Associated Press

Anthony Davis scores 32, Pelicans beat Bucks 112-106 for first win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry wasn’t about to worry about his team’s flaws after its first victory of the season.

Anthony Davis hit a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left and scored 32 points, and the Pelicans ended their winless start after eight games by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 112-106 on Thursday night.

“Are you kidding me, we were 0-8 and fighting for our lives,” Gentry said. “Everything that we’ve done in some kind of way had gone bad.

“To be able to finish the game and come away with a win, it’s relief,” he said. “We’re not going to say it was just another game.”

The Philadelphia 76ers (0-7) are the remaining winless team in the NBA.

“We’ve been working hard and playing our butts off, and tonight we just got one,” Davis said. “We needed everyone tonight to get this win.”

Jabari Parker scored a season-high 33 points for Milwaukee, which lost its second straight game to a team that was winless. In their last game Sunday, the Bucks fell 86-75 in overtime to Dallas, which was 0-5 coming into that game.

“We were in this situation in Dallas,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. “They hadn’t won a game either and they were desperate. New Orleans was desperate, and they found a way to win a game.”

E'Twaun Moore added 20 points for New Orleans, playing its third game in four nights.

Milwaukee used a late 9-4 run to pull within 108-105 on Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s three-point play with 40 seconds to go.

Matthew Dellavedova made a free throw to cut the New Orleans lead to 108-106, but Davis converted both free throws to make it a two-possession game.

Mirza Teletovic missed a running 3-point attempt with 6 seconds left, and Tim Frazier hit a pair of free throws to close the scoring.

Frazier had 15 points, 10 assists and five rebounds for New Orleans. Four of the Pelicans starters scored in double figures.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: F Cheick Diallo was sent to the Austin Spurs of the NBA Developmental League. Diallo was the 33rd overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft. … New Orleans led the entire second half.

Bucks: The first steel column went up this week during construction of the team’s new arena. … Parker made 13 of 26 shots, including a thunderous dunk on a pass from Dellavedova in the third quarter. … Dellavedova had 12 assists, one shy of his career high. … Starting C Miles Plumlee played 11 minutes, all in the first half, and all three of his shots were blocked by Davis.

CHARITY STRIPE

The Pelicans have had trouble making free throws this year at 73 percent coming into the game, but made 25 of 27 against the Bucks. “We’ve had close losses and have missed 13 foul shots (in a game) and 12 foul shots,” Gentry said. “In those situations, you can’t afford to do that. Tonight, we stepped to the line and shot them great.”

ANOTHER DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Antetokounmpo had 17 points, 10 rebounds and one assist in 35 minutes, his second double-double of the season. He picked up two early fouls against Dallas on Sunday and never got into a rhythm, and was charged with his fifth foul with 5:53 left in the fourth quarter against the Pelicans. He didn’t return until there was 2:40 left in the game and was unable to rally his team to victory.

A TYPICAL ROOKIE

Through the Pelicans’ first nine games, Buddy Hield was averaging nine points, making only 33 of his first 96 shots (34 percent). Gentry calls Hield, the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, “a typical rookie. He’s trying to feel his way. He’s had some good games for us and he’s had some struggles.”

 

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-