Jeff Goodman: Not that it’s any surprise, but Phoenix Suns will draft Deandre Ayton, per source. It was never much of a decision for GM Ryan McDonough — who has seen the Bahamas native plenty this season down the road in Tucson.
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Marc Stein: The Suns are about to make it official and select Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick, according to league sources
Bagley’s counterpart, dynamic Arizona center Deandre Ayton, appears all but a lock to the Suns. Yet Bagley, a Phoenix native, is a competitor by nature—you don’t average 13.1 rebounds per 40 minutes in the ACC by chance—and has yearned to be minted the NBA draft’s top overall selection since his youth. “To be able to play in Phoenix, to have it all come full circle, from where I started playing basketball to be there as a professional, it would be a dream come true,” Bagley says.
Sacramento is only a short flight away. And Bagley genuinely views the Kings at No. 2 as a terrific consolation prize. He smiles wide when being congratulated on his likely No. 2 selection. “Sacramento is a great place,” he says. “When I say I want to go No. 1, it’s not a knock on any other team in the draft. If I end up going two, I’ll love being in Sacramento. Being a part of that team and that franchise, that’s a big plus.” That enthusiasm is a primary reason why teams picking in the top 10 of Thursday’s draft view Bagley as the Kings’ likely selection. He was the only premier prospect to visit Sacramento during the pre-draft process.
Charles Barkley, however, isn’t convinced. The 11-time All-Star doesn’t consider Doncic to be something remotely special since he thinks that the MVP the Slovenian player has won simply show that he was playing “against sh**ty competition” “I don’t trust foreign competition,” Barkley said to Pollard. “I don’t have nothing against foreign players. I just don’t know what kind of a competition it is. They’re like at 18 years old he was the MVP. Well, that tells me he was playing against shi**y competition. Nobody at 18 should be dominating grown men. I don’t care how bad the grown men are. You go back and look at the NBA. I’ve been in the NBA for over 30 years. There’s only one 18 year old that you can go back and say ‘oh he’s the real deal’. That’s LeBron James. People forget, as great as Kobe Bryant was, he struggled for the first few years. Kevin Garnett? Struggled in his first few years. They keep telling Doncic won MVP at 18. He shouldn’t be dominating grown men at 18. For this kid dominating… I wouldn’t take him with the No. 1 or 2 pick in the NBA Draft”
Adam Himmelsbach: Likely No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton on what he would consider a success in the NBA: “Definitely getting to that second contract. That’s my success.”
Jake Fischer: Just sat down with Marvin Bagley. The Duke product still believes he can land No. 1 with his hometown Suns, but enjoyed his visit with the Kings, meeting with Vivek, Vlade, Peja, De’Aaron Fox and Harry Giles talking more about Sacramento’s budding culture than on-court fit.
The potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Deandre Ayton commented on Luka Doncic’s picture on Instagram, congratulating him for his latest championship with Real Madrid. The 19-year old center said the following: “I see you champ”
Sagar Trika: When asked if the decision at #1 has been made, McDonough said he’d draw out the suspense for another 72 hours or so. Says they’ve narrowed it down to a tier of five guys (in no order): Marvin Bagley, Luka Dončić, Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mohamed Bamba.
ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla compared Ayton with Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. UA coach Sean Miller doesn’t understand why there’s a debate about the No. 1 pick, saying: “I look at the NBA as trying to figure out who they’re going to pick from No. 2 to 60. I think the No. 1 pick’s in. … There’s nobody like Deandre. Nobody.” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told NBA.com: “He’s a monster. I played (at Kansas) in the ’80s, and he’s the best player since Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s that kind of talent.”
Romar laughs when asked about Ayton’s personality. “Oh my goodness,” he said. “He’s a comedian. When he’s away from the court, just hanging around, oh my goodness, he’ll have you laughing.” But that desire to have a good time, Romar said, shouldn’t be misconstrued as Ayton not taking his craft seriously. It’s almost as if Ayton has, well, split personalities. Romar described his on-court persona as “fiery,” “emotional” and “so competitive.”
Several league sources told me they anticipate Suns general manager Ryan McDonough to probe a Leonard deal using the no. 1 pick. Phoenix explored Irving trades last summer but was reluctant to deal Josh Jackson, whom they selected with the fourth overall pick. Leonard is better than Irving, so perhaps it’s time for the Suns to strike now, when they’re armed with assets and an opportunity to trade for a transcendent player. There’s also a sense from league sources that the Suns presumed selection of Arizona big man Deandre Ayton at no. 1 isn’t a guarantee because of the outside possibility that they’ll get a good enough deal to trade down or out of the draft entirely. Now that Leonard reportedly wants out, anything is possible.
Potential top overall pick Luka Doncic will remain in the NBA draft, according to a report from ESPN.
Scott Bordow: McDonough on trading No.1 pick: “We’ll reach out and see if there are teams that want to blow us away with an offer because I think in this draft we’d be comfortable picking a little lower than that. But I don’t want people overreacting to that comment. I think that’s unlikely.”
Scott Bordow: McDonough on Jackson: “One of the more underrated players in this draft in my opinion. Really shot the ball well in this workout.”
Marvin Bagley III has heard just about enough about how Deandre Ayton is the favorite to become the Phoenix Suns’ choice as the No. 1 pick in this month’s NBA draft. Bagley thinks he, not Ayton, deserves to be at the top of the draft and got a chance to make his case in an individual workout with the Suns on Friday. “I definitely believe I’m the No. 1 pick,” Bagley said, “and if the Suns take me I’ll definitely show them why.”
Bagley, on the other hand, said he will work out for the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, the teams with the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively. “Deandre, he’s going to do what he’s going to do. That’s his plan,” Bagley said. “All I can do is control what I can control and do what I love to do and just show different teams what I’m capable of doing. I can’t really worry about what other people are doing at this point. This is an important time in my life right now, something I’ve been working toward my whole basketball career.”
Bagley hears all the speculation that Ayton will go No. 1 and said he uses it as motivation. “It’s disrespectful and I use it as drive every single day,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is all talk right now. Eventually we’ll have to go on the court and we’ll have to play. That’s where all the talking ends.”
Scott Bordow: Ayton said this [Phoenix] is only workout he’s doing.
Scott Bordow: Ayton: “I know I’m going No. 1″
Scott Bordow: Ayton on playing with Booker: “That’s Shaq and Kobe 2.0”
Kellan Olson: Deandre Ayton will be in for a solo draft workout tomorrow with the Phoenix Suns. There will be media availability.
Scott Bordow: Ayton working out tomorrow for Suns. He and Ryan McDonough will speak to media after workout
The head coach of the Phoenix Suns, Igor Kokoskov, spoke about Luka Doncic , one of the candidates to be chosen by the Arizona franchise in the draft, and had nothing but words of praise for the child Slovenian prodigy. “He is an extremely talented player. He’s probably the most talented player I’ve trained in 25 years in this business , “Kokoskov said in an interview for the Suns ‘ ‘The Outlet’ podcast . “He’s not the best player, but he’s the most talented .”
Kokoskov continued: “He did a lot for me as a coach and for the Slovenian national team. He played really well. I think as an organization we helped him to grow as a player. We gave him a role he never had before. He played for Real as a rotation player. He was young, he’s only 18. Playing for the national team he had a completely different role. It was different. And expectations were different. He was a go-to-guy, one of the main players. He found a way and handled that part well. He proved that he deserved that attention and everything we gave to him. I think the team helped him and he helped us. His stats and the way he contributed and helped the team win all the games. It’s unbelievable. Our relationship is good, and our memories are great. The last time I saw Luka was eight months ago. For a young player, eight months is a lot. He’s improved a lot. It was a fun time. I really enjoyed coaching Luka.”
In the days that followed, McDonough said the team would be open to trading that pick. But that seemed less likely when he described the criteria such a deal would have to entail. “It would have to be a young, proven star player with multiple years on his contract, multiple years of team control,” McDonough said. “Once you start whittling down the list, that list probably shrinks to a handful of players if not fewer players than that. So I think the overwhelming likelihood is that we keep the pick. However, we’re open, if those teams call us or we call them. But as of now obviously we’re planning on keeping it.”
The leading candidates for that No. 1 almost certainly will be worked out privately, with the exception of Luka Doncic, the European sensation who still is playing in Spain. “Obviously the agents have a lot of say,” McDonough said. “They have a strong voice in the process. They’re worried about injuries, which we understand is part of it. So we’d love them to come in and compete against the other top guys at their position. I think for the guys in the mix at No. 1 that’s going to be tough for us to put together.”
McDonough said Ayton “has a high-level feel for the game, especially on the offensive end of the court. And from my experience guys who have that at the offensive end of the floor usually, in time, are able to translate that to the defensive end of the court as well.” McDonough said he plans to try to get to Europe one more time to see Doncic. “We’ve seen him play a lot,” McDonough said. “I’ve personally seen him four or five times in the last seven or eight months, (assistant general manager) Pat Connelly’s seen him. Igor’s seen him more than anybody.”
On NBA draft prospect Luka Doncic… Dirk Nowitzki: “I’ve not talked to Holger about him. All I’ve seen was the little clips. I haven’t really seen one whole game. It seems like, to me, for a 19-year-old is really savvy. He’s already playing a great court game. He’s going to be a little challenged, I think, athletically if he plays the 1. He’s got enough size to play the 2, especially now with everybody going small anyways. I think he’d be okay. I mean, he’s got all the game. He’s got all the mid-range. He’s got the pull-ups. He’s got the step backs. He’s great with the ball. He can run pick-and-rolls – which would suit him great here now since it’s a pick-and-roll league now anyway. I think he’s going to be great. But it’ll be interesting to see where he ends up, how this whole draft is going to shake out. I guess everything – besides [DeAndre] Ayton, who I think is going to go No. 1 – I’m not really sure what’s going to happen.”
Q: Who will the Suns take with the No. 1 overall pick in June: Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic? — Gene Ross MARC STEIN: The Suns don’t know yet. That’s truly where things stand with just under a month to go before the June 21 draft. I’m sure the Suns will say on draft night that they knew who they wanted all along, but they’ll likely need the next few weeks to make the call.
First, and probably most important, since 1995 the NBA has had a system set in place for first-round picks to receive four-year contracts, the first two years of which are guaranteed. The salaries are set on a sliding scale. The higher the pick, the higher the salary. For example, in this year’s draft the No. 1 pick will be slotted to earn $6,746,400 in his rookie year and $7,901,100 in his second year. The last pick of the first round will earn $1,338,900 and $1,568,000, respectively, in his first two years. Conversely, contracts are fully negotiable for second-round draft picks. The players are only entitled to the required tender offer, which is a non-guaranteed minimum contract, in which case salaries are paid on a pro-rata basis. That means a player drafted in the second round can be cut by a team at any time and without being paid any additional money. I hope that the risk of this scenario is obvious.
Potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 Draft Luka Doncic won the EuroBasket playing under a Serbian coach: Igor Kokoskov. Doncic thrived under the newly appointed Phoenix Suns head coach who isn’t the only Serbian that the Real Madrid star would play with/for. “Hard question… We all know who is Zeljko (Obradovic), and then there is Sasha Djordjevic. There are a lot of good coaches. And for Serbian players, I think (Bogdan) Bogdanovic. We are friends, he is a great player, I could learn a lot [from him],” Doncic said to Serbian website Telegraf.rs when asked if there are any Serbian coaches or players he’d choose to work with.
Potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 Draft Luka Doncic won the EuroBasket playing under a Serbian coach: Igor Kokoskov. The newly appointed Phoenix Suns head coach isn’t the only Serbian that the Real Madrid star would play with. “Hard question… We all know who is Zeljko (Obradovic), and then there is Sasha Djordjevic. There are a lot of good coaches. And for Serbian players, I think (Bogdan) Bogdanovic. We are friends, he is a great player, I could learn a lot [from him],” Doncic said to Serbian website Telegraf.rs when asked if there are any Serbian coaches or players he’d choose to work with.
The multi-awarded player told Eurohoops: “I have no words to describe how I feel. I’m happy to be here and I’m happy for winning the championship. I simply focus on how I will celebrate, nothing else. We can’t overdo it though, we have a game on Thursday [laughs]”. As for his future in the NBA and whether he’d like to be drafted at No. 1 or be chosen by a certain team, Luka mentioned that it’s not the right timing to discuss about it: “That’s not on me, the teams are the ones that select. As I said I’m focused on celebrating, I will say everything about my future later”.
In the official press conference after winning the EuroLeague title and the MVP award with Real Madrid, Doncic was asked if he is about to continue the legacy of ex-Yugoslavian players in the NBA. “I will decide soon, but now I am focused on celebrating”, he said with a smile, avoiding the question. “When the time comes about the NBA I will decide”.
Rudy Fernandez spoke to Eurohoops when the locker rooms opened to the press after the team’s celebrations and speaking about Luka Doncic, he admitted that this is expected to be his last season in Europe. “He is a special guy, we have to enjoy this year because we know”, said the two time EuroLeague champ with Real Madrid and former NBA player. “He has to play with the best players in the world, maybe in the next year we are going to miss him, but it’s normal. He is 19 years old and he deserves it”.
Nick DePaula: Great question. Luka actually has 1 more year on his existing Nike deal. Could work out great for him if he has a strong rookie year to be up for a new deal next year after establishing himself.
After defeating Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul 85 – 80, Real Madrid is the new Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion. The 19-year old king of Europe is the Final Four MVP. Doncic, 19 is the youngest player in EuroLeague history to win both the regular season MVP trophy and the Final Four.
Jorge Sierra: Luka Doncic in the last eight months: Eurobasket champion All-Eurobasket team Euroleague Rising Star award Euroleague MVP Euroleague champion Euroleague Final Four MVP No. 1 pick next?
David ‘Dubi’ Pick: Kings star Bogdan Bogdanovic to Movistar on SAC taking Luka Doncic with No. 2 pick: “It will be nice to have him, but u never know. He might go No. 1”
“NBA is an amazing league. It’s the best league in the world. It’s amazing,” Doncic told Eurohoops when asked if he considers the coverage of NBA as a form of reward. “I’m just focused on the Final Four. When the NBA thing comes…I’ll decide about it,” he also said regarding his jump to the best league on the planet.
Real Madrid point forward and potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 Draft Luka Doncic was officially announced as the 2017-2018 EuroLeague MVP. He succeeds teammate Sergio Llull.
At 19 years of age, the young Slovenian star became the youngest player to ever win the award. The previous holder of that distinction was L.A. Clippersguard Milos Teodosic who was named MVP with Olympiacos when he was 23 years old, back in 2010.
Apart from MVP, Doncic also received his Rising Star and All-EuroLeague First Team award. He’s the only player who has ever won both Rising Star and MVP.
McDonough, in an interview on ESPN2’s NBA Draft Combine special on Friday, said the Suns haven’t ruled out the option of dealing away the No. 1 pick in June’s draft for a lower pick or even a worthy veteran. “We’re certainly open to that. We’ll consider it,” McDonough said. “Obviously, we’ll have more information closer to the draft than we do today, after we go through the workout process and the interview process and we get the medical physicals. So we’re open to that.”
The Suns have decisions beyond the No. 1, as they own four picks in June’s draft: two each in the first round (Nos. 1 and 16) and the second round (Nos. 31 and 59). “I think a lot of what we do at 16 will be predicated with what we do at No. 1,” McDonough said. “And it wouldn’t make sense to draft guys at the same positions or similar positions at 1 and 16. So if we go with a big at 1, probably a perimeter player at 16 or vice versa.”
Ryan McDonough: “Another option we may have available given the number of assets we’ve accumulated, given the additional first-round picks we have coming from Milwaukee and Miami and the 31st pick — the first pick in the second round — we’ll look at packaging to move up potentially, as well, if there’s a player in the mid-to-late lottery that we like.”
Luka Doncic, who is entering the draft this year (and) hadn’t yet informed of his departure to the American league, did so at the end of the game in the press zone: “Yes, to say goodbye winning the tenth (Euroleague for Real Madrid) would be very special”, said Doncic.
Of special interest is the effect that newly hired Suns coach Igor Kokoskov will have on the decision. Kokoskov was the head coach of the Slovenian national team last year in its run to the gold medal in the EuroBasket tournament — which featured Doncic averaging 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists in nine games. That’s led to speculation that Kokoskov would push the Suns to draft Doncic. But sources familiar with the Suns’ thinking told Sporting News on Thursday that’s just not the case.
In fact, look for Phoenix to insulate Kokoskov from the decision, and to put it squarely in the lap of GM Ryan McDonough. That’s not to say Kokoskov won’t have any input, but the Suns do not want to put pressure on their new head coach by leaving the impression that he lobbied for or against Doncic, an impression that could hamstring him even before he started on his new job. “He is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t,” one source said. “If he pushes for Doncic and they take him, then anything that happens with Doncic or Ayton from there is on him. No team wants to put their coach in that situation. No coach wants to be in that situation. They’re going to avoid that like the plague.”
Eddie Sefko: Donnie Nelson on what he expects to happen ahead of Mavericks, who pick 5th in NBA draft: “I don’t know. I would say (Deandre) Ayton for sure and after that, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
McDonough said he’s not concerned that the Suns won’t be able to work out Doncic because he’ll be playing in the Liga ACB, the top professional basketball division of the Spanish basketball league, through June. The Suns already have seen Doncic play in person several times, and McDonough plans to head to Europe in the next few weeks to get another look at the Slovenian guard. “If anything, it makes it easier for us to evaluate him in real time against high-level competition,” McDonough said. “We view that as a benefit.”
So whom will the Suns take at No. 1? McDonough said again Thursday that the decision won’t come until the days leading up to the June 21 draft. He also said Phoenix’s candidate list stretches beyond Ayton and Doncic. He specifically mentioned Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Texas’ Mohamed Bamba, and said Phoenix would interview between five to 10 players for the top pick.
Scott Bordow: Mohamed Bamba on if he should be considered for top pick: “Absolutely I should be the No. 1 pick. I do more but I require less, both on the court and off the court. I feel as if I’m the most efficient guy in this draft class.”
Even in his absence, though, Doncic created a stir when he told reporters in Europe this week that he was not sure he would be playing his final games for Real Madrid. That led to speculation that Doncic, perhaps, would not play for the team that landed the No. 2 pick in the lottery on Tuesday, the Kings — but would, instead, opt to sign a new contract and stay in Spain unless he could steer his way to a team of his choosing. But Kings fans — and fans of any of the teams at the top of next month’s draft — can breathe easy. Doncic’s comments had nothing to do with Sacramento or an intention to use the threat of staying in Europe to pick his team. “Luka has stated no particular thought on any NBA teams,” his agent, Bill Duffy, told Sporting News on Thursday.
McDonough said he’ll likely be heading to Spain in the coming weeks to interview and watch Doncic play. “I was hoping it was unanimous. That would make my job easier,” McDonough joked when he heard Jackson’s pick. “I guess we got a decision to make.”
There will be plenty of time for assessment and evaluation, but both players would fit well with the talent the Suns have assembled. Devin Booker is already a franchise cornerstone and his ability to space the floor, coupled with Doncic’s potential as a stretch guard, is tantalizing. But the option to add Ayton, a physically imposing center who would immediately offer an inside-out presence to Booker, is intriguing as well. “Hopefully (the No. 1 pick) gives us another foundational player to build around,” McDonough said. “We feel like we have one in Devin Booker, we feel like Josh Jackson has the potential to be one. He certainly made strides over the second half of the past season. Usually in the NBA it takes three elite players to win at a high level.”
Scott Bordow: Had a very brief conversation with Deandre Ayton following the lottery. His agent was rushing him out of the room but he told me he’d love to be drafted by the Suns and play alongside Booker
Brian Mahoney: Suns were fourth straight team with best odds to win the #NBADraftLottery, after worst team had previously gone 10 straight years without winning. Tanking really paid off in the final years of this format.
Michael Wallace: Hearing initially Kings gladly willing to take whoever Suns leave on the board after first pick (Luka or Ayton), with neither falling below second if picks are kept. The Hawks are the team that could flip the rest of the draft board upside down as the true wildcard at No. 3.
The Suns finally hit the jackpot in the NBA draft lottery. Phoenix won Tuesday’s lottery and for the first time in franchise history will have the No. 1 pick in the draft, to be held June 21.
“Obviously getting the top pick in this draft with all the talent and all the different options, boy, I’m getting emotional,” General Manager Ryan McDonough said. “It was special. It was cool.” Not surprisingly, McDonough wouldn’t reveal the Suns’ plans for the No. 1 pick. “Absolutely not,” he said. “I’ll let you know June 21. I know people jump to conclusions as to who it’s going to be but we don’t know yet.”
Jason Jones: De’Aaron Fox: “Deandre (Ayton) is probably going to Phoenix. That’s a given.”
Michael Cunningham: The winning combination for Suns No. 1 pick in order: 9, 12, 6, 1. Hawks had a chance until the last number.
Shams Charania: Top-3 order for the 2018 NBA draft: 1. Phoenix 2. Sacramento 3. Atlanta.
In his interview for Marca TV, Suns star player Devin Booker talked about the talent gathered in the NBA Draft, also mentioning Real Madrid‘s Luka Doncic. “I don’t know what we’re gonna do. I don’t know if we are going to have number one pick yet but it’s going to be exciting. There’s a lot of talented people in college with DeAndre Ayton from Arizona, Marvin Bagley from Duke, Luka (Doncic, Real Madrid), Trae Young (Oklahoma Sooners)… So, it’s going to be an interesting draft. I’m looking forward to it. Whatever guy comes in, I hope he’s ready to work and ready to join this journey that we’re about to take.”
It’s been suggested that having Kokoskov on board means the Suns will bypass Arizona center Deandre Ayton if they get the No. 1 pick and take Doncic instead. That makes some sense in that Kokoskov knows Doncic, and Doncic would be a perfect fit alongside Booker for the wide-open offense Kokoskov wants to run. McDonough, however, said that’s not necessarily the case.
“It’s an easy assumption to make, but we’re going to draft whoever we think the best player is,” McDonough said. “If we do get the Number 1 pick, Doncic will certainly be in that mix. But Ayton and a few other guys will, as well.”
Deandre Ayton says he’s for sure getting drafted number one. Full interview coming soon.
“I have a great relationship with Luka”, Willy Hernangomez explains. “He’s almost part of the Hernangómez family. I talk a lot with him and what I try, from my experience, is not to create too many expectations for the time being” The Charlotte Hornets player expects Luka to rank high in the draft, if not be the first overall pick: “For me, he must be among the first, if not the number 1 of the draft.”
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish has Ayton second in his latest NBA mock draft, behind Duke’s Marvin Bagley. And CBS Sports’ Reid Forgrave, in a mock draft focused on “max upside,” also put Ayton second, behind Texas’ Mohamed Bamba. So does Ayton believe he should be the top pick in the NBA Draft? “Yes,” he answered confidently on Friday. “I play hard every day. Nobody has the competitiveness like me. I think I’m different from everybody else.”
Chris Vivlamore: BTW, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk was in Spain over the weekend, likely there to see Luka Doncic.
Bojan Bogdanovic: “Petrovic at 18 was similar to Doncic”
One of the most important personalities in the history of European basketball, the now retired, 74-year-old Ivkovic had coached most (if not all) prominent players incubated in the heart of the Balkan peninsula, while at the helm of the national teams of Yugoslavia and Serbia. Including Kukoc and the late Drazen. “He’s (Doncic) a phenomenon. Drazen Petrovic played “1” and Toni Kukoc from “1” to “4”. I believe that neither of them played so maturely when they were 18, as Doncic plays now,” Ivkovic said with a tone of certainty, while interviewed by Greek Cosmote TV.
David Pick: Scouts for LAL, DNV, ATL, and WAS, I’m told, saw Luka Doncic mess around with a career-high 33 points, shooting 14/21 FGs in 37 minutes against the best defensive team outside the NBA.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper “El Espanol“, Florentino Perez admitted that keeping Luka Doncic after this season will be more than hard. “Every day that we can keep Doncic in the team is a luxury,” said Perez. “We are talking about one of the best players in the world, at the age of 18. We all want his professional life to be the best possible, but we will work with him to see if we can keep him a little longer.”
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October 23, 2018 | 3:04 pm EDT Update
If only for a night, DeMar DeRozan had his revenge. His San Antonio Spurs had survived against LeBron James’ Lakers, leaving the Staples Center crowd morose when their new superstar came up short at the end. …. No wonder the 29-year-old DeRozan was wearing a smile on his way out of the Staples Center. This was nothing like those battles they’d shared in the past three years, when LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers knocked DeRozan’s Raptors out three times (twice in the second round, once in the conference finals) and swept them twice during his reign of Eastern Conference terror. But for DeRozan, the Compton native who was so hurt by that mid-July trade in which he swapped spots with Kawhi Leonard, this 32-point, 14-assist, eight-rebound outing was the latest sign that he’s getting comfortable in this new setting.
“Yeah, it was definitely a change (to play James in a Spurs jersey and see him in a Lakers jersey), especially with the battles we’ve had, from the Eastern Conference Finals to the playoffs, the ups and downs and everything,” DeRozan, who was drafted by the Raptors in 2009 out of USC, told The Athletic as he walked out in his red Trojans sweatshirt. “It definitely was one of them (games) where it was awkward, but it was fun at the same time.”
The bragging rights won’t last long, as the Lakers visit San Antonio on Saturday and will conclude all four of their regular season matchups by Dec. 7. Still, DeRozan knows as well as anyone that any win over LeBron is to be cherished – especially in front of his hometown crowd. “It is (weird), because I’ve known ‘Bron since I was in high school (at nearby Compton High),” DeRozan said. “So whenever we get a chance to talk here and there about some things, especially like something tonight, we do. We brought up (their team changes). I asked him how he was doing out here, how he likes it (in LA), and vice versa.“We’re going to see a lot more of each other. I guess we can’t separate from one another.”