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Lakers introduce Darvin Ham: Three takeaways from head coach’s first press conference

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The Los Angeles Lakers are entering a new era under recently hired head coach Darvin Ham. On Monday, they officially introduced Ham with a press conference where he shared his insights on his plan for the team heading into next season. Ham touched on how he envisions the Lakers finding their identity on the defensive side of the ball, how he views Russell Westbrook’s fit on the team next season, and expectations he has for Anthony Davis.

Here are some highlights from Ham’s press conference. 

1. Ham’s commitment to defense

If you watched the Lakers last season then you know that they struggled heavily on the defensive side of the ball. A year after finishing with the top-ranked defense in the league, L.A. stumbled to 21st in the 2021-22 season, struggling to stop anyone from scoring on them. Prior to this season, the Lakers ranked in the top five of defense for two straight years, so this season’s complete fall off was jarring to witness. 

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Some of that drop off has to do with personnel, but that’s not an adequate enough reason for the defense to surrender 138 points to a Houston Rockets offense that ranked 26th in the league this year. During Monday’s press conference, Ham made a point to consistently talk about how he plans to revamp L.A.’s offense next season.

“Defensively is where you’re going to see us make our biggest leaps and bounds,” Ham said. “We have to commit to the defensive side of the ball or we don’t have a chance to do anything. The offense won’t even matter if we don’t get stops.”

Ham also touched on accountability on the defensive side of the ball for everyone on the roster, from LeBron James all the way down to the last guy in the rotation.

“My goal is continue with the development of our younger players, and make those guys comfortable,” Ham said. “Everything has to be a team effort. If there’s mistakes made I have to be able to coach [James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook] like I do the rest of the roster. We have a saying, ‘facts over feelings.’ Once you see the film and it’s a fact that you missed your assignment, then that has to be pointed out. If I can’t point that out to one of our Big 3, then the last man or someone in our rotation won’t take what we’re doing seriously. It has to be consistent across the board.”

2. Westbrook’s fit with the team

Westbrook’s first season with the Lakers was disappointing to say the least. He struggled to adapt to a new role alongside LeBron, and it resulted in a heavy amount of criticism — some deserved, some not! — from nearly everyone on the outside looking in. It has led to rumors about his status with the team heading into next season, but for right now he’s still with the Lakers. Ham vouched for Westbrook — who was in attendance at the press conference — and his illustrious career in the league, while mentioning some small details about conversations they’ve had since he was hired. 

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“Don’t get it messed up, Russell is one of the best players our league has ever seen, and there’s still a ton left in that tank,” Ham said. “I don’t know why people tend to try to write him off…Russ and I have had some really, really great 1-on-1 conversations, and the biggest word that came out of those discussions was sacrifice. We’re gonna sacrifice whatever we have to do, and it’s not just Russ. There’s gonna be sacrifices LeBron has to make, that A.D. has to make, all the way down the line of the rest of our roster.”

Ham also touched on what type of role he envisions Westbrook having next season. Though he was asked about the possibility of Westbrook coming off the bench, Ham did a good job evading that specific question. 

“In terms of what his role is gonna be, I’m gonna expect him to be the same tenacious, high-energy player that he’s been his entire career,” Ham said. “A lot of it now may happen without the ball in his hands, most of it now may happen on the defensive end. But again, we have to sacrifice. There’s no achieving anything without all parties sharing the load, sacrificing and depending on one another.”

3. Anthony Davis at the center of it all

It was a down year across the board for the Lakers, and Davis’ season certainly was a part of that. It wasn’t that A.D. had a particularly bad season, he was still a scoring and rebounding force, while being impactful on the defensive end. However, he played in just 40 games, after coming off a season where he only suited up for 36 games. Since the Lakers won a championship in 2020, Davis’ health has been a concern. While Ham can’t control if Davis gets injured, he recognized how important his production is to L.A.’s success.

“We’ve all seen what can happen when he’s healthy, when he’s playing at a high level, when he’s in a good rhythm,” Ham said. “We saw it in the bubble. His skillset, size, versatility, defensive acumen, his relentlessness. His ability to give multiple efforts defensively is key. It’s going to be the foundation of the type of standard we set within the ‘Darvin Ham era.’

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“…LeBron is going to be LeBron, Russ is going to be Russ, but we need consistency out of Anthony Davis. We need him to be healthy, we need him to be in a good mental space, and we need him to be as consistent as possible, back to playing that championship-type basketball.”

When Davis is healthy he has the ability to play like one of the best players in the league. The issue is that A.D. isn’t always healthy, and sometimes when he is, there’s a tendency for him to be ineffective on offense. There’s also the argument over what position he should be playing. Though Davis has primarily played power forward for most of his career, the last couple of seasons in L.A. made it clear that he should be the team’s starting center. Not because he can’t play power forward, because he absolutely can and has been an All-Star at that position, but because the Lakers don’t have a quality center to stick alongside Davis for that to make sense. 

Last season Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan suited up next to him in the starting lineup, two guys who are nowhere near the caliber of a starting center anymore in this league. If L.A. got someone this summer who could be a serviceable starting center, then putting A.D. at power forward makes sense. But if not, then Davis should be the team’s primary center, and Ham alluded that the system he plans to deploy will necessitate Davis at the center.

“It starts on the defensive end, and from there we’re gonna build back toward the offense,” Ham said. “I think the type of spacing, a four-out, one-in style, which I’m gonna implement, is gonna help all parties.”

Running this type of offense, which will feature four players out on the perimeter and a post-up player in the paint, will give Davis the space to operate from mid-range, and make decisions out of the post. It sounds like a great plan, we’ll just have to see if Ham and the Lakers are able to execute it well next season.  

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Three Stars from Day 3 of WJC: Canada’s McTavish joins elite company – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada and the U.S. dominated in their second game of the tournament while Czechia and Finland went toe-to-toe and needed a shootout to determine a winner on Day 3 of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Canadian team rebounded from a sluggish performance with an 11-1 win over Slovakia, a game in which captain Mason McTavish added his name to the country’s record books.

Against Switzerland, the United States took their game to another gear that their opponent could not match as they cruised to a 7-1 victory to improve to 2-0 at the tournament.

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Finland dropped a crucial point as they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit but were able to pick up the shootout win over their rival Czechia.

Here is a look at the top performances from Day 3 of the world juniors.

3rd Star: Luke Hughes, USA

Coming from a great hockey family, Luke Hughes is making most of his opportunity as one of the top defencemen for the U.S. 

The younger brother of Quinn and Jack displayed his mobility and vision against Switzerland with a three-point effort. He now has five points in his first two games of the tournament — more than either of his brothers ever achieved at this event in fewer games.

Hughes leads all defenceman in scoring so far in the tournament and is tied for fourth overall.

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The 18-year-old played 21:18 against the Swiss to lead the U.S. in ice time playing on the top pairing with Brock Faber. His play from this point will be a crucial part of his team’s success given the creativity he displayed, especially on Matt Coronato’s goal in the second period.

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He made another top-notch set up on Thomas Bordeleau’s power-play goal in the third period as he delayed enough to get the defenders to pull towards his side of the ice.

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2nd Star: Carter Mazur, USA

Coming into the tournament, Carter Mazur is looking to build off an impressive season at the University of Denver. 

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While he was in a scoring slump in his first NCAA season, the Detroit Red Wings prospect made a call to his NHL team’s assistant director of player development, Daniel Cleary. After that, he would go on to finish with 14 goals and 38 points in 41 games.

Those tips have now turned Mazur into a scoring machine as he accounted for two of the team’s seven goals and was also named the player of the game as the top line of Mazur, Landon Slaggert, and Thomas Bordeleau had an impressive performance against Switzerland

After a scoreless first period, Mazur wasn’t going to make any mistake on a point-blank chance in front of the net with Mackie Samoskevich making a great pass from behind the net.

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With the Americans looking to add to their lead, Mazur was once again the beneficiary of a great pass from Slaggert as he made no mistake from the front of the net.

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He added another assist on Slaggert’s goal later in the period for his third point of the game. Through his first two games at the world juniors, Mazur has four points and is tied for sixth in scoring.

1st Star: Mason McTavish, Canada

On a night where Canada dominated from start to finish, Mason McTavish joined some elite company with a night he’ll certainly remember for a long time.

The 19-year-old joined Mario Lemieux, Simon Gagné, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Raddysh, Maxime Comtois and teammate Connor Bedard as the only players to score four goals in a single world junior game for Canada. The tournament record for goals in a single game is held by Sweden’s Ola Rosander who had six back in 1987.

With his performance against Slovakia in a dominant win for Canada, McTavish now sits atop the scoring lead with eight points in two games after registering six points in this game.

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McTavish scored his first goal of the game on a breakaway — with Canada already leading 5-0 midway through the second — making no mistake to beat Tomas Bolo, who came into the game after starter Simon Latkoczy was pulled going into the second period.

His second goal came off a great play by Joshua Roy who flipped the puck in the air to Brennan Othmann who then set up McTavish as he finished with a backhander to put Canada up 7-1. McTavish would complete the second-period hat trick, a day after Alexander Blank did the same for Germany, after a selfless pass from Roy on a 2-on-0 break.

Canada would capitalize on a turnover on McTavish’s fourth goal as Othmann set him up alone in front of the net and he made no mistake.

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There was some doubt about whether McTavish would suit up for Canada after playing a fair amount of hockey last season. Making his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks, the third overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft played in a total of 72 games between the NHL, AHL, OHL, Memorial Cup and the Olympics.

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Instead, McTavish decided to join the team in Edmonton and take on the role as captain where he has excelled centring Canada’s top line with Bedard and and a rotation of Roy and Othmann.

Canada will now look forward to a matchup against Czechia with a chance to improve to 3-0.

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Field of Dreams Game 2022: A celebration of baseball memories in an Iowa cornfield

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The Field of Dreams is an opportunity for fans and players alike to reflect on the people and places that taught them to love baseball, Jake Mintz writes.



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Ravens extend NFL record for consecutive postseason wins following Thursday’s victory over the Titans

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USA Today

The No. 21 is now synonymous with the longest winning streaks in NFL regular and preseason history. the 2003-04 Patriots won 21 consecutive games, an NFL record. On Thursday night, the Ravens won their 21st consecutive preseason game after securing a 23-10 decision against the Tennessee Titans

Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since 2016. Joe Flacco was their starting quarterback when the streak began, while Steve Smith Jr., who this past year was eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, was heading into his final NFL season. Baltimore’s roster also included Terrell Suggs, who was entering his second-to-last season with the franchise. 

Along with not losing preseason games, another constant in Baltimore over the past six years has been kicker Justin Tucker, who is entering his 11th season with the Ravens. Tucker’s field goals of 47, 25 and 47 yards on Thursday night helped Baltimore pull out the win after falling behind midway through the second quarter. 

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The Ravens won Thursday’s game by winning the turnover margin while holding the Titans to 1 of 3 red zone efficiency. One of those turnovers was scooped up by Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick in this past year’s draft. 

Baltimore won despite the efforts of Malik Willis, the Titans’ rookie quarterback who overcame a slow start to score his first NFL touchdown, a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens received a strong night from Tyler Huntley, who completed all but two of his 18 pass attempts that included his game-winning touchdown pass to Shemar Bridges



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