LeBron James, Cavaliers hold off Andrew Wiggins and Timberwolves 116-108 (VIDEO)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) LeBron James spent the morning sending a crystal clear message to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the wake of Kevin Love‘s knee injury: things will be just fine as long as James is on the court.

He spent the night backing that up against an emboldened Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves, as if anyone doubted him in the first place.

James had 25 points, 14 assists and eight rebounds to lead the Cavaliers to a 116-108 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

Channing Frye had 21 points and 10 rebounds while starting for Love, who will miss at least the next six weeks after having surgery on his left knee. Kyre Irving scored 25 points for the Cavs and James sealed the victory with a stepback 3-pointer with two minutes to play.

“The one thing that we can always rely on is the fact that we’ve played without Kev before,” James said. “We’ve had to do that in the playoffs. As much as you don’t like to play without some of your big guns, sometimes if it happens then you’re just ready for it.”

Wiggins scored 41 points against the team that drafted him and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 for the Wolves, who finished a six-game homestand at 2-4. The Wolves allowed Cleveland to shoot 51 percent and hit 13 3s.

“It’s always competitive playing them,” Wiggins said. “I feel like it brings out the best in everybody.”

James took his time to get going, choosing to get others involved, including with a no-look pass through Wiggins’ legs to a diving Derrick Williams for a layup in the second quarter. He threw down two soaring dunks later in the third and added a Jordan-like reverse layup as part of a highlight-filled night.

“It’s been a burden on me since I got drafted. Why does it change now?” James said when asked if he has to do more with Love out. “Nothing’s changed. I’ll have my guys ready to play every single night.”

The Cavs appeared to be pulling away when they opened a 14-point lead in the third quarter, but Wiggins exploded for 20 points in the period to make it a game. He hit a 3-pointer and beat the buzzer on a long 2 to tie it at 93 going into the fourth.

Wiggins was chosen by the Cavs No. 1 overall three years ago, but that was before James made his surprising return to Cleveland. The Cavs traded Wiggins to Minnesota for Love and Wiggins has always given them his best punch. He entered the night averaging 27.6 points per game against them, his highest scoring average against any team in the league.

The Wolves missed two open 3-pointers that would have tied the game in the final four minutes, but James hit his from deep and Williams got a steal and a layup to drop Wiggins to 0-6 against the Cavs.

“We’ll get `em eventually,” Wiggins said.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: F Iman Shumpert played 25 minutes after missing the previous three games with a sprained left ankle. … Williams scored 13 points off the bench against the team that drafted him No. 2 overall. … Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 11 boards.

Timberwolves: SG Zach LaVine had surgery in Los Angeles on Tuesday to reconstruct the torn ACL in his left knee. He is expected to miss nine months while recovering. … Ricky Rubio had 16 assists and eight rebounds, but was just 2 for 8 from the field.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

As he prepared to face a Timberwolves team filled with very young players trying to find their place in the league, James was asked how long it took him to turn the corner as a professional.

“I turned a corner very, very young,” James said, smiling. “Probably about 16.”

STEPHENSON INJURED

Guard Lance Stephenson has played well since signing a 10-day contract last week, and the Wolves were hoping to have his defensive intensity against James and the Cavs on Tuesday night. But Stephenson grotesquely rolled his left ankle just three minutes into his first shift and needed help walking off the floor. Stephenson hit his only two shots before he was injured.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: Cleveland heads back home to face Indiana on Wednesday for its final game before the All-Star break.

Timberwolves: Minnesota flies to Denver for a game Wednesday night in a key game for the Wolves against the Nuggets, who currently own the eighth seed in the West.

Video: Carmelo Anthony says he’d have won 2-3 titles if drafted by Detroit

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In an Instagram Live chat with friend Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony said he’d “have won 2-3 championships if drafted by the Detroit Pistons:

Anthony was drafted third overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. LeBron James went off the board first to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons then drafted Darko Milicic with the second pick. Chris Bosh was drafted fourth by the Toronto Raptors, and Wade was selected with the fifth pick by the Miami Heat.

James, Wade and Bosh would famously team up in Miami seven years later. Those three and Anthony all put together Hall of Fame careers. Milicic was another story entirely.

Detroit had that second overall pick by virtue of a 1997 sign-and-trade with the then Vancouver Grizzlies for forward Otis Thorpe. Vancouver didn’t even keep Thorpe for one full season, as he was shipped to the Sacramento Kings at the 1998 trade deadline. By the 2003 draft, the team had moved from Vancouver to Memphis.

The Pistons went on to win the championship in 2003-04, despite relatively limited production from rookie Milicic. The seven-footer played in just 34 games as a rookie during Detroit’s title run. Milicic then appeared in just 62 games over the next two seasons before he was traded to the Orlando Magic at the 2006 trade deadline.

Despite never living up to his draft position, Milicic did carve out a 10-year NBA career. On the other hand, Anthony blossomed into a 10-time All-Star.

Anthony went on to make six All-NBA teams over the course of his time with the Nuggets and New York Knicks. He holds a career average of 23.6 points per game, but has yet to win that elusive title.

Detroit passing on Anthony is one of the more interesting  what if’s in recent NBA history. The Pistons only got the one championship, but made the Finals back-to-back years. They had a multiple year run of contention behind a core of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamiltion in the backcourt. The frontcourt was anchored by Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. The one thing that group struggled with on occasion was scoring, which Anthony would have provided.

Had Anthony been drafted by the Pistons, he’d likely have a ring and Detroit would have a fourth banner. Who knows? Maybe they’d each have a couple more beyond that.

Former NBA player OJ Mayo to sign in China

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When the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association return to play, they’ll have a familiar face to NBA fans suiting up for them.

Liaoning announced they are signing former NBA player O.J. Mayo to a contract for the remainder of this season.

Mayo has been out of the NBA since the end of the 2015-16 season. The scoring guard was banned from the NBA due to a violation of the league’s anti-drug policy. He was eligible for reinstatement at the start of the 2018-19 season.

Since being banned from the NBA, Mayo has signed to play with various clubs in Puerto Rico, Taiwan and with a team in China’s second division.

During his eight-year NBA career, Mayo played for the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks. The 32-year old guard holds a career average of 13.8 points per game on 43/37/82 shooting splits.

With Liaoning, Mayo may suit up alongside former NBA players Lance Stephenson and Brandon Bass. The club announced that Mayo will undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, after which they expect him to back up Stephenson.

Neither Stephenson nor Bass have returned to China following the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s unclear when either player will return, as the CBA has delayed their return to play until May.

Alabama’s Herbert Jones declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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University of Alabama junior forward Herbert Jones announced via Instagram that he’s declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft:

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All Glory to God 🙏🏽

A post shared by Herb Jones 🛸 (@yung.ch0) on

Jones says he’s declaring while maintaining his eligibility, meaning he could get feedback and choose to return to school.

In his third campaign with the Crimson Tide, Jones turned his best collegiate season. The six-foot-seven forward scored 7.9 points on 48.4% shooting. He also grabbed 6.4 rebounds per game. Jones was also one of Alabama’s best defensive players.

Alabama has also seen starting guard Kira Lewis and John Petty Jr. declare for the draft.

Lewis is expected to be a first-round pick, while Petty and Jones are considered to be late second-round talents.

Arizona’s Zeke Nnaji, DePaul’s Paul Reed declare for NBA draft

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Nobody knows when the NBA Draft is going to take place — like everything with the NBA calendar, it is up in the air — but for college players whose season has ended now is the time to declare and throw their hats in the ring.

Two possible draftees did that Saturday.

Arizona center Zeke Nnaji was one.

The 6’11” Nnaji averaged 16.1 points per game on 57 percent shooting, plus grabbed 8.6 rebounds a game his freshman season at Arizona. In a good sign, he shot 76% from the free throw line, meaning he should be able to space the floor and hit midrangers (and maybe someday threes). He brings a lot of energy to the court, but is considered raw still on both ends of the floor and not an elite defender.

Nnaji is a bubble first-round pick.

The other player coming out is DePaul forward Paul Reed.

A projected first-rounder is a generous description by Charania, Reed is seen more as a second-round pick (and without a Draft Combine or workouts with teams it will be difficult to move up). He’s a 6’9″ power forward who averaged 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds a game this season. Reed shot the three well as a sophomore (40 percent) but regressed this past season. He’s athletic but needs to get stronger, and he needs to be able to fit into a role at the NBA level to last.

That said, he will likely get a chance somewhere to prove he belongs.