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Los Angeles Lakers defense braces for Golden State Warriors’ ‘head of the snake’ in Stephen Curry

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers‘ defense, ranked No. 1 in the NBA during the regular season, will be tested by the league’s leading scorer, Stephen Curry, right away to begin the postseason in Wednesday’s play-in tournament game against the Golden State Warriors (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).

“We know who the head of the snake is, it’s Steph,” Anthony Davis said after practice Tuesday. “We got to do our best to contain him. It’s gonna be a team effort, not just all the pressure on the guards. … We got to make sure we keep an eye on him and stay locked in on him at all times.”

While Davis and L.A.’s other big men will provide a back line of defense to protect the rim when Curry penetrates from the perimeter, the Lakers’ starting backcourt of Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be primarily tasked with smothering the two-time MVP.

“He’s the best shooter who has ever played this game,” Schroder said on a videoconference with reporters. “So, any shot, whatever comes from half court on, it’s a good shot for him. At the end of the day, you got to make it as hard as possible and be into him and limit his 3s.”

Curry averaged 32 points per game to capture his second career scoring title and averaged 5.3 made 3-pointers per game — the most of his 12-year career — on 42.1% shooting from the outside. Golden State enters the play-in having won seven of its last eight games, with Curry averaging 36.8 points in the month of May.

“We anticipate they’re going to throw the kitchen sink at Steph. Multiple defenders, different matchups, some blitzes, some kind of shadowing, that type of stuff,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday. “We’ve kind of seen everything, Steph has seen everything. Draymond [Green] is probably the key in terms of when they do throw stuff at Steph, Draymond has an answer with all of his screening and dribble hand-offs and that sort of thing so they’re fun to watch together.”

L.A. was able to keep Curry relatively in check in three regular season showdowns. He averaged 23 points on 42.3% shooting (34.6% from 3) and the Lakers went 2-1.

“He kept these guys alive all season, winning games that people thought they should lose,” Davis said. “He was playing his ass off to put this team in a great position to be in the playoffs.”

The Lakers enter the play-in round on a five-game winning streak of their own that stabilized an otherwise injury-riddled season. L.A. will have its full roster available against Golden State, but there are still some lingering signs of the health hurdles the team went through. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said LeBron James “had some minor soreness,” after playing both legs of a back-to-back over the weekend after missing 26 out of 28 games before that with a high right ankle sprain.

“But he’s good to go,” Vogel said of James, who did not speak to reporters. “Was a full participant in practice today and is good to go.”

Davis, who went through adductor tightness and shoulder pain in the final week of the regular season, said he was “fine” heading into the Golden State matchup. And Schroder, who returned to the lineup for the final weekend following a seven-game absence because of the league’s health and safety protocols, said he’ll keep playing his way back into shape.

“I mean, I feel great. I’m going out there,” he said. “I didn’t play, of course, for 10 days. I mean, of course my wind the first two games was a little [lagging]. I’ll try to get back to my conditioning, what I have during the season. I mean, we played every other day so my conditioning was on the top level. When you sit out for 10 days, it’s not the same. So, I mean, I’ll just try to get back to that.”

In opening up its bid to win back-to-back championships, L.A. will look to avoid the same start it had to last year’s postseason when it dropped Game 1 of the first round to the Portland Trail Blazers, before winning the series in five games. If the Lakers do that Wednesday, it will mean the Warriors steal the No. 7 seed and L.A. will have to play again Friday against the winner of the Memphis GrizzliesSan Antonio Spurs play-in game with the No. 8 seed on the line.

“We haven’t actually even brought that up because it was last year,” said Davis. “We know obviously with the one-game thing right now, so we can’t afford to lose this game. … We definitely want to get in that seven seed, and I think the next game we’ll play is Sunday … It would be very beneficial for us to win this game tomorrow and have those three days in between games to kind of tighten up the screws.”

Kyle Kuzma echoed Davis’ stance about keeping the past in the past, saying there is “nothing much at all” the defending champs can lean on from their 2020 run to the title that they’ll apply to this time around.

“We have a different team,” Kuzma said. “Players on this team have different roles than last year. We have new guys that haven’t really been in a situation like this before. And we have to build our own type of story and journey out of this one.”

It’s a story that will start by trying to put an end to Curry’s storybook season.

“I think it’s a pretty big game,” Davis said. “We look at it as a Game 7 for sure. You play these guys one time in the play-in tournament. So, we look at it as a Game 7 for sure and it’s a must-win for us.”

ESPN’s Nick Friedell contributed to this report.

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Top NBA draft prospect Jalen Suggs signs multiyear deal with Adidas

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Jalen Suggs has landed a multiyear footwear and apparel deal with Adidas ahead of his anticipated selection early in the 2021 NBA draft on Thursday.

“I’m so excited to be with the brand,” the former Gonzaga star said. “I grew up inspired by D-Rose and Dame [Lillard] and want to follow in the steps of the young Adidas family coming up now like Trae [Young] and Don [Mitchell].”

After a breakout freshman season leading the Nike-sponsored Bulldogs to the national championship game of the NCAA tournament, Suggs became one of the most sought-after players entering shoe deal talks this spring.

The deal was negotiated by Wasserman, with Suggs and the agency holding a series of seven presentations — most in person, some virtual — in Los Angeles to begin the process. Adidas ultimately emerged as Suggs’ choice.

Along with outlining product plans for Green in both basketball and lifestyle footwear categories, the brand committed to funding a court refurbishment in his hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and mapped out a pathway to a potential signature shoe down the road.

Adidas currently makes signature footwear for James Harden, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young, with each product being released during the player’s second or third season with the company.

In addition to Suggs, Adidas has finalized endorsement deals with three other players expected to be selected near the top of the draft, signing explosive wing Jalen Green, versatile big man Evan Mobley and scoring guard Sharife Cooper.

“Each individual brings something unique to our team,” Eric Wise, global GM of basketball at Adidas, said in a statement. “From their talent and work ethic on the court, to a community-first mindset, values and openness to collaboration, we cannot wait to see where this week takes them.”

Behind the scenes, the brand recently merged its Originals and Basketball departments to work more closely together, as the culture of the sport has continued to blur the lines between performance and lifestyle in recent years.

Another factor in swaying players to land with the brand has been the recent appointment of designer Jerry Lorenzo, founder of high-fashion brand Fear of God, to help lead the creative and business strategy of Adidas Basketball. Lorenzo has launched coveted crossover basketball sneakers with Nike in the past, while also carving out his own sought-after footwear category at Fear of God, before signing a long-term partnership with Adidas in late 2020.

With new designers at the helm and a new hybrid marketing approach, along with existing signature athletes he has long looked up to, Suggs is looking ahead to a future with Adidas as he begins his NBA career.

“We will create culture together,” Suggs said. “And if you give me some time, I will pursue greatness like them.”

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Nets announce Mike D’Antoni’s departure from coach Steve Nash’s staff

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NEW YORK — Mike D’Antoni is leaving the Brooklyn Nets, forcing Steve Nash to make another change on his coaching staff.

Nash announced the 70-year-old D’Antoni’s decision in a statement Wednesday, saying having the two-time Coach of the Year was “invaluable” in his first season as a coach.

“I will be forever grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together,” Nash said in the statement. “Our players and staff all benefited from this time in Broolyn and we wish Mike, Laurel and their family the very best in what lies ahead.”

D’Antoni won the 2005 Coach of the Year award in Phoenix when Nash was his point guard, then another in Houston in 2017. He has long been regarded as one of the NBA’s best offensive coaches and helped the Nets reach the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to eventual champion Milwaukee in seven games.

The Nets already lost one assistant this offseason when Ime Udoka left to become Boston Celtics coach. David Vanterpool was hired to replace him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Mike D’Antoni announces departure from Nets coach Steve Nash’s staff

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NEW YORK — Mike D’Antoni is leaving the Brooklyn Nets, forcing Steve Nash to make another change on his coaching staff.

Nash announced the 70-year-old D’Antoni’s decision in a statement Wednesday, saying having the two-time Coach of the Year was “invaluable” in his first season as a coach.

“I will be forever grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together,” Nash said in the statement. “Our players and staff all benefited from this time in Broolyn and we wish Mike, Laurel and their family the very best in what lies ahead.”

D’Antoni won the 2005 Coach of the Year award in Phoenix when Nash was his point guard, then another in Houston in 2017. He has long been regarded as one of the NBA’s best offensive coaches and helped the Nets reach the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to eventual champion Milwaukee in seven games.

The Nets already lost one assistant this offseason when Ime Udoka left to become Boston Celtics coach. David Vanterpool was hired to replace him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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