Alexander: This is why Anthony Davis is a Laker

  • Los Angeles Lakers players celebrate at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) tries to block a shot by Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James sits on the bench during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone reacts on the bench during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives past Denver Nuggets’ Jerami Grant (9) during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray (27) celebrates during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) drives to the basket around Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso, right, during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) celebrates after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Anthony Davis (3) after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) watches his last second 3-point basket between Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) and Jerami Grant (9) in an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives past Denver Nuggets’ Jerami Grant (9) during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) reacts to a call during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers players celebrate at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) tries to block a shot by Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Alex Caruso dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) celebrates with teammate Anthony Davis (3) after an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) shoots a 3-point basket over Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (15) at the end of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Lakers won 105-103. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) reacts after making a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA conference final playoff basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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The seeds of Sunday night’s madness in the Orlando bubble, and the latest addition to the Laker franchise’s gallery of postseason moments, were planted June 15, 2019. That was the day the Lakers landed Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the day Davis and LeBron James got their wishes, and the day that sometimes quixotic quest for the franchise’s 17th title again got serious.

“This,” Davis told TNT’s Allie LaForce Sunday evening, “is what they brought me here for.”

Davis’ buzzer-beating three-pointer – officially a 26-footer according to the play-by-play sheet – for a 105-103 victory over Denver didn’t win a championship or even a series. There is still way too much work to do during this Western Conference Finals showdown with the stubborn Nuggets, never mind anything beyond that.

But given the circumstances  – down a point, 2.1 seconds left when the ball was inbounded, against a team that has established it has no quit in it – this may have been the most inspiring L.A. walkoff since … well, you’ve got Kirk Gibson’s home run in 1988, Alec Martinez’ Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Kings in 2014, Robert Horry’s shot to beat Sacramento in the 2002 Western Conference Finals and Tyus Edney going the length of the floor for UCLA against Missouri in 1995. Not too many others leap to mind.

Not to brag, but I wrote it last summer, the day the trade went down:

This is what the Lakers should be doing. It’s part of their DNA … (It) tells their fans and their city that this franchise still means business, even if there is still reason to question their front office structure.”

Nobody is questioning it now, of course. Moments like this – and in fact a season like this, elongated as it has been – have created a collective amnesia about those seven seasons in the playoff desert, those years when we sometimes weren’t sure exactly what the Lakers stood for beyond the gauzy memories of the past.

Games and series like this remind us of what that franchise does stand for. And there is but one regret about this particular buzzer-beater.

“The one thing I wish A.D. had tonight with the shot that he made, I wish we were playing at Staples,” LeBron James said. “I mean, we miss our fans so much. And I can only imagine. It probably would have blew the roof off Staples Center, A.D. hitting that shot tonight in Staples with our crowd. I would have loved for him to have that moment, because I know what it felt like for me.”

James’ reference was to Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference finals, when he hit a 25-footer with no time left, at home, to give Cleveland a 96-95 win over an Orlando team led by current Laker teammate Dwight Howard. But I suppose we should stop that comparison right there, because Orlando won that series in six (en route to losing in the Finals to the, um, Lakers).

Davis wanted this type of pressure, and this type of responsibility. That’s why he forced his way out of New Orleans. The Pelicans got to the second round once while he was there, but there was no assurance that it was going to get any better.

“Just because his teams haven’t been good enough to reach this moment (before now) doesn’t mean that he’s not that caliber of player,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We saw that tonight. No surprise (to) me. No surprise (to) our whole group.”

There were no guarantees in L.A., either, when he arrived. But Davis teaming up with James provided the 1-2 punch that enabled Rob Pelinka to fill in around them, and the general manager has gone from presumed doofus to an Executive of the Year candidate – and I’d assume inquiries about his ring size – as a result.

The shot Davis made Sunday night was similar to one he took in the Lakers’ last pre-pandemic game, a three-pointer in front of the visitors bench with time running out against Brooklyn on March 10. That one he missed, in a 104-102 loss.

“LeBron will tell you,” Davis recalled. “I mean, probably the first four days I was like, ‘Damn, I should have made that shot. I’ve got to make that shot.’ He said, ‘You’re fine, you’re fine.’

“But I put more pressure on myself than anybody. I feel like every shot I take is supposed to go in, and I have enough confidence in my shot to make those type of plays.”

This one, he acknowledged, was the biggest of his career, and his first buzzer-beater for a victory. Again, that’s why he’s here.

“When I left (New Orleans) I just wanted to compete for a championship, and I know that moments like this come with it, especially in L.A., the biggest market in basketball,” he said.

It’s part of the Lakers legacy. And so is this: The Lakers wore their “Mamba Black” uniforms Sunday night, and Vogel was caught on the telecast telling his team it was a “Mamba shot,” one that Kobe Bryant would hit.

“We just play a little different” in those jerseys,” Davis said. “Our swagger is a little different. Every time we put on those jerseys, we’re representing him.

“Coach made sure we knew that in the huddle. He said, ‘Look at the jerseys you have on. He would have made big-time plays. So it’s time for us to make big-time plays.’ “

Done.

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

 

 

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Kiszla: Yes, the Nuggets got punked by Lakers and NBA refs, but whining won’t win the series

The Nuggets got punked. By King James. And by NBA refs.

Cry foul into a crying towel, if you want. Whining about life (or the refs) not being fair won’t get Denver anywhere but a one-way ticket out of the playoffs.

After getting dunked on and dissed during a 126-114 loss in Game 1 on Friday in the Western Conference Finals, it’s obvious that the league regards the Nuggets as little more than props in this Lake Show, starring James and Anthony Davis, who hammered Denver with 37 points.

It was so ugly and frustrating the entire fourth quarter stunk like garbage time.

“I’m not going to sit here and blame it on the refs. That’s not what I’m doing,” Nuggets guard Jamal Murray said. “We’ve got to play through it and earn their respect.”

In 2020, when life’s not fair, in any way, it’s easy to think the world is conspiring against us. But think that way and it’s nearly impossible to overcome. The refs did the Nuggets no favors in this L. But Murray didn’t whine after the game. He’s a winner.

Lobby the refs all you want. But beg for their mercy? That’s not how it works in this league. Crying foul gets an up-and-coming team nowhere.

Yes, the Lakers attempted two dozen foul shots in the second quarter alone, when Los Angeles took control of the game, with a big assist from a very friendly whistle.

“They went to the foul line 24 times in one quarter. Twenty-four times in a quarter, which is an extremely high number, on pace for 100,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who watched the refs with the same disbelieving eyes as many fans back in Denver.

There is Sistine Chapel artistry to the way James plays basketball, but when he lowers shoulders that are hard as anvils on a drive to a basket, a defender would have an easier time giving a hug to a bull in Pamplona than slowing down the King.

With the Nuggets employing their classic rope-a-dope strategy, L.A. blew them out of the Magic Kingdom with a 17-1 start to the second quarter. Maybe the worst moment in the period, at least in the eyes of Denver fans, was when LeBron made a dent in Murray, hit a shot and was given a free throw, as well.

Malone formally protested, demanding a video review by the refs. I get the idea of standing up for your guys. But you ain’t going to win that battle against the King. He who has the rings gets the calls.

Malone’s objection? Denied. Bron sank the free throw to put the Lakers up 56-41 with six minutes, 25 seconds, remaining in the first half.

If Malone is going to complain about refs showing James too much respect, I’m afraid he is going to be miserable for as long as it lasts. And it won’t last long.

Or as analyst Charles Barkley punked Nuggets Nation on the TNT telecast prior to opening tip: “I don’t even know if they can make it a series … I tell you what, America. Lakers in five!”

Bottom line: The refs didn’t beat the Nuggets.

Here’s what did: The Lakers shot way too often from point-blank range, taking great glee in slamming Denver with don’t-mess-with-us dunks. L.A. scored 54 points in the paint.

“We were giving up layups after scored baskets ourselves,” Malone said. “To me that indicates our sense of urgency to get back was not remotely anywhere close to where it needed to be.”

Belying his sweet Big Honey reputation, there’s a quietly stubborn competitiveness deeply embedded in the DNA of center Nikola Jokic. He won’t back down against the Lakers, as his 11 points during the opening 11 minutes of the first quarter reassured us all.

The problem? L.A. can send big bodies in waves at Joker, from JaVale McGee to Dwight Howard. This series is going to leave a dent.

If Denver is going to have any shot against the Lakers, Murray is going to have to take it. He needs to average at least 25 points per night. He scored 21 in Game 1. But it didn’t matter, because starters Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant and Gary Harris came up painfully small, shooting a meek 7-of-23 from the field.

After only four quarters in this best-of-seven series, the Nuggets are in a tough spot.

And guess what?

The refs aren’t going to bail Denver out.

Not only has Malone kept this team together when hope appeared gone, but he has also cracked the most memorable soundbites heard in the Nuggets camp since the prime of Doug Moe.

On the eve of this series, Malone quipped: “We petitioned the league to see if we could start the series down 3-1, save everybody a lot of time.”

The Nuggets have made us all believe that impossible is nothing. But go down 3-1 to the Lakers and it will be all over except the told-ya-so cackling by Sir Charles Barkley.

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Alexander: Even in a bubble there are distractions for the Lakers

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) controls the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, left, is congratulated by Los Angeles Lakers’ JR Smith, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, left, shakes hands with LeBron James as James goes to the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Gary Trent Jr. (2) guards Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (39) battles for the ball with Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic, center, during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) shakes hands with head coach Terry Stotts as Nurkic heads to the bench during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic, center, drives past Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) and Danny Green (14) celebrate after a play against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) looks for a way past Portland Trail Blazers’ Jaylen Hoard (6) and Gary Trent Jr. (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) defends against Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony (00) falls as he battles with Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green (14) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony (00) falls as he battles with Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green (14) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony gets up after a fall against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green (14) scores against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic (27) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel greets Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James during a timeout in the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) drives past Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green (14) defends against Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony (00) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James directs the play during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel applauds his team during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) gets past Portland Trail Blazers’ Gary Trent Jr. (2) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ JaVale McGee (7) drives against Portland Trail Blazers’ Mario Hezonja (44) during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) battles for the ball with Portland Trail Blazers’ Mario Hezonja during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis (3) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) celebrate after a play against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Mario Hezonja (44) scores against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

  • Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard (0) looks for help as he is defended by Los Angeles Lakers’ JR Smith (21) and Alex Caruso (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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Under normal playoff circumstances, focus is everything. Coaches devour video for hours, players lock in on their opponent, and nothing else matters.

So here’s the great irony about the NBA’s playoff bubble: The fewer the so-called “distractions,” the more distracting it’s been.

And under these abnormal playoff circumstances, with the teams hermetically sealed not only from a pandemic but, to date, from their families and friends and pets but unable to escape the turbulence of society, the team that has dealt with so much already this season may have the edge.

Advantage, Lakers? It certainly was Saturday night.

They closed out their first-round series with a 131-122 victory, against an undermanned Portland team that had nothing to lose and threw everything they had at the Lakers. This, after an unplanned three-day hiatus in which many of these players spent little time actually thinking about basketball while discussing among themselves how this platform could be an even larger agent of social change.

Other players on other teams might find their attention split. The Lakers should be used to it by now in a season that has bounced from one moment of turbulence to another.

“I said this (Friday), we have a Ph.D in handling adversity, and we’ve been through so much as a group this year,” coach Frank Vogel said on a Zoom conference before Saturday’s game. “And we have been able to rely on those experiences as a group throughout the year, to hopefully take our minds off of what we’re doing because of what’s happening, and (to) center and refocus.

“This is just the next in a long list of things that has happened to our group this year. So I’m confident that we’ll be able to get back to where we were.”

A recap of this doctorate level course in making the best of things:

• They found themselves in a bubble of sorts in the exhibition season in Shanghai, China, after Houston general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong outraged the Chinese government. The NBA still isn’t totally back in China’s good graces, but at least the Lakers got out of the country unscathed.

That seems so long ago, doesn’t it?

• Then came the end of January and the death of Kobe Bryant. Not only the Lakers organization but all of Southern California treated it like the loss of a member of the family, and in a sense it was.

• Then, as a memorable season was about to kick into playoff gear, it stopped. From March to July, there was no certainty there would be a championship awarded. The establishment of the bubble seemed to be a solution, but sometimes you just have to be careful what you wish for.

• And as of this past Wednesday night there still was no certainty there would be a championship awarded, after the Milwaukee Bucks players said they wouldn’t play that afternoon and a rash of other postponements followed in multiple sports. Meetings and debates and more meetings took place over the past few days, with James playing a significant role as one of the league’s elder statesmen, and an upshot was NBA owners agreeing to actions supporting the players’ emphasis on social justice.

One of those actions involves making the league’s arenas available as voting sites this November. The Lakers confirmed before Saturday’s game that Staples Center would be among those sites, with the cooperation of AEG, the arena owner, and the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

“I pick my battles,” James said. “And I kind of listen and see what’s going on and things of that nature, then I voice my opinion and what I believe is the best.

“You got to understand that for me personally, it’s not just about me, because in this league it’s about the other 300 plus guys that I got to look out for as well, same way that the OGs and the vets looked out for guys like myself, (Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh) when all of us came into the league as well.”

His point: There will be an NBA long after he’s gone, and he wants to see the guys who are youngsters now taking the initiative after he’s retired.

“I just want to leave it in a better place as much as I can when I’m done,” he said.

Saturday’s games probably could have been termed the NBA’s restart restart. While the three-day hiatus resulted in further conversations about social justice issues, it also provided a necessary deep breath for players who have been in the bubble for what must now seem like several forevers. The Lakers got to Orlando July 9 to begin their quarantine, and they were one of the last teams to get there.

“There’s a lot of tension in this bubble,” guard Danny Green said on a Zoom call Friday. “We’ve been here without our families for two months, locked up in a small area – I shouldn’t say locked up, but we’re confined to a very small radius. Guys get a little antsy, guys get a little tense, emotional.”

It has an effect, especially when you aren’t playing well and your only connection to the outside world is a social media app filled with people ripping you. “If you’re not playing well, as an individual or a group, it’ll get dark in here quick,” Green said.

And you don’t have to be playing badly to feel the walls closing in, either.

“I’ve had numerous days and nights when I’ve thought of leaving the bubble. I think everyone has, including you guys,” James said Saturday night, half kiddingly, pointing at the reporters on site in Orlando. “I don’t think there’s one person that has not had a mind to say, ‘Oh, I gotta get the hell out of here.’ “

Under those circumstances, the Lakers should have been even more motivated to close things out. Players on teams that reach the second round are allowed to have family members join them in the bubble after a quarantine period.

“I think that will lift everyone’s spirits,” Vogel said.

Really, all Vogel needed for a pregame speech was one word: “Families.”

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Lakers vs. Trail Blazers Game 5 playoff updates from NBA beat reporters

LeBron James and the Lakers look to close out the first round series Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland will play without leading scorer Damian Lillard (knee injury.)

Lakers (3-1) vs. Trail Blazers (1-3)

When: 6 p.m. PST Saturday

Where: Walt Disney World Resort, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

TV: TNT

Can’t watch the game? Follow our live updates feed below.

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Kobe Bryant: 42 photos for the Laker legend’s 42nd birthday

Kobe Bryant would have celebrated his 42nd birthday on Sunday, August 23.

The 18-time NBA All-Star won five championships throughout his 20-year career, spent entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers, and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation.

  • Former Laker Kobe Bryant holds the Larry O’Brien championship trophy and the NBA Finals MVP trophy after the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 Finals in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • With a large flag as a backdrop, 17-year-old Kobe Bryant dunks the ball at his Lower Merion, Pa. high school gym during a practice on Jan. 19, 1996. (Photo by Rusty Kennedy, AP)

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  • Kobe Bryant arrives or his final game as a Los Angeles Laker against the Utah Jazz. April 13, 2016. Los Angeles, CA.  (Photo by David Crane/Southern California News Group)

  • Lakers’ Kobe Bryant slams in two points during game action at Staples Sunday. Clippers defeated the Lakers 109-95 to clinch the Pacific Division. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

  • The Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant share a laugh during the final minutes of the the Lakers’ 117-103 victory over the New York Knick at the Staples Center Sunday March 10, 2002. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Lakers Kobe Bryant and Pacers Roy Hibbert go after a loose ball during second half action at Staples Center Sunday, January 3, 2015. Lakers defeated the Indiana Pacers 88-87. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

  • The Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna share a moment during their 2010 Championship Parade on Monday, June 21, 2010 in Los Angeles. (Stan Lim, The Press Enterprise/SCNG)

  • Kobe Bryant walks off the court after scoring 60 points in the final game of his career against the against the Utah Jazz. April 13, 2016. Los Angeles, CA.  The Lakers defeated the Jazz 101-96. (Photo by David Crane/Southern California News Group)

  • Laker’s Kobe Bryant ,24, celebrates a three pointer in the fourth quarter as the Lakers beat the Nuggets 122-107 during a first round playoff basketball game between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers April 23. 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. (SGVN/Staff Photo Keith Birmingham/SXSports)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (24) sits alone on the bench before a basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Staples Center on Sunday, April 4, 2010 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News)

  • Laker Kobe Bryant #24 with Pau Gasol during a basketball game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Monday January 19, 2009 in Los Angeles.

  • Los Angeles: Kobe Bryant,8, drives to the basketball against the Sacramento Kings defense in the first half of the game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles April 17,2002.
    (Pasadena Star-News Staff Photo Keith Birmingham/Sports)

  • Laker Kobe Bryant #24 on the bench in the first half during a basketball game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Monday January 19, 2009 in Los Angeles. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham/SPORTS)

  • In this June 9, 2016 file photo, retired NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant poses at the 2016 AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute to John Williams in Los Angeles. Bryant has received a one-of-a-kind retirement gift from rapper Snoop Dogg: a Los Angeles Lakers-themed convertible. He posted a picture on Twitter of him and Snoop standing by the purple and gold car Wednesday. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O’Neal pose for a photo during media day at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Monday, Oct. 4, 1999. The Lakers training camp opens in Santa Barbara, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 5, 1999. (AP Photo/ Victoria Arocho)

  • Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant, left, holding the championship trophy, celebrates with teammates Rick Fox, Lindsey Hunter, second from right, and Shaquille O’Neal, right, holding the MVP trophy, after winning Game 4 of the NBA Finals, June 12, 2002, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Lakers defeated the New Jersey Nets 113-107, capturing their third consecutive NBA championship. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts afternoon a fourth quarter dunk late in the game at the Compaq Center in Houston during game four of the NBA Western Conference playoffs in 1999. Lakers beat the Rockets 98-88. (Photo by Chris Carlson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant smiles as he talks to reporters following the Lakers’ victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in game 5 of the 2001 NBA Finals in Philadelphia. It was the second of five titles Bryant won with the Lakers during his 20-year Hall of Fame career. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant holds the NBA Championship trophy aloft during the Lakers’ victory celebration of their third consecutive NBA championship Friday, June 14, 2002, in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Lakers’ forward Kobe Bryant watches a tribute video before the first half at Staples Center

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson talk during a break against the Dallas Mavericks during the first half of Game 4 of a second-round NBA playoff basketball series, Sunday, May 8, 2011, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Kobe Bryant poses in the press room with the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball,” during the 90th Annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

  • In this July 12, 1996, file photo, Kobe Bryant, 17, jokes with the media as he holds his Lakers jersey during a news conference in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Susan Sterner, STf)

  • In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant waves good bye to the fans after an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in his last appearance at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Renamed SleepTrain Arena, the facility has been the home of the Kings since it opened in 1988. The Kings won an NBA-best 61 games in the 2001-02 season behind Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, losing to the eventual champion Lakers in Game 7 of the conference finals. The Kings will play their last game at the aging building, Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and begin play next season at the new Golden One Center built in downtown Sacramento. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts afternoon a fouth quarter dunk late in the game Saturday at the Compaq Center in Houston during game four of the NBA Western Conference playoffs in 1999. Lakers beat the Rockets 98-88. (Photo by Chris Carlson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (24) and Lamar Odom (7) all smiles before a basketball game at the Staples Center on Friday, April 2, 2010 in Los Angeles. Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Lakers Kobe Bryant celebrates during the victory rally for the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday June 17, 2009 in Los Angeles. Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant waves to the crowd after receiving his Al-Star jersey prior to a NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 in Los Angeles.
    (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) drives to the basket in the first half of game five of a Western Conference Final Playoff basketball game as the Lakers beat the Suns 103-101 at the Staples Center on Thursday, May 27, 2010 in Los Angeles. Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Lakers Kobe Bryant smiles as the Dodgers beat the Angels 5-3 during a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim at Anaheim Stadium on Sunday June 21, 2009 in Anaheim. Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Lakers Kobe Bryant blows a kiss to the 95 thousand fans during the victory rally for the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday June 17, 2009 in Los Angeles. Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Laker Kobe Bryant #24 celebrates with Ronny Turiaf #21 as the Lakers beat the Spurs 89-85 during game one of the the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers May 21. 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. (SGVN/Staff Photo Keith Birmingham/Sports)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant looks at the score board in the first quarter against the New Orleans Hornets during game five of a NBA Western Conference First Round playoff basketball game in Los Angeles, on Tuesday, April 26, 2011. Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • Laker Kobe Bryant #24 slam dunks in the first half during game one of a Western Conference final playoff basketball game between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Tuesday May 19, 2009 in Los Angeles. Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

  • FINALS BEGIN–Laker’s Kobe Bryant #24, takes the floor at the start of game 1 against the Orlando Magic at Staples Center in Los Angeles thursday. Photo by David Crane

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant waves to fans during a parade held for the Los Angeles Lakers to celebrate their NBA Championship Monday, June 21, 2010 in Los Angeles. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach Phil Jackson and player Kobe Bryant during practice at the Staples Center Wednesday, June 2, 2010. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant #24 smiles as he sits on the bench in the 4th period during their game against the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center in Los Angeles April 2, 2010. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Laker #24 Kobe Bryant reacts after scoring late in the 4th period against the Boston Celtics during game 3 of the NBA Finals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Ca. Tuesday, June 10, 2008. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 87 to 81. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

  • Los Angeles Laker #24 Kobe Bryant hold his finger in the air after scoring against the Indiana Pacers in the fourth quarter during their NBA match up at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA., January 6, 2008. The Lakers defeated the Pacers 112 to 96. (Hans Gutknecht/LA Daily News)

  • (4-30-06 Los Angeles ) Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant and Devean George celebrate Bryant’s shot at the buzzard to beat the Phoenix Suns in overtime of their playoff game by the score of 99 to 98

  • Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant is sprayed with champagne in the locker room after his team defeated the New Jersey Nets to win the 2002 NBA championship. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

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Southern California fans will also celebrate Kobe Bryant Day, the day after his birthday, on Monday, Aug. 24, a date that contains both his Lakers jersey numbers, 8 and 24.

A helicopter crash took the lives of Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, as well as seven other people aboard on Jan. 26.

 

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Lakers stunned by Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers’ fourth-quarter rally

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — There’s a saying that time is undefeated.

In the NBA bubble, Dame Time is 8-2.

For days, the Lakers have said they don’t face a regular first-round matchup in these playoffs, and Game 1 showed they were right. Damian Lillard, the hot-shooting Portland star who has scored more points than anyone else this summer, fired a fourth-quarter 3-point shot a step shy of the halfcourt with just over three minutes to go — the key three of his 34 points.

It lit a 11-4 final rally that gave Portland, the supposed eight seed, a 100-93 victory over the Lakers and a lot to think about before the teams meet again Thursday.

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) lies on the court after committing a foul during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (14) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Portland won 100-93. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

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  • The Portland Trail Blazers celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Portland won 100-93. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball against Gary Trent Jr. #2 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) battles with Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, and Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside battle for possession during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Portland won 100-93. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso (4) falls to the court defending Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony (00) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Markieff Morris battles on the floor for a loose ball with Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony , beneath, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) slam dunks over Portland Trail Blazers forward Mario Hezonja (44) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) and Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside battle for possession during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) slam dunks over Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside (21) slam dunks over Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum (3) tries to pass between Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) and forward LeBron James (23)during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) tries to pass under pressure from Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee (7) and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) walks on the court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) lies on the court after committing a foul during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) reacts to being hit on a foul during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Anthony Davis, center, of the Los Angeles Lakers blocks a shot by Damian Lillard, left, of the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) slam dunks over Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) and guard CJ McCollum (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • A technician checks the levelness of a goal after it was knocked out of position during the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) battles against Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) reacts after a slam dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (39) reacts after a slam dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • LeBron James, left, of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • A leveler is brought to the court as players complained that the rim was crooked in the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) works the ball against Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Dwight Howard, left, of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball against Jusuf Nurkic, right, of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • LeBron James, center, of the Los Angeles Lakers, drives to the basket against Portland Trail Blazers defenders Carmelo Anthony, left, Hassan Whiteside, center right, and Mario Hezonja, right, during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers in of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers reacts to a foul being called during the second quarter of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of the Los Angeles Lakers passes the ball during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to his shot from the floor during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • The Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers kneel during the National Anthem before Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • LeBron James, left, of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball against Damian Lillard, right, of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Anthony Davis, right, of the Los Angeles Lakers battles for the ball against Hassan Whiteside, left, of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Wenyen Gabriel of the Portland Trail Blazers dunks the ball during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • CJ McCollum, left, of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots the ball against Danny Green, center, of the Los Angeles Lakers and JaVale McGee, right, of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • JaVale McGee, center, of the Los Angeles Lakers, wins the tip-off against Jusuf Nurkic, left, of the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • The chair of Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers prior to the start of the game against Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) defends against Portland Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) goes to the basket over Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Portland Trail Blazers forward Wenyen Gabriel (35) blocks a shot by Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (14) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley (11) shoots against Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James pints down court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

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“We didn’t take care of business,” the Lakers’ LeBron James. “But we got another opportunity on Thursday to even the series, and that’s my only mindset.”

Portland overcame a Herculian effort by James, who scored 23 points and grabbed 17 rebounds and 16 assists — the only player to ever carve out that particular stat line in playoff history of all three categories over 15. Anthony Davis had 28 points, but as a team, the Lakers looked entirely out of sync offensively, shooting 35 percent from the floor and just 5 for 32 on 3-pointers.

The Lakers continued to assert that they believe in their shooting, which has not been thawed by the Florida heat, with coach Frank Vogel saying that eventually the law of averages will even them out. But while the Trail Blazers didn’t shoot particularly well against an aggressive Lakers defense, their late-game execution spoke to the polish of playing for their playoff lives for the last three weeks.

“(LeBron) would’ve had over 20 assists if we knocked down threes at the rate that we’re capable of and at the rate we will,” Vogel said. “Yeah, it’s certainly disappointing to lose this game, and always obviously with the performance he had. He was spectacular.”

The last stretch was key. After James and Davis missed four straight free throws, Danny Green hit a game-tying lay-up at 89-all. But Lillard ambushed the Lakers defense with his near-halfcourt bomb, a blow that seemed to stun them for the next few possessions as Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. hit 3-pointers on the open backside. The Lakers would go on to say these mistakes were correctable — but in the moment, they were devastating.

After a fourth-quarter 3-pointer, Lillard ran back to the other end of the court and danced as “Blow the Whistle” by fellow Oakland native Too Short blasted over the AdventHealth Arena speakers.

“If you’re in a rhythm like that, confident player,” Kyle Kuzma said, “(expletive), I’d do the same. Tip my hat to him.”

Adding to the Lakers’ early woes were whistles. They gave up 27 first-half free throws, as three Lakers got at least three fouls before halftime (and Dwight Howard got four). There was another unexpected interruption halfway through the second quarter: An official determined the rim needed straightening, and a game crew member spent several minutes cranking the hoop into its proper position.

Maybe that’s what did it for the Lakers, who finally started hitting 3-pointers and closed the gap from 16 points to nothing, taking a lead on a Davis dunk assisted by James. James’ urgency helped power the Lakers on both ends to a 31-21 advantage in the quarter, and he had 10 assists by intermission.

“The team is really good when we were running,” Davis said. “As long as we’re playing with pace, it’s tough to beat us. It’s when we slow down and not running that we’re in trouble.”

The Lakers did have at least one positive experience with officiating. Vogel successfully challenged a collision between James and Hassan Whiteside early in the fourth quarter that not only kept the Blazers from taking the lead, but gave Whiteside his fourth foul. But it was not enough to overcome defensive miscues that ended up costing the game.

” We were slow on the rotation,” James said. “So that’s things we can control.”

The last Lakers playoff game was 2,670 days ago, a forgettable loss to the San Antonio Spurs in a first-round sweep. Their last win was on May 18, 2012, a lone second-round series win over a feisty Oklahoma City team that would go on to lose to James’ then-Miami Heat team for his first championship win. It was the organization’s first playoff game without Kobe Bryant on the roster in 24 years — and the initials of their lost superstar were stitched to their gold jerseys, not far from their hearts.

But again, James lamented that there were no fans to play for. Perhaps it is upsetting the natural order of the NBA: In the East, the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks also lost their Game 1 against the eight-seed Orlando Magic — and theirs was not particularly close. It was the first time in NBA history that both No. 1 seeds had lost their first game in the first round.

Portland continued to float on its dream as a team of destiny, shouting in the corner near their bench, “Three more!” as they walked off the court.

The Lakers will have to wait at least two more days for another franchise playoff victory — one that doesn’t look like it will come easily.

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Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For each of Damian Lillard’s 42 points on Thursday night, the moment that might most define his utter desperation to keep the Portland Trail Blazers’ season alive came on defense.

After missing a shot, Lillard attacked on defense as the Brooklyn Nets brought the ball up court. He dove for the deflection and managed to find C.J. McCollum for a short jumper with 53 seconds left.

That tiny bit of defense in a track meet turned out to produce the game-winning points in a 134-133 victory for Portland, won by the slimmest of margins. A sieve-like Portland defense had to wait and watch Caris LeVert’s last-second game-winning attempt fly overhead … before bouncing off the rim.

The win assured the Trail Blazers the eighth spot in Saturday’s play-in game against the Memphis Grizzlies. They only need to beat the banged-up Grizzlies once (Memphis needs to beat them twice) to advance to a first-round date with the Lakers in the 1 vs. 8 series that begins Tuesday night.

After the game, Lillard hinged over and rested his hands on his knees.

“(Expletive), I was tired,” he said wearily. “I played the whole second half. I was like, ‘Please miss, please get the rebound.’ ”

The Lakers have winning records this season against both of their potential opponents. They went 2-1 against Memphis and 2-1 against Portland. But they haven’t taken the court against those teams in the restart, which they’ve largely agreed is closer to a new season than a continuation of the 2019-20 campaign.

Lillard has been the star of the “new” season, leading the bubble in scoring and notching 154 points in Portland’s last three games, all wins. Said Coach Terry Stotts: “And we needed every one of them.”

LeVert’s shot had a more profound effect on a team that could only watch: The Phoenix Suns, who had morphed into the feel-good team of the bubble, were swept out of contention.

The bubble’s seeming team of destiny did all it could to be in the playoff picture. With a 128-102 win over the Dallas Mavericks, they finished a perfect 8-0 in the bubble to climb to the cusp from 13th place, six games back when the season went on hiatus. Devin Booker scored 25 points and the Suns shot 41 percent from 3-point range.

Their game took place in AdventHealth Arena, the same venue the Nets and Trail Blazers played in afterward. As the Nets headed to the locker room, the Phoenix players cheered their arrival and asked them to win one to complete their Cinderella journey.

“I’m proud of this group regardless,” Booker said. “We could have had a different approach to this bubble, to this opportunity. But we didn’t. We stayed locked in.”

The Grizzlies saved their best for last and saved their season in the process. They pounded the Milwaukee Bucks, 119-106, leading by double digits the entire second half. Milwaukee was without Giannis Antetokounmpo due to a suspension for a headbutt, but every other key player put in respectable minutes.

Still they could not contain Jonas Valancius (26 points, 19 rebounds, 12 assists) and Ja Morant (12 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists), who became the first teammates in Memphis franchise history to record triple-doubles in the same game. Dillon Brooks led Memphis with 31 points, carving up Milwaukee’s vaunted defense with midrange and long-range shooting.

It came just at the right time. The Grizzlies had to win to be in the play-in game after squandering their entire three-game lead by losing six of their first seven games. First-year coach Taylor Jenkins topped mentor Mike Budenholzer, and was plenty relieved about it.

“That’s the resiliency, that’s what we talk about so much with this group,” he said. “They were the first ones to say today, ‘Why did we wait until Game 8 to start playing Grizzlies basketball?’ ”

The Grizzlies did not allow themselves much celebration on the court as time ran out, but after several quiet minutes, shouting and whooping could be heard from their locker room.

The team decided the game ball should go to Valanciunas, whose previous career-high assist mark was five. He told Southern California New Group that he couldn’t recall recording a triple-double at any level of basketball.

“That was my first triple-double, so definitely going to keep that ball for a long time,” he said. “Show my kids that daddy did it.”

At the bottom of the race, one of the NBA’s most hallowed streaks finally ended. After 22 straight years in the playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs were eliminated before they even lost to the Utah Jazz on Thursday afternoon. Gregg Popovich, 71, will miss the postseason for just the second time in his career, winning five championships in the intervening years.

But the often hard-edged coach showed a shade of grace in his quiet exit, hastened by losing LaMarcus Aldridge during the hiatus to season-ending surgery and finalized by the Blazers’ and Suns’ hot streaks. For a dynasty that was built on Hall of Fame careers from David Robinson to Tim Duncan, Popovich let the ending pass quietly.

“Looking at the past doesn’t do much good,” Popovich told reporters. “Any success we’ve had has been because we’ve had some great players.”

There’s been speculation that Popovich may have coached his last season. The oldest active NBA head coach also leads USA Basketball, which could have its hands full next year with the delayed Olympics. When a reporter attempted to ask if his retirement was imminent, Popovich flashed back to his old self.

“Are you trying to flatter me?” he quipped.

Read more about Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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Without LeBron James, Lakers fizzle against Rockets

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — There might come a time when Rockets-Lakers is a playoff series, pitting some of the NBA’s most vibrant stars and two extremely divergent basketball philosophies at odds.

Thursday’s game between those teams offered very little insight into what that matchup might look like.

Without LeBron James or any discernible sense of cohesion, the Lakers lost a 113-97 match to Houston that brought them closer to the playoffs, but no closer to the team they want to be when the postseason arrives.

While the Lakers have talked about trying to sharpen their play in the remaining seeding games, they haven’t built confidence with a 2-3 record in the restart: The Lakers finished Thursday’s game just 2 for 19 from deep, their worst mark yet in five games.

  • Houston Rockets guard James Harden, center, passes the ball while defended by Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, left, and forward Anthony Davis, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (14) shoots in front of Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers (25) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

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  • Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles while defended by Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green (14) blocks the shot of Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers (25) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Houston Rockets forward Ben McLemore, right, fouls Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) who makes a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, right, leaps to shoot while defended by Houston Rockets guard James Harden, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, center top, gestures to his team during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers’ Talen Horton-Tucker (5) shoots in front of Houston Rockets guard Chris Clemons (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • The Los Angeles Lakers kneel during the national anthem before an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) holds the ball while defended by Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker (17) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) takes a backward shot against the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, center, reacts before an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

  • The Los Angeles Lakers kneel during the national anthem before an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

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“Offensively, we haven’t been great,” Danny Green said. “Everybody knows that.”

Rockets guard James Harden starred even without backcourt mate Russell Westbrook (right quad contusion), skating into the lane with relative ease and splashing five 3-pointers. Harden finished with a game-high 39 points and 12 assists.

The Lakers attempted to funnel their aggression into the lane, outscoring small-ball Houston in the paint 58-30. But while Anthony Davis muscled his way inside for 17 points and 12 rebounds, he also was swarmed, giving up seven turnovers without James to draw away defensive attention.

Davis did not speak to the media following the game.

Kyle Kuzma, who was in the starting lineup, finished with a team-best 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting to continue a good stretch of play in the bubble.

“They want you to shoot turnarounds,” Kuzma said of the Rockets, “they want you to shoot threes because they’re small, and you just got to pound them inside. It worked for us, but not enough.”

Rather than reversing their chilly 3-point shooting trend, the Lakers largely ignored it. They had a 13-minute stretch where they attempted none at all. This was a considerable concession to the Rockets, who knocked down 21 of their 57 attempts from distance.

The game was its most interesting during a five-minute stretch that saw the Lakers on a 10-0 run that tightened the game to 94-87. But Harden broke the Rockets out of the jam with a contested run to the rim, and then three unanswered 3-pointers later, the rally was over.

The Lakers said James was out with right groin soreness, which has periodically flared up throughout the last year-and-a-half, but has also served as a go-to explanation for an abundance of caution, especially on back-to-backs. Alex Caruso also missed the game with neck soreness. During a hard fall on Wednesday night against the Thunder, Caruso appeared to grab his neck and wince with discomfort.

The James-Caruso duo, the Lakers’ chief table-setters, were sorely missed as possessions were often one-man affairs, or wound up with turnovers. The Lakers finished with 24 turnovers to just 18 assists.

Before the game, Coach Frank Vogel described a new starting lineup with Davis at center, Kuzma at power forward and Quinn Cook at point guard as something he “wanted to play around with” after the Lakers’ last loss to the Rockets on Feb. 6. But regular center JaVale McGee was also inactive via a coaching decision, and he cheered from the bench while wearing sweatpants and sandals.

The team also had a goal to give Markieff Morris, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith more foothold with their new teammates. While they certainly played more minutes, it was arguable how valuable those minutes were: They combined for just 4 for 17 shooting.

Talen Horton-Tucker, a little-used rookie from Iowa State, earned his first NBA points and finished with 10.

Vogel said while his team is shooting the lowest percentage of any of the 22 bubble teams from 3-point range, he believed that a regression to the mean is coming.

“I do believe in percentages, I do believe in guys trusting in the work they’re putting in,” he said. “The law of averages plays out. And I’m OK getting all these misses out of the way now.”

 

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Lakers-Clippers live updates: analysis, reaction, stats, scores

The NBA will finally return to the court Thursday night with a double-header in Florida.

Following the game between the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans, the Los Angeles based rivalry continues between the LeBron James led Lakers and Kawhi Leonard led Clippers.

Anthony Davis is expected to play against the Clippers, after participating in Wednesday’s practice. Davis wore protective glasses and missed Tuesday’s practice after he was poked in the eye by Michael Carter-Williams in Saturday’s scrimmage against the Orlando Magic.

Anthony Davis practiced today. Here he is putting up some shots. No sunglasses in sight. pic.twitter.com/T9DXXQlGI3

— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) July 29, 2020

The Lakers also have added a pair of guards in JR Smith and Dion Waiters to the roster during the pandemic-related break, replacing Avery Bradley (who opted out of the season) and Rajon Rondo (injury).

A four-month hiatus and a rocky warm-up ahead of the restart, the team’s focus is on the playoffs.

A four-month hiatus and a rocky warm-up ahead of the restart, the Clippers are trying to focus on the playoffs.

For the Clippers, Joakim Noah is the latest addition to the roster. The veteran center is eager to serve as a stabilizer for new teammates as they weather challenges in and out of the bubble.

Fellow center Ivica Zubac was away, quarantining after being diagnosed with the coronavirus in early July, and recently arrived in Orlando to rejoin the team. Guard Landry Shamet has also returned to the team after a battle with the virus.

Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverly left the bubble for personal reasons and have been listed on the recent injury report.

Clippers injury report before the NBA restart. No surprises. pic.twitter.com/R3svFlXxqL

— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) July 29, 2020

 

Williams (10-day quarantine) and Harrell were ruled out but Beverley remains questionable for the re-opener.

The Lakers got the best of the Clippers in their meeting on March 8 before the season came to a halt.

How to watch:

Game: Lakers (49-14) vs. Clippers (44-20)

When: Today, 6 p.m. PT

Where:  The Arena (Wide World of Sports) – Orlando

TV: TNT, Fox Sports Prime Ticket (Clippers broadcast), Spectrum SportsNet (Lakers broadcast)

Radio: ESPN LA 710 (Lakers broadcast), AM 570 LA SPORTS (Clippers broadcast)

Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.

Twitter Poll:

#NBATwitter POLL: Who wins the re-opener between the Los Angeles Lakers and the LA Clippers?#LakeShow vs. #ClipperNation

— Inside SoCal Sports (@InsideSoCalSpts) July 30, 2020

Listen:

Clippers basketball is BACK back tomorrow. Get ready for the competitive return by listening to the latest episode of @ClipsetPod with special guest @MirjamSwanson!https://t.co/jWIWWzo8JP

— Brian Cullen (@brianscullen) July 29, 2020

Live updates:

A Twitter List by JHWreporter

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LeBron James announces nationwide special in May to honor graduating seniors

For an estimated 3 million American high school seniors, there won’t be a walk across a stage this year. But a televised special across several major networks and backed by LeBron James could help add a sense of community next month in the midst of graduation season.

The LeBron James Family Foundation announced a partnership Wednesday with XQ Institute and The Entertainment Industry Foundation to air an hourlong special on May 16 honoring high school graduates who have had to postpone celebrations for the COVID-19 crisis. The celebrity-fueled event will offer commencement speeches and vignettes and feature appearances by James, the Jonas Brothers, U.S. Soccer star Megan Rapinoe and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai among others, will be broadcast on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX as well as multimedia platforms Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok among others.

The commercial-free special, called “Graduate Together,” represents the Lakers star’s latest effort in education, which includes sponsored college tuition to students in his native Akron, Ohio, as well as a public school he opened in 2018. James said in a release that he was moved to create something that he hoped could help commemorate an annual rite of passage for the nation’s high school graduates.

“It’s about a shared experience, a journey we’re all on together — students, parents, educators, community members, and everyone around them,” he said. “With that not being possible right now, we’ve been working to find ways to help families get through this really difficult time. These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there’s no way we can let that go unrecognized.”

The event will be helmed by James’ SpringHill Entertainment with input from students and teachers, backed by the American Federation of Teachers. Various celebrities involved with the event announced on social media by sharing high school photos of themselves. Students, teachers and families have been invited to share their own videos and photos on social media using the hashtag #GraduateTogether. Local television stations airing the broadcast will also be able to cut away and share stories in their own communities.

The sweeping collaboration involving multiple networks, media platforms and performers offers perspective into the scale of the crisis — how the experience of social distancing has universally impacted students around the country who have largely been asked to continue school from home, often in challenging conditions.

The partners on the special have also called for donations to support DonorsChoose and America’s Food Fund, nonprofits that support educational and food security goals for those struggling during the coronavirus crisis.

The broadcast is scheduled to air 8 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 16. Other entertainment figures committed to the project include Bad Bunny, Charli D’Amelio, Dixie D’Amelio, Chika, YBN Cordae, Loren Gray, H.E.R., Brandan Bmike Odums, Ben Platt, Henry Platt, Jonah Platt, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe and Pharrell Williams.

Working on something special for you high school class of 2020! 🙏🏾 See you May 16th!! @LJFamFoundation @GradTogether @XQAmerica @EIFoundation #GraduateTogether 🎓#MoreThanAnAthlete 👑pic.twitter.com/oKvC2VrqzN

— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 29, 2020

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