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Andre Drummond to start at center in his Los Angeles Lakers debut Wednesday vs. Milwaukee Bucks

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LOS ANGELES — Andre Drummond will make his Lakers debut Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks and start at center in place of Marc Gasol, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I think the level of excitement for me is at an all-time high,” Drummond told reporters Tuesday over a videoconference call following his first full practice with the team since agreeing to terms over the weekend.

It will be Drummond’s first game action since Feb. 12, after which the Cleveland Cavaliers took him out of the lineup while trying to find a trade partner to move the nine-year veteran center.

While Drummond characterized the long layoff as “crazy,” he sounded confident about where his conditioning was at following his first practice session in Los Angeles.

“I felt incredible,” he said. “I wasn’t winded.”

Drummond told the Mason & Ireland Show on ESPN 710 Los Angeles on Monday that he “lost about 10 to 15 pounds” during his time away from the court, adding, “right now, I’m probably in the best shape I can be in.”

Drummond’s addition to the starting unit calls into question what Gasol’s role will be moving forward. Montrezl Harrell already occupies the backup center position and has been one of the Lakers’ most consistent players, averaging 15.2 points on 63.8% and 6.8 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game.

Gasol, who signed to a two-year deal with L.A. in the offseason after the Lakers traded away JaVale McGee and saw Dwight Howard join the Philadelphia 76ers as a free agent, has had a tough first season with the purple and gold.

Gasol is averaging career lows in points (4.8), rebounds (3.9) and field goal percentage (40.4%) and recently dealt with contracting COVID-19, which caused him to miss nine straight games.

“Marc’s had a difficult run with the health and safety protocols and some other things,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s loved here. These guys respect him so much. He’s been a true pro in handling this. We’re going to need all three of our centers throughout this playoff push, this championship run, hopefully. And he’s a true pro.”

Vogel said he has not had any talks with the 13-year veteran about a potential buyout.

Drummond, 27, will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and Vogel said the franchise intends to re-sign him.

“That’s certainly what we’re hopeful for,” Vogel said. “The summer will play out, and we’ll let that happen when it happens. But we want him to help us during this championship run this season, but we’re hopeful that he’s a Laker for a long time to come. That’s what we’re envisioning, that he’s gonna be a key piece for us, both in the short term and the long term.”

Perhaps planting the seed for a future contract, Lakers governor Jeanie Buss posted a series of photos to her Instagram account on Monday depicting her late father, Dr. Jerry Buss, with former Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Drummond and herself sharing a similarly warm moment.

“Man, it’s an honor,” Drummond said when asked about continuing the Lakers’ lineage of All-Star centers. “It’s an honor to be in this facility, to be able to step onto that court where these legends have played and built such an incredible legacy here in L.A. So, it’s a lot of excitement for me to be here.”



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Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown undergoes wrist surgery, expected to resume activities in 3 months

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Boston Celtics All-Star guard Jaylen Brown underwent successful wrist surgery Wednesday and is expected to return to basketball activities in approximately three months, the team announced Thursday.

This timeline for Brown would have him ready to return to the court in time for training camp.

The Celtics announced Monday that Brown, who averaged a career-high 24.7 points on 48.4% shooting, had a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist and would miss the remainder of the season.

Boston is familiar with the procedure as guard Romeo Langford had it Sept. 22. Langford was ready to make his debut in mid-March before he contracted COVID-19 — about 5½ months after the surgery.

Brown’s injury adds to what has been a frustrating season for the Celtics, who are officially headed to the play-in tournament.

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NBA creates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award

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The NBA has created a new award in honor of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the league’s all-time leading scorer and a noted civil rights activist, that will recognize a player who best embodies his striving for social justice and racial equality, the league announced Thursday.

The winner of the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award will be announced during the playoffs and will receive $100,000 from the league to donate to an organization of his choosing. Four additional finalists will receive $25,000.

“It’s nice to see the NBA try to promote social justice awareness, and I am very flattered they would see fit to name the award after me,” Abdul-Jabbar, 74, told The Undefeated. “I know I have some history with this, so I’m happy the way it’s worked out.”

All 30 NBA teams will nominate a player for the award, and finalists will be selected by a seven-person committee composed of league executives, activists and former NBA players.

Aside from being one of the sport’s greatest contributors, Abdul-Jabbar is also a man of conviction, who in the face of Jim Crow-era segregation and racial discrimination, took principled stands for the betterment and progress of African Americans.

Growing up in the Dyckman housing projects in New York City, Abdul-Jabbar was exposed to the governmental neglect of, and targeted injustices toward, poor, Black people. Incidents such as the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, when Abdul-Jabbar was just 8 years old, and the Harlem riots of 1964, sparked by the fatal shooting of James Powell, a 15-year-old Black boy, by a New York police officer, are what triggered Abdul-Jabbar’s ascent into racial politics.

“Right then and there I knew who I was and who I had to be,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1980. “I was going to be Black rage personified, Black power in the flesh.”

Abdul-Jabbar won three consecutive NCAA championships (1967 to 1969) while at UCLA. In between them, he, alongside famed sociologist Harry Edwards, helped organize a boycott of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City due to the then-recent assassinations of civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., and the continued mistreatment of Black people in America.

“It was too difficult for me to get enthusiastic about representing a country that refused to represent me or others of my color,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote in his 2017 book, “Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court.”

While in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar and other famous Black male athletes, including Jim Brown and Bill Russell, organized the Cleveland Summit in support of world champion boxer Muhammad Ali’s decision to refuse entry into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Today, Abdul-Jabbar sees many similarities in how athletes — such as Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and Maya Moore — have taken a measured approach to racial equality work much as he and others did during the civil rights movement.

“I’m glad that they’re taking their time and not rushing into it. If you go into trying to effect change with a chip on your shoulder, and a lot of anger, it really turns off the people that you’re trying to talk to,” said Abdul-Jabbar, who grew up on the teachings of adopted Harlem son Malcolm X before a chance encounter with King while in high school led him to a peaceful, direct action.

“And I am glad they’ve learned that lesson and have made a commitment to do it sensibly in a nonviolent and constructive way. That’s how we get change done. That’s how we managed to overcome the communication gaps and break through.”

Abdul-Jabbar said he hopes this award inspires young, up-and-coming basketball players to continue the work he and other athletes started some half-century ago amid heavy criticism and even death threats.

“They can’t be afraid. That’s the one thing that they can’t do, because if you’re going to give into fear, then we won’t achieve anything,” he said. “We have to have the courage to speak truth to power, and if we can do that, then get the others to feel that way, we can effect change.”

Abdul-Jabbar played in the NBA for 20 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Lakers, winning six championships (five with Los Angeles). Aside from points, Abdul-Jabbar is also the career leader in All-Star Game appearances (19) and MVP awards (six).

Outside of sports, Abdul-Jabbar has written 14 books; has starred in multiple films, most notably the 1980 hit “Airplane!”; and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Barack Obama in 2016.

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Brooklyn Nets sign Mike James for remainder of season

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NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets are keeping Mike James for the rest of the season.

The Nets signed the guard to a contract Thursday after the expiration of his second 10-day deal.

James has appeared in 11 games, including starting in Brooklyn’s victory over San Antonio on Wednesday. He has averaged 7.1 points and 3.7 assists in 17.5 minutes per game.

He signed his first 10-day deal April 23 after spending the previous two seasons with CSKA Moscow. He has played most of his nine-year pro career in Europe.

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