Lou Williams scores 30, Lakers beat Suns 97-77 without Kobe

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lou Williams scored a season-high 30 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers sent Phoenix to its ninth straight loss with a 97-77 rout of the cold-shooting Suns on Sunday night.

The Lakers, coming off victories over Boston and Philadelphia, have won three in a row for the first time since Feb. 22-27 against Boston, Utah and Milwaukee. Rookie Larry Nance Jr. had 15 points and tied a season high with his second straight 14-rebound game.

Kobe Bryant sat out his second straight game because of a sore right shoulder, the same one he had surgery on last January to repair a torn rotator cuff.

The league’s third leading career scorer, who turned 37 in August, is averaging 17.2 points in 29 games. Bryant announced on Nov. 29 that this would be his the final season of his 20-year NBA career.

Brandon Knight had 25 points, nine assists and three rebounds for the Suns, who shot 36 percent from the field and trailed by as many as 38 points en route to their 21st loss in 27 games since beating the Lakers at Phoenix on Nov. 16.

Phoenix center Tyson Chandler, who was ejected midway through the third quarter of Saturday’s 142-119 loss at Sacramento, played only 19 minutes in this one and missed his first five shots before finishing with two points on 1 for 6 shooting.

The Suns were playing their fourth game in five nights and looked tired, making only nine of 46 shots in the first half (19.6 percent) and scoring just 10 points in the opening quarter before the Lakers built their lead to 43-22 – the lowest total in Suns history – by intermission.

Williams ended his 11-point second quarter with a buzzer-beating 3 off an inbounds pass after the Lakers took a 20-second timeout with 1.1 seconds on the clock.

The Suns had won nine of their previous 10 meetings with the Lakers. But despite this loss, they still have a three-game lead over Los Angeles in the race to stay out of the Pacific Division cellar.

TIP-INS

Suns: The Suns (12-25) are 0-15 when scoring fewer than 100 points. … C Alex Len, limited to 6 1-2 minutes of playing time on Saturday because of a sore left hand, came off the bench for the third straight game and had six points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes. “They’ve taken X-rays and it’s not broken, but it’s really sore and he has a hard time squeezing his hand,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He’s going to continue to play and try to be a presence out there – at least on the defensive end and spell Tyson in some of those minutes. With all the traveling, every time he goes up in an airplane, it swells up again. So it probably won’t calm down until we get back home.” … The Suns are 0-10 when an opposing player has scored 30 or more points against them. … Phoenix is 0-5 since point guard Eric Bledsoe‘s season-ending injury to his left knee and subsequent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Lakers: A fan won a $95,000 for hitting a halfcourt shot after the third quarter. … Nance made seven of 10 shots in his first start against the team his dad starred for during his first 6 1-2 NBA seasons. … C Roy Hibbert, the only Laker to start all 35 games, had 13 points and six boards. … Bryant’s highest-scoring game without a 3-point basket was against the Suns, when he scored 48 points on Jan. 10, 2012, at Los Angeles. … The Lakers snapped a nine-game home losing streak against Western Conference teams.

 

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.