Including the two teams involved in the play-in for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, there are three schools in the state with two alums in this year’s NBA playoffs. Two of those three schools, of course, represent brothers from the Lopez and Holiday families. The other is Leuzinger of Lawndale. There are also more L.A. Lakers’ assistant coaches from the state than on any of the player rosters.
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It’s highly unlikely that many of the Los Angeles Lakers’ or Los Angeles Clippers’ fans will agree, but from a historical California high school perspective the team to root for in this year’s NBA playoffs is the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets aren’t the only NBA team that will be in the playoffs with three players from the Golden State, but their two biggest stars went to California high schools and they have a back-up center who was a two-time Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year.
Artesia of Lakewood grad James Harden and Leuzinger of Lawndale grad Russell Westbrook, as most know, are the two Rockets’ all-stars from California.
Harden is up for MVP of the NBA this year, an honor he won in 2018. Westbrook was MVP the season before that. They also have been all-stars eight times and nine times, respectively, with Westbrook earning NBA All-Star Game MVP honors twice.
The Rockets will have to do without one of their stars for the beginning of their Western Conference playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder since Westbrook will be missing with a strained right quad muscle.
Houston also has former Dominguez of Compton two-time Mr. Basketball Tyson Chandler on its roster. Chandler has been in the league since he was the second overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. He was Mr. Basketball that previous season and also was choice as a junior following the 1999-2000 season.
In 2011, Chandler was a defensive stopper and key player for a Dallas Mavericks’ team that won that franchise’s only NBA title. He was paired with another two-time California state player of the year, point guard Jason Kidd (Alameda St. Joseph), along with German superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
Last season, Chandler played for the Los Angeles Lakers, which also is the team Kidd is now part of as an assistant coach. We counted three other assistant coaches on the Lakers’ staff from California high schools. The team itself only has one. In fact, there isn’t a team in the NBA playoffs — or in the Western Conference play-in between the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies — who has as many former California high school players than the group of Lakers’ assistant coaches.
The Clippers are the only other team similar to the Rockets with its two leading players from the state. Last year’s NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors, will now hope to add the Clippers as the third team he’ll get to celebrate an NBA title with. Leonard, our Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year for 2009 from M.L. King of Riverside, earned his first NBA Finals MVP with the San Antonio Spurs. Paul George, who is from Knight High in Palmdale, is the team’s other perennial all-star from the state.
Westbrook is not only Leuzinger grad who will be in the NBA playoffs, either. Delon Wright of the Dallas Mavericks also is a former Olympian.
The only other schools with two grads in this year’s NBA playoffs are San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno and Campbell Hall of North Hollywood. Both of those totals represent brothers Brook and Robin Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks plus Justin and Aaron Holiday of the Indiana Pacers. The third Holiday brother in the NBA, Jrue, plays for the New Orleans Pelicans, which couldn’t advance out of the NBA bubble season, which just concluded in Orlando.
The full list of players from the state is below.
Boston Celtics – None.
Brooklyn Nets – Spencer Dinwiddie SG (Woodland Hills Taft), Tyler Johnson SG (Mountain View St. Francis). Note: Interim head coach Jacque Vaughn still holds state single season assists record when he played at Pasadena Muir (1993).
Indiana Pacers – Aaron Holiday PG (North Hollywood Campbell Hall), Justin Holiday SG (North Hollywood Campbell Hall), T.J. Leaf PG (El Cajon Foothills Christian).
Miami Heat – Solomon Hill SF (Los Angeles Fairfax), K.Z. Okpala SF (Anaheim Esperanza), Gabe Vincent Two-Way PG (Stockton St. Mary’s).
Milwaukee Bucks – Brook Lopez C (Fresno San Joaquin Memorial), Robin Lopez C (Fresno San Joaquin Memorial), D.J. Wilson SF (Sacramento Capital Christian).
Orlando Magic – Aaron Gordon PF (San Jose Archbishop Mitty), James Ennis SF (Ventura).
Philadelphia 76ers – None.
Toronto Raptors – Stanley Johnson PF (Santa Ana Mater Dei), Norman Powell SG (San Diego Lincoln).
Dallas Mavericks – Delon Wright SG (Lawndale Leuzinger).
Denver Nuggets – None. Note: Bol Bol C played one season at Santa Ana Mater Dei, but last season was at Findlay Prep (Nevada).
Houston Rockets – Tyson Chandler C (Compton Dominguez), James Harden SG (Lakewood Artesia), Russell Westbrook PG (Lawndale Leuzinger). Note: David Nwaba G (Los Angeles University) injured with Achilles heel.
Los Angeles Clippers – Kawhi Leonard SF (Riverside M.L. King), Paul George SF (Palmdale Knight).
Los Angeles Lakers – Jared Dudley SF (San Diego Horizon Christian). Note: Almost all of of the Lakers’ assistant coaches are from California, including Jason Kidd
(Alameda St. Joseph), Miles Simon (Santa Ana Mater Dei), Mike Penberthy (Fresno Hoover) and Phil Handy (Union City James Logan).
Memphis Grizzlies – De’Anthony Melton PG (Encino Crespi). Note: Josh Jackson SG played at Napa Prolific Prep (non-CIF school).
Oklahoma City Thunder – None.
Portland Trail Blazers – Trevor Ariza SG (Los Angeles Westchester), Damian Lillard PG (Oakland). Note: Gary Trent Jr. PG played at Napa Prolific Prep (non-CIF school).
Utah Jazz – None.
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