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Brett Dawson: Sam Presti: “We anticipate Billy (Donovan) being back.”
The relationship that really matters, however, is Westbrook’s and Donovan’s. Publicly, Westbrook has praised Donovan, crediting him for being “nothing but great” for himself and the organization. But I keep hearing rumblings that Westbrook’s faith has waned in Donovan, and close observers this season have caught several curious in-game moments between coach and star that make you wonder. If the relationship is fractured, Donovan’s done. It’s hard for any coach to survive three straight first-round exits, and if there’s trouble brewing between that coach and his biggest star then that coach has no chance of survival.
Brett Dawson: Presti on Donovan: “I think the biggest opportunity for him is in the continuity.” Says “continuity is his best friend going forward.”
Several Thunder players spoke highly of Donovan on Saturday. George, of course, is a free agent and could make the coaching decision himself. Telling Presti he would stay if Donovan stays or goes would seal the decision. Such is life in the NBA. But George doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy who wants that kind of responsibility. Most of us wouldn’t want that kind of responsibility.
Erik Horne: Billy Donovan on if he expects to be back next season as coach, says he hasn’t given any thought to that: “My only focus is how to get better and improve.”
As for Donovan, it’s worth remembering that Presti came up with the San Antonio Spurs as a scout. That means he understands the value of longevity, having seen the fruits of Gregg Popovich’s labor up close and learned how much stability matters. So despite the subpar results, and even with nuanced factors like the presence of an assistant coach in Adrian Griffin who has been in the running for head coaching jobs and who has also formed a productive bond with George, all signs point to Oklahoma City staying the course.
“The respect level is high. No one’s going against Billy,” George said. “He’s given us an incredible game plan all season long. There’s a high level of respect for his position and what he’s wanting from us. There’s no line of disrespect at all toward what Coach wants us to do.”
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September 20, 2020 | 2:19 pm EDT Update
“You want to start with whoever our free agents are,” Ujiri said. “There’s a priority for Fred. We also have to look at the game and see where the game is going. We are all waiting on the cap to see where the numbers fall. We also have to look at free agency in 2021. We have to look at the short-term future and the long-term future. “This is where we really have to buckle down and make an assessment of what bubble basketball was against what the outside-the-bubble basketball was. This is our time. You support as much as you want during the bubble, during the playoffs. But now is the time to work.
So the Lakers knew that when it was their turn to face Denver, there would be no letting up no matter what the scoreboard said. Game 2 is Sunday night. The Lakers know the job is far from over. “No lead is safe with this team, in the game or in the series,” Lakers star Anthony Davis said. “They have proven that they are a second-half team, where they come out and just destroy teams in the second half and prove that even if they are down a series, they are a team that’s going to be resilient and keep fighting no matter what the score is, what the situation is. “When we have a lead, we have to lock in even more.”
Jokic is the only center to have more than 37% of his team’s assists, which he’s done each of the past two seasons. The other players cited as the best passing centers don’t come close. Chamberlain famously racked up big assist numbers for two seasons, but that was partially because he averaged nearly 47 minutes per game. On a per-minute basis, he can’t touch Jokic. Nor can Walton, whose best season by this measure (29% assist share in 1977-78, when he was named MVP) ranks comfortably outside the top 10. The same goes for Sabonis, whose best season (25% assist share in 2002-03, his final NBA campaign at age 38) doesn’t crack the top 50.
Murray has never publicly commented on what Porter had to say that night, but his answer Saturday suggested he’d seen a change in Porter’s approach. “I just think his patience right now,” Murray said. “He might not touch it every single time on the court, but when he gets a good look, we know he’s gonna put it up and most likely make it. His rebounding is incredible. He’s got a really good nose for the ball. Shot blocking’s there. So, all his instincts are there. … I think he’s going to be a big factor in this series against the Lakers.”
September 20, 2020 | 12:22 pm EDT Update
So, I asked, how did Lakers coach Frank Vogel see it after he had watched the film? “We were definitely the aggressors in the game, and the box score I have right here has us with 28 (fouls),” Vogel said. “We got called for 28 fouls. They got called for 26.” It was a savvy stance to take, albeit oversimplified. So as Vogel left his media session to rejoin his team, I admitted to him that I hadn’t noticed that the final fouls tally was in the Nuggets’ favor. “I do my research,” he said with a grin.
When Orange County Register Lakers beat writer Kyle Goon asked Vogel about James’ shot selection this season, it was refreshing to hear a candid and fascinating response from the Lakers coach rather than something more political. James, whose midrange jumper has been so effective for so many years now, has focused more on shots at the rim and beyond the arc this season, in part because of the message being sent by the coaching staff. “It is definitely a coaching point,” Vogel said. “You know, we want to have an analytics-based shot selection mindset with our team. … It’s the free throw No. 1; layup dunk No. 2; corner 3, No. 3; arc 3, No. 4, and midrange is the fifth priority shot we could have. But I will not ever tell my team not to take midrange shots if they are open shots. The No. 1 analytic for me is ‘Are you open?’ or ‘Are you guarded?’ That applies to shots at the rim, applies to 3-point line and applies to midrange. I’ll take an open shot over any zone that you can put up the shot from, and we want to work for open shots.”
“We’re not trying to intimidate anyone,” said Rondo, who had seven points, nine assists and a plus-13 in nearly 22 minutes. “We’re just playing basketball. With the guys we have — Dwight (and his) physical ability, he’s just playing the game. No one’s out there trying to bully people. We’re playing to our strengths. “I’ve been telling (Howard) the last two weeks (that) he’s going to be our X-factor in the series. I’m very happy that he got an opportunity to come out and play and display his talent, and show how much we need him. Like I said, I told him in the Houston series, things don’t go his way sometimes but in a championship run you need all 15 guys, and that’s what we displayed (in Game 1). Coach being able to go deep in the bench, and use guys that we haven’t used last series, so it’s a testament to the management, the way we’re able to be flexible — go small, go big, and (in Game 1) Dwight Howard, especially, was great for us.”
“This has been something I’ve never dealt with. There’s a lot going on for me individually, (and) for my family. And then the rehab, just with (the coronavirus in society) and the bubble and trying to do the best that I can to not have to quarantine for many days coming back here and having to quarantine — basically taking five days off from treatment and rehab and then trying to get myself ready to play in the Eastern Conference Finals, that’s something that’s a daunting task for sure. So for me … I’ve tried to do the best I can each day with it, and not put pressure on myself and just try to help us win basketball games, honestly.”
“To be honest, I didn’t get much sleep the last 48 hours,” Brown, who clashed with Smart in the passionate locker room scene, said when asked about the recovery process for their team. “I was so antsy to get back and play basketball. I don’t think the last two games exemplify what this team is about. So, I couldn’t wait to come out and be the best version of myself and try to add to a win. And I’m glad to be a part of this team and this organization and I’m proud of how we responded. … At the end of the day, we’re a family. We represent this organization. We represent each other and we won’t ever let anything come in between that. We’ve got a tremendous opportunity and we understand that and nothing’s going to stop us from trying to maximize that.”
Back in February, Us Weekly published a story about how Vanessa had been leaning on her mother, Sofia Laine, as she grieved the loss of Kobe and hers and Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Giannia. Laine had moved in with Vanessa at one point, but she now says her daughter has kicked her out of the Bryant home. Laine sat down for an interview with Univision that is set to air in its entirety on Monday. A preview clip, which is only in Spanish, was shared on social media. According to Erika Marie of Hot New Hip Hop, a teary-eyed Laine claims in the interview that her daughter has kicked her out of the Bryant home and demanded that she return a car Vanessa had given to her.