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Warriors can only marvel at Stephen Curry’s latest record night

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Stephen Curry‘s recent shooting streak has left everyone around him in awe.

Teammates, coaches, opponents — it’s hard for everybody to wrap their minds around exactly what they’ve been seeing as the Golden State Warriors star continues to set new records on a nightly basis.

For his latest feat, Curry poured in 49 points in a 107-96 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, becoming the first player in NBA history age 33 or older to score 30 or more points in 11 straight games — passing Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who scored at least 30 in 10 straight games in December 2002.

“I’ve seen Kobe Bryant early in his career, had a stretch where he went nuts,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Obviously, Michael Jordan had some stretches where he just scored like crazy, but obviously nobody’s ever shot the ball like this in the history of the game. Even by Steph’s own lofty standards, this is above and beyond.”

A week after overtaking Wilt Chamberlain as the Warriors’ all-time leading scorer, Curry continues piling up record-setting stats at a level even he hasn’t seen during his 12-year career. Curry is now averaging 39.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists over 10 games in April. He knows he’s on a history-making tear, but hasn’t let the pressure exceed the joy he has for the game.

“From Wilt’s (record) last week and then this streak, I’m obviously aware,” Curry said. “But you don’t put too much pressure on yourself, you just play basketball. … Being aggressive, obviously, but kind of letting the game come to you. For me, that looks a certain type of way but I’m having a blast out there just playing basketball and it’s obviously working.”

What’s really working for Curry during this recent stretch is shooting touch from beyond the arc. The 33-year-old went 10-for-17 from long range on Monday night and has hit 54 3-pointers over his past six games.

“21 career games with 10 or more 3s,” Kerr said, almost not believing the words coming out of his mouth. “And Klay (Thompson) is second with five. And Steph’s had four in the last five (games). Mind-boggling. Mind-boggling stuff.”

Curry’s recent play has helped the Warriors post their best stretch of the season, having won five of their past six games. Currently ninth in the Western Conference, Golden State appears poised to make a run down the stretch, with nine of its last 14 games coming against teams under .500.

As Curry continues to hit shots from all over the floor, some of his teammates admit that they can’t help but watch sometimes.

“The things he can do on the court — it’s special. He’s one of a kind,” Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins said. “When I was on a different team, you could see it from afar, you could see what he’s doing. You could see all the creative things he’s doing, but being on his team is totally different, totally different watching it in person, every day, every game. The dominance of his presence on and off the ball is crazy.”

Veteran Warriors center Kevon Looney said he thinks Curry is playing the best basketball of his career — even better than the 2015-16 season, when Curry was voted a unanimous league MVP.

“My rookie year, I didn’t think nobody could play better than that,” Looney said. “I thought that was like the peak of basketball shooting and showmanship and everything, but I think this year he might be eclipsing that and taking it to a whole ‘nother level. I always remember that year and remember how special it was and how special he was, and for him to keep getting better and keep breaking records and keep doing new things that nobody’s ever seen before has been amazing.”

As much as Curry tries to downplay some of his accolades, he knows he’s in the midst of a special streak. He also recognizes a lot of praise is being heaped his way, but won’t let it weigh him down.

“It’s flattering, but it’s nothing I wake up and yearn for,” Curry said. “But I appreciate the respect and appreciation for what I’m able to do out there on the court, however people want to talk about it. But it doesn’t change how I approach the game and my belief in myself, my team and what I’m capable of doing.

“It’s easy to block out; y’all know I do read and hear all the stuff so it’s entertaining at a certain point how things can flip and flop, but at the end of the day just go out and hoop, play well. As long as you’re in some type of conversation then you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.”

Curry isn’t just in the conversation these days — his performances have put him at the center of most discussions in the sport right now.

“I don’t know what else to say,” Kerr said. “You guys ask me after every game what I think of Steph and his performance, whatever I said last game, just use that tonight. Because it’s the same thing after every game, it’s just utter amazement at this guy’s skill level, heart, mind, focus, it’s just amazing to watch.”

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Lonzo Ball, set to be restricted free agent, says he ‘would love’ to return to New Orleans Pelicans

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New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball has heard his name swirl in trade rumors almost from the time he entered the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers four years ago.

But now, for the first time, Ball could have a say in his next destination as he approaches restricted free agency this summer.

The Pelicans would have a right to match any offer sheet Ball signs with another team — or they could work with him and his agent at Klutch Sports to negotiate a sign-and-trade. Ball, who spoke to reporters on Monday, said he wouldn’t mind staying around in New Orleans for the next contract.

“That’s a conversation between me and my agent moving forward. But obviously I would love to be back,” Ball said. “I built a bond here with the coaches and the teammates who are here. I definitely wouldn’t mind coming back at all.”

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson wouldn’t mind that either.

“It’d be dope,” Williamson said of Ball possibly coming back to the Pelicans. “Me, Brandon [Ingram] and Zo, the three of us have a great relationship. I really would want Zo to come back. He knows that.

“But you know, like I said, the reality of the situation is Zo is grown man so he’ll make the decision that’s best for him. The only thing I can say is, I hope he stays.”

Ball posted career highs in scoring (14.6), 3-point percentage (37.8%), field-goal percentage (41.4%) and free-throw percentage (78.1%). His free throw numbers marked a huge growth from his marks last season (56.6%).

However, Ball’s assist totals dropped to 5.7 per game, just a tick above the 5.4 he posted in Los Angeles two seasons ago adjusting to playing alongside LeBron James. It came as Ball accepted a new role in the Pelicans’ system this season.

“I think my shooting picked up from all levels of the court,” Ball said. “That was the main thing for me this year. My role was different this year. Kind of more of a 3-and-D role. I think I fit into it pretty well. I think overall it was a solid season for myself.”

Ball said he didn’t think about his upcoming free agency during the season but now that the year is over, he can shift his focus there. If that means continuing in the 3-and-D role elsewhere, or in New Orleans, he’s fine with that.

“I think I’m a basketball player. Whatever the coach wants from me, I’m going to go out there and do it to the best of my abilities,” Ball said. “[Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy] put me in a little different position this year than I’ve been in my whole life. But I think I made the most of it. And I think I had a pretty good year.”

While Williamson wants to continue to play with Ball, the feeling is mutual, even as Ball knows he has a tough decision to make.

“He’s a one-of-a-kind player as well,” Ball said of Williamson. “I’ve never played with somebody like that. Like I said, I think we have the pieces. We just have to put it together. We’re a young team. We’re only going to get better. If we can keep it together, that’d be great. But I can’t tell the future. I’ll just wait for the call and see what happens.”

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Washington Wizards’ Bradley Beal says hamstring is not 100 percent ahead of play-in game vs. Boston Celtics

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Bradley Beal said his strained left hamstring won’t be 100 percent and that he will have to manage it when the Washington Wizards play the Boston Celtics in the play-in tournament on Tuesday.

Beal said his hamstring did not worsen after he scored 25 points and grabbed six rebounds in 35 minutes during the Wizards’ 115-110 win over Charlotte on Sunday, clinching the eighth spot for Washington.

“There’s no setbacks which is good,” Beal said. “I didn’t injure it any worse than what it was. Obviously it still probably won’t be 100 percent. It is just a matter of managing it as best I can.”

Washington head coach Scott Brooks said Beal “felt great” and that point guard Raul Neto, who missed Sunday’s game with a strained left hamstring, will be a game-time decision against Boston on Tuesday night.

Beal — who shot 8-for-27 but said he learned what he could and couldn’t do on his hamstring after the first half against Charlotte — will continue to receive treatment on his hamstring before the Wizards play the seventh-seeded Celtics. Beal missed three straight games after straining the hamstring and not playing at the end of regulation and in overtime during a 133-132 overtime win over Indiana on May 8.

He called his decision to return and play against Charlotte a “hard-headed” one because he wasn’t fully healthy but did not want to let his teammates down.

“I felt good,” Beal said of how he was feeling after the game. “I would say I am not as sore as I thought I would be. Not as beat up as I would have thought.”

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Al Horford says shutdown during Oklahoma City Thunder season was part of the plan

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Oklahoma City Thunder center Al Horford addressed the unique situation of him shutting down for the team’s final 28 games, calling it a mutual decision that was always part of the plan since his arrival to the franchise.

“We’ve had great communication since the moment I got here, and leading to that point, once Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander]’s injury happened, it just kind of brought that question even sooner,” Horford said. “Both of us understanding that the team also wanted to play younger guys and see what they could do with their development, and for me, for myself, health-wise, what’s best for me, putting me in the best position to be able to play at a high level for many years to come.”

On March 27, the Thunder announced center Horford would be a healthy scratch for the remainder of the season. At the time Horford was shut down, the Thunder were 19-25. As they pivoted toward playing younger players and focusing on development, they went 3-25 the rest of the way, which included a 14-game losing streak and a span where they were outscored by 490 points over a 25-game stretch, the largest margin in NBA history.

Horford’s shutdown coincided with an injury to Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fascia tear) that forced him to miss the final 29 games. For the most part, Horford remained with the team, staying involved in games and huddles at home games. Horford did not travel with the team for road games. And for now, he remains with the Thunder.

“Al is on the team, and Al is on our roster,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “I think our staff has done a great job with him during this period of time at keeping him sharp and ready and having a plan for him and being with him in that plan in the way that we can support it.

“He’s under our umbrella right now, and we’re going to be present with him in the offseason just like we are with the rest of the group,” Daigneault said.

Horford, 34, has two years and $53.5 million left on his contract, with a partial guarantee of $14.5 million in the final season (2022-23). The Thunder are expected to work toward trading Horford this summer, working with him and his representation to find a new destination.

“I’m sure that I’ll be talking with the team and we’ll figure out what’s best,” Horford said of a trade.

Acquired from Philadelphia before the season, Horford was solid in 28 games this season, averaging 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

The Thunder have embarked on a clear rebuilding plan, focusing on drafting and development. With Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort, a possible top-five pick and a war chest of draft capital in the future, the Thunder are well set to turn things around. Asked if the Thunder’s bright future would make him prefer to stick around, Horford left that door open.

“It’s a conversation that when it comes up, I’ll have to talk with the team and [general manager] Sam [Presti] most importantly about it and kind of go from there,” Horford said. “I’ve just been very impressed with how well the organization — it is here, all the resources that we have and all the players that we have. It’s something that really excites me.”

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