Through Purple and Gold Frames

Lakers Hype

In Monday’s explosive interview on ESPN’s “First Take,” Johnson acknowledged that after Russell had surreptitiously recorded teammate Nick Young’s confession of infidelity — and shared it on Snapchat — he knew he had to deal away the young guard. “I said let’s trade some people, get some draft picks, so on and on. D’Angelo, great guard, but had a problem when Shaggy P and the whole Nick, the whole thing went down,” Johnson said. “So I knew we had to get him out.”

Vogel and Kidd did not have a previous relationship, but the Lakers’ head coach laughed off the notion that some might view Kidd as a potential successor. “No, I am very good at blocking out noise,” Vogel said with a chuckle when asked about how some in the media have already deemed Kidd as a successor. “I have been around this business a long time. I really don’t give that a second thought. You can say that about every coach in the league about their assistant coaches. It happens from time to time. I believe if you treat people with the right respect and do the job at the highest level, build an environment of positivity and collaboration, you can’t worry about that stuff. “You can’t worry about looking over your shoulder. You got to worry about getting good damn coaches, and that is how I feel about this hire.”

I’ve noticed that today’s NBA stars try to promote the WNBA and its stars. I see some NBA players tweeting about the league and attending games. Have you noticed increased support from today’s NBA players? And when you played, what was your experience with the guys? Lisa Leslie: It’s interesting because I’ve always had great relationships with the NBA players. I’d train with them during the offseason. Derek Fisher and I would shoot together all the time before the Lakers’ practice when I’d be training in the morning. Kobe Bryant . I don’t think it’s the players who have adjusted, I think it’s the fans. I think social media has allowed to see that, because the guys have always been very, very supportive of us. They’d come to our games and cheer for us. They supported us when we won championships. They’d bring their children to games. Plenty of Lakers and plenty of Clippers always supported the LA Sparks. Even going back to Magic Johnson and the old-school Lakers, they allowed me to train and play with them.

The Los Angeles Lakers seemed like they might have the inside track on acquiring Davis after the two teams’ reported trade discussions earlier this season. However, the Pelicans came away from that debacle unhappy with how business was done. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said this week on “The Russillo Show” podcast that he thinks the Pelicans are still ticked about that and won’t make a deal with the Lakers, especially after New Orleans landed the No. 1 pick. “I don’t think the Pelicans want to make a deal with the Lakers — when I say I don’t think, I know that’s how they feel,” Windhorst told Ryen Russillo. “Had the Lakers won the lottery and had Zion and had an opportunity to offer something like that, it would have been so overwhelming that I think it might have removed that impediment. There’s a lot of animosity and scar tissue built up between these two organizations. I feel very strongly that New Orleans does not want to make a deal with LA.”

There’s understandably a lot of buzz heading into the lottery to see which team secures the No. 1 pick and the right to choose Williamson, who is the most heralded draft prospect in years. But nothing compares to the drama of the 2003 lottery, when LeBron James was the ultimate prize and the Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the teams in the mix for the Akron, Ohio, native. “It’s not even close, even with social media today,” James’ former agent Aaron Goodwin told The Undefeated. “I can only imagine what it would have been like for James with social media because he was a game-changer.

Stu Jackson, who was NBA executive vice president of basketball operations at the time, remembers watching James during his senior year. “I said to myself that I have never seen anything like that from a player that young to be that dominant both physically and skillwise at that age,” Jackson said. “That is no reflection on my evaluation skills, because the great ones are easy to pick out. But this was a different level.” Joe Dumars, who was the president of the Detroit Pistons and had a particular interest in the lottery (more on that later), marveled at James’ maturity, body and athleticism. Simply put, “I saw a transcendent player,” Dumars said.

Rajon Rondo said as much when he appeared on Wednesday’s NBA Countdown on ESPN. He stated it about as clearly as he could at the 6:30 mark of the interview: if the Lakers don’t have a head coach soon, he isn’t interested in returning to the team. “At this point in my career, a head coach is big for me,” Rondo said. “It’s all about a relationship. So if they don’t have one, it’s a no go for me.” In a vacuum, this would not be the worst thing to hear. The Lakers probably don’t plan to bring Rondo back next season anyway. Lonzo Ball is the starting point guard of the future, and Alex Caruso earned a backup job with his strong play down the stretch. The Lakers aren’t going to make a major investment in a non-shooting point guard that is aging quickly.

The Lakers are moving fast to try to fill their head-coaching vacancy by setting up an interview with former Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel on Thursday, according to people not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. In an event-filled Wednesday in which sources from the Lakers camp and Tyronn Lue camp said both parties had moved on from the other in the hiring process, the Lakers quickly targeted Vogel as a candidate and he will have a sit-down at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.

Ask people in the NBA which teams might come after Walker, and the responses are what you’d expect: The Knicks, especially if Irving remains in Boston. The Lakers, who will be desperate to surround LeBron with talent and might be stuck choosing between second-tier stars like Walker, Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins. There are whispers around the NBA that the Mavericks are intrigued by Walker, but it’s hard to discern where that rumor arose and if it’s anything more than another game of NBA telephone.

And now, with less than three months remaining before free agency formally begins and with the Anthony Davis trade talks with New Orleans expected to re-start as well, this question remains: Is Pelinka capable of steering the Lakers out of this abyss — hiring the right coach to replace the departed Luke Walton, closing a deal or two along the way — and fulfilling their title-contending dreams? It depends on whom you ask, but the vast majority of agents and executives polled by The Athletic have serious doubts. Pelinka has no shortage of detractors around the league, with the issues raised ranging from his trustworthiness to his communication style and relatability. The question of trust has dogged Pelinka since 2004, when his then-client Carlos Boozer reneged on a verbal commitment to re-sign with Cleveland and took a more lucrative offer with Utah.

But there are also respected power brokers who say they’ve had functional and positive experiences dealing with Pelinka, and who believe that his background as a player (he went to two Finals Fours with those Fab Five Michigan teams), attorney and prominent agent who built and ran his own agency is a fit for the Lakers. What’s more, Pelinka was widely known to be handling the lion’s share of the daily duties before Johnson’s departure. He was, in essence, running the front office already.

Madsen, 43, has been a recognizable fixture on the West’s basketball landscape for years, including as a member of two Lakers championship teams and later as an assistant coach under Byron Scott and Luke Walton. Madsen brings a coaching career that has included six seasons on the Lakers staff, a year as the Lakers G League head coach and a season as a college assistant at his alma mater, Stanford. Madsen replaces Mark Pope at Utah Valley, which is a member of the Western Athletic Conference. Pope was hired at Brigham Young after a 25-win season at Utah Valley.

The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district. “These kids are doing an unbelievable job, better than we all expected,” Mr. James said in a telephone interview hours before a game in Los Angeles for the Lakers. “When we first started, people knew I was opening a school for kids. Now people are going to really understand the lack of education they had before they came to our school. People are going to finally understand what goes on behind our doors.”

While the fiasco surrounding Big Baller Brand and Alan Foster, Lonzo Ball has endured plenty of emotional turmoil in the recent month. Forced to sever ties with the co-founder of the company, Ball has since sued Foster and begun moving on from the company and Foster himself. During his exit interview on Wednesday, Ball discussed publicly the situation for the first time. “We just put so much trust in him. So, when that came out in October – like I said, he’s like my second dad – I just talked to him and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it when he gave me his story. Looking back at it, obviously I wish we would have jumped on it back in October. But I’m glad we still caught it.”

With LeBron James missing the playoffs altogether for the first time since the 2004-05 season with the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated from contention, Curry and the Golden State Warriors will see something this postseason that the NBA hasn’t experienced in 14 seasons. “It’s different but what is it? [Eight] straight Finals he went to?” Curry said at the Warriors’ morning shootaround before facing the Lakers for the final time this regular season. “I’m sure it’s a different experience for him, for better or worse.”

Vlade Divac knew he wanted De’Aaron Fox after watching him light up UCLA — and Lonzo Ball — for 39 points in the Sweet 16 in 2017. Six weeks later, Brandon Williams, now the Sacramento Kings’ assistant general manager, was part of a Philadelphia 76ers contingent interviewing Fox at the NBA’s draft combine. Someone asked Fox if he had taken special pleasure in outdueling Ball. Fox gave the polite answer, they recall: Every game mattered. But he sensed the Sixers’ brass might enjoy the real response. “But yeah,” he continued. “That s— was personal.” Everyone loved it. “It wasn’t necessarily because it was Lonzo,” Fox clarifies today. “It was that he was one of the only NBA-level point guards we played. I didn’t get to play Dennis [Smith Jr.] or Markelle [Fultz].”

Kuzma doesn’t see the last nine Lakers games as fruitless time, either. He’s sought to use those minutes as a workshop for his game. He’s noticed that defenders are treating him as a scorer and less as a passer – giving him a lane to become more of a distributor in the absence of Ball, Ingram and other important playmakers on the roster. “We have guys who need the ball, and I’m a guy who creates a lot of attention out on the court because of the way I score and shoot the ball,” he said. “I think it’s my job to just continue to develop and become a playmaker, and just grow an all-around game.”

But Kuzma gets it: Winning is serious business. Pressure comes with the territory. And if there’s anything he’s learned during this season, it’s that he doesn’t want the pressure to conquer him. “It’s just all about learning from this year, and it’s all about always having fun,” he said. “You can’t worry about high-pressure situations or let the stakes of something take the joy and fun away from you, no matter what circumstance, no matter the situation just always having fun.”

A Cleveland Heights tattoo artist who inked LeBron James, Tristan Thompson and other basketball stars won what his attorney called a “helpful” decision Wednesday in his lawsuit against the makers of the “NBA 2K” video game series. Jimmy Hayden said in a lawsuit that the makers of the popular game infringed on copyrights he holds for tattoos he created for James, Thompson and Toronto Raptors player Danny Green. The game makers included those tattoos on the computer-generated versions of the players without obtaining his permission.

While Buss has been an ardent backer of Walton, she has also empowered Johnson, who has been less resolute in his support. His efforts have all worked against his coach rather than with him. After delivering James in July, Johnson ignored the pleas of the coaching staff that he retain Brook Lopez and Julius Randle. Instead, he signed controversial and limited journeymen JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson. When a fiery early season meeting between Johnson and Walton became public, Johnson responded not by saying he supported Walton but that he would allow him to “finish the season.” After the season? All bets would presumably be off.

The exchange between Van Gundy and fellow analyst Mark Jackson went like this: Van Gundy: I think in the offseason, they [Lakers] need to rebuild this roster, right? And to me, it could be a trade for an Anthony Davis, or I think they need to explore trading LeBron for getting as much as they can. Jackson: What are you doing, seriously? No, seriously, what are you doing? Van Gundy: You’ve got to get on the right timeline. I’m going to say, if I could trade him for the Clippers into cap space, which would give me a better chance to get Durant or Kawhi Leonard, would I not do that? Jackson: OK, LeBron James is not getting traded. OK? Van Gundy: You’ve got to put everything on the table. Jackson: No, you can’t.

James came into the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the Denver Nuggets needing 13 points to surpass Jordan for fourth place on the all-time list. Five minutes 38 seconds into the second quarter, he managed to force his way to the basket for a layup, giving him 14 points for the game and 32,294 for his career. For good measure, he was fouled on the play. After a short stoppage to acknowledge the moment, play resumed as the Lakers, clinging to the last shreds of their playoff hopes, tried their best to overcome a huge early deficit at home against a heavily-favored opponent.

Lakers coach Luke Walton noticed how Kyle Kuzma’s body movement looked restricted and removed his young forward to determine how much longer Kuzma could be effective against the physical play of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kuzma acknowledged after Thursday night’s game that he’s been “dealing with a little hip strain” for the past week that has impeded his motion. He rejected thoughts of resting because the Lakers have been shorthanded and he figured he could play through the pain. “I just don’t like to sit out games,” said Kuzma, who hopes to play Sunday against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. “But it’s a little give and take. I’m a little hard-headed sometimes, but I gotta see what’s right and what’s wrong.”

For now, though, because of Damian Jones’ season-ending injury and the unknown of Cousins, sources maintain the priority remains adding a big. But there’s also been a push for patience. Cousins’ return, three weeks before the deadline, gives them plenty of evaluation time. The candidates: Dating back to early July, there was mutual interest between Tyson Chandler and the Warriors. Both sides began sniffing then, sources said, and again before he was bought out by the Suns and chose to sign with the Lakers a few months back. But that option is gone.

The Los Angeles Lakers are heading into a dice roll of an NBA season, having secured the biggest free agent of the summer in LeBron James and surrounding him with a plethora of supporting pieces on one-year deals. Lakers head coach Luke Walton is optimistic about his team, though, even going as far as thinking they have championship potential down the stretch. While there are sure to be plenty of growing pains that come with assembling a new team and figuring out players’ roles, Walton thinks the Lakers will be well-oiled enough to make a run for the title.

Luke Walton: “September, probably not. Do I think come April, come playoff months? Absolutely I think we are,” said Walton as a guest in an ESPN LA Radio special: An Evening With The Lakers. “It takes time. You never just put a team together and they’re instantly a championship contender. That’s what the regular season is going to be all about this year. That’s what these guys coming in every day, playing together, getting to know each other, lifting weights together, is about.”

Son Rich and daughter Riley had some nerve, refusing to sleep through the night while dad was trying to help the Cavs beat the Pacers. There was also the matter of playing alongside LeBron, in what turned out to be his last year in Cleveland, with his Finals streak on the line. Losses were magnified. Wins were expected. Every shot was either taken by LeBron or facilitated through him, or so it seemed. Hood doesn’t use those items as excuses, exactly. It’s just, well, that’s what was happening around him while he was dealing with the worst stretch of his pro career.

LeBron James long hung in dramatic fashion in Cleveland as the former Cavaliers star was the highlight of the sporting world in Northeasten Ohio. Now LeBron is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cavaliers — along with the city of Cleveland — needed to find a way to replace the iconic banner hanging at Ontario Street and Huron Road. The solution is apparently going to be a photomosaic of Cavaliers fans constituting a “Guardian of Traffic” that stands over a local bridge.

This offseason, a number of people floated the idea of Kobe Bryant making a return to the court for the Los Angeles Lakers. Former teammate Shaquille O’Neal recently chimed in on his show, The Big Podcast with Shaq: “He will never go to the Big 3 before he does the NBA. Everybody knows who Kobe is. You’re telling me Kobe can’t give somebody a nice 15-20 minutes a game. If you align all the dots and align all the moons and oceans… if he came back at 40 then the announcement would be the biggest sports announcement in history. The jersey thing would triple in one day. Everybody would be talking about it. He wouldn’t even need to play great, just come play 15-20 minutes a game as a Laker…

Rajon Rondo can’t really help with the physical side of things, but he can help Kuzma figure out what to look for in any given situation. So it’s pretty great to hear from Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka say during an appearance on ESPN 710 that such lessons are already taking place. Pelinka started by praising Rondo, the thinker. “When you look at guys like Rajon Rondo, he’s a basketball savant. All the players in the league know that. He was on our court a day ago and I was watching from my office. He was working on one play for two hours. That’s that Kobe-level of detail at breaking down plays.”

However, according to Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, Ball has been putting in extra work in the weight room as a result: “With Lonzo, of course, he hasn’t been able to play five-on-five basketball because he had to have a scope on his knee,” Pelinka said in an interview with John Ireland and Mychal Thompson on ESPN LA 710, “but just the way he’s stayed dedicated to reshaping his body and making sure that if he’s playing against a really strong point guard like a Russell Westbrook, who’s going to come at him with his aggressive nature and give him a bump, Lonzo will be able to take it or even bump him back and you’ll see that in his physique.”

LeBronWire: You had something of a boomerang year from Cleveland, to Los Angeles and then back to Cleveland. You played well with Cleveland then you got traded and now you’re back. Can you recap what that was like for you? Channing Frye: “Well I think first of all, this is a business. The hardest thing in this league is to not take things personally. I’ve been traded to places where I get a call and they say ‘you’re gonna do great at this next place’ and then that’s the end of it. But having the relationships I do with the guys on that team, regardless of LeBron, and the relationship I had with the city and the fan base like that for me, I looked at free agency and said, I’m 35. I’m at the end of my career. Am I going somewhere where somebody is going to have to learn who I am, what I can do and what I can’t.”

LW: With LeBron not being there, have you envisioned how different the vibe is going to be? Channing Frye: “Yes and no. The first time him leaving was one thing. But the second time the team was way more prepared. I think the fact they still gave Kevin that big contract, they’re trying to sign some young up and coming guys. We have a nice solid core of guys that have been in the trenches but are still growing themselves. […] We have the same team that went to the Finals four years in a row we just got a lot younger. It’s not like these guys don’t know how to win. When he left the first time it was a bunch of young guys and rookies and a different coach. Now you got a championship coach with a championship pedigree team, we’re not just resetting the clock. We’re just taking it back a little bit to compete and contend for the next 5-10 years.”

LeBron Wire: In your time with the Lakers, what was your impression of the Lakers young guys? Channing Frye: “I’ll tell you this: they’re arguably the most talented group in the NBA. And I mean talented in terms of experience, years playing in the Western Conference and their overall position. I think the thing they’re going to come to and I think a lot of guys are going to have to deal with this. There’s who you expect to be and then who you are when you play with LeBron. It’s two different things. I don’t know if they truly understand what it’s like to play with him because there is no room for mistakes. Because in all actuality, he could do it himself. He could lead a team to 40 wins by himself.”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson said. “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff. LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated,”he added. “It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

As a Lakers fan, you must be pumped about the LeBron news. Do you see a renewed L.A.-Boston rivalry, considering LeBron’s rocky relationship with Kyrie Irving? Ice Cube: A little bit, yeah. I think the Lakers have a lot of work to do to get to where the Celtics seem like they’re already at. I think it’s going to be cool just because Kyrie vs. LeBron is always going to bring some attention nowadays. It’s great because both of those great players are on storied franchises, so that’s going to be good. But until the Lakers get into playoff contention, contending for a title like the Celtics are, then it’s going to be like “Come on, hurry up to the party.” The Lakers have some work to do.

How tough was it not to hear your name called on Draft night? Joel Berry II: It was pretty tough. It’s always a dream to hear your name get called, but honestly, I’ve always taken the path where I was always overlooked and my game is not the flashiest – I just win – and that speaks more than being a flashy player. I necessarily don’t get looked at like other guys. It hurt for a little bit, but then I realized that’s the path that I’ve always taken and that’s what’s gotten me to where I’m at today. This is why I work so hard. I realized the path I had to take to get to where I want to be.

As an incoming rookie, what are some personal goals you’ve set for yourself as you begin your NBA journey? Joel Berry II: I’ve set high goals for myself. My first plan is just to make the official roster. But having to take the path I’m taking – being undrafted and having to do a lot of pre-draft workouts – getting a chance with the Lakers was the first goal of mine. So now it’s taking it step by step, making the roster and once I get on the roster, I want to be able to contribute and play. My goal is not just to make it to the NBA, but be somebody one day. That’s what I’m striving for. I’m going to set high goals for myself and I want to be in the talks of winning Rookie of the Year. I know that’s a long way and I have to do a lot, but those are the goals I want to set for myself.

James spoke for the first time with the media on Monday during the opening of his ‘I Promise’ public school in Akron, Ohio. In an exclusive interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, James said that he wasn’t at all disappointed yb George’s decision to remain in Oklahoma. “I didn’t have many conversations with Paul, and I think Paul did what was best for him,” James told Nichols. “And I think that’s what everybody should do as players, they should do what’s best for them and their family. You shouldn’t get too pressured by anybody. If there’s somebody they want to play with, and they have the opportunity to do it, then go for it. I think we all see that he made the best decision for himself and his family.”

A few weeks later, on Sunday afternoon via his Uninterrupted platform, LeBron made his first public comments about his imminent donning of purple and gold. “You look at the Lakers,” he said. “Being able to play for a historic franchise with so much history, and now being able to partner with Magic Johnson, someone I kinda like looked up to when I was younger and wanted to make no look passes like Magic, wanted to get on the break and be Showtime like Magic and then for it to all come to fruition at this point…”

But while there was a unified front — sentimental yet appreciative — between the fans and the Cavs’ key decision-makers when it came to processing James’ plans, the rest of the league had mixed reactions to the news. Those reactions — culled from more than two dozen players, coaches, executives and agents contacted by ESPN — weren’t always as sunny as the Southern California locale James is embarking for. “He wanted to come to L.A.,” one Western Conference player said. “They just had to not f— it up. Jerry West just said it, and I was like, ‘Finally.’ He’s not coming to the Lakers. He came to L.A.”

West, now an advisor for the LA Clippers, told Sports Illustrated that, “LeBron was not a tough free-agent signing.” While the player’s swipe — like West’s — was aimed more at the Lakers than at James, the four-time MVP also had his motives for the move questioned. “My thought was, ‘Good luck. You must really want to live in L.A.'” one prominent agent said. “Playing Western Conference teams night in and night out is not going to be the same. You don’t get a ‘night off.’ I would not want to end my career just making the playoffs.”

When it comes to trainers, Dallas Mavericks head athletic trainer Casey Smith is arguably the LeBron James of NBA trainers. Smith is so highly sought after that he’s been on the training staffs of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team for the Pan American Games in 2003, the World Championships in 2006 and ’10, and the Olympics in ’08 and ’12. That means, on a daily basis, he’s constantly dealing with the world’s best players while helping them stay physically fit. “He’s the best of the best, in my opinion,” Mavs assistant coach Jamahl Mosley said. “I’m not taking anything away from anyone else, but I just love how he approaches all of it.”

Mo Evans: “It’s crazy that you asked what I remember, because recently I was looking at the stat sheet somewhere in some old little folder, a little scrapbook. Seeing how he played, seeing that I had 14 points or something like that [he had 10], it was fun to look back. Because does it matter who won or lost? Being in on that experience and not even realizing that it was the beginning of history in the making.” LeBron James: “We didn’t win as much as I wanted to. I remember that.”

AJ Guyton, Spurs guard: “I don’t know anything about LeBron James being in that summer league. I really don’t. I don’t remember! I can’t believe I missed it! I’m pissed!” Fifteen years later, the league itself is missed by those who were there. No one knew it then, but that would be its last summer in Boston. It was put on hiatus in 2004 because of the complicated logistics of having the Democratic National Convention in the city at the same time. The hiatus never ended.

Also participating in the game will be NBA assistant coaches Bill Bayno (Indiana Pacers), Harold Ellis (New York Knicks), Adrian Griffin (Raptors), Mark Hughes (Clippers), B.J. Johnson (Houston Rockets), Patrick Mutombo (Raptors; Democratic Republic of the Congo) and David Vanterpool (Trail Blazers), Raptors President Masai Ujiri (Nigeria), Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka, Magic Director of Player Development and Quality Control Becky Bonner, Magic scout Prosper Karangwa (Rwanda), athletic trainers Will Sevening (Spurs) and Stanford Williams (Phoenix Suns), as well as NBA referees Tony Brothers and Derrick Stafford.

I talked to several NBA people who are familiar with the Cavaliers (and don’t work for them), and virtually all of them said the team was smart to sign Kevin Love to an extension that means his contract is now $145 million for five years. All of them mentioned how it’s hard to attract free agents to Cleveland. Or as one executive said to me, “Let’s make that free agents who didn’t grow up in Akron,” meaning LeBron James. While James has played more games than any player in franchise history and spent 11-of-15 seasons here, he also has left twice.

George said he privately decided to return to the Thunder several weeks before free agency began on July 1. He also acknowledged having an expectation that NBA star LeBron James would sign with the Lakers as a free agent. So why didn’t George give the Lakers a meeting in free agency? “It was absolutely tempting,” George said. “Honestly, I wanted to come back home. But again, I got traded to Oklahoma. Loved the situation. Loved where I was at. I decided to stick around a little longer. …

Speaking at USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas on Thursday, George said he fell in love with Oklahoma in his first season with the Thunder. “When I told the Pacers I wanted to play [in Los Angeles], that was true feelings,” said George in a Sports Illustrated piece by Ben Golliver, who grew up about an hour and a half northeast of L.A. in Palmdale, Calif. “I wanted to come back home. To play for home, to put that jersey on for family and for what I grew up watching. I wanted to carry that legacy. But I went to Oklahoma, fell in love with it and I’m happy with the decision.”

His statements about both teams echoed some of what he said in the ESPN document “Paul George: My Journey” in early July. “My feelings for the Lakers are the same. I love the organization, I love the history, I love the legacy,” George said. “But being around Sam, being around Russ, being around [coach] Billy [Donovan], Dre [Andre Roberson], Steven [Adams], I gained a brotherhood. [Giving that group only] one year just didn’t sit well with me. I went to war, I went to battle, we made the playoffs, we were in the hunt, and we stuck together all year long. You never heard of any turmoil, no matter how we played, in the locker room. We built a real brotherhood there and I didn’t want to walk away from that.”

With LeBron James now with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics are considered among the favorites to win the Eastern Conference entering the season. “Nothing but excited to lead that group. I mean, we haven’t started [yet, so] everyone is zero-zero right now. … The most important thing right now is finding our cohesion,” Irving said, pointing out that he and Hayward basically haven’t played together in a game yet. So finding that [cohesion] is going to be a process, which I am looking forward to doing with Danny [Ainge], Brad [Stevens], everybody.”

Anthony Davis on ESPN, asked whether the Pelicans checked with him on their handling of Cousins: “They did. There’s a lot of different stories out there, but for me, there’s nothing we can do about it now. I just move forward and try to worry about the team that we have now. You can’t dwell on whether they should’ve came back or Rondo, whoever it is. You’ve just got to move forward with the team I have now and try to find a way to make the playoffs as well and make some noise. Of course it was tough, but at the same time, I’m past it. Like I said, there’s nothing we can do about it. The team kept me in the loop. Whatever happened on their end happened on both sides. And now we’re here. So, like I said, we just have to move forward and try to figure out how we can be successful with the team we’ve got now.”

In a promo for the show, LeBron James said that he regrets giving his son, LeBron James Jr., his name. “I still regret giving my 14-year-old (LeBron James Jr. turns 14 in a few months) my name because of that,” James said in response to a question from former Daily Show host Jon Stewart about his son having to live up to his name. “When I was younger, I didn’t have a dad, so my whole thing was when I have a kid, not only is he gonna be a junior, I’m gonna do everything that this man didn’t do. They’re gonna experience things that I didn’t experience. The only thing I can do is give them the blueprint, and it’s up to them to take their own course whenever that time comes.”