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Column: Lakers’ NBA draft lottery win one of franchise’s top moments in years

LeBron James
Lakers star LeBron James celebrates from the bench during a game against the Clippers in April. Will the No. 4 overall pick in the NBA draft help the team rediscover its championship form?
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Lakers’ last playoff game was on April 28, 2013. At that point, the franchise, dating to its first season in 1948 in Minneapolis, had missed the postseason five times. The team had won 16 league championships and 31 conference titles.

Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery represented one of the top three moments for the Lakers over the past six years. That’s what happens when you go seven seasons without a playoff win.

The sight of ping pong balls bouncing their way inside a Chicago hotel ballroom ranks just behind Kobe Bryant’s 60-point finale in 2016 and LeBron James signing with the Lakers last summer as recent high-water marks.

If you’re still down on the Lakers signing James, let’s not forget this is a franchise that took out billboards begging Dwight Howard to stay in L.A. before he left for Houston, enlisted the help of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine to woo LaMarcus Aldridge before he signed with San Antonio and struck out with free agent Carmelo Anthony five years ago despite a full-court press led by Bryant.

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As bad as the Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng contracts were — really, really bad — they were the byproduct of the team’s inability to recruit star players. It’s not like they’re totally out of the woods on that front. Let’s not forget that Paul George declined to even meet with Magic Johnson and the Lakers before re-signing with Oklahoma City last year.

So when you have less than a 10% chance of getting a top-four pick in the draft and land the fourth when you were slated to choose 11th, that’s a huge victory. It’s not so much who they can get with that coveted pick as it is whether they can package it in a trade along with their young players for a superstar such as Anthony Davis and possibly still have enough cap space to sign another star.

If the Lakers enter next season as championship contenders with the league’s newest “big three,” it will be thanks in large part to Tuesday’s lottery, which could prove to be the turning point the franchise has been longing for.

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Jerry West’s new contract with the Clippers didn’t come as a surprise to anyone around the league. It wasn’t as if the Lakers were knocking on his door, trying to woo him back.

West’s decision to see the Clippers through their rebuild is another example of the impact Steve Ballmer has made since becoming owner.

West doesn’t need the job. He could be spending his days golfing at Bel-Air Country Club, but he genuinely enjoys working for the team. He has embraced his role as a consultant and talks regularly with Ballmer and Lawrence Frank, president of basketball operations. He has also been a mentor for general manager Michael Winger and assistant general manager Trent Redden, both of whom turned down promotions from other teams in order to stay in Los Angeles for at least another season.

If Ballmer can be as persuasive with free agents as he has been with his staff, this could be a big summer for the Clippers.

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One of the best stories of the NBA draft lottery — and a testament to hard work paying off — was that of Zach Kleiman, new executive vice president of basketball operations for the Memphis Grizzlies, who secured the second overall pick in the draft. The Grizzlies, like the Lakers, made a big jump after being slated to pick eighth.

Kleiman, 30, graduated from USC in 2010 and was a public relations intern for the Lakers when they won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. His responsibilities included handing out statistics to the media during games and recording and transcribing interviews after games.

Fast forward nine years and he’s now running an NBA franchise, and on the verge of hiring a coach and making the second pick the draft. Don’t let anyone ever tell you dreams don’t come true.

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If the Angels want a new waterfront ballpark in Long Beach they should foot the bill for the $1.1 billion cost of the stadium. City officials are reviewing options to pay for some or all of the stadium, but they would be foolish to give a dime of public money to the project. The Angels are valued at around $2 billion by Forbes, and have a $3-billion television deal with Fox Sports. They can afford to build their own ballpark in Long Beach, Anaheim, Tustin or elsewhere.

Chances are, the Angels aren’t moving anywhere. The only way to get the deal you want in a negotiation is to have competition and leverage. Long Beach offers both as the club pursues a new lease in Anaheim.

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Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth is going all in on esports with the opening of The Branca Center for Technology and Esports. The media center will be the home of Sierra Canyon’s Esports team, which is part of the High School Esports League (HSEL). With several colleges now offering esports scholarships, more high schools in the Southland are likely to follow suit and give their students the chance to realize their dreams, whether that’s on the court, field or behind the computer.

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The NBA announced Wednesday that Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would be co-recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 NBA Awards next month in Los Angeles. TNT is televising the event and would be smart to hire Johnson to live tweet the ceremony and play it on-screen during the show. It might just be a series of sentences recapping who won with exclamation points, but it would make a more entertaining show.

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