LeBron James’ triple-double leads Lakers to first win since Kobe’s death

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Lakers say they are fully prepared for the steady stream of tributes for Kobe Bryant that they will surely see the rest of the season.

LeBron James welcomes it, calling it a therapeutic and needed part of the Lakers’ healing process.

James had another triple-double despite an off-night shooting, Anthony Davis scored 21 points and Los Angeles thumped the Sacramento Kings 129-113 on Saturday, its first win since Bryant’s death.

“It’s never going to feel normal. It’s never going to feel the same,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “But we got our first win since this happened. There’s going to be a lot of important steps for us along the way and this was definitely one.”

James had 15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds while helping Los Angeles end a two-game skid. James shot 6 of 15 and missed three of four 3-pointers but made up for it with his 11th triple-double of the season and the 92nd of his career.

The Lakers were playing the second half of a back-to-back, one night after an emotional 127-119 loss to Portland at Staples Center in their first game since Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others.

During the first timeout less than four minutes into the game, a video of both Bryant and Gianna playing basketball was shown on the giant scoreboard as members of both the Lakers and Kings watched. The numbers 8 and 24 flashed on the court as Bryant’s voice echoed through the building.

Tributes continued to play throughout the game as fans – many wearing Bryant’s jerseys – repeatedly chanted his name.

“We’re prepared for it. We understand it and we hope it happens every night just because of the legacy that he’s left behind,” James said. “We’re prepared for it as a team, as an organization and we’re going to continue to get through it. It’s our obligation just to go out and play the game, have that winning mentality because that’s what he would want.”

A memorial wall with pictures of Bryant and Gianna was set up outside one of the main entrances to Golden 1 Center. Fans scrawled messages on the wall and left flowers.

Inside, the Lakers did their best to move forward following the tragedy that left the entire organization reeling.

They scored 44 points in the first quarter, made 14 3s and dished out 26 assists before halftime, dominating the Kings on both ends while building an 81-64 lead.

Avery Bradley added 19 points, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 15 and Rajon Rondo had 13 points and eight assists for Los Angeles.

James capped a fast break with a two-handed dunk in the second quarter that drew roars from the crowd, then made a long bounce pass to Caldwell-Pope for a layup. James followed that with another dunk, and Rondo added a 3-pointer.

“Tonight, it was get back on track,” Vogel said. “Let’s get back to business and go out and get a win, no matter what.”

De’Aaron Fox scored 24 points and Buddy Hield had 22 for Sacramento.

“That was a really good team that was unfortunately … they were locked in,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “Give them credit, they came out firing.”

The Kings got within 108-93 early in the fourth quarter before the Lakers pulled away. James had a 3-pointer, Rondo scored twice and Caldwell-Pope made three free throws.

“We wanted to put together a complete game and we did that tonight,” James said.

PBT Podcast: The NBA is back! Breaking down the restart format.

Photo courtesy Orlando Magic
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The NBA is back!

Or will be in July, at least, when 22 teams report to Orlando to play in a format that will see eight “seeding” games followed by potential play-in games for the eighth seed. After that, it’s a regular playoffs — no 1-16 seed but still East and West — with seven-game series each round.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman from NBC Sports, along with our friend Keith Smith — who lives in Orlando near the Disney property and has been all over this story from the start — break down the format and whether this is a format that provides enough safety to the players and staffs in Orlando.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Adam Silver: Older coaches may not be on bench in Orlando “in order to protect them”

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Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni is 68. Alvin Gentry just turned 65.

People 65 and older have proven particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control says 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States are people 65 and older.

As the NBA heads to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando to resume the season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern for some of the league’s older coaches during an interview on TNT.

“There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people…” Silver said. “We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not able to be the bench coach. They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room… with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play we’re not going to want that that close to players in order to protect them.”

You can guess how that went over with D’Antoni and Gentry (and, likely, Popovich).

Pretty quickly, Silver was walking his statement back. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coach’s Association, was quickly on the phone with Silver.

The league may want to take coaches who are members of vulnerable populations and find a way to add layers of protection for them, but keeping them from coaching their teams would be an incredibly tough sell to everyone around the league.

NCAA sets August deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The NCAA has set a new schedule for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it would give players until 10 days after the NBA scouting combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes earlier. This comes three weeks after the NCAA postponed its deadline, which was originally scheduled to fall on Wednesday.

That June 3 deadline was set to come 10 days after the completion of the combine, but the NBA postponed the combine amid the coronavirus pandemic and has yet to announce a new date.

The NBA has announced the date of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, now set for August 25. Traditionally the NBA Draft Combine would follow a few days after that, although there has been no official announcement.

The NCAA’s date will force players to decide whether or not to stay in the draft before the combine takes place, or even before many have found out if they are invited. Some players who might otherwise have returned to school now likely will keep their name in the draft, only to not get a combine invite.

In a statement, the NCAA said the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked with the National Association of Basketball Coaches on the new timeline and “believes this is the most equitable alternative available in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“This provides the utmost flexibility to student-athletes testing the waters to make the most informed decision about their future during this uncertain time,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the statement.

 

More details leak on NBA return format in Orlando, here’s a timeline breakdown

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The NBA is back.

Or will be. Soonish. Thursday the NBA owners approved a restart plan featuring 22 teams, with training camps opening in late June and games starting July 31.

What exactly will all that look like? What are the timelines, and how many games a day? Here’s a breakdown of what we know, with the latest details on format, plus some of the things we don’t yet know.

• June 15: International players who returned home called back to team market

• June 21: All players report to their team markets for workouts.

• June 22: Coronavirus testing of players and staff starts. Once teams report to the Walt Disney World facility the league wants to have daily testing. What we don’t yet know is what form of the test the league will use. While many coronavirus tests are very accurate, some studies suggest a person has to have the disease for a few days before it shows up on a test, and there are false negatives. Which is why the league wants daily testing.

• June 30: Training camps begin at team practice facilities.

• July 7: Teams travel to Orlando, continue their team training camps at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex there. The 22 teams invited are the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference; and the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference. It’s the 16 teams in playoff position when play was suspended, plus the six teams within six games of the postseason.

We do not yet know many of the health and safety protocols players will go through both on arrival at the Walt Disney World resort and facilities, save for the fact the league is doing daily testing. We do know players can golf and eat at outdoor restaurants, so long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

• July 31: NBA “seeding games” begin (the league is not calling these regular-season games). Teams will play eight games stretched over 16 days, with 5-6 games a day (played in the style of Summer League, with games starting as early as noon and extending into the evening, alternating between courts). There will be a four-hour gap on each court between games to allow time for sanitization, and then full warmups by teams.

• After the regular season, if the ninth-seeded team is within four games of the eighth-seeded team, they will have a two-game play-in matchup for the final playoff spot. The nine seed has to beat the eight seed in both games to advance (the eight seed team just needs to win one of the two).

• A full, traditional NBA playoffs follows with seven-game series in each round. Games will be played every other day (no back-to-backs in the playoffs). This will not see the long breaks often associated with the first round of the NBA playoffs (and, obviously, no need for travel days).

• October 12: The latest date for the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

• October 15: The 2020 NBA Draft takes place.

• October 18: NBA free agency opens

• November 10: Training camps open.

• December 1: The 2020-21 NBA season tips off.

Those last four dates — everything in the offseason — could be pushed back, with the NBA possibly starting as late as Christmas. Players were reportedly caught off guard by the fast turnaround. The league and players still have a lot of financial negotiations to go through after the coronavirus fallout, and the start dates likely will be part of that.

There are still a lot of health and safety questions to be answered, but Adam Silver has the owners and players on board to try and make this work.