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James Harden’s 32 points, 15 assists lead Rockets past Wizards

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WASHINGTON (AP) — James Harden set aside a rough first quarter to finish with 32 points and 15 assists, leading the Houston Rockets past the struggling Wizards 114-106 on Monday night. Washington’s John Wall broke the franchise record for career assists before getting ejected in the final minute.

Harden shot just 1 for 4 and had five turnovers in the opening period, which ended with Washington ahead 30-23. But he got more and more involved at the offensive end and scored eight consecutive Houston points in one stretch of the fourth quarter, including half of a 12-0 run that gave the Rockets a 106-95 lead with a little more than 3 1/2 minutes left.

This was his fourth consecutive game with at least 30 points and 10 assists for Harden, who entered the day leading the NBA in assists at 12.3 per game and fourth in scoring average at 31.5 points.

Ryan Anderson added 23 points for Houston.

Wall had 21 points and eight assists when he drew his second technical foul with 33.3 seconds left and Houston up 111-106. He entered the game three assists shy of Hall of Fame center Wes Unseld’s club mark of 3,822 assists and tied it in the first quarter.

He then eclipsed Unseld by feeding Bradley Beal in a 12-2 stretch to open the third quarter that briefly put the Wizards ahead. But only briefly: There were 13 lead changes in that period.

Washington, which fell to 1-5, led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but then went nearly 5 minutes without scoring, missing 10 consecutive field goal attempts. That allowed Houston to go on a 16-0 run that gave it a 50-41 lead.

The half ended with Houston up 56-47, and while Harden only had seven points by then, he did accumulate 10 assists, including three on alley-oop passes to Clint Capela.


Rockets: Harden scored at least 40 points both times Houston faced Washington last season. … Fs Trevor Ariza and Nene both used to play for Washington. Nene, who went from the Wizards to the Rockets this offseason, was greeted with applause when he entered as a substitute in the first quarter; he finished with four points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.

Wizards: Wall had three assists in the first quarter to pull even with Unseld, but then had zero in the second quarter. … F Markieff Morris missed his first nine shots and wound up with seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.


New Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who coached Harden from 2009-12 while both were with Oklahoma City, lavished praise on the guard before Monday’s game. “He has all the tricks. He’s a smart basketball player that has great skill. He has great vision. He has the strength, the quickness, to get to the rim. He knows how to draw fouls,” Brooks said. “That’s a talent and, it’s not against the rules.”


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Watch John Wall break Wes Unseld’s Washington record for career assists

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Wizards point guard John Wall broke Hall of Fame center Wes Unseld’s franchise record for career assists.

Wall entered Monday night’s game against the Houston Rockets three shy of Unseld’s mark of 3,822 assists and tied it in the first quarter.

He then eclipsed Unseld by feeding Bradley Beal for a dunk with 10:15 left in the third quarter. The accomplishment was announced to the crowd at the following timeout.

Wall is in his seventh season in the NBA after being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010 out of Kentucky.

Watch Joel Embiid reject Derrick Favors at the rim


Another game, another Sixers loss — and another night with Joel Embiid highlights.

The Sixers’ star rookie held his own against an elite defensive center in Rudy Gobert, scoring 14 points on eight shots and grabbing nine boards. He also blocked one shot — rejecting Utah’s Derrick Favors at the rim.

Utah, however, had little trouble with the Sixers winning 109-84. Philly has lost 43 straight games in October and November. They have a couple against a struggling Pacers team later in the week that could break that streak.

Report: Players’ union chief to tour teams, talk to players about new CBA

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In the latest optimistic sign that a new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement is close…

NBA Players’ Union Executive Director Michelle Roberts is about to go on tour, talking to players around the league about the details of the new deal in person. Via ESPN’s Ian Begley and Dave McMenamin:

Union boss Michele Roberts plans to meet with all players in person in the coming weeks to discuss the new labor agreement, sources tell ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and I. This is another sign that an agreement between the NBA and NBPA is imminent. The league and Players Association have made progress on a new agreement in recent weeks and there remains optimism on both sides that a deal will get done.

Reports are the new CBA could be settled in the next couple of weeks, it’s just a matter of crossing a few “Ts.”

Both the NBA and the Union have done a very good job keeping the details under wraps, but is what we know of the deal:

• The roughly 50/50 split of revenue will remain (there’s a complicated formula based on projections that can move it a percentage point either way). Money is always the biggest hurdle in these negotiations, agreeing to this split eased these negotiations.

• The NBA will create a fund to help with medical expenses and more for retired players who need it, particularly older ones that have been out of the league for some time.

• The college one-and-done rule will remain.

• The scaled salaries for rookies will increase.

• There will be some changes to cap holds and other details.


Dwyane Wade’s advice to Kevin Durant: Don’t play the villain, just be yourself

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Dwyane Wade has been down this road before: The formation of a superteam, the elation of the local fan base, the boos and scorn of fans around the rest of the league, the accepting of the villain role, the slow start trying to fit the pieces together. Golden State is going through that now with the addition of Kevin Durant; Wade went through it when LeBron James came to Miami.

So what is Wade’s advice to the Warriors? Be yourself, not the role everyone wants you to play.

Here is what he told By Moke Hamilton of BasketballInsiders.

“Everybody wanted to beat us, so everybody was playing their tail off against us,” Wade recalled. “It took time for us to get to the game that we wanted to get to…

“I think them guys understand what it takes,” Wade said of the sacrifices needed to win under such circumstances. “I think the biggest thing is, what I say is just enjoy it. One thing we did wrong our first year was we played into the villain role because people was not liking that we was together and we tried to play into that role. That’s not why we started playing basketball – we started playing basketball because we enjoyed it and we loved it.”

LeBron, in particular, tried to put on the villain costume, but it didn’t fit. The next season, when he was just trying to be himself again, Miami won a ring.

Golden State has the advantage of just trying to fit one player in Durant into an existing system, rather than re-invent the wheel, but there still are a lot of changes for everyone. The ball is moving, 67.7 percent of Golden State’s baskets are assisted (second highest percentage in the league) but the consistency, particularly on defense, is not there. That is what they need to work on, and they’ve got most of a season to do it. Whether they play the villain role or not.