Williamson, Pelicans in attack mode, beat NBA-leading Jazz, 129-124

0 Comments

NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson showed no fear of renowned Jazz rim protector Rudy Gobert and spearheaded a relentless — and effective — assault on the Utah basket.

Williamson had 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and the New Orleans Pelicans held off a late Utah comeback bid to beat the NBA-leading Jazz 129-124 on Monday night.

“My mindset was, whatever I can do to give my teammates energy, I’m going to do it,” said Williamson, whose dominant third quarter gave New Orleans a double-digit lead heading into the fourth. “After the first two quarters of me kind of reading their defense, I really got a feel for it and I just was on the attack.”

And the defenders he attacked included the 7-foot-1 Gobert, a two-time NBA defensive player of the year.

“Rudy Gobert is a phenomenal defender and phenomenal shot-blocker. So, it’s not easy making shots over him,” Williamson said. “Honestly, I looked to draw the foul initially, but somehow I finished those shots.”

Brandon Ingram scored 26 points and Lonzo Ball added 23 points to go with eight assists, seven rebounds and two blocks, giving New Orleans three starters with 20-plus points.

“Any time we all pay like this, I definitely like our chances,” Ball said.

Pelicans reserve JJ Redick scored 17 points, highlighted by a pair of four-point plays on 3-pointers as he was fouled.

Bojan Bogdanovic hit seven 3s and finished with a game-high 31 points for Utah (27-8), which was outscored 74-56 in the paint in losing for just the eighth time this season, but also the second time in three games.

“We’ve got to own the paint and we didn’t do that in any way shape or form,” said Utah guard Donovan Mitchell, who scored 21 points. “This is a tough loss. I think we’re all pretty upset about this because it’s stuff that we knew. It wasn’t like we were tired. It wasn’t like they did anything (unexpected). We just didn’t have the urgency, and that can’t happen.”

Ball, however, said the Pelicans “knew we can get to the rim against pretty much anybody. It’s one of our strengths.”

New Orleans led by as many as 17 in the second half and was still up 14 when Ball’s 3 made it 122-108 with 3:54 left.

But Utah steadily chipped away during the next three minutes, pulling to 125-124 on Royce O'Neale‘s 3 with 46.7 seconds left. Mitchell, who scored eight of his points in the final minutes to help give the Jazz a chance, missed a driving floater with a chance to put Utah back in the lead.

Gobert, who had 22 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, was called for a loose-ball foul trying to get the rebound and Williamson hit two free throws to put New Orleans up three.

Utah’s last chance to tie went awry when New Orleans swarmed perimeter shooters and Mike Conley was forced to attempt a leaning, double-clutch 3 from the corner that missed the rim. Williamson directed the rebound to Ball, who fired his final assist downcourt to Josh Hart for a game-sealing dunk that had the socially distanced crowd of just less than 3,000 jumping out of their seats in full voice.

Jordan Clarkson scored 20 points in 27 minutes off the bench.

The Pelicans trailed 64-59 at halftime but entered the fourth quarter with an 11-point lead after outscoring Utah 40-24 in the third period. Williamson scored 15 points and added a pair of assists in the quarter.

His spurt was marked by his conversion of Ball’s three-quarter-court lob, with Williamson catching it off balance to the left of the rim and putting it in just before he crashed over the baseline.

“The moment he caught (the inbound pass), I knew he was throwing it,” Williamson said of Ball’s long lob. “When he released that pass, I knew it was on the money. I wasn’t able to dunk it so I did a little soft layup.”

Williamson also converted a three-point play on a strong drive to the basket as he was fouled, and one of his assists came after he drew three defenders with a spin move inside and slung the ball out to Redick for a 3.

Wembanyama encore: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks against Ignite

0 Comments

Victor Wembanyama is for real.

And I don’t mean real tall, although he is that, too. Check out this image of him next to Rudy Gobert, who is a legit 7’1″.

Wembanyama is for real like a genuine generational talent — in his second game against the G-League Ignite he had 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

That comes off his 37-point performance in the first meeting where he hit 7-of-11 3-pointers and had five blocks.

To be clear: That is 73 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks, shooting 9-of-18 from 3 (and 22-of-44 overall) across two games against a good talent level. And he is 18 years old.

Everyone in and around the NBA has been trying to come up with player comps — Kristaps Porzingis, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan — but the reality is Wembanyama is one of one.

Scoot Henderson — the G-League guard projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — played just five minutes in this game after bumping his knee while guarding Wembanyama. He was taken out of the game and X-rays found a bone bruise, he did not return. He is officially day-to-day the team announced.

Wembanyama and his Metropolitans 92 got the win in this rematch, 112-106.

Draymond Green not expected to miss any games, Warriors to handle discipline ‘internally’

2022 NBA Summer League - Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
0 Comments

Draymond Green is not expected to miss any games for punching teammate Jordan Poole during an altercation during practice, Warriors GM Bob Myers said Thursday.

That’s not to say he is escaping any punishment, it will just be handled internally, Myers said.

Green showed up at Chase Center and apologized to the team and then left, he did not practice with the Warriors, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Draymond apologized to the team this morning, Jordan was there in the room, I was there in room with the team, the coaches, the players and we heard that,” Myers said.

Whatever punishment the Warriors are handing down to Green, it will not include missing games, Myers said.

Coach Steve Kerr added, “I expect [Green] to return on Saturday and get back at it.” That implies a couple of days suspension, likely with a hefty fine.

Kerr was also quick to shoot down the rumors of Poole having an “attitude” around camp as he comes up on a massive contract extension. Stephen Curry echoed that, saying those reports are “absolute BS.”

The Warriors have seen their fair share of Draymond Green incidents over the years, and as a locker room and franchise they know how to move on from it. While this made headlines, the Warriors will shrug it off and move on.

Miami, Milwaukee have their eyes on Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
Getty Photo
0 Comments

The Heat and Bucks don’t just have interest in the same player. They’re looking to replace the same player.

Two years ago, P.J. Tucker helped Milwaukee win their first championship in a half-century. Last season, he helped Miami lock up the top seed in the East and make the Conference Finals.

With Tucker in Philadelphia, both the Heat and Bucks are looking to fill the void with a different lockdown enforcer that can stretch the floor.

Jae Crowder and the Suns agreed that he won’t participate in practice as the team looks to accommodate his trade request. In a recent ESPN+ article, Zach Lowe made it clear that both Miami and Milwaukee are interested in pursuing a trade for Crowder.

“The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.

“The Heat have interest in Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.”

Grant and Bogdanovic were traded to Portland and Detroit, respectively. The Heat may struggle to find a trade that works since Phoenix probably won’t want to take on Duncan Robinson’s contract. Dedmon, Martin and Oladipo will become trade eligible on January 15th.

Crowder has a history with the Heat, as he helped them make the NBA Finals in the bubble. He helped Phoenix make the NBA Finals two seasons ago and then helped them finish with the best record in the NBA last season.

LeBron says Wembanyama is an ‘alien’ and a ‘generational talent’

0 Comments

There was a time when LeBron James was the “it” kid coming for the NBA — a freakish athlete like nobody in the league had seen. A player the size of Karl Malone with the quickness and skills of an elite point guard.

Now the “it” guy is Victor Wembanyama, the 7’4″ mold-breaking big out of France — and LeBron is impressed.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, well he’s more like an alien,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Suns in Las Vegas. “I’ve never seen, no one’s ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but it’s fluid and as graceful as on the floor…

“His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers on the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots. He’s for sure a generational talent. And hopefully he continues to stay healthy, that’s the most important for him personally, and as you could tell he loves the game. He was smiling a lot while playing the game last night. I think it was the two best players in the draft on the floor last night and they both did their thing.”

Wembanyama is projected to be the No.1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, just ahead of point guard Scoot Henerson, who scored 28 points with nine assists of his own leading his G-League Ignite to a win over Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama scored 37 points in the game, hit 7-of-11 shots from 3, had five blocks and a few other shots changed because of his length (7’11” wingspan) and the threat of his block.

Wembanyama and Henderson face off again tonight in a second game between the Ignite and Metropolitans 92 just outside Las Vegas in Henderson (9:30 p.m. ET on NBATV).

Wembanyama will play, with his agent telling ESPN there are no plans to shut the No.1 pick down to avoid injury and protect his draft status. “He’ll never agree to that. He wants to compete and get better,” Bouna Ndiaye said.

LeBron looked back on his time as the “it” player and said simply, “thank got there wasn’t social media” at the time. It’s a different world now, but game still recognizes game.

And LeBron recognizes it in Wembanyama.