Who’s got game?

Registration is closed, but tickets are free for the Lakers 3-on-3 tournament this weekend at LA Live.

Roughly 500 teams will be competing for over $100,000 in prizes and from what I hear some of these players are pretty good.

Everything starts Friday afternoon. Lots of celebs scheduled to attend and games going on all over the place.

For more info, visit www.lakers3on3.com

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Exit interview: Kurt Rambis

I guess that’s the best way to describe the conference call Kurt Rambis did this afternoon, after he was formally introduced as the new head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Naturally, quite a few of the questions focused on whether Rambis was passing up a chance to be Phil Jackson’s in-house successor by leaving now. Personally, I think Rambis will be a better candidate after he has some head coaching experience. So I think this is a good move for him overall.

But here’s what he had to say for himself:

“There was a possibility. I saw myself as a viable candidate, above many, and equal to most. But this was a timing thing to me,” Rambis said. “There were no guarantees. They made me no promises. Phil is a competitor, he loves coaching and that team right now is built to win for a long time. I envision him being there for a long time. This was here right now. This was the right team at the right time, the right possibilities.

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Gasol injures finger

Pau: Red alert. That was the headline on the Spanish Website Marca.com, which first reported that Lakers power forward/center Pau Gasol injured his left index finger while practicing with the Spanish national team in Seville. Lakers spokesman John Black said Gasol underwent surgery on his left middle finger. Black said he received news of Gasol’s injury from the 7-footer’s Spain-based agent, Arturo Ortega. Marca.com reported that Gasol must wear a splint on his finger for 20 days, putting his participation in the European Championships in jeopardy. It further reported that Gasol was hurt while trying to block a teammate’s shot and he was taken to a local hospital. Spain is one of the favorites to win the Eurobasket title next month in Poland. Gasol and Spain won the silver medal at the Beijing Olympics last summer, losing to Kobe Bryant and Team USA in the final. Gasol and Bryant then teamed to help the Lakers win the NBA championship in June.

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Reaction to Rambis’ hiring

Lakers owner Jerry Buss had this to say about the departure of longtime assistant coach Kurt Rambis, who was formally introduced today as the new coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves:”Kurt is one of the hardest-working and brightest assistant coaches we’ve ever had, and I expect he will be very successful with the Timberwolves. Kurt has been a key figure in the success of the Lakers for nearly three decades. In my mind, he will always be a Laker, but we wish him well.”

GM Mitch Kupchak said:
“While we’re obviously sad to see Kurt leave, we are excited for him to realize his long-time goal of becoming an NBA head coach. Kurt is a true professional and has ingrained himself as a fixture as a player, front-office executive and coach in this organization, and has become a fan favorite over the years. While he will undoubtably be a welcome addition to the Timberwolves franchise, Kurt will always remain a part of the Lakers family.”

Coach Phil Jackson said:
“It’s ‘Best of luck’ that the coaching staff sends to Kurt Rambis as he takes on the coaching duties with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kurt has been the workhorse of my staff the past few years. He’s worked with the youth of our team, coming in early and staying late to help players develop. Last season, he took on the responsibility as the defensive coordinator, a valuable part of our championship run. We will miss him, but know this is the time to do what he’s destined to do.”

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Depth chart

Here’s a look at the Lakers’ roster as it stands today:

Point guard: Derek Fisher.
Backups: Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown.

Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant.
Backup: Sasha Vujacic.

Small forward: Ron Artest.
Backups: Luke Walton, Adam Morrison.

Power forward: Pau Gasol.
Backups: Lamar Odom, Josh Powell.

Center: Andrew Bynum.
Backups: Gasol, DJ Mbenga.

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Report: Rambis will coach T-Wolves

Here’s the story, which was posted on ESPN.com tonight:

“The Minnesota Timberwolves and Kurt Rambis have reached terms on a deal that will install Rambis as the Wolves’ new head coach, according to NBA coaching sources. Rambis was a Lakers assistant coach for 10 seasons and coached the Lakers during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.

“Sources told ESPN.com that the Wolves are planning a Tuesday news conference to introduce Rambis as the replacement to Kevin McHale, whom Rambis famously tangled with in the 1984 NBA Finals. Long considered a potential heir apparent to Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Rambis has been lured away from Jackson’s staff by a four-year deal believed to be worth in excess of $8 million.

“After turning down the Sacramento Kings’ job during the NBA Finals, Rambis was chosen by new Minnesota president David Kahn from a group of finalists that also featured ESPN analyst Mark Jackson and Houston Rockets assistant coach Elston Turner. Kahn interviewed more than a dozen candidates in a deliberate search that began after the NBA Draft in late June.”

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Money matters

It’s only August and a lot could change between now and opening night, but as of today, the Lakers have the league’s leading payroll at $91,377,313. The Lakers are well above the NBA salary cap of $57.7 million for 2009-10 and the luxury tax of $69.92. They must pay $1 for every $1 they are over the luxury tax threshold, which means Jerry Buss must write the league a check for roughly $22 million.

The Utah Jazz have the league’s second-highest payroll at $84,654,219, followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers at $79,975,195 and the Boston Celtics at $79,230,991, with the San Antonio Spurs rounding out the top five at $78,296,230.

Tracy McGrady will be the league’s highest-paid player at $23,239,561, with Kobe Bryant second at $23,034,375.

(Thanks to HoopsHype.com for the team and individual figures).

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Rambis watch (Friday edition)

Left a voice-mail message for the agent representing Kurt Rambis. He didn’t get back to me, but sent a text message to Ramona indicating that a deal could be struck soon for the longtime Lakers assistant to become the next coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. A columnist in the Twin Cities reported that a deal with Rambis could be worth $8 million over four seasons. That’s significantly better than the two-season deal Rambis received, and turned down, from the Sacramento Kings in June. The Kings then hired Paul Westphal. Rambis also interviewed for the Philadelphia 76ers’ job that eventually went to Eddie Jordan.

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Rambis watch (Thursday edition)

No real update to speak of, but an Associated Press story out of the Twin Cities puts things in perspective. Here are a few selected lines from the story, which updates the Minnesota Timberwolves’ coaching search: “Two different reports said Thursday that Rambis was on the brink of being offered and accepting the job. But when asked if the two sides were getting close to a deal, (Minnesota GM David) Kahn replied in a text message, ‘No.’”

AP also reported: “Kahn said Wednesday that he is in a position to ‘do something within a week’ and would like one or two of the candidates to meet with owner Glen Taylor before a decision is made.”

Rambis traveled to the Twin Cities to meet with Minnesota officials, according to a league source. It was uncertain whether the other two finalists, former NBA standout Mark Jackson and current Houston Rockets assistant Elston Turner also would be asked to meet with Timberwolves’ officials in person.

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NBA suspends Orlando’s Lewis (Updated)

From the press release: “Rashard Lewis of the Orlando Magic has been suspended without pay for ten games for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for an elevated testosterone level, it was announced today by the NBA. Lewis’ suspension will begin with the first game of the 2009-10 NBA regular season for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Lewis admitted he took an over-the-counter supplement.

“First and foremost I take full responsibility for the situation and accept the corresponding penalty,” Lewis said. “I apologize to Magic fans, my teammates and this organization for not doing the research that should come with good judgment.”

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