LaMelo Ball Knicks
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Lonzo Ball on brother LaMelo: ‘Whoever has the No. 1 pick, that’s who’s gonna get him’

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Lonzo Ball has his younger brothers’ back.

Lonzo has been playing better of late — seeming to find a comfort level with his revamped shooting form and within the Pelicans offense (while waiting for Zion Williamson to return so he can start throwing lobs) — having a string of 20+ point scoring games and looking better running the offense.

However, the elder Ball brother gets asked as many questions about his younger brother LaMelo — a likely top-five, maybe top-three pick in the coming June draft — as he does about New Orleans. Lonzo has LaMelo’s back and thinks he should go No. 1, as he told Marc Berman of the New York Post.

“Wherever he lands, he’s gonna help out a lot. Anybody could use him,” Lonzo Ball told The Post…

“Whoever has the No. 1 pick, I feel like that’s who’s gonna get him,” Lonzo said. “He’s been in the spotlight since he was 15, plus I went through everything he’s gonna go through. So he always has me to fall back on.

“But what he did overseas, what he did in high school, I think it’s a fair choice [as the No. 1-overall pick], honestly. He’s been killing grown men in Australia, which is a very good league. So I expect the same thing here. It’s different for everybody Hopefully, it happens from the first game. That’s what I’d love to see.”

LaMelo may go No. 1 because there is no Zion-style standout at the top of this draft board, according to sources speaking to NBC Sports. There’s are a number of players with potential — Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, Cole Anthony — but teams are generally down on the top of this draft. It ultimately will depend on how the lottery balls bounce and which team lands the top slot, because right now different teams have different players on top of the draft boards.

Scouts like the potential of LaMelo, a 6’7″ point guard with impressive handles, good size for the position, and is a gifted passer who averaged 17 points a game going against men in Australia (a league that helped produce a handful of other NBA players from Andrew Bogut through James Ennis). LaMelo makes some highlight-reel plays nearly every game.

However, LaMelo also shot just 25 percent from three and 37.5 percent overall in Australia, suffered an injury that raises questions about his durability (just like his brother Lonzo), hasn’t been a focused defender at any level, and there remain questions about his work ethic (although those reports have improved over the past couple of seasons). Plus, not every team wants to deal with the potential distractions of his father, LaVar Ball.

Lonzo might be Nostradamus and his brother goes No. 1, although the smart money is LaMelo goes a few picks later. Whatever happens, Lonzo will have his younger brother’s back.

LeBron James on Lakers clinching No. 1 seed: ‘They said I couldn’t do it’

Lakers star LeBron James
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The Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

LeBron James, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

“They said I couldn’t do it.”

“I’ll enjoy this one,” James said, nodding as he grinned. “They said I can’t do it.”

The Lakers entered the season fifth in the West in over-under wins (behind the Rockets, Clippers, Jazz and Nuggets).

But nobody credible thought the Lakers couldn’t get the No. 1 seed. With LeBron and Anthony Davis, the Lakers obviously had that type of upside. Their championship odds were far more favorable. The main doubts stemmed from how seriously LeBron would take the regular season.

That said, in the age of social media, players hear both more praise and more criticism than ever before. LeBron surely heard from haters who ruled him out. Crowning himself the Washed King, LeBron probably internalized that fringe opinion.

Many players find slights to use as motivation. It worked for Michael Jordan. It works for LeBron.

But it does sound silly when an exalted player like LeBron talks this way.

Report: Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president because team didn’t spend enough

Pacers owner Herb Simon and executives Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird, and Kevin Pritchard
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Paul George said he left the Pacers because they weren’t willing to spend enough.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president in 2017, citing a desire to do more things outside basketball. Yet, he also reportedly had another reason.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

Indiana is a small-market team that consistently has not gone out and paid big money. We know that this was something that frustrated Larry Bird, who is a legend in the state of Indiana and elsewhere, I might add. It frustrated him enough that he stepped aside.

Pacers owner Herb Simon has a certain way of doing things. Indiana hasn’t paid the luxury tax since 2006, the first year the tax line was set before the season.

Despite that, the Pacers have been pretty good. They’ve qualified for the playoffs nine of the last 10 seasons, peaking with appearances in the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals.

Still, Indiana has lost in the first round four straight years. Another first-round loss appears the most likely outcome for this season.

That’s not exactly satisfying for players who want to win championships. Spending big isn’t absolutely necessary to compete on the highest levels. But it helps.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo is approaching 2021 unrestricted free agency. He’s a competitor who’ll evaluate, among other things, whether his current franchise matches his ambitions.

It’s easy to spend someone else’s money. Simon can decide his own limits. But there are consequences of his spending restraint – especially as perception grows about his relative thriftiness.

J.J. Redick describes thought behind meme: ‘I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing’

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J.J. Redick has made the playoffs all 13 of his previous NBA seasons.

The Pelicans have put that streak in jeopardy.

New Orleans lost its first two games in the bubble, a nail-biter against the Jazz and a rout against the Clippers. During that loss to L.A., cameras captured Redick – on the floor exercising his back while out of the game – with a distant stare that became an instant meme.

Redick on ESPN Daily:

I was angry we got our butts kicked. It’s embarrassing, and I think my face summed up that first half pretty well.

There’s so many circumstances you could apply the emotions that I was going through in that moment.

Redick is right: That meme fits many occasions, which gives it staying power.

However, it has plenty of competition. Though the feelings displayed aren’t the exact same, Redick didn’t even have the best reaction inside the bubble by an exasperated NBA player. That belongs to Nuggets star Nikola Jokic:

At least Redick got reason to perk up. The Pelicans beat the Grizzlies yesterday to gain ground in the playoff race.

Darren Collison says talk of him playing for Lakers was “overhyped”

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Darren Collison shocked the NBA last summer when he walked away from the game at age 32 — and a likely contract in the four-year, $70+ million range — and retired. His reasons were legitimate, he wanted to focus on his religion — “While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith,” Collison said at the time — but the league has seen a lot of players say they were walking away for good reasons only to come running back.

The rumors about a Collison return started just after January 1 and spun out of control in Los Angeles when he sat with Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss at a game.

Collison stayed retired, and told the “Minute til 6” podcast it wasn’t even close. He was never coming back.

“To keep it 100, they overhyped the whole thing. Like, I wasn’t even thinking about coming back.”

That game he went to? He just came to watch his friend Russell Westbrook.

“I just wanted to come watch the game as a fan.”

Collison also is smart enough to know how him sitting with Buss would be perceived.

Collison was wanted. The Lakers run LeBron James at the point but could have used the veteran Collison in the role Rajon Rondo filled as a secondary playmaker (Rondo is currently out with a thumb injury). Collison was rumored to the Clippers as well, and Doc Rivers can always find a way to use more guard depth.

Collison, however, seems at peace with his decision. If he wanted to return, he would have done it last summer for 10 figures a season, not for the minimum in January.