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For years, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics battled each other for NBA championships.

Now, the two teams are again competing against each other, this time for a building block that both teams think could help return their teams to their former glory.

Al Horford's Atlanta Hawks beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs this year, but the organization hasn't held that against the center from the Dominican Republic. If anything, his play in that series against Celtic stars like Isaiah Thomas may have convinced the Celtics of Horford's worth. They are in hot pursuit of the free agent.

For their part, the Lakers boast a collection of young players like Brandon Ingram and D'Angelo Russell who could benefit from Horford's leadership. That's part of why the team is interested. Horford, 30, averaged over 15 points and 7 rebounds last season and he's a four-time NBA All-Star.

Whether Horford eventually decides to stay in Atlanta or sign elsewhere, his new contract will likely be the highest ever paid to a Latino player in NBA history. Free agents can begin talks with other teams on July 1.

Click here to keep up with all the NBA action with ESPN.

Hassan Whiteside presents free agency's most interesting dilemma. Does it make sense to commit max money to a player who was out of the NBA 20 months ago?

Kevin DurantLayne Murdoch/NBA/Getty ImagesPart of the Lakers' pitch to Kevin Durant will be the ability to team with another top-tier free agent, a source said.

Despite not being on the list of teams scheduled to meet with free-agent forward Kevin Durant, the Los Angeles Lakers have not abandoned their hopes of landing him, according to a person with knowledge of the club's thinking.

The Lakers intend to contact Durant and his representatives July 1 and are confident they will get a meeting, the source said.

"I can't imagine Durant wouldn't talk to us," the source said. "That would shock me."

According to ESPN sources and media reports, Durant is scheduled to meet with the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers, beginning July 1, the first day free agents are allowed to talk with teams other than their own.

The Vertical reported Tuesday night that those meetings will take place Friday and Saturday in the Hamptons on Long Island.


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Kobe Bryant meditates on retirement in Taiwan

June, 28, 2016
Jun 28
2:39
PM PT
By One Nacin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive

Mindful of oneself. Finding one's center ... and we're not talking Shaquille O'Neal.

That's what Kobe Bryant was doing on his recent trip to Taiwan.

Bryant was in Taiwan recently, and the NBA's Taiwan edition of their website revealed Bryant took time out to participate in a meditation retreat.

Of course, the former Los Angeles Lakers star isn't just spending time in meditation. He's running basketball camps in China with athletic hopefuls as well. Bryant's popularity around the world is due to his embracing of multiple cultures. He is married to a Mexican-American, Vanessa, and speaks Italian and Spanish.

Bryant is considered the most famous NBA player in China (as documented in ESPN's World Fame 100). He also found time to spend with other famous people in China, namely action star Jackie Chan.

Thank you Jackie for a great dinner in Beijing!

A photo posted by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

Fame has its pressures, but there are also pleasures, as well.

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Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak explains what Los Angeles is looking for in free agency.
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Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak breaks down what Brandon Ingram will bring to the team and which areas he needs to improve as he transitions to the NBA.

DeMar DeRozanSteve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty ImagesThe Raptors are the only franchise DeMar DeRozan has played for in his seven-year NBA career.

Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan does not plan to schedule meetings with other teams at the start of free agency, opting to focus on working out a contract to return to the Eastern Conference finalists, a source told ESPN.com.

DeRozan, 26, a two-time All-Star who led the Raptors with 23.5 points per game last season, has been consistent in stating that his strong preference is to remain with the only franchise he has played for during his seven-year NBA career.

"My mindset has always been Toronto," DeRozan told reporters the day after the Raptors were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "I've always preached it. I was passionate about it when we were losing, when we were terrible. I said I was going to stick through this whole thing, and I want to be that guy who brings this organization to where it is now. I definitely don't want to switch that up after we win."

DeRozan, arguably the top shooting guard in free agency, would be in high demand if he chose to explore his options beginning July 1. However, the source said the unrestricted free agent would only look into meeting with other teams if talks with Toronto broke down.

The Raptors can offer DeRozan a five-year maximum contract worth $153 million with the salary cap at a projected $94 million. Other teams would be able to offer him a max deal of $114 million over four years.

Toronto's decision-makers have made it clear that re-signing DeRozan, a southern California native whose name was often linked to the Los Angeles Lakers


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The Los Angeles Lakers plan to aggressively pursue Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside when NBA free agency starts, according to league sources.

With rim protection and perimeter shooting ranking as the Lakers' foremost areas of concern heading into the open market, sources told ESPN that Whiteside has emerged as a priority target.

The Lakers, like the Heat, are still hopeful of securing a face-to-face recruiting meeting with Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant once free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. ET July 1. But the Lakers, sources say, are highly intrigued by Whiteside and what he could bring them as a double-double presence inside.

ESPN reported earlier this week that the Mavericks also intend to be a serious suitor for Whiteside, with Dallas expected to land one of the first recruiting meetings Whiteside conducts in the opening hours of free agency. The Portland Trail Blazers are another team that has been linked with Whiteside, and there will surely be others.

After averaging 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and a league-leading 3.7 blocks per game last season, Whiteside is expected to command a maximum contract, with a first-season salary forecast in the $22 million range.

"More than likely, players out there in free agency, our No. 1 priority is Hassan Whiteside," Heat president Pat Riley told reporters after the season.

ESPN also reported this week that that Lakers, Orlando Magic


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If fans aren't happy, teams are likely to hear about it, even during the NBA offseason. Sometimes loudly.

The flip side?

Mexican-American comedian and actor George Lopez, a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan who is a fixture at games, couldn't pass up the chance to welcome and commend the team's choice with their No. 2 selection in the NBA draft Thursday night, Brandon Ingram.

#Repost @lakers We got our guy, LA!! The Lakers select Brandon Ingram with the second pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

A photo posted by George Lopez (@georgelopez) on

Though Lopez was on tour in Toronto, he made sure to keep up on the draft and posted Ingram's picture on his Instagram account. Ingram, 18, out of Duke, is a wiry forward who is projected to be an impressive player once he fills out and gains experience.

Lopez is in good company in cheering the Laker's draft pick. Earvin "Magic" Johnson, a Lakers icon, also approved of the decision.

Click here to keep up on the latest L.A. Lakers news on their team page.

Six teams found especially good value with at least one of their picks in Thursday's NBA draft, including the Celtics and the Lakers.

Others teams reached too far for players they liked. According to my analysis, four teams -- also including Boston -- may not have gotten enough return from their picks.


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Tim Legler and Brad Daugherty analyze Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, the top two picks in the NBA draft, and agree that Simmons will have a more immediate impact.

Skinny on Brandon Ingram is he could be this town's next big thing: They didn’t try to be too smart. They didn’t try to be too cool. They didn’t outthink it, overthink it or give in to the inviting temptation to trade it. This time, the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t get fancy. This time, they simply got it right. -- Los Angeles Times

Brandon Ingram ready to join Lakers' rebuilding process: What have the Lakers done? Their first-round draft pick likes to quote Mike Krzyzewski, talks fondly of fishing with his grandmother while growing up in North Carolina, and, in his down time, loves to sketch with shading pencils and charcoal. -- Los Angeles Times

Lakers select Brandon Ingram at No. 2; intrigued with his potential: In a move that carried less drama than a bland Hollywood script, the Lakers selected a player in the NBA draft on Thursday that many expected would wear a purple and gold uniform. The Lakers drafted Duke forward Brandon Ingram with their No. 2 pick, providing an immediate replacement at the small forward spot that Kobe Bryant left vacant following a storied 20-year NBA career. -- Los Angeles Daily News

Mitch Kupchak says “we have more to sell” in free agency: The Lakers’ 16 NBA championship trophies, the sunny skies and proximity to Hollywood once represented the only visual selling points they needed to land their next star. But then something happened. The Lakers missed the playoffs for the past three seasons because of rosters that both lacked health and talent. The current labor deal has imposed more stringent spending limitations. It no longer has become necessary to latch onto the Lakers’ global brand in order for a star to maximize theirs. -- Los Angeles Daily News

Lakers take Ingram and Zubac, but nobody’s got answers to NBA draft at this point: At some point we’ll understand the science of it all, but Thursday night, the NBA draft was art. Whether it’s Mona Lisa or Dogs Playing Poker, it’s all in the beholder’s eye. In such a fact-free and opinion-rich zone, all questions and answers are equal. -- The Orange County Register

Youngsters, including Brandon Ingram, 'ready to work' to make Lakers better: Brandon Ingram won’t arrive in Los Angeles until next week. He won’t take the court with the Lakers until sometime in July at Summer League. Only then will the organization and its fans get to see how the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft fits in with the rest of their young players. However, General Manager Mitch Kupchak got a hint two weeks ago when Ingram was visiting L.A. for a Lakers workout. -- The Orange County Register

2016 Draft Picks: Los Angeles Lakers

June, 24, 2016
Jun 24
1:37
AM PT
By ESPN.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com

The Los Angeles Lakers' draft picks are listed by round, with the overall pick in parentheses. For more, check out the overall draft results and the NBA draft home page

1 (2): Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke

2 (32): Ivica Zubac, C, Croatia

International players, Thunder come out ahead on draft day

June, 24, 2016
Jun 24
1:20
AM PT
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Ben SimmonsMike Stobe/Getty ImagesBen Simmons was, predictably, taken first overall in Thursday's draft. The rest of the draft was more difficult to predict.



The first two picks in the 2016 NBA draft didn’t surprise anybody.

Ben Simmons was selected first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, becoming the second LSU player taken with the first pick (Shaquille O’Neal).

The Los Angeles Lakers then took Brandon Ingram with the second pick, making him the fifth top-two pick for the Lakers in the common draft era.

The rest of the draft may have delivered a bit of a shock.

Thunder get magical haul for Serge Ibaka

The Orlando Magic acquired Ibaka from the Thunder in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis (No. 11 pick).

The Thunder are getting three pieces for what was essentially a rotation player by the end of last season. During the playoffs, Ibaka ranked fifth on the Oklahoma City Thunder in PER and seventh in usage percentage.



Among the three players in the deal to play last season, Ibaka had the lowest player efficiency rating, as noted in the chart on the right.

Celtics hold on to first-round picks

This is the second straight year that the Boston Celtics had multiple first-round draft picks, tried to package them in a deal and ended up using each pick.

In the 2015 draft, Danny Ainge offered the Charlotte Hornets four first-round picks to move up and select Justise Winslow. The Hornets ultimately turned down Boston.

The Celtics drafted not one, but two foreign players in the first round of the 2016 draft. Prior to this draft, the only time the Celtics drafted an international player in the first round was in 2013, when they took Lucas Nogueira.

He was traded on draft night for Kelly Olynyk.

International men of mystery

There were eight international players drafted in the first round, tied for the most international players ever taken in the first round (there were also eight in 2003).

Only 16 of the 30 players taken in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft were born in the United States.

Elias research reports that’s the lowest total of American-born, first-round picks in an NBA draft since 1973. In that year’s first round, 16 of the 18 players were born in the USA.

The same trend applies to college players taken. Six college players taken in the first round were born outside the United States: Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Skal Labissiere.

The 2016 draft started predictably and was followed by controlled chaos. Time will tell if the events from Thursday night will pay off for any of the teams to make selections or trades.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
17.6 2.8 0.9 28.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Randle 10.2
AssistsM. Huertas 3.4
StealsD. Russell 1.2
BlocksR. Hibbert 1.4