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Lakers’ Carmelo Anthony passes Moses Malone for 9th on all-time scoring list

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LOS ANGELES — Carmelo Anthony said the best part about passing Moses Malone for No. 9 on the all-time scoring list in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 121-118 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday is the level he’s been able to sustain nearly two decades into his NBA career.

“I’m still here doing it,” Anthony said after scoring 18 of his team-high 28 points in the second half to seal the victory. “I think that’s what I’m honestly excited about. I’m here in year 19 still doing what I’m able to do. Still passionate about the game. Still passionate about coming to work every day and getting better. And what a better night to reach ninth than with a win, the way that we needed a win tonight.”

Anthony came into the night needing 15 points to leapfrog Malone’s 27,409 career total. He got going early, scoring five points in the first quarter, followed by another five in the second, before really finding a rhythm in the third.

He hit back-to-back 3s in a 48-second span, turning a two-point deficit into a two-point lead after the flurry, with his wing triple with 3:20 remaining in the quarter lifting him past the 13-time All-Star and 2001 Hall of Fame inductee Malone.

“He didn’t crawl up to that milestone,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “He blew the doors off of it.”

Anthony continued to pour it on in the fourth, scoring 12 more in the final period. He iced the game by making two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to secure L.A.’s first win of its new campaign after an 0-6 preseason followed by an 0-2 start to the regular season.

LeBron James‘ relationship with Anthony dates back to when he was 16 years old and Anthony was 17 when they met for the first time. “I came back and told my guys I just seen the best player I ever seen to that point,” James recalled Sunday.

The two have remained close, and after countless games together for the U.S. Olympic Team and making the same All-Star rosters, they are playing on the same NBA team for the first time this season.

“Usually when some of my friends have these kind of achievements I text them or call them or FaceTime or put something on social media,” James said afterward. “In this case I got to do it in person, because he’s my teammate now, so it made it special for me.”

Anthony said the Lakers presented him with the game ball in the postgame locker room as a keepsake.

“They wanted me to give a speech, but I was too tired,” Anthony said, flashing his signature smile.

Malone finished his playing career as a 39-year-old, averaging 2.9 points for the San Antonio Spurs in his 21st season. It was his third straight year averaging fewer than five points per game to finish out a Hall of Fame career that included back-to-back league MVPs for Houston and Philadelphia in the early 1980s.

Anthony is 37 and is averaging 17.7 points through his first three games with L.A.

This after spending more than a year out of the NBA — from early November 2018 until late November 2019 — after the Houston Rockets waived him after he played just 10 games with the franchise.

“A couple of years ago, nobody wanted him,” said Anthony Davis. “He was counted out. Doubted. And he stayed the course. Stayed a professional and got a shot in Portland. Made a name for himself again. And he’s here now and doing the same thing, picking up where he left off. It’s an honor to have him on our team, an honor to play beside him.”

James, who along with Anthony make up the first pair of 19-year veterans to ever play together in league history, also was sure to bring up how the league recently turned a cold shoulder toward Anthony.

“He’s been doing it for quite a while and it’s just beautiful to continue to see, especially when you know, they gave up on him,” James said.

Anthony, who is on a one-year contract with the Lakers and will turn 38 in May, sounded like somebody intent to keep getting buckets as long as a team will have him.

“Scoring the basketball is not easy. We may make it look easy, but it’s not easy,” Anthony said. “For me, this is 19 years of repetition. And night-in and night-out. Day-in and day-out. Every summer. Every season. I’m reaping those benefits right now because of the persistence that I have in my professionalism. What I bring to the game, how I approach the game. And I want to keep going. That’s all that matters to me.”

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Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis a game-time decision vs. Miami Heat on Sunday after 16-game absence

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MIAMI — Anthony Davis, out for the last five weeks with a sprained MCL in his left knee, has been upgraded to questionable for the Los Angeles Lakers‘ game against the Miami Heat on Sunday and is considered a game-time decision, according to the team.

Davis missed the last 16 games since the Minnesota TimberwolvesJaden McDaniels collided with the Lakers All-Star’s knee and L.A. went 7-9 without him.

“Whenever AD is ready, we’re going to love that, that’s for sure,” LeBron James said of Davis on Friday. “I mean he’s one of our biggest guns that we have, and having him on the floor, it just creates so much for us offensively and defensively, able to do so much more. But his health is what’s most important, and once we know that he’s healthy, he knows that he’s healthy, we get him back on the floor, and then we start getting his wind and his rhythm.”

Davis was averaging 23.3 points on 52.1% shooting, 9.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.2 steals this season prior to the injury. His jump shot, however, had been off. Davis is shooting just 60-for-185 (32%) on shots outside the paint this season, according to NBA.com.

Davis has used the rehabilitation to work on not only his knee but his shot mechanics as well, sources told ESPN.

Davis had been eyeing the Lakers’ six-game road trip to return, as ESPN reported last week, and his presence could certainly help his team that has absorbed reports about Frank Vogel’s job security and Russell Westbrook‘s role in his absence.

If Davis makes his return against Miami, it could evoke warm memories for the Lakers big man. Davis averaged 25 points and 12.8 rebounds in the 2020 NBA Finals, downing the Heat in six games en route to his first championship.

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Damian Lillard, content to ‘make decisions that suit you for the long haul,’ slowly works his way back to Portland Trail Blazers’ lineup

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During the Tokyo Olympics last summer, when Damian Lillard‘s abdominal injury flared up, Jrue Holiday suggested it was time for surgery.

Lillard finally took his fellow Olympian’s advice and had the procedure Jan. 13. The Portland Trail Blazers‘ star point guard spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since the injury sidelined him on Jan. 3.

Holiday, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, had similar core surgery during the 2018-19 NBA season when he was with New Orleans. He and Lillard were teammates in Japan last summer on the gold-medal-winning U.S. team.

“He was the first person that pretty much confirmed that I needed to have surgery, because I sat out of practice one day and I was like, ‘I can’t move,’ and I was kind of just holding it. And he just started describing every single symptom,” Lillard said. “And he was like, ‘I had it.'”

Lillard, a six-time All-Star, averaged 24 points and 7.3 assists in 29 games this season for the Blazers. It was clear from the start that the injury — lower abdominal tendinopathy — was bothersome.

“It was just one of those things where I’ve always had control over how I moved and everything, and it had reached a point where my body couldn’t do what my mind wanted it to do and go places that I wanted it to go,” he said. “At some point you’ve got to play chess; you’ve got to make decisions that suit you for the long haul and not just right now.”

While the injury flared up in Tokyo, Lillard said he first felt the abdominal pain in 2015, and it had been gradually getting worse ever since.

The Blazers have struggled without Lillard, the undisputed leader of the team. Playing under first-year coach Chauncey Billups, Portland is 19-26 and in 10th place in the Western Conference.

Anfernee Simons has taken over as Portland’s point guard and has averaged 15.1 points per game. Portland was also playing for an extended period without Lillard’s backcourt teammate CJ McCollum, who had a collapsed right lung before becoming a father for the first time.

McCollum recently returned and had 24 points in Portland’s 109-105 victory at the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

There was no timeline for Lillard’s return, but he’s already been doing yoga. The team previously said he would be reevaluated in six weeks.

“I’m just a week from surgery. We said we’ll reevaluate my situation weeks out, six to eight weeks, and we’ll talk about it then. But I’m not in a rush,” he said. “My No. 1 goal is to win a championship. I’ve got to be in the best form of myself to make that happen and to be a part of that. So I’m not in a rush. We’ll talk about whatever that timeline is when we get to that point.”

The Trail Blazers, as play began on Saturday night, occupied the 10th spot in the Western Conference race. They were two games ahead of the Sacramento Kings.

Lillard was asked if he’d play if the Blazers decided to forgo a playoff push and play for a draft pick.

“I mean, if we’re gonna play for a draft pick, it wouldn’t make sense to me. Because I’m not gonna play for no draft pick. I’m just not capable of that,” he said. “So it’d be best if that was what we were doing, or what was decided, then it wouldn’t make sense for me to play.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Chicago Bulls G Alex Caruso to have surgery for fractured wrist, out 6 to 8 weeks, says team

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Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso will undergo surgery early next week for a fractured right wrist, the team announced Saturday.

Caruso suffered the injury during the Bulls loss to the Bucks Friday night in Milwaukee. Caruso was fouled hard by the Bucks’ Grayson Allen who was assessed a flagrant two foul and ejected from the game.

Caruso will miss six-to-eight weeks, the team announced

Caruso went up for a layup on a fast break with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter, but Allen hooked Caruso’s right arm, turning Caruso in the air and sending him hard to the floor on his right wrist. Caruso said his wrist was “a little banged up” after the game, but X-rays came back negative.

“Dude just grabbed me out of the air,” Caruso said after Friday’s game. “It’s kind of bulls—. I don’t know what else you can do about it. I’m just glad that I didn’t have any major scary injuries right away.”

Caruso said his wrist continued to bother him in the second half, especially while shooting. He finished 1-of-6 from the field for 3 points in the second half, but said he did not think the injury would linger long term.

Caruso added that Allen did not come to check on him following the play.

The foul particularly irked Bulls coach Billy Donovan, who is normally mild-mannered and rarely singles out players. But following Friday’s game, Donovan called Allen’s actions dangerous and cited his history playing college basketball at Duke.

“For Alex to be in the air and for [Allen] to take him down like that, he could’ve ended his career,” Donovan said. “He has a history of this. That to me was really — it was really dangerous. I hope the league takes a hard look at something like that because that could have really, really seriously hurt him.”

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