Euroleague Basketball has strongly condemned a "cowardly, criminal attack" in Athens on a taxi carrying referees who took charge of the game between Panathinaikos and Barcelona.

Three referees and a referee coach were being transported to their hotel following Friday's match when the window of their taxi was smashed by two people. 

In a statement on Sunday, Euroleague warned it may consider moving future matches from Greece should another similar incident occur in the country.

"Following the conclusion of the Panathinaikos OPAP Athens-FC Barcelona game in Round 25 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season in Athens, Greece, two individuals performed a cowardly, criminal attack, smashing a window of the taxi that was transporting the referees from OAKA to their hotel," read Euroleague's statement.

"Fortunately, all three referees, the referee coach and the taxi driver are OK," read the statement. "After the attack, Euroleague Basketball communicated directly with the Hellenic Police, who guaranteed the safety and security of the referees until they departed from Greece."

The statement continued: "Euroleague Basketball and all participating clubs condemn violent acts of any shape or form, and will continue to apply a zero-tolerance policy.

"Euroleague Basketball will support the police investigation into the attack. Should the two individuals be identified, they will be banned for life from attending any Euroleague Basketball game/event, without prejudice to any additional legal proceedings.

"Euroleague Basketball will seek the cooperation of the clubs and the local authorities to prevent any such incidents in the future.

"Whilst the attack is unprecedented in the 20-season history of Euroleague Basketball, should a similar incident occur again within the territory of Greece, this would signify that a safe and secure environment for the visiting teams, referees and all other accredited personnel cannot be guaranteed.

"Therefore, Euroleague Basketball will immediately evaluate relocating all further EuroLeague, EuroCup and U18 Tournament games outside of Greece."

Euroleague Basketball has strongly condemned a "cowardly, criminal attack" in Athens on a taxi carrying referees who took charge of the game between Panathinaikos and Barcelona.

Three referees and a referee coach were being transported to their hotel following Friday's match when the window of their taxi was smashed by two people. 

In a statement on Sunday, Euroleague warned it may consider moving future matches from Greece should another similar incident occur in the country.

"Following the conclusion of the Panathinaikos OPAP Athens-FC Barcelona game in Round 25 of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague regular season in Athens, Greece, two individuals performed a cowardly, criminal attack, smashing a window of the taxi that was transporting the referees from OAKA to their hotel," read Euroleague's statement.

"Fortunately, all three referees, the referee coach and the taxi driver are OK," read the statement. "After the attack, Euroleague Basketball communicated directly with the Hellenic Police, who guaranteed the safety and security of the referees until they departed from Greece."

The statement continued: "Euroleague Basketball and all participating clubs condemn violent acts of any shape or form, and will continue to apply a zero-tolerance policy.

"Euroleague Basketball will support the police investigation into the attack. Should the two individuals be identified, they will be banned for life from attending any Euroleague Basketball game/event, without prejudice to any additional legal proceedings.

"Euroleague Basketball will seek the cooperation of the clubs and the local authorities to prevent any such incidents in the future.

"Whilst the attack is unprecedented in the 20-season history of Euroleague Basketball, should a similar incident occur again within the territory of Greece, this would signify that a safe and secure environment for the visiting teams, referees and all other accredited personnel cannot be guaranteed.

"Therefore, Euroleague Basketball will immediately evaluate relocating all further EuroLeague, EuroCup and U18 Tournament games outside of Greece."

The Philadelphia 76ers lost Ben Simmons to injury in another NBA road defeat on Saturday, while the Miami Heat paid tribute to Dwyane Wade.

Simmons left a 119-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first quarter after aggravating an existing back problem and will reportedly undergo an MRI on Sunday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo relished his fellow All-Star's absence, putting up 31 points and 17 rebounds in a double-double that condemned Philadelphia to a sixth successive away loss.

The 76ers (35-22) sit fifth in the Eastern Conference, one place behind the Heat (36-20) following their 124-105 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The win added to a memorable occasion as Miami welcomed former favourite Wade back to AmericanAirlines Arena, officially retiring the number three jersey he wore during the team's NBA championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013.

Wade, 38, retired at the end of last season after returning to the Heat for his career swansong.

 

Harden hot in valuable Houston victory

James Harden hit a game-high 38 points while Russell Westbrook went 14-of-26 for 34 points as the Houston Rockets topped the Utah Jazz 120-110.

The Jazz struggled to handle Houston's small-ball approach and are now level with the Rockets at 36-20.

Kawhi Leonard tallied 31 points and eight rebounds but the Los Angeles Clippers lost for the third time in as many games, going down to the Sacramento Kings 112-103.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks overcame a nine-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to beat the Dallas Mavericks 111-107.

Trae Young and John Collins each recorded double-doubles to inspire the Hawks to their 17th win of a lean campaign.

 

Kawhi a lone performer for cold Clippers

Leonard did his part against the Kings at Staples Center but the reigning MVP had little help from his fellow Clippers starters, all of whom failed to reach double figures for points.

Reggie Jackson and Landry Shamet were particularly culpable, the pair making just three of their combined 12 three-point attempts.

 

Bam drops the hammer

Fresh from winning the Skills Challenge on NBA All-Star Weekend, Heat big man Bam Adebayo put on another show with a huge dunk against the Cavaliers.

 

Saturday's results

Sacramento Kings 112-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Brooklyn Nets 115-86 Charlotte Hornets
Atlanta Hawks 111-107 Dallas Mavericks
Miami Heat 124-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Phoenix Suns 112-104 Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee Bucks 119-98 Philadelphia 76ers
Houston Rockets 120-110 Utah Jazz

 

Celtics at Lakers

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers entertain Jayson Tatum's Boston Celtics in the pick of Sunday's seven games.

Zion Williamson recognises he still has a lot to learn a month into his NBA career, although his New Orleans Pelicans team-mates claim the rookie is already getting "vet calls".

The number one overall draft pick made his long-awaited league debut in a defeat to the San Antonio Spurs on January 22 after recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Williamson played his 11th game on Friday, and a 128-115 win over the Portland Trail Blazers moved the Pelicans to within four games of the playoffs in the Western Conference.

The 19-year-old is averaging 22.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, and he was typically influential again in a 25-point display.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Williamson insisted he is far from the finished product and does not expect to fulfil his immense potential until "year four or five".

However, having visited the free-throw line 10 times against the Trail Blazers, shooting 50 per cent, Williamson's team-mates are mocking his early ability to draw fouls.

"I'm learning the pace, when to do things, when not to do things," he said. "I'm starting to get my legs back under me a little bit, I'm learning my team-mates, just the travel.

"Even though I'm a rookie and people think that I'm doing good, there's so much that I have to learn.

"I'm always learning something new from JJ [Redick], E'Twaun [Moore], Jrue [Holiday], Zo [Lonzo Ball], Derrick Favors, so much about the game. There are small things that I'm learning.

"By year four or five, I feel like I'm going to have all of them down.

"I think I am starting to get a little bit comfortable - I'm not saying a lot [more comfortable] because it's only 11 games. I've got a lot to learn, but I'm ready for the journey."

On the foul calls, Williamson added: "I think I just draw a lot of fouls. My team-mates joke with me and say I get 'vet calls'. I don't know about that yet.

"But when we get to the free-throw line, it's one thing to get there but we just have to knock them down."

Portland are one of the teams standing between 11th-placed New Orleans and a playoff berth in the top eight, and Williamson acknowledges there is little room for error for his team.

"Honestly, for us, at this point, I think every game is important," he said. "It's really like a college season at this point now - every game matters. If we take a loss, it's a big loss, a tough loss for us.

"So we need to come into every game ready to play, ready to lock in, we can't have any slow starts. And if we do, we can't dig ourselves into a big hole."

LeBron James lauded Anthony Davis again after the Los Angeles Lakers' latest win but insisted his team-mate is "on a nice list of great players I've played with" and his own approach over the coming months will not change as a result.

The Lakers, who reportedly intend to waive injured center DeMarcus Cousins and sign Markieff Morris, a free agent after his Detroit Pistons buyout, beat the Memphis Grizzlies 117-105 on Friday.

James scored 32 points, while Davis had an outstanding 28 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks for the 42-12 Western Conference leaders.

Four-time MVP James has carried the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers in the past, but Davis - deserving of the Defensive Player of the Year Award, held by Rudy Gobert, according to his team-mate - is sharing the load.

That does not change the veteran's mentality in the closing months of the season, though, as he looks to do whatever is necessary for the team.

"I never really looked at it like that. It's always been a team game," James told reporters. "I've never looked at it like I need to put a whole franchise, a whole team on my back.

"I need to do my job. If I do my job then we put ourselves in a position to be successful, and I'm going to have to do that again this year.

"AD's on a nice list of great players I've played with. But nothing changes for me in my preparation, the way I go out and approach the game, nothing changes."

He added on Davis: "He does everything. He's able to protect the rim, he's able to guard on the post, he's able to switch out on guards, he's able to block shots, get steals. He does everything defensively for us.

"That's why he's Defensive Player of the Year. He does everything. There's not one thing he doesn't do well defensively."

Davis had to step out of the game for a spell due to a bruised calf but returned in style.

"I just felt like I was able to get back on the floor and play," he said. "The leg felt good enough for me to go out and give it a try.

"I was just trying to stay loose and stay warm so it won't tighten back up. I just want to be on the floor to help the guys."

LeBron James and Anthony Davis starred as the streaking Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 117-105 in the NBA.

James posted 32 points and Davis scored 28 points and tallied 14 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a fourth consecutive victory on Friday.

The Western Conference-leading Lakers used a 32-19 second quarter to see off the Grizzlies at Staples Center.

Luka Doncic, meanwhile, produced another big performance as the Dallas Mavericks won 122-106 at the Orlando Magic.

All-Star Doncic finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Mavericks on the road.

Maxi Kleber added a career-high 26 points off the bench, while Kristaps Porzingis contributed 24 points and 10 rebounds.

The Magic were led by Nikola Vucevic's 27 points and 12 rebounds, and Evan Fournier's 28 points.

 

Celtics quartet star

Boston Celtics quartet Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Daniel Theis all scored 25 or more points in the team's 127-117 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The last time four starters scored 25-plus points in a game was in 2006.

Pascal Siakam put up 37 points and 12 rebounds as the Toronto Raptors topped the Phoenix Suns 118-101 for their 16th win in 17 games.

Chris Paul's 29 points and Steve Adam's double-double of 19 points and 17 rebounds led the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Denver Nuggets 113-101.

Zion Williamson recorded 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting as the New Orleans Pelicans trumped the Portland Trail Blazers 128-115.

 

Smith struggles in DC

The Washington Wizards lost 113-108 to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Ish Smith struggled. The Wizards guard played 30 minutes, shooting just two of 12 from the field and one of five from three-point range for five points.

 

Beal pulverises Drummond

Wizards star Bradley Beal dunked on Andre Drummond in merciless fashion.

 

Friday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 117-105 Memphis Grizzlies
New Orleans Pelicans 128-115 Portland Trail Blazers
Cleveland Cavaliers 113-108 Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks 122-106 Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors 118-101 Phoenix Suns
Oklahoma City Thunder 113-101 Denver Nuggets
Indiana Pacers 106-98 New York Knicks
Boston Celtics 127-117 Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs 113-104 Utah Jazz

 

76ers at Bucks

The Philadelphia 76ers will have to overcome their worrying road woes if they are to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo's NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. Philadelphia – fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 35-21 record – are 9-19 away from home but have won four straight in the NBA.

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid said he loves playing alongside team-mate Ben Simmons and believes the pair can "accomplish something special" with the franchise.

Embiid and guard Simmons have been the subjects of endless questions about their chemistry, with repeated claims that the All-Star duo cannot play together for the 76ers due to contrasting styles.

There have also been reports the 76ers – fifth in the Eastern Conference as they eye a championship – could deal one of their stars at the end of the season, with Embiid more likely to be moved on should Philadelphia explore a trade, according to ESPN.

Quizzed on what everyone is asking him, 76ers center Embiid rolled his eyes as he told ESPN: "'Can they play together, do they had each other?'

"I mean, at the end of the day, we know what we go to do. I love playing with him. He is a special talent.

"He helps us a lot. We can accomplish something special."

Embiid, who posted a season-high 39 points and 16 rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, is averaging 23.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for the 76ers in 2019-20.

Simmons, meanwhile, is averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will go head-to-head on April 9 after the NBA clash was rescheduled following the tragic death of Kobe Bryant last month.

City rivals the Lakers and Clippers were meant to meet on January 28, however, the showdown was postponed after NBA great Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash, along with seven others in Calabasas, California.

The Lakers and Clippers now have a new date for the Western Conference blockbuster at Staples Center in April.

As a result, three other games have been rescheduled to accommodate the Lakers-Clippers fixture.

The Clippers will play the Chicago Bulls on April 6 instead of April 8, the Lakers' clash with the Golden State Warriors has been brought forward from April 9 to April 7 and their game against the Bulls will take place on April 8.

LeBron James and the Lakers top the Western Conference with a 41-12 record, while Kawhi Leonard's Clippers (37-18) are third.

Joel Embiid feels his current run of form, including a 22-point display in the NBA All-Star Game, has proven he is the best player in the world.

Big man Embiid is often maligned despite averaging 23.3 points and 12 rebounds per game this season, with his highly-talented Philadelphia 76ers an underwhelming fifth in the Eastern Conference.

But the 25-year-old has had a big hand in Sixers wins either side of the All-Star break.

Embiid tallied 26 points and nine rebounds as he starred alongside Ben Simmons in a defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers, while a brilliant 39-point, 16-rebound return lifted Philadelphia to an overtime victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, extending their winning run to four games.

In between those two performances, Embiid also managed 22 points and 10 rebounds for Team Giannis as he took on the best the Western Conference had to offer.

It was this display in the All-Star Game that Embiid felt secured his place as the league's elite performer.

"The All-Star game was fun, being there in the fourth quarter doing my thing at the end of the game," he said after seeing off the Nets, who will miss Kyrie Irving for the remainder of the season.

"The game against the Clippers was a good starting spot, but the All-Star game was just proving that I'm here, I belong, being the best player in the world.

"And I just intend to keep coming out every single night and playing hard, just going out and trying to win a championship."

Embiid will have the opportunity to back up his claim on Saturday when the Sixers take on conference leaders the Milwaukee Bucks and All-Star captain Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is on course for a second straight MVP award.

"We beat them pretty bad in the first matchup [121-109 in December], they got us the last one [112-101 earlier this month]," Embiid said. "So, it's on us to go out there and try to beat them again."

Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook bemoaned always being considered "the bad guy" and queried why more players were not punished in the incident that led to his ejection against the Golden State Warriors.

Nine-time All-Star Westbrook's night ended prematurely when he received two technical fouls in Houston's 135-105 victory.

The second of those technical fouls came in the fourth quarter after Westbrook caught Damion Lee with a stray arm.

The situation was only exacerbated when Westbrook then argued with players on Golden State's bench, including the injured Klay Thompson, before confronting Kevon Looney prior to being ejected.

"I hold myself to a very, very high standard," Westbrook told reporters afterwards.

"I think the refs, the fans, the media, the NBA are put in a position now that I'm not allowed to really do much. Obviously I'm an emotional guy.

"If you watch the clip, obviously I hit Lee but it wasn't on purpose. I'm going to the glass, he got hit. He said something to me, I said something to him.

"I'm standing there, a guy [Juan Toscano-Anderson] comes to snatch the ball out of my hand. Guys come running to me, I didn't move.

"But I'm always the one who gets painted to be the bad guy in the whole situation.

"They asked me to walk towards the Warriors bench. I'm just over there walking towards the bench and then one of the little young fellas tells me, 'Why you walking over here?'

"I turned around and said, 'What did you say?' So now everybody's running over to me, then I'm walking towards the thing, then Looney steps in front of me.

"I feel like I'm in a position where it's like, 'Oh, well. Russ is being Russ', which nobody knows what that means.

"But I've got to do a better job of holding myself to a very, very high standard. I'll make sure I leave no room for error to allow somebody to paint me out to be a guy that I'm not."

However, Westbrook, who had 21 points and 10 assists before his exit, felt he was singled out and that others should have been punished too.

"I just think it's unfair, though, that after all of that, I'm the only one who gets a tech or kicked out," added Westbrook, who leads the NBA with 13 technical fouls this season.

"That's not fair, I don't care what nobody says.

"There were so many other people involved in it that were doing so many things that weren't okay but I'm the one that gets the tech, gets ejected, and everyone else is cool and gets back to play.

"But I take responsibility and I hold myself to a very high standard."

Giannis Antetokounmpo starred as the Milwaukee Bucks resumed their NBA season with a comfortable win, while the Houston Rockets cruised on Thursday.

Back in action after the All-Star break, the Bucks improved to 47-8 with a 126-106 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Antetokounmpo finished with a double-double of 33 points and 16 rebounds, while Khris Middleton poured in 28 points.

Eric Bledsoe went eight-of-14 from the field for his 19 points and Brook Lopez contributed 18 for the Bucks.

The Rockets were untroubled by the Golden State Warriors in a 135-105 thrashing.

James Harden (29 points and 10 assists) and Russell Westbrook (21 points and 10 assists) finished with double-doubles.

All five of Houston's starters finished with double-digits for points, with Robert Covington adding 20.

 

Young red-hot as Embiid lifts 76ers

Trae Young had a career-high 50 points in the Atlanta Hawks' 129-124 win over the Miami Heat.

Joel Embiid's double-double of 39 points and 16 rebounds helped the Philadelphia 76ers past the Brooklyn Nets 112-104 after overtime.

Malik Monk's 25 points off the bench helped the Charlotte Hornets beat the Chicago Bulls 103-93.

 

Bulls' slump continues

The Bulls' loss was their seventh straight as they were left with a 19-37 record and in 11th in the Eastern Conference.

 

Young from deep

Young went eight-of-15 from three-point range in a dazzling display.

Thursday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 126-106 Detroit Pistons
Atlanta Hawks 129-124 Miami Heat
Philadelphia 76ers 112-104 Brooklyn Nets
Charlotte Hornets 103-93 Chicago Bulls
Sacramento Kings 129-125 Memphis Grizzlies
Houston Rockets 135-105 Golden State Warriors

 

Grizzlies at Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers (41-12) resume their campaign against the Memphis Grizzlies (28-27) at the Staples Center on Friday.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving will undergo surgery on his shoulder and miss the rest of the NBA season.

Irving has missed a large part of his first campaign in Brooklyn due to a shoulder injury, making just 20 appearances in 2019-20.

And the 27-year-old will miss the remainder of the season as he undergoes arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder, the team announced on Thursday.

"He's obviously upset about this and we're here to support him, support the process moving forward with him and the rehabilitation," Nets general manager Sean Marks told a news conference.

"He saw specialists including our own people at HSS and it's been a group consensus that at this point in time and this juncture that this is the best cause of action."

Irving averaged 27.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds in his 20 games this season.

Brooklyn are 25-28 and in seventh in the Eastern Conference ahead of facing the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Zion Williamson insisted he is not worried about pipping Ja Morant to the Rookie of the Year award as his chief concern is helping the New Orleans Pelicans reach the playoffs.

A knee injury delayed Williamson's much-anticipated debut in the NBA regular season by three months, during which time Morant assumed the role of the league's outstanding rookie.

Morant, picked second, directly behind Williamson in the 2019 NBA Draft, has led the Memphis Grizzlies to a 28-26 record and the eighth seed in the Western Conference at the All-Star break.

And it is a top-eight finish with the 11th-placed Pels that is motivating Williamson, who delivered back-to-back 30-point games prior to the interval to enhance his own Rookie of the Year case.

"Honestly, it's not even up to me," Williamson told ESPN of the Rookie of the Year race.

"I'm just playing and trying to get a playoff spot for my team.

"If I win it, it's nice, but if not, it's fine. It just comes with the game.

"I do want it but if I don't get it I'm not worried because I did miss half the season.

"Ja's been playing incredible so he has earned it."

Williamson's outstanding performances in high school and college meant he was the most hyped prospect to enter the league since LeBron James in 2003.

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin tried to temper expectations back in June when he said New Orleans were "Jrue Holiday's team" and Williamson must not be considered "the saviour of this franchise".

Yet Williamson has quickly established himself as the centrepiece of New Orleans' team, a fact that has taken him aback too.

"I think the thing that has surprised me the most is how much my team-mates look to me to try and make an impact," the 19-year-old added.

"I'm a rookie and I thought they would let me feel the game out before they started giving me the ball but, no, they trust in me."

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said the struggling franchise never considered shutting down superstar Stephen Curry for the rest of the season.

Curry has been sidelined since October following surgery on a broken hand, but the two-time NBA MVP is nearing a return for the Warriors.

The three-time champion is set to be welcomed back by a Warriors team who own the worst record in the league at 12-43 after last season's run to the NBA Finals.

Golden State have been crippled by injuries to Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and others, while star Kevin Durant left via free agency.

While some question the benefits of allowing Curry to return in 2019-20 as the Warriors struggle at the foot of the table, Kerr dismissed the suggestion that the six-time All-Star should not play again this season.

"He's perfectly healthy," Kerr told reporters on Wednesday. "He's in the prime of his career. If the point is because he might get hurt, then what's the point of ever playing anything? People can get hurt any day.

"I guess the argument would be, 'Well, we're not going to the playoffs.' So are we not trying to entertain our fans? We're selling tickets to all these people who love basketball, and Steph Curry is one of the most amazing, graceful, exciting basketball players on Earth. And if he were healthy and we didn't present him to our fans and say, 'Here you go. Here's your gift for staying with us for this whole season,' what would that say about us? That we don't care about our fans?

"So to me it's never been a question. As soon as he's ready, he's coming back. Our fans deserve it. We need it as a team to springboard into next year, and it's the right thing to do."

Kerr added: "Steph doesn't have to talk us into anything. We know he wants to play because he loves basketball, and we want him to play because we need him for the continuity to build that momentum for next year and then our fans are dying to see him.

"He's playing. He's almost healthy, he's almost ready, so he's playing. No discussion. He doesn't need to convince me of anything. This is a totally different deal than Klay. Steph had surgery on his [hand], it's basically healed. He's right on the cusp [of returning]. Klay had an ACL [injury]. It's a totally different conversation. I think there's a big distinction there."

John Beilein has resigned as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers after a short stint at the helm.

Beilein joined the Cavaliers from college team Michigan on a multi-year contract in May, but stepped down on Wednesday.

The 67-year-old – who oversaw an Eastern Conference-worst 14-40 record this season, only behind the Golden State Warriors (12-43) in the entire league – will be reassigned to a different role in Cleveland, where J.B. Bickerstaff will take over from Beilein.

"Over these last nine months, I have given my all to this organisation, but after much reflection, I have decided that it is best that I step back and resign from my position as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and assist the organisation in a different capacity," said Beilein, who spent the previous 12 seasons as coach of Michigan.

"I am very grateful to Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman and the entire Cavaliers organisation for the opportunity they have provided me.

"This was a very difficult decision for me, but I want to be clear – this was my decision to step down and I truly appreciate the understanding and support of the front office during this time. I find losing very challenging and this year has taken a much bigger toll on me than I expected.

"I grew concerned for the consequences this toll could potentially take on my own health and my family's well-being down the road. I was not certain I could be at my best for the remainder of the season and in the future. That would not be fair to the players, coaches and support staff.

"I also would not be doing this now, during the season, if J.B. Bickerstaff was not ready and capable to assume the head coaching role immediately and continue the rebuilding process that we have started.

"For 45 years and more than 1,300 games, my journey as a basketball coach has been a dream come true. I have never been afraid of a challenge and have given each one my all – sometimes to the detriment of my own well-being. I want to thank my wife, Kathleen, for being by my side and I appreciate the outpouring of support from family, friends, and colleagues during this time. I look forward to being able to spend more time with my wife, kids and grandchildren over the coming months."

Cavs general manager Koby Altman added: "John Beilein is one of the more accomplished basketball coaches in the history of our game and while it's unexpected, we understand and respect his decision to step down as head coach of the Cavaliers.

"I was excited about the development of our young players, who have all shown growth and maturity under coach Beilein. We are thankful for the time he spent as head coach with the Cavaliers and are looking forward to his continued contribution.

"The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking on important long-term decisions to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. I would like to thank the incredible fans of the Cavaliers for their support in both good and challenging times. Building a strong culture will continue to be the top priority here at the Cavaliers."

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