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Lakers show much better urgency, understanding in second summer with LeBron James

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

LeBron James’ teams have an implicit mandate: Compete for championships.

He’s good enough to singlehandedly elevate a team near that level. As he approaches the end of his prime, it’s even more important to optimize each year.

The Lakers drastically failed in that regard last season.

They made amends this offseason.

Los Angeles added a superstar, upgraded its supporting cast and hopefully gave LeBron time to get healthy. Yet, the Lakers still face major uncertainty. Such is life in the wide-open NBA — especially with the Lakers’ uninspiring front office.

The Lakers did well to add Anthony Davis. He’s an elite two-way big whose finishing could could fit well with LeBron’s playmaking and can cover a lot of ground defensively. But make no mistake: The cost was high — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, the No. 4 pick, two future first-rounders (including one that can be deferred), first-round swap rights to the Pelicans and Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones and a second-rounder to the Wizards. Los Angeles depleted nearly every asset to get Davis. Also bake into the price that Davis seemed likely to sign with the Lakers next summer even if they didn’t acquire him sooner.

Again, this was worth it considering LeBron’s timeline. The Lakers couldn’t waste another year waiting for Davis.

They’ll have to wait for a third star, though. Kawhi Leonard chose the Clippers, leaving Los Angeles’ other team loading up on role players.

The Lakers selected far better than last season, placing more emphasis on outside shooting and defense – essential skills around LeBron. But the signings still run the gamut from clear-and-obvious Danny Green (two years, $30 million) to poor-fitting Rajon Rondo (1+1, minimum).

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1+1 with starting salary of $8,089,282), Jared Dudley (one year, minimum), Alex Caruso (two years, $5.5 million), JaVale McGee (1+1 with starting salary of $4 million), Quinn Cook (two years, $6 million with second season unguaranteed), Dwight Howard (one year, unguaranteed minimum), Troy Daniels (one year, minimum) and Avery Bradley (1+1 with starting salary of $4,767,000) land in between.

DeMarcus Cousins also signed with the Lakers, but he’ll likely miss the season with a torn ACL. That caused one problem – a lack of depth at center – but maybe helped with another.

The Lakers have a lot of, um, personality. They’re full of players who have their own ideas about how things should operate and aren’t afraid to speak on it. Even the new coaching staff – with Frank Vogel as head coach an Jason Kidd as assistant – looks combustible.

Potential difficulties extend to the front office and beyond. The Lakers put Rob Pelinka in charge of the front office after Magic Johnson’s stunning resignation. Pelinka did well to distance himself this summer from Johnson’s poor decision-making, but major questions still linger around Pelinka. And Kurt Rambis and Linda Rambis. And Jeanie Buss. And even Rich Paul, LeBron’s and Davis’ agent.

A simple move – buying into second round for No. 46 pick Talen Horton-Tucker, a young and interesting prospect I pegged 18 spots higher – raised eyebrows, because Paul represents Horton-Tucker. Just who’s in charge? It’s a murky power structure full of people I’m unconvinced will deliver for the Lakers.

Pelinka and co. did enough this summer to bring the Lakers into the forefront of the championship chase. That’s why this grade is so high.

But if they haven’t done enough yet to win a title, I don’t trust this regime to find a way over the top.

Offseason grade: B

Kawhi Leonard just destroyed Boston’s Daniel Theis on dunk

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Daniel Theis‘ play as a rim protector is one of the reasons Boston has a top-10 defense this season. He has anchored the Celtics’ defense in the paint.

Kawhi Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP, and if he wants to go to the rim nobody is stopping him. Theis found out the hard way.

After the game, Leonard was asked about the dunk and he responded in about the most Kawhi way possible.

This was the first game Leonard and Paul George played together and they combined for 42 points, and they both made key play down the stretch of a 107-104 overtime win.

It took Luka Doncic 25 minutes to put together 35-point triple-double (VIDEO)

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DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic scored 33 of his 35 points in the first half and had yet another triple-double to help the Dallas Mavericks rout the short-handed Golden State Warriors 142-94 on Wednesday night.

Doncic fell a point short of matching Dirk Nowitzki’s team record set Nov. 3, 2009, against Utah. In just 17 minutes, Doncic was 10 for 11 from the floor, making 6 of 7 3-pointers, and hit 7 of 8 free throws.

The second-year star from Slovenia had 22 points, five assists and five rebounds in the first quarter alone. He played only 25 minutes total, but still managed 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Doncic was coming off a 40-point triple-double Monday night against San Antonio, and has an NBA-best seven triple-doubles in 14 games this season.

The Mavericks never trailed and tied a franchise record with 22 3-pointers while sending Golden State to its worst loss since a 1973 playoff game.

The Warriors, who ended a seven-game losing streak by beating Memphis on Tuesday night, are an NBA-worst 3-13. Their five-year run of at the top of the NBA has collapsed under a weight of injuries, with Draymond Green out Wednesday because of right heel soreness.

With Green out, Golden State dressed only eight players, none of whom suited up for the team last season when it made the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive year.

Eric Paschall led the Warriors with 22 points.

Tim Hardaway Jr. added 20 for Dallas. Kristaps Porzingis had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth-straight double-double.

 

Bulls’ Otto Porter Jr out 2 weeks with bone bruise in foot

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls say forward Otto Porter Jr. has a bone bruise in his left foot and will be reassessed in two weeks.

The Bulls say a second MRI on Tuesday revealed the bruise, something “not apparent” on the first MRI.

“He had a second scan, and something showed up that didn’t show up on the first scan,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen told NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s tough, tough for him, feel bad for him. But we’ll treat him and move on.”

Chandler Hutchison had been filling in Porter’s spot in the rotation, but he is out indefinitely now with sore shins.

Porter, averaging 11.2 points in nine games, has been sidelined since he sprained his left foot at Atlanta on Nov. 6.

The Bulls were 4-10 with three straight losses heading into Wednesday’s game against Detroit.

Timberwolves’ new alternate uniforms resemble Minneapolis Lakers

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The Minneapolis Lakers’ history belongs to the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s why the Los Angeles Lakers claim the five championships the franchise won in Minneapolis and have worn light-blue Minneapolis throwbacks.

But Minnesota’s current NBA team – the Timberwolves – appear to be borrowing from that legacy.

The Timberwolves’ new alternate uniforms look awfully similar to the Minneapolis Lakers’ throwback:

Of course, the Timberwolves’ explanation contains no mention of the Minneapolis Lakers. The Timberwolves say the icy cool yet sky blue color … reflects the blue waters that are ubiquitous throughout the cities, namely the Mississippi River, which is outlined on the left side of the uniform.” It’s all about celebrating the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul (MSP).

The best part: These alternates are officially branded as “City Edition” uniforms. The Timberwolves called theirs “Cities Edition.”