Patrick Beverley has been hit with a $30,000 fine for "inappropriate statements" and "egregious use of profanity" after the Minnesota Timberwolves guard aimed salty shots at the Clippers.

The comments from Beverley came after Tuesday's 109-104 win for the T-Wolves in the seven-eight play-in game in the West.

Anthony Edwards played a starring role with 30 points for Minnesota and was interviewed alongside Beverley after the game.

Beverley was excitable after beating his former team. He spent four years on the Clippers before joining Minnesota last August.

"I wanted this so bad," Beverley said. "I wanted this one so bad."

He said his message to the Clippers was: "Take their a** home. Long flight to LA, take y'all a** home.

"It's deeper than that for me. I gave my blood and sweat and tears to that organisation. You guys know the story. Blood, sweat and tears, to just be written off like that, 'oh, he's injury prone, he's old', this, this, that, that.

"To be able to come here, play them in a play-in, beat their a**, there's no other feeling, man, no other feeling."

Beverley also used social media to express similar emotion, with added profanities. NBA chiefs considered he overstepped the line of acceptability.

A league statement on Thursday read: "Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley has been fined $30,000 for inappropriate statements during a media interview and on social media, including the egregious use of profanity, it was announced today by Byron Spruell, president, league operations."

It was a second fine inside a week for Beverley, who had a $25,000 punishment imposed for improper conduct to a game official after being ejected from the Timberwolves' April 10 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

The Dallas Mavericks are expecting Luka Doncic to sit out their playoff opener against the Utah Jazz on Saturday due to a calf strain.

Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news on Thursday of what will likely prove to be a critical absence for the Mavs.

Doncic strained his left calf in the third quarter of the Mavs' final regular season fixture, a 130-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs, and sat out the rest of the game after putting up 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

The two-time All-Star would have been ineligible for the game had the NBA not rescinded his 16th technical foul of the season, which he earned in the game prior against the Portland Trailblazers. Doncic would have been forced to serve a one-game suspension if the technical foul had stood.

Though the win over the Spurs was ultimately a meaningless game, with the Golden State Warriors defeating the New Orleans Pelicans and confirming the Western Conference's third seed, the Mavs still had to keep up their end of the bargain and beat the Spurs.

The 23-year-old Slovenian averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game this season.

Steph Curry is likely to return for Game 1 of the Golden State Warriors' first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, after missing the home stretch of the regular season with a foot sprain.

The two-time MVP and three-time NBA Champion is averaging 25 points, six assists and five rebounds this season in 64 games – his most games played since the 2018-19 season.

Curry is essential to the Warriors' success, as illustrated by their 8-10 record in games he has missed this season, compared to 45-19 when he has played.

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr spoke about how everyone is desperate to get the star guard back on the court, but the organisation will not rush him back before he has proven his readiness.

"We're not going to play him without getting a scrimmage," he said.

"The whole team will need a scrimmage, given that we generally play every other day and now we have six days between games, that's pretty unique. 

"But it would be irresponsible to put Steph out there in a playoff game without having scrimmage time before."

Kerr also suggested that if Curry is to suit up in Game 1, he will be on a minutes restriction, saying he won't play "30, 35 minutes", and may come off the bench.

Curry's 'Splash Brother', Klay Thompson, also weighed in on the status of his team-mate.

"It felt good to play, and Stephen Curry looked like himself," he said. "He just gives everybody a lift with just his presence on the court. 

"It was great to have him out there."

So here it is. That time of year again where we separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the champions from the... rest.

The NBA playoffs get underway on Saturday with plenty of stories to be written and legacies to be cemented.

Can the Phoenix Suns turn their dominance in the regular season into a championship? Will the Milwaukee Bucks be able to retain their crown? Could someone from the play-in tournament sneak in the back door and go all the way?

These questions and plenty more will keep us glued to our screens as we watch the action unfold over the next two months.

But what of the individual stories? There are plenty of players who have made names for themselves in the business end of the season down the years, with lots of big names who will particularly want to make an impression this time around as well.

Stats Perform has selected five such players to focus on, explaining why they may just have a bit more to prove over the next few weeks than others.

James Harden – Philadelphia 76ers

It may feel slightly like shooting fish in a barrel to start with a player who is known for not being able to get over the line in the postseason, but we are not above easy wins here.

Harden has been to the NBA Finals just once in 12 postseason appearances, and that came 10 years ago with Oklahoma City Thunder.

Strictly speaking, his playoff averages have been impressive. While with the Houston Rockets, he averaged at least 26.3 points per game (PPG) in the playoffs, including an impressive 31.6 in the 2018-19 season.

However, it has more been one-off performances, invariably at crucial moments, that have let him down. This was summarised perfectly last year in Game 7 for the Brooklyn Nets against the Bucks, when he sank only five of 17 field goal attempts.

Now at the Sixers after a huge trade earlier in the season, and with the league's top scorer Joel Embiid on his side, Harden will surely be determined to silence his doubters and reach the second NBA Finals of his career. 

Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns

This is likely the best chance the Suns will ever have to win an NBA championship, and ditto Paul.

An incredible regular season record of 64-18 saw them finish atop the Western Conference with a win percentage of 78.0, almost 10 per cent more than the second-place Memphis Grizzlies (68.3 per cent).

For Paul, this, therefore, is almost certainly his strongest chance to finally win a championship ring, especially having come so close last year.

The 12-time All-Star has the most assists per game in the league this season (10.8), and only Trae Young (737) has more overall assists than his 702, though the Atlanta Hawks star has played 11 more games.

At 36 years of age, Paul will not have many more opportunities, and will want to make this one count.

 

Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

It has been another memorable season for the young Slovenian, averaging 28.4 PPG as well as 8.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.

In his two previous playoff campaigns, Doncic has stepped his game up even more, averaging 31.0 PPG in 2019-20 and a remarkable 35.7 PPG last year. However, on both occasions, the Mavericks still could not make it past the first round.

Dallas ended the regular season with a record of 52-30, winning seven of their last eight games, and will go up against the Utah Jazz in the first round, a team they have beaten twice in the last six weeks.

It is not so much that Doncic himself has a point to prove, but he will be looking for more help from his team-mates as he looks to get to the latter stages, where a player of his talent surely belongs.

Tyler Herro – Miami Heat

Another young player who has already put in some strong postseason showings in his short career so far.

Herro impressed in the 2020 playoffs, but last year the Heat were whitewashed by the Bucks in the first round. As the number one seeds in the East this year, all eyes will be on them to do much better.

While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will of course be important, Herro could well be the difference-maker.

The 22-year-old point guard has comfortably produced his best regular season so far, averaging 20.7 PPG, as well as 4.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

Many expect it to be Miami v Phoenix in a battle of two number one seeds in the Finals this year, in which case Herro will be looking to repeat his second-best scoring performance of the season when he came away with 33 points in the Footprint Center in January's 123-100 win against the Suns.

Ben Simmons – Brooklyn Nets

It has been a nervous wait for Simmons, not just to return to fitness, but to see if he would even have the chance to turn out for the Nets this season.

While it has not been suggested the 25-year-old will return from back problems imminently, it has been reported the Nets are looking to use the player they traded Harden for in February sparingly towards the end of the first round.

Thankfully for him, his team-mates made it through their play-in game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday and so take their place in the playoffs, where they will start off in a fascinating encounter against the Boston Celtics.

Simmons has not played a single minute of basketball this season, not since his notorious performances in last year's postseason with the Sixers that saw him draw the ire of Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers.

Although Embiid accused Simmons of wanting to be a star more than wanting to win, that he won't necessarily need to fire from the off could help him, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in excellent form for Brooklyn.

Simmons will want to discover the sort of form he showed in the 2018-19 campaign, when he averaged 16.9 PPG, as well as 7.7 assists and 8.8 rebounds.

Miles Bridges has apologised for throwing his mouthguard aggressively into the crowd, accidentally hitting a 16-year-old girl.

The incident occurred after Bridges was ejected from the Charlotte Hornets' 132-103 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament.

After disagreeing with a referee's decision, he was assessed a technical foul, and then a second one for arguing and "aggressively approaching the official with a closed fist."

As he was being ushered down the tunnel to the locker room, Bridges appeared to react to a fan taunting him over the barricade, leading to him throwing his mouthguard. The mouthguard missed the man and hit a 16-year-old girl.

Speaking to post-game media, Bridges expressed remorse for his outburst, but mainly about the fact that he missed his intended target.

"I was aiming for the guy that was screaming at me and it hit a little girl," he said. "So that's definitely unacceptable on my part and I take full responsibility. 

"That's out of character for me... I don't act like that or ever flash out like that. 

"So that was definitely wrong, a lot of emotions and hopefully I can get in contact with the young girl and sincerely apologise to her and do something nice for her, but that's definitely on me.

"I was upset about a call – a couple of calls really – I let my temper get the best of me. It was definitely the wrong thing to do.''

New Orleans Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum called Wednesday's play-in tournament win against the San Antonio Spurs "the start of something special".

McCollum has been the star of the Pelicans since arriving in a mid-season trade, and it was no different against the Spurs, netting a game-high 32 points to go with seven assists and six rebounds.

The former Lehigh University standout has been averaging 23.3 points and 6.0 assists since the All-Star break and helped propel the Pelicans into the play-in tournament despite starting the season 1-12 from their first 13 games.

Speaking with post-game media, McCollum said it feels like something great is brewing in New Orleans.

"This is the start of something special, for sure," he said. 

"You see the energy. Feel the energy. My mother is in town – I have some family in town – when we go out to eat, you can feel the city is excited about basketball, as they should [be]. 

"There's a lot of talent here. We're playing the game the right way. It's going to be a lot of winning in our future."

McCollum went on to talk about how seriously the Pelicans were taking this game with their season on the line.

"I understood the magnitude of this game," he said. 

"The Spurs are always going to go on a run at some point. They are well-coached. They execute. They have a lot of great players who can shoot and score. 

"When you get a chance to get up double digits, you have to put the pedal to the metal and try to be aggressive… I try to be more aggressive in the playoffs, try to get downhill a little bit more."

Pelicans head coach Willie Green had nothing but praise for his star shooting guard.

"We just got the ball to him, and he made play after play, score after score," he said. 

"The rest of the guys started to feed off C.J. – he's been in these moments, he's played on the big stage. 

"It's no coincidence that he goes out and has the game that he has."

The Atlanta Hawks avoided elimination from the NBA Play-In Tournament on Wednesday, comfortably defeating the Charlotte Hornets 132-103, despite a poor shooting night from Trae Young.

The Hawks shot 52.1 per cent collectively even with Trae Young's eight-of-24 from the floor, with all five starters scoring in double-digits along with Bogdan Bogdanovic from the bench, who added 13 points.

Young started slow with three-of-13, matching LaMelo Ball for the first half, but was able to find his teammates early, particularly getting easy buckets for Clint Capela out of high pick-and-roll action.

Finishing with 31 assists for the night, the Hawks moved the ball fluidly in comparison to the Hornets, who could not generate clean looks on the way to 37.8 per cent shooting from the floor and 22 assists collectively.

Ball and Terry Rozier shot a combined 15-of-47, while the former went four-of-14 from three-point range despite eight assists and five rebounds.

Atlanta will now face the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the winner earning a Playoff matchup against the Eastern Conference's first seed, the Miami Heat.

McCollum leads Pelicans past Spurs

C.J. McCollum was the star of the show as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the San Antonio Spurs 113-103 to earn a chance at the Western Conference eighth seed.

McCollum was on fire early, particularly in the second quarter, where he went a perfect six-for-six from the field to score 19 points in the period, on his way to final figures of 32 points (12-of-23 shooting), seven assists and six rebounds.

He was supported in style by Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas, who combined for 49 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists, while rookie defensive sensation Herb Jones had two steals and two blocks.

Jones also did a great job on Spurs All-Star Dejounte Murray, holding him to five-of-19 shooting for his 16 points.

With the win, the Pelicans will play the Los Angeles Clippers in a game where the victor will earn a seven-game series against the Phoenix Suns in round one of the Playoffs.

 

Anthony Edwards ensured the Minnesota Timberwolves did not pay the price for Karl-Anthony Towns' night to forget against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Three-time All-Star Towns fouled out of the seven-eight play-in game in the West on Tuesday.

Having made just three field goals and given up four turnovers along with his six fouls, Towns had a miserable plus/minus of -14 as he exited the fourth quarter.

But the seven-point lead the Clippers held at that point was subsequently overturned – in no small part due to the performance of former first overall pick Edwards.

The second-year wing finished with 30 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, in a 109-104 T-Wolves win.

Edwards faced the media alongside Patrick Beverley afterwards, and his team-mate interrupted when the 20-year-old was asked about his work on offense.

"No one can guard him. I've been telling him that all year," Beverley said. "I don't care who plays him. I've seen the best defensive guys. I'm one of the best defensive guys on Earth.

"No one can guard him, and I just keep preaching that, preaching that to him, and he's been doing it all season, so credit to him, credit to his hard work, credit to his patience.

"Obviously we have Karl-Anthony Towns, who we feature a lot, so credit to his patience at a young age, understanding the game, being patient, understanding when to attack.

"KAT fouled out, him and D'Lo [D'Angelo Russell] took over the game. Our young core, man, those three guys, man, we're going to be here for a while.

"So, I'm very excited. I didn't mean to interrupt his questions, but I see the boy, he puts in a lot of work, fellas... ladies, too. He puts in a lot of work.

"One of the first guys in the beginning of the year in the gym. It's time to go home, he's the last one in, he comes at night. He brings his dog in there, he's in there.

"So, you've got to give a lot of credit. This is our star and this is his moment. He deserves all of it. This is his moment. My bad."

Beverley could be forgiven for being a little excited, having beaten his former team. He spent four years on the Clippers before joining the T-Wolves this season.

"I wanted this so bad," he said. "I wanted this one so bad."

His message to the Clippers now? "Take their a** home. Long flight to LA, take y'all a** home.

"It's deeper than that for me. I gave my blood and sweat and tears to that organisation. You guys know the story. Blood, sweat and tears, to just be written off like that, 'oh, he's injury prone, he's old', this, this, that, that.

"To be able to come here, play them in a play-in, beat their a**, there's no other feeling, man, no other feeling."

Despite Beverley's apparent ill feeling towards the Clippers, former team-mate Paul George said he "loves" and "misses" his "contagious" antics.

"You need energy guys like that," George said, although Clippers coach Ty Lue was disappointed with the way Beverley was able to get under his team's skin.

"He did a good job, especially in that second half, of just defending, getting into guys, irritating guys like he always does," Lue said.

"He's a big reason why this team is successful this year. I just think the mentality he brought over here has changed the team.

"[You've] just got to be able to keep composure, you can't let it get to you. I thought at times he did. That's what he does.

"He's been with us here forever. We knew that coming into the game. We didn't handle it well, but whatever."

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant believes Joel Embiid should win this season's NBA MVP award.

The Philadelphia 76ers center and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic are the clear favourites for this season's award, with Giannis Antetokounmpo in the running, too.

Durant, who was the MVP in 2014, pointed to Embiid's scoring when he said he deserved the nod marginally ahead of Denver Nuggets big man Jokic.

"If I had to choose, I would go Joel Embiid," Durant told reporters.

"He led the league in scoring, double-doubles, his team won 50 games this year. His numbers were incredible. It's a great year.

"But you can just close your eyes and just pick any one of the guys out of the top six or seven, and you can have a good MVP this year.

"That shows how great our league is right now and how talented our league is from top to bottom, but I would go with Embiid if I had to choose."

Embiid finished the regular season with the scoring title, averaging 30.6 points per game, along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He also had 46 double-doubles.

Jokic was second in the NBA across the regular season for rebounds, averaging 13.8. The Serbian center also contributed 27.1 points and 7.9 assists, with 66 double-doubles and 19 triple-doubles – two league highs.

The 76ers finished with a 51-31 record to claim fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Nuggets were sixth in the West with a 48-34 record.

Durant was also critical of MVP voting, claiming a player's narrative or story too often fed into the results.

"It's unfortunate," Durant said. "There's a lot of players that have been controlled by their narrative.

"Some of it has been because of the player, some of it just has been because of the perception of other people about that player.

"In Joel's case, more people just like Giannis and Jokic. It's as simple as that. They just prefer them more than Embiid's personality or his story, I guess."

Embiid was the runner-up for last season's MVP behind Jokic, with Stephen Curry in third.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry could return to full practice this week as he recovers from a sprained ligament and a bone bruise in his left foot.

Curry has not played since March 16 when he suffered a sprained ligament and a bone bruise in his left foot against the Boston Celtics, missing the side's past 12 games.

The Warriors will face the Denver Nuggets in the first-round playoffs, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday in San Francisco.

Curry remains "day-to-day" but Kerr said he would need to join in scrimmage, scheduled for Thursday, ahead of Saturday's game, having been restricted to individual work.

"It's essential, we're not going to play him without giving him a scrimmage," Kerr told reporters on Tuesday.

"The whole team will need a scrimmage given that we generally play every other day and all of a sudden we have six days between games, that's pretty unique.

"Everybody will need a scrimmage but it would be irresponsible to put Steph out there in a playoff game without having scrimmage time before."

He added: "Each day will determine where he is and what he can do the following day. At the end of the week, we'll determine if he's ready or not. It's hard to predict much."

The Warriors went 6-6 without Curry in the side across the final dozen regular-season games, winning their final five to see off the Dallas Mavericks for third seed in the Western Conference.

Kerr had previously said: "We'll see how everything goes with Steph next week. There's a chance he could be ready for game one, there's a chance he might not.

"It's literally going to be a day-to-day thing as it all unfolds this week. We'll know a lot more after the next few days when he's ramping up his work. but there's a chance we could get everybody on the same age and healthy.

"We haven't reached our potential yet. That's exciting to me. We have some room for growth."

The Dallas Mavericks have not ruled out All-Star Luka Doncic from Saturday's NBA first round playoffs opening game against the Utah Jazz despite confirming a left calf strain.

Doncic limped from the court in Sunday's win over the San Antonio Spurs, putting him in doubt ahead of the playoffs.

The Mavericks announced that an MRI on Monday had confirmed the superstar had suffered a strain in his calf but did not set a timetable on his recovery.

"If he's able to go out and put on his shoes, then he's going to go," Mavs head coach Jason Kidd told reporters after Tuesday's practice.

"If he can't, we're not going to put him in a situation to jeopardize it and make things worse."

The Mavericks will turn to Spencer Dinwiddie to start if Doncic is unavailable. Doncic has an NBA-high 37 per cent usage rate this season.

Dinwiddie has averaged 15.8 points and 3.9 assists in 23 games for the Mavs since his trade deadline deal from the Washington Wizards.

Doncic averaged 28.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists this season.

The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the first game of the NBA Play-In Tournament on Tuesday.

The Nets are now the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, confirming a playoff matchup with the second seed Boston Celtics.

Kyrie Irving made 10 straight attempts on the way to 34 points and 12 assists, but Kevin Durant took over in the second half with 25 points and 11 assists, as well as two steals and three blocks.

The Nets led by as much as 22 points at one stage, but it was on the back of Durant and Irving starting off hot. The Cavs managed to hang in there and cut it down to single digits with Darius Garland's free-throws and triple following Goran Dragic's flagrant foul.

Garland finished with 34 points on 13-of-24 shooting, but Caris LeVert and Lauri Markkanen experienced a poor shooting night, combining for 25 points but on nine-of-26 attempts from the floor.

The Cavs will play the winner of Wednesday's matchup between the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks, for a chance to take on the Miami Heat in a seven-game series.

Timberwolves win through to face Grizzlies

The Minnesota Timberwolves reached the playoffs for the second time since 2004 with a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns who fouled out early in the fourth quarter, finished with a 26-11 run to secure victory, which means they will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.

Anthony Edwards (30 points with five three-pointers and five rebounds) and D'Angelo Russell (29 points and six assists) starred offensively, while the relentless Patrick Beverley was excellent against his former side with 11 rebounds.

Paul George kept the Clippers in the contest with 34 points including six three-pointers with seven rebounds and five assists.

The Clippers will next face the winner of the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs' play-in game for a shot at the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Kevin Durant admits it will be tough to stop Jayson Tatum after the Brooklyn Nets progressed to the playoffs where they will face the Boston Celtics in a blockbuster first round series.

The Nets got past the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the play-in tournament on Tuesday to clinch the seventh seed, meaning they will face the second-seeded Celtics.

Durant scored 25 points with five rebounds and 11 assists, while ex-Celtics guard Kyrie Irving had 34 points with 12 assists.

The last time the two sides met, the Nets were beaten 126-120 by the Celtics on March 7 with Tatum scoring 54 points.

Tatum is seventh overall this season for points per game, averaging 26.9 shooting at 45.3 per cent from the field and 35.3 from three-point range.

"That's a tough question," Durant told reporters, when asked how to stop Tatum. "He's one of those players you've got to play hard and see what happens.

"He's just so talented, skilled and efficient at what he does. We've just got to play hard and I expect us to."

Irving added that keeping Tatum quiet would go a long way towards winning the series.

"It starts with really slowing JT down," Irving said. "He has a great feel playing against us. Everyone else around is very complementary to that attack."

Durant added: "[It's about] staying disciplined, playing together and playing with passion. I don’t have the schemes or the strategy to break it down to you. That's what every team needs to bring to win in the postseason."

The Celtics are one of the form teams in the NBA, going 35-12 since the turn of the year to finish the regular season with a 51-31 record.

Nets head coach Steve Nash said: "I'm really impressed with the Celtics, the job Ime [Udoka] has done. They've been able to build on that continuity.

"That group has been together for quite a while. They've made some tweaks and adjustments that have really improved their team both ends of the floor.  

"It'll be a great challenge for us. For a new group to go and play a team like that that's terrific at both ends is going to be something that hopefully brings the best out of us."

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry could return to full practice this week as he recovers from a sprained ligament and a bone bruise in his left foot.

Curry has not played since March 16 when he suffered a sprained ligament and a bone bruise in his left foot against the Boston Celtics, missing the side's past 12 games.

The Warriors will face the Denver Nuggets in the first-round playoffs, with game one scheduled for Saturday in San Francisco.

Curry remains "day-to-day" but Kerr said he would need to join in scrimmage, scheduled for Thursday, ahead of Saturday's game, having been restricted to individual work.

"It's essential, we're not going to play him without giving him a scrimmage," Kerr told reporters on Tuesday.

"The whole team will need a scrimmage given that we generally play every other day and all of a sudden we have six days between games, that's pretty unique.

"Everybody will need a scrimmage but it would be irresponsible to put Steph out there in a playoff game without having scrimmage time before."

He added: "Each day will determine where he is and what he can do the following day. At the end of the week, we'll determine if he's ready or not. It's hard to predict much."

The Warriors went 6-6 without Curry in the side across the final dozen regular-season games, winning their final five to see off the Dallas Mavericks for third seed in the Western Conference.

Kerr had previously said: "We'll see how everything goes with Steph next week. There's a chance he could be ready for game one, there's a chance he might not.

"It's literally going to be a day-to-day thing as it all unfolds this week. We'll know a lot more after the next few days when he's ramping up his work. but there's a chance we could get everybody on the same age and healthy.

"We haven't reached our potential yet. That's exciting to me. We have some room for growth."

It was perhaps not the most surprising news when it emerged on Monday that coach Frank Vogel had been dismissed by the Los Angeles Lakers.   One of the most star-studded teams of all time inexplicably failed to even make the NBA Play-In tournament, finishing the season with a record of 33-49 and in 11th place in the western conference.   However, it would have been astonishing to imagine this scenario in September, when Vogel was handed a one-year extension to his deal, and especially a year prior to that when he was lifting an NBA championship in his first year with the Lakers.   How did we get here, though?

Vogel enjoyed a good start to his career in coaching, making it to the play-offs with the Indiana Pacers in each of his first four years, reaching the conference finals in 2013 and 2014.

After six years in Indiana, he moved to the Orlando Magic, but was unable to repeat the trick there with a young team, with an overall regular season record in his two years in Florida of 54-110, failing to reach the post-season in either campaign before being fired in 2018.

A year later, he was appointed by the Lakers, making a great start as he boasted a regular season record of 52-19, before going on to win their first championship in 10 years.

Vogel's second season was not as smooth, with a 42-30 regular season record. A dramatic Play-In victory against the Golden State Warriors brewed excitement that another dramatic championship run could be on the cards, but a 4-2 defeat to the Phoenix Suns in the first playoff round ended those hopes.

Despite that setback, his post-season win percentage of 66.7 is the third-best in Lakers history, behind only Pat Riley (68.5) and Paul Westhead (68.4).

However, even after having faith shown in him with a one-year contract extension in August 2021, Vogel was unable to add to those figures with a spectacular failure to reach the post-season this year.

The regression in 2020-21 had largely been put down to injury issues suffered by two of his stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and with those two back fit and after trading to bring Russell Westbrook in from the Washington Wizards, the Lakers went into the 2021-22 season as one of the favourites to go all the way.

 

While Davis and James have suffered further injury setbacks, the latter has still had one of his most productive seasons of an illustrious career, and a failure to get anything like the best out of Westbrook has also been a factor.

James averaged over 30 points per game (30.3) for the first time since 2007-08, with only Joel Embiid averaging more across the league (30.6), though it was the first season since 2009-10 in which Westbrook averaged fewer than 20 points per game (18.5).

The 33-year-old did not hold back when asked about Vogel on Monday, saying at his exit interview: "I think it's unfortunate, to be honest, because I've never had an issue with any of my coaches before.

"I'm not sure what [Vogel's] issue was with me, or I'm not sure why, but I can't really give you an answer to why we really never connected."

The writing was on the wall towards the end of the season, with the Lakers losing eight straight games to miss out on the Play-In tournament, only slightly improving their record with two final wins before the end of the regular season, and ultimately, the end of Vogel's time in LA.

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