Storyline: Anthony Davis to Celtics?

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Should Irving leave, and the team’s bid for an Anthony Davis trade fall through, then short of moving ahead with what’s left, Danny Ainge’s creativity will be tested like never before. Though he wouldn’t share specifics, Grousbeck has admittedly heard some fairly exotic scenarios being discussed. “There’s definitely scenarios being spun inside the basketball office,” he said. “I’m there every day listening to them, that involve a number of players. I’ve heard a lot of scenarios. We’ll just see what happens.”

Boston? Davis’s father told ESPN in February that he wouldn’t want his son playing for the Celtics, and Paul confirms that he has warned off Boston management. “They can trade for him, but it’ll be for one year,” Paul says. “I mean: If the Celtics traded for Anthony Davis, we would go there and we would abide by our contractual [obligations] and we would go into free agency in 2020. I’ve stated that to them. But in the event that he decides to walk away and you give away assets? Don’t blame Rich Paul.”

This will still be an anxious week for the Boston brass, knowing the team will be sidelined from negotiations as other teams try to pry Davis from the Pelicans. Some rival executives have wondered why the Pelicans would rush to make a decision now, with the likelihood that the Lakers’ offer will still be there come the offseason. At that time, New Orleans would be able to better judge its other offers, including that from Boston. Jayson Tatum is widely viewed as the best prospect potentially on the table. The Celtics also have a list of other talented young players, like Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, plus a number of draft picks to sweeten the offer. Even if the Kings’ pick isn’t likely to land where Boston hoped entering the season, the Celtics have the pieces to compete with anyone else’s offer — and they intend to be aggressive, sources said, assuming they actually get the chance to enter the race.

This latest Lakers-Celtics subplot would be dead by now if Ainge had been scared off, but sources say Boston — which can’t trade for Davis until this summer because of the well-chronicled “Rose Rule” — is continuing its complicated pursuit of the five-time All-Star in spite of the message being sent through various channels that he doesn’t want to play there. A source with knowledge of the talks said the potential centerpiece in a Pelicans package, 20-year-old Celtics small forward Jayson Tatum, has been discussed extensively by the two teams and is expected to be a major part of the talks when June rolls around.

As the Pelicans field offers for Anthony Davis, Boston’s message to New Orleans has been direct: Wait. Wait, and we will come to you with an offer that will make it worth it. Wait, and you can raid our stash of draft picks. The Celtics have refused to directly dangle Jayson Tatum, two sources familiar with the situation told SI.com, but the Pelicans have been left with the impression that if Davis remains on the roster past Thursday, nothing is off the table.

Boston’s plan to pursue Davis remains unaffected by whatever decision Irving might make in summer free agency, league sources said. Irving, 26, had previously said he planned to re-sign with the Celtics in the summer but has recently wavered in public on that promise. While the Celtics can’t be positive on Irving’s forthcoming decision in July, they do remain confident that he’ll choose to stay in Boston, sources said. The Celtics also believe that a deal for Davis would help solidify his confidence in re-signing with the organization, sources said.

Woj expressed the Pelicans still hope to make it back to the postseason in 2018-19, as well, which factors into their being patient. However, the Boston Celtics’ interest in Davis has played a part in this, too. Although Danny Ainge and company can’t make an offer until the end of the season because of the “Rose Rule” Boston still has the best and largest group of assets to offer—which is something the Celtics have apparently made clear to the Pelicans.

Adrian Wojnarowski: “Essentially, having Boston in the bidding, who is the team with the most draft picks, several outstanding young players and a really motivated team to try to acquire Anthony Davis it only elevates everyone else’s offers in the trade process and Boston is going to be there. And I think, Boston has sent a message to the Pelicans, ‘Be patient. Wait for us, we are going to be in this and we’re going to be willing to talk about essentially everyone on our roster outside of Kyrie Irving.’ So, I think right now it’s put New Orleans very much in a holding pattern and it’s really dampened the possibility of the [Los Angeles] Lakers being able to do what they’d love to do, is get a deal done prior to the trade deadline. New Orleans has no interest in acquiescing Anthony Davis to the Lakers right now.”

When Anthony Davis’s camp made it clear this week that the All-Star did not intend to sign an extension with the Pelicans this summer and would like to be traded, it ignited what is sure to be a feeding frenzy that will likely last until summer, as teams feverishly look for ways to acquire one of the NBA’s transcendent talents. But according to multiple league sources, Boston has been diligently preparing for this scenario for months. During this time, the Celtics have made informal calls to the Pelicans, the sources said, understanding that New Orleans was in no hurry to trade its centerpiece, but making sure that if the time came where its hand was forced, Boston would be ready.

The timing of Davis’s request this week is certainly not ideal for the Celtics. A league rule forbids teams from acquiring multiple players who have signed designated rookie extensions, and Irving was the first. So the Celtics would have to wait until Irving opts out of his deal on July 1 to make a move, while most other teams can try to strike now, prior to next Thursday’s trade deadline. But if Davis remains in New Orleans after the deadline, league sources say, there is a growing belief around the league that the Celtics would become the favorites to land the superstar forward.

GM Danny Ainge is undeterred on making a trade for Davis, even without an assurance that he would agree to an extension with the Celtics, league sources said. Boston has been calling New Orleans for the past year-plus on Davis, and has gathered multiple first-round picks and young players to include in a package for him. Davis has a strong relationship with Irving, and Boston knows that trading for Davis would assuredly perish any possibility of Irving changing his mind and leaving the Celtics in free agency this summer.

New Orleans plans to issue a statement later Monday, but officials are already privately expressing that the organization doesn’t feel pressure to move Davis before the Feb. 7 trade deadline. Davis’ declaration on wanting out now give teams other than the Boston Celtics a head start in pursuing trades for Davis. Restricted by the Designated Rookie Extension contract, Boston cannot trade for Davis until July 1 because Collective Bargaining rules wouldn’t allow both Kyrie Irving’s and Davis’ contracts to be on a roster together under that provision. Irving becomes a free agent on July 1. Boston could agree to a Davis trade with New Orleans prior to July 1 and then finalize a trade after that date.

Warriors. Anthony Davis. I’m throwing this out there, I’m not basing this on anything, but a sleeper team, Golden State for Anthony Davis. Chris Haynes: “That rumor’s been around for some time, and I think Tim Kawakami of the Athletic in the Bay Area started the reporting on that. And I think there was something to that. I’ll say this: I think things have changed a little bit now that Anthony Davis is repped by Rich Paul, who happens to be LeBron James’ agent. So I think [those rumors] had more juice this time last year, to go in that direction. I would be surprised if Golden State would be able to enter the field… to picking up AD. I think the Lakers have a legitimate shot. I think Boston is definitely gonna be in there. I can’t see Golden State picking that up. It would be mighty difficult – it’s just a lot of things have changed since then.”

The Celtics have been floated as a trade partner for the Pelican’s Anthony Davis for a long time now due to an outstanding young core and they want to add another superstar. In fact, outside of the Lakers, they’ve arguably generated the most talk. Forward Jayson Tatum — who broke out during last year’s postseason when Kyrie Irving was injured — is one of the names most commonly brought up. Tatum is well aware of the talk, as is his father, Justin. Justin told Cedric Maxwell of “The Sports Hub” that “I probably would trade [Tatum] too, if he wasn’t my son” to get Davis. When Tatum was told that his dad had said that, his response was simple: “Yeah, I’d trade me too for Anthony Davis,” he told Maxwell. The response drew some laughs.

If Davis indicates that he won’t extend, the Pelicans may find a trade is the only answer, lest they lose one of the league’s elite players without any compensation. The buzz in Las Vegas, where most of the league’s executives gathered over the past few days for the NBA G League Winter Showcase, is that Davis will end up with either the Boston Celtics or Lakers before the 2019-20 season. “It’s a renewal of the NBA’s great rivalries, just not on the court but behind the scenes,” one executive said.

Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday knows his team’s best hope to championship contention is coveted by the competition. “I mean, everybody wants to [have Davis on their team],” Holiday said. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t. To us, he’s our franchise player. He’s top three in the world.” Is it distracting to hear and read media speculation about Davis potentially leaving? “Nah. I feel like, y’all hear it. We don’t really hear it,” Holiday said. “The only teams I know about is Boston and the Lakers. But again, we don’t really pay attention to that.”

But the C’s may be battling with their historic rival if (when) Davis becomes available. “Boston has been hawking Anthony Davis for years,” Wojnarowski said in an ESPN video with Zach Lowe. “They always hoped that it would be, whether it’s the end of this season or the beginning of next before the trade deadline, that they would gather up all those assets, all those picks Danny Ainge has, [all the] young players, and they’d be the team to be able to get Anthony Davis. But now you have L.A. and if they get shut out in free agency, they’re going to have to take all their young players to try to use them to get Anthony Davis.”

If they do, the Celtics will be one of the obvious suitors, with Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Robert Williams and/or a number of future picks including a possible top-five selection to dangle. Even if Tatum’s off the table, Boston would be able to field a competitive offer. Several league sources have said they believe Davis could end up either with the Celtics or Lakers if the Pelicans were to move him. If he landed with the Celtics, he’d be reunited with former Team USA teammate Irving. The two have already spoken about what it would be like to play together in Boston, according to a league source.

I’ve long felt the Celtics should hold tight to their assets—from the Lakers/Kings first-round pick they received in the Tatum trade to Tatum himself—with the hopes of landing another big fish. But one executive I spoke with made a good point: The Pelicans trading Anthony Davis is nothing more than a fantasy. Even if AD, who can opt out of his current contract in 2020, was eventually made available, by that point, Boston may not even have the most to offer. Boston shouldn’t wait on that pipe dream, the executive contended, and should pounce on the next good opportunity that comes.

While teams are already preparing for a free-agent class in ’19 that potentially includes Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, one executive astutely pointed out that the Celtics just might have the right picks at the right time to swing a trade for a superstar still under contract in ’19, but who makes clear to his current team he won’t sign an extension. 7. Someone like Anthony Davis. It’s all conjecture and speculation at this point, but that’s what All-Star weekend is all about. And A.D. on a team that includes Kyrie Irving and the slew of talent Boston is assembling could realistically be enough to topple the Cavs’ empire within the next year or two — even if James stays.

Sorry to shut down the party, but a Davis-to-the-Celtics deal isn’t happening any time soon. During an appearance on “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explained why Davis will remain in a Pelicans jersey. “New Orleans has no intention of trading Anthony Davis,” Woj said. “Boston’s uniquely positioned in that they have draft picks and young players and all the things — if a team was gonna trade Anthony Davis — all the things you’d want. But [the Pelicans] aren’t trading Anthony Davis… He wants to make it work in New Orleans. He wants to get into the playoffs.”

The Celtics and Pelicans have yet to engage in any discussions regarding a trade for Anthony Davis, but, in a Herald exclusive, New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry set the price for a potential transaction between the clubs. “I know there’s been rumors about Boston trying to trade for him or whatever,” said Gentry, “and my response to that is, yeah, we’ll trade him. But they’re going to have to give us the New England Patriots and the two planes that they just bought. . . . And I don’t think they’re going to do that. So we’re not even thinking about those kind of things.”

As for the stories about Davis at each stop on the Pelicans’ itinerary, Gentry said, “It doesn’t matter. To me, he likes it, he likes being here and that’s the only thing that matters. Every indication I get when I talk to him is that he’s committed to being in New Orleans. I mean, he’s a once in a lifetime player, and he’s happy here. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but he’s never said anything to me but, ‘I want to win and I want to do it here.’ So it’s up to us to just continue to try to put the necessary players around him to get that done.”
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December 14, 2019 | 5:51 pm UTC Update
“It’s funny how everyone talks about these back-to-backs and they’re making it better and then they do this,” Rivers said. “It’s the exact opposite of what everyone said they’re trying to do. And then you have the Doris Burkes of the world complaining about guys’ load management and then the network they work on are the ones that are changing the game times.”
“We’re talking about trying to keep players out of harm’s way, and it’s the exact opposite of what we’re doing,” Rivers said. “If you play at 7 you shouldn’t play before 7 the next [day]. I’ve always said that. This is like a 22-hour time change difference and plus we have to travel. So it’s really a tough one but no one’s going to feel sorry for us tomorrow, I can guarantee you that.”
Jamal Crawford, the NBA’s three-time sixth man of the year, played for the Clippers under both regimes. He sent WUSA9 a video Monday thanking Ballmer for not just his generosity but his social conscience. “You’ve always cared about the right things in life,” Crawford says into his iPad camera. “Even as the years went on, you didn’t just care about things pertaining to what your interests might be. You care about everybody, and that says a lot. Keep doing the work you’re doing and I’m proud to call you a friend.”
In a phone interview with BET on Friday (Dec. 13), Watson, who said he’s “been doing things in the [Kansas City] community since 2001” when he was first drafted to the NBA, confirmed his generous offer to the Lamb family. “It’s the first time I ever came across a situation like this and it moved me because we’ve been seeing this across the country and to have it happen in your own backyard and it gets notoriety [in the media] it moved me because a lot of times you don’t hear about it, you just gotta get word of mouth in the community,” he told BET.
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December 14, 2019 | 5:06 pm UTC Update
TMZ Sports spoke with the ex-NY star about the coaching vacancy … and, while he lists off a number of ex-Knicks who are qualified for the gig, Ewing ain’t one of them. Why?? “Ya gotta be a different type of coach than Patrick,” Oak tells us. “I think he tried before and they didn’t hire him. So, I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”
December 14, 2019 | 4:36 pm UTC Update
Chandler, 32, says this has been the most challenging stretch of an 11-year career. Tougher than the adjustments he had to make during his rookie season in 2007-08. More frustrating than missing the entire 2015-16 season with a torn labrum. More trying than being traded. At one point during his suspension, Chandler admits, he contemplated retiring from the NBA altogether. “You start to think about, ‘Is it really worth it?'” Chandler says. “Not because you don’t want to play, but because you’re in a dark place.”
Storyline: Wilson Chandler Suspension
On the phone was the league office, notifying Chandler he had tested positive for Ipamorelin, a growth hormone that has been on the NBA’s list of banned substances since 2016. Chandler had spent the summer rehabbing from a quadriceps injury sustained during the 2018-19 season. During his treatment, Chandler said, his personal physician gave him “small doses” of the drug. He added that neither he nor his doctor was aware he was taking a banned substance. “I was trying to get healthy, and I took something I didn’t know was a bad substance,” Chandler said. “I felt a lot of shame.”
The pass was swatted away, Antetokounmpo fouled out and the Greeks eventually lost 79-76. The man who swatted that alley-oop away and looked over Antetokounmpo as his team’s hopes slipped away that day? That’s right: Bruno Caboclo. After the Bucks’ 127-114 win in Memphis on Friday night, Antetokounmpo recalled a conversation he had with former Kings forward and Greek teammate Georgios Papagiannis after that September game. “Oh, yeah. I marked this game,” Antetokounmpo said. “When we lost to Brazil, (Papagiannis) told me he’s playing for Memphis. And I was like, ‘OK, cool. Watch the game.’”
Besides it being an opportunity to get the bad taste out of his mouth from Thursday’s failures, DeRozan gets to check off another country. “It’s something not everyone gets to experience,” he said of playing outside the United States. “I had a chance to play in London (while with Toronto), so to come here and add Mexico to my résumé is definitely great. I tell all the young guys to just soak it in and enjoy it.”
“The Spurs are very popular here in Mexico, especially with all the times they were here before and all the times Manu was here. Fans loved him. But even if he isn’t here, the fans still follow the Spurs and are loyal to them.” For coach Gregg Popovich, it’s even more than that. “The culture we have in San Antonio is very similar,” he said. “Coming to Mexico City doesn’t feel all that different than home.”
The Suns wear Noches Éne•Bé•A Nike City Edition uniforms with “Los Suns” across the chest and “Somos PHX” near the size tag at the bottom of the jersey. Booker would like to lean into that by learning to speak Spanish. “I have a five-year goal that’s definitely on there,” Booker said. “I’ve talked to my teammate Tyler Johnson about it. We talked about maybe getting a tutor that can be on the planes with us or something like that. It’s definitely something that I want to do. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but that’s the goal.
Melvin Booker got to break a sweat on a few NBA teams but mostly played overseas in Turkey, Russia and Italy. Gutierrez allowed Booker, then 12, to visit his father one spring break in Milan, where the son played one-on-one with a future pro in Danilo Gallinari and showed the potential of being a special player. Eventually, Melvin ended his career to return home to coach his high school team and focus on his son. He convinced Gutierrez and Devin on a move to Mississippi before his sophomore year in high school so that he could be trained and prepared to play at a big-time college. “Letting Devin leave Michigan was by far the hardest decision of my life. I still have mixed feelings about it,” Gutierrez wrote. “Division I colleges were already pursuing him. Since Melvin was playing basketball overseas most of his life, the one-on-one that he got with his father was good for him.”
What’s it like being back on the bench? Williams: I do feel a level of unspeakable gratitude that I can’t put into words that I get a chance to do it again. It’s going to sound weird, but I want to do it again because I know it’s not for me anymore. It’s for others. Like I really want to see Devin [Booker] become an All-Star. I want to see Deandre [Ayton] be consistent and become an All-Star. I want to see Mr. Sarver looked at differently.
You two are now the only black GM-coach duo in the league. What are your thoughts on that? Jones: For me, I know that I’m a role model and I’m blessed to be in this position. And I know that a lot of people look at my opportunity and my success as kind of a light, a positive sign that there is a lot of balance and diversity at every level in the NBA. Not just coaches and players, but also to management. So I’m prideful. I have a lot of pride in the fact that I have accomplished it, but I really don’t think about it much. I think about the team and our unique situation more than the global perspective.
Storyline: Suns Front Office
But behind Ujiri, Webster has watched, learned — and risen to the point of being a key piece of the Raptors NBA championship. Webster will bristle at that description, but it’s true. If Ujiri is the ship captain, Webster is the navigator. “Bobby is making a lot of the decisions in terms of everything they do,” says one NBA player agent who works closely with the Raptors. “Masai is the lead role and the face of the program, and obviously very involved… but Bobby is the driving force, at least for me, for a lot of the decisions they make.”
Even though Ujiri wanted Webster for his experience with the NBA’s new salary cap rules, Webster wasn’t content with that job alone. He could have done that anywhere — back at the league’s head office, he was basically doing it for every team. If Webster was going to leave New York, he wanted more than a job: he wanted an education. He wanted to learn how a team was run on the inside. He wanted to scout, he wanted to deal with coaches, he wanted to interact with the analytics staff. Ujiri agreed. If Webster provided his salary cap insights, Ujiri assured him that he could work on whatever else he wanted. He even let Webster make up his own job title. He settled on “vice president of basketball management and strategy.”
The incoming G League team will test the possibility of establishing a full-time NBA franchise here if the league were to ever expand. “It’s certainly something that we’ve talked about in the past,” Adam Silver said in the press conference. He clarified that the league is not “in expansion mode” right now, and that the G League team would exist on its own merits to first and foremost help further grow basketball in the country. It’s impossible not to think about the possibility, though. “This kind of initiative for us with the G League team always helps all the variables that could be used precisely for this type of analysis,” Raul Zarraga told The Athletic.
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“It’s important to understand, in Mexico, that we have a lot of fans of basketball, and we will always be looking for alternatives that will help them enjoy the basketball,” he said. “It’s not all about putting the games on TV. It’s that they need to touch, feel, breathe the basketball. And this is exactly what we are offering them.” Zarraga said there are 20 million NBA fans in Mexico, which could be called a good start for a country that has about 130 million people in total. It’s completely conceivable how this new G League franchise, which is partnering with a local team called Capitanes, could boost the sport and Mexico’s own first league, Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional. The country’s passion for the sport will need to continue before serious talks about putting a franchise here would even make sense.
December 14, 2019 | 2:17 pm UTC Update
Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated: “I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.” “Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.”
After last season, Sexton re-watched tape of all 82 games from beginning to end. Then he watched them again. He took notes on what he did well and what needed to be improved. He got frustrated seeing all his mistakes, whether it was unnecessary turnovers or botched layups. He studied his tendencies on defense and how they could be adjusted. Everything was recorded and stored away to be addressed in the ensuing months. He would get up at 6:30 each morning, eat breakfast and head straight to the gym to hoop. From there, he’d hit the weights and transition into some agility stuff. At night, he’d always return to shoot more. “I had to make sure that I was polished,” Sexton says. “I had to correct the things that I needed to.”
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Fear of failure has always kept the Young Bull driven. Collin used to break down and cry after regular season losses in HS. During shootaround prior to a matchup against powerhouse Montverde his senior year, Sexton couldn’t hit anything. He got so angry that he ripped off his shirt like the Incredible Hulk before stringing together 20-30 consecutive makes. That kind of stuff led outsiders to believe Collin had a bad attitude and wouldn’t make it very far. “It was just passion,” Sexton says. “I figured out how to channel it and use it in the right direction. I was just like, I’m gonna prove everybody wrong. All those people who doubted me. I’m gonna show them what I can do.”
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Even if, by the end, Oracle Arena wasn’t exactly a blue-collar bastion, Chase Center is on another level of fan affluence. Whereas the last arena housed the long-suffering Warriors fan, this new one was made for fans who have known little suffering, in sports or life. Thus, the new digs inspired resentment in many quarters. Chief among the Chase Center features that galled was “the bunker suite,” a miniature catered apartment under the stands that costs roughly $2 million per season. Or, as team president Rick Welts said on “60 Minutes” of the price, “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
Storyline: New Warriors Arena
Here’s something I did not get a sense of when I initially toured Chase Center. The bunker suites aren’t just hidden away rooms; they’re in a network of hallways and connected to one another like a capacious cave. Yes, you are at a remove from the public, but you are also in a broader bubble than just the people in your specific suite. There are 32 bunker suites in total, divided into two different areas, or “lounges,” on each side of the court. One side houses the Google Cloud lounges and the other The Accenture lounges. Our kind and competent butler informed me that the lounge cultures are different. “Google is more chill, more relaxed,” she said. Accenture tends to feature an older clientele. Google has younger types who like to party a bit. My suite on the Google side was populated by millennial-aged tech types, for example. How does this division between lounges happen? Well, likely because these suites were purchased with some social planning in mind.
“These young visionaries and champion athletes epitomize the melding of competitive greatness with purposeful creative genius.” That’s Bill Walton talking about Chris Benchetler’s new film, Fire on the Mountain, which sets the extreme adventures of a skiing and surfing collective to the music of the Grateful Dead. Shot in the unforgiving environment of the North Pole and the blissed out blue water off the coast of Indonesia, it’s a gorgeous piece of work that strives to provide nothing less than a visual manifestation of the Dead’s musical transcendence. Walton’s narration provides the voice to the film, lending an old-world authenticity to the new generation of seekers hooked on the Dead’s mystical aesthetic.
December 14, 2019 | 2:06 pm UTC Update
The market for Morris, according to opposing scouts and execs, is probably a team that believes his addition could help push them further into the playoffs. Morris is likely the only player on the Knicks who could get dealt this season who could get a first-round pick back in return, those sources believe. The Knicks could also ask for a young player with upside. It’s not unanimous, though, that the Knicks would definitely get a first-rounder back for Morris, those scouts and executives say. Drawing a first-round pick is difficult. Last season it was only done by teams willing to take on bad contracts to free up cap space ahead of free agency — something the Knicks were unwilling to do this summer and may not be willing to do now either — and by the Knicks when they traded Porzingis.
The Lakers held off the Heat 113-110, in a game between two of the league’s best teams that lived up to its billing. “It’s like a heavyweight bout,” LeBron James said. “Like the old days, the old boxing Foreman and Ali type atmosphere, type rhythm, type physicality. Two teams that’s playing extremely well right now in this part of the season. Two teams that play physical, play together, play hard and that’s why they are where they are right now in this season and that’s why we are where we are at this point of the season.”
And James was able to rally personally thanks to a little help from his friends, namely Lakers big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. “My teammates got on my ass,” James told ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez during a walk-off interview on the game broadcast. “They told me you’re playing too passive, thinking about the game way too much instead of read and reacting and doing what you do. … [Davis] got on me, Boogie Cousins got on me and they told me to just be me. So I was like, ‘Thank God we have two halves in a basketball game,’ where I can flush the first one, and then come back and try to help us win.”
If this was what Leonard and George envisioned when they talked about joining forces early in free agency, the Clippers’ All-Star duo joined some elite company with their Friday the 13th performance. They became the 21st pair in NBA history to each score 40 or more in a game, regular season or playoffs, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. “It’s great to have somebody else out there help scoring the ball, making the game easier for myself,” said Leonard, who hit 10-of-24 shots and went 19-for-19 from the line. “We are still trying to build our chemistry out there. We didn’t close that third quarter too great. We still got to improve.”
But Embiid, 25, admitted to reporters later that he’d actually already talked to O’Neal on Wednesday. He said he made sure to tell the Hall of Fame center that he wasn’t, in fact, upset with what he’d said. “I actually called Shaq yesterday,” Embiid said. “He thought I was mad at him. I was like, ‘No, I understand what he was saying.’ “I’ve had a bad year so far. I’ve been kinda frustrated, just because you’re not seeing the teamwork and you try to fit in with your new teammates. Just be aggressive … just go out there and just dominate. “Whatever they said, I think it was good for me.”
Favors posted a team-best 96.9 defensive rating, one of just two Pelicans under 107 (Jaxson Hayes was the other at 97.6), and he did so playing the majority of his minutes against 76ers center Joel Embiid. But as tough of a matchup as Embiid is, that wasn’t Favors’ focus heading into the game. “He’s a really good player, but I wasn’t really thinking about that,” Favors said. “With me, it was more mental. After what happened with my mom passing, I was just like I need to get back. I just need to get back to my routine, get back to playing basketball.”
After her death, Favors was shaken. He didn’t know how long it was going to take before he was ready to play basketball again. While his teammates were playing games, Favors was making funeral arrangements. “A couple weeks ago, basketball was probably the last thing on my mind,” Favors said on Friday night. The Pelicans allowed Favors as much time as he needed, and after a week and a half, he returned to the team on Monday before the Pelicans’ game against Detroit.