Clippers show resiliency they had lacked, overcome Doncic, Mavs to win Game 7

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LOS ANGELES — Over the last 10 days, the Clippers did something they were unable to do last year in the bubble:

Rise up in the face of real adversity.

Down 0-2 in then 2-3 to an unreal Luka Doncic and his Mavericks in the first round, the Clippers flipped a switch they have searched to find for two seasons.

That switch started with Finals MVP-level Kawhi Leonard. On offense, he attacked the heart of the Mavericks’ Boban-centered zone, then kicked out to open shooters — who finally hit their shots like they had all season (46.5% from 3 in Game 7). More importantly, on defense Leonard was relentless covering Luka Doncic, who scored 29 in the first half but looked worn down in the second half (he still shot 7-of-16 for 17 points after the break).

Doncic still finished with 46 — he has five 40+ point playoff games, and he’s only played 13 of them. And he’s just 22.

Leonard finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists — but he had help. Three Clippers had more than 20 points (Leonard, Paul George with 20 and 9 assists, and Marcus Morris with 23 including seven 3s) and seven players in double-figures. The Clippers assisted on 30 of their 41 made baskets.

The result is a 126-111 Clippers win that sends them into the next round against the No. 1 seed Jazz, starting Tuesday on the road in Utah.

The Mavericks head into an offseason talking about building a team around Doncic that fits his otherworldly skill set.

The story of this series was the resiliency the Clippers showed, something the franchise is not exactly known for.

“I’m glad that we showed character, showed poise when we went down 0-2 and then coming back on the road in Game 3, that meant a lot to me,” Leonard said.

“That’s what [Lue] said when we were down 0-2, that the next two games are going to show who we really are…” Nicolas Batum said. “Game 3 when we’re down 30-11, I think we were one or two plays away from almost getting swept. We find something in us, resiliency and some toughness.”

They also found another gear from Leonard, one not seen since he was leading Toronto to a ring. However, he was the one Clipper who was fantastic all series.

The Clippers came out Sunday with a game plan, pushing the pace and running after makes, then making sure Leonard and George were attacking the paint and getting into the middle of Dallas’ zone — where 7’4″ Boban Marjanovic and 7’3″ Kristaps Porzingis were waiting. But as the Dallas defense collapsed, the Clippers kicked the ball out, moved it around the perimeter, and found the open shooter.

“We was getting shots all series that we weren’t making (earlier in the series)…” Lue said. “We told guys just trust the work, the work you put in all season, throughout your career that got you here.”

Doncic came out hot, scoring 19 points in the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting. The Clippers shot 13-of-17 in the frame, but that was just the way the high-scoring first half went. Los Angeles led 70-62 at the break.

Dallas went on a little run to start the third quarter and ultimately led by five, but that’s when the Clippers put the entire puzzle together. Los Angeles took the lead on a 12-0 run that eventually became a 21-2 run and saw the Clippers up by 14.

Dallas fought to get it close in the fourth quarter but didn’t have the energy and skill players to get the job done.

“Losing in the first round is something we don’t like doing,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlise said postgame, while adding there could be lessons for the team to take out of this.

One lesson is that the Dallas front office has some work to do — Doncic is as good as they come, but the Clippers had a deeper team around their superstar, which was the difference in Game 7.

The Clippers have some work to do, too, starting Tuesday night in Utah.

Sharpe out, Knicks center Jericho Sims reportedly in for Dunk Contest

NBA: DEC 14 Knicks at Bulls
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High-flying Trail Blazers rookie Shaedon Sharpe was the first name leaked as taking part in the All-Star Saturday Night Dunk Contest.

Now he has decided to pull out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic, to be replaced by second-year Knicks center Jericho Sims.

Sims joins G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin, and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Trey Murphy.

Sims is incredibly athletic — he recorded the third-highest vertical leap in the history of the NBA Draft Combine. In games, he rolls and dunks. Hard. He’s also played an expanded, but still limited, role for Tom Thibodeau this season, getting into 43 games and averaging 3.8 points a night.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The event will be broadcast on TNT.

 

NBA trade deadline tracker: latest news, rumors, deals

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Things are going to get insane in the run-up to the NBA trade deadline, at 3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. There’s already been a blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade to Dallas, which will spawn other deals, and every team is looking for upgrades large or small. Will the Lakers make upgrades? What contenders will deepen their bench, and what teams will pivot toward the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes? We will have all the latest NBA rumors, news, and any deals that get done in one place. It’s going to get wild, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Feb.8, 11:30 A.M.: The Nets want to make moves to keep Durant, but not everyone wants to help them

• The Brooklyn Nets took the Mavericks’ trade package for Kyrie Irving in large part because it gave them players who could help them right now in Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith. Brooklyn isn’t done, they are working hard at the deadline to find other “win now” players who can help them be a playoff threat with Durant. However, teams interested in trading for KD this summer — and there are a lot of them — are not willing to help Brooklyn out, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN said on the Hoop Collective podcast. There is a little gamesmanship going on as teams try to force the Nets into a tough spot and clear the path for Durant to demand a trade. Again.

• Add the Raptors to the Pelicans and Timberwolves as teams talking to the Nuggets about backup point guard Bones Hyland. He remains one of the two or three most likely players to be traded at the deadline.

• Speaking of the Raptors, they have talked to the Spurs about a trade for center Jakob Poeltl, according to Marc Stein. As he notes, that’s an interesting move because it is not a “let’s blow this thing up” move, that’s a “let’s retool and win now” move, which makes it less likely the Raptors move someone such as O.G. Anunoby.

• Sources have told NBC Sports that the Raptors are not looking to trade Pascal Siakam (or, at least not at this trade deadline). He is their best player, they either will retool around him or, if they do blow it up (unlikely but possible), they will want the kind of massive deal easier to get in the offseason than at the deadline.

• The Wizards, Raptors, and Celtics also are interested in Poeltl.

• Also from Marc Stein, the Magic are not looking to move Gary Harris, or at least they need to be blown away by an offer. Every young team needs a quality veteran or two in the locker room to teach them how to be NBA professionals, Harris is filling that role in Orlando.

Eric Gordon has been on the trade block since before the Avengers killed off Thanos (or, it feels that way), but this time it is likely he gets moved. The Suns and Clippers — two teams searching for guard help — are at the front of the line, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

TRADE: It’s official: Nets Kessler Edwards to the Kings

Kings receive: Kessler Edwards
Nets receive: Cash, draft rights to David Michineau (who plays for Napoli Basket in Italy)

Analysis: As noted below when we first mentioned this trade could happen, this is a salary dump by the Nets, who free up a roster spot and $8 million in salary and tax. Edwards had fallen out of the Brooklyn rotation this season, but Sacramento gets a look at a young wing defender, reportedly sending him to their G-League team to get a little run and show what he can do. Edwards, a second-round pick (number 44 overall in 2021 out of Pepperdine), has a $1.9 million player option for next season.

Feb. 7, 8:05 P.M.: Warriors softening stance on trading James Wiseman

• It’s incredibly difficult to throw in the towel on a No.2 pick, and the Golden State Warriors rarely make in-season trades. However, with the defending champs hovering around .500 — and now without Stephen Curry for maybe a month — Golden State is softening its position on a possible James Wiseman trade, reports Anthony Slater at The Athletic. Same with Moses Moody, a developing young guard who can’t help the Warriors much this season. What are the Warriors looking for? Veterans who can help this season, at just about any position across the board.

• It’s not trade related but passing it along anyway: Kevin Durant will miss the All-Star Game due to his knee injury, the Nets announced. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will appoint his replacement.

• Also being reported about All-Star weekend: the Trail Blazers’ Shaedon Sharpe has pulled out of the Dunk Contest.

Feb. 7, 4:10 P.M.: Don’t bet on a Durant trade at the deadline. This summer…

• We are very close to another trade, but it’s another cap space move primarily: The Nets will send second-year forward Kessler Edwards to the Kings in exchange for cash, reports both Shams Charnia at The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. The Kings, looking for defense, get a young wing defender they can roll the dice on, while the Nets open up a roster spot for future moves and save $8 million against the tax. Edwards showed some potential as a rookie, but in his second year (on a deeper Brooklyn team) he has been outside the rotation, and not impressed when he has gotten into games. He has a team option for $1.9 million next season. Edwards can veto the trade because of Bird Rights issues but is expected to approve it.

• It’s now official, Mat Ishbia has taken control of the Phoenix Suns organization. We don’t know what kind of owner Ishbia will be, but there is a sense he will spend more willingly and be more aggressive than the Robert Sarver regime – he reportedly is pushing for the team to make a splash at the trade deadline — which is good for Suns fans and the league. Plus, he will clean up the troubles in the organization that pushed Sarver out.

Feb. 7, 3:05 P.M.: Don’t bet on a Durant trade at the deadline. This summer…

• Kevin Durant and the Nets are talking about the long-term (and likely short-term) direction of the franchise, but Brooklyn is not making its other superstar available to teams, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This provides details and is in line with what sources from other teams have told NBC Sports (and I have reported previously): They are under the impression the Nets are going to try and build a contender around KD this season, maybe including another deal or two, and try to convince him to stay. If Durant ends up on the move, it will be over the summer.

• The backup big man market is one of the most crowded at the trade deadline, but you can add another name to it: JaVale McGee. Dallas is looking to move on, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

• The Nuggets and Pistons are the teams talking to New York most recently about a Cam Reddish trade, according to Ian Begley of SNY.TV. Reddish remains one of the players most likely to be on the move by Thursday.

• Kyrie Irving practiced with the Mavericks today — he was the first player to the facilities — and is expected to make his debut with the team Wednesday night.

Feb. 7, 1:29 P.M.: Is potential of Durant on the move hurting Anunoby market?

• Interesting note from Jake Fischer at Yahoo Sports: While there are a lot of teams still interested in a trade for Raptors wing O.G. Anunoby — the Pelicans, Grizzlies, Knicks, Pacers, Trail Blazers, Lakers, Suns, and Nets are interested — a number of those teams would prioritize Kevin Durant if he puts his trade demand back on the table this summer. With that, said teams don’t want to give up too much for Anunoby now. The market is getting soft, Anunoby is a favorite of GM Masai Ujiri in Toronto, so maybe he stays put at the deadline.

• It’s far more likely the Raptors trade Fred VanVleet or Gary Trent Jr. at the deadline. VanVleet has become one of the most talked about names in the last few days. That said, the Raptors are listening to offers, at least.

• What are the Celtics looking to do at the trade deadline? Use their $5.9 million trade exception, reports friend-of-the-site Keith Smith.

• Also from Fischer at Yahoo: Mason Plumlee appears to be the Hornet most likely to be traded.

TRADE: Heat send Dewayne Dedmond to the Spurs

San Antonio receives: Dewayne Dedmon, 2028 Heat second-round pick
Heat receive: Cash

Analysis: This is a salary dump by the Heat, and it cost them a second-round pick. Maimi now has some room under the salary cap and two open roster spots, allowing them to bring in a player — via trade or the buyout market — and convert Orlando Johnson’s two-way contract to full-time, he has played well for them. The Spurs get a second-round pick and are expected to waive Dedmon, making him a free agent.

Feb. 7, 11:55 A.M.: Lakers interested in Conley and Beasley from Jazz

• After striking out on Irving, the Lakers are reportedly engaged in talks to send Russell Westbrook and both of the first-round picks they can trade (2027 and 2029) to Utah for Mike Conley and Malik Beasley, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN. While the sides undoubtedly talked, that sounds like a rumor from the Jazz camp. The Lakers have hoarded those picks to swing for a home run, and with Conley declining this season at age 35 — and with a guaranteed $24 million on the books for next season eating up the Lakers’ cap space over the summer — this doesn’t sound like a move the Lakers would suddenly pivot and accept. The Jazz have rebuffed all offers for Conley so far, keeping the asking price high and banking on the desperation of buyers.

• The Chicago Bulls are at least listening to offers for defensive guard Alex Caruso, but they are reportedly keeping the price sky-high — two first-round picks. Don’t expect a deal, while Caruso brings value that’s a star-level asking price.

• This shouldn’t surprise anyone who has watched a minute of Brooklyn Nets basketball this season, but ESPN’s Bobby Marks says Ben Simmons has zero trade value right now. Also, the note on Durant being a summer move was something sources told NBC Sports and we wrote about previously.

• If the Miami Heat can’t find a new home for the disappointing Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline, this summer they will return their focus to using his salary in a deal for a disgruntled superstar such as Kevin Durant or Bradley Beal, reports Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. That sounds on brand for the Heat.

• Along those lines, the Washington Wizards plan to keep Beal and re-sign Kyle Kuzma.

• Veteran Furkan Korkmaz has been bumped from his regular spot in the 76ers rotation this season and wants to be traded to a place he can get some run. Philly is looking for a new home for him as well as Matisse Thybulle.

• No, LeBron James is not happy the Lakers missed out on Kyrie Irving, but he’s pivoting to what’s going on today.

“I can’t sit here and say I’m not disappointed on not being able to land such a talent, but someone I had great chemistry with and know I got great chemistry with on the floor that can help you win championships. In my mind, in my eyes. But my focus has shifted now my focus has shifted back to where it should be, and that’s with this this club now and what we have in the locker room.”

Kyrie Irving says at times he “felt very disrespected” in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics
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Kyrie Irving says he is happy. He said he feels celebrated and respected by his new team in Dallas.

While fans in Brooklyn, Boston and Cleveland may snicker and say “wait for it…”, a happy Irving right now is a good thing for a Mavericks team desperate to put a high-level shot creator next to superstar Luka Dončić. Irving emphasized his joy in playing the game while speaking to the media Tuesday after his first practice with his new team. He praised the Mavericks organization while saying he sometimes didn’t feel respected in Brooklyn. Here are Irving’s comments, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I just know I want to be places where I’m celebrated and not just tolerated or just kind of dealt with in a way that doesn’t make me feel respected,” Irving said after Tuesday’s practice at USC’s Galen Hall. “There were times throughout this process when I was in Brooklyn where I felt very disrespected and my talent — I work extremely hard at what I do. No one ever talks about my work ethic, though. Everyone talks about what I’m doing off the floor, so I just wanted to change that narrative, write my own story and just continue preparing in the gym, and now that I’m in Dallas, just focus on what I control.”

Irving makes it hard not to talk about his off-the-floor choices when he does things that keep him away from his team, such as his vaccination status a season ago, or a Tweet earlier this season promoting a movie with anti-Semitic themes that led to an eight-game suspension by the Nets.

When on the court, Irving’s skills are unquestionable — he has the league’s best handles and averages 27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, plus he is shooting 37.4% from 3. It’s those skills he wants to bring to Dallas and make the focus. He wants to move on from the negativity surrounding him in Brooklyn.

Irving cited a lack of “transparency and honesty from people in the front office” as a reason he did not feeling comfortable continuing his career with the Nets…

“I don’t want to go into too many details because it’s water under the bridge now,” said Irving… “I wish them well. I left them in fourth place. I did what I was supposed to do, took care of my teammates, was incredibly selfless in my approach to leading, and I just want to do all the right things for myself — not to appease anybody that had something negative to say about me or judge me. This basketball game — just, it’s fun, and I want to keep it that way.”

If it stays fun and about basketball, this will be an excellent trade for the Mavericks. Irving will have to prove his critics wrong by keeping the spotlight on the court.

NBA, sports world reacts to LeBron James setting all-time scoring record

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LOS ANGELES — LeBron James is now the leading scorer in NBA history.

He passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with a turnaround jumper in the third quarter Tuesday night, and with that the fans filling Crypto.com Arena exploded, having witnessed history. The reaction was similar among his peers and fans on social media, but the praise for LeBron has been pouring in all season. Here are some highlights of the reaction to LeBron setting this historic record, both from Tuesday night and the buildup to that moment throughout the season.

“But I think when you talk about LeBron, LeBron is in his own category. Just with the way he came into the league, and he never disappointed his fans, his teammates, and his owners, by winning championships by being able to help players get paid, you know, and then, you know, at the end of the day, he he’s about winning, he’s a competitor, and he’s never talked about records. You know, he’s just the only thing that he has really talked about is trying to win championships.” —Dallas Mavericks coach and Hall of Fame player Jason Kidd

“LeBron has done it so differently to me because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.” —Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers

“It used to anger me when he first came in, and if he made a pass, somebody said he should have shot it. And if he shot the ball, he should have passed it. It really would anger me because they would just deal with the negative. And it was sort of a fake, negative in a way, the guy was doing everything great handling himself great, young kid with all that attention, doing what he’s doing. I just thought he was wonderful.” —San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

[On how LeBron reached this record without a score-first mentality] “I think empowering teammates the way he has done throughout the course of his career, he’s made his teammates threats, with where you have to account for them. And when you have to account for others… it allows you to operate more effectively with less traffic and you’re able to do what you need to do for the team in terms of scoring.” —Lakers coach Darvin Ham

“Congratulations to LeBron on breaking one of the most hallowed records in all of sports by becoming the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. It’s a towering achievement that speaks to his sustained excellence over 20 seasons in the league. And quite amazingly, LeBron continues to play at an elite level and his basketball history is still being written.” —NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

“[The NBA] gave the keys to the whole entire business to an 18-year-old kid and now he’s 38 years old and he’s still dominating. I don’t think we should be surprised. I think we should congratulate him and celebrate him as much as possible.” —Kyrie Irving