Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Lakers’

Magic Johnson sees a lot of himself when he watches the Greek Freak, and that’s good news for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Much like Giannis Antetokounmpo today, Johnson’s rare combination of size and ball-handling skills allowed the point guard to thrive during the Showtime era of the 1980s, when he helped deliver five NBA championships to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, Johnson believes the 23-year-old has the potential to do for Milwaukee what Magic did for Los Angeles.

“Oh yeah,” Johnson recently told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim, I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates. That’s where we (have the) same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play.

“I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star Game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

Currently ranked second in league scoring (his 28.4 points per game trail only James Harden‘s 30.9), Antetokounmpo’s all-around performance this season has even placed the Bucks superstar in the MVP conversation. According to Basketball Reference’s MVP tracker, Antetokounmpo is fifth with a 5.5 percent chance of earning the honor, trailing four-time winner LeBron James by just 0.3 percentage points (though they’re both well behind the favorite in Harden, who sits at 43.3 percent).

When told about Johnson’s flattering remarks, Anteokounmpo didn’t shy away from the spotlight, noting they simply reinforced what he had already believed.

“The craziest thing is that I believe that,” Antetokounmpo said. “But it’s even more believable when other guys see that, like Magic. Especially Magic seeing that, that’s big. Because it’s almost like, ‘OK, he sees that.’ So I’m on the right path, I’ve got to do what I’m doing.”

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Kobe Bryant is going to share his Mamba Mentality on a new TV show.

His production company, Granity Studios, is teaming up with ESPN on “Detail,” which will be written, produced, and hosted by the Los Angeles Lakers legend.

Regarded as one of the most brilliant basketball minds, Bryant will provide insight on an ESPN game played the previous night as if he were one of the players in the matchup, with the goal of helping young athletes, players, and coaches see the game differently.

“Studying game film is how the best get better. It’s the university for a master’s degree in basketball,” the future Hall of Famer said in an ESPN statement.

“I learned how to study film from the best coaches of all time – Phil Jackson and Tex Winter. ‘Detail’ provides an opportunity to teach that skill to the next generation on large platform with ESPN.”

“Detail” will premiere in March and air 15 episodes that will span the remainder of the regular season and the postseason. Bryant, 39, has also been working with ESPN on MuseCage Basketball Network this season.

The 18-time All-Star retired at the end of the 2015-16 campaign following an illustrious 20-year career with the Lakers. He finished with career averages of 25 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.4 steals, collecting five championships, two Finals MVPs, two scoring titles, and the 2008 MVP.

If there’s one true negative to LaVar Ball’s antics, it’s the fact that his 20-year-old son has to answer for some of them as an NBA rookie. And some in the Los Angeles Lakers organization are concerned about the toll that is taking on Lonzo Ball, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

In LaVar’s most disruptive stunt yet as far as the Lakers are concerned, he suggested over the weekend that the team has checked out on head coach Luke Walton. That ignited a firestorm of backlash against the senior Ball, while his son attempted to distance himself from the remarks.

A source told Shelburne that Lonzo is more concerned with improving as a player than getting involved in controversy manufactured by his father, something he’s alluded to in the past.

“That is just his opinion,” Ball said of LaVar’s remarks Sunday, via the OC Register’s Bill Oram. “(LaVar) has coached me his whole life. So, he is definitely going to have a strong opinion about it. That’s just what it is.”

Ball has been shooting better since the beginning of December after a rough start. His court vision remains strong, averaging seven assists per game.

The Lakers have already asked LaVar to tone down public criticism of Walton, and have tried to mitigate the media circus around him at the Staples Center by keeping reporters away from him.

The Los Angeles Lakers have approached this season with an eye firmly fixed on the 2018 free-agent market.

Expected to be major players for Paul George and possibly LeBron James, the Lakers are looking to carve out as much cap space as possible, and as such, they’ve made it clear to the rest of the league that young role players Jordan ClarksonJulius Randle, and Larry Nance are on the trade block, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi reports.

Those three have been among the Lakers’ most consistent performers this season. In mostly bench roles, Clarkson has averaged 14.2 points and 3.1 assists, Randle has put up 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds, and Nance has gone for 8.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.4 steals.

As it is, the Lakers have less than $50 million committed for 2018-19, but they’d need to get even leaner if they hope to sign both George and James (who will reportedly accept nothing less than a max contract). The most desirable way to do that would be to get out from under Luol Deng‘s $18-million-a-year albatross, but, due to the draft assets they’d need to attach in a trade, Los Angeles has given up hope of moving the contract, according to Wojnarowksi.

Moving Clarkson, who is due $26 million over two seasons after this year, would be the next best thing, particularly if they can collect an asset in return. Randle is set for restricted free agency in the summer, and since the organization doesn’t see him as part of its long-term plans, casting a net before the trade deadline makes sense. Nance is a solid two-way player on a cheap rookie contract, and would be a valuable throw-in that might grease the wheels on a deal to unload Clarkson’s contract.

It’s been a rough month for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Not only are they on the verge of matching the longest losing streak in team history, but the Lakers also lost Friday to the Charlotte Hornets and Dwight Howard, who’s despised by the fan base, as evidenced by the boos he receives each time he sets foot in Staples Center.

Howard was jeered yet again on this night, but he got the last laugh with Charlotte’s 108-94 win. Afterward, the big man – who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds – knocked Lakers fans for how they treated him during the disastrous 2012-13 campaign, his lone season in L.A.

“I thought I played very well despite coming off of back surgery and also tearing a labrum, which I guess means nothing to people,” Howard said of his time with the Lakers, according to Matthew Moreno of Lakers Nation.

The Lakers were expected to win a title after dealing for Howard and signing Steve Nash in the summer of 2012, but they fell woefully short of expectations. Kobe Bryant dragged an otherwise lifeless team to the playoffs, where Los Angeles was promptly swept in the first round.

Howard made for an easy scapegoat. Not only did he butt heads with Bryant and the coaching staff, but he also missed time with injuries and was a shell of the MVP-level player from his days with the Orlando Magic. Fans quickly soured on him, and were largely happy to see him leave in free agency.

“I don’t think about it. At some point they get over it,” Howard said of Lakers fans.

Russell Westbrook knows team success will be the most persuasive free-agent sales pitch the Oklahoma City Thunder can make to Paul George this coming summer. But, while Westbrook suggested a Thunder championship would convince George to stick around, George said simply showing meaningful growth as a team could be enough.

“I’ve got a lot to think about,” George told ESPN before the Thunder decimated the Los Angeles Lakers – widely rumored to be his top choice in free agency – on Wednesday night. “This summer will be huge. I’ve got a lot to think about. If we’re trending, if we’re going in the right direction, if I feel there is something that we’re building, and there’s a foundation, it would be kind of clueless, just stupid on my behalf to up and leave.

“I’m very conscious that we’re only together for a year so far, and we continue to go in an upward trend. It’s best to stick with what we have and work on building. So, I wouldn’t say it’s championship or bust, or championship and I’m out. It’s all about building. If I like where we’re building or the level that we’re going at, it would be stupid to walk away from that.”

It’s way too early to make a determination one way or another, but after a rough start to the Westbrook-George-Carmelo Anthony era, the Thunder have righted the ship and appear to be trending in the right direction. They’ve won 13 of their past 18 games, have the third-best point differential in the Western Conference, and are 4-2 against the top five teams in the NBA. (The Lakers, meanwhile, have lost eight straight and now have the league’s second-worst record.)

George feels the Thunder’s biggest issue at the start of the year was that Westbrook was being too deferential to his new star teammates.

“The biggest change was myself, Melo, telling Russ he has to be who he is,” George said. “All of us were kind of afraid to step on toes, deferring. I felt at times Russ was looking to get others involved when sometimes he has shots that he has to take, and it was throwing everybody out of rhythm. Now he knows that we got his back. We trust him, he trusts us. We got a rhythm. We’ve all been shooting the ball well lately. We’re in a group, we’re relaxed, we’re comfortable out there.”

Their progress won’t necessarily continue along a linear track, and none of it will matter if they can’t make meaningful noise in the postseason. But, if George is to be believed, the Thunder have a path to keeping him that doesn’t necessarily involve beating the Golden State Warriors.

The Greek Freak has a fan in the Black Mamba.

Kobe Bryant was recently asked to name a few players whom he’s a fan of, and gushed about only one.

Giannis (Antetokounmpo) is really, really fun to watch,” he told SLAM on Monday.

“The way he plays the game and the passion with which he plays, I love watching Giannis play.”

Bryant, 39, added that the Milwaukee Bucks phenom plays with the “same passion and the same mean streak” he did during his illustrious 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, who retired Nos. 8 and 24 in his honor later that night.

“He’s aggressive, he’s always attacking at both ends of the floor,” Bryant said of Antetokounmpo.

Before the 2017-18 season began, Bryant challenged the versatile Bucks star to win the Most Valuable Player award.

The 23-year-old is currently in the MVP conversation, but not considered a favorite. He leads the fifth-place Bucks with 29.7 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.5 blocks over a league-high 38 minutes per outing.