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."

Stephen Curry was back at practice with the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, with Steve Kerr admitting the two-time MVP got the Tom Brady treatment from his team-mates.

Warriors guard Curry has been sidelined since October having twice undergone surgery on a broken hand, but he recently said he remained on course to return next month.

Golden State were boosted by Curry's involvement in their defensive drills and shooting practice in their first practice since the All-Star break. 

However, given Curry's status as the team's star and the nature of his injury, Kerr joked he ordered players not to make contact with the 31-year-old as if he were a red-shirted NFL quarterback in practice.

"We're calling him Tom Brady today. Don't touch Steph," Kerr told reporters, referencing the six-time Super Bowl champion.

"I think it was more for fun than anything. He took part in everything apart other than our scrimmage. Our scrimmage at the end, he didn't do that.

"He's looking great. He cannot be touched!"

Reports suggest Curry's return could come on March 1 against the Washington Wizards, with the Warriors having five games on the schedule before then.

Kerr insisted there was no definitive timeframe for Curry's comeback but added he was impressed by his conditioning.

"I don't know when he's going to be allowed to scrimmage. It's not this week or anything," he said.

"He looks really good. He's gaining strength, gaining confidence.

"He's been putting himself through some brutal workouts so his conditioning is about as good as it can possibly be because of somebody who hasn't been able to scrimmage because of how he goes about his work."

The Warriors have made the NBA Finals in each of the previous five years but this season they are bottom of the Western Conference with an NBA-worst 12-43 record.

As well as Curry's lengthy absence, they have had to content with five-time All-Star Klay Thompson being sidelined by a torn anterior cruciate ligament that is expected to keep him out for the entire campaign.

"It's easy to look and say, 'In a couple of weeks, Steph's going to be ready to play', but Klay's a long way from that," Kerr added.

"I don't even entertain any thoughts of Klay playing this year."

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is set to see another specialist to assess his shoulder injury.

Irving has only played 20 games for the Nets (25-28) this season, missing a large part of the campaign due to his shoulder.

Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson revealed on Tuesday that Irving would see another specialist this week.

"The shoulder is a tough thing," he said, via ESPN.

"I just think it was an on and off thing where it's bothering you. Some days you feel good, some days you don't feel good.

"But I think it got to the point it was, 'Hey, let's see another specialist'."

Irving is averaging 27.4 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds for the Nets this season.

Brooklyn are seventh in the Eastern Conference and face the Philadelphia 76ers (34-21) on Thursday.

LeBron James called out MLB commissioner Rob Manfred over the handling of the sign-stealing scandal involving the Houston Astros.

The Astros were found to have stolen signs of opposition teams en route to winning the 2017 World Series, as well as for part of the 2018 campaign.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were subsequently fired by the team in January after they were initially suspended for the entire 2020 season by the league, while the Boston Red Sox dismissed manager Alex Cora.

The fallout from the scandal continued on Tuesday after New York Yankees star Aaron Judge labelled the punishment "weak" and NBA icon James weighed in via social media.

James – a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP – tweeted: "Listen I know I don't play baseball but I am in Sports and I know if someone cheated me out of winning the title and I found out about it I would be f****** irate! I mean like uncontrollable about what I would/could do!

"Listen here baseball commissioner listen to your players speaking today about how disgusted, mad, hurt, broken, etc etc about this.

"Literally the ball is in your court [or should I say field] and you need to fix this for the sake of Sports! #JustMyThoughtsComingFromASportsJunkieRegardlessMyOwnSportIPlay."

James' comments came after he announced his first children's book will be released in August.

The 35-year-old – who is also set to feature in the next 'Space Jam' movie – has teamed up with HarperCollins Publishers for the picture book titled 'I Promise'.

"Books have the ability to teach, inspire, and bring people together. That's why these books, and the opportunity to get children and parents reading together, mean so much to me," James said.

"Most importantly, we wanted to make sure these stories are ones that every single kid can see themselves in."

Dirk Nowitzki feels Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons has the potential to develop into one of the NBA's best players.

Australian Simmons, the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, appeared in his second straight All-Star Game in Chicago at the Weekend.

The 23-year-old is averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game for the 76ers, while he also leads the NBA in steals.

Earlier in this campaign he drained his first regular-season three-pointer - with Simmons' shooting from beyond the arc often used as a stick to beat him with - and 2007 NBA MVP Nowitzki believes that is the only facet of his game preventing him from moving into the elite echelon.

"I love Ben. I got to meet him a couple of times. His potential… the sky's the limit," said Nowitzki, who was speaking at the Laureus Awards in Berlin, where he won the Lifetime Achievement prize.

"He's super, super athletic, he's got a great touch. He sees the floor, gets his guys involved. Eventually, I think we all know, he needs to improve his shot.

"If he improves his shot he can be one of the best in the league, best in the game.

"Just right now people are playing off him a little bit and making him shoot.

"He's got the touch, the feel for the game that if he works hard, keeps improving the way he has – he's still young – he's going to be fun to watch for a long, long time."

Nowitzki brought the curtain down on his decorated 21-year NBA career after last season having been named to 14 All-Star Games and also winning the 2011 NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks, where he spent his entire career.

Despite Nowitzki's departure, the future looks bright for Dallas thanks to two other Europeans - 20-year-old Slovenian Luka Doncic and 24-year-old Latvian Kristaps Porzingis.

Doncic has already taken on Nowitzki's mantle as Dallas' star and he was named as a starter for the All-Star Game in just his second season.

"Amazing," Nowitzki added of Doncic.

"He was voted a starter at 20 years old. He's been so much fun to watch and hopefully he'll stay in Dallas for his whole career and we'll have a lot of fun watching him, hopefully for a long, long time.

"The way he plays, the way he reads the game, the way he scores – he's a great all-round player. He's super fun to watch.

"They're young still. Luka's only 20, Kristaps is 24. Hopefully those guys can build something and be together in Dallas for a long, long time and play on a high level.

"Of course, eventually they would like to bring a championship to Dallas, that would be amazing. We'll just see how they play off each other and grow together."

On receiving Laureus' Lifetime Achievement Award, Nowitzki added: "Of course it's a great honour to get the award for my lifetime achievement.

"I played more than 20 years in the NBA. I was trying to move the game forward.

"It's nice to feel that you're respected and accepted for what I achieved during my career. For me it's a huge honour. I'm glad to be here."

LeBron James felt Kobe Bryant's presence throughout his team's win over Team Giannis in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.

Team LeBron edged Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago in an entertaining clash as Bryant was honoured.

James said the presence of the Los Angeles Lakers great – who died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month – was felt.

"We wouldn't be All-Stars if we weren't competitors," he told a news conference.

"We all compete at the highest level, try to put our respective teams in a position to win every night so guys definitely just had that sense of pride, that sense of competitiveness throughout the season, throughout the All-Star Game, which we had tonight.

"But you could definitely feel Bean's presence just from the start, from every moment, from the fans chanting his name to seeing the numbers every time Giannis' team run on the floor you seen the 24.

"He was definitely here."

Kawhi Leonard claimed the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award after contributing 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Team LeBron.

Kawhi Leonard dedicated his NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award to the Los Angeles Lakers great on Sunday.

Leonard's 30 points helped Team LeBron beat Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago and the Clippers star was named MVP.

The award was renamed in honour of the Lakers great, who died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month.

Leonard thanked Bryant, telling NBA on TNT: "It means a lot to me.

"Words can't even explain, just making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy. I want to thank Kobe for everything he done for me, all the long talks, the workouts, thank you.

"This one is for him."

Leonard added: "They did a great job with the format this year. They had us come out playing hard in the fourth quarter and competing for a total points score.

"That's pretty much how we got to competing out there."

Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 157-155 in the revamped NBA All-Star Game in Chicago on Sunday.

Unlike previous years, every quarter counted in the name of charity at the United Center, where the new format was unveiled for the showpiece event.

Each of the first three quarters started with the score at 0-0 and lasted the standard 12 minutes, with the game clock turned off for the final period and a final target score set.

The cumulative score of the first three quarters was 133-124 in favour of Team Giannis. The final target score was set by taking the leading team's cumulative score and adding 24 – the 24 representing Kobe Bryant's jersey number.

LeBron James and his team earned bragging rights in the 69th edition of the All-Star Game – hometown hero and Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis (20 points) making one of two free throws to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo's side.

While Davis scored the winning point, Kawhi Leonard (30 points) received the All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award, renamed in honour of the five-time NBA champion.

Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month, was honoured prior to tip-off.

Magic Johnson led an eight-second moment of silence for Lakers legend Bryant and former commissioner David Stern as both All-Star teams came together to hold hands, before delivering a heartfelt speech.

Team LeBron made a fast start, outscoring Team Giannis 53-41 in the first period before the latter won the second period 51-30.

Neither team could be split in the third, though Team Giannis went into the fourth quarter leading Team LeBron – who rallied to win for the third successive year.

James and Chris Paul finished with 23 points each, while Ben Simmons (17) and James Harden (11) were also in double-digits for Team LeBron.

Team Giannis were led by Antetokounmpo (25 points, 11 rebounds), Joel Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds), Kemba Walker (23 points) and Rudy Gobert (21 points, 11 rebounds).

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