The Lakers have chosen their next head coach

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The Lakers have chosen their next head coach

From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni late Sunday night, signing the former coach of the Suns and Knicks to replace Mike Brown.The Lakers and D'Antoni's agent, Warren LeGarie, confirmed the deal two days after the Lakers fired Brown five games into the season.D'Antoni agreed to a three-year deal worth 12 million, with a team option for a fourth season.D'Antoni got the high-profile job running the 16-time NBA champions only after the club's top brass extensively discussed the job with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.The 11-time NBA champion coach met with Lakers owners Jerry and Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak on Saturday to weigh a return for a third stint on Los Angeles' bench.The Lakers instead went with D'Antoni, a respected offensive strategist who coached Lakers point guard Steve Nash in Phoenix during the best years of their respective careers. D'Antoni was less successful during four seasons in New York, but at least restored the once-moribund Knicks to competence before resigning last March."Dr. (Jerry) Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak unanimously agreed that Mike was the best coach for this roster at this time," Lakers spokesman John Black said.The 61-year-old D'Antoni underwent knee replacement surgery earlier this month, and could be physically limited early his tenure. Black said the Lakers aren't certain when D'Antoni will travel to Los Angeles to begin work.Interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff will continue running the Lakers until D'Antoni arrives. Los Angeles beat Sacramento 103-90 on Sunday night, improving to 2-0 under Bickerstaff after a 1-4 start under Brown.The Lakers' next game is Tuesday night against San Antonio at Staples Center.After Brown's dismissal, Nash and Kobe Bryant both expressed enthusiasm about the prospect of playing for D'Antoni, although Bryant also campaigned eagerly for Jackson.Bryant idolized D'Antoni while growing up in Italy, where D'Antoni was a star player for Olimpia Milano in the Italian pro league. D'Antoni also has been an assistant coach on various U.S. national teams featuring Bryant, including the gold medal-winning squad at the London Olympics.Nash won two MVP awards while running D'Antoni's signature up-tempo offense for the final four seasons of the coach's five-year tenure with the Suns.Nash and D'Antoni won at least 54 games each season and reached two Western Conference finals -- and they eliminated Bryant's Lakers from the first round of the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, still the only first-round exits of Kobe's 17-year career.D'Antoni then coached New York to just one playoff appearance and no postseason victories. He also coached the Denver Nuggets during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.But his NBA accomplishments can't measure up to Jackson, who won five titles and reached seven NBA finals during two stints totaling 11 seasons with Los Angeles.Jackson walked away from the club 18 months ago after a second-round playoff sweep by Dallas, and Brown led Los Angeles to a 41-25 mark followed by another second-round playoff defeat last summer.The Lakers then traded for Nash and Dwight Howard, setting up a season of enormous expectations for Brown -- but the Lakers struggled to learn his new, Princeton-influenced offense while playing mediocre defense.After the Lakers stumbled out of the gate while Howard and Bryant missed preseason games to preserve their health, Nash incurred a small fracture in his leg during the Lakers' second regular-season game, keeping him out of the lineup for their past five games and for at least another week.The Lakers have improved to 3-4 under Bickerstaff after following up their winless preseason with four losses in their first five regular-season games, the club's worst start since 1993.Despite his reputation for offensive acumen, D'Antoni's NBA teams typically have played fairly solid defense, statistically speaking -- and they never had the imposing Howard or defensive stopper Metta World Peace in their lineups.Nash had his best NBA seasons as the versatile quarterback of the Suns' offense under D'Antoni, and point guard Jeremy Lin became a star on the Knicks last season while filling much the same role.D'Antoni resigned late last season following a six-game losing streak, surprising many observers, and former assistant coach Mike Woodson led the Knicks to the playoffs.Phoenix visits Staples Center on Friday.

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

LOS ANGELES – On the scale of NBA regular-season epic, Warriors-Clippers on Wednesday night rates a solid 8 for the Warriors. It’s circled on the desk calendars in pencil, a game they want for development and vanity.

For the Clippers, though, it’s a 9.5. Might be a 10. It’s stamped on the calendars embedded in their minds.

They need this game, psychologically, to prove they can stand up to the team that has spent the past two seasons winning a championship and setting a record for regular-season wins, simultaneously suppressing the notion of the Clippers being legitimately elite.

Los Angeles also needs to win the clash at Staples Center if these Western Conference titans are to reignite what once was the hottest rivalry in the NBA.

“We get to see what they do; they get to see what we do,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says.

“It’s a new four-game journey against this team,” guard Stephen Curry says. “We have history that, when you play in the division, year after year, we’re fighting for the same goal of not only winning the division but playoff seeding and coming out of the west. It’s been a nice little back and forth.”

It has been mostly forward for the Warriors, generally backward for the Clippers.

A rivalry is defined somewhat by geography but mostly by hostilities over both the regular season and the postseason. In the very best rivalries, the teams are hunting the same bounty and end up exchanging feelings of ecstasy and heartbreak.

That has been missing the past two seasons, with the Warriors winning seven of the eight games and the last six in a row. It has been Curry over Chris Paul, Draymond Green over Blake Griffin, Klay Thompson over J.J. Redick and Kerr over Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

The contempt that began percolating back in 2012, reaching its apex in 2014 during a spellbinding seven-game playoff series won by LA, has been submerged by this wave of Warriors success.

The “rivalry” has declined considerably, leaving nothing but memories of the days when the teams were striving to reach the same level.

“We were a team trying to break through and make the playoffs,” Klay Thompson says. “They were trying to do the same thing, as far as trying to make noise in the playoffs. We both had an edge to ourselves and we haven’t lost it. They’re still hungry to get to that championship level. You can see that. And so are we.”

Curry traces the origin of the rivalry to Paul’s arrival in December 2011. The decorated point guard brought instant credibility to a franchise that had been every bit as much of a laughingstock as had the Warriors.

“When CP got there and the organization took a different turn, for the better obviously,” Curry recalls. “It was probably that first year we both made the playoffs (2012-13) because the records were a lot better than they usually were and there was a little more excitement around the new and up-and-coming teams.”

Games have featured ejections, multiple technical fouls – once in a preseason game – with an overdose of grabbing and posturing. One beef went postgame, nearly becoming physical in a hallway near the locker rooms.

There has been verbal warfare, sarcasm and slights and insults, though most of it lately has come from LA.

With the Warriors at 18-3 and the Clippers at 16-6, this may be the last season to reignite the conflict, and the first of four meetings will provide a sense of placement. The Warriors are 18-3, having won 14 of their last 15. The Clippers are 16-6, having lost four of their last six.

“It’ll be fun to see how it plays out,” Kerr says.

The Clippers, however, showed up for this season with a sense of urgency. Paul and Griffin both have opt-out clauses and will be free agents in July. The perennial All-Stars have been teammates for five-plus seasons, but this may be the last.

“Their continuity is really key; it’s one of the things that has helped us the last couple years,” Kerr says. “When you have basically the same team for a while, and you’re already a good team, you tend to get better. You tend to grow more and more comfortable with what you’re already doing and then, maybe even have the ability to add on some things.”

So maybe it’ll be different this season. Maybe we’ll have actual back-and-forth.

“They could be a team down the road that we need to get through to get where we want to go, and they probably see us the same way,” Curry says.

Oh, there is no doubt about that, certainly not among the Clippers.

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

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ATHLETICS/TWITTER

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A’s officials at the winter meetings carried heavy hearts Tuesday following the death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith.

Smith died unexpectedly Monday in Arizona at the age of 41. No cause of death was known, a team spokesperson said, and the A’s traveling contingent at the meetings were still processing the news Tuesday night.

“We’re still sort of absorbing this whole thing. As you can imagine this came as a shock to everybody,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “He had such a commitment to the organization and was such a diligent worker. He’s a tremendous loss. Everybody thought the world of him as an employee, a person. It’s shocking.”

Smith worked for the A’s for eight years and was instrumental in creating the team’s minor league video department in 2009. Manager Bob Melvin, who crossed paths with Smith every spring at the team’s minor league training complex, said Smith went above and beyond the expectations of his job to help everyone in the organization.

“He was the first guy you saw,” Melvin said. “Just a great guy that everybody felt close to. He couldn’t do enough to help wherever he could. … He’d send me video during the year of guys he thought I might see at some point, and I never even asked for them. Just a hard-working guy who was very aware of what each guy he was working with was looking for and needed.”

Funeral services are pending.