Rapid Reaction: Lakers 113, Spurs 100

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
SAN ANTONIO -- How does that saying go again?

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened?

Or in the Los Angeles Lakers' case, there were surely plenty of fans smiling Wednesday night because their dismal 2013-14 season is finally over.

They were a team that just couldn't get things right this season all the way to the bitter end, when all that was left to play for was draft seeding -- and they even messed that up with a two-game winning streak to finish things.

Before the Lakers knocked off the league's No. 1 team in the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday (albeit a Spurs team that did not dress Tim Duncan and played Tony Parker only 16 minutes), coach Mike D'Antoni was asked to reflect on the season that went awry.

"It’s something that -- we could have played better, obviously, but I don't know if we were good enough to win," D'Antoni said. "They tried their best. They were in a horrible situation. They were in a tough situation to start with, then it got horrible on them. But, I think overall, they competed."

For the nine guys still standing from the Lakers' 15-man roster, there was something to feel good about, at least knowing that they at least made their coach's claim ring true.

Time will tell just how much competing all the way to the end will hurt them when the draft lottery results are revealed next month, however.

How it happened: The Lakers saw their 13-point first-half lead disappear by intermission, but they were able to build their balloon back to 11 heading into the fourth. L.A. was able to keep its cushion large enough that MarShon Brooks played nine minutes in the final frame.

What it means: It's over. It's all over. The Lakers can only go up from here.

Hits: All five Lakers starters and eight of the nine players who got in the game overall scored in double digits, with Jordan Hill leading the charge with 18 points and 14 rebounds.

Wesley Johnson (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Kendall Marshall (15 points, 11 assists) also chipped in with double-doubles.
L.A. had just nine turnovers.

Misses: Johnson shot just 5-for-17 from the field.

Stat of the game: 319. With both Steve Nash and Chris Kaman joining Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Kent Bazemore and Xavier Henry on the injured list for the season finale, the Lakers' season total for combined games missed because of injury rose to a staggering 319.

Up next: An offseason rife with question marks. What will become of D'Antoni? Where will their spot end up being in the draft lottery? Whom will they select with their pick? How many out of their 12 free agents will be back on the team next season? Will Bryant return healthy? How about Nash? Will he retire? What will the Lakers do with all that cap space they've hoarded? How long will it take for this franchise to get back on track?

Hill leads Lakers over Spurs in finale, 113-100

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16

SAN ANTONIO -- Jordan Hill had 18 points and 14 rebounds and the Lakers closed their worst season since they moved to Los Angeles with a 113-100 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

Nick Young scored 16 points and Kendall Marshall added 15 points to help Los Angeles close the season with a two-game winning streak.

The Lakers (27-55) are expected to look dramatically different next season after finishing with their worst record since moving to Los Angeles.

Kawhi Leonard had 14 points to lead San Antonio, which did not have anyone play more than 27 minutes. The Spurs (62-19) had an opportunity to match their best record, but opted to rest in preparation for defense of their conference title.

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Kobe Bryant has been cleared to resume running and shooting and will begin an intense, six-month training program next week upon his return from a short family trip to Europe, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.

Bryant has been ramping up his activity level in recent weeks as he continues to recover from a fracture in his left knee suffered during the Lakers' victory Dec. 17 at Memphis, just six games into his return from a ruptured Achilles.

While he is in Europe, Bryant will visit the clinic in Germany where he had the platelet-rich plasma treatment known as Orthokineon on his knee, according to a source.

The visit to the clinic is a check-up to ensure all is structurally sound with his knee before he resumes intense training.

Bryant has rarely traveled with the team or appeared in public since, preferring to focus on his rehabilitation instead of a team wrapping up the worst season in Lakers history. He vented his frustrations with the team's struggles when he was declared out for the season in mid-March. He made his feelings known on Twitter on Wednesday:

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Mike D'Antoni's future uncertain

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16

SAN ANTONIO -- The Los Angeles Lakers played their final game of the worst season in franchise history on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, a 113-100 win. Will it also be the final game of Mike D'Antoni's tenure with the team?

The coach says his future is still undetermined.

"The next step will be to sit down with Jim [Buss] and all them and Mitch [Kupchak] at the end of the year and talk things out, see where things are," D'Antoni said after shootaround Wednesday morning.

D'Antoni is scheduled to have his exit interview with team management Friday. He has one year remaining on his contract worth $4 million, plus the Lakers have an option for the following season. Kupchak, the team's general manager, told USA Today last week that no decision has been made about retaining D'Antoni.

"No. No," Kupchak said. "In fact, I told Jimmy, let's get to the end [of the] season, take some time off ... then review the season."

While Kupchak preached patience, D'Antoni said he was unaware of any extended timeline for a decision on his fate.

"We haven't talked," D'Antoni said. "So that will be done in the next couple days and then we'll just see."

Guard Nick Young, who has the inauspicious distinction of being the team's leading scorer in such a lackluster year, said D'Antoni didn't have a chance to succeed.

"I think he handled everything well," Young said. "He came in on a bad situation -- getting picked over Phil Jackson. He already had a target on his back. So I think he handled all that well. From the boos and 'Fire D'Antoni!' I think he still comes in here with a smile and you can't ask for nothing more from Mike D'Antoni."

No matter what happens against the Spurs, the Lakers (27-55) have already assured themselves the worst season in the 66-year history of the franchise. When asked what he would remember about the season, D'Antoni replied, "Nothing," in deadpan fashion before elaborating.

"You forge individual relationships that have been great," D'Antoni said. "Watching Robert [Sacre]

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Los Angeles Lakers Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith their dreadful season all but over, the Los Angeles Lakers now must face the long road ahead.

Pau Gasol has been in a bad way for the past few weeks. Vertigo might seem like a fancy word for dizzy, but anyone who has ever suffered from it knows the truth.

It's scary. Up is sideways. Down is backward. After an hour, all you want is to make the spinning stop.

"It feels like you're seasick," Gasol said on his walk out of Staples Center after a recent game, "like you're floating in a cloud."

His eyes were glassy. Staying upright wasn't easy. A security guard walked with him, just to make sure.

There is a clarity that forms in desperate moments like this, a distillation of what matters and what doesn't. After the worst season in Los Angeles Lakers history, one that's left everyone in the franchise and the city feeling as dizzy as Gasol, this feels like one of those moments.

The Lakers have missed the playoffs just three times in the past 30 years, but they've never bottomed out with as little to build back up with as this season.

"Things didn't work out," Gasol said as he stopped for a moment to steady himself. "It's not just about talent sometimes. It's about getting your pieces to work together in one direction and having good chemistry, and obviously it didn't happen.

"I'm not big on thinking on what if. Things happen, and then you just move on."

How the Lakers do that, how they move on and use this moment, will set the course of their future for years to come.

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Mark Willard and Arash Markazi give their thoughts on Kobe Bryant not on the Lakers bench with teammates for the last three months of the season.

Now that all the excitement and attention in Los Angeles has shifted from the Lakers to the Clippers, Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose answer the question, "Have the Lakers and Clippers switched bodies?"

Rick Adelman, Wolves face decision

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the clock ticks down on the Minnesota Timberwolves' regular season finale on Wednesday night, one of the most quietly successful coaching careers the NBA has ever seen could be coming to a close right with it.

Over the past quarter century, Rick Adelman has won more than 1,000 games, developed an innovative offense that influences everyone from Gregg Popovich to Erik Spoelstra and developed a reputation as a master of exploiting opponents' weaknesses while maximizing the talents on his own roster.

But as his 23rd season draws to a close, it does so with everyone involved -- a coach who wanted to make one last playoff push, a franchise hoping to convince its star player not to abandon it, a fan base worn down by mediocrity -- left wanting more.

The "coaching lifer," as Popovich describes Adelman, who has always been able to come up with right answers to basketball problems has been frustrated like never before by an inability to squeeze more out of a talented but flawed team.

"This year it just seems like we have a good game, and then it could be from one half to the next half," Adelman said recently.

"That's been the hard part, trusting what's going to come. It's just been a very difficult year. I don't think I've ever really experienced (this)."

Adelman's contract has a mutual option included for the final season, meaning either side can opt out of the deal. Adelman will turn 68 in June and the contract calls for a decision to be made no later than two weeks after the season ends.

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Max Kellerman, Marcellus Wiley and Michelle Beadle debate whether Lakers fans should be upset that Mike D'Antoni led the Lakers to a win over the Jazz, hurting the team's chances to get a better pick in the draft lottery.

Luol Deng wins citizenship award

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Luol Deng has never once forgotten home.

He has spent much of his adult life trying to give back to his native South Sudan, the war-torn African nation the Cavaliers forward and his family fled when he was a young boy.

And while Deng's contributions have touched many, he knows the work will never end.

"I wish I could wake up tomorrow and nobody needs help," Deng said. "But we all know that's not going to happen. I'm just happy to be in the position that I'm in to be able to do the things that I'm able to do."

On Tuesday, Deng was commended for his compassion and dedication when he was named the winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, presented annually to an NBA player, coach or trainer by the Professional Basketball Writers Association for outstanding community service.

Deng has had a long commitment to philanthropic work in South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011 but has been ravaged by ethnic violence. The two-time All-Star, who came to Cleveland in a trade from Chicago in January, recently recorded a public service announcement for EnoughProject.org, urging peace in his homeland.

In a video directed at the nation's youth, Deng says, "Look around you, and reach out. Make peace among those who are fighting. Forgive one another and encourage others to forgive. Build trust with people who fear each other. You are young, and if you are wise, you will build bridges with people your age that will last a lifetime."

The video is a small sample of Deng's attempts to help others.

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Despite victory, D'Antoni won't win fans

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
SALT LAKE CITY -- After he has already coached the Los Angeles Lakers through their worst season in the 66-year history of the franchise, you have to believe Mike D’Antoni wasn’t searching for another way to tick off fans Monday.

Intentional or not, there was more to D’Antoni’s accomplishment of snapping a seven-game Lakers losing streak with a 119-104 win against the lowly Utah Jazz. He also put himself firmly in the crosshairs with a faction of the purple and gold faithful who care only about the Lakers’ draft position at this point, rather than chasing meaningless wins to close out the season.

[+] EnlargeMike D'Antoni
Russ Isabella/USA TODAY SportsAs uncertain as coach Mike D'Antoni was about the Lakers' lottery chances, his job is to win games, not to lose them to potentially improve a draft pick.
“What are you going to tell them? ‘Don’t play hard’?” D’Antoni said when asked whether the subject had been broached with his team before playing an equally abysmal Utah team. “That’s not right.”

If D’Antoni had stopped talking right there, he could have been spared the ire from the fan base, as the unexpected win would have been chalked up to Nick Young (who hit the 40-point plateau for the second time in eight games) and big nights from Jodie Meeks (23 points), Jordan Hill (21 points) and Kendall Marshall (15 assists).

But D’Antoni didn’t stop there, of course.

He continued his answer to reveal that he didn’t know exactly what was at stake for the Lakers, who went into the night with a 25-55 record, playing against a Jazz team that was 24-56.

“They played hard, and I think, if I’m not mistaken, it’s the same number of pingpong balls, right?” D’Antoni said. “They flip a coin, or something.”

Turns out, he was mistaken. The Lakers went into the night with the sixth-worst record in the league. A loss to the Jazz would have put them in a tie for fifth with Utah, with the Lakers owning the tiebreaker as the worse team -- should the Jazz close out the season with a loss in Minnesota and L.A. finish things out with a loss in San Antonio -- because Utah would have won the season series 3-1.

A reporter informed D’Antoni that the win by the Lakers actually cemented the Jazz with a worse record and thus better lottery chances.

“I mean, you kind of hate that,” D’Antoni responded, realizing what the win did to the potential draft order. “But, I thought we had the same rank.”

Another reporter chimed in to tell D’Antoni that if the Lakers had lost to Utah, the coach would have been correct.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” D’Antoni said. “Oh, OK. That’s all right; we’re going to beat San Antonio, anyway. So, it’s all for naught.”

In a way, D’Antoni’s ignorance in this case shouldn’t matter. His job is to coach the team to wins in the present. It is not to manipulate the outcomes of games to try to land better talent in the draft and potentially secure more wins in the future.

And, as D’Antoni pointed out, the Lakers could always beat the Spurs on Wednesday with Gregg Popovich resting his starters and make the win against the Jazz a moot point. Or the Boston Celtics could always beat the Washington Wizards in their last game and, coupled with a Lakers loss to San Antonio, create a coin-flip scenario to determine who gets the No. 5 position.

The logic will be lost on some fans, for sure. When things are as bad as they are right now for believers accustomed to championship or bust, they’ll latch on to whatever they can as an outlet for their frustrations. Plus, D’Antoni didn’t do himself any favors when he said earlier in the season that fans who were discouraged by the Lakers’ struggles should “find another team to root for.”

Combine all that with a less-than-ringing endorsement from Kobe Bryant and repeated head butts with Pau Gasol -- two guys who, unlike D’Antoni, have delivered titles to L.A. -- and it’s no surprise some of the faithful will choose to ignore that D’Antoni gets paid to win games, not to know about draft scenarios should the Lakers lose.

Besides, it’s called a “lottery” for a reason. Even if the Lakers finish with the sixth-worst record, it doesn’t mean they can’t vault into the top three when the pingpong balls are picked. It also doesn’t mean they’ll even get the sixth pick, because they could move down to a worse draft position with bad luck.

And no draft is the same. But it’s important to remember an example such as Damian Lillard going No. 6 to Portland in 2012 when Thomas Robinson went No. 5 to Sacramento. Of course, Chris Kaman was No. 6 in 2003 when Dwyane Wade was No. 5, too.

But the biggest takeaway from Monday shouldn’t be D’Antoni putting his foot in his mouth or the Lakers hurting their supposed chances in something that comes down to luck in the end, anyway.

It was about a Lakers team showing a shred of pride with last place in the Western Conference on the line.

“The basketball gods [made it happen],” Young said. “We needed a night like this. Just the energy. We came in here, we knew it was going to be a battle. It was a way to say, ‘Who wants to be the last-place team in the West?’

“And we went out there, we were making shots and jumping around as a team. We had fun together.”

SALT LAKE CITY -- Nick Young scored a season-high 41 points and helped the Los Angeles Lakers snap a seven-game losing streak with a 119-104 victory against the Utah Jazz on Monday night.

Jodie Meeks had 23 points and Jordan Hill added 21 for Lakers, who had only eight healthy players.

Alec Burks scored 22 points and Gordon Hayward had 21 points for Utah. Enes Kanter had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Trey Burke chipped in 17 for the Jazz, who have lost 10 of 11 games.

The game was tied at 86 after the third quarter, and then the Lakers found their range. Los Angeles outscored the Jazz 33-18 and the Utah players heard a mix of cheers and boos as the clock expired in their last home game of the season.

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5