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Elfrid Payton has career highs in points and assists in Magic win over Hawks

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ATLANTA (AP) Serge Ibaka scored 29 points, Elfrid Payton reached career highs with 26 points and 14 assists and the Orlando Magic snapped a three-game losing streak with a 131-120 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.

Orlando began the night ranked 29th in scoring and played without center Nikola Vucevic, but it got big production from the bench. Payton, Jodie Meeks and Jeff Green combined for 62 points, while starting guard Evan Fournier scored 23.

Dwight Howard had 20 points and 16 rebounds and Dennis Schroder had 19 points and 13 assists for the Hawks, who thought they were on a good trajectory after rallying from 20 points down in last Friday’s win at Milwaukee.

Atlanta began the night having won two straight since a 1-10 stretch dropped them out of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks were 9-2 and tied for the East lead before the slump.

Thabo Sefolosha‘s 18-footer gave the Hawks their first lead since the 4:10 mark of the first quarter, but Payton answered with a 3 and Orlando never trailed again.

The Magic set season highs in points, assists with 36 and 3-pointers with 15. They had 21 assists and zero turnovers until committing two miscues in the final 44 seconds of the second quarter.

Orlando took charge with a 20-9 run in the second quarter that ended with Fournier’s short turnaround jumper to make it 72-60.

Payton combined with Fournier and Ibaka to score 46 points on 20-for-27 shooting in the first half.

MAYBE TOMORROW

Vucevic, Orlando’s leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, missed his second straight game with a sore lower back. He hopes to be back in Wednesday’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It depends,” he said. “At the moment when the pain happens, it bothers me a lot.”

TIP-INS

Magic: With 72 points in the first half, Orlando was six points shy of the team record set Nov. 3, 2010 at home against Minnesota. The Magic tied the team road mark set Dec. 5, 2009 at Golden State. … Playing his second straight game with a strained left shoulder, C Bismack Biyombo had seven points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes. Like Vucevic, Biyombo was injured in last Friday’s loss at Charlotte.

Hawks: Had won 17 of the last 22 games in the series. … Their bench was outscored by Orlando’s 62-35. … Atlanta’s previous season-high in first-half points allowed was 66 in a home loss Nov. 22 to New Orleans. … G Kent Bazemore returned in a reserve role after missing the last two games with a sore right knee. He had five points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.

UP NEXT

Magic: Host the Clippers on Wednesday night.

Hawks: Visit Toronto on Friday night.

Report: Even after Kyrie Irving requests trade, Carmelo Anthony still focused on Rockets, not Cavaliers

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Carmelo Anthony was reportedly willing to waive his no-trade clause for the Rockets or Cavaliers. Cleveland never seemed overly interested, but Houston was. Anthony became set on the Rockets, even reportedly expecting a trade to Houston.

Then, Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavs.

That has thrown everything for a loop. Maybe Cleveland is more keen on trading for Anthony now? The Knicks are reportedly interested in trading Anthony and draft picks for Irving.

But any deal still depends on Anthony’s approval, and it’s now unclear he’d still grant that for the Cavaliers.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

However, a source close to Anthony said late Friday that the All Star forward is focused on getting a deal done with Houston.

Consider this another indication LeBron James will leave Cleveland next summer. Of course, Anthony might have other reasons for preferring Houston. But when reading tea leaves on LeBron’s future, this is a clue.

I doubt LeBron has completely decided his plan, and he hasn’t even necessarily shared his thinking with Anthony, a close friend. Remember, LeBron edited his coming-home essay while on a flight with an unknowing Dwyane Wade, another close friend. But it was one thing for LeBron to strand Wade in Miami, a desirable city where Wade was happy even before LeBron arrived. It’d be something else entirely for LeBron to ditch Anthony in Cleveland. If LeBron is considering leaving, maybe he’d tell Anthony to stay clear.

Anthony could also be operating without hearing directly from LeBron. But if LeBron’s friend believes LeBron might leave, that’d still say something (though obviously not as much).

Back to the possibility that Anthony prefers the Rockets for other reasons. What happens if New York and Cleveland agree to a trade? Does Anthony still hold out for his top choice? Or does he relent and accept what was once his second choice? For now, it seems as if he’s still angling for Houston and will cross other bridges if he reaches them.

DeMarre Carroll: I fit better with Nets than ball-stopping Raptors

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DeMarre Carroll – after being traded from Toronto to Brooklyn – said some Raptors players didn’t trust their teammates. That’s the type of lightening-rod statement that often creates more controversy and/or comes across more harshly than the speaker intended. So, representative of his true feelings or not, he usually tries to walk it back.

Not Carroll, who mostly doubled down.

Carroll, via Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

Carroll, who will make $30 million over the next two seasons, admitted he wasn’t fit for Toronto’s isolation-heavy offense, that he is a role player at his best when his team moves the ball.

“Yeah, that’s definitely fair to say. I had my share of iso already, so team-ball is my forte,” said Carroll, who said it was effective with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. “You got two great All-Stars, two great players. That’s how they play. They were playing that way before I came, and they’re going to be playing that way long after I leave. They’re not changing that for me.”

“I give credit to Masai: He helped me find a team,’’ Carroll said. “Me coming from a system in Atlanta where the team is about moving the ball, we felt like it wasn’t a fit. I’m not an iso player by any means. I’m definitely a role player and for me to be the best role player I need to be on a team that shares the ball.

Carroll did emphasize more this time that an isolation system is more effective with Lowry and DeRozan. Some might even argue that system is more necessary considering the talent disparity between Toronto’s stars and their teammates – like Carroll. Carroll’s scoring prowess is more similar to the other Nets, which makes great ball movement more effective. If Lowry’s and DeRozan’s teammates were equally as good as those two, Lowry and DeRozan might pass more.

It’s a tough equilibrium to strike, and the Raptors probably haven’t yet. After multiple playoff disappointments, they’re trying for a a “culture reset” that includes more passing. It’s a big shift for a team and stars with such established identities.

Count Carroll among those doubting they’ll truly change their approach.

New Knicks GM Scott Perry: I haven’t met with James Dolan yet

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Knicks fans clamored for years for owner James Dolan to stop meddling. Dolan finally listened, handing the keys to the franchise to Phil Jackson then stepping away – another big error by the error-prone owner.

Then, Knicks fans clamored for Dolan to fire Jackson. Eventually – and far later than ideal – Dolan got Jackson out of town.

With Steve Mills succeeding Jackson as team president, what is Dolan’s involvement now? New general manager Scott Perry – rather awkwardly – shed light on the situation during an interview with ESPN’s Jemele Hill and Michael Smith.

Via Reed Wallach of Nets Daily:

  • Hill: “It’s still early, but what have your interactions with James Dolan been like?”
  • Perry: “I have not met with him yet, but I’m looking forward to that.”
  • Smith: “You have not met with him since you took the job, you mean?”
  • Perry: “Yes.”
  • Smith: “Gotcha. But obviously you met with him before you took the job?”
  • Perry: “No, I’ve dealt very closely with Steve Mills throughout the process.”
  • Smith: “Oh, it’s really just been Steve?”
  • Perry: “It’s just been – yes. Yes, it has.”

This isn’t necessarily problematic. Did you met with your boss’s boss during the interview process or shortly after being hired? For some jobs, I have. For others, I haven’t.

Though Perry carries the lofty general-manager title, Mills still runs the front office and reports directly to Dolan. I am curious how often Mills interacts with Dolan, though at least Mills is now getting advised from below with Perry.

The last time Mills was left to his own devices, he signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71 million deal.

Kings finally waive rights to 44-year-old European player they drafted in 1995

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Back in 1995 — while you were listening to Coolio rap “Gangster’s Paradise,” watching the O.J. Simpson trial, and using your cell phone to actually make calls — Sacramento Kings GM Geoff Petrie used a late second round pick on Dejan Bodiroga.

The Serbian point forward — who played for the Serbian national team with Vlade Divac — never came over to the NBA, despite multiple efforts by the Kings, and is still considered one of the better European players never to test the NBA waters. He was a Spanish and Greek league MVP and won multiple titles in European leagues.

Friday, the Kings finally renounced his draft rights.

He’s just 44 and hasn’t played professionally since 2007, are they sure he still couldn’t contribute? (Insert your own Jose Calderon joke here.)

Kings fans on Twitter were awesome.