Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Lakers hold off Grizzlies 107-100, snap 4-game skid

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LOS ANGELES (AP) One last time, Kobe Bryant backed down Tony Allen, talked friendly trash with Matt Barnes and reminisced with old AAU teammate Vince Carter.

By the final minutes, Kobe was watching them all from the bench while the young Los Angeles Lakers closed out an unlikely win.

Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points, Brandon Bass got eight of his 18 in the fourth quarter and the Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 107-100 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night.

Bryant scored 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter, but the superstar sat out the final 4:20 because coach Byron Scott wanted “to see what these guys can do.”

Bryant was curious himself, and he wasn’t disappointed.

“I thought they played hard,” Bryant said of the young group. “I think it’s time for them to make that jump. Now it’s time to really lock in on those details.”

Even with D'Angelo Russell sidelined by a bruised shin, Clarkson led Los Angeles smoothly past the playoff-bound Grizzlies, who had won the clubs’ first three meetings of the season. The Western Conference-worst Lakers wrapped up an eight-game homestand with three wins, beating contenders Golden State and Memphis.

“We were moving the ball, but a lot of it started on the defensive end,” Clarkson said. “We just stuck to the game plan.”

Data curated by PointAfter

Allen made all 12 of his shots while scoring 27 points for the Grizzlies, who rallied to win in Phoenix on Monday night.

“It was one those games where they took advantage of us coming off a back-to-back, but no excuses,” Allen said. “That team played hard. They were all over the place, getting second-chance points. We turned the ball over and they scored off our turnovers. They played with a little more energy than us. They outhustled us and had a little more pep in their step. They’re a young, talented group, and they’re the future of the NBA.”

Zach Randolph and Lance Stephenson added 16 points apiece for the Grizzlies.

“It’s a game that we needed, and we didn’t win,” said Carter, who had four points. “They had more energy than us. I don’t know what they’re playing for, but I know what we’re playing for.”


Bryant suited up for the fourth time in Los Angeles’ last 10 games, and he appeared to be in a good mood throughout his final showdown with several old friends.

Kobe recently called Allen the toughest defender he faced in his 20-year NBA career, and Carter was among his early inspirations to work hard. Bryant’s long-standing connections with them explained why he’ll attempt to play back-to-back games with his sore shoulder instead of sitting out this one before Wednesday’s game in Phoenix.

“My shoulder feels great,” Bryant said. “I didn’t have any aches or pains.”

Bryant said he still intends to play in his Phoenix farewell.


Russell had 11 points in 22 minutes before sitting out the final 1 1/2 quarters. The rookie No. 2 overall pick went down in pain in the first half after a leg-on-leg collision with JaMychal Green, but he played in the third quarter before shutting it down.


Metta World Peace was ejected early in the fourth quarter when he wouldn’t stop complaining about the lack of a foul call when Vince Carter tied him up for a jump ball. The former Ron Artest has a monumental history of on-court misbehaviors, but it was his first ejection of the season. The Grizzlies got the chance to choose the Lakers player who had to enter the game to take World Peace’s spot on the jump ball, and they grinningly chose Kobe, who lost the tip.


Grizzlies: Longtime Lakers G Jordan Farmar had eight points and five assists in his second game with Memphis, which signed the Los Angeles native and UCLA product to a 10-day contract. … Stephenson scored five points in 1.5 seconds late in the third quarter with two free throws, a quick steal and a three-point play. … Mike Conley missed his 10th straight game with tendinitis, and P.J. Hairston missed his fifth straight game with a strained groin.

Lakers: Rookie F Larry Nance Jr. sat out as part of the team’s strategy to rest his sore knees during back-to-back sets. He is expected to play Wednesday in Phoenix. … Russell is questionable to play in Phoenix, the team said.


Grizzlies: At Spurs on Friday.

Lakers: At Suns on Wednesday.

Westbrook’s triple-double leads Thunder past Rockets 111-107

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 21 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds to help the Thunder beat the Houston Rockets 111-107 on Tuesday night.

Westbrook has 15 triple-doubles this season and 34 in his career. It’s the most triple-doubles by a player in a season since 1988-89, when Magic Johnson had 17 and Michael Jordan had 15.

It was also Westbrook’s sixth triple-double in March. According to STATS, it’s the most by a player in a calendar month since Jordan had seven in April 1989. It was his third in a row and fourth in his past five games.

Data curated by PointAfter

Kevin Durant scored 23 points and Dion Waiters added 17 to help the Thunder win their fifth straight.

James Harden had 24 points, a career-high 16 assists and seven rebounds for the Rockets. Dwight Howard had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Patrick Beverley added 16 points.

Houston led 99-97 when Westbrook took over. He found Steven Adams for a dunk on an inbounds pass, got a steal and a dunk, then made a long 2-point jumper to give the Thunder a 103-99 lead.

Harden’s 3-pointer with 13.8 seconds to play cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 108-107. Serge Ibaka made 1 of 2 free throws with 11.9 seconds left to give the Thunder a two-point lead. Harden turned the ball over while trying to get it into Howard, and Waiters stole it. Westbrook made two free throws at the other end with 3.5 seconds remaining to put the game out of reach. Westbrook scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.


Rockets: Howard played for the first time since the league investigated a spray he said he had routinely put on his hands for grip for the past five years. A Rockets spokeswoman said there has been no discipline from the league, and Howard chose to use nothing on his hands. … Harden’s 10 assists in the first half matched the most he’s had in a half in his career. … A basket by Michael Beasley late in the third quarter was waved off after review because he took the shot after the shot clock had expired.

Thunder: F Kyle Singler sat out with soreness and tightness in his lower back. … The Thunder shot 52.2 percent in the first quarter. … Oklahoma City attempted just three free throws in the first half. … The Thunder improved to 6-0 on Tuesdays this season. … Durant passed Michael Finley and moved into 81st place on the league’s all-time scoring list. He now has 17,326 points.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

Dikembe Mutombo was in Brussels airport at time of attacks, is safe

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You’re not going to find an NBA legend who has done more internationally to help people in need (and spread the game of basketball) than Dikembe Mutombo. He is the definition of a world traveler, having recently been back in his native Congo on behalf of his charitable foundation.

Tuesday morning he was in Brussels’ Zaventem International Airport when the ISIS terrorist attack that killed 31 and injured more than 200 more took place.

Fortunately, the Hall of Fame player was unhurt. He posted these on Facebook.

The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation posted this note also on Facebook.

Today we bow our heads in remembrance for those who lost their lives in Brussels. And we give thanks for all of the first responders offering support, strength, and solidarity to everyone impacted by these horrible tragedies. To those who are asking for an update – Dikembe was at the Brussels airport when the bombing happened this morning, and was thankfully unharmed. Local authorities are working to move everyone to safe locations while the City navigates through this act of terror. Please join us in keeping Brussels in your thoughts and prayers.

We are happy that Mutombo is safe. Our thoughts are with the families of those who were not so lucky.

Report: Providence’s Kris Dunn to declare for NBA Draft, likely top 7 pick

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If Providence’s Kris Dunn had declared for the NBA Draft a year ago, he likely would have been taken in the lottery. He didn’t. He went back to school for one more season, where he was Big East Play of the Year (for a second straight year) and led Providence back to the NCAA Tournament (where his team fell to North Carolina).

He’s not doing that again. Dunn is going pro.

That according to Jon Rothstein at CBS Sports.

Providence’s Kris Dunn will declare for the 2016 NBA Draft, sources told CBS Sports….

The 6-foot-4 Dunn averaged 16.4 points, 6.2 assists, and 5.3 rebounds this past season.

Dunn is projected as a Top 5-7 pick (DraftExpress has him at No. 5 currently). He’s going to go high in the lottery regardless.

Ed Isaacson, PBT’s NBA Draft guru, Rotoworld writer,  as well as the man behind NBADraftBlog.com, gave us this scouting report recently on Dunn.

“There were two main areas people wanted to see Dunn address this year, shooting and decision-making, but neither changed very much. He is still a very good ballhandler with excellent vision, and he can be a spectacular passer, but his decisions can still be mindboggling.

“He thrives when Providence pushes the tempo, doing a great job getting the ball up the floor quickly and finding open teammates for easy scores. He did show improvement in the half court, and he can be very tough to keep out of the lane. Getting to the rim and scoring is a different issue; Dunn can have a lot of problems finishing around length at the basket, but if he has just a little space, he can finish in a spectacular way. Dunn’s perimeter shooting issues are still there.

“On defense, Dunn is much better as a help defender or off the ball, rather than an on-ball defender, but in certain match-ups, he can be a problem on the ball. His steal numbers are still high, and he is very good at jumping passing lanes, but he seems to have a green light from his coach to wander around looking to make plays on defense, where he won’t have that luxury in the NBA.”

Report: Michael Jordan playing prominent role for owners in CBA negotiations

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Michael Jordan’s most famous for this line to then Wizards’ owner Abe Pollin during the 1998 Collective Bargaining Agreement talks: “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.”

Now Jordan is on the other side of the table, representing the owners and trying to increase their profit — and becoming quite a vocal leader in doing so, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

In multiple meetings with union officials and players in New York, Jordan is a serious voice in these ongoing discussions, league sources told The Vertical. Jordan’s appointment onto that powerful ownership committee has been secret until now, but his sudden standing strengthens what’s been a sometimes jagged journey into the ownership community….

After six years as a majority owner, Jordan has never been so relevant on that job. Beyond labor talks, the countdown to Charlotte hosting the 2017 NBA All-Star Game has started. Most of all: The Hornets are winning. The hiring of coach Steve Clifford has changed everything for the franchise, delivering the groundwork for a sustainable program and culture….

As a business model, Charlotte has grown, too. Privately, there are still agents and players who believe that Charlotte needlessly cuts expenses in ways that are below NBA norms, although most admit that the organization has gotten better in that regard. Charlotte has invested in purchasing its own NBA Development League affiliate in Greensboro, N.C., another way that Jordan has shown a willingness to spend money on the long-term growth of his franchise.

Michael Jordan the owner’s career arc has mimicked that of Michael Jordan the player — it took him a while to learn how to do things right and to win, but he is figuring it out. Certainly he came in as a better player than he did an owner, but it took Jordan years (and getting thumped in the playoffs by the Bad Boy Pistons three years in a row) to figure out how to become the guy now mythologized into some kind of unassailable legend as a player. As an owner he certainly had a rough start, but he’s learned and improved year after year.

As Wojnarowski notes, it’s no accident Commissioner Adam Silver and the other owners want him in the middle of the negotiations. The players’ union has loaded up on star power at the top — Chris Paul, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony — and so the owners countered with their own, bigger star. Plus, Jordan gives the small and middle market owners a more prominent seat at the table.

The deadline for either the players or owners to declare they will opt out in the summer of 2017 is this December. The fact that they are meeting now — and have broken out into smaller committees to deal with specific issues — is a good sign for those of us hoping to avoid the 2017 lockout. Another good sign is that there are few leaks coming out of those talks. Nobody has decided they need to try to take their case to the public. Yet.

I would be pleasantly surprised if an extension is reached and there is no drama about one side opting out come December, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Someone will opt out (likely the players). But that just starts a clock; the two sides would still have more than six months to hammer out a deal to avoid any kind of lockout — and longer to avoid losing regular season games. Count me in the optimistic

Count me in the optimistic camp that we don’t have a lockout that costs us games in 2017. However, I hate to underestimate the undermining impacts of human greed.