Tyronn Lue Will Coach in Los Angeles After All (for the Clippers)

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers are close to hiring Tyronn Lue, the former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach, as a top assistant to Coach Doc Rivers, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.

In May, Lue was widely billed as the leading candidate to take over as head coach of the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers before talks abruptly collapsed over contract terms.

[Read more: Tyronn Lue Is Out of the Hunt for the Lakers’ Next Coach]

Lue wanted a longer deal with the Lakers that extended beyond the remaining three seasons on James’s contract, given that Lue won a championship in 2016 in his first season coaching the Cavaliers. The Lakers’ offer to Lue topped out at three years and just shy of $20 million before the team moved on and hired Frank Vogel, the former Indiana Pacers coach, to succeed Luke Walton. Two former Nets head coaches, Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins, joined Vogel as high-profile assistants.

Lakers management’s insistence on picking the team’s assistant coaches was another factor in the collapse of Lue’s talks. Vogel and Kidd were the Lakers’ prime targets for those roles if Lue had become head coach.

The Clippers have had a big off-season in their quest to meaningfully narrow the intracity gap with the Lakers. A blockbuster trade in July to acquire the All-Star swingman Paul George from Oklahoma City enabled them to clinch the free-agent signing of Kawhi Leonard, just weeks after he led the Toronto Raptors to their first championship.

The Clippers followed up that superstar swoop by unveiling plans for a new arena and entertainment complex in Inglewood, Calif., by 2024 and are now seeking to finalize the hiring of Lue to add more star power to their bench.

After stints on Rivers’s staffs in Boston and with the Clippers, Lue was hired by the Cavaliers as an associate coach to work under the newcomer David Blatt in June 2014. He was promoted to head coach within a season and a half when the Cavaliers, despite an Eastern Conference-leading record of 30-11, fired Blatt in January 2016.

The Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors to win the championship in 2016, as the first team in N.B.A. finals history to overturn a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The team then reached the finals against the Warriors in the next two seasons before James left for the Lakers in free agency last summer. Cleveland fired Lue after an 0-6 start to the 2018-19 season.

Lue, 42, posted a 128-77 record in two and a half seasons as James’s coach in Cleveland — and he ranks as one of two just coaches, along with Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, to team with James for a championship.

As a player, Lue was a first-round draft choice out of Nebraska who spent his first three N.B.A. seasons with the Lakers, winning two championship rings as a lightly used reserve guard in 2000 and 2001.

The Clippers and Lakers are scheduled to play each other on Oct. 22, opening night of the 2019-20 season at their shared home of Staples Center. The Lakers’ off-season business was highlighted by a trade with New Orleans to acquire the All-Star big man Anthony Davis and the free-agent signing of the former All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.

Marc Stein is a sports reporter specializing in N.B.A. coverage, with occasional forays into soccer and tennis. He spent nearly 15 years at ESPN before coming to The Times. @TheSteinLine Facebook

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Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi Among 5 Players Suspended for W.N.B.A. Fight

Brittney Griner was one of five W.N.B.A. players suspended Tuesday for their roles in a fight during a game between the Phoenix Mercury and the Dallas Wings on Saturday.

Griner, a six-time All-Star center with the Mercury, received the longest suspension — three games. She later suggested to reporters that she was being targeted unfairly by referees and opposing players because of her size and her prominence as one of the league’s best-known players.

The fight began with more than six minutes left in Saturday’s game in Phoenix, as Griner tangled with Dallas’s Kristine Anigwe for a rebound. Anigwe appeared to yank on Griner’s arm and then swing a hand at Griner’s head. Both players squared up as their fight moved toward the Phoenix bench.

As Anigwe retreated down the sideline, Griner gave chase, swinging her fists, even as she was restrained first by a teammate and then by an official. Multiple players from both teams, including some who were not in the game at the time, became involved in a swarm of pushing and shoving at the scorer’s table.

The Wings’ Anigwe and Kayla Thornton were suspended for two games. The league, in announcing the punishment, said Griner’s penalty was for “throwing punches, escalating the incident, and pushing Thornton’s face with an open hand.”

Anigwe was suspended “for instigating the initial altercation and for taking an openhanded swing at Griner,” the league said. Thornton’s suspension was for “escalating the altercation.”

Diana Taurasi of the Mercury and Kaela Davis of the Wings got one game each for leaving the bench area. Taurasi was not playing in the game because of an injury.

All five of those players, plus Briann January of the Mercury, were ejected from the game. The Wings, who trailed by 6 points at the time of the fight, went on to win, 80-77.

Griner did not speak with reporters after the game but told The Arizona Republic on Monday that she was frustrated with the league. “I’m not doing it for the money because we don’t make enough, and they want to fine me for every little thing,” Griner said. “I’m getting techs for protecting myself in games and flagrants because they always only see me.” At 6-foot-9, Griner stands out on any court.

Her teammate Taurasi told The Republic: “I went on the court to make sure my teammate didn’t get jumped. She got punched in the face and then someone ran on her back and threw punches at her face. I would do that 100 times out of 100 times.”

“I mean, B.G. pretty much gets beat up every single game,” Taurasi told The Athletic. “The minute she steps on the floor, she basically gets physically abused, and a person can just take so much.”

Griner was suspended for seven games in 2015 after she and her wife at the time, Glory Johnson, fought at their house. Griner agreed to complete six months of domestic violence counseling. Johnson, also a W.N.B.A. player, was suspended for seven games as well.

The Mercury and the Wings are both struggling this year, sitting in fifth and sixth in the six-team Western Division.

Victor Mather covers every sport, no matter how small.  

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Stormy Daniels Reacts to Columbus Officers' Punishment for Strip Club Bust

Stormy Daniels is getting a taste of justice after the Ohio cops who busted her at a strip club last year are now facing some consequences … but she ain’t done with them yet.

The ex-adult film star was beaming Friday night as she strolled through LAX — without any makeup at that — as she reacted to the news that five of the officers who went undercover and arrested her at a strip joint in Columbus will be reprimanded by their department.

When a pap asks how she feels about the update a year later — she actually corrects him with a more precise time frame (387 days, to be exact) … so yeah, she’s definitely been keeping tabs on the case.

She also doubles down on what’s come to light about the arrest since it went down — that it never should’ve happened, and it was completely bogus. Stormy was a guest at the venue she was performing at — she was just booked for a special appearance — and the no touching law the Columbus cops tried nabbing her on only applies to regular employees.

The charges were dropped, and since then … Stormy also sued some of those officers, and she tells the photog here that the lawsuit’s still on. In the filing, she claimed the cops targeted her for speaking out against Trump … alleging the arrest was purely political.

She obviously wants damages, but funny enough … there’s one other thing they could give her that might smooth things over.

As for DT, her former attorney Michael Avenatti and the upcoming presidential election — well, she’s got some thoughts on all of the above. Check it out … classic Stormy.

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Lamar Odom Wants To ‘Rebuild’ His Relationship With The Kardashians!

Lamar Odom wants to improve his relationship with his ex-wife Khloé Kardashian‘s family.

On Tuesday, the basketball player spoke to TMZ Live about his new motivational speaking job with company MicDrop.

The athlete also discussed his reality TV experience — where he appeared on Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Khloé & Lamar with his former flame.

Overall, he has zero regrets about his famous past, and even hopes to “rebuild” his bond with the K-brood.

The NBA star exclaimed:

“Doing reality TV and being married to Khloé, besides having children and besides me doing this motivational speaking that I’m going to start doing, that was the most memorable part and the best part of my adulthood. So, there’s nothing I regret about that.. And, hopefully, me going to public speaking can even bring me closer to the Kardashians and help me rebuild that bridge.”

After getting married in 2009, the Revenge Body host initially filed for divorce in December 2013. However, after Odom was hospitalized following an overdose at a Nevada brothel, Kardashian withdrew her petition until their divorce was finalized in December 2016.

In the interview, the baller also opened up about how he “failed as a father,” but hopes his new gig will bring his family (including 21-year-old daughter Destiny and 17-year-old son Lamar Jr. — whom he shares with ex Liza Morales) closer together.

“This is a great way for me to make up the time I lost with them and help them get better as well.”

WATCH a clip of his interview (below):

As we reported in May, while appearing on PodcastOne‘s Divorce Sucks With Laura Wasser, Khloé explained her mentality during the couple’s on-again, off-again divorce proceedings.

The 35-year-old recalled:

“He OD’ed during the divorce and I was his next of kin, even though it was still, the divorce was still—it was on the judge’s desk… It was like two years, or like a year or two of us trying to get the divorce going and then this happened… And then we paused the divorce, not for any romantic reasons but I wanted to be able to help take care of him and make sure that he would be okay again.”

According to KoKo, when Lamar woke up from his coma, the first thing he said was, “Hey babe.”

“I was like, ‘Oh God. What year does he think this is?’ I remember I was like, ‘Oh no. What did I do?!’ Because I was like, ‘Does he know?… And then he went right back to sleep because he was in a coma, woke up, saw me and I might’ve put him back into a coma I don’t know, he probably was terrified.’”

That same month, Odom told People he has deep regrets with how things turned out with his marriage to Khloé, explaining:

“I wish I could have been more of a man. It still bothers me to this day. But regret is something we have to learn to live with.”

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Raptors’ Kyle Lowry has surgery on thumb injured in playoffs

Kyle Lowry has undergone surgery to repair damaged ligaments in his left thumb, an injury he played through during the last two rounds of Toronto’s run to the NBA championship.

The Raptors said Friday that Lowry had the surgery in New York at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

The All-Star point guard was hurt May 12 during Game 7 of a victory over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He continued to play and helped Toronto win its first championship title when he finished with 26 points and 10 assists in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Lowry averaged 15 points and 6.6 assists in 24 post-season games. The Raptors also announced Friday they have signed guard Matt Thomas.

The six-foot-five, 190-pound Thomas has spent the past two years playing professionally in Spain. He averaged 12 points last season with Valencia Basket, shooting 51.4 per cent from the field and 48.1 per cent from three-point range to help the team capture the 2019 EuroCup title.

A native of Decatur, Ill., Thomas, 24, played four NCAA seasons at Iowa State (2013-17).

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Kyrie Irving Commits to Brooklyn, Cementing Nets as Kings of New York

Here comes the cavalry in Brooklyn.

The Nets, after years of methodical moves to build out their roster and undo a history of ill-advised trades, made a big splash at the start of N.B.A. free agency on Sunday by agreeing to terms with Kyrie Irving, a six-time All-Star point guard, on a four-year, $142 million contract. Kevin Durant will be coming in tow, on a four-year, $164 million deal, creating what should be one of the best duos in the league once Durant returns from injury.

The Nets, who reached the playoffs last season for the first time since 2015, continued reshaping their roster when DeAndre Jordan, a center known for his rebounding, agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract, his agent told ESPN.

[After much speculation, Kevin Durant agreed to sign with the Nets.]

Durant ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in the N.B.A. finals about three weeks ago and is likely to miss all of the 2019-20 season. But once he returns, the Nets’ roster has the potential to be the finest in franchise history.

In agreeing to sign Irving, 27, who grew up in West Orange, N.J., the Nets are moving on from D’Angelo Russell, the 23-year-old point guard who stepped up to become an All-Star last season. Russell averaged a team-best 21.1 points a game, leading one of the most surprising teams in the Eastern Conference to a sixth seed in the playoffs. Coming off a three-year stretch as one of the worst teams in the N.B.A., the Nets went 42-40 in the regular season before pushing the Philadelphia 76ers in a highly entertaining first-round playoff series.

Under General Manager Sean Marks and Coach Kenny Atkinson, the Nets were able to engineer their stunning turnaround by developing a roster around young players with promise — a necessity after the previous front office, in 2013, sent a host of first-round draft picks to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The Nets essentially mortgaged a considerable amount of their future for one trip to the conference semifinals, in 2014.

Marks and Atkinson managed to clean up that mess, which was no small feat, and now they are taking a calculated risk by handing the keys of the franchise to one of the league’s more mercurial stars.

Irving authored one of the most iconic moments in playoff history: a last-minute 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 N.B.A. finals that toppled the Warriors and lifted the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first and only championship. He celebrated that triumph with LeBron James, with whom he had formed one of the league’s most fearsome duos.

But just over a year later, with the goal of getting out of James’s shadow, Irving forced his way out of Cleveland. The Cavaliers acquiesced to his request for a trade and he ended up in Boston, where the Celtics were coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference finals and appeared primed for championship contention with Irving in the fold.

The Celtics advanced to the conference finals in 2018, but they did so without Irving, who missed the playoffs because of an injury. His time in Boston then began to crumble last season as his teammates and coaches bore witness to his many sides: the ups and the moody downs, his on-court wizardry too often offset by an inability (or perhaps an unwillingness) to lead younger teammates.

He put up terrific numbers last season, averaging 23.8 points, 6.9 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. But the Celtics lacked chemistry, and Irving struggled in nine playoff games, averaging 21.3 points while shooting just 38.5 percent from the field. In the middle of an abysmal series against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Irving looked and sounded as obstinate as ever, freezing out his teammates in blowout losses before professing his greatness in news conferences.

“Who cares?” he said when he was asked about his poor shooting. “I’m a basketball player.”

A few days later, in a 25-point loss to the Bucks that closed out the Celtics’ season, Irving shot just 6 of 21 from the field. Months after pledging his loyalty to the Celtics at a fan event — “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here next summer,” he said at the time — he was ready to move on, again.

The Nets, of course, are willing to bet on the Kyrie Experience, in large part because of his enormous talent. He is a top-flight player, and for a franchise that has been eager to gain more of a foothold in the New York market since moving to Brooklyn in 2012, the addition of Irving is a huge boost.

It remains to be seen, though, how Irving will mesh with a new team. He is not a simple man — an athlete who has said that he loathes the spotlight, even as he continues to moonlight as an actor in films and as a well-compensated pitchman for sneakers and soft drinks.

Now, he is bound for the Nets and his next role. The show goes on.

Sopan Deb contributed reporting.

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Marc Gasol Turns Memphis into Jurassic Park South

TORONTO — Jason Peters, the former boys’ basketball coach at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, has been having friends over to watch the N.B.A. finals on a giant projection screen on his porch. He used to organize these types of watch parties when the Grizzlies were in the playoffs. But in the wake of another suboptimal season, countless Memphians like Peters are rooting for another team this spring: the Toronto Raptors.

In fact, there may be no greater base of support for the Raptors outside Canada than in Memphis, a city that remains invested in the success of Marc Gasol, the Raptors’ starting center. Gasol is one win from an N.B.A. championship, and Memphis is ready to celebrate with him.

“He’d spent so much of his life here,” Peters, 49, said in a telephone interview. “It almost feels as if we sent him off to college — or out into the real world to see how he does.”

The Raptors, who acquired Gasol from the Grizzlies in a midseason trade, have a three-games-to-one lead on the Golden State Warriors ahead of Game 5 on Monday night, and Gasol has played a role that looks familiar to Grizzlies fans: rebounding and defending, gritting and grinding. In the finals, he is averaging 13 points and 6.8 rebounds a game as a member of Kawhi Leonard’s supporting cast. To those watching the games on Peters’s porch, only Gasol’s uniform seems strange.

“Very weird,” Peters said. “But then you see him playing with Kawhi, and it looks pretty good.”

For nearly 11 seasons, Gasol was synonymous with the Grizzlies. He helped lead them to seven straight postseason appearances, including a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2013 with the other members of the team’s celebrated core: Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph.

But Gasol’s roots in Memphis run deep. After spending his childhood in Spain, he moved to Memphis as a teenager when his older brother, Pau, was starring for the Grizzlies. When his parents were out of town and Pau was on the road with the Grizzlies, Marc would sometimes stay with Peters, his high school coach, who would chauffeur him around in his 1982 BMW 318i, a pint-size sedan that was not designed for a 7-foot, 300-pound man-child. Gasol had to poke his head through the sunroof.

Gasol eventually developed into enough of a prospect that, at age 24, after several seasons in Spain, he returned to Memphis to join the Grizzlies. He soon established himself as the type of roll-up-your-sleeves player whom Memphians adore. And given his background, they considered him one of their own.

“He represents a lot of what the city is about: the hard work, the toughness,” said Jonnie West, a high school teammate who now works as the Warriors’ director of basketball operations.

Beyond basketball, Gasol had an actual presence in the city, where everyone knew him simply as Marc. He made regular appearances at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. He introduced his wife to “Bongo Lady,” one of the team’s most colorful fans. He bonded with the deli guys at Fresh Market. Gasol also noted in an interview last week that his son had been born in Memphis.

“So he’s a true Memphian all the way,” Gasol said.

And the Grizzlies were terrifically exciting — until they were not. As the losses mounted this season, it became clear that the team would need to embark on a rebuild. Gasol wanted to play for a contender, and the team’s front office sought to honor that wish. So, ahead of February’s trade deadline, the Grizzlies sent him north.

“He’s got an opportunity to get a ring,” Jason Wexler, the Grizzlies’ president, said in a telephone interview, “and I’m thrilled for him to go get a ring.”

At the time of the trade, no player in Grizzlies history had scored more points, grabbed more rebounds, blocked more shots or supplied more minutes. Jason Rosselot, a season-ticket holder since the Grizzlies arrived in Memphis in 2001, has one of Gasol’s All-Star jerseys hanging on his bedroom wall. Like Peters and so many others, he is watching the finals with interest.

“The Raptors really do seem like a perfect fit for him,” Rosselot said.

It is a rare thing for fans to continue rooting so hard for a star after he leaves. Cleveland burned LeBron James’s jersey when he took his talents to South Beach. Oklahoma City was heartbroken when Kevin Durant bolted for Golden State, with devastation quickly shifting to mockery. San Antonio drowned Leonard in a tidal wave of boos when he returned with the Raptors.

Some Memphians want to throw Gasol a parade.

“Absolutely,” said Malenda Meacham, the longtime Grizzlies fan known as Bongo Lady for her bongo-playing theatrics at home games. “Marc has always been Memphis to me. But I really want the Raptors to win.”

Still, there was a period of adjustment for all parties involved. After the trade, Meacham was so devastated about the direction of the Gasol-free Grizzlies that she boycotted games. And when Gasol made his post-trade debut for the Raptors, Meacham found it disconcerting to watch on television.

“Oh, it didn’t feel right,” she said. “And I felt terrible for Marc, because the team was doing their little warm-up thing, and he was just standing there not knowing what to do. I was just like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t need to be there. He needs to come back home.’”

But Gasol stayed, of course, and found his niche as a physical post presence — one who has been increasingly important for the Raptors in the postseason against a smorgasbord of now-vanquished behemoths like Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Memphis fans might have been more troubled by Gasol’s departure had he gone to a different team. But the Raptors, who are not considered rivals, were uniquely palatable: Gasol was not exactly bound for a dynastic power. He was going from one perennial striver to another, with a chance of helping the Raptors to their first title.

“I’m so sick of the Warriors,” Bongo Lady said.

For his part, Gasol said he had been keeping in touch with Conley, Randolph and Allen throughout the Raptors’ playoff run. He thinks of his former teammates often.

“Those guys are here with me,” Gasol said. “I am who I am as a player because I played with those guys.”

And he is who he is as a person, he said, in large part because of the years that he spent in Memphis.

“I got there as a 16-year-old teenager and left as a 34-year-old man and a father,” he said. “You build relationships with people that go beyond just being a player.”

He added: “I do miss Bongo Lady a little bit. She’s one of a kind. You know she’s a judge, right?”

Meacham, who practices family law and works as a part-time judge, had shoulder surgery last week. She said her surgeon — a fellow Grizzlies fan — suspected the injury was bongo related. (“Because of the way I flail around,” she said.) But she expects to be “bongo ready” by the start of next season, she said.

In the meantime, Meacham is taking some time off from work to recover at home. She has kept herself occupied by watching the Raptors chase a championship, which is an activity she had never anticipated enjoying quite so much.

“I’m staying up late and yelling at the TV,” said Meacham, who just wants to see her old friend do well — same as ever.

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5-star recruit RJ Hampton spurns NCAA to go pro in New Zealand

RJ Hampton’s announcement Tuesday morning has the potential to affect much more than the 2019-20 college basketball season.

Hampton, a five-star recruit from Texas, turned down the likes of Duke, Kansas, Memphis and the rest of the NCAA to play professionally for the New Zealand Breakers of the Austalia-based NBL next season.

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