Watch Kevin Love score 35, it’s not enough as Trae Young scores 35, Hawks beat Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND — Trae Young scored 35 points, Clint Capela had 18 points and a season-high 23 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from a 16-point deficit for a 121-118 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

Young made a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds left after Cleveland had pulled within 119-118 on a Brandon Goodwin layup. Kevin Pangos‘ potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark.

Atlanta snapped a three-game losing streak despite having 12 players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, including power forward John Collins and sharp-shooters Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter. The Hawks also lost Cam Reddish in the first quarter with a sprained right ankle.

“There are only a couple of us from our full roster on this team, but we’re really trying to find ways to win,” Young said. “It was a great way to end the year. We had a lot of success in 2021 and we expect to have even more success in 2022.”

Kevin Love scored a season-high 35 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Cleveland, and Jarrett Allen had 21 points and eight rebounds. The Cavaliers dropped their third straight game and had their longest home winning streak of the season end at five.

“We were complacent because we had a lead, but you have to understand they’ve got winners over there who just went to the Eastern Conference finals,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We let our guard down and it came back to bite us.”

Young, who also dished out 11 assists, drained a 3-pointer with 1:53 remaining to give Atlanta its largest advantage at 119-111. Skylar Mays added 19 points and Lou Williams had 14 points off the bench for the Hawks, who are 1-1 on a six-game trip that ends Jan. 9 against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Clint and Trae set the tone yesterday in practice and they did it again tonight,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “It was a challenge to them to show that we’re better than what we’ve been playing like.”

Cleveland led 60-44 late in the second quarter, buoyed by Allen coming out of COVID protocols after missing four games. Rookie Evan Mobley had 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Goodwin had 13 points in his Cavaliers debut.

The Hawks roared back in the third, outscoring Cleveland 40-22 behind 12 points and seven assists from Young, and eight points and nine rebounds from Capela. Young put them ahead for good at 87-86 with a 3-pointer.

“These games are just grind games, so we knew we had to stay the course,” Capela said. “We had to expose their weaknesses by finding our guys, like Trae, for open shots.”

Cleveland went 8 of 14 from the foul line in the fourth, when Young and Williams combined to go 8 of 8 for Atlanta.

The Hawks committed a franchise-record low two turnovers, becoming the sixth team in NBA history to do so in a game. The league record is one by Denver against Portland on Feb. 23, 2021.

G League official Clare Aubry became the 14th woman to referee an NBA game, and was one of three officials to make their debut Friday as a result of widespread illnesses among full-time staffers.

The Cavaliers have agreed to acquire four-time All-Star guard Rajon Rondo from the Lakers in exchange for Denzel Valentine, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. Rondo averaged 3.1 points and 3.7 assists in 18 games with Los Angeles, but is currently in COVID-19 protocols.

Cavs guard Ricky Rubio suffered a torn left ACL at New Orleans on Tuesday, leaving Cleveland in need of a veteran playmaker. Guard Collin Sexton also is out for the season after tearing cartilage in his left knee on Nov. 7 at New York.

“Rondo has a championship pedigree from Boston, so having him around will be huge,” Love said. “A lot of us are still on an emotional hangover from losing Ricky.”

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.

Wembanyama scores 37, Scoot Henderson 28, as both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?