LeBron crashes into wife of golf star Day as Cavs top Thunder

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CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James crashed into the crowd and injured the wife of golf star Jason Day during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 104-100 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.

Ellie Day was taken from the arena on a backboard. There was no immediate report on her condition.

The 6-foot-8, 240-pound James was scrambling for a loose ball in the fourth quarter when he plowed into her as she sat in a courtside side.

Day is the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world. He won the PGA Championship this year for his first major win on the PGA Tour. On Nov. 11, Ellie gave birth to the couple’s second child, a girl named Lucy.

James scored 33 points and added 11 assists and nine rebounds. Tristan Thompson had 15 rebounds for the Cavs, who improved to 11-1 at home.

Russell Westbrook scored 27 and Kevin Durant 25 for the Thunder, who had won six in a row. Oklahoma City was down 98-89 with three minutes left and closed within 103-100, but both Durant and Westbrook missed 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds.

The frantic final three minutes were overshadowed by James’ collision with Day, who was unable get out of the way when he came tumbling into her chair. James came over to check on her condition during a stoppage in play, reaching out his hand to touch hers as medical personnel attended to her near Cleveland’s bench.

Day, who lives in Columbus, accompanied his wife as she was carried from the floor.

The Cavaliers were missing guards Mo Williams (thumb), Iman Shumpert (groin) and Kyrie Irving, who could make his season debut Sunday against Philadelphia.

Thompson added 12 points and his energy kept the Cavs close in the third quarter. Richard Jefferson added 13 points off the bench for Cleveland, now 31-2 in regular season games at home since Jan. 15.

With the Cavs down 78-74 to start the fourth, Kevin Love made two critical plays to swing the momentum for Cleveland.

First, he pump faked Nick Collison in the air to draw contact and dropped a 3-pointer while being fouled. After knocking down his free throw, Love grabbed a rebound on the defensive end and heaved a look outlet pass to a waiting James, who was bumped before dropping in his layup to put the Cavs up 80-78.

As James went to the line, Love walked over following his deep completion and slapped hands with Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was sitting courtside.

Thompson was Cleveland’s best offensive weapon in the third, grabbing boards and scoring inside – once off a behind-the-back pass from James – to help the Cavs chip away at Oklahoma City’s 10-point lead.

Durant scored 14 points in the first quarter, but it was Westbrook’s basket that ended an 8-0 run to put the Thunder up by 12 early in the second quarter.

The Cavs, though, responded by ripping off 14 straight points in a three-minute stretch.

Westbrook seemed to ignore Dellavedova, who knocked down two 3-pointers as Cleveland went on an 18-0 run to take a 46-40 lead. Ibaka’s free throw ended Oklahoma City’s 5-minute dry spell and the Thunder closed the half with a 7-0 spurt to lead at the break.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Oklahoma City is 6-7 against the East and 11-2 versus the West. … G Anthony Morrow was not with the team because of a personal matter. … Former Cavs G Dion Waiters was booed when he entered the game in the first quarter. Waiters was traded by Cleveland last season. He finished with 4 points.

Cavaliers: The Cavs observed a moment of remembrance before the game for center John “Hot Rod” Williams, who died last week at 53. Williams was a member of those talented Cleveland teams, which included Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and always lost to the Michael-Jordan led Bulls in the playoffs in the 1980s-90s.

 

Evan Fournier says that Frank Ntilikina just ‘needs a real opportunity’

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New York Knicks fans haven’t had a lot to cheer for recently. The team traded away Kristaps Porzingis, who is thought to be the franchise cornerstone. Now they move forward with a young core, RJ Barrett, and tons of cap space.

So what does that mean for players who have been around in the Big Apple like Frank Ntilikina?

Based on how Ntilikina played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup for France this year, things might be looking up.

Ntilikina’s statistics weren’t eye-popping, but he was seen as a very solid player in a backcourt that helped propel France to the bronze medal in China.

To that end, fellow countrymen Evan Fournier thinks that all Ntilikina needs is a chance to shine.

Via Twitter:

Ntilikina’s season last year was marred by injuries, and he played in just 43 games. Still, he has the physical tools to be a useful NBA player, and he’s just 21 years old. With the surprisingly low-pressure situation in New York, it’s possible that extended time playing in the World Cup could help aid what Ntilikina is able to produce next season for the Knicks.

Report: Lakers receive DeMarcus Cousins disabled-player exception

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A chance at a championship. LeBron James. Anthony Davis. The Los Angeles market. Great weather.

The Lakers can offer plenty to anyone who gets bought out this season.

Now, the Lakers – who lost DeMarcus Cousins to a torn ACL – get a mechanism to offer post-buyout players more money.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The exception holds little value presently. It’s worth less than a full-season minimum salary for anyone with more than four years experience.

But minimum-salary and mid-level exceptions decline throughout the season. This exception does not.

So, on March 1, a team with only a minimum slot available can offer a free agent just between $233,459 and $666,546 (depending on the player’s experience level). The Lakers can offer $1.75 million.

This means an NBA-appointed doctor ruled Cousins is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15. Given that prognosis, the Lakers could open a roster spot by waiving Cousins, who’s on a one-year deal and facing a domestic-violence charge. They’d still keep the exception.

If Cousins can return more quickly than expected, he’d be eligible to play, whether or not the Lakers use the exception.

Damian Lillard says he plans to play for Team USA in 2020 Olympics

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Stephen Curry said he wants to play for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics.

He isn’t the only star point guard eager for Tokyo.

Damian Lillard, via James McKern of news.com.au:

“I plan on being a part of that. I plan on playing,” Lillard said

Though neither Curry nor Lillard played for Team USA in this year’s World Cup, there’s a potentially large difference: Curry never agreed to play. Lillard did then withdrew. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo indicated particular scorn for players who decommitted.

Of course, Colangelo also wants to win. That might require swallowing his pride and accepting players who withdrew this year. He has talked tough in the past about players who didn’t show his desired devotion to USA Basketball. Lillard got cut in 2014 then missed the 2016 Olympics citing injury. It can be difficult to determine which absences Colangelo forgives.

One factor working against Lillard: The Americans’ point guard pool is deep. Curry rates higher. Kemba Walker earned respect by playing in the World Cup. James Harden (who also withdrew from the World Cup) and Kyrie Irving also factor.

I expect Colangelo to operate on a sliding scale: The better the player, the less prior commitment to USA Basketball necessary. Lillard is an excellent player. We’ll see how far that gets him.

And whether he’ll even want to play next year. The reasons for playing – pride of representing your country, prestige marketing opportunities – are more obvious now. The reasons not to play – injury, fatigue, personal commitments – are more likely to emerge closer to the Games.

Losing Kemba Walker would always sting. Hornets made it nearly as painful as possible

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Hornets faced a miserable choice this summer:

  • Lose not only their by far best player, but the greatest player in franchise and someone with a deep connection to the community
  • Sign a point guard to an expensive contract that will further inhibit an already-strapped team from competing at even a moderate level

Charlotte’s choice? Both.

The Hornets let Kemba Walker leave via free agency and replaced him with Terry Rozier (three years, $56.7 million). That’s a failure, not one of solely this offseason, but a failure nonetheless.

At 29, Walker would’ve likely become a negative value on a long-term deal. But at least he would’ve kept Charlotte more firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff race in the near term – not that on the fringes of that competition is a great place to be. There were reasonable arguments for and against keeping Walker.

But if the Hornets were willing to offer him only $160 million (about $62 million less than his super max), they should have traded him before it got this far. Why did they keep him past last season’s trade deadline? To have him represent Charlotte in the All-Star game there? To make a longshot run at the No. 8 seed? Without knowing exactly what other teams offered, that seems highly likely a mistake.

The Hornets weren’t good enough to make the playoffs with Walker. What makes them think they’ll be good enough with Rozier?

Losing Walker always would’ve invited a year of pain. Charlotte is too capped out, too veteran-laden to pivot in a meaningful way. But at least Bismack Biyombo‘s, Marvin Williams‘ and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s contracts will expire next summer. Nicolas Batum‘s and Cody Zeller‘s will expire the following year.

Now, Rozier is on the books another year after that.

Maybe Rozier, 25, will become a key part of the Hornets’ next successful era. He has the requisite athleticism and has shown flashes of being a good starting point guard. But he’s coming off a down year. That counts, too.

It’s easy to pin Rozier’s struggles on a tough situation behind Kyrie Irving. That surely factored. Still, most players on a starting track would’ve fared better in those circumstances.

Credit Charlotte for creativity. By signing-and-trading Walker to the Celtics for a signed-and-traded Rozier, the Hornets got more spending power. But they probably would’ve been better off with a point guard in the mid-level-exception range like Tomas Satoransky, Delon Wright or Tyus Jones. It’ll take a major jump for Rozier to justify his near-$19 million-per-year salary.

Charlotte isn’t giving him much help. Jeremy Lamb left in free agency. Even though they have enough breathing room under the tax line to use the rest, the Hornets haven’t used their mid-level exception other than sliver for No. 36 pick Cody Martin.

Internal prospects look limited. Charlotte didn’t place anyone on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years. No. 12 pick P.J. Washington probably won’t change the franchise’s arc.

The Hornets didn’t reach this dismal point in one offseason. But this summer worsened the predicament.

Offseason grade: D-