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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Basketball

Frank Vogel messes with Lakers reporters in funny video clip

Frank Vogel

Frank Vogel showed off a sense of humor in a funny video clip with Los Angeles Lakers reporters on Friday.

The Lakers had workouts on Friday as they prepare for the resumption of the NBA season in Orlando. Vogel, who is in his first season as the team’s head coach, spoke with reporters and had some fun with them. As you can see, he pretended to talk without making any noise, leading them to think there was an audio issue.

“I was just messing with you guys,” Vogel joked. “I was faking the mute. I was faking it.”

Who knew Vogel could have fun like that? Maybe having several months off and the lack of persistent pressure and questions about his team have reduced his stress level and revived the 47-year-old’s soul.

The Lakers were 49-14 when the season went on hiatus, which was the best record in the Western Conference. They are among the favorites to win the championship.

Gordon Hayward still having issues with his foot despite lengthy hiatus

Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward suffered his career-altering foot injury nearly three full years ago, but it still appears to be giving him problems after all this time.

Speaking with reporters on Friday, the Boston Celtics swingman said that the troublesome left foot was still bothering him despite the long layoff.

“I wish that I had an answer to why it is a little sore,” said Hayward, per Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com. “I think a lot of it relates to just the injury that I had. I’ve been training pretty much this whole time. Not full go obviously, since I haven’t had a court the whole time, but I have been trying to stay fit.

“I’ve been resting but at the same time not resting,” the former All-Star added. “Kind of like a maintenance type thing. Everything is definitely a lot better, there is no doubt about that. For sure, I’m feeling great, it’s just the foot still is a little sore. It is what it is.”

Hayward, 30, was having his best year since the injury, averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. But he missed 19 of Boston’s 64 games and managed soreness in the foot (plus other worrisome issues) all season.

While Hayward does have a $34.2 million player option for next season that he is widely expected to pick up, the Celtics may have to monitor his workload in Orlando closely, especially with the heightened risk of injury for all players.

Donovan Mitchell says things are ‘good’ with him and Rudy Gobert

Donovan Mitchell

Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell was openly unhappy with teammate Rudy Gobert over the way Gobert acted prior to testing positive for the coronavirus, but Mitchell insists things are fine between the two heading into the resumption of the season.

Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for the coronavirus, which led to the league and other major sports leagues shutting down. Mitchell tested positive later that day, and he was upset with Gobert for the cavalier attitude the center showed about the coronavirus prior to testing positive. Four months later, Mitchell says things are “good” between the two.

“To be honest with you, I understand that y’all got to ask this question. But you know, right now we’re good,” Mitchell told reporters on Thursday, per Sam Amick of The Athletic. “We’re going out there ready to hoop, um, and I think the biggest thing, you know, that, that kind of sucks was that it took away from the guys on the team, um, took (away) from what the guys on the team were trying to do, and I really wish that, as going forward, you know I think that will be, really, the primary focus, is just us jelling as a team.”

Mitchell was then asked why he chose to let the situation linger for so long rather than addressing it. He said he didn’t want to provide headline material by addressing the same issue over and over again. Mitchell said he only cared about his teammates knowing the truth.

“I wanted my teammates to know that this is how I feel,” he added. “There are moments when you’re just tired of continuing to hear over and over again, and I’m tired of addressing it, kind of going, ‘No, that’s not true’ and ‘No, this is not true’ because then you find yourself all over Twitter trying to call out people for no reason. So I just let it, and addressed it with my teammates.”

Gobert mocked concerns over the coronavirus before he realized he had contracted it. It’s unclear if he passed it on to Mitchell. In any event, the two players appear to have smoothed things over.

The Jazz are 41-23 and seeded fourth in the West.

Victor Oladipo opts out of NBA restart

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo is the latest player to opt out of participating in the NBA’s restarted season.

Oladipo is still working his way back from a ruptured quad he suffered in January 2019, and did not appear at full strength when he returned prior to the league shutdown. He told Shams Charania of The Athletic that he wanted to play, but did not feel comfortable due to the risks of the bubble and the danger of potential soft tissue injuries after so much time off.

“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo said. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”

Oladipo missed a full year with his injury. When he returned before the NBA shutdown, he averaged 13.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game in 13 games. He admitted that he was not all that close to full strength in those games, which likely helped account for his modest stats.

The 28-year-old has been working with personal therapist Luke Miller during the shutdown. While the Pacers guard looks and feels good, he’s simply not willing to risk all that hard work being for naught by playing in this environment after that much time off.

Oladipo’s Pacers are 39-26 and occupy the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. They managed to go 32-20 without him in the lineup this season, so they’ll hope they can find that form again in spite of his absence.

Gordon Hayward will leave NBA bubble in Orlando for birth of his child

Gordon Hayward

The Boston Celtics have a good chance to win the Eastern Conference when the NBA season resumes in Orlando, but they may end up being without a key player for a short stretch during the playoffs.

Gordon Hayward and his wife Robyn are expecting their fourth child in September. In a video conference with reporters on Friday, Hayward said he will leave the NBA’s “bubble” campus in Orlando when his wife goes into labor.

“It’s a pretty easy decision for me on that,” Hayward said, via John Karalis of MLive.com. “I’ve been at the birth of every one of my children and I think there are more important things in life. So we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

The NBA will host eight regular season games in Orlando before the playoffs tip off at some point in mid-August. The NBA Finals will take place in October.

Under the health and safety protocols in place for Orlando, players who leave the Orlando bubble have to quarantine for no less than four days when they return. The player can return to his team as soon as he has four negative tests for COVID-19. That means Hayward would miss the days he’s away from the team for the birth plus the four days upon returning, at minimum.

Obviously, the Celtics will understand. The birth of a child is more important than any basketball game, even if it is the playoffs. Plus, the Haywards are welcoming their first boy. Do you remember Gordon’s reaction when he found out the couple was having a third daughter? The man needs this.

Hayward is averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists through 45 games this season. Not having him in the playoffs would be a tough obstacle for the Celtics.

Kenny Smith says it’s ‘inevitable’ he will leave TNT for front office job

Kenny Smith

Kenny Smith has been working as an NBA studio analyst for more than two decades now, but many believe it is only a matter of time before he leaves for a coaching or front office job. Smith would agree.

In an interview with Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports this week, Smith said it is “inevitable” that he will one day be running a basketball operations department. He feels the relationships he has built and information he has received over the past 20 years could make him extremely valuable to an NBA franchise.

“It’s inevitable from a basketball standpoint I will be moving on. The consumption and production of information that I’ve received, the way I’m able to relay it, and the relationships, it’s inevitable,” Smith said. “It’s just inevitable … You’re around things. You’re privy to information for 20 years from runners to agents to general managers and owners that no one else has been privy to. No one else. Every team in the league has told me something they’ve told no one else.”

Smith, who is a staple with TNT’s incredibly popular “Inside the NBA” show, did not give a timeline of when he might leave the studio for a front office job. However, he hinted that it could be as soon as next season.

“But after this 22-game thing, then the dust will clear. Because everyone’s not really sure where they are,” Smith said. “They’re thinking, ‘Are we still where we were when we left off? Are we better? Do we have another chance since this is the start of a new season?’ Once that diminishes and goes away, my phone always rings. One day I’m going to answer and they’re going to answer back at the same time … Both parties will say yes.”

Smith has been linked to some high-profile head coaching jobs in the past, but it sounds like a job as a general manager interests him more. The 55-year-old spent 10 seasons in the NBA as a player and won two championships with the Houston Rockets. He has been working for TNT ever since he retired after the 1997 season.

There is obviously a ton of respect for Smith around the NBA, so no one would be surprised if he was hired as an executive or a coach.

5 NBA players with the most to prove in Orlando

Zion Williamson

An evaluation of an NBA player’s legacy is one of the most volatile aspects of the league, as in some cases, all it takes is a single game or shot to define an entire career. Every NBA player is looking to prove themselves whenever they step foot on the hardwood. However, there comes the point for specific players, where proving themselves becomes a necessity.

From former number one overall picks to potential league MVPs, here are the five players with the most to prove headed into Orlando.

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