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NBA PM: Russell, Young Drama Dominates Headlines

The drama between D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young is dominating NBA headlines today. Here’s what we know.

Alex Kennedy

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Russell, Young Drama Dominating Headlines

The Warriors have won 67 of 74 games this season!

The Spurs are right behind them at 62-12 and are always scary come playoff time!

The Thunder have two superstars, a healthy team and are flying under the radar!

The Cavaliers – despite some drama – could potentially return to the NBA Finals!

Both conferences have interesting races for the final playoff seeds!

However, instead of focusing on all of that fun, basketball-related stuff, we’re talking about D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Iggy Azalea and stupid decisions. Twenty-four hours ago, I would’ve laughed if you told me today’s NBA PM would be about Swaggy P, Iggy and Russell. But here we are.

By now, you’ve surely heard the news that Russell recorded video of Young admitting to sleeping with other women (cheating on Azalea) and it somehow leaked to the internet.

ESPN first broke the story, revealing that the Lakers have isolated Russell from the rest of the team – especially Young. The 20-year-old point guard even had security escorting him out of the team’s facility today.

Russell refused to talk to reporters after practice. However, he and Young will address the media prior to tonight’s game against the Miami HEAT, according to the Lakers.

Byron Scott did address the media, but wouldn’t say much about the topic. He referred to it as an “internal matter” and tried to shut down any questions that weren’t related to tonight’s game.

“It’s an internal problem and we’ll handle it in house,” Scott said, according to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. “If you want to ask me about the Miami game we’re playing tonight, you can ask me. If not, this interview is basically over.

“The only thing I’m disappointed about is it got out. We’re a family and we try to keep everything in house. That’s the only thing I’m disappointed [about].”

League sources told Basketball Insiders that Russell recorded the video as a prank, but somehow it got leaked when his Snapchat account was hacked. Many have rolled their eyes at this (and understandably so) since athletes often scream, “HACKER!” in these situations to do damage control and blame others for their mistakes. But that’s what sources have said, and Russell has yet to tell his side of the story publicly.

There are also unanswered questions such as why he was recording the video in the first place, how Snapchat is related since the video in question is far too long for a Snapchat post and who hacked the Lakers rookie (if that is, indeed, true). Also, if he was actually hacked, why is this the only video that has surfaced?

There are more questions than answers right now and plenty of drama, but that’s always the case in Los Angeles soap operas and crazy reality shows, right?

The big questions are: How will this affect Russell’s standing with his teammates? Does this lead to Russell being traded (if the whole team is against him) or Young being dealt (if he’s the only one holding a grudge)? Will free agents not want to go to the Lakers because they see all of this drama and immature behavior, not to mention they may not trust Russell as a teammate?

As of right now, he’s needing security and nobody is talking to him, so this situation is clearly serious and it seems the Lakers are protecting him from a beating.

While cheating is obviously wrong and Young made mistakes here too, other players from around the NBA are coming down hard on Russell since he recorded Young without his permission and betrayed him (knowingly or not). Other players from rival teams are putting themselves in Young’s shoes and saying that they wouldn’t want any private conversation – about cheating or any other sensitive subject, for that matter – shared without their knowledge. And that’s completely understandable. There’s a reason it’s illegal to record people without their permission in some states.

Many NBA players from around the NBA who spoke anonymously told Basketball Insiders some form of, “You never do that to a teammate. Ever.”

Players take this very seriously. In fact, former NBA player Stephen Jackson was on ESPN earlier today and blasted Russell.

“Snitches get stitches, man,” Jackson said on SportsCenter. “Snitches get stitches; that’s the old rule. … You don’t expect this from your teammate. It’s a new day in basketball and I don’t understand.”

This is how upset some players are with Russell right now. And that’s Jackson, who is extremely removed from the situation. Imagine you’re Young, whose engagement could potentially be ruined. Yes, he made BIG mistakes and must be held accountable, but he’s reportedly furious with Russell. According to ESPN, other Laker players haven’t been supportive either, as there are reports that Russell has been eating alone and players walk away when he enters the room. He has been an outcast since this video surfaced.

The fact that Russell has acted immature for much of the season doesn’t help. Just last month, before Russell turned 20, Coach Scott called attention to his behavior.

“[B]eing at 19 years old, I always take that into consideration,” Scott told Mark Medina about Russell. “Every time I chastise him about something or get mad at him about something, I go back [to] that he’s 19. … I have to remind myself of that that he’s still a kid and still learning an still figuring out what this league is all about. [I tell him], ‘You’re 19 but sometimes I think you’re 14.’”

This is just the start of a messy situation that belongs in a high school rather than one of the NBA’s most successful franchises. Much more is surely to come, starting when Russell and Young speak to the media tonight.

UPDATE: Nick Young gave a statement to the media, saying that he didn’t want to discuss his personal life. He took no questions and seemed very shaken up:

D’Angelo Russell spoke about the situation, expressing remorse and confusion about the situation. Here’s a video of his remarks:

Russell also spoke to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, saying the following:

“I am sick,” Russell told The Vertical by phone on his drive to the Staples Center on Wednesday. “I am sorry about recording the video. I can’t repeat myself enough on that: I am sorry I recorded that video. I feel horrible. I wish this never happened.

“Honestly, I have no idea [how it got out]. Me and Nick, that’s our friendship: We play around a lot. Anyone who knows him and knows me, they know that about us. But I apologize for recording that video. I never intentionally wanted to hurt anyone. I never wanted what was said in there to get out. It was my fault that it did, but that was never intentional.

“The thing is, we record ourselves doing dumb stuff all the time,” Russell told The Vertical. “On the road or home, wherever. We go back and watch what we did and said and laugh at ourselves. I guess I just never thought that these pranks we pull on ourselves could have bigger consequences. That was a big lesson I learned.

“I’ve said to myself over and over: What could anyone possibly gain by intentionally doing something that could hurt someone else’s relationship? I never wanted to hurt anyone. I’m sorry for it.”

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role

The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.

James Blancarte

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San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.

The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.

On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.

Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.

“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .

Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.

Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.

“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.

In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.

Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.

“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”

If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.

Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.

“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”

After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.

Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.

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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders

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The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies

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It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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