature games.

Heat’s Goran Dragic says he’s not going to Slovenia during layoff

Heat guard Goran Dragic
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MIAMI (AP) — Goran Dragic of the Miami Heat said Tuesday that he is prepared to forgo his annual offseason move back to his native Slovenia if that is what the NBA schedule necessitates.

Dragic, his wife and their two children are in Miami and have no plans to leave for Slovenia amid the global coronavirus pandemic. His parents recently left Miami to return home, but the Heat guard says he’s staying.

“Three days ago they flew back home because they had to, the government said that all the Slovenian citizens needed to get back,” Dragic said, referring to his parents, adding that they wore masks and gloves on their not-very-full flight back to Slovenia. “But my situation is different. Here is my home. We have health insurance in America and we have a home to go to, so we’re going to stay here.”

Dragic and his family have gotten a firsthand global view of the pandemic.

He’s in Miami, and so is his uncle — who is staying in the U.S. because he cannot get back to his native Serbia because Dragic said that country has essentially locked its borders over health concerns. Dragic’s brother Zoran, a former Heat guard, was quarantined while playing in Spain, then returned to Slovenia recently and is under quarantine again, unable to leave his hotel room for a couple more weeks.

“It’s a really crazy situation over there,” Dragic said, detailing what his brother went through in Spain — one of the hardest-hit nations with more than 94,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 8,000 deaths attributed to the virus, the second-highest total worldwide behind only Italy. Slovenia has confirmed 802 cases through Tuesday, with 15 deaths.

In Miami, though, Dragic is trying to keep some sense of normalcy.

Dragic said the Heat are participating in a daily team workout on Zoom most mornings, those sessions often including strength and conditioning coach Eric Foran and Heat assistant coach Chris Quinn, among others.

“We try to work together, in isolation,” Dragic said.

Dragic has been working out individually as well at his waterfront home, trying to stay fit. He’s hopeful that the season resumes at some point, and said he hopes the league has teams play no more than a handful of games before starting the playoffs.

“I’m running around the house. I’m going to be in good shape,” Dragic said.

Dragic is averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 assists this season for the Heat, coming off the bench in all but one of his 54 games.