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LEBRON VS. ZION, PART 1: Former No. 1 picks separated by 16 years, one from the 2003 draft and the other from 2019, faced off for the first time last night when the Pelicans matched up with the Lakers, and LeBron James and Zion Williamson both put on a show for us. Los Angeles took home the win 118-109, but what will be remembered most will be the showing from the two elite talents, the rookie and the vet.
James dropped a season-high 40 points on the evening, chipping in eight rebounds and six assists to boot. Someone should have told Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry that Jrue Holiday and Josh Hart might not have been the best options to defend a 6-foot-9, 250-pound four-time former MVP, though, to be fair, no one was slowing down LeBron last night, particularly on the open floor.
Zion, meanwhile, scored 29 while being forced to finish against the excellent defense of Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard most of the night, drawing 19 free throws through sheer physicality. Williamson is now the second player ever to score at least 20-plus points in nine straight games before turning 21, joining Carmelo Anthony on the illustrious list.
This may still be LeBron’s league, but there’s no question the NBA is in fantastic hands with players like Williamson, as well as others like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic, at the forefront of the next generation of stars. Watching Zion develop over the years is going to be an absolute pleasure.
ELSEWHERE LAST NIGHT IN THE ASSOCIATION: Besides LeBron vs. Zion, the second-most anticipated matchup of the evening, Raptors-Bucks, likewise did not disappoint, with Toronto dominating most of the first half and Milwaukee turning things around in the second leading to an impressive 108-97 road win for Giannis and Co.
The Raptors did a great job stifling Giannis all game, forcing him to finish 5-of-14 from the floor for merely 19 points, but the other guys, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe in particular, stepped up to the tune of 54 combined points, 18 combined boards and six combined blocks.
HEAD COACH SAFE: This should never have really been in question, but according to reports, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts isn’t going anywhere next season, even despite Portland’s disappointing 2019-20.
INJURY UPDATE: There still isn’t much clarity regarding Ben Simmons’ back injury, but the All-Star ballhandler is set to miss at least two weeks, and probably even more time, due to his ailment.
READY TO COMMIT: The Rockets are reportedly working towards signing Jeff Green for the rest of the season once his 10-day expires. Makes sense, as Green is a great fit for Houston’s super small-ball style.
In his three games with the Rockets, admittedly a tiny sample size, Houston is a ridiculous 27.7 points per 100 possessions better with Green on the floor. That’ll drop some, but it’s clear the veteran forward is going to help Houston a lot going forward.
MVP RANKINGS: We have voted on and ranked the Top 10 players in the 2019-20 MVP race, and this time around, LeBron James has made a huge push towards the top spot.
ONE ON ONE: Our own Alex Kennedy recently sat down with three-time All-Star, one-time champion Antoine Walker, who thinks he would be a $300 million player in today’s due to his size, versatility and three-point shooting.
KOBE’S FINAL ACT: It won’t shock anyone, but Kobe Bryant’s final act was an amazingly selfless one, asking Rob Pelinka to help him get a friend’s 16-year-old daughter an internship with a big-time baseball agency, moments before getting on that helicopter.
DRAFT WATCH: Cavs GM Koby Altman is reportedly making the trip to Israel to scout projected lottery pick Deni Avdija for six days. Avdija sits 11th in our last aggregate mock draft.
AN ENIGMA: A bunch of Andrew Wiggins’ old coaches spoke about the inconsistent-yet-supremely-talented forward. They think highly of him, but they all know he hasn’t come close to meeting his potential.
DISAPPOINTING SEASON: Nuggets 2-guard Gary Harris is struggling mightily through injury and inconsistency this season, which begs the question: How good would an already great Denver team be with an in-form Harris?
GETTING THERE: In Wizards history, no player has been able to match Gilbert Arenas’ legendary run of play back in the 2006-07 campaign, which included a 60-point outing. The argument can be made, though, that Bradley Beal is coming close this season.
SALARY QUIZ: WHO’S THIS NBA PLAYER? 🤔
Click here for the answer.