Donovan Mitchell facing increased pressure this season


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The Jazz have gone in the wrong direction so far this season. At just 17-19 they have just the 12th best record in the Western conference. But now here’s the good news: it’s a crowded conference, with lots of teams boasting similar records. They’re only 2.5 games behind the 8-seed Kings, and only 6 games behind the 1-seed Nuggets. There’s plenty of time for them to rise. As for young star Donovan Mitchell, here’s the Salt Lake Tribune reporting:

Once people saw what Mitchell was capable of, they asked for growth — even despite a foot injury that severely hampered what he was able to do this summer. And once NBA opponents saw how Mitchell propelled the Jazz to great heights, they changed their game plans to stop him.

The result has been an inconsistent second season in which Mitchell’s numbers have taken a small step back from the heights of his rookie year. He’s still averaging just over 20 points per game, but taking an extra shot in order to get there. The rebounds, the assists, the 3-point shooting, and the turnovers are all about five percent worse than last season.

By any reasonable standard, Mitchell’s sophomore season has been impressive: second-year players who carry their teams offensively are a rarity in the NBA for good reason. And yet, that rookie season in which he put his stamp on the franchise, the city, even the league itself holds Mitchell to a higher plane.

As for the team as a whole, they remain one of the league’s best defensive teams. But the offense has a lot of work to do.

No Paul George for Thunder tonight vs Suns

At 9 p.m. tonight, the OKC Thunder face the Suns in Phoenix. But they’ll be doing so without not just one of their best players, but one of the league’s best players so far this season. Here’s the Oklahoman reporting:

For the first time this season, the Thunder will be without Paul George.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan announced Friday morning that George would miss tonight’s game against the Suns with a right quad contusion. Donovan was uncertain of when George sustained the injury, but said it was an ailment George has been playing with for some time.

George is having a fantastic season, and was especially excellent in December games.

The Suns have one of the league’s worst records, but Devin Booker recently returned from injury and during almost all games played in his return the team has looked far better. Phoenix has won five of their last seven games.

Bulls sign Brandon Sampson, waive Tyler Ulis

The Chicago Bulls today signed Brandon Sampson to a Two-Way contract. This just after the team waived Two-Way player Tyler Ulis.

Sampson, a 6-foot-5, 184-pound guard, played three seasons at Louisiana State University, then went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft . This season, he has played in 18 games (18 starts) in the G League for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, averaging 17.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 35.1 minutes per game. In college at LSU, Sampson played in 85 games (40 starts) between 2015-18, averaging 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He scored a career-high 24 points twice in the 2016-17 season.

A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Louisiana in 2015.

Sampson on the Bulls will wear jersey No. 44.

Thunder waive two-way player Tyler Davis

The Oklahoma City Thunder has waived two-way player Tyler Davis today.

Davis, a 6-foot-10, 266-pound center born in Plano, Texas and played college basketball at Texas A&M, played just one minute in one game for the Thunder this season. As a two-way player he naturally spent most of his time with the Oklahoma City Blue in the G League, where in 15 games (eight starts) he averaged 17.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.87 blocks in 26.7 minutes per game.

The Thunder are 21-12 this season, which through yesterday’s games is the third best record in a very tight Western conference. The team is off tonight, but tomorrow heads to Phoenix to play a Suns team that lately is playing much better basketball than they were earlier in the season.

Pistons injury updates on Glenn Robinson III and Ish Smith

Detroit Pistons injury updates on Glenn Robinson III (left ankle sprain) and Ish Smith (right adductor tear).

Glenn Robinson III has resumed basketball activity and is advancing on-court work this week with the goal to be ready for a return to action sometime during the club’s upcoming four-game road trip. That trip begins Friday at Indiana.

Ish Smith’s rehabilitation from an adductor tear has progressed to limited on-court basketball activities including strength work, light running and light shooting. His progression will continue to be monitored over the next 2-3 weeks with a gradual load increase and escalation towards full basketball related activity.

Clippers set a three-point shooting record in loss to Warriors


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The Warriors are so good that you can literally set a shooting record against them and still lose. It was a close game, though. Here’s the O.C. Register reporting on an impressive Clippers performance, even if it resulted in an L:

After Sunday’s 129-127 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Clippers forward Tobias Harris joked with reporters in Oakland that he knew he and his teammates were going to have a spectacular shooting night.

“Oh, I definitely felt it, right before the game,” Harris said with a chuckle.

Once the game began, the Clippers definitely were feeling it: They shot 78.3 percent (18 for 23) from 3-point range, an NBA record for a team with 15-plus makes or 20-plus attempts in a single game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Their 18 makes from deep — including an NBA-record 13 on 14 tries in the first half — tied a franchise record for second-most in a game.

The Warriors host the Lakers today, while the Clippers on Wednesday will host the Kings.

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On the Dec. 25 Lakers vs. Warriors game

At 8 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN, LeBron James and the Lakers visit Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the Warriors. Here’s the LA Daily News with some thoughts on the matchup:

The timing of the game is intriguing, given that the Lakers are coming off a week hot with James saying he’d like to play alongside Anthony Davis. With rumors earlier in the month that the Lakers were open to trading for Trevor Ariza and other trade talk rumors continually circling the team, even a regular season game can take on a mountain of seemingly high stakes. It has the feeling of an audition — even if that’s not something the Lakers will admit.

For their own part, the Lakers did their best to tamp down the importance of the Warriors’ game. Both Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said it was just another game, and Luke Walton said he thought it was imprudent to start sizing up how the Lakers match up with the Warriors.

“I never like to put too much importance on one game as far as it shows you how close or how far you are,” he said. “They’re a team that can hit 30 threes in a night, doesn’t mean they’re that much better than you, or we can go up there and win. Doesn’t mean now they need to close that gap to us. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

The only Laker who admitted to looking forward to the game more than others was JaVale McGee, who will be receiving his 2018 championship ring before the game.

Tuesday’s NBA Christmas day action begins at 12 p.m. ET with the Knicks hosting the Bucks.

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Austin Rivers signs with Rockets


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The Houston Rockets have signed free agent guard Austin Rivers for the remainder of the season.

Originally drafted 10th overall by New Orleans in the 2012 NBA Draft, the 6-4, 200 Rivers played one season at Duke.

Rivers, now in his 7th NBA season, has played in 437 games (132 starts), averaging 9.3 points, 2.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds in 24.2 minutes per game.

Last season, as a Clipper, Rivers averaged career highs of 15.1 points, 4.0 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.21 steals. He also averaged a career-best 2.2 3-pointers made on 37.8% shooting.

The 26-year-old started this season with Washington prior to being traded to the Suns on Dec. 17.

The Rockets are 17-15 this season and host the OKC Thunder tomorrow.

Kings having most successful season in a long time

Look. Different teams have different expectations. One example are the Spurs, who made the playoffs every season for many years. Then, for another example, let’s look at the Kings, who aren’t in the playoffs very often. And it’ll be tough this year as well, but they’re in the competition. They’re winning more than losing. Here’s the Sacramento Bee reporting:

The Kings (18-15) will have a .500 record on Christmas Day for the first time since the 2004-05 season. They will visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday and play host to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday before returning to Los Angeles to face the Lakers again Sunday.

Sacramento moved into seventh place in the Western Conference, one game behind the Lakers, Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, who were tied for fourth.

“We’re in the race,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

It’s true and it’s remarkable, considering this is a young team — thought to be in the early stages of another rebuild 12 years after its last playoff appearance — that was projected to win fewer than 30 games.

The Kings are being led this season by Buddy Hield (20.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), De’Aaron Fox (18.1 ppg, 7.5 apg), Bogdan Bogdanovic (15.1 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Willie Cauley-Stein (13.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg).

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Grizzlies get much-needed win, beat Lakers

The Grizzlies on Sunday outscored the Lakers by 11 points in the 4th quarter to leave Los Angeles with a 107-99 win. Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. did big things in the win. Here’s the Los Angeles Times reporting:

Jackson finished with 27 points while Marc Gasol and Conley each scored 17 for the Grizzlies.

Lebron James led the Lakers with 22 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Ivica Zubac added 19 points and Brandon Ingram had 20.

Although center JaVale McGee was cleared to play, the Lakers held him out for one more game as he recovers from an illness that eventually became pneumonia. McGee played against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 15 after he began to feel ill, then missed the Lakers’ next three games.

The Lakers are now 19-14 this season, which puts them in a three-way tie for the 4th best record in the Western conference. The Grizzlies are now 17-16, which is the 10th best record in the West — yet they are just 5.5 games out of first place. Because that’s how close the West is this season.

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