The Rock May Have Motivated Kyle Kuzma and the Lakers to Knock Off the Nuggets

The Lakers have one of the youngest teams in the entire NBA. The average age of the players on the team is just a shade under 25, and while that should offer some hope for the future to all of the Lakers fans out there, it also indicates that the majority of the Lakers players still have a lot to learn—both on and off the basketball court.

To try and help them along in life, the Lakers have set up a series of “Genius Talks” this season that have featured high-profile people coming in and talking to the team. Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, and rapper Kendrick Lamar are just a few of the celebrities who have delivered motivational speeches to the team in recent months.

On Tuesday, it was Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson’s turn to do it. He met with Lakers players, coaches, and executives and shared his story with the team in an effort to motivate them. According to the Orange County Register, The Rock spoke about overcoming adversity and disappointment during his speech to the team.

Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and controlling owner/president Jeanie Buss were ecstatic to have The Rock in the building.

It looks like whatever The Rock said really lit a fire up under the Lakers, too. On Tuesday night, they took on the Nuggets, a team that had beaten them in their last two matchups, at the Staples Center. And despite blowing a double-digit lead in the first half and falling behind by 5 points heading into the fourth quarter, the Lakers rallied to knock off the Nuggets 112-103 to pull themselves back to within just five games of .500 on the season.

It’s impossible to say whether or not The Rock actually had anything to do with the performance the Lakers put forth against Denver. But after the game, Lakers head coach Luke Walton suggested The Rock’s words seemed to put a little extra fire into rookie Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma scored a team-high 26 points against the Nuggets, including 16 in the third quarter alone, despite playing with an ankle injury—and Walton told reporters The Rock’s speech may have had something to do with it.

“Maybe it was The Rock that motivated him to fight through the injury like that,” Walton said.

Kuzma didn’t say if that was actually the case. But he spoke with reporters as well and talked about how cool it was to have The Rock speak to the Lakers on Tuesday. Kuzma said that, like most people his age, he was a “big fan” of The Rock growing up, and he said he was amazed to learn The Rock is now a big fan of his as well. It seems The Rock saw the interview Kuzma did after scoring a career-high 38 points against the Rockets back in December, and he apparently told Kuzma he was impressed with it.

“He just loved my response to what I said,” Kuzma said. “He thought it was pretty cool, so that was pretty cool actually.”

The Rock may have had something to do with the Lakers playing so well against the Nuggets, but he might not deserve all of the credit. Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix met with the team this week as well. She spent time with the Lakers on Monday, and it sounds like she may have gotten the competitive juices flowing just like The Rock did. According to the Orange County Register, Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope challenged her to a race, which amused most of his teammates to no end.

“She was wearing jeans and untied Jordans and could probably still beat him in a race,” Kuzma said.

There’s no telling who the Lakers are going to bring in next as part of their “Genius Talks” series. But it’s clearly something that’s having an impact on the young team this season, and we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see other young NBA teams start adopting the same strategy in the coming seasons.

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Porzingis Injured; Magic Johnson Giannis Tampering; John Wall Shade | Out of Bounds

Not the Unicorn!!! Knicks fans’ worst nightmare came true last night when Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL — an injury that could keep him out up to a year and change him as a player. Gilbert Arenas and the #OutofBounds crew discuss the impact of the injury, including whether New York should explore trading KP. Next, they talk tampering, with the Lakers fined $50K for praise Magic Johnson heaped on Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Gil feels some kinda way about the situation and hilariously compares it to dating as only he can. With the reveal of fallen star Derrick Rose’s bulletproof Adidas contract, Gil explains the deal in “Secure the Bag,” from Rose’s initial leverage, to why Adidas hasn’t wiggled out, and how it affects bigger stars on the Adidas roster. One such star, injured All-Star point guard John Wall, recently responded to shade thrown his way by Wiz teammates, and the OOB gang gets into the source of the tension, as well as the effect it might have. Could the Lakers capitalize on unrest in Washington to bring Wall to LA and start building the next super-team? Finally, following an announcement that the San Francisco Giants will retire controversial slugger Barry Bonds’ number 25 — despite MLB HOF voters hating on him for his surly attitude and suspected steroids use — the guys discuss whether or not it’s time to stop being salty and just embrace the steroid era for what it was.

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That One Time Michael Jordan Got Trash Talked to and Had No Response

There are plenty of epic trash-talking stories involving Michael Jordan floating around out there in the world. From the time he ethered his own teammate Stacey King to the time he ruined Muggsy Bogues’ career, MJ is a legend when it comes to talking trash. And while there have been people who have tried to keep up with MJ in the trash talk department, he has gotten the last laugh in most of those instances by making those people look foolish. Just ask Magic Johnson.

There is at least one person who managed to get the upper hand against MJ during a trash-talking battle, though, and oddly enough, you probably have absolutely no idea who he is. His name is Randy Towner, and he is currently the general manager and head professional at Firekeeper Golf Course in Mayetta, Kansas. He also used to be the Director of Golf at Alvamar Country Club in Lawrence, Kansas and made a name for himself early on in his career by competing in the Mid-West Professional Golfer Association. And according to a story that North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams told writer Helen Ross in a long piece about the origin of MJ’s love for golf, Towner found a way to leave MJ “speechless” with some very unlikely trash talk sometime back in the early 2000s.

In the piece, Williams revealed that MJ flew out to Lawrence one day when Williams was still coaching at Kansas to attend his Jayhawk basketball camp. During a break in the action, MJ, Williams, and Towner made their way out to the golf course to blow off some steam, and Williams said that he remembers MJ talking to Towner about how straight he was able to hit the ball time after time. MJ seemed upset over the fact that many of his shots were erratic and landed all over the place, and he wondered why he couldn’t do what Towner was doing. And that’s when Towner responded by taking a pretty classic jab at MJ over why he was playing so much better than him.

From the story:

One year when Williams was coaching at Kansas, he remembers playing with his home pro, Randy Towner, and Jordan between breaks at the Jayhawk basketball camp.

Jordan was lamenting how straight Towner was hitting the ball while his own drives were more erratic.

“Randy just looked at him and pointed his finger at Michael and tapped him in the chest and said, 'NBA,' and then turned to himself, tapped his finger at his own chest and said, 'PGA,'” says Williams, who once played with Jordan when he shot a 69.

“He said, Michael, there's a gap there that you're not going to cross…It was one of the few times that I've ever seen Michael Jordan speechless.”

Congrats to that guy for doing what so many other pro athletes have failed to do.

Don’t worry, though. It sounds like MJ enjoys his fair share of trash-talking wins when he’s out on the golf course. In another part of the piece on MJ’s golf game, Ed Ibarguen—a golf pro who has been the Director of Golf at Duke University Golf Club in Durham, North Carolina since 1988 and who taught MJ how to play golf at the Finley Golf Club in Chapel Hill, North Carolina back in the 1980s—talked about how MJ usually tries to gain a competitive advantage over his opponents on the golf course before they even hit the first tee.

Ibarguen revealed that most people who golf with MJ want to wager with him, and he said that MJ has a pretty savage response for everyone who brings up the idea of placing a bet. Rather than picking a specific dollar amount, MJ puts the onus on the other person to come up with a wager that works for them.

“Everybody’s always wanting to gamble with [him],” Ibarguen said. “Well, you know, Michael’s happy betting a dollar; he’s happy just doing it for personal pride. But he gets all these people that come on up and say, 'Okay, how much are we going to play for?' Michael just basically came up with a standard. He said, 'I’ll play for whatever makes you nervous.' Which was a great line.”

A great line indeed. Maybe not quite as good as the one Towner hit him with, but it’s apparently such a good line that even Tiger Woods uses it when he finds himself in the same situation out on the golf course.

You can read all about the rest of MJ’s golf exploits in the piece about his golf game here.

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Lonzo Ball Knew He Was Going To Be a Laker and (Maybe) Made NBA Draft History

If he was tipped off, he didn’t say. But if Lonzo Ball truly didn’t have assurance from the Lakers that he was going to be the second pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, he felt it in his bones. Or more accurately his feet.

Because sitting in the green room, off to the right of the podium where commissioner Adam Silver announced all 30 first round selections, Ball decided to switch shoes once the Lakers were on the clock.  

Gone where the black hard bottoms he was sporting earlier. Out came a pair of the infamous Big Baller Brand ZO2s that retail for $495. Only these weren’t all black, like the ones that infamously debuted back in May. This pair was gold and purple—Lakers colors. And before Silver could say Ball’s name, he casually slipped on the sneakers because he just knew suiting up for his hometown team was his destiny.

“Just had a good feeling, and changed them five minutes before when they was on the clock, and I'm glad they called my name,” said Ball, in typically understated fashion.

The NBA’s signature fashion event, where 19-and-20-year-old kids get decked out in suits that would put every prom outside of Beverly Hills to shame, usually does not feature any wardrobe changes, other than the addition of a team hat once Silver calls your name. But Ball just might have authored an NBA first when he switched shoes in the middle of the draft.

Magic Johnson and the Lakers got their point guard of the present and future, one ESPN’s Jay Williams told us Wednesday could be “transcendent.”

Ball told Complex he changed “when [the Lakers] had the pick, right after Markelle” Fultz was chosen first by the Sixers. The Ball family had them hidden “right under the table” and Lonzo “had a feeling” he was about to be next selection. And that’s when he slipped into something way more comfortable and way more marketable than a pair of black dress shoes.

And really, Lonzo rocking a brand new colorway of the ZO2s was arguably one of the more interesting subplots to come out of the NBA Draft that didn't revolve around the Jimmy Butler trade to the Timberwolves or the prospect of Phil Jackson asininely shipping Kristaps Porzingis somewhere. Because the top part of the draft didn’t veer far from most projections. It was short on suspense and very predictable. 

Fultz went to the Sixers. Lonzo to the Lakers. Jayson Tatum to the Celtics at No. 3. Josh Jackson to the Suns at No. 4 and De’Aaron Fox, the guy who was rumored to be ahead of Ball on the Lakers’ draft board about a month ago, went to the Kings at No. 5.

In the end, LaVar Ball, with his swagger on a hundred, thousand, trillion at Barclays Center, could do his damn thing, talk his talk, and most especially walk his signature walk. His son was drafted to the only team he ever wanted him to play for, the team he predicted months ago would wind up with his son. LaVar proved to be a prophet.

Lonzo Ball LaVar Ball Green Room NBA Draft 2017
Image via USA Today Sports/Brad Penner

The man behind Big Baller Brand was surprisingly absent as Lonzo made his way through the arena's bowels, talking to reporters, taking part in NBA sanctioned obligations, and getting hounded by little kids for autographs. Usually, new draftees are paraded all over the arena with their handlers and based on how hands-on LaVar has been, it wasn’t out of the question to expect him to tail his son. But maybe it was by design that he didn’t, or maybe it was just happenstance that papa Ball had to stick around with the rest of his brood and babysit the younger LiAngelo and LaMelo while Lonzo basked in his crowning achievement of his 19 years of existence.

We didn’t really get to witness the bragging and boasting of LaVar afterward, which would have been gold. But he got what he wanted, what he predicted. And we, as NBA fans, got what was basically expected from the darft.

With the rest of the top 10 relatively bereft of drama, Lonzo winding up with the Lakers was arguably the biggest draft-specific story of the night. Lakers exec Magic Johnson got his point guard of the present and future, one ESPN’s Jay Williams told us Wednesday could be “transcendent.” Predictably, Lonzo was about as emotive as a robot, barely smiling or acting like a giddy teenager you’d expect most kids in his position to be.

But at least he was rocking the freshest kicks in the house, the ones nobody else was wearing or could get their hands at the time, the ones that he can most definitely afford now that's he's a Laker. 

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The Craziest NBA Finals Game Ever Just Delayed the Inevitable

CLEVELAND — It started off with a crazy 49-point first quarter from the Cavs, who finished with an even crazier 86 points at halftime. That was topped by the craziest third quarter the NBA Finals has ever seen when a series worth of soap opera like drama was squeezed into 12 minutes. 

Game 4 of the NBA Finals was­ wild, ridiculous, and absurd. We saw Cleveland go bonkers on offense in the first half, the refs call 51 fouls, the seemingly random rescinding of a technical on Draymond Green, and some extracurricular activities from superstars and role players alike that will be dissected for the next two days. When it was all said and done, the Cavs were 137-116 winners and extended the series at least one more game with a physical effort we hadn’t seen through the series' first three contests.  

“We took it to them first and that was very telling for the rest of the game,” Kevin Love said.

So here we are again. The Warriors are up 3-1 and headed back to the West Coast. And while we can draw as many parallels as we want to last year’s historic NBA Finals, the Cavs extending the series only feels like we’re delaying the inevitable this time around.

But before we get to that, Cleveland should be commended for preventing the Warriors from becoming the only team in NBA history to go 16-0 in the postseason. Their chance to do that was pretty much over early Friday as the Cavs blitzed Golden State for an NBA Finals record 49 points in the first quarter and an NBA Playoffs record 86 points after two. And they kept shooting lights out the rest of the way. Cleveland finished shooting 52.9 percent from the field and made an NBA Finals record 24 3-pointers. Through the first three games of the series, Cleveland had only made 31 threes.

Quicken Loans Arena was rocking as the Cavs treated their fans to a rollicking performance led by Kyrie Irving’s 40 points. LeBron James recorded his 9th NBA Finals triple-double, surpassing Magic Johnson for the all-time mark, going for 31, 11, and 10 while Love added 23 and J.R, Smith contributed 15.

“We played a desperate team at home and they came out and handed it to us. Simple as that.”

It was a feel good night for the Cavs and their fans, for sure. The crowd was hyped from the start and the Cavs, who were ripe to be blown out following Game 3’s devastating loss, fed off their energy. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said there was no special pregame speech. He liked his squad’s attitude during the morning’s shootaround. “Guys were upbeat. No hanging heads,” he said. Maybe the Warriors were too caught up in chasing history? 

“I don’t think there was any thoughts or concerns about history,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We played a desperate team at home and they came out and handed it to us. Simple as that.”

This one will be remembered for the truly bizarre third quarter. We had LeBron’s self-pass off the backboard for a dunk that will go down as one of the Finals’ most memorable plays. Later on, the King and Kevin Durant were jawing at each other and drew duel techs. “We weren't coming to blows, we were just talking,” Durant said. A little over a minute after that, Green was tossed for earning a second technical before he wasn’t. The refs ended up giving it to Steve Kerr instead. Finally, we saw Groingate v. 2017 when it looked like Zaza Pachulia took a swipe at Iman Shumpert’s sensitive area during a scrum for a loose ball.

NBA conspiracy theory junkies will have a field day dissecting that and all the fouls called by the refs in Cleveland's favor, especially in the first quarter. With the Finals enjoying some of their highest ratings in years, we all know the league really wants it to extend as long as possible and early on the zebras seemingly did their part. The Cavs went to the free throw line 22 times in the first 12 minutes. Somewhere in the bowels of Quicken Loans Arena, or back in New York—wherever he was—it was like commissioner Adam Silver was pulling all the right strings to at least extend the Finals to five games.

LeBron Draymond KD Zaza NBA Finals Game 4 2017
Image via USA Today Sports/Ken Blaze

But does this really change anything? Has momentum swung back in the Cavs favor? The Cavs deserve credit for not rolling over and letting the Warriors celebrate a title on their floor. They were gritty, gutty, and grimy, playing physical for the first time all series and roughing up the Warriors. But let’s be real here: the Warriors were their own worst enemy in Game 4. Featuring a ton of isolation and practically none of their signature run and gun offense or precision ball movement, the second half saw the Warriors brick a ton threes and settle for low percentage long twos. Golden State finished shooting 28.2 percent from beyond the arc, well below their 39.6 percent average this postseason. Yes, the Cavs are the second best team in the league and getting one of the Warriors shouldn’t come as a surprise. But the Dubs were due for a dud.

“It was one of those nights where we didn’t have anything clicking,” Steph Curry said

The “Cavs in 7’ chant that broke near the end of the game was cute, an ode to the tweet JR Smith claims he didn’t send out following Game 3. But the chances the Cavs faithful see their team play again in person are slim to none. The Warriors were garbage in Game 4, a hot mess on offense, and now they’re headed home where they have lost just once in their last 16 games. They’ve been the superior team three out of four games. They were the superior team during the regular season and during their run to the Finals. They have a potential championship clinching Game 5 Monday in Oracle Arena where they trounced Cleveland in the first two games of the series and once back in January. Draymond won't be suspended for Game 5 like last year. And most importantly they still have more firepower and more superstars than the Cavs, starting with the biggest difference maker, KD.

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Floyd Mayweather Wants to Buy an NBA Team, But Can He Actually Afford One?

Back in March 2016, Floyd Mayweather revealed that he wanted to quit betting on sports so that he could own an NBA team. During a press conference that was held prior to the Adrien Broner/Ashley Theophane fight that he helped promote, Mayweather said that he had his sights set squarely on becoming an NBA owner sooner than later.

“You guys know I like to bet on sports,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to stepping back from betting on sports now. I’m looking forward to probably getting into ownership of an NBA team.”

Since then, it doesn’t seem as though Mayweather has done much to realize his dream of owning an NBA team. He has shown up at plenty of NBA games throughout the country during the 2016-17 NBA season, but as recently as Tuesday, he provided evidence to show that he’s still gambling on games. His good friend Isaiah Thomas helped him pocket a lapful of $100 bills by dropping 53 games during Game 2 of the Celtics’ playoff series against the Wizards:

But Mayweather may actually be getting closer to putting in his final NBA bet. Early Thursday, he took to Facebook to reveal that he had a meeting with Magic Johnson. It sounds like that meeting was all business, and it may have revolved around Mayweather’s ongoing desire to own an NBA team. In his Facebook post, Mayweather went as far as to suggest that he wants any NBA owner looking to sell to contact him as soon as possible to get the ball rolling on a possible deal.

There are a few problems with this. One is that there aren’t many, er, make that any NBA teams looking to sell right now. SB Nation published a feature in September 2016 on how the sales of NBA teams have slowed dramatically in recent years. According to their report, 18 NBA teams have been sold since the year 2000, and there were a handful of teams sold in 2010 and 2011 alone, including the Pistons, 76ers, and Wizards. But as of right now, there are no NBA teams on the market, and it’s not hard to see why. The values of NBA teams have skyrocketed in recent seasons.

That brings us to Mayweather’s next problem: believe it or not, he’s not rich enough to own an NBA team outright. If you’ve watched or listened to a Mayweather interview over the course of the last year or two, then you know that he’s got plenty of money. He pocketed more than $200 million for the Manny Pacquiao fight in 2015 alone, and he will probably have the opportunity to make more than $100 million if he agrees to a fight with Conor McGregor. So he could lose every NBA bet he puts in between now and the end of LeBron James Jr.’s career and he would be just fine when it comes to money.

But Mayweather doesn’t have NBA owner money just yet. According to Forbes, his net worth as of December 2016 was about $340 million. And while that’s obviously not a small amount of money, it’s peanuts compared to most NBA owners. Forbes reports that about 20 NBA owners are billionaires, and even those owners that fall into the middle of pack as far as net worth is concerned—like Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who has a net worth of about $3.9 billion—have 10 times as much money as Mayweather, if not more.

And that means that most of the NBA teams are simply too valuable for Mayweather to buy. According to the NBA team valuations that were released in February, teams like the Knicks ($3.3 billion), Lakers ($3 billion), and Warriors ($2.6 billion) would be out of the question for Mayweather, even if they were up for sale. So would middle-tier teams like the Magic ($920 million), Jazz ($910 million), and Nuggets ($890 million). And even the least valuable teams like the Hornets ($780 million), Timberwolves ($770 million), and Pelicans ($750 million) would be out of Mayweather’s price range.

So does that mean he can’t own an NBA team? Not necessarily. Derek Jeter is, like Mayweather, very rich, but when he decided he wanted to try and buy the Marlins recently, he quickly discovered that he couldn’t do it alone. So he became part of a larger team that planned to invest in the MLB franchise. Other celebrities have taken the same approach in the past and invested their money to own small slivers of teams. Some have done it to diversify their investment portfolios, while others have done it simply to say, “I own an NBA team!”

But we get the sense that Mayweather isn’t interested in owning a small stake in an NBA franchise. If you’ve followed his career at all—both inside the boxing ring where he has dominated opponents and outside of the boxing ring where he has made a series of savvy business moves that have allowed him to make $1 million every month without doing much at all—then you know that he’s all about bossing up. And unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the current NBA market is going to allow him to do that.

Plus, the guy seems to love betting on sports too much to give it up for a small percentage of some team in middle America. So while we wouldn’t put it past him to find out a way to purchase an NBA team, we also wouldn’t be surprised if he said thanks but no thanks if an NBA owner actually took him up on the offer he made on Facebook.

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Magic Johnson Passed On Nike Stock Offer From Phil Knight in 1979

With eight-figure yearly earnings and a reported net worth of $500 million, Magic Johnson should not have any huge regrets when it comes to making bad financial decisions. But during a recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Magic admitted to one costly error in judgment when he was leaving Michigan State to go into the 1979 NBA Draft. “When I first came out of college, all the shoe companies came after me,” he said. “And there was this guy, Phil Knight, who just started had Nike.”

“All the other companies offered me money, but they (Nike) couldn't offer me money because they just started,” Magic said. “So he said something [about] stocks—'I'm gonna give you a lot of stocks.' I didn't know nothing about stocks. I'm from the inner city, we don't know about stocks, you know, at the time.” 

“Boy, did I make a mistake,” Johnson admits. “I'm still kicking myself. Every time I'm in a Nike store, I get mad. I could've been making money off of everybody buying Nikes right now.” SportsGrid points to an Investopedia article which claims that if someone took out a $1,000 investment during Nike's initial public offering (IPO) in December 1980, the venture would be worth $729,575 today. without reinvesting dividends.

Now you can completely understand why Magic is still kicking himself over a decision he made nearly four decades ago. Because you know what's better than being worth half a billion dollars? Being a billionaire

Check out the interview in its entirety below. 

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