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Lakers lose by 42 in LeBron James’ worst-ever loss

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indiana Pacers have suddenly found a new winning combination.

Not even LeBron James could slow it down Tuesday night.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 24 points and the Pacers tied an NBA franchise-record by making 19 3-pointers in a 136-94 rout over the Los Angeles Lakers – the most lopsided loss James has endured in his 16-year career.

“They scored 33 points off our 19 turnovers and that was from the beginning of the game. We can’t play from behind like that,” James said. “I think it (the jet lag) hit us. That first game flying across the country looked like it had a lot to do with it, but we didn’t come out with the defensive mentality we had the last time we played them and they made us pay for it.”

Twice previously James’ teams had been blown out by 36: Against Washington in April 2008 and in the 2013 NBA Finals against San Antonio. But this was might go down as the most embarrassing of the three.

Indiana led wire-to-wire and never allowed the Lakers to get within single digits after the first basket of the second quarter despite playing without All-Star guard Victor Oladipo and on the tail end of a back-to-back following a four-game trip.

At one point, the Pacers led by 46.

And after James left with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter, coach Luke Walton wisely kept the four-time MVP him on the bench for the rest of the night.

James was not himself either after missing 17 of the previous 18 games with an injured groin. He missed three of his first five shots, was beaten three times early on defense and had five first-half turnovers before finishing with 18 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and six turnovers.

JaVale McGee added 16 as the Lakers lost for the sixth time in eight games amid the continuing swirl of trade rumors, something Pacers fans noted by repeatedly chanting “LeBron’s gonna trade you.”

“I know it has to be tough on a lot of our guys – especially our young guys,” James said. “They’ve just never been a part of it and they’re hearing it every single day. I know that the worst thing you could right now is be on social media and I know all young guys love social media. So, that definitely can’t help.”

The Pacers, meanwhile, remained focused on regrouping.

After losing four straight immediately following Oladipo’s season-ending knee injury, they’ve rebounded with three straight wins. On Tuesday, they produced a season-high 69 points in the first half, a season-high single-game total and their widest victory margin of the Eason.

They made it look easy, too.

After Bogdanovic opened the game by scoring all of the Pacers’ points in a 10-2 spurt, the Lakers never recovered. Myles Turner finished with 22 points while Thaddeus Young had 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

“We look at it as another win, but it does feel good,” Young said. “It’s not really about beating them by 42, but we played a complete game.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: Played without Lonzo Ball (sprained left ankle) and Josh Hart (left patella tendinitis). … James became the fifth player in league history to top the 32,000-point mark. … Los Angeles has lost six straight in Indy, where it last won in March 2013. … Lance Stephenson had 13 points while Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram each had 12.

Pacers: Avoided their first season sweep by the Lakers since 2009-10. … Coach Nate McMillan tied Jack McKinney for No. 7 on the franchise’s NBA victories list with 125. … Indiana improved to 10-1 this season when seven or more players score in double figures. Domantas Sabonis, Aaron Holiday and Edmond Sumer each had 17 points. … The Pacers have won four games this season by 30 or more points, matching their highest single-season total since 1993-94.

THEY SAID IT

Lakers: “There are a million excuses that we could come up with – the travel, first game coming across the country, all the trade rumors and everything else,” Walton said. “The bottom line is we’ve got to be better And we will be.”

Pacers: “We’ve had a couple good games, but it’s still going to take some time for us to really establish the way we want to play, not just establishing the way we need to play,” Turner said. “We’ve got to keep going.”

UP NEXT

Lakers: Visit Boston on Thursday night, their fourth stop on a six-game trip.

Pacers: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Kings’ De’Aaron Fox: ‘I don’t crave to be in a big market’

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De'Aaron Fox was the breakout star of the Kings’ breakthrough season. The future looks bright in Sacramento.

But we’ve seen this story play out so many times. A young player excels in a small market then eventually moves to a more desirable destination. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George.

Will Fox be different?

Fox, via Corban Goble of ONE37pm:

“I don’t crave to be in a big market,” he says. “After last season, there was a buzz in Sacramento. Everyone in Sacramento is a Kings fan. If we start making the playoffs, or if we become a championship contender, the entire city is going to go nuts. That’s the difference between a big market and a small one.”

I’m glad Fox is happy in Sacramento. He had minimal say in getting there. The Kings picked him in a draft that gives teams massive control over top young prospects. That he landed somewhere he likes so much was largely coincidental. He could’ve easily wound up with Boston, Phoenix, Orlando, Minnesota or any other team picking in that range.

Some of this is Fox’s attitude. I suspect he would’ve found joy nearly anywhere. Now, he’s with the Kings and feeling positively about them.

They’ll have to continue to keep him happy as he approaches free agency. Unrestricted free agency is still several years away. A lot can change between now and then.

But Sacramento ought to feel good about Fox’s outlook now.

Damian Lillard on leaving Trail Blazers for super team: ‘We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?’

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Kevin Durant left for the Warriors for many reasons. LeBron James left for the Heat for many reasons. Anthony Davis and Paul George forced their way to Los Angeles for many reasons.

Those are life-altering moves. Nobody does something so consequential for a single purpose.

But whether or not it intended, each of those stars took an easier route to a championship. That’s just the reality.

Damian Lillard, on the other hand, has done so much to elevate himself then pull up the Trail Blazers with him. Lillard has often touted his loyalty to Portland. He showed it by signing a super-max extension that locks him in through 2025.

Lillard, via Adam Caparell of Complex:

“To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?” he says. “If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?”

I disagree with Lillard’s certainty about winning a title if he teamed with other stars. Not every perceived super team has won. A championship still must be earned. It’s not easy.

But it would be easier.

It also probably wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Durant has admitted winning a championship with Golden State didn’t fill the void he thought it would. Maybe for other reasons, but it’s easy to see the Warriors’ talent advantage as a reason. He joined a title contender and made it even better. He didn’t build that team. Perhaps, a championship with the Nets would mean more to him.

Lillard is less likely to win a title by staying Portland. I think he knows that. He enjoys the city, and the $196 million he projects to earn on his four-year extension doesn’t hurt, either.

But if Lillard ever wins a championship with the Trail Blazers, it would be so gratifying. That’s what he’s chasing.

Lillard made clear he’s not criticizing stars who chose an alternate path. He’s doing what’s right for him, just as they did what was right for them.

His quest should earn him plenty of fans. For everyone who disliked Durant joining Golden State because it offended their sensibilities of how a title pursuit should work, Lillard is a great foil.

Andre Iguodala recalls Draymond Green doubling Kevin Durant in practice: ‘he was mad … We was tryna win’

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Devin Booker complained to his opponents for double-teaming him during a pick-up game.

That has sparked a Great National Debate: Is it right or wrong to double-team during pick-up games?

Kevin Durant:

That’s a reasonable conclusion. The primary defender is missing an opportunity to work on his defense by getting help. But I also think it fails to address the main point. Booker wasn’t complaining to help the defender. Booker wanted the ideal training environment for himself, the offensive player.

How should the offensive player feel about it?

It’s a reasonably interesting question that’s getting taken far too seriously because the NBA is in a dead period. But to give it more juice, let’s add the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green relationship to the equation.

Andre Iguodala:

Durant:

It seems Durant can laugh it off now, but this story feeds into what so many people think they know about these players – that Green is a relentless competitor (accurate) and that Durant is soft (inaccurate).

NBA players spend so much time playing basketball. Sometimes, it’s helpful to face game-like conditions, where double-teams can happen at any point. Other times, it’s helpful to have more-relaxed conditions.

I don’t know enough about Booker’s pick-up game or the Warriors’ practice to say what was appropriate in each.

Report: Executives expect Thunder to say they are not trading Chris Paul (but they are)

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It’s all about leverage.

Right now the vultures are circling the Oklahoma City Thunder, hoping to get a free meal. Everyone knows the Thunder are moving into a rebuilding mode and want to trade Chris Paul for picks/young players, so other general managers — the vultures — are throwing out lowball offers hoping to get a steal of a trade. And by steal we mean making the Thunder throw in a first-round pick as a sweetener to get CP3 and the three-years, $124 million left on his contract off their books.

Oklahoma City’s response? Say “we’re not trying to trade him” and be patient. Here is how Brian Windhorst phrased it on ESPN’s The Jump (hat tip Real GM):

“Here’s what executives expect to happen: they expect the Thunder to put out a message that we’re not looking to trade Chris Paul…We want him to work with our young guys. Because they don’t want anybody to think they’re panic-trying to trade him, and they want to hope that somebody has something happen where they need Chris Paul,” said Windhorst.

Royce Young, who covers the Thunder for ESPN, added that he believed the Thunder would hold on to Chris Paul rather than surrender a draft pick.

This is the smart play. CP3 is still a top-flight point guard in the NBA, even if he has taken half a step back, and there are at least eight NBA teams going into this season thinking they have a shot at a title, and a few more looking at deep playoff runs. Some team is either going to realize they are not as good as they thought they were, or are going to suffer an injury, and be looking for an All-Star level player and replacement. Enter the Thunder and Chris Paul.

What this ultimately means is expect this to drag out. Not just through the summer and through training camp, but maybe all the way to the trade deadline.