The Dallas Mavericks are in Los Angeles to face the Lakers, the start of a four-game road trip. It’s a battle of two teams involved in a playoff-chasing triangle along with the Utah Jazz.
Utah leads the trio and currently owns the Western Conference’s 8th and final playoff spot. This will be the fourth and final season meeting between the Mavs and Lakers, the Mavs looking to even the series 2-2.
Dirk Nowitzki’s go ahead three led the Mavs to a Saturday afternoon victory. Nowitzki put on a shooting exhibit going 14-for-17 with 35 points. Brandan Wright had a big game with 17 points and 13 boards.
The Mavs survived a fourth quarter Nate Robinson explosion (25 points; 7-for-7 3PT) and 50 combined points from Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng.
Later that evening the Lakers edged the Sacramento Kings 103-98 on the road. Kobe Bryant moved up to 4th on the all-time scoring list, passing Wilt Chamberlain. Dwight Howard led the Lakers with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Already without Metta World Peace (knee) Steve Nash exited the Kings game and would not return. Nash (hamstring/hip) is OUT for tonight’s game.
Pau Gasol has averaged 10.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in five games since his return from plantar fasciitis.
This game decides the fate of the Mavericks. That’s my take. A loss would set the Mavs at a major disadvantage to both the Lakers and Jazz – forced to win outright over both. The Jazz already own the tiebreaker over Dallas and a loss to LA tonight would give it to the Lakers.
Dallas’ level of play has improved dramatically of late and much has to do with Dirk’s dominance.
Mavs will once again need Dirk to be special.
Playoff Picture Update:
MAVERICKS - 10th seed in West; 2 GB of the Utah Jazz (8th) and 1.5 GB of Los Angeles Lakers (9th) for final playoff spot.
LAKERS - 9th seed in West; 0.5 GB of the Utah Jazz (8th) and 1.5 games ahead of 10th seeded Dallas Mavericks.
Mavericks at Lakers tip at 9:30 p.m. CT and airs on TNT.
Steve Nash. Dwight Howard. Pau Gasol. Kobe “Bean” Bryant.
Darren Collison. Shawn Marion. O.J. Mayo. Elton Brand.
That’s how last night looked on paper.
Things didn’t play out that way when the final whistle blew. The Dallas Mavericks put forward a gritty effort, as they dominated the Lakers for the last 3 quarters, and went on to beat Los Angeles 99-91.
“I told you we’re a scrappy little team,” Marion said. “It’s going to be like that all year.”
The Mavericks entered last nights game without Chris Kaman, and Dirk Nowitzki. The Lakers had everyone. Nobody gave Dallas the time of day. Even some of our Dallas Mavericks writers have waived the white flag.
“Your Dallas Mavericks, among the NBA’s best franchises since owner Mark Cuban bought them, are headed to the lottery for the first time in forever.” – Jean Jacques Taylor (ESPN Dallas)
The problem with all these naysayers is that you can’t judge a team that has 9 new players on it before they even hit the court for their first game of the year. I will also be quick to add that you can’t judge a team based off one performance. This is important to reiterate to all of MavsNation. It was a huge win. Did we catch the Lakers at their best? Probably not.
“It’s growing pains, and it’s a struggle,” Nash said. “We’re out of sync, and we’re going to probably have some more moments in games like that.”
The key to last night’s win, and a sight for sore eyes was the play of Darren Collison. How nice it is to see a point guard with speed, and one that can offer some scoring as well. Everytime the Mavs got possession of the ball, they were looking to push. These guys are FAST. Ricky Bobby Fast. Collison outplayed the future HOF Steve Nash putting up 17 points to go along with 4 assists. The veteran and much older Lakers looked a bit slow as the younger and faster Mavericks had their way in the 2nd half. The bench of the Mavericks outscored the Lakers bench 37-17. Vince Carter and Roddy B poured in 11 points, while Jae “The Beast” Crowder was impressive early and finished with 8 points.
If you took away anything from this game it’s this. Rick Carlisle gets everything he can from each and every player on the roster. The Mavericks are also very deep. On paper, you overlook it. However, they have the ability to wear you down.
“We got a locker room full of guys who can play, man. And we know that.” – O.J. Mayo
The Mavericks will now head to Salt Lake City to play their 2nd game in as many nights. Taking a back to back to start the season is far more than everyone expected.
Maybe these new look Mavs can stay the course while the German prepares to return. Once again, it’s important to not underestimate Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle’s Mavericks.
Eddy Curry will start at center for our Dallas Mavericks in the 2012-2013 season opener against the newly-bolstered Los Angeles Lakers. Not one person saw that news coming this time last week. Not even Curry himself knew he’d go from Spurs camp to waiver wire to Mavs’ starting center in a matter of days.
“I talked to them (Mavs) this summer, so I knew there was some interest there,” Curry said in an interview with DallasBasketball.com.
Shawn Marion represents the only starter from last season. He will be joined by the aforementioned Curry and rookie Jae Crowder in the front court.California natives Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo formulate the much younger and quicker backcourt for the Mavs.
The German duo of 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (knee) and center Chris Kaman (calf) were thought to be the opening night starters, but remain sidelined as the regular season gets underway. While Nowitzki stayed in Dallas to rehab, Kaman traveled with the team on its two-game road trip in Los Angeles Tuesday and Utah on Wednesday night. He’s not expected to play.
The Lakers open the year with a new starting center of their own. His name is Dwight Howard. Howard finally switched teams after the extensive, overly-documented “Dwightmare” concluded with the newly-managed Orlando Magic trading its franchise center in a 4-team blockbuster.
As Kobe Bryant, who’s questionable for tonight’s opener (foot), enters his 17th season he will have one of his best supporting casts in recent years. In very Laker-like fashion they somehow acquired Howard without losing the versatile 7-foot Pau Gasol. Bryant’s new backcourt pal is two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Metta World Peace completes the star-studded lineup.
“From our perspective, there’s no rush,” Nash said. “If he’s ready to go (Tuesday), great. But if he’s not, he’s not. I think we’ve got a lot of ballgames to play this year and there’s no point in causing something to linger at this stage of the season.”
It stills remains to be seen how the new Lakers pieces fit together on the floor as games and titles are not won on paper, but on the court.
The Mavericks will need a strong, balanced effort across the board tonight without Nowitzki. Who will step up as the go-to guy? Many expect it to be Mayo, who in his first two NBA seasons averaged 38 minutes and 18 points per contest. He should come close to matching those minutes and the scoring ought to follow.
Defense, rebounding and the transition game may be the Mavs’ best bet to a successful evening. Coach Rick Carlisle needs to utilize his team’s lack of size and younger legs to push the ball and create easy scoring opportunities before the Lakers’ defense can situate itself in the half-court.
The Mavs are eager to discover where they sit with eight new players and early tests do not come much better than a true Western Conference power such as the Los Angeles Lakers.
Game action tips approximately at 9:40 p.m. CT and airs nationally on TNT.
The long-range plan is to keep the powder dry and wait out a superstar. It’s why when Deron Williams chose Brooklyn over Dallas, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson didn’t get in a bidding war for a player such as Goran Dragic but rather targeted players either on the last year of their current deals or who were open to a one-year contract.
Check out the current roster. Of the five players acquired this summer — excluding the three rookies that give Dallas eight new faces on the 15-man roster — all are on one-year deals. O.J. Mayo‘s reduced-rate contract is technically for two years, but the second year is a player option that he will almost certainly exercise.
One-year deals allow the Mavs to easily create cap space for next summer to chase marquee free agents. But with the 2013 “big fish” free agency class threatening to be a dud with Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Chris Paul all with good reason to stay put, could the Mavs’ philosophy be moving away from the rent-a-player approach of these last two offseasons?
After all, how do you sell player jerseys of guys that won’t be around but eight or nine months?
“I’m not a big believer in rent-a-players, not in your top seven or eight guys anyways,” Cuban said during his Tuesday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Ben & Skin Show. “I want these guys to stay and develop because they can be a great, young nucleus. The devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t know in basketball, particularly when you have an infrastructure that hopefully can continue to develop these guys. That’s the goal and we still have flexibility then to do sign-and-trades, potentially sign a free agent; just see where it takes us.”
Cuban’s great, young nucleus comment is in reference to 24-year-old guards Darren Collison, penciled-in to start at point guard, and Mayo, who will start at shooting guard. Collison will be a restricted free agent next summer and can entertain offers from other teams with the Mavs being able to match. Mayo, with a strong year, could get the payday he hoped for this summer. Chris Kaman and Elton Brand will be seeking to play their way to multiyear deals as well, either with Dallas or somewhere else.
The Mavs might be the team to give it to one or all of them, but likely only after they are convinced that none of the superstar free agents will be available to any team but their current one, which can offer one more year and millions more than other teams. And they’ll also keep an eye on the bottom line for the summer of 2014, when the Mavs will have no players under contract and could chase multiple potential free agents such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.
“The blueprint is to say, like a Jet (Jason Terry) scenario, or even Josh Howard’s first year, Marquis’ (Daniels) first year, where it’s not apples to apples, it’s like wow; we want these guys to develop into a D.C. and O.J. tandem that can be a foundation for years to come and we keep them together and we improve and we grow with them and have the ability to continue to add players,” Cuban said. “So the optimum scenario is everybody plays great.”
And then perhaps instead of gutting the club to chase a Dwight Howard, the team-building focus turns to re-signing their own and chasing, say, a Josh Smith and cohesion.
Jeff Caplan joined ESPNDallas.com in December 2009. Jeff covers the Mavericks, Rangers and colleges. He has a wealth of experience in the area, covering multiple beats in his 11-plus years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
For a brief moment, during the Olympics and while looking into the eyes of the USA basketball team; I caught a glimpse of something special. I saw those millionaire superstars putting money and contracts aside and playing hard for a cause. Playing for their country and representing our brand of basketball against the world. Then last night we learned about this Dwight Howard trade and my love for the NBA took a hit. I was quickly brought back to the reality of today’s game. These superstars, with exception of a few (Mostly Texas based) always get what they want. They want flashy lights, endorsement deals, and easy wins. Respect for their country is one thing, but respect for the city they once represented is another. They could care less. They don’t care that they’re leaving cities with young fans that live and breathe with their team. They could care less that a cities economy can depend on that team at times. These players don’t care about parity or the repercussions of their moves when going to big markets. Today’s NBA superstars are full of pride but only for themselves, nothing external. It’s a bad lesson taught to today’s youth, and it’s terrible for the game.
I once wrote a blog after hearing an ESPN personality predict the OKC Thunder and Miami Heat Finals series in the middle of last year’s NBA season. I couldn’t believe the nerve of this guy for predicting the series based on “Star Power” alone. The saddest part is that he was right. In that blog I tried to stick up for other teams in the league, believing that they had a chance, i.e. Mavericks, Pacers, and Bulls. I was wrong. As if I were consoling a friend that was going through some hard times by telling him to think positive and that it’s not a certainty that the bad thing you think will happen, will happen. That bad thing happened. Hope was lost.
But the great thing about sports is that THERE’S ALWAYS NEXT YEAR! Right?
Another NBA offseason has come, and another joke of an NBA transaction has transpired. Not only did the Lakers acquire Dwight Howard, but they also kept Pau Gasol and gained Chris Duhon and Earl Clark. They shed a player in Andrew Bynum that they weren’t fond of anyways as he was sent to the 76ers and also lost Josh McRoberts. What’s that? You’ve never heard of McRoberts? Neither have a majority of Laker fans. And in a weird twist, the Lamar Odom move last season ended up opening a door for Steve Nash. The Lakers got what they wanted……again.
Everyone keeps telling me that it’s no big deal because Howard hasn’t agreed to resign in LA in the offseason of 2013. Don’t believe that. It’s obvious that the guy loves attention and loves getting what he wants. Plus he’s been in LA all summer long; mucking it up with the locals. He’s been seen at Dodger games, getting ice cream at Sprinkles, and walking around Beverly Hills. Oh yea, it just seems soooo terrible in LA. Why on earth would he want to resign there?
There’s also the fact that the Lakers have NEVER been without a powerful center on the team. Mikan, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, Bynum, now Howard. So I don’t see the Lakers letting Dwight Howard get away next summer.
Also, what in the WORLD was Orlando thinking? I know they were concerned about Bynum not resigning in Orlando so the straight up trade didn’t interest them. But after months of this Dwight drama, I assumed they were holding out for some key pieces. They ended up with Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington from Denver. Decent players but not worth the time and effort put into to the Dwightmare. It seems that all other teams in the trade got better (Lakers, Nuggets, Sixers) and the team that was holding the biggest piece, the Magic, got worse.
Hands down, without a doubt, the absolute worst part about this whole trade is the fact that the media has started with the predictions. Just last night, SECONDS after learning of the Dwight trade, the first tweet surfaced. (Dallas media, Dwaine Price Ft. Worth Star Telegram)
“@DwainPrice: Its official. The #Lakers will beat the #Heat in six games in the 2013 NBA Finals.”
Then another, minutes later……..
“@DwainPrice: With Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, Kobe is going to pass Michael Jordan and win 7 NBA titles.”
I thought for sure he was being sarcastic. But after a few twitter exchanges with him I learned that he was dead serious. That’s great!! Let’s just not even watch next year or put any other team on the floor. It’s Game. Set. Match for the NBA finals right?
I’m certain there were other tweets but the tweets above particularly bugged me due to the timing of it. Nobody knows how healthy Dwight will be. Nobody knows if Nash’s body will hold up. Nobody knows how much the pressure will get to the Lakers now that they’re a “shoe in.” It reminds of that scene in Black Sheep when Chris Farley is falling down that hill and finds a tiny twig to hold on to. “Thank you little Root, please stay strong.” My root is Howard and Nash’s back and the media pressure. But most likely, much like Farley, NBA fans will be falling to the bottom wondering, “What the hell was that all about!?”
There’s also this article from Arash Markazi of ESPN LA. It’s as unbiased as the sky is Yellow. In the article he’s basically calling out the Heat and is probably working on getting to Kinkos as soon as possible to get the “2013 NBA World Champion” banners made. These smug LA sports writers so confident that they’ll be in the Finals and so sure it will be against the Heat. “Uggghhhhh” I say with a fist in the air!!
Moves like this take away the fun of following the game. It tilts the scale so far to one direction that making a prediction on Lakers/Heat finals is an easy one to make. It will most likely come to fruition and that’s sports-depressing. I still feel that the new CBA might find a way to level out the playing field some but not as long as these teams are finding ways to land star players and somehow losing minimal assets. I also feel that regardless of the pessimism surrounding the Mavs that they have as shot to make a decent run in the playoffs. And if not, then my only hope at this point is to enjoy watching the Heat and Lakers lose as much as possible. Come playoff time, I’ll be rooting for any other team to defeat these monsters, even if it means the Spurs. Yes, it’s come to that.
For the better part of the past two years, Lakers fans have superimposed a Lakers jersey on every imaginable image of Howard. Type Howard’s name into Google, and you’d think he has played the majority of his career in Los Angeles.
It’s not hard to picture Howard living in Los Angeles and enjoying life in Hollywood.
For the better part of this summer, Howard has been spotted around Los Angeles by the paparazzi as much as a Kardashian. He’s on the Dodger Stadium video board during the seventh-inning stretch, going for a walk outside his hotel in Beverly Hills and waiting in line with kids for ice cream at Sprinkles. He has been in the city more than any Laker this offseason.
And after Thursday’s news that Howard will be traded to the Lakers as early as Friday, it’s not hard to picture him winning his first championship in Los Angeles.
Yes, that’s right, Miami, there is a new challenger to your throne, and this team has a “Big Four” to trump your “Big Three.”
There will be no pep rallies filled with smoke and pyrotechnics when the deal officially goes down. Los Angeles usually saves such bells and whistles for championships, but such a celebration in June is certainly what the Lakers have in mind now with Howard and Steve Nash.
And there will be no proclamations of winning “not six, not seven, not eight” titles, but you have to believe that is what Kobe Bryant is thinking now as he sits next to LeBron James in London and counts his number of championship rings.
The window was supposed to be closed — or at least closing — on the Lakers’ pursuit of a championship after this past season, and the new collective bargaining agreement was supposed to have locked that window shut for the foreseeable future.
This offseason, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss took a sledgehammer to that window, and now it’s wide open. In the process, they might have also made the Lakers the favorites to win the NBA title yet again.
After the disappointment of “basketball reasons” robbing them of Chris Paul, the Lakers somehow got Nash for a package of draft picks and the trade exception they received from the Lamar Odom deal with Dallas. Then they finally found the right mix of teams and players to get Howard from Orlando for Andrew Bynum and a protected draft pick.
If you’re keeping track at home, that means the Lakers essentially got Howard and Nash for Bynum, Odom and draft picks, and were able to keep Pau Gasol in the process.
The Lakers have had their fair share of favorable trades in their history, but this combination might top them all.
As great as the star power of Howard and Nash is, keeping Gasol as well as Metta World Peace when all is said and done is what makes the Lakers the team to beat going into next season.
If you thought the combination of an enigmatic and inconsistent Bynum and Gasol was hard to beat, try handling a frontcourt of Howard and Gasol with World Peace freed up to focus on being a defensive pest.
And if you thought the Lakers were a potential contender with Derek Fisher or Ramon Sessions at point guard, try stopping them with Nash running the floor and directing the fast break better than anyone in Los Angeles has since Magic Johnson was running “Showtime.”
The Lakers improved at the two positions where Miami is weakest. The Heat listed Joel Anthony as their starting center during the Finals but leaned heavily on Chris Bosh. It was a successful patchwork job that ultimately worked out for them but would be a matchup disaster against the Lakers’ frontcourt.
Miami also rode the hot hand of the much-maligned Mario Chalmers at point guard during the Finals and bypassed getting a more experienced veteran at the position this offseason. The Heat’s basic philosophy is to surround James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh with as many shooters as possible. It’s a solid game plan against most teams that are not rolling out a starting lineup of Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard.
And for those of you in Oklahoma City, the Lakers are not looking past Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s five-game dismantling of the Lakers in the playoffs this season on the heels of their being swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks last year was the wake-up call this team needed to realize it could not continue and contend maintaining the status quo.
When Oklahoma City eliminated the Lakers from the playoffs in May, Bryant smiled when he was asked about the Lakers’ future. Despite a second straight ouster in the second round and adjusting to a new locker room without two of his closest confidants in Odom and Fisher, Bryant wasn’t ready to quietly ride off into the sunset.
“I’m not fading into the shadows,” Bryant said. “I’m not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere. It’s not like one of those things where the Bulls beat the Pistons and the Pistons disappear forever. I’m not going for that.
“I’m not the most patient of people, and the organization is not extremely patient, either. We want to win and win now. I’m sure we’ll figure it out. We always have, and I’m sure we will again.”
It was an optimistic outlook that came to fruition Thursday, but not even Bryant could have imagined the Lakers would end up with both Howard and Nash while finding a way to keep Gasol. The Lakers have not only figured it out, they have catapulted themselves back atop the NBA.
It might have seemed unimaginable a couple of months ago, but it’s not hard to picture now when you look at the talent on this team.
With the roster now appearing to be finalized – barring any trades before the start of training camp in late September — the re-tooled Mavs now know who and when they’ll play as the NBA released the full 82-game regular-season schedule Thursday.
There’s no Christmas Day game and no Martin Luther King Jr. day game. Dirk Nowitzki and his new pals won’t be on national television at the rate that they were a season ago as defending champs. Still, the Mavs will have eight games on TNT — including the opener at the Lakers — seven on ESPN, seven on NBATV, one on ABC and two on ESPN Radio.
None of it means this won’t be one of the more intriguing seasons of Cuban’s ownership. At the moment, just about anything — from being lottery bound to a top-four finish in the Western Conference — seems possible.
We take a look at five games to circle, and why not start with the opener?
No. 1: Mavs at Los Angeles Lakers, Oct. 30
Not only will it be the first real game for a Mavs club that features five new key players around Nowitzki, but it will also be Steve Nash‘s debut with the Lakers. And for that matter, since we’ve already mentioned Jamison, he’ll also be wearing the purple and gold for the first time. The big question as of July 26 is if Andrew Bynum will still be calling the Staples Center home or if Dwight Howard be manning the rim and playing alongside Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Nash?
No. 2: New York Knicks at Mavs, Nov. 21
Coach Rick Carlisle predicted that Jason Kidd would receive a standing ovation when he returns to the American Airlines Center. We won’t have to wait long to find out if he’s right — and he probably is. Two-fifths of the Mavs’ championship starting lineup will suit up for the Knicks as Tyson Chandler makes his second trip back to Dallas since the title. Kidd’s last-minute departure to the Big Apple was stunning, but in retrospect it’s allowed the Mavs to add a bit more shake-n-bake to their backcourt with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.
No. 3: Mavs at Boston Celtics, Dec. 12
A trip to the Garden is always special, but now that Jason Terry will be writing ctc on his green and white sneakers, it’s extra special. And don’t think that Terry, who played eight seasons with the Mavs, won’t want to drill about 15 buckets from downtown and send his former team out of town with a loss. Terry never wanted to leave Dallas, but he knew he was no longer in their plans. He’ll try to fill the very large shoes of Ray Allen, who took his talents to South Beach. Terry won’t make his Dallas return until March 22.
No. 4: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Mavs, Jan. 18
It’ll take a few months for the Western Conference champs to make it Dallas, which isn’t a bad thing since the Mavs will need some time to break in the new rotation. Although Dallas is a drastically different team than the past two seasons, consecutive playoff series have elevated the Thunder to the top of the Mavs’ rival list, or at least just notch below the Spurs. This game will show the Mavs how far they’ve come or how far they still have to go.
No. 5: Mavs at Brooklyn Nets, March 1
Who knows if the Nets will have Dwight Howard by this first meeting of the two teams, but this game is all about Deron Williams, who spurned his hometown Mavs to re-sign with the Nets as they move to Brooklyn. In the grand scheme of things, this game will mean little, but the free-agent process was emotional for Williams and the two teams, and that could make this the most intense Mavs-Nets game of all-time. Less than three weeks later, Williams will make his return to Dallas. He won’t be staying.
Jeff Caplan joined ESPNDallas.com in December 2009. Jeff covers the Mavericks, Rangers and colleges. He has a wealth of experience in the area, covering multiple beats in his 11-plus years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Sources told ESPN.com that Nash, with the New York Knicks also pressing hard to complete a similar sign-and-trade deal, was swayed to join the Lakers after a determined push from Bryant and because the move keeps him in the title hunt and allows him to stay in close proximity to his three children in Phoenix.
Nash will receive a three-year deal in excess of $25 million, sources said, because the Suns ultimately agreed to sign-and-trade him to the Lakers, who can absorb Nash via the trade exception they created by dealing Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks in December.
In return, the Suns get four draft picks — first rounders in 2013 and 2015 and second rounders in 2013 and 2014.
Nash’s agent, Bill Duffy, said the deal was finalized about 6 p.m., PDT
“After talking with (owner) Robert (Sarver) and (president of basketball operations) Lon (Babby) we’ve agreed that it’s time for both of us to move in new directions,” Nash told ESPN.com. “I approached them and asked if they would be willing to do a sign-and-trade deal with L.A. because it is very important to me to stay near my children and family.
“They were very apprehensive and didn’t want to do it. Fortunately for me, they reconsidered. They saw that they were able to get assets for their team that will make them better, assets they would not have otherwise had and it made sense for them to do a deal that helps their team get better.”
The deal can’t be officially completed until July 11, when a leaguewide moratorium on new business is lifted.
A source familiar with the Lakers’ thinking told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin the team intends to keep its core of Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum together next season now that Nash will be in the fold.
In addition, the Lakers are no longer trying to retain point guard Ramon Sessions, who opted out of the final year and $4.55 million of his contract to become a free agent, a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne.
Sessions was hoping for the security of a longer term contract, but while discussions with the Lakers were positive, they never progressed toward a multiyear deal, the source told Shelburne.
Difficult as it is on some levels for the Suns to help the face of the franchise get to the Lakers — especially after years of playoff battles with them in the Nash era — sources say Sarver finally agreed to the trade after yielding to a plea from Nash to send him to a destination where he could maintain the closest possible ties to his children and still chase the ring that has eluded him for 16 seasons.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to the organization and Robert in particular,” Nash told ESPN.com. “I know how hard this was for him and that fact that he was able to help me and my family in this way … it means a lot and says a lot about his character. I will never forget this gesture. Above and beyond.
“The Phoenix Suns are an amazing organization and fans should be excited about their future. I hope the Suns win a championship some day soon for all the amazing fans and wonderful people in the organization.”
The Lakers clinched the deal by surrendering the package of picks, but sources said that the Suns did decide to reward Nash, 38, for all the success he delivered over the past eight seasons.
Sending Nash to the team of his choosing ensures that the sides part on good terms after it became clear in recent days that the Suns left little doubt since free agency began Sunday that they were prepared to move in a different direction instead of trying to match the determined bids for Nash coming from the Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, Knicks and Lakers.
The Knicks were equally high on Nash’s list in a sign-and-trade scenario — he’s an offseason Manhattan resident — and the Raptors were initially seen as the favorite for Nash’s services after quickly registering a three-year, $36 million offer. The Brooklyn Nets and Mavericks also pursued Nash, Dallas in particular after the Nets won the Deron Williams sweepstakes Tuesday.
Yet, Nash ultimately decided that the chance to team with Bryant, Gasol and Bynum, the three-year deal he had been hoping for, and the ability to keep a West Coast base near his children could not be passed up.
Ironically, though, Nash said just last week in a radio interview with ESPN NewYork 98.7′s Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco that it would be difficult on some levels to join Miami after the Heat just won the championship or sign with the Lakers after all their playoff battles the past eight years.
“The truth is I’m a bit old school,” Nash said in the June 25 interview. “For me, it would be hard to put on a Lakers jersey. That’s just the way it is. You play against them so many times in the playoffs, and I just use them as an example, and I have the utmost respect for them and their organization.
“I kind of have that tendency (to try to beat the best teams), so it is strange, but as a free agent you’re free to go where you want, so I’d have to consider everything regardless of the past or the future.”
It had been anticipated that Phoenix would offer Nash a new two-year deal worth at least $20 million, but the Arizona Republic reported Friday night that the Suns “do not appear willing to meet (Nash’s) wish for a three-year deal.” On draft night last week, Suns officials immediately began fighting the perception that they selected North Carolina point guardKendall Marshall with the 13th pick as the first step in dealing with Nash’s eventual departure.
Nash earned nearly $12 million last season and averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists for a team that, with no 20-point scorer, nearly snagged the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The most difficult aspect of his decision, sources said, was turning down Toronto, which made the biggest financial offer to Nash in hopes of convincing Canada’s best player ever to come north of the border and re-establish the Raptors as a playoff team in addition to serve his new role as general manager of the Canadian men’s national team.
Sources told ESPN.com that Nash will try to convince longtime teammate Grant Hill, one of his closest friends in the game, to join him with the Lakers. ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher reported over the weekend the Lakers were one of four teams (along with Toronto, New York and Phoenix) in the running for Hill after the 39-year-old’s recent trip to Germany to undergo the same platelet-enrichment treatment on his knee that Bryant credited for his rejuvenated knee last season.
Lakers guard Steve Blake, who will back up Nash at the point, was excited about the acquisition.
“I think it’s great!” Blake told ESPNLosAngeles.com via text message on Wednesday. “I look forward to playing with him.”
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne, ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin and The Associated Press was used in this report.
“Pau’s got to be more assertive,” Bryant said. “He’s the guy out there that we need. When he’s getting the ball he’s looking to pass. He’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to shoot the ball. He’s got to drive the ball to the basket and he will in the next game.”
Gasol didn’t attempt a field goal in the fourth quarter and passed up perhaps his best look of the quarter with 33.9 seconds left with the game tied at 98. He threw a soft pass toKevin Durant, who hit a 3-pointer to put the Thunder up 101-98 with 13.7 seconds left. Oklahoma City now takes a 3-1 series lead back home for Game 5 on Monday.
“It was just a bad read,” Bryant said of Gasol’s turnover. “It was just a bad read on Pau’s part. It happens.”
What can’t happen in Bryant’s eyes, however, is Gasol being passive on offense when Oklahoma City’s defense keys in on him and Andrew Bynum.
“He’s just looking to swing the ball too much, he’s just got to shoot it,” Bryant said of Gasol. “We played pretty much the same way the entire game. The second half what they did was front Andrew, so when they front Andrew and in the fourth quarter they crowd me, the other guys have to be more aggressive, simple as that.”
After the game, Gasol had no excuse for his key turnover but made it clear that it wasn’t the difference in the game.
“It’s definitely one play, one mistake, but there was a lot of mistakes in that fourth quarter and a lot of mistakes during the game,” Gasol said. “Obviously if I could’ve gone back, maybe I could’ve shot it, and I would’ve. But it’s one play — obviously at a critical time — but I don’t feel like we lost the game on one turnover. There’s plenty of bad plays or mistakes in the fourth.”
Although Gasol would like to be more assertive on offense, he said he was simply trying to make the best play at the end of the game by finding the open player.
“If you look, I didn’t take a shot the whole fourth quarter,” Gasol said. “That’s a reality, too. I always try to make the right play, I try to get in the lane, I saw the defense collapse on me and I thought I had a good look to [Metta World Peace] open at the 3-point line. It’s a play that I made a bunch of times. But obviously his length helped him get that steal. I could’ve shot it. I could’ve kept dribbling and maybe posted up. I could’ve done something else. But I’m a guy that makes pretty good reads out there.”
World Peace did his best to take the blame for Gasol’s turnover after the game.
“I support him,” World Peace said. “I’ll take the blame for that. Maybe I should’ve cut. He saw me open, I should’ve cut. It’s my fault.”
While Gasol didn’t attempt a shot in the final period, Bryant was 2-for-10, missing both of his 3-point attempts. Bryant said the shots he took late in the game were out of necessity with his teammates, Gasol in particular, not being aggressive enough.
“The shots that I took were tough shots,” Bryant said. “I was forced to take tough shots and they didn’t fall for me tonight. I made a couple, I felt like I got fouled on a couple and didn’t get the whistle but still they were tough looks. So either we have to free myself up to get better looks in the fourth quarter or other guys have to be aggressive, one or the other.”
Gasol, who has had to take a diminished role offensively this season behind Bryant and Bynum, said he would like to be more aggressive but simply didn’t have any looks in the final quarter except for the one he wished he wouldn’t have passed up.
“I am unselfish, sometimes that kind of plays against me,” Gasol said. “But no looks, I really didn’t have no looks all quarter long. That was a look that I had but unfortunately I made a mistake.”
Ty Lawson scored 32 points, fellow spark plug Corey Brewer added 18 and the free-wheeling, too-young-to-scare Nuggets forced a Game 7 in their first-round playoff series with a dominating 113-96 win Thursday night.
“This is the biggest game he’s ever played in, and Saturday will be even bigger,” Nuggets coach George Karl said of Lawson, whose 32 points were a career playoff high.
The decisive game is Saturday night at Staples Center, Denver’s first all-or-nothing showdown since losing to Utah in Game 7 of the 1994 Western Conference semifinals. But it would be a mistake to think the young team will cave under the pressure of a win-or-go-home scenario.
The Nuggets have not only held their own against the Lakers, but they have made them look old, not experienced.
Kobe Bryant followed his 43-point outburst in Game 5 with 31 points in 3 1/2 quarters despite a sour stomach that he said left his hotel room “looking like a scene from ‘The Exorcist,’” and that prevented him from attending the Lakers’ morning shootaround and forced him to take intravenous fluids all day.
Bryant’s teammates felt even worse — for letting him down, especially fellow starsAndrew Bynum, who made just four of 11 shots for 11 points, and Pau Gasol, who was 1-for-10 for three points with three rebounds.
Asked whether he felt his teammates had matched his heart, Bryant retorted, “No, of course they didn’t.”"We didn’t step up and meet [the Nuggets'] energy,” Bryant said, and by “we” he meant Bynum and Gasol. “They know that. I expect them to come out Game 7, and play with a sense of urgency and a sense of desperation that wasn’t there the last two games.”
If not, the Lakers will be hitting the links next week instead of the boards.
“Kobe being dehydrated and all that and sick as a dog, coming out and trying to will us to a win, it’s disappointing to watch him give that type of effort … and we don’t get it from everybody,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “Our second- and third-best players are Drew and Pau, and the reality is both of those guys got to play better in order for us to win.”
Bryant said he was eager for Metta World Peace‘s return to the lineup Saturday night. The fiery forward served the final game of his seven-game suspension for elbowing Oklahoma City’s James Harden in the head last month. He’s been practicing with the Lakers but left the arena before games.
“I expect him to come out and play with the tenacity that he’s known for,” Bryant said. “He’s the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard and play with a sense of urgency and play with no fear. So, I’m looking forward to having him by my side again.”
If that was another shot at Bynum and Gasol, so be it. Bryant was loud and clear over his disgust with their lack of effort, energy and effectiveness.
“I talked with Pau a little bit after the game; I’ll speak with Andrew, too,” about performing better both physically and mentally in Game 7, Bryant said.
Bryant took a seat for good with Los Angeles down 101-73 with 7:52 remaining.
The younger but deeper Nuggets have won three of four since dropping the first two games in Los Angeles, and they did it by once again outrunning and outgunning their more talented counterparts who prefer a half-court game and not the frenetic pace and pickup-game style employed by the Nuggets’ greenhorns, who are on their second major makeover in 15 months.
The Nuggets got another great game from rookie Kenneth Faried, who provided even more energy as well as 15 points and 11 rebounds. Danilo Gallinari and Andre Miller each had 12 points for Denver, which led 90-68 heading into the fourth quarter.
Brewer iced this one by scoring 11 straight points for Denver to start the fourth quarter, an array of dunks and jumpers that gave the Nuggets their biggest lead at 101-73, and forced the Lakers to throw in the towel and try to rest up Bryant, Bynum and Gasol for Game 7.
Bryant finished the first half with 19 points, but he started out slowly and so did the Lakers, who fell behind 13-0 before Bryant scored more than 3 1/2 minutes into the game.
“They blitzkrieged us at the start of the game,” Bryant said.
Lawson hit all four of his 3s as the Nuggets jumped to a 23-8 lead.
“After I hit my first shot, that’s all I needed was a little confidence,” said Lawson, who hit 13 of 18 shots 24 hours after flying in his shooting coach, Las Vegas-based Ivory Manning, to fix a flaw in his mechanics.
Lawson also scored 19 points in the first half, his basket at the halftime buzzer giving Denver a 54-45 lead after its 15-point cushion had been trimmed to four on Gasol’s only basket, a hook shot that brought the Lakers within 47-43.
Bryant was lumbering a bit on defense, where he got away with several grabs in the first half. In the opening minutes of the third quarter, he was whistled for a flagrant foul after smacking Faried in the head while trying to prevent a fast-break basket.
Although Bryant explained afterward he was going for the ball, and expressed regret over the foul and thanks that Faried wasn’t hurt, the hard foul fired up the Pepsi Center crowd, as well as the Nuggets.
It came during Denver’s 9-0 run to start the second half, a spurt that doubled its nine-point halftime lead in less than 3 minutes and sapped whatever energy the Lakers had left.
Before long, the building was rocking in a blowout as Lawson scored basket after acrobatic basket and the “Beat L.A.!” chants grew ever louder.
Lawson’s 3-pointer from the top of the circle at 1:22 made it 90-65.
Bynum irked the Nuggets by saying on the eve of Game 5 that “close-out games are actually kind of easy,” and the Nuggets found more motivation in something written in the Lakers’ locker room after the game Tuesday night. Scribbled on the grease board was this message: “Flight. 3 pm. Pack for 3 games.”
Brown explained that it only made sense to pack for an extended trip because the next round will start in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder have the home court to open the conference semifinals. But he denied the Lakers were victims of overconfidence, just poor execution.
Indeed, it’s the Nuggets who are walking tall now.
“They played with confidence and swag,” Bynum said.
Two things that the Lakers have misplaced.
Earlier Thursday, Nuggets reserve C Chris “Birdman” Andersen was excused indefinitely from all team-related activities after Douglas County sheriff’s deputies searched his home as part of an investigation by the department’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit. … Lawson’s previous playoff best was 27 points against the Thunder on April 25, 2011. His career high is 37 points.