Dan Feldman

Bulls blow 27-point lead to Kings, but Dwyane Wade saves Chicago in end (video)

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The Bulls led the Kings by 27 with 16 minutes left, 15 with nine minutes and five with one minute left.

Chicago finally saw its lead completely disappear with 30 seconds left, when DeMarcus Cousins tied the game with a layup while being fouled (though he missed the free throw.)

Then, Dwyane Wade showed why the Bulls signed him.

Wade hit a contested jumper to untie the game. Then, he stole Sacramento’s ensuing inbound pass and raced for a dunk. Following Cousins’ NBA-high 16th technical foul — which will trigger an automatic one-game suspension — Wade punctuated Chicago’s 112-107 win with a technical free throw.

Pelicans’ Alexis Ajinca, caught in Jahlil Okafor rumors, open to trade if it means playing

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca — in the middle of Jahlil Okafor trade rumors — says he’d welcome a trade if it resulted in more playing time.

Any time on the court would be more at this point.

When Ajinca spoke in New Orleans’ locker room before Monday night’s game against Phoenix, he had not played in 11 straight games and had played only once – for three minutes – in the previous 19 contests.

“I don’t care where I’m going, as long as I’m playing,” said the 29-year-old Ajinca, who is in the second season of a four-year, $20.2 million contract with New Orleans. “The contract is good, but at the end of the day, I’m a competitor and I just want to play and be able to bring what I can to a team. If it’s here, it would be great. But if it’s not, then I just go somewhere else.”

The 7-foot-2 Frenchman, who has played in the NBA since 2008-09, said he has not been told by Pelicans management that he’d be traded, but said he was aware of reports that New Orleans has been exploring trade possibilities for him as the Feb. 23 NBA trade deadline approaches.

“I’m ready for whatever,” Ajinca said.

The Pelicans brought back Ajinca after he helped them make the 2015 NBA playoffs as a regular reserve, averaging 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He started eight games and was productive when he played significant minutes that season, scoring 24 points in a victory over Miami and 22 in a win over Toronto that season.

This season, however, Ajinca and fellow 7-footer Omer Asik have been stuck on the bench since second-year coach Alvin Gentry decided to go with smaller, up-tempo lineups with Anthony Davis at center.

Asik, whose guaranteed contract pays him about $11 million annually through the 2018-19 season, will be exceedingly difficult to trade.

Ajinca, with a much lower contract, is a more moveable asset if another team sees the ninth-year NBA veteran as a better fit.

In the meantime, Ajinca said he is focused on supporting his current teammates and not allowing his frustration over not playing to get the best of him.

“I’m just being professional, doing what I’m supposed to do,” Ajinca said, noting that he’d gone through his usual pre-game routine on the court. “If I play today, maybe I won’t have to run after the game. If I don’t play, then I will have to run after the game and get my lift in.

“I can’t control what (the Pelicans) want to do,” Ajinca said. “I only care about what I can control – my health and the fact that I can stay in shape.”

LeBron James on Carmelo Anthony-Kevin Love trade report: ‘It’s trash, and the guy who wrote it is trash’

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Frank Isola of the New York Daily reported LeBron James is pushing the Cavaliers to trade for Carmelo Anthony, even if it means sending Kevin Love to the Knicks.

LeBron shot back — harshly.

LeBron:

It’s trash, and the guy who wrote it is trash too for writing that, especially during the game like that. It’s always about outside noise, and that’s just outside noise for us. We’ve got to focus on what needs to be done in order for us to continue to compete for a championship. We’ve got who we’ve got. Our GM will do a great job of figuring out if we need something else, but right now, we’re in a good place.

I don’t what what LeBron is pushing behind the scenes. He has expressed a desire to play with his friend Anthony.

But LeBron wants us to forget he just said, “We need a f—ing playmaker” and “We gotta get a point guard. It’s my last time saying it”?

It’s hard to take him seriously when he essentially says the roster is fine as is. We know he’s pushing for change, because he has done so publicly on the record. That doesn’t mean he’s pushing for a Love-Anthony trade, and I’m inclined to believe LeBron is smart enough not to.* But this retort goes too far to be completely credible.

*I believe a Love-Anthony trade might help the Cavs against the Warriors this year, would hurt them against every other team this year and would hurt them against every team — including the Warriors — in future years. That’s not good justification to make the deal, though Golden State is so clearly the main threat this season.

In Isola’s defense, if he had this story pegged during the Cavaliers’ game tonight, there’s no harm in publishing as soon as he’s certain. Delaying only gives a competitor an opportunity to steal the scoop.

However, Love played great (39 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals) in Cleveland’s wild win over the Wizards. Nobody wants to talk at this moment about trading Love.

 

 

No matter what LeBron suggested before tonight, it’s hard to see that changing between now and the deadline. If LeBron were open to trading Love for Anthony, let alone pushing it, I can’t see him firing back so strongly at Isola.

This was the response of someone who knows Love is staying put and wants to stick up for a teammate he’ll ride with through the playoffs.

 

 

Lakers remove highly priced FAs Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov from starting lineup

AP Photo/Gus Ruelas
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The Lakers have pulled their splashy free-agent additions — Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) — from the starting lineup.

Who could have seen that coming?

Oh, right. Practically everybody.

In their 121-107 win over the Knicks tonight, the Lakers started:

*Black had been starting at power forward next to Mozgov with Randle battling pneumonia, but Randle is Los Angeles’ primary starting power forward. Black supplanted Mozgov at center tonight.

It’s not just that Deng and Mozgov are underperforming relative to their salaries — though it is that. It’s that those two veterans aren’t even meeting the modest standard of making the Lakers respectable. Los Angeles entered tonight 17-36 and had lost 10 of 12.

The 31-year-old Deng and 30-year-old Mozgov have no upside. At this point, it’s about preparing for the future, and that means more playing time for younger players. Mozgov didn’t even get off the bench, as rookie Ivica Zubac played behind Black.

The Lakers’ future looks reasonably bright with a young core featuring Russell, Randle, Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Zubac. With the exception of Clarkson, those players are all still on low-paying rookie-scale contracts.

Los Angeles can pitch free agents on joining those youngsters just as they blossom manage an unnecessarily murky future with Deng and Mozgov occupying significant cap space over the next three years.

LeBron James misses go-ahead layup, hits game-tying 3-pointer against Wizards (video)

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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John Wall called tonight’s Wizards-Cavaliers game the biggest regular-season game of his career. And Washington wore all black against the Celtics last month. So, you know this was big.

The game has actually lived up the hype with thrilling basketball — and that was before LeBron James produced an even more incredible finish to regulation.

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, LeBron James got away with a blatant travel, missed the go-ahead layup and then made a far tougher 3-pointer to tie it:

LeBron fouled out in overtime, but the Cavaliers still won, 140-135.