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AP

Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph lead Grizzlies past Thunder with Westbrook ejected

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Marc Gasol scored 25 points and the Memphis Grizzlies took advantage of Russell Westbrook‘s ejection, dominating the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 114-80 victory Thursday night.

Westbrook, the NBA’s leading scorer at 31.7 points per game, scored 21 before he was tossed midway through the third quarter when he was whistled for two quick technicals. At that point, Memphis already held a double-digit lead that reached 37 points in the fourth quarter.

Zach Randolph added 21 points for the Grizzlies. He and Gasol both grabbed eight rebounds.

Memphis reserve Troy Daniels shot 6 of 8 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter and scored all 22 of his points in the final period.

Enes Kanter had 19 for the Thunder, and Alex Abrines scored 10 as Oklahoma City set a season low for points. Westbrook had five rebounds and no assists.

The loss snapped Oklahoma City’s four-game winning streak, while Memphis ended a two-game skid.

The Thunder never got the Memphis lead under double digits in the second half and by the midway point of the fourth, Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan had pulled his starters.

Westbrook took his exit earlier in the half.

Memphis already had built the lead to 61-45 and weathered a small Thunder rally to open the second half when Westbrook left after the two technical fouls.

Memphis was never threatened after that.

The Grizzlies used a burst of momentum from Randolph, who scored nine quick points when he entered the game in the first half. Gasol had 14 points in the half.

Westbrook had 19 points in the first two quarters but committed the bulk of the Thunder’s 11 turnovers in the half.

The miscues and Memphis shooting 49 percent compared to 32 percent for Oklahoma City led to the Grizzlies increasing their lead to as many as 17 before carrying a 55-39 lead into the break.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Westbrook’s ejection came with 6:41 left in the third quarter when he argued with official Brian Forte. . G Victor Oladipo missed his ninth game with a right wrist injury. Anthony Morrow, the most common replacement for Oladipo, started his seventh game of the season. . The Thunder had six turnovers in the first quarter, all by Westbrook. … Oklahoma City drew a pair of technicals in the first half, including one on Donovan.

Grizzlies: Have 10 wins in December, the first time they’ve accumulated double-digit wins in the month. . Randolph played in his 1,012th career regular-season game. Exactly half of them (506) have come in a Memphis uniform. . Memphis connected on 13 of 22 3-pointers, the 14th time this season it has reached double digits from long range.

BIG TOE, NO-GO

Memphis PG Mike Conley missed his second game with a bum left big toe. Grizzlies coach David Fizdale said before the game that it was caused by a “a broken toenail-type of thing,” adding: “When those 7-footers step on your toes, that’s not pleasant. Unfortunately for us, (the infection) went back into his toe.”

TRIPLE-DOUBLE ZERO

Westbrook’s ejection assured Memphis of maintaining its streak of not allowing a triple-double in 176 games – the longest current streak in the league. The Grizzlies haven’t allowed a triple-double since Dec. 13, 2014, when Michael Carter-Williams had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for the Philadelphia 76ers.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Oklahoma City returns home for a New Year’s Eve game against the Clippers, the only Thunder home game in a six-game stretch.

Grizzlies: Start a four-game West Coast road swing on New Year’s Eve at Sacramento.

Report: Spurs re-signing Pau Gasol to three-year contract

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Even after Pau Gasol opted out, there it nearly certain he’d stay with the Spurs.

Now, a deal is done.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised San Antonio guaranteed Gasol’s salary next season. By rule, it must be within 5% of what he’ll earn this year.

The Spurs could have major flexibility to chase free agents next summer, making keeping the books clean a priority. Their only constraints with Gasol this year are paying him up to 120% of his prior salary (which comes out to $18.6 million), the hard cap ($125,266,000) and whatever expense ownership would endure. So, if Gasol were willing to play ball, San Antonio could have paid him a sizable salary this year and far less – the room exception or even the minimum – next year.

Instead, Gasol’s compensation will be more balanced between the seasons. We’ll see how much he’ll earn.

Gasol remains an effective scorer, in part because he increased his range beyond the 3-point arc. He rebounds well in his area, and his length and basketball intelligence make him a passable defender given his other skills. His immobility can be a major defensive liability in certain matchups, though.

He’s also 37, an age where players can drop off quickly – another reason a one-year deal would’ve been preferable. At least the partial guarantee in the third year will help San Antonio.

Report: Kyrie Irving asked Cavaliers to trade him, blindsiding LeBron James

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Kyrie Irving said the Cavaliers were in a “peculiar place.”

We didn’t realize quite how peculiar.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Kyrie Irving is ready to end his run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as league sources told ESPN that the guard has asked the team to trade him.

The request came last week and was made to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Irving has expressed that he wants to go play in a situation where he can be a more focal point and no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James, sources said.

James was informed of Irving’s request and was blindsided and disappointed, sources said.

Irving has admitted playing with LeBron has sometimes been rocky. It paid off with a championship in 2016, and I’m sure Irving found the tradeoff worthwhile then.

But the Warriors are so dominant with Kevin Durant. Even a team with LeBron, Irving and Kevin Love is a major underdog. If Irving would prefer to lead a team, it’s much easier to reject a supporting role when it’s so unlikely to culminate in a championship. (It’s also easier with a title already under his belt.)

This shouldn’t quiet the alarms of LeBron leaving next summer. Just because Irving doesn’t want to play with him doesn’t mean LeBron wants to play without Irving. This could push LeBron further out the door.

I also wouldn’t read too much into this signaling LeBron’s intent to stay in Cleveland. Though it’s possible Irving has a read on LeBron’s plan, a trade is the only sure-fire way to escape LeBron – and do it without playing another year with him.

I wouldn’t  tell Irving what would make him happiest. Cleveland is not a premier market, and playing in LeBron’s shadow isn’t always ideal for another star.

But I’m leery of Irving’s ability to lead a successful team. The Cavs stunk before LeBron returned and have stunk when he sits and Irving plays. Irving’s shortcomings – defense, distributing – become more pronounced as his team’s best player.

Maybe Irving is up for the challenge. He clearly wants it.

Then again, Cleveland doesn’t have to grant him the ability to try. He’s locked up for two more years. He can request, but not force, a trade.

This is a difficult time for the Cavaliers, who need visionary leadership. Their general manager has his hands full.

Oh, right.

NBA: Cleveland won’t get 2020 or 2021 All-Star game unless arena renovation begins by Sept. 15

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Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski said Cleveland had been promised an NBA All-Star game if it upgraded its basketball arena.

The city committed taxpayer money to arena upgrades.

So, the Cavaliers are hosting an All-Star game?

Not so fast.

A group has opposed the city spending taxpayer money on arena so the billionaire who profits off the arena doesn’t have to pay for upgrades himself. That money could better serve a wider section of Clevelanders, and the group has tied up the plan in court.

Now, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum wrote in a letter that Cleveland might not get an All-Star game.

Kevin Cleps of Crain’s Cleveland Business:

The letter was included in a 276-page summary that was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday, July 20.

In the letter to Gilbert, Tatum confirms that the NBA has received the sports commission’s bid packet to host the All-Star Game in Cleveland, and says the league will be awarding the 2020 and ’21 events in the near future.

But, he adds, the league “will not be able to consider Cleveland as the host city for NBA All-Star 2020 or 2021 unless construction of The Q’s ‘Transformation’ project begins on or before September 15, 2017.”

Tatum says that the NBA has “already delayed the awarding” of those showcase events to “accommodate Cleveland, and unfortunately we cannot ask the other NBA cities that have held these dates open to wait any longer.”

The NBA is dangling a carrot in front of Cleveland, urging the local government to spend taxpayer money on the billion-dollar business’ arena. It might work. It often does. But Cleveland will be fine without an All-Star game, the economic effects of which are often exaggerated.

As Sept. 15 nears, it appears increasingly likely other cities will get the next couple All-Star games to be assigned. Still, there’s a chance the Cavaliers prevail in court in time.

J.J. Redick: Clippers lost joy

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J.J. Redick and the Clippers seemed done with each other before free agency even began.

Redick – who signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the 76ers – gave Uninterrupted a behind-the-scenes look into his free agency. In the above video, he revealed plenty about his situation in L.A.:

It’s s—y to say this, but I think I’ve had a loss of joy. I look at our team and how we play, and it’s just there’s no joy in it. That bothers me.

On June 29th at about 10 p.m., I got a call from Lawrence Frank from the Clippers. I jokingly call it my breakup call. He just told me they weren’t going to offer me a contract. I wasn’t going to be back.

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Blame Chris Paul for not relenting enough in his grating perfectionism and being petty. Blame Blake Griffin for being aloof about weight of his actions. Blame Paul and Griffin for waiting too long to get serious about bonding. Blame Doc Rivers for bringing in Austin Rivers and inviting accusations of nepotism. Blame Doc Rivers for too long setting a tone of whining.

Blame a tough Western Conference and injury for keeping a team with championship aspirations from never advancing past the second round. Blame familiarity, which bred contempt over several years with the same core.

Whomever or whatever you blame, the outcome seems tough to dispute: The Clippers looked joyless by the end of their run. Redick saying it only confirms the perception.

I’m curious whether he’ll find more joy in Philadelphia. A new situation will be refreshing, and the 76ers – young and talented – are hungry. Expectations are low after years of tanking, so even modest gains will be celebrated. But they’re also worse than the Clippers were, and losing more often will be an adjustment.

To get a better idea where Redick is coming from as he begins in Philadelphia, I recommend watching the video in full. It’s quite illuminating.