As the defending NBA champions have watched a superteam on the East Coast load up and stack former All-Stars to its roster, Los Angeles Lakers CEO and president Jeanie Buss views what the Brooklyn Nets have done in a simple way: “Bring it on.”
“It brings out the best in us,” Buss said Monday on Stephen A’s World on ESPN+. “When teams identify us as the team to beat and they gear up to go at us head-to-head, that makes us work harder.
“So, bring it on.”
And across the hallway of Staples Center in recent years, the LA Clippers have risen to stand toe-to-toe with the Lakers, with billionaire owner Steve Ballmer adding a profile and financial ability to seemingly threaten the historic franchise.
Buss, though, said she doesn’t see the Clippers and Ballmer in that way.
“I was an advocate for Steve Ballmer. I met with him as he was thinking about bidding for the team and I encouraged him to buy the team,” Buss said. “It’s really important to me the success of the league and that we have people involved at team ownership levels that are committed to doing the right things, to be successful. I advocated for him and I’m happy he’s a partner in this league.”
The Lakers didn’t make any significant trade-deadline moves, but they did add a big piece in the buyout market by signing center Andre Drummond.
“The addition of Andre Drummond, who we picked up in the buyout market, will certainly fortify a season where we’ve had to deal with injuries and COVID,” Buss said. “Having Marc Gasol, who is our starting center, was out for several weeks with COVID and a really tough case where he was on a minutes restriction even though he’s back in the lineup.”
The Lakers (30-17) sit in fourth place in the Western Conference and have been dealing with a streak of injuries that has pushed stars LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf) to the sideline. But even with the pressure of seeding in the tight West, Buss said there’s no hurry to get the players back.
“That’s what’s important, is they get back healthy — 100 percent healthy — before they come back so that they stay healthy for the playoffs,” Buss said.
While health is the priority for the Lakers on the floor, Buss said she is hoping the franchise can also welcome back fans off it in time for the playoffs.
“We follow the L.A. County rules and restrictions and we will do everything that they dictate. We want to keep our fans safe. That’s most important,” she said. “But I’m a little bit jealous that the L.A. Dodgers are going to have fans for their opening game and really the difference is being outdoor as opposed to indoor like we are. What I’m hoping for is we have fans in time for the playoffs. That’s really what’s missing. I think that’s been a challenge for our players to stay motivated at home. I think we actually have a better road record than home. It’s tough to play without that feedback, without that energy that the fans bring.”
Center Serge Ibaka exercises option, will return to LA Clippers for second season, sources say
Ibaka picked up his $9.7-million option. The veteran center was the Clippers’ biggest addition during the past offseason in free agency but Ibaka was limited to just 41 regular season games with a back injury.
Ibaka missed 30 straight games with the injury before returning for the final two games of the regular season. He played in the Clippers’ first two playoff games against the Dallas Mavericks before undergoing back surgery later in the postseason.
Ibaka averaged 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in more than 23 minutes per game — his lowest average in playing time in a regular season since his first year in Oklahoma City in 2009-10. Ivica Zubac emerged as the starting center during Ibaka’s absence in the regular season. But Zubac missed the last two games of the Western Conference finals with a sprained MCL.
Ibaka’s player option decision was first reported by The Athletic.
Bobby Portis declining his option with Milwaukee Bucks, agent says
The most the Bucks can offer Portis is a $5.9 million exception, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
The 26-year-old Portis was one of the more effective sixth men in the NBA, averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds during the regular season while averaging 52.3% shooting from the field.
He was a major contributor during the Bucks’ run to the NBA championship, averaging 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds during the postseason.
Kevin Durant powers Team USA’s rout of Czech Republic on record night
SAITAMA, Japan — The best thing Team USA had going for it this summer was Kevin Durant committing to play. Saturday he reminded everyone why.
On a night when he became the all-time leading American scorer in the Olympics, Durant added another tremendous performance to his Team USA resume in a 119-84 victory over the Czech Republic.
The victory assured Team USA second place in their group and a place in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Their opponent and game time will be determined in a draw Sunday with the only certainty being there cannot be a rematch with France until at least the semifinals.
Because of their two blowouts wins the last two games, Team USA will end up with a favorable position and avoid top medal contenders Australia, Spain and potentially even Luka Doncic-led Slovenia in the quarters.
Durant finished with 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting, which of course was important for the cause, but his playmaking and defense was just as helpful as he put up eight rebounds and six assists as well. In the third quarter he was masterful, scoring 10 points with four of his assists as it went from a tight game into a comfortable blowout.
He’d had a pedestrian start in Tokyo, scoring just 20 points total in the first two games and shooting just 40%. Even in the run-up games in Vegas, Durant wasn’t moving at full speed as he admitted everything seemed like practice and he shot just 43% percent. Then he fouled out of the opening loss to France, a key factor in the Americans’ offensive struggles.
With Doncic, who scored 48 points in his first Olympic game, off to an impressive start and Australia’s Patty Mills putting up great performances, Durant had faded into the background in the tournament’s first week.
All that lethargy was gone Saturday as he looked for his shot early. The Czechs had gotten off to a strong start, making eight of their first 11 shots and building a 10-point lead. But Durant led a charge to overtake them, his 3-pointer in the second quarter giving the U.S. the lead for good.
It was a relevant basket, not just because it put the team in front, but because it pushed Durant past Carmelo Anthony for the all-time scoring lead. Durant’s international career is impeccable including the 2010 World Cup in Turkey, where he established himself as a centerpiece of the national team for the next decade.
It was also a slump-breaker evening for Jayson Tatum, who had his best game of the summer as he put up 27 points with five 3-pointers. Tatum, who was bothered by a minor knee injury in Vegas, had lost his starting spot. Coach Gregg Popovich had positioned him to be an impact scorer off the bench but he was shooting just 40% in the first two games.
Jrue Holiday, who was again terrific defensively as he pressured the ball relentlessly and picked off three steals, had 11 points.
The Czechs were led by Blake Schlib, who played at Loyola-Chicago, with 17 points.
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