'As The Lakers Turn' continues | Clippers sifting through ‘low points’ | Knicks’ Anthony says ‘no tanks’ | Heat recall fondly Cavs’ … Williams
No. 1: ‘As The Lakers Turn’ continues -- It long had been one of the NBA’s anchor franchises, first in Minneapolis, then in Los Angeles for more than half a century. It probably will get there again, after what figures to be a fourth consecutive season missing the playoffs. But for now, the Lakers are more about melodrama and internal machinations than about championship contention. Jeannie Buss’ moves to fend off a coup by her brothers are just the latest example, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com:
Every episode seems to top the last, as Friday’s chaos proved yet again.
And while one of the NBA's crown-jewel franchises was thrashed by its archrival at Staples Center, Lakers governor and president Jeanie Buss watched from her usual seat near the baseline. At one point in the third quarter, when the Boston Celtics led by 31, actress Dyan Cannon came over from her baseline seat.
The Hollywood icon placed both hands on Buss's arms in a comforting embrace, and as she spoke, Buss nodded. Amid a painful 115-95 blowout loss, it wasn’t an uncommon scene, as Buss received many hugs and, no doubt, words of encouragement from friends as her family’s infighting continues to drag the Lakers down.
Most damning for the Lakers is their timing. Last week, when Jeanie Buss canned longtime Lakers executives Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak and hired Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations, it seemed to, at the very least, give the Lakers some much-needed clarity.
Even if Johnson has zero front-office experience, it was clear that he’d at least be in charge. Such a thing might seem minuscule, but there were considerable doubts about the Lakers’ leadership entering this summer, when Jim Buss’ self-imposed timeline was scheduled to expire.
The Lakers enjoyed the glow of Johnson’s arrival -- and the sense of direction it seemed to promise -- for a little more than a week before they descended further into madness, which probably won’t help them recruit promising executives if they hope to build out their front office.
On one hand, the Lakers are endlessly interesting and still manage to dominate the news cycle, even though they have the NBA’s second-worst record, will miss the postseason for their fourth consecutive season, are coming off their worst record in franchise history and can’t point to any clear path that will lead one of the league’s premier teams out of its lowest moment.
On the other hand, their constant displays of dysfunction, which apparently knows no bounds, only raises more questions, causes more doubt and potentially sets them even further back in their rebuilding process.
Consider: The Lakers have struck out on all their top free-agent targets in the past four summers and couldn’t even get a meeting with Kevin Durant in 2016 ... and that was all before this latest tumult, which will last for who knows how long.
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No. 2: Clippers sifting through ‘low points’ -- When the best news on an otherwise dreary night is that your All-Star point guard isn’t hurt too badly, it’s a sign that things aren’t going your way. That’s putting it mildly for the Los Angeles Clippers, whose recklessness on offensive possessions fueled their demise at Milwaukee Friday. They’re 1-4 since the All-Star break and now get to face the Chicago Bulls at United Center (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC) on the tail end of the road back-to-back. Broderick Turner chronicled the Clippers’ woes for the L.A.. Times:
They sat on the bench late in the fourth quarter with the look of defeat on their faces, the look of a team unsure of how to stop this slide the Clippers are on.
They have floundered since the All-Star break, the Clippers’ 112-101 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center one more step in the wrong direction.
If there was a positive in a game where the Clippers’ carelessness with the basketball led to 23 turnovers, it was that Chris Paul revealed that his thumb was OK after being hit on it early in the game.
“I’m all right,” Paul said after going 7-for-11 from the field and 5-for-6 from three-point range. “I knew it was going to hurt one of these days when I got hit in it. So I got hit in good, but I’m cool. No, I wasn’t worried.”
The Clippers are more distressed about their play since the week-long break, their 1-4 record cause for concern.
“We need to get out of this rut because we’re in one right now, there’s no doubt about that,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said.
“Guys are frustrated, for sure,” [forward Blake] Griffin said in a quiet Clippers locker room after the game. “Disappointed. Angry. I mean, you can kind of use a variation of all those. But, you still got basketball left to play, still got to figure it out. It’s not the end of the world. We’ve got another one [Saturday] night [in Chicago], a big one … That’s the best part about the NBA.”
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No. 3: Knicks’ Anthony says ‘no tanks’ -- Actually, Carmelo Anthony said he misses the playoffs “a lot,” so he isn’t too keen on the suggestions that the New York Knicks lose themselves into a better draft lottery situation with what’s left of their schedule. They took a step in that direction with their loss to the lowly Sixers in Philadelphia Friday, but Anthony bristled at the idea of winning by losing. For a longtime star who soon will turn 33, the idea of rebuilding with another top prospect has limited appeal due to the defeats that accompany that strategy. Marc Berman of the New York Post reports:
“It’s a terrible way to think,’’ said Anthony, who scored 18 points but missed a potential game-winning shot in the closing seconds. “No player in any sports should be thinking about that.’’
Unless there’s a stunning reversal, the Knicks are headed for a fourth straight season without a playoff berth. Anthony made the playoffs his first 10 seasons. The current drought is reason to believe Anthony will explore waiving his no-trade clause this summer.
“It’s something that you sit back and think about, it’s something you miss,’’ Anthony said. “I miss it. It’s something I’ve gotten used to throughout my career. Just being there, getting a shot, what can happen in the playoffs. I miss it. I miss it a lot and something I think about.’
At 32, Anthony has played in 61 of 62 games – missing only a December game against Golden State with a sore right shoulder. One way of ensuring the Knicks, who host the Warriors on Sunday, lose is resting Anthony. He’s dead-set against it and opposed to any notion the Knicks shouldn’t be trying to win every game
“As a player, you always disagree with that,’’ Anthony said. “We’re the ones out there playing, trying to win basketball games. From the fans’ perspective, just tank or lose games, I don’t know how you do that. We’re going to try to lose the game or [the last] 15, 20 games, we’re going to figure out ways to lose and tank the season and start thinking about draft pieces?
“It’s hard for me [to sit out],’’ Anthony added. “I just love to play. It’s hard knowing I can play and sitting out watching the game. That would have to come from the organization.’’
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No. 4: Heat recall fondly Cavs’ … Williams -- There still is some sizzle when LeBron James returns to Miami to face the Heat, the team he helped lead to four Finals and two NBA championships in his four seasons there (2011-14). But this is his third season back in Cleveland, so there is a more recent reunion that will take place Saturday night when the Cavs play at AmericanAirlines Arena. Derrick Williams lacked for opportunities on a team that started this season 11-30, but he has been a valuable contributor on a top contender since leaving Miami and landing as an inexpensive pick-up with Cleveland. Here’s Ira Winderman of Sun-Sentinel.com:
"Derrick is a talent," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in advance of the Cavaliers' first visit of the season. "He is an extremely versatile player and you put him around other elite talented playmakers, I think you can really see that versatility come to the forefront."
That's what Williams has found alongside James in Cleveland, particularly with All-Star power forward Kevin Love sidelined.
It proved to be an uneven ride for Williams after signing a one-year free-agent contract with the Heat in the offseason. While there were 11 starts, there also were 25 times he was held out of the lineup due to "coach's decision."
Eventually, Heat President Pat Riley held to his word of allowing Williams to move on to a situation where he could receive playing time, with Williams released in early February so the Heat could sign rookie forward Okaro White for the balance of the season.
"He improved with us, and I said that right after we released him," Spoelstra said. "We still felt that it was beneficial for both sides. We think we benefited getting to know him, developing him. And we think he benefited as well from the structure. He improved his body, and from a player development standpoint.
"So much of this league is about right fit, right time, right opportunity, right team. And all of those pieces may be right in another situation. And I think that's what you're seeing. We still root for Derrick. I think it's a good fit for him."
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Commissioner Adam Silver, appearing at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, said there would be some changes made to the All-Star Game by next season. A little more defensive resistance would be a great start. … Brothers Jrue Holiday of the Pelicans and Justin Holiday of the Knicks have dreamed of playing together in the league, and Jrue’s impending free agency might make that happen. … Depending on who’s talking, the father of Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns might or might not be thinking of suing the Timberwolves. … J.R. Smith might be back in Cleveland’s lineup in 10 days to two weeks, yet another boost for the defending champs. … For every arrival to an already full roster, there is a departure, and young Cavs guard Jordan McRae is the one who got “exited” in Cleveland’s buyout pickups this week.