Lu Dort, Bobby Portis and P.J. Tucker were among the players to get paid on a busy Thursday evening of free agency action.

Dort was shown good faith by the Oklahoma City Thunder, who opted to decline his team option that would have kept him on a $1.9million deal for next season, instead choosing to sign him to a five-year, $87.5million extension.

On a roster stacked with rookie salaries, the Thunder simply need to have some bigger contracts on their books to meet the league's salary floor, and in doing so they have rewarded a player who has become a cult figure, averaging 17.2 points per game this past season while being his side's premier wing defender.

Speaking of cult figures, Portis' connection with the Milwaukee Bucks after helping to deliver the city their second NBA championship was strong enough to have him stick around for the following year on just over $4m.

That loyalty was rewarded with a new four-year, $49m deal that will keep the 27-year-old big-man in Milwaukee until after the 2026 playoffs.

The Bucks also made a second notable move, signing 34-year-old free agent Joe Ingles to a one-year, $6.5m contract. Ingles suffered a season-ending injury with the Utah Jazz this past season, but figures to fill a role as a 41 per cent career three-point shooter, who can also handle, pass and defend at six-foot-eight.

Tucker was also a member of the Bucks' 2021 championship team, and after contributing to the Miami Heat's run to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, the 37-year-old has signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for three years and $33m.

Over the years, Tucker has evolved into one of the game's best corner three point shooters, and across the past five seasons he has started 77 playoff games, often guarding the opposition's most dangerous wing scorer.

While Tucker is getting paid to come and provide a stabilising force, the Portland Trail Blazers are paying for upside with their four-year, $100m commitment to breakout guard Anfernee Simons.

After averaging no more than 8.4 points and 1.4 assists in each of his first three campaigns, the 23-year-old shot into mainstream attention this season and he piled up numbers on a Trail Blazers team that was missing star Damian Lillard through injury.

Simons started a career-high 30 games, and put up career-high numbers across the board. He averaged 17.3 points and 3.9 assists, while shooting an impressive 40 per cent from three on an aggressive 7.8 attempts per game, emerging as one of the game's more lethal pull-up shooters from distance.

Backup point guard Tyus Jones will return to the Memphis Grizzlies on a two-year, $30m contract after a season where he became one of the league's most valuable backups.

Jones led the entire league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 6.4 – putting a gap on the rest of the field – with his brother, Tre Jones of the Spurs, in second place at 5.1.

He also shot a career-high 39 per cent from long range, and averaged 12.7 points, 6.6 assists and 3.2 rebounds without Ja Morant in the line-up, making him one of the main reasons the Grizzlies were 20-5 in the 25 games their superstar point guard missed due to injury.

The Utah Jazz have reportedly sent Joe Ingles to the Portland Trail Blazers and received Nickeil Alexander-Walker as part of a three-team trade. 

According to ESPN, the Jazz also sent Elijah Hughes to Portland and will receive Juancho Hernangomez from the San Antonio Spurs. Both teams got second-round picks from Utah in addition. 

Tomas Satoransky, who landed with the Trail Blazers after C.J. McCollum was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, joins the Spurs as part of the deal. 

The Jazz will hope Alexander-Walker can fill the gap left by the season-ending ACL injury Ingles, 34, suffered last month. 

Last year's Sixth Man of the Year runner-up has been an important role player for Utah and last week assured he would return to playing after undergoing knee surgery.

Alexander-Walker, a promising third-year guard, is averaging 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season. 

Joe Ingles expects to return to the NBA but not necessarily the Utah Jazz following his ACL tear.

Jazz forward Ingles sustained the injury to his left knee in Sunday's defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Australian is already 34 and facing a lengthy lay-off, but he is determined to recover and play again at the top level.

Ingles was a Sixth Man of the Year finalist in 2020-21 – team-mate Jordan Clarkson won the award – and has been a key role-player in Utah for eight seasons.

Only 10 players have appeared in more games for the Jazz all-time than the injured Boomer (590).

He points out his game relies more on shooting from deep than driving to the basket; he is a 40.8 per cent career three-point shooter and his 1,071 made threes are the most in franchise history.

Therefore, the prospect of a return appears more likely. Klay Thompson, one of the NBA's great three-point shooters (41.8 per cent), recently came back from consecutive serious injuries – the first of which was a torn ACL.

"Literally no doubt [about returning]," Ingles told ESPN. "I know probably everybody says that when they're going through this. A few days post-injury, people might think I'm a little bit crazy.

"But you look at people who have been through this. The MRI was a little bit of a win, I guess, with it just being my ACL.

"Then the other part of it – and we joke about it – is my game. My game has never been based on athleticism, above the rim or anything like that.

"I'm not writing off what this surgery is and what the rehab looks like, but everyone around the league knows how I play and what I can do."

However, Ingles' contract was already expiring and could be considered a trade asset prior to free agency, meaning his next game may very well be in another team's colours.

"If I'm able to get someone back [in a trade] that would help them make a push for the end of the year, I understand that," Ingles said, with the Jazz fourth in the West.

"I'm not going to sit here and be sour and upset. I've built my eight years here of hard work and in the community and all that stuff, but I'm very well aware of the business side and all that."

He added: "Having an ACL obviously throws a bit of a spanner in the works with some of it, but I have good relationships with the Jazz and the front office and coach [Quin Snyder].

"I've got the best agent [Mark Bartelstein] in the league. It's a very fluid conversation, and we just have open lines of conversation."

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert has tested positive for COVID-19 once again after his diagnosis prompted the NBA to shut down for four months in March last year.

Gobert has entered the league's health and safety protocols and will miss Friday's game against the Toronto Raptors.

The three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year had missed the Jazz's win at the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday for an unspecified illness.

The Jazz said Gobert returned two negative results for two rapid tests on the day of that game but the result of a PCR test returned on Thursday is positive.

Utah, who are 28-10, had managed to avoid having any players enter protocols this season until Joe Inglis entered earlier this week, with Gobert the second Jazz player to test positive.

Rudy Gobert suggested he was willing to take any fights out of the NBA spotlight after a tussle with Myles Turner that saw the two big men ejected.

Utah Jazz center Gobert was involved in a scuffle with Indiana Pacers counterpart Turner on Thursday.

With Jazz team-mates Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles then entering the fray and also getting ejected, the Pacers closed out a 111-110 win.

"I don't think I did anything wrong," Turner said, but Gobert appeared to disagree as he criticised NBA officials for putting him in such situations.

"We know we aren't going to fight," said the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

"Guys need to stop acting like they're going to fight, because they know that in two seconds there's going to be like 20 security guards in between us. Okay, it's cool for the cameras, but they know we aren't going to fight.

"Guys that are not about that life need to stop acting like they are, because at some point I might have to stand up for myself – also if the officials keep doing like they've been doing over this season.

"There are a lot of guys who do way too much s***, and I have to keep my head cool. I do a lot of self-control.

"It's actually funny, because my boxing coach was at the game. That's the only time in a year that he came to the game. That's funny.

"But they teach you how to keep your calm. If I don't feel threatened, I'm not going to throw a punch and get suspended and hurt my team. I didn't feel a threat at all, and I'm not going to fight on a basketball court.

"But if somebody wants to fight, I'm easy to reach, I'm really easy to reach. I'm just not going to do it on social media. If anyone's got a problem, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, easy."

Asked about Mitchell and Ingles also being ejected, Gobert replied with a smile: "I was surprised when I heard it, but then when I watched the video and saw what happened..."

"It's time to start looking like Team USA." That was the approach after a shock opening Olympics loss, Damian Lillard said, and the Games favourites delivered on Wednesday.

France had upset the United States in their first game, following up a 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup quarter-final triumph against the same opponents.

It was a defeat that will ensure doubts remain about Team USA's title aspirations for some time, but they at least got back to winning ways against modest opponents in Iran.

Lillard led the way in Wednesday's stand-out game, scoring 21 points in a dominant 120-66 success.

"I think after our loss to France we had two days between games and everybody just wanted to get back out there and get right," the Portland Trail Blazers guard said. "After that loss, we came together."

Lillard added of the Iran game: "I think we came out with a lot more urgency. Our energy was higher, we played at a faster pace. We were more aggressive, and we played like ourselves.

"We didn't come out here and think that it was just going to happen; we made it happen, and that's the way that we've got to play if we want to be successful in these Olympics."

'WE DON'T NEED HEROES'

Lillard's game-high tally – consisting entirely of seven three-pointers – was still significantly down on the 28.8 he averaged in the 2020-21 NBA regular season.

But that is exactly what coach Gregg Popovich wants from his team, knowing Devin Booker (16 points on Wednesday, 25.6 in the NBA), Jayson Tatum (14, 26.4), Zach LaVine (13, 27.4), Kevin Durant (10, 26.9) and Khris Middleton (10, 20.4) cannot all be the main men.

"Each of these guys scores 20 or 25 or 30 for their teams, and their teams depend on that every night," Popovich said. "We can't play like that, and so we don't.

"They appreciate each other and they know what their team-mates can do. They understand that good basketball is sharing the basketball.

"Everybody's, in a sense, kind of a role player now. We don't need heroes."

FRANCE TAKE TOP SPOT

Les Bleus built on their victory over Team USA and will now top Pool A ahead of the American side thanks to a 97-77 defeat of the Czech Republic.

France trailed 28-22 through the first quarter but turned the game around with a dominant second, settled 29-12 in their favour.

As against the United States, Evan Fournier topped the scoring charts, weighing in with 21 points on 62 per cent shooting.

BOOMERS BIGS WIN BATTLE

Australia also have two wins from two after edging Italy 86-83 on Wednesday, led by the frontcourt contributions of Jock Landale and Aron Baynes.

Landale led the Boomers with 18 points, but the pair crucially also finished with seven rebounds and a block apiece. Between them, they accounted for nine of the team's 16 vital offensive rebounds – Nick Kay added another four from the bench.

"Our bigs were huge today," said Utah Jazz wing Joe Ingles. "The rebounds, tip-outs – they got us a ton of extra possessions."

Elsewhere in Pool B, Nigeria's pre-tournament optimism might have given way after a second straight defeat that gives them a mountain to climb.

D'Tigers beat Team USA and Argentina in exhibitions but lost to Australia and then, on Wednesday, Germany – a 99-92 reverse despite 33 points from Jordan Nwora, fresh from playing a fringe role in the Milwaukee Bucks' run to the NBA title, including one minute and three points in the Finals.

Joe Ingles is coming off the sort of disappointment with the Utah Jazz that perhaps only an Olympic medal could soothe.

Ingles, runner-up for the NBA's Sixth Man Award in the 2020-21 season, could not prevent the top-seeded Jazz losing to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round of the playoffs.

He scored 19 points in three successive games against the Clippers but twice in a losing cause, meaning a season that he packed with career-bests ended on a painful note.

Ingles is now chasing gold with Australia at Tokyo 2020, with an opening game against Nigeria scheduled for Sunday.

Australia have never won an Olympic medal in men's basketball, finishing fourth on four occasions, most recently at Rio 2016. 

They were also fourth at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, but Ingles says the time has come to get hold of a medal.

Gold is the obvious target, and when Ingles was asked whether silver or bronze would be a disappointment, his verdict was that anything but top step on the podium would feel like a letdown, at least initially.

"In the moment, yeah; in the long run, no," he said. "We don't talk about anything else – there's one goal in mind and that's to win a gold medal in Tokyo.

"If we wait and look 10 years down the track we'll think different but we're here to make history."

Australia's women have fared better on the big stage, winning three Olympic silvers and two bronze medals.

 

Ingles had an NBA career-best 34 points against the Washington Wizards in March, while in January he passed John Stockton to set a new Jazz record for the most three-pointers in a career with the franchise. Stockton made 845 and Ingles is now on 993.

He set career highs in field-goal percentage (48.9 per cent), three-point success rate (45.1 per cent) and free-throw hit rate (84.4 per cent) in the regular season, along with a points-per-game average of 12.1 that matched his 2018-19 best.

Now the 33-year-old small forward heads into his fourth Olympics seeking that elusive medal, and a familiar face in Brian Goorjian is leading the team.

Coach Goorjian was in charge of Australia when Ingles made his Games debut in 2008 at Beijing, and he returned to the role in November of last year.

"He's a lot older. We're both a lot older," Ingles said. "So awesome to have him back.

"I was interested to see if there would be any differences in him. He moves a bit slower and his fingers are a bit more busted up but he's the same coach."

Western Conference leaders, the Utah Jazz, bounced back from their first loss in 10 games by draining a franchise-record 28 threes while crushing the Charlotte Hornets 132-110.

Donovan Mitchell top scored with 23 points, while three players – Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson and Georges Niang – came off the bench to post 20 points or more to send the Jazz to 25-6.

Ingles and Niang each shot seven from downtown, while Clarkson added five. 

Utah became the fastest team in NBA history to record 500 three-pointers in a season, setting the record at 31 games.

The Brooklyn Nets shared the load in a high-scoring 147-125 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA.

Playing without star Kevin Durant (Achilles), the Nets extended their winning streak to four games on Friday after nine players had double-digit points.

According to Stats Perform, it was just the second time in team history the Nets had nine such players (against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1984) as James Harden led the way with a triple-double of 25 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Harden became the second Net in the last 25 years with three triple-doubles in a season, while Irving put up 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds on the road.

It was also the second time this season the Nets have scored 145-plus points in a non-overtime game. No other NBA team have achieved it even once this season, and Brooklyn had just one such game in team history entering this season – 147 in 1982.

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles surpassed John Stockton for the most three-pointers made (846) in franchise history in a 120-101 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Ingles was two-of-four from three-point range for 10 points as the Jazz made it 11 consecutive victories to own the NBA's best record at 15-4.

Utah have made 319 three-pointers through 19 games this season – the most ever by any team after 19 fixtures.

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz with a game-high 22 points, while Rudy Gobert added 17 points and 12 rebounds.

 

Young puts on a show as Embiid stars

Trae Young dazzled with 41 points as the Atlanta Hawks took down the struggling Washington Wizards 116-100.

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers accounted for the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves 118-94 behind Joel Embiid's 37 points and 11 rebounds from just 27 minutes of action.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 38 points and 11 rebounds but the Milwaukee Bucks were beaten 131-126 by the New Orleans Pelicans. Lonzo Ball recorded a season-high 27 points.

Nikola Jokic has registered 19 consecutive double-doubles to start the season. Since 1976, Jokic and Antetokounmpo (19 in a row in 2019-20) are tied with the second-most double-doubles to open a campaign, trailing only Bill Walton (34 straight). Jokic had 35 points and 10 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 119-109 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Kawhi Leonard (24) and Paul George (26) combined for 50 points in their return for the Los Angeles Clippers, who defeated the Orlando Magic 116-90.

 

Nance struggles as Cavs crumble

It was not a good day for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were swept aside 102-81 by the New York Knicks. Larry Nance Jr. finished with just two points in 29 minutes after going one-of-nine from the field, while missing all five of his three-point attempts. Taurean Prince – part of the deal that helped the Nets acquire former MVP Harden from the Houston Rockets – was one-of-seven from the field for three points.

 

DeRozan with the Euro step

DeMar DeRozan posted 30 points and 10 assists on 11-of-14 shooting from the field. The Spurs star also Euro-stepped to the rim for a fine basket against the Nuggets.

 

Friday's results

Charlotte Hornets 108-105 Indiana Pacers
Atlanta Hawks 116-100 Washington Wizards
New York Knicks 102-81 Cleveland Cavaliers
Sacramento Kings 126-124 Toronto Raptors
New Orleans Pelicans 131-126 Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Clippers 116-90 Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers 118-94 Minnesota Timberwolves
Brooklyn Nets 147-125 Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs 119-109 Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz 120-101 Dallas Mavericks

 

Lakers at Celtics

Following back-to-back defeats on the road, defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (14-6) will look to return to winning ways when they visit the Boston Celtics (10-7) on Saturday.

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