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Heisler: Now for the season before the season the Lakers yearn for

first_img(LeBron has been in the last eight Finals – reaching all from the East, the lesser conference even when his Miami teams were the NBA’s best. Had LeBron’s Heat and Cavaliers been in the West, he would have done well to make half those Finals.)Besides LeBron, Magic Johnson signed four veterans with checkered pasts who might be in the rotation – Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson. The team hopes they will assume key roles, not the least of which is vanishing from its salary cap next spring.(Actually, Rondo, one of those viewed most skeptically, might be the most helpful, especially if Lonzo Ball struggles or gets hurt. Once a non-factor past 15 feet, Rondo has become a 35 percent 3-point shooter. He has become a leader as he has aged and chilled from his early years as a pain in the rear end whom older teammates put up with because he was so good.)There’s still too great a burden placed on the Lakers’ young, promising but still untested-at-this-level players.We know Kyle Kuzma could be very good and Brandon Ingram could be special. Josh Hart looks useful, at least. Lonzo Ball showed he was, indeed, a special playmaker, even while leaving other questions – shooting? – unanswered in a rocky rookie season.The young players will be the ones filling the major roles around James. Of the four, only one has ever been on an NBA team that was ever above .500 (Ingram, a rookie on the 2016-17 team that rocketed to a 7-5 start before finishing 26-56).Not enough shooters. You could hear this on any local talk show, or, indeed, at any local grade school but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.This isn’t just a critique you could hear on any talk show.Nevertheless, it’s not just some modern internet vogue, like so much of the hue and cry about unproven “analytics” in basketball.Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.Three-point shooting is the key to spacing the floor, which is the key to modern offense … the kind the Lakers, who were cutting edge in the Showtime 1980s but not nice, would like to develop in this new age, which is why they hired Luke Walton off the Warriors’ bench.Kuzma was a stunner, not least because he made 36.6 percent of his 3-point attempts. That was head-turning for a rookie but not for one of a contending team’s top shooting threats.Last season’s Warriors were No. 1 in 3-point accuracy at 39.1 percent, 1.4 percent ahead of No. 2 Boston (37.7). The Rockets were No. 1 in 3-pointers made at 15.3 per game, 2.6 ahead of No. 2 Brooklyn (12.7).The Lakers were No. 20 at 10 per game and No. 29 in accuracy at 34.5 percent.It’s asking a lot of young players to slash that gap but Magic Johnson, who had concluded LeBron’s Cavaliers had too many specialists such as Kyle Korver, didn’t bring in a single outside shooter, aside from drafting Ukrainian Svi Mykhailiuk (Kansas) in the second round.This might have been all about knowing they’re waiting ’til next season.Related Articles How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Now for the season Lakerdom has waited all decade for …Oh, wait, that’s next season, after the Lakers bag that second star player they’ve saved salary cap space for, such as Kawhi Leonard or (they can dream) Kevin Durant.This season should be titled “In the meantime.” For the Lakers, who measure success in titles, this is still about rebuilding to contend on that level, as opposed to being there.The Western Conference powers far outgun them – that’s the Rockets as well as the Warriors and perhaps two or three or more teams. Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed center_img I’m guessing that if Magic thought there was a title on the line this season, he would have brought in some shooters … the way he had Byron Scott and Michael Cooper, who meant so much in Showtime, even before offense became all about spacing and shooting.In other words, wait ’til next year. In that meantime, good luck, Luke!None of this means this season will be anything like the lean ones.It’s actually disappointment-proof with Lakers fans, once the most spoiled of fat cats, enchanted at the thought of making the playoffs, which once would have elicited yawns here.Better yet, with James as a magnet, there’s every reason to believe they can land that second star next summer, leading to even better times in the 2019-20 season.In the meantime, LeBron, at 33, has to continue aging arch-gracefully. The young players have to keep coming. As a team they have to be as good, or better, on the court as they are on paper.What’s the problem? After all the down years, this looks like up in Lakerdom. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe Las Vegas over/under has the Lakers at 48.5 wins, a fair projection that ties them with Utah for No. 4 in the West, 14 behind the Warriors, six behind Houston, two behind OKC.The Nuggets are one back. The Timberwolves are two back, only because of the furor around Jimmy Butler’s trade demand.These are unusually modest expectations on the Lakers, a glamour franchise that now has LeBron James, after finishing 23-18 last season, a pace that projects to a 46-win season pre-LeBron.Nevertheless, I’m going with the “under” on this season: Not enough cohesion, which even lesser Western challengers such as Denver, Portland and New Orleans have after years together.There are too many new moving parts in a conference in which the powers have so few. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions last_img read more

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Heisler: The Clippers were something, the Lakers something else

first_imgCinderellas R Them.There was once a little team that went from an eccentric owner’s laughingstock rattling around the Sports Arena … to local wannabes who were ignored even while averaging 50 wins in Staples Center … to this season’s surprising start with the remnants of their Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan heyday … to management’s decision to trade leading scorer Tobias Harris and staring guard Avery Bradley, looking like they intended to tank … to their even more surprising 18-9 finish … to upending the Warriors’ world twice … before, at long last, succumbing.It’s the story of the 2018-19 Clippers, the proudest moment for an NBA team with “Los Angeles” in its name since the Lakers won their last championship in 2010.Unfortunately for local fans, the Lakers haven’t even been in the playoffs since 2013, so the competition hasn’t been all they would like. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersFirst-round drama is usually forgotten by the second round, but the Clippers’ stand won them something lasting.Respect.“What’s been really impressive is that they won while they were rebuilding,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said before their Game 6 victory. “When I see the Clippers, I see a team building a foundation, something substantial, something real.“You can see what they’ve done and how special this team has been – and the remarkable thing is, they traded their best player and got better. Think about that. Tobias Harris was having an All-Star year. …“It’s a great story. It’s a model for other teams, I think, to try to compete and rebuild at the same time. It’s not an easy thing to do.” The Clippers’ heroic stand was so brief and the highs so unexpected, there was barely time to scramble onto their bandwagon.With few giving them a chance, only true believers must have tuned into Game 1 … with few of those staying to the end of the 17-point loss.By the time they trailed by 31 in the second half of Game 2, the Clippers must have been down to family and friends … before their record-setting comeback.The Warriors then restored order in Games 3 and 4 in Staples Center … we all thought.By Game 5 in Oakland, the Warriors were trying to stay focused amid the buildup for their coming matchup with Houston.Nevertheless, who didn’t think that the Clippers would finally realize they were toast?Remarkably, once more, the Clippers refused to quit. Within one point with 2:40 left, they outscored the Warriors 12-3, with Lou Williams outscoring Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined by an 8-3 margin.The Warriors finally extinguished the uprising in Game 6, ending the local NBA season. Now for the long-awaited free-agent summer of both teams’ dreams.Yet to be seen is whether this is a random moment, or if their diverging fortunes and savvy will mean something lasting, with the Lakers’ front office spinning like a top and the Clippers earning raves.The Clippers’ front office is functioning at a high level as the deadline moves showed, bringing a coveted, unprotected No. 1 pick from Miami.Unprotected No. 1 picks are rare, making this one a prize, originally sent by Miami to Phoenix for Goran Dragic in 2015, moved to Philadelphia last spring for Mikal Bridges … even if the front office was surely as surprised by the team’s post-deadline surge as everyone else.“Clippers” now means more than it did a week ago, with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith declaring they have “a better than 50 percent chance” of signing both Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.The Lakers, meanwhile, remain holed up with no team official having appeared in public since team president Magic Johnson resigned April 9.Jeanie Buss is reportedly going forward with GM Rob Pelinka, but has yet to confirm that or let him appear to reassure fans … and free agents … that they’re still the Lakers, proceeding on the same agenda.As little as Pelinka’s controversy-filled career as an agent prepared him for this, he’s a bright guy who can handle himself in public. Jeanie won’t even trust him with that.Nor does Pelinka have anything like a free hand, enmeshed in the family-obsessed organization.Jeanie, who never participated in basketball operations, is now in the meetings with her best friend, Linda Rambis – another Lakers marketing official who is now said to exert influence in basketball ops – and Linda’s husband, Kurt.Criticized for not looking outside the organization, Jeanie’s answer is More Family. A veritable delegation of Busses went to Philadelphia last week to interview 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams: Jeanie, Jesse Buss, Joey Buss, plus Pelinka, Linda and Kurt Rambis and Tim Harris, yet another Lakers executive who hasn’t participated in basketball ops until now.Ominously for the Lakers, July 1 is looming with free agents gathering final impressions of who’s dynamic and who’s defunct.Last week, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, who spent recent seasons covering LeBron James in Cleveland, tweeted that LeBron’s trust in the Lakers organization “has been damaged.”It’s safe to assume it came from James’ people. LeBron denied it – on Instagram. He hasn’t appeared in public since Magic left, either.Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher reported that before leaving, Magic saw emails from Pelinka to Jeanie about Johnson’s absence.Magic then tweeted, “The truth will always come to light” – without saying what he was referring to.Oh, and Magic also tweeted he’s still in the loop and will participate in free-agent recruiting.Yes, it has been the way it is around here for as long as there have been two teams.No, I don’t know where we go from here.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

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Portugal coach Fernando Santos lauds Cristiano Ronaldo’s motivational powers

first_imgEmotional Portugal coach Fernando Santos praised Cristiano Ronaldo’s motivational powers and said criticism of Pepe was unjustified after his team won the Euro 2016 on Sunday. (Euro 2016 – Full Coverage)Santos began his news conference by reading a speech he had delivered to the squad.”We were as simple as doves and as wise as serpents,” he finished by saying. (Also read: Cristiano Ronaldo the greatest, says Chris Gayle after Portugal lift Euro 2016) Santos, appointed after Portugal had lost their opening qualifier at home to Albania, is unbeaten in 14 competitive internationals in charge.Portugal overcame France 1-0 on Sunday after extra-time despite losing talisman Cristiano Ronaldo to injury 25 minutes into the match following a tackle by Dimitri Payet. (Also read: Cristiano Ronaldo puts Lionel Messi in the shade with two European titles) “Our captain made a fantastic effort during this competition, he was criticised many times but he showed a fantastic team spirit,” Santos told reporters”Twice, he tried everything that was humanly possible to get back into the game but it wasn’t possible,” he added. (Also read: Cristiano Ronaldo told me I would score the winner, says Eder) “His presence in the changing-room was really important thanks to the way in which he supported me and he said it was our day…he believed as much as I did that it was our day.”Santos added that the tackle on Ronaldo was “strange” and complained that the referee did not even give a foul.The 61-year-old former Greece coach said he believed from the start that Portugal could win the competition, even while recognising that other teams had more natural ability.advertisement”I’ve always told the players that we’ve got great talent but we need to fight more than our opponents, run more than them and concentrate more than them. We have an amazing group,” he said.”They’ve always believed what I told them, that we could win this.””Sometimes the Portuguese don’t believe in ourselves and I’ve seen that a lot but Portugal and the Portuguese are the best in the world.”Central defender Pepe, often cast as the pantomime villain after several unsavoury incidents in his career, was outstanding throughout the tournament.”Pepe is a player with enormous passion, he gives everything during a game,” Santos said.”What is said about him is not really correct, I think he has picked up a reputation that he will struggle to get rid off but happily he is a champion of Europe.”last_img read more

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