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Rumor: Lakers “enamored” with Lonzo Ball

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The Lakers first need to hope they even have a pick in this NBA Draft — Los Angeles has a 15.6 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick, but also a 53.1 percent chance of losing their pick all-together (they have the third best odds in the lottery, but if anyone jumps them and their pick falls to fourth or worse it reverts to the Sixers, the final remnant of the Steve Nash trade).

If the Lakers have a top three pick, they need to take the best player available — they have a nice young core but are nowhere near a talent level on the roster where they can afford to take a lesser player based on fit (frankly, the best teams don’t do that anyway).

That said, the Lakers’ new management is rumored to want star power and that may lead them to Lonzo Ball, reports Chad Ford of ESPN.

The Lakers appear to be enamored with Ball, a local product who could add star power to a team desperately in search of it. But they’ll likely have to land in the top two to get him.

This is exactly what Lonzo’s father, LaVar Ball, wants. Lonzo, a Los Angeles area native, has said he wants to be a Laker. So the feeling is mutual.

Ford says most teams have Washington point guard Markelle Fultz at the top of their board, followed by Ball, then Josh Jackson of Kansas third. What I have heard is nearly every team has Fultz first, but Jackson is right there with Ball for some teams (because Jackson is a better defender).

If the draft order stays the way it is now, with Boston (via Brooklyn) going first, then Phoenix, the two point guards do likely come off the board — Boston needs to think beyond the next few years with Isaiah Thomas (who will eventually fade), and the same with the Suns and Eric Bledsoe (the Suns would draft a PG then trade Bledsoe for more young players or picks). If the Lakers ended up with Jackson their fans should be thrilled — he’s the best defender near the top of the board and the Lakers had the worst defense in the NBA last season. A good perimeter defender would be a huge need.

But this is Magic Johnson and the Lakers, and that means star power wins out. And in Los Angeles, that is Ball. If they can get him.

James Harden draws terrible foul call on Patty Mills, Gregg Popovich’s reaction NSFW

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Let me warn you in advance: If people swearing offends you, don’t play the video above, because Gregg Popovich just about lost it on that call and used a choice word that doesn’t take much of a lip reader to follow.

NBA Twitter also lost its collective mind on the call. It came relatively late in the third quarter of the Spurs eventual win, at a point the Rockets were making a run and keeping it close. Nene comes out and sets a drag screen for Harden, who moves toward it then intentionally runs into Mills and, when he feels contact, launches up a three to draw the foul. It works. The foul is called.

Mills stares in disbelief. Popovich curses. And a former NBA official (and current NBA Senior Vice President of Replay & Referee Operations) went on NBA TV and said it was a bad call.

This specific type of play — the P&R pull-up three foul we’ve seen a lot of from Harden, Chris Paul, and others this season — is something the NBA’s competition committee must address this summer. The ball handler on a pick-and-roll hunts contact — either by running into the defender trying to fight over the top of the screen, or by getting over it then abruptly stopping and waiting for the guy a step behind to run into him — then as soon as he feels a brush of contact the ball handler launches up a three to draw a shooting foul. It leads to bad calls and has become a regular feature of too many NBA games. The league needs to instruct officials to interpret this kind of play differently and not reward ball handlers who initiate the contact with free throws.

Lakers forward Luol Deng has surgery on pectoral muscle

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng has undergone surgery to repair his right pectoral muscle.

The Lakers announced Deng’s surgery Wednesday.

The veteran is expected to be recovered well before the start of training camp.

The 32-year-old Deng averaged a career-low 7.2 points per game last season, his first with the Lakers after agreeing to a four-year, $72 million contract last summer. He struggled with his new team, making a career-worst 38.7 percent of his shots and producing a career-low 1.3 assists per game.

The Lakers shut down Deng and fellow high-priced veteran Timofey Mozgov with a month left in their fourth consecutive losing season so they could give additional playing time to young players. Deng didn’t play in Los Angeles’ final 22 games.

Kahwi Leonard drops 34, Spurs rebound to beat Rockets, even series, but may lose Parker

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 34 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame the loss of Tony Parker to beat the Houston Rockets 121-96 on Wednesday night and even the Western Conference semifinals at one game apiece.

Parker did not return after hurting his left leg with 8:43 remaining in the game. Spurs officials said Parker will undergo an MRI on Thursday morning and update his status after, but Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said following that game that “it’s not good.”

Parker fell to the court after missing an uncontested short jumper. He grabbed his left knee immediately upon landing and remained on the court for a few minutes. He attempted to walk, but had to be carried by teammates to the back. Spurs owner Julianna Hawn Holt rose from her courtside seat to point and scream at an official after Parker exited the game.

Parker finished with 18 points and four assists in 26 minutes.

Houston point guard James Harden was limited to 13 points on 3-for-17 shooting.

The Rockets shot 11 for 34 on 3-pointers after going 22 for 50 in their 126-99 victory in Game 1 on Monday night. They host Game 3 on Friday.

The start was as frenetic as Game 1, but the Spurs kept pace this time. The teams shot a combined 15 for 25 in the opening six minutes, including 5 for 9 on 3-pointers.

Popovich started Pau Gasol in place of David Lee to give the Spurs another outside shooter in the starting lineup and it paid off early. San Antonio shot 62 percent in the opening quarter.

The Spurs finished at 54 percent.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points after being limited to four in the opener, and Danny Green added 12.

Leonard tied his postseason high with 20 points in the first half as the Spurs opened up a 65-55 lead entering the third quarter.

Harden led a charge in the second half, but not with his offense. He swiped the ball away, leapt out of bounds and tossed it backward to save it and then stripped Green on the following possession to set a strong defensive tone. The Rockets would force five turnovers in the third quarter to cut their deficit to 88-83 entering the fourth.

Spurs reserve Jonathon Simmons provided a lift, scoring consecutive baskets at the close of the third quarter and then opening the fourth by diving into the front row of seats to save a loose ball that led to Manu Ginobili‘s layup. On the ensuing possession, Simmons completed a three-point play off a dunk.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston had scored 100 points in every playoff game this season. . Harden entered Wednesday averaging 31.0 points, 8.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds this postseason. Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is the only player to average 31 points, 8.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in a single postseason, doing so in 1991. . The league fined Nene $15,000 for “escalating an altercation” after grabbing Dewayne Dedmon by the throat while the Spurs center was jawing with Harden. Nene was ejected from the game for the action. . Houston is 3-2 when trailing after the third quarter this postseason.

Spurs: Parker joined longtime teammate Tim Duncan as the only players born outside the United States to score 4,000 points in the postseason. Parker, Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are also the only players in league history with at least 4,000 points and 1,000 assists. .. Parker and Ginobili won their 131st postseason game as teammates, matching the league record held by Parker and Duncan. . Leonard has scored in double figures in 28 straight games, the longest streak since Parker had 63 straight from 2006-12. . Parker has scored 15-plus points six times this postseason after achieving that feat just 16 times in 63 regular-season games.

Clippers, Doc Rivers bracing for wild offseason

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PLAYA VISTA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers and coach Doc Rivers are settling in for what could be a wild offseason.

After another disappointing playoff exit – this time a first-round loss to Utah in seven games – the Clippers have a lot of work to do.

Will the Clippers could blow up the core of the team and rebuild? Will the “Big Three” of Chris Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan be broken up, with Griffin and Paul set to become free agents.

“I don’t know. I think they deserve a chance to win. They have built this legacy. I do believe that,” Rivers said Wednesday. “Whether that’s what we decide to do that or not. There’s a big part of me that believes (in them). These guys are responsible for the birth of our franchise in a lot of ways. They consider themselves Clippers. … I would love them to shepherd that through. Whether that happens or not, it’s too early to make all those decisions or they’ll make them for us. But I do have a strong believe in that.”

The Clippers have yet to make the Western Conference Finals.

J.J. Redick also is a free agent, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has an option.

The inability to beat the Jazz provided evidence for Rivers heading into free agency.

“We need length,” Rivers said. “We need more length and two-way players. Again, that’s easy to say. Little harder to do with the way our contracts are. We may continue to do what we’ve done or we may decide to change our contracts and have more flexibility.”

There is much work to be done, and it could be an offseason of much change.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Rivers said. “I’m a driven human being. I can tell you I do this for one reason and that is to be the winner. I decided a while ago I no longer want to be in the party I want to be the party. Like I tell my players, when you set yourself up that way, you’re going to have a ton of disappointment. I told them that four years ago. Unfortunately, so far I’ve been right. It’s the only way to go, as far as I’m concerned.”

Griffin suffered a toe injury in Game 3 of the playoffs, and had surgery this week.

“He’s doing well … The surgery went better than we thought,” Rivers said.

Griffin is a free agent with an early termination option. Asked if he thinks he’ll opt out, Rivers said: “I guess. I don’t know. I have no assumption.”

Rivers is president and coach of the Clippers and there is speculation over whether he’ll keep his duties in the front office. There’s no uncertainty on his part over whether his dual roles work based on the help he gets with front office staff.

“It is hard, that’s why I hired Lawrence (Frank)” Rivers said. “People don’t realize Pop (Gregg Popovich) has been the president a long time. Clearly, it can be done but you’ve got to have great help. (General manager) R.C. Buford and that entire staff does. Pop really coaches the team. He’s involved. That’s the same system we’re at. I hear that it’s hard to do both. I’m doing the same thing. We’ve hired a million people. Half of them, I’m still learning their names. Lawrence is running the team in that way, but I’m still the president. I really believe more now that it’s a good way of doing it.”