Anthony Davis scores 46 as Lakers’ present trumps their past in win over Pelicans

  • Lakers forward Anthony Davis extends himself to catch a lob pass before finishing with a dunk, as Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, second from left, and guard E’Twaun Moore, right, watch along with Lakers’ Danny Green during the first half of Friday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green, left, shoots as New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, left, is fouled while shooting by Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, center, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, and center JaVale McGee defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, left, talks with forward LeBron James, center, as New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball walks nearby during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, tries to drive past New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, shoots as New Orleans Pelicans forward Derrick Favors defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James celebrates after scoring during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis dunks during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, celebrates with forward LeBron James after dunking as New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick looks away during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Actor Will Ferrell watches the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, tries to drive past New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, front left, as guard E’Twaun Moore defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Singer Adam Levine watches the first half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, center, grabs a rebound away from New Orleans Pelicans guard JJ Redick, right, as guard Lonzo Ball watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis yells after scoring during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, left, dunks as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LaVar Ball watches the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball, right, tries to get the ball from Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, left, reaches for the ball held by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, talks with New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, left, and guard Lonzo Ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 123-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — As Brandon Ingram meandered off the Staples Center court, having canned dozens of warm-up shots about an hour before tip-off, a small gathering of fans draped over the barrier of the visitor’s tunnel, holding out gold jerseys with Ingram’s No. 14.

He didn’t hesitate, grabbing the black markers and scribbling his signature, nonchalantly revisiting relics of his once-hopeful past.

Before LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it was Ingram’s jersey that sold here. Staples Center once swelled with cheers for the slender forward and his fellow young teammates. It was a dark era, but Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart represented promise ahead for the down-and-out Lakers franchise.

It didn’t work out. The young core was shipped to New Orleans this summer in the interest of turning hope into actual results. And that tradeoff was the underpinning of Friday night’s 123-113 Lakers victory over the pieces of the puzzle they once thought would fit.

The potential of that trio could not measure up to the tangible, present-day dominance of Davis, who again torched his former team for 46 points on 15-for-21 shooting, muscling in the paint for 13 rebounds and plucking away three steals. He also was perfect at the free-throw line, sinking all 13 of his attempts.

The Lakers (28-7), who have won four in a row following their season-high four-game losing streak, again played it tighter than they had to, frittering away a 24-point lead to just single digits in the final minutes. But nothing summed up the evening’s affairs better than a dunk Davis finished on Ingram’s head while securing victory down the stretch.

“He’s the recipient of our flow on offense, because he’s just as fast as anybody on the floor, more dynamic than anybody that’s on the floor, does it better playing in the interior, playing in the exterior,” James said. “He can do so many things.”

And he’s a Laker because of the summer trade that sent Ingram, Ball and Hart away.

The sellout crowd gave one more big salute to the former Lakers, cheering Ball in his starting lineup introduction, then getting even louder for Ingram – who is enjoying a season as a borderline All-Star. In the first timeout of the first quarter, the team played a tribute video for the trio, with a montage of the silver lining of three losing seasons.

” I appreciate the fans,” Ingram said. “The fans get us going every single night. For it to be an opposing team to give us love like that, I give respect and love to them also.”

But any Lakers fan who witnessed the night’s proceedings would find it impossible to second-guess the trade that sent them away.

Davis punched one of the most impressive baskets of the season in the first quarter, reaching back almost impossibly far for a one-handed alley-oop as the Lakers sprinted to a 42-point first quarter. James joked that Danny Green, who threw the off-target pass behind his head, was “one of the worst alley-oop passers” in NBA history.

But Davis’ most dominant frame was the third, when he scored 19 of the Lakers’ 31 points. He had scored 41 points in the first meeting with the Pelicans, but on a force-feeding of post-up possessions. These 46 came on dunks, above-the-key 3-pointers and all organic shots.

“I think it was just more flowing, we just run the offense and the ball happened to come to me in positions where i was able to score,” Davis said. “I’m finding my way.”

Whereas the young core’s fit with James was tenuous, LeBron looked comfortable at the controls with Davis as his chief weapon. Aside from 17 points, James racked up 15 assists – eight in the first quarter alone – to remain the pace-setter for the rest of the league.

That wasn’t to say the young Pelicans weren’t frisky against their old team. With his father LaVar watching in a courtside seat, Ball had 23 points for the first back-to-back 20-point games of his career. Ingram added 22, helping fuel a fast-break attack that scored 27 points on a Lakers team that was beaten down the floor more than they would like.

But the veteran supporting cast that replaced them had a few bright spots, namely Green who scored 17 of his 23 points (and made five of his 3-pointers) in the first quarter alone. The Lakers were 14 for 29 from 3-point range for the night.

The Pelicans are still awaiting their next star big man: rookie Zion Williamson did some pregame work on the Staples Center court, but he has not yet been cleared to play after being drafted No. 1 overall out of Duke. As they languish in 14th place in the Western Conference, hope will have to keep them nourished through a seemingly long rebuild.

The Lakers? That time is over. They’re living gloriously in the present.

“You’ve got Bron and A.D.,” Ball said. “That’s going to be hard for anybody.”

46 PTS | 15-21 FGM | 13 REB@AntDavis23 powers the @Lakers over NOP for their 4th W in a row. #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/mCZNHdTXpw

— NBA (@NBA) January 4, 2020

AD with the one-handed 🔨! #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/5qAEXOiEWp

— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) January 4, 2020

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Lonzo Ball suing Big Baller Brand co-founder Alan Foster

A power schism within Big Baller Brand is headed to the courtroom.

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball and Big Baller Brand are suing company co-founder Alan Foster, accusing him of fraud and improperly taking $1.5 million from company accounts to use for his own ends. Filed Tuesday to California Superior Court, the suit seeks more than $2 million in damages.

Obtained by The Orange County Register, the court filing lays out the narrative of Foster, who previously pled in 2002 and served almost a decade in prison, as a con artist who intentionally got close to the Ball family for a “fraudulent scheme” to shave off the spoils of Lonzo Ball’s basketball career.

The document accuses Foster of misrepresenting himself to the Ball family, particularly patriarch LaVar Ball, who he met in 2010. After Lonzo Ball was drafted by the Lakers in 2017, the lawsuit alleges that he trumped up his business credentials to the family to get them to start Big Baller Brand instead of signing with an established company, then benefited from his control over the corporate accounts.

ESPN was first to report that the family first learned last year that $1.5 million was missing from the BBB coffers, which the lawsuit alleges was invested in Ethiopian assets, so Foster could embezzle it and not pay taxes on the cash. It also accuses Foster of starting other companies in Wyoming (where BBB is incorporated) without Ball’s knowledge, botching tax filings, and overcharging for loan referral fees with questionable authenticity.

Lonzo Ball has since cut ties with Foster, removing him as manager of the company, which recently hosted an All-Star Game for young prospects but whose future is very much in doubt. The company has struggled with customer service and deliveries.

According to the lawsuit, Foster has refused to account for the missing money to Ball.

Per the ESPN report, Foster owned 16.3 percent of the company, while Lonzo owns 51 percent. LaVar owns 16.4 percent and Lonzo’s mother Tina Ball owns 16.3 percent.

Ball traveled with the Lakers on their latest road trip despite being shut down for the year with a left ankle injury. Teammates believe Ball is positioning himself to sign a contract with an established apparel company during the offseason.

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Whicker: Blazers’ Damian Lillard shows Lakers why superstars are worth it

LOS ANGELES — Before you ask, Damian Lillard is all signed up.

The Lakers can’t get their hands on him until July of 2021. It also might take that long to guard him.

On Monday, Lillard demonstrated why the summertime is prime time in the NBA, why the line between the good players and the best players is not so fine. You need ultimate weapons to win. It helps that Lillard is an ultimate warrior, too.

In the fourth quarter Lillard went 4 for 5 from the 3-point line, went 5 for 7 overall and scored 19 points. He had 39 for the evening. When the Lakers led 93-87, that lead disappeared on two flicks of Lillard’s wrist. His drum solo kept going until Portland had won, 108-103, breaking the Lakers’ five-game winning streak, stretching their own to seven.

There were caveats. Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart were hurt, and Lonzo Ball, despite a couple of well-timed 3-pointers, had early fouls and little influence.

But when Lillard set his gaze on the scoreboard and the hoop in the fourth quarter, he turned everything else into a footnote.

“His will is as big as his talent,” said Terry Stotts, the Portland coach. “The best players do that. They will themselves to perform like that and to win.”

The First Game Back can be tricky, especially for a team that had a 4-0 trip for the first time since 2009 (when the Lakers went 6-0). The rhythms were off. Isaiah Thomas put up 21 shots in 30 minutes and missed 16. The Lakers, who have the second-most fastbreak points in the league, settled for 14.

But they built an 11-point lead in the third quarter anyway, with Julius Randle relentlessly putting fouls on everyone from Portland but Fred Armisen.

When Lillard came off the bench with 8:23 left the Lakers were up six, and then 11 when Ball’s 3-ball fell.

“I remember looking up at the clock and there were about seven minutes left,” Lillard said. “I always look up there and figure out how many possessions does that equal? I said, well, there aren’t many left, so we need to get some stops.

“On the other hand, they’ve got a young team and they really like to run, so maybe there will be a few more. That allowed us to get our hands on a few balls, get our transition game going and maybe cut the lead down a little faster than if they’d slowed it down.”

The game-tying shots both came from 28 feet, initially. The launching point for the one that put Portamd up 100-97 was closer to the half-court stripe than the foul line.

4 possessions. 4 straight triples.

Damian Lillard had the hot hand late in LA! pic.twitter.com/54uQ2U8ahH

— NBA (@NBA) March 6, 2018

“I don’t do a lot of marveling,” said Shabazz Napier, who had that same cold-blooded attitude in 2013 when he led Connecticut through the NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve seen a lot of great basketball in my life. … And I’ve seen him (Lillard) play a lot of great basketball. But tonight was different. When you get into those situations, the hoop’s the ocean. You just keep letting it fly. It’s a different experience. It was definitely the ocean for him tonight. I told him that. He just made it look so easy.”

It wasn’t like the Lakers were petrified bystanders. Luke Walton said he had extra defenders ready to guard the pick-and-roll and to “blitz” Lillard, with double-teams that theoretically would free up the basketball.

“It’s easier said than done obviously,” Watlon said. “He was sometimes attacking before the screen even got there. We can’t let somebody like that just get into their rhythm.”

Lillard explained that the 1-5 screen, working with center Jusuf Nurkic, means that a Laker big man would be coming toward him. “So now I attack and move toward him, because it’s harder for most bigs to change direction like that,” Lillard said. “That’s when you go downhill.”

Lillard has scored 50 points in a game four times. In February he did it in 29 minutes vs. Sacramento. On Feb. 24 he had another 19-point fourth quarter against Phoenix and won the game with a tip. Napier still liked this game a little better.

“I just saw it in his eyes,” Napier said. “A lot of people say that, but he wanted the ball every single time. He was hot. I don’t want to say hot. That’s who he is, he makes shots.”

“It was special because we’re going for the playoffs, and they’re trying to get into it, and we need to win every single game,” Lillard said. “It was more of a desperation thing. It was like bang-bang-bang-bang. That was probably why it seemed so impressive.

“I remember hitting a couple of free throws and then I came downcourt and Ball was starting to backpedal. I just raised up right there and shot it.”

And Portland did not have to send its whole staff crawling to the Hamptons to convince Lillard. It didn’t have to send its starting lineup to lock him up in his house until he signed. It merely drafted him with the No. 6 pick in 2012, one selection after Sacramento drafted Thomas Robinson.

The Lakers will be chasing one or two limited-edition players in July, and they’ll have the currency and credibility to succeed. But they can’t back-order Damian Lillard, who was asked what he was thinking when his fourth home run went down. Normally the response is something about “focus” or “the moment.” Lillard just replied, “I was thinking it’s probably going to be a while before I miss.”

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Heisler: At least UCLA’s done with LaVar Ball; the Lakers aren’t

LaVar Ball has created a monster. Its name is LaVar Ball.

Last week while he created (more) headlines, pulling middle son LiAngelo out of UCLA, saying he will take him and LaMelo, whom LaVar had already pulled out of Chino Hills High, to play together overseas, the Lakers began barring the press from the family area at Staples Center.

The press called it “the LaVar rule,” since it was clearly meant to keep them away from the out-of-control paterfamilias who had become increasingly critical of the Lakers.

If only silencing him was that easy, or possible …

They could have LAPD lock up the writers and LaVar would come to the jail and hold a press conference as soon as they got out to explain which Laker coaches, players, executives or opponents aren’t giving Lonzo his due.

The Lakers can’t hope to stop LaVar. They can’t even contain him if they keep being so nice, as opposed to having someone – Magic Johnson is the one he might listen to – tell him to shut up already.

From Jeanie Buss on down, the Lakers are gritting their teeth, increasingly unable to endure LaVar’s ceaseless jibes: Claiming they don’t know how to coach Lonzo; calling Luke Walton “soft” for “babying” him; belittling the organization’s commitment (“The Lakers should build around Lonzo. Why are they sitting him down and not starting him in the fourth quarter? This is why the record is raggedy”); zinging teammates like Julius Randle for missing Lonzo on a fast break in the loss to the Warriors since he “had a wide-open layup or a 3-pointer!”

Obnoxious as LaVar is, he’s irresistible to the press. The biggest story of the season hasn’t been Boston’s fast start or Cleveland’s issues. It was Lonzo falling on his face (relax, Laker fans, it’s way early) but mostly LaVar being LaVar.

Local writers would be happy to ignore LaVar, knowing most of their readers just want him to go away. Nevertheless, national outlets – primarily ESPN – cover the team with audiences that can’t get enough of the Balls’ drama as if they’re the Kardashians, just without sex appeal.

Coverage ripples through the internet fanned by social media, exploding in the mainstream press.

USA Today, a relatively sober outlet, has a “Lonzo Wire,” recycling news about the family, noting – droolingly – that the Balls “have more than 6 million followers on Instagram, 900,000 followers on Twitter and 700,000 likes on Facebook.”

Fill in your email and Lonzo Wire will send the latest developments to your account each morning!

“If it has any connection to the Ball family, you will find it on Lonzo Wire,” USA Today promises. “And if you’re a Big Baller, you should find yourself here every day, too.”

Gag me with a spoon.

This isn’t about a basketball-playing family but a loud-mouthed, attention-starved father who at 50 still thinks he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one. In lieu of Mike giving him his shot, LaVar runs his sons’ lives even as they become young men and, supposedly, prepare to leave home for the wider world.

In the bargain the kids are powerless to resist, LaVar is usurping their adolescence, taking them from mere fame into notoriety. So, good luck.

For all the fanfare, Lonzo is their lone NBA prospect to date, difficult as it has been with only occasional flashes that suggest immense potential, as in Thursday’s win in Philadelphia when he turned it up while 76ers fans booed him when he touched the ball.

“I think he’s not going to be good, he’s going to be great,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said recently. “I really believe that. I still think he affects their team in unscripted ways where you’ll never see it in the stats. Very few guys in the league have that disease, where just their actions bleed out to the entire game. …

“But it seems like he’s the target. … Sometimes I’m so happy I was such an awful basketball player as a rookie, I could just go out and play.”

LiAngelo, called “Gelo,” became infamous in his own right after his prank-gone-wrong in China.

Modestly talented on a pro scale, Gelo isn’t projected as an NBA prospect. Even LaVar says he informed his middle son bluntly that he doesn’t expect him to make the NBA, telling GQ – yes, the glossy men’s fashion magazine – “He’s going to be taken care of, either way.”

Thanks, Dad. Who knows, maybe at 19 Gelo should hope for more in life than being “taken care of” as the slug of the family empire?

LaMelo, who was to be a senior at Chino Hills, was highly ranked (No. 7 by ESPN, No. 17 by Rivals), although at his age and size – listed at a twiggy 6-foot-3 and 155 pounds with two or three inches seemingly made up of hair – the NBA is a long way off.

Unfortunately, where Lonzo’s selfless game is blissfully untouched by his father’s grandiosity, Melo shoots whenever he sees daylight, scoring 92 points in one Chino Hills game, missing 20 3-point attempts in another when they lost by 52.

Only 16, Melo is hardly best served by going overseas to play against grown men, much less being targeted by Euro-opponents who read Lonzo Wire, too.

(Yes, players still follow this saga with the same disdain. “Daddy rules so he probably had no say-so,” Houston Rockets guard Briante Weber said of Gelo leaving UCLA.)

Unfortunately for the Lakers, LaVar won’t ever be lucid, or gracious, or accept responsibility. Worst of all, he won’t ever go away.

If LaVar made all this noise with his kid scuffling, imagine how much breast-pounding he will do if Lonzo becomes a star.

Get ready for more: Whatever happens in Lakerdom for the next 10 years or so will be punctuated by LaVar’s self-serving comments about opponents’ unworthiness or Lakers clumsiness.

With the Lakers’ investment in Lonzo, he’s akin to family, making it painful for them to think about confronting LaVar.

That’s the danger. The Lakers will always be conflicted, hoping for the best. LaVar, who’s all about LaVar, never will be.

Mark Heisler has written an NBA column since 1991 and was honored with the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Award in 2006. His column is published weekly for the Southern California News Group.

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Whicker: Lakers fall victim to Joel Embiid’s history lesson

LOS ANGELES — It rhymes with indeed, or friend in need.

The NBA has enough under-25 stars to fill up several red carpets. Maybe the league can loan Joel Embiid to the NFL, or some other distressed business that seeks a savior.

On Wednesday night, in a building that has celebrated two NBA championships, two Stanley Cups, Adele and Taylor Swift, Embiid stapled a new page in league history. He also punched a hole in the Lakers, or at least in their delusions that they’re anywhere close to catching up to the times.

Ordinarily you’d need a whole frontcourt to put together this numbers mosaic. Embiid, 23, had 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocked shots, seven assists and shot 14 for 20 for Philadelphia, which held off the Lakers 115-109.

Nobody has ever gotten 46-15-7-7 before, and Embiid also hit three 3-pointers, including one that made it 7-2 and activated every other weapon he has.

He was a one-man battalion of drives from the wing, pump-and-go attacks from out front, outside shots, and post moves, including one rubber-band-man maneuver that seemed to take five minutes and drew oohs from the Sixers fans and resigned aahs from the Lakers crowd. If you saw it and thought Hakeem Olajuwon finally had a descendant, you were right.

“I had been watching a little bit of Hakeem and I thought I’d try that move, that duck-under, shimmy-shimmy,” Embiid said.

Joel Embiid is putting on a SHOW on ESPN!

44 PTS / 14 REB / 7 AST / 7 BLK pic.twitter.com/AdQY8OOstg

— NBA (@NBA) November 16, 2017

The Sixers are now 8-6 after losing 253 games in their previous four seasons. Much of that was intentional, but much of it was also due to Embiid’s inabiliity to overcome foot, back and knee injuries. He played 31 games last year and never on back-to-backs. In two games in three days at Staples Center, he turned in 70 minutes. The 76ers’ discretion has produced uncommon valor.

“I love Staples Center,” Embiid said, grinning. “I wanted to come in here and put on a show, which I did. I hadn’t been aggressive, and I didn’t do very well against Golden State and their team defense. The Clippers (on Monday) didn’t double-team me until late in the game. Tonight I wanted to attack from the beginning.

“They kept throwing me the ball and I kept finding new ways to score. I went to the free-throw line (16 for 19) and that’s what I was best at. Me going to the free-throw line, you know, guys really don’t know what to do after that.”

Although Embiid was drafted in 2014, with the third pick, this 46-pointer came in only his 43rd career game. If he keeps outscoring his experience, he might be something.

“He’s just a beast, like I’ve been saying,” said Ben Simmons, the first overall pick in 2016 who missed all of last season with a foot injury and now teams with Embiid in what really could become the league’s most dynamic two-man game. Simmons had 18 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

“Yeah, and he (Embiid) took one of my rebounds,” Simmons said.

“I did?” Embiid said. “Well, I wanted to get that triple-double with blocked shots, like (MIami’s) Hassan Whiteside. Don’t worry, Ben will get a lot of triple-doubles.”

Simmons is 6-foot-10, gets the ball downcourt like a bullet train, sees everything, and needs only to sharpen his shot to become a future MVP candidate himself. You say an NBA champion needs 2½ superstars? Simmons and Embiid might add up to somewhere north of two.

“I think we can make the playoffs,” Simmons said. “That’s been our goal all along.”

“The fact that Joel played 70 minutes here in these two games is a great number,” said Brett Brown, the 76ers’ coach. “It’s a tribute to him and to our medical staff. He missed training camp and that set him back, and we were saying we wouldn’t see his best until Thanksgiving. Well, maybe Thanksgiving came early.”

“Embiid is a heck of a player, sometimes you just tip your hat,” Lakers coach Luke Watlon said. “He was hitting 18-foot post-ups. When that happens he’s going to be a problem.”

The Lakers took a 24-11 gut punch in the first 5½ minutes but never quit scrambling to catch up and, in fact, led 100-98 on Brandon Ingram’s jumper. They worked for 22 offensive rebounds and 27 second-chance points, and they persuaded Philadelphia into 16 turnovers.

But they missed 24 of 27 3-point attempts, and Lonzo Ball rarely looked as if he belonged on this court. Again, he was benched in the fourth quarter and missed eight of nine shots, most of them by a lot.

And when the Lakers needed organization and structure at the end of the game, it wasn’t there. Brown praised Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, likening them to Embiid and Simmons in the way the Lakers have “identified keepers, just like us.”

But even if the Lakers had found cogent offense, they still needed to contest the uncontestable

“Joel was just dominant,” Brown said. “We’re always trying to play with pace and movement. But sometimes we had to face a choice of playing with pace and movement or giving it to Joel Embiid. And giving it to Joel Embiid was the right choice tonight.”

Indeed.

Euro-Biid on ESPN. #HereTheyCome pic.twitter.com/uqU7xKkgMu

— NBA (@NBA) November 16, 2017

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Lonzo Ball’s numbers dip in Under Armour, but Lakers reach Summer League semis

LAS VEGAS — Lonzo Ball’s statistics were down after two big games, but he still had the building buzzing Saturday night at the NBA Summer League.

Ball flirted with another triple-double, Vander Blue had 27 points and Kyle Kuzma added 26 as the Lakers topped the Brooklyn Nets, 115-106, in a quarterfinal at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Ball finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 34 minutes, again having more success as a facilitator than a shooter (4 for 12 from the field, 1 for 3 from 3-point range).

“Team effort,” Ball said. “They came through in the fourth quarter and got the win as a collective unit. Moving on.”

Ball, who had a triple-double and a 36-point, eight-rebound, 11-assist performance in his two previous games, airballed a pair of first-half shots.

14 PTS – 9 REBS – 7 ASTS

Lonzo Ball nearly had himself another triple-double to fuel the @Lakers to a #NBASummer Semifinals berth! pic.twitter.com/olKDJ4u9V6

— NBA (@NBA) July 16, 2017

“As long as we’re winning, (Summer League is) successful,” Ball said. “That’s all I care about.”

As usual, Ball’s footwear commanded considerable attention. After wearing his own ZO2 shoes in his first two games, which sell for $495 under his family’s independent Big Baller Brand, Ball wore the Nike Kobe A.D.s and a James Harden signature Adidas in the next two. It was Under Armour’s turn Saturday when Ball played in a pair from Steph Curry’s signature line.

Lonzo Ball in the Under Armour Curry 4 during Summer League pic.twitter.com/njasS5W3dJ

— B/R Kicks (@br_kicks) July 16, 2017

“When I wake up, I decide that,” Ball told ESPN.

When asked if the shoe rotation is part of a bigger plan, the No. 2 overall pick from UCLA replied, “You could say that.”

“It’s making a statement to the brands of what they could have had with an open mind,” his father, LaVar Ball, told ESPN earlier Saturday. “The players are the brand ambassadors. The brand is nothing without the players.”

The Nets, who featured a roster with far more NBA experience, raced to 63 points and an eight-point lead at halftime.

The Lakers (4-2) adjusted to the pace after the intermission, even using a five-guard lineup for one stretch, and finished with the highest point total for any team at Summer League this year.

“I think we tired them out a little bit,” said Kuzma, who added four assists, three rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots. “Their pace in the first half kind of killed us, and they were getting easy layups in transition and getting to the rim at will.

“They’re not a very good outside shooting team, but they were getting downhill on us. In that second half they missed a few, got a little bit tired, and we were able to capitalize.”

The Lakers led by as many as 10 early in the fourth quarter, but the Nets climbed to within 103-101 with two minutes left.

Blue answered with a 3-pointer, then Alex Caruso went the length of the court for a layup before finding Kuzma for a corner 3-pointer on the next possession. The Lakers finished 14 for 26 (54 percent) from 3-point range.

The @Lakers got 27 PTS from @nbagleague MVP, Vander Blue, while 27th overall @NBADraft pick, Kyle Kuzma, tossed in 26 PTS!#NBASummer pic.twitter.com/77nIbm0sr6

— NBA (@NBA) July 16, 2017

“We’re driving it in, we’re kicking it, we’re making the extra pass,” Lakers Summer League coach Jud Buechler told Lakers.com. “We’re playing the way basketball is supposed to be played, and we’re having success with it. And it’s making it fun for all of us.”

The extra pass works wonders for the @Lakers!

Final game of the #NBASummer Quarterfinals round getting good on ESPNU! pic.twitter.com/BA9D6d1cyj

— NBA (@NBA) July 16, 2017

The 15th-seeded Lakers have won four in a row after dropping their first two games and next face third-seeded Dallas in a semifinal on Sunday at 5 p.m. The Mavericks, led by No. 9 overall pick Dennis Smith Jr., are a combined 10-0 at the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.

Matt Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting for the Lakers, while Travis Wear (Mater Dei High, UCLA) scored 12 (four 3-pointers). Second-year center Ivica Zubac added nine points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Win. Advance. #LakersSummer pic.twitter.com/JTtrJp9Wjl

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 16, 2017

The @Lakers scored a total of 115 in their win, the most by any team at #NBASummer this year!

Hear from Ball & Kuzma after the win. 🗣 pic.twitter.com/lCcQJQ809D

— NBA (@NBA) July 16, 2017

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2017 NBA Draft: Links to all of our coverage

As expected, the Lakers drafted UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft and our writers had plenty to say about it, but that wasn’t all that happened.

The rebuilding Lakers also made three other selections, while a Clippers team that started the day with no draft picks bought the rights to one player and is expecting to acquire the rights to another.

Two other UCLA players were selected, and they’ll continue their careers together with the Indiana Pacers.

In case you missed anything, here are links to all of our coverage, plus some pre-draft pieces that might be of added interest now.

LAKERS

Lakers select Lonzo Ball with No. 2 pick in NBA Draft

Whicker: The real season begins, and maybe the Lakers do, too

Oram: Lakers turn to a hometown hero to reclaim hardwood heritage

Video: Lakers select Lonzo Ball with No. 2 pick

NBA Draft: Who is Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers’ 27th pick?

NBA Draft: Who is Josh Hart, the Lakers’ 30th pick?

NBA Draft: Who is Thomas Bryant, the Lakers’ 42nd pick?

From June 5: Villanova’s Josh Hart believes four-year college stint has prepared him for NBA

From May 22: Lakers hold auditions for upcoming draft, including Kyle Kuzma

CLIPPERS

Clippers emerge from draft with Sindarius Thornwell; expect to add Jawun Evans

UCLA

UCLA contributes three freshmen to record number in NBA draft

PRE-DRAFT

Destiny’s child: Lonzo Ball, Lakers can complete fairy tale in NBA Draft

Miller: Lakers out to prove all things are possible again

Oram: Lakers willingness to make D’Angelo Russell a casualty of trade is fitting end to flawed tenure

Prospects respect the way Lakers’ Clarkson, Nance, Zubac carved out roles as non-lottery picks

Video: Talking NBA Draft with Lakers writer Mark Medina

The Ballfather: LaVar Ball and his 3 sons intend to change basketball forever

Whicker: Double-talk from Paul George, who wants to win but also wants to be a Laker

Former Lakers executive Jerry West joins Clippers as consultant for ‘one last adventure’

Miller: Jerry West says he’s ‘crazy,’ proves it by joining Clippers

Markelle Fultz acknowledges competitive rivalry with Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball makes fun of LaVar in new Foot Locker commercial

Lonzo Ball thanks his father in letter to Players’ Tribune

Mychal Thompson advises LaVar Ball not to criticize his son’s future teammates

Miller: Lakers need Lonzo Ball, dad and all

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Lakers GM Rob Pelinka says team will remain ‘really relentless’ in trades

EL SEGUNDO – The day began at 5 a.m. when Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka woke up so he could make phone calls with Eastern Conference teams starting their workday at more conventional hours.

The day ended with the Lakers experiencing the predictable and unexpected. To no one’s surprise, the Lakers selected UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with their No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. But Pelinka felt “gratitude,” because the team then added three more players by virtue of two trades.

The Lakers selected Utah forward Kyle Kuzma with the No. 27 pick, which they acquired from Brooklyn after trading center Timofey Mozgov and guard D’Angelo Russell for center Brook Lopez earlier in the week. The Lakers then traded their No. 28 pick to the Utah Jazz for the 30th pick (Villanova guard Josh Hart) and the 42nd selection (Indiana center Thomas Bryant).

That capped a day during which Pelinka said the Lakers were “really relentless” in other trade proposals, which also included talks with the Indiana Pacers for forward Paul George.

“That will continue until we get in a position again where we feel like this roster is a championship-level roster,” Pelinka said Thursday night at the Lakers’ practice facility. “We’re not there yet. So we’re going to be relentless with the work and we’re going to pursue every opportunity until we reach our goal.”

The Lakers had offered Indiana their No. 27 and No. 28 picks and their choice of fourth-year forward Julius Randle or fourth-year guard Jordan Clarkson. The Pacers did not accept the offer, and the Lakers refused to make their No. 2 pick or second-year forward Brandon Ingram available.

George’s representatives informed the Pacers late last week about his aspirations to join the Lakers as a free agent in the 2018 offseason. Nonetheless, the Lakers have pursued him now to prevent a talented team from acquiring him on a perceived rental that could turn into an extended stay if he has a good experience.

How have the Lakers managed exploring possible trades without squandering most of their resources?

“We’re built on being smartly aggressive,” Pelinka said. “Being aggressive and unwise isn’t a good combination. We’re going to be very aggressive, but also very smart.”

Pelinka found it smart for the Lakers to trade with Brooklyn even if it came at the expense of losing Russell, who had averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists while shooting 40.5 percent.

The organization was split on Russell, with supporters clinging to his potential as a scorer and passer and detractors feeling frustrated with his inconsistency, attitude and work ethic. Pelinka downplayed whether Ball’s passing and leadership qualities made Russell more expendable.

“I think D’Angelo’s a special player and I definitely don’t want to attach the name ‘expendable’ next to him because he’s an extraordinary talent,” Pelinka said. “We just looked at that trade as doing three things that were all positive for us.”

Pelinka then called Lopez an “All-Star-caliber five that can spread the floor and open things up” after he shot 34.6 percent from 3-point range (seventh best among NBA starting centers) on a league-leading 387 attempts among starting centers.

“Brook Lopez really transformed his game last year and became a guy that was making threes. He’s a really good shooter. He’s also a very, very high IQ basketball player,” said Pelinka, who noted Lopez attended Stanford University. “High basketball IQ, plays the game the right way, so we thought that was a really amazing opportunity to get a player like that.”

The move also cleared Mozgov’s hefty contract – he is owed $48 million over the next three years.

“We were able to get amazing salary-cap relief and space so that in July of 2018 we have the ability to add hopefully two max-salary players to our franchise,” said Pelinka, mindful that George, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook will be among the free agents. “And that really fit in to our long-term plan.”

The Lakers also acquired the No. 27 pick in the deal, which they used on Kuzma. Their 28th pick then was exchanged for two other picks at No. 30 and No. 42.

“We accomplished so much in one trade, it was really the perfect storm for us,” Pelinka said. “We feel like it’s going to have a big impact.”

The Lakers’ work is just beginning.

“We need two superstar players to come here, to join this platform and join our core group of great players we now have,” Pelinka said. “That’s our plan and we’re going to put all of our energy and all of our hard work toward that.”

To do that, Pelinka said the Lakers will pursue a few goals.

He wants to acquire more shooters in free agency to accommodate Russell’s absence and Nick Young’s expected departure after the veteran opted out of his $5.7 million player option to become a free agent. Pelinka also hopes to add “the two or three remaining guys to the roster or potentially more that will help the young core develop and be mentors for the guys and fill positional needs.” Otherwise, Pelinka said the Lakers will be “very sacred” about preserving cap space this summer.

So after spending nearly all of Thursday “running various trades and running scenarios” with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, general manager/director of scouting Jesse Buss and D-Fenders president Joey Buss, Pelinka said that exercise will resume in the days to come.

“I don’t think there’s a stone unturned in the NBA,” Pelinka said. “We were really working hard.”

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Pat Riley predicts Magic Johnson’s new role with Lakers to entail patience … and drafting Lonzo Ball

LOS ANGELES – The two close friends laughed endlessly almost as soon as they walked on the stage Monday night. Then, Magic Johnson and Pat Riley relived memories of their time together with the Showtime Lakers.

Nearly 45 minutes later, Riley addressed a more sobering subject, offering some honesty and perhaps some inside information regarding Johnson’s first season as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations.

“When things aren’t going good the first year, he’s going to go down there and want to be Lonzo Ball’s mentor … ” Riley said, his trailing off.

Some in the audience for the American Express-sponsored event at the Conga Room in L.A. Live laughed. Others gasped, since the Lakers have not revealed their intentions on how they will use the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft. Though the Lakers will hold an individual workout for Ball on Wednesday, they also will work out Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox next week.

Riley considered it “the best choice at the right time” for Lakers governor Jeanie Buss to hire Johnson to replace her brother Jim Buss. Yet, Riley sensed Johnson will go through a steeper learning curve than when he won five NBA championships, including four with Riley as the Lakers’ coach.

“My first three months I was in fits. I had lost control,” said Riley, who has been the Miami Heat’s president since 1995. “You lose control of the team and the game. You’re just selecting players. One thing you don’t want to do as president is second-guess your coach, hang out in the locker room and question him too much.”

Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka talk frequently with Lakers coach Luke Walton. Shortly after his hiring in February, Johnson has advised the Lakers’ players during practice and recent draft workouts. Though the Lakers have argued this dynamic will ensure constructive collaboration, Johnson validated Riley’s concerns.

“I understand I can’t do it myself and look at players like myself and say, ‘You’re supposed to do this or supposed to do that,’” Johnson said. “Today’s players are different than when I played. I understand that. The hardest thing I have to do is what Pat talked about: Let the coach coach.”

Johnson found it easier to pass and score to deliver five NBA championships. Yet, he vowed he will fulfill his job description well enough to reach the same goal.

“You select the players, you become the face of the organization and make sure everybody is doing their job,” Johnson said. “You have to stay at doing your job. I understand that. It’s always hard. I’m a competitor and want to win so bad. I want to win for the players, our coach and also for our fan base. They deserve a winning team. But it’s going to be making sure I keep Earvin I check.”

Riley interjected, “You better hire somebody to keep Earvin in check.” That did not mark the first time Riley advised Johnson about his new role. Shortly after accepting that position, Johnson heard Riley stress something else.

“The perfect excuse for all new presidents is to say, ‘Have patience,’ and ‘It’s going to take a lot of time,’” Riley said. “That’s what I told him.”

And that’s what Johnson repeated after the Lakers missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

“What we have to do is be patient, the fans,” Johnson said. “It’ll take time to build it. But we’re going to get it right.”

Johnson said he will “follow the blueprint” that Riley outlined as the Heat president. He won one NBA championship as a coach (2006) and two others as an executive (2012, 2013). Riley also played a large part in convincing LeBron James to take his talents to South Beach.

But could Johnson convince Riley to make a deal that would improve the Lakers’ fortunes?

“If you go into any kind of transaction with a team, it has to be fair,” Riley said. “You can’t have somebody call you on the phone and do that. I would hang up on him. But if it ‘s a fair deal and really something that would help both teams, I’ll pay a nickel more.”

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