Security steps in after Devin Booker, Gorgui Dieng threaten to fight in tunnel after on-court spat
Jason Owens • Yahoo Sports
Devin Booker and Gorgui Dieng were not having it with each other on Tuesday.
The Phoenix Suns guard and Minnesota Timberwolves big man got into it on the court and promised to settle things behind the scenes before security got involved.
The incident started when Dieng hit Booker in the face with an errant elbow while trying to clear out after corralling a loose ball. The blow sent Booker to the floor and led to a staredown from the Suns guard during the break in the action after Dieng was called for a foul.
Players stare each other down after ejections
The two then exchanged words, and Booker shoved Dieng in the face. A scuffle ensued, and both players were ejected.
The two maintained eye contact after being separated as they walked toward their separate tunnels.
Dieng lays out an invitation
Dieng appeared to invite Booker to meet him in the hallway, and Booker seemed ready to oblige, breaking free from his security escort to run toward the tunnel.
Cameras lost sight of both players at that point.
Media in attendance picked up the story from there, reporting that Dieng also escaped his security escort before being restrained again, and that Booker’s security detail eventually restrained him again as well before things calmed down.
Probably best for Booker
As usual, this was an NBA conflict that involved a lot more talking than action. But in this case, both participants seemed ready to go and trade some blows, but got stopped thanks to the efforts of the arena security staff.
That may be the best result for Booker. The tale of the tape is not in his favor.
Booker is by no means a small man, listed at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds. But Dieng, 6-11 and 245 pounds, has a significant advantage on both fronts and likely reach as well.
Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who played with Booker at Kentucky, has his money on his current teammate.
Dieng found his sense of humor after the dust settled, telling The Arizona Republic he wasn’t trying to fight booker, that he wanted “to exchange jerseys with him.” 😂
Not for behind Thompson on the heat scale, though, were coach Steve Kerr and third-string center Jordan Bell.
During a timeout with 5:14 remaining, Kerr and Bell engaged in the kind of squabble rarely seen between a head coach and a player on the far end of the bench.
Both were visibly upset, with Kerr finally walking away. Veterans Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry both went over to Bell, trying to calm the Long Beach native, who was playing in front of family and friends.
Bell was on the court for the final 7:09 of a 130-111 victory. The University of Oregon product, in his second season, jacked up five of the team’s 15 shots in that span, which may or may not have been the cause of the dispute.
Bell bolted from the locker room afterward, declining to answer questions.
Kerr, visibly upset, addressed the matter but kept his comment brief and vague.
“It was a total misinterpretation of something I said,” he said, “and we cleared it up.”
Kerr surely would like to think this is the end of it, as would Bell. And perhaps it is. But there have been questions about Bell’s commitment and habits dating back to at least the middle of his rookie season.
Durant made a point last April, during a late-night flight from Indianapolis to Oakland, to sit with Bell and have a veteran-to-rookie talk. He provided Bell with pointers on professionalism and work habits. Bell listened well enough that he worked his way back into the rotation, regaining the trust of his teammates, in the postseason.
Bell has potential, because he flashed it early in his rookie season. That success, however, may have been the worst possible thing for his development. There have been good moments here and there, but he has never consistently recaptured the best of himself.
This season, he has regressed enough to fall out of the rotation.
Yet there was Durant, and then Curry coming over to talk with Bell after the clearly heated exchange with Kerr.
Durant’s message – “Stay focused on the game” – is one he has previously delivered to Bell.
“We’re all gonna go through times throughout the NBA when we want to speak our minds and vent, and we might be frustrated over some things,” Durant continued. “Coach has been so open in letting guys get that out but also challenging guys as well. It’s a healthy dialogue, and it’s just a healthy relationship between us and Coach. He lets us know what he sees out there and if you have something to say to him back, he’s not going to be afraid to go back at you.
“I think Jordan understands that, at this point, we just want to continue to keep getting better. Coach will always – especially the younger guys in the league – definitely be on them a little bit more because he expects a lot out of them. He sees the potential in him. On Jordan’s side, we just want him to keep playing. That stuff happens, so we’ll move on.”
Curry’s basically echoed those sentiments.
“Just play basketball,” he said was the point his message to Bell. “He has a job to do out there, and not to get distracted. Finish the game strong because that’s what his job is, to be ready whenever he’s out there and play hard. He handled it well and … just moved on from whatever happened.”
The Warriors are evaluating Bell to determine if they want to offer the 2017 second-round draft pick a $1.8 million qualifying offer for next season. He’s not exactly winning his case.
There is time to make up ground, as happened last season. But given the issues that have surfaced thus far, there is legitimate reason to wonder if the Warriors are sold on Bell having a career with them.
Carmelo Anthony’s destiny is to land with LeBron and the Lakers
There’s only one team that Carmelo Anthony can end up on.
The 10-time All Star was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Chicago Bulls on Monday, according to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Woj also reported that Anthony will not play for the Bulls, who are seeking to either find a trade partner to take on Anthony, or will waive him after the trade deadline.
One name jumped out early, and is truly the only possible destination for Anthony: The Los Angeles Lakers.
The move makes sense on paper – the Lakers need more scoring, and they need veteran help if they’re going to try and do anything in the Western Conference playoffs.
“The Los Angeles Lakers have an interest in Anthony but have no plans to waive a player to create an available roster spot for him, league sources said. If a roster spot becomes available with the Lakers before or after the trade deadline, they’ll be a possible destination for Anthony, league sources said.”
It also makes a lot of sense for Carmelo Anthony. As I wrote this morning, Anthony has struggled to adapt to this stage of his career because it’s been very hard for him to accept a secondary role with a team. In Oklahoma City and then Houston, Anthony struggled to mold his game to fit with the pieces around him.
Not lucky enough to be with a team that will build a roster that complements him, Anthony was forced to become a complement. He didn’t want it. He resisted the calls for him to be an overqualified spot-up shooter or develop into a post facilitator. He wanted to be the guy when he was on the floor, and for teams that had Russell Westbrook and James Harden, respectively, that just didn’t make a lot of sense.
So Anthony needs to find a team where he actually won’t mind deferring to the star. And there’s only one star alive who Anthony might defer to: LeBron James.
Friends, rivals, Team USA teammates, James and Anthony have been bound together since they were both taken in the 2003 NBA Draft. (Anthony was selected third because Darko Milicic was taken ahead of him, something that still tickles me to this day.)
They know each other, know the game of each, and have actually found ways to thrive next to each other, especially on Team USA, with Anthony taking on the role of scorer and James working off him as a ballhandler and facilitator.
Unlike Anthony, James has found ways to change his game up, developing more of a three-point shot, refining his post game, doing all the small things well to become the most complete player of his generation. Anthony still does basically what he does – gets to the top of the block, dribble a couple times, score buckets. In Los Angeles he’ll be allowed to do that, a bit, but the hope there is that LeBron will inspire him to add that corner 3 to his game.
If Anthony can accept a role off LeBron as a glorified spot-up shooter, something Chris Bosh eventually figured out in Miami to devastating effect, that could be huge for the Lakers, and allow Anthony to extend his NBA career by a few years at least.
The team makes sense. The role makes sense. The players make sense. Carmelo should be on the Lakers. And the stakes are only so high, because the Warriors are going to win everything anyway.
LOS ANGELES — The down-on-their-luck Los Angeles Lakers appear to finally have some help on the way, with Rajon Rondo set to return to the lineup this week.
“I think Rondo will play Thursday as long as he continues to move with no setbacks until then, but that will be something that we’ll keep pushing him and we’ll re-evaluate each morning,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said following his team’s 130-111 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
Rondo has missed the Lakers’ past 14 games while recovering from surgery to repair a ligament in his right ring finger.
George, Westbrook lead Thunder past Trail Blazers 123-114
OKLAHOMA CITY — Paul George had 36 points and eight rebounds, Russell Westbrook had a triple-double of 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 123-114 on Tuesday night.
Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson each added 14 points for Oklahoma City, which snapped a three-game losing streak to Portland at Chesapeake Energy Arena. After a stretch of losing five of six games, the Thunder have won three straight and moved back into third place in the fluid Western Conference standings.
Damian Lillard had 34 points and eight assists, and C.J. McCollum scored 31 for Portland, which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Jusuf Nurkic had 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Except for McCollum, who went 7 of 12 from 3-point range, the Trail Blazers struggled from behind the arc, going 10 for 36. Oklahoma City hit 11 of 23 3-point attempts.
RAPTORS 120, KINGS 105
TORONTO — Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet each scored 19 points, Pascal Siakam had 18 and Toronto beat Sacramento.
Serge Ibaka had 15 points and 10 rebounds as the Raptors extended their home winning streak to 10 games. Toronto’s franchise record for consecutive home wins is 12.
C.J. Miles scored a season-high 15 points and Norm Powell added 11 as Toronto overcame the absence of Kawhi Leonard (rest) to win for the eighth time in nine games.
Leonard missed his third straight game for rest and will also skip Wednesday’s game at Indiana. He is expected to return Friday at Houston.
Kings rookie Marvin Bagley scored a career-high 22 points and added 11 rebounds in his first career start. Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 16 points and Brady Hield had 15 as Sacramento lost for the third time in four games.
TIMBERWOLVES 118, SUNS 91
PHOENIX — Karl-Anthony-Towns had 25 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists and Minnesota took an early lead and rolled past short-handed Phoenix.
Josh Okogie added a career-high 21 points for the Timberwolves, who beat the Suns for the second time in a row, following a 116-114 win in Minneapolis on Sunday.
In both games, Phoenix was without centers Deandre Ayton (left ankle sprain) and Richaun Holmes (right foot sprain).
Devin Booker scored 14 for Phoenix before he and Minnesota’s Gorgui Deng were ejected with 5:24 left in the third quarter. Phoenix already trailed by 20 by then.
Josh Jackson had a season-high 27 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix, which lost its fifth straight. Kelly Oubre Jr. added 13 and Dragan Bender, who started at center, had 12 points and 10 boards.
Andrew Wiggins scored 17 and Jared Bayless 14 for Minnesota.
MAVERICKS 106, CLIPPERS 98
DALLAS — Dennis Smith Jr. had 17 points and eight rebounds in his return after a week away from the team amid trade talk, and Dallas beat Los Angeles.
Smith had two of his four assists on a layup and alley-oop dunk in the fourth quarter for DeAndre Jordan, who had 13 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
Rookie sensation Luka Doncic matched Smith with 17 points. Harrison Barnes led Dallas with 20 points.
Patrick Beverley scored 16 points while Avery Bradley and Lou Williams had 15 apiece for the Clippers, who lost for the sixth time in seven games.
Wilt was doing some obviously unbelievable things and numbers that nobody will ever catch,” said Harden, who finished with 37 points despite sitting the entire fourth quarter as the Rockets were run out of Wells Fargo Center. “Just to be in the same conversation as those guys is just credit to the work I put in. That’s what you play this game for, to be listed with those guys, those top players.
“Obviously, I got a long way to go, but this is a pretty cool beginning.”
Harden joined Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to have at least 20 straight games with 30 points or more, adding to the incandescent stretch of play he has put together since the middle of December. The last time he failed to score 30 points in a game was when he tallied 29 against the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 11, and he has scored exactly 200 points in his past four games — an achievement that has been done only six times in the past 50 seasons (four times by Kobe Bryant and twice by Harden).
Making Harden’s play even more remarkable is that none of those points has come via an assist.
“I mean, he’s incredible, he really is,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I can’t tell you, I’ve run out of words … my vocabulary’s not that extensive.
“I think if the game would’ve been close, he would’ve had 50 or 60 tonight. And that’s just how he is. He’s incredible … I don’t see any end in sight.
“I know there will be, but I don’t see it happening.”
Still, Harden’s continued excellence was about the only positive to come out of a horrendous performance by Houston as a whole, as the Rockets other than Harden went a combined 19-for-60 overall and 5-for-29 from 3-point range — numbers that look even worse when limited to the first three quarters (10-for-40 and 2-for-19, respectively).
The only Rocket to have more than two made baskets through the first three quarters was Kenneth Faried — who signed with the team only a couple of hours before tipoff after he cleared waivers following his reaching a buyout agreement with the Brooklyn Netsover the weekend.
“We just couldn’t seem to get our energy,” Harden said. “We tried to go smaller in that second half. We missed some shots, turned the ball over a few times, and they capitalized.”
After trailing by 15 at halftime, Houston missed its first 10 shots of the second quarter, allowing Philadelphia — which was playing without Jimmy Butler, who sat with a right wrist sprain — to blow the game open.
Harden, though, pointed to the end of the second quarter, when he had issues with Sixers center Joel Embiid and forward Corey Brewer, as the turning point in the game.
“Late in that second quarter, man, we let the game get out of hand,” Harden said. “Referees let the game get out of hand. It’s kind of hard to come back from a 15-point deficit — especially on the road against a good team.
“There were a couple questionable calls that they got away with that changed the game, especially [when] we’re already outnumbered a little bit. We are trying to figure out a way to win the game, and I let it get out of hand. But, like I said, we’ll figure it out.”
Harden and Embiid, meanwhile, got into it with 38.7 seconds left in the half, resulting in both of them picking up technicals on the play.
“I was just walking back to my basket, and I think he pushed my leg,” Embiid said. “Naturally, I’m going to react, and I did, and we both got technical fouls and we move on. It’s nothing going on. It was just, to me, I’m having fun. I’m always having fun.”
His 10-for-10 start from beyond the arc tied for the hottest start from the outside by any player in NBA history,
“I’ve never hit 10 [3-pointers] in a row in a game,” Thompson told reporters in Los Angeles.“That was hard. That’s hard to do. I thought I had 11 for a second, but that’s basketball.”
Thompson missed his 11th (and final) 3-point attempt, but was historically efficient against his father Mychal’s old team. He finished the night with 44 points on 17-of-20 shooting from the field, and ESPN Stats and Info determined that Thompson’s effective field goal percentage on Monday was the highest of any player who took at least 15 shots in a game.
In all, Thompson shot 85 percent from the field and about 91 percent from beyond the arc. Thompson had never made more than 85 percent of his shots in a game where he attempted at least two, and had never made more than 90 percent of his 3-pointers in a game where he attempted more than five.
Before Monday, no player had shot at both of those percentages in a game where they made multiple three-pointers.
Thompson was asked whether the opponent — the Lakers crushed the Warriors on Christmas — played into his performance, and he admitted it played “a little bit” of a role. Thompson also pointed to the fact he was playing in front of his family in his hometown.
Other than that, though, Thompson said there wasn’t exactly one factor he could point to and describe why he was “on one.”
“It just happened to be one of those nights,” Thompson said. “I think that’s the best percentage I ever shot, [but] it just happened to be one of those nights, man. I can’t explain.”
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Thompson hits first 10 from 3 as Warriors rout Lakers
LOS ANGELES — Klay Thompson tied an NBA record by making his first 10 attempts from 3-point range, scoring 44 points as the Golden State Warriors beat the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers 130-111 on Monday night to match a season high with their eighth consecutive victory.
Thompson finished 10 of 11 from beyond the arc and the two-time defending champions won their seventh straight road game. The star guard had 23 points in the third quarter, connecting on seven 3s as the Warriors stretched their lead to 36 points. He finally missed from deep late in the period.
Kevin Durant added 20 points and Stephen Curry had 11 points and 12 assists for Golden State.
Ivica Zubac led Los Angeles with 18 points. The Lakers were without their primary playmakers in LeBron James, Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo. They fell to 5-9 without James, whose left groin strain has forced him out for the longest stretch of his 16-year career.
76ERS 121, ROCKETS 93
PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid had 32 points and 14 rebounds to lead Philadelphia past fellow MVP contender James Harden and Houston.
Harden, selected Western Conference player of the week earlier in the day, finished with 37 points — giving him 20 straight games with at least 30.
Embiid’s 24 first-half points helped Philadelphia to a 65-50 halftime lead, and he punctuated an entertaining opening 24 minutes by pinning Harden’s layup attempt with 7.5 seconds left for a crowd-pleasing block. The duo had to be separated with 38.7 seconds left in the half, with each being issued a technical, after Harden took exception to Embiid’s foul on him.
The 76ers broke the game open in a dominant third quarter as they outscored Houston 29-13 to take a 94-63 advantage into the fourth.
CELTICS 107, HEAT 99
BOSTON — Kyrie Irving had 26 points and 10 assists, Al Horford added 16 points and 12 rebounds and Boston beat Miami for its fourth straight victory.
Irving has had 20 or more points and 10 or more assists in 11 games, the first Celtics player to accomplish the feat since Hall of Famer Larry Bird, who also had 11 in 1986-87.
Jayson Tatum added 19 points and Marcus Morris 17 for the Celtics, who won their ninth straight at home and improved to 18-5 at TD Garden.
Derrick Jones Jr. and Dion Waiters led the Heat with 18 points apiece.
BUCKS 116, MAVERICKS 106
MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 15 rebounds, and Milwaukee beat Dallas.
Eric Bledsoe had 21 points and Malcolm Brogdon scored 19 for the Bucks, who have won five straight and 12 of their last 14 to improve to 34-12 overall.
Luka Doncic had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for Dallas, which has lost four in a row. Jalen Brunson had 16 points.
After trailing at the half, the Bucks built a double-digit lead in the third quarter and led 92-84 heading to the fourth.
TRAIL BLAZERS 109, JAZZ 104
SALT LAKE CITY — Damian Lillard scored 26 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 17 in the third quarter to lift Portland past Utah.
In a matchup between two of the NBA’s hottest teams, the Blazers made 50 percent of their shots and piled up 30 assists to snap Utah’s six-game winning streak.
Nurkic finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and six blocks. CJ McCollum added 14 points for Portland, which has won seven of nine.
Donovan Mitchell continued his high-scoring streak with 36 points for Utah. Jae Crowder scored 15 while Rudy Gobert had 10 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks.
PELICANS 105, GRIZZLIES 85
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic scored 21 points, Jahlil Okafor and Julius Randle had 20, and balanced New Orleans beat Memphis without injured star Anthony Davis.
Okafor set a season high for points and added 10 rebounds filling in for Davis. Randle had 12 rebounds and Holiday grabbed 11 as New Orleans out-rebounded the Grizzlies 50-35. It was the Pelicans’ first game since announcing Davis would miss 1-2 weeks with a left index finger sprain.
Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 22 points, while Mike Conley added 20 and eight assists for Memphis, which lost its sixth straight and 12th in the last 13.
NETS 123, KINGS 94
NEW YORK — D’Angelo Russell had 31 points and eight assists, and surging Brooklyn won its fourth straight game by running away from Sacramento in the second half.
Russell, announced as the Eastern Conference player of the week shortly before the game, made seven 3-pointers. He hit all four 3-point attempts and was 5 for 6 overall in the third quarter, fueling a 22-4 spurt that launched the Nets into the lead for good.
Joe Harris added 19 points and rookie Rodions Kurucs had 16 for the Nets, who won for the 17th time in 22 games.
Reserve guard Bogdan Bogdanovic had 22 points and 11 assists for the Kings, but starters Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox both had quiet games.
THUNDER 127, KNICKS 109
NEW YORK — Paul George scored 31 points and Russell Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as Oklahoma City beat New York.
George and Westbrook both sat out the fourth quarter. Dennis Schroder added 17 points for the Thunder while both Jerami Grant and Abdel Nader each had 16.
The Knicks have lost six in a row and 14 of 15. They have dropped nine straight at Madison Square Garden.
Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks with 23 points. Allonzo Trier had 16 and Emmanuel Mudiay scored 14.
WIZARDS 101, PISTONS 87
WASHINGTON — Trevor Ariza scored 20 points, Otto Porter Jr. added 19 and Washington turned in its best defensive performance this season in beating Detroit.
The Wizards held the Pistons to 30 percent shooting from the floor in the first half and never let their lead dip below 10 points in the second. Detroit’s 87 points were the fewest by a Washington opponent this season.
Seven Wizards players scored in double figures, including Bradley Beal with 16.
Blake Griffin led the Pistons with 29 points and nine rebounds. Detroit has lost back-to-back games and 10 of its last 14.
MAGIC 122, HAWKS 103
ATLANTA — Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic scored 29 points apiece to lead Orlando past Atlanta in the season’s first matchup between the Southeast Division rivals.
Vucevic had 14 rebounds and Fournier had seven assists as Orlando snapped a three-game losing streak.
Dewayne Dedmon led Atlanta with 24 points on the holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and in the city where the civil rights leader was born.
Trae Young had 21 points for the Hawks. John Collins had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
BULLS 104, CAVALIERS 88
CLEVELAND — Zach LaVine scored 25 points and Chicago broke a 10-game losing streak, beating Cleveland in a meeting of teams that began the day with the worst records in the NBA.
Chicago never trailed and has won all three games this season against Cleveland, which has lost 16 of 17 overall.
Bobby Portis had 15 points while Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn each added 13 for the Bulls.
Rookie Collin Sexton scored 18 points and Ante Zizic, who is seeing playing time because of injuries in Cleveland’s frontcourt, had 13.