Kurt Helin

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James is congratulated after back-to-back dunks against the Denver Nuggets in the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Denver. Cleveland won 93-87. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press

LeBron James sings some Marvin Gaye while getting back on defense


There is never a bad time to be singing Marvin Gaye.

LeBron James was having a good night in Denver Tuesday — 34 points, six rebounds, two assists, and his jumper was finally falling for a night — and when they started blasting Marvin Gaye through the Pepsi Center, LeBron was ready to sing along.

LeBron led the Cavaliers to win, and so long as he does that he can sing along with Marvin Gaye, or “Uma Thurmon” from Fall Out Boy, or whatever else is getting blasted in arenas around the league right now. To the winners go the tunes.

Five Takeaways from NBA Tuesday: LeBron found his jumper for one night


It’s bowl game season — although I’m fully in the “New Year’s Eve, are you kidding?” camp — and if you were watching Leonard Fournette and LSU run all over Texas Tech Tuesday night rather than watching the NBA, we understand. We’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a Tuesday night around the Association.

1) LeBron finds his jumper, drops 34 in Cavaliers win. Tuesday night started with the NBA Twitterverse buzzing about this stat, via NBA.com’s John Schuhmann: LeBron James has been the worst shooter in the NBA this season outside the paint, hitting just 28.5 percent of his shots. The problem is he has been settling for those shots and missing them.

Tuesday night in Denver LeBron found his jumper. At least for a night. Check out his shot chart from Tuesday where he dropped 34 in the Cavaliers’ 93-87 win over the Nuggets.

LeBron Shot chart Denver

LeBron was 7-of-13 outside the paint against Denver — and he did it wearing sleeves (he’s not a fan). LeBron’s jumper is just another trend to watch this season. Right now in the NBA it is Golden State and San Antonio as a clear one-two, then a big gap back to everybody else; Cleveland is the clear best team in the East but it is not playing on the level of the top two from the West. There are a few factors at play here, such as getting Kyrie Irving fully integrated into the offense again, Kevin Love breaking out of his December doldrums (in his last 10 games he is scoring just 13.7 points per game on 40.2 percent shooting), the bench being consistent, and LeBron knocking down his jumper with regularity. The Cavaliers have until June to figure all that out. Tuesday night may have been a step in that direction.

2) Brandon Jennings stepped on the court for the Pistons for the first time this season. When last we saw Brandon Jennings he had gone down with a torn Achilles that ended last season for him. Tuesday night he returned to the court, and it was good to see — he played 16 minutes (including garbage time), was 2-of-4 shooting, and while he looked creaky as you might expect, he also already looked like an upgrade over Steve Blake as the backup point guard. There are a lot of questions still to answer — can he play next to Reggie Jackson? Will the Pistons try to trade Jennings? — but for now it was just good to see him on the court.

3) Paul Millsap blocks Trevor Ariza then Dwight Howard to preserve Hawks’ win. Atlanta had just gone up two on a sweet little bank by Al Horford, it was now 117-115 Atlanta over Houston. The Rockets came down looking for the tie — and Paul Millsap said not today my friend. He shut down the driving Trevor Ariza, and when the ball caromed to Dwight Howard Millsap blocked him, too. The Hawks went on to get the 121-115 win.

4) Marc Gasol with the circus shot — then celebrates with a shimmy. That Memphis big man Marc Gasol hit a circus shot while stumbling after a foul is fairly impressive. But what makes this video worth watching is the shimmy celebration at the end. You never see Pau shimmy.

5) Carmelo Anthony makes a young fan’s night with dap. ‘Melo could afford to be in a good mood, his Knicks were looking better and picked up a nice win at home against he Pistons, 108-96. Anthony had 24 on the night. But this little dap to a kid sitting courtside probably meant the world to this youngster.

Injury-ravaged Utah Jazz plan to stay the course

Leave a comment

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Injuries have ravaged a Utah Jazz roster that was expected to take a significant step forward in 2015-16.

They had the sixth-best win percentage (65.5) in the NBA after the All-Star break last season and there was optimism to see how a young corps would grow together.

Those injuries have gummed up that development.

The Jazz lost starting point guard Dante Exum to a torn ACL in the summer. Starting center Rudy Gobert remains out with a sprained MCL. Third-leading scorer Alec Burks had surgery Tuesday on broken left fibula and is out for the foreseeable future.

The Jazz are currently 13-16 and in the No. 8 spot for the playoffs.

“The important thing is for us not to lose sight of the fact that our record doesn’t necessarily reflect what we’re doing and what we’re building,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “The expectations, probably now, are actually more in line with what they should have been at the beginning of the year.

“The opportunity for us, right now, is to get better with the guys we have and reintegrate Rudy, in particular, and hopefully get Alec back and hopefully be a better team in March than we are right now.”

There is no panic in the front office, though the string of injuries is frustrating. Snyder and general manager Dennis Lindsey have often talked about the process of constructing this team. There’s a commitment to a slow rebuild and developing the second youngest roster in the league. They want the core of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Gobert, Exum, Burks, Rodney Hood and Trey Burke to blossom together, but three of the seven have been out and Favors has missed time with nagging injuries.

The process has been slowed.

“Naturally, it affects it just because you’re not out there playing together,” Hayward said. “So, it’s a natural affect. You’re still around each other. We’re still watching film. There’s still things you can do. You can learn from the sidelines, for sure.

“It’s how it works. Every year, something’s going to happen.”

There are no immediate plans to adjust the process. The Jazz will do due diligence and evaluate trade scenarios and other roster options, but the plan is to stay patient. The organization wants to take the long view and not chase short-term goals if it’s a detriment to building a title contending roster.

The hope is the injuries will allow growth from other players and help the depth in the future. Burke is having the best all-around year of his career. Rookie Raul Neto is starting instead of getting the leftover minutes of a No. 3 point guard. Rookie Trey Lyles is getting spot starts and more minutes than he wouldn’t have otherwise. The same is happening for third-year center Jeff Withey.

The thought is to err in favor of the long view instead of the now.

But the now is ongoing.

The Eastern Conference has been the deeper of the two conferences this year. The Grizzlies, Rockets, Pelicans and Trail Blazers have all taken a step back and the Jazz remain in playoff contention despite the record.

There are nightly decisions Snyder has to make despite being short-handed. A three-wing lineup had been heavily used, especially late in games, with Hayward, Hood and Burks on the floor without a point guard. That has to change.

Snyder said they won’t overhaul the defensive system, but it’s certainly different without the length of a 6-foot-6 point guard (Exum), a mobile 7-1 center (Gobert) and the athletic Burks. Favors has played more center this year and been more careful with the way he defends the rim.

Burke and Neto played together on the floor Monday for the first time this season – a pair of 6-1 point guards.

“There’s a ripple effect,” Snyder said. “More than anything guys just have to step up and collectively fill those voids. I don’t think adjusting the starting lineup or signing someone from the D-League or any of those things, it could help, but there’s no singular move that all of a sudden says never mind Alec and Dante and Rudy. We’ve got to figure it out now.

“It’s different obviously without Alec. … There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

As much as Lindsey and Snyder are responsible for building a future contender, there are 53 games remaining on the schedule and the available players aren’t waving the white flag on the season.

“You can definitely be down for sure, but you can’t have that mindset,” Hayward said. “That’s how you start losing 5 out of 7 games, you feel sorry for yourself. We’re professionals. It has to be a next man up mentality.”

Hood added, “Nobody feels sorry for us.”

Westbrook and Durant lead Thunder over Bucks 131-123

Leave a comment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook scored 27 points and Kevin Durant added 26 to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 131-123 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.

Enes Kanter added 23 while rookie Cameron Payne had a career-high 16 for the Thunder.

Westbrook and Durant both scored more than 20 points for the 25th time this season as Oklahoma City overcame an early eight-point deficit to win for the 11th time in its last 14 games.

Milwaukee jumped ahead on the outside shooting of Khris Middleton and led by as many as eight in the first quarter before the Thunder went on a 7-0 run to end the period. Payne hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull Oklahoma City within 31-30.

Kanter led a run midway through the second period to give the Thunder (22-10) the lead for good, scoring back-to-back baskets to put them up by three and they expanded it to 11 at halftime, 65-54.

Oklahoma City expanded that lead to 77-60 before Middleton brought his team back, scoring 12 of his career high 36 in the period to bring Milwaukee within two. Payne then scored four straight points and assisted on a basket by Kanter to help the Thunder maintain a 92-88 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Anthony Morrow hit consecutive threes in the opening two minutes of the final period to push the lead to 100-91 and Kanter scored 12 fourth quarter points to help preserve the lead.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points for the Bucks, who lost on the road for the second consecutive game.


Bucks: The Bucks are now 0-4 on Tuesdays. The only day other day of the week they’ve failed to win is Thursday, which is when they will play their next game.

Thunder: Payne was the backup point guard for the second straight game. After picking up two fouls in his first minute, the number one draft pick reached his career high with seven points in just six minutes in the second quarter.


Remembering Meadowlark Lemon (VIDEO)

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 1978, file photo, Meadowlark Lemon, of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, offers a pretzel to a referee during a game at New York's Madison Square Garden. Lemon, known as the Globetrotters' "clown prince" of basketball, died Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 83.  (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis, File)
Associated Press

If you’re talking about the most popular players of their generation, if you’re talking about people who were prophets spreading the word of basketball before the era of Magic/Bird, then you are talking about Meadowlark Lemon.

The showman who spent decades with the Harlem Globetrotters passed away at the age of 83. This video via the NBA is a tribute to him and his legacy.

RIP Meadowlark.