TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors clinched their second straight Atlantic Division title, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 94-83 on Friday night behind 18 points from Lou Williams and 19 from Jonas Valanciunas.

James Johnson had 17 points, Amir Johnson 11 and Terrence Ross 10 as the Raptors snapped a two-game skid and beat the Lakers for the first time since Dec. 8, 2013.

Jeremy Lin scored 18 points and Jordan Clarkson had 14 for the Lakers, who lost for the 11th time in 14 games.

Toronto's DeMar DeRozan scored six points, making just one of his 10 field goal attempts and missing a dunk in the fourth quarter, but he had 10 rebounds and seven assists, both team highs.

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Shaq: Should have been more patient

March, 27, 2015
Mar 27

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It's been nearly two decades since Shaquille O'Neal left the Orlando Magic to pursue the championship that eluded him during his first four seasons in the NBA.

He returned Friday to be inducted into the Magic's Hall of Fame, a moment he said was an "unexpected" celebration of his contributions to the franchise. It was also a reunion that prompted O'Neal to acknowledge regrets about leaving his original NBA team.

"It's unexpected because I came here to win. We won games, and then I made a business decision," said O'Neal, who becomes the third member of the Magic's hall, joining co-founder Pat Williams and first-ever draft pick Nick Anderson. "It's never personal. The [team owner Rich] DeVos family knows that. And I accomplished [a championship] somewhere else. It's not like I didn't think they weren't going to be upset or anything. But it's business. It was all business.

"Do I regret it? I never fully answer it. I regret it sometimes. Is this where I started and should have stayed? I actually wish they made it a law that whoever drafts you, you gotta stay there your whole career."

O'Neal was just a potential-filled 20-year-old when he arrived from LSU as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 draft. Almost immediately, the 7-footer commanded the attention of the entire league with his dominant presence on the court and gregarious personality off it.

It all helped him take the Magic from an infant expansion team to their first NBA Finals appearance in 1995.

So it's not lost on O'Neal why the backlash was so strong when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would go on to win three of his four NBA championship rings.

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3 Points: On Steve Nash's legacy

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

NashHarry How/Getty ImagesSteve Nash finally announced his retirement, but should his final years define his legacy in any way?

Each week, Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.

1. Will Steve Nash's tenure with the Lakers influence how you will remember his career?


How will you remember Steve Nash?





Discuss (Total votes: 511)

Holmes: Not really. He was hurt, and it didn't work out. But Nash will be defined as one of the greatest point guards ever to play the game, a player who beautifully ran a revolutionary Phoenix Suns offense that many teams today try to mimic in ways big and small. There are so many incredible statistical achievements on his résumé -- too many to name. I'll remember all that, not these last few years.

Shelburne: No. I've already forgotten he was a Laker. Nash will be remembered for his time with the Suns. That's where he made his mark and had his greatest years. These last three years in Los Angeles are just the unsatisfying postscript to a Hall of Fame career. Now, if I were Lakers management, it wouldn't be so easy to forget his tenure in L.A. The draft picks they gave up -- and the salary they committed to him -- set the franchise back in immeasurable ways. They'll be digging out from that trade for at least another year or two. But that's the Lakers' issue, not Nash's. He can retire with his legacy intact and head held high.

Markazi: No. Like Michael Jordan's time with the Washington Wizards at the end of his career, I don't think anyone will really focus on it years down the line when we talk about his Hall of Fame career. It would be nice if he could have ended his career on a better note, but it doesn't take away from everything he did in Dallas and Phoenix that made him one of the best point guards ever.

2. Have we reached the point where we can we say Jordan Clarkson is the real deal?

Jordan Clarkson
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images Jordan Clarkson is showing he belongs in the NBA, but will he be a long-term solution for the Lakers?

Holmes: I think we've reached the point where Clarkson has definitely proved he can play in this league and has the potential to be a rotation player for the Lakers going forward. Is he a starting point guard in the NBA? Not at the moment. He might be one day, but that's maybe the most stacked position in the league right now. Either way, he has proven he belongs. That's pretty impressive for a second-round pick.

Shelburne: Yes. The kid just keeps getting better and better each game. I think he has established himself as part of the Lakers' future. It's still debatable how big a role he will play. On this team, in this season, you can't really tell if Clarkson is a future starter or a future backup. But he's clearly a player the Lakers will want to keep around long enough to find out.

Markazi: Yes. I think Clarkson is a solid player who could have a long future for the Lakers, but I still don't see him being the long-term answer as the starting point guard. I still think the Lakers eventually will end up with Russell Westbrook but until then, maybe Clarkson can keep his seat warm.

3. If the Lakers keep their protected draft pick, is there a player or position on which they should focus their attention?

Jahlil Okafor
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsIf Jahlil Okafor is available, the Lakers might be wise to zero in on picking him in the draft.

Holmes: If Duke's Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns is there, I'd take one of those two above all others simply because good big men are hard to find. If not, Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell looks as if he could be a point guard of the future for some lottery team. He has been very, very impressive.

Shelburne: No. Just take the best player available. You don't know yet what you really have in Julius Randle or Clarkson. Both are talented, but it's too soon to know where their ceilings are. The most important thing for a franchise with as many holes to fill as the Lakers is to draft the best player available. Worry about position later. Talent is what matters now.

Markazi: I don't think there's a particular position. They need help at a lot of positions. It's hard to say who they'll pick without knowing where they'll be picking, but I obviously think Okafor would be the prized pick followed by Emmanuel Mudiay and Towns.

2015 front-office rankings: Owners

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

Our front-office rankings conclude with a look at the NBA's 30 owners.

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every team's ownership group. In particular, we asked the voters to rate each team's ownership in terms of their performance in guiding the franchise to overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.

On Tuesday, we unveiled our overall front-office rankings. On Wednesday, we broke down our rankings of team presidents and GMs. And on Thursday we revealed our coach rankings.

Here's how the 30 owners rank, according to our panel:

Owner rankings


Overall rankings | GM rankings | Coach rankings

Windhorst: Gilbert's growing influence on Cavs »

Q&A: Bob Myers on how Warriors' front office works »

(Read full post)


At a news conference introducing Metta World Peace as a member of Italy's Pallacanestro Cantu, he discusses how he has matured over the years.

A look back at Jeremy Lin's meteoric rise, and the subsequent fall.

Marc Stein discusses the Cavaliers' interest in Steve Nash before the two-time MVP retired on Saturday.

2015 front-office rankings: Coaches

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26

Our front-office rankings continue with a look at the NBA's 30 current head coaches -- the league's on-court decision-makers.

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every team's coach. In particular, we asked the voters to rate each coach on his guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.

(On Tuesday, we unveiled our overall front-office rankings. On Wednesday, we broke down our rankings of team presidents and GMs. On Friday, we'll reveal our owner rankings.)

Here's how the 30 coaches rank, according to our panel:

Coach rankings


Overall rankings | GM rankings | Owner rankings

MacMullan: Brad Stevens' poise key to C's progress »

Arnovitz: Top NBA head-coaching prospects »

TrueLA: The trouble with Doc as Clippers GM »

(Read full post)


MINNEAPOLIS -- Jordan Clarkson hit two free throws with 0.3 seconds left in overtime to send the Los Angeles Lakers over the Minnesota Timberwolves, 101-99 on Wednesday night.

Clarkson scored eight points in overtime and finished with 20. Jeremy Lin added 19 points for the Lakers, who snapped a five-game road losing streak and won for the second time in three games.

Andrew Wiggins had 27 points for Minnesota.

Chase Budinger scored 22 and sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left in regulation as the Timberwolves erased a 13-point, second-half deficit.

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Lakers start first Asian-American backcourt

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25
Holmes By Baxter Holmes

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Though it would end up just another loss in a trying season, the Los Angeles Lakers made history in Wednesday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The duo of Jordan Clarkson and Jeremy Lin became the first-ever Asian-American starting backcourt in the NBA.

"Proud to make history tonight with [Jordan Clarkson]," Lin wrote in a caption of a photo of him and Clarkson on his Instagram account."First ever starting Asian-American backcourt in the NBA!! Proud of rook for that 30-piece too! #asianinvasion#halfasiancounts"

Clarkson scored a career-high 30 points in the 127-117 loss to the Thunder, and Lin scored 19 points. Each guard added seven assists.

Metta World Peace to play in Italy

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25

CANTU, Italy -- Former NBA All-Star Metta World Peace has signed for Italian team Pallacanestro Cantu for the remainder of the season.

After a series of teasing tweets from the 35-year-old World Peace -- such as "whatever you can do I Cantu better" -- Cantu confirmed the news, calling it "the coup of the century."

World Peace, who changed his name from Ron Artest, was playing for the Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball Association after a long NBA career that included stints with the Chicago BullsIndiana PacersSacramento Kings, Houston RocketsLos Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.

"When Daniele (sporting director Daniele Della Fiori) told me about the possibility of signing Metta World Peace, I thought that this could be the right shock to boost the squad at a crucial time in our season," Cantu president Anna Cremascoli said. "Metta will bring a wave of enthusiasm to the whole of Italian basketball and not just to Cantu."

World Peace, 35, averaged 19 points and six rebounds in 15 games for Sichuan -- where he also changed his name to "The Panda's Friend" -- but with the Chinese season over, he has turned to Italy.

World Peace won the NBA title in 2010 with the Lakers, where he also spent a season with Darius Johnson-Odom, who has been at Cantu since August.

"I'm happy, obviously," Johnson-Odom said. "I've spoken to Metta on the phone and he's very excited about this new adventure. I'm sure he will give us a great contribution, because we're talking about an absolute champion."

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2015 front-office rankings: Top execs

March, 25, 2015
Mar 25

We're continuing our front-office rankings with a look at the league's lead basketball decision-makers -- team presidents, general managers and, in some cases, owners -- the people who have the strongest say when it comes to transactions.

(On Thursday, we'll reveal our coach rankings, and on Friday, we'll break down our owner rankings. Click here for our overall rankings, which we unveiled Tuesday.)

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel to rate every team's basketball decision-maker(s). In particular, we asked the voters to rate each team's front-office management on its guidance and leadership in terms of how it affects overall on-court success, both in the short and long term.

Here's how they stack up:


Overall rankings | Coach rankings | Owner rankings

Young: Is Sam Presti's plan in OKC misunderstood? »

TrueLA: The trouble with Doc as Clippers GM »

Q&A: Larry Bird on building the Pacers and more »

(Read full post)

Clarkson rises to challenge vs. Westbrook

March, 24, 2015
Mar 24
Holmes By Baxter Holmes


OKLAHOMA CITY -- Of course Jordan Clarkson was pumped up to face Russell Westbrook, the human fireball who is burning ridiculously white hot at the moment.

Clarkson didn't hide that fact either after scoring a career-high 30 points in the Los Angeles Lakers 127-117 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"It's always motivation to go against somebody that everybody talks about," Clarkson said.

[+] EnlargeJordan Clarkson
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesRookie Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 30 points on Tuesday against the Thunder.

It's worth noting that Clarkson didn't exactly win the battle. Westbrook scored 27 points and had 11 assists. And he probably would've notched another triple-double had he not been on the bench during the entire fourth quarter when the Thunder were comfortably ahead.

Still, Clarkson was clearly as aggressive as he has been in any game so far -- no mere coincidence since he was playing against arguably the most aggressive player in the NBA.

"I've just got to learn to put that into everybody when I go out there and step on the floor," said Clarkson, who was 12-of-19 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from deep.

Clarkson's performance was another promising step for the second-round draft pick out of Missouri who continues to impress the team and fans -- and perhaps giving credence to the idea that he could be a solid player for the Lakers moving forward.

"He's doing a great job for us," said Lakers assistant Paul Pressey, the team's acting head coach while Byron Scott remains in Southern California to attend funeral services for his mother.

"The growth for him has been very good with guys going down with injuries, allowing him to play a little more. It is just a great opportunity for him to improve his game. He knows how to put the ball in the hole and we are trying to get him to be a facilitator."

Clarkson added seven assists, along with a career-high three blocks (including one on Westbrook), and he paired well in the backcourt with Jeremy Lin, who finished with 19 points and seven assists.



Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3