Jimmy Butler mysteriously stopped shooting 3-pointers this season, and now the Lakers are daring him to take the shot — Paruna.ru

Summary List Placement After watching Jimmy Butler drop a 40-point triple-double in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers changed their defensive scheme in Game 4. The Lakers had the 7-foot Anthony Davis defend Butler throughout the night. Davis’ length smothered Butler, and if Butler called for a screen to hunt a […]

Jimmy Butler mysteriously stopped shooting 3-pointers this season, and now the Lakers are daring him to take the shot — Paruna.ru

John Hollinger says LaMelo Ball, D’Angelo Russell can co-exist in Minnesota — Lonzo Wire

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Timberwolves debate between LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards is the fit of the two prospects.

John Hollinger says LaMelo Ball, D’Angelo Russell can co-exist in Minnesota — Lonzo Wire

Billy Beane on state of A’s after another postseason exit: ‘It’s a pretty darn good foundation’ — Times-Standard

The Oakland A’s have had 24 hours to digest their American League Divisional Series defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros. Difficult decisions can’t be made yet, but the Athletics’ brass left Los Angeles feeling good about the talent that flew back to Oakland. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the organization isn’t focused on what they’ve lacked…

Billy Beane on state of A’s after another postseason exit: ‘It’s a pretty darn good foundation’ — Times-Standard

Once rivals, LeBron and Rondo are on brink of getting Lakers rings together — KTLA

They were rivals once, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James. Rondo was in Boston. James was in Cleveland and Miami. Their paths would cross most every year in the playoffs, an annual placing of a thorn in one another’s side. James may have had different words to describe Rondo then. These days, however, the words James […]

Once rivals, LeBron and Rondo are on brink of getting Lakers rings together — KTLA

Is Jimmy Butler a Top 10 Player? — CrownHoops

Whether or not the Miami Heat loses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Jimmy Butler has done the unthinkable this season. He has led a young and what many thought to be somewhat rebuilding Heat squad all the way to the NBA Finals. A place almost no one thought this team would be in the beginning. […]

Is Jimmy Butler a Top 10 Player? — CrownHoops

What they’re saying before Lakers vs. Heat, Game 5; Updates at 6 p.m. — Daily News

Follow Southern California Newspaper Group’s Kyle Goon as he covers the Lakers during the NBA Finals inside the bubble in Orlando. Updates, highlights and and social media reaction as the Lakers try to close out the Heat in Game 5 and win their 17th NBA championship PRE-GAME One win from a title, Lakers try to…

What they’re saying before Lakers vs. Heat, Game 5; Updates at 6 p.m. — Daily News

Staples Center To Laker Fans: Do Not Come Here To Celebrate — CBS Los Angeles

With the Lakers on the verge of their first NBA title since 2010, fans are being asked to stay away from the team’s home arena Friday night.

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – With the Lakers on the verge of their first NBA title since 2010, fans are being asked to stay away from the team’s home arena Friday night.

With the Lakers and Miami Heat set to face off in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in what could be a championship-clinching victory for L.A., Staples Center and L.A. Live announced they “will not be airing or showing the game or potential post-game celebrations on any of the venue’s exterior digital signage.”

“Fans are encouraged to watch the game and celebrate responsibly at home,” a Staples Center statement read.

Streets immediately surrounding the area – including all sidewalks – will also be closed along the north and south sides of Chick Hearn Court as well as STAPLES Center’s Star Plaza and L.A. LIVE’s Microsoft Plaza.

Earlier this week, county health officials issued a plea for fans to stay home and celebrate any potential Lakers victory at home.

“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. “Very excited that the Lakers are going to be playing this next game. And we just want to remind people the safest way to celebrate all of our teams, the Lakers and the Dodgers, is to do it in the comfort of your own home.”

Report: Goran Dragic Will Miss Game 5 Of The NBA Finals — UPROXX

Dragic is reportedly slated to miss his fourth Finals game in a row.

Report: Goran Dragic Will Miss Game 5 Of The NBA Finals — UPROXX

If the Miami Heat are to keep their season alive and force a Game 6 in the 2020 NBA Finals, they’ll have to do it without the services of Goran Dragic. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Dragic will once again be unable to play on Friday night, when the team plays the Los Angeles Lakers in a must-win Game 5.

Heat guard Goran Dragic (torn plantar fascia) is missing Game 5 of NBA Finals against the Lakers, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 9, 2020

Dragic suffered a torn plantar fasciitis during Game 1 of the series, his first career NBA Finals game. While he’s attempted to play in each of the games since then, Dragic has been unable to take the floor, and the Heat have struggled as a result. The team is currently in a 3-1 hole to the Lakers, and while they won one game in his absence, winning this series without him on the floor would be a Herculean effort.

Prior to his getting hurt, Dragic was playing some of the best basketball of his career in the NBA’s Orlando Bubble, averaging 20.9 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.2 rebounds in 34.6 minutes per game with the Heat. In his absence, Miami has inserted rookie guard Tyler Herro into the starting lineup for the past three games, while handing over more minutes to Kendrick Nunn off the bench. And of course, Jimmy Butler has taken on a more ball-dominant role.

Timeline: Longest Lakers season ever could end with a title tonight — Press Enterprise

Timeline of the longest, most unusual and most difficult season in Lakers history

Timeline: Longest Lakers season ever could end with a title tonight — Press Enterprise

There are many ways to paint this picture, but here’s a small one: On Wednesday, it was Devontae Cacok’s birthday.

The Lakers rookie out of UNC-Wilmington is now 24. One of the team’s travel party in the bubble, he’s now had his second birthday of this NBA season.

A year ago, the Lakers were in China, figuring out if the exhibitions scheduled in Shanghai and Shenzhen would go off as planned. Tonight, they have a chance to win an NBA title in a game taking place in a bubble in Florida. It’s been a year beyond imagining — filled with trials and joys and unbelievable grief and isolation. And it might end tonight.

Before the season is over, it’s meaningful to look back at all of the major highs and lows, and take a moment to meditate on what it’s all been building toward. If the Lakers win a championship tonight, it will be a well-earned finish to an absolute marathon, the longest season in NBA history in one of the most challenging years any of us can ever remember:

JULY 2019

The Lakers finish assembling a roster after missing out on Kawhi Leonard, but their core of Anthony Davis and LeBron James is the base of an aspirational title team with many veterans. Rob Pelinka tells the media, “Anything short of a championship is not success.” At his introductory press conference, Davis echoes similar sentiments wearing a blazer and chain, saying “winning championships … that’s the only goal.”

At that press conference, Pelinka refers to Davis as “a pillar of this franchise for many years,” even though Davis is only technically under contract for one. It’s indicative of how the Lakers have given Davis power within the organization — he and James were among the voices considered when signing free agents and assembling the team.

AUGUST 2019

DeMarcus Cousins, who Pelinka and Frank Vogel describe as an “X-factor” of the team, tears his left ACL in a pickup game in Las Vegas. The Lakers take two weeks to find a replacement: Dwight Howard, who has shuffled through NBA teams for years since leaving the Lakers in 2013 during free agency after one disappointing season. The Lakers sign him to a non-guaranteed contract, a surprising reunion for a big man who was once thought to be the future of the franchise before his departure. 

SEPTEMBER 2019

The Lakers open camp, with James saying the Lakers expect to run their offense through Davis. James also breaks a long public silence about last season, saying that the front office “kept their blinders on” and “did a helluva job” at building a contender through withering criticism and uncertainty about the franchise’s leadership.

OCTOBER 2019

The Lakers travel for two preseason games to China, which become incredibly fraught when Houston general manager Daryl Morey tweets in support of protests in Hong Kong. The Chinese government comes down hard on the NBA, taking games off the air and removing marketing. The Lakers play two games against the Nets and return home, after which James calls Morey “misinformed” — though he later walks back that comment, he is still criticized for a perceived double-standard of declining to speak out on the authoritarian government in another country (as a postscript, the Chinese government is airing Game 5 of the Finals on CCTV after a yearlong suspension for the NBA).

The Lakers begin their season with a loss to the Clippers as Leonard plays brilliantly at Staples Center (even though the Clippers “home crowd” greets him with boos). But after, they roll off a seven-game winning streak, the first of several winning streaks that will come to define their regular season.The Getty fire threatens homes in Los Angeles, including James’ Brentwood estate. He and his family evacuate in the middle of the night and search for a hotel (Davis also evacuates, but is able to return more quickly). James later pays for a taco truck to station by the first responders’ base camp in appreciation.

NOVEMBER 2019

The Lakers become the top team in the West quickly, thanks to a number of tight wins, including four one-possession wins in a five-game stretch. That includes a victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Staples Center with two special guests: Kobe and Gianna Bryant. 

Davis returns to New Orleans at the tail end of a four-game road trip, scoring 41 points after a lot of build-up the day before Thanksgiving. He also gets the game-sealing steal. He is cheerful afterward, pleased to see his former New Orleans teammates, and calls the game “fun.” James can’t help but mention how his return to Cleveland during the 2010-2011 season was much harder.

DECEMBER 2019

The Lakers continue ripping off wins, starting the month with a three-game road trip to Denver, Utah and Portland — two of which will become playoff opponents. They also win 14 straight road games, including a one-possession thriller against the Miami Heat that sees Davis notch the game-winning deflection against Jimmy Butler. It still seems a far cry from a Finals preview at the time.

But injury strikes on the back end of the month, as Davis rolls an ankle, James strains his groin, and Kyle Kuzma continues to oscillate in and out of the lineup with injuries. That leads to losses against high-profile contenders, including at Milwaukee, then at home against the Nuggets and the Clippers. The Lakers 0-2 record against the Clippers is seen as an indictment of their championship dreams, even though they continue to lead the Western Conference. James turns 35 toward the end of the year, looking physically vulnerable.

JANUARY 2020

On the first day of the new year, former commissioner David Stern dies, rocking the NBA. James, who battled with Stern especially in the 2011 lockout season, compares his influence to Dr. James Naismith, the creator of basketball. The solemn moment belies a Lakers season that quickly gets back on track, as the Lakers power through a number of January opponents — even winning games without James or Davis on the floor. Howard, who has been a surprise key bench player, sees his contract become guaranteed.

An East Coast road trip gets into the dog days of the season, as the Lakers lose to Boston and Philly, then seen as two of the Eastern powers who might reach the Finals. But there is a powerful moment on the trip, as James passes Bryant for No. 3 on the all-time scoring list in NBA history. After James tells reporters of how he held Bryant up as an example as a teenager, Bryant tweets: “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother.”

It is the last message the world ever hears from Bryant, who is killed the next day in a helicopter crash in Calabasas with his daughter and seven other people on his way to a basketball tournament at his academy. The Lakers learn of his death mid-flight from Philadelphia. Los Angeles and much of the basketball world is thrown into sudden mourning, as monuments and murals spring up all over the city. The Lakers’ game against the Clippers is delayed out of grief (the game won’t be played until July 30), and instead, a Hall of Fame panel including Shaq, Jerry West and Dwyane Wade gather on a TNT broadcast to remember Bryant. 

When the Lakers finally do take the court on the Friday after Bryant’s death, an emotional tribute with Usher, cellist Ben Hong and videos of Bryant’s greatest moments are played before a drained loss to Portland. Lawrence Tanter reads every player in the starting lineup as Kobe Bryant, and Nos. 8 and 24 are lit up by spotlight. James delivers a heartfelt address to the crowd, finishing with: “In the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out.’ But in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’

FEBRUARY 2020

In the ensuing weeks, it becomes clear that the remainder of the Lakers’ season will be shadowed by Bryant’s death, both as inspiration and as an emotional burden. Every opposing arena has a tribute to play. That continues into All-Star weekend, where the All-Star MVP award is named after Bryant, its greatest winner, and the Hall of Fame has a somber nomination of Bryant as a finalist. While Davis enjoys an All-Star homecoming, the Lakers’ first-place coaching staff gets a nod, and Howard gets a long-awaited return to the dunk contest, Bryant’s death looms over everything.

There is a moment to collectively celebrate Kobe and Gianna’s lives at Staples Center on Feb. 24, a combination of their jersey numbers. There’s a number of high-profile speakers, including Shaq, Michael Jordan, Diana Tsaurasi and Geno Auriemma. But no one is more powerful than Vanessa Bryant, a widow and grieving mother, who recalls Kobe and Gianna in vivid detail and intimacy.

MARCH/APRIL 2020

The start to the month is the Lakers’ most promising yet: They dispatch Zion Williamson on the road, then beat the Bucks and the Clippers in back-to-back home games. It’s seen as the most definitive proof yet that the Lakers are truly capable of beating the league’s best teams and winning a championship. A signing of Markieff Morris and his integration into the roster is seen as an incremental move at the time. MVP buzz builds for James after dominant performances.

But the threat of COVID-19 which has been encroaching from the sidelines suddenly mounts an ambush: As the league talks about pulling fans out of games, Utah’s Rudy Gobert tests positive for coronavirus prior to a game in Oklahoma City. It drives Adam Silver to immediately suspend the season.

The Lakers are driven physically apart by the announcement, which requires isolation and closes team facilities. While they work out from home and keep in touch digitally, there’s a growing sense of uncertainty that they’ll ever be able to resume their season when they appeared at their height. James says that he would never get over it if the Lakers aren’t able to finish.

MAY/JUNE 2020

The union and the NBA come to an agreement to resume at Disney World, which many players have doubts about but agree to in order to save the league’s season revenue and their own paychecks. Just as the NBA announces the agreement, COVID-19 cases begin spiking in Florida, adding to the anxiety.

The death of George Floyd sets off national protests, of which NBA players become a part. Many players who might otherwise be on the court find themselves more invested than ever in off-court concerns, including racial equity and justice. Starting guard Avery Bradley is at the center of a movement of players questioning if a return to play is distracting to these interests — he later opts out, one of the most prominent players on a contending team to do so. Howard nearly follows him, but after much meditation announces he’s joining the Lakers in the bubble on CNN. 

James is reportedly at the heart of the movement to get players to participate, even as he structures a voting rights initiative to address other off-court issues. On the 22 teams that attend the bubble, most players decide to participate. The Lakers add J.R. Smith, a longtime James teammate, to replace Bradley.

JULY/AUGUST 2020

The Lakers arrive in the bubble, an alien environment without fans. Aside from the logistical challenges of a small traveling staff, the team also struggles with conditioning and physical rhythm. It’s clear that they are not in the same sync and fitness they were in March when the season went on hiatus. They open the seeding games with a win over the Clippers, but struggle to show their championship form early on.

Behind the scenes, a number of factors add to the strain, including isolation from their families and frustration with continuing instances of racial injustice, including the Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake cases. While there are moments of levity, about a month into the bubble, the Lakers and the NBA at large start showing signs of stress. It bleeds into the Lakers’ first-round series against Portland, which seemingly comes to an emotional head in Game 4, a celebration of “Mamba Day” in Bryant’s memory, but which is overtaken by frustration about the shooting of Blake in Kenosha, Wisc. James vents after the game, saddened that a big night for the Lakers organization is overshadowed by the case.

It has a league-wide effect: Two days later hours before a closeout Game 5, the Milwaukee Bucks sit out of their own playoff game against the Orlando Magic, setting off a work stoppage that is followed by other NBA teams and leagues across the country. A fiery union meeting that night results in the Lakers and Clippers seemingly ready to walk out. By the next day, James has changed his mind, and is part of the player contingent working with the owners to secure additional initiatives to encourage voting in November. Four days after they were supposed to close out the Trail Blazers, the Lakers finally win to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.

SEPTEMBER 2020

The Lakers look like they could be pushed by the Houston Rockets, who top them in Game 1 of the series. But Vogel and the team goes small with Davis at center, eventually bottling up James Harden and Russell Westbrook with an attentive defensive plan. Howard and starter JaVale McGee barely play, but stay active on the bench.

Howard especially has a role in the next series, when the Lakers take on the surprising Denver Nuggets in the conference finals after the Clippers collapse in seven games. Howard takes on defense against All-Star Nikola Jokic, bothering him with physicality. Davis has a star moment, hitting a buzzer-beater to win Game 2 to finish with 31 points and his biggest playoff performance ever to that point. James has his own dramatic finish, hitting four straight fourth-quarter shots to beat the Nuggets in a closeout Game 5 and get the Lakers back to the Finals for the first time in 10 years.

James said afterward that he was fueled by doubters after the Lakers missed the playoffs in his first season in L.A.: “I heard all the conversations and everything that was said about why did I decide to come to L.A — the reason I came to L.A., it was not about basketball. All those conversations, just naysayers and things of that nature. I understood that, with the season I had last year and my injury, it just gave them more sticks and more wood to throw in the fire to continue to say the things that they would say about me. But it never stopped my journey and never stopped my mindset and never stopped my goal.”

*****

Now the Lakers have the Heat on the brink and a championship almost in hand. There have been more pages to this season than any one ever before. It’s time to see how it ends.

— Kyle Goon


Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the Purple & Bold Lakers newsletter from reporter Kyle Goon, who is among the few reporters with a credential inside the NBA bubble. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.


A final Finals review


China Will Once Again Broadcast NBA Games Starting Tonight — Stadium Times

For one year, China’s CCTV suspended showing NBA games.  That suspension will be lifted tonight ahead of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, according to NBA Insider Shams Charania. This could be a reason why the NBA ratings have been so low.  I have written previous articles on why the ratings have been lower than […]

China Will Once Again Broadcast NBA Games Starting Tonight — Stadium Times

Kurtenbach: With outbreaks brewing, NFL must build playoff bubble to protect players, money — Times-Standard

The Deets is a weekday morning dose of commentary — delivered at 7 a.m. — from sports columnist Dieter Kurtenbach that wraps up everything important in the world of sports and looks forward to another crazy day ahead. I know the NFL wants to expand its footprint. Teams play games on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and…

Kurtenbach: With outbreaks brewing, NFL must build playoff bubble to protect players, money — Times-Standard