Storyline: LeBron James to Lakers

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“Today is a great day for the Lakers organization and Lakers fans all over the world to welcome LeBron James, a three-time NBA Champion and four-time NBA MVP,” said Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “LeBron is special. He is the best player in the world. He loves to compete and is an awesome leader who is about winning and making sure that his teammates are successful. The Lakers players are excited to have a teammate who has been to nine NBA Finals. It’s a huge step closer to returning the Lakers to the playoffs and to the NBA Finals.”

“This is a historic moment for the Lakers, and we could not feel more grateful and honored,” Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka said. “When LeBron James – a perennial NBA MVP and champion who is playing at the most astonishing levels of his career – chooses to join the Lakers, it serves as the ultimate validation for what we are building here. However, we all know that the work is not yet done. We will continue forward and do all that is necessary to achieve our shared obsession of bringing banner No. 17 to the world’s best fans – Lakers Nation.”

On Sunday morning, James ate breakfast with his wife on the patio at A Votre Sante in Brentwood. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic candidate for governor of California, stopped at their table and asked where he was headed. James kept quiet. Maria Shriver, the former First Lady of California, also swung by and delivered her case for the Lakers. There is little doubt the club’s cache played as much a part in James’s thinking as Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. James grew up a Cowboys and a Yankees fan, but he has never suited up for an iconic institution. Even though the Rockets and Sixers are loaded in comparison to the Lakers, they did not capture the imagination in the same way.

On Sunday afternoon, James and his wife went back to Van Nuys Airport. They were flying east again, this time to Europe, for a couple’s trip. His advisors didn’t know if he’d pick a team before he left for Europe or after he landed, or even after he returned. They prepared an old-fashioned press release under the letterhead of Paul’s agency, Klutch Sports Group, but they weren’t sure if or when they’d distribute it. James phoned Paul as he was boarding the private plane. “Call the Lakers,” he said.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss deserves the assist for getting this done, as she’s the one who made the bold move in Feb. 2017 of firing her own brother, Jim Buss, and longtime general manager, Mitch Kupchak, after years of failed free agency pitches. Magic Johnson came in as an adviser and then president of basketball operations, and Rob Pelinka, the longtime agent of Kobe Bryant, became general manager. The overhaul was complete, with Buss pushing for more synergy between the front office and ownership with the hopes that it would lead to this kind of prize. But according to a person with knowledge of James’ thinking, it was Johnson who closed this monumental deal. The Lakers legend met with James in one of his Los Angeles homes for approximately three hours on Saturday night, when the NBA’s free agency period tipped off.

Dan Gilbert: Virtually anyone with roots in Northeast Ohio paused and felt the memories of the past and the utter joy that the burden of the so-called ‘curse’ was finally a thing of the past. Cleveland, Ohio was the home of a championship team for the first time since 1964. Words do not express the meaning and the feeling this accomplishment brought to the people of Northeast Ohio. None of this would have happened if LeBron James did not agree to come back home and lead the Cavaliers to the promised land. The entire Cavaliers franchise thanks LeBron for that precious moment and for all of the excitement he delivered as he led our team to four straight NBA Finals appearances.

Dan Gilbert: LeBron is a family man, first. We wish his kids, his wife Savannah, his mother Gloria, and LeBron himself nothing but the best in the years and decades ahead. LeBron’s connection to Akron, Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio will most certainly endure as his commitment to the region and his support of many important causes has been impactful to so many kids and families. LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal. Nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform. We look forward to the retirement of the famous #23 Cavs jersey one day down the line…”

Here are three reasons why LeBron James joined the Lakers, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the high-profile nature of the deal. 1. James and his family (wife Savannah, sons LeBron Jr. and Bryce and daughter Zhuri) are excited to live in Los Angeles fulltime. He has two homes there and has spent previous offseasons there. 2. James believes the Lakers are in position – with some of the players they have now – to build a team that can contend for a championship soon. Also, James was not adamant that another All-Star, such as Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, had to join the Lakers for him to sign with the Lakers. He understands they can build and create a contender with him there.

“Clearly, LeBron is keeping a very close eye on the Lakers. This is my read on the situation: if he opts into his contract, that it pretty much closes the door on him going to the Lakers. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee that he is staying with the Cavs, but I think it’s a really good sign that he will. “If he opts out of the contract, I don’t necessarily think that it means he is leaving the Cavs, but I do think it bodes better for the Lakers if he does that. “There are other teams involved; obviously Houston, Philadelphia etc. But I really think this is a Cleveland or L.A. decision.
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Bulls looking for a new GM?

According to several NBA executives, the Bulls have started the early stages of adding a new face to the front office, with the position defined as a general manager “with a louder voice.’’ One executive did say that the talks the Bulls have had with candidates have been through back channels, with no formal interviews taking place, but the search is believed to be wide-spread.
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This would be in-line with a Sun-Times report back in November, in which the newspaper wrote that general manager Gar Forman’s job security was taking on water, with the organization’s senior advisor Doug Collins the loudest voice in a needed change. Collins has never been a big fan of Foreman’s, starting with questioning Forman for the hiring of Fred Hoiberg.
The hope for Paxson is this new hire will take over the media duties, allowing him to slip into the background. As for Forman, he is not expected to be fired, but reassigned into a scouting position, as the team is also looking to build up that department. The Bulls have long been known for having a small scouting department, and they plan on an expansion this spring.
Jared Dudley: Will be done next December! Best teams will play each other.. will help the ratings! Big money prize for the top 2 teams in the finals

Storyline: NBA Schedule
February 16, 2020 | 6:53 pm EST Update
Amid the controversial yet inconsequential finish of the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, the league veered from the rules to determine Saturday’s winner. Instead of letting the judges vote for either Orlando’s Aaron Gordon or Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. after the first dunk of the dunk-off in the final round, the NBA allowed Gordon and Jones to attempt a second dunk-off dunk, which isn’t in the rules.
Storyline: All-Star Contests
Christian Yelich wasted no time getting from the NBA dunk contest to the Milwaukee Brewers spring training complex. On Saturday night, the 2018 National League most valuable player was a willing accomplice to the Bucks’ Pat Connaughton as he competed with three others in the annual mid-season dunk competition in Chicago. After taking a private plane overnight, there he was, bright and early Sunday morning, in the Brewers’ clubhouse at American Family Fields of Phoenix.
Asked if he were nervous about Connaughton jumping over him, Yelich said, “No, I didn’t have anything to be nervous about on that one. I was just standing there trying to keep still and hold the ball the right way, so I didn’t mess it up for him. It was cool. There was great energy in the stadium. For him to do it right on the first try, it was fun to watch. If he made it farther, I would have had a little bit more responsibility on another one.”
February 16, 2020 | 3:51 pm EST Update
The Spurs explored trading Carroll, but the Feb. 6 league deadline for teams to broker deals passed without any movement. Asked if he was surprised a trade didn’t happen, Carroll said, “Yeah, but no. Me being 33 and being in the league 11, 12 years, I know the NBA. If you really want to trade somebody, the biggest thing you have to do is maybe show their value, play them a little bit. Not playing really hurt my value a lot. It got a lot of teams probably second-guessing and saying, ‘Is he hurt? Is something wrong with him?’ ”
Storyline: DeMarre Carroll Trade?
Asked if a buyout is a possibility, a tricky situation given how much money remains on his contract, Carroll said he visited with his agent, Mark Bartelstein, in Chicago during All-Star Weekend. “He is handling that,” Carroll said. “Him and (Spurs general manager) Brian (Wright) and all of them. I don’t know what direction we are going to go. But at the end of the day, at 33, I don’t want to waste my talents just sitting at the end of the bench, knowing I could help a team produce.”
Make no mistake: The 11th-year pro isn’t ready to retire. “Another opportunity will come for me,” said Carroll, 33. “San Antonio, I don’t know where (it went wrong), what happened, what the hiccup was. But, at the end of the day, I am totally healthy. I work out every day, twice a day. When that opportunity comes, I will be ready to take advantage of it.”
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who is the Quicken Loans founder and chairman, is slowly returning to work eight months after he had a stroke. Gilbert, 58, returned to his Detroit office early this year. He’s there one or two days a week, using a wheelchair and accompanied by a service dog named Cowboy. He also spends three or four hours a day working with physical and occupational therapists at his home.
Gilbert said he had a blood clot in his carotid artery that was cutting off the blood supply to his brain. Doctors implanted seven stents inside his carotid artery to open the blood vessel. “If that artery was blocked more minutes than it was, it would have been much worse,” Gilbert said. Gilbert spent eight weeks at a rehabilitation center in Chicago last summer. He is able to walk with a cane but still struggles to move his left arm.
Storyline: Dan Gilbert Health
February 16, 2020 | 2:52 pm EST Update
‘Today was heavy,’ the 31-year-old wrote on Saturday as he documented his experience on Twitter. ‘We visited three country towns in New South Wales, massively affected by the wildfires. In Mogo, a small heritage town on the South Coast of NSW, we gave back to locals who have lost their homes, businesses and schools. Generators, torches, portable stoves, batteries, water, non-perishables: In addition to funds, these are some of the items that the impacted communities need. Now, more than ever, these people need our business. Support local.’
Whether or not the 54-year-old Smith ever ends up leaving Inside The NBA for a managerial role, he clearly has the desire for it. And though he didn’t take up the offer to be mentored, at least this time, that’s what made last season’s unprompted phone call from Ujiri so shocking to him. “I always had the aspiration,” Smith said, “but to have a guy like that call you out of the blue, not even knowing what my aspirations were? That was intriguing.”
February 16, 2020 | 12:23 pm EST Update
That was the thinking that convinced Mugar to adopt the Elam Ending for his league. “I’m so convinced that it’s the future of basketball,” he said. Mugar said he attributes a 17 percent bump in the tournament’s TV ratings at least in part to the introduction of the Elam Ending. He said he thinks fans are texting other fans to tell them to tune into fun games that are winding down.
One person that’s become a fan of the Elam Ending is Chris Paul, the veteran NBA point guard now with the Oklahoma City Thunder and current players union president. He said he’s a huge TBT fan and in 2019 coached a squad in the tournament for the first time. “For me, a guy who thinks about strategy, as I started watching the games more and more, every game had to have a game-winning shot. You couldn’t just foul. It got exciting,” he said. “In this format (for the All-Star Game), I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and an unbelievable tribute to Kobe.”
Elam said he got the call from the NBA on Jan. 23, informing him that the league would be using a variation of his concept. “When they called me, my mind started to think about some possible ways that the All-Star Game might end – a LeBron James dunk or James Harden three,” he said. Elam also said he’s heard from sportsbooks about prop bets planned for the game – they’re going to take wagers on who will hit the final shot that gets the winning team to the target score. “That will become one of the most popular prop bets in all of sports,” Elam said.
And yet as Indiana Pacers leaders converged on the windy city to wrap up their final leg of homework this weekend before Indy hosts the All-Star Game next year, they couldn’t help but remember all those 35 years ago. “We had some great parties, got through six inches of snow,” said Rick Fuson, who was the Indiana Pacers’ operational lead for the 1985 NBA All-Star Game in the Hoosier Dome. “But we want this time around to be an All-Star game like none the NBA has ever seen.”
Storyline: All-Star Locations
Larry Bird was one of the the city’s biggest advocates for an NBA All-Star Game return. The last time Indy hosted, Bird played in the game representing the Boston Celtics. “Back in 1985, there wasn’t nearly as much to it,” said Bird, now a consultant with the Pacers front office, after the city landed the event. “Now, the All-Star game is a spectacle. Every venue we have Downtown will be full. People will be excited, I think it will be fantastic. We’re going to put on a great show.”
Plans to re-create a fan experience like the city saw when it hosted the 2012 Super Bowl are already in the works, said Fuson. “If it’s weather that is 20 degrees and sunny, people will shoot baskets,” he said. “And they’ll drink a beer and have a cocktail. We’ve proven that before and it will happen again.” Downtown, well, it will look so different from what it did in 1985. “I remember in the late ’70s when I used to come Downtown at 9 o’clock when there was no place to eat, not many people walking around downtown,” said Bird. “This city has come a long way in the last 30 years. I’m very proud of it. I know a lot of residents are, too.” Fuson said all 6,700 hotel rooms Downtown will be used for the event next year.
Pau Gasol talked about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and looked back on being friends and teammates with the Lakers and NBA legend. “Once you slowly get over the void and the sadness and the pain you start looking at what he has left us. He was a guy who gave his best to whatever he did. He didn’t accept failure. He worked the hardest to be the best at what he did.
Storyline: Kobe Bryant Death
Pau Gasol: “You can see how now – after basketball, after his career – he was sharing all those values, all that knowledge to inspire the younger generations. To share the messages of ‘be the best that you can be’. ‘Dedicate yourself to your craft’.” If you are going to do something, do it to the best of your ability,” Gasol said about Bryant’s legacy in a video by the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association).
February 16, 2020 | 12:06 pm EST Update
The problem for Young is, his numbers on defense are also eye-popping. According to ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus scale, which is a player’s estimated on-court impact on defensive performance based on 100 possessions, Young ranks last of 490 players (-4.66). According to Basketball Index’s defensive box/plus minus scale, his -2.7 mark ranks among the league’s worst. “Defense is obviously an area I want to continue to get better at,” Young said. “But that’s all about an effort thing. Getting in better conditioning, better shape. That’s definitely an area I need to improve (individually). … One of our biggest struggles (as a team) this year has been on the defensive end and rebounding.”