Seven veteran free agents that could help teams now

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Cuts have been made and NBA rosters are set for the start of the season. Optimism abounds around the league.

However, it will only take a couple of weeks before glaring holes are exposed, injuries inevitably hit, and some GMs are scrambling to repair their rosters get their team back on track.

That’s where these veterans come in. Here are seven guys that can step in and help a team right now. They’re flawed players (or they wouldn’t still be free agents), but they’re names that will pop up once teams start scrambling in the coming weeks and months.

1) Iman Shumpert

Wing is a position of need around the NBA, and wing defenders in particular are in demand. While everyone knows Shumpert is not the peak defender he once was, he can still provide some solid play on the perimeter. Shumpert shot 34.8 percent last season, played in eight of the Rockets’ playoff games, and continues to be a respectable role player. The Grizzlies and Bulls are reportedly interested in Shumpert.

2) Jamal Crawford

Crawford may be 39 but he can still get some buckets off the bench. No doubt the three-time Sixth Man of the Year has slowed in recent years, and his defense is an issue, but the man still averaged 7.9 points per game last season off the bench and lit it up for the depleted Suns at the end of last season. He’s also improved the playmaking aspect of his game. Some team is going to turn to him for bench scoring.

3) Joakim Noah

He’s the best big man still on the board, and a guy the Lakers seriously considered until Dwight Howard convinced members of the staff there he is is a changed man. Noah had a good run the second half of last season with the Grizzlies — 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds a night, plus solid defense in the paint, playing more than 16 minutes a game — which showed he can still help a team out.

4) J.R. Smith

Cleveland waived Smith in a cost-cutting move, the Bucks quickly talked to him, but since then nothing has materialized. Smith is 34 and his skills are in decline, including shooting just 30.8 percent from three last season, but it’s too early to write him off. In the right situation, he could help a team off the bench with veteran play. Just don’t have him on the floor to close NBA Finals games anymore.

5) Kenneth Faried

When Clint Capela was out injured for the Rockets last season, Faried stepped in and played well — he averaged 12.9 points per game on 58.7 percent shooting in 25 games for the Rockets. He’s just 29, and he can be counted on to get buckets. What he can’t be counted on to do is defend very well, which is why no team has snapped him up (and why he fell out of the Rockets’ rotation last season). Still, he can bring energy off the bench for a team.

6) Corey Brewer

He came off the bench for the Kings at the end of last season, in a very limited role, and while he had a workout with the Rockets, Brewer has not found a new home. Wings are in demand, and Brewer would be a good fit for a team that likes to get out and run (he’s at his best in transition), but the fact he struggles as a shooter from three has teams hesitant. Still, once the season starts, don’t be surprised if some team picks Brewer up.

7) Carmelo Anthony

The reason he is on this list is his poor defense. Teams have questions about his willingness to play a role, the number of midrange jumpers he takes, his efficiency, how he would be a big story wherever he lands, and how the game has moved away from ‘Melo’s style of play, but in the end his defense remains the biggest stumbling block to landing on a new team. That said, nobody questions his talent or that he can still get buckets. If a team believes he will take a role off the bench, he could be a good pickup.

LeBron and Lakers top Tatum’s big afternoon for Celtics 114-112

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LOS ANGELES (AP) LeBron James scored 29 points and put the Lakers ahead on a fallaway jumper with 30 seconds to play, and Los Angeles split its season series with the Boston Celtics with a 114-112 victory Sunday.

James missed a tying free throw moments before he coolly nailed the shot the put the Lakers ahead to stay in a frenetic fourth quarter to cap the latest chapter of this famed NBA rivalry.

Anthony Davis had 32 points and 13 rebounds in the fifth straight win overall for the Lakers, who took a 32-point blowout loss in Boston last month.

Davis hit two free throws with 12.3 seconds left and added one more with 6.7 seconds to play, before Jayson Tatum was called for charging in the final second as he attempted to create one last basket.

Tatum matched his career high with 41 points for the Celtics, who had won 12 of 14 starting with that dominant win over the Lakers in January.

Boston turned the ball over with 15.5 seconds left after James’ big shot, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens got a technical foul for arguing about it. Davis missed that free throw, however.

Grant Williams hit two free throws for Boston immediately afterward, and Davis hit one of two to give a final chance to the Celtics.

Jaylen Brown scored 20 points for Boston, but Kemba Walker missed his second straight game with left knee soreness.

The rematch was far more competitive than the teams’ first meeting this season, with both taking small leads in the fourth quarter before the exciting finish.

Davis’ third 3-pointer put the Lakers up 108-105 with 2:08 to play, but Gordon Hayward hit a jumper before Brown’s 3-pointer put the Celtics back ahead 110-108 with 1:17 to go.

With the Lakers’ immediate return to excellence since beating out Boston to acquire Davis last summer, these longtime rivals are both playoff-bound championship contenders yet again.

Los Angeles is comfortably atop the Western Conference standings, while the Celtics sit third in the East. Both teams have a decent shot of meeting in the NBA Finals for the 13th time if they continue to grow from big games like this thriller.

Tatum underlined his growing superstardom by matching the career high he set against New Orleans last month. He scored 16 points in a five-minute barrage alone during the third quarter, finishing the period with 18.

The Lakers hung in with 16 points in the third from Davis after his quiet first half.

Walker scored 20 points against the Lakers last month to beat James for the first time in the stars’ 29 career meetings. The Lakers took their worst loss of the season in that initial meeting while getting just 23 minutes from Davis, who had just returned from a two-week injury absence.

The rematch featured much more defense than the teams’ first meeting, with Rajon Rondo and Brown both making big steals for their respective clubs. Only Tatum made a major offensive impact in the first half with 19 points.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Walker’s injury is “not a long-term thing,” Stevens said. Walker did work in the weight room before the game. … The bench scored just five points in the first three quarters, including only one field goal, and finished with 11 points.

Lakers: James went down in pain early in the fourth quarter when Daniel Theis ran into him under the basket. James stayed in the game after a timeout. … Rondo spent much of the pregame warmup chatting with Kevin Garnett, his longtime Celtics teammate. Garnett then watched the game from the baseline near the LA bench with Lakers part-owner Patrick Soon-Shiong. … The matchup is always a hot ticket for celebrities. Fans near courtside included Eddie Murphy, Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington.

UP NEXT

Celtics: Visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Lakers: Host the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

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

Jaren Jackson Jr. out for at least two weeks for Grizzlies

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Gordon Hayward
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The Memphis Grizzlies announced that Jaren Jackson Jr. suffered a sprained left knee late during the second quarter of Friday’s game vs the Los Angeles Lakers:

Memphis says Jackson will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

In his second year, Jackson has been a big part of the Grizzlies surprising success. Memphis is currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a record of 28-28. Jackson has proven to be an ideal running mate for rookie point guard Ja Morant, as the Grizzlies have rebuilt quicker than anyone expected.

With Jackson out, Memphis will need to replace 16.9 points and 1.6 blocks per game. Jackson also regularly functions as the Grizzlies backup center, sliding over to play the pivot when starter Jonas Valanciunas is out.

With Jackson out for at least two weeks, and potentially longer, Memphis will lean on Kyle Anderson and rookie Brandon Clarke at the four. The trickle-down impact may be more minutes for backup center Gorgui Dieng, who was acquired at the trade deadline, up front behind Valanciunas. In addition, Josh Jackson, who spent the first few months of the season in the G-League, has had a bit of resurgence in recent weeks. With Anderson likely to play more at power forward, Jackson may see even more minutes on the wing.

Ben Simmons out at least through Monday

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons‘ troublesome back will keep him out at least through Monday reports NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters. Winters reports that Simmons went through testing upon the Sixers return to Philadelphia on Sunday and will have further testing done on Monday:

Simmons missed the first game back from the All-Star break on Thursday due to back soreness. He then exited Saturday night’s game at the Milwaukee Bucks after playing less than five minutes.

Simmons went to his second-straight All-Star game last week. He’s averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.2 assists and a league-leading 2.1 steals per game through 54 games this season.

An up-and-down season sees Philadelphia currently fifth in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers are an equal 1.5 games behind Miami for fourth and ahead of Indiana in sixth. The Sixers would love to climb to fourth for homecourt advantage in the postseason, as they’ve been dominant at home with a 26-2 record, while underwhelming on the road at just 9-20.

With Joel Embiid continuing to suffer from injuries, while also having his minutes managed, Philadelphia can’t afford to be without Simmons for long. The 76ers added depth on the wing at the trade deadline with Alec Bucks and Glenn Robinson III, but have little behind Simmons at point guard. Raul Neto started in Simmons’ place on Thursday, but did not play on Saturday until the game was well in-hand for Milwaukee.

Lance Stephenson hopes strong season in China springboards him back to NBA

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The Chinese Basketball Association season is up in the air because of the Coronavirus outbreak. The season is postponed and, while there is talk of restarting it on April 1, there are more questions than answers about that plan right now.

Lance Stephenson was in China playing for the Liaoning Flying Leopards and — as many American scorers can do against the soft defenses in the CBA — put up impressive numbers. Stephenson is hoping to use that as a springboard back to the NBA, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Will it work for Stephenson? Maybe. It only takes one GM looking for a little scoring punch down the stretch to buy-in.

However, GMs also know the numbers are inflated in China and it doesn’t translate to being able to do the same thing in the NBA. Jimmer Fredette is example 1A. Or, here are the top five scorers in the Chinese league so far this season:

1. Dominique Jones (Jilin Northeast Tigers) 37.8
2. Joe Young (Nanjing Monkey Kings) 35.9
3. Darius Adams (Qingdao Eagles) 34.9
4. Tyler Hansbrough (Sichuan Blue Whales) 32.3
5. Jonathan Gibson (Jiangsu Dragons) 31.2

All of those guys, and a lot more, would like to use China as a springboard back to the NBA. That, however, is proving to be a long leap.