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New mural for Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook unites his past and present



There are plenty of murals in the Los Angeles area celebrating Los Angeles Lakers players past and present. That list now includes Russell Westbrook, who was traded to the Lakers in August.

One recent piece of art is not far from where Westbrook started his hoops career.

Westbrook was born in Long Beach, California, and played high school basketball at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale. The latest mural, painted by Gustavo Zermeno Jr., is painted on the wall at A Baseball Clubhouse and Comic Books, a memorabilia shop in Hawthorne, less than 2 miles from Westbrook’s old high school.

Zermeno, from Venice, California, has collaborated with the Lakers and Los Angeles Rams. He has also painted murals honoring Kobe Bryant, Tommy Lasorda, Aaron Donald and the 2020 Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers championship teams.

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Brooklyn Nets star James Harden expresses frustration over ‘consistency’ of calls from officials



MINNEAPOLIS — Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden does not believe he is getting the benefit of the whistle the same way he did in past years.

The 32-year-old made that clear after getting to the line only four times in a 136-125 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night. When asked why he feels he isn’t getting the same calls he used to get, Harden acknowledged that he didn’t know the answer.

“It’s a good question,” Harden said. “I don’t know. I don’t even want to talk about it. But it’s definitely — when I get to the basket, it’s the same calls the guys are getting. Obviously, you can’t call all of them. But there’s ones where there’s clearly stiff-arms and trips and things like that. But on the other end, there’s no consistency. So it’s frustrating.”

Nets coach Steve Nash echoed Harden’s belief, saying that he doesn’t feel the All-Star guard is always officiated the same way.

“I think there’s nights where it’s fair, and even including the points of emphasis this year,” Nash said. “Then there’s other nights where it feels like he gets targeted a little bit. It just automatically gets lumped into that point of emphasis where he is creating the foul, which is not always the case at all.”

The points of emphasis referenced by Nash is the NBA’s changing the way specific sequences are called before the season — especially offensive players trying to create contact and draw more free throws. Both Harden and the Atlanta HawksTrae Young figured to be affected more than most players because of the way they were consistently able to get to the line.

The interesting part about the rule shift is that Harden is actually getting to the foul line almost once more per game this season (8.2 attempts) compared to a year ago (7.3 attempts). Still, throughout the season there have been many examples of Harden driving to the basket and then not getting the same whistle he got earlier in his career.

Harden said he has struggled to get an explanation from the officials when asked for one throughout the season.

“Nothing,” Harden said. “Honestly, nothing. Like [officials say], ‘I didn’t see it,’ or ‘I didn’t think it was a foul.’ But it’s like, clear. It’s like extremely clear. I don’t want to talk about it. But I just got to keep going. That’s not going to stop me. Keeping going to the basket, keep being aggressive and keep making plays for my team.”

Nash said that he feels Harden is the poster child for the new emphasis from officials this season.

“I think it’s been well-documented that he’s one of the poster childs,” Nash said. “I think the start of the year was rough, [the officials] were really trying to correct the point of emphasis. I think they overcorrected. Now we come back to the middle, but tonight was one of those nights where I felt like some of the calls that should go his way didn’t.”

Despite what he felt was a lack of calls on Sunday, and at times throughout the year, Harden admitted being a little “passive” during Sunday’s 4-for-13 performance.

“And not really attacking how I needed to attack consistently,” Harden said. “We had a lot of opportunities, a lot of rim opportunities and three opportunities, but I put that on me as far as not being able to get to the basket consistently like I needed to.”

Despite Harden’s frustration, Nets guard Kyrie Irving is confident his teammate will continue to adjust to the way the game is being called throughout the season.

“I think teams have made adjustments, the referees have made adjustments, and now we have to make adjustments,” Irving said. “He goes in [to the paint] very aggressively and we want him to continue to do that. He’s going to be James. We know who James is — we know exactly who he is so he’s going to be himself, but the whistle can go either way night to night.

“And depending on the [officiating] crew we have, I think that also has an effect on it, but we just want to start off the game with a consistent whistle. And when he’s going in there and he’s creating some contact, we feel like he deserves that respect. We know who he is. We know he gets to the free throw line. A lot of his drives downhill he is getting fouled. And some of them can go either way, but we just want to have a consistent whistle.”

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Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James — Don’t plan on stopping amid ‘one of the best zones offensively’ of career



MIAMI — Anthony Davis‘ left knee injury coincided with an offensive explosion from LeBron James, as his 33 points in Sunday’s 113-107 loss to the Miami Heat marked the 17th straight game that the Los Angeles Lakers star has scored 25 points or more. All with Davis out.

With Davis potentially returning as soon as Tuesday from the sprained MCL in his left knee when L.A. plays the Brooklyn Nets, James made it sound like his offensive output could continue at a prolific pace.

“I don’t need to score 30 a night, but I’m in one of the best zones offensively I’ve been in, in my career,” the 19-year veteran said. “And I don’t plan on stopping. That’s just how I feel. I feel fantastic. Shooting the ball extremely well. Didn’t shoot the 3-ball well tonight, but all eight of them felt great. Shooting efficient from the free-throw line, shooting efficient from the field. Very efficient at the rim.

“So I don’t go into the game saying you got to score 30 or you guys don’t have a chance to win the game. I just play the game. The scoring has been happening organically.”

James went 12-for-22 against the Heat but was 11-for-14 if his 3-point attempts are subtracted. He also went 8-for-11 from the free-throw line.

He is averaging 32.5 points over the past 17 games — the second-most in the league in that stretch behind only Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (33.9) — while shooting 53.4% from the field. L.A. has gone 7-10 in the stretch.

The scoring run has lifted James’ average to 29.0 points per game, second in the league behind Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant (29.3). It’s the fourth-highest scoring average of his career and the most he has averaged in more than a decade, since he put up 29.7 points per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009-10.

James, who turned 37 last month, is also averaging his most minutes, 36.7, since his 2017-18 season with the Cavs when he played 36.9.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he will welcome Davis’ return to carry some of the burden alongside James.

“Anthony helps in all ways, and that’s definitely one of them — to spread out some of the load,” Vogel said before the Heat game. “But LeBron feels good with the load that he’s been carrying. We continue to communicate with him, if it’s too much within his minutes and the total minutes, and he’s felt in a good rhythm. Playing mostly every other day. So, that’s in a good place but having Anthony back definitely helps with that.”

James bristled at any suggestion of the workload being too much, pointing out that he came into the league “saving the [Cavaliers] franchise” when he was 18 years old, so he is not fazed by what he needs to bring to the Lakers this year.

James, who is 2,006 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s record atop the all-time scoring list, also acknowledged that he’s aware of the approaching milestone.

“As I’ve continued to climb the ranks, it’s natural, human to look at it and see where you are and see if it’s even possible. See if you’re capable,” James said. “Obviously health plays the most important part and then just continuing to give your everything to the game. I’ve never cheated the game. I’ve never wanted to feel like I was content.

“I wanted to continue to get better and I mean, I am, like you said, I will be within 2,000 points, when did you say? Soon? Well, listen, we’ll see what happens. I’ve never chased a record in my life. I’ve never sat down and said, ‘OK, let me see if I can get this record, let me see if I can get that record.'”

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Jayson Tatum scores 51 points in Boston Celtics’ blowout of Washington Wizards



WASHINGTON — This was quite a way for Jayson Tatum to break out of his shooting slump.

Tatum scored 51 points — 48 in the first three quarters — to help the Boston Celtics breeze to a 116-87 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

Tatum made nine 3-pointers and shot 18-of-28 from the field. That was after he shot 0-for-17 from beyond the arc in his previous three games.

“When you’re missing shots, you know what you’re capable of, and sometimes you’ve got to laugh it off,” Tatum said. “It’s as simple as sometimes you just don’t make shots. You play so many games.”

Tatum had 31 points by halftime and reached 50 on a drive to the basket with about 4 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the game. He added a technical-foul free throw with 3:55 to play and then checked out of the game while the crowd in Washington, which included plenty of green-clad Boston fans, gave him a standing ovation.

“That’s an incredible feeling,” Tatum said. “Seeing so many fans on road with a Tatum ‘0’ jersey on — something I don’t take for granted. I understand there’s 450 some-odd guys in the league, and they took the time to go buy my jersey.”

Bradley Beal scored 19 points for the Wizards, who never led in coach Wes Unseld Jr.’s return from being on the COVID-19 health and safety protocol list. Washington, which has one game remaining on an eight-game homestand, has dropped three in a row.

Boston led 46-45 in the second quarter, but Tatum’s 17-footer started a 14-0 run to close the half. Tatum added a couple of free throws and two 3-pointers during that stretch, and finished with 18 points in the quarter.

“It pretty much came down to the end of the second quarter,” Unseld said. “Essentially, that was the game.”

Tatum reached 40 points with a couple of free throws with 4:48 left in the third. Moments later, a dunk put him even with his season high of 42 that he set last month against Milwaukee. He added two more 3s before the quarter was over, the second of which put Boston up 89-62.

“To Tatum’s credit, he had a night,” Unseld said. “Obviously, 51 points, it’s a real number. I think he was 6-for-8 on pull-up 3s, which are tough shots. No excuse. He’s been struggling, but he found his rhythm tonight.”

Tatum seemed to realize his day might be done, taking three more shots in the final minute of the third quarter, all misses. He ended the third a bucket shy of 50 and left the game.

But he came back with 7:21 left in the fourth and scored enough to surpass 50 — although he remained well shy of his career high of 60, set against San Antonio last April.

Tatum was aware how close he was to 50 when he went back in. Celtics coach Ime Udoka said that wasn’t a factor in putting him in, though.

“We were getting a little iso-heavy, stagnant there,” Udoka said. “We’ve obviously had our troubles closing, so, get him back in and try to finish the game.”

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