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Updated Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 6:45 a.m. ET

For three minutes and eight seconds, Smoothie King Center turned into Zion Williamson's playground. The rookie's burst in the fourth quarter saw him give the New Orleans Pelicans' fans everything they wanted to see and more. Williamson scored 17 consecutive points during a stretch that electrified the crowd and helped turn a double-digit deficit into a brief Pelicans lead before he headed to the bench for the last time with 5:23 remaining.

In those final minutes, the San Antonio Spurs gained control and won 121-117, but the story of the night was Williamson, who was making his NBA debut. He started his run with a wide-open 3-pointer. Then he caught a lob over LaMarcus Aldridge for a layup. He followed that with another 3-pointer, a putback layup and two more 3-pointers, the last of which came while Aldridge was guarding him and gave the Pelicans a 107-106 lead.

When Williamson checked out at the 5:23 mark, he wasn't happy. Neither were the fans. Minutes later, while Brandon Ingram was shooting free throws, the crowd was chanting, "We want Zion."

Williamson scored 22 points in 18 minutes in his first game Wednesday, a 121-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. He shot 8-for-11 from the field (including 4-for-4 from 3) and added 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 turnovers. If Williamson keeps up that type of production, the Rookie of the Year race could get interesting, but with Williamson having missed 44 games and Ja Morant lifting the Memphis Grizzlies to playoff contention with his play in the first half of the season, the award is most likely out of reach for the No. 1 pick.

For everything that was happening Wednesday, the Pelicans did their best to treat things just like any other regular-season night. Except it wasn't. The 165 credentialed media members, the red T-shirts on every chair, the massive amount of fans before tipoff -- that was unlike any other basketball game for this team. So as much as Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin wanted everyone to believe that it was just another game the team needed to win, the magnitude of the evening couldn't escape him.

Despite recent rumors and speculation with the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline quickly approaching, Rosas insists that Towns, 24, is Minnesota's franchise guy for now and the future. "Karl-Anthony Towns is as untouchable as they come," Rosas told ESPN. "He's the best player on our team and he's the guy we're building around. Everything we do is to help him become the best player and to help us become the best team we can be. He's a special talent that we're going to do anything possible to help him achieve his highest potential."

Israel: Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv bolstered its frontcourt by inking power forward Amare Stoudemire for the remainder of the season, the club announced Wednesday. Stoudemire (2.08 meters, 37 years old) arrives from Fujian Sturgeons of China, where he averaged 19.4 points and 8.3 rebounds in 11 games this season. He played the previous two seasons for Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem, helping it win the Israeli League title and reach the 7DAYS EuroCup Semifinals in 2017.


Mavericks center Dwight Powell suffered a right Achilles injury in the first quarter of Tuesday night's game against the LA Clippers, collapsing to the ground without contact. The Mavs announced minutes later that Powell would not return to the game. A torn Achilles probably would sideline Powell for the rest of the season.

Just a city block and an avenue away from the Olympic Tower office where he had peered out over a metropolis, if not the entire world, dreaming up ways to grow the sport of basketball, the life of former NBA commissioner David Stern was celebrated Tuesday. A crowd of thousands filled the lower bowl at Radio City Music Hall, as people from all corners of the sport -- players and coaches, referees and agents, public relations staffers and journalists, family and friends, league executives and team employees, Hall of Famers and the entire current New York Knicks roster -- gathered to honor Stern's 30-year tenure running the NBA.

To see the regular season debut of rookie superstar Zion Williamson with the New Orleans Pelicans it won't cost you much more than a movie ticket (before taxes and fees). As of Tuesday night, tickets for the San Antonio Spurs vs. the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center started around $20 via resellers StubHub, Ticketmaster and SeatGeek. Of course, if you want an up-close-and-personal glimpse of the No. 1 overall draft pick, you can purchase tickets for upward of $1,000/each. Times Picayune


In the next week or so, Jim Boylen expects those roster conversations he has with his front office to get tougher. The Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline is only getting closer, and the Bulls coach has been around long enough to know the business of basketball isn’t always pleasant. Boylen, however, surprisingly insisted that he wants the current band to stay intact. “Yeah, absolutely,’’ Boylen said, when asked if he was hoping the front office would stay the course with this group. “I’ve said before we have a hard-working, high-character group of guys and guys who are willing to be coached and willing to work. That’s a credit to them. Those are things I think are important.’’ Chicago Sun-Times

There was some concern about Marvin Bagley after he left Saturday’s loss to the Utah Jazz in the final minutes with an apparent injury to his left foot. Bagley recently returned after missing eight games with a sprained left foot. Kings coach Luke Walton said Bagley felt fine when he woke up Sunday morning and the team’s training staff determined he was “all good” going into Monday’s game. Sacramento Bee

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is being held out of Monday's matinee against the Philadelphia 76ers in the hope that resting his tight right hamstring will prevent another extended absence. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said that Irving first presented with the hamstring symptoms on Sunday. He underwent treatment to try to loosen the hamstring, Atkinson said. When Irving was still tight on Monday, the Nets quickly pulled him from the lineup.

When asked if Irving hurt himself during pregame warmups, Atkinson acknowledged it’s an issue the All-Star guard had been dealing with for a few days. “No, we looked at him (Sunday),” Atkinson said. “We knew there were some issues and then we tested it again (Monday) morning and decided collectively to not play (against Philadelphia).” NY Post

The Miami Heat found themselves having to do it the hard way Monday against the Sacramento Kings at AmericanAirlines Arena, with forward Jimmy Butler sidelined due to what the team termed "right hip soreness." The team announced the absence less than two hours prior to tipoff, saying there was no specific incident that could be cited during Sunday's road loss to the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Sun Sentinel

Rockets guard Austin Rivers warmed up on Monday in hopes of returning from his sprained right thumb but was held out for a second consecutive game since trying to hide the injury last week. “I’m playing Wednesday,” Rivers said. “I tried to play (Monday) but the trainers didn’t want that. The medical staff thought it would be smart, best if I waited one more day. I’m disappointed." Houston Chronicle

Thunder center Nerlens Noel is dealing with an ankle injury again. Noel (left ankle soreness) will miss the Thunder's game at Houston Monday, the Thunder announced before tip-off. Oklahoman

Bradley Beal finished with 29 points and passed Wes Unseld to become Washington’s fourth all-time leading scorer. He now has 10,653 points in his career, trailing only Elvin Hayes, Jeff Malone and John Wall (in that order) in Washington. Last week, Beal took the Wizards to task for not having a “winning attitude” following the team’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. On Monday, the 25-year-old led the pregame huddle outside the locker room, emphasizing a “just win” message. After the speech, the Wizards raced out to the floor for warmups, with Beal sprinting out of the tunnel last. Washington Times

Bulls coach Jim Boylen went back to his “Death Lineup’’ late in the first half against Milwaukee, rolling LaVine, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison out on the floor. The Bulls were up one with 5:40 left in the half, and by the time both teams went into the locker room they were only down one, so call it a wash. Boylen used that small lineup in the fourth-quarter comeback against Cleveland, and obviously wants to see it more often. It gives him a defensive presence with Dunn and Hutchison, and also forces Markkanen to play the five, which he struggled doing early on this season when given the opportunity. Chicago Sun-Times


One last clarification on the imminent addition of Trevor Ariza and his impact on trades and the Trail Blazers' salary cap: Though the contract counts only as the current guaranteed amount of $1.8 million, the salary protection can be adjusted upward to any amount up to the full contract number of $12.8 million to make a trade work. So based on the 175 percent range to make a trade work, the contract can still bring back significantly more salary than the Trail Blazers would send out, making it very favorable to the other team. NBC Sports Northwest

For all of the promising games Frank Ntilikina has turned in this season, Saturday’s loss to the 76ers was one of his more pedestrian. The Knicks point guard finished with just five points (on 2 of 8 shooting), three rebounds, two turnovers and no assists while playing 16:30 in the 90-87 loss at the Garden. Ntilikina was playing his second game after missing a pair of games with a sore groin. Interim coach Mike Miller indicated the layoff might have been a factor. NY Post

Dennis Smith Jr. (strained oblique) will miss his 13th straight game on Monday against the Cavaliers, but the Knicks could know more about his status by Tuesday after he is reevaluated by the medical staff. “He is progressing well,” Miller said. “He has been practicing some. With games every day, we haven’t practiced anything steady. So he’s been able to get some practices in, but not a lot of contact and not much full court.” NY Post

All-Star Game voting ends Monday, and Jokic is in all likelihood headed to next month’s showcase in Chicago. But the Nuggets, now 29-13, didn’t offer him much help Sunday. Will Barton and Jerami Grant were their two other primary sources of offense, and neither one could connect from outside. Denver shot just 3-for-23 from 3-point range. The loss snapped Denver’s three-game winning streak heading into a three-game road trip that begins Monday night at Minnesota. Denver Post

The Portland Trail Blazers have completed the two-way transfer of center Moses Brown from the Texas Legends to Portland, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.


First, don’t think the Hawks and Pistons are finished discussing a potential Drummond trade. The Pistons are obviously motivated to find a deal, and the Hawks have shown interest – just like other clubs. With the Feb. 6 trade deadline less than three weeks away, expect to hear more rumors and more posturing. What else can be gleaned? The willingness to trade Drummond shows the Pistons view themselves as likely sellers before the trade deadline. Detroit Free Press

The Kings have some important roster decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead. They made their first move Saturday, reaching a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers to obtain expiring contracts, future assets and an open roster spot that could be utilized in a subsequent move before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. A league source told The Sacramento Bee the Kings had agreed to send Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan to Portland in exchange for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round draft picks. The trade cannot be finalized until Gabriel is eligible to be traded on Tuesday, which left the Kings shorthanded as they opened a five-game road trip with a 123-101 loss to the Utah Jazz on Saturday. Sacramento Bee

Kuzma was the principle defender on Westbrook for 26 possessions Saturday -- with 25 of those coming in the second half, according to Second Spectrum data. When Kuzma guarded Westbrook, the Rockets' offense averaged 92.3 points per 100 possessions. When anyone else was on Westbrook, that number spiked to 101.9 points per 100 possessions. "Rondo kind of pulled me to the side at halftime in the locker room and just asked me if I could guard him, and I said, 'Of course,'" Kuzma said. "Westbrook was really hurting us in the first half, posting up our guards, and he's just tough, he's a tough load. He's a big, strong, physical guard. In the second half, that kind of got eliminated, putting a bigger body on him."

Houston hit a low point with its 124-115 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night, when LeBron James was showered with MVP chants in the Rockets' home arena. It was Houston's third consecutive loss and fourth in five games, the 26-15 Rockets' worst stretch of the season, causing them to slide to sixth place in the Western Conference midway through what they believed could be a championship campaign. "We've got to stay positive, man," said Westbrook, who had 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the loss. "Like I said the other day, in adversity, whatcha gonna do? Gotta look at yourself, stay locked in. It's a part of the season, man. It happens, but now, as a unit, as a team, we've got to stick together and figure out the best way to put our best foot forward."

Zach LaVine lauded the Bulls’ new-look closing lineup of he, Dunn, Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison and Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls ventured to switch pick-and-rolls with that lineup late, as opposed to their usual blitzing, and outscored the Cavaliers 31-14 in the final period while forcing 10 turnovers. “We made a lot of defensive stops, we got in transition. Chandler [Hutchison] came in and made some really big plays. Kris Dunn on the defensive end was incredible,” LaVine said. “And that helped me even recently get in some passing lanes. We put it together in the fourth.” NBC Sports Chicago

"All these other idiots who don't play basketball and never played basketball, when they say you wanna judge a guy's greatness by number of championships ... they're idiots." It's safe to say Robert Horry is fed up with NBA fans using rings instead of common sense in debates ... telling TMZ Sports titles don't mean a damn thing when talkin' G.O.A.T.s. "Here's the thing that people are so stupid about. They measure great players by how many championships they win. It's the stupidest thing," Big Shot Bob told us at the California Strong charity softball game on Sunday.


The Portland Trail Blazers are uncertain about the severity of the left ankle sprain that forced shooting guard CJ McCollum to exit Friday night's 120-112 loss to the Dallas Mavericks early in the second quarter. "Usually, the second day is the worst," McCollum said. "So we'll see how it feels tomorrow. Get some treatment, try to compress it and see how it feels."

By time the first quarter was over, the Mavericks had used a 26-14 run to erase the Blazers' lead and take their own one-point advantage into the intermission. But the far more pressing issue was the loss of CJ McCollum, who rolled his left ankle at the 4:37 mark of the quarter. McCollum hobbled to the locker room on his own, though he did not return. "It's tough, injuries are a part of the game obviously," said McCollum. "It's unfortunate that I was next up on the list, but just got to try to battle, fight through it, next man up."

Even as recently as September, the Chris Paul-to-Miami talks were said to be simmering, with the Heat still interested. Ahead of the season, the Heat were tempted by the idea of adding Paul to pair with Butler, but not at the expense of their emerging young talent such as power forward Bam Adebayo or lottery rookie shooting guard Tyler Herro. But they also could see where the season took them before acting impulsively on a deal. If it went bad, they could revisit and the Thunder would listen. Miami was 13-5 entering December, boosted by the revelation of former G League player Kendrick Nunn, by former All-Star Goran Dragic surging as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, by youngsters Adebayo, Herro and starting shooting guard Duncan Robinson energizing the roster.

Markkanen admitted he and his teammates try to stay away from talking about their lack of success against winning teams. “We know that, but we don’t [discuss it],” he said. “But we acknowledge that it’s there. I think it’s good motivation for players going forward.” The problems is that days are dropping off the calendar quickly, and the Feb. 6 trade deadline is now in sight. If the Bulls feel they can’t compete for a playoff spot — even in the shaky Eastern Conference — then Thaddeus Young, Denzel Valentine and possibly even Kris Dunn could be trade candidates. Chicago Sun-Times

The Bulls (15-28) and Cavaliers (12-29) will face off Saturday night in Chicago, both teams on the second night of back-to-backs. But already unideal circumstances just got a bit more adverse for both teams. Per the Bulls, their team flight from Philadelphia — where the team just suffered a 100-89 loss to the 76ers — and the Cavaliers' flight from Memphis — where the Cavs currently battling the Grizzlies — have both been delayed overnight. Both teams plan to fly into Chicago on Saturday. NBC Sports Chicago

With it, the Spurs (17-23) remained in ninth place in the Western Conference, trailing red-hot Memphis. “That’s on us. Strictly on us,” said DeRozan, who finished with 25 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. “We can’t be mad at nobody else.” Indeed, the Spurs left the AT&T Center on Friday with a loss they almost certainly will live to regret. Express News

Marc Gasol, himself just back in his second game since a 12-game absence had a season-best 20 points, including a career-high six three pointers in seven attempts. According to head coach Nick Nurse, Gasol put a lot of time in working on his shot while he was nursing his hamstring injury. “Marc went to work on his shooting mechanics and stuff while he was out,” Nurse said. “He did a lot of standstill, form shooting, but he did go to work on it, spent a lot of time doing it. It was an opportunity for him to try to do that with all time off, so give him credit. He’s reaping some of the rewards of that, I think.” Gasol wasn’t much more forthcoming about the changes he made. He did suggest that looking at the basket played into it, but it was hard to tell if he was kidding. Toronto Sun


Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving said he has spoken to teammates about comments in which he listed the players he saw as being a part of the team's future. "I reached out to make sure nothing was taken out of context -- making sure that the guys knew exactly what I meant," Irving said on Friday after practice. "And that is the only thing that matters. Everyone can say, if I was in this position, 'I would've said this, I would've done this.' They have have no idea because they've never been at this level, so how could you even comment on it?"

Teague wasn’t bad that first year, nor were the Wolves. They, too, won 47 games and made the playoffs — with Teague’s dutiful work in 70 games serving as the heartbeat of a joyless march back to the playoffs finally for the Wolves and again for Teague, who had never missed the postseason in his career at that point. But if the fit problem was perception and Rubio comparisons that first year, it all fell apart in Year 2. Butler, the player he said he came to join, abandoned the Wolves early last season in Marbury-like fashion. Thibodeau, the coach/GM who picked Teague to run his team, was fired midyear. Ryan Saunders, with a new style and a new emphasis, took over as interim coach. Star Tribune

"It's kind of hard because in the NBA, the way it's built, they want you to flop," Antetokounmpo said of playing physically. "It wants you to be weak, kind of, because sometimes I think when you're strong and you're going through contact, they don't call the foul. But when you're flopping and kind of going into the contact and throwing the ball out, they're just going to call foul, but that's not who I am, that's not what I'm gonna do. "I'm just gonna try to power through contact. It's going to be ... where if a guy grabs me or pushes me, I've got to show it more, but I think I've done a better job of showing it more so the refs can see that the guys are holding me, pushing me and just being physical."

Lonzo Ball knew just how to celebrate his friend and teammate's big night. Brandon Ingram was still on the court, doing his postgame television interview after pouring in a career-high 49 points and helping the New Orleans Pelicans end the Utah Jazz's 10-game winning streak with a wild 138-132 victory on Thursday. So Ball made sure every player in the locker room had a bottle of water. Most grabbed two. When Ingram walked in, the Pelicans did their best to stay calm before dousing the 22-year-old with water from every direction. Televisions, lockers, the floor -- everything was soaked.

Two-time Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion Rudy Fernandez and Real Madrid will stay together until 2022 under terms of a new contract that the club announced on Friday. Fernandez (1.96 meters, 34 years old) is playing in his ninth EuroLeague season with Real, averaging 8.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 18 games so far. He was voted by fans and media to the All-EuroLeague First Team in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and to the second team the following season, when he and Real won the first of their two continental titles this decade.

Booker is holding up his end of the bargain as usual, but Ayton’s suspension and a dropoff from Rubio in recent weeks haven’t allowed all three of them to sync up in the same game since the season opener. The trio finally did so on Thursday night in New York, combining for 80 of the Suns’ points in a 121-98 victory over the Knicks. Ayton had his third strong game in a row, primarily in the first half, where he played his best basketball of the season and arguably his career. He was back in the starting lineup over Baynes and had his first career 20-20 game, posting 26 points and 21 rebounds to go with two assists and two blocks. Arizona Sports


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