Category Archives: NBA

Los Angeles Lakers fire Frank Vogel after disappointing 33-49 season

The Los Angeles Lakers fired Frank Vogel on Monday, choosing their title-winning head coach to take the fall for one of the most disappointing campaigns in NBA history.

Vogel was under contract through next season, but almost nothing has gone right over the past two seasons for the rosters assembled by vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and coached by Vogel, who went 127-98 in his three seasons running the club.

Pelinka declined to elaborate Monday on why he and owner Jeanie Buss felt Vogel needed to be fired.

“Today is not going to be a day of finger-pointing and unwinding all the specific reasons,” Pelinka said. “We just felt organizationally, at the highest level, it was time for a new voice. … That’s not to say anything against the incredible accomplishments that Frank Vogel has had. He was a great coach here, and he’s going to go on to be a great coach somewhere else.”

Pelinka doesn’t plan to replace Vogel right away, and he said he hasn’t even assembled a list of potential candidates. The GM said it “would be great” to have a coach in place before the draft in June, but that the Lakers’ search will be “thorough and methodical.”

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The Lakers have not dismissed any of Vogel’s coaching staff at this time, league sources told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

The Lakers concluded the 2021-22 season with a 33-49 record, failing to qualify for the play-in tournament.

“This was a disappointing Lakers season at every level,” Pelinka said. “In the face of disappointment, our fans expect more, and that’s in every facet. It starts in the front office led by me, and our ability to construct the right roster. It starts with the coaches holding players accountable and making sure there’s on-court execution.”

Continuity was a constant challenge for Vogel and the Lakers this season, as they had to contend with injuries to stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and a roster construction with challenges that included limited shooting and athleticism.

James spoke to the media Monday morning before Vogel’s fate was revealed by the Lakers’ front office.

“I respect Frank as a coach, as a man,” James said. “Our partnership that we’ve had over the few years here has been nothing but candid, and great conversations. This is a guy that gives everything to the game and prepared us every single night. … I don’t know what’s going to happen with Frank being here, but I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”

Los Angeles was the only team to not have a single five-man lineup play 100 minutes together, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Despite entering the season with high expectations, the Lakers were only able to have James, Davis and Russell Westbrook on the floor together for 21 games. They went 11-10 in those contests.

The Lakers finished the season in the bottom 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, ranking 21st in defensive rating after finishing first in 2020-21 and third in 2019-20.

L.A. lost 18 of 24 matches following the All-Star break, with only the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers finishing with worse records during that span.

Vogel was hired in May 2019 to assemble a cohesive team around James and Davis, who was officially acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans two months later. Vogel’s plans worked right away: His first team weathered the NBA’s COVID-19 shutdown and then won the Lakers’ 17th NBA championship in the Orlando bubble.

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Nets’ Andre Drummond says final two regular-season outings are ‘must-win games’ for Brooklyn

As the Brooklyn Nets prepare for their final two regular-season games of the season, they do so in control of their own playoff destiny.

If the Nets — currently seeded eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 42-38 record — win their final two matches, they will lock up the seventh seed and would host the East’s first play-in game next Tuesday night.

Veteran center Andre Drummond left no doubt where his team’s mindset is heading into Friday’s game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers — the team that sits one slot ahead of the Nets.

“I think they’re must-win games for us,” Drummond said after Friday’s shootaround. “I think we know what’s ahead of us and we know what’s going to happen if we do win these two games. I think our sense of urgency is a little bit higher than what it was before, and I think we’re prepared to take that next step.”

The Nets, who have dealt with a range of injuries, a teamwide COVID-19 outbreak in December and Kyrie Irving’s part-time status from January to March because of his decision not to get the COVID vaccine, remain confident that they can still catch the rhythm they need to make a long run in the postseason.

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“If we’re playing well heading into the play-in game, then those two games take care of itself and we should win ’em,” guard Seth Curry said. “But if we’re not playing well, then we’re probably not going to get out of the play-in game anyways.

“So it’s just a matter of [playing] our style of play, having confidence and being in a good rhythm playing our best basketball.”

Both Drummond and Curry have been solid since being dealt, along with Ben Simmons and two future first round picks, to the Nets in a trade-deadline deal that sent James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite the fact that Simmons still hasn’t played for the Nets because of a back injury — and a playoff return remains a very unclear possibility — Brooklyn remains steadfast in the belief that they can still win a title this year.

“I think it’s everybody’s mindset in the beginning of the year, is to try and win a championship,” Drummond said. “I think with this team we have a special group of guys here — anything is possible, it’s the NBA at the end of the day. Anything can happen.

“We just got to hang our hat, put our best foot forward … so we do have that mindset that we can win. I think everybody has that same mindset. For us, we’re just trying to stay within ourself and make things happen.”

For Curry, that means continuing to play through pain in his left ankle.

After missing the past two games, Curry scored 15 points and hit three 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 110-98 win over the New York Knicks. “It’s pretty much the same, man,” Curry said of his ankle injury.

“Just trying to manage it — and got through it and played through some pain. So it’s just an everyday managing thing, trying to get through end of the season into the playoffs, giving the team what I can. I feel like if Tiger can shoot 1 under at Augusta yesterday, I can play through a little bit of pain for the rest of the season.”

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Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash: Ben Simmons won’t make season debut in regular season, also likely out of play-in games

Brooklyn Nets swingman Ben Simmons will not be making his season debut in the regular season as he continues to deal with a herniated disk issue in his back, Nets coach Steve Nash said after Monday’s practice.

Nash added that while he remains hopeful that Simmons will return at some point in the playoffs, he would be “shocked” if Simmons played in the Nets’ play-in game next week.

“He’s not running, so yeah,” Nash said. “I don’t see him [being ready]. I would be shocked.”

After requesting a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers last summer, citing mental health concerns, Simmons was ultimately dealt to the Nets just before the trade deadline in February but has not been able to play because of ongoing issues with his back.

Nash said that Simmons actually made progress Monday by being able to shoot and starting to do some work with resistance bands, but the organization still has no idea when, or if, Simmons might be able to play this season.

“I mean that’s a big progression just to get here,” Nash said. “So he was doing nothing on the floor. But obviously he clearly started strengthening and doing some light shooting. So super positive on one hand; on the other hand, it’s not like … we’re expecting him in the lineup in the next week.”

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Nash said recently that he wouldn’t have a problem with Simmons making his debut in a playoff game even if he hadn’t played all year.

He also made it clear Monday that the Nets would take every precaution before putting him back on the floor.

“If he had played 65 games, this year and we’re going into the playoffs, and he had a few weeks’ injury, maybe [you’d think about rushing the normal progression],” Nash stated.

“But, I think in this situation, we got to put his health and safety first and make sure that we’re certain he’s ready to play and contribute. And the other part is he hasn’t played basketball, so you don’t know what kind of Ben you get. And he hasn’t been in an NBA game for, you know, nine to 10 months.”

Simmons’ teammates and coaches have repeatedly said he stays in good spirits in his new surroundings, but they just don’t know when he’ll be able to return to the floor.

The Nets currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with a 40-38 record. Nash demurred when asked how realistic it would be to think Simmons could come back and play in the first round if the Nets were able to advance that far.

“We’ll see,” Nash said. “I don’t want to get too far down the road, like, I don’t want to walk through the next five weeks with you guys and guessing — you guys saw where he is today. He’s doing some increased strengthening, some increased mobility stuff, a little bit of shooting and that’s it.”

As far as the rest of the Nets’ injuries, Bruce Brown went through Monday’s practice and is expected to play Tuesday versus the Houston Rockets after missing Saturday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks because of a non-COVID illness.

Guard Goran Dragic (health and safety protocols) remains in Atlanta, and it is unclear when he’ll be able to return.

Nash also admitted that the Nets have discussed the chances of shutting down guard Seth Curry for the last four games of the regular season as he keeps to deal with left ankle soreness.

“That’s the position we’re in, is do we try to sit him?” Nash said. “Does him sitting for a week help? Or is he right back in the same boat anyway? And how important is it for us to try to creep up into the seven, eight spot? So we’re weighing all those things and it’s kind of more daily than it is making a decision.”

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DeRozan scores 50, Bulls rally past Clippers 135-130 in OT

DeMar DeRozan scored a season-high 50 points and the Chicago Bulls rallied to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 135-130 in overtime Thursday night.

DeRozan finished two points shy of his career high. The five-time All-Star scored 17 in the fourth quarter, though he missed the go-ahead free throw in the closing seconds of regulation after making the first two attempts to tie it.

He then scored 10 in overtime, helping the Bulls come away with a win they sorely needed after falling behind by 16 in the third period.

Chicago, which led the Eastern Conference for a large portion of the season, moved a half-game ahead of sixth-place Toronto with five left. The Bulls are trying to stay in the top six in order to avoid the play-in round in the postseason.

Nikola Vucevic added 22 points and 14 rebounds. Zach LaVine scored 21 as the Bulls won for the third time in four matches.

Reggie Jackson led Los Angeles with 34 points.

Paul George scored 22 in his second game back after missing three months because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

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Marcus Morris Sr. added 20 points and Nicolas Batum scored 17. But the Clippers — eighth in the West — lost for the sixth time in seven matches.

Chicago led by four in overtime when Luke Kennard hit a 3 for Los Angeles with 1:12 left. 

Patrick Williams answered with one of his own to make it 129-125 with just under a minute remaining.

Jackson then hit two foul shots for the Clippers before DeRozan converted two to make it 131-127.

Williams rebounded a missed drive by Jackson, leading to two more free throws by DeRozan that made it a six-point game. Jackson nailed a 3 to cut it to 133-130 with five seconds left.

DeRozan caught the inbounds pass following a timeout by the Bulls and drove for a dunk, sealing a wild victory for Chicago.

The Clippers saw their lead shrink to four early in the fourth and got it back up to 11 with about five minutes remaining before the Bulls made another push.

Los Angeles was leading 118-115 with seven seconds left in regulation when Terance Mann got called for a foul away from the ball on an inbounds play following a timeout.

That led to a free throw for DeRozan that cut it to two and possession for Chicago. DeRozan then got fouled by George on a 3-point attempt with 3.5 seconds left. He hit the first two foul shots to tie it at 118 and missed the third, sending the game to overtime.

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Los Angeles Lakers stumble out of play-in position, now 11th in Western Conference

For the first time since the first week of the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves on the outside of the play-in tournament looking in after Tuesday night’s 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Playing without LeBron James (left ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis (right mid-foot sprain), the Lakers trailed by as many as 37 points as Luka Doncic recorded a 30-point triple-double through the first three quarters (34 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists).

“We just didn’t execute well enough and play with enough toughness, IQ, intelligence, focus and fight,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel stated. “So, not acceptable and just a poor performance across the board. Coaches, players, everybody.”

L.A. is currently No. 11 in the Western Conference with seven games left. The Lakers, at 31-44, have the same record as the No. 10 San Antonio Spurs, but the Spurs own the tiebreaker. Looking ahead to the final stretch, the Lakers have gone 4-10 against their six remaining opponents (they play the Denver Nuggets twice).

The Spurs have gone 5-11 against their six remaining adversaries (they play the Portland Trail Blazers twice). The Nuggets (45-31) are No. 6 in the Western Conference standings. The Blazers (27-48) are No. 12 and will be out their star, Damian Lillard, for the rest of the season.

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Vogel said James and Davis will both be re-evaluated Thursday to determine their availability for L.A.’s game against the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

Davis, who has been sidelined since Feb. 16, is targeting a return by Friday at home versus the No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans, sources told ESPN.

Tuesday was about as bad as it has been for the Lakers in a season already full of disappointment. The 82 points they allowed in the first half were the second-most points allowed in a first half in franchise history, narrowly avoiding the record set when the Boston Celtics hung 83 on them in the first half on Feb. 27, 1959, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Info.

L.A.’s 26-point halftime deficit Tuesday combined with the 28 points the Pelicans outscored them by in the second half on Sunday represented the worst points differential, minus-54, over a two-half span for the Lakers in the shot-clock era.

“The standings are the results,” Vogel said when asked if falling out of the play-in ups the Lakers’ urgency. “We have to keep our focus on the process and the work and the things that are going to lead to the next win. That’s the only place that our focus will be.”

Russell Westbrook, who had 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists but was part of L.A. being outscored by 25 points in the 32 minutes he was on the floor, added another contentious postgame exchange with a reporter to his season resume.

As the exchange continued for a few more moments, Westbrook noticed a video camera pointed in his direction and changed his tone, offering a half-hug to the reporter, before leaving the room.

“We cool,” he said. “Y’all gotta make sure to record that.”

The Lakers are now 4-13 since the All-Star break, which is on pace to be the franchise’s second-lowest win percentage post All-Star break in team history.

“We just got our butt whooped. Straight up,” Stanley Johnson said. “So, whatever spirit or whatever, they kicked our ass. It was 30 points pretty much the whole game. I don’t know how else you want to put it. We got to be a lot better than that.”

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Grizzlies beat Warriors 123-95, tighten hold on 2nd in West

Desmond Bane scored 22 points, De’Anthony Melton and Dillon Brooks added 21 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies solidified their hold on second place in the Western Conference with a 123-95 triumph over the short-handed Golden State Warriors on Monday night.

Kyle Anderson added 13 points for Memphis, which holds a five-game lead over the third-place Warriors in the conference. The Grizzlies won their fifth consecutive and for the ninth time in 10 games.

Jordan Poole led Golden State with 25 points, and Moses Moody finished with 18. Jonathan Kuminga scored 14 points as Golden State dropped its third straight and lost for the sixth time in seven matches.

Golden State played without leading scorer Stephen Curry, who has missed six games with a left foot sprain. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Otto Porter Jr. also sat out under various injury management situations, and facing the second game of a back-to-back.

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That put the Warriors in an unfavorable position facing the Grizzlies.

Meanwhile, Memphis was without leading scorer Ja Morant, who missed his fifth consecutive game with right knee soreness, and Jaren Jackson Jr., who sat with right thigh soreness.

But Memphis has played well in Morant’s absence, winning the previous four after Morant was injured.

Neither team was shooting well to start, and Memphis was a step slow to 50-50 balls. The teams combined to make only 13 of 45 shots in the first quarter. Both were still mired at 25% each early in the second quarter before scoring started picking up — for Memphis.

Not Golden State.

The Grizzlies shot 59% in the second, including making 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. With the Warriors still stuck at 25% shooting, Memphis outscored the Warriors 48-21 in the second and held a 63-37 lead at the break.

By the end of the half, Warriors coach Steve Kerr vehemently argued a no-call on the final play and was assessed two quick technicals, getting ejected for the second half.

Poole helped the Warriors cut into the Memphis’ lead slightly with 13 points in the third, but Golden State never got within less than 18 points. Memphis carried a 95-67 lead into the final quarter.

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LA Clippers’ Paul George practices with team for first time since December

Paul George participated in his first LA Clippers practice in more than three months Thursday as he tries to return prior to the start of the postseason.

The Clippers said George, who has not played since Dec. 22, is in the next phase of his rehab program as he recovers from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He remains out for Friday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

George was cleared for practice after participating in a 4-on-4 drill with minimal contact against Clippers coaches on Sunday.

“He is doing good,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said prior to Thursday’s practice. “He hasn’t felt any pain so that is a positive thing. Just working on his conditioning and just making sure he can continue to go through the minimal contact without having any issue. So as of right now, it hasn’t been a problem.”

Around the All-Star break, George was seen shooting with his left hand from short range on the team’s practice court. Earlier this month, George was seen shooting with his right hand.

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The Clippers, who are in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, could get some much-needed reinforcements for the play-in tournament.

Norman Powell, who has been limited to three games after being acquired before the trading deadline, has begun shooting on the court with the team this week. Powell, who had a fracture in a bone in his left foot, has yet to be cleared for contact practice, Lue said.

With eight games remaining in the regular season, the Clippers (36-38) hope to reduce the minutes for veterans Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris and Nic Batum before the play-in tournament

Lue said his preference is to see any of his injured players return for at least one regular season game before the postseason begins. The coach also said Monday that if any of the injured Clippers are medically cleared to play in the postseason, they’ll play.

So while the Clippers have not provided an update on Kawhi Leonard, who continues to work his way back from a torn right ACL injury suffered last June, Lue is keeping the door open for Leonard, George and Powell even if they don’t return by the end of the regular season.

“Hell yeah, I keep it open,” Lue said Monday. “… To hit the playoffs going at 100, from zero to 100, that is pretty tough. But if the medical guys say they are cleared and they are able to do that, that is totally up to them.”

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Chicago Bulls’ Patrick Williams to make return against Toronto Raptors

Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams will return Monday night versus the Toronto Raptors to play in his first game since having wrist surgery in October, the team said Sunday.

Williams, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, has not played since Oct. 28, when he tore ligaments in his left wrist during the fifth game of the season.

Although he started the season in the starting lineup, Williams is expected to return in a reserve role with a minutes restriction. “He’s anxious to get back,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Friday.

“Physically, he feels good. He knows the timing part is going to take a little bit of time. But I think just how he feels and where he’s at mentally, he wants to come back and play.”

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Williams, 20, had a promising rookie season as one of the youngest players in his draft class, but his second season didn’t get off to much of a start.

He averaged 6.6 points on 56.5% shooting and 2.2 rebounds in five games before he tore his wrist ligaments falling on a flagrant foul by the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson.

While the Bulls were on a three-game West Coast road trip this past week, Williams remained in Chicago to practice with the Windy City Bulls, the team’s G League affiliate.

Donovan said reports have been encouraging about Williams’ conditioning but that his timing was off after being sidelined for five months.

The Bulls are on a back-to-back Monday and Tuesday, and Donovan stated it was possible that Williams could play in both games.

Williams’ return comes as the Bulls are on a three-game losing streak and have dropped eight of their past 10 games. They started Sunday fifth in the Eastern Conference. “He makes our team better,” Donovan told reporters.

“There’ll probably be some growing pains of him finding a rhythm. With Patrick, the biggest thing is going to be how he fits into a rotation and what a realistic number of minutes look like for him.”

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Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry has sprained left foot, expected to return by playoffs

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is expected to return for the beginning of the Western Conference playoffs with a left foot sprain, but will undergo further evaluation with specialists, sources told ESPN.

Curry and the Warriors are conferring with Dr. Richard Ferkel, a renowned foot specialist, on the injury, sources said.

Curry suffered the injury in a collision with Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart on Wednesday night, and an MRI overnight revealed the foot sprain. There’s no structural damage and Curry is considered to have avoided serious injury, sources said.

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The play occurred in the second quarter when Curry and Smart dove for a loose ball and Smart rolled on top of Curry’s leg.

Curry initially tried to walk off the pain but left the game after being checked out on the bench. After halftime, he was ruled out for the rest of the night.

Neither Warriors coach Steve Kerr or forward Draymond Green called the play on which Curry was injured dirty but deemed it “dangerous” and “unnecessary.”

“I saw the ball, I dove for the ball, trying to make a play,” Smart stated after the game. “Unfortunately, that occurred.”

Curry’s injury comes just two games after Green returned from a back injury that held him out two-and-a-half months. Curry, Green and Klay Thompson, who returned from two-and-a-half-month hiatus in January, have played just 11 minutes together this campaign.

“It seems like every time we get someone back, someone else goes down,” Green said. “So, it’s definitely a worry.”

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Baker Mayfield requests trade from Cleveland Browns, says it is in ‘best interests of both sides to move on’

Baker Mayfield has requested a trade from the Browns, telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter that it is “in the best interests of both sides” for Cleveland to split with the star quarterback.

“It’s in the mutual interest of both sides for us to move on,” Mayfield told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “The relationship is too far gone to mend. It’s in the best interests of both sides to move on.”

The Browns, however, have informed Mayfield’s camp that they are “not accommodating his request.”

Mayfield’s request comes on the same day the Browns learned they were out of the running to obtain quarterback Deshaun Watson in a trade from the Houston Texans.

The Browns were one of four teams to meet with Watson in the past week to gauge his interest in waiving his no-trade clause, but they now face significant doubt at the quarterback position.

A source told Trotter earlier Thursday that the Browns, upon falling out of contention to acquire Watson, would prefer to move forward with Mayfield. But Mayfield’s request might force Cleveland to trade the quarterback who won the 2017 Heisman Trophy and then got picked first overall in the draft.

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Mayfield has strong interest in the Colts, who are in the market for a quarterback after trading Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders, and considers Indianapolis offers a good chance for him to win, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

As Cleveland officials were flying back from their Tuesday meeting with Watson, Mayfield posted a statement on social media thanking the city of Cleveland and its fans “who truly embraced who I am.”

“With many uncertainties, here is where my head and heart is,” Mayfield wrote as an introduction to his message, which he addressed to Cleveland and posted to Instagram and Twitter.

A source told Trotter that Mayfield and his camp learned about the Browns’ meeting with Watson over social media.

Mayfield has endured a tumultuous tenure in Cleveland, where he has played under four head coaches through his first three seasons in the league. But he led Cleveland to its first playoff victory in 26 years after the 2020 season and finished in the top 10 in the league in QBR.

Mayfield suffered a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder in Week 2 of this past season and struggled the rest of the way, finishing 27th in QBR as the Browns missed the playoffs and concluded with a disappointing 8-9 record.

Mayfield, who underwent surgery to repair the labrum Jan. 19 and is expected to be fully cleared well before training camp, is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which will pay him $19 million in 2022.

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