No. 1: Reports: Ball may only work out for Lakers — UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball has been on the minds of many NBA decision-makers since he started his one standout season with the Bruins. Now that the NBA Draft order has been set after last night’s lottery, there is talk that the California native may only work out for the Lakers. ESPN.com has more:
Lonzo Ball is undecided on whether he will work out for teams other than the Los Angeles Lakers, a source close to Ball told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
“We will make that decision closer to June,” the source said.
The source added that it has been “clear from the start our desired destination is Los Angeles.”
A Lakers source says the team will look at dozens of players with the second and 28th picks. The players under the strongest consideration at No. 2 right now are Markelle Fultz, Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum.
Speaking after the draft lottery Tuesday night, general manager Rob Pelinka noted there is no clear-cut No. 1.
“The harder call may be the first one,” he said. “Sometimes having the second pick is better than the first. We’re sitting in a fantastic position.
“I think there are four, five guys that are well suited to be [drafted] at the top.”
Pelinka reiterated that a player’s father — in this case LaVar Ball, the outspoken dad of Lonzo — won’t have any bearing on the team’s decision, a point Johnson made at the NBA draft combine last week.
Speaking of LaVar Ball, he told LakersNation.com that he expects his son to only work out for the Lakers:
Following the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, Lonzo’s father, LaVar Ball, spoke with Lakers Nation about his son and what their plans are moving forward. LaVar, as charismatic as ever, doesn’t have any doubts as to whether or not the Lakers will select Lonzo second overall on June 22.
“There’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever,” LaVar told Lakers Nation in an exclusive interview. “I’m going to say it again, in English, speak it into existence. In Spanish, speak it into existence. In Africa, speak that mother[expletive] into existence.”
Along with being as confident as ever that the Lakers will draft Lonzo next month, LaVar added there’s only one team the former UCLA star is working out for. The Ball family isn’t interested in auditioning for any other teams.
“That’s all we working out for is the Lakers,” said LaVar. “Just the Lakers. There’s nobody else that we need to workout for.”
“Yes, it does,” Ball said on if the Lakers’ playoff drought comes to an end with Lonzo. “The Lakers make the playoffs as soon as my boy gets there.”
LaVar has given his son Lonzo what he believes will be a guide to success in the NBA as draft day draws near. Ball isn’t worried about the 19-year-old shooting for awards in his rookie campaign.
“I really don’t care about Rookie of the Year and all that. I just want to make sure the kid makes the playoffs. Lonzo is going to make everybody better.
“So it’s like this, I’ve given him a little guidance thing. Magic [Johnson] made it to the championship his rookie year. [Michael] Jordan took about seven years. So Zo got to get himself to a championship between now and seven years. That’s what set you on the path to being the greatest.”
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No. 2: Patience pays off for Celtics in Draft lottery — A trade that broke up the last Boston Celtics championship team has, perhaps, paved the way for a new one. The Brooklyn Nets’ trade to pick up Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and others from the Celtics in 2013 sent a 2017 pick to Boston that became the No. 1 overall pick last night. Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald takes stock of how that trade (and a lot of waiting) has turned into a boon for Boston:
Thanks to the ping-pong ball combination of 7-1-9-10 — Danny Ainge called that number information for geeks last night — the Celtics have the first No. 1 pick in franchise history since the 1950 selection of Chuck Share, who never played for the team.
“I mean, getting the No. 1 pick is very fun, it’s very exciting, we’ve never had that before, so that clarity as to where everybody is in the draft. When you’re in the trade deadline and you’re talking about trading picks, it’s 1-4 or possibly 5 if Brooklyn starts winning games and so forth. There’s so much uncertainty when you’re making the trades, I think, for both teams. And now there’s certainty and clarity.”
Above all, Ainge sounds relieved that despite those fruitless talks with Indiana (for Paul George) and Chicago (for Jimmy Butler) at the trade deadline, he chose to keep the pick. It is the crown jewel in a satchel of first rounders he received from Brooklyn for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in July 2013 in a draft considered to be the most talented in several years.
“It was hard because it’s very tempting,” Ainge said of holding onto the pick. “A lot of people want the picks, but we just didn’t think we were getting the value for the pick.”
Said people will now want the pick more than ever. Patience has paid off.
“I think sitting here right now with the No. 1 pick in the draft, the answer is obviously yes and sitting in the Eastern Conference finals, the answer is obviously yes,” said Ainge. “I think that being patient, sometimes you need to be patient. It’s hard for me to be patient. I like action, but we have a good group of guys around us. My whole staff, ownership, we sit and calmly try to figure out what the best path is to take. We don’t want to make any mistakes and so far we’ve been pretty good.”
Ainge also said it’s too early to say that the Celtics have whittled the field down to two players, with Ball seemingly a lock to be picked second by his hometown Lakers, where the UCLA star said he would prefer to play.
However, Ainge rejected all of this talk. He has the pick, and a lot of time until the June 22 draft.
“I think that we’ve had a lot of good fortune,” said Ainge. “And we have a terrific coach (in Brad Stevens). He’s been a big part of that process. And we have a lot of good players. I think Avery Bradley’s been here the longest. I think Avery Bradley was the MVP of the Chicago series, helped us come back from an 0-2 deficit. Isaiah has been amazing player for us; being able to get Al Horford to come in and play and watching the development of Jaylen (Brown) and Terry (Rozier) and Jae Crowder and Kelly (Olynyk), it’s been fun watching those guys develop.
“But I give a lot of credit to Brad. The organization is a great organization. Our owners are fantastic, they give us all the support, security, to really broker a steady organization. Again, there’s just a lot of good fortune. There’s a lot of luck involved and we’re sitting here right now in the Eastern Conference finals with the No. 1 pick. There’s a lot of good fortune that’s come our way.”
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge discusses landing the #1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. pic.twitter.com/uJuvxxei1I
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 17, 2017
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No. 3: Road opener for East finals a unique hurdle for Cavs — In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals tonight against the Boston Celtics (8:30 ET, TNT), the Cleveland Cavaliers will not have home court advantage for just the second time in their last nine East playoff series. The last time the Cavs didn’t have that edge was in the 2015 East finals, a series Cleveland won against the Atlanta Hawks 4-0. Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com has more on how Cleveland is approaching this unique scenario:
But with the nine-day break between games nearly over and the Eastern Conference finals set to begin, the Cavs are again in the position of wondering just how they’ll respond in Game 1 against the Celtics after so much time off.
For instance, Cleveland went seven days between sweeping Indiana in the first round and playing Game 1 of its second-round series against the Raptors. The Cavs won that one 116-105, and beforehand coach Tyronn Lue said the first six minutes would be critical for his players to fight through the rust.
But Lue said Tuesday that rust could be more of an issue against the Celtics because the game is in Boston.
“Usually you have these layoffs and you have home court,” Lue said. “Our fans have gotten us through that. Now it’s going to be a little bit different to adjust, play on the road and having to carry all the weight. Our fans are not going to be behind us to start the game. We have to bring our own energy, which I think we will, and I think we will be fine.”
Since LeBron James returned to Cleveland, the Cavs have never had a break of fewer than five days between playoff series. Also, James has won at least one road game in 28 consecutive playoff series.
“It’s time,” Lue said. “We’ve gotten here faster than Boston did. But they scratched and clawed their way and it just shows the team they had all season. They play hard, scrap and compete. They made their way here. That’s just who they are and wouldn’t take it any other way.”
James, who will play in his ninth conference finals, said his teammates were sharp mentally.
“We’ve been focused this whole week,” he said. “I’m not worried about that. It’s always like the rhythm. We’ve been off, it’ll be 10 days tomorrow since we’ve played a game. The rhythm is something that you kind of like see if you still have it, but as far as the mental side, mentally we’re focused.”
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No. 4: Embiid could be back on court soon — Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was the team’s Draft lottery representative last night and continues to mend from torn meniscus surgery that halted his rookie season. While he was on hand to watch Philadelphia pick up the No. 3 pick in the 2017 Draft, he’s quickly recovering and hoping to get back in action very soon. Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer has more:
Embiid and the Sixers’ president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, were optimistic about the center’s recovery from surgery March 24 to repair the meniscus tear in his left knee.
Although the Sixers earned the third pick in the NBA draft in the lottery, no development is bigger than getting Embiid back on the court. He anticipates returning soon.
“I have been shooting; I haven’t been jumping or anything,” Embiid said after the lottery. “I have an MRI scheduled in three weeks, and if everything looks good I will be back on the court.”
Once on the court he will accelerate his rehab. For now he has been doing some shooting while also lifting weights and running in water.
When he returns to the court, Embiid said, “I am going to start jumping, and I don’t think they are worried about the meniscus. They are more worried about the bone bruise to see if it is completely healed.”
Both Embiid and Colangelo said they were encouraged after his surgery.
“The surgery was a lot less serious than we anticipated and things are moving along great with both him and Ben Simmons,” Colangelo said.
As for his plans this summer, Embiid said he would play five-on-five basketball but didn’t give a time line. He said he would not play in any summer leagues.
Most of all, he’s eager to move forward after all he experienced in his abbreviated first season.
“The city, the fans are crazy and showed a lot of love with us this year,” he said. “It was exciting, and we’ve got a good group.”
Embiid insisted that his time on the sideline will be a thing of the past.
“I only played 31 games, but my main thing is to stay healthy and I intend to stay healthy for the rest of my career and we have to work on some stuff,” he said. “I think the potential the team has and the future with the cap space is a good sign.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Noted trash talker Joel Embiid has some choice words for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers … Great video of Brian Scalabrine and Boston Celtics fans celebrating the team landing the No. 1 overall pick … New York Knicks legend Walt Frazier thinks the team ought to not trade Carmelo Anthony … Denzel Valentine reportedly had surgery on his ankle recently …