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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Basketball

Watch: Nikola Jokic sinks Mavericks with buzzer-beater

Nikola Jokic

Nikola Jokic was quiet for much of the Denver Nuggets’ game against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, but he got it going when it mattered most.

After failing to make a field goal in the first three quarters, Jokic came on strong in the fourth quarter. He made four buckets over the final 6:29, including this one at the buzzer to win the game:

Denver won 100-99 to improve to 45-22. The shot by Jokic also helped erase some bad feelings from a dunk by Luka Doncic on the previous possession that gave Dallas the lead.

Jokic had 11 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists in the game.

Clippers’ Beverley thanks Lakers for trading them Ivica Zubac

The Los Angeles Lakers’ trade of Ivica Zubac was one of the more minor, overlooked deals prior to the NBA trade deadline in February, but it’s turned out to be one of the most lopsided deals of the season.

The 21-year-old big man was dealt with Michael Beasley from the Lakers to the Clippers for Mike Muscala on Feb. 7.

Zubac went from having a limited role much of the year with the Lakers to being a starter with the Clippers. He’s playing 20.3 minutes per game, averaging 9.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest. The Clippers have gone an impressive 9-4 with him in the lineup, benefiting from his interior defense.

Contrarily, Muscala has averaged just 2.8 points on 9.3 minutes in eight games for the Lakers.

“I didn’t know Zu was that good until he came over here,” Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said of Zubac, via The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. “We thank the Lakers. We appreciate it.”

The Lakers figured they would be losing Zubac in the offseason anyway, which is why they wanted to get something for him. But the move backfired because he’s shown with the Clippers how effective he can be, while Muscala has done nothing for the Lakers. The Lakers have also seen their season tank since the deadline while the Clippers keep on winning.

What a steal by the Clippers.

Zion Williamson responds to those who said he should have shut it down

Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson responded on Thursday to those who said he should have shut things down and just prepared for the NBA.

Williamson returned to action for the first time since he suffered a knee injury in the first minute against North Carolina on Feb. 20. He went 13/13 from the field, scoring 29 points with 14 rebounds to lead Duke to an 84-72 win over Syracuse in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.

In his postgame interview with ESPN’s Allison Williams, Zion wanted to make clear why he returned to the Blue Devils.

“I love this game. I love my teammates. Some people thought I wasn’t going to return. They weren’t smart; I love playing with Duke. I love playing with my teammates, and it’s great to be back,” Williamson told Williams.

As for the people who said he should have shut it down and prepared for the NBA instead, Zion respects their opinion.

“They are entitled to their own opinion. I appreciate the input, but I couldn’t leave my boys hanging.”

He also said his knee felt “incredible.”

One of the loudest voices calling for him to shut it down was Scottie Pippen. Williamson rejected that advice back in January, even before his injury. Hearing someone who says he loves to play and wanted to be there for his teammates is refreshing. The guy has incredible character, is a wonderful leader, and on top of that, just so happens to be amazingly talented.

Watch: Zion Williamson shows he’s back with huge steal and dunk

Zion Williamson dunk

Zion Williamson needed just two minutes to prove he is back.

Williamson got a steal and threw down a huge dunk for Duke’s second basket of their ACC Tournament quarterfinal game against Syracuse on Thursday night.

Williamson was playing in his first game since injuring his knee during a shoe blowout in the first minute of Duke’s loss to North Carolina on Feb. 20. He sat out the final five games of the regular season before returning, though he’s now wearing a different type of shoe.

The speed and power he showed on that play seems to indicate he hasn’t lost a step.

NBA asking teams to create PSAs for fans on civil behavior

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook’s incident with a fan in Utah this week is having an impact on the league.

The NBA sent a memo to its clubs asking them to create a PSA to stress the importance of respect and civility in fan behavior, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

This comes after Westbrook was shown on video cursing at and threatening a Jazz fan late in Oklahoma City’s win over the Jazz in Utah on Monday. Westbrook says the fan was disrespectful and shouted something sexually suggestive at him, a comment he also felt had a racial component.

The fan was permanently banned by the Jazz, while Westbrook was fined $25,000 by the league.

While taunting opponents is part of the game, fans need to know what the line is and not to cross into disrespectful or uncivil territory.

James Dolan threw fan out of concert for telling him to sell Knicks

James Dolan

New York Knicks owner James Dolan is known for being very sensitive about fans criticizing him or the team during home games at Madison Square Garden, but apparently he doesn’t want to hear it at music events, either.

Dolan’s latest exchange with a Knicks critic came over the weekend, when he was shown on camera banning a fan who heckled him by telling him to “sell the team.” He claimed he only banned the fan because he believes the fan’s intentions were to have a premeditated confrontation. A Knicks supporter who called out Dolan in a different setting is not buying the billionaire’s excuse.

In response to the latest example of Dolan being thin-skinned, a man who attended a concert in Tennessee featuring Dolan’s band, JD and The Straight Shot, several months ago shared a video that shows Dolan booting him from the venue because he was holding a sign that read “Quit Your Day Job. Sell the Knicks.”

“Why are you here?” Dolan asked the fan in the middle of the show. “You’re a fan of music and you’re holding up that sign? Don’t you think that’s a little negative?”

Dolan then told the man to leave so “everyone else can have a good time.” Here’s what the sign looked like, for those who are wondering:

The Knicks have been terrible for years. They’re one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, and they traded away their best player in Kristaps Porzingis. Dolan is even feuding with newspapers now in addition to fans, and it’s fair to wonder why he doesn’t sell the team. It would not be a surprise if that happens at some point in the near future.

Report: Several teams would be hesitant about trading for LeBron James

LeBron James

Jeff Van Gundy suggested during a recent broadcast that the Los Angeles Lakers need to consider the possibility of trading LeBron James this summer, and he is not the only one who feels that way. However, finding a team that would give up a king’s ransom of The King might be more difficult than you would think.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report spoke with several NBA team owners and executives about the possibility of LeBron being traded, and the general consensus was that teams would not be willing to give up nearly as much for James now as they would have a year ago.

“At this point, probably not, given where we are,” one Eastern Conference owner said of trading for James. “I wouldn’t want to gut the team for a player that isn’t committed and is toward the end of his career.”

Others said they would add James, but only at the right price.

“Depends on what I’d have to give up,” a Western Conference owner said. “I wouldn’t roll up the truck and give more than one protected first[-round pick].”

Bucher concluded that owners would probably be more willing to acquire James than executives would, which makes sense considering what LeBron can do for business and revenue. As one GM put it, the Lakers being on the verge of missing the playoffs proves that LeBron is “not good enough anymore to take four cadavers and get to the Finals,” at least in the West.

The struggles the Lakers have had this year are only part of it. LeBron is also 34, and he missed 17 games due to a groin injury. He has essentially been the ultimate iron man throughout his career, so some wonder if the amount of minutes and postseason games he has appeared in are finally taking a toll.

It would be a shock if the Lakers traded LeBron. They obviously have some issues to tackle with certain players on their roster this summer, but they can’t abandon their plan after one season. The idea is to put the pieces around LeBron to contend for a championship again. That said, the reaction from some owners and executives to the suggestion that James should be traded says a lot about the difference a year can make.