AP

Warring Warriors? Draymond Green plays down heated moment with Kevin Durant

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Draymond Green approached Kevin Durant near the end of Golden State’s bench and quickly their discussion escalated into a heated dispute, both players punctuating their points with demonstrations. While the rest of the Warriors watched, a teammate eventually came over to keep the peace.

That flap during Saturday’s overtime loss at Sacramento wasn’t the first between the All-Stars, either.

Warring Warriors? Naw, no worries about a family feud for the NBA’s top team.

Green insists that’s all part of it from time to time and there is never any harm intended. Coach Steve Kerr considers it healthy and a positive once in a while.

“If you can’t, you’re probably on a losing team,” the fiery Green said Tuesday. “But everybody who makes a big deal out of it probably are losers. That’s how I view it. Anyone who knows anything about winning knows that that’s going to happen.”

Green and Durant squabbled on the court late in the third quarter after a mix-up led to a shot-clock violation. Soon after, Green could be seen on video walking toward Durant and yelling from close range while raising his hands in the air.

Green then took a seat on the bench and Durant came over to continue their argument, with Shaun Livingston playing peacemaker.

“We know it’s really nothing. It’s constructive to try to understand how we’re going to get better,” Warriors star Stephen Curry said Tuesday. “It comes from a place of respect between everybody on this team, including those two guys. So, nobody takes anything personal, nobody goes home and cries about it.”

“It’s about everybody wants to win, and in that moment it might get heated, it might happen in front of cameras, it might happen in the locker room, it might happen at practice, it might be a phone call, offline, whatever. Those kinds of conversations need to happen so that we continue to try to get better and challenge each other to not get complacent,” he said.

Green wouldn’t say exactly what was at issue moments after the Warriors’ 109-106 defeat, just that “it was actually a tactic, but that’s for us to know and for everyone else to figure out.” Green and KD also were teammates on the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Rio last summer.

Kerr, meanwhile, was already long gone after being ejected with 3:34 left in the third quarter for a profanity-laden tirade directed at official Bill Spooner. The reigning NBA Coach of the Year apologized through the league to Spooner a day later. The NBA fined Kerr $25,000 on Monday.

Kerr called the defeat one of his team’s worst games. The Warriors, with an NBA-best 43-8 record, host Chicago on Wednesday night and will try to avoid consecutive regular-season losses for the first time since April 2015 during the franchise’s championship season.

“We had all kinds of arguments that game,” Kerr said. “Totally normal. You should have seen the Bulls back in the day, we had guys yelling at each other all the time. I equate it to if you have a lot of siblings and you’re in the house together every day and you love each other and you’d do anything for each other but you’re going to get in fights.”

“That’s what it’s like to be on a team. These guys are so close,” he said. “KD and Draymond are best of friends and they’re together every night laughing and joking. So when something happens on the floor, I don’t even bat an eye. It’s just competitive, heat-of-the-moment stuff. We played an awful game. I coached an awful game. It was a bad night for all of us.”

Green realizes there will be more tense moments with teammates along the way.

And everyone is after one thing at the end: another championship.

“If you’ve got to hide something from one of your teammates and you can’t say something, then you’re in a bad situation,” Green said. “And me personally, I don’t want to be in that situation. If you’re on a team where you can’t talk, where there’s moments where you need to yell at each other, maybe that yelling is to get each other going, like you don’t know what that is. No one else knows what that is, so if there is a team like that, please make sure I’m on the first thing smoking out of there because that team ain’t for me.”

NOTES: Klay Thompson was away from the team for a second straight day while attending his grandfather’s memorial service. … Neither F David West, out since suffering a non-displaced fracture of his left thumb Jan. 18, nor C Zaza Pachulia – sidelined with a strained right rotator cuff in his shoulder – will play against the Bulls. West still has some pain and will be re-evaluated in a few days, Kerr said. … The Warriors are four games ahead of San Antonio for the top record in the NBA.

Lakers/Suns have minor skirmish, Lonzo Ball just walks away

Associated Press
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If you’re on the court when your team gets in an NBA “fight” — what the rest of us would call a shoving match where nobody really wants to throw a punch — should you run into the fray and help your teammates?

Friday night, with just more than three minutes to go in Phoenix’s eventual win, the Suns called a timeout, and Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one of those silly shoving matches. Players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up.

The Suns’ rookie Josh Jackson picked up a technical for his role racing in and escalating the matter.

Watch the video again, and you’ll see Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball just walk away from it all and head to the bench.

That has led to criticism of the rookie from some Lakers’ fans, who see a guy who didn’t rush in to protect his teammates — that’s seen as part of the sports locker room culture. A “band of brothers” or “us against the world” mentality. Ball, frankly, gave a more mature answer than that.

Ball is right, nothing was going to come of this. It was meaningless posturing. Walking away was the mature move.

However, the question is how is this perceived in the Lakers’ locker room? Do the players care that Ball shrugged and walked away? Do they think he needed to race in and try to look tough like everyone else? That can impact his standing on the team — as a guy Magic Johnson brought in to be a leader — more than anything.

Also, with all his shooting woes, is this the first sign of some Lakers fans starting to turn on Lonzo? It’s a little early for that.

Harrison Barnes offers advice for Dennis Smith Jr., Julius Randle

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For a guy in just his sixth NBA season, Harrison Barnes has seen a lot.

He has seen the mountaintop, having won a ring as a role player for the Golden State Warriors. He’s also has felt the devastation of being on a team that historically blew a 3-1 NBA Finals lead. He’s been a high school phenom — unfairly compared to Kobe Bryant — and a high draft pick (No. 7), he understands the pressures that come with all that. He’s played (and plays) with superstar future Hall of Famers. And he’s been the guy pushed aside by a team, despite playing well, to make room for one of those superstar players — the harsh business reality of the NBA.

Barnes is learning something new this season in Dallas — how to deal with losing. He never dealt with it before — not high school, AAU, college at North Carolina — but the Dallas Mavericks are 2-14, and while they struggled last year it was nothing like this.

“It’s been difficult,” Barnes told NBC Sports about the start of the season, “but I’ve definitely seen a lot of highs, seen a lot of lows, I’m just trying to get better and lead my team to some wins.”

With all that experience, Barnes was brought in to be a leader in Dallas, and he’s worked to do that on and off the court. Off the court, he has met with local high school players and donated gear he wears — Shock Doctor basketball mouthguards and McDavid HEX protective arm and leg sleeves — to those programs. 

On the court this year, he’s tried to blend his game with rookie Dennis Smith Jr., who the Mavs see as the future at the point guard spot.

“Playing with Dennis has been great,” Barnes said. “He’s got a lot of tools that will help him be a great guy in the league for a long time. So the transition, in terms of playing together and developing chemistry, hasn’t been hard at all. I think he’s very mature beyond his years, and that makes it easy.”

As a leader, his advice to Smith Jr. has just been to not hold back, trust his instincts.

“My advice is to always be aggressive in your decision making,” Barnes said. “Whether it’s ‘should I pass?’ or ‘should I shoot?’ should I do this or should I do that, whatever it is, be aggressive. Because right now as a team, we’re in a little bit of a rut, we just need energy. Whatever it may be, even if you’re making the wrong play or the wrong decision, do it with conviction so there’s some inertia and the rest of us can feed off it.”

With the young high school players around Dallas his advice is similar — go for what you want on and off the court, give it your all — but he adds with them they need to protect their bodies in an increasingly physical game.

“Today I was able to go to Lincoln High School, meet with the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, and I was able to donate some Shock Doctor basketball mouthguards and McDavid HEX protective arm and leg sleeves to the young kid, and talk to them about protecting your body when you’re out there,” Barnes said. “The game is becoming more physical and more competitive at a younger age, and the best ability is availability.”

If there’s one guy in the NBA who can relate to Barnes’ path, it might be the Lakers’ Julius Randle.

The fourth-year big has been up and down but has gotten better every season and shown promise with the Lakers, putting up 11.4 points per game on 54.3 percent shooting this season (both career highs, although his jumper still needs work), plus grabbing 6.7 rebounds, but mostly he brings energy and physical, strong defense  in just 20 minutes a game off the bench. He has transformed his body, gotten leaner but stronger, and has done a good job filling a role for Los Angeles as a physical, defensive player in a league going small and getting skinnier

Randle is coming up on the end of his rookie contract next summer and is due a payday, he thought he was part of the franchise’s future, yet he is likely the odd man out in Los Angeles as the Lakers chase big name free agents. Randle’s name is a staple of trade talks (about moving Luol Deng and his contract).

Harrison Barnes can relate. He was swept out of Golden State to make room for that team’s successful run at Kevin Durant.

What would Barnes tell Randle?

“My advice is to focus on what is going to be the best for you,” Barnes said. “Focus on where you can grow as a player, get better, where you would thrive in. Whether or not he ends up in the same place or a different place, just make sure you’re in a situation where you can grow. That’s the most important thing because a lot of things are going to be out of his control, who decides to go where and that type of stuff, but as long as he focuses on getting better with his craft that’s the one thing he can control.”

That’s what Barnes did a couple seasons ago, and he ended up in Dallas with a big contract, a big opportunity, and a chance to be a leader. He’s trying to do that on a team transitioning out of the Dirk Nowitzki era, but it hasn’t been easy.

And it’s come with some harsh new lessons. Like dealing with losing. One Barnes and the Mavericks want to move past as quickly as they can.

Watch LeBron James score 39 to lead comeback win over Clippers

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James knows about the narrative bouncing around the NBA that Cleveland can be dethroned in the East.

He’s ignoring it, and slowly changing it.

“You know I could care less what people say,” James said. “I’m so far beyond that. I don’t care what people say.”

Just to make sure everyone understood him, James asked his two sons waiting for him in Cleveland’s locker room to chime in on whether he was concerned about outside voices.

The boys had dad’s back.

James had another of those games that he only seems capable of, scoring 39 points with 14 rebounds in 46 minutes as the Cavaliers continued to improve from a shaky start with their fourth straight win, 118-113 in overtime on Friday night over the skidding Los Angeles Clippers, who dropped their seventh in a row.

Kevin Love scored 25 and drained a pair of 3-pointers in OT, when the Cavs, who didn’t take the lead until the first minute of the extra session, outscored the Clippers 13-8.

Dwyane Wade gave Cleveland a huge spark, scoring 23 points with 11 rebounds in 37 minutes. The Cavs’ win wasn’t eye-pleasing, but it was another step in the right direction for the three-time defending conference champions, who went 3-1 on a just-completed road trip.

On Thursday night, James said he watched Boston beat Golden State to improve to 14-2, a stunning start that has prompted discussion about Cleveland’s vulnerability.

James dismissed any concern about the Celtics’ early burst.

“I’ve got too much to worry about around here right now trying to get our ship going in the right direction,” he said.

The Clippers’ ship is taking on water fast. Los Angeles has lost nine of 10 since a 4-0 start.

Blake Griffin scored 23 and DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 22 rebounds for Los Angeles, which didn’t give up the lead until the first minute of overtime. The Clippers had chances to put the Cavs away in regulation, but they didn’t execute down the stretch and then had defensive breakdowns in overtime.

“They made some big 3s,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You have to give them credit. That’s why they’ve been in a lot of Finals.”

The Cavs spent all night chasing the Clippers and caught them at 105-all when Love grabbed an offensive rebound and fed James, who dropped an uncontested 3-pointer with 47 seconds left.

Griffin missed tough shots on consecutive possessions, giving Cleveland one last chance in regulation but James missed an off-balance left-hander just before the horn.

James made a free throw to open OT – he went 1 of 5 at the line – and give Cleveland its first lead. Then, after Love made his two 3s, James sealed the Cavs’ fifth win in six games with a jumper.

“Well defended,” Rivers said. “It’s LeBron James.”

 

Anthony Davis leaves game with concussion, likely to miss time

Associated Press
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Anthony Davis has had a couple concussions during his NBA career, one of the several ailments that have kept him off the court for stretches the past few seasons.

Now Davis has suffered his third concussion since being in the league. Davis left the Pelicans’ game against the Nuggets in the third quarter after getting a concussion when trying to guard Nikola Jokic. There is no timetable for his return, he will enter the league’s concussion protocol and need to be cleared by a league neurologist before he can return to the court. After the game New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry didn’t have any details.

The play itself looked fairly innocent — there was no intent by Jokic.

Davis spent a couple of minutes on the ground after the play, his hands over his face, before going to the locker room.

Davis is averaging 25.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this season.