Jrue Holiday hoping his commitment to Pelicans sways DeMarcus Cousins

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Jrue Holiday says his new five-year contract with the Pelicans thrusts him into the role of helping persuade All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to make a similar long-term commitment to New Orleans.

“I’ve already started” lobbying Cousins, Holiday said Thursday night after signing his new contract, which his agent, Jason Glushon, has said is worth $126 million, and could balloon to $150 million with incentives.

Up until NBA free agency began July 1, Cousins was among a number of Pelicans players urging Holiday to stay in New Orleans, where he has played since 2013.

“They were definitely hounding me – in a good way,” Holiday said, jokingly adding that there “might have even been threats.”

“But whatever. It was pretty much, `We want you back.’ They were saying they couldn’t do this without me.”

General manager Dell Demps reiterated that Holiday was New Orleans’ “No. 1 priority in free agency.”

“We believe his best days are in front of him,” Demps added.

Demps needs to be right about the 27-year-old Holiday if the Pelicans are to amount to much in the talent-rich Western Conference.

Holiday averaged 15.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 67 games last season. During his eight-year NBA career, the former UCLA standout has averaged 14.3 points and 6.2 assists.

Demps has said he sees the 6-foot-4 Holiday’s value in his leadership and his versatility. Holiday is proficient at either guard spot and Demps gave a nod to Holiday’s defensive acumen when he described him as a consummate “two-way player.”

Holiday, meanwhile, alluded to a lot of unfinished business in New Orleans and the importance of the relationships he’s built there.

A nagging lower-leg injury sidelined him for much of his first two seasons with the Pelicans. He was healthy for most of his third season, albeit while playing under minute restrictions, but a collision that fractured his eye wall caused him to miss the final weeks of that campaign.

Last season, he missed training camp and the first 12 regular-season games while taking a leave of absence to tend to his wife, former U.S. national soccer team player Lauren Holiday, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor while pregnant. Their first child, a daughter, was born healthy, after which Lauren Holiday had surgery to remove the benign tumor. Jrue Holiday said the Pelicans’ support during that time played a considerable part in his decision to stay.

“Obviously, my family has been through a little bit of hiccup,” Holiday said. “The organization and Dell, as well, has helped take care of us as a family. Coming back here was an easy choice.”

Holiday added that he did feel he would be “disappointing a lot of people” he cared about if he left for another team. He added that he’s seen “a lot of good teams grow together – go through ups and downs.”

There was a family theme to Holiday’s contract signing at team headquarters. Holiday was joined not only by his wife and daughter, but also his parents, both brothers, his sister and Glushon, his agent.

Now, Holiday said, he expects to be able to spend an entire summer training hard for the first time in several years and is looking forward to his first full training camp in more than three seasons, leading him to concur with Demps that his best basketball lies ahead.

Holiday said he also senses that a promising stint late last season in which the Pelicans won eight of 11 games offered only a glimpse of what the Pelicans could accomplish with their All-Star front court of Anthony Davis and Cousins, the latter having been acquired in a trade after the 2017 All-Star game and still developing chemistry with his new teammates. Therefore, he didn’t necessarily feel the need to leave in order to win, even though the Pelicans have made the playoffs only once – and haven’t won a playoff game – in his first four seasons with the club.

“Once we started to jell, I was like, `Man, I could really see this going well,” Holiday said. “Obviously, previous years we had injuries and that hasn’t helped us, but moving forward all I see is kind of how we meshed last year and how fun it was to win.”

 

Watch Bam Adebayo score 38, lift Heat to win over Wizards

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MIAMI (AP) — Bam Adebayo scored a season-high 38 points and the Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards 110-107 Friday night.

Caleb Martin added 20 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 13 points while Tyler Herro had 11 points and 10 assists for the Heat, who won their second straight at home against Washington after their 113-105 victory Wednesday.

Adebayo’s two free throws with 1:37 remaining put Miami ahead 105-104 lead then extended the advantage on a short jumper with 38 seconds left.

“It was one of those things where my teammates gave me the ball and I was taking advantage of the mismatch,” Adebayo said. “They were shots (Washington) let me have.”

Adebayo has scored in double digits in all 18 of his appearances this season. He’s had double-doubles in half of those games; Miami is 6-3 in those contests.

“He had a lot on his shoulders, really the last several games with a lot of different lineups and everything,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You need that stability from your leaders. I think at some point we’ll print up these shirts, `Mr. Reliable,’ and I’ll wear them, probably.”

Lowry also had eight assists, seven rebounds and a four-point play with 3:15 left for a 103-102 lead – the 11th of what would be 13 lead changes on the night.

And it was another close game for the Heat, who are already 4-3 in games decided by three points or less this season.

“That’s what’s happened really for, it seems like several weeks,” Spoelstra said. “It just feels like every single one of these games is going down to the last possession.”

The Wizards cut the deficit on Bradley Beal‘s dunk before Martin made two free throws with 12.5 seconds for the final margin, then hounded Beal defensively on the game’s last possession and forced the Wizards’ All-Star into a miss to end the contest.

“I take pride in trying to make stops,” Martin said. “Those are the types of situations you dream about, game on the line against a guy like Bradley Beal with the ball late shot clock. I just tried to make it as tough as possible.”

Beal and Kyle Kuzma finished with 28 points Kristaps Porzingis added 18 points for the Wizards.

“We did enough throughout the course of the game to put us in position to win,” said Beal, who returned from a one-game absence because of a quadriceps contusion. “We had several leads and ended up giving up those leads late. It was a matter of us getting stops at the defensive ends.”

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler (right knee soreness) missed his fifth straight game because of right knee soreness while shooters Max Strus (right shoulder impingement) and Duncan Robinson (left ankle sprain) also sat out.

The Heat rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the first quarter and cut it to 59-56 at halftime.

“Obviously, we had shots late that were makeable to keep them at bay,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.

Another Hornets injury: Hayward out indefinitely with fractured shoulder

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets
Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
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The basketball gods have not been kind to the Hornets this season. LaMelo Ball missed the start of the season with a sprained ankle, got back and played just three games before re-injuring it by stepping on a fan’s foot while chasing a loose ball out of bounds. Miles Bridges will not be with the team. Cody Martin had his knee scoped and is out, and Dennis Smith Jr. is out with a sprained ankle — and that’s just the guys out right now.

Now add Gordon Hayward to the list. He is out indefinitely with a fractured shoulder. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

Hayward has a long history of injuries and has battled shoulder issues all season. There had been hope in Charlotte that he could stay healthy long enough to contribute to some wins and build up some potential trade interest (his name came up in Russell Westbrook scenarios, for example). In the 11 games he played, he averaged 16.3 points and shot 38.1% from 3. Of course, a trade was always a longshot because Hayward is owed a fully guaranteed $31.5 million next season, no team was taking that on without sweeteners.

With him injured, a trade is out of the question (other than part of a salary dump).

Kevin Durant says ‘it’s cool to see’ LeBron break all-time scoring record

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LeBron James remains on target to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA all-time scoring record, although with the games he has missed this season the target date now looks more like late February/early March.

Kevin Durant is excited to see it, as he told Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“To be the No. 1 in anything, there’s 8 billion people in the world, we just figured that out last week, so to be the No. 1 of all time at scoring the basketball, I’m sure it’s going to be a range of emotions for him,” Durant said at Friday’s shootaround, in advance of a game against the Indiana Pacers. “But to be in an era where we see this live is pretty cool as well. You probably can’t even describe the emotions and feelings him and his family and his friends are going to go through, but it’s cool to see it up close.”

Durant is currently 18th on that all-time scoring list (having just moved past Kevin Garnett), which is impressive in its own right even if he is not going to catch LeBron. LeBron’s feat has taken all of his 20 NBA seasons, and that is what impressed the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.

“LeBron is taking care of himself so well that he’s been able to play a bundle of games for a lot of years. And that’s what he takes,” Popovich said before his Spurs took on the Lakers. “But he gets credit for taking care of himself and being able to be out there. The way a lot of players don’t even come close to. His commitment to the game and to what he has to do, has allowed him to be in this position.”

LeBron’s quest continues to generate a lot of buzz around the league. He just hopes it’s not the lone bright highlight out of this Lakers’ season, but his team has a lot of work to climb up to the postseason out of a 5-11 start.

 

Leonard, George both out for Clippers Friday, Jokic probable for Nuggets

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When Kawhi Leonard returned and was put in the starting lineup, the Clippers said it was time to buckle down and truly start their season.

Instead, how about another round of injuries?

Paul Goerge is missing his third consecutive game with a hamstring tendon strain, while Leonard has a sprained right ankle and this is his second game out.

Adding to the troubling news for the Clippers in this game, Nikola Jokic is probable.

The Clippers won the first three games Leonard was back, and they have a ridiculous +31.7 net rating in the limited minutes that George and Leonard are on the court together. But the question heading into the season — even among those backing the Clippers to come out of the West (*raises hand*) — was whether would they stay healthy enough to live up to that potential? So far, the signs are not promising.

Yet, the Clippers are 11-8 despite the injuries and just a game back of the top-seeded Suns in a West where no team has run away with it. They are not out of it, but they must find a way to get their stars on the court together for an extended period.