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January 18, 2020 | 10:11 pm UTC Update
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FROM THE OUTSIDE, Vogel looked like a coach set up for failure. The Lakers had first pursued Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue, but both backed out. They then turned to Vogel, a candidate they figured likely wouldn’t object to their terms. After Vogel’s Orlando exit in 2018, there was no certainty he would ever get another chance to lead an NBA team, and a LeBron-led squad is a plum position, irrespective of the franchise’s recent self-inflicted wounds. Yet Vogel was well-respected for his preparation skills, regarded as inordinately affable and — possibly most important — a pliable listener who would collaborate with all the Lakers’ stakeholders on decisions big and small.
Poll any NBA roster — particularly a veteran one — for the most important attribute for a head coach, and accountability will likely rank second to trust. Players want to know that the staff will set standards for performance and will enforce those standards with consistency, from superstar to the end of the bench. After a lackluster defensive performance earlier this month against the New Orleans Pelicans in which the Lakers allowed 68 points in the paint on 67% shooting, Vogel unleashed his fury in an exhaustive film session featuring a sequence of defensive snafus.
“He got on all of us — me, LeBron, everyone. A lot of coaches don’t get on their superstars, but he does,” Davis says. “What’s impressed me the most is that even when we win, he holds us accountable. When a team sees a coach getting on LeBron or me, the other guys respect him more and know they’ll be held accountable too.” In their next game, the Lakers set a franchise record with 20 blocks in a win over the Detroit Pistons.
January 18, 2020 | 7:54 pm UTC Update
January 18, 2020 | 6:53 pm UTC Update
January 18, 2020 | 5:19 pm UTC Update
Kyrie Irving was getting dressed in the visitor’s locker room at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday when he decided to share some Nets history with Caris LeVert, who was standing nearby. “It’s not a coincidence that the last time the Nets won a title, they were led by Julius Erving,” Irving said, referencing the two ABA titles Hall of Famer Julius Erving won with the then-New York Nets in 1974 and 1976. “And now, we have another Irving. I’m just saying.”
“I’m just saying. Erving. Irving,” the mercurial All-Star point guard turned defense attorney said, making his case, to no avail. “How do you spell his name again?” Pinson responded, hoping that Irving would realize how silly he was being with the Dr. J chatter and just…stop. “He’s with an E,” Irving said, acknowledging the difference, “but how do you say it?” Irving smiled and nodded. He wouldn’t relent. His teammates wouldn’t, either. Laughter ended the discussion.
January 18, 2020 | 4:19 pm UTC Update
After a career-high 24 point night in a win over the Chicago Bulls, Korkmaz is happy to still be in a Sixers uniform. “This is why they call it the NBA,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on here, some of them you can control, some of them you cannot control. Right now, I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be a part of this team. I’m just trying to give my best on the court.”
Storyline: Furkan Korkmaz Trade?
Ben Simmons has played with Korkmaz for all of his NBA career and he is excited to see him improve, especially on the defensive end. “He stayed locked in,” said Simmons. “He hasn’t gone off track if he’s not playing as many minutes. When he gets the opportunity, he’s ready. And defense, he stepped up a lot. He’s had a lot of guys go at him and he’s taken those challenges upon himself to get better and be a better defensive player.”
The fallout from that incident is still very much at play. The Rockets, once the most popular team in China, are no longer having their games aired in the country, where broadcasts are controlled by the government. The relationship between China and the NBA is still rocky, though other teams’ games are being broadcast. Some believe it will have a significant enough impact on the league’s bottom line to lower the salary cap. I just left a Lakers practice where the team made Dwight Howard and Frank Vogel available to reporters. Both were asked about the fallout from that experience and neither wanted to talk about it. One thing that Vogel was willing to address was what he learned about his team going through that experience.
This trip could be when we see LeBron James reach a milestone that will mean a lot for his Lakers tenure. He is 111 points behind Kobe Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, having passed Michael Jordan last season. The top four players on the list all spent at least part of their careers with the Lakers, but passing Bryant would be significant. This season, James is averaging 25.4 points, and if that continues it would mean passing Bryant in Philadelphia, where Bryant spent his high school years.
January 18, 2020 | 11:08 am UTC Update

Karl-Anthony Towns downplays rumors

While he was out, reports surfaced concerning teams monitoring Towns’ level of unhappiness. In his first public comments since the injury, he made a strong statement that reaffirmed his commitment to the Wolves when asked about those reports. Here it is in full, with a curse word edited. “I think you’ve been around me long enough to know I don’t go for all the …,” Towns said. “I just do my job, go home and I know what the real story is. There’s a reason those stories are made because people need to sell papers, sell links and clicks, whatever the case may be. I’m here to be a Minnesota Timberwolf. Very fortunate I have a head coach like [Ryan Saunders], a President and friend like [Gersson Rosas]. I’m not worried about all that nonsense.
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Drummond has a for-sale sign tattooed to his jersey, with the Pistons reportedly canvassing the league for offers. Atlanta was mentioned early, but there is a league-wide feeling that was more ownership driven, with Hawks owner Tony Ressler known to be frustrated by Atlanta’s poor play this season. Other teams have kicked the tires on Drummond, but there has been no traction on a deal to this point, a league source told SI.com.
There’s a feeling around the league that the Wizards almost have to shop Bertans, if just to see if there is a contender willing to go wild with draft picks to get him. Bertans has been terrific this season, a prolific three-point shooter, jacking up nearly nine per game, who is among the candidates for the NBA’s Most Improved award. He seems like an ideal fit with a John Wall–Bradley Beal backcourt, the kind of frontcourt player who can open up the floor for both.
Storyline: Davis Bertans Trade?

Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas got to know Porter as Porter starred in his senior year of high school in Seattle, declared him the best player before the 2018 draft and befriended him last season in Denver, where the players spent considerable time rehabbing together from their respective injuries. “He’s in the making of a Kevin Durant,” Thomas said of Porter. “One of the most special talents I’ve ever been around, ever seen. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a superstar in this league.
While Furkan Korkmaz stole the show offensively with a masterful performance that had coach Brett Brown having flashbacks to JJ Redick, it was Ben Simmons who made some big plays on the other end to swing it in Philadelphia’s favor. His defense to begin the third quarter was huge in a 100-89 win over Chicago to improve to 20-2 at home. “How can we not recognize Ben Simmons’ defense?” asked Brown postgame. “After the first time out in the first period, are you serious? He was just the adult in the room defensively, he’s a physical presence by a lot when you watch him play defense. I thought he changed the game. How can he not be an all-league defensive player?”

Wizards optimistic about John Wall

The Wizards are very optimistic about Wall making a full recovery from his latest injury. I watched Wall go through the paces of a pregame workout recently, and he looks close to full strength. It still doesn’t make much sense for Washington to bring him back this season, but I like his chances for making a strong return next fall.
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Overall usage of zone defenses — schemes that call for defenders to guard a specific area of space rather than an opposing player — is up 50 percent from last season, according to Synergy Sports data. The increase per possession is 10.8 percent, according to data provided to N.B.A. teams by Second Spectrum. A leaguewide average of 2.3 zone possessions per game remains modest, but the rise Carlisle referenced is more tangibly reflected by the number of teams regarded as regular zone practitioners.
ESPN has gone through many pairings and approaches trying to build a pregame show during its 18 seasons broadcasting the NBA. This time it’s using a successful daily show. The Rachel Nichols-led “The Jump” has been a daytime hit since debuting four years ago and is going primetime. It will lead off ABC’s Saturday night package, which begins with the Los Angeles Lakers visiting the Houston Rockets. “To get the trust of ESPN to do something like this feels good. It’s not just me hosting pregame, but have the whole feeling and ethos of ‘The Jump’ from games,” Nichols said.
Gary Payton: The younger guys always say, “Well, in your era, you guys couldn’t do this or that.” If that’s the case, I wish you could come to our era and play in our era. I wish we had a time machine so that we could put them in our era and see how they would fare. Sometimes, they say, “Well, you couldn’t play in this era because of the shooting and scoring!” Well, when we were in our early 20s, we were pretty athletic and dominant too; that’s why you know about us. It’s just changed. You can’t put your hands on guys. The league is about scoring; they want you to score and they want to run up the points, so it’s entertaining. In our era, we were talking about locking guys down. We were talking about beating you up. We were talking about putting you on your back if you tried to come in the paint and dunk. We wanted you to think that you may get hurt every time you came in the paint. You know what I’m saying? Now, that will get you a flagrant or get you kicked out of the game and they may even suspend you after evaluating it. We didn’t have all of that. We’d put you on your back, they’d look at it and then you’d go on about your business. It’s just so different.
Storyline: Old School vs. New School
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