Watch Nikola Vucevic put up career-best 43 points, Magic beat Bulls


ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic aren’t just rooting for center Nikola Vucevic to make the NBA All-Star Game for the second time in his 10-year NBA career. They’re doing their part by voting for the versatile 7-footer every chance they get.

Vucevic showed his all-star mettle on Friday, scoring a career-best 43 points as the Magic rallied late to beat the Chicago Bulls 123-119 to stop a four-game losing streak.

Vucevic scored 13 of Orlando’s first 15 points against overmatched Chicago center Daniel Gafford and had a tie-breaking clutch hook shot with 1:49 to play after the Bulls had rallied from 14 points down to knot the score at 112. Vucevic, who became an all-star for the first time two seasons ago, made 17 of 29 shots, hit 4 3-pointers and grabbed 19 rebounds on Friday

“I’ve gone and voted for him every single day, twice – as many times as I could vote and I’m trying to do my part,” Magic rookie point guard Cole Anthony said of Vucevic’s candidacy. “We definitely want to see him be an all-star because I 100 percent think he deserves it.”

Vucevic set his career high with two free throws with 2.6 seconds left in the game. He topped his previous high of 41 points, which he scored in 2017 against Brooklyn. He said the win mattered more to him than the individual accomplishment.

“It felt great to have a career high in a win because the last one was a loss,” Vucevic said. “It’s much better when you win because you can enjoy these things more when you win. I’m most happy about the win because I thought we had great effort from the beginning.”

Trailing by as many as 14 points early in the fourth period, Chicago used a furious rally behind standout guard Zach LaVine and forged ties at 112- and 114-all. Orlando’s Evan Fournier hit a baseline jumper and two free throws in the final 81 seconds to give the Magic enough breathing room for the win.

The Bulls lost their second straight and for the fifth time in six games. Chicago used a 29-15 run in the fourth to tie the game, but once again couldn’t do enough late to win.

Just three nights removed from Toronto’s Fred VanVleet scoring 54 points against them, the Magic held LaVine in check most of the night. LaVine, who came into the night 10th in the NBA in scoring at 26.5 points per game, missed six of his first seven shots and had just two points in the first three quarters. He switched into attack mode in the fourth and finished with 26 points and eight assists.

Chicago coach Billy Donovan would like to see LaVine be more aggressive early in games.

“Zach’s played well, but for him to be aggressive early in the game – maybe not just scoring and shooting – but playing downhill, we need more of that from him,” Donovan said.

Chicago rookie Patrick Williams scored a career-best 20 points. Coby White chipped in 16. Thaddeus Young had 15 points off the bench, while Lauri Markkanen scored 13 points.

Vucevic had plenty of help as Fournier scored 14 of his 20 points in a seven-minute burst of the second quarter when Orlando wiped out a six-point deficit. Anthony added 17 points and nine assists and hit two clutch free throws with 16.4 seconds left as Orlando clung to a two-point edge. James Ennis III added 14 points for Orlando, which improved to 8-1 this season in games that it led at halftime.

Ennis was happy that the Magic could reward Vucevic with a win to go with his career-best performance.

“All of the Orlando people, vote for him because he deserves to be an all-star and he’s showing it every night,” Ennis III said. “He can’t be stopped right now.”

The Bulls’ Otto Porter made the trip to Orlando, but head coach Billy Donovan sounded as if the forward is still several days from returning because of recurring back spasms. Said Donovan of Porter, who has five games this season with at least three made 3-pointers: “I’d say he’s shut down for the time being. He’s getting treatment while he’s here and he’ll do some mobility work. A lot of it will depend on how he responds to all this stuff.”

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
Jun Sato/WireImage

The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension


Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’


No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.