On the eve of their biggest game this season to date, the Lakers didn’t manufacture a playoff atmosphere with a practice detailing their opponent’s tendencies. They didn’t gather for some rah-rah speech about the “win or go home” game.
Monday at the Lakers’ practice facility was mostly just a practice — something the Lakers haven’t gathered to formally do in more than a month.
The timing of that practice, before the Lakers host Phoenix on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the NBA’s in-season tournament, was a bonus instead of some preparation for high-pressure, win-at-all-costs basketball.
“I don’t think we’re really looking at it that way,” Anthony Davis said. “I mean, obviously it’s a big game as far as the tournament goes but we’re taking it as another game. Obviously you want to get to Vegas and have a chance to win it all, but we’re not putting too much stress on or too much pressure on ourselves that this is an end-all, be-all type of game.”
Big picture, it’s the right approach. The banners above Davis inside the Lakers’ practice facility celebrate the NBA championships that have been counted, the only ones that really matter.
But on the court, the Lakers and Davis have played with more purpose during these tournament games, the intensity and atmosphere nudging in the direction the league hoped when it concocted this event to drive early-season attention.
The Lakers are undefeated — no team in the NBA winning its tournament games as easily as the Lakers did. The tightest one they played, of course, was in Phoenix against the Suns.
The Suns’ lineup will look different Tuesday with star guard Devin Booker playing against the Lakers for the first time this season. Phoenix will be without Bradley Beal, who played in that first tournament game, because of a back injury.
For the two teams, the chance to go to Las Vegas for Thursday’s semifinal is the most logical intensity driver, but the organizations also have plenty of history.
Booker was on the court when the Suns eliminated Davis and LeBron James in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. The Lakers coach in those games, Frank Vogel, now leads Phoenix with plenty of members from his staff in Los Angeles.
Since then, the rosters for both teams have almost turned over.
The Lakers are finally getting a truer look at the one they assembled this offseason. Jarred Vanderbilt debuted on Saturday and Rui Hachimura is trending toward playing after missing the last week following surgery to repair his a broken nose.
With Cam Reddish and Max Christie both playing well for the Lakers’ short-handed, coach Darvin Ham will have some decisions to make.
“You just fall back on what you’ve been implementing all year. Just the principles,” Ham said. “And those guys, while sitting out, have had a chance to look and see what’s worked for us and what hasn’t worked for us. And they also bring some intangible positives from their size, their ability to get 50-50 balls, just making us bigger and stronger and faster at every position. But it’ll be a process.
“But … the competitive spirit and togetherness covers up a lot of technical difficulties, if that makes sense. You can have the wrong coverage, but a person’s energy will allow a person to still be successful. It’s like that with a lineup, too.”
There should be plenty of competitiveness on Tuesday, the winner getting one step closer to the inaugural NBA Cup title and the $500,000 cash prize for each player.
“You guys can see, too, our intensity with each game is different between the tournament games and the regular season,” Hachimura said. “So I’m excited for it. I like the feeling of the tournament. We gotta get this one tomorrow and go to Vegas and get the whole bag.”
Patrick Willis reflects after being voted into Pro Football Hall of Fame: 'No one can take that away from me'
When San Francisco 49ers legend Patrick Willis opened his eyes after his sister, Ernicka, brought him to his front door, his bright smile immediately came to his face.
Willis stared at Pro Football Hall of Famer and fellow 49ers great Bryant Young, who was donning his gold jacket.
As a finalist for the Hall himself, Willis knew exactly what Young, the camera crew and everyone else present meant: He was voted into the Hall of Fame.
After the smiles and laughs came the waterworks for Willis, who spoke to Fox News Digital after reflecting on that moment when he learned he was heading to Canton, Ohio.
“One thing I can say now: To be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, no one can take that away from me,” Willis said while discussing his love for CoachTube.
This was the third year Willis became a finalist, and after missing out twice, the thought naturally creeps in the brain: Is what I did good enough?
HALL OF FAME CANDIDATE PATRICK WILLIS TALKS STEPPING AWAY FROM NFL IN HIS PRIME, WOULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN
Willis knows he was a great player during his career from 2007 as the 11th overall pick out of Ole Miss to San Fran. But he played eight seasons, ending his career surprisingly after the 2014 campaign.
He no longer needs to think about the what-ifs.
“We always used to say at the end of the year when you look up on the stat sheet and see how many sacks you have, or how many interceptions, or how many tackles, they don’t recall how you got them,” Willis explained. “They just see you got them. It’s kinda what this feels like to me now that I don’t have that feeling like, ‘Man, what else did I have to prove?’”
Willis told Fox News Digital prior to being voted into the Hall that he always played the game wanting “to be one of them,” referring to the legends that are forever enshrined in Canton with their gold busts.
“If one person could remember me, that would be awesome. It seems like a little bit more than one is remembering, so I’m grateful for that,” he said.
But walking away from the game at 30 years old was no easy task for Willis. He knew it was time, especially after playing just six games during the regular season in his final year.
As he looks back, there’s still no regret.
“At the end of the day, for what it’s worth, you can always say what if, or you should have,” he explained. “But I was blessed to play the time I was given, and the results were what they were, and I’ll say judge me off those and not by what you think I could’ve done. If you’re going off those numbers, perhaps they’re good enough.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to those who are voting.”
The voters believes the 950 combined tackles, 733 of which were solo, 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles and eight interceptions, two of which resulted in pick-sixes, were enough.
Willis admitted, “I don’t know what I’m going to say, or how I’m going to say it,” when he walks up on that podium at Hall of Fame Stadium later this year. He’s sure the emotions will be there, too.
But like Willis said, no matter what you may think about him walking away early in his career, he did enough to earn eternal greatness.
LeBron James rallies Lakers from 21 down in the fourth to stun the Clippers
LeBron James’ tongue wagged after he glided from right to left to bank in a runner off one foot. He shook his head after he drained another three-point shot.
And in the end, James lifted two hands in the air in celebration.
“He,” D’Angelo Russell said “did him.”
In the final Hallway Series showdown between the Lakers and the Clippers — unless the Crypto.com Arena co-tenants meet in the playoffs — the NBA’s all-time leading scorer ensured the meeting wouldn’t be forgettable
Despite the Lakers trailing by 21 in the fourth quarter, James brought them all the way back, and when they needed to get one last stop to ensure the win, James was there to meet the challenge.
Kawhi Leonard’s baseline jumper missed short with James’ hand in his face, the Lakers winning 116-112 on Wednesday night after it looked like a blowout loss was on the way.
Ten seasons ago, the Clippers and their coach at the time, Doc Rivers, hatched a plan to cover the Lakers’ championship banners to make the arena they share feel more like their home. Wednesday, one of those banners read “Give no quarter.”
No matter. James was there to take the fourth.
He scored 19 of his 34 points in the quarter while dishing out four late assists, the Lakers getting huge shots from Rui Hachimura and Russell as they walloped the Clippers 39-16 in the final frame.
James scored or assisted on 11 of the 13 Lakers field goals in the fourth to wrap the Hallway Series era.
“Sicko mode,” Anthony Davis said.
In the second half, James guarded Leonard – the second-straight game where the Lakers adjusted by using him as a defender.
“Just got to do what I gotta do,” James said. “If I’m in a lineup, if I’m on the floor, I got to make plays. Sometimes I got to make even more plays. And tonight was one of those moments where I had to make even more plays in order for us to even get back into the game and then ultimately win the game.”
Before the game, It felt like there would be some kind of resolution Wednesday.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue was frustrated, the team having lost two of three since the All-Star break. The Clippers had pushed to the top of the Western Conference earlier in the month, looking like one of the league’s title contenders.
But losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Sacramento Kings underscored slippage in execution and maybe some waning attention.
Lakers coach Darvin Ham also was frustrated, the team also having lost two of three since the break.
A run to end the first half of the season had created momentum, the team looking like a threat to make the playoff field and avoid the play-in tournament. But losses to the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns, plus a sloppy win against lowly San Antonio had the team trying to recapture rhythm.
The Clippers were looking to prove that their brief malaise was the kind of thing that happens to title teams — a let-up before refocusing for the final stretch.
And the Lakers?
“We needed one of these,” Ham said.
The Clippers, without All-Star forward Paul George and center Ivica Zubac, made a statement early, Terance Mann slamming a dunk over Davis in the opening minutes. And they reaffirmed it later, Kawhi Leonard walking into a three to extinguish a brief Lakers run in the second half.
But there was no slowing James, not as he ensured the Lakers won the season series with the Clippers for the first time since 2012.
The Clippers’ defense never fully activated, and the Lakers shot better than 50% for most of the game. But the stops for the Lakers never materialized, the Clippers hitting shots too often and too easily, Norman Powell ending the third with a buzzer-beating three in front of Austin Reaves, who was helpless to do anything other than roll his eyes in frustration.
But in the fourth, James was otherworldly — the Lakers winning the potential final fight as the road team in their building.
“In the second half we got up and then we turned the basketball over, didn’t get back in transition, and then of course LeBron got it going and then offensively we weren’t very organized,” Lue said. “We didn’t get organized, we didn’t do things we were supposed to do and so I take full responsibility for that. Just making sure we’re organized, knowing what we’re supposed to do. And like I said, then LeBron exploded.”
James’ fourth quarter began with him three threes in four Lakers’ possessions, quickly flipping the blowout into a competitive game. And then as the Clippers’ began to adjust, he picked apart the defense, opening the door for Hachimura and Russell to finish the game off.
“He had to take the cape, tuck it under his seat on the bench, I guess. It was time for him to whip it out. He definitely did that, put the cape on, and just got aggressive and got into good rhythm,” Ham said. “He’s been shooting the ball extremely well this whole entire season. And that was just another case of it. Once he got in rhythm and with his playmaking skills, he sets the tone with his shooting and going downhill. But then once they start scheming and trying to hit double team late, he was able to pick them apart with the pass and that’s just who he is.”
Woman files lawsuit claiming Vikings star Justin Jefferson is father of her child, encouraged abortion
Justin Jefferson’s personal life has gone public as the Minnesota Vikings star receiver is being accused of fathering a child while also encouraging the woman to abort her pregnancy, per the Daily Mail.
A lawsuit issued in Essex County, New Jersey, family court on Jan. 19 by Andrea Galea, who claims she was romantically involved with Jefferson during their days at LSU before rekindling their relationship in April 2023, says she had no choice but to file the suit after the All-Pro failed to support her child.
Galea, a licensed attorney, is seeking a paternity test from Jefferson as well as financial support and health coverage.
Stella Anastasia was born on Dec. 21, 2023, but Galea says Jefferson, 24, has not financially supported her and refused to acknowledge himself as her father.
Galea also says Jefferson “pressured” her to get an abortion. After Galea refused, Jefferson “began acting towards her with great insensitivity and extreme cruelty.”
“The Defendant blocked the Plaintiff from communicating with him, and coldly told her to ‘[T]alk to me when the legal stuff come up,” Galea’s lawsuit states, per the Daily Mail.
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Jefferson filed a countersuit on Jan. 26, demanding an injunction against Galea to prevent her from sharing information about the child. Jefferson also asked for a paternity test.
In the countersuit, Jefferson claims Galea used the child’s birth as well as allegations against him to promote herself online.
“Defendant [Galea] has a substantial presence and following on various social media platforms and apparently has strategically positioned herself over the last several years to become an ‘online influencer,’” Jefferson’s countersuit reads.
“So are you okay with getting this [situated,” Jefferson wrote in a text message to Galea, per a screenshot the Daily Mail posted.
“U wanted the kid you can take care of it,” he wrote in another message. “I tried to tell u this was how it was going to go u didn’t believe me.”
Jefferson added that Galea continued “annoying” him about the child, resulting in him changing his phone number. There was also another text message that had Jefferson suggesting Galea take a Plan B.
“The more u wait the hard the situation will be that’s why I wanted to get you the planB [because] I didn’t want to be in this situation but it’s totally my fault I shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” Jefferson texted Galea.
“Justin I took the plan b though it was just too late for it to be effective. Sometimes depending on the cycle unless you take it within like 2 hours it can be too late,” she responded. “… and two people are always at fault in this. Personally I’ve never faced a situation like this…’”
Jefferson is set to play the final year of his rookie contract after the Vikings picked up his fifth-year option that’s worth $19.743 for the 2024 season.
As one of the top receivers in the NFL today, Jefferson is expected to receive a massive payday in the form of a new contract either this season with the Vikings or sometime in free agency in 2025.
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