Latest report discusses escalating tensions between LeBron, Lakers

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The Lakers have always been a star-driven franchise, and the brightest of them wield power. Magic Johnson got a coach fired and is rumored to have pushed for the Norm Nixon trade. The Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal so they could keep franchise icon Kobe Bryant, and threw him a massive contract while he was still rehabbing his Achilles.

However, LeBron James may wield more power than any of them, as evidenced by his push for the Russell Westbrook trade. That has proven to be a disaster, and now LeBron is frustrated the Lakers didn’t throw good money after bad — or, in this case, trade a first-round pick after bad — to trade Westbrook for the marginal-at-best upgrade to John Wall.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka wisely stood his ground, keeping his powder dry (and his draft pick) to take a shot at overhauling the roster this offseason. LeBron didn’t like it, and it led to a series of passive-aggressive commentsincluding the threat of returning to Cleveland, who may or may not want him — sending a message to Pelinka.

All that has ratcheted the tension up around the Lakers. There has been a string of reports about that tension, the latest comes from Bill Oram at The Athletic.

Because James and agent Rich Paul long grabbed hold of the Lakers organization and are now beginning to really squeeze.

The situation is tense enough that one source close to the Lakers likened it to the early days of a war.

So far, the Lakers haven’t shown a particular willingness to engage in battle with their superstar, with sources saying that Pelinka has insisted internally that there are no hard feelings between the two sides.

The Lakers head into this summer with a choice: Either trade away their 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks and whatever else it takes to move on from Westbrook and completely overhaul the roster around LeBron and Anthony Davis (LeBron, Davis and agent Paul will have a say in how that is done, for better or worse).

Or trade LeBron.

The former is the more likely direction. LeBron said he moved to Los Angeles to close out his career here — it’s where his son Bronny is a high school basketball star, where his movie/television production company is located, where his post-playing life likely is located. LeBron isn’t trying to force his way out as much as force change. He is doing in Los Angeles what he did in Cleveland before, using his leverage to get win-now roster moves made, even if his track record as a GM is spotty.

LeBron, however, does not have the loyalty to the franchise that Kobe or Magic did — he will pack up and go, playing his final couple of seasons somewhere else if he feels that’s his best shot at another ring (and passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list).

The hope that LeBron would pass the franchise torch to Davis and things would continue unimpeded for the Lakers is gone. If the Lakers trade LeBron it would mean going on the hunt for the next franchise icon star (and there are few of those out there and looking to move right now).

One way or another, it’s going to be a summer blockbuster in Los Angeles.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.