Magic come from 21 down to upset Cavaliers; LeBron reiterates he will not be traded

Associated Press
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — After another embarrassing defeat and two days before the trade deadline, LeBron James let it be known he’s not going anywhere, at least for now.

“I’m here for this season right now to try and figure out a way we can still compete,” James said after his Cleveland Cavaliers blew a 21-point lead in a 116-98 loss to the Orlando Magic. “I owe it to my teammates to finish this season out no matter how it ends up. I would never waive my no-trade clause.”

The Cavaliers fell apart in the second half and lost for the 14th time in 21 games. They have given up an average of 122.4 points in their last five losses.

“I couldn’t give up on my teammates like that. I just couldn’t do it,” James said after scoring 25 points. “We put too much into the game every single day.

“This is no time to be ashamed about our season,” he added. “We’ve got quite a few games left. If we’re still serious about the season, then we’ve got to play some good ball at some point.”

Jonathon Simmons scored 22 of his career-high 34 points in the third quarter for the Magic, who broke a nine-game home-court losing streak against Cleveland.

The Cavaliers scored 43 points in the first quarter, but then went almost 6 1/2 minutes without scoring in the fourth. They played the second half without coach Tyronn Lue, who went to the locker room in the second quarter with what the team said was an illness.

The Magic made their first 10 shots of the second half and won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 8-10.

James did not have a rebound or an assist in a foul-plagued second half.

“I gave my teammates some opportunities to knock `em down, but they just didn’t go. You can’t get assists when they don’t go down, but that doesn’t stop me from finding my guys on the floor,” he said. “At this point it’s not what you say, it’s what you do. We’ve got to go out and play well as a collective group, everyone hitting at the right time on all cylinders, and right now we’re not doing that.”

Simmons made seven of eight shots in his 22-point quarter, finishing the period with a 3-point buzzer shot in a game in which he almost did not play because of a sprained right ankle.

“To be honest, adrenaline was just going and I didn’t even realize what was going on,” Simmons said. “I was just trying to play hard and trying not to have another setback.”

J.R. Smith made three 3-pointers in the first four minutes to help the Cavaliers (30-22) take a 15-4 lead, and they led by 21 points late in the first half.

Jeff Green dunked to put the Cavaliers up 61-40 with 4:50 left in the half, but they went scoreless for almost four minutes while the Magic (17-36) sliced nine points off the lead.

James opened the second half with a couple of 3-pointers to regain a 16-point lead for Cleveland, but Simmons scored 12 points during the Magic’s 19-2 run that gave them their first lead of the game at 78-77 with 5:33 left in the third quarter.

James was called for his fourth foul just 17 seconds later and sat for more than seven minutes.

When he re-entered the game with 10:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Magic ran off 14 straight points to lead 108-92.

Dwyane Wade banked in a 3-pointer for Cleveland’s only points in the first 7:25 of the fourth quarter.

 

 

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.

Karl-Anthony Towns helped off court after non-contact calf injury

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Hopefully this is not as bad as it looks.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony was trying to run back upcourt and went to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf. He had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves officially ruled Towns out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A right calf strain would be the best possible outcome, but an MRI will provide more details in the next 24 hours. This had the markings of something much worse, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports optimism that Towns avoided something serious.

Towns is averaging 214 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are off this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers, down from 39.3% for his career — as he tries to adjust to playing next to Rudy Gobert, he’s still one of the game’s elite big men.

The Wizards went on to beat the Timberwolves 142-127 behind 41 from Kristaps Porzingis.

Suns promote GM James Jones to to President of Basketball Operations

Phoenix Suns Open Practice
Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images
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James Jones put together the roster that took the Suns to the Finals two seasons ago and had the best record in the NBA last season (64 wins). At 13-6, the Suns sit atop the Western Conference this season.

The Suns have rewarded Jones, giving him the title of President of Basketball Operations on top of GM.

“In the nearly 15 years I have known James, he has excelled in every role he performed, from player to NBPA Treasurer to his roles in our front office, most recently as general manager,” Suns interim Governor Sam Garvin said. “James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none. We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”

Jones moved into the Suns’ front office in 2017 at the end of a 14-year playing career, then became GM in 2019. The move gives Jones a little more stability during the sale of the franchise. Not that the new owner would come in and fire a successful GM.

“I am grateful for the privilege to work with and support the players, staff and employees of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury,” Jones said in a statement. “The collective efforts of our business and basketball operations have allowed us to provide an amazing atmosphere and best-in-class experience for our fans and community. I remain excited about and dedicated to driving success for our Teams on and off the court.”

Jones has made several moves that set the culture in Phoenix, including hiring Monty Williams as coach then, after an undefeated run in the bubble (that left Phoenix just out of the playoffs), he brought in Chris Paul to take charge at the point.

Report: Leaders in Lakers’ locker room think team ‘only a couple of players away’ from contending

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There’s a sense of optimism around the Lakers: They have won 5-of-6 and are expected to have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy Monday night, plus Russell Westbrook has found a role and comfort level off the bench and other players are settling into roles. They may be 7-11, but it’s early enough there is a sense this could be turned around.

That is echoed by “locker room leaders” who think the team is just a couple of players away from being a contender in the West (where no team has pulled away), reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers’ locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.

Let’s unpack all of this.

• “Leaders in the Lakers’ locker room” means LeBron and Davis (both repped by Rich Paul). Let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

• If the Lakers don’t make a move to significantly upgrade the roster, how unhappy will those leaders become? How disruptive would that be?

• It is no coincidence that McMenamin’s report comes the day the Lakers face the Pacers, a team they went deep into conversations with this summer on a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade, but Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka ultimately would not put both available Lakers’ first-round picks (2027 and 2029) in the deal and it fell apart. Turner said the Lakers should “take a hard look” at trading for him. The thing is, the Pacers are now 11-8, not tanking for Victor Wembanyama but instead thinking playoffs, so are they going to trade their elite rim protector and sharpshooter away? Not likely. At least not without an overwhelming offer, and the Lakers’ two picks may not get there anymore.

• While Westbrook has found a comfort level coming off the bench (and not sharing the court as much with LeBron), he is still a $47.1 million contract that no team is trading for without sweeteners. To use NBA parlance, he is still a negative value contract, even if it feels less negative than a month ago.

• Are the Lakers really a couple of players away from contending? While they have won 5-of-6, three of those five wins came against the tanking Spurs, the others were against the so-injured-they-might-as-well-be-tanking Pistons, and the Nets before Kyrie Irving returned. The Lakers did what they needed to do and thrived in a soft part of the schedule, but that schedule is about to turn and give the Lakers a reality check on where they really stand. After the Pacers, it’s the Trail Blazers (likely still without Damian Lillard), then an East Coast road trip that includes the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers. The next couple of weeks will be a better marker for where the Lakers stand, and if they can build off of the past couple of weeks.